my daily work calls with my boss feel too social

A reader writes:

With the current worldwide situation, my team has been granted the ability to work from home. This is a HUGE deal, as my workplace is very anti-telecommute and has been vocally against it for years.

One of the caveats of this arrangement is a daily one-on-one phone call from my supervisor, Jane. She’s fairly new to the team, and while she brings a wealth of management experience, none of it is in our very specialized field and the minutiae of our complicated technical jobs seem to overwhelm her. Our small team is very high-functioning but fairly introverted, and even in the workplace purely social chit-chat isn’t common.

Jane, however, is very extroverted and seems to be struggling with not having actual face-to-face contact with her team or people in general. These phone calls have become 3-5 minutes of actual work-related conversation and 15-20 minutes of social discussion (how she is, how I am, general commiserating about the pandemic, etc.).

Other members of the team have shared dismay and frustration that they must submit to these long conversations, too, but none of us quite know what to do about it. None of us have a desire to be Jane’s social life. If we were at work, she’d be wandering around the building or in endless meetings, so this isn’t something we normally are subjected to.

So far we have tried:
• Not asking how she’s doing in return … but that doesn’t deter her; she just launches into how she’s doing, which inevitably includes talking about how scary everything is, how she didn’t get her walk in, etc.
• One of my teammates tried only focusing on work. For instance, when being asked how the day’s going, he replied, “I’ve got my head down focusing on this llama grooming document” but she just said, “Oh great! Did I tell you what my dog did this morning?”
• Another person has been curt and almost snippy. This resulted in motherly concern about how she was doing during these “unprecedented times.”

Jane has taken feedback well in the past and incorporated it when she can, so I think she’d be open to a discussion about the length and off-topic-ness of these phone calls. But what’s the best way to discuss it with her without being rude or appearing uncaring?

Do you think there’s room to push back on the daily calls themselves, now that you’ve been working from home for a few weeks? Ideally there would be room to say, “Now that we’ve been working like this for a while, can we move to weekly check-ins rather than the daily ones we’ve been doing? We haven’t ended up having much work stuff to delve into on them, and moving to weekly would free up a couple of hours a week. We’d of course still do ad hoc calls if anything time-sensitive came up.”

But if that’s a non-starter, then it depends on how open you think you can be with Jane. If you think she’d take it well, you could say, “Would you mind if we kept our daily calls a bit shorter? I’m finding we’re often spending more of the call chatting than on work stuff. It’s nice to catch up, but I’ve realized it’s adding up to a couple of hours a week I could really use for (projects).”

Or: “I’ve noticed we’re doing a lot of chatting on our daily calls, and it sometimes stresses me out, especially when I’ve got deadlines looming. Would you mind if we did less chatting on those calls and kept them shorter? Especially right now, I can use all the work time I can get.”

Otherwise, though, try being more direct when it’s happening. For example:
* “Since that’s it for our agenda, I should jump off to keep working on X.”
* “Well, I’m swamped today so I should run. I’ll let you know once I hear back from Falcon. Otherwise, talk to you tomorrow!”

Or set that expectation at the start of the call: “I’m buried under the X project. Do you mind if we keep this short so I can keep that moving?”

You could also tell her that you’re finding it makes you more stressed, not less, to talk about the current crisis and say it would help you to stick to just work on these calls.

That said, you’ve got to allow for some amount of human connection. 20 minutes of Jane-driven phone socializing a day is too much if you’re not enthusiastically participating, but five minutes of it in each check-in isn’t unreasonable (allowing, of course, for times when you’re especially busy and need to say that).

And while I very much understand your coworker feeling snippy, showing that snippiness really isn’t okay — with anyone, but especially with your boss. I don’t blame Jane for asking about the curtness; I’d be alarmed too if someone I managed were speaking to me that way.

Be direct, ask for what you need, but stay polite.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. yup yup*

    I have *clients* like this right now. They spend at least twice as much time on our daily call on awkward chit chat than they do on work stuff… and since they are the client, they get to set the meeting schedule and agenda. Sigh. At least I can bill them by the hour…

    1. Julia*

      I agree with all of this advice, but I find myself bristling at “showing that snippiness isn’t okay especially with your boss.” I don’t think people have any moral or professional obligation to be especially polite to their boss, more so than with other colleagues. It may be *necessary* because of the hierarchical way offices work, and it’s certainly expedient advice to give – “you will end up happier at work if you take pains to be especially polite to your boss” – but beyond that I don’t think it’s something you Should Do for any higher-level reason than expediency.

