updates: our boss is being a jerk about bereavement leave for miscarriages, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Our boss is being a jerk about bereavement leave for miscarriages

We had our directors’ meeting and it actually went way better than I thought! I was glad to hear that basically all of the directors were on the same page. As some back story, our executive director is very old school thinking in terms of workplace policies and such. She’ll ask for feedback from us but if we say anything that she doesn’t agree with or are at all critical of a policy she created, she takes it as a personal attack and does a very bad job of hiding that she doesn’t value your opinion anymore. I’m technically a “young” director and won’t shy away from expressing workplace concerns so she and I haven’t really ever gotten along in that regard.

So, in the actual meeting I was hesitant to express my concerns out of fear that she would brush them off solely because it was me saying it, but luckily one of the other directors spoke up and our ED listened (although, somewhat reluctantly). This director is very distinguished and a little older, so our ED always listens to what she has to say. The ED still felt the need to make comments about our PTO and how providing additional bereavement costs money for the organization, but no one said anything else cause we were just so happy we were getting bereavement leave for miscarriages!

I wanted to thank everyone for their comments! I read them all. Also, you mentioned in your response that this is just a small indicator of bigger problems within the company, and you are completely right. I’ve learned to just keep my head down and to not really speak up anymore out of fear of being ostracized. I’m currently looking for a new job and can hopefully leave soon.

2. I got rid of my office’s furniture by mistake

Thank you for answering my question! I finally met with my boss and admitted my mistake. I wish I had done it as soon as I saw your answer because I stressed about it all weekend, but it turns out it wasn’t nearly as big a mistake as I thought!

He said he wanted new furniture for that room anyway, reminded me that the old table was too small and the chairs were all at least partially damaged or just kind of crappy, and set me on the task of finding new furniture and tech for that room. He wasn’t upset at all.

I’m so relieved right now and grateful that you gave me the courage and motivation to own up. I’ll definitely do so much sooner in the future should I make another mistake.

3. How do I recover after an employee took advantage of my trust?

Less than a week after I wrote the letter, “Jane” told one of my team members that she lied to the rest of us about her reason for leaving (getting into a prestigious graduate program) because she wanted to save face. When she resigned, she showed us images from a celebration party for her acceptance and branded merch from that school, so this came as quite a shock but made it easier for me to laugh about the situation and move on.

In reflecting on what I could have done differently, I probably gave this person a few too many chances before addressing their performance issues. But otherwise, I liked the level of autonomy and oversight I was giving the rest of my team and wanted to continue to do so, even if it could give someone with bad intentions a way to cheat the system. I decided I needed to focus on hiring the right people that were less likely to do that. And I did, hiring an excellent replacement the following month.

Looking back, I can see so clearly how much I was struggling at the time I wrote this letter. I felt like my hard work in challenging circumstances didn’t matter and this incident was dishartening. Really, I was doing so many things well but I couldn’t see that in the midst of the frustration I felt at that time. I’m working on taking things less personally at work and accepting that no matter how hard I try there are just some things out of my control. It’s a tough mindset shift — I still struggle with it today — but I think it’s the only way to deal with the pressure of being a manager and not lose your mind!

4. Shutting down side chats on potentially sensitive topics (#3 at the link)

Your advice was great! I was able to curtail a conversation about scorpions (some of the folks live in Arizona) without killing the vibe. The team has continued to have its side banter, and some of the quieter team members have also started to join in. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

{ 188 comments… read them below }

  1. xylocopa*

    I’m so happy to hear things turned out okay for you, Furniture Seller! That’s the kind of screwup I can see myself doing and I sympathize so much.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! I love this update so much. LW did the right thing, and it sounds like everything worked out! I remember in the comments to the original letter, there was a lot of nuances that we didn’t know that could determine how much it was really LW’s fault. It sounds like their boss (who presumably knew the nuances) wasn’t too concerned about LW’s performance! It sounds like LW can officially put this behind them. Hooray!

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        It looked like the manager wasn’t keeping close tabs on OP, and that was because it didn’t matter all that much. Had OP classified that furniture as needing to be moved, the boss might have just waved it away when it arrived, so it didn’t get moved for nothing.
        This has already happened to me, I made a mistake in a project because the boss was being very hands-off about something, and in fact he wasn’t sure I needed to even produce that work, and it turned that I didn’t, so it didn’t matter that I had done it badly. And had it turned out that it was needed, he would have pulled out all the stops to get my work corrected and have someone help me finish it in time. He’d just been letting me make a start on it because if it were needed, it’d be very urgent.

    2. Goldenrod*

      Me too! I’m so happy it worked out.

      You hit on the best reason for disclosing a mistake immediately – it’s mainly so that you can sleep at night! Anyone can make a mistake, and as long as you communicate honestly about it, there’s usually nothing to worry about. Great update!!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I really like the last paragraph, the FS is now more confident about owning up in the future. Because the boss reacted well, and in a frame of constructively solving the problem going forward.

    4. GrooveBat*

      I am irrationally relieved for the Furniture Seller! I know how it feels to agonize over something like this, and I’m so happy it ended well.

    5. Glen*

      I didn’t say anything at the time because I wouldn’t want to give anyone false hope, but I must admit my first thought was, “are you sure getting rid of it wasn’t always the plan and you just didn’t know why, so you panicked when you saw the additional space?”. Because that is absolutely something I do on a semi-regular basis, although I usually figure it out pretty quick and almost always before I start trying to do something about it.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        That’s why I appreciate folks who over communicate to give context. Not like…telling me ALLLLLL the reasons they made a decision to do it a certain way, but a quick reason why. Context helps me retain info so much better.

    6. CatLady*

      I can’t count the number of times I’ve spiraled and catastrophized on a mistake only to finally own up to it and – bam – the boss couldn’t care less. I’m so much better at handling mistakes now and make it a point to own up to it right away. Along the lines of: “So….this happened”. Mostly the boss will thank me for the heads up (in case my oops will have ripple effects) and either “don’t worry about it” or “what are you doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again”?

