I’m pregnant and my new boss is the dad, coworker wants to keep us all connected in cutesy ways, and more

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

1. I’m pregnant by my new manager and don’t want higher-ups to know

I’m still fairly early in a pregnancy that is with a fellow coworker who became my boss right at the point I found out I was pregnant. We have a perfectly normal working relationship; nobody would ever even know based on how we act.

There are no anti-fraternization rules, but I went to HR to discuss it because I was worried about both our jobs. I told her I was four months pregnant and that the father was a coworker. I told her I’m afraid to share it due to higher-ups knowing and getting involved. She said she needed to talk to him but needed to think about it before she did and would tell me that she was going to speak with him before she did.

I am currently working mostly from home, but some people are still working from the office. I went in to discuss some items and walked right in on her having a conversation with him. She told him they will have to move my position and she will have to tell the higher-ups sooner rather than later, which was the opposite of what she and I discussed. And now he’s bothered I said something, since his biggest issue was he didn’t want the office to know.

So does she have to do this if there is no conflict? Can’t she wait till the baby is born? Telling the higher-ups will affect my chances of a promotion because my promotion would put me over him. Should I never have opened my mouth?

She absolutely has to let your company know the situation because they can’t let someone manage an employee who they’re romantically or sexually involved with or who is the parent of their child (even if the relationship ended). It doesn’t matter if you’re perfectly professional with each other at work; he cannot manage you, period. There’s too much potential for conflict of interest, and people will assume there is conflict of interest whether or not there really is. For example, if he has to lay off part of his team and you’re not on that list, people will assume it’s because he didn’t want the mother of his child to lose her job. But it’s also a problem with things that are far more routine — like whether he can give you feedback, whether you can accept that feedback, whether there will be favoritism that disadvantages other people or even just the appearance of that, etc. The company also has to worry about legal liability: as your boss he has power over you, and you could feel pressure, subtle or otherwise, to remain involved with him when you would rather not.

And yes, this definitely will affect your chance a promotion if that would mean you managing him, since all the above would still apply, just in reverse.

So your HR person had to speak up. Since she told you she’d speak with you before she spoke with him, she should have done that or let you know she wouldn’t be able to keep that promise. But otherwise, you and he both need to accept that if you’re in each other’s chain of command, there’s no option of keeping this hidden. (And it could rightfully get you fired if you tried.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My coworker wants to keep us all connected in cutesy ways

I need a nice way to tell a coworker that I don’t have time for her cute little ways to try to keep us all connected while we are teleworking 100% (trivia quizzes, shared meme lists, etc.). They are all great little short team-building things. Part of it is my personality (I get along with everyone, but I really just come to work to work) and part of it is the rapid pace we are all working at.

She doesn’t work for me, but we do work closely together and often collaborate. She tends to use me as a sounding board for her ideas before taking them to her boss. I don’t usually have too much issue with it and she understands if I can’t get to something right away. In light of the current environment, we are all teleworking and we have also taken on additional responsibilities around the virus because of the kind of work we do. So I’m not just busy, I am crazy busy. She either is not as busy or just gets lonely being at home all day. I have been working remotely for years (not 100% though) so this is easy for me, plus I like it because I am an introvert.

Late last week she sent me an idea for a way for our whole office to stay connected. It was kind of cutesy… not my thing, but I know my thing isn’t everybody’s thing so I gave her my input. Her boss was a little hesitant (because she recognizes we are all very busy) but decided to give it the go ahead. Again. other personalities may enjoy it. 

Today she brought me another idea. Honestly, I don’t have the bandwidth to think about it. I just need a really nice way to tell her to STOP IT!

Can you just be straightforward but kind? For example: “To be honest, that kind of thing isn’t my cup of tea, especially right now when I’m so swamped. Other people might appreciate it more, but I’m not a good sounding board for it. Sorry I can’t help!”

If she doesn’t get the message from that and asks you again: “I’m swamped and can’t help with this kind of thing right now. Sorry about that!”

Read an update to this letter here.

Speaking of which…

3. Team-building activities that can be done remotely

With the sudden rise in work-from-home arrangements, do you or your readers have suggestions for good team-building activities that don’t require meeting in person?

Are you sure you need them? If you have a team where 100% of the people on it genuinely like and want this stuff, then maybe. But so many people dislike this kind of thing during the best of times that asking them to do it now — when they’re stressed and trying to juggle kids and medical needs and grocery scarcities, etc. — would alienate a lot of people. Particularly for people who are juggling child care with work, asking them to spend half an hour of their scarce work time on fluff is likely to really rankle some of your team.

The best team building you can do right now is to give people maximum flexibility, ask how they’re doing, find out what they need to be better able to do their jobs, assure them their jobs are safe (only if that’s true), and be supportive and understanding of their stress and distractions. Throw in some occasional (and optional) online or video socializing, sure, but stay away from the really structured stuff for now.

That’s not to say no one would appreciate formal team-building activities right now. But if you have even one person on your team who doesn’t, their frustration is going to outweigh any good from it. (But if you must do it anyway, keep it optional and keep it short.)

4. Since the right to discuss wages excludes supervisors, how does the law define supervisors?

I have a question about the National Labor Relations Act I’ve been wondering about. I know that law grants employees rights to talk to each other about workplace conditions and salaries (among other things), but it is only applicable to employees who are not supervisors.

How are supervisors defined? For instance, a few years ago I worked at a lobbying firm where, as an associate, I supervised the work of interns and staff assistants (though I didn’t have any say over their salary, and had very limited input in hiring/firing and reviews). Would I have been considered a supervisor, even though I was only a step above staff assistants and had many layers over me? In another example, I’m currently a director at an association, but don’t have any employees under me (one-person department), and am not on the management team. So it seems that at my old job, even though I was three years into my field and not making very much at all, I would not have been able to discuss my salary with anyone, but at my current job, I would be protected in talking to even our lowest paid and newest employees about salary, just because I’m a one-person department. Is that really the way it works? It seems that organizations would be able to easily get around this law by giving everyone limited supervisory responsibilities over the next level under them, so only maybe 2-3 people at the very bottom would be able to discuss salary.

You’re right that the NLRA protects employees’ right to talk to each other about wages and working conditions and you’re right that its protections only apply to non-supervisors. But nah, you probably wouldn’t have been considered a supervisor for the purposes of the law. This particular law defines supervisors as people whose functions are “to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibly to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action.” It also says that your authority to perform these functions can’t be clerical or routine, but must require the use of independent judgment — for example, whether you can act independently or require the approval of others in the company before doing the things above.

Certainly it’s not uncommon for supervisors only only be able to recommend some of those actions, with final approval coming from above, so it’s something you’d need to look at case-by-case, but this gives the general feel of what the law considers. Someone who’s only overseeing interns and isn’t in a particularly senior role themselves is very unlikely to be considered a supervisor under this law.

5. If they knew I didn’t have enough experience, why did they interview me?

I just went through a rather frustrating interview process. I applied for this job on a whim since (I thought) it would be a dream to work for them. Someone in my network passed on my resume to a partner at the firm, and they reached out to me, to my delight.

I had a one-hour intro phone call with a middle manager who I got a very weird vibe from — she did most of the talking and I did a lot of listening. Then she had me do a skills assessment that took 1.5 hours (I think I rocked it). She then called me unannounced two hours later to have me walk her through it, which was also strange. But she told me the assessment impressed her and they would be in touch.

Then they set up a call between me and a partner at the firm. He grilled me for a half hour on in-the-weeds, substantive questions. Then he spent the next few minutes telling me how great I am and how much I know my stuff, but they were simply looking for a person with a few years more of experience. Normally, I could handle that, but he said that the team knew I didn’t have enough experience when I first entered the process. He said to keep in touch for future opportunities. I can’t but help be a little frustrated and feel a led on. And it makes me wonder if something I did in the interview process furthered their hesitancy to hire me?

Maybe, maybe not. People always wish companies would give more people a chance, even if they don’t have exactly the right experience — but doing that means sometimes the company will determine after talking that you’re not quite right for the role. That doesn’t mean they were leading you on or weren’t genuine about their interest; most often it means they talked to you with an open mind but as they got more info during the process, they determined you weren’t strongly enough matched with what they’re looking for. That’s what a hiring process is designed to figure out (on both sides).

That doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong. It could just be that during that last call, it became apparent that you don’t have the seasoning in your field that they want for the role. You could still be great — and promising enough that they wanted to give you a shot, despite your experience level — but ultimately not as strong as they wanted.

{ 408 comments… read them below }

  1. Papercut Survivor*

    #2 – I was just about to email Alison about this very same thing. I have a co-worker who has really ramped this up lately and it’s annoying. I opted out of one activity recently (because I was busy with actual work) and she reached out to me later to ask me why I didn’t participate and if everything was okay.

    She has crowned herself our “team mom” (her words, not mine) and just LOVES this kind of stuff. We’ve been remote workers for several years, but this kind of stuff has really increased lately. I wish it would stop.

    1. Jopestus*

      I feel for you. I graduated uni in 2018 and we had a guy who wanted to build “class spirit”. Well, that worked for the drunken louts who would not study or work anyways, but it seems most of us actually hated that even if they did not voice it out loud just to keep the tiny remnants of peace.

      Oh, and I would not even call our study groups classes. Those who wanted to study picked what they wanted and felt useful and those who did not just went with predetermined course.

      1. Quill*

        School spirit gives me reflexive headaches because it means being crammed into bleachers in the LOUDEST ROOM ON EARTH.

        (Schools are doing better about that these days by having things like a quiet room where people can study, play board games, or read, so you don’t HAVE to go to the gym and deal with decibel levels previously unknown outside of jet engines.)

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Haha, I was one of those people contributing to the noise as a member of the band. I always thought pep rallies were kind of dumb, but I relished the chance to get out of the classroom.

          Honestly my favorite part of football season was playing the fun music in the stands during games. Everything else was pretty meh. I much preferred concert season. Much more laid back.

          1. Mama Bear*

            My HS used to do pep rallies with a Spirit Stick as a prize for the loudest and most spirited class. After trying very hard and being overlooked repeatedly, as Seniors we noped out of the competition. We were really mad and for some rallies just sat down. The rallies were a total waste of time.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Yep mine did that too. Are y’all millennials? I feel like this was a big thing for our cohort.

            2. whingedrinking*

              When I was in HS, pep rallies were mandatory and it was considered cutting class if you didn’t go…but if you had a spare block, then you were technically not in class at that time, and they couldn’t force you to attend.
              The physics teacher, whose job it was to patrol the halls during pep rallies because he absolutely loathed them, was highly susceptible to being told, “Yes, Mr. F, we have a spare this period, yes, all of us, and that’s why we’re hanging out under the stairs and studying.” Surprising, because he was normally very sharp about being lied to by students…;)

        2. Eirene*

          I’m pretty sure I have PTSD from the brown-nosing dorks in my high-school class who were really, really into “class spirit”. The more the rest of us resisted it, the more they got into our faces with it. By senior year, I fervently wished I had joined the theater club so I could get out of participating in “school spirit” crap by working the lights or sound.

          Field Day in an all-girls Catholic school is….not what you might think. I still cringe when I remember having to dance with a broom as Little Orphan Annie. Mostly because I can’t dance and I know damn well some parent out there has it on tape.

      2. James*

        Ugh, college “school spirit”…. I remember getting into an argument with a classmate because I was skipping homecoming (I skipped all football games; just not my thing) and therefore didn’t show “school spirit”. Never mind that the day of the game I was giving a talk at a conference designed to help decide a treaty re-negotiation between the USA and Canada.

        As for team building, the dorm I was fortunate enough to get in did it organically. We’d have video game tournaments, or poker nights, or play Risk until the sun came up. Occasionally we’d have wrestling tournaments or sword fights. The folks in charge of organizing these activities quickly learned that we didn’t care if they took credit for what we were doing–but if they tried to organize something we’d all conveniently have something better to do that day. We were–and remain–very good friends. But none of us liked being told to be friendly.

        “Team-building activities” 99% of the time are attempts by higher-ups to force people to mimic behaviors of strong teams. The problem is, those behaviors within strong team are tertiary consequences of the team. Folks who require team-building exercises forget the foundation of good teams: shared goals, values, and experiences. Team-building exercises forced from the top down onto bad teams are like slathering paint on a termite-infested house: it may look pretty from the outside, but it has no strength.

        1. selena81*

          good old ‘successful students tend to have confidence, let’s give all kids confidence (or rather: force them to pretend to be confident), that’s sooo much easier then actually teaching them any real skills’

    2. LW2_Today*

      I am LW#2. Fortunately I had a few days off and had time to reflect. For me at least, it was just that I was so incredibly busy and getting these kind of interruptions were just stressing me out. Also co-worker has dialed it back. It’s quite possible her boss told her to focus on other things. At any rate, if she comes to me with another idea I am just going to have to be direct and tell her I don’t have time. She is really gentle and a people-pleaser so i don’t want to hurt her feelings but I really don’t have time!

      1. CM*

        You can soften this message pretty easily since you genuinely are swamped at work — “Hi friend, I appreciate your attempts to keep us all connected during this uncertain time! My workload has increased so much since we started teleworking that I need to stick to my assigned work and won’t be able to give you input on your ideas. I hope you and your family are doing well and I’m looking forward to a time when things become more normal!” And then if she sends you something again you can wait a couple of days and then reply, “Sorry, just coming up for air and didn’t have a chance to respond. Hope all is well!”

        1. HiringMgr2*

          I also think that when people are doing team building or just fun social activities b/c of social distancing, it’s important to make them OPTIONAL. And then not follow up and ask people if they okay because they didn’t attend. It truly needs to optional in every sense – then the leaders can determine if enough people are joining them to continue to do them; or stop them if no one is attending / participating.

          Leaders should be clear if the activities are semi-work related – like corporate culture activities or truly just social time. Label them accordingly; don’t mark the corporate culture activities optional and then get upset when people don’t join. If not optional, don’t say it’s optional! And if it’s just for fun – be clear about that up front and make it optional, no questions asked.

      2. juliebulie*

        Hi LW2, I’m in the same boat. A chatty coworker sent a long email “Hi Ladies” to a group of women, 5 of us, and most of them replied at length as well. I kept my reply to just two sentences, as did one of the other “ladies.” I think she’s just feeling lonesome and wants to reach out. I’m willing to check in from time to time and reassure her that I’m not dead, but we don’t usually have this much chit-chat in the office and it is messing with my concentration.

        I’m glad your coworker has dialed it back. It has been a bumpy adjustment for a lot of people, but maybe she is settling down now.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        As long as you’re direct and kind as Alison suggested, you can’t manage her feelings. I know that probably sounds a little harsh, but you can only control your words and actions, and if she gets her feelings hurt by you simply saying that it’s not your thing, that’s not on you.

        1. LW2_Today*

          It’s not harsh… it’s a problem I have recently recognized in myself. I have spent many years trying to manage everyone’s feelings. I do better now but I still backslide into it occasionally (as you can see!).

      4. Gumby*

        I’m here with non-work friends too. And actually, sometimes I *do* have time but just no energy or desire. But when friends who I used to talk to once per week, max (and sometimes as seldom as once per month), all of a sudden want to exchange text messages daily about the minutia of their lives, it’s all I can do to not respond with “I don’t CARE; leave me alone!” Your multi-paragraph text messages are intruding into my introvert energy hamster ball.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      We have someone like this — they are waaaaay up the food chain, too, plus have been making cute (???) coronavirus jokes. There were so many complaints that eventually THE PROVOST stepped in (there is only one position between Peppy McJokester and the provost, that’s how high up we’re talking, and that position is currently vacant).

      We still get one or two jokes or suggestions to “hey kids, let;s put on a show!” a week…

  2. Mid*

    For team building stuff—let people opt out! Some people might enjoy it. I know I’m struggling a little right now because I live alone, so I would be more open to team building type stuff than I would normally be. But just make sure things are really truly optional.

    1. Reliquary*

      Why on earth, in these times, when everyone is struggling and overwhelmed, would team-building activities even be on someone’s radar? My gosh, how tone-deaf!

        1. Czhorat*

          People at a stable job aren’t worried about keeping it; if you can work for home and your company isn’t going somewhere, then you’re a little isolated and going mad from it. Some kind of team-building might be just what you need.

          I didn’t do it over the job, but last week had a virtual lunch, Zoom juggle meeting, and industry-wide virtual happy hour. Absent the daily trek to a place in which there are people some of us need a connection to people, in some way

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            Yes. I would not call it “team building” – I’d call it checking in.

            And frankly, among other things I’d have the organization encourage people to use company time and remote resources to just “check-in” with anyone. Encourage people to use digital chat or conference or calls to just talk, not necessarily about work.

            I’d also have senior leadership lead a few group calls or meetings with frank statements about their own worries and that it’s OK to be worried, to feel disconnected, and to take time for self-care, and to say that you’re doing all these things. And encourage others to do all of that. Not forced, but acceptable and encouraged.

            That’s the “team building” that’s needed in a crisis – care for self and each other. Not building “alignment” in the traditional sense of team building, but encouraging people to reach out in ways to not feel so isolated.

            This is not the time to hunker down and focus on top productivity nor is it the time waste on “alignment.” It’s the time to be slow and steady and performing “OK not great” (except in truly mission-critical areas) and not let work or morale completely collapse.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Well, maybe? My supervisors check in every morning while we’re temporarily working from home, but it’s stuff like, “Hello, how is everyone? [Specialized program] is down for maintenance today but I’ll send you a list of tasks tomorrow. I have to be offline between 2:00 and 4:00 so if you have questions just let them go until tomorrow”. And then our boss sent a small picture of his dog and complained that his new officemate needed too much attention and had a terrible work ethic.

              But they’re not asking us to participate in anything; they’re just making sure we know that they’re available/occasionally not available, accompanied by mild and occasional humor. That’s a check-in.

            2. OP 3*

              Yeah, phrasing it as “team building” seems to have sent a lot of commenters down a different track than I intended…

              One thing we’re doing in line with “checking in” is to have a standing web conference open for an hour every day. People can connect and chat while working, or just sit in silence for a while.

              1. Double A*

                I think that is a great idea, and was exactly the kind of activity I was going to suggest — something that allows for social contact, is low-pressure and optional, allows for drop-ins and people to just kind of “be” around each other.

                Maybe just calling it “social opportunities.” Team building definitely suggests something active and directed and outcome oriented.

                1. IheardItBothWays*

                  we have that once a week. we talk about anything we want. it’s nice to kinda get a social thing going especially for those of us who live alone. and it is optional so if you don’t feel like it then just don’t go.

