updates: I got pregnant by my new boss, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. I’m pregnant by my new manager and don’t want higher-ups to know

My issue was with HR promising she would speak to me before she did anything but then never speaking to me about my pregnancy again, even after she notified upper management and him that I told her. Everything I learned after the fact was from the baby’s father. She was later fired for multiple mishandling of other HR issues.

I was made his subordinate after finding out I was pregnant, he wasn’t abusing his power to those who didn’t know, and we weren’t planning on hiding it forever, just till we could get our bearings on what our plan was. And I knew HR was going to have to spill the beans, just wanted to be in the loop.

Anyway, upper management moved me under another manager and he and I were fine. They were told they couldn’t bring it up unless we did, so I went about acting like a single mother and they followed suit. It was a well kept secret. It did come out once the baby was born and nobody had any idea that it was his, except those we had told which was just upper management.

He ended up leaving the company while I’ve been out on maternity leave for reasons that had nothing to do with my pregnancy, just a better job offer. So things worked out. Baby is happy and healthy and we are co-parenting well together.

2. My coworkers won’t stop telling me about their ideas for my work

I wrote to you originally from the bottom of the barrel of a huge amount of burn out. And four days after you published my letter, we shut down the library to the public and sent every worker home. My library ceased services for a while though it was still paying all of its employees (which, considering the budget was already approved, is how EVERY library should have handled it but I could write you a whole column about that by itself).

This gave me a long recovery time to really sit and think about myself, my job, and what was happening in it. I think, perhaps, some of my exhaustion with the constant stream of ideas was that I felt it meant that I wasn’t doing my job well enough. Especially when some suggestions were so remedial that it felt as if the suggestee was saying, “I think you are too dumb to think of something this simple.” By the time we started up virtual services, I came back with a determination that I am good at my job, I know what I’m doing, and these people were just trying to help.

And then a slightly angry all staff email came out from someone a few positions below me who thought we should rearrange the teen area to better support the teens. I took time to reread your response, and the wonderful responses of most of your readers, thought about where this person was coming from. And I responded in a kind but firm manner that I had thought very hard about how the very limited space we have is arranged, that I can’t move building support columns, sadly, and that I appreciated the passion I felt this suggestion was coming from.

I have not received a large suggestion since (unless you count the ones coming from my boss, but those are expected and welcome), though this could be because everyone else is very much caught up in their own departments. I, also, have been giving off strong signals that I am doing absolutely the most I can possibly do right now and unless someone can provide all the resources, nothing else can get done.

This really isn’t much of an update, I’m sorry. I feel as if my department(me) has been set adrift right now, I haven’t seen my teens in eight months. Virtual programs are not the same as face to face time. I’m building my job from the ground up, trying to figure out how to function as everything keeps changing. Thank you so much for your column, it really has kept me grounded through all of this. I also apologize if I was a bit snippy in the comments, it felt a bit strange to have people telling me that I should be putting out coloring books (I have so many coloring books, oh my goodness) and, again, I was very burnt out. I really do appreciate the engagement I got.

3. Can my employer lay me off and ask me to volunteer?

Many of your commenters correctly noted that this was “just an idea” from the CEO, but your advice was helpful in confirming my gut reaction and further detailing the legal repercussions. We were never asked to actually go through with this, and were fortunate to receive PPP funding to keep us afloat. The CEO resigned a couple of months later under somewhat dramatic circumstances, and folks are for the most part breathing easier to be rid of him. However, even with new leadership there’s been lots of scary warnings about layoffs with nothing materializing, so people feel on edge. In one case, they even announced a layoff but reversed at the last minute and kept the employee on. A lot of panicky, bad, decision-making.

I am in the final stages of interviews for two jobs (in no small part due to your resources) and hope to be out of this job, and the nonprofit sector, soon!

4. I’m still not doing the job I was hired for two years ago

Unfortunately I don’t have any super exciting news to share. I did appreciate your advice, and the comments that helped me recognize my boss’ attitude as being weirdly-paternal-yet-unintentionally-condescending, and I did start job hunting for about a month before COVID hit and hiring slowed to a crawl. My company was already not doing super hot, and alas, I ended up being part of a large group that was laid off eventually. I’ve been full-time job hunting for a few months, using a lot of your advice about resumes and cover letters, but unsurprisingly it’s pretty tough out there right now.

The silver lining is that everyone involved in the layoff decision worked hard to help me out, and I walked away with a really generous severance package and some glowing recommendations.

Wish I had better news, but I really appreciated the post and all the fantastic commenters!

