my team doesn’t do any personal development, my coworker keeps telling me to reply-all, and more

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

1. My team doesn’t do any personal or group development

I am very into personal development on my own time. I read a lot of books that would be considered self help and love to advance my life by learning new skills. However, at work, none of that is present.

Our manager does not ever talk to us about our development plans, we have done zero Strengths-Finder-like activities and it’s really frustrating as a new employee on the team because I’d like to be able to develop my career but I truly don’t know how to because no one ever talks about it. We’re allowed to move around positions every two years, but everyone on this team has been here for five or more years. I’d like to move, but there seems no easy way out.

Is there a way I can bring personal development to my team? I’m fairly young (24), and everyone on my team is 35+ up to 63. My manager also oversees 20 people on various teams, so I’m not sure if he has time to do all this or even cares about it. I feel as though our team would benefit greatly from all this, but it seems like we are just one dysfunctional group of coworkers who don’t work well with each other because we have never taken the time to sit down and discuss our strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe learning these things about coworkers is just intuitive, but I’ve already been told there’s a lot of tip toeing around people to not ask them to do certain things or to not listen to them. That doesn’t sit right with me, so I’m wondering if there is a better way to go about developing our dysfunctional team.

The majority of work teams don’t actually do Strengths-Finder-like activities. Some do, of course! But many don’t, and that’s not in any way negligent. Many people find those types of activities helpful, but many find them irritating and not a great use of time. So it’s not weird that your team isn’t doing them. That doesn’t mean there’s no chance they’d be beneficial; maybe they would be. It just means that the lack of them isn’t the problem.

But certainly having a dysfunctional team that doesn’t work well together is a problem. I wouldn’t assume that’s happening because you’ve never discussed your strengths and weaknesses together; I’d assume it’s instead because of a lack of more hands-on leadership and management from your boss. And that’s something that’s very hard to fix from below.

That said, you can certainly talk to your boss about your interest in professional development. Yes, it would be ideal if she raised it herself, but not all managers will, and it’s definitely something you can raise on your own. Are there skills you want to develop, training you want to take, areas you want to focus on? Those are all appropriate things to bring up with your boss. The same goes for your interest in eventually moving up — that’s something you can name explicitly to her, and ask about what a path to doing that might look like.

2. My coworker keeps asking me to reply-all to emails

My coworker, Fergus, has been asking me to “reply all” in my email responses. Some background: About six months ago, Fergus sent me an email and copied a couple of coworkers in our department about a question he needed answered right away. I was running at a fast pace and didn’t notice that he had copied others. When I answered him, I hit “reply” instead of “reply all.” Fergus immediately came over to my desk (we work in an open environment) and asked why I just replied to him and didn’t include Jane and Sally. I explained that it wasn’t done intentionally; I hadn’t noticed that he had included them in the email, and I was just trying to get him an answer quickly (it was a very mundane question that Jane and Sally already knew the answer to anyway). Other times when Fergus has sent out group emails with incorrect assumptions or information, I’ve responded just to him so he’s not called out in front of our peers.

Lately, when he sends emails to me and copies others, he’s been putting in the email, “Please reply all in your response.” I’m trying to ignore it, but it’s really starting to get under my skin. I find it nitpicky and patronizing — especially since most of the time, I do reply to everyone, and if I don’t, there’s usually a reason. He’s very sensitive and considers himself a great communicator; however, others find his emails way too lengthy (think War and Peace), and usually give up reading after the first paragraph. How do I ask diplomatically for him to stop treating me like a five-year-old by adding his “reply all” request in his emails to me? Even though we’re peers, I am senior to him in both experience and age. Am I being nitpicky?

No, he’s being weird. And I’d be tempted to follow his “reply all” orders on those emails correcting his mistakes, in particular. (But don’t actually do that, because at least some of those times, it’ll make you look bad to others.)

I suppose if you really want to address this, you could say something like, “I noticed you’ve been asking me to reply-all when I respond. I will do that when I think it makes sense for the situation, but I don’t default to replying-all every time, because when it’s unneeded, others find it annoying. I’d prefer it if you didn’t remind me in each email.”

But really, this dude is one of the many amusing features of work life, and you may be better off just letting him go with it and finding it amusing.

3. I’m being asked to rearrange my work hours to work weekends

I work for a small family-owned business in a very niche field. Our workload has doubled in the past few weeks as our company has taken on new contracts, but our management team isn’t going to consider hiring additional staff at this time. To meet the demand, a senior manager (not my direct manager) has thrown out the idea that my department should rearrange our work hours in order to work on the weekends to meet the new demands. I am an exempt employee and already put in over 40 hours a week consistently (working at night and the occasional weekend). I wouldn’t mind doing so if it was going to be on the rare occasion but the manager made it sound like this expectation would be indefinite. This isn’t something I am willing to commit to since I already put in so much already during the week and it wouldn’t be the best for my home life. I also feel like since I am the youngest employee in my department and I don’t have children, it is expected I put in more time/pull more weight. How do I politely push back if this becomes asked of me ?

“I regularly work about 50 hours a week (or fill in with whatever’s accurate), but I have commitments on the weekend that would prevent me from working weekend hours on a regular basis. I can do it on very rare occasions if it’s an emergency, but I can’t make it my regular schedule.”

If you’re asked what those commitments are, you’re allowed to be creative — you take care of a family member (since they seem to value that, and you don’t need to say that family member is you), or so forth. It’s not reasonable for them to expect that you come up with a “good enough” reason not to regularly work on weekends when that wasn’t the schedule you agreed to, and you don’t owe them a full accounting of how you spend that time. That goes double since this is all happening just because they’re not willing to hire enough staff.

Also, are they really just asking you to rearrange your work hours (meaning same number of hours but on different days) or are they asking you to increase them? You should push back either way, but you should feel extra justified in doing that if they’re asking to you add in weekends on top of your existing schedule.

4. Should I let my boss know how nervous I am about my performance review?

My annual performance review is coming up and it’s time to start scheduling feedback meetings with colleagues and my boss. This will be my third review with this company (a review at three months, and then annual reviews). But it’s my first review with my current boss. He’s been in his role for about six months now, so he knows me and I find him approachable and supportive.

I just can’t decide if I should let him know that the whole performance review process really stresses me out! Rationally, I know I’m a high performer in a challenging role, and I have consistently received positive feedback. But the prospect of sitting down and opening myself up to judgment spikes my anxiety just thinking about it. (Yes, I have generalized anxiety and I’m in therapy and have some great coping tools. This is just one of those situations I’m still learning to manage.)

Part of me just wants to clench my teeth and do my preparation and hold my breath until it’s over. But part of me thinks it might be useful for my boss to know that I’m nervous about this process and what criticism I might be facing. The last thing I want is to be unprofessional or difficult or “an overly emotional woman” (ugh). What do you think? Struggle through it in silence (with help from my non-work support system)? Or let my boss know how performance reviews make me feel? (If the latter, any scripts would be greatly appreciated!)

I’m normally a fan of giving your manager context when something is especially stressing you out, but in this case I wouldn’t — because I don’t think there’s really anything actionable for him here. You don’t want him to sugarcoat anything or otherwise pull any punches (because it’s not good for you if he dances around things), and you don’t want him to wonder if that’s what you’re asking him to do and then feel uncomfortable about it.

At most, you could say something at the start of the conversation like, “I should tell you, reviews tend to make me nervous” … but reviews tend to make a lot of people nervous and it probably won’t be news to him. Plus, it still won’t be clear if you’re asking him to do anything differently.

I think you’re better off figuring out with your therapist how to manage your anxiety around the process rather than sharing it with your boss. The exception to that is if there’s something very concrete you want to ask him to do — like if you want to ask for the chance to read the review on your own first before meeting to discuss it (so that you can process it in private first and come better prepared to discuss it).

5. How to say “I’m not interested in this job, but maybe this other one”

I was recently laid off (along with a large number of my coworkers) due to restructuring at my company. This is obviously a bummer, but I’m actually excited about the chance to recalibrate. I’m taking some time before I start a new job search in earnest, but a friend recently recommended me for a position at a company where he himself just started a new position. This is great, I’m so grateful to him, and flattered that he would think of me! There’s a problem though: the position for which he recommended me requires significantly more technical experience than I currently have, and would take my career down a path I’m hoping to move away from. I would be ecstatic to work for this company in a different position better suited to my skills and goals. How do I communicate this to both him and to the company’s recruiter without seeming ungrateful or like I’m throwing away a good opportunity?

No one will think you’re ungrateful for declining a job that you’re not well suited for or that isn’t aligned with the career path you want. So don’t feel you have to tiptoe around this; you don’t! It’s fine just to say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me for this! I’m actually hoping to move away from X work in my next role and am hoping to focus more on jobs like Y. If that ever seems like it could be the right match, I’d be thrilled to talk with you about it. I’m really interested in the work Company does and would love to be part of it.”

{ 383 comments… read them below }

  1. SignalLost*

    OP 1 – I have done some of the things that sound like what you’re suggesting as team building. A component of that was a psychological profile that scored traits such as empathy; since this was a non-profit with a degree of an empathic mission, it wasn’t really surprising that five out of six people scored exceptionally highly on that characteristic. One person, in a managerial role, scored less than ten percent. This surprised no one, including her (functionally, she was a sociopath). Unsurprisingly, this did not motivate her to change her behaviour in the least, and the team remained incredibly dysfunctional, with much of the dysfunction stemming directly from her. (I could be kind-ish and say that’s not how she’s wired, but I hate her and I’m not inclined to be kind. She harmed and abused a number of people while I worked at that organization.)

    So while I think that kind of thing, identifying strengths and weaknesses, can be personally useful, it’s not very likely to make some massive change to the way the team works, and certainly not without the individual buy-in and investment of each team member, which is not something I’ve ever seen happen on any team I’ve been part of. I think that’s a piece you’re better off leaving alone; any kind of top-down imposition is unlikely to lead to more than exactly the kind of group behaviour you’re talking about, where some people are avoided or tip-toed around.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Another thing to consider is that your coworkers have had 10-40 more years than you have to figure things out about themselves – from your age, you’re pretty new to the work world, and still working out what your own strengths and weakness are, how they interact with the work you do, and what you want out of your career. But I wouldn’t assume that your coworkers haven’t gone through the this process, and just need a group self-help session to develop their true potential.

      The other thing is that individual people’s approaches to self-help and personal development vary wildly, and I would bet substantial money that a reasonable fraction of your coworkers would rather gnaw off their own leg than spend a day doing personality quizzes with their coworkers, let alone having the expectation that this would make the work environment better.

      What you can do, though for your own development – keep up with the self help books if that’s what works for you. Pay attention to your colleagues and how they act and work to get a handle on their personality types. If Wakeen gets flustered by short deadlines, or Fergus is really good at explaining things or Jane is kind of disorganized, these are things you can note by observation without needing to share test results (you almost never get test results to help you figure out people in your life).

      And you can ask your manager to talk about career path stuff – what do you want to do, how to prepare for it, what the options are as you become more experienced.

      1. tra la la*

        These are really good points. Also, if a team really is dysfunctional, generic teambuilding activities can actually heighten the problems.

      2. Works in IT*

        I think I would rather gnaw off my leg than spend a day doing personality quizes. I’ve only been working in this job for a year, but I already know what I am good at, what I am not good at, and what I want to do in the future and how to get there. I don’t need to spend a day doing quizes to help me identify what my strengths in the workplace should be.

        1. De-Archivist*

          Second for gnawing off leg.

          All I want coworkers to see is my front-facing, professional, polite persona. I want to do my job well and go home at the end of the day. There’s something incredibly invasive to me about taking a psych test and “sharing” those results with my coworkers … like we did for a meeting about three months ago.

          I work in a small close-knit office, and I’m new. So refusing a psych test wasn’t the hill I wanted to die on.

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            I fudge those. I choose whatever the most neutral and/or socially acceptable answer is and move on. I’ve taken personality tests for fun on my own time as something to contemplate privately, but in a work setting with my results to be shared with all my colleagues? Ahhahahahahahaha yeah effing right if you think I’m answering with complete honesty. Besides, if we’re working closely together day in and day out, you’re going to get to know me anyway and vice versa, so what do we need quizzes for?

            1. JessaB*

              Not to mention I hate those because a lot of them are skewed if I answer honestly, because my answers are dependent on my disabilities. If I answer no to something about outdoor activities it’s not because I hate them, it’s because I physically cannot ever do them, and none of the choices on those tests are “I can’t do that thing, ever.” So you end up with either lies or skewed results.

            2. msms*

              I have been lying on those quizzes since 1997.

              I say whatever management wants to hear and go on with my day. I’ve done it at at least 5 workplaces and not one has done a single thing with the results except look down on people who aren’t outgoing.

        2. JustaTech*

          I did one of those quiz things once that was useful. But it wasn’t about personality types, or strengths or weaknesses. It was just communication styles. Like “JustaTech wants you to get to the point, while TypesALot wants lots of background” or “JustaTech would really prefer email while PenClicker is better on the phone”.
          What made it useful was taking the quiz, taking the class, and then taking our results back and discussing them in our small working groups so we know what’s the most effective way to talk/email with our coworkers. The class was very big on “no judgement” and no one communication style is better than another.

          That’s useful. Personality quizzes don’t seem useful at all.

        3. TakingTheFifth*

          “Jane, your weakness is that you’re annoying me with all this touchy feely stuff. My strength is that I haven’t gnawed my leg off yet.”

          A personality test would show that I’m a cranky old codger & it makes me very happy.

      3. Washi*

        Yeah, I do think age is a factor in the OP’s perception of this. When I was an Americorps member and part of a cohort of a bunch of other new grads, we did stuff like Strengths Finder and it was helpful on a really basic level of understanding ourselves better and being able to recognize when someone just has a different style from us vs. thinking they are incompetent.

        But if asked to do that now that I have more work experience, I would find it pretty irritating, because it’s the kind of thing that’s hard to take beyond the basic level. These quizzes are not scientifically sound nor a magic bullet for dysfunction. They just give you some language and tools to better understand what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean anything will change.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          Oh, AmeriCorps.

          I was going to try for a more cogent discussion of the team building we did during my two different terms, but I’m just going to leave it at “oh, AmeriCorps.”

          1. Sam*

            Yeah, same. I didn’t mind doing the personality stuff and sharing it with my team in the context of AmeriCorps. The higher ups worked really hard to cultivate this weird culture that was part professional corporate culture and part summer camp culture so it didn’t feel out of place in that setting. But now that I’m working it would feel too personal and invasive if I had to share that level of detail with my coworkers!

            Also, while I did find a lot of the personality/working style assessments we did with AmeriCorps personally useful, sharing them with the team was not useful. I didn’t take notes to remember, oh that person is a bear type when receiving feedback and that person is a cat when receiving constructive criticism and that person has a North leadership style and this person is an ENFP and that means I should behave in X, Y, Z ways when interacting with them. No. All of my interactions with my teammates were based on general professional norms and things I learned about them from working together – the same way I work with my coworkers now in the absence of personality quizzes.

        2. Paper Librarian*

          Washi, I had very similar thoughts when I read OP1’s post. I loved self-help books when I was about OP’s age, and I didn’t realize until much later that they were Pop Psychology with little factual basis. Not to say that Self-Help and/or Strength Assessment tests cannot be helpful, but I now see them kind of like Tarot cards: They won’t introduce anything new, but could help you sort out your existing thoughts and options.

          Keep working on your own self-improvement, OP. That should help you rise above your coworkers when you are looking to get out of your dysfunctional workplace.

        3. msms*

          I did AmeriCorps and actually did love Strengths Finder. I had a job interview last week and easily articulated my skills and how they applied to the position.

          I don’t think it made my AmeriCorps experience better, but it has come in handy many times since I’ve left. It certainly elevated my resume by helping me switch from a list of duties/responsibilities to highlighting where I really shine.

        4. TootsNYC*

          Does Americorps have, as part of its mission or ethos, the idea that part of its purpose is to benefit those participating as workers?

          Because NO office I’ve ever worked in has cared about your personal development. We’re there to do a job, and while our management might be interested in “where would you like to go in your career?” it’s mostly about whether you’ll have the skills to move up if they need your, or whether you’d like to expand your own abilities into an area that they can make use of.

          I think our OP would be much better off looking into professional associations, Meet-ups, etc.

      4. Cindy Featherbottom*

        +10000 to what everyone has said so far. We had to do the Strengths Finder as part of a class requirement in my grad program. I’ve already been in my field for over a decade and have a really good idea of what my strengths and weaknesses are and actively try to work on them on my own. Having to do this activity with my classmates was annoying at best. For some of my (much) younger classmates, they seemed to love it and have a great time with it. The older and more experienced folks…definitely not so much. So my 0.02 is to work on your own professional development and leave your colleagues out of it. Feel free to loop in your boss if you’d like feedback on your skills as they are developing. And I agree with Alison as well…team dysfunction is usually caused by lack of leadership/communication from higher up so doing a personality assessment on your team is most likely not going to help the issue.

        1. Aveline*

          Yep, most likely result of her bringing this up is to make the olds hate her for wasting their time.

          Her heart may be in the right place, but I think that her colleagues wouldn’t see that.

          She might even be perceived as arrogant and overstepping.

          I know I would have to stifle laughter if a whippersnapper told me I should do something like this to discover more about myself.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think there’s a youthful hope that if only Fergus understood that he misses deadlines and Carol that she is an awful communicator, Fergus and Carol would take steps to address those things. Since management hasn’t.

          2. queen b*

            OP 1 here – and I certainly don’t want to be seen as overstepping! I guess I forget there is a boundary between doing things for myself vs. trying to help other people. Good things to remember, thanks!

            1. Aveline*

              Your heart is totally in the right place.

              That comes through loud and clear.

              But sometimes people don’t want help or enlightenment and sometimes what helps of enlightens one person doesn’t help or enlighten someone else.

              If you have that helping impulse and the time and ability, might I suggest you turn it to helping high schoolers, etc? Because we need more people whose hearts are in the right place.

              Please don’t loose that!

            2. Sydney Bristow*

              I recently read a book that you might really like. It is called How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead. She’s done a ton of research learning about the different methods people use to communicate most effectively. And while you can use it (and her test) to learn about your own best communication style, the book goes into detail about how you can try to determine the communication personalities of the people around you so that you can speak their language in a way. So you’d still be learning this for yourself and requiring nothing of your coworkers, but it might help you learn about ways to interact with them.

            3. Dr. Pepper*

              Please please remember that most people do not want to be helped. If they do, they will ask. And you cannot help someone unless they want to be helped. Self discovery and personal development are inherently extremely personal things, and having someone try to force it on you is not only unwelcome, but can quickly make people hostile. It’s akin to religion. You are free to practice whatever faith you please, but you are not free to push that faith onto or preach to others in a professional environment.

            4. Observer*

              You are also forgetting that you do not actually necessarily know what will help others.

              Both things are absolutely CRUCIAL to your success. It’s true on a personal level, true, but even more so on a professional level.

              Learn to recognize and respect boundaries and the limits of what you do and don’t know. It’s a skill that will serve you very well.

              1. queen b*

                Great advice, thank you so much. I guess I forget that I want to be ambitious but not everyone wants to be as ambitious as I am.

                1. Scarlet*

                  It’s just that not everyone has the same ambitions you do and that everyone does not go about it the same way. Also, don’t forget that your coworkers are at a different stage in life and you have no idea about their personal priorities.
                  You should really let go of this idea that people who don’t behave the way you do are not ambitious or are not interested in growth. It comes across a lot in your letter and comments and that’s pretty off-putting.

