my coworkers told my boss I talk about my baby too much

A reader writes:

I’m still processing the conversation I just had with my boss, so I’m sorry if this is a mess.

I’m a new mom. My baby is going to be four months old later this week. I took 12 weeks off and returned to work a month ago. I manage a small team at a communications firm.

Since my return, people ask how I’m doing and how the baby is doing as part of small talk. I have always taken a personable approach to my professional life, but even when saying, “Oh, she’s going through a growth spurt right now so we’re dealing with some lack of sleep” I always keep it lighthearted and typically follow up with how I’m happy to be working because I genuinely missed it. I don’t monopolize the conversation talking about my child, or spend more time on it than would be appropriate talking about motherhood.

My work production hasn’t slowed down or decreased in value. Instead, my team became more independent during my leave, meaning I am able to take on more to promote our company’s growth.

But, apparently, six people have gone to my boss saying they feel like I am not putting work first and that I’m not “fully” there. The most information I got about who has issued these concerns is that none of them are the employees I manage, clients, or people I even work with on a daily basis.

I’ve pitched multiple new prospects over the past 30 days, rebuilt our entire proposal strategy, and have been fully engaged with my team and our clients. The company culture is one that has always been supportive of families and everyone shared stories about their kids or pets if they have them. I have always enjoyed that part of the company.

I think it’s important to note that I left the company last year (before Covid) for a job that didn’t work out. I have a combined total of four years with the company. I came back at the beginning of this year (they knew I was pregnant when they hired me) in a completely different and higher role than when I left. I’ve suspected that rubbed some of the longer-term employees the wrong way.

I asked if I’m not meeting expectations, if I’m being unreliable, if I’m underperforming and it’s none of that — it is solely that I have replaced talking about other things that I used to (hobbies) with my child.

I’m hurt and confused. I was told I’m doing myself a disservice to my career and reputation in the company. I don’t even know what advice I’m looking for by sending in this story … I guess, what do I do, besides no longer talking about anything personal?

Something is weird here. It’s odd for six separate people who don’t work closely with you to complain to your boss that you’re talking about your baby too much, especially when you really don’t sound like you’re talking about your baby that much.

Of course, it’s possible for someone to talk about their baby too much — just like they could talk about their diet too much, or football too much, or their dating life too much. Any topic, if overdone, can become too much. (And we’ve seen examples of this with kid talk like this, this, and this.) So the first thing I’d suggest is comparing how much you’re referencing your kid to how much other people in your office talk about their own children, just for a reality check to see if your calibration might be off.

But if it’s really just that you used to talk about running and cooking and now you’ve replaced those conversations with mentioning the thing that has replaced them in your life (your baby) … well, unless you were going way overboard on running and cooking talk previously, that just doesn’t sound like a big deal, and certainly not to the point that six different people should be describing you as not fully present at work.

If that’s the case, I would guess something like one of these is happening:

1. It’s exactly what you suspect — resentment from some longer-term employees over your return at a different and higher level.

2. Or, it’s not really about the baby talk, but is about other changes linked to the baby — like that you’re more vigilant about leaving on time now than you used to be and don’t respond to emails in the evening anymore, and they’re reading that as you being less committed than before, and seeing all baby talk as additional evidence of that.

3. Or, your baby talk isn’t calibrated quite right yet — not necessarily that you’re talking about her non-stop, but maybe that you’re not reading people’s cues about who is and who isn’t a baby story person (just like if you were misreading cues about who did and didn’t want to hear about politics or football or dating). But while this one is possible in general, it doesn’t really sound like what’s happening in your situation.

4. Or, your boss has an agenda of her own with this feedback — like she feels you’re less committed now that you’re a parent and rather than own that feedback herself, she’s attributing it to others. This would be seriously Bad Boss territory, and you should consider it through the lens of what you know of her. If she’s a reasonable and trustworthy person, it’s not this. If she’s comfortable with difficult conversations and has a track record of honesty even when it’s hard, it’s not this. If she’s gone out of her way to support you as a working parent, it’s probably not this. But if you read that and thought “oh yeah, I could totally see her doing that” … well, maybe it’s this.

But it’s tough to know from the outside what’s going on.

Do you have a trusted colleague whose opinion you could ask — someone who you trust to be blunt enough to say “yeah, it’s been a lot of baby talk” if in fact that’s the case?

Also, what kind of relationship do you have with your boss? If you have decent rapport, it’s worth going back to her and saying something like: “I’ve thought a lot about this, and I’m stumped. I’ve paid attention to how often I mention my baby, and it’s not often, certainly no more than other people here who have kids and no more than others talk about hobbies or other interests outside of work. And since you agree that my engagement and initiative aren’t problems and you’re not getting this feedback this from the people who work with me often, like my team, I think something else is going on. I don’t know if it’s resentment over me returning in a higher-level role or something else, but I can’t make sense of it. Do you have any insight that could help me make sense of this feedback so I don’t have to conclude that I shouldn’t mention my family at work at all?”

Read an update to this letter here

{ 588 comments… read them below }

  1. ZSD*

    I would love an update on this one sometime, please! I want to know if the OP figures out the real deal.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        It is indeed very odd.

        If it were me, I would set a challenge for myself to not mention anything other than answering direct, specific baby-related questions or absolute-must-tell stuff (such as if the baby is ill and she needs to work from home or some such thing), for a solid month. Do not mention baby at all. Not a word. Track who asks you generally, what your responses were, any times that you needed to do something baby-related and then go back to boss and lay it out. My money is on the OP actually having other priorities than solely her job now, particularly with a very young baby, and setting tighter and better boundaries on her time. There will be people who don’t like that, especially in light of the promotion. These people have grown used to having OP at their relative beck and call, used to having her respond immediately and with bells on, even at 10pm on Sunday, and now – shocking – this might not quite be happening any longer.

        I don’t think it’s the boss, because saying 6 different people is quite a specific thing for a lie. If she were ascribing her own views to others, she’d say ”others have said, several” but not been so specific. That’s just my opinion though.

        OP, please update us. Also, you are the mother of a tiny baby, your whole world has irretrievably shifted on its axis. You’re also clearly a very hard-working, ambitious professional who is new to this whole balancing act. This kind of thing happens and it’s most often via people who ought to know better. You’re doing well!

        1. Kara*

          I agree that it seems likely that the complainers, assuming they are real, miss the old version of OP and resent having to adjust to any new ways she’s presenting herself at work. However, I totally disagree that she should take on the labor of tracking and monitoring her conversations to collect “data” about a problem that isn’t really hers. This seems like other people trying to make their problems hers, which may have been the long-term dynamic anyway.

          I’m all for continued self-reflection, but not for taking ownership of others’ issues.

          OP, good luck getting to the bottom of this, or moving past it! I do wonder if there were aspects of this workplace that contributed to your past decision to leave.

          1. Attention Dior*

            I think it’s more trying to figure out if LWs perception is correct about what is going on. Maybe she IS talking about it too much. Maybe she isn’t and she can be confident in the fact that these people are weirdos. Just a way to evaluate yourself and see what the deal is.
            I will say though, that your life would be pretty consuming with young baby now, so if someone asks what you did over the weekend, or…where did you go, or what are you doing later, there literally may only be baby things to share. But if that’s the case, I don’t think the LW is talking about it too much – its just what she is doing. That’s different than maybe spontaneously relating things in all conversations or bringing things up like milestones or…anything like that and the LW might not be aware they are doing it.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yeah, I was told that I talked about my volunteer work too much. I was in a dead-end job and the volunteer stuff was empowering and interesting so yes, I talked about it more. I dialled it right down (so I basically stopped talking) and months later someone said the same thing, that I was always going on about my volunteer work, at which point I exploded, saying I’d only ever answered other people’s questions about it for ages, so no, that wasn’t true.
              I realised later that a lot of people hate anyone who does volunteer work, because they feel guilty that they don’t do any themselves, so no, you just don’t talk about it unless you know the other person is interested.
              OP, I supposed there’s a vague possibility that there are people in the company who don’t like children and hate any talk about children and babies, or people who’ve suffered miscarriages and want to avoid such talk. But yes, the weirdly specific “six” people makes that not very likely. Would that be three child-free and three miscarriages, or two and four, or four and two? Or is it the Child-haters league out in force?

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I’m thinking these people aren’t just missing the “old OP”– they have forgotten that she came back to the office with a promotion. They are remembering her previous position, where she did X, and for getting that she now manages a team and someone else does X.

            1. Usagi*

              This was my thought as well. Obviously we know practically nothing about what OP’s previous and current roles were/are, but it’s very possible her old role was ABC but now her role is BCD. Maybe the complainers need A, and all they see is “OP used to do this, and now she isn’t.”

          3. Worldwalker*

            You need the data to get to the bottom of a problem. That necessitates collecting the data, and the labor it entails. It doesn’t matter whose problem it is; if you’re going to deal with it, you first need to define it. The data is essential for that.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t know that I agree. If she had data from her first day back through now, that would be interesting to be able to refer back to, but A) now that the boss said all this, she’s going to be even more self-aware about baby talk than she was, so there’s bound to be less of it, and B) I’m not sure how helpful any such data would be if it turns out to be one of the scenarios Alison numbered 1, 2, or 4, which I think are the most likely ones. “Look, I’ve hardly mentioned the baby since you gave me that talk” isn’t going to make resentment vanish, for example.

        2. Lyngend (Canada)*

          I had a boss say no one on a shift liked working with me. Knowing two of them personally, talking to them a while after that, it was 1-2 people who actually complained… And the boss just wanted to micromanage me out of the job. (I peak at my employee file. There was a piece of paper that only had “we need to fire her” written on it).
          Not going to lie and say I was an amazing employee at that point. But I worked my hardest. (but also had undiagnosed/ untreated mental health issues) eventually I did become the hardest working employee. But that didn’t change how the manager treated me. (she’d gone to school with and didn’t like my mom. And thought that being asexual aromantic (with no intention to marry or have kids) was an affront to her marriage)

          1. Mannequin*

            Wooooow! Lyngend, your ex boss sounds like a great big bowl of toxic a-hole stew! Glad you got out of there!

            1. Sarah*

              I’m actually concerned that this conversation actually took place. I’m not sure what type of job this woman has that would counsel her not to talk too much about her baby one month after returning from maternity leave!

              It was ok when she was discussing other things prior to having a child, but suddenly it is not ok to discuss the newest addition to her family?

              I would be interested to know if men are being called in and counseled about how much they are discussing sports statistics at work. Or, if there exists some sort of policy regarding a prohibition of discussing personal matters at work. Or, if other team mates discuss their off work lives and there is no problem with their comments.

              The OP needs to make note of this discussion and then start documenting every single conversation she hears in which other team members are conversing about non work related activities. While it does not appear that there has been an adverse employment action taken…yet…it sounds like they may be setting the stage for that. To me, this is bordering on some possible discriminatory behaviors. OP needs to make sure that she is documenting as much as possible and lining up a good attorney.

              1. Momma Bear*

                Agreed about the possible difference between men and women and different topics. She can’t respond appropriately if she doesn’t know who, and that has got to impact not only her interactions with her team, but how she feels about others outside her team…and that kind of makes one wonder about the motives of these individuals.

                I don’t think that OP needs to turn detective per se, but I’d keep an ear out for similar behavior from others.

          2. Saradactyl*

            I still can’t figure out why anyone would ever think being a voluntarily single aro-ace is an affront to her (presumably hetero) marriage unless she’s a complete wack-job. I’m ace and aro too, and voluntarily single, and no one has ever been that way with me, luckily. I’ve heard of other aros and aces dealing with it though, esp. in the US, where overt and conservative religiosity seems to be everywhere. I just can’t understand that whole mindset!

            1. SeluciaMD*

              It really is banana crackers, isn’t it? That whole notion of “your marriage does not look like my marriage because you are not in a straight/cis/hetero/Christian union and so your marriage will be the ruin of the entire institution!!!! Your marriage will kill all the other marriages!!!!” Such histrionics! And such a bizarre way to think and evaluate. Why oh why does what someone else’s love life or relationship or marriage (or non-those-things) have any bearing AT ALL on your life/marriage/relationship/existence/happiness? It’s totally baffling no matter how you slice it (Though I agree that in the US there is definitely an underpinning of so-called conservative Christian values/social mores that really feeds this particular beast.)

          3. Lily of the Field*

            I am very puzzled; how does you being asexual aromantic mean diddly squat to her marriage? That makes zero sense; she must have been a bushel of fun!/s Good gad, that must have been horrid!

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, I don’t get it. It wouldn’t surprise me if the toxic boss felt that same-sex marriage was an affront to her heterosexual one, as well.

              Lyngend, I’m so glad you’re out of that job!

        3. Anne Elliot*

          I’m the kind of person where if I received that type of feedback that’s the last time any one of those A-holes would ever hear a word about my baby, or anything else in my personal life.

        4. Arts Akimbo*

          It has been my experience that, as a general rule, people with bad boundaries really dislike evidence of good boundaries in others.

        5. Ellie*

          I disagree about the specifics of mentioning six people making it less likely to be a lie. In my experience, a reasonable number of seasoned liars put in little details like this because they think it makes their story more believable. If I’d had this feedback about one of my employees, I’d tell them that more than one person from multiple teams have said that they mention their baby too much. I wouldn’t say anything more specific than that (and frankly, I wouldn’t say anything unless she kept it up for at least a few more months – its normal for a new parent to talk about their baby!) My bet is that the boss doesn’t like OP for some reason, and is looking for a reason to downgrade her work. I don’t think anyone has complained at all.

          I agree with your approach though – don’t mention the baby at all for a month and see what happens. The results should be interesting.

    1. Double A*

      This feels like one of those letters where a whole iceberg of horror is lurking underneath this anecdote….

      1. Catalin*

        Yup. My first reaction was how gendered this is. I’m also wondering if the boss said ‘half a dozen’ or ‘six’, as half a dozen could be colloquial for ‘3-4’ or even fewer.
        Super, super gendered, and someone definitely has sour grapes at LW’s success.

        1. Mimi*

          I was thinking about workplace studies showing that men are viewed more favorably for having children (“Aw, it’s so sweet that he takes time for his kids! He’s such a good dad!”) and women are viewed less favorably for having children (“She’s not committed anymore now that she has a baby.”) regardless of how much time is the children in question take up.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        I agree. There’s something buzzing in the house (bees, it’s always bees). I think the disconnect is that OP seems fairly self-aware, and I think would be able to recognize that she’s going overboard if it was this evident to this many people – this wouldn’t be a little too much baby talk around the margins, for six people to complain about, it would have to be very a high degree of baby talk. Secondly, the fact that it’s “not her direct reports, clients, or people she works with every day” – that is very weird, that your boss would entertain and pass on this feedback from – what, people working in another office? So unless it’s supervisory-level people making the complaint, there’s something weird about all of this.

        1. DrRat*

          I am also getting “the office is full of bees” vibe. Mostly due to 1) SIX people? but 2) NONE of these 6 are people who work with her closely?

          This is sounding either like boss is making things up/exaggerating or some Bitter Betties/Bobs all decided, “We don’t think she should have been promoted! She left the company! She’s not a team player! Hey, let’s ALL go to her boss one by one and tell the boss that she’s obsessed with her baby. That will teach her to steal the promotion we all deserved!”

          1. __ID__*

            Agree and I’m calling BS on “six people”. This reminds me of ex-Toxic Boss who told me that I’d offended a co-worker with a joke. (Absolutely not off color or sexual). What she didn’t know was that 1) he and I were good friends outside the office and 2) his side gig was…wait for it…stand up comedian. Likelihood of offending him was .000001%. Of course I called him about it and he wanted to go to her boss and report the flat-out lie – but I’d accepted another offer and had one foot out the door, so…In retrospect I should have asked him to report it to minimize the chance of her harassing anyone else like this. Long story short – she wanted me gone. And she ended up getting fired a few months later so…But unless you work with a group of deeply committed tattletales, im calling BS!!!

      3. Cait*

        One of the theories I have is that someone is having fertility issues and is wrongfully taking it out on OP. It’s one thing if you bring up your baby constantly or go on and on and on if someone asks you about the baby. But if the conversations typically go…
        “How is Baby?”
        “Great! Baby is starting to teethe and is getting fussy at night. We’re getting through it but sleep deprivation is real! How was your vacation?”
        Then something is off. If there’s something nefarious going on that seems unprompted and centered around OP’s baby, I’m going to guess this is stemming from someone’s fertility problems.

        1. Zephy*

          This feels like it’s getting dangerously close to fanfic. *If* OP is really talking about her baby more than she thinks she is (which is a possibility), one doesn’t need to have fertility problems to be annoyed by it.

          1. Casper Lives*

            That’s true. I can’t think of when I’ve ever complained to my boss about a coworker talking too much about a topic.

            Secretly annoyed, complained to friends, tried to engage less in small talk, sure. But go to the coworker’s boss? Nah.

            1. raida7*

              exactly. Going to the manager with vague ‘not fully here’ as a group – or one at a time – is very odd, deliberate behaviour.
              And it’s designed to make them look bad and maybe spread rumours of their boss having to talk to them about how they just aren’t engaged since they came back.

          2. JSPA*

            Annoyed enough for it to register between my ears, and maybe in my facial expression? Sure.

            Annoyed enough to speak to her manager? No.

    2. Squirrel*

      Sorry you are going through this. Your story reminds me of after my first child was born. They were trying to push me out. It was awful. Be diligent and document everything you can. Good luck to you!

    3. Erin*

      I would love an update here.

      However, something doesn’t add up. She has been back in the office for a month, and 6 people that she does not directly interface with have complained about the same issue. That is such a short amount of time for that many people to say something, especially since they don’t work together closely.

      Since this is a petty thing to have on one’s annual performance evaluation, I would completely end all chit chat about my baby, and I would tell my manager that I’m making a conscious effort to eliminate baby chat. If someone asks how baby is doing, I would respond with s quick “Baby is doing great, now on to the Vandelay Merger” and let that be it. And I would cite dentist appts/random personal appts if I leave early or come in late.

      1. works in a library*

        What it sounds like is that a mid-manager meeting, somebody made a comment, and the rest nodded and murmured agreement like idiots. And the LW’s manager was there and is also an idiot, and relayed the info like an idiot.

      2. Crooked Bird*

        For some reason this whole situation pisses me off enough that I would do exactly that, but when asked any follow-up question about the baby I would add, “I’ve been asked to talk about my baby less at work, sorry,” in a very unassuming voice, truthfully answer any further questions while showing no outrage at all, and let the office grapevine do the rest.

        I don’t really think LW should do this. But I’d kind of want to.

        1. Lily of the Field*

          I WOULD do this; it’s the truth, and if it offends the people who allegedly complained, so what? They COMPLAINED TO HER MANAGER, what did they EXPECT would happen? I would, as you say, keep my tone absolutely bland and not affronted at all, but I would absolutely tell people I have been asked to refrain from so much baby talk, and then I would change to subject to something work related. It’s no skin off my nose if someone does not like it that I know that people have supposedly complained about my conversational subjects; if they do not like that, then maybe they should not be complaining.

          1. KK*

            I would ABSOLUTELY do this! 100% agree! Keep it as impersonal and detached as possible. Say it in less that 8 words and move on with a blank face. And make them wonder.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Oh yeah, but let’s lay it on a bit thicker.
          OP: (all in a dramatic stage-whisper) Shhhhhhhh Nooooooooo
          colleague: “Huh?
          OP: mustn’t talk about that
          C: What?
          OP: I said mustn’t talk about that
          C: about what?
          OP: He who must not be named
          C: why go all Harry Potter on me?
          OP: No but I’ve been TOLD see
          C: told what?
          OP: the BABY
          C: What about your baby?
          OP: sssssssssssssshhhhhh

  2. Siege*

    I cannot imagine a workplace I’ve ever been in where six people who didn’t work with me went to my hoss with the same vague, hard-to-prove complaint. Either the boss is lying or there’s an actual conspiracy of resentment by people coordinating their complaints. Seems very unlikely you’re the problem, OP, if your assessment of your baby conversation level is accurate.

    1. Pomegranate*

      Also, it’s only been a month since she’s been back to work. If all six are people OP doesn’t work with often, how many interactions could they have possibly had with her over one months to come up with such conclusions?! Something is off here.

      1. awesome3*

        Yeah, that’s my question too. Are they all reporting one incident? Are these six imaginary people the boss invented? What is going on here!?

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          That’s what I was thinking. That there was like meeting A and someone asked LW about her baby. Then there was meeting B that had some of the people from Meeting A and some other people and the new people asked about baby and LW gave a brief update or something, just like she did in the other meeting and those people that were in both meetings feel like she is talking about the baby too much.

          Or maybe people are over hearing her while on lunch or something and just think she’s talking about the baby all the time because that seems to be what the hear.

          1. Attention Dior*

            But on lunch break that’s particularly annoying. Unless you are talking about something offensive, you can talk about whatever you want on your time away from work.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I just had another thought. Have you ever had to decline a meeting because it was across your pumping schedule? Some people get really weird about that.

            1. Mister Lady*

              I very much appreciate the “private” setting in my work calendar — it shows I’m busy but doesn’t say why. I’ve recommended it to my boss several times, to no avail; she doesn’t use it, so everyone can see when she or her husband go in for any and every doctor’s appointment. :/

              1. allathian*

                A former manager did that too. She’s retired now, and it seemed like she had a hard time getting used to our then recently introduced flexible working arrangements. We’re expected to mark on our calendars when we’re unavailable, if it’s longer than 15 minutes, but we don’t need to state a reason.

                All our calendars are shared, so unless it’s set as private, I can see anyone’s appointments and everyone in my org can see mine. Even our direct managers can’t see what we’ve hidden behind the private setting. IT could, but they’d need a good reason to do so.

                I hated seeing her doctor’s appointments on her calendar. She was absolutely fine with her reports flagging things private, but had a hard time doing it herself, because she was used to having to ask her manager’s permission to go to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, for example. I did get her to change her ways when I said something like “The only reason I look at your calendar is to see when you’re available. If you take two hours in the middle of the day, I don’t need to know if that’s for an appointment or because you’re going shopping when it’s quiet.” I’m lucky in that we had the sort of manager-report relationship where she was open to feedback like that.

          3. works in a library*

            I think it was a meeting too. Something like this happened to me, because a big part of any manager meeting was gossiping about their reports. One just happened to actually tell me what they said, while laughing. “Oh we were all commenting at all the weight you lost recently… and we made bets about how long it will take for you to get it all back”. These were managers two levels up. Discussing a medical issue about an underling for funz.

            1. Have Not Forgotten*

              30 years ago, I was gobsmacked when, upon telling my coworkers of my pregnancy, they laughingly informed that they had spent an office breaktime from which I was absent speculating that I had had a boob job due to the larger size of my boobs. A break attended by my boss, his boss, and his boss. (I was already self conscious about that bodily change, but then became paranoid about people talking about it…because they were.)

      2. Evonon*

        I agree. I know new parents want to talk about their kids…but the timeline and group of people that made this complaint don’t align. OP has kept baby talk lighthearted and even if OP does talk about their baby “too much” (OPs entire life changed and they’ve only been back for a month, relax), they are suggesting new ideas and are excited to be back to work. So I am in the camp of this is probably resentment of not answering emails at night and staying late as a show of “commitment”

        1. Data Nerd*

          From the second my one friend found out she was pregnant, every conversation with her has come back to her baby. Her kids are now 12 and 8. If asked, I’m pretty sure she’d tell you she doesn’t talk about them that much, but I have a side bet with my spouse about how long it’ll take to get from the most random topic to Christine’s kids (so far the record is the time I started off with the Yankees–6 minutes). All I’m saying is, it can be hard for new parents to realize how much they’re talking about the baby, so Alison’s suggestion of a temperature check with a coworker is a good one.
          Otherwise–six different complaints, from people she doesn’t work closely with? That sounds a bit. . . coordinated.

          1. NNN222*

            I agree with you on this but also agree that you can’t really tell if LW is going to continue only talking about her kid when she’s only been back at work for a month. I would maybe privately roll my eyes about it while understanding that this is a big adjustment for anyone so of course most non-work talk is going to be about her baby for awhile. I wouldn’t assume the constant baby talk would continue once things settled into a new normal for LW and her family. It wouldn’t reach the point of thinking I had to say something about it until at least a couple more months.

          2. Artemesia*

            This was what I thought too. There are people who always end up on the same topic. I worked with a guy and it seemed like every group conversation always somehow ended up on sex. When he wasn’t there, it didn’t happen. I have known many women who can’t go more than a minute in a conversation about music, puppies, the news etc without somehow it arriving at her kids.

            But 6 people she doesn’t work with. Either the boss is lying (and I wouldn’t discount this, it is pretty common for people to inflate a single comment into ‘several people have said’ although 6 is oddly precise). or there are a group of people trying to kneecap the OP. In either case, I think a rather blunt conversation as Alison suggests is in order. She says she is completed a number of initiatives in the month she has been back — she can lead with that in a conversation with the boss. And stop talking about the baby at work for awhile.

            1. Leilah*

              I was wondering if the boss said something slightly less specific, like say, “oh, half a dozen,” or tried to keep it vague but LW pressed for a hard number.

            2. Evonon*

              I agree that I think there is something sneaky here because she is executing her job and is an all star (they brought OP back with a promotion after she left that’s no small potatoes!). There is such weak evidence that she’s not committed regardless of the baby talk that I can’t help but wonder if there is misogyny at play.

              1. quill*

                I mean, there probably is, we just don’t know if it’s on the part of the boss or on the part of other coworkers.

          3. Starbuck*

            Also, for some people, any baby talk at all can be too much, for various reasons. But if it’s only coming up in like, water cooler chat moments as LW describes, the first move in that situation should not have been going to the new parent’s boss to complain!

            1. JustaTech*

              I once had a coworker complain that another coworker and I talked about her upcoming wedding too much, and we needed to have more “intellectual” conversations.

              Normally this would be a reasonable complaint (though he could have just said something to me or to the other coworker). But in this specific job we worked in a clean room (so you really couldn’t leave until one of the set break times) and we were literally sitting there waiting for something to heat up. There was no computer (or phones), and no paperwork, it was literally just sitting there. We’d already talked about everything else work related for that day and week. So yeah, in the next two hours we talked about how to find a wedding venue and assorted stuff.

              At no point did the complainer ask us to choose a different topic or suggest one himself.

              So the next week when we had one of those long down times I suggested we talk about Russian literature. (Yes, I was being a snot. In my defense I was very young and he was a complete jerk.)

              Some people are just passive-aggressive jerks. But 6 of them? That sounds unlikely.

          4. Sloan Kittering*

            Yeah but would six of Christine’s coworkers go to complain to *her boss* about it? Or would they just privately roll their eyes. Because the latter seems quite extreme to me and yet that’s what has apparently happened here.

            1. Risha*

              Exactly. I came back from maternity leave in May, and I am actually aware that I talk about my daughter too much and have been actively trying to cut it down a little for months (it’s difficult because I’m a single parent and nothing I do now doesn’t have her as part of it). If anyone has complained, my supervisor hasn’t said anything to me about it. It’s incredibly implausible that a bunch of people would be so annoyed by it in only one month that they’d make a formal complaint about it. One extremely intolerant person I’d believe. Six, though???

            2. Your local password resetter*

              Barely even coworkers too, just people she occasionally works with.
              Meanwhile none of her main coworkers or managers are complaining about this. That would be extremely unlikely to happen under any circumstance.

