we’re supposed to share emotional baggage at meetings, manager calls to me whenever I pass his door, and more

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

1. We’re supposed to share any emotional baggage at the start of meetings

I work in higher ed. My supervisor has recently adopted a “baggage-drop” activity, where we all go around the room and share what is on our minds, mostly personal stuff, supposedly to clear our heads and make the meeting more productive. (I think it’s also referred to as a “check-in”.) I find it irritating, probably due to the fact that I can never think of a good answer, and I feel our meeting time is so precious and this is not a productive use of our time. Do they really want to know what’s on my mind, what personal things are weighing heavy on me? If I shared that, I’d probably burst out crying like in some therapy session, and they’d probably look horrified. Do you have any suggestions on how I can share something without oversharing, and do so in a productive way?

For people unfamiliar with this concept, the gist is that before you start your meeting, everyone shares something about their current mindset — pumped about a project, frazzled by a weird interaction they just had in the kitchen, worried about their dog, etc. The idea is supposed to be that you then better understand what mindset people are bringing to the meeting and people might not be so distracted by the things they get to name.

Anyway, they don’t want you to burst out crying. (At least, they don’t unless you’re working at this office.) They just haven’t thought through what the honest answers would be for a lot of people, or the fact that many people find this type of thing to be the opposite of helpful. (And I’m taken aback that the article you linked included, “When a client tells you that she just argued with her husband, it makes a difference.” Lots of us are not going to share stuff like that — especially as a client, WTF — and don’t want to be sitting in meetings where it’s being urged.)

Your best bet if you’re not into this is to go with mundane work-related stuff (e.g., you’re worried about a deadline) or bland personal stuff (e.g., you’re excited for the three-day weekend).

2. My manager calls me into his office whenever I pass by his door

I have a new supervisor at work who is a bit overbearing, to say the least. One woman on our hallway, who is not his direct report, has already moved offices to put some space between them. Without getting too much into the other issues I have with him, my immediate concern is that nearly every time I pass his office, he waits until I am about 10 paces past and then calls me in to talk to him about things of varying importance.

I must pass his office to get to the printer, bathroom, kitchen, you name it. I can take a longer route that loops through another department, and I’ve actually found myself doing that just to avoid him. I also find myself anxious and pretending to be on a phone call or rifling through papers in the hopes I will look busy enough that he doesn’t flag me down. I am frustrated, because I feel it shows a lack of respect for my time, and that if any of the things he had to say were important enough, he could just email me or walk down to my office to talk. If I didn’t pass his office, I don’t think he would do either one of those things. I think if it happened less, I’d be less bothered by it, but for now it is happening one out of every three times I pass his door. Help!

If he’s waiting until you’re 10 paces past his door, can you credibly just … not hear him? (Other options include speed-walking or a wig.)

You can also try saying, “I’m running to a meeting (or the bathroom / the kitchen / about to grab lunch / rushing back to my desk for a call) — can I stop by when I’ve got a free moment?” If you say that enough times, he may realize there’s not much payoff to trying to grab you whenever you enter his field of vision.

Or you can address it big-picture: “I’ve noticed you’ll often grab me when you see me walk by, but a lot of the time I’m right in the middle of something else. Would it work to call or email when you need me to stop by, or to set up a standing meeting time?”

3. Can I ask to return to bereavement leave?

My mother passed away a little under three weeks ago on a weekend. Her death was sudden and unexpected so my family hadn’t had time to get her affairs in order prior to her passing. We spent that work week addressing all the paperwork that comes when someone dies. Her funeral was the weekend of that work week and I was back to work on Monday. Part of the reason I came back so early is because we are in one of our busiest times of the year and we are down a staff member in my unit (she is on parental leave). I have been back a little under two weeks and questioning if I should go back on leave. I get three bereavement days but was able to use my personal leave bank for the two additional days.

My time at work has been hard. With the staff member on leave, my workload has doubled, I have random moments where I want to cry (and have closed my office door to do so!), and I feel as if my work has suffered for it. However, there is no one else to pick up the extra responsibilities in the other coworker’s absence and I would be leaving the unit in a very bad place with my absence. But I wonder if leaving would be better than producing results that are less than my standard. I’m stressed and I’m not sure if I should bring this up with my supervisor. I feel like it may reflect poorly on me if I leave again. I am entry level and I have not learned all the nuances of workplace etiquette when it comes to leave. Should I bring this up with my supervisor? If so, what should I say to her?

So, the idea with bereavement leave isn’t supposed to be that you’ll get all your grieving done during that time; most people don’t. It’s mostly supposed to be time to attend the funeral and deal with logistics — basically the way you used it.

But it’s also entirely understandable not be ready to be back at work, or not to be performing at your usual level once you are. If you need more time, it’s completely okay to say to your manager, “I know this is a busy time for us, but I’m having a hard time with my mother’s unexpected death and I’d like to take off more time to deal with it.”

That said, grieving is a long and hard process that can take years. So realistically, you’re probably going to have to come back to work while you’re still grieving deeply. But if having a bit more time off while it’s still fresh would be helpful to you, it’s definitely something you can raise.

I’m sorry about your mom.

4. Early morning conference call greetings

This is a very minor etiquette question, but all of my meetings are done via conferencing systems, and I work with people who are between 2 and 12.5 hours ahead of my time zone. I’ve found myself in the habit of saying something like “good morning” on calls that start early for me, but of course it could be afternoon or evening for some of the participants. Is there a cheerful, yet time-zone aware, greeting I could try to adopt? And, actually, should I? Sometimes team members (usually just those on the U.S. east coast) are a little insensitive to my time zone, thoughtlessly sending meeting requests for 5 am. Maybe I want to keep saying “good morning” to remind them that I exist out here?

“Hello!” and “hi, all!” are good greetings, despite being so simple! But it’s also fine to say, “Good morning, or at least it’s morning here in Seattle” if you want to note the time zone difference.

5. Interviewer told me I could send her follow-up questions, then didn’t respond

I was interviewed via phone almost two weeks ago for an entry-level position at a bank. At the end of the interview, the interviewer sounded very positive as the required qualifications matched up with my academic and professional background. I was told I should be contacted again around a week and a half later for the second round. She also insisted on me emailing her or calling her if I had any questions regarding the position. Three days later, I emailed her with a query about the salary band, but she never replied, even though during the interview she told me she would be happy to answer my further questions. When it had been a week and a half, I sent her an email checking on my application status. I haven’t heard anything from them. Have I been dropped from the process? Is this a usual practice in the hiring system? Should I give her a phone call?

Some interviewers tell candidates to contact them with any questions without really meaning it or expecting it to happen. Maybe they mean it in the moment when they say it or they say it because it feels polite, but it’s incredibly common for them to not bother responding if you do send them questions, especially if they’re not planning to move forward with you (or haven’t decided yet).

But it’s also true that there’s rarely a point in you sending questions before another interview has been scheduled anyway. Most of the time when candidates do this, there’s no reason the question couldn’t have waited until the next contact from the employer or the next interview, and so it can come across as either a disingenuous way to stay on their radar or an inconsiderate use of their time (as in, did you really need to know the salary band at that point before they’d asked you to move forward?).

In any case, definitely do not call her. You’ve emailed her twice and the ball is in her court. If they want to move you forward in their hiring process, they will be in touch.

{ 341 comments… read them below }

  1. Drew*

    OP#1, I would be very tempted to say something like, “I’m struggling with keeping my work and personal lives separate. It just feels sometimes like work is trying to invade every aspect of my private life in a way that’s really distressing, you know? Anyway, I’m ready for this heat wave to end, how ’bout you, Sally?”

    1. NW Cat Lady*

      I’d be tempted to say something like, “I’m feeling that if we skipped this part, we could get down to what we actually need to discuss and not drag this meeting out further.”

      I wouldn’t *actually* say it, but I’d certainly be thinking it!

      1. snowglobe*

        One way to say this while keeping the answer within the intent of the question: “I’m feeling stressed about time right now, because of Project A and Deadline B, so I’m hoping this meeting can stay on track!”

        1. Pommette!*

          This is perfect.

          I’m actually a fan of check-ins. They are often (more often than not?) abused but can be genuinely useful when used in appropriate contexts and done well. Knowing that your colleague just wants to get the essentials out of the way so that they can get back to work as quickly as possible is great information – in fact, it’s exactly the kind of information that good check-ins are meant to elicit. I usually bring to lists to any meeting: the “must address today” and the “could address if time and circumstances allow”. If someone’s in a rush, I stick to the first

      2. Allypopx*

        Oh I’ve totally said “kind of annoyed with the concept of check-ins” during check-ins, but only during small department meetings where I knew my boss would see the humor. He would then normally force me to do a real check-in but I felt better.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I would ask in the Friday open thread for a list of sincere seeming but non-oversharing answers that are nice and brief. Then print them off and keep them in your meeting notebook.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        My favorite answer for annoying and intrusive questions that would work for this situation is a cheerful, “Nothing to report!”

        I have a feeling that if OP said that every day, others bothered by this would also start saying it until the majority of meeting attendees said it and the practice was abandoned.

    3. The Elephant in the room*

      “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.” (Marshawn Lynch for non-football fans) Or maybe, “I’m frustrated I’m being asked to share personal information.” If you don’t want to be that sassy, then, “I’m anxious to get this meeting started” or “I wish it were Friday.”

      1. DreamingInPurple*

        omg, I think about Marshawn Lynch anytime I have to be in a meeting that I wish I didn’t…

      2. Michelle*

        I actually used “I’m just here so I don’t get fired” after I was basically ordered to end my vacation 3 days early to come back to work because a coworker had rage quit and they decided to have a meeting about it that I just had to be at. They didn’t actually need me at the meeting, my director just likes how I always make detailed notes in meetings and wanted me there for that. He apologized after the meeting because I guess that statement shocked him a little.

          1. Michelle*

            I took notes but I did not share them, like I usually do. He never asked for them but hinted around that he would like a copy with comments like “I can’t remember who Wayne recommended. Michelle do you remember?” I said “No. Perhaps we should call Wayne and ask him?” I’ve never been asked to cut a vacation short since!

        1. Fiberpunk*

          Wow. That’s awful and it makes me wonder if your co-worker had good reason to rage-quit. These people clearly don’t think of you as a person, just as a worker bee.

    4. pleaset*

      Really? You’d consider doing that?

      I simply say “I’m fine – worried about X deadline next week” and that’s enough in my organization. Or I’m find and ready for this heat wave to end.”

      Asking you to share something doesn’t mean invade *every* aspect of your private life. That’s hyperbolic. And if it really feels like that to you, pause and step back. Don’t take that request in the worst possible way.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I would probably use the same strategy, but be really irritated at the time-waste factor of it. I also think there are enough boundary-pushing managers that some will use this sort of exercise exactly to invade every aspect of your private life. One of the crappiest supervisors I ever had, who was about as warm and fuzzy as a cactus, insisted we have a big, personal sharing, “team building” event where he led off with feeling abandoned by his dad after his parents divorced and his dad started a new family he felt replaced him. People WERE pushed to share more than many (and not just the private-minded amongst us) were comfortable. He was not satisfied with one’s hatred of the summer humidity or not sharing personal details.

        This is just one of those ideas that may sound like a good idea on paper (to someone, I guess) but has very few redeeming qualities. At best, it’s more meeting time-wasting, at worst, you’ve got pushy, oversharers who write your reviews insisting you talk about your personal life and not a “cop out” response.

        1. Kate*

          Assuming this doesn’t take a huge portion of the meeting (maybe 5-8 min max) I do think there is some level of value in it, as it relates to relationship building with your team. It does help sometimes, to understand the mindset someone else is in, heading into a discussion. Now, I’m with you guys – I would keep it relatively innocuous – “I’m pretty exhausted after camping this weekend! Bear with me, I may need an extra minute here or there!” or “A little stressed this week – navigating the whole holiday-arrangement with extended family, which is always stressful.” Little glimpses of personal life to show that we’re all human and we all have day to day struggles but you don’t have to overshare to participate. If leadership is really pushing for oversharing… then it becomes a problem. Or if it takes half the darn meeting!

          1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

            The best thing I ever did for relationship building with my team was take them out to lunch once a month at my expense. Out. That is, out of the office. People feel much more free to speak when they are somewhere else. I did it the first time because they did not sit near me and I wanted to solidify the connection, but it was so helpful, and they appreciated it so much, that I just kept doing it. It was intended to also be a way to get feedback from them about the progress of our project and it was incredibly helpful for that as well.

        2. Dagny*

          “I also think there are enough boundary-pushing managers that some will use this sort of exercise exactly to invade every aspect of your private life.”


          There are some managers or co-workers who are also predatory, for lack of a better word, and will rather enjoy sticking it to someone who is already struggling, or use that to humiliate them. (I worked with someone who would pry into his employee’s personal lives, under the guise of being helpful, and then would talk behind their backs about their “psychological problems” and try to paint them as insane.)

          1. Jadelyn*

            I had a coworker once (horrifyingly toxic woman, but I didn’t learn that until later) and I was open with her about the fact that I’ve deal with some mental health issues.

            I later found out that she was spreading rumors to new hires that I (and another person in a similar situation) was “crazy”, “on drugs”, and they should be careful of me in case I “snapped”.

            I’m still pretty open about my mental health stuff, in general terms at least, simply because that’s my personal way of fighting the stigma around mental health issues. I’m at a point where I can handle some BS and give it right back, so I can stand against the stigma in a way plenty of people can’t or don’t want to. But that was a particularly rude awakening to the kind of person that coworker was, and I can’t say I’d blame anyone for being wary of exposing their personal life in case they have someone like that in the vicinity, who will use it against them.

          2. pleaset*

            “I also think there are enough boundary-pushing managers that some will use this sort of exercise exactly to invade every aspect of your private life.”

            So what? Just don’t play their game. Given a perfunctory answer instead of stressing about it. There is no value in getting worked up about it.

            And frankly, if someone is going to “invade every aspect of your personal life” there are bigger problems at the job than just the check-in.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      What’s on my mind is that I’m compartmentalizing all my thoughts and emotions, and focusing on what my purpose is at any given place and time. You know, like professional, sane, rational adults do?

    6. T2*

      I love it. And would use a very similar answer. Express dissatisfaction with the whole stupid experience.

      My personal issues are my own, if I have a problem that is relevant to work, I say something. But otherwise, no one else really cares. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is just reality.

    7. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

      Okay, hear me out. (And understand that there is very little that embarrasses me.)

      I think LW #1 and #2 could shut things down with something to the effect of: “I’m having a beast of a period right now and my flow is so heavy, I swear I’m going to bleed out!”

      This would work especially well with male supervisors. It would be 10 times funnier if both LWs were males as well.

      1. Office Wonderwoman*

        Ha ha ha, Liar Liar, that would be funny! I’m OP#1, and female, so not 10x funnier, but still funny. And my supervisor is very nice and means well by the baggage drop exercise. I just need a way to filter my thoughts to say something useful without over-sharing, like not mention my miscarriage last week or struggles with fertility, which are 100% on my mind all the time… Many commenters had good, professional suggestions (and some funny, but less professional ones). I just feel now I have one more thing to prep for before the meeting, to find “light-weight baggage” to share.

        1. paxfelis*

          Maybe you could tell them that you’re worried about your pet rock. It won’t eat, it won’t sleep, it doesn’t seek out affection…

          1. Blue Horizon*

            “I was Googling body disposal methods all night, and I’m worried the NSA might have noticed.”

      2. Zombeyonce*

        Even better if this was said at every single meeting and every time the person passed the door. Eternal periods!