                2. The Other Dawn*

                  I agree with Scarlet. Ambition and/or growth doesn’t look the same for everyone. For me it’s obtaining an industry certification so I can move up in my career, or creating processes that will make my team more efficient and less error-prone, which leads to clean audits and exams; it’s not the “latest and greatest” personality test. For others their greatest ambition might be to keep a steady job so they can feed themselves and keep a roof over their head.

                3. Lynn*

                  Self-help exercises do not equate to ambition. In my office, the interns and new hires that come in thinking they know the same as those who’ve been doing this work for years are the ones who crash and burn.

                4. tra la la*

                  Yes, you should step away from this idea that others aren’t as ambitious as you are. You really don’t know what others’ plans/ambitions are, and you also don’t really need to know that. Focus on your own personal development and steer clear of trying to dictate what others “should” be doing.

                5. Dr. Pepper*

                  Scarlet is absolutely right. Please stop thinking that people don’t have ambitions, goals, desires, whatever simply because they approach these things in a different manner than you do. Their goals will look different than yours, and that’s fine. It doesn’t make them (or you) right or wrong. There is no one way to live life, and it appears that you’re getting hung up on rigid and personal definitions of traits and goals.

                6. Jenn*

                  Yeah you have GOT to be careful about how you frame things, OP. You have made two comments now that could really easily upset your coworkers, if directed at them. This isn’t what you wrote in for, but I question whether people at work aren’t great with you because you come across not well.

                  As part of your self improvement you should consider asking someone in the office you trust how you come across to others. Think about the implications of what you say more. In trying to tout yourself or your activities, are you badmouthing your colleagues?

                7. (another) b*

                  That’s a really arrogant response. Just because they don’t want to do trust falls doesn’t mean they’re not ambitions. I have a feeling you have a lot to learn about the working world.

                8. Autumnheart*

                  Even if OP was more ambitious than everyone else on her team (*cough* unlikely), taking a personality quiz is not what ambition looks like, any more than deciding to sell Amway means you’re an entrepreneur. Even if you find out what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are…so what? The job duties are the job duties, and they need to be done. The best thing about Strengths Finder is that it might articulate *why* a certain type of work may be particularly appealing or particularly onerous, but that’s only useful for the individual who takes the test.

                  Then let’s address being the youngest person on the team by 10 years minimum, not even in a managerial role, and who wants to tell EVERYONE ELSE (including her boss!) that the team is dysfunctional, and needs to take a personality quiz and then have a round robin discussion on what to do about it.

                  There’s a word on this site for what we call this: “gumption”. You do not have ambition, you have “gumption”, and you should put it down and back carefully away before you step on a lot of toes.

                9. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  queen b,

                  If someone wanted to do self-help type personality testing/Strengths Finder activities at work and made it a big group thing for us all to do I would be rolling my eyes *so hard* because I think that stuff is junk.

                  I think it adds approximately zero value. I think it is mainly marketing and little science. I think it does not help me grow my career. I think it will not make me a better business woman.

                  I have done enough of these tests over the course of my education and career that I know what the tests will say if I answer honestly and there will not be new information for me. What you see as “personal growth” and “professional development” I see as a waste of my very busy time because it will NOT provide me with personal growth and it will NOT help me develop professionally.

                  All of that probably sounds really, really harsh!

                  I say it all fully understanding that for you, these activities have value. And that is great for you! If I were your manager, I would want to help you find ways to explore this sort of thing so that you could feel like you are developing and learning and figuring out how to excel. However, you are equating other people’s lack of interest in these things to not being ambitious/interested in growth. And that’s just inaccurate.

                  Someone can be ambitious and growth-oriented and not want to do any of these activities that you value. The same tools will not always resonate with different people, and it is not evidence of any failure of ambition on others’ parts. (Though that said, as others have mentioned, it is also possible that some people have different values than you do and honestly are not ambitious in the same way. But it is entirely possible to be ambitious and ALSO not find value in the self-help stuff that you personally find value in.)

                10. Le Sigh*

                  Woah. That’s…you need to be careful with how you’re thinking about this. I’d be willing to bet this is coming across in your approach to your coworkers and potentially rubbing them the wrong way. I think you’re taking the wrong lesson from this.

                  I have more than a decade of experience on you. In that time, I started on one career path, figured out it wasn’t for me, survived the recession, and did a lot, lot, lot of work to get where I am now. Some of that was personal growth and just realizing who I was and wasn’t; some of that was getting a certification I needed for my new path; some of that was trying out new industries as I figured out what I wanted and moved over and up the ladders.

                  And sure, I did some of the exercises you’ve mentioned, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes because my office made me. I got very little out of them; same for my team. I got way more out of everything I just listed above.

                  But, because you and I weren’t on the same path and you’re younger, you haven’t seen any of that. So what you might see as a lack of ambition, I see as taking a moment, several years into my new path, to figure out what it is I want next. I don’t need any more personality tests or whatever to figure out how to get along with my coworkers or figure out “who I am”–I’ve spent years and years learning about myself in a lot of different ways (many not work related), and navigating office politics, different personalities, etc. I know where I do well and don’t, and correct for that. I suspect some of your coworkers know a bit more than you do about how to do that within your own office.

                  My priorities look different than they did 10 years ago and that’s okay. It’s not even a parenting thing — I don’t want kids! — like it is for a lot of people (though those are also good reasons to adjust your priorities). I like what I do, a lot, and I’m really good at it. I want to go further. I get good reviews and I get promotions. So I’m not “House of Cards” ambitious but I am ambitious, career-wise, in my own way.

                  It’s not just that some people are ambitious and some aren’t. Ambition can look like a lot of different things, even in a career. And life can throw things at you sometimes that have you rethinking said ambitions and priorities. Dollars to donuts all the growth, strengths, weakness whatever tests in the world will have a limited ability to help with any of that.

                  After all that rambling, the message I really want to drive home is you simply don’t know what you don’t know, and you might benefit from taking a step back and observing before charging ahead.

            5. always in email jail*

              I’m trying to think of how to say this as gently as possible, but they don’t necessarily need your help. It sounds like these people are further in their lives/career than you, and I think it would seem really out-of-place for you to tell them what they need.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I was part of a three-year leadership program with my current company and we did these kinds of activities. It was great for the people who weren’t managing people yet or were just starting out in the working world, but pretty boring and useless for those of us that have been around for a number of years. I imagine OP’s coworkers would feel the same way for the most part.

          Also, teams can do these activities all day long, but people then need to actually do something with the information. If they don’t actually take the information back and put them into action, it’s pointless.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Also, teams can do these activities all day long, but people then need to actually do something with the information.

            Because of where the line broke on the screen (after “something”) I thought you were going to say, “…people then need to actually do something productive” or “…to actually do some work.”

        3. Amber T*

          I did StrengthFinders for my job in college, where it was a mix of students like myself and professionals. It was really interesting information on myself, but also stuff that I already pretty much knew, just put into pretty words. It also didn’t change much about my interactions with my coworkers – my supervisor was still my supervisor, and just because one of my top strengths was one of her bottom strengths didn’t mean much. Did that mean we would work together better, because I could make up for it? Or did that mean we would bump heads more? It just… didn’t matter, because at the end of the day, I still had tasks to complete, as did she, as did the rest of our department.

      5. AnotherAlison*

        This exactly. I have already done Strengthfinders twice, DISC, and the one with the Analytical/Amiable/Expressive/Driver personality styles. It’s been helpful, but at my age and tenure in the workplace, we’re not exactly breaking new ground. Plus, I do read personal development materials, etc., on my own time, but I don’t broadly share that with my coworkers.

        Also, when the OP mentions people have been on the team 5+ years but they’re “allowed” to move every two years, she needs to keep in mind that that is not necessarily a bad thing. People may prefer to work in roles that use their strengths (ahem!), and the more advanced the role, the longer you can stay in it and still learn and grow. Nevermind that if you were 60, changing jobs every two years could mean 20 different roles. There aren’t really 20 different roles in my company that I would be interested in doing.

      6. Clay on My Apron*

        Your aren’t going to change your colleagues or the team dynamic with this type of exercise.

        Focus on your own development and your working relationships with your colleagues, and what you can learn from them.

        And don’t make too many assumptions about people based on whether they read self help books or not.

      7. queen b*

        OP 1 here – these all make sense and something I didn’t really think about. In my personal bubble I want to expand and grow, but I didn’t really consider that other people might not want to do the same. Thanks!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Well, I wouldn’t say that they don’t want to expand and grow, but maybe they don’t want to do it using the same tools you want to use. They may be working at it in different ways and you just don’t see it.

        2. fposte*

          Also consider that lots of these development ideas are pretty crappy, in that they sound good but they don’t actually improve work in any way, and most workplaces don’t have the tools to discern the genuinely valuable from the bad. When you’re on your own, you can read a book and go “eh, never mind.” When it’s in a workplace, time is essentially a zero-sum game. It costs thousands of dollars of people’s time to implement an office-wide development protocol even without hiring consultants, etc.; it also costs a similar amount in productivity. Most self-help stuff isn’t going to earn that money back, and offices are wisely reluctant to spend that kind of capital without knowing that they’ll get ROI on that.

        3. Violet Fox*

          Also other people might want instead of this stuff, professional development more directly related to what their job is rather than generic “strengths and weaknesses”.

        4. FYI*

          It’s not that people don’t want to expand and grow. It’s that they’re probably already growing (especially if they’re moving up every two years) and don’t want to stop work to do exercises around it.

          Also, don’t assume that your office is “dysfunctional” — because it doesn’t sound like you have grokked to the dynamic there at all. (I say that with kindness. I just would never assume that a 60-something is lacking in personal development, when that person has tons more life and work experience than me. Especially if I’m new to the job.)

          1. Jenn*

            Yeah this phrase stuck out to me as well. I am an adult who does tons of learning and growing. But those tests to me are a fundamentally flawed way to learn and grow. Of you say something like that to a colleague you will come across as arrogant and out of touch.

        5. Observer*

          The others have noted that your assumptions are not really grounded in any facts you’ve mentioned. The other problem here is that you come off as quite dismissive and condescending. I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, but there is an incredible sense of “it never occurred to me that others would not want this universally Good Thing.”

        6. Ann Perkins*

          That’s… not what people are saying. Growth will mean different things to different people and at different stages in life. Most people who have been in the workforce 10 years plus will have probably already done at least a few tests like what you’re talking about. It’s also more likely they’ll have completed any advanced degrees, certifications, etc for their role whereas you might be in the thick of that. I have a direct report your age and he’s swamped studying for certifications and learning technical skills that I obtained years ago, and I’m only 8 years older than him. Once you advance in your career, the learning curve is generally much less steep and you’re expected to be reliable, accurate, and efficient. And if you also end up with more outside of work commitments like kids, pets, caretaking, hobbies you’re going to be more motivated to want your work time to be spent being productive so that you can leave at the end of the day on time with all your work done.

        7. Dr. Pepper*

          They do. But they don’t want to do it the same way you do, and they are highly unlikely to welcome you attempting to push your way onto them. Many people have similar goals, but they way they approach those goals and how they set about accomplishing them varies widely.

        8. AnonEMoose*

          Don’t think of it as them “not wanting to expand and grow.” Think of it as them being in a different stage of their lives and careers than you are. You also may not know what they like to do outside of work, or whether they maybe prefer to pursue different forms of growth in that way.

          I’m a good example of this. Any suggestion of this kind of “personal development” in the workplace will have me discreetly rolling my eyes and trying to figure out how much of my time is going to be wasted this time, and how much effort I have to appear to put in to not get pushback about not “being open to the process” or “not being a team player.”

          Outside of work…I put in many, many hours volunteering for a science fiction convention. It’s a huge part of my life, and in the process I’ve learned a lot that, in turn, benefits my work life. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because I love it and it’s important to me.

          I also read about topics that interest me – history, for one. I like to cook and bake. And so on.

          But for the most part, I prefer to keep my paid employment as what allows me to fund the rest of my life. I like my job, I like my coworkers and the company, but it’s not the focus of my life. Other people feel differently, and genuinely want to focus on their careers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, that’s a choice they get to make…I just wish more companies didn’t expect everyone to act as though they feel that way, and it was more widely accepted to be like “I like this job, I like this company, and I will do my job to the best of my ability. But the rest of my life matters more to me on a personal level.”

        9. Amber T*

          Also, two years is not exactly a long time, depending on the field, or where they are in their career, or other factors. Two years might be a good taste for an entry level position and for a new/young employee to figure out “hey, this field isn’t for me” or “yeah, this is what I want to be doing.”

        10. Works in IT*

          It’s not a matter of them necessarily not wanting professional development, it’s a matter of them wanting different things than someone who is just starting out. And taking these personality tests especially has a correlary of “your manager will help you find work that fits your strengths” that would be actively harmful to my career prospects. I end up in the “rare unicorn super sensitive to others’ emotions and would be good in leaderships roles except this personality trait hates being in leadership roles and almost never thrives in them” trait whenever I take the tests. This ignores the fact that I want to advance my career and management is the way to do that, and this is something I accepted long ago. I don’t need a benevolent manager or coworkers going “oh, she’s not going to want this opportunity, I’ll only send her the non leadership role assignments because her personality type thrives in those” and funneling leadership improving opportunities away from me!

        11. Clay on My Apron*

          I think you’re confusing “other people aren’t ambitious/don’t want to grow” with “other people aren’t behaving like me/doing what I do”.

          You’re making a lot of assumptions based on the little bit you have observed of what people choose to show you.

          Your tone also is a little condescending / dismissive, which I’m sure you don’t intend.

          You’ve had loads of great feedback from the commenters here, people with lots of experience and insight, and they are challenging your thinking on certain things. This is a great opportunity for you to listen carefully and learn.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yeah, this is a very kind and awesome comment.

            queen b, what you seem to be doing here is committing a pretty common logical error. You’re saying, “I do X things because I am ambitious and want to grow and change; others don’t do X, therefore they must not be ambitious or want to grow or change.” (It’s the same logical mistake people make when they’ve worked really hard to get where they are financially, and then conclude that everyone who is still poor is lazy.) That’s not a logical or necessary conclusion at all, and it’s also not a very helpful way to look at your coworkers. Maybe they don’t do X because they aren’t aware of X, or because they ARE aware of X and think X is a bunch of crap, or because their worldview/religion/beliefs forbid X. Maybe they do Y instead of X. Maybe they do X in their personal lives but don’t want anything to do with it at work. Or maybe they’re ambitious in a different way than you — in their friendships, their marriage, their side hustle, their hobbies, their writing. Maybe they don’t value ambition. Maybe they see it as something actively negative or contrary to their belief system in some way.

            There are about 1000 variables and reasons why your coworkers don’t do the things you do. It’s not going to be beneficial to you to assume you know why, but it WILL be beneficial to you in the long run to cultivate a sense of openness to different ways of doing things and different motivations for those ways. Basically, in my experience, people do what works for them, for lots of complicated reasons that I’m rarely privy to and that mostly have nothing to do with me. I can only work on myself, and the less time I spend worrying about others the better.

            Good luck!

          2. Ophelia*

            I agree. I’m 15 years into my career, and OP, the way it’s shaken out has not been a straight line of constant ambition. I’m a high-performing person, but there have been phases of my career where I wanted to push higher, and phases where I wanted to dig deeper. Right now, I’m coming out of a phase where I just wanted to get by, get work done, and keep my head down. I don’t think I understood this at 24 (which was in the phase where I was probably most classically “ambitious”), but I think a LOT of people push hard to reach a mid-senior level in their first 10 years, and then want to deepen their expertise rather than keep reaching higher. I’ve also learned that I love some things, but don’t love others (ahem, management), which has made me push my career in certain directions, but not stay on the management track I was originally on. I might LOOK less ambitious to a casual observer, but the truth is far more complex.

            Also, I’ll be honest. I’ve done a zillion skills quizzes, I know my MBTI (INTJ), I’m a yellow in DISC-world, etc. etc. and honestly? They were vaguely interesting at the start of my career, but now I can literally pick out what my “type” will be before I take a quiz, and they don’t give me any information I didn’t have before. I’ll participate in team-building activities that use them if I have to, but I’m not actively learning anything useful from them at this point.

        12. Anonymouse for this*

          Some of your coworkers have decades of experience on you so there is more than a good chance that they’ve already done plenty of self development. You’re in a different stage of your life/career to your coworkers – not better, not worse, just different.

          Focus on your own development – if you’re allowed to move roles every couple of years that’s a great opportunity. Start planning now where you want to be and how you get there. If you’re a teapot spout designer and want to try teapot lid design then find out what it takes to move roles. Talk to HR and ask for job descriptions or ask someone who’s currently doing the job you want what it took to get there.

          You sound a tad dismissive when you say everyone can move every two years but the team have been in their roles for 5 years plus – like its a bad thing. Maybe they like the team and their jobs and don’t want to move.

        13. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          OP1, I don’t want to pile on, but it may be important to hear it…your tone is coming off quite a bit condescending, whether or not you feel that way. I have been at my company for 10 years, moved around to different departments, and am incredibly motivated by ambition and the chance to expand and grow. I would be annoyed if my company felt a one size fits all Strength Finder or teambuilding activity was the way to do that. It would be a complete waste of my time. Just because people don’t want to do those things, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in growing in their roles, and I think the attitude of “I’m ambitious and want to do more but they’re fine settling and that’s ok” is a false conclusion and could be detrimental to your relationship with your coworkers.

        14. EloPod*

          Some people want to expand and grow but have so many job duties they need to execute by the end of the day that they don’t have time for what amounts to ineffective junk science. They expand and grow in their professional and personal lives organically or through communication with their supervisors rather than group activities. Please stop writing that others who don’t believe in bringing this sort of thing to work don’t want to “grow” and aren’t “ambitious.” I’m plenty ambitious but usually can’t even attend team meetings because I have so much to get done. I would certainly have to decline any meetings like this in order to meet my deadlines.

        15. Tinker*

          The thing about “learning and growing” is that unless you are very shallow or very… focused… you will only be doing it for so long in a way that can be neatly containerized to fit in most office environments. And at least for myself, I have found that it has at times been a necessary part of my personal growth to have the place where I earn money to pay for my food and housing be a normal office environment that is not intimately involved in my self-development process.

          Like: I’m a nonbinary trans guy. Rather a lot of my growing and expanding lately is not something I want to have a staff meeting about.

          And even leaving aside the intimately personal there’s — look, if personal growth is your thing and you’re dedicated to it, you’re going to be in a different place in your journey ten years from now than you are today. Isn’t that the point of all this work you’re doing?

          Fortunately, I think I can say happily that this is a thing that happens. And also, that one of the things about that is that you get to looking at people and saying things like “everything comes in its time and this person is fine considering where they are right now” and “we’re in different parts of our process, and neither of us will benefit from teaching the other in this area”. Sometimes I get looked at that way, which is good because I’m not all that old and it’d be ominous if experience didn’t cause other people to be better at things than me.

          Consider that sometimes it may not be that your coworkers are not at your level, but that you aren’t at your coworkers’ level.

        16. biobotb*

          Given that your coworkers are already much further along their career paths, they’ve probably already done a lot of expanding and growing. When you reach that stage in your career, expanding and growing will look a lot different than it does when someone is just beginning, like you are. For one thing, just doing one’s job for a long time will give you much more insight into your strengths, weaknesses, interests and potential future paths than a personality quiz ever could.

        17. Artemesia*

          Wow. That seems really blinkered to me. You don’t seem to realize that ‘expand and grow’ doesn’t look the same to everyone. The ideas you suggested for doing that made my skin crawl as I have been in plenty of settings where enormous time was wasted on unscientific pop psychology crap and would hate to be required to sit through any of it again. What seems fresh and new to someone starting out, often looks dated and silly to people who are more experienced. Their goals and their idea of personal growth may be entirely different than your cookie cutter notion of how ‘everyone’ should proceed with career development.

      8. Smai*

        Exactly what I logged in to say.

