a work baby shower without gifts, using sick time for psychedelic therapy, and more

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

1. A virtual baby shower … with no shower

I work for a primarily remote company, and last fall I gave birth to my second child. Our small team (less than 20) comprises mostly women in their late 20s-early 30s, and I’m in my late 30s. A few weeks before my due date, I was surprised with a calendar invite for my virtual team baby shower. I was surprised because no one asked me whether I wanted to have a baby shower, and no one asked about my registry or if I had a preference for gifts. There was another team member whose wife was also pregnant, so this was a joint baby shower.

Overall it was fine, though a little awkward over Zoom. We played a game where we tried to guess which baby photos were of which team members. However, there was no gifting involved whatsoever. It seemed like it was just an acknowledgement that babies were on the way. I can’t help feeling that the organizers, being a bit younger, maybe haven’t been to a baby shower and didn’t know that the “shower” aspect means gift-giving? And I wonder if the other attendees assumed that the parent company sent me a gift of some sort, and whether anyone feels slighted that I didn’t send a thank-you note in return?

As small as this is, it has stuck with me. I think the time for bringing it up has certainly passed, but my instinct is to get involved in the planning of any future showers to ensure the expectant family is celebrated in the way most helpful for them. These issues are certainly small potatoes, but as a gut-check, am I being petty?

You’re not being petty, but you’re missing the fact that work showers are often more about celebrating the impending birth than giving gifts. It’s true that normally the whole point of a shower is to “shower” the expectant parents with things for the baby … but at work, there’s a competing (and more important) principle of “don’t pressure people to spend money on work celebrations.” Some offices resolve that by having the party with the gift-giving removed.

However, your coworkers shouldn’t throw showers for people without asking if they want one first! Some people won’t want one for personal reasons, and some people don’t do them for religious reasons. So if you’re able to influence future events, that’s the part I’d focus on — getting people’s permission first. (Also, maybe get rid of that baby picture game, which is problematic for a bunch of other reasons.)

2. Can I use sick time for psychedelic treatment?

I suffer from treatment-resistant depression and have been exploring the option of seeing a psilocybin facilitator. Oregon recently legalized the use of psilocybin if used under the supervision of a licensed facilitator, and there are plenty of studies and anecdotes that suggest psilocybin can really help with depression.

The experience itself and subsequent integration would take up an entire day on its own, and since I don’t live in Oregon I’d have to take time off to travel as well. That means realistically I’d have to take 2-3 days off to do this, using either sick or vacation time.

My thought is that, while this is an experimental treatment, I am seeking it out to treat a mental health condition, so it would be fine to use sick time for the day itself. I’m less sure whether using it for the travel time would be okay as well, though I lean toward feeling like it would be.

For context, I have been at my employer for about four months and have generally received praise from my boss and coworkers, but I am still relatively new. Also the amount of vacation time my employer provides is okay but not great, so I’m reluctant to use it for anything except true vacations. Do you think this is something I can ethically use sick time for? Or should I use vacation time instead? (Either way, I wouldn’t tell my boss or coworkers why I’m taking the time off, I’d keep it vague.)

Yes, you can ethically use sick time for that. It’s for the purpose of treating a health condition, and the travel time is as well (just like if you took a week of sick time to travel to the Mayo Clinic and consult specialists).

I assume you’re feeling weird about it because Psychedelic Mushrooms! but it’s a state-legal medical treatment, and it’s no different than taking time off for another medical treatment someone else might not agree with (chiropractic? Chinese medicine?). Your employer doesn’t get to sign off on what medical treatments you pursue; that’s between you and your health care providers.

Read an update to this letter

3. My coworker gave me no heads-up before my meeting with an outside consultant

A colleague, Tim, reached out and asked if I could talk about a process my team handles. When I got into the virtual meeting, the only person there was someone I did not know who introduced themselves as an outside consultant, Melanie.

I went into this meeting thinking I was meeting with Tim. He gave me no heads-up that I was meeting with a consultant, so I was thrown off kilter.

I gave Melanie the excuse that an emergency message just popped up that I needed to deal with and asked her to bear with me for a minute. Then I quickly contacted to Tim to see if he was joining the meeting. He did join, but commented that he hadn’t planned on actually attending the meeting. I stumbled my way (badly…) through the rest of the meeting.

I’ve met with consultants before, but somebody in the department they’re working with always reaches out beforehand to say something along the lines of, “Hey, we’re working with XYZ Consulting on a process improvement project and we’d like you to talk to them about our X process.”

The process Melanie wanted to know about is not one that would be shared out in detail to people who don’t have a need to know. If I hadn’t been able to get Tim to verify that this was indeed a person who was officially affiliated with our organization, what could I have done?

Yeah, it’s appropriate to be wary of sharing your company’s internal processes with a complete stranger who no one told you you’d be meeting with! (Has Tim never watched any spy shows?! He needs to watch The Americans immediately.)

If you hadn’t been able to reach Tim, you could have said to Melanie, “I’m so sorry, but Tim didn’t tell me I’d be meeting with an outside consultant and, given our information security policies, I can’t do the meeting without some clarity from him so we’ll need to reschedule.” That inconvenience would be on Tim, not you.

4. Is unequal pay illegal if it’s not based on a protected class?

Are there are legal ramifications for inequitable pay if it’s not based in protected class? Some huge differences just came out at our company and it seems like in some instances there may be a nearly six-figure difference in salaries, based on people who have been at the company longer versus newer hires. The lower salaries affect probably about 10% of the company. The company admits they never adjusted existing salaries up when the location changed and they hired new people in the higher cost of living area; titles are the same but many of the people making less have more experience, a notably higher workload, and have generated more revenue. There are no overall protected class disparities between the people with the high and low salaries.

The company basically says sorry, we know, maybe we can fix later when the economy is better … but no one believes that change is actually coming. Is there anything to be done to force their hand?

Pay inequities are only illegal when they’re either based on a protected class (like race, sex, religion, national origin, etc.) or when they have a disparate impact on a protected class (like you end up paying men more on average for the same work because they negotiated differently when they were hired, or so forth). The law doesn’t address other types of unequal pay.

That doesn’t mean there’s no pressure you could apply to your company, though. This is what worker organizing is for (which could mean unionizing but doesn’t have to — the law protects your ability to organize with coworkers for better wages regardless of whether you’re doing it within the formal structure of a union or not).

5. Can I still get severance if I find a new job right away?

I work for a large company that is in the process of acquiring a major competitor. I know that part of this process will include layoffs, given the number of redundant positions between the two companies, so I’m proactively job searching in case my role ends up being one of the ones eliminated.

If the timing were to work out where I got a job offer very shortly after being laid off, would I still be entitled to severance, or do severance offers typically contain some sort of clause that they will end if the person finds new employment?

Most commonly, you’d get the severance regardless of how quickly you find another job; in many cases, you could accept a large severance package covering months of pay and begin working a new job the next day, if the timing worked out that way. But that only what’s most common, not what’s true 100% of the time; there are also severance agreements that stop paying out once you find new work. So you’d need to carefully read whatever you’re signing and see exactly how your company is structuring it before you can know for sure.

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. Mztery1*

    My cousin is being laid off from a huge multinational company and his severance is only payable if he works through the end of the year when his division closes

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Yeah, in cases like this severance is an incentive – they want to staff a division until a specific date, and if you stick around to the end, you get a payout, but if you leave earlier, you don’t.

      Generally, the best strategy for the employee in that case is to aggressively look for work, and leave if you get a decent offer, because otherwise you risk not finding work before the severance runs out, and you can’t depend on getting a job at the exact time the job ends.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think, technically, that’s a retention bonus. Or at least that’s what they were called in class.

      The pay is the same no matter the name, though.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That’s my experience. If you make it to layoff, don’t take another job before the layoff date, you get your severance. It happened to me trice. Got checks for severance, vacation and the last days worked. Started a job once, the next day. Once the next week.

    4. ThatGirl*

      It just depends on how the layoffs are being handled. Sometimes there is a long notice period, with pay or extra pay for staying through the end of it. Sometimes you’re walked out the door that day. I was laid off in Nov. 2020, that was my last day, I got my severance right away and I had a new job a month later. But a coworker from the same company was laid off in Dec. 2022 and had to stay until March to get the full severance package. Some people left sooner regardless, but that’s technically a retention bonus.

    5. JustaTech*

      That’s how I’ve seen it work at some companies. At my company (in the past) it’s been more of a “thank you for sticking around long enough for us to lay you off”.
      Several years ago a coworker was certain she was going to get laid off (her department was shutting down) so she found a new job. The day she was going to give her resignation she got called up to HR to be laid off, with severance.
      I could hear her giggling down the stairwell from a whole floor up, she was so pleased! (Given that the severance amounted to a down payment on a house and she had no gap in employment it was the best possible situation.)

      She was not the only person who got laid off with severance and immediately started a new job, and I never heard that anyone had any trouble about it, so it really depends on your company.

  2. so very tired*

    Good to know re: psychedelic therapy. I am considering it and it helps a lot to know that your treatment plans are private from employers.

    1. Fikly*

      If your employer is large enough that they do self-funded health insurance, it’s a lot easier for them to access this information. Legally, they should keep it separate, but it’s much easier for them to access it, and if they can, they likely will, so be aware it’s a possibility.

      It’s like how they aren’t supposed to look at did you check the box for if you have a disability on applications, but studies have shown that if you check the box, you have a lower chance of getting an interview than if you do not, with all other factors being equal, so clearly, they are looking and then discriminating.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I’d be very surprised if psychedelic mushroom treatments would be covered by health insurance to start with, so presumably you wouldn’t be submitting anything regarding such a treatment to your insurer to start with and would just be paying out of pocket.

        1. Ursula*

          You actually can submit them. I did a similar treatment and it was billed as a therapy session plus billing for the IV. Now, the treatment was way more expensive than normal therapy sessions, so they only reimbursed as if it was billed as a normal session. Overall, taking into account deductibles, I got reimbursed about half the actual cost of the treatment.

          My treatment wasn’t just one treatment, but 6 over the course of the month. I was able to take FMLA leave for it as well. The paperwork for that doesn’t require disclosing what the treatment is either.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The session itself (no idea about transportation) would at least be eligible to pay with FSA/HSA funds.

        3. LW 2*

          My understanding from reading the websites of facilitators is that the entire treatment is out of pocket, though I suppose I should double check that as even partial out of network coverage could save me hundreds of dollars.

          Re: my employer seeing the information. I’ve always wondered about this sort of thing. I work for a Fortune 500 company, even if they theoretically could access that information I have a hard time seeing anyone being motivated to do so. I’m just a tiny, tiny cog in a massive machine.

          1. LW 2*

            I just googled it, and found an Oregon government site that confirmed that insurers are not covering psilocybin treatments currently.

          2. Hillary*

            At a Fortune 500 managing these things is outsourced – the company on your card won’t share that level of detail with the employer. HIPAA violations have serious consequences for them. Everything is aggregated. The reports say x number of employees cost over $y, but that’s about it. And the pool is large enough even the high cost individuals aren’t identifiable.

            It’s smaller orgs where it’s problematic – everyone knows Bob has cancer or Jane’s baby needed a heart defect repaired.

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              I used to work at a massive public university that self-funded their insurance, as did the separate graduate student union. Apparently one year two grad students had babies with severe health problems and next year everyone’s premiums went up on that plan…that must have been incredibly uncomfortable for those two people!

        4. Misty_Meaner*

          Why? If it’s legal in the state where it’s being provided, it shouldn’t be any different than legal use of medical marijuana. And, I’m not sure how specific they have to be on the documentation for reimbursement, other than “mental health treatment” or something. But even if they have to get to the level of “psychedelic treatment,” if it’s legal, they should pay for it.

          1. MK*

            It’s a legal activity in that state, but it’s likely not a certified medical procedure. Eating cake is legal and usually good for your mental health, but you can hardly request reimbursement.

          2. I am Emily's failing memory*

            A lot of legal but “alternative” treatments are not covered by insurance. Insurance companies are organized around not paying for anything that isn’t 150% guaranteed to save more money in the long run than it costs them, so treatments without much history of use or extensive clinical study typically don’t meet the bar for being able to prove that paying for them now will be cheaper than paying for more intensive or emergency treatments later. It might even be true that it could or would save money, but they don’t have the large scale high population studies to prove it, so they err on the side of denying coverage.

          3. RagingADHD*

            There are an awful lot of not only legal, but FDA approved, treatments that health insurance doesn’t cover. Or won’t cover X brand/type of med unless you try A, B, and C first and have proved that you have bad reactions to them.

          4. The Shenanigans*

            Unfortunately, decades of anti-drug propaganda have done a lot of damage here. Basically until all the people who took DARE seriously get out of policy/die off then there will be a social cost to using cannabis or LSD based treatments. It is ridiculous, as you say, since it’s legal and scientifically sound treatments.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

        being this is still experimental its not likely that insurance would cover it.

        1. Phony Genius*

          Experimental treatments are supposed to be paid for by the experimenters. At least that’s how most reputable clinical trials work.

          1. Elsewhere1010*

            That would be in the case of clinical trials, sponsored by a pharmacological company tracking the efficacy of a new drug. Experimental treatment is using an existing drug (or procedure) in a new way. Most health insurance companies do not pay for experimental treatments.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Your treatment plan *should* be private from employers, but they’re allowed to ask for a doctor’s note. You would probably know by now if your employer routinely asked for notes for scheduled medical appointments.

      1. Moodbling*

        Also many employers ask for a note starting at three days of absence, which could be relevant for the LW.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

          3 day absense if you were out being sick the entire time yes. But I think if the OP said that they had to travel to get their treatment I don’t think it would require a doctor’s note.

        2. LW 2*

          That’s a good point I hadn’t considered, I’ll have to look up my employer’s policies on this. I wonder if I could get my psychiatrist (who is supportive of this) to write me a vague note if needed? I think it wouldn’t be too difficult to just take two sick days worst case, I could time it so one of the travel days was a weekend day, for instance.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            When doctor’s write these notes they are always vague. They don’t give up your private info. Just state what you need (to be out for X amt of time, kinda thing).

          2. Observer*

            I wonder if I could get my psychiatrist (who is supportive of this) to write me a vague note if needed?

            If your doctor is any good, and has any experience they should absolutely be able to give you a note that has no medical information on it. They do it all. the. time. *Especially* for stuff like mental health because of how fraught it can be.

            So, what you can expect to get from your doctor is something like

            Upon my advice, OP will be traveling for treatment of their condition. Total travel and treatment time should be 4 days.” (Or however long it would be)

            The idea here is that the note is there to verify that this is indeed an actual medical related absence, rather than you *pretending* to be doing medical stuff. They don’t need, and are not entitled to, any more information than that.

          3. Nameless*

            That was going to be my suggestion – I would probably feel similarly guilty about taking a sick day to travel, so have your first day be on a weekend, so that you don’t have to take the day off; and then take your second day as a travel/rest & recovery day, which I’d be able to justify to myself much more easily.

        3. Purpleshark*

          Maybe schedule the treatment for Monday so that you only use 2 days of treatment and travel? I also did not see how often treatments have to be taken. Is this like a once a month thing?

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Most doctor’s notes only agree the patient is unwell or “pursuing treatment” Your average doctor is pretty good at keeping the details confidential.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, I’m just thinking if they insist on a note from the provider LW is actually seeing that day, the job title or office name might not sound like a doctor’s office.

  3. A Person*

    The baby picture game, sigh. Problematic for exactly the reasons Alison linked.

    For a recent virtual shower at my office I searched quite awhile before I found something that was possible virtually, work appropriate, and not problematic.

    I ended up doing a little slide deck with baby animals and a multiple choice “guess the name” – starting with easy ones (baby sheep = lamb) and going on to harder ones (baby llama = cria).

    Everyone could participate, plus you still have cute pictures to look at.

    1. Observer*

      I ended up doing a little slide deck with baby animals and a multiple choice “guess the name” – starting with easy ones (baby sheep = lamb) and going on to harder ones (baby llama = cria).

      I love that!

        1. Ally McBeal*

          Quick google search indicates that the baby name for both echidnas and platypuses is “puggle.” Completely adorable, although I’m now picturing a cross-breed puppy and not a platypus XD

          1. Juicebox Hero*

            I know a man who had a dog that was half pug, half beagle, and he called it a puggle. Said doggie was indeed quite adorable.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              All the puggles I know look like old (human) men.

