my boss commented on my work with a puke emoji, coworker is upset I’m pregnant, and more

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

1. My boss commented on my work with a puke emoji

I work in a PR agency and we are planning a webinar for our most important client. These recent weeks have been kind of a nightmare, because everyone is working remotely for the first time (due to COVID-19) and my boss wants to deliver the best webinar as expected.

We keep communicating via Skype. Today I received some bad feedback from my boss about something I made for the webinar, but she finished her comments with three emojis: a “doh,” a “puke,” and an “angry face.” I can handle bad feedback, but I think that the puking emoji was too much.

I felt very offended and wanted to quit on the spot, because if my work produces vomit, I shouldn’t be there. But I didn´t say anything about it because I prefer to think before acting, especially when feeling angry. At the same time, I don’t want her to think that she can disrespect me, this way or another.

We normally only use emojis or reactions to motivate or celebrate our coworkers, and I have never witnessed her using this kind of emoji with someone else on our team. Should I tell her how she made me feel or just get over it?

That is bizarre and inappropriate. Presumably she wouldn’t mime puking while giving you feedback about your work in person, and she shouldn’t do it via emoji either. In fact, I’ll posit that managers shouldn’t use emojis when giving critical feedback at all. A thumbs-up? Sure. But angry faces, puke, the poo emoji — all off-limits.

If this was out of character for your manager and you generally have decent rapport with her, you could say, “I appreciated your feedback on the webinar and I always want to hear where I could do something better — but did you mean to send me the puke emoji with it?”

On the other hand, if this feels in character for her and she’s generally a jerk, file this away as additional data about how she operates since there’s probably not a lot to be gained by addressing it with her (or, more accurately, there are bigger problems to worry about).

2. My coworker is upset that I’m pregnant

After reading the recent post about coworkers pressuring another employee to get pregnant, I’m concerned that I’m somewhat at fault for my own coworker’s frosty behavior towards me.

My coworker, Jane, is just a bit older than me and has one son. She’s mentioned several times that she would have liked more children, but her health didn’t allow it. We only discuss children when she brings it up. Jane recently had some serious health issues that required a medical procedure, and she was out of the office for several weeks.

In that time, my husband and I learned that we were expecting our first baby! I told only our HR rep so she’d be aware I’d be taking time for appointments and such. We have told no one else besides immediate family and very close friends. The other day, another coworker had a particularly pungent breakfast, and I became incredibly nauseous. Jane noticed and said, very quickly and harshly, “You better not be pregnant.” Over the last week, she has made similar comments, including that she “couldn’t handle working with me” if I were to become pregnant. Since then, any chit-chat has pretty much ceased, and she’ll only speak to me in short, clipped tones if I ask a direct question.

I don’t know what to do. I know my other coworkers would be excited for me, but I work most closely with Jane — we’re in the same department and share an office. How do I broach this with her? I feel like telling her when I tell the rest of the office would be hurtful to her, but I’m not sure how to broach it with her one on one, given her previous comments. I’m not unsympathetic that she has medical issues of her own, and I’m sure it’s difficult for her to be surrounded by so much baby-ness (three other women are currently pregnant in the office). But I want to be able to be excited without upsetting her, and having her be nasty to me in return.

No, this isn’t your fault — all you’ve done is be pregnant, which is a perfectly normal thing to do.

It sounds like it’s rough on Jane to be surrounded by all this pregnancy if she’s dealt with fertility issues, but she can’t be rude to coworkers or refuse to work with someone because of it. You also can’t manage her emotions for her. You can be sensitive to her emotions, but from there it’s up to her.

The best thing to do, when you’re ready to announce your pregnancy to the rest of your office, is to tell Jane first privately so that she’s not forced to hear the news and react in front of a crowd. I’m not normally a fan of email for sensitive conversations, but in this case I’d consider using email so she can process the news in private and not have to respond on the spot. You can acknowledge that you know she’s said the news would be difficult for her and say you didn’t want to spring it on her when you’re telling the rest of the office. The tone you want is one that signals “I’m sorry this is painful for you, and I also know you’ll react reasonably because you are a reasonable person.” That last part may not be true, but that’s the tone that gives you the best chance at that outcome.

From there, it’s okay if Jane doesn’t want to chat with you; she’s allowed to decide that. But she does need to work with you and can’t be hostile. If that’s happening, you’d need to either try talking with her directly or talk to your manager (or possibly HR since pregnancy harassment is a thing).

You can read updates to this letter here and here.

3. I spent $4,000 to make myself competitive for a program that might be closed

Last year I became aware of an educational opportunity offered by my employer. I was working with a guy named Alan who was managing this new opportunity and working with potential applicants who were vying for the one seat in the program that our organization had. This opportunity would allow one applicant from my organization study at a certain school for a number of years while simultaneously earning a salary – a pretty sweet deal. This time last year, Alan informed me that we had one seat available and thus could only sponsor one applicant and that to be competitive, I needed to take four courses (unless I already possessed background in this field of study, which I did not). So I set out and took all the courses, which amounted to a $4,000 expense paid by me. I had a great time in the courses and ended up falling in love with the subject matter.

I spoke to Alan three months ago and asked if we could set up a time to talk about application materials for the impending deadline. He said he would be reaching out to each applicant in early fall to discuss this. So I waited. And when I didn’t hear from him, I reached back out and he never responded to my email. Last week a colleague told me Alan has moved on to a new position and my salary would not be paid if I attended. Because the school receives federal funding, I asked whether we still had a guaranteed spot despite the lack of salary sponsorship by my organization. Alan’s colleague told me he didn’t think to ask that question. I emailed Alan to ask him and he responded by saying he had moved on and “has no need to be included in the conversation.”

So here I am two months out from the application deadline with no information from Alan or his predecessor. I have spent $4,000 pursuing this goal and Alan didn’t even update me on the program’s status nor his having moved on to a new job. Is it right for me to tell him how disappointed I am and to press him for contacts I can reach out to about a space in the program? I am told I might still able to apply, but I need to know if we have a designated space. Alan’s predecessor is totally checked out. How do I handle this?

You could try Alan one more time; tell him you’re sorry to bother him but you’ve been unable to get answers from anyone else and ask if he can suggest contacts you could try. But telling him how disappointed you are won’t get you closer to the outcome you want — and Alan is right that if he no longer works there, this isn’t his job anymore. You’re asking him for a favor by requesting that he point you in the right direction, so you’ve got to approach it with that in mind, rather than unloading your disappointment on him.

You should also check with whoever managed Alan before he left and anyone else who might be involved in overseeing your organization’s participation in the program. Ultimately, though, this might just be a case of the situation changing. I know that sucks when you invested your own money, but it’s it’s also true that Alan/your organization didn’t guarantee you a spot; it sounds like he told you those courses would make you competitive with other candidates, but there was never a promise you’d be accepted. Unfortunately there’s always a risk that this kind of program will change after you’ve done the work to qualify for it.

4. I showed up for my interview at the wrong time

I had an interview that was scheduled for 10:30 am. I wrote down the wrong time and went at 1 pm. The manager would not see me or reschedule. She said she was there at 10:30 and now she was working and nicely asked me to leave! I want to send apology email but I think I blew it for getting time wrong.

You should send the apology email because it’s the courteous thing to do, but yeah, you probably missed your chance at the job. Showing up hours late for an interview is a big deal, and it will raise questions about your ability to track details (like the time of meetings) and be reliable. That might feel unfair if it’s entirely out of character for you, but the hiring manager has limited data about you and has to go on what she sees. Send the apology email because it’s polite and because you never know, but then I’d move on. I’m sorry!

5. Should I offer my employees resume advice?

I’ve managed a small team for two years, and was recently promoted to a position that will make me more involved with other parts of the company. We will be promoting one of my team to a low-level management position to oversee lower-level details I won’t be able to focus on any more. Three of them applied, submitting resumes (which we require even for internal applications).

All three resumes have some very obvious problems — irrelevant jobs given a ton of space, high school coursework given a lot of space six years after finishing college, a “highlights” section that redundantly lists information from further down the page, etc. In this case it doesn’t matter much; the hiring group knows all the candidates well and is aware of their accomplishments and qualifications, but I hate to see someone using a resume that makes them look like a weaker candidate than they are.

Would I be out of line to make a one-time offer on improving their resumes? My thought was to wait until the hiring process is played through, then phrase it like, “Would you be interested in getting feedback on your resume? It wasn’t really a factor in this case since we already knew you so well, but if you would like me to I will go through it as though you’d been an outside candidate and help you polish it up.”

I don’t want to be presumptuous or make them think they’re being encouraged to leave. But I want to be supportive and give them advice while I’m in a position to give it. I’ve got a close working relationship with all of them, and feedback/polishing on writing and presentations are already a major part of how we work together.

Yes, do it! Your wording is good. I’d just add, “I want to be clear that I hope you won’t go anywhere anytime soon, but realistically we all move on at some point, and I since I’ve got your resume in front of me now, I wanted to offer that kind of support.”

{ 346 comments… read them below }

  1. Blue*

    If such a critique is out of character for LW1’s boss, I wonder if it’s possible that the boss was expressing frustration with the difficult situation rather than reacting to the work in that way? Maybe this is my instinct toward giving the benefit of the doubt coming in too strongly, but I just….literally can’t imagine a remotely decent boss doing that on purpose.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      I’ve received emails that I thought were insulting/negative only to return to them later and realize I had misread them. I have also communicated very clumsily and ended up accidentally insulting my employee, and I only caught on because his response to me seemed a little off from his usual style! I can absolutely imagine a scenario where the emoji’s actually meant to refer to something specific in the email and the boss doesn’t realize how it’s coming across. This is all assuming she doesn’t have a record of asshattery, of course.

      1. Lemon curdle*

        Indeed. Letter writer are you sure the emojis were actually feedback? I know we take people at their word etc. But it is very easy to misread. I know I’ve done it.

    2. Troutwaxer*

      I was thinking of a reply something like, “Dear __________, I understand from your use of the puke emoji that you didn’t like my contribution, however, your method of critiquing my work doesn’t communicate the exact nature of the problem, and thus I cannot I’m not sure what kind of positive action I can take with regard to your feedback. Would you be so kind as to use words rather than emojis and phrase your critique with as much specific discussions of the problems with my product as possible, so I can improve as an employee?”

      1. Emeemay*

        @Troutwaxer This phrasing seems like way too much – I’d only write something that comes of THIS passive aggressive if I were fully prepared to burn bridges and possibly even my employment.

        Depending on your rapport with the boss, I’d do something closer to “Thanks for the feedback, but the puke emoji felt a little overboard – I know we occasionally use “thumbs up” or encouraging emoji in casual correspondence, but can we avoid that with negative or heavy feedback? It makes the overall message cross over into cruel, rather than constructive.”

        Or, with one of my bosses, with whom I’m on pretty great terms, “hey, I agree that it needs work, but that string of emoji was actually really demoralizing. Please don’t do that in future critiques?”

        Honestly whether you’ve got a good rapport with your boss or not, negative emoji in a work context like this is f***ing awful and I’d put a stop to it as soon as humanly possible.

      2. BabyShark*

        This phrasing is way too much for the situation…the feedback was literally given in emojis and this response is like they received a 30 page feedback document….

        Just say, “Can you clarify what your feedback was on X? I didn’t really understand what you meant by *puke emoji*” Then once they give the feedback, say “Thanks, in the future can you give the feedback like X instead of the emoji?

        1. Karou*

          LW said “she finished her comments with three emojis“, so she did get actual feedback before the emojis.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        That seems SUPER passive aggressive and a very OTT response to an emoji. I would stick to something more like “I appreciate your feedback about X and I’ll make the changes you requested going forward, but I felt that the puke emojis were unnecessary.”

      4. Artemesia*

        You need to add the paragraph about resigning and last day is two weeks from now because this very hostile paragraph would only be appropriate, if then, as part of a resignation letter.

    3. AutolycusinExile*

      Yes – if this came as a shock then that would imply an otherwise decent boss, which would make this weirder! I’m not terribly familiar with emojis, but does anyone know of a puke emoji on one OS that shows up differently on a different system? I’m pretty skeptical that this is the case, but I’ve run into an issue before where a grimace emoji (which looks clearly negative on my phone) shows up as a grin on my friend’s phone (like, extremely happy). I’m sure this is unlikely, but if anyone is aware of a similarly confusing technology ‘mistranslation’ that could be at play I’d love to hear about more of them!

      Honestly, though, I could absolutely see an immature boss doing something like this as a ‘lighthearted joke’, and I think the other negative emojis make it pretty unambiguous. Crappy, unprofessional, and definitely a red flag for worse issues.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Are there keboard shortcuts that can trigger this, or typing combinations? Our Skype has substitutions that I don’t know how to turn off.
        When referencing something that needs a registered trademark, typing “(R)” will turn into a rainbow. If I don’t know whether there are one or two items affected I might type “item (s)”– and that turns into a traffic cop holding a stop sign.

        1. Liane*

          In Skype, Discord, & even my phone’s message app, you have to press an icon to get where you can pick emojis. Of course if you know the code for the emoji, you can type that. E.g., the classic colon plus left parenthesis for a smile. But for many emojis those code aren’t easy. To type many accidentally would be like accidentally turning on your toaster while looking through the flatware drawer across the kitchen.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            I’ve done it more than once. Especially the (s) stop sign one. I usually follow up with something like “woah that was weird and unintentional” but if I’m in a hurry I don’t always notice it right away.

          2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            I’ve accidentally done that when my phone’s keyboard has lagged. I accidentally hit the emoji/gif button, and so I go from typing regular letters to (string of emojis or gifs) and have to go back and delete them.

          3. Wintermute*

            eh, I accidentally trigger them all the time but only the more simple ones, especially if you’re tying out mathematical formulae because of all the parenthesis.

            That said I really think that beggars beliefs here, they didn’t send one, they sent THREE, in a row, at the very end. This isn’t a situation where it’s “could you please get me the Venneman document? they’re on the :O drive on the file server” turning”:O” into a shocked-looking face emoji.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          We use Teams and I can avoid unintentional emojis by adding a space before the close parentheses: (R ), item(s ).

          When we moved to Teams I had a string of random, unintentional emojis in a conversation with a coworker because some of the shortcuts were different from our previous program — but to have a string of negative emojis would be a bit harder to do unintentionally since you’d probably have to actually type (puke) (mad) or whatever.

      2. Perfectly Particular*

        I’m wondering if the puke emoji was meant to be self-deprecating? In my workplace it is common phrasing when sending back a document completely redlined to say “sorry I puked all over your analysis – the abc was good, but I’m concerned about xyz.”

