my employee constantly talks about waiting for 5:00 and the weekend

In an interesting pairing with today’s earlier letter about responses to “how are you,” a reader writes:

I have a direct report who has been with the company about five months. She is nice, smart, and easy to work with, but is not performing that well. It’s a tough job (recruiting), and I think she’s just not a good fit. She does something that drives me crazy, and I’m trying to figure out if this thing is legitimately annoying or if I perceive it that way because I’m frustrated with her performance overall.

Whenever I make small talk with her, she works in something about how she can’t wait for 5:00 and/or Friday. For example, I say, “How are you today?” She says, “Great, but I’ll be better at 5:00.” I say, “How’s it going?” She says, “Just waiting for Friday.” Every. Time. Today, midday Tuesday, I was answering some of her questions, and I ended with “Anything else I can help you with?” She replied, “Not unless you can make it Friday.”

I totally understand that we are all working for the weekend, and I certainly talk about looking forward to the evening or the weekend, especially in the context of having fun plans or in reaction to a particularly challenging day. But this occurs in every interaction and has since the very day she started. Additionally, she doesn’t say much overall, so it’s not like these comments are tucked into a 15-minute conversation – they are often the only communication I get from her during the day. It also seems weird to me that she would constantly remind her direct manager that she doesn’t want to be at work. I mean, I know you’d rather be elsewhere, but I don’t need to be reminded of it every day!

I should also note that I know she makes these comments to coworkers as well, and I’m concerned about how their frequency might affect morale.

Am I right to be annoyed, or do I need to let this go? Is this just a weird verbal habit, or should I take this as an indication that this person is truly and deeply dissatisfied with this position (or working in general)?

No, you’re right to be annoyed. It’s one thing to make the occasional “can’t wait for the weekend” comment; everyone does that. But when her most frequent topic of conversation is how she doesn’t want to be at work, it’s really off-key.

That said, it doesn’t sound like it’s your biggest issue with her — the performance problems are. If she were otherwise doing well, I’d say that you should address this — but in this case, you’re better off focusing on the performance stuff and figuring out pretty quickly whether she can do what you need, and transitioning her out if she can’t. And I worry that adding this separate thing on top of a very serious performance conversation will feel like you’re just picking at her.

However, if that weren’t the case and/or you want to address this anyway, I’d go with one of two options: the concerned “is something going on?” option, and the “you probably don’t realize how this is coming across” option. Or you could use both!

For example: “I’ve noticed that you comment a lot about how you can’t wait for 5:00 or for the weekend. Of course we all like time away from work, but you mention it so frequently that I wonder how the job is going for you. Are you running into problems that I could try to help you solve?”

Or: “I’ve noticed that you comment a lot about how you can’t wait for 5:00 or for the weekend. Of course we all like time away from work, but you probably don’t realize that you’re saying it so often that it’s starting to sound like you really don’t want to be here. If that’s the case, I’d like to talk to you about what’s going on. If that’s not the case, I want to ask you to be aware of how often you say it, since over time that kind of thing can impact how people see you, or even impact morale in general.”

I do think it’s possible that this a sort of verbal tic and she doesn’t realize how often she’s saying it. Especially since you say she doesn’t say much overall, it’s possible that she’s settled on this as a thing she says to make small talk with colleagues and doesn’t realize that it’s not a great choice.

Or, it’s possible that it reflects a more problematic attitude about work — not just that she’d rather not be there (because again, fine; I’d rather be in bed right now so I’m sympathetic), but that she doesn’t realize that people will find it weird that she’s talking about it all the time. Sometimes people get like that when they’ve had past jobs with crappy cultures, where it was normal to make comments like this all the time because it’s openly acknowledged that the workplace and the work sucks and everyone hates it. That is not an attitude that works when you bring it to a healthier workplace, but she may not have realized that yet.

Who knows what’s at play here. But I think it’s a reasonable thing to mention to her.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Dennis*

    I agree it’s probably just something she’s settled on to make conversation, out of nervousness, but certainly not a good thing!

    1. Commenting*

      It has me wondering if English is a second or third language and she uses these specific phrases as her go-to for small talk. If she learned English as an adult she might not know yet that this type of small-talk doesn’t work when you use it every time.

      1. winifred*

        I managed a coffee shop once and one of my staff was just like this person. It was very annoying for everyone to hear and he quit very soon after starting the job. English was his first language.

      2. LW*

        She is a native English speaker, but I see how that could play a role if that were not the case.

      3. Some mammal*

        Or maybe she uses these phrases because she’s not much of a talker. I’m not very social, and I don’t really do small talk, so my responses to small talk questions are always the same. How are you? Fine. What did you do this weekend? Not much. And so on.

        But all this is speculating. There is no way for any of us to know what her situation is.

        They mentioned she has some performance issues. Rather focus on that.

    2. Green Tea Pot*

      Yes! It’s the kind of response a very young person would make out of nervousness and inexperience. Very possibly she knows she’s underperforming and feels uncomfortable making small talk.

      I’d overlook it and focus on improving performance.

      1. Colette*

        Words have meaning, and they can and do affect other people’s’ opinion of you. And this kind of negativity, in particular, could permanently hurt the employees chance at this company even if her performance improves.

      2. Fictional Butt*

        No one is “policing.” They are understanding and responding to her communication, and forming judgments based on that communication. That is how communication works.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s amazing how many people think communication means “you’re not allowed to have a negative reaction to something I say”.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Or “If you have a negative reaction to something I say, you’re policing my language/censoring me.” Like… that’s… not how that works, at all.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        It is reasonable to expect employees to be mindful of words and their impact – even our tone of voice and timing can carry a wallop. ‘Social grace’ and ‘appropriate communication’ are real things, in and out of the workplace. And in this case it’s not policing, it’s coaching. The LW is justified in making sure the employee knows her words can and do have an impact on her team and environment, and maybe even herself. Negative thoughts create more of the same for everyone who hears them.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        In work situations, we do have to watch what we say. If we can’t filter ourselves then probably at some point someone will say something. In this situation here, a good chunk of the problem is that the employee keeps saying this numerous times a day. Making matters worse she does not say much else. Most bosses would read that as she does not want the job.

        I have worked with people who do this and it’s exhausting. I was trying to keep my attitude up and positive. Constant reminders of Friday or the weekend made my day so much longer.

      5. Taylor Swift*

        I mean . . . yes, if you think this falls under policing? You don’t get to say whatever you want without consequences, especially in a professional setting.

        1. Honeybee*

          If “policing” is “listening to people’s words, deriving meaning from them and then using that meaning to attribute judgments and understanding to a situation and/or person”…that’s just communication in general.

      6. meat lord*

        I think you know the answer to that one, GraceW.

        When an employee constantly implies that they don’t want to be at work, that’s not very professional and/or speaks to some sort of issue that person is having. Hence this letter.

      7. Koko*

        If every time you talked to me I was like, “Man, I could really go for some ice cream!” “Really got ice cream on my mind today.” “Just waiting til lunch when I can enjoy my ice cream!” you might start to think I am a person who really enjoys ice cream way more than the average person.

      8. Say what, now?*

        Yeah, I think the other commenters have it right. It’s really about the negativity not her small talk skills. If someone is odd and talks about checkers any time they are talked to, it’s not a problem other than being hard to converse around. But when someone is constantly negative, even if it’s not about work, it’s a drain on energy and makes people want to avoid them.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think this is a verbal tic.

      I would bet my bottom dollar that she knows she’s not doing well (or that this is not a good fit), and it’s beginning to seep into all of her comments because it’s seeping into everything she feels at work. I don’t think it’s an overall attitude toward work, but rather, something that has probably been building over time and that she doesn’t realize is now coloring literally everything in her worklife. I would totally lead with the “it’s beginning to sound like you don’t want to be here” script that Alison has provided. She may freak out, or she might be happy to have the opportunity to unload all these ~feelings~ that she’s been bottling up and that are spilling over into how she’s communicating at work.

      1. Say what, now?*

        Yeah, I think that she may just need that opening to tell you how she feels about her fit in the company. Maybe she would like to leave, but it’s also possible that she’s trying to say “I’m miserable but I don’t know how to fix it. Help me.” Help is possibly just retraining. It might be coming to the realization that she needs to go.

  2. Aphrodite*

    I think it’s likely a verbal tic (love that expression). I had a couple of my own (one personal, one professional) and until they were pointed out to me I simply did not recognize them as such. Once they were I became aware of them and was able, over time, to lose them. Giving her the awareness she needs about hers is a great start because you will soon be able to determine whether they are deliberate or unintentional.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    I’m thinking of the previous thread and wondering if this comes under ‘scripts people learn to cope with social small talk’, but doing it badly.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, it’s a fascinating pair with that thread. Performing a social ritual where the ritual can outweigh any literal meaning of the words, but missing. Yet unlike the “I poop glitter” response, “Waiting for Friday” is one that is okay when used rarely–it’s just frequency that moves it to bad.

    2. Adam*

      That’s what I was wondering. For me personally, if someone complains to me about something regularly for a long period of time and it is something they could change if they wanted to, eventually I am going to ask what they’re doing to change it.

      I could totally see it just being a social tic, but if it is, the fact she developed this particular one might be rooted in some inherent dissatisfaction.

      1. LW*

        Thank you for your response. I’m beginning to reach the conclusion you draw in your last sentence – there is some inherent dissatisfaction, but it’s not necessarily tied to this particular job!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree that things at home may be rocky. She is concerned about taking time away from “at home” things because things will be worse when she gets home.

