am I over-sharing with my boss, warning contacts about my terrible former employer, and more

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

1. Am I over-sharing with my boss?

I work for a nonprofit with a casual office environment. My manager is very good at asking questions and knows a fair amount about my life outside of work. Part of this is because I’m a talker. If he asks how my weekend was. I’m likely to say, “Oh great! We tried [new Italian restaurant] on Saturday and it was delicious! And then we took [daughter] to a park with friends on Sunday and had the best time.” That will be followed by brief banter about what we ordered/liked at the restaurant, how my daughter hated the swings, etc.

However, when I ask him similar questions I get really short basically non-answers (“How was your weekend?” “Great.”). I recently realized that despite working with him for almost three years I know almost nothing about him.

Am I oversharing? Should I make more of an effort to learn more about my manager’s life out of work (and if so could you suggest some questions)? Or am I just way overthinking all of this?

In your example, is the “followed by brief banter” part (about what you ordered at the restaurant and how your daughter hated the swings) being offered in response to questions from him, or are you just sort of continuing to talk on? If it’s the latter, it’s possible that you’re being more talky than what he intended to solicit with a polite “how was your weekend?”

Otherwise, though, I think what you’re doing sounds fine and pretty normal. Presumably if he wanted you to stop sharing so much, he’d stop asking so many questions that invite it.

Your manager may just be particularly private himself. There’s nothing wrong with asking “did you do anything interesting?” to try to draw him out more, but if you get more vague non-responses (“just took it easy”), I’d leave it alone. Since there’s no work-related need to learn more about about his personal life, other than with the normal friendly overtures you’re already making, and since he has openings to share more if he wants to (you’ve made it clear from your own responses that you’re up for more conversation), there’s no reason to try to push it.

2. My contacts want to apply to my old employer, but it’s a terrible place to work

Last year, I found a new job and left my old employer on good terms. This is impressive, as many employees who leave do so because they become fed up with the toxic environment and quit without notice. The culture is terrible (think all the worst tendencies of a family business, plus all the pressure and overwork of a growing start-up).

In the time since I’ve left, I’ve had at least three contacts get in touch with me about applying to positions at this former employer. They are constantly hiring people in the fields where my network is most extensive, partly because they are growing so quickly and partly because turnover there is so high.

These are not good friends — they’re old coworkers and networking contacts looking for an in, so I pretty much only “see” them on LinkedIn. I don’t want to flat-out tell them they shouldn’t apply, because not only are they unlikely to listen (some of these people have been unemployed for months), but it could get back to my old employer and poison the chance for references and recommendations in the future. On the other hand, I hate the idea of not warning them what they could be in for! What’s the best way to be kind to these contacts?

You can give people “wait, slow down” signs without openly trashing your former employer. For example, you could say, “Before you apply, would you like to talk to me about the plusses and minuses of working there? I’d be glad to jump on the phone with you for a few minutes.” They may or may not take you up on that, but you’ll have clearly signaled “there are some downsides here” and someone who doesn’t take you up on your offer is being pretty reckless (which is not your responsibility).

Then if they do want to talk more with you, you can protect yourself from the appearance of trashing your old company by making a point of sounding dispassionate and running through factual info. For example, you could say, “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. They’ve had really high turnover and a lot of people have quit without having another job lined up because people pretty commonly dislike some elements about the culture, like X and Y. But some people are able to do okay in that environment, so I wouldn’t tell you apply or don’t apply — I’d just say to go in realizing that a lot of people have had issues with those things there.”

(And do this over the phone, so that it’s not in writing.)

3. A coworker was told to stop playing in a work D&D group

My husband plays D&D twice a month with a group of people from work. Recently one person was promoted and is now a supervisor of another group member. Everyone was happy for the success, and the promotion was not something that caused any uncomfortableness or rifts in the group. This is a very casual gathering of people who work for a large and casual atmosphere company (think wearing shorts to work and employer-sponsored beer days). However, the company has told the supervisor/supervisee that they both cannot be part of the group. The supervisor decided to withdraw, which is sad for the entire group.

Geekiness is celebrated at work, so the gaming group is viewed favorably. There isn’t anything said in the group that would impact how one person thought of another as an employee, largely owing to the casual culture and the friendliness of all the folks. The group is not exclusive or cliquish.

I understand that there needs to be a social distance to maintain a professional hierarchy, but the funny thing is that my much more formal company would never have made such a request. My husband’s group is a bit stunned that their group is being fractured and does not think the company should interfere. Do you think his company overstepped, or is this situation along the lines of supervisors/supervisees should not be Facebook friends, etc.?

They’re right to talk to new managers about how boundaries need to change once you’re managing people, but I think they’re taking it too far here. If the coworker and his employee were hanging out one-on-one, that would concern me. But a group activity without any problematic elements to it (like heavy drinking or, I don’t know, strip clubs)? They’re being too fussy.

To be clear, they’re allowed to do this (there’s no law against telling managers that they can’t socialize with employees); it’s just an overstep in terms of common practice and common sense.

Updated to add: After reading some of the comments about how these groups operate, I’m changing my answer on this one. It sounds like these groups are intensive and tight-knit enough that the manager should indeed bow out, given the likelihood of concerns about favoritism.

4. Explaining that I’m turning down a job offer because I’m pregnant

I recently interviewed for my dream job. Or it would be my dream job, except it’s part-time. Taking this position would let me break into my chosen field, but it would mean leaving a full-time job with benefits — and my job is the source of health insurance for my family. That’s scary, but my husband and I decided it was worth the calculated risk to get me into a significantly better paying field.

Until now. Shortly after the interview (which went great, thanks to advice from your site!), I discovered that I was pregnant. Now, leaving a job with health insurance, and where I am eligible for FMLA leave, seems very foolish. I’m not sure about what to do if I receive an offer for this job.

I don’t want to alienate these potential employers, or make them think I wasn’t as enthusiastic for the position as I told them I was – once I am ready to switch fields again, it’s very likely that I would be interviewing with them again. Is it appropriate to tell them that I definitely would have taken the position, but I need to stay in the job with benefits during my pregnancy, and I hope to interview with them again at a later date?

Yes! You can definitely tell them that. (And who knows, it’s even possible that it could lead to them offering you a benefits package that would let you accept the job with them anyway.)

5. Do I need to write a cover letter if the employer approaches me first?

I am approached via LinkedIn for an opportunity about once every two to three months. What are your thoughts on the interviewee sending a cover letter after the first call? I have always looked at it from the perspective of since they initiated the contact, I get a pass on the cover letter, but will always send the resume.

Yep, if they approach you, you don’t need to write a cover letter. A cover letter is to explain to them why they should be interested in talking with you and get them interested in doing so, but you’re already past that stage.

{ 300 comments… read them below }

  1. Casuan*

    OP2: If it’s been over 6 months since you worked at Old Employer, you could also qualify your comments to this effect.
    eg: “Much can change in 6 months. This is what it was like when I was still there: [Alison’s script].”

    And because a lot can change in 6 months, you might also reconsider if it’s worth reaching out at all, unless you’re asked.

    1. Mike C.*

      There’s no need to make things up or otherwise needlessly speculate. First off, it’s likely not true – a complete cultural overhaul of a family run busness in six months? No way I would believe that and I’d wonder why someone would tell me such a thing.

      More importantly, when one is trying to send signals (rather than just coming out and saying what’s going on), muddying the waters with unneeded qualifications makes it more difficult for the intended message to come across and increases the risk that someone goes into a job like this without fully understanding the harm such jobs can cause. So if the OP is comfortable saying something, then they should be clear in their communications.

      I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked in places like these and it really took a toll on both my personal and professional lives. I would have loved a warning I some kind, if nothing more than to prepare me for what I was about to face. If the OP is otherwise willing, why not?

      1. Charisma*

        I completely agree. There have been more than a few times in my professional career where I have discovered people I know had prior knowledge of the dysfunctional and toxic work environments that I was about to enter. Either A) they chose to keep their mouths shut because they didn’t want it to reflect poorly on them or B) they simply didn’t realize that I would be working there until after it was too late or C) they assumed that the organization was so large that the toxic environment couldn’t possibly be THAT wide spread. However I really wish more people had the nerve to go for option D) giving you the heads up that things might not be so great at “ACME Inc.” because of X, Y, and Z. Going into any situation with open eyes can help you avoid so many pitfalls.

        1. Anon!*

          I would take things a step further: I suffered through an incredibly damaging, professionally and personally, job in my career, and there were two people who were specifically in a position to warn me about what I was going into. I consider it a black mark on my opinion of both of them that they chose to say nothing.

          The specifics are less important here, but I can say that the workplace in which it occurred was very much an environment where the expectation is that it is a professional courtesy to look out for one another- it is a small industry with limited employers, and you will almost certainly work with the same people again and again. One of the two left the industry entirely, but if the CV of the other ever crossed my desk, I would have serious misgivings about hiring.

          1. cncx*

            something similar happened to me. a close friend had inside info that the place which turned out to be the Worst Job I Ever Had had toxic management and high turnover. she didn’t tell me a thing, probably because she didn’t want to rock the boat..or I don’t know why…but I needed therapy for that job so it definitely hurt our friendship and we aren’t close any more.

            1. Nervous Accountant*

              I had the flip happen–I work in an environment that’s difficult to some. When a friend was looking for a job, I recommended her for a position but I told her all the facts (long hours, nature of the work etc). She took the job and wasn’t happy at all and complained to our friend group up to a year after she had left. I tried nto to take it personally but in my head I always think–well I did warn you. It gives me a little comfort that I know I didn’t lie or misrepresent anything when I recommended her.

          2. OP2*

            Thanks – this strengthens my feeling that I should say something, and I like Allison’s script (and the idea that it should be over the phone so there’s no documentation). There’s not as much “we look out for each other” feeling in my industry, but it’s a big industry in a small city, so people do tend to work with each other again and again.

          3. Mephyle*

            The script is nice for people who pick up on hints, but you (OP2) might also consider what you know about the person, and whether they are likely to understand the subtext or whether you need to be a little more obvious about the message.

      2. Stella's Mom*

        Agreeing with you here. And seoncind the comments of Charisma, Anon! and cncx too. It’s happened to a lot of us, and unfortunately has also damaged the health, relationships, and career paths of many of us. “Naming and shaming” is not be the best thing to do, but certainly being clear in communicating major issues might be beneficial to the potential employees. Burnout because of toxic work environments are a real thing, and being kind to someone asking about a place with this kind of reputation is a good thing.

      3. LQ*

        This is kind of funny. If someone said that to me I’d be like OH! It’s a terrifying dumpsterfire that will never ever change but they are hedging to be polite. Run! Run! Run away! It would make it clearer that it was a horror show to me rather than muddying the waters.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I met someone recently in a networking context who said she was interested in working at the place I used to work. I was like, “….. wellllllll…. it’s a difficult place to work, although some teams are great” or something like that. She got the message. (And then when she was sharing specific frustrations about her current job, I said a little more about how the other place compares to that.)

          1. OP2*

            So far, the only person I’ve responded to was applying to a team that worked closely with my old team but was completely separate, so I felt comfortable saying that from what I’ve seen, this is a tough team to work for, because of X and Y. He responded that while he appreciated the heads-up, he’s not scared of hard work. :(

            The other two people were applying to my actual old job, and I just didn’t know what to say, so I ignored the messages asking for advice. Probably not the best solution, and I figure it will happen again, which is why I wrote in.

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              It sounds to me like Mr Not Afraid of Hard Work will either fit in to the toxic job fine, or deserves it if he doesn’t. :P

              1. Nervous Accountant*

                I’m not being faceious but I don’t understand this–why do we need to put down or berate the person who does end up applying to a job after being warned, like they deserve to be in a toxic job? Is there some deficiency in them that they still choose to apply?

                1. Nervous Accountant*

                  Maybe berate is the wrong word but I think it’s pretty harsh to say that someone deserves to be in a toxic job that as most people here have said, can be pretty life-ruining.

                2. Jessesgirl72*

                  Because he didn’t just ignore the OP’s advice- he also insulted her by implying that her only reason for disliking it was laziness.

                3. Nervous Accountant*

                  Oh, I didn’t read that. If he did say that she’s lazy, then yes, I agree with you and take back what I said. But if he said he’ s not scared of hard work, can’t that be said without implying the other person is lazy? I’m confused (that’s the person we’re talking about right?)

                4. Anna*

                  He said he wasn’t afraid of hard work in response to the things he was told by the OP. If it were me, I would be a little offended at the implication that perhaps I found them difficult to work with was because I was afraid of hard work.

                5. OP2*

                  Looks like we’ve hit nesting limits, but I didn’t take offense, because it seemed less like he was accusing me of laziness and more like he was prepared to ignore any warning in service of getting a job. I described a job meant to chew up and spit out entry-level employees – 15-hour days on the reg, grueling travel several times a year, sometimes with just a few days’ notice and no guaranteed comp time. If he thinks my concern with such a setup is due to laziness, that’s on him!

            2. CoveredInBees*

              Yeah, sometimes people don’t want to hear that the job they want won’t live up to their hopes. It is why people take jobs when red flags are waving right and left.

              I had someone contact me about working for an employer whom I was leaving without another job in place. She was actually applying for the job I was leaving and asked that I put in a good word for her. When I explained the circumstances under which I was leaving, she assured me she could “handle it” and seemed to think that I was trying to sabotage her application. She was someone I barely knew, so I just let it go.

              1. OP2*

                Ooh, I’ve been on the other side of that situation too! I saw a Facebook friend got a new job and reached out to ask if she knew whether her old job would be posted. Her response: “Honestly, I can’t in good conscience recommend that anyone I know work there.” And I should know better, but my initial gut reaction was a flicker of annoyance that she would stand in my way!

                That’s why I’ve been hesitant to reply at all to these folks, because I’m not sure what I could say that would make any difference. But it is better for them to go into the process informed!

                1. Charisma*

                  Which is totally understandable. When people are job searching or have their heart set on working for a certain organization (or a specific job listing), they get a special combination of tunnel vision and rose colored glasses. It’s hard to understand subtlety when you aren’t ready to hear it. Which is why you NEED to be clearer with people. It is tough that people might see you as “bitter” or “angry” instead of being earnest. But that is why you have to also be as diplomatic possible when giving your feedback. Good Luck!

            3. Whats In A Name*

              I think your advice to him was perfectly handled…you warned him without saying he should run and he chose to apply. You have done your part and in the end he can’t say you didn’t give him any insight into what you are doing.

              With the people asking about your specific position I would do something similar – just let them know why you left the position but you can do that without badmouthing the company completely – “A little too much micromanaging for me” or “I was working too many hours/juggling to many project/feeling the burden of work too much to focus on things outside of work”…vague yet specific if that makes sense. something along those lines.

            4. PB*

              Well, at least you did what you could with the first person.

              I was in a similar situation. I left a toxic work environment about a year ago. Right after starting my current job, a new colleague was asking about my old work environment, as they had an administrator position open, and she knew people applying. I was honest, and she confirmed that what I told her was inline with what she’d heard from other people. Her friend did end up taking the job. From what I’ve heard, she’s having a tough time, but at least she went in with information in hand.

        2. Amadeo*

          I tried to hint at that once when someone I’d never worked directly with was trying to leave the same newspaper I’d left a while ago. I hedged around some and then told him to get anything the owner said about benefits in writing.

          I think he finally grokked what I was trying to say, because last I knew he was still at the newspaper.

      4. Karen D*

        I definitely agree that it needs to be communicated pretty directly – in a factual way. Sometimes it’s also possible to reference other sources, like “I’m sure you saw that one review on Glassdoor that mentioned the mandatory unpaid overtime to take the boss’s kid to swimming lessons. In my experience, yeah, that’s been known to happen.”