            3. Unicorn Parade*

              I am one of those people that don’t really like babies in general, does not and will never have children, and really, truly doesn’t want to hear anyone talk endlessly about their babies. As a professional in my 40s, I have heard so much endless talk about other people’s babies that I was not interested in, and work is no exception. With that being said, I would never complain to management about it unless it negatively affected in my work in a specific way (like someone talked loudly on the phone all day about their baby in an open-air office plan). And even then, I would say something to the person directly first.
              My biggest pet peeve is when I’m on a Zoom or Teams call, the speaker’s child runs up and interrupts them for something non-important, and the speaker stops mid-word and attends to their kid while we all sit and listen. I’m sorry but unless your child is on fire, they need to wait until you can take a break. Needing a different Barbie outfit is not an emergency and kids need to learn to wait their turn (we’ve all met adults who never learned that). Happens on every call I’m on these days – but I understand working from home is hard with kids and I would never, ever complain to someone’s manager about it.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                See, needing a different barbie outfit isn’t an emergency, and the parents understand that. But they still have to deal with interruptions from a kid who thinks it is an emergency. Teaching the kid that is not an emergency isn’t a one-and-done conversation, like, “Looky here, six-year-old kid; here are the parameters for what constitutes an actual emergency” and the kid fully absorbs the info and complies with it. There is a long-term arc of teaching the kid, in numerous individual (and, not infrequently, at totally inopportune moments) how to behave.

                1. Jane Smith*

                  YES. And, as a parent, I promise you that quickly addressing the child’s concern is in fact the quickest way to get the meeting back on track. Otherwise you’re sitting there trying to ignore a kid who is engaging in incredibly dramatic pantomimes to express that he is ready for a snack.

          5. Observer*

            From the second my one friend found out she was pregnant, every conversation with her has come back to her baby. Her kids are now 12 and 8. If asked, I’m pretty sure she’d tell you she doesn’t talk about them that much,

            I was thinking about that. it’s still ridiculous – according to the OP, she’s doing high level work AND her manager agreed that she’s hitting all of her targets, etc. So in the worst case, what you have is behavior that is a bit eye-rolly. Why would that be a Conversation and A Thing?

          6. pancakes*

            I think we’ve all met, if not worked with, people like this, but the fact that the letter writer works in a communications firm and heads a team of other communications people seems like a pretty good indication that she’s probably more self-aware around this than the average new parent.

          7. CSI*

            People also overshare about their babies, for sure (I have a baby, so I get it). People share a level of detail that is wildly boring and a bit TMI about their babies.

            But… who cares? If a co-worker is a bit annoying during small talk you don’t go complaining to your boss about it. Or I would be doing a lot more complaining. And if bosses are receiving that kind of vague complaining about someone’s social skills they should be like “…. and?”

            So to me this seems like a boss problem. I think OP should ask boss for concrete examples in writing about her work performance, and respond with concrete examples, and if that doesn’t happen, just ignore the problem, talk about her baby in only vague terms (“oh baby is great! We’re having tons of fun”) and keep her eyes on the prize.

        2. Meep*

          I am not a mother yet, but I can totally see this being a jealousy case. I bought a house in mid/late-2020. I had a coworker who had recently lost her house because she hadn’t paid the mortgage on it in 7 years (her husband was military so no interest and both are raging egomaniacs). She was so pissed off that she kept telling our boss and coworkers that I was so distracted and was ineffective at my job. When a house fell through she was GLEEFUL. My boss’s wife flips houses as a side hobby. He offered her help if we needed it. Coworker disparaged the realtor despite it not being his fault in any way (the owners just ghosted us for two weeks) and offered “her” services (she has a commercial realtor license – not residential). Complained about that when I declined. My husband’s exact words were “fuck no” because she would’ve made us do all the work and force us into a house out of our budget to get the commission (she is also a sales associate and I ended up closing most of this lady’s sales she was so unreliable and lazy).

          We were careful to look at houses during the weekends and I made certain not to tell the wench when we moved so she couldn’t complain. My mom was absolutely a huge help so I went to work while she and my husband took care of it all the day of. All she could do was pout.

          Point is, there are some weird people out there….

      3. kiki*

        Yes! Also, I feel like reasonable people accept that a new parent is going to talk about her baby quite a bit for their first month back, the same way a coworker is going to talk about their recent honeymoon quite a bit the week after they return or Beyonce after seeing her at Coachella. Also, people are going to ask LW about her baby in every meeting for a while because they’re curious and/or because they haven’t seen her since she returned from maternity leave and that’s a social nicety.
        Something’s really off here.

        1. alienor*

          And it’s not like LW is going to have a lot to say about her hobbies, because with a four-month-old baby, it’s super unlikely that she’s participating in them. A year from now, things might be different, but right now it’s probably work and baby and not much else. (I went back to work when my daughter was 8 weeks old, and the only non-work, non-baby thing I was able to do was reading, and that was because I’d figured out how to prop up a book while nursing.) I guess a solution could be to steer all conversations to the other person, e.g. “Oh, I’m not up to much in the evenings, but tell me how your nudist chess club is going,” but then the next conversation with the boss could end up being “People are saying you’re too secretive and standoffish.”

          1. BubbleTea*

            Yeah, my current hobbies are talking about my baby on a closed Reddit group, talking about my baby to a friend with a similar aged baby, talking about my baby to my family, and talking to my baby. I do try to talk about other things with other people though but honestly, if you ask me about my life… I just had a baby. That’s what is happening.

      4. Grits McGee*

        I wonder, could it be possible these complaints are/i> coming from people who work closely with OP, but the boss is trying to preserve the complainers’ anonymity? I know cops will sometimes do this with noise complaints- even if the complaint came from next door, the police will tell the noisy person that the complaint came from another block to defuse any potential conflicts between close neighbors.

        1. Jaybee*

          I was wondering this as well. Reading the letter over again, it sounds sort of like the boss said ‘people have complained’ and LW started asking for details (how many people? Who? Well, was it my employees? Etc.) and the boss was not prepared for that interrogation and told a couple of lies to try and protect the complainers from LW.

          Still seems so odd though. I can’t imagine how much someone would have to talk about their baby to get SIX distinct complaints.

          1. Lizzo*

            Under these circumstances (complaints of vague origin), it’s totally appropriate to push back and say, “Boss, unless you can provide more specific details regarding who and what needs to be addressed–for example, please don’t mention the baby at all to Suzy and Jennifer–then I’m afraid I won’t be able to address those concerns.”

            Addressing non-specific complaints means you’re tilting at windmills, which is a waste of time and energy.

        2. miro*

          This was my first thought as well. Doesn’t mean it would be a *good* move, of course–I think that in an office the difference between close coworker and person you barely interact with is maybe a lot more relevant than the difference between close neighbor and somewhat more distant neighbor.

        3. Golden*

          Now that you mention it, my spouse’s boss did something similar after Spouse brought up a very legitimate complaint (it had liability and safety implications). But to preserve anonymity and I guess ward off people trying to sniff out the reporter, the boss informed the group that multiple people had made complaints.

        4. Observer*

          could it be possible these complaints are coming from people who work closely with OP, but the boss is trying to preserve the complainers’ anonymity?

          The thing is that it still makes no sense. If there is an issue with the OP’s performance, her manager should address that. People don’t like that she talks about her baby? Sorry, even if the OP was talking about the baby non-stop, the only correct response is STILL “Deal with it”.

          1. Daydreamer*

            Not necessarily. If people are trying to talk about work with OP and she’s constantly sidelining that to discuss her baby and wasting her coworkers time, the boss would not just want to say Deal with it. He would need to address it.
            My office had a issue with a coworker that was constantly talking about her fur babies and her grandbabies. Any attempt to ask her a question or discuss work was derailed until after she went on for at least 10 minutes(often with multiple pictures). It got to the point that people would avoid her and go get the information elsewhere which created more work for others. This eventually got addressed with the person and she sulked for MONTHS over how everyone hated her “babies”

            1. Observer*

              If she’s actually derailing conversations that IS a performance issue. In which case, the manager should have addressed it as such. But according to the manager there is no performance issue at play. Rather ” it is solely that I have replaced talking about other things that I used to (hobbies) with my child.” That is very different from “you derail every conversation in the office. You’re keeping people from getting their work done.” Which is what the manager should have done if the OP were really as unaware as that.

      5. Data Analyst*

        Totally. Also, I feel like a good boss would dig in more with the complainers – okay, you don’t actually work with her, when is this happening? Rather than just going to OP and saying “six people told me this.” Did the boss say what THEY think? Actually, that would be a good test – OP, when you go back to the boss, ask “have you observed me talking about my baby too much? Can you give me any recent examples so I can work on it?” Because if they don’t agree with the supposed six people, they should have said so. If it’s really coming from the boss this could flush them out and make them say what’s really going on.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          The thing is I think a good boss would have waited a bit longer and maybe kept an eye out for themselves to see if the LW is talking about the baby. If it continued, especially if it was unpropmted and caused delays in meetings then the boss could have said “there were several complaints about you talking about the baby too much and I’ve noticed it on X, Y and Z times.”

        2. Siege*

          My boss is very prone to give any negative feedback she gets, so I’ve taken to doing exactly this – “can you give me an example where I told someone a flat no?” “Have you observed me refusing to complete work for a coworker?” We have some people on staff who have the sense that “we don’t have the platform to do that, but we can do this instead” means “we can’t do that because I don’t feel like it.” It’s really deflected my boss’s pointless criticism to ask her when she’s seen this.

          1. Lizzo*

            I commented on a thread higher up saying exactly this: boss needs to provide specific examples in order for things to be addressed effectively. I did this once with a (very new to me) boss, and in the moment it was pretty terrifying, but it did have the intended result, which was that 1) I didn’t waste time/energy giving the problem any additional thought, and 2) new boss discovered quickly that the problem was the complainers and their anti-Lizzo motivations for complaining.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, this whole thing is so odd I really hope it gets sorted out and we get an update.

        Normally, with 6 separate complaints, I would say it’s time to take a step back and wonder whether you are not assessing your own behavior accurately. But if the complaints are specifically not from the people she interacts with regularly then I don’t know how they could possibly have this many complaints already!

        1. Lokifan*

          Yeah, exactly. For six separate people who don’t work with OP much to all separately complain about a new parent responding to “what’s up?” with baby stuff is just… what? Either it’s a literal conspiracy or it didn’t happen (and the boss is covering up for her own complaints, or for closer colleagues’ complaints – which, even then, weird and probably only one person). I think going back to the boss is the best option – asking for examples should help tease things out a bit. Good luck OP!!

    2. Just J.*

      Yes, I’d be stringing together the working relationship with those six people and see, if it’s as Alison said, you’re not answering emails in the evening, no longer working late, etc. (Things that are selfish for others to expect IMHO.) If that’s the case, I’d ignore the complaints.

      Hopefully boss gave you enough info as to who the complainers are so you can do this. Otherwise I’d be back in the bosses office with Alison’s “I’m stumped” script.

      1. No Name Today*

        Except OP can’t look at her relationship with them because boss won’t be specific. Just “six people said.” I’m flashing to the Manchurian Candidate: 57 names!
        What is op supposed to do with this info?

        1. The OTHER Other*

          SHOULD the boss be specific with this kind of feedback? If someone told a higher-up that they felt a manager they didn’t work with closely was talking too much about their new baby (I’m taking that at face value, even though it seems odd) I imagine they’d feel quite put upon if that manager then confronted them.

          1. fposte*

            No, and the manager got too specific already by saying “six people.” The manager doesn’t need a threshold number of complaints to act, so to me this really smacks of invention.

              1. No Name Today*

                I think the manager should take more ownership and leave out other people as much as possible, “I am aware that X is happening, therefore I am telling you that I need you to do Y.”
                “Well, who said that?”
                And the manager states, “I am saying that, because, (it’s a distraction, it’s hurting your reputation, it’s not appropriate).
                And if OP knows how her boss feels and why.
                The way it happened has OP second guessing every interaction, looking around and wondering. If the boss had been stronger in his/her speech, OP would be rightly upset but not so overwhelmed by unknowns.

                1. Wisteria*

                  I’m afraid I don’t follow. fposte said that the number of people smacks of invention, and I asked fposte whether a different number would be more plausible. Perhaps it is there, but I don’t see the connection in what you said to the plausibility of the claims?

                2. No Name Today*

                  Wisteria, can’t reply to your reply, so it’s up here.
                  I was roundabout agreeing with your idea about the number. The number isn’t important. I don’t think there is a proper or better number because I don’t think this should have involved a number of people at all.
                  So not really fitting reply from me, but that’s where I was going.

            1. Your local password resetter*

              Yeah, at that point you should verify the problem yourself, directly or through some trusted coworkers/employees.

            2. Salymander*

              True. Being this specific about the number of people complaining is weird and seems like fabrication. If manager doesn’t want to name names, why would they tell how many people complained? And why say that it wasn’t anyone OP works super closely with? That makes it easier to find out who complained. That makes no sense.

              If there were actually a baby chatting problem, the boss could just tell the OP specifically what the issue is and OP could deal with it. Being this passive about it, like it is just manager passing along info rather than actually doing any managing, seems weird and possibly dodgy. I mean maybe the manager is one of those people who just pass along every complaint without using any real judgement about which ones are useful or even true? Maybe? There are a fair dew of those types of people out there I guess. But it still seems dodgy to me.

              This whole situation seems to me like a lot of sexist assumptions about how committed OP is to the work now that the baby is here. And also maybe some resentment because OP was promoted, especially since OP left the job and came back and later was on parental leave. I don’t know if it is the manager who is being nasty about this but trying to blame “six people” or if it really is other folks who are doing it, but it definitely seems like someone is being at least somewhat manipulative.

        2. River Otter*

          OP is supposed to do the same thing with this info that they would do if they did have six names, which is to look at the trend and not at the individual complaints.
          They have several options for what to do with that trend, including never mentioning her baby again or pushing back at the notion that talking about one’s baby is somehow different from talking about one’s hobbies, or even doing nothing at all differently. However, OP is best served by getting away from focusing on how many people complained and who exactly they were. Knowing that they are people who she interacts with only rarely is useful information because it is entirely possible that they see her differently, for whatever reason, then the people who she does interact with daily. Their names don’t matter, and it wouldn’t be different if there were four or 10 or two.

    3. Ashloo*

      It certainly seems like a concerted effort. If it’s not shadiness with the boss directly, I would question why the compliants were even passed along at all. They are apparently not from anyone touching the OP’s work!

      1. Bananas*

        This is reminiscent of a friend’s experience, in which it turned out the boss was actively prompting people for negative feedback. I hope that’s not the case for OP!

        1. Nowwhat465*

          You know… I was starting to think there was a larger conspiracy at play, but I wonder if it’s this. The boss or another manager may be prompting people “How do you think her work has been since her return? Have you noticed anything different? Has she changed at all?”

          If your work is great, your relationships are good, and you’re responding to people and providing deliverables on time no one can say anything about that. I wouldn’t be surprised if “I mean… she mentions she has a baby now in conversation…” was exaggerated to be “She talks about her baby too much! I heard it from ABC and then XYZ mention it too!” by one person who is upset OP got the promotion.

          1. another Hero*

            or it was a conversation among seven people (incl the boss), one person vented an annoyance, and others seemed to agree??

            1. Show Globe*

              That’s what I was thinking—the boss may have been sitting with a group of people, someone said something about LW, and everyone else kind of said, yeah, I noticed that too. It makes more sense than six different people deciding to seek out LWs boss about this.

              1. quill*

                Also possible: ONE person may have taken issue with one baby related conversation. Because some people are both extremely squeamish and very bad at knowing what their business is.

                I could see how someone who was overboard in “Can you BELIEVE that she had to leave the meeting on time to go pump? Who tells people that?” or “Gross, she said the kid spit up so she won’t turn her camera on, it’s unprofessional to mention barf ever!” could have five other people making mmmhmmmm whatever you say Jane look at the time gotta get back to work noises.

                But it would be on OP’s boss to know if Jane is a chronic complainer of other people acknowledging that life happens.

            2. GammaGirl1908*

              THIS makes way more sense. I can see a person who thinks any baby talk is too much, and one who just happened to catch LW mentioning Baby on consecutive days AND noticed LW being stringent about her time happening to be at the same table with a group including Boss and it comes up. Boss took that as everyone agreeing.

              I don’t mind a reasonable amount of baby talk, and I have a colleague, who does good work, who it feels like won’t shut up about her kids. She is a single mother by choice, I sat within overhearing distance during her fertility treatments / IVF, and now, five+ years later, at a minimum the kids still get mentioned spontaneously in nearly every work email. (…and usually there is more than the minimum. There’s a lot of self-pity, and expecting extreme accommodations and pats on the back for surviving the challenges of the single parenting she worked so hard to achieve.) Even given that, I can’t imagine six — six! — separate people going to the effort of seeking out her boss to complain. I’ve been at the eyeroll stage with her for several years, and all I do is just never respond to any of her kid talk and actively change the subject. She is actually annoying and it’s still not complaint-worthy.

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            Yeah, I was wondering about this, too. I can’t picture the circumstances in which I’d go to a colleague’s boss to complain about them in quite this way, after less than a month, if it was someone I didn’t work closely with.

            It’s just so odd, and the boss asking around is one possible scenario that makes a little more sense than six independent complaints.

      2. aebhel*

        Yeah, that struck me as weird. If they’re not people who work with the LW directly or regularly, why on earth does this need to be passed along? Especially since it seems like LW is mostly talking about her kid in response to… uh, people asking questions about her kid, which is a pretty normal thing to do.

      3. Artemesia*

        Or the boss may have polled the people she works with since she is newly back and newly promoted about how they think she is doing and this is what they are saying. The don’t work with you part could be protecting their anonymity. The OP is better off taking it seriously and reining in the baby talk AND being quite direct with the boss about performance issues. Because if there are not performance issues so what if she talks about the baby?

    4. Bob-White of the Glen*

      Or it’s one person complaining who has influenced the rest. in any case, boss should have done some detective work before bring the complaint to OP. If 6 people who don’t work closely with someone, and are not managed by them, are complaining, but none of the people who do fit those parameters are, something is up. And a good boss would have figured it out before playing this mind game on OP.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yes, this. If I was the boss, I would want to know details about the events the 6 were complaining about. (Perhaps the boss did this, but didn’t tell OP, so we don’t have the info). How often has it happened? Are any of the 6 describing the same conversation(s)? My take could be very different if it was 6 people all describing the same conversation vs. 6 people each describing 2-3 different conversations.

        I’d also want to know how much interaction they have with OP, generally. I mean, if I had a colleague who was doing something super annoying but harmless (not saying this is the case, just going to assume it for argument’s sake), but I had very limited interactions with them, I’d just quietly roll my eyes and move on. I wouldn’t go to their boss to complain about it. I’d also have questions about whether any of the 6 did anything to shift the topic away from babies. Like, did they even try the classic “OMG, so cute! Also, do you have the Burrowing Squirrel Report?” OP can’t calibrate the amount she talks about her baby if other people either aren’t giving her any cues or are (deliberately or accidentally) giving her inaccurate cues.

      2. Morgan Hazelwood*

        Definitely thinking this. Perhaps babies or pregnancy are a trigger for a coworker and they’re very uncomfortable, but they don’t want to complain alone. Or, the main person just hates kid talk and parent “privilege” or what have you.

        Either way, they say “hey, I want to say something, but to be credible, it can’t just be me. [WorkFriend], you think it’s been a lot, can you support me by making letting the boss know OP is overdoing it?

    5. OhNo*

      The only sensible explanation my brain could conjure for this is that it’s the boss who thinks you are doing too much baby talk, and they have taken any mention of such from any other person they’ve spoken to as agreement with their view. I mean twisting such innocuous comments as “Boy, LW is sure excited about their baby” or “Oh, I remember that stage of parenthood, where it felt like all I could think about was my baby”, or some other such non-sentiments, that the boss is skewing through their own lens to make it your problem.

      It’s worth checking with a trusted colleague just to be sure, but I suspect that you might have a boss who thinks that any baby talk is too much baby talk. Especially since it came with comments on your commitment to work that only your boss would really be in a position to complain about.

      1. fishfeud*

        I was thinking something similar. I was wondering if boss may also be asking leading questions of others along these lines, like “Wow, LW talks about their baby a lot huh?” and taking basically any response that’s not direct disagreement as support for their position.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        Also because it sounds like the LW is talking about her baby *because people are asking*, and not just going “LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY BABY” all the time, unbidden.

        1. Lynx*

          Honestly, this could be it, though. Even if people are asking, the perspective from those same askers might become skewed. This is a larger-scale version of the vegan-at-work issue where a lot of the times, diet only comes up when it’s “oh, I can’t eat that, sorry” or people insist on asking about being vegan even if you don’t want to go into the animal rights of it all, and somehow that quickly devolves into “how do you know if someone’s vegan? They’ll tell you!”

          1. Artemesia*

            When people say ‘how are you’ they don’t want to hear about your bowels or your sinuses. When they say ‘how’s the baby doing’, they don’t want to hear more than ‘fine — crazy times these first few weeks.’

            1. Metadata minion*

              I think this varies a lot — if I ask about someone’s baby, I usually am delighted to get detail, so long as it isn’t about the baby’s bowels or whatnot.

            2. Claire*

              I don’t think that’s universally true, and the responses LW gives as examples are also pretty brief.

      3. The OTHER Other*

        I think you may be on to something here, especially with the “you’re doing yourself a disservice” and other language about loyalty and commitment. Putting this together with LW having left this company and come back, maybe there is resentment by managers there about that, similarly to Alison’s warning about accepting a counteroffer.

        It’s also possible that this workplace really isn’t as family-friendly as it claims to be, at least where OP is concerned.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Yeah, I also wondered if leaving and coming back had something to do with this. Once they had her back and their stress about needing to fill the position had faded, attitudes about her among management have shifted.

          1. 1LFTW*

            I’m wondering if her boss actually wanted to fill her position with a protégé, was overruled by higher-ups, and is now allowing trying to undermine OP. Based on the info OP has provided, they’re doing stellar work, and there are no concerns about performance or reliability. The boss just said “it is solely that I have replaced talking about other things that I used to (hobbies) with my child. … I was told I’m doing myself a disservice to my career and reputation in the company.”

            I can’t imagine why anyone’s reputation would be harmed because they… don’t talk about their *hobbies* anymore? I mean, never in my working life have I ever thought of a colleague, “they used to be so professional, until they stopped talking about scrimshaw!”.

            Something ain’t right with the boss. If they’re not being evasive about what’s really going on, they’re greatly exaggerating (or entirely fabricating) it.

        2. Observer*

          t’s also possible that this workplace really isn’t as family-friendly as it claims to be, at least where OP is concerned.

          I was thinking the same, to be honest.

      4. Lemon balm*

        I had a boss who would ask pointer questions to get the response she wanted from a person and use it against you.
        I.e. she would ask a colleague if they still needed help with minutes for a working group. When they said no. She told me they didn’t want my help any more or me on the working group. Which was not true. I only found out when chatting with them. It was awkward all around. I still have no idea why she would lie like that.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      Exactly. This doesn’t add up. How many times could these people have actually interacted with the OP in just one month? It smells too coordinated to me. My “spidey sense” is totally triggered. I would love an update on this!

        1. juliebulie*

          Yeah, SIX of them? Not people you work with, and not clients? And all of them went to boss with their complaints? How can that be? I think the boss is making it up. The question is why.

          If OP presses for details, lots and lots of details, out of a sincere wish to do better, boss just might stumble over all the lies. Not that I would recommend this. But it’s fun to watch liars squirm as they slowly figure out that you’re onto them.

    7. HigherEdAdminista*

      This was my first thought, that the boss either doesn’t want to hear mention of the baby and decided to invent some vague feedback so they wouldn’t have to be direct OR that the boss wants LW to feel a little… off for their own reasons and decided “everyone is secretly bored by you and thinks you are a flake” was the way to do it.

      I worked with someone above me who told my boss at the time they felt I lacked devotion to x and was secretly putting all my energy towards y. I was stunned by this and was able to show examples of how it wasn’t true, however I made sure to be very vocal and visible in my work towards x. I was very cautious if I had to work on one thing a little more than another thing because I didn’t want to be accused of favoritism; I would always make a public showing of what I was doing for x… which was likely this person’s exact goal (they were know to manipulate things).

      1. Leilah*

        Yes, this exact thing has happened to me before, twice. Once with a boss who was truly terrible, once with a boss who was just patronizing and a little power-trippy but overall pretty decent. The boss gave me feedback that supposedly came from others expecting it to throw me off balance and take me down a peg, but when I turned around and it took it *really seriously* couldn’t actually back the “complaints” up with facts or actions at all.

        The truly terrible boss even had a piece of paper printed out that was supposedly a list of customer complaints about me — but he could only read me one complaint (that wasn’t even a complaint, it just said, “She didn’t know the answer to this obscure question off the top of her head and had to follow up with the answer after she looked into it”) and wouldn’t let anyone see the paper, so it was definitely fake.

        The not-terrible boss told me in my annual review that I was performing amazingly but that my co-workers reported I was “annoying” and “abrasive” and wanted me to take that very seriously. So After bawling my eyes out all evening, I came back the next day and said I was serious about doing better and needed some more specifics about my problematic behavior. He told me that he had given me that feedback to make sure I didn’t think too highly of myself, that he had no specific examples and there was nothing I could do to change, and he would be making sure none of that feedback was actually written down anywhere at al as a “favor” to me.

          1. Leilah*

            Yeah….turns out a lot of bosses don’t love super high performing, extremely well-liked women under the age of 25. Not trying to be egotistical, the ability to even type that sentence only comes with a decade of retrospect and a lot of therapy. The terrible boss was a pathological liar and bully who screamed at people in the office and purposely refused to fire people because it made him feel like a bad person(!), opting instead to openly try to make them so miserable that they quit on their own. The not-terrible boss left us alone 95% of the time (including when we actually needed him for things), so in comparison he was pretty tolerable. They both did a lot of damage to my psyche early in my career, but fingers crossed that I’m past most of that (or at least hardened against it).

            1. Lizzo*

              I see you, and I feel this so hard. Thank goodness for therapy, and the gift of time and distance. Hope you’re in a much better professional situation now.

              1. Leilah*

                Thank you! I think so. Overall liking the company I’m with, been promoted 3 times in 3 years and had my salary nearly double, and my current boss and grandboss are both above average. A little sad that it took me until my 30s to land somewhere that appreciated me, but such is life.

                1. Lizzo*

                  @Leilah I think that sounds completely normal. So much about employment/workplace culture has changed within the last 15-20 years, and on top of that, folks who are about our age (I’m guessing at yours based on your comments) are now assuming leadership positions and doing things differently.
                  Plus, I think as you move through your career you get better at sniffing out bad management before accepting an offer, and also gain confidence in recognizing when jobs are not a good fit. Such is life. :-)

            2. Salymander*

              Wow. Not-terrible Boss sounds pretty darn terrible. It is never a good sign when someone is thought of as not terrible solely because they are around so little that their horribleness is only an occasional torment rather than a daily one. Yikes.

              I’m really glad that you have been able to recognize your good qualities and that you haven’t had your confidence shattered permanently by these awful bosses. They sound like huge jerks.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Same here. I was kind of nodding along to the letter and then I got to SIX PEOPLE. What the heck. Based on what OP describes, she certainly talks about her baby significantly less than I did about my kids when they were young. (Eventually they became teenagers/young adults and reached the point where, if anyone asked me about my children, the most sensible answer would’ve been “I plead the fifth”.) But I worked in an office at the time where everyone had a plethora of children, nieces, and nephews, new babies kept being born to my coworkers, and the amount of kid talk that was considered normal was probably higher than the typical. My teammate that I sat next to, didn’t have children of her own, but would tell us about her nieces all the time. Everyone was okay with all of that. OP, did you talk about your hobbies the same amount of time before your baby arrived? and no one complained that you were not “fully there”? Maybe this particular office (or these particular six people) are just less accepting of kid talk then they are of running or cross-stitching talk? Or there’s something shady going on, based on this detail of the letter: “I came back at the beginning of this year (they knew I was pregnant when they hired me) in a completely different and higher role than when I left. I’ve suspected that rubbed some of the longer-term employees the wrong way.”