              Not to say that old men aren’t adorable, but they’re adorable in a *specific* way…

    2. Earlk*

      If people desperately want to play the baby pictures game there are quizzes available online for celebrity “guess the baby” photo too so another good option

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        I was going to say, there’s got to be tons of games with baby celeb pics, baby/kid movie characters, cartoon characters, etc. etc.

    3. Totally Minnie*

      For a baby shower at an old job, I did one of those guess the song title from the emojis games, and all the song titles had the word “baby” in them. It was really fun, and people got pretty impassioned about what they thought the song was.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        As a coworker, I have to say I would enjoy both of these games, baby animals OR emoji songs, much much more than baby pictures of people, even in an office where the problematic elements might not crop up.

      2. tiredworkingmom*

        I’ve done a celebrity baby name matching game too–match the celeb to their kids’ names. It’s cute but you have to know your audience. In my case, I was working in a PR agency with pop culture obsessed colleagues.

      3. The Rural Juror*

        Ah! Nice! We recently did “guess the generic phrase that has to do with babies” such as “ bun in the oven” from emojis. It was cute and we laughed a lot at ourselves and our coworkers’ guesses.

    4. Crunchy Granola*

      I like that idea a lot. I do not have any baby pictures, so I wouldn’t be able to participate in the game the LW’s shower had.

    5. No screen name*

      “Cria” is Spanish for any animal’s “young.” As a Spanish-speaker in the US this would really annoy me.

      1. A Person*

        Yes, that’s true! But take a look at the Wikipedia entry, it’s actually what the English speaking world has taken for llamas and similar animals specifically.

        (Sorry if this is double, I just realized the last comment had a link which probably is not allowed.)

        1. No screen name*

          Right. It’s like when English takes a word that means something in Spanish, like “sombrero” or “queso” and uses it to mean something specific (a hat worn by someone in Mexico, or cheese in a Mexican restaurant). I get that you don’t get why it’s annoying to a native Spanish speaker.

    6. yirna*

      I ran one once for a Christmas party during Covid. It was a disaster for multiple reasons (including, for example, the fact that we had exactly ONE person of colour on the team. Gee, guess whose picture?) and I will never, ever run one again. For the record, bingobaker.com went over extremely well. I did not realize that our team would get SO INTENSE over bingo.

    7. Quill*

      Sounds like a great time that people can opt out of without being weird about pictures of their coworkers / selves.

    8. lyonite*

      We just had a work baby shower where the game was one where everyone went to a website on their phones and there were multiple choice questions related to babies (i.e. How many bones does a newborn have?) I think the site was geared toward children, so there was nothing inappropriate, and amusingly, it was the non-parents who scored the best.

  4. Coverage Associate*

    Is age a protected class for purposes of pay, or just for purposes of hiring? It sounds like the low pay is more likely to fall on older (longer term) employees.

    1. Otter Almond*

      Just for clarity, age in general is not the basis of a protected class. Only people 40 and over are in the protected class.

      But age 40 and over is a protected class when looking at employment law, not just in hiring.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Yup. Thanks! I asked because it’s the longer term employees missing out. If it were something where they refused to pay a young, qualified person commensurate, I would have raised the question differently, noting that the federal law only protects 40 and over, but some states have “on the basis of age.”

        1. ferrina*

          That’s where my mind went- if it’s the longer term, more experienced employees that are being impacted, they are more likely to be older. If the pay is de facto impacting 40yo+ folks more, then they may have a legal case (consult a lawyer, of course)

      2. Van Wilder*

        I am skeptical that the lower pay wouldn’t disproportionately be affecting employees over age 40 if these are the employees that have been at the company the longest.

      3. Reluctant Mezzo*

        But good luck getting any ageism problems enforced. Once the K-Mart class action suit was turned out, age related discrimination has to be really awful before it’s worth bothering with legal action. And most legal action in that area often fails. Hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I still wish you good luck.

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      it is for pay, also, I believe

      I recall a case of age discrimination because older employees were disproportionately laid off. The company claimed the layoffs were due to budget and the older employees, with more experience and leadership, had higher salaries and so were the targets of the layoffs. The company was found to have committed age discrimination in targeting the layoffs to older employees.

      I am not a lawyer but I remember this from business school

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That is a brilliant monkey wrench. If all of the lower paid people happen to be over forty, there’s the protected class.

      1. Lab Boss*

        I am (obviously) not a lawyer but that raises the question of exactly how big the difference has to be, before it falls afoul of age discrimination. Using Allision’s example of inadvertent disparate impact between men and women’s salaries based on how well they negotiate: I would assume a single woman who negotiated well and was the company’s highest earner, wouldn’t be enough to protect the company from liability from an overarching claim that women as a whole make less than men as a whole.

        In other words I don’t think ALL of the lower paid people would have to be over 40 or that everyone over 40 has to be underpaid… but there’s probably a point where even if there’s some correlation it’s just not enough. I have no earthly idea whether there’s any kind of standard for this or if it’s a “know it when you see it” sort of thing.

        1. ferrina*

          That’s why we have lawyers! They have lovely casebooks that they get to read to find precedent and argue why they are right.

          You’re right that a single individual likely isn’t enough, but they may be if they are the only member of a specific protected class and their pay isn’t on par with others doing similar work (for example, if all the male paralegals make 80k and the one female paralegal makes 60k, that could qualify). Correlation is usually enough to scare HR into doing a salary review- correlation means you can mathematically prove that one protected group is making less. IANAL, but I suspect courts like quantified, verifiable impact.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            This is absolutely a line that is negotiated in the courts, not in policy. It depends on a lot of factors – for instance math can be a lot more complicated and/or open to interpretation depending on the size of your company. Many employment attorneys will do a free consultation and tell you if they think they can reasonably argue and win a disparate impact case, if you need to take it that far – but your right that even the implication of grounds for such a case will scare any competent HR department. It’s their job to make sure things don’t go that far.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I wouldn’t expect it to be an even line like that. Employees over 40 get new jobs too, so they are probably in both groups.

  5. Rick Tq*

    OP3 – If I walked into a meeting and a strange person was in the room without an escort I would probably excuse myself and call security to have that person removed. If the consultant did stay I wouldn’t answer any questions about private information, you don’t have any confirmation the consultant has a need to know.

    Tim was very out of line to not give you the whole story when he scheduled the meeting in the first place. Did you ever find out which senior manager(s) approved bringing the consultant in?

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      The letter says it was a virtual meeting, so it wasn’t necessary to escort anyone anywhere. if it had been an in person meeting, I agree with your suggestions whole-heartedly.

      1. John Smith*

        The risks may be different but the principles hold whether the meeting is virtual or in person. I’m assuming Rick Tq knows the meeting was virtual and is making a valid comparison. Tim was bang out of order for what he did.

    2. Heidi*

      I agree that Tim is the one who messed this up. He could prevented all of this with a one-line email introducing Melanie. It was probably just as awkward for Melanie even if her reasons for being there were totally above board. In future dealings with Tim, I’d probably ask for more context before agreeing to meet.

    3. MK*

      Unless you are working in espionage, that would be an almost unhinged overreaction, especially given that the meeting was set up by a coworker you know. Taking a minute to make sure the person had a right to be there, even refusing to discuss confidential process with an outside consultant, is reasonable. Calling security is not.

      1. MassMatt*

        There are all sorts of businesses with high degrees of security, including defense, aerospace, high-end technology, medical/health care info, and financial data. We don’t know enough about the situation to be sure but that reaction might well be exactly what is called for with an unescorted/unidentified person on site.

        In this case, it was a virtual meeting, but it was still a huge screw up by Tim.

        1. Use your words*

          Sure, but that’s why you use your words to make sure you haven’t just had security escort out the VP of operations who is visiting from the head office. This could also spectacularly backfire on you if the person you had bounced was a person of color. Five seconds of thought on this ought to be enough to tell you these tough guy shenanigans should stay online.

        2. lunchtime caller*

          I work in a business with a high degree of security, and we have several hurdles someone would need to cross to even be in the meeting room in the first place; security in the lobby, on each floor, and even to enter the wings of the meeting rooms. All so that the VP of so and so department isn’t responsible for pressing a panic button at the sight of a stranger in a room…

        3. Daisy-dog*

          I worked in a regulated facility. Our training said to ask the visitor who their escort is supposed to be. Their escort may have stepped away to go to the restroom after all. We should find the escort and confirm the visitor is in the right place. If we can’t find the escort, then the visitor must go back to wait in the lobby. (This would be different if the person appears threatening in any way, but someone sitting in a conference room alone is not usually that.)

        4. Sense*

          With industries like that, security would have ensured the person didn’t make it into the room in the first place. Ergo, this is a huge overreaction.

    4. Ferret*

      If you walked into a room with someone you didn’t know you would immediately call security without checking who they are or with the person who set up the meeting?

      Sometimes meetings include people you haven’t met before and in your scenario (which is not what was described in the letter) you wouldn’t even have known if this person was a colleague or a consultant, or even if Tim was running one minute late and was intending to join

    5. L-squared*

      You wouldn’t maybe assume that someone let them in and they were allowed to be there? Just go scorched earth immediately and call security?

      Seems like a bit of an overreaction

    6. Ally McBeal*

      Wow, that is … way over the top. At a large organization you could very well be calling security on one of your own coworkers. Maybe pause and ask some probative questions first, and then YOU can be the one to leave the room unless there’s an actual safety risk to allowing that person in the building while you or they sort out the meeting confusion.

      1. Rick Tq*

        If someone isn’t wearing an ID badge and shows up at our office they aren’t an employee, and HR is VERY proactive on announcing new hires the day they start.

        The industries I have worked in and for take physical office security seriously.

        1. Sense*

          …which means an unknown person who wasn’t supposed to be there would not have been able to make it into the meeting in the first place.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            The tendency to assume that somebody in a secure area *must* be authorized to be there because they are there is one of the major reasons that humans are bad a security.

    7. Nancy*

      Or you could just ask them your name and whether they are there for the meeting. Sometimes meetings include people you don’t know.

      1. MassMatt*

        Asking their name would not have helped, the LW had no idea who this person was, LW thought they were meeting with Tim.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Bringing their name TO Tim would help, ergo asking their name helps.

          More, when asked their name or introducing themselves in a work context, most people add some extra details, formal or informal, to provide context. “I’m Mohammad, I’m the VP of Sustainable Development” or “I’m Sonya, I’m the one you called back when you needed your phone ID updated to your name.”

    8. Pizza Rat*

      Tim was completely out of line. Personally, I like at least 24 hours of notice before a meeting when that can be arranged. You don’t send someone in to be blindsided. That’s sabotage.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I’m just impressed that you know every single employee of your company by sight. Either it’s a very small company or you have an astonishing memory.

  6. Catgirl*

    My office threw a “baby shower” for a coworker last year & I was the only person who brought a gift. Glad to hear someone else finds it confusing too.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      My office threw a “baby shower” where the gift was just cash, which I found boring as someone who used to live oohing and ahhing over the cute baby clothes, but at least it met the spirit of “shower.” (Babies have since become a bit of a trigger, and I bowed out of attending after contributing to the gift. I do understand people who find the opening of the gifts boring or worse.)

      If I were planning the party OP described, I would have called it a “new baby party” or something, if the expectant parents were ok with that.

      Question: I have attended “showers” where people were asked to bring advice, sometimes with a material gift, sometimes without. I would find getting marriage or parenting advice from coworkers super awkward, but it’s not money….ok, but just too awkward. Answered my own question.

      1. Morning Coffee*

        Advice as written down in a card would be awesome gift and should be more common! That way you don’t have to remember everything what was told you and those are still topics to talk about- and host can put horrible advice to side… But this would work well in only rare work places where everyone talks about stuff like this anyway

        1. Anonymous*

          I want to gently push back on the idea of a formal advice-giving aspect to a baby shower. While in theory anyone can give advice, people without kids could find this alienating or painful. I get enough of that as a single woman in my late 30s with complicated emotions about having/not having kids, and that’s not even addressing fertility struggles.

          1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

            I agree. And new parents, especially moms, get unsolicited advice they don’t need all the time. And you don’t know what crazy thing someone will insist on.

            1. Sunflower*

              They could just choose not to look at the cards though, or take it with a grain of salt. No one’s checking on whether they follow it.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          The advice would then just come across as a heap of trite memes?

          Here, totally unbidden, is the only advice I ever give, which I wish I had known from the start even if it helped loads through the teen years: love them when they least deserve it because that’s when they need it most.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            It’s also weird if you’re a child-free person being asked to give parenting advice. I’ve been asked to do it and always found something banal to say, like, “Make time for yourself when you can,” but always felt awkward about it, like I wanted to add, “please know that I’m giving this advice because the activity required it and not because I think I have any idea what advice a parent needs to hear.”

            1. JustaTech*

              We had a “book of advice” at my baby shower (the one my friends/MIL threw) and there wasn’t any way to know if everyone filled out a card or not (no one was counting or anything), which is nice because 1) it’s a party not a class with assignments and 2) several of my friends don’t have kids so wouldn’t have any advice from personal experience.

              And it’s not like there’s any rule that says anyone has to actually *take* any of the advice. Thankfully I didn’t get anything really terrible, but I’ve heard plenty of stuff where I’m just like “mkay” and ignore it.

              So basically I think it can be a fun/nice thing, but also super voluntary so only people who feel like they’ve got something they *want* to contribute do.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          If there’s one consistent thing I’ve heard from expectant mothers in my life, it’s that the last thing in the world they want is more unsolicited advice.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            My co-worker had a baby last year and I told her the only advice I was going to give her was to not listen to unsolicited advice.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        I love the advice idea! Or something similar that is personal, but small and free or close to it. I’ve also seen diaper showers and book showers, which I love.

        This is partly because work showers usually just aren’t the same level of social event that friends and family tend to host. Mostly they are small acknowledgments of your major life events by the people with whom you spend 8 hours a day, versus the gathering of your support circle to recognize and honor the formation of a new family or the start of a new life.

        This is also because many people don’t do the same level of gift-giving events for second babies that they do for first babies. It’s one thing to have a party or celebration or meet-the-baby event (sometimes called a “sprinkle,” to denote that it’s much smaller than a shower), but a lot of people feel you pretty much only get those major gift-giving baby showers that first time around.

        Perhaps that was a conversation among LW’s colleagues, and even if it was the other family’s first baby, they may have decided to skip the gifts entirely to avoid any awkwardness of both asking colleagues to contribute to multiple gifts, and making any distinction between families in two separate situations?

      3. Catgirl*

        I’d be the worst at that, my advice to everyone would be “remember gender is a social construct “

      4. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        One popular thing I’ve seen that is usually pretty affordable is to do a book shower. Everyone brings a book as a gift. You’d think there would be duplicates, but every one I’ve been to hasn’t had any.

      5. Not Totally Subclinical*

        There are only three pieces of parenting advice I’m willing to give someone who I’m not already really close to:

        1. Parent the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have or wish you’d had.

        2. Follow through on your word if at all possible: when you say that if the kid does X you’re going to do Y, and the kid does X, do Y. (This goes for both punishments and rewards.)

        3. Always take the baby wipe out of the container before you unfasten the diaper.

        If I had to write advice for a work baby shower, that’s all I’d say.

    2. RIP Pillowfort*

      I find it confusing to0 but I think some of it is people are trying to have harder work/life boundaries. No criticism of that. People find baby showers upsetting or boring for a number of reasons. But if you’re going to do a celebration, the organizers need to be clear that it’s not a shower. So at least all the expectations are on the same page.

      Culturally- I couldn’t imagine going to a baby shower without a small gift. Same with a wedding shower/housewarming party.

      1. Smithy*

        I think this is where a lot of this tension comes.

        I think a lot of workplaces are trying to set more clear work/life boundaries – while also acknowledging that there are individuals as well as teams that find a lot of value in celebrating life moments at work. Whether they be smaller (birthdays) or having big life moments acknowledged (i.e. babies, weddings, etc).

        I work for a nonprofit, so there’s only going to be so much department budget to cover that – but there’s usually some kind of magical team member number under 10 people where the “pass the hat” method with supervisors occasionally making up a gap seems to work. But at some point past ~10 people on a team and the “pass the hat” vibe quickly fatigues generosity. And if you just leave it to those big life moments, then the balance of who’s celebrated and who’s not can get unbalanced.

