my office has a mandatory feelings chart

A reader writes:

I work in an office of a large company. The work my team does is often stressful, so sometimes staff morale suffers.

The managers of my team have created a feelings chart that has giant emoji representing various levels of being happy, stressed, and angry. There are stickers of all our names that we’re meant to put next to the emoji representing how we’re feeling about work at the start and end of the day.

If participation were fully voluntary, I’d consider it peculiar but largely harmless. However, it’s compulsory and participation is sometimes enforced. One day recently, they stalled starting a staff meeting until everyone’s stickers were placed.

Perhaps the managers have good intentions with it, but I find it unsettling. I’m usually selective about who I discuss my feelings with. More importantly, in a team of our size, we almost certainly have at least a few people dealing with mental health challenges or difficult personal circumstances. When I was struggling through work while suffering from depression, if my manager had forced me to frequently state my feelings, it would have made me even more miserable. I also worry about how responses could be used against us, perhaps by using the presence of positive responses to silence people who believe the job is too stressful or difficult.

Have you heard of things like this been done before? Should I play along by providing benign answers or push back? If I should push back, how do you suggest framing that?

This is the sticker version of this!

I wrote back and asked, “Have they explained their rationale?”

Unless something was said in a meeting I missed, they didn’t explain it in great detail. I think they just said something to the effect of it was designed to help them identify people who need extra help to get all their work done. However, I’ve had my sticker on a negative emotion for a week and haven’t received assistance. I’m not aware of anyone else who has received assistance based on where they put their sticker either, so it’s unclear if the data is being used for anything.

And then I got this update:

Since I wrote my original letter, it has now become a topic of discussion in our staff meetings. It is literally an agenda item. Sometimes its inclusion is just a passing reminder to “update your feelings.” Sometimes people who have indicated that they are stressed or angry are asked to explain to everyone in the meeting what’s making them feel that way. On a few occasions the person running the meeting has moved someone’s sticker into a neutral or positive emotion box when they couldn’t articulate a clear enough reason for a negative one. Predictably most people are now avoiding putting their stickers next to negative emoji the vast majority of the time. Having people put on the spot to explain their feelings is making me really uncomfortable, even though I know its probably often driven by a questionably directed desire to show they care about people’s well-being.

Is there a sticker for “batshit insane”? Because I’d like you make one of those and put it on the feelings chart next to your manager’s name.

This is ridiculous.

I can’t state strongly enough how ridiculous this is.

It’s one thing to do a casual check-in at the start of a meeting, like “how’s everyone doing today?” But that’s (a) casual, not the focus of the meeting, and (b) opt-in; people can answer with whatever degree of candor they want, or not speak up at all. It’s also open-ended, rather than limiting people to “happy,” “stressed,” or “angry.” (And why angry?? Anger is a really odd emotion to pick as one of your three office emotions. Although, obviously not in this office. My sticker would be angry every day, so I guess they’re on to something there.)

You are at work to work. There is no obligation to unburden yourself of your emotions and open up to colleagues.

You are also not in kindergarten, where communicating important things via sticker might be more reasonable.

And this part takes the situation from ridiculous to truly over the top: “On a few occasions the person running the meeting has moved someone’s sticker into a neutral or positive emotion box when they couldn’t articulate a clear enough reason for a negative one.”  Haha! You will be ordered to be happy unless you catalogue in detail for them and to a point they deem sufficient why you feel otherwise.

Is there a word for something that’s hilarious and infuriating at the same time?

Anyway, how do the rest of your coworkers feel about this? Ideally a group of you would speak up at the next meeting and say, “Hey, we want to stop using the feelings chart. It feels intrusive and unproductive, and it would be particularly difficult for anyone who’s dealing with mental health challenges that they don’t want to discuss at work. We’d like to use our meeting time on work-related items, not on our personal emotions. Can we skip it from here on out?”

I am increasingly convinced that a huge portion of the problems in modern workplaces are caused by managers who don’t understand what they’re there to get done, and instead have an amorphous idea that they’re some combination of parent/doctor/therapist/martinet/king.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 501 comments… read them below }

    1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      Completely! I would just give myself a smiley emoji and never change it.

      In a similar vein, my boss makes me fill out a weekly feedback report and I’m supposed to rate how I’m feeling about the week on a scale of 1-10, and he hasn’t noticed yet that I just always give myself an 8.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I would, too. And I’d do the same 8 for the BS you have to do, too.
        People who ask these things don’t want an answer. And if they did, what are they supposed to do?
        I would be happier if I made more money. I’d be less stressed if everyone on the project met deadlines. I’d be more productive if we didn’t have weekly staff meetings.
        What the hell can your boss do about that, really?

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          “People who ask these things don’t want an answer.”

          So accurate. What they want is a bunch of smiley faces on the wall to reassure themselves that they’re managing well.

          1. Jadelyn*

            It’s not about your feelings, not really. It’s about their feelings. They want you to perform your feelings in a way that makes them feel good.

          2. Beanie*

            When I got to the part about moving stickers if you couldn’t articulate your feelings I knew exactly what this was. It’s not for the employee and it’s not for improving morale. It’s for demonstrating to those above management that everyone is happy all the time and nobody is stressed (“Look! We have proof! Look at the stickers!”)
            Don’t do it OP. You’ve articulated here what’s causing you stress – they need to hear it too :)

            1. Gadget Hackwrench*

              Yeah, the tip off that it’s all about appearances really is the “Oh well if you can’t explain why you feel bad, then we have to move your sticker” thing. Otherwise it might be that the manager is just steamrolling boundaries in an attempt to be everyone’s mom/therapist/friend.

          3. Leela*

            +1 +1 +1.

            Same with “what could we have done better” in an exit interview. Don’t ask me that if you just want me to say “nothing”

        2. Cobol*

          This is such a great, simple, explanation. It’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut sometimes when I’m asked this type of question at work, and this is a great mantra to remind myself

          1. the gold digger*

            Exactly. I know this now, after, in a moment of great stupidity, I gave an honest assessment of a workshop. We had spent the day learning a process that applied to everyone else in the group but me.

            When the CEO asked us to rate the day, everyone else gave it a five, but I gave it a two, because although it was interesting to learn this process, it was not relevant to my work.

            My boss called me at 9:30 that night and told me not to come to the meetings the next day – that the CEO was so furious with me he didn’t even want to see me.

            I had to go in the next day and grovel. Fortunately, I had already gotten a verbal offer from my current boss (who is wonderful) and was just waiting on the written offer.

            And the board fired the CEO a year later. So I don’t think I was the X in that equation.

            But now I lie and everything is always great. There is nothing to gain by telling the truth.

            1. Specialk9*

              This sounds cynical, but I’ve found that ‘everything’s great!’ is all some people can handle. Far too many people.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Besides, if anything is really wrong, you end up having to comfort the bozo who did the wrong thing. Annoying.

        3. Quiet Pls*

          Sideish comment: We were in a quarterly company meeting a few years ago and a Director was standing in front of us demanding we tell her which shape was larger to a room of deadpan attendees who just wanted this show to be over so we could get back to the huge piles of work that were on our desk. Once someone finally “chose” she then breathtakingly revealed that they were exactly the same size and its all about our perception of that around us and isn’t it wonderful….!

          She was then the first to dowse anyone in sarcasm and ire if they ever mucked up or asked for help so it was even the more annoying and out of place with the reality of working there.

          1. Essess*

            I was at a training session to teach us to eliminate gender bias, and they gave us a 2-paragraph story that we were supposed to identify whether the story was about a man or a woman. They called on me and I stated that there were no pronouns in the story so it could be about either. The teacher refused to move on until I chose one. I stressed that choosing one would be wrong because it could be either. I was forced to answer. So I pointed out that the first paragraph was written with adjectives that cause someone with bias to lean towards female and the second leans towards male (deliberately). but nothing in the story said which was correct. They still ordered me to choose one.
            Then after they went through every person, they chastised us for having a gender bias for choosing one over the other since there were no pronouns and the class was there to “teach” us not to make these assumptions.

            1. Tammy*

              Wait…what? “You must exhibit a gender bias even if you don’t want to, so we can tell you why you shouldn’t exhibit a gender bias”?? Like, I’m super supportive of helping peopel to be less biased, but this sure seems like a case of elevating form over function.

              1. Lance*

                Yeah… there’s a teacher that totally missed the point being ‘try not to exhibit gender bias’, not ‘get this ‘wrong’ so I can forcibly shove that point down everyone’s throat’.

            2. Rainy*

              I went through a mandatory assessment and then a breakdown/interpretation session (the interp was with the whole office fortunately) meant to assess cultural competency and urge us to progress further on our journey toward eliminating bias…with a facilitator who spent about 1/3rd of his 120 minutes spewing a type of bias and hatred that was apparently okay.

              I am Joe’s giant shrug emoji.

            3. Gadget Hackwrench*

              Geeze. There’s a simple way to handle this. Ask the next person down the line. Of course once you argue with the person, now everyone in the room is going to say you can’t tell, so just brush right past the “could be either” person without arguing about it if you want others to answer.

              Then when you get to the end you say say “Essess was right… and here’s why.”

              Lesson learned, without strong arming the one student in the class who already UNDERSTANDS the concept.

        4. whingedrinking*

          Also, is this just about work or is this in general? I could easily say, “Work is great, but I’m anxious about my health/angry at my partner/etc.” What does my boss intend to do about any of that? (Hopefully nothing beyond offer a bit of sympathy and return focus to work.)

          1. Hornswoggler*

            “Work is great, but I’m sad about my runner beans.”

            They don’t need to know about your partner or your health, even made-up stuff.

            1. Gadget Hackwrench*

              They don’t need to know about your emotions on a chart either, but that hasn’t stopped them asking.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Whenever I’ve encountered a ridiculous situation like this, I do the exact same thing. Smile, nod, figure out the fastest way to comply with the minimum amount of effort, and then ignore it.

      3. anna green*

        Ugh yeah, we used to do “highs and lows” at our group meetings, but if you actually said a real low, you’d either get ignored or told you were bumming everyone out. So people would just say the same non-things every time ‘It’s been raining (outdoor work)’ or go with the ‘aw I don’t even think I have a low’ And such and such…

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          Oh my God, we used to have to submit “highs and lows” every Friday to our team lead. The company did away with it about a year and a half ago, and it is such a relief.

          1. Artemesia*

            The only way this sort of thing works is if one takes feedback and does something with it. When I gathered it about a third of the way through the semester i.e. what is working well for you, what is making it harder for you to learn — then the next day I would identify some things that would be changing based on the feedback. If you don’t do that the first time in some way, then you never get useful feedback again.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Well, you’re certainly different from any boss I’ve ever had…(I love the management by objectives I had in the military–‘here are your objectives. Get them done.’ At least they were honest and didn’t make me read their minds and get on me if I didn’t do it right).

      4. Drew*

        “LTRFTP, you gave yourself a rating of π this week. Why so low?”

        “No reason at all. It’s completely irrational.”

        1. Justme, The OG*

          I do it with my fourth grader because it actually gets her to talk about what happened that day, instead of the tween inclination to tell me nothing. But then I care about her and how her day was, and I don’t so much with coworkers.

      5. Suzy Q*

        I would put my name on an angry emoji every day, and if someone asked, I would reply that I am angry about having to put my name on an emoji chart every damn day.

        1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*


          At the very least, if they moved my name from a negative emotion to a positive one, I’d slap it right onto angry and I would have a damn good reason for it!

    2. Doug Judy*

      I get the impression that management thinks that this is creating an open communication system and they are showing they care about how their employees feel. Really it is doing the exact opposite.

      If they really want to know how their employees are feeling, have regular one on one meetings, talk about concerns and maybe (revolutionary idea here) address them. Don’t make employees air their grievances publicly. This isn’t Festivus.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve wondered how the grown-ups can be so clueless.
        Don’t the see they are saying they care and showing they don’t?
        Don’t they understand how hurtful this manipulative insulting approach is?
        Didn’t they learn in kindergarten “how would you feel if you were treated that way”?

      2. bb-great*

        This. Usually when I see something this dumb in the workplace I assume someone told them at some point that they need to be more responsive to employee concerns or whatever, and they came up with this ridiculous system instead of actually making substantive changes.

    3. Important Moi*

      I would just lie and not give it a second thought.

      My definition of healthy boundaries mean I don’t even have to entertain a lot of the things LW wrote about:
      -who I discuss my feelings with a work
      -how could this be used against me

    4. blackcat*

      I would print out different emojis and use those instead.

      Today, I feel like cake. Tomorrow, I have the head explodey one. When out of sick time but pressured to come in sick, vomiting emoji.

      1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        I think I might just “lose” my name sticker off the board entirely. Or blame all my negative feelings on being asked to do something so juvenile/moronic as publicly track our “feelings” at work in the first place.

        That, or be entirely facetious- move my name sticker 20x a day, put my name sticker on all the emotions at once, make up totally & obviously ridiculous “reasons” behind the “feelings” (blame it on my great grandmother’s ghost or the color of [manager responsible for this asshattery]’s socks; the stars aren’t in alignment today, whatever I could pull out of my arse.)

        Yeah, I don’t do well with this type of condensation & disrespect in the workplace.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Every time, answer with “because I’m a [zodiac sign here], and my horoscope said today will be [adjective]”.

          “Because I’m a libra, and my horoscope said today will be rainy.”
          “Because I’m an ares, and my horoscope said today will be inert.”
          “Because I’m a gemini, and my horoscope said today will be inane.”

