did I get too drunk at a work party, how to get out of a work obligation, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Did I get too drunk at a work party?

I recently attended a work party. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of dancing. I don’t usually do much of either, but I ended up drinking three and a half glasses of wine (my usual limit is two) and being louder and more outgoing than usual. I also ended up dancing (something normally outside my comfort zone) and at one point grabbed the hand of someone I was sitting with and held it for a moment. (Not in a romantic way — I was talking to someone else, and he was trying to get my attention, so I sort of grabbed it to say “I acknowledge you and will get to you in a second.” In retrospect, this must have looked bizarre.)

My question is, how can I tell if I went too far? I’ve been back at work since the party, and no one has mentioned my behavior. I also spent a fair amount of time talking to my boss at the party, and she hasn’t said anything. Still, I keep obsessing over moments, and wondering if I was out of line. Should I bring this up with someone? Or just act professional from here on out and hope my overall behavior outweighs any line-crossing that might have occurred?

This doesn’t sound too terrible. Dancing might have been weird for you, but it’s unlikely that other people think it was weird. The hand thing and being more outgoing than usual don’t sound like big deals. Being loud could fall anywhere on the spectrum from “no one even noticed” to “yeah, it was clear you were a little tipsy but it was no big deal” to “whoa, you were out of control.”

I’m betting that you were on the “no big deal” end of the spectrum, but since you’re not sure, is there someone you trust at work who you can ask about it? You could say, “I drank a little more at the party than I normally do and I feel like I might have been a little loud. I’m a little embarrassed, and I’d be so grateful if you could tell me how noticeable you think it was.”

If you hear that you made a huge spectacle, then yes, you can apologize to people. But otherwise, I think you’re totally fine letting it go and focus on making your normal professional self be what’s foremost in people’s minds.

2. How to get out of a work obligation

A coworker and I were told by my boss that we would be co-leaders of a monthly presentation in which we must recruit a staff member to present something inspiring to the rest of the group. This monthly presentation is not at all tied to our actual work; it is in addition to it. It requires about 1-3 hours of additional work for the presenter, so we often succeed in recruiting staff members to participate but then they often back out at the last minute. When this happens, my boss says that we must come up with something to present instead.

I have switched roles and would very much like to get out of this responsibility (especially as it is just additional unnecessary work, and no one wants to do it), but I don’t really have a reason beyond “I don’t want to.” How can I diplomatically get out of this?

Ideally, you’d present it in terms of “if I do this, I won’t be able to do X” (or “it’s delaying X” or “it’s compromising X in Y ways”).

But if that’s not really the case, then say this: “I’ve been working on this for the last 10 months, and I’d like to ask to have it taken off my plate. It’s ended up being a lot of work because people often back out at the last minute, and I’d much rather focus my time on X and Y. Would you be open to taking me off this project?” If true, you could also add, “My sense is that people aren’t getting as much out of the presentations as the work we end up putting into them.”

3. Questions about family when you’re estranged from your parents

I was recently asked to apply for a new job, and I’m thinking ahead to if/when I get it and start. Specifically, I’m worried about the getting-to-know-you rituals of starting in a new workplace.

Over the last year, I’ve become estranged from my parents who live in the same state. The circumstances are really personal and mildly embarrassing, but I’m also conscious of the fact that being estranged from one’s family can be a bit of a red flag. (It’s not a situation of abuse or stigma–in fact, my husband doesn’t speak to his father, who is a physically abusive alcoholic, which is very easy to explain; my issue with my family is less black-and-white and more about my setting some long overdue boundaries.)

What do you suggest telling people who ask about my family? I don’t want to lie (and probably couldn’t do so convincingly anyway), but I’m having trouble coming up with some innocuous language to explain why, for example, I don’t see them at holidays, without it being a huge fraught conversation.

How about, “Oh, we’re not close,” followed by an immediate subject change (preferably to something about them, since people are often easy to distract when you ask them about themselves).

Other vague options: “We don’t see each other much” and/or “We usually spend holidays with my husband’s family.”

It’s unlikely that anyone will really push but if someone does, it’s fine to firmly repeat, “We’re just not close.”

4. How does salaried non-exempt work?

My employer will be moving me from exempt to non-exempt on December 1 in light of the new overtime changes. They have not decided if I will be salary non-exempt or hourly non-exempt yet. Currently, our work week is 37.5 hours (40 if you count breaks). Do they have to pay me for any hours worked over 37.5 each week? They claim that only applies if I am considered hourly non-exempt.

They’re correct. If you’re salaried non-exempt (meaning that you get the same salary from week to week, even if you work fewer than 40 hours — but also get overtime for anything over 40), then your salary covers you for up to 40 hours of work, even if you normally only work 37.5 hours. In other words, in cases where you do work 40 hours, your existing salary is covering that time.

Overtime kicks in once you go over 40, but there’s no legal requirement for it to kick in before that.

5. Getting people to save their work on shared drives

I have a pretty good team of three people, but there is one issue that makes me nuts. For some reason, no one will save their work on the shared network drives. Usually but not always the final project report will get saved to the network drive, but related spreadsheets and code files should also be saved there. Team members continue to save ongoing project work on their hard drives. I think this is a terrible habit. Hard drives are much more likely to crash than the network drive, and the network drive is always backed up. If someone has an emergency, I should be able to pick up and carry out their work. I’ve had a team member be unexpectedly out for eight weeks for emergency bypass surgery, and some of their work was not accessible at that time. It’s not like I want to check up on their work; sometimes having their files accessible helps me months or years later if they’ve left that position and I need to refer back to their project.

If I ask why people don’t save their work on the shared drive, I don’t get a good answer (habit, etc.) but one thing I’ve heard is they think someone will mess with their work (not likely unless we have the aforementioned situation of being out of the office unexpectedly or even planned but an unexpected question comes up). Ultimately that work is owned by the company and should not be hidden away. The specific drive for our department is only accessible to the 15 members of the department and a handful of other former team members still at our company.

It doesn’t help that our department leadership is not interested in setting structure or formal policies. But I don’t think they would have a problem if I required that of my team (although I can’t require it of other team members in the department, of who some save work on the shared drive and some don’t.). So my question is, how strict should I be about this? Thus far, I’ve asked that they do it but not made it required. It doesn’t impact their work or productivity (unless their computer crashes).

If you believe it’s important to the smooth running of your department (which is something that I can’t really judge, but you can), then you should indeed require it. Explain why — using a couple of concrete examples of times when not having stuff easily accessible has caused issues — and state what the expectation is going forward. Be matter of fact about it, but make it clear that this is no longer a request, but a requirement.

Because people aren’t in the habit of doing this, you’re going to have to give more than one reminder. I’d spot-check every couple of weeks, and follow up with people individually if you see things aren’t on the drive. If you have to remind someone more than a few times, at that point you’d move to “I’ve asked you to do this several times and it’s still not happening. It’s important because of X. What’s going on?”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 287 comments… read them below }

  1. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: If you’re required to give these presentations, can you ask your boss to make participation by your recruits mandatory? You could set up a fair rotation to make sure the same people aren’t roped into it over and over.

    OP5: I’m not hip to the super-latest tech, but if you’re talking about something like Google Drive, good god I hate that thing. It takes longer to load than it does to send the files to the 2 people who actually need them, and these drives are designed according to the weird quirks and preferences of the designers with no thought given to how non-savvy people use their computers at work.

    My boss is the type who’s always trying to get us to transition to new, supposedly more convenient processes when we only just mastered the last round of procedural changes. It means there are only a few weeks where there are no errors before we have to start learning some new software thing. There’s value in sticking with something that works even if it’s not the absolute most tech-y way of doing things. I know how to use Google Drive and I resist it anyway because no one can ever find my files and so much time is wasted talking about freaking Google Drive instead of just sending the stuff via email.

    1. Roz*

      A network drive would generally refer to a physical server drive in the office. Which would just show up as a different hard drive on your computer to save things to. It’s not new tech, it’s just fancier hard drives shared between computers.

      1. OP5*

        Yes that’s right. There’s nothing new about it in terms of technology! We’re a very large company and there are different drives and folders within them accessible to different teams. Email is fine to send documents to each other in the short term (unless they’re too large, then they need to be saved on a shared drive). My point is that it’s useful to have project work stored on the shared drive long term if someone leaves the company as well as short term if they’re unexpectedly not available to email it or their computer dies.

        1. The yellow dog of workplace happiness*

          You’ll probably have more success if you can automate this as much as possible, removing change-averse people from the equation.

          If you’re in a Windows environment, the problem is presumably that users are just saving stuff in their local “My Documents” folder. I believe it’s fairly easy to redirect that to a network location, so then everything will get saved where you want it and your users can continue to save stuff like they have been, blissfully ignorant of what’s going on under the hood.

          Alternately, you might be able to setup an automatic backup program on each PC to sync their local/network copy.

          Ideally, just telling employees that this is the new policy should be enough, but I’m too much of a pragmatist to expect this to actually be the case in reality.


          1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

            Yeah. At our workplace My Documents reroutes to our individual folder on the shared drive. Also, maybe people would be more comfortable using the drive if you set up individual folders for them.

          2. Observer*

            I believe it’s fairly easy to redirect that to a network location, so then everything will get saved where you want it and your users can continue to save stuff like they have been, blissfully ignorant of what’s going on under the hood.

            For the people who don’t know what they are doing and are using “My documents” rather than the desktop, you are right. It’s pretty easy to re-direct the “my Documents” folder.

            Alternately, you might be able to setup an automatic backup program on each PC to sync their local/network copy.

            No. That has a not-insignificant cost to it, besides adding a layer of complexity to everything.

        2. nofelix*

          I can’t believe you actually have to tell people to save work to the department server honestly. I’d be really tempted to get IT to instigate an automatic wipe of local files every time a user logged off. We had that at a previous place (there was a warning before log off) and it works great. It also means people can hot-desk and not leave important files on random computers.

          1. Joseph*

            “I’d be really tempted to get IT to instigate an automatic wipe of local files every time a user logged off.”
            This is way, way too strict, at least immediately. OP’s post explicitly says that she’s asked them to do it, but never actually laid it down as a requirement. So jumping to “do it or else we’ll wipe your files” is going to come off as *extremely* heavy-handed and over-the-top.
            Also worth noting that since saving-to-network is a new requirement, you’re virtually guaranteed that at least one person will forget about it, ignore the warning message (do YOU read every warning message that Windows/IE/iTunes/etc pop up?), whatever. And losing the files/productivity is not really the goal.

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            I was a civil servant when Freedom of Information issues ramped up here in the UK, and that, plus issues of people needing to cover for each other, plus a ridiculous amount of server usage caused us to be put onto full-on “personal drive for personal things only (no music/photos/etc) and all work things to be saved on the shared drive”.

            The reasons were laid out very clearly, which helped the change-averse, with plenty of transition time – after that, the IT team would run lists of who had large amounts of data on their personal drives, delivered to managers to deal with the individual staff members, with a longer deadline for any file over a certain size on a personal drive to be automatically wiped.

            They moved the reports on personal drive size from weekly to monthly, once we’d moved to the new system, and all was well in the world.

            HOWEVER this involved management buy-in. We were lucky because there were 3 issues, of needing to be complaint with a law, plus being able to carry on working on projects when people were on leave etc, plus really needing to tidy up the servers and conserve space made it all obviously necessary. I appreciate OP doesn’t have these drives, and I feel for her.

        3. Elysian*

          At a place I used to work, it helped people to use the network drive if everyone had their own individual folder on the network drive. Then we could organize things in the way we wanted, there was some expectation of “privacy” (or at least the expectation that people wouldn’t delete things in your personal folder from the network drive), but things were still accessible if someone was out and were backed up regularly. Depending on why people aren’t using the network, maybe that would help?

          1. Person of Interest*

            Yes, I came to say this same thing – start with giving each person a personal folder on the network drive. Then, if people are really jointly working on shared projects, they can move to project folders when it makes sense to do so and sharing links to docs becomes easier than attaching files to emails (for version control). Honestly, once you get used to the convenience of shared folders for sharing files across a team on a moving project, it becomes harder/less convenient to go back to the hard drive personal folder system. I still have a few “personal” documents on my hard drive, but much less of that now that I work in an environment where the shared drive is organized by project.

          2. Purest Green*

            I’ve dealt with having individual folders in a shared drive, and it was chaos. After those people and everyone who knew them are gone, it’s really difficult to find projects years later. Maybe it’s possible there’s a way to make it work, but I’m skeptical.

            1. Observer*

              It’s workable – which files on individual computers are NOT.

              Also, giving people individual folders does have some advantages in terms of organization, ease of use and appropriate access. There are many situations where people in one department shouldn’t have access to the work of another department member. Having a separate folder for each person takes care of that.

          3. OP5*

            Everyone can create their own folder or project specific folders – whatever they want. It is not very structured – again going back to leadership not really setting a lot of structure in place. It’s easy enough to search for and find files if people are good about naming files and folders clearly. Most of the time, no one will go into a coworker’s folder and look at their work, much less delete it.

            1. designbot*

              I wonder if one way to signal “hey, this is what we’ll be doing from now on” might be to roll out some guidelines around folder structure and file naming? I’ve always worked with project folders as opposed to team member folders, but if you think that would ease the transition go for it!
              Ideally also it wouldn’t be a matter of copying to the server, but rather continuously and consistently working off of the server, otherwise you open yourself up to a whole series of broken links and overwritten files.

              1. Koko*

                I have important files that I keep on the server because others need to look at them occasionally and because this preserves the files in the event something happens to my laptop.

                But actually, the working versions of those files are all on my hard drive. Every time I finish updating them, I copy them to the server, overwriting the previous version. This way if someone opens up the version on the server and mucks around with it, whatever problem they created isn’t actually a problem. One of the files is a spreadsheet loaded with PivotTables and I found that initially everyone was scared to touch them until I reassured them that I overwrite it with the local copy from my own hard drive every night and they didn’t need to worry about messing something up if they wanted to change a filter.