    4. Gamer Girl*

      My take is: does she know it was a puke emoji? Generally hard to miss that one, but I know that older people I work with and older relatives are extremely confused when using any emojis related to tears–the “cry laughing” emoji is the one a lot of them interpret as sad.

      And, I once got a poo emoji from a relative who genuinely thought it was a beehive, so probably best to double check that those were the intended emojis and that they were indeed feedback and not just reactions to what you were discussing in the moment!

      1. Politico*

        While I agree that emojis are very easily misinterpreted, I also think that’s a huge reason why writers should avoid them, particularly in formal business writing. LW1’s boss would do well to jettison the emojis.

      2. KateM*

        Ha. My then-young son thought that “beer” (as in, a large cup with foam on it) meant “milk boiling over”.

        1. OfOtherWorlds*

          That’s interesting. Milk boiling over does indeed generate a lot of foam, though the underlying liquid certainly isn’t amber. It certainly seems like a reasonable inference for a kid more familiar with hot chocolate than beer to make.

          1. KateM*

            Yes, one definitely could draw a (correct) conclusion that in our household, you can far more often see milk boiling over than beer.

      3. Marthooh*

        The boss used a “doh”, a “puke”, and an “angry face”, so it was probably intentional. I hope it was just momentary bad temper.

      4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        And the classic use of “WTF” for “Well that’s fantastic!”

        “a poo emoji from a relative who genuinely thought it was a beehive,”


        1. Wintermute*

          The worst I’ve seen is the possibly apocryphal woman who thought that “LOL” meant “lots of love” and told a poor kid “your aunt died LOL”

            1. Wintermute*

              that’s why I think it was apocryphal/an urban legend. Because you heard it father-son I heard mother-daughter, another version I found was a grandma not an aunt that died, etc.

      5. HailRobonia*

        “And, I once got a poo emoji from a relative who genuinely thought it was a beehive”

        Don’t accept any honey from this relative.

        1. Free now (and forever)*

          LOL—In this case, it stands for both laughing out loud and lots of love for your response.

      6. Quill*

        “poo emoji from a relative who genuinely thought it was a beehive”

        It beats the crud out of my mom sending me black widows thinking they were ticks.

        1. retrowaveRecluse*

          Won’t go any further off topic, but… Pardon?

          More on-topic, there seem to be so many misunderstandings with emojis (and even punctuation conventions) in text/casual quick text-based comms that even with track records of bad behaviour/intent I err towards charitably assuming good intentions. Asking for clarification costs little and can clear it up.

      7. Reluctant Manager*

        YES. Different programs render emojis differently. I think that what looks like puking in some programs looks like sticking out a tongue in others.

    5. Mystery Bookworm*

      If it’s out of character, my first guess would be that boss thinks throwing it in there is being funny or jovial and is not being thoughtful about how it could come across.

    6. Yorick*

      Yeah, is it possible the boss did the emojis because they’re annoyed with the client being picky or something?

      1. Kiki*

        Right, or they’re trying to criticize the client’s request? Like, “The client actually chose chartreuse [vomit emoji],” to say the color the client chose is vomit-y, not the fact you didn’t know that.
        It’s still not the most mature way to discuss clients, but it’s still a lot better than telling a direct report that you think their work is vomit.

      2. Willis*

        I could definitely see this, especially if it’s out of character for the boss to be mean and if the feedback was related to improvements to better fit the clients specifications vs general disapproval of the OPs work.

    7. Kiki*

      Yeah! This is such an immature thing to do, I have to wonder if she didn’t intend the emojis the way they came across? Like, she thinks this situation is vomit, not your work? If that’s at all plausible, I would ask her about it. “Hi [boss name]. I was really taken aback by your comments on my work [yesterday/ last week/etc.]. Specifically, the vomit emoji really surprised me. Can I ask you to elaborate on that? I’d hate to have misunderstood what you meant.”
      If this does not seem out of character, I would start looking for a new job, to be frank. That’s a level of bad boss that probably won’t be remediated.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Yeah, I think this is really good wording for an even an only somewhat decent boss.

      2. Courageous cat*

        I think there’s a lot of unnecessarily verbose potential responses floating around here. I don’t see why you couldn’t just say “Can I ask if the vomit emoji was intentional/in response to my work specifically/etc?” Doesn’t need to be a bigger thing imo.

    8. These Old Wings*

      I was thinking maybe word vomit if the boss was giving a lot of lengthy feedback? Either way, it definitely seems extreme to say you wanted to quit on the spot over it without clarifying or discussing it with your boss.

    9. lazy intellectual*

      Even the most charitable interpretation of this is unprofessional and unacceptable. I would record the conversation if I were the OP in case it ties into future unprofessional behavior. Just WTF.

      1. lazy intellectual*

        Though it is somewhat possible that the boss misinterpreted the emojis. I know some of them have ambiguous meanings.

  2. MK*

    #3, I would first exhaust all ways you might find more information from within your own company, and only contact Alan 8f you draw a complete blank. If nothing else, you don’t know on what terms he left, he might be very upset at the company and not willing to be particularly helpful; it’s also possible the company won’t be thrilled that he is still involved in this despite having left. And OP should process her feelings before contacting him, I sense an attitude that he is responsible for her shelling out 4,000 for courses that will have no immediate benefit and… I don’t really see what it has to do with him.

    1. Donna*

      Alan’s response also seems unnecessarily hostile. OP asked a single question – is there a guaranteed spot for the company. If the answer is too complex for him to answer definitively, he could just say so. Assuming they had a congenial relationship before, the cold brush-off indicates he holds some resentment for whatever reason. I think it’s fair for OP to go back and say she understands he’s not involved but his predecessor at the company didn’t seem to know anything and she’s just looking for other contacts to follow up with.

      Also, OP – I get that you spent a lot of money that seemed reasonable when there was an opportunity for free schooling, but you knew at the time that you weren’t guaranteed the position. It’s certainly frustrating to go from having a fair shot to having no chance to even compete, but try to remember that Alan never made you any promises. Hopefully reframing it helps you be more at peace with the situation.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        It does sound as if Alan left under a cloud, for whatever reason, and I can understand the frustration at having spent (a lot of) money for apparently nothing. That said, it sounds from the letter that the training was enjoyable and beneficial.

      2. Lilyp*

        The quote given in the letter didn’t read as hostile to me, just somewhat indifferent. If Alan doesn’t work there anymore he’s no longer involved in the process and won’t have up to date information anyway, it’s fine for him to be up front about that. OP should really be bothering Alan’s boss about this whole thing, not Alan, especially if she isn’t getting a clear answer from the person who replaced Alan or if his role is currently unfilled (I can’t quite tell from the letter if the colleague/predecessor is supposed to be a direct replacement for Alan or not).

      3. MK*

        It doesn’t seem hostile to me, he just said he shouldn’t be involved in a conversation since he is no longer an employee of that company, and he is right. It also depends on the OP’s tone when asking, perhaps he felt he needed to shut this down hard.

        And, no, it’s not “fair” for the OP to ask anything of him now; she can do so, but it will be a professional favour. There is probably someone whose job it is to know this information, but it is not Alan.

        1. Willis*

          Yeah, this. Plus, what good is Alan’s answer? The program changed since he last talked with OP about it, maybe after he left. She needs to talk to someone at her company or the school with current info, not base her application on the word of someone who isn’t connected to this anymore. I wouldn’t bother contacting him again.

          1. BRR*

            Yeah I’m not quite sure what contacting Alan a second time will accomplish. I don’t think his response was hostile and if he wrote in that he was contacted twice we’d tell him to ignore it. I fully understand why the LW is upset and I’m really sorry this happened to them; but a) it was always a possibility their $4,000 wouldn’t get them into the program and b) it’s not alan’s fault.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          The letter says predecessor, but I agree it seems like successor is what is meant.

          If it is the predecessor, who is in fact again involved in coverage, it could explain the checked-outed-ness.

          (I know we’re not meant to nitpick, but this is one that I think could change the meaning).

        2. Jemima Bond*

          I was about to ask the same question – it would make far more sense for OP to be trying to get info out of the person who has taken over from Alan than the one who went before him. As Half-Caf says, not to nitpick but it changes the meaning and successor would be much more logical.

      4. Mystery Bookworm*

        Hostile was my first reaction too, but if I actually look at the text, it’s pretty innocuous.

        I think it’s a phrase where tonal interpretation is going to make a lot of difference. (If I read it in my head with sort of a cheerful, informative tone, for example, it sounds fine. If a read it with a cool tone, it sounds like a dressing down.)

      5. KateM*

        Also, if the courses were good and useful and helped OP to grow professionally, they were still good for something?

        1. boop the first*

          Yes! I would be surprised if OP comes to regret the courses because it sounds like they enjoyed them, learned a lot about the subject, and learned a lot about themself in connection with that subject. It will only motivate them to find a way around this hiccup and maybe even onto something greater!

      6. Roscoe*

        I disagree. We don’t know the circumstance of why Alan left. But, if we assume they weren’t great, why should he want anything to do with this company. He is right, he no longer works there and has nothing to do with this anymore.

      7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Without knowing what OP said when they contacted him a SECOND time, I see nothing hostile in the response. Maybe he wanted to provide a direct response so OP would leave him alone as he no longer worked for the company and could no longer provide assistance. OP wants someone to blame for their situation, and unfortunately this is just one of those situations where there is nobody to blame. Nothing was guaranteed. They made the choice to spend their money to give them an edge for the program. Yes it’s disappointing and frustrating, but it’s not okay to make Alan feel guilty about it. And perhaps that disappointment and frustration came across in the email OP sent.

      8. Steph*

        OP here. Thanks for the comments everyone! A few updates:
        1) I definitely messed up and meant successor vs predecessor.
        2) Alan gave a few POCs…all have said he is still in the job though transitioning to a new one (they don’t have a replacement for him) and that he is the best person to talk to since they don’t have the info he does to answer any questions.
        3) I think my frustration stems from the lack of transparency here. If Alan had reached out to let me know the program was closed I would have been disappointed but whatever. If I had known when the program closed I could have potentially saved myself a few thousand dollars by taking a pause on prerequisites. But we’re past that point so I agree there is no need to vent about it to him or anyone else.
        4) I made a mistake in saying the courses were only to increase competitiveness. I was told they were required for the application.
        5) Education is always a good investment so I take comfort in that. Still, a note saying that the program had closed would have been nice and potentially saved me a lot of time, money, and frustration. At this point I’m hoping to use what I’ve learned for the benefit of my company…and to have some fun along the way hopefully!

        I appreciate everyone’s help and advice!!! :-)

    2. valentine*

      I would first exhaust all ways you might find more information from within your own company
      I can’t tell whether Alan is a former colleague of OP3’s. If he doesn’t have a successor, the person receiving the application materials or running the program may be able to help.

      If they haven’t already, OP3 could ask about tuition reimbursement.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. Alan doesn’t work at the company any longer. I do not know why the LW is trying to get information from him instead of his replacement. If Alan’s colleague is taking over for him the colleague is the one to get answer from. If he doesn’t know, LW should ask colleague when he will know. If the colleague isn’t taking over the program then the question should be directed to Alan’s supervisor.

      It doesn’t even sound like the company has announced the program yet and the LW hasn’t applied to the program yet. I know waiting for announcement that might not come is frustrating, but that is an option too. If the company is doing anything with the program this year surely they will announce it.

      Maybe they honestly don’t know yet because who knows what COVID is doing to the program itself this year. In this time of flux and sudden adjustments, a former employee is the absolute wrong guy to tell you what’s going on because he does not know what might have happened since he left.

      Try to get information from current employees of your company about the status, but accept they might not know what is going to happen. Accept that your decision to fund those classes yourself might not get you the opportunity that you hoped it would.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I suspect there is no replacement. Thats why the OP had to ask the person previously in the position.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Sure, but OP has reached out to Alan…twice. Even if there’s no replacement, you can’t expect the person who left to be able to help you. OP also seems to be upset that Alan didn’t tell them he was leaving. Unless they were close, that’s not unusual. OP is looking for someone to blame and there isn’t anyone at fault here.

          1. serenity*

            Exactly. This is a question for someone at OP’s company (her manager? another department?), not a former employee who’s already been contacted twice and is justifiably annoyed at this point.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        LW I’d also suggest that you seem to have expected something more from Alan than he was even offering at the time he was your coworker. You wanted him to review your application materials before you submitted them. He told you that he would talk to each applicant – meaning after material was submitted.

        Alan’s response that he moved on and “has no need to be included in the conversation” is in no way hostile. It’s simply true; you shouldn’t rely on a former employee to inform you about your company’s position in this situation.

        As for your disappointment, consider that maybe to Alan you were simply one of potentially many people interested in a program he was managing. You seem to have possibly had an expectation of particular assistance from him, but if he is managing the program he probably needed to assist all interested parties equally. When he came to leave the company even if through his own choice (but maybe he was let go), you were a person (possibly one of a group of people) he communicated with occasionally about a program he ran for the company. Under those circumstances, you wouldn’t necessarily be on the top of his list to inform.You and he had a working relationship. He ran a program you were interested in applying to but hadn’t applied to yet. There’s certainly room for disappointment, but I don’t think it should be directed towards Alan.

        I am very glad that through those classes you learned something new that you found a subject that you loved. That’s truly a positive.

        1. Georgina Fredricka*

          I agree that the expectations here seemed to be mismanaged.

          There needs to be emphasis on that the coursework was to make you *at par* and competitive with other applicants – not to guarantee a spot. OP willingly took the courses knowing there was at least a chance, even with everything going the way they expected (Alan not leaving in the middle), that they wouldn’t be chosen for this obviously competitive program.

          At the beginning of this journey was the right time to ask whether those courses would still be worth it to you if you didn’t get the job. That’s a lot of money!

          1. Steph*

            OP here. Thanks for the comments everyone! A few updates:
            1) I definitely messed up and meant successor vs predecessor.
            2) Alan gave a few POCs…all have said he is still in the job though transitioning to a new one (they don’t have a replacement for him) and that he is the best person to talk to since they don’t have the info he does to answer any questions.
            3) I think my frustration stems from the lack of transparency here. If Alan had reached out to let me know the program was closed I would have been disappointed but whatever. If I had known when the program closed I could have potentially saved myself a few thousand dollars by taking a pause on prerequisites. But we’re past that point so I agree there is no need to vent about it to him or anyone else.
            4) I made a mistake in saying the courses were only to increase competitiveness. I was told they were required for the application.
            5) Education is always a good investment so I take comfort in that. Still, a note saying that the program had closed would have been nice and potentially saved me a lot of time, money, and frustration. At this point I’m hoping to use what I’ve learned for the benefit of my company…and to have some fun along the way hopefully!