        At 24, I was SO into this stuff, reading ALL THE BOOKS, and taking ALL THE TESTS AND TRAINING.

        At 37? I got that crap figured out, don’t care to go through it again. I can also look back and realized I spent way too much time learning and less time implementing than I should have. I also realize I should have taken a handful of ideas and ran with them vs. learning them all. Frankly, as I look back, a lot are repetitive.

      9. nnn*

        That’s what I was thinking. As a mid-career veteran, I know my strengths and weaknesses and how to work with them. Also, the areas of personal development I need to work on have absolutely nothing to do with my career or workplace.

        Sometimes I find these kinds of activities fun, sometimes I find them a waste of time – really depends on the facilitator and their approach and attitude. But it wouldn’t add any value to my employer or to my own career development to do this in the workplace.

      10. Belle of the Midwest*

        Yes to all this. Signed, Career Counselor Who Speaks StrengthsFinder, Holland, MBTI, and Other Assessments As Required

      11. Lauren*

        Yeah, OP, since they all have been in this career so much longer than you, have you tried asking them what THEY think would be good for professional development? They have probably taken a bunch of stuff over the years and know these things.

        I will also add, personality tests aren’t really professional development. Learning new skills that make you more valuable as an employee and adaptable to new situations is professional development. Focus on that.

        1. Ophelia*

          Ohh, good point. If OP is interested in this particular industry, then specific training courses that give her hands-on, practical skills she can use in her work are going to go a lot further than personality/learning style assessments.

        2. tra la la*

          “Learning new skills that make you more valuable as an employee and adaptable to new situations is professional development.”

          So much this.

      12. Chinookwind*

        A fourth thing is that some people have learned, through experience, that they are perfectly happy doing the job they have and have no desire to push forward in their career. What some may see as a “dead end job” they may be happy at because it gives them enough challenge/satisfaction as well as can see the pitfalls of moving up the chain and the reward is just not worth it to them. Or they see their job as simply a way to pay for their hobbies.

        At that point, personal development and self-help may not be that useful as long as they are still able to do their job and deal and adapt professionally with changes as they happen.

    2. Marthooh*

      At this point, OP #1 should be getting to know individuals on the team rather than personality types. You’ll get more done knowing that Jane is hard-working and doesn’t mind being interrupted but also territorial with her clients than you will by knowing her meyers-briggs score.

      1. Works in IT*

        I wasn’t even thinking about evaluating each others’ Myers-Briggs scores when I was thinking professional development! This would make me even more unhappy in the workplace, amd possibly even make me start job searching elsewhere. I routinely end up in the INFJ personality trait block when I take those tests, and I do not WANT my coworkers or managers to go oh, she’s a personality type that doesn’t tend to like being in leadership positions, I won’t consider helping her with management training!

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Yes. This. Just get to know your colleagues. Spend time observing their reactions to common work situations; have conversations with them and get to know their communication styles. If there’s a particular coworker who you respect and get along with, talk to them about how they feel about the team dynamic so you can get another perspective on how things work there. Figuring out your coworkers’ work and communication styles and quirks will go much farther than any quiz result you may get.

        Personality tests and the like are actually incredibly uninformative. Yes, they’re fun and interesting when you’re just starting out and don’t have much of a baseline to compare anything to and haven’t really had to work much with people who are not of a similar age. But very often, especially with older people, you rarely get information you didn’t already know (or couldn’t figure out with a few weeks of daily interaction) and the end result is a bit “yeah… and?”

      3. Jenn*

        I want to note that management can seem different from the outside and for a new person. A new eager beaver may not see how a manager has to deal with someone 20 years into their career and a little checked out. Their strategies change. What motivates a new employee is totally different. A new hire early in her career may lobe a personality test, but if I tried to force my 25 year grizzled old timers to do them, they would be upset. Managing is massively different based on this, the incentives are totally different.

    3. Lady Jay*

      Indeed. In my last position, I actually had to do Strengths Finder as a kind of team-building exercise, and I found it needlessly complex and unhelpful to my actual work.

      Two thoughts:
      1) I wonder if effective team building is created not through generic, pseudo-psychological exercises such as StrengthsFinder (or the Meyers-Briggs or whatever) but through actually reading up in your field. If you’re in business, read an economics book, for instance.

      2) Keep in mind that profiling systems such as Strengths Finder can, even if accurate, be used as a way to excuse or overlook flaws or problems with the way we operate, without dealing with them. Example: I have always, *always* been pegged by Meyers-Briggs as an introvert, and to some degree, it’s helpful to me to know that I am an introvert, so I can set reasonable expectations for myself (for instance) around how much group work I do and how much time I spent with other people, relative to my colleagues.

      But at the same time, being an introvert isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. I still need to work with other people, appear moderately social and helpful, etc, regardless of whether “being social” is a personal strength of mine. So in some ways, identifying our strengths/weaknesses is a danger, because it makes us more likely to try to slip out of essential responsibilities that we believe are our weaknesses. It’s like those letters that Allison gets from people who don’t like talking on the phone. Well sure, that might be a weakness of yours, but you still have to do it at least a little bit.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        “being an introvert isn’t a “get out of jail free” card”

        Yes, thank you. I’m an introvert, too, but it doesn’t mean I can skip out on interacting with coworkers when I need to, being somewhat social, etc. At a previous company one of my coworkers was pegged as an extrovert and she used that as an excuse anytime someone told her to quiet down and get back to work. “But I’m an extrovert and I need to socialize!” No, you need to actually do some work.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          Don’t I wish it was a get out of jail free card! “Oh, I’m an introvert, so you need to leave me alone all day and never ask me to interact with anyone I don’t like.” What bliss that would be! But alas, not reality.

        2. Boo Hoo*

          Yes! If my uses that excuse one more time. Ahhh. No he’s lazy, him not everyone. Plus, he isn’t at all an introvert he just thinks that’s a good excuse. You’d be shocked how extroverted he can be when it’s something he actually wants to do.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            As I understand it, being an introverted type doesn’t mean one doesn’t get social or enjoy being social. One can be downright gregarious for a time, especially with a group of trusted friends and coworkers. It just takes more energy out of one to do it, it’s not one’s default state, and one gets tired sooner than an extrovert type, who defaults to this state. “They can’t be an introvert because I saw them laughing and having a good time with friends” is false, as would be “they must not be an extrovert because I saw them reading quietly by themselves.”

      2. Amber T*

        Yes! I haven’t had so much experience with these kinds of things in the work place, but I know people in their personal lives who say “well I can’t do X because it’s not my strength” or etc. The people I know personally use this for doing crappy things or not doing nice things, but I can definitely see it rolling into the work place of “oh, it’s not my strength, not my responsibility!” Your job is your job, you gotta do it, and if it’s not a good fit for you, then you move on (caveats about weird/toxic work places aside).

      3. SignalLost*

        What’s particularly fun about Meyers-Briggs is that it can change. I always come up INTJ, mostly because I am a Solitary Beast and they don’t recognize ambiverts. The one time I came up ENFP, I realized that I had taught two classes (involving a lot of interpersonal help and a group discussion in one) and had something like 30 one-on-one conversations that day. Because students. It completely altered how I saw the world that day. So even if someone wanted to use that as a professional tool, taking it once does nothing and rarely seems to provide a surprising result. At most it might give the taker some language to better articulate their wants and needs.

        1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

          Oh hallo fellow INTJ who definitely isn’t incapable of human interaction and can be plenty empathetic!

          I agree here totally. Sometimes these tests can have a fairly negative impact or tempt people to box people into groups or types rather than understanding people are very flexible and changeable and can behave totally differently depending on the weather, what side of the bed they got up on or what task they are doing.

        2. Ophelia*

          Best part of my job is that I work FROM HOME, and my little INTJ soul is just so happy to be left alone to Get Stuff Done. BUT I actually miss going into the office, and really look forward to my trips in. Getting reconnected with my co-workers is excellent, and I actually LOVE public speaking and workshop facilitation, so it’s hardly an all-or-nothing thing.

      4. Elaine*

        The thing about Meyers-Briggs is that it measures your preferences – it it not an absolute thing. So for example you can go with the flow if you need to, even if you prefer things to be structured and organized. We all can make choices about how we behave, even if they might not be our first choices. I completely agree that none of these assessments are “get out of jail free” cards. They should just help us understand ourselves so we can make good choices about how to work around our weaknesses or preferences. And lots of people actually understand themselves very well without the need for assessments.

      5. Autumnheart*

        I think Strengths Finder had some value in the observation that too many leaders look at an individual contributor and say, “Well, you rock at XYZ but you need improvement on ABC, so let’s make your job 75% ABC and 25% XYZ until you improve.” That not only demotivates the individual, it puts people who are genuinely mediocre-at-best into the position, where a leader should strive to place people who excel at it.

        It’s true that nobody’s job is 100% only things they like to do and are good at, but the ideal is to get as close to that as you can, not to try to “improve” people’s performance by forcing them into a role that they dread.

        But reading a book isn’t going to solve that problem, and even if it did, well, now I just saved people $25.95 and a phone call to Gallup.

    4. Anonymeece*

      We had a similar problem, wherein the team all shared similar traits and a high “EQ” but my manager scored so low she wouldn’t even tell us her score. Guess what! Nothing came of ours either.

      OP, truthfully, if you’re interested, you can take those quizzes yourself to learn more about yourself, and approach your boss for a career path, but the team-building things you’re imagining are, in my experience, less than helpful. For one, things like StrengthFinder is based on self-reporting, which means they’re not even very accurate. I had one employee who was consistently missing details, couldn’t follow instructions, etc. and she got “diligent” and “meticulous” as some of her skills. So they don’t even accurately tell the team their real weaknesses or strengths.

      I think talking to your boss about career goals is the right way to go with this.

    5. TCO*

      I worked in an office that looooooved personality tests and self-improvement. We did so many of them: StrengthsFinder, MBTI (I know the criticisms), empathy, languages of appreciation, and others. A lot of people really did appreciate the insight about themselves and others and enjoyed the process. Guess what: we were still dysfunctional.

      I’m gone from that office for that very reason, but my former colleagues tell me that they’re continuing self-improvement coaching. They basically have an intense level of office group therapy(!) and yet things are as bad as ever there. A personality quiz helps when people are really eager to work together well and have good self-insight and emotional intelligence. But it can’t fix true dysfunction.

    6. Free Meerkats*

      When I read the first letter, my thought was, “Gods save us from Self-Improvement proselytizing acolytes!” Under a previous administration, my employer went through All The Things for a few years; we cynics started referring to it as the “Popular Management Theory of the Month.”

      Especially with Meyers-Briggs, some people will weaponize that shit. As in: Ignore suggestions from Jan on this, she’s [type]; or: Marcia is reacting that way because she’s [type].

      Improve the bejeezus out of yourself, but please leave the rest of us out of it.

    7. Formerly Arlington*

      The best thing about those tests, especially at OP’s age, is the realization that Other People Are Different From Me. As an extrovert, this was something critical for me to learn, or else I would have thrown some very unappreciated surprise parties and would have just, in general, put people on the spot without realizing how annoying that could be. That being said, the larger corporations I’ve worked for have done these vs. smaller companies. Maybe OP should look into a larger corporate culture?

  2. Rick Tq*

    OP#1: My company did Strength Finders last year for all ~60 staff at the behest of our owners. About all I can say is it highlighted how different we all are but it had zero impact on how the different groups work together. Your desire for career growth is great, but I’d suggest focusing on personal development like Toastmasters or project planning.

    1. pcake*

      Rick Tq – that sounds like a good call. My mother found Toastmasters brought out traits in her she never knew she had, and she made a couple valuable contacts there, as well.

      1. SignalLost*

        Someone as much a self-starter as the LW would get a lot from Toastmasters. They’ve recently redeveloped their educational curriculum to a form I would call more in line with professional development through public speaking.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Good advice. It sounds like much of LW’s development stuff has been on her own, so a group setting and feedback (from people who want to be there) could be a good change of pace.

    2. JamieS*

      Agreed, focus on your own career development. Talk to your manager and ask him about what advancement looks like, what skills are needed to move on to the next level, ask about the internal promotion process (when appropriate since now may be too early), if there’s a particular job that interests you look at what skills/qualifications are needed, etc.

    3. Kuododi*

      Drat!!! That completely slipped my mind!!! I have suggested Toastmasters as well as Dale Carnegie (not certain if Dale is still available in this day and age.) My beloved Dad was painfully shy and withdrawn when he was younger but starting in his professional life as a Mechanical Engineer. If left to choose for himself, he’d usually spend his work day in his work area hunkered down in his Fortress of solitude. He chose to take both Toastmasters as well as Dale Carnegie as a means of pushing himself out of his safe place to have new opportunities, make connections with work friends etc. According to Dad, he found them both to be such a resounding success, he opted to take the facilitator program training for both courses. He wound up teaching both programs while I was a senior in high school and during my undergraduate degree so give or take 4-5 yrs. Best wishes.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes. And at the risk of being a buzzkill, it’s worth noting that a lot of those workplace development personality tests are well – more marketing than psychology. They were generally created to make money and have little in the way of science to back them up (although obviously, some people still find them helpful – and they are fun!).

      They’re also unlikely to contribute to development in a meaningful sense. I hear you on learning and reading self-help books (and I work in a psychological field, so I often do myself for work, some are amazing!), but the fact is the real development come from regular practice of new skills – as with anything else. Part of the appeal of things like Strengths Finder if that they can feel like a development shortcut, but they’re really not. Work has to happen. Even to learn about yourself and your strengths, nothing will beat actually putting things into practice and seeing how you respond.

      If your goal is to develop some softer skills and learn about yourself, then focusing on things like Toastmasters, or volunteering, or asking for some extra project work – is far more likely to get you results over the long-term.

      And, as a bonus: those are often the sorts of things you can talk about in future job interviews as evidence of skills you’ve developed, whereas if you mention Strengths Finder in an interview, there’s a good chance you’ll look a little out of touch, especially if it falls out of fashion (as those things tend to) and a newer one replaces is.

      Good luck!

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I’m very glad you brought up that these are more marketing than psychology. Sometimes they can be revelatory for an individual, sure. But they are really not that useful in general, at least in my experience.

        Real personal development takes a lot of work, and (also in my experience) the people most likely to need to do that work are the least likely to look at the results of these things and take them at all seriously. People typically have to notice an issue with the way they live/work on their own to have enough invested in the tough job of change.

        1. Aveline*

          That last paragraph is totally spot on.

          Also, that type of change is easier before age 25 when the brain is developing than after 25 when the brain becomes “adult.” We didn’t know that 30 years ago. We know that now.

          It’s time we, as a culture, reassess a whole lot related to human personality and brains.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I’d be cautious about putting those sort of age limits on any of this–people can change a lot in their 30s, 50s, even 70s. Adding white matter to the brain can go on through 30, and I imagine most of us would not be on board with a requirement that we live at home with our parents and defer to their wisdom through that age. It’s less “fortunately I noticed this problem when I was 23, not 27, so I could still change” and more “this problem started to negatively impact me in ways I care about, so I found a way to tackle it” which could apply to a wide range of ages.

            1. Aveline*

              Nothing in my post suggested hard limits or any of the changes or worst case scenarios you posited

              I said reassessment based on current scientific knowledge.

      2. Aveline*

        Have you seen the news about the study detailed in “You have to follow through: Attaining behavioral change goals predicts volitional personality change”?

        Apparently, if one does a program that identifies a trait to work on such as shyness preventing speaking in public, but one doesn’t successfully completed and changed, one will end up worse off than when they started?

        If true, if means these programs are not only useless, but might actually be harmful.

        Becaus people who don’t fix the problem begin to think “why even bother?” and give up entirely wet to the issue.

        There’s a summary on Lifehacker if you can’t access the article.

      3. queen b*

        OP 1 here. Thanks so much, I find this really helpful. We did StrengthsFinder as freshman in college and I found it helpful to a degree but it wasn’t a defining personality trait. Definitely more marketing now that I think about it.

      4. Phoenix Programmer*

        I personally loved Strength Finder 2.0’s section about “If left to your own devices your work would look like” for me it was spot-on. It helped me realized I needed a job with a few daily repeat tasks to get my achievement meter up but a lot of complex analysis research and ever changing challenges as well. I used that knowledge to pick my next role and am happy to say it’s the longest and happiest I have ever been in one role.

        That said the communication aspect of it is very meh. I only bothered to learn tips about the top skill of my bosses. It did help me communicate more effectively with them but as far as team moral or building not so much.

        Also SF is really clear you should talk about your strenghts in regards to why you would love the role but should not mention strength finders skills like that means something.

        1. Autumnheart*

          “My top 5 are Intellection, Consistency, Input, Strategic, and Deliberative!” *look expectantly at interviewer*

    5. hbc*

      My former company did stuff like this a couple years ago for the management team—Strengths Finder, some sort of thing where you take your strengths and write what it’s flipside/weakness is, etc.. Here is the sum total of what it accomplished:

      1) The owner could then easily resort to “Oh, that’s how I am because of X” whenever he did something indefensible.

      2) I ended up with a book on my work bookshelf that made it look like the company actually cared about improving things.

      1. Chocolate Covered Potato Chips*

        We did the colors, and my boss and his friend were the only reds and they started a Reds only lunch once a month that lasted 1/2 a day.

        When we move our cubes to a new building in 2019 we are going to be seated by our colors “so we all get along well”.

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          My new department head is a fan of the colors. I expect that we will all go through the exercise in the new year. Ugh.

        2. RoadsLady*

          We did the colors at a summer camp I worked at, and I believe it was merely for fun, staff-bondung activity rather than development. We had fun with it and joked about it all summer, feigned concern the waterfront staff I ran was entire Whites and Yellows, the commissioners were Reds on power trips, etc. Again, a lot of fun to talk about, but no real staff training at all.

        3. EPLawyer*

          Aaaaand there’s the newest shiny thing to take the place of Strength Finder which took the place of Meyers Briggs, which took the place of something else.

          Just re-iterating that knowing that Jane is hyper controlling and Fergus is lazy and ditches his work on others won’t change how the actual work is done if management isn’t willing to rein in Jane and get Fergus off his butt.

          Work on your own development. If you find you can’t move up with this company after a period of time, look for another job. While you have the luxury of being employed.

          1. Observer*

            Just re-iterating that knowing that Jane is hyper controlling and Fergus is lazy and ditches his work on others won’t change how the actual work is done if management isn’t willing to rein in Jane and get Fergus off his butt.

            Actually, this IS useful information, especially if you combine it with knowing how management is going to react to these facts.

            The other stuff, even when it’s somewhat accurate is far less actionable. And, if you are open to learning about people you don’t actually need one of these tests to actually learn that someone is introverted, for example, and respond accordingly.

        4. Chameleon*

          I can’t stand the Colors test because I have Ordinal Linguistic Personification and those tests get the personality of the colors *entirely* wrong.

          (…grumble grumble blue nurturing its like they don’t even know her…)

      2. lapgiraffe*

        My friend’s company did one where it determined if you’re an eagle, parrot, owl, or dove, and this kind of thing went on for weeks. “Well Fergus is an owl and therefore is going to approach this problem this way, but Anya is a dove so take that into account when you incorporate her later on.” The owner and top manager uses these labels like fixed explanations of problems and why they couldn’t be solved and there was even less compromise and progress than before. What a mess!

      3. Parenthetically*

        Ugh, “Oh, that’s how I am because of X” types! My dad’s former associate/report was this guy. “Oh, I can’t meet with so-and-so because I’m an introvert,” or “No, you can’t expect me to keep detailed records of my spending/whatever because I’m a random-abstract thinker!” Freaking ridiculous.