  1. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I would create my own “violated” or “infantilized” sticker, and leave it on that permanently. If asked, I’d say “Since you’re asking me to post my current feelings for anyone in the company to see, I still feel [infantilized/violated], and that’s generally how I will feel whenever I’m forced to share my feelings for the benefit of others instead of in a more appropriate setting, like therapy.”

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      OMG, I’m already sketching them out in my head. A smiley face in diaper. A shocked face with a hand behind it.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes, please yes! I would print out the “Scream” emoji for my chart. (Also, the post seems to have completely changed between when I read it and when I posted this comment?)

      This is such a bullshit system. It sounds like the purpose is to make people feel exposed, to pretend that this addresses morale, and then to change nothing. And to go over it in staff meetings? Like some completely bastardized version of group therapy, except its run by evil clowns? Dude, this is what one-on-ones are for—to check in on someone’s workload and stress levels.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, I realized I was reading things completely wrong. No change in post, just a change in my ability to suss out the difference between linked posts (!!).

        I also wanted to add the poop emoji as an option. I think I would actually love the opportunity to say, “This chart makes me feel shitty *points to poop emoji*.”

        1. AKchic*

          More like – “this whole exercise is shitty”?

          A poop emoji holding a broken pointer to say “this thing is pointless and shitty”.

        2. Amber T*

          I was gonna say – I’d print the poop emoji and stick it on there.

          “What is this supposed to represent?”

          “Idk, I feel like poop about this exercise. This exercise is poop. Poop. Take your pick.”

          If they’re gonna treat you like kindergarteners, act like one.

        3. J.*

          I’m a fan of a dog emoji followed by the wind emoji so it looks like a fart. Which is childish, for sure, but so is this whole exercise.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Not to mention literally telling individual employees how they “actually” feel, when the individual employees can’t justify their genuine feelings to their satisfaction. Is there a “gaslighting” emoji? If not, there should be.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        ” the purpose is to make people feel exposed”
        IMO this is abusive. So in addition to the usual corporate cluelessness and incompetence, there is abuse.

    3. Tardigrade*

      Take all the stickers and attempt to place them by your name because such a small space and a single word cannot contain the breadth of your emotional experience.

    4. Rosemary7391*

      Bonus points if you can get everyone to put it up at the same time! See how long management takes to notice…

    5. Bilateralrope*

      I’d do it with a stronger glue. A sticker that they can not remove without damaging the board.

      Especially when I know they move stickers if they don’t like the justification.

      1. Dean Dangerous*

        I like the idea of putting your name next to the angry or stressed one every day, and when challenged about why, say “I don’t like being forced to share my feelings on command and/or having to justify them, so I’m angry/stressed at this system.” Repeat as necessary.

  2. Nervous Nellie*

    Holy patoots! My ex-BIL had a chart like this for his emotionally disturbed preschooler to help the boy recognize and express emotions. But in the workplace? With grownups? There simply are no words. From ‘tattling’ to feelings charts, I am horrified the trends we’re seeing at work…..

    1. Ennigaldi*

      Right, this is a strategy my mom used for working with elementary age kids with behavior disorders. What kind of seminar did this manager go to to get this wacko idea?

    2. Analyze All The Things*

      I was thinking this would be a good thing to use for my 3 year old when he’s having trouble expressing his feelings. But he’s 3. Work isn’t kindergarten. No matter how much some managers might want it to be.

    3. Grumpy*

      I work at a huge company that does this too. It seems to be the Insanity Flavor Of The Moment and hopefully it will pass through quickly and be replaced with a new flavor of crazy soon.

    4. AnaEatsEverything*

      Emotionally disturbed preschooler? I realize this is off-topic and I should let it go but that phrase just makes me so uncomfortable. I don’t know if you’re trying to say “the boy” has a disability, or difficulty picking up on emotions, or a challenging home life, but… no. Not a cool way to talk about a 3 – 5 year-old kid, IMO.

      1. Ellex*

        “Emotionally disturbed” is used as a catchall phrase for various emotional and mental disorders, and it’s entirely possible for a preschooler to have any of a variety of emotional or mental disorders, and even personality disorders – not just learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorders.

      2. Coffee Ninja*

        Yup, what the other replies said. I used to be a school-based mental health therapist and “emotionally/behaviorally disturbed” are actual official phrases used in school settings (think IEPs, etc.).

      3. Elizabeth*

        Someone in my family was a highly traumatized preschooler after experiencing a child separation not unlike that recently applied to migrating families at the US border, and did not speak until he was four. I think “emotionally disturbed” is a descriptive, non-pejorative label for a certain type of difficulty a kid could have.

  3. anna green*

    “You are also not in kindergarten, where communicating important things via sticker might be more reasonable.”

    Hahaha this is a fantastic sentence.

    Oh wait… :) :) :)

      1. Quill*

        My mom teaches 2nd grade with a magnet chart for positive points and negative points. Help keep the classroom clean? put up a smile. Talking during silent reading? put up a red dot.

        That’s how you manage people who need to be bribed with cashing out smiles for candy at the end of a week, not adults. And even then, it’s just for the kids to keep track of if they’re behaving well or not, not some feelings chart.

      1. 653-CXK*

        How about Horatio Caine putting on sunglasses?

        “I guess the manager (sunglasses) was hooked on a feeling.”

        (Won’t Get Fooled Again scream)

        1. Megan*

          Now I’m kinda hoping that this chart is on a smartboard so people can respond with GIFs. The Sunglasses of Justice would be awesome. Also, a Jim Halpert Camera Shrug.

          1. 653-CXK*

            I had to look that up…I’m not a fan of the Office, unfortunately, but perhaps some GIFs of Col. Potter in MASH would be a start…”How do you feel?” “HORSEHOCKEY!”

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Do they actually think are going to be honest? I suspect that the people who might actually need help are the same people who would never admit to it.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      And now that they’ve shown that they don’t want to hear it, a person who might have seen this as management being open to dialog and willing to have a one on one meeting to discuss this person’s real problems with the job, is going to clam up and rightly so.
      I’ll say it again:
      How do you feel?
      I feel X.
      No, you’re wrong.

      1. Oh So Very Anon*

        Oh, it’s far worse than that.

        How do you feel?
        I feel X.
        Because (reason)
        No, that’s not good enough. THIS is how you feel.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Oblivious, disrespectful, abusive…
          When my mother was oblivious and never treated me like a person, it hurt bad enough to cause lifelong PTS. This reminds me of that.

    2. Observer*

      I suspect that they do not want honesty. The nonsense about moving the sticker because they didn’t give a good enough reason for being not happy speaks VOLUMES.

      1. LawLady*

        Yeah, it’s the thought-policing element of this that really turned it from wacky to creepy. Like feeling negative for insufficiently good reason is “erroneous thought” a la 1984.

    3. Bea*

      I’m mostly shocked at the honesty. I would assume everyone was dicking around but only because I would be for sure.

      I missed the part where they actually try talking people into changing theirs. I would skip over and pick an even worse choice. “Can’t be sad today? How about mad then?”

    4. Susan*

      Definitely not on the same level but my boss asks us to rate the meeting at the end of the weekly meeting with his direct reports. Scale is 1 to 5. If you rate 2 or lower he wants to talk to you after the meeting to find out why. I have rated the meeting 2 more than once and do talk to him afterwards and he’s usually open to hearing why, but even just having to explain it makes me more likely not to use that rating.

    5. OP*

      I am fairly certain not many people are being honest, except perhaps the person who moved their sticker to awesome the moment they handed in their resignation

      1. Specialk9*

        Bwahaha that’s great.

        So… How well secured and/or monitored is this sticker chart? If it were to end up defaced or mysteriously missing, would they know who did it?

    1. Snark*

      Or “I am side-eyeing this so hard,” “This is like the worst features of my kindergarten class and the Bobs from Office Space rolled together,” “My eyes just rolled hard enough to measurably alter the length of the day,” and “I want to facepalm myself into a coma just so I feel nothing at all and get the last laugh.”

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I’m drawing all of these in my mind right now. The third one is a face rolling its eyes, a sun, and a ruler, amirite?

      2. xms967*

        “My eyes just rolled hard enough to measurably alter the length of the day”

        I love this one. My go-to has been “I eyerolled so hard I can see my own spinal fluid”.

    2. The Original K.*

      Or “hell no.” Maybe the fire emoji with the no one (circle with the diagonal line through it)?

  5. ChanNH*

    This sounds like part of a huddle where you gauge the pulse of each team member and use it to help identify where capacity or pulse may be an issue so you can head off any problems. Many teams simply use Harvey balls, but others do use something more “fun” like this and yes, noting your pulse/capacity are mandatory so the manager can identify problems in the workstream before they happen.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Even after googling Harvey balls, I can’t tell if this is sarcasm.

      I often get asked if I can handle project X by deadline Y–I answer this with phrases like “Yes” or “No” or “Only if I can pass off Z to someone else.” There is no reason to respond with my pulse rate, or a circle, or a grumpy face sticker.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. All this. I remember having status meetings that covered this! We mentioned major things we’d done that others might need to know about, what we were working on at the moment and next, and whether we had any problems / blockages to our work.

        So that, you know, other team members a) knew if we had done or were about to do something that impacted them, b) could chime in with “I know a few things about X you might want to be aware of, can we talk after the meeting?”, and c) the boss and team would be aware of any problems or slow-downs, the cause, and could decide whether or not additional help was needed.

        None of that required discussing our fee-fees with our coworker. It didn’t matter (work-wise) whether I was indifferent to, amused by, stressed by, or outraged at the lack of communication from another team. It only mattered that it was happening and impacting my task.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Or managers could, you know, just ask about potential problems.

      That would be a much faster, more professional way to get questions answered.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Because a current mood is so much more complex and deep-rooted. Managers are arrogant to think that an employee’s current mood is 100% about work, particularly the employer in this letter. (I think of my coworker whose son suddenly died. She’d have negative mood stickers or Harvey balls or dance moves or smoke signals or whatever for all eternity because of that tragedy, but she’s still a productive, fantastic, innovative employee.)

          A good chunk of AAM’s advice would disappear if managers stopped dreaming up unnecessarily complex ways to complete simple tasks.

          If you want to know how workers really feel about a project or work or a boss, just ask. That’s it.

          1. omomom*

            The human proclivity for making things needlessly complicated is pretty fascinating, or would be if it weren’t also so annoying. Is it rooted in anxiety, this frequent eagerness to try anything but the simplest, most obvious and straightforward approach? Hmm.

            1. Sarcastic Fringehead*

              It might be anxiety – I think (in the US at least, since I’ve never lived elsewhere) that we’ve been taught that if we’re unhappy, we can fix it. We just have to find the one perfect solution and we’ll always feel good (and productive, which is often presented as the same thing). Add in the amount of money people can make if they create the next big quick fix, and you’ve got a whole industry based around making you feel bad and telling you it could be better if you just spent a little more money (see also: dieting).

          2. Michaela Westen*

            “If you want to know how workers really feel about a project or work or a boss, just ask. That’s it.”
            Well… most workers know not to tell the boss something they don’t want to hear or can’t handle…
            This idiocy may be an attempt to get past that hesitation and find out how people really feel, but wow, it so won’t work…

    3. Xarcady*

      I can see the use to show capacity for taking on more work or taking away some work, but what do you mean by pulse? Literally each employee’s heart rate?

      (And completely off-topic, but now I know that Consumer Reports uses Harvey balls in its ranking charts. They didn’t make them up all by themselves!)

    4. Observer*

      If by pulse you mean the literal pulse of your team members, that’s insanity for anything other than sports or the like. If you mean available capacity level, that would make sense, as long as you are actually accepting the reports being given to you.

      But what the managers are asking for is not capacity, but “feelings’ – AND they are actually mandating the answers.

    5. Annie Moose*

      See, if this was something like, “rate how overloaded/underloaded you are right now” or “rate how things are going with your workflow”, as a general way to understand if people are struggling or underworked, that’d be understandable. But that’s completely different from what LW described, where people’s EMOTIONS are being discussed–and disregarded if they aren’t “justifiable”!

      1. Kes*

        Exactly – if they want to know who is overloaded/running into difficulties or blockers/may need assistance, then that’s what they should ask about, not what emotions people are feeling (because there’s no other causes of emotions besides how people’s work is going… /s)

      2. Pie*

        ABSOLUTELY! In my late teens I worked several rounds of a short-term, high-stress job (think “last few weeks of a political campaign”), and we had a chart where each grunt had a post-it note with their name on it, placed under the appropriate category for their self-assessed workload. It was the sort of job where people would rush into the office and be like “I need a grunt, NOW!” — the post-it note system was a good way to indicate who was available for an interchangeable job. It was also a fast way for the managers to figure out if they needed to redistribute workload, and for us grunts to figure out if our stress levels were normal.

        But this ain’t that! Even what I described is only appropriate in certain circumstances, and a chart of pure emotions is just…eek!

    6. motherofdragons*

      If this is what this office is trying to do, they’re failing miserably. They’ve *created* problems instead of trying to identify them, and they’re totally missing the part about what comes after those “problems” are identified. Not to mention conflating feelings with capacity, productivity, or any indicator that actually has to do with the work.

  6. Archie Goodwin*

    You know, sometimes I grump that I have to start the day with a meeting every day, and about the number of semi-useful meetings into which I get called, and about the way in which my day gets knocked off-kilter sometimes by scheduling issues.