        And Mike says another thing that’s important for someone to know — is this company an on-ramp to a better job elsewhere in the industry, or a major detour that will stink up a resume? A CPA friend was just telling me a few months ago that that there are some firms that are considered super-shady. Anyone who works at one of these firms for any length of time is going to be considered to be … flexible, and not in a good way.

        If you can honestly say “Yeah, this place is a nest of crazy but people often leave here for better things,” that’s extremely valuable intel.

    2. Natalie*

      LW isn’t asking about blindly reaching out – they say three people have contacted them inquiring.

      1. Liane*

        Also, these people reaching out to the OP presumably know that she left PastCo 6 months ago and therefore her firsthand knowledge is 6 months old, and that any more recent information she has is secondhand.

    3. ChelseaNH*

      I was asked about a company a few years after I had left, which made it easier to say “things might have changed.” I didn’t go into any details, but fortunately I had some big picture stuff to talk about. This was an engineering group that had recently lost their CTO and hadn’t settled into a new leadership structure; my advice was to ask about that during the interview. It’s perhaps more oblique that people would want their warnings to be, but any unenthusiastic response is a red flag, really.

    4. Casuan*

      OP2 said she mostly knew the contacts from LinkedIn & she wasn’t certain whether or not to respond to the requests. Whilst I believe it’s a kindness to clue someone in as to the work culture, it can also be tricky- especially if one doesn’t know the other person too well. Well-intended remarks like this can backfire because once someone has the information of a toxic company [or anything negative], they can spread the infos to others & OP’s words could get changed into something opposite of her original statement. In small towns, small companies & niche environments this can be detrimental to the person who replied to a harmless request for information.

      My suggested phrasing was so OP could warn those who asked for infos whilst maintaining a bit detached from this.
      to rephrase: CYA, especially when conveying negative things to social acquaintances.

      OP2, thank you for the updates!

  2. Gnarlington*

    #1 Don’t worry. That’s not oversharing at all. My boss is like you and I’m more like your manager where I’ll give very short responses. And my boss has definitely tried the “Did you do anything interesting?” line that Alison says here, and I either share if I want to or don’t if I don’t want to—depends on the day.

    1. Tara*

      I don’t know… I work with several over-sharers, and even though I don’t have any real interest in their personal lives, I find myself stuck in politeness loops where they tell me everything. For example they might ask me how my weekend was, but since I don’t want to answer, I’ll say “Oh it was fine, how was yours?” Then they might tell me something like, “I visited a sick relative.” Well, then, crap, I have to offer condolences and ask them about the sick relative. And they tell me every medical detail.

      1. Tara*

        In other words, I think it’s very common for people to feel like they are being polite by asking about your personal life, when they only really want canned pleasantries in response. I have a friend who is the boss of a small group and feels pressure to waste 30 minutes at their Monday meetings asking about everyone’s weekend, but secretly hates it and wishes she could just get down to business.

        1. Spoonie*

          But that’s easy to stop by just switching the expectation to “Hope everyone had a great weekend. Fergus, quickly run us through what’s happening in teapot production this week,” and maintaining that expectation. Which isn’t easy initially, but I’m sure your friend would find that maybe more people than she realizes would appreciate having those 30 minutes back.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah — at some point the person who hates it needs to take some responsibility for their role in the interaction, especially if that person is a manager.

          2. gnarlington*

            Yeah, I have to agree. Why would you continue asking the question if you don’t like it or don’t want to hear the responses? That makes no sense.

        2. Anonygoose*

          I totally agree, I don’t really always want to hear all about coworkers weekends, but I ask them anyway because I know I’d come across as incredibly rude if I didn’t. Especially if they’ve asked me first.

      2. Mona Lisa*

        So much yes to the politeness loop. My chatty co-worker has a sick parent who has been in the hospital since January. I’d previously put her on a talking ban in my head (where I wasn’t asking her any questions about her personal life), but since I knew he was sick, I didn’t want to seem callous by not asking how he was doing semi-regularly. This lead to many days where I’d get several 30 minute updates on the father’s condition, her issues with her family members regarding his care, the discussions she was having with her husband, etc. It was absolutely exhausting, but I didn’t know how to show that I wasn’t completely heartless while cutting down on the time spent and amount of details she volunteered.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I’m the manager, and half of my weekend plans are stuff I don’t want to get into, along those lines. No one at my job has any idea, and I like it that way. On the flip side, sometimes (like every few weeks) I will go into a fair amount of detail about something innocuous, so I think they feel like I’m giving them my personal story.

        2. bunanza*

          I understand the politeness loop and how exhausting it can be, but I think there’s a pretty big difference between talking about a sick relative vs. talking about a place or event you attended, like the OP. Some people won’t particularly want to hear about those things either, but it’s not oversharing to respond that way when asked.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            It kind of is, though. Even when things really suck, not everyone needs to hear all the details.

            1. Mona Lisa*

              Right. There is the level to which you discuss something with friends and a different level for cordial acquaintances and co-workers. General status updates about stressful situations are good answers to polite inquiries at work; intense follow-ups about the family relationships and drama surrounding the situation are probably better reserved for the members of your inner circle. If you don’t have that support network, forcing your co-workers into that role is going to make them uncomfortable.

      3. C in the Hood*

        Re the politeness loop: I think there is a big difference between asking “How was your weekend?” and “What did you do this weekend?” Just sayin’.

      4. Alton*

        I think there’s a happy medium. The problem with this sort of scenario is more that the over-sharer doesn’t have a good sense of when to stop. It probably wouldn’t become an issue if, after you said “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that” they just responded briefly with something like “Thanks! My mom broke her hip, but she’s hanging in there. I’ll see you around!”

        Sharing a little bit of work-appropriate info isn’t a problem most of the time, I don’t think. It’s failing to gauge appropriate limits.

    2. imakethings*

      I think this can depend completely on office environment as well. At previous job, I shared a lot with my colleagues and boss. We were a tight knit team and definitely ventured into oversharing territory, but it didn’t feel that weird. At my current job, I am very private and don’t engage much with my colleagues. They share with me more than I share with them, and it feels like they’re only asking about me to be able to share about themselves when I respond with, “Oh nothing exciting. You?” As someone who doesn’t want to hear about my coworkers’ lives, I can say that if he didn’t want to know he wouldn’t ask. I don’t want to know; I don’t ask.

    3. Working Rachel*

      OP, your manager may be like me–I don’t necessarily like filling people in on every detail of my weekend (especially since they are often boring), but when I know that my coworkers enjoy this type of small talk, I try to make an effort to ask about their weekend, holiday, etc. The type of interaction you describe would be just fine with me.

  3. Gnome with a day job*

    #3 – That’s so unfortunate! It can be hard to find a D&D group you really mesh with, and I agree with Alison that it seems unnecessary. Depending on the group, you spend so much time roleplaying that it’s barely like hanging out with actual people at all. It’s a bit like going to a movie: the activity is the focus.

    It makes me wonder – is there any legal limit on how much an employer can limit your activity outside of work?

    1. Kathlynn*

      The ones I can think of us if they are trying to prohibited people from participating in protected groups activities (like religion or sexuality), and they aren’t exclude from those protections (like religious organizations). Unionizing or protected work related activities (like wage discussions).

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I was expecting from the title that #3 would be (and, I’ll admit, a little disappointed thet it wasn’t) that the coworker was told to stop playing D&D because a boss thought it was Satanic or something.

        Which now makes me wonder – I have a protected right in most jobs to do activities around practicing a religion. Is my right to do activities that are not religious protected if my boss objects to them on religious grounds? Say if my boss were a member of a religion that prohibited drinking, could I be fired for drinking on my own time? Or would I be protected by religious (or atheist) beliefs that drinking was acceptable?

        1. AcademiaNut*

          My understanding based on previous columns is that yes, an employer has fairly broad powers to ban you from activities based on their own religion. If I remember correctly, there was one about an employer that obeyed strict Kosher during Passover, and non Jewish employees were not allowed to bring food into the office during this period, and another about a university that was imposing restrictions on employees outside of the office, based on very conservative Christian behaviour codes.

          I’m not sure, though, where the line would be drawn between requiring or banning certain behaviours, and forcing an employee to follow the practices of another religion.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Restricting the food people bring onto work premises during Passover isn’t the same as limiting what someone does outside of work, but this is getting off topic – maybe one to revisit on the Friday open thread.

            1. Food*

              But restricting food brought into the office for religious reasons could become a disability rights/health issues very quickly….

              For example, someone with severe food allergies that cannot buy restaurant food without risking a reaction, a diabetic that needs a snack at their desk in case of low blood sugar, etc. And not everyone drives to work to store food in a car.

              Yes, Passover is a limited period of time but people cannot all choose to not eat during work hours during that time.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Without getting too far into the weeds, AcademiaNut is generally correct here: protections are for activities your religious specifically calls for you to do/not do. There is no negative protection protecting activities that your religion is silent about but that your boss’ religion has an opinion on. So your boss at funky fresh clothing company may not ban you from wearing your religion’s head covering, but she could require everyone at conservatives-r-us to adhere to modest dress. Or your boss could require all employees to refrain from drinking outside of work but must allow an exception for communion.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            The most important thing to remember is that “legal” and “fair” do not necessarily align here.

    2. JamieS*

      Barring something that’s protected by law (ie religious practices) I’d wager a guess there’s not really a legal limit to how much an employer can attempt to limit your personal life. However a request not being against the law for your employer to make doesn’t mean it’s actually enforceable and/or would be plausible to enforce.

      For example, it’s not illegal (as far as I know) for your supervisor to ask you to eat a chicken pot pie for lunch while singing show tunes on your next day off. However it’s unlikely they can actually force you to do that or would fire you if you didn’t.

      1. OP3 4 halfling husband*

        With the sheer volumes of Players Handbooks around here and enthusiastic preparations, it seems like it might be a religion!

        And even though his employer has a casual culture, once an edict is handed down, it would definitely be a termination if not followed. We love you, but here is your box and you key card has been deactivated.

    3. OP3 4 halfling husband*

      So true, Gnome! They have a really great group of people. It is pizza and dragon slaying.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Is it possible that they’re worried about the potential for the supervisor seeming to show favouritism, or being accused of doing so?

        1. OP3 4 halfling husband*

          That was the only thing we could think of and it was just recently confirmed that the department head cited favoritism as the concern. Favoritism is a serious stretch based on the group members, though. This is one chill set of folks that just likes playing D&D.

          A few years back in a different department there was (is still?) a softball game league. My husband signed up because he thought it was a fun, casual thing, but quickly found out it was seriously competitive and had to fade out of it. Maybe something happened with that group or something similar that caused this department’s supervisor to make a ruling.

          Whatever the reason, it still seems like an overstep.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Sure, but down the line it could become a factor if the supervisor promotes a group member over a non-member. I totally agree that they’re being overzealous, but I do think I get why.

          2. hbc*

            I dunno. Maybe I’m setting up a bit of a Catch 22, but if everyone is really upset about the “group being fractured”, it probably *is* a little too personal to play out well. Is the junior guy going to feel good facing off against the supervisor who just had to speak to him about his work product today? Is the supervisor really going to be impartial when weighing a complaint about the employee’s behavior? Is the coworker who hates D&D going to wonder how much that friendliness is affecting her assignments?

            I’d say it’s sad that the group is changing, but that something was going to go bad with the setup eventually. Probably better up front than in a great side-taking schism over whether the annual review was totally unfair.

            1. WhirlwindMonk*

              >Maybe I’m setting up a bit of a Catch 22, but if everyone is really upset about the “group being fractured”, it probably *is* a little too personal to play out well.

              Eh, I find that an unconvincing argument. Depending on the version of D&D and the party makeup, losing a player can seriously disrupt play. This isn’t monopoly where you can just put the lost player’s stuff back in the box. Losing a tank in 4th edition or a healer in most any other is seriously disruptive to play and will force the person running the game to drastically change how they prep, or force one of the players to change their character. Even worse is if the manager were the one running the game, which could very easily destroy the group completely. Especially with a cooperative storytelling game like D&D there are many ways being forced to lose a member can be seriously frustrating without indicating a cliquish mentality.

              1. hbc*

                To me, you’re just making the problem sound worse. If it’s so hard to deal with an absence, are you going to tell me that the manager will be completely impartial about who he assigns mandatory overtime work to on D&D night? About who gets business travel that week? That he’ll be just as quick to pull the trigger on dismissing the guy when that could disrupt his personal life too? That he won’t put off a hard conversation until next week because on Friday he needs him there as a healer?

                I would probably hear the guy out and give him a couple of sessions to make a graceful exit, but this has Conflict of Interest written all over it.

                1. MT*

                  Exactly. My first boss once decided who didnt have to cover an off shift Saturday based on who he had plans with outside of work that day.

              2. Purplesaurus*

                When I’ve gamed, absences have been handled by the DM assuming control of that character or substituting an NPC if the player was absolutely vital. But I don’t know if other DMs do that at all, and it isn’t the best thing for sure.

                1. KellyK*

                  I’ve seen it handled various ways. Sometimes the player is assumed to be off screen (they’re more or less with the group, they’re just not doing anything interesting), or a reason is given for them to split off from the party. It really depends on the story whether you can come up with a credible reason for them to disappear. My current group usually cancels entirely if one player can’t make it.

                2. General Ginger*

                  I don’t think this is even necessarily about what could happen and how it would be handled, but more that “boss spends scheduled time with this group and this group only” — perceived favoritism.

                3. KellyK*

                  General Ginger, sure, that’s the main focus. But the game’s scheduling becomes more of an issue if, like hbc suggested, the supervisor has a conflict of interest in scheduling or work assignments.

              3. Holly*

                I play D&D a lot. Like – at least once a week a lot. I DM one game and play in 2 others. Losing a player sucks, but more because you lost time with a friend than the mechanics of the game. The game can easily be adjusted for a different group – and if the issue really is that you need a healer or a tank or whatever, it’s not that hard to throw the party extra healing potions or give them a hireling or let somebody redo their character to add some appropriate levels or find another player. Most of the games I play in, 30% of the time somebody who can’t make it or ends up dropping out half way through. You can also get more creative if you need to – rotating DMs, mini-campaigns, one-shots, etc.

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              If the star pitcher got promoted from the softball league, they would be just as upset, even if they never had a beer with him after the game. They aren’t necessarily upset because he’s their best friend, but because it negatively impacts the group. It’s hard to get a good running game!

          3. Colette*

            Well, it’s not just about the people in the group – it’s about the people who aren’t in the group who feel like they aren’t getting the same opportunity to bond with their manager.

            1. Colette*

              Also, what’s the gender/ethnicity mix in the group compared to the workplace? In my experience, more men than women play D&D, for example.

              1. General Ginger*

                This was my experience in high school and college, but coming back to playing in my late 30s, I’ve found similarly aged groups to be pretty evenly mixed (and FWIW, I’m the only guy in my current group).

                1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                  Our current group has six people, four women and two men. Our last group had seven people, three men and four women. The group before that may have had more men but there were still women playing, and at least one of my husband’s groups before he and I met was him and five women. I think younger players skew male, but in older groups it isn’t as rare to have a mixed dynamic (especially since, at least with our groups, it is couples playing primarily).

                2. Colette*

                  Sure, that’s possible – but in a work environment, I doubt that would be the norm, especially if it’s a high tech company that is probably 75% male.

            2. only acting normal*

              Too true. I’ve felt unable to complain about someones (serious lack of) work, because they were very buddy-buddy with our manager outside work, and I was simply not part of their “in group”.
              Makes a simple work issue tremendously awkward.

              1. FDCA In Canada*

                Yes, this, exactly. It’s the perception of favoritism. I know that my least-liked coworker and my boss are very friendly outside of work and regularly socialize and buy each other expensive gifts. When other coworkers have brought complaints to my boss about her, my boss’s response is always “Oh, I’m sure she didn’t mean to, she’s under a lot of stress, etc. etc.,” and other responses that spring from their close relationship. So it leaves us at a loss with no resolution.