{ 76 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP #1 – I’m glad things worked out, but I have to admit, if I was your coworker, I would assume there was something seriously sketchy going on that you all kept this so quiet for so long.

    1. Rectilinear Propagation*

      What, that she didn’t go around saying who father was before giving birth? Does she really owe co-workers that information?

    2. Daffy Duck*

      IDK, I would just figure they were more private. My coworkers don’t talk about who they are dating, what is going on with spouses, etc.
      It is very good that she was moved to another manager, but meh for everything else. I have known several women who didn’t talk about their pregnancy for a number of reasons (including previous miscarriages). Women carry different also and start showing differently or at different times. I didn’t talk about mine with anyone at work until I was over 5 months along, just started wearing looser tops – my single boss bobbled his coffee when I told him.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t see how anything is sketchy to stay private about your pregnancy details. Some people are more private than others, it’s not that strange let alone sketchy.

      If someone is pregnant my mind doesn’t go to “but who’s the father”? Even if they’re not known to be in a relationship, it’s a weird thing to dwell on as a colleague.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        For me it’s the “I went about acting like a single mother” that makes it feel icky.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          What is wrong with being a single mother? And if I understand this and the original post correctly, she is a single mom who co-parents with her child’s father. Single mom doesn’t always mean completely absent father.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          The fact of the matter is that it’s none of the other staff members’ business. She can reveal what she wants, and hide the rest. You might be dying to know, but that’s a matter of gossip not need.

        3. SometimesALurker*

          It’s been days and I’m still thinking about this one. I completely understand why she’d go about acting as though the father was not at her firm… but at least the way it’s phrased in the letter, it sounds like the father was planning to KEEP THE BIRTH OF HIS CHILD A SECRET AT WORK. I know plenty of people don’t talk much about their personal lives at work, but the idea of keeping the fact that you are having a kid secret is horrific to me. Maybe this was preempted by the other job offer, but I guess he either took no parental leave (I know it’s common for fathers not to, but that doesn’t make it… not a negative outcome of the situation?), or was going to let colleagues believe it was some other kind of leave. And then he was planning to just… never mention his kid? Never mention when he needed to leave work for unexpected childcare situations, or was he planning to leave them all to mom? My divorced when I was five and I lived primarily with my mom, but my dad still had *some* “my kid needed to come home from school because she threw up and she’s six so someone has to be at home with her” type of short-notice events. I was certainly not a secret, but I also don’t know how you can be a parent with a job and have a kid your coworkers don’t know about unless the kid is old enough to be self-sufficient.

    4. Observer*

      I think this piece of it is a fair over-reaction. It’s really no one’s business (outside of the higher ups who need to deal with the reporting structure). And the OP *IS* a single mom who is fortunate to have the father in the picture.

    5. AKchic*

      Why? I don’t discuss the fathers of my children at work, either. I don’t discuss my children at work much, if I’m being perfectly honest. I’m not at work to be chummy and get personal with everyone. Closest I get is sharing pet photos, and only if others are doing it and I can’t avoid it. Otherwise, my family life stays private. It’s bad enough that I work with my mother and some of the crew like to bandy that bit about.

    6. ThatOnePlease*

      Seems like there are a lot of people here who have never, ever thought about their coworkers’ private lives? I would definitely wonder who the father was. Maybe that’s nosy but I think it’s also human nature. (I would never ask, but I would wonder about it.) Hiding the fact that a coworker is the father does seem odd, but I attributed it to the fact that it seemed like the relationship had ended which might have made the situation awkward to share at work.

      1. KS*

        I find it bizarre that you think they should announce it to every rando at work. None of their business. What kind of dysfunctional workplace are you expecting here?

  2. Rectilinear Propagation*

    I’m glad to hear that things have mostly worked out. LW #4, I wish you good luck in your job search. Hopefully, some folks will actually get some new headcount in the new year.

    Also, strongly agree with LW #2 that if the budget was already approved, continuing to pay people is the way to go. It’d be one thing if the money dried up but if you can keep your people from being unemployed, why not do that?

  3. avocadotacos*

    Thinking of you LW #2. No one got into working with teens to be separated by the computer screen. It’s hard. Sending warm thoughts to you and your patrons.

    1. Code Monkey the SQL*

      Same! LW #2, librarianship is hard at the best of times. We miss our library so much, and our librarians even more so. Here’s hoping you get to see your teens soon again!

    2. LCH*

      #2 i think your update is great. you sound better and you figured out how to respond to suggestions in a diplomatic manner.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, they are selling themselves short! This is a great update! They listened to Alison’s advice and used it well in dealing politely and professionally with what sounds like a pretty unreasonable email. And hopefully that successful rebuff makes it easier to continue in the future if it keeps coming up again once public activities are more normal in the future.

