my employees are getting married and having a baby — can I insist they tell the rest of the team?

A reader writes:

I work for a large local government agency. We have about 400 employees in our department, and I manage a team of 25 people.

I recently found out that two of my employees, Mark and Ashley, are (1) married to each other and (2) expecting a baby. I had known they were in a relationship, but the news about them being married and expecting is new. They work in my division but within different teams, and their work does not overlap. The news that they are in a relationship and expecting a baby together is not widely known in my division. They are both due to go on parental leave at the end of the year, but these two pieces of major news have not been shared with the rest of the team. They have individually told their work group and chain of command, but the news about their relationship and their growing family is not known or acknowledged within the entire division.

Because of the pandemic, we are all working remotely more or less exclusively. When they told me the news, I told them that I would not share it because it is their news to tell, but I would only bring it up with others on my team as it relates to work and assignments.

My question is this: Can I force my employees to reveal their relationship status to the rest of the team?

They have met any HR requirements relative to reporting in office relationships. I am more concerned about how sharing or holding back this news will affect my team.

They are both about to go on parental leave together, and their leave, like it or not, will have an impact on the division by causing others to have to pick up the slack. I am thinking others will be less peeved about picking up more work if they know that this is an important milestone for their colleagues and be able to share in their joy. Generally, having a baby is a big life milestone, and while work is not the most important part of life, I think it would be nice on a human level to be able to celebrate the major milestones in our lives as colleagues.

I am also concerned about erosion of trust and morale with the rest of my team because they were not aware of this! This has been a source of brewing stress for me — whether to hold back telling because this is not my news to share versus risking awkward situations being created because the rest of my team doesn’t know. It hasn’t happened yet, but here’s a scenario I am worried about: Ashley is a supervisor, and if Mark’s supervisor, Ashley’s lateral, confided in Ashley about performance concerns or complaints about Mark, then it would be super awkward and I would think Mark’s supervisor would be really unhappy not to have known about their relationship, because knowing may have influenced whether she shared her thoughts about Mark with Ashley.

I am also concerned that the trust I have built up with Mark and Ashley will be eroded and affect their morale, because I am “outing” them. I have worked with them for about five years and they are some of my top producing employees.

How much as a manager should I expect my employees to share about their personal lives? Also, since with the pandemic and remote work, milestones in our personal lives seem to be on a need-to-know basis. How much as a manager should I force people to share about their personal lives when our current work set-up is not conducive to much being shared? Is it a reasonable expectation to share major life milestones with our colleagues at work?

Maybe they were trying to avoid this.

As a general rule, people only need to share things about their personal lives that could affect things at work. They might choose to share more, of course — and doing that often (although not always!) leads to warmer, more pleasant work relationships. But it’s ultimately up to each person what they do and don’t share … unless there are work reasons people need to know. I’m going to argue those reasons do exist here, but not for most of the reasons in your letter.

First, you shouldn’t push anyone to share news about a marriage or a baby just out of a desire for other people to be able to celebrate those milestones with them. It is nice to share major milestones with colleagues, but whether or not to do that is 100% up to the people with said milestones. You can’t make people use their personal lives to promote team bonding if they don’t want to.

I’m also not swayed by the idea that people might be more understanding about covering for Mark and Ashley while they’re on leave if they know what it’s for or can share in their joy. If Mark and Ashley weren’t together and each went on medical leave or needed time off to care for an aging parent or another emergency, I’d expect people to understand the need for that too. If people are truly getting upset about having to cover for routine leaves, something else is going on (like insufficient coverage or excessive workloads).

But it’s very reasonable to be concerned that people not knowing Mark and Ashley are married (or in a serious relationship) could lead to problems — like the situation you mentioned where a peer speaks to Ashley about concerns with Mark without realizing they’re together. It’s not really fair to put their colleagues in that position.

I’m wondering, though, if you might be seeing a problem where there actually isn’t one! It was thoughtful of you to want to protect their privacy, but it sounds like Mark and Ashley both shared the news with their work groups, plus people in their chain of command. It doesn’t sound like they’re going out of their way to keep it a secret. Yes, the whole division doesn’t know, but that could just be because they’re trying to be low-key and professional at work, not because they feel especially private about it.

So you might have made it weirder than it needed to be when you told them that you wouldn’t mention it to anyone unless it relates to work and assignments!

Why not go back to them now and say, “I realized this likely needs to be shared so others are aware of the relationship and any potential conflicts of interest for stuff that might come up in the future. Any reason not to fill in others?”

Then see what they say. Maybe it’ll turn out there’s some reason they don’t want you to (in which case you can discuss that), but I’m betting they won’t really care. It doesn’t sound like they were campaigning for any real secrecy if their whole work groups know! In fact, they might even assume that because their work groups know, other people do too. That stuff tends to spread. And Mark and Ashley might not / probably don’t care!

{ 250 comments… read them below }

  1. UKUK*

    I think my question would be what/how did they share the news. Did Mark (for example) tell his team that he would be out for parental leave and that he was in a relationship with Ashley or did he just say he was out on parental leave and the team might think it was just a coincidence Ashley was out as well. Because I think both teams do need to know that Ashley and Mark are in a relationship (or at least the managers in both teams do) to avoid the scenario you mentioned where Mark’s manager says something to Ashley about Mark or vice versa.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I don’t get this. People complain about coworkers all the time without knowing that context of those relationships. Being married doesn’t have to affect that at all.

      Them being married and having a baby doesn’t change that.

      1. Nicotena*

        Still, I think I’d be horrified if I said something to Mark about Amy without realizing she’s his wife. Even just “Amy got me these files late and I had to redo the conclusions” would come out differently about someone’s partner vs a coworker, IMO.

        1. Anon this time*

          I’ve worked with married couples, pairs of siblings, roommates, best friends, etc.* and it’s never affected the way I talk about things like late files. If it did, I would need to reevaluate how I talk about such things generally.

          *To add to that list, I’m pretty sure I have coworkers who attend a 12-step program together. In the past I’ve had coworkers who all belonged to the same small religious congregation (one being a lay minister). I had a pair of coworkers who I slowly learned were really close friends–like really close, same gender, conservative families. Clearly none of these workers needed to tell their coworkers about any sort of relationship they may have had outside of work.

          1. John B Public*

            Band of Brothers close, or Brokeback Mountain close? Because it’s reading different depending on your intent…

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          A lot of the people I work with are related to other employees – siblings, parents, children, spouses. You just learn to be careful (which is a good idea for everyone).

      2. Roscoe*

        Exactly. If someone is my best friend, or random weekend hookup, or whatever, it doesn’t matter. Maybe if you don’t want word getting around that you are talking about certain coworkers, the idea should be to watch what you say, because you DON’T know the relationships involved

        1. Anonym*

          Yeah, people could always be friends who’d share the info with each other. In the case of a manager/supervisor, though, it makes sense for them to know.

      3. UKUK*

        The problem isn’t a minor complaint (“oh Sarah got me those files late”) it’s that a manager needs to be able to ask a peer for their input/advice on how to handle a situation with an employee and needs to be able to trust that the peer will give an objective response. That can’t happen if Ashley is being asked to weigh in on Mark’s performance. The same would be true if they were long-time friends, not married. The point is that if there is a manager has a personal relationship with a colleague that might affect their objectivity that needs to be known by any manager who might ask for their input on things. If someone remarked to Ashley “oh Mark’s always late to meetings” that’s one thing. But if someone said “Mark’s always late to meetings and it’s starting to affect the team. What are your thoughts” that’s something else entirely.

        1. Pibble*

          But they’ve told their work groups and chain of command. So the people asking that kind of question already know. (And if somehow they don’t, then “I’m sorry, you must not have heard – Mark’s my husband so I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to offer objective advice” should solve that problem.)

        2. Anon this time*

          …a manager needs to be able to ask a peer for their input/advice on how to handle a situation with an employee and needs to be able to trust that the peer will give an objective response. That can’t happen if Ashley is being asked to weigh in on Mark’s performance.

          If that happens, Ashley is fully capable of responding appropriately: “Sorry, I can’t give you input since I’m married to Mark.”

          She’s already proven herself responsible by informing managers who currently need to know, there’s no reason to believe she won’t continue to inform other managers as the need arises.

          Also, how likely is it that Mark’s manager would turn to a peer to discuss an employee “situation”? If my boss had a “situation” with me, he would discuss it with his boss or with someone in HR. I can’t imagine why he would bring it up with one of the other department managers. It’s possible, but would be unusual.

        3. PinaColada*

          I agree with the comment above that it’s not entirely clear what they’ve shared. It seems possible that each person only shared that they are going on leave.

      4. Yorick*

        It’s not about complaining about coworkers, it’s about work-related discussions that come up. If you’re Mark’s boss and you ask Ashley for advice on how to deal with a difficult situation with Mark, that’ll be weird. If you knew Ashley was his wife, you’d probably rather ask another manager on your level for that advice.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “They have individually told their work group and chain of command, but the news about their relationship and their growing family is not known or acknowledged within the entire division.”

      This sounds to me like they told about the marriage and baby, but only to the people who need to know. The rest is looking for a reason to make a general announcement, with a rather tenuous argument that everyone needs to know in case they were going to badmouth one of them to the other.

      1. Momma Bear*

        This. I would expect that those who needed to know were already informed and if their chain of command had a problem, that would be handled locally. I would be surprised if the supervisors/peers in question did not already know about the marriage. You said “employees” so are they in your 25 person chain of command? And if so, when did they marry/what did their direct supervisors tell or not tell you? They could have made the reasonable assumption that management would feed up the food chain if necessary.

        Mark and Ashley may also be somewhat private people who are comfortable with the circle they told and don’t need a full 400 person division to congratulate them for anything. It may be the last thing they want.

        IMO stick to just what affects their work. Any number of individuals could go out at any time (we had three in the same department that had health concerns over the summer – unrelated to each other) and companies need to be ready to absorb that.

      2. Name of Requirement*

        Agreed- sounds like they might not have told people they’re married to one another. The relationship seems like more of an issue than the reason for leave- if approved, the reason why shouldn’t have an effect on the outcome.

    3. Leave them alone*

      I think they do know. If LW knows about the marriage, then so does Mark’s chain of command, so her scenario about the manager wouldn’t happen. Why is she so obsessed that everyone know? Good grief, leave these people alone!

      1. Just another anon*

        That’s what I don’t get- they say the chain of command knows, but then turns around and says that Mark’s supervisor may get upset for not knowing? It seems like maybe they’re grasping for a justification so they can spread the news. Maybe their background is different and this would be a big deal in other instances, but I agree, they just need to let Mark & Ashley go on about their business.

      2. Worldwalker*

        The fact that the OP uses the word “force” several times really makes me itch.

        They’re not even talking about revealing the information themself, but *forcing* a person who does not want to talk about it to tell people.

        And they think *not* doing this will have a negative effect on morale? *Forcing* me to reveal what I considered private information to the entire division would have me looking for another job.