            3. Lablizard*

              This is why when one of my good friends ended up working for me I had to dial back the friendship (and explained to her why). Even then, it was a struggle to be objective because I knew her so well. I had to fight the urge to decide things in her favor because I knew her better than others. Despite my best efforts, there were feelings that she was only hired because of our friendship and if decisions were made in her favor it was because of our prior connection. Thankfully, she is exceptionally professional and went out of her way to maintain the requisite distance, but we were both relieved when I took a new job and we could go back to being friends.

            4. Sarah*

              I think this is key. I could definitely see other supervisees feeling like they’re not getting this intense bonding experience with their boss, and either they don’t want to play because it’s not their thing and/or the group isn’t even open to new members (this part isn’t clear to me). And even if everyone involved has very very good intentions, people outside the group aren’t going to know that and may feel slighted. It’s sad, but I think comes with the territory of moving into a more supervisory role.

          4. Elemeno P.*

            Maybe the supervisor could switch places with the DM. Then he’s clearly trying to kill all of the employees equally- no favoritism there!

        2. snuck*

          I assume so.

          Mind you… a D&D table can be a great barometric measure of interpersonal tension… many an incident of a personal nature has been played out between half orc barbarians and dark elf rogues.

          It’s probably not a bad move, not fabulous for the social lives, but if someone was playing golf in a group of four every week and was promoted the same suggestion might be made?

          1. Antilles*

            It’s probably not a bad move, not fabulous for the social lives, but if someone was playing golf in a group of four every week and was promoted the same suggestion might be made?
            Based on how OP describes the culture (geekiness is celebrated, group is viewed favorably), I think the answer is yes. It seems pretty clear that their issue isn’t with any particular activity, it’s about the potential for favoritism.

          2. Liane*

            “It’s probably not a bad move, not fabulous for the social lives, but if someone was playing golf in a group of four every week and was promoted the same suggestion might be made?”
            Since golf (at least in US business realm) is *The Traditional Game for Networking and Becoming Known to the Powers That Be” I doubt it.

            Gee, wonder how this would be in a game.
            Supervisor DMing this week: Who will the Red Dragon fry first? I could do it random…Nah…Wakeen, since you have been turning in TPS reports at least ten minutes late for the past month, I’m taking down your beloved character.

            Liane the Magic-user: On this is a horrible sitch the DM put me in!!! Do I cast Telekinesis to save Wakeen from falling into the Unholy Pit of Stakes and Mindflayers, or a mere Magic Missile to take out the goblin biting at Supervisor PC’s ankle?…Deary me, who should I save? Oh, who? Hey, yearly reviews are this week, right? I zap the goblin attacking Supervisor PC with Magic Missile

          3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            I switched yoga classes when I was promoted.

            Prior to becoming a manager I would have said, “we never talk about work at yoga,” but after I was promoted I realized how often it creeps into conversations. And, how often my non-yogi employees noticed that we all went to the same class.

            D&D, golf, yoga…sometimes as a new manager stepping back is a really good thing, even if you are doing nothing wrong.

            1. oldbiddy*

              I agree. Thanks you for being sensitive to the situation. My former boss was really good friends with 3 other people in the group when he was promoted. He didn’t dial back the interactions at all. Instead, they socialized on nights/weekends, brewed beer together, went to spinning class, etc. Unfortunately, they talked about work a lot during the off hours. A few times they made major work decisions then and then sprang it on the rest of the team in front of customers. It created a crappy environment for the rest of the group. The buddies were at the same level as the rest of the team but had a lot of unofficial power and no formal responsibility to go along with it. In retrospect it was even more toxic than it seemed at the time.
              These things can actually be worse at small to mid size companies where people socialize a lot than at big companies with more formal structures in place. OP’s company may not need such policies as much.

              1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

                A few times they made major work decisions then and then sprang it on the rest of the team in front of customers.

                This is exactly what got me to notice. One of my classmates asked me a question about a project and all of a sudden we were discussing a strategy that had the project team should have been involved in, not just us two. Nothing moved on it, but it made me realize our work convos were a lot more in depth than, “how was your day?”

            2. LQ*

              This is really important. You don’t have to be actively doing something wrong for it to be a good idea to step back from something. If you really want to create an enviroment where I feel like I can come to my boss and explain that I’m not getting the work from Wakeen in a timely manner and that’s why my reports end up late? Then yeah, don’t make it clear that you and Wakeen are fishing buddies or yogi class comrades or dnd gaming. (And hiding it isn’t better.) Find friends outside work, that’s ok and possible and if you really really hate that idea then don’t be a boss.

  4. HannahS*

    OP1, I agree with Alison. The kind of stuff you talk about sounds pretty innocuous, so it doesn’t sound like you’re oversharing. As long as he’s asking follow-up questions and showing an interest, you’re good.

    Personally, I’m happier asking small-talk questions than giving answers. There’s not a lot for me to say about myself at work. I live with my parents and don’t really go out much or watch TV or follow sports. I don’t like mentioning my religious activities because people make weird political assumptions or anti-Semitic comments. I don’t like mentioning that I watch opera or ballet because people make uncomfortable comments about elitism or money. I don’t like mentioning my hobbies because I worry that they make me seem twee (sewing, knitting, baking, etc). And…that’s pretty much my regular life! So it’s more comfortable for me to build social capital by showing an interest in someone else’s life than to share my own. I’d imagine that if I was a manager, I’d feel even more that I should know a lot about my employees but appear to be just a neutrally benevolent presence.

    1. Mookie*

      I agree that these patterns tend to be pretty specific to the person combined with the environment. It’s not always about social capital, of course; some people thrive and feel comfortable and more secure when asking questions or being an active listener. Interesting, charismatic talkers paired up with interested, equally engaging listeners can form a pretty good bond, even if a lot of the direct and explicit information only flows one way. How and when someone poses a question or responds to data can be quite (intentionally or otherwise!) revealing.

      I’d imagine that if I was a manager, I’d feel even more that I should know a lot about my employees but appear to be just a neutrally benevolent presence.

      That describes my ideal manager to a T, actually. :)

      I feel quite safe with figures of comparative authority who manage to remain impersonal without being cruelly dispassionate. (Although I generally follow their lead and practice a guarded, but warm discretion. Well, I try to do so, anyway.)

    2. Data Lady*

      Do you really need to self-censor yourself that much? You’re allowed to be a person at work, with interests. It sounds like you’re worried about how everything that makes you a person comes across, and that must be exhausting.

      I get where you’re coming from, but sharing very little of your life can backfire.

      1. The Grammarian*

        I feel the same as HannahS. My interests are not in alignment with my coworkers’ interests, and I don’t want to be permanently labeled for them, so I keep my personal life to myself.

        1. Data Lady*

          I used to feel like both of you do, and still do from time to time, but I’m pretty sure my last job was derailed by my keeping my personal life to myself. I’ve had some things happen in my private life over the past few years that have made me not want to reinvest in my romantic or social life for the foreseeable future, so I have a lot of solitary hobbies. Talking about that stuff doesn’t have the same bang-for-your-buck as water cooler talk about kids and vacations, so I didn’t share too much. That, and I was pretty wary of seeimg negative about my life if I accidentally opened up further. I was worried about the alignment between my coworker’s lives and mine, and I didn’t want to draw attention to any differences.

          That strategy totally backfired. My boss inferred some fairly ugly things about my personality and my orientation to work because I both wasn’t totally open about my personal life, and also probably because I wasn’t able to do a ton of virtue signaling about how relationships and family are super important to me. I was being friendly with other people, and engaging them about their interests, but I was probably private enough that it was difficult for some people to connect with me except over the work itself.

          In retrospect, I’m not sure that everyone there had that much in common and that people who did okay there just owned who they were, even if they played D&D on the weekend or spent their time cross-stitching ironic wall plaques. If I’d done the same I might have had a fighting chance there. So what if I was labelled as a nerdy knitter?

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            That says some ugly things about your boss, but I’ve got to think it’s probably an outlier. That was a really crummy thing for them to do. I do believe that it can be helpful to make at least some shallow social connections with coworkers, but I don’t think it’s common to concoct negative (or any) narratives about people who don’t share, unless they’re extraordinarily secretive or something.

            Boss: Got any plans for the weekend?
            You: *stuffing papers down the front of your shirt, looking around with sweat on your brow* No! Why would you think I have plans?

            1. Alton*

              Yeah, I don’t know if I’d want to work somewhere where being private was seen as a sign of poor character. That sounds like a poor culture fit, and who’s to say the the manager wouldn’t also be judgemental toward someone who opened up about hobbies or lifestyle choices that didn’t mesh well with the culture?

              I get that being very closed off can make someone seem less approachable and personable, which can be an issue sometimes. But there’s a big difference between having doubts about how well someone fits in because they never talk to anyone and inferring bad things about them as people.

          2. Important Moi*

            I’m going through this now. I am trying to figure out “what” say given that my personal life involves other people. What should I say about them? I’ve offered some that I can’t take back, but don’t plan on offering anymore.

          3. Lynn Whitehat*

            I have a hard time with the water-cooler chat. I’ve been doing a lot of political activist work lately, which is obviously bad to talk about at work. I also teach a comprehensive sex-ed class at my church, which has got to be one of the worst possible water-cooler topics. And I go on a lot of “camp-outs” that are actually regional Burning Man events. My co-workers hear a lot about my kids and dog.

            1. KellyK*

              You can probably “sanitize” some of the stuff though. You spent the weekend volunteering with teens at your church, for example. I think a brief mention of the political stuff is fine as long as you’re not discussing who, what, and why in detail. Like, “I went to a political rally with some friends” or “I’m volunteering for a political campaign, so I spent Saturday phone-banking.”

              I don’t know much about Burning Man beyond what I’ve read on the Wikipedia page, but it sounds like a big arts/music/theater festival. My coworkers think it’s cool (if weird) when I talk about steampunk and SCA events, so telling yours that you’re going to a Burning Man event might be a possibility. I get the impression that in addition to the artsy stuff, Burning Man is also a giant, boozy and druggy party, but whether you’re participating in that side of the event or not isn’t something your coworkers need to know about.

            2. Nervous Accountant*

              Teaching sex ed–that topic would fly so well at my work place. If someone absolutely refused t o share anything about themselves, they would be such an outlier. In fact, I’m having issues with that but that’s the open thread talk.

              It’s interesting and a musing how places can be so different.

      2. HannahS*

        Yes. It’s not exhausting at all! It’s actually much easier to say, “Oh, I had a quiet weekend. How about you?” “Your kid did what?! Aw, that’s so sweet” than to figure out exactly how Jewish I’m allowed to be at work before someone starts having *opinions* about it. Or how quirky my interests can be before I start hearing “Ohmigosh you’re so cuuuuuuuute.” Image management is part of being at work, and I’m a short, young, baby-faced nerdy minority-religion woman. Unfortunately, this requires managing. My work is either computer-based or with kids–I don’t spend a lot of time with coworkers anyway.

    3. that guy*

      I avoid personal questions at work, because people will find out I don’t have a social life. It’s not a problem for me. I actually like my life. But some people are very judgy.

      1. Data Lady*

        But don’t they just read between the lines and figure out that you don’t have much of a social life? I’m in a similar situation and I suspect that people pick up on it. What you don’t share sometimes says as much as what you do.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I don’t know, that sounds a lot like mind reading to me – they’re more likely to assume you’re a private person.

        2. that guy*

          Sure, they probably figure it out anyway, but I’m not going to volunteer that information. “Mind your own business”, that’s my motto.

        3. Myrin*

          I mean, I guess they could but I’m not really sure it’s that likely. I’ve personally never assumed someone doesn’t have a social life just because I’m not exactly sure what they do in their private time and I’m willing to bet that most people are the same.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Yeah, I work in a pretty chatty workplace where some people are more open than others about thei personal lives. It really only occurred to me that I don’t know much about a particular person when my spouse asked me something about them and I realized I had no idea. I do know that they’re friendly and do their work and don’t cause problems, so I don’t really care or dwell on what I don’t know.

        4. Former Retail Manager*

          I am a chatty Cathy in my workplace and am probably one of the individuals that knows the most about everyone. Admittedly, I am also nosy. I assure you that those of you without a social life (I’m totally in that boat too– Cat Lady here!) are not fooling anyone. And what you said earlier, Data Lady, about those people from your prior workplace just owning who they were, is a great tactic in my opinion. Even if you work in an environment where everyone is pretty homogenous, I would still say be you. So long as you’re polite and do good work, I’ve never seen being different backfire on anyone. I have however seen extremely guarded “private” people be let go in tough times because no one is attached to/pulling for people that they know nothing about.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I found that the trick to that was embracing it. Over the years, I’ve realized that I’m very much an introvert and I need time away from people to recharge my batteries. When I run constantly on the weekend, it leaves me more exhausted.

        Coworker: What did you do this weekend?
        Me: Absolutely nothing and it was glorious.

        Coworker: Do you have plans this weekend?
        Me: I am not leaving my apartment until it’s time to come back to work and I can’t wait.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I do a lot of that. We’re also not in a high-social culture in general, but as far as I can tell nobody’s been measuring social lives or judging them.

          And as a manager, I do generally listen more than talk when it comes to weekend stuff; I’ve got several staff members who come in at different times, so I don’t want to rehash the whole thing every time (usually), and since I already know what I did it’s more interesting to hear what they did.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq*

          The only time I’ve gotten a remotely bad response from telling someone I planned to spend the weekend doing glorious nothing was from a person who said, “wait until you’ve got kids!” shortly after I got married. *eye roll*

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*


            people with kids have mostly responded with jealousy when I say things like that.

        3. On Fire*

          Coworker: What did you do this weekend?
          Me: Absolutely nothing and it was glorious.

          Coworker: Do you have plans this weekend?
          Me: I am not leaving my apartment until it’s time to come back to work and I can’t wait.

          These are common conversations in my office. We’re all pretty laid-back. My response is usually something like, “I’m going to work in the yard” or “I cleaned my house,” but we all celebrate our homebody-ness. Even the younger employees who frequently have bachelor/ette parties and weddings, etc., often declare their passion for a weekend to sleep in, stay home and vegetate.

        4. Lora*

          Heh. I particularly enjoy the conversation with people who are compelled to brag and preen about their kids’ events and accomplishments:

          Me: How was your weekend?
          Coworker: Junior went to soccer and then Juniorette had a dance recital and we went to Six Flags with grandma and then I took Junior to his Super Mega Model UN event and he won first place in the Warmongering Rocket Sales debate and then Juniorette played a duet with Yo-Yo Ma, we’re preparing her for Juilliard blah blah blah
          Me: That sounds really busy. I sat on my butt and drank margaritas all weekend. *grin*

        5. Cassie*

          My coworker would not accept my breezy “nothing” as an answer to what I did over the weekend. Her response was “seriously? You did nothing? You just sat there, in the dark, and did nothing? Come on, what did you do?” I caved and said “oh, I just ran errands, watched tv, relaxed”. I wish I had stayed firm and said “yes, nothing” and then turned back to my computer.

          It’s not that I don’t believe in politeness and cordiality – I do (as long as it’s not overly fake or forced). Her insistence on knowing what I did, coupled by her incredulity, just showed her tone-deafness. She enjoys sharing about her personal life, which is fine. But if someone gives you a breezy “oh, nothing!”, learn that it probably means “I don’t want to discuss it”.

      3. Cleopatra Jones*

        The trick isn’t to share nothing, the trick is too share very innocuous stuff about yourself so that people feel like they know you. :-)

        Even if watching TV is the only thing you’re going to do, that TV show becomes a way to connect with co-workers because it opens the door for discussion. Then you find out that you and co-worker X like the same kinds of TV shows so it becomes common ground to build a better work relationship.