            I appreciate everyone’s help and advice!!! :-)

  3. Yvette*

    Re #1. While I agree with the advice I might change “I appreciated your feedback on the webinar …” to “Thank you for your feedback on the webinar…” If I were as upset (and justifiably so) as you were, the word “appreciated” would stick in my throat, or finger tips, as the case may be.

    1. Batgirl*

      I’d go straight to ‘puzzled’. “I was puzzled by your feedback on the webinar as it was in the form of some of the more unusual emojis. I’m guessing it was critical, which is fine, but I was pretty alarmed by the puke emoji?”

      1. Old Admin*

        That’s an excellent response that might actually get a useful answer. *insert thumbs up emoji here” ;-)

      2. Yorick*

        The string of emojis came after some feedback, so OP doesn’t need to ask what the feedback was or assume it was critical. OP just needs to respond to how mean the boss seemed to be.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        It sounds like there was normal, specific feedback though, and these emojis were just added at the end. So you wouldn’t want to come across like you didn’t understand the feedback itself.

  4. Junior Dev*

    In her book “ Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language,” Gretchen McCulloch argues that emojis are the textual equivalent of physical gestures in conversation—so things like punctuating your words with facial expressions, shrugging, moving your hands for emphasis, things like that. So under this theory, Alison’s comparison to miming puking is spot on.

    My opinion on Slack emojis and the like is they should never be the sole means of conveying information someone needs to act on. By definition, negative feedback is feedback that means you need to change something. In addition to being mean and juvenile, it’s also just very poor communication for letting you know what to do.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      My opinion on Slack emojis and the like is they should never be the sole means of conveying information someone needs to act on.

      Exactly this. The LW can obviously see that her boss didn’t like her work, but she’s been given no actionable advice on what was wrong with it or how to improve it. The boss was no only rude, her “feedback” was completely useless.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        It seems like she did receive feedback, though? OP says that she was given bad feedback that ended with the three emojis. That’s definitely rude and unprofessional but I don’t think they were the sole means of conveying the feedback.

    2. MK*

      My understanding was that the boss didn’t communicate exclusively with emojis, just tacked them on at the end of her actual feedback.

    3. Blackcat*

      My one experience of the exception to this in Slack is if I propose doing X and get thumbs up from the relevant people, I assume that means they agree.

  5. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    #2: You shouldn’t have to tiptoe around your coworker. Of course, don’t be insensitive about the fact that you and other coworkers are pregnant while she can’t have another child (and wishes she could), but you don’t have to make it all about her. At the same time, she should realize that you and your coworkers are excited about this time in your lives. If she is a reasonable person, she will manage her emotions appropriately while you and your coworkers are reasonably considerate. I just hope she isn’t one of those people that expects everyone to make it all about her. People like that can be draining.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. The little speech ahead of announcing could backfire because it suggests that her outrageous behavior is somehow acceptable and that you should tiptoe around her. At the last say something like ‘I know you were joking that I better not get pregnant, but I wanted to give you a heads up . . .’ Letting her know by email lets her manage her emotions — but she needs a cue that you are not accepting her right to give you a hard time about it. She needs to grow up. Her behavior is really ugly.

      1. insertusernamehere*

        No, the coworker shouldn’t be making harsh comments about someone being pregnant, but it’s really rude to say, “she needs to grow up.” Until you have ever been the one with infertility issues in an office of pregnant women (and probably everyone else you know in your personal life), it’s a constant struggle of grief, frustration, sorrow, isolation, and pain. Yea she should get a therapist or some people outside of work who can validate and be supportive. But it has nothing to do with being selfish, entitled, petty, or needing “to grow up.”

        1. Lady Heather*

          I disagree. “Keeping your mouth shut rather than saying something you shouldn’t” is a key part of growing up.

          1. Anon for this*

            No kidding. I’m single and probably always will be. (Introvert + demi is not a combo that leads to an active dating life.) Do you have any idea how many weddings I have gone to and not only been pleasant and polite but also been actively happy for the couple?

            Am I wistful sometimes? Often that and more. But that is, as they say, a me problem and I don’t get to take it out on innocent bystanders.

            They are obviously not equivalent situations, but part of being a mature person is not letting your own disappointments spill out all over other people. Even the big, hurtful disappointments.

          2. Courageous cat*

            Seriously. This is work: we don’t need to know or frankly care how hard of a time she’s had, she still needs to be reasonably polite.

        2. Ominous Adversary*

          It is awful, and Jane’s unhappiness is both understandable and real, but her behavior is selfish, entitled, and petty.

        3. KoiFeeder*

          She is allowed to be in pain. She is not allowed to take out that pain on innocent bystanders. I’d understand perfectly well if coworker backed off on the friendly relationship, but being nasty to OP and acting like OP is having a baby at her/to spite her is way out of line.

        4. Danika*

          Hard disagree. Learning to manage your emotions and not expecting your coworkers to tiptoe around you is a huge part of growing up, and telling OP that she “better not be pregnant” was very petty and unkind. Seriously, who says that to someone? Fertility issues or not, there is basic human decency rules that need to be followed. This woman is allowed to feel hurt and frustrated, and she should deal with those emotions accordingly (therapist, support group, etc.) but she is not allowed to unload her emotional baggage on her coworkers and insult them for being pregnant around her.

    2. valentine*

      don’t be insensitive about the fact that you and other coworkers are pregnant while she can’t have another child (and wishes she could)
      OP2 may be too sensitive to Jane. They were already letting Jane be the one to bring up children and now feel “somewhat at fault” for Jane threatening and punishing them. Unless Jane has stopped speaking to others, she’s weirdly focusing on OP2. I wouldn’t coddle her by telling her first and I’d try to head off and brace for ways she’ll escalate when OP2 confirms the pregnancy.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Agree with this. LW is already doing a lot of tiptoeing around Jane. You are not at fault or wrong for having done a perfectly normal thing that you had every reason and right to do … that also happens to touch her sore spot.

        Your responsibility is to be reasonable and kind to her and understand that she might have some capital-F Feelings, not to make sure she never feels even one moment of disappointment or discomfort or inconvenience or sadness when the topic very naturally comes up or you’re existing in her space. You’re allowed to live your life. It’s one thing to keep pregnancy talk to a reasonable minimum just because everyone’s not that interested and it’s your personal life. It’s something else entirely to wear nothing but giant sweatshirts for nine months and keep loudly pretending your belly is just last night’s burrito.

        See also: you don’t have to never mention your mother because your coworker lost hers. You’re allowed to get a puppy even though your colleague’s dog passed away earlier this year. Your daughter can graduate from college even though your coworker’s son dropped out. You can get engaged even if your officemate’s husband cheated on him and they are in the middle of a messy divorce. Et cetera.

        1. EPLawyer*

          So much better than what I was going to say.

          As long as you are not doing all baby talk all the time (or really any single subject ad nauseuam*) , it is up to Jane to deal with it like an adult. She can go home and scream and cry and curse the universe all she wants. At work, she needs to act like a professional.

          Sharing an office with her may get awkward if she refuses to be reasonable. But that’s a Jane problem, not a you problem. Talk to HR if she acts unprofessionally. If she is just frosty and refuses idle chitchat, ignore her. You have too many other things to deal with right now to also be in charge in Jane’s emotions.

          *see how I tied two letters together? Not bad for a Monday morning.

        2. Batty Twerp*

          Exactly this.
          You can be sensitive to her feelings, but she’s got to take on the responsibility for managing those feelings.
          You’re not having a baby *at* Jane.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        Yes, that’s what I thought. Of course she works closely with Jane and few of us want deliberately to hurt people’s feelings or rub their noses in a sensitive subject, but… Jane appears to have no problem doing this and has been extremely rude and unreasonable to the OP. I would do as Alison suggests, either speak to or mail her briefly and courteously when you are ready to share your news but don’t apologise or even refer to her ridiculous ”you’re not allowed to get pregnant” statement.

        And if she gets difficult, remind her that kindness and sensitivity works in two directions.

        1. Artemesia*

          It is also possible that Jane thinks she is joking — like those people who say ‘I hate you’ when you are thin and take a giant brownie while they struggle with their weight. Not cool, but not intended precisely as an insult.

          But if she continues any of this when she knows you are pregnant I would be making a visit to HR and using words like ‘pregnancy harassment’ and ‘ hostile work environment’ to lay the groundwork in case things get worse. You should not have to share an office with someone who would pick at this or be difficult in response to your pregnancy.

          And congratulations!! Hope your children are a great joy to you as mine have been to me.

      3. BuildMeUp*

        I agree somewhat, but I do disagree about whether to tell Jane first. Jane is being unnecessarily hostile, but the kind thing to do for anyone who has struggled with fertility is to convey this kind of news to them separately. The OP shouldn’t be unkind just because Jane is being unkind.

        Plus, if OP lets Jane know before everyone else, when there are issues later, she can say she did everything she (reasonably) could to help Jane process the news.

        1. valentine*

          the kind thing to do for anyone who has struggled with fertility is to convey this kind of news to them separately. The OP shouldn’t be unkind just because Jane is being unkind.
          It’s not unkind for OP2 not to treat Jane differently, and I would think so even if Jane weren’t being so awful. OP2 can email everyone at once. They’re already going to have to consider the timing because they share an office with Jane.

        2. Courageous cat*

          Yeah but… it’s not her job to help Jane process the news! Whatsoever, honestly. It’s Jane’s job to process the news. She works in an office with other human beings and things like this are going to happen – if she has a negative reaction, that’s hers to deal with, as unfortunate as it may be.

          This is not a friend, this is a coworker, and that’s making a big difference here.

        3. MNnonprofitmgr*

          I completely agree- I’m in the midst of fertility treatments (2 years into a hard journey), and it has been, so, so helpful to hear pregnancy news on my own, especially in a format like email or text. I’m managing my emotions fairly well during this struggle, but it can be really hard to hear pregnancy announcements, and fighting back tears in a staff meeting when someone announces was a terrible moment for me.

    3. Isabelle*

      I agree. Someone needs to sit down with Jane and explain to her that other employees are not getting pregnant at her.
      It’s unfortunate that hat she can’t have a second child but she can’t take her disappointment out on pregnant women at work (or outside work!)

      1. Niffler*

        This was my thought as well. When I was struggling with infertility, I had to remind myself constantly that people were not getting pregnant “at me” and that my fertility issues were my own. It’s a hard place to be, but Jane needs to do some self-reflection here and realize not everything is about her.

      2. Simonthegreywarden*

        So much this. I struggled with wanting a child I couldn’t have for years after Mr.TheGreyWarden and I got married (we have our son now). During that time, a friend had an abortion for both health and personal reasons. While there was a vague feeling of unfairness, I also knew that she wasn’t having her abortion at me, and that her fertility had no effect on mine. Jane can feel what she feels; she has no right to express that AT OP.

    4. Mama Bear*

      I’d keep it quick and to the point. “You correctly guessed that I am pregnant. I’ve noticed that this bothers you, so I will refrain from discussing my pregnancy with you, except where it would directly impact your work (preparing for maternity leave). I wanted to tell you directly so you did not hear it through the rumor mill.”

      I have a friend who had a very difficult time and lost a baby. When I got pregnant, I emailed her something similar so she could process it on her own time, and letting her know I was sensitive to her grief. Telling coworker solo is kind, but OP need not feel guilty about her baby. After coworker knows, address any behavior that impacts work.

  6. Susan*

    “You better not be pregnant?” What even is going on with that? I get that it is maybe difficult for Jane, but she does not get to tell other people if and/or when they can or cannot be pregnant. I would have a pretty hard time not being maybe overly….blunt(?) to Jane regarding this issue. I am more than willing to try to see things from another point of view, but to be harshly commanded that I better not be pregnant would not have sat well with me. Especially when dealing with morning sickness. OP, congratulations on your baby and I wish you all the best, and I hope things go well with Jane.

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      This did make more sense to me after the detail that three other women are currently pregnant. It was probably a “Oh no not you too!” vibe. Still harsh though.

    2. Bagpuss*

      On its own I could see it as being an attempt at a joke that misfired, but coupled with her being frosty and barely speaking there is obviously more going on.
      As OP has already et HR know of her pregnancy, I would suggest speaking again to HR, lettering them know what has happened and making clear that you are a bit concerned both at Jane’s current behaviour, and about how she may react once OP lets her colleagues know about the pregnancy, so that they have a heads up.

      I think in the mean time OP can speak to Jane directly about her change in attitude – not referencing pregnancy at all but just saying she has noticed that Jane seems to be quite distant and asking her if there is anything the matter? It may be that the two things aren’t actually connected and that here is some other reason Jane is giving OP the cold shoulder, in which case that may be capable of being resolved now. (and if Jane does say that she thinks OP s pregnant and she doesn’t want to talk to her, then at that point OP needs to speak to HR directly anyway.)

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I was thinking it might be worthwhile having the conversation Alison suggested over email either a) bcc’ing HR or b) in the presence of HR. That way Jane gets her privacy to process her emotions aside from a public announcement, and is put on notice that she can’t continue with her nasty behavior.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          CCing HR would take away any benefit of a private aside. I think that would certainly come across as a warning to Jane, not a kindness or sensitivity.

    3. Janet Pinkerton*

      I mean, I’ll be honest, I *internally* say this every time I talk to one of my friends who is of the right age and not on birth control. Because I’ve been trying for two years without success. Like, when my work friend told me his wife was pregnant (for the fourth time) outside I said “oh congratulations!”and inside I said “are you effing kidding me? I know they weren’t planning this” (they weren’t, they had given away their baby stuff). And I keep my fertility issues very quiet at work so we just went back to normal after my initial private reaction.

      But the trick is that you don’t say that stuff out loud. You think it, you commiserate with your online fertility group, but you don’t say that kind of thing, especially to a coworker.

      1. RecentAAMfan*

        “Internally” is key isn’t it? Thankfully we’re all entitled to have our thoughts. I don’t think any of us would want all our internal monologues put out there for the world to see!
        Sorry that you are struggling with this. It must be extra difficult when you are face with unintended pregnancies around you.

      2. KateM*

        About giving away your baby stuff, I admit I did this after second child when our preferred time for third had passed and it looked like we’ll stay with two, but I was still hoping that perhaps somewhat later – kind of trying to evoke Murphy’s Law.

      3. SusanB*

        For real. I had a really rough time getting pregnant and had a miscarriage and I would say the mean terrible jealous things to my husband but to the person I’d say “Oh congratulations to you!” but then I’d inwardly cry. I eventually saw a therapist and that helped quite a bit. It taught me to be aware of my triggers and figure out how to politely leave conversations about babies without making people feel too terrible about it.

        It sucks. There’s no way to say it other than “it sucks” but man, you can’t act like that to people at work. Or people in your social circle.