        All to say, I do think that it’s still worth the time to acknowledge celebrating a staff member getting married or having a baby if they want it with assorted office parties over Zoom or in person, but also to make it clear for all involved it’s not a classic shower.

    3. ferrina*

      I totally find it confusing, and I always appreciate when the organizers are really clear on the invite “No gifts! We’ll take donations to give this person a gift card. If you’d like to contribute, talk to X” (yes, I know the asking for money is not the best, but if done in a no-pressure way, it can be a nice gesture. I’d love to donate to my more junior colleagues).

      I have absolutely no context for baby showers- my family was never invited to them and never talked about them (same with weddings and the associated parties there). I’ve been the one committing the faux pas so. many. times. Extra bad when I was barely scraping by and had to guess about whether or not to bring a gift (i.e., do I spend 2-3 worth weeks of my tiny disposable income on someone who makes more than me?) It’s so frustrating.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m team “shower” = presents. I definitely think OP needs to let it go, and it doesn’t really make sense to think coworkers might be waiting for a “thank you” for a hypothetical company-sponsored gift that they didn’t contribute anything to. But if you are throwing a party and don’t plan on there being presents then call it a “celebration” or something different than a “shower.”

      1. Sunflower*

        I think the issue is that if OP is going to lean on an expectation of “shower = gifts”, she should also expect the corollary of “second kid= no or minimal gifts”. Certainly not a registry (I know she doesn’t have one, but sounded like she would expect one.)

        The “technically etiquette says this” deal cuts both ways. And it’s always more gracious to go in not expecting anything.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t agree. What people should or shouldn’t get for a second baby is an opinion and lots of people have different feelings on it. A “shower” is *objectively* the term for a party where you give people presents. It has nothing to do with etiquette–that’s just what a shower IS.

          It would be like if you invited someone out for drinks and then said “actually I don’t like alcohol, so here is some coffee instead.” Like there is nothing wrong with having coffee together, but if that’s what you wanted then don’t invite them to drinks.

          Words have meanings and if you use them in the wrong way then you can’t be upset when people are confused.

          1. Single Noun*

            On the other hand, I would absolutely accept an invitation for drinks and then order a soda, or for coffee and then order a tea, because I assume the point is the social interaction, not the specific beverage.

      2. Petty_Boop*

        It was a ZOOM shower. I think expectations are a LOT lower, as they should be, for a virtual shower. I think people use that terminology to mean “congratulate mom to be” moreso than the literal “shower of gifts” it used to mean.

    5. Petty_Boop*

      But, was it virtual? If it was in person, well most people I’d know would bring something small as a token, but the LW’s baby shower was virtual. So the LW’s gift expectation/disappointment was misplaced in that regard, I think. Unless she expected everyone to send her e-giftcards, or something.

      1. JustaTech*

        We had a virtual baby shower for two coworkers (really one who wanted one and then we acknowledged the other person who didn’t want a party) during early dark COVID that didn’t have any gifts, mostly because we wouldn’t have known how to send her anything, and it wasn’t an official work thing anyway. Honestly the idea of asking about a registry never even came up. (Also it was a second baby for one and third baby for the other, so traditionally there’s less showering.)

        I thought everyone enjoyed it (we played some silly trivia games that didn’t involve anything about ourselves). But then when my boss asked for permission to use some company money for a cheese plate for a joint baby shower for my coworker and I he got stomped on hard saying it “wasn’t fair to have a baby shower if everyone can’t come”. (Huh?)
        The only reasons we could come up with were 1) our director was being a jerk again or 2) our department EA, who was the person who got the virtual shower, was unhappy that no one had spent money on her party (?).

    6. Daisy-dog*

      I definitely agree that it shouldn’t be expected that individual employees should put in money for a gift for someone if they don’t know them very well. But, it’s kinda confusing that LW1 didn’t get any gift from the manager or company, even after the shower. A team member had a baby a few years ago and my manager paid for the gift, but she sought our input on what to buy. For another team that isn’t as close, there might just be a blanket statement to the team “a gift was provided” without the details/conversation.

      1. JustaTech*

        I got a gift from my coworkers (Target gift card) and a personal gift from my boss (my boss’s wife, who made a quilt), but nothing from the company itself. Which is fine, that’s how it is for everyone. The important thing is consistency and clear expectations.

      2. Petty_Boop*

        This was the SHOWER. We don’t know that the Mom to Be didn’t get something from corporate after the birth, which is when I would expect the company to send a bouquet, or a gift basket, or a DoorDash gift card. I wouldn’t expect the company to do something for a virtual SHOWER though.

    7. Duckles*

      It’s worth noting LW1 said they’re remote and especially if they’re international, it’s very hard to give cash easily internationally (can’t just venmo/PayPal like in the US) and also harder to either find local gifts or send gifts that don’t have huge international surcharges. So it’s more common to do just celebrations than gifts at remote work environments.

  7. Daria grace*

    #5, please docheck the terms very carefully. Here in Australia how lay offs can work is you’re paid for a certain number of weeks (9 in my case) after your last day of work at your current role. During that time the company may attempt to redeploy you to other roles in the company. If they haven’t found another role for you at the end of those weeks, they pay out the remainder of your layoff entitlements. If you start another job before that point it can be considered a resignation (as you’re still technically employed) jeopardising your payout

    1. Pat*

      If they do find a role within the company for you, and if you don’t want it, do you continue receiving the severance pay?

      1. Daria grace*

        In my situation I’ve confirmed I would still get the severance but I’m not sure if that’s universal

      2. WS*

        As far as I know, the role has to be substantially similar – like, they can’t suddenly switch you to night shift or to a different location or lower pay.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Wow that’s harsh! Here in France you get a percentage of your salary, depending on how long you worked for that employer, whether you find another job or not. What happens to you after you’re made redundant is none of the previous employer’s business. Then if you haven’t resigned you also get unemployment benefit for a good couple of years, again depending on how long you worked (since your last stint on unemployment or since you started working if you’ve never been unemployed).


      This was the policy at my employer. In IT, everyone used to be walked out the door that day. Now, not so much. Anyways, in the past, if the employee accepted a job before the 60 days notice (WARN Act) ended, it was considered a resignation and the employee lost all severance payout. During the 60 day Warn Act period, the employee was considered an employee and payroll taxes and health care benefits were taken out. Our severance pay begins on the 61st day, not right away, under the WARN Act.

      Now, interestingly, the employee could take a contract job and convert on the 61st day. That was okay.

  8. Severance Issues*

    I was in a layoff where I got a 60-day WARN notice period. I was cut off from office systems, but I was still formally an employee. The severance package deal was that if we started another job before the notice period was up, inform the company, and we would give a resignation notice. The severance would be the same, but we would lose the remaining weeks of pay.

      1. Anonymous*

        At Old Job, the HR person (who was also getting laid off) basically said that it’s a honor system (wink, wink) and that amazingly no one ever gets hired before their severance is up, lol.

        In other words most people just don’t bother to ever talk to the company again so it all gets paid out even when technically it would’ve stopped. The impression I was left with was that it would actually be more annoying for HR to do the paperwork to process the severance ending than to just pay it out.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > amazingly no one ever gets hired before their severance is up, lol.

          All fun and games until something brings this out of the woodwork and the company goes back through all the people who were laid off. There are lots of ways people can give themselves away for having committed fraud, which this is – employment dates listed on LinkedIn and confirmed by the old employer posing as a reference checker, etc. It isn’t too hard to imagine the company revisiting this if they are in financial trouble and that’s why they had layoffs. HR should be held to a higher ethical standard than most people in matters like this and the person who said this should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. This isn’t getting one over on the company – this is fraud.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            While you may be correct, if it’s that important to the company they shouldn’t be relying on the honor system.

            If I were in this position I would never say anything to the company that just laid me off.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              What kind of proof can someone offer that would confirm they haven’t accepted another job? I think the honor system is the only way it can be done, because you can’t prove a negative – you can only prove a positive, by catching the liars who have a job. But also the HR person should definitely not be communicating tacit approval for lying under it or giving employees false
              reassurances that they won’t be caught if they lie

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                That’s what I mean – anything that relies solely on the honor system, particularly if it’s involving possibly tens of thousands of dollars, is not going to work too well. Probably why it’s rare for severance to be contingent upon remaining unemployed in the first place

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        My BIL didn’t mention it to anyone, he got full severance and unemployment benefit, even though he had moved to another country!

      3. Kevin Sours*

        When my wife was layed off under the WARN act they explicitly reserved the right to call employees back in during the notice period if they needed something.

    1. Bagpuss*

      There is a similar system in the UK and if you are offered a ‘suitable alternative role’ which you turn down you don’t qualify for redundancy pay as the company is still happy to employ you, so you are treated as resigning. However, you can dispute whether the role being offered is ‘suitable’ , and you are entitled to a initial trail period in the role so you can judge if it is really suitable.
      Whether or not it’s suitable will depend on things like how similar it is to your original role, the location, distance, your own skills and experience, pay and other benefits etc.
      If it is not suitable, you still qualify for your redundancy pay. (Also, if you are laid off but there was a suitable alternative job available then that may mean you were unfairly dismissed rather than it being a redundancy, which could give rise to having a further claim against the employer

      1. Severance Issues*

        Yes, we were paid not to work. Most people who got new jobs, including me, had the new start date happen after the notice period. But some people on employment visas took jobs ASAP and gave notice, because they were on an unforgiving 60-day deadline to find a new job and get their visas transferred.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        That’s not especially uncommon. Under the WARN act in some instances employers have to continue your employment for 60 days after they give you notice of layoffs. They do not have to assign you any job duties. They may decide that they’d rather pay out the 60 days rather than announce before they are ready to have people stop working.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Interesting. When I had that situation, you had to tell the old company that you found a new job so they could stop paying your regular paycheck with all the tax, 401(K), etc, but they rolled that $$ into the severance that got paid out after the WARN notice period ended. Most of us negotiated a start date after the WARN period anyway because free vacation! But I don’t think you’re supposed to lose the pay, they just have to adjust for tax/paperwork reasons.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I don’t know that “supposed to” enters into it. But there is nothing requiring them to continue employing you during the WARN notice period if you take another job or to compensate you if they don’t.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        There may be some internal policy that they would stop a retirement match or something like that, but I don’t think there’s any difference in the taxes. When I was laid off about 10 or 11 years ago, my severance pay was taxed as earned wages, the same as my normal pay. There are actually only a few different categories of pay in the eyes of the IRS – wages earned as an employee, income earned as a business owner (rental income for landlords, freelance work, and gig work all fall under this category), and capital gains (money earned from the sale of appreciated assets). As far as taxes are concerned, severance pay is still earned wages, and they expect the same taxes for income, FICA, and employer-paid taxes as they do for regular earned wages.

        (The same is true of bonus pay. People often think it’s taxed at a higher rate, because most payroll software isn’t advanced enough to account for non-standard payments – instead the software usually assumes each paycheck represents that person’s regular pay for one pay period, and calculates tax withholding based on an assumption that their annual earnings are the equivalent of earning that every pay period. When the employee files their taxes the following year, they will get a larger refund than they otherwise would have, as a result of their bonus being over-taxed.)

  9. RB406*

    Expecting gifts or requests for a registry for a 2nd child is already out of the norm in most circles.
    But being THAT upset that your virtual coworkers had the audacity to acknowledge you without giving you opportunity to direct them to what things you wanted them to buy is tacky. There’s a reason that after the first it’s called a sprinkle (not a big gift giving occasion more of a small party)
    If you had any valid reason to be upset at a surprise shower this issue would have been moot anyway. LW, you need to let this go AND realize your expectations are out of line to begin with.

    1. cabbagepants*

      Wow. Yet another unwritten rule about baby parties that some people evidently feel quite strongly about.

      FWIW I’ve never heard this one before.

      1. Artemesia*

        It has been the norm forever until recently when getting stuff has become an obsession i.e. expensive wish lists on registries and multiple parties with the expectation of gifts for each one around weddings etc. Showers were traditionally about welcoming a woman into motherhood. This happens only once i.e. after that she is already a mother when the subsequent kids arrive. Nothing wrong with cake and punch at work but to make these gift occasions especially if co-workers are expected to pay for it, is a bit much. This is not a ‘new’ rule.

        1. Sleve*

          From a Western middle-class viewpoint it’s an old rule. There’s billions of people on the planet who could very easily have never come across these social conventions though. And now the letter writer has, they know, they can adjust their mental model of what the convention actually is, and we can all calmly move on with our days.

          1. Allonge*

            Totally agree! This is actually even less common as an old rule – baby showers are not a thing (like, at all) in a lot of Western cultures as it’s going against the ‘bad luck to celebrate a baby before they are born’ rule.

            It’s worth keeping in mind that something ‘everyone knows’ is likely not a thing for a lot of people indeed . But this is all too easy to forget – I have been told that not looking too far back into Facebook timelines is an age-old rule!

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Here in France it’s actually considered unlucky to give presents before the baby shows up. So you get showered when people come to see the baby.

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                And that’s only the people you want to see when you’ve just given birth and are trying to adapt to motherhood. Although I did also receive some hand-knitted pyjamas from the mothers of various friends, through the post.

              2. CommanderBanana*

                ^^ I’m Jewish, and there are no showers, gifts, or baby-related stuff until the baby actually arrives.

                1. AnonORama*

                  Same! Although I don’t have kids and actually didn’t know this rule until a (now former) friend, who had put her supposed besties through bridezilla hell to the tune of $5,000+ a person, explained why she didn’t expect us to plan a baby shower. (Of course she still wanted us to buy her stuff after the baby was born, but we didn’t also have to throw a party.)

            2. Happy meal with extra happy*

              It’s traditionally bad luck in Judaism, so before I was born, my parents basically had to put together my nursery and baby furniture in secret from my grandparents to not upset them. My parents knew they didn’t want to deal with all of that once they had a newborn,

            3. I am Emily's failing memory*

              “I have been told that not looking too far back into Facebook timelines is an age-old rule!”

              To use an AAMism, I’d say it’s more of a polite fiction than a rule. Everyone who uses Facebook has dug through at least one person’s old posts at least once. The thing is just to maintain the illusion that you aren’t by not liking or commenting on them.

          2. bamcheeks*

            AFAIK, baby showers are very much North American, not Western more generally! I’ve seen them a few times in England in the last ten or fifteen years, but they certainly weren’t a known tradition here when I was growing up.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Yeah, the whole notion that new parents need all these new supplies for the new baby seems somewhat predicated on having a society where the nuclear family household is the norm. If the new parents live in a multi-generational household where there might even be multiple sets of parents (grandparents, adult siblings and their partners, and grandchildren) it’s likely that a lot of what they need is already in the house. Maybe some of it would need updating or replacing, of course, but you’re less likely to be starting from scratch in a household that has never included children until now, so it’s not going to feel quite as much as like first-time parents have the urgent need for for a brief moment of community support that would have probably led to the shower tradition getting off the ground in nuclear family cultures.

        2. Cj*

          no shower or gifts after the first baby has been proper etiquette forever. and, yes, the LW is being petty.

          1. Sad Desk Salad*

            I thought it was petty too. Look, other coworkers are being dragged to a virtual “party” where they have to look at a bunch of strange babies and you’re complaining about the lack of gifts?

            1. Dahlia*

              LW was also dragged to it! As a surprise! They didn’t plan it and it was surprising to them that things that normally happen at a baby shower didn’t.

              This comment section is straight up being mean to this LW.

        3. cabbagepants*

          I’m not saying I think it’s new. I’m saying that some people — like me — aren’t plugged into whatever medium it is that others, evidently, recieve baby party social rules.

          I’m 36. I’ve been to baby showers, I’ve given gifts to new parents. But I’ve never heard this rule. I don’t think it’s due to being “obsessed” with gifts… my own baby party, which I hosted for myself (gasp!), was explicitly no gifts.

      2. Anonymous*

        It’s not an unwritten rule about baby parties, it’s an unwritten rule about showers , whether baby or bridal. Someone who comes from a culture that doesn’t have showers may not know – but you don’t have a shower for a second baby or a second marriage. The point of a shower is that the bride and groom are starting their first household and have nothing (which is why they are less common than in the past) or this is the first baby and parents don’t have a crib etc. There are still baby gifts and wedding gifts for subsequent weddings and children but the idea is you still have the crib , carriage etc for number two.