      In fact, I think there is a moral obligation for bosses to be especially nice to their employees, but not the other way around. Where there’s a power relationship vulnerable to abuse, the obligation for politeness needs to run down, not up.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sure, that was imprecise wording on my part. It’s not that it’s morally or ethically worse to be snippy to your boss; it’s not. It’s that it’s not in your best interests.

        1. allathian*

          If they’ve tried pushing back, and the boss isn’t getting the message that the social chitchat is taking too much of the employees’ time, I can sure understand that the frustration could come out snippy.
          That said, snippy is definitely not OK, but in this case, since the boss is clearly in love with her own voice, I’d just disengage. Check out mentally if not physically.
          If you have 1:1 for performance evaluations and she asks how she could help you perform better in your job, here would be an opportunity to push back. Or if there’s a survey on how people are dealing with WFH at any point, perhaps it could be raised then?
          Getting snippy to the point of motherly concern could give someone the excuse to say “I’d do better without these daily check-ins. They’re really stressing me out, especially the non-work talk.”

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I think saying the boss is “in love with her own voice” is a bit harsh here. I realize it’s an extra 15 minutes on a 5 minute call but if she is living by herself and has zero interaction with others loneliness has all kinds of ways of manifesting. Grabbing onto any conversation you can get is one of them.

            1. Amaranth*

              She also might have read a book or blog with suggestions on Managing in a Crisis and thinks part of her job is to be approachable and inflict positivity and bonding on everyone.

      2. AppleStan*

        But there is a professional obligation to be polite to your boss…it’s called “insubordination” when you aren’t. Treating your boss rudely or with disrespect or snippy-ness or cold shoulder or anywhere in between does not go unnoticed by others…it leads to undermining the boss’ authority at the office, and leads to morale issues, which impact the office.

        I agree with your statement about the power relationship requiring the boss to be especially mindful of how she treats those under her, but that obligation isn’t one way.

      3. Mediamaven*

        This is a weird comment. The obligation for politeness should run in both directions.

        1. JSPA*

          One person’s percieved “snippy” is another person’s “bruque,” or “direct.”

          A higher-up can certainly give a brief command to a report, or reasonably expect others to take a short interaction in the context of, “my time actually is, literally, more valuable to the company.”

          If the boss is checking in with 50 people, it’s entirely reasonable for the boss to have less in-depth interest, and to pull the plug faster, on the details of any one project (especially if they trust the person handling the task).

          The problem here appears to be that the boss is not bringing much practical value, and is perhaps uneasily aware of this, and is trying to make up for that lack of practical value by (depending on your point of view) engaging in emotional team building, using soft skills, or just…eh…trying to be pals.

          I suppose it’s also possible that the boss is under pressure to have discussions of a certain length, daily. If so, OP and coworkers might be able to use the time to teach the boss enough so that the boss will become more effective in the role (?). Finding out the “why” is the first step.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I read “especially the boss” here to say “because your boss can fire you.”

        You get snippy and rude with a coworker, they can indeed still get you in trouble for sure but not in the same way as being rude to someone who has the actual authority in place to deal with it right then and there.

        But yes, in reality you are supposed to be nice to everyone. Snapping and snipping at anyone is unacceptable, from the boss, to the boss, to your colleagues, to different departments, to your customers, etc. It happens from time to time but if it’s a pattern or a personality trait, you’re not going to fit into a lot of places.

      5. Des*

        Why would the obligation of politeness not run to another person just because of their job title? What?

  2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Oh, following! I had a mentor for a training program that turned our obligatory weekly 20 minute check-in’s into one hour accounts about her favorite TV shows. I never knew how to handle it. I wondered if she did it with all 30 interns she was responsible for?

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I wonder here how large this team is. If she is spending fifteen to twenty minutes every day chit-chatting which each one, this can easily add up to several hours, depending on how many people she had working under her.