      Of course the above advice requires that you have a reasonable boss that understands failure is how you learn.

  2. Dovasary Balitang*

    I was able to curtail a conversation about scorpions (some of the folks live in Arizona) without killing the vibe.

    I— Can someone explain this to me?

    1. ZSD*

      Can you be more specific about which part you don’t understand? (I’m not trying to be snarky – I’m just not sure which part is unclear.)

      1. Zona the Great*

        I think it is because after all that, this was about talking about scorpions! However, it is a good reminder that we really don’t get to judge what squicks people out.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I think this was just one example, not the entire example. If I recall in the previous letter there was graphic discussion about horror movies.

        2. Also-ADHD*

          Yeah this was not what came to mind when I imagined the conversations managers worry about.

      2. Dovasary Balitang*

        I’m essentially wondering why it would need to be curtailed as a “trigger” topic! (I had wondered, based on the wording, if people from Arizona are not comfortable discussing scorpions; I didn’t think it was the LW’s phobia so much as a regional danger that people not from Arizona were making light of. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense either upon some scrutiny.)

        1. metadata minion*

          I’m assuming people from Arizona were talking about scorpions because it’s a normal part of their ecosystem and other people were getting weirded out by it.

          1. Rocket Raccoon*

            That was my take, too. I live on a farm and my everyday talk can be “out there” for people without that experience.

        2. LW#4*

          Oh, no, the Arizonans were talking about Scorpions, not the other way around! that was an example of how I ended up being able to use Alison’s advice.

        3. Festively Dressed Earl*

          Probably the amount of detail. For example, alligators are a fact of life in FL and stories about gators turning up on the patio are one thing, but going into the detail about the nitty-gritty of gator bite dangers gets into nope territory really quickly.

      3. Roland*

        Personally I don’t understand why scorpions are a sensitive topic and how Arizona is related. Do they talk about them more than non-Arizonians? Is it more of a sensitive topic for them?

        1. Seashell*

          Scorpions are common in Arizona. I don’t live near Arizona, and I’ve never seen a scorpion outside of the zoo.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Amusingly, while I don’t live in Arizona, there’s an Arizona dune scorpion in a cage on my desk. His name’s Skippy (WFH; I wouldn’t risk Skippy in an office)

            Why shut down a conversation about scorpions? I was afraid of dogs for many years; would it be fair to prohibit people from talking about their new puppies? If someone is freaked by a seeing words about scorpions, or dogs, or backhoes (long story!) that’s something that they need to take care of, not impose it on everyone else.

            1. Hroethvitnir*

              Give my love to Skippy!

              I think it’s one of those nuanced things – asking people not to talk about people being attacked by dogs when you’re stuck in the room would be reasonable, for example.

              Ditto for people sharing about finding scorpions in their shoes or on their bed, I suppose, as a scorpion equivalent?I can see why that might get under your skin if you’re arachnophobic.

            2. amoeba*

              Eh, I mean, happy to take the talk elsewhere if there’s somebody present who’s uncomfortable with it. I’d rather frame it as “oh, could you do me a favour, I have a thing about digs/bugs/whatever” rather than treating the topic itself as generally inappropriate. Unless it’s really incredibly detailed talk about, idk, horrible injuries by scorpion or having them crawl on your face or something, I get that that’s probably not a universally accepted topic!

        2. Zona the Great*

          Yes I’d say scorpions are a weekly conversation topic if not more for Arizonans. It’s a constant battle against them and because they are so dangerous for some folks, lots of people in the Valley talk about them, especially this time of year. And now as the Big Heat is approaching, we start noticing them come inside desperate for shelter or water. They are very upsetting and scary for many of us out here. I have to make sure my guests know they must use a flashlight if walking around my house at night, like to go to the bathroom. I called in “scorpion” at work last year when I realized I had showered with a live scorpion and the only reason it didn’t sting me is because it was too water logged. It was so upsetting that I needed an extra hour to get ready for work. Seeing one honestly sends me and all my friends down a ‘find-them-all-or-I’ll-burn-this-house-down’ spiral.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Get a blacklight (you can find a handy pocket-sized one at Lowe’s); they glow brightly in UV, making them easy to spot.

        3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I don’t understand why they’re sensitive at all, and certainly not a “horror movie topic” like the OP implied. They’re just part if living in Arizona!

          1. Dahlia*

            OP doesn’t live in Arizona and some people have phobias. Imagine if instead of a detailed conversation about scorpions it was a detailed conversation about spiders.

            1. Ray B Purchase*

              At first I was thinking that the Arizona scorpion talk was just boring and excessive to a non-Arizonan and frankly, that’s reason enough to ask them to move it somewhere else.

              But I also have an intense phobia of an animal that most people aren’t afraid of and if I had to read about them constantly at work, I’d be really on edge.

              1. Dahlia*

                It really just isn’t relevant in the main Teams group or chat or channel or whatever it is. That’s what side channels are for.

          2. Jennifer Strange*

            The scorpions are a separate topic from the horror movie topic. These are just two different examples being given by the LW. And it sounds like the discussions were getting graphic, which is reason enough to ask they be moved elsewhere.

    2. Zona the Great*

      I have no idea. I’m one of those Arizonans who discusses scorpions sometimes. (TW for the LW!!!) I just had to grind one up in my disposal this morning because it snuck up on me by crawling up the side of my sink as I was making my morning coffee (sorry, lil guy, but I hate you). However, if someone said that even the talk of scorpions gives them the heebie-jeebies, I would absolutely stop. I just might exchange bemused looks with my fellow Arizonans that says, “try living with them!”. Don’t move to Arizona, LW4!

        1. Zona the Great*

          I mean, I probably should say that I hate him when he’s in my space. I love that I’ve never seen one single other bug in my yard or house and I thank him for his service. But go outside, please.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Right, when I lived in AZ I didn’t mind scorpions outside but if you show up in my shower or shoes, off with your head.