        I’m a big fan of a couple of personality typing systems, but the reason I like the ones I like is because the WHOLE POINT of them is explicitly to help you grow and develop as a person — to know your weaknesses so you can strengthen them, and to know your strengths so you can leverage them to improve your weaknesses! The point is very much not to say “I’m like this and I can’t change.”

    6. Allison*

      We did Strength Finders as well, and we did find it relatively enlightening, but it didn’t really result in any changes to our responsibilities or how we worked with each other. It’s one of those things you do because you think you should, or because a management book recommended it, but in the real world it’s not useful or practical.

  3. FTW*

    OP2 – you might consider that your coworker is trying to make sure there is alignment on the team, and needs you to reply all as part of this. For example, he needs Janet to follow x direction, and is relying on your email to confirm the direction. That said, he is going about it in a weird way (insisting in the emails).

    It could be worth defaulting to reply all on team emails.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yes, when I’ve been on a “reply-all” kind of team, the idea was that any one person would have the information somewhere in their back e-mail at all times, even if a specific sub-task hadn’t been their responsibility. My Outlook filing system for incoming e-mails, when literally 80% or more of them were irrelevant to me, was epic. But -shrug- what are you gonna do? I found a way to sweep everything out of my inbox almost as soon as it arrived, and put things in places where I could find them really quick.

      1. Lexi Kate*

        Reply all unless its to the whole company, or a large department (less than 50 people reply all). This gives you a paper trail.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          OP responding directly to Fergus also gives her a paper trail, though? It’s not like she’s not answering questions, she’s just not wasting multiple other peoples’ time while doing it.

      2. EPLawyer*

        But it doesn’t seem as if everyone else on the team is insisting on reply all. Only Fergus. Fergus is not the team lead. It seems he wants to seem like he is imparting great fonts of knowledge when he is not.

        Reply all when not necessary is annoying as all get out.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          *sorting through pile of “Okay!” responses re child’s sports team’s game time, can confirm*

        2. PW*

          Agree with this. Unless it is something that everyone at work needs to see “Reply All” is extremely annoying. There are e-mail chains here at my work where people just say “OK” and/or give two-three word replies that get sent to everyone and clog up the e-mail system. I work in a business where everyone here gets 100-150+ e-mails a day and it is VERY annoying to sort through people responding “OK” or “Thanks!” and sending it to everyone. Our boss gets close to 500+ e-mails a day and he gets very annoyed when he gets e-mails he doesn’t need.

          If there is an actual discussion and people asking questions then I can understand “Reply All” but in most cases it is not necessary.

        3. Perse's Mom*


          I get added to email chains much less often than some of my coworkers and it’s still annoying to get 20 emails of back-and-forth when only 1 of them necessitated my involvement to answer a quick question.

      3. Red 5*

        That’s basically what my work email is like. I’m on so many email chains that are just FYI in case somebody can’t find the info and needs it when the main person isn’t there. Or just in case something relevant to me comes up in the conversation.

        I spend 20 minutes a day filing email sometimes.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If that’s not the office norm, LW is going to seriously irk her coworkers by instituting it.

    3. JulieCanCan*

      Yeah I was wondering why OP had such a problem with “reply all” – OP, are you 100% sure that it’s not necessary and won’t be beneficial for the others you’re supposed to be including in your response? Usually there’s a reason for people to want the specific cc’ed folks to be on the email, so NOT replying to all sounds like OP is trying to cause unnecessary problems.

      I don’t know the work involved but why not just reply all? If the person wants others included on the email, even if there are mistakes to be corrected and he/she might not look like they’re on top of their game, so be it.

      I was kind of surprised by Alison’s recommendation because it seems like an innocuous request that can actually be necessary and helpful (and not highly unusual) in most organizations.

      Maybe I’m missing something or didn’t read the letter properly, but I don’t really understand why it would be so egregious to ask a coworker to reply all, especially when they’ve cc’ed coworkers.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Most of my received cc’ed emails are giving a bunch of us information or instruction. I would only reply-all if I was very, very confident that I was pointing out a broad problem. Things like “I’ll get it to you Wednesday” or “Am I doing 8.2 or 8.1 first?” or “How the heck do I make a line appear on this graph?” don’t need to go to everyone. Occasionally the team lead will forward something back out to the group, but that’s from their position of sorting things into different baskets.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I don’t think OP’s issue is with actually replying all, it’s with Fergus’s passive-aggressive ‘reminders’ to do so.

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        I think a key piece of information missing here is how the other coworkers feel about it. Do they want to be read in on everything? If so, reply-all unless there’s a really good reason not to. If it’s just a weird Fergus quirk and they’re annoyed to have to wade through all the cc’s about things that don’t involve them, it’s a more awkward situation.

      4. a1*

        She does not have a problem with Reply All at all. See excerpt from her letter below.

        I find it nitpicky and patronizing — especially since most of the time, I do reply to everyone, and if I don’t, there’s usually a reason. </blockquote.
        She's doing it most of the time – so no problem with it.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        My general policy is that if there are people copied on the email I’m replying to, I include them, unless it’s more personal or irrelevant information. If Fergus emails me, copying Joe, Jane, and Wakeen, I’ll reply copying the same people – I assume they wanted to be include or he wants them to see the response I’m sending. The only exception would be if I needed to ask Fergus a mostly irrelevant question tangentially related to the topic, but that no one else needed to know.

      6. HB*

        Hi – agreeing here with you! I think reply-all might be an office-by-office sort of thing. I’ve worked in places where an e-mail is sent to 50+ individuals and, of course, you’re not going to send a specific answer to everyone. But if a coworker or my boss sends me an e-mail and copies in a bunch of people, I assume he needs those people to know my response and is expecting me to reply-all.

        I had a coworker recently who was, let’s say, not great at his job and very new to the work world. I would send him an e-mail and copy in people who needed to know the answer to a question. He’d reply just back to me. A day or two later, I’d get a follow-up e-mail from someone else in the chain asking about the answer. So his not replying all just created more work for me – I had to follow up and make sure I distributed the information to everyone who needed it. I considered it rude. It seem to me to be a workplace norm that if people are copied into an e-mail, they need the information that’s being addressed.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          Yes!! This is infuriating and I’ve totally been there. It’s like, Dearest coworker, there is a reason those people were cc’ed by me on the original email – they need to be included in the overall scenario – why would you then reply ONLY to me without their names in the cc line??!! Now I’m stuck doing more work because you didn’t pay attention. Thank you.

    4. snowglobe*

      Another reason for Reply All – if the coworker is asking a question, he could very well be getting separate answers from each person in the list. If one person uses Reply All, everyone else knows the question has been answered, so they don’t need to.

      1. hbc*

        That’s exactly the problem I had with the OP’s example. A reply to Fergus solves the problem of him not having the information, but it doesn’t solve the problem of two other people out there thinking Fergus doesn’t have an answer yet.

        Now whether Fergus really should be doing multi-person emails for all his questions (versus asking in person, IM to a group chat, emailing the one person likely to know, researching himself, etc) is a different issue.

        1. Lindsay gee*

          But didn’t OP identify that example as an accident? That she hadn’t meant to not ‘reply all’? She also says that she does ‘reply all’ for most things except when there is an express reason not to.

          1. Bostonian*

            That one time may have been an accident, but now she’s choosing not to when she feels it’s not necessary, which seems to be different from when Fergus thinks it’s necessary.

    5. Clay on My Apron*

      Refusing to reply-all when you’ve been specifically asked to, comes across as a bit aggro IMO. And telling the sender that you’ll decide whether or not everyone needs to know – ditto. Not often that I disagree with Alison’s advice.

      We often, as a team, send out work for review. The feedback needs to be seen by the whole team. When the recipient decides to only reply to the original sender, that person then has to loop everyone back in. It’s a nuisance.

      On the other hand I’ve worked with people who use reply-all in a passive aggressive way. (I probably did it myself when I first started working *cringe*.)

      Speak to your colleague, mention that you don’t do reply-all as a rule to avoid cluttering people’s inboxes and is there a specific reason that everyone needs to be included.

      Asking straightforward questions in a respectful way instead of seething quietly just avoids unnecessary issues.

      1. Micromanagered*

        OP2 is not “refusing to reply-all” though. She is irritated by the fact that she forgot to *once* and now Fergus reminds her to on every single message he sends.

        1. Clay on My Apron*

          “most of the time, I do reply to everyone, and if I don’t, there’s usually a reason” – so my read of this is that she forgot once, but has chosen not to a number of other times.

        2. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

          Eh, OP has very little evidence that that is actually targeted at them. Maybe lots of people forget to reply-all! That’s the thing about reply-all; you don’t know who has already replied if they don’t reply-all. There’s no point of having the same info on 4 different threads just because some people are replying and some are reply-all-ing.

          Ultimately, it’s email. It doesn’t take up physical space. I too am irritated by excess email, but it’s not my job to manage other peoples’ email volume. I work in a reply-all culture now, which I haven’t in the past, and the reasons for it are pretty good; they collaborate closely, and like to have that info archived so it’s easy to find later. It’s not a terrible thing, and I think OP would be better off setting their default reply to “reply all” unless they hear something from others in the org that that shouldn’t be the case.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Yes – personally I’d rather default to everyone having too much information (for some, possibly “unnecessary” information) than potentially someone missing out on information. It’s the difference between always having what you need somewhere in your in-box vs. not having it because someone didn’t feel the need to reply all due to whatever reason. Why risk it? It’s an extra line in an email compartment – I want what I might need or definitely need to be accessible to me, always.

        3. Snarky*

          The OP didn’t forget. The OP said in an effort to get the answer out quickly, they didn’t realize that others were copied on it and they told Fergus as much. Fergus is probably thinking, “Hey, OP said that they didn’t realize that others were copied on the message. Since I sometimes copy others and sometimes I don’t, I’ll put that line in to help differentiate.”

          OP has never said, “Hey, Fergus, I appreciate you trying to highlight the messages where others are copied, but that’s not necessary. I missed it that one time but don’t need a reminder from you every time here on out.”

    6. Blue Eagle*

      NO, please don’t “reply all” as a default. The majority of people do not appreciate all of these “reply all” emails that mostly serve to clog up our inboxes.

      Here’s an idea. Tell him that if he thinks that everyone needs to see your reply, that he should forward it to the appropriate people – that way HE is the inbox clogger and not you.

    7. Anon From Here*

      I think I’m reading that Fergus is a peer. If that’s the case, then I’d just set my default to reply-all and keep doing it until I hear differently from a supervisor. “We have the technology,” as they used to say in the intro to that old TV show. Set up filters to pre-sort the incoming deluge and/or change your e-mail habits to checking in at intervals rather than constant monitoring, or something, and move on with your day.

      So he got passive-aggressive in his request for reply-all. Whatever. Be the better person, stay more professional in your own interactions with him, and smile every time you hit “reply.”

    8. Karen from Finance*

      I’m confused by this thread in general.

      OP is not refusing to reply all as a rule. They state: “especially since most of the time, I do reply to everyone, and if I don’t, there’s usually a reason”. So it’s not about refusing to reply-all IN GENERAL, it’s just that Fergus is denying them their discretion about when/why to do it. It’s normal in business to exercise discretion in replying privately to some matters (like corrections, like OP pointed out), it’s not unprofessional on OP’s part.

      Personally when I find myself in Fergus’s place and I receive an email where I’d rather the rest of the team had been kept in the loop, I just add them back into the chain in my reply. Fergus is being childish and aggressive about it.

      1. Lindsay gee*

        Agreed. Reading the comments I was a little confused how this thread was going in this direction

      2. Bostonian*

        I personally don’t find it “childish and aggressive” to have a line in an email requesting “reply all” in some cases. As long as it’s not all the time, it seems reasonable to me to request that, especially since it is so easy to not notice that there are other people copied on the message (as OP has pointed out).

        1. LindsayGee*

          But I would find it micro-managey coming from a peer especially. Basically fergus is assuming that OP and other coworkers can’t be trusted to know when to ‘reply’ or ‘reply all’ based on the context of the situation. I get emails all the time for work, with many people ccd on it. Sometimes it makes sense to reply and other times it makes sense to reply all. Do i sometimes make the wrong judgement call? Sure. But i do think its kindof infantilizing to not trust your coworkers discretion to use a tool that can be VERY annoying when overused.
          If it was every one ina while that the coworker was requesting ‘reply all’ within the email, i think occasionaly its fine. But all the time is a pain in the rear and i would definitely be annoyed.

          1. JB*

            Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I’m the one who asked the question, and LindsayGee really hit the nail on the head. Just as some added context, I do reply all most of the time, but in my opinion, there are times when replying all is inappropriate – either because the question/commentary doesn’t apply to everyone or Fergus is so off base that it would be (in my opinion) unprofessional to reply all and call him out in front of a group of peers. I’d much rather reply just to him, and let him make his own correction. Fergus has also received feedback from peers and business partners that he can be shaming and belittling in his approach – whether it’s in email or in person-to-person meetings. This morning he sent me another email with a request to “reply all”. In this particular case, I didn’t think it was appropriate to “reply all”, and so I mentioned in my email response that I was only replying to him and gave him the reasons why. He actually thanked me for not “replying all”.

    9. AnOh*

      And maybe I’m misreading or OP has certain scenarios in mind, but I would think if Fergus is sending out emails with inaccurate information, it would make more sense to Reply All so others are not working off that incorrect information. Maybe Fergus responds to everyone with corrections when OP personally reaches out to him but I imagine it would be much quicker to respond to everyone immediately with the correction.

    10. MassMatt*

      This response seems to assume the coworker requesting “reply all” is senior to the OP, when it is the opposite.

      I say NO on defaulting to “reply all”! It is a sure way to spam everyone’s mailbox, especially if the original email being replied to is long. Everyone has had the unfortunate experience of having tons of content-free emails because many in an office reply all with “OK!” Etc. Or all jump to correct the same mistake.

      Emails should go to the people that need to receive them, not default to everyone.

      OP’s coworker is doing email wrong. If he has a question or is unsure about x, he shouldn’t email the question to the whole office, and expect a “reply all”, he should email or ask the person most likely to know.

      The coworker is a terrible communicator (who, as with many terrible communicators, thinks he’s a GREAT communicator) and his boss should coach him to use email more appropriately. OP I recommend bringing this up with a manager, yours or his.

  4. Snarl Trolley*

    Oh, LW 4, I am right there with you. I was hoping Alison would bring up the potential to ask your boss to read the review first on your own, and once again, she came through. :) You still have to face it and discuss it, yes, and I’m sure the anxiety will still be there! – but in my own experience, having time to process even a bad review by myself makes going in and facing it with someone else much more manageable. Your brain can’t spiral and catastrophize the meeting in advance when it’s faced with exactly what the worst thing you’ll discuss is, right there on paper. You have time to process, prepare, and maybe even talk to your therapist about specific things to bring up in the meeting to keep everything moving forward. Absolute best of luck to you – this is so hard, and I wish you all the rave reviews.

    1. Christy*

      Lots of people hate reviews! My leadership coach discussed reviews when I was on my first acting manager assignment and she basically said “listen, you should be giving feedback throughout the year, and your best case scenario for an annual review is stasis. Much more often you’ll get someone really nervous and they’ll be too anxious to listen or they’ll shut down with criticism.”

      If it helps, try to think of it as a conversation. And think of all of your problem areas as opportunities for improvement being pointed out to you—that is sincerely how I think of them and I’m grateful every time I get legit criticism. Because really, it helps me be better.

      And hey, all it took to treat my own anxiety was meds, therapy, exercise, diet, sufficient rest, and experience in the working world. No big deal (lolsob) but seriously, you can change your perspective on reviews. Or just mitigate their emotional impact. Good luck!

      1. Snarl Trolley*

        “And think of all of your problem areas as opportunities for improvement being pointed out to you”

        Yes! I already know that my self-worth is frustratingly and over-much tied into how both I and others perceive my work-ethic, so I “cheat” my anxiety about potential reviews by using any constructive criticism as a way to prove to that supervisor/manager just how mature and useful and great I am at taking criticism and turning it around. BOOM, now I have a concrete plan of action based on the review, I’ll get right on fixing the issue, and it’s a professional and psychological win/win.

        1. CM*

          Along these lines, advice that really helped me was that if someone doesn’t care about your development and doesn’t see you sticking around for long, they won’t give you any feedback — why bother to have a difficult conversation and come up with specific examples and suggestions? It’s a lot of work and causes anxiety for the person giving the feedback too. If someone does care about your development, and wants to keep working with you and help you improve, then they’ll go through the pain of giving you the negative feedback. It really is a gift for someone to tell you, “I want you to do this differently,” instead of just being quietly annoyed.

          1. LW 4*

            Thanks, CM. That’s a great point. My boss is definitely the kind of manager who wants me to succeed. It’s helpful to think of the review as a process where we both have the same goal – helping me do my job to the best of my ability and develop my career.

      2. Washi*

        Yes! It sounds so cliched, but thinking about mistakes as opportunities has really changed my life. Things that helped me get there:
        1. Reading Carol Dweck’s work on growth vs. fixed mindset
        2. Deliberately reminding myself of times when I made a mistake or was challenged and things turned out better as a result (it can be as simple as that time you clicked on the wrong button in Word by accident and discovered a function you didn’t know existed)
        3. When I feel my anxiety rising in difficult situations, I tell myself “this is what growth feels like” and welcome that discomfort as a positive, not a negative

        This is all to say that I think you have a lot to gain by not telling your manager that reviews make you nervous and thereby set the bar lower for your reactions. It’s hard, but you can get through this!

      3. LW 4*

        Thanks! That’s really helpful. I know rationally that constructive criticism is beneficial and is the best way for me to improve and grow. It’s just a matter of overcoming the anxiety that goes “AHHH ANNUAL REVIEW BIG DEAL FAILURE WARNING!”
        But my boss is a good manager, so if I can focus on thinking of the review as a conversation with him and, like you said, try to turn shortcomings into opportunities, I think that will help.

    2. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

      Yeah, I’m surprised that Alison didn’t reference any of the many, many ways OP could make this easier on themselves! It is super common for performance reviews to make people nervous, it’s practically the point. I think they should be abolished, but that’s neither here nor there.

      Tell your manager that you have some anxiety around performance reviews, and you want to manage it! Make it clear to them that you *do* really value feedback, and that you have an anxiety response that you’re working on improving but that you’d really appreciate a work-around for as well. Stuff like being able to read your review in advance, or even just, if you’re going to be getting regular constructive feedback, getting an email heads-up that says “I’d like to talk to you about this, here’s the broad strokes” so you can have that anxious reaction on your own, in a controlled setting, and go to the review itself ready to talk and learn.

      Seriously, this is not a big accommodation to make, any good manager will be fine with it. You don’t even have to bring anxiety into it; you can say “I’m working on it, but I have some reflexive negative reactions to constructive feedback. I want to get the feedback, and I want to make you feel totally comfortable giving me that feedback, and I’ve found that an email heads-up beforehand allows me the space to have the reaction I’m gonna have, and allows me to actually enter the conversation in a space to learn and grow.”

    3. LW 4*

      Thank you for the well wishes and support! It really does help to remind myself that others struggle with anxiety and performance reviews too.
      Alison’s advice feels spot on – prepare, prepare, prepare (including with my therapist). I do have regular check-ins with my boss, so this really shouldn’t be any different. It’s just the big formal process of “Annual Review” that really gets my brain spiraling.
      I’m actually planning to talk to my boss today about how he wants to organize the process, so I’ll bring up sharing feedback in advance!
      Thanks again.

  5. Nursey Nurse*

    I don’t understand the new trend of doing personal development activities at work. A few months ago the director of our organization had a mandatory training where we all had to take a multiple-choice personality test and then were assigned a shape based on our responses. We had to break up into shape groups and write out the traits of our shape group and state which ones fit us or didn’t fit us. The exercise was allegedly designed to make us communicate better but I got absolutely nothing out of it besides boredom and some stale donut holes.

