company didn’t even read my application, forced to take a promotion you don’t want, and more

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

1. Company said they didn’t even read my application

Recently I applied for a job for which I met all the required and most of the preferred qualifications. I spent about a week on a cover letter (using all your tips) and had several people read and give me feedback. I followed all of the instructions on the site. This position is in the same institution where I currently work, but in a different area. It is in an academic institution, but the position itself isn’t an academic one.

This is the rejection I received: “Thank you for your interest in the (redacted) position with (redacted). Unfortunately, there are occasions when we are not able to review all resumes submitted for a position. In this instance, your resume was not reviewed and you are no longer in consideration for this position. We wish you the very best in your employment search and encourage you to continue to review and apply for positions with the university at (redacted) Careers.”

I’m not upset at the rejection, but I’ve never seen one that said “hey, you’re clearly a loser so we didn’t bother to read your application” (I know that’s not what they mean, but it’s hard not to read it that way since I can’t think of why they wouldn’t have!), and I was just wondering if this is something new (new-ish)–I’ve had plenty of rejections in my career, but they usually just say something like, “unfortunately, we had a high volume of applications and you are no longer being considered,” no reasoning given.

It’s actually the opposite of “you’re clearly a loser” — they didn’t read your application at all so they have no way to pass judgment on you in either direction. You could be the strongest candidate they’ve ever had; they wouldn’t know because they didn’t look at your materials.

I can’t imagine not taking at least a quick look at every application I receive (and I say that as someone who once had to go through 900+ applications for one position), but I’m guessing they had a really high number of candidates, found some excellent people in the first, say, 200 applications they looked at, and decided it wasn’t a good use of their time to review hundreds more. It’s interesting that they told you that rather than just sending a generic “focusing on other candidates” email, but hey, at least they’re being transparent.

I know it suuuucks to spend all that time on an application and then hear “we didn’t even read it” though.

2. Didn’t accept a promotion, but was promoted anyway

I’m wondering if you can settle something for a friend and me. My friend, Jane, works as an administrative assistant for a nonprofit. A few weeks ago, her boss, Karissa, emailed her saying she was being offered a promotion, which would keep her original duties but also be given a lot of new responsibilities, including managing several direct reports for the first time. But when Jane received the offer letter from HR, it said that her title and salary would not be changing. I told Jane that this just seemed like the company trying to load more work onto her without increasing her pay and pretending it was a promotion to make it seem attractive, and advised her to turn it down.

Jane emailed Karissa back saying that she wasn’t comfortable accepting the promotion unless there was a change in title or salary. Karissa replied that the company was in a hiring freeze and couldn’t offer those. Jane never signed the offer letter.

The next day, Karissa sent an email to the whole team congratulating Jane on having been promoted, implying she’d accepted the promotion, and began assigning Jane the new duties. Jane has been doing them ever since.

I told Jane she should have emailed Karissa back saying something like, “As I said in my earlier email, I declined this new role — was there a miscommunication somewhere?” However, Jane feels that she needs to keep her mouth shut and do the new duties (despite the fact that they are not at all what she signed up for and she doesn’t like doing them) because she’s afraid that she’ll get fired if she speaks up. To me, this seems like something that would be absurd to fire someone for, and I feel that if she’s fired for sending an email like that this isn’t a manager she should be working for anyway. Who is right?

Probably you, although Jane knows the reality of the politics there better than you do.

You’re 100% right that Jane shouldn’t accept the promotion if it’s not worth it to her without a change in title or salary. (And a hiring freeze doesn’t prevent them from changing her title.) It would be perfectly reasonable for to go back to her boss and say, “Whoa — I think we’ve miscommunicated. I’d said I wasn’t up for taking on this new role without the corresponding title or salary.” (She should do that in person though, not via email. This needs to be a conversation.)

So I’m curious whether Jane has good reason for fearing she’d be fired if she did that (has she seen coworkers pushed out in similar situations? is her boss vindictive?) or whether it’s just a general fear of asserting herself when her company is saying “this is the way it will be.” If she thinks this is the type of thing people get fired for in general, that’s wrong. But if she’s seen signs that it’s the type of thing people get fired for at her company, that’s a different thing — highly dysfunctional, but possible. And of course, it’s easy to say “if she’s fired for that, she shouldn’t work for them anyway,” but the calculation is different when you’re the one who would be paycheck-less.

Typically, though, she should be able to get the title change and at least a promise to reassess her salary in X months, but she’ll lose leverage the longer she waits. (And to be clear, a promise for the future isn’t enough, but practically speaking, it might be all she can get right now. And if they don’t come through on the salary later, she can always parlay the promotion into a better role somewhere else. Which still wouldn’t make it okay to have done all the work for a lower salary meanwhile, but sometimes this is the reality of it.)

3. My employee, who knows about my miscarriages, is talking a ton about pregnancy and babies

I work in a really small team and have two employees reporting directly to me. In the past nine months, I have had three miscarriages. One of my employees knows this because I told her when she suffered from an ectopic pregnancy. She has often said she couldn’t have got through it without my help and support. She knows she isn’t going to be penalized or pushed aside for having a child as a result of this.

I’m pretty sure she is pregnant again. Obviously I’m really happy for her (genuinely, the idea of someone going through what I have been through is horrific to me). But she’s handling it in what to me seems a bizarre way. She hasn’t told me directly but every other thing she says is about babies and children and she’s constantly going on about her symptoms. I know symptoms can be bad, I was 12 weeks pregnant three weeks ago, but the vast majority of people just suck it up and get on with their lives.

The thing is, I don’t really know what to do. I obviously don’t want to tell her I what I suspect (she has the right to privacy if she’s not ready to tell me), but equally from an emotional point of view, I’m finding her so draining with the constant complaints and constant talking about babies when I’d rather just forget. And it’s weird because after her etopic pregnancy she couldn’t stand to talk about babies or hear about anyone being pregnant for months (which is totally understandable).

The other employee has also noticed and actually said to me that they were concerned because of how much she was complaining about feeling sick and tired all the time. In a time of Covid, it’s not ideal to be coming into an office and complaining about being ill.

You certainly could note that people have expressed concerns about how often she’s talking about feeling sick and tired and ask that she be mindful of people’s concerns about Covid, but I don’t think that’s going to solve it.

If you were a peer instead of her boss — and since she already knows you’ve been dealing with miscarriages and, crucially, the two of you have had pretty personal conversations on that and related topics — in your shoes I’d consider saying, “Sorry to ask this, but hearing so much about babies and kids and symptoms that mirror pregnancy is tough for me right now. I’ll always be happy for anything in your life that makes you happy, but I’d be grateful if you could be aware of it around me for a while.”

But the power dynamics in the relationship make this different coming from her boss than it would be from a peer. Given that, I’m less inclined to tell you to speak up … although then the conversations you’ve had with each other in the past push me back toward thinking it’s okay. What do others think?

4. Manager sold his house to an employee

One of the senior managers at my company sold his house to his direct report. In this transaction, both saved the realtor commissions and this manager made significant amount of money. He is moving to another country and has direct reports across the globe. Does this cloud his decision when it comes to awarding promotions and even delegating the projects? I think it does and I am curious to hear your opinion.

Yeah, that’s a conflict of interest. I don’t think it’s the most outrageous thing in the world, but I’d hope the company was at least in the loop and keeping a close eye on how things went down. I’d be especially concerned while the transaction was still in progress; I have trouble believing that manager would give fully objective work feedback to someone he was in the middle of negotiating on repairs or closing terms with.

5. Should I call a hiring manager about a job when I recently interviewed with them?

I applied for a position at a small nonprofit agency about a month ago, and I went in for a casual interview. The hours they needed for that position didn’t end up working for me, and when I expressed that, the interviewer asked if she could keep my resume on file for future positions, and also said to give her a call if I changed my mind.

A few days ago, I saw a job listing that I’m very interested in with the same agency. It is a job with a significantly different role, but one I think would be a great fit for me. Since I interviewed with them so recently and she asked to keep my resume on file, should I call her to ask about the position and if she thinks it might fit my skill set? Or should I just apply and mention the previous interview in my cover letter?

This is a bit complicated by the fact that my name has changed since I last interviewed (I got married right before the previous interview and hadn’t legally changed my last name yet, and I have since changed it), so if I just apply, it would be under a different last name than I have listed on the resume they have. It would also be my first job after graduating from undergrad, so I don’t have a lot of experience in job searching at this level. My husband suggested calling the interviewer, but I’m not sure what language to use if I do that, and I don’t want to appear like I’m attempting to circumvent the hiring process.

Don’t call; that’s too much of an interruption for something that isn’t time-sensitive, and hiring managers generally don’t want applicants calling them before they’re in the interview process. But do email her. Before you do that, go ahead and apply like you normally would. Then, send her an email referencing your conversation last month, letting her know you applied, and saying you’d love to meet with her if she thinks this role might be a good fit. Include something like, “I recently married and changed my name, so I submitted my application as Clementine Bailey rather than Jones.” Attach your resume and cover letter to this email so she has them right in front of her if she wants them. Good luck!

{ 403 comments… read them below }

  1. NYWeasel*

    Re #4: Maybe it’s more about how crappy and old our last house was, but the last thing I wanted after selling my house was to ever have be around the buyers and hear about every little thing that wasn’t working perfectly! Selling to someone at work seems like the worst idea imaginable even before adding in the power dynamics!

    1. MK*

      I have to say, I don’t see a huge conflict here. Maybe while the sale was going through, the manager might feel less inclined to reprimand the employee, just as the employee would be extra careful to stay on the manager’s good side. But a house sale is a one-off, not an ongoing relationship, and I don’t get the OP’s concern that the manager will promote the employee or delegate better projects to them because… they had bought his house in the past? The mention about the manager making a lot of money, well, yes, that’s usually what happens when you sell a house; it’s not something the manager owes the employee.

      To be clear, I wouldn’t involve myself in such a transaction, I think the potential for fallout is high. But I find the OP’s concerns a stretch.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think it depends on the kind of community this takes place in. I’m in a small community that is geographically isolated from the next larger metropolitan area. The university is a hugely major employer, so we have multiple married couples and sibling pairs working here. Everyone seems to know everyone else at least two ways. For example, the spouse of the dean of the unit I am affiliated with (not my main reporting line, but dotted-line, whenever I teach – but they interviewed me for an internal job once, which I didn’t get!) is active in a crafting association I am on the board of. Can’t help it – I think the spouse at least doesn’t know the closeness of the professional relationship. New faculty and postdocs are not rarely housed by senior academics in the same units, temporarily. I’m sure there this leads to some degree of muddled relationships, but in my personal experience I’ve seen people to be quite mature, aware of the potential pitfalls, and scrupulous about remaining professional. So buying a house from a leaving senior employee would be quite unremarkable.

        Maybe in a larger urban area where this kind of closeness isn’t something people handle on a daily basis it’s more likely to be weird.

        1. BethDH*

          I’m in a very similar environment. It bothers me sometimes but it really wouldn’t be feasible for me to buy a house from someone who had no work connection to me at all.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes, smaller communities just have more overlap by necessity. In my town it’s very common for people to know each other and have relationships in multiple contexts. The population is small and there are only a few major employers. The biggest example I can think of is that both times I’ve been called for jury duty, I ended up serving on a jury with at least one coworker.

          Relatives working together, renting to/from a colleague, buying/selling property to a coworker, going to church or social clubs with people you know from work… all totally normal (and possibly unavoidable) in a small, isolated area.

      2. Myrin*

        I’m with you personally but I also think this hinges quite a bit on the personalities of everyone involved.

        I can very easily imagine a boss who thinks either “How dare Taylor disagree with me on this work matter after I sold them my house in such a good state and for such a reasonable price?!” or “I mustn’t reprimand Taylor. After all, they were such a good sport about the state the bathroom was in and even agreed to pay for re-painting themselves!”.

        But I can just as easily imagine two people with whom this whole thing would go off without a hitch and it would indeed, like you say, be a done deal once it’s done and never affect anything ever again.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I just sold a car to my grandboss, which is obviously a smaller transaction than a house sale, and it probably helps that I’m on maternity leave for at least six months so there was no chance for work decisions to be made during the transaction. I admit I sold it for a bit less than I’d have asked from a stranger, but I actively wanted to sell to someone I knew so was willing to take less for it to get that.

        2. The Starsong Princess*

          My cousin bought his boss’ house. His boss was promoted and transferred to a different location. My cousin was promoted to his boss’s old job and had to move to that location so he bought the house too. Basically, he and his family moved into the boss’ old life – job, house, even friends and neighbours. Worked out great for all of them and they saved a lot of real estate fees. This was a unique situation and as part of the move, the company paid for the moves and even guaranteed the house values but it really worked for them.

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            When I was routinely commuting 70 miles (sometimes longer, for temporary assignments), my boss wanted to rent a house to me.

            I seriously considered, but saw a few red flags in the business, so I decided I didn’t want that degree of entanglement. My grandfather stayed out of the company towns when he worked in the cotton mills and coal mines, and I decided to follow his example.

            I actually stayed with that company a little longer than I intended, because there were several things I liked about the work, but didn’t hesitate to move when a better opportunity came along.

      3. Greg*

        I don’t see much of one either, but only if it was a market-value transaction (and I would assume the bank required an assessment of the house that would have given that the thumbs up). Sure, the manager may have made a considerable amount of money…but everyone who is selling a house right now is! And I doubt someone is going to overpay on a 30 year commitment to make their boss who is leaving happy. Finally, the buyer was helped out as well. Not having to get into a bidding war in this market is a pretty significant perk.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          A close friend of mine bought a house from her boss a few years ago for that very reason. It benefitted them both not to deal with commissions for realtors. They both knew enough to be able to get the appraisals and inspections done to their mutual satisfaction. Her boss actually ended up buying a slightly larger house in the same neighborhood (his family had grown), so now they live close to each other. He ended up selling the company a year later. She wasn’t happy with the new owners and left after about 6 months. I don’t think there’s any hard feelings, and she was able to buy a her home before the market blew up. In the long run, it was a good decision on her part. That may not be the case for everyone, though!

      4. Snow Globe*

        I agree – once the transaction is completed, I can’t see how this would be an issue. And the manager is moving out of the country, so it isn’t like the buyer is going to be having ongoing conversations with the manager about the quirks of the house and the neighborhood, which I could *maybe* see leading to a more informal friendship between them. But with manager out of the country, this is really a one-time event, rather impersonal, I can’t imagine how it would lead to promotions or other perks for the buyer.

        1. Venus*

          I think this is a big part of it, that the boss is leaving. If there were problems later with the home then it could be awkward if they worked together. I think this situation happens often with the military, as they are smaller communities in more remote locations, and it works well if one person is leaving town as another one arrives.

      5. RagingADHD*

        You know, a lot of managers never actually have to “reprimand” their direct reports at all. And a lot of employees never need to be reprimanded.

        The wierd or dramatic incidents and worst-case scenarios that show up in advice columns are not a reflection of what is common in real life. I would assume that a manager and report who even got in a conversation about real estate, much less getting all the way through a sale, probably work together very cooperatively.

    2. Zephy*

      This is kind of where I fall but for me it’s more like “Now my boss knows WAY more about where I live and what my house is like than I ever wanted her to.” I don’t think I’d be able to relax in a house that used to belong to my boss for as long as I worked for that person. If things happened such that I could be pretty confident in never seeing this person again (which it sounds like is what’s happening here, if I read the letter correctly – Manager is moving to another country when the sale is done?), then maybe that would be OK. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve also never bought a house, from a stranger or otherwise, so I don’t really have a great frame of reference, I guess.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I have bought 3 homes so far in my life, and I assure you that once it’s cleared out, scrubbed and repainted, you don’t give the former owner a second thought.

        We occasionally roll our eyes about stupid stuff the original owner did in building the house, but he’s been dead and gone for decades and isn’t the person we bought it from. The only reason we know his name is from property records.

        It’s exactly the same in that respect as renting an apartment. You don’t keep thinking about the former tenants, I assume?

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I guess it would depend on if any repairs or customizations to the home were done well. Imagine living in a home your boss had previously owned and continuously discovering shoddy workmanship around the house you know your boss either performed themselves or was ok with someone else performing. I lived in a rental house for a while that I leased from the owner. He did repairs himself, but never really got the hang of drywall repairs… you could tell everyone patch he had ever done, even if it had a new coat of paint!

        2. Aquawoman*

          The people we bought our house from did not believe in maintenance, so we actually think of them on a fairly regular basis, usually preceded by WTH.

          1. NYWeasel*

            That was how we were the whole time we lived in the old house, and while we priced our home fairly for the condition and tried to make solid improvements, I’m quite sure the new owners curse us as they come across the many “quirks” we couldn’t address!

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Same for us, but more about the original builder of the house back in the 60’s — he was a contractor, and it was his own house for god’s sake, and I swear it was like he cobbled it together from the remnants of his real jobs. Every time we would have a workman into the house, he’d be like, “Hmmmm . . . I’ve never seen *this* before!” Every. single. time. We’re selling it, and we just spent $20K on the rewiring alone.

          3. SpaceySteph*

            Yeah, same. Our house is basically a lemon, I curse the previous owner’s names on the regular and could not maintain a cordial working relationship with them. Good thing I don’t know them and have never met them its better for everyone this way.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Similar story here, although I did meet the previous owner when I was purchasing the house and we were in the same line of work so have some distant acquaintances in common (she’s now retired and has moved to another state). Most of her “repairs” and “improvements” seem to have involved duct tape. I can kind of understand this for “make it less broken” emergency repairs while you wait to be able to afford/schedule a professional, but in addition to those (none of which she warned me about so I’d know to get them fixed), the curtains in the master bedroom were held up by pvc pipe resting on partially-screwed in woodscrews instead of brackets, and she didn’t move the refrigerator before painting the kitchen a wildly different color, leaving a large chunk of previous color on the wall next to the fridge.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                Forgot to include the relevant part: the fact that she’d been in my field and worked nearby did mean that I was careful to avoid telling those “badly done improvement” stories in large work-related groups for the first few years, but since no one I’ve had over has mentioned that this used to be so-and-so’s house I figure it’s been long enough and we had enough space between us in terms of work sites and ages that I can be less careful now. It’d be different if we’d had enough overlap that most of my work friends actually knew her and remembered that it was “her” house and thus they knew who I was talking about.

        3. Just a little stitious*

          I do occasionally speculate about the ghosts of former tenants that might be inhabiting my apartment.

