Do’s and Don’ts: When your employee has fertility issues

Our infertility was not a secret from my boss for very long.

About a month after our first RE appointment, my husband had his first semen analysis.  I knew I’d get the phone call from the doctor’s office with the results while I was at work, but I hadn’t quite mentally steeled myself for my own reaction.  As soon as the nurse on the other end of the line said “IVF is likely your only option to have children of your own”—instant breakdown.

A few minutes later after trying to compose myself, it took about a half a second for my boss to realize something was wrong.  My telltale blotchy face and red nose never fails to give away the fact that I’ve been crying.  I proceeded to LOSE IT completely and unprofessionally in front of my boss. Poor guy.

He was actually really cool about it then, especially since we have a friendly work relationship, but we’ve had some hiccups since.  If there existed a manual I could have given him in that moment, this would be it:


DO: Try your hardest to get my husband on our work insurance before open enrollment (that was really nice of you).

DON’T: Use a separate conversation about our insurance options to share that your wife is pregnant, again.  I’m happy for you, but for some reason it felt like a low blow at the time.


DO:  Ask me from time to time how everything is going.  I don’t mind.

DON’T:  Assume I want to talk about it in front of everyone, especially our employees.


DO:  Joke around with me about our infertility.  I’m not that sensitive.

DON’T:  Keep telling me—and I think you really believe this—that all we need to do is have sex twice a day in order to get pregnant.  It’s truly not that easy for everyone.


DO:  Share with me the milestones of your own pregnancy.

DON’T:  Keep talking about how you want six kids when you know I would give my right arm for just one.


DO:  Help divert the conversation when co-workers ask when I’m going to have kids.

DON’T:  Chime in.

3 thoughts on “Do’s and Don’ts: When your employee has fertility issues

  1. My old boss was awesome during my fertility struggles. He read between the lines, told me, “Take whatever time you need for your doctor’s appointments…” and left it at that. When I announced we were having twins, he joked about my efficiency, congratulated me on the pregnancy (never mentioning the struggles we had) and guaranteed me that my job was secure so I didn’t have to worry about a thing. Sometimes, acknowledgement followed by silence is the best and most diplomatic approach. I am eternally grateful for a boss who just “got it.”


  2. “DO: Joke around with me …” — that is one I would never be brave enough to do! But then, it totally depends on the person, and in this case, it’s between you and your boss, who should probably know which boundaries are appropriate. But the DON’T that goes with it stood out even more. If I’m aware of someone’s fertility struggles, I tend to believe that that person has tried just about everything before reaching the most extreme measures, and that suggestions about the frequency and timing of sex are pretty much useless at that point. Maybe it’s just people’s attempts to try to connect and offer something, anything, to say on the topic, but with a little thought it’s easy to see why these suggestions are offensive.


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