pregnant employee is lying about work, coworker attacked my boss, and more

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

1. Pregnant employee is lying about doing her work

One of my employees is pregnant and has been having a long series of issues at work since the beginning of the year. It shouldn’t matter, but just in case, I am a woman. However, I’ve never been pregnant so this is unfamiliar territory for me.

Her work quality and output has decreased dramatically. She went from being my top performer to my worst. She is no longer able to take the same medication as she usually has, so this is definitely contributing. I agreed to reduce her work expectations 25% early in the year, but she is not able to accomplish the reduced workload, either.

We recently had a discussion about not completing certain types of work because I discovered she had not been doing it at all and was lying about doing so (and tried to deny it). We are allocated 20% of our working time for it. She has missed required meetings due to taking a nap. Every meeting we have begins with, “I’m so tired all the time.” She has chronically zero or negative PTO, and will not work late to make up hours or work on the weekend like others’ on the team (despite the negative PTO). Thanks for any tips or advice you have on managing or coaching in this type of situation.

Pregnancy doesn’t turn people into liars. That’s on her.

Fatigue? Sure. Not having the energy to work more hours to make up ones she’s missed? Sure. Lying, no.

I’m curious what your sense is of what drove that. Was she covering up undone work because she was ashamed and lied in a moment of panic? That’s still not good, but you can work with that more easily than a sustained and/or cavalier lie that she committed to multiple times over a period of months.

Either way, it sounds like time for a serious conversation where you say, “I’m willing to work with you. I’ve reduced your workload to 75% of what it was — and what the rest of the team’s is — but I need you to hold up your end it. That means not missing required meetings or clearing it with me ahead of time if you think you’ll need to, raising it proactively if you’re not able to keep up on work so we can figure out solutions, and — and it’s a problem that I even have to say this — not covering up work that’s not getting done and telling me things are done that aren’t. I’m giving you a lot of grace because you’ve been a top performer, and I’m absolutely open to giving you flexibility during this time, but I need you to work with me. Can we have an honest conversation about what’s realistic between now and your leave and how we can make this work? If we can talk honestly about what you need right now and what the team needs, I think we can move forward. But I don’t know how to make this work if we don’t.”

I was going to warn you that there’s a good chance this won’t resolve when she’s back from leave, because the baby is likely to be exhausting and energy-sapping too … but if she’s able to resume the medication she currently can’t take, that might make a difference. (And if that medication is for ADHD, which it sounds like it might be, shame is very often intertwined with ADHD and could account for — not justify, but account for — the lying.)

2. I want to apologize for snapping at my coworker, but my manager said not to

During a stressful situation last week, I responded to a coworker with an unnecessary amount of snark. Specifically, we work with dogs, and I’d just been bitten (painful, but not serious). The coworker said “Oh, yeah, that dog bites,” and I said “Yeah, no shit.” In hindsight, I recognize she was trying to be helpful, but this coworker often rubs me the wrong way, and it was the end of a long shift. Not my finest moment.

Several days later, my manager casually mentioned that the coworker was upset by my reaction, and that he would try to avoid scheduling us together for a few weeks to let things blow over.

I was going to text her an apology, but my manager specifically told me not to. According to him (and another staff member who was present for the recap conversation), the coworker has a reputation for being “sensitive.” He said she would interpret my apology as evidence of people “talking behind her back.” The manager added that he didn’t blame me for what I’d said, and that he would have said something similar or worse in my situation.

I just checked the schedule, and lo and behold, the “sensitive” coworker and I are working a six-hour shift this week with just each other.

What do I do? I’d like to clear the air before seeing her again, and it feels weird to know she’s upset and not apologize. Presumably, my manager knows her better than I do, but I’m not sure I trust his judgment. This is a very casual working environment, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I behaved unprofessionally, and it feels weird not to acknowledge that.

It wasn’t that unprofessional, in a casual environment. A little sharp, sure — but you’d just been bitten. It would be a lot more unprofessional for your coworker to hold that against you and be weird toward you because of it.

But we also don’t know that she will. She could have felt a little stung in the moment and have gotten over it by now. Wait and see how the shift goes. If she seems upset when you’re in-person, at that point you could say, “I apologize for my reaction last week when Florence bit me. It was heat of the moment, and I didn’t mean to sound upset with you.” That’s a reasonable thing to say if she’s being chilly, and that way you don’t flagrantly do the exact thing your boss told you not to do (text her). And if your boss’s concern about texting was that it would be clear he told you she was upset, this way you’re simply responding to what you see of her with your own eyes.

For what it’s worth, if your boss genuinely thinks your coworker would need several weeks away from you in order to cool off about something so minor, (a) there’s a big problem with this coworker that your boss is being negligent in not addressing, and (b) he shouldn’t have told you he’d schedule you separately and then not followed through, especially without saying anything to you. (If he later realized his idea was an overreaction, which hopefully it was, he should have told you that.)

3. My coworker attacked my boss to me

I was at a social event at my job yesterday, saw a coworker, and asked if he was free after the event to touch base quickly. The conversation went off the rails from there.

We started talking about a long-standing issue in my office that impacts both our teams (a problem with our data fidelity that I’m trying to work on), and I was agreeing with him about the issue. Unfortunately, he took my agreement about this to be agreement that I thought the issue was entirely the fault of my boss. He began to attack my boss, going so far as to say he thought he should be fired, as all he does is collect a salary. I was so shocked that I froze and just made “mhm” noises until another coworker came up to us and I was able to change the topic.

I like my boss! I don’t think the current issues are his fault (he only started in his role about a year ago!), but now this coworker thinks I’m “on his side” about the issues, which I’m vehemently not.

I’m now stuck with two problems: first, I don’t know how to deal with this coworker. He’s not well-liked, and his dislike of multiple team members is well known, but I hadn’t been pulled into it. I’m worried he thinks I’m going to help him, and I need to keep a good working relationship with him. I know that I should have shut the conversation down as soon as it started, but he’s very senior to me, and honestly … I was so surprised at what he was saying that I couldn’t think straight in the moment.

My other worry is that this will get back to my boss. We were at a social event, and if anyone overheard, it would have seemed like I agree with the coworker. After the event, I immediately went and spoke with some trusted coworkers on my team about the conversation, and expressed my horror about it, but some of the possible “overhearers” were people who are very senior to me and not one I would go to to debrief about this. Is this something I should tell my boss? Or do I only bring it up if my boss comes to me? I’ve never been in a position like this before, and I really like both my boss and my job, and I don’t know how to deal with this!

I wouldn’t worry terribly that anyone who overheard thought you were agreeing with your coworker. It doesn’t sound like you said anything bad about your boss, and I suspect this isn’t the only time your coworker has buttonholed someone to unleash his grievances. Yes, ideally in the moment, it would have been better if you had said, “Wow, that’s not my experience with Joe at all” or “I really like working with Joe and don’t think he’s responsible for the problems” … but it’s unlikely that at an event where people were having their own separate conversations, you’ll have come across as if you also were trashing your boss. (But if your coworker raises the topic with you again, make a point of saying those things then.)

You probably don’t need to raise this with your boss. The exception to that would be if you think your coworker will try to be a problem for him, in which case it would be a professional courtesy to say, “Hey, I had a conversation that alarmed me and that I think you should be aware of.” But if your coworker was just griping, you can probably just leave it alone.

4. My coworker keeps pushing me to apply for a transfer I don’t want

I recently finished my master’s degree, and it’s no secret at my employer that I’m now underemployed in my position. I’ve been chasing a couple of internal leads for promotion, but so far, nothing has panned out. My manager doesn’t really understand or value my speciality, and she’s stated outright that she’s not interested in having conversations about my career development or in putting me on projects that would get me working on the things I do (and we have several). Our one-on-one meetings are very task-focused, and if she doesn’t have new work to assign, she cancels them.

A coworker in another department, however, has been very supportive of my need to develop my career. Unfortunately, this has manifested in repeated recommendations to apply for a team with a reputation for toxicity, long hours of putting out fires that could have been prevented if the team would do its research, and unpaid on-call time (we’re all salary exempt). On top of all that, their function isn’t really related to my speciality.

I have no intention of applying with them, and have said as much several times. I’ve also explained why. However, it’s apparently not sinking in with my coworker, who again today advised that I apply for an opening that’s coming up on that team. I don’t know how else to say no, absolutely not, never, I would rather literally set myself on fire than do that job with that group of guys, and I will absolutely leave the company if a move to Toxic Trash Fire Team the only option for “advancement” there. Do you have any suggestions? I don’t know what else to do at this point besides keep up the broken record routine while I continue applying for jobs with other companies.

Keep up the broken record routine while you continue applying for jobs with other companies. “Nope, I’m not interested in working with that department!” “Nope, that team isn’t a good fit for what I want to do.”

And then at some point if you feel like it: “How do I make you believe me when I say I don’t want to work on that team? I don’t know how else to say no.”

But this is one of those problems that becomes much less of a problem if you simply decide you don’t care. Your coworker can keep suggesting you apply to that team, you can keep saying no, and they can’t actually make you do anything differently.

5. Can I ask my previous job to take down old videos I made?

At my previous workplace, a library where I worked through Covid, I was required to create videos almost weekly for our social media pages. There are probably about 40 videos total still up on the Library’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

The problem is that my husband and I are currently in a horrible, aggressive, scary custody battle for his children. Their mother, unfortunately, is struggling with serious mental health illnesses, and their home is no longer safe. In recent weeks, she has begun harassing me online through the constant creation of fake social media profiles. Our lawyer is aware of this, but unfortunately, there is little we can do right now unless she makes an explicit threat. I really hope we can end this case soon, but until then, I am terrified that she’s going to find these videos. Honestly, there isn’t much she could really glean from them, but she’s the type who would absolutely use them to harass and embarrass me in any way possible. Would it be out of bounds to ask my former library to take these videos down? They’re all from 2+ years ago, they are not professional quality in any way, and they truly aren’t anything especially valuable — mostly just short tutorials for craft kits that are long gone.

Explain the situation and ask. Legally they don’t have to agree (since you created as it a work product while you were an employee, they own the videos) but there’s a good chance they will if you explain why you’re asking and especially since they’re for craft kits that the library doesn’t even have anymore. (This would be tougher if they were popular videos that they put a lot of resources into, although even then you could still ask.)

{ 503 comments… read them below }

  1. Nodramalama*

    Lw2 I have to admit if someone said AFTER I’d been bitten than the dog bites, I might also have a snarky response. How is that helpful?!

    LW3 I think you’re taking your co-worker’s gripes too seriously. People complain about their bosses. Even if they’re the best boss in the world someone is probably going to complain about them. Unless your coworker was saying something incredibly outrageous it seems pretty unlikely to me that anyone over hearing would have really made any note of it. And I definitely wouldn’t bring it up to your boss.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I agree with that about people complaining about bosses. Some of my colleagues continually complain about our principal, with one declaring once that she thinks him “a waste of space.”

      That has been far from my experience. Is he perfect? No. Are there things I think he should do differently? Yes. Has that been true of every principal I’ve worked under? Mostly. Do I think I’d do any better? Probably not. I might make different mistakes but it is a tough job and nobody is going to get everything right all the time and I’ve worked under completely incompetent prncipals, one of whom the students openly mocked because he had no discipline and tried to be their friend.

      I think some people just blame all problems on the boss. I have a couple of colleagues who seem to think the principal should just “get rid of” the students who are misbehaving or refuse to take students who have bad reports on their behaviour from their primary schools. The latter isn’t even legal and the former requires a fair bit of evidence, for good reason.

      I realise LW3 knows their colleague and can probably gauge if it’s just venting or true animosity, but I don’t think most people, if they heard somebody complaining about a boss, would assume the person listening agreed and hated him.

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        A lot of people dislike my boss for reasons that I completely understand, although I disagree with them. My perspective on it is that he’s a great boss who is willing to go to the mat for me and my (understaffed and extremely overworked) team. I know working for him that he’s got my back, but our internal processes are byzantine bordering on self-parody so other groups internally who don’t really understand what my team does all day perceive him as difficult and combative because he pushes back on stuff where other managers don’t.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > People complain about their bosses.

      I would agree if OP and the co-worker were ‘mutual’ reports of this boss, but in fact the co-worker doesn’t report to the boss, only OP does. So the message going out here is that someone from another team is unhappy with the output of OP’s team, and blames the boss for this. I think that is relevant information for the boss to have (in a way it wouldn’t be if it was just ‘internal’ grumbling), because part of what a boss is responsible for is relationships and perceptions outside of the immediate team.

    3. Michigander*

      My husband used to say “Careful!” after I would trip over or bump into something. He stopped after I ever so politely pointed out that THAT IS NOT HELPFUL. If you can’t give the warning in advance, don’t give one after the fact. It is the opposite of useful.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Me: “Ow!”
        Husband: “Don’t do that.”
        Me: “And that’s when I stabbed him with a potato, your honor.”

        1. Rainy*

          My now-husband used to say “Don’t die” instead of “Don’t do that” in those situations. It wasn’t super noticeable until we moved in together, and then it was happening a couple of times a day because I bump into stuff a lot (ADHD swerve), and I reached the point of climbing the walls with absolutely zero understanding of why I hated it so much. Until I remembered an ex-bf who also reflexively said “Don’t die”, which I didn’t like but some people just say stuff, myself included (don’t order the mahi-mahi around me), and it’s not worth getting upset about. Why, I asked myself, am I so upset about it now when it was tolerable when the Triple Threat bf said it?

          Oh right, because I had to dump him for cheating on me and being reminded of him is like nails on a chalkboard.

          The next time he said it I said “Babe, Triple Threat used to say that all the time and I’d prefer you didn’t.” Husband was horrified–I’ve been saying it so much! Oh no! I was like, no worries, babe, just please don’t do it again. That was in 2016 and he’s literally never said it again. :)

        1. Not my monkeys*

          I think you meant “and that’s when he accidentally fell on the pitchfork, four times, Your Honor”?

    4. Anonys*

      “Unless your coworker was saying something incredibly outrageous” – I think what the colleague said WAS pretty outrageous. Saying someone should be fired and that they are completely incompetent / don’t do any work (“all he does is collect a salary”) falls outside of the normal spectrum of complaining about a boss or coworker. I mean, I have thought that about (very few) coworkers as well and might drop a comment like that to a “not from my company” friend, but I don’t think you should say stuff like that at an office event and if you do, you need to be very aware of your audience.

      Even without the firing it’s not great that the colleague (who is senior to OP so might be at similar level to OP’s boss) – was complaining to OP about OP’s boss. That’s different to venting with a coworker about a mutual boss. I agree with Alison that it won’t reflect badly on OP in any case and that likely noone was listening. But at least in my company, if other senior people heard someone outright saying a popular/competent manager is terrible and should be fired that would definitely reflect very negatively on the person making the comment. So I don’t agree with Nodramalama that this is normal, unserious venting on the part of the colleague (who sounds like an absolute ass).

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I agree that the complaining is way too intense, though it sounds like this colleague might also have a reputation for it (“his dislike for multiple team members is well known”).

        1. Rainy*

          When I was in grad school, a guy came in the year behind me in our (very small) PhD program, and he was pretty unpleasant. One of the things he did was to complain constantly about how faculty members treated him (better than he deserved, imo), and he was one of those people whose personal volume knob went to eleven and had three clicks’ worth of travel.

          Getting buttonholed by him anywhere was bad, but in the echoey hallway that many of the faculty he wanted to complain about had their offices in was absolutely the worst. The best way to make him stop, I found, was to respond calmly with “I haven’t found that to be the case” or “That sounds really hard, but that hasn’t been my experience” until he got tired of being calmly disagreed with and stomped off to rant at someone else. It only took a few repetitions for him to decide that I wasn’t the audience for his complaints and stop involving me in them, and I had the comfort of knowing that the faculty who heard him slanging them outside their doors also heard me calmly pushing back.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      There is some sort of hard-wiring in humans that causes us to respond to minor disasters (someone walks into a beam and staggers back holding their head) with “Look out!” To the extent that I think many of us have to be on the “How is that helpful?! *&^” receiving end several times before we can train ourselves out of it.

    6. I DK*

      I think the coworker is being too much of the sensitive special snowflake … I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard “No shit, Sherlock!” or something similar … and never have taken offence at the statement. Even in OP’s situation, the comment was not at the coworker, but resultant of the incident, at least that’s how I read it. If my coworker had just been bit, I wouldn’t at all be surprised, or offended, if her response to my ‘Captain Obvious’ comment was a little snarky.

  2. Garblesnark*

    LW1, I just want to acknowledge what a tough situation you and your employee are in. Fraught!

    There may not be a good way to raise this, but just as a point of knowledge from someone who is not a doctor and learned this too late in life – there’s a kind of doctor called a maternal-fetal medicine specialist that whomever a pregnant person is seeing for their prenatal care can refer them to, and these MFM specialists can often help people like the LW’s employee find medication solutions normally not suggested in pregnancy that are safe for the baby but allow the pregnant person to function. MFM doctors have a lot more leeway, flexibility, depth of research, and comfort with prescribing to pregnant people than doctors who are not MFM specialists.

    Again, I am not saying necessarily that there’s an easy way for LW1 to say to their employee to see this kind of doctor, and I obviously don’t know enough to say whether that could even help in this case. But many, many pregnant people keep their jobs and/or functioning through the aid of MFM doctors and they are far less well known about than they should be.

  3. Fierce Jindo*

    Regarding Alison’s final warning on letter #1 (pregnant employee):

    For what it’s worth, my exhaustion during pregnancy was unlike even the exhaustion after the baby came, except at the absolute toughest point (which for me was about one month when the baby was about four months old). I fell asleep at nearly every social engagement during my pregnancy! I took tons of naps, something I’ve almost never been able to do before or since! It was very distinctive, and it did end.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I also had very different experiences of exhaustion during and after pregnancy that affected my work in different ways. During pregnancy, I could fall asleep at the drop of a dime and often nodded off during meetings. I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open sometimes, and never knew when it was coming. I couldn’t concentrate and made a lot of mistakes (and ADHD was a factor).

      After I gave birth, my exhaustion was a longer-term, more predictable tiredness that I could manage better when I returned to work. After my mat leave, I had adjusted to long-term sleep deprivation and was just slow, but I could do my work better than during pregnancy. Everyone is different, though, so YMMV with this anecdotal info, though I do think the employee being able to get back on meds is likely to make a significant difference if it’s for ADHD.

      1. Kristin*

        It varies so much by pregnancy too, my first pregnancy I was exhausted in the first trimester, full of energy and plans the second, then just too physically encumbered to do much of anything the 3rd. My second pregnancy was more even, I didn’t get as sleepy in the first trimester as the first time around, but never got the second trimester energy boost (though I suppose parenting a toddler may have had something to do with that).

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – I was so happy to not be vomiting and nauseous, not to mention pre-eclamptic (is that a word?) and to not have PUPPPs, that post-birth tiredness was a breeze, in comparison. I was tired, but I was feeling alive, not half-dead, basically.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        This resonates so much with me. During parts of my second pregnancy, I was basically a zombie. I was chain-eating ginger candy and chewing gum just to stay halfway alert. It was brutal. The sleepless nights with baby at the beginning were a breeze in comparison.

        First pregnancy wasn’t that bad, so ymmv, definitely. It also got much better in the second half of (my) pregnancy.

        1. Simona*

          Yes, I had the same experience. Pregnancy was so much worse – it was like my body was rebelling against me and it NEVER got better (I only have one child lol)

    3. LadyAmalthea*

      Same – from about 6-14 weeks, at 4 pm my body hit a wall of morning sickness and exhaustion, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to push through it. It got a bit better after that, but my body forced me to rest in a way that post partum with twins did not. there was no way I could have even thought about staying late to catch up – afternoons and evenings were pre-booked for vomiting and sleeping.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There was absolutely nothing I could do to push through it.
        This is really a thing with pregnancy. You can collapse into bed to take a nap and emerge, two hours later, just as exhausted as when you lay down.

        Also, as with seasickness, throwing up doesn’t help with the nausea.

    4. NforKnowledge*

      The first trimester of my first pregnancy I was SO exhausted, sleeping 12 hours a night and taking multiple naps during the day (working very slowly from home). By trimester two I was fine!

      1. Crooked Bird*

        It’s so ironic, too, because people will often treat you like you’re Only Kind Of Pregnant in the first trimester because it’s not visible to them (and sometimes directly act like you’re a whiner, “dude you’ve barely started and you’re already acting like this!”), and yet it’s actually the most brutal time. And then you start to feel better as you start to show and like clockwork suddenly everyone is all “oooh, do you need to sit down??”

        My second trimester was way better too. Hopefully this happens for LW’s worker–AND she grows a conscience about lying…

        1. bamcheeks*

          I once saw someone arguing that the point of “always offer women a seat” was that you didn’t know who was in the first trimester and feeling terrible but looking unpregnant. I think there are much bigger problems with the idea of “treat all women of child-bearing age as potentially pregnant”, so I wouldn’t endorse that approach, but it made a certain amount of sense!

          1. Nebula*

            Transport for London provides free ‘baby on board’ badges to pregnant people (if you ask for one) so others can see that you’re pregnant and need a seat on the Tube even if you don’t look it. Whether these actually make a difference, I don’t know.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Yeah, I think my sister-in-law had one. I am not in London but I definitely wouldn’t have done, because there is NO WAY I would have remembered to take it off, and I’d have ended up with people knowing way before I wanted them to!

            2. londonedit*

              They do make a difference. It’s pretty well accepted form that you offer your seat to anyone who looks like they might need it more than you, but the ‘Baby on Board’ badges definitely help, especially in winter when everyone’s in massive coats and scarves and you might not notice a bump unless the person is heavily pregnant! TfL also offer free blue ‘Please offer me a seat’ badges which are for people who have invisible disabilities, and those really help too, because otherwise it can be hard for people to see who does and doesn’t need to sit down.

              1. Garblesnark*

                Not in London, but this is part of why I carry a mobility aid even on trips when I might be able to get by without one. Yes, I might need it at a moment’s notice, but also, it signals to decent people around me on public transit etc. that I may have needs that aren’t immediately visible.

                1. Worldwalker*

                  I’ve taken to doing that myself. Even if I might not need my cane, it’s nice to not have people bowling me over in lines and things., because I’m definitely less stable. You know, acting like they should be doing anyway.

              2. Not my monkeys*

                It can also be awkward if you offer a seat to someone who looks like they might be pregnant but is actually overweight. Sometimes people take an offer in the spirit it’s intended but it doesn’t take very many people being loudly offended by the suggestion before people are less inclined to bother.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          I was sick from 1 week in, and stayed that way until I had my emergency c-section. Ended up taking a month off work at the worst of it, and afterwards worked from home 1 day per week (Wednesdays), which was sort of shocking at the time, as it was very much an IN THE OFFICE job mindset at that point. Thankfully, my employer was accommodating.

    5. bamcheeks*

      Yes, “exhaustion from incredible levels of hormones doing wild shit” is qualitatively different from “exhaustion from lack of sleep” IME. Which isn’t to say that exhaustion from lack of sleep won’t also hit your employee’s productivity, but it’s not unreasonable to see this particularly stage as a time-limited one and then re-assess.

      Honestly, you need to address the lying, but I think you’d be nuts to do anything other than wait out a clearly time-limited decrease in ability from someone you describe as a top performer. What support can you look for from outside your team to help you manage this?

      1. LW1*

        I’d thought about pursuing having her get an accommodation from HR. I think under different circumstances (maybe a more strict company, different manager) something like that could be helpful to protect her.

        At this point I think it is not worth pursuing, and what I really needed was a lot of affirmation from other women about their experiences to hammer home that it really can be that debilitating.

        1. Anon for this*

          I will add to the chorus, LW, because my situation sounds similar to your employee and because, ultimately, I quit my job after not getting the support I needed.

          I was a very high performer who always went above and beyond before my pregnancy. I could barely function while pregnant, I was so sick and exhausted. But my experience is that everyone expects pregnant women to carry on as if they don’t have a major medical event going on. I asked for support/understanding and instead got accused of trying to use my pregnancy to “get out of” doing work – after years of documented over performing.

          I did end up getting some of the accommodations I asked for, but I quit my job shortly after returning from leave because I felt so demoralized about the whole situation and just realized that I wasn’t valued as a whole person there.

          Don’t be like my old employer. If this is normally a high performer, assume that they are struggling because they cannot do better – and proceed with understanding and encouragement. Otherwise, you’re both shooting yourself in the foot AND contributing to the systemic inequities that pregnant people face in the workplace.

    6. tg33*

      I was lucky enough to have very few symptoms, but at one stage my sister in law fell asleep on her nose on her desk for a nap. First trimester exhaustion is like nothing else. It’s partly hormones, and partly blood volume increasing, so until your body makes the blood to fill the volume you will be anaemic.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I had to disclose my pregnancy to my boss much earlier than I’d planned because she found me asleep at my desk one day. I must’ve been 6 or 7 weeks pregnant, and I’d told my parents, sister, and in-laws a few days before that.

        I didn’t have much nausea, though, pretty much the only thing that made me feel sick was the smell of coffee, particularly stale coffee.