    3. 'nother prof*

      I don’t know if I mentioned it at the time, but the student evaluations university students write regularly equally (spectacularly) basic “advice.” I’ve been helpfully informed about the existence of Powerpoint (circa 2018) and video (last week), told that one week was too little time to write a paper (that students had three weeks to write), and told that I needed to stop lecturing because it was a film course, so I should just have been showing films (seriously). All of which is to say, your frustration is shared and valid (and no one should ever tell a professional how to do a job that they themselves cannot do).

    4. Sara without an H*

      Ditto! Working with teens and young adults is never easy, and this year has been surreal. Jedi hugs, LW#2, from an academic librarian who is in awe of all her public library colleagues.

  4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    OP1, my stomach sank when I found out the HR employee was fired for mishandling…

    1. Girl who got Pregnant*

      Not for mishandling my situation for multiple other situations she mishandled. Including making a joke before laying someone off about how somebody was getting the boot!

      1. Deranged Owl*

        Including making a joke before laying someone off about how somebody was getting the boot!

        Yikes!

      2. Observer*

        Gasp!

        That’s just outrageous!

        I don’t think she handled your situation terribly, but I do agree that she could have done better. It sounds like the issues with your situation pale in comparison to the issues in general. Because that’s just breathtakingly insensitive and stupid.

      3. starsaphire*

        By the way, OP, congratulations on your baby! Hoping you and the little one are healthy and happy.

  5. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    Am I the only nosy, bad person who wants to know about the “dramatic circumstances” in #4?

    1. Yvette*

      Not just you, “The CEO resigned a couple of months later under somewhat dramatic circumstances…”. I want an update to the update.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        I’m thinking it is due to a lack of understanding about the legalities of business or having a moral compass. Would be interesting, but I suspect it would out the LW.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, if it’s dramatic enough to make it to the press, it would at least out the employer, if not the LW.

    2. Cathy*

      I’m fairly certain OP#3 works at the nonprofit I worked at a couple years ago. The timeline matches the recent change of leadership at that place in the past year, and it would not surprise me that the old CEO would come up with a bizarre plan like this. They renovated the building I worked in, then a few months later decided to outsource our entire department to a third party company, then proceeded to ask some of us to help train the employees at the third party to do our jobs. If it is the same place then I wish OP luck in escaping!

  6. Long Time Manager*

    OP #1: we must be kind when commenting, so I am going to put this as kindly as I can: both you and the baby’s father need to look into management training if either of you want to be in roles where you have direct reports. The fact that he didn’t come clean immediately after his promotion and ask for you to be moved, and in fact wanted to keep it hidden, is very, very worrying. Also that you would consider a promotion where you would be over him. The pregnancy has no bearing—the sexual relationship alone was enough. It was unethical for him to keep quiet and start managing you. I am glad for you that you have a wonderful, healthy baby and he now has a better job at a different company, clearing the way for you to go for that promotion.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      I found the entire situation – the original letter and this follow-up – very troubling as well. OP, yes the HR person shouldn’t have promised to talk with you first and then not talked to you first. That was not cool.

      But that wasn’t the big error here. The BIG error was that the baby’s father wanted to keep quiet about the fact that you and he had had a relationship and that you were now becoming co-parents! That was so, so, so wrong. I’m really glad it worked out well for the two of you, and your baby, but I’m afraid that you are focusing too much on the HR person’s error.

      That’s not the lesson you need to take away from this. The lesson you need to take away from this is that no one should supervise someone if they can’t do so fairly and without bias, and there’s no way a person can be fair and unbiased about the person they share a child with! And even if by some miracle you two are the incredibly rare exception to that, there’s no way your coworkers will believe it. I know I wouldn’t be able to. And I strongly suspect that you would have a very difficult time believing it if the situation involved someone besides you.

      1. Sunflower*

        Another big lesson here to learn- HR works in the best interest of the company. Sometimes that works out to be the same best interest of the employee but sometimes it doesn’t. Your disclosure to HR is never really private and I have to wonder if based off the things you mention in your original letter, the HR person didn’t give you a heads up because she was worried you and the father would try to pull one over on the company if you guys really thought you could continue working as such.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Same. I understand that relationships and pregnancies don’t follow neat timelines, but if I wanted to pursue a relationship with someone who was my boss and it was serious, I would find another job or I would want them to, or at the very least move to another department. I would be 100% not okay with having a relationship and then a child with someone I reported to. And the boss’s strategy shows some pretty poor judgment.

