my boss is upset I went over her head, I overheard damaging gossip, and more

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

1. I went over my (bad) manager’s head and she’s upset

I work in a very specialized field of medical research, on a very small team. Shortly after I was hired, upper management filled the vacant role of my team’s manager with someone who has no direct experience in this type of research (though she does have a background in a scientific discipline related to what we do). It’s been a nightmare. Aside from having to train my own manager in a complex field, she is also a weak leader, and a lot of things go right over her head. One of her major oversights was not arranging for coverage while she and all the other members of our team were traveling internationally for 2-3 weeks (all PTO that she approved); this meant that I was the sole person providing coverage for nearly two weeks. As a result, I am nearing burnout from overwork.

When a change in upper management resulted in more support for our team, I started to talk to my grandboss about the issues that I feel stem from my manager’s lack of management skills and absence of relevant background. I guess the grandboss had a meeting with my manager to discuss a number of unacceptable issues that had occurred, including the lack of a coverage plan for absences. After this, my manager called a 1:1 meeting with me. She told me, in pretty specific detail, about her meeting with management. She was visibly upset and asked if I had anything I needed to talk to her about. Even though I have already brought up some of my concerns with her in the past, I (delicately) went through them again, and she was incredibly defensive. She kept saying that the criticism she got was just a matter of opinion, and it was unfair to receive discipline for it. She said there were no bad outcomes as a result of the issues they discussed, so she didn’t understand why they were problems. I had to explain that her lack of a holiday coverage plan meant I had to work every day for 17 days straight, and it made me miss out on time with my family; I consider that a bad outcome. The meeting ended with her in tears. It was incredibly uncomfortable.

I like her as a person, and I feel bad for going above her head, especially now that I’ve seen how upset she was … but she really just sucks as a boss. I was already resentful of the extra work her ineptitude has created for me, but now I feel super awkward at work too.
How do I move forward with this? I have a suspicion that she was put on a PIP, which would make anyone upset. I want to support my team and the research we do, but this is too much for me to take.

It sounds like you were absolutely right to go over her head since when you did, her boss agreed these were serious issues that needed to be addressed. Your boss’s meeting with you afterwards was further evidence of lack of management skills; she shouldn’t have put any of that on you — and I suspect her boss would not be happy if they knew she did that.

In any case, her feelings about her boss’s feedback on her work are hers to manage; don’t let her make them yours. If you have decent rapport with your grandboss, I’d seriously consider filling them in on what happened, and definitely keep them in the loop on any additional problems that occur. It sounds like they’re on it, and that’s a good thing.

2. Senior colleague disparaged self-defense training for women

Yesterday I was at a legal department meeting and mentioned I was taking advantage of some of the great training courses my company has offered lately – an AI boot camp, a CPR class, and a self-defense training course.

I’m a paralegal, and a senior attorney asked why I’d want to take self-defense training. At first, I thought he was kidding and I said, “Take a look at me, I’m tiny and getting old.” (I’m female, almost 60, and weigh about 110 pounds). He persisted though, and I realized he was serious. He started into this rant about how people are “so afraid of everything these days and for no good reason.” I was incredulous that he would have to ask why a woman might be interested in learning to defend herself and said, “Attorney, if you have to ask me that question, I don’t think I can have this conversation with you.” He kept pushing so I said, “I’m a woman, Attorney.” He responded that it has nothing to do with being a man or a woman. I said, “Of course it does” and repeated that I couldn’t have that conversation with him.

Then he says, “Seriously, who do you know that’s ever been attacked?” I just turned and walked away from him. I wasn’t going to tell him in front of all those people that I have been attacked and I personally know several women who could have used self-defense training in real life (who doesn’t??), not just to ward off an actual attacker, but to learn to avoid danger and to gain confidence that you can take with you going forward. I was so angry I was shaking!

After that, he ignored me. He wouldn’t make eye contact or anything even though he was sitting near me. He’s acting like I disrespected him or something by walking away from him. I’ve known this attorney for eight years. He’s very adversarial and loves a good argument, but we previously had a pretty good relationship so this saddens me — but I’m also super pissed. I don’t know if I should try to get through to him to salvage the relationship, or wait for him to apologize to me (because really that’s what I think should happen). The hierarchy also plays into it, as he is very senior to me and it would serve me to stay in his good graces. I’m not sure where to go from here.

Can you just leave it alone and see if it resolves on its own? It’s possible that the reason he wouldn’t make eye contact with you afterwards is because he realized he’d F’d up. Simply proceeding as if everything is fine may let you both move forward, especially if you look for an opportunity to have a normal work-related interaction soon, where you can demonstrate that you are behaving normally, which may make him more inclined to as well.

To be clear, he should apologize to you. With the hierarchy and politics of a law firm, he may not.

3. I overheard coworkers spreading damaging gossip

I work in a community hub-type location. It’s a place where many service providers spend time in order to reach vulnerable people, which means that I have regular but brief contact each week with employees from many different community locations. Everyone generally plays well together in the sandbox, and we pride ourselves on collectively problem-solving on behalf of participants. There is no hierarchy and no one is in charge.

Here’s the problem. I recently overheard two service providers (Jane and Barb) talking smack about another service provider (Ann) to each other and to someone else in the community on speakerphone. What they were saying was petty, untrue, and could be damaging to Ann’s professional reputation. (Think: taking something vulnerable that Ann shared during a moment of extreme emotional overwhelm and making it a defining point of her character.) I despise drama and tend to stay out of anything that could turn into a brushfire, but I am wondering if I have some sort of moral responsibility to warn Ann that these two might not be trustworthy and it might be a good idea to keep some walls up when interacting with them moving forward. Also, I am on the fence about whether or not I need to bring this up to Jane and Barb as well.

I have a very good relationship with all three, but now I am questioning whether or not I misperceive my relationship with Jane and Barb. Ann will be blindsided by this, so there is a good chance that I have also been, um, discussed. I love our working environment and I don’t want to cause problems by stirring anything up, but ignoring it feels icky too. Thoughts?

I’d be most inclined to say something to Jane and Barb directly, pointing out that what they said was untrue and harmful to Ann’s reputation (just as you’d presumably hope someone would do if they overheard something similar being said about you).

Talking to Ann herself is more of a judgment call, and it has the risk of creating more drama … which doesn’t necessarily make it the wrong choice, but you’d want to factor it in. If this seems like a one-time thing, I might just call it out with Jane and Barb directly … but if you see repeated evidence of them using things Ann trusts them with to trash-talk her, then you do have more of a responsibility to discreetly clue her in.

4. How much notice to give when you’re the only employee

How much notice should you give if you’re leaving as the only employee in a small department or business? And does it change if the business has a hiring process long enough that there’s very little chance of being able to directly train a replacement?

Two weeks. The purpose of a notice period isn’t to give your employer time to hire and train a replacement; very few professional jobs would be able to do that in only two weeks! It’s to give you time to transition your work to whoever will be covering in the interim and answer questions about key projects.

Obviously many employers would like more notice, but two weeks is standard even in this situation. (And that’s a good thing because otherwise it would make job-hunting much more difficult; lots of jobs won’t wait months for you to be able to start.) That said, the manager of anyone in a position like this should be making sure the work is always documented and the employee isn’t the sole repository of crucial knowledge — since job changes aside, anyone could be hit by a bus tomorrow and no notice is ever guaranteed.

5. Announcing a pregnancy when you’re remote

I read your advice about announcing a pregnancy at work, but I’m having trouble applying some of it to my situation because I work 100% remotely. Telling my boss was straightforward since we have regular 1:1s, and I told HR after that. But now I’m not sure how to tell my coworkers.

My work is very project-driven and involves close collaboration with another team. I do not have regular meetings with this team where I could share the news, and sending them a random Teams message seems rather unnatural and attention-seeking. If I worked in an office, I would tell each team member in person (e.g., at lunch or when we’re arriving to or leaving work). Is an email appropriate or is that too attention-seeking? Should I ask each team member for a quick Teams call? In case it isn’t clear, I do not manage this team, some of them are peers and others are diagonal to me in the hierarchy.

An email isn’t attention-seeking, and it’s easier and faster than setting up separate calls with everyone. An email is a very normal way to do it (and you could even do one group email to everyone you want to tell).

{ 398 comments… read them below }

  1. JSPA*

    #1: you gave your boss the gift of a chance to course-correct. She may still take it (mutual benefit) or she may continue to squander it (not your fault). At minimum you’ve shared large amounts of knowledge with her, in ways that will render her ongoingly employable.

    There’s no way to manage her emotions for her, or make her respond productively if she doesn’t have the ability to take constructive criticism. Which means, yes, things may feel worse before they get better. But as a grievously bad as her management seems to have been, even purely on the numbers (17 days with no day off sounds…probably illegal???) you have done her a huge favor. Even if she isn’t treating it that way.

    1. honeygrim*

      Exactly. She has the responsibility to manage not only the team, but herself and her emotions. And I just find it amusing that she said that her boss’s feedback was a matter of opinion. It’s not an opinion that you worked every day for 17 days straight because she didn’t manage time off requests correctly. Even if everything else was subjective, that is objectively Bad Management.

      LW#1, I’ve dealt with supervisors who weren’t able (or willing) to manage their own emotions. Lack of emotional intelligence in a supervisor is a tough situation to endure for the supervisee. I agree that you should loop the grandboss in on her reaction. Aside from giving them info about how she is reacting to feedback, you are also making sure they’re aware of the situation in case she tries to retaliate against you for talking to the grandboss.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I think I disagreed with the advice to go back to the grandboss and continue to bring up the manager’s shortcomings, personally. This is a bit of a nuclear option where you’re counting on having the grandboss fire your manager, in my opinion, since your boss has shown that she won’t handle receiving his corrections graciously and will absolutely make it your problem. If you’re sure you can pull it off, then sure, but I’ve had sooo many situations where senior leadership was absolutely aware of a manager’s failings and just refused to fire them ever. How is OP going to keep their job and their sanity under this manager if you plan to just keep going over her head on everything?

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          It depends on OP’s relationship with Grandboss. If OP has regular discussions with Grandboss, I don’t think it would be out of line for OP to mention what happened with Boss, but I agree that just meeting with Grandboss to tell them what happened would be a bit of an overreach. However, if Boss keeps making bad management decisions that affect OP’s job or personal life (like another 17 days of nonstop work, for instance), that would be worth going to Grandboss about. But OP needs to gauge Grandboss’s reactions first; if it seems like GB finds these discussions annoying, then OP probably should stop having them. It might even be worth asking GB first how they feel about OP bringing these matters to light, but only if GB seems like a reasonable person (which by what OP has written seems like GB probably is pretty reasonable).

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Grandboss has already been receptive to OP and has already taken some kind of action with the manager (who characterised it as “discipline”, but could also be a PIP as OP suspects) so I think this is unfounded, though I do agree that if meeting with grandboss OP should bring up patterns rather than a constant stream of the manager’s issues. I take it grandboss didn’t recruit this manager. This means they have “inherited” her, which is probably even worse as a senior manager than when you inherit a bad individual contributor.

        3. Greta*

          Seems like the conversation with grand boss should happen, but moreso to give GB heads up of the possibility of retaliation. But leave it at that unless something else happens.

        4. Snow Globe*

          If I was the Grandboss, I’d want to know that the manager responded to feedback by going back to the employee and dumping all of her emotions there. That is really not appropriate, but if the Grandboss is aware of that, they could also try to make sure to gather information about the manager’s performance themselves and keep the LW out of any future discussions with the manager.

          1. Oh yeah, Me again*

            I think, I she does go back to the grand boss again, OP rises coming across as a tattletale, instead of a mature worker with legitimate concerns. Unless it happens again, I’d leave the situation for the grand boss. (It’s unlikely OP and boss will both remain in their respective positions for long. Somethings gotta give, whether it’s one of them leaving, or a change in OP’s reporting line.)

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Tattling really isn’t a thing in workplaces, though. OP went to Grandboss with work-related concerns, Grandboss acted on them, and Grandboss probably would want to be looped in on the fact that OP is experiencing additional work-related concerns based on that. Grandboss can’t manage issues they don’t know about.

              I’d keep it brief, factual and unemotional: after our last talk, Manager met with me, complained about being disciplined for things that were just opinions, and cried. I’m concerned about our future work relationship.

        5. Purpleshark*

          Honestly, I am of the mindset that grandboss should have never mentioned that it was OP who gave this information. It should have remained confidential. I had this happen to me and it is incredibly awkward and puts the employee in a very difficult position to navigate with this manager.

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            Grandboss might not have mentioned OP. Doesn’t mean that Boss couldn’t figure out who brought the complaints to Grandboss.

            1. Random Dice*

              “I heard you made someone work for 2.5 weeks straight with no break” is always going to point right back to one person.

        6. not nice, don't care*

          My partner is experiencing a similar situation, only the new manager is unlikable as well as a shitty boss. If staff she manages hadn’t kept going to the boss boss, actual harm would have been done – to staff, and to patrons. I mean aside from the harm already inflicted by this person.
          If the grand boss is amenable, please do continue to fill them in. OP may not be the only person who has a problem with this manager, and numbers may be what is needed for real action.
          In my partner’s case, two other (older women with health issues) targets of this managerial bully were being driven to worse health and quitting until people saw the positive results my partner got. Now the bully is on a miniscule leash and boss boss has to approve any human-related decisions.
          So yeah, YMMV, but if life hands you a lever, use it or lose it.

        7. AKchic*

          If I were grandboss, I’d want to know that after my disciplinary meeting with my employee about problems I’ve been told about and deemed worthy of a disciplinary meeting, that employee went and had a disciplinary sit-down of sorts with the person who told me in order to brush off the issues as “opinions” rather than actual issues, and then cried and tried to minimize the situation while telling the employee that they didn’t need to come to me at all in the first place.
          Obviously that employee needed to come to me, the grandboss. Obviously I needed to talk to the supervisor, the person I manage. Obviously this person is still in need of guidance, perhaps further disciplinary guidance, stricter guidelines or to be managed out of their position.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I don’t even watch those shows anymore, but all I can picture is Tamara Judge from Real Housewives screaming “that’s my OPINION!!!”

      3. beenthere*

        At minimum, OP should carefully document everything, including the interactions with the problematic boss as well as what’s going on day to day. Specificity is key, jot down the times, and use an app like Notes that provides a timestamp to create a new note for each entry. Save any passive aggressive emails in a special folder to make them easy to find if ever needed later. The responses here noting that management might not ultimately take the steps necessary to get things back on track, despite the initial reception, really resonate.

    2. WellRed*

      The fact that she, even after being pulled into a meeting with her boss, still didn’t understand the concerns only underscores that you did the right thing OP. They crying was the icing on the crappy management cake.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        This. A good manager who has made missteps would be apologizing to you for you working 17 days in a row. Instead she cited issues as “a matter of opinion” and cried as you gave her feedback. Not acceptable behavior.
        LW, it’s nice that you like her, but that can’t overcome her poor management performance. I do encourage you to go to her boss and report back. It’s not tattling (not a thing!!) to say “hey, you had a meeting with her and then she came back and dumped her emotions about it on me while saying the issues were just opinions”. Grandboss needs to know that. If she had listened, asked for time to take the feedback in, and then met with you to discuss how to fix things in the future, that’s fine. But seems like you just got denial and that’s not what grandboss is going to want to see from her.

    3. Ann Onymous*

      17 days with no day off probably isn’t illegal. With the exception of a few jobs that require a certain number of hours off after a certain number of hours worked (pilots, truck drivers, etc.), there generally aren’t legal limits on how much somebody can work as long as they’re being paid for the time they work.

      1. NotYourMom*

        That’s jurisdiction dependent, though. In most parts of Canada, that sort of scheduling would fall afoul of labour laws unless the employee agreed beforehand.

        1. Random Dice*

          Oh sorry, you meant illegal in any functional developed country, not in the US (minus California).


      2. JSPA*

        Also illegal in some US states, with various carve-outs for safety.

        I’m only actually sure about California, which is admittedly more worker friendly than many states, and NY. Google adds, “Massachusetts requires employers of manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishments to give their employees at least a full 24 hours of rest every seven days.”

        So while it’s not necessarily illegal, it very well could be.