    7. Varthema*

      Came to say the same. Especially (and I think this was a bit glossed over to the point that I forgot about it) if this person was a top performer before. Especially if ADHD is in the mix, sometimes we think we can do more than we physically can (I believe this is related to time blindness) – I would think every day, “I’ll definitely be able to keep up if I put in some time in the evening,” TOTALLY forgetting that by evening my body is so wiped out that I can’t even watch an episode of Friends, let alone do work. This would *especially* be true of someone who is used to being a top performer and who can barely admit even to herself how disabled she’s become (because pregnancy is a kind of temporary disability for many, and I’ll die on that hill, even if the ADA disagrees).

      As for trying to cover her tracks, it’s also worth investigating whether or not the work culture is such that someone can openly admit, “I can’t handle this”. It’s a rare work culture where that’s okay to say out loud. If yours is not one of those, I think it makes sense to give a former top performer a little grace when she’s probably tired and sick and scared that her brain and body aren’t doing what she wants them anymore. If you have the relationship with her, a “What on earth is up? I’m worried about you” conversation could perhaps produce a more honest conversation than one that makes her scramble to mask and be on the defensive.

      And this clearly has an end date, because I agree with others here that postpartum exhaustion is NOTHING LIKE pregnancy exhaustion.

      *And if it’s not ADHD, it doesn’t really make a difference – if her condition was bad enough before that she needed meds and now she can’t have access to them, she’s suffering double.

      1. Chickadee*

        Seconding that it doesn’t matter if the meds are for ADHD or not – I don’t have ADHD, but I can’t function without my meds. If she mentioned going off her meds, then it’s because she knows it’s having an impact.

      2. Spring*

        I think it makes sense to give a former top performer a little grace when she’s probably tired and sick and scared that her brain and body aren’t doing what she wants them anymore. If you have the relationship with her, a “What on earth is up? I’m worried about you” conversation could perhaps produce a more honest conversation than one that makes her scramble to mask and be on the defensive.

        This! As I was reading the letter, I thought the OP sounded personally offended by the employee. Maybe this is only because of the lying, which of course is hard to take. But it might help the OP to take a step back and think about whether she can help make the situation better vs. seeming to just be angry and frustrated with the employee, full stop.

        1. Lydia*

          The employee lied to cover up her mistakes and is getting grace because she was a top performer. At some point, that grace does have to come with accountability, and I think it’s reasonable to say lying about your work is not allowed, period.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            +1000. The making mistakes and having reduced capacity for things is fine if you’re HONEST about it. Lying about it is a whole different problem, and is not acceptable at all.

          2. Starbuck*

            Yeah I think if the employee in L1 had proactively brought this stuff up to their manager, that even the 25% reduction wasn’t working (already that’s some grace!) but the manager had to bring it up when she noticed, and it sounds like the meeting did not go well!

            “We recently had a discussion about not completing certain types of work because I discovered she had not been doing it at all and was lying about doing so (and tried to deny it)”

            I’m curious how that conversation ended? L1 manager, what was your closing statement here after you discovered the lying, and she denied it? Did you require improvement, or ask her to let you know what arrangement might work better? Did she promise to do better, did she ask for extra accommodation, or what? It feels like we only have the first half of the convo. If that’s where it ended – in awkward denial – then yeah this definitely isn’t resolved.

          3. Allonge*

            Yes, some grace is not (for most managers, cannot be) the same as letting the person do anything / nothing for months on end, especially with lying involved.

          4. Humble Schoolmarm*

            While I’m generally anti-lying, I also teach middle school where self-preservation lying goes with the territory. I realize school is different from work, but for me, the fact that this is new behaviour is significant. If the employee was a habitual liar, I would agree that LW should come down hard (and probably should have before this) but if this is a new thing caused by a (by definition short term) physical stressor, I would dig to find out what works for both parties before jumping to possible termination.

          5. Not my monkeys*

            Definitely. If you’ve got a top performer there’s a lot of scope to look after them but if they are saying things are done when they aren’t done that’s a totally different situation to needing to make some allowances because their body is doing stuff that they’re struggling to handle.

        2. Anon for this*

          I feel like both the LW’s letter and the response really miss the mark on basic empathy and care.

          When an otherwise conscientious employee lies about their work, it tells you something is up – possibly with them, but also possibly with your workplace. Given the lack and empathy and overall time of LW’s letter, I would not be surprised if it’s due to an issue with the work environment. Can people there admit when personal things are keeping them from performing at their best? Are they met with empathy and understanding? do managers work collaboratively with those employees who have medical or personal issues to set up the support they need? If the answer to any of those is anything other than a resounding yes, I’d say the lying is more a symptom of the environment they’ve fostered.

      3. LW1*

        it’s also worth investigating whether or not the work culture is such that someone can openly admit, “I can’t handle this”. It’s a rare work culture where that’s okay to say out loud. If yours is not one of those, I think it makes sense to give a former top performer a little grace when she’s probably tired and sick and scared that her brain and body aren’t doing what she wants them anymore. If you have the relationship with her, a “What on earth is up? I’m worried about you” conversation could perhaps produce a more honest conversation

        I think a little of both of these is going on – she is a very strong person, and usually handles more than her share, and is super helpful to others. Our conversation did go in the direction of “I’m worried about you,” and I hope it came across that I wanted to know how to help. But I think letting her know that I knew she hadn’t been doing some of her work did put her on the defensive, so that may have been better as two separate conversations.

        1. Amanda*

          “usually handles more than her share” stands out to me here

          It’s important to realize that if you are used to seeing someone handle MORE than their share, then it’s easy to see that over-performing as their “normal.” But this can cause you to have a disproportionately negative response when they start performing at an a stage level – even though it’s not really fair to expect them to always do more than their share.

          Now it seems like their performance may be below average for your team right now – but I’d ask you to think hard about how much of your response is about their actual, objective level of performance, vs. an implicit (unfair) expectation that they should always be over-performing.

          essentially, be careful not to punish someone because you expect them to do MORE than their fair share. this often happens to high performers, in my experience, particularly women. maybe it’s time to ask some other members of your team to step it up right now and tell yourself that person has earned a period of mild underperforming – from what you’ve said, it would still average out to high performance in the long run.

          1. Amanda*

            last sentence of the first paragraph should read “at an average level” – not a stage level

    8. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’ll add my voice to this chorus.

      During pregnancy, I fell asleep in meetings, on the train, during social events — at one point I was sleeping about 14 hours a day. Despite (like Fierce Jindo) not being a person who could nap otherwise. It was as if the hormones temporarily gave me a new body.

      I was still tired with a new baby, of course, but it was a different kind of tired — a much more human, managable kind. (Also, crucially, the kind that would respond positively to a good night’s sleep or a long nap, whereas the hormonal tired was forever unstated, no matter how many hours I gave it.)

    9. Julia K*

      Agreed. All three of my pregnancies have involved extreme sleepiness, even narcolepsy, from weeks 6-20. That’s in addition to brain fog, dizziness, and nausea. It’s way worse for me than simple postpartum sleep deprivation. Some days I could barely sit up.

      I quit my job during my first pregnancy because of that. It was a physical job on my feet outdoors that I did for fun, and I knew the job would be waiting for me whenever I wanted to come back. If I’d had a less secure or more obligatory job, though, I’d have looked into taking disability leave.

      1. AVP*

        A friend and I were pregnant at the same time during the depths of covid. I was moved down to half-time-hours and WFH, and she was FT but WFH, both because of the pandemic. We both said we would have needed to quit our jobs if they were fully in-office during this time! All I needed to do was log on to my computer by 10am and I could barely manage it half the time.

        I was exhausted after (really tiring little infant on my end) but was actually pretty excited to get back to work after mat leave and have done some of my best work since then, even with the toddler exhaustion.

    10. Sleeping Beauty*

      Same. It was a different type of tired that seemed to be in every cell of my body. I fell asleep standing up! One of my kids didn’t sleep for more than 3 hours at a time, usually only 2, for the first 6 months of his life. Even with a payment who also had parental leave, this meant I slept horribly that entire time. I was still far more functional during that than the completely overwhelming exhaustion I had in pregnancy.

      As much as TV/movies use a woman vomiting as shorthand for being pregnant, a better indicator for me would have been falling asleep in a bright, noisy room in the middle of the day.

    11. Also-ADHD*

      If the employee is medicated for ADHD, off meds for pregnancy, and can do back on again after, the sleep deprivation and changes won’t be anything as bad as pregnancy + unmedicated even besides the fatigue difference. I strongly suspect ADHD combined because everything in the letter (including lies, particularly unplanned ones that are impulsive) is actually explained by certain types of unmedicated ADHD. Now medication is not the same difference maker for everyone, but I’ve seen this over and over with women I know (I’m in a support group) and it’s one of several reasons I know I couldn’t get pregnant/have kids. The functioning level I’m at without my stimulants and the likelihood I’ll be impulsive is way too high. It’s not even the focus. It’s some other issue with the dopamine etc.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        Yeah, I think the “unmedicated” bit is a big sign that this is likely to get better when the employee comes back after parental leave. It may or may not be ADHD, but there’s a decent handful of issues where lying (or things that look like lies to an observer) can be symptomatic, and that you can’t medicate during pregnancy.

        I’m not sure if that changes the advice any, though. LW absolutely needs to have a very frank discussion with this employee and find a solution that works. But if the solution would be different for a formerly high-performing employee who’s expected to resolve her medical issue in a couple months, LW might want to consider that.

    12. chewingle*

      Same. Mixed with depression, which increased to a point of needing suicide watch (yay hormones! And this was WITH my meds), pregnancy was THE hardest part for me (my kid is 4.5 years old now and I stand by this). Pregnancy became a major, debilitating health issue for me. I was fortunate that my boss was understanding and let me essentially perform as entry-level during this time. And there were always people (who had never been pregnant!) telling me I knew what I signed up for. NOPE. (Case in point: I’ll never do it again now that I DO know.) Everyone I knew had smooth, easy pregnancies with cute morning sickness and the occasional hot flashes. Meanwhile, I had my therapist on speed dial and my husband had to drive me everywhere because he was afraid I’d fall asleep at the wheel (probably because I did it once, but the car wasn’t moving, so). I couldn’t sit up without vomiting for 4 months and, oh, the constant urge to just kill myself and be done with it all was a joy.

      I guess my only advice for LW1 is that you should talk to your employee, but understand that she doesn’t have a fucking clue what is happening to her right now.

      1. LW1*

        Thank you for sharing this. Hearing more about how bad pregnancy can be helps me understand & that I need to adjust my expectations accordingly.

    13. Bast*

      My last pregnancy screwed with me in ways neither of the other 2 had. I could sleep 10 hours and still be exhausted. The smells of foods I had loved had me running to the bathroom, and I was extremely emotional and cried at the drop of a hat, despite being someone most people would describe as usually being fairly stoic. The emotions and exhaustion I had during the pregnancy were 10x worse than the “new baby gets up every 2-3 hours” type of tired I felt after. I can totally sympathize with that aspect of this letter, but the lying? I am not trying to pin this on LW, but does the company have a history of treating pregnant employees poorly? Is this woman panicked about losing her job because she has seen it happen before? Unfortunately in some environments, despite being a top performer before, she would now be seen as “less than” and let go ie: “Oh, Jane used to be such a good employee until she had kids. Now it’s going to be all about the baby she won’t be able to focus on work. Just look at her slipping up already.” I am not excusing lying, however, I can understand that not all companies are family friendly, and she may be worried about being pushed out the door/being seen as less than committed now that she is pregnant. I do agree with Alison that if this seems like a panicked one time thing, it doesn’t quite merit the same response as habitually lying.

      1. LW1*

        does the company have a history of treating pregnant employees poorly? Is this woman panicked about losing her job because she has seen it happen before?

        My industry is male dominated, the company does have some women but there really aren’t a lot of us, and so just not a lot of pregnancies. I’d like to think the other cases I’ve seen, those women were treated well.

        “Oh, Jane used to be such a good employee until she had kids. Now it’s going to be all about the baby she won’t be able to focus on work. Just look at her slipping up already.”

        I definitely didn’t want to be “that guy!” I was afraid to ask for this reason for sure.

        1. Observer*

          My industry is male dominated, the company does have some women but there really aren’t a lot of us, and so just not a lot of pregnancies. I’d like to think the other cases I’ve seen, those women were treated well.

          This is a good chink of your answer. She still should not lie, and you need to address that.

          But I have absolutely no doubt that she’s worried about how people will see her and treat her. Even leaving aside the ridiculous things you read on Reddit, etc. it’s pretty clear that male dominated don’t have a great track record in how they deal with mothers and mothers-to-be.

          You were very wise to write in and I applaud how well you are handling the reality check you are getting. I would suggest that for actionable advice going forward, reach out people at companies that have handled this stuff well and women who have been through this and would be willing to talk about what would have helped them.

    14. Observer*

      For what it’s worth, my exhaustion during pregnancy was unlike even the exhaustion after the baby came, except at the absolute toughest point

      This, and all of the stories resonate. BtDT. But also, that sometimes afterwards is worse / harder. Whether it’s something like PPD or post baby “blues” (and that name tells you just how easily the issue gets brushed aside vs being dealt with), lack of support or other health problems that can crop up after pregnancy, the effects are real. Again, btdt. Because it’s not just different women reacting differently. But the same woman with different reactions to different pregnancies.

      1. Anon for this*

        thanks for pointing out that the “after” is not always smooth sailing either and it’s not just because the baby makes you tired

        I had PPD and a thyroid disorder and a sleep disorder all pop up within 6 months of having my kid. Because the medical establishment is completely dismissive of pregnant and postpartum women, it took over a year to even get proper diagnoses for those issues. I also have ADHD that did not previously require meds, but sure did after I had my kid. And this all happened after 9 months of pretty much constant fatigue and barfing.

        I share this to say: pregnancy and postpartum are major medical events. Pregnant and postpartum people deserve the understanding and support that we extend to other people dealing with major medical events. Not every pregnant person is going to need that, but many do – and, from what I’ve seen, few receive it. And, yes, it’s inconvenient for employees to deal with sick pregnant and postpartum people – but that’s part of hiring human beings, as AAM frequently says.

    15. Beth*

      Yeah, I’m less worried about the fatigue or the output than the lying. The team member is dealing with a temporary medical condition (meaning both her pregnancy and her current inability to be on her usual meds) and is unable to perform at her usual level until it’s resolved (which we know will happen–pregnancies don’t last forever). A star performer should get a lot of leeway in a case like that.

      The lying is a major problem, though. That’s the thing here that I think you actually need to address, LW1. If you can reach a point where you trust her to do the things she says she’ll do, and she trusts you to handle the moments when she says “I can’t do this thing” fairly, then I think this will be resolved. If you can’t, the lack of trust is going to continue to be a problem long term.

      1. LW1*

        I think maybe the lying was a knee-jerk reaction to being caught not doing the work, and that the issue in part is unwillingness/being uncomfortable admitting “I can’t do this thing,” or otherwise asking for help.

    16. KitKat*

      Adding yet another voice in suppport of this comment. My first trimester experience was full body exhaustion — not the same as sleep deprivation. More like sleep-deprived-but-also-I-ran-a-marathon-yesterday. I napped every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I am also a high performer and had to reorganize myself to only work on misison-critical items and let everything else go for a couple of months.

    17. Chauncy Gardener*

      I was literally as dumb as a box of rocks when I was pregnant. I worked with a friend who I had gone to grad school with and done group projects together etc. She said she never would have believed it if she hadn’t seen how totally dumb I had become! My brain did come back, eventually.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Pregnancy fog/brain is way too real. I had to tell myself every morning “egg goes in bowl, shell goes in trash, egg goes in bowl, shell goes in trash” when making breakfast and I still cracked waaaay too many eggs right into the trash and dumped the shell into the bowl.

        My husband said it got especially bad at the end, he said he could ask me about something, I would reply in the affirmative, and then 30 seconds later I would ask him about the same thing and then be absolutely bewildered when he told me I just told him I already did it. I am eternally grateful for his patience because I cannot imagine that was any fun to deal with.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          The worst part for me of the pregnancy brain was that I lost words. My job was as an academic specialist, a writing tutor and composition instructor, and I could not remember language. I would trail off with a clear image of idea I was trying to convey in my mind and absolutely no ability to express it.

    18. Momma Bear*

      Pregnancy tired is real. I feel for her.

      LW said this person is often without PTO or negative PTO. I realize she’s probably saving the FMLA option for maternal leave, but are there options for her in the meantime? Is a job share an option? Granted, that would still mean the employee needs to do their half, and not just expect the sharer to do it all. I think the employee also needs to discuss her options with her prescriber. Is there an alternative for her that’s still safe for baby?

      I do think the LW needs to lay out clear expectations and hold her to them. Missing a meeting once is one thing, but these are repeated behaviors. I also wonder how she’s going to cope with post-baby sleep deprivation, kid sickness, etc. I’m not unkind – I struggled returning to work after having a baby. My then-boss said ‘you need to compartmentalize’ and while I was offended at the time, I now understand what she meant. It is HARD to be a working parent, especially a mother.

      1. Hazel*

        Echoing the folks who note an undertone of personal anger and disappointment in the letter. The OP also talks about the staff member being unwilling to work on weekends ‘like the others’. Why is this unreasonable? Unless this is a time limited crunch period, work should happen in work hours (yes I know it doesn’t, in lots of industries, but it is not good). She isn’t your top performer right now for valid medical reasons, so lean on your other staff instead of having unrealistic expectations of her. Or have a conversation about going part time for now. This emphasis on ‘negative pto’ won’t solve the issue will it? If you want this top performer to stay, moving forward on solutions is the way.

        1. Starbuck*

          I really wonder where the conversation when after the LW1 discovered the employee was lying about having done work, presented that info, and the employee denied it. What was the rejoinder?

        2. LW1*

          I think the weekend time might have come across the wrong way. We are flexible and if you just can’t come in some days, you have the option of making up the time on the weekend instead of burning PTO. No one is compelled to do so.

    19. UncleFrank*

      This is exactly my experience too. During pregnancy, I would have to put my head down on my desk and nap between classes (I’m a professor). I am NOT a napper normally, and I had to take a nap every day and was probably sleeping 10 hours a night. After pregnancy, I went back to normal. My baby was still nursing 1-2 times per night when I went back to work, but I had SO MUCH more energy than when I was pregnant.

      1. Spring*

        Right, the pregnant person is growing a human – it’s not surprising that takes a lot of energy!

    20. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Came here to bring up the same thing! All 3 of my pregnancies, I could not believe have utterly exhausted I was. I even slept good at night and rarely woke up to go to the bathroom, which was amazing because I swear I had to pee hourly during the day. But I would feel like I hadn’t slept in days and constantly napped when I could (sometimes when I couldn’t, but I just fell asleep because I was so tired). I’ve never been like that any other time other than pregnancy. There was a couple times during my last pregnancy, I didn’t sleep well at night due to sick toddlers (and a working husband, so I was solo parenting) and ended up calling out of work the next day as I didn’t trust myself to not fall asleep during my 20 minute drive to work. I have never called off any other time due to not sleeping at night (which happens occasionally) because I can usually function fine missing one night of sleep, but not the case during pregnancy. I struggled so badly with exhaustion and felt horrible because I know that I was a worthless employee during my pregnancies. But yes, even being tired from waking up during the night to nurse babies does not even begin to compare to the exhaustion I felt during pregnancy. I now highly suspect (but have yet to confirm) that I have ADHD. Whether the 2 are connected, I do not know. But dealing with the exhaustion and brain fog that pregnancy brings on, I can see where also having ADHD would make it worse. And may have been why I struggled so badly.

      I do hope things return mostly to normal after your employee has her baby!

    21. LW1*

      Thanks to you and all the other replies here sharing your experiences with working during a pregnancy, and how debilitating the side effects can be. This has been very eye-opening to me, and helpful. It was a question I felt terrible asking, but I think it has become very clear how common this is, and also how common it is for women to have different experiences.

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Thank you for listening and gaining some understanding. And also good to understand that the experiences can be different for women. I worked with a woman who used to get nasty about pregnant coworkers because SHE wasn’t that way when she was pregnant. Basically for her, pregnancy gave her energy, she never had “morning sickness” (dumb name since it happens any time of day), she only gained about 15 pounds and barely looked pregnant by her 9th month. Basically described pregnancy as being “a breeze”. When another coworker landed in the hospital start of her 3rd trimester due to extensive vomiting that led to dehydration and weight loss, this woman was nasty about it, saying the coworker was being a drama queen and overreacting. She wouldn’t listen to any of us women who had experienced pregnancy before that pregnancy can be different for each person, she judged everyone based on her own personal one-time experience. And as someone who has 3 children, I had different experiences with each pregnancy, although the exhaustion was the main thing in common for all 3 and lasted through all 3 trimesters. I did not get the “relief” some women get during the 2nd trimester. It was basically 9 months of constant exhaustion.

        1. Observer*

          When another coworker landed in the hospital start of her 3rd trimester due to extensive vomiting that led to dehydration and weight loss, this woman was nasty about it, saying the coworker was being a drama queen and overreacting.

          That’s so stupid that I would really be questioning her judgement. Does she really think that a doctor is going to put her in the hospital and insurance would pay for it to accommodate a “drama queen”? What planet does she live on.

  4. Charlie Bit Me*

    That exclamation after being bitten is pretty tame. I’d just act nicely toward the coworker, stick to my work, and try to make the day as normal as possible.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, my reaction would’ve been a lot stronger. Sure, I suppose in some circles even “shit” is too strong a word to use at work, but… At my mildest I would’ve probably said something like “No shit Sherlock! If you knew that dog bites, why didn’t you warn me before I touched/went in with/whatever the dog, then!” And then I’d probably go around muttering “FFS” to myself for a while.

      But yeah, for the next shift, I recommend going in as if nothing had happened and taking the lead from the coworker. No need to apologize to them if they seem to have moved on.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        A dog that bites should have had a warning card on its cage, or staff should have been notified in advance. I don’t know if this is a trainer, vet’s office, shelter, etc. but when I worked for a veterinarian failure to post warning of a known biter was absolutely something that would get you at least a verbal warning (the first time). Of course you don’t know a dog’s bite threshhold until it, well, bites, but apparently the coworker knew it was a risk and didn’t tell the OP in advance. “No shit” is a minor response.

        I would probably apologize, anyway, but strictly for the “no shit” comment and not for being annoyed that the coworker didn’t warn me. And, yes, if the coworker is dramatic about stuff a lot, the boss is the problem for not dealing with it.

    2. Worldwalker*

      Yeah. I know I’d say exactly that. I think most people I’ve ever worked with would say exactly that. Except maybe my current boss, who would probably think up something cleverer and snarkier. When you tell someone the dog bites after they got bitten, or the handle is loose after it came off in their hand, or anything that would have been useful information before it happened but now is just informing them that you knew of the problem but didn’t tell them, you should expect snark. People react like that every day.

      What would concern me a lot more is that the co-worker requires the weeks to get over the “slight.” This is something to which a reasonable response would be “oh, yeah, that’s not much good, I’d it? My bad,” not weeks of sulking. And certainly not being too touchy to apologize to. There’s something very wrong here, and it’s not on the LW’s side.

      1. I have RBF*


        If I warned someone after the fact, I would expect the “No shit.” in response. In fact, my reaction would be an embarrassed “Sorry, I thought you knew.”

        The coworker is overly sensitive in a way that would irritate me a lot.

        1. Antigone Funn*

          100%. Their reaction would change my reaction from mild annoyance back around to “Actually, why didn’t you tell me beforehand? And now you have the nerve to get mad at me?”

          One of the two of us wouldn’t last long, I’m pretty sure.

    3. The Starsong Princess*

      LW shouldn’t worry about apologizing to coworker but should be prepared to accept the coworker’s apology graciously. The coworker didn’t control a biter or warn LW, they are very fortunate that it wasn’t serious. The manager should be having a serious talk with coworker.

  5. Observer*

    #5 – Old videos.

    Ask. It’s true that they don’t HAVE to take them down, but it really is not that big of a deal. And you do have a very good, albeit unfortunate reason for this.

    Even if these were popular videos I would encourage my employer to take them down. These? Outdated videos? I can’t imagine a good reason to refuse.

    I’m sorry for what you are going through. And I feel SO bad for the poor kids.

    PS Make sure that there is no mention of you on your current employer’s site and that staff have instructions to never put through her calls or give any information to anyone about you. Also, perhaps you can get your employer to take you off your company phone / email directory. Not the internal ones, but the ones that show up when you get a prompt like “For a Staff directory dial #” or “Please dial the first 4 letters of the person you wish to speak to”.

    1. I hire designers*

      LW5, I suspect the answer you will get is ‘yeah, we were meaning to take those down anyway.’

      So no harm in asking politely, although I would suggest you make it really clear you’re asking a favour and not demanding.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        Yeah, and if for some reason they won’t, maybe you could ask to make them private or only findable if you have the link, and to disable comments.

        1. Venus*

          I was thinking the same, that they could at minimum be made private for the next few weeks, months, or maybe even a year. If this is a temporary problem while sorting out custody then it might be more likely for the library to agree to a temporary solution.

