my boss wants us to all share our mental health needs – at every meeting

A reader writes:

I work at a small company where I like to maintain a professional persona, focusing on getting work done and keeping my personal life separate. The company is not well managed but I have a decent amount of autonomy, people are reasonably pleasant, and for a variety of family reasons the location, commute, and hours work really well and would be hard to replicate elsewhere.

My boss has started asking us to share reflections on mental health as an icebreaker at mandatory meetings in the name of “breaking down the stigma around mental health.” His intention is so genuinely good — he wants to support his staff. Usually I deflect by saying something relatively generic about limiting my social media use. However, this is increasing in frequency and the people who jump in first set the tone by going all-in and sharing super personal details about medications and therapy. It creates a lot of implicit pressure to share something similarly personal.

Aside from finding this uncomfortable, I’m noticing that these sharing sessions actually detract from my mental health. (I don’t have truly serious issues, but I do struggle with some anxiety and insomnia.) Work is by far the most significant stress in my life, because the organization is not well managed, roles/assignments are unclear, and some staff work glaringly harder than others with no one ever held to account for failing to produce. It’s not a toxic workplace or anything, but neither is it particularly enjoyable to see people coming late and leaving early while taking long lunches, while I’m glued to my computer.

I’ve suffered a lot from insomnia that’s offen triggered by workplace frustrations, so protect my mental health I’ve been working on creating a mental wall where I ignore what everyone else is doing or not doing except for my direct reports (mantra is “Not my circus, not my monkeys”) and focus on doing a good job on my own projects. These “mental health sharing sessions” break down this (sadly fragile) wall and I end up dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings again, often leading to insomnia that night, because when I really contemplate what I need for mental health, I re-examine all the frustrations of the office.

I want to manage my own mental fragility and not make it someone else’s problem or blame others, but I also want to protect myself from these spirals if possible. I also worry that others may be finding these sharing sessions helpful, and that by asking for them to stop I’d be standing in the way of someone else’s process.

Tl;dr: Boss wants us to share what our mental health needs and what would really support my mental health would be a better-managed workplace, but I don’t think that’s on the table and contemplating that fact is making me feel worse. Can you help me find a constructive way to address this?

This is … so inappropriate.

He might be well-meaning, but it is so not his place, or any employer’s place, to request this of people. Many, many people prefer to keep their mental health private, or at least not to share details about it with their boss and coworkers. And many, many people prefer not to receive information of that sort about their boss and coworkers, as well.

Frankly, he is asking for legal issues here as well, because by soliciting all of this mental health information from people, he might be (a) inadvertently creating accommodation obligations for the company that it doesn’t realize it will have, and/or (b) setting up the company for claims of discrimination if someone (incorrectly or not) later believes he treated them differently based on something mental-health-related they shared in these meetings, or feels that they were required to disclose a disability (even if he doesn’t feel he’s requiring anything).

But the legal issues are the least of the problems here. The far bigger one is that this is a huge invasion of privacy and wildly inappropriate.

If he wants to support his staff, he can do that by giving people reasonable hours and time off for whatever form of self-care they might need, using his influence to push for good company-provided health benefits, and otherwise supporting people’s individual mental health needs. It does not require a group therapy session at the start of every meeting.

Can you find out if any of your other coworkers feel uncomfortable with this? If they do, you and they could speak up as a group and say something like, “We’re not comfortable being asked to share such personal information at work. At a minimum, we’d like to be able to opt out, but we’d like to discontinue this practice altogether because it’s actually creating more stress for some of us. We’d like to be able to focus on the work we’re here to do.”

Or there’s a more blunt version if you prefer it: “This feels really inappropriate in a work setting, where people might have good reason not to want to discuss mental health with their boss and coworkers. We don’t want to participate in this.”

You can also say either of those on your own, but doing it as a group will create more pressure on your boss to cut this out.

You could also just go with “pass” or “I’m not into sharing this kind of thing” every time it’s your turn in a meeting, but that doesn’t address the fact that the practice in general is stressing you out, so I think you’ve got to tackle it more head-on, as in one of the examples above.

And I hear you that you’re concerned about taking away something that others might find helpful — but this is Just Not Appropriate at work, and you’ll be doing a favor to your employer (and to future employees who will come along later and be horrified the first time they’re at a meeting where this happens) by pointing out that this needs to stop. And keep in mind that if there are some people who really want to continue this, they could form their own private group to do it. It shouldn’t be part of meetings where people haven’t explicitly opted in, and opted in without pressure.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 236 comments… read them below }

  1. JokeyJules*

    Nope. Don’t participate. Encourage your coworkers to feel empowered to also not participate.
    Point out the issue to your manager, and then boycott regularly. This is wildly innapropriate

    1. Chalupa Batman*

      Yes. I know it’s uncomfortable, but OP would probably have more than one coworker follow suit if they said a firm “Pass” when their turn came, then, if pressured, reiterated, “I don’t feel comfortable with this. PASS.” I also like Bend & Snap’s suggestion below that if completely opting out would do more harm than good. Using “feeling” language (like, ‘I would like’ or ‘it would make me more relaxed if’) stays within the (gross, inappropriate) expectation of personal disclosure, but the real agenda is to express changes they’d like to see at the office and share ideas on how it could happen.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Or if pressured: “My mental health needs are keeping my private life private and separate from work.” With the possible addition of: “I’ll let you (boss) know privately if I need any actual accommodations at work.”

        Who knows, maybe the accommodations language will remind him that there are potential legal consequences that he should be minding.

        Although I would deal with this head-on, if possible, even if you talk to boss alone. If he questions why you don’t want to hear about your co-workers’ mental health issues, remind him that you’re not a qualified mental health professional and you can’t help them anyway. Remind him that being stressed about other people’s problems that you can’t do anything about will have a negative impact on your productivity AND your mental health.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      I dislike your boss, no matter what his intentions are. Speak up and tell him that the thought of sharing mental health information stresses you out, so the best thing you are doing for yourself is to pass. Others will certainly follow suit. Does your HR dept know this is going on? Do you have an HR dept?

      Why do people feel like they need to reinvent the wheel instead of just making the workplace function well?

      1. Hills to Die on*

        And I have worked with enough mean, nasty people to know that at some point, someone will use a person’s sharing against them. ‘Oh, they’re just being emotional because you know that’s how they are” or ‘You’re imaging that I am out to get you–just like how your parents treated you as a kid (Stabs coworker in the back and smiles to their face)”.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I’m on meds and so are a couple other members of my team, and we’ve talked about it before amongst ourselves – entirely our own choice, of course. But we had an awful, toxic coworker on that team who didn’t show her toxicity at first and so we were open with her in the beginning, who later tried to convince a new member of our team not to trust anyone but her because, and I quote, “They’re all on drugs because they’re crazy.”

          So…yeah. Especially in a place that’s not well-managed in general, I can so easily see this burning someone.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Thank you. It was not pleasant, but honestly, that one person turned out to be utterly banana crackers, and in the end the ableism around our meds was relatively minor compared to everything else. She also told the new hire, among other things, that I was an evil witch who had cursed her – which, yeah I am a witch, but I’d consider myself morally grey at worst, and I certainly hadn’t thought of cursing her, at least not until she started accusing me of doing so. She was sprinkling salt around her desk to try to ward me off, which I found hilarious; less hilarious was the habit she had of unplugging her phone because she thought we were listening in on her.

              It was a dark time for the team, but she was let go and things got much better after that lol.

              1. Hills to Die on*

                wow. Just…wow. The salt is kindof awesome if not misguided in its application.

          1. Jesca*

            Yeah …

            I mean I know OP points out that the place isn’t toxic, but people aren’t doing their jobs and not being held accountable for it and things are already not being managed appropriately. And now they are asking people to disclose (not converse on what to do in the work place to help those with mental illness, mind you. But disclose) mental illnesses. All you need here is one manipulative person, and this place will be in full fledged toxic-get-me-out-omg-i-dont-know-who-to-trust-anymore-and-i-will-never-sleep-again! If the boss actually knew anything about mental illness, researched it, and knew about how it is actually used against a person, then there is no way Boss would be doing this! I mean talk to him, but I think educating him about unconscious bias alone will help tremendously.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I think that’s a really important point – he probably hasn’t thought the rest of the way through the ways that this could wind up being harmful to someone, and if someone pointed that out to him hopefully his (apparently genuine) good intentions would force him to reconsider.

    3. Anon for now*

      What would help my mental health the most are clear and consistent exceptions on project productivity and healthy boundaries between my personal and professional life.

      1. designbot*

        yep. You’re saying what you need, you’re using the format provided for saying it, but you’re making your point exceedingly clear.

      2. The Original K.*

        Amen. I would either say “Pass” or this. Nothing in between. But this is an excellent script.

      3. MattKnifeNinja*

        Marry me! @anon for now.
        I have had coworkers overshare some pretty horrific stuff at work at a similar “group therapy lite” setting. WHY? None of the issues were really work related.

        I used to contribute (because we had toxic people who would use non participation against you), “I’m working on a better work and home life balance with a use of a day planner.” Or pick whatever benign nonsense you can come up with.

        We need better mental health services in the US, and not more people playing amateur psychiatric social worker/psychiatrist.

      4. RJ the Newbie*

        That is an excellent response! I concur. I have no shame about admitting to my anxiety and panic disorder in public, but I’m not everyone. Others have more serious issues and there’s absolutely no need for anyone to disclose this in a public work setting.

      5. Engineer Woman*

        Personally, this expectation of sharing mental health issues would cause me anxiety that wasn’t there in the first place!

  2. Murphy*

    Wow. Yeah, I’m all for destigmatizing mental health issues but that doesn’t mean I want to discuss all my personal struggles with all of my coworkers.

