I am a software developer; everyone else in my office does similarly taxing mental work. My immediate superior brought her infant child to our office today. Despite the fact that the baby was only there for an hour, I found this to be extremely distracting. The baby would cry or make other loud noises at random, as babies tend to do.

No one else around me seemed to have a problem with the baby being there, and some were happy to take a break from their work and talk to the child (who is currently incapable of talking back). After a little while, another employee watched the baby while my boss had a couple brief meetings, and this person tried to bring the baby to see me while I was working, which was a further distraction. I had things to do that were due the next day.

I tend to dislike children, so it's possible I'm overreacting. I generally trust my boss (the mother), and I know she would only have brought the baby to work if the usual channels of taking care of her were unavailable.

In general, under what conditions is it professional/unprofessional to bring an infant to work?

In addition, if someone does this and it distracts me from work, should I try to ignore it, or should I ask for a way to remove the distraction?

If this is a duplicate, let me know. It's related to What benefits are there of being allowed to take your kids to work? [closed], but hopefully it meets the question guidelines better. The title of How to act when coworker brings an infant to visit the office? is similar, but that one is about social interactions, while I'm asking about professionalism.

EDIT: Many have pointed out that it only happened once for an hour, and because of that I am probably overreacting. I'll buy that. A lot of things are lax at this office; they're not going to fault me for being less productive for an hour.

However, I disagree with the comments that the baby is not the most distracting thing that has happened, at least in this particular office. It tends to be quiet (yes, you could say I was spoiled on that), and I've heard it claimed that the crying of an infant is one of the most difficult sounds for humans to ignore. (I've sometimes heard it claimed that it's more difficult for women to ignore than men, and I am a woman.) It was also only a few feet from me, and I do not have a laptop or other means of relocating my work.

  • 7
    Is there a reasonable way to "remove the distraction"? Your boss brought a baby in for an hour. Presumably, your boss believed that the benefit of the meetings she had to attend outweighed the distraction of an infant for a brief period of time. If there is an easy way for you to remove the distraction by, say, relocating yourself for an hour, that's something that you're free to do when anything gets distracting. Otherwise, as with any other distraction in a normal office, all you can do is try to ignore it. – Justin Cave Aug 3 '15 at 23:31
  • 2
    How often does this happen? Once it becomes on a regular basis, we can start talking about a distraction. – Brandin Aug 3 '15 at 23:57
  • 15
    Yes, you are overreacting. It happened once for an hour. Most adults you know are way more distracting and annoying than an infant. Think about it. – Chad Cooper Aug 4 '15 at 3:40
  • 2
    I suspect this is less about the distraction and more about the fact that you don't like children (and babies), and that's probably not helped by your coworkers conveying the attitude that everyone likes babies and expecting you to play-talk with the baby etc. (I just noticed someone above made an insulting comment to you because s/he couldn't understand why you don't like babies. Not unexpected.) – Chan-Ho Suh Aug 4 '15 at 13:08
  • 3
    The thing you need to consider is the consequence of complaining about something like this. Sometimes parents get into a situation where there are no options. Give them a little slack and be nice about it-- it will be remembered and appreciated. Someday you'll need the tolerance and understanding of others too. If you have a history of being inflexible and intolerant, you'll not be able to bank on that when you need it most. – teego1967 Aug 4 '15 at 13:28
up vote 22 down vote accepted

Generally, a baby is brought to an office for a short time when the parent (who works there) wants to show it off to the other people in the office. As long as security requirements allow that, there is really nothing wrong or unprofessional or unusual about it.

It is not usually because the parent doesn't have child-care. It is a normal social interaction: letting others see the new baby is expected with people you like. It's rather like talking about what you did during the weekend, which is also a distraction from work, but can help make stronger teams because people who can talk about non-work things often like each other.

You should only ask for the distraction to be removed if you have been asking for other social distractions to be removed, such as talking about non-work with co-workers.

It is unprofessional, if:

  • the baby is there for a long time and causes a serious disruption in work.
  • the parent expects others to take care of the baby while the parent is working.
  • security requirements don't allow visitors, or permission was not acquired when it is needed.
  • the parent is using work as a substitute for childcare.
  • it starts happening on a regular basis.
  • the child is unusually noisy and the parent does not cut the visit short.

But as long as it is very infrequent and consists of a short visit, it is not unprofessional.

I've brought a grandbaby and small child to work. However, I checked with facilities to make sure it was allowed. I checked with my co-workers to make sure they did not object. I brought them and showed them off, then took them away again. The visits were less than an hour, and I did not do any work during that time. The visits were during lunch time, so my co-workers' work was impacted less. I don't think a visit like that was unprofessional.