          1. anonymous anteater*

            Was coming here to say exactly this. From the library’s perspective, making the videos private for a few months is also a totally reversable decision, and even a non-expert can see that it will have minimal impact. I find that in organizations where people are reluctant to make decisions, framing the decisions as very minor helps whoever you are speaking to feel like they can make the call.
            If they make them private now, they may never get around to switching them back to public.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I was thinking that if someone creates fake social media profiles to stir up…stuff, they are probably trolling the comments, so turning off commenting might be all that’s needed, and as most of the commentariat probably know, that’s pretty common for older posts!

    2. Been There*

      I work in web management for a small department, and we get requests like this all the time. Most of the time, the response is to simply archive the media and remove it from the requested channel. Only on very rare occasions do we deny the request to remove the entire piece, and that’s usually because the requester is not the entire subject of the media piece. In that case, we would rework the article (in most cases it’s an article), and remove any reference of the requester.

      I wouldn’t sweat this request. It’s harder for things like actual news sites; they WILL fight you on it, but for a library, i don’t see this being an issue at all.

    3. Beth*

      Yeah, I can’t imagine this will be controversial or difficult. They’re not popular videos, and you have good reason to think that someone will use them to cause a problem–it’s obviously to everyone’s benefit to take them down. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this whole situation, OP5!

  6. Charlie Bit Me*

    Maybe pregnant employee should take a few weeks of FMLA until she’s feeling better. Pregnancy nausea and exhaustion is very real. Firing this person during her pregnancy will be a nightmare. Especially if her medical insurance is provided by your company. Tread carefully least anything goes wrong with her pregnancy and she blames stress from work.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      While that could help them, a lot of people desperately need to be able to save that FMLA for after they give birth since it’s limited (and unpaid). I worked up until I gave birth for this very reason and because I needed all the paychecks I could get before being out on mat leave.

      1. 2 Cents*

        Yep, that’s why I came to work with a cold (and a mask) because I refused to take a sick day (and my company wouldn’t let me WFH) and I had been extremely vocal about saving up all of my time for my maternity leave. Because the US sucks when it comes to taking care of mothers, babies and families.

        1. lilsheba*

          It really does suck in the US, mothers are not given nearly enough maternity leave, if they get any at all. Europe treats new mothers much better. So I wonder if this person is just struggling and is lying because they are scared and not supported and don’t know what to do. The US needs to do so much better.

      2. Venus*

        But if the pregnant employee isn’t able to work then I’m not sure what good options are available other than suggesting that she take unpaid leave and promise to have her job available when she’s ready to return. If the employee had sick leave then this would be easy, but given that she has none… is the boss expected to pay for her salary for months while she’s not able to do her work? I’m wondering if she’s lying because she’s sick and worried about not having an income, which is logical but not reasonable for the employer. There’s really no good solution here.

        1. Fierce Jindo*

          She’s a top performer with a temporary disability. It is actually reasonable to expect the employer not to treat her as disposable.

          (This is not about the lying, which I agree with Allison is a big deal; this is purely a response to Venus.)

          The employer’s sick leave is plainly inadequate to what’s actually a very common and predictable situation, and that’s on them.

      3. meggus*

        She’s not doing the work she’s supposed to be doing, is lying about it, and is struggling medically with her pregnancy. Take the FMLA leave, it ensures you still have a job while the medical stuff is worked out. Or, stay and keep underperforming and risk losing your job, as most places are at-will employment. The business also has to function, and it’s not fair to one’s team or coworkers to not be managing what you’ve agreed to manage and also lying about it. As a disabled person who has to take leave periodically, it’s also not at all healthy to push through like this. We ALL need more time off for these things and we don’t have it, but when you start throwing others under the bus trying to make it work, it’s time to take leave.

      4. Starbuck*

        This is probably true, sadly, but if she just can’t get her work done, what is the other option? Short-term disability insurance, maybe?

      5. CJ Cregg*

        I worked right up to the day I gave birth too. I had to have my partner text my boss from the recovery room lol. (My company did actually have a paid parental leave policy, but it ran concurrently with FMLA, so you only got 12 weeks total).

    2. Also-ADHD*

      The problem is there isn’t enough FMLA. If it’s being off meds especially, they can’t take them the whole pregnancy, and then they also want time off to bond with the baby like everyone does.

    3. Spero*

      If she has negative leave time, the FMLA would likely be unpaid and she may not be able to afford to take significant unpaid leave immediately before (possibly also unpaid) maternity leave.

    4. kiki*

      I think this is a situation where FMLA should be the answer, but the fact that a lot of workplaces don’t have sufficient maternity leave policies mean employees try to push through untenable circumstances to save their FMLA time for after the baby is born.

    5. Anonymous Koala*

      For a lot of people in the US FMLA is the only parental leave available, and you can only take it once in a 12 month period. She may need to save all her FMLA for her recovery/ mat leave.

    6. DinoGirl*

      I’m wondering about the implications of the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. it requires reasonable accommodations. I think it will be applicable here to some degree, coupled with the issue that may also be ADA related of being unable to take required medications. Providing additional unpaid time can be a reasonable accommodation.
      I’m in HR..I Believe we are to take the letters at face value but I’m not 100% convinced the employee Did lie, it sounds like they argued they didn’t…so it seems possible to me there’s a disconnect.
      This person was a top performer. This is clearly a difficult time for them. It sounds like this is spiraling rapidly to “having kids makes her a bad worker” and I’m also cautious about those biases in the workplace.
      Hopefully a crucial conversation and thinking about ADA accommodations can get this on track. It will pass.

      1. e271828*

        I think they’re making reasonable accommodations already. The other employees and management are accommodating her by doing her work and letting her run in the red on time off. If this is a small company, her impact is going to be much larger and harder to compensate for than in a big corporation with funds and personnel to cover situations like this. The worker needs to admit there is a problem and she needs to do that proactively and candidly.

        If possible, short-term disability leave might work, but that varies so much from state to state and employer to employer.

    7. A nonny mouse*

      I had to take short term disability for at least a month and go back on a reduced schedule. My company didn’t take it away from my maternity leave because they have great leave benefits but it would have been very very challenging to choose, and honestly I would have probably had to quit my job if they wouldn’t let me work from home on flexible hours because I physically still cannot handle going into the office.

  7. I've got the shrimp!*

    OP1 I only have a non-sequitor to add, my cat is named Florence and bit my ankles during a work call this morning (I was wearing fluffy socks as I was cold and they clearly looked evil/deserved it) so I can empathise in responding in not the most mature manner in the moment.

    Hopefully your coworker doesn’t care and/or doesn’t act any differently around you on your shift.

    1. LW #2*

      Awww, sweet Florence, she was just trying to protect you! …From your own socks…

      (In all seriousness, thank you for your input, it is very much appreciated.)

    2. MigraineMonth*

      It’s warm enough to wear shorts now, and my lap kitties are constantly reminding me of the importance of trimming their nails. Ow.

  8. TheBunny*

    If a coworker pointed out to me that a dog bites AFTER I had already been bitten and I only said what OP said…I’d be congratulating myself for not saying a whole bunch of more colorful things.

    I agree with Alison. Let it blow over. If it really seems to be impacting work, quickly address it and move immediately to another topic of conversation.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Yeah, this. Depending on acceptable language, I might have said “tell me something I don’t know.” But I just got bitten by a dog; I’m not going to be overly polite to the person who could have warned me but didn’t.

      1. I have RBF*


        I’m kinda side-eyeing the coworker for:
        a) not warning about the biting ahead of time, and
        b) getting all butt hurt about being told “Yeah, no shit” after the victim got bit.

        I mean the coworker said “Oh, yeah, that dog bites,” after the LW got bit, not before. I would expect snark from a coworker who just got bit (because they weren’t warned.)

        LW, you do not owe her any apology for snarking at her when she didn’t warn you beforehand about a biting risk.

        1. I DK*

          b) getting all butt hurt about being told “Yeah, no shit” after the victim got bit.

          OMG thank you for that phrase, I am still laughing.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      Agreed. I would be saying a lot more colourful and sarcastic language if OP2’s coworker gives me that warning post-facto. And despite me being Canadian, I wouldn’t be apologetic about it afterward.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I was thinking, if it were me, I would probably say something right away at the start of the shift, like, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about how I snapped at you after Dog bit me the other day, and just wanted to say sorry for that.” I feel like that sets up the coworker to say, “oh no, it’s fine,” but even if they don’t, now you are the one taking the high ground.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I’d want to do this to clear the air after snapping at a coworker. Even if the circumstances weren’t the best, even if she said something pretty dumb, it would make me feel better.

      2. Ellie*

        Maybe I’m weird but I would never have described that as snapping at a co-worker. I’d read it as sarcastic at worst. The co-worker should be extending OP grace since she was the one that got bitten.

  9. Eagle*

    LW1, with respect, while I understand your frustrations, I’d advise you take a compassionate, patient approach with your pregnant employee, and adjust your expectations. For example, does your pregnant employee still have a higher workload than her colleagues, especially those who work in the same or similar roles?

    You also need to ascertain why the employee didn’t ask for help earlier: was it internalised shame, as Alison mentioned, or is there a way you can improve the psychological safety within the team? (People don’t usually lie in the workplace when they feel safe in coming forward with issues.)

    Also, have you asked her how you can best set her up for success, with options such as flexible work hours and locations, or a temporarily reduced work week?

    1. Nodramalama*

      Was there something in the letter to suggest the employee ever had a higher work load than their colleagues? I read it like she is now working 75% of what everyone’s work load is. The issue of course is that by continuing to reduce her workload below everyone elses, that workload has to go somewhere

      1. Language Lover*

        The lw said that she was a top performer and the reduced workload is in comparison to what she had been doing before. The lw didn’t benchmark it against other employees other than to say that the employee is now one of her worst performers.

        Though it’s not always the case, we’ve had plenty of letters about top performers who take on more than their colleagues which often earns them the top performer reputation. It happens often enough that I think asking the lw to consider the question at least is fair even if it’s not the case.

        1. Nodramalama*

          If we believe lws who write in and say they’re taking on more work than their colleagues and thats why they’re a high performer, should we offer the same to an LW saying their employee is not meeting the expected standards for their work?

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yeah, it’s not particularly relevant if she’s doing more work than the rest of her group while doing 75% of her own work. She was clearly able to function at 100% of her previous workload before. The only benchmark that matters in that case is her own.
            And again, the problem we have here is the lying. It doesn’t matter WHY the employee is lying, just that she IS lying, and that needs to be what’s addressed. Alison’s script is spot on and should be deployed ASAP.

            1. Eagle*

              Clarifying why someone is lying is actually extremely important. Is it actual dishonesty, or is it a miscommunication or honest mistake? If someone is lying to their manager, it’s often, but not always, because they fear punishment or reprisal if they raise a concern or need for support. Psychological safety is very important.

              I understand LW1 is frustrated, but if any of that has been coming across to their employee, it’s quite possible that she’s not going to feel comfortable or safe being completely transparent with LW1 about her workload, her needs, and so on.

              It’s also important to note that any number of factors, including conditions such as pregnancy and unmedicated ADHD, can lead to unintentional miscommunications thanks to stress and brain fog, among other things.

      2. Ariaflame*

        Just that she had been a Top Performer which usually does not mean ‘came in on time, did her work and went home on time’

        1. Nodramalama*

          Ok but there’s nothing to indicate that her colleagues are doing the bare minimum.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yup. Also, believing what LWs say applies to managers as well as employees ;).

            1. Ariaflame*

              But the LW doesn’t say that. She doesn’t say the colleagues are doing the bare minimum sure. But the LW does not compare what sort of workload she had before this to her colleagues at all. All the LW says is that she went from top performer to worst, and that her workload was reduced by 25%. If all the colleagues are about the same level then worst isn’t necessarily that bad.

              If someone was working say 2 extra hours per day then reducing the workload by 25% might still be more than is doable by someone in this exhaustion mode.

              1. GythaOgden*

                LW doesn’t have to write War and Peace to explain the entire team dynamics in the context of this one person to satisfy people who aren’t going to take her issues at face value anyway and give her the advice she’s actually looking for. This is like flicking peanut shells at her from the proverbial gallery, it chases off commenters who actually have experience handling these situations, and it makes people less likely to ask for help if all they get in return is ‘Is she REALLY underperforming?! No, really, ARE YOU SURE?’

                It makes her less likely to interact with us or even read the comments, and it’s pretty serious for her if stuff isn’t getting done and someone is lying about it, whatever the underlying reason.

                It sucks for both people to be in this situation but there’s no heroes or villains here, just two people in an awkward situation they have to navigate, which is what LW1 needs the help with.

              2. Starbuck*

                Ok, but we know the employee is not doing her work, lying about getting it done, and denying it when confronted about the lie. What happens next? Did the employee even ask for a further reduced load, or more accommodation? Did the manager offer? I wish LW1 had gone into more detail on how that conversation went, because there should have been some next steps at the end of it, but we can’t tell from what they wrote.

            2. Eagle*

              Taking LW’s at their word does not mean that commenters cannot ask clarifying questions, offer other perspectives based on experience, and provide or discuss context.

          2. bamcheeks*

            This is kind of a wild reading of Eagle’s top-level comment! They just said that it’s worth asking whether the “top performer” had a higher workload or productivity than other colleagues– since that is pretty much the definition of being a top performer. Nobody suggested the other colleagues were slacking off or doing “the bare minimum”!

              1. bamcheeks*

                What was it a response to, then? It seems to be refuting something that nobody said or suggested.

                1. Nodramalama*

                  The comment about her being a top performer meaning she doesn’t just come in, do her work and go home. Which would be in comparison to her other colleagues

                2. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  In response to Nodramalama’s top comment in this thread (the question posed to Eagle asking “Was there something in the letter to suggest the employee ever had a higher work load than their colleagues”), Ariaflame responded “Just that she had been a Top Performer which usually does not mean ‘came in on time, did her work and went home on time.'”

                  Nodramalama then pointed out– in response to Ariaflame — that “there’s nothing to indicate that her colleagues are doing the bare minimum.” Because Ariaflame’s comment could be interpreted to mean that those who come in on time, do their work, and go home on time are just doing the bare minimum (may not be what Ariaflame meant, but I could see it being read that way).

                  FWIW, I’m a high performer who comes in on time, does my work, and goes home on time — you can be a high performer without putting in longer hours than other people.

                3. bamcheeks*

                  I mean, I would never think of “comes on time, does her work, goes home on time” as “doing the bare minimum” for a start!

                  And yeah, there’s some comparison implied, but that’s inherent in LW described her as “a top performer”. She was apparently doing something better than her colleagues, whether that was measured in volume of work, complexity, hours, quality, income generated or what, but I don’t think that means that the colleagues are doing the bare minimum or any other implied insult! You can have a team of generally strong performers and still recognise someone as better than the others.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Wait, it doesn’t? I’m a top performer on my team and I almost never work extra hours. I’m a top performer because (among other things) I’m efficient, not because I spend more time working than anyone else.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            Yeah, I was thinking the same. Being a top performer doesn’t mean working overtime. We don’t even know if her job is one where working extra hours is even done.

            I’d be more inclined to wonder if somebody was struggling if they were working 2 extra hours each day than to assume that means they must be a top performer.

            I would assume top performer means good at their job in the sense of being skilled at the task and that they also work hard and are helpful to others.

            Now, it is very possible they are getting more done, though again that depends on the job. I wouldn’t consider the top performing doctor to be the one who sees the most patients, but rather the one who is quickest to notice concerning symptoms. But there are many jobs in which “top performer” does include completing more tasks as well as completing them more accurately. But I wouldn’t assume a top performer works more hours.

            Given that she is normally a top performer, however, it makes sense to accept a lower quality of work from her for this period while making it clear she will eventually be expected to perform at the same level as her colleagues.

          2. Ariaflame*

            Fair enough. Though some bosses seem to count by obvious effort rather than ability.
            Unfortunately the LW didn’t specify how they measured top performer.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            We’re not allowed to work unapproved overtime at my job–all of our top performers are strictly 40 hours a week. And it sounds like her workload was reduced after it became clear she couldn’t do her previous workload.

            But lying about performing that task is still a problem.

      3. Eagle*

        Many top performers carry a heavier and/or more complex workload than their colleagues. LW didn’t mention as to what the employee’s reduced workload looks like in comparison to those in the same or similar roles. It’s very common that a high performer’s “reduced” workload is either the same or higher than the “normal” workload of their colleagues.

      4. bamcheeks*

        >> that workload has to go somewhere

        Maybe it does, or maybe it’s a case of “we need to do less”. If the company doesn’t have any spare capacity to cover someone being temporarily sick, then they have made a decision that less work will get done when someone is temporarily sick.

        1. GythaOgden*

          There’s a point where the logistics of hiring can’t necessarily include a lot of redundancy. I’m admin to a team of ten managers — a dual team of a senior and a deputy. We had a bit of a rocky winter — one senior manager died, leaving a vacancy, one other guy left after feeling he needed to be a bit more settled than he was with his patch, and one of the deputies was on secondment for a while then decided to stay where he’d been. The deputy who had no senior for a while had to go on sick leave for a month, leaving her area — a major community hospital and a few outlying clinics — under-supported.

          We did manage, but we weren’t able to hire temps like we’d do if they were receptionists. The higher up you go, the more you have to do with less resources, and I’m not sure why people here leap to ‘Hire more staff!’ as a placebo or a reason to overlook genuine performance issues with a particular person, particularly because when the boot is on the other foot — it’s a colleague or a junior team member who is not pulling their weight — everyone is screaming at management to get rid of them summarily.

          It’s kind of hypocritical at some point. The best way through is a kind of middle course — you don’t want to fire this lady outright or whatever — but OP needs to talk to her about it, particularly about how they go forward WRT the actual situation. She doesn’t need us wagging our fingers at her and calling her a horrible person for not giving this lady infinite patience.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I mean, if this person was working in the NHS, she’d probably be off on fully paid sick leave without any impact on her maternity leave and her job fully protected until at least mid-2025. Obviously that would absolutely be a different set of issues for LW, but I personally find that “how do we cope with a staff on long-term sick leave, what work do we need to prioritise” is a much easier problem than “I have a great member of staff who is temporarily unable to do her job, do I fire her or force her to go part-time and reduce her income or just somehow struggle on even though she’s not really doing her job”. Frankly you could never pay me enough to have to make that kind of decision.

            And the reason the NHS can’t afford any redundancy is because people vote Tory and read Murdoch newspapers. It’s not a natural law.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Then they are badly run businesses that deserve to fail! If your business can’t handle a simple reality like “your employees cannot operate at 100% capacity at all times”, your business model is bad and you should exit the market and stop undercutting companies with business models that actually work in the real world.

            1. Allonge*

              If this business fails, OP’s pregnant employee loses her job. I would go for a different solution.

              1. bamcheeks*

                Everyone directly invoked would prefer another option, but if the leadership of the organisation, or the funders haven’t made that option part of their business mode there may not be one.

          2. Also-ADHD*

            But to be fair, many can. They might not like it, but they might not all be essential tasks. Or they might be running too lean. So the maybe posed is worth thinking on when medical issues arise (In this case, not just pregnancy but the inability to take needed medication to function).

            1. Hyaline*

              Yeah honestly if one person becoming 25-50% less productive for any reason means you’re not able to complete essential tasks as a company IMO it’s running too lean. It doesn’t take a lot of foresight to plan that maybe at some point one or more employees’ work abilities could take a temporary hit.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                In our case, it wouldn’t affect our “company” much as a whole but it would affect that department quite a lot. Nonprofit–nobody is overworked but tasks are kind of specific to departments and having one person out of commission for an extended period would actually put a burden on their immediate coworkers. Not all jobs can just plug tasks into whoever has the lightest workload.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Right. The industries that absolutely cannot afford to do less have plans in place for when things like this happen. I don’t get the vibe here that it’s a business-shuttering issue.

            3. Garblesnark*

              Lean Six Sigma is the worst thing that’s ever come of someone thinking karate was cool in the history of earth.

          3. Garblesnark*

            All businesses with employees have a responsibility to be conscious of how many people whose efforts they would have to lose access to before they’d be in dire straits. Some business strategists call this a “bus number.” If you can’t afford to “do less,” you must afford to cross train and have extra staff. If you can’t afford to cross train and have extra staff, you must afford budgeting for a staffing agency and setting time and resources aside to have detailed training manuals and onboarding capacity. If you can’t afford either of those, you must have a plan in place to be able to do less. If you can’t do any of those, you must have an option for flexible financing to facilitate one of them. Otherwise, your plan is to go out of business if one key employee is indisposed and leave everyone who works for you without a job.

    2. NforKnowledge*

      Agreed, if this person is usually a top performer then work with her to get through this difficult period. It sounds a bit like OP reduced their workload to 75% and expected that to be enough, and is now just silently seething that she is still struggling! I’m not surprised she can’t stay late or work weekends, OP! Recalibrate completely, talk to her to see what she needs right now, and if you want to retain your excellent worker then be willing to accommodate A LOT more. It is temporary.

      1. Varthema*

        Modifying this joke from its original context which I can’t quite remember but the point is spot-on:

        “I’m struggling to keep up at work because my pregnancy is making me sick and exhausted.”

        “You should catch up on nights and weekends.”

        “I forgot to mention, I’m pregnant at nights and on weekends too.”

        1. bamcheeks*

          I had the same reaction during the pandemic when there was no childcare and we were told we could flex our work hours as long as everything got done. It was like they’d registered that having to look after young children during the hours of 9-5pm Mon-Fri would impact our ability to work, but somehow assumed that after 5pm and on weekends would be different!

        2. Gyne*

          I don’t get it – flexible schedules are a pretty commonly suggested accommodation to people with medical conditions that cause fatigue (among other things) so they can rest, step back from work and refocus, or do whatever, and finish their work when they *are* feeling better. It is possible that even with a flex schedule and a reduced workload she still can’t do the job, but I still think it’s reasonable to offer it to people. Or any other reasonable accomodation people with a disability might request – yes, they still have a disability, but can do the job with “xyz” instead of “abc!”

          1. bamcheeks*

            It really depends on whether the problem is, “I can’t guarantee that I’ll be well enough to work between 9-5 M-F, but I can do 40 hours a week if I can flex” or “I can’t currently do 40 hours a week”. They’re two different things. If you are offering flex working and the problem is actually the latter, then you are probably jumping to solutions before you’ve properly explored and understood the problem, or you’re not really listening to the problem, both of which are pretty frustrating to the person with the problem.

          2. Garblesnark*

            Obviously this wasn’t discussed in the letter, but if LW hasn’t had a conversation with the EE where they talked about whether flexing to nights and weekends is doable for all parties, that should happen.

            I agree that it’s reasonable to offer a flexible schedule. Also, the thing about accommodations being an interactive process is that the accommodation has to work for both parties. It’s important that the EE be allowed to not work during evenings and weekends, assuming that’s not a base requirement of the job for every team member, if that’s not reasonable due to the facts about the rest of their life.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Nobody thinks she’s not–it’s still 75% workload but spread out over more hours.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yeah, that’s the part I’m stuck on. Life happens – people get pregnant, sick, and have caretaking responsibilities – and we work around it. Lying about completing work rather than being upfront about what you can/can’t do (when her workload has already been reduced by a quarter, which seems like a willingness to work with her?) is a problem that can’t be ignored. I can’t think of a reasonable accommodation that would require ignoring dishonesty about completion of work.

          1. Observer*

            when her workload has already been reduced by a quarter, which seems like a willingness to work with her?

            Yes, it does seem that way. But it’s also pretty clear that the LW has some very unrealistic expectations at the same time. So that could be at play here.

            I do agree, though, that the LW needs to put her foot down and make it clear that transparency and honesty are non-negotiable. And any accommodations depend on her sticking to that going forward.

            1. Starbuck*

              Totally, but did the ‘putting their foot down’ about lying not happen in the conversation where LW1 brought up the lying, and the employee still denied it?? What happened there!

        2. Observer*

          I’d be highly reluctant to accommodate lying.

          So would I. I don’t think that anyone thinks that the LW should actually do so.

          But it’s worth asking WHY the person lied? It’s pretty unusual for a “top performer” to lie about their work. So, it’s worth finding out what is going on.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            But…she had the chance? She was asked point blank about Tasks To Be Done That Hadn’t, and instead of saying “oh, you know, I’m finding it [conversation about workload here]”, she doubled down on the lie. That’s not good! It’s very bad! Giving someone grace in their job certainly does not extend to accepting a lie, even if it’s a panic lie. That doesn’t matter! You can’t lie!

        3. Anonymous Koala*

          I agree, but the nature of the lying also matters in this situation. Is the employee throwing others under the bus, doubling down on saying she did things when she didn’t, or falsifying supporting documentation? If so, those are serious, immediately-fireable performance issues whether or not someone is pregnant.

          But if the lying is more like the employee saying she’ll definitely finish a report by the end of the day and not doing it, or deciding she needs two hours of last minute sick leave on a Friday afternoon and forgetting to go back and adjust the timecard she turned in on Wednesday, those are still issues to deal with but IMO they’re not of the same ‘immediately fireable’ caliber and are pretty understandable when someone’s going through a tough unmedicated pregnancy.