            In my last house I had a lot of ants, against which I waged war. I often wished they were sentient because I would seriously have brokered a peace deal where I provided outside snacks if they agreed not to come inside.

            1. Quill*

              Glad that we mostly get spiders in Utah… I know how to rid myself of spiders (door yeeting, mostly.)

            2. goddessoftransitory*

              When our cats had fleas years ago, IT WAS WAR.

              I cackled with glee with each flea bombing and hot wash of soft goods. When I caught one on them, I flushed it down the toilet with a song in my heart. Die, fleas, die!

          2. Decidedly Me*

            This is me and spiders. I get all the good they do, but do it in your space (outside) and leave me alone in mine (inside) or else we’re going to have a problem.

            1. Worldwalker*

              I encourage Southern House Spiders to live behind my bookcases. I much prefer the spiders to the things they eat. Of course, unlike scorpions, they’re harmless. (I react to bee stings, though not to the Epi-Pen level, so I’m very careful not to get stung by my pet scorpion; I might react very badly)

            2. Freya*

              I’m Australian, and yeah, daddy-long-legs and huntsmen in the house are fine, as long as I can see them and they’re not in the bedroom – they hunt down and eat things that are worse. Everything else can be outside, with the exception of anything that can even mildly inconvenience my dog, in which case KILL IT WITH FIRE AND EXTREME PREJUDICE!!!

              1. Six Feldspar*

                Another Australian! Daddy longlegs and tiny jumping spiders are my housemates, and huntsmen will be gently escorted outside with a broom, but whitetails will be destroyed if they’re too far away for me to move, I will not have them in the house!

                I also found a small redback living in my watering can on the weekend but I’ve let her have that since I figure she was here first and she’s using it more than me. I had a real fear of spiders when I was a kid and I’m working really hard to accept them as part of the ecosystem nowadays, I just humbly request that their ecosystem doesn’t include the interior of my house.

                1. Nebula*

                  As a non-Australian arachnophobe, I find it incredible that anyone manages to live in Australia with a fear of spiders, so I admire you very much for dealing with your fears.

      1. ferrina*

        Hearing this story squicks me out a little bit. I’m definitely not moving to Arizona! (wasn’t planning to anyways :D )

          1. Zona the Great*

            They survive so many things that I still wonder if I will come home to a self-pasted-together zombie scorpion.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            Somehow the garbage disposal makes it like 100x worse for me.

            I don’t like scorpions but I don’t find them inherently upsetting as long as there’s no risk of them touching me. But the scorpion in the garbage disposal situation is sending me right over the edge.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Try South Carolina, where we have enormous reptiles that want to eat you. Or at least want to eat something, and you’ll do just fine.

          The two things that were hardest about to get used to in this state were alligators and those enormous “palmetto bugs” which are, in fact, cockroaches.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            The thing about gators is that they’re so good at being immobile that it’s horrifying to realize how fast they CAN move. And swim. And climb.

            1. Firebird*

              I saw a video yesterday of a gator climbing over a 5 or 6 foot high metal fence in Florida. The fence was made out of vertical metal poles, not a grid, and the gator just pulled himself over the top.

            2. CommanderBanana*

              Yup. There’s a reason they’ve been around for so long basically unchanged – Nature got that design right.

      2. Blue Mage*

        I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity arachnophobe. If it has 8 legs, I am not a fan.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          My beef is with the number of knees. Any number of knees over 4 is excessive and anything over 6 is just fully unacceptable.

          If spiders had little straight no-knees legs they would be fine (and hilarious).

      3. Rach*

        I’ve lived in AZ all my life and, yeah, we talk about scorpions at work sometimes. Heck, we get scorpions at work sometimes so it is work relevant even, tho I guess I wouldn’t mind if people from other sites asked us to not discuss them when they’re around.

    3. Nonsense*

      OP/people in the call thinking of scorpions being creepy bugs and the people in AZ treating them as a fact of life (speaking as a former AZ resident here) so the AZ peeps didn’t think much about talking about them? That’s all I got.

      1. DannyG*

        Fun fact: Scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light, such as an electric black light. Having lived in the SW Desert region that was a fun activity to go out looking for them at night.

        1. Nonsense*

          Oh, I know! When we first moved to the desert when I was a kid, our subdivision had only just been built so there were still a ton of scorpions. Mom and I would go out at night with boots, gloves, tongs, bucket, and a UV light to find any around the house. Mom would then drive the (well sealed) bucket further out in the desert and free all the ones we caught those nights. It kept the population under control around our house and the little critters got to go live well away from us.

          1. Zephy*

            Yup! I have a headlamp I wear for visibility when walking along my street at night. It’s fun to look down at neighbors’ yards and see how many little green twinkles there are. Some folks it looks like they’ve sprinkled glitter in the grass. Others there’s nary a spode to be found.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              OH GOOD LORD. I don’t even mind spiders in particular (I have the same “we’re cool as long as you don’t touch me or threaten to touch me” deal with them I have with most bugs) but I think I just unlocked a new fear.

          2. Hroethvitnir*

            Even little guys if they’re on the right angle! I was excited when my partner showed me all the spider eyes in the plants when walking the dogs at night… His arachnophobic friend was not so appreciative.

    4. fort hiss*

      The original letter says avoiding sensitive topics like horror movies, so I guess Arizonans were discussing scorpions and this LW is afraid of bugs? Some people would be legitimately freaked out by discussing them, so fair enough I suppose.

      1. Goldenrod*

        Personally, I wish there were more scorpion talk at my office. (I live in Seattle, so there is none.)

        1. ferrina*

          It’s zombies for me. I welcome all zombie chatter, but also make sure that it’s an opt-in conversation that is away from the main space. I get that not everyone wants zombies on the brain.

          1. Lisa*

            “I get that not everyone wants zombies on the brain.”

            I see what you did there… :-)

      2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        Yeah, that seems a bit much if they’re just talking about them, not showing pictures or anything, but at least the strategy worked!

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        That would make sense if you’re a gentle soul who just doesn’t do well with scary things. Things that don’t bother most other people.