    3. dawbs*

      I’ve known people who are hugely territorial about former houses.
      “The new owner ripped out those rose bushes! Can you believe he’d be so tasteless? ”
      “Apparently she was to good for my country blue kitchen so now it’s silver”
      “This used to be such a nice neighborhood but now it’s like the grass is never mowed”

      I don’t quite get it, but there’s an opportunity for weirdness

        1. Sc@rlettNZ*

          I’ve never heard of the colour Country Blue before (I’m not in the US) but after googling it, I’ve discovered it is the colour of almost every single kitchen we saw when looking to buy a house about 14 years ago (it was clearly very popular in NZ sometime in the 1990’s which is when these kitchens had last been renovated).

          I really, really dislike it. The most common thing I said when househunting was “I hate blue kitchens”.

        2. California Dreamin’*

          Uh oh, I wasn’t familiar with the term country blue, but upon Googling, that’s pretty close to my kitchen color (we did a complete down-to-the-studs remodel in 2005… we chose this color.). I have to be honest, I still love it and have had many, many compliments on the kitchen and the kitchen color over the years. I don’t feel like I’m tacky, but I do realize that the intense paint colors that were popular back when we painted (blue kitchen! green bedrooms! Gold dining room! Red foyer!) are no longer fashionable and everyone went to shades of gray. I’m still attached to the colors, though when we repainted my daughter’s room last year we did taupe.

          1. Clisby*

            I like that color, too, although I think I’d like it best in a room where the wainscoting was that color and the wall above a much lighter color rather than painting the entire wall surface with it.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’m in a facebook group around a casual decorating game, and someone posted anonymized “Who did it better” Zillow pictures of the house she had previously sold. The person she sold it to was reselling and had her own Zillow listing up. So the OP wanted us to say which set of pictures we liked better, and she seemed a little salty about some of the changes the other person had made to her original decor. Without knowing which set of pictures was which, about 75% of the comments preferred the other family’s decor.

  2. Chili pepper Attitude*

    To #1
    What state are you in, was this a public institution, and did you apply by the deadline? Bc in many states, they have to look at all the applications.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That varies a lot from place to place, but if they did have such a rule, they’d have to be really incompetent to announce that they were breaking the rule to all their applicants.

      It strikes me that this situation isn’t all that different than an employer that reviews applications as they come in, and interviews until they find a good match who accepts the job. It sucks if you’re a great candidate and applied just a bit too late to be considered, but it’s not a terrible way to do things, particularly with jobs that have a strong application pool. But in that case, all you’d get was a “we hired someone else” rejected letter, if that.

      I also wonder how many applications they get. If it’s a 100, reviewing all applications is reasonable. If it’s 1000, and it takes an average of 2 minutes to review an application, that’s about a week’s work for one person to get through them.

      I’m interested to see how this plays out with fully remote positions – if they’re drawing applicants from the whole state, or whole country, that means a significant increase in the potential applicant pool, particularly for well known employers. If that means that the number of applications goes up by orders of magnitude, it will require a different approach to screening applications.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d say it averages much less than 2 minutes per application. You can often tell in 30 seconds that someone clearly isn’t right. You’ll spend more times on the ones who aren’t in that category, but a huge chunk of those 1000 are going to be quick and immediate no’s. (The time I mentioned in the post when I had to go through 900+ applications, it definitely didn’t take a full week. I’d guess close to half of them were very fast no’s. So let’s say 450 of them took 30 seconds, and the rest took 1-2 minutes, which I’ll call an average of 90 seconds … that’s a total of 15 hours. And of course it’s spread out.)

        1. Despachito*

          Just out of curiosity, Alison – did you reply to all the rejected applicants?

          (Because if so, it must have been much more than 15 hours, and I am wondering that this might perhaps be why the employers sometimes don’t send rejection answers – they are not rude but just swamped with applications?)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, always. Takes a few seconds per applicant (copy/paste a form letter, hit send) and even less if you’re using an ATS. There’s truly no excuse for not doing it.

            1. John Smith*

              Oooh that’s interesting. In the UK it’s typical not to get replies. A lot of job adverts specifically state that they will only respond to applicants selected to proceed to the next stage, and if you haven’t heard by such a date, assume your application wasn’t successful. Can I ask if you take that as acceptable?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I can’t speak to other cultures where the expectations around this stuff might be different. In the U.S., though, I think it’s rude and pretty inexcusable! But again, different cultures.

                1. Professor Moriarty*

                  Yeah, it’s common to see that in adverts here in the UK but I still think it’s rude!

                2. BubbleTea*

                  I think it is rude, but in my experience the UK hiring timeline (or at least the public/charity sector) is a lot faster. A deadline for applications, one interview shortly after, decision made and communicated within a couple of days. So you aren’t waiting for ages wondering.

                3. Asenath*

                  I’m in Canada, and although my last employer was pretty good about notifying candidates whether or not they had the job, a lot of employers, at least as far as I could tell, only notified those who they wanted to interview. I always thought that was terribly inconsiderate and unprofessional. At one point, I used to do the admin work for applications, and even there, with the official advice being to keep all applicants updated on the status of their application, some of the people in positions like mine didn’t do it. We’re not talking rocket science here, although the numbers were in the lower hundreds than 900. The ATS wasn’t that helpful for notifications, but it was the work of minutes to put everyone in a spreadsheet, then tag the ones who weren’t going on to interview, and do a merge-to-email – we reviewed every application, so never told anyone we didn’t, and there was a standard wording used, something like “I regret to notify you that we are unable to offer you an interview for X. Thank you for your interest .” .

                4. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  UK here and culturally it’s rude to not get a response – but it’s like the queuing thing: people regularly break into line but we’re less likely to say anything about it. Because etiquette, or whatever my nan tried to drum into me!

                5. DrunkAtAWedding*

                  Keymaster – the UK queueing etiquette I’m familiar with is that, if someone tries to push in, you say “EXCUSE ME, there IS a QUEUE”. The capitals are a bit strong, but the tone is definitely frosty.

                  I’d like to contribute to the question on replies to applications, but I honestly can’t recall offhand if my experience leads more towards getting responses for rejected applications or not.

                6. IntentionalImmigrant*

                  @Drunkatawedding – I’m a big fan of “I’m terribly sorry, but I’m afraid there’s actually a queue?” That question mark is necessary, indicating both politeness (perhaps I’m mistaken and we’re all just standing in a line incorrectly) and also makes the tone slightly patronising (clearly you haven’t been exposed to something as civilized as a queue).

                  AH British culture… nothing like it!

                  (Not a Brit but been here 7 years, for my sins)

                7. Stephanie*

                  I applied to so many jobs this year and never heard anything! It made me so grateful even for the rejections that confirmed I wasn’t just shooting applications into the ether and luckily I did get a new job (which I need to write about for Friday Good News!)

                8. Canadian Librarian #72*

                  I’m in Canada and virtually never hear from employers who have rejected my application. When I do, it’s so rare that I’m surprised to hear from them.

                  I agree that it’s inexcusably rude, but the employer has all the power and the applicant none, and this seems to be the way it’s done, at least here.

              2. MK*

                I think that’s not a bad way of doing it, if replying to all candidates isn’t going to happen anyway. It’s not ideal, but at least the candidate knows what’s happening anf can cross that application off after the date passes. (I know the advice is to assume you weren’t selected if you hear nothing, but human brains aren’t always that disciplined)

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I agree, as long as it’s actually done as stated. If you start calling people for interviews on Friday and say “yeah, we told you we’d have our pool by Monday, but we’re running behind,” no one is going to trust the system.

              3. Liz*

                I’ve noticed this as well. I’m in the UK and I’ve heard no response more often than I’ve received one. I feel pretty happy and relieved if I get a rejection because it’s rare to hear back at all in my experience.

                Even on big sites like NHS jobs, I had applications that just sat on “applications are being processed” for over a year and I just had to assume I hadn’t been successful. Those ones really annoyed me because I would assume the process to close out the listing and autoreply to all the unsuccessful candidates would be pretty simple? But it seems they couldn’t be bothered. That happened with multiple jobs as well.

                1. Ella*

                  One of my friends spent days applying for a job at a Big Name UK company, and was told afterwards that they didn’t even have a role open, they just wanted to see what kind of applicants they could get if they did open up such a position! How rude! I think no response would’ve almost been better, than admitting that they suck outright.

                2. College Career Counselor*

                  It seems government jobs take forever, no matter what the country/culture! Also, a lot of places (I see this in my employer) won’t let you let ANYone go until an offer has been made and accepted by someone. It’s stupid because in any job search there will be applicants that you wouldn’t interview, much less hire, under any circumstances, so why not cut them loose immediately? In my employer’s case, I think they view it as “applicant meets the minimum qualifications” so you *could* hire that person if the search failed otherwise. But, it’s still stupid because I’m not gonna hire an emeritus engineering professor from a technical school to be a part-time admissions counselor at a liberal arts college just because he has a bachelor’s degree.

            2. Despachito*

              Thank you.

              I was prepared to mentally lower the expected standard (not to get a reply sucks, but if I hear that there were 900+ applications, I’d sort of understand why, although it would still suck a bit), and I am happy to hear that you do not think it would be OK.

            3. AVP*

              Quick AAM success story – I wrote in in, like, 2010 saying something like, “do I really need to respond to all of these rejected candidates? It will take so long, and I’m not hiring them!” and Allison was like, yes you have to, and it won’t take that long. I’ve done it ever since, it usually takes 30 minutes, and I’ve actually gotten feedback from those candidates saying “thanks for sending this, it’s so much better to have this loop closed.” I love that I can leave them with a good impression of me and my organization even if they didn’t get an interview!

              1. no phone calls, please*

                Same!! After that post so long ago with AAM’s strong stance on responding to every single application, I took it seriously and made the commitment and I’ve been surprised by the number of thank you’s from rejected employees! It does take effort and time, but it feels good to be respectful and I think it reflects well on the company, too. We don’t just say we care, we actually care!

                1. no phone calls, please*

                  This last time we hired I realized the Indeed platform was “hiding” rejected candidates from me and there wasn’t an automatic notification. I was mortified!

        2. Just a little stitious*

          I work in local government, and our processes mean that we really can’t get through applications that quickly. In the interest of a merit-based hiring process, we use a scoring rubric for every application. So we can’t really just glance at an application and pass on it, we have to do a good faith scan of the application plus any attached required materials (resume + cover letter). We also have fairly clunky application software which adds more than a little time to the process.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      It depends if it’s a public or private institution. I work for a state college and we are currently interviewing and there are all these regulations like making the meetings public, submiting notes and agendas for meetings, etc. This is because it’s public and has a closer eye on such things. However a private college would not have these same requirements by law because they are not run by the state.

      1. irritable vowel*

        It’s “a school in Cambridge,” right? I’ve gotten the same email from them multiple times. I think it’s just their privilege and general cluelessness about norms outside their walls showing.

      2. Anoni*

        I absolutely understand the frustration. I applied to an organization I had previously worked for as a temp in a role that reported to the position I was applying to. In other words, I knew how the department ran, what they were responsible for, and had done a lot of the work I would have been overseeing. I got a very nice email explaining they had so many applications, they didn’t even look at mine. They even reassured me that it wasn’t specifically because I wasn’t qualified, it’s just they couldn’t look at my application. That was really annoying.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          That’s annoying. I was on a committee once for a position where we had over 900 applications, and there were minimum and preferred qualifications. Since there were so many applicants, the dean directed the committee to pull all applications having certain of the preferred qualifications; that narrowed the pool considerably. But we did send rejection notices to the other applicants, and we didn’t say, “We didn’t read your application.” We read enough of it to sort the minimally qualified from the imminently qualified, but that was internal information.

      3. meyer lemon*

        My guess is that they’re trying to be extra-transparent about the process, but it’s still so frustrating. I had a really similar experience once, where I wrote one of my all-time best cover letters and when I went to submit it, found out that they had closed the posting over a week before the deadline. Definitely more demoralizing than a regular rejection would have been.

        The lesson I learned from that one was not to spend so much time on my applications! At least I was able to pillage that great cover letter for material later.

    3. AnonCanadian*

      If this is Canada, at least at my institution, she would have been considered internal. However, there is a deadline for internal applicants after which they will not look at you with the internal candidate pool. I know this isn’t my university because we’ve had the opposite issue where people are upset they didn’t get an interview when others did but they didn’t apply by the internal deadline – but weren’t told that (I didn’t know they applied – I cannot see anything internal that comes in after the deadline until all the other internals are rejected – THEN I can look at those internal people who were late as part of the external pool). Some people don’t understand the rules and HR isn’t as clear about this as it apparently needs to be – so I’m wondering if that’s what actually happened. She was internal but didn’t apply by the internal deadline and they have enough qualified applicants to pick one of the internal candidates who did meet the deadline. FYI – our deadline is one week after posting.

  3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    #1 I suspect, after 14 working for a university, that they already had a person hired and in place before they listed the job, and they didn’t look at any resumes. Listing it was just a formality.

    1. Fran Fine*

      Ahhhh, that would make sense. I was surprised they wouldn’t have at least glanced at OP’s resume since she would be an internal hire herself, but if they had someone who was in their department already they were eyeing to hire, then I guess I can see them not bothering.

    2. JSPA*


      Or (for any other job), I would read it as, they had already made an offer, and had two backup offers ready to launch, but were not yet at the point of wanting / being able to say, “the position has been filled.”

    3. Well...*

      It’s not unheard of that if you want to change funding sources for a current postdoc (or extend the postdoc an extra year or something) the strings attached the funding require a job search. Both times I’ve seen this happen, the job has been minimally advertised, and the person lined up for the funding has already turned down other opportunities or missed deadlines before the “job search” finished.

      In Italy especially they have a ton of hoops to jump through, so much so that they can’t finish their searches in time of make firm offers before other institutes. In my field, they select their postdocs during an informal process that’s more typical, then warn you that you have to go through a few more steps and a panel interview in a few months that’s just a formality. If they rescinded an offer at that point it would be pretty scandalous because it would leave a postdoc scrambling without a job for a year. They’d also be without a postdoc for a year (or select from the group who had no offers) so it’s not great for them either.

    4. Forrest*

      This is possible, but usually if there are rules saying you have to advertise the position there are also rules saying you have to look at the applications and shortlist some for interview. “You have to advertise but after that you can do what you want” would be a very weird rule.

      1. Well...*

        It’s weird that they admitted they didn’t look, but some of these rules are easy to follow the letter of without actually taking any other applicants seriously. They can craft the job description to fit exactly your background, etc etc.

        1. Forrest*

          Yeah exactly— if you have to go through the process (and most importantly, spend the money), you usually have to do the whole lot and make it look plausible. Having a rule that you have to spend money on advertising the role but after that you candy what you like *and admit it* would be weird.

        2. Anoni*

          It really depends. A lot of the jobs I apply to are government or government-adjacent where job descriptions usually have to go through many levels of approval before they’re made official. Even down to what’s posted on job sites.

      2. meyer lemon*

        For some government and union positions in my area, I think they can be required to advertise to outside applicants without being required to actually interview any of them. From what I understand, they’ve dedicated a lot of time to finding all of the loopholes to the official process, so in that case, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just composted all of those applications straight off. (This is unlikely to be the case for the LW, though, since they already work for the university.)

    5. tamarack and fireweed*

      This is quite possible.

      The institution that employs me has rules against this – if the job is publicly listed (not all are – direct hire is often possible, though someone in HR keeps track on proportion of direct vs. advertised hires, and probably exerts some pressure towards the latter – not that it is always the optimal way, mind you!) then they give a date, and all applications received by this date WILL be reviewed. (The ones after usually aren’t – but they could be if the hiring committee decides they will. It would make sense that they review the later ones if the recruitment is unsuccessful on the basis of the first batch, but often the process is so extremely drawn out that it would be weird to start reviewing a late application say six months after it arrived – the applicant is likely to be unavailable then!)

      I agree that while this is hugely disappointing, and the formulation of the rejection letter isn’t the best, it says nothing at all about how the application stacked up against the field. They didn’t even look, and not because of anything to do with the OP.

    6. Annony*

      That is my suspicion also. Or they looked at the minimum number of applicants required by their internal rules.

    7. Autumn*

      I applied once, to a County (US) and had two issues, first of all the application listed only State Licensure for 1 year, no other requirements, so I figured it was meant for newish to the field applicants. There was no job description either. They interviewed me, the role would have been way over my head. Then when the expected letter came they named the successful candidate in it! I was astonished to say the least. More recently I applied to a different department and was turned down because of a timeline issue. I never got a rejection letter at all. It’s a small community and lots of places aren’t doing rejection letters.

    8. Mimi*

      FWIW, I know Harvard does this. (I tend to assume that they get an awful lot of applications.)

    9. Al*

      That was my initial thought as well from the two universities I’ve worked for. It stinks, but at least here they were transparent to say they didn’t review it.

    10. OP #1*

      Oh, I’m positive this is what happened! I was just surprised that they were so upfront about it. In theory I guess I appreciate knowing that it wasn’t personal, but in practice, I’m not so sure lol.

      1. OtterB*

        I know it’s frustrating, but at least you’re not having to look back over your application materials trying to figure out what was wrong with them or how to improve them for next time.

    11. EngineerMom*

      Yup, this was my immediate thought, too.

      It’s pretty crappy, but it happens a lot because publicly-funded institutions are required to publicly post positions.

      In future, contact the hiring manager first, or at least go talk to someone in the department! This is a lot different than applying for a position as an external candidate to a company. You need to use your network a lot more in academics, especially when applying for positions within the same institution you already work.

  4. Artemesia*

    They aren’t keeping your resume on file and it is unlikely they will reach out, so yeah — apply again and as Alison suggested, email the hiring manager you interviewed with. Hope it works out.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Why do you say they aren’t keeping it on file? Don’t interviewers sometimes mean it when they say that?

      1. Fran Fine*

        Some do. When I worked in insurance, I applied to a trainee program that saw hundreds of applicants per cycle, and didn’t know that when I applied, they had already been underway with in-person interviews. The hiring manager told HR to keep my info on file so she could follow up with me in six months for the next cycle, and I was eventually hired.

        I just think instances like that may be rare.

      2. BRR*

        Employers have to keep applications on file for a year so it’s odd to me to ask if they can keep the lw’s resume. I do think some employers mean it when they say they’ll consider you for future positions but I would recommend 100% of the time for the applicant to be proactive about it and not hope the company remembers you.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Sure – Artemesia’s definitive phrasing just struck me as weird. I would agree that you can’t count on them revisiting your resume just because someone said they would.

