Supervisor Made Fun of My Maternity Clothing

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about criticism of dress: In front of several people my supervisor told me to wear larger clothing because my navel showed through my shirt. I am 20 weeks pregnant.

In front of several people my supervisor told me to wear larger clothing because my navel showed through my shirt. I am 20 weeks pregnant. I was so embarrassed and humiliated because she continued to talk to other staff about me when I was walking by. What should I do?

Signed, Hurt and Humiliated

Dear Hurt and Humiliated:

It was very wrong of your supervisor to correct you about such a personal thing in front of coworkers. She did have the right to say something about clothing that is too revealing–even maternity clothing–but not in front of people. We hear many complaints about how women look at work with inappropriate clothing when they are pregnant. Since you have some time to go you will probably need to consider getting maternity wear or other clothes that don’t show the outlines of your body, just as clothing should not show body details at any time. Away from work you can wear what you want, but at work it’s unsightly, distracting and presents you badly.

However, as I said, it was wrong of your supervisor to comment on it in front of others. If she had asked you to wear something differently already and you continued to wear the problem clothing she may have mistakenly thought it would get your attention more. She should have called you into a private area and just quietly talked to you about it. Your coworkers probably felt some sympathy for you though, since no one likes to be embarrassed in front of others.

It could be that she thought she was being very funny and meant it in a sisterly kind of teasing way. I doubt that, but it could be. Your reaction would be important in that case. If you smiled or laughed, she might have thought it was OK. But, whatever the circumstances, she shouldn’t have said it.You only have a few options but perhaps these thoughts can help you decide what to do:

1. You can do your best to just put her bad comments behind you and keep working while knowing that you’ll be having a baby to enjoy soon.

2. You can try to talk to her about it, maybe by showing her a different top and asking if it’s OK. Then you could say, “I was really embarrassed the other day when you talked to me in front of people. Next time would you please call me aside to talk about something like that?”

3. You can go to Human Resources, if there is a function like that at your work, and tell them what happened. This could be risky if it only makes your manager angry. However, especially if she continues to make remarks, you may need to bring this to the attention of someone higher. It certainly doesn’t show a good way to be a supervisor.I think you may be best off to just move forward and figure that someone who would be that lacking in supervisory skill or sensitivity will probably not improve based on you saying something to her. It was an unfortunate situation and one that hopefully won’t happen again. She doesn’t sound like a nice person, at least not in this case.

Put your focus on your work and building positive relationships with coworkers, especially during this time when you want nothing but positive thoughts in your heart and mind. You will need to keep working with them and having them as strong supporters is always worthwhile.It won’t be too much longer and you will either have another baby for your family or a first one. Many women would love to be in your situation–maybe even your supervisor–so don’t let the one bad time get you down too much. Best wishes to you in your work and your pregnancy.

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.