    4. originalposter*

      Hi there, Mark told his team that he would be out for parental leave, but not that he is in a relationship with Ashley. Ashley did not tell her team or supervisor either that she is in a relationship with Mark, only that she will be taking parental leave in a few months.

      1. Turducken*

        Not sure that matters. People have babies and go out on parental leave all the time, regardless of whether they’re married to anyone they work with. Sometimes it’s baby season.

        If you’re that concerned about the given hypothetical, make sure Ashley tells or has told her peer that she’s married to Mark and can never discuss him as an employee. Done. She follows HR policies already, so not a big deal.

        Look, I’m essentially Ashley without the baby on the way. Same size organization, even. My version of Mark and I have both switched positions because we can’t work directly together.

        There are tons of people who don’t know we’re married due to constant intentional rotations and different last names. People start to say things at times and we both back away verbally because we know when to speak up.

        The discovery reactions are either really sweet and funny, or super awkward brought on by the discovering individual. I’m talking hushed whispers and did-you-know drama during handover to replacements when people leave. Drama is usually by people who think we spend all day conspiring to take over the world rather than working.

        That’s pretty offensive.

        Trust your people. Talk to your people – about your work concerns, not your issues with their personal lives. But don’t make this weird for them, because that’s *you* making it uncomfortable. And you will wind up making it uncomfortable for a lot more than just Mark and Ashley.

      2. allathian*

        Mark and Ashley seem to be very private people, who don’t want to use their milestones for team bonding. That’s their right. I doubt they want the whole division of 400 people to know they’re married and having a baby together, because if they did, they would’ve announced it, or asked their managers, or you, to do so.

        I’m curious, why would anyone ask Ashley about Mark’s work performance, or Mark about Ashley’s for that matter? Especially as they work in different divisions and on different teams, and their work doesn’t overlap?
        Or are you just uncomfortable because both of them work in your chain of command? If so, would it be possible for one of them to transfer to another team so both of them won’t be in your chain of command?

        If your organization can’t handle two people out of 25 being out on parental leave at the same time, something else is going on.

      3. Missy*

        I’d shift this back to HR. If HR doesn’t feel like the marriage/relationship needs to be disclosed then it doesn’t. In which case, your issue is more about the interpersonal dynamics and concern that you know a secret that other people don’t, and that they’ll be mad if they find out. We could remove this from the work context and think of a situation where you might know two of your friend group is dating, but they ask you to keep it private from everyone else. But this isn’t friends, it is a workplace, and you need to focus on your professional duties: following HR policies and protecting your employee privacy unless it interferes with work.

        1. Susana*

          Why would HR deem it necessary for a couple’s private life to be “disclosed” to the entire office? HR knows about it, which is enough. They can ensure there’s no conflict. It is NO ONE ELSE’S business.

  2. ConsultantBae*

    Given that Mark and Ashley have followed all policies and guidelines, I find this an odd thing for the LW to care about.

    1. Sara without an H*

      I’m puzzled about that, too. They’ve told HR, they’ve told their own workgroups, they’ve told their own superiors. What’s left for the OP to be concerned about?

      OP, I really recommend that you just leave this alone. You know that they’ll both be on leave and you know approximately when that will happen. Plan accordingly, but the rest of it is really not your concern.

      1. Sami*

        Agree. The OP is coming off as someone who might want to instigate the drama/gossip/nosiness that she says she’s trying to avoid.

        1. Anonym*

          I don’t know about that. It seems like OP might just be overthinking it a bit. And she reached out for advice and perspective before taking action, which is the pretty much the opposite of the standard drama llama playbook!

    2. Suzy Q*

      Yeah, the letter has a busybodyish tone, to me. Alison addressed the only important issue amongst a lot of worried fluff.

      1. Kim S.*

        I don’t know that that’s super fair though. The “only important issue” IS an important issue. It can be weird for other people when their colleagues are married to each other, and it can create issues. I think OP did a fine job in their letter of saying “I really don’t know what the right thing is to do here, so here’s all the things on my mind that might impact the answer.” Idk what more we could ask!

        1. Sarah*

          I agree, Kim. And I think on paper it is easy to say it’s their business and nobody else needs to know but in reality it is very bizarre to not tell people you work with you’re married to someone they know because they also work with that person.

          1. Susana*

            But they don’t work together. And the fact that people get “weird” when they realize two people at th same government agency are married is a really good reason not to tell people.

  3. Mirve*

    I would have thought that telling their teams and chain of command would mean that Mark’s (and Ashley’s) supervisors would know and therefore the only actual issue brought up is already covered.

    1. Alphabet*

      I’m confused by this as well. It seems like they covered all their bases so there’s nothing to worry about.

    2. Merci Dee*

      I know! The LW mentions that they’ve each told their chain of command, but then goes on to worry that Mark’s supervisor might gripe about him to Ashley without knowing that the two are in a relationship. But . . . but they’ve already told their chain of command! LW just said that!

      This just sounds like a whole bunch of anxiety and weirdness that doesn’t need to be there.

      1. MBADropOut*

        I wonder if LW was recently promoted or has been out of touch with typical Boss/Report dynamics for a while?

        Seems like LW doesn’t quite understand the degree to which folks actively keep info from their bosses. I certainly don’t say more than necessary to my director but share more with my work friends- They probably pick up on things I don’t explicitly say either :) Kudos to LW for writing in.

    3. miro*

      I read it as that they had told people about their respective leaves but not about the relationship, but I may be off-base there.

      1. Ella*

        Yeah, I was reading it as “I’ve gotten married”, “my wife’s expecting” rather than “I’ve gotten married to Amy, the Payroll Exec who works down the corridor”. Otherwise I can’t see an issue.

        1. Amaranth*

          OP said the relationship is ‘not widely known’ but was told to the chain of command and their teams. I’m not clear if OP is talking about telling 25 or 400 people, but was initially put off by the use of the word “force” and on reading the entire letter still see nobody else who needs to know if Ashley and Mark don’t want to share. I’m not even totally onboard with OP asking them why they don’t want people to know, because with their attitude that this is SO SECRETIVE and damaging to trust, I’d bet it comes across as pressure from management.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            I agree. I’m also wondering where the line between is for OP between “secretive” and “Ashley and Mark did not directly tell OP”. Not disclosing everything =/= secretive

      2. Anon this time*

        This makes sense. If Mark and Ashely worked for my employer they would not be required to disclose their relationship to anyone, but each would be required or expected to inform their supervisor and team of their upcoming leave.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      If HR, the people Mark and Ashley work with, and the people they work for all know, who else is there to announce it to? The rest of the 400 employees who don’t work with either of them?

    5. originalposter*

      Mark told his team that he would be out for parental leave, but not that he is in a relationship with Ashley. Ashley did not tell her team or supervisor either that she is in a relationship with Mark, only that she will be taking parental leave in a few months.

      1. allathian*

        I’m curious, how did you learn that they’re married and expecting a child together?

        They’re only in the same chain of command through you, and neither of them isn’t responsible for managing the other’s performance, so why should anyone ever badmouth Ashley to Mark or Mark to Ashley?

        What exactly are you hoping to gain if the whole division finds out about Mark and Ashley being married and expecting a child?

    6. First time listener, long time caller*

      Right. The issue here is clearly just that this bothers OP and they are reaching for any reason to justify taking action.

  4. Just Another Zebra*

    Maybe I’m misreading, but LW says Mark/ Ashley followed protocol and told their chain of command. Wouldn’t that include Mark telling his supervisor, who is Ashley’s peer? And it seems like they did tell their immediate coworkers… so I guess I’m confused why LW thinks this is a THING. They seemed to have handled all this very normally, IMO.

    And I might be sensitive to this, but not all pregnancies are happy ones. M and A may be keeping this quiet for medical reasons you aren’t privy to, LW. Please don’t make them announce this to 400 people because you think it would make the office warm and fuzzy.

    1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Yeah, this is confusing me as well. Why would his supervisor confide in Ashley, if presumably she already knew about Ashley and Mark’s relationship? The letter says that they informed their “chain of command” but for some reason the writer doesn’t think that this includes his direct supervisor?

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I interpreted that they informed their respective chains of command about upcoming parental leave, but not that they are married and the baby is theirs together. But it isn’t entirely clear.

      My opinion, not the LW’s responsibility or business to share the news with the division. OTOH there’s a good chance somebody might figure it out/get suspicious when they both become new parents on the same day and their parental leave coincides and that could lead to rumors. But it’s not up to the LW to head that off.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        Just curious, why would it lead to rumors? Their teams know. HR knows. Chain of command knows. The only one coming across as gossipy is LW.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            Replying to Person and Emkay – I guess? But it’s just a couple having a baby. After rereading the letter, I’m not sure if it’s a secret, or if the LW just didn’t know. Based on how she describes them following HR protocols and their teams know, I suspect it’s less a secret than LW thinks.

    3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I feel like the LW is the sort of person who struggles to read the room or is not involved in most office gossip, who is miffed that THEY didn’t know, and assumes no one else might have known because, if they didn’t how could anyone else?

      It’s just a blind spot some folks happen to have. Just because you didn’t know a thing and think you should have doesn’t a) make you right or b) mean that everyone else didn’t know.

      Shrug, chalk it up to a learning experience, and move on.

    4. New (Again) Mama*

      YES to not all pregnancies are happy ones.

      I just had a baby in July. I LOVE him and he is the best. But he sure as heck was not planned. We’re old, this is not our first child, and we thought we were done. That would have been hard enough. But a pandemic on top of that? WOOF. It’s been intense and filled with anxiety.

      I worked from home and didn’t appear pregnant on the screen from shoulders up. I told HR in March and my chain of command in April, but I didn’t tell anyone else for a LONG time. Some people were upset or surprised to find out “late,” but I didn’t care. I had enough to process in my own mind, body, and marriage. And according to LW, the news about them being married is new, correct? This could very well have been a surprise pregnancy, and even in 2021 people still get married just because of unexpected pregnancies. They might be overjoyed! They might not! They might have a lot to process! Back off.

      1. Boof*

        Yeah… i also had 3 miscarriages (early at least in my case) and pretty much waited as long as reasonably possible to start announcing/prepping my current (going strong at 24 weeks!) pregnancy at work

      2. allathian*

        Yup, something similar happened to me in 2009, in the sense that the pregnancy was unplanned, although as we weren’t using birth control we did know that it was a possibility. ;) We got married when we did, when I was about 8 months pregnant, because the husband is automatically recognized by the government as the father of the child (unless DNA tests prove otherwise), but getting the fatherhood of a cohabiting partner officially recognized meant jumping through some bureaucratic hoops that neither one of us wanted to deal with. Sounds very prosaic and not at all romantic, but that’s the way it was for us.

        We have long parental leave, so about a month before I was due to return to work, I informed my then-manager about my new name, and my coworkers learned about my marriage when I returned to work. By then we’d been married for more than two years, so it was old news and nobody cared. That was fine with me.