          If this is the case, she can be encouraged that work is down time, time out, from thinking about at home stuff.

          I think her preoccupation with whatever it is could be tied to her performance because it is distracting her from her work.

    3. N*

      Yes. I get the impression from the letter that the direct report is pretty young and new to the work world, so she may not have yet realized that it’s not the best way to make small talk. I have a coworker who is ~25, and a lot of times when I ask, “How are you doing?” (and genuinely want to hear it) she says something to the effect of, “Oh, just waiting for 5:00!” I think she just wanted a lighthearted response to that question, but it was weird because *my* shift ends at 5 ,but hers ends later. So I was often left wondering, “Do you want it to be 5:00 because I won’t be here anymore?”

    4. Tuesday*

      I think so, too. It’s sort of like talking about the weather in its mundane universality, except that you shouldn’t probably talk to your boss about wanting it to be the Friday all the time.

      This did remind me of when I was in middle school and always ended up sitting next to this girl on the bus with whom I had nothing in common other than our similar social ineptitude. So we’d have this asinine conversation all the time about looking forward to Friday, or whatever the next holiday-related school break was, or how many days until summer. That’s a super weird and boring convo for middle schoolers to have now that I think about it. But anyway, we had nothing else to talk about and the same ol’ daily bus ride to get through, so there it is.

  4. Minnow*

    I’m not the OP but I really appreciate the phrasing Alison suggested here. I have a co-worker who has a similar verbal tic (frequently commenting that she’s not a morning person and not really functional until the afternoon) and while she’s otherwise a great worker this is definitely impacting how she’s perceived. These scripts will help me address it with her.

  5. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    I find it fascinating that this question and the other about not liking the “how are you” ran on the same day. They feel very related. I think she’s just made this her standard response to all varieties of “how are you” and it’s as automatic as answering “fine” or “good” is to others. I don’t think I’d push back on the “I’ll be better at 5” sort of response in answer to “how are you”, to me that’s just how she’s doing her part of the small-talk-dance. However, I’d definitely talk to her about when you are asking specifically if there are any work related things she needs help with and she’s answers with “only if you can make it Friday”. That feels more like she’s wishing she could be anywhere but work.

    1. Commenting*

      Interesting comparison with the person who doesn’t know how to respond to “how are you?” This could be another case of that, or something more

      1. Itac*

        These two questions and the calling women girls one from yesterday (which I agree should be corrected!) Make me feel like their is a lot of policing/over thinking language in the workplace.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I mean, language is the most direct way we communicate with each other. Of course it matters what people say and how they say it.

        2. Snarkus Aurelius*

          It’s not “policing” if you’re offending and/or ticking off multiple people in your office on a regular basis.

        3. CaliCali*

          It’s not just parsing language, it’s parsing how we communicate to each other, and what we mean by that communication. It’s not just the use of a specific phrase, it’s what it conveys, like how “girls” confers a specific mindset about women in the workplace (who are usually striving for parity with male peers) or how repeatedly mentioning Friday indicates an overall dissatisfaction with a job that is also being manifested in the employee’s performance. We’re not talking Oxford commas here; we’re talking about language that has a much broader impact in terms of professional norms, connection, and workplace health.

        4. misplacedmidwesterner*

          I feel like this is true and natural because it is one of the main points of information we have. Especially if the person is a new employee or someone in another department you don’t work with frequently. For example I only work with Jane once a month on x process for about 2 hours, but whenever I see her in the break room or during that once a month time, she talks about waiting for the weekend – well I will form an opinion. I have very limited datapoints and that is going to be a really big one. Same with any other verbal/communication variation, the guy who ends every email with GO REDSOX, or what not.

          1. Fictional Butt*

            Yeah, this is one of those “things that surprised me when I started working” things for me. There are some coworkers I see very infrequently, and so I get a very skewed idea of what they’re like. That one person I only see at work social events who is always Snapchatting, the person I run into in the kitchen who always complains about the weather…

            This might be a good thing for LW to point out to her employee.

        5. LBK*

          The sole value of language is in communicating ideas such that they will be understood the same way by both parties. If one person is communicating something that’s being understood differently than intended by the other part, that’s worth clarifying.

        6. Nea*

          Here’s something to think about the next time it seems like language choice is being overthought:
          “Bless me father, for I have sinned” and “Sorry, Daddy, I’ve been bad” would be deeply inappropriate to switch, yet convey the exact same sentiment.

          1. Hallway Feline*

            Great point! (Also I’m going to borrow that whenever someone comments on “policing language” at my work place.)

            1. Batshua*

              *chokes on the idea of doing a spittake right now*

              OKAY THEN. I was … not prepared for that image.

          2. WPH*

            This is an amazing point and I was so glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read it.

          3. DecorativeCacti*

            This also works with tone of voice. How many times have you said or heard someone say, “It’s not what they said, but how they said it that bothered me.” You could make “Bless me father, for I have sinned” could sound just like “sorry, daddy, I’ve been bad.”

      2. Jaguar*

        There is something to be said for accepting how people talk. I think it’s a sign of maturity to both recognize the idiosyncrasies of your own speech (as with the “how are you?” letter) and not be bothered by the idiosyncrasies of other people’s speech (as in this letter).

        1. Roscoe*

          I definitely agree with that. I sometimes think we have a tendency to think “our” way of communicating is right, whereas other people are wrong. When in reality, like you said, everyone has little things that don’t always match up. Sometimes its good to recognize and go with that

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          But in this case it seems relevant to find out whether the person is just using the phrase as a kind of default social thing (in which case it would be nice to coach her on how she’s coming across but you could also just tune it out) or indicates that she really does hate her job.

        3. Whats In A Name*

          Yes, I think so, too. But in this case if the employee is under-performing and when asked if she needs help with anything answering “only if you can make it Friday” is something she probably thinks is cute but really really can hurt her credibility at this point. I think this can be a great coaching moment for OP.

        4. Colette*

          Well, if I went out for dinner with a friend whose only topic of conversation was how much she was looking forward to getting home, I wouldn’t think she wanted to be having dinner with me. Doing this constantly in the workplace may be an idiosyncrasy, but it also is sending a pretty strong message that she doesn’t want to be there.

            1. Colette*

              It’s not just immature – it’s contributing to an unpleasant work environment and, frankly, makes it seem like she’d be happier if she weren’t being paid to be there. And that will hurt her reputation and career.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Right, but part of the social contract inherent in good “work citizenship” behavior is that we not constantly remind each other of that fact, because it’s kind of rude to constantly remind someone that you don’t want to be around them, regardless of whether it’s at work, school, social events, whatever.

              Nobody is saying you have to want to be at work. I’d rather be at home playing Stardew Valley right now myself. But you also don’t throw it in people’s faces all the time just how much you don’t want to be at work.

              1. Jaguar*

                Honestly, you unpacking all of that from someone frequently saying banal stuff like “Just waiting for Friday” seems like a far bigger problem than the obnoxiousness of the person OP is writing about. Whens someone tells you that they can’t wait for the weekend, only one reading (and I would argue it’s a rare one) is them throwing things in your face or telling you that they don’t want to be around you. Typically, it’s some combination of interacting, expressing themselves, and bonding – quite the opposite of your reading. Don’t assume malice without reason.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Taking people at their word is not “without reason”, not is it “assuming malice”.

                  Certainly there can be many reasons the employee says this (uh… to her boss) and as AAM says, that’s worth unpacking. I just don’t get this mindset that one must always, without clarification of any kind, assume the nicest possible spin on everything other people say. That seems less about communication and more about an irrational fear of conflict.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’m uncomfortable with insinuating that Jadelyn sharing how she’d perceive the employee’s comments is somehow a “far bigger problem than the obnoxiousness” of OP’s employee. That’s a really unkind thing to say, and because I don’t think it’s merited, it comes off as an attack.

                  Jadelyn is articulating a really common expectation / workplace norm about how we all behave at work. Alison has written plenty of columns about what it means to “be professional,” and those lists include modeling good “work citizenship.” Talking about what good “work citizenship” includes is not assuming malice or maliciousness. It just gives us the other end of the spectrum of possible causes/sources of the employee’s comments: best case scenario, the employee is oblivious, and worst case scenario, she is unhappy and leaking that unhappiness into her work interactions.

                  Jadelyn’s extrapolation isn’t unreasonable or taking the employee’s comments in an overly personal way, in light of the letter. OP has told us that the employee is incapable of responding to “how are you?” or “how can I help you?” or “any cool plans?” with anything other than a statement about not being at work or wishing to leave. Jadelyn’s not assuming malice at all by stating that those comments don’t model good “work citizenship”—she’s assuming that something may be affecting the employee and that the employee may not realize how rude she sounds. That’s a similar assumption to all the comments suggesting the employee has a “verbal tic.”

                3. Jadelyn*

                  If they say it once in awhile, I wouldn’t assume anything of the sort. The fact that it’s a major pattern the OP is describing is why I say this. This would be why I specifically said things like not “constantly remind each other” or not throw it in people’s faces “all the time”. It’s the “all the time” and “constantly” that’s the problem. If I ask a coworker in passing how they’re doing and they say “Can’t wait til Friday!” I will probably laugh and agree with them. That’s not what I’m talking about as far as good behavior. If that’s the only thing that person ever says back to me, *then* it starts feeling like they’re throwing it in my face how they really hate being here.

