my new boss says everything is “fun” — even data entry and illness

A reader writes:

I have a fairly low-stakes issue, but it’s driving me absolutely nuts. My supervisor left about a year ago, but was replaced after eight months. During that time, I was responsible for much of the department’s function, along with an administrator who shares my more pessimistic, gallows-esque humor. We work at an organization with high turnover and “surprise” resignations, where people who give notice have been forbidden from telling their coworkers or were told to leave that day. (My former supervisor was one of these.) This is emblematic of bigger issues, I realize.

The problem is that my new supervisor is a complete 180 from me and everyone else I’ve worked with since joining this org. She’s energetic, enthusiastic, and has to have her fingers in every pie or project. She’s also a bit of a micromanager, but I think some of that may wear off as she gets a better sense of how tasks are divided and completed.

This might all sound fine from the outside, but it is driving me to distraction! I’m given data-entry tasks that are a typical part of my job and told that they are “fun projects” for me to work on. If anyone complains about any aspect of the job, she interjects with, “Oh, that sounds like fun!” We have a “FUN ideas” suggestion box. As I am typing this, I heard “Uh-oh, here comes a fun update on the coronavirus!” (She’s not being sarcastic.)

I get that she may be trying to counteract the low morale she’s encountered in our org, but it reads as a tad … delusional. I enjoy my job, despite my org’s weirdness, and there are parts of it I genuinely love. But every time my supervisor starts in on this, I just want to scream, “I don’t come to work to have fun!” Is there any way that I can suggest she quit this in a more professional, less I-am-a-wet-blanket-and-am-going-to-smother-you way?

I wrote back and asked, “When you say she’s doing this in response to people complaining, are we talking about people raising legitimate issues, which she’s then completely blowing off?”

Not issues she can really change. For instance, if we’re working with someone difficult or on a project that’s had several setbacks, she might respond that way if she passes by while we’re griping about it.

She did mention to me that another of her reports doesn’t seem to be having fun (my coworker is most definitely not) and that she wishes this coworker would bring any issues to her directly, rather than complaining to me. I agree for the most part, but my coworker’s complaints generally fall along the same line as mine — personality mismatch, getting tired of hearing the word fun, etc.

I do want to stress that my boss has brought a welcome air of competence to our department and she’s very serious about her role. She just seems hellbent on making sure we’re having fun at all times.

How fun!

If it weren’t for her responding to people’s actual complaints by telling them how much fun they’re having, I’d say it’s just an annoying personality trait — maybe almost like a tic — and you shouldn’t spend the capital trying to address it. Lots of people have annoying traits, and you just kind of have to live with that at work.

But it’s incredibly weird and problematic that she’s responding to people’s complaints with “that sounds like fun!” That’s a complete blow-off and would make most people feel like you’re living in a Stepford world where you can’t say anything remotely negative — or one where your boss is completely out of touch with reality.

That said, it does sound like you and your coworkers might be doing a lot of griping, and that’s a problem unto itself. “Pessimistic, gallows-esque humor” combined with lots of complaining can create a really unpleasant work environment. I totally get how that develops when you’re working somewhere dysfunctional and it can make it feel easier to cope, but if there’s anyone around you who doesn’t cope with dysfunction that way … well, you’re making things worse for them and adding to the dysfunction they’re surrounded by. And even if all of you are genuinely okay with it, it’s pretty toxic in the long run (and can instill some habits that harm you at your next job).

So I wonder if at some level your boss is responding to that, and trying to shift the culture to a more positive one. She’s not doing it well — annoying people and seeming out of touch isn’t going to be effective — but it’s hard to think there’s not a connection. It would be worth experimenting with stamping out your own negativity for, say, a week and seeing if you notice any corresponding drop in her own aggressive positivity.

The other option is to just talk to her about the whole situation — the culture she’s walked into, why it’s evolved in the way it has, and what you’ve noticed about her approach to it. The idea would be to frame it as info that’s useful for her to have (which you have a lot of standing to do since you were helping run the department before she arrived). Tell her you’re impressed with changes X and Y she’s brought to your team and you’re glad to have her on board, and you thought it could be useful for her to know more the history of the department and some of the frustrations that have impacted morale. Tell her your goal isn’t to dump problems in her lap, but to give her context about the team. And at some point during this conversation, you could say, “I’ve noticed you talk a lot about things being ‘fun’ — even things like data entry or challenges on a project. Particularly in the context I just described, I think it’s landing differently than you intend.” You could also say, “Personally, I don’t prioritize having fun when I’m at work — I want to prioritize getting things done and dealing with any problems that arise to the extent we’re able to. Hearing so much about fun makes it harder to feel like we’re on the same page about real problems, so I wanted to better understand where you’re coming from.”

Whether or not to have that conversation depends on how much rapport you have with her and what you’ve observed about her ability to hear feedback. If either of those things is shaky, it might not be worth it.

But for the record, this sounds incredibly aggravating and I would be pulling out my own teeth.

{ 172 comments… read them below }

  1. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Her supervisor complaining that she wishes that the OP’s coworker would come to her with their complaints seems the perfect opening for the OP to tell the supervisor that, by insisting things are “fun” when people complain, they’re not feeling heard. If the supervisor were a peer or mentee of mine, I’d suggest an active listening/validation approach where they try to affirm what the speaker is feeling first, then ask probing questions. Maybe that’s a bit much, but if the OP can get their supervisor to listen and acknowledge the complaints a bit more, I think they’d start to adapt to each other rather than being at odds they way they are now.

    1. Well Then*

      YES. If I had legitimate problems and my supervisor dismissed everything and told me I should be having fun, I would just stop talking to them more than strictly necessary for work. However she intends it, it’s obnoxious in practice and she will ruin her relationship with her direct reports.

      1. valentine*

        Even if they’re legitimate problems, OP says they’re Not issues she can really change, except the “fun” business. The supervisor’s trying to keep her head above the sea of negativity. I’m also thinking she doesn’t mean fun as in part(a)y.

        From the outside, a bad attitude flattens problems and, if the micromanaging is the biggest problem or if there’s (another) one worth addressing, that’s what’s smothered. Lowering the piece OP controls, the frequency and intensity of griping, even if it doesn’t stop the “fun,” could help them move on more quickly from things they can’t change and/or detach from “fun” stomping on their last nerve.

  2. juliebulie*

    Calling everything “fun” seems really dismissive. That’s probably not what she intends.

    1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Yep. I’m guessing she probably means interesting / worthwhile / a good challenge / etc. She’s just perhaps… expressively challenged..?

      Could OP respond in the moment with something like “Oooh, I don’t know I’d call it fun exactly… but if I can figure out the xyz I’ll be happy to cross that achievement off my list today!” Positive, and maybe with enough repetition she might start saying what she means?

      1. Hills to Die On*

        I’d be hanging up a meme if that from Princess Bride as a little inside joke to myself. But I’m passive and snarky that way.

    2. Lucia Pacciola*

      I wonder how it looks from the manager’s point of view. Maybe she should be the one writing in, asking if Allison has a good script for responding to the constant negativity of her employees.

