update: my coworker is upset that I’m pregnant

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who shared an office with someone who’d been struggling with infertility and started treating the letter-writer coldly when she suspected she was pregnant? (#2 at the link; first update here) Here’s the update.

I wrote in last year and sent in an update about my coworker, who was upset that I was pregnant. I wanted to give everyone another (final?) update on my situation, and clarify a few things from my last letter.

Jane does have a son. He’s in school, but I’m not sure exactly how old he is. Some people speculated that she was undergoing IVF, and that’s why she announced she was pregnant. While I won’t speculate her motivations, she said many times that IVF wasn’t an option for her.

Shortly after my December update, Jane let everyone know she was having major surgery in February. In early January we hired Fergus, who would be covering for Jane while she was out, and then for me while on maternity leave in May. Immediately after his hire, Jane requested she be moved back to her old desk, because it “wasn’t right I be left alone with a man in my condition”. I told our boss I was totally fine working with Fergus, and the requests stopped. Surprisingly, all coldness Jane expressed towards me evaporated, seemingly overnight. Jane came into my office at least twice a day to ask me a question (she would have emailed before). I was cordial and friendly, but not as much as I had previously been.

Jane was supposed to train Fergus on some of her job responsibilities, but that never came about. When she went on leave in February for surgery, Fergus and I were left with a pile of work, some of it time sensitive, that hadn’t been touched. It was a hectic few weeks, to say the least. It quickly became evident that Fergus and I worked very well together. Tasks were being completed with more efficiency, even though we had more work to do. Fergus suggested some adjustments that worked at his old job. Some were great, others didn’t work, but we definitely improved how some things run!

Jane decided to return to work a month early, against medical advice (or so she told me). The first week she was back was incredibly stressful. Jane took back tasks that had previously been hers, but claimed they were done all wrong, or she didn’t remember how to do them. The best example I have is Fergus dated a document 21-03-15, when she would have marked it 3/15/21. Neither are wrong, just different (this didn’t affect how the document was saved – the name didn’t change, and it was still in the same folder as always).

Shortly after her return, HR and our manager pulled me into a conference room to discuss maternity leave. They then asked if I preferred working with Fergus or Jane. I did hesitate, and offered that there were advantages to working with both. When they explained that there didn’t seem to be enough work in our department for three people (true), but too much for two (also true), they were looking at filtering off some of our tasks, as well as some from other employees who were overburdened and create a new position. I was still hesitant, but did admit that I preferred working with Fergus over Jane. By the end of the week, some of Jane’s work had been shifted back to us, some of our tasks were shifted to her, and she picked up some new responsibilities. It was neither a promotion or demotion, and she was still in her same office.

My coworkers decided to host a small baby shower for me the Friday before I went on leave. Jane absolutely gushed over me (to the point that it was uncomfortable). I gave Fergus a thorough debriefing of the things I could (our work tends to have a short turn-around time, so I finished what I could and handed off the few things I couldn’t), and told him I’d be as available for questions as I could be.

The first day of leave, Fergus called me and told me that Jane had quit that morning, with no notice. I was actually surprised; she seemed more like herself after her surgery. But this means Fergus is working alone basically through July. Some of Jane’s work has been shifted around to other employees until I get back, and then we’ll reassess. I’ve assured Fergus I’ll try to answer his questions when I can.

Oh, and I had my baby last week! Thanks again to the commenters who offered well-wishes. We had some (expected and unavoidable) issues, but overall things went well. I had a little girl three days after my own birthday, so now myself, my daughter, and my mother are all May Tauruses. Kinda cool if you ask me.

Once again, thank you for all your wisdom and help. You and the commenters are great!

{ 114 comments… read them below }

  1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    Congratulations! And as I was reading this, I wondered if the turnabout in Jane’s demeanor was because she was planning on leaving. Hopefully everything works out for everyone!

    1. Cat Tree*

      Good point. When I worked at Toxic Job, my coworkers new when I was planning to give notice because I wasn’t miserable that morning.

    2. Smithy*

      While it doesn’t explain everything, her being in a general pleasant mood makes all the sense in the world. Even just interviewing and putting extra energy into a job hunt can help someone detach from a current work environment that’s making someone miserable.

      Not saying that it’s anyone’s fault that Jane was miserable, just that if Jane connected her workplace to being her being unhappy – then leaving would be a relief.

      1. Hamish the Accountant*

        I dunno, Jane seems like a generally avoidant person. I think that planning to quit and deciding not to deal with her colleagues for a two week notice period fits with everything else we’ve heard about her.