        There’s been a side-bit in the weekend book thread noting if “a whole lot of spiders” happens to be a theme of a recommended book.

    5. Morgan Proctor*

      I also don’t understand. I’m guessing the Arizona people were discussing scorpions they’ve encountered, and other people were uncomfortable? I don’t know, if my boss “curtailed” a conversation I was having with coworkers about bugs, I’d be extremely annoyed.

      1. Jojo*

        The point isn’t to say you can never talk about bugs privately to coworkers who also want to talk about bugs. The point is that the group chat thread apparently was getting into detail on topics that some people found too unpleasant, and the boss gently asked them not to.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        You’d be extremely annoyed if someone asked you not to use a public chat to talk about something that has nothing to do with your work and is squicking people out? That’s an odd reaction.

        1. Rach*

          To be fair in AZ it can be work related because you can get scorpions in offices. We do since our campus borders open desert. Graphic descriptions, sure but what to do when you encounter one or if you’re stung is work appropriate conversation sometimes.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Sure, but that’s not the situation here. If it were work related or important to be discussed at work I’m guessing that would be a meeting about it, not just general chat about it in a Teams chat.

      3. Wendy Darling*

        My weird phobia is bones, particularly bad things happening to bones. I’ve had to ask coworkers to please move their discussion of someone’s horrific compoud fracture to a chat I’m not in, because if I hear too much about gnarly bone stuff I start to feel sick. People are generally pretty nice about it — I actually have the most issues about it with my own immediate family, who have more than once made me shriek and flee the dinner table.

        I don’t want people not to talk about it, I just want them to talk about it where I’m not stuck listening, because I don’t want to barf. :(

    6. Nat20*

      The original post said that the LW didn’t handle “horror”-esque topics well. So I’m guessing there was a conversation about scorpions among the Arizona crowd that grossed the LW out.

    7. A Book about Metals*

      There must have been some Dokken fans in the chat and things can get a bit heated between those two groups

    8. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

      Maybe Mortal Kombat is really popular in Arizona, and the group was disruptively yelling “GET OVER HERE!” every couple of minutes.

    9. Excel-sior*

      my assumption is that Scorpions are common in Arizona, so can be a topic thats bought up between Arizonians, but others aren’t too keen, much in the same way some people really don’t like spiders.

    10. LW4*

      the scorpions mentioned in my update were conversations had after the horror movie one. I used Alison’s language and it worked perfectly.
      I am not particularly afraid of scorpions but one of my coworkers is terrified of them.
      because Arizona has lots of scorpions, the team there occasionally have stories about strange encounters.

  3. ZSD*

    #4 – I’m glad you were able to shut down the conversation!
    I wish we’d get an update on the $47k pay discrepancy in that same list of questions!

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Yes me too! I went back to read the original letter for #4 and saw that letter and was bummed there wasn’t an update link for it. I hope it all worked out!

    2. Little Blue Dune Buggy*

      Commenting to add my voice to the chorus of people asking Alison to reach out to the pay discrepancy letter-writer to see if they’re willing to provide an update.

    3. Minimal Pear*

      I had the exact same thought as I scrolled past that letter to get to the one that actually updated!

  4. Wooooosh*

    Scorpions? Like the bug? If someone shut me down for mentioning that (provided that no one has communicated a specific discomfort at the topic) I would feel put off.

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      Same. Even if someone finds conversation about scorpions scary, my god, just put on headphones, bugs exist in the world and people encounter them regularly.

      1. Jojo*

        It’s not that someone “shut you down” for mentioning scorpions, it’s saying “hey, this extensive discussion about the time someone had a scorpion crawl onto their face is too much for the group Teams chat, it can make some people uncomfortable. Please take it to a separate chat”.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        If you read the original letter, it was about more than just finding something scary. Also, this is Teams, so it’s not just about putting on headphones.

        People have a right to not be traumatized at work. LW was right to ask for advice on this.

      3. metadata minion*

        I love bugs and am definitely That Person Who Talks About Bugs in my office, but I realize not everyone wants to know about how many jumping spiders I saw yesterday (SO MANY AND SOME WERE TINY AND GREEN) and that they’re a pretty common phobia. I know which of my coworkers want to hear about the cool bug I saw and which don’t. I am also quite happily the office Escorter of Unwanted Arthropods so it works out well fo reveryone.

        1. Ephemeroptera*

          I am very happy to know that you saw a lot of jumping spiders yesterday! I’m also the bug person in my office, though I try not to spring Bug Talk on anyone unexpectedly (which is hard, because my answer to “How was your weekend?” often is “Oh, it was great, I found so many mayfly larvae in my local river on Sunday.”)

        2. HSE Compliance*

          I have learned to ask people if they would appreciate the HSEC Nature Corner random fact of the day *before* launching into the factoid. Many people do want the random factoid, but some are decidedly uninterested in my admittedly random knowledge of crawly critters.

          This, among other items, has led to my nickname at work being Redneck Disney Princess, as I do not attract cute birdies, I instead get phone calls about raccoons and geese and spiders.

        3. Dina*

          My sibling takes nature photos as a hobby and has lately gotten into macro photography. But he also makes sure to take plenty of pics of flowers to pad out the Facebook album for his friends that dislike bugs!

      4. Jennifer Strange*

        Something existing and being regularly encountered doesn’t mean others have to put up with an entire conversation about them.

    2. Nat20*

      I mean, I get it. Depends on the tone. LW said the request didnt “kill the vibe”, so I’m guessing it was casual and not like they told anyone off. If I was having a conversation about something that a coworker was squeamish about and they politely said something like “oh man I’m sorry but scorpions really gross me out, can we change the subject haha” I’d be totally fine with that.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, the suggested script in the original answer was “This would be a good topic to take to a private chat — there are people who don’t have the same level of comfort with horror/true crime podcasts/diet talk/childbirth/(insert whatever the topic is).”