      “I’m trying to model good cheer and an optimistic outlook, but I think my ‘this is fun!’ is starting to wear thin. Even I realize it’s not always the best response. What’s a better one?”

      1. KAG*

        I think you’re right on target with this: “I’m trying to foster a more positive culture, but I feel like an idiot telling people ’this is fun’ when it’s clearly *not* fun.” Were I the manager in question, I would really appreciate it if a colleague called me on it and was willing to (a) openly discuss the problem and (b) offer me advice as to how to modify my behavior to foster a better work environment. Granted, this would work with approximately 0% of my recent managers, but the OP’s description of her new manager sounds like she may be receptive.

      2. Well Then*

        This is a good perspective. I think it’s important for managers in this situation to first LISTEN, before jumping in and trying to improve a situation they don’t understand. No need to mire in drama and gossip, but if you have no context for why people are unhappy, you aren’t going to be effective at making their work lives better. Being expected to plaster on a smile because a new manager said so, while all the existing problems that created a toxic culture continue…that’s not going to help.

      3. Avasarala*

        I agree, I can see this as a misguided jiu-jitsu move trying to make OP & others see boring data entry projects with a more positive outlook. Do I call it fun and hope it catches on? Do I thank them profusely for doing boring work? Do I ignore the griping and approach it matter-of-factly?

        Seems like a good-old communication mismatch, with OP & co wanting to feel heard and to know that their boss knows this sucks; and on the other hand, the boss wants them to stop complaining about work and approach it more positively and collaboratively.

    3. Tina*

      I live in a community where dysphemism is the lingua franca, and if someone says something is ‘fun’ in a very enthusiastic and upbeat tone they definitely mean it absolutely is not, and ‘fun’ is just not a word that you use for things that are genuinely enjoyable and positive and entertaining, so I’m wondering if LW’s supervisor may have come from an analogous culture and hasn’t quite picked up that that is not a thing where she is now.

    1. LunaLena*

      Now I’m picturing Milton from Office Space and the boss as that one super-perky receptionist who says “Uh oh. Someone’s got a case of the Mondays!”

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I have a red stapler and my coworker is always trying to nab it. He wants me to go around asking if anyone has seen my red stapler. It’s been a fun joke, though luckily he doesn’t do it so much that he wears it out. That wouldn’t be fun!

  3. HoHumDrum*

    As always when I see anyone who is naturally a bit pessimistic come into conflict with a positivity person I feel the urge to share the book “Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

    I’m not going to link anything here because I don’t want my comment to get lost in moderation, but if you google that you can find an excerpt on NPR as well as other sources of info.

    But anyway, that book is phenomenal and I highly recommend everybody read it, but especially if you’re being beset by someone who is seemingly convinced that happiness is the only valid emotion.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Ha! As a pragmatic person I can relate.
      I just watched a documentary about the FYRE Festival and time and time again the worker-bee’s and contractors were saying how the organizers refused to listen to any advice about actually ORGANIZING the logistics of a festival of this magnitude and any mention of problems were met with comments like: “We’re SOLUTIONS people here. If you can’t discuss solutions we’ll get people who can.” So, basically they ended up with a giant cluster-fudge resulting from too many “positive” yes-people, instead of taking a practical step to own-up that they were in trouble and couldn’t meet their deadline, and either delay the date of the festival or refund.

      I realize this can be a fine line to walk, as leadership can’t be doom and gloom either. But solutions can’t always be “We will just magically make it happen.”

      1. JustaTech*

        Man, that documentary (the Netflix one, I haven’t seen the Hulu one) was just kind of scary (in addition to hilarious and full of schadenfreude), because of the intense reality distortion field the head guy projected. When people were in the room with him, everything seemed possible, and as soon as he walked away they realized how utterly impossible everything was. The Theranos lady seemed the same way.

        1. Legally a Vacuum*

          The book about Theranos “Bad Blood” was really good. The audiobook was well done too, if anyone prefers that format.

              1. HQetc*

                For anyone looking for this, it’s “WeCrashed,” one word. I only mention because it sounds awesome (thanks for the rec!) but took me a minute to find because I was looking for “We Crashed” and it wasn’t coming up.

              2. Tidewater 4-1009*

                I was downtown yesterday for the first time in a while and there’s a new building with “WeWork” on the top.
                So apparently still functioning…

      2. HoHumDrum*

        I feel like we’re going through the same thing again, a certain percentage of my nation including our dear leader seems convinced that if we all stopped being negative and complaining about COVID-19 it would just go away somehow and the economy would be fine. It’s the reporting on the virus that’s the issue, not the virus itself you see.

        I know history always repeats itself but it really feels like it’s speeding up as it does so these days…

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          That’s why we call the 1914 pandemic the Spanish flu. It wasn’t any worse in Spain than anywhere else; they just were reporting accurate numbers. The research I’ve seen suggests that one was actually American.

      3. MassMatt*

        The guy behind Fyre fest was not a Pollyanna, he was (and is still) a con artist with delusions of grandeur.

        This boss would drive me nuts. Describing data entry as a “fun project” and (worse) referring to “fun updates” on Coronavirus signals that she has no idea what this very simple word means. It reminds me of the Batman TV show, with a “bat” everything. “OK, everyone go to the fun-conference room and sit on the fun-chairs for the fun-meeting!!” I hope she either learns some normalcy or gets a “fun lay-off” soon.

        1. hbc*

          A company I work with has a conference room called The Fun Factory. They had a former owner who set a lot of the culture of FUN, with visitors using crayons to sign in and whatnot. But even there, they don’t try to mess with your head and talk about how fun that budget review will be.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Oh man, the fun factory would totally be something we’d mock endlessly at my work (in public health, so like… yeah.)

          2. Hrovitnir*

            That makes me laugh, because there is a German brand of high quality sex toys called Fun Factory, and that’s all I’d be able to think of if I worked there.

        2. Anon Drone*

          I used to work somewhere that intentionally referred to all data entry as “fun project”- but it was absolutely meant sarcastically. It was essentially an inside joke at the company that meant “tedious project that we nevertheless need done, so everybody buckle in”.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            I got my start in data entry and it’s not fun like a dance party is fun, but it can be enjoyable. It’s quiet and non-strenuous – a nice break from stress and all those “fun” people!
            It can be interesting if I’m entering, say, addresses… In the back of my mind I’m thinking “must be interesting to live there.. that’s a pretty area.. reminds me of something interesting I heard about that place…” and so on. It can make me feel connected to the world.
            Entering numbers only is tedious though.

            1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

              I enjoy data entry as well, even if it is just numbers. I was worried I was the only one. :)

          2. smoke tree*

            I have been known to describe my own tedious requests for others as magical quests, but I hope my extreme sarcasm is clear enough to them. Maybe I’m the fun boss and I don’t even know it.

      4. AKchic*

        I deal with magical thinking Ideas people on my board. It’s just me and one other person who have actually worked non-profits and in larger offices who have put together large events before who are constantly reining in the Ideas person and their cheerleader along with the other go along to get along types.
        Just because you *have* an idea doesn’t mean it actually needs to be done, or fits within the community needs, or is in line with the organization’s mission (and no, you can’t just tweak the mission statement to fit your newest idea).