    And then I read something like this, and want to go and kiss all my managers for being sane. Which, you know, I’ll never do because the HR disaster would be a nightmare, but still.

    “Is there a word for something that’s hilarious and infuriating at the same time?”

    Best I can come up with is “hilariating”, but I’m sure there’s a better one out there.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Am stealing this immediately. It goes on the list with “insegrievious” (which, as far as I know, is a word that was invented by the extremely funny 1950s TV night-show host Steve Allen and that means whatever you want it to mean at any given moment).

      1. Jadelyn*

        If there isn’t, they can make one. Any German speakers in the house want to take a crack at this? Pretty please?

      2. Copenhagen*

        We have one in Danish (my german is rusty, so I’m not sure if they have it as well); “tragikomisk”. Tragically comical. When something is so absurd that you’d laugh hysterically if it weren’t so incredibly bad and horrible.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Thankfully, I was between sips of my coffee when I read this. Otherwise I’d be doing some cleaning up of my desk, keyboard, and monitor.

    2. EPLawyer*

      This situation is so much this. They are not actually addressing what is causing the stress. They are instead imposing this inane thing on the team which only makes morale worse. Then they wonder why morale is worse so they add to meetings. Which makes morale worse. Good grief.

      Just address the root cause of the problem. Or do what you can do to mitigate it. A GOOD manager should know when someone has too much on their plate and needs help. Or at least should notice the work flow and act accordingly. Take steps THERE. Not impose this inane (was going with another word that ends in -ne but decided to be respectful to Alison) thing on people.

  7. Falling Diphthong*

    In the spirit of despair dot com’s demotivational posters, I would try to surreptitiously slip more stickers into the system.

    1. Bea*

      I’m just enough of a jerk that I vote someone start adding stickers. Stickers are easy AF to make, y’all…

      Pls make sure the poop emoji is there.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        You can also buy nearly any emoji sticker you want on Amazon. They’re like $5 for 1,000 stickers and could be left in everyone’s chairs….

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I need to buy a thousand LOLSOB stickers. That pretty accurately sums up my feelings on any given day.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that in hundreds of offices across the country, management enamored of motivational posters has failed to notice that someone has gradually replaced them all.

  8. Spooky*

    “Is there a word for something that’s hilarious and infuriating at the same time?”

    I’d like to propose “hilangryous.”

    1. Geillis D*

      Hilfuriating? Inflarious?

      Personally I love and use “flustrating”, but it lacks the hilarious component.

    2. Copenhagen*

      It does i German (and Danish, and probably Norwegian and Swedish as well); Tragikomisch. It means tragically comical. Like… You’d laugh till you peed your pants, if it weren’t so absurd and horrible.

    3. Pathfinder Ryder*

      I came here to say “hilaribad” but it doesn’t quite get across the infuriating component.

  9. Bea*

    Woah. We have a feelings calendar once but we used it to entertain ourselves. Since we were all devilish every day of our lives. I would take to openly mocking it. “I’m feeling fiendish today. Where’s that sticker?”

  10. Ruth (UK)*

    I’d be tempted to put it on ‘stressed’ every day and always explain it with “having to do this exercise stresses me out”

    1. Decima Dewey*

      “Why are you stressed?”

      “Management is always asking me why I’m stressed, and won’t accept my answers.:

  11. Alias Fakename*

    This seems easy. Just put up the Angry sticker and leave it there until they take down the board. If they ask “why are you angry” tell them it’s because of the board.

    1. Capt. Dunkirk*

      I totally support this!

      “Why are you feeling angry today?”

      “Because I’m being required to put my emotional state on display for everyone to see. As long as that’s the case, my sticker will always be on ‘angry’.”

    2. The Tin Man*

      But then they would just move it to neutral because I am sure that is not a good answer in their eyes. That part got me to transition from regular side-eye to “side-eye side-eye i.e. eyes in the back of my head”

    3. Kes*

      Although I don’t think this would actually help, it’s definitely one of the first things that came to mind on reading this.

    4. CM*

      +1 that’s exactly what I would do if it were me (I also don’t care about getting fired; if for some reason I DID care about getting fired, I’d just lie and say I was happy all the time until they got tired of doing Feelings Chart and the whole thing went away).

  12. Amber Rose*

    Can you find or make a poop emoji sticker? That would be the most appropriate.

    Actually, I’d be tempted to create a whole bunch of miscellaneous emoji stickers and use them. Just to see if someone would call on me to explain why my emotion is dabbing. Or cat in a party hat.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I would so do this.
      Walmart’s scrapbook aisle. 99 cents for 24. I gave them to my nephew. They are now all over his Little Tikes tool bench and tricycle.

      1. Aurion*

        It’s quite appropriate. If I side-eyed this letter any harder I’m gonna sprain my eyeballs and break my own neck.

  13. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    There’s tragicomedy. Which is how I feel reading this. Kind of like seeing the poster “the beatings will continue until morale improves!”
    Then there’s the word I’d want to say if I were a victim of this nonsense. Not really a feeling. More like a predicate nominative…and an adjective and adverb and noun and verb.
    How are you feeling?
    I’m stressed.
    No, you’re not!

  14. Anon because this is too identifying*

    I have a “how I feel today” chart, with faces reflecting various emotions and a magnet to indicate where I’m at today. I put it up in my office as a joke. I cannot imagine thinking it’s appropriate or useful to do this seriously. Especially since the OP’s distress sticker is being ignored. This is both banana crackers AND bat poop crazy.

  15. AlPal*

    My office does something similar, but it seems to work for us. Just a simple Green, Amber, Red for how we feel about the work, and only the work. If I’m feeling annoyed that day because of traffic getting in I wouldn’t be expected to put up a red. Most people are Amber (neutral), a few Green if they feel their work’s doing really well and on-schedule. When someone is Red we ask them what piece of work is causing issues and try and find a simple solution. Often it’s that something took longer than expected and they need more time, or their work has been blocked by someone else’s so the team’s focus needs to shift a little.

    Sorry for the long explanation, but just wanted to say that this process can be a useful tool when it’s actually focused on the work!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Focused on the work, and the appearance of a red sticker means that management promptly starts figuring out how to adjust the work accordingly. Management doesn’t argue that they ACTUALLY feel green and it’s just a problem of perception.

    2. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

      Yeah, there is lots of value in having this kind of project-status system, with management following up on projects that are in the red to see where they can allocate resources. Maybe the OP’s office is just conflating this with those anonymous “how happy were you with your experience at this highway rest stop bathroom” smiley face scales??

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I still think this is strange. I’m a “thinker” not a “feeler” and I work in engineering, surrounded by other “T” types, but I can’t make the “feelings” about work discussion reconcile in my head.

      We do a weekly workload status report and fill out hr/week on each project we’re working on, so our department management can see if someone is overloaded. Separately, we have project meetings that objectively discuss if something is on schedule, behind schedule, struggling to get input from a vendor, etc., but it’s not how we “feel” it’s going — it’s just how it is going.

      I’m okay with telling my boss I’m frustrated by XYZ Work Thing, but the one thing that isn’t going well isn’t going to dictate my whole sense of well-being.

      1. Seriously?*

        I don’t think the word “feel” is used here to describe emotions (this comment, not the OP). It is used as a synonym for perceive. From your point of view, how is the project going.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        AlPal’s system isn’t about feelings, it’s functionally a color coded project status system. It’s basically Green = my projects are already done! Amber = projects are on schedule, no known issues preventing meeting deliverables. Red = Fergus hasn’t turned in the reports on X yet so I can’t get the final draft of Y done, which puts us behind schedule on delivery.

        Management at my employer does something similar but at the department level – green means we’re meeting all our deliverables. Amber means we’re seeing boosted volumes in some areas and they should be watched. Red means significantly higher than normal volumes and deadlines aren’t being met, so divert resources there to help.

        1. CM*

          I think it would be more effective if OP could treat the “feelings chart” this way, no matter how it’s intended. Happy if the project is going well, negative emoji if there is an issue with the project that needs to be addressed. Then the check-ins would actually be useful — when asked why the OP is feeling stressed, the answer could be, “I need the TPS report to be completed immediately so that we don’t miss our deadline tomorrow.”

    4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I like that concept of how you feel about work! It’s cool because it puts you in the moment. I’m at work, and I’m working. I’m enjoying this part of my project and I can be happy about that. I hate this part of the project, but I can say I’m unhappy about this part and now that it’s out there, I can see an end to it.
      Making the office about work, apparently a novel idea.

    5. Bea*

      I don’t mind this setup.

      Its work focused and they approach you appropriately if you’re indicating you’re in the red zone due to assorted complications.

      It is less intrusive and juvenile as emoji stickers of how you feel on any given day.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I could feel red because Fergus’s gum popping is driving me mad, even if I have finished all my work.

        I could feel green because while the project is going down in chartreuse flames shooting ferrets, my hands are clean and this is all on Wakeen. Since there’s nothing I can do, I’m studying YouTube videos about elaborate manicure techniques and considering turning my hands into a flock of flamingoes.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I could feel green because no matter what’s going on at work, I’m looking forward to the weekend, when I get to see one of my favorite bands and some of my sweetest friends. :) Doubt if that’s what management wants to hear though!

    6. Wilber*

      You could get the same result by asking people to use their words and speak up when there’s a problem affecting their work, which doesn’t treat adults like kindergarteners who need a goddarn STICKER CHART!

      What is the benefit of doing this with STICKERS?

      I can’t imagine a functioning, well-managed office making adults use this. It’s just bizarrely infantilising and ridiculous.

      1. Seriously?*

        Sometimes having something you can check that tells you how someone is doing with their workload can be helpful to avoid interruptions. If it is red, then don’t bother them unless necessary. If you have a project and need help on it, approach someone who put up green. It seem like the status lights on g-chat.

      2. Dee*

        I can see an advantage in having everyone’s status together, displayed in a way that conveys a lot of information quickly. Chart is mostly green, good. Chart is half red, bad.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I agree with this. I also would not ask my folks to publicly display a self-assessment of how work’s going. I expect supervisors to be checking in and keeping tabs on their folks, and I expect people to raise their hand if they’re overwhelmed, under water, or frustrated to the point of needing help.

      4. Observer*

        The issue in this set up is not stickers, but the colors – it gives someone a very quick overview of the situation in a given area.

    7. The Ginger Ginger*

      This works because it’s not about feelings, though. It’s about status of the work, and how much the worker believes they’ll be achieving on a given day/project. Feelings don’t come into play in the reporting, and that’s as it should be. Red doesn’t equal angry or worried or stressed (though you might be all those things!); red means the project(s) is/are in jeopardy and needs to be reviewed. It’s similar to the daily standup in agile methodology. It’s a 10 minute meeting where everybody says what they did yesterday, what they’re working on today, and what they need/what roadblocks are in the way of completing their tasks. It’s a great way for everyone to stay aligned with each other. But it’s not group therapy or a feelings dump.

      1. Kes*

        Yes, exactly. This makes sense because it’s about the work and the status of the work. In OP’s situation, they’re asking about feelings and trying to use that as a proxy for the status of the work, which doesn’t make sense

      2. SavannahMiranda*

        Yes, I came here to mention agile development.

        What this manager needs is a lesson in agile development, along with a swift kick in the pants.

        I don’t engage with agile methodology on a daily basis, but when I’ve seen it the daily meetings start off with a short fast list of everyone’s “blocks.” No one is ever supposed to have a work stoppage, ideally, because they are not getting what they need from another department, another team member, of from a vendor.

        Once blocks (aka problems) are identified, it’s the manager’s goal to go about rectifying the ones only management can rectify, like getting the items from other departments or from vendors.

        This crazy crazy feelings chart (where people are then invalidated in their feelings! the horror) is like a sick combination of agile mixed with some consciousness raising cult where everyone ‘processes’ in public.

        If your manager isn’t too far off their rocker, LW, you or a group might consider looking into agile development and proposing it’s methodology as a better way to meet whatever…needs…this manager thinks the feelings chart meets.

        If they are off their rocker though, wow, I just don’t know what to say.

    8. CM*

      I can see something like that working well. It’s basically a dashboard that lets you know at a glance who’s in the weeds and who can help out — I’d use something like that.

      In the OP’s case I think it sounds more like the company got feedback that there’s low morale and, instead of digging into that to try to understand why, someone has been tasked with using KPIs to “prove” that the morale problem either doesn’t exist or isn’t the fault of the company (hence moving people into neutral if they don’t have a good reason to be sad or whatever). I also think 9/10 it never occurred to them that people would (rightly) interpret a question about their “feelings” to encompass their entire lives as human beings and not just how they “feel” about work.

      There’s an executive somewhere who’s going, “I don’t know why they’re not getting it. When I ask how they feel, I obviously only want to know how they feel about me!”

  16. Time for a gnu name*

    I’d have a really REALLY hard time taking management seriously at a place that did this. I get the impression that management is pretty ‘happy’ about this tool, and it makes me ‘sad’ that they don’t see how ‘angry’ this could make a ‘stressed’ employee. Do they seriously expect people to publicly assess their emotions daily?? Sigh. OP, thanks for making my place of employment look normal by comparison.

  17. Kir Royale*

    Can you get Mr. Yuk stickers and cover the whole chart with them? Or get a smiley pin to wear on your shirt, because you didn’t think the chart sticker was big enough. oh wait on that last one, they will probably think you’re serious and that’s a great idea!

    1. Bea*

      Yes to the smiley pin.

      Or request they require everyone to wear flair to boost morale. Minimum is 37 pieces…and you know what it means if anyone only does the minimum!