      3. Nesprin*

        There’s a big difference between “Illegal” and “good practice to make sure your team is happy, able to work at their highest capacity, and willing to work the job long term”

      4. Lenora Rose*

        Depends heavily on jurisdiction and business. It’s certainly worth looking into what Employment Standards say. I also wonder if the time covered was counted as overtime, which the LW doesn’t indicate.

        I have seen more than one business try and quietly count overtime hours as regular pay, or lie about workers’ rights, so I’d go straight to the legal source if I had any doubts.

      5. Goody*

        Illinois has the One Day In Seven Rest Act, effective in 2023. Of course there are exempted types of employment, but it doesn’t sound like OP1 falls in any of those categories.

  2. MassMatt*

    #4 Employers asking for or even demanding unreasonable amounts of notice before someone leaves is a really frequent theme here. I always wonder whether employers wanting say, three months notice (which I’ve seen!) likewise allow such a long leeway when they hire. I’m guessing not, they want you to start ASAP.

    It’s the same with employers that refuse to give references, yet demand them when they hire. If you don’t give, you shouldn’t expect to get.

    1. RedinSC*

      THis is so true! My past boss always wanted people to start instantly and would request longer leave time.

      I pointed that out to him a couple of times. “No, don’t ask them to start in less than 1 week, you wouldn’t want someone doing that to an employee leaving here, would you?” It came up so often.

    2. Mid*

      The last two companies I’ve worked for will *not* give references, no matter what. Even though I left on good terms and have a good relationship with my past managers and coworkers. It’s a very strict company policy that no one is allowed to give references, at all. (I’m not sure how it’s enforced, but it was very strongly emphasized at both companies.) I know one manager got written up for giving a reference for a departed coworker, instead of just confirming dates of employment, per company policy.

      It’s very frustrating. I have functionally zero references in my industry, and have to use a part time job I had as a student as a reference still, even though the work doesn’t correlate strongly to my current work.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        I’ve worked for a couple of these as well.

        One of them is a bit of a blank space on my resume, although they do at least reliably provide employment verification and confirm the no-reference policy.

        At the other, I got lucky: due to high turnover, multiple supervisors who left during my time or shortly afterward are willing to vouch for me.

        It’s a stupid policy though. They require references, but they don’t give references. At the first company, I worked in the HR department. They *do* the reference checks for the entire institution!

      2. HailRobonia*

        Wow, that sounds pretty drastic. The closest I have ever seen was organizations who references were limited to “would this person be eligible to be re-hired at your organization” which I think solves a lot of problems with vagueness that can happen in recommendations, and the notion that you have to say at least one slightly negative criticism about a person in order to make your recommendation seem more legitimate.

      3. ReferencePolicy*

        Huh? They control company references, not references from individual people. Those are completely different things. A company that’s only willing to verify dates of employment is completely different from an individual person not giving a more traditional reference

        1. Leenie*

          But as an employee, it’s in our handbook that we can’t give references, and can only refer the caller to some verification hotline. My company isn’t actually too bad with overreaching policies. But that one definitely exists where I am, and I don’t think it’s unique.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I think it’s common enough that anyone working there could say “Company policy prohibits us from doing anything but verifying employment dates” and the one seeking references should understand. They can always contact HR directly to verify if they think it’s weird.

          2. Bast*

            We had this at Old Job. Fortunately, it was not enforced and turnover was high, so there was a good chance you could snag a reference from another employee/manager who had recently departed. Even if you used current employees, we also had people who would say, “Well, I am acting as a personal reference, not a professional one” and they never got any flack. Calling HR to get an official reference was a different story, as they would only confirm title and dates of hire, but most direct supervisors and coworkers were fair game, as they were also trying to get out of there (staying there beyond 1 year made you a “long time” employee so yeah… it was bad).

          3. Bruce*

            Individual references can get you in trouble in more than one way. At one of my jobs a guy left in a huff, several of us got calls claiming that we’d been named as references, and some of us were not flattering about him. It turned out the new employer was cold calling people at our company that he had not suggested, and they cancelled his offer. Then he threatened to sue us… These days I’ll give personal references, but only if the candidate has asked me in advance, and if I would not give a positive reference I’ll not agree to say anything… though it has not come up recently.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          At my Toxic!Job, managers could be disciplined for giving an individual reference for someone who had worked for them. This was particularly cruel because they hired straight out of college, so for most employees it was the only job they had on their resume. It was one of a number of policies that made it extremely difficult to ever leave the company even if you were fired.

          I wriggled out through a loophole: I had several managers who’d decided being a manager sucked and went back to being individual contributors, so technically they weren’t managers anymore.

      4. Orv*

        My employer refers all reference requests to a third party contractor called “The Work Number.” Apparently hiring managers hate this because The Work Number charges for requests. It seems like a disservice to employees but I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it.

    3. Adam*

      Here in the UK, longer notice periods are common (mine is three months), but they absolutely come with the expectation on the hiring side that new hires can’t start right away.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Yeah, Germany as well. It’s usually in your contract, so everyone understands that it’s not optional.

        Though I’ve seen notice periods of up to 6 months (yes, really!), and that length starts to be a hindrance in getting hired, since it’s twice the usual. On the other end, people are very pleasantly surprised when it’s just one month.

        We had one month in my last job, and they started to get annoyed with people leaving on such short notice (often taking the rest of their PTO in there as well). They wildly overcorrected, and people hired after me had 6 months, instead of the common 3.

        1. NorwegianTree*

          Same in Norway, we have it stipulated in the contracts. 1 month for a lot of jobs, 3 months for jobs that usually require education, and a few in leadership positions have 6 months.

        2. Tau*

          Yep, and like you say the whole work culture is set up around it – it’s really normal here to go “yay, we hired someone! they signed the contract!” and then have to wait another 3-4 months for the person to actually show up.

          And correct me if I’m wrong here, but legally I’m pretty sure the employer must match your contractual notice period on their side – i.e., if you have a notice period of three months, then you cannot be fired or laid off with less than three months notice unless in cases of absolutely gross misconduct on your side.

            1. Selina Luna*

              True enough, but in the USA, it’s also really hard for employers to enforce long notice periods. If they try to, for example, withhold pay or benefits payouts (like leave), they usually aren’t able to legally do so.

          1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

            Yeah, the employer is legally bound to a notice period of the same length as yours is. Which makes even being fired so much less frightening because it gives you time to find *something* else.

            1. bamcheeks*

              UK also doesn’t really have any kind of state unemployment insurance, though. It’s obviously considerably easier to fire someone in most of the US, but there is at least some expectation that you’ll receive unemployment after your salary stops.

              1. Lexi Vipond*

                Job Seeker’s Allowance keeps changing, but I don’t think it’s actually gone away?

                1. Aqua*

                  they’re transitioning to “universal credit” but yeah, you get unemployment benefits in the UK

                2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  I agree with you. I know everyone is supposedly moving over to UC but JSA still exists. It also isn’t paid for by employers (but from general taxation) nor contingent on the reason for your unemployment. You can get JSA for up to six months after finishing a job whether you resigned or were fired, so long as you are actively looking for new work.

                  “UK also doesn’t really have any kind of state unemployment insurance” isn’t inaccurate inasmuch as JSA is national rather than local/regional/devolved, and employers don’t pay a particular insurance to fund it.

                3. bamcheeks*

                  You can, but I’d argue that it’s not really an insurance system. The point of unemployment insurance traditionally was that it was insurance: you or your employer pays in, and if you lose your job, you’re entitled to continuing payments for an amount which is linked to your previous salary. JSA is much more firmly framed as a benefit, set at a universal (incredibly low) amount, and is generally much more punitive. A true unemployment insurance system is much more like a pension or private income protection insurance: it’s something you’ve paid for and are fully entitled to withdraw. I know this sounds kind of rhetorical, since it’s still money for people who are unemployed, but I think that kind of rhetoric and the way it’s very deliberately stigmatised are really important.

                4. Lexi Vipond*

                  National insurance contributions come into it somewhere, but possibly only for the employee.

                  I read ‘state’ as national, I didn’t realise it was state-by-state in the US!

                5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  NI contributions come into it because you have to have been employed before you were unemployed, and they define employed as making NI contributions, IIUC.

                6. BubbleTea*

                  JSA remains for people who have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last two years. You can claim it alongside Universal Credit (but you lose £1 of UC for every £1 of JSA so there’s not much point) or on its own if you’re not eligible for UC (e.g. you have too much in savings or your partner’s earnings wipe out your UC entitlement).

              2. Magdalena*

                It does not have to be “either-or”. In my (European country) 30 day+ notice periods are the norm (30 days since the end of the month you resign in) AND we have tax-funded unemployment benefits that are contingent on applying for jobs AND universal health insurance that covers all employees, all unemployed, all under 18 years old and all pregnant people. So it’s not inconceivable to have both.

                1. bamcheeks*

                  Totally agree, and I wasn’t suggesting it was! Just that I don’t think any of us in the UK should be proud when we’ve downgraded our unemployment system from an insurance based scheme to a benefit which is not far off 10% of the national median wage.

              3. Irish Teacher.*

                Yikes, just googled the amount of jobseekers in the UK and unless, I’ve misread something, that looks extremely low.

                1. anon for this*

                  It’s about half of stat maternity pay (not known for its generosity!), or 20% of national living wage. I don’t know how it works out once you’ve added in other entitlements under Universal Credit and the Irish equivalent, but if you look purely at JSA Ireland is *way* more generous.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            Yes, the employer must by law at least match it.

            My understanding is that in the US, even the two weeks is usually “voluntary”, not contractual, so since it’s not an obligation there’s logically no matching obligation for the employer either. I’d be curious to know how it’s handled for those who do have a contract that stipulates notice.

            1. doreen*

              When I was a union member, the contract included a provision for notice. Two weeks on both sides , although usually when someone was being terminated, they got two weeks pay in lieu of notice. When there were large scale temporary layoffs, people were given two or three months notice.

              1. Dancing Otter*

                Large scale terminations, whether reductions in force or plant closing/relocation, frequently fall within the scope of the WARN Act. It’s a federal law dating back to the 1980’s. As the name implies, employers have to give more notice or severance when they turf a lot of people at once.

                Avoiding the WARN Act is part of the reason we’ve seen multiple waves of sudden layoffs at a lot of companies. The employer knows there will be more, but they don’t want the expense of treating people fairly under the law, so they stay just under the level where WARN would apply.

                1. Grenelda Thurber*

                  I’ve experienced that. At the company where I work now there were two solid years where 2 weeks before the end of each quarter people just…disappeared. We’d receive vague email about respecting the privacy of those who were just laid off, and that was it. Since a lot of teams are scattered across the planet (including mine), finding out who was gone sometimes felt like skulking in the shadows trying to overhear something. It was definitely bad for my mental health. It was like there was a metaphorical sniper somewhere, and you never knew who was going to be hit next. It wasn’t until later after I heard about the WARN act that any of it made sense.

                2. Orv*

                  Or they change working conditions in a way they know a lot of employees won’t want to deal with, so they quit instead. This is probably the motivation behind a lot of current “return to office” initiatives for places that were doing work-from-home.

            2. Sloanicota*

              It’s absolutely voluntary in most jobs and two weeks is just a convention. It’s “enforced” because if you don’t give satisfactory leave, your employer will generally count that against you in a reference for future work – but it definitely happens that people don’t always give two weeks. There’s also no obligation for an employer to wait for an employee’s leave either (and sometimes people are searching because they’re between jobs so they can start ASAP) but it would be considered poor form to demand someone start sooner than 2 weeks if you know they’re employed, although it does happen, and advice has been given here on how to handle it.

              1. ferrina*

                There’s no legal enforcement, but not giving 2 weeks usually means that you’ll be marked as “not eligible for rehire”, which can hurt your chances of finding another job.

            3. LeaveImmediately*

              In general, there is no expectation of any sort of notice for layoffs and definitely not for being fired. There are some companies that give a bit of notice for layoffs but many do not. Some layoffs may come with some amount of severance pay, but that’s also not universal and usually requires signing a waiver of some sort indicating you won’t contest anything and sometimes puts other constraints on former employees (stricter non-compete, etc).

            4. Baunilha*

              Contracts are the norm where I am, and the notice period is usually a month. If the notice period offered by the employee is less than 30 days, the remaining days not worked are deducted from your final paycheck, which includes unused vacation time and other compensation, not just salary.

              From the employer side, when an employee is dismissed without cause, the employer either offers a notice (the employee is told they will be let go within 30 days), or if effective immediately, they have to pay the employee for another 30 days of work, kind of like a severance.

          3. Armchair analyst*

            Do these long notice periods affect the emotions around leaving? Are bosses and management more likely to be positive and have good feelings towards the leaving employee or does it drag it out too long and everyone is negative and ready to go when the final date arrives?

            1. Susan Calvin*

              It depends a lot – most of my bosses have been reasonable people anyways, and generally speaking, having more than 10 business days to wrap things up and hand them over is really convenient for the employer, so the biggest problem in my personal experience is that you usually run out of useful stuff to do sometime in the last week or so.

              On the other hand, I have zero doubts that there are companies and bosses that will do their level best to make your notice period miserable.

              And in case of someone being laid off, there’s usually some degree of garden leave offered, depending on the amount of bad blood involved, otherwise I imagine that WOULD be awkward.

              1. AnonForThis*

                I was once told by my manager that Toxic!Job and I were parting ways, and I needed to pick an end date sometime in the next three months. Unfortunately, thanks to Toxic!Job’s ruthless 1-year “anti-poaching” policy (a.k.a. threat to blacklist ex-employee AND new employer), I was blocked from every job in that field in that region of the US.

                I ended up working out the entire 3 months after I’d been fired, all while getting rejections that said, “Wow, your resume looks amazing, we’re definitely interested, please reapply in 1 year.”

                …There was some awkwardness.

          4. LeaveReplacements*

            How on earth do you handle leave replacements? Do you just not fill those positions?

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Just guessing here. Leaves are easier to handle when an organization has more than the bare minimum of staff to keep things going. And in an environment where the relation between employer and employee is less adversarial, there is less risk to employees of sharing information with the employer far in advance. Obviously, that only applies to planned leaves, rather than emergencies, but it’s probably still helpful.

              In my large organization (not in Europe or the US), I had a manager for a bit who told the interviewers she was pregnant before getting the offer. There are a few specific details of this situation that made it much less risky than it would have been elsewhere (internal hire, good laws around parental leave, etc.). She got hired, was there for about 5 months, and they brought in the leave replacement like 6 weeks before the manager went on leave so the transition would be relatively easy.

            2. ferrina*

              In the U.S., the general practice seems to be “discourage leave”. The parental leave is abysmal at most companies.

              At the better companies I’ve worked at, they hired short-term contractors if truly needed, but generally just expected the department to rebalance the work to cover staffing.

              1. Orv*

                That last one is my experience. I work somewhere with a really long and elaborate hiring process, such that hiring someone temporarily to cover leave isn’t usually an option. So someone going on medical or maternity leave just means someone else’s workload has to double (for no additional pay) for the duration.

            3. Emmy Noether*

              So, several options:

              You can make a fixed-term contract for a replacement just for the duration of the leave. Fixed-term usually also has shorter notice from both sides, and ends automatically when the other person comes back from leave. People who already have employment are probably not interested in taking this kind of contract (unless they want to change fields), so you’ll probably get someone unemployed, coming back from being a SAHP or caretaker, or fresh from school. This is common for longer parental leave replacements (up to 3 years).

              Second option would be a temp from an agency. Their contract is with the agency, and placements can be fixed length and/or have short notice.

              And then, yes, for leaves under 6 months and/or for hard-to-fill positions, they often just don’t get filled.

            4. Aitch Arr*

              In the USA, since FMLA only covers 12 weeks of job protected leave, most companies just don’t backfill a role during leave.

        3. Phryne*

          In the Netherlands it is mostly 1 month, but in education it is three. Probably to ensure you finish the term, as leaving in the middle is not just an inconvenience to your employer but will harm students as well. When you leave for another education job, the new job knows this and it is no problem. Other jobs might not be happy, but I doubt they will not hire someone they want because of it. Generally in these cases some deal is struck where the employee finishes the teaching/grading parts of their job that cannot be transferred easily part-time but dropping all the other tasks so the can start orienting in the new job a couple of days a week, sort of a soft-release.

      2. WS*

        I’m in rural healthcare and long notice periods (the longest I’ve seen was three years – the less replaceable you are the longer the notice periods are) are absolutely the norm here, but it’s also the norm to be very flexible about starting dates. Long overlaps are normal, even long trial periods before the previous person has left.