        1. KateM*

          Someone who comes from a culture that doesn’t have showers wouldn’t know about not having a shower for second baby – but also probably wouldn’t expect gifts nor know to be nonplussed about not being asked their gift registry.

          1. Allonge*

            Eh, not necessarily – bridal / baby showers are not a thing here and I googled them when I heard about them first. What I learnt is it’s an occasion you get celebrated and get gifts. I did not go further into it, so the ‘not for the second child’ part is something I heard of years after that.

      3. BellyButton*

        It’s the same with second weddings. You don’t register and don’t have a bridal shower. The point of showers are to provide the first time mother/ first time bride with the things they need to set up the nursery / first home.

      4. Sunflower*

        It’s not an “unwritten” rule. Check any etiquette guide or column. You can be unfamiliar with it but it’s very, very written.

        1. Olive*

          I can get love and good wishes from my family and friends. I’ll bet almost no one at the work-promoted virtual shower really wanted to be there. If I got a gift, at least someone would have gotten something out of it.

          1. Casper Lives*

            Wow. Next time, LW should tell everyone they don’t want a celebration if she thinks the same way as you. So sorry that your coworkers tried to acknowledge your new life milestone!

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Well part of LWs concern was that no one asked if they want a shower so…yeah, they should. I wouldn’t want my coworkers celebrating my big life milestones, particularly by surprise.

              1. umami*

                The only issue really is that LW didn’t mind that they held a shower, they minded that because the word ‘shower’ was used (incorrectly) they weren’t given gifts or a way to solicit specific gifts by providing registry information in advance. Her coworkers’ kindness, however misguided, doesn’t warrant being this petty over and certainly doesn’t need fixing if only the late 30s coworker has a problem with it.

            2. CommanderBanana*

              Seriously. I don’t actually owe coworkers a gift because they decided to have a baby.

              Personally, I’d love to see workplaces acknowledge things like employees completing degrees or certificate programs or other work-related milestones and lay off the obligatory gift-giving for stuff like having kids.

          2. Ahnon4Thisss*

            Some of us do like our coworkers and want to celebrate their milestones. The big problem is the without permission part, no the not receiving gifts part.

        2. Olive*

          I can get love and good wishes from my family and friends. I’ll bet almost no one at the work-promoted virtual shower really wanted to be there. If I got a gift, at least someone would have gotten something out of it.

          1. Amy*

            Just proactively cancel the shower if your sole reason for attending is receiving a gift.

            Most of us are working for money. Thinking that colleagues owe us gifts just because we all work together is presumptuous.

    2. Sleve*

      In my country a sprinkle is for consumables, so a registry kind of makes sense to make sure that you don’t get stuck with 3 bottles of Johnsons when you use Sudocrem. But they’re also so uncommon that most people haven’t heard of them.

      I do wonder if this is the cause of LW#1’s disconnect, the rarity of a second shower/sprinkle/celebration leading them to not realise that most showers have gifts because most showers are first baby only? People don’t know stuff until they’re told. Now the letter writer knows, they can adjust their worldview based on new evidence, everything’s fine, and we can all move on. Let’s try and assume good faith and rational behaviour on behalf of the letter writer, shall we? They did specifically write in to ask for a gut-check, not to ask how to get HR to fire their colleague for discrimination or something silly. No need to start with the name calling when we don’t have evidence that this was more than just a misunderstanding.

    3. Zelda*

      The LW *wasn’t* expecting any gifts until suddenly coworkers were throwing a shower. “We are throwing you a shower” basically means “we are giving you gifts.” LW was a little confused when the implicitly-announced gifts did not materialize, but did not run around beforehand saying things like “When are you guys having my shower, huh?” or thrusting unsolicited registry information on anyone. Just a miscommunication, to be solved by not using the word “shower” for future celebrations.

      1. MK*

        I agree that OP wasn’t being greedy, but afterwards her reaction was to “make sure the expectant family is celebrated in the most helpful way”. To me, that reads as if OP wants to make sure there will be presents in future showers, not change the name to avoid confusion or make sure they want a celebration.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Making sure the guest of honour isn’t confused *is* helpful. One way to do that is to actually follow the conventions of a shower, if that’s what you’re calling it. Another way is to use clear communication and buy in. I get that they probably wanted some element of surprise for OP and that’s why they didn’t clear up what the hell was going on. You have to admit that “guess everyone’s baby picture…and now we are done showering you!” is pretty confusing and awkward.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          And she wrote in to check whether she was thinking along the right lines, and Alison explained why not so all is good. No she’s not being greedy or petty, just thinking something was off and what to do about it. Now she knows, all is well.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think they took “work baby shower” = “the reason we can eat cupcakes this month,” and tried to make it virtual, and didn’t quite get it smooth.

        Reasonable, but not universal, things:
        • Sometimes showers are a surprise.
        • Sometimes no gifts at work celebrations, but we do pause work and acknowledge your happy life milestone by eating simple carbohydrates.
        • Sometimes no or few gifts for not-first babies, since you don’t need a crib, high chair, etc.

        There are no villains here, just different patterns.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah, I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it but I did get a feeling of a bit of entitlement from the tone of the letter. It came off a bit like “Where’s my gifts?? It’s a baby shower, I am meant to receive gifts!”… I hope OP did not express this sentiment to the coworkers.

      1. ghost_cat*

        I got that feeling too. I think it was the comment ‘it was just an acknowledgement that babies were on the way’. As if acknowledgement wasn’t sufficient unless it came with gifts.

        I personally find it so awkward as to what the expectations are when a new baby arrives and feel I can’t win one way or the other as to what level of interest or engagement is appropriate. I gave up a long time ago when trying to organise a present for a colleague’s baby and suggested a generic consumable item, thinking that if it wasn’t their taste (like a lamp etc), it was at least useful. I was told that as I didn’t have children, that I wouldn’t understand. Right then, I’ll see myself out, and take my money with me.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        it was the age part that weirded me out. Like, “Maybe they’re too young to know they’re supposed to give me gifts.” But … aren’t you old enough to know that expecting gifts is kind of rude? So let’s cut everyone some slack and accept your well-wishes.

        1. Clisby*

          But a shower (unlike any other type of party I can think of) has the express purpose of giving gifts (at least in traditional American etiquette). That’s not true of a wedding, or birthday party, or anything like that.

          1. Quill*

            Both weddings and birthday parties are often assumed to include gift-giving unless guests are directly told it won’t be happening.

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I don’t think it’s entitlement, I think it’s just different expectations of tradition. The “are they confused why I didn’t send a thank you card???” point screams that to me – no one is expecting a thank you card for an office gift, even if there was one. It reads to me like LW is at sea in the etiquette of the situation, given that it was virtual, unexpected, and didn’t play out like they would normally anticipate.

      4. umami*

        Same. Once it was clear there were no gifts, just … go with it? Appreciate the attempt to fete without dumping on them for not doing it ‘right’. Being the oldest of the group, she should be able to handle her disappointment with grace instead of telling them how to ‘fix’ what they did for the future.

        1. Allonge*

          She asked a question about it.

          People are allowed to be surprised by things that are not what they expected to be, and can check with someone giving advice if there is any follow-up needed.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, thank you.

            Here’s a general reminder that the commenting rules include: “Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation; assume good faith on the part of others.”

    5. ina*

      Expecting gifts at work is where I am tripped up completely. I just read the letter and went, “Seriously? You wants presents? From your coworkers?” What if they did virtual birthday parties at work, would you get them a gift??

      I get balking at having a personal-type party done in your favor without your consent, but LW’s implication it’s their coworkers age was strange beyond belief. Late 20s/early 30s to their late 30s is…not that big of a gap. Just something off about LW’s tone and reasoning here.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is where I came out on it as well. It’s a little odd but not deeply offensive or weird.

        Personally, I’d have also been a bit put by not being asked if I wanted a work shower/celebration (I would not), and I think the coworkers should have just called it a celebration rather than a shower. However, I would hate it if my coworkers were made to feel obligated to buy me a gift of any sort, and I’m of a people who do not do baby showers for subsequent children. (It’s not unusual for someone to a smaller gift like a cute outfit or a pack of diapers/wipes when they come to see the baby, but it’s not a formal gift-giving event.)

      2. constant_craving*

        The problem is they told her it was a shower. Showers, by definition, are an event where gifts are given and that’s the main point. Birthday parties aren’t an equal comparison- they often have gifts but gifts aren’t the point of birthday parties. OP didn’t demand gifts or a shower, but it’s not unreasonable for her to think a shower would involve gifts.

        It’s a little like some of the recent posts where people were told that lunch was going to be provided and then there was no food sort of thing. It doesn’t mean the employees are greedy people who expect their employers to feed them all the time.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      But wouldn’t a sprinkle still involve gifts? Just cheaper, more consumable ones? Besides it wasn’t called a sprinkle, it was called a shower and it wasn’t the LWs idea to do one!! The LW was surprised that they were attempting a shower precisely because they *hadn’t* indicated or shared any need for gifts. However if you’re going to call something a shower, it’s going to be confusing if there’s no showering going on, absent any clues that it wasn’t a shower. LW would have spent the whole time trying to figure out what was going on, and get her “I didn’t ask for this gift but it’s lovely!” face ready unnecessarily, which sounds awkward AF. If people just want to do celebrations they simply need to ask if the person is up for it, and then clearly communicate the agenda. “We want to do a zoom celebration/lunch to send you off on maternity/celebrity babies quiz to honor you and Bob” or whatever it is that people want to do.

      1. umami*

        The virtual part is exactly why I wouldn’t have assumed gifts anyway, regardless of the name! How would that even work? Did LW think they would show the gifts on Zoom and then mail them to her? I get being confused initially, and then thinking ‘OK, this isn’t ‘really’ a shower, but how nice that they wanted to acknowledge I’m having a baby.’ Not, ‘this is a shower and they did it wrong, let me tell them how to fix it moving forward.’

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Ah, see I have been part of virtual baby showers (during Covid) where gifts absolutely still featured -we delivered in advanced and opened on zoom – so I don’t think the virtual nature necessarily cleared it up!

          1. umami*

            Oh that sounds nice! I hadn’t thought that gifts could have been sent prior (but would definitely make it clear there were gifts being given, and no element of surprise, heh). I would probably not really want my coworkers to have my address though.

    7. ReallyBadPerson*

      This is definitely an “ask” culture vs “guess” culture thing. Any unwritten etiquette rule is definitely a product of a guess culture, and even people from the culture may be confused by it.

    8. Jackalope*

      As a counterpoint, I will point out that the tradition of baby showers for 2nd – or later – babies is becoming more of a thing. There are several reasons for that. For example, if baby number two (or three, or whatever) is the first child of the opposite sex, many people will buy them different clothing. If there’s a large age gap between the last baby and this one, it’s entirely possible that the parents will have gotten rid of the crib, stroller, car seat, and other big ticket items and need to buy them again. Many parents, for that matter, will give away baby clothes that no longer fit if they aren’t planning on having another child right away (or don’t know for sure if they want one) because it takes a lot of space to store all the clothes for a newborn, and a 3 month old, and a 6 month old, and…. And (this is probably the general reason for a sprinkle) even if neither or those things aren’t true, there are always lots of things needed for a new baby. You can always use more diapers (or a diaper service).

      Now if you don’t want to contribute to that then that’s fine. And I’m not arguing for or against baby showers at work, which I would consider a separate issue. But it’s not necessarily a greed issue to need financial support preparing for a later baby just because you already had one.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Or the babies will have different season birthdays. Baby 1 might have been born in the summer and Baby 2 is going to be born December 1. If they live a very cold climate, they may need wintry clothing and some gadgets to use the stroller in the snow!

    9. JB (not in Houston)*

      I agree it’s not the norm and that the OP shouldn’t be upset about not getting gifts. But I do think calling it a shower implies gifts. If I were in her situation, I would not have wanted a shower or gifts, but I would have been confused by being told it was a shower and then there being no gifts. Even though I wouldn’t expect or want gifts from coworkers, I probably also would wonder if I should say something for future reference. I’ve never heard of a shower that isn’t a shower–that’s just a regular party. Maybe that’s a new thing, but it’s never been a thing any place I’ve lived or worked. So I don’t think it’s weird that the OP wondered if she should say something so that other “shower” recipients aren’t confused in the future.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        It’s a bit like being told you’re going to be honored with an award ceremony and in spite of thinking “wait, what, I’m not sure an award is warranted in the circumstances but okay fine, I will graciously accept!” Then at the ceremony it’s actually just everyone else with pictures of their past awards talking at you about them, because you’re the guest of honor somehow? Now just because OP is asking if future award ceremonies should be run this way, she has to put up with people telling her in the comments that she doesn’t automatically deserve an award and shouldn’t be so entitled…

    10. Office Lobster DJ*

      It might have been better if the organizers called it something other than a shower, but the actual event sounds perfectly fine to me. I wonder if the original intent was an event for the co-worker (were they about to become a first time parent?) and someone thought it would be weird or rude not to include LW, hence the no notice and referring to it as a proper shower.

    11. Ticotac*

      Folks, is it entitled to be surprised that the gift-giving party you didn’t ask for, wasn’t going to ask for, and was sprung upon you at the last moment involved no gift-giving?

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I don’t know, some of the details, like the speculation that maybe the organizers were too young to know showers = presents (no one is that young), land somewhere beyond “surprised” to me.

        However, since LW seems to want to channel their disappointment into taking over event planning to make sure future honorees get what they want, I applaud.

        1. Dahlia*

          If none of your friends or relatives have had babies, why would you know what a baby shower involves? Too young makes some sense.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            For that to apply to an entire team of 20ish people in the prime baby shower demographic, though? To never have seen one depicted on TV/movies/commercials, stumbled across it on the internet or in books, or not Googling the type of party they were hosting?

            1. Dahlia*

              I assume that is why OP said MAYBE, I would bet, and not “absolutely”.

              Also what TV shows have baby showers in them? I couldn’t name one. And who watches commercials anymore?

              1. Office Lobster DJ*

                “And who watches commercials anymore?”

                Okay. This is getting into sandwiches territory now, and I’ll leave you to your opinion.

      2. Amy*

        When it’s both colleagues and virtual, I’d say this is extremely common.

        I’ve been to multiple “showers” like this at work. It’s 20 online minutes of best wishes. That’s all.

      3. Gerry Kaey*

        Honestly? Yeah, I think it kind of is. “I don’t want to be here now where are my gifts” is odd to me. If you don’t want to receive well wishes from someone, why on earth would you want to receive a gift from them?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          It’s not entitled to be confused and surprised when you are told you’re having a gift-giving event and then receive no gifts. “I do not understand why they threw me this gift-giving event and then did not give me gifts” is not the same as saying “How dare they not give me gifts.”

    12. ZSD*

      I second the opinion that this is an unkind comment. The letter writer didn’t sound at all entitled to me, just confused. And FWIW, I grew up going to my cousins’ bridal and baby showers with my mother, but I’ve never heard of a “sprinkle.”

      1. Parakeet*

        Yeah, I felt that the LW’s expectations were off and maybe a little extra, but not in some offensive or entitled way. And writing to Alison to find out if your expectations were off or a little extra about a work situation seems like a fine use of the column.

        I’m in the US and grew up in the US, but I’d never been to a shower growing up and today is the first time I’ve ever heard of a “sprinkle”. I only knew that there was any kind of tradition regarding first child only because I was a dork who read Miss Manners’ 1980s book on child-rearing (which, being a compilation of 1970s and 1980s letters, has plenty of content that Miss Manners would also agree is now dated) when I was in middle school. And even back then I don’t think she considered it an etiquette violation if people wanted to throw you one for subsequent children, just not traditional.

        I think the confusion is largely “does shower mean gifts or does shower mean any party to celebrate an upcoming baby” (yes I know it’s traditionally the former, but not everyone does and the party-givers’ circles might just think of it as a party) and this is just a miscommunication.

    13. Daisy-dog*

      I always thought the shower/sprinkle differentiation came from a conversation with the expectant parents. Maybe they are all set with things and just want diapers. Or maybe the things from baby #1 don’t work for baby #2 – things have broken, large age difference, they moved or the baby is a surprise and they gave everything away, or they were just barely outfitted for #1 and know where their gaps are now.

      I was just invited to a *shower* for a family member who has multiple children, but there’s a big age gap with the youngest. My SIL had a *shower* for her 2nd and none of the above situations even applied – she just likes gifts and her MIL wanted to throw one.