              2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

                We are calling this “connection” and created an area in our project management tool where we have different chat topics. A little like slack. Memes, pictures of food, photos of pets and a general chat where one of us posts a different topic each day. We also have a daily photo prompt. It’s all optional, but it’s been a nice way to still feel connected with people. We also have a daily standing lunch hour where people can join and video chat while they eat lunch. No work talk allowed! We also do a weekly virtual happy hour. We log out of our emails, drink and video chat. It’s been great and works well for our team. I am also putting together a video meeting bingo sheet customized to us a little. There will be a silly prize for winning it.

              3. Amethystmoon*

                We have check-ins on the phone once a week just to see how everyone is doing. But we are all working remotely, so we don’t see everyone on a daily basis anymore.

          2. Smithy*

            I agree with this. I’m in an org where our jobs are safe, we’ve been 100% remote for a few weeks now, and work has been particularly stressful.

            Classic team building hasn’t been encouraged, but more time to check-in, team care, and that has. For those with kids or addition family responsibilities, there’s not an expectation of scheduling virtual coffees. But we’ve also been encouraged to take more time in meetings to see how people are and make small talk.

            While I think declining classic ice breakers and all that makes sense, I do think it’s helpful to be mindful that for others the opportunity for more personal connection is helpful. This doesn’t mean let’s bring in mandatory Virtual karaoke, but it might be worth identifying another way to support coworkers who seem particularly eager to reach out.

          3. Mbarr*

            I’m in the same boat. I’m single, living alone, and an extrovert. I’m getting in the occasional video chat here and there with friends and family… But I miss being surrounded by people and the basic everyday interactions in the kitchen, or just seeing the whites of people’s eyes. Our company is a supply chain software company, and my office is working from home.
            I’m not tone deaf to the struggles people are going through, but I. Need. To. See. Someone. Other. Than. My. Cats.
            (I was super excited to go donate blood yesterday cause it let me interact with human beings!)

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              Oh boy do I feel you. My coworker surprised Skyped me yesterday with her baby and it was genuinely the highlight of my quarantine so far. Just a silly, unexpected, unscheduled interaction where I got to make silly faces and silly sounds and chill.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              Same on all counts and yeah, I’m having a hard time with this. I was similarly psyched about an essential pharmacy trip because I got to talk to the pharmacist. I know this site is pretty against most social interaction in the workplace but I do think that this is a time when encouraging it is a good thing.

            3. TardyTardis*

              I hear you. I used to be one of the loudest in spirit competitions both in school and out (alcohol might have been involved in the Jaycee ones), and I used to be a cheerleader. And play tenor drum. But I really hear you.

          4. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I’ve been doing quick video calls with the people I normally talk to in the office every day. It’s really helped…especially a couple of coworkers with small children, I think they’re glad to finally talk to an adult who isn’t a co-parent! And audio would work, too, but these are the people who I normally chat with for a few minutes most days we were in the office together, with offices a few feet from mine, so we know (at least by name and photograph, if not in person) each others’ families and pets, so it’s nice to catch up with them.

            If you don’t have Skype or Teams for calls, try Jitsi. It’s free, open source conferencing software (that I have no stake in, I’ve just been using it lately.)

          5. Chili*

            Yeah, nobody has tried virtual team-building at my job, but my team has done a couple virtual happy hours. I’m not even a terribly social or outgoing person, but having an hour of fun conversation with coworkers weekly has been much appreciated.

          6. Third or Nothing!*

            I am in desperate need of a conversation with another adult who isn’t my husband and that isn’t about the virus. Even us two introverts are feeling the strain of isolation.

            1. Aquawoman*

              Right? I had a conversation with my ex-husband yesterday and it was like, yay! a different person to talk to! And I’m pretty introverted.

          7. OP 3*

            Yes, we have the good fortune of a stable company that was able to transition to remote work fairly easily.

            We have a popular event that I’m exploring how to handle in the new work world. I explain more in a stand-alone comment below.

          8. Mid*

            This is exactly my situation. My office hasn’t slowed down at all work wise (law firm) we’re just all remote. I know it’s a privilege to be completely secure in my job right now, but it’s also my situation. And I’m very isolated and struggling because of that. Lots of people are.

            Yes, some people have other crises right now too, and if they’re worried about layoffs or other things, it could be tone deaf. But not everyone is in that situation, and I personally would like more social interaction or “team building” stuff before I totally lose my mind.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I saw an introverts’ meme the other day: “Introverts, check in on your extrovert friends. They are not OK, they have no idea how this works. ”

              I’m taking great care of my partner, he’s the extrovert who’s best friends with the waiter before they’ve even mentioned dessert, so it’s especially hard for him to be quarantined, whereas for me it’s just business as usual, but no swimming or yoga.

          9. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

            What? No. Even with the pandemic and me being home, I would definitely NOT be doing these kinds of things. I do not like “team building” events of any kind — I like my entertainment best when it’s solo, thank you very much. I don’t want to have a deep connection with my coworkers… nope, nah, niet.

            This is very much a “depends on the person” kind of thing, and I do wish more extroverted, people-craving types understood that. Work is not my place to be social, it’s my way to make money to fuel my solitary hobbies. :D

            1. 1234*

              I LOVE everything about your comment. Old Job had a lot of “voluntary but not really” team building activities including a scavenger hunt throughout the city during work hours while still expected to get all of the work done. Yep.

        2. MissGirl*

          I am concerned about those things as well, but I wouldn’t call some fun activity at work tone deaf. I would call it a welcome relief from the monotony that is my life right now. Most of us are in a giant waiting game, where we don’t know what will happen at the end.

          As long as it’s not a lot of activities and they are truly optional and don’t pull people off important projects, why not? People are sharing funny videos on one of our Slack channels. Should I chide each of them for not taking this seriously enough or can I just appreciate a moment of levity in a difficult time?

      1. In the right circumstances*

        It depends on the team. I work in a close-knit team now working from home, but we miss being in the office together. We’ve already (by unanimous request) carved out half an hour a week to have a team video chat and check in on each other.

        Several of us live alone and a team building activity would go over well to build morale. If anyone was too busy, no one would begrudge them opting out. It’s definitely not for all teams (and it sounds like not for OP), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for anyone.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          This. I live alone, and basically all of my social outlets went away. (Most of them involved in-person meetings with a high percentage of boomers present, so they both really needed to be cancelled and are only gradually and reluctantly migrating online since the install base for online stuff was low in the group before all this.) I’m still working, but I lost basically every fun thing I do to socialize.

          I’d definitely be up for some work-related online social nonsense right now, even though that usually sounds completely awful.

          If I were organizing this, I’d probably try something from Jackbox games. I’ve seen several different groups do good streams of those lately, and most of them have both a high-engagement role for 8-ish players and a low engagement/low accountability role for many other people in the “audience”. This means that if you have a large enough group that you can get 8+ enthusiastic people interested to volunteer to be the players, it’s not obvious that other people aren’t participating in the audience (which also reasonably fun to be, so if you have more than 8 people who want to play you can rotate). You can then set it up as an optional Zoom meeting and people who’d rather not can just not attend.

          1. Dan*

            Same to a lot of this. “Team building” makes me gag, but some “online social nonsense” could be acceptable.

            While I live alone because I am an introvert, today I spoke to one person, and it wasn’t even work related. That’s a bit more social isolation than I’m aiming for.

            I didn’t know that Jackbox has SFW stuff, thanks for the tip.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I gather with a lot of their newer games they have a SFW toggle so as to be able to sell to companies and schools for team-building activities. They also apparently have it so you can customize some of the games with your own prompts for your specific group.

          2. Al*

            My husband and several of his coworkers were playing Trivia Murder Party in exactly this way the other evening after they were done with work for the day!

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I believe that is one of the Jackbox games. I think they are having a sale now. Only one person has to own it and everyone else can just type a code into their internet browser–but it works best if the person who owns it can screenshare through something so everyone can see the game.

        2. AcademiaNut*


          Some people are overwhelmed, managing kids while trying to telework. Other people have zero interest in interacting with their coworkers outside of strictly work related communications at any time. They should certainly not be expected to do online social activities.

          Other people are stuck alone in their apartments for 23.5 hours a day and are desperate for social contact. A low key quasi-social work activity could be highly appreciated, particularly for formerly in person jobs that haven’t developed things like social Slack channels.

          Come up with some low key games, ideally something that involves a social component, and put them out there as a totally optional option.

          1. Observer*

            And for some of us, even when we get out of the house, we’re still alone. I’ve been taking walks, but I think that over the time I’ve been home, I’ve seen maybe 5 people total. And all of them strangers.

            Like so many things, it’s good to offer but not good to push. The people who need it will be happy to accept and the people who don’t want it will be happy if you just leave them be.

        3. Batty Twerp*

          Depends on the team and depends on the activity. Pre-lockdown, several of the team I’m on (but not all – we arent cliquey, it was just how the friendships formed organically, and others were always free to join) would go for a tea break together. 15 minutes mid-morning to step away from our desks and have a natter – sometimes about work stuff, but mostly not.
          AL (After Lockdown) we’ve turned that into a 15 minute Teams video call. We all wave our cups of tea at each other and talk about what not going out activities we did the day before (adult colouring books are very popular in our group!)
          This would totally count as team building to me, but we have yet to have the entire team join on one of the calls, and not for technical reasons, so would fit the requirements of not everyone having the personal bandwidth to join in at any time.

          (Sorry, bit rambly. My sleeping patterns are even worse than PL. I’m relying on autocorrect today)

      2. Marni*

        Did you mean this to be a response to Mid, or was the nesting unintentional? Because Mid just explained how they would actually welcome team building right now, more than usual. Your response seems rather unsympathetic to their needs. Dare I say tone-deaf?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah I’m thinking nesting fail because that would be an odd place to make their point.

          I’m an introvert/homebody who is quarantined with my husband, who is the main person I would generally want to spend time with anyway. So personally I’ve been doing pretty great stuck at home. But I know a lot of people that are feeling really lonely and struggling with not seeing people every day so I am definitely sympathetic to people looking for ways to connect. If there’s a way to have some people opt in that would be ideal, because I’m sure there’s a mix at most companies of people who would dread this and people who are actively seeking this type of connection.

          1. New Job So Much Better*

            Same here, both me and hubs are working from home and liking it. Of course, prior to our current jobs we worked together for years. I would also be lonely if I lived alone under these circumstances.

      3. April*

        Because people react to things differently! My office and many friends’ offices are doing quizzes, virtual happy hours, etc. One size does not fit all!

      4. ...*

        People are asking for them at my job. I have a small team and multiple people are asking for virtual happy hours or coordination of outfits (to then be seen at zoom meetings) and pet photo sharing threads. I know they aren’t for everyone but yeah, my reports are asking me for them.

        1. allathian*

          If that’s the case, set some activities up but make sure that they’re truly optional. Also, if someone does opt out, make sure they get no pushback from the participants. As in, it’s not okay to ask why someone didn’t attend an optional “fun” thing.

          1. ...*

            Totally. The only thing I have participated in so far is sending pet photos to a thread started by someone else. They decided to merge happy hours with another team so luckily it all kind of worked out. :) People at my work LOVE to socialize.

          2. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

            I agree with making this stuff optional, but a lot of people are using this kind of stuff as a check-in. If I saw someone was refusing all team engagement activities, I would certainly be checking with them to make sure they’re OK.

            1. allathian*

              Absolutely, as long as you do it out of genuine concern and really listen to what they’re saying. If it’s someone who’s juggling WFH with helping their online-learning kids, or juggling taking care of younger kids with limited time at the computer, they’re probably going to want to spend all the time they have on actually working, rather than socializing with their coworkers.

              Also, it’s probably best if the team lead or supervisor does the check-in, or a coworker who is particularly close to the person, so that the person isn’t overwhelmed with “are you OK” queries from all of their coworkers.

              I think it also depends on what the coworker is like normally. If they’re usually very social at the office and rarely turn down a chance to socialize with coworkers and are suddenly retiring, I’d be much more concerned than if they’re usually fairly retiring or very strictly business at work and not particularly interested in non-work chat.

      5. Eng*

        Because humans are social creatures and it’s really lonely to work from home, especially but not only if you live alone? Like I’m not here to shame anyone who wants to opt out now or ever but just because my job isn’t on the line for now doesn’t mean I don’t need more human connection. The phrase “team building” sets people on edge but optional ways to connect socially with coworkers aren’t inherently bad or tone deaf.

        1. A*

          I agree with your point, but definitely not your blanket statements.

          …”it’s really lonely to work from home, especially but not only if you live alone?”…

          This absolutely can be true, but is not a given. You state this like it’s a fact, but this is your experience. Many, many people work remote all the time – including those that live alone – and many enjoy it.

          100% agree that many people are challenged by this right now, myself included. But blanket statements are silly, we can’t speak for everyone else.

          1. Eukomos*

            Does it matter that people exist who that statement doesn’t cover though? I mean, I definitely agree with the people who are suggesting allowing them to opt-out of the social exercises, but as far as responding to someone who thinks that social exercises are “tone-deaf,” I think the important point to make is that they are very much not tone-deaf and in fact some people need them right now.

      6. TechWorker*

        Others have covered this too, but I really don’t think it’s tone deaf – social isolation is a big concern – I have lots of friends who live alone, some of whom were already struggling with their mental health before all of this. Team building for the sake of the company – no – optional social activities to avoid complete isolation – sounds like a really good idea!

        1. Koala dreams*

          Also, many people who work from home right now wouldn’t have chosen it for themselves, and struggle with how to connect with co-workers working remotely.

          1. londonedit*

            I agree. I live on my own and 99% of the time I really enjoy it, but where I live we’re subject to a lockdown that means we should only leave our homes for essential shopping trips (food/medicine), to access healthcare or to exercise (once a day, sticking close to our homes). We’re also supposed to limit the number of times we do go food shopping, and we’re not allowed to visit anyone outside our household. And, seeing as my household is just me, that means I’m in my small flat for the vast majority of the day with little social interaction. It’s OK, but it’s only week 3, and I am missing that interaction with people at work. I have video calls with my immediate colleagues, but what I’m missing most are the conversations with people in other departments, the ‘how was your weekend’ chat while you’re making a cup of tea, that sort of thing. We have a few Teams channels for people to keep in touch, and I’ve got a group chat going with a group of my work friends, but you do have to put more effort into doing the sort of lighthearted chatting that would come naturally in an office environment.

            1. UKDancer*

              Also London based and I agree. I live on my own, mostly I like it and I usually work from home about 1-2 days per week. Now I am working from home all the time.

              I am climbing the wall at present due to the lockdown because I miss being able to talk to people. There’s a huge difference between choosing to work from home sometimes and being under lockdown. Also a lot of people have no social activities due to the lockdown because sport clubs, gyms, colleges etc are all closed here. So people want to talk to their colleagues more because they are being denied the other usual outlets.

              My office is using virtual tools such as Teams and Skype to make it easier but it can be hard for a lot of people.

      7. Cat*

        Well it depends on what you mean. People in my office have been sending around pictures of pretty spring walks and their home offices. And one of the junior people sent out an invite to a Zoom virtual coffee break (obviously optional since she was junior). It was a nice way to keep people’s spirits up when some people may be feeling isolated. But maybe that’s not the kind of thing folks mean by team building.

      8. BonnieVoyage*

        Because not everybody is having the same experiences and feeling the same way about this as you are?

        Using myself as an example: my job is secure for the foreseeable future, I and my team have adapted to WFH pretty quickly, and our workload is lower than normal because business is slow. I have very little to do. I’m also alone in an apartment I can’t leave, desperate for social interaction, trying to stop thinking about the news, and BORED. I like my colleagues and miss being around them in person. I would welcome optional team-building activities because even doing stupid icebreaker games with my colleagues is better than sitting around staring at the walls wondering if my parents are going to die.

      9. Random Commenter*

        To be fair, some people (not me) like this kind of activity.
        If it’s something that they would enjoy, it’s not weird that they’d assume that other people would enjoy it too. Especially if they’ve been feeling isolated.

        1. Works in IT*

          Yeah, I don’t like this kind of activity, but I’m also sitting in my parents’ house (am isolating with them to help stave off social deprivation) trying not to stress about the news and trying not to worry about our food situation. I would definitely understand if people started trying to do this sort of thing, and would participate if it didn’t take too much time out of my day, simply because for some people it might be a very needed Distraction From Reality right now. My coworker’s been asking me many questions about my cats, and sharing a lot of information about his dog, as a distraction from what’s going on outside our houses. There are tons of people in our area who aren’t taking the orders to shelter in place seriously, and we both have older family members who might end up needing to go to the ER at some point in the next few months, and if the ER and ICU are swamped with COVID 19, they might not get the care they need for anything non COVID related. Pet talk keeps our minds off of it.

      10. Quill*


        Let people post photos of their pets / plants to a separate slack channel and have people opt-in, rather than out. That’s as much as anyone needs right now when everyone is so busy.

      11. Archaeopteryx*

        I too would find team-building exercises off putting right now- there’s a global pandemic happening, and this would read to me as “I’ve decided that we’re not dropping even the minutiae!” People are stressed out, and they’re also refocusing on what’s important in life in such a crisis, so they might reasonably expect their workplace to just focus on what’s important too.

      12. Person from the Resume*

        Apparently some extroverts are not enjoying the time of isolation. Many extroverts are isolating alone because they live alone and are truly suffering. Even with family maybe this coworker is longing for non-household member human contact so they are struggled and overwhelmed and trying to get what need at work.

        NOT that I am saying that work should be her place to socialize and fill that need especially when you’re busy with work, but that could be the driving factor here. Or she’s “momming” people and worried about her coworkers.

      13. SomebodyElse*

        Because, to put it bluntly, it’s not all about you and your feelings. A lot of people are struggling with the isolation right now, and are craving more ways to connect with other people. If that’s not you, then great, glad it’s not an issue for you.

        I do hate this topic (and yet I’m weirdly drawn to it)… The world doesn’t revolve around introverts. I really dislike the advice today…

        “That’s not to say no one would appreciate formal team-building activities right now. But if you have even one person on your team who doesn’t, their frustration is going to outweigh any good from it. (But if you must do it anyway, keep it optional and keep it short.)”

        My advice to those planning team building or ways to connect would be to do it… know your audience, but give them ways and excuses to connect. My advice to those who think it’s a waste of time, unnecessary, or stupid… Hey.. at least it’s virtual and you can mostly ignore it.

        1. wendy*

          “The world doesn’t revolve around introverts.”