        In the LW’s case, feeling invalidated and/or dismissed when someone tries to manage your emotions (“this is fun!” is trying to tell you how you should be feeling about whatever it is that’s being assigned, coming out, or what you’re working on/doing) and a whole different level of managing that people don’t sign up for when going to work. We’re all adults. We’re expected to handle our own emotions, not have the company (or one manager) tell us what our emotions are going to be. I don’t even think that’s how the manager intended it to be, but that’s how it comes across to me. It’s almost like a parent trying to convince a small child to eat something new. “Oh look at this yummy-in-your-tummy bowl of oatmeal! It’s got a smiley face! It’s so happy to see you! Don’t you want to make it happy by trying a bite?” Adults don’t need to be convinced or cajoled into doing their work (and liking it). It’s what they are paid to do, so they are going to do it. They aren’t required to like it or even visibly show smiles while doing it.

      5. James*

        What I’ve found is that doom-and-gloom flows uphill. If there’s a problem me and my team can’t handle I take it–along with 2-3 solutions–to my boss, who has more resources and authority. If he can’t handle it, he takes it to his boss or the client. By the time my staff learn there is a problem, either 1) they are a CLOSE colleague involved in the discussion, or 2) the discussion is “Here’s a potential problem, here’s how you’re going to deal with it.”

        The Stoic maxim “The obstacle is the way” is very much applicable to the working world. Focus on what’s going to cause trouble and mitigate it; the good stuff tends to handle itself. (Note that this DOES NOT apply to staff!)

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Thanks. I already had that one on my list, but you have bumped it up a few pegs. I am generally quite bright and positive at work and always find the office sadsacks challenging. Might help if I can learn more about what’s going on in their heads!

      1. DerJungerLudendorff*

        From what I can tell, one common problem is that the relentless positivity causes people to downplay or ignore problems. Which then go unsolved and cause a lot of damage and other problems. Which then also gets ignored. It’s basically wishful thinking and wilfull ignorance.

        Another problem I often hear with “too much positivity” is trying to force that positivity and happiness on people. For obvious reasons, this does not work and just makes people annoyed. Bonus points if it comes from a manager while ignoring all the problems that make people unhappy in the first place.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Good point. There’s definitely something about a power dynamic that makes it especially important to find the right balance between empathetic listening and strong, inspirational leadership (in terms of realism and positivity).

          No one likes working for a disconnected idiot with ridiculously lofty ideals who won’t listen. On the other hand, I’ve seen (very capable) managers initially start with empathy that – in the blink of an eye – devolves into them being incessantly complained at by anyone who “just needs to vent”. That can take a lot of time and effort to bring under control before they can then get to their actual job.

          If I drew a quadrant with optimism/negativity on one axis, and realism/idealism on the other, I’m an optimistic realist. I get on great with pessimistic realists: their perspective helps me plan better. Optimistic idealists are easy: just tell them what they want to hear, they don’t care about the detail anyway. But pessimistic idealists? Always struggled with them. They just resist and can’t really explain why. Give them a range of options and they’ll find a way to shoot each one down and recommend a nap on work time instead.

          I honestly think that there are people out there who enjoy wallowing in misery and feel “fed” when they can pass it on. I’m never going to like working with them, but I do want to understand how to do it effectively without getting suckered into their misery-abyss.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            I honestly think that there are people out there who enjoy wallowing in misery
            There are. My MIL is one of them; never happier than in the middle of crisis mode. (She’s in her element at the moment with the Covid-19 stuff!)
            The only way hubby and I have been able to deal with it – and I realise this may not apply in a work setting – is by *not* “feeding” her and doing almost how you describe dealing with the optimistic idealist: acknowledge her assessment that everything’s going to heck and then get on with our day regardless. Her opinions arent going to change how we live our lives.
            (And I’m saying this as someone who sits firmly on the pessimist axis)

      2. Jadelyn*

        I mean, part of the problem may be that you’re thinking of people who are less bubbly as “sadsacks”? Cause I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s pretty dismissive, and I’m betting people are picking up on that.

        And I can’t speak for all of us “sadsacks” but I know I tend to get more irritable when someone’s being relentlessly positive at me, because it feels like I’m being pressured to do emotional labor for them by performing a positivity and happiness that I don’t currently feel. It feels like not only can’t I be honestly concerned about something or admit that I don’t think something is going to work, but just staying neutral or even feeling positive but not showing it isn’t good enough for the cheery type. It’s exhausting.

        Think of it this way – when someone on the street tells you to “smile” while you’re thoughtful or upset about something, does it actually make you happy?

        1. KoiFeeder*

          +1

          Also, just because I’m not openly bubbly doesn’t mean I’m not happy. This is my face. This is my emoting quotient. If someone wants me to perform a different emoting quotient, they cannot be expecting me to actually /do work/ while performing.

        2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Oh, I’m not thinking about people who are “less bubbly” in that way! It’s the obstructively gloomy ones. Office dementors, maybe?

          The kind of coworker I have this conversation with:
          Me: “Hi Fergus! Jane has asked us to prioritise grooming Mr Spitty this week. I’m free all day Wednesday, does a time then work for you?”
          Fergus: “I hate grooming Mr Spitty. He spits.”
          Me: “Yeah, me too. But, that’s llama grooming! How about first up in the morning…let’s just get it out of the way?”
          Fergus: “I hate mornings.”
          Me: “2pm then?”
          Fergus: “That means I can’t be as flexible about my lunch break.”
          Me: “Ok, what time would you like to do it? Jane said it has to be done this week, but it doesn’t have to be Wednesday. I can try to work around your schedule if you suggest a time?”
          Fergus: “I just hate grooming Mr Spitty, you know? He spits!”

          It’s actually not that dissimilar to having someone try to force positivity on you or telling you to “smile”. Instead of pushing happiness at you, they try to pull misery from you, withholding what you need from them till they get it.

          And you’re absolutely right that after several weeks/months of trying to work with someone like that I do start to become dismissive and they probably do pick up on that. I also… don’t really care? I just need to be able to do my job, and I’m wondering if there’s an effective setting between empathetic and grey rock for handling them. The worst is when you work with several of them and they find their flock – then the only thing that ever gets done is a whole lot of whingeing.

          1. allathian*

            Oh god. Those people are horrid to work with, especially if it’s a coworker and you don’t have the authority to just tell them to do something even if they hate it.
            The worst thing is that I was once one of these people. Luckily a coworker got fed up with me and called me out on it. That made me realize that I didn’t want to be that dementor person. I also realized that I really didn’t like any of the tasks my job entailed, so that got me looking for a new job. It took more than a year to find one, but in the meantime I was a lot more pleasant to work with because I did what had to be done without too much whingeing. Oh sure, I didn’t turn into a “fun” person at work, but just kept most of my complaints to myself.

      3. Well Then*

        Something important to consider is that it’s not a binary choice between “happy” or “sad.” Feeling neutral is an option!

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I wish I’d grabbed that from the library before it shut down. I really should read it sometime.