        I was very happy to have found my life partner and to become a parent, but I neither wanted nor needed to celebrate these milestones with my coworkers.

  5. Eh*

    This gets a strong “mind your business and stay out of it” from me, since OP has confirmed that they told HR, told chain of command and the colleagues who might be affected by Allison’s concern. That’s all that needed to happen. If someone outside of that happens to say something to Ashley about Mark, they probably shouldn’t have been talking behind a colleague anyway and it’s probably on them.

    OP is overstepping, in my opinion. I’d be very bothered as Mark or Ashley that my manager was on the verge of deciding everyone ought to know and get involved too for their own happiness.

    If I had to do something, I’d maybe check in once more that they’ve told everyone that needs to know for business reasons and then leave it there.

    1. paraschmara*

      I agree!
      The fact that they keep saying “force” is rubbing me the wrong way. How can I force them to tell their personal business at work? Shouldn’t I force them to let their corporate peers know the details of their persona lives? Like, what? Get outta here!

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      Agree. I think people sometimes forget that pregnancy is a medical condition. Would LW feel the need to disclose that someone with severe depression was taking leave? Or that someone with cancer would be out every Friday for chemo? How about the person using FMLA to provide end of life care to a parent.

      Everyone who needed to know, knows. I get the impression LW is bitter they weren’t part of the “needs to know”.

    3. ErgoBun*

      I completely agree. LW, stay out of these people’s personal lives! Not everyone wants their work colleagues to “share in their joy” or reveal their personal lives. No one gets to decide that except the individuals themselves.

      1. Pennyworth*

        And if anyone feels hurt by not being told and left out of the information loop, that is their problem to manage, not something that needs to concern Mark, Ashley or OP.

      2. Elsajeni*

        The idea that people won’t know this is an important milestone or won’t be able to “share in their joy” is also perplexing to me — are Mark and Ashley keeping it a secret that their leave is parental leave at all? If so: yes, that is kind of weird of them. But it sounds from the OP’s comments that they’ve each separately announced that they’re going on parental leave, just not that they’re married or that those two parental leaves are for the same baby. In that case, I really don’t get it — if I’m one of Ashley’s coworkers, I don’t need to know who the father is to be happy for her when she has a baby!

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I didn’t tell my boss I was getting married because a) she made it clear she hated the shit out of me, b) it had zero impact on my work, c) I requested time off for vacation (my honeymoon) as normal, and d) I didn’t like nor want the pomp and circumstance that she orchestrated for others (a brunch, a card, a gift, advice-giving in front of the office, etc.).

    Yes, I told everyone else in my office but her. I didn’t do it to be mean; I wasn’t comfortable. We didn’t have that kind of relationship anyway because I wanted to keep things strictly business. Most importantly, I didn’t want my boss at my wedding because we had a terrible relationship! She was horrible to me.

    Do you have any idea how many of my coworkers pressured me into telling her? To this day, none of them had a good reason other than they wanted me to do it. If you didn’t know me, you’d never know I was getting married. I never advertised it. I never changed my name. I didn’t make a big stink. Nothing against people who do. I wasn’t my thing. But I “had to” for no other reason than I should.

    Most importantly, I knew my boss was going to celebrate and acknowledge me in the ways *she* wanted instead of what *I* wanted. I suspect that’s what these two employees are worried about. Not everyone needs the big hoopla in the office over these things.

    Finally, when I quit that job, I had to tell my boss I was married because I was moving away with my husband. You know what she said? “I will never get over this.” Not a word about the years of service I gave her, the late nights, the sacrificed personal time, etc. That. The one thing I didn’t want to be known for. That final sentence really summed up how she truly felt about me.

    So many feelings right now.

    1. Anonym*

      Ugh, that’s eighteen kinds of awful, I’m sorry you had to deal with it. The boss sounds like an unreachable nightmare, but the colleagues, however well intended (or not), needed a huge dose of MYOB.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Your old boss was a self-centered lunatic. People like that never appreciate your work. If you are doing a stellar job, such a boss will think you are “showing off” or trying to show them up. They see the world through a very warped lens.

      I think you did everything right. I admire your restraint for not replying “Glad to hear it” when your boss said “I will never get over this.”

      1. Jean*

        I’m a big fan of “Die mad about it” in those types of situations. (Maybe not the best choice if you want a good reference, but honestly, what are the chances this hell-boss would give a good one anyway?)

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      “Not everyone needs the big hoopla in the office over these things.”

      Very much this. A lower-stakes version is birthdays. Adults on my side of the family don’t celebrate their birthdays. My wife’s makes a big deal of them. I have an annual negotiation about what is the smallest acceptable recognition of my birthday. I do that because she is my wife and I love her and am therefore willing to do this, even though on my own I wouldn’t. But I certainly don’t want to do this at work. I have been in offices where they make a big deal of birthdays. I made sure I wasn’t on the list.

      Marriage and baby? When both work for the same company? I shudder to imagine. Some people enjoy that sort of thing, and that is fine. But if these two wanted that, they would have made the splashy announcement. I would be an unkindness and frankly disrespectful of the LW to force the issue.

      1. KateM*

        Hah, reminds me when I turned 25 and my coworkers asked “Where’s cake? Where’s champagne?? We want to celebrate your big round birthday!” and I was like… what big round birthday?

      2. Fish Microwaver*

        At one office, I (deliberately) wasn’t on the birthday list so they MADE UP A BIRTHDAY for me. I felt very uncomfortable.

      3. Pennyworth*

        I worked in an office where everyone’s birthday and age was put on a list on the break room wall, with a roster for who had to bring cake. I would happily have left my birthday unrecognized, and I hated my full birth date being made public because that is a useful bit of information in identity theft.

    4. Empress Ki*

      Not even a need to tell you quit to move away with your husband. Just saying you move away is enough. You could have moved away on your own !

      1. Recruited Recruiter*

        Using “spouse got another job in another location” is a fabulous way to handle it if you don’t feel like turning down a counter-offer to try to keep you from moving.

    5. allathian*

      Ugh, what an awful person, good riddance.

      I bet you regret telling even your coworkers about your marriage, given their reaction.

  7. Bella*

    My opinion is this- What would OP do if someone was on maternity leave and someone else was on parental leave at the same time but they had nothing to do with each other? Then do that.

    1. Enn Pee*

      Bella, great response! I’d also say – what would OP do if someone was on parental leave and someone else, whose work DID NOT OVERLAP with that person, was also on parental leave? This isn’t having two people in the same small group out at the same time!

    2. KHB*

      On my team, this would go something like: “Ashley is expecting a baby, and Mark’s partner is also expecting a baby. Both Ashley and Mark will be on parental leave from December until March.” Then in November we’d have baby showers/celebrations for both Ashley and Mark (to which we’d normally invite their respective partners), and we’d get news to share with the team once both babies had safely arrived into the world. If both babies are in fact the same baby, it seems like that would pretty much have to come to light eventually.

      1. allathian*

        How does your team deal with parents who don’t want this sort of fuss? Are they pushed out for being killjoys who don’t want to celebrate their life events with their coworkers?

        1. KHB*

          This…isn’t fuss? I mean, maybe the baby shower is, but I’m sure that if anyone privately asked not to have one, that would be respected. The rest is just taking a normal amount of interest in people’s lives – and I say this as a pretty private person myself, so I’m finding it kind of bizarre that so many people apparently consider this level of sharing some how egregious.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            I think people are responding to the idea that OP wants to FORCE this kind of spectacle on A/M. If they were happy and willing participants, it wouldn’t seem so egregious.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, exactly. Presumably Ashley and Mark have their reasons for not announcing it to the whole division. That said, the fact that everyone’s still remote in that company probably contributes to the weirdness. If they were at the office, I suspect that the information would’ve percolated in a natural way. Understandably, they don’t want to make a division-wide email announcement about it.

          2. Observer*

            but I’m sure that if anyone privately asked not to have one, that would be respected.

            See, that’s the key issue. If someone privately asks to not do a shower and you actually DO honor it, then it would NOT “have to come to light eventually“.

            The implication of “have to” is that you would NOT necessarily honor it. And THAT is what people are reacting to. If you are actually serious, and you are certain that it would be honored, then sure what you do is fine. And it would have absolutely ZERO bearing on the situation in this letter because either Ashley or Mark (or both) would be asking to not have a shower, and it would be honored, so it would not come out.

    3. Morte*

      Exactly. They are still two individuals with all the rights of an individual employee. And as they’ve met requirements for reporting it is now none of LW’s business. None. Zero.

      I say this as someone who has worked with a spouse, and also a non spouse partner.

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      This is actually happening on my team! I’m due in January and the partner of one of my co-workers is due in February. Our team is dealing with it (and we’re both making sure we’re doing everything on our end to ensure that whoever takes over specific tasks has the tools they need).

    5. Just Another Zebra*

      The last three years in my office have been a cycle of maternity leave (and we’re a pretty small company). It’s always been fine. You shift things around for a few weeks and adjust.

    6. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, exactly that. As an employee, I would trust my boss MORE for not telling us all everyone else’s business.

  8. Stone Cold Bitch*

    I’ve had several co-workers who were married to/in serious relationships with other people at the company. They were all very professional at work and I had no idea until I was told. It didn’t affect my view of them, if anything I was slightly surprised and moved on. (HR etc was informed in all cases.)

      1. pope suburban*

        Thirded. We have at least three married couples in my agency. I’m half of one of them. All of us have followed HR rules, none of us supervise or even actually see each other in the course of the workday (We’ve got multiple sites), and it’s…not a thing. People are sort of notionally aware, I guess, because no one’s gone to pains to keep it secret? But it never comes up outside of casual chitchat at company luncheons or parties either, because it’s simply not a big deal. OP is confusing me here. OP is also maybe not considering that her colleagues may be going through some personal or medical difficulties that would make them keep mum about this. That’s not necessarily the case, no, people can be discreet for many reasons, but a health thing is a bad thing to be pushy about in my experience. You run the risk of causing someone some serious pain or distress, or stepping over a line that has significant consequences. Best to follow your colleague’s lead when it comes to their health and/or life events.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          In my organization the joke is that if you’re not married when you get here, you’ll marry someone you meet here. Its very common, I’m in one of them.

          1. pope suburban*

            Haha, we’re not quite at that level, but I know a few employees have long-term dated as well, and the other two married couples I know of got together while working here. My husband and I are the outliers; we’d been together a long time and married for a couple years before I started here. As long as people are following the HR rules and keeping it professional at work, I don’t see why this should be an issue. OP is weirdly invested in this, and the apparent lack of drama in the situation only makes it more confusing.

        2. allathian*

          In my agency, too. In most cases, the spouses don’t have the same last name, so I would’ve never have guessed if I hadn’t found out through office gossip. They weren’t hiding it, or anything, and sometimes went to lunch together, but I’ve never witnessed any PDA at work, either.