      3. PersephoneUnderground*

        OMG, this is perfect! Though you might get helpful coworkers recommending their birth control method that stops or controls their periods if you’re a woman and they take you seriously :p I’ll admit I struggle not to recommend my IUD method to co-workers with cramping. I have once or twice actually, but try to not get into other people’s business I swear!

    8. henrietta*

      Back in the pleistocene era when I had my first job out of college, the owner was an adherent of the self-help movement est. So we’d have mandatory (unpaid!) weekly meetings, wherein we we all expected to ‘share’ — and it couldn’t be about work. There was a stopwatch! A stopwatch to keep us to 2 minutes each. At the end of each person’s bit, there was mandatory applause and exhortations of ‘good share!’

      Even as a newbie in the workforce, I knew this was some Grade A Nonsense. Every week, I lied. I suspect my boss knew it, but he never called me out. He was not sorry to see me go when I quit four months in, however, because I clearly didn’t ‘Get It.’ No, but I got money for grad school!

      Anyway, that formative experience is the tale I tell now, whenever some newly minted MBA thinks ‘check-ins’ are a good way to go.

      1. Quill*

        Wait, was the stopwatch for a maximum or a MINIMUM of two minutes? because now that I think of it one is way worse than the other.

    9. Mockingjay*

      We have to do this in a weekly meeting. I can’t stand it, but it is a company-wide initiative. My team just mentally rolls eyes and says stuff like: “enjoyed a movie last weekend,” “repotted a plant/worked in garden,” “had dinner with friends.”

      Treat it like a checkbox on the meeting agenda. You do not have to provide anything truly personal, just bland, boring, and innocuous.

      1. Mockingjay*

        If they want more emotional type stuff, Alison’s suggestions toward work items are fine. Leave home out of it.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Commutes are an excellent thing to brag/complain about. Hit all the lights and got here in record time! The train got to the platform just as I walked into the station and I got a single seat! There were 2 accidents on (highway) and traffic was backed up to (landmark)! I waited on the platform for 20 minutes then got onto a crush-loaded standing room only train that was crawling along because there was a disabled train ahead of it in the tunnel!

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          “I still haven’t been able to grow a 70s mustache, but I remain hopeful and vigilant!”

          (I’m a cis woman on a team of very bearded cis men.)

    10. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Yeah, I’ve had bosses ask us to unload like this, too, and it drove me crazy. My honest answer would have been, ‘As most of you know, boss included, I’m private and introverted. So I’m feeling really stressed out by just the thought of talking about my baggage in front of people I work with. And hearing other people’s troubles adds to my stress levels. It reminds me of therapy, which stressed me out, and I WANTED to do it. So I’m hoping for a meteor to crash through the roof and end this meeting early. Who’s next?’

      My actual answer was, ‘Oh, just the usual ups and downs, normal business noise. Who’s next?’ Sometimes you have to play the game, but only just enough to get through it.

      1. pleaset*

        I’m private and introverted and chose not to let stuff like this drive me crazy. It annoys me sure, but driving me crazy? Whatever. Don’t dwell on it.

        It’s just 15 seconds of my life – i can say “Oh, feeling busy as usual.”

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I didn’t share the context of those meetings which, trust me, were intrusive, intense, and non-negotiable. Since too much detail gets derailing, maybe you could just believe someone when they say the circumstances were crazy-making.

    11. Consultant Catie*

      As annoying as this is, it might be a good opportunity for OP#1 to get some helpful insight. Could you say something really generic as mentioned above (“Worried about Deadine X,” “Curious about future of Project Y,” “Excited/stressed about Upcoming Holiday Z Plans,”) and then think of this check-in time to get insight on your colleagues that you wouldn’t normally get? Any information is better than no information, and you might be able to use it to better plan your project strategies or get context that you wouldn’t normally be able get?

      1. Office Wonderwoman*

        CC, good point, insights on my colleagues is useful. That is, if they are sharing the elusive insightful-but-not-oversharing statements. (OP#1)

    12. TootsNYC*

      I think check-ins at work should be only about “what is affecting you at work right now?”

      What do your colleagues need to know? So maybe if I were so distracted with worry about my kids __so much so that it affected my work___ I might say “having some Mom doubts today.” But I don’t even think that for a big group. Maybe “we’re moving, so that’s distracting,” but nothing emotional, really.

      But otherwise, if my worries about my cat, or my kids, or even my health, are not going to affect my work much today, I wouldn’t think they need to be mentioned.

      And I’d be more likely to say, “I haven’t seen that memo I’m supposed to approve, and I need to tackle the procedures binder.”

    13. Kes*

      I was recently in a meeting where they started with meditation and then asked everyone to say how they were feeling. There was a lot of ‘fine’, ‘a bit tired’, ‘anxious to get started’, and one person just said ‘nothing’ (you could tell it was just being driven by the one new person who was running the meeting and nobody else was into it).

  2. ZucchiniBikini*

    LW1, I don’t have much to add to the suggestions made, but I am in solidarity with you on disliking this sort of thing at work. Heck, I have one client who has a practice of asking everyone to turn off their phones (not set to silent – turn them off) at the start of any meeting, “unless you are prepared to explain why you can’t”, and I don’t even like that, because it has forced people to disclose details about sick family members etc that they clearly would rather not have done.

    I did have a boss in a former workplace who was always wanting us to “speak our issues”, which might have been a 90s way of saying the same sort of thing. I used to pick some micro work thing that I was legitimately exercised about (“I’m feeling frustrated at the printing company’s delay in providing the samples”) or a very anodyne personal thing (“I’m still getting over that cold, so I’m a bit fuzzy today”). Never did any real sharing take place. One of my coworkers in our project meetings used to pick a food-based thing every time (everything from “I’m feeling amazed that I’ve only just discovered how good dragonfruit is” to “I’m feeling distracted because we should hear today if we got our booking at Very Prestigious Hard to Book Restaurant”.) He managed to come up with a different something every week for 6 months. Serious props!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      That first example is a really aggressive way of saying “I’d prefer everyone turn off their phones unless of course there’s a pressing need in which case do let me know.” She clearly understands that some people really can’t be uncontactable (perhaps this has had to be drummed into her, though) but chooses to be rude and petty about it rather than, well, human.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        So every day, the same people have to say “my kids’ daycare needs to reach me in case the kids get sick or injured”?

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I don’t have kids or sick relatives (currently…), but I’d be irritated at this. I don’t sit on my phone in meetings. If someone is overtly on their phone, unless it’s actually impacting something….let it be. If they’re impacting something, address what they’re impacting (lost work, disruption, etc.). The answer to someone being disruptive is *not* forcing everyone to disclose why they may need to be accessible via phone, whether it’s kids at daycare, waiting on the phone call from the hospital to come say goodbye, waiting on a notification that your car’s done at the shop, whatever.

          I would most likely start making up rather complicated excuses why I can’t turn off my phone.
          “I’m waiting on a phone call from the construction company on installing a moat around my house.”
          “Sorry, can’t, it’s my superhero cell, the city might need me.”
          “Oh, sorry, need to be accessible for my dependents. No, no daycare, I’m trying to teach my parakeets to use a phone.”
          “I have another client that needs me accessible at all times. Sorry!”
          “I’m waiting on a delivery to my house and will need to remote unlock the doors so they can get in. It’s cool, they’re replacing all the appliances. I wanted bright blue instead of stainless steel. It’s so much more of a ~modern~ look!”
          “Oh, no thanks!”
          “I need to be available for a contractor. They’re repainting my house. I think we’ll put flames on the outside and chrome all the trim.”

          1. Fiberpunk*

            You’re saying you think it’s OK to tell someone to wait until after the meeting for a message that their child was injured or is sick? The meeting is more important and the injured child can just wait.

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            A friend of mine is a clinician who obviously can’t answer her phone during clinic appointments.

            Her son had an accident at school. School rang her, couldn’t get through, and rang me instead as a secondary named contact. By the time she could answer her phone, child and I were in the hospital with his suspected broken shoulder. His treatment was delayed because I couldn’t authorise it (no parental responsibility, not life-threatening).

            Not everyone has a local friend who can drop everything. Schools (and day care etc) expect to be able to speak to a decision maker within a short time.

            Now, for many meetings you could leave the switchboard number with caregivers and let them know you can be interrupted in an emergency, but that’s not functionally different from having your phone set to “DND unless the call is coming from the school / hospice”.

            Agree that phones should not be in hands and stared at, but adults should be able to cope with a little discretion.

          3. Elitist Semicolon*

            Are you referring to the kids/daycare message? Because “Your child has broken their arm and is in the nurse’s office” is generally the kind of message that needs to be received immediately to avoid further harm.

          4. Jadelyn*

            …not if you’re a single parent or sole caregiver, and something happens that requires treatment that you have to be the one to authorize. Or should the kid just get to suffer for 45 minutes because Daddy’s boss wanted phones off during the meeting?

          5. ampersand*

            This isn’t going to go over well with most people. When my kid was in daycare, I would take my phone to meetings and set it on the table face down. I didn’t want it to be a distraction (it wasn’t); I just wanted to be aware if I were texted/called and needed to respond to anything important re: the kid/daycare.

          6. Dahlia*

            So if someone’s toddler breaks their arm, they should have to wait 45 minutes for their parent to get the message? In pain, possibly alone at the hospital, unable to get pain meds without the consent of their parent?

            That’s… dark.

          7. A Non E. Mouse*

            except, you can get that message in 45 minutes when the meeting is over.

            While I kind of agree in principal (most of the times I’ve been been contacted by daycare/school, it has been something that needed my attention but not an actual emergency – and please note I said most, there have been at least two I can think of that needed immediate attention), in practice daycares and schools will NOT wait 45 minutes for a parent to call back.

            I can tell you from actual experience they will immediately hang up from calling the first number on the list, and call the second. Then call the third. And then Grandma who’s listed on there. And then the grandma that’s actually in an entirely different city, but 5th on the list.

            I have a 30 minute commute, and actually have to have my mother (who is closer) run and grab a kid when something occurs, because when I say “I can be there in 30 minutes”, they balk.

            I….cannot even imagine what they would do if I didn’t even bother to call back for 45 minutes.

            1. Librarianne*

              This. My mom is a nurse in the operating room, and she always wrote clear instructions on the emergency contact forms that our schools were to call the hospital if she didn’t pick up her cell. If someone called the nurses’ station and said it was an emergency, they’d find her and have someone relieve her so she could take the call.

              Honestly, I assumed this would be standard procedure for parents who couldn’t reliably answer their cell phones at work.

      2. ZucchiniBikini*

        My understanding from others who have worked with her longer is that it had to be drummed into her. She used to, from what I am told, hand around a plastic basket at the start of meetings where everyone was expected to put their phones, which they could collect from her at the end of the meeting. By the time I started working with the client, this particular practice had been kyboshed, which is lucky because there is literally 0% chance I would have done it.

    2. Quill*

      I’d have a rotating schedule of “I’m insufficiently caffinated” and “I’m busy fantasizing about thai food.”

      1. Jadelyn*

        I had a couple of friends years ago who used to use “TFE” as a code to get each other out of meetings. Someone would be stuck in the meeting, one of the others would duck in and say “Hey Joe, sorry to interrupt, but we have a TFE – can you step out and help me with this?”

        TFE was short for Thai Food Emergency. It meant someone had ordered food and the food had arrived.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Food guy is my hero, that’s brilliant — pick a fairly neutral subject and beat it to death. “The football season is about to begin and I’m not confident in my Fantasy picks.” “Aaron Rogers only scored 24 points this last Sunday and it’s killing my Fantasy team.” “Cooper Kupp dropped two passes this last Thursday night and I might need to drop him from my Fantasy team, but I really strongly believe he’s about it turn it around and I’m conflicted.”

      The only way I think something like this would be helpful is if it’s work-related issues people are having and not personal, unless work is affecting their personal lives…”It’s been 4 months since my last vacation, and I realize that this is our busiest time of the year, but I think if I can take a 4-day weekend, it would really allow me to clear up some household projects and I’d be more focused here afterward.”

      1. ZucchiniBikini*

        Yes, it was super entertaining. We all looked forward to when it was his turn to “share his issues”!

    4. Older worker*

      The turn off your phone issue seems to have raised a lot of comments – mostly saying that turning off a phone is impossible because ‘children’ ’emergencies’ etc. I just remind you that both things existed before cell phones and the world survived!

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Do you think that if people had cell phones 40 years ago that they wouldn’t use them to make sure they could get calls when children were sick or injured at school/daycare and needed to be picked up or had been taken to the ER? That people living with elderly relatives should ignore calls from them that they’ve fallen because they did that decades ago? Just because the world has changed doesn’t mean we should do what we did before.

      2. Dahlia*

        Before cellphones we had much more accessible landlines.

        And before that, no, not everyone in the world did survive. My grandmother lost a pregnancy that possibly could have been saved if she had been able to call 911 and had been closer to a hospital.

      3. Bear Shark*

        The expectations are different now. Schools and childcare expect you to be reachable – it’s in my daycare contract that I need to be able to pick my child up within a certain time period in case of illness or emergency. When I was a child, if the school or daycare needed to call my parents due to emergencies, both of their workplaces had either a paging system or a receptionist who could physically go locate an employee and deliver a message, plus my dad had a work pager and listed that number as emergency contact for the school and childcare. We have a receptionist at my office but all she’s going to be able to do is forward a caller to my desk phone (which does me no good in a meeting).

        1. Librarianne*

          This! As I said upthread, my mother is a nurse who can’t keep her cell phone with her at work. However, the hospital nurses’ station is listed as contact #2, and they’ll find someone to relieve her so she can take an emergency phone call.

      4. Environmental Compliance*

        It’s not that it’s impossible. It’s that it’s a ridiculous way to go about punishing everyone for likely one to two people’s lack of discretion. It’s unreasonable to expect everyone to put that meeting in a higher level of importance to a family member hurt, sick, or dying.

        The *world* may have survived to get us to this more technologically advanced time, but not all *people* did, and it’s silly to expect that just because something was done one way in the past that that way is still the “right” or “best” way to go forward doing.

        1. ZucchiniBikini*

          100% yes, to both you and all the other commenters pointing out how ridiculous the phones-off client is! Totally honestly, there is no circumstance since I had my children where I would consent to rendering myself fully uncontactable for 2-3 hours during the day when they are not with me. I’ve had many a call from school which requires very quick or immediate response, including two genuine emergencies, over the past 16 years of parenting. Of course I (like most people!) don’t look at my phone during meetings unless it vibrates (and then, only to check who the caller is – callers who are not the school or my unwell elderly parents get ignored). But if the call is one of them, I take it, and usually justifiably.

          To take the most recent example of when I had to step out of a meeting to answer (about 9 months ago), my youngest child’s school was calling to say that my daughter was bleeding profusely from a cut above her eye, an ambulance had been called, a teacher would accompany her, and could I meet them at the hospital. (Thankfully, the cut was wide but not especially deep so I was able to take her home that night after stitching and a few tests to rule out more serious problems). The meeting I was in was scheduled for 2 hours and had only just started, and my daughter’s father was interstate for work. It absolutely would not have been an option to wait.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      “I can’t turn my phone off because I am an adult who knows how to use silent mode, rebooting my phone takes too long, and I have no obligation to comply with your little dominance game.”

    6. Baru Cormorant*

      Woof, I don’t understand why you need to “turn it off” when you don’t even need to do that on planes or near people with pacemakers anymore. Any time people do that “turn your phone off”/collecting phones nonsense it had better be for a damn good reason. I hope you wait hours before responding to that client because “my phone was off.”

  3. Drew*

    OP#2, I wonder if your manager is one of those “if your butt isn’t in the chair, you aren’t really working” types? That’s ludicrous, of course, but maybe the frequent interruptions are his way of making sure you aren’t goofing off.

    Maybe he has something on his mind that he was planning to mention to you/ask you, and there you are, so why wait?