      Now, no one at work should be expected to give a shower instead of a sprinkle or non-gift celebration. But I do think it should have been a conversation first – not a surprise “shower” that isn’t what she expected.

    14. MCMonkeyBean*

      It literally *wasn’t* called a sprinkle, it was called a shower. If you don’t intend to give people presents, don’t tell them you are throwing them a shower–which is a party specifically for giving presents.

    15. constant_craving*

      This might be a valid point if it had been called a sprinkle, but it wasn’t. And even sprinkles still involve gifts, just more focused on consumables like diapers.

      OP doesn’t seem “THAT” upset. She was confused about poor communication and wrote a letter here. Her letter doesn’t indicate any upset at all- just confusion and asking if she should help with planning for others. You’re adding a lot of negativity here that’s simply not in the letter.

  10. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    I don’t know if this has changed (because it’s been decades since I had a baby and I don’t attend showers), but traditionally, showers were given just if it was a first child, to help the parents with supplies they would need. The assumption was that those items would also be used on subsequent babies. Gifts after additional children were born, like new clothing, were nice but optional.

    1. Sleve*

      This is how it still is in my country (not the US). For the first baby it’s a shower. For subsequent babies it’s a usually a celebration with no gifts. The philosophy is to reconnect with the village and ready the support network before the arrival of number 2/3/4 etc, not so much to duplicate all of the baby care equipment that the parent presumably already has. I have heard of the concept of a ‘sprinkle’ where people give consumables like baby wipes, nappy cream, baby shampoo etc for 2nd/3rd/4th babies, but I’ve never been to one so I don’t know how common they are.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Traditionally, baby showers and bridal showers are not really a thing in the UK, though I think people may be doing them more now thanks to the influence of social media (and corresponding need for social media content.) I had never been to any type of shower till I moved to the US!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, I think there is also a tradition of waiting until the baby has arrived before giving gifts in the UK.

        1. Ukdancer*

          Definitely. It is, in my experience, viewed as tempting fate to give gifts before the baby is here just in case. It’s not a rational thing but on an emotional / instinctive level it makes me uncomfortable. It’s a superstition I think. On a rational level I know it won’t affect the baby whether there are presents before it arrives. But it just doesn’t feel right.

          I do give to work collections when people go on parental leave but I wouldn’t buy a friend something for her baby before the baby came. The UK doesn’t really have a tradition of showers so I get a gift after the baby is here and all is well.

          1. Anonychick*

            It is, in my experience, viewed as tempting fate to give gifts before the baby is here just in case. It’s not a rational thing but on an emotional / instinctive level it makes me uncomfortable. It’s a superstition I think. On a rational level I know it won’t affect the baby whether there are presents before it arrives. But it just doesn’t feel right.

            CW: reference to (generic, not specific) pregnancy loss

            It’s also a practical thing: in my culture, we don’t give anything before the baby is born out of superstition, but it has the positive side effect that, should the worst occur, the would-have-been parents don’t have to worry about things like returning nursery furniture or dealing with baby gifts (or worse, receiving new gifts shipped to them before the news spread).

            For myself, when invited to (non-work, I should specify!) baby showers, I give gifts that will be useful before the baby is born: a restaurant gift card “for whatever you’re craving” or a gift card to a salon specializing in pregnancy “because my mom always said the best thing she ever did for herself while pregnant was to pay someone else to wash her hair!”

          2. londonedit*

            Yeah, definitely. Being in my early 40s pretty much all of my friends who are going to have children have had them already, and I’ve been to I think two ‘baby shower’ sort of events. As you say I think they are becoming more common among younger people who see a lot of US social media, but they’re not tradition here and so even if someone does have a pre-baby event we don’t have the ingrained cultural expectations about it. People here are much more comfortable giving gifts after a baby arrives (similarly many people here don’t reveal the baby’s name until after they’re born, whereas I see a lot of US social media with people saying ‘So excited to meet Baby Fergus’ etc) because it’s seen as tempting fate.

            Usually when someone goes off on maternity leave there’ll be a collection and a card and some sort of low-key send-off on their last day, but it’ll usually just be tea and maybe a cake. Working in publishing there have been a couple of teams I’ve worked on where we’ve all bought a book for the impending baby, but usually it’s been the classic whip-round and a card. People definitely wouldn’t expect to be given gifts.

        2. allathian*

          In Finland as well, although to be fair we pioneered the Baby Box. I have such a cute pic of my newborn son sleeping in the cardboard box we got, it even included a thin mattress!

          Baby showers haven’t been a thing among Gen X moms like me, but millennials and zoomers (born 1997 or later) seem to have adopted them here, too.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d say that is rough tradition in the US, but that also it can be nice to receive some cute little outfits that no one has ever barfed on.

    4. Clisby*

      That’s what I’ve been used to. I can recall a couple of occasions where someone threw a shower for a baby that was way younger than the previous baby (say, a couple had their 2nd child when #1 was 10 or 12) since it’s reasonable to think they likely had gotten rid of all the newborn clothing. But it would have been odd for someone to expect a shower for #2.

    5. christy7h*

      Agree, this has been my experience. First baby, baby shower with gifts. Second baby, maybe a sprinkle or sip and see or something – where you bring the baby (so after the birth) and people meet the baby and you may get diapers. Or clothes (if the baby isn’t the same sex as the 1st baby)

  11. Observer*

    #2 – Treatment

    I can see no reason why you can’t use sick time for travel. As Alison says, it’s no different from traveling for any other treatment.

    I do think it’s a good idea not to discuss the specifics with your workplace. You don’t know how they deal with medical stuff, and people can be *very* weird about this kind of thing. Whether X is a “real” medical issue, whether experimental treatments are “really” treatments, and just the whole idea that they have any business weighing in on your medical decisions.

    Lots of luck with this. The research looks *really* promising.

    1. LW 2*

      Oh yes, I never talk about my mental health issues or treatment at work, it’s always vague “doctor’s appointments” when I see my psychiatrist, for example. And I especially wouldn’t discuss this, as I know so many people are super weird about psychedelics in general (lots of misunderstandings and misinformation out there about them).

      Thank you, I’m optimistic that this will be helpful for me.

      1. AnonDoc*

        LW 2 , please give us an update, both on insurance coverage/PTO time working out, as well as if the treatment helped in any way.

        This treatment is not a silver bullet, but I wish you all the best on your quest for healing.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed. If I were the OP, I might mention that I had to travel for the treatment, just in case anyone wonders why I was out of town during a time I was supposed to be getting medical treatment. You wouldn’t want people to think you took sick time for a long weekend vacation.

      Of course, that raises the question of “What could be so serious that OP needs to travel for treatment / testing?!?!”, but the extent to which this becomes a question really depends on whether you live in a large city or a small town, and whether or not medical resources are available where you live.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes about traveling. Depending on where you live it can be very normal to travel for “less serious” stuff – I live in the PNW and there are a lot of folks who come down from Alaska for treatments, especially in the winter when travel is unreliable. I know people from Hawaii who have to come to the mainland for some kinds of treatments as well to talk to specialists (a friend of a friend had to go to California to get a skin allergy dealt with).

        And for rare/unusual stuff it’s not uncommon for patients to need to travel to big medical centers (Mayo, MD Anderson, City of Hope, Johns Hopkins, etc).

        LW2, good luck with your treatment!

  12. Observer*

    #3 – Surprise meeting.

    I’m going to say that you should probably not have taken that meeting with Melanie. I totally get why you did it. But Tim was completely wrong in how he handled it. Not only should he have warned you what the meeting was for, he should have explained *why* he was sharing this information and who had authorized him to ask you to share what are essentially confidential processes.

    All I can say is watch out for Tim. He doesn’t seem to have very good judgement.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, this situation is weird. Tim attended the meeting in the end but it’s not clear if he is able to authorise OP to speak about those processes, if they are normally confidential. I almost wondered (I think it is just due to me reading too many conspiracies, but…) whether this was some kind of test like with those emails you get with unpaid invoices or whatever and it turns out they are a test from IT to see who clicks on them and needs more training. I felt like it could be the “meeting” version of that…

      Regardless of that, in OPs shoes I would be more wary of what this consulting engagement might mean for OPs team and their processes. If OP has never heard of the consultant or this initiative might it mean that the meeting was meant to happen behind OPs back? I would be doing a lot of fact finding on that consultant and their company.

      1. Sheep Thrills*

        Physical penetration testing (pentesting) is indeed an entire industry, with people hired to see who’s blended in or challenged, how much information they can get, how far into a secure building they can access, etc. As you mention, there are virtual versions as well.

        It’s not a conspiracy for companies to want to protect proprietary data and have their employees follow security policies. Being nice — holding the door for others, providing directions to a stranger without a badge, etc — is what keeps the pentesting industry alive and needed.

        Usually it’s an outside consultant, so I personally just think Tim is sloppy, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been manipulated.

    2. Helvetica*

      Agreed. Even if it wasn’t an outside consultant but still someone in your office who was not Tim, it would be incredibly odd to not let you know in advance who you were meeting.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. I can totally see being baffled in the moment and just charging ahead, but I wouldn’t have an internal processes meeting with someone I didn’t know without clear scope of their role, need, and authorization from above on what I could and couldn’t share. It’s easy to say from this side of the keyboard that I would have followed a script similar to the one in the answer and politely apologized for the inconvenience, but we don’t always use our best judgment on the spot.

    4. Ama*

      Yeah, I am at a nonprofit in the medical research space, and we have extremely strict rules around how we interact with for profit consultants. (People try to fish for unpublished scientific info for investment purposes, or for access to our patient or researcher contacts for market research.)

      If I was asked by a colleague for a meeting and there was a consultant I’d never met in there, I absolutely would have handled it much the same way as OP — although in my case I’d probably have gone straight to the person who manages our for-profit relationships to make sure *they* were aware, especially if Tim was newer to our org (the more unethical of the consultants who reach out to us are very good at targeting newer employees and trying to make it sound like they have an existing relationship with us).

      I think it is worth talking to Tim and explaining that in the future, he needs to send an explanatory email if he wants you to meet with an outside consultant (and if he doesn’t I’d consider responding to any meeting requests him by emailing him to ask who will be in the meeting).

  13. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    #2: While I agree that it’s ethically fine to use sick days to travel to/from a medical appointment, in this particular case I recommend also checking the employee handbook to see if there is any sort of rule about needing a doctor’s note if you’re going to be out for multiple days, and if so think about how easy or difficult it will be for you to get one in this case.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      This is a little tricky in this specific case because the Oregon law in question does not medicalize psilocybin or make it available by prescription given a diagnosis, but rather provides for centers where anyone of age can self-refer without a prescription or referral from a medical professional and consume psilocybin under the guidance of a licensed facilitator. It’s not at all the same regulatory structure as was used for, say, medical marijuana. Here’s the Oregon government website with more information: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PREVENTIONWELLNESS/Pages/Psilocybin-Access-Psilocybin-Services.aspx

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      Likewise, check the employee handbook for statements about drug use and testing. I live in a state with legal cannabis but work a job with federal contracts, which means we dance to their tune, testing and all.

      I have heard that mushrooms do not show in most urinalysis tests. However, I’ve seen employee handbook that will suggest that admission of consuming illegal drugs is cause for dismissal. If you’re traveling to Oregon from a state where mushrooms are illegal, that may open a dangerous door.

  14. WorkBabyShowers*

    OP1, I’ve worked at several places that threw baby showers for employees. Gifts were allowed but not expected from fellow employees and there was never a registry of any sort; the company usually bought a larger gift (often a nice stroller or car seat).

    I’ve never been to a work baby shower with activities. Typically they had a cake, people who wanted one had a slice, the gifts were presented, then we all went back to work.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      When you’re doing it online, you need activities or everyone just starts checking their email.

  15. MistOrMister*

    I was laid off earlier this year. My severance was 4 paychecks. Nothing in the severance agreement about forfeiting the money if I got a new job. I was fortunate to have something new within 3 weeks. The lag between when the payments started meant I was getting paid twice for about a month. (BTW employers: a couple of weeks or months of pay, all of which will be eaten up in rent/mortgage and COBRA is not as magnaminous as you like to pretend it is!!)

    I don’t understand the incentive for people to report they’ve receiced a new job if it will stop their severance. The way I see it, the employer seriously inconvenienced you by letting you go, so why should you have to forego any of the severamce package??

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > I don’t understand the incentive for people to report they’ve receiced a new job if it will stop their severance.

      If it’s contractually agreed in some way, there’s the small matter of not committing fraud which for some people is an incentive…

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        For some, but when dealing with someone who just laid off or fired you that number goes down quite a bit.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, but it’s still unethical and probably involves a signed agreement, meaning should the company find out, it might end up in court, or have a detrimental effect on references etc. I wouldn’t want to screw over someone who I would later rely on when moving on.

          Ethics in general is meant to act as a brake on self-serving behaviour. If we want people to behave ethically towards us, we need to act ethically towards them — and that starts with our own behaviour being unimpeachable. Trying to get others to honour their words is hard enough; getting them to overlook times when we’ve been caught in a lie is just going to make it way harder on us rather than on them.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I agree about the role of ethics but not necessarily about the ethics of the particular situation

    2. GythaOgden*

      Being honest is the foundation of most business relationships, and it underpins a lot of the system. Additionally, if you act fraudulently and unlawfully towards your former employer, why should they act lawfully towards you?

      We had this question earlier in the summer and lots of people tried to argue the toss based on what would be advantageous to them or using milder issues not involving thousands of dollars such as throwing a sickie when they weren’t actually ill, but ethics and morals are where society has developed rules to make sure people abide by a code of conduct that protects everyone’s interests without having to be coercive like laws (and in fact, if you signed a severance agreement, this would be covered by laws regarding contracts, which are legal instruments designed to ensure each party fulfils their side of the bargain and gives civil recourse if the contract is broken, meaning that the employer has actual recourse if they find out you lied). Your incentive to be honest is to honour your word and not be hit by litigation to recover the overpayment, and because honesty in general, even if it doesn’t match your interests, helps keep society going. You may not think society is fair right now, and a lot of it isn’t, but imagine it if people didn’t generally behave honestly towards each other. It would be much, MUCH worse.

      It’s like the old slogan ‘What goes around, comes around’ — if you want people to act ethically, morally and honourably towards you, you need to act that way towards them. Since you can only ever influence your own behaviour, acting ethically even when it’s not in your best interest to do so is why those concepts exist in the first place.

  16. Spiders Everywhere*

    #4: That company is going to find out their choice isn’t between raising salaries and not raising salaries but between raising salaries and having to hire new people at the higher salary.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. Why would the lower paid people stay and continue to work for lower pay at the same job?

      1. pally*

        Because they cannot find employment elsewhere. Many employers are WARY about hiring people over 40.

        A lower paying job beats no job. And employers know it.

        (Sure, there’s always exceptions. But after 8 years of looking, I gave up.)

        1. K*

          Yes, this. When you are talking about mid or late career people, the positions that are best suited for them aren’t always all that common—so people are often faced with the options of sticking it out in less than ideal situations or making a field change and giving up years of professional work, growth, and possibly even taking on new education debt and/or a lower salary to start over.

          1. Generic Name*

            This is so fascinating to me because in my industry, employers are desperate for mid/late career people (project manager level, typically). It’s easy to hire right out of college grads, but seasoned professionals are hard to find.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Unfortunately they probably won’t find out. It will happen, but they’ll never make the connection or learn from it.

  17. Sunflower*

    OP1 traditionally there isn’t really giftgiving if it isn’t the first child. I’m sure it’s common nowadays just to be nice, but the idea is that you already have most of the baby stuff you would need. So it’s more of just a pure celebration. Your event sounds appropriate and nice, though I probably would have gone with chipping in for a doordash gift card or something small and nice as a token.

    A registry for your second child onward sounds weird, though. Like, if people spontaneously want to do that for you, that’s nice, but you should not expect that.

    1. Needs Coffee*

      I am not advocating for baby showers at work. It’s awkward.

      But there are times a shower for a subsequent child makes sense.

      For example, widely spaced kids, say 5 or more years apart. There’s a good chance of re-shopping needed.

      For work, if that’s the team/company culture, then I’d someone works for the company with the second child, but not the first. (This was my case. The organizers’ statement was “We didn’t get the chance with your first.”)