          Once a new employee who’d come to us through a merger of two agencies made a joke about a meeting where she’d be “harassed” by a male employee. (She was a colorful personality, looked at least ten years younger than her age (60 at the time), and her vitality lit up any room she was in; he was about the same age or a few years younger, also looked a lot younger than his age, and very attractive.) It was a bit awkward when I had to tell her later that the woman who’d sat next to her during our coffee break and who was stunned by her comment was actually his wife… Even if she hadn’t been, I have to say that making jokes about harassment is not OK, you never know who’s really been harassed at work at some point in their career.

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        Concur. The company I work for has field techs and office staff, and there is a ton of overlap (five couples I can think of at the moment). Most I knew; a few I was surprised to learn they were married/ dating/ engaged/ etc. Take the info, shrug, and move on.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Same here. I remember one woman went out on mat leave, and sent a photo around from the hospital. And we were all like, “What the hell is Andrew doing in this…omg.”

      Yes, he was also out on leave, but since he was in another dept on another floor, no one put it together.

    2. Malarkey01*

      After working with our divisional new admin for two years she suddenly yelled one day HEY is Malarkey01 and Malarkey02 related?! Everyone looked over and I was like yeah we’ve been married 15 years and at least half the people in the room went really? I think most people at work are way less invested in their coworkers lives than some people think.

  9. too many too soon*

    This just sounds way too intrusive and personal, like OP is offended by the preference for privacy.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I suspect that’s because the workplace has become so personal over the last few years that there’s this expectation. I wish more people would realize that we’re not all one big, happy family.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        I don’t know, I think it might be the opposite— with working from home and not being on shared spaces, we’ve lost a lot of those informal conversation where stuff like this comes out naturally, so it all becomes a bigger deal of disclosure and only discussed when there’s a business need so it feels much more laden. I don’t know whether this is a factor in this situation, but in a traditional office, it’s possible that Mark and Ashley would just naturally have let people know about their relationship in casual conversation, OR made an active decision to keep it very discreet. When things are remote and virtual, discretion is the default and you have to make an active decision to tell people, and it can feel like over sharing if the only conversations you have are work-related. It really changes the balance of private and public.

    2. ostentia*

      Agreed. This is a strange letter. Why on earth would “trust and morale” be impacted by not knowing the marital/parental status of two coworkers?? Major busybody vibes from this letter.

      1. Worldwalker*

        It would sure be impacted if the OP *forced* them to reveal it, though.

        If I were one of the couple involved, I’d be looking for another job, and if I were one of the other people in the division, I’d be seriously thinking about it, because having a boss who forces people to reveal details of their private lives when they don’t want to is pretty high up on boss-from-hell features list.

        1. ostentia*

          Absolutely. I would be very uncomfortable being either the couple involved or another worker if OP forced them to reveal the news (obviously more uncomfortable as the couple, though) and looking for a way out ASAP.

  10. Coffeecoffeecoffee*

    I wonder if OP is projecting here because they feel some kind of way about not knowing about the marriage or pregnancy before other people. It certainly appears like there is no significant risk of resentment or burden amongst Ashley and Mark’s peers, but it does seem like OP is assuming everyone else who doesn’t already know will feel similarly blindsided by this news. If I were OP I’d chew on that some more and see if that’s where the anxiety is actually coming from (rather than playing out other scenarios that are unlikely to happen).

    1. KeinName*

      Yes, I felt this as well. I also don‘t know why you would feel so different about someone being married in comparison to just being in a relationship. Is that not kind of the same, at least in terms of how it affects your colleagues?

  11. Erin C.*

    It doesn’t seem like they’re going out of their way to hide the relationship, so I have a feeling by the time parental leave comes around everyone will know. Their direct coworkers already know, so I feel like the conversations are going to be something like this: “Oh, I’ll be taking care of that since Mark and Ashley are on parental leave with their new baby.” “Whoa, wait, I didn’t even know Mark and Ashley were in a relationship!” “Yeah, they got married last year, they’re pretty quiet about it.”

    I think if anyone starts complaining about how Mark AND Ashley are both weirdly out for the same reason at the same time, someone will clue them in if they didn’t already put two and two together (or in this case 1+1 = 3).

  12. jane's nemesis*

    In the first paragraph, OP says the same thing three different ways. I’m not sure how to read it, but it comes across as very overly invested. Check this out:

    “I had known they were in a relationship, but the news about them being married and expecting is new.

    The news that they are in a relationship and expecting a baby together is not widely known in my division.

    The news about their relationship and their growing family is not known or acknowledged within the entire division.”

    Those three statements are all in the first paragraph. Why is the news they’re married and having a baby so shocking to LW?

    1. Kiko*

      I noticed that, too. My immediate thought?

      Michael Scott: “How long have you known about the pregnancy? A week? A month? A year?… You should have told me.”

      Pam: “You’re right. We should have realized that you are an equal part in this.”

  13. Essess*

    Their personal life is not your business. Any reason for their medical leave is absolutely NOT YOUR BUSINESS to share and you could be violating some confidentiality rules if you disclose it without their consent simply because YOU want to gossip about it because it would bring YOU happiness to talk about their milestones.

    They have already reported it to the people that have a need to know. At this point, you just want to turn them into a morale and team-building mascot and that’s just not okay. They will be on medical/parental leaves that they are allowed to take. The detailed reasons should not matter.

    The excuses you gave for wanting to disclose their private information sounds like you would pressure other team members if they were out on sick leave to disclose their illness in order to smooth over potential (not even real at this point) complaints about workload. Your responsibility is to manage the workload so that it doesn’t cause issues with the rest of the staff, not by playing on emotional responses to babies or illnesses. Don’t violate an employee’s trust, especially when the ‘problem’ you claim you are solving doesn’t even exist.

    This statement really bothers me… “I am thinking others will be less peeved about picking up more work if they know that this is an important milestone for their colleagues and be able to share in their joy.” — So you would sacrifice the trust and confidentiality of your employees just to make other employees happy? Not a good reason at all.

    1. Nicotena*

      Yeah, I don’t think OP is unreasonable to feel kind of weird about “keeping this secret” or even wondering if there could be a future communications issue around this, but that’s totally separate from the unreasonable “warm and fuzzies” expectation. I’m not someone who likes to share personal information with coworkers for a bunch of reasons, but that doesn’t affect my performance and I’d think it was weird if I found out managers were this concerned about that.

      1. MM*

        I also think it maybe is coming from OP feeling like now they have to keep a secret, and feeling weird or burdened by that. To which my response is, that’s part of management, isn’t it? There’s no need to worry about some situation in which the information needs sharing unless and until such a situation arises. Just chill and cross whatever bridges you encounter when you get to them. Or, to put it in the traditional manner, don’t borrow trouble.

    2. Female Engineer*

      I have a coworker like that who uses medical crises as office gossip fodder. And whats more, like LW, uses it to imply that the sick person are dropping the house on everyone else for having the audacity to have a personal life that needs tending to. She also sucks.

      It really doesn’t need to be said that both are married to each other. Both of them are having a baby and taking parental leave. It should be that simple. Unless… Is it like cats where having 2 cats is the equivalent work of having 1.5 cats or something?

  14. I don't play games*

    I gotta say I am really confused by this – I’ve had it happen several times where two employees overlapped with parental leave (maybe not the entire time, but at least 8 weeks). I may have been nervous about how we were going to manage, but I’ve never been resentful about it.

    1. I don't play games*

      Should add that they were never married to each other, and if they were, knowing that wouldn’t have changed anything. If anything, it might make me more resentful rather than less resentful, unlike what the OP seems to think.

  15. Roscoe*

    This definitely seems like an overstep to me. They have done everything that is needed by HR. OP is concocting problems in their heads IMO. It is their business to share, and if they have disclosed their relationship to the relevant parties, I think trying to push this is a bit much.

  16. The Starsong Princess*

    Personally, I wouldn’t talk about it or gossip about it. But you don’t have to keep it a secret – it is simply a fact, like another person on your team has two sisters. Probably everyone knows anyway so no announcement to be made. Mark and Ashley obviously don’t want a public celebration (the work shower) so there’s nothing for you to do here. No need to deny the relationship if asked, just say they didn’t want a fuss and leave it at that.

  17. Anonmouse*

    “since with the pandemic and remote work, milestones in our personal lives seem to be on a need-to-know basis”

    milestones in employees personal lives are ALWAYS on a need to know basis. full stop. the pandemic and remote work did not change that.

  18. Mental Lentil*

    They are both about to go on parental leave together, and their leave, like it or not, will have an impact on the division by causing others to have to pick up the slack.

    This is a thing that happens in business. It’s up to you as a manager, to make sure that the work others have to pick up is divided equitably and fairly.

    I am thinking others will be less peeved about picking up more work if they know that this is an important milestone for their colleagues and be able to share in their joy.

    Nope. So if somebody takes six weeks off for chemotherapy we’re supposed to be…pissed? Happy? I don’t understand LW’s reasoning here at all.

    If your other workers are peeved about picking up more work, then it is up to you as a manager, to manage that. People take time off, it’s just a CODB. But management needs to manage that.

    (As an aside, this would not even be an issue in France.)

    1. Stone Cold Bitch*

      This! It’s a very normal thing in business. Also, it’s also a managers job to sort out coverage, prioritize tasks and/or hire a temp if needed.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yep, even if the temp is just taking very low-level tasks off everybody’s plates that don’t require tons of training.

    2. Nanani*

      You should absolutely not use But BABIES to justify bad leave planning. It’s a managers job to manage.

      Don’t put extra work on single or child-free people jsut because of that status. You have parental leave, that does not mean blaming babies for your failure to manage the work.

    3. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      Yeah, I find this so confusing. If Ashley was going out on mat leave, and Mark was getting chemo and would be out for six weeks at the same time, LW is assuming that the coworkers would be *more* upset than if they knew that both were going to be out on parental leave for the same baby? If that’s the case, they have issues besides Ashley and Mark in their workplace.

    4. Tuesday*

      Yes – be cool to your coworkers when they go on leave, whether the purpose of that leave brings you joy or not. If the work is too much to manage, talk to your manager.
      (And as an aside, I don’t know how much vicarious “joy” most people experience over a coworker’s baby. I mean, it’s nice and all, but unless they’re a close friend, it’s not going to be on my mind much except when initially hearing the news.)

  19. Stone Cold Bitch*

    This! It’s a very normal thing in business. Also, it’s also a managers job to sort out coverage, prioritize tasks and/or hire a temp if needed.

    1. Duc Anonymous*

      Yes, I’m so puzzled by LW’s reaction here!
      At my company, this would not be a thing. The division I’m in is only 6 people, and THREE are on medical leave and it will probably be the whole 12 weeks. While no one’s having a baby with anyone else (I think), it’s still the same thing and the other 3 of us are just holding down the fort (we do need a temp, but the boss thinks not, which… yeah.). Anyway, it’s just none of our business who’s out and why.

    2. Worldwalker*

      No kidding.

      They’re both on parental leave. Why should it matter to anyone else that it’s for the same baby?