    1. Artemesia*

      Me identifying my own mental health issues also does not ‘de-stigmatize’ mental health issues; it just stigmatizes me. Now when I have work issues down the road, it will be ‘well she has anxiety so naturally she wasn’t able to meet that deadline’ or ‘given her OCD of course she doesn’t mesh well with ‘terrible manager’.’ Don’t play.

      1. Murphy*

        I see what you mean, but I can also see how getting more people talking about it so people can see how many others are struggling can normalize mental health issues. But I still don’t want to do it at work! Too personal.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I’m with you, Murphy, at least on general principle. That’s why I’m extremely open about my mental health struggles in general, and I’ve had multiple people come to me and thank me for talking about it the way I do, because it helped them to see someone other than themselves going through the same stuff and coping with it. Sometimes just talking about things helps normalize them.

          But that said, I also understand Artemesia’s caution, especially in the workplace. Being out about your mental health issues at work is for people who have capital to burn and very thick skin to deal with the inevitable stew of ignorance and occasional outright malice.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Agreed with both of you. I don’t hesitate to talk about the fact that Prozac makes me a functional member of society, but I would not be comfortable being forced to share specifics about my mental health struggles in a workplace context.

        2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          I get that, and I know that’s the boss’s goal here, but it needs to be the person’s choice to disclose their own struggles. Being pressured into it would be inappropriate in any setting, but when it’s a boss doing the pressuring, that’s another level of mess. I don’t think it’s even occurred to the well-meaning boss that his position of power over all his direct reports means “share your mental health struggles” is an invasive question that’s hard to get out of, not just a show of warm concern for everyone’s mental well-being.

      2. Specialk9*

        @Artemesia “Me identifying my own mental health issues also does not ‘de-stigmatize’ mental health issues; it just stigmatizes me.”

        This is a perfect encapsulation of reality.

      3. Io*

        I have an experience with this – a former coworker was encouraged by my then (toxic) boss at a small organization to share details about her health. At the time, it was fine, but when she eventually quit after two years of being ground under his thumb, our boss constantly talked to me or other coworkers about how Cersei was “really someone I love, but she’s unstable and if she’s off her meds she goes crazy and I will never hire someone with *problems* again” – and this was without the information being openly shared… Even if intentions are good, they might change and it may do harm later.

    2. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      Yep. I am pretty open about my mental health, but I wouldn’t want to be pressured into sharing about it at work to all of my coworkers. Forcing people to share details about their health at work doesn’t really help to fight the stigma.

    3. Observer*


      And before anyone jumps in with “But if it weren’t so stigmatized, you wouldn’t mind” that answer is “Absolutely NOPE.” There are a LOT of things that are not stigmatized but that people don’t want to talk about. From their “bedroom habits” (to borrow a phrase from a comment on this morning’s letter), to their bathroom issues etc.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, it’s just too personal for work. I wouldn’t want to go into my physical health issues either (and I’m sure no one wants to hear it!)

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      Me too. There are tons of things that carry a stigma but I don’t want to talk about them at work or even with some friends.

      I feel like this boss is opening the door to further perpetuating harm. Depending on what people are sharing, people might be triggered or realize they have issues that need professional support.

    5. Is It Performance Art*

      I am extremely skeptical that the boss is qualified to have these sorts of discussions. Meaning we’ll simply isn’t enough. Talking about work stress might be fine but it’s possible someone might have a serious mental illness. How is he going to handle someone who says they’re having trouble with hallucinations or they really can’t stop thinking about suicide or are taking three hour showers? (Most people would probably keep quiet about it, but if he really pushes it, they might figure it’s a good idea to open up about that in their s situation.)
      Talking about that type of mental illness is likely to badly stigmatize the person with the mental illness and it’s entirely possible people in the office will be less willing to work with them out of fear.

    6. Erin*

      Therapy sessions are private for a reason. It would be like discussing your gyno exam at a work meeting.

  3. Aphrodite*

    Ugh. I won’t share anything personal in meetings–and if I were asked in a training session I’d bring out the most innocuous fact I could (“I have an Acura that I like very much”). But to ask for mental health sharing? Way, way, way, waaaaaaaaay beyond acceptable.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*


      I was recently in a difficult meeting in a hobby group I’m part of, and it was bad enough that we’d brought in a professional facilitator (who was EXCELLENT). At the end of the meeting, we’d cleared the relevant issues enough that the group could continue to exist, but I was simmering with anger at one people who had acted really manipulatively throughout the whole thing. At the very end, we did a “go around and share something we’ve learned” or something like that and … the thing I’d learned is that the manipulative person was manipulative and probably also needed to do some personal work in therapy. And that was really not going to be a helpful statement, so I noped out and tried to pass. When the facilitator very very gently encouraged me, I pushed back gently — I complimented his skills in the work he’d done with us. And it was a genuine compliment. And he was gracious/skilled enough to not push further.

  4. Wannabe Disney Princess*


    I don’t particularly want to know the intricate details about my coworker’s/boss’s health in general (be it mental or otherwise.)

    I’d push back, hard, LW. I think I’d go for Alison’s second, blunter approach. This is wrong and inappropriate on so many levels.

    1. Mickey Q*

      What if you don’t have any mental health issues? Are they going to assume you’re lying? Do you have to make something up?

    2. Jesca*

      This is hitting me so hard right now. My son, who is ten, suffers from mental health issues (and has since … well … forever). Right now, it is really bad – think as bad a place as mental health can take you – and with everything, I am absolutely exhausted trying to explain to my direct family (his support system) how he can have acute depression at 10, much less at effing work! And really, people always seem to want some explanation! I think this boss (like my boss) just needs a talk of “if people go on FMLA know its likely bad and not getting better any time soon and how to focus on support and not on what the actual eff it is they need it for!” – which is what these conversations should be (as in, treat mental illness like you would treat any other physical diagnosis).

      I don’t even know why this boss thinks this is remotely going anywhere productive?

      1. Specialk9*

        I’m so sorry it’s so hard! Hard for your son and hard for those who love him. <3<3

      2. Marthooh*

        “I don’t even know why this boss thinks this is remotely going anywhere productive?”

        It’s not productive, of course. It’s just easy (for him), and doesn’t cost the company money (directly), and makes him feel supportive (without him actually having to work at it).

      3. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        I’m sorry you and your son are facing this struggle; I have been there and there are days when the exhaustion of both being caregiver and trying to make other folks understand what is going on is more than I can articulate. The worst part was when I was trying so hard to compartmentalize and people kept pulling me out of my box- there were times where I wanted to shout “Just let me do my job and not be under the ‘psych mom’ microscope!”

      4. PlainJane*

        Hugs to you. I also have a child who struggles with mental health, and it’s such a hard road, especially at that age.

  5. fposte*

    This sounds perilously close to requiring people to disclose disabilities. In the meantime, OP, go generic. “Mental health is important to all of us. Plus, puppies and flowers and supporting the children.”

    1. Amber T*

      I would caution going the “puppies and flowers and supporting the children route” only because it would sound like OP wouldn’t be taking it seriously, which would probably make the manager dig their heels in more to get them to open up and share with the group.

      1. fposte*

        If I understand the OP correctly, the remit isn’t sharing your own personal struggles; it’s reflecting on mental health. It’s understandable that some people are responding with their own stories, but there’s no reason to if the remit doesn’t explicitly require it.

        1. Amber T*

          I think I just misunderstood your post – my bad. I thought you meant overly generic (literally “puppies and flowers and children”) as a way to semi-humorously deflect, which I think may make the boss “require” OP to discuss their own personal mental health needs.

          1. fposte*

            Ah, I see. No, I meant my post as a humorously genericized version of a slightly less generic example; that basically it doesn’t have to be about the speaker. What the heck, if you’re feeling activist, raise the question about mental health coverage in the workplace’s insurance.

      2. Liane*

        But Fur Therapy–that is, petting & playing with our dog–is an important part of our mental health in my house. And in this workplace that is what I would bring up every time. “I destressed during and after Major Project Rollout by petting Doggy.” “The family decided to spend the weekend watching silly movies while snuggling with Doggy because everyone had a rough week.” “For the last 2 weeks I have been getting up 15 minutes earlier to play with Doggy and I find my morning productivity is up.”

        Note: While we do call joke within the household about “fur therapy,” we *Do Not* call our beloved Doggy a service animal or try to take him places pets don’t belong, because he’s a family pet, not any sort of service animal with special training.

        1. LizW*

          Right there with you!
          Took a break from schoolwork yesterday just go on a romp through the woods with mine.
          Would not have been able to finish otherwise.

  6. Hope*

    I would be sorely tempted to say “Actually, these sessions have become really damaging to my mental health and I would be best served if we stopped them entirely” at the next meeting where I was prompted to share.

    1. SoCalHR*

      I was thinking this as well, concentrating on sounding as sincere as possible since it is legitimate.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I like this idea, but I would completely understand if the OP wasn’t comfortable with it.

    3. Laurelma_01!*

      Are having issues with productivity in the office, and they are tying up meeting time with this. Am curious how this “mandatory over-sharing” lasts during meetings. 20 minutes, an hour per meeting? How many meetings per week?

      So out of bounds. OP, if there is a HR rep, department. Go to them in private to discuss this. Also, is this your manager’s way of fishing for disabilities, etc.?

      1. Laurelma_01!*

        Forgot, multiple by the number of people attending these meetings. That is how many work hours are being taken up with it.

    4. Amaryllis*

      “My psychiatrist has asked me to refrain from discussing my mental health with laymen.”