  7. Zombeyonce*

    LW #2, I just want you to know that no matter what anyone’s reaction is to your announcement that you’re pregnant, you never have to apologize or feel bad about it. You can feel sympathy that someone may have a hard time hearing about it, but that does not mean you ever need to apologize for this wonderful, wanted thing happening to you. Congratulations!

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      Yes. My best friend has recurrent pregnancy loss. She has a couple kids, but it’s highly unlikely she will ever have another. So yes, it’s painful for her to hear pregnancy announcements. But she was still thrilled about each of mine, after that first, momentary pang. And has been very supportive.
      There is no reason a coworker cannot be civil on this subject.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes. And while we can feel sympathy to someone whose sadness is clouding their judgement (which, frankly, is not a nice place to be) — kowtowing to that sadness doesn’t helpfully address the situation.

      To my mind, the line here to be conscientious, but not repentant or apologetic – OP didn’t become pregnant at her colleague.

      It does sound OP wants to extend her colleague some grace, but also assert reasonable boundaries. I think that reflects really well on OP.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        +1000 for the very astute sentence: “the line here to be conscientious, but not repentant or apologetic – OP didn’t become pregnant at her colleague.”

  8. Yvette*

    Re #5. As you indicated, I would wait until a candidate has been chosen and has passed any probationary period before reaching out in this way. You don’t want to come across as thought you were coaching them and or playing favorites for this position. I would also point out ” In this case it doesn’t matter much; the hiring group knows all the candidates well and is aware of their accomplishments and qualifications, but I hate to see someone using a resume that makes them look like a weaker candidate than they are.” So that they don’t think the reason they did not get the job was the resume.

    1. OP5*

      Yeah, I definitely would wait until the job shuffling settles down. I also don’t want to make any of them think that I’m telling them how they could be more competitive for THIS position when the decision process is already out of their hands at this point. and point well taken, I would need to be very explicit that it didn’t matter to MY choice, it’s just something I noticed.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Does your company have a standard resume format for employee data? If not, perhaps you could develop one and restructure all of your employees’ resumes into it.

        My company requires employee resumes on file, which are updated annually or when duties/assignments change. These are used for annual reviews, department assessments (who’s doing what), and to bid on work.

        It’s extra work on the front end, but the info benefits both employee and employer.

        1. Artemesia*

          It sounds like this is not so much a format problem though as a content one and that is a lot harder to fix without good advice.

          1. Mockingjay*

            We do content fixes. The format is not extensive; what we want is an accurate description of each employee’s qualifications, experience, and details on current duties.

            I suppose it boils down to how a company or a manager would use a corporate resume; Current Job does a remarkable job of tracking employee progress, successes, and assignments. I’ve had other jobs where the resume was just a checkbox to accompany the annual eval and stuffed in a file.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          We have that for some people for proposals, but ours is not a format you would use for a job application. Ours lists every project people worked on (typically ~1 yr/ea), and it seems like in proposals they want to position everyone as an expert, so you have pages of projects, not 1-2 pages total like in a job resume.

        3. OP5*

          We don’t have anything like that, at all. In our case it’s just the online system we use doesn’t/can’t discriminate between an internal hire and an external one, so even an internal applicant from a limited applicant pool has to fill out all the fields of their contact information, professional data, attach a resume, etc. I know it’s an obnoxious and inefficient system, but I don’t really have standing to change it.

          That same system does have fairly detailed tracking info, though, so what we CAN see is any given employee’s full employment dates, viewable by when they had which job title and who they were reporting to at the time, and what their job description was during that period. The more detailed elements like specific achievements and assignments are just tracked by individual managers. Luckily we’re not an enormous company and our working teams are smallish, so that’s do-able.

      2. Smithy*

        Without knowing too much about your typical work calendar, in addition to thinking of some time after the selection has been made – it could also potentially be coupled with your PME/goal setting process? Essentially an offer to tie it to larger professional development conversations?

        However you do it, I think it may ultimately hit people uncomfortably or as though maybe it did impact the final decision. That being said, I just want to hugely commend you for this. People get so much old, bad, weird resume advice – and the opportunity to get guidance is a truly valuable mentoring opportunity. All to say, if the initial reaction is somewhat defensive or negative, I would give them some grace. What you’re doing is awesome, and I could see getting really flustered and maybe embarrassed but then ultimately being very appreciative.

        1. OP5*

          In this case, the company wouldn’t take a super enthusiastic view of resume improvements being part of official employee developments. While the culture is slowly shifting here, upper management still has leanings toward the idea that we’re all a tight-knit family and leaving is betraying the family and you shouldn’t want to ever go and work somewhere else.

          I’m certainly not a resume expert (I’ve been working on polishing mine juuuuust in case COVID makes something unexpected happen and it’s a major slog for me). But when there’s things that leap off the page that would make me question whether an outside candidate was a good fit at all, I want to try to give that guidance :)

          1. MassMatt*

            Oh ugh, the “like family here” thing is usually SUCH a big red flag.

            So whenever this idea that someone moving on is “betraying” their current company comes up I have to wonder if everyone started working there as there very first job. If not, why did they “betray” all those other places they worked? Are they going to work there until they retire or die? If not, when are they going to “betray” them?

            This is the language of a cult, not a functional workplacce.

            1. OP5*

              They’re less dysfunctional than many I’ve seen. I think the attitude in upper managment is a holdover from the (relatively recent) days when we were a tiny startup, and any chance of success depended on everyone banding together and throwing themselves 100% into the company and trauma-bonding over how tough everything was. Things ARE improving- we had one CEO from startup all the way through multinational, and he’s recently retired. Other long-term upper management are gradually turning over as well, and attitudes are slowly changing.

              The real irony is that in my earlier days here, the same company that did everything it could to lock low-level employees in and prevent them moving on, also as notorious for never promoting from within to management positions. Again, that’s changing (rapidly and thoroughly).

  9. Infertile Myrtle*

    Yes, yes, yes to telling Jane about the pregnancy via email. Even better if you maje the subject or first line “Please read in private” or something similar. I have experienced years of infertility and while it’s never been a huge issue at work (I’m the youngest member on my team by far), it has been a struggle watching all my friends be pregnant. The nicest thing one good friend has done for me is give me the heads up of her various pregnancies via emails that she instructs me to read privately. Whether she realizes it or not, that gives me time to cry and be angry and stomp around the house at the unfairness of it all – so by the time I see/speak with her next I am able to express my genuine joy in her happiness without my own difficulties causing me to lash out. Because I am truly happy for my friends – it’s just hard sometimes to process all the emotions at once.

    1. Infertile Myrtle*

      That being said – infertility does not excuse Jane’s comments to the OP. Even in my worst moments of being surprised by a pregnancy announcement, I wouldn’t dream of telling a coworker or friend that “they better not be pregnant”! I just wasn’t able to be as demonstratively happy/excited for them as I would have like to have been. Hopefully, with a private note, Jane will be able to control her emotions and continue a good working relationship with the OP. Otherwise, yes, a chat with the manager or HR is in order.

      1. Not Australian*

        I’m inclined to cut Jane a *bit* of slack – we tried for four years for a baby and I did find it difficult to be as happy for friends as I wanted to be, simply because I was so caught up in my own misery at the time. (Would never have told anyone they ‘better not be pregnant’, though, that’s pretty uncouth.) Definitely give Jane a heads-up first, by whatever means seem appropriate, to reduce any ‘shock’ element and allow her to pull herself together before the news is shared more generally. Really, these things are the result of a genetic lottery and good or ill fortune are nobody’s ‘fault’ and there should be no blame attached in any direction.

        [If anyone cares, we eventually decided to have cats instead – on the basis that you can fit more of them into your life. We both had plenty of younger relatives anyway.]

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        I agree. Where grief is concerned, I think it’s best to be generous with our judgements, and try to offer the benefit of the doubt, even if someone is acting unreasonably.

        But you can do that and still (kindly, firmly) assert how you deserve to be treated.

      3. Mimi Me*

        I struggled to get pregnant with my first child. A coworker I had at the time was wildly competitive and decided that she wanted to get pregnant while I was trying (her third to my first). She ended up getting pregnant several months before I did. Not going to lie, it hurt in a way I didn’t realize it would, BUT I smiled, congratulated her, and just moved on. Oddly, she had been trying for a girl (after 2 sons) and I was the one who had a girl instead. She gave her two weeks notice the day I came in with the ultrasound results. She said that she felt like I had done this on purpose.
        People who are otherwise normal can behave oddly when it comes to pregnancy announcements. It’s not at all appropriate, but it happens more often than you’d realize.

        1. Julia*

          Personally I’d argue that your coworker wasn’t quite normal to begin with if she really got pregnant to have a baby before you could, but you are right that fertility and pregnancy stuff can be a minefield for a lot of people. I’m of childbearing age and have been married for a few years and the questions bother me so much, I can’t even imagine what it must feel like if someone wants to be pregnant but can’t get there, or is currently pregnant and bullied for it.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Wait, what? She thought you deliberately got pregnant with a girl to spite her? Does she not understand how babies are made?

        3. hbc*

          People are so weird in this area. My SIL whined to me that her younger brother was going to have a baby first which was the “wrong order”–while she was pregnant with *my* younger brother’s kid who would precede my first by a couple of months.

          And I had a coworker who got pregnant with her first about the same time as I got pregnant with my second who was swearing up and down that she would give birth first, trying to get me to jump into a competition. I was just baffled. My due date was sooner, first children tend to be later than second, and who the heck cares?

        4. AKchic*

          People are… weird.

          My younger sister is extremely competitive. I had four boys. My mother was very vocal in her displeasure in not getting a granddaughter. To the point that I always knew what she was going to say with every pregnancy announcement. “Ugh, it better be a girl this time. And you’re done now.” Every. Single. Time. She didn’t pay for any of them. We didn’t live with her. She just didn’t like the *image* of her daughter having “too many” kids with so many ex-husbands. My mother has this very weird idea of what’s proper, and I do not fit it.
          Enter my little sister. She has health issues and was told not to have children. Well, she wanted to pin down this one guy. It took them five kids to get that coveted girl. Not a peep from my mother on stopping. The doctors begged her to stop. Other family members begged her to stop. I stopped talking to her over a decade ago, so I don’t have to deal with her, but I do hear from my mother about how “great” my sister is for giving her a granddaughter.
          It will be nice when I no longer work with my mother so I don’t have to talk to her at all.

      4. Mel_05*

        Yeah, that’s a pretty rough comment. I wonder if she thought she was pulling off some kind of humor – I have a couple friends who have tried to be funny about things that bother them, but they can’t quite do it and it just lands as angry.

    2. Anon for this*

      Same here – did five solid years and 15 cycles of IVF to no avail. It’s not on the pregnant people to manage my feelings but getting a quiet heads-up in advance would have been nice.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      Also a person who struggled with fertility and had a hard time being around a pregnant friend at the time I realized a second child was likely not happening. I never told her and managed my own emotions.

      Jane has already asked the OP to manage her emotions. I agree a private email giving her a heads up and to mention the comments in the email, “I know you were joking but wanted to let you know before the office . . . “

    4. Construction Safety*

      I don’t know, they share an office. I think I’d opt for closing the door, giving her the FYI in an even tone and trying to read her face for wrath or congratulations, walking out if it was wrath.

      1. Janet Pinkerton*

        Here’s the thing. OP1 knows that she’s not going to have a happy reaction. She knows that Jane is going to be upset because of her personal issues. There’s no upside to telling her in person, for either of them.

    5. MNnonprofitmgr*

      I completely agree! I’ve been in the midst of fertility treatments for 2 years, and as much as I want to be happy for others, it can be really fricking hard. Hearing the news ahead of time (preferably via email or text) has been so helpful so I can work through my negative thoughts and feelings, and then give the announcer a genuine congratulations later! I’ve been in multiple staff meetings (or social events outside of work) where pregnancies were announced and it was so hard to try and act happy when really I just wanted to cry.

  10. Catherine*

    OP #2, you mention Jane has made repeated comments that she couldn’t handle it if you were pregnant. I think you should tell HR immediately. IANAL (and I hope one jumps in) but I think that Jane doesn’t need to know for sure that you are pregnant for this to qualify as harassment.

    1. Forrest*

      Yes, this is my thought too. Sensitive email in advance is absolutely the right course of action for someone who you have a warm relationship with, you know they are struggling with infertility, and you also know they would *want* to be happy and positive for you and manage their own feelings elsewhere. But Jane isn’t doing that: she’s being snippy and nasty to OP, to the extent that OP is wondering whether *she’s* done something wrong. I would absolutely let my manager know about the unpleasant comments and ask whether she’d be willing to let Jane know both I am pregnant and that Jane needs to be strictly neutral and business-like on the topic if she can’t be kind.

    2. Julia*

      That seems smart. What happens if OP goes on maternity leave and Jane refuses to cover for her? I assume you share responsibilities if you share an office, and several more months of angry glares and frosty comments and refusing to help sound like more stress than any person, let alone one with added medical stress, should be under.

    3. AnNina*

      Yes. This was my thoughts too. Tell your manager or HR. You have nothing to apologize for. She has unloaded her baggage on your shoulders and that’s very unfair, if you are not close, personal friends. Being pregnant at work usually is at least a minor hassle by it self. Take care and congratulations!

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Eh, I’d give Jane one more chance — send the email and see how she reacts. If she’s still making comments about not covering for you when you’re out, then yes, talk to your boss/HR. Many of us have probably said things along the lines of “they better not come to me to fix it” when someone’s annoying us, but then if we’re approached to fix it…we do, because we are responsible adults who do our jobs.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree that OP should talk to HR, but I would suggest she approach it more as a “Jane made these comments and I wanted your guidance on how you think I should share my pregnancy with her and the rest of the team.” In my opinion, best case scenario would be OP giving HR permission to share her news with Jane and make it clear that continued comments will not be tolerated.

    6. AKchic*

      Jane has already acted horribly, I’d be all for letting HR break the news to her and moving OP2 away from Jane for the rest of the pregnancy to reduce the chance for further emotional damages.

      It’s not like OP2 is going to terminate any accidental pregnancies to appease Jane if she weren’t currently pregnant or even trying to get pregnant, and she’s not going to terminate a known and wanted pregnancy to avoid conflict with Jane now. Jane had a chance to be rational when she *suspected* a pregnancy and she chose not to be. Why give her any leeway when confirming what she already suspects?

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Jane has made repeated comments that she couldn’t handle it if you were pregnant.

      That part particularly struck me. I wonder what sort of tone this and Jane’s other remark were made in?

      I wonder if this was an attempt from Jane to get the OP to ‘spill the beans’ or acknowledge that she is pregnant (for some reason – whether it’s the surface one that Jane has had problems in this area and now OP as well as other people in the office are pregnant – or a deeper one, which I feel like it is) – to try to get some kind of “tell” out of the OP like with body language and so on.