        It took me way to long to realize that co-workers don’t necessarily want to know your whole entire life outside of work but they do want to know who they are working alongside of each day.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          Your last sentence…so true! I don’t care about politics or religion or your awful childhood, but knowing what kind of TV shows you like and watch tells me about your sense of humor, maybe your interests, and who knows what else. I spend 40+ hours per week with my manager and co-workers and I’d like to know at least a little something about them. I personally find it odd that some people can work together for years and never know anything about their co-workers.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          It’s like Emmett in The Lego Movie: he thought he got along perfectly with his coworkers, but it turned out they felt like he was essentially a stranger. The things they knew about each other weren’t deeply personal–Frank likes tacos, Jake goes bowling–but it made them seem human (or, er, Lego).

  5. JamieS*

    #1 – I concur with Alison that the topics you’re discussing sound pretty harmless. The only concern I can think of is if you continue talking while your manager is giving signals he’s ready for the conversation to end (crossed arms, avoid eye contact, stepping back, etc.). It’s hard to tell if that’s occurring from the letter so if not then I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.

    As for your supervisor not being as open I doubt there’s anything to worry about. He’s probably just a more private person. It’s also possible it doesn’t occur to him to share the specifics of his weekend unless something special occurred. I know I tend to give similar responses as your boss unless I did something out of the ordinary.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I wondered that too. But if you were really oversharing he’d probably stop asking questions in the first place.

      1. Connie*

        I don’t think that’s true. Sometimes I ask a question to mask the fact that I have been completely tuning out my coworker’s one-sided chatter for the past 10 minutes.

    2. CM*

      I think this is your manager trying to show an interest in you but not wanting to share much about his personal life. Which is fine, even though it feels one-sided.

      Also, I had a manager once who I felt was implementing lessons she learned in manager class about how to have good relationships with your team. As soon as we were done talking about work stuff, she would ask about my weekend/kids/whatever and we would have three minutes of pleasant chit-chat and then she would tell me to have a good day which was my signal to leave. Every time. After I left that job we met for coffee a few times and she was much more free with what she said, so I think she was maintaining boundaries by not sharing much.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That sounds fairly ideal. I appreciate having a manager who is collegial, and possibly even warm, but there’s also a firm set of boundaries. Good fences and all that.

    3. Not Karen*

      Yeah, a lot of times I don’t mind sharing but there’s nothing to share. As much as I liked laying about and reading all weekend, it doesn’t make for an interesting story.

  6. Bobster Brownie*

    As a bit of a closet gamer myself, playing in MMO or group gaming scenarios can be a complex factor at work. There is also a hierarchy and assigned roles, performance standards, and it can leech IRL (in real life) – I’ve seen it cause issues between peers but also when there is a perceived or formal senior/subordinate relationship. It’s really similar to personal relationships outside of work where supervisors socialize with some of their direct reports (and their relation ship is directly due to their place of work and not a pre-existing friendship) but not others.

    The company may not be overstepping – they may already know this has the potential to blow up.

    1. Blossom*

      That’s interesting. I was coming here to say the decision was ludicrous, and to liken it to a company sports team. That said, I don’t know much about D&D, so perhaps it is different? This still feels like overstepping to me, though. At the end of the day, it is just a game and these are grown adults.

      1. GermanGirl*

        Well, I’d also hope it would be no problem. I’ve played in numerous groups and in different systems (DnD among them) and although they’re are conflicts, they usually don’t extend beyond the game. When the pizza comes, we’re all friends again. That said, it certainly depends on the personality of the players and the game master. Also, some groups see the player – game master relationship more antagonistic than others (which is currently a conflict in one of my groups). But I also read so I know that it can get much worse than in my group (just read the problem-player and problem-player tags and you’ll learn a whole lot about managing groups with different expectations and people with difficult personalities).

        All that said, I think role-playing games are a great practice ground for certain soft skills (which I even brought up in an interview) so I also see the benefits for the new manager to continue to play.

        If I were the boss I’d certainly warn him to keep game and work separate, and tell him that I expect he will leave the group if he feels that it interferes with his work relationships with these employees, but as long as everything goes smoothly, I wouldn’t do more than that.

        1. GermanGirl*

          That was supposed to read problem-players and problem-gm (gm for game master) tags.

      2. OP3 4 halfling husband*

        The company did have (and maybe still does have) a pretty cutthroat company-sponsored softball team in a different department. Based on the competitiveness there, I would understand if rivalries developed or there was awkwardness, but this group is an entirely different sort of group in a different department. They work hard all day and a couple times a month amuse themselves exploring imaginary realms.

        1. GermanGirl*

          Well, if they allow managers and their subordinates on the same company softball team, then I see no reason not to allow them in the same D&D group. That sounds like a double standard to me.

          1. krysb*

            That depends whether or not the softball team has a member of management – especially a new member – on the team.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            But a D&D group is often going to be fairly small, whereas a softball team can be larger. So it might be that management views it as a little too exclusionary or cliquish. It’s probably not that there *is* favoritism, but that to people not in the group, it could have the appearance of leading to favoritism. And then plain old personal bias – management may assume “hey everyone likes softball, so it’s okay to have a team and everyone who wants to can join!” Lots of companies seem to have blinders on when it come to sports teams – that’s the thing they make exceptions for (and those of us who hate to play get to be harangued about joining the team every. single. week.).

            1. Purplesaurus*

              management may assume “hey everyone likes softball, so it’s okay to have a team and everyone who wants to can join!”

              Not to argue against the idea that it’s tricky for management to be in groups like this with subordinates, but if the workplace supports/understands geekiness like OP states, then I doubt they’d have this particular estimation ;)

            2. oldbiddy*

              company softball teams are usually open to anyone who wants to play. D+D groups aren’t.

            3. Turtle Candle*

              Well, and it can also be different if anyone can join, in theory. A social thing where anyone can theoretically join (a softball team, a lunchtime book club, a group that tries out a different restaurant every Thursday after work, etc.) strikes me as fairly different than a D&D group because D&D groups tend to be smaller and often are not always open to new players. Some of them are essentially never open to new players, or only take them basically–this is going to sound weird–on referral (my roommate/boyfriend/new friend wants to join, I’ll vouch that they aren’t going to mess up the group dynamic or flake out every other week).

              If this is a D&D group that will allow anyone to join (or even, like a sports team, allows anyone to join but only at a particular time per year) then I’d feel differently about it, but I honestly don’t know of many of those except for pick-up one-shots at conventions. In part because it’s awfully difficult to run a real campaign with people coming in and out all the time.

              1. Holly*

                There’s also a Hard Limit to D&D games. Officially, you can have 8 players (so 9 people including the DM). But 8 players is kind of awful for game play, and realistically most groups are limited to between 4-6 players. So even if you wanted to include anyone who wanted to play, you can’t.

        2. Lablizard*

          Did anything go weird with the softball team between a supervisor and supervisee? If it did that might be the origin of this. And, of course, a company sponsored activity that is, presumably, open to all employees, is a bit different than a private group where every supervisee doesn’t have an equal chance to participate.

          It seems a bit overzealous, but my gut says there is a backstory that made them out what seems to be a rule that is incongruent with the office culture

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            Yes– and D&D groups have to be smaller, while a softball team would probably always love more participants! It might be worth thinking if this group is truly open to anyone who would want to join and how that might color perceptions.

        3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I think the softball team is a bit of a non-sequitor, as you are comparing a company-sponsored team where anyone can sign up and a D&D game that only company people happen to play in.

          It’s a perception thing, but can make a huge difference.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            This is the thing, as Not the Droid and others have pointed out. It’s not whether his being a member of the group will make him biased in their favor. The issue is whether it will have the appearance that he does. People outside the group should not have to worry about whether or not they are getting less favorable treatment because they aren’t in this small group.

      3. Becky*

        Yeah I was leaning towards this being overstep–but I don’t play D&D. We have a game night once a month in my department that anyone is welcome to attend (we do a potluck dinner so food and games) but the group that comes shifts a bit from month to month and the games we’re playing are like Catan, Dominion, Munchkin, Pandemic, or other board game/card game. We have a project manager who comes often, a Dev lead, two Senior QAs, some other devs and QAs. We just have a lot of fun and eat good food. I often get absolutely trounced in these games, but it doesn’t affect work at all.

        Is D&D really that different a dynamic that it would warrant this?

        1. Oryx*

          If they have a set regular group like the one being described? Yes.

          D&D is kind of like a television show in which there is a strong sense of plot that gets compounded each time you play and there are carefully crafted characters and interpersonal dynamics and relationships. Groups tend to be very tight-knit and campaigns last for weeks and months.

          With the games you described, they are kind of like a movie that you can watch in a single sitting and go about your day. Sometimes you watch the movie with these people, other times you watch it with these other people. People come, people go and it’s not a big deal.

          The dynamics are incredibly different between the two types of games and because of the tight-knit community that comes with a regular D&D gaming group, there can be a perceived sense of favoritism coming from those out the outside.

          1. Becky*

            Thanks for the explanation–like I said I don’t play D&D. That was a very helpful analogy.

        2. Student*

          In softball, everyone has a pretty clear idea of what happens even if they’ve never in their life played or watched softball.

          In D&D, if you’ve never played, you have no idea what it is. If you have played, you have no idea what this specific group is like. If you played with this exact group a year ago, you have no idea how their campaign is this year.

          I’ve been in several D&D campaigns. I find it a lot of fun. However, it can be anywhere from “family friendly for pre-teens” to “way more NSFW than Cards Against Humanity”. It can, but does not always, involve role-playing matters of a sexual nature, involve role-playing horrible acts against your fellow players, involve role-playing power dynamics that are very different from your real-world job power dynamics, and it very often involves a certain level of intimacy/trust/socializing that is higher than the normal Western standard for co-worker relationships. This usually isn’t at the “buddies that go out for beer once a week after work” level – this is more often the “buddies who spend 4 hours together every weekend making beer and discussing the moral, social, political, dilemmas of their generation” level of friendship.

    2. Miso*

      The only problem I could think of is if the supervisee is the DM and the supervisor a regular player. If they take the game very serious, they could make exchanges like “I give you the Sword of Doom +12 and don’t have to do stupid work task in exchange”.

      Let’s be honest – that probably wouldn’t happen. But maybe the company is afraid it might, or that other people think that’s what happens.

      1. Liane*

        If I was working with someone in my Skype group, we might have that kind of exchange–possibly subbing in lightsaber, since we play Star Wars a lot–but it would be as Stupid Task was being started.

    3. valereee*

      I agree with Bobster. Gaming groups can become extremely tight-knit with complex interrelationships. It very well might not be the same as other kinds of casual off-hours socializing. It’s likely this casual geeky workplace knows exactly how different the gaming group is from the group that goes out for happy hour every Friday.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 Do use this and try to warn them. Because if they do end up working there and hating it, they may wonder why you didn’t say something.

    1. OnFire*

      This. I’ve left a toxic job before, and when people approached me (before and after I left), I did one of two things: if I was close to them, I was honest. “I wouldn’t recommend going there. Turnover is high; x people have left for (reason); here’s what exec level is like.”
      More distant people got a sanitized version: “There have been a lot of changes, and there has been a lot of turnover.”
      I never said, “these people are the spawn of the Sith Lords; RUN,” but the mention of high turnover should *always* be a warning.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I regret not warning someone who took over an old job of mine. I was miserable on the caramel teapots team and could move to hazelnut teapots but only once my job was filled. I found the work stressful but got on with the people, however the whole place was dysfunctional.

        I didn’t warn my replacement because I was so desperate to move (think major stress/burnout, crying every day) and because my replacement really wanted to work with caramel teapots – unlike me. This was a ‘dream job’ for her. I asked a few people if I should warn her off and they said no because she was different, wanted the job and might lose out. I had a nagging feeling I should say something, but I didn’t know what or why and I let it go.

        She found the job stressful and ended up walking out and having a minor breakdown. I could never have predicted what she found stressful – the people – but I still feel guilty, and like I should have said something. Had she been a contact of mine I think I would have.

        I don’t feel great about the above. It was my first job after college and I think I just didn’t recognise quite how awful the whole place was.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          #2 I was in a similar situation– a somewhat close coworker was considering moving into a job I was leaving. I encouraged her to apply, but was also clear about x, y, and z challenges. She struggled with the same things I did, but she was also better equipped to handle them– Because I had warned her, what had been a toxic situation for me was just a part of the job description for her.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      And a huzzah to Alison’s warning about using the phone, not putting it in writing.

    3. OP2*

      Up till now, my policy has just been silence:

      Contact: Hey, I saw this job opening at OldJob, what can you tell me about it, and can you put me in touch with anyone there?
      Me: [crickets]

      But I think that will be changing based on this post. :)

      1. Mike C.*

        You know, it’s never too late to reach out. Even if you explained that you weren’t sure how to go about this or that the situation was tricky, I think reasonable people would understand your previous silence completely.

      2. Lora*

        I am less tactful; I point out any relevant Glassdoor reviews and say in no uncertain terms, “hey, if you have to pay the mortgage, do what you gotta do. But if you can wait to get another offer, wait. And don’t stop looking once you’re there, get out as soon as something better comes along and don’t feel bad about it.” Because, like you said, people will rationalize away anything less.

        1. Mike C.*

          Also, if the OP feels like writing their own Glassdoor review, all the better…

    4. Liane*

      I don’t see these kinds of warnings as any different than the language Alison has given for current/past supervisors who want to warn about a candidate when a reference checker calls.

  8. DVZ*


    Can I disagree?

    I’m currently hiring for a position in my team right now but our HR department does the first screen of candidates and will often reach out to people via LinkedIn to vet them before getting their resumes and passing on to me.

    While I get that they have been approached, if they are interested enough in leaving their current role to join us, then I think they should put the ‘proper’ effort into their application which includes a cover letter. I might get 10 resumes sent through from HR, and without a cover letter I really don’t get much sense of the candidate’s personality or why they are considering leaving their current role. I don’t think it needs to be OTT, but a simple “When Lucinda reached out to me, I thought this would be a good opportunity because…” is really, really helpful. Otherwise I might look at their resume/LinkedIn profile and have no context for why this job interests them.

    Our HR department recently contacted someone (and did an initial – but very poor –
    phone screen) who was only 6 months into her current role but she was interested in our company. I very nearly rejected her on the basis of several very short stints – HR hadn’t actually probed this enough so they couldn’t really explain it to me either – but took a chance and interviewed her and the reason for her wanting to leave afterr 6 months was totally understandable. If I’d had a cover letter that explained that, she’d been right at the top of my list, but instead she very nearly missed out.

    Just because someone at the company reaches out, doesn’t mean that it’s the person you might need to impress! Also, HR departments aren’t always in sync with the actual team, so I never really know how strong a candidate is/how enthused they are, or whether they just thought “what the heck, this company reached out to me so why not send my resume in, even if I’m not all that serious about it”.

    A cover letter lets me see that, even if you were approached, you are still really excited about the job. It also helps explain any gaps/issues in your resume or any strange roles that might need context. If I’m hiring for a Teapot Designer role and you took a Teapot Colouring role at some point, the HR department may think that’s a logical career move, but for those of us in the Teapot industry, it might raise a red flag.

    Basically, you could be at the mercy of an HR team who doesn’t know how to present you in the best light to the actual team, or doesn’t have the right questions to ask. And if all I have is your resume and I’m deciding between a bunch of people – and I am unclear on a few things about you – you probably won’t make it to an interview.

    1. Mookie*

      Great, informative comment. The reasoning in your final para — selling an applicant and approaching them with an individualized strategy during screening — didn’t occur to me, but it makes a lot of sense.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      This is a really great comment, but what if you don’t have time to write one? Say someone reaches out to you and wants your application stat (which has happened to me).