          You’re right, it really doesn’t. In our normal, non-corona world, extroversion is frequently the way that people are encouraged to be, and success in work and society often demands it.

          As an introvert I am finding it really difficult to deal with all of the increased communication from my extroverted friends who are suddenly finding their life force drained away from them due to lack of social contact. Introverts feel this draining feeling all the time as they try to live normal lives that often require a heavy amount of interpersonal contact, so I understand how they’re feeling- but it makes it a little harder to be sympathetic since this is a fairly normal, still very unpleasant feeling for us.

          I don’t consider myself someone who has a lot of friends or is particularly good at staying in touch (see: introvert) but I am feeling absolutely exhausted by the amount of virtual socialization that people in my life are expecting and asking of me. I have never before had multiple requests for virtual hangouts, happy hours, dinners, coffee breaks, trivia nights, gaming sessions, etc. I’m being tapped for virtual babysitting and I’m being asked to attend webinars and talks put on by well-meaning friends and family who think it’s a a great time to provide new learning opportunities for those who are housebound. Now every day it’s at least 2-3 of these events and when I try to politely decline for feeling burned out, I get responses like – “ok, so maybe later today? Tomorrow? Would it be easier if we had a set standing time and day of the week for these?”

          No, no, no. I don’t want to increase my socialization during this time- and if my employer was asking me to also start doing this outside of work, I would lose my MIND. This is the first time in my life that staying home has been encouraged and I would like to make the most of it!

          I need to save my energy right now for checking in on my family members who are hit hard by this crisis and weathering job losses, trying to juggle childcare and work, and other issues. I just don’t have the mental energy or space to spend on work “activities” and I really don’t want to have to explain all this to my employer- I just want a free pass on participating without judgement or questions.

          1. anonymous 5*

            THIS. I’m actually relatively social…but take away my “alone” time and BOY do the cracks start to show. Ordinarily, I have the immense good fortune of having an office door that I can close. But the move to everything being virtual has made it a lot harder to duck out and just not be available. People seem a lot less able to accept a diplomatically-delivered “no” when what they’re offering is (in their eyes) “so important to be able to stay connected” and “so easy to do now that we’re less busy.”
            I’ve started making a point of unplugging completely for at least an hour every day–again, something I’m very lucky to be able to do. It helps. But I definitely don’t have the bandwidth to rescue others from feeling alone.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            Yeah, for all the whining extroverts have been doing, there has been zero introspection that “oh, is this what introverts experience all the time? Being forced to balance their personal needs regarding interaction vs societal demands? Not even to save lives or anything, but Just Because? I’m going to be more understanding of my introvert friends when this is over.” None. At. All. As always, it’s all about them.

            1. Cat*

              That’s not really true. I’m an introvert and I balance my life so that I have sufficient alone time. I’m not FORCED to go to social events. People now are FORCED to stay alone. That’s even hard for me as an introvert. This is an extraordinarily unusual circumstance and not normal life at all.

              And you can all just say no to virtual stuff you don’t want to do. An invitation is neither a summons nor an insult.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Strong second to this, as an introvert who has worked at home for years. Choosing no social contact and being forced to have no social contact are wildly different things.

                (Workwise my life is unchanged, except that I’m now managing noise around 2 other people.)

              2. UKDancer*

                Definitely. Also, I think it’s worthwhile pointing out that for a lot of people in the UK, other social activities aren’t happening. Colleges, gyms, pubs etc are now closed. So people are probably wanting to speak to their colleagues more because they can’t actually socialise elsewhere.

                I tend to type as introvert mostly and like living on my own but I like spending time with people so I go to dance classes and educational courses and find the lack of diversions mean I do want to talk to the people I work with more often.

                I’m glad my office is recognising this is hard for people and arranging some virtual tea breaks etc. They’re not mandatory so you don’t have to go but for a lot of people under lockdown it’s just nice hearing a voice other than my own.

                1. Jessen*

                  Yup. My work volume’s gone down as well. Frankly at this point I’m less working from home and more just staring at a screen for 8h with occasional bits of work.

            2. nonethefewer*

              SO much this. “So feeling this constant drain of my energy battery because I can’t socialize the way that’s best for me is how introverts feel all the time?!”

              1. Jessen*

                I’ll be honest, I’m an extrovert and that’s how I feel all the time. I have a hard time understanding this because, to me, the dominant societal message is “unless you’re married or in some sort of long term romantic partnership, wanting emotional connection with people is demanding and childish.” Like it’s easy to go out and sort of be in the vicinity of people, but actually trying to find people you like and wanting to do things with them is weird. The norm for adults is to not really interact with people at work and then go home and be by yourself. In fact an awful lot of people I know are talking about how the one benefit of the situation is that they get to not go out and they wish they could do that all the time – people who find it difficult are definitely the minority.

            3. EventPlannerGal*

              “Whining”? Really? That is such a rude and unpleasant way to frame this. This site puts so much emphasis on the extrovert/introvert thing that the comments often read like teenagers obsessing over their Harry Potter house, but this particular way of viewing this situation is so utterly self-centred that I am truly taken aback.

              Right now where I live, if you leave your house for non-essential reasons (such as one walk per day or infrequent trips to buy food) you can be fined by the police. Most of the country is stuck indoors, sometimes totally alone, isolated from friends or family by fear of passing on a disease that could kill them. This is not comparable to introversion because it is absolutely total (I live alone and have not seen somebody that I know in person in weeks), and it is being *enforced by the government and police*. And thinking it is is wildly self-centred.

              1. Cat*

                Yeah, honestly I know everyone is on edge right now including me, but I find the comparison upsetting. Introverts? Are we usually forced into a 24/7 party setting where if we leave someone could literally die? No? Then it’s not the same thing.

                Also as an introvert I love and value the company of many people who I can’t see right now. The fact that I’m an introvert doesn’t mean isolation isn’t hard!

                Also being an introvert or extrovert doesn’t actually define every aspect of your life, as you point out.

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  Yes, precisely. I just find this “AHA, the tables have turned!!!” tone so inappropriate and callous. We have to stay inside because people. are. dying. If people here view that as an opportunity to gloat about the mean old extroverts finally seeing what it’s like then I don’t really know where to go from there.

              2. Daisy*

                “This site puts so much emphasis on the extrovert/introvert thing that the comments often read like teenagers obsessing over their Harry Potter house”

                I love this analogy! Exactly how I feel when people bang on about introverts/extroverts.

            4. Eukomos*

              It’s not anyone else’s fault that you’ve previously been unable to balance the amount of socialization and alone time you need in your life. The people that did have the balance right have now had that balance upset, and are understandably unhappy and making changes to cope with it. If your balance was off before and you now feel better, why not think of ways to keep your amount of socialization like this all the time so you can feel comfortable outside of pandemics, rather than stewing in your choices and complaining about the people who are taking steps to make their lives comfortable?

        2. Mia*

          It has nothing to do with being an introvert. Introverts get lonely too and being forced to stay alone at home for weeks is not enjoyable.

      14. Sylvan*

        Getting together (virtually) to do something helps some people. A couple of my coworkers who are close friends with each other are doing things like this. They’re open to everyone, optional, and don’t take more than 5-10 minutes. It’s genuinely one of the better parts of my day.

      15. Rainey*

        I disagree. I’m an introvert, so I’m mostly fine, but I do live alone and my apartment is situated so that I can’t even see the street I’m on from my front door. I live in the Bay Area and we’ve been on lockdown longer than any other area in the US. Team-building activities aren’t tone-deaf at all.

        In my company, we have an optional, weekly virtual lunch (which is truly optional) where the only rule is no work chat. We have a few channels on our messaging service strictly for non-work chat or pet photos. We have casual check-ins weekly with other team members and a Jackbox Party Pack that we can use to play games with each other as a break from the work day. None of it is mandatory and none of it is after hours. Even when we have virtual happy hours, they start mid-afternoon (and are always optional).

        My work is encouraging us to take breaks during the day, to embrace a lighter work load as these aren’t normal times and many people have increased child care responsibilities. But they also recognize that we’re used to seeing each other daily, chatting, going to lunch, etc and that’s all now gone, so they want to provide us with options to continue connecting.

      16. Observer*

        Why on earth, in these times, when everyone is struggling and overwhelmed, would team-building activities even be on someone’s radar? My gosh, how tone-deaf!

        This comment is at least as tone deaf. For a lot of people some lighter moments are in short supply and yet very necessary. I get that it’s not for everyone, which is why it MUST be truly optional. But please don’t dismiss its utility for a lot of people.

        It’s not for nothing that a surprising number of comedians are making a lot of connections on line – people are extremely stressed out and this is way of relieving that stress. For many people (apparently including the people trying to plan this stuff), team building activities can also be a way to reduce stress and build connections at a time when that’s hard to come by.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I could see a totally optional half-hour hangout on zoom, possibly while sharing something goofy, being popular with a segment of the office–Look, other people! (The crisis has reversed my opinion on how pointless it is to include video where not strictly needed.) Anything that suggests mandatory is incredibly tone deaf right now.

    3. Alex*

      I don’t think there is such a thing as a truly optional team-building exercise. In the past when I’ve opted out of allegedly optional events the rest of the team has viewed that as an invitation to badger or wheedle me into participating anyway. And I’m sure a lot of people who would prefer to opt out don’t because it would create the perception they’re not a team player.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Your experience does not equal universal truth…

        I have been hosting optional virtual team lunches and couldn’t even tell you who has attended and who hasn’t from my team.

      2. Eng*

        My team has employee-organized team building every other week. Some people come always, some never, and some in between. our manager is usually too busy to join so definitely no one could claim he’s secretly taking notes on who is there. I respect your feelings about team building but they’re not universal.

    4. CheeseToastie*

      I would appreciate my bosses being consistently kind and pleasant to me rather than daily forced team building exercises.

    5. Bee*

      Yeah, we are all on Slack now, but I’m finding myself missing my coworkers? None of them are my friends, as such, but they’re interesting, smart people who I enjoy spending the work day with. We got rid of all our weekly meetings when we went to WFH, but I almost wish we had one or two virtual check-ins – either the weekly meeting or just a lunch break/happy hour. (I am currently staying with my parents to avoid the total isolation of living alone, but it’s still rough. I think I would be really struggling if I were on week 3 of seeing literally no one. And I love living alone!)

    6. BookLady*

      My team is super chatty and friendly with each other, so we instituted a twice-weekly “tea time” on Tuesdays and Fridays where we chat and catch up and don’t talk about work. It’s totally optionally and it’s been a great way to keep in touch for 15-30 minutes.

    7. old curmudgeon*

      And for those who might be wondering, “truly optional” does NOT mean “I will send you sad-puppy-face emojis until you agree to participate just to shut me up.”

  3. 867-5309*

    Something one of our salespeople did was set up a “Coffee & Chat” 30 minutes once a week where people can dial-in and either chat, or work and chat, whatever… it’s completely optional and gives that team a chance to more casually connect like they might in the office.

    This kind of relaxed approach to “team building” gives those who need it an outlet for greater interaction, without pressuring those who don’t or overburdening anyone with “fun.”

    1. Blue*

      My workplace is doing something similar with optional coffee hour zoom calls, plus a few “send us a pic of your WFH set up” type things to help us feel connected. We are also a small team and very collegial, and for most part the amount of work they can realistically do from home is less than normal so they aren’t swamped. This feels very much like a “know your team” scenario and, as Alison said, making it optional is key!

    2. Artemesia*

      I could see doing lunch on zoom once a week like that — and maybe a daily coffee break that people could hop into or not. Just like people could wander into the break room or not. The expectation that some people won’t have time for any particular session.

    3. Manon*

      Completely agree! I wouldn’t go for formal team building. Instead just have outlets for casual conversation, whether that’s a video call or standing Slack channel. I lost pretty much my entire social life as a result of COVID precautions, and it’s nice to talk to someone who’s not my roommate or my mother.

    4. Small team manager*

      I’ve had similar successes with the small (3 person) team I manage. We have a standing video call time each day which is explicitly to give an outlet for the usual “good morning, how was your weekend?” type social interaction we’d normally have in an office. They also allow us to share relevent work updates (e.g. new meetings, projct changes) and mention things we are working on or may need assistance with. The calls have lasted between 3 and 30mins depending on how busy we are (we all have the right to cut it short and get back to work if needed) and how much work related content we have to discuss. I’d say the friendly chatting part has only ever lasted 10mins at the most. I think it’s worked well because it’s explicitly just an opportunity to interact human to human rather than “team building”, and it’s a format a team member suggested and we all enjoy. And it’s easy to do this kind of group call with just three people. Plus it’s during work hours, and our work overlaps enough it’s never a waste of time for any of us to attend.

      I should add, I’m keeping an eye on how people respond to this as the manager, and if it turns into a burden I’d definetly suggest scaling back or changing the format. But at this stage everyone has said they look forward to the calls as a pleasent way to break up the day.

      1. regular reader, rare commenter*

        I’ve done something similar with my small team (except we don’t do video, just a phone call). It has worked out well too and doesn’t seem to be a burden for my team members.

    5. Kiitemso*

      Yep, we have a re-occuring voice chat “lunch break”. You can play catch up and if you’re busy or not interested, you don’t have to participate.

      People also share their wfh spaces on our chatting app.

      1. Windchime*

        We have a small group of people who are doing a weekly happy hour via Zoom. We just all gather for an hour or so with an adult beverage (or not) and chat about nothing in particular. It’s nice.

        We also have a team Zoom meeting twice a week. Our director has requested that, whenever possible, we use cameras and although I hated the idea at first, it really does help to see others’ faces.

      2. cleo*

        Same. We have a weekly departmental zoom happy hour and it’s nice. It’s much better attended than the monthly in-person happy hour ever was – it’s really great to see everyone’s face (plus the occasional pet or kid on camera) and to just chat.

    6. Grace*

      My work has just added the Donut Slack add-on, where if you choose to join the channel you get randomly matched with someone else on the channel for a quick chat, like meeting someone not from your team in the kitchen and having a chat while making coffee. 100% opt-in, obviously. They’re not monitoring who’s in the channel.

    7. Project Manager*

      Yeah, that’s what my supervisor is doing, except daily instead of weekly. I don’t have time (kids), and also, my telecons run past the time he’s set them for almost every day (I work with people in another time zone). Here’s the annoying thing: I decline the meeting notice, but when the meeting starts, Teams adds me to it anyway. So my notifications start lighting up, and I have to go into Teams to manually leave the meeting and hide it so I can get back to my actual work. Ridiculous. Teams is integrated with Outlook. It should be smart enough to know that if I declined the invitation, I DON’T want to attend the meeting.

    8. EPLawyer*

      Something this simple would be great. No need for dedicated “team building” exercises, meme lists or whatever. Just hey “want to chat, come here.” I think its labeling it team building and making it games, or whatever that would be a major turn off.

      I know in my field everyone and their brother is hosting a webinar on how to adapt your practice to remote work, how to work with clients remotely, etc. If I attended all these webinars I would never get any work done. Back off people and stop trying to show how cutting edge cool you are.

    9. bmj*

      yeah, i would be totally fine with that. my own big boss has unfortunety mandated hour long “virtual happy hour” and they happen on friday afternoo. it actually tured out to basically be a punishment last week because the CEO said everyone could take off early after an all staff update that ended at 3 but we still had to get on the happy hour call at 4 and participate – an hour long “chat” between 20+ people about what you are drinking and what tv shows you are watching. all the while my toddler is basically going bonkers because it’s been another long week and she can’t go to the park and get any energy out and just wants mommy to play with her. and i’m stuck on a video call pretending to care about people’s opinions on “tiger King”.

    10. WantonSeedStitch*

      We have the same thing a couple of times a week. It’s a nice way to stay connected.

    11. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      I’ve done this with my team, twice a week. It’s 100% optional and I would not pressure anyone to attend, and especially the folks who have kids with them at home whom I know need more flexibility in their day. The folks who are attending it seem to really appreciate it.

      I also do a daily “check-in” on a teams thread — all I really ask is that people say “hi” once a day. I’m not going to chase anyone down who doesn’t do it — but if I don’t hear from someone for two days, I might send a private “hey, everything going okay?” message. I really do just want to make sure everyone is okay. Some of my team live alone. Others have family members they are worried about. This is a really difficult time for everyone.

      1. Hannah S.*

        Have you told everyone involved of this expectation that they say hi once a day? I really hope so. If they perceive it as optional, which I completely would in the absence any specific instructions, it would be pretty weird to then follow up with an individual because they didn’t respondl I’d be really uncomfortable if someone was taking it on themselves to follow up with me individually over something like this. I’d feel like I’m being monitored.

        But hopefully you are open and transparent about your requirement that they check in, so that’s not a concern,

        1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

          Yes, I have told them I’d like them to say hi on the thread, and I’ve also made it clear that it’s about their well-being and keeping in touch, rather than about making sure they are sitting down to work at any particular time.

          I also don’t want to give the impression that I am counting everyone’s “hi’s” and writing down the time and jumping on them at the 48-hour mark, or whatever. Who has time for that? What I’m talking about is more like “hm, I haven’t heard from Fergus in a couple of days — I wonder what’s going on with him.” I hope that’s not something that will make my team feel monitored.

          It may be that we’re coming from a different cultural perspective. My company is really unaccustomed to remote work. Working from home is a rare thing done when there’s a particular reason; normally I see everyone on my team a few times a week even if it’s just to bump into one another in the coffee machine. So our usual state of things is that I have a basic idea of how the folks on my team are doing. And on top of that, I actually do *care* how they are doing — now more than ever.

    12. Turquoisecow*

      My husband’s company did a virtual happy hour. It was geared specifically toward people who are living alone or without families who are missing social interaction. His company has always been 90% work from home, and those who don’t are in different offices around the country (and the world actually), but they do normally have happy hours or whatever in local areas, like for example the NYC people will have a get together or the CA people will.

      My husband is pretty introverted so when the IRL stuff came up he would occasionally go just to show support, since he’s a manager and wanted to look like a team player, but he didn’t go to the virtual thing and no one cared. Lots of people appreciated it, though. They have lots of video meetings and people do chat on Slack constantly but people appreciated having a way to socialize safely.

  4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    The best team building right now for people who are not used to WFH is just regular communication. My boss and coworkers start our day by email or chat “Good morning. Hope you are well. ____ weather today. Let me know if there is anything you need,” and then going about our work as if we were in the office together. It’s a small blip of normalcy.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      We’re doing that too. Daily email. Zoom meetings with our dept two times a week, at least for now. We’ve got slack for chat so that helps.