      I’m so tired of being told to be positive. Especially these days, it’s hard to do, but overall it seems like with some people it’s just trying to brush off your problems/concerns with “Everything’s going to be FINE! Business as usual!” This lady sounds like she’s doing the same.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Being positive is super overrated. I mean, you don’t want to be negative all the time either, but the people I’ve met who avoid experiencing anything negative are miserable to be around. Life can be meaningful without being something worth a big toothy grin all the time.

      2. The Rural Juror*

        Maybe you’ll get lucky and your library has a digital copy. I like to use the Kindle app on my phone and check out books from the online catalog, which is much easier than dealing with a physical book when I’m eating lunch!

      3. allathian*

        Overly positive people often seem to ignore real problems. Although people who complain all the time are hard to work with, too. That said, people have the right to feel what they feel. All emotions are equally valid for the person experiencing them, it’s just that we need to manage how and when we express them, especially at work.

      4. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

        OMFG THIS. I am dealing with the crashing unemployment site and it’s aggravating. People saying “IT WILL BE FINE!” are getting BLOKT. Yes, I know that, but can I freak out please? I have one friend/client who was like, “I don’t know if this helps, but I do a thing where I give myself permission to freak out, because this is stressful!” and I could have kissed her for saying that. I mean, I KNOW it will be okay (I will have my job back when it reopens) but I’m worried right now, can I worry for 3 minutes every now and then?

    4. Vicky Austin*

      It’s one thing to try to remain optimistic even in the toughest of circumstances, i.e. “this sucks, but I’ll make it through.” It’s another thing to pretend that life is rainbows and lollipops and glitter and puppies all the time.

  4. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Relentless FUN! is more than annoying, it’s toxic and dismissive. Maybe the manager is trying to counterbalance the negative aspects of the job, but ignoring them because FUN! puts the F-U in FUN.

    She’s not listening, she’s not acknowledging what her team is experiencing, and isn’t even allowing them to just vent a little between themselves. Not smart, and not FUN.

    1. Threeve*

      If you’ve got an Eeyore you don’t think you can change, might as well be a Dory to bring up the average to neutral!

      1. valentine*

        isn’t even allowing them to just vent a little between themselves.
        Is it only a little? Does the team just happen to all enjoy the same humor and behave the same way, or did it start small and then they fed off of and amplified each other? Is there a negativity magnet and, if they were gone, would the culture be quite different?

    2. EPLawyer*

      the solution to counter balancing the negative aspects is not to insist that it is in fact the opposite of negative. If you insist everytihng is fun, instead of “Omg, the rules for the TPS are so inane and time consuming. Can I just send the damn report?” you are in fact, not actually addressing the negative. You are ignoring it.

      Instead of insisting everything is fun, the manager needs to dig down and find out WHY morale is so low. Then address the underlying issues as much as she can in her power to do so. Or if she can’t at least say “Yes, I know this is terrible, but it comes from on high and I just can’t change it. Let’s try to get through this together.” THAT will help morale better than insisting everything is FUN FUN FUN.

      I would be exhausted after a day with this manager.

      1. Annony*

        I wonder whether people are avoiding bringing their issues to her specifically because calling everything “fun” makes them feel like their complaints won’t be taken seriously.

  5. ProgrammerDude*

    Is anyone else’s first reaction from Princess Bride?
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

      1. Head Banging against Wall*

        Exactly, I work with a guy who incorporated the word, “literally” into every conversation. It got so annoying that we hung a meme of that exact scene from Princess Bride, with Inigo Montoya and Vizzini, but edited Vizzini’s lines to read “literally”…

        1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

          I loved her! Especially when they started exploring her character. I had high hopes of CIA/assasian/espionage.
          But no they had to go and cancel the show. Da jerks. :-(

          1. nonegiven*

            Oh, what about Crystal? She served with special forces, spoke several languages (apparently off screen,) and had a closet full of Post-its at home.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah I actually think depending on context, you possibly could just say that as a lighter way of pointing out that it’s not working the way she intended.

    1. Threeve*

      One way or another, it probably would help to gently, humorously explain that you think you have different definitions of the word.

      “I don’t know about you, but my ‘fun’ usually involves weekends, tacos, or dogs. My goal at work is to feel satisfied and accomplished, and I’m cool with that, but I’ll be honest: there aren’t usually tacos or dogs involved.”

        1. ceiswyn*

          This sounds like a win-win situation to me…

          …except, obviously, for those allergic to dogs or tacos.

          1. Quill*

            Give it three months and we’ll have another letter about dog friendly offices with food hygiene problems.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      My first reaction was from Mary Poppins:
      In every job that must be done
      There is an element of fun
      You find the fun and snap!
      The job’s a game
      And every task you undertake
      Becomes a piece of cake
      A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see that
      A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down….

      1. ArtK*

        Mine too! If she brings out the animatronic bird to sing with (or sings duets with her mirror), I’d bail out, fast!

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        Mary Poppins would be an exhausting boss!

        …That said, if we are directed to climb a tall ladder and get gingerbread stars, I am THERE for it!

  6. Amber*

    I know the OP said their supervisor was not being sarcastic and we’re supposed to take OP’s word for it, but I just can’t help but thinking she IS being sarcastic and is just very subtle with her sarcasm. I feel like this is something I might say, even in a cheerful voice, to make a joke that I know XYZ task is boring, like “oh man, sounds like fun! Wish I could do that!” just to add some levity to an otherwise negative situation.

    1. Not So Super-visor*

      This was my thought too. I tend to be sarcastic in a cheerful way, and I know with 100% certainty that I’ve responded to someone’s complaints about a project before by saying “Well, that sounds fun.” It’s usually followed with empathetic statements, but I can see someone thinking that it’s a totally Pollyana way of responding.

      1. Amber*

        Exactly. Still absolutely worth bringing up to the supervisor, because I would want to know if someone were perceiving my comments that way. But it might be helpful framing to assume that she’s NOT being serious about everything being fun, and people are just misreading her.

    2. Threeve*

      I have a very, very hard time believing that someone could actually think an update on the coronavirus is “fun” in any normal sense of the word.

      1. Joielle*

        And for that example in particular, the fact that it was prefaced with “oh no” also made me think it was meant jokingly, even if the tone didn’t communicate that.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        I’m definitely reading that with the “here comes the train!” voice people use while feeding toddlers.

        Being spoken to in that tone, by the way, would make me lose my mind.

    3. oh you*

      Yeah, I have a coworker who responds to all frustrations with, “It’s fine!” But she 1000% does not mean it, no matter how pleasant and unsarcastic she sounds.

      But, if this person is really pushing the, “I wish people wouldn’t complain to each other” thing, I think she really does mean, “Suck it up and pretend it’s fun!” or something along those lines.

      Which, is my least favorite person to deal with. I don’t need to vent about every frustration, but if I am venting literally all I need is for someone to say, “Oh no, that’s obnoxious” Pretending that it’s not makes it worse.

      1. Ama*

        The most important work advice I’ve been given in the last few years is “it’s okay to not like every task you have to do in your job” which sounds very common sense, but it really resonated with me because we so rarely get told that it is okay to have negative feelings and not try to mitigate them in some way. It kind of feels like this manager needs to learn that lesson.