      As for somebody having a registry at all for a not-first baby, there can be decent incentive to do so, even if one does not expect/plan for it to be used for presents. There are several Big Name Retailers who provide discounts and incentives for registry shopping. Either “completion” discounts or “Get X% in gift cards for every Y amount spent on registry!”

      The retailers already have all my personal information…you can be sure I loaded up registries with everything I could imagine that I was planning on buying anyway. People shopping for presents was a nice perk, but the registry existed mostly as my own shopping list!

    2. Ticotac*

      Just because OP was baffled they didn’t ask for her registry it doesn’t mean she actually has one, she was probably confused because the other person who also got a baby shower at the same time wasn’t asked either.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Came here to say this, too. My understanding is that it’s considered a bit gauche to expect gifts for babies after the first one, even if there is a baby shower celebration. Babies are super expensive and a baby shower is a good way for the people in the parents’ lives to help with the costs. It’s not really the same situation if they already have most of what they need.

      From the letter, we don’t know if this was the colleague’s first baby or not. If it was, it would be nice to contribute to a gift, but I don’t think it’s wrong to not to. I may be off base, but if the company is primarily remote, I’m guessing that you all don’t necessarily know each other that well. If so, it’s a little odd to ask people to contribute much to a gift, especially during a cost-of-living crisis. Particularly if your coworkers are all pretty young and may not be earning much.

      1. constant_craving*

        Typically one doesn’t throw a shower for a second baby and if an event is thrown it’s called something else. But if a shower is thrown and called a shower, it’s still treated like a shower.

  18. ina*

    1. I think it’s odd to expect gifts from a work shower, so maybe not petty but it’s definitely has nothing to do with your coworkers. Also late 20s/early 30s vs your late 30s isn’t large enough of an age gap to blame it on their age, honestly. It’s ok to be upset about the lack of gifts but this felt like a reach to me (or basically, ‘you all don’t have kids ergo you’re young or don’t understand’? I don’t know, just felt odd, all things considered and with one of your coworker’s wives also being pregnant). The biggest issue is just throwing you a shower without asking – this, along with any personal celebration and arguably even professional ones, should always be done with consent of the person/people being celebrated.

    3. This level of cavalier disorganization always makes me anxious to read about. While I think the “over-organized types” just as bad (ex. the type that updates everyone on every little thing when only 2 people are working on the project or they’re the only person who needs to keep tabs on XYZ…the email clutterers…), the Tims of the world make work more stressful than it needs to be in small ways. I like Alison’s script there. It’s easy to assume someone else’s inconveniences once they hand it off, but Tim’s lack of communication shouldn’t throw your day off.

  19. Roland*

    > It seemed like it was just an acknowledgement that babies were on the way.

    Correct. It was a work event to acknowledge your life milestone. You didn’t miss out on anything you expected or were counting on – it was just your coworkers doing something they thought was nice. I think you are focusing too much on the name here. There is not another common name for such an event so “baby shower” is fine.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      There isn’t a specific name for most celebrations though, because communicating the activity is kind of equally important to the cause so that’s why people go with simple descriptors like “birthday drinks”, or “retirement cake and punch”, “farewell speeches”, or a “welcome lunch”. I think not telling the person being honoured what the main activity is, is actually pretty poor planning and leaves them feeling out of the loop for the duration of the event. “Showering” is an activity you can’t do without gifts, so if you just want to celebrate without a shower you should probably just call it a baby celebration or maternity send off. To be extra clear, you should spell out what the replacement activity is, and certainly ask if that replacement’s okay with the guest of honour. If the guest of honour leaves a celebration wondering what on earth just happened, it’s fair to say they won’t feel celebrated and probably don’t want future colleagues to put through something mysterious and pointless that didn’t help celebrate their baby in the slightest. Now, I say that as someone who enjoys guessing baby pictures! But, even in a situation when baby pictures are not problematic for anyone, I still don’t think it’s a fascinating enough activity to bowl over established traditions and good communication. It’s also really got nothing to do with the person being honoured.

      1. Environmental Compliance*


        This easily could have been called a “congratulations celebration” or similar. The entire thing could have been a nonevent if the organizers would have communicated, IMO. The way OP describes the event makes it sound more like an event set up out of feelings of obligation rather than actually honoring the two of them, to which I’m not surprised at all OP felt awkward/confused/unsure of expectations on their end.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yes it was a total tickbox vibe for me. But I’d work hard to persuade myself that it was thoughtfully meant and it being virtual just tripped people up too much.

    2. Engineer*

      I mean, if you’re only playing one lackluster game, not having any food, and not even really checking with the “honorees” what they would lkke like then are they *really* acknowledging the milestone? Are they even really being nice?

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Good lord, yes they were being nice! Maybe it wasn’t perfectly executed, but come on, someone went out of their way to organize a party for LW. Really can’t see the issue here

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        As seen on countless pandemic-era AAM questions, virtual events are very difficult to execute well. An effort was made, and questioning whether the effort was “even really being nice” because it was not an exciting or to the specific taste of one of the recipients is pretty uncharitable. Could it have been done better? Yes. Was it thoughtless or malicious? No.

  20. Viette*

    1: the shower sounds like it was fundamentally misnamed. They should have called it a party, and it could have been a better party, but given the duration and volume of letters on AAM about how bad an idea it is to make giving gifts for having a baby part of the workplace, I think they did the right thing by just having a party.

    I don’t think there’s any standing to be annoyed that your coworkers didn’t buy you gifts. I don’t know if there’s EVER standing for that.

    It’s perfectly reasonable to be annoyed about being surprised, though.

    1. amoeba*

      “I don’t know if there’s EVER standing for that.”

      I could see being a little miffed about that if everybody else was getting a gift for similar occasions and you just get a PowerPoint. My company typically does give gifts for major life events (weddings, birthdays – smaller though -, retirements, work anniversaries, I assume we’d do it for children as well, although none have been born in my time here!)

      So if I were the only one not getting one, yeah. This does not appear to be the case here though.

      1. Viette*

        Yes, there is cause to be annoyed at unfairness were that to be present; I just meant in the question as submitted it doesn’t make sense to irritated by not getting gifts.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I think the LW would definitely be justified in being annoyed if say the other mother-to-be received gifts and she did not. But it doesn’t sounds like this reached that level.

        It sounds like the party was just poorly named and people don’t always use language entirely accurately. In Ireland, it is very normal for the end of school years celebration to be called a Graduation ceremony or a Graduation Mass or a Graduation night, although it takes place before the exams are done and students still have to return to school to sit the exams and won’t get any results for another three months so there are obviously no certifications to be given out or anything. OK, that’s not quite the same as there is no confusion; everybody knows they can hardly get their certificates before they’ve even done the exam, but what I mean is that people often just use an approximate term. A celebration for kids leaving school = graduation; a celebration for an upcoming birth = baby shower.

        I’d just assume they just couldn’t hink of another name for it and didn’t think about how calling it a shower could make people expect gifts.

    2. Stork*

      It is called a stork party in some countries, i.e. not baby ‘showering’ of gifts.
      People can give gifts, of course, if they choose to.

      Personally, I find the idea of gift registries for babies or weddings a bit presumptuous. The items of the list are often expensive.

      1. Jackalope*

        Having the gifts possibly be expensive I’d part of the point of showers. The idea is that having a baby or getting married and setting up your own household is expensive, and often happens when people are younger and can’t afford all the necessary stuff. I would consider it wise and kind to have some items on the registry that are cheaper for people who want to buy a gift but can’t afford much and don’t know what you might need. But believe it or not, many people like buying gifts and want to support new couples and parents this way. If you don’t then don’t buy anything or get something small. But leave people alone who want to do this.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          When I was in grad school, a group of us might get together and buy a more expensive item. Most of us had very little money to spare. But if there were 6-8 of us pooling our contributions, we had some options.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, group / family gifts are a thing at weddings and showers. Especially when the wedding registry includes dishware or silverware that can be bought by the place setting or by the piece.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        A good registry should have a variety of price points, and, if implemented correctly, is just to help the gift giver out with suggestions and shipping. (When we were younger and had less disposable income, we’d also pool together to get a nicer gift, too.) I’d always rather buy something I know those being celebrated want/need than buy some generic item that they have no place for or have to return. It just seems less wasteful to buy something from their registry, if there is one.

        If people are offended (or, worse, make derogatory comments) that people go off-registry for their gifts, especially if they’ve only populated it with high-end items, that’s another thing. If you don’t need/like it, send the thank-you note and then exchange/return/donate as needed.

        1. Bee*

          Also to make sure you don’t get three strollers! That’s really the point of putting the expensive stuff on a registry – so no one shells out big bucks for stuff you already have.

          I did once have someone pull a horrified face at me when I mentioned buying a wedding gift off-registry, but like, come on, it’s not a list of demands and besides there’s never enough stuff on the registry for everyone who’s attending the wedding. It’s perfectly appropriate to pick out something beautiful they’d never justify buying for themselves.

          1. Bee*

            I should note (lest I accidentally slander my cousin, who was very effusive about the gift I picked out) that the horrified person was not someone I’d ever bought a gift for!

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          Thank you for buying on registry instead of going rogue. I had so many people buy a bunch of random things when I got married, even though I had a registry with a ton of items $50 and less, plus even some fun items like board games for folks who didn’t want to give something boring. It added a lot extra work and stress to figure out where everything came from, attempt to return it without a receipt (nope, no gift receipts), or load up a trunk full of stuff to haul to the thrift store. I would much rather just have not gotten anything than had all that extra stuff to do at a time when I was already stressed and busy.

      3. Ms. Murchison*

        It really depends on how its handled when it comes to registries. The first time a friend got married, I was horrified by all the expensive options she filled her list with. I wanted to help her set up her new household but knew that more practical versions of all of those items existed. But I’ve come around to the practicality and benefit of knowing what someone still needs, what’s already been purchased, and what kind of products they lean towards for diapering, feeding etc.

  21. Anna*

    OP #1 – The comparison to birthday parties is a good one. While you may receive birthday/baby gifts from friends and family, all birthday and baby work celebrations I have attended (which is a lot in 20+ years working with predominantly women) have never had gifts. It’s more of a “celebrate your last working day and good luck”.

  22. pilea*

    Also not a big fan of the baby photo game, but my office did it recently for a baby shower with a twist: mix in some celebrity baby photos along with the submitted staff ones. It was well-received by the people playing (I work in an office that is very big on games and friendly competition, so people liked the “extra challenge”) and the people who had been hesitant to submit photos for the reasons Alison linked. So if you have an office very insistent on doing it anyway…

  23. short'n'stout*

    “He needs to watch The Americans immediately”

    Everyone needs to watch The Americans immediately, haha

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      +1000. Such a great show and where else are you going to see a 1980s mail delivery robot?

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      He at the very least should check to see if Melanie is wearing a wig.

      But seriously: terrific show, and the rare one to absolutely stick the landing on its series finale.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Try the last season. The character of Paige really develops, and everything comes together very well. I don’t want to give any spoilers to the finale, but it will be worth your while.

      1. short'n'stout*

        Oh, he won’t need to check, it will be blindingly obvious as soon as he sees her, lol.

  24. Ink*

    I’ve done ketamine treatments for depression, which isn’t much older, and people REALLY follow your lead on it. Even after I’ve mentioned the substance by name. Misdirecting to a cheerful travel anecdote or a funny under-the-influence story that doesn’t disclose the substance is probably a good bet. Most people won’t pry past a story you frame in the same way you would a waking up after wisdom teeth removal funny story, or a bland medical frustration anecdote (“I swear the specialist pharmacy is getting high on their own supply, they CANNOT be that incompetent organically”). If you incorporate more detail, prefacing with the layman’s version they often give to describe what it’s supposed to do and how has exclusively gotten me intrigued reactions!

  25. AnonDoc*

    #2 :
    Retired doctor here. I won’t give medical advice as requested by Alison, but let me say this:
    If you were trying an experimental and totally alternative treatment for a physical condition such as cancer, none of us would bat an eye at taking sick days for that.

    Medicine and society still tend to minimize non physical issues such as depression, and *any* treatment for that is not taken as seriously, be it therapy, medication, TCM, or alternatives. Add the psilocybin with its baggage in Western culture, and medicine/society go into a pearl clutching state.
    That is unnecessary, as you already tried so much.

    Be kind to yourself.
    Give yourself permission to take the time you need.
    Take the sick days.
    Don’t pin all of your hopes on a specific treatment. Go in with a positive attitude, but without expectations.

    Be kind to yourself.
    You deserve it.

    1. Juggling Plunger*

      It’s also really important for you to give yourself permission to do this even if later on we find out that ‘oops, that’s not actually clinically effective.’ Medicine doesn’t advance if we never try anything experimental. And I bet that no one at work would bat an eye if you were having a physical treatment with far less evidence base than this (ie having a stent placed for stable chest pain, which more and more literature is showing is at best useless and likely harmful, but is unfortunately still pretty common).

  26. The Geek*

    I don’t see any problem at all with the baby picture game as long as submitting pictures is on an opt-in basis and nobody feels compelled to use theirs.

    And if any misguided organiser insists, and is given the power to do so, submit a random one from Google. Who’s going to know?

    1. Lily Rowan*

      The linked piece didn’t even get into the issues I’ve seen with the baby picture game, which are: when there is one person of a certain race or gender or even generation, not only does it make the “game” dumb, it really highlights that difference.

  27. Irish Teacher*

    Just wanted to say it is helpful to have the issues with baby photos pointed out. I probably wouldn’t have thought of that as being an issue and it is an activity that sometimes gets done in schools, so it’s worth knowing that it’s something to avoid.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Mama by adoption here. Any activity that requires disclosure of family structures or relationships in school is a bad idea. My kid had to do a genetics assignment in fifth grade that involved tracking eye color through three generations of her family. She was a very rules-driven, teacher-pleasing kid and she was panicked that she’d be marked down for doing the assignment wrong since we’re not genetically related to her. There are better ways to teach both Mendelian and population genetics.

      I’ve done the baby picture thing at work and they deliberately didn’t get everyone’s to make it harder – you had to figure out which ten people of the thirty on the team were represented. Still problematic and I wouldn’t do it again.

      1. Clisby*

        A former co-worker told me of a time when his middle-school-teacher sister assigned kids to draw up a simple family tree. “Roots” was popular, and a lot of people were talking about it, so she thought this would be an interesting exercise. I guess the kids posted them around the room for everyone to look at, and … 2 kids in the class found out they had the same father! This was not a case of a deadbeat/missing dad – each kid knew and had a relationship with their father, they just had no idea of the existence of family #2.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*


          I mean, a friend of mine found out after her dad died (in his 50’s, so she was in her very early 30’s) that he had a 2nd family. Years later, she’s glad to have the bonus sister, but it was a terrible way to find out.

          But at least her father had the decency to go to the next county! My gawd, 2 kids of the same age, in the SAME SCHOOL. I feel so bad for everyone involved.

      2. SB*

        When I was in first year at uni studying nursing, one of my classmates found out her Dad was not her Dad through a blood test experiment. She tested as AB+ but both her Mum & Dad were A+ which makes it impossible (barring chimerism which is so rare it’s almost impossible) for him to be her biological father. The two options were secret adoption/sperm donor or cheating. It was cheating. The experiment broke her family apart. She left uni. Was the very last year they ever did that experiment!

    2. Bluebell*

      Adoptive mom here who has had to educate elementary school teachers more than once that the baby photo idea doesn’t work for everyone. The teachers seemed taken aback to get this feedback, and there were lots of adoptive families in the school. I don’t know if they’ve stopped doing it, but I hope so.

  28. Rachel*

    My reading of the Tim letter is very different and I think it might be a Me Problem.

    I have meetings with other people looped in all the time. Sometimes I know ahead of time, sometimes I don’t.

    In my industry, this is so not a big deal I don’t really understand the question or the point of the issue.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      The issues are that no background/context info was provided about the nature of the meeting and who would be attending and that you want to be sure it’s legit to discuss internal processes with someone who does not work for your organization.

      In my experience, the person looping me in should provide context for the meeting – “Can you make some time to meet with Melanie? She’s an outside consultant we’re engaged to help us improve the llama pageant preparation process, and it’d be really helpful for her to understand how your team preps the llamas for the grooming stage. I can set a meeting for the two of you next week.” And I know our engagement/consultant contracts include NDAs, so, if we have one in place, I can discuss company procedures. This sort of briefing takes less than five minutes, sets disclosure parameters, and tees everyone up to use their time effectively.

