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Miscarriage/pregnancy loss

Acknowledging staff member's miscarriage

34 replies

MarmiteMerriment · 28/03/2014 20:45

I'm a head of department, and very sadly one of my staff (A) has had a miscarriage in the past few days.

She notified her line manager (B), who then informed me, following the information with 'she asked for it to be kept confidential'. In that context, I don't think B should have told me, but she did, so now I know.

A is due back to work on Monday. I feel very sorry for her, and would like to acknowledge her loss, and let her know that she has my support if she needs it (reducing workload or authorising time off). But - I'm worried about upsetting her by mentioning it, also about letting on that I know when she may have anticipated that I wouldn't. But saying nothing doesn't feel right.

If you have sadly been in A's shoes, would you have wanted your senior manager to commiserate and offer support, or would you have preferred not to have that conversation?

Thank you.

OP posts:
Hessy · 28/03/2014 21:20

Personally, I would have really appreciated it. The loss was enormous for me and yet there's such silence over it. People seemed not to know what to say, so said nothing. I found it an incredibly lonely grief (apart from the huge support I had on here Smile).

You sound lovely - wish you were my boss!

BelleateSebastian · 28/03/2014 21:25

Gosh that has just brought back how hurt and upset I was that my head didnt acknowledge my mc many moons ago (I obviously bear a grudge!) ...... please DO mention it, even if it is only a very brief 'I am aware of what happened and if I can support you then please let me know'.

NewDawnNewDayNewLifeForMe · 28/03/2014 21:31

Drop her a card. . Saying sorry to hear her sad news, and that you would've pleased to help in anyway, perhaps goon to explain how you could help

Such as time off, a chat etc

lotsofcheese · 28/03/2014 21:32

Having been in that situation, sadly twice, I really appreciated my senior manager's support. She simply have me a hug & said how sorry she was.

SolomanDaisy · 28/03/2014 21:37

I have both had a miscarriage and been the senior manager in your position. As she asked for it to be kept confidential, I really don't think you should say anything. I think it's a mistake not to tell people, but as this is what she wants you need to pretend it has been respected. I would encourage he manager to ask her if she wants to take more time off. I discussed this with quite a few people at work who had been in this position and we agreed that it needs at least two weeks off.

RiverTam · 28/03/2014 21:43

I have been that person too many times and whilst I didn't mind people knowing I couldn't bear their sympathy. Unless you've been there you have no idea (and by 'been there', for me, I mean it happening again, and again, and again). I never had more than a week off. Sitting at home staring into what was no longer to be would have been worse than being back at work.

I would let her be. She has asked for it to be kept confidential. Respect that.

ginmakesitallok · 28/03/2014 21:52

Been that person too. First time I asked for it to be kept confidential. Second time I didn't care who knew. But I was Angry when I found out how many people had known about three first time. She's asked for it to be kept confidential, don't mention it unless she tells you.

DontNickMyMilk · 28/03/2014 21:54

I'm with the first few posts. A short conversation as Belle suggested, or the card, just to acknowledge and offer support and leave it at that. Don't make a big deal about it. I had an early mc, and while I thought at first that I didn't want anyone to know, by mentioning it to people, I came to understand just how many people it happens to, i.e. a lot. If she's doesn't know she has support, or understands how common it can be, it can be a very lonely place. In my situation, my boss's wife had had about 6 or more mcs, so ended up having some very candid conversations with my male boss - some that I'd never thought I'd have with anyone.

MarmiteMerriment · 28/03/2014 21:54

Thank you all, and I'm sorry for your losses. You've confirmed my feeling that I should do something. I like Belle's suggestion of a card, with the offer of a chat or other support. I know that in a similar situation I would hate to break down at work, as I might if someone was overtly sympathetic, so hope that a card will strike the right note.

OP posts:
evertonmint · 28/03/2014 22:01

My head of dept dropped me an email when I was off after my mc (I returned by working from home for a few days before I was back in the office). I hadn't asked specifically for confidentiality but had asked my manager not to tell people unless she felt they needed to know, so not quite the same circs, but still clear I didn't want it as common knowledge. Anyway he expressed sympathy, reassured me to only come back when I was ready, and then briefly shared the story of his wife's mc. I have never forgotten his thoughtfulness - acknowledging it sensitively but not doing it face to face where I could have got upset. I would definitely acknowledge it in some way - I'm sure she will be touched.

MarmiteMerriment · 28/03/2014 22:04

Ah, cross-posted with quite a few of you, with some different perspectives. Confidentiality is something I feel very strongly about - I would never have told my boss the reason for a report's sick leave if I had been in B's situation (beyond confirming that it was a personal medical issue), so I do understand those saying don't mention it. I will have to ponder more over the weekend.

OP posts:
OddFodd · 28/03/2014 22:10

In your shoes I'd tell her that the line manager had told you so that you were aware so that you were able to cut her some additional slack if needed but that it has gone no further.