    5. Forking Great Username*

      I was thinking something like this too! The script in my head was, “To be honest, I’m finding that these mental health check ins are actually harming my mental health! I understand that for some people talking about it with others is helpful, but it would help me if those of us who don’t feel that way are able to opt out of this part of the meeting. It’s best for my mental health to not dwell on any of this at work.”

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I am pretty sure this would be my response.
      Here’s my expanded version:
      1) I am not comfortable talking about personal business with everyone all the time. Some people, once in a while, yes. Regular meetings with everyone, NO.
      2) I find myself getting concerned about how much time is spent doing this when we have actual work piling up as we talk about things that we ourselves cannot solve.
      3)I feel very badly about other people’s concerns. While not my luggage in life, as I have my own set of luggage, it still saddens me to hear of other people’s discomforts and worries. Overall this is something that depresses me to the point I want to skip these meetings.
      4)Meanwhile we have real problems going on here in our workplace the require attention. We can try to “fix” everyone’s life here and we will still have a workplace that needs fixing.
      5)The fact that MH is stigmatized is a social problem. We are not going to solve a social problem the size of the US within these four walls here. There are other ways that would have broader reach and hopefully would be more effective. Meanwhile we have actual workplace problems that we COULD fix during this same time frame.

      Am just shaking my head. We talk about forced fun on this site. And the commentary is mostly, we don’t get to decide for others what their idea of “fun” should be. Likewise here, we don’t get to decide for others what their idea of “theraputic” should be.
      It sounds exhausting, OP. I would need a nap after that type of meeting. I hope you can start a wave of change or convince the boss this is not a good idea. Let us know how it goes for you.

    7. Little Bobby Tables*

      “Currently, I’m struggling to overcome homicidal mania, especially with regards to authority figures.”

  7. Serin*

    Good grief. If digestion were stigmatized, would it solve that problem if we encouraged the staff to sit around the conference table and talk about the state of our bowels? No, we solve that problem by having bathrooms that everyone can visit when they need to and mention it or not mention it as they choose.

    1. Clorinda*

      According to some of the letters we see, not all workplaces have reached that point yet, tbh.

  8. Roja*

    Aughhhh this would make me want to run away shrieking. There is NO way I’d want to be discussing any of this with my coworkers, especially not in a group setting like this. Half of me wants to go for the direct, blunt option of “thanks for your concern, but I’m not comfortable discussing my health in public,” but that might not go over well in your company culture (which is unfortunate) and might create wondering about your personal issues more than you’d prefer. You could always go the no-conflict route and just find the most innocuous things possible to share like you have been and let the pressure roll right off, then go with something more blunt if anyone calls you on it.

    This sounds like something people in my field would do (we’re very touch-feely and on much more personal terms than a lot of fields), so I suppose I’d better pay close attention to these comments and get a script of some kind, because it’ll probably come up at some point.

  9. Bend & Snap*


    I would be interested in seeing what happens if you were to say “X thing at the office makes me feel anxious, and I’m wondering if we could try Y instead.” But even that feels like too much.

    1. Snark*

      I dunno, I kind of love it if for no other reason than, “Oh, you want honesty and sharing? Did you think through the natural consequences of that?”

        1. Laurelma_01!*

          Your response when asked: My neighbor’s cat is in heat and the local toms are hanging out. The screaming and fighting is keeping me up at night.

          1. Jadelyn*

            And you can just keep on making up increasingly implausible answers over time. “I’ve been extremely stressed lately since my fishmonger’s cousin has begun having prophetic dreams that are foretelling the end of days.” “My hairdresser’s daughter got into a fistfight with a group of Tibetan monks outside a Denny’s at 2 am and I had to go bail her out of jail last night so I’m running short on sleep today.”

  10. AvonLady Barksdale*

    This is timely for me, as I’ve been feeling lately like I have some kind of obligation to share my mental health struggles. I tend to keep certain things very private, and these days I’ve had a some pushback because some parts of my life are an open book. We are entitled, as adults and humans, to discuss those things we want to discuss and to keep other things under wraps. I don’t know what I would do in the LW’s situation, because I’d be so frozen and shut down that I don’t think I’d be able to react professionally or in a way that didn’t make me look like closed off or completely disinterested in my co-workers. Alison’s advice is very good, and I hope the LW doesn’t have to deal with this nonsense much longer.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      Just commenting to support you and your absolute right to discuss things you want to and not others. I’m also a fairly open person, but there are just some topics that I prefer to keep to myself. It can be hard to remember that we’re not required to talk about everything! It’s not withholding or cold or unsociable to keep some things back, even if we don’t keep everything back.

      1. Clorinda*

        It’s also perfectly reasonable to discuss some things some of the time with some people, and then choose NOT to discuss those same things another time–even if you’re with the same people.
        Consent is new every time.

  11. Flinty*

    So much sympathy! I have had two full-time jobs in my life, one at a very very progressive nonprofit startup, and a much older and more conservative/traditional nonprofit (still liberal but not as way far left.) I’ve realized that slogans and initiatives and team-building have only the minutest effect on my mental health compared to only having to work 40 hours per week and having time to take care of myself.

  12. Grouchy 2 cents*

    10-1 says the health benefits offered suck and the mental health options are, as with most insurance plans, either ridiculously inadequate or functionally non-existent. (If there’s a 6 month waiting list to even SEE a therapist on the list the program is useless).
    Truthfully I suspect that far from de-stigmatizing mental health issues he’s making it harder for private people to share theirs due to whatever internal shame they already have.
    This sounds like he wants everyone to be a FAAAAAAAMILY. Hey buddy. It’s a job. I don’t need to like everyone, or get along with everyone (as long as I’m civil to all). I do this job to get paid not for free crap group therapy.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Try having a health plan that doesn’t cover weekly one-on-one therapy at all, you can get one appt every 6 weeks and other than that it’s groups only.

      I’m not saying Kaiser, but I’m not not saying Kaiser either.

      1. SarcasticFringehead*

        I’m not saying I have the same insurance you do, but why is it that therapy appointments are the only appointments I have to make over the phone, when everything else can be set up online in a couple clicks? And then the only appointment is three months out, and then they act all put-upon that I need an emergency refill because I forgot I have to make these appointments a FULL FISCAL QUARTER before I run out of medication. Good thing I don’t have any mental health issues that make this kind of thing extra-complicated (just kidding, I totally do).

        1. Jadelyn*

          Haha yeah, phone calls are definitely super simple when you have certain mental health Stuff! Can’t imagine how that requirement might backfire when you’re talking about specifically a population of people who might struggle with things like long-advance planning and making phone calls. -_-

          1. AnnnnnnonThisTime*

            Getting diagnostic testing and treatments for my (already-diagnosed-by-a-psychiatrist-you-asshats-)ADHD was one of the more complex, multi-parted, unintuitive processes I’ve ever gone through. Made me so goddamn angry. And I was only really able to do it because I had the financial resources to take time off work to get it taken care of. Flames on the side of my face!!!

    2. Laurelma_01!*

      Hasn’t Alison said that when employers view the staff as family, that’s when the most boundary crossings happen.

    3. This Daydreamer*

      Oh, it’s a family, not a workplace? That simplifies matters. Bye, everyone!!!

  13. sunny-dee*

    Also, this bizarrely assumes that everyone has actual mental health issues. That’s not really true. We all have crap we deal with and emotions that can be too much. But that’s not the same thing as a medical issue! And it’s either myopic or insensitive to treat them the same.

    I have issues with insomnia (and to a lesser extent, anxiety and avoidance) as the side effect of some medical treatments I was on. The thing is, I know this — it’s a side effect, not my actual mental state. (They were fertility treatments, and I went to a therapist to get a baseline since I could be at a higher risk for post-partum depression. She pretty much verified that it was all circumstantial, and recommended some better self-care, but I didn’t really need CBT or drugs or anything. It was just a crazy time, and crazy times pass.)

    For me to try to elevate that to compare to someone with an actual medical condition, who needs actual support, is incredibly self-centered and insensitive, I think. It’d be like comparing my 24-hour stomach flu to IBS or something. “Oh, I know *just* how you feel, right? That was such a rough Saturday afternoon.”

    1. SoCalHR*

      That’s a really good point. Also there are temporary (just had a break up) ‘mental health issues’ and more permanent ones (full on medical depression). Both need support but the magnitude of each is different.

      This situation really is about as sit-in-a-circle-and-sing-kumbaya as possible and most people would hate that in a work situation.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was just thinking – I have no issues with my mental health whatsoever. I sometimes feel sad or anxious or overwhelmed or mentally exhausted, but that’s very short-lived, situational, and not at all frequently, just a show of the range of human emotion and feelings. I’d have literally nothing to share during these “sessions”.

      1. Myrin*

        On further thought, since the objective is “to share reflections on mental health”, I could theoretically still talk about it in a more general fashion, but that’s just… weird. Here I am, philosophising about mental health in history and our society and how those intertwine instead of… doing work?

      2. CMart*

        Same. My personal reflections on mental health (my own especially) on a near-daily basis would be “uhhh I’m all good, thanks.”

        My body chemistry and my life circumstances, at the moment, generally work for me and not against me. There is nothing to report on the mental health front. I suspect that a majority of people are the same. I know more people than we tend to think struggle with mental health issues, but (someone please correct me if my understanding is wrong) it’s still the exception and not the rule.

    3. many bells down*

      I have a panic-attack reaction to alcohol sometimes. I don’t consider it a mental health issue, but a physical one. A side effect of having one too many beers of an evening.

    4. Harper the Other One*

      So much this! I have occasional down periods. That’s a world of difference from clinical depression. Pretending that my “blue” week is anything like clinical depression would be insulting to those who have to deal with significant mental health issues.