            2. ket*

              Everyone *can* create their own, but this is another step that makes people nervous somehow — since they create it themselves and there isn’t a set-in-stone naming standard, there’s some thinking that has to be done, and they might do it wrong, someone might be annoyed at their file name, etc. These aren’t conscious thoughts, they are just tiny unconscious barriers. If you/your IT person creates a “personal” folder for every single person with a uniform naming standard, that’s a thinking step eliminated that may increase compliance. It’s just a symbol of legitimacy.

              Sometimes freedom & flexibility look appealing but don’t actually lead to action. No-brainer, no-thought structure helps.

            3. animaniactoo*

              Don’t leave this in people’s individual hands.

              Setup a barebones organizational structure and then tell people they can organize how they like within that. You’re the head of your team, make it happen for your team. Where you lead, others will follow. (This is me in my department although I am not officially the team lead. None of this kind of stuff was happening until I put the structure in place, and then magically it flowed as people found it so much easier to find each other’s stuff, figure out where they wanted to store stuff, etc.)

              You can also address their fear of their work being changed by allowing a password lock on the files to alter them, and showing them how to set it up.

          4. TootsNYC*

            This is useful, the individual folder.

            But it might also be good to set people up w/ shortcuts, etc., to reach it. We’re on Macs, and my people get set up with the proper folders in the sidebar Finder sidebar (for people who’ve never seen a Mac OS, it’s like a directory w/ an area that you can put frequently accessed folders or drives).

            Then it’s really easy for people to get there.

            1. Koko*

              This is way off-topic but the #1 feature I miss from working in a Mac office was the “Recent Files” location in the Finder sidebar. It would show you a list of every file you saved in the past X days, regardless of whether it was stored in the Downloads folder or Desktop or Documents or even if you accidentally saved your financial spreadsheet into your Personal Cat Photos folder by mistake.

              The Windows equivalent of just using Explorer’s search bar is woefully inferior.

          5. Anonamoose*

            Also, adding that particular folder as a ‘Recent Folder’ under Favorites (or even just adding the intended folder to Favorites) has made saving to our shared files an absolute dream.

        4. J.B.*

          File management is a colossal headache. It just is. In my workplace there was a push years ago to get everyone to save things on shared network drives, now that they do (often in personal folders) they are supposed to move the personal folders to a personal network drive. Which goes away when someone leaves.

          If you want this to happen, lay out a file structure. Someone will probably need to spend time enforcing it.

        5. Adlib*

          I totally feel your pain though! I work on a team of 2, and my coworker just can’t seem to ever put her files on the server so I do it whenever she sends me something. She claims its due to her connection since she works from home and lives pretty far out, but it’s still super inconvenient. She knows it’s an issue, just doesn’t seem to care, and she’s technically my supervisor so it’s just one of those things, I guess. If you’re in a position to make it a requirement, more power to you! Hope it works out.

        6. MoinMoin*

          If you ask for regular updates via email you could ask for a link to the document instead of an attached copy. That would require them to at least be regularly saving a copy to the shared drive (at least in my office you can’t link to a personal drive). It seems like there are plenty of good reasons for linking vs sending a copy- making sure you have access to the latest draft, keeping the number of different version floating around to a minimum, etc- it may be easier to argue.
          But I think Alison’s straightforward approach saying this is a requirement is probably best.

        7. Liz*

          Nothing new in terms of policy either. What you’re describing has been the policy here for donkey’s years.

          I would suggest you draw up a policy document stating the requirement, suggesting a folder structure, and sending it around to everyone. Then remind people at every team meeting for a couple of months. If necessary, get a sysadmin to move project folders *for* them.

          If it helps, the structure we use is folders by requesting department and then by ticket number/name. All code and files are stored there, as well as any spec/reference material provided by the requestor. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been thankful for this, especially when someone asks about something built/provided by a former team member.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Also: if you suggest a folder structure, then also CREATE that folder structure.

            It’s not an accident that the “place” is first in that old adage, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

            You make the place–create the folder, w/ a good name, etc.

            Then make it easy for people to find it when they’re saving a file through any kind of shortcuts or rerouting or resetting of “first choice of folder when you hit ‘save.’ “

        8. TootsNYC*

          In publishing, we can only check out files in our workflow through a “library” type software (K4, Woodwing, QPS in the olden days).

          Is there something similar you could use?

          That framework automates the checking of it out, archives versions when it gets checked back in, etc.

          Once upon a time K4 was going to work w/ all types of files, not just Adobe InDesign/InCopy/Photoshop, etc.

        9. smthing*

          Would you be OK with them keeping a personal back-up file on their hard drive? Tell them to actively work using the files on the shared drive, and if they are concerned about someone messing with their file, they are welcome to make a back-up copy of the file on their own hard drive at the end of each work day. Their own hard drive should only be for back-ups, active work should be on the shared drive. Perhaps that would alleviate their anxiety.

    2. scarequotes*

      A shared network drive is not usually just a departmental Google Drive account, in my experience. I certainly know of shared work on Google Drive, but a shared network drive is usually owned by the company and shared among people who work there. It’s literally a server-based hard drive that you can (and often should/must) use in addition to any storage that’s local to your machine.

      Dropbox would be the closest thing to a commercial version I’ve experienced, where you can literally drop any files and have them be available to other users with access to that drive.

    3. MillersSpring*

      IT usually can get on an employee’s computer and make their files accessible to their manager. If you do have one who’s suddenly out for a while or who leaves the company, their files can be moved to a shared drive. They’ll probably even exclude any folder labeled Personal.

      On a completely different tack, if your employees email you attachments regularly, you could reply each time asking them to instead send you a link to the item on the shared drive. That will help to get them in a new routine of using it.

        1. Tamara*

          That’s why I don’t save much to the shared drive where I work (but, to be honest, no one else where I work needs my documents). It’s just such a pain to find the proper place on the shared drive for everything. I find it easier to save it to the computer instead. Ugh, but I’m also at a place that loves Google Drive, so everything is spread across that and the shared drive and it’s just so… messy. Of course nothing is ever deleted from the shared drive, either.

      1. FunTillSomeoneLoosesAnEye*

        That is how we have it set up, the Shared Drive shows up as one’s I drive, so it shows up in “Computer” along with the C,D,E ect drives.

        We preach and preach about not saving work product on your computer’s drive, which goes often unheeded, and then someone’s drive dies and they are up you-kn0w-what creek because all their files are now gone.

        Everyone has a personal network drive, we call it H (Only they and admins can get to) and then group drives that they and those they collaborate with can access we call that the I drive.

        1. BusinessCat*

          We do the same at my organization and I’m always amazed that people don’t use it. From an end user perspective, it is exactly the same as saving to your computer’s drive, with the only exception being it’s not literally the My Documents folder. I use my personal network drive for everything and our IT support is always pleasantly surprised by that, making me think I’m the exception not the rule. Having gone through a hard drive crash on my personal laptop, it’s a lesson I take very seriously and think everyone should too!

          1. animaniactoo*

            I faked someone out that I was teaching to work differently by setting up a “My documents” folder in the location I wanted them to be saving in and resetting the computer to save to that one for “auto” stuff.

            Sometimes it’s not worth arguing about why over there is better.

          2. millicent*

            As an IT person who preaches constantly to save to the network I would be happy with you too and you would be an exception. We have had a few instances of ransomware at our company – we quickly restore files to the network, but the users hard drive is toast and we have told people that if it happens those files are gone – we are finally now seeing more stuff saved on the network.

        2. designbot*

          The other way to enforce this is to not give each employee a giant personal hard drive. I know my work wouldn’t fit on my hard drive if I tried.

          1. Observer*

            That tends to be pretty hard to do though. When was the last time you say a decent computer with less than 500gb storage. Unless you are fitting people with SSD drives, which can be substantially smaller. But those tend to be rather expensive, even at the smaller size. It also means a higher end computer, or someone actually having to physically change the computer. That’s just not a realistic scenario, I think.

            1. designbot*

              I’ve only got 216GB, just enough for my programs and my scratch disks. I’m not sure if this was a conscious decision on my employer’s part, or whether the way I work just means they haven’t had to upgrade in a while.

    4. Cece*

      My office uses Google Drive all the time, but never as a substitute for emailing attachments. We do a lot of collaborative work, and it’s incredibly effective for us to have live documents that multiple people can edit and comment on.

      It sounds like you’re being asked to use Drive like Dropbox or a network server, which it really isn’t. It also sounds like no one has taken ownership of managing and archiving files (at a previous job we had a traditional server – everything was clearly and logically filed!). On both counts, you have my sympathy.

    5. DeskBird*

      Can you give each of them a password to use to lock their documents? We have a shared network drive and there is a lot of trouble with people making changes to documents – or messing with formulas when they don’t know what they are doing (arrg!) so I lock most of my files on the network so they can be seen but not changed – and I make sure my manager has the password.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Sharepoint is actually one of the better environments for file sharing or collaboration. IMO it’s not good for much else, but once you understand it, it does a great job with file versioning, access control, and organization.

      But that doesn’t help the OP now. I’d make it mandatory, and remind them that if a desperately needed file can’t be found on the network drive and they’re not available, IT can be asked to log on to their computer as an administrator and look for that file. That’s what I would expect them to do if I had a crucial file on my hard drive.

      1. Judy*

        There are also version control systems that work with mechanical CAD systems. Several companies I’ve worked at have used those as collaboration tools Windchill by PTC (who has ProEngineer), EPDM (Solidworks). This class of software is called Product Data Management.

        Of course, this is more of an enterprise solution rather than just a team based one.

        1. Judy*

          I mean that these were originally meant to work for mCAD, but they’ve now been extended to handle documents, spreadsheets, etc that are needed for developing products.

      2. A. D. Kay*

        I work in tech and my hair would be on fire if project files weren’t saved to a shared drive! I echo what The Cosmic Avenger said about Sharepoint. Another option is to use dedicated shared drives set up with Tortoise SVN, but SVN might be challenging for nontech people.

      3. Just Another Techie*

        I have two degrees in Computer Science from two top-tier universities, and I still can’t for the life of me manage to not eff up my department’s sharepoint files. It happens at least once a quarter and is horribly frustrating. I wish we could just use Google Drive.

  2. scarequotes*

    OP3: My relationship with my dad and his side of the family is … highly infrequent, bordering on estrangement. In my experience, it just hasn’t come up at work. In most cases, I can participate in any discussion about family by discussing my in-laws or my mom, all of whom I get along with well. It’s not that I wouldn’t ever discuss the issue, but it really just hasn’t come up. No one has ever said “tell me more about your Dad” and been unsatisfied with the true, vague replies that I give.

    Alison’s answers are great if it comes up, and your mileage may vary, but I just wanted to mention that in my experience (which includes at least two “new workplace” scenarios), extensive discussion of my relationship with my parents has never been a big deal.

    1. Daisy*

      I agree, I don’t think asking about one’s parents is a getting-to-know-you thing that people do- particularly since the OP is married, they’ll ask about her husband if anything. I have actual non-work friends about whose parents I’d struggle to tell you anything.

      1. CeeCee*

        This is my feeling on the topic. When work people ask you about your family, they’re typically talking about your spouse and/or children if you have them. Most of your co-workers aren’t interested in your mom or dad.

        1. the gold digger*

          We had a big department meeting last year and asked the new people to give us a two-minute introduction of themselves, including some personal information. Almost everyone showed a photo of their spouses and children. One young woman from Germany – she’s 22 – is not married. She showed us photos of her mom, dad, brother, and dog. She was absolutely adorable.

          1. Anon Millennial*

            I’m not the OP but I’m in a similar situation. My boss (who’s very high up the latter) has gone so far as to attempting to pressure me into taking a purchased plane ticket. Is there anything I can say without going above his head?

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I’m not clear on what your situation is. Is it that your boss it trying to get you to go see your estranged family, or to attend a big department meeting and give a presentation about yourself?

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I usually dont know anything about my coworkers’ parents until one of them passes away.

    2. Joseph*

      Yeah. With the exception of your spouse/kids, the only scenarios where I’ve ever really heard family discussed are as follows:
      1.) When you specifically bring it up. Don’t do this, obviously.
      2.) Thanksgiving/holidays – but usually in a generic fashion “What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Traveling to see the family?”. If your plans don’t include your parents, then just list off your other plans without mentioning them.
      3.) Travel specifically related to your family. This is mostly a politeness of “oh, how was your trip to see the family in State?”. Seems like this won’t arise in your situation.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I was thinking it could feel like it was going to come up around the holidays, but if you just talk about what your plans are in a positive way, that should do it. “Are you going to see family for Thanksgiving?” “We’ll stay around here — Spouse and I love just hanging out for four days together!” or whatever.

      2. LBK*

        Yeah, my father died over 10 years ago but I’d bet that most of my coworkers don’t know that. It’s never really come up.

    3. Beezus*

      Yep, I have a weird relationship with my family, and “we’re not close” covers it. Occasionally, someone presses a little further, and they get a response of, “oh, you know, family can be complicated.” Anyone who presses beyond that is just being nosy and aggressive, and so I react accordingly – get super chilly, change the subject, and exit ASAP.

    4. Koko*

      I was just thinking, I’ve been in the professional workforce for a decade and I could probably count on one hand the number of times my parents/parents in general have come up in conversation. People are much more focused on talking about S/Os and, if they have them, kids.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Agreed, I think I’ve been asked where I grew up and if my family still lived there. But I don’t think there were any follow-up questions.