      1. DVZ*

        I would probably say
        A) If they can’t give you at least a couple of days, that’s a bit of a red flag. If they reach out to YOU, they should absolutely expect you to want a day or two to polish your resume, because if you aren’t actively looking for roles it may not be ready. I’d just say something like, “That sounds great, let me just check that my resume is fully up to date and I’ll get back to you” or whatever. You also probably know your industry and whether or not hiring is really ‘urgent’.

        B) If for whatever reason they do want it ASAP and it doesn’t seem weird to you, I would say that it really doesn’t need to be an amazing cover letter. Like Alison said, it’s not like you need to ‘capture’ their attention really. At least how it works for me/my company/a lot of similar companies to mine, this is more about an explanation/context rather than trying to wow anybody. So I’d say you could knock it together in an hour or two, because there is a bit less pressure?

        I might be in the minority but I am often initially skeptical of applicants who are contacted by our HR team, because I always, always want to know why this role has intrigued them enough to leave their company if they weren’t actively looking (or maybe they were, but I don’t know that!). If I don’t understand the reason, I might (wrongly) assume that you’re flaky, indecisive or generally open to being poached by a competitor. None of which fills me with confidence. Or you might have always wanted to work for our company, or you might just feel like it’s the right time for a new challenge, or whatever. Our HR team will always tell me that these applicants are suitable/have the right experience/resume looks great/very qualified, but as your potential manager, I want to understand WHO you are.

        Also it’s different for different roles, but in my field, strong writing is an absolute must have, so a cover letter is just an extra plus if it’s done well. Whereas otherwise I might not find out about your writing skills until the test we do in person – and you might turn out to be a terrible writer, in which case you’ve wasted your time, or you might be great but you have a bad day when the test is done and your skills don’t shine and I have nothing else to go off. Similarly, if you have a terrible/’off’ day interviewing in general, I might be more favourable if your cover letter seemed normal/compelling. You might be shy, or a terrible interviewee, or any number of things, and the cover letter is just one more data point for the hiring team.

      2. Hellanon*

        In a situation like that, a couple of quick lines in an email can perform the same function – think of it as establishing the context for your resume, or setting up the framework for the interview.

    3. GermanGirl*

      Yes, I agree, the only time I have applied without a cover letter was the time when the hiring manager contacted me directly, we did a phone interview on the spot, and he said he’d just need the cv for his files. Mind you, I was recommended to him before I even knew about the opening.

      All other times I went with a cover letter, mentioning the point of contact.

    4. Revolver Rani*

      I ask for a cover letter, even when I (or our internal recruiter) initiate contact with a candidate. There are a couple of reasons for this.

      First, I’m hiring for a writing position. I will ask for technical samples as well, but a cover letter is often as good an indication as any that the candidate can string words together in written form.

      Second, I’m often hiring career changers. I specifically ask for a cover letter that explains their interest in the position, what about it strikes them as something they might want to do and might be good at.

      I was surprised by Alison’s answer to this one too, really. Even a candidate who as been invited to apply should submit a complete application. Moreover, as another commenter noted, the person doing the inviting is not the only person who is going to see the application.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I think this falls under the general rule of doing what’s requested. When the recruiter asks me for a letter and my resume, I send both — if they just ask for a resume, I don’t do the letter (although I’ll write a nice email, not just “Here you go!!”).

        1. DVZ*

          Not to keep going on and on about this (I’m just in the middle of hiring right now and this is an issue that’s actually been on my mind), but I want to reiterate that the recruiter might not ask you but it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do one! Our HR department are pretty lax (being kind here) and so are the recruiters we work with – they would not think to really ask for one. However, as the hiring manager, I’m really frustrated right now at the lack of cover letters. Recruiters don’t care about you/your personality/your reasons for applying as much as the hiring manager does (in my experience of both sides) – they are trying to get “qualified” candidates in front of managers. But I don’t just care if you are “qualified” – I want the whole picture!

          It isn’t really a negative if you don’t send one in the sense that I think it’s weird in principle (because if my recruiter contacts you, I can see why you might not think to send one, so I wouldn’t hold it against a candidate in the same way I would if they applied direct without one), but it’s a negative in the sense that you might really be missing a trick.

          One of my guesses for this is that people think because they were approached directly, the role isn’t that competitive or they have a better than average shot at it – definitely not true! Our recruiters have reached out to 60+ candidates in the last two weeks (so definitely not a small pool), and out of everyone who has sent their resume in response, only ONE has added a cover letter! Her resume was pretty average for this role, but because I understood why she was interested and what she could bring to it (and she was also able to explain a weird job title on her resume that I didn’t really recognise), she definitely got a lot more consideration than she would have without it, and more consideration than those with very well-qualified but kind of “bland” resumes.

          I think this is especially true if you’re at a junior level and your resume really isn’t that different than anyone elses. I think sometimes these younger candidates can’t tell the difference between being like, personally headhunted vs. on the receiving end of a fishing expedition by HR/recruiters. With LinkedIn it’s so much easier for recruiters to do this and convince candidates that this is the *perfect* role for them. Which you know, it might be – but if you really want it, you should definitely treat it like a normal application.

          1. Recruit-o-rama*

            If you are working with recruiters who don’t care about the candidates qualifications, personal fit OR about what you as the hiring manager is looking for in detail then you are working with the wrong recruiters. I care deeply about these things, it is what I’ve dedicated my entire career to.

      2. the gold digger*

        Even a candidate who as been invited to apply should submit a complete application.

        If someone approached me, the only reason I would be interested would be a lot more money than I am making now. I have a great boss, I like and respect my co-workers, and I like my job. I am not taking the chance on going back to a bad boss unless I would be paid a lot more for it. (And even then, I would rather have less money than a bad boss.)

        I am not even going to fill out an hour-long online application that asks where I went to high school, much less write a cover letter, unless I know the salary and I would want the salary. I am very interested to know if that is information that you share with candidates.

        1. Lablizard*

          One of the best interview questions I have heard of is, “If you were happy with your salary, work environment, job duties, and management, what would it take to get you to leave the job?” (not exact wording…it was more elegant). I have no idea how I would answer it, but I bet the answers are interesting.

        2. DVZ*

          No one is asking for an hour long online application with HS details?!

          All I am saying is that if you care at all about actually getting the job, you may want to write a quick cover letter to enhance you resume, because the person “recruiting” you may not be the person you ACTUALLY want to impress or they may have contacted another hundred applicants and you will not stand out if you don’t.

          If all you care about is salary then yeah, don’t bother with it. But then you’re not really the type of person we’re talking about. I’m talking about someone who may actually want the job (not just more money) and so this is a way to get one step closer to that.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            the gold digger was responding to Revolver Rani, who said that a candidate who has been approached should still fill out an application.

            1. Revolver Rani*

              To be pedantic, I didn’t say “fill out an application” – I said “apply.” In the case of the jobs I hire for, “applying” means submitting a resume and cover letter. If you don’t submit a cover letter, you’ll be asked for one. That’s all.

          2. the gold digger*

            If all you care about is salary then yeah, don’t bother with it. But then you’re not really the type of person we’re talking about.

            Yeah, I am one of those unlucky people who has to work for money. :)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, that is really problematic framing, and the kind of thing that typically leads companies to lowball candidates or otherwise play games on salary that tend to disproportionately hurt women and non-white candidates.

              1. DVZ*

                …totally not what I was saying…I feel like turning it into my comment contributes to how companies hurt women and non-white candidates is a bit of a leap?!

                My entire point was, if “the only reason” you’d want to talk to a recruiter is about whether they could offer more money (because your current job is perfect), then there isn’t a NEED for you to do a cover letter! You aren’t concerned about impressing them, you aren’t looking for a new challenge, you aren’t looking for a new job at all! So it’s a really simple question: more money? yes/no. If it’s a no, then no letter is needed because then you won’t be applying for the job, right? And if it’s a yes, but you don’t really care if you get the job THAT much because you like your current job so much, then don’t do a cover letter/rely on your resume. That is why I said “not the person I am talking about” in these comments.

                My whole point is *if you care* about the job as in, something OTHER than salary such as, you really think you’d be a good fit, you want to move to that role for some other reason, you may wish to consider a cover letter because you *never know* the impact it will have. If you don’t care, then don’t write one!

                Honestly people. At literally no point did I say anything about not working for money/working for money is a bad thing/caring about salary is a bad thing…

        3. Revolver Rani*

          [quote]I am not even going to fill out an hour-long online application that asks where I went to high school, much less write a cover letter, unless I know the salary and I would want the salary. I am very interested to know if that is information that you share with candidates.[/quote]

          Is this in response to my comment? I’m not sure why you are saying it.

          All I meant that when I invite a candidate to apply, I am inviting them to apply, which means they should do what any other applicant would be required to do. Being invited to apply isn’t a free pass to skipping parts of the hiring process – it’s just being invited to apply. If the candidate isn’t interested in the position, then they should feel free not to apply. I mean, isn’t that obvious? And if you are offended at being asked for a cover letter … well, maybe you don’t want to be a writer. It doesn’t seem like an outrageous request to me. (I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone who was interested in the jobs I hire for withdraw because I asked for a cover letter.)

          Also, candidates whom I approach aren’t necessarily happily employed. Nearly all of them are people who have already applied for other positions in my company and were declined for any of a number of reasons. But once again, if they aren’t interested, they don’t have to apply.

          1. the gold digger*

            I understand what you are saying. What I am asking is, Are you going to give me enough information for me to decide if I am even interested in the job? As in, if you are approaching me, there is a slight burden on you to convince me I should take the time to go through your application process. I am assuming that if you are approaching me that there is something about my LinkedIn profile that attracts you and makes you think I would be valuable to your organization.

            1. DeveloperDodo*

              I agree, I’m fortunate enough to be in senior enough position and in a field (Software Development) where I get serious offers at least twice a week. Recruiters are notoriously unable to actually sell a position (they don’t have the technical knowhow to convince me why I would want to work somewhere). So the only thing I have to go on is salary expectations.
              Also if a company or recruiter approaches me, they really shouldn’t expect me to be over the moon about the opportunity, it’s the other way around, they should be over the moon to be able to woo me. The burden in this case is on the other foot, something a lot of companies don’t understand.

    5. insert pun here*

      Yes, I’ve always been asked to provide a cover letter when approached by a recruiter. I was surprised by this answer as well. Perhaps this is partially field-dependant?

    6. CM*

      I agree, I think if normal applicants need to do a cover letter, you should do a cover letter unless you’re being very heavily recruited for the job and the hiring manager already knows you. If I were invited to apply for a job, I’d send a resume and cover letter. If the hiring manager contacted me and said, I think you’d be great for this, if you’d consider it can you send me your resume? that’s about the only time I wouldn’t write a cover letter. It can’t hurt.

    7. Allison*

      Are the people conducting the interviews recruiters or sourcers, who specialize in phone screens, or are they HR generalists and finding/screening candidates is one of many tasks they need to do?

      Where I’ve worked, candidates haven’t needed to submit cover letters because the people screening them were skilled recruitment professionals, who knew what to ask for and how to adequately summarize a candidate for the hiring manager.

      However, if the person conducting a phone screen is an HR admin or generalist, I can see why a phone screen may not suss out enough information for you, and why you may still want to see a cover letter.

      Also, when you reject a candidate that’s been screened, do you just reject them or do you communicate your concerns to the person who submitted them, with the hopes of getting clarification before hitting the “reject” button.

      1. DVZ*

        I always communicate concerns, but as I said, the people doing your screen do NOT always know much about the role or even what questions to ask. So I might say to the HR person, “I would have expected someone at Senior Teapot Executive level to have brewing experience, why is that missing?”

        The HR person probably hasn’t asked that – and we don’t do second round phone screens. If I had a cover letter, this person might have thought to say “I don’t have brewing experience but I have steeping experience which I think would transfer well here because…”. But if I’ve got 50 resumes to sift through and HR don’t have the answers, I’m probably going to pass on you if I really want some brewing experience.

        Which doesn’t make it YOUR fault or YOUR responsibility to have solved that (I think some people are getting confused about what I’m saying). I am just saying, if you DO want the job, then a cover letter might be a real asset because you have no idea what you’re dealing with when it comes to that company’s recruitment process. If you don’t care either way and are only submitting because you were “recruited”…then I guess you won’t mind.

        1. Recruit-o-rama*

          If your recruiters are not providing you with the right information then either you have communicated what you are looking for and they are incompetent or you have not communicated what you are looking for in enough detail. Of course recruiters are not experts in all possible positions….they are recruiters. My most important relationships are with hiring managers. Of course some hiring managers expect recruiters to be mind readers.

          1. DVZ*

            This may not be the case for everyone, but the way it works for us (and other companies I have been in) is that the recruiter reaches out first based on the brief from the team. If the candidate is interested, they will send their resume and the agency or HR will schedule a phone screen. If the candidate passes the phone screen, HR/recruitment agency will pass the resume to me.

            This is the stage I am talking about! Not that I am not clearly communicating needs to the recruiter – but if I have questions or concerns about your resume or info I am told about the screen, I have NO further opportunity to address them without inviting you in for an interview. And if there are 30 of “you” to choose from, I am going to invite the top 5-7 candidates who I can get a real sense of – based on factors such as a cover letter.

            I am not going to invite you in for an in person interview so that I can do some more basic vetting – when I invite you in, that’s when I want to impress you, get you really interested in the job, ask more detailed, in-depth questions and test some actual skills. If I have some surface-level concerns about you vs another candidate, and that person sent a cover letter, then I’m going with them.

            1. Allison*

              My point is that the recruiter is supposed to do the basic vetting for you! If they’re not doing a good enough job and you feel like you either need a cover letter or you’ll end up doing that yourself, the recruiter isn’t properly vetting the candidates.

              1. Recruit-o-rama*

                Yes, this is my point. Either the recruiter knows and doesn’t care enough to do a good job with the vetting or the recruiter doesn’t have all the information. Either way, sounds like a process issue.

                1. DVZ*

                  Well, yes. It is. But you know, I’m not saying this is an ideal process. I am ONLY saying that this COULD be happening to you and you don’t know about it. I feel like my messages are being really twisted!!

                  If you don’t want to a submit a cover letter then FINE! But it’s naive to think that everyone on the other side of the process is doing everything perfectly. Sure, if these recruiters are just amazing and everyone’s communicating perfectly and blah blah, then yes, you shouldn’t *need* to submit a letter…

                  but why on earth would you NOT send a quick note/letter (that honestly would take 20 mins) to accompany your resume, if it helped your chances/if you care? That’s what I don’t get.

                2. Recruit-o-rama*

                  I agree with that. I’m not even arguing, just giving my perspective, as a recruiter.

    8. LBK*

      I agree – this answer is completely contingent on whether the person reaching out is an HR recruiter or the actual hiring manager. If it’s the former, I’d say still include a cover letter, because the HR recruiter is just going based on what’s likely a pretty shallow understanding both of what the hiring manager is looking for and how your qualifications match to that. They’re more just calling your attention to a listing you might be interested in. I wouldn’t consider it headhunting and thus forgo the cover letter unless it actually comes from the hiring manager or someone else more directly involved with the position than the recruiter.

    9. Jessesgirl72*

      Here is how I feel about it- you are forgetting that the interview process is a two way street, and you are looking at it as the candidate has to impress you. And that is fair enough when I’m looking for a new job and approach you, trying to get your attention.

      But if I’m happy enough at my current job, and your company approaches me, then the onus of who wins whom over initially is on you. Unless you are Dream Company that I already know I’d jump to work for, I’m not going to write a cover letter or jump through the long application hoop until you’ve given me a reason to want to work for you. I’ll take the recruiter and hiring manager call screens and put my best foot forward there, but if I’m not the one searching, I’m not going to put more effort into it than that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, exactly. My answer assumes that the person is actually being recruited. That’s not a guarantee of an offer at the end of the process, but it means that smart companies do lower the hoops candidates have to jump through.