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        But OP isn’t asking the employee to stay late or work weekends. OP is asking her to make up missed hours where able. IF you decide to take a nap from 2-4 in the afternoon, fine, but right now you’re being paid to work those hours so those missed hours need to be made up somewhere.

    3. el l*

      But, unless OP has built a culture where lying is necessary…they have to address the lying.

      They have to figure out – best as they can – why OP lied. And not act rashly when they find out. But they can’t let that slide and just say “I have to be kind.” No.

      Because the lying is not just a “things aren’t getting done issue.” It’s a credibility issue.

  10. PublicDocuments*

    OP5, I’m confused. Why do you want these videos removed? Are you afraid the ex will leave nasty comments?

    Most places I’ve worked would balk at the idea of removing previous posts as a history of regular posting over time can help boost search results and because it shows a history of active engagement with the community. I would think the latter particularly important for a library, and there may also be issues around retention of materials created with public funds and there may be formal requirements to retain public availability.

    If you’re willing to go into detail with them about why you’re asking then sure, go ahead, but I’d be surprised if they agreed, especially without a more specific reason why not taking them down would be harmful.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I’d let the library know the reason why the OP wants the craft videos taken down – if the ex-partner is unhinged enough to be making fake social media profiles in an effort to smear the OP, then she would certainly use the videos to lend credence to the impression that these fake profiles were legitimate.

      I think pointing out to the library that the ex is quite likely to use the videos to post truly offensive things (eg. racist, homophobic, espousing violence, whatever) and that it would be linked back to the library – well.. I bet the library would find it worthwhile to redo those videos with a current employee.

      1. Katie Impact*

        Yeah, my worry would be the ex editing the videos into something defamatory.

        1. the cat's pajamas*

          Especially now where they could be.input into an AI tool to make deepfake videos, too.

      2. Chocoholic Librarian*

        I also like to believe that a library would value the safety of its employees, former as well as current, over two-year-old videos about equipment they no longer have. I’m 99.9% certain the libraries I’ve worked at would jump to take down the videos in this kind of scenario, and focus on continuing to create up-to-date content rather than taking a long view of their engagement online.

      1. Oatmeal Mom*

        If that’s the case, then hindsight 20/20 but they really shouldn’t have been without explicit consent from both of their guardians. I know pandemic was a different time and everyone was doing what they could but if the kids were involved then at least the employer should be more amenable to taking down the videos.

        1. OP5*

          OP5 here: the kids are not in the videos at all. As someone else mentioned, it’s relatively easy to edit content into defamatory material nowadays, and that’s my primary concern.

        2. ecnaseener*

          This is completely speculative at this point, but there’s no reason to assume that (if the kids were in the videos, again a total guess that we shouldn’t derail on too far) their mom hadn’t given permission at the time. The point is that she’s acting in bad faith, not that she has a legitimate grievance against LW.

          But also, don’t media release forms for children usually require just one parent signature, not two?

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Never underestimate what a vengeful ex can do with even the most tame video in the world. She could latch onto the fact the kits are no longer available and claim the OP is violating the law through false advertising. Will it actually go anywhere in court? Probably not but it takes time and money to fight the constant fires someone like this puts out.

      When I read the headline I was like – work for hire, the library owns them. Then I read the reason – totally worth the five minutes to ask. It could save literally hours of billable time by an attorney to deal with the ex’s nonsense.

        1. Kristen K*

          Looks like I am in the minority here with a different opinion.

          Yes you can ask but you have the original videos to prove what they were. Like, the ex could edit it into you saying “I hate all kids,” or whatever. All you have to do is tell the court to look at the original videos on the library’s Facebook page. I actually don’t agree with Allison’s advice; I guess you *could* ask them to take them down because “my husband’s crazy ex could use these innocuous videos against me by editing them or using AI” but if I were the library director, I would think you are nuts and not take them down. This seems like a huge stretch. You don’t even work there anymore but are asking them to make accommodations for your husband’s custody battles????

          1. Barbara Gordon*

            I *AM* a library director and would take those videos down in a heartbeat if the employee asked me to in a situation like this.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Thank you. It’s a tiny request to bring peace of mind to a former employee, and I think we’ve all seen enough internet smear campaigns to know that it’s far from “nuts” to think those can be weaponized in messy custody cases.

            2. Stalking Survivor*

              Thank you. On behalf of other stalking and cyberstalking victims, thank you.

          2. AMH*

            Sure, but in between the hypothetical doctored videos being posted or shared and OP providing links to the originals, there’s plenty of space for rumor, lies, misconceptions, etc. A lie spreads quicker than the truth. The library director may decide to keep them up or they may not; what’s the harm in asking? I really disagree that most people receiving this request in this day and age would consider the op “nuts” for asking.

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

            It really isn’t that big of a stretch. With AI nowdays it is not that hard to do.

        2. musical chairs*

          If it makes you feel better OP, a complaint that a (likely public) library’s website has slightly out-of-date material will almost never arise to even the level of a nuisance lawsuit. That one’s a little farfetched.

          Concerns about potential manipulation of that content or really just restricting a volatile and vindictive person from have access to your likeness are more legitimate and I would lead with those when asking for help taking these down.

    3. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      I’ve taken down posts that had the potential to cause a former employee distress without them going into explicit detail because it’s the compassionate thing to do and costs the organization nothing. In the lifetime of the library’s social media posting, those outdated videos from years ago are unlikely to make or break the algorithm.

    4. Hyaline*

      First, it’s in my experience regular and consistent posting that builds a social media presence, not the presence of the backlog. Those videos have served their purpose and their continued presence isn’t that important (especially as the LW said they were specific to past programming anyway). But since the library may not have that outlook, I think LW would be best set explaining why these videos are not only a personal liability but one for the library as well if they’re co-opted or edited by an unhinged ex. I can see the library not understanding without explanation as usually the “remove this video” is for privacy or security reasons and presumably the ex knows that the LW works there.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Seconding this. There’s almost no one who isn’t actively looking for them (like the ex might be) who is still able to a) find those videos, and b) actively watching them to a volume that they’re worth keeping up independent even if LW didn’t want them taken down.

    5. RagingADHD*

      A local public library branch doesn’t need SEO the way an online business does. They are a “monopoly” in their community.

      The videos drive engagement with existing followers, not search results. And after 2 years they are stale.

    6. ursula*

      I would be surprised and very disappointed to hear that a library prioritized some nebulous idea about feeding the algorithm over the well-being of one of its staff – even former staff, and even if the videos were more important or more recent than these seem to be.

  11. Bleph*

    That’s a pretty massive speculation that LW1’s employee is usually on ADHD medication. There are a lot of medications that pregnant women are supposed to stop that can affect concentration and manageable workload and make someone more tired because of having to deal with their unmanaged symptoms. Anti-seizure medication for epilepsy types like TLE where the seizures aren’t life threatening, strong pain medication for chronic pain, anti-depressants, mood stabilisers, ACE inhibitors for heart and blood pressure conditions, medications for arthritis…

    There’s nothing really in the letter that makes ADHD more or less likely than these – and LW1 shouldn’t confirm or deny because although the employee is anonymous, it’s still not really anyone’s business and doesn’t actually affect the answer much.

    1. ADHD Momma*

      Given how strong the link between ADHD and the ability (or inability) to get stuff done is, I don’t think Allison’s guess is that out there. But yes, pregnancy can impact someone’s ability to take a whole host of medication as well as exacerbate the symptoms of the condition. Also, if the medication isn’t considered safe during pregnancy it may not be considered safe for breastfeeding either if that’s something the employee chooses to do, so they may not be able to get back on it right away once they have given birth.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Pretty sure it was just an example and the most obvious considering the work fall off so drastically.

      The lying needs to be addressed. That cannot happen even if the employee doesn’t do a lick of work all day.

    3. Allonge*

      So – you are right, but every time there is a performance issue being discussed here, ADHD is brought up in the comments. So it comes to mind as an example pretty easily.

  12. Adam*

    LW3, this kind of thing happens all the time and I would expect it to be a nonevent for everyone involved. Some people dislike their managers, they complain about them, other people agree or disagree, life moves on. Sometimes the complaints are justified, sometimes they aren’t. Unless this coworker indicated some kind of specific plan to sabotage their boss that they think you’re going to help them with or something along those lines, I’d chalk it up to grousing and not think any more about it.

    1. El l*

      Yeah, this isn’t a big worry at all. If the conversation ever comes up, just say, “Yes, I heard ____’s opinions. I listened to them, but as it happens I don’t agree.”

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Agreeing – there’s no point bringing this up to the manager or doing “rearguard defense” with other senior staff. That will just draw attention to the situation.

        The OP’s actions and respect for her manager going forward will be much more important.

        If the OP feels they were caught on the backfoot and needs to address anything, they should do so with the person who made the statements. Something like “It really caught me by surprise that you had such a negative opinion of X, and I wasn’t prepared for that. My experience really hasn’t been the same at all, and I was uncomfortable with the discussion. Let’s just forget this happened.”

    2. NotBatman*

      Yes! I’ve been in the conversation LW3 describes, with the coworker described. Our whole company knows that “Ferdinand” will complain his donuts have holes in them, and I’ve overheard coworkers on the receiving end of his rants go “yeah,” and “mm-hmm” without assuming they agree with his take that the company has gone to the dogs and every single manager is maliciously plotting our demise. I just hear it and assume it’s Ferdinand being Ferdinand, and a coworker being polite.

      That said: forced teaming (strong-arming someone into ganging up with you against a perceived opponent) sucks. I hate when coworkers try to pull forced teaming, and it sounds like this was an attempt at that. Having Alison’s scripts about “that hasn’t been my experience with Joe” in pocket will hopefully help, in the off chance your coworker points at you and goes “LW3 agrees with me, RIGHT?”

    3. Paint N Drip*

      Agreed. If anything OP, you were seen being ranted at about your boss by a coworker – that happens at work events sometimes and doesn’t reflect on you literally at all.

      1. Venus*

        Yes, and there are an additional two factors that are in LW’s favor. First, the coworker is known to complain a lot so in those cases there is no good reason to try and change their mind, and no one at one’s workplace would expect you to say anything. Two, this person is very senior to LW, and that makes it more awkward.

        Given both these circumstances, it would likely be a surprise to other coworkers and senior managers if LW said anything to contradict the ranting coworker. I had one of them retire recently, where he took the opportunity during his retirement lunch to complain for an hour about all the problems he’d had during his time working, and I know if anyone tried to cut him off when he was ranting at our desks then he’d just keep going and ignore us so the best coping method was avoidance.

        LW has nothing to worry about, and the only reaction from senior managers or coworkers is likely sympathy for having to listen to the guy. The only potential action after the talk is to maybe mention it to the boss for their info, specifically “Ranty Coworker is having problems with this part of our work, so don’t be surprised if he wants to talk with you about it”, so that the boss can be better prepared for an unpleasant conversation.

  13. Walk on the Left Side*

    LW1: One of the biggest things you can do is make sure your employee feels — and is — safe in their job. Panic-coverup is a very real possibility here. The lying could be a response to a company culture where mistakes are punished, or they feel otherwise concerned that they will be “managed out” due to this situation.

    LW5: I am so, so sorry you are going through this. It’s cruddy that now these videos and the need to contact a former employer are making it even more difficult. I wish I had magical advice that would help. All I can say is, good luck. Hoping for the best possible outcome for you, your husband, and his kids.

  14. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

    “because the baby is likely to be exhausting and energy-sapping too”

    ughhhh this is a disservice to pregnant people. its a very different types of exhausting. had I been working during my first trimester I would have been a terrible employee. while I wasn’t 100%* with a baby, I was still able to work around the exhaustion and do my job well.

    obviously who knows what will happen with the person in letter 1 but please don’t jump to conclusions regarding her post partum work!

    *I was still (and am) very good but not same overachiever partly due to establishing work-life balance

    1. ADHD Momma*

      Seconding this. I struggled physically, mentally and emotionally while pregnant and my work definitely suffered. I was able to be on ADHD medication (albeit different/less effective) and I still struggled. But about two weeks after giving birth, I suddenly felt like myself again. While I’m not back at work yet, I feel like I’m functioning normally again*. Allison, please consider removing or rewording that last paragraph since the differences between pregnancy functioning and postpartum functioning are night and day. There is a strong possibility that once this employee is either out of the first trimester or no longer pregnant altogether, things are going to get much better.

      *Caveat: I have an incredibly supportive partner and a baby that sleeps very well at night, so I’m not experiencing the same sleep deprivation that most women experience with a newborn.

    2. Fikly*

      Agreed – my sister had a horrific pregnancy, for a variety of reasons. Puking from before she tested positive (IVF, so they tested very early) until the day she gave birth was nearly the least of it, except for the part where toward the end, she couldn’t keep down more than a tablespoon of food, was losing too much weight, and they were worried about nutrients.

      I give this context because the day after she gave birth – after over 36 hours of labor and a really rough delivery – she texted me to say that she felt 10 times better than she had 3 days earlier, when she was still pregnant.

    3. Oatmeal Mom*

      Seconding. Pregnancy tired is like you can’t ever get untired. You have an energy vampire stuck inside you. New parent tired, the vampire is at least outside of you.

      1. Varthema*

        Yes, I was going to say, resting during pregnancy doesn’t really restore energy.

      2. Ketner*

        People keep writing this, but it’s not true for everybody and may not be true for this particular employee. I felt fine during pregnancy, provided I took my Zofran, but couldn’t function at work once I had a colicky infant to take care of.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t think anyone is writing it as a “this is true for everyone”. It’s more that they are two different things, and that there is no reason to assume “and it’s not going to get any better after she has the baby because THAT’S exhausting too”. It might be– or it might not be. Her exhaustion and fatigue could be hormone soup that lifts later in the pregnancy, or might be hormone soup that lifts when she gives birth, or it might be struggling with a disability which is usually well-controlled by medication that she can’t re-start until after birth or after she’s finished breast-feeding. There’s no guarantee that she’ll be back to her previous level of performance in five month’s time, but it would be short-sighted to make any decisions on the assumption she definitely won’t be.

        2. Seashell*

          I agree this is not universal. I had other symptoms, mostly mild, during my pregnancies, but I wasn’t notably more tired than I was otherwise. I could still function at work after having kids, but waking up with babies at night was more tiring.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          It’s true that this is not universal. People are different levels of tired during pregnancy. Babies are different, and thus baby sleep deprivation will be different. People have different partners and different levels of outside help with the baby. It will vary from person to person, and even from pregnancy to pregnancy, from child to child.

          However, since this employee seems to be one of the ones that are hit particularly hard by pregnancy fatigue, they’re at above average difficulty now, so if they get average difficuly after birth, that’ll be an improvement.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same. I managed my pregnancy complications fine around work – the biggest challenge was that I had to see both my OB and a specialist due to some of them, and that was when we still had to be in-office five days a week and, of course, the two doctors could never see me on the same day.

          My first child was the worst sleeper in the world. It took me years to realize how dangerously sleep-deprived I was during the first few years of their life, even with my spouse equally sharing the load (except for the nursing part). I am so grateful that, at the time, we lived walking distance to a train station, because I would have had no business driving to commute.

          My experience was also that people clucked over me a lot and were more accommodating when I was pregnant. When the baby was here and I was struggling, there was less accommodation.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, you’re pregnant 24/7 until the baby’s born. Luckily the pregnancy exhaustion usually lets up a bit in the second trimester.

      4. Boof*

        Well, but you still have a dependent new human and i think the pretense that that shouldn’t impacts the other aspects of life is extremely patriarchal; like assumes there’s someone else handling all the domestic stuff and that person ain’t you, instead of assuming any kind of split responsibility etc

    4. AmuseBouchee*

      I found that comment particularly biting. The sexism against woman is incredible. Happy Mothers Day everyone, hope you feel secure in your job!

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        This is an incredibly uncharitable read of the advice given, IMO. How is it sexist to point out that having a new baby who requires a large amount of time and energy, plus shifting around basically your entire life, may affect the person’s energy levels even after the pregnancy has finished? Alison wasn’t implying “and thus you should be prepared to fire her, how dare she have a child,” she was issuing a general reminder that the manager needs to stay on top of the lying because it may or may not continue to be an issue even after the pregnancy. Either way, the manager needs to have the conversation with the employee to figure out what else they can do together to make the situation work. That’s like the most opposite anti-mother sentiment I can think of in this situation.

          1. 1-800-BrownCow*

            They wouldn’t say it about a new father because dad’s didn’t just push a baby out of their body and have their hormones out of whack for the next 12 months+ postpartum. Even when a dad takes on 50% or more of the parenting duties, it’s still more tiring for the mom and it’s harder for women to recover.

            1. Yup*

              I was responding to “How is it sexist to point out that having a new baby who requires a large amount of time and energy, plus shifting around basically your entire life, may affect the person’s energy levels even after the pregnancy has finished? ”

              No one would say this to a new father, so it *is* sexist.

      2. Whomst*

        I have a hard time with the brand of feminism that insists women don’t have unique challenges, and if they do they’re going to be acute challenges and not chronic life-changing ones. It’s not sexism to acknowledge that most women do most of the care work of infants (for reasons both social AND biological) and consequently may not be able to return to their previous level of work performance a couple weeks after pregnancy.

    5. Boof*

      I actually think it’s very wise not to assume someone who is a new parent will return to exact pre-parent work patterns. If this is a demanding job, and they are a new parent, that is setting them up for severe stress/burnout. It took me 3 kids before i “forgave” myself / appreciated that it’s my life, my family, and i’m doing a heck of a lot of work, for not being able to do everything i did pre children + raise children. LW will probably be better able to work their core hours better but if they used to do anything outside them to stay on top of things that shouldn’t be expected to restart anytime soon for everyone’s sake.

      1. londonedit*

        I don’t have children, but this is exactly how I read that line as well. My sister had a year’s maternity leave, as is the norm here, but even then she struggled to get ‘back to normal’ at work, because my nephew’s sleep was all over the place and she and her partner were juggling a whole new life of nursery drop-off/pick-up, illnesses, and generally keeping a small child alive on barely any sleep. Yes, it might be different from pregnancy tiredness, but it’s still a massive change and it’s perfectly reasonable to point out that someone might not magically snap back to ‘normal’ once their baby is born. Especially if they’re in the US and only able to take a few weeks off. Of course everyone’s experience is different, but my sister says she was barely able to function for about the first nine months after my nephew was born – I don’t know how she’d have managed to go back to work.

        1. Boof*

          Yeah, unless they were a major caregiver for someone else pre-parenting, being a parent is a “new normal” not “normal is like I don’t have children!”

    6. Starbuck*

      “ughhhh this is a disservice to pregnant people. ”

      Would it be less of a disservice to assume a new parent won’t be tired and will be able to work at 100%? I don’t get it. Accommodations for new parents returning to work, like cutting them some slack because you’re assuming they’re having some late night sleep interruptions, seem like a good thing.

        1. Boof*

          yeah I don’t quite understand, CoffeeIsMyFriend themselves says later in the same post that they aren’t the the same overachiever as before ” partly due to establishing work-life balance” which is… I think exactly what Allison was getting at? Being a new parent tends to heighten the urgency for work-life balance – or you could say have high priorities other than work – or or or, different ways of saying its unreasonable to expect the employee will go to the exact same work patterns as prior; just remove judgement on whether those patterns are good/bad (of course I’m sure the employer finds any pattern that disproportionately benefits them as “looks great!” but “looks great![right now]” vs “sustainable career” are not always the same thing)

        2. Starbuck*

          Well, people pointing out how badly our systems fail pregnant people & new parents are rightfully angry – but for someone whose pregnancy issues are really so debilitating, it’s hard to figure out what option they think the LW should try. Just further reducing the workload and letting more things slide? I don’t know.

  15. LW #2*

    Hey y’all, LW #2 here. Thank you, Alison, for your answer, and Commentariat thus far, for your candid additions! I’m autistic, and struggle with judging appropriate responses to emotional situations, which brings me a lot of anxiety, so it’s more helpful than I can articulate to have folks weigh in on what a “normal” response might be. I’ll be quietly rehearsing Alison’s suggested script for the next few days. Any additional thoughts (and pet anecdotes) are most welcome!

    1. Bitte Meddler*

      If it were me and I wanted a collegial relationship with this person, when we both showed up for that 6-hour shift I would say, “Hey, Person! I’m glad we’re scheduled together again; I’ve felt bad about snapping at you after the dog bit me. I was stunned and startled, and my reply wasn’t the best. Sorry about that.”

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      I think your response was quite mild under the circumstances!

      Personally I would not recommend apologizing because you didn’t do anything wrong… if anyone should apologize here it’s the coworker, for failing to give you a critical safety warning.

      1. I DK*

        I agree. Just be your normal self, I don’t see anything to apologize for, and if your co-worker is, to use another commenter’s phrase, “getting all butt hurt about being told “Yeah, no shit” after her stupid Capitan Obvious remark and you getting bitten, then that’s a ‘her’ problem not a ‘you’ problem.

    3. Antigone Funn*

      If you like this person and want to get along with them in the future, then apologizing might smooth things over. If you’re feeling more upset that they didn’t give you a warning and then got mad at you, then it’s also totally acceptable to not apologize and just move on. Either of these things is well within the “normal” range, as you can see from the split between commenters suggesting one or the other.

      What I like to do is, imagine the scenario and see which one feels best. Do I feel stepped on if I apologize? Does it feel too cold to avoid the topic? Which one causes more regret or anxiety? And so on.

  16. Michigander*

    LW1: I was working in the office during my first trimester with my first kid, right before Covid hit. I was so tired that sometimes I would go into the bathroom and sit on the closed toilet seat and rest my head on my arms on the sink and nap for a few minutes. Then I worked from home for next two trimesters due to Covid, and it was so nice being able to nap every day at lunch.

    1. Nodramalama*

      LW thinks the employee lied because the employee said they did something they demonstrably didn’t do and the denied it. Are you saying LW is a liar?

  17. Thegreatprevaricator*

    LW1: I’m in the UK but my kind immediately went to ‘are there any reasonable accommodations that can be made here’. Beyond the workload and more about flexible working. Given that pregnant employees are very protected here, plus if medication relates to a disability then it seems a shame to lose an employee who has been a strong performer. I would be willing to give an employee whose performance is being affected by a medical condition an opportunity to see if further accommodation worked for them and the company.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I’m in the US but was very surprised pregnancy and disability discrimination didn’t figure into the answer.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I think discrimination didn’t get explicitly mentioned because accommodations have already been made, the employee isn’t asking for other ones, and the employee is lying about what work they’ve done. Disciplining or firing someone for that kind of lie wouldn’t be discriminatory even if they’re pregnant and disabled, but that’s not even the advice — the advice is to keep offering more accommodations (telling the employee to “rais[e] it proactively if you’re not able to keep up on work so we can figure out solutions”).

  18. Baked Beans*

    My partner is a “top performer” at their job and extremely pregnant. They’re a top performer because they must be, otherwise the place would fall apart. Their boss sees that the work is getting done, so nothing changes, but chronic understaffing in the best of times means that this top performer isn’t just a great team player but a pillar holding up the entire stadium.

    They are also extremely exhausted. They can’t sleep. They can’t eat normally. They can’t use the bathroom normally. They hurt all the time. Everything weighs more. Their clothes don’t fit from their hat to their shoes and it’s getting ever more difficult to just move around. They’re stressed and distracted from the immense pressure of things that have nothing to do with work – IE restructuring their entire life to be able to take care of a whole brand new person and all that means. Yet everyday, somehow they still get up in the morning, make themselves presentable, haul themselves on the commute in, deal with a coach that can’t see the cracks in the concrete, haul themselves on the commute home and be their own whole person with a life outside of work. Then they do it again tomorrow. Hell, I’M exhausted and I’m not the one baking the bean. I can only imagine what they’re going through.

    Great management would have honest conversations with all the workers to figure out what actually makes a “top performer” and what it is about office structure, office culture, and culture outside work that would make someone feel pressured to lie about anything, even in ideal conditions. Great management is proactively compassionate and caring for the people that do the actual work that makes them money. This is a great opportunity for management to take a long look in the mirror and grow in to leadership. They are not the same thing. I hope you are great management.

    1. Mighty K*

      What is their work going to do when the bean is baked and your partner is off on parental leave? Will the stadium crash down? It seems a shame that the management isn’t using this time to taper off your partners work while someone else learns to pick it up.

      1. urguncle*

        I left on maternity leave and 5 months later I’m still picking the pieces up from a mere three months off. If we have another one, I’ve sworn that I’ll just take two weeks off and get back to work because it’s been worse than ever.

  19. Harper the Other One*

    LW1: I have always been the high performer at school/my workplace, which made pregnancy/maternity leave INCREDIBLY stressful. So much of my identity was caught up in “Harper can always manage and make it look easy”! And I often faced a huge amount of anxiety over dropping below my own standard, convinced that I would get penalized or even fired if I wasn’t top of the top ALL THE TIME.

    In your employee, I see someone who is dealing with high levels of pregnancy fatigue, AND side effects of reducing medication. She’s probably also worried about her job security just for being pregnant. Assuming you’re from the US, she also NEEDS to work to the last possible minute because she wants to use any leave after the baby is here, not before. And she knows she’s not hitting targets and she’s missing meetings. She’s probably desperate, scared, and miserable.

