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It's happened several times at several offices that someone brings their baby into work. It's a social thing where the manager wants people to see his baby and introduce his wife to the office. Usually the baby hangs around for 10 minutes before the mother takes her home (I'm not talking about baby staying at work while parent watches).

I'm terrible with kids. Last time the baby took one look at me and started crying. What do you say? Just look at it and say "wow"?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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*comments removed* Please remember what comments are for. If there are comments used for answers or commentary that isn't designed to improve the content of the post, it may be removed. –  jmac May 30 at 0:55
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Close-voters: a baby inflicted on coworkers is a different situation (can have different consequences) than if it's social, family, on the street, etc. So long as we stay focused on the workplace aspect I think it's fine. –  Monica Cellio May 30 at 22:31

7 Answers 7

What do you say? Just look at it and say "wow"?

You smile, act politely, look at the baby and say something like "Congratulations!" or "How nice!" or "Oh, how cute." or "How old?" or "Boy or girl?" (only if it's not obvious). Even "Wow!" isn't bad, if said in a nice way, with a pleasant smile.

If you believe it to be the case (and you are sure that the baby isn't adopted), you can also say something like "He/She looks just like you!"

Don't over-think this. Don't make a big deal out of it. A few seconds of social politeness is all that is needed here.

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If it's a new baby or this is the first time you're meeting the spouse post-baby, you can avoid the lie by saying "Congratulations!" instead. The social dynamic calls for you to say something that fits the context, but it doesn't much matter what. –  Monica Cellio May 29 at 12:49
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*comments removed* Please remember what comments are for. If there are comments used for answers or commentary that isn't designed to improve the content of the post, it may be removed. –  jmac May 30 at 0:57
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"A few seconds of social politeness" -- yes. Babies can't talk, etc., so you will likely not be expected to interact with it more than a smile and sentence or two. Parents know that. –  Paul Draper Jun 1 at 5:11

I have to add a bit of a female perspective to this. If the co-worker who brings in the child is the mother, be aware that any jokes about how this will mean she is less able to do her job will not be funny or appreciated. A new mother is probably already a bit worried about how to handle all these responsibilities and making her feel as if her co-workers think she is less professional for having a baby is going to stress her further.

If you happen to be someone who is trying to get pregnant and cannot, it is acceptable to avoid the baby as much as possible. If your co-worker who has the baby knows the situation, he or she is likely to understand. If not, you might consider telling that person (especially if it is your boss) privately so he or she understands why you avoided the baby. It is probably better if you can bring yourself to be happy for them and compliment the baby, but when something is hurtful already it may not be possible, so go easy on yourself. If you don't want to tell people about your fertility issues, then you are going to be expected to act like anyone else, so brush up on your acting skills, compliment the baby and then go to the ladies room and cry.

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Think something positive and smile at Baby, even if what you're smiling about is that you feel so damn lucky that you are not at Baby's beck and call 7x24 and you have to guess what Baby wants from Baby's crying, and that you are not the one who is dragging their sorry butt into the office for a full day's work after a round of diaper changing at 3 AM :)

You don't have to say anything - smiling at Baby is enough. If you really want to say something, ask one of the parents "What's Baby's name?" And if Baby's name is say "Lisa", you say "Hello, Lisa. Good to see you!" and then you do whatever you want from this point - stay and chat a little bit or take your leave to get back to your desk - Whatever you feel comfortable with doing next. It's not complicated.

There are 50 reasons why babies cry, none of which may have anything with you unless Baby caught you giving it the Death Stare. At this stage of their lives, crying is pretty much the only method they have to communicate with #1, which is their mom. If they aren't crying, then that's because they're having their beauty sleep. If they're gurgling, this means that they aren't hungry and they don't need #1 to hold them. Again, if you are not giving Baby the Death Stare and baby happens to cry when you merely look at it, you're probably flattering yourself if you think that you have anything to do with their crying :) Compared to "#1, I WANT YOU TO HOLD ME. RIGHT NOW!" or "I'M ABOUT TO POOP, AND IT HURTS!", you're probably not even worth a belch to Baby :) Yes, I wrote it in capitals and writing in capitals are the equivalent of screaming. Well, Baby crying is the equivalent of screaming. When was the last time that Baby wanted something and did not scream for it? Because when Baby wants something, Baby wants it all and Baby wants it now :)

Personally, because I have a great relationship with my bosses, I'd look at Baby and ask one of the parents "Is Baby our new CEO? Damn, they're getting younger and younger and smarter and smarter. I can't take it anymore, I am quitting!" ) At times, I have been guilty of being belligerent and I have said point-blank to the father "She looks a lot smarter and prettier than you!" :)