        1. Doc in a Box*

          I’m in healthcare, too, though non-rural. Three months is common; my current contract specifies six. Of course, it takes several months for credentialing, longer if you need a new state license, so that’s part of the justification.

        2. Sloanicota*

          I hope that also means the company would have to pay you that long period if they laid you off? Three months or (three years!) at least partial compensation in a layoff – but I suspect it does not.

          1. Magdalena*

            If you have a contract, they have to pay you throughout the contract, the notice period starts from the moment either party notifies the other they wish to end it, you work out the notice at full pay. There’s often a provision for immediate termination in case of gross misconduct or loss of license or similar.

          2. amoeba*

            In Germany, absolutely. If you get laid off, you’ll still be employed for the length of your normal notice period (at least) – often, people actually still work normally during that time! But if not, you’d generally be on gardening leave (beautiful term I’ve learned here). You can get fired without notice, but that’s for egregious misconduct type reasons and doesn’t happen often.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Ha yes I’m certain in Europe everything is amazing, I was just curious about these rural health care workers in what I took to be America with 3/6 month requirements – but if that’s Europe then nvm. Actually health care workers in the US may actually have contracts, I think, as opposed to most jobs? I recall it was nurses that were hit with that terrible non-compete that was obviously really unfair – somewhere in the Midwest I think.

              1. amoeba*

                Oh, they may well be in America! This whole thread was something of a mix of American industries with different standards and European countries, so…
                (As for amazing… well, I’d say Europe definitely shows that it’s generally possible for such a system to work, but if you’re really fed up with your job and wanting to change – or need to hire somebody quickly – those long timelines obviously have their downsides. I mean, I’d probably still take the better stability over the flexibility of shorter notice periods, but it’s not like I’m not sometimes “jealous” of people giving two weeks notice…)

                1. Tau*

                  At one point I commented on a Friday open thread basically going “so I am really ready to be done with this job because I’m pretty burned out, and I’ve found a new job and put in my notice here, buuuut my notice period is another 3.5 months. Any tips for surviving this sane?” and basically mainly got total shock reactions from the Americans, lol. It does have its downsides!

                  (That time worked out OK as I managed to get my company to agree to a contract dissolution so I could quit after 1.5 months, giving me a very comfortable 2 months of break between jobs, but it would’ve really sucked if I’d had to work all of that period.)

              2. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

                Most physician jobs in the US are contract based, which makes us quite weird compared to the rest of the US job market. I have four months notice spelled out in my contract, which would also has requirements on their end should I be laid off / terminated. Long notice periods are pretty standard for physicians, and it can take a few months for licensing and credentialing in a new system anyway, so that makes it easier when transitioning jobs.

                This also means that it is *very* common to sign contracts with start dates that are months away (I signed in April with a planned start in September, and only juuuust got credentialed in time because my license took so long!)

              3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                One thing that makes it different is that healthcare workers, particularly doctors (I think), have an ethical obligation to do everything they reasonably can to not leave people without healthcare, which generally includes giving people as much time as possible to find another provider. It can be a matter of life and death. Where I live, I’m pretty sure that the professional colleges have guidance about this. Heck, I’ve had two GPs leave the clinic I go to so they can do a different type of medicine and got months of notice, even though I was just getting transferred to another GP at the clinic.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Yup. I was super-stunned when my beloved GP left with very little notice (only about a month and a half!) to patients – but that was with a direct transfer of most of us to a colleague of hers that was accepting new patients.

                2. Zelda*

                  “healthcare workers, particularly doctors (I think), have an ethical obligation to do everything they reasonably can to not leave people without healthcare”

                  Further to which, non-competes for healthcare workers are even worse than for other fields. Not only unfair to the worker, but potentially seriously damaging to society at large. If they’re not already illegal, they certainly should be.

                3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                  @Zelda. Dang, that’s rough. Where I live, non-competes are less common and seem to often be unenforceable. Because you’re absolutely right. They’re awful for most jobs, but extra awful for healthcare workers. Looks like the AMA is trying to push back.

      3. Agent Diane*

        I was going to say this. Three months is the norm at senior levels or one month at junior levels in office jobs unless you are a contractor or interim. It may differ in other fields like retail and leisure where I suspect the old one week notice I had as a teenager still applies.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m kind of mission critical to my firm and my contract stipulates three months’ notice – but this is the UK where one month is standard for office jobs and senior roles can be six to twelve months.

      That said, during the plague we looked very closely at our bus numbers and altered/documented procedures so that nothing would actually fall over if someone were suddenly taken ill.

      1. ChurchOfDietCoke*

        My notice is three months; my manager’s is six months, and a senior director announced at the start of this month that he’s decided to retire on his 60th birthday, which is December, so it’s really ordinary here (UK) to have loooooong notice periods – but the key is that it’s contractual.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        My notice period is 3 months here but was a bit longer when I was in a more senior role in HQ. It worked out ok for me when they made me redundant back in 2011 because they also had to give me all those months of notice.

        I’m currently documenting my role as much as I can for the next person to take my job (I’m resigning) and you’re right it’s a good idea to also patch any gaps of ‘what will happen if someone isn’t here suddenly’.

        I do hope one of my staff applies for my job – I can understand if she doesn’t want to since it’s more stress – she’s more than capable.

    5. SwissE*

      I’m in Switzerland where 3 months notice is the law. It scales up from one week during your 3 months trial period to one month notice, then two and then three. If the employee gives notice, they often will work their notice. If the employer lays you off, you will often be allowed to stay home but are still getting paid.
      I’m completely baffled by the US labor culture.

      1. ChurchOfDietCoke*

        Or indeed an employee gives notice and is then put on paid ‘gardening leave’ until their end date – this happened to a whole bunch of colleagues in my old job because the company considered they had too much risk of taking ‘trade secrets’ with them to their new job (which was of course ludicruous).

        1. Laura Charles*

          Lengthy garden leave is especially common in US finance, but these are also the sorts of companies who require everyone to take a week+ off without any sort of logging in to prevent embezzlement / other crimes. In US academia, for traditional faculty it’s usually by the semester, although library faculty, for example, tend to run on a different system where it’s closer to 2 weeks’ notice (esp. as they typically have 12-month contracts rather than 9-month like trad faculty).

          nb: it’s “garden leave,” not gardening. (just a bit of help with a weird idiom)

    6. Yellow sports car*

      My contract is 6 months notice. That’s the norm in my industry – and yes we do wait.

      It often works out shorter as the time is tied more to seasons of work. People do leave with less notice, but that’s usually because they are leaving the industry and need to work to new industry timeline, were in a short contact where everyone gets the timeline is silly (short contacts don’t wait for staff for as long either), or the opportunity is amazing and rushed for some reason.

      We get people giving 2 years notice for retirement!

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I recall someone giving super long notice, and their company didn’t believe them. Silly OP, thinking we’d believe they’d ever go anywhere else!

      Shocked, shocked when the employee’s last day arrived and they left.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      There is no hint in letter #4 that the employer is demanding a longer notice. The question seems to come from the LW wanting to do right by their employer and mistakenly thinking that their employer is supposed to hire their replacement and the employee is supposed to train them before their last day. That is ridiculous of course, but there are surprisingly number of questions that seem to have this assumption built in.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes and I think we read more letters from people worried they aren’t giving enough time to train a new employee than managers demanding longer notice. Some do, but they can’t require it in most cases (European derail aside).

    9. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      Moving from a place where 2 weeks notice is the norm (though I’ve had contracts that ask for 4), to the UK where 3 months’ notice is the norm, is a huge adjustment mentally. But it seems at least most companies who hire professional office workers do factor in the 3 month timeline before a new hire will be available. I still find it strange on both sides though, having to work 3 months as a “lame duck” and having to wait months for the new hire to start.

    10. Zee*

      Pretty much every job I’ve had has wanted me to start instantly- not even giving a full week’s notice – and seemed kind of pissed when I pushed back (sometimes so much that I worried they were going to pull the offer!). They have also all wanted 4 weeks’ notice when I leave. The lack of self-awareness is astounding.

      1. Filosofickle*

        This is up there with thinking it’s out of bounds for their employees to interview during work hours but not wanting to do after hours interviewing when they’re hiring. Ok for me but not for thee!

    11. pandop*

      This is what I like about the prevalence of contracts in UK employment – notice periods are explicitly stated right at the start of the job, so everyone has a clear understanding of where they stand.

  3. Mid*

    Because my company has so many remote and hybrid employees, they send out a monthly update email that tells everyone of changes, including things like new hires, retirement, pregnancy and marriage (if people want their news shared that way, it is fully optional!) It’s also a small enough company (~200 people) where it’s not an overwhelming amount of news updates, and so people tend to actually read the update also. I think something centralized like that is probably the best way to share news like that, or having a department/division mass email that can spread that information.

    But I also personally would get a wild, irrational amount of anxiety if I had to email out a large group with personal news, so I’d be very happy outsource it to someone else. YMMV.

    1. Sloanicota*

      For this OP, since they’re worried about seeming attention-seeking (and I could see that, since people will be basically obliged to respond with congratulations, and if you’re not actually close to them it may feel performative and weird to you) – I would probably identify *something* that I might need covered or would not be attending during my leave period and send an email to a big group to note that I would have to miss the big pancake conference this year as I’ll be out on maternity leave. That’s probably just me though.

      1. JSPA*

        No I like this approach too!

        I’d lean hard into the idea of it being a planning email.

        “I will be proactively planning over the next [howevermany] months for things that I will miss on maternity leave. As pregnancy timing is notoriously not perfectly predictable, if there’s anything you had planned on me doing between [date] and [date] that I might not be aware of, please [make alternate plans / reach out to me for contingency planning suggestions] understanding that I may or may not be available for the first 3 weeks of that time, but will almost certainly be unavailable for X weeks, starting no later than [date, (eg one week after expected due date)].

        Rationale: much earlier births are not uncommon, but can reasonably be treated as unforeseen, and thus in the same realm as all life’s other unforseen health things.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I like the idea but it needs to be shorter: For planning purposes, I will be on maternity leave from X date to X date. If things change, I will let you know.

          1. turquoisecow*

            you often don’t know those dates in advance, though. I think I told my boss I’d work until the last week of August (I was due in mid-September, but she was born September 2nd) and had no idea how long I would be out. If I had planned to work later but had to have the baby earlier, and people were expecting me to do things the first week of September, that would have been a problem.

            I think the best thing is to give kind of a range of dates (I plan to work until X and then take off X number of weeks/months/etc) and then be in touch with Boss who can communicate changes, because it’s very likely there will be some.

            1. Fikly*

              Exactly. I was on a team when our grand manager was pregnant. Six weeks early, the day before her handover meeting with the big plan for her parental leave, she gets emergency induced with zero notice. (She and baby ended up fine, thankfully.)

              She had a written plan, and it had been shared with second in command, but it was a whole mess. Babies do not come with schedules, and it starts before you give birth.

      2. Riggs*

        Yes, I came here to say this as well. If you make the focus of the email about work and planning for your absence, then it will come across much differently than a simple pregnancy announcement.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes! Though I think it is actually fine to just send an email with some exciting personal news to your coworkers if someone wanted to, OP seems a little uncomfortable with it so they can definitely reframe it mentally as sharing work-relevant information.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Same. I kinda hate where we’re at, culturally, with “attention-seeking.” First off, it seems to only be applied to women. It seems like an attempt to enforce a social norm that women are not allowed to have needs, take up space, get recognition, etc. To be extra clear, this is not a critique of the LW. It’s a comment on the broader social forces at play and the cultural context she’s operating in.

            Second, of course people want attention sometimes! The alternative is wandering around like a ghost with nobody able to see or hear you. The problem is when someone insists on being the centre of attention at all times. But “attention-seeking” isn’t being used that way these days. The erosion of the term is sucky and allows it to be used as a weapon.

            Third, congrats on your awesome news, LW! I hope your pregnancy and labour are as smooth as possible.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              For children who are accused of being “attention-seeking” there’s an alternative which is actually far more indicative of what they are doing: “connection-seeking”.

              Personally, in OP’s shoes, I would just announce it at the end of a department meeting, assuming they do virtual meetings. That way whoever likes them or is very enthusiastic about babies can shower them with congrats, and those who don’t give a toss can just go “‘K thanks for letting us know” and it’s not necessarily even noticeable.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Exactly. Think of it more as letting people know about a change to how the projects are going to run. You’re not going to be here from about THESE dates because of parental leave. During that period, Fergus will be covering X and Jane will be covering Y. What would the notification look like if someone on the team quit and their tasks needed to be covered? Or if there was some sort of structure change?

    2. ursula*

      I agree that a single mass email is better than individual calls (I would not love being on the receiving end of those scheduled calls unless we worked pretty closely together – I never know how to respond to announcements of this kind despite wishing people well in general). I don’t think it’s attention seeking unless you are adding a bunch of attention seeking stuff in. A relatively to-the-point tone that doesn’t get into a ton of feelings stuff (eg the main points are: – I have news, I am pregnant. – I expect to be on leave starting around Oct-Nov. – If we work on long-term projects together we will discuss how to transition things before I go. – Thanks for your support) will not be read as overly personal.

      I wonder if LW could ask their boss to send the message, if they really can’t stomach the idea. It’s primarily a work issue and about work arrangements, after all.

      1. WellRed*

        It’s definitely a business need and not attention seeking though I think the email should come from OP if she can manage it as it’s her personal and happy! News. Definitely don’t do individual calls.

      2. turquoisecow*

        yeah, once you get past the social aspects, the real reason you’re telling your coworkers about pregnancy is because you will be unavailable for a while. How does this affect them – do you need them to cover the llama reports while you’re gone? do you need them to know that Bob will be covering the llama reports? Will llama reports just not happen? Is the big teapot painting project on hold, or will Jane be managing it while you’re gone? That’s what the work conversation will be about, rather than the more personal side of stuff.

    3. Snow Globe*

      This has happened a few times recently with people I work with regularly, and basically, the pregnancy doesn’t come up until there is a reason to know – the person will be out on medical leave soon, and here is who to contact in the interim. I don’t know if it is really necessary to send out a general announcement of a pregnancy until the person’s absence is imminent.

    4. NoWayNoHow*

      I’ve seen this for company news (hirings and folks leaving) but I’d find it pretty gross to send personal updates that way. I would not want a pregnancy, unexpected extended sick leave, etc announced that way, especially in a company large enough where I didn’t personally know everyone who’d be getting the mail. *shudder*

      Also, those companies that do business-related announcements this way invariably forget people and cause hard feelings or other drama.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I imagine that’s why Mid says it’s opt-in — some people won’t be at all comfortable with people they don’t directly work with knowing they’re pregnant/getting married, other people won’t mind at all. You as the person with the news has full control over if it’s something that’s shared.

      2. Galentine*

        The varied takes on privacy here are always interesting to me. At the other end of the spectrum, I worked at a 50-person company where we had a baby shower for an employee, including decorating onesies and watching a video about their fertility journey.

      3. Mid*

        The opt-in part is super essential here! No one is forced to include their update. It’s more like when HR knows about your news, they’ll ask if you want it announced (I think. I haven’t had any news to share other than being hired, which wasn’t an opt-in thing since everyone needs to know who I am and what role I have, since I work remotely.)

        Every department also has a mass email list as well, so you could also only share the news with your team rather than the whole company, if that’s your preference.

        I’m a fairly private person, but I don’t really get the ick from the system at my company, largely because it’s optional and not forced, and I think it’s the most efficient way to share things when most people are remote.

    5. turquoisecow*

      my company is small enough (about 60-70 people in my office if I remember correctly) that I just got an email about how one employee’s heart surgery had gone. His boss sent the update rather than the guy himself, but with permission.

      I announced my pregnancy in the midst of the pandemic when we were all fully remote. We were doing regular department meetings (I forget if they were weekly or monthly) and the boss would go around and ask if anyone had anything they wanted to share. The first time I was going to report it another coworker announced HER pregnancy and I didn’t want to steal her thunder so I quietly waited until the following meeting.

      Now that most of them are in the office most days (I’m probably the only fully remote worker in my department) we only do monthly-ish meetings (half the time they are rescheduled) and the boss is mostly giving updates, but she does add on a period at the end where she asks if anyone has anything they want to add, and if I was going to announce to the team at this point, that would be where I would do it.