    5. Artemesia*

      This. My folks lived far away and so I didn’t see them often although there was no estrangement. In 45 years in the workplace I don’t recall anyone every asking probing questions about my family beyond ‘where did you grow up?’ If I was visiting them for a holiday I might get vague ‘did you have a good time’ social chatter but no one ever asked questions to which a vague response wasnt fine. And you don’t need to tell people ‘we aren’t close’ — you can give a more opaque response. If it is ‘how are your folks?’ the universal answer is ‘fine.’ If it is ‘are you going to get to see your folks for Christmas’ ‘Unfortunately not that year’ is fine. No one needs to know about the details of family dysfunction.

    6. Sydney Bristow*

      I agree. I cut my mother out of my life 13 years ago and it never comes up unless I bring it up. If someone asks about family, you can respond however you want. I’ll answer referring to my husband. My dad or inlaws are also possibilities. Nobody has ever specifically asked about my mother.

    7. Alton*

      Yeah, my family has only come up in the context of people asking me about my holiday or vacation plans. Or they’ll ask me if I have family in the area. If I say something about my family (“I’m going to my uncle’s house for Thanksgiving”), that can lead to polite questions. But I’ve never had anyone push for details or ask very personal questions or react strangely if I say that I just stayed in and had a quiet Thanksgiving or something.

      There are certainly busy bodies who are pushy or overly personal, but I think they’re in the minority. In my experience, if the topic of my relationship with my family comes up, it’s often after I’ve gotten to know someone to a point where a brief “We’re not very close” wouldn’t be too awkward.

    8. Pwyll*

      I think this is right, it comes up so rarely. I grew up in a household with two disabled parents, so questions like “What do your parents do?” and the like have always been awkward (if I say they’re disabled, people want to know how and why and what they did before that and whether they ever worked and why they don’t work and good grief mind your own business!). And I’m now estranged with my dad. So, I’ve definitely used “Oh, we’re not close” or “I grew up in a home of accountants” (my grandparents) with an immediate subject change. Both have worked for me without much issue.

    9. Venus Supreme*

      My dad’s side of the family lives in a different country (so no love lost there), and I’ve completely cut my father out of my life for the past few years due to personal family issues that are currently irreconcilable. At NewJob, a coworker is also an old elementary school classmate and knew my dad when he and I were very close. Needless to say, questions were asked about him and I simply said “I don’t talk to him anymore” with a shrug and switched the conversation to my mom, who’s my best friend.

      So, OP, it sounds like you’ll get more questions about your husband but if you get a situation like mine where people knew your parents pre-estrangement, I’d keep it short and simple. Everyone should respect and understand that every family has its issues and it’s something that doesn’t need to be discussed. (Also, it’s nothing to be “mildly embarrassed” about!)

    10. Jessesgirl72*

      The vague “We’re not close” will work in 99% of the cases. If it doesn’t, then luckily the OP has practical experience in setting boundaries, and should use those learned techniques to set them with the rude and nosy coworker.

      I’ve seen this question come up in other places, and it always boils down to being a fear the OP has, rather than something that is a common occurrence. As she says herself, there is a measure of embarrassment involved. But there is nothing to be ashamed of- even if the limits she set were overdue, she has set them now, and that’s something to be proud of!

    11. Liz*

      Yup! I always just focus on “It’s so great you are close with your family!” and get them talking about their stuff. On the very rare occasion it comes around to me, a quick “Oh we’re not really close” and then another question about their plans works just fine.

  3. SusanIvanova*

    #3 Maybe I’ve been lucky, but nobody at work has ever asked about my parents. If someone else talks about theirs, that only has to lead into you talking about yours if you want to – and I never have.

    #5 From my experience, you probably need more than just to save things on a shared file, you need an organized file management system. Anything from a wikimedia installation to the “source code” databases software teams use (it can be used for more than just source code). That way any changes can be tracked and reverted – not just when someone else makes changes, but when the original author needs to backtrack. Some of them also let your teammates preview any changes before they’re committed.

    1. Jen RO*

      Yes, I was going to suggest source control as well… but given that the team finds it too hard to save on a network drive, I can just imagine the first time someone forgets to update befire comitting and all hell breaks loose…

    2. seejay*

      Also drawback of source control: I’ve seen software engineers struggle with understanding how to use it. We introduced it to my team and I have two devs who *still* struggle and fail with it. I’m constantly going in and cleaning it up (which… kind of isn’t what you’re supposed to do?!?!)

      Part of my inwardly cringes at letting non-engineers near such beasts. I mean, I *know* non-engineers and non-software people can and do use source control totally fine and with high levels of skill but when you watch engineers create three branches that were supposed to be tags instead… or you clean up the redundant tags (because there’s 50 of them, sometimes up to five on one check in, all variations of v1.5.0-rc.1 / 1.5.0-rc.1–chrome / v1.5.0_rc.1 YOU GET MY POINT) and then the next day someone pushed up their changes and ALL THE TAGS GOT PUSHED UP AGAIN, you just… yeah.

      I don’t want anyone touching source control anymore at this point. It makes seejay cry in her poptarts.

      1. Tau*

        IDK, this comment makes me sad… source control is such an incredibly useful thing, and although there can be a lot of complexity in the process (especially if you use something like Git) there doesn’t *have* to be.

        I admit I also find it a little shocking that you have two *devs* who can’t get the hang of source control, since in my opinion that’s, like, one of the absolutely fundamental skills of the professions.

        1. seejay*

          One dev is on their way out, the other is pretty entrenched and not much I can do about it. It took several years before source control set up for this engineering team so it’s not surprising some of them, especially the older ones, aren’t familiar with using it.

          There’s been tutorials and lessons and guidance and “this is how to use it” talks, yet I’m still fixing things every few weeks.

          Hence… crying in the poptarts.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            Yeah, I would say those devs are the problem, not the source control.

            I would bet the inflexibility of the “entrenched” dev causes a lot of problems beyond his inability to figure out source control. I feel for you and for everyone else on his team.

          2. halpful*

            yeah… when people don’t like a system, it’s amazing how their apparent IQ drops.

            “I checked in the binary, isn’t that enough?”
            “oh checkouts are so hard, I just copied the folder from Bob”
            “but if I did a merge request, then there’d be a merge commit cluttering the log!”

            I’ve caught myself doing it at times too – it really does feel like I get temporarily stupider.

      2. Jen RO*

        On the other hand, it can be much simpler! We use SVN in my documentation team, and we don’t have branches, tags, etc. We basically have several bunches of htm files, and all the writers need to do is update before they start working and commit when they are done.

        (And then I fix the conflicts when, inevitably, they forget to update before they start making changes… but it’s not as bad as your situation.)

        1. Mockingjay*

          At New Job, I am trying to explain to the doc team how source code / software dev tools could redefine their world. There is a system available for use. They have no background on it, so they have been resistant to the idea. I’ve made friends with the web developer, though, and he will set me up a sandbox so I can demo it. The doc team has test procedures in HTML, but store them on a hard drive, then export to flat files to be put in a separate CM system. The test defects are stored in yet another system. And so on…

          (Training is available, so I wouldn’t be throwing them at a new system unprepared.)

          Ah well. Progress is slow.

        2. Trig*

          I was going to recommend something like SVN! We use Tortoise SVN on my doc team, and it’s based on your own files in the document explorer. It would take someone tech-savvy to set up, but once it’s there, I really don’t think it’s that hard, especially because it’s UI-based, and just uses icon overlays. So it’s not all that different from just using a regular file system.

          The version of SVN we use (with Tortoise SVN) warns you if you try to commit something that’s been updated! It’s great. I mean, doesn’t help if the writer made a bunch of changes before trying to commit, and now has to run a diff to figure it out, but at least that’s on the writer to sort out, not someone in the backend.

          1. seejay*

            We had SVN before I got there. What I discovered was essentially hundreds of folders, each with different versions, all in a big tree structure.

            Methinks that’s not how source control is supposed to work.

            For the most part, the devs have the basics down, but once in awhile, I get something like the 50 tags showing back up after I cleaned them up or “which branch do I use?” and I go check and there’s a new branch that’s named… exactly like a tag. Then I’m wondering “how the hell did someone do that and WHY?”

      3. Joseph*

        Re: Redundant tags.
        My last company (not a software company) would save draft copies of all reports. And whenever someone reviewed it or made changes, they would append their initials/name to the end of it, but without changing the version number. So you’d end up with some monster filename like Report_v1_John_KB_Steve_John.doc … and then need to figure out whether that’s newer or older than Report_v1_John_KB_Steve.doc, Report_v1_John_KB_Steve_Sarah.doc, or Report_v2.doc.
        Yes, it was exactly as horrific and inefficient as it sounds.

        1. seejay*

          Tagging isn’t an issue… *if you clean up the damn tags*. We have a unique software app that reaches out into the source control repo and looks for the latest tag, compiles and zips up the code there. If you want a specific checkin though, you can tack on the tag in the app so you can grab that one. I’ve found a little workaround with this since I’m constantly checking in and sometimes want it to grab the latest instead of manually uploading so I use dummy temp tags, usually underscored “wip” tags but when I’m done my work, I go in and I clean those out.

          It never fails that in a few weeks, there’s 10 to 20 dummy temp tags scattered all over a repo, left by other devs, who never clean them out. I’m regretting teaching them that trick.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      Was coming to recommend same thing! Having some form of source control where you can track changes and get previous versions may allay a lot of the fears.

    4. MashaKasha*

      Came here to suggest source control as well! This way, if somebody “messes with” your file, you’ll be able to tell who it was and when.

  4. doreen*

    OP 3, if you’re going to a new workplace they don’t know anything about you. They don’t know if you have siblings or if you’re married or if your parents are alive. If they ask (and they might) whether you spent time with your family over the holidays, they’re not going to ask questions about who exactly is the “family” that you spent holidays with and ask you to explain why you spent the holidays with your in-laws or your cousins rather than your parents. Nor are they likely to ask questions if you say you and your husband celebrate the holidays together or that you celebrate the holidays with a group of close friends or that you don’t celebrate the holidays at all. It’s just small talk.

    You would only be likely to get questions from people who notice a change- for example, if every other year you talked about your plans to visit your family and now this year you aren’t. But new co-workers by definition wouldn’t be in that group.

    1. Yetanotherjennifer*

      + 1. OP, it seems like you are almost imagining your new coworkers as having a list of required family members that they will interrogate you about one by one. Doreen is right, the questions will be very open ended and you will have plenty of room to give the answers you want. “Do you see family at Christmas?” “My husband and I usually spend Christmas on our own and then on the day after we go to a movie. I’m looking forward to seeing New Release. What do you do for the holidays?”

      I’m also reminded of that line from Downton Abbey where the Dowager Countess says people don’t get divorced, they just don’t get to see enough of each other. That’s all about the public face of a relationship. You can give the illusion of a good relationship with your family if you use a wistful or regretful tone when you mention you don’t see them often. And add an “everyone is so busy these days. ” We have a great relationship with my in-laws and they only live a couple hours away but we hardly see them because they’re so busy with their hobbies and travel. People don’t expect you to have a bad relationship with family and won’t see one unless you make it obvious.

    2. Bwmn*

      I agree with this and also want to emphasize that so much of this is small talk oriented. I’m Jewish and while I’m entirely not observant, I’ve worked in the same place for a few years now and without hesitation the whole “oh, what are your holiday plans for after Thanksgiving” have already started. At work it’s a bit of a mix of “will you be taking time off” – but it also really just seems to be force of habit. Even after we get to the whole “well my parents don’t celebrate Christmas, so no I’m flying back to be with them” it will often continue with “but maybe you go home to celebrate Hanukkah?”

      This isn’t everyone, but it’s just another example where a lot of this is routine small talk for people this time of year more so than an actual interest into the details of your life.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Also remember WHY they are asking.

      If they say, “Do you get to go home for the holidays?” or, “Are you going to see your folks?” they’re thinking, “I hope she’s going to have some emotional closeness and nostalgia in her holiday plans.”

      So just answer that concept: “Oh, we’ll be w/ my husband’s family, it’s so much fun.” Or, “This is the year we’re going to do Christmas at home in our jammies.” And make it sound like the positive in your life that they are wishing for you.

      It’s almost always smart to talk about the positives (what you ARE doing for holidays or for closeness) and not about the negatives (who you are AVOIDING or where you AREN’T going).

      W/ parents, I might not suggest people say, “we’re not close.” (bcs it is weird to be “not close” with one’s parents, and it hints at drama). That’s not so bad for siblings, esp. if it’s “we’re not that close anymore.” But otherwise I’d stick with, “We don’t get to see much of them.” It just dials down the drama.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #5 many network drives also keep versions of the documents. People shouldn’t worry about others clobbering them because they can usually restore the older version.

    The only time we had problems was someone that thought their solutions were so brilliant that he purposely destroyed the earlier versions. We eventually fired him. Even if the version is deleted, IT can usually restore from backup.

    In short, your employees fears aren’t the issue. Maybe have IT lead a tutorial on the system if necessary. Then tell your people it is part of their performance evaluation.

    One thing though. Sometimes people don’t want to put half-completed work on a server because they’re scared they’ll be judged on it. I’ve had it happen myself – someone goes into my working folder and then complains about the “poor quality” item. You must be willing to protect your team from these types of accusations. Anyone grabbing work from an “in work” folder is getting a product with zero quality guarantees.

    1. Alienor*

      Yeah, I’m happy to save final work on a shared drive, but I don’t want in-progress files there for exactly that reason. Not only do people not need to see my messy documents full of placeholders, but I’ve experienced situations where someone got hold of an unapproved draft version of something, stuck it into a template and sent it out to thousands of people. No thank you!

      1. Yrill*

        We solve this at my office by labeling things “Draft” and “Final”. You don’t send anything out or include it in a presentation unless it says “Final” or “Client”.

        1. esra*

          I was going to say, a ‘Draft’ or ‘Working’ folder solves that issue. Also a good place to keep different versions.