        2. Le Sigh*

          Sincere question — they have to keep it on file for a year according to whom? I’ve heard of public institutions having rules like that, and some companies having rules, but never heard of a blanket one.

          In any case I think it’s wise to assume that even if they have it on file, there’s a good chance they don’t think to reach out to you or might overlook your original app. Better to reapply and send that email.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the main body employers look to for record retention – applicants and former employees included. That applies to companies of a certain size, at least $500k in sales if I recall correctly.

            If the employer is a government contractor, the Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs (OFCCP) may require longer retention of applications, demographics, etc., depending on the size of the employer.

            It’s not a good practice to make sweeping statements like, ‘They have to keep it on file a year,’ because some firms are exempt. They may adopt those standards as a best practice but are not obligated to do so.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s actually not the FLSA — it’s various anti-discrimination laws. You have to keep the applications on file for a year in case someone alleges discrimination.

              To the question of whether employers ever reach back out to applicants: Yes! I’ve done it, other people have done it. But it’s also true that when they say they will, much of the time they don’t, and that’s often because months later when something appropriate opens up, they’ve forgotten they have apps they could go back through.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                FLSA actually does cover retention of employment applications, for various purposes – discrimination being one.

      3. Artemesia*

        I am sure that occasionally hiring managers remember a former interviewee or even dip into the sludge file to re-review resumes — but not usually. An applicant would be a fool to assume that they will be considered again without at least contacting the hiring manager or re-applying.

        I know someone who walked into a law firm, showing gumption, and asked for a a job and got one. Bob Woodward got his job at the WaPo by essentially harassing the managing editor until he hired him (in the early 70s). I am sure someone once opened a box from an applicant and saw a shoe and ‘I wanted to get my foot in the door’ and thought ‘oh isn’t that clever — I must interview this guy’ — but you don’t want to count on it.

    2. meyer lemon*

      One note for LW5: I’d consider alluding to your previous name in the job application itself, just in case your email goes astray or someone else you interacted with in the hiring process comes across your application. I’d want to make sure that it’s clear from your materials that you’re the same person. I’d just put something like “Clementine Bailey (previously Clementine Jones)” in the header.

  5. WS*

    #3 I think, as long as you don’t come across as NO PREGNANCY TALK EVER, you can privately and kindly ask your employee to not discuss her pregnancy while you’re there, and to request a meeting when she does need to talk about practical arrangements. Make it clear that this is about you, not her…but also mention that other people’s thoughts are going straight to COVID right now! Last year I was quite ill with a new medication for a chronic illness while there was a major outbreak in my area, and I ended up getting a COVID test before I went in to work, even though the only symptom that matched was a fever, and that was an expected short-term result of the medication.

          1. Myrin*

            What WS said is “you can privately and kindly ask your employee to not discuss her pregnancy while you’re there”. While you’re there. While you’re there. While OP is there. Not in general and at all times. While OP is there.
            Like. I’m sorry I’m all over this thread which isn’t even about the letter I’m most interested in in this bunch but why is everyone so particularly insistent about reading both OP’s letter and comments disagreeing with Alison’s advice in the worst possible light, all while not even reading them fully/carefully?

            1. DrunkAtAWedding*

              I assume that was a hypothetical question, but I find questions of how people communicate really interesting, so I wanted to try to answer it anway.

              The short (and unhelpful) answer is, because it’s the internet.

              I think a slightly longer answer is, the way comments work here makes it harder to see and understand the full discussion. That’s not a slight on this comment section, I don’t think any website has fully solved the issue. Threading replies helps, but it’s still really easy to read a few and stop and respond immediately, without continuing to read the thread first. So, yes, for someone involved in the discussion at the beginning, you might see a lot of points raised that have already been addressed or a lot of repetition. I find it frustrating – especially since we can’t edit our comments here, so if you made a mistake in your initial comment you might get loads of replies based on that rather than the thing you actually wanted to talk about, even if you correct it in a follow-up comment – but then, I ALSO do the ‘replying before reading the whole thread’ thing. So I don’t really know what the solution would be.

              I used to work with credit cards, and I found there were some ‘magic words’ – jokes, ways to explain concepts like APR or trailing interest – that 99% of customers would respond to in the same way. The good way was, they’d instantly get it. The bad way was, no one would understand what you meant – even though the words were perfectly clear and did actually mean what you meant to say – or they’d associate what you’d said with something negative. Like, for example, saying “just putting you through to collections” would usually make a customer hang up instantly while “Oh, I see your account is currently in arrears. Because of that, it’s being dealt with by another team right now, so I’ll just put you through” would be fine. So, maybe a comment that triggers a lot of misunderstanding is just one of those bad magic-word phrases.

            2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              With respect, I’m not sure you’re offering the same grace you seem to expect of others.

              I see a lot of variety in the comments (on both “sides” as it were), and it’s not uncommon for people to miss details here and there, especially as the conversation expands beyond the initial letter/comment.

              And FWIW, many of the commentors disagreeing with Alison’s advice also seem to have missed the detail in the letter that OP’s employee is discussing symptoms, not disclosing a pregnancy. There remains the possiblity that OP’s employee is ill, not pregnant, which likely informed Alison’s response.

              1. Susie Q*

                “And FWIW, many of the commentors disagreeing with Alison’s advice also seem to have missed the detail in the letter that OP’s employee is discussing symptoms, not disclosing a pregnancy. There remains the possiblity that OP’s employee is ill, not pregnant, which likely informed Alison’s response.”

                This. You should NEVER EVER ask or imply that a person is pregnant.

              2. Office Lobster DJ*

                That is a key point, and there is a part of me that wonders if the OP’s employee is trying to awkwardly prompt what she knows will be a hard conversation for her boss without feeling like she’s breaking out the balloons and sparklers to announce a pregnancy.

                “Babies babies babies….babies. Babies.”
                “Yeah, babies. Do you have any plans of trying again soon?”
                “WELL SINCE YOU ASKED….”

                “Tired and sick. So very tired and sick. Sick. Tired. Sick and tired.”
                “Wow, sounds like you’ve been feeling rotten lately. Everything okay?”
                “WELL, SINCE YOU ASKED….”

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  This is exactly what I think is happening. She legitimately needs to have some kind of conversation with OP about this because there are practical implications for the business (maternity leave, sick days etc), but she can’t bring herself to come out and say it so she’s very unsubtly dropping hints.

              3. pleaset cheap rolls*

                Worse than missing details is putting words in other people’s mouths. A few days ago I recommended making meeting summary, and someone told me that doing minutes of a meeting or complete notes would get them fired for wasting time. A summary is literally not complete notes, but that was the critique. So annoying.

            3. Anoni*

              Hey Myrin, when it comes to issues like this (pregnancy), it doesn’t matter if the OP couches it as “when I’m here;” it can still be seen as a potentially Bad Thing. Believe it or not, people *are* reading the comments and even more, they are correct in this, even if you don’t agree.

            4. Susie Q*

              “What WS said is “you can privately and kindly ask your employee to not discuss her pregnancy while you’re there”. While you’re there. While you’re there. While OP is there. Not in general and at all times. While OP is there”

              But again, this is incredibly difficult to actually put in practice. OP is a manager and her employee will need to discuss her pregnancy with her manager at some point whether it is to discuss leave or sick appointments, etc. Is the employee just supposed to stop talking about pregnancy good news to others in the office just because OP walks over? How often is OP around?

              A manager declaring a blanket ban on a topic that isn’t violating harassment policies is very very very difficult and should not be done without careful consideration.

      1. Yorick*

        I don’t think there’s any legal reason you shouldn’t tell your coworker that a topic will hurt your feelings and ask them to avoid it.

        I mean, I get Alison’s point that there’s a power dynamic here and it might not be wise. But I’m not aware of a law that says you can’t ask people not to discuss babies or illness.

    1. JSPA*

      1. vDon’t make it about her, or about pregnancy. Generalize, like she did, and ask that there be less focus on personal issues and more focus on work issues (and, unless she’s hourly, that you will understand if that means she takes some extra breaks throughout the day).

      2. this could be anxiety blurting (not anxiety in the clinical sense, but in the everyday sense). “I know I should not talk about X in front of Sue” is like “don’t think of a Pink Elephant.” She’s avoiding the word pregnancy, so every other pregnancy-related word is even more at the tip of her tongue than it would otherwise be.

      3. It’s OK to let her see that you’re human. She may see you as a model of superhuman strength–which is flattering–but at the same time, you can let her know that it’s still significant emotional work to be strong and stay focused on the business of business. You can ask, as she did, that discussion of babies be kept to a minimum while you recover from your most recent loss. That does not extend to pregnancy symptoms, however, except insofar as they fall under item #1.

      1. 23&me*

        Totally agree! Also I’ll add that I personally can’t stand workplaces where “no one is allowed to be human.” Boss or not, you have a very good reason for that stuff to be tough for you to hear right now! The same why someone going on and on about their brother/sister would be horrible to hear right after losing a sibling. I see nothing wrong with saying “I’m still emotionally processing those losses and would be unbelievably grateful if we could shift the in office conversation away from babies for a little while.” ESPECIALLY since she already knows!

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          Yeah I think it’s different if the report is specifically talking to OP about babies rather than OP just happening to hear it in passing. If Direct Report is trying to initiate baby related topics with OP regularly I don’t see an issue with OP saying “I would appreciate if we didn’t discuss this particular topic for a while, the last few months have been pretty difficult as you know.” As opposed to OP just hearing them talk about it with other people, in that case I don’t think OP has the standing to address it outside of the Covid/illness angle.

    2. Kara*

      I think anyone who is very raw with grief and is talking about sucking it up is not the right person to objectively judge this situation – which is fair enough! But I don’t think anyone should be advising that she actually ask the direct report to tone it down without even mentioning that perhaps it just feels like she’s talking about it a lot because it’s so raw.

      1. Save the Hellbender*

        We’re supposed to take LW at her word, and she’s heard from others that constant complaints about symptoms have them worried. I’d rather LW ask her kindly – making clear she’s asking as a survivor of THREE MISCARRAIGES THIS YEAR and not as a representative of company policy – than grow resentful and sad and unconsciously take it out on her employee.

    3. Another British poster*

      Wasn’t there a letter a while ago that was basically this exact same situation, but from the other perspective? The LW was pregnant and their co-worker who’d experienced pregnancy loss wanted to ban any mention of pregnancy?

      The consensus then was the co-worker was completely in the wrong.

      1. Myrin*

        Except OP doesn’t want to ban pregnancy talk – in fact, she doesn’t suggest any course of action at all, not even in an “I’ve been thinking about maybe doing X” kind of way, but is straight up saying that she doesn’t know what to do and asking Alison for help.
        And even commenter WS explicitly says “as long as you don’t come across as NO PREGNANCY TALK EVER”.
        Where is all this talk about “banning everything pregnancy-related” coming from?

        1. ecnaseener*

          It might be coming from the fact that this is a manager with only 2 reports – perhaps people are picturing it as a team of 3 that spends all of their time together so a request to not talk about pregnancy *around OP* would in effect mean no talking about it *ever* at work.

        2. Name Required*

          There is no way, as a boss to their report, to ban only a portion of pregnancy talk. The power dynamics don’t allow for that nuance. If you ban a portion of that talk, the report will worry that their boss is actually uncomfortable with all pregnancy talk, and the report will no longer feel comfortable talking about their pregnancy at all around boss.

          1. Can't Think of a Name*

            If OP does approach it from the pregnancy angle and not the illness/COVID angle (which I think is the best route), I think the best approach is to approach this conversation not as her boss, but as a fellow human. So in a tone of “Hey, can I ask you a personal favor? As you know, I’ve experienced 3 miscarriages this year, and hearing all the baby talk is very hard on me emotionally. Obviously I want you to feel comfortable discussing these things, and if you were to become pregnant I would of course be thrilled for you, but could you maybe tone down the baby talk for a while around me? I would really appreciate it! And I want to be clear, this isn’t a formal directive or anything, just a friendly request!” Or something to that effect. I think it’s also reasonable to ask her to tone it down, without completely banning all pregnancy talk.

      2. AY*

        It’s interesting that you bring this up! Because, yes, everyone was on the side of the pregnant OP in that situation. But now that OP writes in from the opposite perspective, I’ll bet most of the commenters side with her. I suppose we all tend to empathize with the point of view that’s being presented to us! OP is clearly hurting, and it’s natural to want to make her feel better.

      3. Ann Perkins*

        IIRC correctly the coworker in that scenario though so was incredibly cold to the pregnant coworker and basically acted like they didn’t exist, then made a fake pregnancy announcement of their own. Very different than this one.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Oh man — I am very sympathetic to OP and I think she could maybe say *something* — but telling an employee that she needs to refrain from discussing her pregnancy unless she’s requested a meeting is…very problematic.

      Let’s also remember that there are likely other people in the office who aren’t aware of the dynamic and if OP shuts down pregnancy talk it’s likely to send negative messages to the rest of the group.

      1. Myrin*

        That is not what WS is saying.
        She explicitly says that OP should not “come across as NO PREGNANCY TALK EVER” but rather ask her report to not discuss pregnancy while she, OP, is there. Also, at least one other person – OP’s other report – is actually conerned and maybe even upset about all the talk about illness and feeling bad so I’d guess that at least this person would indeed be grateful for such talk to at least be toned down.
        And requesting a meeting “to talk about practical arrangements” seems pretty standard to me anyway – that’s not generally something you just discuss out in the open.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          But the issue is that depending on how they work and the office set up, no pregnancy talk while OP is there could be 99% no pregnancy talk ever and we come down to a boss banning their employee from discussing their pregnancy.

        2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          As LDN Layabout pointed out, the way many offices are structured she could be effectively asking the employee to never discuss the pregnancy.

          The employee hasn’t even disclosed a pregnancy! WS’s recommendation would be a signficiant overstep. Although one employee has expressed worries about COVID, that doesn’t eliminate the responsiblity OP has toward her company culture.

          It’s an awful, awful situation, but it would be wrong to create a culture that suggests pregnancy and mothers are unwelcome.

        3. Susie Q*

          This is incredibly problematic. OP is a manager NOT a fellow employee. You have to be able to discuss pregnancy-related things such as leave of absence, transition plans, etc. with your manager. OP needs a therapist and some time off to grieve and coping mechanisms to deal with the fact that you can not control what other people talk about but you can control how you react to it.

          1. Myrin*

            OP says she would be genuinely happy for her employee if she was indeed pregnant; that doesn’t actually seem like someone who wouldn’t be able to discuss stuff like leave of absence and thelike.
            What is grating to her seems to be how constant the talk of babies on one hand and symptoms of her illness on the other hand are (and who knows, they might not even be related! She might genuinely be sick with symptoms that mirror pregnancy, and at the same time have come to a point again where she can freely and happily talk about babies all day long). Lord knows I would find both of these topics incredibly draining if I had to listen to them all day long and I have zero baggage regarding pregnancies or children.

            I also think framing this as “control” is the wrong way to look at it (even though you’re generally right with that sentence, of course). Apart from the fact that Alison advises managers all the time to ask their reports to tone down on topics that upset/annoy/freak out/disrupt other people, these two – OP and her report – already have a relationship that goes beyond simple supervisor and subordinate. This is not about controlling what other people talk about but about asking a person you became close to through shared grief if they would mind being more considerate towards you. (I’m not loving “considerate” here but I can’t think of the correct word right now; you get what I mean.)

            1. Susie Q*

              But it is control. As the manager, the weight of her words is stronger and implies a power balance that isn’t the same if a coworker at the same level said them.

              1. Myrin*

                And I would say that the (apparently pretty close/intimate) personal relationship between them overrides the workplace hierarchy in this. But I feel like we’ll simply have to agree to disagree here.

                1. Susie Q*

                  A personal relationship can never superseed a work relationship especially if there is a power imbalance.

    5. I should really pick a name*

      My read of the situation is that the coworker is describing symptoms consistent with pregnancy,but has NOT said that they’re pregnant. That makes it trickier to address.

      1. Washi*

        I think if she’s really going on an on about how tired/sick she is, the OP can address that separately, taking more of the tack of “I hear you saying all the time that you are so sick, do you need some time off? Flex schedule/other accomodation?” And after having the conversation about what she needs, asking her to be more mindful of how often she is repeating her complaints, as it creates some concern and stress for other employees (as evidenced by the fact that someone has come to OP about it!)

        I know I don’t enjoy hearing someone complain over and over and OP’s other employee might appreciate having that addressed.

      2. PT*

        It really isn’t, with COVID. “Oh I heard you say you are experience fatigue and nausea. Company policy is that anyone who is experiencing COVID symptoms must (covid protocol.) Please go home and (follow COVID protocol.)”

        Eventually she’ll be conditioned to not talk about it.

    6. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      Not discussing while she’s there seems limiting, depending on the set-up- functionally asking her to only mention it during the OP’s bathroom breaks, etc.

    7. 2Cents*

      The way I read it, though, the co-worker has not yet announced her pregnancy. Given that, I would wait for the next time she explicitly mentions pregnancy, babies or children, and then kindly remind her that these topics are difficult for you and you would greatly appreciate it if she would avoid them around you. This isn’t the same as saying she can’t discus HER pregnancy anywhere in the office, it’s making the request specific to your needs rather than her possible situation.

    8. turquoisecow*

      I think the best way to do it is to pull the employee aside privately and say “you’ve been talking a lot about x and y symptoms and it’s making some people anxious because, you know, pandemic. If you do have a medical issue, maybe talk about it a little less so people aren’t concerned about you being contagious.”

      It could be that in the course of this conversation, the employee confesses to pregnancy. At that point, what? OP can’t tell her not to talk about it. Since they do have a personal relationship, maybe she could admit to feeling uncomfortable with pregnancy but ultimately she can’t ban her from talking about it.

  6. PinaColada*

    I have to share that I fully disagree with the babies response. Bosses are humans too, and although the Employee has a right to privacy, she has also acknowledged that she felt really supported during her earlier ectopic pregnancy challenge by the boss revealing her three miscarriages.

    For that reason, I feel it’s entirely appropriate to say something along the lines of “I fully support your privacy so I don’t want to draw any conclusions, but I’ve notice you speaking about babies a lot more often recently and I do want to note it’s a sensitive area for me. Do you mind pulling back a bit on those sort of conversations?” Or something similar.

    1. PollyQ*

      Absolutely. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you can’t ask your employee for any consideration. “Noblesse oblige” only goes so far.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Very well put.

          She’s asking her to dial back the baby talk around someone she knows miscarried *this month*.