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        What’s puzzling though is, at least in the example given, OP was responding to a questions SOMEONE ELSE asked her specifically about the baby. So strange.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Right? What did they expect OP to say? “How’s the baby?” – “I’m not at liberty to say.”

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Cold, steely stare followed by “this meeting is about the TPS report, let’s keep it professional, please.”

        2. Artemesia*

          or an unreliable narrator who thinks ‘how’s the baby’ is the excuse to deliver 500 words on the baby.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Which is why Alison included the suggestion to recalibrate and be sure that she is not, in fact, talking too much about the baby. But since Alison suggested that and the rules ask us to take LWs at their word…

    9. Shiara*

      Is there any chance there was a miscommunication and it’s been six complaints, not six people? And some of then are from the same people? It’s still super weird and concerning if so, but six separate people you don’t work with regularly is so odd.

    10. Nanani*

      I immediately thought the six complaints were definitely NOT spontaneous conversations but more like a pot-stirrer going around asking “hey do you think LW talks about her baby an awful lot?” and getting at least some form of agreement, perfunctory or sincere, then running with it.

      It’s the middle school “EVERYBODY thinks your lunch is weird so you can’t sit with us” tactic.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes, I wonder if one person complained to the boss and said, “Susie, Bill, Ted, Phoebe, & Jason agree!”

    11. Prefer my pets*

      Possibly. Possibly this is my old coworker (not literally…her last baby was several years ago). She would have said the same thing…that she hardly talked about the baby and only when people asked. But her calibration was sooooooooo far off! The generic “hi how are you” that is expected to be reciprocated with a “fine thanks, what can I help you with” would get a no-kidding 5-10 min blow by blow of something baby. She had never cared all that much about any topic before but she was obsessed with that baby and didn’t remotely recognize the degree she was putting it on others. Her work was still good…IF you never gave her an opportunity to get going on it. About 3 weeks after her return her supervisor came to a bunch of people reminding them to go to her for questions, not the person who had been acting in the role while she was on mat leave and that’s when it came out that most people couldn’t deal with paying the toll of 10 min of baby talk for a 2 min work question.

      Could be either here.

      1. jenny20*

        yes as a childless person, I can confirm the calibration can be WAY off for some people, especially new parents.

      2. Yorick*

        This could be, but it’s still weird that 6 people would have complained to her boss about it after only 1 month – and 6 people who don’t work closely with her, at that.

        If this is all true, OP’s workplace may have an excessive “complain-to-their-manager” culture, which some would want to avoid.

        1. alienor*

          It’s so weird to me that anyone would complain to someone’s boss about a topic of conversation, unless it was WILDLY inappropriate. I’ve sat through a lot of meetings where people kicked it off by talking about sports or drinking for the first 5-10 minutes, and it wasn’t particularly interesting to me, but neither are a lot of other things that happen at work. I can’t imagine going to their bosses and trying to get them in trouble for it.

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

            Exactly. Even if OP was over-sharing about the baby, I find it very hard to believe that multiple people didn’t just give it a few months to see if it tapered off.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Yup. Something is rotten here, and it’s probably not how much OP is talking about the baby.

              (also your name just made me have to clean off my computer screen, so well done)

            2. Salymander*

              I know, right? Lots of new parents go through the baby chat phase. It tends to taper off after a few months. I found that the lack of sleep made me a lot less chatty in general.

              I think that this feedback from boss sounds really sexist and meanspirited. Six people? Who don’t work closely with OP? But who think OP’s commitment to work has suddenly taken a back seat to talking about the baby? But manager doesn’t have any real feedback and has given no examples of what behavior is problematic or what actions OP should take? The whole thing sounds off to me.

          2. Claire*

            In my experience, people are also harder on mothers talking about babies than they are fathers talking about babies or anyone else talking about sport/weekend plans/clubbing.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I wondered that when I read OP’s response. It’s more detailed than I would have expected.

        OP, if you want to try recalibrating, maybe try responding to questions about the baby similarly to the way you’d answer the same question about yourself. Usually, if a coworker asks you how you are, they’re being polite and all they expect is “fine thanks, you?” Answer “how’s the baby?” at the same level. “She’s great, thanks for asking.” If someone asks a more specific question like whether she’s sleeping through the night or whatever, they asked a more detailed question and you can give them a more detailed response.

        1. Dahlia*

          “My newborn isn’t sleeping great” is more detailed than you’d expect? I feel like that’s just standard for… you know. Babies.

          This feels like if someone went on a vacation overseas, you asked them how it was, they answered, “Great, but I got so sunburned” and you went, “TMI!! Too many details!”

      4. Observer*

        She would have said the same thing…that she hardly talked about the baby and only when people asked. But her calibration was sooooooooo far off! The generic “hi how are you” that is expected to be reciprocated with a “fine thanks, what can I help you with” would get a no-kidding 5-10 min blow by blow of something baby

        But that’s not what the complaint is. If boss had said “you clearly don’t realize this, but you are talking about the baby an awful lot and it’s making people nuts” I would still say that the boss should have shut the complainers down. But at least we’d have a good idea of what’s going on.

        But the manager said that what people are complaining about is that she’s ” not putting work first and that I’m not “fully” there”. And it’s not just the OP’s self-assessment that she’s doing good work. It’s that the manager is AGREEING that she’s meeting expectations, being appropriately response and reliable etc. AND that the the complaints are coming only from people who are not working with her.

        That’s just an extremely odd response to someone being a huge bore about their wonderful, special, gift-to-mankind new child.

    12. Stitch*

      I’m really suspicious. Especially since it’s been a month. My experience is that most people are tolerant to baby talk for a little bit.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes, especially a NEW baby. I got sick of hearing about my coworkers toddlers and grade school kids, but new babies are so exciting, especially the first, that I’d put up with a lot for the first couple months (I don’t have kids, but I do like them)

    13. MsM*

      Yeah, honestly, even if boss has never shown signs of being a Bad Boss before, this is weird enough that I’d be reassessing my past interactions with them or any complaints/tensions that anyone else might have had to see if there was anything I might have missed. Or if it’s absolutely, positively not them, trying to think through who else I might have ticked off somehow. And this is coming from a non-parent who probably wouldn’t complain about oversharing but wouldn’t be super-enthusiastic about it, for whatever that’s worth.

    14. Annony*

      The only thing I can think of that could explain why six people the OP doesn’t even work with often would say something is that the boss has decided that OP is talking too much about the baby and went around asking people, ignored all the feedback that she doesn’t and passed one the few that said anything about “yeah, she does seem to talk about her baby a lot.” If it was actually coming from her team it would carry more weight.

    15. Aggretsuko*

      I’ve certainly had ONE person go to everyone with a vague hard-to-prove complaint. Six random people complaining together sounds like coordination.

      That said, I don’t think anyone who’s just had a baby can talk about the hobbies they can no longer do, right? I had one relative that when he had a baby, well, he’s never talked about a hobby again and the child is now six. That’s just…procreation. You may not like it, but you have to put up with it.

      1. MsSolo UK*

        Mm, I do think it may be relevant if it’s people she used to share hobbies with. If previously you were into, say, mountain biking, movies and interior design, and suddenly all three of those topics are replaced by baby, it can seem like a lot, but ultimately, that’s exactly what’s happened – your day revolves around feeding, nappies and naps and any activity that takes more than 20 minutes and requires more than 50% of your brain power is off is off the agenda. Since having my own, I’m very conscious that the neutral “how was your weekend” getting to know questions my new colleagues ask aren’t helping build a rapport, because i have nothing interesting to share with them. I’m sure I’ll have hobbies again one day, maybe when she starts school, but for now the highlight of my weekend is if i spot any new graffiti on the twice daily walk to the park.

    16. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      Yeah six is not a super realistic number to me to be a) not OP’s reports, and b) deeming annoyance with OP’s work conversations as worthy of reporting up the chain. I’d take the truth of this with a grain of salt and explore the “Boss is fibbing” angle.

      Because also, if someone reported to me “So-and-so your direct report is talking about her brand new baby too much!” I can’t imagine anything but “So what?” as my retort.

      1. Observer*

        Because also, if someone reported to me “So-and-so your direct report is talking about her brand new baby too much!” I can’t imagine anything but “So what?” as my retort

        That’s the thing that’s really getting to me, too.

    17. Ash*

      The key here is whether or not the OP’s assessment of her amount of baby conversation is accurate or not.

      1. Double A*

        I feel like most reasonable people give a new mother with a 4 month old infant leeway in this arena. Even if it’s too much baby talk, it’s been a month that she’s even back at work. Complaining at this point is a total jerk move.

        1. Nelliebelle1197*

          Something is way off – either the manager is the one annoyed or the OP’s perceptions of herself and her performance is way off. Cause this be cray cray otherwise. I mean who DOES that to someone??

      2. Observer*

        Actually, it’s totally not relevant. The key is whether or not the OP is getting their work done, is managing her reports properly and meeting client expectations well. If she also happens to be a monumental bore about her new kid, so? People are bores about a LOT of things.

      3. Sharon*

        No, the key is whether her baby conversation is causing workplace issues or not. Is work not getting done? Are people not talking to her about work matters they need to talk to her about? Are meetings getting derailed? OP specifically said she asked about work impacts and her boss said there were none, so why is the boss even bringing it up? What is the action item?

    18. Omnivalent*

      Likely the boss is papering the OP’s file. In other words, the boss and maybe the employer wants to get rid of the OP without being accused of pregnancy discrimination, so they’re building up neutral reason to do so. Soliciting complaints and then writing the OP up as if the employees had volunteered them on their own is a classic. The OP should take careful note of the other supervision she is receiving. Are work rules that were less rigid in the past suddenly reasons to mark down the OP’s performance? Are others at the OP’s level treated the same way?

      1. The OTHER Other*

        This is a terrible but unfortunately realistic scenario. I don’t know why they brought her back (and at a higher level) knowing she was pregnant if this is the case, but perhaps there are factions in upper management with different agendas.

      2. RC Rascal*


        Whenever I have been confronted with odd and anonymous/non- actionable feedback it’s because someone senior has been out to get me. Usually because my performance is strong and someone is jealous. Or, because they know they are going to be needing a sacrificial lamb and they are working ahead.

      3. Properlike*

        Unfortunately, this was also my first thought. Someone’s building a case. Not a real one.

        Document. Everything.

    19. Mary*

      The “6” seems oddly specific. I think in most cases if 6 coworkers complained, the manager would relay to the employee that “several employees” or just “employees” said something. Sometimes when a liar (and not saying the manager is lying) uses a specific number, they are either lying or exaggerating.

      I also might be overthinking this due to an example from my life lol

    20. JustForThis*

      I wonder whether the boss is saying the truth about six people complaining, but fudged the truth when pressed who they were, and they really are working more closely with OP.

    21. Sue*

      Maybe someone is having trouble conceiving, keeping a baby to full term or has lost baby(ies). And her friends are ganging up on LW. I would start telling anyone who asked about my baby that I won’t be talking about my baby any more after someone reported you for it.

      1. Observer*

        That’s a really weird scenario, and I would say highly unlikely. Regardless, the last thing the OP needs to do now is to make this into even more of a THING.

    22. Empress Matilda*

      Six people? Who OP doesn’t work with closely? And she’s only been back a month? Yeah, something definitely smells here, and it’s not the OP’s baby’s diapers.

      Honestly OP, I don’t know if this situation is salvageable – from the little you’ve told us here, this place seems to be royally effed up, and your best solution may be to plan an exit strategy. Good luck with whatever you decide, and please do keep us posted!

    23. Joielle*

      This is total conjecture, but maybe the boss met with some other managers (maybe regular one-on-ones) and asked them how the OP’s return seemed to be going? And they all said something like “well she always gives us updates about the baby, but it’s been fine overall” and the boss is calling those “complaints” even though it might have been more like “observations”?

      I don’t know, it’s just so odd to imagine six different distant coworkers complaining about something like that. Either there’s some other context, or the coworkers are coordinating with each other to get the OP in trouble, which seems bizarre (but we’ve heard weirder things, so who knows).

    24. Worldwalker*

      Six people who don’t work with you, while the people who *do* work with you are just fine.

      There’s something fishy going on.

  3. Raven*

    I think Alison’s advice to ask a trusted friend is the best.

    I know we are supposed to take letter writers at their word. And I believe that SHE believes what she is saying, but…

    I had A LOT of friends have kids over the last year and a half. I’m sure they don’t think they talk about their baby a lot. But they do. And it gets annoying frankly for the rare times the do get out to have them constantly talk about their kid, while not really asking about you. And since they are my friends, I just deal with it. But I can understand how in a work situation, you wouldn’t want to deal with it.

    I have once brought this up, and they were like “well, this is like all my world now”, which I get (I mean not fully since I don’t have kids, but I get the sentiment). However, while they are typically very self aware people, I think they are so used to everything being about their kids, that they don’t realize how much they make everything about their kids.

    1. Pony Puff*

      My initial thought was she does talk about her baby too much and doesn’t realize it. However, the circumstances are odd since I personally can’t imagine complaining to someone’s boss that they talk about something way too much unless it was religion or politics. For six people to allegedly have complained to her boss…idk…maybe it’s really about something else.

      1. Raven*

        Well yeah, I’m not saying I would go to management about it either, I’d probably just roll my eyes and move on. I’m just saying I feel like there is a good chance she is doing it much more than she realizes.

        1. Calpurrnia*

          I’m not really a baby person but know to make the socially-appropriate noises when people talk about babies and generally wouldn’t complain to someone’s boss about the innocuous “oh isn’t Precious just soooo adorable?” at work. But I could imagine a few cases when I’d *potentially* *consider* doing so: (pretty uncommon but not unheard of) when normal human-speak between adults morphs into “look at those tiny widdle toesie woesies!” baby-talk, or (much more common, in my experience) when the new parent totally loses any semblance of boundaries and starts telling frankly gross stories (about poop, pee, diaper contents in general, toilet training, barfing, etc) as if they’re lol-cute things baby did.

          The number of new parents who were previously reasonably professional adults but suddenly think it’s totally fine to have detailed discussions of the color, consistency, frequency, location, or general production of poop in company of people outside their immediate family honestly astounds me. I’ve heard child-stories with punchlines like “and there she was, playing with a poop floating in the bathtub!”, “he started peeing everywhere right when I was changing his diaper!”, and “turns out there was barf all down my shirt!” and they all kind of make me want to throw up. (I know plenty of new parents who DON’T tell these stories, to be clear, so it’s far from universal, but it’s way, way more common than I would prefer it to be. There is a mysterious aura about babies that makes some percentage of adults lose any sense of boundaries.) In all honesty, unless we work in certain relevant industries, I would prefer that work remain a place where poop is never, ever a topic of conversation.

          If I, say, sat at a desk near-ish to someone who told these stories but didn’t work with them or want to put myself on their radar as some kind of baby hater, I can imagine going to someone’s boss like “do you think maybe you could get Tangerina to dial down the baby stuff at work?” It might only take one such story, too – it might not be about the actual amount that she talks about the baby as much as the new-parent things that she tells people about.

      2. I don’t post often*

        I’m kind of giggling at this. Most of friends that do not have children are also single. So now late 30s/ early 40s and single. I know with those friends, for the most part, when we talk, it’s about them. We may spend a 1/10 of our conversation about my life but the rest, it’s about them. And I get it. Frankly I have a few close single friends I have routinely checked in with since March 2020 because its hard for me to work fr home. But imagine being the only one in your house and now working from home for weeks on end. So I’m fine with the situation but your comment made me giggle.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          I think that might be your specific experience, though :) I know I’m single and working from home and basically…no conversations with my friends are about me because truly nothing happens in my life, haha. My convos are all about their kids and their lives because I get that the single life is not that interesting to most people, especially when I’m not interacting much with others. All group dynamics are different, I think yours might be those specific single friends rather than single people as a whole! (Just like oversharing parents are often those specific parents not all parents!)

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            This is also my experience, as a single woman in my 30s without kids. I’m actually bemused that anyone in my peer group would think that anything happens in my life that’s worth talking about.

            If you’re the only person in your house, working from home for months on end, at this point in the pandemic, people have clued into the reality that your life doesn’t have anything going on except for work and no one really wants to talk about that. I’m self-aware enough to know that sharing my life updates would be like asking someone to watch paint dry, lol. I don’t post often’s single friends must be really self-involved.

    2. eastcoastkate*

      Yep- looking back I am SURE I did this with wedding talk w/ friends or coworkers. They ask how stuff is going, and I am 100% sure I gave them a way more detailed answer than they were looking for haha. I think sometimes we aren’t the BEST judges of this until we look back at it. Not that there is anything wrong with LW talking about her baby, but I totally can see someone not quite realizing just how much this comes up in conversation.

      1. JMR*

        I agree that she could be talking about her baby way more than she realizes, but what gets me is that people complained to her manager about it. I can imagine a situation where she is boring the pants off her co-workers without realizing it, but I can’t imagine those co-workers escalating it to management unless it was interfering with their own work in a significant way, like people are asking her work-related questions and she’s answering by pulling her phone out of her pocket and showing them pictures. And since these six alleged people are not, according to OP, people she manages or interacts with often, I don’t think it’s the case that her nonstop talking about her kid is preventing them from being able to get work done. If it’s just that she’s irritating them, the proper response is for them to roll their eyes internally and make a mental note to avoid small talk with her in the future, not report it to her manager. Co-workers being irritating is a part of life, and it’s not something to escalate to someone’s boss unless it interferes with your own work in a significant way, and if THAT were the case, the boss should have mentioned that, using concrete examples, in her discussion with OP. None of this adds up.

        1. eastcoastkate*

          Fully agree with that- OR even if they did express frustration to the manager (in a casual, not official complaint way) the manager really could have let it go and see how it went as she’s only been back a month. This definitely does NOT seem to rise to the level of “official complaint to the boss” but I wonder if it wasn’t that but more of an expressing frustration in other conversations, and the boss had heard it a lot?

      2. Golden*

        I’m also guilty of this! Took me an embarrassingly long time to realize I was bringing up my cats wayyy too often at my old job.

        I think a calibration check is in order, but there certainly seems to be some oddness going on either way.

    3. High Score!*

      A lot of parents like to talk about their kids. I have one friend who mentions her child EVERY single time we visit or chat. The child is 30. And that’s ok. Some people do that with sports or hobbies or whatever. If it really isn’t affecting her work, disrupting others work, or dominating conversations, then it’s just her thing. Everyone has topics they like to chat about.

      1. Raven*

        I’m not saying its bad or good. I’m just saying it may be happening much more than she realizes, which may have prompted people to go to management. I wouldn’t do that personally, but people go to management all the time with things I wouldn’t think to do so for

        1. Observer*

          Well, that’s what people are pushing back on. WHY on earth would anyone go to management about this? Would they go to management because someone ALWAYS has to talk about the latest episode of (whatever show) or the latest game of (whatever sports team)?

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, I can think of a couple of people who don’t think they talk about their kids a lot but they really, really talk about their kids a lot. With one of them, you can make a game out of it – bring up any topic and see how long it takes her to turn it into something about her kid.

    5. Susie*

      I would agree except for this for this observation fromcommenter Pomegranate:

      Also, it’s only been a month since she’s been back to work. If all six are people OP doesn’t work with often, how many interactions could they have possibly had with her over one months to come up with such conclusions?!

      And from OP:
      The most information I got about who has issued these concerns is that none of them are the employees I manage, clients, or people I even work with on a daily basis.

      If she’s not working with these folks on a regular basis, how can she possibly be talking about her baby too much with them? I doubt she’s stopping them in the halls to chat about her little one.

      I think OP’s guess about longer-term employees being upset over her return at a higher role is most probable. Maybe one or more of them applied for the job she got and now they have a sour grapes attitude over it.

      1. Venus*

        I look at it from a different view too, where it seems so odd that they aren’t employees, clients, or people OP works with regularly because those would be the ones most likely to complain about the baby talk. Or I would expect a mix of complaints from some people OP sees regularly, and some not. The high number of complaints from people that OP rarely sees makes me imagine the unlikely option that they have a lunch room and OP is hanging around the coffee maker waiting to bore people to death if they so much as look in that direction, but that seems very unlikely! I agree with everyone else that it seems odd.

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

        My thought is that people were asking, “How’s the baby?” in the polite not really wanting to have an answer way, expecting the social convention response of, “fine, thank you, how are you?” and instead she responded as though they were genuinely interested in knowing details. That’s how it sounds to me since they aren’t people she works with closely and wouldn’t have the sort of relationship where, “Oh, she’s going through a growth spurt right now so we’re dealing with some lack of sleep” would feel appropriate.

        1. Dutchie*

          But even then that answer doesn’t strike me as complain worthy? It’s not as if LW is going off on a ten minute long rant without the option to get a word in. If it really bugs someone they could remember what happened and just not ask about the baby next time.

          (That’s taking LW at their word the answer is just a one sentence response.)

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

            I agree, sort of. It’s more the pattern and not the individual comments. If the OP is one who answers social convention questions with literal answers, rather than the social convention response, it doesn’t matter if it’s baby-related, hobby-related, sports-related, health-related… that’s something that the boss should probably mention in the sense of “this behavior is out of step with social norms and derails conversations.” It just feels very big deal because it’s a Baby, rather than the boss saying, knock off mentioning your gout every time someone asks “How are you?”

        2. Blue*

          But even that is such a brief, innocuous comment? If those are the types of comments that are regularly leading to escalation to management, this is a culture problem, not an OP problem.

        3. aebhel*

          That’s not really a social convention for asking about things other than the person you’re talking to, though? Like, if I asked my coworker how her PhD is going, it would be a little weird to be offended by her talking about her PhD studies, even if I was just asking for form’s sake. Trapping someone in a ten-minute conversation about diapers is rude, but ‘Oh, she’s teething now, so sleeping has been tough!’ in response to ‘How’s the baby?’ isn’t any weirder than going ‘Oh, it’s finals week so I’m really busy!’ in response to ‘How is school going?’

          People just get super weird about babies, tbh.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            People get super weird about anyone they perceive to have a one-dimensional life, period. And to some degree, talking about babies is maybe the most or only socially acceptable way for a woman of a certain age to come across as one-dimensional.

      3. Esmeralda*

        Or, more likely, boss does not want to share who is complaining and it really is someone OP deals with frequently — client, members of her team, etc.

      4. BRR*

        I was ready to think the LW was talking too much about the baby and not a good judge of it, but the boss’ comment about the LW not being “fully” there stuck out to me. I’ve heard this type of not so subtle coded language at new moms many times (only moms, never anybody else). I think there area few possibilities here but something is definitely off with this.

      5. Public Sector Manager*

        The OPs boss may have had complaints from the OP’s team, but the boss decided not to share everyone’s identity. It sounds like the OP was given some information, but not detailed information. Otherwise, if it’s not someone the OP sees daily, or manages, or is a customer, then who cares?!? Oh, Bob from Accounting who sees the OP twice a year is annoyed?

        Unless the OP has a terrible boss, I imagine that the boss was trying to be polite. That members of OP’s team actually complained, along with others, and the boss didn’t identify them because of workplace harmony.

        I’ve had some employees like this. When I’d ask for status updates, they would find a way to connect their performance on the project to something their baby was doing. Or they would change subjects from work to the baby, as in “that contract is going okay, but it’s so hard to be here at work with my little one at home. It was so funny this weekend, my partner was playing with the baby ….”

        I get it too. I was that way when I was a new parent. But I also knew when to shut it down. Besides, when you do too many things with your younger kids, what you really want is a conversation about adult things!

        1. Observer*

          Unless the OP has a terrible boss, I imagine that the boss was trying to be polite. That members of OP’s team actually complained, along with others, and the boss didn’t identify them because of workplace harmony.

          Uh, that’s the definition of a terrible boss. If this is actually something that is having a negative effect on her team, then the manager should have TOLD HER THAT. Don’t tell her that she’s doing just fine, being appropriately responsive, etc. but some un-named other people are jumping to conclusions about her commitments because she talks about her baby instead of her hobbies!

    6. many bells down*

      Despite having a degree in child development, I was not prepared for how much talking about poop I did when I had my own.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        OMG, the poop! I remember the age when scatological humor was, well, funny. Then a brief period of life when it was not (I was so sophisticated now!). And then I had a kid and then a dog and poop formed so much more of my conversation than I could have ever anticipated! And now I’m old enough that I’m having to pay attention to my own poop. Adulting is not what I expected!

        I seriously hope that the OP will update us. And I agree that how much could she have talked to 6 people in a month that she does not work directly with? And look how much she accomplished in that time! This just does not add up.

        1. 2 Cents*

          As the mom of the 3YO who’s having #2 issues, I never thought I’d be this fixated on a bodily function.

      2. Lacey*

        My sister in law did this. Poop discussion all during a dinner out. She didn’t understand why we might want a pause in that topic until after dinner.

    7. Nanani*

      Even still, unless something egregious has been left out – like at least one complainer has specifically asked LW not to talk babies to them bc they are dealing with infertility but LW refuses to do so – complaining to management is over the top.

      And I am not in any way suggesting that LW must be hiding something nefarious! My point is LW is probably fine unless something really important has been left out, and since we take people at their word around here, we probably shouldn’t assume it has.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah. I agree that it’s possible that she’s talking about the baby more than she realizes, but it’s pretty weird that this many people she doesn’t work with regularly made a point of complaining to her manager about it.

        It could be a weird resentment thing like OP suspects, but it could also be something like an employee OP only interacts with once a week and every interaction has included baby information. To OP, it doesn’t seem like a lot because it’s only once a week, but to the other person, it’s every conversation they have and it feels like too much. If OP’s boss won’t give them more information, it’s really hard to tell which one it is.

    8. bee*

      Yeah, and OP mentions the baby talk is replacing talk about hobbies, plural — so if her response to “How was your weekend?” used to be like:
      -went skiing
      -did a puzzle
      -worked on my knitting

      and now it’s like:
      -Baby is spitting up a lot
      -Baby is teething
      -Baby did a cute thing

      Then I can see how that feels like A Lot of baby talk, even if it’s the same amount of anecdotes overall, just because they’re all about the same topic, instead of spread around among several hobbies.

      It’s still weird that people reported it, and I would love an update, but it could maybe explain the disconnect between how much baby talk OP feels like she’s doing and how much it comes across as?

    9. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah, I think most people don’t realize how much they talk about their ‘hobby horse’ topics, whatever they are, and how much people who are not interested in that topic will come to dread it. Personally, I dread people talking about their pets because I just find it so, so boring. I would much rather hear about a new baby.

      However, the ‘kids’ topic is a lot more sensitive because of the way women can be penalized in the workplace for acknowledging the existence of their children…and the manager needs to take this way more seriously in terms of trying to understand what the basis of these complaints might be and whether they represent a real problem or bias.

    10. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ok, but one of our clues is the OP’s letter itself, and that is NOT full of baby talk. There is a bit about the baby to set the scene, and then a lot about work. I do believe the OP is not always talking about the baby, because, while writing the letter to Alison and upset about the accusation, she still didn’t write that much about the baby.

    11. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      But like I feel like to get six people to talk to your boss in a one month period, she’d have to be talking about it a *lot* too much. Hell for six people to get that bent out of shape I feel like she’d have to be talking about nothing else, ever.

      The only way this makes sense is if there were one meeting where LW *really* over shared without realizing it, and made multiple people at once uncomfortable. Otherwise there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for her to have annoyed this many people (that she doesn’t even work with all the time) even if she is overdoing it. *Especially* since no one on her team, whom she does work with regularly, seems to think it’s a problem.

      1. Raven*

        *No one on her team has brought it up as a problem

        Thing is, the more we know people, the more leeway we give them. So yeah, they may not be going to management, but they can be just as annoyed by the constant baby talk as well.

        Like, I have work friends in my group who do annoying things too, but I won’t complain to my manager about it. But if loud talking Jim in finance does a similar annoying thing, I may go to him.

        I guess it just depends on so much. LIke, does she sit in an open office plan where others not on here team, who don’t work with her, can hear the baby talk pretty clearly?