  20. Nanani*

    Team Leave your Nose out of it LW here.
    Maybe they don’t want random coworkers throwing a surprise shower, maybe someone else in the office is Being Weird and they want to keep it low key, maybe a lot of things.

    You should not force anyone to share anything at all that does not come directly under the purview of conflicts of interest (like managing the person you’re dating).

    Your wanting to celebrate a milestone is completely irrelevant.

  21. GigglyPuff*

    As manager all you need to do is focus on “Ashley/Mark is going on approved leave, here’s how we’ll handle X,Y,Z”, if people are shocked and it becomes drama, you shut it down and direct back to work. Especially a high level manager like this. They told HR, they told their managers, they are not required to tell anyone else.

    Also not all life milestones are positive, so no people don’t have to share them at work. As someone else said there might be medical problems with the pregnancy they don’t want to address (not that they need that excuse to not talk about it). Who knows they might be embarrassed because they got married because they got pregnant. You have no idea, and it’s really no one’s business since they don’t work in the same unit creating a larger need for work coverage.

    Also this, “a scenario I am worried about: Ashley is a supervisor, and if Mark’s supervisor, Ashley’s lateral, confided in Ashley about performance concerns or complaints about Mark, then it would be super awkward and I would think Mark’s supervisor would be really unhappy not to have known about their relationship, because knowing may have influenced whether she shared her thoughts about Mark with Ashley.”

    Really isn’t any different than if people at work are friends, as someone who manages 25 people, do you know who all your reports are friendly with? If it becomes a problem, it’s like any other work issue, if you can’t trust someone to listen to you vent, don’t vent to them. (Not to mention you stated Mark told his supervisors, so technically his supervisor should know.)

  22. mlem*

    “Why not go back to them now and say, “I realized this likely needs to be shared so others are aware of the relationship and any potential conflicts of interest for stuff that might come up in the future. Any reason not to fill in others?””

    I worry that anything short of “Do not tell anyone or we will sue” will become “LW blasts a detailed announcement to everyone they work with in any capacity” rather than simply sharing the information AS TRULY NEEDED. LW, please exercise some discretion here. If they want people to know, they are 100% capable of telling them.

    (Or … maybe people already know! Maybe people just AREN’T TALKING ABOUT IT because it’s not work-relevant and they’re respecting A&M’s boundaries.)

  23. Feline*

    being expected to pretend to share coworkers’ joy about things that are none of my business is one of my least favorite parts of corporate America. Don’t foist this onto your employees who clearly don’t want it.

  24. Maglev to Crazytown*

    Agree on leaving them alone. My spouse and I met at work, were both separately known as ultra high performers. We were in separate chains but keep our management apprised of the situation, ultimately quietly married and completed the necessary HR forms. People slowly found out… Some not until 18 months later. We kept separate last names, kept up our work commitments, and the fact we were married did not affect our performance. The fact we didn’t flaunt it made it more seamless when people DID find out, as they were happy for us but with respect to work it was shrugged off as an “oh nevermind.” Maybe these individuals just want to avoid drama too.

  25. miss nonomis*

    “But it’s very reasonable to be concerned that people not knowing Mark and Ashley are married (or in a serious relationship) could lead to problems — like the situation you mentioned where a peer speaks to Ashley about concerns with Mark without realizing they’re together. It’s not really fair to put their colleagues in that position.”
    ^This 100%^
    I was Ashley’s peer in this situation, where Mark reported to me. EVENTUALLY, Mark told me or rather asked me if I knew. But not before Ashley and I discussed planning information about our teams. She shared that information with Mark and other members of my team. Ashley in my case had a bit of a gossip habit.

    1. MissMeghan*

      I agree with this. I think OP may be spiraling into “what if” scenarios and is struggling to parse out what is and is not her place. That’s the perfect time to write in to Alison!

      OP it seems like part of you wishes some of this stuff that people would learn through being in the office together and casual chatting wasn’t getting lost, but that can’t be helped. Some people will miss the news because they didn’t need to know for business reasons and weren’t on any calls where it was brought up casually. And that’s okay, it’s not on you to address that.

    2. Me*

      But it sounds like being married wasn’t really the issue, but rather Ashley being a gossip who shared with multiple people.

    3. Anonymous pineapple*

      “They have individually told their work group and chain of command”

      Sounds like that potential scenario has already been addressed.

        1. allathian*

          I still think that it’s a cross that bridge when you come to it situation. In any case, it’s up to Mark and Ashley to share the news. At the very most, you could perhaps suggest to them that they share the fact they’re married to each other with their respective chains of command, to avoid this scenario.

          But whatever you do, don’t ask them to use their life events as a reason for team bonding, they clearly don’t want that.

        2. Observer*

          The team still does not need to know. I’m not really sure why laterals would be venting to others about individual team members, but if that’s a potential issue, then the only additional person who potentially needs to know about the relationship is Mark’s supervisor. I can’t think of any other potential conflict of interest on your team.

  26. e271828*

    If the question really is, “How much as a manager should I expect my employees to share about their personal lives?” (and not “How do I dramatize my hurt manager feelings about not knowing these people are married?”), then the answer is:

    Nothing, unless it affects the business. They can get married without you, OP, they can get pregnant without you, and they can file for parental leave without saying more to you than, “I’m filing for parental leave.” You do not need to know the who, how, why, wherefore, or anything else about employees’ personal lives.

    On the “what if someone criticizes one person’s work to the other?!” question—if they are professional coworkers then they are able to take that in stride. Because a dynamic where A and B being friends/partners/spending lunch hours in the supply closet changes the way important information flows in the organization is bad for the organization.

  27. NW Mossy*

    I’ll own up to having my opinion of a colleague changed when I learned that another colleague was her sister. One of the sisters had been my teammate for some time, and I had a tremendous amount of respect for her. I didn’t work with the other sister very often, and the limited impression I hadn’t wasn’t very favorable.

    When I learned of the relationship (in passing, not a secret or anything), it pushed me to pull back any negativity in the way I spoke about my teammate’s sister – I didn’t want to offend someone I had a good relationship with by being critical of her sister in her hearing. Over time, that shift prompted me to realize that I was probably too hasty in my judgment and ended up being able to see my teammate’s sister’s positive qualities more clearly.

    I’d like to say that I’d treat people no differently when I’m in ignorance of how they’re connected to others, and while I think I’m more conscious of that now than I used to be, I’m sure I’m not perfect. Even outside of familial bonds, colleagues can have unexpected connections and loyalties to one another that aren’t obvious from the outside. It’s good to periodically be reminded that when we interact with someone, that interaction flows outward into their network as well.

  28. mophie*

    I don’t think we are getting complete info here. From my reading, Mark and Ashley have told their respective managers about their leave, but not about the fact that their leave is together and did not disclose that they are married. But others are interpreting it as both managers know everything.
    We also don’t know if Mark and Ashley are simply not sharing this info or are actively trying to keep in a secret. Which are different in my opinion.

    I think of the pregnancy as a medical issue. If they want to hide that from others that aren’t management, it’s the manager’s responsibility to honor that and keep it confidential.
    The fact that they are married I think of as different. I wouldn’t broadcast it, but I would feel no obligation to keep it secret. I would mention it if it related to something about the team, for instance.

    I have worked in places where I did not know two people who worked for the same organization were married to each other. But these were much bigger (think thousands of employees) and they weren’t on the same team.

    I would think it would be very weird if two people on a 25 person team were married and tried to hide it from everyone (I am not sure this is what they were doing). In theory it shouldn’t matter, but most people would communicate differently with someone about a coworker if they knew it was a spouse.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Yep, the pregnancy is very much a medical issue. Mark and Ashley get to decide when—or if—they want to disclose that to everybody.

    2. allathian*

      If I’m reading this correctly, the LW is at least the great-grandboss of Mark and the grandboss of Ashley, since Ashley and Mark’s manager are peers, and both Mark and Ashley have informed their immediate supervisors of the upcoming leave, even if they haven’t told them about their relationship. Mark and Ashley don’t work together and don’t have a shared chain of command until the LW’s level.

    3. Observer*

      I wouldn’t broadcast it, but I would feel no obligation to keep it secret. I would mention it if it related to something about the team, for instance.

      Why should they not have the right to privacy? And really, in what scenarios does this information REALLY make a difference? Other than the possibility of Mark’s supervisor venting to Ashley about Mark, NONE. So, maybe telling Mark’s supervisor is useful. But anyone else?

      I would think it would be very weird if two people on a 25 person team were married and tried to hide it from everyone

      And? People do weird things. It’s a really bad idea to use that as a criteria for whether people get to keep their privacy or not. To me anyone who be resentful, or resentful enough to affect their attitude and behavior, over this or who would claim to lose “trust” over this is someone whose judgement I would be worrying about.

  29. Me*

    OP you are overthinking this so hard. I assure you no one at work cares about two colleagues who don’t work directly together, don’t influence the others work and don’t supervise each other except maybe a passing oh how about that.

    What is weird is going around announcing who you are married to. How would that convo even go? “Hey, Joe, this doesn’t affect you in any way but Mark and I are married and having a baby.” They’ve told who they have to and even beyond that. Don’t make it into a deep dark secret that it’s not.

  30. animaniactoo*

    Back up! Butt out! Trust me, it will all become known soon enough. In the meantime, if you have that concern about Mark’s supervisor and Ashley, AND Mark and Ashley have met the HR requirements for reporting the relationship, touch base with HR and just make sure that bases like that are covered. Or maybe don’t. I mean…. this existed while you just knew that Mark and Ashley were dating, right? And it didn’t throw up a big giant concern for you then?

    If you haven’t had such concerns before, I think that all your other “supporting” arguments are really the result of trying to grab onto a bunch of toothpicks to prop up the floor of your sense that their teammates should “of course” know this info.

  31. AKchic*

    Why on earth would Mark’s supervisor be complaining about Mark to anyone not in Mark’s supervisory chain of command? Is it normal for supervisors in this agency to complain about employees to random supervisors? If so, why is that the norm?

    If the relationship has gone through all the proper HR protocols, why are you so pressed about this being more open to everyone else? Let Mark and Ashley manage their relationship as they see fit. As far as I can tell, you aren’t actually in the relationship with them, so your opinion on whether or not they be more open/vocal/communicative about their relationship with their coworkers/staff members is actually none of your business. If you, yourself would do differently in a similar scenario, that’s fine. That’s your choice. I’m not actually seeing anything unprofessional about theirs.

    1. mophie*

      Because it’s a relatively small team that presumably works on the same things and toward the same goals. At least where I work (which is a 100 person company inside a bigger one), chains of command cross paths all the time. there would be ample opportunity for a manager to have to talk to an employee who has a different manager.
      And while yes, it is technically not my business, most people at my company would find it weird if someone was trying to conceal the fact that they were married from coworkers. And OP’s org is one quarter the size.