        If the LW used that script (or something similar) to suggest scorpions are a topic better suited for a private chat, all the AZ residents/scorpion lovers could easily move their conversation to a private chat and carry on. The conversation wouldn’t be “shut down,” just moved to a different venue (more private chat).

        1. Quill*

          People move creepy crawly related talk to DM or more private channels all the time, whenever you have a general chat going on.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This needs to be fleshed out for a heist movie, or maybe a Ted Talk: How To Discuss Your Plans for a Takeover on the Company Slack Channel.

    3. ferrina*

      I think it depends how it was shut down. There’s a difference between “Never mention those creatures!” and “Hey, could you maybe move this to a different channel?”

      There’s a certain (non-scorpion) animal that really bothers me. I don’t know why, maybe in a past life I was eaten by this animal? But I just shut down when this animal is mentioned. I don’t like broadcasting that I hate this animal, because I inevitably get push back about “But whyyyyyyyyy? It’s not a big deal!” If my manager even guessed that that’s how I felt, I’d appreciate them gently steering the convo in
      a different direction. It’s a pretty easy thing to not talk about, and it’s a small act to help coworkers feel comfortable.

      1. Tisserande d'Encre*

        If you were my coworker it would be my honor to steer away all [animal] conversation!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the letter is precisely about how someone who has discomfort on a topic can divert a conversation without feeling like they are shutting things down.

  5. Antilles*

    But otherwise, I liked the level of autonomy and oversight I was giving the rest of my team and wanted to continue to do so, even if it could give someone with bad intentions a way to cheat the system. I decided I needed to focus on hiring the right people that were less likely to do that. And I did, hiring an excellent replacement the following month.
    Good on you OP. Far too many managers would have overreacted, tried to change the system to prevent bad actors, and resulted in a system that sucks for everyone. If 95+% of employees can handle the autonomy and flexibility appropriately, the answer isn’t to throw out the system, just address the <5% of bad apples who aren't.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! I love that the OP did the work of reflecting and ultimately decided that they preferred to give their staff the trust. And it really sounds like they did address the issue!

    2. Artemesia*

      It is important to realize that you don’t need to treat everyone equally on a team. If 9 out of ten are functioning with bi – weekly check ins, it doesn’t mean that someone who is not performing well can’t be required to do a daily check in. Problems should always be addressed specifically not with general rules that affect people who are not the problem negatively.

      1. Zephy*

        Right. A manager needs to treat their reports *equitably,* which means providing the appropriate level of oversight/coaching/whatever for *each specific person* to perform at the level the team needs – that’s different from treating them *equally,* which would be treating them all the same regardless of their strengths and weaknesses and regardless of their performance.

  6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #2 – well there couldn’t be a better outcome. The furniture needed to go anyway.

    #1 – your boss sucks and isn’t going to change. You know this. Best of luck in your job search. Update us again when you get a new job.

    #3 – your employee was ridiculous. But on the other hand, don’t go so far that you want to seem like you are giving everybody autonomy that you don’t act when its needs for the individual.

  7. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 – I KNEW IT!!

    I remember reading the original post and wondering why everyone was assuming the LW made a mistake. It seemed just as possible that the company was planning to get new furniture. Because otherwise, they should have explicitly said so.

    1. blah*

      Because they DID make a mistake, but after speaking with their boss, the mistake wasn’t as big of a deal as initially thought. When the LW says “I made a mistake,” people are naturally going to believe them!

    2. Roland*

      They did make a mistake! That’s ok and I’m sure they won’t make a similar one in the future but just because it turned out ok doesn’t mean they didn’t make a mistake.

  8. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

    OP2 — Work on paying more attention in meetings, too, and taking initiative. Good luck.

      1. Peachtree*

        Don’t think it’s unfair to point out that the LW had a lucky escape here …

      2. WellRed*

        In the original letter the OP was pretty open about not paying attention, taking notes or following up. It’s a fair comment.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          Yeah, but the LW *knows* that and was open about it. The comment is about as helpful as watching someone trip and fall, telling them “you should watch where you’re going!” and feeling like you gave sage advice.

      3. Once upon a December*

        I’m not “shoot another shot…” but if I’d written that comment: yes I would have meant what I said. The original situation happened bc the LW openly admitted to Not paying attention, not following up on information, etc. They got lucky this time but they might not next time. Pay better attention in meetings.

        1. amoeba*

          Well, yes, but as said above – they are already aware of that (you know, as they openly admitted it). I think between that and the comments on the original post, reiterating it here is not helpful.

          1. Allonge*

            I see your point but I disagree. OP will most likely not have to handle furniture again – they don’t need to learn about that part.

            The takeaway needs to be the general conclusion of pay attention and for unfamiliar tasks, ask questions, follow up. Which, yes, OP acknowledged, so that is good.

  9. CzechMate*

    LW 3 – Jane sounds like an *unusually* deceptive and self-absorbed person. Sharing her “hacks” was one thing, but telling everyone she’s going to a prestigious grad school, staging a fake party, and buying branded merch from said school is next-level lying (like, getting into the Jennifer Pan/Dupont de Ligonnès territory). The good news is that you likely won’t have an employee like that again, but honestly, I’d maybe make sure she didn’t do anything like steal company information or start telling people she still works for your company when she doesn’t.

    1. CzechMate*

      Sorry, I was thinking of Jean-Claude Romand (the fake doctor), not Dupont de Ligonnès (the fake businessman). Still, serial lying turns into a lot of other bad things really fast!

    2. WellRed*

      The FAKE PARTY! The merch! If people put half as much energy into doing the job as they do into crap like this. Man!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Right? It’s like that one kid who got waaaay overinvested in pretend time in grade school; it’s just a game! None of us are princesses or cowpokes.

    3. Excel-sior*

      on the flip side, I’d have saved myself a lot of grief and money had i just pretended to go off to university instead of actually going.

    4. H.Regalis*

      It’s wild, that kind of lying. There was a Jennifer Pan-esque case like that where I live that’s working its way through the court system.