      I am not usually one for team building at the best of times. Right now I just want to know what’s going on, how does it impact me, is everyone okay, etc.

    2. Sylvan*

      Yeah, that’s what we’re doing on Teams. It’s nice, like you said, a small blip of normalcy. A little bit of small talk throughout the day for those who want it is really great right now.

  5. TiffIf*

    Low key team-building activity I have appreciated-my supervisor has set up a conference call three days a week that is purely for social purposes. We spend maybe ten or fifteen minutes shooting the breeze-its a nice way to keep in contact and connected. It is optional-some one will skip it if they’re busy but its a nice break and helps us keep up with each other.

    1. LW2_Today*

      It kind of applies to mine (#2) today too though. I don’t mind spending a few minutes chatting and it is a good way to connect. Much better than defined activities, in my mind. Connecting to chat creates a much more organic team building, IMO.

      1. Smithy*

        If your co-worker is specifically coming back to you with more classic team building activities, then perhaps the best way to provide input is to share the idea of virtual coffees/lunches/happy hours – either in a group or one on one? If this is a person who wants to be engaged with more social aspects of work, then this could perhaps more helpfully divert her energies?

        Those types of activities may still not appeal to you as much as other people – but I do think they are certainly helpful to a larger group of colleagues than more traditional ice breakers.

    2. JSPA*

      Virtual child – care? this wouldn’t work if people use the time to leave the house, but having people take shifts singing with everyone’s kids over the conference software or demonstrating a craft interactively or “playing my collection of old 78’s, what do you think about that one” would let people who are working with small kids at home take a conference call, wash their hair, whatever. Use meeting software to schedule / gauge interest.

      At this point, the friend circle may be getting a bit tapped out for ideas (even if they’ve been doing something similar). People who are not comfortable with a specific topic, coworker, or the whole idea don’t have to participate.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Gods no. Not my job to entertain your kids, If they can be held by watching people, plop them in front of a screen and watch cartoons, cooking shows, etc.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Could be a fun way for parents in similar situations to help each other, though. Bored kids might have fun in a silly Skype with new people, especially new kids/pets. Obviously you’d want this to be on a volunteer basis.

      2. OP 3*

        Haha. I actually love the idea, but am very skeptical of it in practice. Kids have a tendency to just wander away.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          My toddler has been doing virtual playdates with her little friends over video chat on my phone. She likes to show them her toys and the house and the backyard. It’s adorable and keeps her out of my hair for at least 15 minutes.

          So if you like the idea, you could suggest virtual playdates between coworkers’ children. I’ve found that kids tend to like watching other kids way more than watching adults.

          1. Bee*

            I have been SO charmed by people’s stories about their tiny kids doing Zoom dance classes or daycare group calls.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              It’s so stinkin cute. But I also adore children and get such joy from watching them learn and explore and find delight in simple things. They have such zest for life! I have never minded seeing well-behaved kids in restaurants, on planes, at art museums, etc. I have learned since becoming a mom that I am in the minority though.

        2. JSPA*

          If they’re all on camera, and all on speaker, and all trying to (say) juggle cotton balls, or pat their head and rub their stomach, or chime in on the chorus of a song, it’s way more engaging and interactive and just plain active than sitting in front of the tube.

          And of course, this has to be OPTIONAL. If it gives someone hives, they shouldn’t feel obliged to do it. Same as for any other team building exercise, frankly. I know my sense of team unity is enhanced by “fixing an actual problem together,” as opposed to making or receiving a list of 3 things that people like about me, or I like about them.

    3. Nita*

      Our Marketing person has been collecting photos from people’s work-from-home setups and sharing them with the team. It’s totally opt-in. I couldn’t find time to snap a photo until about a week in, because the first week was many kinds of crazy. Still appreciate it, it feels like a connection to my coworkers but only took 15 minutes of my time. Some of my coworkers are doing online happy hours as well, but so far I haven’t been able to join – by the end of the day, my kids are going crazy trying to get my attention, and my husband needs a break from taking care of them and their classwork. It’s nice to at least know I have the option to join in, anyway.

  6. Lauren*

    #3 — My management team has done a great job keeping in touch with everyone without resorting to excessive communication or the kind of cringey team building exercises most people loathe. In addition to regular email updates, one of the managers started a separate channel on our branch slack group called “Silliness” where we can post silly things and keep connected with each other. It’s been a cute, lowkey way to keep our positive relationships intact at a distance, without forcing anyone to participate or overwhelming inboxes with nonsense (I have a friend at another branch who is involved in a torturous group text that runs 100+ texts a day). Something like that might work well for offices looking for lighthearted ways to stay connected.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      Yup. Ours is called #random. We also have #music and #recipes for people wanting to share specific chat.

    2. TL -*

      We have a random and a pet updates (that one you have to be invited in so people aren’t inundated with photos.)

      I’m also asking for photos to post onto our Instagram and turn into stories – that’s pretty low impact and no response is taken as a no. (Though I need to broaden my audience because the group on slack is tapped out.)

      Then I add funny captions & post a story- it feels team-buildy because many people have contributed but it’s voluntary to engage in and it’s very quick to do so.

    3. StregaJessa*

      My staff has been texting each other memes on our group text circle which seems to break up the tension of the day. We’re also starting a weekly video meeting, but I might raise an optional weekly coffee chat time with the larger org for any staff members to drop into if they want some casual chitchat.

  7. Jay*

    I remember, back in the day, around 2001-ish, I was working retail, manning a cash register for a nationwide chain of discount stores. They made me a ‘supervisor’ in a matter of a couple months. I was ecstatic. I had never gotten a real live promotion before! Supervising the entire front end of the store! Wow!
    So I find a few minutes to talk to my manager to find out what my supervisorly duties would be. I got a vague ‘Oh, you know, what you do now. Make sure things are cleaned up. Give some of the younger kids a hand when they need it, that kind of thing’. I asked about how this would affect my pay and found out that there would be no raise, just more responsibilities. In fact, now that I had gotten a ‘promotion’, my planned (as in, it was spelled out in writing when I was hired) end of probation raise (25 cents an hour) was now postponed, somehow, until my one year review, as that bit of paper I signed only covered my position before I became a ‘supervisor’. I was a bit discouraged by this.
    After just a tiny bit of digging I found out that a good 30% or more of the staff were ‘supervisors’. We also had a strange glut of ‘managers’ and ‘department heads’ (the sporting goods department, for example, had two ‘managers’ and a ‘department head’).
    As far as I can tell, the only actual effects of these ‘promotions’ were to convince low level employees that what few legal protections we had did not apply to us. Fortunately, I never became a ‘manager’ or ‘department head’ (although it was talked about) because the main difference between them and me was that if I put in 90hrs. a week at a cash register, they had to pay me for it. Including over time (so, of course, I was capped at 33hrs.). Those ‘managers’ were exempt. Talking to some of them (where the REAL managers couldn’t here) it turns out that most weeks they made less than minimum wage ($5.15, at the time) when you took all the unpaid overtime into account. And there was no way their base salary was anywhere near high enough to actually qualify as exempt.
    That’s a long winded way of saying, maybe ask around to see if you count as a ‘supervisor’ according to your company management before you put your position in jeopardy.

    1. Massmatt*

      Retail is not known for good pay or treatment of workers but ugh, that is sleazy.

      When I worked retail long ago, a regional manager was brought in from a rival company (mega large) and tried to implement their “standard 52 hour week schedule” for managers. With far more hours around holidays. She was surprised that manager turnover increased dramatically and they had more and more trouble filling manager slots. It only stopped when she was forced to take store manager shifts, lol.

    2. m*

      It sounds like this is a corporate/white collar company though, so it’s not super likely that that is the case

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I worked for a convenience store in my early 20s. I was surprised to be labeled as an assistant manager right off the bat. Well that had something to do with working alone and all. that. cash. Assistant managers were allowed to work that way but regular employees had to have management with them to supervise the cash. They paid me minimum wage at that time which was not much more than $2 per hour- so I did not believe them when they said I was assistant managing.

      The whole thing became moot very fast. I went through their one week of so-called training. The first night I worked alone I was robbed. I quit on the spot. The manager (who I never saw) asked me, “Oh, do you need me to come to the store?” wth. I am calling you to report a major problem and you can’t figure out whether to come to the store or not??? So I said, “You can if you want. I am going to put all the cash in the safe and go home. I am shaking so badly that I could barely dial the phone. I won’t be able to close out the drawer because I can’t stop shaking and I have zero concentration. I will put the cash in the safe, lock the door and go home. I quit, effective immediately. The police are here, I will ask them to stay until I am ready to leave.”

      She never offered one word of consolation. She never asked me if I was harmed. It took me about five minutes to get the key into the lock because of the double whammy of shaking and zero concentration. To this day, I am not sure if I turned off all the lights. I did not care. That was decades ago. This company is still treating its employees in the same manner.

    4. Wired Wolf*

      We have a glut of managers as well…and to quote a fairly telling review I found on Glassdoor about my company “We do our jobs better and more efficiently when the department manager’s not here, so what do they do exactly and why do we have so many?”

      Our department “supervisor” meets none of the NLRA criteria (and doesn’t even have an official title, yet our manager tells us he is our supervisor). He mainly wanders around watching everything we do, constantly tells us to do something else when we’re eyeball-deep in something and he was present at my annual review for no purpose other than to hear the manager back up his delusion that I “need to focus”.

    5. I would dye my hair purple and have an exploding devil party*

      Uh, management can’t just say “Oogity boogity boo / Now you’re a manager too!” and magically take away their workers’ rights. That’s the whole point of Alison’s answer.

      1. epi*

        You really think it’s cool to snark at someone telling a story about bring horribly mistreated at work? Go for a walk or something.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So to clear this up, your company can call anyone “supervisor.” The law doesn’t regulate that. What it does regulate is who’s protected when they discuss wages and working conditions with their coworkers, and it allows anyone who doesn’t meet its definition of supervisor to do that. Your company can go crazy and call 100% of its employees “supervisor” if it wants to. The law doesn’t care. But the law is going to use its own definition when it comes to the rights of what it considers non-supervisors. In other words, the titles of your company picks are irrelevant to the law (just like with determining who is exempt or non-exempt).

  8. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    For #1, how does this related to pregnancy discrimination laws? I mean, you can definitely prohibit relationships between co-workers, but it sounds like this company doesn’t actually have that policy. If they can’t generally reassign someone or refuse to promote them for being pregnant (because that would be pregnancy discrimination) wouldn’t they have to also reassign people in level-crossing relationships who weren’t pregnant to avoid this being a pregnancy-related discrimination claim?

    1. Artemesia*

      I don’t get the point here; I think that is it exactly — they would have to reassign anyone being supervised by someone they are in a relationship with. The baby just makes this impossible to ignore.

      1. valentine*

        Given OP1 was afraid for their jobs, I think what’s allowed is dating on the same org chart level.

        OP1: What was your plan here? SO is inexplicably unhappy you disclosed after more than four months, while you seem to think it could’ve waited the better part of a year. You would’ve best served yourself by disclosing before his promotion, especially if yours was in the works back then, because TPTB would’ve had more options, like pressing pause or promoting him over different people so they could later promote you over your team. Instead, you have this shadow over your ethics.

        (You may want to read the letter about this where the couple didn’t disclose because they’re not out.)

      2. MMD*

        And of course HR is going to tell the company. There are no secrets with HR. Their job is to protect the company.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I guess I’m just hung up on the fact that the OP specifically says there are no anti-fraternization rules. I agree completely that they *should* have anti-fraternization rules, for all of the reasons you’ve already covered! I’m just wondering if, since they don’t, if they have several other similar relationships that don’t involve a pregnancy going on within the company if it would open them up to liability to treat the OP differently just because their relationship contained a pregnancy but other supervisor/employee couples with a similar power balance didn’t and were openly allowed to continue.

        I may be reading too much into that “no rule against it” part here, if it’s instead a situation where it wasn’t allowed and it didn’t occur to HR that they needed to actually say that rather than it’s a situation where it’s specifically the pregnancy rather than the relationship that’s at issue.

        1. Fulana del Tal*

          But other couples wouldn’t be allowed to continue that’s the point. Its the supervisor/employee relationship that’s the problem not the pregnancy.

          1. Jennifer*

            I think it’s both. Even though they are broken up, she is the mother of his child. He has a vested interest in her staying employed. Many companies are going to be doing layoffs in the coming weeks and months. If she loses her job, that’s a bigger financial responsibility on him.

        2. Avasarala*

          As AcadamiaNut says below, the only reason the pregnancy is relevant is because it makes it harder to hide the relationship.

          If other relationships are revealed then yes they should be treated the same. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything about this. Not having a policy already in place/OP being pregnant doesn’t mean the company can’t do anything about it now.

        3. Alice's Rabbit*

          Just because they didn’t spell it out in the rulebook doesn’t mean they have to tolerate it. I’m pretty sure the company doesn’t explicitly say you can’t go on a rampage and smash all the coffee makers and copy machines with a hatchet, but we all agree that’s a fireable offense.
          Same thing here. Common sense dictates that dating a superior or subordinate at work is a bad idea.

          1. Amanda*

            I once worked for a company that actually said this in the rulebook, and not just “damage to company property is a fireable offense”. It actually listed assets, and not just computer and phones, but doors, coffee makers, *toilets*, and a bunch of other stuff. I didn’t stay there long enough to find out if there was a reason to be that specific!

          2. That Lady in HR*

            Agreed! I’m in HR, and although we have policies, we can’t policy every single thing. People in this type of relationship cannot be each other’s management line, whether there is a policy or not. The HR leader did the right thing.
            And now I might go write a policy about the hatchet thing. . . :-)

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              I have a toilet plunger engraved with a company logo, and a pocket knife, but no hatchet, sadly.

        4. kanaan*

          You don’t need anti-fraternisation rules. You just need to be aware that letting people manage their SOs is a recipe of disaster, and handle it accordingly.

          They don’t need a rule to be able to address this sensibly, and I’m confused why you think they would. Things aren’t OK to do just because there’s no written rule banning it! My workplace doesn’t have a rule that I can’t bite my colleagues, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t save my job if I did it!

          You sound like someone who is very conscientious about rule-following, and that’s fine. But it’s not the only thing that matters, and it’s not enough on its own.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            “You sound like someone who is very conscientious about rule-following, and that’s fine. But it’s not the only thing that matters, and it’s not enough on its own.”

            I am not sure I want to work for a company where it says in the employee handbook, “Employees are not allowed to bite each other.” I’d have to wonder why they felt they needed to put that in writing.

            It’s pretty widely known and accepted that fraternizing does not work out for [reasons]. It’s not in the best interest of the company and in turn not in the best interest of employee’s ability to sustain a steady paycheck. (If my company tanks, so do I.) OP may not have been aware of this rule of thumb or she may have thought of it in other settings, just not her own.

            I worked with a couple who eventually married. It took some time but finally the company said, “One of you has to change departments.” So the wife went to another department at another location. If I had to guess, I think she was probably allowed to pick from any number of openings at that time. Of course they were not happy about it and the company sent confusing signals by waiting so long to say something. But they did keep the wife and the husband both employed. They never intended to fire anyone, they wanted to retain both employees. I do think that is a fair solution. There’s the difference between actions that are fair and actions that are vindictive.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I’ve worked with several married or dating couples in a relatively small organization but none of them were in the same departments and none of them were or ever would be in a position to influence the other’s status within the institution. It was fine. But there was *zero* overlap, which is a big difference between those couples and LW1 and her coworker/boss.

              1. Quill*

                I’ve never worked with a couple but I did have back to back classes with two married professors one year. They were in different departments and my primary problem was that everyone in my department was getting herded through their classes so emails from our seperate but related department kept going to the wrong “jsmith”

                Eventually they just sighed, told us to call them Jane and John, and had us subject line our email with the class title and number and email them both.

              2. Lies, damn lies and...*

                I work with someone who manages one of their relatives. Somehow not a lot of people have raised their eyebrows on it.

            2. Annony*

              Yep. A transfer to another department is not discrimination. It sounds like the company is perfectly fine with coworkers dating, just not with an unequal power dynamic.

              1. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

                When our current department head was promoted to her position from a different part of the business, her son was entry level in the department. At the same time she was promoted, he was moved to a different department working in a very similar role at the same level. This is very normal, not a punishment, and a good practice overall.

        5. EPLawyer*

          There may be no anti-fraternization policy, but I would be dollars to donuts there is a conflict of interest policy. That address things like managing those who one has a relationship with. OP just didn’t look that closely because she stopped at “no rule against dating.”

        6. Tram*

          I think you are indeed hung up on what “anti-fraternization” means. Generally, companies that allow coworkers to date still do NOT allow one member of the couple to be the other’s direct boss (!) or, even if they are equally positioned, sometimes to even be on the same team or in the same department.

        7. Rusty Shackelford*

          I thought that “no anti-fraternization rules” simply meant that, in general, employees were allowed to have romantic relationships. If it’s not a general rule that you can’t have a romantic relationship when one of you supervises the other, it should be.

        8. agnes*

          Just because something isn’t expressly prohibited with a formal policy in writing doesn’t mean it is allowed. I believe the legal test is whether a reasonable person could be expected to know that the behavior was inappropriate for the workplace AND that the standards were being applied equitably across the organization. It’s just not possible to put every possible violation of a workplace standard into writing.

        9. MCMonkeyBean*

          Anti-fraternization rules are usually about *coworkers* dating, meaning it’s okay for people to have relationships with their peers if there are no such rules in place. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for someone to date their subordinate, because that is pretty much never okay.

        10. Observer*

          It doesn’t matter if they have rules or not. Especially, since those rules generally apply to people on the same level. No sane company is going to allow two people in a relationship to be in a reporting structure. At best, it’s really bad practice. At worst (depending on what the company does and who they have contracts with), there could be regulations and contracts involved.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think the baby only came into it because it made it harder for the LW to hide the relationship from coworkers. It sounds like if the baby hadn’t been an issue, the LW wouldn’t have said anything. Which, of course, could have blown up badly – dating your direct report is a major problem, regardless of whether or not the relationship predates the supervision.

      1. BluntBunny*

        Yes I think it’s an issue not just in terms of favouritism but if her boss decided to completely disown his child and started dating someone else would she still be able to work under him effectively I doubt it. You then wouldn’t be able to avoid him even if you no longer wanted him in your life. So I’m assuming she must be a supervisor and her boss is her Team manager and she would move to a different team to be under a different team manager or she is a team manager and she is being moved to be under a different director. Which I think make sense I don’t see why OP is annoyed.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      It’s not that she’s pregnant, it’s that she’s pregnant *with her manager’s baby.* You can’t effectively manage your babymama, nor her you. That’s a relationship that blows the worker-manager relationship clear out the window. I mean, seriously, that’s like asking “what’s the difference between just having a father, and having your father be your manager?” There’s a difference.