  11. CatCat*

    I wonder if boss in #1 was trying to be funny/introduce some levity with some over-the-top emojis and it misfired. Doesn’t change the advice, but it’s just such an odd thing for boss to have done that I wonder.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      That was my thought! I don’t know what OP’s boss experience is with emojis, but my mother-in-law discovered them fairly recently and in a limited context. Now she uses them liberally in ways that they don’t always make sense (at least to me, a non-emoji expert).

      I think there might absolutely be a tonal mis-read on the part of the boss, where she thinks she’s making a critic more lighthearted and instead she’s making it more belittling.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Whether boss was trying to be funny, or was providing actual feedback, it was very immature. It’s okay t use emojis in casual conversation at work, but if a manager is using it for feedback they need to grow up.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not sure I think it was trying to be funny. But I do wonder if it was more about the TOPIC of the webinar and not so much the work or writing itself?

      Because there are just tons and tons of webinars right now with similar “X after Covid,” “How Covid is affecting X and Y,” and “Returning to normal after Coronavirus,” yada, yada, yada. Just like earlier on they were all about “We’re all in this together,” and “We’re here to help.” At some point, it just becomes burnout on those webinar topics, but at many places marketing is still being required to DO them, like it or not.

      When that happens, it’s often better to take a deep breath, re-read it calmly, and then reply with something like. “Thanks for your feedback. I’m a little unclear about the emojis? If you’re unhappy with the topic or wording let’s arrange a call to discuss.” And I mean, maybe they did find the writing total shite. But that’s part of writing and feedback unfortunately, and you have to learn to take it and fix it without being too upset (even if it does feel like a personal attack sometimes because writing IS personal).

  12. Budgie Buddy*

    For #2 I would also keep the tone of the email very neutral and to the point. No exclamation marks or indications that Really, the coworker Should be excited about this Big News because wouldn’t anyone be?

    There are many people in OP 2’s life who will be straightforwardly happy for her. Coworker may also express support – but probably not while reading the initial email. A heads up is a kindness but managing her emotions isn’t.

  13. Cambridge Comma*

    Something about LW3’s situation makes me wonder whether the paid study ever existed, and whether Alan profited somehow from LW taking the courses.

    1. Artemesia*

      I think it is more likely that the LW over interpreted the suggestion to strengthen the application and spend a lot of money on something of a goose chase especially if it is very competitive. I wonder if the boss was aware that she was spending this much time and money chasing this dream and if she really had a good shot at it.

      I arrived at the U of Michigan with a full fellowship in a prestigious program having quit my job and moved cross country, to discover that the leader of the program had quit in a snit and taken a job elsewhere because he wasn’t promoted to Full Professor. This heralded program essentially ground to a halt — it was not a happy moment, so I can empathize with making plans with unexpected consequences. Hope the money spent will have better prepared you for some other opportunity.

      1. Politico*

        had quit in a snit and taken a job elsewhere because he wasn’t promoted to Full Professor.

        Failing to get tenure and going elsewhere is hardly “quitting in a snit.”

          1. MK*

            Whatever the case may be, finding another job is a completely justified and reasonable response if you were passed over for a promotion and/or feel that your career has stagnated in your present employer. Unless there is another factor in this, he didn’t do anything wrong in leaving, and it was the university’s responsibility to find a way for the program to go forward or compensate the students.

          2. Former Academic*

            “Tenure is usually at the associate professor level, not full professor.”

            That depends on the institution (and field?), I think. At the school and department where I (almost) got my PhD, tenure and full “Professor” came at the same time.

          3. Victoria*

            The process of being promoted from associate to full professor is a very similar process. The stakes aren’t as high (if you’re denied tenure, you’re out a job, if you’re denied full professorship, you’re just stuck at associate), but you have to compile a full dossier of why you deserve the promotion and in some cases you can only apply a certain number of times or you have to wait so many years. Like the tenure process, the outcome should not be wholly unexpected: You’re getting feedback in your annual review that should indicate if you’re ready. Which means unless this guy was completely clueless (and he wouldn’t have gotten tenure, yet alone be the sort of scholar who draws people to a prestigious fellowship program if he was), he was surprised and hurt by the result. Also, given the promotion comes with a substantial bump in pay, it could have also been that the department had an unstated policy of not promoting to cut costs, in which case, that is not a place where anyone should want to work. His failure to be promoted could also be the result of a divisive department culture wherein he drew the short straw and had a review committee that he had a contentious relationship with-also a reason to want out.

            1. Paulina*

              Based on my experience in academia, my best guess about this one is that the scholar in question was a high flier and may have pushed for promotion early. It seems odd that a university would deny promotion on schedule to someone that was sufficiently outstanding to be the linchpin of a prestigious program *and* was able to find another job so quickly. But it’s not unusual for universities to inflate their requirements for promotion ahead of schedule, since the track record hasn’t been sustained for as long (and established senior profs may react quite negatively to someone they see as an upstart rushing things). Alternatively or in addition, the program may not have been particularly supported by the university or unit even though it was well thought of in its field, eg. if others in the unit thought it soaked up resources and wasn’t relevant to the rest of them.

          1. Artemesia*

            And the University of Michigan didn’t fail to promote someone to full to cut costs — I suspect he didn’t get promoted because he was the kind of person who had a snit when he didn’t get precisely what he wanted and had alienated those who decided. But alas, it was a unique interdisciplinary research program which had a great reputation for preparing excellent grads who went on to great things — and so burning all my bridges to attend and find it disappearing like a fist when you open your hand was disappointing. Stuff happens and you have to cope when it does.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          There are two ways to read the sentence – one is that leaving for a better job is the snitting. You and I don’t agree with that – it’s a wrong interpretation of a natural action.

          The other is that he was snitty AND left for another job. Being snitty about it is not good, but leaving is OK.

          The sentence could be clearer.

          1. A*

            Eh how else do you phrase that? As an analogy, we can say “so and a walked out angrily”. Doesn’t mean walking out is always angry, just that so and so did it angrily.

          2. Umiel12*

            I think the takeaway is that Artemesia is empathizing with the letter writing by describing a similar negative outcome related to someone else abruptly leaving a job. I think Artemesia is in a better position to know if the professor left in a snit, so there doesn’t seem to be much point in picking apart or being directly offended by Artemesia’s effort to display empathy.

      2. Someone Else*

        Having been a screener for a very competitive undergraduate research program, flooded with requests from mediocre candidates asking how to “improve their chances,” I can attest this is exactly 100% what they would do.

        1. Paulina*

          Yes, if the background was something that other likely applicants already had, then taking relevant courses to fill it in would be better than nothing, but not as good as more established expertise in the area. I’m glad the OP found they really like the field, and got a lot out of the courses, but they may have been a longshot for the program all along, at least at this stage of their career, and Alan has moved on to having no involvement or even likely information.

    2. WellRed*

      I felt the same way about whether Alan had a stake but hopefully this whole thing was a case of mismanaged expectations.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      That would be a genius scheme if true!

      Initially I was thinking that it’s unlikely to be the case, although it does make for a good story, but upon re-reading again the OP, there are some details in here which seem suspicious / don’t add up. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy or anything… I think on balance of probabilities it likely is ‘legit’ as stated and Alan is just being unhelpful for whatever reasons, but these are the things that jumped out to me?

      1. OP was working with “a guy named Alan who was managing this opportunity”; it doesn’t say Alan was OPs boss or in HR, Training or any relevant department. How exactly did Alan pick who to approach?

      2. The wording that was used (by Alan I mean, not nitpicking the OPs wording): “This opportunity would allow one applicant from my organization study at a certain school for a number of years while simultaneously earning a salary – a pretty sweet deal” – especially if it was Alan, not the OP, who added the ‘sweet deal’ bit! This does sound very sales-y and similar to “here’s this exclusive opportunity to have your poem published in this anthology” sort of thing. Hurry, don’t miss out!

      3. “Last week a colleague told me Alan has moved on to a new position and my salary would not be paid if I attended. Because the school receives federal funding, I asked whether we still had a guaranteed spot despite the lack of salary sponsorship by my organization. Alan’s colleague told me he didn’t think to ask that question.” Well, this all sounds a bit second-hand. Who is this colleague? Were they ‘in on it’?

      “I am told I might still able to apply, but I need to know if we have a designated space. Alan’s predecessor is totally checked out”. Is the predecessor (successor?) the colleague OP spoke to before? Who told OP that they might still be able to apply, if it wasn’t the predecessor/successor?

      I got the impression, but it wasn’t explicitly stated, that OP didn’t know of the organisation providing the training, nor of the specific courses/certifications before this although they are relevant to OPs field. That’s food for thought in itself!

      1. Malarkey01*

        As far as #1 I don’t find that odd at all. Our industry has a competitive development program that accepts 20 people for 2-year program. It’s really prestigious, and as a graduate of the program my company tapped me to manage the yearly application submissions. I can answer applicant questions about the program, know what they are looking for from applicants, and have the contacts with the organization. It’s just a small side duty added onto my job. My assumption is that like me, Alan is known as the contact for Development Program x and each year interested people approach him or managers recommend people.

  14. AcademiaNut*

    That’s an excellent way of thinking about it. After all, emojis started as a way of adding emotional context to short, text only communications, so that the recipient could tell when you were joking or being sarcastic. And consequently, you shouldn’t use emojis to communicate a gesture or facial expression you wouldn’t use in person. Miming puking can be appropriate when joking around with friends, not when providing feedback at work.

    For Slack and so on, the only time I’ve seen an emoji only work well is a thumbs up.

    1. Koalafied*

      I’m fond of the party parrot for conveying, “hell yeah! Rock on!” in response to normal/routine accomplishments that don’t require any feedback beyond, “message received, work appreciated.”

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      The poop/puke emojis are only acceptable at work if you work somewhere where puke/poop results in areas of your workplace being closed for prolonged periods of time, and you are all completely desensitized to it.

      Don’t ask how I know this.

  15. Goonies for Life*

    #2 Absolutely not. After her completely inappropriate and rude comments that “You better not be pregnant” and that she “couldn’t handle working” with you if you were, you owe her no special consideration. Everyone has personal and sensitive issues, but you don’t have to pander to them, especially when they’ve treated you with such contempt for no good reason other than their own misery. Being an ass to someone because they’ve an opportunity you don’t demonstrates a severe lack of emotional maturity. Her behavior is gross. When you do announce, I’d also give your manager a heads up of her comments. She crossed a line, and I’m guessing she has no compunction in serving up more of this crap. Don’t ever apologize to her or anyone, you deserve to be excited and enjoy YOUR journey.

    1. allathian*

      It’s a fine line to walk. Yes, Jane started the bad with the “you better not be pregnant” comment, but there’s no reason the OP can’t tone down her excitement about her pregnancy just a little bit around Jane out of consideration for Jane’s feelings. Those two do need to be able to work together, after all. I’m not saying that she shouldn’t be able to mention her pregnancy at all or that she shouldn’t show that she’s very happy to be pregnant in any way.

      That said, when she tells her coworkers, it may be necessary to involve her manager and possibly HR if Jane becomes difficult to work with. Pregnancy harassment is a thing and it’s illegal.

      I got pregnant very easily at 36, but after that my fertility took a nosedive, so I’ve had two first trimester miscarriages that required medical intervention and suspected chemical pregnancy with a longer cycle and a much heavier period than normal, so I have some idea what secondary infertility feels like. I wasn’t dead set on having a second child, though, so the realization that there would be no more kids was more of a relief than anything else for me, but I did mourn the two pregnancies I miscarried. About a month after the first miscarriage, a coworker announced her pregnancy at an in-person team meeting. (I hadn’t told anyone at work about my miscarriage because it was so early in the pregnancy that I hadn’t told anyone about that at work either.) I suspect I wasn’t as enthusiastic on her behalf as I usually am in situations like this, but I managed to hold myself together reasonably well and to congratulate her. After the meeting, I spent some time crying in the bathroom…

      1. Taura*

        What excitement? OP hasn’t announced anything to the office yet, they had an uncontrollable physical reaction that could just as easily been a symptom of something OTHER than pregnancy, and the coworker immediately began frosting them out.

      2. LizABit*

        I’m sorry for your losses. My first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, so I understand. However, my feelings about that at work were only mine to manage, not my coworkers, so I strongly disagree with the advice to the OP to temper any excitement she is feeling or will feel or express. I have a duty to respect my coworkers and that doesn’t include managing their feelings.

      3. Been there, walked that road*

        Hugs from someone else who dealt with secondary issues. I had several losses early, and yes I had a moment where an announcement caught me off guard, but I never once took my feelings out on anybody else.

        OP, you can be sensitive to your co-worker without letting her walk/dump all over you. It is within your rights to be treated respectfully.

    2. Lemon curdle*

      I agree with your general point, but this isn’t about an ‘opportunity’. It’s not a promotion at work or something!

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      In another situation, I might agree, but the proposed solution (sending a heads up email) is so low effort for OP that I think it would be short-sighted to skip.

      Sure, maybe it’s not something she technically should have to do, but she is stuck with Jane. If Jane is an otherwise reasonable person whose sadness is clouding her judgement, hopefully this will give her the time to control her response and be respectful — which will make things better for OP.

      If Jane is not going to respond reasonably, then OP has a track record of trying to be accomodating that she can bring to her manager/HR — which will also likely make things better for OP.

      So while I agree OP shouldn’t have to do anything, I think this one is worth prioritizing long-term outcome over principle.

    4. Marthooh*

      It’s a question of how best to handle Jane, not what’s owed to her. Adding another dollop of indignation won’t improve the emotional stew at this office.

    5. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Well, you could look at it as OP doing it for *herself* and not Jane — wouldn’t you rather someone throw a fit about you in private than in front of your face?

      Or you could look at it as OP being a conscientious coworker. Either way.

    6. hbc*

      Jane’s not behaving well, but I know a lot of people who dread something fiercely (and loudly) but then quickly come to terms with that thing when it becomes a reality. Let’s not condemn her for potential future behavior, and OP loses nothing by still delivering the news with consideration of her feelings. Worst case, she has the clear moral high ground if Jane continues to be a pain about the subject.

    7. Caliente*

      This is how I feel, too. Why do we have to be so sensitive to people who are just, not even “insensitive” but straight up nasty! It is not cool.
      As someone who has always been treated like I should have no struggles or pain in life because of the way others view ME, I am not with pandering to crappy people. I “better not be pregnant”?! Screw you, lady. And I would have ALL the sympathy in the world up until that very point.

      1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        I don’t see it as pandering. I see it as taking the high road so that I can feel good about my choices. (And that gives me the satisfaction of being quietly smug, so it’s not entirely altruistic!) But I’ve never regretted leading with kindness, or at least politeness, especially because there have been times when I’ve found out afterwards that someone was dealing with a greater struggle than had been visible from the surface.