    In my opinion, work is for working. People need to communicate professionally with each other and do their jobs, but they don’t need to explore what color their parachute is or what letters sum up their personality in order to do that. There’s certainly nothing wrong with doing that type of activity in your free time if that’s what you like to do, but I don’t see how that would assist someone in the workplace.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I think a certain amount of reflection about this sort of thing is very useful. At a fundamental level, it helps a lot to understand what your own strengths and weaknesses are, and to recognize that other people can function very differently than you do. And for anyone in a management position, being able to productively manage different personality types and strengths is important.

      The problem with a lot of workplace activities is that you don’t necessarily want to do this as a group with a bunch of coworkers, combined with the tendency to waaay over interpret the results produced by what are inevitably very broad analysis tools.

      1. Nursey Nurse*

        I think that’s really my main objection. There are way more than 4 personality types in the world, and you’re never going to learn anything useful about someone by the way they answer twenty multiple-choice questions.

            1. SavannahMiranda*

              Omg, I love this! It’s hilarious and brilliant.

              I am definitely clever and lazy, but far far from a leader, innovator, or efficient deployer of resources. My job is only for the clever and diligent, in the way my role is designed, and without the diligent part I make my own life hard!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I don’t need to take a quiz to know I’m in Ravenclaw.

          Also, most of my field is probably in Ravenclaw. Insufferable know-it-alls unite!

          1. Jenn*

            In my experience most professional development is about as accurate as a sorting hat quiz. People are aware of the “I am so nice and loyal”, “I am bookish”, “I am brave”, and “I am cunning” implications of the questions and pick accordingly. Same with the “I like to be alone” versus “I like spending time with people” in Myers-briggs. I have yet to come across one of these quizzes that wasn’t transparent.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              In college my roommate had to give a bunch of us personality quizzes, and we discovered that no one in our friend group was J. Which explained why we couldn’t figure out where to meet for dinner, so “Just be J!” became an inside joke.

              That didn’t stop us from going on to become people in our 30s who made judgments–including where to meet for dinner–all the time.

            2. A tester, not a developer*

              I’m not inherently cunning, but I do have a cunning plan… does that count?

              (and yes, it is as cunning as a fox that’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University).

          2. snowglobe*

            And yet – Hermione was an insufferable know-it-all, but was sorted into Gryffindor. The point being that people are actually pretty complex and can have multiple strengths/types and aren’t easily classified.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              And the secret of the Sorting Hat–if you told it “But I really want to be in Gryffidor” it would put you there. Scientifically! i.e. you could manipulate the Sorting Hat to give you the results you wanted.

          3. LQ*

            Every time someone wants to do a personality quiz thing I always say we should do Harry Potter houses because they are just as accurate and at least we will understand that it’s for fun and entertainment not something that you should be judging what jobs staff should hold, or what assignments people should get. It’s been excellent so far at shutting it down. (Especially since if they ask what house I am I just “idunno”.) Though if I goes farther I’m going to switch to a more dystopian version of it and go for the Divergent houses. If you’re going to insist that people are one thing and one thing only, lets understand that even YA books get the absurdity of that and make it something to be broken out of and destroyed.

            1. No one you know*

              I know too many people who take Hogwarts house stuff super seriously. Like, tattoos and sobbing over that Pottermore game seriously.

          4. Hey Nonny Anon*

            I’ve taken multiple Sorting Hat quizzes and I always end up in Hufflepuff (even the ones where the questions had some nuance), while the work-guided personality tests all seem to conflict when predicting my learning style/work personality/strengths.

        2. Czhorat*

          Yeah, I’m not sure that knowing ones Meyers-Briggs result is appreciably more useful than ones astrological sign (and NO, I am not suggesting that employers hire an astrologer).

          It also – much like an astrologer – costs a measure not respect for people who don’t see it as valuable. This kind of activity feels to many like a false, lip-service kind of team building and personal development *at best*.

          1. RoadsLady*

            A staff astrologer would be the coolest thing to off-handedly mention, though. Office watercooler. “Oh, New Chap, have you met Sofia Moon Oak, our office astologer?”

          2. fposte*

            Yup. Then throw in the loss of revenue from spending time on it and the backlog of real work. You have to treat people’s time as valuable.

    2. Perse's Mom*

      In re: your second paragraph.
      I 95% agree with you. Another 2% says it’s kind of handy to know that Fergus is X while Jane is Y because that helps me figure out what level of info I need to provide if I have a question for them as well as what kind of response I’m likely to get back. But the remaining 3% reminds me I have no way of knowing X or Y in most cases (and history has proven nobody cares that I’m Z).

      1. WellRed*

        You can also learn what people are like by actually working with them. Regardless, I don’t need to know why Jane’s personality type makes her perpetually miss deadlines, I just need to know that she perpetually misses deadline.

        1. Lexi Kate*

          This so much.
          If you work with someone who needs a lot of information you know that after working with them, quick and to the point they let you know if your paying attention. You don’t need a personality test list to get this.

        2. Aveline*

          Or, you know, asking them.

          I’d rather have a company work on facilitating communication for 20 minutes than spend a day doing this stuff.

        3. Dr. Pepper*

          Yup. Working day in and day out with people will tell you far more about them than any personality quiz. You’ll figure out that Fergus likes to work alone and communicate mostly by email, or that Jane talks endlessly about her holidays, or that Lucinda always leaves things to the last minute and then rushes around in a panic trying to make a deadline. And so on and so forth.

      2. fposte*

        The thing is, you’re talking about using them predictively, which is exactly what these tests tend to fail at.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          The only one I have any experience with in the workplace is the Colors thing, and it was “sold” to us on the predictive and relational aspects. If Fergus is Red, I know I need to get straight to the point. If Jane is Blue, I may need to chit-chat first before I ask for what I need. Etc. Which makes that 2% sense in the moment… except the end result is still that almost nobody knows (or actually cares) what ratio of Colors we had.

          1. biobotb*

            I had to do the Colors activity also, and literally everything you mention about personality is easily assessed just by interacting with each individual. There were absolutely no surprises or real insights about people’s personalities and work styles gained from that exercise.

      3. Nita*

        Yes, that’s the only kind of “personal development” activity that I’ve found useful. I mean, it should be obvious that people have different working styles, and need different approaches – but sometimes you don’t see the obvious, especially if you’re always rushing from deadline to deadline. It helps to take a few hours out of one’s day to dive into how to assess personality types, and find the right approach to them.

        Oh, and I’ve also found public speaking training sort of helpful. But that’s it. So all told, I’ve done maybe five or six personal development classes. One was very helpful, one was sort of useful, and the rest were an incredibly dull waste of my time. That’s more misses than hits, and I can see why a lot of people would want to run far, far away from doing these.

    3. Jenn*

      I work with new trainees and have had to do quite a few of these (often at the expense of actually useful management training like “what do I do in this timesheet situation” or “how do I handle a performance improvement plan”) and have found them utter rubbish.

      If OP finds them personally useful, great, but I find that they tell you far more about what you think of yourself (and the tests are easily manipulated) than they do your actual style. Then some random person who has never met you talks about your personality and how you are for two hours. As I have know a lot of my co-trainers for years, shared trainees and written reports with them, I know a lot of it isn’t accurate. For example, Jane projects a more meek self image and they always talk about assertion, but I have trained with Jane for years and she is extremely assertive with her trainees, sometimes to the point of steamrolling. But speaking up in these meetings to talk about what you actually know gets you glared at. I have been told exact opposite things by these tests.

      I base my development in feedback, either direct or anonymous and my experiences of what has and has not succeeded in the past.

      But I hate hate hate these tests and my CEO who pushes them constantly (she has given us all books of the latest personal development multiple times).

      If it works for you, great, but don’t force them on everyone else.

    4. Anon Anon Anon*

      I don’t like personality tests because the popular ones are scientifically dubious and they tend to reduce people to stereotypes. They’re entertaining and can be useful when done voluntarily on your own time, but they don’t belong in the work place.

      1. Antilles*

        Agreed. And personality tests at work are *even worse* at reducing people to stereotypes. See because while the personality test will explain something like “all types have strengths and weaknesses” and “most people have at least a few traits from other types even if you’re primarily ____” and so on, companies tend to completely ignore all that and classify the main personality types as “good” or “bad”. So you end up with a wildly unbalanced team based on whatever the company/department executives think is the ‘preferred’ type.
        Theory: We’re a sales team! We need strong, never-take-no people! Powerful Red / The Achiever personalities only! None of those wimpy Peaceful Green / The Concilator types!
        Reality: You just made a team that will stab each other in the parking lot.

    5. I am professional enough*

      I am so with you here. Professional development to me is learning and growing in the profession on your own time. Do NOT put me in a room with 75 people and markers and chart paper. Do NOT lecture me on engagement. I am engaged. I interviewed for this position. I am passionate about my work. Yes, I said the P. word. Now can I go back to my office.
      Oh, we did strength training and the misery that I got out of that was that my assistant who was failing at every task in her job description (oh please, I inherited her, union, year and half PIP) came to the conclusion that her strengths were not in the areas of her job duties (not surprising to me) and she got a professional eval to outline how I could better engage her by removing all of the boring tasks from her list of things-to-do, find ways to give her opportunities to socialize at work, and give her the freedom to leave her desk ( public facing service desk) anytime she wanted to.

    6. Beth*

      The only positive thing I can say about the so-called “personal development” activities is that, if there isn’t too much work to do in a given day, I suppose there are worse things than being paid to fill out a meaningless questionnaire. IOf course, I’ve filled out enough of them by now that I generally screw around with the answers anyway, just to see what kind of crazy results I can get.

      If I belonged to a long-running, well-established work group, and I heard that this kind of activity was being touted by a new hire half my age, I would not be amused in any way. I would be furious.

  6. Alienor*

    I’ve done Strengths Finder more than once as part of different teams, as both a manager and an individual contributor, and it’s never changed anything about the way we worked. This is because if a team has worked together for any amount of time, they can all pretty much already guess who’s going to score high in Command, Learner, Empathy etc (and my favourite, WOO!) just from having interacted with them over months and years. Last time i did it was in a group of about 20 and there were zero surprises. It might be interesting in a brand new group of people who don’t know each other at all, but it definitely doesn’t fix dysfunction.

    1. Squeeble*

      Same here. My team years ago did it, had an actually pretty interesting discussion about our results, and then…went back to work like normal and never discussed it again. I think that’s pretty common.

    2. Karen from Finance*

      I find StrengthsFinder very interesting on a personal level, and to me it was enlightening in some respects, for personal growth. For example, I found it amusing and interesting that my partner’s top 3 strenghts are the bottom 3 of my former supervisor (with whom I could never develop a good working relationship and drove me to quit).

      But at the same time I don’t think it’s really a good tool for teams. My then-supervisor and I knew we weren’t a good match but nothing was really done about it. Not at the manager level, to reassign is with people we’d work better with, not at the individual level, to really work to make our differences work in our favour instead of against. I think this is the case in most companies, from reading this comment section.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I think that’s where overall culture and management is so much more important. My organization (200ish people) just took a half-day to do one of these things, and overall I think people found it really useful, especially because it was framed as learning about ourselves and how to work with others in a generally respectful and functional context. So a manager/subordinate pair shared a story about how they are each trying to work with the other’s style, but they already had a good working relationship. Just now one makes more of a point to share a bulleted list rather than a whole story.

    3. Rollergirl09*

      I scored highest in WOO. My all male team started calling me WOO Girl (tm How I Met Your Mother). From then on, whenever we were dealing with someone difficult, they called me in.

  7. pcake*

    Poster #1, as far as you wanting professional development at work, absolutely ask your manager about it. As far as forcing the rest of your co-workers into personal and professional development activities, that seems very young to me. It’s something I wouldn’t want to take part in for several reasons.

    First, from both reading at AAM and from people I know, strength finding activities often get very poor results. For example, my husband was told he should be a forest ranger, yet he’s very happy as a CNC programmer and manufacturing engineer. Me? I was told I would do well as an admin despite the fact that I hate offices and am happier working as a lone wolf, although I get along well with colleagues as a rule. And if you read here more, you’ll find that some team building activities make work relationships worse or make it all too clear that the manager or those above her haven’t got a clue. These aren’t professors or mentors or parents – they don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart and some are just clueless and run with their pet theories.

    It seems to me – and I’m just one person on the internet – that YOU are the one who best can decide what directions you want to take. A good manager – and there are many out there who aren’t – might be able to point you in directions to help you further your career. But there’s also a good chance they can’t for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional, so if you ask for input here, listen to what they have to say but use critical thinking and research to decide if you got good advice.

    As far as sitting with my co-workers discussing my strengths and weaknesses? No. Just… no. No in general and even more no if I don’t get along with said co-workers to begin with. Why would I share essentially personal qualities with people who I have little in common with? But if everyone doesn’t get along, that’s on management, which – btw – would make me less likely to take the manager’s career advice on face value.

    1. SignalLost*

      I should be a religious leader, according to my high school vocational battery (ASVAB, for anyone who cares). I … don’t believe in any god. And L Ron Hubbard was all the L Ron Hubbard we need.

      1. Videogame Lurker*

        Mine said I should go into the tourism business. Like a tour guide.

        That is totally what someone who has big ambitions in life wants to be told while trying to find what they want to do that would get them out of a tiny dead end town.

        I wound up gaming the test scores so I would silence the teachers and friends who would go “Oh, but Videogame Lurker, you’re so smart, why don’t you go into a STEM field where there aren’t a lot of women in the field and the US needs to encourage women to go into those fields.”

        Soon as I realize what kind of test I am taking, I will falsify my responses to get the result I want.

        1. Ermintrude*

          Apparently I’d have made a good librarian or translator. I work in manual labour and hospitality… I like that I just have to think about what’s in front of me and I can do creative, brainy things when I’m not working.

          1. Allonge*

            Oh my. I am an excellent librarian. If I had to translate anything for more than two days, I would seriously contemplate hitting my head against a desk until I passed out. How are these tests even… made?

        2. Gargantuan*

          Soon as I realize what kind of test I am taking, I will falsify my responses to get the result I want.
          That’s certainly your prerogative, but isn’t it possible that you might get a new perspective if you answered the questions honestly?

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Gargantuan, I appreciate what you’re thinking, but a big problem with these tests is that they don’t really do what it says on the tin – as evidenced by these stories where people were told their “perfect” careers that aren’t really suitable for them. In my case, I apparently come across as really easy-going in my answers because every test like this that I’ve taken basically says “you could do anything!!!”

            Another commenter above mentioned that these tests are more marketing than psychology. But also, a test doesn’t give you a sense of what the real-world version of a job is like. I suspect that job shadowing/begins the scenes looks at careers are probably much more helpful for people who want to know more about what suits them.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s an inherent flaw with the use of a test like this. Like if you know honest feedback on the employee satisfaction survey will lead to individual retribution–or just to forced karaoke–then you have no incentive to be honest. If I know everyone in the triangle group gets to leave early, while the other shapes will have to sit in small groups and make heraldic shields of their strengths, better believe I’m going to be a triangle.

          3. LQ*

            On your own time? Sure. But at work? Where someone IS judging those results? Sure they’ll say they aren’t. But they 100% are. Oh we should give LQ more of x, or less of y. Oh LQ isn’t good at blank so we won’t promote her into a role that’s blank (despite the fact that I am and have been doing a way better job at blank than anyone else in the org). You better believe I’m going to game those tests hard when we are all required to do them together.

            I really enjoy the heck out of personal growth (as an actual thing I do) and read a lot of stuff on my personal time. But I’m only going to show the hand I want to be shown at work. My personal BS is for my personal life.

          4. Observer*

            Based on what she says, the answer is no. She TRIED being honest and it gave her answers that ranged from useless to damaging.

            The fact that the test is so easily gamed is telling. The fact that people find that they need to game the test is even more telling.

        3. Asperger Hare*

          Yeah, I took a few “find your perfect career!” online tests that my colleagues were raving about and all of them were totally unsuitable for me because of my Aspergers.

          “But you might be an amazing Llama Trainer!”

          Nope. Don’t care. I want a job that balances my sensory needs, my mental health, brings in enough cash to live on and fills me with some vague sense of satisfaction. I don’t want to work evenings and weekends training llamas just because an internet test told me so.

          I retook the test four times and manipulated it to get the results I needed, and now it says Teapot Designer. And, as I am a Teapot Designer, they’re all happy to leave me alone.

          1. Aveline*

            Thank you so much for this.

            One thing people like OP forget is how excruciating these types of tests and team building can be for people who aren’t neurotypical or for people w certain life traumas. Maybe that’s not the case for you, but I have seen it in people w ASD and people who are just shy of being on the spectrum.

            I have worked w a lot of people on the spectrum. Most of these tests don’t work on them. They assume a neurotypical baseline.

            These types of programs aren’t developed by psychologists trying to treat individuals. They don’t really have that type of insight.

            If they did, they’d be really inappropriate in a work setting.

            I have seen people try and make them into something deep and meaningful. That’s really dangerous. Particularly if it bleeds from group dynamics into personal psychology.

            Also, at one company I worked for, an entire department decided they loathed being forced to do this, so they purposefully screwed w the results. The presenter had no clue. So that tells you something about the accuracy or training of that program (I forget which one it was).

            If you are someone who wants to use them: be very wary of what ones you choose and how they are administered. Always allow opt out without any repurcussion.

            And make sure they don’t cross a line into personal psychology.

            A friend has client who is a vet w PTSD. He works at a company that did some of this testing. The administrator wanted to query him about some result which was unusual. He didn’t want to tell the group, but the administrator persisted. Finally, he asked if she was a a psychologist trained in trauma becaus if she wasn’t, if was really inappropriate for her to try and speak to him about the real source of his “mistrustfullness” or how to fix it because the source was discovering the bodies of children brutually killed by their own people, having to make split second decisions about shooting armed preteens, etc.

            The kicker is this dudes job doesn’t require him to interact w the public, cleints, or coworkers. He works at home and delivers his output which is a discrete part of the project. He can function just fine at his job without any need to improve anything.

            Sometimes, “difficult” personality traits are the result of brain chemistry from birth. Sometimes they are amechanism for coping w life trauma.

            It is appropriate for a workplace to care about group dynamics. But “personal development” like LW is suggesting can often cross into territory inappropriate for a workplace.

            Skills training, personality improvement, habit and organizational skills, and individual mental health are all separate concerns. Group dynamics is something else. Some of this is appropriate for the workplace. Some of it isn’t.

            Far too often, programs conflate these and tread into inappropriate territory.

            There are no quick fixes.

            I’d also ask OP to read the Hudson et. Al. Article in personality change. “You have to follow through: Attaining behavioral change goals predicts volitional personality change.”

            Programs which encourage people to make changes can make people worse. People who have a flaw or are told they have one who then work on that flaw and fail to improve it do end up at a worse reset point than when they started.

            So if you are shy and you work on that and don’t succeed, you become even more withdrawn and shy. Self-fullfilling prophecy.

            Improvement of a core personality trait needs to be done in tested environments or under the guidance of a trained professional. That may be Toastmasters, which is great, or a cognitive behavioral therapist (or both).

            Finally, if OP is under 25,* she may want to understand that she’s still in the figuring out who she is phase. These tools have a different impact on her. To a 50 year old, they are different.

            Finally, never asssume that just because you haven’t seen someone work on a trait you dislike that they haven’t tried. Maybe they have tried and the person you see is the best self they can present to the world. Have sympathy. For some people, getting out of bed and faxing the world takes more effort than others could ever imagine.

            Clinical depression, PTSD, and other dehabiliting conditions impact far more of the population than most of us realize. We are only beginning to understand the reality of this culturally. We haven’t even begun to really address it.