      I’m guessing OP’s team doesn’t have a similar recurring meeting but if they do, they can ask the boss or whoever runs it to leave a few minutes at the end for her to tell the group. If not, mass email is probably the way to go.

  4. JPalmer*

    #1 There is a particular thing about this. 1’s Manager came to them and was so oblivious to the issue

    > I had to work every day for 17 days straight, and it made me miss out on time with my family; I consider that a bad outcome. The meeting ended with her in tears. It was incredibly uncomfortable.

    Now note, OP doesn’t say that manager apologized or anything. Crying when confronted with the consequences of your bad planning is not apologizing. It is manipulation. That’s probably why OP was uncomfortable. Saying “Your actions harmed me” and the other side responding with “Oh this is so hard for me” is manipulation and trying to lessen the impact. OP should not feel bad in the slightest. OP’s manager made bad decisions and is now suffering from the consequences. OP shouldn’t have to feel bad for someone who’s inadequacy hurt them.

    As for #2.
    That senior partner showed OP who they are, listen. If they are that upset about women caring about their safety, that signals all sorts of other bad opinions they probably have.
    For example, not allowing her to disengage from the conversation, or the ‘loves an argument’ adversarial character trait. This is clearly someone who’s used to and comfortable being in a place of power and safety.
    He didn’t like this ‘elder woman paralegal’ (I’m assuming she’s older than he is) having control of the conversation and trying to leave. That suggests to me he probably has a lack of respect for proactive consent in other areas.

    He should absolutely apologize, but that’s what a decent person would do and I don’t think that’s the sort of person OP is dealing with.

    1. Point de Croix*

      Yeah, that’s what bothered me about letter 1 too. LW, you’re feeling bad because she actively chose to make you feel bad. She might want you to go to her boss and say “oh, it wasn’t that bad!!!”.

      Don’t. She’s trying to avoid the consequences of her actions. The only way she can get out of this with minimal damage is if she acknowledges her errors. I don’t know if she’ll ever do that, but she’s definitely avoiding acknowledging her errors right now and that’s all on her.

      1. ferrina*

        Well said. This boss needs to manage her own emotions and course correct. Instead, she’s seeing that the only problem is that she feels bad. That is not actually a problem.

    2. AJ*

      Yep, absolutely. This kind of manipulation is pretty hard to spot, especially for someone who is pretty sympathetic or has any level of empathy. But walking away from a conversation where it was right for someone to apologize to you, and instead you feel somehow worse and also a little confused is a HUGE tell for manipulation.

      Even if you had actually done something wrong, a healthy conversation around that would be them telling you that clearly, you understanding and making your own apology, and walking away from the conversation feeling that the air was cleared.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      For #2, I think it’s a (toxic) form of double denial. It’s the “who do you know who’s been attacked?” that makes me think this. First off, he doesn’t want to believe that there’s a danger. It doesn’t fit his world view, and also it would mean that he may have to do something about it.

      Second, to solve the cognitive dissonance with, oh, reality, he redefines what an “attack” is. Anything short of murder or rape (narrowly defined) doesn’t count. If she didn’t come forward, it doesn’t count. If she didn’t tell him, personally, it doesn’t count.

      He really, really wants to believe that women are fine, that it’s ok. And by extension that means that his own badgering, power asserting behavior is ok. It’s just the normal way women are treated, ya know? They’re fine with it. /s

      LW indicated that she’s not fine with it, and he’s defending his comfortable state of denial. Unfortunately, and infuriatingly, since he is in a position of power, I don’t think there’s much LW can do. I’d try to stay far away from the topic and, if at all possible, away from him.

      1. Twix*

        #2 made me so angry. Most of the women I know well enough to discuss this subject have been attacked, threatened, stalked, or followed by a stranger at least once. In my experience most of the men who don’t think there’s a problem think that because the women in their lives don’t trust them enough to be vulnerable with them, not because they don’t know anyone who bad things have happened to.

        1. Random Dice*


          MeToo was so empowering, because so many of us spoke at once, so men would finally have to listen, right?

          Instead they collectively made “so many females experience sexual violence and harassment!” about them, somehow writing MEN as the victims of women being abused… and used it to further victimize women through illegal hiring and management practices.

          It was even more depressing than the prior “that’s just the way it is” attitude.

          1. Twix*

            Yeah… As a man who tries really hard not to be shitty to women, I get where the NotAllMen dudes are coming from. It sucks to be told “You’re going to be treated as a threat by default even if you do everything right.” But talk about missing the forest for the trees. (Not to mention the raging hypocrisy.) The women taking reasonable precautions to protect themselves are not the problem in this situation, the fact that they need to is.

            1. The Other Sage*

              I can only talk for myself, but I don’t even want to take precautions against men in general. The reason I do anyway is because threatening men far from being rare, and it hurts me to know that I am being cautious against good men too. Unfortunately I have no way to distinguish the good and neutral ones from the bad ones.

              1. Twix*

                Right. While it’s not a perfect parallel for several reasons, as a queer person I absolutely get wanting to assume the best of people but not being able to. Nobody wants to have to be on guard 24/7.

              2. Dorothy Zpornak*

                I once saw a tweet where Joe Wells pitched a new gameshow — Not All Snakes. Contestants are men who will be confronted with a random assortment of snakes. Not all of them are venomous.

        2. JPalmer*

          Yep, totally agree.

          The men who don’t think there’s a problem are usually part of the problem (for various reasons).

        3. The Other Sage*

          I have made the mistake to explain my experiences to this kind of men, and I have always been dismissed as having had bad luck.

        4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Yeah. I realised my partner (now ex) had no idea just how often women get harassed. There was a report a while back that 100% of women taking the metro here have been groped. He didn’t believe it. So I made a point of asking, any time we saw women friends, “have you ever been groped on the metro”. They often volunteered more information along the lines of “not only groped but…” And most of them said that it had happened more than once, more times than they could remember.
          Since then, I have made a point of telling him of any unpleasant altercation I get into, the guy who threatened me because my dog was not on his lead (in a place that’s usually deserted, and my dog only weighs 10 kilos, and I called him over to put him on the lead the minute I saw it was a problem for the guy, but the guy continued to harangue me, threatening to unleash his own 30-kilo dogs), the kid that called me a b1tch because I gently rang my bell then called out “Excuse me! you’re in my bike lane”, the guy that tried to steal my wallet, the guy who pushed past me and kicked my dog because I didn’t move out of his way (the dog was about to pee… and peed on his trousers!) …

      2. Dust Bunny*

        He’s also asking you to “out” the people closest to you, which is not cool even if he never meets them.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yes, that bothered me too. Dude, I’m not going to tell you somebody else’s very personal story to “prove” something to you, when you don’t get a say over what I choose to do anyway. Because you just KNOW that “I know people who have been…” wouldn’t do him.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        It reminds me a little of the people who take massive offence at people taking precautions about covid. In both cases, there appears to be an anger that wouldn’t be reasonable even if the precautions WEREN’T necessary. I mean, even if attacks and threats WERE rare, which they are not, what is the downside to learning defence? Even if it was never necessary, it can be good exercise and might make people feel more confident.

        My guess is that in both cases, the idea of people taking precautions reminds them there IS a danger and they don’t want to think about that, so they get mad in a kind of “shoot the messenger” way.

        1. metadata minion*

          Exactly! And in both cases, there can be side benefits not related to COVID/muggers. I know several people who now wear masks during pollen season regardless of the COVID numbers because it helps their allergies. And while I live in an incredibly safe area and appear to be weirdly immune to street harassment, martial arts and self-defense classes have more than anything else helped my crap proprioception and mean I get attacked by furniture way less than I used to.

      4. LaurCha*

        It would be easier for me to name all of the women I know who have NOT been threatened by a man in some fashion. Because there aren’t any. Zero.

        I’d be tempted to drop a copy of The Gift of Fear on his desk, but also I realize he wouldn’t read it because he’s a Man, he doesn’t experience girly things like Fear.

    4. Sloanicota*

      I am biased here by knowing some lawyers who love to pick relatively minor points and dig in on them, regardless of who they’re hurting; I thought he was possibly making a comment on people’s perception of danger versus the actual relative safety of most people’s lives (as if the OP was concerned her grandchildren were going to be taken at a Target, and he was trying to convince her that’s not really a genuine threat) and was missing OP’s feelings here.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think it’s a big misunderstanding of what self-defence classes are. There’s a male fantasy thing about the only form of power being the biggest and baddest fighter, so men hear “self-defence classes” and scoff because they think it’s about teaching women to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They don’t recognise how powerful things like confidence, trusting your instincts, situational awareness and running tf away are because they’ve been systematically taught to devalue those things.

        1. Flor*

          This is a really good point. We used to sometimes do knife self-defence at karate, and my sensei was always very clear that the best way to defend yourself against a knife is to run in the other direction. He really drilled into us that all the techniques we practiced for blocking a knife, disarming an attacker, etc., were only for situations where running, hiding, throwing things, and other evasion hadn’t worked.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yup. The best defense against many dangers is a good pair of running shoes – and situational awareness of when to use ’em. (Often at a walk, before things escalate that far, because you’ve realized they might.)

        2. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

          Yes! And for many women our best weapon is our voice (literally). Especially if it’s impractical to run away for some reason, yelling and screaming and making a scene is a good option in many cases. It’s not about everybody kung-fu fighting.

          1. Helen Waite*

            Agree on the voice. Loud and confident, unafraid to make a scene if necessary. We’re taught from the cradle to be quiet, soft-spoken, and never to make a scene, and the worst thing you can be is hungry for attention.

            I discovered in my martial arts classes that I have a very loud yell larger than my small self. Think Ciri from the Witcher. I got praised for it.

          2. logicbutton*

            My mom loves to tell the story of the time she scared off a would-be purse snatcher by yelling and getting into a judo stance (and who can blame her).

          3. Dust Bunny*

            When my friend and I were adolescents (although we were big for our ages) we realized a guy was following us on our walk to the park, so we turned around and started walking toward him, yelling questions. It was probably dumb but we were not at all sure we could have outrun him. He backed off and walked quickly in the other direction. It was terrifying, though.

        3. ferrina*

          That mindset baffles me even more!

          “Why would you want to take a class that turns you into Buffy the Vampire Slayer?”
          “Better question- why don’t you want to turn into Buffy the Vampire Slayer?”

          1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

            I would LOVE to take a class that turns me into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I probably wouldn’t put in the work on my own that would actually make that happen, but maybe if I took the class I would get at least a little closer to being Buffy.

        4. Elbe*

          Exactly! Self defense classes don’t promise that any woman will be able to beat any man in an MMA-style match.

          So many of the men who hurt women are cowards. They’ll move on if they think a specific woman is going to put up any kind of a fight. They don’t want their behavior to have ANY consequences for them, so putting up any kind of resistance can be a real deterrent in some situations.

      2. Seashell*

        I agree that he was probably thinking that people are overly concerned about crime even when crime rates are low and that some media outlets support and perpetuate this fear, but he should have gotten the hint that women have legitimate fears about their vulnerability.

        1. Sloanicota*

          He doesn’t need to agree that OP is objectively correct, but he should have recognized that she didn’t want to discuss this with him any further and that he was attacking her feelings in an inappropriate way. Even lawyers can learn boundaries.

        2. Random Dice*

          No, he has a misogyny-influenced opinion about women that he wants to force women to agree with, using his power and aggressiveness as weapons.

          Let’s not mince words and give him credit for being nicer than his actions and words reveal him to be. That’s what he’s relying on.

      3. Lyra Belacqua*

        Yeah, I read this the same way—people who teach for-profit self-defense classes do have a vested interest in making the world seem like a more dangerous place, and many emphasize stranger attacks. I know lots of lawyers who rightly have a problem with that kind of marketing. But if that’s the OP’s opinion, he can write an op-ed—he was wrong to dig in when it was clear OP was not interested in his opinion. Even lawyers who love arguing need to learn when that’s appropriate and when it isn’t.

        1. Observer*

          I read this the same way—people who teach for-profit self-defense classes do have a vested interest in making the world seem like a more dangerous place, and many emphasize stranger attacks. I know lots of lawyers who rightly have a problem with that kind of marketing.

          Except that the OP made is very clear that it was not about the marketing of the class. And it takes a willful kind of blindness to think that when a woman says “I’m woman, of COURSE I’m interested” it means that she’s simply being a dupe of the marketers and to claim that women are not more at risk of violence than men. And when the OP didn’t roll over he explicitly told her that it’s all made up. His question about who she knows that ever got attacked and the way he put it is not really a question. It’s a statement that women do not get attacked.

          Which is all a long way of saying that there is no way that his obnoxious behavior came from any sort of legitimate issue with over-hyped claims made by marketers of training.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Hm, I actually think it’s the opposite– the self-defence classes I’m familiar with are much more about challenging the idea that the streets are dangerous, strangers are going to get you etc and more about supporting you to feel confident taking your place in public AND standing your ground if you experience aggression in private, domestic and work sessions.

          (… which is probably what this guy objects to.)

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Unfortunately, I once went to a self-defense class taught by a cop where he told all the women–only two of whom had ever used a gun–to immediately go get conceal-carry permits and guns. Then he told us that we should be constantly suspicious of men who did things like hold doors open for us. Then he had us practice pressure points on each other, and they just did. not. work. He wrapped up the class by telling us that he once had to work a crime where a teenage girl was stabbed to death by her boyfriend, and how much that had upset him. (There was no analysis of how we could prevent that from happening.)

            I ended up asking another woman for a ride home just because she seemed so upset, telling her that she did NOT need to buy a gun, and giving her a common-sense self defense book. Then I wrote to the facility that hosted the event and told them to never invite the guy back.

      4. B*

        Totally agree. Focusing on a technically correct but secondary point, digging in, treating it as a matter of philosophical interest, being oblivious to the other person’s emotions… this all screams “older male attorney.”

      5. Irish Teacher.*

        Honestly, I have known people like that too and it isn’t so much feeling they miss – in fact, they often think any argument against them is about feelings when it rarely is. What they miss is that statistics aren’t necessarily applicable to individual cases and that cost-benegit analysis isn’t just about numbers.

        I mean, even if only one in fifty women were attacked, but a woman had the option of a way to reduce her risk of being that oe in fifty AND that way sounded fun to her, why SHOULDN’T she do it? Just to prove to this random guy she’s not scared? (I’m arguing with his implications by the way, not with you, just in case this sounds more argumentative than I mean it.)

        In my experience, these guys (and they are usually guys) start from the premise that they know your exact motivation and that it is irrational and will argue with this assumption even if what they are saying actually doesn’t relate at all, to what you said.

        It’s not about the OP’s feelings. It’s that the OP’s FACTS may not match the stats he is working from. Yes, random crimes are far less common than things like attacks by family members and yes, the level of media attention random attacks get is disproportionate. But the OP is not talking about locking herself in her house for fear of random attackers. There is nothing to suggest SHE over-estimates the risk. (And neither we nor he knows what the risk to HER is, because there are all kinds of things that can affect a person’s risk – the area they live in, if they have an abusive ex, if they have family members involved in crime, if they belong to any minority groups (in addition to being a woman) and so on. His mistake isn’t ignoring her feelings. It’s thinking a) that he can assess her personal level of risk without knowing all the facts and b) assuming that taking any precautions = over-estimating the risks or being scared. Even if you’re not worried, you might think self-defence classes sound like fun and could possibly be helpful, so why not?

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Plus IME the people (it’s always men BTW) who argue like this guy are actually the ones responding out of pure emotion. They don’t actually want facts, or details or to have a good faith objective discussion of whatever the topic at hand is.

          What they are really all about is expressing their emotions, their feelings that they are the loudest smartest bestest most right-est of the land, everyone else are stupid sheep of varying degrees (women and anyone else who isn’t like them are the lowest) and relish shouting down anyone who disagrees with them or won’t enthusiastically bow to their superiority.

          Be professional with him, but he is not an ally or someone who can be trusted or relied on, everyone around him is just an NPC in the game of life he’s the center of in his worldview.