    5. Bend & Snap*

      I have severe Major Despressive Disorder and you can bet your sweet bippy I’m never going to mention it to anyone at work. It’s not relevant.

    6. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      When I turned 40 I started experiencing anxiety and panic attacks (which persist to this day), but up until then I had no mental heath issues at all. If my work had asked me to participate in something like this in my 20s and 30s I would have just stared blankly at them.

    7. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, this feels really awkward as a healthy person. Am I supposed to fake some issues to fit in? Blow up a bad mood into something worth talking about? Keep saying everything is great and have everyone think I’m lying or am afraid to be vulnerable?

      I mean, a bit of awkward is a much better problem to have than an actual mental health issue, but I’d rather not have either.

      1. Mainly Lurking*

        Elspeth, you could always talk about the time you witnessed a murder on a train and nobody believed you …

    8. PB*

      Yes. A few years ago, I had a lot happening at once. My doctors kept asking if I was experiencing anxiety. I explained that my job ended in a few months, so I was actively job searching. My industry was experiencing major shifts, so I was actively retaining. I was getting married in four months, and no one could figure out what was wrong with my thyroid. They blinked a few times, and said that it sounded like normal anxiety, for the circumstances.

      1. Nephron*

        Every time a clinician asks if I am tired I respond with: “I am in graduate school.” No one has ever needed further explanation.

    9. Quoth the Raven*

      In my case, while I believe I may have mental health issues or, at the very least, would greatly benefit from professional care, I do not have a diagnosis, and I will not self-diagnose for the sake of a meeting.

      And I’m definitely not going to have others try to diagnose me, either.

    10. LW*

      You put your finger on another part of the reason why these sessions are so bothersome. My mental health issues aren’t that severe most of the time–especially when I can keep my boundaries strong–so as long as I’m doing that, I really don’t have much to share.

      1. shoes*

        Also, if there are any issues, sometimes talking about them at work would completely break down any mental barriers and be rather harmful.

  14. Dino*

    Co-signing everything from Alison. I’m very open about my mental health but I would really hate feeling forced to participate in something like this. I think you may have another way to push back on this if your boss is reasonable. It would require that you share more than you’re maybe comfortable with so this might not work for you, but I can see a way to use your boss’s concern for his employees’ mental health to your benefit to bring up the stuff about work that eats at you and impacts your anxiety and insomnia.

    You could sit him down somewhere private and say something like “I can see that you care a lot about how we’re feeling, which is why I’m choosing to be open about this right now. There are aspects of how this company runs that have negative impacts on my mental health, mainly X and Y. I’ve been dealing with it by judiciously blocking out whatever anyone else is doing and choosing not to take my feeling about work home with me, but with the mental health check-ins at every meeting I find myself dwelling on X and Y all day and into my time at home. Can we make the mental health check-ins their own meeting so people can opt-in if they find it to be helpful?”

    This might be too forward or too much to feel comfortable. It also only works if your boss is a stellar person and manager who would be dismayed to know that something he’s doing (both with the disorganized and not-great problems at work AND the inappropriate mental health meeting thing) was having a negative impact on you and would want to fix it straight away. But I like it because it allows you bring up everything that’s involved while appearing to comply with your boss’s desire to know what’s going on with his employees. It tells him that the way things are running now is negatively impacting a thing he wants to improve (employees’ mental health) and could spur some action on the other issues. YMMV and know your boss, though.

    I really hope that no matter what you choose to do about it, your boss stops these check-ins. I’d love an update when you have one.

  15. animaniactoo*

    “For me, one of the big things about preserving my mental health is creating strong boundaries around what I focus on and share when I’m in settings like work.

    If you’re asking what workplace accommodations would help me in general then something like having the availability of core hours and not strict start/end times would be very useful. I can think of other ideas in that vein that would help me manage my work/life balance or just making the work environment less stressful even when we have deadlines or high-pressure projects.

    However, hearing details of other people’s struggles and solutions at work makes me very uncomfortable and is, for me personally, a drawback. I start to feel pressured that I haven’t shared myself, but sharing here would work against the boundaries that help me.”

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is very good.

      Reading/hearing about other people’s panic attacks has been known to trigger attacks in me, so this would actually be a real danger.

      1. Laurelma_01!*

        I have had two in my life. Once a bad reaction to medication, another when too many stressful things were going on at work and at home. I would not wish one of those things on my worst enemy. I sure wouldn’t want my boss or co-workers to know.

        I would be afraid in this situation that one of your co-workers or boss will view you through a filter with the label “whatever mental health issue” you are doing with before seeing you as an individual first. It can also be used as an excuse for bad management. They have a mental illness, not that I failed to give them the tools to do their job or overloaded them.

    2. Annoyed*

      “However, hearing details of other people’s struggles and solutions at work makes me very uncomfortable…”

      This. Not only do I not want to share my own stuff, I don’t want to be forced to listen to others’ stuff.

  16. double spicy*

    This is such a bad idea. It reminded me of the boss who wanted to be a life coach and encouraged employees to share their life goals, only even more inappropriate. I agree with Alison’s suggestions to push back as a team. Alternatively, you could start boring everyone by sharing literature reviews about workplace mental health and burnout!

  17. Annie Moose*

    This letter sounds so familiar! Wasn’t there another letter like this, a while back, that was similar? I seem to remember another situation where everyone was being pressured to reveal really personal information about themselves in meetings. I can’t seem to find the letter, so maybe it’s my imagination–I kind of hope so. We don’t need more than one workplace in the world that does this…

      1. Annie Moose*

        Ahh, that might be it. This stuff is so weird to me. I would be deeply uncomfortable sharing that sort of thing about myself–and even more uncomfortable hearing about everybody else’s extremely personal problems!

      1. Not A Manager*

        I remember one from someone who was involved in a volunteer organization that met on Saturday mornings, but the group leader wanted them to spend a lot of time talking about feelings.

  18. KellyK*

    The closest I’ve ever gotten to a situation like this was as a crisis counseling volunteer. We deal with really tough situations, and often the counselors have been through similar themselves. So, there’s a lot of checking in about how people are doing emotionally, reminders about self-care, and offers to debrief with a supervisor after particularly tough calls.

    But even in *that* environment, this level of sharing would not be appropriate or encouraged. It’d be for someone to be open about having a particular mental illness, but getting into the nitty-gritty details would likely be out of bounds. Making everybody do it as an icebreaker is just messed up.

    1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Yes! I volunteer in a similar capacity. Our training was quite intense and a lot of folks did end up disclosing their related traumas, but it was NEVER required or even requested. It was only made clear that it was a safe space to share if you choose to do so.

      The whole situation makes me a bit sad – I’m touched that the manager seems to genuinely want to take active steps to de-stigmatize mental illness, but no amount of good intentions erases the fact that this is a really inappropriate (and probably downright harmful) way to do that.

  19. Snark*

    I’d be tempted to go, “Well, it’d certainly help my stress level if I weren’t taking half of Tangerina’s work while she takes long lunches,” but that’s probably not a thing.

  20. Mystery Bookworm*

    I think it would be really good of you to speak up, OP, since you’re right that this might be causing more anxiety for people rather than less. There’s a lot of ways that offices can be helpful in supporting mental health, but impromptu, boundary-less therapy sessions are not one of them.

    I work within the mental heath care system and I can’t imagine anyone condoning this sort of support. I don’t do a lot by way of organisational psychology, or the relationship between work and mental health care, but there is a lot of research out there, most of which advocates for boundaries and structure. You might consider looking into the literature and bringing it to your boss, depending on how you think he’d react.

    1. LW*

      Interesting–I would like to look into this, although he’s more about an intuitive management style and not very evidence-based. Still, maybe I can use it for my own management style.

  21. Kate*

    I see this happening like an episode on the Office, all I can think of now is when Michael had the meeting about death and Kevin making the story of weekend at Bernies about himself and the guy telling the lion king about his uncle. This is terrible in a real office, are you sure with the insomnia and stress from this job that you couldn’t find something that would better meet your needs. Being a small company I don’t see this changing only getting more invasive. My husband reluctantly took a position that requires an hour drive to work and an hour home but with the change in position and management (he went from a 800 employee company to a 8000+ company) he has been able to be more present at home and not focused/worrying on his job at home. While its a 1.5 hours less he is at home I find we get a lot more time with him that is very pleasant. He has even admitted that the hour drive home is a great time to reflect on his day and prepare himself for me (I work from home and want to talk when he gets home) and our kid, and the hour to work helps him prepare for his day.

      1. SoCalHR*

        Can we get that on one of those black framed “inspirational posters” Something like a “What would Michael Scott do? (do the opposite)”

      2. SophieK*

        My personal rule, set early in life, has been “don’t be a Saturday Night Live (or Mad TV) character.

        It’s worked out well so far.

  22. henrietta*

    I had a workplace like this, my first post-college job. The owner and his managers were all adherents of est, which made them think that mandatory weekly meetings (on unpaid time!) where all the employees got a stopwatch-timed 2 minutes to ‘share’ was a thing worth doing. If we punted and dissembled, we got scolded for ‘not getting it!’, which was the goal of the program — to ‘get’ whatever you were doing to get in your own way. So I used my 2 minutes to lie without guilt, and left their employ after 5 months. Ah, the 80s.

    1. Lora*

      Oh my god, est! Had an uncle who was ALL ABOUT est for a couple of years when he lived in California (yes, the 80s). Then he moved back to the East Coast and was very sad that his new employer (major accounting firm) was officially Not Interested in sharing this nonsense.

      I had forgotten about that. Some trends are better off dead.