        1. Amy Sly*

          I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this line: “Work isn’t supposed to be fun. If it was supposed to be fun, we’d pay to do it instead of the other way around.”

    4. ap*

      Agree. I don’t think anyone actually thinks a Coronavirus update is “fun.”

      Might not be doing Daria-esque delivery, but I don’t think she’s doing Rod & Todd Flanders cheers.

    5. HoHumDrum*

      I also do this, and I have been told before that it can be hard to tell that I’m joking for people who aren’t into dry humor. It’s always been helpful for me to be told if someone isn’t appreciating or getting my jokes, so I think that LW should still talk to their boss because if it turns out boss is being sarcastic and no one is realizing that’s something boss needs to know.

      1. OP*

        I love dry humor! This is…not that.

        It seems most of the time that she knows whatever info she has to deliver is going to be a bit of a bummer (“here’s a project that’s not great,” “this covid update is going to impact our operating procedure,” etc), but she wants to get in a positive spin before we can even think “Oh, bummer.”

        I am not asking for everything to be delivered as though it’s an imminent catastrophe (had that boss, too, and while I preferred that delivery to this, it’s not ideal), but you don’t have to soften the blow by saying it’s fun. I get it, some parts of the job aren’t gonna be great. That’s fine!

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          OP, I understand what you mean. I used to have a boss that was a real PMA type, mind over matter. He refused to acknowledge the dreary parts of our job, even though we knew and accepted those parts. I didn’t mind doing the work but resented being told it was a fun job when it clearly wasn’t.

          Seriously, you don’t have to sell me. I’ll do the work and if it’s fun, I’ll find out for myself, right?

        2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          It sounds like half your battle is trying to get your manager to see the disconnect in how she’s coming across, and the other half is not letting her see just how deeply CLM-irritated you are with this.

          So on the latter half – this is going to sound a little weird – (because I am a little weird, just so you know), but I’m curious to know what you think of experimenting with this:

          Whenever she says “fun” can you try a mental autocorrect fail to “fur”..? Just in your head.

          Fun Coronavirus update! = It’s not fun, what is wrong with you. *eyeroll*
          Fur Coronavirus update! = Oh no, animals! What now?

          Fun daily task you always do! = It’s not fun, what is wrong with you. *eyeroll*
          Fur daily task you always do! = Yeah ok, just groomin’ my llamas as usual.

          New fun job for you! = Bet it’s not fun, what is wrong with you. *eyeroll*
          New fur job for you! = A kitty? Tell me it’s a new kitty!

          1. Willis*

            My thought was the word “fun” has become meaningless in that office and either Boss needs to stop saying it or OP needs to stop listening to it. It sounds to me like a habit of the boss that has little to do with this specific workplace. I bet her kids have a fun time cleaning their rooms and she and her spouse take turns with the fun of doing the dishes. But, replacing it with “fur” is a considerable more comical approach than pretending not to hear it :)

        3. TL -*

          Oh, not helpful. My boss’s definition of fun is very different than mine – so she’s got some weird ideas about what constitutes a “fun” project for me and often gets really excited about giving me stuff that I’m very meh about.

          And the stuff I am excited about she doesn’t get at all so she doesn’t really process that something she finds really tedious is fun for me. It’s definitely interesting sometimes.

          1. DyneinWalking*

            That doesn’t sound so much a misunderstanding of “fun” as a lack of emotional intelligence…

    6. Phony Genius*

      I had a computer teacher in college who only used the word in the sarcastic sense, in a fake cheerful tone. The more cheerful he was, the more sarcastic he was being. Thing is, not everybody is capable of identifying sarcasm, no matter how obvious. That’s why it’s recommended to be avoided in a professional setting.

    7. Kristin*

      I have a bit of a similar habit. I say, “Oh, how fun” or “Sounds fun” and mean it sarcastically, but sometimes people take it at face value. (I think I come across to some people as though I have no sense of humor, for whatever reasaon.) It might be worthwhile asking her how she means it. If she uses it both seriously and sarcastically, maybe she could be convinced to use it less one way or the other, or give some indication which she means. It’s a communication issue as much as a personality one. You need to be able to understand each other, and that means talking it out rather than trying to guess.

    8. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

      This is me. I will sound excessively cheery or enthusiastic as opposed to dour or sarcastic, but I am being sarcastic. I guess it comes from having to sound respectful and enthusiastic for my clients and sometimes the powers that be. Especially, given OP’s description of this being in response to things she can’t change, it may be her awkward way of trying to offer up something and relate.

    9. new kid*

      Yeah, the reaction to that phrasing seems disproportionate to me. It sounds like there are other issues with her as a manager that could be addressed, but I know a ton of people who use a generally cheerful “that sounds like fun” to mean “that sucks/I sympathize/etc”. I can see it being obnoxious in it’s frequency, but it seems pretty clear in literally all the examples used that she doesn’t actually think the subject is ‘fun’ (the clearest example being the coronavirus email, where she literally starts the sentence with “oh no”).

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah…it sounds like a delivery thing more than a “not sarcastic”.

      Since the OP doesn’t like their manager, it makes sense that you miss their actual intentions when they say things off your standard beat.

      When people don’t really know me, I have to remind myself to remind them that I’m just being a turkey and that I’m joking because things are awful and if I don’t say differently, I’ll curl up and die inside much faster.

      However we have those people in the world who say things like “Well it’s not an eating disorder or cancer, so cheer up nothing is that bad!!!” Those people…are not joking.

    11. Kelly L.*

      I also wondered about sarcasm. I’ve been known to say “Oooh FUN” or “Such YAY!” when something annoying happens.

    12. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, it seems like she *is* using sarcasm but maybe hasn’t mastered the correct tone to go with it.

      I mean, OP says she wasn’t being sarcastic about the coronavirus update but there is literally no way that’s true–especially if she started the sentence with “uh-oh.” “Uh-oh” and “fun” are inherently opposite meanings so one of them has to be ironic, and given the context it seems obvious that the “fun” part must be sarcasm.

      So she’s probably not very good at it, but I think they should really reconsider whether she might be using sarcasm with a weirdly upbeat tone.

      1. Not All*

        Not the OP…but sadly I *do* work with someone who thinks the entire COVID-19 thing is actually fun & interesting and gets super excited about every update. They don’t really believe in it & are treating it like they are watching a movie. It’s bizarre but there absolutely are people like this.

        Thankfully I get to go to primarily telework the next 2 weeks.

    13. smoke tree*

      I think it reveals the depths of my sarcasm that I read all of this as incredibly sarcastic. I now maintain the belief that fun boss is being incredibly irritating on purpose because she wants to mess with the staff. She’s playing the long game.

    14. CastIrony*

      I’m like this, too. Last week, I cheerfully said, “Yay!” to something my boss said that wasn’t good. After my boss said something like, “No, that’s not a good thing!” I had to clarify that it was a “sarcastic ‘yay’ “.