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, I add WIP to the name of anything that’s not ready to be sent out (for my own benefit just as much as my coworkers’!).

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes, this – plus dating the documents too, and deleting off the drafts once the final is finished (or just renaming it)

        4. Alienor*

          We do too, but somehow that never stops anyone from taking the draft copy “just for placement,” and then the next thing you know a VP is asking how it got sent out. :-/

      2. Camellia*

        Came here to say exactly this!

        My large company gives us our own secure folder on the network, that only we can access, and which is automatically backed up, therefore we don’t have to save stuff on our hard drives and actually have a great incentive not to. We only store completed documents on a shared folder.

        We all have laptops that we take home each day, so if we are out for any length of time we can log on and send our docs to the person who will pick up the work.

      3. Kelly L.*

        I hear you. I’ve worked in places where you could send out a draft, specifically say that all you’re asking about is the layout, and get back 10 angry emails about why it all just says lorem ipsem.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      We have folders on a shared drive that have our names on it. So if I’m not available for whatever reason, someone can pick up what I’ve been doing, but it’s understood that my folder is my stuff.

      (Still use personal hard-drive as well depending on what it is – there are 4 places I’d put things depending. Own HD, named shared folder, public shared folder, source controlled folder.)

    3. Xarcady*

      My job has specific file naming conventions just for this reason. You can glance at the very end of a file name and see if it is a work in progress, completed, reviewed, in need of revisions, approved, final draft, obsolete, etc. And who the last person to work on it was. Older files get put in an “Obsolete” folder.

      We have multiple people in multiple departments who need access to files. This method isn’t very high tech, but it works.

      1. Clewgarnet*

        We have something very similar, and it’s rigorously enforced in order to keep our ISO9001 certification, which is required for several of our biggest contracts.

  6. seejay*

    LW#3: I live 3000 miles away from my family and while I’m not estranged from them, the actual physical distance makes it easier to bypass questions of a personal nature when I feel I have to because I’m literally not lying when I say “oh we’re not close”. I might talk to my mom once a week but seriously… we’re physically not close and I only see them, at most, two to three times a year. (and thanks to immigration screw ups this year, I’m not even seeing them this xmas, THANKS OBAMA). (just kidding on that one, it’s just delays on my visa renewal right now). For the most part, you can say you’re not close, you don’t talk/see each other often, etc. *Most* people won’t pry. If you get someone that does, well then you have another problem which is a coworker with a lack of tact. :/

    LW #5: We have a shared drive set up at our office, but due to the arrangement of how it’s set up, it’s really not optimal so I know the bulk of my personal team winds up saving everything under the “My Documents” on their PCs and anything we want to share or have publicly available to the team is on the network drive. The one solution to this though is the company has the “My Documents” set up to be on the network so that’s all backed up to the network. It’s not publicly accessible in general, but the IT team can get at it *and* in case of accident/hard drive crash, all our work is recoverable, so at least that’s a half-way point. Is something like that feasible? It would give your teammates the feeling of control that their files are still private and under their control at least, while keeping them within the company’s control.

  7. Parcae*

    OP3: Alison’s advice is very good, but if you’re looking for something more comforting for the questioner, I’ve had great success with answering the question I *wish* they had asked. People want to get to know you, and it can help if you have some harmless and vaguely true information to feed them. Someone asks an intrusive question about a medical procedure? Thank them for their concern and tell them your pain management is going well, or that your BFF calls everyday to make sure you’re OK, or that you have a favorite song you blast whenever you’re feeling down. The more positive the better, assuming your goal is to distract them. You don’t have to name your condition, or tell them how long you were hospitalized, or itemize your medications. It won’t help with the genuinely nosy people, but anyone who’s asking out of real concern for you will usually be appeased.

    In the case of unwanted questions about family… I’m lucky enough to have a good relationship with my parents, but they live far away, and I’m partnerless and childless at an age and in a cultural context where that is Officially Weird, so I sort of get where you’re coming from. I figure that the person asking about my family just wants to know who my people are, so I tell them that my cousin X and I get together at the holidays, and that I’m so happy that my friends A and B live nearby. That seems to satisfy everyone.

    1. seejay*

      I’m partnerless and childless at an age and in a cultural context where that is Officially Weird, so I sort of get where you’re coming from. I figure that the person asking about my family just wants to know who my people are, so I tell them that my cousin X and I get together at the holidays, and that I’m so happy that my friends A and B live nearby.

      I talk about my cats. That… doesn’t help with assuaging the “Officially Weird” title, if anything it cements it, along with the partnerless/childless part (I do have a partner but it’s a non-conventional relationship and kind of hard to explain and it eventually becomes pretty obvious that I’m not married and live alone so hence… partnerless regardless of my dating status but whatever.) But yeah. Cats. That’s always fun to mention in conversation. So bring that up as family discussions!

      1. Parcae*

        Totally! I don’t have pets myself, but I see how that could work. Or start babbling about your gardening, or your love for Sports Team, or the really great book you read last week. Anything.

        You risk getting labelled as the person who likes That Thing, but I’d rather be known as the weird cat person or the Battlestar Galactica obsessive than the weirdo who won’t talk to people. For a known weirdo introvert, I care a lot about what my co-workers think of me. The trick is finding a low intensity way of dealing with that.

        1. Liz*

          Wish we all worked together. I just out myself early as “a nerdy chick who is into gaming and sci fi and all that geeky cool stuff.” Since the business is pretty whitebread teapot old school, that’s not very common.

          It also seems like dog owns is fine and healthy, but cats are just another checkmark on the weird side. Which is fine…I guess.

          1. seejay*

            I’m in software dev which is predominately male dominated but my team is mostly female, but alas, I’m the only weird geeky chick on it! ^_^ My team likes me for being the weird one though, I bring the uniqueness in and it amuses them.

            Of course, being in a city known for its weirdness also helps!

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        Most people would rather talk about your pets and their pets than parents or siblings anyway! Seriously.

      3. Jadelyn*

        My childfree older coworker talks about her husband and her horse. I talk about my partner and my cat and my car. My childfree grandboss talks about his husband and friends. We’ve all got Our People*, and that’s what matters.

        *or other entities with whom we have an emotional relationship

    2. ZVA*

      I figure that the person asking about my family just wants to know who my people are… This is so true and answering the question you wish they had asked is great advice. Most people just want to connect, and while they may not always go about that in the most thoughtful way, focusing on the basic impulse behind the questions helps get me in the right frame of mind to answer them.

    3. LaurenB*

      I love that so much. I know that there are awful, nosy people out there, but I really believe that there are more who just want to connect and would actually prefer to have a cheerful conversation about something that’s important to the other person than a tense conversation where their innocent, well-meant question is treated as an unwelcome interrogation.

    4. TootsNYC*

      ” answering the question I *wish* they had asked”

      Sometimes that’s the question they *meant* to ask.

      Answer the acceptable goodwill behind the question (even if–or especially if–you think there might not be goodwill but instead prying or judgmentalism).

  8. Cat steals keyboard*

    OP3, I’m estranged from my family (some disowned me – long story – and I walked away from the rest for good reason). People who aren’t estranged, and have never had someone say something like it’s your mother/don’t you want to make it right before they die/other BS you may have heard (and which I hope nobody leaves in the comments), may not appreciate the fact that you can live in fear of being asked because estrangement can get weird, defensive reactions and because having a family you see is presented as normative. Sure, people may not ask but sometimes they do. I really feel for you and have been there.

    Firstly, try to remember that people ask to make small talk and the question is less of a big deal to them than the answer is to you. They might be thinking: I’ve been talking about me and now I need to ask you a question. Or just filling silence.

    You can dodge or sidestep the question e.g. if they ask where your parents live you say where you’re from.

    You can just change the subject. If needed you can say it’s complicated, and change the subject.

    As this is work, if someone pushes (which nobody should) you can say: as I said, it’s complicated and I’d prefer not to discuss it at work.

    If all else fails: you weren’t to know but this is upsetting for me so I really would rather not discuss it at work.

    Also, lying is kind of a black and white thing. Sometimes it’s reasonable to tell a white lie if it’s to protect yourself. It’s not all or nothing, lying or not, putting walls up if you don’t tell or having to be completely vulnerable if you do. Though it can feel like it, because the question means that to you.

    1. Catnip Melba Toast*

      Yes to all that Cat Steals Keyboard said. I would like to add one thing as someone who has had almost 20 years of experience navigating awkward family related work place conversation due to an estrangement. I’ve found that some people would become obsessively curious about why I wasn’t close with my family if I tried to use the wording being suggested by AAM. Instead, I came up with a breezy sounding explanation that my parents are big into volunteering and spend all their holidays with the people from those charity groups. The beauty of the statement is that it is partly true, and it doesn’t imply that there is anything wrong with our relationship.

      1. Cat steals keyboard*

        Ah yes, the obsessive curiosity. Wtf is with that? Those people are part of the reason why some of us can get anxious about being asked.

        But if you meet one of those, the thing to remember is that you don’t have to make it not-awkward for them.

        1. Emma*

          If people get obsessively nosy, I like to go with the complete, unvarnished, dispassionate truth. (For better or for worse, I have zero shame.) The only caution I have is that I have met a few people who won’t be put off by that, but intrigued, and will then hound you for every salacious detail.

          For them, I make shit up – absurd, mutually exclusive nonsense. This is how one ex-coworker of mine came to half-believe that my father was a pirate who worked for the CIA. (If you’re that gullible, I have no shame about seeing what I can get you to believe, either.)

        2. Temperance*

          So on days when those questions make me angry instead of sad, I’ll go into detail about what my childhood was like and how my mother acts now. It makes people uncomfortable, and they’ll sometimes try to justify her actions, but street I keep going, they back down.

          Having a mentally ill parent is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but sometimes I wish that these clods just had a small taste of what we go through.

    2. Cat steals keyboard*

      Also. Sometimes when I have these worries it is because I am both afraid of being asked but also feeling alone with my feelings. I hope you are taking good care of yourself.

    3. Fiona the Lurker*

      Oh, that “don’t you want to make it right before they die” line is such a crock! I always used to answer that with “Well, if *they* want to make it right before they die they know where to find me”. I’m never going to participate in any conversation which assumes the fault for the estrangement is all on one side! Plus, it helps not only to think “I’m estranged from my parents” but sometimes “my parents are estranged from me”; the point is, they made choices, too.

      1. Cat steals keyboard*

        I have been known to say: well of course I wish that was possible but unfortunately I’m not a wizard.

      2. Emma*

        Oh, very much this. That line and the related forgive-and-forget bullshit make me see red. You can’t forgive a wrong that is still ongoing, and it’s not automatically on the child to make things right again. (Child or lower-status party, I guess I should say. I see more women getting pushed to forgive their male relatives than vice-versa, more children getting pushed to forgive parents than the other way ’round. I find that … suspicious.)

        I think people often put themselves not in the shoes of the person who cuts off contact, but the person who gets cut off. They don’t think of what it’d take for them to cut off contact with their parents; they think of how hurt they’d be if their kids cut off contact with them. And it’s really impossible to explain to people who have good relationships with all their relatives what it’s like not to. If you’ve grown up with reasonable people, who you can actually work out issues with, who actually respect you, it’s hard to wrap your head around a familial relationship without that.

        I’ve had people literally tell me that the only reason I haven’t been able to work things out with my father is that I am being stubborn and won’t talk to him, because if I did obviously we’d be able to resolve our issues. I cannot convince them that it’s been tried and won’t work, because it works for them and their father, and since mine is not in jail and is an apparently upstanding person, obviously it should work with him too. (Of course, the idea that he might be the stubborn and uncommunicative one was dismissed out of hand.)

        I try to be patient with people, but mostly I just never tell them about my family issues, and go off on occasional rants about the inappropriateness of pushing people to automatically forgive/pacify their relatives. I think it’s a toxic attitude that covers for a lot of abuse, and I am not shy about saying so.

        1. Cat steals keyboard*

          I had someone tell me that if I felt sad due to being estranged it was my doing as I made that choice. It wasn’t a choice I wanted to make – it was just the least-worst option available to me. It was no more a choice than a pane of glass choosing to smash after having enough stones thrown at it.

          I find the most defensive people are those with toxic relatives themselves.

          1. Emma*

            I’m less charitable. I think the ones who get most defensive/nasty/pushy about it are the toxic relatives. My father, for example, would regularly go on about the duties children owed their parents, which included automatic forgiveness and covering for their criminal behavior (we had an epic fight about that one), and he always sides with the aggrieved man/father in any situation. He thinks all of his children, who are all estranged from him, are shitty little losers, and he cannot see that the common denominator is … him.

            I was talking more about the folks who are obviously well-meaning (or, well, kind of naive, honestly). I’ve met people for whom the idea that a parent might not love or respect their child is so unthinkable that they can’t really comprehend a parent-child relationship that doesn’t have that, or at least not one where the parent isn’t a total monster. These are the ones who go into conversations with me assuming that my father must love me or respect me, so therefore I can totally make the relationship work out. They don’t get that they’re asking me to build a house without a foundation.

            1. blackcat*

              This: “I’ve met people for whom the idea that a parent might not love or respect their child is so unthinkable that they can’t really comprehend a parent-child relationship that doesn’t have that, or at least not one where the parent isn’t a total monster.”

              My relationship with my parents isn’t great, but it’s fine. I’ve always had faith that they love me and want what’s best for me–it’s just their ideas of what’s best for me haven’t always lined up with mine.

              When I was a teacher and I had parents coming in with an adversarial attitude (generally over their kids grades–it was a prep school), I would always, always keep in mind that we both wanted the child to be successful and happy, even if we had different visions of what that entailed for the kid. And then, once, I met a set of parents who truly did not want their child to be happy. All they wanted was a particular version of success, and they took the attitude that happiness didn’t matter. At. All. It wasn’t as though they thought teenage happiness didn’t matter, and what mattered was their child’s life down the road (which is the attitude of a lot of overbearing parents). They genuinely only wanted X, Y, and Z life achievements for their child, with zero regard for the kids happiness, present or future. To them, their kid was a status symbol, not a person.