            25 is the age the brain reaches structural adulthood which can be seen on brain scans. This is an interesting rabbit hole for anyone who is interested in personal development, age of consent laws, sexual harassment laws, trying children as adults…

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        lol… When I took the ASVAB in HS, it didn’t point me to a particular position, but apparently I scored off the charts in mechanical aptitude. Scared me right off joining the military. I had visions of being stuck in a motor pool somewhere. Perhaps I watched too much MASH as a youth, but I didn’t want to be stuck with Rizzo for a military career :)

        1. JeanB in NC*

          When I was going in the Air Force, I took the ASVAB and scored really well on everything but mechanics. So where did they put me? Mechanics, of course! I asked them about it and they said since so many people who can’t qualify for anything go in mechanics, they liked to throw a smart person in there every once in a while.

          I have no mechanical ability whatsoever! I ended up not enlisting anyway, but still.

      3. Bee*

        Maybe we took the same test? Mine included results such as municipal waste manager and ferryboat captain.
        (I do not do these things, but I do often wish to take to the sea!)

    2. Jenn*

      My favorite awkward moment was when one of those tests in high school told me I like working with my hands and some career counsellor went on about how I should be a carpenter or similar.

      Great, except for the teeny tiny issue of the nerve damage in my left hand that would preclude any of that. I knew since I was a kid I wanted a writing heavy job and (shocker), I have one now and adore it.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      Agreed – I was guided toward sales (HATE SALES) and was told my chosen career path (corporate accounting) was a terrible fit. I love my job and what I do and the 3 months I had a sales-adjacent job I hated every bloody minute. You do you boo but if you make me waste a day doing that stuff I will side eye you very hard for the rest of our working life together.

      1. pcake*

        There’s something else about this kind of testing and counseling, too. My dad was steered into an engineering major in college. In the late ’60s, it turned out that the government had told colleges they’d need engineers, and asked that colleges suggest that career for more students.

        The catch is that the counselors jumped in whole-heartedly, and as a result there were far more engineers than engineering jobs. It was a big deal in the news, that all these college-educated men with experience often ended up out of work for a year at a time, and they often ended up in unrelated fields to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. It wasn’t a good time for my family because my father, at 18, felt a college counselor would know what’s best for him.

    4. Dance-y Reagan*

      I was told to be a taxidermist. I tear up when I pass roadkill. I can just imagine spending my entire work day ugly crying and snotting all over the place.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I’m sorry, but I had laugh at this one. I mean, how does taxidermist end up in a list of careers. Don’t get me wrong, taxidermy is a valid and very skilled career. But it’s not exactly mainstream and I’m not sure that anyone has ever said… “Well I was going to go into Accounting or Law, but my vocational test said I was prime to enter the field of taxidermy so I chucked all that other stuff out the window and now here I am!”

        1. LeoDaQuirm*

          “You’ve got to want to be a taxidermist – I want to fill animals with sand…I want to get the whole of the Gobi desert into a rat!”

          Thank you Mr Izzard for always having an appropriate quote.

    5. PhyllisB*

      When I went back to college in my forties, we took some of these courses/tests. This was in the nineties, the heyday of all this sort of thing. I found them kind of fun and somewhat enlightening. I remember the colors (can’t remember what the different colors meant) and we all had great fun and lots of laughter with that one. Myers-Briggs was interesting; I knew some of it already, of course; I mean, if you don’t know yourself some by the age of 44, well….but some of it I went hmmmmmm. The only place I had ever worked was over 20 years at the phone company as an operator and when the office closed they paid for us to go back to college if we wanted to.
      The careers part was fun. I can’t remember all the recommendations for careers, but I do remember one of them was being a secretary at a middle school. The main thing wrong with that is, I HATE office work, and I AM NOT organized. I do know that I didn’t pursue any of the career paths mentioned, but it did get me to thinking about what I wanted to do with the next phase of my working life.
      So to me, the bottom line is, these tests can be interesting if you enjoy doing this sort of thing, and you can learn something about yourself, but it’s not to be taken as gospel, Kind of like that board game from the sixties; I think it was called Dream Date or something like that. It was supposed to show you the perfect date for you. Lots of fun, and lots of laughs, but not a life plan for sure.

  8. mark132*

    LW3, I’ve done the unpaid overtime before and it was largely a complete waste of my time. It may have been valuable to my employer, but it basically did nothing for me. In fact, it really cost me money. After all I was paying to commute to work now on weekends as well, I wasn’t getting any comp time, it was hard on my health, it affected my family negatively. Anyways I could continue for a long time.

    I would push back soon and vigorously. Since you are working 50 hours/week you are already going well beyond what is required. And as Alison encouraged feel free to be creative and sparse with the details. Just always remember the balance sheet, your employer gets to save money on more employees, and gets more contract dollars. And on your side of the balance sheet, you lose weekends money etc, and perhaps get some pizza to eat. It’s a good deal …. for your employer

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I strongly suspect that even if they say “we just want you to rearrange when you put in your 50 hours” what they mean is “and accomplish everything you used to do in those 50, and also 20 new hours worth of stuff, but in the same time.”

      1. the_scientist*

        This. I would bet part of my next paycheque that this company is using “re-arrange” VERY loosely.

      2. Antilles*

        That’s absolutely correct, in fact, it’s right there buried in OP’s words: “Our workload has doubled in the past few weeks” “isn’t going to consider hiring additional staff at this time.”
        50 hours is 50 hours is 50 hours, period. It doesn’t matter how you ‘rearrange’ it, there’s no magical way to turn 50 hours into 60 without actually working 10 extra hours.

    2. MLB*

      This. At my last company I was really stressed and over worked. It was a healthcare company, so one day they brought a nurse in to give us a mini health check. My blood pressure was at stroke level. It took actual physical proof to get them to understand how overworked I was, and actually make some changes to help me.

  9. Observer*

    #1 You have already gotten some good advice.

    A few things to keep in mind.

    1. Teams are dysfunctional for many reasons. Failure to do group development activities is never one of them. Failure to do “team building activities” is also not a cause for team dysfunction.

    2. Work is not necessarily the place for personal development to start with. Bringing it to work and requiring it, doing it in groups and / or pushing it onto groups that don’t really get along as it, is never useful and is often actively harmful.

    3. A really really useful life and professional skill to learn is to understand the difference between “skill and activities that work well for ME” and “skills and activities that *everyone* should be doing.” Also, the differentiate activities that are worthwhile to push or impose on people and those that are not even when they might be useful. Right now you are trying to push something that work for you onto your workplace, which is a bad idea to start with. And it’s a set of activities that really, really don’t do anything useful for a lot of people. Leave it.

    4. Another really useful skill set is to figure out when you have a reasonable desire and how to ask for what you want, without sounding whiny or entitled. Talking to your boss about professional development is a perfect case. It is certainly reasonable to talk to your boss (and perhaps HR and your boss’ boss) about professional development activities within the company and how one goes about making that happen.

    You sound like you are intelligent and willing to work hard. Lots of luck!

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

      To build on #2:

      It’s not mandatory in life to do personal development. Some people are content with who and what they are, or uninterested in changing it or any number of other reasons. But the fact remains: No one *has* to do personal (or professional) development.

    2. CM*

      Great comment — especially #3! OP#1, you’re making the very common mistake of thinking that the way you prefer to do things is the best way to do them. Instead of thinking “my team is dysfunctional, therefore we need to have development plans,” I’d suggest two things. One, observe — why do you think your team is dysfunctional? What specific behaviors or interactions are you seeing? Over time, can you figure out where those patterns came from? (I’m certain that some things that look dysfunctional to you now will make more sense over time.) Second, since you’re into reading and personal development, check out books and learning resources about organizational behavior and difficult conversations / dealing with difficult people. “Crucial Conversations” and “Difficult Conversations” are both great. “Organizational Behavior for Dummies” might be right up your alley.

      1. CM*

        (P.S. – just in case it’s misinterpreted, that last sentence is a genuine recommendation for an actual book, not a personal attack!)

    3. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I think this comment highlights that OP#1 seems to be addressing several *different* things in her post: personal development, professional development, team building. Maybe OP should just focus on her own professional development, which can be actively pursued at work with the support of a willing manager (which may not be the case here, not sure). I think of professional development as something pursued on an individual level at work, such as: seeking to gain additional work-based skills and competencies or improving existing ones; improving or gaining knowledge in a particular area (subject matter expertise); or improving one’s collaborative and communication skills, ie, improving the effectiveness of one’s personal interactions at work by modifying one’s own behavior (the EQ factor).

  10. Bowserkitty*

    OP4 – I more than sympathize with this and I wish I had good advice. Reviews have stressed me out from early in my career.

    My last review was the way to do it, though. It was a small company (less than 10 on-site employees) and the boss/president was fairly laidback. I didn’t even know we were having reviews until about a half hour before mine happened. Minimal time for anxiety build-up. It still happened but at least I didn’t lose sleep over it like I would before, hah.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I should note it also ended in a raise (which I absolutely was not used to receiving!) so it ended up being pretty nice!

    2. What?!*

      That is NOT the way to do it! Wow!

      I’m glad it worked well for you but I would be very upset if I didn’t get some advance notice and time to think. Although thankfully our reviews are ones where we write a self-review first and there aren’t meant to be any surprises.

      I would quit my job if someone pulled a surprise review on me.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        I don’t know, that kind of sounds ideal. As long as the employees being reviewed aren’t expected to come up with any on-the-spot, set in stone response that will have an effect on their future earnings or development, I wouldn’t mind not having it looming over me like a cloud. I’ve never had a poor review but I still get weirdly nervous and stressed out beforehand. I’m usually the last to go because my boss knows it’ll be the same as the year before and everyone else is trying to get theirs over with immediately, which is a little anxiety-provoking. Throughout the day I see people leaving his office with stream coming out of their ears and red faces and necks, storming down the hall back to their offices then slamming their doors shut so they can call whoever they need to vent to…..UGH !!!!!!!

        Such an unpleasant time, review week.

        1. Washi*

          I think this is true only if the sole purpose of reviews is to hear your employer’s opinion of you as a cog in the machine. But self-reflection has been a big component in all the reviews I’ve done, and you have to give people time for that. I think it makes me feel more engaged and valued to take some time every year to think big-picture about my goals, accomplishments, and development, and be able to discuss that with my manager, and I would be disappointed if my review left no room for my own thoughts.

        2. Bowserkitty*

          And that’s pretty much exactly what it was. I already knew internally what I needed to work on and notifying me in advance would just cause me to freak out and panic for a week and beat up on myself for these impending critiques. I think I will always be harder on myself than any boss might be but who knows.

          The one weird thing that happened during this review: I was warned to limit my geekery friendship with one of the dudes working there because his wife (who had also started working there) might get jealous. We were all close friends (and remain so to this day even though I’ve jumped ship to another country), and I was pretty offended but that’s a story for Open Thread. (It ended with me coming out to my boss because up until then he didn’t care if I wasn’t attracted to the dude-friend so that was awkward.)

      2. Jenn*

        It depends. My employer always does annual reviews around the beginning of the fiscal year. It is usually mpre a formality than anything, I chat with my boss about progress and work flow pretty constantly, so I have never had any surprises in the formal review. So since I am around and flexible about it, she will just slot me and others in the same position in when she can.

        I have been in my job for a while and am extremely comfortable with my boss, though.

      3. RoadsLady*

        I have mixed feelings. Reviews terrify me. I’m a teacher, and observations are the worst. Get out of my classroom, I teach differently when I’m watched and not in a good way.

        In some ways I would love to just have the review tossed at me with little wait time. But LastJob pulled some sneaky review/observation stunts that still leave me a bit on edge. In the end I’d rather have things in the open and adhered to, even if it does stress me out.

      4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I’m curious about this (If you don’t mind explaining). What difference does notice make? If* a review is done correctly the notice time for a review doesn’t change anything. In other words, I’ve had a year to achieve results, and cramming isn’t really possible in this situation. It’s not like I’m going to be able to change my performance if I’ve been given a week’s notice of my review.

        *Understanding that not all reviews are done correctly. I’m referring to the system in which an employee is given a certain set of measurable goals and performance is evaluated based on the results along with a recap of performance overall.

    3. LQ*

      I had one where I had about about an hour but I was in another meeting most of the time. It was entirely fine because nothing my boss said surprised me, and I didn’t expect that anything he’d say would surprise me. I definitely have very high anxiety, but for that it was like, oh, I’m going to go in and boss is going to say good job and what else do you need and sign this and maybe we’ll talk about growth or the things I think I should be handing off. I’d been working for the same boss for a while, I’d been continually given new work from my boss’s boss.

      I don’t know that I’d recommend it, but it was kind of nice to not have the week’s worth of stress, despite everything if I’d had enough time I would have found stuff to ruminate about.
      (Turns out he’d forgotten to schedule me and was supposed to have it done by the end of the day.)

  11. Ermintrude*

    Hi, OP#1.
    I’ve spent years involved with Landmark self-development and while it has been amazing on so many levels, nobody I know has done any courses there because of my encouragement. (I have annoyed and upset people with my insistence that I know better than them and they NEED TO DO IT IT’S AMAZING. Don’t be like that!) You could be in the same boat at work.
    What I have found useful is judiciously offering opinions and advice based on the understanding I have, where this can make a positive difference. It’s still knowledge we can share, after all.
    I recommend knowing the ‘lay of the land’ with your colleagues and tailoring the advice accordingly. You sound awesome.

    1. Scarlet*

      Mmmh, not sure “advice” coming from a new employee who’s at least 10 years younger than their colleagues would be received well, in any place of work.

      1. ThankYouRoman*

        I wouldn’t go so far as to make it about age. Even if someone my age or older started handing out advice without the proper background or my desire for their unsolicited two cents, I would shut down and ice them out. It’s presumptuous and grates on nerves no matter age!

        1. Scarlet*

          Oh it’s definitely less about the age than about the level of experience in the job. But people’s reactions tend to be even more hostile when you add youth to the lack of experience.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Yes!!! I’d be *so* annoyed if a new employee broached any remotely advice-like or opinion-laced comments over a seemingly innocuous lunch break, and if said new employee happened to be born after the year I graduated from college, well, then………I just don’t even know.

            1. Ermintrude*

              Fair enough. I do that with friends but it would be inappropriate otherwise.
              I’m not that young but not yet aged with great wisdom, so OP take my advice with a pinch of salt.

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I don’t think I’ve ever run across StrengthFinder specifically. But I just looked it up. Oh goodness no, OP don’t, please don’t, offer opinions based on this. Unless you want to become the office Amway Salesperson* don’t please don’t.

          *I think the Amway analogy fits, because while some of their products may have been pretty good. It usually wasn’t worth getting tangled up with them and their sales people were relentless!

          1. ElleEm*

            Yeah, when I see these personality tests I always feeling something is being sold- and it’s probably me, the one who’s entering all my personal info.

          2. JulieCanCan*

            I’ve actually never even heard of Strength Finder and was going to google it, then forgot. After reading this comment I’m almost scared to find out exactly what it’s all about, because I despise the general idea so much.

      1. PB*

        Yeah. Most people aren’t going to respond well to, “Well, I’ve read Strengths Finder, and you sound like a cheerleader! Here’s what you should do.” I’ve done Strengths Finder, and this would annoy me.

    2. Ann Perkins*

      OP1, no, please don’t go around offering unsolicited opinions and advice to your coworkers based on their personality types. You don’t know them better than they know themselves and to presume otherwise is not going to go well for you.

      1. ElleEm*

        “You don’t know them better than they know themselves and to presume otherwise is not going to go well for you.”

        This should be your biggest takeaway, OP#1. I don’t appreciate unsolicited advice, particularly if it’s from a coworker. And this doesn’t sound like helpful, constructive stuff like “Try loading the paper this way so it doesn’t jam”, but advice about who I am as a person? No, no, no. That’s what I pay a trained therapist for.

        1. EloPod*

          Also this would probably lead to me writing an email to my coworker’s supervisor with a request they ask their report to step off.

    3. CoveredInBees*

      I had a colleague like this. It tended to go over like a lead balloon but eventually we just tuned her out because her personality is naturally enthusiastic and if this month it was Landmark, next month it salsa dancing or something else that had changed her life and she wanted other people to be as happy as she was. It was well-intentioned but hard to deal with to the point of avoiding her at times.

    4. biobotb*

      And I’ve found the “advice” and life insights offered and implemented by Landmark Forum devotees to be tone deaf and totally useless at best.

    5. Not Today*

      To me, Landmark come from specious origins and was woo and cultish. The presentation made no sense. I’m wary of any organization that wants me to reveal all my innermost thoughts,, hopes, and fears to strangers, things which can be used against you. If I want self-development I will get a bona-fide therapist.

      1. Ermintrude*

        I did Landmark *after* I did therapy, not as a substitute. It’s not going to be a great thing for everyone.
        I tend to be rather sociable and comfortable with people so I got a lot out of the discussions but I am now more happy to not always be using the methodology because some people don’t deserve the effort.
        Anyone from Landmark who tries to use anything against someone is an outstanding piece of shit anyway and will get torn a new one by other graduates, especially me because screw that.
        Having said all that, Landmark did help me see how I had been making life harder for myself than it needed to be. It was worth it for me. No personality testing could manage that feat.
        I’m not here to shill for Landmark. I’ve been reading comments made since I posted and think I was not on the right track but OP could still consider an actual program like Toastmasters for longer-term personal growth.

  12. Where’s my coffee?*

    OP#1, there are a few things that you’re (understandably) grouping together that are actually several different issues.

    If there are dysfunctional team dynamics, style-exploration activities like strengths finder will often make the problem worse. I like strengths finder for some limited purposes, but it’s the wrong tool for this problem. Ditto team-building activities. Your instincts are on point that *something* needs to be done, but that something will likely need to be in the form of management addressing individual issues in a more direct way. I can’t count the times a leader has asked me for a “fun team day” or an “icebreaker” when after a few minutes of talking it’s clear that what they really need to do is face the conflict with the small number of employees who are at the root of the dysfunction.

    As far as your personal development, think about what you feel is the area of either greatest need or greatest leverage: is it hard skills training, soft skills development, choosing a career path, etc.? This can help your leader to better help you. Also realize that even the greatest boss in the world is greatly constrained by budget, time, operations, compliance, etc. I don’t say this to excuse a lack of development, it’s just that I often find that when frontline employees are promoted to leadership, they’re surprised at the volume of behind the scenes work their managers are doing. That said, those leaders who do eke out time for developing others are gems, and they’re often rewarded with better results, retention and so forth.

    Good luck to you and I hope things work out.

  13. Needs a New Job*

    OP #2, I’d think you worked at my company except that we don’t have an open plan office. Seriously, everyone copies everyone on everything and it creates so much confusion and noise. It’s basically impossible for anyone to truly keep up and so important things fall through the cracks. It’s a small company and this culture comes from the very top — my direct boss would honestly prefer that I copy her on everything, even short internal questions (we sit close enough that we can talk to each other throughout the day so why she needs to be in the loop on every email I send is beyond me….) She regularly copies me on emails over the weekend/evening (when I am not expected to check my email) about trivial things that will be fully, 100% moot by the time I get in on Monday, for example. It’s bonkers. It’s also not just her.

    I could go on about our insane email culture but I will restrain myself. I’m not sure anyone would believe me, honestly.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I used to have a boss who wanted to be copied on EVERYTHING. It was terrible. Occasionally I would forget, and he would be all up in arms about “sneaking around behind his back.” I looked for an Outlook extension that would automatically do it, but there wasn’t one. Probably because this is a crazy thing to want.

      1. Needs a New Job*

        She doesn’t flip out when I forget, just reminds me that she needs to “be aware” of everything. It’s silly. She can’t possibly keep up with all of the email she gets. She tries to make everyone do this but people who work less directly with her/are more senior ignore it.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Oy, this is dysfunctional.