  16. Phil*

    #5 Definitely recommend this. I had a former boss go over my resume when I was applying for another position in the company, and the amount of completely relevant things she added under my current position to talk me up that I didn’t even think of was unbelievable!

    I should point out this was for a position in another department, so wasn’t a conflict of interest to help me out before the application process.

    1. OP5*

      Thanks! It’s good to know other people have gotten this kind of feedback and appreciated it. I know I’d like it, but I also am self-aware enough to know that sometimes I like to get and give feedback and hash out details past the point where another person might prefer to just smile and move along.

      1. Eastcoaster*

        I agree with this as well! Rarely can you ever get feedback on your resume from your boss while you’re in the job and they should be super familiar with your role/responsibilities. I will say- be careful especially with those that didn’t get the job- they may already be sad they didn’t get the job and then their manager wants to critique their resume. I’d be sure to include positives and highlighting things they’re doing well they’re not including.

        When I interviewed for my current position my now boss pointed out that I don’t highlight the depth and scope of my role well- and told me we’d revisit my resume down the road and I was GREATLY appreciative of that.

        1. OP5*

          My boss is definitely supporting me in taking a big-picture look through this whole process, at how to maintain morale and retention through the whole high-performing team. Without being too detailed (in case one of them sees this), we already have development plans lined up to allow the “second place” (for want of a better term) candidate to be promoted within the team and to point out to the weakest candidate where another opportunity is likely to come up within the larger department in the near future. That will also involve a more detailed discussion of where he needs to improve if he wants to advance- he’s in the boat of being just fine for where he is, but not really showing the ability to move up.

  17. Pennyworth*

    After I read about LW1’s boss sending a puke emoji and and LW2 being nauseous at work, I immediately wondered if LW1’s boss is pregnant. A puke emoji would be a novel way to announce a pregnancy.

          1. Risha*

            What would work for a pee emoji? There’s a raindrops, right? I feel like this sequence needs a bunch of pee emojis.

  18. Xavier Desmond*

    Op2 just because you are rightly being sensitive to Jane’s feelings doesn’t give her the right to be insensitive to yours. Saying ‘You better not be pregnant’ is a disgusting thing to say and personally I would be tempted to mention it to my manager.

  19. ThePear8*

    #4 ooof I’m so sorry. But hey, life happens, we all make mistakes. I recently had to reschedule a phone interview due to a failure to factor in time zones… I can see this being a much bigger blunder for an in-person interview though. I agree with Alison – send the apology email! Be honest, own that you made an honest mistake, and that you’re normally an organized person (assuming you are).
    Best of luck with your job hunt and future interviews!

    1. anon for this*

      Yeah, the time zone thing is sort of no one’s fault, though I feel more fault falls on the interviewer than interviewee.

    2. Bostonian*

      Also, it’s important in the apology email to not make any excuses/give any reasons as to why it happened. If anything, a “this is out of character for me”, but the main thrust should be the apology.

      1. ThePear8*

        Exactly – even if they don’t want to further consider for the job, I’m more inclined to respect someone who can be transparent about and own their mistakes than give excuses.

  20. Ellena*

    Ah the Skype emojis…. sometimes I wonder if we need them all in Skype for Business… The puke emoji, the inlove emoji, the punch emoji, heart and broken heart – all not really needed for business communication.

    1. Dan*

      And with slack… I have no idea how to configure it, but it would make sense to have subsets of emojis restricted to certain channels. At my org, we have a general technical channel for “how do I…” sorts of questions where a broader range of emojis is acceptable. But project-specific channels should really have a limited set.

    2. NoviceManagerGuy*

      I like how there are mystery codes for the emojis, like (b) turns into a glass of beer. Really helpful when I’m trying to send somebody a list.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I am constantly irritated by Word’s insistence that I really wanted to type a Euro symbol when all I’m doing in quoting federal code, (e)(9).

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      My org has blocked emojis in IM (Help desk told me they were a “security risk” to which I would insert the side eyes emoji, but…)

      This would be no big deal except I often message my peers and add smileys to convey tone, and whatever they did to block emojis eats the rest of the convo, so I don’t see their response, and they don’t see subsequent messages from me!

    4. Beth Jacobs*

      When Lync was around (it’s now been replaced by MS Teams), it converted :] into a smiley face with heart eyes.
      On a standard central European QWERTZ keyboard, ] and ) are switched as opposed to a standard US QWERTY. So if I touch typed :) and sent the message, it turned into a declaration of love. I did that multiple times.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I find the poo emoji in particular extremely off-putting, and the first time I noticed that not only did our ostensibly professionally-oriented messenger system have the poo emoji, but IT HAS A FREAKING ANIMATED DANCING POO EMOJI, I was super super irked. Like, I’m down with the smiley, I use them like punctuation even at work, but there are zero circumstances where an animated dancing poo is professional or appropriate in work communications. (puke)

    6. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I’ve questioned this too… the messenger service we use has great emojis… however, when I was looking for a “fingers crossed” emoji, I also found a “middle finger” emoji… I cannot imagine a context in which that would be appropriate at work.

  21. Dan*


    The USS Alan has sailed, there’s no point in further contact with him. You have the contact info of his successor (you used the word “predecessor”, but “successor” is what you’re looking for here). And that’s coming up blank. Alan’s blow off can mean 1) I don’t know, 2) I don’t care, or 3) It’s really not my problem anymore and I was just trying to be nice. All he can really do is point you to the successor for the latest and greatest. If the successor is unsatisfying, that’s your answer.

    Keep in mind that, “you will be more competitive with these courses” means you went from a 1/1000 chance (which is nothing) to 1/100 (which isn’t much) or 1/10 (which is much better, but still low.) There was really no promise of anything, so there’s nothing to get back to Alan with. How you feel about that is not his concern. It’s also on you to decide if the risk is worth the potential reward.

    That said… you said you liked the course material. Is there a way to build on that and turn that into a certificate or a graduate degree? Is there a way to bridge that into a different job? Usually, “we” discourage graduate school as a means of killing time for the sake of it, but if you actually like the material, that’s a reason to pursue further study. Bonus points if your employer offers tuition assistance.

    1. ProudDuck*

      I totally agree with this reply.

      Don’t contact Alan again, he’s not able to help.
      You in the other hand may have spent money on a course but you have had the teaching and learning from those courses which is a benefit that you won’t lose. They can go on your resume and help you in the future. Move on and find another route into the career you want.

    2. Robin*

      “There was really no promise of anything, so there’s nothing to get back to Alan with. How you feel about that is not his concern. It’s also on you to decide if the risk is worth the potential reward.”

      This is exactly what I thought as I was reading the letter. I totally sympathize with LW for having put time and money into an opportunity that did’t pan out, but it was clearly not a guarantee that taking these courses would secure the spot. I’d argue that Alan maybe could’ve been a bit more helpful, but we also don’t know the circumstances under which he left and he really has no obligation here.

    3. Esmeralda*

      IANA Accountant, but:

      Might be able to write off some or all of the cost of the tuition on your federal taxes.

  22. TGOTAL*

    The comments Jane is making to LW2 about pregnancy are inappropriate, full stop. Jane’s behavior is wholly unacceptable, regardless of LW2’s reproductive circumstances. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems clear Jane is creating a hostile workplace based on LW2’s status as a member of at least one protected class (assuming this is in the U.S.). While I have sympathy for anyone experiencing fertility issues, Jane’s actions need to be nipped in the bud, not tiptoed around with a special courtesy pregnancy reveal.

  23. Jenkins*

    I think there are two aspects to this. Jane is being a complete ass, definitely. But a private heads-up before a big public YAY announcement is something I would do for *anyone* who I knew was grieving over infertility, no matter how they behaved otherwise, because lots of people have told me it’s something that really helped them. I don’t even particularly think of it as special consideration, just an acknowledgement that not everyone can come up with a happy face and congratulations out of the blue.

    So I would assume I needed to expect more unpleasantness from Jane and be fully prepared to go to boss/HR about it, AND I would still give her a heads-up email in advance of the announcement.

    1. Forrest*

      It seems kind of high-risk to me, actually–when someone is being *horrible*, I would worry that “private heads-up” is going to come across as singling them out or patronising or whatever. I would only do that for someone I trusted to take it as a good faith act regardless of whether they found it upsetting or not.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I think Forrest has a good point. I commented above that the email is a good idea but Jane could react badly. Its probably a good idea to loop the boss in first.
        I’m pregnant, yay. And Jane has been repeatedly saying I’d better not get pregnant so before I tell anyone else, I’m going to email her so she can manager her emotions about this privately. Unless you suggest I handle it differently?

        1. Paperwhite*

          That’s a good addition. I think 1) looping the boss in on the plan and then 2) sending Jane a private email can demonstrate to the boss and to HR that LW2 isn’t using her pregnancy to taunt Jane and has otherwise been as kind and above-board as possible. That way if this has to go to HR, LW2 has already begun demonstrating that she’s not contributing to the bad dynamic.

          LW#2, congratulations and good luck!

        2. Been there, walked that road*

          Also, if the boss knows Jane better than OP boss could potentially help word that note to Jane (or even take over telling Jane completely so that OP doesn’t become focus point for yet more of Jane’s unpleasantness about not being pregnant when yet another person in the office now is).

          Taking the high road, even and especially when others go low is generally the long term strategy.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      I have the same judgement.

      I agree that OP doesn’t owe anything to Jane AND I agree that if OP didn’t send the email, it’s still on Jane to respond respectfully.

      That said, the reality is:
      a) OP has to work with Jane, at least for the time being, so her life will be better if Jane is happier
      b) a heads-up email is *very* low cost
      c) it is a kindness to extend grace to someone difficult, even when they didn’t necessarily earn it

      If Jane responds poorly, OP can become more assertive. And while this might be a touch Machiavellian, if Jane does become more difficult, I think it’s to OP’s advantage to have a record of responding with patience. Whenever an interpersonal issue is kicked up the chain, there is a risk of looking petty or like you don’t know what’s a ‘reasonable’ hill to die on*. So if OP looks like she’s tried to deal with the issue already, and been compassionate, that’s better for her in the long run.

      *whether that’s right or wrong is another issue, but it is a real risk

      1. jenkins*

        Oh definitely – Jane’s reaction and behaviour are entirely her own responsibility, whether LW sends the email or not. LW is doing a completely normal thing in a completely blameless way. The private heads-up is just something I’ve often heard people say they were grateful for, because it helped them brace for the general announcement and paste an appropriate reaction onto their face. It doesn’t entirely seem like Jane is concerned about reacting appropriately, but at this point I’d still overtly act as if she was, partly – as you say – to make sure I can demonstrate reasonable behaviour should this blow up later on. :-/

        I think Carlie below has a good point below that Jane might not keep LW’s announcement under wraps herself, mind you, which may affect what LW wants to do.

    3. LizABit*

      Even with advance, private notice Jane may not “come up with a happy face and congratulations” once the news is shared with the rest of the office. She might, though someone who’s upset with the situation in general can’t be counted on to react the way we’d expect.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        But why be unkind in response to someone else being unkind? Why not take just a few minutes to do the right thing?

        1. Jennifer*

          It’s not unkind to expect people to behave like adults. All pregnant people aren’t going to disappear from the face of the earth because she’s having a bad time.

          In my opinion, unkind would be making sure to go on and on about her pregnancy right in front of her, or asking her when she’s going to get pregnant again or what’s taking so long, etc. The OP is just proposing announcing her pregnancy, like women do in workplaces around the world everyday. Jane needs therapy to deal with her trauma or a trusted confidante outside of work that can provide a shoulder to cry on.

      2. Eukomos*

        This is something LW is doing for herself just as much as for Jane, though. She doesn’t need to bear the brunt of Jane’s pain around this any more than she already has, so informing Jane in a way that gives her a chance to get her emotions under control before she next has to deal with the LW is to the LW’s benefit. And the LW also gets to know that she’s a kind person, even if Jane isn’t capable of that right now, and that has a lot of value in itself.

  24. Carlie*

    LW2, it would be kind of you to give Jane the heads-up. But be prepared to lose your work announcement in the deal, since given the description of her, she may reply by yelling “What do you mean you’re pregnant?!” at you in full hearing of everyone else in the office.

    LW1 – is it too rude to just email back “What did the emojis at the end mean?” Or “I wasn’t sure what the emojis at the end were all about?”

    1. anonymous 5*

      I’m not LW2, but I could certainly imagine the advantages outweighing the drawbacks if Jane responded that way. Downside: not getting to be the one to make your own announcement. Upside: Jane outs herself as being wholly unreasonable. Further advantage (hopefully): coworkers’ collective radar is pinged so that they’re more willing to step up and help shut Jane down if (when) she’s unreasonable again during the course of LW2’s pregnancy and beyond. Pregnancy is long and parenthood is longer, so having the upsides could be more than worth the downside here.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Jane sounds like my SIL, in which case no worries, Jane will out herself as unreasonable anyway.
        What’s great is that with three other pregnant colleagues, she has a natural set of allies anyway

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, coming to say this. The email is a nice gesture but someone like Jane will also want to exploit the gossip factor to the full, and make sure everyone she tells knows just how much of a bitch OP is for getting pregnant when she knew Jane wouldn’t be able to handle it.
      I’d go for giving her the news just before the meeting at which OP wants to make her general announcement.

  25. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Letter #2…

    If you haven’t already announced your pregnancy, please do so. If Jane thinks that you got pregnant “at” her and keeps harassing/ignoring you, then let HR know.

  26. Elle by the sea*

    The puke emoji sounds bizarre. I would be curious and ask if that’s what she meant. Although it would probably make her even more frustrated, I would still really want to know. If that’s what she really meant, it raises a huge red flag about her professionalism and judgement.

  27. OP5*

    OP5 Here-

    Thanks for the advice! I knew this was something I, as a candidate, would appreciate- but sometimes I like a degree of directness/feedback that another person might not like.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I agree with the advice and think your instinct is good. In my field (govt) if a person applies for an internal transfer or promotion the manager must check their application to make sure it is true (why yes, Eggletina did hand rear six otters last spring) BUT is also expected to provide helpful feedback on the application before submission, to improve the application if possible – the manager is expected to support their staff member in developing their career. That’s what you are looking to do and I think it’s a good thing.

      1. OP5*

        In my case, my new hires are almost exclusively either fresh out of school or maybe a lateral transfer from another department who’s still near entry-level in title. My company is a bit notorious from stingy salaries (which is slowly improving) so I know full well that I’m essentially training many of them to leave for more money elsewhere. AAM has given me a lot of confidence that I’m doing the right thing by acknowledging that and creating an atmosphere where my team can give me lengthy notice periods and talk candidly about their future plans, because I want to help them grow instead of locking them in.