                  I’m really not sure why you didn’t catch that distinction, or why you felt it was necessary to tell me I am “assuming malice” and that I’m a “far bigger problem” for making a fairly mild comment about a pattern of behavior.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I saw one boss explain it to an employee this way: “NONE of us want to be here. We ALL want it to be the weekend again. Out of consideration for others who may be feeling that desperation for the weekend, it is best to not keep mentioning it. It only serves to remind them that they have X more days to go before they get there and it makes it harder for them also.”

              But really, how great a job can anyone do if they are just thinking about quitting time?

              1. Candi*

                It’s REALLY REALLY hard. Been there, done that.

                When doing food court/housekeeping, I was repeating my dad’s lesson of ‘do the best job you can, no matter how much you don’t like it’ as I counted down to breaks, lunch, and end of day. Really. (State law says you have to have breaks. Never looked at exempt/non-exempt etc specifics.)

                For the LW, the same-theme commentary for a prolonged period is something my kids do as a joke, so I understand how it can grate. Alison’s advice should help. :)

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Totally agree! At first I was like “this sounds like standard office banter, especially given that thread about responses to small talk.” But that response to your manager asking if she can do anything for you is taking it to a really weird place.

      1. LW*

        Yep. That was the point where I decided to write in. It was such a jarring response to my question.

        1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

          I think your weird-o-meter is working, then. It seems like a very un-context-sensitive remark, and is likely either an indicator that shes more unhappy than you realise, or else she has no idea how to participate in that social script and could use some help.

        2. Whats In A Name*

          Yes, that remark is what caught my eye specifically. She may be a little quite/unsure and thought that would be a witty remark. You can use this as a coaching moment; and be sure to address performance – she may not realize she is not doing as well as expected; a good conversation about that might address at least part of your issue.

      2. Alton*

        Doing it every day, every single time, is also unusual. I have colleagues who joke about the weekend being too short, being ready for Friday on Monday, etc., but it’s not constant.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That joke can go the opposite way also. “I am SOOOO glad to be back at work!” I have used it and I have seen others use it when the demands at home are reaching problematic levels.

  6. CaliCali*

    I think Alison’s second-to-last paragraph hits on my thoughts — in work environments where it was a truth universally acknowledged that the workplace was sh*tty*, this kind of thing would be pretty normal. However, it wouldn’t be normal to say it to your boss! I also agree that there’s bigger issues here that require addressing; this is just a cherry on top of the “not a great employee” sundae.

    1. CaliCali*

      Argh, forgot to finish my asterisked thought there! I was going to say that currently, I work in an environment where people tend to be happily working, and it was somewhat of an adjustment from previous places that had more of a negative outlook! I also grew up with a parent who hated his job, and that became my “how you think of work” default that also took me time to adjust out of. So there are lots of factors that could be in play.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think if it was the one issue with an otherwise great employee, it would be worth addressing once. It could be a habit picked up in her previous toxic workplace, and the speaker just never thought about how it sounds if everyone around you isn’t sunk in bitterness.

      But if there are other problems, this is one I’d let go–addressing it sounds like you think the rest will turn around if she just drops these phrases, and that doesn’t seem to be accurate.

      1. Jaydee*

        I would actually suggest the opposite – that this could be another sign of her poor fit for the job. Certainly it’s not the biggest thing, but it’s part of the total picture. She is a so-so performer and seems like a bad fit in other ways plus she’s constantly expressing her desire to not be there. Discuss the whole situation with her. She may prefer to plan a mutual end of her employment there. Or she may really like her job but realize she’s not performing well and be stressed about that. Or she may have no clue how often she says it and how it makes her appear not to like her job.

      2. Aunt Margie at Work*

        I am thinking that addressing it could be a way to open the door to a conversation about how well the employee is or is not doing. If my boss asked me directly what part of my job was making me unhappy enough to constantly comment on not being here, with a clarification that boss wants my feeling to change, not just my comment, that could be a productive dialogue.
        It would also force employee to take ownership of her position. Like other people have noted, maybe she doesn’t realize that not everybody HATES working. Everybody wants to be independently wealthy and free to do what ever, but not everybody is completely miserable. People do feel good about a projects they are working on/completing. This may be a revelation for the employee, for a lot of the reasons that other people also noted.

        1. Fictional Butt*

          And this might be related to the performance issues, too. If she thinks it’s normal for everyone to complain and hate being at work and do the absolute bare minimum necessary, she might not realize what a low performer she is.

          1. Aunt Margie at Work*

            And this could be a great revelation about her being in the wrong job. Honestly, it would be a favor to address it.

    3. LNZ*

      same! I’ve worked in places where all people made small talk about was how much they wanted to be anywhere but there. It’s very soul killing and I’d def worry about how her bringing that behavior into a new non toxic place would kill moral.

      1. Allypopx*

        I work a split weekend and anytime anyone is like “TGIF” I get annoyed, probably visibly so. It definitely hurts my morale on that level, as well as reminding the group they want to be somewhere else.

        1. Zombii*

          That’s really different than introducing toxicity to a non-toxic environment though. Being excited that it’s Friday on Friday is pretty normal, even at places where not everyone has the same “Friday.” If it was all the time (like the letter), I’d get that, and I get your frustration, but I’d argue that being the person who says “It’s not Friday for me!”* is bringing more toxicity to the table than the original “TGIF” and high-fives.

          *I have no reason to think you do that but I’ve worked with people who did. It was always uncomfortable.

      2. copy run start*

        Yup, I worked too long at a place like that. While love my new job, there are days/weeks when I am seriously waiting for 5 p.m. or Friday. I have to actively suppress it sometimes. I didn’t find it soul killing while I was there–it was how we all got through I think. We turned our misery into the strength to return to our desks with every break.

  7. AMPG*

    Even if she doesn’t have much of a future on your team, I think it would be a kindness to bring this up with her. I doubt she has any idea how she’s coming across, and it’s the type of thing that could negatively impact how she’s perceived even if she were a high performer.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. Even if this job does not work out, she would benefit from learning about unspoken norms like this. I like Alison’s idea of using it to open a conversation about how the job is going for her. If she likes it and everything is fine, you can circle back to her performance and make a few suggestions. One suggestion could be to not mention Fridays or weekends every time anyone says anything to her.

  8. Roscoe*

    So I’m someone that says something like this often. With me its more “Same shit, different day”. But, I do draw the line at saying it to my boss. That just seems like you are asking for trouble. Now I don’t know that it should be, but a lot of bosses, like the OP, would find it very off putting. In my opinion, there is a reason its called work and not fun. Many people work so they can enjoy their time outside of work as they like. But again, its about knowing your audience, and the boss isn’t usually one I’d use that on

    1. Mints*

      This would be draining to hear from a coworker all the time too. The other thread had good ideas for slightly less chipper but still vaguely optimistic responses like “Chugging along” or “It’s going” that can replace the straight negative responses

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’m a fan of “well enough” in response to “how’s it going?”-type inquiries. Noncommittal and flexible enough to convey either total neutrality, mild positivity, or mild negativity depending on how I saw it.

    2. LW*

      Ha! I actually would not mind at all if her reply was “same shit, different day”. The difference for me is that “same shit, different day” acknowledges that the work is hard/tedious/whatever but the person will get it done. It’s also sort a tongue in cheek expression.

    3. Aphrodite*

      A man I know in his mid-eighties uses the phrase “Still above ground,” which I find amusing (if a bit tiresome at this point) but at least it’s far better than a litany of ailments.

      1. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

        Ha! My Father-in-Law and I always use “vertical and on my own two feet” with each other.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I had a family member that said this often.

      I am not a fan of pat answers/repetition. I prefer an actual conversation. The problem I had with SSDD is that many people feel like they are stuck on a hamster wheel. It takes effort to breathe life into a job, without that effort a job can become the robotic SSDD.

      All that to one side, because SSDD was the answer I always got, I really did not want to ask the question. I had my own hamster wheel that I was trying to improve.

    5. Zombii*

      Sure, it’s called work and not fun, but it’s also not called misery; the people who tell me it’s not called fun tend to say that when I’m not acting appropriately miserable and/or subservient for their liking (can you tell I’ve worked customer service my whole life?).

      Seriously though, what’s the purpose of this saying? I’ve only ever heard it as a way to chastise people instead of giving useful advise. It’s like the business version of “It is what it is,” (which is also a terrible thing to tell struggling employees (now you can definitely tell I’ve worked customer service my whole life)).

      It isn’t a moral failing to not hate your job, or to aspire to a job you don’t hate. Talking about it constantly though (like in this letter), without any productive action towards change (I assume), isn’t very useful.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When one person has so many issues, it’s best to pick the three biggest and/or worst issues and stick to them. Anything more than that and she’ll shut down into self-preservation mode when you go over everything you take issue with or she’ll think you’re targeting her. Plus three messages are plenty when you want someone to retain information and address problems.

    Regarding your original question, yes, it’s annoying, but my hunch is that it’s not malicious. If you were stuck in a job that you weren’t very good at, you’d probably be psyched for 5 PM and Friday every day of week. Of course that doesn’t make it okay, but these conversational responses indicate to me that her poor performance is at the forefront of her mind. That combined with the fact she doesn’t say much aside from these comments, and I totally get why this habit bugs you so much.

    I made a similar comment once (only once!) partially in jest to my former boss without thinking what it meant. She jumped on me a bit later for it. Although it was well-deserved, I felt a little attacked, especially because my comment came from a sensitive experience.

    It’s up to you to decide if you want to address it at all, but please look at it in the larger scheme of things. Sounds like there’s a lot more going on that’s not so great so maybe not?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Said often enough, it sounds like she has checked out of the job, at least in her mind.