              Once I realized that that was their stance, I sent them to go talk to my boss. I had no idea how to deal with the situation–I was young, and these people had broken my fundamental assumptions about how parenting works. My boss–being more experienced and having encountered parents who don’t think their children are people–handled the immediate situation. My long term strategy was just to be extra nice to that kid and make lots of comments about the importance of a balanced, happy life. I still worry about her.

            2. knitcrazybooknut*

              Often I’ll get a sickly sweet smile on my face and say, Gosh, I’m so happy you’ve got such amazing parents that you can’t even imagine any other possibility!

            3. SusanIvanova*

              I got someone to re-examine his assumptions once by pointing out that “honor your parents” implies a corollary of “be worthy of honor”. You could see the lightbulb go on over his head.

          2. Temperance*

            I find that it’s typically toxic people or those with enmeshed families who are the most judgemental about this.

          3. Jadelyn*

            “It was no more a choice than a pane of glass choosing to smash after having enough stones thrown at it.” Exactly. I made a choice only insofar as I chose to protect myself from a toxic relationship that was actively harming me on an ongoing basis. I’d be thrilled if my dad called me today and said “Hey, I’ve stopped drinking, and I’ve come to realize I have a lot to apologize and try to make up for, if you’re willing to hear it.” But until that happens, my mental health and emotional safety are more important than some nebulous “obligation” to have a relationship with my father when said father is an abusive alcoholic. My choice was “I will no longer be your verbal punching bag.” That choice necessarily entailed “I will no longer be available to you for verbal abuse or any other kind of abuse”, but the choice wasn’t about choosing estrangement, it was about setting a very reasonable boundary and letting him choose if he could live with it. Spoiler alert, he couldn’t, and THAT is why we don’t speak anymore.

      3. Myrin*

        Also, usually what I hear from people who cut off their relatives is that, upon the parents’ death, they don’t actually feel bad about not reconciling or wish they had done so. So it’s not like the “You will regret it once they’re dead and you haven’t spoken!” is usually true.

        1. Emma*

          I think another part of this is – cutting off contact can be like a death. Like, I am pretty sure that my father is still alive, somewhere far away from me. But that’s really a piece of trivia to me. I grieved what good there was in our relationship when I finally took that step of cutting contact. Mostly, though, what I felt was a vast relief. I don’t even think about him most days any more – I think about my dead loved ones far more than I think about him.

          If anything, I’d want to know where he’s buried so I could piss on his grave.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            Amen to this. I’d already grieved the loss of that relationship long before my father died so when it did, it was a pretty matter of fact thing. My brother on the other hand…

            Anyway, OP, regardless of what you say, just say it calmly and matter of factly and then move the conversation along.

            1. AnonAnalyst*

              I cut off contact with several of my relatives years ago and have had the same experience as a couple of them have passed away. It sort of weirded me out the first time because I felt like I should feel something now that that person was gone, but I eventually realized that I had already processed the loss of that relationship so nothing had really changed. It sounds terrible, but in one case, I just felt relief that one of them was gone.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          My mother can’t wait until both of her parents die. And she told her sister not to tell her when their dad goes because she’s not coming to a funeral.

          Yeah. She will be one of those people who shrugs and moves on with life guilt-free, as she should. Her parents are monsters.

          1. ZVA*

            Same with my dad, honestly. He and my mom both speak openly about how relieved they will be when his parents die. His parents are awful, abusive, irredeemable people; I’ve experienced it for myself firsthand. My dad’s not sure he’s even going to go to their funeral(s).

          2. Elizabeth*

            I have a friend whom I’ve promised to hire a band and we’ll dance the karabuschka on her mother’s grave, once the old bat is gone. She recognizes how her mother treats her, as does everyone in her life that matters. If someone doesn’t Get It, they don’t stay around in her life.

      4. Jadelyn*

        THANK YOU. My dad knows where I am. He has my contact info. If he decides he wants to make amends, I’ve told him point-blank I’m more than happy to work with him on it – I’m just not *doing the work for him* anymore and I expect actual accountability from him. Since that’s highly unlikely to ever happen, I’m not going to waste time feeling regret over something that is out of my power to control.

    4. OP3*

      Cat steals keyboard–I think this is the case–that even if no one explicitly asks about family relationships I’m likely to read that question into more innocuous ones. I like Alison’s language, but I think arming myself with a white lie (“oh, they travel a lot”) and some default subjects I can pivot to will make me feel a lot more confident.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I use “I keep them at a distance” when pushed about my relationship with my parents. No estranged, but sometimes strained relationship that I currently have.
        OP3 – good luck!

      2. Dot Warner*

        If you’re planning to stay in at the holidays, try saying something like, “Oh, just staying in and watching Netflix… did you catch Stranger Things?”

        I have a sibling I don’t get along with and don’t see much of. If people ask whether we’re close I just say, “No. Did you see the [big sports event/new movie/funny sketch on SNL] the other day?”

        People usually get the hint with these strategies – for the rare idiot who does not, I like Temperance’s suggestion about the unvarnished truth. Good luck!

      3. ZVA*

        Yeah, I think the key here is that, while these are understandably loaded questions for you, they mean much less to the questioners… so a brief/light response like “Oh, we normally spent the holidays with my husband’s family! What are your plans this year?” should seem totally normal to them.

    5. anonykins*

      If you have a spouse or significant other, I’ve found it really easy to just adopt my husband’s family as my own for these purposes (YMMV depending on your relationship with in laws). Any time someone asks if I’m seeing family, what I’m doing for the holidays, etc, I immediately come back with “We’re spending time with Spouse’s parents” or “(Spouse’s) nieces are out of town, so it’ll be just the two of us.” I haven’t had anyone push back thusfar, but I also have a pretty awesome workplace in that regard.

      It was definitely hard and awkward and icky for the first few years, and the best thing I did was move super far away for a while so that I could work over and get through some of that awkwardness, since it was assumed I wouldn’t be seeing my family due to distance. Not an option for everyone, though.

    6. J.B.*

      I wanted to say, I’m glad everyone responding to this has done what they need to do for themselves. I’m sorry about what came from your family :(

    7. Dot Warner*

      Firstly, try to remember that people ask to make small talk and the question is less of a big deal to them than the answer is to you. They might be thinking: I’ve been talking about me and now I need to ask you a question. Or just filling silence.

      Yes, this! I’m one of those people who asks coworkers about family/what they’re doing at the holidays but it’s not in an effort to be nosy or make you feel crappy. I care about you and want to know what you do outside of work and this is one of my conversation starters for when it’s been dull and we need to pass the time. IDGAF if you’re spending the holidays with your blood relatives, your in-laws, your cats, or Netflix and a bottle of wine – just making small talk!

      1. Liz*

        I recommend then you just go with “So anything new on the horizon?” Still accomplishes the same goal but leaves the answer completely open to what the other person truly cares about and truly wants to share.

        1. Dot Warner*

          Should’ve made this clearer: when I ask about what people are doing for holidays/vacations, I usually phrase it as, “Doing anything fun for Thanksgiving?” rather than specifically asking about family.

  9. HardwoodFloors*

    I had an oldjob where supervisors had nothing to do so they complained daily that files needed to be on the share drive. This ended up with them accusing people of not getting the most recent file versions on the share drive when in fact people were updating information on the files at the same time that the bosses were looking. I went to nextjob where information was always on the share drive and while there lost 3 days worth of algorithms and calculations when a network backup failed and the work vanished!

    1. Voice Of Experience*

      OP5: I’m so appalled! And it’s always the OLD folks that do this, isn’t it? They drive me nuts. I soooo hate to hear, “I’ve been doing it this way for 30 years blah blah…” and then they have old unsupported computers squirreled away that they do their projects on and they BRAG about it, “look at my DOS!” so no one can take away their job security.

      I’m an older worker. I’m well versed in most source control systems. I keep up with new technology. I program on more platforms with more languages than most. Yet because people tend to put me in the same group with those old fuds, job hunting is a nightmare.

      So, for you younger workers reading this, please don’t judge all older workers by the fud standards. Many of us keep our skills and attitudes up to date and we have a ton of valuable experience.

      If you have an office fud, get rid of them asap. Really. I’ve had to take over some of those fud projects. It’s always a nightmare. They retire, their ancient development box breaks, there’s nothing like it available anymore and NO support anywhere.

      Barring that, make it company policy, and ENFORCE it, that all personnel use source control and current dev tools. Source control tracks ALL versions, check ins and outs, and you can assign permissions so no one can change a file or even see it without permission. I’ve been around long enough to see companies severely hurt by not using source control.

      1. S*

        It’s not always the old folks. Plenty if younger people are just as clueless. Just because they grew up with the internet does not make them knowledgeable in IT. At last job, a young, 20 something lost all her files because her computer crashed and she was not using the provided personal folder on the network. This same person, when saving a document in a regularly used application, would never change the path of the file she was saving so it would always go to the default folder on the c drive.

  10. Daisy Steiner*

    #1 Well done for being aware that you might have drunk a bit too much for your own comfort that night. I know exactly how you feel, but I’d try not to stress about it too much – just take it as a good lesson to stick to your (very sensible) two-glass limit in future so you don’t have to go through these worries again!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      And it really sounds like OP1 was tipsy, not drunk. OP, I think you are stressing about it mainly because it’s more than you usually drink. But everything you described sounds to me like someone who was slightly tipsy and simply having a good time. You didn’t do anything remotely embarrassing! Please stop worrying yourself over this because I bet no one even noticed.

    2. Artemesia*

      I would certainly not go around asking people if you misbehaved — that will reframe the way they all think of you. This is one to push past and not do in the future. Don’t create the reputation by your behavior now that you are trying to avoid.

    3. Venus Supreme*

      Yup! OP1: I think you were more gregarious than usual, which probably startles you when you re-hash that party. So long as you didn’t black out, vomit, or do anything offensive, I think you’re in the clear :)

    4. aebhel*

      Yeah, this. OP, I think most of us have been there, and it doesn’t sound like you did anything inappropriate. And the truth is, if there was a lot of drinking going on at the event, being mildly tipsy might not even have been noticeable to others. I think a lot of people–especially people who are usually very reserved–tend to be hyper-conscious of their own behavior when others around them wouldn’t even notice anything.

      In the future, stick to your two-glass rule so you don’t have to worry about it, but I don’t think this is the end of the world.

  11. Mike C.*

    OP5: You wrote the following-

    but one thing I’ve heard is they think someone will mess with their work (not likely unless we have the aforementioned situation of being out of the office unexpectedly or even planned but an unexpected question comes up)

    Did you ever follow up on this and ask for specific examples? I know it’s not directly related to the main issue, but if this is actually going on no plan to force people to use a network drive will work in the long term.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I have actually had this happen with shared Dropbox folders – someone doesn’t realize how it works, trashes a file in the shared folder, then the person who needs it goes looking for it and it’s not there. The other issue I’ve had is when I’m travelling for work, and there are stretches of time where I can’t work with certain files, because they’re not local and I’m either out of wifi range, or have a slow or buggy connection.

      What I probably feel the most comfortable with is a Unix/Linux style system with permissions. So there are three groups of people – me, my group, and the rest of the world, and three sets of permissions, reading, writing and executing. So I can set a document so that only I can edit it, but other people in the group can read it, or so that only people in my group can edit it, or so that no one but me can get to it. And of course, someone with admin permission on the system can access everything if someone is unavailable.

      1. Iain Clarke*

        I totally misread the permissions as “reading, writing and exagerating”. That kinda works too!
        chmod +555, ah, that takes me back…

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, we have a Dropbox system and it’s got some real flaws. The worst is that we do a ton of database stuff, and that has no analog in the system so we have to use the local software, and that’s a lot of daily up and downloading.

    2. Judy*

      Back in the 2000s when the company I was with had shared drives, we had a defined project structure, and sometimes folders would go missing. People would move folders under each other. This was bad because the director had built a crawler to analyze all of the projects, and if a project didn’t have the right documentation, you would get called into the office. If the software process folder was missing, with the subfolders for software reviews, software test reports and communication interfaces, then the software team didn’t have their work done for that project. Generally I could do a search and find the folder within another folder.

    3. SS*

      That stood out to me as well. In my industry everyone uses a shared drive for everything. I’ve never been concerned about people messing with “my” files, because they’re not mine, they’re the teams. If someone does go in to mess around significantly we save an archive version beforehand, or make a copy with your initials on the end of the file name. The drive is backed up nightly so even if something does goes awry you can still get a recent version. Is there some underlying issue that’s making people hesitant to use it? Like a lack of folder organization? Or a lack of standards regarding document setup/graphics? Or some rogue team members others don’t trust with their work?

  12. caledonia*

    OP 3: While the comments above are correct – nobody really does ask about family – what I haven’t seen is the mention of the upcoming holidays like Christmas (and/or Thanksgiving). These are generally family orientated or when people go a s see family so I can see it coming up in this context (because I am somewhat estrranged and “holiday plans” we’re brought up by my co-worker just the other day).

    1. Emma*

      Two simple solutions to the family-holiday question that have been effective for me in the past:
      -Redefine family. “Are you celebrating with your family this year?” “Sure am.” (Thinking: my cats love the holiday roast.) Most people don’t start asking for details on who constitutes your family.
      -Brush it off as no big deal. “Are you going to your parents’ for Christmas?” “Nah, I’m going to relax at home with a nice fire.” This is somewhat hit or miss in that there are people who will push, but I’ve generally found that if you don’t make it sound like there’s an issue, most people will just accept it. I’ve recently started incorporating some kind of innocuous personal tradition in my response, like “No, it’s traditional for me to go to the park instead,” so that it deflects the busybodies with something that’s also meaningful.

