1

Asking for a friend, I will try my hardest so it doesn't appear as a "what choise to make" question, sorry about the long post but it is an interesting scenario:

The setting is a highly political government agency in the public eye. They do a great job but the office politics makes it a snake pit to work in.

Two ladies, lets call them Anna and Bekky, they also have a boss lets call her Charlie.

Bekky is newer in the job than Anna but has shown great talent at it and works very hard.

Bekky and Anna used to work together at the same location. After a while Anna got a promotion as an "acting manager" and went to a different location, less desirable area and the commute is longer. Due to the nature of the job the work is also much more difficult since the public they have to deal with in this area are different. In short no one likes it there.

Bekky meanwhile also got a promotion and became acting manager in the first location where she used to work together with Anna.

Anna then (since she was on the waiting list for promotions longer) got a promotion and will no longer be "acting manager" but will be "manager" and she has been offered the role Bekky was filling in for as acting. Anna is thrilled to be coming back to her area and to work with her friends again.

Here's the twist: Anna is pregnant and hasn't told anyone yet. She will be coming in literally for 3 or 4 months and Bekky will be bumped right back down because of that. Charlie, the boss, doesn't know Anna is pregnant and is hoping Anna can bring some stability to this team that has had 4 "acting managers" in the last 2 years.

Bekkie knows Anna is pregnant. Bekkie is also very resentful that she will lose her spot as acting manager and maybe even get pushed back down or possibly even get sent to the undesirable location Anna is coming from. Bekkie is especially resentful that Anna will be going on maternity leave for at least 6 months for which she could have stayed in this spot.

Bekkie's friends are telling her to tell the boss Charlie that Anna is pregnant and only coming back for a couple of months. She is considering it at this stage but isn't sure what repercussions might arise from this.

Would Bekkie be better off letting Anna just come back for 2-3 months and accept her fate or say something? What would be the potential harm?

tl;dr manager pushing acting manager aside when she is about to go on maternity leave and she is hiding she is pregnant, what could be the damage if acting manager tells the boss what is happening?

Edit: What Bekky wants: Anna already has the position, Bekky just wants Anna to stay put for 2-3 months so she can cover Anna's absence as well as "acting".

  • How is it that she is going on maternity leave if the pregnancy is a secret? You realize that this is self-contradictory, right? – joeqwerty May 24 at 1:23
  • Her pregnancy is a secret from her coworkers at this stage but she will go on maternity leave and she is pregnant. And obviously it will be known but after Bekky is shafted out of the team. – solarflare May 24 at 2:03
  • 5
    The whole fact that Anna is pregnant is irrelevant – Bernhard May 24 at 5:42
  • i think this question could have benefited from sandboxing in meta, for example to make it more concise – aaaaaa May 24 at 7:53
  • 2
    Can you please indicate the country? – DaveG May 24 at 14:31
17

Telling the boss that someone is pregnant and therefore shouldn't get an assignment is a bad, bad, BAD idea. Either the boss will act on it, in which case Bekkie is part of something that is probably illegal (discrimination based on pregnancy) or the boss will be annoyed, in which case she'll take it out on Bekkie. Bekkie needs to keep her mouth shut.

  • Anna already has the position, Bekky just wants Anna to stay put for 2-3 months so she can cover Anna's absence as well as "acting". – solarflare May 24 at 2:10
  • Also to add, Bekky is worried that if the boss asks if she knew about the pregnancy she could get in trouble for not speaking up sooner. – solarflare May 24 at 2:23
  • @solarflare I'm having trouble picturing how someone can get in trouble for not telling a boss "hey, I heard so & so is pregnant, you shouldn't give her that assignment". If that's the kind of environment it is, where coworkers get into trouble for not tattling, it's time to find another job. – DaveG May 24 at 12:30
  • 3
    No "probably" illegal at all - definitely 100% illegal, if the employer changes anything about Anna's employment (i.e. puts her in a different role, even if for a short period of time) because she is pregnant. – dwizum May 24 at 14:13
  • @dwizum I wasn't sure because I don't think the question includes the country, so I suppose this could be some country where discrimination based on pregnancy is considered ok. – DaveG May 24 at 14:28
5

Going to the boss will not win her anything

Definitely don't tell the boss, that would be a very bad move. It would turn this into a huge case of office politics and I suspect Bekky will lose.

  • It seems Anna is very well liked.
  • It seems Anna will be in charge of Bekky at some point, unless Bekky relocates.
  • It will easily seem like Bekky is doing this to spite of Anna, which will look bad.