    Or maybe he’s just bored and looking for a distraction and doesn’t realize how distracting it is for *you* to be interrupted.

    I suspect a quick check-in – “Hey, Paul, it seems like you stop me a few times a day when I happen to be passing your office. Is there something bigger-picture going on here, do we need to set up a regular one-on-one rather than doing walk-by meetings?” – would clear things up.

  4. government worker*

    OP #2 — are you actually busy or do you just not want to talk to your supervisor? You say this happens nearly every time you pass him, but also say it happens 1/3 of the time.

    Sometimes you just have to talk to your supervisor at work! I don’t love the idea that you should play dumb and act like you didn’t hear him or disguise yourself at work (I realize the wig comment was a joke, but it’s not a huge deal to have a stop and chat…with your supervisor in a work setting). If you’re truly busy, go with Alison’s scripts. Otherwise, just talk to him.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      The math side of me thinks “yes 1/3 is not ‘nearly every time'” but the sports side of me thinks “batting .333 is all-star” by which I mean, even if 1/3 of the time is not even close to a majority of the time…it’s still way disproportionate to what I’d expect for that type of spotting someone passing by and calling them in. The boss is on the path to the kitchen and the bathroom. For an “oh while I see you there let me stop you” this is a lot. I can see why it feels incessant to the OP.

      1. government worker*

        I’m not necessarily quibbling about the math (although I don’t understand it). I’m suggesting that the LW have a conversation with her supervisor if she actually has the time.

        1. OP #2*

          OP 2 here. I commented below with some clarification on the hierarchy going on, but my main beef is that I’m working in two roles right now—the one I was hired to do, and the one that I’m covering because someone resigned. There are times I’m walking to the printer to get something related to my primary job function and don’t want to stop and talk in this guy’s office. There are times where I could sacrifice a few minutes and hear him out, but then I secretly feel like I’m giving in and rewarding bad behavior, even if that isn’t helpful thinking.

          I need to work on my feelings because the reality is that I will have to work with him for the foreseeable future, but also want to set boundaries. How do you set boundaries with someone that’s proven they don’t respect them?

          1. government worker*

            I saw your comment below — I feel for you! I hope you take the long way around more often and you figure out a way to work with this dude.

            1. cazfiend*

              The comment below from OP #2 has some really helpful context. It’s beyond he’s your supervisor, you must talk.

            2. Hrovitnir*

              I don’t really understand such black and white responses. Your supervisor is indeed your superior, but that’s not the same thing as you not being entitled to any kind of consideration for your time, or respect as a person. At work you are trying to achieve goals, which involves some degree of being allowed to organise your time for efficiency and ability to concentrate – being interrupted every time your supervisor sees you because it triggers something they’d had percolating in their brain is not de facto great on a cost-benefit basis just because the heirachy means they can.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep. And a decent manager will be fine with hearing “this isn’t optimal because X; could we try Y instead?” In fact, as a manager, I’d be concerned about an employee who thought they couldn’t say that because “you do what the boss says, period.”

            3. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Not always. If you’re clocked out for lunch, it’s your downtime — at least if you’re non-exempt. If you’re on the way to the bathroom, any reasonable person would let you pass — but imagine the awkwardness having to tell him that so frequently.
              Managers need to learn to plan ahead.

            4. Parenthetically*

              Really disagree. This is a great example of a time when it’s appropriate to manage up — Supervisor is showing a disinclination to prioritize or schedule, and it’s very disruptive to OP2’s workflow as well as being stressful. She is well within her rights to ask for reasonable measures like Supervisor checking in on Slack to see if she’s available sometime in the next X minutes for non-urgent things.

          2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            I’m going to bet that the woman who moved offices got sick of being called through the walls whenever he wanted something.

          3. JSPA*

            Ah, that’s a whole range of perfect deflects, then. In all cases, keep walking, yell over your shoulder. If it’s awkward for the rest of the office that you’re yelling because he called to you when you were past him…it’s a direct result of his awkwardness.

            “I’m on a Job 1 task, I’ll circle back as soon as I’m on Job 2 time.”

            “Can’t stop now. Want me to circle back at [time]?”

            “Already multi-tasking!”

            If he complains: “how would you like me to handle it when I literally can’t stop and backtrack without dropping something time sensitive? Yell back, or follow up with an email?”

            If he’s nailing you on the way to the bathroom, take it up as a health issue. “When you call me over when I’m my way to the toilet, it becomes painful for me, and potentially embarrassing for both of us. If the sight of me passing by reminds you there’s something you need to tell me, could you shoot me a quick email or chat, instead of catching me short?” That’ll tell you if he’s a power-mad bully who likes to see you squirm, or just someone whose brain drops into gear based on visual input.

  5. ..Kat..*

    LW3, part of the problem at work is that you are trying to do the work of two people while an employee is on parental leave. Please talk with your boss about what work can be given to someone else and what work can be postponed until the employee on leave comes back.

    I am sorry about your mother.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Oh my goddess, this. Work is worried about work, and you need to be worried about much more critical things. Like, would they have figured it out if you were unconscious in the hospital after a car crash? Then let them figure it out now. This piece of your life is so much more important than the TPS reports. Do what you need to do.

      I’m terribly sorry about your mom.

    2. DiscoCat*

      I’m sorry about your mother. If you want to hear / read this advice: Please be kind and mindful to yourself and give yourself the time to feel everything you feel while going through grief. It’s a kalaidoscope of waves of emotions ebbing and flowing. It takes serious time, time off from work, from others, from daily routine- I think I just turned a corner recently, 5.5 years after loosing my mum suddenly and inexplicably. A book recommendation is “Motherless daughters” by Hope Edelman.

      1. Not in US*

        I am so sorry about your mom. Be kind to yourself. Its actually something really important to learn to do (I’m still learning). Its hard to give yourself what you need when you’re managing a crazy amount of work. Think about taking email off your phone if that’s possible or leaving work at a set time each day and then not looking at it. I know in some industries this might be very hard, but it you can put boundaries around the work, it will help.

        My mom died 28 years ago – when I was very young, the grief still hits at unexpected times. Most of the time, it’s something that happened that’s a bit of an ache but sometimes, it’s a lot more. You learn to live with it and it does change and you go through seasons.

        I cannot recommend Hope’s book more. Especially for anyone who loses their mother young. I can imagine its hard at any age, but it has an extra layer of grief when you’re young. I imagine there is a extra layer when its sudden and unexpected as well.

      2. roisin54*

        This. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes you feel fine, other times you’ll feel like sobbing your eyes out. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling and cry if you need to. And just generally give yourself a pass.

        It sounds to me like you’re still very much in the acute phase which is so so hard, and even harder if you’re doing the work of two people. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to go back to work until almost three weeks after my father died, thanks to already scheduled vacation time and one week of bereavement leave. I honestly don’t think I could’ve gone back to work the next week. I think it couldn’t hurt to ask for another week or two off.

        I’m so sorry about your mom.

    3. Sara without an H*

      100%. This is a workload issue and, as such, perfectly acceptable to discuss with your boss. Set up some time with your manager to discuss priorities — being in the middle of a busy patch is an excellent reason to identify things that don’t absolutely have to be done right now.

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother a couple of years back. It’s never easy.

    4. WellRed*

      I took about 10 days when my dad died. I should have taken more. And, that was with a reduced workload thanks to an understanding boss. Please take a bit more time. Your coworkers should understand.

    5. Shamy*

      This is great advice. OP3, I am so sorry about your mom. I lost mine 3 years ago as well and it is still so difficult for me at times. I agree about talking to your boss about your workload. If they truly cannot reduce the load (I find it hard to believe that absolutely nothing can be postponed), maybe another option would be to switch tasks with someone. like they take one of your heavy lifting projects and you take 3 of their lighter projects that require less brain power or emotional energy. Please be gentle with yourself as others have suggested.

    6. Marissa*

      Great advice. And don’t add work guilt to your grief. It is good and healthy to set this boundary, and it is completely acceptable for you to focus on just you for a time. If it feels impossible to take time now, would it feel better to schedule personal days in the very near future? If you know you need to plow through work for the next two weeks and then have a week to yourself, would that make things feel more manageable? Every person is different, so listen to yourself and let people know what you need, whatever that may be.

    7. GibbsRule18*

      Ugh. SO familiar. My mom died 2 years ago this month. My bosses were very kind initially and I was able to take time to be with her in the last few weeks. However, a couple of months later, when I was still struggling a lot, it became clear I was not grieving on THEIR schedule and things got ugly. I’m still there, but my job is time-limited (it ends Aug 2020) and I’m looking already.

      I’m so sorry about your mom.

    8. Annon for this*

      I am sorry for your loss and echo all the be kind to yourself comments. At this time you need less work on your plate and not more. Please speak with your boss about expectations at this time and ask for patience with your current state of mind and work output.
      I lost a sibling in-law last year. It was sudden. For about a month afterwards I made minor to moderate mistakes and caught them through my work cycles for another couple months.

    9. Super Admin*

      OP3, I think talking to your manager/supervisor is the best thing you can do here. You are already under pressure with workload and now you’ve had to deal with a huge emotional and mental blow in the loss of your mother. Any decent supervisor would understand – maybe a compromise would be to work a few weeks part-time, either by taking half-days or cutting the days in the office. Maybe working from home would be helpful. See if you can find what works for you. There will be some days where you can get on with work, and other days where it will be hard to do much without crying. If your employer can give you some flexibility then both of you will be better for it.

      I was overseas when my brother died in a road accident. The process of coming home, arranging the funeral, followed by the burial and inquest took nearly a month. I was extremely fortunate to have an employer who arranged cover for me, and also had that cover overlap with my return to work, so for days when I was unable to go into work due to emotional overload, I was still covered. Working from home wasn’t an option for me, but had it been I would have really benefited from that, and recommend looking into that possibility.

      I’m really sorry for your loss, and hope you’ll get the support you need from your employer.

  6. the consort Sha'ira*

    My former boss used to do a version of LW1’s office’s emotional baggage thing, but he called it “clearing.” At the beginning of the meeting he’d ask “anything to clear?” then do a quick glance around the room. If nothing, moving on. Nobody was put on the spot to share, but everyone was welcome to. I didn’t mind it, but I rarely shared much, and I wouldn’t have appreciated it if there was any expectation involved. Especially when I was stressed out over having to document an employee’s erratic behavior to move towards termination. Not exactly something I could just put out there.

    I feel like “vulnerability in the workplace” has often been misconstrued as “make your employees be vulnerable in the workplace.” There’s a difference between creating a space that feels safe enough for employees to be vulnerable, and trying to put employees in a position of vulnerability. I think the “how’s your headspace” exercises veer dangerously close to the latter.

      1. Sally*

        I agree. I work at a company that deals with mental health and is very supportive of employees, but even there I am not going to tell anyone that I take an SSRI (even though my colleagues probably would not be shocked to know that I have an anxiety disorder :-) ).

        1. Allypopx*

          Ha, my coworker and I chat loudly about our meds all the time, especially when we’re on an adjustment. It’s a small office and it’s totally fine – but also if we don’t want to talk about something no one is super intrusive about it. It’s really nice. I’ve worked in offices where in the guise of being “supportive” managers basically poke at me until I open and up and then I end up crying and embarrassed and uncomfortable and that’s no way to work.

    1. Hrovitnir*


      That second paragraph is perfect. I’ve never worked anywhere where I can begin to imagine such a thing happening, but I honestly don’t know what I would do, because I would be far too bothered just to demur repetitively.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I’m also completely unfamiliar with this concept, having never encountered it at work. I can’t imagine saying anything remotely personal or even talking about work-related stressors in a team meeting, much less hearing about everyone else’s current issues or frustrations. I mean, who is that helping, really? Does it make everyone obligated to walk on eggshells around coworkers who are having a difficult time? Is it rude not to follow up with someone who mentions some tragic personal news? Wouldn’t that derail the next few minutes, or if it didn’t, how cold does that come across to the person having a hard time?

        Now, maybe in a 1 on 1 with a manager, I could easily see discussing something that is having a work impact, and I think this is often recommended so you can get out in front of any perceived drop in performance. And I would probably tell a closer coworker, or someone I’m working directly with, if I’m having a hard time. But in a general group meeting, nope.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      This sounds much better – not routinely requiring candour from every participant every time, but leaving space for someone to say “I didn’t get much sleep last night because my mom is in the hospital so please forgive me if I’m not firing on all cylinders” or “I’m still waiting for a call from $ProblemVendor so I might need to step out but Fergus has agreed to speak on my behalf” or whatever.

      Some people are good at chairing meetings. Some people … aren’t. It sounds like your former boss was in the former category?

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, these are good examples of the kind of thing that it makes sense to say during a check-in. If everyone is being encouraged to share really personal stuff every time, then it’s not really serving its purpose of making sure everyone can focus on whatever the meeting topic is and be aware of anything major that might detract from that.

        “I have a hard stop at 11.”
        “I might need to step out to take a personal call.”
        “I have 87 little things on my urgent to-do list since our big fundraiser is in 36 hours so I’m not really in the right mindset for the big strategic discussion about our 5-year strategic plan that we’re supposed to have right now.”
        “I put in an offer on a house this morning and I’m waiting to hear, so I’m a little distracted.”
        “My back is acting up so don’t mind me if I stand for part of this meeting.”
        “Sorry, I had a last-minute meeting during lunch so I’m going to eat my sandwich during the first few minutes of this meeting.”
        “This room is freezing. I’m going to dash back to my desk for my sweater.”
        “My kid was up all night with a stomach bug, so I’m not at my best.”

        We did check-ins at a nonprofit that I used to work at, and it was fine. Most of us usually just said “I’m here” or “ready to go” and moved on, but it was a good moment to bring up any issues.

        1. Office Wonderwoman (OP#1)*

          G-Bob, these are good examples! I think I put too much pressure on myself to share something meaningful or insightful. It can be a simple statement.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes. My manager left so my entire group temporarily reports to a director. In yesterday’s escalation meeting, he remarked that he believed in transparency — but doesn’t require it. That makes sense.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I was thinking about a couple of recent very frustrating projects, where I think a required check-in would have been “I am frustrated and angry at the constant delays, and the expectation that I will work miracles whenever we actually do have a deliverable on hand.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Like, every member of the staff would have given that as an update on their peace of mind. It wasn’t going to fix the client.

    5. CanuckCat*

      There’s a weekly meeting at my office, where the person who runs it always opens with the question(s) of “one good thing that’s happened this week” and “one thing that’s holding us up/frustrating us/etc.” I like it because the mix of positive and negative balances each other out, and it’s a general question to the group so no one feels pressured to volunteer anything.

    6. Moray*

      A former manager opened every single meeting with a “weather report.” We were supposed to say what our emotional “weather” was like that morning.

      If you said anything but sunny, she would grill you about it. “You’re cloudy? How cloudy? Is everything okay? Why are you feeling cloudy?” or “you’re windy–that’s interesting! What does ‘windy’ mean to you?”

      And then we would walk it back as much as we could–“oh, just the teeniest bit cloudy, I needed another fifteen minutes of sleep haha, I’ll be sunny after another cup of coffee”–because she wasn’t actually a very empathetic person and all that she would take from you not feeling your best emotionally was that you probably weren’t performing your best either and needed to be micromanaged for a while.

      But if you used “sunny” too many meetings in a row, you would eventually be interrogated about that as well. “Are you sure you’re sunny again? I’ve seen you more upbeat. Maybe a few clouds?”

      It was just the stupidest.

      1. an infinite number of monkeys*

        Ugh, that’s awful. And did anyone explain that “windy” meant they had beans for dinner last night?

      2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        “I’m feeling sort of hail today.”
        “Interesting! What does ‘hail’ feel like?”
        “HAIL NO.”