  23. SunlightOnLeaves*

    Sorry you’re dealing with this, OP. Your manager’s intentions might be good, but his lack of healthy boundaries might be doing real harm, especially to the exact people he thinks he’s helping. Many people who are struggling with mental health issues are vulnerable to invitations to overshare, due to the isolation that various mental health conditions can cause. But oversharing in a non-therapy setting can lead to feeling invalidated, misunderstood, and exposed — and then lacking the resources to address those feelings. Anyone with a traumatic past could particularly suffer in this situation. This form of pseudo group therapy is asking for trouble. No wonder it’s keeping you awake!

    1. Decima Dewey*

      I don’t care that the manager has good intentions. All I can think is “Hell to the no.”

  24. Sciencer*

    “I think it’s so great that you take mental health seriously and want to communicate that to us here. But these compulsory group therapy sessions are deeply uncomfortable for me, and in truth it’s irresponsible to invite people to open up in such a personal way without an actual licensed therapist here to guide the discussion. Can we find another way to support mental health in the workplace? How about a sponsored fun run or charity drive for mental health charities? Etc. Etc.”

    I had to do a surprise group therapy session for a professional development course (which was otherwise fantastic and, y’know, professional). The mediator, who was not a therapist by a long stretch and had NO training in this, kept pressing me to share more and dive deeper. I ended up ugly-crying in front of a group of women I deeply respected and wanted to respect me. I felt such deep shame about it for MONTHS afterward and ended up talking it out with my actual therapist, who was horrified. I no longer feel shame looking back, but I do still feel angry that this stranger pushed me so hard in such a public way. I cannot imagine how infuriating and difficult this would be coming from a boss!!

  25. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    “Well, let’s see…yesterday I used my medical benefits to see a mental health professional to renew my prescription for the anti-anxiety meds that make it possible for me to come to the place and do the work that pays me enough to see a mental health professional to renew my prescription for anti-anxiety meds that make it possible for me to come to the place and do the work that pays me enough…

  26. MamaGanoush*

    Ugggghhhh. OP, since you do not want to talk about your mental health at all, you should not have to — neither at these hideous sharing-sessions, nor with your boss one-on-one. I understand the impulse behind the advice to talk with your boss about how this is affecting your mental health as part of a discussion about the public sharing, but I don’t think it works with someone who does not want to talk about their mental health at all at work.

    I’d make my response at the sharing sessions something really short, bland, and non-responsive, like, “I’m good.” Stop, end of story. Anyone pushes back, “I appreciate your concern. But I’m good.” Repeat, repeat, repeat.

    With your boss, if you can go with others in your office who feel uncomfortable for ANY reason with the public sharing, that’s best, but you can go yourself. Express your appreciation for the good intent, but state that it makes you uncomfortable to hear extremely private personal and medical information about others at work. Etc. You do NOT have to respond to any inquiries about why it makes you uncomfortable with your own personal info; stick with your discomfort with hearing extremely private personal and medical information about others at work.

    If possible, can you avoid these meetings? Schedule an important appointment say with a client for the same time as these meetings? Schedule PTO at the same time as these meetings?

    I find public sharing at work(!) at required staff meetings (!!!) very uncomfortable, inappropriate, and unprofessional — regardless of whether I’m in the midst of mental health issues or not. Don’t feel obliged to play with those monkeys. If the boss won’t stop and you have to attend the meetings, work on going to your happy place in your mind. (Yoga has been really helpful in learning how to do this, your therapist may have some other ideas.)

  27. ResuMAYDAY*

    This just goes to show how there can be a really fine line between a caring, supportive boss, and a bad, damaging boss. I hope the OP galvanizes support from her coworkers, or steels herself to discuss how wrong this practice is, and I hope her boss is able to hear it and respond appropriately.

  28. Magenta Sky*

    “My biggest mental health need is for my employer to stop prying into things that it is illegal for an employer to pry into. How would you suggest I go about that?”

    Is HR aware of this practice?

  29. Ama*

    Ugh. I recently started therapy for anxiety after a really really difficult year in my personal life. Part of my issues are rooted in the fact that I have a hard time seeing my own feelings as valid (since a lot of the stuff I went through was a lot worse for others), and a meeting like this would just feel like yet another way of reinforcing that “I shouldn’t be upset because Jane has X and Y going on, that’s so much worse.”

    1. Totally Minnie*

      This is a really good point. When coworkers know this much about each other’s private lives, you can get into some really unhelpful work situations. “Theodosia mentioned at the last meeting that her anxiety was troubling her more than usual, so I won’t go ask her for help on this project that falls under her purview because I don’t want to stress her out even more.” So then you have people going around the expert, because the things they think they know about someone else’s mental state makes them tiptoe and adds more stress to their own lives.

  30. ResuMAYDAY*

    OP, when it’s your turn, disclose that you are being forced to do something by someone close to you, and every time you do this thing, you fear that it’s causing long-lasting problems. Ask the group what you should do and when everyone, including the boss, rallies around you and says to not do whatever you’re being pressured to do, turn to the boss and say, “Thank you for your support. I’m going to take your advice and opt out of this portion of the meeting. Call me back in when it’s back to business. I’ll be at my desk.”

  31. Nita*

    I wonder if this has been prompted by the recent news stories, and I’m sure the boss means well, but still. So inappropriate. I wonder if it would help to point out all the ways the group sharing could actually damage the mental health of the staff and be a legal liability, and suggest better options? The boss could have an open-door policy for anyone who needs support *and comes to him voluntarily*, make sure the company has an EAP and decent benefits that include mental health care, you name it. I really appreciate the intention – often, work stress is the biggest factor in my mental health – but the way it’s being done is pretty awful.

  32. Wendy Darling*

    Here are appropriate ways for an employer to support their employees’ mental health:

    Strongly encourage and model good work-life balance. Do not reward people with poor work-life balance above people with good work-life balance because the poor work-life balance people are “more dedicated”.

    Do not ignore it when some of your employees are slacking to the detriment of your other employees.

    Hire enough people. Do not expect one person to do 1.5 or 2 or 3 people’s worth of work.

    Provide ample leave.

    Do not scrutinize employees’ use of leave.

    If possible considering the work you do, be flexible when employees need to go to appointments during work hours. Let them come early or stay late if they need to go to an appointment if this can reasonably be done.

    Model and enforce a welcoming workplace. Do not ignore harassment, bullying, or bigotry, not even the low-grade “banter” kind.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      No yelling EVER.
      No throwing things EVER.
      Do not gossip.
      Pay people a living wage and provide benefits.
      Keep their schedules relatively the same.
      Do not have them work to 9 pm and then come in at 3 am.
      Make sure people can get their breaks, even if YOU have to fill in so they can get away.
      Don’t pile on nonsensical tasks.
      Keep machines and the overall facilities in proper working order, stress the importance of safety for everyone.
      Give people the supplies they need to do the job. No, that program from ten years ago is not helpful nor useful.

      I saw a person have a mental break down because the program they had to use was so bad. It had almost any problem you could imagine and TPTB said, “It’s fine, keep using it.” The staggering amount of problems broke this person as there was no way they could do their work. Person ended up leaving the job and required a long period of MH assistance.

  33. OhGee*

    Oh, this is awful. Everyone should be able to talk about their mental health at work, if they choose. Nobody should feel obligated to do so, ever.

  34. rosie*

    anyone who thinks this is a good way to help employees’ mental health has… clearly never experienced any struggles with their own mental health. This is a horrible idea!

    1. Observer*

      It’s a terrible idea. That doesn’t mean that the boss has never struggled with mental health issues.

      It also doesn’t matter. If anyone were to bring it up either with the boss, or in any discussion of what to do about it, it would be a total red herring and just divert the conversation from the basic problem, ie This is a TERRIBLE idea and needs to stop.

    2. Vicky Austin*

      I actually thought just the opposite: that he had struggled with mental illness, benefitted from some type of group therapy, and thought, “This is such a great technique! How comforting to know that I’m not alone and that we can all benefit from each other! If only there wasn’t such a stigma against mental illness and we could all do the same thing outside of therapy. Hey, wait a minute, why don’t I try to fight the stigma by doing the same thing with my employees?”
      If this is the case, then he failed to realize is that what is appropriate in one setting is completely inappropriate in another. He is not a mental health counselor, he doesn’t work at a psychiatric hospital, and he’s doing this exercise not with mentally ill patients but with his employees who may not even have mental illnesses. Not to mention; doing it in this context is illegal, boundary-crossing, inappropriate, creepy, and will only have the exact opposite effect of what he intended.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        Heck, even if he does work in a psychiatric hospital, he stillshouldn’t be treating his coworkers like psychiatric patients.

  35. memyselfandi*

    I think Alison’s suggestion of a private group is a good one. The OP could suggest it as a solution to the problem, and doesn’t just leave the OP in the position of objecting to a practice her boss is attached to.

  36. Goya de la Mancha*

    I’m all for talking about mental health and I’m pretty open about my own struggles with it. On top of this just being wildly inappropriate there are plenty of reasons that one wouldn’t want to share. Me telling co-worker Sally in a meeting that she’s one of my triggers is NOT going to solve anything and only create more drama. Sometimes, especially when just getting over an attack, and I’m exhausted – I just don’t want to talk about it any more, my mind has just completed the mental equivalent of an Ironman race – leave it be.

  37. H.C.*

    O_o (and I work in a mental health setting & an advocate of destigmatizing diagnoses & challenges!)

  38. Red*

    Oh hell no! I’m all for destigmatizing mental health issues and medications and I’m trying to share more info in an effort to do exactly that, but not like this! NOOOO!