        1. Us, Too*

          This reminds me. I was recently hired by one of the giant, internet tech companies. Here’s how it went down:
          1. A recruiter reached out to me on Linked In via direct message.
          2. We did a quick phone screen a few days later.
          3. We set up a couple video screens after that.
          4. I did an on site interview.
          5. I got the job!

          Here’s what’s weird, though: at no point did I submit a cover letter or resume. I’m still kind of shocked by the whole thing to be honest. I don’t think this is necessarily common, but if this giant company did it once, I bet it’s happening more than once at this company or others. (Trend to be looking for)

          1. Allison*

            If your LinkedIn profile had a lot of information about your skills and experience, they probably didn’t need one. I have no idea why recruiters demand that passive candidates to make a resume to be considered for a job they were approached for, when their LinkedIn contains all that information and more, and the recruiter has already gotten an in-depth look at their background by way of a phone screen. Sometimes a resume is an unnecessary formality.

      2. LBK*

        Ah, I was assuming in this case that the person being recruited was actively looking. I think that changes the answer as well – if you’re happy in your current job, I agree it’s on the company to explain why you should want to leave. A cover letter doesn’t make much sense in that context (if anything they should write one to you!).

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          “I am approached via LinkedIn for an opportunity about once every two to three months. ”

          That definitely doesn’t sound like an active job seeker.

          I’m approached at least weekly, personally, and I’m not seeking either. It’s the way of Linked In.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, I missed that line until I went and reread it after your comment (I was projecting my own situation since I am currently searching and have had a few recruiters reach out to me, and I did write cover letters for those positions).

      3. DVZ*

        I totally agree. I definitely want to impress candidates and want them to want the job.

        But just because you got a LinkedIn message doesn’t mean you were “recruited”. If I actually knew of someone via a connection in real life and reached out, then absolutely you don’t need to send a cover letter. But if you’re one of 150 people that HR have sent a generic “you should apply” note to, and you DO want the job, unfortunately yes you might need to send a cover letter so that you stand out from the crowd. Again, if you don’t care either way, then that’s fine.

        But it’s naive (IMO) to think that just because you got a recruiter message, that means anything more than that. It doesn’t mean the company wants you specifically, it doesn’t mean I know anything about you, it doesn’t mean I (as the hiring manager) have even approved that recruiter to contact you, it doesn’t mean you are even qualified for the role quite frankly. It means either our supplier recruitment agency or in house recruiter is working to fill a quota of candidates that they get in front of the actual team, and you vaguely fit the description.

        Obviously I want to impress the right candidates – but if I don’t know anything about you and you are relying on your resume/some potentially crappy recruiter, I can’t impress you because you’ll never make it to an interview.

        Again this is all very role and field specific. If you’ve got 15+ years of experience and you’re in a niche field, then sure, no cover letter, whatever. If you’re 3-5 years in, you are seriously not being “recruited” whatsoever. You are being spammed by a recruiter. So if you DO want the job, it’s pretty naive to think I need to “impress” you at this stage?! (I mean, outside of having a clear job description, info about the company, salary, etc.) I know nothing about you and haven’t asked the recruiter to contact you…so if you want the job, then why not take it seriously and try and impress the person who ACTUALLY decides if you get an interview? And if you don’t care that much then yeah leave it up to the company to decide – but you’re going to be at a disadvantage.

        1. Darren*

          It is definitely interesting to see your attitude toward these messages, but this is entirely different from the attitude that I or a lot of people on LinkedIn have when we get them. We feel that when you are sending us these initial messages you are the one doing the active part of the job search, and want to skip straight to phone screens and then (assuming we pass those) actual interviews.

          Now this is obviously for in-house recruitment, if you have a recruiter handling it, my assumption is more it’s that recruiter trying to build his stable of candidates, which means a phone or in-person interview with him, and then he will be shopping around my resume, and his impression of me from that to actual companies (which is similar to a cover letter obviously, but definitely not the same).

          I haven’t written a cover letter since my very first job every other position has either been handled through a recruiter, or was from a invitation to apply and they got my resume only.

          You are going to be excluding both good and bad candidates from your list by insisting on a cover letter at the very least make sure that your recruiter is asking the right questions to create a cover letter like summary, or in lieu of that have them make it very clear you still expect to see a cover letter.

          1. DVZ*

            I definitely don’t insist on a cover letter! And like I said, would never hold it against someone. My point is if I want more info about you and HR haven’t bothered to ask you, you might get rejected simply b/c I have too many people to decide between and a letter might have helped! So basically, don’t assume a letter is pointless.

            And for reference, we have both in house recruiters and agencies working on the same role sometimes, so not all agencies are going to shop you around. Sometimes they are collaborating with the in-house team to fill the role.

            And I love your last point about making sure the recruiter is asking the right questions – I wish it were that simple! I work in a global org of 3k people – sometimes internal politics and structures make it so you cannot simple “make sure” your recruiter is doing anything! It’s just not how it works (obviously, all companies are different etc. etc.)

            Hopefully my comments illustrate that every company/process is different and that you might want to send a quick cover note – even if you were approached – because you never know if that will tip the scales.

        2. the gold digger*

          But it’s naive (IMO) to think that just because you got a recruiter message, that means anything more than that. It doesn’t mean the company wants you specifically, it doesn’t mean I know anything about you, it doesn’t mean I (as the hiring manager) have even approved that recruiter to contact you, it doesn’t mean you are even qualified for the role quite frankly.

          But that’s exactly why I would think I got a recruiter message – that there is something about my profile that interests the company and that I am qualified for the position, at least on paper. I would be more than highly annoyed to be “invited” to apply only to find out that hey! guess what! we need someone with a PhD in Astrophysics and sorry, you don’t have one.

          If your recruiters are casting their net so widely that they are wasting the time of people who are not even qualified, perhaps the issue is the recruiters, not stubborn candidates.

          1. LQ*

            Yeah, I’m a little confused about this too. If you don’t know anything about me why are you inviting me to apply? Don’t invite me to apply unless you actually want to know more about me than you can see on my linked in page. If my linkedin page is enough to make you go oooo I want to know more, then you need a conversation with me. I’m good with that. But just like candidates shouldn’t spam their resume to every single company and every single job. They should find the ones they are a match for and go for those. Recruiters shouldn’t just spam every single person on linkedin. It’s got to be a two way street.

            If I go out and read your job description and want to apply I’ll put in the time. If you go to my linked in and like my resume do me the same favor, you know glance it over and make sure you want me in your pool.

            1. DVZ*

              I explained this above but there is a difference between the recruitment agency, the in-house recruiter and the actual team you will be working for. And unfortunately, life is such that sometimes they invite candidates to apply that aren’t in line with what the actual team wants. At no point am I saying any of this is the “right” thing – but hiring isn’t really that simple, right? Or we’d all have our dream jobs.

              This is seriously like saying “Why would I send a follow-up thank you note? I said thanks at the door when I left – so they know I’m thankful for their time” or “they should be thanking me as well for my time”. We all know that’s not how it works and that things aren’t REALLY “two-way” all the time.

              And yes, maybe I do want you in my “pool”. But I also have a lot of people who look “okay” for the first pool. If you care about making it further, why not just add a quick, personalised note to your resume?

          2. DVZ*

            Yes, the message most likely means you broadly fit the requirements. But more than that – no, it really doesn’t mean much more! I’m not talking “surprise, you need a PhD” (nothing I said could be taken that way, but sometimes recruiters are not fantastic at their jobs. Sometimes the job spec is really complicated. Sometimes they are struggling to find suitable people so they kind of go rogue and find people who “might” be a fit. You could be one of these outlier candidates and I, as the hiring manager, might look at your CV and go “He’s kind of a weird choice?” But YOU might be thinking you are a great candidate and hey, the recruiter reached out to YOU so you must fit the requirements, right? In that scenario, you won’t realise you are actually an outlier and a cover letter might be really helpful/will be just the thing that helps you through to the next round.

            1. the gold digger*

              I totally agree that a cover letter never hurts. I would write one because I write great cover letters (thanks, AAM!) and I would want to stand out, but I would also want to be a little bit courted if someone were trying to recruit me when I was not looking.

              And no, you have said nothing about needing a PhD. I was thinking about the note I got from a recruiter about a position and when I looked at the job description, they required business-level fluency in French and at least three completed SAP installations in a French-speaking country. On my LinkedIn profile, I mention that I am fluent in Spanish and that I worked on one SAP conversion. And that I worked in Chile for two years – but that had nothing to do with SAP. So it was really annoying to get a perky email from a recruiter who thought I was a perfect fit for a job only to realize that she had never even read my LinkedIn profile. She wasted my time and I got cranky.

  9. that guy*

    #1 I think your manager is just a private person, who doesn’t talk about his private life. There’s nothing wrong with that. Ask him “how was your weekend”, and accept his short answers.

    1. Not Karen*

      OP is already accepting of that. They are asking if they the OP are sharing too much.

      1. Frosted Flake*

        They also asked if they should be trying to make more of an effort to find out about their manager’s life outside of work. Which is the part “that guy” is responding to, I believe.

  10. Oryx*

    I’m actually a little surprised by Alison’s answer to the the D&D thing, because I think it’s less about the people in the group and more about the people not in the group. This is going to end up being a weekly several-hours long face-to-face “meeting” with a supervisor that other people in the team aren’t getting. And, sure, it’s all casual and fun and not work related but how is it any different than people going golfing and not inviting the non-golfers?

    And while you say the group isn’t cliquish — speaking as a non-playing former girlfriend of a DM, it’s hard to participate in such a group unless you play. All they can do is just sit and watch for a few hours which, having done that, is kind of boring.

    Also, D&D is a game that requires a lot of commitment, time, and effort to be part of a group. We have game groups at my place of employment but they play games that anyone can play and it’s okay if they miss a few weeks in a row or there are multiple games going at once, so if you don’t want to play X then you can go play Y or set up your table with Z.

    1. medium of ballpoint*

      Seconded. It’s the potential for exclusion and favoritism that’s the problem and I’d expect any new manager to reevaluate relationships with their subordinates.

      For example, I’m a book club with some friends from work. Supervisor A participates and joined once he was sure no employees from Department A were members. Conversely, Supervisor B would love to participate but most of us are from Department B, and we acknowledge that could be difficult. We often talk about our personal lives, our connections to different books, and we have a few hours of extra face-to-face time, sometimes involving alcohol, that non-members don’t have. That’s fine for peers, but a little more questionable when it involves supervisors/subordinates. It wouldn’t be appropriate for Supervisor B to participate and she recognizes that and has never tried to do so. I’ve always thought highly of her professionalism.

    2. Lablizard*

      I feel the same. The appearance of having some employees closer to the boss is no good and, honestly, having supervised a friend, it is really, really, hard not to favor the person you know better over the ones you don’t know as well.

      I also think the comparison of a private group to a company sponsored group is rocks to potatoes. The company has oversight of the company sponsored group and can move things around if needed (e.g. make one team managers and the other employees, make sure no employees are on teams with managers). Private groups are a different beast.

    3. Purplesaurus*

      Interest level aside, I would argue that anyone can play D&D but your comment about commitment, time, and effort is completely true.

      I think having pre-made character sheets and building single-game sessions would be a better way to encourage inclusiveness if someone wanted to game with coworkers but did not want the commitment of year(s)-long campaigns. For example, all players serve as mercenaries for hire and the objective this week is to track down the gang of Kuo-Toa who have kidnapped all the children of a village. That kind of thing.

      1. Aurion*

        But that kind of drop-in, kick-in-the-door games are not very interesting to play in the long term. This group sounds like it has a longstanding campaign where the individual players are actually important and there is an actual plot going on. Which sucks because then losing a player is a serious blow to the gameplay, but that also means the group is much more tight-knit and all the issues of perceived favourtism applies.

        I used to play D&D and I feel for the group, but I think the company made the right call here.

        1. Purplesaurus*

          I don’t disagree that the company made the right call, just speculating on how one could potentially game with coworkers and make it more accessible. I’ve played in several campaigns created for one-time, drop-in play, and while it might not have been as interesting as longstanding games, it good way deal with multiple people who have variable schedules – because it was either do that or not play at all.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          Right. Having played a lot of RPGs in my day, I’d see no problem with a supervisor and supervise-ee playing that kind of drop-in game together, the kind where there’s a new campaign every session or two or where the plot is structured in such a way that people can readily drop in or out. But I agree: I really doubt this group (or indeed, most long-term established groups) would want to do that–people who play a lot generally want to dig into a lengthy campaign, not do an endless serious of one-shots. And long term campaigns get very close-knit and often emotionally involving.

          This is going to sound super dorky, but when I was playing (Werewolf, not D&D, but same principle) we’d often end up talking about our characters and the story in between sessions, even, sort of as if we were dissecting the newest episode of Game of Thrones–if you’re spending every weekend or every other weekend intensely focused on the character/story, it’s often a great deal in your thoughts. Since, unlike Game of Thrones, you really only understand the story and characters if you’re an active player, it can be very easy to become exclusionary by accident (we had to watch it so as to not bore and annoy other friends who didn’t play). It doesn’t help that the groups are often small, since it’s hard to GM/DM once you get too many people, so it might not be possible to open the group up to others even if those others had the time/energy/interest.

          1. Aurion*

            I used to play Hunter the Vigil (with smatterings of Werewolf and Vampire thrown in; hi, fellow White Wolf fan!) and we spent so much time talking about the game outside of the game. Strategies, what the GM was plotting, possible counter-plots, which NPC to ally with, the works. I scripted several posts (it was a play-by-post online, not an in-person tabletop) at work on slow afternoons. If this is a longstanding campaign where the players matter, and the players are invested into the game, I don’t see how it could not be exclusionary.

            Again, it sucks for the group to lose a key player. But by the nature of the game I think it’s necessary.

          2. Lissa*

            As another tabletop gamer, I agree. I *love* doing it, but I can easily see all kinds of potential for conflicts of interest or frustration from other people. Most of my friends are also gamers but we have to watch when we talk about games not everyone is in, or the conversations can get pretty out of control.

    4. LBK*

      I’m surprised too. I wonder if it’s because it’s not one of the typical “schmoozing with the boss” activities that’s throwing off the perspective? Alison’s generally drawn pretty hard lines about even the appearance of favoritism when it comes to bosses socializing with a select group of employees, so I’m not sure what the difference is here.

      It would be one thing if it were an open invitation, like a team happy hour or something that anyone could attend, but my understanding is that a D&D group tends to be pretty consistent and not frequently shake up the membership. It’s also a more niche interest so it’s exclusionary in that sense from the get go – it may not be a lascivious as a strip club, but it’s still something that many people aren’t likely to want to participate in just to get extra face time with the boss.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I’m rethinking my answer on this one. I wasn’t accounting for some of the details that people have shared here about how these groups worked, and I was thinking of it more like … being in the same running group or something. Reading the comments on this one, I think I called it wrong.

        1. Gnome with a day job*

          I think it depends on the D&D group (dynamics vary a lot), but the more I read people’s opinions, I’m starting to agree! It could be fine – but could not – and I can understand why they’d want to head it off.

          Personally, playing D&D with my manager sounds stressful, too!

      2. Kyrielle*

        Most games and game structures work best with 4-8 players; much under 4 and you’re missing key skills (but you *can* structure games for smaller groups); much over 8 becomes unwieldy and hard to run (although, again, it can be done). Switching week-over-week in a campaign (beyond an occasional one-player absence) is really, really tough. (You can do a series of one-shots of course, creating a flexible “whoever shows up” situation, although then you need scenarios that are adjustable, or enough variant scenarios that you can grab one that suits this week’s group.)