        1. Moray*

          That’s fantastic. I wish I’d had that in my pocket for my last day!

          (I think I said something about feeling rainy because I was sad to be leaving, and everyone except my manager knew I was lying through my teeth).

      3. Jadelyn*

        “Fog. Dark, impenetrable fog, and you will get lost and walk off the edge of a cliff if you venture out into it.”

        My sympathies. She sounds like a nightmare to work for.

    7. Rockin Takin*

      I worked at a summer camp and one year drama between the counselors got really bad. Our boss made us all sit in a circle surrounding this big bowl of tapioca pudding. We had to 1 by 1 air our grievances (aka our festering boil), then eat a spoonful of the pudding (I think the pudding represented the boil for some reason).
      It made everything so much worse and everyone was highly uncomfortable with the exercise.

  7. Saby*

    OP #4, this may be a Canadian thing but we end up starting most of our calls talking about what the weather is like for everyone (ie, “Jane here, good morning from rainy Victoria!” “This is Bob calling in from Montreal, unlike our BC friends we’re experiencing a deep wind chill this afternoon”, etc)

    1. WS*

      I’m Australian, and we do that too, though we’re mostly talking to colleagues in India, China and Japan, all of whom like to mention their weather too! “Good morning from Melbourne, it’s pouring here but wait a few minutes and it’ll clear up!”

      It was actually really nice to have an idea of where the other person is from and what it was like that day!

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        It’s true, we are so weather oriented! “It’s a beautiful day here in Toronto but you’re getting may snow, Regina!!” It’s soothing lol

        1. Saby*

          lol, exactly this. Sometimes it derails into “oh you think THAT’s cold?” (for Canadians talking about the weather can very quickly turn into a competition) or grumbling because it’s invariaby bad weather in one place and nice weather in another, but overall I think it helps with the sense of camaraderie.

      2. Sharkie*

        I do this a lot on client calls! I noticed if you also wish people well if they are in an area where big weather is happening (all the southeast right now, the midwest during the big freeze this past winter) they are more receptive and friendlier during the call

    2. Documentation is key*

      Anytime I have international colleagues on the line I just start with “good morning, good evening” it’s quick, simple and reminds everyone of the variety of timezones everyone is working in.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I do the same.
        Similarly, when I’m running the meeting, I’ve found time-zone references very helpful to keep people from digressing. Let’s [keep this brief/wrap this up/etc]…. “because we’re well beyond the end of Europe’s working day” or “because California’s ready to go to lunch” or “because our co-workers in Australia/India logged on in the middle of their night for us.”

      2. Jadelyn*

        I use something similar, like “Good morning, and/or whatever equivalent is appropriate for where you are”.

    3. Anon NL*

      Ha, I get on conference calls and videoconferences with people across Canada and there’s almost always this little pause while people do the math in their head to figure out what time it is for me here in St. John’s, NL, (For non-Canadians, we’re 90 minutes ahead of NYC time.)

    4. Mbarr*

      We Canucks love our weather conversation-openers. Nowhere else in the world is it QUITE so pervasive. :D

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I’m in a mid-size midwestern city, and we open a lot of our calls chatting about the weather as well. It’s an innocuous topic that anyone can relate to, so I think that’s why it’s A Thing.

    5. Quill*

      I bonded with the latin america division over the heat wave in July.

      LA: It can’t be that hot up there!
      Me: Actually it’s 90 degrees farenheit with 92% humidity.
      LA: But you’re so far north!

    6. Mainely Professional*

      That’s really charming. My company is just distributed across the main four North American time zones, but that’s very different weather when I think of the specific locales.

    7. Megan in Seattle*

      The weather is always a good one! I am LW4, and actually am in Seattle (good guessing, Alison!), and we enjoy talking about the weather as much as the next Canadian.

  8. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP4 – I get the feeling you’re asking in a round about way how to stop people booking you for 5am conference calls? Just push back – email the group of meeting attendees and say “Hey this would be 5am for me, how about we have it a 7am my time, which is 4pm Chicago time and 7pm in Singapore (or whatever)”. Don’t wait for people to pick up hints. Just tell them 5am conference calls don’t work for you.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I didn’t get the impression that was the primary point of the question – just something tangentially related. I’ve certainly been on my fair share of 6PM meetings in which people greet me (and it’s PM for everyone but the speaker) with mornin’ and it always feels weird. I took it that OP4 was trying to avoid that.
      My personal approach is I either avoid a time-specific greeting or if I’m the one who requested it and most of the people are in similar time zones but very different from mine, I try to greet them with something appropriate to their time. I also have a colleague who always says “good morning and good afternoon”. It’s not really a big deal 99% of the time.
      I did used to have one client who used to seem like they almost aggressively ignored the time difference? Like they’d send snippy emails about not receiving a response when it has been less than one business hour in the office’s time zone. But they were jerks. Most people aren’t. It sounds like OP may be dealing with some people who are time zone jerks, but they also might just be time zone forgetful. So I understand the impulse to both want to be considerate/acknowledging they know not everyone is in their own time zone, but also not wanting to enable those who can’t seem to retain that info themselves.

      1. All Outrage, All The Time*

        They referred to their coworkers as “insensitive” and “thoughtless” in relation to scheduling, so that’s where I was coming from.

        My experience is similar to yours. Everyone just says “It’s 5am here for me!” and everyone groans in sympathy. Or “It’s 8pm and that’s wine time!” or some such. There’s no need to avoid it.

        1. DiscoCat*

          I frankly found the whole questoin and how the greeting issue impacted the LW a bit confusing. Do you feel disrespected or unimportant when someone on the other side of the world is not 100% in tune with your surroundings/ time zone? Personally I don’t care as long as there’s some civility and greeting, and no one schedules meetings for rediculous times. If they do I assume it’s a mistake and offer an alternative.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I mean…I agree it IS insensitive for them to suggest a meeting at 5am if they’ve been working with her for a while and should know by now there’s a big time difference involved. Unless it’s the only time that works for everyone else, at least my company is very big on being mindful of the timezones of the people involved and trying to keep everyone as close to business hours as much as possible. But I didn’t read that as her primary concern. It’s two things:
          1) She is mindful of the differences in timezones and wanted to address people in a way that reflects that. Possibly because she has a concern that saying “good morning” to someone when she knows it is night for them would irritate them.
          2) She doesn’t want her doing #1 to obscure that she is not in the same timezone, thus making the issue of people who ask her for calls at 5am worse. So if doing #1 would have a knock-on effect masking her own time zone, rather than just being inclusive of others’ she doesn’t want to do that.

          I think the answer is either: don’t bother be concerned about #1 or if #2 is a bigger annoyance, don’t say “it’s 5am for me!” in the meeting, say it when invited in an attempt to change the time. But if she’s already being doing that every time and some people just never remember or are willing to meet later…that’s a separate matter. There’s an element of trying not to be a hypocrite here, it seems to me, where she wants to do a intended-by-her as a considerate thing, but not if it’ll encourage others to do more of an inconsiderate thing to her.

        3. Megan in Seattle*

          To be fair, I (LW4 here) just said they were a little insensitive to my time zone, and scheduled interviews without giving that a lot of thought. “Thoughtlessly” was an adverb, really!
          I don’t expect everyone to know where I am, but I do work with the same teams and specific people over and over again, and there is one client I’ve been working with for three years who is constantly scheduling meetings at 5 am and telling me, “oh, that’s okay, I’ll just send you the notes.” I have no problem declining those sorts of calls, but it often would be so much better if I could be there to hear the content myself. I do stretch to 6:30 am starts, but can’t handle much earlier unless I truly only have to listen.
          But that really was an afterthought to my main question, where “hello, thanks for joining” was feeling a little abrupt.

      2. wendelenn*

        Do a Truman Burbank. Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

    2. Green great dragon*

      Also, have you blocked out non-working time on your calendar? I marked everything outside 9-5 as ‘busy’ in outlook and it did help reduce the out-of-hours meeting requests.

      I wouldn’t be above a greeting like ‘good morning from x, I have my coffee and I’ll be awake soon’ but everyone already knows I’m not a morning person.

      1. Kate*

        Agree – just be honest and if you have to take a 5am call, make a friendly/professional joke about it, like the example above. I wonder if you never share that – if the folks on the call don’t realize they’re always doing it. If you speak up in a friendly manner (be breezy like Monica), they’ll hear you. Maybe they’ll even spread the love a bit and give other folks a later in the day call at times so you can sleep in :)

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      MSOutlook’s automatic scheduling assistant doesn’t recognize standard office hours unless you schedule them. A former co-worker in Europe was working with a team in Chicago & India, so he entered “out of office” for 8pm – 6am to prevent confusion.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t think it’s that at all–my spouse does a lot of conference calls with places 12 hours off from us, so that’s either late night or early morning. It’s a reality of the globe being round.

      1. CC*

        Yes, my standard hours are 9-6 but it’s a global company, so there’s the understanding sometimes you’ll have to be on the phone at an odd hour with people from several continents. No way to find an ideal time for everyone on those calls.

    5. Media Monkey*

      i also want to share a great resource i have used – worldtimebuddy (.com i think). you can add the time zones of the people in the meeting and see what time it is everywhere as you schedule. you may need a premium account to look at a lot of time zones at the same time but it has really helped me avoid those middle of the night calls!

      1. Alianora*

        Yes! I use this all the time.

        When I’m suggesting times, I also write down the time for each time zone (usually it’s not more than two), like so:

        Wednesday, September 4 from 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm PDT | 10:00 am to 10:30 am EDT

        I think the reminder makes things go smoother all around.

    6. willow19*

      Ugh, I had a 6 am call a couple of times that got cancelled at the last minute. After I was already in the office. At 6 am. (I’m a night owl. This was painful.)

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Oof I feel ya. My 11:30pm call got cancelled at the last minute…I could have been in bed…

  9. government worker*

    I understand the point you’re trying to make here — that answering an overreaching prompt with an extreme overshare would potentially make the employer reconsider this type of check-in — but this suggestion is extremely inappropriate and no sane person would ever say something like this.

  10. OP #2*

    OP #2 here—glad to be published but feel I should clarify some things. I am a faculty member at an academic institution. My primary job is an assistant professor, which I worked my way up to from teaching assistant. I am getting my PhD at the school where I work. Because I’m still in school and one of the most junior faculty members, assistant-like tasks still get delegated to me.

    A staff member in our Continuing Education Department resigned unexpectedly in the middle of a big project, and so her duties were distributed among a few faculty and staff members. There is no immediate plans to replace her. I took on the most time sensitive tasks which require me to work directly with this new supervisor on certain things. He oversees the entire department although he was really brought in for a very specific skill and process that has nothing to do with my daily work. However, I must get him to sign off on decisions I make as I get us through the crunch of completing the project to which I’m assigned.

    From the jump he has been off-putting. A few things that stick out are repeated comments on my appearance, like interrupting a business-related conversation to comment on my hair or toenail polish or tell me I look different that day (WTF!?) He has said repeatedly mentioned, unprompted, that we are “equals” and that he “trusts me completely,” which is strange because we barely know each other and our required interactions are not heavily trust-based.

    Despite proclaiming our equality, he occasionally treats me like his secretary, forwarding unsavory tasks or requests my way or directing me to do things I’ve already completed but he hasn’t bothered noticing, or ghosting on meetings we are both supposed to attend and telling me to brief him. He’s come into my closed-door office without knocking, even when I had a “do not disturb” post-it up. He’s asked me to email him if I’m late or out-of-office, although that is not the protocol and really none of his concern unless we’d otherwise planned to meet that day. Essentially—lack of boundaries and needy for attention.

    The reason I’ve grown so frustrated is that I might be in the middle of working on something for my classes, yet he will call me into his office for mostly time-wasting drivel. As I mentioned, his overbearing nature has driven another professor on our hall to move, although it’s not publicly known that’s the reason. I’ve done the “I’m on my way to the bathroom/etc” responses and kept walking before, doesn’t seem to deter him. We do have a weekly standing meeting.

    Further complicating things is that he is a close longtime friend of my REAL boss/direct supervisor, who is the one that got him hired. I really like my direct supervisor, but because of their friendship I don’t feel I can be candid about my feelings.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I’m having nightmares about dealing with this guy. Every time I pass his office I feel like Pavlov’s dog waiting to hear the bell ring in the form of him calling out my name. I want to interact with him as little as possible, but I know that may not be realistic. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

      1. Rose*

        but sh*t like this “He’s come into my closed-door office without knocking, even when I had a “do not disturb” post-it up.” needs to be addressed head on.

        1. Sue*

          I agree and the comments on your appearance are not ok either. Have you said directly to him that you want that to stop? If not, I would do that and if it continues, escalate to your boss or even HR if you don’t think your boss will help because of the relationship.
          Since you know he has crossed lines with others as well, it needs to be brought up and documented, this is not acceptable behavior.

          1. Samwise*

            Yes. OP #2, every time he does something like this (comments on your appearance, sends you creepyish emails, walks into your closed and posted office, etc.), call it out, and then document. Bob, that comment makes me uncomfortable. Please stop talking about my body. Bob, my door is closed and it makes me uncomfortable when you just walk in. Please respect my privacy. [Print out the creepy email, walk over to his office, and say: Bob, these frequent emails asking about my whereabouts: they’re making me uncomfortable. Please stop sending them.]

            “Please” is for the first couple of go-rounds. Leave it out after that. If it still continues, then: Bob, I have *asked* you to stop talking about my body. Don’t make any more comments like that.

            And I mean every time. Even if other people are around. In fact, *especially* when other people are around.

            Document everything. Date, time, what he said/did, what you said/did, names of anyone within earshot. Each thing by itself could perhaps be seen as “not a big deal”, but the number and frequency and much-ness of all the things makes this very much harassment.

            I’d document also every time you have to walk the long way around to avoid him (state in your document why). I’d lock my office door and document when and why you did.

            BTDT. Eventually you are going to be taking all of this to the Title IX officer.

            God, I hate guys like this. And there are so many of them.

            Question: is your supervisor also a faculty member? tenured? I’m hoping neither, because it’s unfortunately harder to get traction on tenured faculty. Not impossible, but harder. [Dept chair or dean can put him on notice but they have to take it seriously.]

            1. ooo*

              Agreed with all of this. Not sure I’ve seen anyone else address it, but the “waiting till you’re ten steps past and summoning you back” sounds to me like he’s getting a really inappropriate kick out of toying with you and demonstrating his power. The comments about your appearance and all the rest of his bullshit support that too. This is about him liking to look at you and have your attention, and using his authority to make it happen.

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                Bingo. This dude is attracted to OP and is coming up with ridiculous reasons for her to come to his office so he can stare at her. Be careful, OP – this guy is gross.

                1. valentine*

                  OP 2: I hope you’re not complying with the bit about attendance and I think you can push back on the secretarial stuff. It also doesn’t seem like you (or anyone) doing all the time-sensitive stuff is a good idea. Would your actual supervisor be any help in reassigning some? I also wonder if, even though they’re friends, your supervisor would help get you out of his clutches due to the body-related comments. But you don’t have to be at his literal beck and call. I would ignore him initially and, if he spoke while I was by his door the next time, say, “Can’t stop.” And, if possible, lock your door when you have the Post-It up, though I think you can just insist you need to be left alone. What he’s doing is sexist and gross.

          2. OP 2*

            @Sue, I actually haven’t handled his comments on my appearance as I should’ve. When I am caught off guard by them I may smile or laugh awkwardly, or say “thank you” and then change the subject. I need to be more firm in telling him to stop making the comments. He phrases them along the lines of, “Oh sorry, I just wanted to mention I like your hair today, I hope that is okay to say,” which is when I’m just like, “Oh…yeah, um, anyway..” when I need to just say, “Actually, I’d rather stay focused on x. What are you thoughts?”