  39. Jady*

    Wow. As someone with diagnosed severe depression and on multiple medications for it… who the hell does this guy think he is? My *parents* don’t even know about any of it. I’m about to have a surgery next month and they aren’t going to know about that either. I’m sure as hell not going to blab that kind of information to acquaintances I have to work around every day and barely know – around people who DO have stigmas and DO have biases and who WILL treat me differently.

    Can you even imagine?? If I sincerely shared my thoughts, they’d probably call the ambulance and HR thinking I’m a fraction away from offing myself. Oh and since this is America, that’d stick me with an absurd bill at the end for nothing.

    I’m always impressed with the self restraint and tolerance other people have. I’ve been working in my field for almost 10 years now. I haven’t gotten fired yet, but my big mouth has gotten me in some hot water. This would put me in some boiling water.

  40. CaribouInIgloo*

    OP, has your boss been watching The Office as a legit documentary of best practices? It reminds me of the episode where Michael wants people to accept Oscar being gay by kissing him on the mouth sans consent.
    Pretty sure OP can find plenty of people not okay with this kind of mandatory sharing. I agree with Allison and everyone above that OP needs to address this head-on before the proverbial excrement inevitably hits the fan.

    1. Kate*

      I would love to know if their are any Michael Scott or Dwight Schrute quotes in her boss’s office. I guarantee it is on his netflix list or he has the boxed set.

  41. TheBeetsMotel*

    No. Nope. Niet. Nein. Uh-uh.

    The destigmatization of mental health should focus on mental and physical problems being taken equally seriously by doctors, and as far as a company’s responsibility goes, for time off for the treatment of both areas of health to be equally given and needs within the workplace to be equally accommodated, without judgement, without backlash. NOT these super gross, medically unsupervised amateur therapy sessions your boss is trying to enact. Ew, and nope forever.

    While you may have very good reasons for wishing to stay, personally this would be a hill I’d die on. Hard pass.

    1. TheBeetsMotel*

      Additionally, if we want to destigmatize mental health, we should use the same social constructs we use around physical health (which can also be stigmatized in some areas, I concede). I would no more share blow-by-blow details of my latest radiotherapy appointment if I were in treatment for cancer than I would open up my therapy sessions to co-worker comment. Not because I’d be embarrassed to have cancer or worried about public perception, but because it’s no-one’s business but my own.

  42. Granny K*

    You could try asking the boss in the meeting what he/the team hopes to get out of this sort of sharing?

    Personally I’ve been in therapy for years for family issues that most people wouldn’t get even if I explained it to them. The one time I shared this info with a coworker, she used it against me To My Manager, right in front of me. If anyone asks now, I’m on my way to a chiropractor appt.

  43. Marie B.*

    I’m wondering how it works if someone doesn’t have any mental illness or mental health struggles? If I was asked to do this I wouldn’t have anything to say. Would the boss pressure and badger me to say something or believe me when I say I don’t struggle with my mental health?

    I am sorry you are going through this OP. I think the stigma around mental illness needs to be broken. I work for a nonprofit with that mission. But your boss is going about this completely the wrong way. People shouldn’t be compelled to share and not everyone has things to share to begin with. I hope Alison’s scripts work for you and that this is resolved quickly.

      1. Theo*

        As a person with mental illness, I think this is… not correct. Everyone has emotional ups and downs (the mental version of colds, in this metaphor; brief and transitory), but not everyone has a mental illness, and it’s somewhat disingenuous to pretend like they do. I’m not mad that other people don’t have them! It’s possible to be 100% physically healthy, and it’s possible to be 100% mentally healthy.

      2. Flinty*

        Everyone has problems. No one is perfect. But not everyone has a mental illness, just like not everyone has a physical illness!

      3. Student*

        Mental illness is traditionally separated from normal mental states by a single metric:

        Is the underlying issue causing you significant harm, or driving you to hurt others significantly?

        Yeah, it’s subjective, but it’s also a pretty intuitive standard. The difference between someone who is a jerk and someone who is a psychopath is whether and to what degree they actually harm others.

        A jerk, for example, muses privately about the possible mental health problems of his co-workers – it’s annoying but does little to no harm to anyone.

        A psychopath actively forces his co-workers to divulge those health problems by abusing his work authority, and then tries to play amateur-hour therapist to feed his own personal issues/ego/etc., harming his colleagues to feed his own needs.

      4. smoke tree*

        I mean, by that metric, it’s also true that no one is mentally ill. If you broaden the definition enough that it includes everyone, it loses all meaning. You might as well say that everyone has serious health issues because no one is immortal.

      5. Marvel*

        Nnnnno, though.

        Like, do I think everyone has some issues and could probably benefit from therapy to talk about those issues occasionally? Absolutely. But not everyone has a mental illness. (I do. But not everyone does.)

  44. Squirrel*

    UGH. This makes me cringe. I would really caution the OP about how they deliver their message if they do it in the meeting.

    At my previous position, we had bi-weekly meetings where there was some sort of sharing “theme”, and one week it was three Hs–hardship, hero, and highlight. You would share one hardship you had experienced, a personal hero, and a highlight in your life. The first couple of people kept it pretty light, and then it went downhill SO FAST. One woman shared her pain over her multiple miscarriages, a few people talked about the painful cancer deaths of relatives/close friends, one woman discussed domestic abuse from a previous relationship, and another woman talked about how her husband committed suicide via handgun right in front of her. Many people were even visibly crying during this meeting. When it was my turn, I said that I was uncomfortable and was not up for sharing. About an hour later I was called into a meeting with the department director and assistance director because I had supposedly “made a joke” about the meeting (me being uncomfortable was somehow turned into me cracking wise I guess?), and when I told them what had actually happened, the AD was mortified, but the Director still said I should have acted more appropriately… Good luck OP.

  45. Observer*

    OP, could you send your boss this thread? Maybe highlighting the people who mention their expertise in the field?

    I know it’s not really practical, but it’s nice to imagine.

  46. Kir Royale*

    “Therapy for mental health problems is conducted by qualified professionals. None of us are qualified, so I am worried we may be doing more harm than good with these sessions.”

  47. Amaryllis*

    “It would really help me calm down and focus if I could spend a couple of hours per day painting and doing puzzles in my cubicle.”

  48. Environmental Compliance*

    It would make me so incredibly anxious to have to actually talk in front of coworkers about my mental struggles (that for me still aren’t properly defined or addressed) that I would be nearly nonfunctional for that day’s work.

    I am all for destigmatizing. I am so, so grateful there’s places like this forum and a few others I’m a part of where I can say hey – I’m having problems, I don’t know how to solve them, and honestly often I don’t feel like I’m worth solving. I’m so grateful that I can see that others have the same experiences, and feel the same things, and they are supportive and have gotten help and can help me and others get help or feel comfortable getting help. I’m so grateful that there are places that exist that allowed me to recognize that I need help, and showed me that I am not alone in what I’m going through. But I do not. ever. want. or. need. to talk about it in a space I did not choose. I do not want or need to talk to my random distant cousins about it at a family function. I do not want or need to talk about it at the grocery store to the cashier. I do not want or need to talk about it at work, with the exception *only* being talking to boss/HR if I were to need accommodations. Putting me into a group and indirectly forcing the discussion would be incredibly disruptive to the thin veneer of calm I can usually maintain at work. I have enough trouble already with trying to understand what’s happening to me and trying to talk to a real therapist/doctor, I’m not going to be able to discuss my problems with coworkers/boss, who have absolutely no relevant professional basis or training.

    1. Koala dreams*

      For me, it would be very hard to just listen to colleagues sharing their issues and then go back to work, let alone sharing my own issues. It’s already very draining for me to talk with a therapist, who I choose to go to and who I talk with about things I choose to share. In my daily life, I’ve already have to cut down on sad movies and sob stories in newspapers, I need work to be a neutral space and not add even more anxiety.

      Luckily for me, my boss already know about my mental health and is supportive, so if this happened at my workplace, I would just excuse myself (can’t participate in this because of mental health issue, I’m going for a walk, see you in twenty minutes) and go for a walk. That obviously isn’t an option for the LW, but in my imagination it would be.

  49. Bea Blake*

    I second, third and ninety-fifth everyone who says this is an inappropriate and misguided invasion of privacy that will end badly.

    Don’t be pressured into taking part.

  50. JustDontAsk*

    Instead of sharing a personal mental health story, can you read a reflection about mental health from the news/research/literature and meet the spirit of what he’s hoping to achieve?

    Maybe you can read a poem from Walt Whitman and then talk briefly about the theory that he had bipolar disorder instead of sharing your own personal story at this bizarre ritual. The next time, maybe a statistic about depression in your town? Your colleagues may catch on and thank you!

    It sounds like a nightmare!

    1. Observer*

      Volunteer to be the first at each meeting and bring up a different celebrity / author / historical personality and discuss their mental health (whether we really know anything or not.)

    2. LCL*

      This would be my approach-something from the news. I would probably browse for a story on the day of the meeting before work, then talk about it at the meeting. If pressed to share something personal, I would tell some story from my school days and drag it out as long as possible-what I was wearing, what everyone else was wearing, what class we were in, how we felt about the teacher, what happened and how we felt about it, disciplinary repercussions, how we felt about that, etc. If any of your coworkers actually value this exercise and wish to speak, you should go after them. Because this can be totally derailing, if you do it right.

  51. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    I’m screaming. And I’m a boss that KNOWS about a lot of his employees’ health information (more than I care to know, to be quite honest)!

    I’d honestly phrase it as a concern about forced vulnerability. I’m hoping your boss has good intentions (although the fact that even I’m doubting this is pretty important, LW – I try to assume the best of everyone!), but the major issue is that he’s forcing his employees to share their weaknesses in a public setting.