    2. OP3*

      OP3 here – Tim sent the meeting invite. I thought it was between me and him since he had already emailed a few questions about the process earlier. I figured he just wanted to talk more indepth about it.

      But he intended for the meeting to be just me and Melanie without telling me it was going to be just me and Melanie. If Tim had been there from the start, I wouldn’t have been bothered by somebody I didn’t know sitting in on the meeting.

      Since it was a Teams meeting, I could clearly see that Melanie was a “Guest” (she had to be let into the meeting when she tried to join and I declined her the first time since I didn’t know who was trying to get into the meeting), so I had no way of knowing who they were. I wouldn’t have had a problem if it was an employee I didn’t know since I could have seen their employee info in Teams and made a reasonable assumption about what they were trying to learn.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      There are quite a lot of things in every company that are “need to know” that you should only tell people who have a business need to have that information. With outside parties the threshold is usually even higher and may even require some kind of NDA or agreement be signed before the information is shared. Arriving to a meeting with a person you have never met from an outside party with no context given for why they need the information from you would be an issue for lots of people!

  29. Ashley*

    Re severance. My husband got laid off a number of years ago because his role was being made redundant. His agreement was that he got x number of weeks severance, but if he got a new job *with that company* he would forfeit the rest of his severance. But there would be no issue at all if he got a job elsewhere. This was super great for us because he ended up getting a new job within a couple of weeks.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve also heard of people negotiating a signing bonus from the new company equal to whatever they’d lose in severance pay (or retention bonus). Will you always get it? No, but it’s a very reasonable thing to ask for during salary negotiations.

    2. Nynaeve*

      I was laid off with severance about a year ago and not only was the severance only revokable if I went back to work at the same company, in my state, whether or not you got severance didn’t affect your eligibility for unemployment. So I got paid for 16 weeks of severance, plus unemployment for the 12 weeks I actually was unemployed. Which was nice, because the time stretched over the holidays when hiring was painfully slow everywhere I interviewed because people were taking time off for the holidays and school breaks. I wound up starting a new job with more money in my checking than there was when I got laid off becuase of the double pay, plus expenses were lower due to not commuting, eating out, etc. It ended up being a nice break. And being on unemployment made us automatically eligible for SNAP in my state, which would have also helped if it hadn’t taken the whole time to go through the system and wasn’t aproved until we weren’t eligible any longer.

      TLDR: Even if you’re getting severance, look into getting unemployment as well. And SNAP if the process isn’t too slow in your state.

  30. NicaB*

    Great advice on the shower…

    >However, your coworkers shouldn’t throw showers for people without asking if they want one first! Some people won’t want one for personal reasons, and some people don’t do them for religious reasons.

    Years back, when I had my first baby. I did not have a shower. In my culture, it is considered a jinx/bad luck to have showers before the baby is born. Rather, the tradition is that people come visit after the baby is born and usually bring a gift. My assistant at the time, with the best intentions, was planning a work shower for me. Thankfully, our department secretary, who is from the same background as me, put a stop to it once she caught wind of it. My assistant was perplexed by the request, but acquiesced. Instead, she collected money and gave me a VERY generous gift card to be used on items AFTER the baby arrived, which was so appreciated and useful!

    Anyway, baby showers can be a really sensitive topic, whether it’s due to religious/personal beliefs, a history of miscarriage or complications with pregnancies or simply due to a person not wanting to have one. Always best to ASK first – it can avoid a lot of awkwardness and embarrassment.

  31. JM in England*

    At OldJob, had been job searching intensely since a round of redundancies one year earlier and was assuming my team would be next. Just before this was confirmed, landed an offer with CurrentJob in the April, who wanted to me to start in mid May. Managed to negotiate getting this put back to early June, thus getting the official announcement of my team being laid off in early May. By negotiating the later start date, I ensured that I didn’t miss out on what turned out to be quite a generous severance package. It was used to put down a deposit on a rental apartment and furnish it.

    1. 15 Pieces of Flair*

      ^LW5- Also consider this if you’re confident that layoffs are on the horizon. I went the voluntary layoff route because the mass layoff wasn’t imminent when I was looking to leave.

  32. Ex-prof*

    In re #1, I had always understood that baby showers (as opposed to less gift-centered celebrations) were only for first-time parents, the theory being that established parents already have the necessary paraphernalia.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think that’s a sensible rule to remind those people who actively want someone to plan a party for them… but since people really don’t often plan their own, it’s up to the party planners as to whether they want to obey that rule or not. If a group says that they want to host a shower for their friend or colleague, then the colleague might not want to turn them down flat in advance, especially since second baby sprinkles can sometimes still gift very useful, low cost things like nappies and consumables. My (teacher) boss went off on maternity for her first baby just before the summer, and even though we all put in for a gift card, I think she was so hot and bothered by the point of her last day that she was far more grateful for the snacks, mocktail bar and a chance to sit down! We didn’t refer to it as a shower either, so we could have forgone the gift card really.

  33. ijustworkhere*

    re: pay disparities. It sounds like some of what is happening is called pay compression. That happens when a company responds to changes in the labor market by increasing salary offers for newer employees but not adjusting pay commensurately for existing employees. It’s a real problem and one most companies completely ignore until existing employees make enough of a stink about it.

    Your best shot is for several of you to go together to HR and advocate for yourselves.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yep. I suggest pulling together a spreadsheet of the current market rate for various roles and compare them with what the underpaid folks are making. You could note what the new hires are making versus the longer term employees. Emphasize that employees could make more money if they went elsewhere. It might also be good to include data on the cost of replacing employees. Maybe even go as far as comparing the cost of not raising pay (which would ultimately be much higher salary for new hires plus cost to replace people) versus raising pay (which would be just the higher salaries).

    2. Gumby*

      I also have to wonder – did the longer-term employees who starter working at the old location in the lower cost of living area move to the new location? Or are they working remotely? Because that could be another explanation of the disparity. If the new company headquarters is in San Francisco and the old one was in Omaha, you’d have to basically offer double the salary to people in the new location. However, if they asked longer-term employees to move from Omaha to San Francisco to keep their jobs but didn’t adjust their salaries that is an entirely different story. I suspect the areas are not that far apart in cost of living though.

  34. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Medical treatment out of state. At first I thought, wow, traveling to a different state to receive treatment… it’s like living in a small town, but traveling to a city for hospital.
    Oh wait, it is not. it is like when people well, women living in states that, well, Texas who would need to leave there home state for medical treatment.
    Because this is a real thing.
    Do whatcha gotta do.

    1. I Have RBF*


      There are a lot of medical treatments that are unavailable in certain areas, mostly because they are new and only happen at certain prestigious teaching hospitals.

      There are others that are banned by troglodyte legislators practicing medicine without a license.

      Especially people in smaller or more rural states will have to travel, possibly to other states, to get cutting edge treatment.

      1. JustaTech*

        I work for a company that makes one of those cutting edge treatments and it’s very common for folks from rural areas to have to got to at least the “Big City” to get their treatments. And there are some states where people have to go to another state entirely, not because of laws but because of travel logistics.
        For example, only one airline flies to Alaska in the winter (Alaska Airlines), and there are a lot of weather cancelations, so if you are getting a treatment where you *must* stick to a strict schedule you are probably going to end up flying down to the lower 48 and staying for the duration of your treatment.

        (I work very close to a major cancer institute and there are two hotels on either side of the campus that are probably 60%+ patients and family.)

  35. a*

    #2 Before you get treatment, I would check out your company’s drug testing policy. If you have to travel to another state for legal treatment, your state probably considers psilocybin illegal, and your employer may not approve your usage or your sick time. Much like how the feds consider marijuana possession to be illegal in spite of the many states that have legalized it’s use, you may be subject to some repercussions from your employer if they decide to drug test you after your treatment.

    Good luck, and I hope it works.

    1. Observer*

      If you have to travel to another state for legal treatment, your state probably considers psilocybin illegal, and your employer may not approve your usage or your sick time.

      They don’t get a say in what treatments the OP tries. Unless the OP’s company has very unusual policies in place, there is no reason for the OP to share that information.

      As for testing, it’s just not relevant – there would not be any trace of the drug in their blood or urine by the time any test could be administered.

  36. Kel*

    Isn’t the tradition for baby showers that you don’t generally have one (or at least don’t do gifts) for a second child? Is that something I’ve made up in my head?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      No, that’s correct traditionally. Sometimes there’s a ‘sprinkle’ which is more of a celebration. Maybe smaller gifts of consumables like diapers or formula, as someone mentioned above.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m partial to “outfit that has never been barfed on” and “adorable baby board book that I don’t think you have.”

  37. Olive*

    I can barely think of a work event I’d like to do less than a virtual baby shower with coworkers a few weeks before my due date and no gifts.

    1. Misty_Meaner*

      It depends on the coworkers, how well you all know each other, does everyone get along on a “laugh and enjoy each others’ company” level or is it all about just wanting gifts? I can think of nothing I’d like less than attending a baby shower where the Mom to be is only there for gifts.

      1. atalanta0jess*

        I don’t think this is true. I work in a pretty friendly workplace, we all get along, but virtual parties celebrating a particular person are just SO AWKWARD.

    2. Observer*

      I can barely think of a work event I’d like to do less than a virtual baby shower with coworkers a few weeks before my due date and no gifts.

      Then when your coworkers tell you that they are setting one up for you, thank them and tell them that it’s nice but you prefer not to do it.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      It kinda reminds me of an agenda-less meeting to be honest. I would be sat there thinking “this could have been a card”.

    4. Aquatic*

      Someone actually like our coworkers (if not all of them then at least some of them) and don’t mind spending time with them? Maybe even outside of work sometimes????

      Shocking, I know.

  38. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    LW5- Companies offer severance agreements not only to cushion the employee’s fall but also to secure a “release of claims”, an agreement that you won’t pursue any action against the company. The company needs to be motivated to reduce headcount, get rid of you specifically (could be for an innocuous reason such as comp), or secure that release to offer severance. Your future employment prospects don’t factor in unless you’ve already voluntarily resigned, which would almost always exclude you.

    If you reach offer stage with a job you want to accept and haven’t been laid off, talk to your manager about the potential for a voluntary layoff before giving notice. Make the conversation about what’s happening at the company and wanting to “take a break” or “do something different” without mentioning that you already have an offer. If your manager indicates that a voluntary layoff may be possible, avoid setting a start date with the new employer until you see the severance agreement.

    I did this at a struggling tech startup that was headed for mass layoffs last year. Because they were already reducing headcount through attrition, I negotiated 10 weeks of pay (~5 of that was banked PTO) and a couple months of insurance to leave a job that I was already planning to quit.

  39. Higher Ed Drama*

    For post #1: When my friend and coworker was expecting her first child (during the pandemic) I knew she loathed the idea of a baby shower. So instead I asked our coworkers to send me positive messages for Sarah. I compiled them into a slide show accompanied with adorable baby animal illustrations. She greatly appreciated the outpouring of support and the fact that her poor introvert soul didn’t have wither and die in a group setting.

    1. pally*

      This is a lovely idea you came up with!
      I like it!
      Most kind of you to look out for your coworker like this!

  40. HR Ninja*

    In reference to OP#2, I’m sure I’ve ranted about this here before, but I really wish companies would switch “Sick Time” to “Personal Time.” I’m *mumbles age* years old, and I still feel like I need to say that I’m physically unwell in order to take a random day off for my well-being.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      For what it’s worth from a random internet stranger, you don’t! I always just say “I’m taking a sick day” – people can infer all they want.

      But I hear you, personal days are better.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      I think Sick Leave really makes clear the intention which for my organization is for illness and medical appointment of yourself and certain family members. Personal time sounds like it’s equivalent to Vacation/Annual Leave/Paid Time Off.

      We have two buckets – Sick and PTO, and they have different carryover and use or lose rules which benefit the employee IMO. I don’t want them in a single bucket.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        When we had two buckets, our Sick/Personal did not roll over, but the Vacation time did (up to a certain number of hours). They combined ours a few years ago, which ended up being a net increase to the number of PTO days, and it’s been fine and we still have carryover. I think it depends on implementation as to how it works out.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          Conversely our Sick Leave does roll over until you retire and you can sell it back when you leave.

          PTO has limited roll and you cannot sell it back.

    3. Generic Name*

      Your brain is part of your physical body, no? If you are feeling unwell/not in working condition for any reason, I’d say that qualifies for sick time. I assume your boss doesn’t require (gross) details normally. It’s fine to say, “I’m under the weather today, so I’ll be taking a sick day”.

    4. SickLeaveIsNotPersonalLeave*

      Sick leave and personal leave are completely different things; most companies offer both. Sick leave us specifically for illness or medical treatnent. Personal days are for taking time off for others reasons without requiring approval (but they do often require advanced notice unless used to deal with an emergency). A common use for personal days is for religious holidays. In most places I work it would be considered abusing the system to use a personal day in lieu of sick leave.

  41. Addison*

    I think something like a baby photo game should be optional, and emphasized so as to normalize non-participation.

    If everything is seen through the lens of a particular person’s story, we’d never do anything.

    To that end, I find it enormously condescending to decide for others that they can’t handle this or that, and therefore we shouldn’t do this or that. I mean, I’m not going to walk up to someone who’s had a miscarriage and start discussing the joys of parenting, but it seems that over time, most people find ways to manage their grief to some extent or other, and, eventually, the intracacies of discussions on parenthood (in this example). Or baby pictures (or not having access to them). Or what have you.

    A few years ago, at a holiday party, we had the exact same guess-the-baby-photo game. About half the party goers participated, and no one mused, aloud anyway, why 100% didn’t participate. People have their reasons for not engaging. Let’s honor that, *emphasize* and *normalize* OPTIONALITY, and, from there, trust that people can and will manage their situations as they see fit.

    1. city deer*

      Agreed. I think it particularly lands as condescending when an attempt to highlight a hypothetical person’s story turns into perpetuation of a stereotype or more general blanket assumption about the group they are being imagined to represent.

      Like, as a trans person, yes there are plenty of trans people who wouldn’t have baby photos they’re comfortable sharing for gender-y reasons, but that’s also not a universal norm or default that should be assumed…? When I graduated, my university invited graduates to submit a baby/childhood photo to be displayed at the reception along with our degree info. I actually have quite a few baby photos in which my appearance was ambiguous or otherwise aligned with my adult gender presentation, so I submitted one of those. Among the other trans people in my cohort, some took a similar approach to mine, while some were perfectly content to share baby photos where their presentation was different.

      So it doesn’t sit right to make it into “this baby photo game is problematic because there could be a trans person who doesn’t have correctly gendered baby photos and gets upset!” — that honestly almost feels like embracing a caricature. Sure, that could happen…or there could be a trans person who wants to share their baby photos, or there could be a trans person who doesn’t want to share their own photos but thinks the game sounds fun… As ever, it would be nice if the approach to “inclusivity” was to treat trans/gnc people (indeed all people) as distinct individuals who have our own specific circumstances, and not like interchangeable specimens of some fragile endangered plant.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not just about trans people — it’s about a whole variety of life experiences that make it problematic to assume everyone had the same sort of childhood or has the same willingness to revisit it at work. None of my foster kids would have had photos for this kind of thing, and it would have been a painful reminder and a painful othering, even if they could opt out.

        It’s not that hard to come up with activities that don’t rest on assumptions about people’s personal lives.

  42. Just a Minion*

    #2, traveling to another state for treatment.
    I don’t remember the details but my last employer created a new policy to help people who needed to travel to another state for medical treatment which is not available in their resident state. This was obviously intended for abortion and transgender medical care but would also cover cancer or other treatments.

    I believe it included time off for travel/treatment and reimbursement for the expenses. This was a very large multinational, US based company.

    1. Nicki Name*

      Yes, I was coming to the comments to point this out! The policies typically apply to any medical treatment you have to travel more than X miles to obtain, and they’re written so that it doesn’t matter if the treatment is illegal where you live, specifically because they were written to deal with state-level medical restrictions.

  43. Petty_Boop*

    LW4: Many companies I’ve worked for will do a “market adjustment” to a salary if it is determined that an employee is being paid below what the industry standard is paying for that job title/experience. If you are one of the lower paid folks, or if people working for you, are, I’d definitely explore that. Get your monetary ducks in a row, and say, “hey we’re paying Joe and Sally far less than the market demands; we’re at risk of losing them if we don’t bring them up to par with their peers,” or something.