    4. Myrin*

      …wouldn’t they have to also reassign people in level-crossing relationships who weren’t pregnant?

      I mean… yes? And I don’t see where it says that they aren’t doing that. I mean, maybe I’m misunderstanding (English isn’t my mothertongue) but I always thought “anti-fraternisation rules” means “rules that forbid coworkers from dating” – the fact that OP’s workplace doesn’t have those only means that it’s okay for coworkers to date in general.

      And just because there’s no broader rule about something doesn’t mean a workplace’s hands are tied when they encounter any possible iteration of it. My store doesn’t have any rules about what happens when an employee sullys the workplace but that doesn’t mean they’d have to watch helplessly if I took a dump in the middle of an aisle.

      1. valentine*

        that doesn’t mean they’d have to watch helplessly if I took a dump in the middle of an aisle.
        Bravx. You really painted a picture there.

      2. BRR*

        “And just because there’s no broader rule about something doesn’t mean a workplace’s hands are tied when they encounter any possible iteration of it.“

        This sums up my response to seven hobbits. And it sounds like the company isn’t doing his because the LW is pregnant, they’re doing it because of the relationship.

      3. Starbuck*

        I think they might be perceiving an injustice in that if no one in the hypothetical other boss/employee relationship gets pregnant, it’s easier to hide and get away with, so that doesn’t seem fair. But neither situation is ok to hide!

        If the company dealt with these relationships by always reassigning the woman and not the man (assuming het) or always reassigned the lower ranking person and that just so happened to always be women, then they’d have problems.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      It doesn’t. Even without the baby, as soon as the relationship was disclosed and the company realized it wasn’t a coworker but a direct line manager they had to move one of them. They aren’t firing her, they are moving her to another team. I would assume that if she had been the first one promoted, they would have moved him. Either way…someone was moving.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      wouldn’t they have to also reassign people in level-crossing relationships who weren’t pregnant


      I can probably date Joe from accounting because our departments have no authority over each other and there’s nothing he can do to influence my position at work. I can’t date Paul because he’s my supervisor or Bob because, while we’re technically at the same level, we’re in the same department. The baby is just the giveaway; the point is that I shouldn’t be involved with somebody who should have a vested interest in my job.

  9. nnn*

    For #2, emphasizing the fact that your workload is up might be both a kind and an effective way to dissuade her.

    “I’m basically sprinting all day and I don’t have the bandwidth for anything other than my additional COVID-related work. Someone whose workload hasn’t skyrocketed would probably be a better audience for this.”

    (This also prepares her for the possibility that no one has room for it right now, if that’s the case.)

    1. LW2_Today*

      Good thoughts. Funny thing is, the one that appears to have the most time is our grandboss. While we are all killing ourselves, he is very engaged in these activities. Which strikes me as extremely tone deaf but that’s a whole ‘nother letter! (And no, it isn’t because he wants to show his support and that he’s a team player… again a whole ‘nother letter)

  10. Massmatt*

    The issue with #5 is how much time both the candidate and the employer invested in the process only for it to get the deep-six based on something that, if the real reason, could have been seen from the get-go on the resume.

    My hunch is the manager you dealt with first is either new or just doesn’t know how to hire. Maybe she convinced a skeptical partner to do the interview. You have My sympathy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But that’s my point — resumes don’t always tell the full story, and it’s not unreasonable to interview someone who looks borderline but could turn out to be able to do the job. But if you do that, sometimes your answer will end up being “nope, isn’t quite where we’d need them to be.” And then it’s easy to say yeah, you should have known that from the resume — but sometimes people end up being strong and the decision goes the other way.

      Now, should they have done that first phone call when this was a question? Probably not — it sounds like their process needs to get to the point more quickly, but that’s probably not specific to the OP.

    2. hbc*

      I don’t think I’ve ever gone into an interview process with every candidate checking every box. A lot of times, “you don’t have enough X” is shorthand for “Your resume seemed to indicate that you didn’t have enough X, and our conversation confirmed that your gaps in X are too big and you won’t be able to fill them fast enough, at least compared to the other candidate who has gaps in Y.”

      As much as “You don’t have enough experience” might feel unfair after all of this, it’s a lot harder to say and hear the more detailed answer. Not saying this is the OP’s situation, but there’s been a time or two where honesty would have been something like: “Yeah, you’re on the low end of experience, but that’s for people who really pick up concepts fast. You’re apparently not one of them.” No one wants to be on either end of that conversation.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      Something that got missed in the mix though is that LW #5s resume was a referral from someone in their network and landed on a partner’s desk. For all we know LW #5s referral and the partner are tennis buddies or went to school together or represent a business opportunity or any other multitude of reasons where the partner’s company needed to make sure they at least interviewed LW #5. LW then proceeded to interview very well but ultimately fell a bit short. All pretty normal stuff.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        This was absolutely my first thought. I assumed LW5 got the interview in the first place because the partner couldn’t afford to alienate the referrer or had some reason to try and curry favor with that person. It’s possible that interview was going to happen no matter what.

      2. J!*

        Yeah, it sounds to me like that’s what was driving it. The fact that LW #5’s application came as a referral directly to a partner explains a lot about why the interviewer would have bothered to take the time to call her back and walk step by step through the skills assessment. Most job applicants don’t usually get the opportunity to explain their thought process like that on a skills assessment – you’re judged on the work you show and that’s it. They were willing to take the extra time to dig in and learn more about why she chose her answers, which moved her to the next step, because the partner is involved and not just HR/the hiring manager.

    4. Annony*

      It may be that they had reservations but wanted to give the candidate a chance to prove them wrong. That isn’t a terrible thing. It doesn’t sound like the skill level was off by that much either. It is really hard to determine skill level from a resume so it seems better to err on the side of giving the candidate a chance to prove that they have the skills than just toss the application.

    5. Just J.*

      I was going to say to LW#5, that you should really be flattered that they took the interview process so far. To me, it looks like they saw something in you that they liked and were really trying to figure out if they could make it work.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        That was my take as well. I’ve pushed to interview folks who aren’t “good enough” on paper, because there’s a variety of experience, or their phone screening goes great, etc. It’s a sign that the LW is more impressive than their resume suggests, just not quite at a level to get this particular job.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, it sounds to me like LW did well on their assessment and seemed impressive enough that they decided to consider her in spite of the fact that she didn’t have the experience they were looking for. Then after further consideration they ended up deciding they really did need that level of experience after all.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      There’s also a chance of a disconnect between the managers doing first-level interviews and the boss above them who might have future growth in mind. Maybe she knows the company will need X-skill that’s not in this particular job description because they’re planning to start a new group/product/service. Or she knows you’d be redundant as soon as the company completes acquisition of a competitor. Or she has a completely different view of what the job requires.
      I was actually hired on that third scenario, and it didn’t end well. I was hired for “X, covering admin for 3-6 months” — I can do anything for a few months. But the hiring manager’s manager NEEDED a full-time admin permanently.

    7. A Simple Narwhal*

      I agree with what Alison responded, you definitely can’t just tell by a resume. I recently interviewed people for a position, and two of them didn’t appear to have a lot of relevant experience (I didn’t get to choose the interviewers). On paper they both appeared equally under-qualified, but actually getting to interview them painted a completely different picture.

      One interviewed poorly – truly didn’t have overlapping skills, sounded unprepared, talked about how this position would be a stepping stone to better things for them, how much we needed him, etc, and was a hard pass. But the other interviewed fantastically – their experience didn’t translate exactly but how they approached things would, they clearly prepared, were thoughtful in their responses, and overall showed that they would be a good fit and could do the job. Two candidates who on paper didn’t look like they could do the job – one’s interview confirmed it, the other completely flipped it and got the offer.

  11. Beth*

    LW3: I’m a grad student, so this may be different from a non-academia work environment, in my department we’ve been organizing hang-out zooms among ourselves that have been really nice. Some key points: they’re organized among ourselves (not by our professors or administrators or anyone with power over us), they’re fully and explicitly optional (so no pressure to attend if you’re busy or just don’t want to), and we’re actually friends so there’s a big benefit to staying in touch (a side effect of academia, where most of us have moved from states or even countries away to be here, are far from family and other friends, and don’t have much free time to socialize or go out, is that we do tend to connect on more levels than just ‘work colleague’). In this context, I’m finding myself really looking forward to these zooms; they help me feel connected and supported, especially as a first-year student in my program who doesn’t have a strong local network outside school.

    If you think you can set up something similar–that’s truly optional, with no pressure or perceived pressure, and that you think at least a few people on your team would genuinely enjoy–then I think that’s a great thing to offer. If not, then maybe team building isn’t the top priority thing at the moment; maybe it’s enough for people to get the bare minimum amount of work to keep things going done, and the rest can wait until the world settles down a little bit.

    1. Anonymouse*

      I would second this advice! Every time my manager mentions that we need to “physically distance but remain socially close as a team” I want to turn off my computer and run screaming into the night. I am deeply uninterested in company-mandated community building right now. That said, my team has also self-organized a few google hangouts without our bosses and it’s been great. They’re short (half an hour or so), everyone is on them, and they’re much more relaxed and what we need as a team than anything more structured the company would have organized.

    2. James*

      “…with no pressure or perceived pressure…”

      There’s the rub. We’re social critters, and therefore there is always pressure to attend social gatherings. “He does good work but isn’t a team player” torpedoes careers. So once these hangouts are set up there is necessarily a certain amount of pressure to join regardless of intent.

      1. Cat*

        Sometimes in life you have to take an extraordinarily minor risk and trust nobody will care if you don’t join a zoom happy hour.

      2. Beth*

        That’s where it really helps that what we’re doing is entirely among peers, I think. There’s a very different perception to “my work friend emailed this link out, show up if you want” than “my boss sent this to everyone’s calendar, it’s labeled optional but…”!

  12. Certaintroublemaker*

    #5, as someone who’s been on interview panels, I think this sounds pretty positive. Not that you’ll get the current opening, because they were looking for more experience. But it’s very easy for interviewers to become enamored of a strong candidate and have to reconsider, “Do we REALLY need more experience? Look at all the boxes Candidate X is ticking.” Unfortunately, sometimes the answer is, “Yes, we really do.” If another opening came up with different criteria they sound very disposed to reaching out to you and/or welcoming another submission from you.

    You have a lot of qualifiers (weird, strange, led on) in your description of the process. For your next interview opportunity, remember that most companies fall somewhere on the spectrum between the extremes of “dream” and “strange.” They’re probably not perfect and they’re probably not sadistic time-wasters. Come with an observant but open mind.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      Plus +1000. For our most recent position — up a couple steps from entry level — we looked at someone who did not have quite enough experience, but looked really interesting. Good interview — it was clearer they did not have the experience we wanted, but would be a great entry level hire.

      Two months later, we got the ok to hire a second person and my grand boss said, entry level is ok. So we offered them the job –unfortunately, they’d been snapped up by someone else.

      They are someone we’ll keep on our radar — if we ever get to hire again (university has put a freeze on that now), we will invite them to apply.

      OP, I don’t know if you are early in your career? I’d say, don’t prickle up like this. People doing the hiring will pick up on it, for one thing. For another, there;s just no reason. Assume good intent, assume they mean what they say — that they are interested in you for the future.

      1. Mockingjay*

        OP, also keep in mind that these levels of interviewers look at different things. HR wants to know if you’ll take the salary band. Supervisor/Task Lead is evaluating basic skills, team fit, and immediate start-up (how much training does Prospective Employee need or can she hit the ground running?). Grandboss is looking at long-term and cross-project needs. And so on. Each interviewer is looking at a different aspect. All of these add up to a solid evaluation of your candidacy.

        I would urge you to do the same in reverse: talk to HR about benefits, Task Lead about daily environment and tasks, and Grandboss about company’s long-term prospects, promotional opportunities, etc. You can build a really good picture of what this company is like which will help you make a better decision.

  13. KTB*

    For OP #3: we’ve been doing ad hoc and voluntary happy hours. One of my coworkers recently won our department’s Employee of the Quarter, so we feted him and invited people to come celebrate with their beverage of choice. My boss also threw half an hour on the calendar on Friday as a totally voluntary happy hour. We chit chatted, showed off our pets, and talked about our weekend plans. Not everyone on the team was there, and one person tagged out early to go for a run. It felt less like formal “team building” and more like attempting to recreate some of the office normalcy that we’re all used to, which was welcome. Again, that all depends on your team, but my team definitely enjoyed both.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      Agreed. This is the sort of situation that previous team building was supposed to prepare us for. The time for team building is past. Now, it’s time to see how much support we can get from the team we’ve built.

    2. Quill*

      Yes! My team is in different time zones (fortunately my workday catches the three people whose work I’m supposed to facilitate most) and while we chat and have a weekly meeting, the hour we have to have that is not fun for anyone.

    3. Daffy Duck*

      Exactly! Teambuilding exercises are supposed to foster better relationships with your coworkers so when it comes down to crunch time you pull together. This is crunch time, folks. If you are just starting to pay attention to how your teams work you are late out of the gate.

  14. Rectilinear Propagation*

    The HR person LW#2 talked to: It’s possible that “I need to think about it” actually meant “I need to speak with someone in HR higher up” who then told her she had less leeway to deal with it than she thought. However, in that case I’d still expect her to apologize with that as the explanation. Otherwise, I’m inclined to think she didn’t want to tell you nothing but bad news after you’d done the right thing by going to HR.

    If you had waited, or if HR were to wait, you’re risking everyone thinking any (and every) decision made between the time he became your boss and the time it finally comes out that it’s his child was based on the fact that you’re in a relationship and had a kid. It will be too late to fix it if you wait until after you’ve been promoted and given birth.

    Even if you were to convince people that nothing untoward happened as far as his management of you and your promotion, you’d both still be known as people who hid a potential conflict of interest in order to get what they wanted. You don’t want people questioning your ethics.

      1. valentine*

        It’s possible that “I need to think about it” actually meant “I need to speak with someone in HR higher up”
        I think she meant it as-is because it’s a doozy! And just because OP1 brought it up doesn’t mean they can steer the ship. I would expect there’s some policy or protocol, be it privacy or something else, that stops HR keeping OP1 informed, especially when she was going to speak to OP1’s manager.

        And this fear of higher-ups is odd when the couple is protecting becoming higher-ups themselves. This was an opportunity to show they could make the necessary decision at the appropriate time.

    1. Avasarala*

      Yeah this sounds like a classic situation where the employee concludes that HR betrayed their trust/is only there to benefit the company, when really the employee’s situation mandated reporting. The issue is not “Should I have kept my mouth shut”–it is unethical to manage someone you’re romantically involved with. It would have been wrong even if you had said nothing. So OP I hope the lesson you take is not “I should not report things that are wrong when it is advantageous to me” but “I should try not to get into sticky situations and if it happens, accept the effects with grace.” Side effect of having a kid with your manager is neither of you can manage each other anymore.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Yes, HR isn’t the one causing this problem. OP and her boyfriend/manager are the ones who screwed up. The fact that OP came forward about it herself seems to have mitigated things to the point that neither of them are being fired, for which they should both be grateful.
        But HR isn’t the one throwing a monkey wrench in OP’s career. She did that to herself.
        It’s the same thing Alison keeps saying: the only one responsible for your own bad choices is you.
        And yes, dating a coworker who might potentially become your manager is a bad choice. Continuing to date him once he is your manager – especially without coming forward and admitting to the relationship – is an even worse choice.
        That he is angry with OP for telling them the truth does not speak highly of his moral character, either. This isn’t something that he could just ignore and pretend it doesn’t exist when it’s inconvenient.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          I would say specifically it is the boyfriend/manager who screwed up. The relationship doesn’t sound like it was inappropriate until he accepted the promotion, at which point the OP was already pregnant. This would entirely have been avoided if he’d avoided pursuing the promotion, or when offered it had disclosed the relationship and asked for solutions, such as doing a supervisor shuffle to give him a different team.

          1. Coworker Has Paws*

            Agreed, the promoted supervisor had the responsibility to report the relationship. The whole reason why it is a ‘bad choice’ is because of situations like this – where the higher up can influence the subordinate to keep quiet, and the higher up’s anger can have professional influence (ie pressure to stay quiet) on the subordinate.

            1. biobotb*

              Exactly. Now her boyfriend’s mad at her — while he has the power to fire her! That’s exactly why this situations should be avoided.

        2. Sandra Jellicoe*

          But should it be a monkey wrench? Why can’t the guy be transferred or given a lateral move? She shouldn’t have to take a lesser position or be taken out of the running for a promotion just because she is (1) pregnant or (2) dating a coworker. The only conflict is dating her supervisor, so a lateral move for either of them resolves that conflict.

          1. valentine*

            He’s had four-plus months to establish himself. I think, because this is a one-two punch of pregnant/guess who, they’re doing what’s least disruptive. They were already going to move her, so they’ll just move her elsewhere. She always had more to lose, and helped him at her own expense.

          2. LunaLena*

            To be fair, they’ve both shown some pretty poor judgment on this entire issue already, which could conceivably be grounds for getting taken out of the running for a promotion.

          3. Avasarala*

            I would normally assume that a company would rather move an independent contributor than a manager, so it might be easier to move her. Also her promotion is the one they’re considering right now (while his is already set) so I don’t think it’s wrong for this display of poor judgment (trying to hide managing someone you’re involved with) to affect her upcoming promotion. If the roles were reversed and he was about to be promoted I would hope they rethink that too and move him elsewhere.

          4. Alice's Rabbit*

            It is a monkey wrench, no two ways about it. And while both OP and her boyfriend are at fault, she’s probably going to be the one paying for it, because yes, this automatically takes her out of the running for that promotion. Even if he left the company today, she likely wouldn’t get the promotion because this whole fiasco has called her judgement into question. His, too. Neither of them are likely to be given further promotions any time soon at this company.
            As for why she’s being moved and not him, he’s just finally settling in as manager. She’s still the lower-ranking employee, so it’s easier to shuffle her around. Unless she has some unique skills that are only utilized in that department, she’s the one who gets moved.
            Personally, I would recommend that they both start job hunting in the near future, unless they’re okay with just keeping their heads down for a few years and letting things die down at their current company.

      2. MMR*

        Well stated. Of course HR must get involved. This is not your best friend you are confiding in. The role of HR is to protect the company.