        1. Ann Nonymous*

          My thoughts exactly. The pleasantness was to throw them off the scent and then she lay in wait to throw a giant stink bomb at the most detrimental time. She was probably hoping, among other things, that LW would be hugely upset about the departure and that it would at least mentally disturb her on maternity leave.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think it may go deeper, almost euphoric. She thought, “nobody cares about my feelings, but if I change my approach, they will be so shocked and sorry to see me go.”
      Yes, this is quite an odd, ungenerous take on it. But her efforts to “fit in” were so awkward, I think because she didn’t really know how to be naturally happy for or interested in others.
      She planned to leave everyone high and dry and reeling from losing such great a member of team who was so interested and involved with everyone.
      No clue that people are simply relieved the problem is gone.

    4. Momma Bear*

      That is a good point. Sometimes just having a direction/clarity can create calm. Weird that she left with no notice right after LW went on leave, but hopefully Fergus can manage until LW returns.

      Congrats on your new baby, LW!

  2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

    Congratulations to you and your family! I hope all continues to be well with you and your little one.

    Good luck with work – it sounds like Fergus is doing his best and is of a more open-mind to be flexible and responsive through this transition.

    1. MtnLaurel*

      Congrats from another female May Taurus. My mother and grandma are May Geminis though. Love having all our birthdays in the same month.

  3. NeonDreams*

    looks like this worked out as the base case for everyone. Jane sounded exhausting to be around. Best of luck to you and your baby! also to Fergus as he works through the transition.

  4. kittymommy*

    Wow, this was a roller-coaster! Congratulations to you and your family! Congrats (and godspeed) to Fergus and his new job. And I hope Jane the best in whatever her new endeavors shall be.

    (And I agree with NeonDreams, jane doe sound like a lot.)

  5. many bells down*

    Okay that is some EXCEPTIONAL weirdness that Jane decided FOR YOU that you can’t be “left alone with a man in your condition.” Like, did she think you were going to get double pregnant by proximity or what? And why did she think that was for her to say? I feel like that was a whole sea of red flags right there.

    1. Venus*

      I’m guessing Jane wanted Fergus in the smaller single office so that she could have more influence over him and his work.

    2. Myrin*

      I’m glad you’re saying this because since OP used quotation marks around that half-sentence, I attributed it to Jane and was waiting for her to pull another pregnancy announcement of her own – it makes much more sense the way you laid it out here (except it doesn’t, of course, content-wise).

    3. Gan Ainm*

      There was so much crazy in that letter that I actually forgot about that element by the time I got to the end, but I gasped when I read “Left alone with a man in her condition”?! I don’t know what she was implying, but all of the options I could think of were incredibly offensive to both men and women, and I would have had some strong words for my manager and HR about it, if I were in OP’s shoes.

    4. quill*

      Yeah that one weirded me out and made me wonder if there was an attempt to start a rumor mill, or otherwise mean-girls at OP (also maybe Fergus) over the desk moving etc.

    5. onco fonco*

      Yeah, that was SO odd. What does it even mean? The only rationale I can actually think of is that OP might have some kind of… intimate pregnant lady emergency…? and Fergus would be helpless.

    6. Nora*

      I also noticed that and my first thought was also “what’s going to happen, she’ll get pregnant again??”

      I would love to know what was going through her head because that’s such a weird thing to say. A step beyond “a man and a woman shouldn’t share an office” to “a man and a pregnant woman shouldn’t share an office”??

    7. KayDeeAye*

      So, so, so weird. I mean, what?

      Assuming she wasn’t being sincere with that “wasn’t right I be left alone with a man” stuff, the only thing I can think of is that she for some reason didn’t want Fergus in that office – maybe because she was trying to prevent the OP and Fergus from becoming effective coworkers? maybe because she wanted him under her eye and control? – and this was the only “reason” (note my deliberate use of quote marks!) she could think of.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I bet she just regretted moving to the smaller office and jumped at the chance to switch back without losing face.

    8. L*

      I read it more as like a man wouldn’t be as considerate or as a helpful as a woman would be during a pregnancy.

      1. Boof*

        I think that’s the kindest/most reasonable interpretation, that LW would be missing out on all the maternal support from other ladies! That… was totally happening from Jane! Er.

      2. Blackcat*

        Which was… really the opposite experience of my pregnancy. Not that I had any problems with women in my office around pregnancy stuff, but it was always the men who were like “Wait, that chair isn’t comfortable for you to sit in? Hmm, I’ll investigate getting a few different chairs in here. Do you have ideas for what could be better?”
        Like women were helpful, but multiple men were really proactive.