    2. TeacherNerd*

      Thank you for inspiring me to find a Mr. Yuk button I can attach to my lanyard. (I do actually like my job very much, but Mr. Yuk!)

  18. Dr. Pepper*


    Wow, seriously? That’s……… insane. Tell me there isn’t some blog out there full of egregious management “tips” that suggested this.

    If you aren’t comfortable pushing back or can’t get anyone to push back with you, I’d completely ignore the point of this ridiculous exercise and keep my sticker at neutral forever. Vary it between whatever is least interesting if forced, but otherwise completely ignore it and procure help with your work the usual way when you need it. Go about your business as if this stupid thing wasn’t there and didn’t exist, and assume an expression of polite blandness whenever it’s brought up. If you can’t escape the crazy, it’s best to play along without investing any emotional energy into it. This may be simply a fad, and if management tires of it, it will quietly disappear.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      It feels like OP’s boss was picking up the kids from preschool and saw the sticker rewards chart and thought it could be a great “out of the box” management technique.

  19. Murphy*

    My mouth dropped open at the headline for this. What. The. Shit.

    There’s no way your co-workers are into this. Definitely get a group together.

  20. JLCBL*

    This is *so* gross. Do the managers also have to use the stickers? Because that might be where I would start once I have a group that is ready to speak up together about this. Put them in your position, make them defend their choice, and move the sticker based on how they respond. Ask them a series of intrusive and skeptical questions. Make them actually experience how demeaning and dismissive this is, until they get it. Then persuade them to agree it is unhelpful.

    1. JLCBL*

      I feel like treating it as if this is a serious exercise, rather than starting with eye-rolling and sarcasm, would be more effective at getting them to consider what they are trying to accomplish with this practice and whether it is the best way to get at that goal.

      1. Mockingdragon*

        Well, why should only the negative emotions get challenged? Ask them to defend their positive emotion, and move the sticker when it’s not good enough compared to everyone else’s opinion of the exercise.

        /she says, knowing she’d only do such a thing if far past the line of not caring about being fired

        But seriously if I were up for making a point I would ask them to defend their smiley faces. I despise forced positivity, especially as someone with depression. Plastering a smile over shit feeling bad only makes it worse. I’d love to see the face of someone like that being told “No, you don’t have good enough reason to be happy about this.”

  21. Totally Minnie*

    OP, do you have a sense for what would happen if you simply refused to engage? At the next meeting if someone says “So, OP, you didn’t place your feelings sticker this week. Why is that?” And you just respond with “I’m not interested in discussing my emotions at work. I’d like to focus my energy on the tasks I was hired to carry out,” how do you think they would respond?

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’d be interested in this, too, considering OP has had her sticker on “negative” for a week, apparently without anyone reacting to it in any way.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I have a “there are no feelings at work” mantra, kind of like “there’s no crying in baseball.”

    3. OP*

      I may try that as I don’t think I’ll get stacks of others on board for group pushback. I know some others are not fans but most consider it something they gotta put up with

  22. CatCat*

    Just put up a poo emoji with no explanation.

    When asked about it, just state forcefully, “I think it’s pretty self-explanatory” and then refuse to discuss if further.

    I mean, *don’t* do this… but fantasize about doing it because it really is the proper emoji for the situation.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      put a poo emoji with a ghostbusters red circle with the slash through. Maybe you are sick of shit. Maybe you are not up for this shit. Maybe you are constipated. Let them ask.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I never understand the purpose of the poo emoji until now. It was clearly meant for the OP to use at work.

    1. Amber T*

      Lol when I was a student worker answering calls in the Res Life office of my college, we had this printed and hung in a relatively hidden place that visitors couldn’t see it, but someone sitting at our desk could. We wrote on it “how did this parent call make you feel?” (Parents would call about the most asinine things sometimes, and as a student, I never got to handle actual issues – those were forwarded to the professionals.) As a professional now, I 100% understand why we were asked to take that down, but that still makes me laugh looking at it it.

  23. Eric*

    They claim “it was designed to help them identify people who need extra help to get all their work done.” If that is really the case then that is the question they should be asking people. At my company, we used to have a pool of staff that were all working on similar projects, and relatively interchangeable. Every week we had to report, on a scale of 1-5, how busy we were: 1 was “I’m bored and need more work; who needs help?”; 5 was “There is no possible way I can get everything done next week that needs to be done; find me help”. 2-4 were in between. That actually worked to solve this problem.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this sounds like the laziest baloney stand-in for actually listening to and being supportive of one’s team I’ve ever heard.

    2. Jadelyn*

      I rather like that scale. My manager and I review what’s on my plate in biweekly check-ins, which comes out to something similar – a space where I can let her know, hey, I’m way overloaded right now, is there a way we can rearrange some of this/reassign something/push back some deadlines?

      But then, my management is (mostly) sane, and I am perfectly comfortable approaching her if I’m struggling anytime, without feeling like I have to wait for a check-in or have any kind of artificial structure to aid me in saying “this isn’t working, please help.” If you wanted to use some kind of formalized structure, that numerical scale is a good way to do it though.

    3. Renata Ricotta*

      Right? I send my boss a list of my projects and their general status at the beginning of every month, and also mark on a 1-4 scale where I am between “I have capacity to take on another matter” and “I am slammed.” Sometimes he stops by my office to privately ask how things are going, where I could tell him if I was overwhelmed or stressed or something (not to mention, I could just open my mouth and say that if I felt like I needed something from him to manage it).

      Checking in on workload really does not need to be this formal or complicated.

  24. BRR*

    I would maybe say something along the lines of thanking them for being attentive to their employee’s work needs but you would find it more helpful to do *basic management duty.* Basically give them good intentions and see if you can adjust their strategy.

    In the meantime leave your’s on the poop emoji and and state that it’s because of a mandatory feelings chart.

  25. nnn*

    Everyone needs to keep their “stressed” sticker up all the time, and when asked why say “Having my emotions policed stresses me out.”

  26. MechanicalPencil*

    I’d be tempted to swap “my” piece for like a Monopoly game piece. And then slowly replace/modify all of the other pieces and emotions. Even just subtly. The happy one’s wording because a stronger adjective. Just little things. Or play pin the tail on the emotion with your coworkers. Whoever gets closest to X emotion for the day wins.

  27. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I’m not sure this is the best advice, but if I were you I’d be tempted to talk to all my co-workers. And, next time there’s a staff meeting and they ask why your sticker is where it’s at, have everyone bring up the feelings chart. Explain why it’s so negative and how it’s impacting you.

    If they’re actively asking about why people are feeling negative, they are opening the door to feedback. Sprint through that open door. And keep doing it until they either stop asking or remove the stupid thing.

  28. Owler*

    So Yale University has designed something called the RULER Program, which is designed to help kids learn how to describe and identify their feelings. It has a four-quandrant chart where you can place a sticker to describe how you are feeling (blue:calm, red:anger, yellow:anxious, green: tired maybe?), and also teaches kids how to work through negative emotions and has an anti- bullying component. It’s a great tool for schools to help kids who can’t talk about their feelings expand their self awareness. BUT IT’S FOR KIDS! Even once the kids reach fourth/fifth grades, the emojis are gone, and kids are making word clouds of their versions of being in Blue (calm) to expand their vocabulary.

    1. nnn*

      I was thinking – stickers wear out and become less sticky over time. After some time passes, maybe some days LW’s sticker will randomly fall off and end up on the floor. Maybe multiple stickers will accidentally fall off and end up on the floor. Maybe a fallen sticker will get stepped on until it’s unusable. Maybe one will get stuck to a passer-by’s shoe and be lost forever.

      1. Quill*

        Over time you can replace them with nonsense: A scratch and sniff grapefruit. A rubber duck. A disturbingly realistic centipede.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      Under a previous manager, I slowly and stealthily added Demotivation posters on top of all the framed motivational posters in the building. It took about a month, and he didn’t notice for (IIRC) several months. Totally worth the money it cost me.

      I would do something similar here.

      1. only acting normal*

        Someone did that in my old office, to just one little framed “motivator” in a hallway. It was that way for *years* until we had a VIP visit and someone took it down before the VIP saw it. It was way less motivating afterwards – I no longer walked past it and smiled every day.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Had a VP who hanged a Demotivational poster on his wall. I didn’t notice what it truly was for a several months. Not until one day when I finally read the tagline.

        It was the one for Teamwork.

  29. Jam Today*

    I feel…

    Like this is something that came out of a two-day management seminar where someone was only partially paying attention and came away with “people’s mental states impact their work, I need to know people’s mental states, people need to tell me their mental states, ‘feelings charts’, check!”

    1. LQ*

      That was my …feeling too.
      “Make sure you know how people are feeling about their work/their project.”

      Intended as “check in regularly to know where people are, how far along they are, if things are moving the way you want, etc” heard as “FEELINGS CHART.”

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I’d bet a week’s pay the manager was texting and surfing his phone during the seminar.
      “Go ahead and talk while I text, I’m listening!”

  30. SaraV*

    Sassy Alison is many times the Best Alison.

    But really? There’s just so much wrong with this. Assessing how you’re feeling about work one-on-one? Okay. Making that assessment public? Yeah, not so okay. Ignore any concerns while doing this and sweeping them under the rug? Big steaming mug of nope. What are they really trying to accomplish?!

    My additional suggestions for emoji stickers would be the middle finger and a salt shaker. (Salty)

  31. omomom*

    I am increasingly convinced that a huge portion of the problems in modern workplaces are caused by managers who don’t understand what they’re there to get done, and instead have an amorphous idea that they’re some combination of parent/doctor/therapist/martinet/king.

    It’s really bad, right? I don’t have a ton of experience in corporate America, but the fascination with gimmicks and bullshit rather than just focusing on work feels like a near-pandemic to me sometimes. (Maybe I just read too much AAM.) I’ve been reading David Allen’s GETTING THINGS DONE, and I’m struck by what a challenge it seems to be just to get people to figure out why they’re doing something before they begin.

    1. AnonGD*

      Responding to you partially because I love GTD and need to re-read it soon for a refresher course.

      But also– seems to me that when this stuff comes up it’s because they are somewhat aware that it’s easier than dealing with the root cause. I’ve been overloaded in my job for years and the root cause is simple– my boss never says no to people. We tried various feel-good exercises over the years and I finally convinced her to go over my projects and rate the necessity of each to see if we could eliminate some of them. We never finished the exercise because I think she realized halfway through that she might have to make hard decisions.

      So I’m looking forward to the next time I’m asked to examine whether my feelings might be impacting my work!

  32. The One and Only Me*

    So much of this letter is infuriating but the part where the managers move the emoji to a neutral emotion because they don’t think the person’s reason is valid?!?!?! OH HELL NO! As I get older I find that I am less afraid to speak up and that right there would have me asking, out loud and in front of everyone, “Are you telling me that my feelings aren’t valid or are wrong because you aren’t feeling that way as well?”

    1. Quill*

      Right? “I could make you as irritated as me but I feel like that would be an even bigger waste of time than this chart.”

    2. Jadelyn*

      YES. My jaw had been slowly dropping and my eyes widening throughout the post, but then I got to that and like. Cartoon-bugged-out-eyes, jaw on the floor, I actually think I physically winced.

      Bad enough treating your employees like kindergarteners who can’t articulate their needs and need smiley faces to help, but to then insist that people have to freaking JUSTIFY their emotions, and THEN ALSO force people to change their stated emotional state because they don’t think the person justified it well enough???

      Maybe I’m twitchy, because I’ve got some personal history with an abuser who was adept at convincing me that my emotions were wrong and making me feel guilty about having the “wrong emotions”, but that is just. Unbelievably NOT OKAY.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        It seems abusive to me too. Verbally and emotionally abusive father and oblivious selfish mother. Neither ever took my feelings seriously. Lifetime of PTS.

  33. Quackeen*

    Hmmm. In my last job, we had a virtual meeting every week and part of the board was a space dedicated to placing an emoji next to your name. The ones we had to choose from varied widely from the typical happy/sad/neutral to silly ones like the emoji for our local sports team or the emoji guy with sunglasses on (typically used when people were on vacation).

    The differences I see between the OP’s situation and Old Job are one, that no one was forced to participate at my old job and two, my manager and the rest of the team genuinely cared how people were doing. It’s batshit crazy to force participation and to further add insult to injury by moving the employees’ emojis if they can’t rationalize negative feelings to the satisfaction of the manager. Why even offer the opportunity to move your own name sticker if the manager is going to override it?

    This is so many shades of wrong and an insult to clever emojis everywhere.

  34. Indie*

    If the (highly reasonable) push back to chuck it out entirely doesn’t work, I’d consider making a ‘translation’ chart for myself to ensure I’m using the chart to communicate my work status, not my personal. So Happy = on top of schedule and about to make deadline and Stressed = unforeseen hitch we need a solution for.

    Angry is a really funny one because you don’t want that feeling connected to you at work, so I wouldn’t be able to resist putting on my confused face and asking someone in the meeting what sort of disastrous work event would legitimately belong in this category and have they personally ever felt anything akin to appropriate-for-meeting-discussion work-context anger so that you can use the label correctly in similar red-alert situations. If they just say ‘Oh it just means extra-stressed’ (because it’s about identifying work load supposedly?) suggest relabeling it (and all of the others).
    But prioritise your job search, because it is indeed totally batshit.

    1. Bea*

      I’ve been angry at work. But I have to collect past due accounts and I’m donezo with being ignored and brushed off. No money to pay your bills, eh. Good thing there’s money to pay you to answer the phone and give me the run around though.