        2. Dust Bunny*


          We had to ask a pregnant (she had already told everyone) and obsessed coworker to dial it back when another coworker lost an IVF baby and was really in a bad place but didn’t want to “make a fuss”. Mostly we were annoyed with first coworker for being so self-centered and oblivious in the first place when she knew second coworker was miserable, but frankly it was relief even to those for whom it wasn’t a sensitive topic. People who can’t change subject wear on you even if the topic is emotionally neutral.

    2. fiona the baby hippo*

      I wonder if she even has to bring up that the other employee might be pregnant… I feel like Alison/other commenter’s version of just the “ixnay on the baby talk-ay” would also cue the person in that they’re talking about ALL OF IT A LOT and might be a not-so-subtle reminder that the maybe-morning-sickness type complaining is becoming overwhelming as well. Usually I support being as direct as possible but in the case of something as personal as what might be an early pregnancy, it might not hurt to air on the side of caution.

    3. June*

      I think this will make direct report feel very very nervous about revealing a pregnancy. Which could lead to legal issues.

        1. Blue Eagle*

          The issue is not about revealing a pregnancy, it is about going on and on with talking about babies. Similar to how someone planning a wedding and going on and on about it at work can drive you crazy.

          1. Julia*

            There are two issues here. One is that pregnancy talk is painful for LW. The other is that historically pregnancy and babies have been verboten topics in many offices because employees have had good reason to fear they’d be pushed out for being too honest about their pregnancy or plans to become pregnant. Thankfully pregnancy discrimination now illegal, but that context still exists and the discrimination still happens in some offices.

            LW can totally make her request, but should just make sure to be sensitive to that context, just as the employee should’ve thought to be sensitive of LW’s difficult situation. It’s wise to add something like “I’m happy for you and please don’t take this as implying otherwise – we will support you in any way we can during the pregnancy and parental leave!”

      1. Allonge*

        And yet – constant pregnancy/baby talk does not belong in most workplaces either. Yes, there is a power differential, and OP needs to be mindful of that, but there are good reasons, management and personal, to ask employee to cut back a bit. If she is pregnant, the time to announce it will come naturally. And sometimes people are nervous no matter what managers do.

        1. Kara*

          Is it constant though?

          It’s possible it might that way to OP for very understandable reasons.

          1. Allonge*

            Obviously I don’t know – it might indeed be worth having a check (based on what others bring up to the manager, for example). The fact that other employees brought this up with the manager leads me to think there is a lot of health talk at least. I think OP has standing to gently redirect that at least, and ask, as a personal favour, to have less baby talk around her.

            1. Kara*

              Yes and we can take the LW at their word that it feels constant. We would not be helping her if we assumed it actually was.

              1. Yorick*

                This is a great example of not taking LWs at their word. LW says the employee is talking about babies and pregnancy symptoms a lot, so we shouldn’t imagine that LW is wrong and there’s not much baby or pregnancy symptom talk.

      2. JSPA*

        “You know I’ve had three miscarriages, so please cut back on baby-themed talk” is entirely unrelated to, “how dare you be pregnant.”

        People can talk about the cuteness of babies, gender-reveal foolishness, the process of designing a nursery, amnio anxiety, the lactation wars, and doula suggestions someplace other than at work.

        There’s no sign that OP is upset because the employee is talking about lactation rooms, or leave policies, or doctors appointments or advance planning for leave, or any of the (many!) legitimately work-related discussions that make a workplace supportive of pregnancy.

        “I should be able to talk about any polite subject any time I want to” isn’t actually a right in the workplace.

          1. PT*

            Part of being at work is understanding that certain topics do cause pain and that you should not discuss them at work. This can include even work appropriate topics.

            Salaried staff with paid sick leave and paid vacation (both work appropriate topics) shouldn’t go around chattering about it mindlessly in front of the contract staff with skimpier benefits, either. It looks like bragging and it’s rude.

            1. Susie Q*

              “Part of being at work is understanding that certain topics do cause pain and that you should not discuss them at work. This can include even work appropriate topics.”

              Fully disagree. It is the onus of the person suffering to manage their emotions and reactions to topics. The number one thing I learned in therapy is that you can control your reaction to other people, you can’t control other people. Therefore you can’t rely on others to manage your triggers, you have to do that yourself.

              1. feral fairy*

                I think you’re taking the “I can’t control other people” to another extreme. Yes, you literally cannot control what other people say or how they behave, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. If, for example, you’re in recovery from an eating disorder and your colleague is constantly talking about dieting and commenting on the food you eat (a scenario that AAM has received a number of letters about over the years), it is extremely reasonable to ask the colleague to stop commenting on the food that you eat and to let them know that you would rather not talk to them about their diet.

                Most therapists encourage their clients to set reasonable boundaries and actually communicate them. The crucial thing is knowing when it is reasonable/appropriate/helpful to set a boundary, but I strongly disagree with the notion that “managing your triggers yourself” and gently letting someone know that you prefer not to talk about a sensitive topic are mutually exclusive. As a trauma survivor, part of managing my triggers has been knowing when to speak up for myself. If I worked with someone and I was talking about a topic that made them feel triggered, I would want to know so that I can avoid making them uncomfortable. If it was literally impossible for me to comply with what they were asking of me then that’s a different matter but generally I’d prefer to not hurt someone’s feelings.

                The scenario in the letter is complicated due to the power dynamic between the manager and her direct report. That’s the issue here. If they were on the same level at work, I think that the advice would be much more straightforward.

              2. Stardust*

                This is such a strange or at least exaggerated take. I’d guess that most humans would like to prevent causing others undue mental anguish. So why shouldn’t I let them know if they’re accidentally doing so and they can easily stop it?

                “Relying on others to manage your triggers” would be something like the past letter where an employer forced their employees to wait at the bus stop in a certain order to not trigger a coworker’s OCD, or the one where an employee pressured her coworkers to stay with her for hours after work because she had anxiety and couldn’t stand being alone. Both of these are untenable situations and it’s indeed on the suffering person to learn how to better deal with their illness.
                But someone with severe arachnophobia asking their coworker to not spend on hour every day detailing the adventures of her pet spider in hearing range is just someone making a request that most people would likely actively want to honor.

    4. Myrin*

      Yeah, I actually think Alison’s proposed script for an “if you were her peer” scenario would be perfectly fine for a boss to say also.

    5. Storm in a teacup*

      I totally agree with this response.
      A gentle request when they have a good relationship is reasonable to request

    6. Bagpuss*

      Yes, something like “I’ve noticed you’ve been talking about babies and pregnancy a lot recently. As you know this is a difficult subject for me and I would really appreciate it if you could try not to talk too much on those topics round me.
      Obviously in the event that you need to speak to me as you boss in relation to any personal matter then of course you must do so, but in causal conversation could avoid that sensitive subject for now I’d really appreciate it”

      1. ecnaseener*

        It might even be helpful to say “remember how you really wanted to avoid pregnancy talk after your ectopic pregnancy? I’m in a similar state right now.”
        And yes, some variation of “of course if there’s something I need to know as your boss please tell me, but I’m not really the best person for that socially.”

        1. Anonym*

          The social/casual distinction is really important! “You understand, I’m not that up for casual chat about babies at the moment” sounds really reasonable. Not “never discuss children” just OP + social chatting = limit random unimportant discussions on that subject.

      2. H2*

        I think this is good because no matter what, I think it’s critical to make it clear that the employee shouldn’t feel awkward to to bring the issues that relate to work to her boss. I think that saying something will potentially make the employee feel extremely awkward about that, and those are legitimate issues that will need to be hammered out. This situation is kind of tricky, and it sucks, LW, I’m sorry.

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      I do think it depends on how the OP speaks and the tone she uses. I could see the employee being scared to tell her boss she is pregnant because she knows it is a difficult subject.

    8. Hi there*

      I think this is a great way of framing it. I think framing it as “discussions about babies” vs “discussions about pregnancy” could be less loaded and easier for the employee to accommodate, and there’s no chance of it putting OP on shaky ground.

    9. Anoni*

      I think this is the best way to do it, really. It’s possible the staff person doesn’t realize their baby-related conversation has increased dramatically and the OP can address it that way.

    10. SuperDiva*

      Agreed. Recurrent pregnancy loss is absolutely devastating, and the LW doesn’t have to pretend to be a robot just because she’s a manager. I like your suggested language, but I would even take out the first part! It doesn’t matter whether the direct report is pregnant or not, so there’s no reason to allude to that. The issue is that she’s being really insensitive with all the pregnancy and baby talk around a person she knows has been through multiple miscarriages this year. It’s ok to ask for basic consideration around discussing sensitive topics openly at work.

  7. jm*

    LW 3, any miscarriage is awful, but that many in that small span of time is heartbreaking. i’m so sorry. as someone with blurred boundaries with my supervisor who tends to run at the mouth about whatever, i think it would be okay to try allison’s script. i hope your employee simply doesn’t realize she’s being hurtful and won’t have a problem stopping when she knows what’s happening.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      I’m male, and my wife is past childbearing, so I’m reluctant to comment. Having said that, I think there are a lot of situations where a similar dynamic can arise, and it’s good to recognize that any human can have complicated feelings about any topic.

      My impression is that LW3 and her report have a respectful relationship with each other, and I favor Alison’s script. It is respectful to the employee’s boundaries, while gently requesting some consideration of an understandably delicate need on LW3’s part.

      In the context of the letter, I would anticipate the report wanting to be considerate.

      I also want to express my heartfelt sympathy. We never went through a miscarriage, but several couples close to us have, so we have some inkling of the pain.

      I also think the current pandemic can inspire a lot of understandable speculation by coworkers, fairly or not. It might be a kindness to give the report a heads-up about that, depending on how LW3 reads the workplace dynamics.

  8. June*

    I’m so very so for the LW but I don’t think she should censor her report’s conversation unless it’s affecting workflow. Outside the people are worried about COVID remarks.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think she is censoring it. She’s asking them to be considerate bout where she had those conversations

    2. TechWorker*

      This is an odd take – managers are humans too! There’s all sorts of reasons that casual conversation topics might be painful to people for different reasons and whilst managers do need to be aware of the power differential, saying they have to just sit through all topics because to do anything else is ‘censorship’ is utterly bizarre.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I think it’s fine to ask people not to talk about certain topics when you’re around because we all have sensitivities.

        For example one of my former colleagues in a previous company lost someone in the 7 July bombings. She asked if we could not talk about this incident or about some of the other terrorist attacks because it made her too upset. Because we are nice considerate people we obliged her. I mean we didn’t have to do so but I think it’s best to be sympathetic to the issues people have.

        1. AY*

          And I think that’s the problem that most people are wrestling with here. You didn’t *have* to avoid talking about something with your coworker, but you decided to do so because you’re good and conscientious people. Unfortunately, when the ask comes from the boss, it’s just different.

          1. IntentionalImmigrant*

            Isn’t it possible that this employee would like to be good and conscientious but isn’t aware that they’re talking about pregnancy and pregnancy symptoms so much in front of someone who is hurt by it? Sometimes when people are excited about things that are going on with them, they forget other people’s situations. Managers are people too!

            1. Anonym*

              I think many people would want to know that they were causing someone distress unintentionally! I would be so horrified if I was having this effect on someone, especially someone who had helped me through something similar, and would be grateful that they let me know (and if they were to make clear the limits of what they were asking, it would help me not go into overdrive).

              Several gentle, clear, nuanced and warm scripts have been proposed in the comments. And OP sounds like a sensitive thoughtful person who’s trying to handle things as best she can. I’m willing to bet she can do this well, and her report will come through grateful for both the openness and support.

              1. SnappinTerrapin*

                I tend to agree with you.

                Sometimes, it’s good to remember we are all human, regardless of any differential in power or status.

            2. insertusername*

              On the infertility boards, they call this “infertility amnesia” when someone who has struggled to become a mother gets pregnant and forgets how it felt to be in that position and can be kind of tone deaf and unempathetic in ways they swore they never would.

            3. AY*

              Yes, absolutely! It’s definitely possible that the direct report would be horrified to know that this letter was written about her. I’m not even saying that OP shouldn’t talk to her about it. But dear lord is this a delicate matter given the power differential, and striking the right tone is not going to be easy.

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      Asking someone to lay off talking about one subject constantly is not censorship.

  9. HA2*

    #1 – I think this is an example of how hard it is to get rejection communication to sound right. I’d guess they intended it to soften the blow – “We didn’t go forward with you, but don’t worry, it’s not because we thought you were bad, it’s just that we couldn’t even get to look at your application before we were done hiring.” But you interpreted that as “you suck so much we didn’t even look” and I bet you’re not the only one that read it that way!

    I’d guess this is, unfortunately, a good reason to give very generic rejections. It’s just so hard to give one that’s anything more than boilerplate but that doesn’t sound bad to someone.

    1. EPLawyer*

      This definitely a case of over parsing the wording. As Alison always says, apply and forget it. What this one is saying is — you didn’t get the job. They are not making any comments on you or your application. They just didn’t hire you. the WHY doesn’t matter. Just move on to the next application.

      But a generic We have decided to move forward with others would have been better.

      1. ecnaseener*

        It’s hardly “over parsing” to read “your resume was not reviewed” and conclude “wow ok they didn’t read my resume.” That’s not parsing, it’s just…reading comprehension.

        1. BethDH*

          Right, but it’s the assuming they didn’t read it because you sick so much that’s the over parsing.

    2. OP #1*

      I think you’re right–they were going for something like “we just had so many applications (or more likely, someone already in mind) that we didn’t review yours at all, so don’t take this rejection at all personally”. But yes, it’s hard not to read it (at least initially) as “your application was so pathetic that we could immediately tell it wasn’t worth our time”.

      I was just so surprised that they stated it outright! I’m sure it isn’t the first (or last) job I applied to where I wasn’t considered at all, but I’ve never been told as much before. I truly didn’t mind being rejected, but the wording threw me off.

      1. Save the Hellbender*

        what bothers me the most for you is that this is your employer!! If they have this process they should at least screen in internal applicants!

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, it’s a little weird to me regardless (I agree with Alison that it doesn’t take that long to at least glance at each resume) but it’s extra bad that there is no consideration for internal applicants. In places I’ve worked, applying internally would always get you a somewhat personalized rejection at least.

      2. GNG*

        OP1: This certainly sounds frustrating. Sounds like you put a lot of thoughts and efforts into your application, and I imagine it’s super jarring to receive an reply worded like that.

        I’m going out on a limb here: I want to say at the same time, I feel a bit sad that the reaction triggered was they think you’re a loser and pathetic. I am just a stranger on the internet but I don’t believe at all that you’re anything remote close to being pathetic. Your letter is clear and well written, and your comments are articulate. When I read them, the word “loser” didn’t come to mind at all. However, what came to my mind is it made me think of people I know who have a similar reactions to rejection, and I understand that this is can be called Black-and-White thinking? It’s a thought pattern where a person subconsciously tells themselves “If I didn’t succeed at something, then I’m a loser.” or “They didn’t invite me to this event, because they hate me.” My understanding is that this way of thinking tends to be a pattern, and when it is persistent, it could be unhealthy and psychologically harmful to oneself.

        You mentioned it’s hard not to read it a certain way. I hear you, and I want to add another perspective that many other people would see the same message and would read it as an informative, helpful reply, and wouldn’t give it a second thought.

        Again, I’m just a random person and of course I have no idea if that’s what’s you’re experiencing. This just jumped out at me and seeing the negative, harsh things you said about yourself made this stranger wonder if this tends to be a pattern for you. Please feel free to ignore this if I’m off base!

  10. Kara*

    #3 I am very sorry for your losses, and I think it sounds like you might need some support yourself.

    Perhaps your report is trying to feel out whether she can tell you. We can’t know. But you said this:

    “ She hasn’t told me directly but every other thing she says is about babies and children and she’s constantly going on about her symptoms. I know symptoms can be bad, I was 12 weeks pregnant three weeks ago, but the vast majority of people just suck it up and get on with their lives.”

    The thing is, you are her manager and that’s who she would normally need to tell if she was being affected by physical symptoms at work or needed to arrange maternity leave.

    This must be so very raw for you. It’s very soon to manage someone who may be pregnant. But she still needs a manager. Is it possible to reassign her to another one?

    1. Anthony J Crowley*

      Actually, seeing if she could temporarily be assigned to another manager is a good idea. It might not be possible but if it is it might make things easier for both OP and her report.

      Otherwise, OP, I would make sure you have as much support as possible, because after only one miscarriage I still would have found this impossibly hard to cope with.

      I’m so very sorry for your losses.

      1. Saberise*

        Ohhh no no no. That could definitely be seen as her punishing the employee for (possibly) being pregnant.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Agreed – unless it’s absolutely equivalent (e.g. two teams doing exactly the same work) it’s really problematic.

        2. Cat Tree*

          I agree that the report shouldn’t be reassigned. Instead, I wonder if OP herself could take some time off work? I had a miscarriage and I guess I’m in the minority because it wasn’t enough for me to want to take more than a day off work, but recurring miscarriages would be a different story. Can FMLA be used for something like this? Or even just sick days and vacation days? I would encourage OP to find whatever options are available to her.

          1. FridayFriyay*

            You can use FMLA but then you may find yourself without leave to use if you are successful in carrying to term, so it’s a difficult proposition for someone who is having difficulty trying to conceive to weigh.

        3. Hi there*

          Yeah, I commented about this below. Pregnancy is a protected status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Making any changes to her employment *as a result of* suspected or confirmed pregnancy would need to be thoroughly discussed with an employment lawyer and any other relevant parties at the company.

      2. Susie Q*

        I completely disagree with this. You can’t switch employees around because one is pregnant.

    2. Epsilon Delta*

      Assigning her to a new manager because she’s talking about babies and might possibly be pregnant seems extreme and punitive. Even at very large orgs I’ve worked at, that means learning a whole new job/department, even if you keep your same title and job function.

      Others have suggested some great, gentle language upthread. It sounds like the type of relationship where manager-OP could raise this gently and still make it clear that she would support her employee if/when she becomes pregnant.

    3. Susie Q*

      “ She hasn’t told me directly but every other thing she says is about babies and children and she’s constantly going on about her symptoms. I know symptoms can be bad, I was 12 weeks pregnant three weeks ago, but the vast majority of people just suck it up and get on with their lives.”

      This statement from OP is actually quite dismissive of the severe symptoms that pregnant women can face. This isn’t the 1950s where women are required to act all sunny and happy about pregnancy symptoms. Each person responds and reacts differently to different pregnancies.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But I don’t think she’s wrong to say the vast majority just get in with their lives, rather than complaining about it on a regular basis. At work.