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Exactly, I’m sitting here racking my brain trying to think of a time when any coworker went to my boss to talk about me in any capacity, and the only occasion I am coming up with is when, 20 years ago, a contractor at my old job snuck up on me from behind, kissed me on the cheek, and waltzed out of my (shared) cubicle area. I am a woman and the contractor was a man. People went to my boss because they were worried and wanted to make sure I was okay. In every workplace I’ve been to, it would’ve had to be something truly heinous for even one coworker to go to a person’s boss with a complaint, let alone six in one month.

        The only way this makes sense is if there were one meeting where LW *really* over shared without realizing it, and made multiple people at once uncomfortable.

        Ah, yeah, this did happen to a creepy guy that used to work where I do currently. He crashed another team’s lunch meeting, and, while there, overshared wildly during a team building exercise. There were multiple calls to HR as soon as the meeting ended. But, again, it would’ve had to have been something jaw-dropping for this to happen. LW, did you say anything jaw-dropping in a meeting?

    12. Smithy*

      I think this is a good suggestion, and it could be coupled with one other compounding feature.

      At this point in the pandemic, there are a lot of people (in my workplace) who have done very good work being fully remote and have transitioned and adapted very well. But at my office, one area that I have notice steadily deteriorate is how larger remote meetings are functioning. Meetings that previously would have been full or half days, are two hours tops – because no one wants to be on Zoom that long. And meetings for large groups seem to be less and less likely to have agendas. As a result, what used to be very normal office chitchat and bonding (i.e. meeting starts at 9, but we arrive between 8:30-9 to get coffee/pastries) is squished into already shorter periods of time and feels more derailing. Sprinkle on top of that sour grapes over a promotion, and it may be a case of a potential issue getting lost in other issues.

      If the OP’s boss is someone they view as a champion and if the overall workplace isn’t a bad place, this is one area that I would reflect on. Making cross-team complaints about how meetings are run is challenging – and certainly just saying “these meetings seem to go over and we don’t appear to have adequate time for all critical discussion points” would be better. But while I have this complaint, I also know it’s an issue I’m sometimes guilty of….so sometimes that makes it harder to properly articulate it. And it’s easier to pick a point that I’m not guilty of.

    13. bamcheeks*

      I think it’s entirely possible that she does talk about the baby “too much” compared to someone who has, say, an 18 month old child and has 6+ hours sleep most nights. But frankly, the boss’s response to people complaining about it should have been, “She’s been back a month, she’s got a four-month-old, all her metrics are on track and she’s doing great work. In this company we support working parents and that means not policing how much a mother of a 4mo talks about her baby. Please come back in six months’ time if this is still a problem. Byeeee!”

    14. Critical Rolls*

      I think people — generic people, not Raven in particular — can be uncharitable when parents talk about their kids. Based on previous comment sections, people who don’t like workplace small talk on personal topics in the first place seem to find talk about kids especially egregious, and people who don’t care for kids can feel strongly that they’re being imposed on. If someone really dislikes hearing about others’ kids *at all,* I don’t know that they’re any more objective about how much a parent is talking about their kids.

      On a more personal and less considered note, it’s such a weird, disheartening thing to receive the message over and over that no one who’s not also a parent (and maybe not even them) wants to hear a word about your kid. Like, “oh, sure, we’ll humor you up to a certain point but understand no one actually cares.” It’s isolating at best, hurtful at worst, to those of us with kids we love who are a huge part of our lives.

      1. Raven*

        I mean, it shouldn’t be disheartening because its not personal. In fairness I don’t want to hear constantly about Jane’s husband, or Matt’s roommate, or Joey’s girlfriend either. Its not a word about them, at least in my experience. But I do think people think others are far more invested than they are. You mention your kid, dog, wife, rommate, on occasion? Sure. You mention them every day, multiple times? It will get annoying. I’m sure you love your kid, that doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear about them.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          Yeah – I’m going to back this one up. I think the reason people comment about kid talk is because kid talk seems to be one of those things where people go over the top more than other things (not all people, of course, but it’s common). Other topics this happens with that get old include: weddings, dieting, trips (when someone goes on and on about one trip they took, it can be a lot). Any topic is annoying when it dominates the conversation, and some people aren’t great at calibrating what dominates.

          1. Raven*

            Also, people feel much more compelled when its a kid to pretend to be interested, which gets annoying.

            I have friends who love sports. If they are droning on and on about it, I can say “ok, we get it, you love sports” and kind of laugh it off. You can’t do that with kid talk or people think you are a monster. You are kind of forced to grin and bear it, and after a while, you don’t want to do that.

            1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

              Yes, that’s exactly it. I’m also someone who gets totally consumed with my new hobbies and interests. So I think I’ve learned to dial it back and that…really…no one cares about my thing unless they’re a fellow enthusiast. (i.e. if I’m obsessed with a TV show, I can talk to someone else obsessed with that show for hours about the show. Someone who isn’t into it really wants nothing more than “oh, I’ve totally been into Succession lately!”. You learn to give little bits.) So I think it can be overly exhausting when others don’t get that they’ve been talking about the same thing a lot. (Note: not necessarily the OP. So this is probably really off topic now.)

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Can commiserate on all of this. I sat next to two teammates during the year when both were engaged. I learned more about wedding planning in that year than I did about my actual job. I never plan on getting married again, never had a big wedding and don’t expect my kids to have one (at least not one where I’d be doing a lot of the planning), and didn’t really need or want to hear any of the wedding talk. So I certainly do feel the pain.

            But why did LW’s company hire her back for a much higher role if LW is really that much of a chatterbox and doesn’t know it? She’d been with the company for close to four years. Whatever they’d learned about her work during that time had to be good.

            1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

              Yeah I think that’s the important note in all of this. Let’s say for arguments sake that OP is talking about her baby too much and needs to tone it down…it really isn’t that big a deal, is it? If boss is willing to make this A THING, there’s something going on here that’s not about this issue…because people talk too much about things all the time and a quick mention and move on from a manager is really all that’s required.

      2. londonedit*

        It’s also isolating and disheartening when friends and colleagues with whom you used to have a broad range of conversations become parents and suddenly it’s all babies all the time. I understand that a new baby is the most important thing in someone’s life, and of course I would never go to the lengths of reporting someone to their boss for talking too much about their child because that is just bizarre behaviour. But when every time you go out for a drink with a new-parent friend it’s ‘Don’t worry, I won’t go on about Tabitha all night’ before they proceed to talk about nothing but Tabitha, yes it is disheartening. It’s also isolating and disheartening when new parents do the sympathetic ‘you wouldn’t understand, you don’t have children’ head-tilt towards those of us without kids, or talk as if having a baby is the greatest achievement of anyone’s life, or anything else that makes those of us without children feel ‘less than’. And yes, that does happen quite a lot. Of course I want to hear the odd update about people’s children/dogs/housemates/mother/whatever, if we’ve spoken about them before. But when someone’s talking about one of those topics several times a day, and there isn’t really an opportunity for you to join in the conversation beyond ‘Oh, that sounds nice’, it is likely to get annoying.

        1. Double A*

          Believe me, as a parent of young kids, it’s isolating and disheartening that I don’t have any other interests or hobbies right now. It would be bad under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has cut off most avenues that one would normally have to continue being an adult with their own personality (babysitters, play groups, the ability to take the kids on errands to give the other parents some alone time, etc.). I know I’m boring, which is why it’s been hard to reach out to friends.

          1. Owlette*

            But it’s isolating and disheartening for everyone during the pandemic right now. I’ve been working from home everyday for 2 years. My entire role has turned remote and I will never see another human being from the hours of 8am to 5pm on Mondays through Fridays ever again. Whenever I do get together with my friends, I don’t have much to talk about because all my group hobbies and concerts and trips have been cancelled or rescheduled indefinitely. All I have to talk about are my cats (no one wants to hear about them because I’m a “crazy cat lady”) and my job (but I work in taxes and that’s worse than paint drying for most people). It’s literally not just parents right now. But it’s really nice to reach out to friends and make a point of asking about their lives, however boring, rather than going on and on about your own life.

          2. MsSolo UK*

            Yes, it makes having any other conversation hard. Reading any good books? Nope. Watch the new Netflix thing? Nope. Knitting projects? Nope. Anything that involves leaving the house for more than two hours at time? Nope. And people aren’t always prepared for you to reflect the question back at them so quickly, (despite a lot of people wanting to be asked me about their lives) because you can’t give them anything that might hint at a good direction to build a rapport in.

        2. meagain*

          It is very alienating. I think with friends or in the workplace, these scenarios also entail the absence of connection. Everyone else is chiming in with, “I know, when my…” “I remember when mine did…” There’s only so much smiling and feeling like an audience or that you are supposed to give validation without always getting much in return that one can do.

      3. Jaybee*

        That’s a really broad message you’re receiving there. I don’t have kids and never will, but I certainly enjoy hearing about people’s children as much as I enjoy hearing about any other loved one. I’m just as happy to meet them, too. I’m very familiar with Minecraft, FNAF, dinosaurs, and MLP, so we can usually find something to chat about.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          I fully understand it’s not everyone, but it makes you pretty paranoid. I check in with people, but if they lie to me because they feel obligated to perform interest, then resent me, what then? I don’t know the answer.

      4. Gerry Keay*

        Our entire culture is centered on the nuclear family. It’s isolating to choose a different path from what the entirety of culture pushes you towards, and I promise you people who choose not to have or cannot have kids have been dealing with “we’ll humor you up to a point but understand no one cares” plenty.

        1. NancyDrew*

          LOLOLOL this pandemic has proven that absolutely nothing in this culture is actually built to support nuclear families, but go off, I guess.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            I mean the pandemic has shown our culture isn’t built to support ANYONE, but to act like there’s not a “husband, wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog” hegemony in American culture is just naive.

          2. Owlette*

            LOLOLOL this pandemic has proven that absolutely nothing in this culture is actually built to support the health and safety of ANYONE, but go off, I guess.

        2. pancakes*

          Child-free by choice 45-yr-old woman here and no, I don’t find this isolating at all. If I lived in a small town where it felt like all the other people my age were parents, maybe, but those aren’t my surroundings. There isn’t one family monoculture in the US that those of us in, say, NYC share with people in, say, Tuscaloosa. I can certainly understand why people who live someplace that feels particularly isolating can’t just pack up and go, but it doesn’t follow that they wouldn’t find alternative cultures elsewhere if they could.

      5. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        Yeah it makes me suspicious that a lot of people will choose to lump any mention at all of your kid- a person who lives in your house now, and will obviously factor into most of your little anecdotes- as “turning the subject to your kid all the time.”

        Like if you say “Oh you watch Taskmaster? We love that show! [Kid] thinks Greg Davies is hilarious!” … that’s not turning the subject to kid. That’s talking about the show. But I feel like a lot of people will get to the mention of the kid and eyeroll.

        And if your friend is experiencing something expansive like wedding planning/ health problems/ new baby, and you’re not interested in listening to something outside your own experience? Maybe you’re just not that great a listener.

        I know, I know, people can be boring and monotonous and un-self-aware. But the constant cultural refrain of “Don’t talk about your kid or you’re boring!” can be pretty uncharitable.

        1. aebhel*

          THIS. I have a friend who mentions her husband in basically every anecdote ever, and I manage to live with it even though I’m not a huge fan of the dude, because he… uh… lives in her house and is a big part of her day to day life. But I feel like there’s this expectation to cordon off every mention of kids and pretend they don’t exist unless they’re specifically asked about (and maybe even then, see the commenters who expect the LW to shut down questions with ‘she’s fine, let’s move on’).

      6. lunchtime caller*

        I mean… I love my fiance a lot too and he’s a huge part of my life, and I realize that basically no one wants to hear much about him unless it’s genuinely interesting stuff and not just “oh guess what cute and funny thing we talked about the other day.” The people who care about you will care more, and the people who don’t care about you don’t care about a lot of stuff in your life, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal or kid-specific unless your friends suck or something.

      7. aebhel*

        Yeah, this is why I don’t talk about my kids at work to the point that a recent new hire mentioned that she didn’t actually realize I had kids until like 6+ months in. People can be incredibly weird and rude about it in a way that they’re not about other topics of conversation.

      8. meagain*

        I think it’s one thing if you are having a personal conversation with someone and they tell you something going on with their kid. That’s normal and I want to hear it! I also feel like they are talking to me and it’s interactive. Where a divide starts is when people just mindlessly talk at you and you feel like a spectator, with nothing to add or contribute. When you’re not a member of the club, you see it in action all the time. Yes, people do this on all kinds of topics but it happens so often with parenthood. (Probably because it’s an easy small talk topic that most people easily connect and bond over.) And with no awareness who their audience is or that not everyone is in the same life situation. It’s not really about not wanting to hear about kids, it’s when there is a total lack of connection. It’s even worse when it’s a group of people all prattling on about their children and families and you are the only one with nothing to add to the conversation. It’s isolating and can be hurtful even though people don’t meant it to be. They are usually oblivious.

        This is not directed at you personally Critical Rolls, but it’s also a weird and disheartening thing to receive the message over and over that when you are not a parent, your life doesn’t have meaning, you are less than, you have nothing to go home to, etc. Sometimes even as a means of self-protection, if you quickly pick up that someone is well-immersed into this often new, other land of motherhood, that’s usually happening in all aspects of your life, you start doing your best to avoid the parent/family centered conversations. It can be hard when there is constant workplace chatter of a life that looks nothing like yours. Hard if you chose it, harder if you didn’t. It’s not hating hearing about kids, it’s often that lack of inclusion or feeling connected.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          I absolutely agree that no one should be judged for their reproductive choices, or that life is incomplete if you don’t have kids. And I’m not arguing that no one ever talks too much about their children. I just find some of the comments about this disproportional.

      9. Aiani*

        I agree with you that people can be rather uncharitable about kid talk. I don’t have children myself but if I sometimes hear about my co-workers or friends children, it’s not the end of the world and I will listen to them. I think a lot of people don’t realize that they probably go on about some topic more than their co-workers want to hear. So I figure we can all give each other the kindness of hearing a little bit about a topic that doesn’t super interest us as long as it doesn’t go overboard.

        Personally it’s sports that I don’t want to hear about, I’d rather hear about your kids, especially funny kid stories.

      10. anonymous73*

        You’re making something personal that isn’t necessarily personal. Some people can have a conversation with anyone about anything, share way too much (IMO) and expect everyone to be 100% engaged in anything they talk about. But not everyone is like that. I’m a private person. And unless we’re friends, or we share a common interest, I’m not really going to care much about your personal life. It’s not personal, it’s just the way it is. I’m at work….to work. Yes there is some personal aspect to it, because it’s how we function as humans. But don’t get offended or hurt if I don’t want to hear about what Baby Boy did over the weekend.

      11. E*

        This is it, though. And talking about kids at all is perceived as too much – for example, if someone asks a woman what she did over the weekend and she says “oh, my husband and I went out for a nice dinner on Saturday! He got promoted so we had to celebrate” then that’s normal small talk. But if you ask the same lady about a different weekend and she says “oh, we took little Timmy camping this weekend! He made the honor roll so we had to celebrate,” then people perceive her as talking too much about her child, and, worst of all, bragging about him. Sure, maybe your coworkers don’t care if your husband got a promotion, but people seem to be downright hostile if a woman mentions something good that happened to her child.
        Also, I don’t know, I just don’t find it that difficult to be interested in or happy for my colleagues talking about something fun that happened in their lives?

      12. Librarian1*

        It’s also not true. I don’t have kids, but I like kids and like hearing about other people’s kids (unless it’s gross body stuff) and it wouldn’t bother me unless someone was spending a lot of time talking about it. And what “a lot of time” means is variable and depends on my relationship with the person, but short one-line answers are fine.

    15. Biscotti*

      I agree Op is likely talking about her baby alot more than she realizes, and it is likely really annoying the people who do not like how OP came back to the office. Which if I were OP I would add their manager to this list.

    16. anonymous73*

      I can relate to this so much. I didn’t get married until I was 42, and have a stepson that was 8 was I met my husband. So I never personally experienced the pregnancy/newborn/toddler/small child phases of anything that all of my friends were experiencing when we were in our 30s. Thankfully most of them did recognize that maybe I didn’t want to hear about baby stuff 24/7 when I was around, but I did know a few people who didn’t know how to shut it off. Just like the childless friends need to realize that their new mom friend will want to share baby stuff with them and may not be as available as they used to be, the new mom friends need to realize that their childless friends might need to talk about their own stuff too and need some quality friend time away from the kids.

      That being said though, I think Alison is right. Something doesn’t add up. Even if she is talking about her kids more than she realizes, her boss said her work isn’t suffering, and the complaints are coming from people she doesn’t work with directly. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

      1. Observer*

        That being said though, I think Alison is right. Something doesn’t add up. Even if she is talking about her kids more than she realizes, her boss said her work isn’t suffering, and the complaints are coming from people she doesn’t work with directly. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

        This is exactly where I come down. Something here doesn’t make sense, even if she’s talking about her kid waaay more than she realizes.

    17. Nelliebelle1197*

      Agree 100%. The people under her – whose jobs depend on HER- say all is grand. But that does not mean all is good!

    18. ElizabethJane*

      People also tend to get weird about any amount of kid talk though. It seems to stand out in a way that someone who always talks about skiing or cooking or hiking wouldn’t, even if the person talking about their not-kid hobby is actually talking just as much.

      I mean I’ve had a coworker ask me what I did on a weekend and I said “Oh, I took my 4 year old to gymnastics class and then we went on a girls date for Starbucks” and the child free coworker, in the same conversation, said “I didn’t know you had kids” and “Wow your kids must have really taken over your hobbies”.

      Well Janet we’ve worked together for 3 years and this is the first time you are realizing I have children so I’m not sure how you’re extrapolating that they’ve taken over my life from me mentioning them once, but OK.

      Which is not to say you’re wrong but also that “talking about kids” is way more polarizing than anything else. It’s kind of like how women are perceived to talk more even though men really do most of the talking. I genuinely think people think parents talk about their kids all the time when really the majority of us probably talk about our kids just as much as the next person talks about their hobbies.

  4. Myrin*

    This is very mysterious and I hope OP will be able to find out what’s going on; it usually takes a lot for me to be bothered by something but this would rattle me too.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Solved the mystery! She’s a woman. A man doing the same things is such a great and committed parent and team player.

      1. Claire*

        Yuuuuuup. I mean, I agree, check calibration and if you have a trusted work friend check with them. But there were several “ding ding ding sexism!” alarm bells ringing for me.

      2. AccidentalPirate*

        I haven’t read all the comments so I apologize if someone has already said this but…

        This line stands out to me, ” I was told I’m doing myself a disservice to my career and reputation in the company.”

        She went and had a baby and the superstar they hired back now has a split focus and isn’t engaged in her job 100% of the time. She’s getting railroaded – by her boss? by her coworkers? – I’m not sure who here, but even if she’s talking too much about her baby, that isn’t enough to serve as a disservice to her career or the company. Nope. Someone is PISSED either that she’s doing so well after being gone for 12 weeks, or because she was hired back in a position they don’t think she belongs in, and now they’re making it an issue.

        So what if she’s talking too much about the baby? She’s been back a month, you don’t bring that to your boss’s attention unless other stuff isn’t getting done, and according to the OP, that’s not the case at all. So the issue here is someone – again, boss? coworkers? – has a chip on their shoulder because otherwise the “warning” about her career and the company wouldn’t have been brought up over too much baby talk.

  5. Ebbe*

    This is one im genuinely hoping to get an update on, because I’ve seen this situation from two very different sides (someone is being really Way Too Much about a topic and convinced they’re not, or multiple people are being really passive aggressive over nothing) a

  6. Person from the Resume*

    Unless it’s a clique or mean girls plot, I think it’s telling that 6 separate people mentioned this problem to your boss. That points to there being an actual problem. I’m confused, though, that this doesn’t seem to be a problem with the people you work closest with. I do like Alison’s advice on trying to figure it out.

    1. Name Goes Here*

      Yeah, on the one hand, SIX separate people would (usually) point to an actual problem. Like, if only one or two people mention something, it’s general disgruntlement, but six is a pattern worth noticing.

      But it’s ALSO a pattern that none of the six are on OP’s team. I would expect the teammates to hear the most about the baby, and thus, be the most likely to think that there’s too much baby talk / be the most affected by too much baby talk –– the fact that they’re not complaining suggests that something else could be going on.

      1. JelloStapler*

        Oh good point about her current team not complaining but random others. If the boss is being sneaky, they may have picked people with which OP would not feel comfortable validating concerns, or they know it’s BS and the current team would set it straight.

      2. English Rose*

        But I wonder if these six mysterious people have formally gone to the boss to complain or if the boss is exaggerating for their own agenda. So these were passing comments rather than ‘complaints’. And I wonder if the boss has actually asked for specifics from these people or taken them at their word. Either way, very strange, you have my sympathy OP.

      3. Delta Delta*

        Or, it makes me wonder if there was some cross-team work or a meeting or something, and OP mentioned the baby during that. Then those 6 non-team members walk away thinking OP talks a lot about the baby but it’s based on narrow data.

      4. Csw*

        To be fair, if it was my direct boss I wouldn’t complain either with office power dynamics being what they are.

        This is such a tough situation to get a read on! Why so many random colleagues? Why did the boss drop this on OP? Is there a genuine problem or is it all just a storm in a teacup? I really can’t tell

      5. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Members of OP’s team are also likely to be more invested in the baby than other coworkers. My supervisor had a baby a couple of years ago, and since I knew her well and had been hearing other bits of information about the baby, new updates felt normal and natural. I imagine it would have felt quite different to someone who wasn’t close with my supervisor and didn’t really have a reason to care about whether or not the baby was teething.

        1. kittymommy*

          Yeah, I would think the 6 not being on her team indicates even more that it night be an actual issue as her team either may be more apt to hand-wave it away due to having a closer relationship.

          1. miss chevious*

            But if they aren’t on her team and she doesn’t work with them regularly, how much of an issue can this actually be? Unless work isn’t getting done, which isn’t the case, how much baby talk can possibly be going on that people outside of the normal scope of her work are complaining? I find that a suggestion that the “baby talk” complaint is being used as a mask for some other issue.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I can see it not being a problem for people she works closely with while still being a problem for others. I had a coworker who was VERY into her dog; if she was someone I worked closely with I probably would have been fine with how much she talked about it, but she wasn’t and every time she talked to me it was literally always about the dog that I had at no point ever expressed interest in or asked about.

      I find it helps me to think about it in terms of the things you care about are always most important to you first and foremost and then importance decreases as people get further from you, e.g. you care about X deeply, your friends and family might care about X significantly, your close coworkers might have an interest in X, and your casual colleagues probably are neutral at best about X.

      1. You Get a Pen and You Get a Pen*

        I am seeing this as the issue lies not so much in the baby talk but that she’s not putting work first and isn’t committed. That was the red flag to me over the amount of time she spent talking about her baby.

        1. WellRed*

          But it doesn’t sound like she’s dropping the ball at work. At all. See paragraph 6. Too often, I think the idea that new mom isn’t as committed to work as previously is just more, often sexist, workplace bias. There may or may not be an actual problem but if there is, OP deserves clear, actionable feedback.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          The thing is, tho’, I don’t see any indication she’s less committed in the letter. She doesn’t mention anything about being more rigid about her work hours, for example.

          (I have seen several people in the comments make suggestions that might be happening based on — I assume — their own experiences with a huge life change like having a baby.)

          I think she needs to first run this by someone at work she trusts to be both truthful and reliable who *would* tell her if she were being all baby all the time.

          Then, if still confused go back to the boss and ask for specific examples.

        3. Observer*

          I am seeing this as the issue lies not so much in the baby talk but that she’s not putting work first and isn’t committed.

          But what is your basis for claiming that she’s not committed? Neither her self-description nor her manager’s response support that.

    3. Audrey Puffins*

      It could be as simple as the LW was in a meeting with these six people one time, and they’d previously been speaking with someone else who had full on baby brain so they had an over-reaction to the LW’s brief mention. It feels implausible that six separate events could have taken place within a month, but maybe one event reported separately by six people?

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        That was the only scenario that makes sense to me. One meeting where she either legitimately overshared and didn’t realize it, or the people in question were for some reason over sensitive. I just don’t see how six (?) people she only occasionally works with could all be on the same page about this unless it’s that, or she’s really ridiculously clueless about how much she’s talking about it. Or, of course, that the people and/or boss have an agenda.

      2. Wisteria*

        “It feels implausible that six separate events could have taken place within a month”

        Why does that feel implausible? OP has pitched multiple projects over the last 30 days. Multiple pitches could be multiple opportunities to be talking to people OP doesn’t usually talk to. Six conversations in a month doesn’t sound like that much for someone who does a lot of pitches.

    4. Nanani*

      The clique scenario actually sounds likeliest. I doubt six people -spontaneously- mentioned it to the boss, but maybe boss (or a lead complainer) prompted them to agree that LW talks about their baby ~too much~

    5. Daisy Gamgee*

      Six people can indicate a problem but it may not be the problem that seems most evident at first.

      I once had a coworker whom I would characterize as blunt but not mean or rude (and I tend to be a sensitive person). I also overheard quite a few coworkers talking about how rude she was, and complaining to our shared boss about how rude she was. Every single coworker who complained about her was not only White but outspoken about being politically conservative, and she was Black. Based on that fact and my assessment of her, I don’t think the problem here was actually that she was rude.

      1. Mannequin*

        I agree. “Rude” is almost exclusively used to demean women, BIPOC, and disabled people (and certainly other non white cishetero xtian males, but these are where I see it the most.)

        What these people are actually saying is “that person did not perform the deference required by their station in life and I find this inappropriate” and THAT is not just rude, it’s disgusting!

    6. Esmeralda*

      It’s not a problem with the people OP works closest with because they’ve decided to just deal with it.
      Or, the boss said it is not the people OP works closest with in order to protect the poeple OP works closest with. If OP has a small team, this makes sense.

    7. Observer*

      That points to there being an actual problem

      That could be the case. Which means that the OP’s manager is a REALLY ineffective boss. Because I simply cannot see any scenario where simply talking too much about the baby is actually a genuine and work worthy problem. So, IF (and it really IS a big if) there is a real problem, then there is something that the manager either didn’t dig out or failed to pass on to the OP. That’s just really bad management.

    8. FullyFaxxed*

      I agree that the mean girls plot theory is pretty far fetched. I agree that it could have originated from the boss. I’ve seen leaders who perceive an issue, then seek confirmation from others of their perception. Maybe boss thinks OP is talking about the baby too much, then goes to several people to say: “Hey, do you think OP is talking about her baby a lot??” They agree with boss, whether their intention is just conversational or malicious is unclear. But that turns into “6 people think you talk to much about your baby.” Or maybe 1 person came forward and boss sought out other opinions. Obviously not good leadership, but a possibility.

    9. NervousNellie*

      I wonder if her own team is mostly parents, and so baby talk is just normal with them, and the people complaining are not parents, and some of what is normal baby talk (poop) is gross to them? My friend and I were just joking about how when you have a pet or a kid, the amount of time dedicated to thinking about poop is genuinely shocking even if you had some notion it was coming into your life.

  7. The Prettiest Curse*

    Hmm, I think the clue here is that none of the complainers work closely with the OP. (If you don’t work that closely with someone, how much can their baby discussion REALLY bother you?) I think it’s most likely to be a sour grapes situation, but it definitely seems weird. OP, I hope you can get to the bottom of this!

    1. anonymous73*

      If they’re in an open office situation, I can see how it can be annoying. OP is talking to a colleague, and you can’t help but overhear everything. But I wouldn’t complain to the manager. I’d throw some headphones on and ignore it.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I can see how, if someone is talking a normal amount about their baby in social or small-talk conversations, someone who doesn’t work with them that closely and mostly only has small-talk conversations with them might get a skewed idea of how much baby talk is happening, which could maybe explain why the complaints would come from people the OP doesn’t work with closely. But complaining about it is pretty ridiculous — it’s like complaining that someone you run into by the coffeemaker twice a week only ever talks about the weather, just because you never have a long enough conversation with him to get beyond “how’s it going?” “good, good, looks like it’s gonna get cold this weekend!”