    9. CouldntPickAUsername*

      I think Jane was trying to backtrack to get back into her old office be it out of loneliness or preferring the bigger space. However she could just apologize she had to be the hero/martyr.

  6. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I gasped out loud when I got to the “Jane quit without notice” part. Holy COW.

    OP, happy that you & baby are doing well. And poor Fergus. It sounds like things will be better when you get back and don’t have to deal with Jane anymore though.

    1. Generic Name*

      My eyes bugged out when I read that Jane had quit. I feel like *something* was going in with Jane.

      I’m glad all is well with you and baby, congrats!

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Clearly SOMETHING was up/wrong with Jane, for many reasons.

      I like how she waited for Fergus to be left alone for months to do that. Classy lady.

        1. allathian*

          I think she had an issue with pretty much everyone, given the way she treated the LW both before and after she wrote to Alison.

          I wonder if she even had another job lined up or if she just quit at the point where it would cause the most inconvenience for the company and for Fergus for the longest possible time, on the LWs first day of maternity leave.

          1. Observer*

            That’s quite possible. After all it’s not like her issue with Fergus had anything to do with anything he could have done.

            It feels like she figured that messing over the OP wasn’t really going to work out, so she displaced her issues to Fergus and decided to mess him up as much as she could.

    1. Heidi*

      I like to think I would have asked her point-blank, “What do you imagine is going to happen if we’re left alone, Jane?”

  7. Sigrid*

    Why would being pregnant mean you couldn’t work in the same room as a man?????? I am so confused.

    (I know the actual answer is “Jane isn’t rational”, but wow. I just. Am so confused.)

    1. mcfizzle*

      Same! I just can’t imagine what she was thinking. But as I reflect, I don’t know what Jane was really thinking in any of this (abruptly talkative again?).

    2. TootsNYC*

      I guess you wouldn’t be as able to fight him off when he inevitably attacked you?
      I mean…

      1. JB*

        Of course, we all know any man can be driven to violence when he’s in close quarters with another man’s offspring, whether they’re alread born or still gestating.

        No, wait, that’s lions. I’m thinking of male lions.

        1. Macaroni Penguin*

          And David Attenborough should narrate that documentary of Office Life.

          “Fortunately, the mother was able to fend off an infanticidal Fergus. Her cubs …. are safe.”

    3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      The only thing my brain could come up with is pictures of Victorian Era confinement where pregnant mothers stayed home and away from society. But even that is incredible stretching a very over inactive imagination to get there.

      1. PT*

        Now that we’re back to Victorian Era levels of disease (thanks antivaxxers), some of those rules are starting to seem less weird. Of course pregnant women and small children self-isolated, your life depended on it.

    4. curly sue*

      The only thing that came to mind would be that somehow they’re at higher risk of an office affair? Because she’s already pregnant, so can’t get pregnant by Fergus?

      (Which is irrational, especially in the 21st century when birth control exists and out of wedlock sex doesn’t automatically lead to inexplicable children, but… what else could it be? Fergus would get pregnant from proximity to a pregnant woman? That’s even less rational.)

    5. learnedthehardway*

      The only reasons I can think of is that Jane has Victorian sensibilities (perhaps arrived in the 21st century via wormhole from the 19th), and that women in a “delicate condition” shouldn’t be seen by men OR she thinks that men are incapable of being at all helpful in situations where women are pregnant.

      Either of which are whackadoodle. It’s either that or the prospective, inevitable affair…

  8. Jo*

    Congratulations ! Glad to hear everything seems to have worked out…not quite sure what’s going on with Jane but looks like that’s not a issue anymore. Perhaps she felt bad about how she’d reacted and was trying to make it up to you, although no idea what’s with the comment that you shouldn’t be left alone with a man in your condition!

  9. Pants*


    But also awesome!! Congrats on the baby girl! The world needs more Tauruses. (Tauri?)

      1. Pants*

        I’m a Cancer. Taurus is our perfect match. I’ve never met a Taurus that I didn’t like.

        Aries, however….

  10. Sara without an H*

    Congratulations, OP! And, while I feel a bit sorry for Jane, quitting was probably the best decision for her and everybody else.

    Fergus sounds like a keeper, btw.

  11. Julianna*

    Just chiming in to say Fergus is more right, re: filenaming—year-month-day is readable only one way. 3/15/21 isn’t easy to misread but for example 03/01/21 is March 1st in some parts of the world and January 3rd in others. Also it sorts better—you can much more easily find the most recent file with year-month-day.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yep! I date all my files that way. It automatically puts everything in date order, and there is no ambiguity.