    And I mean, I’m all for removing the stigma from mental illness. (And a lot of illness. But that’s another story.) But I also feel like forcing employees to open up to each other in that way runs a huge risk of damaging the work relationship – for example, it’s harder to be critical of someone’s ideas (in my opinion) if you know about their issues in detail. LW, I feel like your boss is playing with fire.

    I’m almost as shocked that people are perfectly okay with going over their health issues in gory detail with their coworkers. (I’m not surprised. As I’ve mentioned, I feel like I know more about my employees than my own family at times, and I don’t even try.)

  52. Nicole*

    Ugh. Last thing I need is bosses or coworkers judging me unfairly based on things that are none of their damn business in the first place. It’s weird that your boss is doing this and it’s weird that your coworkers are so freely giving in. I personally don’t have the time nor the inclination to worry about other people’s issues unless they have something to do with—or have an impact on—my work. I have enough of my own crap to worry about!

  53. Student*

    “As a general rule, I don’t share my health information without a specific reason.”

    When he starts going on about stigma-breaking, counter with:

    “For me, this isn’t about stigma. I’m not worried that you are going to fire me for my health issues. This is about my intimacy boundaries. Sharing health information is inherently very personal. You’re my colleagues and my boss. We haven’t all reached a close relationship where I’m comfortable with that high of a level of intimacy. If there’s a business reason to disclose a health issue, I’ll do so. Otherwise, I prefer to keep some emotional distance from my co-workers. I want to be able to have frank, sometimes difficult, work-related discussions with all of you, and I find that high emotional intimacy can sometimes make those discussions more difficult or prevent them from happening at all.”

    If, after that, he tries to escalate intimacy when you are clearly trying to pull back on it, then RUN. That’s a major red flag.

  54. SallyForth*

    Been there, done that. I needed to come in late once a week due to a therapist appointment for depression. My direct manager was wonderfully understanding and kind and didn’t share my information. Then on one of the “Let’s Talk” mental health awareness days, I told our Executive Director about my depression, how much better I was feeling, etc. She was also kind about it until one day when we were looking over a project and all my good sense said that one aspect was a horrible idea. She didn’t listen to my concerns. She told me my anxiety problem was taking over the conversation. Thing is, I don’t have anything more than normal anxiety. Because of the type of industry we were in, she felt she knew that of course I would also have anxiety if I had depression.
    What if you were asked to share your cancer or IBS or infertility issues on a regular basis? We all know what happens. All the medical experts in the office will weigh in with solutions and what worked for their cousin. Not helpful.

  55. Adereterial*

    Evil Adereterial would be inclined to use the next session to specifically talk about how these sharing sessions are stressing her out… but that’s why she’s not allowed out of her box very often.

  56. Ex actor*

    Uhhh yeah no my ability to compartmentalize my job from the rest of my life is inherent to the maintenance of my mental health. It’s a big reason why I left theatre. This would have me nopeing out of there so fast.

  57. Jaydee*

    I definitely second the advice to respond with something like “I’m best able to take care of my mental health whenever I have clear expectations and boundaries between my work and personal lives as much as possible.” I also think you should talk to your boss about this directly – because he *does* seem like a genuinely good person whose heart is in the right place even if his methods are a bit suspect. Let him know that the personal sharing has made you uncomfortable and actually has had some negative impacts on your own mental health. And suggest that in lieu of basically an unstructured, unlicensed group therapy session, maybe it would be better to have a monthly presentation or email or something sharing resources for mental wellbeing and self-care. Invite someone from a local crisis hotline or the employer’s EAP (if you have one) to explain their services. Have someone come in to teach a short program on meditation and mindfulness or have employees share suggestions for how they incorporate mindfulness into their lives (do they have a favorite app, class, etc.?). Send around articles on coping with burnout, secondary trauma, etc.

    None of these are going to solve the underlying dysfunctions in the workplace, but they probably won’t make things worse and they might provide people with useful information and resources and start a more productive conversation around mental health in the workplace.

  58. Totally Minnie*

    Mental health is health. You wouldn’t expect to show up at a work meeting and be asked to describe how you’re managing your arthritis or your IBD, so this level of mental health discussion is inappropriate in the exact same way.

  59. EmKay*

    oh HALE no. Nope, nope, nope, nopety nope nope-nope-nope.

    If your boss is truly a good, albeit incredibly misguided, person, he will understand why this is Not A Good Thing when you explain it to him privately. If he doubles down, push back during these meetings as Alison has suggested.

  60. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

    … Sweet crispy walnuts, no. Just… no. Part of fighting the stigma is acknowledging that someone who needs access to mental health services deserves the same dignity and rights as someone who needs access to oncology. That’s all it is. It’s saying that mental health is the same as any other form of health. At no point in that description does it call for an open mic night at your place of employment. I know I don’t want to talk about my OBGYN appointments at work. So, unless your boss is willing to go into specific detail about his last prostate exam at the conference table, this is not about the stigma. This is about being a Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched.

    The scripts provided are great. Another one you could add is “One of the best tools available for anyone’s mental health is the right to privacy.” If that fails, maybe the Clue Fairy needs to visit your office and leave the DSM-5 on your conference table. She could even open it to the appropriate page and highlight the definition of Social Anxiety Disorder because I know that this scenario would certainly kick mine into overdrive.

  61. jo*

    “What I need for my mental health is to opt out of [these meetings/this portion of our meetings] because I find it actually increases my stress, which I know is the opposite of what you intend. I’ll join you before/afterwards to discuss work-related topics. I realize you genuinely care about the mental health of everyone here, so I’m bringing this up because I know I can count on you to take my needs seriously.”

    That’s what you say to your boss, in a warm and appreciative tone, either privately or in front of the group (so they can see you modeling how to do self-advocacy!), depending on your knowledge of all these people and how they’re likely to respond. Acknowledge and appeal to your boss’s good intentions, but be declarative and be firm.

    I like Alison’s idea of gathering some of your like-minded coworkers around you, but rather than asking your coworkers, “hey, does this weird you out, too?” I would simply tell them “this is counterproductive for me and I’m going to tell Fergus so, and if you feel the same way I’d be happy to approach him together.”

    All around, I would come at this as non-negotiable and as a final decision, rather than asking for permission or suggesting alternatives that can be dismissed. Give *yourself* permission to opt out, announce your decision, and see what happens. If your boss tries to tell you these sharing sessions are mandatory or for your own good, you can go into more detail: “What we’ve been doing isn’t good for me, and I am very surprised you’re not hearing me. Regardless, I won’t be able to continue participating.” The next step is to take it directly to HR, if they exist, or make noises to your boss about confidentiality, liability, etc.

    Under no circumstances should you get into a debate with your boss about why his current strategy is good or not good for employees’ mental health, why it’s not working for you, blah blah blah. Just keep stating your decision and don’t let him derail you.

  62. Glomarization, Esq.*

    “No, thank you, I don’t wish to share. And actually this sharing discussion makes me uncomfortable.”

  63. MCMonkeyBean*

    I would suggest the boss consider instead of having everyone share with everyone at meetings, just make it very clear that he is open and available to anyone who feels like they need to come to him to say “hey, I’m having x struggles right now and I feel like that might be impacting my work” or whatever if that’s what his end goal is.

  64. Collingswood*

    Could you note how this might be a bad idea (as many have explained eloquently above), and maybe suggest something like eColors instead? I’m not a huge fan of personality tests, but this was an okay base for discussing communication and decision-making preference. Maybe that would help your boss still feel like he is constructively helping folks manage issues, while being much more work-related.

  65. bookartist*

    A slightly different angle here – others are sharing their med schedules and therapies? Did we pass HIPPA for nothing?

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I am allowed to say any damned thing I want about my own health. Hell, I’m allowed to say anything I want about YOUR health. What is NOT allowed is for my doctor’s office to say things about my health to people who don’t need that information.

      HIPAA (please note acryonym, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) talks about health professionals being required to protect the data they have in their records. It does not address a person oversharing their own information.

  66. Khlovia*

    If your boss were really a therapist, he would know that he was in MASSIVE violation of HIPAA regs.

    If you genuinely believe that your boss is genuinely a good guy with genuinely excellent intentions (just astonishingly clueless), do him the kindness of giving him a private heads-up before staging your push-back in the meeting itself. Just get a burner e-addy and anonymously send him the URL to this discussion. If he then, in the next meeting, says “Er, um, it has been pointed out to me…” and then supports both a private opt-in DIY therapy group and a privacy-guaranteed suggestion box for actual workplace issues–yay, you don’t have to do any of the push-back scripts in public!

    1. Khlovia*

      LOL, simultaneously posted with bookartist & Jennifer Thneed.

      Well, as to what HIPAA regs actually provide, Jennifer Thneed is correct. However, it isn’t the case that prior to HIPAA clients had no rights or protections whatsoever. The HIPAA regs derived from / grew out of standard health-care professional ethics practices that had long been in place; sharpened them up a little and put some law-juice into them.

      So what I should have said is: “…massive violation of the spirit behind HIPAA regs.” The boss is using his authority to pressure his employees to say, and hear, things many of them don’t want to say or hear, for whatever personal reasons.

  67. Argh!*

    I often read these things after work, when I’m a bit punchy and tired. I so want to suggest telling ridiculous stories, or borrowing plot lines from classic novels.

    “My latest issue is that I have a crush on this guy who has lots of shirts, but I’m married to a man who has a nice car. The shirt guy lives in East Egg, though, and I live in West Egg, so it would be step down, but those shirts….. he has a HUGE closet full of shirts! Who wouldn’t love a man with a big closet?”

    1. Ex actor*

      Oh this is BRILLIANT. “Yeah, see my dad died and then my mom married my uncle, and now I’m having hallucinations of my dad. Also my girlfriend thinks I’m crazy, probably because I’m pretending to be crazy. What say you, colleagues? Do I be? Or do I not be?”