    Please take a serious look at other accommodations you can make for her. Could she work from home several days a week? Does she have to be at all these meetings or could she send in reports etc.? Heck, you might consider if your workplace has short-term disability coverage that would allow her to work shortened hours. Pregnancy in and of itself isn’t automatically a disability, but this particular pregnancy is affecting her day to day life in a way that many pregnancies do not.

    And I’d also encourage you (gently!) to examine your thinking about pregnancy versus other medical situations. If your employee was undergoing cancer treatment or had been in a vehicle accident and their performance dipped, would you be as bothered by it, or would you be feeling concern for your employee? This person is a top performer whose performance has dropped for less than six months; how you respond to that will likely determine if she returns to her previous high level of performance or decides to move on and take her skills elsewhere.

    1. Nodramalama*

      I’d be concerned about my employee lying about doing work in most scenarios

      1. NforKnowledge*

        Lying is never a good thing, but it sounds to me like OP’s office is still expecting way too much of this poor woman and unfortunately she resorted to lying rather than admitting she was still struggling (and, again it sounds like to me, opening herself to a world of criticism and potential job loss). OP needs to reexamine their assumptions and be prepared to accommodate their top performer a lot more to retain her after this temporary difficult time.

        Or maybe this has revealed a new lying-liar side of this person. But that seems less likely.

        1. Yup*

          I agree. She didn’t just randomly take up lying when she got pregnant. She’s probably afraid of losing her job, time off with the baby, her position, etc. and is faced with expectations that don’t match her ability. Which is temporary! If anything this shows one of the pitfalls of being a top performer. Especially a woman.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        To me, when a top performer is SUDDENLY lying about work being completed, there should be concern but for the employee. That’s out of character behaviour! The focus of the concern should be “what made one of my top people suddenly start lying about their performance?” not “is my top employee actually a liar?”

        In this case, it coincides with a rough pregnancy, so the obvious conclusion IMO is this employee is effectively dealing with a temporary health issue and I don’t want to lose a top performer because I haven’t accommodated that.

        1. Nodramalama*

          That appears to be what LW is asking. They didn’t ask “how can I get rid of her.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            True, but they also said “She has chronically zero or negative PTO, and will not work late to make up hours or work on the weekend like others’ on the team (despite the negative PTO).” She’s struggling to make it through a work day so it’s not unexpected she can’t work evenings or weekends. Just from the letter, I felt the implication is that the employee isn’t trying hard enough, and I suspect that’s coming across to the employee as well.

            1. nodramalama*

              I disagree. I take LW’s point to be, she doesn’t have leave because she’s taken all of it, but now she’s working fewer hours, but can’t take leave and also cant make up the time.

              Now whether the solution is to sort out an agreement to work part-time, or change the hours of work, or something else I don’t know, but working fewer hours without leave and no change to pay is a problem that has to dealt with.

              1. Starbuck*

                Yeah, it’s a horrible situation for the employee to be in and shows our total societal failure when it comes to supporting pregnant people and new mothers/parents, but – if she truly can’t work full time, and doesn’t have any leave to use to make up the difference, something has to change.

            2. HonorBox*

              I read that as, “I’ve reduced her workload and she’s still not getting all her stuff done. I’ve been flexible and understanding, but work still needs to get done.” I don’t think it is ridiculous to expect someone to make up a couple of hours when you’re being flexible and understanding with decreased energy during the workday.

              My overall read is that the lies on top of the dip in performance is really what is causing the LW the issue. That’s sort of the cherry on top of the sundae, and it is easy to then let your mind focus on all the other stuff that is more minor, letting that build into a larger storm.

              1. Ariaflame*

                From what I gather the reduced energy is all the time. She doesn’t magically get it back when the workday ends.

                1. AngryOctopus*

                  But she still has to do work, reduced energy all the time or not. She still has a job in which she produces a work product in exchange for money. She’s been given (pretty generous) accommodations, and yes, maybe she needs more, or a change for the rest of her pregnancy, but she cannot lie about getting things done and expect more grace to be extended her way. I’m not sure she’s in a culture where she fears being laid off for not doing her work given that LW has already worked with her to reduce her work by 25%. That does not strike me as someone who would fire a person for not being able to handle a certain workload while she is pregnant/off meds. BUT. She cannot lie. That’s where the issue comes in. If she lies about things, the LW can’t trust her to do the work she does have, and that’s a very serious issue. Grace goes both ways.

                2. Starbuck*

                  Totally, then the conversation probably needs to go in the direction of just how low the bar can go for reducing workload – does she just need to be part time, or find some other way to take leave? Knowing the state they’re located in would be helpful for looking up other options.

            3. Sneaky Squirrel*

              They’re not asking her to work late hours to be a team player. LW is suggesting she make up the missed hours because right now she’s collecting a paycheck and is not working to the accommodation agreement that they came to previously (the reduced hours). It sounds like LW is open to continued adjusting of the accommodation agreement, but giving her a pass on all work isn’t it.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Yep. Seems like LW is saying, for example, “Marvin took 2 hours for the doctor on Monday AM, but he made them up the rest of the week with an extra 30′ a day. Worker is taking an hour in the afternoon to rest, which is fine, but she’s not then making that up at any time during the week/weekend, and not only is her [already reduced] workload suffering, but she’s not telling me the truth about doing the work.”. You can’t say “oh, it’s OK that Worker isn’t doing all the work we agreed she could handle during her pregnancy, I should just give her another pass”. Giving someone more grace doesn’t feel warranted if the person is lying to LW’s face.

                1. Humble Schoolmarm*

                  Is it really the same, though? Marvin is perfectly able to work, he just can’t be in two places at the same time and for the most part Dr’s hours overlap with work hours. I think it’s more comparable to think about what you would do if Marvin was missing two hours for dialysis or chemo and was physically too sick to make up the extra half hour per day. Likewise, let’s say Marvin lied about doing those catch-up hours because he’s scared of losing his insurance. Is this “all lies are immoral” territory or more “stealing bread to save your starving family”? I don’t know, but I think more conversations are needed.

    2. JF*

      I sympathize with LW’s employee a lot, but I think people aren’t giving the LW a lot of credit here. I don’t think working from home a few days a week is relevant here since it sounds like she’s already working from home (napping through meetings was mentioned which certainly is more likely at home).

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Good point, although I’ve known a few pregnant folks who could fall asleep anywhere!

        But I do still feel like LW gives the impression in the letter that the employee isn’t doing enough to “fix” the situation (like talking about how she’s not working late or on weekends – not a surprise if her fatigue level is so high!). I’m sure the employee can pick up on that and for me, that would have been extremely anxiety provoking. I would like to think I wouldn’t have lied, but also when I was pregnant my income wasn’t required to my family to get by…

        1. Allonge*

          I can see that perspective, but to me LW sounds more like ‘she tried this and this and we tried this and none of it is working’. LW can be frustrated at the situation (including knowing that this is a societal failure), and not the employee necessarily.

    3. Boof*

      Honestly, while anyone’s pregnancy may vary, the only thing that would have helped the level of fatigue I was dealing with was workload reduction. There’s no flexing a workload around if i have to sleep 50% more of the time; I can just do 50% of the work I could do before, period. (I went from needing 8hrs sleep to 12 hrs and still being pretty darn tired, and if I didn’t sleep that much, horrible migraines, etc; and while I personally believe mild amounts of caffeine are fine for pregnancy the thought of coffee/most caffeine beverages, which I normally love and probably rely on, was repulsive while pregnant; horray!)

  20. Yup*

    LW#1: Your top performer is pregnant and suddenly her work suffers and you think she’s a liar?

    This letter and the advice offered are a reminder that discrimination against pregnancy hurts women and our careers. My guess is that the inability to offer reasonable accommodations for her specific pregnancy and her physical limitations makes it easier for her to lie when she can’t perform than to have an honest conversation. She’s not a bad worker—she’s physically suffering. And yes, she’s exhausted. We make accommodations for people who are ill, but women with difficult pregnancies are lazy and liars? Obviously discrimination against workplace pregnancy is still a thing.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I mean, a lot of companies *don’t* make accommodations for people who are ill, which is just as bad! Pregnancy unfortunately isn’t unique for employers being awful.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      She has indeed lied, according to the OP:
      “We recently had a discussion about not completing certain types of work because I discovered she had not been doing it at all and was lying about doing so (and tried to deny it).”

      The OP needs to ask why she lied and to have the conversation AAM outlined. In particular to agree that in future if she hasn’t done agreed/assigned work then she will say so, no more lying. They need to discuss all accommodations that are possible e.g. 50% work, even if that has to be with salary reduction.

      The employee may not want to take FMLA or sick leave this early, but would have to do so if she can’t cope with even the reduced job tasks with maximum accommodations and the OP is not allowed to keep her on like that.

      1. Yup*

        That doesn’t make her “a liar.” That means she is probably trying to figure out how to balance her work with how she feels and is too exhausted to deal with the spiral. She should not have to be deciding between taking time off now and not taking time with her baby, either. All I see here are various forms of discrimination–punishing a pregnant woman with reduced salary, time off not of her choosing, and bad performance reviews when she has 0 control over how her body works right now. This was a star employee. And what this says is even if you are a star employee, if you stop performing *even for 9 months* because of a very valid reason, you are now the worst employee and we will act accordingly.

        1. Nodramalama*

          LW didn’t call her a liar. She said her employee lied, which she did. You’ve picked the most ungenerous version of LW and the most generous version of the employee. LW wrote in for advice about how to manage the situation, she’s not asking how to get rid of her employee.

          1. Yup*

            The very first line of advide is: “Pregnancy doesn’t turn people into liars. That’s on her.”

            1. Worldwalker*

              And it’s also totally true.

              According to the LW, she has been telling lies about completing work. Someone who tells lies is a liar. That’s the definition of the word.

              1. Ariaflame*

                Tell me, would you like to be permanently defined as your worst day ever?

                Because if you know someone who never lies, please tell me who it is, because I would love to see this paragon of virtue.

                1. AngryOctopus*

                  And yet that doesn’t change the fact that the employee lied about work being done. She lied. Was she having a bad day? Maybe! Does that excuse her saying to her boss “No I really did the TPS reports! I did!” when nobody has seen the TPS reports and the employee knows that she did not, in fact, do the TPS reports, and yet she kept insisting that she did too do the TPS reports. Should that define her? Probably not. Will it if she keeps lying? Yes, and deservedly so.
                  Panicking and doubling down are not a great response, and the employee is going to have a hard time coming back from that. It’s one thing if she had come to LW and said “I’m so sorry I panicked before and lied that I had done these things”. From the letter it seems LW would have been disappointed, but glad the employee acknowledged it, and said “okay, let’s talk about your workload and what you feel able to do and not do” because she knows this woman is usually an excellent employee. But if even an excellent employee doubles down on a lie and keeps insisting on it, you’re going to start to not be able to trust them.

        2. Seashell*

          It sounds like she lied more than once about doing her work and then denied that she was lying. I’m not sure how else you would define “liar.”

          It is not discriminatory to expect someone to meet the standards if you’ve already made them easier and there are alternatives to them continuing in a job that they can’t do, such as taking FMLA or maybe short-term disability. It would be a shame if she is limited for maternity leave, and I think that she be changed politically, but it’s not unusual for problems to occur during pregnancy. If she had a job that required her to be on her feet and she needed to be on bed rest, would you call it discrimination if the work insisted she take FMLA if she was out of sick time?

        3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Telling lies is by definition being a liar.

          We are supposed to believe the OP who stated:
          She went from being my top performer to my worst.

        4. HonorBox*

          LW didn’t call her a liar. But the fact is, the employee did lie and then deny it. The manager caught them in a lie!

          You’re also assuming quite a bit. LW said that her workload was reduced 25%…there’s no indication that the employee’s salary was reduced. No one said anything about negative performance reviews. And the only “time off” discussion was that the employee chronically has negative PTO balance. No one seems to be forcing her to take time off not of her choosing.

          There’s a balance between being accommodating and understanding and being accountable for that work that our business is supposed to do. It seems like the LW has been trying to be understanding and helpful, and when an employee lies to cover up the fact that they’re not getting work done, that’s a problem that isn’t just reflecting on the employee… it lands on their teammates and the business.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yeah. Also I don’t believe LW1 is writing in to Alison because she knows exactly what to do in this situation and is just going to sack her employee and be done with it. She’s asking for help on navigating this equitably and how to approach the person about it while maintaining some respect for the employee’s situation.

        5. Siege*

          Lying … doesn’t make someone a liar.

          What does it make them, a marshmallow? A small foreign-power navy on maneuvers in the South Pacific?

          1. Yup*

            There is a difference between telling a lie and being a liar. One happens on occasion, and we all do it, the other is persistent–which is not the case of the employee.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              If you double down on one lie, you’re still a liar. Giving grace goes both ways, and it’s hard to give an employee more grace if they’ve demonstrated that they’re willing to double down on a lie to a direct question.

            2. Allonge*

              It makes her a liar.

              I think you are taking this as ‘liar = horrible, terrible, bad person’, which nobody said.

              A liar is a person who lies, or lied at least once. May be for an excellent reason!

              1. Too Many Tabs Open*

                If a liar is someone who’s lied at least once, then everyone’s a liar, which makes the word not terribly useful.

              2. Yup*

                There is ample evidence in the comments that pregnant women who are exhausted are susceptible to brain fog. The LW and AAM have defined this as “lying” where women who experienced this say it is pregnancy brain, forgetting, thinking they did it when they didn’t, and so on. And *if* she is purposely lying to protect her job and salary when she are desperate, that is not lying but a way to salvage the pieces of her life that are clearly spinning out of control. It’s a physiological as well as psychological response.

                Honestly, the lack of understanding of difficult pregnancies, the doubling down on labeling someone who was the best employee a “liar,” and the inability to understand the larger systemic problems at work here have left me extremely frustrated and afraid for all the pregnant women out there in the workforce. This employee was incredible until she was pregnant and then she became completely overwhelmed and unable to find the energy to untangle from it. So many people are just willing to toss her out despite years and years of stellar work.

                This must be the worst letter, advice, and comment section I’ve seen to date and if I were pregnant and working now I’d be very worried about how I was supposed to take care of myself and my baby while also keeping my job. What a capitalist mess.

        6. Dido*

          What on Earth? Lying absolutely does make you “a liar.” What else do you think a liar is?

    3. Pierrot*

      Well…telling your boss that you completed work that you did not actually complete is lying. We can talk about the motivations behind the lying, which may be legitimate, but I think we need to take the LW at their word on the fundamental facts. This comment seems pretty harsh and a little off base, and I completely agree with your statement that discrimination against pregnant workers is an issue in general; I just don’t think that LW/the employer is in the wrong or doing anything discriminatory here. For good measure, my interpretation of Allison’s comment was that it was actually the opposite of stigmatizing working pregnant people- pregnancy can lead to the physical symptoms that the employee is experiencing, but the fact that she lied about the work she completed is a separate issue (ie pregnancy does NOT make people more likely to lie).

      It sounds like the LW has tried her best to be accommodating by substantially reducing the employee’s work load. That’s not something that would be offered as a given at a lot of work places. I agree that based on the letter, there may be other accommodations the employer can offer to support the employee with the exhaustion, but ultimately even with ADA accommodations, there is usually a limit to how much the employer can accommodate a staff member (that’s why the ADA refers to reasonable accommodations).

      In this case, I think that LW should show her supervisee some grace because she was performing really well prior to pregnancy, so it’s very clear that the employee’s pregnancy symptoms and lack of meds are the cause of the issues- not lack of caring. It needs to go both ways– the employee has an obligation to be honest about the status of her work and where she is struggling. LW can address this by meeting with the employee, making it clear that her job is not in danger, but she needs to be truthful in return. Then ask the employee about what would be helpful to her and figure out what’s feasible to do.

    4. AmuseBouchee*

      Yes, this. Shocked on posting this the day after Mother’s Day. Who else is supposed to birth and raise children? AI?

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        We have to advise OPs what to do in the US as it is, not what we think ethically should happen.
        (e.g. what I think is sane & ethical: when a coworker at FinalJob in Germany had a difficult pregnancy, she took her 6 weeks sick leave on full pay and then started her 12 months maternity leave a bit early than planned. When she came back, she wanted a pt schedule for the next year and took more paid sick leave, all of which was approved willingly, no problem)

        1. AmuseBouchee*

          I’m responding to the sexism, and discrimination about pregnant women in these comments. I’m not talking at all about the good advice. Pregnant women shouldn’t be expected to be at 100% no one is at 100% all the time. It’s ridiculous,

          1. AngryOctopus*

            She doesn’t have to be 100%, but she can’t lie about doing things and expect more accommodations.

    5. Hyaline*

      I am curious about the context of the “lying” too—partially because pregnancy brain fog is a thing. Was it active deception, or “oh gosh I could have sworn I finished that!” or “I thought I was just doing X and Linda was finishing that” or whatever. Something doesn’t have to be a lie to be untrue. I’m a little unwilling to toss the label “liar” on someone without some more context.

      1. ecnaseener*

        LW has all the context, including having discussed it with her, and says she lied. They didn’t write in asking for help figuring out whether she lied, so they didn’t include every word of that conversation. It’s really unfair to the LWs to poke holes in every detail of their letters that isn’t accompanied by supporting evidence — they are trying to be brief and focused on their actual question, and the commenting rules say we take them at their word on the facts they give us.

      2. HonorBox*

        I think the context of “I discovered she had not been doing it at all and was lying about doing so (and tried to deny it)” is enough. The employee hadn’t been doing her work, lied about it and then denied it. We are supposed to believe the LW, and based on the balance of the letter, they seem like they get it. The mention of being tired and sleeping through meetings provided a lot of detail, so it feels like if it was misunderstanding or something other than an active lie would have been shared the same way.

      3. Anon today*

        Good point, especially if she is not used to *this* level of brain fog.

        I’m dealing with a certain degree of brain fog permanently due to health issues. By now I’ve set up enough documentation and processes so that I can easily check even on bad days which work I did and when.*

        All of that took a long time to build up however. If you had asked me in the beginning of that whole adaptation process? Yeah, sometimes I got stuff wrong. I worked to correct wrong statements, but importantly, the tiredness and the brain fog crept in more gradually. Took me longer to take it seriously, but I wasn’t suddenly stuck with this whole situation from basically one day to the other, like sudden loss of a reliable med plus completely different hormonal situation.

        Does LW’s employee need to find ways to deal with this? Yes, of course. LW and her colleagues still need accurate information to continue their work.
        This is unfornately a systemic problem (lack of legal/structural support of pregnant folks both before and after birth) and the unfortnate tendency to “lean” or more appropriately taut (because there is no slack nowadays) staffing. Still, a solution needs to be found for the situation as is, with hopefully lots of goodwill on both sides and all the support the company can reasonably provide. I am not familiar enough with how an EAP works, but maybe that is an additional option?
        Best of luck to LW, the employee and her team!

        *I often need to refer back to older work, either to answer questions internally or to make sure that work product/advice to the customer remains consistent and doesn’t get duplicated by accident.

    6. Yup*

      I’m just going to repeat the advice give here again: the employee is a liar, the employee should let you know if in future they will fall asleep unexpectedly from exhaustion before a meeting, the employee should understand now what’s realistic for the rest of their entire pregnancy even though they can’t possibly know, perhaps the employee has ADHD even though no one mentioned that and maybe that’s an excuse but absolutely nothing else is, and oh yeah they may be a terrible employee as a parent too so watch out.

      All I read is a misunderstanding of pregnancy, the tearing down of a top employee who is struggling and unable to find the energy to figure this situation out, and making the “lying” the problem as if the employee decided now is a good time to randomly start being a pathological liar. The truth is that a good employee is having a hard pregnancy and does not feel they can be honest about its impact. Work from there. This advice is why pregnant women don’t ask for what they need.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, I have to say, this was disappointing. When you’re pregnant, your body is changing so much all the time that it can be hard to know what to expect from it (even if you’ve been pregnant multiple times). What you could do last week might not be what you can do next week. How you felt yesterday might not be how you feel tomorrow. With the changes a pregnant person is going through, they need a lot of grace as they figure out how to navigate them. A super high performer suddenly finding they just can’t do what they used to be able to do at work? Of course they’re panicked. Of course they’re worried about their job security, their ability to provide for their child, etc. Was dishonesty a good choice (if they were dishonest)? No. Was it understandable? Quite probably.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          It being understandable is exactly the reason the advice is to have a conversation, rather that discipline or firing. In other letters with lying, Alison has had a very different take, usually that it’s unlikely that the situation can be salvaged. Here, she’s suggesting a conversation about what’s up and how they can make things work, just predicated on them being honest with each other.

          What, specifically, would you advise the LW to do instead? Ignore the dishonesty and pretend everything is OK?

          1. FashionablyEvil*

            I think starting with the lying is a mistake, yes. I would much rather see LW approach it as, “Hey. I am worried. This isn’t like you at all. What’s going on here and how can we fix it?” Likely to get a lot more mileage out of that.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              I saw the advice as having the bigger conversation you suggest, though also noting that making this work means that the employee has to be honest about what’s going on. The conversation isn’t going to solve anything if the employee misrepresents things.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Exactly. Alison didn’t slam into the answer, flame thrower blazing, screaming “YOU MUST FIRE THE LIAR NOW OR ELSE”. She pointed out that 1-pregnancy doesn’t make you a liar, 2-the employee lied about getting things done and this is what needs to be focused on in 3-a larger conversation about workload and what the employee can/can’t do at the moment (with a caveat that once baby is here, things won’t snap back to 100% overnight, although if she’s able to go back on her meds, that may help). But the employee needs to be honest in the conversation, otherwise it’s pretty hard to think about extending them more grace.

        2. Salsa Verde*

          I think Alison is not expecting the employee to be able to see the future. There is room here for the employee to say, oh, we had our in-laws over last night and even though I went to bed an hour earlier than usual, apparently that wasn’t enough, so now that I know I’ll be scaling down evening visits. Or, yeah, I seem to be experiencing severe sleeplessness, so I’m trying X solution, hoping that will help things. Or something like that. No one is asking her to predict the future, just asking her to consider her situation and ask what she thinks is going on.

      2. Colette*

        That’s not the advice, that’s your fanfic version of it.

        Let’s say the employee works as a full-time nanny. Would it be OK if she were falling asleep and not communicating that she physically can’t do the job? What about if she’s a surgeon, or a 911 operator?

        What if the work that’s not getting done is driving the evening route of a school bus or delivering meals to shut-ins?

        The OP should be sympathetic to the fact that her employee is going through a medical issue and work with her to come up with a workload/plan that will work – but that is not the same as accepting lies about getting the work done, or expecting her to do no work at all for the better part of a year.

        It’s also important to realize that, while this employee is not able to work, her colleagues may also be dealing with medical or family issues and may not be able to pick up the slack.

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Whereas my read was that the LW is trying to be understanding and compassionate and the advice is to sit down and have an honest conversation. I mean, she already agreed to reduce workload expectations by 25%. That doesn’t sound like a manager who is trying to screw the employee over.

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        But like part of the suggested conversation is encouraging the pregnant employee to be honest about the impact, to have an honest conversation with her boss so they can figure out how to approach the next several months.

        And the lying *IS* a problem. Maybe it was a panic response, maybe the employee is terrified to lose her job (especially since she’s probably aware of the difference in her output/quality) — that’s why OP and the employee need to talk about it though! It’s a problem, it can’t be a problem that continues, how can we manage this? Is that task something that can be transferred to someone else for the time being?

        I’ve been pregnant twice, I’ve experienced brain fog and fatigue (in the first months back after leave, too) — just so we’re aware that I’m not speaking out of a misunderstanding of pregnancy — and I don’t see anything inherently offensive about the proposed conversation. It’s serious, but what LW is describing is serious too.

      5. Frankie*

        You’ve taken the advice in the worst light possible, that is such an insult to Alison who has never been discriminatory against pregnant women or mothers in this blog.

    7. Worldwalker*

      LW1’s top performer is telling lies, which is why LW1 thinks she’s a liar.

      And given that the definition of a liar is someone who tells lies, LW1 is correct.

      1. Hyaline*

        LW categorized “person said she did XYZ work but had not done that work” as a lie. It may have been a lie. It might also have been a mistake, a miscommunication, brain-fog induced slip, or otherwise “untrue statement not intended to deceive” which would not be a lie—lies require the intention of deception. It’s also unclear to me if the “lying” was a one-off or part of a workflow system (employee checked “complete and submit” on incomplete work for example) or if multiple times she was directly asked “did you file these reports?” or whatever. These really do make a difference on whether the LW’s perception that the employee is lying is a fair perception that should be treated differently from “her work is slipping and she said she did something she actually forgot to do because she thought she did it.”

        1. Nia*

          If you say you did something when you didn’t, you are lying which makes you a liar. It doesn’t matter why you did it you’re still lying and still a liar.

          1. Ariaflame*

            So you are a liar. I know you lied at least once your life, because everyone does. So you are a liar, and I am a liar and everyone posting here are liars. So where does that get us except admitting we are all human and perhaps compassion rather than cruelty might get us further?