    5. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      I absolutely agree that OP1’s manager is being manipulative. And in a minor update to my letter a couple of weeks ago (the one about Andy), my boss and I have determined that Andy is a lying manipulator and have come up with various strategies for dealing with Andy. One is grey rocking (see the thread below this one about OP2 for more on that), one is carefully and objectively gathering evidence where Andy is dropping the ball or actually lying (we have a lot of that), one is changing the rules of the game and being more proactive (but also very emotionless) in calling out the person’s ineptitude. So in OP’s case, their manager is expecting OP to go along with whatever the manager says (working 17 days straight to cover for the dept, for example) without pushing back, because that’s the rules of how manager/direct report relationships usually work, but OP could start to push back on these things. “Huh, it looks like everyone else will be gone for over two weeks. What’s your plan, Manager, for coverage during this time, since obviously you wouldn’t want me to work for 17 days straight, right?” “It’s unusual for you to want to run this experiment for 24 hours when SOPs are for it to run for 48 hours. Is there a specific reason why you want it to be a shorter amount of time?”

      It sounds like it might be tricky in that you are still pretty new at your company, but if you have a good track record and you are very matter of fact about all this, hopefully the higher ups will see that you are only looking out for the good of the company. In my case, my boss Jane and I have been here for a few years and are really conscientious employees so our word means a lot more than Andy’s word. Also, Andy is not our actual boss (Andy’s on the same level as Jane’s boss) so we can deflect anything Andy throws at us. “Huh, that’s an interesting idea, we’ll run it by Grandboss and see what she says about it.” OP, if your manager is asking you to do weird things, and if you have a good and comfortable relationship with your grandboss, you might start doing the same, but you have to be really careful with that since you don’t want to annoy Grandboss.

      But I also feel it important to mention that my boss Jane did finally go to Andy’s boss (our CEO) with her concerns and the CEO really listened to Jane. It turned out that the CEO had no idea that Andy has been dropping the ball on so many things. Jane also told her direct supervisor some of what’s happening and that person said that we should definitely be telling her things like this. So, OP, if you have real concerns about what your boss is having you do or not do, it’s entirely possible that your Grandboss would really like to know these things. (That might be worth a conversation on its own – “Do you want me to keep you informed of these kinds of things?”) Best of luck, OP!!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        This is the OP of the “can I do anything about a senior-level colleague who doesn’t do any work?” from March 7 of this year (for anyone who missed that letter or doesn’t remember who Andy is). Link to the post in a reply to this comment.

    6. Bunch Harmon*

      Crying when you’re confronted with something is not automatically manipulation. It’s a common occurrence in neurodivergent folks. It’s called RSD – rejection sensitive dysphoria. The manager’s actions aren’t ok so I’m not defending her, just suggesting that there are other explanations for her crying.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        If she cried and also was apologetic (or asked for more time to process and come back with a plan) I’d say maybe. But simply crying, combined with “that’s an opinion!” for the pushback? Classic manipulation.

      2. JPalmer*

        While yes, crying when confronted is a normal thing for folks to do, the way in which the manager first tried to downplay it and say ‘I don’t agree there is a problem here’ and only resorted to the crying after OP1 pressed the topic, that screams manipulation to me.

        Yes, it could not be manipulation (we have very little information), but when folks get into a position of power over others there are higher expectations on them being able to manage their emotions. A chunk of the time when unequipped people get into those position of power they learn the subversion and manipulation techniques RATHER than the emotional management techniques.

        OP was uncomfortable for a reason.

      3. Elbe*

        Something can be manipulative without someone specifically intending it to be that way. I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that the boss was being intentionally manipulative, but I do think that it’s the end result here. The fact that the LW wrote in to an advice column because the interaction made her so uncomfortable really demonstrates how this behavior could result in the boss not having to take responsibility for her actions. Just because the boss could be genuinely struggling with her emotions doesn’t mean that the end result is that people don’t feel comfortable bringing legitimate criticisms to her.

        If the boss never apologized for the 17-day work situation, I’m inclined to give her less benefit of the doubt. She’s so obviously in the wrong here that she should know that an apology is in order.

    7. Ms. Elaneous*

      Womens’ self defence:
      Possible LW responses:
      1. You REALLY don’t know? Go ask 20 women (POLITELY), and come back and see me.
      2. Some jerk assaults me, I’m gonna flatten him.
      (Btw, I was on the NY subway with my tiny little yoga teaching friend. Some guy grabbed her, and he was on tbe disgusting subway floor in 10 seconds. — she was an Israeli citizen and had learned self- defence in the army.)

      As many of us chanted in the DC Women’s March: p-u-s-s-y. Don’t F — with me, don’t even try.

      Oh, just thought of a third one:
      Attorney, I am not here to be your litigation beta- tester.

    8. Kristin*

      My thought exactly. This “Who do you know that’s ever been attacked?” sounds pretty aggressive and downright creepy. Why did he take it so personally, unless he has secret guilt feelings for something? I’m the same age and around the same size as OP and I would have walked away during his rant. Smoke of another fire there.

  5. Point de Croix*

    LW2, considering that the reaction to women using their hat pins to defend themselves from men was to legally limit the size of hatpins, I’m not surprised.

    After all, if women can defend themselves, who will they have to blame for women being attacked?

    Seriously, this guy showed you who he is. I’d stick to being scrupulously professional with him and not a thing more. This is not someone you need in your life beyond as a colleague/boss (not sure of the exact power dynamics between attorney and paralegal), so feel free to greyrock him for the rest.

    1. Carl*

      “I’d stick to being scrupulously professional with him and not a thing more.” Exactly.
      Insecure men are a dime a dozen. Be professional so he can’t take it out on you, but otherwise don’t lose sleep. This guy is a cliche.

      1. Random Dice*

        He’s not insecure, he’s someone who holds dangerous opinions, and actively feeds and encourages them, and tries to bully subordinates out of their own agency.

        He’s not insecure, he’s really freaking scary.

    2. The Other Sage*

      For the people who don’t know what greyrock is, it’s a technique to deal with toxic people that consist on making yourself as emotional unavailable as possible. This includes not responding to provocation, but also interact only as much as you have to and keep it neutral. If done well, you become uninteresting for the toxic person so that he or she leaves you alone.

      Some people choose to escalate to try to get a reaction out of you, so bear in mind that is a possibility.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        I was about to suggest grey rocking for both OPs 1 and 2. It’s been working extremely well for our Andy (see my AAM letter from a couple of week ago). You can change the rules of the game too; Andy and this male lawyer are trying to control people’s emotions and appear to get some pleasure out of making people angry or uncomfortable, so by changing the rules of the game to be “I will not let them see me squirm” you can gain a lot of power over them.

        The fact that we have to play these kinds of games with coworkers, though, is pretty upsetting.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I quite enjoy aggressively-cheerful-rocking: “Oh, goodness! Well, that’s certainly a point of view!” with a bright smile and a change of subject. I know there’s lots of stuff around how women are socialised to smile and play nice and how this is bad and subservient, but I don’t think there’s nearly enough about how deliberate and conscious cheerfulness can be a teflon armour that other people’s negativity and aggression can’t get a hold on.

          (And it’s quite delightful to me to watch the frustration of the person who doesn’t understand why his rocks aren’t landing.)

          1. Genevieve en Francais*

            As the young, baby-faced, female, midwestern admin with a bunch of lawyers and law students on the east coast, I practically went Kenneth-the-page with cheerfulness sometimes. In certain circumstances it was particularly useful. It can be extremely disarming, especially when coupled with scrupulous competence.

            I didn’t do it with people I actually liked, though, they got the full sarcastic and human me.

          2. Conscientious OP who does the things*

            “Well, that’s certainly a point of view!” is so great, ha! I’m going to try that on Andy next time I get a chance. And I agree it’s quite delightful to watch the person getting frustrated. Also, here at my org, a large number of people are in agreement with me and Jane (my boss) that Andy is a fraud and a liar, so I have been doing a lot of my grey rocking performatively in meetings with other coworkers, to both amuse myself and also amuse them as well.

            And also in emails. Andy tried to take over an aspect of our org (my specialty) that they have no business taking over and Jane told Andy’s boss that that made no sense and that the one meeting we had about it was a total waste of time, so that boss booted Andy out of it and told Andy to concentrate on their job, not ours. When Andy emailed everyone to say they were canceling all the future mtgs and that we would be working with an outside consultant for it instead, I replied-all very sweetly about how excited I was to be taking on this work and how fun it will be to do this project with the outside experts (aka Not Andy, who doesn’t know a dang thing about my area of expertise despite pretending that they do; it’s like working with George Santos).

            Aggressive cheerfulness, as bamcheeks so brilliantly put it, and serene silence, as a book I recently read phrased it, are both really excellent techniques for dealing with these kinds of people.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          To me, it sounds like the lawyer is defensive. He doesn’t want to believe that women need to defend themselves from anyone. Either he can’t handle that thought, or he’s afraid it will come back on him.
          I have to wonder what field he works in. If he’s ever been around criminal law, he should know better.

    3. Armchair analyst*

      It’s ok not to trust (in the sense of feel safe around) this attorney, who does not trust (in the sense of believe) OP’s perspective and experience.

      It is not OP’s job to convince this attorney to see your way of view or the facts of violence in today’s society. In fact, given that most violence against women is perpetrated by someone they know, I’d say OP’s your primary job is to make sure that she is physically and emotionally safe

      OP, You don’t say that you feel unsafe with this attorney. If you do, please let your manager or another ally know. If it is a lesser situation where you are just extremely frustrated that this attorney is being obstinate and obtuse and kind of rude, then I think Alison’s advice is fine and only talking about safe work subjects with extra professionalism is the way to go.

      If the attorney opens the topic again (unlikely) I would even consider using words like “I understand your perspective if you don’t know of other people’s experiences. But please know that this is a very personal topic for me and I don’t feel like discussing it with you right now. I will let you know when I do. In the meantime, let’s focus on work.” You can probably practice saying this or refine it with your self-defense teachers to be honest.

    4. Beth*

      FWIW — I was given some very rudimentary self-defense training, informally, by an older brother, when I was in middle school.

      Readers, IT CHANGED MY LIFE. Every woman should get at least some kind of training, as early as possible. And it’s never too late. Or too early.

    1. I Escaped From Cubicle Land*

      Literally yelled at my computer screen while I read that letter. Thank goodness I WFH.

  6. Maroon*

    OP 5: FWIW, I don’t work in this kind of environment, but I feel like any meaningful personal event, such as a pregnancy, is going to receive a natural amount of attention, and that’s not something you’re obligated to discourage or avoid. Whenever I’ve received a coworker’s pregnancy or new baby announcement, I’ve been glad to give the news a couple minutes of my focus, and I would never perceive this natural social dynamic as excessive attention seeking. You clearly don’t have any interest in taking over the group’s focus, and I hope you enjoy the supportive attention you do receive! (I’m almost certain you’d be glad to give the same amount of attention to someone else.)

  7. melissa*

    #2, that lawyer is a total weirdo. Why would he pick a fight over something like that? Imagine if you had said “I’m taking a class to learn Japanese” and his response had been, “Why? Why? Are you planning a trip to Japan? Can I see your plane ticket? It’s 6,000 miles away! It’s so stupid that anyone would spend their time on that.” This is a strange person with no social skills.

    1. WS*

      Ugh, I have worked with lawyers who absolutely would pick a fight over “I’m taking a class to learn Japanese”. There’s a certain kind of personality where everything has to be a debate and of course those personalities are drawn to legal practice. Not all lawyers! But a solid minority that I have not seen as concentrated in other professions. And if you get upset they get very confused.

      1. Not Australian*

        This *literally* happened to me. I bought a ‘Basic Japanese Conversation’ dictionary on my lunch-break and was jeered at because who did I think I was to learn Japanese: somebody like me would surely *never* go to Japan! (Like that was the only reason to learn it… )

        1. The Other Sage*

          That is bizarre. Does that person believe that only people who want to visit Qo’noS are allowed to learn the Klingon language?

      2. Sloanicota*

        hhahah I was going to say hm I know lawyers who would love to argue with that. I have someone in my life who’s not a lawyer but loves to argue the stupidest points and he would absolutely try to convince you your choice of vacation was objectively incorrect and his preferred vacation destination was better.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I have a friend whose husband likes to…well, he’s a good guy so not so much argue as debate. He’s finally picked out that I don’t really love debating so he doesn’t bother doing it with me. Their kid, who is now a teenager, has inherited this trait and wow, it’s exhausting to be around when kid and husband start going at it. I feel bad for my friend who is living this every day. I asked her about it once and she just rolled her eyes.

          1. Pescadero*

            That was my family growing up. A whole dinner table of folks who love to debate anything – and vociferously.

            It’s given me a lifetime of confusion about people who can’t argue without being personally invested, and consider disagreement with their argument to be a personal attack.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              As a slight tweak in perspective, many of us only argue *when* we are personally invested (otherwise why bother?), so disagreement by someone else who doesn’t actually care (the devil’s advocate and it’s ilk) is extremely frustrating. It comes across as extremely dismissive of both the things we care about.

          2. Dek*

            My Dad’s a lawyer. I don’t think I’ve ever won an argument in my house.

            But he will also let go of most debates quickly if someone changes the subject.

        2. TeaCoziesRUs*

          How does he handle a condescending / patronizing, “Aww. I love that for you!”?

          Asking for a friend… and I can be a passive-aggressive heel sometimes. :)

      3. Lawyers are so weird!*

        Yes! And especially lawyers who choose to spend their careers inside the law firm bubble. I have not seen much of this behavior since I moved in-house, but I will never forget the extremely weird interaction I had with a male partner when I was a female junior associate and we were trying to enter our conference room at the same time:
        Him: “Let me hold the door for you”
        Me: “No need, you go on first. Feminism, equal rights etc.”
        Him: “No, no, feminism and equal rights means that when I hit you in the face, you can hit me back”
        Me: ????????

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Explaining feminism to women while casually referencing violence? Did you have bingo cards when you were around this guy?

        2. Random Dice*

          Abusers like to make people feel afraid of them. He was threatening you, but in a way that he could claim was actually a good thing.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes! It’s so weird. I mean, “I enjoy it” or “we have a laugh” are perfectly good reasons for taking a self-defence class too. Why the heck does anyone need to prove their reasons?

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        “Hit dog hollers,” as my grandmother used to say. The fact that this lawyer is so weordly defensive about this means that he feels accused by LW’s wish to become better at self defense. I would never feel comfortable or safe around someone like this again.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Because he’s got a canned rant that he’s itching to deliver, and is trying to bait the LW into giving him an excuse.

    4. OnyxChimney*

      I’ve literally had that exact same discussion with a man when I was in HS.

      Me: I’m studying Japanese.
      Him: Why????
      Me: It’s one of the 4 languages offered at my school. I have to learn one so I picked that one.
      Him: What a waste of time! Why would you ever learn a language no one speaks.
      Me: Lots of people speak Japanese…?
      Him: Psh. Only like 3 million people on a tiny island. Whatever. Waste your life when you could learn Spanish. *Walks away angrily*

      1. Avery*

        I had similar discussions with my parents over taking French in high school rather than Spanish.
        Because French is so uncommon in the world, doncha know… it’s not like one of the countries bordering the US has it as one of their official languages or anything…

    5. Awkwardness*

      Something along those lines. I would not even call him necessarily misogynistic, but dense and self-absorbed and OP thinking they could have a rational argument with him, while he it’s just out there to challenge everything and everyone that comes along.

      OP, there is no reason to give this type of person any explanation. You do it because you want to. Somebody mentioned grey-rocking and that is the best approach I can think of.

  8. Drag0nfly*

    LW #2,

    My rule is that I will allow stupid people to remain stupid if they’re belligerent in their stupidity AND it’s one-on-one. Your senior lawyer sounds cartoonishly idiotic, but this is real life so it doesn’t have to make sense :) I just hope you don’t handle criminal cases, where one can see up-close-and-personal why self defense matters.

    But! If there’s a third party present, it may be worth it to counter the other person’s stupidity with facts and reason because the third party may benefit from those facts. AND because the third party may need to see that the stupid person’s POV is not condoned and favored in your office, and that furthermore you’re allowed to speak up against it. Might be especially useful if the third party is junior and is trying to get the lay of the land concerning what kind of culture the company has. The junior party might also benefit from seeing how to stand up for oneself in a professional way.

    In your case, since you’re the junior I would just take note of what kind of person he’s revealed himself to be, and proceed accordingly. Be courteous, be professional, but don’t put too much faith in his judgment or sense or intellect.

      1. Observer*

        Or many types of employment law.