        Someone I know (vaguely) had a relationship with a superior at work and the superior got pregnant. They’re co-parenting – she’s still married to her husband and is raising the child with her husband – but they were both reassigned immediately once the situation came to light.

    2. SimplytheBest*

      Just want to point out that your disclaimer about being kind at the beginning of your comment does the opposite of what you want it to. It’s not kind at all. Just makes it very clear that you want to be nasty but are going to dress it up with some polite language.

      1. Workerbee*

        There is nothing in that comment that wasn’t said as kindly and sincerely as possible, under the circumstances. It’s offering guidance, not recriminations.

        At least, that’s how I read it, having no stake in the game nor having been involved in a similar situation.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I thought that Long Time Manager’s response was very diplomatically worded and 100% correct. Workplace relationships – and pregnancies – happen, but the LW and her partner’s response to the situation showed some pretty poor judgment.

        1. Girl who got Pregnant*

          Honestly I knew we wouldn’t be working under each other, I was trying to hold it together Long enough to figure out our plan. Is promotion happened after getting pregnant, so that’s what discombobulated things.

        2. KayDeeAye*

          +1

          Long Time Manager’s comments were both critical and kind. And yes, its possible to be both. Let’s face it: Neither the OP nor her child’s father should have expected that they could go on with one supervising the other once they (1) had a sexual/romantic relationship and (2) had a child together. That is just not how workplaces are supposed to work.

      3. JustAnotherCommentor*

        SimplytheBest, I happen to agree with the original comment. But as you said the disclaimer made it not polite, I would be interested to see how you would phrase the advice given. Or do you object to a disclaimer being made at all?

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, it seems like they moved the goalposts a bit in the update when the original letter stated pretty plainly that they thought they should be able to stay under his management and that also they thought it would be okay if they were promoted to manage him. Neither situation would be remotely appropriate and it is very important to acknowledge that.

  7. Ryn*

    OP#2 “I can’t move building support columns, sadly,” has me totally cackling. Good on you for not losing your mind at this one! That one would have had me pulling my hair out.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      This one had me giggling. Its like my usage of “sky jacks” when someone wants me to get something from point A to point B and it should be hung from the underside of the structure…but the structure is “open air no building within eye sight!”.

    2. Sylvan*

      +1 lol

      Was that a private email or part of a group conversation? Because if people saw that, they might have had second thoughts about sending half-baked suggestions.

      1. Teen Librarian with Many Ideas*

        Oh it was an all staff email. In fact, it was a reply to an email from the director about something unrelated.

    3. Dave*

      Amazing how people have no appreciation for little things like structural issues or how easy people think it is to just ‘add a few walls’ without considering all the things that also need to be reviewed. (Electric, sprinklers, heating, doors, fire escape routes, etc.)
      Best of luck in holding it together LW #2 and here is hoping your co-workers get wrapped up in their own stuff enough to leave you alone in the new year.

    4. Threeve*

      Yeah, it’s one thing to make a suggestion for a department. Sending an intense all-staff email about it is pretty unprofessional.

    5. AKchic*

      “Currently, my budget is not large enough for the remodel necessary to accommodate the kind of rearranging you have in mind. However, if you are able to secure a grant or budget increase or perhaps even funding it yourself to accommodate this, please do feel free to submit a plan to the higher-ups and we can discuss naming a reading nook after you for your efforts.”

      But, I 100% admit to being snarky.

      1. Teen Librarian with Many Ideas*

        LOVE THIS! I will say that the email came from someone who is a parent of a teen with certain sensory needs so it had me spiraling for a minute that I’m not providing a safe space for all teens when I realized “Wait, how the heck would I have the ability to change the way the building is laid out?!”

  8. Lifelong student*

    Gentle push back on the “since the budget was approved” theme. I understand that budgets for governmental or quasi governmental entities allocate resources to certain areas. However, when events occur which affect the amount of those resources, the amount allocated may need to be revisited. Please note- I am not saying the employees should not have been retained or compensated- that is outside the point of this response. Funds are often transferred from one spending category to another by government action. In the case of the pandemic, it could occur that revenues are negatively impacted, and that there is greater need than previously anticipated for services in a public health area than some other area- so that funds must be reallocated for the greater good of the community.