  68. This Daydreamer*

    I think that officially left behind NOPE territory and is smack dab in the middle of nuke it from orbit land. I work in a place where PTSD is more common than a headache, including among staff, and this is just giving me the willies. And a headache.

    But I do have coworkers who are going to howl with laughter at the idea of doing this in staff meetings.

  69. Dana Lynne*

    The only time, and I mean the ONLY time, a meeting to discuss our mental health was ever offered or held in any of my workplaces since 1983, was a month after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, at the Oklahoma newspaper where I worked. It was totally voluntary, totally opt in, totally confidential (as in, what was said stayed in the room) and much appreciated by the participants, and we embraced the idea mostly because we had an awesome boss who organized it who was totally worthy of our trust and who had proved that over and over. It was billed as a way to decompress and support each other and discuss any issues we may have been having after that event.

    I can’t even imagine how inappropriate some kind of expected or mandatory routine mental health check in would be in a normal everyday work environment. Good Lord.

    I applaud Alison’s advice to push back hard. Best wishes to you.

  70. jasmine*

    “Not my circus, not my monkeys” – Wow, I love this saying (and, unfortunately, I have lots of use for it at work)!

  71. Wintermute*

    I’m going to have to disagree about this one. I think that the number of people who are potentially helped is WAY, WAY bigger than the potential harm here, and bringing up the specters of legal problems? This is why we can’t have nice things. Because every time someone wants to do something useful to support employees– the lawyers get involved and put the kibosh on it. Also, the chance that good faith discussions about these things will create a legal liability is very very low (but could vary by jurisdiction and the exact circumstances)

    Now, there’s a good way to do this and a bad way. Going around the room? Probably not a great way, let people opt out IF THEY WANT TO, no one should feel pressure here. But by the number of people participating this seems useful. Also I’d note “a reflection on mental health” need not be on YOUR OWN mental health, it could be “I read a fascinating article about self-worth and social media use that really made me think about how we set bars for ourselves and how the media we consume can affect our mental health.”

    I would, personally, go to my boss and say something like “I really like the intention of doing this but it feels like the implementation is a little problematic” and bring up making it voluntary, not round robin. I’d also bring up bringing the focus back to work, keeping it focused on “how are you doing? how can we help?” by encouraging people to bring up things about work and leave the details of their medication and therapy sessions at home.

    Other than that, if people are finding this useful, consider the social capital you’d burn by being “that guy” that’s the reason they had to stop.

    1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      I disagree with your disagreement. I think that there’s a big conflict of interest with having your manager act as your therapist.

      The legality isn’t the biggest issue here. It’s a bit like if the boss had wild happy hours with his employees instead of group therapy sessions (not as bad but you get the picture) – and it’s the same reason I don’t friend direct reports on social media. He’s asking to be a safe place when he also likely has significant power over his staff, which I think is shortsighted at best.

      1. Wintermute*

        I actually agree with you entirely!

        I should have emphasized more that I think if you keep the context to work, this sort of thing can be good. Asking “how are you doing? Can we do anything to make your working environment healthier for you?” is a great thing for a boss to do!

        The difference is when it’s focused on work and work environment, your boss is a safe place, because they’re supposed to be responsible for making your work environment conducive to the best work possible.

    2. LW*

      I understand your point. It’s clear that a lot of my coworkers love to overshare–I don’t want to make too many assumptions, but I wonder from the way they talk if they aren’t getting the support they need outside of work. It’s one of the things that makes me reluctant to say anything. I still don’t think work is the right place to get that support, and I don’t really like knowing these details, but I’m not deeply bothered by hearing about it either.

      It’s the forced aspect of this that makes me so uncomfortable–we literally are going around in a circle.

      When done right, sharing that’s focused on creating a more positive workplace can result in a better environment for everyone. For example, in the past (not a forced sharing setting), one coworker revealed that she had body-image issues and would appreciate it if people would not be negative about their own or others’ bodies around her because she found it triggering. Being aware of this lead to a more positive environment overall.

      Overall, though, the times personal sharing has made me really uncomfortable at work far outnumber the times it’s been productive and helpful. There can be a place for allowing coworkers to share personal stories, but for me it’s been done wrong so many more times than it’s been done right.

      1. Wintermute*

        You’re right, the circle part is problematic for sure. This sort of thing, IF DONE, should be completely voluntary not a round-robin where people will feel ANY compulsion whatsoever to “fill the silence” when it’s their turn.

        And you’re also right that whomever is moderating should really focus it in on work, because it’s not the place for PERSONAL support. What I meant was that it’s appropriate to discuss how to make the workplace more supporting, but not to come to the workplace looking for support for non-work issues, if that makes sense.

        I think your example is a beautiful one, because that’s a PERFECT example of what is a good thing to bring up. And I don’t think it’s wrong for a boss to check in and ask “how are you doing? how is the work environment? is there anything we can do for you?” in a work context. Weekly is probably a bit much but having a conversation with everyone where you can ask of each other what you need to make the workplace more conducive to good mental hygiene is a great thing! The example you gave was a work-context thing, it lead to a better environment. That’s way different from knowing that since their psychiatrist thinks paxil isn’t working for someone they’re thinking about moving them to wellbutrin, and they had a great therapy session where they really unpacked some important things about how their mother instilled body-negativity in them– ick!

        That’s why In your shoes I’d focus on how to make it better rather than stopping it altogether, mentioning things like you just did– that sharing about work-related things and how you can support one another’s mental health IN THE WORKPLACE is great, but the details of outside-of-work stuff can get a little too intimate for a collegial relationship, and this artificial intimacy can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. That’s where the potential legal risk comes in, because asking people, say, not to comment on what you’re eating to you is actually kind of a form of requesting ADA accommodation and your boss should agree to that, and that’s both work-related and less potentially problematic than knowing non-work-related things about one another’s health

  72. Massmatt*

    This is incredibly inappropriate. I wonder if this workplace is in the mental health field, that the boss thinks it is important to break down mental health stigma. You know what, there’s stigma about sex also, are we going to start talking about our sex lives here now?

    This is not breaking down a stigma, it is trampling boundaries.

    1. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      If this is how he works on the mental health stigma, I don’t want to see how he tries to help people own their sexuality. Mainly because I think I would see it… on the 11 o’clock news, when the news anchors could talk about the weird felony of the day.

  73. LW*

    Thank you to Alison for answering the letter and everyone else who commented. It’s been validating to know that so many other people would not be comfortable with this and it strengthened my resolve to address this, at least in a way that makes it possible for me to opt out very firmly in the future, even if others want to continue to share. The last session left me feeling so upset and vulnerable that I’m having a hard time figuring out how to address it with my boss without being afraid of getting emotional during the discussion. I know that I need to address it with my boss in some way because it’s been an intermitent feature of the workplace after over the past few years–not always a problem, but sometimes a very big, very uncomfortable problem. The past few weeks have been the first time mental health specifically has been a focus of forced sharing, but not the first time we’ve been expected to overshare at staff meetings or retreats as a way of creating a “team bond”. (E.g…share a struggle from your childhood, share something you’re going through right now that your teammates don’t know about.)

    After I wrote the letter, I realized that due to the seasonal nature of our sector, we’re entering a period where there will be very few required team meetings and those few that we have will be lead by me, as I’m the lead on the projects that will be kicking into full gear. So while I don’t have much to fear from more forced sharing sessions in the next two months, I know that forced oversharing will continue to come up if I keep working here and it’s something I need to address. All these comments and suggested scripts are really useful tools that I plan to make use of when I feel able to.

    1. Wintermute*

      oh wow, that context makes this way different. I understand people misunderstanding a request to talk about WORKPLACE mental health as an excuse to go off about their personal struggles, but the OTHER questions too? icky, icky, icky. They’re not just crossing the line, they’re sailing past it on a rocket.

    2. Saskia*

      LW, your feelings of discomfort are completely valid, and I’m horrified that you have also experienced other ‘forced sharing’ as part of supposed team building at work.

      If I were you, I’d email the boss if I was worried about getting upset during the discussion. I’d write something like ‘Boss I know you have good intentions, but these meetings are adversely affecting my mental health and I can’t continue to participate in them. Thank you for understanding that I won’t be taking part, and for not pressuring me to attend.
      Here are some ideas I have for making this workplace more inclusive and a good place for all members of staff (list some of the ideas mentioned by other posters).’

      My other suggestion would be to consider if this really is a healthy workplace for you in the long term, and whether you might benefit from looking around at what else is available. You may like to look up Issendai Sick Systems to see if it rings any bells.

      I am deeply uncomfortable with any forced teaming activities, having attended some truly Dreadful Workshops and Development Programs. Your Boss sounds clueless!!

      What he’s doing (with the mental health forced sharing & historic forced sharing) may lead people to develop work-related trauma. It’s not okay! Group therapy should be provided to people by trained professionals, and it’s not appropriate as a forced activity in the workplace!

      If your boss pushes back on your graceful opting-out of the group, you may choose to mention that you are concerned about potential legal issues in future from employees who were forced to participate and who were harmed by doing so.

      Best wishes!

  74. SenatorMeathooks*

    I have absolutely zero problems discussing this with other people because it’s simply a medical issue I have, it will never go away, and it will always be a part of me. It’s simply a fact. However, it’s more than understandable that most people don’t want to talk about it, and your boss encouraging this is opening him/herself to a potential liability. Not to mention me discussing my mental health issues would be very disturbing to those who might have to listen to it and will likely project an uncomfortable work environment. Not great for interactions in the office.

Comments are closed.