        1. Name Required*

          Women have historically limited talk of their early pregnancy symptoms at work because miscarrage before 12 weeks is common, and most women are told by their doctors that they shouldn’t disclose early pregnancy. They also have historically been punished at work for being pregnant, being perceived as pregnant, valuing pregnancy or parenthood, or experiencing any biological symptoms that are associated with reproduction, such as period pains.

        2. Anonym*

          Constant or frequent complaining about feeling unwell at work is problematic though. It alarms/exhausts coworkers. While this remains an issue at a societal level, I don’t think that’s driving OP’s view. As a manager, she can’t have one report draining/distracting/worrying colleagues in this way.

          Occasionally commenting or explaining why you might be behaving differently because of a symptom is reasonable, to be clear.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            This. There are two issues here. Should you be afraid to mention your pregnancy, or accommodations you might need (even if it’s just “excuse me, I feel nauseated, I need to sit for a minute”)? Absolutely not. Should you constantly complain about your symptoms to the point that even people who like to talk about pregnancy find it exhausting? Absolutely not. It’s no different from constantly complaining about anything. And most of us manage not to do it.

            (Am I thinking about my sister-in-law? Quite possibly.)

            1. Name Required*

              The OP doesn’t want to just limit discussion on symptoms, though. She wants to limit discussion on pregnancy and babies, too. You’re right that one shouldn’t be afraid to mention their pregnancy or ask for accomodations if needed. If a boss tells a direct report that they don’t want to hear about their pregnancy so much, that direct report may walk away worrying if their job is jeopardized by their pregnancy or that they aren’t allowed to discuss their pregnancy period, even if accomodations are needed. A boss needs an incredible amount of skill and impartiality to pull that conversation off. If OP thinks pregnant people should “suck it up” when they are sick, then it doesn’t sound like she has the impartiality needed to be successful in that type of conversation.

              1. Can't Think of a Name*

                This is where the context really matters, though. In general, a boss telling a direct report they don’t want to hear about their pregnancy could very well lead the employee to worrying their job is in jeopardy. But in THIS PARTICULAR INSTANCE, where the manager and employee have discussed their fertility struggles, the employee knows the manager has suffered multiple miscarriages (and knows herself the pain of dealing with a miscarriage), and where the manager had previously been very supportive, I think it’s much more likely for the employee to see this as a very human request.

                1. Susie Q*

                  I disagree with this. The stigma that pregnant women face in the workplace is high enough that pregnancy is a federally protected class in the workplace. Trying to limit discussions about that can be highly problematic regardless of context.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I think as long as the manager is saying “please don’t have have this conversation with me because it’s painful to me” and not “stop talking about your @#$% pregnancy,” it should be safe. In context, it should be clear that this isn’t about the employee facing discrimination. For comparison, what if the employee were bringing it up with clients/customers? The fact that she’s allowed to be pregnant and talk about pregnancy doesn’t mean it’s appropriate 24/7.

        3. SpaceySteph*

          Its tone deaf but possible she thinks she and OP have the kind of rapport where she can be honest and get sympathy for it.

          I am 10wks right now and feel like absolute garbage; only one friend at work knows I’m pregnant and so I tell them how miserable I am, but for everyone else I just suck it up. This is why I think it would be ok to have OP gently tell her that hearing talk of babies is difficult right now… because I think the employee is also keying off them having a closer relationship around this topic than just boss/report.

      2. Name Required*

        This stood out to me, too. OP is asking Alison how she can find a way to respectfully limit what she perceives as constant pregnancy-related talk, not even confirmed pregnancy related talk, because it’s causing mental and emotional symptoms for her. But people experiencing pregnancy-related physical symptoms need to “just suck it up and get on with their lives?” What a strange double standard.

        1. Redd*

          Is it a strange double standard? When I’ve been pregnant, my doctors have worked with me on ways to alleviate my symptoms through diet changes, supplements, etc. so that I can “suck it up” and get things done.

          OP has been, and will continue to be, powering through despite a mountain of grief. She’s asking for an appropriate way to try and alleviate some of the pain to make that more possible. The grief will not go away just because her direct report tones down the baby talk slightly. She’s “sucking it up” too.

          1. LegallyRed*

            I definitely bristled at it. It was jarring to me that the LW didn’t seem to acknowledge that another person might experience pregnancy differently than she did (or differently than “most” women who are able to “suck it up” and keep working) but yet wanted the employee to intuitively know that she (the LW) was sensitive to discussions of pregnancy and pregnancy symptoms. It actually makes me question whether the LW is in a position to have a sensitive, compassionate “peer to peer” type conversation with the employee about this issue; the risk that her implicit judgment of the employee might become apparent is concerning given the long history of how pregnant people (and potentially pregnant people) are treated in the workplace.

            Both sides of this hit me pretty close to home. I’ve suffered from repeat pregnancy loss and I have two living children. My pregnancies are absolutely miserable due to hyperemesis gravidarum. I literally cannot work without accommodation in early pregnancy, which involves disclosing symptoms (and most likely, the pregnancy) far earlier than I would prefer to. And meanwhile, I’m terrified that I’m going to have yet another miscarriage and then have to disclose more intimate details about my personal life to my employer. All while worrying that my manager, or someone else in a position of authority, is going to underestimate the severity of my pregnancy symptoms, or the weight of my grief after a miscarriage, and judge me for not “sucking it up,” causing me to lose valuable capital at work (or worse).

      3. Gorillabiscuits*

        And also: most of us cannot afford to stop going to work just because we are experiencing pregnancy-related symptoms.

        Will OP’s company will provide paid sick leave for the duration of the employee’s symptoms–potentially the whole pregnancy? If not, the employee has every right to come to work feeling ill and needing support for that. Once I threw up five times during a staff meeting. But because I needed every hour of sick pay to use when the baby was born, I only stopped going to work when I was hospitalized.

        OP#3, I’m so very sorry you’re in this heartbreaking situation.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I wonder if the coworker is intentionally trying to communicate that she’s pregnant without actually saying the words “I’m pregnant”. Like, perhaps she understands that pregnancy is a difficult topic for OP and therefore is trying to avoid the whole big conversation, but at the same time she’s experiencing these symptoms and does need to let her manager know for practical/logistical reasons, and has settled on this weird “wow I keep feeling so SICK in the MORNINGS” hinting. Sometimes in trying to avoid a difficult subject people paint themselves into the worst corners.

      1. Anonym*

        This seems very plausible. Trying to be sensitive but getting it wrong. Further argument, I think, for OP gently and clearly asking for what she needs. And allowing the report to (presumably) be a kind colleague to her boss effectively.

    5. Hi there*

      I’m a lawyer (not an employment lawyer, and definitely not the lawyer of anyone involved in this situation), and I wanted to say that the OP absolutely SHOULD NOT do anything regarding her employment (such as moving her to another manager or department) without consulting an attorney first. Pregnancy is a protected employment status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Making any changes to her employment *as a result of* suspected or confirmed pregnancy would need to be thoroughly discussed with an employment lawyer and any other relevant parties at your company.

      1. Aitch Arr*


        The best advice an employment lawyer gave to a workshop of HR Professionals regarding employees disclosing their pregnancy? Practice saying “Congratulations! That’s wonderful”

  11. andy*

    LW 3 I think that boss saying “this bothers me to listen to, it hurts due to what happened to me” is OK thing to say.

    Bosses are not robots, they are people. Expectation that they need to be essentially inhuman does not lead to better management.

    1. Despachito*

      I also think that framing it as a “me issue” (please avoid talking about babies when I am around, it hurts ME because of my recent losses) is very different than “cut it out altogether”, and that even a manager can ask this.

      And if the employee herself experienced a similar problem in the past, I’d think she should be understanding.

  12. John Smith*

    #3. There’s a saying along the lines of there being nothing more annoying than an ex smoker/meat eater/drinker/potato couch. They love to talk about their new life to any and all.

    Your colleague is naturally all-in on being pregnant and seems to be behaving along the above lines, probably more obsessively given what happened.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with you talking to her as Alison describes, but make it clear you’re speaking as a fellow human, not a manager. If she continues, or you don’t feel comfortable doing that, is there someone else – another manager or HR who could step in and ‘counsel’ her?

    Very sorry for what you have been through. My mother cried when she told me I should have had 3 siblings but miscarried so I can’t even begin to imagine your pain. Sending best wishes to you and your colleague.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP3: I’m prefacing this with I’m not comparing the two situations, just using mine as a suggestion for what can be done. Your grief is real and I’m very sorry.

    I’ve got a severe phobia of pregnancy. I do not like having people talking about it near me, I especially don’t like repeated talk about it and it can cause me some distress if pervasive enough.

    When one of my staff who sat next to me became pregnant a while ago I really felt like I couldn’t deal with how much talk she tried to engage me in about symptoms, babies and the especially dreaded ‘want to see the bump?’ (No). I tried to mitigate it by asking if I could move desks but realised that might be taken as bad discrimination.

    In the end, I told her that unless it was requesting accommodations I really wasn’t a good target audience for her baby talk. I didn’t elaborate as to why. As for her chatting to others about it I learnt to kinda drone it out in my head (particular songs I can’t get out of my mind are my preference to drown those out, although getting certain ones stuck for the next 48 hours is a bit of a git).

    I’m sorry I can’t suggest anything more :(

    1. WellRed*

      “I t old her that I wasn’t a good target for baby talk.” This is excellent advice for anyone who doesn’t want to hear incessant baby talk.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        It’s pretty much as neutral as I can get. There’s been surprisingly little ‘but whyyyy’ feedback to it as well.

  14. Workerbee*

    #2 Red flags abound! From the employer galloping ahead with additional duties + having to manage people suddenly, but with no title or salary change, to Jane not feeling safe, secure, or empowered enough to have fully pushed back and is now just doing it all—it sounds like a place that is all too happy to take advantage of people needing to stay employed. And that they were going to saddle Jane with this stuff anyway and tried to make it seem like a promotion when it really wasn’t. Do they begrudge time off, too?

    1. WellRed*

      I wonder if this is a company problem or a boss problem. I’m curious what the bigger picture is at this company. Lot’s of turnover? Recent massive layoffs? How are the benefits?

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Possibly option 3, recent changes problem?

        I used to work for a large company and they decided that they had to “modernize” or some such thing and started making lots of wholescale changes to procedures and mission statements, while expanding and bringing in new blood. Some of the most obnoxious changes for the sake of change hit my department out of proportion, and the senior lead opted to find employment elsewhere.

        It was decided by *someone up the chain* that they needed to promote me to that position. And that I would relocate from satellite office B to main corporate office A in major US city. And that my accepting the promotion and raise were just a formality. Except…I didn’t want the promotion and I had absolutely no desire to relocate either myself or my whole immediate family. And I figured that if they were willing to create a career path for me with ZERO input from me….probably not the best place for me to be working. Then they decided I’d get the responsibilities, no raise, and I’d get a new travel schedule so that I was at the corporate office with great frequency, that sealed the decision.

      2. Llama Llama*

        This is not at all an uncommon practice at non-profits in my experience. Non-profits have a really different culture than for profits. Sometimes it’s better but with a lot of things related to compensation, benefits, and employee development it’s worse. I have seen this happen MANY times and it even happened to me. It’s always framed as this will be a great learning experience for you – now you manage someone! But doesn’t come with a pay bump for all that extra work. A co worker of mine went from Director to VP (at least he got the title change) with no pay increase even though the work load change is substantial. I could write you an essay as to all the reasons why non-profits act like this but it’s basically “other duties as assigned” and “we don’t have the budget.” I know it sounds ludicrous to people who work in other sectors but it’s extremely common in non-profits – to the point where it’s basically a running joke.

    2. EPLawyer*

      They wanted to do other duties as assigned for whatever reason. Boss decided to frame it as a promotion. Was very surprised that friend decided not to take the alleged promotion. But had to assign the duties anyway. So friend is now doing the duties anyway. Either way its not a sign of a functioning office. Either its a promotion OR its just assigning more duties to a person at their current level. They can’t have both.

      Friend needs to polish up the resume.

      1. Lexie*

        When, I read it my thought was “saying no was never an option”. I’ve worked in places like this, the job description has a line about “other duties as assigned” and they just assigned a bunch.

      2. I Herd the Cats*

        I was thinking along these lines — should the employer pretend this is a promotion and frame it that way? Eh, maybe not, for all the reasons outlined, starting with the employee saying “no thanks.” But as far as I can tell, the employer is within their rights to change the job description and say, this is your job now.

    3. OP 2*

      Absolutely. Jane is also often asked to work on her days off. I have told her many times that she needs to leave this terrible place, but her understanding (as someone noted below) is that this is what you have to accept if you work for nonprofits.

      1. Lizzo*

        Just want to point out that no, this is not “what you have to accept if you work for nonprofits”. I’ve been in the sector for more than a decade, and like the for-profit sphere, there are bad managers/leaders, and there are good managers/leaders.

        A good piece of advice for Jane: start doing some networking and informational interviews with those employed at other nonprofits. That’s the best way to find out which organizations are good places to work, and which ones to avoid, because people tend to be more willing to tell the truth when it’s not a conversation that’s part of the official interview process.

  15. DrunkAtAWedding*

    Huh. That first letter reminded me a lot of the Secretary Problem. That’s the mathematical question of how to hire the best employee – a secretary, in the original question – with the following specific rules. You see candidates 1 by 1, you must choose to accept or reject them, and you cannot go back to rejected candidates. Once you accept one, you stop. You want to hire the best secretary possible, and it is only by reviewing candidates that you can understand the general level of skill out there. So, the goal of the question is to figure out the optimum ratio of ‘searching’ time to ‘choosing’ time. Iirc, the optimal solution with those specific rules is to spend approximately 1/3 (actually n/e, but close enough) of your total time searching – so if you have 100 candidates, reject the first 33 – and then choose the first best one who shows up after that, with ‘best’ being based on what you saw in the first 33. That gives you a 37% chance of making the best choice.

    I don’t think the company LW applied to actually did that. I think they probably made the decision based on factors like, the time they needed the position filled by, how many people they could reasonably interview, and how many candidates above a certain level they’d already had applications from. But still, it’s kind of amusing to imagine someone rigidly sticking to the rules of the problem.

    1. BethDH*

      And unless the job is really specialized or underpaid, you’re likely to see lots of candidates who are 80% there. Given how long it takes to actually get someone started, I’d argue that you’re better hiring someone who meets most of the requirements ASAP and spending an extra month training them, rather than continuing to review new applications for another month or more to find the *best* candidate.

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        Apparently, when people look at real life situations similar to the secretary problem, they find that most people don’t spend the optimum time searching. Probably for that (or similar) reasons.

    2. SpaceySteph*

      Hah sounds a lot like a friend’s theory on the White Elephant gift exchange. After the half-way point you’re better off stealing an open gift than opening a new gift because the odds are the best gift is already open.

  16. Amy*

    A 12 week miscarriage 3 weeks ago is both so late (most people’s worry about miscarriage is diminishing by the end of the 1st trimester) and so recent, that I’m not surprised this is a huge challenge.

    But the comment about most people sucking it up also isn’t ideal from a manager either. Some employees may need to take medical leave or have accommodations throughout pregnancy, including during the first trimester.

    Can you take any time off yourself? You may need a serious break right now. I found it took quite a while to reset from miscarriages, both in terms of my mental space and hormonal / body changes. I would definitely try to give yourself some grace and also try to just be detached and professional about the employee’s pregnancy.

    1. Tara*

      I think the companies that are giving people who have had miscarriages leave to deal with the grief are doing it right. If LW can take time off, I think it would be the most compassionate thing for her. It’s obviously brutal being presented with baby/pregnancy talk so recently, but it was going to come at some point and she should look after herself first. And that probably means seeing about taking a break.

    2. LegallyRed*

      Seconded. My last miscarriage was at 13w and it took months before I felt anything close to normal. I didn’t take any time off work because I appreciated the distraction, but if it had triggered me to be there I definitely would have considered it (with the implicit acknowledgement that it’s not an option for everyone for various reasons).

  17. Red Swedish Fish*

    #3 I’m sorry, I know this is heartbreaking for you it was for us when this happened. I think this depends on a couple of things where the conversations are happening and who they are happening with. Off the clock if she discusses it you can tell her you are so happy for her but you just cant do this right now. However on the clock or on work premises if this happens in a meeting redirect to work things, otherwise I think you are going to have to find a way to either walk away or put on headphones so you don’t hear the conversation around you. It stinks but the manager role changes things.

  18. Alternative Person*


    This is not good.

    I would say Jane needs to start by clarifying things immediately, starting with HR, the fact she never signed the offer letter is enough. She should consider going as far as she can with the title/pay bump.

    I can’t guess at the reason(s) management is doing this, but I would advise Jane to cover her ass and polish her CV (with all the stuff from this promoted position). Maybe the title/pay increase will come through once things get better, maybe Jane can move back to her previous position, maybe the intent is to push Jane out by making the job untenable. Either way, Jane needs to be on top of this.

    Hope it works out for her.

    1. Artemesia*

      This was never a promotion; this was just being assigned more work. If they don’t even change the title, then clearly there is no promotion involved. She needs to realize her worth and see what other opportunities there might be for her elsewhere.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah it was never a promotion. No title change and no pay raise. They just wanted to give her all the new work in her current role, and thought she’d be appeased by them framing it as a promotion even though they were not doing anything that would actually make it a promotion rather than “here’s more work, deal”. But it was always going to be “here’s more work, deal”. They just assumed there was no way she’d turn down a “promotion”.

      2. Alger*

        This. They’re calling this a “promotion“, but it’s not a promotion if there’s no title change and no pay change.

        On the other hand, changing from an individual contributor to a manager is pretty much a promotion.

        On the other hand, “other duties as assigned“ pretty much covers getting additional work on your plate without anything official happening to your title or pay.

        By calling it a promotion, and by providing paperwork that needs to be signed, even though there’s no title change or pay change, they have certainly provided a window to refuse the additional duties.

        But, seriously, what the heck? They can’t even conjure up a title change to try to fool you into taking on additional work? That’s … pretty lame.

    2. Lexie*

      I’m guessing her job description says “other duties as assigned”, the word “promotion” was just to make it sound more palatable.