      1. Too many layers*

        But the org is 400 people and these two are in different chains of command under different managers and their work does not overlap. It seems from my understanding that the LW is the upper manager of 25 managers that then manage their teams and these two team members are not within their direct reports, but more of a grand boss or great grand boss situation.

        1. mophie*

          I read it as different. OP said she manages a team of 25 people in an organization of 400. She said Mark and Ashley work in her division and are her employees. I think they both work on the same team of 25.

          Say they work for a company in the communications division. Mark works on the team dealing with government relations and Ashley works on team dealing with PR/Press relations. They would have different team leads, and there work would likely not overlap, but they would still be part of the communications division. In this case managers would definitely talk to each other and employees might come up.

          But I don’t think OP gave us complete info, so this is speculation.

          1. mophie*

            *their, ugh

            Also, people have the complete and total right to disclose or not disclose details about their personal lives at work. But in every situation I have been in it would be really, really weird to have two people out of a team that small both be on parental leave, and be married and have no one but the managers know about it.

    2. doreen*

      I don’t think the OP was talking about people complaining about employees to random supervisors – I think it’s about something I have seen very often , which is that a manager or supervisor has some sort of issue ( maybe with an employee, maybe not ) and discusses it with a peer to seek advice, clarify policy etc. So I might discuss a problem I’m having that involves my direct report (Lisa) with my peer (Alan) but I wouldn’t discuss my other direct report (Gerard) with him, as I know Alan and Gerard are brothers/a couple/close friends

  32. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I think Alison got it exactly right. My spouse and I work for the same employer in different teams, and we try to keep it low key. Everyone we work with directly knows, but it doesn’t come up often because our work almost never intersects. It’s not a secret, it’s just not something that needs to be broadcast…because really, no one cares!

  33. Not really a Waitress*

    All that’s missing is “but we are a FAMILY” I worked for a SMALL company. Three of the Owners were also my bosses and the HR/Owner knew zero about HR but freaked out when she found out after the fact my longer term boyfriend and I had broken up and he had moved out. ” BUT WE ARE A FAMILY, WAITRESS, WHY DIDN”T YOU TELL US IN THE MEETING?”

    Also came up in a meeting when they were brainstorming team building ideas for the site managers that they wanted to do a challenge course activity that included zip lining, etc. I mention that I knew at least two of the managers had heart problems and this would not be a good idea. “WHO HAS A HEART PROBLEM, YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO TELL US AS SOON AS YOU HEAR THESE THINGS, BECAUSE WE ARE A FAMILY.” Yeah unless it impacts their ability to do their job, then no I don’t, and it doesn’t, so No.

    It’s not OP’s story to tell, nor is it OP’s responsibility to determine if and when it should be told unless it has a business impact.

    And I love how barely 48 hours later, Alison is already referencing “I told God if he chose someone to die, it would be you.”

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Situations like that are always bizarre because the people who want to know everyone’s business are so sure it’s vital to the workplace running efficiently. One particularly poor manager of mine informed me that she HAD to tell everyone why I took a personal day to deal with a parent’s medical issue “Because you need the support of your coworkers and they can’t emotionally support you if they don’t know what’s going on.”

      The pinnacle of her intrusive behavior was when she put Christmas decorations up all over the place and got very upset when I quietly put up a Menorah in the midst of her display. She came in to interrogate everyone because “someone didn’t tell me they were Jewish and I want to know who.”

      1. TransmascJourno*

        AGH! The idea of a manager interrogating an entire staff for not telling her that someone is Jewish is at least a “Squick Factor: Level 5” with three doses of “no awareness for the historical implications of doing so in the first place whatsoever.”

      2. Mental Lentil*

        I would quietly start to insert things from other religions into that display: something for Kwanza, a little Baphomet statue, etc. Really make her wonder how little she knows about her staff.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Reminds me of my mother-in-law’s distress when she saw a small Ganesh figurine in my house. (A thankyou gift from a colleague.) The next visit she put an oversized Saint Anthony next to it…

        2. Pointy's in the North Tower*

          The Satanic Temple sells Baphomet snowglobes. I’d like one, since I *am* TST, but they’re a bit pricey.

  34. Rana*

    OP says he knew they were in a relationship and that they have followed all HR rules about being in a relationship. To me, that would imply that Mark’s supervisor would also know. If the HR rules do not include telling both supervisors, that seems like a flaw in those rules. I think Mark’s supervisor should definitely know. If she doesn’t, OP could tell them to make that happen.

    Otherwise, I don’t see a huge work reason for the team to know they are in a relationship and having a baby. I agree it’s kind of weird, and I would think differently about how close I was with a colleague if I found out they were married to someone else we worked with and I had no idea. But I would chalk it up to a personal quirk and not make it a work issue. There’s certainly no need to know that they have moved from “in a relationship” to “married” or that they had a baby.

    That said, I think Alison’s advice makes sense. Ask them if there is a reason that they haven’t told the team they are in a relationship. They may not care. They may not even know people don’t already realize! Not to say you should send out a team-wide email but maybe have them spread it naturally.

  35. staceyizme*

    I don’t think that it’s necessary to share beyond the chain of command and work groups. That’s enough, surely? And the idea of “forcing” an employee to do anything that’s not delineated in current policy or strictly necessary for health and function is repugnant. People have little enough privacy and little enough autonomy in general terms. Fixating on this seems a bit much on your part. I can’t imagine that it would endear you to the two direct reports in question or to others who might consider this a bit intrusive and something of a cautionary tale about how needlessly difficult you might be, given the right circumstances.

  36. I'd Rather Be Quilting*

    NO!! This is a blatant disregard of their medical information. Just wait it out. The rumor mill and the situation itself will get the news spread.

  37. Former HR Staffer*

    i iust found out one of my colleagues is married to one of the execs in another line of business. even though they shared the same last name, it’s a common one so i would not have assumed they were together.

    honestly, even though it was a surprise, no one really cares about your marital or family status. assuming they are still followong protocol to let their colleagues know of their time off and make arrangements for their work to be covered, i assure you no one cares (unless someone is secretly carrying a torch for one of their coworkers.)

  38. Irish girl*

    I get the wondering if she can share the news. I had 2 people in my area that didnt work on the same team start dating and get married. But not everyone on both teams knew and I didnt know who did and didnt and said something to someone that they were getting married and got a shocked face. Then i got a “why did you says something?” look from one of the couple. I think they then told more people as it looked like they were hiding something from everyone including one of the bosses.

    Now if they were to have a baby and both be out, that could have a larger impact then just a week or two honeymoon. There would be FMLA issues from both working for the same company which could impact who is out and how long as they might have to share the 12 weeks, not sure how my new state family leave act works with people employed at the same company.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      “They have individually told their work group and chain of command, but the news about their relationship and their growing family is not known or acknowledged within the entire division.”

      The people who need to know already know, so time off and coverage would be handled. The LW is just wondering about telling other people as a piece of news.

  39. Kelly Kapoor*

    Sometimes I wonder why some people are extremely competent at certain things, and are just so weird about other things.

  40. The Rafters*

    It really isn’t your place to share relationship status or medical information (and details about her pregnancy is medical information) about coworkers with anyone, whether you supervise them or not. I think you would be opening a huge can of worms that would have consequences for you — possibly violating your HR’s policies by yapping about it. It could get you (rightfully) in a lot of trouble.

  41. KHB*

    Ashley and Mark have each told their entire “work group” and “chain of command” – out of the team of 25, how many people does that exclude? (And I wonder if what OP is really upset about is that the whole team had the news already, and she was the last to know?)

    But OP says that there are people on the team who both (1) don’t know yet and (2) will need to be involved with covering for Ashley and Mark’s work while they’re on leave, so I’ll go with that assumption.

    If I were the manager in this situation, I’d go to Ashley and Mark and say, “Your personal situation is not my news to share, but I do need to tell the whole team by X date about your upcoming leave, so they can do what they need to prepare. Given that, how much would you like me to tell them about your situation? Or do you want to announce the news yourselves?”

    Since it sounds like they’re not going to any great lengths to keep anything secret, I suspect they’d probably say, “Oh, go ahead and tell the team everything.” Or maybe they won’t. But this doesn’t need to be Such A Big Thing, when you can just ask them how they’d like you to handle it.

    1. Maybe not*

      It doesn’t sound like it needs to be handled. Their work groups have been told. Their marriage isn’t anyone’s business. The fact that they are both having a child will be obvious when they go on leave. The fact that they share that child isn’t anyone’s business.

      OP is looking for a problem here.

      1. KHB*

        “Handle” = make sure that everyone knows about the upcoming leave who needs to know. It sounds, from the letter, that there are still people who don’t, so that part does need to be handled in one way or another.

  42. zillah*

    They work in my division but within different teams, and their work does not overlap.
    … They are both about to go on parental leave together, and their leave, like it or not, will have an impact on the division by causing others to have to pick up the slack.

    i’m kind of confused here. i don’t think you should pressure them to tell regardless, but if they’re on different teams and their work doesn’t overlap, this is just a team having a person out on leave, which everyone should be pretty accustomed to.

  43. RussianInTeaxs*

    “I am thinking others will be less peeved about picking up more work if they know that this is an important milestone for their colleagues and be able to share in their joy. Generally, having a baby is a big life milestone, and while work is not the most important part of life, I think it would be nice on a human level to be able to celebrate the major milestones in our lives as colleagues. ”
    I don’t get this complain. People do not own anyone the celebration of their milestones.

    1. Tuesday*

      Right – it’s nice if everyone wants to celebrate these milestones together, but no one should feel pressured to bring in talk of their milestones just for the benefit of their coworkers (I’m also not sure the coworkers would really enjoy it as much as the LW is thinking).

  44. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

    OP asks the honest question, can I force my employees to reveal this personal life milestone(s)? I agree with everyone saying, nope. BUT (as a manager of a group of 15), she is not wrong to worry about some aura of secrecy making things weird for those on the team who aren’t “in the know”. We just don’t have enough information about who knows/who doesn’t to help her ameliorate that weirdness. There may also be disproportionate workload impacts that do impact both teams by the two employees taking leave at the same time, and as part of the package of rolling out the coverage plan, yeah it might grease the skids to know that in fact Mark can’t delay his family/medical leave (or however it’s being explained). I’m thinking of a scenario where, for example, the admin of Mark’s group might end up helping backfill his role, and the admin of Ashley’s group becomes that backup, and all 25 end up doing more admin tasks accordingly. We just don’t know the impacts of leave, and even the best manager AHEM doesn’t necessarily have the perfect coverage plan ready to go for two folks being out simultaneously. Yes OP sounds a little rattled but hey, this is a challenging management situation and it was a great question to bring Allison!

    1. KHB*

      she is not wrong to worry about some aura of secrecy making things weird for those on the team who aren’t “in the know”

      I agree. Nobody’s relationship/family/medical situation is anyone else’s business if they don’t want it to be, but in any workplace I’m familiar with, it would be extremely weird for someone to go on parental leave without telling their team of 25 the reason for the leave – and it would be even weirder to tell some and not others.