      So yeah. Angry happens. Or when the insurance agent is a lackadaisical turd who can’t tell me until the day they need a check or our policy will cancel…when I’ve been asking for weeks about where our bill is to avoid this.

      1. Indie*

        That sounds more like ‘frustrated because of roadblocks that shouldn’t be happening’ than the personal out-of-control feeling anger could be more commonly associated with and is definitely a type of discussion appropriate for meetings.

        But I still wouldn’t want to tab myself in the ‘Angry at work’ column without them spelling out the kinds of examples they were looking for.

        Even then I’d take down the definition in shorthand, date it, add an explanatory label to ‘Angry’ and then still not use it.

        1. Bea*

          So you’re like the people the OP is dealing with and telling me how I feel. Cool.

          No. I’m well in tune with my emotions. I don’t have my heart rate spike when I’m frustrated. I don’t get flushed and have to consciously regulate my voice. I’m far above frustrated, I’m mad as hell, also known as angry.

          1. Indie*

            No, I read you loud and clear; I get angry at work in those situations too! My point was about how *I* would phrase that out loud due to how the word anger can be perceived. My complete apologies. Because I wasnt clear I spoke on your behalf instead of my own.

  35. Laura in NJ*

    Can I make a “F*CK YOU!” sticker? Because that’s what I’d be feeling if my manager ever tried to pull that stunt.

    1. Hekko*

      My first unfiltered reponse to:

      “Sometimes people who have indicated that they are stressed or angry are asked to explain to everyone in the meeting what’s making them feel that way.”

      was, “This F*CKING chart does it!” I’d be tempted to say that out loud, too.

  36. Rebecca*

    This is seriously messed up.

    If I were forced into this nonsense, I’d just leave up the Happy Sticker all the time, fake smile, say “Oh, who has a case of the Mondays?” that type of thing…and just job hunt. Just when I think I’ve seen everything…

  37. SarahKay*

    I would want to put my sticker permanently in Angry. When asked why: “Because this chart makes me angry!”

  38. Aphrodite*

    I cannot tell you how creepy this makes me feel, even just reading it. I would, without hesitation, put my job on the line by flat out refusing to do this before I’d ever considering doing it.

  39. Polaris*

    As a person with mental health issues, this is horrifying and basically guaranteed to exacerbate them, particularly anxiety sufferers.

      1. LadyPhoenix*

        Do the Japanese emoji’s count? Cause some days I am Kyubey, other days I’m kawaii desu, and sometimes I am flipping the table.

      2. MechanicalPencil*

        Oh I like that. I’m basically perpetually cold in the office, so this is basically me. Or a coffee mug.

  40. Johan*

    I think it’s being used as metrics for measuring the performance of managers and supervisors. There are several clues this is the case: The person leading the meeting sometimes moving the names to a neutral or positive emoji when someone can’t give a good enough reason for it to be a negative “score/rating”; nobody is really being assisted, as was one of the stated goals — but they all feel pressure to make the score/rating/emoji positive (suggesting the thing is not meant for the workers but to rate the managers/supervisors and the happiness of their staff); and it’s being enforced, with everyone required to participate.

    1. ShwaMan*

      Interesting thought, but if this were the case, wouldn’t it at least make sense to gather a response individually / privately / by email instead of getting everyone to bare their feelings in front of their coworkers?

    2. Mockingjay*

      We have biweekly team meetings. At the conclusion, we have to rate the meeting between 1 and 10. Anything below 6.5 has to be justified. The results are averaged to provide an indicator of meeting success. But it is all work-related and our supervisor keeps it focused on our tasks.

      It works pretty well. Initially, everyone was hesitant and gave high ratings. After a few meetings, we opened up and rated honestly. “I give it a 5, because we didn’t resolve the problem.”

      Nowhere do feelings come into that metric.

    3. OP*

      I don’t know that it’s an official metric, but I have wondered if it’s part performance for people visiting from other teams or further up the hierarchy

  41. Persimmons*

    This is going to sound cynical, but as my age increases and my GAFs decrease, I increasingly find it to be true.

    The reason this is stressful for you and for your colleagues is because you feel compelled to be honest. I suggest reconsidering that stance, in this instance and in general.

    I put my best effort into doing my job carefully and efficiently while being a “good citizen” of my company. That does not mean that I do anything more than go through the motions when middle management comes up with yet another trap door for the deus ex machina of Demonstrating Their Worth.

    1. Queen of Cans and Jars*

      Especially since they WANT everyone to be happy. Easy enough, I’m always happy. If they wanted me to be sad, I’d come up with some minor thing to be sad about. Dumb as hell, and I would be sending out resumes left and right, but I’ll play the game.

    2. LilySparrow*

      Exactly. Just because someone asks a question, doesn’t obligate you to give a substantive answer, much less a deeply honest one.

    3. Bea*

      Among all our jokes and snarkiness, this is actually a great comment.

      I feel like this is a “new to work” problem because you want to take everything serious and respond truthfully etc. I’m too old and used to “how are you” being a filler question. Even if my family had all just fell into a pit of zombies, my response is “I’m fine.” if you’re not part of my circle of trust who actually cares.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yeah, I think I read in an old Miss Manners column that “How are you?” is a greeting, not a question. Treat it as such.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I think you’re exactly right. You certainly don’t owe emotional honesty to your bosses, even the best bosses, never mind these crazy-pants people!

      Today I am smiling because my deadlines are under control.

      Today I am smiling less because something is running behind.

      The end.

    5. LQ*

      Totally agree. Zero honesty about your personal, private, emotional state is owed to your job. (And screw any authentic self nonsense.) If you really need to participate the way to do this is assume that whatever private emotional state you hold is neutral. Adjust for work based on that. Won’t be able to meet deadline, minus. On track, plus. Else, neutral.

      It’s really hard to not bring that all of you to work, but you are not required to share it, and if someone tries to get you to? Lie. Lie because they don’t deserve the truth. They are not paying you enough for the truth.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Look, literally the only way I could cope with my soul-destroying retail job was to frame it to myself as “taking off my Self” when I walked in the door. From the moment I walked into the store, to the moment I left, I was not Jadelyn, the introverted writer/artist/witch/scifi nerd/etc. – I was playing the part of a corporate spokesperson who happened to share a name with that person. It helped me distance myself from the games and bullsh*t so I didn’t feel like I had to really engage or take anything personally. When I left, I left that persona behind (and its associated stresses) and went back to being myself.

        You’re not obligated to be your authentic self to everyone who asks you to. Nobody is entitled to access to your authentic self. My employer is paying me to do a job. They are not paying me for Being Myself. So if I want to keep Myself out of work and give them only the job-performing worker they hired, that’s my prerogative.

        So in this case, if “perform a specific type of emotional state” has been added to your job description, there’s nothing wrong or inauthentic about performing that emotional state as part of your work persona. An employer who has the unmitigated gall to pull this kind of BS does not deserve your emotional investment or authentic self, so don’t feel bad about giving them what they want, including lying through your teeth if you have to, until you can get out.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        My first few jobs made it very clear that being my “authentic self” would get me fired.
        This was in the 1980’s.

    6. Adaline B.*

      Agree completely. Yea it’s irritating, but if they want neutral/happy, just give it to them.

      I have been adopting the personal motto of “Do I care enough to make this the hill to die on?” Obviously doesn’t always work but it makes it easier to roll my eyes, put my sticker next to what they want and move on. Especially if they don’t actually make an effort to make changes if someone chooses a negative emotion.

      At least they are *clearly* showing you this isn’t a place you want to be long-term!

      Good luck OP! :)

    7. Undine*

      It was a big revelation to me when I realized that some things are just “employment theater”. And you do them.

  42. LadyPhoenix*

    You bet I would put mine under “Angry”, and when pronpted as to why, I would go “polite” Hulk on them:
    “This idea is grossly violating and infantizing. I should not have to spend part of a meeting explaining why on one day, I am suddenly absolutely upset or angry—like I am roght this instant. This is not kindergarten, we are adults. Start treating us like them and give us to common courtesy and privacy to express our emotions instead of forcing us to the front like this is the first day of school. I will no longer participate in your immature attempt to feelings dump in the middle of a budiness meeting.”

  43. Myrin*

    Dangnabbit, I feel like that one time when I was a teenager when we were discussing party games and one game in particular came up where the group gets asked a question and everyone has like, marbles or something in two colours, and depending on whether your answer to the question is “yes” or “no”, you put one colour marble in a bowl vs. the other colour; all secret, of course, and the point of the game is actually to guess beforehand how many yes-marbles vs. no-marbles are going to be in the bowl, so it’s not like anyone gets actively outed or anything.

    However, I’ll never forget my friend claiming in all earnesty that “that way, everyone will 100% be honest because it’s all totally anonymous!!”. I mean, I was only eighteen or so at the time but the naïvité astounded me even then; I can guarantee you that there were a lot of questions in this game I 100% wouldn’t have answered honestly, and while I’m certain there are people who aren’t like that, there surely are enough who are exactly like that, too.

    Granted, the smiley thing in this case is the opposite of anonymous but I’m getting the same vibes I got from my friend ten years ago (if OP’s company is being genuine in wanting to do this; it’s also possible that they just want this nice little chart so that they’re able to point at it whenever and claim how well they’re looking out for their employees).

    1. LadyPhoenix*

      That reminds me a J-drama that did that game—except it gambling and you were supposed to control the group. Oh, and the majority LOSES.

      For example, tontest the group, they did a simple, “I am a woman.” There were less women so you might think, “Easy, women are the majority.” Except everyone thought it too, and they said yes… meaning that women became the majority in that test.

      Like I said, it was about controlling and outlasting the group—NOT about honesty.

      Fun show… should rewatch it.

  44. Workerbee*

    It’s like the social media version of feelings, where people feel entitled to demanding arbitrary “proof” of your position/opinion/feeling, only the goalposts always keep moving.

  45. Bigglesworth*

    What about combining Alison’s suggestion with actually using the chart. For example, a large group at your workplace is ticked about the emotions chart. As a result, everyone has the angry emotion. When the person leading the meeting asks each person why, you all say, “It makes me angry when we use a system that is not conducive to our success in the workplace and that only works for small children who have trouble expressing emotions.” Repeat ad naseum as each “angry person” is asked the same question.

    This is a fun idea in my head, but I doubt it would work like I envision it in real life.

  46. reorg survivor*

    I just went through a layoff at a company that has always made a very big deal about “caring” about our feelings. We never had feelings charts, but there was a sham cultural committee that had a large budget for “morale boosters.” Now that I am one of many people laid off after a very poorly administrated reorg that dragged on for more than six months–I find myself most resentful of the pretense that our feelings ever had to do with anything. I really think corporations should focus on performance, compensation and providing the best work/life balance they can, without getting into this indulgent psycho-babble.

  47. ShwaMan*

    Holy crap, this is something else. Is your boss Michael Scott?

    I would have no issue telling my boss privately, that I would not be participating. If they said “Do it or your fired” or somesuch, I would pick whatever the happiest sticker is every day – while scowling at everyone.

    1. periwinkle*

      I would have suspected Pamela Winchell was behind this little initiative.

      We badly need an update on this letter and the one Alison linked about the other mandatory feeeeeeeeelings discussions. My org has pulse surveys on how we’re feeling about how things are going, but it’s optional and not the invasive WTFery of this garbage.

  48. a username*

    How big is the sticker chart, where is it located, what is the rhythm of your workplace, and are there any cameras?

    Because I would 100% come in on an off hour and steal the damned thing, and throw it out far, far away from work.

  49. Kat the Russian*

    It’s funny (“Funny” in air quotes, of course) – it could be that this started out as a misguided attempt at copying something that we have in our office:

    We have a “weather chart” on our office wall – with sunny, cloudy, rainy, stormy areas (I drew the chart, the storm clouds are very stormy-looking). Every member of my team has a post-it that they are supposed to update. However. Several things are crucial in the implementation for this to be a good/productive idea.
    One : you’re supposed to indicate where you’re at WITH YOUR WORK, not general emotions (ex: I’m struggling with this report for more than an afternoon, I’ll update my weather to ‘cloudy’)
    Two : if your weather is ‘negative’, our manager follows up ONE ON ONE with us (not in group meetings!!!) and QUICKLY (not a week later!).

    It’s been working out for us, and I say this as someone who has significant mental health challenges sometimes. It’s important to dissasociate your feelings about work from your feelings about yourself. In fact, it’s not even ‘feelings’ – it’s weather! Conditions outside your control! That helps a lot.

    I’m really sorry for the inept way your office is handling it, that’s just awful.

  50. AKchic*

    This would be my hill to die on. I would totally be the vocal one to stand up against this. Here’s my Braveheart moment. Let me whip out my totally off-the-cuff, (probably) stolen, half-assed, (possibly) plagiarized speech.

    This ain’t sharing circle. We aren’t in preschool, and this isn’t a group therapy session. Save it for your meeting, Todd and Carole. My feelings are my own to manage and if they are affecting my work, I’ll tell you. If *you* think my feelings are affecting my work, you put your big-kid undies on and tell me. Don’t infantilize everyone. Don’t be condescending half-assed, unlicensed therapists that gaslight everyone when they don’t explain their emotions to a group of people they Don’t. Want. To. Share. Them. With. to your satisfaction (talk about manipulation!) and then act like smarmy, self-satisfied twunts and change their emotion charts to something positive because they haven’t explained their emotions to *you* in public adequately (as if you are the judge and jury of another person’s feelings).