  19. Very Anon*

    LW 3, I am so sorry. I had a hysterectomy at a very young age for that kind of procedure. In the first year of my PhD, I had to have my remaining ovary removed, and there was a woman from a master’s program in one of my classes each semester who found out about it and had just had a miscarriage and regularly came to me for support without asking me if it was okay. I didn’t mind it, except soon she got pregnant and had selective amnesia about how she felt before and how I was still in the same boat as before. It was especially bad because as soon as she found out her pregnancy was safe, she was really vocal about how “this is what it means to truly be a woman” and “this is the most meaningful thing any woman can do” and other things that are especially hard to hear someone say when you can’t have kids (I also disagreed on principle, but it was really hard to hear them said, every class).

    I think the worst part about all of this is every time I tell this story, someone inevitably tells me due to some absurd Pascal’s wager-like logic that OF COURSE she should have confided in someone like me, because she knew I wasn’t going to get pregnant right as she found out she couldn’t or had another miscarriage, and THAT is especially terrible.

    As for what to do, I would agree with everyone saying you can still use Allison’s script.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “this is what it means to truly be a woman” and “this is the most meaningful thing any woman can do” and other things that are especially hard to hear someone say when you can’t have kids”

      Childless person here. This is so rude, I agree with you times ten. I thought only old people said this stuff (fwiw, I am 60, so what would be MY elders, would say this stuff.) I had hoped we moved away from it but I see not. I always wanted to ask, “Is that the only source you have for your sense of self-worth? Because once the childbearing years pass, what will you do to derive a sense of purpose on this planet???” I ended up feeling sorry for their children, no one should have to bear the responsibility of carrying SOMEONE ELSE’S sense of value as a human being. That’s a do it yourself job.

      Hopefully, OP is not dealing with this type of person. I do agree that OP can and should use Alison’s idea here to hopefully ease the situation.

      1. Mimi*

        Unfortunately it’s making a resurgence. Search “radicalization of mumsnet” if you would like to read about the current iteration in the UK at the moment (MAJOR warning for biological gender essentialism and gross anti-trans language).

        Very, that sounds AWFUL, and I’m sorry you had to deal with it.

      2. Valancy Snaith*

        I’m in in early 30s and infertile. You would not believe the number of people in their 20s, 30s, and so on, who have said things like that to me. “Having kids is the most powerful thing a woman can do” “I didn’t feel like a woman until I have birth” “Pregnancy is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done.” This is not even getting into the millions of comments to say you don’t know love until you have kids. This viewpoint is alive and well.

        1. Blackcat*

          ““I didn’t feel like a woman until I have birth””
          Being pregnant and giving birth made me realize why so many independent religions thing god(s) hate women.
          In that way, I suppose it revealed some deep aspect of womanhood to me, but it was honestly more about the origins of sexism.

        2. Foxgloves*

          See also “You just don’t know/ understand [XYZ] until you’ve been pregnant/ become a mother”. BORE OFF, I’m not half a person just because I haven’t procreated!

        3. Anonym*

          I wish there was a button on humanity to turn off the “my experience is the only valid experience” setting. I hope to have kids someday, but this viewpoint is viscerally infuriating. Stop invalidating everything that’s not you!!! Other people and other paths and other choices and other achievements are good too!

      3. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Signing onto every bit of this well written statement by NSNR above, except the very minor change that I am a Mom myself and not childfree. “Mom” just doesn’t define me, and its certainly not the most meaningful thing that I’ll ever do (I hope). And I certainly don’t want my children to be responsible for MY happiness, because that is a whole load of bull-ish and a significant therapy bill (for them).

      4. Charlotte Lucas*

        I recently attended a DEI training. In the example for in groups vs. out groups, they asked people to talk about being parents vs. non-parents. For a non-parent (due to various life circumstances), it was… grating. I wish they had chosen a less fraught example.

      5. greenbean*

        What a collection we have from this thread:

        “this is what it means to truly be a woman”

        “this is the most meaningful thing any woman can do”

        “Having kids is the most powerful thing a woman can do”

        “I didn’t feel like a woman until I gave birth”

        “Pregnancy is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done.”

        “You just don’t know/ understand [XYZ] until you’ve been pregnant/ become a mother”

        (I’ll fill in one of the most common XYZ’s I hear on that last one: “You can’t know what love really is until you’ve become a mother/had a child”)

        Childless (not by choice) at 41 here, and I’ve heard all of these, too, from people of allllll ages. Gross, infuriating, and so, so painful.


        I ended up feeling sorry for their children, no one should have to bear the responsibility of carrying SOMEONE ELSE’S sense of value as a human being. That’s a do it yourself job.

        Thank you for this perspective, NotSoNewReader. This is such an important, helpful way to reframe when faced with those comments. I am going to write this down and repeat it to myself 10 times a day. I need to remember this.

        I agree that Alison’s script would work fine for this. Or a variation on one of the scripts a commenter offered above (can’t remember who since I’ve scrolled quite a bit past it now) – something like, “As your manager, I’m of course happy to support and accommodate and advocate for you however you might need, so please don’t hesitate to let me know how I can help. But I know you’ll understand when I tell you that socially, I’m really not the best target audience for chatting about these things right now.”

    2. Hi there*

      “this is what it means to truly be a woman” and “this is the most meaningful thing any woman can do”

      ….Oh my. My jaw dropped reading that. I am just so sorry your classmate said those things to you.

    3. Llama Llama*

      Ugh I think I just threw up in my mouth. “This is what it truly means to be a woman” gross. gross gross gross. I would not be able to contain my rage and/or my making fun of her behind her back.

  20. Detective Amy Santiago*

    LW #1 – I think you shot yourself in the foot on this one. Spending a week on a cover letter? You missed the window to have your application reviewed. If they had multiple strong candidates in the first fifty applications they received, within a couple days of the posting, they probably moved on to the next stage before you even submitted.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Hindsight is 20/20! It was probably a really stellar letter after all that work, and if the company took Alison’s approach of looking at every applicant, it probably would have worked.

    2. OP #1*

      Hi! So I can see why you would think this, but having seen the timeline for multiple positions at the institution from the hiring side, and also knowing that I saw the posting when it was new, I felt relatively confident in taking that time (which included a long weekend as well). You might be right, though!

    3. Forkeater*

      I had this thought, too. I’m in academia and work with so many people who are overly detail oriented to the point of having trouble seeing the forest for the trees, never mind meeting deadlines. Over a week on a cover letter, roping in multiple friends for feedback – all point to potential issues. But on the other hand I just work with so many people who operate like this, and they get hired, so many I’m the one over thinking it!

  21. AndersonDarling*

    #2 I’m curious if the manager actually told HR that Jane did not accept the promotion. If there are politics at play with the manager, and less politics with HR, I’d go to HR and ask what is happening. “I’m in a very uncomfortable situation. Karissa offered me a promotion, but I didn’t feel comfortable suddenly being a manager, so I turned down the opportunity. But Jane didn’t accept my response and is proceeding as if I am a manager. Did she tell you that I accepted the position? Did she forge my signature on the acceptance papers?”

    1. AndersonDarling*

      BTW, this is all super sketchy. Unless this is a really, really dysfunctional company, you don’t spontaneously make an admin the manager of MULTIPLE direct reports without a salary change, title change, or a support plan. Even in a pay freeze, HR should have been involved and should be making promises. Now I’m wondering if the manager made this whole thing up to secretly offload their own workload.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I was thinking that the org is sinking and is trying to cover jobs they need done without spending any money. Like, they should be hiring another person for all this but can’t afford to.

      2. OP 2*

        Yeah, that’s what’s so frustrating to me. She signed up to be an admin assistant, and now is a manager?? which she never had any interest in being!

        1. Student*

          Ha, she’s not a manager. She’s an admin who is now on the hook for all the hard parts of managing with none of the authority.

          As soon as she needs to fire someone or seriously discipline bad behavior, I can guarantee you they will suddenly get amnesia about the forced promotion. As long as she’s just training additional admins and doing the same workload as before, everything will be peachy. First sign of trouble, she’ll get all of the blame but none of the power. Bet she gets no input on her report’s raises, department resource needs, etc. either.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I would maybe not jump to asking about a forged signature, unless Jane knows for sure that a signature was required to finalize the promotion. I’ve been promoted without being asked to sign anything. It doesn’t sound like a contract position.

      (I know the LW says Jane didn’t sign the letter, but it’s not clear whether she was *asked* to sign the letter and never did so, or if the LW just asked her ‘and you didn’t sign anything?’ and is relaying that answer.)

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Your right. A part of me wants to cause trouble for the manager, but Jane just needs a remedy to the situation.

      2. BRR*

        Yeah I don’t think the signature in general is what to focus on (and I wouldn’t recommendation accusing your boss of possibly forging your signature without any real evidence). Because the reality is the employer can just say, this is your new job. But I do think Jane probably has some room to try and push back depending on her employer.

    3. OP 2*

      Yes, I have brought this up to Jane. She believed HR is “in on it”, since they know she didn’t sign the letter, so hasn’t been willing to take any action with them.

  22. Lucious*

    On #2:

    >>“However, Jane feels that she needs to keep her mouth shut and do the new duties (despite the fact that they are not at all what she signed up for and she doesn’t like doing them) because she’s afraid that she’ll get fired if she speaks up.”

    This is a legitimate concern in some workplaces. At a previous role, a coworker was offered a “promotion” which wasn’t . She’d give up a 15% shift bonus in exchange for a 10% salary bump and greater responsibilities ; net she’d eat a 5% paycut.

    When she rationally asked for a pay bump of 15% to keep her take home pay the same, management rescinded the promotion offer and promptly retaliated. She wasn’t fired, but immediately after the offer was withdrawn her desk was moved to a less desirable location (shades of Office Space there) & she was scheduled for permanent Saturday morning shifts. There is such a thing as a “forced promotion” in that if you decline it , toxic management will make sure you suffer for it.

    What to do is a case by case thing. Taking the promotion until you can leverage the title for a better role elsewhere is a good approach. Sometimes, the “promotion” is such a blatantly bad deal you’re better off dealing with the reprisals vs taking the job.

    1. SarahKay*

      Wow. I am once again glad of my own site’s policies when offering a promotion to someone that moves them from an overtime-earning position to non-overtime. They specifically pull the full salary data for the previous year, including any overtime and shift bonuses, to ensure that they can offer a salary of (at the very least) the same, or (usually) higher. Plus, you know – it’s an offer, not an order! And yes, I’ve seen people decide not to take these offers and not get penalised.
      Hopefully OP can convince Jan to at least speak to manager and /or HR and, at the very least, get a higher-level title. Then Jane can use that title when job-searching for a less crappy manager.

    2. BRR*

      It’s tough to know if it’s a legitimate concern because there are people who think they’re not able to speak up at all. This was a trend in the comments on the last post on raises. So many comments were along the lines of “don’t ask for a raise because you’ll make your boss mad.” I’m not saying it’s not a legitimate concern. Only that I’m not always sure people are a great judge of when they actually are able to advocate for themselves.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I agree. I have shocked many coworkers over time with my willingness to speak up! Even after seeing I had success they’d ask me to speak for them — they thought it was a magic quality I had, not something they could do or have. Lots of people have internalized ideas about authority that make them afraid to challenge or even question anything. OTOH, some bosses and workplaces are full of evil retaliatory bees.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, yep, yep. I saw this at the NPO I worked at. You either took the promotion or you became a non-person.

      In the for-profit sector, you simply fell off the radar if you did not take each promotion offered. One refusal meant the end of the road for you.

      In both cases, it led to some very unhappy employees doing toxic things.

      OP, there’s a number of ways to play this:
      Do your absolute best, build up your resume with all the wonderful things you have done in your new position. Keep looking for work and use your promoted position to leverage a better slot at a different place.

      The other idea is to just get out. Take anything within reach and get out of there.

      The thing to understand is that this is what this company is. Let’s say you resolve this situation with a raise to match. It’s very likely that you will go through this again in the future because this is how they operate. Worse yet you will end up with unwilling promoted peers- these folks are VERY interesting to work with as something is ALWAYS a problem for them. They take their resentment of the company out on their immediate workgroup.

      One thing that I did not see mentioned is the qualifications for the new job. I have a horror story of a friend who was working at a higher position without the certifications/other quals necessary to LEGALLY be doing the job. It might be worth checking to see if state regs say that you are not qualified to do this work. In my friend’s case it blew up- like newspaper headlines stuff. She had reporters bugging her and so on. It was Not Good. If this fits your setting you can remind them that “WE” could get in a lot of trouble for not following regulations and you don’t want to see “US” have these types of difficulties. Notice the use of inclusive pronouns, it’s not just happening to you, it’s happening to them also.

  23. James*

    LW #4: Office culture can play a huge role here, so I’m not willing to condemn anyone out of hand. Some offices are fairly close-knit and do this sort of thing. I’ve known places where that’s just how it worked–you needed something (truck, camper, livestock, and yes, even houses) so you ask around the office. I’ve also worked in places where I didn’t feel comfortable asking for a pen.

    Also yes, the manager made a lot of money, but that’s not necessarily nefarious. It could be that the manager bought a house in an area that’s booming–my house value jumped $30k in the past five years due to that, to give a real-world example. I’ve seen places that jumped a LOT more.

    It doesn’t sound great, but I don’t think we have enough information to make an accurate judgment.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      Plus, if it’s in a hot housing area, the employee may have saved thousands of $$ or more but not getting in a bidding war

    2. Generic Name*

      Yeah, my company has a self-described “clan” culture, and honestly there’s lots of blurring of lines. We have a teams channel for people to trade/give away extra stuff; I’m getting a free hat and bike pump from my boss. When we go camping this spring, I may see if I can borrow/rent a camper from a coworker. I wouldn’t be surprised if this same thing happened at my company.

    3. A Person*

      And we don’t know how long the manager owned that house. We just know that they turned a good profit.

    4. MN*

      I agree that we don’t have enough information. I can see Alison’s point that there is conflict of interest, but from the info provided, I don’t see that there is necessarily anything unethical going on? From what understand, at least in my field, when a conflict of interest is identified, it doesn’t automatically mean the people involved are doing something wrong. There isn’t enough info in the letter.

      So the manager made a lot of money….like, that’s a pretty common idea behind owning and selling property. I’m confused if LW4 is saying the manager pressured the employee into buying the house much higher than market value/what it appraised for? We also don’t have info on if there were any negotiations at all about repairs or closing terms. For all we know, it could be an as-is, no-negotiation, take-it-or-leave-it, all cash offer that both parties gladly agreed to.

  24. TotesMaGoats*

    I’m accepting that I could get flamed for this response to #3. However…

    I had a report who was pregnant and being very much like the person in #3’s letter. I have had 5 pregnancies and 1 child to show for all of that. As much I have zero desire to have any more children and am generally doing ok as my son is 7 now, it was too much even for me. I pulled her aside and said that she should consider that there are others at our place of work who are struggling with infertility and just tone it down a bit. It helped that we were colleagues (not peers) at a previous institution. She took my comments with a lot of grace and it made it much easier for the rest of her pregnancy. We threw her a really nice baby shower. Supported her through some HR nonsense about FLMA. Made her hours work when she was really sick and there was a health scare with her baby. So, I think given all of those things it was easier for me to say something and it be taken in the right way. YMMV

    1. J.B.*

      I think that’s a great way to handle it, infertility is so common that others in earshot are likely to hate the discussion too.

    2. Hi there*

      I think this is a great way to handle it. You NEVER know who is struggling with infertility around you.

    3. The Other GEYN*

      #3 – I think that’s a great way to handle it. LW can tell her direct report that yes, the talk is too much and tone it down for sensitivity sake but also make it clear that if she is being effected by pregnancy symptoms, LW will work with her on accommodations, etc. and make sure she is supported from an HR perspective for leave, etc.

  25. Koala dreams*

    Health issues can be a sensitive topic even in non-covid times. Many people find it difficult to listen to health talk, especially at work where you can’t leave. It’s not just you, the other employee is also worried. You would do everyone a favour if you told the employee to dial down the health talk, while making clear that you welcome any conversation about accomodations (if needed).

    Baby talk is a bit trickier, but given that you already told the employee about your miscarriages, it wouldn’t be too weird to explain that babies is a sensitive topic for you.

    1. Washi*

      Yeah, listening to someone complain over and over can be quite annoying! I had a coworker who was always complaining about being tired (not pregnancy related) and it got old pretty fast. I think in some ways it’s easier to address the complaining frequency than to try to identify how much baby talk is ok.

      1. WellRed*

        I think this is a good reminder not to talk about anything over and over and over, good, bad or otherwise.

  26. Susie Q*

    “ She hasn’t told me directly but every other thing she says is about babies and children and she’s constantly going on about her symptoms. I know symptoms can be bad, I was 12 weeks pregnant three weeks ago, but the vast majority of people just suck it up and get on with their lives.”

    I realize #3 is struggling BUT this is completely dismissive of pregnancy sympotms and struggles individuals face. Just because #3 had an “easy” pregnancy until her miscarriage doesn’t mean that everyone does. For centuries, women were told to suck it up and deal with it because that’s part of being a woman. And it’s incredibly dismissive of women who have struggled with severe and terrible pregnancy symptoms. I highly suggest that #3 find a good therapist and maybe take some time off to grieve and recover.

    1. A realist*

      I’m not sure you can ever say to someone who has had three pregnancies that’s they’ve had easy pregnancies… you have no idea how sick the OP felt. Your comment is very unfeeling. I’m assuming from it’s insensitivity nature you’re lucky enough to have never actually struggled in a pregnancy where by you have lost the baby.

      I think the LW is probably meaning that even when you feel sick and ill from pregnancy the vast majority of people keep it to themselves. They don’t tell all of the people they work with. The employee must be talking about it a lot for someone to comment on it.

      If they really have it that bad the employee should the boss so they can have time away from work, not be complaining about their symptoms at work.

    2. Formerly Pregnant Person*

      In turn, we may be less dismissive of the LW’s experience, as she is hearing the symptoms and presumably they have not risen to the level of needing accomodations, as that likely would have been addressed in the letter. And while the pregnant woman deserves support and someone to listen to her experience, as all pregnant people do, it is also true that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the LW who lends ALL of that support (or ALL of the kinds of support one might need), beyond the accomodations one would want and expect from a compassionate employer and supervisor. She doesn’t need to be a sounding board for symptoms that she herself understood as a matter of course when she had them, and if she’s anything like me, dearly wished to continue to have to suffer through.

      It’s easy to say the LW should take time off, but in reality three weeks out, how much more time can one take? Especially if this is one of several miscarriages? For my multiple miscarriages, I took off for surgery recovery (most of them were late) but three weeks out I couldn’t just keep taking off because I was sad. Therapy only gets you so far–you just have to get up every morning and make it through the day. I commend the LW for doing that with compassion.

