Pregnant and Worried About A Coworker With a Cold

Question: to ask the workplace doctors

This week has been just horrible. I have found out I’m pregnant after three long years of IVF and I went to work on Monday. One of the other staff members was ill with a head cold. I told my boss I was pregnant and it worried she was sick and if she didn’t go home, I should as this time is a really crucial time for me. My boss when straight to the other staff member and said that I was pregnant and that when someone else arrived she should go home. When the person to cover for her arrived the coworker came downstairs and started packing stock. I asked her if she was contagious and she was cross and said that she didn’t know and walked away from me. I went to her and asked her if she understood where I was coming from and how concerned I was. She then went to my boss and told him that I followed her and told her to go home.

He then abused me for telling someone to go home and that it was no right of mine. I asked him if it is okay that we come to work sick (Even a patient had rescheduled their appointment as they heard how sick she was (I work in a Dental Surgery). He blamed me for another Dentist not working because he was sick and his Dr. told him to have a week off. He blamed me for him not having lunch that day. He blamed me for the patient changing their appt. He told me to apologize to the other staff member and to take a month off work. He then came to me and apologized for everything and I said that I would apologize to the staff member. But, when I was thinking about it I thought, “Why am I apologizing for this person coming to work sick?” So, I decided against it. I felt it was against the whole moral of the reason this all had come about. He then rang me yesterday and we could not find staff as this other staff member who is sick said that she would not work for the rest of the week. The person he wanted to work could not so he got really angry and he yelled at me that he needs things resolved between me and the other staff member before Monday.I told him the reason I was against it and he went totally off and was telling he does not need this. I was crying again and I told him that I cannot have this stress and I hung up on him.

I called the staff member who came in sick and apologized and told her the trouble that this had all caused and said that I was sorry for dealing with it in a wrong way, but as she is a RN that she would have known not to come to work sick and that my boss was blaming me for everything.We worked it out and she said that she would work, but I decided that I could not work the next day as my nerves were totally rocked. I then called my boss back to let him know that the other staff member would be working but I would not, because he has stressed me out so much that I needed time to settle my nerves. He said that he was dumbfounded that I hung up on him, I told him I had to as I did not want to say something that I would regret and that he was stressing me out. I then told him that I would not be working the next day because he is stressing me out and I needed time away from him, I replaced myself and am now at home in bed thinking what the hell have I done. I stick up for myself and now I have made a horrible mess. I don’t know if I have a job anymore and feel sick to the stomach. I just need to make it to maternity leave. Do you think I was out of line?

Signed, Expecting


Dear Expecting:

First, congratulations! What wonderful news for you! I wish you the best.But…..this does sound like an unpleasant situation! You ask if you were out of line and I have to say honestly that there were many ways you could have handled this differently for a better outcome. However, you probably have a lot on your mind and when this became so upsetting, it just got worse!Now you need to do what you can to rebuild relationships, calm down the conflict and find a way to work effectively until your maternity leave. Probably everyone is afraid you will have one fearful complaint after another until your leave. You don’t want them to be glad you’re gone and dread having you come back!First, contact the fertility doctor or a nurse in the office and ask what they recommend as protection from catching a cold or other airborne illnesses at this time. That information is something you should have had already, given your workplace. Find out now.

You may want to ask if you should wear a mask in circumstances where you know someone is coughing or ill. (You could have done that at work when you realized there was a person there with a cold; there are certainly masks in dental surgery offices.) If they advise a mask or if you decide you want to do it, you can tell your manager what has been suggested and that you’d like permission to wear a mask when the situation seems to require it. That will at least show that you are trying to be reasonable.After you talk to your doctor, contact your manager (maybe by email so you can think through what you want to say). Tell him you are very emotional about this pregnancy and are worried about any risks. It would probably be helpful to say that all of your reactions, including hanging up on him, were the result of that anxiety and stress. I don’t think any good will come of blaming him for it. He obviously felt very stressful too. So did the coworker. It was a stressful time for everyone and everyone feels equally badly about it. Try to keep their feelings in mind too.Reassure your manager that you want to have good working relationships and to be effective while also staying healthy.

So, you’re going to take action to ensure that you’re as safe as possible from risks while still functioning fully in the office. That is when you can mention the mask, washing your hands often, and anything else recommended to you.In the email you can also say that in the future you will work solely with the manager if you have a concern about health risks.I think you should go back to work as soon as you can, so you can show that you have your emotions under control and so you don’t find yourself on the outside of the team for the rest of your time there. That’s up to you and your doctor, but it’s a good goal.I’m hoping you can explain all of this to your manager and ask for his understanding, while also assuring him that you are actively planning how to avoid such a situation in the future. Your manager may re-think his angry reactions and decide to treat this as simply a bad experience for everyone. I hope that is the case.Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens. Again, best wishes with your pregnancy. Do your best to not only make this a happy time but also a time when others around you are happy as well.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.