  7. Trek*

    I had a similar situation when we had a boss take over our department temporarily. He really wanted everyone to enjoy their work so he kept calling all projects fun or that it was up to us to ‘see’ the fun in a project or job. He also told us to bring concerns to him but no one would. One night I had stayed late and it had been a rough week for everyone- lots of stress, missed deadlines etc. He stopped by my desk with the usual banter about how we need to see the fun in things and I must have given him a look because he stopped and asked why the team was so resistant to him and his ideas. I looked at him and told him that by him insisting that everything was fun it made it impossible for anyone to have a serious conversation with him regarding issues or concerns. It also came across like a parent trying to talk children into going to a science fair they didn’t want to attend by saying they would have fun even though they knew they wouldn’t. He backed off the ‘fun’ talk after that and was a decent interim boss. I don’t think I could have worked with him more than the 3 months. If you have the opportunity to provide feedback you need to let her know that all the fun talk is juvenile and immature and making it harder to see her as a leader. You can use nicer language than what I’ve written here.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That example does a much better job of explaining the issue than I did above! Perfect, I hope the OP reads this and can use it to try to explain the problem to her supervisor.

  8. Heidi*

    For some of these examples, I’m wondering if she just reflexively uses the word “fun” a lot without realizing how often she says it. Some people say “like” a lot, for example. But other instances just sound odd. Work does not have to be fun (otherwise it would recreation, I guess). I’d be diplomatic about mentioning it. I’ve witnessed instances where people have said something like, “You say fun a lot,” and it threw that person into an existential crises of insecurity and self-consciousness.

    1. designbot*

      I think that could be a great way to address it. Point out that she says it a lot, and ask what she means by it.

    2. JustaTech*

      Right, this is something I was thinking too. A lot of people have a word or phrase they use a lot, sometimes just because they use it a lot, but also it can be the thing they say when they’re thinking of their next statement. I call these “null phrases”, where it’s just a sound to take up space before the next meaningful statement. Most people use “um”, but my dad has a whole collection of business-speak phrases (“that makes a lot of sense”) that are just him either responding without listening, or holding his place in the conversation.

      Also yes to your second point: it’s hard to point out someone else’s verbal quirk without them becoming super self-conscious. Would this be one of those conversations that would be best to have in the afternoon?

      1. redwinemom*

        I have a friend who responds to activities that I do with the phrase “How fun!” (said with enthusiasm).

        Think of me saying “We went to the store today” – – and her responding “How fun!”
        “I decided to clean out my closet” – – and her responding “How fun!”
        “I’m thinking of trimming the trees out back” – – and her responding “How fun!”

        It does drive me a bit crazy actually. I think I’ll respond with the Princess Bride quote the next time.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          I also have a friend who has a verbal habit that drives me crazy. You could say, “I had dinner with my mom last night.” She’ll respond, “I’m not gonna lie, that sounds fun!” It takes away the genuineness of the response! You don’t have to start every sentence by telling me you’re not going to lie. She’ll start sentences that way 3 or 4 times in a 30 minute conversation. I don’t think she realizes she’s doing it.

          I wish the Inigo’s quote could help me here…maybe with some adjustment. “I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means” – ? or “I don’t think that phrase is having the impact you think it will” – ?

    3. Bouncy Shiny*

      I have a colleague who recently got gently called out for over-use of the word “lovely”.
      She tended to use it in meetings, both as a sort of punctuation “Lovely, let’s move on to the next issue” and as a general “well done”. It’s pretty automatic at this point, but it’s sincere.

      This person is very receptive, and does active work on finding better ways to communicate, so when our colleague suggested that “lovely” detracted from what she was saying (people don’t connect “lovely” with work, so they may feel it’s small talk rather than work talk, or perceive it as insincere or meaningless), she immediately started working on a plan to replace “lovely” with more suitable words.

      “That’s lovely” could be come “That’s clear and well structured”, or “That’s thoroughly researched and planned, well done!”

      I’m cheering this on, because I think people will respond better to concrete positive feedback than vague. I’d be happy if I got that feedback!

  9. Wing Leader*

    To me, it sounds like she’s overcompensating for the low morale and is trying to come off as the “cool” manager. Which tells me she is not a good manager. She needs to be sympathetic, assertive, fair, and decisive, but not this.

  10. Jedi Squirrel*

    Relentless positivism is the eighth deadly sin.

    Sometimes things are terrible and you’ve got to suck it up and get them done. Pretending they’re not awful does not help.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      Yes. Shelf reading a library’s collection isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. Neither is doing the Missing Items report, or the In Transit report (for items that are supposed to be shipped from one branch to another and haven’t shown up where they’re supposed to). Getting those done gives you a sense of accomplishment, however.

      1. Jennifer*

        Good point. There’s usually a way to put a positive spin on something at work. Not always, of course. “Let’s get this grunt work done so we can start on a much more enjoyable project!”

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        I actually enjoy shelfreading, but even then I wouldn’t call it *fun*. It’s weirdly meditative, and there’s a nice sense of accomplishment when it’s done.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          TIL what shelfreading actually is, and I agree. I’ve actually been doing this for free in libraries for a long time.

    2. Mockingjay*

      And sometimes things are…mundane.

      Data entry is not fun. It’s boring and repetitive. You might look forward to doing it because you can put on headphones and stream something, but I wouldn’t call it fun. I’d just call it work.

  11. Jean*

    Any workplace that can’t address problems in a frank, factual way is going to end up toxic. Of course.

    It seems to me like this particular boss just has an annoying verbal tic and doesn’t actually consider any of those things “fun,” but it can’t be said for sure just from reading the letter. OP, does she refuse to acknowledge or discuss problems at all? Or is this just her “ice breaker” for introducing topics? It makes a difference.

  12. Kristin*

    Having the conversation about the general office culture and how the negative attitudes came to be sounds like a great idea! It could really help her if she knows the deal more thoroughly. That’s assuming she hasn’t been there terribly long. The longer she’s there without anyone talking to her about it, the harder it will be.

  13. tye*

    I might be your colleague! “Fun” is definitely a verbal tick word for me. I use it sarcastically (or intend to) but I can see how I might fail to stick the landing some of the time. Is it possible your colleague uses “fun” as a filler word?

  14. Princesa Zelda*

    She might not be, but it’s worth keeping in mind that she might be being sarcastic or trying to cover her own irritation/stress/etc. When I’m in a sub-optimal situation, my response is usually something like “Fun!” with a plastic smile and a voice an octave above where it would usually be. I do not actually think the situation is fun. My coworkers know what my real smile looks like and what I actually sound like when I’m pleased with something. But I can and do come off as an absolute Pollyanna to people who don’t know me well. For myself, that’s a feature not a bug, and helped me survive Retail Hell; I also can see that it might be maladaptive for a manager. It doesn’t change Alison’s advice but it’s definitely something to bear in mind!

    1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      You sound similar to my last manager (who I loved, btw). She would also do the octave-up phrases in our debriefs. “Take care of the xyz? [up] that isn’t part of our teams job? [up] that the mansplaining man was supposed to have finished 3 weeks ago? [up] by the end of this week??! SURE HAVE YOU ALSO GOT A FORK I CAN STICK IN MY EYE BECAUSE THAT ALSO SOUNDS TECHNICALLY MANAGEABLE.” But we dealt and we had fun, and she was my absolute favourite manager to date.