    2. CM*

      I don’t love the phrasing of “realistically, you’ll move on someday” — if my manager said this to me, I’d wonder if they wanted to get rid of me. I would just say, “Hey, while reviewing your resume, I noticed that you detail your high school accomplishments, and wanted to give you the feedback that it’s not necessary to do that once you’re out of college.” I’d also suggest keeping it high-level like that, so it doesn’t seem like you sat down with a red pen.

      1. OP5*

        To clarify, I wouldn’t phrase it that way to any of them. That’s me keeping it in my mind that it’s not realistic to expect 100% retention, especially at a company that is known for being a good place to get started in the industry before leaving for better-paying pastures. I want to do everything reasonable to retain who I’ve got, but if they decide their best development path is to leave I want to give them the best leg-up on their way out that I can.

        Basically I’ve read enough answers here to questions about “is it wrong of me to quit when I just got promoted/got a bonus/boss is on leave/I got to travel for work” getting answered with some form of “bosses should be aware that any employee could leave at any time.”

  28. Just no*

    Op3 – Stop bugging Alan. He doesn’t work there anymore and doesn’t sound like he is interested in being helpful.

  29. Jennifer Juniper*

    The only way LW1’s boss could redeem herself is if she explained her five-year-old child typed random emojis or her cat walked across the keyboard!

    1. space cadet*

      I wonder if it’s a suggested emoji string that looks like a message or part of one? I just noticed recently in my messaging app that three stickers pop up in response to certain words– I didn’t realize at first what they were and they look like a message if you’re not looking too closely. If the boss doesn’t do this normally, my first guess would be something like that…

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Ah! I didn’t know that was actually a thing. The boss needs to explain this to OP if that’s the case.

  30. Manchmal*

    For OP#2, it seems strange that your coworker is treating you coldly and you have not yet announced your pregnancy. Perhaps things are getting obvious (you’re showing, or you’re eating habits have taken a radical turn), or someone in HR has spilled the beans. My take is that you should proceed as if she does not know. Next time she barely answers you, just ask “Jane, is everything ok? You’ve been pretty terse over the past week, and I’m not sure why. Are there any issues with our work that you’d like to address?” This puts her on notice that you notice her attitude and find it unprofessional, and it puts the focus squarely on where it should be – the work. If she says, “oh it’s nothing,” you can say, “That’s a relief. I’m hoping we can be more collegial going forward, then.”

    I’ve been in Jane’s shoes (dealing with infertility), and I’ve had “feelings” about people getting pregnant around me. But it’s just not ok to treat people badly, especially people with whom you share an office and closely work, who can’t escape you. I personally found support and a place to vent on FB groups, in an in-person support group, in therapy, and with friends who were going through the same thing. Obviously you can’t suggest these things to her, but I mention it to say that it is possible to have an outlet for one’s issues that is not taking it out on the innocent.

    1. OP#2*

      Thinking on what you said, I realized she’s been… not great to the other women who are pregnant. It’s possible she suspects, or maybe she’s just on baby overload.

      I’ve tried to ask if she’s ok, but I normally get a “fine” while she keeps her back to me.

      I’ve also had my own fertility struggles, so I’m not unsympathetic to that pain by any means.

      1. Manchmal*

        I wish you good luck with your email, I hope she takes it well. I fear she will not. But you would be perfectly within your rights to insist she maintain some level of professionalism, or to at least to do so to HR who might have to be called in if she can’t rein herself in. It sounds like she’s nearly giving you the silent treatment, which is by no means professional!

  31. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW2: I’m prefacing this by saying this post talks about miscarriage so skip if needed.

    I’ve managed a couple of people in a sort of similar situation though, and I’m wondering if your boss might have an insight into how to announce this without causing too much negativity. Obviously, disregard if your boss isn’t knowledgeable/approachable/doesn’t have a good handle on things.

    I had one staff member who suffered a tragic miscarriage, we gave her several months off to help process it. When she came back she asked that there be no mention of babies, children or pregnancy around her for a while. We did this. 3 months after this another member of staff told me she was pregnant and getting to the point where she couldn’t hide it any more so wanted to announce it to the team.

    I offered to give the news to the other lady privately and then I could offer her any assistance we could give if she reacted badly, which I 100% knew she would. It meant I was the one getting the harsh emotional backlash, not the newly pregnant member of staff. And I did get yelled at, cried at, screamed at, demands to move departments etc. (It wasn’t resolved well in the end though, original lady went onto a few days stress leave that she wanted and I approved but never came back)

    However, BIG caveat here, this only worked because I knew both staff well and knew I’d be better off taking backlash than anyone else. If I hadn’t…I would have gone with Alison’s suggestion 100%.

    But at the end of the day remember you didn’t get pregnant AT her. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed about and her reactions are her own.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Btw, your coworker, in my eyes, is being a complete arse by telling you and others not to get pregnant etc.

    2. Valegro*

      At some point people need to get professional help to deal with their trauma instead of pretending that everyone else will avoid normal life events forever for their comfort. I’m glad you were able to take the abuse instead of your employee, but there was no way that was in the least bit an acceptable way to respond. Screaming and making demands is not how adults function in the world.

      1. Jennifer*

        Agreed. It’s great that we are starting to become more sensitive toward people who have mental health struggles but in some cases I think we have over-corrected.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh man, I worded it wrong. I do NOT agree with taking out emotional and mental problems on others. At all. I’ve got schizophrenia and would never ever ask that I be allowed to abuse others.

        What I meant to say was that I knew the original lady would blow up emotionally at the news, and I didn’t want a pregnant lady exposed to that.

        Frankly, if the original staff member had come back (I advised her to get therapy) and done anything to say hostile stuff, or demand nobody mention babies etc, or treated others like she treated me in that meeting I’d have fired her.

        My sympathy was at an end.

      3. Amouse*

        Yes. There is someone in an internet space where I hang out who lost a very young son – the child never came home from the NICU. It’s horrible, I agree. Truly, I think child loss most be the hardest thing ever.

        But they think that what they want is the only right way for the world to run now. I hope that someday they heal to the point where they realize that the world, and especially their family, are not intentionally cruel when they continue to live their lives. (For a while, someone posting as “loss parent” (I think?) in the weekend thread reminded me a great deal of them – trying to tell everyone that there was only one way to have compassion for folks who have experienced child loss and anything else is evil and cruel.)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I love this comment. There’s a balance between the sympathy you can (and should) expect, and what is actually trying to reformat the world around to your new viewpoint.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Expecting your team to not talk about babies, children, etc because one person had a tragic loss is unreasonable though. Sure you can be sympathetic to their loss, but you can’t insist some topics be completely off limits. What if someone loses a parent, a pet, etc. Does that mean nobody else can talk about their new puppy or their mom? Bad things happen to people every day, and expecting an entire office to modify their conversations based on everyone’s specific tragedy just isn’t right. People shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells at work, worrying about what topics are safe to talk about.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        We did NOT do it for long to be fair. And we were on unknown ground at the time. There was a time when nobody mentioned car accidents after I was in a near fatal one, which I didn’t realise till a few weeks after returning to work. (To this day I’ll just leave the room if people joke about driving fast/drunk/on the phone etc, but I won’t ask people to stop talking)

        It was a ‘let’s be considerate for a few days’ thing that got out of hand because she’d start sobbing loudly and shouting otherwise. Moments in management where you learn you were wrong later number 217.

        1. Julia*

          If someone at works starts shouting at me, they lose my compassion.

          And I feel like it’s actually pretty justified to call out people talking about dangerous driving. Your coworkers have the right to be pregnant, but not the right to endanger others.

  32. Roscoe*

    #3. You are mad at the wrong person here. If Alan doesn’t work there, for whatever reason, its not on him to keep you in the loop on these things. I understand it sucks, but this isn’t on him. You shouldn’t be disappointed in him. You can be disappointed in your company for not handling this situation better, but not him

    1. OP3*

      This is where it gets weird…he recently gave me a few POCs and they all said to talk to him because 1) he still actually still works there and is transitioning and 2) they don’t know anything since he is the best POC……

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        How charming of Alan.

        Sounds like he has completely mentally checked out of that job. I would take his half-done,no answer reply to your question and forward it, highlighting the questions you need answers to, to every other contact you now have (including his boss if possible) in a “sorry to continue bothering everyone, I’m just trying to nail down answers to these questions so that my company and I can make final decisions” tone of text.

        1. OP3*

          I have done exactly that. Even Alan has CC’d others on my requests for info and they (the others who are CC’d) keep telling me to talk to him (while CCing him) since he is the best POC and they don’t know anything. Then he just comes back and tells me to talk to one of them….I swear it doesn’t get crazier than this haha.

  33. Jennifer*

    #1 I don’t understand why you haven’t asked your boss what she meant. If this is out of character for her, I would have just responded with a “?”. I really think it was an ill-conceived joke or a message that wasn’t meant for you. I’m not great with confrontation either, but I’ve found just asking the question is a lot easier than walking around with a knot in your stomach wondering if your boss hates you. Have her be the one that feels uncomfortable instead of you.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      In LW #1’s defense, this can be so relationship dependent. I’ve had bosses where I wouldn’t hesitate to question it, but I’ve also had bosses where the relationship is complicated and it would take a whole lot to write back anything that might be perceived as even mildly critical. My boss once responded snarkily to a request I made– a perfectly reasonable one, asked as a, “Oh hey, by the way, please use this account rather than that one”–and I know that if I had responded to his snark, I would not have been pleased with his reaction. So I get it. It can be really hard to find the words in the moment.

      1. Jennifer*

        I understand not being able to find words in the moment, but take the time to revisit it after. For some reason, we’ve gotten in our heads that we have to address everything exactly when it happens or you can never mention it again, and it’s just not true. You shouldn’t wait too long, of course, but you should say something. Even something as simple as asking if she’s satisfied with her work on the project or if there are any improvements that are needed.

        We have to learn how to use our words.

    2. Courageous cat*

      I’m inclined to agree. There’s a lot of really wordy options here when a simple “?” or “can you clarify what you mean” would do here. There’s very little reason not to ask right away and just get it over with.

  34. Jay*

    To OP#1:
    Any chance that she sent this from a smart phone rather than a tablet or p.c.?
    My job, like a lot of jobs, provides work phones to its’ employees. It’s a smaller business and they tend to take a lax view of how the phones are used. No porn or anything too controversial, and they are mostly o.k. with people using them for personal stuff.
    We also re-use phones when employees leave, a perfectly normal practice.
    This occasionally leads to some odd things.
    My current phone (a re-issue) has some sort of setting somewhere deep in some strange, counter-intuitive menu somewhere that causes cirtain letters of the alphabet to be expressed as emoji and nothing anyone can do will stop it. Our tech guys have managed to get it so that they only show up on my end now, so that’s something.
    Our best guess is that the previous owner’s tween daughter got their hands on it and did something to it. One of those things that seem to be natural instinct to an 11 year old, that us old fogies can never, in a million years, duplicate.
    So, check in before you get too angry.
    Just in case their kid installed a “hilarious new feature” to surprise their mom.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It doesn’t have to be a cell phone. Mi¢ro$oft has figured out how I feel about them, so Outlook, Teams and Skype now insert emoji when I don’t use them. Often in the middle of words…

      OP #1, does the sentence make sense if you decompress the emoji into its component symbols?

  35. Jennifer*

    #4 I know it’s too late for this particular opportunity, but in the future something that’s helped me is helped me is arranging interviews over email instead of the phone. I just don’t trust my handwriting lol. I’ve found most companies send calendar invites nowadays anyway. When you’ve applied at a ton of places, it just makes it easier to keep track of everything.

  36. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    OP #4, a silver lining is that this does show your prospective employer how you handle setbacks and mistakes. Stay calm, take ownership, do apologize, learn from it, and brainstorm how to avoid repeating it… but I also agree with Alison and this opportunity is probably gone anyway.

  37. MicroManagered*

    LW1 I have sent an embarrassing emoji through chat before because I unknowingly typed the characters for it. At a previous employer the characters (k) produced kissy lips on our IM program, so every time I’d message someone about the company’s 401(k) plan (which was frequent until I trained myself to put 401k) they’d get 401.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Haha, I did a similar thing in Skype (not sure if it’s the same in other applications) where I was trying to tell someone how to use a TopX(something) function, unfortunately the key combination x( got automatically emoji-ed into an angry face by Skype!
      I assumed it was my error so typed it again a couple of times before realising my mistake…

      I can’t help hearing it as “four oh wunk” in my head, haha. Thanks for that Phoebe!

  38. Dust Bunny*

    I would never use anything beyond a smile emoji in a work email, and then never in a work email that went beyond casual correspondence within my department.

    That said, my finger slipped once and I added a bulging-heart-eyes emoji once to a reply about an exhibit we were putting together for a specific event. OH MY GOD I WAS MORTIFIED.

    Fortunately, it was a department-only reply and I immediately followed up with an IGNORE IGNORE IGNORE I CANNOT TYPE ON MY PHONE reply, but, wow.

  39. Radio Girl*

    In some fields, the use of emojis would be considered a bit too casual for business use.

    I tend to agree.

  40. Dust Bunny*

    From somebody who wanted a family but didn’t get any of it–no husband, no kids, nada: Jane is being a total froot loop.

    Jane has a family. Maybe a smaller one that she hoped for, but she has a son! But, even if she didn’t, it’s none of her [deleted expletive] business what other people do with their reproductive lives. She’s being completely childish and unprofessional about this, and you don’t owe her the kid-glove treatment.

    1. Jennifer*

      I was thinking the same thing. There’s so many people who wished for one healthy child and it never happened for them. I get the disappointment but her behavior is way over the top. I also don’t think she deserves the kid glove treatment.

    2. Great Grey Owl*

      Exactly. Why is Jane allowed to have one child but no one else at her workplace is allowed to have any children? Because that is what it sounds like Jane is expecting but, of course, that would be ridiculous. So the OP’s best bet might be to treat the one comment as as a joke (if confronted, Jane may very well claim it was a joke) and document any other comments.

  41. voluptuousfire*

    LW#4, I applied to a previous incarnation of my current role with my old company and mixed up the days. I would have shown up on Friday, when my interview was Thursday! I only found out when I emailed the interviewer to send him my updated resume. I apologized, mortified and asked if he would reconsider. He said he would think about it. Two years later I applied for the role and he was one of the people I interviewed with. LOL

    I got the job and kicked ass at it and when I told him that story a few months after I started, he laughed and said “things work out sometimes!”