      Nothing I know really helps with the emotions all the questioning can dredge up, unfortunately.

    2. OP3*

      Holidays are definitely the other part of why this is on my mind, and as you imply, it can be easy to read a question about family into a question about holiday plans.

      1. Temperance*

        I’ve been directly asked if I’m visiting my parents for holidays. Some people are weirdly over attached to their own families, and they can’t understand why we aren’t like them. I’ve had people say really weird and insensitive things to me about this, but honestly, I feel like people saying it are insensitive and immature about everything else, too. I’m proud of being an adult whose mommy doesn’t control everything.

        My mom is a borderline. I’ve jokingly referred to her as a bunny boiler to lighten the mood when people press about whether we’re close. Or if it’s someone not being rude, I’ll explain that my parents are evangelical Christians.

          1. Temperance*

            Not a derailment at all. I’m so sorry that you’re going through that. I hope you have an awesome family of choice. <3

      2. Lily Rowan*

        In that case, it feels (to me, who has not been in your exact situation) like just feeling clear and confident yourself in whatever your plans actually are is the work you can do in advance. So when someone asks if you saw your parents over Christmas, you are ready to say, “Not this year — but I had a really great holiday with XX” or whatever.

        1. Temperance*

          I always say “I don’t feel like traveling” when people get on my case about it. It’s like, WE GET IT, YOUR MOM IS YOUR BFF AND YOU HAVE NO EMPATHY FOR THOSE OF US WHO DON’T HAVE BFF MOMMIES.

          I once had a conversation with a coworker where she said that she just loves her mom so much that she couldn’t imagine getting married or anything because her mom came first. This was not invited, and she was over 30.

      3. Lady Kelvin*

        “no, the drive/flight is exhaustin/expensive. We are spending holidays with just the two of us. It’ll be nice and relaxing.” I haven’t gone home for Thanksgiving since I graduated college, and I’ve missed Christmases with my family, people usually understand. You might also say that holidays are really stressful and you guys prefer to spend them quietly at home. Anyone who travels to see family will understand.

      4. Dot Warner*

        “Nope, just planning a nice quiet holiday watching Netflix… did you catch Stranger Things?”

      5. Princess Carolyn*

        When my husband and I lived far from both of our families and couldn’t afford to travel for the holidays, I just said “Yeah, we’re doing Thanksgiving/Christmas/whatever just the two of us this year.” And then maybe I’d add something like “I’m excited to make my first turkey!” or “We’re doing something totally nontraditional instead” or some other vaguely interesting addition so you don’t sound like you’re withholding information.

        Your husband counts as family! And, as others have pointed out, people are really just trying to make polite conversation about your holiday plans. The situation with your parents is probably what comes to your mind first, but they’re not actually asking “Are you spending the holidays with your parents and if not, why?”

  13. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

    #5 beat them.

    Saving locally instead of to a shared drive is a mortal sin in our world like **gasp! she did what???** mortal sin and I’ll take credit for that because I beat people a decade + ago until all complied and that became our culture. No one can remember a time otherwise at this point.

    Our drives and our processes are really well organized, really really well organized, so it’s much easier to comply than to come up with your own methods.

    ALSO, we have a lot of protections in place. The marketing drive, for instance, there’s a pretty wide group that has read access so they can get to pricing documents and such that they need, but a tight group that has write access so a bunch of chuckleheads don’t start messing with vital stuffs.

    1. seejay*

      I haven’t heard the term “chuckleheads” in so long. Thank you for that blast from the past. XD

    2. JJJJShabado*

      Same is applicable for my work. Though my work is necessarily collaborative (my department feeds into work of other departments and back and forth). There’s a standard directory structure in place and the network is backed up three times a day (which also saves me from myself when I accidentally overwrite things).

    3. Lady Blerd*

      Our head office did away with our shared drive to save on memory and had us move to an intranet based document storage that is accessible to anyone. It is not flexible at all IMO but I try to use if as storage for spreadsheets and forms, all password protected because I would cry real tears of someone messed up my spreadsheets.

      That said, I also picked up a 32gb keydrive because not everything needs to be shared on there.

  14. nofelix*

    #3 – you may be overthinking this. I’ve never been asked any questions about my family at work aside from when I bring them up myself. But if someone does ask, remember you don’t need to explain yourself. This sounds like one of these situations where every response sounds suspicious in your mind, but to everyone else it’s benign.

    Nosy coworker: “Do you have family nearby?”
    You: “Yeah there are some around.”
    Nosy coworker: “Ooh, do you see them often?”
    You: “Sometimes, I’m pretty busy.”

    Giving boring answers to personal questions is not a workplace red flag, so you can do this as much as you like. I think you’ll find most people are only asking to be polite and will not take offence or pry further.

    1. Kittymommy*

      Agree. The only time this had come up in my offices is around the holidays and then it’s more in the form of “what are you doing for the holiday” questions. I think I have had one person press about seeing family for holiday vacations (and when your answer is they’re all dead it tends to be a conversation ender).

      1. Temperance*

        I always say what we are doing for the holidays, and make it sound AMAZING. “We’re having dinner with John and Jim, John’s family is from Italy so he’s an AMAZING cook and makes all these great family recipes (which is true, btw)” or “Booth is on call this holiday, so we can’t travel anywhere”. I tried to sound sad at the last one, but I played video games and drank all day last Christmas, it was glorious.

  15. Bananarchy*

    OP #1: It sounds like you were mostly in control of yourself at your work party, and if you got a little rowdier than usual I doubt a lot of other people would have noticed. It’s harder than you think to make a big spectacle in a loud crowded space where most people are drinking.

    I do think it depends on your company’s culture though. I work in an industry where it’s normal for parties to get a bit out of hand, and most sloppy behavior is forgiven if not forgotten by the next day. As long as you’re not that guy who gets plastered, hits on the intern, takes off his shirt and falls asleep in the bathroom, then I think it’s normal and even humanizing for coworkers to see each other a little drunk now and then.

    1. Cube Farmer*

      And, unless you danced like Elaine from Seinfeld, I wouldn’t worry about that part either. :)

    2. Liane*

      From the first sentence, it sounds like you weren’t behaving any differently than most attendees. A lot of folks were drinking; many were dancing, not just you and 1 or 2 others. So I think you were fine.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      It’s harder than you think to make a big spectacle in a loud crowded space where most people are drinking.

      Exactly. You’re looking at this through the lens of a sober person. I expect everyone else was drinking at roughly the same pace as you, so it normalizes the level of drunkenness for everyone. I doubt no one noticed your behavior — and because people are naturally self-involved, I would bank that they’re too busy worrying “did I get too drunk?” about themselves to be judging you for the amount you drank.

      1. Alienor*

        I feel like if you were sober enough to remember exactly how the event went and wonder if you were too drunk, you probably weren’t. The few times in my life when I’ve been really drunk, it’s all been a blur afterward.

    4. Tax Accountant*

      Yep. At an old job we had a big boozy holiday party at the country club. I had 2 or 3 glasses of wine, I’m a lightweight, and when one of my favorite coworkers arrived, I said “Hey!” loudly and gave her a big hug (I’m also a woman). Hugging was not something we do in our office. I immediately realized I was tipsier than I thought I was, and was temporarily mortified. But we never spoke of it and everything was totally fine. Everyone was a little rowdy.

  16. V dubs*

    OP4, what breaks are you referencing that bring it down to 37.5? Is that a meal break or 2 15 min breaks daily? Some states require paid non-meal breaks.

    In my instance, I am salary non-exempt and besides a 30-min unpaid lunch, I also get 30 min paid breaks daily. I work 7-3:30, and am paid for 40 hours.

    1. Liane*

      If the OP has a 7-3 schedule with 2 paid 15 minute breaks and an unpaid 30 minute lunch, 5 days per week, that is 37.5 hours. That was the schedule at a temp job I held.
      Most weeks we worked 6 days for a total of 45, of which 5 were overtime.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        My sister is a receptionist at a business that is open 9-5, and has to take an unpaid 30-minute lunch. That’s 37.5 hours.

    2. Jen*

      Hi! I’m the letter writer. :) I get an unpaid half hour break right now. I think my employer is recognizing they weren’t quite in line with the Illinois break laws and has also stated we are to take our breaks as well. Although I’m not sure when exactly. Also my employer has stated they pay us for 37.5 hours. They don’t include the additional time for breaks.

  17. mazzy*

    As someone who has written about my drinking here, OP 1, I’m 99 percent sure no one thinks you did anything bad at all so I’d let it go. The fact that you count half a drink is a good thing, unless you’re company is very conservative, I’d bet a lot of people were much drunker.

  18. Sadsack*

    #3, Why do you think being estranged from your family is a bit of a red flag? And for whom? I have been in the same situation as you, estranged from my parents. When it came up in conversation, I just said we don’t really talk, we have been estranged for a couple of years, and other things similar to what Alison suggested. People tend to say “oh” and move on, but I never got the idea that they suddenly thought poorly of me. Some have gone as far as asking why, but when I’d say just family issues, long story, whatever, they’d drop it. It’s something said in passing and I don’t think anyone spends too long thinking about it or analyzing you over it. I also felt funny about having to say these things, but then I just got over it over time. I hope you can, too.

    1. ZVA*

      Yeah, my immediate family was estranged from my paternal grandparents for many years, and I would just tell people that! I never felt like a big deal to me. I wouldn’t go out of my way to bring it up, but if someone asked about them, I’d say “Oh, we’ve been estranged from them for a long time” or “We don’t see much of them” or “We haven’t spoken to them in years” or w/e. I never felt like I had to tell people why, and they generally didn’t ask. I also never worried whether or not they thought less of me… I feel like this kind of thing is more common than OP might think, and at least in my experience it’s not stigmatized.

      1. Student*

        As someone who’s also estranged from her parents, you’re mistaken. There is a huge stigma with being estranged from one’s parents, different from other relationships, even siblings. There’s an assumption that you inherently owe a huge debt to your parents for raising you that you don’t owe to those other relatives.

        In addition to the stigma, there’s also often huge, socially inappropriate pressure to have some sort of happily-ever-after. Some percentage of people just cannot imagine having a terrible parent that you do not ever see. They will insist blindly that “family is so important”, that “you’ll regret it if you don’t make up”, and “I’m sure they love you and mean well”. If you indulge this nonsense (don’t recommend), you either get guilt-tripped into trying to deal with abusive parents again, or you have to explain why your parents are so monstrous you don’t see them any more.

        You’d think that last one would be easy, right? If my parents did something terrible, that should be the end of it, right? Wrong! Many people believe that monstrous people raise monstrous children, so telling someone about some great evil your parents committed often gets you treated like some monster yourself, or some broken waif who can’t ever possibly be whole again.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I’ve used “some people are put on Earth to be examples of what not to do” when quizzed about my paternal DNA supplier. That gets the idea across that I’m not going to talk about that person and I’m as unlike them as I can possibly manage.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I can see why OP #3 thinks it’s a red flag– I’ve had some very strange reactions when my estrangement from my father and brother has come up. (Usually my father, as I simply avoid talking about my brother altogether, which makes discussions about childhood memories very weird.) I’ve worked in places where my co-workers have been young and kind of unworldly, where the idea of not spending holidays with family is considered “sad”, where people ask too many questions. It’s the nature of my field, I think. And it can get very awkward. But I agree that the OP is best served by simply saying something like “family issues” and letting it drop.

      You have my sympathies, OP. It’s a tough thing to deal with. The situation itself can be hard and complicated, but then there’s a change in how you approach certain things in the world.

    3. OP3*

      I may be overthinking it, but I have a sense that if you know little to nothing about a person, finding out about a family estrangement can take on outsized significance and (to some people) suggest a more generalized dysfunctional personality.

      1. the_scientist*

        that’s possible, I suppose, but it might be helpful to keep in mind that your coworkers don’t know your family, but they will get to know you because they’ll be interacting with you daily. Eventually, their picture of who you are as a colleague will become the primary thing about you (and that’ll happen sooner rather than later).

      2. Artemesia*

        This. This is much too personal a thing to share and it is unnecessary. It is a red flag to hear that someone doesn’t get along with their family when you don’t know much else about them, but it is easy to give vague or alternate answers as several have suggested here. You don’t have to explain just as you don’t have to explain why your marriage is a disappointment if it is, or you are having problems with your child. Highly personal stuff is personal — no need to blather about it at work unless you want to. Come up with positive things to say about what you are doing and don’t feel you have to explain what you aren’t doing.

        1. Sadsack*

          I think it is wrong to suggest that it is a red flag though. If it is, I think that says more about the person making assumptions than anyone else. I understand the concern by OP because I have felt it. However, I have never thought poorly of someone who expressed having strained family relationships.

          1. Sadsack*

            Let me add that I agree with you that it is ultimately unnecessary to divulge this type of personal information, but in reality sometimes these things just come out in conversation.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            You know what could be a red flag, though? Asking a new coworker about their holiday plans and having them launch into a whole thing about exactly how terrible each of their family members is and exactly why they won’t be seeing them over Thanksgiving. It would be the oversharing, not the circumstances, that might be a red flag to me.

            And I mean this *only* about a new coworker/casual acquaintance/other level of relationship where you don’t actually know much about the person and aren’t really trying to get closer.

            1. Sadsack*

              Right. I don’t think OP or I meant that we’d launch into a whole story. That’s the point. She is asking how to say as little as possible and is concerned that even that little will leave people thinking poorly of her. I say don’t worry about what they’ll think when you give a brief answer and move on with the conversation.

              1. Lily Rowan*

                Oh, sorry — that comment was really not about this OP or their question at all in anyway – -just a little free-association when I should actually be working!