    3. Hi there*

      I mean, the OP is right. The “vast majority” of people DO continue to go about their typical activities while pregnant, sometimes even when they are very ill. I didn’t have a choice but to go to work when I was pregnant with triplets, no matter how sick I was (except when I was in the hospital, of course), because we don’t get maternity leave at my office, and I had to save up all of my vacation time. My best friend has six kids, and she had hyperemesis with her last two pregnancies, but she couldn’t stop caring for her other children because of that. Sure, some people have debilitating symptoms that affect their daily lives greatly. But this doesn’t sound like that. It sounds like garden-variety early pregnancy symptoms that the coworker is just talking about frequently. If OP’s employee has HG or other severe symptoms, she could and should request some sort of accommodations. But if not…I mean, nobody really likes listening to constant complaints about sickness in the workplace, especially during COVID times.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    I know this isn’t the point for #1, but I can’t imagine even the best cover letter ever written should take a week to put together. My field doesn’t use them so I can’t really say but there must be some tips to make that process easier for the LW?

    1. OP #1*

      Hi! To clarify, I didn’t spend hours a day working on it; it would be like, I’d work on it for an hour, send it to someone for review, implement those changes, send it to my other person for review. I did spend a good few hours on it over the course of a week, but it wasn’t like I was working on it full time. It had also been a long time since I wrote one, so where in the past, I had something to build on, this time I was starting from scratch.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth: that’s still a lot! In the future, I’d aim for an hour at most (if you’re starting from scratch) and probably just one person to review it unless there are really unusual circumstances.

        1. meyer lemon*

          Is that still the case if you’re applying for a position where writing or editing is one of the main responsibilities? I’ve managed to cut my cover letter writing time down a lot over the years, but I’d find an hour pretty tight.

          1. WellRed*

            If you are applying for a job writing and editing, I’d think you’d be able to write and revise fairly quickly. Maybe you need more than an jour but probably not much more. Otherwise you may just be second guessing yourself. Signed, writer and editor

        2. OP #1*

          Good to know! For context, I am a pretty anxious person at the best of times, and I do not consider job applying to be when I am at my most relaxed; the job felt like a reach even though I was qualified on paper; and the two people who reviewed were my mentor (background in the field) and my partner (strong editing skills). I’d guess I spent 2-3 hours on the actual letter, and some other time re-reading your book, googling the office, stuff like that. I totally accept that it is a lot, and if I were job hunting more seriously I would definitely try to get that down, but I’m not actually looking to leave, this just seemed like one that was too good not to try for.

        3. korangeen*

          An hour at most, when starting from scratch?? This recommendation kinda blows my mind. Are the majority of people actually able to put together a good cover letter this quickly?? Does this include time researching the company, reviewing the job description, and looking at cover letter tips to figure out what to write?

    2. RagingADHD*

      Yes. The tip is, don’t agonize over it, and don’t ask for feedback from more than one person — who will get back to you the same day.

  28. hiringfreezeBS*

    #2: “Sorry, I’m in a RESPONSIBILITY FREEZE right now. You know how you’re not hiring people and not giving raises? It’s kinda like that, except on the employee side. I’m not doing any more work than what I’m being paid for. You managers that refuse to pay people more can absorb those responsibilities. Let’s reassess this in 6 months and see if that workload agrees with YOU.

    1. Lexie*

      Unfortunately that’s a great way to get fired and get a negative reference. I wouldn’t be surprised if her job description says “other duties as assigned” so technically she’s being paid to do whatever they tell her to do. Her best bet is probably suck it up while starting a job hunt.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        My job description had the “other duties as assigned” line in it. It also notes that “other duties as assigned should be 5% or less of my total duties. This went from I have extra free time and can help Other Team do X, Y, and Z this week to Other Team just stopped doing X, Y, and Z and expected me to do it all the time. So at the point were stacks were literally sliding off my desk when they’d bring me more, I pushed back. Old Boss’s Big Boss got involved. I pointed out how much and how wildly varied “other duties as assigned” was being used. When she realized that Other Team had basically shirked most of their own responsibilities (admin wise) onto me she put her foot down hard. Old Boss and Other Team Boss got reamed. It was a beautiful thing. I don’t mind doing favors. I will draw boundaries at being taken advantaged of.

    2. James*

      See, I’m in that position right now. Hiring freeze, lower-ranked people refused to take on extra work (in this case justifiable as they had responsibilities with other internal and external clients). Nothing I can do–I’m not high enough in rank to make hiring decisions, and can only influence firing decisions; this is due to how the company is structured, leftovers from a matrix management experiment ten years go. I’d LOVE to pay people to take over some of my duties, and do so where I can through how I set up expense reporting (giving them per diem rates instead of direct expenses, for example). I can show the company the proof of how it helps; I’ve actually got hard data on this. Unfortunately, that’s all I can do. When the company says “No”, that’s the answer and I’m obliged to tell that to the employees.

      Management isn’t the enemy. Often we’re stuck in a very hard position–I’d say just as hard a position as the people we manage, if not harder. We need to do what’s best for the company, and what’s best for our team, and often need to make judgment calls as to which is most important right now and which I can burn political capital on. If I’m told “No new hires” and am working 14 hours a day, six days a week already, having someone come in and say “Yeah, I’m putting my 8 hours in and going home” isn’t going inspire me to go to bat for that person.

      I describe it as being between two pyramids. Above me I have Corporate, who makes policy decisions and issues order from 6-8 different higher-level managers. Below me I have my teams, who I need to support and facilitate in every way I can. And I’m in the middle, trying to make sure no one gets fired, goes to jail, or gets killed. Do I make decisions that others dislike? Decisions that sometimes hurt individuals? Of course. Making hard choices is part of the job. That said, I do everything I can to avoid it.

      1. FrivYeti*

        I understand your frustration, but it’s important to keep in mind that the employees don’t have a particular reason to go to bat for you, either. If your bosses aren’t letting you do the things that your company needs to succeed, that’s a sign to start polishing your resume, not to try to keep the shaky edifice going on your and your workers’ backs. If you’re working 14 hour days six days a week you are being exploited, and it’s not on your employees to agree to be exploited too in order to reduce your exploitation. That’s the corporation pitting you against each other so that you don’t join forces.

        This isn’t a hypothetical for me. I worked at a corporation once whose culture shifted gradually from redundancy and benefits to forced overtime. We had a great manager. At one point, upper management was breathing down his neck because our queues were getting longer and longer, and he flat-out told them that he needed more workers or more paid overtime. Their response was to tell him that the problem was clearly that he was too lax a manager, and he came back to us and said that if we didn’t work unpaid overtime to get the queue down, he was going to be fired for being a bad manager.

        I got my resume together and got the heck out of there; I gave my notice and was persuaded to add a week to it because there was a big project going on. And on my last day, with the big project complete, upper management announced a merger, fired my manager anyway, and laid off two-thirds of my department.

        You don’t owe a bad company anything, and if you try to crush yourself and your employees to balance the demands of a very unreasonable employer and very reasonable employees, you won’t get anything for it from either.

        1. James*

          “…and it’s not on your employees to agree to be exploited too in order to reduce your exploitation.”

          This is where this rhetoric of exploitation annoys me. If I had someone to do certain work neither of us would be working 14 hour days or 6 days a week (most of the time; 10-day shifts aren’t uncommon, and some people prefer them). We’d all be working the ten-hour days that we signed up for when we were hired (that’s due to the nature of the job, not “exploitation”). That’s hardly unreasonable. And the reason we haven’t hired new people isn’t because my employers are mustache-twirling villains lighting cigars with $100 bills; it’s because of the global pandemic. We actually hired a guy before the pandemic, and things were getting better, but he left the company. So it’s bad timing.

          As for overtime, it’s flat-out illegal for us to not get paid for overtime. We get audited routinely, and if they find us not doing so we lose contracts and people go to jail. That’s not hypothetical–at least the “go to jail” thing happened.

          Painting this as an issue of exploitation has given you a narrative that you’ve fit my story into, regardless of whether the data support it or not.

          And I’m not frustrated. I’m merely giving the perspective of the other person in this equation. The title of the blog is “Ask a Manager”, not “Ask Karl Marx”; I’d think a managerial perspective would be welcomed. Quite often we’re more constrained than the people we manage–and it’s not always by upper management, but by labor laws, by safety requirements, and by the other policies and procedures that we’re required to follow. We’re doing what we can, but at the end of the day the loyalty of a manager is to the company. Ideally yes, loyalty to the team benefits the company. Sometimes, though, we have to make decisions the team doesn’t like. Why do you think it’s a bad idea for managers to be friends with their reports? Because when push comes to shove, we do what’s best for the company.

  29. CatPerson*

    LW2, unfortunately your company can change and add to your duties at will whether you like it or not, and you can’t refuse to do them even if they don’t increase your pay or title. They may have tried to soften the blow by calling it a promotion, but if they want you to have these new duties you can’t really say no. You can try Alison’s suggestions or you can look for another job, but in my view you don’t have much control over this.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      I mean, yes and no. Some can/do, and generally that would be covered under “other duties as assigned,” but some have very rigid duty-to-salary structures, and changing what you do changes what you’re owed. Particularly if there’s any sort of union involved (the LW didn’t mention one, but that doesn’t mean there *isn’t* one…) It’s worth Jane looking into.

      1. Anonymous for the moment*

        If they are pulling this I’m guessing they don’t have rigid pay structures or a union. Instead they probably make changes anytime they feel it will save them money. I’ve applied for an internal transfer before and was given the job. I was given the exact same duties as the person I replaced but the
        powers that be changed the job title so that instead of being given a raise with the transfer my salary was permanently frozen.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I know you don’t mean it, but this sounds like you’re saying that employers control everything unilaterally in employment. This is not correct – You are not under indenture, nor owned wholesale by your company. You can always refuse to do what someone asks or tells you to do. You simply have to be willing to live with the consequences of that refusal (which yes, often includes retaliation and/or being let go).

      People feeling like they have to do whatever their employer says, because they’ve been told that is how employment works, is how you get massive problems with people tolerating/participating in illegal/immoral/unethical practices, and allowing toxic behaviors and places to fester.

      1. Lexie*

        Yes, she can refuse but like you said she could be fired for it. So what is probably her best option is to accept the new duties while looking for another job. At least that way she doesn’t have a termination on her record and hopefully gets at least a somewhat positive reference out of them.

      2. Me*

        Employers control a lot. And inherently have more power than employees. Barring a union’s protections, and anything outright illegal such as discrimination, there’s little employees can do if an employer is determined to be a bad employer.

        And that is what we’re talking about here – bad employers. Employers who are changing your duties drastically without increasing compensation.

        No employees are not indentured servants but pretending that most people can simply leave or deal with the consequence of being fired for standing up for themselves is short-sighted.

  30. Well this is awkward*

    Letter #2 is eerily similar to a situation I was forced into a few years ago. I was on bereavement leave and checked my work email while taking a break from the funeral reception. The entire office had been emailed about me being promoted to “team lead” and I had several responses back congratulating me. My supervisor hadn’t told me anything about this. I decided to wait until I was back in the office to ask what the hell was going on. My supervisor hadn’t been informed— this decision (and an overall team restructuring) had been made by the director. My supervisor apologized to me for not being able to do anything.

    I requested a meeting with the director and asked what my new responsibilities would be. He was vague and referred to leadership, additional responsibilities and projects. There was no pay increase. I asked for an updated job description so I could think it over. He said there was nothing to think over and that the change had gone through. I reiterated that I hadn’t asked for this and wanted to know what I was getting myself into. At this point, the director became angry and said if I wasn’t willing to do this, he would revoke my cost of living salary increase (which everyone had received regardless of performance). I felt trapped— I really needed that COL increase and he knew it. He refused to allow me time to think or give me a new job description, so I had to verbally say “yes, I will do this” and finally I left his office. I recorded the conversation, as is my right in my state. Knowing that HR works for the company and not the employee, I suspected that I would be fired if I revealed the recording to HR or anyone else.

    It was an awful experience. I never got an updated job description, and I never felt comfortable around the director again. It was clear that my supervisor (who I liked and respected) had little to no power. Fortunately I found a much better job less than a year later. My supervisor was fired out of the blue just days before my last day in the office.

    I don’t know how I could have handled this situation any differently. I was put in an impossible situation.

    1. Tech editor by day*

      Wow, that’s awful. I imagine it’s helpful for the OP to read. Glad you were able to land on your feet in a better job!

  31. Puzzled by names*

    #5 – Somewhat of a small thing, but is anyone else surprised by the number of women who still change their names when they marry? I’ve never been married (not opposed, just eh), but even at 22 I would have never changed my name. And please note, I completely support this as a personal decision of the woman’s, I’m just surprised so many still choose to change their names. (Upon further reflection my thoughts about this could be due to being raised by parents who emphasized that genetics have little bearing on who your family is, it’s about love and friendship)

    1. Nom de Moi*

      My own mom did not change her name, so although I’ve known a lot of women who have now that I’m in my mid-30’s, I’m always a little surprised because I always had that baseline assumption not to change. I was ambivalent myself, but ultimately the giant paperwork hassle is what put me off!

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m not surprised. It is still very much part of our (western) culture. I believe there are some Asian cultures where women do not typically take their husband’s names. But I could be wrong. (IF anyone does know one way or the other please comment.)

    3. Lexie*

      It’s still the assumption. We received personalized gifts that said “the husbands last name family”on them.
      I did change my name but I’m not sure some of those people knew that as opposed to just assumed it.

    4. Roja*

      There’s a lot of reasons to change your name besides societal pressure! You could, for instance, like your spouse’s new last name better (my reason). Or it could be easier/harder to spell/say, more/less common, more/less meaningful to you personally, you could live in a country where both spouses have to have the same last name (Japan, right?), you could find it easier to share a last name… I mean, seriously, there’s a lot of reasons why either spouse might choose to change their name.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, of course there are lots of reasons either spouse might change. But we know that women changing their surnames is common and men changing their surnames is rare. Whenever there’s a discrepancy like that it is worth looking at, even if lots of people are happy with what they choose!

        And to your examples of the name change being legally required, or easier in daily life to share a family name…examples of social expectations shaping a decision, no? And if we lived in societies where women did not customarily change their surnames on marriage, I wonder how many people would just do it voluntarily based on a preference or ease of spelling.

        I’m not asking you to defend your decision, btw! I don’t want this to read as a criticism of you or others, just spinning out some thoughts.

        1. Roja*

          Yes, I’m well aware there’s plenty of societal pressure still, both in the US and elsewhere. But you asked why so many women still choose that… I think it’s well worth pointing out that we’re not all feeling pressured into it, even though many do.

          For me, I do feel it’s easier to share a name, but that would also be the case if my husband had switched instead–it’s like a marker that we belong together on things like accounts, bills, travel reservations, etc. Less work to write out x and y [last name] than x [last name 1] and y [last name 2] on paperwork… it’s just simpler for us, and especially so as I handle all the paperwork and bills in the house.

        2. Washi*

          Exactly, there are plenty of logistical reasons to share one last name, but when ~70% of women change and only 3% of men do…there’s more than just logistics to it. It actually kinda annoys me when people list all these reasons why it’s easier to have the same name while clearly never considering that the man make the change. (this is not specific to Roja, more a general commentary.)

          My husband changed his last name. We move in super progressive circles and have literally never met another couple where the man changed his name.

    5. Reba*

      I am/was — just another example for me of how easy it is to think “oh, other people are like me in X way are like me in all these other ways” when they are… not! I’m 35, have long known I wouldn’t change, and genuinely, have been surprised at how many women around me have changed their names or expressed plans to change. Obviously people have reasons for the things they do, but at least one younger peer has told me that they married young and didn’t really “know” it was an option, it just wasn’t done in her community and she didn’t consider it!
      My mom told me that at least in our state at the time my parents married, the change was default or assumed — a woman would have had to legally change her name back to her “maiden” (also, ick? in the 1970s some state supreme court cases trying to sort this issue out used “antenuptial”!).

    6. Simply the best*

      I think it’s one of those things that may be rooted in patriarchy but doesn’t necessarily feel that way in practice a lot of people. Like having your father walk you down the aisle at your wedding. Or wearing white at your wedding.

      I’m sure a lot of it is people like having everybody in the family with the same name. That doesn’t have to be a woman changing her name, but that’s what the tradition is so that’s what is seen as the way to do it.

    7. CatPerson*

      Yes. 35 years ago, when I married, it was pretty uncommon–people were always dumbfounded when I introduced my husband using a different last name. Even now, it still seems uncommon. I don’t have a single co-worker, even the younger ones, who kept her real name.

      1. Simply the best*

        Just a gentle yikes on the “real name” comment. I would rethink that phrasing.

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          God, no kidding. My married name that I share with my husband is my “real name,” thanks.

      2. pieces_of_flair*

        Hopefully you didn’t mean it this way, but using the term “real name” here comes across as pretty judgmental and invalidating of other people’s choices. The name I have right now is my real name even though it’s not the name my parents gave me.

        1. SimplytheBest*

          I’d find a different rebuke that doesn’t invalidate the choices of women who did change their name – not to mention anyone else who has changed the name they were given at birth for reasons other than marriage – by saying their name is no longer “real”.

        2. Disco Janet*

          Okay, but it just comes across as misogynistic towards any female who doesn’t make the same choices as you.

    8. Joielle*

      I did! Idk, to me there’s something really powerful about sharing a family name with your spouse. We could have thought up a new one together, or both hyphenated, or something. Husband would have happily changed his name too, but I really didn’t have strong feelings about it. I actually changed my whole name so my previous last name is now my middle name (which is what my mom did too).

      It’s certainly a tradition rooted in patriarchy but I guess I never really thought of my previous family name as “mine” anyways – it was my dad’s, if anything. So changing from one man’s last name to another’s just didn’t really bother me. But if you had a closer relationship with your family of origin I could imagine you might feel a lot differently.

    9. GraceRN*

      When I got married in my 20’s, I decided I wasn’t going to change my last name. My husband, family, and friends are all supportive. However, I ended up changing it after a few years because I got really tired of having to show my marriage certificate as proof of marriage over and over and over again: every year when we filed taxes as married, when buying a car, buying a house, getting insurance, anything involving designating my spouse as a beneficiary, etc, etc. The list went on but these are just the big things. And many places wanted a notarized copy of the marriage certificate. I just ran out of energy and time. Basically I felt like the world isn’t set up for married women who don’t change their last name. This was something I didn’t think of when I was single, and no-one warned me about before I made my initial decision.