  15. Tomalak*

    I’m not swamped or an introvert but I hate lame team building exercises because they’re often patronising to the point of being insulting. The core message is usually so basic and obvious – help out colleagues because we’re all on the same team – that trying to hammer it home and expecting an excited response is an insult to everyone’s intelligence. OP2, what benefit do you think the company or staff get from these exercises?

    1. Green great dragon*

      I have definitely encountered those, but I think it’s more often just a light-hearted thing a team does together. In the past it could be lunch out, a bowling trip, doing a charitable activity together for an afternoon (work time). Now – virtual lunch, sharing your cat pictures, team quiz?

    2. LW2_Today*

      I truly think my colleague is lonely at home. She lives alone so this gives her some kind of social connection, I think. I get that too. Even for an introvert like me, I need to connect to other people occasionally. I think some people probably even enjoy getting involved but as someone else noted up-thread, the time to team build is past (for now) and what teams need is the support that should come out of previous team building.
      FWIW, we have a good team for the most part and we work well together and are supportive of each other (which is one reason I don’t want to squash her enthusiasm. She really is a dear.)

  16. SteveL*

    I’m part of a team of 80-ish, and we’re all working from home for the foreseeable future. After sounding it out with various leaders in the team, I’ve started a daily Photo Scavenger Hunt using Microsoft Teams, starting yesterday. Each day at 9am, a new subject is set, and people can post their submissions during the day. It’s been designed to be low effort – yesterday’s was just ‘a selfie from your laptop camera’, and it’s very clear that participation is optional. About a quarter of the team participated yesterday, which was great. I’ve got a few weeks worth of subjects lined up, all designed to be done in the house and garden. If you’re familiar with the UK comedy show Taskmaster, these are along the lines of the prize task.

    1. Carlie*

      Side note: have you seen that they are doing challenges for everyone? Check out the Taskmaster YouTube channel or #Hometasking on Twitter. It’s about 3 per week.

      1. SteveL*

        Yes, I’ve been enjoying them on youtube! Sadly, I live by myself in a small apartment with no outside, so I’ve not really been able to play along or film myself to submit, but I’m very glad that they exist.

  17. JN*

    I have to slightly disagree with “But if you have even one person on your team who doesn’t, their frustration is going to outweigh any good from it.”

    Of course some people won’t be into this, and that’s fine! But as someone who’s currently living alone during a lockdown, and usually works in an office, I’m finding I really miss the low level human interaction you get throughout the day. (I’m pretty introverted so its not an introvert vs extrovert thing either!) My team are putting in various video calls, some for more work updates, some for more fun and socialising. Last week we had a games session with party games like Guess who – it was totally optional and totaly acceptable for people to be on the call with their kids, dash in and out to deal with family things, or just dial on for a bit because they were busy (or not at all). I would be much less productive and much unhappier without these activities! Other teams are doing things like virtual pub quizzes or coffee mornings, or eating lunch together over Skype.

    1. Koala dreams*

      I agree with you. Of course, not everyone will like every idea! Some people will like a tea break, some people will like games, some people will not be interested in any extra socializing. The important thing is to try different things and let people opt-in/out as they see fit.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      I think Alison was more referring to the “EVERYONE MUST PARTICIPATE” style team building stuff where employees suffer consequences (obvious or subtle) for not joining in. I like the suggestions many people have made in this thread for easy, opt-in team building stuff that isn’t an “EVENT” per se.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, informal, optional social stuff — fine. Formal team-building events (the online equivalent of trust falls and the stuff here) — not fine. I thought the OP was asking about the latter, but she may not have been.

        1. OP 3*

          My request was a little bit of both, actually.

          All optional. Both formal and informal (where I define formal as initiated by management/leadership and informal as initiated by individual contributors). Mostly social, with a notable exception that I’ll call an “innovation event”. No trust falls or personality tests ;-)

          That being said, I like hearing recommendations based on everyone’s interpretation. I might still find them useful. Even if I don’t, I’m sure others do.

          1. OP 3*

            Even for the innovation event, I’m really interested in how to maintain the social aspect. Working from home, we can’t take breaks for a foosball game or a group lunch where we discuss our projects.

  18. C*

    #3 – one thing my work have done is set up a weekly spotify playlist. Each week, you can anonymously submit a song you’d like to share with the office, then on Monday a playlist is released to everyone via Slack. I’ve not submitted a song so far, but I’ve enjoyed listening to the playlists and found some good recommendations. And it’s been a nice bit of togetherness without any pressure to engage.

    1. MsSolo*

      Ours has been doing this, though it’s been daily. There’s usually a theme, like songs with animals in the title, or weather related (or names, but that could be dicey depending on your office culture!). You usually end up with playlists that are longer than the working day, but it’s a nice bit of bonding without any pressure and there’s no obligation to actually listen to it!

      The other ongoing activity is brainteasers posted to the office Workplace & Whatsapp groups in the morning. People are encouraged to announce when they’ve got it but not share the answer, and at the end of the same someone posts the solution. It’s all low key stuff that you can opt in or out of, and interact as much or as little as you like.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      My musical tastes alternate between classical, sometimes quite obscure even in the classical world, and bluegrass. I am guessing that my taste would not match up well with this, in either direction of my recommendations or of others.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I would look at it as an opportunity to try something new. It’s not required– I’m sure no one’s being quizzed on anything– and is a great way to choose how much you want to share with others.

        If my company did this, I would TOTALLY include the Lutoslawski Violin Concerto but maybe I wouldn’t add my favorite Barry Manilow tune.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Aw, I think it would be great to have that kind of thing on a group playlist – the randomness of other people’s tastes are what makes it fun!

        1. Herding Butterflies*

          Yes, if you music tastes are different then go with the themed playlists. I agree that the randomness and learning about new music is cool.

          My favorite Pandora channel is completely movie soundtracks. My other favorite station is based on Joe Bonamassa.

      3. SweetestCin*

        Mine most likely wouldn’t “match” up with much of anyone’s, but I bet they’d make for an entertaining listen or three (I wander amongst classical, blues, mosh-pit-style-heavy-metal, Broadway musicals, punk, and electronic. I feel that Spotify has whiplash attempting to keep up most days.)

        I actually think the shared playlist is a pretty cool idea, I’d be using it as a way to branch out into other genres and further confuse my streaming services :-)

      4. PollyQ*

        A) You might be surprised at what people would be interested in listening to for 5 minutes (and could skip past if it truly wasn’t to their taste).
        B) As long as it’s optional, and no one gives you any grief for not participating, then what’s the harm?

        1. James*

          You could be opening yourself up to discrimination. To give one example: I’m VERY careful about keeping my religious views to myself, for example–I live in an area where my religion is not kindly viewed, and there are all kinds of ways of attacking someone without getting caught. Same with heavy metal. That removes like 90% of my playlist. And listening to Christian church music for a few hours a day (which would happen) would make me want to take a hammer to my computer.

          If I have to carefully curate my recommendations so as to not offend anyone, it’s all risk (if you get it wrong people WILL judge you for it) and no reward (you don’t even get to listen to music you like).

          As for participation, it would be very, very hard to avoid making this appear to be a soft requirement (at least in the places where I’ve worked). If you opt out you will be viewed as “not a team player”. Maybe you have the political capital to get away with it, but maybe you don’t. There are any number of situations that would make this at least feel obligatory–if you’re up for a promotion, if you’re in hot water with a manager that participates heavily or has voiced approval of this, if everyone else on the team is participating except you, etc. It’s a primate thing; if there’s a group, there necessarily must be an Other.

          I’m not saying that this means a playlist is a bad idea. It’s going to depend on the office. I’m just saying that in some offices, this would be just one more thing to stress folks out.

          1. C*

            Ours is completely anonymous. There’s a publically posted form on a friday, then the playlist is posted publically on the Monday. There’s not a listen-along or a quiz, but if there’s something you like you can comment on that under the post. You don’t know who has recommended what songs, just a general playlist.

          2. Avasarala*

            Well your office/area sounds like something where any team-building activity, or any conversation really, requires 7 levels of advanced planning and careful risk analysis. I don’t know if there is any team activity you could do that wouldn’t be an issue if people already that fragmented.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Look up Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers and you have a good start for classic bluegrass. More recent stuff is a delicate issue. There is conflict between younger musicians who want to push the boundaries, and the old school who want a fixed body of techniques, and very nearly a fixed repertoire. If you are interested in the former, look up Nickel Creek and Bela Fleck. Or, for a younger but more traditional take, try Alison Krauss, who is really really good.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I know a lot of people who listen to only classical music and I know a lot of people who listen to bluegrass. It’s not as obscure as the people around you may make you feel!

        Nobody knows what to expect when they walk into my office. I just had the new boss backslide to my office and was all “You’re rocking in here aren’t you?” because my heavy metal play list was on. I rotate between anything from various country subcultures to punk rock to top 40 and indeed heavy metal and random 90s R&B lol.

    3. Mirabel*

      Oh, I love this! Our team was just (genuinely!) looking for good ideas for remote team-building, this is fun.

  19. Rexish*

    #5 to me the more experiece sounded like an excuse. There could have been someone they liked equally or a bit more and this was the defining diffrence that they could articulate. Yes, it sucks that you had to go through the vigorous process but in reality it might not have been jsut the experience.

  20. Rexish*

    #3 I think some of the responses are a bit harsh,
    I don’t think this is an introvert/extrovert thing and I don’t think it’s about team building in the same sense as “normal” times. I feel like it is more about being connected and mental health. A lot of people have lost all their social contacts, hobbies and things they enjoy and they are on their own for 24/7. If work Place can help with this then why not? Yes, it should be optional but it can actually be nice for some people. Work is a huge social outlet for many people.

    Anyways, my friends team has a daily challenge and they send a photo to whatever platform they use. It can be anything like funny shaped tree, funny knock knock joke or styling lunch ot look like instagram food.
    My Brother has a 20 minute Morning coffee with team that isn’t about COVID or work.

    1. NYWeasel*

      As long as the socializing is “opt-in”, I have no issue with it, but if my in-box is getting cluttered with chatter on top of my work, it’s going to annoy me.

      Things we’ve done that have worked:
      *Virtual Happy Hour
      *Drop in meeting where ppl can chat as they work
      *Online chat in Teams that you can visit when you want to
      *Spending a few minutes at the start of each meeting to talk with each other about how we are doing.

      Some members of our team are feeling super isolated now bc they aren’t in a lot of meetings and they definitely miss the camaraderie. But there are just as many of us who are drowning with the increase in work combined with the challenges of working remotely, and we’re trying to balance it against all the new demands at home. Good team-building shouldn’t feel like it makes your work harder.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I agree on opt-in, but frankly “non-work” chatter is the cost we have to pay at this time. It annoys me too, but we have to deal because people are hurting and need to connect.

        If your organization already has a communications channel for “non-work” stuff then yes, push people to take it to the more appropriate place. But if no such channel exists, then the main lines of communications will be cluttered. They have to be. A lot of people need to connect. You can try to urge them to have clear subject lines, etc, so you know what to ignore, but you should not be trying to shut this stuff down right now.

        PS – when this is over, or even was it settles, it’ll be time to revisit communications norms, but in ways that meet real needs of everyone. Not in an “I’m too busy, please stop” way. There have to be alternatives offered.

        The word you use “balance’ is key. That’s spot-on.

        1. Faith*

          The thing is, some of us are balanced way the heck the other way–we are in a house with other people we can’t get away from(kids, parents, roommates), and the last thing we want is more socialization because we are already at our limit. So the people who are looking for connections need to be cognizant of that, too. Some of us are way too overstimulated and trying to cope with that.

        2. Crop Tiger*

          Why should I have to participate in non-work chatter if I don’t want to? I don’t want to do it normally, and I don’t want to do it now. If I have a co-worker I like and want to spend time with, an epidemic isn’t going to change that.

  21. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    ON #2 – OP please practice saying things like “No thanks, not for me” or “No, thanks, I can’t make it” in all sorts of situations. You can start in situations that are not in the least stressful. Just say it. The more you practice, the easier it should become. Practice till it’s easy, even with co-workers.

    1. valentine*

      It’s not saying it. It’s weathering the response from, and risking the rapport with, a sweet people-pleaser.

  22. LW2_Today*

    I am LW#2. Thanks, Allison, for running my letter, as it is nice to know I am not the only one put off by this.
    Since I wrote I have had time to reflect. For me at least, it was just that I was so incredibly busy and getting these kind of interruptions was just stressing me out even more. Also co-worker has dialed it back. It’s quite possible her boss told her to focus on other things. At any rate, if she comes to me with another idea I am just going to have to be direct and tell her I don’t have time. She is really gentle and a people-pleaser (and we also have a very good and collaborative working relationship) so i don’t want to hurt her feelings but I really don’t have time!

  23. Batgirl*

    “We have a perfectly normal working relationship; nobody would ever even know based on how we act.”
    OP1, that’s what everyone who is in an office relationship believes! Sometimes it is true, sometimes it isn’t. Even if nobody in your office is perceptive enough to spot the subtle signs of attraction that you spotted in each other, are you certain you could keep it up indefinitely?
    There’s no way either of you could get stressed with the secret? That you could be too careful and overcorrect with the formality? Could be too sleep deprived or annoyed at a parenting decision to care any more? To be as absolutely careful as you could be?
    You did the right thing by going to HR, because you haven’t done anything wrong and you have no need to hide this. If you hid it, it would seem like you were involved in wrongdoing.
    Yes it does suck that this has affected both your jobs in the short term, but better a smaller course correct now than a firing that would be harder to recover from.

    1. TimeTravelR*

      I thought the same thing. People are never nearly as discreet as they think they are!

      1. valentine*

        There’s also taking vacation time simultaneously, traveling to the same place, going to the same events, both having a baby named Dylan or, even if they never said the name or showed pictures, OP1 taking maternity leave, and their manager adding a baby to his healthcare plan and/or taking parental leave.

    2. an infinite number of monkeys*

      Very much agreed! I started dating a coworker at the same level a few years ago; we had known each other in the office for several years before getting together, and how soon to disclose was a common topic of discussion for us. We were in a large work group, so most people didn’t know, but I think anyone who knew us well was not terribly surprised when we did speak up. Our boss, for one – when I did tell her, it turned out she’d suspected we were together for quite some time before we actually were. These things show!

      There’s no rule against dating peers, but of course it’s not allowed to be involved with anyone in your chain of command. My (now) husband and I both knew that if a promotion for one of us seemed to be in the cards, we’d need to speak up right away, regardless of whether anybody knew about us or not.

    3. TechWorker*

      Also ngl I’m sort of judging her partner/boss for getting irritated that she’d talked to HR. Did he really think that the company not knowing about the pregnancy was a practical course of action, let alone a professional one?

      1. Batgirl*

        I’m with you on ‘sort of judging’ and trying to give him the benefit of the doubt that he just needed time to wrap his head around the situation. If he remains insistent that no one needed to know, that’s no bueno. A secret baby is only a good idea for soap opera script writers.

        1. valentine*

          If they are broken up, as some are saying, I can see where he expected OP1 to stay mum about who the father is, and planned to ride the radio silence until the wheels came off via a third party.

          1. AIM*

            I can see how he might expect that, but it would be an awful and misguided expectation? A manager that thinks it’s appropriate to hide a serious relationship with a direct report (and coparenting IS a serious relationship, whether romance/sex are involved or not) is making extremely poor decisions as a manager.

            1. Starbuck*

              It is terrible, and exactly the kind of abuse of power that makes this combination of work & personal relationship unacceptable! How convenient for him that he was able to keep the relationship quiet while he was under consideration for promotion and it’s now his subordinate who will have to be moved….

          2. Observer*

            That’s even worse, though. Sorry, that baby is his and he needs to not pretend otherwise.

            And he also gets even less say in how she handles the situation.

    4. PollyQ*

      Furthermore, this protects LW1 if issues start to arise in her relationship with the father. (It wasn’t clear to me whether they have an ongoing romantic relationship.) In the event that there are custody issues, or even just conflict about choices that are made for the child’s care, LW won’t have to worry that they will affect her work situation.

    5. Gaia*

      I worked with someone who was married to a co-worker who, after I’d been there six months finally told me and said it was “the best kept secret in the office.” Which was funny because I’d known since day 1. They were not even a little discreet but they very much thought bthey were.

  24. Foxgloves*

    I can’t tell you how tempted I am to send your answer to 3 to my team. I’m introverted, enjoying working from home, and getting on well with everyone from afar- but I don’t feel any need to be super connected to my team/ do these kinds of cute team building things from afar (virtual background challenges, remote happy hour- we don’t do happy hours in person!!!!- silly games, etc), and have got resentful of the increased number of “check in” calls where this sort of thing is expected. This might be because I’m on my way out (I start a new job at the end of April), but I just do not want to do these kind of things. Some of my team are VERY enthusiastic about this sort of thing though, so I’ve been staying pretty quiet for now, but I might just have to start pointing out that these things are annoying and time consuming when I’m super busy with work and just, you know, trying to stay alive.

    1. Foxgloves*

      Also, as someone with eating issues, I hate the suggestion to have lunch on camera. To me, seeing myself eat/ having other people seeing me eat on camera (not a thing in person, but mirrors have the same effect for me) is awfully triggering. I really wish this was considered more as an issue for people as part of the remote catch ups…

      1. Carlie*

        Just the thought of group lunch on a video chat where half the people don’t mute their microphones while they chew is making me want to go hide in a bunker.

  25. Richard Hershberger*

    First off, kudos to Alison for running 2 and 3 together. And for accurately characterizing this stuff as “fluff,” implicitly raising the point that it is no less fluff in normal times.

    Several comments have been about setting up social chats. I would be sitting there waiting for it to end. I can make small talk just fine, but having a designated time slot for it wouldn’t work for me, either in person or online. I am one of those guys whose phone calls tend to be short and to the point. My wife will have a phone call as background while she does other things. We mesh well in many ways, but this is not one of them. Out phone calls for anything other than purely practical things like “please pick up some milk” run to her saying something and me saying “OK” as necessary. Set aside time for online socializing and I will be sitting there nodding, making vague sounds of agreement, and waiting for it to be over.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I think that this is why nearly everybody has been saying that these activities should be opt-in if offered, though. While there are many people who feel like you do, there are also many people for whom this kind of stuff would be a very welcome source of human connection during an unprecedented experience.

    2. Lance*

      Sure, it’s basically fluff (and I’m right there with being someone that wouldn’t generally enjoy it or participate much)… but it’s still fluff that other people can get some benefit out of. Honestly, I don’t see any problem with having such things as long as they’re opt-in, as Alison says; I might even participate sometimes, but I’m hardly going to begrudge people otherwise for having some social needs fulfilled during these times.