Follow-up comment from @BigHomie "Death scares don't scare real infants, trust me"

First, they'd have to be old enough to recognize faces. Second, they'd have to be old enough to recognize expressions on faces :)

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Your first 3 paragraphs are great but the last paragraph is a really bad idea unless you have a really great personal relationship with your actual bosses. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame May 29 at 13:37
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*comments removed* Please remember what comments are for. If there are comments used for answers or commentary that isn't designed to improve the content of the post, it may be removed. –  jmac May 30 at 0:58
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Death scares don't scare real infants, trust me. –  BigHomie May 30 at 14:21
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@BigHornie First, they'd have to be old enough to recognize faces. Second, they'd have to be old enough to recognize expressions on faces :) –  Vietnhi Phuvan May 30 at 14:51

Personally I feel slightly awkward around babies and what are the correct responses are to being introduced to he/she. A simple he/she adorable or a comment on how lucky they are to be blessed with such a precious gift is for me a default response that does not engage in a long discussion if you feel uncomfortable in this situation.

If the baby does start to cry, your colleague will understand this is not done on purpose and you can always slowly back away along with a witty comment on how this always seems to happen to you.

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I'm not wild about infants myself. In fact I've got very little real interest in kids until they're old enough to hold an interesting conversation, which even for the bright ones is rarely before their 8th birthday. But that's irrelevant to this situation.

An appreciative "Wow" is, in fact, acceptable. Just as if they were showing off any new art project or new acquisition. Whether it's to your taste or not is irrelevant; they've put a lot of work into it (and are going to invest more) and they have a right to be proud; it's polite to acknowledge that.

My default, assuming the kid's healthy and not having a total meltdown, is to tell the baby "Hello there! Nice to meet you!" with a gentle smile, then turn to the parent(s) and say something to the effect of "Looks like you folks do good work" -- a slightly flippant complement, but a complement. Nobody's ever complained that I've used the line before, and nobody ever will; what's important is the social noise acknowledging that they've done something significant and worthwhile, and that you understand why they may be a bit frazzled for many more months.

You aren't obliged to hover around and continue to make approving noises, or to accept an offer to hold the kid (though you should take that as a statement of trust and thus a mild complement). Just swing by, smile, give them a thumbs-up verbally (or literally), and you've satisfied the social obligations.

Kids cry. It isn't about you. Say "awww ... maybe later" in a disappointed tone and let the parent deal.

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I have got similar kind of an experience while I was working in a foreign country. I was the only person who is non native among number of local co-workers. So when they take their infants to the working place I have faced very terrible situation. The kids look at me very suspiciously.

They were not smile with me as the others. Even though I tried to talk to them they were not talking to me. They just look at me like they are watching a statue or a portrait. It made me very uncomfortable.

So what I did is just talk to the kid with smile. For example "ask her/his name" or "ask about the day" without considering their answers. Most of them did not answered. But it doesn't matter. If his/her parent around me I said to them we will become much more friendly next time.

If you act not nicely to them other people get bad idea about you. Though the child not nice or cute, be nice to him. Every parent love their child so much though he is nice or not. When someone act bad to him, they get bad impression about them. The other co-worker also think you are a bad guy, probably you will act like this to their kids too.

So do not behave rough to the kid even though you do not like him. Just smile and ask something without considering their reply.

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Personally, I think babies in the office are a health hazard (particularly during flu season) and an unnecessary disruption, but I'm not completely insensitive I know why they are there. If it becomes a problem, or there are repeat offenders, then I would ask them politely not to bring the baby into the office, and if they do, keep it away from my desk. This can be explained by saying you think you might be allergic to something they are using on the baby - which is true in my case. If the person doesn't understand at that point, I go out to lunch.

On the other hand, if you're a well known joker, you can sometimes get away with "Oh my god, that's an ugly baby. Where did you get that ugly baby?!" - a method of hiding your true emotions about the subject.

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this seems to lack an explanation how saying "ugly baby" could help one achieve "hiding true emotions" –  gnat May 29 at 17:13
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Even a well known joker is playing a dangerous game if you call a baby ugly, especially in front of its parents. Yeah, we've all seen the youtube video of the guy singing "Damn that's an ugly baby", but really, you just don't do it (that's why the song is considered funny by some: it says what we think but don't really say). –  corsiKa May 29 at 19:05

protected by jmac May 30 at 0:53

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