      I’ve been waging a personal battle with the reply all culture in my department. It all started with a manager who was incompetent at best and off the rails at her worst. She was the type who would demand to be CC’d on everything and would grill employees if they were observed talking with people she felt threatened by. Of course she was the same one that made her employees leave notes on their desk if they got up for any reason stating where they would be and what time they left.

      Thankfully natural consequences prevailed and the manager was helped to resign (otherwise she would have been fired). Parts of the team have recovered, but other parts haven’t yet. I think we just need a little more turnover before the culture will truly change.

      1. Needs a New Job*

        HA. Yes. No one has to write notes about where they are (although honestly if someone suggested it, she probably would, or would make them write a note on a whiteboard outside their office or something) but we have a very much not open floor plan space and if someone doesn’t pick up their desk phone the first time, there’s a panicked “Where is Hakeem!” inquiry, alarm bells blaring. The receptionist gets the worst of it but I get it sometimes. I’m like, I cannot see the front door or Hakeem’s office from where I sit, how do I know?

        I could go on and on about this place’s culture but I won’t. That’s a small taste. It’s ridiculous. I remind myself regularly that this is not normal and I will eventually find a new job.

  14. Polly Pocket*

    #1 I think you are confusing personal development with workplace learning and development. By all means ask your manager about things like attending training courses or conferences, joining a relevant professional body, reading relevant publications, having some protected time in your calendar for learning or whatever you want and think is feasible. But self-help books and personality tests aren’t the sort of personal development to do at work.

    1. LQ*

      Strong second on the professional development! I’m current working with a group who for a long time did no professional development because…I don’t know why (they are in a field notorious for self-professional development too). But I’ve been foisting it upon them (mostly by making sure they have resources-time and money) and setting an example (of talking about the stuff I’ve done, which they then get jealous of, which I then have been arraigning for them to do) and setting an expectation of it. It’s been a big leap for a few people in the group who are the best of the bunch who took advantage of the opportunities.

      For OP this is something to bring up with the boss as something for OP to do.

    2. Ann Perkins*

      +1000. Depending on what your role is, advancing your technical knowledge in your field might be much more beneficial to you career-wise than non-scientific personality tests.

  15. Myrin*

    #2, I think Alison’s suggested script is absolutely perfect! You could also add very explicitly what you’ve written here: “most of the time, I do reply to everyone, and if I don’t, there’s usually a reason” – maybe pointing out that you’re already replying all most of the time will get through to him?

    Out of curiosity, though: Have you point-blank asked Fergus what’s up with his obsession with reply-alls?
    From everything you’ve written, it sounds to me like Fergus isn’t really good with nuance. The original situation is reasonable (since presumably Jane and Sally were copied for a reason) but Fergus couldn’t detect that it was actually a very mundane thing going on. Same with your later examples – it seems like he can’t really differentiate between a courtesy-copy, an absolutely-necessary-copy, and a better-not-copy-at-all-because-I’m-actually-correcting-you-and-you-surely-don’t-want-anyone-to-read-that. It sounds like he’s pretty black-and-white in his thinking, but I could be totally off-base here, of course.

    1. Cat wrangler*

      I would ask him too but then I fear that I would default to reply-all even on the most mundane emails (“cakes in the kitchen” sort) until IT started getting irritated and issued directives against it. If you work in the same team, would it be worth looking into a gerenic email like teapotpainters@teapots.Inc which everyone can access without the need to copy all?

      1. Rebecca*

        The group email address thing sort of backfired at my office. I’m in a group. We have a lot of groups, and it’s good when you know “someone” in traffic needs to do A, “someone” in customer service needs to do B, and “someone” in the warehouse needs to do C, you can just send an email to one group and cc the others. How I handle it is if I get an email directed to my group, copying other groups, is to reply all once – state, that’s mine, will handle. Then when others answer, from the other groups, we pare down the number of people who get the messages. Others, nope – it’s reply all so for an entire afternoon you’re swatting down 20+ messages back and forth.

        Aside, we have a copy of the meme with the guy from The Matrix taped to the wall next to the copier: What if I told you – you don’t have to reply all. Makes me smile.

    2. sb51*

      For #2 — the other benefit of reply-all when it’s a simple question and most of the people on the thread know the answer: only one person has to answer it.

      Fergus might be tired of asking something and then getting near-identical (and thus time-wasting for all but one) replies from you, Jane, and Sally. If I’m Sally in this scenario, and I get back to my desk after a meeting to see that Fergus asked another long winded question and OP2 answered I can just delete the thread without reading the details, saving me time and energy.

      1. pleaset*

        “For #2 — the other benefit of reply-all when it’s a simple question and most of the people on the thread know the answer: only one person has to answer it.”


        But people need to be thoughtful to do this. In my org, I’ll email two people and each will write back separately. I guess I should then reply to one with “Thanks” CC’ing or BCC’ing the other to pre-empt that.

      2. a1*

        the other benefit of reply-all when it’s a simple question and most of the people on the thread know the answer: only one person has to answer it.

        This has not been my experience at all. It often leads to everyone replying all with the same answer. People reply when they see the email but before they see others have replied. I assume they are reading from older messages to newer messages and reply before they read them all or scan them all. But this has happened everywhere I’ve worked. Maybe not everyone, but enough that it is rather common/frequent.

    3. MLB*

      See, I would just do what he’s asked. She’s saving him from embarrassment by only replying to him when he’s made mistakes. So I say, reply all. Maybe once some of the emails make him feel like an idiot, he’ll take it down a notch. I disagree with Alison that it will make the LW look bad, she’s just doing what he insists on her doing.

      1. rldk*

        The only issue is, as Alison mentioned, corrective emails sent reply-all can appear rude to those copied unless they know the full situation. OP may not want to sacrifice regular office norms and politesse just for Fergus’ un-nuanced preferences.

    4. JB*

      Thanks, Myrin. I’m the LW, and you’re right, Fergus is very black and white. He struggles with soft skills and picking up on nonverbal cues.

  16. Scarlet*

    OP 1 – It would be a really bad idea to go to your manager and ask them to implement group activities of that kind, for several reasons:

    1. You actually don’t know what would be necessary for the team to be less dysfunctional. Based on your letter, you’re new to the team and at 24, you probably don’t have much work experience, so you just don’t know. In any case, it is your manager’s job, not yours.
    2. Like other commenters have said, what’s good for your personal development isn’t necessarily good for someone else’s, much less for a whole team. Please don’t assume that what works for you works for everybody else.
    3. You’re working with people who are way more experienced than you and who probably have been doing their jobs for years. Implying that they don’t already know their own strengths and weaknesses is going to come across, at best, as naive and, at worst, as insulting. I know your intentions are good, but I’m 45 and I really wouldn’t be happy if a newbie implied that I needed to use self-help mumbo-jumbo to do my job.

    In a nutshell, focus on your own development and by all means, ask your manager what YOU can do for your own career and development within that company. But don’t try to get involved in team management when it’s way outside your purview.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      Yes, just starting out you don’t always have the best judgement on what is a dysfunctional team. I won’t dwell on that but the main priority as a new employee is to learn your job and how the job works to make the company function and then how the company functions.

      If you need to you can read and take the strengthsfinder on your own as someone who has done it countless times and still refuses to tell anyone that Woo is in my top 3, its not as big of a deal as your making it out to be. Paying attention to your co-workers and talking less than you are listening will give you much more insight into your co-workers than a quiz that has set answers.

        1. Autumnheart*

          People who have the ability to make connections with others and to build collaborative relationships.

          Woo is #35 on my Strengths list. :)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        We get placards to keep on our desks with our Top 5, so you wouldn’t be able to hide that Woo at my place. (But funny you should mention Woo because that was my former manager’s #1 strength, and I would always say to myself that that explained a lot. He was an engineer with no top 5 strengths in the strategic or executing stack–everything was in relationship building and influencing–which is unusual. Knowing and sharing your team’s strengths is probably not always positive in the workplace.)

  17. drpuma*

    OP1, I would encourage you to network in your field, alumni association, personal affiliations, etc. There are groups out there where you can get career and personal development and make connections alongside folks who share your enthusiasm. You could meet a fantastic mentor or two, who will be able to give you much broader support than your current boss. As Alison said, your boss is your best option for learning about how to move up in your current role, but few of us are lucky enough to have the kind of boss who gives holistic career advice.

  18. Czhorat*

    For OP1 –

    Personal and professional development are different things. The self-help section if the bookstore and related material is not the former. A company supporting professional growth is likely to let you take on different and more challenging work, pay for you to get industry certifications, send you to conferences or training seminars. when I think “professional growth” I think of things one can put on a resume; strength finders and the like aren’t that.

    I’ll also give a gentle caution, which you’ve probably already seen here: not everyone finds value in the self-help genre. If you’re too upfront about seeing strength-finding analysis as the path to a better team relationship then you risk being seen as that co-worker into pop-psych gimmickry. It may help you, but it is not universally respected and can change how others see you.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Agree. OP#1, don’t get sucked into trying to “fix” your team — that is not your role and will quickly make you resented by your manager and co-workers.

      Instead, focus on deciding what YOU want to do with your career and work toward that goal. Talk with your manager about whatever professional development opportunities your company has available and on how to plan for future advancement. Don’t assume he/she will bring it up — it’s your responsibility to do so.

      Is there a professional association in your field? If so, join it and work on developing a network in your field. This will help you identify other opportunities for development and — who knows? — potential jobs when you decide to move on from your current position.

      But do not, not, not be the kid who comes in and wants to fix everybody, unless you really want to be swatted like a fly.

      1. Czhorat*

        OP doesn’t even really know, in my opinion and from what information we were given, if the team is truly broken.

        It could be that what OP sees as “tip-toeing around” is respectful care in how to address things or a style which grew to match team members’ temperament.

        When you’re new, the best thing to do is listen with an open mind.

        1. Scarlet*

          This, exactly. OP’s just starting, they have to learn about their job and company before they try to “help” anyone.

    2. Positive Reframer*

      Yep, by all means keep following your curiosity and explore different types of personality and strengths methodologies. There are enough out there to keep you busy for a while and that alone can teach you that there’s no one right way to look at or categorize humans. There are a lot of helpful tools but more than specifics the general idea that different people are actually different and see thing differently and have different strengths is a valuable mindset.

      One of the discussions that I appreciated participating in with my coworkers was about their Love Languages, knowing how to appreciate them in a way that was more likely to be meaningful was helpful. And it helped me see how they were probably appreciating me in ways that I wasn’t necessarily seeing. Keep your ear out for conversations that are already happening, bring up impactful or interesting things if “what are you reading/listening to?” questions come up (keep it SHORT three sentences max)

  19. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

    Another thought on LW#1:

    I said above that not everyone is into personal development/self-help stuff. It’s also something that isn’t accessible or feasible for everyone. Self-help literature, for example, rarely takes into account structures that might prevent somone from achieving their goals, like poverty, disability and the like. Others work 3 jobs to makes ends meet. Being able to “afford” (in time, energy, spoons) personal development isn’t someone everyone can do.

    Just something to keep in mind.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        It’s too bad that we can’t appreciate how “24” we are until we’re well past 24. I (with my spouse) bought a house in the ‘burbs when I was 22 and started a franchise when I was 25. Ugh. I thought I had it figured out jussttt a little more than everyone else did.

        1. Labradoodle Daddy*

          One of the worst parts of being a perpetual know it all is when you realize how often you didn’t know sh!t. SOML.

          1. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

            As someone who isn’t very far from being 24 (I turn 29 next week), I’m not sure I’ve left that zone yet ;)

            I suspect I will always be a perpetual know-it-all, haha. I always seem to end up on projects where I have absolutely no prio exerpience (Healthcare processes, Defense planning, It-architecture, property management for churches….). Just today, I was facilitating a group exercise with some extremely knowledgable information security people.
            To be fair, I always admit that I’m not an expert and that I will ask dumb and/or basic questions and ask them to spell out concepts that are unfamiliar to me (and there are a lot of those!).

            I LOVE learning new stuff though (that’s why I became a consultant, after all) and the best part of my job is all the passionate and incredibly competent people from all walks of life I get to meet. So far, that has been enough. I *think* most people sense that I genuinely am interested in learning and that I respect their skills, experience and knowledge.

            I hope so, at least. It’s not been a problem yet.

            1. CM*

              What you’re describing is the opposite of being a know-it-all… you jump into unfamiliar areas with gusto, but once there you respect other people’s expertise and learn from them.

              1. Some Sort of Management Consultant.*

                That’s nice of you to say, thank you.

                (I am insufferable at times, though, ;) )

            2. Jennifer Thneed*

              I agree with CM. Know-it-all’s don’t learn from others… because they don’t need to. Because they already know everything. (Hence the name.)

      2. Leslie knope*

        I don’t know that comments like this / similar patronizing comments are helpful. Those of us on the more inexperienced side know we’re young, you can talk about the flaw s in OPs logic without it sounding like “oh, diddums, of course you don’t know anything, you’re 24!”

        1. Labradoodle Daddy*

          As a former 24 year old know it all, patronizing tone was sometimes the only way I realized that I was being an ass. This kind of attitude really needs to be taken down a peg before it bites her in the butt.

  20. MissDisplaced*

    #3 I hate to say this, but if they’re suggesting that you rearrange work hours to have, say Wednesday off because it’s slow, but work on Saturday, don’t do it. You will invariably end up working both Wednesday AND Saturday.

    Basically, they’re asking for 8 ADDITIONAL hours of unpaid overtime on top of what you’re already doing. And the sad thing is, it is legal.

    1. Genny*

      Yuuup. The type of company who knows their business is growing, but doesn’t want to hire additional staff to meet the increasing demand is not a company that’s going to respect boundaries, foster an otherwise healthy work environment, or honor their word.

      Also, don’t underestimate how much it sucks not to have the same days off as everyone else. Friends want to go to a concert on Saturday? Nope, you’re at work. SO wants to go wine tasting? Nope, you’re at work. Family is in town and wants to grab dinner? Nope, you’re at work.

  21. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, there is a ton of good advice here. I want to add my voice to those saying I am very much not a fan of Personal Development at work. Professional development yes, but your personal development is just that, personal, and IMO should be done on your own time.

    I’m a private person, I want as little of my personal life entwined with my work life as possible. I would be very irritated if my job suddenly wanted me to participate in stuff like what you describe.

    I think you are coming a very good place with this, but this just isn’t for everyone.

  22. Sara without an H*

    OP#3, I agree with Alison — the distinction between “rearrange” and “increase” is crucial here. Where I work, we’re all expected to work one Saturday a month. These are scheduled a couple of months in advance, and you take a day off during either the preceding or following week, i.e. if you work Saturday, you may choose to take the preceding Thursday off. The number of hours is the same.

    It’s not clear from your letter if your management wants an overall increase in hours, or just a realignment to include a weekend shift now and then. See if you can clear this up before you decide what to do.

    1. Psyche*

      Even if it is “rearrange” and not “increase” I could see it being a legitimate problem. If weekends are when the OP gets to spend time with their family, then getting a Monday off wouldn’t really make up for it. And if rearranging means working two half days instead of one full day, then there is the additional commute time as well. Once in a while isn’t bad, but every weekend gets rough. I worked for a few hours every Saturday for a few months. It didn’t look bad on paper, but it seriously cut into the amount of time I could spend with my family. I had to tell my boss that I could work late, but I couldn’t come in on weekends more than once a month.

  23. rubyrose*

    OP 1: I see two issues here.
    One is the concern about team development, “developing my dysfunctional team”. Unless you were hired specifically to do this, I think this is not your concern, especially where you are at in your career. If that is really what you want to do, now is the time to get the experience and/or education for that.
    The other concern is your personal development. Yes, you should speak to your manager about what will help you for future work development and advancement. But, speaking from cold hard experience, you cannot depend on your job, your manager, your company, to get you ready for your next professional steps. Some companies do that;
    good for them and good for the people who work there. But your career development depends on you, not the company. Concentrate on that, instead of trying to fix your team.

  24. Boo Hoo*

    A company I once worked to made us write our own reviews, about 20 pages worth. People did nothing but that for 6 plus weeks, minimal work got done. It made zero sense to me. Everyone was stressed and overloaded and flustered. It was my first real office job and I was young but even then it seemed completely ridiculous to me to halt work for over a month to write these reviews. They also had to align with a book, the name of which i cannot recall as I have blocked it out. Something about communication.

      1. Boo Hoo*

        I slap sticked mine together and never had a complaint from my boss. I think they made people feel it was a lot more insane than it should have been. That being said I knew I wouldn’t get a raise anyway as they said “our raises are 1, 3 and 5 percent and pretty much no one will get 3 and you’ll never see 5” so perhaps I just didn’t GAF and it did hurt me. Either way I wasn’t going to go nuts for two months for 1% and that horrible motivator.

  25. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #4

    I’d say the only thing OP can do here is to ask to read her review ahead of time. That way the she has time to read it, digest it, maybe come up with some questions she might have, and then compose herself.

    If one of my team members had a specific conversation with me about how reviews make them really nervous and anxious (other than a one-off comment in passing), I honestly wouldn’t know what to do with that. Do I need to tip toe around something that needs improvement? Will they burst into tears? It would make me hesitant to say anything that could make the anxiety worse.

    I don’t know how old she is, but reviews are going to happen for the next X number of years (assuming she’s in a functional company), so OP needs to figure out how to manage that stress and anxiety around them. Performance reviews are a normal part of work life.

  26. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon*

    OP 1, there’s lots of good advice here about taking charge of your professional development in your own time and not imposing development activities on your coworkers. Another thing to consider is that this workplace might not be the greatest fit for you. If you’re a high achiever wanting to be in a place that actively fosters your development, that’s useful information to know about yourself. Not all bosses and workplaces will do this, so it’s something to screen for in future interviews.

  27. JB*

    OP #2 – Someone has probably already mentioned this, but a lot of organizations consider ‘Reply All,’ to be a gigantic nuisance and a waste of everyone’s time. I’ve even heard of some businesses using programs to eliminate the button entirely. It is a huge distraction if it is misused. If Dwight doesn’t have a genuine reason for it, you can just say, “Nah, I’m not going to do that.”

    1. Arctic*

      True but in small teams reply all is very commonly used for work emails so everyone is completely in the loop at all times.

  28. Dance-y Reagan*

    LW #2 I’m not clear from the letter whether you are new-ish to the company (you say the incident that started this was about six months ago, but not when you actually began), but have you gotten a feel for the e-mail culture from people other than Fergus? In my experience, it can vary greatly by both industry and by company, so knowing whether Fergus fall in line or is out of step with the team norms can help you decide how to play this.

    I’ve mostly worked in companies that deal in intellectual property, so minimal e-mail has been the norm for me. Younger employees fresh from college, and employees from “document everything and CYA” industries like finance, need time and coaching to keep their written communications short, factual, and infrequent.

    1. JB*

      Thanks for your comments. Fergus and I have both been with the company about 5 years, and during my time here, I’ve not seen anyone request “reply all” in their emails. Fergus just started doing this recently, and only to me.

  29. NicoleK*

    #2 My BEC coworker is a chronic and regular abuser of “reply all” feature. She is unable to differentiate when it’s appropriate to use reply all or when to include someone in an email at all. I spend a significant portion of my day just deleting email spam from her. Allison’s script is perfect if your coworker is receptive.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’d set up a rule to shift all of her emails into a folder. That way it’s not cluttering up your inbox. Go in once a day to skim and delete.

  30. stitchinthyme*

    Ugh, I’ve worked at places that do things like OP1 wants, and hated it. I get that some people enjoy that stuff or at least get something useful out of it, but I’m in the “total waste of time” camp. Maybe OP1’s just not a good fit for their workplace. It happens.