        Or, for that matter any type of law where power disparities / undue pressure can be brought to bear.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      OP is junior to the attorney but may be senior to an onlooker. Law offices have complicated webs of seniority much like hospitals!

    2. CM*

      As a former law firm lawyer… I know this guy. (Or at least, other members of his club.)

      They live a privileged existence and get angry at the suggestion that anything about life is unfair for others, because it threatens their identity and worldview.

      I feel like other commenters have suggested maybe he’s just argumentative because he’s a lawyer, which, maybe, but there’s a reason he picked on the idea of women needing to defend themselves.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, I agree, I do not think it’s only because he’s argumentative. I have met this guy many times before.

      2. Elbe*

        Yes! I’ve known some “women are just overreacting/lying” guys and none of them particularly liked women as a whole.

      3. sparkle emoji*

        Agreed, some of the specific points he was making don’t occur to you unless you’re already a little misogynist and unwilling to accept others can know more than you.

  9. Caroline*

    LW2 – Ugh. The attorney’s attitude is so frustrating. “I have never personally witnessed Misogynist Violent Thing happen so that means it never happens anywhere!”

  10. niknik*

    LW #5, maybe you can ask the teamlead to invite you to their next team meeting (assuming they have a weekly one or such) ? Just to make the announcement, then you can leave the call. Doens’t have to be a big thing.

    1. Janet Pinkerton*

      I like this idea! The idea of sending an email would have been impossible for me. (I was weird about sharing my pregnancy news.)

      For what it’s worth, I always couched it in terms of “I’m pregnant and due on Thanksgiving and I’m planning on taking four months of parental leave” so I could turn it into a genuine work topic. (I was actually due on Thanksgiving, and it helped folks keep the timeframe in mind.) I don’t think this is necessary but it helped me be more comfortable about it.

  11. StarTrek Nutcase*

    LW1. We should all work on NOT assuming responsibility for another coworker’s failures. Your boss deserved the consequences of her bad management. You did not cause it – you simply reported problems she previously failed to address. I’ve heard so many supervisors (all female BTW) claim they fear costing a worker their job by taking action after repeated training & correction. A boss shouldn’t care more than the worker about the worker’s job. I’ve fired several who thought crying about losing their job & the personal repercussions would change my decision – it didn’t, we were months past that. They still took no responsibility for their actions or inactions, deliberately ignored prior warnings, etc.

  12. Senga*

    Hey number #5 it seems to me like you are feeling ambivalent or uncomfortable about announcing your pregnancy at work.
    Maybe you know why you feel that way, or maybe the reason is not 100% clear. I suggest a group email with an upbeat tone ‘Sharing my news’ or similar. And perhaps take some time to reflect on your feelings – is it work? Is it being pregnant? Having a baby? Is it the future? Best wishes for it all xx

    1. PotteryYarn*

      I think it’s pretty common for people to hate the “announcement” part. You’re basically putting a giant, neon sign over your head that says “My partner and I got jiggy with it and now there’s proof! Celebrate me!”

      I even hated having to tell my parents and close friends, not because I didn’t want everyone to know, I just hated having to go through the process of actually informing people.

      1. Yellow sports car*

        I just get that it can feel weird to make a formal announcement of something that you’d usually just casually tell people and spread around that way. Especially if you don’t really socialise with your colleagues but don’t want to leave people in the awkward position of “never ask about pregnancy” and so you have to make an announcement or everyone had to pretend they don’t know (or have people who actually don’t know).

        Another option is simply saying to the manager – I’m ok for people to know and getting them to help share the news.

      2. JSPA*

        Eh, or there was IVF or a turkey baster involved?

        Plus, unless your coworkers are children or monastic hermits, people hearing the announcement either [gasp] also have sex. Or hope to have sex. Or are hard Ace (and suffer enough from being judged that they’re unlikely to be judging others).

        I mean, I admit there is a certain tone that people sometimes use when they say they’ve “been trying very hard for a child” that feels like a double-entendre or TMI. But short of that, people’s minds should not be going to the (presumed) act of conception.

        1. House On The Rock*

          I’ve worked at multiple places where both announcements of pregnancy and (frequently unwanted) discussions about family planning centered uncomfortably on conception. Of course it shouldn’t be this way, but people can get super weird and deeply personal about pregnancy. This is extreme, but I once saw multiple people congratulate an expectant father not on the happy news of an impending birth, but on still having marital relations with his wife. Ick. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that?

            1. House On The Rock*

              Alas no – this was in the past 10 years. Trust me, I wish I didn’t have counterexamples to your better view of things!

      3. Genevieve en Francais*

        Plus people see it as an invite for so many questions and unsolicited advice. Even if you’re generally excited to announce, it’s a crapshoot whether that one random coworker is going to ask you about birth plans…

        1. Nonanon*

          Questions, unsolicited advice, and at worse, a small minority of childfree colleagues questioning your decision (MOST childfree people do not actively try and push their beliefs on other people, but the small vocal minority wondering why children need to exist gets a little frustrating).

        2. Observer*

          Plus people see it as an invite for so many questions and unsolicited advice.

          That’s a totally different issue. Agreed that it stinks, though! But a brisk general announcement tends to cut down on that because it doesn’t leave such a direct opening for that kind of stupidity.

          And, you can be sure that the types of people who do that don’t need an “invitation” as such. Just the knowledge – even “knowledge” gleaned by looking at a woman – is seen as an opening by people like that.

      4. nikkole82*

        At a certain age ‘most’ people know how humans procreate. Their parents did the same to create them. Unless her colleagues are high school children they should understand that this us something people do and act like ‘ooooh they did it!!!’ is a big deal.

      5. kt*

        I understand all the well-meaning comments of “well by definition many people have had sex and procreated, that’s how humans propagate”, but at the same time some of us were raised in sex-negative environments in which it still felt very awkward and uncomfortable to announce a pregnancy. My partner referred to ours as a “virgin conception” for a year and a half. Clearly a few things being worked out.

      6. aebhel*

        Yeah, I really hated making the announcement because it felt like I was demanding attention that I really didn’t want. Feeling ambivalent about announcing it to a bunch of people who aren’t necessarily that close to you is different than feeling ambivalent about the pregnancy itself.

    2. Just Thinkin' Here*

      Women are nervous about announcing pregnancy at work because so many women end up with their career side-lined, demoted, fired, or otherwise derailed. It’s not because of the method of pregnancy, it’s about the negative consequences for women everywhere.

    3. Not A Manager*

      Depending on how much personal information people generally share in that particular office, announcing a pregnancy can feel like going from zero to sixty in terms of crossing the streams. Especially if people are mostly remote.

    4. JustaTech*

      It can be all of those things or none of them or a whole lot in the middle.

      Like, I enjoyed telling my parents and in-laws and family, telling our friends was a little weird (trying to not “hog the limelight” thing) and telling my coworkers was surprisingly anti-climatic, mostly because I assumed that they all knew and were being polite.

      I also have very few pictures of myself from my (wanted and planned) pregnancy because I had this very weird mental stop about pictures. I tried to reason it out for like three months and finally was like “I don’t know why I feel this way, but I do, and I’m just going to let myself feel my feelings.”

      (Also, looking at the “pregnancy announcement” suggestions on places like Pinterest is a minefield of ick. Like, I’m not livestock, thanks! I swear looking at that stuff put us off the announcement for weeks.)

  13. Yup*

    #2 – That lawyer is punching down—on you as an employee under him, and on you as a woman. This is the kind of sexism that keeps women from being equals in an office environment and makes it an unsafe space, as one the higher ups does’t *believe* women.

    I don’t think this is ignorable, as he’s in a position to take away the tools, disclosure methods, safety, environment, etc. that allow women to report mistreatment. Or at the very least, he makes women understand that reporting is weak and punishable with consequences (like being ignored).

    If your company offers self defence classes, then presumably they are investing in an office environment that believes, empowers, and supports women. This attorney is not upholding company values in a way that’s potentially very dangerous. You should not be put in a position of being expected to just ignore this.

    1. NancyPCat*

      I agree. Are there senior admin people who oversee paralegals, secretaries, other non-lawyer staff? If so, I would tell them about this. I have worked at firms where there was one person who oversaw the office paralegals, and one person who oversaw the secretaries, and both of them had the seniority – and respect – to take some kind of action about this, whether it’s speaking to the partner directly, or telling the management committee, or at least just warning every single paralegal to stay away from this lawyer and making his life more difficult.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Now I’m picturing the lawyer getting chewed out by Joan from Mad Men, which says everything about this situation that should not be happening in 20-friggin-24.

    2. Seashell*

      I agree this guy is a jerk and probably sexist, but I don’t think he’s done anything reportable. It’s probably not going to be good for one’s career to be known as the paralegal who turned an attorney in for a minor disagreement about a self-defense class.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I 100% agree with Yup that the lawyer is punching down and his behavior is gross and sexist. However, I also agree with Seashell that I don’t think much will come of OP reporting his behavior. IANAL nor do I work in a law firm, but from what I understand, the lawyers hold all the power and the paralegals can’t do much about that.

        Now, that said, if OP wants to mention it to their own paralegal boss, I wouldn’t tell OP not to, I just would also tell OP not to expect anything to come of it.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          I wouldn’t necessarily agree that paralegals have no power – their power is simply under the radar… and all the more powerful for being hidden. IANAL, and only worked in a law- related office as a temp many years ago. However, I listen to WAAAYYYY too many reddit Malicious Compliance stories. I am fully aware of the MYRIAD ways secretaries, janitors, and any other “underlings” can make life miserable for idiotic folks in power, simply by following the rules to the letter. I can only imagine how a paralegal, whose job is among other things, to assist the lawyer to law things, can make a lawyer’s life incredibly difficult in very sneaky ways.

          And now I need to know some of those ways. Off to RSlash!

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Ah, thank you for reassuring me that paralegals aren’t powerless in these situations. I stand corrected. And pleased that maybe OP won’t have to take what EvilLawyer is dishing out at her.

          2. Allonge*

            I am sure this is the case and I would not begrudge OP to be inclined to behave this way.

            But for me this would be putting too much effort into the relationship. The guy is clueless and argumentative at best. Why waste time on him, risking OP’s integrity in the process?

      2. bamcheeks*

        I wouldn’t make a formal report, but I would certainly mention it to my manager and let them decide whether it needs to be taken higher, either under the heading of “giving you a heads-up that this might impact my relationship with Senior Lawyer” or “just FYI, I’ve engaged in a work-based initiative and some people are NOT happy about our company offering this”.

        After all, if he’s done nothing wrong, can’t hurt to mention it, right?

      3. JSPA*

        Ignorance isn’t in and of itself reportable. Chalk it up to, “he may be test-smart, but he’s an idiot” and move on.” Or if there’s a lawyer (ideally one of the Name partners) who’s female, maybe mention the exchange to her, and suggest that the office could sponsor some awareness-raising, or even in-house self-defense training?? ( I would not be surprised, however, to hear that there are not women at the top, in this lawfirm.)

        1. Agent Diane*

          The ugly conversation started because OP2 mentioned she was taking self-defence classes offered by the firm.

        2. Yup*

          Allowing these conversations in the workforce to go unchecked is exactly why it’s so hard for women to be at the top in a firm.

    3. SickOfIt*

      I agree. Too many times ignoring stuff like this and trying to act normal has come back to haunt me later. I understand that it may be what’s in OPs best interest as an employee, but it’s just so hard for me to let this level of disrespect go just because someone has seniority over me. Ugh.

  14. FashionablyEvil*

    #5–in the age of remote work, I’ve gotten any number of emails (subject line: good news!) along the lines of “Sorry for the blast email, but wanted to make sure everyone heard: I’m pregnant and due in October. I’m very excited and will be working with Manager on coverage closer to the due date.”

    People either email you back or they just delete the message and move on. Fine either way.

    And congratulations!

  15. Edward Williams*

    #3: When I supervised, I announced a rule: X may make a negative comment about Y only if Y is standing or sitting right there to hear it.
    A conversation in my office:
    X came in and started “Y is doing this awful….”
    Me: “Stop.” I called Y into the office. When Y arrived, I said to X, “Now what were you about to say?”
    X weaseled away. I fired X next morning.

    1. Colette*

      That’s actually a terrible rule. If Y is sexually harrassing or threatening X, for example, X shouldn’t have to explain that with Y in the room.

      1. Seashell*

        I agree. Even if it’s something more minor, if X thought Y was doing something wrong and the manager had to explain that it wasn’t wrong, Y doesn’t need to be present for that.

      2. honeygrim*

        Yeah. If you were an equal colleague who is fully aware that X makes fun of Y all the time, it’s not a bad idea to tell X that if X can’t say that to Y’s face, they shouldn’t say it to you.

        But since you were a supervisor with the authority and responsibility to address work issues that your direct reports bring to you–and to do so in a way that doesn’t make the direct report a target for some sort of retaliation (not necessarily in the legal sense)–your policy, Edward, was terrible. You had the power to address whatever the issue is, whether it’s X making fun of Y all the time, or whether it’s that X had made a valid complaint about something Y did.

        As Alison has noted before (and as seen in letter #1), when a manager is not capable of managing effectively (or not willing to do so), they often resort to weird and sometimes devious tactics to avoid the responsibility of managing. I’d say making it a policy that no one can come to you with any sort of work issue involving a coworker without that coworker being present is a VERY devious tactic that absolutely allowed you to avoid addressing issues that were your responsibility to address.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I can see how that would work for general whinging, but it would absolutely fall foul of whistleblowing procedures, and allows zero space for nuance.

      There was a recent letter about a colleague being vocal about a particular war, not realising that the LW had family in the conflict zone. LW should not have to disclose personal information to the colleague when discussing with their line manager how difficult they found it.

      That would apply even more for concerns relating to protected characteristics eg “Sam keeps microwaving fish which I can’t bear because I’m pregnant”.

      I’m also not sure your method would work for ‘women don’t need self defence’ attorney dude.

    3. JSPA*

      Yeah… you don’t know if you fired someone for trying to report physical threats, racial or sexual harassment, theft… Anything that they could quite reasonably have wanted to report anonymously.

      Your job as the human manager of other humans is to be the person in the middle, who can make the call on whether this is nonsense on its face, or potentially substantive.

    4. Waffles*

      The only positive thing about this comment is that”supervised” is used in the past tense.

    5. Pretty as a Princess*

      Yikes. This just reads as you bullied X for attempting to come to you to talk about a problem.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, even if I had a legit grievance, I’m going to be a lot less keen on sharing it with a boss who’s clearly already made up their mind what the real problem is and who’s causing it.

    6. Jennifer Strange*

      I mean, I guess that’s one way to avoid doing your job as a manager? Also, you fired them the next morning for bringing an issue to you?

    7. House On The Rock*

      Dear lord, this is horrifying! As the kiddies say, this isn’t the flex you think it is.

    8. Observer*

      When I supervised, I announced a rule: X may make a negative comment about Y only if Y is standing or sitting right there to hear it.

      In other words. you had a rule that no one is allowed to ever report any behavior about any other person, no matter what it is they did.

      I fired X next morning.

      You fired someone for trying to report something, but refusing to do so in an unsafe way. To be honest, the person who should have been fired is you. And make no mistake, if you keep this up, you WILL find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit.

    9. Dark Macadamia*

      So, you made it unsafe to report legitimate concerns and retaliated against people who tried without even hearing the problem?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Has anyone nominated themselves for Worst Boss of the Year yet, or is 2024 the first?

        1. Yikes On Bikes*

          I sincerely hope that they see these responses and have a redemption arc…but more importantly that they are not managing anyone anymore and never will again. It’s been a while since I’ve seen something quite so tone deaf.

  16. PotteryYarn*

    I was 95% remote during my last pregnancy. I had regular meetings with my immediate team, but I also worked with A LOT of other people in different departments that I didn’t have standing meetings with. For most of those people, I typically announced the news by slipping it in during relevant work chat.

    “Just so you know, I’ll be on maternity leave from mid-April to early June. I’m still working with Boss to figure out coverage while I’m out, but I should know more as we get closer to my due date!”

    1. DrSalty*

      This is how I did it when I was pregnant and working remotely. I really only mentioned it to people who needed to know in the context of coverage.