            1. Nia*

              Yep I have lied but never to boss about whether or not my work is getting done which as you may recall is the scenario under discussion.

            2. Yup*

              The LW and AAM are defining this as “lying.” But it’s a reaction to panic or exhaustion or any other kind of overwhelming human sentiment that someone who used to be able to cope with cannot anymore. What’s needed is a discussion to get down to what can be done, not a catch-all label that makes it easy to just dismiss a complex situation.

              This reminds me so much of when we call a child a liar and punish them without working to understand the motivations and developmentally normal response to overwhelming stimuli. This woman is pregnant and not herself and being called a liar as a way of not having to do the actual work of understanding the sudden shift of a top employee into a struggling one.

            1. Nia*

              Words have meaning. Being sympathetic to the employer doesn’t mean she’s not a liar.

                1. Nia*

                  You know full well employer was a typo for employee in that sentence. But just to reiterate it’s the employee who is a lying liar who lies no matter how sympathetic you find her.

          2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            If you say you did something when you didn’t, but you legitimately thought you did, you are not lying.
            The reasons you mistakenly thought you did are worth some consideration.

          3. Hyaline*

            No, saying something untrue ON PURPOSE with the intent to deceive is lying. You can say you did something believing that you did do it, or say you finished because you thought you were done, or say a project was complete when it wasn’t when you actually believed it had been finished. Saying something untrue isn’t automatically a lie.

          4. Plume*

            No. You are just off base here. Being mistaken does not make you a liar.

            I’m not saying this is definitely happening with the LW but I’ll use myself as an example.

            After returning from mat leave my memory was a little wonky. I forgot to put in PTO one time. I swore I had. My boss called me and was like. Did you put in PTO? I said yes, and then he had this “aha! Gotcha!” demeanor. He told me he was looking at the PTO for that day right now and I had in fact not put it in. He then gave me a long lecture on integrity. I had worked for this man for 3 years, never been dishonest, and even reached out to HR when I got overpaid $50 and paid it back. That’s the kind of person I am.

            Now I’m senior enough and secure enough in a great company that I was able to push back against his characterzation. I told him that I appreciate him letting me know about the missing PTO entry but that him trying to turn it into an integrity and honesty issue was very strange and I don’t appreciate him acting like my simple mistake was a deliberate lie. I told him I’d put in some extra reminders to confirm PTO entries since this has obviously been missed.

            Now he could easily write to Alison and say I lied, denied lying, was caught and got defensive but that’s really no the case at all and this is very much a common tactic to punish new mothers at work.

            1. Anon today*

              All good points and I’m glad you were in a place where you could push back.
              I hope your boss reflected on his approach as well.

        2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          Yes, this.
          Personal anecdote time: I get unusual migraines, and at one point in my life they became so frequent that the prodrome of the next migraine picked up almost before the postdrome of the last migraine had passed. During that time, I said a lot of stuff. Much of it wasn’t accurate; some of it, a reasonable observer would’ve said I must’ve known was not accurate and so I was lying. But none of it was intentional deception. My brain was so fried from constant migraines that I couldn’t keep track of what day it was, or which day things had happened on, and recurring tasks kept slipping because I was sure I had done them “the other day”. I had – if two months back counts as “the other day”! Other things I was sure I’d done, where I could actually recall doing the thing in some detail, and was surprised to find later that I definitely had not done it and my brain had apparently created that entire memory out of whole cloth. Meanwhile other things that happened, and conversations I apparently participated in, I have absolutely no recollection of and I was denying that they’d happened within an hour. I was not lying, but anybody who wasn’t involved in my medical care would certainly have said that I was.
          My neurologist put me on anti-seizure medication and eventually my migraines were brought back under control and my memory issues resolved. That medication is contraindicated for pregnancies, however.
          I think the “unmedicated” part of the employee’s situation should be given more weight here. If the employee was trustworthy prior to her pregnancy, it’s worth considering her “lying” as a symptom. It may or may not be a symptom that can be accommodated! But don’t let it do reputational damage if it’s likely to be resolved in a couple of months.

          1. Anon today*

            Yes, this. While we can’t know whether the lying is straight up a health related symptom as you described here, it still makes sense to treat it as a sign pointing to a deeper issue.
            Could be a sign for a work culture that is too unforgiving, economic anxiety around potential job loss or insufficient support in dealing with all these changes.
            What matters is how that sign is treated now on both sides.

          2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Wow, that sounds really awful to have experienced. I’m glad things have been mostly resolved. And, I’m assuming, that people at work were understanding.

            However, how does the distinction between lying and making an error change the specific advice, which is to have an open, honest conversation where they try to come up with a plan together? It feels like this thread is just nit-picking one word and coming up with scenarios where the LW is wrong, which isn’t particularly helpful.

            1. Anon today*

              I can only speak for myself, but as I experienced something rather similar:
              When other people corrected me at the time with the strongly implied sense that I was wrong/said the wrong thing on purpose (to cover something up, as Alison put it) or straight up maliciously, it made me feel gaslighted and completely boxed in.
              Not exactly a mindset that lends itself to finding solutions together to the actual problem. Didn’t help that in some cases it truly was just a misunderstanding, but the other person was coming in with this punitive mindset and what I needed was someone being curious about what was going on and asking open-ended questions. Demonstrating maybe even that admitting to mixing something up, asking for (further) accomodations and so on wouldn’t be punished.

              Mind that all of the above does not make the LW’s need for accurate information wrong btw., whatever the actual problem is in the end. I’m just wondering whether the strong focus on the lying is helpful for getting to the heart of things.
              The distinction for me is – is the solution to stop her to get lying or “lying”/admit to lying or is it to get accurate information and finding out why that has been so difficult lately. If that is outside the scope of this work relationship, so bit it, but holding space for our vulnerabilities is where change and solutions can happen.

              The LW is looking for additional advice, which makes me hopeful that she is just at the end of the rope at the moment and that it was simply some of that frustration bleeding through in her letter. They both deserve grace, her and her employee and hopefully can come to a good solution together.

              1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                Yeah, my read of the letter was that the LW does want to continue to support the employee. I mean, she has already reduced the expected work output by 25%. That’s not the move of someone who wants to be punitive. Her ask is advice on managing / coaching. Which suggests to me that she wants to find a good solution.

                I also didn’t get the sense that the LW was super focused on the lying/”lying.” It’s just part of a wider situation that kinda sucks for everyone, and is relevant information. I mean, as a manager, you’ve got to deal with a situation where an employee is providing incorrect information.

            2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              Oh, they absolutely need to have an open and honest conversation! But I think making a distinction between lying and being wrong changes the scope and tone of the conversation.

              If LW goes into the conversation believing the employee is lying, the conversation is going to focus on the importance of being honest about work being done and setting a reasonable workload. As reflected in Allison’s script, it will be a somewhat antagonistic conversation – LW necessarily assumes the employee is trying to deceive them. And since LW understands the lying as an intentional issue separate from the medical issues, even if the employee returns to being a top performer when they come back from maternity leave, LW will never really trust them again.

              If LW goes into the conversation allowing for the possibility that the employee is wrong rather than lying, the conversation is more likely to start with questions about how work is being tracked and have a more collaborative tone. It may be that the employee needs to go on leave early, or that her medical issues beyond the expected pregnancy symptoms might qualify her for short-term disability. When the employee comes back from leave and is back to performing well after a reasonable period of increased oversight, the LW can chalk the incident up to a temporary medical issue and more or less put it out of their mind.

        3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          How does that change the specific advice, which is to have an open, honest conversation where they try to come up with a plan together?

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        LW never said that she thinks her employee is a liar. LW said that her employee is telling lies and is looking for a reasonable accommodation to stop it.

    8. Parakeet*

      We make accommodations for people who are ill

      It’s funny, I’ve been reading these comments portraying LW1 as way more harsh and unforgiving than the letter actually shows. And thinking how much more willing a lot of people apparently are to go to bat for a pregnant person than someone dealing with some other type of difficult situation in their lives that makes them exhausted. Like bamcheeks said, pregnancy isn’t unique for employers – and the relatively low levels of protection required by US laws – being awful. It’s just a more common situation than some others where employers are awful. More people can personally relate to it.

      Ultimately I agree that this is a temporary situation and will eventually pass, and that there can be more discussions around accommodations. The grace that the OP wants to show here (otherwise I don’t think she’d have gone as far as she already has) will be helpful for other life situations that really hose people too.

      I’m a little more forgiving on the lying than many people though. There needs to be a conversation about it! But I don’t think “liar or not liar” is some kind of static binary character attribute. It’s very easy to imagine someone, even in a relatively good working environment, feeling embarrassed and like they can’t admit the truth. Someone called it a “panic cover-up” which I can absolutely picture.

    9. Starbuck*

      What accommodations do you suggest, though, if she doesn’t have any PTO to use, and won’t go on FMLA? Other than going part-time, and taking a reduction in pay (and likely benefits too) what is available? People who are sick take sick leave or use intermittent sick leave or work out some other accommodation that – key point here – allows them to still get work done.

      Further reducing her workload is a good option if possible, and cutting some slack on hours (salaried should mean give and take – sometimes working more than 40, like she surely has in the past, but also being allowed to sometimes work less) but if neither of those are enough – if she just still can’t get the bare minimum done, and/or won’t be honest about it, what would you do? I’m honestly curious because I can’t think of better options.

    10. Boof*

      yes… if this lying is really out of character for their employee, and hopefully LW knows whether that’s the case, well they shouldn’t have done it but it’s probably coming from a place of high anxiety and fear, and it’s worth LW at least considering whether they’re allowing their employee to tell them when there’s too much work or just being grumpy and punishing them when they can’t hold up the load they used to. It should be stressed that lying is worse than not doing the work, but there should be some clear structure around what is the minimum needed for their employee to do to be adequate at their job. They don’t need to be a star right now, they to just be good enough that the company is content with employing them*
      *Yes we would like it if companies could be a buffer for physical ills but I think everyone would be happier if there’s clear minimum expectations that they can meet than going below minimum needed to be sustainable for months-years (I say years because I’d way prefer to give a new parent space to learn what parenting life is like than to expect that obviously someone else is handling all caregiving and they can totally go back to being exactly as they were when they weren’t a parent)

  21. deena*

    Oof, much empathy for LW1’s employee as I sit here in my first trimester of my first pregnancy. I was not prepared for this level of exhaustion and I wouldn’t blame LW1 if they aren’t fully aware of it either, but I would urge compassion here.

    Obviously the lying is an issue, but the anxiety of being pregnant and suddenly feeling very vulnerable in your employment is substantial, both because pregnancy discrimination is real and because the stakes of losing a job (or becoming very unhappy in a job) are suddenly much higher. If the employee picked up on their boss’s obvious displeasure… yeah, I kinda get it.

    I think this employee needs more accommodations and understanding here. As others have pointed out, this is a temporary condition and a top performer. It would be short-sighted to not try to work with her to find a solution, even if that means less output for now.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Congrats on your first pregnancy! And you made some great points. During my first pregnancy, I was completely exhausted the entire 9 months, but I do hope you get the relief some women get during their 2nd trimester (sadly, I did not).

      Yes, the lying is an issue, but I also can understand why the employee made a bad decision and lied. I work in a male dominant industry and during my first pregnancy, I worked on a team of all men in their 20s and early 30s (I was 30 at the time), not one of them had children yet. I did have a woman manager who was in her late 30s, but she also did not have children and had zero desire to ever have children (she’s now in her mid-50s and still childless). There were also some younger men coworkers, albeit not on my team but worked closely with my team, who had no problem voicing their opinion that women needed to choose between career or children, not have both, so I felt some negativity working with those men on projects as well. I truly was anxious throughout my pregnancy as I felt I had no support or understanding from anyone on my team, or with other colleagues thanks to the “women need to choose” comments I overheard (not to my face, but definitely within earshot and obviously for me to hear).

      And my work did suffer during pregnancy, but thankfully my manager never approached me. But ugh, between my pregnancy brain fog, exhaustion, and anxiety, I could see making a bad decision and possibly lying for fear of losing my job due to my poorer work performance. I’m also the main income source in my household, always have been. So losing a job during pregnancy, was a big fear of mine. While nothing bad happened in my situation and I never did have to lie, now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I would have approached my pregnancy differently with the knowledge I have now. I do wish I had sat down with my manager and talked to her about what I was experiencing. She may have eased my anxiety and made my workload easier so I could have struggled less and felt my assured that my job was safe. The company as a whole was young with a lot of younger employees, so I was amongst the first to be pregnant while working there, so I had no one to turn to or even knew what I should do. No advice columns, no social media groups (I didn’t have FB yet, it was very new then and not common), no new mom friends, and I was raised by a SAHM, so I couldn’t ask my own mom for advice (she would have told me to not work and be a SAHM anyway).

  22. melissa*

    A pregnancy, while it feels long, is actually really short. It sounds like she’s at least halfway through it, which means she has, what, 16 or 20 weeks left. I think you just sort of put up with it. You can have the needed conversations but also, keep your eye on the prize. She will have the baby, have some time off to recover, and hopefully come back more her old self. If she doesn’t, then at that point is when you start thinking a PIP.

    1. Nodramalama*

      I’m inclined to agree. It has to make it clear that LWs employee can’t lie anymore but apart from that I think they need to just accomodate the employee to make the situation as best they can and hopefully when she returns from mat leave the issues are resolved

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yes, this is the best way forward. Pregnant people deserve compassion and understanding. The manager can’t let the lying go. (I know people are debating if it was lying or errors, but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter because the advice is the same – have a conversation to figure out what’s going on and what the plan is for the rest of her pregnancy).

    2. HonorBox*

      The fact that she’s tired makes perfect sense. But I think the conversation about lying and not getting things completed is something that needs to happen. While we need to be kind, thoughtful and accommodating – especially in light of the fact that there’s medication that isn’t available to her now – work does still need to get done. As a manager, you can’t be blindsided by work not getting done, nor can you have someone lying to cover up the fact that work isn’t getting done. There may be ways to reduce workload a little more, and that would be great. Open up the door to missing a meeting or two with advance notice. But work does still need to get completed and lying about its completion doesn’t help anyone.

    3. Gyne*

      The lying is the problem, more than the work. As a reader the first thing I wondered was whether this employee was really even a “top peformer” in the past or if the LW went back to review, she would find other issues with her work that she lied about then, too.

      1. Boof*

        it’s either that they have a history of lying to make themselves look good, or they had a lot of either personal and/or external pressure to be top and now with some major changes they don’t know how to deal with not being the top, and are dealing with denial (not good but hopefully it’s a one time conversation and it’s fixed)

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. I also think some things (thinking you did a task you didn’t, for example) are more attributable to things like brain fog and confusion than the answer suggests. Maybe you need better accountability tools so you can both keep track of when things are getting done – a high performer starting to lie out of nowhere could be shame, or it could be a real side effect of both pregnancy and lack of medication. Find a way to check.

      This is a short term problem and it probably comes down to “deal”.

  23. Also-ADHD*

    I disagree with one key point about Alison’s letter: if it’s ADHD or other mental health meds, and the employee can take their medication again (which may mean not breast feeding so I know not all women do after, but most women I know with ADHD will pick meds over BF if they need them), it will probably resolve after leave. Tired or not, the meds may be the difference maker. I know we can’t separate that from the effects of pregnancy fully, but I’d be willing to bet there’s good chance that’s causing ur impulsive behavior like lying, causing the work decrease etc, way more that the tiredness of the actual pregnancy. As soon as LW mentioned medication, I thought immediately at how hard it must be to not only deal with the fatigue of pregnancy but the medication issue, especially if the employee needs it for impulsivity and not just focus/inattention.

    One reason I never considered having kids is the meds. I think people seriously don’t understand the big difference between medicated and unmedicated ADHD. I have gone off meds and been theoretically okay, when I lived overseas, but it was hard. I was young and drank way too much (after really not being much of a drinker in college or after before—and never really been one again, it was a dopamine thing), went partying every night, became a thrill seeker, almost died, put myself in dangerous situations all the time, had very bad memory to the point where I’m sure I lied all the time, just guessing at what was going on, etc. Short term, I can focus with no meds better than some (I’m combined but my inattentive isn’t that bad), but longer term, there’s a lot of research that now suggests dopamine regulation is messed up in the ADHD brain, and impulsivity and bad memory from ADHD could both cause the lying as much as the bad performance. No, pregnancy doesn’t cause it, but for many people, the function of their meds isn’t just simply to focus okay, it’s to function and communicate like a human and take responsibility for our actions, because otherwise, our brains may not be wired for it the way you think of it. Lying isn’t a pregnancy symptom, but it is an unmedicated ADHD symptom and not just from shame. It also is intertwined with poor impulse control, poor memory, and especially verbally, answering without thinking. (Now that depends a little on if it’s a lie in the moment or a longer term predmeditated deception—the latter isn’t caused by impulse as much as shame.)

    Whether it’s inattentive or impulsive or other factors, meds may be a huge difference maker no matter how little sleep etc. A good friend of mine was pregnant recently and struggled horribly when pregnant but as soon as she could take her meds, she was super woman again. I’m in a support group with ADHD women and see this over and over. Little sleep doesn’t matter nearly so much as having to go off those meds. It is awful the US doesn’t have a better leave situation to deal with this kind of thing, since they often can’t take leave during the pregnancy and get any after.

    1. JustaTech*

      Not medical advice, not directed at anyone, just information: there’s been a lot of new research out (mostly coming from the Nordic countries) that says that ADHD meds are *not* inherently contraindicated for pregnancy and breast feeding.

      It’s a conversation that each individual needs to have with their care team, but it’s not an automatic “no” and if your doctor says it is, ask for a second opinion.
      I took my meds during pregnancy and (most of) breastfeeding after reading the literature and talking with a perinatal psychiatrist – because I knew I could not continue to have a job without them.
      It depends on the person and the meds, and it is an individual choice (so some people might still need to go off their meds, or go off their meds until after certain developmental periods are over), but it’s not the “no meds for anyone for any condition” rule that it used to be.

  24. Irish Lady*

    ~ Letter 1:

    I have to say I’m not mad on the response to this letter. It’s very judgemental and the tone of the second part is quite patronising and scolding. I’d be annoyed if my boss spoke to me that way and I think if it were any other kind of medical issue (i.e. diabetes, IBS) the tone and advice would look nothing like this – so I’m also going to say that I think there is an air of misogyny in it to.
    I also don’t think she should be expected to make up the hours – she’s already struggling, so the kinder thing is to let her rest. I can’t see an expectation that she would if it were any other kind of medical condition and certainly if men experienced pregnancy, I can’t see them being willing to do so.
    My guess is she’s lying because she feels embarrassed, she’s already being cut slack and doesn’t want to have to admit that she needs more. So if you want that to stop let her know, in a far softer tone than Allisons’, that her workload can be reduced to accommodate naps.
    Pregnancy is a tempory physical condition that affects her ability to work and needs to be accommodated, there’s no need to start talking about what her work ability will be like when she returns from maternity leave. That part of the response does not help women in the workplace, it harms us.
    I know the US has awful maternity policies, but still, she’s your top performer and more importantly your fellow human who’s struggling right now and I think your response and attitude should reflect that. You have a great opportunity to reward your top performer and keep your workplace women (staff) friendly, don’t squander it.

    1. LW1*

      Thank you for this thoughtful response.

      My guess is she’s lying because she feels embarrassed, she’s already being cut slack and doesn’t want to have to admit that she needs more.

      I think you’re right about this.

  25. Perfectly Particular*

    LW1 – your employee isn’t likely to be herself for a while! She has the rest of her pregnancy to finish, and then parental leave. When she comes back, she’ll be probably in a better state than she is now, but also still tired, and maybe still unable to take medication if she is nursing. Can you make a plea to get a contractor, intern or co-op to support your team? On my old team of 5 (3 men, 2 women) we had 8 babies over approximately 5 years, so this may not be the only pregnancy/leave that you’ll need to cover.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, it’s dreadful the employee feels pressured to work when she feels so exhausted. It may even damage her health.
      Can you put her down to very pt hours that she feels she can handle, even at pro rata pay, but absolutely keep paying her full health insurance.

  26. Rondeaux*

    I’m not sure what the videos have to do with the custody fight, but if they’re not relevant for the business anymore, I don’t see why they wouldn’t take them down if asked

    1. Generic Name*

      You’d think so. What does the ex/their spouse’s employment have to do with a custody battle, right? My ex contacted my company through the “contact us” generic inbox and complained about me and demanded to talk to the CEO. People with mental health issues/possible personality disorders aren’t the most rational actors. OP is right in wanting to protect herself.

    2. Joana*

      OP says in another thread that they’re worried the ex will use the videos to edit together things OP didn’t actually say, which is a fair worry for someone being vindictive. It’s not about the kids themselves but what the ex may do to make OP (and by extension the spouse) look like bad people/unfit parents.

  27. Falling Diphthong*

    #3 I expect that any bystanders who overheard the diatribe would interpret it as “Fergus has buttonholed OP for his latest rant.” Especially if Fergus has more power than you.

    Should it happen again, I think a mild “Gosh, that hasn’t been my experience at all” can derail the vehemence.

    I froze and just made “mhm” noises.
    This seems to be really hard-wired into humans cooperating in groups. And I think most of us can identify with being on the mhm-ing side at some point. But don’t remember a time we realized people were mhm-ing at us.

  28. Angstrom*

    LW1: If an employee is saying they have completed tasks and they haven’t, as LW1 states, that’s a real problem. No argument there.

    If the employee has a history of high performance and honesty, what is driving them to lie? Are they being blindsided by their own body? Are they in denial about their current capabilities? Are they afraid of losing their job? An honest, compassionate talk is needed here.

    Asking someone who is exhausted to work extra hours while they are struggling is not going to help anyone.

    The business, the manager, and the employee all have legitimate needs. I hope they can find common ground and a path forward.

    1. Anon today*

      Thank you, that encapsulates my thoughts very well.

      The employee can’t exactly “snap out of it”, healthwise that is, and LW needs reliable information regarding the employee’s work. Approaching with curiosity is the way to go.

    2. Boof*

      All of this, exactly, thank you.
      I realize I am identifying a lot with the pregnant employee (I wouldn’t have lied, but I was terribly exhausted and, in hindsight, unreasonably terrified about not being “normal” when I was pregnant and a new mom, as I had some vague ideas that being a feminist meant that pregnancy / new parenting was “no different” than not, when that’s actually… probably internalized patriarchy right there). And maybe there’s a totally other story/motivation here. But gosh I hope they’ve taken a big load off that employee and there’s some minimum adequate amount they can both be content with. I know I wouldn’t have wanted charity, like to be doing less than my salary justified, but I certainly was in no position to go above and beyond for a while and frankly, that’s ok! A friend likened a new baby to a phd, and I like that analogy; hey I’m working on a phd on the side here! Of course I’m not working exactly the same!

    3. Eagle*

      Yep. This. I was surprised the question of why the employee feels they can’t be honest wasn’t covered off in Alison’s reply. LW should also clarify that it’s not a miscommunication or honest mistake.

  29. HonorBox*

    LW2 – while you said a four letter word, I feel like your response was pretty normal, given that you’d just been bit. And while you directed it AT your coworker, it wasn’t like you piled on and called names or anything like that. It sounds like your boss didn’t want you worrying about it and/or adding more oxygen to it, which is why you were directed not to text an apology. Also, you really didn’t need to. If she’s chilly to you during your upcoming shift, I think you can apologize for your reaction during the previous shift, but I wouldn’t proactively bring it up until you get a sense of her demeanor. If she’s still holding onto it, that’s on her. You can try to smooth things out, but really you need to look at this as a “her” problem not a “you” problem.

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*

      I agree. It was a pretty tame response considering the OP was literally being bitten at the time; I can see their co-worker perhaps being a little hurt in the moment, if they’re a sensitive person, but if it’s taken them more than a good night’s sleep to get over that, the problem is very much with them.

  30. Mary Smith*

    OP 5. Go to your head of external marketing and explain the situation. I’m one and I would immediately take those down for you and have done so in the past when an employee had a stalker. We’re very aware of the pros and cons of putting yourself or the company out there publicly and the safety issues it can sometimes cause. And, all value of those social media posts, considering their age, has already been realized.

  31. Anonymous Again*

    LW1 – What would your course of action be towards a non-pregnant employee exhibiting these same behaviors? That is your answer.

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*


      Pregnancy is a medical condition with a whole bunch of side-effects, many of which may well be directly responsible for what LW is seeing. (The pregnant employee being off her meds due to her pregnancy is also almost certainly a factor.)

      Pregnancy is also a *time-limited* medical condition. People don’t just go from being the top performer to the worst for no reason. It is vital that LW considers the pregnancy (and that these issues may well be mostly or wholly resolved by just waiting it out) in whatever actions they take.

      1. samwise*

        The employee needs to request leave, then. Hopefully FML is available, so that employee’s job can be protected. But it’s not reasonable for an employee to get an accommodation (I don’t mean in the legal / ADA sense, just that OP is accommodating the employee), not be able to fulfill the expectations of the job at its reduced hours/tasks, lie about it, and double down on the lie. Maybe employee has reasons for the lie, in which case, they need to say so.