            It even extends to how I hold my face. If I am listening and happen to furrow my brow or seem serious, he is like, “What’s wrong? You seem concerned?” When I say, “No, that is just my face,” he will comment under his breath that there are times I seem more pleasant than others.

            I am doing that horrible thing where I don’t want to seem like a shrew but feel like I have a right to act like one at this point.

            1. valentine*

              I hope that is okay to say
              You: No. It really isn’t.

              Insisting on professional behavior isn’t shrewish. You might point out he doesn’t target men this way.

            2. Jadelyn*

              Okay, the “I hope that is okay to say” bit just pushed it right over from “probably clueless and a bit self-centered” to “NEWP he knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s deliberate.”

              If he were actually unsure of whether it was ok to say, he’d ASK “is that ok” or something like that. He’s not asking. By saying “I hope that’s okay” instead, he’s pre-answering for you in a way that means you have to assert yourself and openly contradict him to change “your” answer, and people often feel uncomfortable doing that. It’s a deliberate use of social norms to pressure you into being “okay” with something even though you aren’t actually okay with it.

              Dude’s a creep, and he’s making use of the new “authority” he has over you to make it easier for him to creep on you. The comments about your face are basically him getting as close to “come on, you should smile more!” as he can in the workplace environment.

              Practice responding to “I hope that’s okay to say” with a very flat “It’s really not. Now, as I was saying about X…” In response to comments about your face, perhaps something like a dry “Well, we all have facial expressions, part of being human I suppose. Back to X…”

    1. Ariaflame*

      Well, at least given that a lot of your work is sedentary (academic myself) the long way round at least increases your exercise levels.

    2. AnotherSarah*

      I’m a little confused on the roles–you’re an assistant prof *and* a student there? And the boss is the department chair? I’m asking mainly because in my experience, chairs don’t act as bosses to other professors…but in the sciences, a PI could feasibly be both a graduate student’s PhD supervisor as well as that same graduate student’s boss in a lab setting.

      1. Grad student*

        Yes, this. Also, especially at PhD granting institutions like where the OP seems to work, at least in the US, it’s highly unusual to be working as an assistant prof before earning the degree, especially if you’re still in coursework! It’s also weird to have faculty take over a staffing role (we’ve had staff leave and staff from other departments will take the slack before faculty will be asked to do this.) So I’m confused about the hierarchy/organization too.

        That said, one option may be to seek out the advice of someone more senior in the department and ask how they’d handle it, or ask them to assist you in handling it. Status means a lot and can get stuff done in higher ed.

        1. Liane*

          The OP may have a Master’s and teach only non-major courses. My internship supervisor had an MS in microbiology and taught at a private college. He told me that without a PhD, he wasn’t allowed teach the Biology courses for science majors, only the ones aimed at non-majors for general education requirements.

          1. OP 2*

            OP2 here–this (Liane’s reply) is essentially the case.

            I was trying to keep things vague and change a few details to be less identifiable, but I realize anyone halfway familiar with the situation would most likely recognize it, so I can only hope if they do, they will be discreet. I am a lecturer, which is below asst. professor, and am an EdD student vs PhD. I am the only faculty member without a terminal degree, and I only teach a few undergrad courses that are covered under an area of specialty from my master’s degree. We are a small school, so my promotion was both filling a gap for these undergrad courses that they, for some reason, did not want to delegate to remote faculty, and also took care of some contractual loopholes related to my TA position, allowing me to work more. Our small size is also why I have taken over some of the former staff person’s duties, as they relate to an area of expertise I had before joining the school.

            The problematic supervisor’s is only my boss in the functions that relate to me taking on these new duties, not in my role as a faculty member.

            1. Grad student*

              Mmmm, I’ve worked at a small school before, some of the overlap makes sense now. I’m sorry you’re going through this. :( Hopefully your advisor or another faculty person you trust (hopefully there’s somebody??) will have some more context-specific advice.

            2. AnotherSarah*

              Yes, this makes much more sense now, thanks for the clarification! I do think you’ll need to bring in another person here–a higher-up would be good, and your own supervisor as well. Even though they’re friends–there’s a slightly slimy culture of protectiveness in academia which might work to your favor here. I think you can certainly frame it as needing a bit of uninterrupted time in order to accomplish key tasks, especially as you’re filling so many roles. FWIW, it might be worth bringing in HR as well, for some additional role clarity–when I was working as an adjunct, a whole bunch of things weren’t ever laid out for me, but it turns out that the universities did have policies.

              That said, given the nature of a lot of academic departments–if talking directly to this guy doesn’t help, I think going the long way ’round is a fine option. To a certain extent, academia is every person for herself, and you have to do what you need to in order to get stuff done.

              And when you get out, treat your supervisees better, and help with any unionizing efforts; unions can be the only means to submit a grievance like this.

        2. anonymous 5*

          It does sound odd to have someone already in the tenure stream while ABD, but one thing about it: OP2, it’s in your advisor’s best interest to have you complete your PhD, and so it’s okay to chat with them and ask for them to help go to bat for you, even (especially?) if the problem colleague is a friend of theirs. Meanwhile, if you’re in the US, talk with your school’s Title IX coordinator about the inappropriate comments; and if possible talk with someone on the promotion and tenure committee (and HR?) about the effect that this extra work is potentially going to have on your tenure prospects.

          1. Samwise*

            “assistant professor” does not necessarily mean tenure track. You can be NTT asst prof, lots of places will call that “visiting” assistant prof. Or it may not be OP’s official title?

            1. Grad student*

              At least in the US, “assistant prof” means TT, which is why this is unusual. I have a couple of friends who are a “visiting” assistant prof, but they’re very clear about using the term “visiting” in the title. If the OP had a master’s degree and was teaching undergraduates (something I did for a long time), they’d have a different title, like “lecturer,” perhaps. There are also a few institutions out there (mostly community colleges and mission-driven institutions) that don’t have tenure as a thing; there, instructors may be called “professors,” but there’s none of this “assistant” biz; it’s the “assistant” which marks somebody as TT. And TT / still doing coursework for the PhD is really, REALLY unusual.

              1. Happy in the Academy*

                Just to point out – that’s not universally true. My husband and I are now both Associate Professors (two different institutions, both US); I am tenured, he is not (and he’s at a prestigious R1). His role is primarily teaching and administration – but he had the option and did go through the promotion process successfully. NTT also have the ability at my institution to go through the promotion process if they’d like. The track and requirements look different at different institutions, but it is an option at many places (and often the only way to get any sort of real pay bump). This is generally used when the institution wants the option for a long-term faculty member, but wants some flexibility in how to define that role such that it differs from the tenure model.

                Just to point out that there are non-tenure track options at some (many?) universities and names don’t always reflect that.

                1. Grad student*

                  Sure, there’s NTT track options at lots of universities, increasingly so as NTT replaces TT s as the go-to option. But they’re usually not titled “asst. professor”–that’s the unusual part, especially at PhD granting institutions.

                  And while I’m posting under the title “grad student,” I did myself work as a “professor” at a non-PhD granting institution for most of a decade, with only my MA, so it’s not like I’m a newbie to the field or anything.

                2. Happy in the Academy*

                  My point is that they increasingly *are* called that – especially as universities try to bridge the gap between what was traditionally shorter-term employment (e.g. visiting assistant professor) and the long-term TT option. I know of several universities in addition to the two I have direct experience with where NTT can be titled Assistant Professor.

                3. NTT Assistant Prof Over Here*

                  Just to confirm what Happy in the Academy has stated, it’s actually not that uncommon. I am an Assistant Professor at a R1 school in the US and am working in on my promotion to Associate, but will not be tenured. Approximately half my colleagues are on TT and half are not. For us it depends upon how the position was set up – there is little rhyme or reason.

        3. Granger Chase*

          I agree with finding someone senior that you trust to run things by first, as you’re concerned your real boss would be unwilling to take your concerns seriously when they are about a close friend of his (isn’t that why everyone loves nepotism in the workplace?).

          Do you think you could speak candidly with the professor that has already moved offices because of this guy? From what you write she seems like a logical starting point if you think she is trustworthy and would give you good advice on handling the situation. If she also experienced the same issues as you, especially the inappropriate comments on personal appearance, I would agree with the suggestions to consider going to HR. I am not incredibly familiar with HR in the world of academia, and I understand there are a lot more politics for you to consider with you also working on your PhD there. If you do talk to HR, definitely bring up that you are worried about retaliation (use that word specifically; it’s a red flag for HR) and that is why you cannot go to your real boss, as he has such a close, personal relationship with this other supervisor.

          I’m sorry that you’re dealing with all of this. I cannot imagine how stressful it is to not only be working on a PhD while being an assistant professor, but to also have to take on all of this time sensitive work from a departed staff member while this new supervisor is trying to make you into his personal secretary. Good luck!

          1. Samwise*

            Senior person in your department (the chair, if they seem ethical and professional) and/or Title IX officer first, not HR.

    3. anonymouse*

      Oh, academia. OP, I see lots of red flags in this situation. You need to be really clear on how your tenure and promotion are going to work. Questions like: What percent research/teaching/service are you expected to be? If you do too much service, you run the risk of A) not having time for your other obligations that you will actually be evaluated on and B) giving the impression that you are assistant-like and not very professorial. (At least that’s the way it would work in all the places I’ve been.) You might want to talk to a senior person in your department about how tenure really works in your department and what kinds of service will advance your career.

      1. boo bot*

        Yup yup yup. In terms of (B) I was wondering if this guy is deliberately trying to put you in that position – or rather, trying to strengthen his own perceived position by getting someone else to act like his assistant. Beware.

    4. Fellow PhD*

      Oh man, this is basically my supervisor (minus the commenting on appearance).

      He made us get offices right next to each other and has something to say every time I pass his office and his door is open. He will knock on my door several times a day when he’s in and ask for trivial details relating to something a master student is doing. Although what I dislike the most is his need to burst into my (shared) office to discuss the email I sent him 2 seconds ago. So much so that I brace myself physically before sending anything (if he isn’t in, he will call. And I hate phone calls).

      He has previously stated that he will keep doing this and I have to accept it because he is above me on the pecking order when I tried to push for a few boundaries, so I just have to accept it until I hopefully finish in two years.

      No advice, just lots of sympathy. How are you supposed to concentrate when you’re always hyper-vigilant (childhood abuse) about any and all sounds coming from the next door office? And yes, I have more than once taken the long way around if I am in a particularly anxious frame of mind.

    5. Orange You Glad*

      I worked in an office that was a square donut shape with the bathrooms in the middle so I could either go past 5 desks to reach them…or go all the way around the square past 50 desks to reach them.

      My coworker who wanted to “chat” but really criticize how I did my job sat in the 3rd of the 5 desks between me & the bathroom.

      Guess who always went alllllll the way around?!

      But it ended up working out because I got physically seen more often by the other departments (if we made eye contact when I went by, I’d smile & wave but not greet them to not disturb everyone multiple times per day). When a position opened up to switch departments, I already “knew” the hiring manager and other team because they saw me so often! It came down to me, my critical coworker, and two other people in my department who interviewed for the same spot and I was the top choice! Yay!

      1. Orange You Glad*

        When one person asked why I always went the longer way to the bathrooms, I just said “I’m getting my steps in!” and it was no big deal.

        I think the key is to be consistent and go the long way as much as possible/always. So it’s not obvious you’re avoiding anyone – you’re being active!

    6. Proud Admin*

      Oh good grief! Get the boss a real secretary already. I just started working in academia in January after a long time as a legal assistant. I am the first true administrative professional ever in this research department and it’s been in existence for years. I am truly amazed that it never occurred to my PI that the staff she has – all of them researchers, half with Ph.D.s or Master’s – would not be happy performing administrative work, or be any good at it. No, it is not “just a few hours a day.” No, it is not in their “wheelhouse,” so to speak. I get that grants may not be able to pay the salary of an admin, but damn! It’s like asking your plumber to go fix your roof. Yes, he could probably do it, but it won’t be any good.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Actually, having him be a personal friend of your own boss could be an opening. You wouldn’t be going in to complain about him — you’d be going in to ask your direct boss “the best way to communicate with your friend, because you’ve known him so long”. You can phrase it that his friend’s way of working is making you inefficient on both jobs and on your PhD. And “as a friend” he may be a good person to discuss how to stop his friend from commenting on your appearance in a business meeting.
      The entering without knocking thing, honestly I’d be tempted to lock the door and if ever scolded say “I do that because students come in unannounced, and I’m trying to teach them to knock.” (This guy’s comments on your appearance mean I would NOT say anything about adjusting my skirt — his reaction might be very inappropriate.)

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        I think you’re right. I would be surprised if the boss wasn’t aware of how very annoying this guy is even if they are good friends. Professors gossip. Definitely don’t frame anything as a complaint, but as “how can I do this better” or “I’m having a problem, can you help me with it?” You might be pleasantly surprised, and even if it comes to naught, you’ll have set up context for your boss if the annoying guy complains about you.

    8. Aquawoman*

      Some of this is a hard no — commenting on appearance and entering your office that way — but I also think you’re letting your dislike of this guy color some of your perceptions, too. Because giving you tasks to do seems pretty apropos of a higher-up.

      I think this person has a different style than you and it might help to frame it that way as opposed to “he’s completely inconsiderate!” and try to manage up. I don’t know if you’ve tried checking in with him at whatever appropriate interval. I admit I’m a little more scattershot like the boss you’re describing, partly because ADHD (not to diagnose HIM though it also could explain the comments on your appearance because he just noticed your toenails, and Squirrel! not that that excuses it). And partly because I have SUCH a wide range of things to do, from the minutia to the big picture, and honestly in that regard, it makes MORE sense to me that he’s stopping you for the unimportant stuff because if it was important, he’d have gotten to it already.

      1. Yorick*

        Academia is not a normal boss-employee situation. It’s pretty unusual for a faculty member to be assigned tasks by the department chair, especially administrative tasks. Usually, there is either a department secretary or each faculty member does their own administrative work.

        1. Yorick*

          It’s also unusual to be told you must inform him if you’ll be late. Generally, faculty members will make their own hours, there’s not much expectation that they’ll be there the same time each day (or even in the office each day), and only cancelling class (and maybe office hours advertised to students) counts as being out.

          1. Paulina*

            Yes, this (to report to him with respect to being in the office) seems the most egregious to me (other than the personal comments, ugh). He’s not her supervisor for her job, just the person in charge of something that some of her tasks are part of. And in my experience (20+ years as faculty) it’s not uncommon to have to answer to a colleague who’s in charge of a particular overall task, specifically about that task, without that person acting like they’re the boss of all of you. Is this something that the OP could discuss with her actual boss? Yes they’re friends, but it sounds to me like this guy is treating the OP like she’s a staff member 100% answerable to him, owing him whatever time he wants, when she’s not. He’s acting very controlling about her time and attention, so could it be clarified how she should be dividing her time between the various parts of her job? Is there anyone else that she owes time and responsibility to who could potentially be enlisted to help out to define how her time and attention should be balanced? Her degree supervisor or degree program head may also be able to provide some advice, even if they don’t have any say in things.

            Otherwise, I suggest trying to set up a regular meeting to touch base on the specific project that this guy runs, and try to deflect interruptions to that. Juggling so many different parts of the job is difficult (and academics know this!), so she could explain the need to set aside time when she can concentrate on other things, like her courses.

            I must admit that most academics I know are also rather prone to the “I see you and it reminds me that I want to talk to you about something right now,” but most of the ones I know do understand that people are busy with other things. We’re mostly on an even footing here, though, which enables us to push back if someone’s being demanding.