I wouldn't give her a card at work because that might really upset her (plus other people might see it and wonder why you're giving her a card). I'd just call her in and say you're terribly sorry and if she needs a bit more time then just email and let you know.

And be a bit brisk about it - like a kindly matron or something. If you can make the chat about something else too then it would be good.

VashtaNerada · 28/03/2014 22:14

When I was in that situation I was adamant I didn't want senior management to know and would have been furious if they'd found out. I would just liaise closely with her direct manager to ensure she's being supported.

biscuitdunkerette · 28/03/2014 22:21

You sound fab. I have been in the situation (twice) and didn't want anyone to know BUT I think a quick word of acknowledgment/sympathy would have been great. It would have legitimised (in my head) asking for time off, and also just that something pretty awful had happened, so it was ok for me to be off par a bit at work.

I disagree about a brisk approach. That sort of intimates 'pull your socks up', especially if it is mixed in with work-related conversation.

Instead I think acknowledging the slight awkwardness of the situation would be preferable. Something like 'your manager has let me know that this has happened..we understand you prefer for this to be kept private and I want to assure you that it will go no further. I also want to add my sympathy. Please let me or your managed know if any additional time off or other support might help you'. And leave it at that.

I'm sure whatever you decide will be ok, because you ARE giving it some thought.

MarmiteMerriment · 28/03/2014 22:22

OddFodd I take your point about other people seeing a card, but could you help me understand why a card might be more upsetting than a face-to-face conversation?

I just want to apologise if I'm stirring up painful memories, thank you all for your perspectives.

OP posts:
pancakedayiscoming · 28/03/2014 22:23

I seriously struggled to return to work and any acknowledgment sent me into uncontrollable floods of tears that usually resulted in me having to go home, so I asked to keep it private. A member of management who I hadn't realised had been told mentioned it unexpectedly to me in the lunch room and I really struggled through the rest of the day. I wasn't angry as I know no ill will was meant, but it would have been easier for me if I'd been allowed to manage it the way I needed to manage it. I think the safest thing is for B to tell A that you know and that she has your full sympathies.

Blondieminx · 28/03/2014 22:29

I have been that person too... You sound like a very sensitive, caring nice boss who thinks about things carefully. As a PP said, call her in, explain the line manager has told you but no one else and say you're very sorry and to just let you know if there's anything else you can do to support her at this time. Yesterday's mumsnet blog of the day was on miscarriage and is well worth a read.

OddFodd · 28/03/2014 22:31

I think opening a sympathy card is something that you're going to want to do in private. So if you give it to her in public, you're basically saying 'I know but I'm not saying anything' and then it will be sitting in her bag the rest of the day and she's going to be thinking about it but not able to read it until she gets home in case it makes her sob.

I think it's a kind thought but unless you can drop it round to her house at the weekend, I wouldn't.

Hopefully that makes sense!

OddFodd · 28/03/2014 22:32

Brisk probably wasn't the right word. But too much sympathy can be awful or it was for me anyway

blueshoes · 28/03/2014 22:50

If the employee said it was confidential, then you should not even breathe a word that you know. I assume it was a fairly early miscarriage before she was showing. She may not even be that upset.

I had an early miscarriage and did not tell anyone in my office - just left early that day mumbling some excuse. If I did tell anyone, I would have put them under confidentiality as well. I would be livid if it leaked out. This is my private business and personal loss. I only want those people I told to know. I might even complain if I knew my line manager leaked it. This is a clear breach of employee confidentiality.

NewDawnNewDayNewLifeForMe · 28/03/2014 22:59

Problem is everyone reacts to this type of thing so differently that there sadly isn't a right thing to do
As what helps one person hinders another
So try Nd follow their lead iykwim

mummy1973 · 28/03/2014 23:27

She asked for it to be confidential. My management team of about 10 were all told without me knowing and I was upset/Angry
With all due respect this is not about you and the fact that you would like to do something. I would suggest waiting to see if she tells you or makes it more common knowledge - then support.

mummy1973 · 28/03/2014 23:30

Sorry. As you can see there isn't a right answer.

blueshoes · 28/03/2014 23:38

True that people react to this differently but the one thing we know is that the employee asked for it to be confidential.

This is unequivocal expression of her wishes. It is insulting and patronising in extreme to assume she does not know her mind and secretly wants sympathy.

healthyhippo · 29/03/2014 06:26

If you aren't supposed to know then you have to pretend you don't. There has been a serious breach of confidentiality and you don't know how she will take this on top of everything else. Just be really nice about the absence and assure her she shouldn't be back before she's ready and ask if she needs any adjustments coming back to work, like a back to work interview thing.

I only told HR at work (as they had to know the reason with me being off a week) If I found out that anyone else knew then I'd be fuming. My boss has been extra nice to me so she may well know but she hasn't said anything and its easier that way. As I'm never off work they have all guessed that I must have been properly unwell to take a week off and nobody has questioned my follow up hospital appointments etc.

I think you have to be careful regarding laws and confidentiality.

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