  26. BigSigh*

    For team building stuff, my office moved our usual team building things online, as we’re all remote right now. Previously we had an hour long meeting every Friday afternoon called “Power Hour” that was completely optional. If you weren’t swamped, you could head over to a large conference room and work on your laptop next to other coworkers. It was a nice way to be a bit more casual and chat about weekend plans without interrupting everyone on the open floor plan. It was also a nice way to toss out work problems and get potential solutions from others on your team, or even from other departments (because the invite was multi-departmental). There was never any pressure to join the meeting. If you were busy and didn’t come, no one paid any attention. Still true!

    Now we all log into Microsoft Teams and hang out virtually, if we’re not swamped. It’s a nice way to see each other’s faces and check in on how everyone’s doing with the 100% remote work. We’ve also been able to meet each others kids and pets!

    We’re trying out a virtual happy hour at 6 pm on Tuesdays as well.

  27. nep*

    LW 2–‘I get along with everyone, but I really just come to work to work.’ I’m right with you there. And I wish more people would understand this and not take it as being anti-social, cold, or a sign of being a non-team-player. I hope you’ll get some relief.

    1. LW2_Today*

      My relief is in teleworking a lot anyway. It is definitely easier to decline work/social activities if I am not scheduled to be in the office that day. The only way I will change what days I am coming in (in normal times) is if it impacts my work (an important meeting that is better face to face, for example). It is rare that I have to do that thankfully.

  28. Mirabel*

    Would it come off as salty to ask if any commenters DO have any remote team-building activities to suggest? I understand why Alison opted not to answer the LW’s question, but speaking as someone who is part of a virtual team where we genuinely are looking for ideas (and in fact were just discussing this yesterday)– are there any good websites with virtual team games, or just good ideas for people to bond at a distance?

    1. Meg Swan*

      We’re putting together a March Madness style Words with Friends tournament. Heads up matches, winner advances. Totally opt in if you want.

      1. Creamsiclecati*

        It’s so funny you mention words with friends because I’ve gotten game requests from a few people in the past couple days who haven’t used the app in YEARS. I said wow everyone must really be searching for ways to fill their time these days lol

        1. valentine*

          ask if any commenters DO have any remote team-building activities to suggest
          I think someone asked for ideas in last Friday’s open thread.

          1. valentine*

            You might ask for a separate pro-activity post. I imagine it’d have a result similar to the pro-babies at work post.

      2. No bees on Typhon*

        I’m doing the same thing with friends on Facebook and it’s super great fun! Friends I made long after emigrating to Canada are chatting with my UK-based Mum while playing their games, it’s awesome. We have a mix of good & excellent players and total newbies, though, and we’re using points differential as a tiebreaker, so there is some degree of carnage taking place in some the games

    2. Annie*

      Actually, a lot of commenters have suggested virtual team activities for keeping people connected when they are all working form home. I’m assuming that’s what OP was asking for, rather than traditional team building activities that are designed for getting to know each other better. Commenters have suggested lunches, designated social chats, playlists, and sharing photos. Read through the comments again. There are some good suggestions. 

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      My organization has set up a weekly happy hour chat on Fridays (completely optional, including the drinking part) to talk non-work stuff . A former co-worker told me my old job had a contest where staff members took a picture of their at-home work space and people had to guess which space belonged to which staff member, with the winner getting a gift card (again, completely optional).

    4. Jennifer*

      As long as it is 100% voluntary and people aren’t shamed or viewed as not being team players for not participating.

    5. Sylvan*

      We have Teams channels where we post pet/kid/plant photos, share recipes, talk about TV, etc. They’re just kind of dedicated small talk areas. If people are missing no-pressure, low-key company, they might like these.

    6. OP 3*

      Yeah, I was a little miffed that Alison side-stepped the question, since it seemed to violate the “take letter writers at their word” guidance, but I think she’s trying to respond in a way that’s meaningful to a broad audience.

      There have been quite a number of practical, interesting, and fun suggestions in the comments. You just have to dig for them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Apologies, didn’t mean to sidestep it. Like i noted in a comment above, I’d thought you were asking about
        formal, structured team-building events, not informal social stuff.

    7. hermit crab*

      My team of four has twice-weekly check-ins (up from once a week during normal times) and we’re incorporating a low-key “show and tell” component into each of them. We have picked themes like “a piece of art in your house” or “your favorite kitchen tool” and everyone gets a minute or two to describe them and show them off on the video chat. I have learned about my coworker’s typewriter collection and my boss’s affinity for ranch dressing mixed with sriracha, though I think my favorite assignment so far was “give a two-minute book report on a favorite book from your childhood” (I picked Kate Shelley & the Midnight Express). We’re all enjoying it!

    8. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Our group did a weekly recipe exchange since so many more folks are cooking. Each week someone posts an ingredient (e.g. tomatoes, zucchini, lentils) and folks add a recipe for that ingredient if they want to. Then, if folks cook it, they can post a picture and say what they thought, any variations they did, etc.. You don’t have to join in and there is zero pressure if you don’t, but I’d say everyone has thus far posted at least one recipe or at least one completed meal. It has been pretty fun because we have a diverse team, so I have learned some Guatemalan, Navajo, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Latvian, and Korean dishes I never would have known.

    9. James*

      I think the best people to ask would be your team. What works for my teams–generally people used to working at job sites with a lot of independence–wouldn’t work for, say, someone managing a group of accountants or quality control staff.

      Knowing appropriate parameters is important, though. You want to make sure any group activity is optional, not time-intensive, not offensive but still something folks can have fun with. something that allows parents of young children to participate, etc. Pretty much anything you do within those parameters would be okay; you need to know your team to determine the specifics.

  29. Fikly*

    Ooooh, LW#1, the fact that you are stating that there is no conflict means that you are so blind to the conflict that there is no way it is possible your professional relationship is staying professional.

    1. Starbuck*

      Indeed, unfortunately it seems the boss has already taken advantage of her silence while he was under consideration for a promotion that would put him above her, when it was absolutely his responsibility to disclose at that point – exactly why these work/personal relationship combinations aren’t accepted in functional workplaces.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Yes, he absolutely should have disclosed at that point. The fact that he didn’t just proves that the relationship has already clouded their professional judgment.
        There will always be a conflict of interest when trying to have a working relationship with someone from your personal life. If nothing else, you have knowledge and insight into the person that gives you a leg up.

  30. Bopper*

    At this point is isn’t team building but team maintaining…we have an Zoom lunch twice a week just to keep in touch/See each other. Totally optional and people come when they can.

  31. Mbarr*

    #3 – our team isn’t doing any official team building. BUT, we did have a remote all-hands meeting where the senior leaders did their regular monthly thing. At the END of the session (letting people know they could drop off if they wanted to), we had a fun little guessing game of “Guess who’s home office setup this is.” Just make sure the activity doesn’t exceed the already programmed slot.
    People were encouraged beforehand to take pics of their home offices, add them to a powerpoint, etc. Thankfully only like 10 out of 50 people did it, but it was fun. People hammed up their desks (putting bottles of tequila beside them, having pets in office chairs, etc. – I myself made sure my picture included my reclined feet with fuzzy cat slippers and showing off my plaid pajama bottoms).
    In the future, I’d like to plan coworker trivia. Get people to submit interesting/fun facts about themselves, anonymize it, send it out in a poll, “Who do you think knows how to moonwalk” then present the results. Again, I’d only pick a handful of fun facts so that I don’t take too much time. But it can be fun for Jane to find out that everyone thinks she can moonwalk when it’s actually Bob who can. (If our online software allowed it, I’d consider doing this via live poll.)

  32. James*

    LW #5: Not sure if it’s been said or not, but to me it looks like they were looking for an excuse to hire you. Sometimes job requirements are negotiable–if someone’s a great fit, but doesn’t have one or two minor boxes checked, someone with enough political capital can push that candidate through anyway. But if the higher-up was grilling you that long, and said to keep in touch, it really does sound like they want to hire you.

    What I’ve seen happen (what’s happened to e) is that some jobs have legally mandated minimum requirements, including experience. For example, a Field Quality Manager for the Navy has to have 5 years experience minimum before they can run the quality management program on construction sites. If you’re a fantastic FQM, but only have 3 years experience, they may interview you in order to try to find a place for you in their project structure. The more information the higher-up has, the more arguments he can make in favor of hiring you. But sometimes someone even higher up doesn’t like the idea and pushes back even harder. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad candidate or a bad fit–in fact, it means the opposite! It just means that you didn’t get hired this time.

    I’d keep an eye on the company you interviewed with, and if you see any opportunities send in your resume and application.

  33. Onyx*

    LW1 said that the baby’s father became her manager right after she found out she was pregnant, and that “I told [the HR person] I was four months pregnant and that the father was a coworker.”

    So, did the LW tell HR that the father was “a coworker” when he was already her manager? That would be pretty disengenuous. Or did she disclose to HR while he was merely a coworker and then he got promoted to manager so quickly thereafter that the HR person hadn’t had time to act? That timing would seem awfully unlikely, unless the LW knew that the promotion was coming and deliberately disclosed immediately beforehand without mentioning the promotion.

    Either one of those scenarios would most likely arouse suspicion of either the LW or the father/manager or both. Particularly the father/manager, who presumably knew about his promotion before it was announced, and should have immediately disclosed the relationship with his subordinate-to-be (with or without the pregnancy) before the promotion took effect. And IMO either scenario would justify throwing the promise to warn the LW before talking to him out the window: 1) The promise was made based on a very different and less urgent framing of the situation, and 2) it was a response to an employee seemingly responsibly disclosing something, whereas the discovery that he was her new manager would reveal that they at minimum had a manager completely failing to disclose a conflict-of-interest and that the reporting employee may have been lying by omission in her disclosure (even if the LW truly was unaware of the promotion when she reported, it would look extremely suspicious).

    1. Jennifer*

      I think you’re being a bit nitpicky. It’s HR. She can easily find out what this man’s title is. Maybe she was involved in putting through the paperwork for his title change and new salary details. It makes no sense to lie. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she mistakenly used some vague wording in the letter.

      1. valentine*

        So, did the LW tell HR that the father was “a coworker” when he was already her manager?
        Yes. She is just not strict about coworker versus colleague. She named him in that same conversation, so there’s no intrigue there.

  34. Suz*

    For OP#3: There’s a big annual conference in our industry but my company can only afford to send a few people to it. All the sessions are recorded. We’ve started spending an hour or two on Friday afternoons watching these sessions. It’s totally optional and the content is related to our jobs.

  35. Employment Lawyer*

    1. I’m pregnant by my new manager and don’t want higher-ups to know
    HR had no choice, really. The optics of this would make it look like it could have been a quid pro quo (manager/employee) situation, otherwise.

    2. My coworker wants to keep us all connected in cutesy ways
    You could hand embroider a framed stitch-piece saying “leave me the fuck alone” and hang it on your cubicle.

    Or you can just do what AAM said.

    3. Team-building activities that can be done remotely
    Build a Minecraft version of your office building and populate it with zombies.

    4. Since the right to discuss wages excludes supervisors, how does the law define supervisors?
    Technically it’s complex and AAM describes the issues well, no need for me to repeat it.

    Practically, a “supervisor” is almost always an exempt (i.e. salaried) employee because the criteria for a “supervisor” meet the same criteria for the “executive exemption.” I suppose there are some companies which wouldn’t take advantage of a salary but those are rare, since a salary allows them to make you work more than 40 hours without paying you extra.

    True supervisors are almost always exempt. So if you’re an hourly employee, you probably aren’t exempt, which means you probably aren’t legally a supervisor.

    5. If they knew I didn’t have enough experience, why did they interview me?
    It’s a compliment: You probably came off as smart enough to consider even with less experience.

    1. OP 3*

      “Build a Minecraft version of your office building and populate it with zombies.”

      Haha. I enjoy the creative responses.

      1. James*

        I’m debating which of these options would work best:

        1) Death match. Give everyone a suit of diamond armor and a diamond sword. Last one standing wins.

        2) Give everyone a stack of TNT. No instructions, just 64 pieces of TNT.

    2. Blueberry*

      Not least since I often challenge your comments, I had to tell you this one made me laugh aloud. I’m going to suggest the Minecraft Zombie Office to a couple of people I know.

    3. pcake*

      “Build a Minecraft version of your office building and populate it with zombies.”


  36. BadWolf*

    On OP3

    Last Friday, we had a virtual Happy Hour. Anyone who wanted logged into our meeting software, optionally did video and we chatted for awhile. People had an adult beverage if they wanted. My manager scheduled it so it was at the early end of the day. So basically the last hour(ish) of people’s day. About 50% of it was showing our pets/children. I’d say about 75% of our group “showed” up which was 18 people, 15 of which were on video. So enough that if you didn’t want to be active, it was fine.

  37. Allison*

    #5, Talent Acquisition person here! Typically, the years of experience “needed” for a role is fairly flexible. The people making the descriptions figure you need X number of years to a “senior” something, Y to be a manager, etc. and they plug and play, and that’s why you sometimes see senior technical roles calling for five years of experience with a technology that’s only been around for three, sometimes people straight-up aren’t paying attention.

    But if you apply to a job that’s calling for five years, and you have three years of what looks like really solid experience with *that thing* they need, and they’ve been having trouble getting candidates with that solid background, they might reach out to schedule a phone screen. Maybe the recruiter thinks this could work, or maybe they just need the call to meet their KPI. Either way, they call you, and they decide “yeah they have the skills, but they still feel a little too green, presenting them to the hiring manager feels like too big a risk.”

    I’m not saying it’s fair, but that’s usually how/why it plays out.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I was thinking this as well.

      Plus, one person’s five years of experience isn’t necessarily someone else’s five years of experience. Some people will naturally get more out of a job than others.

      I really feel for OP, because they invested a lot of time and energy in this interview process. The middle manager sounds like she doesn’t know much about interviewing, but if that’s not normally part of her job, I can understand that. On the whole, though, it sounds like the company thought really highly of OP.

  38. WellRed*

    OP, I’m sorry HR caught you offguard, but you’ve been really naive about how this works for an office. And, was the plan for the baby’s father to pretend he doesn’t have a kid? How was that supposed to work? You’re lucky this has been handled as well as it has so far.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I find the whole tone of this kind of . . . odd. For one, four months is midway, not “fairly early”, but aside from that, what was the long-term plan here? To pretend there was no child? Because the only other explanation was that they hoped to hide the situation from the office entirely, including the (current or former) personal involvement between people who would end up reporting one to the other, which is either incredibly naive or pretty seriously dishonest. I kind of feel like the LW was hoping we’d agree that she was OK since she had followed the (absence of a) letter of the law rather than the common-sense and ethical spirit of it.

    2. Sylvan*

      Yeah, I have no advice whatsoever to add to Alison’s, but I’m also wondering what the letter writer and father’s plan was.

      1. Liane*

        Me too? What was their plan?
        Hope they win a record-breaking lottery pot in the next couple months, so it won’t matter what their company thinks about their relationship or willful failure to disclose it in a timely fashion, because they won’t need jobs?

  39. Brett*

    Something that was a surprise team building activity for us was testing remote meeting software.

    We took an hour to do nothing but screw up around, test all the corners of the software, run through different features, and break the software in a bunch of ways.
    This was surprisingly fun, since people were free to do goofy things like put their cats on webcams. We learned something very useful and gained some confidence, and it was an hour to just do “nothing” while actually being very productive.

    Best part, at the end we wrote up a summary of our findings and sent that up to our boss who commended all of us for our fantastic work.

  40. Justin*

    For team building, we have a very optional hourlong zoom chat once a week where we don’t discuss work. Helps with the isolation.

    Nothing more forced than that.

  41. Jennifer*

    #2 and #3 Instead of “team building” activities, just messages from leadership letting us know that they care and understand we are stressed and doing the best we can in unprecedented circumstances would be more helpful. Also, offers to help if people are struggling if that’s available.

    1. Brett*

      We have been doing that on a regular basis at a low level.

      I’m at a principal level with one other person, below division head and above team leads. We have been having small meetings once a week with every single team lead just to do check-ins with them, and to share practices with them from other teams. Strangely, getting indirect support from other teams by sharing practices seems to be an effective form of team building. We are also running many (~20/week) other small group checkins that seem to be helping with team cohesion. No individual person is in more than 2-3 of these.

  42. Jennifer*

    #1 You have my sympathy because I know it must be difficult to be in quarantine pregnant and stressed about this work situation. You didn’t do anything unethical because he wasn’t your boss when you were involved, but Alison is right. You can’t be on the same team right now, probably not ever again since you’ll always be the mother of his child whether you’re still romantically involved or not. I wish you a healthy pregnancy.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Yes, that was definitely an error in their professional judgment. On both their parts.

  43. OP 3*

    OP 3 here.

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but this is my response for Alison.

    Thanks for answering my question. I agree that companies should be doing the things you mention. Specifically we “give people maximum flexibility, ask how they’re doing, find out what they need to be better able to do their jobs, assure them their jobs are safe (only if that’s true), and be supportive and understanding of their stress and distractions. Throw in some occasional (and optional) online or video socializing”

    Our events have always been optional here, and a mix of types to be inclusive of everyone (family friendly vs adult-only, alcohol available vs dry, light physical activity (think lawn games) vs sedentary, during work vs after hours, etc).

    In particular, there is one event that is widely popular (frequently mentioned unsolicited in exit interviews) that will be need to be adapted, replaced, or abandoned. It would be blow to our culture to remove it entirely, so I’m looking for ideas that can allow us to adapt or replace it. It’s a work-time innovation event, where participants have the freedom to take on interesting projects of their choosing for which they couldn’t otherwise get approval and recruit team members with which they wouldn’t otherwise work, mixed in with food, optional games, and socialization. I imagine the work elements can mostly be done remotely, but I’d like to maintain the energy and camaraderie the in-person event produces.

    1. JessicaTate*

      Some of the videoconference platforms have a breakout room function, which could be a useful tool for the recruiting/working together part, and possibly for the games/socializing part.

      For the other aspects, I might try and think critically about what are the underlying characteristics of the event that people seem to enjoy so much? Not, “People like the games” but “People like the fun-spirited competitiveness, seeing “other” sides of one another” [or whatever it is]. Then work backwards — what could you do in virtual space that would bring out those attributes?