    And where on Earth is HR in all of this?! This is something HR should be shutting down immediately.

    LW, if this were me, I’d outright challenge the facilitators of this charade in the meetings. “Are you a licensed mental health clinician? A therapist, psychologist, psychotherapist or anything? Are you licensed or in any way certified to practice mental health in this state? Are you being *paid* to run a therapy group on company time? When did we start needing therapy as a part of our employment?”
    Now, I don’t know if you’re in the position to be able to do this. I don’t know if you would want to risk that kind of open challenge, or if you are even in a personal position to do anything like it. I just know the kind of person *I* am. This is something I wouldn’t participate in, and I am sorry you are put in the position you are.

    1. Anon From Here*

      Same here. I’d absolutely put my foot down when my turn comes around and Bartleby myself right the f— out of this nonsense.

      I know my comment sounds like “Internet Tough Guy,” but seriously. I’d find a way to keep the profanities to myself, but there’s no way I’m going to participate in some quasi-therapy session in a work meeting.

      1. AKchic*

        All I can think of is the Dogma scene where they are at the Mooby headquarters… “and you didn’t say G#d Bless You” (I know, wrong character, but it was still funny).

  51. Noah*

    “Sometimes people who have indicated that they are stressed or angry are asked to explain to everyone in the meeting what’s making them feel that way.”

    —> “I’m stressed and angry because I have to use this emoji chart then defend and justify my feelings in a meeting.”

  52. I am an owl*

    It’s not that they can’t articulate their emotions, it’s that they can’t articulate them in a way that won’t get them in hot water.

  53. LilySparrow*

    I would just be “fine” all the time, unless I had a work-related accomplishment to be happy about.

    Why would you ever think you had to give a personally revealing answer?

    If I’m capable of being at work, I’m fine for work purposes. If I have a problem with someone/something at work, expressing anger is not helpful or appropriate. You address the problem, not your feelings about the problem.

    I have feelings, lots of them! Intensely! Some of them are about work or the people there.

    But that doesn’t make them anyone else’s business. If I went around expressing all my feelings at work, I’d be unemployable.

  54. rubyrose*

    Any management stupid enough to implement this is probably also lacking in other crucial areas. Time for another job.

  55. SheLooksFamiliar*

    ‘I am increasingly convinced that a huge portion of the problems in modern workplaces are caused by managers who don’t understand what they’re there to get done, and instead have an amorphous idea that they’re some combination of parent/doctor/therapist/martinet/king.’

    Thank you, Alison, I’ve been saying/thinking this for years. I interview candidates for leadership and executive roles to assess their leadership and also their management styles. I’ve heard some truly frightening philosophies and just plain stupid tactics. Maybe people mean well, maybe they got bad advice and didn’t know better, maybe they want to ‘think outside the box’, whatever. Seriously, a lot of managers do the dumbest things in the name of team development and ruin their teams in the process.

  56. Stuff*

    I would put ‘irritated’ every single day. When asked why I would say irritated at this ridiculous exercise. Never vary the answer – not once.

  57. Nicki Name*

    OMG, I ran into this at a past job except it was a webapp. If we didn’t enter our emoji in the morning it would tell on us to the manager. It also promised managers it could help “nudge” their reports into feeling better.

    (Things that would actually have made most of us feel better: saying out loud that the team was seriously dysfunctional rather than trying to paper it over, switching to a technical lead who was any good at technical leading, giving us some idea of a long-term goal to aim for rather than an endless grind of firefighting, going back to industry best practices rather than abandoning them one by one, etc.)

    My attempts to explain how this was creepy and invasive were met by polite confusion and probably were a factor in me being picked for layoffs shortly afterward. Can’t complain about that part, though– I landed at a much better job, so paying me to leave was the best thing that manager ever did for me.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      that means They (the Company) spent a lot of money on that! Money that could’ve gone to employees, or to learning GOOD MANAGEMENT PRACTICES!

  58. Anon for this one*

    I had a teacher who used to have us sign in with our feelings every morning on the classroom bulletin board. My classmate refused to participate for the same reasons the OP has here (this was sixth grade, and we were too old for this kind of thing). He didn’t realize that our teacher was really doing this for attendance purposes until his parents were called in for a meeting with the principal because he had been marked absent every day!

    1. Bea*

      I would rip the administration into verbal shreds if they did this to my kid. Do your job and take attendance appropriately and not under some guise. That’s why teachers aren’t taken seriously or paid properly, these cutesy tricks.

    2. Observer*

      Wait! No one noticed that the chart didn’t match reality?! The TEACHER didn’t realize that the kid was actually in class?!?!

      That’s even worse than the stupid chart!

      1. Anon 12:19*

        Looking back, I can’t believe she failed to notice that the kid who she had marked absent umpteen days in a row was in her class every day!

        Another classmate is now a teacher himself, and recently commented to me that he remembered our sixth grade teacher infantilizing us with the “sign in with your feelings” gimmick. I think she was just in the wrong job, and would have been much more suited to teaching first or second graders than middle schoolers.

  59. Friday*

    Hahahahahaaaa! OMG…. omg my kid’s first-grade class rolled this exact same thing out this week. And even as she was telling us about it last night I thought wow, this could be a bit invasive!

  60. Iain C*

    Let’s just hope the management have not see this:
    “The colony is empty except for millions of nanobots called the Vardy that maintain it, along with robotic avatars that interact with the pair via emoji. The robots give the Doctor and Bill badges which report their emotions also through emoji—seemingly the only way to communicate with the Vardy.”

  61. knitcrazybooknut*

    OP, if you can’t push back, (and I can imagine that any office where THIS is their idea of “communication” might be a little – restrictive? dictatorial? oppressive?), please consider the following:

    1. Always choose happy or neutral. Flip a coin each day to decide.
    2. Make up circumstances from popular movies/books to use as reasons you’ve chosen that emotion. “Well, I lost my dog and had to take a journey through the woods and fields of flowers to find him.” “A friend of mine just got married, and they have a blended family of three boys and three girls. I was babysitting and it was so fun!” (Your call on how obvious you make these.)
    3. Use a neutral expression and deadpan tone of voice. “I’m ecstatic.” Channel Daria. Watch lots of Daria to practice or just because.
    4. Use the mental image of wearing a lab coat and carrying a clipboard to get through all this. You are watching the strange behaviors of an alien race.

    Also, just take care of yourself. This is ridiculous; there is no reason for it to be happening that makes any sense or is productive in any way. Good luck.

    1. AKchic*

      I think a mash-up of 3 and 2 would be wonderful. In Daria’s voice, give a synopsis of different tv shows/movies every time.

      “Dad’s on a hunting trip and hasn’t been home in a while. Now my brother and I have to go get him after work.”
      “I recently found out about my ancestral heritage from a very hairy animal lover on a motorcycle. He brought me cake.”
      “I’m going to Camp Crystal Lake this weekend. Should be swell.”

    2. Jaded*

      I have an invisible United Nations Special Observer hat which I put on in situations where I’m already composing the report to the Strange Human Behaviour Committee in my head. :-)

  62. Juli G.*

    Younger me without a family to support would explain my negative sticker by saying “I feel angry because you made me do this.”

  63. animaniactoo*

    My sticker would be on Angry every single day. “I’m angry that I had to start the day by putting a sticker on the chart to explain how I feel about work today. It pisses me off. If you want to know the things that I feel would improve work for me, ASK ME WHAT I FEEL WOULD IMPROVE WORK FOR ME. And then take me seriously and try to make THAT happen. Do not make me come in here and announce my feelings to the world. That does not help improve my morale. It actively decreases it. Simply because it it is such an ineffective way to address morale issues that it feels like you are not taking me seriously. At all.”

    1. Windchime*

      Yes. I’m surprised that they’re not having to use a tiny chalkboard that’s hung with a tiny jute ribbon.

  64. pleaset*

    I started saying things like that as I got older and felt more secure in my work. I don’t think I’ve used the word “angry” but have said and written “annoyed,” “demoralized” and “upset.”

  65. Sarah*

    They do it at my work! Its awful. The job is hard enough withouth this awkward stuff and I always just lie no matter how I’m feeling.

  66. only acting normal*

    We have something very similar where I work!

    Not a display, but a 1-10 scale (illustrated with emojis) which we are supposed to submit our score against.

    I started out being honest, but my managers got all angsty when I put a 5 (“but why so low, Only?!?!” “Errr because I’m chronically depressed? 5 is an ordinary day for me.”) So I opted out.

    Now they congratulate themselves that our section has the highest average score… yah, maybe because us low voters are either lying or not voting for fear of interrogation.

    At least ours isn’t public or daily or compulsory. :-/

  67. Jennifer Juniper*

    I would be terrified of punishment for being anything but completely positive and engaged 24/7/365. And then I would try to make sure I was always saying stuff like, “I am so happy the customer provided me feedback because that gives me the opportunity to modify my behavior to increase customer satisfaction and optimize our bottom line in accordance with our mission statement” when what I really meant was “The customer yelled at me and called me a C*** and a w***e for not giving him his ten overdraft fees back.” I would always make sure I supported the feelings chart wholeheartedly and repeatedly while smiling all the time.

    Of course, that would probably scare my coworkers. But at least I would still have my job. Or they would carry me out in a butterfly net.

  68. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    And this part takes the situation from ridiculous to truly over the top: “On a few occasions the person running the meeting has moved someone’s sticker into a neutral or positive emotion box when they couldn’t articulate a clear enough reason for a negative one.” Haha! You will be ordered to be happy unless you catalogue in detail for them and to a point they deem sufficient why you feel otherwise.

    I hope this doesn’t take me too far into speculation-land, but this screams to me that at some point someone said “fix morale” and so now they are attempting to prove that morale is fine. It’s good! See? They can’t even say why they aren’t happy, so they must be happy!

  69. A*

    There was a magnet version of this 10 years ago that my irrationally angry/yelling, emotionally stunted, abusive boss handed out to us at a team meeting. She was enthusiastic about people posting these outside our cubes and updating them. I don’t know what hers would say–crazy or furious/raging?

    No one did it.

    She also had a meeting the next year when our “anonymous” Fortune 500 company morale survey showed her as having an unengaged team. Yes, she took us to task and yelled at us for our anonymous responses.

    Good times.

  70. EssayBee*

    How is this different than if you had to put your weight and blood pressure on a bulletin board every day? Isn’t this private health information?

    1. Jadelyn*

      Eh, “mood” is nebulous enough that I don’t think it qualifies as private health information. Mood *can* be linked to health, of course – me and my 3 mental illnesses definitely get that – but it’s not inherently linked, in that neurotypical people can have any range of emotion, so just being made to say how you feel isn’t inherently health information.

  71. Adereterial*

    A previous employer used to do something similar (although we were allowed to pick our own, and it was electronic so they could move). I generally just left up a generically content emoji but would occasionally switch it up to something slightly subversive – the green/ill/hungover emoji the day after the work Christmas party, one with a Santa hat at Christmas, one wearing Easter bunny ears the day before Good Friday, a £ sign on payday, a bouncy one the day before I went on leave, that sort of thing. It annoyed me initially but I decided this wasn’t either my hill to die on or something worth wasting emotional energy on. No one ever asked about the generic one and if it was unusual people either followed suit or I could explain it simply with minimum of fuss.

  72. Wherehouse Politics*

    Use one and only one emoji every time. Big Purple Eggplant. If asked to elaborate on it- Just say you’re feeling Big Eggplant Energy. Then give the hint of a smile before switching back to a deadpan expression. Never explain further, but do bring and offer to share a sack of popcorn for the HR meeting that devolves from this absurdity.

  73. CaribouInIgloo*

    If it were me, I’d put “angry” and “stressed” all the damned time, and when I’m asked to talk about it in MEETINGS, I’d just get extremely detailed and personal. Like, “I’m stressed today because I’ve been constipated for the past week, and it’s distracting me from doing my work,” or “I’m angry because my tampon wasn’t inserted properly and it’s annoying and distracting me.”
    Ask stupid questions, get stupid answers.

  74. Barney Stinson*

    I agree that this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of, especially if they’re not going to address it when someone actually tells them how they feel.

    And have they noted that you could be really happy and don’t care that you’re not getting your work done? And have they noted that getting your work done (or not) is the only thing that matters when you’re at work, when they get down to it, not how you feel when you’re doing it?

    My advice:
    Just lie. Everything is great. Sticker sez HAPPY.
    Find a different place to work, because this is a sign of ridiculousness.

  75. Catsonakeyboard*

    We used to have something similar but far more practical – our team had rating cards outside our seating area/by our nameplates where we could rate at any moment how headsdown/busy we were … Green meant we could be interrupted/happy to brainstorm, Yellow meant we could be interrupted with quick/easy questions, Orange meant it better be urgent and Red meant the building pretty much needed to be on fire.

    But it wasn’t some nonsense about how we were FEELING, even though if you were Red, it usually meant you were pretty stressed/overwhelmed, we tended to be a green/yellow team overall.

  76. Anonymosity*

    Is there a sticker for “batshit insane”? Because I’d like you make one of those and put it on the feelings chart next to your manager’s name.

    Halloween is coming up. Should be easy to find a bat sticker to put next to the manager’s name.

    I’m a horrible person. :)

  77. Student*

    This is a really stupid thing. But it’s also a really easily-managed thing. Most of your co-workers have figured out the game – just put the sticker on happy like they want you to.