  8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’m concerned that your boss hasn’t dug into those comments from the Gang of Six. If they aren’t people you manage or work with, then how the heck do they even ‘know’ this to be true? What’s the evidence?

      1. irene adler*

        Yes- this IS it.
        From the letter: “they feel like I am not putting work first and that I’m not “fully” there.” So what are the concrete examples of this issue?
        (Assuming this is true: Cut the LW some slack here! Surely it takes a bit of time to get back “into the groove” after maternity leave.).

        Later in the letter the reason given is: too much talk about the baby.
        Which is it?

        LW indicates boss has no issues with her work and she’s going above and beyond as well: “I’ve pitched multiple new prospects over the past 30 days, rebuilt our entire proposal strategy, and have been fully engaged with my team and our clients.” (LW is probably sleep deprived, and yet still manages to go above and beyond- superstar in my book!)

        I’m betting someone is jealous of the LW here. Well, six somebodies.

        1. The Dogman*

          “Well, six somebodies.”

          I would go simpler… 1 somebody… chances are LW boss is the only person with any issues, I doubt the 6 people exist as actual complainers.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          Either jealous/sour grapes she was not only hired back BUT also promoted OR is it possible the rest of this team are all much younger cohorts that are still in the work hard/play harder mode? As in, do they all hang out after work and OP no longer ‘fits” that clique because new mum and all?
          I’m taking OP at word that she doesn’t feel she is overly discussing baby. But even so, there is a know your audience element.

        3. Everything Bagel*

          Right, I would want specific examples of when I didn’t put work first. Otherwise, how is the letter writer supposed to address this? I go back to the boss and ask for such examples. It should be easy enough for her to go back to the complainers to get those details oh, if this is even true.

        4. motherofdragons*

          Yet her boss also apparently told her she was “doing [herself] a disservice to [her] career and reputation in the company.” Which is a truly WILD assessment from a boss considering all the wins LW has had since she’s been back.

    1. Midwestern Scientist*

      Yeah I’m seriously side-eying the boss on this one. Wouldn’t your first step if you get all of these complaints (in ONE MONTH) from people who don’t interact with OP regularly be to check in with OPs team to see if they are real issues or just people who need something to complain about?

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Exactly! Checking out the situation to see if the complaints have any kind of merit is an excellent idea. Especially for something like this that’s presented as an ongoing problem, rather than a one-off event. Ask OP’s team directly. Hang out and observe. 6 complaints in a month – and people seem to be generally pretty understanding about new parents talking a lot about their kids – seems pretty suspicious. Definitely merits doing a little investigating before having a conversation like this.

    2. NYC Taxi*

      Exactly. If 6 coworkers complained about one of my direct reports I would be asking questions about specific incidents so I can assess what’s going on. Is there something I need to address and help my direct report with? Or is this just coworker weirdness that I need to shut down? At minimum it sounds like OP’s manager doesn’t have her back. And if this is really a cover for the manager to complain to OP rather than discuss their concerns then her manager shouldn’t be a manager.

      1. Wisteria*

        Sometimes it just seems like whoever complains first wins. Coworkers got the story in there about LW talking too much baby, so that’s the dominant narrative, and it’s on LW to change. If LW had talked to boss first about how she’s talked to six people outside her department, and they all asked her about the baby before they asked about the pitches she was making, then she would have set the dominant narrative, and the subsequent conversation between each of them and her boss would have been different. It’s tiring to work that way.

  9. Ashley*

    I am not sure your office layout, but that could play a part in who these 6 people are. If someone outside of your team sits near you and keep hearing the stories and you are getting judged that away.
    Also with six unnamed people there is a possibility someone is having infertility issues and their friends are trying to protect them from hearing any baby stuff. (Not saying it is right but there have been instances of similar no baby talk things on this site.)
    Good luck trying to get to the bottom of it!

    1. Llellayena*

      This is what I’m thinking too. While a 2 minute baby conversation with each of 8 people who stop by your desk and ASK about your baby isn’t a lot. The person at the next desk who hears all 8 conversations but isn’t involved in them might think it’s a lot of baby talk. And if that person is having fertility issues it can seem like even more.

      1. RADSKI*

        This! I sat next to a coworker who had a major injury to her thumb (sliced it with a mandolin). She was out on medical leave for 30 days (a story in-and-of itself) but after she came back, EVERYONE stopped by her desk for weeks asking how she was healing, how did it happen, etc. She went into GRUESOME detail every time and finally I had to request that the thumb conversations stop or be had elsewhere. I was hearing it constantly and it was making it hard to work/eat at my desk, etc.

      2. After 33 years ...*

        Yes, considering that these people are not direct c0-workers. I didn’t mind hearing about my colleague’s dog’s visit to the vet once, but after the fourth time one day, followed by the updates the next day, I didn’t need to here any more.

      3. Genny*

        Isn’t that just the nature of an open office though? You’re gonna hear repeated small talk, especially after a major event like a new baby, wedding, or major trip. That’s just how it is. I understand hearing the same anecdotes over and over can be annoying or might hurt if you’re struggling with infertility, lost a spouse, or struggling to make ends meet, but it’s on you to manage those feelings, not your coworkers to never talk about anything personal ever.

    2. Jessie Spano*

      I had similar thoughts about someone dealing with infertility. My sister-in-law had to have a full hysterotomy (at age thirty before ever having the baby she’d dreamed of) the same week I found out I was pregnant with my first child. For her, ANY baby talk in her presence was too much. She wound having to completely stay away from me for months because she simply couldn’t avoid people asking about my pregnancy and baby plans. It wasn’t any fault of my own and we were able to help her transition into the role of “fun aunt” but it’s definitely possible that someone in the office is dealing with excruciating pain around the subject.

    3. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      This is EXACTLY where my mind went. If there are a few people who sit close to you and the majority of your direct team does not…they may be hearing the same stories every time someone comes to talk to you, so while it’s not a lot for the team, it’s a lot for the person who just heard about something for the 5th time.

      That being said – just a thought to help get to the bottom of it! I don’t think this would warrant going to management to me after just a month, so there definitely may be something else going on here.

    4. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I have been working from home so long that I hadn’t considered this. It would get kinda grating to hear the cute story about the baby spitting up on your should for the sixth or seventh time today, and cubicles notoriously do nothing for privacy.

    5. The OG Sleepless*

      That’s a really good point. I stayed at a B&B across the street from a historical site in a tourist city once, and I spent a few hours sitting by the pool listening to carriage tour drivers giving the same spiel about it, over and over. In my mind, the tour guides in that city go on and on about that spot.

  10. Erin*

    I think it’s likely #1, and yeah, I would go ahead and pick one person you can really, truly trust to give you truthful feedback. You seem like you have a good head on your shoulders and something very strange is going on.

  11. RagingADHD*

    Well, you know there are six people, you have had at least some kind of small-talk with them in the last month, and none of them are folks you manage or talk to on a regular basis. I’d bet you can at least narrow it down to a pool of 10-12.

    Then you know who to watch out for, because they are gunning for you.

    Honestly, even if you were talking about your baby a lot, why would anyone who doesn’t speak to you regularly and isn’t your report even care? Indeed, how would they know you aren’t engaged if they don’t engage with you regularly?

    Somebody either has it in for you in particular, or they are massive jerks in general.

  12. I should really pick a name*

    I feel like I’m missing something.

    I don’t see the line connecting “But, apparently, six people have gone to my boss saying they feel like I am not putting work first and that I’m not ‘fully’ there.” to “People say I talk about my baby too much”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The LW said in the letter: “I asked if I’m not meeting expectations, if I’m being unreliable, if I’m underperforming and it’s none of that — it is solely that I have replaced talking about other things that I used to (hobbies) with my child.”

      Also, the subject line of her email to me was: “I’m a new mom, and coworkers told the CEO (my boss) I talk about my baby too much”

    2. Jaybee*

      If you continue reading, LW says they asked for more clarification and the boss stated that this is based on them talking about the baby too often.

      It does seem odd to me too, though. Talking about anything in one’s personal life too much seems like a ‘you are distracting people from their work’ issue, not a ‘you are not fully engaged/committed’ issue. I wonder almost if there is something else going on (harder time keeping up/remembering tasks off the top of your head, maybe? This would be very understandable for a new parent) but it’s too nebulous to pin down so the only example the boss could come up with was talking about the baby.

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      Good point! I know OP said they were still processing, so I’d suggest taking a step back and revisiting exactly what was said. Make sure you’re not connecting dots that aren’t there or focusing on a red herring. Could it be that people mentioned “not putting work first” and your boss was at a loss and could only come up with “I don’t know, maybe talking less about the baby would change that impression?”

    4. Heidi*

      It seems odd for the boss to say that OP isn’t “fully there,” but that it’s not affecting her performance. If her performance is good, doesn’t that mean that she’s as “there” as she needs to be? Perhaps the boss is not articulating the true nature of the discontent well.

  13. glitter writer*

    Even if it has been a lot of baby talk, the baby is four months old and the OP only recently came back from parental leave. Babies are HIGH ON THE MIND of almost all parents that early on and it is hard to think about anything else. This is totally normal and most parents get over it after another couple months, and most decent people know how to deal with it.

    (I have absolutely caught myself yammering on about my kids when I came back from parental leave every time, but most folks were either understanding or extracted themselves from the conversation.)

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      I talked about my kiddo non-stop for her first two years. Luckily my coworker liked all my stories and encourage me to tell more. I’ll be honest and say the amount I talked about my kid would’ve bothered other people.

      1. CarolynM*

        Glad you had a coworker who wanted to hear all about your kid! I giggled at your comment because a few years ago a coworker came to my office to tell me she got engaged and then she immediately said “but promise you will tell me to shut up if I talk about my wedding too much!” Told her I would do no such thing – I am a FREAK for wedding planning, I’ll be your huckleberry if you need to debate the merits of “light pink” vs. “imperceptibly lighter pink” as your wedding color – hell, I might introduce a third pink to consider, and difficult seating plans make me tingly. TINGLY!!! If I had 3 wishes, one would certainly be that every new parent, engaged person – anyone excited and pumped for anything in their life – to always have at least one person who can get excited for them and never gets sick of hearing about it!

        1. Joielle*

          Ha, I’m that way about weddings too! I always make it clear that I am NOT expecting to be invited to the wedding, I just love weddings and event planning and I really do want to look at invitation samples and talk about wine glass styles and napkin colors and the relative merits of sand- vs. candle-based unity ceremonies.

          I’m happy to be the designated talking-about-weddings person but hopefully someone else in the office will be the talking-about-babies person because I am not that person. Although it would have to be a truly over-the-top amount of baby talk before I would consider approaching someone’s manager about it, wtf.

          1. CarolynM*

            I think we need to start a business where we offer our services as professional Maids of Honor! Think of the friendships (and sanity!) we could save! Think of all the wedding minutiae we could obsess over! This kind of needs to happen! LOL

        2. A Little Birdie Told Me*

          Saaame! Whenever someone I know gets engaged, the first words out of my mouth after the congratulations are “I will *always* be here to nerd out on wedding minutia and listen to vents OR be your normal person when you want to discuss anything BUT weddings.”

          My joke is always that I’d love to be a professional wedding planner, if it weren’t for having to deal with people.

    2. Employed Minion*

      I came here to say this as well! The baby is still very young and Mom just returned to work. Even if she does talk about baby ‘too much’ it will settle down with a little more time.

    3. McThrill*

      Also, when your kid is only 4 months old you don’t even really have hobbies or free time to do them at that point – all your free time is literally spent keeping your kid alive and healthy. It changes once your kid becomes more robust but those first few months are rough, the first 5 months after my kid was born I was either working, taking care of the baby, or (trying) to sleep. There was no time for anything else.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      Not only are they high on the mind of parents, but especially in those early days, there simply isn’t much room for anything else to be there. Got a vacation day? You don’t spend it doing cool art projects or cooking elaborate meals or taking day trips to fun locations, you spend it doing childcare and housework. Especially during a pandemic. Life shrinks way down to a very narrow sphere for a little while. My son is a little over a year old now, and my life has just barely started to open back up a tiny bit. I still don’t do much else besides childcare and housework when I’m not working, but I at least have the mental energy to think about other things.

      1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

        Yeah, especially with an infant during a COVID spike – even if she lives in New Zealand, they’re still seeing a bump in cases relative to pre-Omicron numbers, it’s just that that bump is much smaller than the US. Even if she had the time to engage in any more social/outdoorsy hobbies (and with a four-month-old, it can be assumed she doesn’t,) most people aren’t going to be comfortable with the risk level when you add in infant immune systems.

  14. awesome3*

    Even if it was #3, since it’s only been a month, that’s not an entirely unreasonable amount of time spent calibrating the right amount, especially since the people reporting this wouldn’t have worked with you regularly enough to gauge how often it’s happening. I suspect it’s something else. Something’s weird here is right.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*


      In my mind, this is one of two things. 1: OP had one meeting where she was FULL BABY CHAT and a group of people collectively went “Erk, no thanks.” It’s a possibility, but I feel like OP would remember “that one meeting” as a possible suspect, especially since that would be one of the few times with that many non-direct contacts on it.

      2: Someone has a beef with OP for her changed availability and is ramping that up into “And she talks about that kid all. The. Time. Do you remember that meeting and we had to listen to her for ages, talking about how tired she was because her baby wouldn’t sleep? Boohoo, the rest of us are tired too, you know!” and five other people nodded along uncomfortably, which then turned into “six” anonymous complaints.

  15. Former Gifted Kid*

    I wonder what the work culture is like here normally. I can’t imagine ever going to the manager of someone I don’t work with closely and saying that I don’t think they are putting work first after coming back from maternity leave. I can’t imagine what would possess 6 people to seek out OP’s manager. Did the six people go to OP’s manager together? Did they all come to this weird idea on their own? Maybe OP’s manager was just chatting with people in the break room and it came up? The manager is just relaying the info as if all 6 people in the conversation are in agreement and have a problem with OP?

    Honestly, I am baffled.

    1. CG*

      Right?! Also, if this is such a bad problem that in only one month of being back, SIX people who barely even work with OP have independently complained about it to OP’s boss, why hasn’t a single client, member of OP’s team, or regular work colleague of OP’s *also* complained about it to OP or her boss? Something is weird here…

    2. Trawna*

      I’m sixty. I don’t think six people have complained about me in my entire career, let alone six in the same month on the same topic. Plus, who goes to the CEO about something so benign? And, what CEO would want their time wasted this badly?

      Very strange, all round.

    3. V. Anon*

      This is why I think it’s a conspiracy of the disgruntled. People who *just* returned from parental leave do indeed talk about the baby, a lot. But they also tend to get their work done and be on top of things, because in the US at least, you have to prove you’re still in the game post-baby (especially women). And the 6 complainers are not in her immediate work-circle, the people who would be adversely affected if OP were no longer pulling her wait or jabbering about the baby truly nonstop.

      This is a plan. Luckily for OP, it’s a clumsy plan. I know HR can be a den of horrors, but I would at least suggest that OP document this stuff thoroughly. Because if the disgruntled seize on maternity leave/baby as the lever they’re going to use to get rid of OP, they will probably break discrimination laws in the process if they haven’t already. Get rid of them before they get rid of thee.

  16. Lucious*

    The situation could be any of the possibilities Alison mentioned. But this one jumped out at me:

    >>”I think it’s important to note that I left the company last year (before Covid) for a job that didn’t work out. I have a combined total of four years with the company. I came back at the beginning of this year (they knew I was pregnant when they hired me) in a completely different and higher role than when I left. I’ve suspected that rubbed some of the longer-term employees the wrong way.“

    Returning in a higher role can have political consequences in a seniority-focused org culture. Someone who viewed that higher job opening as “theirs” because they put more time will feel slighted if someone with a shorter tenure takes the job instead. Especially if that individual left the company beforehand.

    It’s a recipe for political blowback, and the easiest avenue of complaint is the OPs baby. Because – logically- if they’re not committed to the organization, clearly they don’t deserve their role…right?

    In the OPs shoes, I’d do a “political assessment” and figure out how many detractors are in play- and who they are. If they’re in senior roles to the OP, it may be time to consider what their long term plans are at this employer.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        This smells to me like a clique of coworkers who feel that one of them should have gotten the higher position that went to the LW. They are banding together and using the baby thing as a way to undermine her.

        This happened to a friend. We worked in the same organization as department heads 14 years ago. She had a group of four men on her team who were all pretty mediocre; she was a star in our field and very respected inside and outside of the organization. When she was out on maternity/adoption leave, they started a smear campaign that continued when she returned. They used the “she talks too much about the baby” (I don’t have children and I’m very sensitive to too much kid talk, and she definitely did not talk about him too much). Their main complaint was that she wasn’t available outside of work hours, even though we are in a field where there is no expectation of being available to coworkers outside of work hours (meanwhile, all of these guys were the ones who would run you over in the parking lot to leave the minute the workday was officially over.)

        They got her direct boss (who was easily swayed and not a great leader) on their side and it got so ugly, at a time when she wanted to enjoy finally being a mom after years of fertility and adoption disappointments, that she ended up leaving the organization a few months later. She moved into a higher position at a rival org (mwaahahaha!) and the cadre of mediocre dudes all began infighting to get her job. They have continued to be mediocre but to attempt to move up the ladder, while she has continued to have a stellar career. Sadly they all burned their bridges with her because she is very connected and would be an excellent reference who could really help them.

      1. justanobody*

        Agree. This is not about ‘talking too much about baby’. This is an attempt to undermine the OP’s credibility as being properly focused on her job. It could be coming from the boss (i.e. the complaint is made up or greatly exagerrated) or from the actual 6 people who have teamed up against the OP for whatever reason.

    1. Smithy*

      In the world of office politics, I wonder how much the OP’s employer and sector was impacted by COVID. In my sector right now, if you want to make a huge career leap seniority wise by taking a new job – now is the time. It’s truly in the favor of candidates and for people I know hiring, their candidate pools are super weak.

      For new people getting jobs in organizations new to them that a few years ago their resumes never would have been considered for, there’s more room for the suspension of disbelief. Yes this person is only X age, but maybe they started in this field immediately after graduation? Or they’ve only had Y years of experience but they came from such a prestigious place that those years are basically doubled! However, when it’s someone you know, those dynamics can be more irksome if you feel that you haven’t been rewarded for your loyalty in staying or put in the “traditional” time.

      All to say, considering the OP’s boss is the CEO – I agree that it’s worth doing a political assessment. I currently know someone who left a position about a year ago and now is being wooed to come back at essentially three levels higher than when he left (see weak candidate pool). A huge concern he has is that there’s no way for him to do that without being dropped into an office politics firestorm and is seeing if there’s a way to keep the salary of that level but with a lower title.

  17. Rusty Shackelford*

    The most information I got about who has issued these concerns is that none of them are the employees I manage, clients, or people I even work with on a daily basis.

    I was willing to believe the LW simply didn’t realize how much she talks about her baby, but this part is weird. This part makes it seem either made up or coordinated.

    1. Purely Allegorical*

      Agree. It also makes me think that someone more senior than her has made the complaints. Actually based on the description of the workplace and how OP ‘boomeranged’ back, I almost wonder if this is my old employer… and if so, then I could totally see senior leadership taking an unreasonable attitude.

      I also work in comms, and the idea is that you’re available all the time for things that come up. If OP is now drawing boundaries around her time in a way she didn’t before, i could totally see that pissing off senior leadership who are accustomed to a different way.

      Agree with the others that this all seems coordinated, and its worth having a hard think about the politics of the office. I agree with Alison as well that you should go back to your manager and have a different type of conversation that’s more direct.

    2. CG*

      Yes, exactly! If it’s so problematic that in just one month six people have independently approached OP’s boss about it, why haven’t any clients, members of OP’s team, or others that OP interacts with regularly? And why didn’t OP’s boss, who presumably also interacts with OP a lot, share her own assessment of the situation with OP instead of just saying “six people told me…”?

    3. Anonymous Hippo*

      “six people that you won’t work with on a daily basis” sounds to me like fake details meant to protect the complainer. Not that the boss is necessarily making it up whole cloth, but may have changed both the number of complainants, and their relationship to the OP in order to provide more privacy.

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        This was my thought as well, everyone is assuming the boss is telling the truth but I think it’s totally plausible the boss fudged some of the details of the complaints to keep OP from figuring out who complained

  18. The New Wanderer*

    I can’t imagine the OP has talked about the baby SO MUCH in one month that six separate people who don’t interact with her on a daily basis felt like they had to raise this as a concern. That’s suspicious.

    With six complaints, I can see why the boss is bringing it to OP’s attention. But I agree with the advice to take it back to the boss and figure out exactly what’s happening here. The boss should have some insight into whether there’s a pattern in the complainants (people who wanted that position and didn’t get it? former peers being out-promoted by someone (a woman at that) who left and came back?), even if they couldn’t share exactly who complained.

  19. Ruth*

    Are the people complaining men? Because this sounds like some sexist bullshit to be honest. I’m incensed on your behalf.

    1. Doug Judy*

      This is the vibe I’m getting. Good old school misogyny. A woman can’t dare mention she has a family. She might have to leave early one day! Uncommitted! But if a man does it, he’s just going above and beyond being a great dad. /s

      I hope I’m wrong, and I could totally be projecting the bullshit I’ve had to endure being a working mother.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Eh, there are plenty of women who identify strongly with being childfree and can be pretty awful to other women who decide to have kids. Checkout the childfree and antinatalism subreddits, if you can stomach it.

    3. Anan*

      I don’t usually like to jump to the “sexist” conclusion, but I am surprised this wasn’t part of the original answer in this case. The idea that women are less committed to their jobs after having children is textbook sexist bias and a huge contributor to the gender pay gap (which is wrongly attributed to “the choices women make”).

    4. Small Medium at Large*

      YES! I’m astonished more people aren’t smelling a rat here. Pushback to working moms can be really insidious and weird like this, even at places where it seems like it’s not going to be an issue before you’re a parent. Speaking from personal experience.

  20. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I wonder if the boss is struggling with infertility or something and that’s prompting her to put the stop to anything making her uncomfortable? I say this as someone who is infertile and has felt resentment before but got therapy so I just thought I’d throw it out there.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I can see this. I know when I was going through infertility, I tried to avoid people who couldn’t stop talking about their kids. Who knows what I might have done if I’d had some control over them? (I mean, not really, but it’s interesting to think about.) And it could explain the weird “no one you regularly work with” claim.

      Hey, you talk about your baby too much.

      Oh no! Who complained?

      (Oh, crap. She’s gonna go talk to them, apologize or something, and she’ll find out no one said anything.) Um, not just one person. Like, six people. But no one on your team or anything.

      Did they say I’m not doing my work?

      (Well, great. This is not going how I thought it would go.) No, your work is fine! Just, you know, less baby talk.

      1. TiredMama*

        The part that stuck out to me is the not being “fully there”/not putting work first. That seems less about how much you talk about kids and more about what time you get to and leave work, whether you work in the evenings (email or otherwise), whether you work weekends, etc. I would push your boss for more information so that hopefully your boss pushes the people who are going to them for more details/examples as well as what concrete actions your boss wants you to take. Good luck and congrats!

        1. meagain*

          But the then boss said it wasn’t about performance but about excessive talk on that topic instead of about other hobbies. So those two points in the letter seem to contradict!

  21. Midge*

    To add to Alison’s #3, if someone is dealing with infertility or loss they may really not want to hear about babies at work. And since people often don’t share if they’re experiencing that, especially at work, you wouldn’t necessarily know if that’s what’s going on.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      It’s highly unlikely that’s what’s happening here given that 6 different people mentioned it.

      1. Midge*

        I’m speaking generally here. It’s a pretty common reason why a new parent’s calibration about baby talk might be off and have no idea. I agree that it would be odd for there to be 6 people in LW’s office who feel this way/are going through that AND for them to complain to the boss.

    2. RagingADHD*

      If someone tries to solve their discomfort by telling the boss that “they feel like I am not putting work first and that I’m not “fully” there,” then they need to go get help, because not wanting to hear about babies doesn’t turn people into liars or make them sabotage someone else’s career.

      That level of acting out (if that’s what it is) needs to be addressed. And apologized for.

  22. hellocupcake*

    OP, your baby sounds great, and I wish you all the best as a new mom in the workplace! (If we worked together, I would love to hear about her!)
    Kudos to the many ways you’ve managed work performance since your return. Don’t let this bizarre situation get you down about balancing it all.

  23. Spicy Tuna*

    Different offices have different cultures. I’ve worked at places where there was a LOT of talk about personal life and I was viewed negatively because I didn’t really participate (I had a super dull personal life at the time and just didn’t have anything to contribute). I’ve also worked places where there was a LOT of focus on work and any personal anecdotes or tidbits about life outside of the office was frowned upon.

    I’d be curious to know what the office culture is at the poster’s job? Also, it’s strange that people she doesn’t work directly with are complaining. Is the office an open plan layout where they can hear her talking but aren’t really involved in the conversation and they are finding that distracting? Could it be that the people OP works directly with ARE bothered by the kid talk but feel like they can’t say anything because they work with OP and they don’t want to make things weird, but the non-direct co-workers feel more comfortable doing so?

  24. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    Maybe it’s because you run into these people only in the hallways/break rooms where your team would engage you in non-work conversations and they ask about how your baby is doing/how you are, so they only hear those conversations? But I don’t see why they would be so hard pressed about it. I mean, are you supposed to go around saying ‘some weather we’re having here’ to everyone?

    And your management…the response is pretty much ‘please stop trying to show people that it is ok to be both a parent and a leader in this company.’ That’s crap. It does sound like some people are a little jealous that you are a manager and are trying to knock you down.

    I would go the sarcastic route with my team and start talking about ridiculous topics in the break room like ‘which department would last the longest if zombies infiltrated the building’ or something but that may just get you moved from the ‘too much baby talk’ category to the ‘isn’t serious enough for this job’ one.

  25. Salad Daisy*

    I would be curious as to whether the six folk, if the actually exists, do not have their own kids and are just jealous. During the years I was unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, I really did not want to hear people talk about their pregnancy, babies, kids, etc.

    1. Nanani*

      I get that some people with fertility issues don’t want to hear about babies, but please don’t label “just jealous” anyone who doesn’t have kids.
      I get that -you- really want(ed?) babies but believe it or not, parenthood is not the end goal of all human lives.

      1. meagain*

        I don’t think Salad Daisy was labeling everyone without kids as just jealous. The comment said they were curious whether those six people who supposedly complained were jealous and related it to their own experience. I took that to mean questioning that if those people who don’t have their own kids involuntary may be experiencing jealousy. Not that everyone wants or needs to have kids.

        Although I will say, I hate the jealousy connotation in general. In most cases it’s not so much jealousy but deep pain of not being able to have your own and the trigger of watching it happen for someone else. So many times it gets written off as jealous and bitter when in reality it’s more like sorrow and loss and grief.

        I actually could see a scenario with someone dealing with that maybe voiced a complaint? But I don’t think it’s realistic that six people had an issue with baby talk being painful. Most people might find it “annoying” but not enough to complain. Let alone six unless it was super blatant and over the top.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, no, people without kids are not ‘just jealous’ of people who have them. I get that it must be difficult if everyone is having kids and you want them, but some of us have no desire to have children and are not at all jealous of people who do.

      1. meagain*

        Right, there is a huge difference between childfree and childless not by choice. People who don’t want kids aren’t grieving and are not jealous. They are living the life they chose and wanted! People struggling with infertility (or who never found a suitable partner during childbearing years) may find new moms and baby talk in the office very triggering. But I don’t know anyone who would even think of complaining to a CEO about that unless it truly was impacting the letter writer’s work, focus, response time, and ability to perform her job.