    1. A Public Librarian*

      This kind of thing greatly depends on where you work, meaning state and type of library. My state has multiple types of libraries. One is municipal, where funds are shared across multiple government entities and the budget is set by the City. Think, the mayor needs to move funds from the Library to the Police. I work in a library district, which is its own independent taxing body. We get our own tax dollars and set our own budget, so there’s no way to reallocate them to other government functions like public health. Further, because it is the government, there’s a lot of legal considerations as to how money is spent, to avoid misuse of public funds. Once your budget is public, there’s only so much moving around that you can do.
      A conversation that’s been happening in my region’s public libraries is that if you’re closed to the public is it optically bad to still pay staff? I and others have pushed to say that increasing unemployment out of preemptive fear of bad press is really shortsighted. I’ve fought against furloughs because I believe we will lose good staff who would (correctly) feel their library cares more about public perception than protecting their jobs in a pandemic.
      tl; dr- Developing budgets and working in public service, particularly libraries which operate differently than even other government entities, is complicated.

      1. Another librarian*

        I’m in a library system where leadership has been very conscious of public perception and has been pushing through some procedures that make staff feel really unsafe. Every step of our reopening process has happened too soon with not enough preparation, and a lot of people have quit. Like, a lot. Long time employees with fantastic skills and enormous amounts of institutional knowledge. And at this point if anyone asked me if I would recommend they apply here, I don’t know if I could. Putting public perception above staff loyalty is penny wise and pound foolish.

    2. serenity*

      How is this relevant to OP2? Is she overseeing her city’s library budget?

      Every time a letter from a library worker is published, there seems to inevitably be a comment or two about public funds being misused or misallocated. Why is this necessary?

      1. Lifelong student*

        If this is a response to my comment- which I expressed as gentle pushback and specifically mentioned that it was not addressed to allocation for employee compensation in a specific situation- I was addressing only the fact that budgeted funds can, and often are, reallocated. Therefore, the fact that funds are in a budget is not always determinative of how they must be spent. Those who count on the budget remaining the same as originally written are often disappointed. I was addressing the budget process only. So it is relevant to a statement as to what all entities should expect based on the budget process which may not be clear to the OP- no matter what their area is.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        They are responding directly to this part of the letter:

        “My library ceased services for a while though it was still paying all of its employees (which, considering the budget was already approved, is how EVERY library should have handled it but I could write you a whole column about that by itself).”

        1. Teen Librarian with Many Ideas*

          I’m not going to get into the debate here but I want to say that this part of my letter was a tiny bit of snark directed at libraries that laid off ALL staff when no one asked them to and in fact, the community at large was horrified when they found out. It happened a lot and is devastating to our industry as a whole.

      3. just another librarian*

        this. thank you.

        we understand how our libraries are funded and the related “facts of life.” we are also still entitled to our opinions.

  9. pleaset cheap rolls*

    On #2 ” that I can’t move building support columns”
    HHAHAHA.

    On #3
    Frankly, most everyone should be on edge, at least in my country (the US) unless they have some sort of secure long-term funding or actually benefit from the crisis (the company Zoom is an example). We’re in a massive economic crisis right now. Bad management can make it worse, much worse, but we’re in an major crisis.

  10. ManagerNoMore*

    I am curious about this statement from #1: ‘ He ended up leaving the company while I’ve been out on maternity leave for reasons that had nothing to do with my pregnancy, just a better job offer’.

    Is that a typo or am I misunderstanding maternity leave? Can you take maternity leave for reasons other than pregnancy?

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I think the LW meant that the father of her baby left the company for reasons other than the pregnancy while she was on maternity leave.

    2. Stopgap*

      I think the sentence is supposed to be parsed as

      “He ended up leaving the company (while I’ve been out on maternity leave) for reasons that had nothing to do with my pregnancy…”

      rather than

      “He ended up leaving the company (while I’ve been out on maternity leave for reasons that had nothing to do with my pregnancy)…”

      1. Girl who got Pregnant*

        Correct I apologize, giving an update while having a newborn at home and being a bit tired sometimes my wording isn’t correct.

  11. Quill*

    OP #2: “I can’t move building support columns, sadly” had me snickering. I think it’s just possible that your ever so helpful suggesters have realized that they can either use their energy on the plague situation instead of trying to move immovable objects, like the architecture.

  12. Foxgloves*

    OP2 I can TOTALLY relate to your feeling of “these ideas must mean they think I’m not doing a good job!”. I work in higher education, and I am (and always have been) the only person in my department dedicated to online learning, and definitely the only specialist in it. This means that this year I have had a lottttt of comments on “maybe we could do this?”- I’ve had to realise it’s because everyone else feels SO useless right now, and they genuinely think they’re being helpful. Responding kindly but firmly along the lines of “That’s a great idea, it’s something we’ve considered but it’s not right for now” is the only thing that works.

  13. just another librarian*

    OP#2, keep hanging in there. You’re doing good work! The teens you *do* grab through screens right now will be library fans for life. Those programs are a lifeline for the kids who use them.

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