      2. anonagain*

        “…partly because ADHD (not to diagnose HIM though it also could explain the comments on your appearance because he just noticed your toenails, and Squirrel! not that that excuses it).”

        I see no benefit to raising the topic of ADHD here. ADHD is stigmatized enough already.

      3. Close Bracket*

        partly because ADHD (not to diagnose HIM though it also could explain the comments on your appearance because he just noticed your toenails, and Squirrel!

        Hanlon’s razor here:

        “Never attribute to neurodivergence that which is adequately explained by sexism.”

    9. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      This is someone with serious boundary issues. He is in your business about everything, and has no sense that you need autonomy/separation in order to do your job. Working for someone like that would be agonizing for me.

      How is your relationship with your direct supervisor? Would you feel comfortable having a conversation where you can both be respectful of this other guy but be able to talk about how you need to figure out how to get things done without constant interruptions?

      Also, I would imagine this guy has boundary issues with everyone (though it may be worse with women). Do your colleagues have the same issues with him? Is there any way to speak out as a group?

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        Really. Is this guy aware of your other responsibilities? And to say, “Tell me if you’re going to be late?” Uh, NO. Honestly, I’d be tempted to say, “You seem to have confused me with your full-time personal secretary. You don’t have one.”

    10. CM*

      This sounds awful. I have a coworker who sounds so much like this, but luckily he is not my supervisor so there is much less pressure to respond to his attention-seeking behavior. I would just take the long way every time, ignore the request to notify him when you normally wouldn’t, and when he walks in despite the “do not disturb” sign, look at him blankly and after he finishes speaking say, “Sorry, I’m deep into this paper I was reading and I didn’t quite get that. Can I stop by once I’m done with this?” I’m careful to smile and greet him when I pass him in the hall, but I’m prickly when he tries to get my attention at other times when I’m busy.

    11. Reba*

      This is really important context! And wow, worse than it sounded in your letter! Ugh what a boor.

      Document the sexist comments and call them out as they happen.

      Don’t let him interrupt you in your office — when he comes it without knocking, call it out as rude and send him away. Hell, lock the door. (Unclear to me how much you have pushed back on stuff like this up to this point.)

      How much have you pushed back on the other inconsiderate behavior wrt the project? I mean, if you are the junior person in a somewhat support role on the project (not sure if I’m reading that right) it is not wildly out line for you to take notes and brief… but he doesn’t have to be a dick about it.

      Yes, this person will begin to see you as a “shrew” or a hardass or whatever…. but unless they have any say on your completing your degree (doesn’t sound like it) or future employment, let him think it! And I’m sure your status as lecturer/contingent is affecting all this too, unfortunately. Remember that he might be overseeing you on this project, but as academics and teachers (well, when you’re finished but even as a student) you are peer colleagues.

      As for the office passing thing, have a conversation where you say that to work together well, you’d like to use your standing meetings to take care of these things in one go — it will be more efficient. Basically tell him to save it for the meeting. You have lots of responsibilities and you can’t be pulled into his office on a whim — you can pitch this new boundary in a collaborative way by making it about efficiency and being sure that things don’t slip through the cracks. Have this conversation to reset expectations, and then from then on you can say, “can’t talk now, busy, remember?” “We’ll talk on Thursday!” etc. as you pass serenely by.

      And, depending on the relationship you have with your adviser, I’d run some of this by them. Not a blow by blow or complaint, but “here is what I’m thinking about trying to change how I work with Your Friend on Project — what do you think would work well?”

      1. Paulina*

        It may not be out-of-line for a support person to take notes and brief, but it’s an additional demand on the OP’s time. Also, if he’s ghosting on meetings that they’re both supposed to be going to, then he’s also being a dick to the other people involved in the meeting and likely derailing a lot of the point of having a meeting. Which makes it likely a power trip on his part, not just on the OP but also on the others involved; there’s a significant “I’m too important and I’ll make whatever decisions I want later” vibe when a more senior person skips out on a meeting, if it’s more than very occasional.

    12. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I’m not in academia but can you try earbuds? Every time you have to pass by his office, you have your earbuds in or headphones on and give yourself a free pass to pass by and not hear him. In an open office, it’s typically a signal that the person might be on a conference call or just not able to hear due to listening to music/podcast, etc.

    13. Dr. Pepper*

      I thought this sounded like academia. Honestly? I’d start ignoring him more. Not every time, but you aren’t actually at his beck and call even though he acts like it. If you’re not level with his door when he calls your name, keep going. You are now extremely hard of hearing. Take the long way around and think of it as the “scenic route”. Ignore pointless emails, or respond waaaay late. Lock your office door when you have the “do not disturb” sign up. Pretend you’re not in there if he knocks or rattles the door. Yes, I’ve done this. When he says something to you about your new lack of availability (because it’s likely he will), you are all bland innocence and “oh dear, did you need me for something?” and “oh my gosh I’m so busy I must have missed that!” and “I’m so sorry, I didn’t hear you”. Appear anxious to please. Key word “appear”. Nod and make soothing noises if/when he complains and then keep on keeping on. When you do stop to talk to him (because you will still need to do that sometimes) figure out a polite way to cut the meeting short. Say something like “that’s a good point, I’ll get onto that right away” and then leave. Or simply factor in his idle time-wasting into your day. It’s less annoying if you plan for it ahead of time. Remain warm, polite, and helpful at all times, even if you aren’t actually *being* helpful.

    14. Boobookitty*

      For some reason I have an odd vibe about this guy, based on what you’ve said, that makes me think he doesn’t actually have the right credentials for the job and bluffed his way in through his friend.

      1. OP 2*

        I remember reading his CV when he was on campus for an interview and being impressed, but nearly every interaction I have had with him since he was hired ends with me thinking to myself, “Do you even hear the BS that is coming out of your mouth right now?” Definitely a lot of hot air, although he never passes up an opportunity to tell you how many times he’s been published. Real boss/friend of supervisor-in-question has said something along the lines of, “He may not be the perfect person for the job, but he is who we need right now.” He does have some unique skills that are beneficial to a process we’re undergoing institutionally, and I am hoping when that is done with that he moves on.

        1. Reliquary*

          OP 2, I am a woman in academia as well, and I am strongly advising you to stop acting like this man’s subordinate. (Yes, even if he is on your committee.) You need to tell him that he is not respecting your time. You also need to stop those comments about your appearance EVERY TIME he makes them.

          Have a conversation with him about what you expect in terms of respect. Tell him his disrespect seems “gendered.” You have power here and you need to exert it. (You’ve read Foucault, yes?)

    15. JSPA*

      Ah. That’s a lot of yellow-to-orange flag stuff. Blow him off. And do complain to real boss; people know that their friends are not perfect.

  11. MommyMD*

    I’d say “good day everyone” to open my conference call. It covers just about anything, even night.

  12. Pony tailed wonder*

    LW3 – Perhaps you can use leave time for grief counseling? I have heard that weekly grief groups can be helpful. Best wishes and I am sorry about your loss.

  13. MommyMD*

    I’m so sorry about your mom. I took four weeks off when my husband died and it wasn’t enough. My employer was good about it.

    1. Ginger*

      My husband passed away 6 weeks ago, I also took 4 weeks off. The last two weeks at work have been a struggle and I’ve had to leave early most days mainly due to the physical symptoms (severe headaches, nausea, feeling weak). I really needed more time too. My employer has been really good about it too, I know I’m lucky to work where I do.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. Six weeks is no time at all. I hope your employee continues to support you appropriately.

  14. Jimming*

    OP1 – That type of check in sounds annoying. I have had a manger do check-ins where she asked us to rate our work day on a 1-10 scale at the beginning of meetings during a busy time. It was effective for that team since we could just say a number without commentary and then she actually tailored the meeting to our responses. So if most of us were 5 or below she’d shorten the meeting so we could get back to work and get more done (or take a break).

    1. EPLawyer*

      There’s a solution. because face it, most workplaces and managers are not equipped to deal with the touchy-feely stuff that may come up. Or you get the bland non-answers like “Just waiting for Friday.” This gives real information WITHOUT taking a lot of time or intruding on people’s personal lives.

      Yes, the way LW1 said it makes it seem very intrusive on one’s personal life. If I want to talk about my personal life at work, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. But sharing is my call not my boss’.

  15. MommyMD*

    Next time ten paces out I’d keep walking without missing a beat and pretend not to hear Boss. So annoying. You just want to go to the kitchen or bathroom or copier in peace.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think it’s the ten paces that would drive me round the bend. Like, if he always called out as I was at the door, so I only have to break stride, then that’s one thing. But having to listen and stop and come back is … I don’t know. It suggests he’s thinking “muahahahahaha there’s LW, what can I bug her with today?” and it takes him ten seconds to come up with something, rather than “ooh great there’s LW, I’ve been writing her an email about the grant application and now I can just ask in person”.

      1. EPLawyer*

        based on what the LW said above, yeah its a power play. I can call to her and make her turn around and come back. Just like he ghost meetings and demand she brief him, or demand she let him know when she is running late or out of the house.

  16. Rich*

    OP#4, I work at a US-based global company where I’m part of moderately frequent across-the-globe conference calls. They’re more of the one-way info-dump variety, but we still have the same situation where we cover every time zone.

    All of those start with the call leader opening with “Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, and thanks for dialing into the teapot sales all-hands…”. Everyone after that just started with “hello”. I initially found it very clunky, but after a while, it grew on me. It avoided exactly the issue you cite, and I liked that the first thing we heard on the call was a reminder of our global scope accommodating complicated logistics.

    1. Willis*

      Is your call leader Jim Carrey in the Truman Show? Is everyone other than him actually an actor pretending to be on a global conference call?? This is the scenario that would be playing out in my head for the first 10 minutes of that call…

    2. Bob*

      This. I’ve worked for 2 massive companies where calls often need to accommodate various time zones and its super common to just start with “Good morning, good afternoon or good evening wherever you are” or something similar.

      The alternative we often have with regular calls when you know someone is in a different time zone is that you greet them in their time zone, while they greet you in yours. So when I’m talking to someone +6, I go “Good afternoon” and they say “Good morning”.

      1. hbc*

        That’s my experience as well. It shows that you’re considering the other person’s situation, which always comes across well.

        OP, for that reason, I would suggest that you *not* say “Good morning” to people as a way of reminding them you got up early and are being accommodating. If they haven’t done the math or don’t know where you are, they might think it’s 8am and a fine time, *and* that you’re a little…unsophisticated and don’t understand that it’s afternoon or evening where they are.

        Greet based on where/when the recipient is located, and separately respond to invitations with any notice or adjustment you want to give. “Ouch, that’s 5am here, but I can do it if there’s no other available time.” Or “Can we rotate meeting times so that it’s not always before dawn on my end?”

    3. Raven_smiles*

      I work stateside and often had calls with people in Europe and the UK. I’d say good ‘whatever time was appropriate for them’ and they’d respond with the same and then follow-up with whatever time I was in. It worked in this instance because there were rarely more than 5 of us on a call and we knew each other well. When we had larger meetings where there was a 50/50 split between US East Coast and UK/Europe we’d normally just say hello. Similarly, when I started having calls that supported multiple time zones (PST, EST, GMT) we’d just say hello.

      While OP#4 doesn’t ask about this exclusively, I did send an email to my work counterparts telling them my preferred times for early meetings, and they did their best to accommodate. Perhaps OP#4 you could try that? I still had to take some early morning meetings, but laying out my preferences helped them for sure.

  17. Zombie Unicorn*

    #3 One thing that isn’t obvious when you start working is that your supervisor won’t always realise how much you have on your plate. So whatever the reason, if you’re overloaded and stressed, you should be able to go to your manager and ask what they want you to prioritise.

    Sometimes everything can feel urgent when in fact some things could be pushed back. This is part of the role of a good manager – it shouldn’t just be for you to figure it out. This isn’t always the reality, but it’s reasonable to expect this!

    And it is appropriate to tell your supervisor that you’re struggling due to a recent loss and your increased workload. That’s information they should have.

    I’m really sorry for your loss.

    1. Drew*

      This is a great point. It’s entirely appropriate to go to your boss and explain that you’re overwhelmed, especially under the circumstances, and ask for help prioritizing tasks and making sure the most important things are getting done. You’re still fairly new, so they can’t reasonably expect you to shoulder an entire additional workload by yourself even if you didn’t have your mother’s death weighing on you.

      Unless you have the world’s least reasonable boss, go talk to her about it. It’s a totally normal thing to do, to make sure work is balanced among a team according to their ability to get it done, and she won’t think any less of you for recognizing that you’re past your limits and needing to pull back a bit.

      I’m so sorry about your mother. Hopefully you can find some happy memories to sustain you during this time. Please come back in a few months and let us know how you’re doing.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        Just add an important point here. It can be common when you are relatively new to a workplace that you feel an over-exaggerated sense of responsibility. OP3, you mention not wanting to leave your unit in a worse state, but, honestly, that’s not really your concern* – it’s for your manager to worry about, which is why you must talk to them about your workload and need to feel better.
        Managers don’t come with crystal balls, and they, like the rest of us, make lousy mind readers. A bad manager will rub his hands together cartoon villain style if you keep soldiering on without a squeak. An average to moderate manager will just be blissfully unaware until someone burns out. A good manager will want to help.

        * A caveat. If you get bitten by a low flying pterodactyl on your way back from lunch, you’re not going to drag yourself out of the ER to go back to work, and no reasonable manager would expect it, nor blame you for lumping work on the rest of your coworkers. However, since you are in a position to talk to your manager before things get too on top of you, that is the responsible thing to do.
        I’m sorry about your mum.

  18. Currently Bill*

    LW4: On Libsyn’s The Feed podcast, they’ve settled on, “Good Generic Time of the Day!” or “GGTOTD” for short.

  19. Observer*

    Was there ever an update on the office where the boss want each staff meeting to be a group therapy session?

  20. Bilateralrope*

    For #4, I’d just stick with good morning until somebody complains. Then ask them to suggest a better greeting.

  21. Green great dragon*

    For #4, ‘Good morning from Mytown’ usually goes over OK. For 1-1 or very small meetings we sometimes make a point of wishing each other a ‘Good yourtime’ which is a nice touch if slightly weird to hear.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Which reminds me that I once got a laugh saying “Good my-morning” to someone who moved our regular meeting into a time slot earlier than usual for my time zone because he had evening plans. :D

    2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      My team is on 3 continents so often my morning is my colleague’s evening. We usually just say something similar “good morning from NY”, but if there aren’t a ton of people on the call you can always say good evening or greet people according to their time zone. If we have a little chit chat while we’re waiting for the whole group to connect, we ask each other how the weather is in their location or about a recent local holiday, etc. It’s a nicety that doesn’t take much effort.

  22. Phil*

    #1 My workplace this year made a “rule” that meetings run no longer than 30 minutes. I put “rule” in quote marks because it’s not something they actually enforce (though I imagine frequent offenders might get asked about it), but you know what keeps people focussed in meetings? Not having time to fart around talking about unrelated personal stuff!

    1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      Good idea. The article OP1 linked mentioned focusing, but to me, the check-ins would have the opposite effect.

  23. Phil*

    #4 My go-to when I Skype into meetings is “Hel-loooo!” from Seinfeld episode “The Voice,” but thats just me.

  24. chersy*

    LW4: Totally normal and ok to do a generic greeting (“Good morning or evening, as the case may be!”). I work with people whose time zones are 12 to 14 hours behind mine (they’re in North America, I’m in Asia—so my meetings are at 12AM my time, and 11AM/10AM their time), and we really just greet how ever we feel comfortable with.