    1. Just a Minion*

      I left a place this spring where we had been asking for this adjustment for 2+ years and the very large multinational company just…didn’t

    2. Generic Name*

      I’m on the board of a nonprofit that does just this. We acknowledge that nonprofit salaries are lower, so we at least want people to be paid fairly within the sector.

  44. BatManDan*

    LW#1 – baby showers are only for first babies, when a family might not have all the things they need for an infant in the home. Anything other than that (or any “shower” thrown by relatives, and not a friend) is considered a gift grab. Not my opinion; just stating the rules of etiquette.

    1. Ticotac*

      I don’t know if it matters, considering that LW#1 wasn’t the one who organized the baby shower?

    2. SB*

      I arranged baby showers for both my sisters when they each had their second baby with specific instructions to guests that the purpose was to have a nice gathering ahead of the birth of bub #2 because after that she would be too busy for socialising for a while. I stated in the invite that while gifts are not expected, if guests do want to give a gift, something nice for Mum would be appreciated as they have everything they need for bub.

      They both made out like bandits with lovely things like stretch mark oils, candles, soft PJs, vouchers for a massage/uber eats/hair treatment, etc. It was a nice reminder that the baby is not the only important thing in the process I think.

  45. Jamjari*

    OP4, the underpaid employees should definitely band together and pursue the issue more with HR and management. However, if my company’s response was “oops, sorry, maybe we’ll fix it in future”, I’d start job searching immediately. The economy might not be booming but there are still jobs out there.

    1. Generic Name*

      The engineering/construction (and related support sectors) are booming. The money from the Infrastructure Act is just now hitting actual projects, and those companies are desperate for staff.

  46. work parties*

    I mean this in a light-hearted, not a critical way, but am I the only person who has gone my whole career without attending or organizing a baby shower, engagement party, or birthday party at work? I’ve definitely chipped in for group gifts, signed cards, or independently expressed congratulations and best wishes, and I’ve been invited to life-milestone type things for co-workers outside of work hours, but it’s just never been the culture where I’ve worked to organize events like these during the workday. I find the ettiqette debate here fascinating and have so many questions about workplaces where this is the norm.

    1. Nancy*

      I have never either, except one job which did have birthday parties for a few years because the admin liked organizing them. They stopped once she left.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      I’ve attended one baby shower in my career. Of note: I was in the military so the people who usually recieve showers (women) were about a quarter of the workforce although there were also civilians. It was a bit odd, but not really a bother. It for a junior enlisted person in a headquarters full of officers and senior officers. So gifts were flowing from the higher paid people to one of the lowest paid people. So that’s appropriate. I do think it was organized by the female civilians. There were not a ton of female military; I was one but I’m not a woman who has attended more than 2 baby showers in my life so it would never occur to me to organize one.

      Never seen an engagement party/wedding shower at work.

      But I’ve attended a number of birthday celebrations that were cake in the break room for everyone who had a birthday that month. It was standard for some offices. It wasn’t much of a party, but there was cake! No presents, but a birthday card that had been circulated for everyone else to sign.

      ** another note: I have been on virtual teams for 10 years now (no longer military) and WFH full time for about 5. No parties or celebrations since then.

      I think it’s very much office culture; although, one enthusiastic celebrator especially in a leadership position can have influence. And it may be a bit sexist, but I think industries and companies with higher number of women have more of these. If you think about it, baby showers and the wedding showers were traditionally for the woman/bride/mother-to-be and were often women only parties.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Never had a job where they did parties for that sort of thing.
      Sometimes cards, sometimes treats, sometimes a collection for a gift, but never a party.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      We do parties at work, but they generally mean decorating the staffroom with a banner and maybe balloons and buying a cake and possibly some sweets and chocolates. Depending on the person, we may cheer them when they come in (depends whether or not we think the person would like to be the centre of attention).

      My 40th celebration consisted of getting a cake, a card and money collected from colleagues.

    5. CheeryO*

      Count yourself lucky! We generally don’t do them, but a few especially well-liked women have had traditional female-only work showers thrown by pals over the years. The gendered aspect combined with the obvious popularity contest nature of it is so icky and annoying to navigate at work.

    6. Donkey Hotey*

      I’ve been to exactly one, myself.
      I was working for a bedding company (those people with the “do not remove under penalty of law” tags.)
      One of the things to do was decorate little onesies… so I made a law tag.
      Contents: 100% cuteness
      and because the parents were both recent immigrants, “Made in the USA of imported materials.”

      1. JustaTech*

        OMG that is the cutest thing ever!
        Hilarious, adorable, work-related and appropriate!

        Donkey Hotey, you’ve won the internet!

  47. Nynaeve*

    Mabe this is a question more for a Friday thread or to send in to Alison for a Thursday “Ask the Readers” column, but I’ll ask here because it’s relevant to one of today’s questions.

    Does anyone actually work anywhere where they police that you were actually ill when you use sick time? Everywhere I have ever worked, from retail to government contractors to higher ed, the difference between sick and vacation time has always just boiled down to whether or not you could use it same day. I.e., vacation time had to be scheduled in advance, at least 24 hours, in order for it to not count against you in terms of any attendance policy. Sick time is for when you need to call out for that day in the morning, or leave mid-day unexpectedly and have it be paid and not count against you. Whether you were calling out because you were sick, a child was sick, car broke down or needed to leave because you needed to go pick a child up unexpectedly in the middle of the day never has mattered. I have worked places that required a doctor’s note if you needed to use sick time for more than 3 days in a row, but if I was that sick, I would just put in vacation for the days after the first to avoid needing the note and no one ever questioned it.

    Is that normal? Have I just always worked for logical organizations? It seems like the system that makes the most sense to me. Maybe we need to petition to change the terminology from Sick and Vacation time, to Emergency and Planned time off.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I’m in Ireland, so probably a very different culture to you, but yes, we are sort of “policed.” Of course, teaching is a bit different anyway, since vacation time is basically set at the times the schools are off.

      But we have numerous different types of leave, including two types of sick leave, uncertified and certified. Uncertified is quite limited, 7 days across two years and that isn’t checked. You probably could use that for things like your child being sick, but there are other leaves available for stuff like that, such as family illness leave, which gives you five days in one year. Certified leave requires some form of evidence and we have a maximum of 6 months across…I think four years. Again rolling.

      If you are interested, this is a list of the leaves available to us: https://www.asti.ie/your-employment/terms-and-conditions/tags/leave/

    2. Generic Name*

      Of the places I’ve worker, you either got separate sick and vacation buckets, and when you called off sick, you just said “I’m sick today”, or it’s one single pot of paid time off, and you don’t have to explain why you’re off, and I guess you don’t even technically have to be ill to take an unplanned day off.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      Not normal for me where Sick Leave is clearly defined as illness, injury, or medical/dental appointment for the employee or family member. So you do schedule sick leave in advance for appointments and scheduled procedures, but also use it when you wake up sick.

      If your car broke down or need to be home for emergency repair that would be PTO even if it was last minute. Often it would be “I need to take PTO and I’ll input it as soon as I am back in the office.”

      But my jobs never needed coverage quite like you describe.

    4. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      When I was a teacher, I had to have a doctor’s note. Except for one time when I tried to come in to work when I looked *awful* and the principal actually sent me home. But a lot of teachers don’t get PTO anyway, so there’s no choosing between vacation/sick leave. You just get sick leave. (If you’re *lucky*, you get a couple of days of PTO, and those have to be planned in advance and can’t be used on the day before/after a scheduled school break; I had that in one district but not in another.)

      Everywhere else, there’s been zero policing of any of it. You use sick leave for anything medical regardless of timing, and PTO for vacations/random days off/etc.

    5. SB*

      Our company policy states that if you are taking more than one consecutive day of SL or are taking SL the day before or after a public holiday weekend you are required to submit a medical certificate or you will be paid LWOP. The policy also states that a medical certificate can be requested for any SL if the manager deems it appropriate.

      SL in my state is a separate entitlement that does not roll over year to year like annual leave does so people will get tot he end of the year & try to take their SL so they don’t lose it. Every November & December you will have certain people call in sick every Tuesday & Thursday thinking they can circumvent the policy by not taking consecutive leave & get caught by the second part of the policy. It happens every year with a new lot of people.

    6. Humble Schoolmarm*

      More or less the same as the other teachers, we don’t get vacation (generally speaking we don’t work when the kids aren’t in school, but we aren’t paid for that time either). In my district, sick leave is generous-ish (20 days a year) and there are a very small list of other things you can take paid time off for (bereavement, graduation of a close family member, family medical appointment etc.). Technically speaking, you can get unpaid leave for a special event, but they don’t approve it very often with the substitute teacher shortage. In practice, most principals take a don’t ask don’t tell approach as long as you don’t do it too often, but there have been a non-zero number of teachers who put their “sick day” activities on social media and they did indeed get in big trouble for it.

  48. umami*

    OK, I can see how OP1 assumed the shower would involve gifts, but when it didn’t, that’s that? Your coworkers wanted to acknowledge your pregnancy, and they did, so it’s not really worth undermining their good intentions by making this A THING that needs addressing/correcting moving forward.

  49. A Simple Narwhal*

    Re: #5 A friend of mine had a new job offer and was actually just about to give notice when he got laid off. It worked out fantastic for him because he was given severance and already had a new job, so it was some nice extra cash. I would never in a million years have advised him to refuse the severance just because he already had a new job.

  50. MicroManagered*

    OP1 I mean this gently, but… If you had your second baby last fall, I do think you are being a liiiiiiiittttttle petty if you are still bothered by this enough to write to AAM almost a year later.

    Your coworkers tried to do *something* to celebrate and congratulate you on your baby, but they don’t owe you gifts! I’m certainly no expert on it, but I always thought the gift “shower” part of the custom is typically only for the first baby anyway.

    I agree that whoever is organizing any kind of social celebration (birthday, baby, wedding, whatever) should ask the person being celebrated if they WANT that first, but they have no obligation to buy gifts.

    1. Dahlia*

      It’s probably the first time they’ve had time to think about it since their kid was born.

    2. NancyDrew*

      Eh, I emphatically did not want baby gifts
      at the baby celebration that we had at work for my one and only pregnancy but I am still holding onto that my coworkers did nothing for my wedding 3 years ago, when I am asked to contribute to gifts certificates for weddings, births, deaths, retirements, graduations, etc almost weekly. I am also spiteful so I would never, ever bring it up.

  51. Ticotac*

    I’m noticing a general trend re: comments about LW#1, and I just wanted to say that it’s completely irrelevant that baby showers for children other than the first one usually don’t involve gifts. The people organizing the baby shower didn’t leave out the gifts because it was a second child, they left out the gifts because they didn’t give out gifts. We know that because the other person being celebrated at the surprise baby shower did not get gifts either.

    It’s fair that the coworkers decided not to get gifts, it’s a work party. However, it’s also fair that the person who was given a surprise baby shower was baffled by the fact that the baby shower (a party usually known for gifts) involved no gifts. That doesn’t necessarily mean that LW#1 wanted gifts! Maybe, had she been asked for her registry, she would have said “no, thank you, it’s my second child”! LW#1 brought it up because SHE would have asked for a registry, which is the polite thing to do and only unnecessary in a work-related scenario.

    Like, yeah, LW#1 was mistaken, but I just can’t call somebody “entitled” for being surprised that the party they didn’t ask for and they were surprised by didn’t conform to society’s expectations of what such a party entails.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I generally agree with this, but the supposition that the “younger” women don’t knowing the proper etiquette for gift-giving and the closer that LW1 needs to be more involved in future “showers” to ensure they’re done right are I think what are leading to the less charitable interpretations.

      This should have been pitched as a celebration v. shower, and LW1 100% should have been consulted prior to the event. But those are easy fixes, not something where the older, more experienced person need to show the kids how to do things “right”, which is the tonal issue with the question.

      1. Samwise*

        Yes, exactly.

        I’m OLD, like, my younger siblings are grandparents old, and I found this aspect of the letter kind of snarky.

  52. Donut*

    Over the years just my issues from baby showers have included gift receipt problems for a manager, women always having to host, getting enough food at a place where uninvited people felt entitled to eat (at an office with hundreds of people), and upsetting trivia questions. Considering possible mixed expectations like OP #1 experienced, I am not sure work baby showers are worth it. It’s already a highly complicated social event, so don’t mix it with work.

  53. call me wheels*

    For the baby shower letter – is the primarily remote company all employees in the same country? I don’t know if maybe I’m just too young to have encountered any yet but I had barely heard of baby showers being a thing before reading this site, I’d always assumed it was just a US thing, and this was the first I’d heard that the purpose was to give gifts, I thought it was just a little party to celebrate. So your coworkers might have known there was a party element but not the gift thing possibly.

    1. Jane Prentiss*

      Sorry about that. To clarify for anyone who saw it before removal, this comment was actually just an elaborate “hey, excellent choice of placeholder names”, and any details were fictional.

  54. Allison (not Green)*

    To the question in #2: You may have heard of Spravato, which is an FDA-approved ketamine treatment, also for treatment-resistant depression. I have done this treatment twice, and it takes many hours! I have used sick leave both times and my boss was completely fine with it. I think you are completely within your rights to use sick leave for your treatment, even if it is experimental. These are similar situations, in my opinion.

    1. Observer*

      which is an FDA-approved ketamine treatment, also for treatment-resistant depression.

      ~~~ SNIP~~~

      These are similar situations,

      Totally. Especially since ketamine has a lot of the same baggage as psilocybin. Which is not surprising – a lot of the mechanisms seems to be very similar.

  55. CubeFarmer*

    I don’t know. I’m of the mindset that no one owes you a gift in any context. LW #2 seems a little petty to me–let it go!

  56. Samwise*

    So, there was a party (celberation?) for OP who is having a baby, there were a few games (not getting into whether the games were well-considered) that people seemed to enjoy, and everyone seemed to be pretty happy.

    And no one had to buy a gift or in any way fork over money for the celebration.

    I agree that the coworkers should have asked if OP wanted a party, that’s basic. But otherwise I’m not seeing the problem here. Or is OP feeling a little salty about not getting presents? Legit, OP may have expected them because the coworkers called it a “shower” — but once it was clear that gifts were not in the offing, could just…enjoy the pleasant hour or so with coworkers?

    Definitely OP shouldn’t say anything to the coworkers about what’s a proper baby shower, that is just going to come off as, howcome I didn’t get any presents (even if that’s not OP’s intention, for sure that is how it will sound)

  57. christy7h*

    #1 Baby shower – It is really odd they didn’t check with you first about scheduling it at all, or let you know what to expect. Usually where I am (southern US) 2nd babies get diaper showers, or something smaller.

    Recently had my 1st baby. Work baby showers are all around weird and rife with awkwardness. Nice gesture.

    My husband’s work shower #1: He had given notice, and tried to get it canceled since he was changing companies. Somehow they wanted to do it. The games included the toilet paper one where they guess how much would go around my belly. So it involved STRANGERS touching me. The food – all things pregnant people can’t eat. The gifts, things babies don’t use anymore, like a pillow for the crib (suffocation risk).

    My work shower: Felt like a kissing of the ring. I was clearly about to be promoted, to be everyone’s boss. I was uncomfortable with the shower from the start, somehow couldn’t make it stop. The gifts were incredible, so generous. I was both so flattered and thankful, and so very deeply uncomfortable with the gifting up. My husband describes this shower as the scene from the Godfather at the wedding where everyone gives money.

  58. Melody Powers*

    I had no idea people took the term “shower” so seriously (even though I’m familiar with the “showering with gifts” etymology). I would think any party celebrating a baby coming would fall under the “baby shower” label since there aren’t other more nitpicky terms to choose from, but apparently I’m in the minority.

    1. Stork*

      It is called a stork party in some countries, i.e. not baby ‘showering’ of gifts. Attendees can give a gift if they would like to.

  59. Loyalty is a scam.*

    LW4 – companies always have more money to hire than they do to pay existing staff what they are worth, which is why I change jobs every 3-4 years. Each time I change jobs I end up a minimum of $20k better off which most companies would never consider as an increase for an existing employee every three years. Why show loyalty to a company who would replace you without a second thought if it benefitted them?

  60. Jane*

    LW2 – You may want to check your employee handbook about sick days. For my company, we cannot schedule sick days. They are only for days where you are unexpectedly sick. For scheduled medical appointments, we have personal days. So just make sure to check before you request days off.

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