  26. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP: first, congratulations on your new member of the family! Second, you sound like a very conscientious worker, being self-aware of all of the things you are contributing. Great stuff. Now, a possibility: it may happen that once you stop talking about your baby, all six people will go to your boss to complain about something else that is “affecting your job performance”. I really, really hope that’s not the case; I hope that you work with adults and not middle school mean girls. I’m bringing it up, though, for two reasons: first, I’m a plan-for-the-worst kind of person, as being prepared helps me cope. Second, like everyone else who has worked for over twenty-five years, I Have Seen. Some. Sh!t. I know that your lifeis incredibly busy right now, but if it were me, I might spend a lunch hour or two thinking very carefully about steps to take IF it becomes clear that people are just going to resent you no matter what you do.
    Again, it may not happen, and boy is it not something to lose sleep over right now, good God no. But you sounds like a really smart, analytical person who good at planning. It wouldn’t hurt anything to use those skills to imagine The Worst, and outline a plan.

    1. Daisy Gamgee*

      I was going to write a comment much like this but not as well put, so I will simply and thoroughly agree with Tangerina. All good luck, LW, and cheers to your baby!

  27. YL*

    If OP isn’t given any clarification on her not being “fully” there and not putting work first, then my inclination is the complainers are people who have it out for OP for a reason that isn’t her baby. And if there’s no evidence to support the negative feedback, then OP’s boss is terrible for not shutting it down.

  28. lost academic*

    I don’t buy that 6 people said it. I do not trust that feedback. I do buy that it’s hard to calibrate how much you talk about any one thing (talking about a new baby 10% as much as Local Football Team is discussed in my old office would be way too much) but it’s also quite possible that politely and very briefly directly answering a question about said baby to Person A when Person B and C are standing nearby, sort of part of the chat, might feel like to them “all the time” because while A asked, B and C didn’t. So they might feel like they’re getting it too much. I don’t see that this can be controlled too much because if you start not answering the questions or politely avoiding it you will get a negative reaction too.

    You can’t win on the issue brought up and it is definitely about something else. Can’t wait for the update.

    1. sb51*

      It might be worth the LW paying attention to who’s ASKING about the baby. If it’s always Person A (or a handful of people), perhaps who are also kid-talking-people, it might be a parents-vs-non-parents minefield in the company culture. And in that case, you’re just the most recent parent and taking the fire right now.

      In that case, a discreet word in Person A’s ear that you’re always happy to talk babies with them in one-on-one meetings, you’re trying to cool it on the baby talk in group settings might be understood.

      1. Kicking-k*

        Yes, this. I wonder about the possibility of an inadvertent captive audience too. It would depend on the layout of the work space though – if there are only a few people in earshot, or only OP’s team, it’s not that.

        When I returned to work after my first baby, I was on the receiving end of a bit of fuss, not asked for by me (it was the first “department baby” in more than a decade). I found this a little uncomfortable, and I could see others deciding that there was too much baby fuss, and deciding that I must be the one bringing the topic up since it’s my baby.

        However I also think it’s possible the boss has an agenda, or has gone round seeking confirmation rather than being approached.

    2. lost academic*

      I had another thought which is that OP says she came back to some changed responsibilities/work on a day to dat post baby. While everyone may “know” that, they may also be consciously or unconsciously noticing and comparing her work pre and post leave and not considering that it’s not exactly related. If there are things she doesn’t do anymore, first because she wasn’t there to do them and now because it makes sense for the people who covered them to keep those tasks, maybe it’s reading to those people that she’s not committed to work somehow. That’s an upper level communication thing to address IMO. It’s easy to fixate on what seems to be the cause.

  29. Essentially Cheesy*

    I really thing there has to be a lot more to the story. A lot more.

    In my own estimation, if six people went to my boss or grand-boss with issues about me … there would be trouble for me and I would probably be expecting it. It would probably not even take three people .. and my boss and grand-boss would probably have an eye on the situation already.

    So, LW is there really more to the story? Or many time for some introspection? Or is the boss up to something?

    1. Windchime*

      I honestly am suspicious of the boss. “Six people told me” just seems….weird. I used to have a boss who would twist things. She would take a casual comment completely out of context and use it to discipline people. So “Chris seems tired today; hope all is well” would be twisted into “People are saying that you are tired and not carrying your share of the load”. I don’t know what her motive was, but she seemed determined to make everything she heard into a negative thing.

      1. The Dogman*

        ahh you do get some negative Nigels and Nessies… but that is vindictive and bullying from your old boss!

        Also somewhat gas lighting adjacent I think…

    2. juliebulie*

      Oh yeah. If I got a complaint about an employee “talking too much about the baby” when their work was actually great, I would more likely tell the complainer to take it up with OP or mind his or her own business. (In the past, I have had bosses tell people who complained about me to mind their own business, so it can be done.) And and I would probably never, or almost never, even mention it to the employee unless I suspected that it was part of a full-blown campaign in progress against my employee.

  30. CatCat*

    There’s a real disconnect between what the boss says these six people are saying the problem is and what the boss is saying the problem is:

    * Boss tells OP “six people have gone to my boss saying they feel like I am not putting work first and that I’m not ‘fully’ there.”

    * Boss also tells OP she is not underperforming or failing to meet expectations, but “it is solely that I have replaced talking about other things that I used to (hobbies) with my child.”

    It would be incredibly bizarre for six people to complain to someone’s boss that they talk about their child instead of hobbies. I mean… who cares? It would also be bizarre for the boss to make this an issue with their subordinate.

    I feel like we’re not getting the full story from the boss. Is the boss trying to placate these people in some way instead of shutting them down? Or is boss unwilling to talk to OP clearly and directly about an actual work problem? What is going on here?

    1. The Dogman*

      Boss is upset LW left and returned to a higher salary is my guess.

      Instead of advocating for herself the boss is bullying LW, prob in the hopes she quits and the boss can carry on feeling superior to the other minions.

      6 people seems like a call to authority… “it must be true cos so many people said it to me…. no you can’t have their names…” how convenient!

  31. Chilly Delta Blues*

    I really need an update on this one. I worried a lot when I came back after a 9 week maternity leave if I was still being taken seriously and I can only imagine how I would have taken this feedback.

    1 thought, is LW pumping? Because I could absolutely see folks who don’t personally work with her seeing her marked unavailable during pumping breaks and read that as “not working/uncommitted”… especially since I doubt it says pumping is the reason on her calendar. People get seriously weird about pumping needs. I answered emails during mine and still dealt with it cause they couldn’t schedule meetings then too. My supply tanked that first month back.

    1. Irish girl*

      this was my though as well. Not being able to schedule a meeting due to those blocked times might come across as nothing being fully there. Or having to drop off early or join late.

  32. I edit everything*

    Since the complainers are not people she works with regularly, but might only chit-chat with, maybe all their conversations have been baby, simply because they don’t have work stuff to talk about? It might be a grand total of 15 minutes over the last month. So a passing exchange that used to be:
    “How are you?”
    “I’m great, thanks. Did you catch the last episode of Mad Expanse of Thrones?”
    has become:
    “How are you?”
    “I’m great thanks. Just wish the baby would sleep a little more.”

    1. I edit everything*

      And instead of talking Mad Expanse of Thrones one day, football the next, and the show you just saw the next, it’s baby every time, because that’s what life is now.

    2. miro*

      I think you might be right about this. It would still be a real overreaction on the part of the coworkers to complain to the boss in this case (and maybe that’s where the office politics come in) but this could be where the impression comes from.

    3. Jacey*

      I can see this being the case, but if so… I don’t know why that rises to the level of a complaint? Certainly not from six people.

  33. A Penguin!*

    I’m grasping and it doesn’t excuse the complaints about baby, but you mentioned your team is more independent now. Could this be someone (well, six someones) interpreting going to one of your team directly instead of through you as you passing what should be your work off on subordinates? Further, is it confusing/unclear to people outside your team which duties you’ve resumed and which have permanently gone to which team members?

    It seems highly unlikely that six people had the same observation/confusion in only a month, and all leapt to the same muddled question, but we’ve certainly seen stranger things on this site.

    1. I edit everything*

      That’s an interesting thought, actually. The difference in how LW’s team is working and interacting with the rest of the org is what’s caught their attention.

  34. Bluefish*

    Okay, so I didn’t realize people cared *that much* about office conversation topics (outside of offensive subjects, or work not being completed due to distracting conversations) that they would complain to someone’s boss about it? Granted, I don’t love office chit chat, but at the same time, office conversations are typically so short, I wouldn’t mind if someone only talked about their kid, or their woodworking, or their plants at home, or whatever. Usually, people are just looking to talk about something other than work for 5 minutes or so, and then it’s back to spreadsheets or meetings. I just think it’s odd that this rubbed them such the wrong way that they would complain to OP’s boss? There HAS to be something else going on.

  35. Goldenrod*

    I think the boss is lying, personally. Made up a “people have told me this” story to hide her own agenda.

    1. The Dogman*

      Agreed, to me the 6 number is a clear “authority fallacy” attempt, it’s not too high a number, but high enough that boss has to do something about it.

      The boss is the one with the issues regarding the LW, and my suspicion is that this is all about LW leaving and returning on a higher salary.

      Now the boss is unhappy she has not been rewarded (in her opinion) so instead of taking it up the chain and getting herself a raise it is simpler to bully the person who has achieved for herself.

      1. Maya Bohnhoff*

        But ostensibly, Boss is the one who approved OP’s rehire. This is her direct superior, who is CEO, apparently. So the boss being unhappy with her rehire doesn’t make sense.

        1. Everything Bagel*

          And six people is an awful lot of people to be complaining about someone. My company has thousands of employees and if I learned that 6 people were complaining about me, I’d be very upset.

        2. The Dogman*

          That doesn’t matter really, if the uber bosses were in favour of LW returning this boss would have to OK it t maintain status, but then sabotage LW subtly afterwards.

  36. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    One idea to verify if this is actually a problem or if it’s sour grapes is to stop mentioning your kid for a while (week or so?). If the complaints continue you have ample proof that it’s a load of complete hogwash.

  37. Critical Rolls*

    This is so pernicious. Anonymous attacks on a woman as not being fully present or committed because she’s a mother. Even if the LW were talking about her new baby (!) “too much” — and for some people literally any amount is “too much — this is nasty, sexist backstabbing and the boss is way off course.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am also getting a whiff of “admitting to being a mother! of a baby! is so unprofessional!” from these complaints. Otherwise, why was it okay for OP to talk about hobbies?

      1. JelloStapler*

        Because “admitting to being a fan! of a sport! or TV show!” is somehow okay for these people. :)

  38. Ginger*

    I’m in the minority here but I think OP may need to think objectively how many times she mentions her baby each day.

    I have a coworker like this, every conversation, every small bit of chit chat, weekend plans chat, anything – all about her baby. You’re tired? She’s more tired because BABY. Big milestones achieved last year? “I created a baby” (direct quote).

    It’s a tremendous lack of self awareness and I would bet a million $ she doesn’t realize it. OP might not be at the same level but just something to think about objectively.

    PS – before anyone @ me for sounding mean, I’m a mom too. I get it but no one will care about your child as much as you do.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I sort of wonder about this, as well. I worked with a woman who turned every conversation into something about her baby. Me: When did you want those TPS reports? Her: tomorrow is fine. Tomorrow is the big day I switch the baby into a new size diaper. Me (wondering what diapers and TPS reports have to do with each other): OK, thanks. I didn’t necessarily care, but it did sometimes become derailing. I’m sure she didn’t realize it was happening, and she generally did get all her work done. I don’t think anyone complained because it didn’t seem like anything to complain about. But people definitely noticed.

      1. Raven*

        Reminds me of one of my current coworkers. Her kids are in college. She can find a way to make any non work related conversation about her kids. Its almost impressive at times how she does it. That said, I roll my eyes everytime she starts on that path, because I really don’t care lol

    2. fueled by coffee*

      I mean… maybe? But it seems strange to me, then, that these complaints are going to her boss, rather than coworkers making comments *to her* about toning it down.

      There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that anyone has said anything to LW along the lines of, “Sorry, I’m actually maxed out on the baby talk. But I’ve been wanting to ask you for your chicken parm recipe from the potluck last year!” or even, “Sorry, I’m really busy with work, I can’t look at baby pics right now.” It seems to me that would be the first line of defense, before escalating things up to LW’s boss.

      And, like everyone else has mentioned upthread, it seems weird to me that these comments are coming from people LW doesn’t work closely with. If anything, those people might have *more* grounds to just ask LW directly to tone down the kid talk, rather than going to LW’s boss with vague non-work-related complaints.

      1. Raven*

        As I wrote earlier, saying “I’m maxed out on hearing about your baby” will never go over well, with that person or anyone who hears it. You would be looked at as the bad guy, instead of them for droning on and on about something you don’t care about.

    3. NancyDrew*

      But she’s only been back for 4 weeks, and these complainers don’t even work closely with her.

      Also, not just for youGingerr, but for everyone: it might be worth everyone taking a single second to think about how much motherhood is devalued in this country, and to extrapolate from there why new moms in particular feel the need to be defensive about their time and energy. I remember once a colleague and I got in the elevator together and I said “Hey, how are ya?” and she heaved a big sigh and said “exhausted!” and I thought to myself, “I promise you, I am more exhausted than you are.” Fair? Nope! But it’s hard not to bristle when all of society discounts and de-values the actual act of new parenting.

      Anyway — one of the rules of this site is to take letter writers at their word so it’s annoying to constantly see commenters be like, “Well you probably ARE talking too much about the new person in your life.” Let’s extend grace where we can.

      1. Raven*

        I think the problem is, you can take them at their word, but in a situation like this, I don’t know that their idea of how much this happens is exactly correct. People aren’t great judges of how much they are talking.

    4. Observer*

      I’m in the minority here but I think OP may need to think objectively how many times she mentions her baby each day.


      Here is the thing. Either she’s creating problems, in which case her boss should have said so. Or her assessment of her work is accurate AND the boss is not lying in saying that her work is fine. In which case, why would any adult be complaining to the boss about this.

      Now, the problems could be workflow and processing – eg she’s creating a situation where what should be a quick business conversation winds up taking 10 minutes and wates everyone time. Or it could be that’s being really, really rude (eg telling someone “I created a baby” in response to someone’s achievement). In either case, the boss should not have told her that her work is fine and that it is solely that she’s not talking about her hobbies anymore, but just the baby.

  39. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I feel terrible for the OP. This is such an exciting time, and of course you miss the baby when you go back to work. I don’t have kids and even I would be excited for you! I would also want the latest updates and pictures. I hope you can find a better job where you can enjoy your work AND your family without all the weirdness.

  40. Egg*

    Part of it might be the nature of what you’re saying. It’s a real drag when new parents constantly talk about their lack of sleep or how their baby is teething, etc. I know it’s hard but we all have crap going on in our lives that’s hard.

    Maybe try to make the updates more positive. People will be way more interested in hearing that your baby is rolling over now than that they’re teething.

    1. MsM*

      Ugh, I don’t think I’d want to work in an environment where I can’t admit to being tired because it might “bring people down” or call my commitment to my work in question. Obviously there’s a limit to how much to share, but people really shouldn’t ask for life updates if they don’t want to hear how someone’s life actually is at the moment.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        I think Egg is more referring to the pissing contest that sometimes happens around who is more burned out. Folks without kids tend to get a lot of “you don’t understand what real exhaustion is because you don’t have kids” from parents, and that can be real annoying.

        1. MsM*

          That’s fair. I just don’t think the solution to “we all have crap in our lives” is “so let’s none of us talk about it, ever.”

    2. Observer*

      Part of it might be the nature of what you’re saying. It’s a real drag when new parents constantly talk about their lack of sleep or how their baby is teething, etc. I know it’s hard but we all have crap going on in our lives that’s hard.

      And the appropriate response is to go to the boss and claim that your coworker is “not committed”? Really?

      This is really the fundamental problem here. How do you get “not fully there” and “not committed” from “talks about that baby enough to be annoying and boring but is knocking her work out of the park”? Because that’s the claim you are assuming. The OP actually ASKED about her performance and the boss said that she’s doing well.

  41. Colorado*

    My gut tells me it’s #4. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It is hurtful and disappointing.

  42. NW Mossy*

    This is a tough one, because in a workplace of any size, there’s likely to be a big range in tolerance for baby talk – some love the subject and will gladly hear as much detail as you’re willing to offer, while others are more on the “let us never speak of this again” end of things.

    Unfortunately, it’s high stakes when you’re a woman returning to work from parental leave. The general assumption in US work culture is that you’ll be less engaged, less committed, less company-first than you were before. Flowing from that, confirmation bias can drive people to “prove” their assumption by applying that assumption to all of your behaviors and overinterpreting those behaviors as evidence that they’re right.

    Alison’s script is right on, but I think you have to be prepared that you’ll end up taking option 2 (not talking about your baby/out-of-work life at all). Your boss’s way of presenting this (“disservice to your career and reputation”) is telling you two key facts – the problem is other people’s perception of you, and that they consider it your responsibility to fix that perception. This boss will have no problem with you going full-embargo on baby talk, and may even encourage it.

  43. learnedthehardway*

    Personally, I’m reading this as a signal that your manager is questioning whether you’re really fully back to work, and that MAYBE one or two people mentioned that you talk about your baby a lot, and that this has been exaggerated. Maybe you need to point out to your manager all the points you made about your performance since returning to the office. It sounded to me like you were knocking it out of the park, and you should definitely toot your own horn about this – particularly given the feedback.

    When I came back from my first mat leave, my manager at the time was surprised at how on-the-ball I was and how fast I ramped up again to a full workload. Now, we have a year of mat leave in Canada, but the level of surprise kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I made a point of mentioning just how much I had accomplished in the first 3 months I got back (which is when he made this comment), and that I was also going to school at the same time, to make the point that YES, I was a fully functional human being in the workplace.

  44. I'm just here for the cats*

    So if I understand correctly, the LW has been back for only 1 month and now 6 people (apparently) who don’t work with her on a regular basis have said that she is talking about the baby too much. If these people have complained, I’m leaning toward that these people are upset that she left and then came back to a higher roll. For one thing, if they don’t work with her on a regular basis how many times have they actually talked with her? Are they overhearing conversations she’s having with other people? Like if there were 2 meetings and one had different people than the other, she was updating everyone in both meetings and in the complainer’s mind because they have heard twice now an update on the baby that means they think that’s too much talk.

    And what does the boss expect the LW to do? If someone knows that she has a baby and asks how they kid is doing is she supposed to ignore them? Can she never mention the baby ever?

    LW I hope you have a trusted coworker that you can ask if you are talking to much about the baby. And maybe you need to keep an eye on what’s happening around you? I really hope your boss or these others are not being malicious.

  45. DD*

    This is weird – the feedback comes from six people who don’t even work directly with (or for) you. I agree it feels like something else is going on. Maybe there was a power play while you were out on maternity leave. If you have a close discreet work friend I would have a chat with him/her to get their take.

    Malicious compliance time – my response would be in the next few weeks to never mention the baby at work. If asked about the baby I would bluntly and politely say something like…My boss said people complained that I talked about the baby too much so I’ll just say she’s good. This also opens up the conversation to see what their response back is, and an opportunity to see if there is more going on beneath the surface.

    1. miro*

      FWIW, think this would read to many people less as malicious compliance and more as being complainy or fishing for sympathy.

      If OP wants to scale it back to just saying “good” though that could be a useful way to gauge if people are actually interested in hearing details about the baby or are just asking to be polite. The people who asked her lots of follow-up questions can reasonably be assumed to be the people who don’t ask after “baby is good!” don’t need further info.

  46. Cafe au Lait*

    OP, one avenue you could explore is if you’re retelling the same stories to a small group of people unintentionally. While you might mention your kiddo is teething to Client A once, it’s the third time someone has overheard the story because you also mentioned to Clients B, and C.

  47. HannahS*

    Speaking as a fellow parent of a 4-month old, I have some thoughts.

    1. People are weird about kid-talk. It’s easy to hit someone else’s nerve when talking about your kids. It’s easy for others to Have Opinions about whatever people–especially women–say about their children.

    2. My entire life is driven by my baby at the moment–how much sleep I get, when/what/how much I eat, how my mood is, how my day or evening or night went. It all depends on her, her needs, her mood. My entire self is subsumed by the needs of my infant. This is not because I am unique as a parent, but because caring for an infant is consuming. It is utterly exhausting, and I really think it’s the kind of thing parents forget by the time their kids are older.

    3. Because of #2, when people ask me how I’m doing, the real answer actually does always have something to do with the baby. HOWEVER! When people casually ask me how I’m doing, they may not realize (or care) about the real answer.

    4. If I spoke to someone who was passionate about running, and every time I asked them how they were they gave me their answer in terms of their daily running training (“Good, thanks, I ran 15k last night!” “Oh, kind of tired after my morning run,” “Yeah, I need that by 4:30 so that I can get home and get running,”) it would not bother me. I would, however, think that this person is totally consumed by their passion for running. Same with kids. Because of #1, other people may think that a woman talking about her kid that much is A Problem Worth Complaining About while some dude talking about his run is Quirky Dave Who’s Really Into Running, How Healthy of Him! (…ahem, why yes, he IS a real person)

    What is the solution? I don’t know. I don’t think that a person talking about their infant is bad or wrong, even if they do it a lot. I think it’s possible that you’re giving the impression (uh, correctly) that your life is run by your infant at the moment. I think it’s profoundly weird that six different people in such a short amount of time would independently feel that this is worth escalating, and your suspicion about jealousy might be warranted.

    1. HannahS*

      Oh, I meant to add, it’s weird largely because none of them work for you or closely with you. That makes me lean towards something doesn’t smell right about this situation.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I feel like most topics have at least a two-level answer system: The one you use for people who share the situation and the one you use for people who don’t.

      I don’t have kids so we’ll blame this on my cats, one of whom recently had a constipation scare.
      Coworker: “How are the cats?”
      1) Non-cat-mom answer: “Won’t leave me alone.”/”Running around like lunatics in the middle of the night.”
      2) Fellow cat-mom answer: “Cat 1 has been kinda plugged up and I was really worried that I’d have to take her to the vet, but I gave her pumpkin for a couple of days and things, uh, worked themselves out. Thank goodness. She’s a complete nightmare at the vet’s and I don’t love having to have her sedated, but there’s no way they can handle her otherwise.”
      First person does not want to hear about my non-pooping cat; second person has been through this, can sympathize, and might have suggestions.

      This goes for all kinds of topics. Example: Model horse hobbyists.
      Coworker: “What are you up to this weekend?”
      1) Non-hobbyist answer: “Oh, some hobby stuff–repainting a toy horse.”
      2) Hobbyist answer: “Repainting a Safari Ltd. Shire, only I decided I wanted it to be a Sugarbush Harlequin draft so now I have to carve off the feathers, and the mane and tail since I might use it for NaReViMo and then I’d want to hair it. But I don’t know how well carving it will work with the rubbery plastic. I hope the apoxy sticks to it. I haven’t worked a lot in oils, either, so this should be interesting.”
      First person would be glazed over; second person speaks model horse as a second language.

      Another coworker of mine used this version when she was pregnant and asked how far long she was:
      1) Casual answer: “Six months.”
      2) Parenting-board answer: “29 and a half weeks.”
      First set of people aren’t mentally gauging the size of the baby, reflecting on how they felt at 29 and a half weeks, etc., but the second one is.

      1. HannahS*

        I do agree, but I also think it’s really, really weird that people would actually complain about it at work. Like, I really don’t care about cats, but if we were colleagues and I said, “Hey Dust Bunny, how’s it going?” and you said, “Oh, my cat kept me up all night” or even, “My cat’s really constipated and I’m worried about her” it would be…fine? “Getting along with people at work” doesn’t mean only talking about things that are interesting to other people.

        1. Tayto*

          Oh, please don’t talk about how constipated your cat is to me at work. Please. (Or your child or your spouse or your horse.)

  48. Yellow Springs*

    Possibility #5 — even if you’re not actually talking to these 6(!) people too much about your baby, is it possible you might have an office friend or two who you DO talk to about your baby extensively? If so, are the 6 peripheral people overhearing these lengthy baby conversations and finding them unprofessional?
    I could imagine something like this happening in my office.

    Also, solidarity to the LW for managing work and the transition to being a mom to little ones. It’s a complicated dance!

  49. MooBoo*

    This is weird, the only thing I can think of is if you’d usually talk about different hobbies (e.g. running and cooking) but now you only talk about the baby then even if you aren’t talking more than usual it might seem like you’re extra focused on the baby.

  50. The Dogman*

    Caution! There is a good chance the only person with any issues with you LW is your boss.

    The “6 people complained” seems like a nonsense number, enough to sound like there is actually an issue with the baby conversations, instead the more likely issue is your boss is jealous you left and came back to a higher salary.

    I would assume your boss is out to get you, rather than assume people you barely talk to actually think you go on about your baby too much.

    Especially since a rational boss who likes you (and appreciates your work) would have told the 6 people to go away and stop being so nosey and judgemental in the first place and never even mentioned it.

    1. juliebulie*

      I coulda saved myself a lot of typing if I’d read this comment first. I completely agree, there is something wrong with the boss. Not sure if the boss made the whole thing up or just isn’t a good manager, but either way you probably don’t have to walk on eggshells around everyone.

      Better find out what’s going on with your boss, though.

  51. Todd*

    Could it be that the staff that “became more independent” feels that they were covering for you during your absence and they now expected you take some of those duties back?

    1. Mannequin*

      OP came back with a promotion and their job duties are now different. If these people are upset that OP isn’t performing her old role, that’s a “them” problem and OP’s boss should have shut that right down.

  52. JMR*

    This is the weirdest. Even if I had a co-worker who was boring me to death with non-stop talk about their kids (or their workout routine or their collection of ancient Macedonian military artifacts or whatever), it would never occur to me to go to their boss to complain about it. I’d just… you know. Not talk to them. At least, I’d avoid talking to them about anything other than work. I feel like something else has to be going on here, like these people are engaged in a plot to undermine OP and this was the best they could come up with.

  53. Verthandi*

    You’ve got verifiable achievements on your side. On the other side is a vague “People are saying…” comment. One misplaced “Baby was up all night…” can sometimes be all it takes to get the gossip train rolling out of the station.

  54. Whynot*

    I’d like to ask the boss how many complaints they’ve received from men talking about their kids too much, and if they’d have brought those comments to the attention of those men.

    Apart from the overall sexism issues, if folks are telling you that one of your employees “talks about x subject too much” but these people don’t work closely with her, and there are no issues re: the content of the small talk or any workplace performance issues, then the conversation the boss should be having is with the complainers, not the OP.

  55. Goldenrod*

    I mean, I’ve had coworkers bore me to tears with all kinds of stories from their personal lives, and I would never dream of REPORTING it. :D That’s nuts!

    And to expect a new mother not to talk about her baby is also nuts. (And I hate hearing about babies. But I mean, I realize I just have to deal with it. It’s normal for a new mother to talk about the baby!)

    But again: I feel this is a made-up story designed to hide the boss’ real agenda….

    1. londonedit*

      Yep, this is where I come down. I wouldn’t really want to work in an office where someone was banging on about their new baby all the time, any more than I’d want to work in an office where the only topic of conversation was cricket or dieting or anything else that I have precisely zero interest in. But would I *report* someone for talking about something I wasn’t interested in? No, because that is mad. The only situation I can think of where you might report something like that would be if someone was disrupting other people’s work by coming over to their desks and chatting about cricket all the time, but it doesn’t sound like OP is doing that – she’s just answering people’s questions as part of a conversation – so it sounds to me as if there’s some sort of ‘OP has come back to work and we don’t like it’ thing going on, either from whoever has complained, or from the boss who’s making up these complaints to fit some agenda of their own.