Talk to Anna directly

Something she could do however is talk to Anna directly. I think the concern Bekky has is very valid and probably shared by their boss as well. I think it's make perfect sense to go to Anna and say:

"Hey Anna, I'm super thrilled you're getting back! This team however has had a lot of change in management and due to your situation that would happen three times in a short period again if you decide to start before maternity leave and I really don't think that's the best solution for anyone. I'd suggest you have chat with Charlie about this, because I think it would cause him concern if disclosed later. I look forward to working with you again."

The important part in this structuring of the sentence is the sandwich method: compliment, serious conversation, compliment. That way she may avoid sounding jealous or like she wants to stir up trouble.

  • 1
    maybe you should highlight that pregnancy information is something rather personal, which means Anna and Bekkie possibly have decent rapport – aaaaaa May 24 at 7:55
  • Another note to include, though it would have to be approached delicately. If Anna comes back for 2 months and then leaves again (thus generating more of that same churn that Charlie was hoping to avoid) there's a good chance that that will make him resent her (regardless of what the laws say) and that's likely to have some implications for how things go when she comes back. She might not want to stick it out for the extra two months at her current location, but pissing off your boss in a game of office politics is often a poor choice. – Ben Barden May 24 at 15:43
  • 1
    Actually Anna is part of a toxic clique and Bekky is liked by all including upper management. – solarflare May 26 at 22:58
1

This question has an utterly clear and directly applicable answer in the form of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

This act amended title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, basically with the goal of including pregnancy in the scope of sex discrimination. Basically, it makes it illegal to discriminate based on pregnancy. Specifically, employers cannot make decisions about hiring, firing, and promotions/demotions simply because someone is pregnant. If they have given someone a position, they can't take it away and give them a lesser role, simply because they've found out the person is pregnant.

So, regardless of the ethics of whether any of the people in your scenario should or should not tell anyone else whatever juicy secrets they have, if the employer changes the terms of Anna's promotion simply because she is pregnant, the employer is breaking the law.

  • Commenting to add - this answer is written from a US perspective. The OP hasn't indicated the country this applies to. – dwizum May 24 at 14:49
1

Bekkie knows Anna is pregnant. Bekkie is also very resentful that she will lose her spot as acting manager and maybe even get pushed back down or possibly even get sent to the undesirable location Anna is coming from. Bekkie is especially resentful that Anna will be going on maternity leave for at least 6 months for which she could have stayed in this spot.

Understandable. This isn't really about Anna though, so much as Bekkie not getting the permanent position that she wants but does not yet have (which is completely not Anna's fault).

Bekkie's friends are telling her to tell the boss Charlie that Anna is pregnant and only coming back for a couple of months. She is considering it at this stage but isn't sure what repercussions might arise from this.

This is a very poor idea. It is unkind, betrays trust, and isn't likely to work (other answers explain this excellently).

Instead, Bekkie should think about the opportunities that this creates. For example, Anna's previous position is now open. It might not be "fun" but it is a legitimate position that will further her career. If Bekkie isn't prepared to do the same job as Anna then she should think carefully about whether or not Bekkie really deserves the promotion she wants (clue: no, certainly she won't have worked as hard for it).

Another opportunity would be to wait out the 4 months of Anna's reign of terror. Once Anna goes on maternity leave Bekkie can gracefully step back into the acting manager-ship. In this respect Anna's pregnancy actually represents a huge opportunity for Bekkie. If Anna was not pregnant then Bekkie's job would be gone for good. However, thanks to the pregnancy the role will become free again. Not ideal but it provides an extra 12 months of responsibility in the "fun" role that wouldn't have existed if either a) Anna wasn't pregnant or b) someone else got Anna's job.

  • 1
    "Instead, Bekkie should think about the opportunities that this creates. For example, Anna's previous position is now open. It might not be "fun" but it is a legitimate position that will further her career." - this was my advice to Bekky – solarflare May 26 at 22:59
0

You should not reveal personal information if you work at a job where teamwork is the key, ever, especially if it is done for personal gain. Both from ethical and job prospect point of view.

Lets say you didn't know that Alice was pregnant, and Bekkie told you 'I have some information which will cease Bekkie's chance for a promotion, so that I could possibly be promoted further down the line." What does that say about Bekkie? Nothing good. If the rumour spread then Bekkie would not have a good reputation at her workplace no more, as she alienated herself from other colleagues by going behind Alice's back, with literally no confirmation if this will actually turn out into a promotion for her.

Also, if her promotion is cancelled due to pregnancy, that is quite a clear case for a lawyer I think. The company is unlikely to risk it.

  • The promotion cant be cancelled, its a government agency and they're very big on these sorts of laws. The offer has been made and accepted. Its also normal in this agency that people hold certain offices but dont start in them for a long period without jeopardizing their status. – solarflare May 26 at 23:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.