  15. JJbeanie*

    Am I the only one who somewhat regularly has use of the phrase “we have really different definitions of fun” at work?? But truly, if you can’t deadpan joke or banter or speak your mind with your colleagues and boss that just sounds oppressive (and a very un-fun culture on top of the obvious un-fun-ness inherent in being at work). Does she think work is your hobby?

    1. James*

      “Am I the only one who somewhat regularly has use of the phrase “we have really different definitions of fun” at work??”

      Not at all.

      My work breeds what I call “optimistic, bubbly cynicism”. Some parts of the job SUCK–working 12 hour days in a hot cat food plant during a heavy rain, for example. There’s no way to pretend this is fun. But…you develop a sense of pride in your ability to do the work that sucks. The old-timers like me will discuss various horrible situations we’ve been in whenever we get together for lunch/office events, each bragging about how much their part of the job sucked worse than yours (in a good-natured manner).

      New folks either learn to adapt, or leave in 18 months. When they hear “This job’s going to be fun” they learn to prep for a very uncomfortable time. Pretty much every new person I’ve met has said “You have a weird definition of ‘fun'” at least once!

  16. Jdc*

    Oh good grief I would lose my mind. Ridiculously upbeat people drive me bonkers. Add hearing how fun everything is and I would be tempted to throw things at her head.

  17. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    I had a supervisor a little like this once. We were in a pretty dysfunctional environment where we usually had multiple priority-one fires to put out at any given time, direction from above was either unhelpful or non-existent, and it had been made clear going outside the official escalation path was a firing offense. Every issue I brought him, no matter how serious, was met with the same airy dismissiveness.

    It took me a long time to finally address it, but eventually I got a chance to talk to him privately and asked him why he treated everything like it was no big deal. His response was that part of his job was to “keep up morale”, and that complaining lowers morale, because folks fixate on minor issues.

    I said something like, “That may generally be true. But for me, I usually can deal with the minor stuff on my own. I only bring things to you when I think they’re pretty serious. When you treat them like they’re non-issues I worry more, because I feel like you don’t understand the seriousness of the issue, and I try harder to explain the problem. If you want me to stop worrying about it, I need to believe that you understand it and are handling it.”

    From that point forward, he did cut the Pollyanna routine when talking with me, at least. It felt a lot better to get a direct “this sucks, but we can’t do anything about it” than a “everything’s awesome!”.

  18. Butterfly Counter*

    I wonder if this has anything to do with dealing with Imposter Syndrome and the “fake-it-’til-you-make-it” advice? She’s trying to convince herself, and by extension, those around her that it IS fun so she isn’t swallowed whole into the terrible issues within the company.

    Back in college, I was on a sports team that DRILLED positive thinking into my brain as a way to both overcome what we thought we couldn’t do but hadn’t tried hard enough and to encourage our teammates. And while I did remain a pragmatist, I could see how positive thinking helped me in the long run.

    For a while, I tried to be relentlessly positive at work and at home, especially when things were bad. But when I saw I got more results from family and coworkers with showing I understood the reality of the situation, I started leading with that before trying to interject a little positivity. “This sucks, but it will be over soon.”

  19. Jennifer*

    It sounds like you guys might be a little too pessimistic and she’s trying to counteract that with relentless optimism. If you don’t want to have a conversation with her, maybe try to meet her in the middle and maybe she’ll adjust over time? I like the suggestion from another comment. Inject a little positivity instead of it being doom and gloom all the time. “Yes, this sucks, but here’s an idea for how to change it…”

    Maybe she’ll think that her tactics have “worked” and will move on. I do understand how annoying it is but I don’t think the problem is completely on her end either.

    1. JJ*

      I agree, I don’t understand why everyone is piling on this manager while OP acknowledges that they contribute to the bad morale/unpleasant work environment? She’s not taking the right approach, but what is she supposed to do, join you in cultivating this nightmare work environment?

      OP please consider that while this coping mechanism may work for you (though I’d wager it contributes to your unhappiness there), you are likely making your neighbors miserable and that’s so unnecessary. Just…be bland about all the dysfunction, and stop participating in gallows humor gripe fests.

      1. Jennifer*

        I’ve noticed that pessimism seems to be praised a lot more than optimism, almost as if the more cynical/negative someone is the more intelligent they are assumed to be.

      2. OP*

        I get where you’re coming from, and I do think I’m going to try to stop joining my coworker as much when she comes in to complain.

        But sometimes you need to talk to someone about how much it sucks that the person who cuts all the checks just announced they’re leaving effective ASAP and there are going to be delays, without hearing it will be a fun adjustment!

        1. JJ*

          I totally get it. Most of my work experiences have been toxic ones, and you sound like you’re on a sinking ship, which I’ve also been on. But working with people who complain and are actively negative all the time is incredibly draining and makes it so much worse.

          I’m glad you’re going to cut down on the complaining, not to be a Pollyanna myself, but I really believe you’ll be less easily aggravated if you only save the venting for when you actually need to (i.e. not as a habit/small talk topic), and try to focus on what IS working, and what you do like. And if none of that’s work, that’s fine! Embrace the not my circus, not my monkeys lifestyle. :)

        2. Jennifer*

          I understand the need to vent and don’t think the manager is 100% in the right at all.

  20. A Different OP*

    Hello! I contract with a similar company, and in fact got advice from Alison on it in the past here: https://www.askamanager.org/2019/03/im-so-sorry-you-have-to-work-on-this-garbage-project-with-these-horrible-clients.html

    What’s most interesting to me is the advice she gave then is to do exactly what your new boss is trying to do. “In your shoes, I’d try just cheerfully countering your colleague’s remarks about how dreadful everything is. When they apologize that you have to deal with a “horrid project,” you say, “Oh, this is fine! I actually really like doing X!” or “Oh, X isn’t so bad! I’ll start on this and have it back to you by Thursday.” When they apologize for reasonable clients, you say, “I like working with Lily! Don’t worry at all” or “Nah, she’s fine! I love her stories about her goats.”

    She does mention not getting into Pollyanna territory, which your boss is doing. But to be honest, you advocating that she adapt to your awful work environment sounds like the wrong approach to me. I think you need to be aware that your coping mechanism is actively contributing to keeping your workplace deeply unpleasant (and I’d wager, adding to your own poor morale too). You work in a volatile place that sounds totally dysfunctional, but there’s no point in contributing to that while you’re there, you’re just going to keep yourself and everyone else miserable.

    I think the boss, while not nailing the approach at all, is attempting to take the healthier path here for herself and all of you.

      1. A Different OP*

        Yes, but the workplace culture sounds really similar to me.

        As an update, things are only getting worse at that workplace, and I’ve given up trying to signal that I don’t want to be pulled into the negativity and just try to interact with that client as little as possible now. That’s why I wanted to point out that OP should consider changing their behavior as well, so they’re at least not as constantly unhappy as my clients are.

    1. OP*

      Well, to be fair to my coworkers and I, it’s not like we’re saying “Oh, what a dreadful project” or “I can’t stand to work with that person and every day is going to suck!” It’s more like, “Ugh, that’s going to make things more difficult going forward. Oh, well, what can you do?”