  • I appreciate the anaphora but your 4th paragraph would probably be more useful in a list format. – Lilienthal Aug 4 '15 at 15:00
  • 1
    @Lilienthal - as you wish. – thursdaysgeek Aug 4 '15 at 15:45
  • 2
    At one job I had, a woman brought her dog in, which had been hit by a car that morning. Don't ask me why. The dog sat there all day, just outside my cubicle, moaning, whimpering, and crying. Needless to say, a whole bunch of people didn't get much work done that day. I cannot imagine doing that myself. Some people just don't get it. – Mohair Aug 4 '15 at 17:02
  • I'd also add 'embrace it' - work isn't JUST about getting your work done... Someone bringing in their baby is a great time to develop your social relationship with your co-worker, which in turn develops your professional relationship with them. As long as it isn't becoming regular, don't make an issue of it – Jon Story Aug 27 '15 at 17:32

should I try to ignore it, or should I ask for a way to remove the distraction?

Distractions can come in many forms: loud conversations, loud phone calls, birthday celebrations, visitors from other departments, odoriferous foods, visiting babies, etc. Most times when a distraction occurs in the office, you should try to ignore it. Some find that headphones and quiet music help.

If the distraction becomes very frequent, you might consider asking the distractor (in a calm quiet voice) if it would be possible to avoid being distracting (sometimes it's unavoidable). Today's open or cubicle-laden office environments make distractions pretty much inevitable. It's simply not possible to "remove" them all.

And you certainly aren't in a position to "remove the distraction" when we are talking about a baby - even more so if it's your boss' baby.

I tend to dislike children, so it's possible I'm overreacting.

If this is your major distraction in your office, unfortunately I think you may be correct that you are overreacting. Since it involved your boss, and was only for an hour, nobody will blame you for being distracted for a short period of time. While annoying (particularly if you don't like children), it doesn't seem like it was a big deal to most others. Try to let it go.

I'd just let it go.

I'm a foster parent, but have not (yet) had an infant placed with us. The youngest so far has been two.

I will tell you, though, that if someone brings their infant to the office, that was their absolute last choice. They didn't want to do that, and they tried everything they could think of, first, before bringing them.

If you can cut them some slack, and just let it go, that's the best way to handle it. After all, it's no different than a loud and obnoxious sales team in the next cube row, with the provision that the infant will, someday, be quieter.

  • "It's no different than a loud and obnoxious sales team" - well, except for the fact that the company keeps the sales team around because they bring in money, and the crying infant decreases productivity with no corresponding benefit to the company. – Adam V Aug 4 '15 at 15:43

It is acceptable most places, it is usually expected when someone has a new baby that they bring the baby in at least once. Most people like babies and are happy to see them. If you complain, people will look at you oddly, especially if you are female. Trust me on this as I too dislike babies intensely.

Since this person is your boss, I would suggest you sit down with her and tell her that you are not fond of children and that you would appreciate it if she doesn't bring the baby by your cubicle when she brings him or her in (it is important to note that you are acknowledging that she should and will bring the baby by the office occasionally). That is the most you can ask for. If you are in the room where the baby is, just look at the child politely, say something along the lines of how cute the baby is or how much he or she has grown and then go somewhere else if possible.

What is really distracting you isn't just the noise though, it is your anger at there being a baby there at all. While you can't control the noise, you can learn to control your reaction to it.

First you have to tell your self that this is a normal and expected event (I have never yet worked with a new mother who didn't bring the baby in) and that it will be over soon. Then take a deep breath and mentally change the subject. You may have to do this many times at first, but gradually you will get better at ignoring baby noises (and all noise for that matter). It is the self talk that really makes this stuff distracting - the baby cries and you start on a mental list of: "That damn baby. I wish it would shut up. I hate having that thing around me. I think babies ought to be banned. Who would want one any way..."

Ten minutes later you are furious and have accomplished nothing. And then you seethe with anger the rest of the day.

Think how much happier at the end of the day (and less time lost to distraction) you will be if the interaction is: Baby cries and you think: "Aw poor thing is hungry, now I wonder exactly how to setup the system to do..."

It can be hard work to learn to ignore distractions and to not let yourself get upset about them. I highly recommend the Dalai Lama's book on Happiness in learning how to deal with these types of emotional over-reactions.

I'm guessing she was on maternity leave and wanted to bring in the baby to show off. Believe it or not, some people will be angry with her if she didn't! I've had this experience myself.

Anyways, what she should have done was give everyone a heads up that she was going to be bringing the baby in. Why? Because yes, it is a huge distraction. What if a client had been visiting? It's a personal thing and not work related so it's kinda awkward if you are trying to impress clients (same thing if someone brought their new dog in for a visit).

I also think you are overreacting. I would find it strange myself if someone just randomly brought their dog into the office simply because it's not work related but I would not get angry or agitated.

I also think you should have just told her that you appreciated getting the opportunity to meet her child but you have a deadline and it would be great if they could take the conversation into the lobby.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.