    2. Roeslein*

      Exactly – I have coworkers who talk about their dogs a lot. I also have coworkers who talk about their diet a lot. (I used to have a coworker who talked about her horses a lot, but she has since retired to spend more time with horses.) I couldn’t care less about any of those topics (I mean, dogs are cute and I like meeting them, but I am not A Dog Person; the diet thing I find downright uncomfortable) but it would never ever cross my mind to go to their bosses about it. There’s something weird going on here.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Seconded. We had one coworker who used to bug another coworker about his sick mother for like an hour at a time. I note we all had sick parents in the group at the time and I found it to be a lot to take, so I literally would hide in the supply closet for awhile to give myself a break from it. And I STILL didn’t complain to authorities about it!

    3. Avril Ludgateau*

      I used to have a colleague who talked incessantly about Zumba. It got to the point that not only did I try to avoid small talk with her, but I pulled back on asking work related things in person, even, because engaging her would pull me into a conversation about Zumba.

      Maybe she got the hint or she just got bored of Zumba because she did cool it after a while and all was fine, but I never in a million years would have reported her over, ultimately, being excited about something. I find myself really side-eying the 6 complainers in the OP, and, frankly, the boss for legitimizing their complaints.

      1. Goldenrod*

        Seriously! I worked in the same office suite for about a year with a woman who I tried to avoid chit chatting with at all. Because a simple question like “How was your weekend?” would lead to a 45-minute monologue about how she organizes her yarn closet.

        But I STILL understood that it was on me to extricate myself from these kinds of situations, not report her! I would have felt like a real jerk doing that.

  56. Colette*

    There’s nothing worse than getting anonymous feedback, because it’s hard to know what to change.

    That being said, the OP can do the following:
    – make a point of talking about non-baby topics – e.g. instead of replying to “how’s it going?” with “man, the baby woke up 5 times last night”, say “hey, the sun is shining so all is well” or “not bad for a Tuesday!” or something that does not even obliquely reference the baby. Maybe she’s fit in a TV show, or cleaned the house, or tried a new snack; it doesn’t have to be a hobby that she talks about.
    – when she is asked about the baby, reply in one sentence and no more. Let the other person ask for more info if they want more; don’t offer.

    That may not work, especially if the issue really isn’t the conversations about the baby, but it might help change the focus.

    1. Colette*

      Oh, and in particular, when talking with someone who is asking you to do something work-related (i.e. they come to you for help/updates), avoid baby talk unless they specifically ask. If I’m at your desk asking for you to do your job, an anecdote might sound like an excuse/reason not to ask.

  57. CupcakeCounter*

    My one thought, that wasn’t pointed out my Alison, is that you have only been back about a month so you likely have a lot of people asking you about the baby. Is there by chance a common area most of this chatting is happening (assuming you aren’t remote which I didn’t see noted in the letter) and are there a couple employees that sit in that area that hear the same stories over and over?
    We had coworker who was training for an Ironman and people asked all the time how his training was going and then how he did on the race. Most of that conversation happened near the coffee station & bathrooms on our floor and only took about a minute or two but the employee closest to that area would hear the stories over and over again to the point that her perception was that all this employee did was train and talk about training and never did any work. She was wrong of course but two cups of coffee and 3-4 bathroom breaks per day made it seem like all the time.
    I don’t think this is a “you” problem though.

    1. Yellow Springs*

      Bingo. I agree that this is a possibility — I suggested a similar one — that these people are “overhearing” more extensive or repetitive conversations.

  58. Amy*

    I would fully stop talking about the baby at this point. Yes, it seems like something strange could be going on at work. But it just doesn’t seem worth it at this point. It could be hurting you professionally and the upside (getting a chance to talk about the baby) doesn’t seem worth the downside.

    I have 3 kids under 6 and I find it much easier to almost never talk about them and if asked, quickly redirect. Private conversations with true work friends are different but for general talk with colleagues, my kids don’t enter the equation.
    If I spent the weekend potty training and cleaning up pee, I respond “Oh nothing special. Enjoyed the warm snap” or something generic when asked about my weekend.

    I find it much easier.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’d be so tempted to be a jerk about it. CEO asked me to stop talking about the baby because a group complained about it so let’s not talk about baby.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      I hate to say, but I agree on the “stop talking about the baby” advice. If ​nothing else, it could be strategic: keeping mum may reveal if the complaints are being made in good faith, or if something more sinister is at play. Watch these same 6 individuals go from “she never shuts up about her baby!” to “she’s cagey and won’t give us any updates when we ask about the baby.”

      1. Aggretsuko*

        What I’d really wonder about is if she stops talking about the baby AT ALL WHATSOEVER and then STILL gets complaints that she talks about the baby too much…then you know you’ve got enemies, right there.

        1. Avril Ludgateau*

          Precisely my point! It would help reveal where the complainers are coming from in the first place. Are they actually bothered by the topic of conversation, or are they bothered about OP, in general?

          To be honest, I still can’t wrap my mind around going up the chain and formally complaining about a colleague being, I don’t know, mildly annoying (but not hostile, rude, offensive, discriminatory, or harassing), so I’m not feeling very generous in my estimation of these coworkers. I could totally understand – and it has come up before! – if an individual with fertility issues or experiencing child loss didn’t want to hear baby talk, but somehow I don’t suspect that is what is happening here.

  59. Purple Cat*

    LW boss is terrible. Because even if the talking about the baby is the issue, the actual problem (again IF there is one) would be the specific impact on the business. Boss needs to translate what “not putting work first and that I’m not “fully” there.” means in an ACTUAL WORK CONTEXT!

    This has me so fired up because way back when my boss felt the need to pass along our VP of marketing’s feedback that because I yawn a lot in meetings I seem bored. You know, not because I *just* got back from maternity leave with a baby that didn’t sleep through the night for a LONG time.

  60. Dust Bunny*

    The OP does say “I have replaced talking about other things that I used to (hobbies) with my child,” which might mean that however much she talks about anything, it’s primarily about her child and people are tired of it.

    I do feel like there is something else going on here, but if she admits she’s replaced talking about other things with talking about the baby, it at the very least clouds the issue.

    1. Dreamer Gal*

      But why would talking about her child be a less acceptable topic than talking the same amount about her hobbies? With a 4-month-old, OP probably doesn’t have time for doing any hobbies at the moment. So if asked something like, “What did you get up to this weekend?” she can either tell the truth and say, “Oh, you know, looked after the baby–she’s rolling over now!”, lie and make up something about a hobby she didn’t actually get to do, or avoid the question completely. It’d seem pretty ridiculous for people to expect her to do options 2 or 3.

      It might be worthy of complaint if she’s talking about her kid significantly *more* than she used to talk about anything non work related, but if it’s the same amount, it’s as reasonable a topic as anything else personal.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Possibly because the baby is one topic (and let’s face it, babies this age don’t do much) and the hobbies may have been multiple topics.

        “What did you do this weekend?” “Looked after the baby, who can now roll over.”
        “What did you do this weekend?” “My husband and I went to Enchanted Rock. Have you been there? Great scenery.” or “I’m rebuilding my dad’s old Schwinn. Finding parts for it is a doozy but I’ll be glad to see it back on the road.” or “Not much–housework and some reading. I thought I’d be more into this book than I am so it’s a bit of a slog.”

        1. Dreamer Gal*

          But like I said (and other people in the comments have pointed out)… parents of infants generally don’t have time to be hiking, rebuilding bikes, reading, or any other hobbies. She’s probably devoting pretty much all of her time that’s not working or sleeping to the baby. So what would you propose she do if she’s asked a question where previously she might have answered about her hobbies, which she isn’t currently doing? Should she lie, or refuse to answer the question?

          She doesn’t owe her colleagues a variety of answers, especially if those answers would be untrue. And answering them with less variety than she did before shows nothing about her commitment to her job or how well she’s doing the actual work. If people don’t want to hear a baby-related answer, they can avoid asking her about her life outside of work and tune her out if someone else asks her in their vicinity. Complaining to the boss over something like that seems incredibly vindictive.

  61. CoffeeBreak*

    Someone mentioned earlier that it’s more than likely that the “six people” ARE on OP’s team, but boss is saying they aren’t so OP doesn’t get upset with her team. I mean, if my boss said “six people you work closely with are complaining about you” it would ruin my week (probably month) and I’d be paranoid.
    And to speculate further, maybe six different people didn’t complain to boss separately; maybe they were all hanging out in the breakroom, blowing off steam about OP’s baby talk, boss walked in and heard it all and decided to “do something.” Who knows? I would really love an update as well, this is my favorite kind of letter-mystery.

    1. aebhel*

      Right, but if that’s the case the boss is clouding the issue so much that the OP has got basically no actionable information.

    2. eastcoastkate*

      Yep- this is exactly what I think has happened- both of your points! I can very much see this happening in my workplace.

  62. Esmeralda*

    I am not stumped.

    My guess is that OP *thinks* she is not talking about her baby all that much, but really she is.

    I get it! I did it too! And I did not think it was excessive.
    Until the day I saw a really good colleague, the nicest person in the world, very slightly roll her eyes when I started on a story about my adorable child. “Too much baby talk?” I asked? She paused, then said, We love [child name]. I laughed and said, “BUT. OK, I will cut it way back!’

    It might be one of the other things Alison mentioned. But if 6 people have said something…it’s probably you, OP.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Totally possible! Which is why I think asking a trusted friend to re-calibrate is a great suggestion. It may be that she is, but it may also be that she is not and people are jumping on her because they want to control the topic.

      I know I am very cautious about talking about my kids and that is on a team that is very family-friendly with a lot of new babies on the team as well.

    2. Observer*

      No. Because the OP could be a motor mouth about her kid and this STILL would not make sense.

      If the OP is actually keeping people from doing their work or making it difficult for people to get what they need from her, then the boss should not have told her that her work is fine and it’s solely that she’s talking about her kid rather than her (currently non-existent) hobbies. And it she’s NOT causing these problems, then what kind of idiot complains to the boss because someone is being a crashing bore? And what boss has a Serious Conversation about it?

  63. Just Me*

    I am wondering if someone on her team isn’t as happy about being more independent as the OP believes. If some of her tasks were unloaded to someone who thought it would be temporary additional workload and who doesn’t see the big picture? Or someone who really valued a more collaborative team and when things didn’t return to pre-mat leave, feels ignored? And OP’s boss is handling this poorly by being vague and making up complaints?

    1. Someone*

      I’m wondering the same thing. People have probably noticed she’s not doing the same things she did pre-maternity leave, but don’t really know or care about the new things she’s taking on.

  64. Avril Ludgateau*

    You know what this reminds me of? I had to look this up to be sure: Family status is a protected class with respect to housing discrimination (as it should be!), but not with respect to employment. Even if OP’s employer overtly stated “your being a parent is annoying”, in writing, and fired her over it… OP would be SOL! It’s so inconsistent that pregnancy status is protected (again, as it should be), but once you’re done with the whole “making a kid” part, your employer is fully within their legal rights to put a target on your back for the “having a kid” part.

  65. JustMyImagination*

    I wonder if there’s some sort of cumulative baby-talk in play here. Like maybe members of her team are innocently adding to the baby talk “Oh, OP is back but doesn’t handle Account XYZ anymore. I’ve taken over that since she had her baby” or something? I’m not sure of actionable advice for handling that but just trying to think of some ways the baby talk could be pervasive in the group so coworkers outside of the group can’t get away from it.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      That’s a good point. Maybe the fact that her team is now more independent is being interpreted as she is not doing any work?

      OP, can you make the work you are doing more visible to people? And get buy-in from the CEO – one of those CYA conversations. “now that my team is on top of the day-to-day, I am spending my time doing x. Is there anything you would change about my priorities?”

    2. CH*

      That was my thought as well. Could team members have been under the impression that they would be relieved of the work they took on in OP’s absence when she returned from maternity leave? If they thought things would go “back to normal” but now they’re “stuck doing OP’s work,” they may feel mislead. Perhaps its worth a conversation with OP’s direct reports to align on expectations.

      *I don’t know if that is what is happening though, since OP’s boss said none of the complaints were from the team, but other coworkers.*

  66. BA*

    The problem lies with the boss. There are plenty of plausible reasons (pointed out in comments above) that people could think that OP is talking about her child “too much.” It is unlikely that it is too much talk, but the perception of others who hear about the child could be that it is a little too much.

    I do want to quickly clarify that it does sound like OP has been trying not to be over the top, has immersed herself in work, and has been a high performer, so this isn’t an OP issue at all.

    It is 100% on the boss. If six people came to me complaining that someone was talking about their baby (or their ski trip, or their hermit crab, or their sourdough starter) too much, I’d ask some specific questions. What is it about the conversations that is “too much?” Is it because of proximity? It is because someone has struggled with infertility and is uncomfortable with a lot of talk about babies? It is jealousy that OP is a high performer? It is the boss’s duty to figure out and not just drop this in OP’s lap without some guidance. The clarification that Alison suggested would be helpful. The boss owes you that, OP.

    1. Chilly Delta Blues*

      I think it could be pumping if OP is doing that. Having that time blocked off could read to certain folks as being uncommitted, especially if someone has questioned the time and she says it’s to pump for baby. People get super weird about breast milk and pumping (which is a protected thing).

      1. BA*

        If that’s the case, that means the boss sucks even more. As do the coworkers who have complained. Because as you mention, that’s protected.

        The boss needs to be extraordinarily clear with the complainers that under no circumstances can there be complaints about someone being “uncommitted” if they’re pumping (many women I know have pumped while they worked, which they shouldn’t have to even consider). And there is absolutely no reason to even bring it up to LW that someone has said something because it actually makes it potentially worse for the workplace.

        Couching a complaint like that as “talking about the baby too much” though is cowardly and poor management. Again, no need to bring something up to the LW. But not being open and honest about what the coworkers are actually saying is counterproductive.

        Whether it is pumping or something else, the boss owes every person in the workplace who might have a child at some point the courtesy of asking those who are complaining some specific questions about why they’re complaining and then outlining for the person hearing feedback what it is that should change. If it is because Matilda has struggled with infertility, or because Artemis happens to be in a desk that is directly adjacent to ALL of the conversations, then there is reason to change and remedy for that. However, if it is just a comment from the boss with no real substance behind it, it probably isn’t worth sharing with the employee.

  67. NYWeasel*

    I scanned through all of the responses so far, and I have to say that I totally believe that there could be six people complaining AND that OP is genuinely not talking too much about her baby because something similar happened to me after my son was born.

    Backstory was that the office was notoriously backstabby. Everyone would gang up to complain about team A until there was a change, then they’d gang up on team B and so on. Non stop, with probably 25-30% turnover annually in a team of maybe 30 people. I went out on maternity leave, and when I came back (my baby was only 2 months old), there became this loud chorus of people complaining about me: I was a slacker, I was argumentative, I wasn’t there when they needed me. For context, I was working from 8a-6pm daily but focusing steadily on my work, and I was argumentative because people were dragging their heels getting me stuff I needed. The people complaining about me would come in from 10a-8p, go for long lunches and multiple breaks, and basically charge OT for hanging out until 8 playing video games after the director left. It was total BS but the bosses liked having the tension bc it kept people from questioning THEM.

    For me, I was already notified that I was getting laid off when the project ended a few months later so it resolved when I left, but decades later I’m still salty about the comments that were being made, and about my manager not only not shutting them down but complaining to me about the bogus feedback.

    1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      This letter made me remember 3 coworkers that would stand near my station having hours long conversations about anything and everything. If I (who was helping all the customers while they had these hour long conversations) interjected a single comment, (to a 3 way loud conversation ongoing right there by my workspace) then they’d tell our supervisor I was “interrupting” them, or butting into a private conversation.” Like if they were talking about a tv show (for long amounts of time) and I said “I like that show”. If I said so much as “hello or good morning” when I first saw them on a shift they told the supervisor I was “being fake”. Other things they actually complained about was I drank my coffee to loud. (and no I didn’t slurp or anything like that, I wasn’t raised in a barn), and that the customers always came to my line (you know because they were standing around talking as opposed to helping customers and yes the customers had complained to multiple upper staff about these 3 not helping clients). Worked a lot of places in a lot of different fields in my life and I have never seen such a mean girls clique uncomfortable work environment as that place. And the supervisor full on supported their toxicity. I was basically told not to speak to them unless spoken to directly.

  68. theletter*

    Is it possible that OP’s team’s newly gained independence is getting misinterpreted?

    Does she have team members who are resentful that they are still doing tasks they thought they could put down when she came back from leave?

    Or are there stackholders who used to come to her directly who are now getting directed to her reports and resenting the new setup?

    I might throw out a fun solution of talking about Baby (if asked) in only corporate buzzword nonsense for the next two weeks – it would take the conversation-tangent-possibilities out of the baby talk, and probably indicate to any resenters in hearing distance that while their complaints were heard and acknowledged, nothing else in the office is going back the way it was pre-baby.

  69. Sparky*

    I wish the OP or another staff member could switch from talking about their baby to talking only about Eurovision instead of the baby, and see what happens. See if having a baby and talking about it is the issue, or talking too much about a subject. I love Eurovision, so that’s my example. I don’t think this is really about OP talking too much about their baby. If I was hearing too much about a baby one month after the parent returned I’d figure that was normal, and that things would settle down in time.

  70. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    Is it possible that this isn’t so much about the OP talking about her baby as it is that her colleagues may perceive her as using her baby as a way to…deflect from work responsibilities?

    FWIW, I’ve worked with lots of women (and men!) who talk about their kids a lot without it being an issue because they seem otherwise engaged in work. Same goes for women who’ve needed to pump at work or flex their schedules around child care. There has been one, though, who very frequently spoke about her (tween-aged) child in the context of not being able to focus on her work, maintain her skills, or learn new ones because she’s so busy parenting. I get that as a parent you need to set boundaries a bit more vigilantly, but there are ways of doing so that can send mixed messages. But the woman I described kinda sent the message that she ought to be held to different standards of competence because she’s a mother, which is problematic on a team where most people were parents or caregivers.

    I don’t know if this is what’s going on with OP, and even if it were, it would be understandable because she’s a new parent. But how and when the OP is talking about her baby is something to consider.

  71. Luna*

    This sounds like straight up misogyny to me. Talking about her personal life, when asked directly, is hurting her career? She’s not “fully” there, but there are no complaints about her work or performance? This is chock full of dog whistles that are anti-working parent.

    Beyond my frustration that the standard in the United States is a mere 12 weeks of leave for new parents, it’s kind of remarkable at the new initiatives this OP has put forth in her month back. I was so sleep deprived at 4 months that I literally have no memories from that month – I was functioning, but I have retained utterly nothing in my memory. I’m kind of appalled at the lack of empathy from commenters here, as well as the feedback from OP’s boss. You can’t in the same breath accuse OP of not “putting work first” and then protest that you have no actual complaints. This feels like straight up discrimination to me.

    1. Midwestern Communicator*

      I completely agree with you! A serious lack of empathy and also a “I did it this away, so others have to” attitude. We are all guilty of talking too much about things. If it’s the norm in her office to speak about personal lives, then she is in line with the norm.

      it doesn’t sound like she’s asking for leeway, or for different rules. She sounds like she’s hitting it out of the park. Comparing her to random co-workers isn’t fair at all. There’s a lot of bias in these comments that is pretty unfair.

      At the end of it, it sounds like a big cultural issue, and the OP should look for a different position where she will be valued as a contributor, not taken down because she decided to have a kid. Women in the U.S. already have enough to deal with.

  72. Emi*

    It’s totally plausible to me that she’s talking about her baby exactly as much as she used to talk about her hobbies, but these people are less tolerant of baby talk than of hobby talk, for what sounds like sexist reasons.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Well, except that the baby talk is by definition one topic where the hobby talk might have been several topics.

      If a guy talked about (football, whatever) and nothing else, that would also be annoying. If he sometimes talked about football, sometimes about his dog, sometimes about his weekend hiking trip, etc., it would be much less annoying because it’s not the same thing over and over.

      1. Emi*

        Yeah, but lots of people only have one hobby they talk about, and anyway I have never heard of someone being called insufficiently committed or not fully present because he talked about sports too much.

      2. Claire*

        Are men routinely getting called out for talking about football? Is it normal to police the division of hobby talk between sport, pets, and fly fishing? I think if I went to my boss with “Wakeen used to talk about woodworking and basketball, but now that March Madness has started all he talks about is basketball,” my boss would rightly think I’m a basket case.

  73. Ama*

    When your boss talked to you, did she tell you what she wanted you to do differently? It doesn’t actually sound like she did, so maybe asking her to be explicit about what exactly she would like you to change will give you more information about exactly what is the problem and where it’s coming from? If there’s an actual issue, she should be able to give you a tangible solution. If she isn’t really able to tell you specifically what she wants you to change, then this is probably not something that’s actually caused by how much you mention your baby.

    1. Ama*

      (And to clarify, ‘Talk about your baby less’ is is not clear instructions. Does she actually mean never talk about your baby? Presumably you can answer people who ask how baby is doing? What does she expect you to say in response to questions such as ‘What did you do this weekend?’ when the answer is Baby was crying most of the time so I was walking in circles round the house trying to sooth them?

      I know this sounds kinda crazy, but this is a very strange thing she’s telling you, and if there’s an actual problem, she should be able to articulate something along the lines of its fine to do a and b, but x and y are examples of what I’m asking you to stop, so you actually understand what the problem is. If she can’t do that, then it sounds likely that the baby talk isn’t actually the issue.)

  74. SofuaDeo*

    I wonder if this is a version of “how are you?” where the expected response is “fine”. People may be asking “how’s the baby?” as a “social nicety” and really don’t expect or even want a response. Similar to “how are you?” is expected to be answered with “fine”. If this is the case, any amount of detail is likely being seen as “talks too much about the baby.” As well as, if you used to comment on things other than the baby when doing social chit-chat, and now it’s All About Baby, that could be factoring in.

  75. Janet*

    Assuming for a moment OP actually was talking about her baby a lot, we have probably all been guilty about talking about something more than people wish we would. And in the normal world, we all just shrug and assume our colleague will eventually get over their obsession with their new diet, running regime, popular TV show, wedding planning, whatever. How on earth would things ever rise to the level of concern that six (six!) people would complain to a manager about it and that manager would actually raise it with the employee as a significant problem issue? I don’t buy it at all. Either the manager is just making it up, or these people are in the nastiest gossipy-est clique and colluded together to all separately complain. There’s absolutely more happening here than meets the eye, and none of it is a reflection on OP.
    I also hate the gender implication here. Men can seemingly spend any amount of time talking about a sports game they watched, but women have to carefully watch that they don’t talk about their babies too much? I was told something similar by a colleague (not a manager) many years ago — that I talked about my baby too much — and I was floored and embarrassed. He was someone I hardly ever spoke to — he was just sick of it being in the conversational air around him. I ended up clamming up almost entirely — for years — out of embarrassment. But in retrospect I wish I had simply pushed back and asked why it mattered so much to him and why he cared so much since I wasn’t speaking to him anyway.
    I’m so sorry to think that OP will carry this comment with her for a long time, weighing what she says and worrying she is offending people about something so fundamentally unoffensive. Grr.

    1. M2*

      Many people struggle with infertility so baby talk and talking about children is different than discussing sports. Not making a sports team is not the same as not having a child. Honestly at work I try to just talk about work or the weather unless specifically asked.

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        Does talking about a child really rise to the level of warranting discipline by one’s boss?

        I’ve seen coworkers go through many major accomplishments, such as getting married, completing higher degrees, buying homes, and having/raising/going through milestones with children. Even when annoyed I can’t imagine trying to get them in trouble for daring to mention these at work. I don’t think that would be a good way to treat my fellow people.

  76. Emily*

    So it says “But, apparently, six people have gone to my boss saying they feel like I am not putting work first and that I’m not “fully” there.” Six people, not necessarily six independent complaints. There might be one or two people who are deeply angry with the OP (could be any of the possibilities suggested – they may be genuinely frustrated with what they perceive as OP’s underperformance, plain sexists, struggling with infertility, lost a baby, jealous of OP coming back at a higher level, or genuinely irritated by the constant baby talk – I put this last because it actually seems the least likely reason to file an official complaint after just a month) who managed to persuade others in the office to make a joint complaint. One person saying “she talks too much about her baby” sounds minor but if you can get others to join there’s more likelihood of the Boss acting on it…
    It’s also possible the Boss didn’t lie about the existence of complaints (that would be seriously bad) but maybe fudged the part about them not being the OP’s employees or close co-workers to protect their anonymity (eg. if they are all OP’s employees and there are only 6 of them in total)?

  77. M2*

    Or possible it’s people on LWs team or clients and the boss Doesn’t want to confirm because they are worried about retaliation or is trying to keep it confidential.

    Who knows maybe one of them has been struggling to have a child or had a miscarriage and hearing about a new baby is painful. I have children and only ever mention them at work if asked. Same with parents, etc. my parents are both deceased and if someone talks about their mom or dad it’s fine with me, but I know people are complicated so I try to keep things work related unless asked or if it’s relevant for some reason.
    Good luck to you!

  78. Dutch*

    “The company culture is one that has always been supportive of families”

    “I was told I’m doing myself a disservice to my career and reputation in the company.”

    These two statements don’t seem to gel. If the business truly is supportive of parents and families why are they low-key threatening a new parent for what is, at worst, being overly chatty?

    Sounds like the kind of place that says things like “We’re all family here” when what they mean is ‘we’re emotionally manipulative’.

    There’s no other complaint about their work, so if I were the OP I’d be having a long think about just how nice that boss really is!

    1. Dutch*

      And just to add, the whole..

      “six people have gone to my boss…none of them are the employees I manage, clients, or people I even work with on a daily basis”

      ..sounds an awful lot like when someone is telling a story and is caught out on the specifics ‘Oh, you don’t know them!’.

      I mean it’s possible there are six people that the op rarely interacts with who have put in complaints. But…they rarely interact with them, so how much baby talk could have gone on with peripheral coworkers in the space of a few weeks?

  79. staceyizme*

    This sounds a little bit like gender policing or lifestyle policing where marginalized populations who get a leg up professionally are supposed to be so super-human perfect that you’d never know they’re mere mortals. You don’t work with these people regularly, you don’t manage them at all and these are the supposed reporters of your misdeeds? I mean- even just numerically, it’s way off. LW, it sounds like your boss is a big, fat fibber. Or is the far-too-credulous victim of a big, fat fibber. And you should both watch your back AND keep your resume polished up while you continue to monitor the situation.

  80. Jean*

    The most curious thing in this story for me is that OP resigned from this workplace and then came back. If I were to bet on this situation, my money would be on it having something to do with that. I’m also very curious about OP’s reasons for leaving, like possible systemic dysfunction, shady boss, etc.

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      Not only did she come back, but she returned with a higher title and higher rate of pay. I think there’s definitely something there.

  81. out of the woodlurk*

    I think it’s #4. When I had my first kid, the people I worked for were outwardly kind and family friendly but internally decided that I was no longer taking work as seriously, because I *had* to leave at 5:00 every day or miss daycare pickup. Even though I always was back online after the kid went to bed. And I was still accomplishing more, on higher profile projects, than any of my peers. I could feel the difference in how they treated me at the time, and found out much later that I was the only person not to get a raise that year. They never openly said anything to me though because I think they knew on some level that it was about their feelings rather than the reality of my work. I think your boss is doing the same thing — putting this feeling only other people because they know on some level that it’s not fair.

    1. NYWeasel*

      Your story is like mine upthread. Working so hard but being described as lazy bc you dared to prioritize getting your kid over staying at the office.

  82. ElleKay*

    I think I’d have 2 responses here:
    1- Clarify with your boss. “Are you seeing problems in my work that I need to address?” etc.

    2- With colleagues I would literally say “Oh, I was asked not to talk about baby b/c apparently some people complained to Boss about it!” Said with a cherry smile and matter-of-fact attitude. In this case I would be all for passive aggressively calling out the complainers and letting those on my side (ie: reasonable humans) know what’s up.