  10. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    Re: #3, oof, this makes me feel sorry for Jane (although it doesn’t even remotely excuse her behavior). The idea of someone faking evidence that she got into a prestigious grad program just to save face is really sad. I hope she gets help with whatever’s been driving her to lie like this.

  11. Freelance Bass*

    #4: If I was on your team, I would have been so appreciative to have someone shut that down. Scorpions truly are Earth’s most curséd creatures.

  12. Wilbur*

    “providing additional bereavement costs money for the organization”


    1. WellRed*

      Agreed! What’s the actual likely dollar amount in any given year? Nit to mention the cost to morale by nickel and diming this.

    2. dawbs*

      Yeah, it’s amazing how the cost of employee turnover never registers for these folks.

      (and it is amazing how EXPENSIVE turnover really is! If you spend 6 weeks training someone up to speed and they hit the ground running and don’t need additional help ever [unlikely, but lets pretend the math is that simple] that 6 weeks is still more expensive than 2 weeks of bereavement!
      IRL, there’s also the value of the institutional knowledge gone, the cost of the hiring process, the cost of 6 weeks of the trainer’s time, etc etc etc.
      But I know, preaching to the choir)

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        That’s the thing, though–these companies never put two and two together and see them as related.

        They should see high turnover as the result of crappy employees policies, but instead they decide to see high turnover as the result of crappy employees. Which is ridiculous, because it’s not like these people just showed up out of the ether and started working. Somebody interviewed and hired them. No matter what, this rests with the company.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Like the guy who refused leave for his top employee to go to her graduation ceremony…

    3. Chirpy*

      Providing good bereavement leave probably saves money in the long run, because good employees are more likely to stay with a company that showed them compassion when they most needed it.

      1. Artemesia*

        In the late 1940s my father was given penicillin for a minor issue and turns out he was seriously allergic. He ended up in the hospital for a month and of work for 3 months. The giant corporation he worked for carried him the whole time which was lucky for us since my mother didn’t work outside the home.

        He was beyond loyal and worked for them until he retired at 65. Always had good things to say about the company — we all wore the t-shirts.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I certainly did! I was gearing up to leave because that had been my plan. Things had changed for the better (toxic boss was bought out and unceremoniously dumped by new boss) since I had set the ball rolling (I wanted to get a Master’s degree before leaving) but the plan still was to start freelancing. Then my Dad died suddenly and it took the wings out of my sails. The boss said to take all the time I need. I had to travel back to my birth country, deal with the funeral, start emptying and selling the house… it was a good month before I could get back to work. Such a change compared to toxic boss who tried to cheat me out of the two miserly days I was entitled to by law. I ended up staying for five more years at that place.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Right? What’s her point? So does the furniture in her office and her computer and phone. It’s called the cost of doing business. You aren’t stealing change from a collection plate, you are paying expenses that make the work place functional. Ass.

      1. Jinni*

        Also it’s not her money. Not saying she can’t be a good steward of business funds…but shortchanging staff isn’t the way.

    5. AndreaC*

      Unless they’re hiring temps every time someone takes days off, it costs the company nothing!

      1. allathian*

        No additional costs certainly, but the loss of the absent employee’s work product is a fact. That said, the costs of absences are a cost of doing business because we’re human.

    6. Six Feldspar*

      Bosses really will choose the worse option here, presenteism needs to be destroyed:
      A) Employee works five days that week at a (generous estimate) 10% because they’ve just been bereaved, have the flu, they’re running on no sleep with a new baby, etc etc
      B) Employee takes a couple of days off and works three days a week at 50%

  13. ContraryView*

    As someone very pro-choice and who suffered two miscarriages I would never have thought a miscarriage was in the realm of bereavement leave. If we go down that slippery slope I fear for female autonomy in our post-Roe era. That said, the PTO policy sucks and people should be able to take as much sick time as needed to recover both mentally and physically.

    1. KTB2*

      I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriages. I want to gently push back on the “slippery slope” argument that you floated, namely because the fact of the matter is that the people trying to take away bodily autonomy in this day and age are already doing it and using every single tool at their disposal. Making a miscarriage suck just a little bit less for someone is not giving them additional ammunition; it’s just extending some kindness to someone who is already suffering.

      TLDR: we cannot question if anything we do in the post-Roe era will impact “autonomy.” They are already coming for that with everything they have.

    2. Nodramalama*

      After the letter I looked up my jobs leave policy and interestingly my work specifically says bereavement leave is only used for still births. HOWEVER there is additional compassionate AND pregnancy loss leave, that can be used for any pregnancy loss that occurs within a certain time period, and seperate additional still birth leave.

      I prefer it being distinguished that way, because it removes any moral argument of whether you can take leave

    3. Nah*

      As was brought up in the comments when the letter was posted, it is not a bad thing to realize that people have very different reactions to pregnancy and the baby/fetus/cluster of cells/parasite that comes with it. Acknowledging that my dear friend that had been trying to get pregnant for years and just lost what would have been her first child, absolutely devastating news for her, does not mean that I am not allowed to be ambivalent that I [theoretically, in this scenario] no longer have a cluster of cells inside me that could theoretically grow into a human fetus, or relieved that I have evacuated that possibility from my body in case of an abortion/sterilization.

      Do you hold the same standard about stillbirth? An infant death? I’m honestly baffled that you consider this a Slippery Slope, *especially* when it’s become such a hot-button issue to the point of laws floating about considering jailing women who miscarry and labeling them as felons/murderers under the assumption they *wanted* the pregnancy to be ended.

      1. Nah*

        Also, this is not a leave that is being forced on someone that just wants FMLA to recover but otherwise does not wish extra acknowledgement regarding the loss of their pregnancy. This leave is, assumedly, meant specifically for an employee who may have just lost what they consider to be a child and needs the space to process that emotionally without losing their job or house. Quite honestly I feel it *more* regressive to say any employee that loses a pregnancy should just put their head down and act like nothing happened, even if they were very emotionally invested in said pregnancy and are mentally suffering because of it.