  25. Mizzle*

    #4 I’m surprised to see so many people basing their greeting on the time zone they themselves are in. I’m often in intercontinental Skype meetings, and I say “good morning” when it’s afternoon on my side, and vice versa. (We always time our calls to be mostly within office hours, so we tend to be at opposite ends of the working day.) I guess it’s more awkward in a three-way call, where you might need two greetings, but basing things off of my own time zone feels like wishing others a Happy Birthday on my own birthday.
    (By the way, anyone sharing a timezone with me is probably in the same office, so I’ve already greeted them before the call started.)
    If you still want to make a point about your own time zone, I suppose “good afternoon, I guess?” would cover that with some subtlety.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      My reasoning is that using my timezone is easier that think about theirs and that I’ve yet to hear any complaints. At most I’ve had people asking where I was living, and those incidents are all from online gaming, not work.

      We all know the intent behind the greeting (a quick bit of politeness). The timezone we use for it doesn’t affect how well the intent comes across. Not when in an international business meeting, nor when my flatmate greets me with “good morning ” when I get up late afternoon because I work nights.

      1. Mizzle*

        It does take a bit of thought, indeed, and I’ve always appreciated the thoughtfulness when it comes from the other side.

      2. hbc*

        The thought behind it is kind of the point. It shows that you’re thinking things from their perspective, just a little bit. I also use greetings and signoffs to emails in the language of the recipient, and you’d be surprised how much good will it generates.

  26. GG*

    Re: OP1, really interesting to read yours and others perspectives on the “check-in” here. We do this too at my org and would like to offer some additional food for thought! I think it’s coming from the acknowledgment that it’s just not true that there’s a hard line between “work” and “personal” – that we’re always bringing ourselves into our work, from the way we make decisions to the mood or mindset we’re bringing into a room – and that sharing where we’re coming from can just help us to recognize that and remind us that we’re all also people, not just employee X. I do think it’s really important to make clear that there’s no expectation that you’re sharing your deepest thoughts – totally fine to say “I’m feeling a little tired today” or whatever – just something to recognize that you’re a human coming into the room, which in theory could set you up for more constructive conversation in the next hour.

    I think a check-in done right should tie into the meeting that’s about to happen. So, it’s usually done with the understanding that there is going to be some meaningful substantive conversation happening which the “sharing” has set us up for – if the meeting then becomes a series of administrative updates that requires no engagement or input from most people in the room, I think the check-in becomes pretty pointless. It can also be used to surface tensions or initial thoughts on the meeting topic, which can help to start out the conversation – especially if it’s a touchy subject. So asking what you’re bringing in today, and what you need to get out of the meeting doesn’t become a pointless exercise but helps the facilitator to recognize how people are coming into the conversation and to ensure the agenda and discussion gets at the key points that are surfaced in the check-in.

    Granted, I work for a nonprofit that has quite an informal, close culture and deals with a lot of deep, tough stuff (like our total inability to slow climate destruction) so we have a shared acknowledgement that our work is personal – I can totally see that this could be very different in other workplaces where people just don’t feel as comfortable blurring that line.

    In conclusion – I think the check-in can be a very powerful and useful tool but needs to be done right, for the right kind of meeting – I respect OP1’s boss’s intention to support vulnerability and being human at work but sounds like the delivery isn’t quite right.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think most jobs aren’t as *personally* mission-focused as that sounds. I take my job seriously, and I pay attention to relevant news articles/events when I’m off the clock, but the overlap between my mission as a human being in general and my mission as an employee of $NiceFirm is pretty limited beyond “minimise use of plastic and processed paper” and “keep roof over the Klinkerhoffen family’s collective head”.

      Some people do compartmentalise work and home very strongly. I definitely lean towards that end of the scale, and it takes extremes of each to leak significantly into the other mindspace. Example: my child is recovering (well) from surgery so I could get a call from his caregiver any minute and therefore I can’t book meetings for this week and I jump when the phone rings – normally I pretty much forget about him at 9am until it’s time to pick him up again, whereupon I forget about work until the next time I log in.

      If LW is similarly inclined, then there may be a harder line for her between work and personal than you imagine, of which the blurring with this (we seem to agree) unnecessarily detailed check-in is then frustrating and unhelpful.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Rolled in to say something along these lines. When I run a meeting, I like to ask for a brief check-in from the participants. It helps bring everyone’s attention to the meeting at hand, assures everyone that they have an opportunity to be heard about their personal life if they want to share it, and packs a few extra minutes onto the beginning of the meeting in case there are late arrivals. It works if:

      – The number of participants is on the lower side, like a dozen at most
      – It’s actually brief from each person, which the meeting leader/facilitator needs to model and also enforce
      – The leader/facilitator makes sure everyone understands that it’s not a feelingsdump or therapy session

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m genuinely perplexed about bringing attention to the meeting at hand, which a few people have said. If I have a 10:00 meeting to go over the art for chapter 3, then I call in at 10 with the art and any notes at hand, ready to talk about that topic. Calling people’s attention to the meeting sounds like that hell where some people are always 10 minutes late, so everyone learns to be 10 minutes late, so the first group start being 20 minutes late.

        1. GG*

          I think this totally depends on what kind of meeting you’re having and the norms in your company. If you and the other people in the meeting know exactly what you need to discuss about the art and it’s the same in each meeting, it’s less relevant. However if it’s a standing meeting to catch up generally on art, one person might say “I need to update everyone on a delay we’re having with this Art #3 and get some input on how to address it” or “I want to make sure we spend some time talking about whether we wanted dog art here or cat art!” At my org we’re often talking about particular projects, strategy, and broader topics so it’s more often things like “I’m really running into challenges about how some of the strategic decisions we’re discussing influence my budget so want us to keep that in mind as we discuss agenda items A, B, and C.” It’s acknowledging that often even when we’re all on the same page about the general topic – the specific questions and needs each person has might be a bit different.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          In my experience, it helps participants who benefit from a little “transition” time between whatever they were doing before the meeting time. They can get it out of their system, and so when all the check-ins are done we are 100% ready to go with the matter of the meeting.

    3. pleaset*

      My organization sounds like yours GG.

      That said, I don’t like the check-ins – they’re a waste for me. My mental state does not vary much and I don’t like sharing.

      That said, I use almost the same non-committal response every time – “I’m feeling busy” – and that’s enough of a response.

    4. Me*

      I really don’t think it’s fact for everyone that work/personal intermingle.

      Some people compartmentalize well. Some people do not want coworkers/bosses in their personal space. Some people, even if having an off day, really really do not want to discuss in any capacity at work.

      I show up to do my job full stop. The last thing I’m interested in is discussing anything related to my personal self/life. Professional stuff, fine. Pleasant small talk about the weather, hockey etc – totally cool. How I’m feeling? Please don’t.

    5. Observer*

      Firstly, there are better ways to acknowledge people’s humanity beyond their job (which is a GOOD thing) other than this check in – especially since everyone is essentially required to share.

      The whole “bring your whole self to work” thing sounds good – till it goes too far, as Google is now finding out. So, especially when you are not in a truly and narrowly mission focused organization, trying to force people to pull down all of the compartments they build may not be the best route.

      I’m not suggesting that people never bring their personal lives to work or that people’s differences and issues should never be acknowledged. But this ritual is on that I would participate in – but probably in a way that totally undermines what you are supposedly trying to accomplish. Not because I WANT to subvert your ideas, but because my response is going to be decided by what I need in order to function, to protect my privacy, protect the privacy of others, and in some cases to protect my relationships in the workplace or protect the feelings of others in the room.

    6. neeko*

      Agreed. I’ve used check ins in many of my jobs and I find them helpful for all of the reasons you’ve laid out. I think it’s helpful to acknowledge that yeah, you come to work and you are professional and you do your job but you aren’t a robot. Things have impact on how you are coming into work. Even if it’s “traffic was very frustrating today.” Especially important when having a high-stress conversation or if someone has something going on that might make them seem angry or annoyed at someone in the room when it’s unrelated. I also work in nonprofits and totally understand that they often foster a different culture than a corporate job.

  27. Bookworm*

    #5: Sorry that happened. Usually radio silence means they’re not interested and they’re poopheads for not getting back to you to either answer or to update you.

    There is always the possibility that something has happened and they’ve put the hiring process on hold for whatever reason but I’d suggest you move on. The ball’s back in their court. Good luck moving forward!!

    1. HHRR*

      This is so wrong when the HR people sound so warm and polite initially and later on behave like they have never cared about you!

  28. Amy*

    I have a lot on my plate right now. My mom died fairly young and unexpectedly 4 weeks ago, I’m executor of her very disorganized estate, I have 3 kids under 4 and a pipe just burst in our bathroom.

    And work is a wonderful respite. When people ask how things are, I say “It’s been hard. Thank you.” I cannot say anymore. I will not say anymore.

    Ruminating about it at a 9am meeting is my idea of a nightmare. I’d probably need to take some additional leave if I was forced to discuss it further. I truly only want to talk about the upcoming CRM upgrade. That’s my idea of a pleasant topic right now.

    1. Asenath*

      Yeah. When I was dealing with family illness and death, work was almost a respite – it gave me a place to go where I could operate almost on automatic and not think too much. If I had to respond to anything more than private questions like “How are you?” (Answer” “OK”, or “Not so good”, depending), I’d have lost that. Check-ins are fortunately not a feature of my job, but for related “icebreakers”, I use something true but trivial. My cat threw up a hairball this morning. I hate this icy weather. It’s great that it’s warmer today…..and so on.

  29. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    And, me, I don’t mind the check ins. We can skip if there’s nothing to share and it’s not meant to be very long. And don’t overthink it: Gawd, another snow storm. Bus was late. And my personal favourite from a couple of weeks back “My teenage son.” Three words with a groan said it all without saying anything at all, everyone nodded, moved on and the meeting started.

    If it truly slows the meeting down, or if there’s too much oversharing expected, I would raise it with my manager.

    I would also expect that how this check in rolls depends greatly on the team dynamic. Ours is pretty good so it works well.

  30. Sue*

    OP3, I’m so sorry about your mom. My dad passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. He passed away abroad, so that added more layers of paperwork and logistics. I took 3 weeks off and still didn’t feel ready to come back! As Alison said, the leave is so we can take care of logistics and attend the funeral, not that we will fully heal during that time. I would definitely talk to your boss. It seems like with a reasonable boss you would get some sort of relief, even just by prioritizing your workload. It takes time to process a loss like this. Also, I would see if your job has some kind of EAP/counseling program. I used it when my dad passed and it was very helpful.

  31. Mike*

    I’ve done a form of #1 at church meetings and there we always had an option of passing. This was to handle those that truly had nothing to share and for those that didn’t want to or couldn’t share.

    I’d be tempted to do the same thing at a work meeting.

  32. Sharon*

    Re #1: >Your best bet if you’re not into this is to go with mundane work-related stuff (e.g., you’re worried about a deadline)

    I wouldn’t even do this much. I’ve worked with managers in the past who blew things like this completely out of proportion and wouldn’t ever drop it. Like a full year later they’d be trying to coach me on my worries about handling deadlines (to use Alison’s example).

    1. Observer*

      Well, of course, it’s a know your audience situation. But it makes no sense to avoid Response X just because someone else had a bad boss who handled the revelation badly.

  33. whomever*

    Re #4, if they are at an annoying time for them it’s good to acknowledge that. I once managed a team in Singapore (I’m in NYC which is pretty much exactly 12 hours off modulus time zones) and I always made a point of making half the meetings in a good time for them/bad for me. Because there is nothing more likely to make a remote office feel like a colony and build up resentment than making them always be the ones who have to shoulder the time zone burden.

  34. Me*

    LW1 – “Nothing particular pressing or concerning. Just eager to get down to business.” Repeat weekly.

  35. Delta Delta*

    #2 – This may be entirely avoiding the problem but what if you entirely avoided the problem? Are there times when you can work in locations other than your current assigned office space? Empty conference room? Office hours at a cafe? Work from home sometimes? It won’t work always, of course, but would minimize the opportunity for face-to-face contact with the supervisor and would provide you the ability to get tasks done (unless they’re the sorts of tasks that have to be done in your physical space).

    I once had a supervisor at a program I worked in college whose presence was toxic. I figured out how to do work in an empty conference room and to make it look like I wasn’t there. I could sit at the end of the table and crack the door just right so that it looked open but also so that it blocked passersby from seeing that I was there. Then if someone came in and was surprised to find that the room actually wasn’t empty I could also act surprised and say, “just looking for a quiet spot!” or something otherwise innocuous. Worked like a charm.

    1. juliebulie*

      At some point, I fear the guy will track her down and say “I think you’re avoiding me!” And then she’ll have to answer him… which means that she’ll have to address the problem eventually anyhow.

  36. staceyizme*

    For the boss who calls you as/ after you pass by: I think you can use your avoidance ruse whenever feasible. Just don’t go by his office. AND also pop in whenever you do happen to go by, this forestalling the pounce. “Just checking in about the Jones account, should we roll out the new ad campaign next Tuesday…?”.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That’s an interesting twist — save any interaction to when you have to walk away from your desk anyway, so YOU are interrupting HIM. On the off-chance this is an intentional power play, it would mean he would STOP wanting to see you.

      1. valentine*

        pop in whenever you do happen to go by
        it would mean he would STOP wanting to see you.
        I think this would backfire and he’d either think he successfully trained her or she reciprocates his fixation.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Long way around. Really. I used to have a co-worker who would summon me every time I walked by. I can still hear her voice in my head. “LYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYNN! I have a question for YOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!” It was quite a long way around to avoid triggering that, but worth every step.

  37. pleaset*

    OP#1 wrote “probably due to the fact that I can never think of a good answer, ”

    Here is your answer: “I’m fine. Feeling busy as usual.”

    That’s it. You’re done. Use it every time. This is not a big deal.

    I don’t like check-ins – they seem to be a waste of time, but don’t overthink it. Don’t spend more energy on it than just re-using a vague answer. Done.

  38. CupcakeCounter*

    Take an addition day or two if you need it. My FIL passed suddenly and my MIL was not in a good head space to deal with hardly anything (she is partially deaf and didn’t hear him get out of bed so woke up to him cold on the floor about 5 feet from her – the wonderful ME explained to her that he was gone before he hit the floor but in her mind she didn’t hear him calling our for her). My husband and BIL were also wrecked and being there for their mother was more important than a photo board and song selection. I ended up planning the entire funeral as well as delivering part of the eulogy after my husband and FIL’s best friend broke down and couldn’t finish. It was my job to hold it together and deal with the parts and pieces they couldn’t. Outside of the first day when our friends showed up with dinner and hugs, I never got time to really process my feelings.
    First day of work was fine. Second was a bit harder. Day three I was sent home because I just sat at my desk with tears streaming down my face. I went home and baked about 100 cupcakes – all his favorite flavors. German chocolate, carrot with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, vanilla bean with blueberry buttercream and a lemon curd filling, coconut cream. I felt better but Hubs was in a bit of shock when he came home. Our son was thrilled.
    Went back to work the next day and was fine. Boss and coworkers thought it was funny that my grieving process involved manic baking but it worked for me and they loved the treats.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am so sorry for your loss. I teared up when I read that you baked all of his favorite flavors–that is so sweet.

  39. Buttons*

    #1 my company did something similar for a while, when we were going through a culture change. But instead of giving an example at these check-ins, we had a scale.
    5 – Excited to be here, having a great day
    4- looking forward to the outcomes
    3- I am good
    2 – Apprehensive
    1- Not really feeling it

    People could also say “above or below the line” the line being 3. That was it, it was a way to get the pulse of the room, and for people to be honest, without getting too personal. If you do some searches you can find a few examples of similar check-ins, and maybe, just maybe your manager will agree to use something like this instead.
    Good luck!