      2. Anthony J Crowley*

        YYYYMMDD wants a word :)
        We HAVE to start all filenames with the date in that format. Much easier to just have the numbers rather than people arguing about whether it’s spaces or dashes or what :)

        1. calonkat*

          That’s what I use on my files. Took me a short time to get used to, but now I use it on my personal files as well as at work!

      3. Nanani*

        YYYY-Month-DD is my go to. If a client wants DD-Month-YYYY, fine. Any permutation, fine. But spelling out “June” means no confusion about whether 12/6 is 12 June or December 6.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Yes, this is standard in my field because agreements (etc) are so often used in multiple jurisdictions.

        2. CaliUKexpat*

          Yup. Having moved between countries I always spell the month. In large part just to keep my on head on straight, but also to avoid mucking up anyone else’s files!

    1. Chickiepunk*

      Not to mention, when you organize by filename, the file from each year will remain together when you put the year first. Otherwise, you get all the March files from every year grouped together.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        In the past, I rarely had projects that lasted so long that I needed to worry about sorting the files this way. However, we’ve taken on a multi-year project and I’ve made the switch! I completely understand now…

        1. OP :)*

          This was to keep track of truck maintenance for our vehicles. So it spans the life of a truck, which is 10+ years. Year first makes sense.

      2. Zephy*

        Yup. And October, November, December get grouped up between January and February, too.

        1. Merci Dee*

          Our storage system has separate file folders for each year, so we don’t have to worry about multi-year documents getting all mixed in together. But when I save files for documents that I do every month, I always format with a two-digit month, then the date, then the year. So January through September are formatted 01 through 09, and then October through December don’t get mixed up at the front of the group.

    2. OP :)*

      FWIW, I’m team YYYYMMDD. My dad was in the military, so everything was dated that way growing up.

      The document in question was a maintenance log for our trucks. So starting with the year makes the most sense. I might not remember that truck X got a new transmission in October, but I know it was 2018. But the title of the document was still Truck X Maintenance Log. It only had to do with the naming of an Excel tab.

    3. Liz*

      Oh yeah, I got my Covid vax a couple of weeks ago, and ahead of me in the queue was a young man who had received his first shot in the US. The nurses were INTENSELY confused by the US date format — like, they worked it out, but it’s hard to parse if you’re not accustomed to it.

  12. The Rural Juror*

    Congrats, OP!!! All the best of luck!

    Also, sending some good vibes to Fergus. He’s got a lot on his plate now, but it seems like he’s more than capable.

  13. RagingADHD*

    Happy you and baby are doing well!

    As is so often the case, it’s obvious now that whatever was going on with Jane, it wasn’t actually about infertility or babies, but about some real oddball stuff going on in her head, that would have made her act strangely sooner or later anyway.

    Infertility is stressful and emotional, and it often makes people sad or sensitive. It doesn’t make normally-rational people into sexist, controlling weirdos.

    1. OP :)*

      There were a few things I noticed while Jane was out on her own leave regarding her need to control. Like the date thing, or when I put our technical manuals into rainbow order (ah, nesting). There wasn’t a system before, so I didn’t undo anything. But it upset Jane. It presented in other ways, like naming documents or, you know, the perception that I’m incapable of being alone with a coworker.

      1. Van Wilder*

        Sounds like a combination of things, but the biggest issue being her own insecurity and making it everyone’s problem.

  14. awesome3*

    Please enjoy time with your daughter and take your leave without answering *too* many work questions. Congratulations!

  15. Bookworm*

    Weird it seems like it’s still not clear about the resentment, but perhaps Jane already made up her mind to leave. Congratulations, OP!

  16. Macaroni Penguin*

    #1) Well, that’s darn confusing. I suppose we’ll understand Jane’s motivations. Congratulations on your little one!

  17. Nonprofit Lifer*

    Congratulations OP! Enjoy your time with your baby, and do NOT let yourself be sucked back into work early because Fergus is overwhelmed, as much as you like him.

    I know it’s tempting, particularly when you’re in that very first newborn-sleeping-all-the-time phase. You think “what are all these other parents complaining about, I’m getting plenty of sleep.” And then your baby grows enough that their sleep schedule shifts, or they start cluster feeding, or something else changes and the wheels come off your carefully laid plans. Take your time, take care of yourself and your family, and then come back strong. Good luck!

  18. Zephy*

    Oh, I’m glad this is a good update and you’re away from Jane, whatever her problem was, and I hope she’s able to get the help she needs.