      2. Lexi Vipond*

        I don’t think anyone is saying that you couldn’t or shouldn’t *grieve* the loss of a pregnancy.

        But there a lot of things which could cause deep and genuine grief which aren’t bereavement – taking bereavement to be (roughly, you can always quibble about wording) the complete parting by death from a personality you knew well. Loss of a limb, or of a physical ability, the ending of a long-term relationship, loss of a home to fire or some other disaster, even something like not being able to go to the Olympics after four years of training. Loss of an expected future, mostly.

        So it baffles me that someone could look at the choice to classify pregnancy loss as the loss of a person you knew well rather than as the loss of a (possibly much desired) future, and not see that as a statement about what you consider a foetus to be.

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          (I suppose I would classify stillbirth still as the loss of a future and infant death as the loss of a personality, but in practical terms I would expect them to be special cases of a maternity/parental leave policy, since at least one parent would already be expected to be on leave.)

        2. Going Anon*

          Just because you didn’t meet the child you miscarried doesn’t mean you didn’t know them well. If you were the one carrying them you knew them, even if you never spoke to them, never held them.

          So it baffles me that someone could look at the choice to classify pregnancy loss as the loss of a person you knew well rather than as the loss of a (possibly much desired) future, and not see that as a statement about what you consider a foetus to be.

          It baffles me that someone would try to stop someone from using bereavement leave to grieve someone they considered to be a part of their family simply because it’s not the choice they would make.

    4. AnonForThis*

      I’m very sorry about your losses. I’m also very pro-choice and have also had a very early miscarriage and was on tenterhooks the entirety of my successful pregnancy. I very much want the right to choose to remain, but “choice” is the key word here. If i had lost my very much wanted pregnancy, i would have been devastated. Just as some people desperately want to not be pregnant for a variety of reasons, some people desperately do want a pregnancy.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Being pro choice is about giving people medical autonomy due to believing their experiences are likely to be different. I mean, I know people who weren’t bereaved by their mother’s death; you can’t extrapolate from that and tell everyone they aren’t bereaved in similar circumstances.

    6. amoeba*

      I mean, I guess with unlimited/very generous sick leave it wouldn’t be an issue. As far as I know, we don’t have bereavement leave for miscarriages in my country, but it’s very normal to just call in sick for stuff like this! Doctors also provide notes for this kind of thing if you need more time.
      With a (very) limited number of paid sick days, I feel like it’s a very different story – cannot even imagine having to go to work the next day because you don’t have enough sick leave banked! So I do feel that in this situation, it makes a lot of sense.

    7. Going Anon*

      Just FYI, this kind of rhetoric gives the pro-choice movement a bad name and paints us as a group focused on abortion rather than autonomy. What’s ironic is that your stance is pretty anti-choice as it removes the choice from the person about how to view and grieve their own pregnancy loss. And really, how does it affect you? If someone wants to use bereavement leave (which, to be clear, is rarely longer than 5 days) to grieve a miscarriage why does that affect you?

      Yes, when I miscarried I wasn’t pregnant with a full-fledged child. Yes, they were still mostly just a collection of cells in the process of forming a body. But they were no longer merely a hypothetical; they were on their way to being my child. When I lost them I wasn’t necessarily grieving a child I could hug in my arms, but I was still grieving someone who was to have been my child, someone I had started shopping for, thinking up names for, decorating for. To me they were my child, even if they would not have been able to survive outside my womb, and I have the right to take time to process that emotional turmoil (as does my husband).

      I hope you and those agreeing with you really take some time to think about what it means to be pro-choice, not just what you want it to mean.

      1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

        Admit I’m not seeing the slippery slope here, or why it would impact bodily autonomy for someone to take bereavement after a loss of a pregnancy they wanted. Offering this to people who wanted a baby enough that they were feeling bereaved about not having one, doesn’t conflict with pro-choice values (IMO). Is the slope that somehow people who miscarry would be forced to take bereavement, and to somehow acknowledge that life begins at conception? I admit I’m not seeing this happen?

    8. It Actually Takes a Village*

      They’re already trying to pass bills that make it legal to for the state to imprison and then kill women who get abortions.

      We don’t need to be precious about slippery slopes. The right wants us pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, breeding and raising cannon fodder and the workforce, or they want us dead.

      They’re even trying to do away with no-fault divorce. Wake up and smell the Christo-fascism, please.

  14. Anony62781*

    That is on you as the manager who is oblivious to what your direct reports are doing. If you are not engaging her, then don’t expect her to sit at her desk all day and stare at a blank screen.

  15. Redaktorin*

    Unpopular opinion: Given how very, very many women have miscarriages without even knowing, how routine an event they can be and how early in pregnancy most are … I dunno. I would kind of assume anybody who expected me to feel bereaved every time I miscarried was a condescending misogynist, and I actually am a little skeptical of this type of leave.

    1. Nonn*

      … Bereavement leave for miscarriages wouldn’t be mandatory. You wouldn’t have to take it if you, personally, did not feel bereaved, same as if a relative whom you were closely related to – but not emotionally close to – died.

      1. Redaktorin*

        There’s still something icky in allowing it, telling me it’s offered as if I will care, etc.

        It would be like if my employee benefits package had an extra page explaining that I can still take bereavement leave if my third cousin dies, since the company values the special relationship women have with their third cousins. Except ickier, because it comes with a side of “Everybody knows women want babies!”

        1. AnonForThis*

          Do you feel icky about there being a page describing the company’s adoption benefits? The vision benefits when you have >20/20 vision? You don’t personally have to use every benefit offered, but someone else might wear glasses and very much appreciate the company’s solid vision benefits. I’m very much pro-choice, but i also had a very much wanted high-risk pregnancy. Thankfully that pregnancy ended well, but had it not, knowing that I’d be able to take a little time to process and grieve would have been appreciated.