  10. Anonjour'hui*

    My boss is like this. He never fails to remind us that he’s only here until he secures retirement benefits–in 10 years. He has told junior staff that he is only working here because he has to have a job (this attitude is not at all common in our industry and we are in a highly sought-out company, for good reason). Talk about a morale killer.

    1. Bea*

      Argh! My response would be “I can’t wait for you to retire either” =X

      Like when my boss was like “So and so will probably quit soon, be prepared.” “I’ve been prepared for ages now, it can’t come soon enough!” because all she does is complain and make comments similar to the OP’s person about not wanting to ever be here, how horrible working in general is, etc.

  11. No Excuses*

    I have a similar issue with a direct report whose performance is so-so. I don’t have rave reviews for her so I don’t know if its just me being judgey but whenever I ask her if shes ok (she often looks extremely disturbed, stressed or like she has NO idea what I’m instructing her to do) she says she’s “tired”. Every SINGLE time. I asked her about it once as Allison advised here “Hey, I notice you mention being tired a lot, is there anything thats going on in your work life that I can help with or otherwise that may affect your ability to focus at work?”)…..Grrrr.

    We’re ALL tired! She doesn’t have a company phone due to her role (lower level admin), and gets to leave promptly and take vacation time without being chained to email.

    It bugs me to no end to hear her complain about being tired in the work context when her responsibilities are so confined.

    1. Newby*

      If she only says she is tired in response to you asking if something is wrong, you should stop asking. It’s not really complaining if you specifically asked.

      1. Yorick*

        I agree. She’s just tired! That is a physical feeling and may have nothing to do with the work context. Or that stressed face might just be her face, and she has settled on “tired” as a response to people constantly asking what’s wrong.

        1. Anna*

          I don’t think that’s actually a solution. If my boss frequently asked me if anything were wrong, I might start wondering why that was and possibly do some self-reflection to see if I’m doing something that makes my boss think there’s a problem. If that’s just how she looks, she would have a different response because frankly she shouldn’t always be tired. It might be another verbal tic, but it’s perfectly legitimate for a manager to express concern if an employee looks distressed and it’s also perfectly legitimate for a manager to be concerned if their employee expresses constant fatigue.

      2. Jaydee*

        “Tired” is also my go-to response if someone asks me if I’m okay because I look stressed or upset.

        If everything really is okay and I say that, they don’t believe me. “Oh, well, you just looked kind of upset. So, I thought maybe something was wrong.” Nope, that’s just my face doing its thing.

        And if something really is wrong, I probably don’t want to tell you all about or else I already would have. So I just go with the generic but socially acceptable “Yeah, I’m fine, just tired.”

    2. TootsNYC*

      I’d probably go into “being tired all the time is a health issue, and I want to encourage you to use your health benefits to chase that down. you mention it so often that frankly I am worried. The specifics of your health are not my business, but I feel I wouldn’t be doing right by you as a human being if I didn’t reflect back to you that you mention this medical symptom very, very frequently–and that it could be an indicator of a medical issue that could be treated.”

      I might also start replying to that phrasing with identical phrasing of my own, if only to highlight how often she says it. Something like, “You say that very, very often. It worries me.” Or similar.

      1. Newby*

        I think you have to be careful about telling someone that you think they have health issues. If you are not a doctor and you are not close, it is definitely overstepping. It also might actually be a health issue and she doesn’t want to talk about it with a work acquaintance so she says “tired” instead. Once you have established that when she looks like that she is most likely tired, just stop asking. I have chronic health problems and when asked if I’m ok by someone I’m not close to, I usually say I’m tired. What I mean is “I’m in so much pain I can’t sleep without narcotics” but that is not information I want to share.

    3. Ona*

      Oh, you’re talking about me I guess :) (The performance thing is not about me, but the thing about being tired all the time is).

      For many people being tired is related to a certain type of tasks I would think. I was given a task of correcting 800 documents by deleting one line in every of them a few weeks ago. I have a PhD, spent years in research before starting my current job, and also worked in quite exciting fields like journalism, so opening 800 documents and deleting lines in them was like the most monotonous and unstimulating tasks I’ve done in years. I get a lot of similar tasks, so basically I’m tired all the time.

      Maybe your report is similar and the job is simply too monotonous for her.

      (Btw, I don’t have a company phone either, which only means that my company expects me to use my private phone to make calls. And yes, I “can” spend my vacation without checking my email. But I shouldn’t, as my bosses expect me to reply asap. This also contributes to my tiredness. Are you sure that’s not the case for your report?).

      1. Ona*

        Also, being tired is typical of depression. So I would be careful, since it might be that your report is going through a hard time. “I’m tired” is more socially acceptable than “I’m depressed”, so maybe that’s why she’s been using this excuse when you approach her asking about her wellbeing.

        1. Anlyn*

          This is what I was going to say. I use “I’m tired” when actually I’m in the middle of a depressive episode and don’t want to share that fact, or I can’t think of a way to say “I’m actually depressed right now” without it being weird.

          1. Blue*

            Yeah, I usually say “I’m tired” as a replacement for “I have zero motivation and you’re lucky I even made it off the couch,” which would be the honest answer during depressive periods.

            1. The Milk Is Not User Friendly*

              Yeah, I too suffer from depression, and insomnia (not related, just both chronic), so I am always tired!! I say it way more often in personal situations than work situations, but I have been known to mention it at work. I also have very lovable little furbaby pests who like to wake me up multiple times at night for food or fuss. I only sleep right through the night if I’m not at home, and it’s been this way for years.
              I’m reliable, on time, and highly effective at my job (at least according to my last performance review), but I do have RBF, and I am always tired. There are also times when I’m just exhausted from having to perform social niceties, so I’ll tell you the truth in these lower-stakes exchanges.

      2. No Excuses*

        Replying to Newby and Ona at the same time

        I don’t ask her on a whim/for no reason. I really only ask and am concerned in a work context, i.e when I’m explaining a task I’ve asked her to do. Her facial expression reads to me as worry/ confusion so I’ll say, does that make sense? Or, are you good? Occasionally she’ll say, oh yea, I’m just tired. Same response when she makes an error or mistake. When the mistakes were frequent it was like..not only are they frequent but you keep giving me the same reason as to why these things are happening. Its when you say it over and over in a work context (not me asking how you are doing) that it stands out.

        She has no expectation to be working during her off time at all, not even on her personal phone :-)

        1. Ona*

          We don’t know why she does that. But reading your new post made me think about two more explanations:

          – the so called “bitchy resting face” (I honestly hope I’m not breaking any rules by using the term here, but it even has its own definition on wikipedia, so I assume it’s ok ;)

          – introversion

          – she really hates her job but can’t quit right now. That’s basically another version of what I described as hating the type of work. I honestly use “I’m tired” when any manager asks me whether I’m ok or why I’m sad. And I will be using it until I find a new job…

            1. Candi*

              It was once suggested on a thread on another post to call it “Resting Murder Face”. (Partially for equality.)

              Some medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, cause depression, interfere with sleep, AND interfere with mental functioning. But not everyone wants to share.

        2. Ol' Crow*

          No Excuses, you might want to consider no longer asking her this question. You have no idea what she is dealing with in her life away from work. I myself was in a situation where I had moved across country after losing my home to a hurricane and losing my marriage in the aftermath.
          I went straight to work and put my best face on every single day. I left my issues at home, but I was just barely holding on. My supervisor, knowing the basics of my circumstances, made a point to ask me at minimum once a week how I was doing and commenting on how I sometimes looked unhappy and how was I doing. As I was barely holding it together anyway (I managed to always be professional but generally went home and cried the rest of the night) that would open the floodgates and the tears would come. I eventually came to despise her because felt that she was intentionally pushing me into what she knew was a bad place. Because after a few times of the same thing, you’d think she’d learn, right? But no, this went on for months.
          So really, you should stop because you don’t know where she’s at in her life and she might be wondering why you insist on poking at her.

        3. Anon16*

          Maybe you can have a conversation about her work and how her sleep schedule affects her work rather than a conversation that she’s tired all the time? It comes across as weirdly personal otherwise.

        4. mf*

          Having a job confined to 8-5 doesn’t necessarily mean the job can’t be draining or exhausting. I’ve had plenty of jobs that didn’t require me to work long hours or to be on call that were very draining for all kinds of reasons.

        5. Alton*

          I would try not to make assumptions about her situation being “easy.” You honestly don’t know what she might be dealing with. Also, just because her position isn’t very demanding compared to yours doesn’t mean it’s not challenging for her right now. You probably have more experience than she does, and that’s going to influence your perspective. It can be hard sometimes to relate to how newer/younger/less experienced people might react to situations that we’re used to.

          The problem is if she’s still making a lot of mistakes and isn’t performing at the level you need her to be at. That’s what needs to be addressed.

          She might not be very good at expressing herself when she doesn’t understand something or runs into trouble. If there are performance issues, I think the best thing to do is address them directly and encourage procedures that might help cut down on them.

          1. Anonymity*

            My boss is one of those endless supplies of energy people, always go go go. I am… not that. So yes, I frequently answer ‘tired’ or ‘why is it only Tuesday’ to the routine social questions. It may or may not be a health issue that I am so often tired, but it’s definitely not his business unless it starts to impact my work (it hasn’t so far), and even then his business is only the impact on work and not (at least not directly) my medical status.