      But it really does sound like OP is overthinking this, and what she’s seeing as “aura of secrecy,” Mark and Ashley are seeing as, “We didn’t bother to directly tell everyone, but we assumed they’d find out eventually.”

      1. Esmeralda*

        Really? Last year I was out a lot, requested FMLA, because my husband (who works for the same U, different Dept) was on leave for severe anxiety and depression. I needed to take him to doctors, get him from the ER, deal with him at home. My co-bosses knew because they needed to. No one else on the team of 25 and no one above my co-bosses.

        Because I did not want to have to manage everyone else’s feelings about it, no matter how well intentioned. It would have been one more damn burden and I did NOT need another microgram of anything to carry.

        Most of my colleagues know and like my husband. I’m sure some of them would feel hurt they didn’t know. Too freakin bad.

        They had to pick up some of my slack. You know what? I pick up their slack when they have to be out and I don’t give a fig as to why they’re out. Because it’s none of my business.

        Lol. Yeah, I’ve got some feelings here.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            We’re talking about taking leave for a medical issue. Possibly the pregnancy is high risk. Possibly another member of either team is having fertility issues, and Mark & Ashley are keeping it quiet out of compassion. Maybe it wasn’t planned, and they’re still having feelings about it, and don’t want to fake joy in the office. Maybe they’re going to place the baby for adoption, and don’t want to have that conversation at work.
            Lots of reasons why folks might not want to talk about a pregnancy at work.

          2. Ismonie*

            The leave she described, FMLA, is the only type of protected parental leave in the US (although some states have additional protections—which are still weak). So, yes, someone taking FMLA to care for a family member where the family member works at the same employer is comparable to taking FMLA for the birth of a child.

            1. KHB*

              Right, “I’m taking FMLA leave because of a private medical/family situation” = the reason is nobody’s business. But if that’s the explanation you give, and it turns out that the “medical/family” situation is you or your partner having a baby? That would be extremely weird, yes.

              Now, it’s a free country, and you have the right to be extremely weird if you want to be. But I can’t help but wonder if people who think this is a reasonable thing to do have fully thought through how it’s going to work. Like, are you going to keep the fact that you have a child secret for the next 18 years? It’s just never going to come up?

              1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                For what it’s worth, one of my teammates is out on maternity leave currently. Clearly our boss knew, and the teammate who’s covering her workload knew, but the first I was aware was a message in Slack fron grandboss saying the baby was born and everyone’s doing well. We’re still WFH, so I haven’t seen this teammate since March 2020 and didn’t have the obvious visual info that would come from sitting next to her. But it didn’t strike me as particularly odd that I didn’t know, because I really don’t need to. And it would’ve been honestly pretty strange to interject that into any of the conversations we’ve had in the last 9 months; to important to be small talk but too personal to be part of the meeting agenda.

              2. Ismonie*

                Pregnancy IS a private medical family situation. I’m pregnant, and I’m under no obligation to share my pregnancy and the medical details thereof with ANYONE. HR needs to know the reason for it, no one else does. Even HR won’t get the details of my various diagnoses in and before, or how I got pregnant, BECAUSE IT IS NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS AND NOT REQUIRED BY LAW.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  “how”?? Is anyone really asking HOW you got pregnant? That’d be a very odd thing to want to know about a coworker.

                2. Ismonie*

                  Database developer dude: to familiarize you with infertility, or conception generally, the identity of the biological or gestational parent can be private. FOR EXAMPLE, when there is a same sex couple, they will not both be the biological parent. Sometimes a person with a uterus can’t carry to term. Sometimes people are married, but the child was conceived before they met! Sometimes the parents have a pretty good idea there won’t be a live baby at the end of this. Pregnancy and parenthood is private, unless people want to share.

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      Let’s assume that John and Jane complain that it was unfair that they didn’t know Ashley and Mark were married and that their FMLA leave was for the birth of *their* child.

      So what? Let them live with their feelings. All they needed to know was that the coworker on their team was out on approved leave, and what their individual role would be in covering the absence. Period.

      Just like it was none of Alice’s business why Sally was not invited to Ted’s wedding. Mind your own business, stay in your own lane, manage your own feelings about the intersection of work with your coworkers’ personal lives.

    3. Mannequin*

      Their being married has nothing to do with it. It’s entirely possible for two (or more!) totally unrelated people on a team or in a division to be taking extended leave at the same time for totally unrelated reasons, and the problem of providing coverage and not overloading the rest of the team would still apply.
      And honestly, it’s nobody’s business why two employees are taking leave at the same time, so people really do NOT need to reveal the reasons to their coworkers to judge if they are “good enough”

    4. Observer*

      she is not wrong to worry about some aura of secrecy making things weird for those on the team who aren’t “in the know”.

      Yes and no. Yes, some people are going to find this very weird and odd. And there may very well be people who are offended. So in that respect, they are correct. But they are NOT correct in considering this an adequate reason to force the issue. People do weird things. It’s just not a big deal. And if someone is offended, that’s their problem, not the OP’s and not Mark and Alshley’s.

  45. Rectilinear Propagation*

    Because of the pandemic, we are all working remotely more or less exclusively.

    That might very well be the issue.

    In an office, this news would spread on it’s own but everyone suddenly being remote probably means they aren’t having as many personal conversations. They might have just assumed incorrectly that this news would spread on it’s own. Or they might have realized it wouldn’t, but thought it would be too weird to do some kind of company-wide announcement email about their marriage and/or pregnancy, especially if that wasn’t the done thing pre-pandemic. Even more so if no one has done anything like that since you went remote. Five bucks says there haven’t been enough weddings or babies for there to be new office norms for announcements.

    I agree with Allison that this doesn’t seem like it’s actually a secret and that you just ask them.

  46. SlimeKnight*

    I work in local government (albeit for a smaller agency) 50-100 employees. If two employees here were dating, and then got married, and then were having a baby, EVERYONE would know. It makes me wonder if the LW is tapped into her workforce or is out of the loop.

    1. allathian*

      They’re all remote, so it’s entirely possible nobody’s realized that Ashley’s pregnant. Obviously it’s rude to ask if someone’s pregnant, but working at the office in person would provide more natural opportunities for Ashley to tell people that yes, she is pregnant.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      I also work for a local government agency remarkably similar to the OP/LW’s (with several hundred employees overall, but only a few dozen in my division). My division also has a similar “secret couple” that isn’t really secret but isn’t a public spectacle (as they shouldn’t be!). I can attest to the uncomfortable – nay, sickening – level of gossip and overinvolvement of third parties in people’s private, work-unrelated affairs. I know gossip is a thing in all workplaces, but I truly don’t remember even high school being this bad about it. Is it something about local government that attracts people whose preferred hobbies involve grapevines and people facing away?

      (Not to get off track, but it seems that the Venn diagram of the people pushing the hardest for us all to return to the office from WFH, and the people who are the most engrossed in starting and spreading [sometimes malicious] gossip, is almost a single circle.)

      I am exceedingly private about my personal life at work precisely because of the level of involvement and the constant churning of the rumor mill. I’m normally a bit of an open book to a fault, but at work, I try to be a beige blob with no personality or identifying characteristics who blends into the paint and carpeting. It isn’t who I am, but if it keeps my name out of people’s mouths, it’s what I must do.

      Suffice it to say, my reservation is 10000% because of busybodies and other such toxic nosiness. And, I’m sorry, but I do think that OP is tiptoeing the lip of that bucket, about to fall in. Nothing in the letter suggests ‘Ashley’s’ or ‘Mark’s’ work is actually (rather than hypothetically) materially affected by their relationship, nor does it suggest that they’ve violated any rules or policies. OP even admits that they’ve formally informed the people who need to know, including HR and their own teams, and in a timely fashion to allow the organization to prepare for their respective absences, despite overlap. Nobody else needs to be involved. Whatever unlikely manifested sitcom scenario that arises can be dealt with as it comes up, but considering the people who work with Ashley and Mark know, I just don’t see it happening the way OP imagines.

      Frankly, I think OP is inappropriately invested in Ashley and Mark’s personal relationship and is working backwards to devise a premise from the conclusion they’ve already arrived at, which is “they must be outed.”

      OP, please step back and re-examine why you really want to cross this line. And it is crossing a line. People have a right to privacy, even if they work together.

  47. Maybe not*

    This wording seems like a clear message that OP is demanding they tell everyone everything. That is in appropriate and bizarre.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      And it’s odd that it’s the complete opposite of yesterday’s letter, where LW’s husband should have told everybody everything but didn’t!

      People gonna people, I tell ya!

  48. KWu*

    I was at a company where this happened! Two people who worked in related but different departments had been working for some months before it became generally known that they were together and had just gotten married. I remember feeling a bit surprised but I wasn’t hurt and didn’t take it personally by any means. I think OP is feeling like she needs to keep it a secret rather than low-key private, and Alison’s suggestion of asking about “any reason not to fill in others” might help alleviate that pressure. Also, OP might want to reflect on the fact that it really is ok to not know very much about your coworker’s personal lives. It’s work, not a social relationship.

  49. ThreeDogsInATrenchcoat*

    I’m currently pregnant and I only told my boss, HR, and my immediate coworkers. I didn’t do a general announcement because I am not comfortable with receiving that attention and would honestly rather not discuss it at work. I’ve been gradually letting people into the loop who will be directly impacted so that no one is anxious about coverage, and I’ve put one or two out of their polite “I want to ask but won’t because I’m a decent person” misery, but overall it has been a non-issue.

    This feels like the LW wants to make it a big deal, but it really isn’t. No one really needs to know their business who doesn’t already know.

  50. Pigeon*

    You don’t know why they aren’t disclosing this information. Maybe they are sinply private, which is their right! Maybe they have bad experiences sharing news like this before. Maybe there is someone at work they don’t want to know or be included in these major life events. Maybe the pregnancy is high-risk and they don’t want to have to live through that publicly. Maybe their religion prohibits celebrations prior to the birth.

    My point is, you have no idea what consequences you would bring about by “outing” them, and you’re not entitled to know because they don’t owe you an explanation.

    I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to begin treatment for infertility. This is never going to be a journey I want to share with my work colleagues because it is personal and painful. I told my manager I had an appointment, she acknowledged, and that was the end of it. If we are successful, I probably still won’t share it with more people than I have to because I don’t want to live through a private heartbreak publicly if something went wrong. That’s my right.

    You’re entitled to their work. You are not entitled to personal confidences.

    1. Ismonie*

      Good luck. That’s exactly what I did with my infertility treatment—doctors appts and medical procedures was all I said!

  51. Randi*

    This is giving me major “we’re a family here!” vibes, and not in a good way.

    I was outed a couple of years ago after the “department mom” (yes…she called herself that) overheard me telling a coworker-turned-friend that I was moving in with my partner. She took it upon herself to tattle to my boss and everyone else when I asked her not to, it was my news to share if and when I felt comfortable enough. This led to me not telling anyone at work that we had gotten married until over a year after the fact.