        Yes, OP should work with this employee to see what is do-able. I understand, from experience, not wanting to use up leave because it’s needed for a later time (pregnancy, taking care of a sick child, my own medical needs, taking care of a sick partner). But sometimes you have to use your leave sooner, which may mean leave without pay later. Which really really sucks. Maybe the OP can make an arrangement with the employee regarding leave, I don’t know. But this employee can’t be not working and getting paid for it without the OP’s knowledge or ok. And for sure they can’t be lying about it.

        OP should consider the pregnancy, but there may be reasonable limits to what OP can do, and for sure OP cannot just guess or really do anything regarding the employee’s hours, work expectations, leave, etc. without the employee’s collaborating on this.

        1. Perfectly Particular*

          The problem is that FMLA only protects your job for 12 weeks/rolling 12 month period. So if she goes on leave when she is 6 months pregnant, and stays out until the baby is born, she’s used up all her FMLA. She should be able to still get short term disability for 6 weeks following the baby’s birth, but that depends on the employer. As a worst-case, she would have no job guarantee once the baby is born.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I genuinely don’t know whether this is supposed to mean that someone who suddenly went from being a great employee to a struggling one because of a non-pregnancy medical issue should be given more grace, or got rid of immediately!

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          May you never in your life experience a medical issue that impacts your ability to work then, and may you never manage anyone.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      This is just weird.

      There’s a short term medical thing which would provide a ready explanation for a lot of the problems, and you shouldn’t just ignore that context.

      This would also go for someone dropping balls during cancer treatment, or immediately after returning to work when a close family member died.

      It’s fine to take the lying as a hard line that no one comes back from–but in many jobs, when it’s a sudden change and in the context of an obvious outside stressor, you might consider whether that’s a symptom and the employee would be worth trying to retain through the stressor. (Example: A brand new employee damaged a company vehicle and lied about it, countered by the cameras in the parking lot. In the update, the new employee was just out of a terrible job and lied on instinct; employer gave her a second chance and she was able to realize the new office wasn’t the old one, and would reward honesty.)

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Legally, no. Ethically, no. Practically – you should have a compassionate conversation with any employee exhibiting any major change in behavior or work quality.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      I would be more inclined to say “what would be your course of action towards somebody who exhibited these same behaviours for a time-bound reason other than pregnancy, such as undergoing a cancer scare/having a parent/other relative at the end of life/going through divorce?” because I think there is a big difference between somebody who has a dip in their performance due to life events, which can happen to anybody and somebody whose behaviour changes…say, after they get a long-term contract.

      And yeah, I know you never know who has difficulties in their personal life, but in some cases…like somebody going from an excellent performer to a struggling one after they aren’t chosen for a promotion, it would be quite a coincidence if they just had a problem in their personal life at the same time.

      And in this case, the LW knows there is an understandable reason and I don’t think ignoring that is a good idea.

  32. MsM*

    LW4: I might go further and tell the coworker that while you appreciate them wanting to get you out of your current situation, if they really don’t understand why the other department is not an improvement despite your repeated attempts to explain, you’d rather not discuss career advice at all going forward and just change the subject any time they try.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Or even just say no thanks and change the subject, if you don’t want to get into a conversation of why the coworker keeps suggesting applying to Team Full of Bees.

      “Oh, that job isn’t for me, but did you hear that the local, non-gender-specific sports team won their game last night?”

      “I’m not interested in that team. What did you get up to this weekend?”

  33. Hyaline*

    LW4: is this person by any chance the person you share frustrations with and/or vent to? It’s possible that they are a “fixer” who want to help by offering solutions, and this is the most immediate solution they can propose. Absolutely keep on your script of “nope not a good fit for me!” but maybe also shift gears in conversation a little. Maybe hearing more strategy and future planning from your perspective instead of current frustrations could reorient this person, too?

    1. LW4*

      No, I compartmentalize well and don’t treat co-workers as personal friends I can vent to or talk with negatively about our work environment. This started when we were working together on a project, making polite conversation, and she found out I was a few weeks away from finishing my master’s program. Suddenly, it was like she was on a personal mission to manage my career development, even though she’s not my manager. I genuinely think she’s doing it to be helpful and because she’s management-level, even though her advice about advancing within the company has been completely misguided (she’s worked here 1/6 of the time I have).

      Since I wrote in, however, I’ve had a much more in-depth conversation with her in which I explained exactly what I see wrong with Trash Fire Team from an organizational structural analysis perspective (which is my other specialty). She hasn’t brought it up again since then, so I think that sunk in. I’ve given her bits and pieces of that before in our conversations about applying to that team, but never the whole analysis at once, as I did recently. Maybe that was what she needed to hear to get the full picture.

      1. Hyaline*

        Sounds like a direct conversation was the right call! She sounds well intentioned but very misguided; I’m glad she backed off the personal mission to direct your career path!

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I was thinking the opposite: that LW 4’s mentor has a vested interest in putting out the dumpster fire team’s flames, and they see LW 4 as a possible solution while advancing LW’s career. When there’s an excessively toxic team in any workplace, other departments usually take some collateral damage from the dysfunction.

  34. HannahS*

    Alison, regarding letter 1, I felt like your answer was off the mark. You’re usually so careful and compassionate, but here you’ve made two major assumptions that do the LW’s employee a disservice. One is that her productivity will not return after the baby is born. You don’t know that, and there’s no reason to casually write off a pregnant person’s future productivity. That’s how women get mommy-tracked. If the employee was a man who had cancer and happened to have a pregnant partner, I don’t think you would have assumed that he would remain less productive when his illness resolved.

    The second is that she has ADHD. There are a lot of medications that people go off during pregnancy, and lots of untreated conditions + pregnancy could make this employee unable to work. We don’t generally armchair-diagnose here, and I think the reasons for that are true in this case, too.

    As to the situation itself, the LW should prompt the employee to consider going on a medical leave until their parental leave starts. I’ve seen situations where people are so impaired by pregnancy and their untreated medical condition that they are unable to work at all, and their doctors support a long medical leave (and yes, including a pregnant person with severe ADHD.) Again, if the employee had a top-performing male employee with a serious illness that required several months of treatment, what would the company do to retain them? Obviously the lying is a huge issue and needs to be addressed, but if the person has otherwise been upstanding, then consider forgiving it in the setting of someone who is ill and panicking.

  35. CzechMate*

    LW 2 – I’m with everyone else, telling you AFTER the fact that the dog bites would probably make me go, “Yeah, no shit” too. You don’t have anything to apologize for.

  36. High Performer*

    After having two children myself, the response for LW1 makes me…unhappy. I have been and still am a top performer, but pregnancy was rough for me and made me constantly paranoid about my work performance. I luckily had very compassionate leadership filled with women who struggled in the same way, but the response in for LW1 makes me sad for that employee. Pregnancy can happen under so many circumstances, happy or sad and it can completely change you (even if you don’t have an underlying mental illness!). Employees (especially high performing ones) don’t want to lie, but sometimes it happens because they are in fear for their jobs. That manager has to take a look at why she’s lying and then try really, really hard to be compassionate for that top performer. She will return to that high performing status if she is treated compassionately!

    1. HonorBox*

      I think the advice does account for a number of things that aren’t just “the employee is bad and this is a huge problem.”

      1. HonorBox*

        Hit reply too soon. The employee needs to feel safe for sure and the LW needs to open the door to understanding the why behind the lie. It would be a service to the employee to figure out ways to make her feel supported and that she doesn’t need to lie. Alison does account for that in what she said, but also points out real possibilities that LW needs to think about too, going forward.

    2. Generic Name*

      I know. Happy Mother’s Day, right? Honestly, what’s the point of being a top performer and going above and beyond if you can’t catch a break when you aren’t at your best for medical reasons? “Lean in”, amirite?

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Do you think that getting your workload reduced by 25% and not getting disciplined / fired for lying and sleeping through meetings isn’t “catching a break”?

        I agree that we should give some slack and grace to people going through pregnancy, medical issues, etc., and that there should be a real conversation between the LW and the employee before anything gets decided. But the LW should get real credit for being pretty damn compassionate and understanding so far. Even if this should be the norm, it isn’t.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      My read of the letter is that the LW is trying to be compassionate and understanding. Otherwise, she would have disciplined or fired the employee when the lying was discovered. Or would have done so rather than reduce workload expectations by 25%. She recognizes that the employee is awesome, this is probably a temporary situation, and wants to figure this out.

      And Alison’s solution is essentially what you propose – have a conversation where they get real with each other and try to chart a path forward together. I mean, the boss can’t just dismiss the fact that this person has been lying, like it’s no big deal. Because lying is a big deal because it breaks trust. Trust needs to be rebuilt here. And that’s what Alison is proposing. She even straight up said that if it was an impulse lie from stress, that’s something you can work with.

      1. AnonORama*

        Agree. LW is outside her knowledge base, trying to work with someone whose performance has changed drastically. She (LW) has already taken steps, which haven’t been enough. LW should first educate herself; for example, she seems not to understand that the employee can’t just make up the time after hours, which isn’t helpful.

        But the answer isn’t to just give the employee a pass on everything, and it’s not discrimination to continue the conversation. LW doesn’t seem to be looking for a reason to fire this employee or screw her out of her maternity leave. She’s looking for a way to make this work, which is a heck of a lot more than many bosses would do.

        (Also, the idea that bosses are kinder to people with non-pregnancy related conditions is definitely not accurate. Sexism is still a huge problem, including pregnancy discrimination, of course. But — “you’d treat this person differently if they had an ongoing health issue other than pregnancy” is a weird assumption.)

  37. Simona*

    LW1: If she can go back on her medication and she’s struggling SO much with pregnancy, I think things will improve when she returns.
    Honestly, being pregnant was the THE WORST experience of my life. I was constantly nauseated and would literally not be able to walk up the stairs to my room. I came home from work and just…laid on the floor. Not even on the couch, on the ground.
    Once I had the baby I was tired a bit, but it DID NOT compare to the sheer miserableness of pregnancy, and from what is described, it seems like this is the case for her. At least it’s something that should resolve itself once the baby is born and she comes back from leave at 16 weeks or whatnot (however long your parental leave is at your company) she may be ready to rock it.

  38. Caramel & Cheddar*

    LW5, you can and should definitely ask for those videos to be taken down. If she’s already creating fake profiles of you online, it’s only a one more step to use those videos in those fake profiles, and only a couple steps further to feed the videos into whatever software/websites you can use to create deep fakes of people in truly terrible and compromising positions.

    I don’t know if it was part of your job to be on camera in the previous job, LW, but if it wasn’t I wish workplaces would stop asking non-front facing people to participate in this kind of thing. I know there was a lot of haphazard pivoting to video content in the last four years, but please think about what you’re asking of your staff when you make them do this stuff, marketing departments. Please think about life cycles to your content, how long things *need* to stay up, etc. No one likes stale dated content in general, and it’s so easy to forget about it if you don’t have a plan for it from the get go.

  39. musical chairs*

    LW1, the issue is the lying. What makes the situation more sensitive is the pregnancy symptoms and the complications from not taking her medicine, sure, but the issue is still the lying.

    I am a woman with ADHD who wants kids and does not seek medication as part of my treatment plan for this specific reason: I don’t want a potential sharp decrease in productivity to impact my livelihood at a vulnerable time. While I don’t know (nor does it matter) if the employee in question also has ADHD, I share this cause I deeply get the self-protective instinct and can see how someone in a similar and urgent situation would prioritize guarding their professional reputation. Not really a shame-based approach, but one based on the reality of how pregnant women can actually be treated in the workforce.

    The thing is though, the lying makes things harder for everyone trying to help. It’s an unforced error and can’t be taken lightly, no matter how “good” the reason is.

    She may not be able to give you advanced notice of being sick or unavailable (no one plans to be asleep at inappropriate times) and as she moves through the pregnancy her situation/needs may change. She deserves whatever flexibility you can manage within the team and her role, but that flexibility necessarily depends on an open line of communication and cannot, under any circumstances include her lying about her output.

    I would suggest closer supervision with regular check-ins. Keep a light touch, make it short, provide an agenda so she doesn’t feel she needs to offer up sensitive info to keep her job. You just need better understanding on what supports work and don’t and she may need help removing obstacles to her assigned work. Make it a trade rather than micromanagement. If you frame/design it as support she has more than earned, it can get you both what you’re looking for. (To be clear you don’t have to be a top performer to get support at work during a pregnancy but if anyone deserves it, it’s her.)

    This is both a temporary and permanent change. She will have changing needs during pregnancy and after the baby comes. You can both can get in the habit of working together in a different way so long as she commits to honesty going forward.

    1. WellRed*

      I’d also love to see OP just…stop counting the time off. Just zero it out and stop having her go negative which isn’t helpful for either side and is a mental load to boot.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        This seems like an unrealistic comment to me. That sounds nice. That’s not possible in a lot of places as in it is a violation of policy.

        Also the “everyone else wanting it too” problem. Coworkers thinking this is not fair (and favoritism) and they didn’t get equal treatment because they did not get unlimited PTO when they were pregnant, sick, family was sick, having a rough time, etc. <– That is a reason to have a certain policy and enforce the same for everyone.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I doubt if the OP is allowed to do that on her own initiative, whether for pregnancy, cancer, bad accident or any other condition. She could get into seriou trouble herself if she tries to not record time off or work not done.

        It basically would require a new policy of xx days for minor ailments like colds & flu, but several months PAID sick leave for serious conditions.

  40. Karo*

    I had a baby in January and have diagnosed excessive drowsiness+ADHD+anxiety so I feel sort of uniquely qualified to speak from the employee’s perspective in the first letter.

    She shouldn’t have lied, full stop. That’s not ok. But I essentially did the same thing. I went from being a functioning adult (thanks to medicine that forced me to be a functioning adult) to being exhausted and distracted all the time. On top of my normal anxiety/adhd/drowsiness, I had all of the anxiety and drowsiness that came with being pregnant and a first-time Mom, plus tons of doctor’s appointments.

    My work is very task driven so I couldn’t just say stuff was done and move on, but I absolutely marked tasks as complete and then kept working on them on my own time. I know that wasn’t ok. But I was drowning and didn’t know what else to do. I wound up working 12-hour days (but only accomplishing about 7 hours of work), or taking half days and working a full 8 hours to stay on top of my workload. My boss wasn’t particularly understanding and it was just hard.

    Now I’m back at work and I’m still not at my pre-baby 100%, but being able to rely on my medicine + caffeine (and TBH having a husband that is genuinely stepping up like a dad should) has put me leagues ahead of pregnancy-me.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a conversation with your employee, I’m not saying that what she’s doing (or what I did) is right, and it sounds like you’re already being understanding. But going from being well-medicated and functioning to not and…well, not, is so much harder than I had expected it to be. And while Alison is right in saying that it may not get better when she comes back, it may also be better than you expect.

  41. bamcheeks*

    Reading the responses to LW1 just makes me think how much life is easier for managers, the person directly affected AND colleagues when you have strong and compassionate policies around pregnancy, disability and other life events, and sufficient staffing. It is frankly terrible to have to think, hmm, can I afford to keep on my previously high-performing employee, who will probably be high-performing again in six months’ time, even though she isn’t capable of doing the level of work expected right now, and it will be truly horrible for her if she loses her job and her healthcare right when she needs it most? Life is a lot easier for everyone when your company’s policies say, “Take two months off; the core work will get done and those two projects will get put on hold for a couple of months; we have budget to hire a temp or second the assistant to your role.”

    It’s crazy to me that these policies are always pitched as if they are a favour businesses do to the individual employees, when actually they also massively reduce stress on your managers and the rest of your workforce too. You have a lot more space to be creative and intrapreneurial in your role when you’re not faced with decisions like this where all the options are kind of terrible!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is basically my response whenever anyone pulls out “HR isn’t your friend/is only there to protect the company”. HR should be involved in this situation. They should be answering the questions of “how do I manage this?” on the employee’s side and be having a candid conversation about accommodations and capability with the employee. OP seems out of their depth and that’s what HR is for…because compassionately managing the short term well-being of a high performer is in the best interest of the company.

      I find the language in the answer a little aggressive for the situation and would really recommend getting someone with expertise in this kind of thing involved.

    2. Ariaflame*


      If the success of a company relies on everyone involved running at peak performance at all times then that company deserves to fail, because it is not ‘efficient’ it is lacking resilience and backups and will collapse in a heap when something happens, as it will, because life does that, to disrupt one of the things under stress.

      1. Frost*

        Several non-profits I’ve worked for ran this lean because we were doing important work with scarce funding — a situation exacerbated by ranking/funding models that punish charities that have any “give” in their organizational structure.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Same, but I wouldn’t disagree that they were lacking resilience and teetering on the edge – “deserve to fail” might be harsh in those situations, but they often do fail for exactly that reason.

          1. Ariaflame*

            OK, that might have been a bit harsh. They only deserve to fail if they had a choice in the matter and chose to run that lean to feather the nests of the higher ups.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Absolutely, it’s an institutional problem across a bunch of sectors, driven by funding models and public discourses about an imaginary ideal of “efficiency”.

    3. Anon Teacher*

      Agreed! A much less dramatic scale, but my workplace just got a provision in our contract for 3 days leave a year to care for family members in non-critical situations. It just so happens that I got a frantic call from my dad yesterday evening because my mom, who requires 24-hour care is having a colonoscopy today and they were not at all prepared for the prep. Luckily, I could text my boss and explain that I was taking a family leave day, sorry for the short notice. No fuss or bother other than an expression of sympathy and asking if I needed 1 day or 2. Before the leave came in my options would have been a) lie and say it was critical and deal with the fallout and need for a cover story. b) lie and say I was sick (and possibly also deal with some being caught in a lie fallout) or c) leave my parents to muddle through and fret all day (and be a crappy performer). The fact that there is (now) some understanding that people have circumstances outside work that affect them is a big step forward (thank you Union!)

  42. Ms. Elaneous*

    LW2 dog bite.

    LW’s co worker seems sensitive in one direction only.
    Her choice of words being : Oh, yeah, that dog bites, rather than:
    Oh, I am so sorry I forgot to warn you: that dog bites. Here, let me help you.

    Clearly from the coworker’s communication, gentility is not the general rule.

    No sh*t is a perfect response. Not because of the swearing (which is really not a big deal), but because of the implication that coworker dropped the ball in failure to warn.

    Sometimes we forget that just because someone gets upset doesn’t mean we did anything wrong.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Sensitive in one direction only” is a perfect way to describe that kind of behavior. Granted, we only have the manager’s word and he could be overplaying how upset/sensitive the coworker is, which is why I think the advice to work the shift and see what happens is good advice. But if it really is “I can’t handle being snapped at but also can’t empathize with why that would have happened under these circumstances” – yeah those aren’t OPs feelings to manage.

  43. Olive*

    LW2: Clearly a minority opinion, but I don’t love the idea that being rude at work is perfectly justified if the other person is annoying/dense/unhelpful.

    Still, it wasn’t a bigger deal than one apology for being snappy and letting it blow over. What I like much less is that the manager told one employee that another employee is oversensitive. I had a manager who said things like this and even though she might have been right about some people, my trust in her completely eroded as I wondered what she was telling other people about me.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think anyone is saying being rude is fine because the other person – people are saying if you’ve just been bitten by an animal no one is going to judge what comes out of your mouth in the next 15 seconds, including but not limited to your reaction to someone being dense at you about it. That’s not about professionalism that’s about human reaction.

  44. Professional Vacationer*

    LW 4: When your coworker suggests the toxic team, do you respond with the strong reactions that you’ve had in your letter? Could it be that your coworker finds your strong reactions amusing, and keeps suggesting that team to get your goat? She suggests that team, you respond with, “I’d rather set myself on fire!” Then she’s quietly chuckling to herself because she got you to bristle.

    Lean into Alison’s advice to not care. Going forward, make your replies boring. She suggests that team, you just say, “Nah.” She pokes at you with, “Aw, don’t you want to be on the A Team?” You just say, “Nah.” And keep all your attention focused on what you’re working on. This issue may die.

    1. LW4*

      No, I phrase it much more diplomatically when I’m at work and keep a tight lid on my internal monologue. My co-worker just doesn’t have a bully personality, anyway. I think she’s genuinely trying to help because she’s a level above me (though not in my chain of command) and really believes in helping others develop. However, she doesn’t have much experience at managing people yet and is going about this in a ham-fisted way that makes her feel that she’s “helping” me while ignoring my actual responses to what she’s saying.

      Since I wrote in, I’ve had a much more in-depth conversation with her and explained exactly what I think is wrong with Trash Fire Team from an organizational structural analysis perspective (my secondary specialty). She seems to have gotten the point and hasn’t brought it up again.

      1. Annoying coworkers*

        glad to hear that!

        I was going to suggest giving yourself a small reward when she brings it up. Hopefully it becomes a game and is less annoying. For example, take a tea/coffee break, go for a short walk, etc. each time she brings it up.

  45. Rondeaux*

    I don’t see why LW2 doesn’t just apologize since 1) she snapped at coworker, and 2) LW wants to apologize.

    How does saying a quick “sorry for snapping” or whatever hurt anything?

    1. Alan*

      Because in some people it will feed a very unhealthy entitlement and sense of grievance. The other person might have already forgotten about it and then think “Oh yeah. I am a victim.” and bring it up again with the boss. The boss seems to be fearing something of the sort. It was a one-time thing. Everyone needs to let it go.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Mainly because her boss told her not to, and her boss gets to tell her not to handle interpersonal issues at work a certain way if he wants to.

      1. Rondeaux*

        I’m not sure if that’s true. In this case yes the whole thing was extremely minor, but if I had done something that legitimately required an apology (say I accidentally broke a colleague’s favorite mug or something) , my boss really has no standing to tell me not to apologize.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          They do though. If they foresee it causing a legitimate problem, and tell you before you apologize that you shouldn’t, and you do anyway, that’s absolute something that they can serve consequences on.

          You can go back and forth all day about whether or not that’s reasonable, but how teams and coworkers interact in difficult situations is within the purview of the manager and failing to follow through on their instructions is still punishable. Especially in a situation like the one in the letter where something happened in the course of normal job duties.

          1. Rondeaux*

            “You can go back and forth all day about whether or not that’s reasonable”

            I don’t think it’s reasonable to prohibit an employee from apologizing, but I suppose you are correct in that as the boss they can demand it, though why they would to the point of “punishment” is beyond me

  46. Alan*

    For #2, in my opinion you have absolutely nothing to apologize for and I would completely forget about this. If your coworker is weird, treat it as a brand new weirdness: “You feeling okay today?” Don’t connect it to the previous incident because then you’re just indulging them by suggesting that you did something wrong and you absolutely didn’t! I would say at *least* what you said, with a f-bomb perhaps as well depending on how much it hurt. This is not you. Your coworker is the bizarre one here.

  47. Observer*

    #1 – Pregnant employee

    and will not work late to make up hours or work on the weekend like others’ on the team (despite the negative PTO)<

    I think that the first thing you need to keep in mind is that you need to be realistic. It’s not that she does not WANT to make up hours or work on the weekends. It’s that she CANNOT. *Especially* hours at the end of a day. Think about it – she’s already struggling to stay awake during the day. What makes you think that she’ll magically be able to stay awake if she gets even LESS rest?

    Address the lying, for sure. But make sure that you are actually being reasonable and realistic. Because if you are not, you’re not going to get anywhere.

    1. kiki*

      Yes! Unrealistic expectations often push otherwise truthful people to be dishonest out of desperation. This employee can’t make up the time– she is struggling to make it through the hours she’s already working. At best, it will just wear her thinner. At worst, she may feel compelled to lie about making up the time (or the quality of the time she is spending on the evenings and weekends) and make everything spiral even further.

      1. British Tea*

        Completely agree. I was sad to see that Alison’s reply didn’t contain any of this, as it’s really important and she’s usually pretty spot on. But I suppose this could be a blind spot.

  48. Sneaky Squirrel*

    The comments for LW1 feel unfair to LW.

    LW didn’t directly call her employee a liar but said her employee is lying to her about whether or not the work is done. I’m taking LW’s word for it that it is lying, not brain fog, as LW didn’t hint at any signs of confusion from the employee. Regardless, intentionally lying or not, LW has an accountability issue to address.

    LW isn’t asking isn’t asking the employee to work extra hours, work weekends to be a team player, or to go back to being the top performer she was. She’s asking the employee to work the hours that were previously agreed to in the reduced schedule accommodation. This means if the employee can’t work to her accommodated schedule, somewhere along the way the hours need to be made up.

    I don’t get the impression that LW is directly looking for disciplinary steps and I get the impression she’s open to additional adjustments to the accommodations. It reads like there have ongoing conversations with the employee but LW is struggling to find a reasonable accommodation because what has been previously offered hasn’t worked out and the employee isn’t being forthcoming about the issues she’s facing.

    1. EngGirl*

      Agreed! I’m reading through these comments and a lot of them seem to be willfully ignoring the good things LW has been doing!