        6. Bea*

          I have learned rather recently that I had to step back and stop assuming everyone who had a job that was “easy” and not as demanding as mine was indeed skating along and “why are they so unhappy, it’s so simple…”. It’s not as easy as that, it’s still draining to them and they can either be under stimulated or actually not at all within their wheelhouse, so something as typical and easy to use as pushing papers around and data entry is exhausting and stressful to them.

          She’s making constant errors and the same ones over and over, it sounds to me that she may just not be able to “get it” and that’s okay, she just sadly isn’t cut out for that position in the long run. That’s probably what’s really making her tired and stressed.

          Also try living on a lower admin wages :| Especially if she has a family or trying to support herself alone even, not easy street.

          1. Anononthis*

            Just throwing this possibility out there in response to the first portion of your comment: there is also the very real chance that your coworkers’ jobs are in fact NOT easier than yours, since SO many things can affect (effect?) general difficulty at work: a heinous supervisor, learning disability, dysfunctional work environment……many variables contribute to one’s perception of how easy or stressful their job is. Just a thought since it’s so subjective and there is truly no way to know if any job is less or more stressful/difficult to others doing said job than the exact same job would be to you. I work with a woman who is constantly running around like a chicken with her head cut off and sighing loudly and slamming things down on her desk, huffing and puffing and responding to questions like “are you OK?” and “Do you need help?” with “No I’m FINE- just trying to do the job of three people and get out in time to see my child before she’s asleep! Hahaha” and laughs so she can get away with her passive aggressiveness without being called out on it. I have basically the same job that she does and I’m always wondering if I’m missing something because the job doesn’t seem THAT overwhelming to me. I’m much newer at it (by 9 years!) so I figure there must be something that I’m not doing that I should be doing because I don’t feel Half as stressed out as she seems to be on a daily basis. I have finally come to the conclusion that she just handles stress and being busy very differently than I do. To me, there’s no point in getting THAT openly stressed out about every single thing that we have to do every day at our jobs, because that is what we do every day at our jobs, so getting freaked out daily when it’s literally going to be this busy and crazy every single day is a huge waste of energy and time. that’s just what the job is, so why not put your nose down and work and do the job instead of trying to make people think you’re the busiest person in the room .

            To play the devil’s advocate against myself, I suppose we can’t judge how difficult a job is to another human. We can guess based on the general knowledge we have about careers and professions and what type of personalities jive with specific positions in the working world, but that’s it.

            I also have no patience for people who respond to “How are ya?” Or “what’s new?” Or “how are you doing today?” With anything other than “Good, and you?” Or “pretty well, thanks!” Because, come on, are we really trying to get deep with our coworkers and are we expected to dig deeper if they respond in a negative/concerning way? Where does it end? Do they want us to participate in a more personal Conversation?

            Lastly, (end of bitchy rant is getting closer I promise) if someone is so miserable while at their job that they can’t even fake it until they find something else, PLEASE LEAVE. I know, I know, people can’t just up and leave and it’s a process, I understand that. But don’t bring my entire department down into your vortex of negativity because you are waiting for something better to land in your lap and have made it your personal goal to make everyone as miserable as you are in the meantime. I have very little sympathy for someone who loves suffering and there ARE people out there who get a kick out of being known as the Negative Nellie or Marcy Martyr of the office. That sh*t spreads like wildfire and i’ve seen it turn an otherwise upbeat, generally satisfied office environment to a hole of bitterness and resentment.

            Sorry- I know this comment seems very negative and I apologize if I sound cruel, I guess I’m just old and jaded and have no more pity party left to give. Are used to fall for it and try to fix people and make them happy or see the good side of third jobs, point out security and benefits and anything else I could think of so people would appreciate what they have, but I just have no desire to convince someone who is determined to be unhappy.

            1. Ona*

              “Lastly, (end of bitchy rant is getting closer I promise) if someone is so miserable while at their job that they can’t even fake it until they find something else, PLEASE LEAVE.”

              This is a larger topic linked to the question of unfulfilled promises (if you read askamanager you may have seen questions posed by employees whose jobs resulted to be something completely different to what had been promised to them – I went through that myself twice so far, so I know there’s not much an employee can do in such situations, apart from quitting and being considered a job hopper by future interviewers), managers’ behavior (it’s difficult to be happy if e.g. you’re are bullied) and common sense (what will my children eat if I quit?).

              Unfortunately, most situations are more complex than what you describe here.

        7. Jaydee*

          Seems like there are two separate issues here that are sort of merging together in your mind because of her response. One is that sometimes she looks confused or worried by your instructions. If this is a daily thing or if her response every time you ask her about it is that she’s tired, then maybe there’s something deeper there. But if it’s really only occasionally that she says “oh, yea, I’m just tired” then I would take that at face value. That’s not a commentary about how stressful her job is compared to yours or whatever. There are a million reasons she could be tired, ranging from a health condition to a night spent binge watching Netflix to her toddler/pet/neighbor’s barking dog waking her up at 4am. Heck, yesterday morning I felt well-rested when I woke up, but I grabbed a couple doughnuts for breakfast when I stopped at the gas station on the way to work, and by the time I got settled in at my desk and started trying to get things done, I was yawning. Being tired is a fairly common (and fairly legit) reason to be a little spacey or have trouble focusing on instructions. As long as it isn’t constant and doesn’t translate into poor performance, I’d let it go.

          The real issue seems to be that she makes mistakes (and used to make them frequently) and does not have much insight into why they are happening and how to avoid them. Focus on the performance issue there. “Jane, you’ve made [similar mistakes] a few times now, and when I’ve asked you about them you haven’t really had an explanation for why they happened. Since it’s becoming a pattern, I think we need to figure out what’s going on and how to address this. Can you help me understand what might have led to these mistakes?” If she says she was just tired, follow up by saying “Okay, well that doesn’t really help me figure out how we can prevent these mistakes in the future. Is there something about the instructions that isn’t clear? Are you finding yourself rushed or distracted and not having enough time to check your work for accuracy?” And if she still can’t give you an explanation, make your expectations as clear as you can and hold her to them. “Well, I expect you to [do XYZ by deadline]. If there is something I can help with to ensure that happens, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll trust that you can manage your workload to meet that expectation.”

      3. Grapey*

        Requests like that one you got have been why I’ve been teaching myself to code!

        1. Ona*

          If that’s an answer to my comment: I actually know some coding, but it wasn’t possible to solve that with coding.

    4. Anonak*

      I’m a little confused as to why you keep asking her this question when you clearly don’t like the answer you are getting. If you are unhappy with how she’s presenting herself go ahead and address that, but I know that someone asking me the same question over and over is extremely frustrating.

      I have a relative who will ask me over and over again if something is wrong to the point that I’ve snapped at them. Maybe there was, and maybe there wasn’t but I clearly didn’t want to share.

      For all you know, she’s seriously depressed and is doing her best to keep it together at work.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        I don’t know. If she’s using it as the reason for making a mistake or for not taking in necessary information (and I think that’s what No Excuses is saying that she’s doing), it seems to me that there is a work-related reason for asking.

        Nonetheless, if it’s not getting you the response you want, I’d suggest changing tactics. When she makes an error, instead of trying to dig into the “I’m just tired” thing, why not come up with an alternative suggestion. For example, if the error appears to be due to haste, you could suggest ways to mitigate that, such, I don’t know, giving her an earlier deadline so that you can both go over it together or so she can finish it one day, but have a chance to look it over again the next day before it’s finalized. You know, basic stuff like that. What I’m suggesting is that you take “I’m just tired” to mean “I don’t know, or if I do know, I have a good reason not to discuss it with you,” and go from there.

        1. No Excuses*

          Exactly. She said it frequently when I checked in about tasks assigned. Either as a reason why it wasn’t done right or if I asked if something was clear (instructions, why something needs to be done this way etc.)

          In any event, we did address performance and getting clarification when things didn’t make sense. I also agreed to a different schedule for her so that she could get more hours in the day a (and hopefully more rest).

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            I think that’s your best bet, really. Since she’s the one who keeps bringing it up, I get why you want to dig into it (I would be sorely tempted myself), but (a) any questions about this can seem really invasive really quickly, even if you don’t mean them that way (and I don’t think you do) and (b) it won’t do any good anyway. So just take “I’m just tired” to be her general, I’m-not-sure-what-the-problem-is explanation, and move on from there.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Who says she means it about work?

      I say this as shorthand for: I’m not at my best and don’t want to overshare.

      1. Anna*

        Whether or not she’s tired because of work or something that’s happening outside of work, she’s using it as an excuse for mistakes made at work and that’s a problem.

    6. Future Homesteader*

      I know “tired” is my go-to when really what I mean is “I’m overwhelmed and I hate this but I need an excuse for being checked out” as a way to explain why I might seem upset, but when I don’t want to talk about the fact that I’m actually upset. And often, I may even experience those negative emotions as tiredness, but if I think about it for a second I’ll realize that it’s something else. It’s possible that by “tired” she really means overwhelmed, or something deeper than lack of sleep.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Hmm, could it be a chronic fatigue issue that she just hasn’t felt comfortable sharing?

    8. Anon16*

      Ehhh, I have a verbal tic of saying I’m tired occasionally. Often I am tired, but it’s not a cause for concern or warrants a conversation. I just get tired when I have to wake up at 7am most days. Sometimes it’s just something I throw out there.

      I actually had someone do this (they weren’t a direct report, just a colleague), and it came across condescending. I don’t really think it warrants a conversation unless it impacts their work. It can just be a, “Are you okay? You mentioned being tired a lot.” This woman sat me down and tried to have a sincere conversation (didn’t come across that way), in which she was “concerned” that I was so tired all the time. It came across as insincere and like she was putting way too much emphasis on something I said offhandedly. Very annoying. I never mentioned being tired again and stopped talking to her in general.