          3. fposte*

            I think “red flag” isn’t the clearest of terms here. It doesn’t mean they’re automatically categorized as horrible, but it does raise the possibility that their boundaries for emotional discussions at work aren’t what I’d consider comfortable. I’m just waiting for the microwave to bing, not looking to get into somebody’s psychology.

            1. Sadsack*

              That’s a good point. But there are those who will ask more questions, which has happened to me. I have been asked specifically if I am going to spend time with my father or mother over the holidays. It doesn’t occur to some people that they shouldn’t bother asking, gee, you’re not going to see your family at Christmas? Why not? And then there you are, trying to give a simple answer that doesn’t raise more questions. You and others here may just be making small talk, but some people really ask probing questions. I’m just saying answer as little as possible and don’t put much thought into what they think of you because if your family relationships.

              1. fposte*

                I definitely agree that people who are rudely asking invasive questions don’t get to judge you on the answers.

          4. Artemesia*

            What it ‘should be’ and what it ‘is’ are not the same thing. Women should not be punished for being assertive but often they are. People should not be judged by their religion but it is a very common thing in the US workplace. As a freethinker working in the US South, I learned how to discuss my faith opaquely e.g. shift the conversation to my husband’s singing with the choir at X church and what a thrill it was to hear them sing last week. When people have little info it is easy to think ‘dysfunctional family means something wrong with the person i.e. dysfunctional person.’ None of their business just as my faith commitments were no one’s business — but you have to be able to tactfully deal with that in many environments.

            1. Sadsack*

              You make a good point about what should be vs reality. I still say that sometimes information gets out and you can’t do anything about what opinions others form about them, so try to ignore their reactions and move on.

        2. ZVA*

          It is a red flag to hear that someone doesn’t get along with their family when you don’t know much else about them

          I have to disagree with you on this! “Not getting along with your family” would never seem like a red flag in and of itself to me. Perhaps this is because there’s a fair amount of “estrangement” in my family, on both my mother’s and father’s sides… so I know that situation all to well. My father didn’t speak to his parents for years, and that’s because they are awful, abusive people—so if I found out someone didn’t speak to their parents, I’d never assume it was their fault or spoke poorly of their character. Stuff happens. Families are hard.

          That said, I totally get why someone would want to keep this kind of thing to themselves.

          1. Natalie*

            Certainly, but in my experience, there are many people who think family estrangement only happens in very extreme cases, and that everyone (especially adult children) has to forgive their parents because faaaamily. Acknowledging that those people exist and I may not wish to reveal my family fault lines to them isn’t the same thing as saying they are right.

      3. Liane*

        As Alison also said, most people prefer to talk about themselves–because that is a much more important thing to them than the rest of us. Which means they also probably don’t think that much about your answer. Heck, a number might not remember most of what you told them later. “OP3 said they’d stay in town for Holiday,” rather than any WHYs you gave out.

  19. Menacia*

    OP#5, I work in IT and while we’ve gotten most folks to save their work on the network drives there are still people who need to have their documents locally so they can work on them even though they can connect to our network remotely via a very easy to get to (and already saved as a Favorite) website. We tell people all the time how critical it is not to save your working documents locally, because *these files are NEVER backed up*, so if something happens to your computer, they are completely unrecoverable.

    Our network structure is set up with three network drives, one is the U: drive (for files the user does not want anyone else to see), the V: drive (for files the users shared by users in the same department, users from other departments can’t see them), and the W: drive which is where users from other departments can share out documents. It’s an extremely simple structure and while it takes time to get used to, it works well.

    We’re are now in the midst of implementing a document management process, which is going to be an uphill battle but it’s critical that people know how to use it properly because it includes our retention policy, people save way too many documents, email documents when they should be sharing them out, and just not managing their items so they are easy to find. We are holding training session after training session to expose people to this new system.

    I would recommend bringing up the issue in a staff meeting to get buy in and find out the hurdles of not saving their documents in this way. Are the shared drives easily accessible (are they automatically mapped?), do users not know where they should be saving their files (shared versus non-shared). This process should also be stressed during onboarding of new hires, we have an IT orientation that includes housekeeping processes such as this.

    1. Judy*

      For the user files, they can be saved on the network drive, but if you click “offline access” you would still have a copy on your hard drive. I’m specifically speaking about those of us with laptops.

  20. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #5

    I’m not an IT person by training, but I was the default IT person at a small company I worked for. (Basically, that means I was the body that was capable and could figure things out, and the company figured that would save a ton of money over outsourcing IT or hiring an IT person. But anyway….)

    What I did to overcome that–because it drove me effing NUTS–was to go into the MS Office programs and change the default save location to their private network drive. It didn’t make them save their work to a team network drive, but at the very least it was on the network and was being backed up every night. In addition, I could get in there and move it if someone needed it for some reason. I also changed the My Documents shortcuts on their desktop to point to their private drive and also made a shortcut to the team network drive. Being that I wasn’t a true IT person, I didn’t know about all the different things people use nowadays to save documents and such, but this worked for me.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I have to add that 99% of the people that worked there weren’t tech savvy enough to realize that their documents were going where I wanted them to go and could save it somewhere else very easily; therefore, no one ever really browsed elsewhere to save it to the hard drive.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Honestly, I find most people at work aren’t all that savvy about how to save to specific locations and will generally just take the path of least resistance and let their files end up wherever they are supposed to end up. Just make it easier for them to save to the drive than it is to resist doing so, and they’ll probably fall into line.

  21. Temperance*

    I’m estranged from my parents, and I can assure you that no reason is “good enough”. People will challenge you if you explain why.

    My go-to is to talk about my chosen family or my sister and her kids. My niece is especially adorable and hilarious, so it’s an easy deflection. Or I talk about my ferrets like they’re children, and people get creeped out and leave me alone.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I once had a man– a grown man, in his 50s– challenge me when he asked what I was doing with my father for Father’s Day and I told him there was no father to do anything with. Even after I said I didn’t want to discuss it. He just kept pushing and pushing. I’m just happy he wasn’t a work colleague and I basically never had to see him after that conversation, but damn, was it awkward. Sometimes people suck.

      1. Arielle*

        Ugh. I once said something horribly insensitive to a classmate in high school whose father had passed away and I feel ashamed about it to this day. I’d hope a grown man in his 50s wouldn’t be as much of an idiot as I was at 16, but apparently not.

  22. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

    OP5: Our IT department regularly recomposes our desktop images (we all work on virtual desktops). When this happens, anything saved ‘locally’ goes bye-bye. Only way to save anything is to save it to the network drives.

  23. Brett*

    #5 I had this exact issue with my team. The answer has been really simple.

    In specifying acceptance criteria for the completion of tasks, I always include posting their output to a shared drive or to the enterprise version control system. If it is not posted there, the project is not done. (Our tasks are 1-4 day long components of larger projects.) Since I write up acceptance criteria (1-2 short sentences) for each task anyway, this is not a big deal to add this.
    They share the link to their output in the comments when they close out a task.

  24. Calcifer*

    Create a department share on the network drive and map it to each user’s computer. You or IT can set permissions so that they can only be accessed by certain people/groups (ideally this is already implemented in an Active Directory setup) and ask your users to create folders for their projects inside of it. I see computers crash every day and folks lose their local documents. It’s not worth it.

  25. Tuckerman*

    OP5: What is the state of your shared drive? Are outdated files and folders archived regularly? Is someone in charge of maintaining it and combining folders when necessary to avoid confusion over where to put (or find) documents? We have the same problem and in large part, it’s because our shared drive is a mess. We’re going through a clean up process now, and then I suspect people will be more likely to use it.

  26. Lunch Meat*

    #2, asking your coworkers to fill out an evaluation of the presentations may help you get some concrete data to show that it’s a waste of your time. Questions like rating how interesting or relevant the presentation was as well as what other topics they’d like to see in the future. You could also have the presenters evaluate the program.

  27. Bwmn*

    OP#1 – I have a coworker and when she gets drunk she definitely gets loud. Is it her best self or most professional self, nope. I’m also not going to pretend that it hasn’t been noticed by other coworkers – however it’s also definitely not at a place where it’s really necessarily to apologize. In front of senior management, this happens maybe once a year (at the holiday party) – if they even notice. And to be fair, if they do we work in a place that throws the occasional party with the understanding that there will be adults drinking alcohol and someone getting a little loud is kind of ok.

    It’s very understandable if you decide this is not something you ever want to repeat in future holiday parties and moderate drinking more carefully – but unless you hear from someone else that your behavior was problematic, apologizing will likely just draw more attention to it.

  28. Gaia*

    My family situation is difficult. There are significant issues with drug abuse, mental illness and toxic relationships. To keep myself healthy and sane, I keep a good distance and don’t go home for holidays. Incidentally, this is changing next year and I’m incredibly nervous about it but that’s a post for Sunday.

    In the 10+ years I have been doing this, it has never been weird at work. It only ever comes up around the end of year holidays. Because my coworkers know I’m unmarried, and they are aware I don’t live in the same state as my family, they’ll ask if I am going home for Christmas or Thanksgiving. I usually give a small laugh and say “no. I prefer to do Y for the holidays.”

    Literally no one has ever questioned this. The key is to sound like it isn’t a big deal. Literally the only other time my family has been mentioned is when coworkers ask if I am “from” here and I say that no, I grew up in X. They then usually ask if my family is still in X to which I say yes and then it is over.

  29. Tomato Frog*

    #3: I imagine you can get through many of these conversations without ever saying anything about your relationship with your family. “Do you have family nearby?” “Oh, sort of. I grew up in [blah blah blah]. What about you?” “You’re not visiting family for Christmas?” “No, I’m [blah blah blah].”

    Personally, I don’t feel any emotional need to be with family at holidays and I usually tell people I hate traveling around the holidays (which is true). I have a good friend who lives nearby and I always tell people I have holiday plans with her — sometimes it’s true, sometimes not, but it lets me off the hook for well-meaning but unwanted invitations and heads off completely unnecessary sympathy/pity.

  30. the gold digger*

    LW1, until you are necking with your married grandboss at the bar (who was later fired for sexual harassment – in 1988, so you know it was serious, because people did not get fired for this sort of thing back then), you have not gotten too drunk. :(

  31. Em Too*

    #2 – what’s with this ‘often back out at the last minute’? Sounds like something’s failing to me – people don’t feel they get appropriate credit for it, their manager isn’t allowing them the time, something else? Can you get management to recognise the process isn’t meeting their goals (and if you have a better solution, great)?

    For what it’s worth, you have a system saying ‘and if you want to back out of all this extra work don’t worry OP2 will do all the work and it will all be fine!’ Can you agree if someone backs out the meeting is cancelled and it’s on them?

    I’m sure you do a splendid job but in your shoes, my presentation would not likely be highly inspiring, and the rest of your colleagues would deserve sympathy too.

  32. a different Vicki*

    Make sure you know why people are saving files locally instead of to the server. If the answer is “it’s just easier,” changing the system defaults might solve it, but your team might have an actual reason for doing it that way.

    Years ago, I had a job whose system was somehow misconfigured such that everyone would lose their connections to the server around 4:15 p.m. at least three days a week. The people who were working 8:30-4:30 just shrugged and maybe left a little early. I got into the habit of saving locally so I could keep working until 5:00, and uploading the files before I left if the connection was back, or when I came in the next morning. No, that’s not ideal, but it seemed better than wasting that much time, or losing work because changes weren’t being saved anywhere.

    Once they fixed the problem, it took me a few weeks to become confident that it really was fixed for good, not just a lucky streak, and change my habits.

  33. Jules*

    #5 I have also worked with people who are control driven. They need to control the source so that no one else has it. Make sure it’s not that either. It used to drive me nuts when a co-worker refuses to share files when we all are accountable for them. What is funny is when they act like no one else but them knows MS Excel. Look, if you are the file owner and want to lock your formulas, that is fair, lock that down. But not sharing the files so we can make sure the project progress is on track is just sad. As heartless as it sounds, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, I want to know that someone else on the team can pick it up. That way you can take your time to recover in peace instead of both of us being constantly on the phone trying to meet a deadline. I’ve had a guy take his work laptop on vacation because he refuse to give us access to his spreadsheets. Like, seriously?

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      Yes, I saw this with colleagues when “use the shared drive” was stepped up at my work.

      I can see why, for some people, the idea they’re replaceable makes them anxious, as when I was younger and working for tiny charities, that gave me a lot of mis-placed pride, feeling like I was the only one who could do certain things, that were valuable to the goals. It took moving to larger workplaces to realise that actually, it’s much better for the organisation mission to enable other people to pick up my work if I was moved to a different role/went on leave/was sick.

      (We went from the phrase “what if you were hit by a bus?” to “what if you won the lottery tomorrow, and never came back”, when talking with people about these issues, as the second is much more positive, and also made them laugh, so made the conversations a bit easier)

  34. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

    About part-time salary, I think the only other rule to keep in mind is that if you do work 40 hours, your part-time salary can’t put you under the minimum wage. You need to be paid at least minimum for all hours worked.

    1. Jen*

      Hi! I’m the letter writer. I do make enough where it wouldn’t be considered under minimum wage if I actually worked 40 hours. What’s frustrating is that I was considered exempt. My employer can’t increase salary so I’m being moved to salaried non exempt.

      1. Natalie*

        For whatever it’s worth, you are getting the best possible result (IMO) if they can’t raise salary. Since you’ll be salaried non-exempt you won’t have to worry about getting paid less because you left 15 minutes early on Friday or whatever, but you’ll still be getting the overtime you’re entitled to.

        1. Jen*

          Ugh I wish it was that way. My employer is a stickler for time even when I was considered exempt. The expectation is that we have to make up any time when we come in late or leave early, no matter if we work more than the 37.5 hours another week.