        2. Caroline*

          The idea of bereavement leave is to give people time off to grieve if they are grieving, without dipping into their PTO balance. If you don’t see yourself grieving in that circumstance, then it doesn’t apply to you and you can just move along. I don’t know why it would make you feel icky, and acknowledging that some people do very much want children doesn’t seem like a judgement on whether or not you do, and there is no reason why this policy would specifically apply to women physically experiencing a pregnancy loss, rather than either parent, since it is bereavement leave and not sick leave and both parents are bereaved in a miscarriage. They wouldn’t be including pregnancy loss in a bereavement policy AT you, it’s just there for people who need it.

          I had an early miscarriage and an abortion and took minimal PTO for both (just a few appointments and one unplanned day off for an emergency D&C…) I didn’t need any bereavement leave but I’d be glad if my employer did offer it to others if they needed it.

          I had a coworker years ago who had a stillbirth at 9 months. She expected to come home with a live baby and had a funeral instead. I can’t imagine working for an employer who treated that situation with anything other than compassion. And I can’t imagine putting people in a position of drawing a line from conception to 40 weeks, on where employees should feel grief and when they should not. I know – from experience – that I would not feel grief for an early loss, but I don’t know where the point is where I personally would need some time, and I certainly would not want to have to say where that line should fall for others. Nor would I want the decision about where the line is to be left to the individual decisions of individual managers…you’d be putting people in a bad position and virtually guaranteeing a bad decision with the potential to create strongly emotional and very public ill will toward your employer. Allowing bereavement leave for pregnancy loss and letting individual people use it when needed seems like the best way to handle it.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Also, then it doesn’t apply to you and you can just move along is something that a pretty large chunk of the commentariat should take to heart.

        3. AnotherSarah*

          No. You’re also allowed to not take bereavement leave if a close relative dies but you don’t feel bereaved. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know it’s there. I had an early miscarriage but wouldn’t have taken leave were it offered, but I’m glad it’s an option if people need and want it!

        4. Jackalope*

          It’s more like the handbook saying that you can take bereavement leave for various specified familial relationships and then had a tag including, “And other family members that you were particularly close to.” Just like with pet bereavement leave you don’t have to take leave if it’s not a pet you’re super close to, but it lets you take time off if you’re feeling the devastation that comes with losing a pet you were especially close to.

          And honestly, maybe it’s not something you will ever need or want. But it’s something that matters a lot to some people who are emotionally – and in some cases physically – devastated by a miscarriage. Recognizing that someone who was just pregnant with a baby they wanted and now is not may need some time off to heal (physically and mentally) is a GOOD thing. It doesn’t mean pregnancy is being shoved in your face.

        5. CommanderBanana*

          …….my firm offers paid maternity leave, I don’t have / will not be having children, but them offering maternity leave isn’t ‘icky.’

        6. Parakeet*

          I would hope that bereavement leave for miscarriage was offered to, you know, a parent who wasn’t carrying the pregnancy, if they wanted it, regardless of gender.

    2. allathian*

      I’m in Finland, and I was recently shocked to learn that we don’t have any bereavement leave at all. Generally, people who are mourning the loss of a loved one go on sick leave for acute depression/anxiety/apathy, and the length of the leave is determined by their doctor. This has the advantage that the only thing that counts is how incapacitated the person is by grief and the employer doesn’t get to judge if the relationship is “close enough” to grieve. We have generous vacation policies and you get extra paid leave to attend a funeral if the deceased is a close relative, otherwise people just use PTO. Generally, burials are held on Saturdays so office employees don’t need extra leave, but if the corpse is cremated, the ceremony at the crematorium held when the cremation is scheduled.

      When my work friend’s adult stepson died by suicide, he took a week, mainly to take care of his completely incapacitated wife, who took two months off work. When my friend lost her 8 year old daughter, who had epilepsy and swallowed her tongue one night when everyone was asleep, she took two months of sick leave followed by three months of part time work.

      I’ve had two first trimester miscarriages, and both times I only took as much sick leave as I needed to recover physically. Sure, I was a bit saddened by the losses, but not incapacitated. I was 42 and 46 when they happened and my feelings were rather mixed because I also felt that I was too old to go through the baby and toddler stages again when my son was in preschool for the first and elementary school for the second.

    3. DrSalty*

      You don’t have to take it if you don’t want it. But for some people it would be really helpful.

    4. Person Person*

      Please think about what message this comment sends to women who did feel bereaved by their miscarriage.

  16. Pam Poovey*

    In regard to the original letter for #1, the “what about pets” thing wasn’t exactly the gotcha she thought because imo you should be able to take leave for a pet.

    1. allathian*

      Absolutely. Granted, the bureacracy surrounding a pet death isn’t the same as for humans, and rightly so, but bereavement leave is for dealing with bureaucracy and for attending the funeral. Reasonable people don’t expect the grieving to be done in a few days to a week.

      When my parents’ cats had to be euthanized they had retired, but if they hadn’t been, they would probably have needed to take some time off work for the appointments.

      1. GythaOgden*

        This is why it should be called compassionate leave. It takes the judgment out of it and stops the arguments about who is worth it and who isn’t. I got a day’s grace when my great-aunt died two years ago despite having used up my annual leave and her not being a close enough relative to qualify for bereavement leave (unlike when my MIL passed away the following winter) and CL covers more than just actual bereavement — it may, for instance, allow someone to visit someone else at a distance because they have had an accident, someone to be close to a loved one due to surgery or because they had to go to A&E and so on. I took a day to absorb the shock of my husband’s stage IV cancer diagnosis; my retired mum actually took us out to a local beauty spot so we could discuss next steps in a more healing environment than hurried personal phone calls distracting us from work. (I still have the fridge magnet I bought as a memento — I collect them as a token of remembering fun days out). That’s not the point at which you want to be quibbling with someone over what counts.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Absolutely. I was more wrecked after my beloved dog died than I was when my sibling died, for a lot of reasons I won’t get into here. I was basically functional after my sibling died. I was completely bereft after my dog died.

  17. Bookworm*

    #2: YAY! I’m so glad that it wasn’t a big deal at all and may have done the office a favor. Thanks for the fast update and so happy it turned out fine.

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