      1. Anna*

        I think she handled this way poorly, but if you’re saying you’re tired so frequently someone expresses concern…that’s kind of on you, not them. Maybe you are genuinely tired, but when someone says that, to me, it kind of invites further discussion. And if you’re saying it every single time, you might need some new phrases to lean on instead.

    9. Catalyst*

      I might be adding on here as I have not read below yet, however, I would like to point out that she may have a medical issue causing her tiredness that she is unaware of or not ready to share with you or possibly is aware of but isn’t connecting it to her tiredness. When I was younger I got migraines 2-4 times a week (and sometimes they lasted for days), I was exhausted almost all the time no matter how healthy I ate, if I went to the gym, got tons of sleep, less sleep. Now that I have them under control I recognize that my tiredness is a symptom of my migraines, it is the very first sign I have that one is coming on and involves me yawing a lot (which I recognize annoys people because they think you are bored). My point is just to take into consideration that it’s possibly a real thing for her and regardless of getting to leave promptly, take vacation, etc, there may be things beyond her control that make her that way.

    10. The data don't lie*

      Wait, what? She’s telling you she’s tired IN RESPONSE TO A QUESTION FROM YOU. She’s not just constantly complaining about being tired. Also, we’re NOT “all” tired. I have sleep apnea. It was undiagnosed for many years and I was constantly tired. All the time. I fell asleep in class, during seminars, waiting for the bus, you name it. I finally had a sleep study and it turned out I did not get any REM sleep that entire night. I was constantly exhausted from what was essentially pulling all-nighters almost every night. You have no idea if she has something like that going on, but it’s very possible that she actually is significantly more tired than you are even if she works less or has less responsibility. Also there is a big difference between being tired from lack of sleep and being “tired” due to a lot of work and stress.

      So, you asked an Allison-style question? What did she say in response?

      1. No Excuses*

        Not enough hours in the day etc. I thought perhaps her early start time was contributing at least to the not seeming focused/ errors bit so I offered to adjust her hours. Again, I only asked in a work context. Not as in “how are you feeling today”. If you ask someone to do something and they look visibly disressed, what are you supposed to say as a manager? Nothing?

    11. mf*

      This was me at my previous job. My boss was kinda pushy about these questions, constantly asking, “Are you okay? What’s wrong? Are you happy with the job?” and other such questions.

      The truth was that I hated my job, I was dealing with low-grade depression, and my boss was an emotional vampire. But obviously I couldn’t tell her that for fear of losing my job.

      So instead of asking her questions that you won’t like the answers to, what about making open-ended offers for help so if her problems are work-related, she knows you’re available? “Let me know if you need anything!” or “You look like you’re having a tough day. My door’s open if you need anything!” or “I’m always here to give advice or guidance. If you need help, please talk to me!”

      It’s also worth mentioning that her tiredness may have nothing to do with work. She might have some physical/medical issues that are causing her to be tired.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Change your questions so the answer “I’m tired” will not fit with the question being asked.

      Being at the bottom of the food chain is never fun/easy. Working for lower rates of pay brings on stresses that are unimaginable to some people.

      If you can reframe, you can aim for a different answer. “Jane, do you have any questions or concerns about what we just went over?” If appropriate, “Will you be able to get this done in X time frame?” Find ways of asking about the task itself.

      I had to do this with some of the people I worked with, I had to watch how I framed my question or I would get that dreaded automatic standard reply.

    13. Lissa*

      Oh man, the “I’m tired” thing is so universal among people i know that it honestly becomes like white noise, because it gets said *so* often. Sometimes it’s like, my kingdom for someone to tell me they are feeling great!

  12. Anonyforthis*

    Speaking as someone whose coworker does something similar “Is it 4:30 yet?” “I have a headache.” Every. Damn. Day. PLEASE manager speak to this employee and make her stop! I can’t tell you how close to the edge I am with my coworker.

    1. Jeanne*

      I really think this is something you need to deal with. Be direct with your coworker. Not everything has to go through a manager.

      1. Anonyforthis*

        Oh, he has been asked to stop, but he just can’t help himself, it’s so obvious he does not want to be here (and should not be here). I was just making a point that it’s annoying from a coworker perspective as well, not just from a manager perspective.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          Anonyforthis, you’re probably going to have to minimize any extra conversation with him, or mentally just tune this out. Hopefully, by only keep the talk to work questions & comments, he will get the hint.

    2. LW*

      Thank you for this perspective. I am worried about how her comments may affect other team members, and it’s good for me to hear that this concern is not without merit.

      1. Aunt Margie at Work*

        It would get on my last good nerve. I was one of the people who could not take a compliment. “Oh no, really, I-it-whatever is terrible.”
        Then I learned a few things.
        1) It mostly is small talk. Just say thank you.
        2) People are trying to say something nice, and you are telling them they are wrong. Just say thank you.
        3) If it is something I’m really proud of/excited about, say THANK YOU. I really like this too.”

        Everyone feels better. That’s a win.

        This is my big concern about negative comment employee. She’s making herself miserable, too. So nobody will want to be around her. So she will be even more miserable. And proving to herself that work is a miserable place.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Eh, I have had times where bosses spoke to a cohort until they were blue in face. What the boss did next was tell complainers, “You need to tell her yourself. I have told her, it did not work. Tell her you are tired of listening to it.”

        Sometimes more than one voice, peer pressure, works.

    3. Allison*

      I have a coworker like this too. Every day, I hear “I’m tiiiired,” “it’s so cold in here,” “it’s too quiet in here,” “are these people for real?” “I’m so sick of this,” “gaaah why is this happening?” “is it 5 yet?” “it’s only 3? ughhh I wanna go hoooome!” “aw man, it’s raining?!?”

      Occasionally complaining is fine and normal, we all know working isn’t the most fun thing. But I hear so many negative comments from her every day that it really wears on me and I wish I felt comfortable telling my manager about it, but she does work really hard and her job is tough.

  13. Newby*

    It can be a good response if used rarely or in context. If there are some special plans on the weekend for example. It is really weird if that is the only response ever.

  14. BethRA*

    Since OP mentioned that Debbie Downer is not performing well, my first thought was that she knows she’s not doing well at some level, and that this is how she’s responding to that stress. Not that it’s an appropriate response, but I would bet the issues are related.

    1. Artemesia*

      I can’t think of anything that would make me more tired than struggling at work. I remember a particularly difficult job I had where I was alone with my 2 year old in a new city and had an incredibly demanding job that required me to work evenings and weekends to keep up for the first year. I was perpetually desperately fatigued juggling the baby and the high start up demands of the job. And of course being exhausted makes it hard to be efficient. Although I was well qualified for what I was doing, being so overwhelmed made what should have been easier just that much harder.

      This person is not doing well. That alone can be exhausting.

  15. Lemon Zinger*

    Talking about wanting it to be 5:00/the weekend is fine… if it’s done occasionally. Talking about it repeatedly is not okay, and hurts morale.

    Regardless of whether she is truly unhappy at this job, has a bad attitude, or doesn’t know what else to say for small talk, she needs to stop. This would drive me insane.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Right, and coupled with the not so great performance makes it worrisome.

  16. Jeanne*

    I think you have to be careful with this as a manager. It’s not going to stay a secret that you asked her to stop this. It can backfire. “Great. She’s policing our small talk but won’t deal with Julie’s reports that I always have to redo.” or “She’s being picky about how we even talk to each other. If I try to tell her about my problem, she’ll start picking apart how I tell her.” However, if you’re sure that you’re pretty fair and other coworkers notice the problem, go for it. Otherwise, start with only the performance problems. Then when you talk to her, be less small talk. Don’t say how’s it going. That leads to a general response. Ask how she’s progressing with project X and if she has any questions.

    1. LW*

      Yes, I also have this concern. I also worry that if I bring it up, it will be a hard habit for her to undo and will lead to her constantly second guessing herself as to how to respond to simple small talk. I don’t want someone to constantly be on the defensive!

      I like the suggestion to just stop asking “How’s it going?” Thanks!

      1. Aunt Margie at Work*

        You are not her therapist, religious leader or parent, so I don’t even know if this is something you can do, but when I read that you are going to stop asking “how’s it going?” I thought, maybe you could help her rethink the automatic negative canned response by asking something like, “anything going well today?” or be specific, “what’s the good news on X project?”
        I feel like it’s kind of like when Sheldon modified Penny’s behavior with chocolate (definitely overstepping!)
        but it also makes her think about a response and additionally think about a positive response.
        If nothing really is going well at work, then she can’t do her job. If she just wants to be unhappy at work, then can you live with that?

        1. Jaydee*

          I like the idea of rephrasing the question! Now, I could easily make both of your suggested questions backfire:
          “Anything going well today?” “Well, the day is halfway done, so there’s that.”
          “What’s the good news on X project?” “It’s almost Friday so I won’t have to think about it for two days.”
          (That’s probably what my mom was talking about when would tell me to stop being flippant as a teenager. ;-)) But asking specific questions like, “Were you able to get the TPS report formatted correctly?” or “How’s X project coming along? Any word back from Teapots Inc. about the changes to the spout design?” cannot be answered with “I want to be not here” without it being a total non-sequitur.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It’s good to think about your goal here.
        It sounds like you want her to stop but you want to prevent her from leaving or getting fired also.
        You may not be able to have both.