    Instead of thinking of this as a an emotions chat, as they describe it, think of it as a publicly visible vote on how your boss is doing. That is probably closer to what this chart is to the managers. Since your vote is visible to everyone, including your manager, the best thing for you to do for your own career is vote “happy” so your manager sees you supporting her against this ridiculous sticker chart performance gauge. If you want to give your manager real feedback on morale, do it one-on-one like a sane normal person instead of via the sham public vote they’ve set up.

  78. T*

    What an utter waste of time. I really can’t think of a quicker way to piss off your employees by infantilizing them with emoticon stickers. For some reason this makes me think of Office Space when Jennifer Aniston got reprimanded for not having enough “flair”.

    1. Bea*

      Now you know, it’s up to you whether or not you just do the bare minimum. Or like Brian for example has thirty seven pieces of flair.

  79. Laurelma__01!*

    I have nothing constructive to say. But are we in kindergarten? My emotions are private? What in the world do they expect to achieve with this? The act of playing with the stickers would put me in a sour mood, treating me like a kid.

  80. mcr-red*

    I think my friend who is a manager’s head was about to explode when I read this to her. “Who the F- thought that up?! That’s not how you fix morale! No wonder they have bad morale!”

    I’m generally a not-confrontational person, but there are things that I will just NOT budge on. And I would be angry emoji every day. And then when they ask why, I would say I don’t like being treated like a child at my workplace. And then they would move it to neutral. And I would make them do this every single day. Go ahead and fire me for having an angry face emoji on a workplace feelings chart.

  81. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    Any chance you work for Scientologists?

    When I worked for the bedsheet-selling Scientologists, they had charts like this but with many, many more choices. I was always so tempted to add a category….”Stabby”. “Destroyer, why are you feeling Stabby today?” “Because having to tell you my feelings twice a day makes me want to stab you in the eye.” I’m not at work to discuss my feelings, and unless you’re swearing at me and calling me names while you fire me, I’m going to maintain an even keel. (If you swear at me and call me names while you’re firing me for being a whistleblower, I will not be able to resist laughing my ass off at you, however. Just a Protip….)

    We had a chart where we were supposed to compare our feelings about our current weeks’ performance to last weeks’ performance. “I’m feeling conflicted about that…..”. And then we had to analyze why our performance was better or worse than the week before. I was in customer service. My metrics were based on customers calling or emailing us. If they aren’t calling or emailing, my performance would be worse.

    God I hated that job. In three months, I had three people call, pissed off because we didn’t send them instructions. For a bed sheet set. I wanted to ask them if they were raised by wolves in a barn. Ultimately, I referred them to YouTube.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’d have been so tempted to write instructions on how to use them to build a tent or protect your garage floor while doing an oil change or something….

  82. LQ*

    It sounds like a really poorly implemented status update. The letter does say that the feelings are supposed to be about work, not feelings in general. Feelings about work in a workplace are really work status. If you don’t want to die on this hill (if you do there’s a lot of examples of how to do that here) then I’d suggest changing this to “Status” to make it clearer what they are looking for. It would help people who are having trouble articulating why they are in the “negative” categories if they were expected not to talk about how they “feel” today, but to talk about what their work status was. You could bring this up at a meeting, you could even be light about it, “I feel cranky because I didn’t get coffee before I left, but my workload is manageable/project status is on track/there’s a problem we can’t get past and need some help on.” Or directly “Feeling is a weird/inappropriate/not a thing to talk about at work, I’m just going to address my project status.”

    You could have a manager who is really feelings oriented and doesn’t like the concreteness/coldness of status and wants to have a “warmer” way to manage staff. Pushing back on the feelings part but addressing the work part of it might help at least create space for your coworkers to do the same.

  83. Evan G Grantham-Brown*

    …Wow. Just, wow.

    The thing where they *move your sticker* if you can’t give a good reason for being unhappy is… I’m generally a pretty relaxed guy, but that would make me see red. To force you to explain how you’re feeling, and then tell you that you don’t really feel that way, is just insanely offensive.

  84. El Esteban*

    One of the things I learned from my therapist is that negative feelings are not bad. Our society (at least here in the US) puts a huge emphasis on being happy-happy-happy all the time, but feeling a range of emotions is the key to good mental health. That’s why management making employees justify their bad moods is so off-putting.

  85. anonners*

    If you need a system like this to manage employee morale, then you probably don’t have the emotional intelligence needed to be an effective leader. We don’t have to keep promoting people who don’t get people.

  86. Serin*

    We have something similar that we fill out online — it’s a weekly survey with only one question, which is basically “which of these five smiley faces represents how you feel about your job today?”

    What saves this from being as annoying as the letter is:

    – it’s online, so we’re not all looking at each other’s smiley faces
    – we can add freeform comments explaining our entry
    – it specifically asks how we feel ABOUT OUR JOBS.

    If I’ve got a frownie face five days in a row because I’m waiting for my telephone headset to be replaced and it’s annoying, that’s my boss’s legitimate concern. As opposed to a frownie face five days in a row because my next-door neighbor keeps parking in my driveway or my kid is flunking algebra, which is (a phrase the OP’s company might not recognize) none of their business.

  87. Cheesecake 2.0*

    Ahahahaha – my husband would love this, only because he’s diagnosed with depression, autism spectrum disorder, and alexithymia. He would go to HR so fast and get disability advocates involved and make a big stink.

  88. Canadian Natasha*

    We just got a new messaging system at work that includes the animated facepalm, banging head against brick wall, and swearing emojis. Perhaps you could find the sticker versions and surreptitiously add them to all the charts? Using superglue of course.

    Sorry your workplace sucks so badly & hope you find something better or get new management soon!

  89. A.N. O'Nyme*

    …If there are no cameras around frankly I would be tempted to just sneak in and toss that thing in the trash.
    Alternatively, make a “wondering if I accidentally walked into kindergarten” poster and put your name on that.
    That’s all I got and I doubt this is going to help you, but at least it was sort off cathartic to write.

  90. Esme Squalor*

    LW, could you please, please leave an anonymous Glass Door review about this practice on your employer’s page so I never accidentally end up working for this company?

  91. Finance PA*

    I mean, the whole thing is downright bizarre, but changing the sticker to a more positive one because they weren’t satisfied with the reasoning? I think I’d immediately change my sticker to angry at that point and give them a detailed explanation of why them invalidating my feelings makes me angry…

  92. Barefoot Librarian*

    God lord, reading this made me see red. I have a soggy fuse but I think I’d have marched right up to the person leading the meeting, stared uncomfortably into their eyes, and eaten the sticker the first time they informed me I had to elaborate in detail on my feelings in front of my coworkers and bosses. Discussion of my feelings don’t belong in a work meeting and the idea actually physically repulses me.

    OP: you are a saint for putting up with this invasive nonsense as long as you have.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      I actually have no idea what this situation made me so livid lol. Thank goodness on AAM I’m just allowed to have feelings without having to justify to anyone that they are valid.

  93. London Calling*

    This reminds me of a senior exec’s suggestion at the beginning of the year that the department have a ‘happiness index.’ Each person would say what makes them happy to work for the company and the department. That seems to have been treated with the contempt it deserved because no more has been heard.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      So my train of thought was:
      That could actually help. Get everyone to focus on things they like about the job, moods will improve.
      Wait, don’t I already do that? I remind myself of good things to keep my mood up at work.
      I think my colleagues do to.
      So maybe this is a basic adult skill that should be expected, and employers don’t need to hold employees’ hands on this?

    1. Annie Moose*

      YES, this reminds me very much of the Cheerful Fairy from Discworld, described as looking like an elementary school teacher who isn’t very good at her job. But she tried so hard to make everybody cheerful!!

  94. Mockingdragon*

    Yeeeesh….No advice but sympathies. This story is only semi related but I’m still getting over all the stories from my old job…

    My old office added a Goal Chart to our lives just before it started getting really toxic. We were each to list one work goal we’d achieved, one work goal we wanted to achieve in the coming month, and one personal goal.

    This was framed as mandatory, but was sort of optional? You couldn’t get in trouble for not doing it, but you would be harassed until you did. At first, this was framed as “we want to reward people for meeting goals so we’ll give rewards based on how you all do!” When I went to one of the co-managers to express how absolutely anxiety-inducing I found it to think that if I didn’t meet a PERSONAL goal out of work, nobody else could get a pizza party (or whatever), her answer was that actually they were just planning to give out rewards whenever and no one was going to be able to hold the others back. I was also advised to put in something that doesn’t matter to me in the slightest if my actual goals weren’t something I wanted to broadcast. So….pointless all around.

    Ultimately all the Goal Chart did was breed resentment from the people who didn’t want to waste their time coming up with goals they didn’t mind the entire department seeing, and seeing whether they met or not. Every month at a department meeting we’d be asked who wants to volunteer to talk about their goals, which would be met with awkward silence until one or two people said one or two lines. I don’t know that anyone was helped by it, but a bunch of us eventually confided in each other how much we hated it.

    1. Argh!*

      This is exactly how you destroy esprit d’corps! Make everything individual! Ditto for merit raises and bonuses. Who’s going to cooperate on a project if that would mean sharing the credit or getting a smaller raise?

  95. Argh!*

    My mood fluctuates throughout the day, depending on which person I deal with at a particular time. If you hate your boss, is it okay to run to the board right away after your 1:1 to move your sticker to the angry emoji?

    And what if you have mixed feelings? What if you feel hopeful about a project but you’re depressed because your dog died? Can you cut your sticker in half and post the halves in two places?

  96. Armchair Analyst*

    Google, define “martinet”…. ah, yes, Alison, I agree with you!

    I think I kept misreading this word as “marionette” as though it was “puppeteer”… but obviously marionette and puppeteer are, like, opposites, and “martinet” is neither!

  97. Lucille2*

    I don’t think I would be able to resist doing something to make a total mockery of this system. It’s like when my HS track coach started a swearing jar in an effort to bring some respectability into the team. The level of swearing on the team actually increased in defiance, and conveniently, no one ever had a dollar to put into the swearing jar. This was back in the day when people actually paid for things with cash.

    Find your inner rebellious teenager and make a mockery of this. Get your fellow coworkers on board and this will go by the wayside pretty quickly.

  98. Minion Wrangler*

    A previous employer of mine in the UK inflicted diversity training on everyone. I ducked out of the first round, but my boss made me go the next time. I showed up unwillingly and early on the instructor noted my sour expression and what was up. I paused for a moment before deciding to give him an honest answer. I said “Look, I genuinely don’t mean any offense, but honestly this seems like a waste of my time.”

    He asked why, so I said “I’m a supervisor of one of two teams in a department of 35 people. I’m a middle-aged white guy. My boss is a woman, she’s younger than me. Her boss is a woman, Irish, younger than her. We have people from Germany, Zimbabwe, Somalia, France, Cameroon, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Italy, Cuba and even a couple from England. We are white, black, brown. We have Muslim, Sikhs, Christians and atheists. One of the guys is gay. Some are married, some aren’t, some have kids, some don’t. What are you going to teach me about diversity that I don’t deal with on a daily basis?”

    He said “Ah. Well yes, I see your point. But anyway, let’s carry on…..”

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Since I work for a city; therefore, I have to go through diversity training every two years – I’ve been here for 27 years. The consultant has used the same stinking video and syllabus for at least the last decade. The instructor I’ve had for the last 8 years knows me by name on sight.

      I go, get paid for the day, and enjoy not playing in traffic and sewers for the day.

      1. It Goes On Anon Anon....*

        Security and ethics training – separate – every two years here.

        They cover some real issues, but most of the time they cover the same real issues. It’s for compliance, and I do it, but exactly how many times can I listen to “how and why not to bribe people or accept bribes” and “hey, don’t use your own first name as your password, and no, ‘password’ is not clever either”, and still learn anything?

        But they pay me to take it, so I will take it. And pay attention in case anything in the regulations or concepts has changed. (So far, the only time I learned anything of interests was when I switched industries and a couple new regulations applied. Not that I have ever dealt with a situation in which they applied, but I learned something new in the training!)

        1. AKchic*

          We have a joke for our annual training… “yep, I have been properly harassed and now I know how to harass appropriately. Thank you”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have managed to avoid both sexual harassment training AND sexually harassing my coworkers for years. (I missed the training while on maternity leave and have somehow never been flagged in the system as untrained.)

    3. London Calling*

      When the honest reply would have been ‘Becuz I get paid to do this regardless of whether you need it or not and BTW did you know there’s a lot of money in diversity training, do you want me to be out of work or something?’

  99. Brett*

    I use a variant of this in my team, and it is has been extremely effective in improving psychological safety within the team.

    Here is why I think our strategy works as opposed to the failure of the one in the letter.

    1) It is anonymous. People write/draw their answers on cards. We collect them and shuffle, and then read back the cards (not displaying them).
    2) We don’t keep individual records. Even the aggregate stats are disposed up within a month.
    3) No explanations. This goes along with being anonymous, but we never ask for an explanation of individual positive or negative results. Instead, we address in aggregate, e.g. “We had more than one person with hurt feelings. This means we have some significant safety issues. We need to work on our respect towards other’s opinions and make sure contributions and suggestions are valued even if they are not ultimately used.”
    4) There is a dual purpose neutral option. This option both means, “Nothing else matches how I feel” and “I don’t feel comfortable sharing”. The message from people selecting that option is both, “not everything is perfect, but not everything is bad” and “we need to work on our psychological safety so people feel comfortable sharing important information about how our team functions”.