    Forcing employees to share personal information and milestones feels like you’re stripping away their workplace autonomy. And wanting to celebrate and share this deeply personal journey they’re on with the whole department when they haven’t indicated that’s what they want seems selfish and bulldoze-y.

    1. Metadata minion*

      When I got engaged I told my boss…who then announced it at the next staff meeting. It wasn’t a secret or anything, but it was my news to tell and I’m seriously *not* a public-announcements sort of person and would have preferred to tell coworkers I was close to and let other people find out via general gossip networks.

    1. Showtime*

      Hear, hear!

      This letter reminds me of the many numerous reasons why I’m so glad to be working remotely. I’m so sick of office busybodies and office politics.

      None of this is anyone’s business other than Ashley’s and Mark’s.

      1. allathian*

        In this case, though, I expect that a part of the reason why this is a problem is that they’re almost exclusively remote now. At the office, the info would have percolated more or less by itself as soon as they told one of their peers. This doesn’t happen naturally when you’re remote, and making a big announcement of it feels onerous when you don’t want that sort of attention.

          1. allathian*

            Agreed. But a pregnancy is a lot harder to hide if you’re working in an office, and most people wouldn’t try once they’re visibly pregnant, to stop the inevitable speculation if nothing else.

            1. Ismonie*

              And that’s the problem. People get so weird about how they treat pregnant people. Someone upthread detailed it surprisingly well. In certain workplaces, you just really don’t want to hear it.

  52. Minnow*

    In my experience, telling people you’re pregnant leads to (maybe) five minutes max of smiles and congratulations, followed by months of endless questions, judgement, and stigma.

    “Should you be cycling? Are you sure I can’t give you a ride? Is that a maternity coat? I thought you couldn’t eat that while you’re pregnant? You’re going for a run? Now? When are you due? You look great! [tone: ultimate surprise]. No, really, you do! How are you, is it awful? Do you feel like crap all day long? Do you need a hand with that box/file/door/pencil sharpener? Don’t be lifting that! Careful!”

    I had my third baby last November. I wish all my pregnancies were during a pandemic. I kept it a secret from as many people as possible (WAY easier than I thought, went for a walk with a friend at 38 weeks and she has no idea) and it was amazing. No having everything I said and did filtered through the lens of pregnancy. Instead, people treated me like a normal person.

    I don’t blame your employees, or anyone, from wanting to keep their pregnancy quiet. I would love if this was normalised. Please, don’t say anything!

    1. AKchic*

      I agree. A LOT of things have been easier under the shroud of pandemic. Since losing my my job, I’ve finally been able to focus on all of the health issues I’ve been actively ignoring for the last 15 years. In the last 6 months I’ve had an ovary removed, two neck surgeries, started my denture adventure (last week), helped my 19 year old with his covid-induced heart problems; and outside of a very tight-knit group of support – nobody knows. I didn’t even bother telling my own mother or extended family.

      I wouldn’t have been able to do *any* of this while working my regular jobs (which is why I’d been delaying for so long). Half of the problem with being pregnant is dealing with other people. I wouldn’t want to deal with any of that again. I *H A T E* dealing with people while I’m pregnant.

    2. Ismonie*

      Truth! I want to keep it secret as long as possible! Also, I have a history of losses, so I really want to keep it secret.

  53. Crumbledore*

    I was in a situation where the leader on a volunteer leadership team shared too much detail about why certain people were leaving the team. They later sent out an embarrassed apology. Obviously we needed to know they were leaving, but the detailed reasons belonged to the departing individuals. This contributed heavily to major drama that followed. Similarly, Mark and Ashley’s situation is need-to-know information, not general announcement information. The risk that someone who needs to know has been missed seems low.

  54. RagingADHD*

    Do people not have…conversations?

    If for some reason Mark and Ashley were both being mentioned in the same conversation, surely someone would mention that “they’re married, you know.” Or if it comes up that they’re both out, someone would mention the baby.

    Because neither of these things are actually secrets at all, and everyone they work with has known all along.

    And if neither if those opportunitues ever happen, then it’s because there’s no natural crossover between teams and **nobody else cares!**

    In a department of 400 peoole, everyone doesn’t know everyone else. I can’t imagine how awkward and bizarre it would be to get some kind of official disclosure that two coworkers I’d never met were married to each other.

    Nobody is talking about it because it doesn’t matter.

  55. Meeka*

    This reminds me of a scene in “The Office” when Michael Scott, the manager, asks Jim to share his thoughts on promoting Pam, Jim’s wife, to a sales role.

    It’s clear that Jim, being the lovable husband, refuses to acknowledge any negative criticism about his wife. He admits as much. Michael then tells Jim he can’t trust his feedback so will go with the other candidate.

    Perhaps OP is trying to avoid this scenario as well, i.e., any future “conflict of interest” moments.

  56. Meeka*

    For the record, I believe OP should inform her immediate directs (the supervisors) of Mark & Ashley’s romantic relationship. In my org, other managers often weigh in on decisions such as promotions. If these other managers have any influence in projects allocation and promotion/demotion, then they should be aware that Mark is married to Ashley, who is one of the supervisors.

    Think of it like when doctors have to document any conflict of interest they might have with a pharmaceutical company. It may not change their decision making, but it’s good for the patient to know if they have a relationship that may bias their judgement.

  57. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    OP, I can’t tell you why Mark and Ashley aren’t spreading the knowledge of their marriage around, but as one half of a married couple at my job… I don’t lead with my marital status because it’s not the 1950s and I’d much rather be known for my own work as YetAnotherAnalyst than as [husband]’s wife. We don’t exactly keep it a secret – in the beforetimes we’d travel to and from the office together and we’d eat lunch together – I mention it when it’s relevant to the conversation (which is almost never).

    My grandboss apparently learned about my spouse a few years after I joined his team, and being a very gregarious guy stopped my husband when was bringing me lunch to (loudly) tell him “We love your wife!”. Talk about eroding trust/morale – I don’t tell grandboss *anything* that’s not directly work-related now.

    1. sometimeswhy*

      This. This is the biggest reason why, when I married a colleague, we only told the people we had to and spent a few months drawing bright, clear boundaries with them. We work in a technical field and being a woman in it is hard enough without people speculating on your how your home life *might* affect your work or vice versa so I spent my whole career keeping my personal life personal.

      On top of that, our work mostly ran parallel but we had very slightly overlapping skill sets and were in proximity of each other’s responsibilities enough that we wanted to avoid being asked to opine on what the other would think about a thing and have that grapevine into input from the other. It’s real easy for “Mark said he thought Ashley would say” to turn into “Ashley would say” to turn into “Ashley said.”

  58. Andy*

    > They have individually told their work group and chain of command, but the news about their relationship and their growing family is not known or acknowledged within the entire division.

    They in fact told the people, they dont keep it secret. I really don’t see why people should talk about babies and marriages to the entire division. Telling people in your group is normal standard and general social expectation. Some people then inform everyone through some kind of company wide-channel, but that should not be requirement.

    All this means is that their groups are not talking (gossipinb) about their personal lives.

  59. CleverGirl*

    Honestly I think the LW is really grasping at straws here to come up with reasons why Mark and Ashley should be forced to tell people they are married. The “team bonding” thing is ridiculous, and the suggestion that Mark’s supervisor might mention him to Ashley is a bit of a stretch. If a supervisor has an issue about one of their reports, they should take it to their supervisor, not complain about it to a lateral coworker. I also feel like the chances of that happening at all are slim to none and I’m not really buying it. I think the LW needs to do some introspection about why he/she REALLY cares so much about Mark and Ashley telling everyone about their personal lives.

    1. Momma Bear*

      There are a lot of people I know nothing about. One of my old coworkers was incredibly tight lipped about his life outside of the office. Other than a quick “huh, weird”, everyone just accepted that he wanted to keep his private life private. Is LW extroverted and Mark and Ashley are not? Sometimes what we push for/project is actually what we want for ourselves and isn’t about the other person.

  60. AKchic*

    I have circled back to this because it looks like the LW did in fact come back to give us, well, not much extra in context, but to reiterate what they’ve already said.

    I’ll be honest, it really sounds like Ashley and Mark aren’t sharing news they way LW would/wants, and may think that because they are less exuberant than LW expects them to be, then they are acting secretive and it makes LW seem like they have “hot goss” to tell.
    These are your employees. Their lives are theirs. They’ve told what they want to whom they want. HR and the required people are notified. That’s all that is required. You can sit back and focus on ensuring proper coverage as if Mark and Ashley are separate entities taking medical leave at the same time (because technically, they are). You are the only one trying to make this office a fAAAAAmily office. Ashley and Mark have boundaries and they are in charge of their information.

    Please, just let this go.

  61. First time listener, long time caller*

    My advice would be to pick a set of facts and stick to it. On one hand, Ashley and Mark have “told their work group and chain of command” about the relationship. And yet OP is concerned “if Mark’s supervisor, Ashley’s lateral, confided in Ashley about performance concerns or complaints about Mark, then it would be super awkward and I would think Mark’s supervisor would be really unhappy not to have known about their relationship.”

    Obviously, this is a fake concern because his supervisor already knows about the relationship. So, if OP is going to force them to disclose their relationship, a good start would be to come up with a real reason that actually fits the facts of what happened.

    But let’s be real. The actual problem is that OP is bothered that this is partially a secret. OP: you get to have your feelings, but in terms of selecting a course of action, you don’t get to do anything based on these totally non-work-related feelings.

  62. the great whodunit*

    I’d just be confused to be told this when I didn’t. Everyone who needs to know…knows. I usually only care about pregnancy announcements from people I know on my team — those make me warm and fuzzy but random person? Babies are born everyday, work goes on…*shrug* Not sure LW’s problem here! There is a reason why they aren’t sharing, whether it’s personal or they think “that’s not 400 people’s business!”

    1. the great whodunit*

      Also this makes me think of that AITA post on Reddit where the lady hid the fact she was married with three teens from her co-workers for 10 years or something like that, lol. I get it now why she would when people like this are around…

  63. iglwif*

    So they don’t work together, their jobs don’t overlap, and they’ve both told the people on their teams / in their chains of command who need to know?

    I gotta ask, OP, why on earth are you worrying about this?

    1. letitgo*

      Totally agree. I’m really confused by this letter, to be honest. What is the actual problem? Is there even a problem?

  64. Susana*

    Red Herring City here. This isn’t about being concerned husband’s manager might ask wife for advice on how to handle him – really, how often does that happen across teams? And if they’re close enough for husband’s manager to ask for advice, said manager probably knows the relationship.

    The goal is for people to be treated and evaluated at work irrespective of their relationships. So I think it’s impressive this couple has kept it fairly close.

    LW, is what’s really bothering you that you didn’t know this personal detail about someone you manage? Does it make you feel.. like you have less of a grip on her, in some way? The truth is, her relationships are none of you business. Even a marriage. If they choose to keep it out of the office, good on ’em, and sounds like they were doing a good job with that.

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