      I am going to try to complain less, because when I do get another job in a less toxic atmosphere, I don’t want to be known as the grouch who hates their job (and again, I actually really like my current job), but it’s not a constant stream. Most of the fun! stuff actually comes either prior to the delivery of some news my boss knows won’t be great, or as a tossed off comment if she overhears a conversation that seems negative.

  21. University Minion*

    Ugh, this exact thing is a big part (and symptomatic of other problems) of why I left a long-term relationship.

    Me: I’m leaving for my 8th straight 12-hour shift, let me know if I need to pick anything up on the way home!
    Him: Okay, have fun!
    Me: (Internal Monologue) Are you effing kidding me?

    Yes, conversations were had. Words were used. He didn’t give a crap.
    Reader, I dumped him.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I think in this case “okay, have fun” = “I wasn’t listening to a word you said”.

      1. University Minion*

        Which was basically it. Wasn’t listening, didn’t give a damn, since it didn’t affect him. Not surprisingly, dude is all over social media whining about how overblown COVID-19 is because it’s interrupting his life. Good riddance.

        1. allathian*

          A bit OT, but one thing I really don’t get is how people keep following exes on social media…
          Let’s just hope that C-19 doesn’t end up biting him or anyone he cares about (assuming he’s capable of caring about anyone except himself) in the butt.

  22. hbc*

    I would be sorely tempted to fill up the Fun Idea box with things that would actually make work a more pleasant place, maybe modified slightly for her taste. “It would be fun if we could have everyone submit their reimbursement on time so we could finish the reporting by noon and then have a little celebration.” “It would be so much fun if we put a QC check on spouts before they were attached to the teapots and we could use part of the savings to bring in donuts!” “I could have a lot more fun if I was given a production timeline I could believe in and not worry about the inevitable slip in schedule. Really, I’d be over the moon.”

  23. Leela*

    OP – I had a manager that would now be referred to as having toxic positivity, and then was referred to as having a really positive outlook. It made my job (also very dysfunctional and full of gallows-esque humor) much worse to have someone like that around and in charge because it seemed like either she wasn’t taking our issues seriously or, frankly, like she wasn’t smart enough to realize why things were a problem.

    It sounds a little different in that she did blow off major issues and act like everything could be solved by people just smiling more, as the quality of working there just disintegrated around us. It’s hard with someone like this because HR/grandbosses just won’t react the same way to you saying someone’s overly positive and they don’t see why it can be a bad thing (those people make *their* jobs much easier but smarter ones know better I think, than to just blindly enjoy positive-sounding vibes when problems are still very much persisting).

    And it’s also awkward to say to your boss “you know, I don’t have fun with this assignment you gave me so I’d rather you didn’t phrase it that way” and probably not advisable too. You’re in a very rough spot, I know from experience!

    The only thing that ever worked with her, and I don’t know that this is going to work across the board, was to sit her down and say “I feel like when you describe things that come up as fun, you might not be aware that X, Y, or Z is going on. X, Y, or Z are causing problems with the project, do you see any way from your level that we can address those?”

    Good luck!

  24. Shramps*

    My coworker says “fun times” sarcastically after most arduous situations because she has a limited set of phrases she uses. It’s just a funny thing I’ve noticed now that I’ve worked with her for a while. At this point I’ve come to ignore it.

  25. Quill*

    My brain assumed that this was “fun” the same way that waiting on a computer update halfway through a time critical task is “fun.”

  26. NeonFireworks*

    I had a colleague kind of like this for a short while. I found it difficult to work with them because they would go around being perky and cutesy and kind of a show-off in a way that seemed childish (e.g. big smiles and “aren’t you proud of me?”). But since I was lateral to them I never said anything about their habits and tried my best to be nice. Whenever they got feedback from the higher-ups telling them their work needed to improve, they would absolutely fall apart, so I ended up consoling them a few times. Which was awkward, because it was clear that the feedback had been given for a reason. Eventually, colleague simply got frustrated and quit. I hope they were able to find a better match, maybe something where an ability to connect with small children and keep them engaged would be a strength rather than being completely irrelevant.

  27. Fikly*

    I find data entry fun. But I’m not going to tell other people they need to find it fun! Or tell them they’re doing it wrong if they don’t find it fun.

    Different people enjoy different tasks. And that is good, because otherwise there would be many tasks that everyone would hate!

  28. Vicky Austin*

    My former boss frequently said, “While you can get satisfaction from being able to give our clients the help they need, work isn’t supposed to be fun. That’s why it’s called work.”

    1. allathian*

      That said, it shouldn’t be continuously unpleasant either. Work can be fun, but it doesn’t have to be fun all the time. And getting a very much not-fun task done can give a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

  29. Panthera uncia*

    I’m required to refer to every problem as a “challenge” and I likewise want to chew nails over it. This kind of crap is designed to distract you from the actual problems in an organization. Get you fired up over something petty, so you don’t have the energy left over to protest the garbage that really matters.

    1. University Minion*

      Ugh, yeah… now you’re bringing back not-so-fun work memories, “There are no bad days, just excuses!”
      Ugh.Ugh.Ugh.

  30. Alicia*

    When I was in a job that had a lot of tough problems I would say that things would be “interesting” or an “adventure”, which seemed like a good balance between positive and realistic. This was also a very casual environment.

    1. James*

      I use the term “exciting”. Nearly get blown up because someone did something stupid? Come across an illegal gold mine? Have a run-in with the local psychopath? You had an exciting day! I have learned to not want excitement in my life. :D

  31. fhqwhgads*

    I wonder if it might be helpful to think of the new boss as a smurf. And anytime she says something is fun, imagine she called it “smurfy”. Because it seems to me, regardless of Why she’s doing it, that’s what she’s doing here: she’s overusing this adjective to the point that it becomes a catch-all and has no specific meaning.

  32. RB*

    Maybe she’s using “fun” as a catch-all type of word to cover a lot of different things, kind of like how I use “weird.” I use it to mean effed-up, unusual, complicated, difficult, or I just use it out of sheer laziness when I don’t want to find the right word.

  33. Blarg*

    We had a major natural disaster in my old workplace. While many of us experienced it as literally traumatic, my grand boss kept calling it fun. His role required that he throw himself into the response, and it seemed to help him cope. And he kept calling it “fun,” a couple years on. We had a good relationship and I eventually had a conversation with him, explaining that for those of us experiencing PTSD or who simply did not look back on it fondly, it felt pretty crappy to hear him call it fun. He took it really well and stopped saying he thought it was fun (at least at work). For him it was a coping skill, and he hadn’t realized his method was causing harm to others.

  34. Pink Geek*

    I had a manager who wanted to make sure we were having “more fun” at work and to make sure we had a “fun working environment.” And it made me throw up in my mouth a bit.

    I picked a strategic time and asked her in a co-operative tone, “Can you say a little more about what you mean when you say ‘fun’?”

    And her answer made total sense! She wanted us to feel more connected to our team and to feel safe and relaxed at work and with our colleagues. I don’t want to have *fun* at work but I do want those things.

    That doesn’t mean that is how your manager is using it but if you can manage the right tone/timing it might help to ask her what she means.

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