        I game – outside of work – with a pretty steady group, and we know about each others’ job hunts, family illnesses, planned trips, everything. There’s a lot of chatter. (I assume job hunts wouldn’t come up in a group of coworkers, though!)

        Some groups don’t have that – but many do, and the folks outside the group are not going to know whether or not that’s there.

        If the supervisor and employee are both players, it’s a little better because most games are structured to where the player characters are all allies. But there’s still a lot of chatter/info/connection even there. If either one is running the game, it becomes a bigger issue, because the GM sets the tone and pace of the game and can do ‘favors’ for players (either making things easier for them, or just running scenarios more tilted toward what they know the player enjoys).

        I’m not saying either of them *would*. But the perception and fact that they *could* becomes awkward. And even without it, the amount of face-time and geeky togetherness involved in playing roleplaying games is going to make perceptions of favoritism really easy, even if the reality isn’t there.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Agreed. I was surprised by this; why wouldn’t it fall under the more general recommendation Alison gives that when you become a manager you really can’t be “friends” with the folks you manage?

      I think it’s appropriate that the new manager is being asked to leave the group; I wish she had done so without prompting.

    6. Elsajeni*

      Yeah, I agree. I see this as similar to a group of work friends who go out to lunch together every week — it’s fine for colleagues to be friends, but it gets awkward when there’s a manager/subordinate relationship within the group, and especially if that manager has other reports who aren’t in the group, it raises real concerns about favoritism.

      1. Kate*

        Yes, especially if a few people live close to the restaurant, and the restaurant is really far from work, or is out of budget for some people. Basically any group with even a medium barrier to entry is not something a manager or supervisor should be in.

  11. Roscoe*

    #3 I’m oddly ok with this. I think looking at it as a “geeky” past time may be minimizing it a bit. Admittedly my knowledge of how D&D works is limited to what I saw on Stranger Things, so I guess I could be wrong. But this is still the employee getting extra face time with management each week. If this was a work bowling league or a group that golfed every weekend, I think people would see a bit more of how that could be problematic for there to now be a manager/subordinate relationship in the group. Also, its a pretty fresh experience for me. One of my co-workers got promoted around 6 months ago, and he was best friends with another co-worker. I think he has tried (and failed) and being completely impartial with his best friend, and it is making the environment not great. Everyone knows they still hang out outside of work fairly often.

  12. Mona Lisa*

    OP#1, since this is your manager, I would hope he would address this with you directly if you were being excessively chatty. However, from personal experience with my current co-worker and the way my manager interacts with her, I know this is not always the case.

    I would advise you to carefully consider these conversations and be really honest with yourself about whether you’re responding to actual questions or what you’re interpreting as a general interest. The aforementioned co-worker of mine will loop me in to 15-30 minute long conversations in response to a simple “How was your weekend?” because she has been interpreting my casual responses (“Oh, that sounds fun!”) as an invitation to continue talking. I’ve actually stopped asking her these questions on a regular basis and keep my answers short like your boss’s as a way to dissuade her from talking more. My manager has similar issues with the co-worker, but she has not addressed them directly for fear of hurting her feelings.

    Maybe instead of giving an entire play-by-play of the weekend, you could choose one fun thing you did and share that instead? Then you could still chat about the one thing and open it up if there is genuine curiosity, but you will have limited your conversation if there isn’t a response beyond, ” It sounds like you had a good time!”

    It sounds like you are aware of the potential issue, and I commend you for recognizing that on your own! Keep analyzing the situation and be honest with yourself in your assessment.

    1. Big Picture Person*

      I agree with Mona Lisa. I have been the manager in this situation, and have even had discussions with the employee who was an over-sharer about the time spent being unproductive and a turn-off to other employees. Like you, she suspected she might be over-sharing but wasn’t sure. In one instance, she had a fabulous weekend and shared every detail with at least 3 people within earshot of my office. I heard it so many times I had her weekend memorized. LOL. None of these people are friends outside of work, and all the conversations were greatly one-sided.

      If you find most of the conversation one-sided (you talk 80% of the time), then you could try cutting out some of the details and see if he asks questions to encourage further sharing. As Mona Lisa said, keep looking analyzing the communication and be honest with yourself. If he’s not truly interested in the details, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. It just means he’s not into details. Kudos to you for trying to figure this out!

    2. Zoe*


      I have a coworker who will keep telling me about her weekend even though I am actively typing on my computer, not making eye contact, and just saying “mm-hmm.” The only way I can get her not to share is to specifically tell her I am working on something and can’t talk right now. The boss may not have a luxury of saying that sort of thing at a check-in meeting, but really wants to just focus on work.

  13. Trout 'Waver*

    In regards to #3, I think Alison is wrong here.

    I’ve been in a couple D&D groups in college and I think there would be a problem here. D&D groups tend to be almost exclusively white and mostly male. Having the manager playing D&D with the other white males (if that is the case here) in a tech start-up is an optics issue, even if they’re not being cliquish or excluding people. The minority or female members of the team might feel like they can’t participate. In my mind it would be no different than having a weekly 4-some at the country club.

    1. Antilles*

      That seems like a *huge* leap from what’s in the letter. The OP explicitly says: “Geekiness is celebrated at work, so the gaming group is viewed favorably. There isn’t anything said in the group that would impact how one person thought of another as an employee, largely owing to the casual culture and the friendliness of all the folks. The group is not exclusive or cliquish.”
      It’s possible that OP is misreading the situation, but that does not make it seem like a racial or gender issue – after all, they wouldn’t have quietly supported the group before OR continue to allow it exist now if they really thought it was exclusionary and ruining diversity.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        It really isn’t. Managers are held to a higher standard when it comes to such things. Also, OP#3 is speaking from the perspective of a family member of someone in the group. They can’t really speak for how outside people view the group.

        Tech start-ups are getting a lot more scrutiny these days about diversity.

      2. oldbiddy*

        It doesn’t even have to be a diversity issue, or geeky vs non-geeky. At my former company, my boss spent most of his free time socializing with several people he surpervised. We were a small startup and he had been promoted once he was already friends with the others. Even though everyone was a good person and weren’t deliberately trying to exclude others, and the rest of us weren’t looking for reasons to be pissed off, my boss wasn’t very good at drawing the line or limiting off hours work conversations with his buddies, so it caused a lot of problems.

    2. Brett*

      I was in many gaming groups across a wide range of systems and forms, even ran a 500+ player LARP at GenCon once. I don’t think I have ever been in a D&D group that was majority white male (Shadowrun on the other hand…).

    3. KellyK*

      As a gamer myself, I’m aware that the hobby can be very white and very male. But I still think it’s an unwarranted assumption that this group works that way, or that a given white male employee is more likely to be able to join the game than a female and/or POC employee. (That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be a good thing for the group as a whole to consider whether they’re welcoming of female or minority players if someone wants to join. Just that it’s a leap to assume both that they’re not and that that’s the issue management has.)

      The real issue is potential favoritism. Regardless of diversity, not everybody OP’s husband supervises will be able to be involved in the game.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I get what you’re saying. But I’m not saying this particular gaming group is inclusive or not because the OP said nothing about its composition or policies.

        I’m saying that the higher ups may be concerned about the optics, given in part that the hobby is very white and very male.

        1. KellyK*

          That’s not a good reason for the higher-ups to be concerned about the optics, though. It’s a major overreach on an employer’s part to police employees’ hobbies based on how diverse, or not, that hobby tends to be.

            1. KellyK*

              Okay, I’m really confused by your argument here. Are you arguing that a manager playing D&D (or some other hobby that skews white and male) with a subordinate is a problem in a way that a manager doing some more inclusive hobby with a subordinate would not be? Assuming that the time commitment, the level of friendliness, and the opportunities for favoritism are the same?

  14. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Am I over-sharing with my boss?
    Yes. But the question should include “…and does my boss care?” It doesn’t seem like it bothers the boss much, so: Trim it down a little; don’t press the boss to share with you; move on.

    2. My contacts want to apply to my old employer, but it’s a terrible place to work
    It wasn’t a terrible place to work for YOU, right? If you feel obliged to talk about it, tell the truth (by phone only):
    “I enjoyed it, and left on good terms. But many other people have been quite unhappy there, and apparently left on bad terms. You should be sure to do your homework and make sure you’ll be in the ‘happy’ group. Good luck!”

    3. A coworker was told to stop playing in a work D&D group
    Cast a time stop spell; play the game while HR is tied up in a time loop; end the spell and resume work. They will never know.

    4. Explaining that I’m turning down a job offer because I’m pregnant
    AAM is spot on.

    5. Do I need to write a cover letter if the employer approaches me first?
    “Need”? No. But then again they’re likely to actually read it if they like you enough to reach out. If you want, you can still use a SHORT modified one as a way to make it even more likely that you will get interviewed.

    1. LBK*

      LOL @ #3

      As for #2, I didn’t get the sense that she actually enjoyed working there – I wouldn’t infer that just because she left on good terms, and the rest of her letter seems pretty clear that it wasn’t a good place to work.

      1. OP2*

        Bingo, LBK. Just because the CEO never screamed at me personally doesn’t mean it was an enjoyable work environment!

  15. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    #1 – I don’t think you are necessarily oversharing, but watch for signs that he wants the conversation to end. I tend to answer a lot of questions about my weekend like your boss does because there isn’t much to say about watching netflix. I don’t generally go and do things so almost every weekend is hang around the house, clean a little, netflix a lot. Maybe it’s possible your boss also keeps things really low key so he just doesn’t have much to say?

  16. Liz in Ypsilanti*

    In response to #3, I belong to a 300+-member hobbyist group in our area. A few years ago I was president of the group and have held various other positions in it. One day at work, a supervisor in a different part of my workplace came up to me at a reception and introduced herself. She is also a member of the group and wanted to chat with me about that. We ended up becoming friendly. A couple of years later, there was a reorganization in the workplace, and it was decided to move me into the supervisor’s direct reports group.

    We continued to be friends with a shared hobby, and we functioned very well as supervisor/supervisee because we both respected the boundaries of those different relationships. I think in a lot of ways we were a better team because of the shared interests than we would have been. (Think teapot counting group versus clay procurement person.) I ended up learning a lot about her functions in the workplace, and she grew to a greater understanding of my role. Last summer, for various reasons, I decided to move on. The next time we ran into each other at the hobbyist group, we hugged each other hard, talked about how much we missed talking regularly, and I truly feel that this friendship has legs.

    This is not my first such experience with a supervisor, and I truly think that if people are mature and respect boundaries, these situations can work out well.

    1. Roscoe*

      But again, its not about how much the manager and the subordinate can work together, its about what it looks like to others. If someone else knows that manager and his report are getting together for hours every weekend, would they really think that the manager could be completely impartial? I wouldn’t

      1. LBK*

        Right – it complicates decision-making because if the manager does ever do something that’s beneficial to a member of the group, there will always be the question of whether their social relationship had something to do with it. Even if the person totally deserved the promotion or the lead spot on the project or whatever, it casts doubt on the manager’s objectivity.

        1. Elsajeni*

          And a 300+-person hobbyist group is very different from a D&D group — that’s more like if this supervisor were sometimes running into his employee at gaming conventions, which I think would be fine. The issue is more that he’s joining one of his employees in a small, invitation-only group, probably at one of the group member’s homes, for a few hours at a time on a weekly or monthly basis — that’s much more clearly an issue of potential favoritism.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Right. In terms of intensity and face time it’s more on par with, say, if you were part of a social group of 4-6 people who got brunch together at somebody’s house every Sunday for three hours. If I was in a situation where one or more of my coworkers and our boss did that, and I wasn’t invited, yeah, I’d wonder about favoritism. (Not because I think my boss or my coworkers are horrible people who would deliberately shut me out of opportunities, but because favoritism can be unconscious, you know?) On the other hand, if it was something like an open board game night where the boss showed up sometimes, I’d consider it much less problematic.

  17. Lee*

    OP#3….just so I understand, you and co-workers play “Dungeons and Dragons” (Alison never defined the abbreviation-wasn’t this a RPG game teens played in the 1980s?)?
    And your company is dictating the dynamics of this game play….why exactly?
    Are you playing on company time? And how would a supervisor/supervisor relationship even affect the outcome of D&D? How would they even know?

    1. Allison*

      “wasn’t this a RPG game teens played in the 1980s?”

      Yes, it was, and nowadays it’s very popular among teenagers and adults. What’s your point?

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I don’t think there was any snark intended — I think LEE was just trying to understand what was being referenced.

    2. Roscoe*

      I don’t know all the rules. But I know its a couple of hours every week outside of work. So that is face time that 1 subordinate is getting that the other subordinates are not. It would be similar to if the supervisor and employee (and 2 others) had a weekly golf game.

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        “couple hours” would barely even get them started. More like hours and hours. They can play just a couple, but only if they set a time limit. The people I know generally play for a weekend at a time. As in, play 12-16 hours in a day until you can’t keep your eyes open, and then repeat the next day. And that most likely won’t “finish” a game. I don’t play, but we’ve hosted a few times. It’s a massive time investment.

        1. Judy (since 2010)*

          My husband and I are in a group that role plays, not D&D, but other systems.

          We game every other week on Friday night, start at 7 and end somewhere between 11 & midnight, depending on the action. It takes months and months to complete a campaign.

        2. KellyK*

          It really depends on the game and on the group. My gaming group plays once a week. We get together at 6:00 or 6:30 for dinner and gaming and usually wrap up by 9:00 (maybe 9:30 if we’re in the middle of combat). We play on Mondays, so sometimes we start earlier (noon or midafternoon) on a holiday weekend.

          In college I was part of games that went til 0-stupid-thirty, or played multiple sessions a week, but with full-time work, volunteer stuff, dogs, and other hobbies, that no longer works. I’ve been part of groups that block out a whole weekend to play, but those games tended to fizzle because people weren’t available on the same weekends.

        3. Gene*

          Even pick-up games can take hours and hours. Stick your head in the gaming rooms at a major Con on Friday afternoon and note who is there and where they are sitting. Come back Sunday and you’ll see a lot of the same people, in the same seats.

          1. KellyK*

            That’s at a con, though. A weekend you’ve specifically devoted to gaming, gaming, and nothing but gaming is structured a lot differently than the work week or the weekends you spend at home. At least, I assume it is for most people who have multiple hobbies and responsibilities. If gaming is your one and only social thing, marathon sessions are probably more common.

    3. Darren*

      There have been multiple editions of Dungeons and Dragons, the most recent fifth edition only having been published a couple of years ago. The hobby of roleplaying (of which Dungeons and Dragons is merely a part) is massively bigger than it was in the 1980s (like pretty much all nerd culture actually).

      As per other replies in this my guess is they are worried about the appearance of favouritism where members of this relatively small (D&D games usually have 4-7 people involved) group might get preferential treatment at work because of their close relationship outside of work.

      It’s reasonable to think that might be the case, same with any other similar hobby based activity where you have a small relatively exclusive group (you can’t add a new player without getting rid of an old one) for example a basketball group (usually around the same size). Of course I am dubious as to whether it actually would be the case, but a lot of companies don’t even like the appearance of it and ask the people bow out of such groups and activities with colleagues.

    4. Gen*

      “And how would a supervisor/supervisor relationship even affect the outcome of D&D? How would they even know?”

      Dungeons & Dragons is usually played sitting around a table with a game map on it. I think you can play online but this seems like a physical meeting. The campaigns take weeks and it’s heavily based on roleplay and a story designed by the games master. So, in terms of how it could affect a relationship- the employee could mess up and get the supervisors character killed or lose their powerful item and some people could get tetchy about that in real life. Or the supervisor could give a critical appraisal at work and the employee poisons their character in game as revenge. I know someone who (in a live action roleplay weekend in the woods with actual foam swords) ruined a whole campaign by going rogue and killing off her boyfriend’s character because he’d cheated on her in real life.