  31. The Doctor*

    OP #3:

    Ask the Senior Manager, “If I work weekends, which two weekdays are my new days off?”

    If he expects you to work six or seven days a week, ask for a non-exempt title so you can get overtime pay for the excess hours.

    If he pushes back on both, start looking for a new job.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Yes – this. Both doctors are spot on. As well as the previous posters and AAM.

        I am not sure how long this letter has sat in the queue, it is fast approaching the holiday season. To suddenly have work expect additional weekend hours is a major burden during the time of year when traditionally friends and family are trying to get together. The letter reads like a bad situation for the OP.

        Speak to your boss and gather your information. It may indeed be time to brush off that resume and look for a new place to work. Best of luck and please keep us posted.

  32. Not a robot*

    My work made us participate in an “elements of the earth” personality test team builder, not once but twice. The premise was that you had the predominant element trait and then a secondary someone might be fire/ Earth or some of my be water/air. The elements are supposed to be complementary to each other, and no one theoretically could have two opposite elements.
    They flew down the creator of this personality trait test to go over the department’s results. I wound up being deemed a “fire” with water as my secondary trait. The creator of this test argued with me for 20 minutes saying that my results were not valid and I must have cheated……Needless to say it was one of those WTF, how does this help me with being better at my job moments.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Well obviously you broke their test so you were the problem and not their program …insert eye roll here…

    2. Amber Rose*

      That sounds like the set up for a bad knock off of Divergent called Disparate.

      I’m a huge fan of Transmorphers and Atlantic Rim, so I’d watch it.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I had no idea there were so many different types of these workplace personality test things. Elements of the earth made me think that somewhere, someone is going to mention being tested for the Body Humours (sanguine, bilious, choleric?), and the primary result is to determine how many leeches you need in order to do your job right…

  33. Jaybeetee*

    LW4: I also tend to have anxiety around performance reviews, after a bout of bad jobs. Part of me is always worried my manager will sit down and just blast me and tell me I’m on the verge of being fired.

    What helped, when I finally got into my first “grown-up” job, was my manager (likely sensing I was nervous) told me that if there had been any problems, I’d already know about them – if I was getting dinged on my reviews without any previous conversations or warnings “she wasn’t doing her job correctly”. I found that very reassuring and I became far less nervous about reviews as long as I was there.

    Six months ago I changed to a new job in a different department (all govt), and just had my first review over here. Again, I was nervous, but all was just fine, and the message was the same – I’m not supposed to be getting surprised in my performance reviews, if there are any problems my manager will let me know at the time, not wait for the review.

    As AAM says, you don’t really want to “heads-up” your manager about your anxiety, as there isn’t much your manager can do, and you do want/need honesty in these reviews. BUT it may help to keep in mind that if that worst-case scenario happens and you wind up with a horrible review, that’s your manager’s failure (especially if your reviews have been consistently positive up to this point.) Blasting someone on a performance review with problems they didn’t even know about up to that point, is a hallmark of poor management. If he does that, he’s not doing his job properly.

    But realistically – if you’ve done well so far, it’s likely you’ll continue to do well (ask your therapist about CBT/rational self-talk. I’ve found it hugely helpful when I get into some kind of emotional spin and am convinced “worst possible outcome must absolutely be the one that’s true! Even though I don’t actually know that and more benign explanations are more likely!” Ask yourself how likely it is that this will be a disaster, vs. how likely it is that it’ll be fine.)

    1. LW 4*

      Thanks! I do have regular check-ins with my manager, so it’s helpful to remind myself that surprises during my formal review are unlikely. Thanks for that!

  34. LilyP*

    #2 — Is it possible he’s trying to be “helpful” by drawing your attention to the times when there are multiple people included on the email, since that one time you didn’t notice? Framing it that way is a little more generous anyway.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      No it’s still jerky. If I were the OP I would be less likely to reply all if someone pointed it out like the OP is describing.

      If it’s something where 5 people are in copy but they each have an action then it makes sense, but if there are 5 people in copy and it’s question of “Where can I find the toner” then no, overkill and weird.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Sometimes I reply directly to a sender, and then forward my reply to the other people to say “this is covered”.

  35. Amber Rose*

    #1: I think the biggest problem with team building, Skills Finder type things is there’s a super thin line between actually helpful and painfully gimmicky, and whether something is one or the other will vary from person to person. Personal development really is best when it’s personal, or between you and a single person helping you like a manager or mentor.

    #2: Either ignore him or just go along with it. If there’s anything I’ve learned from working in an office for a decade it’s that people get insistent about the strangest details. It sometimes ends poorly, like the LW who got in trouble for disabling a coworker’s capslock button. Better to just let stuff go.

  36. Nonsensical*

    Op #4, definitely do not tell your boss. I always get nervous about performance review even if I know I am doing well. You have to learn be able to work through criticism. If you shut down, then you won’t be able to listen. Ultimately, this is on you to manage, not your boss. I would run before work, tell yourself reassuring self, take moments to breathe. Ask yourself what you’re nervous about? Criticism isn’t a bad thing, it gives you things to improve upon. Ultimately, this is more an appropriate avenue for your therapist, not for your boss to handle.

  37. Kenneth*

    LW#1, I remember going through StrengthsFinder (2.0!) when I was at my previous employer. When it came to the team activity, all of us in one room with the “coach”, she asked the group what we thought of the book. My response was rather pointed. It read like a glorified marketing statement. As if it was written to sell StrengthsFinder rather than justify it. Which it obviously was, since none of these assessments and programs are ever subjected to any kind of scientific rigor.

    In our next 1-on-1, my manager said my response appeared to put the coach on the spot. And that was kind of my intent. A couple years earlier, he informed me that others had been finding me “intimidating” after I started an e-mail to another associate on a different team with, “I will make the determination as to whether something is worth my time or not.” Now that e-mail was after several back-and-forth attempts to get questions answered and being continually blown off, and I made sure my manager had the full conversation chain.

    I’ve never liked these exercises. The fact there are several of these out there with their own assessments (that likely contradict one another) should tell people that these assessments are about as accurate a way of determining your strengths and weaknesses as your Zodiac sign. (Speaking of, wouldn’t surprise me if there are astrology-based assessments for “team building”.) Sure you’re going to get some hits, but you’re likely to get a lot of misses as well. But like with cold reading, which is what a lot of these seem to be based on, you’re more likely to focus on the hits (as some big revelation!) and overlook the misses.

    Earlier this year at my current employer, they wanted to put us through a “team building” from the Smalley Institute. It’s another one of those “personality assessment” exercises. And I had a particular problem with this one given that the Smalley Institute is a Christian organization, and their personality assessment was initially designed for marriage counseling. Then they got the idea that their “marriage compatibility” assessment could be used for corporate team building. Thankfully the exercise was canceled before I could raise an objection to it on the grounds that it appeared to be covertly pushing a specific religious expression on the team.

    And given the question, I wonder if LW#5 is from where I work just given the timing.

  38. merp*

    For LW 4 – maybe the commenters will tell me this was unprofessional (it probably was), and this wouldn’t work in all workplaces, but I did tell my manager a bit in advance of the actual review meeting that I was pretty nervous (had only been here for 4 months) and followed it up with a general question that felt pretty safe, knowing the positive feedback I had already informally received – “things seem to be generally going well in my time here so far – do you agree?” I might have also added something about being open to/looking forward to feedback to soften it, can’t recall. She did agree, and then helpfully gave me some of her philosophy about our review process in general, how she interpreted the various wording (ours has specific words we have to select, like needs improvement, meets expectations, exceeds, etc). It was a helpful conversation and helped me figure out my self-eval based on her understanding of the vocab.

    I think a general comment that you are anxious might not help, as Alison and others have said. But if you have a good relationship with this person, and know that you are generally doing well, maybe something like this could work.

    1. AnonGoodNurse*

      I have done the same thing, mostly because it was pretty obvious that I was anxious (my hands were shaking and I was flushed because my heart was racing) and I thought it was better to point to the elephant in the room rather than try to pretend it wasn’t there. I’m a pretty cool and collected person most of the time, but something about performance reviews really stresses me out. (It goes back to the way reviews were handled at a job many moons ago… I’m getting over it, but still…) So I gave my manager a head’s up that I was nervous about it, but I also made a point of asking for things I can work on or discussing areas of improvement I see for myself. It’s also been helpful for me to see how performance issues are handled where I currently work and I think they handle them well. It’s taken a lot of the stress out of it for me, so I’m hoping my next review won’t bring the anxiety out.

    2. LW 4*

      Thanks to both of you for providing perspective for this side of the internal argument I’ve been having.
      I do get regular feedback from my manager, and do have a sense that things are going well. So I think I’m going to do my preparation, try to focus viewing the criticism as constructive and not personal or hurtful.
      But, if I do feel like I was visibly anxious during the review meeting, I think my plan will be to tell my boss (within a day or so, once I’ve collected myself) that yes I was nervous, but I did hear and appreciate his feedback.

  39. Traveling Teacher*

    LW1: These personality tests are typically transparent and easily manipulated, which is why I’m firmly in the “don’t do this at work” camp. I had to sit through dozens and dozens of these in teaching (pedagogical) courses in University. If it was a test I did as homework, I had the time to sit there and see if I could get every personality.

    In one class, I even took a test a certain way because I thought the personality result would be rare and impressive. Moment of weakness. It backfired because the professor not only posted our results on the wall to compare them, in front of the entire class she also came over to me and talked to me pityingly about how much of a disadvantage I was at, compared to the rest of the cohort, at understanding the subtleties of metaphor and poetry, and how much I was missing of the world… First and only time I ever intentionally skewed a personality test. Ever since, I set a timer and try to take such tests as “instinctively” as possible. Thankfully, I haven’t had to take one in years.

    (If you’re wondering: Left Brained/Right Brained test. My first result had come up as “central”, but I re-took it to be extremely “left-brained”, as I thought it would be impressive. Oops…).

  40. Bostonian*

    I guess I don’t understand the outrage with #2. This just seems like different styles resulting in miscommunication.

    He wanted you to reply all to the email so that the other people copied would know that his question was answered and they didn’t have to also reply, giving him 3 different emails with the same information.

    Same reason for the incorrect info. If nobody else sees you correct him, now he has 3+ emails from different people pointing out the same mistake (if everyone is doing their due diligence like you and pointing it out). I don’t think you have to worry about “calling him out” in front of others as long as you are nice about it.

    As for the request to “please reply all” at the end of emails. I mean, is it every email? If the answer is no, then this just looks to me like he’s trying to communicate when reply all will be necessary since you both seem to have differing views about that.

    It may seem like he’s trying to force his rules about reply all on you, but looking at it from the other side, he could say the same thing about you if you’re repeatedly ignoring his requests. You say you have a “good reason” when you don’t reply all. Is that communicated to him in any way? Because without any context, it could look like you’re deliberately ignoring his request.

    Full disclosure, I work in a “reply all”-heavy culture, so my perspective may be a bit skewed. Do you see other colleagues “reply all” to his messages when he copies multiple people? This sounds also like a know-your-culture situation.

    1. a1*

      I think we can take the LW at their word that they reply all when it makes sense, and does not reply all when it does not make sense, especially given their examples. It seems she missed 1 reply all and he got all p/a about it with this note in emails.

      1. JB*

        Thanks for the feedback. I’m the LW. I haven’t noticed Fergus make the “reply all” request to others. For example, if I’m copied on an email that he’s addressed to someone else, he doesn’t request that they “reply all” in their response. Also, my not “replying all” on every email from him doesn’t result in multiple answers from multiple people as suggested by Bostonian. What I didn’t mention in my question, is that often times the answers don’t apply to everyone who was copied or those copied already know the answer.

  41. SusanIvanova*

    ” a lot of tip toeing around people to not ask them to do certain things or to not listen to them”

    This does sound a bit like they do know the team strengths and weaknesses. “Tip toeing” could be a red flag if it’s really “don’t ask Joffrey to be diplomatic, he’ll throw a fit”, but if it’s “don’t ask Arya, she’s just not good at it and it’ll all end badly” that’s different.

  42. UKCatFan*

    OP, I’m at the same place in my career as you. I think a lot of commenters here aren’t being that helpful (and some are being a little rude). I’ve found the strengths type stuff very useful for giving me the language to describe me and my skills. I absolutely do not take them as gospel! It’s helped me work out how to describe how I work best, what I’m good at and less good at, which has helped give me some career direction! With older teamworkers I expect they have the benefit of experience to already know some of the things we wanting to understand. I recently told my boss that in X time I’d like to move around and having the right language (this other team aligns better with me and my own strengths and interests because xyz) was a big part of why that conversation was a success.

    Being told not to listen to someone or talk to them about things comes across as quite childish behaviour, so I always take these comments with a large pinch of salt. Navigating the workplace is hard!

    1. UKCatFan*

      Perhaps not being told *why* you shouldn’t ask someone something (for example, they might not be very good at it) is what you’re finding a bit tip toe-y?

    2. Observer*

      Have you actually been reading the responses?

      No one said that these tests can never be of use to anyone. And, if they give you the language to talk about this, that IS genuinely useful. TO YOU. Not to anyone else!

      What people are saying is that personal / career development is highly individual. Both in the sense that each individual needs to deal with it themselves, not as part of a group. And in the sense that the needs of different people are highly different. Most of the OP’s coworkers are at a different stage in their careers, and activities that are essentially designed to give people a professional vocabulary are probably going to be a huge waste of time for people who’ve been in the field a decade or more – a waste of time and seriously offensive.

      Also, that personal development is personal and not something that’s really workplace relevant (unless you are talking specifically about tying your development to work activities like “how do I develop patience for difficult clients.)

      Lastly, that development both personal and professional are totally different from “team building.” Team building is tricky under the best of circumstances. Using activities that are highly likely to offend people is a really BAD way to do team building.

  43. RUKiddingMe*

    OP1 believe me that this isn’t intended as harsh as it sounds, nevertheless please stop this right now.

    If you want to work on self help et al please go gor it but leave everyone else out if it. If they wanted to do those things they would already be doing them.

    Having a newly (ish) hired, considerably younger person cone in and try to “rah rah rah” everyone into perfection is likely to cause eye rolling st best and massive resentment on the other end.

    Most of us old farts already know what our strengths and weaknesses are and how best to do our work. We really don’t need/want some obligatory kumbaya team enhancement shit to take up our otherwise productive work time.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Right? I have always been of the opinion that work is work and all of the touchy feely stuff belongs…anywhere else. Just let me di my job, interact as little as I can get away with, pay me, let me go home.

  44. MacKenzie Purcell*

    I, too, get ridiculously amped up about performance reviews. It doesn’t matter how many 1-1 meetings I’ve had with my boss, whether I get plenty of feedback before performance reviews – they freak me out. I’ve been in the workforce for a long time, too, so you’d think I’d have my head on straight about them by now.

    Some things that help me are as follows:

    –Depending on my boss’s sense of humor and how good our working relationship is, I try to let him/her know that I’m one of those people who still needs to get straight A’s (or something like that, although I did have a boss that laughed his head off when I said that – in a good way), and I try to find out in advance what I need to do to get a great review. If it’s too late for that, or you don’t have that kind of boss…

    –Keep a very detailed list/spreadsheet/whatever of everything you accomplish that’s part of your job description and goals and objectives. Refer to it and update it often. No one may ever see it, but you will, and it will help you know that you ARE working hard and doing your job.

    –If you get emails thanking you for doing a good job, save them in a “kudos” folder

    –Some parts of performance reviews are no-brainers. Attendance, for example. Just showing up, on time, every day, is half the battle. Maybe more.

    –Know that they have to find SOMETHING for you to improve on. Take the feedback well and graciously.

    Advanced skills (you have to have been on the job for a while to do this, I think):

    –If you see something you know that needs to be done, but no one has said anything about it to you yet, get it done, and THEN see about getting it added to your goals and objectives.

    –Realize (but don’t verbalize) that there are some things that just can’t be performance-reviewed out of you or added to you. They’re just who you are. If you are running up against issues with your basic personality traits over and over, you might not be working in the right field. My example: I spend many years working in hospitality, and I’m also an empath. I will bend over backwards for almost anyone who needs my help, especially if they’re nice about it. I’ve actually worked in jobs where this is a problem. Since I like being hospitable and empathic, I avoid those kinds of jobs like the plague.

    Good luck! You’ll get through it. Your boss hates giving performance reviews, most likely, and the easier you make it for him/her will definitely endear you to them if you take feedback graciously and non-defensively.

  45. EloPod*

    OP #1, please consider that some people consider a workplace’s decision to not engage in “personal development” for their employees to be a feature and not a bug. One of the reasons I work here is because we don’t do anything like that. I find it to be silly pop science, and I think people who engage in it are a little . . . dopey, to put it nicely. I sought a team that just let me do my work rather than insist I spend all day on teamwork exercises. If my workplace started bringing personal development into my professional workday, I would absolutely leave for a different workplace.

  46. MassMatt*

    OP1 Many have said this in different ways but personal development, team building, and career development are very different things.

    Personal development can include self help books and personality quizzes, etc and has a bad reputation due to lack of scientific rigor, poor implementation, and so on. But it can be useful for someone early in a career or at a crossroads to figure what direction they want to go.

    Team building likewise gets a bad rap and I’m sure we have all gone through cringe-worthy exercises at some point, but it can be useful if used sparingly and for a particular purpose. A new team, or icebreaker exercises for people at a conference to get to know each other.

    Career development is probably the most important, and if there isn’t any at your job that is a bad sign. This should not be about self help books or personality tests but rather ways for you to expand and improve your skills. Good organizations give their employees the ability to cross train, get certifications, tuition reimbursement, etc. Think skills you can put on a resume—mastery of Excel, Six Sigma black belt, another language, experience giving presentations, etc. These can both make you better at your current job and qualify you for more jobs in the future. In contrast, knowing the Meyers-Briggs profile will earn eye rolls everywhere but Meyers-Briggs.

    Our economy is increasingly knowledge-based and in most careers you need to keep learning just to stay apace, let alone get ahead.

  47. Cat Herder*

    OP #1, definitely talk w your boss about your own professional development. But please please please, do not ask him to do so for the rest of the staff. At least not until you are SURE they are interested in it. You have not been there long enough to know if your coworkers want it. And it is quite possible that people who’ve been working and living longer than you have different development needs. (I for one am more interested in developing a plan for what I want to do in retirement, for instance). And they may very well have done a number of the usual assessments and activities.

    1. Cat Herder*

      BTW, doing self help or personal or professional development is not dopey. It can be interesting and helpful, and if it’s led well can be useful to do with colleagues. Just keep in mind the other considerations brought up in the comments. :)

  48. PersonalJeebus*

    OP1, I can see from just the first two comments (SignalLost and AcademiaNut) that people have been offering you excellent perspectives and counterarguments on this issue. I just want to add (and others may have already done so) some advice: one of the best ways for you personally to explore your strengths and weaknesses is to *do the work.* In this case I don’t mean “working on yourself” kind of work, but that you should focus on doing the best work you can at your job. That’s how you learn what you’re good at. Try taking your focus off your long-term goals for at least part of the time, and pay attention to what’s happening right now at work. Don’t miss the trees because you’re standing so far back to see the forest. The trees matter, too.

    Of course, sometimes it’s hard to tell what your own weaknesses are. One approach could be to note when you get responses from others that aren’t what you were hoping for, and look back at everything that led up to those, asking yourself how you might have played a role (or what other circumstances beyond your control might have caused the suboptimal reaction; don’t be too hard on yourself). Also, *ask your boss* what you can improve. AAM has reams of advice on how to do that gracefully.

    TL;DR: Be in the present! And do the work. The work is what it’s about.

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