    (Note: #2 assumes that there is no actual issue, which you’ve covered by asking #1)

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Hahahahah, I was thinking #2 as well. “Sorry, not permitted to talk about my baby any more! Hope that pleases people!”

  83. Generic Name*

    This feels so ooky. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Another option could be to dial back on the info you give to folks outside your team. I feel like asking a new parent how the baby is is the equivalent of asking “how are you?” where the expected answer to close the social loop is you say, “fine!”. Most folks really aren’t looking for how you actually are (My cat kept me awake all night last night, stressed-too many projects!, I’m fighting with my spouse….etc.) So folks you don’t work closely with get a more superficial version while folks you work with day to day might get the version you’re currently giving. My company places a lot of value on having a “clan” culture, but I’ve found that for me it’s better to provide fewer personal details with folks I don’t regularly work with. I’ll give a bit more details to my team/folks I work closely with, and even more details to my office mates whom I’m quite close with. This might work for you too.

  84. Midwestern Communicator*

    OP – these comments might be a bit hard to read. I’m a new mom, who went back to work after being with my baby for 3 months after he was born. I was asked quite a bit about my baby, and would give random updates when asked.

    It sounds like you’ve had a big year on the job and personal fronts. It’s incredibly unfair that after a month of being back and still accomplishing so much, your boss brought you in to discuss this. It’s gendered, and unfair. I have listened to people just in general talk about things TOO much and not said a word.

    I would definitely go back to your boss and have an honest conversation with them. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve mentioned your baby, or if people are upset your got this promotion. You’re being a productive member of your team, and you’re allowed an adjustment period. Working in communications, especially in the environment you described, can be really hard for parents given the level of “on” co-workers expect. I recently made the switch to working in-house, and I remember how weird it was to be required to be one all the time, or look like I was coming in early or late.

    Hoping this comment made you feel a little more “seen”. I missed work terribly while I was on leave, and I still miss my baby terribly sometimes while he’s at daycare and I’m home working (he’s 8months). It’s a hard adjustment, and it really sucks you’re dealing with this a month in.

    1. Bananagrams*

      Yes, I agree! Though from my perspective, I would ask the boss in addition to tell me what they think I need to do to seem more “fully there” and if there were specific circumstances where discussing my child instead of my hobbies was creating an issue (certain types of meetings or conversations, or whatever). Not because I actually think the OP is doing anything wrong, but because the manager hasn’t actually given actionable feedback yet – not seeming “fully” there is super vague. Replacing your discussion of hobbies with discussion of your child – should you drop it all together? I think asking for more information will help make it clear if this is actually something to work on, or something strange going on with boss. It will also help if it’s just because OP is being targeted by sour grapes folks – having an explicit conversation about “what do I need to do to address X” makes it much harder for a passive manager to then bring up “there are still issues with X” just because sour grapes folks are complaining.

  85. Ruby*

    OP, welcome to a new flavor of sexism now that you are a mother.

    See how the complaint changed?

    “you’re not fully there”
    “can I have an example?”
    “uuuuuuh, you talk about your baby ‘too much'”

  86. Bookworm*

    No advice, OP. Just sending you sympathy. I’m sure it can be hard to gauge whether you’re talking about your baby too much and we can’t know but this does sound kind of weird. I hope you have a trusted work friend/ally/etc. who might be able to help figure out what’s going on or maybe give you a little perspective. I’d personally love to hear about babies (as I know being a new mom and dealing with parenthood, etc. can be a transition/challenge/something to work through, etc.) but I know not all do.

    Do hope it’s really just some sort of misunderstanding? Please do update us if you’re able to and/or want to.

  87. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    Mean girl clique or pregnancy/parenting discrimination. It’s the only explanation that makes sense with all of the facts.

    1. It’s been 30 days. Normal people give a new parent some leeway to talk about their kid during the first month back at work with a new baby. Normal people would say, “Let’s see if Emily settles down the baby talk before complaining to her boss.”

    2. They claim that she’s “not present” with her work BUT they don’t work closely with her, while ALL of the people LW works closely with think she’s great. The people who are best able to assess that disagree with it. This then sounds a lot more like discrimination against working moms: of course the new mom has Baby Brain and isn’t up to the task. (Eyeroll.)

    I would go back to the boss, ask for specifics, and ask why these other teams think she’s not up for the task. I would ask extremely pointed questions about how other women are perceived when they return from maternity leave, as well as any hard feelings caused by the promotion and anyone internally who had been gunning for the LW’s job but lost out to her.

  88. Snaffanie*

    So, people ask you about your baby, OP, and then get upset that you respond with comments about your baby? You really cannot win in a workplace setting sometimes. If people are asking questions they don’t want to hear a response to, perhaps they should ask different questions. Or just say “Hello, hope you have a great day today!” as a show of collegiality. We all have different tolerance levels for different topics – maybe don’t ask questions about a baby if you don’t like baby talk or if it would somehow be too upsetting or painful.

  89. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    I would assume that the people who complained (whether or not 6 is an accurate count) ARE in fact LW’s team, and didn’t want to speak to LW themselves for fear of repercussions (I mean, the LW DOES control whether they continue to be employed…)

    I can 100% see where the team probably thought that the TPS reports, which used to be LW’s, would return to LW once she came back. Covering for a maternity leave isn’t typically a “permanent reassignment of job duties”. If I was covering the TPS reports while LW was out, and I expected those to be transitioned back to her upon her return, and they weren’t, I could see myself thinking “Dude, LW, stop spending time talking about your kid and take your reports back!”

    1. JelloStapler*

      But then her boos should have shut that down when it was brought up and said “No this was a permanent change unrelated to LW’s leave”.

    2. Observer*

      Wait. So in this scenario, the OP is actually not performing up to par, but instead of telling her that, the boss tells her that she’s talking too much about the baby. What happens when she acts on what Boss ACTUALLY said and stops talking at all about the kid? Does that change anything? Does that make her staff any happier? Of course not.

      Also, unless the boss is an idiot, this is just not likely. The complaint about the OP is soooo far from what you are describing that it sounds like a a piece of fiction where the author tried a bit too hard to shoe horn in an unexpected ending.

  90. Not really a Waitress*

    Since the 6 people don’t work with you or for you, I am also a little suspicious just based on experience.

    I worked for a large company that had a well publicized employee hotline . I was hired from the outside into my role and was “investigated” in the first couple of weeks. I made friends with someone who was hired into her new role internally. She was also investigated in the first few weeks on her new role. Well it slowly came out there was a group of employees who if one of them did not get the role, they all would call the hotline to complain and try to get the person who got it fired.

  91. AndCultJam*

    I am a man who doesn’t want children, so I did want a small disclaimer that I am not qualified to weigh in here, but on a human level, I find it frustrating and confusing why your coworkers care so much, especially if they don’t work closely with you. This is presumably bringing a lot of happiness during the middle of a pandemic, and at minimum extremely important to you. And while it sounds like you’re doing a great job in terms of performance, even if it were true that you were prioritizing your child, wouldn’t anyone else in your position do the same thing? Making sure your infant is well taken care of during a pandemic? How outrageous! I’m really frustrated on your behalf, and I’m sorry that this is something that you’re dealing with.

    That said, I agree with Alison and many others here about asking around and trying to diagnose what the real issue is. This could very well be an optics or resentment issue about your return to the office, and the additional scrutiny that may come with it. I’ve also found that some firms are very resentful in general about employees taking leave, regardless of the reason. I was once out on leave after surviving a brain aneurysm, and in reviewing documentation for my accounts while I was gone, found that many coworkers were complaining about having to pick up my work and “clean up my messes when I just up and vanished.” I also had similar experiences with coworkers outside of my department and unaware of my illness making comments to my boss. It seemed like everyone thought I was getting special treatment rather than temporary accommodation, and it was easier for everyone to complain rather than give someone the benefit of the doubt.

    This is extremely frustrating, but for what it’s worth, I think you’re doing all that you reasonably can to resolve the issue. Getting a better sense of why they are feeling that would be great, but beyond minimizing some of the talk about your expanded family, there may not be much you can do in the meantime, especially if this is stemming from another area.

    Good luck!

  92. anon4eva*

    “The most information I got about who has issued these concerns is that none of them are the employees I manage, clients, or people I even work with on a daily basis.”
    I’m a little confused…who exactly is complaining and why is it being taken so seriously that your boss is actually communicating it to you as feedback? People you don’t work with/rarely work with are complaining about what you engage in small talk about? And like…the topic is your baby, after you’ve just returned from maternity leave. Like, what?!
    I think it’s #1 or #4 as AAM laid out, but more importantly, I think your boss is lying to you. And that would bother me the most. Is your boss male? Do they lie about things? I think more details about the boss may help shed light on the motives of this because this is really *cruel* feedback to give to a new mom.
    I’m sorry this happened to you.

  93. Meow*

    Somehow, I’m reminded of a supervisor I had when I worked retail, who came to me one day telling me that “multiple” customers had complained to her that I wasn’t smiling enough, but not to worry, she was on my side and wouldn’t write me up or anything, she just thought I should know.

    I was devastated at first, but eventually I started wondering… multiple people complained about something as stupid as not smiling, and only to her, never to one of the other supervisors?

    After she left, it came out that not only was she kind of a liar in general, but she was actively sabotaging my chance at a promotion instead of helping me, like she claimed.

    Anyway, I’m just sharing this story because the LW’s boss’ story about how 6 mystery people who she barely knows are totally complaining about something stupid and mostly inconsequential just smells kind of similar to me.

  94. Crumbledore*

    Mom of 3 here, returned to a tech sector job at 12 weeks after each (and pumped for a year) – this story makes my blood boil. Telling someone they are “not fully there” is not actionable feedback; and when pressed, the only actionable feedback is “don’t talk about your baby so much”?? To me, it sounds like the fact that OP *had a baby* at all is what created the perception that she is “not fully there”. and the feedback to avoid talking about it means “pretend you didn’t have a baby”. I would wager that the complainants (whether the boss is lying and they are in fact on OP’s team, or not) were unhappy with OP returning at a higher level (maybe because they think moms belong on the “mommy track”, not the fast track), and because they are sexist and/or we live in a sexist world, her pregnancy and new baby are the easiest targets for them to attack. Really disappointed in OP’s boss for not shutting it down – either they agree with these sexist complaints or they are avoiding dealing with them by passing them on to OP to take care of. All sympathy to you, OP. I am sure you are doing great, and if this BS continues, this company does not deserve you.

  95. Anony*

    LW, I feel you – I really do! I also report to the CEO and my team became more independent during my maternity leave. No one made these comments to me, but I did hear rumors that some people perceive me as working less now. Since my boss/the CEO does not have an issue with my work, I have simply ignored that.

    A few thoughts:
    (1) Check in directly with your direct reports, and even other team members more broadly, on their workload. Some of mine took on more in my absence, and it was my responsibility to ensure that they did not just take on more work for the rest of time when I returned. Learning to delegate and empowering your employees is great, but not when they feel overwhelmed or it’s unfair to them.
    (2) If you are pumping, this is your right and do not bend on it, but it can make your schedule seem even more rigid and like you are getting special treatment. Pumping time, along with me now leaving right at the end of the day on the dot, both contributed to coworkers perceiving me as “doing less work.” No real advice, just something to be conscious of, and visibilize your contributions as much as possible (without being annoying).
    (3) I am saying this because I did it…. but I recommend being conscious when people ask generic “how are you?” or “how’s the family?” of keeping it short and sweet – “fine, thanks, and you?” “We’re doing well, thanks for asking! How are you?” As Alison has posted on other occasions, a lot of time these niceities are in passing and they might include your child to be polite, but people just really don’t want to know the details of how hard sleep training has been when you pass them in the hallway or at the start of a Zoom meeting.
    (4) I have also tried to limit my baby/kid talk, and especially any “gory details,” to other parents and one-on-one conversations, because I know how annoying it can be for single people and when the table at lunch is constantly overwhelmed with surviving the baby year talk. Also, connecting with other parents at my workplace and advocating internally for better family-friendly policies internally has been a great experience, particularly being a higher up in the organization.

  96. JaneLoe*

    I think something is amiss here – perhaps Alison is correct in thinking the boss has an ulterior agenda, or maybe one of the other individuals is pushing this agenda along…. GO TO HR AND DOCUMENT THIS CONVERSATION. It doesn’t seem “right” in a lot of different ways (unfair, unjust and could be significant of something wrong going on beneath the surface.

  97. They Called Me....Skeletor*

    At LastJob, my boss was exactly like this. He would say “I’ve had x number of people come to me to say that you’ve *fill in the blank*” when what he really meant was “I’ve seen you do/heard you say x.” The last time he pulled that one me it was a situation where no one, literally no one besides me and him knew about the situation. I called him on it, said something like “How in the world did they come to know about that, you told me to keep quiet and I did…?” and at that point he realized he was a crappy liar.
    I guess sometimes a boss just doesn’t want to own their feelings and they find it easier to blame it on others. I never understood that since, in my case, he owned the company and he shouldn’t have a problem coming to me with something he sees as an issue. (The issue mentioned above was pretty much a non-issue but I think he was trying to get me to admit something I didn’t do. He thought he was pretty darn clever.)

  98. Bananagrams*

    I would hold your manager to a standard of being a good manager, and ask for specific examples of the types of conversations where you should cut back on mentioning your child, and also ask for specific actions you can take to address the concern that you aren’t “fully” there. If they are a good manager, they’ll have suggestions. If this is some weirdness coming from them, or if they are just passing on feedback from sour grapes employees, they won’t have an answer.

    I do want to highlight the point mentioned several times above about colleagues dealing with infertility. Infertility can be so heartbreaking, and it’s not the only reason someone might be emotionally triggered by conversations about children (loss of a child, custody battles, parental estrangement, being super resentful about nuclear family unit normativity, being super resentful about how society (or their employer) has really abandoned parents during the pandemic (in a way that is particularly hard for people with lower incomes, so they may be jealous or resentful of OP in her new role if it comes with more compensation, there’s honestly a long list). Having strong emotions related to children and parenting is super common. That’s not to say OP should never talk about her child, but if she wants to cut it back or save it for people who she knows are particularly receptive to the conversation, that might be a bit more generous.

    I am a new parent, and while I definitely answer if someone asks about my child, I otherwise keep the child-related components of any updates pretty restrained (“Oh, nothing much this weekend, it was too cold to eat outside anywhere and of course Baby isn’t vaccinated yet.”). Mentioning a member of your household (a child in this case) isn’t something that should intolerable to colleagues in a professional setting, and if it is, that would suggest a need for some expectation setting and reminder about the EAP for the people finding those mentions intolerable. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a kindness to pull back and proceed with caution unless/until you know that something that can be so fraught is not a challenging topic for someone.

  99. TechWriter*

    I’m wondering if the tone of the conversation with the boss wasn’t “this is a problem for me, you should solve it or I will be upset” but more a “I know it’s bull, you know it’s bull, and everyone on your team knows it’s bull… but other people have made these observations, and bull or not, I’m giving you a heads-up that this could impact your reputation with the company at large.”

    I mean, it’s still not great management (thanks for letting me know that people are sexist, I guess?) and more effective for the manager to shut that down themself, but maybe this is more weakness than malice on the manager’s part.

    I guess the decision is: if it’s not a problem for your boss and team, how bothered are you that it might be a problem for other people? If you don’t care, then keep up an excellent track record, keep being friendly and candid with your colleagues, and hopefully the nebulous Other People will get over it. If you do care… well, I’d love for you to enact a culture change, but the simplest solution is unfortunately to seriously cut back on the baby talk.

    1. eastcoastkate*

      First paragraph is definitely what I was thinking too- “I’m not saying it’s right, but here’s what I’ve heard, I just want you to be aware of it” so that LW would be more aware of how much she talks about the baby- which is BS and boss might know it, but wants LW to be aware.

  100. A Kate*

    If one (or more!) people came to me to complain that one of my reports had the audacity to talk about their new baby, I would not be having a conversation with the report; I’d be having the conversation with the complainers.

    The fact that the boss even sat the LW down to talk about this shows poor judgment. People are allowed to talk about stuff in their lives; other people are allowed to find it annoying, but at the end of the day if the work gets done and no one is being actively cruel or offensive, the expectation is to get along with one another.

  101. Not your typical admin*

    I wonder if the op having a baby hasn’t caused the level of baby talk in the office or among her team to go up. OP could be responding appropriately, but if others are responding with advice, stories about their own kids, or other baby relation topics, it could make people feel like all they hear about is op’s baby.

  102. Just Me*

    Reading this I immediately got alarm bells and I’m wondering if OP works in a very male-dominated workplace or one where everyone is very young and not-married/not a parent. This is not to say that men and unmarried/non-parents would feel this way, but the concern that OP isn’t putting work first because they mention their baby makes me think that there’s a lot of internalized sexism and belief that if the staff member brings up their baby or mentions being a mother then they’re automatically not focused on work or less professional. I would really like to hear an update as well.

  103. Scooby Drew*

    Something about this is definitely weird. It’s odd that the boss would specify 6 people without anything concrete. Maybe that’s just not great communication skills but why not just say a few or a handful? Why name a specific number if you don’t have anything behind it. If its 10 and up sure I guess a number suffices or you can just say “more than 10” but still noting that its exactly 6 people feels like a odd thing to highlight.

    Also, another idea for LW may be on what they are talking about regarding their baby. I noticed in their example that what they said was short and sweet but also added details that some of us “general askers” may not need to know. Depending on the person, you could just say something like “they’re doing good, still super cute” or something like that. But I wouldn’t stress too much about it because if anyone takes a serious issue with it then they’re just being mean.

  104. sunset2022*

    This is absolutely gender/caregiver discrimination and is illegal. I’m surprised Alison did not pick up on this.

    1. your friendly neighborhood employment lawyer*

      Nothing in this account indicates it is “absolutely” gender or caregiver discrimination.

  105. Lola*

    Sounds to me like one person (I assume the boss) putting 6 people on the spot by asking if you talk a lot about your baby, then using those responses, which weren’t necessarily complaints, as fuel to justify their own feelings.

  106. New But Not New*

    I will forever feel that anonymous personal complaints should never be passed on. I’ve been on the receiving end of this nonsense and is is hurtful and counter-productive. The person being complained about just ends up suspecting everyone and creates tension and resentment.

    Any valid complaint should be handled directly if adults are involved. If someone came to me, I would first ask if they talked to the person they are complaining about. I would offer to mediate by getting everyone together in a room. But I would not facilitate nastiness by passing along anonymous and rather insulting complaints. That does nothing but contribute to a toxic workplace or organization (this happened in my CHURCH).

    OP, I feel for you. Feelings about parenthood are not always positive, and if six different people really complained about this, jealousy may be at play. Most people understand folks talking about their new baby! The only talk I could not stand was mothers (it was always mothers) comparing their baby to mine and of course theirs was always better. I shut that down quick.

    In any case, tell your boss you don’t find this complaint actionable without being artificial, so you will not change your current behavior. If the complainants want to come forward with more specificity, tell her you will address them at that time. Otherwise, you find these blind complaints distracting and unproductive. And watch your back. Best of luck to you!

  107. raida7*

    Considering that I’m a total bastard… I’d lean towards something like this, because I know my managers think highly of themselves *as managers*.

    “I want you to be the kind of manager that listens to both sides and concludes that the people that have the least interaction with me, no concrete examples, and their suggestions don’t line up with what you and my team are seeing in terms of engagement an output – those people are sh*t-stirring and you are not going to stand by and let one of your staff be bad-mouthed in this manner.
    I want you to talk to their boss about this, are they cliquey? Are they bitter about my new position? Do they have kids? Do they *often* gossip about people they don’t like? Is there bad blood from something not work related? We’re an analysis team, we look for insights and evidence.

    I want you to be the kind of manager that takes this attack on one of your staff’s professionalism seriously. Not the kind of manager that says “Well these people told me this so I’ll tell you it looks bad but not how to make any measurable changes whatsoever and I won’t consider your work record to weigh their comments to take them with a grain of salt.”
    So to be clear – you haven’t given me anything other than stress. No useful tools, no suggestions, no specific examples. But you’ve told me that nobody in my immediate circle has complained, and that my work is good and appreciated – so I am going to continue as I have been. On the basis that I can’t control how *certain* people see me if I don’t know who they are or where they work or what they work on, but I can use the feedback from my team and the projects I work on and my performance reviews as indicators that I am, in fact, doing a good job.
    Now I’m going back to work.”

  108. DrRat*

    Practical advice for the OP:
    1. Look around. How are other new mothers in the company treated? With respect or as if they aren’t really “committed”?
    2. Does your company/boss have a history of somehow managing to get rid of new mothers?
    3. How are people who have left the company and been re-hired in a higher role regarded? Is there a lot of jealousy or bitterness?
    4. How does your boss usually handle problems? Does he/she have your back? (Does your boss have kids? I am guessing not.)
    5. Go on the warpath with this. Go back to your boss and say, “You’ve told me my performance is excellent. If you are saying that by discussing my child in water cooler conversation, I am sabotaging my career, I feel that that says a lot about how this company treats women and new mothers. I would appreciate it if you could talk to the people who have supposedly complained about me and explain to them that casual conversation has nothing to do with my work performance. Also, if anyone else comes to you to complain, I would hope that you would direct them back to me if they have a problem with me so that we can attempt to resolve it up front.”
    6. Take this to HR. Now. Even if all they do is document this, you want a paper trail. You’re being treated differently because you’re a new mother, and that’s not okay. Are six people going to Bob’s boss to complain that Bob never stops talking about bowling? Nope. They just learn to avoid Bob at break time. Break this cycle NOW while you still can.

  109. Simone*

    Anyone else read this and just think American work culture is so so brutal to new mothers. The fact that women are expected to be back in the office, performing like a pro, and perfectly “calibrated” to norms of office conversation TWELVE WEEKS after giving birth. Even if she is talking about baby a bit too much my advice would still be to boss and coworkers : LAY OFF and consider this a symptom of a deeply broken system.

  110. Samm*

    When I came back from maternity leave, I thought everything was fine. A few weeks in, I noticed my boss was constantly checking in on me multiple times of day and questioning every report or number I submitted . Because he “knew” that as a new mother I couldn’t be on the top of my game anymore.

    After 3 months of making me question my every move, I had a complete mental break down, and I knew I needed a different plan. Through therapy, I slowly worked out all of the little comments he used to make about the nursing room, and other pregnant people, not in our department, making life inconvenient for everyone else because they wanted to have a baby and that they “never come back the same” or “have the same commitment”

    Talking with my coworker who had a baby around the same time, she had the exact experience with him. When I finally quit – my daughters first birthday, he told me that if I couldn’t balance work for him and be a mom, there was no hope of me being successful at running my own business while being a mom.

    Last month (it has been 3 months), I spent every waking moment with my daughter and managed to earn 6x my monthly salary and still slept 6 hours a night.

    Sounds like your boss is just as ass.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Samm. FWIW I left a job right after one of mine turned 1 and my old boss was telling people I quit for work/life balance because of the baby. Boss KNEW that I quit because of a 25% pay increase and a fast track to a serious promotion at NewJob. Some people are just asses.

  111. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

    Hi OP, congratulations on the baby and the promotion and your excellent work over the last month!

    I think we are trying to make sense out of nonsense in what your boss has said to you. Being told that you are “not fully there” and are doing a disservice to the company and your reputation- this is threatening, unsettling, and cannot be refuted by you because it has no facts that you can respond to. This upsetting experience is useful information that your boss does not have your back, and is not protective or supportive of you (whether or not these ‘complainers’ exist). Please make notes of the conversations you have with your boss as this will reassure you later on that you are not imagining weirdness, and may also be useful in a more practical way at some point.

    Someone is making trouble for you, OP, and we don’t know who or why. Keep a record of the good work you are doing, enjoy using your skills, and be alert to incongruent things that pique your attention, without becoming paranoid of course! It may be that you have to parlay your promotion into moving to a new workplace, eventually; your boss is not looking after you.

    I AM curious about the person who took over your previous job at this company, and whether they are a potential player in this mystery, but this is fanfic territory really.

    Best wishes to you and your baby!

  112. I Faught the Law*

    I would not be surprised if she’s talking about the baby a lot more than she realizes, or if there’s something about the tone of the baby talk that people are finding unsettling. I actually worked with someone like this many years ago, and would not be surprised now if I heard that numerous complaints had been made. I started working there while she was on maternity leave, so I don’t know what she was like pre-baby, but she came back from maternity leave unhealthily obsessed with the baby. Talked about nothing but the baby, way overshared when it came to baby details, talked about she couldn’t stand to be at work and away from the baby, turned every conversation back to the baby (even with the college interns, which was weird and I think inappropriate.) The thing is, it wasn’t even how much she talked about it, it was that it seemed really creepy and unhealthy, and while I know that’s vague, it’s hard to pin down exactly what was wrong with it. I’ve worked with many others who have had babies and talked about them a lot or too much, but they never gave me the squickly feeling that this woman did. Meanwhile, her work as far as I know was just fine. But the baby talk was a huge distraction at the agency and made people genuinely uncomfortable.

    The other thing that stood out about this letter was that the OP states that her team became more productive when she was away, and she’s been able to take on new work as a result. I wonder if “became more productive” actually means that they took on her work thinking that it would be temporary, and they expected it to go back to her after her leave, but that didn’t happen. That could absolutely lead to resentment on their parts.

  113. Badgirl*

    I think you need to go back to your boss with HR present or an independent person. Explain the complaint doesn’t make sense as you haven’t engaged in chit chat any more than anyone else. Also, ask the boss to explain how it is possible you’ve been back for 1 month but somehow 6 people you don’t work with directly somehow managed to come up with this. In 1 month how much contact have you had with people you don’t deal directly with? Especially face to face. I would think 3 times max. Point this all out in a calm fashion and then state it is time to bring the people in so they can explain what their grounds for a specious complaint is.

  114. NMFTG*

    LW, I think it’s likely that your boss is lying to you. And I think it’s highly likely that you’re talking too much about your baby, and that you don’t notice because you’re so immersed.

    I would guess that your boss has given you a white lie to protect the privacy of the people who are bothered. That could be boss themselves, direct reports or colleagues. Boss may very well have promised not to tell who complained, if they are afraid of how you’ll react, or if they want boss as a buffer instead of telling a sleep-deprived colleague or manager to please stop talking about the baby stuff. But the baby stuff could be the surface problem overshadowing something else.

    You say that you have come back in a new and higher role, which means that for your colleagues and underlings you are an unknown in your new role. They don’t know how to act with you yet, and IF you do (without ill will) sneak in things like baby’s growth or your lack of sleep due to baby in most regular social interactions where more bland social answers are expected, that can be a red flag from their POV. I think that coming back in a higher role you should be very focused on the people you manage rather than being personable and open about baby life. You do have something to prove in terms of being professional at a higher level than before.

    For me there’s also a potential red flag in how you state that “my team became more independent during my leave”. I’m assuming this is the three month maternity leave, not the earlier I-quit-leave. From your team’s POV it’s very possible that their experience wasn’t really “we became independent” so much as “we were abandoned”. It’s not a certain thing that they wanted independence from being managed, or that this is a good development from their POV. They may have been looking forward to you coming back and doing particular kinds of tasks, and when you came you instead focused on different things than they were expecting or need from you.

    It’s possible that it makes sense for you to “take on more to promote our company’s growth”, but it may be that you have overlooked tasks that you also should have been doing all along in your new and higher role, or that you are not involving your team in the best way.

    If any of this could be the case, then that paired with baby conversation drops can give the impression that you are making wrong priorities for your position because something else is missing.

    1. Lizzo*

      If the team felt abandoned while LW was away on leave, that is something LW’s boss (or whomever was managing the team in the interim) is responsible for. The whole point of leave is for the employee to be away from work, and to not be engaged in management duties during that time.

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