  17. Tracy*

    LW#1 I was involved in a similar situation, except it was sexual harassment my boss was ignoring. One blatant incident happened during a small department meeting right in front of her and she didn’t say a damn word. We went to HR to report it (that ended up mostly being a mistake based on the blowback, but I did get to switch locations to one closer to home and a lot more professional) and they told our manager. Our manager’s response was to complain that we ALWAYS need to come to her first and got angry about. We went over her head because she was part of the problem and is upset about being called out. We knew she wouldn’t document it and would probably blow it up even more.

  18. Peanut Hamper*

    The manager in #1 sounds a lot like Bebe Glazer from Frasier. The crying is just straight up manipulation.

    Also when she said “there were no bad outcomes as a result of the issues they discussed” what she meant was that there were no bad outcomes for her and that she didn’t really care that there were bad outcomes for you

    LW#1, your manager sucks and isn’t like to change. Keep your grandboss in the loop.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, if I had been in OP’s shoes and hearing “there were no bad outcomes – because you caught all the plates I threw at you!” I would be beyond annoyed. I would definitely be considering making it more her problem in future and and refusing to cover people without appropriate breaks.

      1. Elbe*

        Agreed. There were “no bad outcomes” because the LW stepped in to clean up her mess. That’s not a sustainable solution. Managers should help their team succeed, not create obstacles.

    2. el l*

      Having heard from people elsewhere here who say “Don’t tell grandboss”…Yes, tell grandboss about this interaction.

      OP’s manager isn’t moving in the right direction. If she had a meeting and said, “I heard this, and I apologize and plan to do better”, then yes give her benefit of the doubt. But her incompetence was part of a wider pattern, personally hurt OP – and when confronted with it she responded with defensiveness and low-grade retaliation.

      You’re going to need grandboss’ help.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        Yeah, I agree that it would be good for OP to clue in grandboss as to what’s going on, but to keep it as objective and emotion-free as possible when relating the situation to grandboss. Do not see yourself as tattling or gossiping; rather, see yourself as a news reporter just letting the public know what’s going on. And hopefully if you see yourself that way, grandboss will as well.

  19. Ashley*

    LW #2: my guess is either 1) this is a guy who likes to debate everything for the sake of debating and feeling superior and he just isn’t gaging what’s appropriate or 2) he’s having something else going on and is projecting that onto this (his comment about everyone being scared these days could be related to frustration with actual distorted fearmongering and he’s projecting that onto this). But the fun fact is that neither of those are your problem. I agree with the advice to stay neutral with him going forward. Stay calm and unreactive and professional (ie greyrock) if he decides to act up again, just give simple calm answers (“how many people do you know who have been attacked?!” responses could range from “I understand your curiosity but that’s something I prefer to not discuss” to “I like to stay active and appreciate that it’s offered” or redirecting “I am aware of how you feel. So, (insert neutral unrelated work question like asking if they need something for an ongoing project or upcoming deadline)”.)

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Nah, he is just a manipulator. And a jerk. Women shouldn’t be afraid of every little thing — despite all the evidence to the contrary of how unsafe it is to just exist as a woman. But I bet you dollars to donuts, he’s the type to carry a gun to the grocery store because of unspecified danger from the Them.

      They don’t see the the contradiction. Because he is the Them to women. And that can’t possibly be true – not all men, etc.

    2. Elbe*

      This is good advice for the LW on how to handle the situation that he’s created. He doesn’t seem to be arguing in good faith anyway, so shutting down discussions is the way to go. There’s no good outcome here, only avoiding these topics with him as much as possible.

  20. Feotakahari*

    #2 is where marginalization hits marginalization. It’s hard not to notice that the specter of the dangerous man you need to protect yourself from is often imagined as a black man. And if you’re a white woman, the tall black man you run into on the street is at risk of getting pattern-matched to the specter. I don’t know the attorney’s race, but “you don’t need to be afraid we’re gonna assault you” is a sentiment I’ve seen before.

    1. Yup*

      This exactly. It’s why ignoring this behavior by people in positions of power–especially those with who tick all the privilege boxes–is dangerous for everyone. This needs to be pushed back on, if not by the LW, then by someone who has the ability, authority, and privilege to call it out and show that behaviour has consequences.

      Replace “women” in this letter with an even more marginalized group (be it race, sexual orientation, religion, mental health, immigration status, and the list goes on) and I think it becomes even more obvious that ignoring this behavior can have really horrible consequences in not only the workplace, but people’s entire careers.

      1. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

        Let’s not say “more marginalized” please; as they say, it is not the Oppression Olympics

    2. Observer*

      I don’t know the attorney’s race, but “you don’t need to be afraid we’re gonna assault you” is a sentiment I’ve seen before.

      This is not remotely relevant to the conversation. The idea that any guy – yes, even a Black guy who has been unfairly profiled REALLY doesn’t know that women – of all races – are vulnerable doesn’t fly. Claiming, as he does via his “question” whether the OP “even knows” anyone who was attacked, that it just DOES NOT HAPPEN is gross.

      As someone else pointed out, this is not the “oppression Olympics”. Anti-Black racism simply does not excuse the sexism and bullying of this guy. (Even if that were playing into it.)

    3. Ellis Bell*

      So he was assuming that all women who need to defend themselves, would only ever need to do so because they are racist? I dunno about this guy’s race either, and I guess he could be black, but highly optimistic views of the world tend to be white ones. Also, I have been lectured many, many times about how afraid I am allowed to be of men (get a cab home/don’t be afraid to just walk home, you should only be afraid of strangers/don’t be afraid of strangers because of statistics/how dare you prejudge a stranger/if you get attacked scream and fight/go for the balls/pretend you’re into it…etc etc) and the lecture has always come from a white guy. Oh and he has always, always assumed that I don’t know anything about being attacked and that it’s never happened to me or to anyone I know.

    4. Random Dice*

      I’m sorry, WHAT?!?!

      You’re saying that the man in a position of authority over a smaller subordinate woman, who’s bullying her over self defense training because in his incel world no woman ever has actually been harmed by a man… is just worried about RACISM?

      That is really messed up of you.

      There’s a villain here, and it’s not the tiny 60 year old woman who just wants to learn to defend herself.

      As @katewillet once said on Twitter, “Call me old-fashioned, but I want a man who will protect me like I’m the reputation of a guy he’s never met”

    5. LaurCha*

      You “noticed” that the dangerous man LW might need to defend herself against is a black man? How so? Where is that in the letter? Seriously, do better. You’re being ridiculous.

      1. Yup*

        That’s not at all what’s being said. The comment is about intersectionality and how marginalization–especially when it overlaps–can affect people in the workplace.

  21. HailRobonia*

    “He’s very adversarial and loves a good argument” – ah yes, the good old “I’m just playing devil’s advocate” and/or “I’m just ‘asking questions to raise the discussion'” dude*. I’ve met a fair amount of people like this, mostly in college.

    *I have yet to meet a non-cis-white-male with this attitude.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      “I have yet to meet a non-cis-white-male with this attitude”. You won’t. We know better.

      1. Katie A*

        They might! I have. Different kinds of people get really into the philosophical argument or the emprirical facts and don’t pay much attention to the social and emotional elements of the conversation. Sometimes that’s fine, like when you’re discussing ideas and philosophy, and sometimes it’s not, like when you’re talking to someone about their own experiences.

        It may be more common among cis white men, but it definitely isn’t their exclusive domain. I’d imagine it’s more common among academics, people who think seriously about ideas and ethics, and people whose brains enjoy logic and debate, regardless of identity.

        1. Avery*

          I do feel like there’s often a difference, though. Like, I’m not cis male and sort of fall into this, but I tend to only do it when it’s clearly an argument/debate already, and if somebody tells me to knock it off I will. That’s not the same as someone who goes around probing everyone’s every statement for potential cracks in the argument all the time and does so even when people clearly take offense to it.

    2. Polaris*

      Pretty sure that even the devil himself is sitting back for most of these types going “Whoa. Full stop whoa. I didn’t ask for and don’t need your help. Creep. Sheesh. Who the hell…dang it the door demons are striking again? Is that what happened? That’s how this cretin got in here?”

    3. Random Dice*

      It’s always white men who do this. Usually after falling way too far down an incel / MRA / 4chan hole.

    4. Elbe*

      Yes, and I have yet to find a devil’s advocate who picks a topic that is important to THEM to debate. It’s just a “thought experiment” because it doesn’t hit close to their home.

      1. Katie A*

        I’m surprised by this, tbh. You’ve really never had a conversation with someone where they wanted to discuss good arguments against a position they hold strongly? And then they made them as part of figuring out what they really think and how to argue against those reasonable objections to their own position?

        I’m guessing you have had converstions like that, but since they weren’t being a jerk at the time and were discussing their own ideas, it didn’t match to the common internet type of “devil’s advocate.”

        1. Elbe*

          I’m not saying that no one ever debates topics. I’m saying that, when a topic is important or sensitive, ‘debating’ it takes on a different vibe. It’s not something that people would do casually, for entertainment or to sharpen their rhetoric skills. When going against a position would cause harm, people tend to not do it for fun.

          I’ve heard people debate topics, but I’ve never heard a black person be a devil’s advocate for segregation, or a recovering alcoholic decide to be a devil’s advocate for alcoholism being solely a personality flaw, or for an immigrant to be a devil’s advocate for closed borders.

          When the devil’s advocate position a) commonly exists in the real world and b) has caused personal harm to you or your loved ones, it generally doesn’t feel like a debate topic anymore.

  22. Riggs*

    LW #5, One way to make it feel less attention-seeking is to make the focus of your email that you’ll be taking maternity leave in X months. That way the email is really about making sure everyone can prepare to be able to do their jobs while you’re away.

  23. Lifelong student*

    For OP1- Curious that nobody has commented on the fact that grandboss apparently told boss who had complained. I think that is an issue and might mean that either OP should not address this further with grandboss. Alternatively, OP1 might want to bring it to grandbosses attention that the disclosure was a bad idea- depending on the relationship with grandboss.

    1. WellRed*

      Or it may have been obvious because OP was the only one to bear the brunt of the time off mismanagement.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, it seems like if a significant part of the issue was the lack of coverage for OP that the manager could very easily assume where the feedback came from correctly.

    2. MsM*

      We don’t know that boss hasn’t been calling in all of the team, or at least everyone she’s aware has a problem with how she’s been doing things. (Or even just that she singled out OP because deep down, she knows perfectly well that someone forced to work more than two weeks without a break might have a legit grievance.) And if she is throwing darts trying to figure out who squealed, that might be something grandboss should be aware of, too.

    3. Sneaky Squirrel*

      It may not have been the grandboss explicitly mentioning who had complained. Boss may have been able to deduce who had complained because OP had already brought the concerns up to her previously. But also, if the issue of coverage came up, it’s possible that there was enough context that Boss could connect the dots.

    4. A Manager for Now*

      I don’t know that this is true, actually. It’s possible the boss knew it was LW since LW has brought these issues to boss before, and it’s possible boss went to everybody she manages and asked “Do you have anything you want to talk about” (this happened to me, actually! My old boss faced an internal investigation and went to everyone asking that), and it’s possible that a specific complaint made it clear who it was without grandboss realizing that fact.

      Since grandboss seems to be handling this in an appropriate way, I’d find it really unlikely they disclosed LW’s name.

    5. Expelliarmus*

      I wonder it was obvious who it was? Like the manager knew that no one else could possibly raise those particular concerns, without the grandboss having to say who raised them.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        Considering some “anonymous” work surveys that I have seen, I knew that if I raised specific issues, it would be VERY obvious who did so. I would have been the only person with that exact knowledge and problem. So, I didn’t.

        I’m very glad that LW did and hope for the best for them.

    6. Leenie*

      If the complaint was about something that only impacted the OP, like leaving OP alone to work 17 days straight, I’m not sure that the grandboss needed to tell the boss who complained, or could really have avoided the boss deducing it.

  24. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW2: That blowhard lawyer may simply be arguing reflexively because that’s what he always does – some people will argue with you if you say that the sun shines during the daytime! But personally, I’d be more than a little leery of a man who disapproves of women learning to defend themselves; what vested interest does HE have in keeping women helpless?

    1. TeaCoziesRUs*

      See, I’m rude enough to actually ask that question, to his face, point- blank… so long as I could remember it at the moment.

      Possibly with an arched eyebrow and a Shakespeare slaughter of “Methinks thou doth protest too much.”

      1. Random Dice*

        You only do that if you don’t actually think he’s the threat to women that he’s showing himself to be.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        I would be interested to see his response to that also. But only if there’s no threat to me or my job or others.
        Sometimes when you call out an oblivious man he gets shocked and flustered, because he really didn’t understand what he was doing. There’s no way to know from here if that’s what’s going on with OP’s colleague. To keep herself and her job safe, it’s probably better not to in this case.

      3. LaurCha*

        It’s easy to armchair quarterback a snotty response when you don’t know what the power structure is like in that particular firm. Paralegals are not EVER partners in firms, and are, in private practice, entirely subject to the whims of the partners. If she gets shitty with the dude, she could lose her job tomorrow.

  25. Database Developer Dude*

    #2 is an idiot, on par with those women who oppose women’s self defense courses on the grounds that we should just teach men not to rape. That’s all well and good, but that only works on men like me. I’m not a predator.

    Those who are, however, do exist. To refuse to prepare for them because rape is wrong in the first place is all kinds of foolish. A raped and murdered woman is not morally superior to a woman standing there with a smoking pistol, a dead would-be rapist at her feet.

    If I had a stupid amount of money, I’d pay for self-defense classes for -any- woman who wanted one.

    1. MissElizaTudor*

      “women who oppose women’s self defense courses on the grounds that we should just teach men not to rape. ”

      This sounds like a bad conservative strawman of feminists who make points about the fact that things like self-defense classes and “don’t get drunk” and “don’t go out at night” aren’t foolproof ways to avoid being assaulted, that they just mean someone else might get assaulted, and that wider cultural shifts are needed to reduce sexual violence.

      You seem like a good guy, so I hope you consider thinking of a different way to make that point that doesn’t sound so crappy.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Also, I think we all know the rules you mention, like don’t wander around alone at night, are not solving the society problem. These are just ways to keep ourselves safer in the meantime.

  26. LCH*

    “a senior attorney asked why I’d want to take self-defense training”

    if it was being offered for free, the answer is “why wouldn’t i?!” what on earth is the downside here? what an ass.

  27. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW1, your manager left you as the only person in the office for over three work weeks (Mon-Fri) while everybody else was on PTO?? That’s unacceptable. Frankly I question whether this person should be managing at all given that her response to being rightly pulled up was to all but accuse you of ‘snitching’ (it wasn’t) and then burst into tears.

    LW5, there’s nothing attention seeking about a simple email letting your colleagues know that you’re expecting, don’t let anyone guilt trip you about that.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I *think* by 17 days straight, LW1 is saying the coverage in their office includes weekends. Which would be two straight weeks including weekends, plus another three days (weekday or weekend). Which is even more brutal than 3+ weeks of weekdays, IMO, though that would be gross too.

      1. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

        You’re right, that is even worse. And surely illegal? Either way, this woman is bad at her job.

      2. Sharon*

        It sounds like LW1 did too much covering, causing the manager to believe that “nothing bad happened.” What if LW had refused to work the extra days, or had gotten sick and been unable to work? Then what would have happened? Sometimes you have to let people feel the consequences of their (in)actions.

  28. Reality.Bites*

    I’d find it odd if a co-worker I didn’t have a personal friendship with announced their pregnancy or other life event to me personally rather than as a group announcement.

  29. Kristin*

    LW4: it really depends on your future plans and what your relationship is like with your employer. I used to work for a very very small business where I was the sole employee for years, and by the time I left the headcount was only 4. I gave months of notice because I was planning on taking some time off – I got burned out trying to work and parent through the pandemic and wanted to make a career change anyway. I helped my former boss recruit my replacement and trained them before leaving. However, I had a great mentor-mentee relationship with her and had no deadline of anywhere to go, and giving a very long notice and helping with the transition helped protect that relationship. I still keep in touch with my old boss, ask her advice on work problems I have, and just keep up with her as a friend. If I had been leaving for another opportunity instead of a six-month break from the working world, or if I had less warm feelings towards my former boss, I would have done it differently.

  30. Observer*

    #2 – Argument about self defense training.

    Is this guy in general a misogynist? How does treat women – colleagues, staff and *clients*? Because what he said makes me wonder about his base line respect for women. And depending on the type of law he practices, that could make a direct difference.