        I have not had too much problem (that I am aware of) with telling people stuff like this. Aim for transparency. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This will help. If you are doubting yourself that will come across in whatever you tell her.
        One of the hoops I made me jump through was a test question, “Would I say this to anyone who was doing x?” This really helped me. For example, if every. single. person who worked with me said “Is it Friday yet?” on a regular basis, I would have a chat with the group. Yes, I would tell any individual to stop making Friday/weekend remarks.

        Okay so next step, framing it. Reality is we spend the bulk of our waking hours at our jobs. This will not change. To expect it to change is an empty hope. When we hope for things that will not happen we set ourselves up for disappointment/depression/etc.
        Part of holding down a job is to maintain a good attitude. Constant comments about hoping for the weekend is not part of a positive attitude.

        You could start on a low plane. You could say, “You say stuff about Friday or the weekend a lot. I am worried because I think that means you do not like the job here. I want you to tell me if there are problems with the job.”
        If something low key like this does not work then you can say something stronger later.

  17. NW Mossy*

    I can definitely see this as being worth working on, especially given that this employee’s in recruiting. A significant portion of that job is finding people who are excited to work for the organization, and if the recruiter herself isn’t into her job, that can certainly be reflected into the impression external parties get of what it’s like to work for the organization. Even when we’re not entirely conscious of our use of these tics, simply verbalizing them can reinforce a thought pattern that’s ultimately not helping our effectiveness.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, I meant to address the recruiting part! I actually asked the OP if I could include the field, because I thought it was potentially relevant — in jobs where part of the deal is to be reasonably chipper (recruiting is definitely one), this matters even more.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      Yes, especially if someone being recruited makes small talk and recruiter’s response is “can’t wait until Friday” or “just wish it was 5pm” – I’d seriously wonder if this is a place I want to work at.

  18. Princess Carolyn*

    Add me to the list of people who suspect it’s just a verbal tic/social awkwardness coping mechanism. As a kid, I somehow learned that a) You can sometimes bond with people by complaining, and b) It sometimes help to make fun of yourself before others get the chance. As a high schooler (and for several years after that), I started getting feedback that my “negativity” was a problem — and I’ve been trying to un-learn those coping mechanisms every since.

    1. Night Cheese*

      I literally grew up with those same exact habits and have to be extra vigilant to make sure I don’t slip back into it again and give people the wrong impression.

      1. Princess Carolyn*

        When I’m energetic and high-functioning, I’m constantly looking for opportunities to compliment people, point out something good that’s happening, smiling my head off, etc. — mostly to compensate for when I get tired later on and revert to my instinctive “Ughh why are we even expected to work on Friday afternoons?”

      2. Artemesia*

        Me three. I was lucky that a college friend clued me in and although it is still an issue, I am a lot better at not being a total downer all the time as a result.

  19. Night Cheese*

    I agree that it sounds like a phrase that she falls back on and doesn’t realize how often she’s saying it. A few years ago, a girl I worked with pointed out to me, not very nicely actually, that my answer to everything was that I was tired.
    “Oh, Night Cheese is always tired. Are you ever not tired, Night Cheese? I might as well not ask you how you are anymore because I know the answer is going to be tired.” I didn’t realize how often I was responding with tired and once I knew, I adjusted. In my defense, this was back in college and I was averaging maybe three hours of sleep a night, so I actually was just tired all the time haha.

    1. Daisy*

      I have students (adults) who do this every time they arrive for a lesson. Drives me up the wall. Particularly because it’s my job and they’re paying, I can’t exactly reply ‘yeah, I’m also knackered, how about you cancel this 9p.m. lesson YOU booked, so I can go home’.

  20. Jessica*

    My go-to response is “Not too shabby” (level of enthusiasm can be implied by tone). It’s generic, but falls on the neutral-to-positive end of the scale. I think it’s easy to pick a generic all-pourpose response, but one should be careful to pick one that doesn’t make you sound like you hate your life.

    I think it would be ultimately to everyone’s benefit to at least pull them aside and let them know. Not everyone has a good feel for their audience, and maybe they think they’re enjoying a little humor or levity and don’t realize it’s falling flat. And for the people who do have a bad attitude, I’d say that it would be a reasonable unofficial warning. If it continues, then they get an official warning…and so on.

  21. Mrs. Fenris*

    I had a coworker who did this, and it wasn’t just a verbal tic. She was an entry-level employee who just had a terrible work ethic. She sat down to chitchat every chance she got, and rolled her eyes and sighed when asked to do pretty much anything. She was constantly sighing and saying “Oh my GOD, three more HOURS!” right in front of her direct supervisor. She lasted there longer than I would have expected. I think nobody thought they would have to actually fire her, because it seemed like she was just going to quit any moment.

  22. Also works with a clock watcher*

    I work with someone who is an incessant clock watcher and it drives me batty. She also has all kind of little inspirational quotes around her cube about “hanging in there.” Now, maybe she has some personal struggles that she is dealing with and her need for divine intervention is in regards to those. However, since it is all around her work station, it really makes me think she needs the Lord’s strength to make it through her work day. She’s nice as pie to me but it leaves me wondering “what about this place is so awful to you?” If you don’t want to be here, get a new job! Every day it is just a countdown until 5 pm. Her car was blocked in once for a delivery and she was stuck waiting an extra 5 minutes or so. She bemoaned the entire time. Our receptionist said something like “oh, if it’s an emergency, like you have an appointment or something, I’ll tell the guy to move the truck.” She responded “no, I just want to go hooooooommmme” like a miserable toddler.

    I completely understand OPs concerns. While I’m A supervisor, I’m not clock watcher’s supervisor so I really can’t do anything about it but roll my eyes.

  23. AMD*

    Argh, this drives me crazy in some coworkers of mine. Two different people at two different locations for the same company, both of whom I know have deeply sarcastic senses of humor, who respond to every “How are you?” with a broad fake smile and a snidely cheery “Living the dream!” It’s so similar from both (who aren’t acquainted with each other) that I wonder if it’s even just a regional expression somehow? But it’s really discouraging, and clearly communicates “I hate being at work so much that I can’t respond to a simple greeting without sarcasm.”

    1. Zombii*

      That isn’t regional, that’s just everywhere people hate their jobs/lives but can’t be compelled to change anything for the better. It’s especially common in low wage jobs that are absolutely sh!t and everyone knows it (if this isn’t your company, it’s probably to do with their work history prior to your company).

  24. DatSci*

    I’d advocate for addressing the poor performance issue without mentioning this in conjunction. I agree with Alison that this seems really nit-picky when there are much larger issues to address (and really this is your personal perception, it wouldn’t necessarily bother everyone since its such a common thing that’s said in an office).

    Often, I’ve seen people disengage from the more important robust feedback (about performance problems) when its coupled with nit-picky perception feedback (since that is a personal opinion).

    Since the real issue is her performance I’d focus there for now and address these “it’s 5:00 somewhere” comments after she’s improved. Also, it’s best to frame this as something that people “could be misunderstanding,” not that it sounds like she doesn’t want to be there (since that sort of framing can put people on the defensive – and thus lessen its impact).

  25. Is it Friday Yet?*

    I get Allison’s concern that bringing this up on top of the performance concerns might seem like you’re picking at her or piling on. However, I also worry that if it is a verbal tic and she does move on, she’s going to just keep doing it at other jobs. I’ve always appreciated feedback from my previous managers even when it was about something I was doing that was less than stellar. If you have a good relationship and she’s been receptive to feedback, I would mention it.

  26. LW*

    Thank you Alison for answering my question! And thanks for all the helpful comments so far! I really like the suggestion from Alison and others that my focus should be on other performance concerns (and that maybe I should also point this out to her in another context as a kindness so that she does not take this habit into other workplaces). I feel like my annoyance has been validated, and so now I can let this go (in my mind) and focus on the other concerns. Thanks!

    1. Aimless*

      LW – do you manage an internal recruiting team, or do you work for a recruiting agency with external clients? The reason I ask is that, particularly if you are an agency recruiting manager, the poor performance and the desire to flee at 5:00 daily are likely related, and you may be able to address this in that context.

      I have been an agency recruiter for 10+ years, and as any decent recruiter can tell you, this is NOT a 9-5 job if you really want to be successful. You don’t have to be married to your work or available 24/7, but you do have to be available to speak to candidates when they are off work (often on evenings and sometimes weekends), respond to after-hours interview requests or last-minute job openings, or just get a jump on your competition by being the first to find and qualify candidates.

      I am big on work/life balance and do try not to be tied to my email/phone too much outside of work, but in this field you do have to balance that with being successful in a very competitive industry. If you are the type of person who really wants to leave at 5:00 on the dot every day and not even *think* about work until the next morning, it will be hard to make a successful living as a recruiter.

      Maybe, during the course of a normal 1:1 or performance review, you can mention the frequent “Is it 5:00 yet?” comments and how that mind-set and desire may not be the best fit with a career in recruiting.

  27. Rebecca*

    Oh, I work with people who the first thing Monday morning say “is it Friday yet?” “Can we go home yet?” And every other word is a complaint, “F” this place, “F’ing [insert name of coworker], what the hell now” in response to emails, etc etc. They are also clock watchers, and wait until the exact second of quitting time, and they bolt for the parking lot.

    I get that none of us wants to be cooped up in a windowless office on a nice day, but we have to work so we get money so we can pay bills and have a roof over our heads. Stuff isn’t free. So until you win the lottery, or find another job that you don’t have to attend but still get paid, just shut up already and make the best of it.