  19. OP :)*

    Hi all!

    I’m sneaking in a quick comment during nap :)

    Fergus is great. He’s reached out to me about once a week since I’ve been on leave, and always for things that really are important. And he’s been super understanding that I can’t answer RIGHT NOW.

    I don’t really know what to say about Jane’s “alone with a man” hang up. Most of our coworkers are men (we work in a technical/ mechanical field) so singling Fergus out was very odd. She made a comment to me once that she thought Fergus would “hover”. For reference, Jane and I are both shorter – I’m 5ft and a bit (not quite 5’1″ unless you squint at the ruler and I’m having a good posture day), and Jane had maybe an inch on me. Fergus is 6’7″. Even if we’re both seated, there’s a height factor. I’m normally never one to discount someone’s personal feelings, but it felt more like Jane wanted to isolate me, rather than anything to do with Fergus himself. But that’s just my speculation.

    Thanks for the well wishes, all! I’m going to try and comment as I can :)

    1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      I think you’re right about Jane wanting to isolate you, or perhaps more importantly, control you — the silent treatment, later “love bombing,” and isolating techniques are hallmarks of abusive relationships. Jane definitely seemed to be attempting to pull you into a toxic (work/friend) relationship.
      Bullet dodged.

  20. RB*

    Ok, so Jane was never pregnant? How did she explain being pregnant and then never progressing in the pregnancy? Did it never come up in conversation because people didn’t want to bring up something potentially painful like a miscarriage?

    1. Van Wilder*

      I’m curious about that too. Given how vocal she was about her infertility issues, and how weird her announcement was, I’m guessing the coworkers never believed her.

    2. Kristina*

      This was my question as well! Jane sounds baffling. I wish her well and am also happy for OP not having to work with her anymore.

    3. Observer*

      I’m not sure that any of this is relevant. Whether she was pregnant and miscarried early or was never pregnant doesn’t really explain anything else.

  21. Cedarthea*

    Congrats on the baby!

    I was due two days before my mother’s birthday and came 5 days after. We now celebrate it together at Canadian Thanksgiving (with our extended family) and then we have our own birthday together the next weekend (or the weekend after, depending), it’s a fun thing that we share. I hope you and your sweet girl enjoy the same for many years to come.

  22. Anonymous Today*

    Congratulations, OP!

    And not just on the baby, but also on knowing that when you go back to work you won’t have to tiptoe around Jane and not talk about the baby.

    It sounds as if there’s a lot going on with Jane and none of it very good. I feel bad for women who have fertility issues, but it’s no excuse to take this attitude towards someone who is pregnant.

    I know we aren’t supposed to diagnose people, but I will say that Jane does seem like the poster child for the company’s EAP.

  23. Green Mug*

    I’m delighted to hear that you and baby are healthy and happy! This is the update I wanted to hear from you. Congratulations!

  24. Amy Stuart*

    I’ve read through the original letter and updates, but I’m still confused. So…was Jane pregnant? What happened there?

  25. RJ*

    OP, congratulations on both the new baby and the no Jane. IMO, she’s a toxic enigma wrapped up in a conundrum.

  26. RMATSON*

    I had a similar situation except I was the Fergus where I was hired to replace someone about to go on mat leave in a month. She was vicious and horrible and intentionally made it impossible to learn how to do any of my tasks. She’d tell me to plan on training at a certain time and she’d do the work before that timeframe so there was nothing to teach me with. She’d then tell anyone who would listen how I wasn’t doing anything and that I didn’t know how to do my job.

    I hated her and the job for that month but at least knew that she’d be gone for at least a year (Canadian mat leave). Finally she had the kid and the other member of our department who was only in the job a month earlier than I got together with our supervisor to map out how exactly the job should be done because no one could believe the mess she left behind for us to clean up. We created actual training manuals, calendars for when specific time sensitive items should be done monthly, and just made everything flow so much better. We cleared off old outstanding A/R balances that had be sitting on the books for years, made the A/P process more streamlined and everything was running smoothly.

    The year was up, so she returned, thinking that we’d be frantic and lost without her. She was greeted with a “this is now how we do things” from the manager and when she’d question why it was changed, he would remind her what a mess everything was until she left for that year. A couple months later, one day she left work and didn’t call or give notice. She just stopped coming into work. It was a few days of no one knowing if she was coming back or on leave again or anything. HR wouldn’t tell us anything official but to expect that her job would be posted as she wasn’t returning.

    I think like Jane, she just thought that everyone would be lost without her and her ego couldn’t handle things working smoother without her.

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