          1. doreen*

            I understand people who don’t want to move from exempt to non-exempt because they believe they will lose the flexibility they have to leave early or come in late without making it up in the same week. But in your case, I can’t figure out what you’re losing- you already don’t have that kind of flexibility and I doubt that you were being paid extra for working the extra 2.5 hours when you were exempt. It seems like the only difference would be that in the future if you worked over 40 hours you would be paid overtime which probably wasn’t the case when you were exempt. What am I missing?

  35. Myka House*

    Shared net work drive – if they are concerned about losing their place from someone messing with their work they can save a copy to their hard drive as well. This is a non-issue and is a requirement in my line of project work as well. If someone does something to my sheets, I find out why/what and revert back to my most recent copy on my hard drive is needed.

  36. Adlib*

    OP #1, I think your behavior is pretty innocuous, all things considered. No one probably even noticed because they were most likely partaking in beverages to a certain degree themselves. Everyone gets louder, and no one really notices. If no one has acted differently in the office, you’re fine. :)

  37. Not Karen*

    #3 Given the other comments apparently I’m the odd one out but I get asked “Do you ever visit your family?” ALL THE TIME. Even worse: “How often do you go back home?” I’m working up the courage to answer, “What do you mean? I live here.” or “Every day, about 6pm. Do you not go home after work?”

    Probably wouldn’t be the case if I were married like everyone else, though.

  38. RVA Cat*

    #3 – Given this incredibly fraught election year, I think there’s more people avoiding their relatives than usual this holiday season. I know that’s where my mind would go… (I’m dreading Thanksgiving with my in-laws for that reason.)

  39. Moonsaults*

    OP #1, I’ll give you a different perspective of this.

    You seem like you’re used to being largely in control and professional, which is great. It looks like by your description, you dropped it down a notch. Do your coworkers tend to be looser with their drinking and behavior at work parties, or were you the only one dancing and talking excitedly? I get the feeling they were all doing the same thing. It’s very uncomfortable to you now because that’s just not your norm and that’s understandable. It didn’t ping on their radar because the most they thought was “wow Sally was chatty and having fun last night, it’s good to see her cut loose once in awhile!”

    It’s a work party, where they were seemingly serving you wine. If you had brought in your hip flask and the members of your team are all teetotalers, then I’d think you’d have plenty of reason to be ashamed of your behavior. You were just joining in on the party, no harm in that.

    1. OP3*

      That’s exactly what I mean about lying. “They’re dead” can invite questions about when and how that I then have to keep track of. Not into that.

  40. Q*

    #5 – I save it both places. When I am working on a file I save ti my personal drive or my desktop. When I am done, or at least once a week for yearly files, I will save a copy to the shared drive. That way I have my original copy but it is also available to others if I should suddenly be out. When I start working on a file again, I open my personal copy. If anyone made changes to the one on the shared drive it doesn’t matter.

  41. Jaguar*

    OP #2, you have my sympathies. I think I tend to skew more cynical than most people, but the idea of being forced to listen to these “inspiring” presentations every week, let alone having to put them together from a mandate as opposed to actually having something that justifies a presentation to begin with, is dreadful.

    I don’t understand why people in management positions think this forced-positivity is a good idea. Maybe there are people that are motivated by it, but there are also people like me that are insulted by it.

    1. Moonsaults*

      Hear, hear!

      I was just having this cranky moment the other day when I had to deal with yet another one of the chipper forwarded messages from our insurance company about “how to make your company safer!” and it’s all about how you’re supposed to get everyone excited about it! Make it into a game!

      Every time I listen to one of their seminars I am reminded a preschool where it was super exciting and fun and interesting if we all chip in and clean the classroom, let’s whistle while we work too!!!! BAH No, I do not respond well to that crap. It’s always so condescending feeling.

  42. Matt Warden*

    Re: 2. How to get out of a work obligation

    Have you actually been in this situation and done what you are suggesting? I don’t really understand your advice. It seems very academic.

    If the person is not measured on it, he/she should just find someone else to do it. Someone there must be thirsty for visibility, and even though the person doing it now doesn’t like it, it is an opportunity to differentiate and get visibility. I don’t see a scenario where the boss pushes back on someone else wanting to take it over.

    But in general I think the person asking the question is not thinking about this in a very self-centric way. “I don’t like doing it.” “It’s not part of my job.” This sounds like Millennial Work Ethic (MWE) disease.

    Is he/she sure this is pointless? Why does the boss want it done? Does getting it done make the boss look good or eliminate a problem for him/her? This person is probably damaging his/her value to his/her boss by expressing an attitude (whether he/she intends to or not, I’m sure it comes through) about doing this work.

    1. Moonsaults*

      You sound super salty when you automatically start jumping on an entire generation. I guess you never worked with anyone within your own generation that is a piss-poor worker who doesn’t want to do what their bosses are asking them to do either. Bless your heart.

      1. aebhel*


        My coworkers are basically all in late middle-age; I’m the youngest full-timer there, by a couple of decades. Amazingly enough, having a workplace comprised almost entirely of Boomers does not eliminate all work-related issues, because it turns out that people can be lazy and disinterested no matter how old they are.

    2. Observer*

      To add to what the others have said, what possible use do you really think this has *in actual fact* rather than whatever misguided idea the boss has?

      One thing is certain – it’s not just the OP that doesn’t want to deal with it. The fact that people are dropping out last minute on a regular basis is extremely telling.

  43. Student*

    #3 – Your gut feeling here is right; nobody really wants to hear about your personal family drama when they make small talk. I am in the same boat as you – long estranged from my horrible parents for things one can’t discuss in polite company.

    I find it helps to answer the question you wish they’d asked instead of answering the literal question, as long as that wouldn’t be dishonest for some reason. If somebody asks you if you’re going to see your parents for the holidays, just side-step the parents thing entirely and talk about how excited you are to get some time off to do whatever you’re planning to do. If someone asks about family things, don’t hesitate to chatter about any good relationships you have with in-laws, nieces/nephews, cousins, or friends who are as good as family. Then, immediately ask the other person a question about themselves, to cement the slight topic transition.

    People aren’t usually curious about exactly what they ask in small talk; they want to get to know you better, and they’re asking about the things THEY care about because that’s their frame of reference. It’s not about the question, it’s about the conversation.

  44. BusinessCat*

    OP #1 – I really don’t think you need to worry about it. I’ve been almost exactly in your shoes before, down to the number of drinks and more gregarious than usual behavior, and I felt the same way as you. However, thinking this through is what helps me: was my behavior out of place compared to the setting and others’ behavior? Based on your description, my guess is no. It sounds like it was a social function with drinking and dancing that you enjoyed to a normal level. My guess is also that compared to your day to day professional demeanor around work colleagues, it was out of the norm for you. However, that isn’t a fair comparison and you coworkers won’t make it either. So don’t worry, it sounds like you were fine, just a little tipsy and more social than normal. Luckily, that is normal behavior for social drinking functions, even if it feels out of place when put into a work context.

  45. aeldest*

    #5, we have a shared drive at my workplace. I cannot access it about 50% of the time. I’m fairly tech savvy, so I’m pretty sure it’s not user error. Our IT contractor has looked at it and can’t find any problems (but he’s here once a week, and in the mornings, when it’s most likely to work). If I saved everything to our shared drive, I’d be unable to access those documents half the time. As is I’ve saved a copy of many of our communal informational documents to my computer, so that I can reach them when I need to!

    Now, it doesn’t sound like this is necessarily a problem at your workplace, but if anyone there had had issues like that in the past, that could partially explain why they’re hesitant to save working files on the shared drive.

    1. Observer*

      Find another tech support person / firm. This is unacceptable, and there has to be a reason. If your tech person is responsible and reasonably competent, they should have already changed his routine to be in at other times, worked with you remotely when it’s happening, and asked to kick this to a more “specialist” outsider, if the first two items didn’t get a result.

  46. Geekster*

    #5: What’s the real issue? Is it that people are ignorant they should be saving to a shared drive, or is it because having their file on the shared drive causes them pain? If the latter, then what’s the pain?

    Understand the root cause.

    I save my files on my laptop’s local drive for a couple reasons. 1) Speed 2) Access. What’s the point of having a laptop if you don’t have your critical files available?

    I have a process that syncs my laptop to the network for backup purposes. If I lose the files on my local drive for whatever reason, I want the version that was current when I was last hooked up to the network. There are tons of solutions out there to do this without having to think about it.

    It’s technology. Set up something so that you get what you want and they get what they want without any extra manual steps. And then…surprise! You’ll both get what you want. :)

  47. Observer*

    #5 – You need to require it, and you need to explain why. But, you also need to start developing a bit more granular security on your drives. Eg, people who USED to be in the department should no longer have access and people should be able to have folders on the shared drive that are only accessible to a manager or the like. This lets people be secure with their work, but allows someone else to pick up in an emergency.

    Point out to staff that if something goes wring with their computer, their files are GONE. With the network, you have backups.

  48. Heather*

    OP5: To encourage staff to back up their work to a share drive, make it as easy and seamless as possible for them. Maybe they are resisting because the process available to them is cumbersome.
    Simple suggestions:
    *Have IT map the share drive to everyone’s computer so backing up manually is a one-click, drag-and-drop kind of process
    *Set up a folder for each person on the share drive so that picking a location to back up is one less thing to think about
    *Can your IT set up an automatic backup or sync task on everyone’s computer, using 3rd party software or within the OS? It could be set up to sync only specific folders on their hard drive. At my company, I can sync my hard drive to a folder on the server that only I have access to (and maybe IT), which at least mitigates the risk of crashed hard drives.

    The best way to enforce a requirement would depend on how projects work at your company and whatever QA requirements or processes already exist. Many projects at my company have some pretty detailed QA requirements for retention and archival of files, not just final reports, but also references, supporting spreadsheets, etc. Even the projects with less stringent QA requirements recognize the benefit of having old files accessible when we need to do a similar project in the future. I think people vary with regard to *when* they back up files to the share drive – whether it’s only when the final report is done, or throughout the project while work is still in progress.

  49. bopper*

    #2. If you can’t get out of that, then you tell your boss that you have come up with a new method that people will be assigned for a month in order. Let your boss and the whole team know who is supposed to present for March. If they back out, then let your boss know.

    #3: Re: estranged parents: “Oh, same ol’ same ol'”

  50. Anon this time around the fig*

    OP#3, I have a few things I’d like to share. I’ve been estranged from my entire family for almost four years now. Most of the time when someone has had to take those steps, it’s for lots and lots of possible reasons. Some of those reasons have modified our personalities to be a little different from others who have been raised in healthier families.

    One of the side effects of being raised in my family was a fear of authority, and a need to please any authority figure who might happen along. Until I was about 26, if I felt pressured in any way, I would dump every bit of information to a complete stranger because I was terrified that I would not please them and I would be In Trouble. I hear echoes of that in your anxiety about how to answer this question. If I’m misinterpreting, I apologize, but it’s something I had to learn the hard way. No one is entitled to the full story. I choose who gets information about me. I’m in charge.

    The first year is really really tough. It’s amazing, but it’s so hard to walk past all of the buttons that your family installed and say, Nope, to every single guilt lever that the world trips whenever there’s a commercial with a happy family or any kind of happy relationship in a movie. But what I know is that you can do it. Figure out your stock responses. Practice them. You will eventually be totally serene as you answer those questions, I promise.

    If you need more support, there are groups online that can help. Let me know if you want more information. You’re definitely not alone. Take care of yourself.

      1. Anon this time around the fig*

        Reddit gets a really bad rap, and for the most part, it’s earned. There’s a subreddit for kids raised by narcissists that is tightly moderated, and really helpful. https://www.reddit.com/r/raisedbynarcissists/ I really recommend it, if only to read other peoples’ stories and realize that it’s not you, it’s them.

        I not only split from my family, but changed my full name and got a new job. I had the same worries you do, but when the first person asked about my family, I said, “We’re not close.” I thought I would die in that moment, but she looked me right in the eye and said, Oh, me too, I know what you mean. It was a bonding moment instead of alienating. Yes, I was lucky, but I was honest, too. You are the best judge of any situation and you get to decide who to include and who to keep at arm’s length. If you want to connect, just comment again and I’ll ask Alison to link us up. If not, know that you’re not alone and there are many people who have created their own happy families out of love and respect, instead of guilt and anger.

  51. Happy Cynic*

    OP#1: Ask yourself these questions:
    – Did I earn an embarrassing nickname for myself while drunk at a holiday work party?
    – Did I get sick in public, fall down, or otherwise injure myself or cause any damage?
    – Did I make clearly-romantic advances toward a co-worker?
    – Did I say something horrifyingly embarrassing?

    If the answers are all “no”, then you’re 100% fine, and what you did is called “having fun at a party”. It’s very humanizing and perhaps subtly earned you social points.

  52. MissDisplaced*

    #1 That doesn’t sound too bad, considering some of the stories we’ve read on AAM!
    Sounds more like “a little tipsy” and more chatty-outgoing than usual but certainly not a public spectacle, unless your workplace is like uber-conservative. I’d guess that’s not the case if others were dancing too.

    I know what you mean though. When I have 2-3 drinks, I can tend to say things I regret later. Whether it’s blabbing or being snide, or just letting my guard down and letting something slip I shouldn’t have. At work parties and events I really have to watch my intake or just elect not to drink at all.

  53. Jill*

    #5, We use shared drives in my workplace. It was different for me when I started here. What helped was the fact that supervisors weave the idea into their instrucitons all the time. “Make sure you save that on the L drive” Or “This one is for our department’s eyes only so save that on the M drive” Or “Judy will be taking your work and using it to finish the Teapot Project so make sure to save it on the N drive”

    If you keep doing that, you’ll help build a culture where work product is normally saved on the shared drives. Since your employees are afraid about work being altered, allow them to keep their work in progress on a personal drive – I wouldn’t want others seeing draft versions of my work either.

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