      It sounds to me like LW is saying “ok, I get that you can’t perform at your usual level, so I’m going to drop your expectations down by 25%. It also seems like you may need more leave/time than you actually have available to hit this new 75% bar, so I can be flexible on this as well and if you work at non standard times I can let you make some of that up so you don’t just burn your PTO.”

      To me this sounds really really accommodating and compassionate. I think LW is likely frustrated because they’ve made these accommodations and the employee is lying about doing work!

      Compassion, grace, and kindness are all great, but there are also limits to them as well, and if the employee has misrepresented information about work that she has gotten done it wouldn’t surprise me that LW is nearing these limits.

    2. Head sheep counter*

      Right? The responses here are why the whole conversation gets so bad. Because we have a manager who is being accommodating. But we have an employee who is being given a wild free pass from accountability. Rough pregnancy or no – it is on the employee to be – honest, not lie, not steal (and it is stealing to take pay for work you aren’t doing) and to basically work with one’s management to deal with one’s current reality. So if you aren’t able to work, then work with management to see if LWOP can happen or disability or whatever. Employers having to fill in blanks and piece together what’s going on without the employee are unlikely to do the employee any favors. Especially when the employee lies.

  49. kiki*

    Pregnancy doesn’t turn people into liars. That’s on her.

    While that’s true, extreme stress, unforgiving/ unrelenting work expectations, and hopelessness can push otherwise truthful people to be dishonest or, at very least, not be forthcoming about issues they are experiencing. Because this employee used to be trustworthy and a top performer, I think it would be worthwhile on LW’s part to examine the work culture and if they provide enough options and support to employees who are struggling and need accommodations.

    1. kiki*

      I don’t want to say that lying is okay in certain circumstances, but I think if you consider that this employee is probably feels suddenly incapable of delivering at work while also going through a major life change that makes financial stability even more important than it already was… I understand that they probably feel backed into a corner. Again, that doesn’t make lying okay, but I get why they might panic and lie in a way they probably never have before.

    2. Nia*

      Unforgiving?! The LW reduced the employee’s workload by 25% and let it slide that she slept through multiple required meetings. That’s the exact opposite of an unforgiving/unrelenting workload.

      1. Yup*

        But that’s like saying to someone who has gone temporarily blind “OK, we can accommodate you by reducing your delivery driving time by 25%.” The accommodation may feel generous but it doesn’t address the issue that the employee can’t currently work at 75% capacity.

        1. RagingADHD*

          That’s not a great analogy because someone who is temporarily but completely incapable of doing core functions of their job should be on short term disability leave, not paid to nap on the clock.

          OTOH, maybe it is a good analogy because if the employee’s symptoms are debilitating enough that they can’t function, disability leave may be the right answer for them in this situation.

          1. kiki*

            Honestly, I do think it sounds like this employee probably would benefit from medical leave rather than trying to work through what sounds like a really rough pregnancy. Unfortunately, if the employee lives in the US, they’re probably banking on using their FMLA time for maternity leave or can’t afford to take time unpaid.

            1. RagingADHD*

              Many employers offer short term disability leave separate from FMLA. It just isn’t federally mandated.

              1. Rainy*

                You have to have opted for the short term disability insurance for it to be paid, though, and lots of people don’t. I overheard two coworkers recently saying that they don’t sign up for short term disability.

                Also, disability insurance payments aren’t 100% of your salary.

              2. Nope*

                STD leave doesn’t protect your job and almost always runs concurrently with FMLA. It’s not a way to get extra time.

    3. Eagle*

      Absolutely this.

      If someone appears to have been dishonest at work, you first need to ascertain if it wasn’t actually a miscommunication, disconnect, or simple mistake. The next question to ask is WHY this person felt that they it wasn’t safe to be entirely truthful.

      I can understand LW1’s frustration, but I think they need to maintain (or obtain) a compassionate, empathetic, and curious approach. Help the employee. Ask how to best set them up for success. Build and maintain a psychologically safe environment where people don’t fear punishment or other negative side effects of being honest when they need to ask questions or seek help or support.

  50. sofar*

    LW5, that’s awful. Definitely ask. However, also be ready for the answer to be “no.” My company has a really strict policy of NEVER removing old content created on behalf of the company by former employees. Because if one person gets their old stuff taken down, others will ask — and then we’d be in the situation of splitting hairs.

    That said … our company is about content creation. We have loads of TikToks, YouTube videos, random self-promotional stuff, sponsored content videos and other things that employees have been compelled to create (and probably would prefer be scrubbed from the internet). You work for a library and weren’t hired to explicitly create content — so I’d assume more leeway.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Then your company would be willing the risk the safety of another person due to a stalker, especially one known to be harassing a former employee?

      That is scary all by itself.

      1. sofar*

        Everyone is made aware that any/all content/video assets as well as bylined content that you create for the company while employed there becomes collateral of the company (as does your contributor byline) forever and ever.

        Common in some industries.

        We’d obviously take something down if someone was in danger, but sometimes it takes a bit for the request to get to the person with common sense AND admin access to the videos who goes “Oh my goodness, obviously we need to take this down.” LW might need to push back after an initial “no, sorry, we have a policy against this that you signed” or a “let me check” and then a ghosting because the person with the admin access is on a two-week vacation.

        Mostly wanted to prep LW for that kind of response. LW’s request is reasonable. But a company policy, plus not everyone having access to the YouTube account, plus people not being empowered to act on their own could tie the request up more than some might think.

        1. Observer*

          Everyone is made aware that any/all content/video assets as well as bylined content that you create for the company while employed there becomes collateral of the company (as does your contributor byline) forever and ever.

          So? There are ALWAYS going to be unexpected circumstances where things have to be handled differently than usual. And it sounds like in actuality whoever claims that it’s “strict policy” of “NEVER” doing this was either not telling the truth or misunderstood the policy. (Because there really is a difference between “NEVER” and “Needs special authorization”.) Which is fortunate for everyone.

          I do agree that the LW needs to be aware that some people are likely to react unreasonably, though, and should be prepared to go up the chain.

    2. Observer*

      Because if one person gets their old stuff taken down, others will ask — and then we’d be in the situation of splitting hairs.

      That’s a terrible policy. Making distinctions is not “splitting hairs”! At least not in the sense of trying to parse out minute and meaningless differences.

      And any time you have a policy of “never make exceptions” you are most definitely asking for trouble.

      That’s true even when it comes to removing content created for a content creation company.

  51. K.K.*

    The last part of the response to LW1 seems completely off base from my personal experience. As soon as the baby is born, everything is optional. Breastfeeding is optional. Others can care for the kid (a dad, a grandparent). Yes parenthood is exhausting and there is a recovery period after birth, but a rough pregnancy is a different thing altogether. There is no sharing the burden, no opting out of anything that’s too much, no breaks whatsoever. I had two rough pregnancies and was certainly not my normal self at work during those times but I returned at 8 weeks postpartum both times once again myself

    1. Observer*

      As soon as the baby is born, everything is optional

      Absolutely not true. Forget about the idea that everyone *has* the kind of support that you describe, even though it’s nonsense. More importantly, it’s just not the case that everything gets easier for everyone withing weeks. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that and anyone who thinks that anyone who is having trouble after a few weeks is just doing it wrong is out to lunch.

      I’ve seen and personally experience all sorts of situations. Bouncing back within weeks, taking months to recover, bouncing back then crashing all happen. And it’s worth noting that outside the highest paid employees, having the ability to pay someone long term to avoid teh exhaustion is actually difficult to impossible because of the costs. (Having a grandparent move in for a few months is not exactly realistic for most people – especially if said grandparent is also working full time.)

      It’s great that you had a pair of good postpartum experiences. But it’s TOTALLY not universal.

  52. Nilsson Schmilsson*

    LW2, I don’t think it’s ever inappropriate to apologize if you feel the need to, but not by text…always in person if possible. While that should be enough, does she have a favorite coffee or soda or muffin? A small token, along with an apology, may appeal to her sensitivity.

  53. Toledo Mudhen*

    The pattern of lying is definitely an issue. Recently, I had a friend who told me that her “pregnancy brain,” had her forgetting all kinds of things. If what the LW had described was one of two things, it could be easier to understand in that context, but the pattern is concerning.

    I saw some people suggest FMLA, which the pregnant employee may not be able to afford to take.

    My thoughts are a warning, help getting the employee’s act together, and flexible WFH arrangements with regular check-ins.

  54. Whomst*

    LW1’s tone makes me nervous, as someone who recently was pregnant. It’s a very very business like and matter-of-fact tone, with little compassion. I don’t actually know LW1, and this quite possibly isn’t the case for them, but my experience was people who are trying to be “purely logical” about pregnancy/disability/divorce/whatever human experience someone is going through where their work quality suffers are people who don’t actually want to help and accommodate you. They’re too focused on short-term company needs, and they start to view you as dead weight instead of an asset.

    Note that I put “logical” in quotes, because you can also make the logical argument that if she was a high performer before, she will be a high performer again, while you have no such guarantees with whoever you replace her with, if you decide her performance is poor enough you have to fire her. As a direct line manager, LW1 may not be able to take that long-view if she has higher management breathing down her neck about next quarter’s metrics or whatever, but it’s something to consider.

    Also, if the US government wasn’t such a trash fire in supporting its citizens that aren’t perfect capitalist cogs, it wouldn’t be on this company to essentially subsidize the employee’s pregnancy while waiting for her to be healthy enough to actually get work done again. It’s understandably frustrating for both the employee and the employer that there are no other options.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      LW1’s tone makes me nervous even though I haven’t been pregnant in close to 30 years and never will be again. Not even holding it against LW1, who probably has her own management breathing down her neck (I promise I typed this before I reread your comment and saw that exact wording), demanding numbers, wondering why the broken part hasn’t been sent to a junkyard yet and replaced with a working one. Never mind that, based on LW’s statement that the employee has been experiencing pregnancy-related issues since the beginning of the year, she is probably only going to be pregnant for 4 more months at most. Nooo how can we give our top performer a break for 4 more months?! we are not running a charity here, amirite?

      If anyone needed a reminder that the company won’t love you back, and will toss you to the curb the first chance it gets… welp here it is! I wonder where Pregnant Employee’s teammates are getting the motivation to work evenings and weekends when they have front-row seats to all this happening.

    2. Cat Lover*

      If you think LW isn’t being compassionate, I encourage you to read the letter again.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      To be fair to LW1, she has been very accommodating already and may have to persuade higher management to agree any further concessions.
      US voters have chosen not to support European-type protections for pregnant women and for workers in gerneral, so LW1 must deal with the situation she has wrt her organisation’s rules, maybe not the one she’d prefer to have.

      If I understand US laws, the employee could probably have been fired for the lying alone – and would have been in many workplaces – quite apart from not fulfilling her standard job duties,

      1. Gordon Ramsay*

        “ US voters have chosen not to support European-type protections for pregnant women and for workers in gerneral, so LW1 must deal with the situation she has wrt her organisation’s rules, maybe not the one she’d prefer to have.”

        Please show me the last US ballot where that came up and which specific law from the monolith country of Europe we’re talking about here

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          That’s rather silly:

          European-type protections are a very well-known abbreviation in AAM for the whole array of employment rights in Western & central Europe e.g. paid maternity leave – which is not required in the US at all – of several months or 1-2 years, protections against firing whereas the US is at will, etc

          These are part of successive agreed treaties binding on all the EU/EEA countries and followed, sometimes to a lesser extent, in the UK. Individual European countries have chosen to go much further with maternity benefits & other employment protections.

          Very obvious from election results that US voters, unlike European voters, do not vote for candidates with a platform of these kinds of policies.

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            FWIW, I agree with you. I came here in the 90s from a country where the economy had crashed, banks had collapsed, crime was through the roof on all levels including organized (and many of the people involved in that later went on to government and leadership positions), labor protections eroding daily, employers could post job ads like “wanted: man age 25-35” or “wanted: woman age 18-23, physically attractive for an office admin position” and no one would bat an eye… and we still had maternity leave. I insisted on having both my kids while we still lived there because I had a hunch (not supported by any information that I had, this was before internet in every home) that I would not have that luxury in the US. Came here and saw that my hunch had been absolutely correct. It is wild. And yes the majority of US voters keep voting against anyone who even suggests that kind of policies, because omg corporate taxes will go up! I am shocked that we were able to get the ACA across the finish line, as mangled as it was compared to what I heard its original design had been.

            The situation in letter 1 is an absolute mess, but you’re right, it’s the company culture and the US corporate culture overall. LW1 is in fact trying to do the best she can within those constraints.

  55. i drink too much coffee*

    LW5, the library:

    Something to keep in mind, if the library is a government-owned facility: they may not be allowed to take them down. I work in government social media and we have to be VERY careful about not removing or editing anything once it’s been up and engaged with in any way by the public. Even if it’s years old and now irrelevant. They MAYBE could hide it if it’s archived in some way, but they also may not want to bother with that. Just something to keep in mind! I hope the custody battle ends without too many scars <3

    1. Observer*

      we have to be VERY careful about not removing or editing anything once it’s been up and engaged with in any way by the public.

      Eh, I don’t buy it. Government agencies take stuff down all the time. Sure, the ones who are doing things they supposed to make sure to always have a good and specific reason for it, they document the reason that they have taken the item(s) down, and generally keep their own archived copies. But it’s just not the case that they can never take stuff down if anyone ever engaged with it at any time in the past.

      1. kalli*

        They can remove the video and leave the comments, but since courts reinforced that people who have moderation rights over comments can actually be held liable for the contents of those comments, quite a few government-run pages have limited or locked comments, or have very strict policies including outright stating they retain the right to lock/remove comments at will in their ‘comments are moderated for the safety of commenters’ pinned comment. There’s every chance that if there was a policy saying posts were immortalised as soon as they got comments, there isn’t now.

  56. Library Leaderperson*

    LW5 – I’m joining the chorus to say yes, you can ask your former employer to remove the videos. I’m a library director and I’ve removed people’s entire names and presences from websites to protect them from stalking and harassment – even job announcements that are standard for public-facing employees – because safety for my team is my absolute first priority, every single time. Unfortunately, I seem to be a rare breed in that regard, but I hope the tide is turning as people my age and younger are coming into library leadership around the country.

    I wish you all the best in your legal battle. I’ve been there – stepparent dragged into an ugly, decades-long dispute thanks to the other parent’s spite and illness – and I hope that there is relief soon for you and especially for your children.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, it seems such a small thing to ask when it could affect the OP’s safety and wellbeing at a difficult time for her,

  57. MigraineMonth*

    “…this is one of those problems that becomes much less of a problem if you simply decide you don’t care.” — Alison

    Can I get that as a cross-stitch design?

  58. LovelyTresses*

    When I read the question about the pregnant employee lying I honestly thought it was my boss writing in…until I remembered I gave birth more than two years ago, lol! I just want to provide some insight from the “pregnant liar’s” perspective.

    Before pregnancy, I was our organizations top-performer, had executive level leadership authority and was the trusted advisor to our CEO. Before pregnancy, I was (happily) doing the work of probably 2.5 people, as we were growing and my output was bringing in money that helped spur that growth. My pregnancy was planned and my CEO was absolutely thrilled for me! The first 7 weeks of my pregnancy were totally fine: I was eating healthy, taking walks, getting good sleep, working like normal. I also have ADHD and couldn’t take my meds during pregnancy, but aside from a few new systems I had to build to account for the lack of meds, things were fine.

    And then that 8th week hit and I got WRECKED. I had severe “morning” sickness (it was all day, all night); I was already exhausted and then my doctor prescribed medication to treat the nausea that literally included a sleep aid. So I would wake up in the morning and take a sleeping pill. Tired does not even begin to describe how I was feeling. I was up for maybe a sum total of 5 hours a day, and they weren’t contiguous hours. I would miss meetings, not complete work, all of what the LW describes their employee doing. And honestly, when I would have my check-ins with my CEO, I wouldn’t even be able to remember what I hadn’t done. Sometimes I’d start something, we’d check-in, and I’d say the work was in progress (and it was!). Then I’d totally forget that piece of work even existed. I’d forget to continue working on it, let alone finish and submit it. We reduced my hours and workload considerably and I still wasn’t able to keep up. I’m absolutely positive there were things I told my boss I did or would do and just straight up didn’t. But I was not lying or even trying to lie. Honestly, I was only vaguely aware of what I was supposed to be doing on any given day. Almost 100% of the time I really truly was just thinking about laying back down to sleep. And I wasn’t choosing to act that way…I just was. About one week after I gave birth, I realized just how off I had been during my pregnancy. I’m still shocked by how weirdly my body adjusted (or didn’t adjust) to being pregnant. The nausea wore off by my third trimester, but the exhaustion never did. Honestly, my body was just so busy working on something else – growing a whole ass human – that there was literally no space for much else.

    Please note: this is not true for all pregnant people! Some pregnant people feel absolutely incredible during pregnancy, others feel absolutely no different, and some just have a wild time. It sounds like the LW’s employee is just falling into the third category.

    Here’s the thing about pregnancy: it’s a temporary condition. At most, it lasts 9 months. If this employee has been your top performer, is it possible to just try and weather this time with them? Because of my own experience, I’m more confident than Alison that this WILL resolve when she returns back to work because she won’t have a whole human dancing on her bladder while stealing her blood, nutrients, and energy.

    When I went back to work after giving birth, I resumed my rockstar status. Even though I was a mom to a newborn, and it was tiring (and very cute!), *I* was in control of my body and brain. I felt like myself and could respond to work situations as myself. My baby did have some health issues during his first year of life, but I didn’t just miss meetings or not complete my work. I acted like ME: communicated early, often, brought my computer to the PICU if needed, and stayed available on Teams etc.

    I hope this helps the LW — and also doesn’t discourage any rockstar performers from becoming pregnant. Being two years out, those nine months were but a blip and worth it for wonderful kiddo we have now.

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      I was one of the lucky ones that felt absolutely incredible both times. My second pregnancy, I was offered, and took, a contract job when I was maybe two months along. Quickly moved up to my rockstar status, was offered a permanent position when I was 5 months along (and had it yanked back immediately when I responded to the offer with “I’d be happy to, but at this point you should probably know that I am five months pregnant”), everything was great and I planned to continue working until the last minute. Then sometime in the 8th month, brain fog hit and I apparently produced horrible results. Wasn’t even aware of it until I heard my teammates commenting on my work, in front of me because they didn’t realize it was mine. It was that bad. Definitely showed me that even the easiest pregnancy can and will make your body spiral into changes out of your control. Because of lack of childcare and other location-related issues, I didn’t go back to work until after we came to the US and the kids were 4 years old and 18 months old, but once I did, I had no issues at all. Just being able to sit in a cubicle and work without being interrupted every five minutes helped me produce great results that everyone was happy with.

  59. MelCR*

    LW1-I was in a similar situation with my pregnancy where my work tanked because I had hyperemesis gravidarum, but initially didn’t fully understand what was happening to me. I couldn’t ask for specific help and accommodations because I didn’t know how long it would last and it took a while to switch to a doctor who could diagnose and treat me. I ran out of PTO quickly, and couldn’t use FMLA or I wouldn’t have it for my maternity leave.
    Exhaustion doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was literally starving and had to get IV fluid and nutrition after work. I was in a very desperate state and also ashamed that I could not function at work. I didn’t have the perspective in the moment to advocate for myself. My employer took a less than compassionate approach and made it all about my performance, chastised me at every opportunity making a paper trail to fire me. It was beyond demoralizing and made it far more difficult to fight to do my work.
    Eventually, I was put on bed rest before my work could fire me, and then they declined to renew my contract (University system) because “finances.”
    Now that I can look back on that experience, my employer treated me horribly, and I wish I could sue them. Also, it’s cruel that employers go out of their way to say that pregnancy is not a disability. For many it’s not, but for others it’s incapacitating.
    My new employer gives me glowing reviews and I am appreciated and respected.
    It stood out to me that you mentioned that others on the team work weekends to make up hours, but your pregnant employee does not. That’s not a reasonable expectation for someone in that situation who can’t handle their current load. I would take Alison’s advice to have an open and honest conversation, but also think about what other temporary adjustments you can make right now to cut down the load. If you do, and respond with compassion, you will have your top performer back and a very loyal employee when the dust settles.

  60. Tegan Keenan*

    LW#1 (pregnant employee), I am also a female, childless manager, and I feel you. The first time I experienced an employee going through Baby Brain was maddening. Before becoming pregnant, the employee was an absolute Rock Star (probably the best employee I’ve ever managed throughout my decades-long career). The change was so stark and shocking to me, I had a really hard time believing the decline in performance could be all pregnancy-related.

    I regret I was not as empathetic and understanding as I could have been. I’m certain she was well-aware of my frustration and that probably prevented her from asking for what she needed.

    It took awhile for her to get back to her Rock Star self, but it did happen. I currently have an employee who was fine during pregnancy but has really struggled post-partum. Her Baby Brain is not nearly as disruptive as Rock Star’s, but it’s definitely there. Thankfully, I have the context of the experience with Rock Star to help guide me and remind me things won’t be rough forever.

    I agree with the comments I’ve seen to view this as a medical issue. Would you respond differently if this star performer was going through some other medical treatment?

    1. LW1*

      Thanks, hearing your experience is really helpful. I think that my knowledge on pregnancy and expectations of people during one were definitely lacking!

  61. F P*

    The thing about the pregnancy one isn’t so much that she is pregnant and has ADHD and can’t take medication during pregnancy but she is lying about doing the work that she is not doing. That is what this boss is dealing with. She has to come clean with the boss. If the boss feels that something needs to be done there needs to be a meeting and a list of what she really accomplished. If the pregnant woman feels she can’t do the work you as a manager are going to have to either take her off until the remainder of pregnancy and maternity leave and hire a temp or you will have to do the most difficult thing. Every pregnancy is different but at the same you have to figure out how to effectively run the department. If she is having complications you need to be prepared.

  62. Momof2*

    I have a five month old, and I am a MUCH better worker postpartum than I was during my pregnancy. I’m still being woke up 2x/night, and I am so much less tired than I was at any point in my pregnancy. In fact, one of my coworkers told me I looked “refreshed” the other day. Plus, I’m super motivated to get all my work done quickly so I can go home. I know it wasn’t Alison’s intent, but please don’t write off new mothers!

  63. RedinSC*

    Thinking about the dog bite…I was taking a walk and some lady’s dog just hauled around and bit me on the thigh.

    I jumped and yelled, “Your dog just f-ing bit me!” full expletive.

    I don’t think what LW said was very bad, actually, knowing that I fully f-bombed when I got bit. So, hopefully everyone can move forward, and hopefully that dog doesn’t come back for services.

    1. RedinSC*

      Oh, and to the guy walking by a few moments later, “Watch out, that dog just f-ing bit me! Be careful”

      So, yeah….

  64. Project Maniac-ger*

    Oh wow, this comments section has a lot of emotionally-charged pregnancy stories. (Which are absolutely valid! But they’re your story, not the LW’s employee’s.)

    I am sympathetic to the absolute marvel that is pregnancy and my heart goes out to her and her suffering.

    But part of being a manager is balancing employee needs and business needs, and the only way LW can make the best decisions they can about this balance is if they have all the info. This employee is not allowing that by not being proactively communicative about their struggles to the point of lying and doubling down.

    About the argument between pregnancy brain fog vs actual lying: the result is the same – LW now had to deal with the balls that were dropped and is probably a little hurt that the employee (consciously or unconsciously) would do that. There’s a little room for sympathy for the LW here too – this sucks all around!

    LW can do very little to help this employee if they don’t tell LW that they need help, and that’s true for almost any type of performance situation.

  65. LW1*

    Thanks all for the super helpful and thoughtful responses. It gave me a lot to think about and I definitely had no idea how bad pregnancy can be.

    I think in this case, it is a situation where I need to create an environment where employees feel like they can say when they can’t handle something, ask for help, etc. (easier said than done). Getting more practice having difficult conversations will help as well (addressing dishonesty, holding people accountable, etc).

    1. Anon today*

      Thank you for your additions!
      If, as you say, she has trouble asking for help and prides herself in getting a lot done, I am really not surprised that this transition has been hard on her and had her not acting her best self when asked about the missing work.
      I wish you the best with having the necessary difficult conversations and I believe you will be all better off for it. Even your employee might appreciate further down the line having the issue out in the open.

      When I was still getting a handle on my health issues, I was grateful for the manager who was able to be both forthright and kind. He let me know that he saw that I was taking longer than some of my colleagues, but trusted that I would catch up in a reasonable time frame. And you know what? With some adjustments on the way, I did.

    2. Norpe*

      “addressing dishonesty”

      As many other commenters have noted, brain fog (honestly believing something had been done) is a strong possibility, whereas dishonesty and lying require intent to deceive.

      Before addressing dishonesty, make sure there is any actual dishonesty to address.

  66. Jane*

    LW5 – Just have them turn off comments on the videos. Then she can’t really retaliate in any way, unless she shares them somewhere random, which seems less likely.

  67. Raida*

    4. My coworker keeps pushing me to apply for a transfer I don’t want
    “I don’t know how else to say no…”
    I personally would go with a firm “Dude.” with wtf eye contact. And if they don’t get it from just that and you need to clarify, “This again? Stop.”

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