  42. Oh No She Di'int*

    LW4: You might also take this opportunity to make an honest assessment of other related time keeping habits. Do you find that things slip through the cracks more than you’d like, etc.? I have been hiring teams for many years, and I have on occasion given a second chance to someone who was very late for an interview or missed the time altogether. Unfortunately, in every case that has turned out to be indicative of the person’s time-keeping habits in general. In other words, people tend to be generally on-time types or not on-time types. Obviously nobody 100% one way or the other, and yes, sometimes life just happens. I’m speaking in generalities. But it may be worth a second look.

  43. 2 Cents*

    OP #2: You did not get pregnant “at” Jane. You are not at fault.

    I say this as someone who had a miscarriage and had a hard time dealing with the office pregnancies afterward, but I had to (constantly) remind myself that these people did not get pregnant at me or to spite me. I said congratulations and then removed myself from conversations that would upset me. (I went on to have a healthy baby.) Also, since I had fertility issues, I’ve tried my best to monitor my language around babies, etc., because you never know who is going through something. Shame on Jane for making you feel bad!

  44. Essess*

    Letter #1 – Without actually asking the boss why they sent the puke emoji and hearing otherwise, I would have assumed it was a clumsy attempt to add light-heartedness/humour to soften the message, but it didn’t come across that way by mistake. This is assuming that the boss normally treats the OP decently. The OP mentions that this remote work is new so this sounded like a way to try to soften the message since written criticism can sound harsher than when it is discussed in person.

    For letter #3- Does your company have any tuition reimbursement/training budget that you can apply to since you took courses that were intended to enhance your career path within the company? That could help offset the $4000 you spent out of your own pocket. Also, you should speak to Alan’s boss rather than having a colleague run as a go-between or expect Alan to continue doing any work in his old role for you. His boss should be aware of who took over the new role and point you to the correct resources for information.

    1. Bostonian*

      For #1, I might buy that interpretation if it was just the “doh” emoji; that could be seen as a misguided attempt at levity. The angry emoji, though… it’s just angry!

  45. MissDisplaced*

    1. My boss commented on my work with a puke emoji
    Sometimes the puke emoji means something like ‘regurgitation of what’s already been said’ or ‘I’m sick of hearing A or B’ and not “Your work sucks!” But given they also had an angry face, yeah, they didn’t like the contents of your webinar for whatever reason. It’s pretty unprofessional from a boss either way, and Allison’s advice is good. I think you DO need to bring it up with your manager in case there is a wider concern about your work in general. But don’t panic or despair either. It could’ve been something else unrelated that triggered the emoji rant you’re not aware of.

    3. I spent $4,000 to make myself competitive for a program that might be closed
    Yes, go to whomever Alan reported to and find out what’s going on with the program. If they did kill the program, it really sucks, but maybe there are other options or it’s something for next year.

    4. I showed up for my interview at the wrong time
    I’m sorry to beat up on this, but yeah, I’d say that job is a bust now. Apologize to the interviewer and let them know this was an honest and unusual mistake and move on. Sometimes these things happen, especially if there was a time zone difference involved. I once did a phone interview in the middle of a Marshall’s store because of the time difference with New Zealand. Luckily for me, I was able to move to quiet corner and it was more of a get to know you screen rather than a Zoom or something, but still. It feels unfair, but first impressions count when interviewing.

  46. Bernice Clifton*

    Regarding the interview, sometimes when I am excited about something (like landing a job interview), I have a hard time remembering important details. So if I am writing down an interview, 10:00 on the 9th becomes 9:00 on the 10th. It’s a big help to repeat back to the person scheduling right after they confirm it to help remember.

    “So we will see you this Wednesday at 1PM”

    “1PM on Wednesday yes. Thanks again and I will see you then.”

  47. JessicaTate*

    LW3 — In addition to Alison’s advice, what jumps out at me is that you said you fell in love with the subject matter of these $4k worth of courses. In your shoes, I’d try really hard to reframe my thinking about this toward that — that is a HUGE positive, even if the program with the school doesn’t come through. That was a lot of money, but it wasn’t wasted. You learned that you loved that subject matter, and having that knowledge/background is, presumably, a stepping stone to doing more work or schooling in that realm. That is SUCH a positive. Good for you!

    So, yes, it’s a bummer if that super-sweet, funded program is no more. Be bummed for a moment. And yes, pursue Alison’s advice to figure out what’s up and see if it’s still an opportunity somehow. But let go of the annoyance at Alan (who, may be an uncommunicative jerk, but I don’t think he axed the program). And if the program is no longer a thing, start looking for other opportunities that would achieve something similar for you – even if a little less well-funded. Don’t regret the $4k. It sounds like a worthwhile investment in YOU. You just need to find that next opportunity so that it pays dividends. Best of luck to you, LW3.

  48. Jeff K*

    Sometimes, I have to say, I don’t understand why some letters get run and others don’t. It seems like most of these people just need to consult their common sense:

    LW1 You know that’s not right. Address it directly.
    LW2 Gross, how inappropriate. I would also talk to her and say, “Jane, I am very happy to be having my first child. If you really feel like you cannot work with me as a result, we need to speak to HR. This will look like a discrimination issue, but I know it isn’t and I don’t wish for you to get in trouble.” This lets her know that her behavior has been noticed, is respected, but is not appreciated, and that you won’t simply sit there and take it. Please don’t.
    LW3 An expensive lesson learned, perhaps? I’m sure you can find a better person than Alan to appreciate your skills. Until the offer’s in writing, don’t shell out your own money for training they insist you need.
    LW4 You really had to ask? Sorry, but… really, you did?
    LW5 if my boss did that out of nowhere, I’d think I was being fired.

    1. Jennifer*

      “Until the offer’s in writing, don’t shell out your own money for training they insist you need.” This.

    2. OP5*

      I don’t think “out of nowhere” is quite fair. They’re showing me their resumes and 2/3 of them will not be getting the job they’re applying for. Even without considering external jobs, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking for other internal positions to apply for to keep moving up, and I’m in a position to help them look their best.

      Honestly I’m going to say that while you consider your opinion “common sense,” the fact that Alison and multiple other commentators disagree and say it’s a good idea means it might not be as one-sided as you seem to think. I’m well aware that it needs to be properly presented, and I’m grateful to the commentators helping with opinions on phrasing, timing, and how to make this a chance to develop my team.

  49. InSecurity*

    Got an email from remote supervisor asking when she could call and check in with me. She included the very happy smiley face emoji. When she called she fired me! How about that?!

    1. Brandy*

      What was your work relationship? Maybe she was a jerk happy to fire you. Ive had those type bosses in the past

  50. juliebulie*

    Yes, I wondered if boss was just expressing how stressed out she feels. (And personally, I don’t have any difficulty with emojis on my monitor, but on my phone they’re so friggin tiny I can’t always tell them apart. Also, first time I saw the poo emoji I thought it was soft-serve chocolate ice cream. That delusion was quickly smashed.)

  51. I'm just here for the cats!*

    For LW2. Perhaps Jane is concerned about more work piling on to her when you go on maternity leave. You say that she recently had a medical procedure due to health reasons. She may be worried that she can’t take more work when your gone. What is your job and bosses like when someone is gone for parental leave? Do they distribute work evenly or do they put it all on one person?

    You also say that there are 3 other women who are pregnant right now. Depending on you job and how large your office is that could be a large percentage of your team. And at least one or two of you would be gone at the same time. Along with other staffing (illness, vacations, etc) there could be a severe impact on the team. Something to consider.

    None of this is your fault and Jane should not be saying that if you are pregnant she can’t work with you. I think you need to have an honest conversation with Jane. Say that she seems to be acting different than she has been before she left and that you hope everything is ok and that you haven’t done anything to upset her. Then if she says anything about you being pregnant you can say that you are pregnant but that shouldn’t affect your working together. I think she is a woman who is in pain. And May need some therapy
    Please let us know how every goes and I hope you have a healthy pregnancy and baby!

    1. OP#2*

      Thank you!

      I do work in a smaller office (15ish people) so yes, 4 people is about 1/4 of our staff. But we’re all cross trained in other departments to help pick up slack where needed, so I don’t think she’s worried about too much work. I will say that I had plenty of help when she was out on medical leave, so I didn’t feel particularly stressed, but I also wasn’t dealing with medical issues.

  52. Sled dog mama*

    As a person who has had 2 miscarriages and lost one of the children I carried to term (and 9 days, genetic condition), Jane is being a Froot Loop. She cannot reasonable expect you to alter your life to accommodate her, and if she does expect that she’s not reasonable.
    It can be painful to watch others go through pregnancy, especially if they seem to breeze right through it with no difficulty when you struggled to get pregnant or had complications. The toughest thing for me has been watching another coworker experience a loss and knowing that there is literally nothing I can do that will help.
    There is a (very slim) possibility that Jane’s “you better not be pregnant” comes from a place of caring and is simply a poorly expressed wish that you be spared her struggles (I strongly doubt this). I struggled mightily with how how to express my best wishes to other women who I knew because we were pregnant at the same time. Part of the struggle was that all I could think was “I hope things go better for you than me”
    Telling Jane in a way that takes the burden of her reaction off you (and out of the office if you can) is the kindest thing to do, also loop in your supervisor before telling her so that you have backup if her behavior gets worse

    TLDR: sometimes when you are struggling with your own thing it can be hard to express appropriate feelings for others when you see them not struggling with the same thing.

  53. OP#2*

    Thank you everyone (and Alison) for the advice.

    I had been considering sending Jane an email, but worried it might be too impersonal since we do share an office. But I think this will be the best course. Our hours are staggered, so I thought I might send my email this evening, as I’m preparing to leave for the day? That way she has a full evening to process her emotions. I let our HR rep know my plans so that she had a head’s up.

    Two of the women who are also pregnant are aware that I’m expecting. It was quite by accident, but they saw the bruise from a blood draw and asked if congratulations were in order. I’m a terrible poker player, and worse liar, so I simply told them it was, but that I was keeping things quiet for now and to keep it to themselves. As far as I’m aware, they have (and our office likes to gossip – if they told, I’m certain I would know).

    For what it’s worth, I’ve had my own fertility issues, which I think is making me extra sensitive to Jane’s feelings. No, I haven’t discussed them with Jane (I tend to keep medical issues private). My husband and I have been trying for over a year, and were preparing for fertility treatments when I got pregnant (I actually thought I had COVID – surprise!) So I was adamant about waiting for the second trimester to announce anything, but I’m literally bursting at the seams with excitement.

    I’m hoping this goes well. Again, thank you all :)

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Your story reminds me of mine: I was also about to start fertility treatments when I found out I was pregnant. I thought it had just been stress about the pandemic lockdown starting that had thrown things off. Congratulations, and I hope Jane will not take out her hurt on you. It sounds like you’re doing everything possible to be kind and compassionate with her.

    2. Shenandoah*

      Congrats OP2 – I hope your pregnancy is textbook boring!

      Jane is certainly being hard to deal with, but I’m glad you are responding kindly and compassionately.

      1. Been there, walked that road*

        This is always my response to people when I find out they’re pregnant – I wish you a boring pregnancy.

        (Both of mine that went to term weren’t boring at all. Boring in this case is a VERY good thing.)

    3. LizABit*

      If it makes sense in your situation, I agree with other commenters who’ve suggested looping in your boss first. It’s impossible to predict how she’s going to react and your boss should be prepared to deal with that.

      Congratulations! I wish you all the best!

  54. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP2: I agree with many of the comments, but can’t help feeling for Jane a bit. I get the sense that there is something going on besides “only” the infertility issue — I mean, of course I recognise that’s a huge thing so “only” isn’t really the right word, but more like she has this huge issue in addition to something else. (Maybe or maybe not related to the recent health condition and surgery, of course that isn’t OP’s place to know. Or something else entirely.)

    It does seem like OPs pregnancy would be the “final straw” as Jane perceives it – although yes, it’s not appropriate to voice that at work, of course, but I can relate; not about pregnancy/infertility specifically, but certainly with the “one more thing” sentiment – everyone has a breaking point…

    I can also relate to Jane in that I’ve had a slightly similar situation in my past. As said above, mine wasn’t about infertility but about something else in life, something that most people of my ‘peer group’ see as a standard part of the adulting process and a life milestone, which I had been working towards fruitlessly for many years, set back by obstacle after obstacle, all the while people of my vague peer group who were slightly ‘behind’ me in life (in terms of age, years after graduating, etc) were forging ahead with this milestone, and it’s the sort of thing where people often throw a party to celebrate it (to which they stopped inviting me after a few tirades received in response to invitations – shame on me).

    I did feel that they were achieving this ‘at’ me in some sense, although rationally I knew they weren’t — but also perceived it as ‘flaunting’ this success in the workplace. They knew my situation and, I reasoned, ought to have been more circumspect in discussing that kind of thing.

    I’ve always thought that way, actually, even before that — that it’s rude to touch on a subject that’s known to be sensitive for someone who’s listening (other examples are going on about food in various ways when you know someone is struggling with an ED, and the most egregious example imo – a company I worked for having someone co-ordinating the company’s “food bank (food pantry) drive”: encouraging people to donate, talking about how we can help those “less fortunate than ourselves” etc… whilst knowing that the co-ordinator was more than occasionally reliant on food banks herself due to a combination of stagnating wages and personal circumstances).

    I agree it’s not on us to manage other people’s feelings, per se, but my take on it is there’s enough suffering for people like Jane (though not the actual Jane of the OP as it seems that the OP is taking a thoughtful and compassionate approach) without it being cavalierly provoked by people who just don’t take the time to think.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Ok yes, understood, but this is all a lot… that no one here should have to think about or take into consideration in any meaningful capacity. It doesn’t matter how Jane personally feels or what the backstory is or how torn up she is inside, it just matters that they are able to deal with this and move on from it professionally and politely. Other people are going to get pregnant, get promotions, etc etc – “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”.

      This all would be something to take into consideration for a friend, but not for a coworker, especially not one you’re super close to.

  55. Engineer*

    OP #3 – Does your employer offer a tuition reimbursement program? At my work you can take university courses, and they will reimburse you the cost as along as you get a B or better. The courses only have to be kinda related to your job field. Might be worth checking out.

  56. Other Letter Writer*

    LW #2, I’m the writer of the letter you referenced – where my coworker kept asking me inappropriate questions about when I was going to get pregnant. Nothing you have said in your letter should cause someone else to behave the way your coworker is behaving. Whatever she’s dealing with isn’t your responsibility; and anyway, eventually she’s going to figure it out! (Unless you carry around large files and packages the way they did in 60s sitcoms).

    I’m happy for my coworkers when they get pregnant, despite the fact that I myself most likely can’t have biological children. I hope you don’t take my story (where someone was actively and creepily questioning me about why I’m not a mother yet and oversharing very personal details) and apply it to your situation. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing anything wrong. You should feel free to tell people at your office you’re pregnant when you’re comfortable with doing so.

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