    Everything is about how to improve the team, not about individuals, but in the context that individual feelings reflect the team.

    For those who are curious, we use a variant of this exercise:
    We have adjusted it over time to better fit our team, but the original exercise is what we started with.

    1. LilySparrow*

      Are you comfortable indicating what type of work you do? I can’t imagine any job I’ve ever had where the team’s “psychological safety” needed monitoring that closely. Or where people having “hurt feelings” that they weren’t willing to address directly would be treated as a management issue.

      1. J.B.*

        This is similar to a conflict I had over my class. As a task oriented person who values what I know, relationships with other people are fine. I don’t say mean things but I get really turned off when other people want to talk about my FEELINGS. And to me, psychological unsafety is when someone is being a jerk, not ordinary interactions. In this case I would always go with do not want to answer. And I would keep my mouth shut but consider it a major waste of time.

        1. Brett*

          Well yeah, it is not for everyone. That’s why some people like agile environments and others avoid them.

          Psychological unsafety is not the issue being addressed (though “brilliant jerks” are one of the classic team breakdowns involved here). A lack of psychological safety is the opposite of psychological safety.
          I mean, we actually have a sessions periodically about what we have done (processes, exercises, etc) that was a major waste of time so we can eliminate those. Sometimes we end up bring back things that we cut when we find out, in their absence, they were valuable. Other times, they stay gone.

          (Mandatory pull reviews on documentation was a classic example of this. We cut it as a waste of time, until we found out that our documentation quality not only was worse, but the time it took to produce document actually increased without pull reviews because of how many fixes we had to do.)

      2. Brett*

        I do software development. Team psychological safety has reached buzzword level in this industry, and it has taken us a while to learn as a team how to really use it and use exercises that measure it.

        We explicitly do not include management in these exercises. As team lead, I am about as high as we ever go on the totem pole.

        The main problem this addresses is people being afraid to take risks in their contributions and being afraid to take responsibility for failures. The “problems”, not addressing important questions, having hurt feelings, being afraid or unwilling to express your current state of operation, are all symptoms of the central problem of creating some level of fear within the team, rather than being the problems themselves.

    2. misspiggy*

      It’s great that there has been such a sincere effort to make team feedback safe and meaningful. Personally, however, long experience of honesty being used against one at work would have my stress levels through the roof with this. I’d constantly be waiting for for the other shoe to drop, or enthusiastically participating with an entirely fake set of contributions.

      It might work well with relatively new staff, career wise.

    1. Melinda*

      Or put 5 happy stickers up each day and then if anyone asks, make a 1984 reference. Might be worth rereading 1984 to find the best one

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Get 5 happy stickers – congratulate team on improvement as there were only 4 yesterday. Next day, get 5 happy stickers – congratulate team on improvement as there were only 4 yesterday. Next day, get 5 happy stickers… you get the idea :D

  100. Dropp*

    Reading this makes me realize how different kindergartens are in the US compared to what I grew up with. I’ve never ever seen stickers like that in kindergarten. I had no idea it was a thing.

    Of course, I agree with everyone else that this office is crazy. What a terrible idea

    1. LilySparrow*

      I’m in the US and I’ve never seen nor heard of this, either growing up, from friends, or with my children in kindergarten fairly recently. It’s not a “US thing” by any means.

    2. Bea*

      It sounds like it’s more of a way to assist emotional development…which isn’t done by a kindergarten teacher in my experience. Unless it’s a class with special needs kids involved perhaps. Still, it’s something seen more frequently in child therapy. Kind of like dolls being used to play out scenarios.

    3. Someone Else*

      This exercise isn’t literally something you’d see in a kindergarten, at least not in my experience. But rather, the notion of communicating via stickers instead of words is something associated with kindergarten aged children. That’s how I took it anyway.
      Like, This Is Not a Thing, but if it were to be a thing anywhere, it’d be with 5 year olds.

  101. Not Myself Today*

    Canada’s federal government is pushing a mental health strategy called “Not Myself Today” which includes buttons with various feelings on them (happy, confident, sad, confused, etc.)- we’re supposed to wear a button that corresponds with our feelings. Luckily it’s not mandatory, but as a senior manager I’m supposed to set a good example and participate. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable. (To be fair, the campaign includes other resources that are useful, but this one aspect of it seems off to me.)

    1. SarahKay*

      Can you, as a senior manger, not participate, and claim that you are setting the example that it’s okay to opt out?

      Because honestly, if I’m sad, the last thing I want to do is announce it at work; usually work is where I go to not have to think about being sad. I want a break from that emotion, and if I get well-meaning people asking me why I’m sad, that’s highly likely to make me cry. And did I mention that I wanted a break from that emotion?!?

    2. darsynia*

      Oh *dear*. I totally read ‘aroused’ as one of the feelings in your parenthetical. The real emotions in there and the expectation to profess them aren’t much better, unfortunately!

  102. darsynia*

    This reminds me of a good friend of mine’s parents and a similar ‘mood’ indicator they have at their house. It’s ostensibly a key holder, but has something like 5 or 7 hooks for the keys, each with a mood above it, escalating from ‘happy’ all the way up to ‘infuriated’ or something like that. The text above says something along the lines of, ‘Mother is feeling…’ and the keys fill in the blank.

    Once, during an argument, the Mom kept relocating the keys as it escalated, until she was so pissed off she was screaming, and the dad disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a sticky note and a new nail. He then pounded the nail in quite a ways away from the previous ‘high’ point of the chart, and wrote in ‘Unreasonable’ and stuck it above the nail.

    As to the OP, I personally would create a new sticker, ‘Unwilling to Participate’ and print out enough of them that if it were removed from my name I could just place another. This is beyond unreasonable of them to demand, and non participation or malicious compliance seems like the only answer unless there can be a consensus of workers rebelling against it. Good on you for remaining at a negative emotion, I sure as hell would have. And if they’re ignoring it because they KNOW you’re unhappy with the whole thing, that makes its own point!

  103. Clytia*

    (I’ve never commented before, but had to comment to say this!)
    This is completely disturbing for me (especially the being asked to explain why you feel that way and having your sticker moved if you can’t adequately do so!), for reasons quite aside from the obvious batshit insanity of it all… I don’t think I would be able to even engage with this exercise at all what with me being autistic! I have difficulty naming my feelings a lot of the time (more often than not if I’m asked how I feel I’ll say instead what I think!), much less explaining them! And that’s not unusual for someone who’s autistic! So aside from being stupid and pointless, and making life difficult for people with mental illness, it also makes the workplace potentially less accessible for neurodiverse people!

  104. Kay*

    This is stupid and my advice is to generally just put a smiley sticker on it no matter what you’re feeling. Unless you think your employers are trying to gauge how intense everyone’s workload is and doing it in a stupid way, which I guess in that case if my workload was actually too much I might put stressed. But this is a dumb procedure that I doubt is helping people express anger or stress.

  105. TeacherKC*

    Hahaha… I’m a kindergarten teacher, and my kids do this every morning, but it’s opt in. They raise their hand and volunteer if they want to share their feelings. I’d never force one of my 4-5 year olds to share this way. Personally, in your shoes, if I was otherwise happy with the job I’d just put my sticker under the happy emoji and never move it, but, honestly, an employer like that would have me job searching by lunch time. Probably why I work with little kids – they have an excuse for their absurdity

  106. Trillian*

    Thank you for posting this today.

    I have had a frustrating day. An, “I told you that, and now our consultants have told you that, and you are still not listening and I have to be tactful because I am a professional,” kind of day.

    But nobody is making me put stickers on a board. ;-)

    (Mine today would be a PacMan.)

  107. Empty Sky*

    I’m getting a serious Paranoia vibe from this post. For those that don’t know, Paranoia was a roleplaying game from the 80s set in a satirical 1984-style future world where everybody was ruled by a benevolently dictatorial Computer. Being happy was mandatory, and the penalty for violations (of that and pretty much every other rule, however arbitrary) was summary execution. The Computer maintained clone banks of all characters, and if you died for any reason a clone would be instantly delivered to take your place. Multiple deaths per gaming session were common, often at the hands of other players, who were empowered to take the law into their own hands if they caught you in a transgression (and vice versa).

    You can still find a bunch of motivational posters on the Internet on the ‘happiness is mandatory’ theme. I would be so tempted to print off copies of one of them and post them everywhere.

  108. chickaletta*

    This is such a great story! A mandatory emotions chart at work! And you have to justify how your feeling! Mine would be “amused” for sure. Every meeting a golden opportunity for something ridiculous to unfold. “Yeah….I’m going to need you to put your sticker on happy, kay?”

  109. Big Biscuit*

    Maybe not a wise decision, but I would be curious to hear what the OP’s HR department thinks of this insane and inane activity and how they could possibly justify it. What’s next? Mandatory blankies and graham crackers for lunch?

  110. Karma*

    Pretty sure this is a lean six sigma/agile thing. In my team at work we do it during a stand up/pulse check meeting every Monday morning although some teams do it as often as daily. We only use it as a ‘how are you feeling about your workload/do you need any help’ check. Some people might share a bit more if they have personal things going on that are affecting their day but it’s certainly not mandatory.

  111. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    Sounds like something the owner of the last very small business I worked for would do. There were basically three levels of employees: 1 owner, a few salaried professionals working 50-70 hours a week plus after hours and weekends and a few hourly employees who were mostly part time and almost always left right at closing despite being late almost every day. Butts in seat time was stressed for the salaried workers and over time was pretty much mandatory.
    One of the salaried workers mentioned to the boss that morale seemed low and something needed to be done to address the tension in the office. Owner’s solution was to call us all into a meeting, lecture us that we could quit if we were that unhappy and then have us rate our happiness and that of the person next to us! Based on the owner’s reaction the results were NOT good. Demands were made for ways morale could be improved and we were told we would all be required to make a suggestion at the next meeting (never followed up on). Some morale boosting team lunches were scheduled, but the professional staff were scheduled with work over them and one of the part timers told the owner to cancel another because she wouldn’t eat the food (no diet restrictions, she never ate at these events).
    Nothing changed except the tension ratcheting up again for a while. Soon after 2/3 of the professional staff left and the owner was very angry and mystified why. I got the hell out of there and still can’t believe it that I’m only scheduled for 40 flexible hours a week for a lot more pay.

  112. Snickerdoodle*

    I would permanently have mine on an “angry” sticker and, if ever asked (which I suspect wouldn’t happen), I’d explain I was angry that I was being treated like a kindergartner.

  113. FormerScrum*

    Stuff like this is pretty common if you work in Agile software development. I was a Scrum Master (yes, that’s the actual job title) for a couple of years and we were always coached to take a “happiness” poll at the end of every sprint. I HATED it. I would find every way possible to not subject my teams to that, because it made the majority of people feel very uncomfortable. It’s the worst to have to go around the room and ask someone who is so unhappy to explain why. It just shouldn’t happen at work. In theory, it’s supposed to be a judge of their happiness with their work, but it’s absolutely the worst way to do so.

    I’m really glad I’m not in that job anymore.

    1. Brett*

      Dictating how to run retros from the top down is in direct conflict with constructing self-organizing teams, along with not allowing to team to best reflect on how to become more effective.
      You needed better agile coaches.

      1. Windchime*

        I had such a bad experience with agile that I don’t think I will ever again agree to work on a team who uses it. I found it to be the most stressful thing ever. Our managers would just keep cramming work on top of an already stressed out and anxious bunch of developers. People were getting fired and bullied and…, it was horrible.

  114. Scarlet*

    Oof, that sounds aggravating. I’d be inclined to just lie about it, frankly, if it’s such a useless exercise. My team at work does something like this, but it’s at a *team* level so that our manager can get an overall snapshot, and it’s anonymous- it’s via a web app where we fill in a rating out of 10 for how we’re feeling about the week and our workload, and add a word. However, that was put in place because the team wanted it, and because it’s anonymous, if someone’s opting out (sometimes, or always) they can’t be singled out.

  115. Mr. Kite*

    Well, this kind of thing is so stupid and juvenile and unprofessional and inappropriate. We need a post dedicated to The Infantilizing Workplace, so the array of horrors can be compiled. My former workplace had a “Wall of Awesome” in the office hallway, with pre-printed post-it pads that read “__________ is awesome because________” and employees are supposed to fill them out for co-workers and post the notes on the Wall of Awesome. It’s like something that you would see in elementary school, for 9 year old kids.

  116. Allonge*

    Oh my.
    I had a boss who used to ask” are you happy?” instead of “how are you feeling?” and I thought that was a borderline choice… Obviously not even close.

  117. Windchime*

    My previous workplace had something similar. We had a ratings scale for our stress level; from 1 to 5, with 5 being super stressed out. During our team meetings, we would have to go around and say what our stress level was. Anytime someone said “4” or “5”, the managers would raise their eyebrows incredulously and demand an explanation of why we were stressed. It became clear that they just wanted to browbeat us, so I just started lying and saying “2” or “3”. It was easier than trying to talk about being stressed out by managers who came up with dip-shit, stress-sharing games.

  118. The Non-Lurker*

    This was such a wild ride to read that I have stopped my usual lurking on the blog to comment AND to make a new word. I call it “hilariating”. This sounds kinder than what I was originally thinking, which was “stupid”. OP, I am so sorry you’re going through something so hilariating.

  119. Jennifer*

    I had to go back and re-read because I was hoping you could use any emoji. If so I’d use all sorts of them. Today I’m feeling awfully snail, but yesterday i was very crystal ball. Tomorrow is definitely sushi.

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