      So yeah I changed my last name because I got worn down by paperwork. I am sure the number of women who did it for the same reason as me is non-zero.

      1. Nom de Moi*

        Wow, I have never had to provide a marriage certificate for any of those things, including taxes, buying a home, health insurance, and all our kids’ records! That’s really messed up they required that. Was this recently? I’m wondering if there’s any difference in era or region that could account for that.

          1. SoloKid*

            I am north on the east coast and I’ve never had to show my marriage certificate for any reason in the past 10 years. I did not change my name.

            I’ve heard similar cases of yours in areas concerned about “voter fraud” that require these kinds of hoops, which dissuade other people in your shoes from voting.

      2. JustaTech*

        And part of my reason for *not* changing my name (ten years in) is the horror of the amount of paperwork I’d have to file to change my name on *everything*. Every bank account, every piece of identification, most every object I own, everything at work, figuring out how to link my degrees. All of it just makes me want to lie down.

        Weirdly, until a few years ago I hadn’t realized that almost none of the married women I work with changed their names when they married. Only two had the same last name as their husbands, and for one of them it was because she and her husband already shared the same very common last name.

    10. RagingADHD*

      I changed mine for both personal and professional reasons.

      Professionally, I was performing at the time and the new name was a much better stage name.

      Personally, I really loved his family and wanted to be part of it. I also knew we planned to have kids, and wanted the whole household to have the same name.

      I got a surprising amount of pushback from horrified friends who talked a lot of nonsense about “erasing my identity.” Which was riduculous, because 1) had they MET me? and 2) I’m just changing one man’s name that I didn’t choose (my dad’s) for another that I did choose (my husband’s).

      I mean, I love my dad and all. But it’s not like I got to pick him out.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I really feel this. It’s a man’s name no matter what you do! (I know that’s not the case in every culture, but it certainly is in my own family/culture.) I can understand why people don’t change their names, but I don’t think deciding to change it is some kind of uniquely awful capitulation to the patriarchy.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I think it also matters that I got married in my 30s instead of my 20s. When you’re younger, you tend to be more concerned with symbolic gestures and what they say about you, or whether you’re doing things according to the right formula for this or that philosophy.

          The older you get, the more you get used to making your own way of living. You express your principles and values through thousands of daily actions, and those accumulate and outweigh external symbols.

        2. Hen in a Windstorm*

          Except you could choose a third name that doesn’t belong to either man. This imaginary difficulty about the whole house having one name could also be solved by both partners changing to that third name. The fact that you/your spouse never considered that *is* in fact a unique capitulation to patriarchy. Saying it’s no big deal is how you justify that choice to yourself after the fact.

          1. SimplytheBest*

            The person you’re responding to already said their family could have chosen a third name. She also said her husband would have been happy to be the one to change his name. So maybe don’t assume women who make different choices than you are simply too stupid and weak to stand up under the crippling weight of the patriarchy.

            1. An Apparently Nameless Person*

              But they didn’t do that. Everyone has the choice to change their names to a random third name, make up a new one or for the husband to change his name….. but they don’t. Overwhelmingly, no matter how much they say “oh well we could have done that”, they don’t. It’s not about calling anyone stupid or weak, it’s about acknowledging reality.

        3. An Apparently Nameless Individual*

          I hate this argument, honestly – “haha, you thought you ever had a name of your own? Silly woman!” I don’t see my last name as being ‘a man’s name’ at all. It’s not my dad’s name, it’s my name. I’ve lived in it for thirty years, am known by it professionally and personally, have spelled it out in the phonetic alphabet approximately one billion times, got a birth certificate, mortgage papers and three degrees with it on them. What the hell else do I need to do for it to be my own name? Do names have to be exclusively matrilineal before we’re allowed to consider them our own?

          1. CleverGirl*

            I totally agree. The whole “well your current last name is just your DAD’S name which is ALSO a MAN’S name!!!” just feels like an attempt at a “gotcha” to put those darn feminists in their place. Yes you didn’t choose your last name and yes it was your dad’s (probably) but you didn’t choose your first name either, and that’s your name. Growing up with a certain name for 20-30 years makes it your name. Keeping a name you happen to share with your dad is not the same as changing your name to the name of a man you have known for probably a few years. In the second scenario you are literally changing your name to his. If people want to do this whatever, I don’t care. I do care when they try to “justify” their choice by claiming that keeping their name would “still be having a man’s name” or telling me I’m stupid for thinking that I deserve to keep my own name.

            People ask me why my husband and I have different last names and I say that my husband wanted to keep his name. Which is sort of a joke, but sort of true. I actually wanted the 2 of us to pick a new last name, or create one out of a combination of our 2 names. He didn’t like that idea, so he kept his name and I kept mine. The fact that it’s just expected that women will happily change their name to the name of the man they are marrying, and that literally no one bats at eye at the fact that most men would flatly refuse to change their name to the woman’s last name is what really infuriates me. If it went both ways equally that would be great, but it doesn’t, so women being *expected* to change their name and given a hard time for not doing it is incredibly sexist/patriarchal.

            1. An Apparently Nameless Person*

              Exactly, it’s just a silly glib gotcha argument. Do people say to men “you know that’s not really your name”? Like I said, I’ve lived in this name for 30 years. I have squatter’s rights.

      2. LC*

        I’m just changing one man’s name that I didn’t choose (my dad’s) for another that I did choose (my husband’s).

        I love this way of saying it.

        My husband and I have the same last name, but we both changed. He had a hyphenated last name and the hyphen had been driving him crazy for a couple of decades so he was happy to change his middle name to the one he had less of an attachment for. I love my original last name, but it’s a mouthful and it gets old having to spell it three times before someone gets it (plus I have an uncle and a cousin with the same first name as my husband, we didn’t really need a third one in the family). I also love my middle name, so I just added my original last name as a second middle name (giving me a fun 31 letters in my full name that literally doesn’t fit on my driver’s license, lol).

        So in the end, it definitely looks at first glance like I just took his name, but we both changed them, and more importantly, we both chose them. I personally haven’t gotten much flak one way or another, but I’m happy with it, my husband is happy with it, and that’s what matters.

        (Although about three months after we finished all the paperwork, a friend came up with such a great portmanteau of my original and current last names, I absolutely would have pushed for us both to take that one if we’d thought of it beforehand.)

    11. EventPlannerGal*

      It’s weird, logically I know that of course huge numbers of women still do that but now that my friends are starting to actually do it it still takes me by surprise every time. Not in a bad way, just like “oh wow, you’re really still doing that?” I don’t know, to me the concept just feels so alien – when I think about kids names I always think of how they’ll go with my last name, even.

    12. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      My mother changed her name, my grandmothers changed their names, my great-grandmothers changed their names. I likewise plan on changing my name.

  32. I'm just here for the cats*

    With #4 I’m confused. The manager is moving to another country but has direct reports across the globe. Does that mean that the employee that bought the house is still his direct report or is he getting a different manager? If he gets a new manager I don’t see a problem.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Sounded to me like since the manager already has international direct reports, his moving elsewhere won’t change the reporting structure, but does explain why he was selling his house to someone remaining local. Although, I suppose he could’ve just as easily been moving across town… but the way it was written struck me as something like the former.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, it sounded like OP just added that for further information; the coworker will remain his direct report but it won’t be a problem because boss already has several international reports anyway.

  33. league**

    In the U.S., it’s standard for the seller to pay both commissions (to the buyer’s agent as well as the seller’s agent), so it sounds shady that the manager is touting the lack of realtors as a benefit to both parties.

    On the other hand, the market is so crazy at the moment that all bets are off, so who knows….

    1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      The seller writes the check but in the end, the money comes from the buyer, right?

      1. league**

        The commissions are (usually) calculated as percentages of the selling price (after that price has been negotiated), and come out of the pot of money going to the seller. At closing, checks/equivalents will be cut to everyone with money coming to them: seller, bank, title company, etc. etc.

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          Anyways the buyer and seller could easily have negotiated to set the sale price at 97% of market price (identifying market price is left as an exercise for the reader), so they each get/save some of the money not spent on commissions.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      If it’s a hot market the benefit would be not from saving on fees but from not having to get in a bidding war (if it were listed) that could save tens or even hundreds of thousands of $

  34. Def Anon for This*

    *could be triggering for some readers*

    OP#3, as someone who has offered a similar history, I am so sorry for your losses. Miscarriages are heartbreaking, especially when they compound, even more so when everything is raw.

    You’ve been given a lot of great scripts upthread, but I want to ask you – will you be OK managing this employee if she is, in fact, pregnant? Reading some of the language in your letter has me concerned that you may (unconsciously) treat her differently, which could be problematic.

    The persistent baby talk and pregnancy symptom talk is so much, and it’s fair for you to gracefully and tactfully ask her to tone it down. It’s possible that she is pregnant, and is trying to soften her language (and getting it wrong). It’s also possible that her grief is also raw, and this is how she is coping.

    But if she is pregnant, the baby talk isn’t going to stop. She’ll need to keep you, her manager, up to date on doctor’s appointments, on maternity leave plans, of any accommodations she might need. She might hang ultrasound photos and, eventually, baby pictures, talk about school events and outfits and nursery designs… will that be too much for you? I can’t answer that. No one but you can.

    It might not hurt to sit down with a therapist and work through your very real and very valid pain. You need to be fair to both yourself and your report.

  35. New Mom*

    My advice is to say what you need. Find a calm and stress-free moment and let her or others know what you would prefer for the time being. I say this as someone who was sort of in the employees position and did not know what to do. A friend from college got pregnant at the same time as me and we reconnected and started talking very regularly because we were due at the same time, lots of commiseration and hypothetical conversations about our kids being best friends in the future. She had something awful happen and lost the baby late into her pregnancy. It was so horrible and sad and I did not know what to do. I gave her space and hoped (hoped) that was the right thing, but I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I send her updates? Should I not send her anything? Should I never mention my baby when we talk? Would that make her feel excluded? I didn’t want to do anything that would cause her anymore pain than she was already dealing with. I include this story just as an example of how people just don’t know the right thing and may be grasping at straws thinking that what they are doing is helpful/not hurtful.
    Also, I’m so sorry OP#3! Virtual hugs.

  36. Alison2*

    LW5 Please don’t call. This is not urgent. Also, why wouldn’t you just apply under your old name? You only need an official name if you get an offer.

  37. Butterfly Counter*


    Couldn’t you just apply with your previous last name? I know of plenty of people who use their married name even though they haven’t yet officially changed it and I know a lot of people who keep their previous name for work and their married name for the non-work parts of their lives.

    If you’re worried about official documentation once you’re hired, you can mention the name change while being onboarded. But you can apply under your previous name to catch the eye of the hiring person who liked you before.

    1. GraceRN*

      I’m thinking the same thing – applying under your previous name would make more sense.

      Also, I would suggest not put too much weight on them keeping your resume on file for future openings. In hiring, “out of sight, out of mind” is common. If your application isn’t in the current applicant pool for that opening, managers would be focusing on that pool, and wouldn’t go back to look for you, unless you really stood out as an exceptional candidate the last time.

      Other things to consider: you won’t necessarily know if the manager who interviewed you had since left, or on leave, or changed positions, or the organization is expanding and they’re creating a new team with a new hiring manager, etc., There are many situations that this opening can be under someone who haven’t seen your pervious application. So Alison’s advice is great – apply for new position, and then send an email.

  38. LongArmofCorporateBureaucracy*

    Alison’s response to LW #1 was really interesting to me, because reviewing a huge pile of resumes is pretty close to one of the canonical examples of optimal stopping problems.

    The constraints are a bit different, but I would imagine that the optimal strategy for employers is actually *not* to review all of the resumes.

  39. A Friend Indeed*

    LW #1: It is also a tactic that many US HR organizations are advised by EEO planning consultants to limit the total number of reviewed applications, so as to minimize liability and possible sanctioning on affirmative action grounds. When evaluating job actions through the lens of affirmative action (something all orgs that receive federal money are required to have a plan for and are subject to audits of–not uncommon for US universities, for example), the total number and actual EEO self-reporting of _considered_ applications is what factors into the audit, not the totality of the applicant pool. In other words, if there are 340 applicants for a role in the ATS but you only consider the first 25 (a common technique), then the EEO surveys of those 25 are the only ones evaluated in against the outcome. This doesn’t matter much in any one role’s outcome, but it does matter in the whole picture. By limiting the pool, you limit the possibility for diversity in the pool, and therefore limit the possibility you may be hit with an EEO complaint.

    My last org was a private company that leased some of its excess space to a federal agency and thus made us a federal contractor. We were sanctioned for not having an EEO/Affirmative Action Plan on file to present when asked, and in developing one, our HR team implemented all kinds of things, including this consideration system. We only looked at applications in batches of 20. Most of the time, unless I took control of my own listings in the ATS (hard to get clearance for), they would list the job and check daily–any time we had more than the batch amount unreviewed in the system, they would shut down the job listing and stop receiving applicants for it. I once had a role that took me 1200 applications to get through to find the right person and HR nearly had a fit with me for throwing off their numbers! It was total insanity. But like Alison, I reviewed EVERY SINGLE APPLICATION that came to me. HR basically washed their hands of helping me at all and said if we ever got audited, they would let me swing in the wind if EEO came at us over my hiring backup.

    Needless to say, I don’t work there anymore!

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      Oh-kay, so people reduce the risk of EEO complaints not by getting better at equity but by getting worse at it?

      1. Erik*

        Precisely. It’s classic legal strategy: Avery risk by subverting process that opens you to risk!

  40. Judd*

    #2: I’ve had friends who’ve worked in dysfunctional nonprofits and from what they’ve told me this sort of thing is sadly common. You’re just informed one day that you’ll be taking on a ton more work for no additional pay or benefits. If you protest, you’re threatened with being fired for not supporting “the mission.” Time to start job-hunting.

  41. JoAnna*

    Hi OP #3, I just wanted to say I am sorry for your losses. I have had 4 miscarriages total and it’s awful.

  42. Ro*


    I’m sorry you are going through this.

    I read it maybe as the report being awkward and trying to find a way of bringing it up (because if she is pregnant at a suitable juncture she needs to tell her manager) and just completely bothching it. If I am right this is the “people are awkward” category rather than her being deliberately cruel.

    Assuming she is pregnant, the issue here is as her manager you are the person she should tell, after all any reasonable adjustments needed for the job, maternity leave and logistics around it should be discussed with her manager. You can limit general chat but you can’t limit “I’ve had really bad morning sickness today so I won’t be in” or “can we talk about the plan for when I go on maternity leave”.

    So you need to decide what boundary to set, can you manage matter of fact manager stuff as long as baby talk is kept to a minimum? In which case you should let her know you are happy for her but because of her own loss you aren’t the right person to be a sounding board, but if she ever needs any support to do her job or discuss leave you are there for her.

    Or it may be you feel you can’t manage at all? (I mean no judgement here this is a matter for you and it is understandable you still feel raw and emotional). In which case you need to find her someone else to discuss this with or a similar level to you, as her manager you cannot say “don’t talk to me about pregnancy at all” due to the balance of power this might make her feel unable to access support she is entitled to and open up the company to potential issues, unless it is followed up with “due to my recent circumstances I feel I’m not the best person to discuss this with but I want to ensure you still get what you need so if you have any issues due to your pregnancy and want to talk about maternity leave and the back to work plan can you please talk to Lucinda instead?”

    I am really sorry for your loss.

  43. CleverGirl*

    LW#3: I think excessive pregnancy talk at work is inappropriate and I personally think everyone would benefit from someone asking her to tone it down. I personally had 2 miscarriages in a row, and found out shortly after my second one (at 13 weeks) that a coworker was pregnant and due about the same time I had been. This coworker talks SO MUCH about EVERYTHING and when she got pregnant that was the overwhelming subject of her conversations. I heard all about how she was actually going in to have her tubes tied because she was done having kids and the doctor said she was going to have to wait 9 months for the procedure because SURPRISE! she was pregnant, and it was totally unplanned and it took her a LONG time to get used to the idea, but now she is excited. This was especially obnoxious and painful for me to hear, because I DID want a baby and was TRYING to have one with no success. Part of our team works remotely and we have weekly check in calls and inevitably someone would ask her how she was doing/feeling during the chit-chat before every call and that would give her the spotlight to just talk and talk about her pregnancy. I debated asking a supervisor if they could ask her to stop, but instead I just started joining the call a little bit late every week so our boss had already cut to the chase and the team chit-chat was over. This was probably not the best solution because then I got the reputation for being late all the time.

    The point I wanted to make is that you never know who at work is struggling with infertility or has experienced pregnancy loss (statistically 1 in 5 women will have a miscarriage I believe) and is sensitive to that kind of talk but doesn’t know how to get it to stop. You would be doing a lot of people a huge favor by figuring out a way to ask her nicely to tone it down. I don’t think that’s inappropriate at all. Work is a professional environment and is not the place for excessive pregnancy/baby talk (which almost inevitably includes descriptions of bodily functions).

  44. Mindthegap*

    LW#3, I’m so sorry for your loss. Not the same situation at all, but I found out I was infertile due to a chronic illness at the exact same moment as two coworkers became pregnant. They were major over-sharers anyway, but it escalated to the point where it was unbearable, particularly when one started needling me about being childless. I handled it by not responding when they talked to me about it, pretending I hadn’t heard, and changing the subject. I’m sure they thought I was being a bit weird, but it allowed me to feel I had some control over the baby word vomit. Sending you love.

  45. MCMonkeyBean*

    If there is no change in title or salary, I’m kind of confused about why Jane even had an offer letter instead of the boss just… giving her new assignments.

  46. Turtlewings*

    #2 — If there’s no bump in salary OR title, how is that even a promotion?? Your friend would be getting screwed over in a big way, even if she HAD accepted the “promotion.” The fact that she didn’t and is getting dumped with the new duties anyway takes this to the realm of the bizarre.

    #3 — It’s so jaw-droppingly insensitive of your possibly-pregnant employee to be talking the way she is around you, 3 weeks after your miscarriage, that I’m completely in favor of you speaking up despite the power imbalance. You shouldn’t even HAVE to, especially when she similarly didn’t want to hear about babies after her ectopic pregnancy! I don’t know what’s going on in her head, but I think for the power dynamic to cause any awkwardness, she’d have to be a lot more sensitive to nuance than she apparently is.

  47. All the time sickness is more like it*

    Re: #3
    I’m currently in my 1st trimester and I’ve been flagging with my team when I feel really unwell so they know I’m not being rude if I run out. I wonder if OP’s employee is trying to do something similar, but doing it badly?

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