    Thanks for letting me say that. I’m at BEC mode with my office mates, and I’ve asked my manager for a new seat assignment, should one become available.

    1. Jan Levinson*

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with leaving right at quitting time. I get off work at 4:30, and consistently walk out the door right at 4:30. I get my work done, and have no reason to stay a minute past when I get to leave. Also, traffic significantly increases during my commute home if I leave even 5 minutes late.

      Obviously, the complaining/cursing is a bigger problem, but I don’t think it’s right to complain about people leaving at the time that they’re allowed to leave.

      1. bridget*

        I think calmly getting up from your desk at 4:30 because it’s the end of the day is something no reasonable person will grumble about. It’s the totality of the circumstances that combined make it obvious that Rebecca’s coworkers have particularly negative attitudes about the fact they are at work, which is generally very unpleasant for people around them.

      2. Rebecca*

        No, it’s not unreasonable to leave right at quitting time, since we are non-exempt, but to sit there watching the clock tick down and make comments about how long the last minute or two of the day are, sighing, etc. is annoying after a while. It’s just the icing on the cake, and this goes on every. single. day.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      One of my first jobs (retail) had coworkers like this, and it really brought down morale. I’m kind of an upbeat/cheery person, and I get that some people find that desperately annoying. But being actively mean/depressing and then rude to someone for being a normal human is exhausting to deal with. I found myself dreading certain shifts because of who I’d be working with.

  28. Catalyst*

    This letter made me think of an employee I had once…….. She would literally run in her high heels through our pothole filled parking lot to her car at 5pm every day. She got about three weeks in and I had to fire her. When I did, she thanked me. I think she got a job to make her parents happy. lol

    1. Stella*

      I wonder why she thanked you. I get that she only got the job to please her parents but wouldn’t her parents be furious to hear she was fired from a job. That’s certainly how mine would react.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Not sure if you’re still here, but there were rumours of this kind of thing with one guy I had to let go at Old Job, who had consistent behavioural/personality/performance issues. Namely, his father was quite well off (this guy was in his mid-20s), but had enough work ethic of his own that he wasn’t going to support a lazy son who’d quit a job he didn’t like. That said, if son “tragically lost” his job, or if it just didn’t work out, dad would float him until he found something else (and this was around 2012, so one could plead economic hard times for a solid year or so of “looking” for work).

        1. Catalyst*

          I believe this was a similar situation. She lived with her parents, and I believe they supported her between jobs.

    2. oranges & lemons*

      That reminds me of someone I worked with when I was a cleaner at a motel. Her mother forced her to get the job as punishment for something. She did the worst job with the worst attitude possible for two weeks, until she was allowed to quit. So glad to have been a participant in her life lesson.

  29. Madame X*

    It honestly sounds like the performance issues and the whining are related so I think it would be a good idea to address both. The performance issue is clearly the bigger and most pressing concern, so the focus of your critique should be addressing how she can take steps to improve that. She may be feeling overwhelmed or ill-equipped to handle her responsibilities and is manifesting her frustrations with the complaints about not wanting to work. Even if her performance was adequate, it would likely benefit her to hear that constant complaining about wanting to leave work to her manager is not very professional.

    As a side note, I wonder if this negative attitude is coming out when she is interacting with potential recruits. If so, that probably is hurting her ability to recruit.

  30. wonder_aloud*

    It may just be a personality quirk. My husband responds to the question of ‘How are you?’ With either ‘still breathing’ or ‘air goes in and out, blood goes round and round’. Sometimes people will think this is clever, sometimes it will confuse people, but for those of us who are present every time he says it, it is beyond irritating (small thing, I know, but still…) He thinks he’s being clever and it never occurs to him that some people might think it weird. It may just be that this is the employees standard response to this type of question. If I was going to bring it up with her I would approach it from the perspective that this is a ‘funny once’ statement, not a ‘funny all the time’ statement.

  31. PattS*

    It may be innocuous but having worked in a department of 3 where the other two were ALWAYS saying these exact phrases, it begins to grate on one’s nerves and is demoralizing. I snapped one day and told them that if they hated working there, then they should find jobs that they liked. They were quite taken aback–it sounded funnier in their heads.

  32. Rachel*

    Although I really hate the response of “I’ll tell you on Friday” or “It’ll be better at 5”, I don’t see anything wrong with it. It just maybe that she is a boring person and does nothing interesting and has nothing else say. I know people like this. They say they can’t wait for the weekend or until 5 because they have nothing else to contribute to the conversation. On the other hand, some people have such a secretive life after work, that they also can’t/or don’t share. Either way, I don’t think it’s something worth addressing, personally.

  33. Kathleen Adams*

    In a hopefully acceptable tangent, I just have to say that I have had that 1980s song by Loverboy “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” stuck in my head ever since I read this letter. While it was never a favorite, I wouldn’t have said it was a horrible song, but after several hours of it stomping through my head, I am approaching that critical Song Loathing Threshold from which there may be no retreat.

    I have mentioned here once or twice that I don’t like to listen to music at work, but today is one of those days that make me rethink that policy. Thank goodness it’s almost that time when I can get in my car and listen to something else. Pretty much anything else.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That played on a certain station every Friday at 5 pm. I remember catching it every so often. It almost got to be a game to see if I could catch the song at that time. Once a week on Fridays was kinda fun.

  34. Erin*

    I say this all the time, but I work in retail and I say it to last minute shoppers, so completely different people everytime. I can’t announce we’re closing the store for the day, unless I am flat out asked when do we close. So I frame it in small talk, the customer will ask how am I doing and I reply with “good but I’ll be even better in 20 minutes.” It’s usually said in the tone of a joke. Corporate doesn’t want us in the store and on the clock when there isn’t anyone to sell too, also I don’t like staying later than the mall security. Don’t hurry customers up, but don’t stay too late.

  35. Jerry Vandesic*

    A great philosopher once said it best:

    Welcome to the working week
    You gotta do it till you’re through it, so you better get to it

  36. Jaybeetee*

    It’s like kindergarten, work is the only place where days of the week are acceptable conversation.

    “How are you doing?”
    “It’s Wednesday…”

  37. phil*

    I used to be a sound mixer, mostly in television production, running crews ranging from 2 to 8 or 9. Sign out times in this business are, to say the least, variable. Somebody would always ask at the beginning of the day when I thought we’d be going home. My answer was always, “Sooner if you do your job right.”

  38. SheLooksFamiliar*

    FWIW, I think repetitive yet POSITIVE responses are annoying and possibly inappropriate as well. The person could also be seen as insincere and lacking social awareness

    Used to work with a guy who must’ve been into PMA or something like it. If you asked ‘How’s it going?’, he would respond with this: ‘I’m wonderful…no, I’m fantastic! Its the best darn day of my whole darn life! And you’re fantastic to ask!’ Didn’t matter who it was, he delivered the same response, verbatim. Gah. A little of that goes a very long way.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    Why do you want to control someone else’s small talk? Just stop asking how she is and that sort of thing and you won’t have to deal with it (seems like she mainly says this in response to your questions)

  40. Delta Delta*

    This sounds like a habit of mind for her, like she’s developed this response as her stock response to the question. Maybe change the question so that it doesn’t invite a “It’ll be better when it’s Friday!” answer.

  41. Dilberta*

    It cracks me up that Alison makes this out to be a big deal. I work for a company with 500+ employees and literally EVERYONE says it as a sort of camaraderie greeting. As in, “Hi, Stan! How’s it going?” “Better at 5pm! AmIright?” I guess it really depends on her tone, and if she’s actually grumbling it out or just flippantly saying it… Here it is just a silly response to a mundane question.

  42. Minnie*

    I honestly tried to read all the comments. There were a lot of them. I did not see (to my knowledge) anyone say that she might be an introvert or maybe have a possible social anxiety condition/disorder that maybe needs to be recognized and acknowledged. And if that is not applicable in this situation, it is quite possible in a lot of the situations mentioned in the comments and probably a lot of future inquiries could look into this. As soon as the question was posted my first thought was that the employee is uncomfortable and that is their standard answer. I got this feeling from the question – one the manager keeps asking the same question – frequently. Social norms say this is ok, but the recipient may feel just as annoyed/scared/anxious that the manager keeps asking this question over and over again as the manager is receiving the answer. Maybe try a different question – one that can’t be attributed back to which day of the week it is or time of day. I’ve had to explain to a few people that my desire to be at home in my bed or longing for the weekend has nothing to do with my work, employer or fellow employees – they are all pretty wonderful, but my introverted need to be by myself to recharge. At home. In my pj’s. And I don’t have social anxiety – I’m just an introvert. For anyone who needs further clarification about introverts and extroverts and how they behave and respond in the workplace, there are plenty of really reliable online resources. Maybe the employee is afraid of losing her job and it aware that she’s not fitting in. Understanding WHY she is behaving the way she is may be the key to getting her to stop – but as previously mentioned, communication is a two-way street. Something about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? I see this as a great learning opportunity for both the manager and the employee.

  43. Duffel of Doom*

    My last boss (an HR manager!) did this too, and it’s the worst! I don’t know if she thought it was a good way to connect with us, but it came off as unbelievably tone deaf and immature. She knew I was overworked, and yet wanted me to sympathize with her plight? No thanks.

  44. Liz T*

    My very first job they let me go because I complained about everything. I really loved that job but I had a bad habit of being negative about everything because I was 14 and was being an “edgy teen”. Washing dishes wasn’t that bad!

Comments are closed.