    1. Elbe*

      I think it’s safe to assume he has some major gender bias, even if he’s not an out-and-out, card carrying misogynist.

      There are tons of average men who take jiu jitsu or krav maga or boxing classes. People accept that it’s for sport and for fun, with the added benefit that it may come in handy in a bad situation. No one mocks these men for thinking that the world is too dangerous and no one feels the need to gleefully tell them to their face that they would still probably lose a fight against a much bigger, stronger opponent. No one asks them to list out all of the pain and abuse they and their loved ones have endured in order to justify their hobby.

  31. Another Academic Librarian too*

    I am not surprised by the Attorney’s ignorance of woman and safety in this world. Things that men take for granted like walking on a dark road or hiking alone without a thought.
    I was shocked when I had to explain this to my husband after 30 years of marriage. I actually handed him an article about just this thing. I will see if I can find it.

    There is a power differential. My hopes and dreams for them is that they never have to experience a violent attack.

    1. Old and Don’t Care*

      Well, people are different. I’m a woman, and a runner, and I frequently run alone. Often at night. It fills me with rage when someone tells me that they would NEVER do that, I should be afraid to do that, or worst of all, when a man says “if I were a woman I would never run by myself.” (This is the most common thing I hear, but I’m a single woman, and people do comment on a lot of things I do alone, like I’m not supposed to have a life by myself.) I guess I also take for granted some of the same things the male lawyer does.

      It seems the answer is to accept that people have different comfort zones and risk tolerances, and especially not to to get into arguments over things that are just personal choices impacting no one else.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I actually said a similar thing upthread about how I get lectured by men when I do things like walk home, but equally I will get lectured if I feel like I can’t, and about how I’m paranoid and how statistically safe I am. So, I didn’t read Another Academic’s reference to men “taking things for granted” to mean they’re the only ones allowed to do those things, or that women don’t do those things. Men lecture us simply because they can’t imagine having to decide between freedom and safety. I took Academic Librarian’s reference to mean that it’s not even an idea they have to apply to themselves ever, and if they do miscalculate their safety and get hurt it gets ascribed to “bad luck”, instead of “you shouldn’t do something so risky” and “I would never do that” insults which are always added to our injuries. FWIW, while I don’t run, I do walk a lot at night (running seems safer to me?!) and that’s not even the riskiest behaviour I could do in my book. For me, the biggest risk in the world is dating straight men; they frequently attack women in romantic contexts, even when they’re not being rejected and that’s before we get into stalking etc. The guys you’ve known a long time aren’t safer, either. But I decided long ago that not having any romantic life at all is not an option for me. (Funnily enough, men never tell me to abandon dating). Before I would go on an internet date, I would always call a friend and tell her where I was going and call her when I got home. I would meet him in public. The whole time, I’m aware the guy I’m meeting isn’t worried at all about me, and “takes it for granted” that the worst thing that could happen is we don’t get along. I know that if I don’t want to walk somewhere with him, he’s not really going to know why.

        1. Random Dice*

          There’s an Irish comedian who says “a man’s biggest fear is a woman laughing at him. A woman’s biggest fear is him murdering her.”

      2. JustaTech*

        I’m also a runner (currently on hiatus) and while I don’t run at night for other reasons (the sidewalks are too uneven), there are places that I choose to not run very early in the morning because of a history of creeps.
        It’s not a blanket “never”, it’s a simple risk assessment (just like, don’t run on that street in the early spring, the geese have nests and they are serious about defending them).

        What AALt seems to be describing is something I’ve seen as well, this lack of awareness of *needing* to make a risk assessment. Or when men make blanket declarations without considering that there may be risks to be assessed. Like the dude who said that the way to deal with your ADHD is to run alone through Central Park at 3am. Like, dude, no. I’m sure for people who live there, they might know the area well enough to do that safely and enjoyably. But to just not even consider that it might not be an option for others is what’s frustrating.

  32. JAnon*

    #5: I am a remote worker who is due in 5 weeks so I recently went through this. I hate making people pay attention to me and at the time, the group I worked with was a lot of very matter of fact men so it felt odd talking about my pregnancy. I told them all in a meeting but letting them know I would be starting maternity leave around the beginning of May. It felt like that way, I was telling them it in relationship to work, and felt like I had more of a reason to share something very personal (not that we need a reason). It was easy and everyone was so excited for me. Just don’t overthink it!

  33. 2024*

    Ohhhh #2 just pushed all buttons this morning! The WOMEN who live on the same lot as I do, three units, are all being terrorized by a mentally ill homeless man who is fixated on my building. His behavior is escalating, I was on the phone at 5 am with 911, shaking, afraid he was going to break past my flimsy front door. Same guy was shooting off a gun early am on a recent weekend morning on the front yard, plus a lot of other disturbing behaviors. Does that stupid lawyer really think that this guy would be harrassing and probably getting close to attempting to assault men, if these units were occupied by men? Hell no. F**k him. And all those who think like him.

  34. morethantired*

    #5 – chiming in to say at my company people have the option to either announce it themselves or they can ask their manager to announce it if they would prefer that. And usually the manager announcement is just a short “Quick announcement — congratulations to X who shared they are expecting a baby in Y month!”

  35. Law Bird*

    Wow, as a woman in law LW 2 is not a shock at all. The sexism, the picking fights for no reason, the intractability, the doubling down on something dumb.

    I recently attended our firm’s optional DEI presentation and it was pretty good. We had breakout sessions, and it struck me that I was the only attorney in a group of 6, and there were no men in our smaller group. But as long as my peers (and particularly my male peers) think their time is better spent elsewhere, I just see more and more of these interactions. And I would classify the LW’s experience above as abusive.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      In my experience, lawyers are more likely to turn a discussion into a debate / argument than people from many other professions. Not all lawyers, of course, but enough of them. Their training is to poke holes in what the other side is saying and it can spill over into their other interactions in ways that may not be pleasant for the other people involved. A similar thing happens with trainee therapists, who will start using therapy techniques with their friends and partners. Though I think it’s something they typically move past after a while.

      1. Law Bird*

        This is absolutely true. I was always a little bit like that, and my last job made it so much worse. It’s been work not to let the attitude I needed to have to deal with attorneys like the guy in the letter bleed into the rest of my life. You have to take the armor off. And I recognized what was happening and tried to mitigate it!

        I changed jobs. Not for this reason, but it has helped a lot.

  36. Kelly*

    LW5: I also felt awkward announcing my pregnancies at work, especially remotely. I think it’s pretty normal – to me, it felt like involving work in a very personal thing (despite being very friendly with all my coworkers!).

    I told people I was particularly close with during standing 1:1s. For everyone else, I took a cute picture of the ultrasound (NOT with me in it) and posted it in a Teams chat with a note that said “Some fun news at our house this week!” or something along those lines. People liked and commented on it, then we all moved on. Much less awkward than sharing during a meeting (at least for me).

  37. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I don’t think I’d storm into grandboss’s office with an update, but if there’s a door open even a crack, I’d definitely suggest bringing them up to speed. Your boss is showing poor management and compounding the bad management by having that 1:1 with you. Given an opportunity, grandboss should know how your boss reacted and the uncomfortable spot you were put in because of the feedback. Even if your boss disagreed with the feedback, there are far better ways to have handled that. Ending up in tears during a 1:1 isn’t productive at all.

    I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, which is why I wouldn’t march in to update the situation. But given the weird reaction (that it was an opinion, that boss ended up in tears) I’d worry a little about potential retaliation. At least getting that concern on grandboss’s radar would be helpful in the event that something does happen later.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Honestly I’d go to grand-boss with “I’m not sure what you’ve said to Boss or how you are handling it, and I don’t need to know, but I wanted to let you know in case it’s relevant to you that (insert all the details here).” And then I’d probably, being me, add that I don’t need anything done right now for my sake and will bring it up if there’s further issues, but just wanted to let him know in case it is something he might need to know.

      1. Observer*

        I think that this is a very reasonable take. Boss’ reaction is just . . shaking my head.

  38. Pink Geek*

    LW5: If it helps, you can announce your maternity leave instead of your pregnancy, since that’s the part that’s relavent to your colleagues. Of course they know what it means and you’ll get message of support after

  39. Office Skeptic*

    LW2: I echo the other comments about how dangerous this misogynist’s ideas are. He could be directly harming people if he is approaching women clients, women employees, or cases that involve women with this level of ignorance and sexism. (Willful ignorance I might add, there is no one in 2024 that could just not know that women are assaulted.) Not that there is anything you can do about that necessarily, but do you have good relationships with others in the office where you can mention what he said, without it coming back to hurt you? Even just off hand and with little emotion, like “how odd that he said this thing.” Sometimes just having other people know – especially other women – can help keep others safe.

  40. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    LW #2 can’t say this in her position, but my answer to men who say, “How many women do you know have been attacked?!” (and yes, it’s been flung at me) is to say, “We both know lots of women who’ve been attacked, but they’d never tell *you.*” I had a man once insist to me that his teenage daughter was never harrassed on the street! “She’d tell me.” Oh no, she wouldn’t.

  41. Elle by the sea*

    I don’t think you need to announce your pregnancy. I only told my managers one on one first and then told me colleagues who I work with, again, one on one. To me it’s a really private, one on one announcement kind of thing. I didn’t announce it to the rest of the team at all – people will just hear it through the grapevine. I wasn’t showing until the beginning of the third trimester and am mostly remote (with one day in the office per week.)

    But I know that some people choose to announce it in team meetings or in an email. Those channels are appropriate, too. A lot depends on your own preference and the company culture.

  42. Book Addict*

    LW3 is there a way you can inform Ann that you overheard Jane and Barb gossiping without saying it was about her? Just a general warning that they aren’t trustworthy with private information. Obviously this is harder if the 4 of you are the core group, but if there are several others, it might be a way to let her know without creating more drama.

  43. Nat20*

    Wow, the guy in #2 is really telling on himself. He might as well have a flashing neon sign over his head that says “I don’t like the idea of women being able to defend themselves”. Saying “it’s not about gender” is complete BS because I guarantee he would not have this reaction about a collegue taking self-defense classes if they were a man.

    Either he’s just being adversarial for the sake of being adversarial (since he’s described as “enjoying arguments”), which makes him an ass, and/or he just enjoys exerting meaningless authority over OP as an older woman/paralegal and was upset she didn’t give in, which makes him an ass, and/or he has a personal interest in women remaining helpless, which makes him an ass.

    I mean really. “Who do you know that’s ever been attacked”? It’s not impossible that he really is that obtuse, but I think it’s also possible he’s being defensive.

  44. AlwaysEditing*

    The letter about self-defense really annoyed me. I’ve (a woman) taken martial arts for 16 years, not because I was afraid but because I wanted to learn the art, become more aware of my surroundings, and have fun. Yes, I’ve felt like a badass at times! It’s great! More than that though, learning self-defense is about AVOIDING dangerous situations in the first place. Good on you, LW#2! Keep learning!

  45. Tammy 2*

    I’d bet a gazillion dollars that the senior partner in #2 doesn’t know any women who’ve been assaulted because none of the women who know him feel comfortable disclosing those stories to him.

    We need a name for this phenomenon. It’s a little like Dunning-Kruger, “you know so little, you have have no idea how much there is that you don’t know” but not quite.

    1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      I’m uneasy about educating people like this because I worry the insight they gain might just make them more effective at cultivating trust and finding opportunities to be abusive. Whisper campaigns exist for a reason.

  46. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: I’d seriously consider going back to the grandboss and letting them know about the 1:1 meeting you had. Dumping negative emotions on to your employee like that is not okay.

  47. Auntie Anne*

    3 – Please let Ann know that she can’t trust these people. It would be a kindness to gently remind her to hold her cards closer to her chest, and that specific people are spreading rumors. You are not spreading gossip by telling her what you know. You are giving her information to protect herself.

  48. Cookie Monster*

    “She kept saying that the criticism she got was just a matter of opinion, and it was unfair to receive discipline for it.”

    Um, apparently someone needs to explain to that this is exactly how criticism, feedback and discipline work? Sure, sometimes it’s addressing facts, but most of the time it’s your boss saying “my opinion of your behavior and decisions is that they were bad” (not literally verbatim like that, but the essence of it).

  49. Always Tired*

    For #5, does your company have like, a general topics chat on teams/discord/slack/whatever? My last company, the first slack channel set up when we moved to the platform was “[COMPANY] Pets” and we all regularly shared animal pictures, but the best moment was when one of the ladies dropped her sonogram picture like “I’ll have one more creature to care for come June!” From then on it became something of a tradition to announce all new additions to the family (marriage, birth, adopting kids, adopting pets) via pets chat. This was a multi-national SaaS company with 1k+ employees.

  50. Elbe*

    It’s possible that the reason he wouldn’t make eye contact with you afterwards is because he realized he’d F’d up.

    I appreciate Alison’s optimism, but I kind of doubt that this is the case. My guess is that he interpreted her walking away as an admission that he was right, that she couldn’t think of anyone who has been attacked. “She left the conversation because I was pushy and cavalier about a serious, sensitive topic” is probably not an idea that crossed his mind.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he genuinely thinks that he “won” the argument and that her walking away without acknowledging his victory was rude of her.

  51. Sharon*

    #5 – I work with a lot of people in different locations, so most of my colleagues are heads on a screen and I wouldn’t know if they were pregnant or not. Usually they announce it a few weeks before they go out on leave, either in a meeting or in an email, if it hasn’t just come up before then. (Note that not all people who take parental leave are pregnant, so you wouldn’t have a visual reminder for them even you were in office!)

  52. Nik*

    #5 The email can be in the nature of informing your coworkers about your upcoming absence for maternity leave, if you want to make it more work related.

  53. Adele*

    #2, Alison says law firm politics but you said legal department, suggesting that this is a larger company with non-lawyers in most other positions. I would suggest you consider talking to HR, especially if he ices you out of your work after this. Tell them your superior demanded that you tell him if you were ever assaulted after being dismissive of your safety concerns as a woman, and wouldn’t let the topic go. If your company is offering you self defense classes, then someone there obviously believes people need them.

  54. Lorraine*

    #2 triggered something I was just thinking about. 8 years ago we had a diversity training for staff. (It was pretty good! And I have been in some BAD diversity trainings.) But this one senior manager mentioned that he had no idea the kinds of things women had to think about on a daily basis. This is someone highly intelligent, well educated, and – and this shouldn’t matter, but just to add insult to injury – someone with a wife and daughters.
    I was just on a call with him (he’s now a senior director) and he was being rude and overbearing and all I can think about when I see him is this entitled, privileged white boy who is making proclamations about the world while not understanding how it works. I don’t think I’ll ever get over someone being so clueless as to not understand women thinking about safety in a parking garage at night. I hope he has learned and grown in the last 8 years, but it is hard to shake when someone demonstrates willful ignorance.

    1. JustaTech*

      The willful ignorance is *so* frustrating.
      Early in my career I had a boss who wanted me to do an unnecessarily long experiment (as in, he wanted it all done in one day that would have easily been 20 hours when it could have been done just as well over two days). In addition to this being a brutally long day, our office was in a location that (at the time) was just not that safe at night. Further, the building security guard gave everyone, including the boss, the serious creeps.

      But my boss simply would not hear my safety concerns until I appealed to his wife (a fellow scientist who sometimes came to lunch at our lab) to explain why I didn’t feel safe. (This was after the lab manager also tried to explain why I had serious safety concerns.)

      It was only after his wife explained why a young woman would not want to walk through that neighborhood alone at 3am, and I threatened to involve my union, that he relented.

  55. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    LW #3, every time I’ve confronted people who are being spiteful and malicious about someone behind their backs, I have gained new people who are now being spiteful and malicious about me, both behind my back and to my face, occasionally extending to mild stalking. To me, this is not that different than the situation with a group chat that was demeaning a co-worker behind their back, except there’s no one further up in the hierarchy that you can apply to. But is there some sort of quorum that could be called to crack down on this? (In other words, are Jane and Barb outnumbered, or is it just 4 people in your hub?) You might be able to approach Ann as your first step in gathering a quorum to figure out some basic rules of conduct.

    I do think you should re-think your relationship with Jane and Barb. Absent some pretty egregious information about Ann that Jane and Barb know that you’re lacking, it sounds like they are petty gossips who shouldn’t be trusted with anything at all personal or sensitive.

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