      And I’d be transparent about your approach when you share the plan with everyone. Acknowledge that it’s an experiment, and you’re really trying to capture the good stuff from in-person, and (just like in-person events) it will help if folks buy in and give it the ol’ college try, even if the forms of interaction are new. Flexibility and a positive attitude go so, so very far.

      1. OP 3*

        “Some of the videoconference platforms have a breakout room function”

        Do you remember which platforms you’ve seen with this feature? I’ve used a bunch of them, and this was a surprise for me. I’ll take a look for this in WebEx, which is our current dominant platform. Although, slack videos may work better for small working groups, which we also have.

        1. JessicaTate*

          We use Zoom, and I only JUST discovered last week that it has breakout capacity. I’m excited to test it in our brave new world. Also exploring their whiteboard capacity, which I just learned about TODAY. :-) I really like the platform a lot in general. And a subscription really isn’t that expensive; if you have another platform, if it does what you need, it could be just for a month for your event.

          I’ve attended workshops on… Adobe Connect that used breakouts that were functional. I’m not sure about WebEx… but I’d think?!?

        2. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

          I think WebEx does have the function because some of my colleagues use it to have conflicted members “step out” of the discussion in a way that mimics the literal stepping out of the room that takes place during face to face meetings.

      2. OP 3*

        “And I’d be transparent about your approach when you share the plan with everyone. ”

        Agreed. Fortunately, we have a good track record of trying new things and being willing to say, “Well, that didn’t work.” Coworkers are pretty used to and willing to give things a try.

        1. JessicaTate*

          It sounds like it from the tone of your message. Sometimes people seem to assume the worst about management, but it sounds like a thoughtful group that has created good culture. Good luck! I hope you find something that keeps the spark going!

    2. Djuna*

      Like a Hackathon? Those could definitely work remotely. Set up video meetings with breakout rooms for each group and a couple webinars for opening/closing. You can still send people lunch and drinks (would cost more for individual delivery though), and encourage them to “hang out” over lunch or use a larger group option to let people drop in and out as they need to. It could all work provided there’s additional wiggle room/consideration given for people who are at home with kids/elderly parents/rambunctious roommates (of the human or pet variety).

  44. Former Govt Contractor*

    On the team building thing, our 22-person department now working from home has to participate in a Teams meeting utilizing our camera 3 times weekly. It’s designed to keep us personally connected, and we don’t discuss work. So I was enjoying not having to blow out my hair or wear makeup, but now I feel compelled to do all that 3 times a week. I think it’s a good idea because we really care for one another, and it’s fun to see people’s dogs and babies and stuff, but once a week is plenty.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Key phrase: “has to.” It sounds dreadful. I would be the guy making the bare minimum of noncommittal noises while I waited for it to be over.

    2. Mediamaven*

      I did my hair today just so I don’t forget how to use a curling iron and I wear makeup every day. Feels good to feel normal.

    3. James*

      I have 3 young children. My wife and I are both working from home. This would be a horrible idea, unless you want to listen to “Let It Go” and see my children randomly come in screaming over one of their siblings taking a toy away from them.

      I know some folks using this as an opportunity to get some remodeling done, too. Their houses are a wreck, because that’s part of the process. You don’t want to see that.

      1. OP 3*

        A lot of commenters are mentioning these open-ended social video calls. These seem pretty common, including where I work.

        Some suggestions:
        1. It should be optional
        2. If you don’t have anything to say or have distracting noise in the background, mute your mic.
        3. Understand that kids we occasionally interrupt a colleague. They can mute their mic and redirect the child.

        1. Mediamaven*

          Why should it be optional? Surely someone can handle a video call once in a while to help keep people connected. This is a time to show that you can function away from the office. If I called a meeting of any kind and someone declined it they’d be first in line if we end of having to eliminate jobs. Existing is society (and maintaining a job in a terrible recession) means doing things you don’t want to do occasionally.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Thank you for saying the quiet parts out loud. As to your points, the way to show that you can function away from the office is by functioning away from the office, i.e. getting your work done. They way to get your work done is to do your work. Three meetings a week of idle chit-chat is a really great example of not doing work.

            And yes, the modern work environment is full of pointless time sucks. “Team building” exercises, hour-long meetings to disseminate information that could have been in an email that takes three minutes to read, and so on. That these are ubiquitous doesn’t make them good ideas.

          2. OP 3*

            “Why should it be optional?”

            Because its function is to provide a service to employees (connectedness), not to further work goals for the company.

            I’m sure employees can “handle a video call once in a while,” I don’t want to evaluate them on that metric unless it’s relevant to their performance.

          3. Blueberry*

            If I called a meeting of any kind and someone declined it they’d be first in line if we end of having to eliminate jobs.

            This statement is an intriguing counterpart to all the facile reassurances that team-building stuff is or even can be optional. Thank you for being honest, at least. Terrifying to contemplate working for, but honest.

          4. Crop Tiger*

            Oh please no. Why am I wasting time chatting with my coworkers when they know from experience I’m capable of working? If you need me for something, I’m 100% in. But just to chat? Nope. If there’s something wrong, I’ll tell you. If you have something wrong, tell me and I’ll support you. But other than that, we don’t need to talk.

  45. Nerd*


    Look into donut. It has a pretty good slack integration. In fact, I haven’t used donut outside of slack.

    It’s completely voluntary.

    Basically, it pseudo-randomly selects people and encourages them to schedule a half hour to just chat. Almost like a virtual water cooler. Join the designated slack channel, and you’ll be prompted. Leave the channel, and it won’t bother you at all. We do every two weeks with three people at a time. I’m not familiar with the admin side, but it can be set so the preferred matches aren’t people you normally interact with.

    I’m an introvert who dislikes most team building. I like this. It’s completely optional.


  46. Yuh, yuh*

    To letter writer #4, I actually used the NLRA when I ran into some issues with my previous place of employment and I think your role would be in the grey area where you could be considered a supervisor. In my situation I had a “supervisor” who was only a supervisor in spirit with the head of the department as my actual supervisor as far as the HR paperwork and how everything played out. Even though my supervisor actually had no say in anything regarding my position I couldn’t use him since he was technically a supervisor. Also remember that you have to consider whether the person who you are speaking with is a supervisor or not, my situation included a director level staff who was not my personal supervisor (but supervised someone else) and I couldn’t use her at all as a witness bc she wasn’t protected under the law. Please call your regional office though, they were very very very helpful when I was trying to figure out whether or not my situation qualified for protection under the law! With my situation I ended up receiving a settlement from my previous place of employment before the charge even went through so it worked out for me. Good Luck!

  47. Lucy McGillicuddy*

    LW #5 – I also wonder if the fact that a partner passed your resume along to the hiring team is playing into this. At my last job (family owned business where family was equivalent to partners) if a family member gave your resume to HR you’d be followed through to the end whether the hiring team loved you or not. (Not suggesting you weren’t completely qualified – but it may explain why they interviewed you only to say never mind.)

  48. Mediamaven*

    The team connection building is something that I’ve been struggling with. Too many fun, lighhearted things and you project the perception that everything is awesome, fine, fun, casual when there are real reasons for people to be concerned about job security. On the opposite end, you don’t want your staff to be terrified. It feels weird to send funny memes one minute and have to share the real, bad things the next. I’m finding this hard to navigate.

  49. BigRedGum*

    #3 – I’m sure your intentions are good, but if my boss wanted me to do this right now, I’d be pretty mad. It’s stressful enough working from home all the time right now, and I don’t need anyone to add to it.

  50. H. Regalis*

    Re-ish #3: Now that we’re all remote, my boss has us do a group check-in via Skype once a week on Friday afternoons, which is a really slow time for what we do. They ask if we have not enough, too much, or enough work; if we have any problems or concerns; and then we play Jeopardy for twenty minutes. During the week, they check in with us on Skype every morning to see if we’re swamped and need any help. We never have to do any team-building stuff off the clock, although I wish Jeopardy were optional because while I love trivia contests, I’m pretty sure a couple of people don’t.

  51. Josh Lyman*

    Re #3 – everything Alison said.

    We have done some things that have been helpful. We have an awesome colleague who is also the organizer for fun, optional team-building things. He is also a Zoom maven. He has done some optional, very short, very funny “name that Zoom” sessions which was great. We also added an optional staff meeting without an agenda just so people could touch base and talk to each other. We also had everyone take a picture of what’s out their window and upload it as their Zoom virtual background.

  52. AppleStan*


    First, congratulations on your pregnancy.

    Second, to be honest, if I were in HR or if I were a higher-up in your company, I would be concerned that neither you nor your partner appeared to even understand why it’s inappropriate for either of you to be managing each other, under any circumstances. Pregnant or not, the fact that you are in a relationship with your manager is problematic for your company (Alison has listed numerous reasons) – and when you promote to a manager/supervisor your responsibility is not just to the people under you to help them do their jobs, but it is also to keep an eye out for the company to ensure they are not exposed to any potential liability. I would be concerned that you all don’t seem to be grasping that.

    I commend you for keeping the relationship discreet, but I would give some thought to the fact that you both may have some questioning of your own judgment by TPTB — that may come out directly or maybe indirectly (all of a sudden, for example, you notice your direct influence has dwindled or lessened, or you need to now partner with another person or have someone else back your ideas, where as before, just your word alone was sufficient).

    Just something to think about.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      I would like the OP to take a step back and ask herself “How would feel if this involved someone else?” If you knew that Aragorn and Arwen had a child together, would you be *completely confident* that Aragorn would be able to be completely fair when it comes to evaluating Arwen, deciding if she gets a raise, deciding if she’s going to be laid off, etc.?

      No, you would not. How could you be? That’s the situation your company is in.

      I know you didn’t do anything wrong, but you and your romantic/former romantic partner have unwittingly put the company in an unwinnable situation. They have to make sure neither of you is in a position to supervise the other, and that’s all there is to it. The baby’s father was absolutely wrong in trying to keep it from the company. It sucks, but there you go. Good luck to you both.

      1. AppleStan*

        Seconding your comments (said it better than I ever could), but more importantly…

        Just kudos on the LOTR references.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          Thanks! I mean, I’d trust Aragorn with almost everything, but…supervising Arwen? Nope. :-)

  53. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    I actually work in employee/workplace experience, and there’s a couple reasons team-building and engagement are coming up in new ways now: first, the normal passive engagement of being in an office and all the little touchpoints people have there are gone, making it more challenging to transition to work-mode; second, higher-ups might be asking for it as they think about morale and retention; third, many people who live alone are feeling isolated and demoralized, and remote engagement can be a social lifeline.

    I would say the best things to do are, as Alison said, get the basics right: flexibility, compassion, kindness, compensation, healthcare. Next, keep the engagement consistent for a sense of routine. Finally, make each engagement public, but opt-in. People who want to participate will, and people who don’t will still get the contact benefit of knowing that there is a normal and people care about each other.

    This is new for all of us, but please be kind to your office managers/workplace engagement folks! Our roles are challenging as-is, and this situation is totally changing the circumstances of the work.

  54. Precious Wentletrap*

    #3: Easiest one is we have multiple designated company and department Slack channels set aside for “chill out/good vibes only” chats, with pet photos, babies, funny videos, and any other light discussion people want to keep. There are also video conference happy hours and lunches.

  55. Alex*

    For #5, when they said “we’re looking for someone with more experience” doesn’t necessarily mean that they were looking for someone with exactly one year more numerically. It’s entirely possible that two people with say, 3 years of experience on their resume, have two totally different levels of *actual* experience. There are a lot of factors that go into what your experience is, and chronology is only one aspect of it. Different companies have different structures and have different levels of people involved in different kinds of stuff. So it’s entirely possible that they saw your resume and thought…hm, well, you might not have enough experience, but maybe you do. And then after talking to you, they realized that you didn’t. This is pretty normal and shows that they have a thoughtful hiring process.

  56. Elizabeth West*

    The best team building you can do right now is to give people maximum flexibility, ask how they’re doing, find out what they need to be better able to do their jobs, assure them their jobs are safe (only if that’s true), and be supportive and understanding of their stress and distractions.

    So much this. Team building is about boosting morale, and the best way to do that is to let employees know the company has their back when things are tough.

  57. AuntieMaim*

    I’m currently stuck on a mandatory meeting where we are playing a Jackbox game. It was a surprise. I have so much work to do today and I had so many questions to ask the people on the call.

    Please PLEASE don’t do this.

  58. DarthVelma*

    A lot of folks have brought up virtual handouts/happy hours/coffee breaks/etc as ways to keep connected. And I just want to warn people who are considering these to know your audience. I work in Public Health and we’re having a 2 to 4 hour Zoom meeting every single day right now. Plus extra team meetings and workgroup meetings and meeting with the Feds. I think if someone suggested another Zoom meeting just to chat, one of us would violate the stay-at-home order to go hit them upside the head. :-)

    1. Lisa*

      Well why the heck are you having a 2-4 hour zoom meeting, that sounds like hell I would want to hit whoever came up with that idea.

      Obviously no idea is going to work for every work place.

      1. DarthVelma*

        State Public Health agency providing in-home services to a population that includes some medically fragile very small children. And we have it easy. Some of our counterparts in Public Health who deal more directly with pandemic response on a state-wide level are in meetings pretty much all day.

        It’s not fun, but it’s necessary until we can get everything in place to keep our kids getting the services they need while keeping them, their families, and our service providers safe.

        Did I mention it’s not fun? :-)

  59. Silicon Valley Girl*

    For both #2 & #3, what my larger dept & smaller working team are doing is having occasional video coffee chats or happy hours & Slack threads. They’re totally optional!

    The video events are on everyone’s schedule so you know it’s there & can opt-in.

    The Slack threads are every few days & one person will prompt everyone with a topic like “what book are you reading?” or “show us your pets” — innocuous, fun, chatty things that again are opt-in. They’re in specific Slack channels that people can ignore if they’re not interested.

    I’m not usually big on socializing with my coworkers, but I’ve found these things are a mood-lifter & a good replacement for the casual hallway chats & such that build camaraderie. And, of course, this is on top of official communications about what the company & direct managers are doing to support employees at this time.

  60. Kara*

    I know everyone here hates any form of teambuilding, but that’s not universally true. Among the people I know many companies are having once a week virtual “coffee breaks” or “power hour” and people like having that “replacement” for normal social interaction. Of course they shouldn’t take the place of flexible hours and other necessary benefits, and they shouldn’t happen if people are too busy for them, but they’re not terrible, horrible, no-good ideas. Some connection between the team is a good thing, and we’re all human beings, not just work machines – isn’t that what everyone here keeps saying they wish their employer understood? The spotify idea above and a fun slack channel also seem like low key ways to keep connected.

    Regarding how mandatory things are – I’ve never worked in an office where it didn’t benefit you to have an actual relationship with people you spend a large chunk of time with every day, but maybe its different for others.

    1. Faith*

      I think part of it is that when work/home relationships are blurred the way they are right now, people’s boundaries become a lot more important, and a lot of people are also still dealing with more than just WFH–they’re watching/teaching children, taking care of parents/immune-compromised relatives or friends who can’t go out, etc. while trying to do work at the same time, worrying about the crisis and how to get their needs taken care of, and they’re exhausted. It’s not that we don’t want to engage with coworkers and have fun with them, it’s that we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to take care of our coworkers’ need for connection, too. A lot of us (me) are being pulled in about five more directions than normal, and the thought of mandatory “fun” is just too much.

      I have zero issues with coworkers wanting to do stuff together, but for my own mental health, I need to not have yet another thing to do/keep track of/participate in, especially not something that makes me worry if I don’t do it, it’s going to affect whether or not I still have a job in good-standing. At normal work times, I don’t mind team-building. But this is not the time to build the team, it’s the time for the team to support the relationships that it’s already built, which includes understanding that some of your coworkers are better to turn to for socialization than others at a time like this.

  61. Observer*

    #1 – Your HR rep was an idiot for promising you anything. Having done that, she should have let you know. But, it’s true – she HAS to let the company know. And they MUST move one of you. We all make mistakes but it’s important not to let an initial mistake draw you in to bigger mistakes. Which is to say that just because your HR rep made an initial mistake to make a promise that she shouldn’t have, she was right not to let it keep her doing what needs to be done.

    Don’t feel bad that you spoke to her, even though you are not getting the results you had hoped for. Alison is right that this could have lead to you being fired if it came out. And once your pregnancy reached a certain point, it would have been extremely difficult to keep this a secret, if not from the general staff at least from HR etc.

    I understand that your guy is a bit upset, but if he gives you a hard time about it, please factor that in to what you know about him in thinking about your ongoing relationship.

    1. Starbuck*

      Really if anyone deserves a firing it would be the boss, for not reporting the relationship when he was under consideration for a promotion above the LW. Unfortunately it seems he’s taken advantage of her silence and is getting away with it, as she’s the one who’s going to be moved and may miss out on her promotion. I totally understand why she’d be frustrated, even though it’s not HR’s fault they’ve now got to deal with this.

  62. SarahTheEntwife*

    LW3, my office is currently playing a vote-by-Zoom-poll text adventure style roleplaying game. :-) People who aren’t interested are under absolutely no pressure to play, but it’s providing some much-needed laughs.

      1. Naomi*

        I’m imagining something closer to Action Castle, where one person has the map and list of objects and so on, and gives the appropriate output when players say “go east” or “unlock door with blue key.”

  63. Julia*

    #1 raises a little bit of a red flag to me. She sounds… scared. In particular, scared that the father of her child is now bothered that she opened a can of worms. I may be reading too much into this, but a supervisor who has a sexual relationship with an employee is already a potentially coercive situation, and now she’s in a situation where if people didn’t already know about the relationship they will likely start to talk. She says she can’t be promoted if this comes out because she’d be above him.

    I would advise #1 to consider leaving this job. Sadly, even though he’s the supervisor and is responsible for a larger share of the blame, this is likely to impact your career more than his, *especially* if this was coercive.

    I know right now is not a great time to advise anyone to give up any job. I’m sorry about that and I’m worried for her.

  64. Candi*

    “[NLRA] defines supervisors as people whose functions are “to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibly to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action.”

    By this definition, my sister wasn’t a supervisor wasn’t a supervisor at all at one of her jobs. She had the title, and was told she was “in charge” and could “boss” other workers around, but she had no authority whatsoever to back it up. Any discipline, etc., went through the manager; all she could do was point out and document that Wakeen/Jane was/n’t doing X.

    Is it anyone’s surprise that Wakeen/Jane were usually given a smack on the wrist, and kept on doing what they were doing?

  65. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #1, I first saw it here in a comment a few years ago: HR is there to protect the company, not the individual. It was very illuminating!

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