      Most people don’t ever take things that far and can play nicely, but I can see why management would want to avoid it.

      1. Student*

        A hypothetical D&D scenario that would draw no raised eyebrows in the D&D gaming community, but probably would at work:

        Boss’s character witnesses Underling’s character being sexually harassed in a bar by a Dungeon Master player’s Bad character.

        Boss decides that his character ignores this, based on his interpretation of certain game rules and his personal character role-playing decisions. Maybe Boss even decides Boss’s character will use this distraction to steal a coveted item from Underling’s character.

        Underling’s character retaliates soon after by killing Boss’s character, either through a deliberate action or by failing to assist him at a crucial game moment.

        Now, perhaps Boss is huffy at Underling for a little while because his character is dead and he has to start over.

        This kind of interaction is not D&D every day, but it is not an unusual or abnormal D&D encounter that would generally raise eyebrows. Most non-D&D people at work would freak out at line 1 where Boss doesn’t intervene positively to help his subordinate out in a sexual harassment situation, and even takes advantage of it in a despicable way. Most D&D players blanch at the part where the boss’s character dies and sympathize with him being huffy about it in real life.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the concern is that it will affect the outcome of the game, but rather that it creates potential problems around favoritism (real or perceived).

  18. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – your boss wouldn’t keep asking you those kinds of questions if your answers were bothering him :) I avoid giving openings to people who routinely annoy me in conversations.

  19. CM*

    OP #4: I once applied for a job that would have been a huge pay cut (but an amazing opportunity — I still think of it as the one that got away! Anyway…) Between the time I interviewed and the time they called to offer me the job, we had some family stuff happening that resulted in my husband leaving his job for at least six months. When I got that phone call, I told them that my personal circumstances had changed since we had last talked — since my husband was no longer working, I wouldn’t be able to make the new job’s salary work, and I regretted having to decline the offer but hoped to be able to work with them in the future. They understood and we kept in touch.

  20. Moon Elf Tempest Cleric/Publishing Assistant*

    As an avid D&D player, I sympathize with it feeling unreasonable because it’s breaking up an an existing and presumably well-functioning group, which is a hard thing to put together. But as an employee I think it is perhaps better for fairness that way, although I don’t love the idea of it being a demand rather than a suggestion.

    I know that I personally would not want to play with someone who was in a supervisory role over me at work, as I would feel added pressure to perform well for them in the game in addition to real life. And even if it isn’t a DM/player relationship between the two, in-game tensions of agreeing what paths to take in the story, whether or not I’d feel obligated to favor boss with healing/buffs etc would just make the game harder for me.

    I also agree that it could be an optics/favoritism issue, as D&D is definitely a time consuming and at times intimate(?) in a way pastime, and other employees might feel like they are missing out on an opportunity that the player employee has. Tough situation all around though, and I hope it all works out well for all involved!

    1. Purplesaurus*

      Agreed. I’m imaging myself as a player in that group, and I would not want to game with my superior. However, I do think it could have been handled better as a suggestion like you said.

      This is all coulda’ shoulda’, but I think some notice to the group would have been nice, vs. cold turkey. Like he’d stop playing after the next two games or what have you. That would have given the DM and group time to plan for his absence.

      1. Piblets*

        That’s a great suggestion! With a little notice, that helps the group figure out a solution to the absence, as well as giving the new super a chance to find a new group.

      2. KellyK*

        That’s where I come down too. I wouldn’t expect the manager to know that a D&D group requires more planning to handle absences than a book club or a board game night, but I think that if OP’s husband explains the situation, a reasonable company would give him time to wrap up.

    2. Human Wild Magic Sorcerer/LizB*

      I agree with all of this. Even the friendliest D&D group is kind of exclusive/cliquish by nature – not in a bad way, but you’re spending a significant amount of time with a consistent group of probably 4-6 people, and other folks don’t really have an opportunity to drop in once in a while to join the bonding. It sucks to break up the group, but I do think it’s appropriate for the supervisor to leave based on the new boundaries they need to be drawing in their new position.

  21. KellyK*

    #3 – I can definitely see both sides of this. Being a supervisor does impact how you can socialize with the people you supervise, and it could certainly create the impression of favoritism.

    My current D&D group started with my husband and a few of his coworkers, as well as a couple spouses, including me. Everybody eventually left that employer, and now three of us work at the same company (a different one). I can definitely see things feeling weird and awkward if one of us were promoted to supervise the others, although that’s not likely.

    Because D&D games are the sort of hobby that depends on everyone to show up, I think the company should give the group time to find a replacement player or the GM to modify the scenario before they require the supervisor to leave. If I were in that position, that’s what I’d ask for—a month or two to tie things up without leaving the group in the lurch. If an employee were in a choir or community theater group or on a sports team with coworkers, the same thing would be reasonable. Let the group get through the next concert or the current season or the current adventure before throwing a monkey wrench into things.

  22. Emi.*

    # 4

    Congratulations! :) I hope they offer you health insurance and time off, but even if not, I hope you enjoy your time with the new baby.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      That isn’t what she said, though. She said that he’s responding to her questions about his weekend with short responses. Those are entirely different scenarios.

  23. Frogs and Turtles*

    For the pregnant job searcher — Are you sure the PT job doesn’t offer benefits? Many professional jobs do. PT professional jobs are basically the holy grail for many working moms, and if you are able to get one with benefits you should grab it, even if benefits are prorated which they usually are for PT in some way. It could be years before you can land another one. Then when you are ready you can go back to FT if you want. Trust me on this. (Any employers reading this: If you want outstanding job candidates, offer mid- to upper-level PT jobs with benefits. You will attract top caliber women who will stick with you for a long time AND it will cost you less money.)

    1. Thlayli*

      Seconded. School hours jobs are becoming a thing in some parts of Europe. Employers have actually found that people achieve just as much in 6 hours as they do in 8 for some types of work. Cheaper for employer, better work-life balance and supports parents to continue to work.

      I’ve turned down a high paying job because of lack of maternity pay before. I was just thinking of maybe getting pregnant and wasn’t sure at all. The job was only a year contract, with a possibility of extending it. it was actually about 3 years after that before I got pregnant. So they lost a candidate they wanted because of a lack of maternity pay which wouldn’t even have been an issue in the term of the contract. I think candidates should be totally upfront with people if they are turning down a job for this – it will show them that they are losing talent because of their low benefits.

    2. OP#4*

      While this is a professional position, I’d actually be working for local government – county level. The job itself is 20 hrs a week, so that would be below the legally mandated health insurance threshold and I’m not optimistic that they’d be able to come up with something (but it’s worth a shot!). I’ve gone over the benefits page of their site and part-time employees are eligible for the unpaid FMLA leave that mothers get, but not until they’ve worked a certain number of hours, and I won’t get there in 9 months.
      If it somehow happens that they could give me any benefits I will be thrilled, and definitely take the job.
      It’s hard, though, because you’re right that having this part time job would be great after the baby comes. I just can’t afford the 4x increase in premiums and birth costs that would come from switching to the marketplace for my insurance.

    3. Bananaphone*

      Agreed. I am eight months pregnant with my second and there are SO MANY sacrifices I would be willing to make for a PT job in my chosen field right now. It seems like this is the job you will want after you have the baby, and if there is any possible way you can take it now it will pay dividends for years afterwards in terms of flexibility in childcare, getting into your field sooner, and not having to job search with an infant later.

      Assuming you are in the U.S., in the grand scheme of things most employer-offered FMLA is SHORT and after you get back from your 6-12 weeks you’ll be in the same boat you’re in now but everything will be much more complicated.

  24. livingthedreaminmydreams*

    #2 I think it’s really important to recognize that not everyone experiences a workplace environment in the same fashion, so I would keep that in mind if you decide to share anything about your prior employment with someone who is thinking about working with your old company . Keeping any comments focused on what happened, and not the impact on you, is probably the best approach.

  25. Amber Rose*

    #2: It’s always sad to lose a party member, but sometimes you must say goodbye. Perhaps you might be able to swing one last event where you kill the character off in a suitably dramatic and heroic farewell, saving you all from a green dragon (or something).

    #5: I once was approached about an opening and went to write a cover letter just out of force of habit… and realized quickly that I couldn’t. Normally you would write a cover letter that says, more or less, “pick me I’m awesome!” but for a job you either don’t know much about, or are not sure if you want it, there’s no real way to do it that doesn’t sound ridiculous.

      1. OP2*

        I’m glad you mentioned a dragon, or else I would be thinking that’s a pretty extreme way to prevent people from applying!

  26. LawBee*

    Commenting just to say that I am so jealous of all you gamers who have solid D&D groups. I’ve never played, but would LOVE to (I blame two years of The Adventure Zone, and Griffin McElroy) but it is so hard to get a group together – especially when none of my local friends play.

    Woeful is the lonely gamer.

    1. ChelseaNH*

      There are a couple of online games, and forums for finding games. I’m on and lucked into a really fun group on my first try. The advantage of the online format is that it’s easier to bow out if the group isn’t working for you.

    2. Darren*

      Where do you live? There are a lot of resources online that can help you find local groups, I have always found them to be quite friendly in general (at least in my area) and almost always willing to accept additional players or help people find a game.

    3. Nerdling*

      I’d recommend seeing if you’ve got a local gaming store (LGS) that does Adventurers League or one-shot campaigns on the weekends – or if they know of any local Dungeon Masters (DMs) who are looking for new players. If you can’t find anyone that way, definitely try or some of the other online resources. There’s also a Facebook group called Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition where you might be able to find some folks either in your area or online who would take on a new player. Good luck!

    4. Holly*

      Game stores are the best places to go to meet people in person. It may take a few months of regularly showing up to meet people you click with well enough you want to invite them to a home game, but it can work. Or look at – tons of groups on there.
      I met my current groups (yup, groups) as a combination of meeting people through games stores – who invited me to home games where I in turn met more people, a group I started. You can also try just asking people if they’d be interested in playing it with you who aren’t currently gamers – a surprising number of people would love to try it but don’t know anyone who does it.

  27. Lizzard*

    #1 from how you’ve described the situation I don’t think you’re over-sharing. I lean more introverted so I rarely talk about my weekend plans, but I’m always happy to hear from my coworkers. I prefer listening to sharing and that’s the vibe I get from your boss. As long as you get the sense that he’s engaged in the conversation, and not frantically looking for an out as soon as you take a breath I think you’re fine.

  28. Juli Goodrich*

    I DM a couple of D&D games, and play in a few more. As much as I hate to say it….the new supervisor does need to bow out. A good D&D group is hard to find…but it’s too easy to have the appearance of favoritism become an issue. As with any other social endeavor, it’s better to err on the side of caution, b/c the stakes in your worklife can be so much higher than the general social spectrum.

    My sister briefly dated a fellow player/DM and between the mutual acquaintances killing his character or hers in fits of jealousy, or out of misplaced loyalty when they split up….I dropped out of 4 games. And their split was pretty darn amicable, they’re still friendly, just not THAT friendly!

    And the male to female ratios as well as the perception of all white dudes at the gaming table… not true any more! I’m female, and I DM, and my assistant DM is female. My larger group, from which my table is drawn is usually mixed on just about every metric that society uses, and we actively encourage and try to improve the experience for everyone. We reshuffle everyone every month or so, as well, which I think is really cool in building relationships between people that may not have chosen each other.

  29. The OG Anonsie*

    Re: #5

    What about when someone reaches out to you about applying to a position and directs you to the company site to apply (vs sending materials directly to a person). Feels weird to not upload a document that resembles a cover letter than, doesn’t it?

    1. Darren*

      Not really, I probably would just shrug at such a message and ignore it. If I’m actively looking I’d already have applied (if your company was interesting). If I’m not actively looking I’m not going to start an application process with a company just from a message indicating I could apply to a position via your company website.

      If you are offering me something special and are providing enough information right out of the bat to tempt me I might consider changing role but if I’m not actively looking (which I’m not) you have to work to make me actually want to even consider moving and that means active work on your part seeking me out, not just spamming LinkedIn looking for potential applicants.

  30. DNDL*

    I play DND a lot. Its where I got my name for this site (DND + First letter of my profession/Job title).

    I would not play DND with my coworkers, unless I was in a Major Spoilers situation where playing DND and recording the session was part of my job. Role Play can get intimate. Feelings can be hurt. Lines can be crossed. Some people are really, really good at separating a player’s interaction from a character’s interaction, but I’ve had more than one game end on a sour note because someone couldn’t separate player from character. Or because, even if someone could separate player from character, the player is still making decisions for the character, and someone else didn’t like those decisions.

    Even workplaces such as Major Spoilers, which makes a lot of its money from monetizing a DND podcast, have expressed hardship over this. Experienced players and close friends can really go at it behind the scenes, and it takes a very skilled DM to arbitrate those disputes and bring people back around to not hating other players or friends after a game.

    Sure there are some DND groups that would never delve into the more potentially problematic parts of DND. Some groups stay far away from any romance, intimacy, moral quandaries…but even then, you really never know where a story is going to go, and how players will react. If your DM has bad judgement, you never know what potentially triggering things could occur, or what bad judgments other players will make. But when a bad judgment is made, it’s better to not be with coworkers who are in charge of critiquing your job performance and possibly giving or taking away money. When a bad DND session happens among friends, you can take a day or two to cool down–you don’t have to go to work and see them after the bad session.

    TLDR : DND can be complicated, and its better to play it with people who have no say over your salary or professional life, and with people you’re comfortable disagreeing with.

    1. Brogrammer*

      “…even if someone could separate player from character, the player is still making decisions for the character, and someone else didn’t like those decisions.”

      That’s a pretty mild way of putting it, if you ask me! But it’s an important point and one of the most fraught aspects of playing D&D with even equal-level coworkers, let alone a supervisor.

  31. KC*

    I used to be the only remote person on my team. My manager (a colleague who was promoted) definitely blurred the lines between personal and professional with everyone but me. She would hang out with them on weekends, they would walk their dogs together in the evening, and she was friends with everyone except me on social media. I felt like “the other” and while she treated them as her buddies, I was only her subordinate. I lost out on a lot of opportunities because she knew them better, and would recommend them before she would ever even think of me. When I went to that office, she wouldn’t even talk to me, because I was a stranger. It definitely created an uneven playing field, and it was one of the reasons I left. If a manager is going to be “social”, it needs to be open to everyone (case in point: my current director will invite everyone out for drinks, but it’s not required to go).

  32. Holly*

    Being a big fan of D&D, at first I was a little peeved by the idea of an employer telling people they can’t play it together outside of work. But then I started reading the comments and realized this is no different from the boss playing poker/golf/tennis/bridge with a select number of workers each week. I like that this employer is trying to stop potential favoritism before it starts. Much better than the usual advice you hear which is “Oh, so the boss/judge/head honcho plays golf? You should learn how to play and become part of his golf group. Oh, you don’t like golf and don’t want to spend hours on the weekend doing it? Well, I guess you don’t want to get ahead/don’t know the value of networking.”

    My D&D group contains some soon-to-be-former coworkers (they are all moving onto other jobs in the next few months), and I could see both how someone having supervision over another one of them could lead to some awkwardness in game and possible favoritism out of game. The soon-ex coworkers in my group spend about 15 minutes at the beginning and end of each session talking about work gossip – and they are not majority of the group.

    But D&D is a lot more popular in recent years and a lot more people are willing to learn it as long as you live in a decent-sized town. I’m sure OP’s husband will have no problem picking up another player. In fact, I personally like to vary the people in my games, it’s a great way to meet new people.

  33. Carol Drury*

    In response to #2 about people wanting referrals to a prior toxic workplace: are there accurate assessments of the environment on If so, simply refer them there. (If not, leave a comment there anonymously.)

  34. Noah*

    Caveat re OP #5: if the contact was from a third party recruiter, you may still want to do a cover letter. Ask the recruiter.

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