  40. CanuckCat*

    #4 I have a regular standing monthly meeting that spans about four time zones; no matter when we’re holding it, it’s an awkward time for someone. We’ve gotten in the habit of joining the call with “good morning/afternoon/evening from [Country] or [City]” – it’s almost a little in-joke now between meeting attendees that we’re all at vastly different points in our day depending on when the call is.

  41. Dana B.S.*

    #3 – I’m sorry about your mom. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. This is something that you never “recover” from, but it slowly gets better.

    You need to talk to your supervisor. Was it truly expected of you to cover 100% of the tasks of your co-worker while she was on leave in addition to 100% of your tasks? Because that sounds unsustainable for someone who isn’t grieving. If you’re unsteady and don’t want to have a breakdown at work (been there), then focus the conversation on just what needs to be prioritized and what can be dropped. Hopefully your supervisor will pick up on the subtext.

  42. Dr. Pepper*

    #1 Honestly check-ins seem very pointless to me because the people who are most willing to share often share anyway, unprompted. You’re already going to know what’s on their minds because they will tell you about it regardless if there’s dedicated space to do so or not. The people who don’t want to share won’t, or will share something bland and meaningless. I’m not a sharer, and I have several canned responses ready to “what’s on your mind” type questions because I learned long ago that most people don’t truly want to know.

  43. Orange You Glad*

    #1 – If the point is to get an idea what emotion everyone is bringing to the table that day, you could share but blame it on something mundane (ex: when you’re actually stressed about something personal, you could say you had a stressful commute). I hate the idea of oversharing personal details with coworkers unless absolutely necessary (like filling in my boss on some personal issues to request more time off).

    #2 – I have no advice other than to ignore these calls for your attention. There’s a director at my company who used to only call his employees to his desk my yelling their name loudly (in an open work area) while he sat in his cube. He’d just sit there yelling “Mary! Mary! MARRRRYYYY!” without any movement to see if Mary was at her desk while at the same time disrupting everyone else’s work. I’m so glad I don’t work for that guy.

  44. Fallout Mom*

    LW#2 – I had a colleague who would call out “Well Hellllooooooo!” and start a conversation each and every time I passed their office. Grab something from the printer “Well Helloooo!” Go to the bathroom “Well Helloooo!” Come back from a meeting “Well Hellooo!”

    I just smiled and went to my office. This person would also stand in my doorway to ask a question they could answer themselves by doing a simple search. They were very extroverted and I think needed social stimulation or they wilted at their desk. They were exceptionally good at their job, which was an external role.

    They also had long loud meetings with their door open. I simply got up, and shut their door without a word. I did this 3-4 times and finally said, “love the energy in here, but please keep the door closed so others can work.” They thrive on noise and it hadn’t occurred to them others were bothered.

    I think Alison’s comments are spot on and will work well with this type of colleague.

  45. Betty*

    #5 Not the same exact situation, but I went to an interview before where I was asked to take home a paper application to fill out (basically rewriting my resume and answering simple questions like “when can you start?” that they’d already asked in the phone screening). They’d said to let them know if I had any questions about it, otherwise they’d be in touch with me the next week about second round interviews. I did end up emailing a question about the requested references (they wanted both professional and personal!), and when 3 days passed without a response I just filled it out the way I thought I was supposed to and sent a scan of the application. Got a rejection the next day. Was so embarrassed to ask three friends to be personal references only to have to let them know I’d been rejected.

    So for now on I’d just assume companies were no longer interested in me if they’re not responding to simple questions. (And I think any time I’m asked to do anything extra like fill out a paper form or provide personal references, I’ll ask a question as ‘”test.”)

    1. HHRR*

      I didn’t even get any rejection email. My application status on their career portal has been showing the same status since I applied. So lousy!

  46. cmcinnyc*

    OP 1, I can share *one* time this was actually helpful–it was a group coaching, and the exercise was done in writing, and *not shared.* The idea was to just spew for a few minutes and then put that piece of paper away and focus. No one read the page or was asked about it. If you wanted to write “what a stupid waste of time” you were free to do so. If you needed to quick write down and idea or a to do list for later so you didn’t forget/have it in the back of your head for the whole coaching session, you did that (I did that). I guess if you were processing a big emotional thing you could jot about that if you thought it would help. You could draw. On paper. Privately. In quiet. Not shared. Before *coaching.* I can’t imagine trying to do this out loud ahead of a project meeting!

  47. Existentialista*

    #4, my work days often start with international conference calls too, and all of us have started to say “Good morning, good afternoon” as a standard greeting.

  48. Jennifer*

    #5 Sometimes an interviewer saying “reach out if you have questions” is similar to a person you don’t know very well saying “text me if you’re ever in town.” Sometimes you’ll get a kind reply, other times you’ll get “new phone, who dis?” or straight-up ghosted. As Alison said, there’s usually no question you could come up with that couldn’t be addressed if/when you are called in for a second interview. If it’s the kind of job where they would make an offer after the first interview, you could ask when they call with the offer. I wouldn’t stress too much about this.

    1. HHRR*

      During the interview, I was asked about my desired salary. Since I was not aware of their salary range, I emailed her and asked about the band of the position.

  49. relentless torpor*

    I work with teams across the US and India. We greet each other typically using THEIR time…so in my mornings I say “good evening [insert name]”. Similarly for people on east coast (i’m on west), I’ll say “good afternoon” [whoever].

    It’s a nice acknowledgement that you know where they are, etc. especially when it’s early/late/lunchtime for the other party.

    I rarely get lunch anyway due to the time differences…

  50. Karinna*

    Re: Office Therapy: I worked at a contract recently where the department director thought that department meetings were for people sharing and being “vulnerable” (and endless personality tests).

    Prior to my entry to the team, apparently he would pair up managers with their direct reports at these meetings (who were contractors) and encourage them to share their most personal challenges / worst moments. That kind of thing. Much like a 70’s group therapy session.

    I actually wish I would have had the opportunity to see these vulnerability sharing meetings firsthand, rather than via the horrified PTSD recaps of my colleagues. Certainly none of them wanted to be emotionally “vulnerable” with managers they were trying to navigate professionally.

    Note: all of the contractors I worked with on the team have since left for other positions, as have I. It was like the Managers were trying to stir up turmoil rather than focus on the simple management and functioning of a team.

  51. chipMunkey*

    I work in a shift work environment, and long ago got into the habit of saying ‘Good morning’ the first time I talk to someone during the day, regardless of time. Logic being, for our night shift staff, it is their morning. No one has ever expressed any disgruntlement, but that may just be the profession I’m in.

  52. Lil Sebastian*

    LW #1 – I’d just pull something from the headlines and say that’s what is on your mind. Some examples you could use right now:
    – I’m wondering where Hurricane Dorian is going to go next.
    – What’s going on with Brexit?
    – Vienna was recently announced as the world’s most liveable city. That’s a place I’d like to visit one day.
    – Kevin Hart was in a car accident. I really hope he’s ok.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Or go the other direction. My hobby is researching and writing about 19th century baseball history. Ask me what is on my mind and I can give you a discourse on a play that could only happen before the rules were changed 130 years. I can talk as long or as short as circumstances permit. I can make it interesting, at least to a modern baseball fan, or I can make it dreadfully boring. Push me and I will make it long and boring, and have a hurt expression when you finally cut me off.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      Hey, come on over, Sebastian. I live in the same county as Vienna! I’ll take you out for a beer. Oh wait, you meant Vienna AUSTRIA, not Vienna, Virginia, didn’t you? Sorry…my bad. ;)

  53. Megan*

    Yikes, I didn’t realize check-ins were so universally/frequently disliked. We’ve used them for ages. Our reasoning is a) our team is often working remotely, and this feels like a way to get connected (similar to the kind of organic small talk that would happen if we were all in the office together and b) we work on an emotional topic (we’re a non-profit that researches human rights violations, typically deaths and disappearances) and it feels important to me to make space for people to have feelings. That said, literally any answer is fine, and when explaining this step to someone new I try to say explicitly that we have team members who check in with “I’m fine.” or “I prefer not to talk about my feelings” or whatever. We get generally positive feedback about our check-ins (and our touchy-feely approach to work generally) but I guess the kinds of folks who would roll their eyes and hate this process might also be exactly the kinds of folks who wouldn’t tell me…

    1. valentine*

      I guess the kinds of folks who would roll their eyes and hate this process might also be exactly the kinds of folks who wouldn’t tell me
      I wouldn’t work anywhere touchy-feely, but this would be me, and I wouldn’t tell you because you haven’t made space for those of us who can take on the trauma of doing the job, but no more, especially not in the form of colleagues’ personal stuff, possibly including trauma. I would expect you to double down, though even something like letting me call in to the meeting after the therapy bit would hurt me because people would favor the sharers.

      1. Megan*

        This is really useful and interesting feedback. Thank you for pushing me to think about the folks I’m not making room for.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I get small talk. I don’t think going around the circle and everyone making a mandatory comment is anything like informal small talk.

      1. Megan*

        I guess it’s really in how the check in is framed. I mean, you’re right, it’s not the same as small talk, but lots of the examples given above (traffic was horrible, I’m feeling overwhelmed by my project list, etc.) I feel like are the kinds of responses you might give in passing when settling in to an office setting. Our team often doesn’t have that physical opportunity, so we make it a part of opening our meetings (which, I feel like I should also emphasize are extremely infrequent and efficient; another part of our team culture is being practically allergic to meetings. This ends up creating a feedback loop wherein we don’t often see each other in person and we don’t have a lot of meetings, so it can be easy to feel disconnected from one another).

  54. Free Meerkats*

    OP2 – I like the option above of you popping into his office as you pass to preempt his power play (and that’s what the 10 step thing is.) And if you can manage it, save up a big fart and walk past, hoping he calls you in. Step in, say “I was just heading to the bathroom.” and let loose. I’m only partially kidding.

    OP3 – As AAM said, grieving is a process and there’s no amount of bereavement leave that’s enough. You’re still in the acute phase and there will be times you just won’t be able to function. Unless your workplace is staffed by unfeeling robots, they’ll mostly understand if your work isn’t up to your usual standards. Talk with your boss and ask that someone take a quick look at your work before it goes out/is there something that can be taken off your plate for a bit/if you can skip some of the usual meetings.

    I was widowed at 39. Yes, we knew it was coming (when she was a teen her doctors told her she likely wouldn’t live past 30, she was 45 when she died,) but we weren’t expecting it then. That was in ’96. I still sometimes shut down for a bit thinking of her. When it happened, my boss told me to take the time I needed, I was off for a week and a half doing the things that needed to be done, then took intermittent time off when I couldn’t get out of bed or just needed to sit staring out the window with a cat in my lap for a couple of months. Yeah, my work suffered, but we worked around it.

    Take care of yourself first. Before you take care of work, before you take care of your partner, before you take care of your kids/relatives/friends/coworkers.

  55. Susan*

    OP #3 I am so sorry about your mom. The suddenness of her loss is adding to the pain, I am sure; my dad is slowly dying and I know it, and I still expect a lot of pain even though I have time to “prepare” myself mentally.

    Anyway – please work with your job to take the time you need. It is true as Alison said that the grief could last, but this initial grief is most likely to be the most intense. Taking the time now is better than letting it simmer and possibly explode in ways that would be more destructive.

  56. Coldbrewinacup*

    LW #3, please talk with your boss so you can take more time off.

    I lost my mom unexpectedly in January 2018. It is super hard and it hurts. Grief isn’t one size fits all, so don’t let outside pressure dictate how you grieve for your mom. Take all the time you need, and wrap yourself up with memories and the love of your family during this time.

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Hugs to you.

  57. tired anon*

    LW#3, I’m so sorry about your loss. I’ve been through that with both of my parents and I found that while I was glad to have work to keep me busy when I returned, my work definitely was not up to my usual standard. And you know what? It was 100% fine. If you’re at a company where you generally feel supported and your work is usually high quality, people will understand that you’re struggling.

    Also, even in the midst of busy season – if you have a day where you really can not cope, take a sick day or go home early. It will be okay. It can feel stressful to do that, but some days you just … can’t focus on work stuff, and you can call it a sick day because mental health is health. (I definitely had a panic attack at one point and gave my boss a very quick “feeling sick going home will try to be back tomorrow BYE” and ran out, hurried home, and spent the rest of the day crying. My boss didn’t question it at all, and it’s not like I would have been getting work done if I’d stayed in the office.)

    Also also, if your health insurance allows, you may want to look into therapy. Grief is intense and weird and difficult. Therapy really helped me process and cope, which in turn helped me with work.

    But overall, right now, please try to be kind to yourself. Re-set your expectations for yourself downward a little, if that won’t put your job in danger; it’s okay to not be at 100%. Healing takes time and energy, and ultimately if you don’t put in that energy your work will suffer more long-term.

  58. Kelly L.*

    OP#5, I agree with Alison that the “let me know if you have any questions” was probably kind of a boilerplate pleasantry rather than a serious call for questions. It’s quite possible the interviewer hasn’t even looked back at the email account they’re using for the hiring process in a while. I wouldn’t take it as either a positive *or* a negative sign about your hiring; just wait and move on.

  59. HHRR*

    OP# 5: Thanks, Alison for publishing my question on the website! The career portal of the company has been showing the same status since I applied which is- “Application Submitted”. Usually, they are very prompt at updating application status (prior experience). During the interview, I was asked about my desired salary and hence, I emailed her a follow- up question regarding the salary band. As the interviewer sounded very positive about my eligibility, I did not hesitate to contact her.

  60. TechWorker*

    The wig suggestion on #2 made me outloud-cackle :)

    #4 – I often have meetings that are inconvenient timezone wise for at least some of the attendees. I find if it’s inconvenient for me then I often say something like ‘good morning! Though I guess it’s afternoon there!’ or similar, in a cheery tone. If it’s convenient-ish for me but inconvenient for someone else I’ll make a point of thanking them for joining late/early.

    Just today a colleague set up a meeting that was 5am for them and a more reasonable time for everyone else on the call – the person who set up the meeting then didn’t show :D I do wonder if they messed up timezones, because I think it could have been a good 2 hours later and still within a reasonable-ish working day for everyone else.

    In other news, I have a Friday 7pm meeting (11am for most attendees) when I have a ticket for an event and I am GRUMPY about it. Just leave my Friday evenings alone…..

  61. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    OP#4, I work in the western US, we have another office in the US, and offices in London and Tokyo. I have been on calls with all four offices. We just say whatever is local to us (good morning, etc) and all understand the sentiment behind it regardless of our actual time of day.

  62. Database Developer Dude*

    Sharing emotional baggage during meetings? Uh, no. If I’m even in a meeting, it’s to get everyone’s agreement on what to get done and how to get it done. There is no emotional baggage being shared.

  63. Luna*

    I would feel very comfortable unloading my personal problems in a meeting. Especially since my private matters are not important to my job, unless the private matter has become so big that it has already impacted my work. And that’s when I would try to see if I could get some time-off or take some sick days to deal with my problems, so I can return to work able to focus on work again.

    Though I would be delighted to have a group of coworkers in such a meeting, all bluntly stating the worst possible problems they have in their private life at the moment (ranging from “My crotch is itching like an anthill, and my appointment with the doc isn’t until Thursday” to “Came home to find my pet had thrown up into my favorite pair of shoes” and “I got punched by my partner over nothing, so ignore the bruise forming around my eye”), and see what happens. I think that would result in more distractions from the meeting than actually lessening it.

    LW#4 — I work in a hotel. When the nightshift employee comes in to take over from me as the late day shift, they will sometimes say “Good morning” and sometimes I will say “Good morning” first, even if it’s actually 11 PM at night. It’s really not a big deal. At least, I think so. If it’s something that bothers the people you have conference calls with, well, I would actually wonder why it’s a bothersome thing…

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