      1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

        Letter writer here. Our team is 6 team members, a supervisor, and a manager. We are all SME and highly specialized withing our group and our department as a whole. So if she was spending 20 minutes with each of us, she’s eating about 3 hours of her day doing this?

        1. Sarah*

          Could you suggest instead of one-on-ones with everyone you do one daily check-in with the whole group. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but it might actually make the calls shorter and less chit-chatty.

          1. TimeTravlR*

            We do a group check in 3 or 4 times a week. It’s at a set time so it’s easy to schedule around. It’s good to hear what else is going on. There is a little time spent on some “how’s everybody holding up” but not too much… I guess that’s the big diff between my boss and OP’s!

        2. Really?*

          Is it really your call to determine how she spends her time? And if these are individual check-in’s, this means that you and your teammates are what, taking screen shots or spending more time sending each other what messages she’s sending you? Rather than just speaking up from the start? Your letter made it seem that this was a group call it was happening on, so I could see hesitation in bringing it up. But these are one on one calls, how very rude and awkward the way you’ve been talking and treating her. I would seriously be thinking about how your actions will reflect on you when your team goes back to work in office. If I was your manager, I would be having serious reservations about all of you right now. She may have backed off, but this won’t be forgotten.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I think my reservations would be about the job itself. If this is the culture of the job, then I am not really that interested in the job. At my current job there is one place I call and they have zero tolerance for even a “how are you today?” It’s an incredible thing to watch, their tone of voice is really something else. Heaven forbid I should tell them my name or ask theirs. (I have to have their name to make a record of who I spoke to.)
            It feels like they WANT me to treat them like robots. ugh. Interestingly, they are the first ones to complain how rude the callers are. Sigh. But clearly my call is an interruption and a terrible burden for them.

            Now we have to email them, not call. I work PT so my availability is very limited. And I need to really be super efficient. One email to them begets THREE email back to me. Sometimes more. And they still have not answered my question. On one particular question I have been waiting literally six years. Every so often one of them will say, “Did you do X?” No, I have not done X because I am still waiting for an answer from you folks. Six years.

            It’s my thought that the boss will keep doing this as long as the employees remain distant/non-communicative. She will either get used to working this way or she will probably leave the job when she has a chance.

          2. JM60*

            Why would not wanting to have an unnecessary, social conversation for 15-20 consecutive minutes everyday make you have “serious reservations” about an employee? It’s one thing if they were unwilling to have work conversations, or if they are always unwilling to chit-chat, but a daily social phone call is a lot.

          3. Keyboard Jockey*

            I’m going to guess you might not have ever been in this position. I have, and sometimes speaking up just doesn’t make a difference. Or it does, but it’s only temporary. It’s incredibly rude on the boss’ part, because chitchat that you don’t want to partake in is inherently disruptive to heads-down work, and there are fewer polite ways to back away from this on a video call than there are in person. If “this won’t be forgotten,” then I think the boss is holding her employees to an unfair standard of supporting her own personal social needs.

        3. DuskPunkZebra*

          I came to make the same suggestion Sarah did – maybe propose a daily group call instead of one-on-ones. I was on an 8-person team that ran on Scrum protocol, so we had a daily phone call at 9am to sync up on what we were doing that day, if anyone needed help, if anyone needed a task, and social discussions could happen at the end of the call, and you could leave if you wanted to at that point.

          I miss that workflow, as much as I hated it at the time.

          My current team is doing checkins 3x a week MWF with other meetings as necessary and making a point to have biweekly staff meetings and keep up our once-monthly social company lunch. (End of March, they actually sent us digital gift cards to order food because they normally cater that lunch.)

  3. Roscoe*

    This is definitely an interesting one. Without going into the introvert/extrovert debate too far, this just seems like a difference in expectations on how things go. I’m in sales, which tends to be made up of extroverted people. So our meetings, especially one on one meetings are a lot of chit chat. I like it. I’m sure some of our other departments are more business only. I think now is a great time to really try and compromise.

    I’m not sure how long these meetings are scheduled, but maybe you could just try to stick to the schedule, whether you are talking work or social. So if every day is 15 minutes, just go into it planning to be there for 15 minutes regardless of the topic at hand. In fact, I think its fine to say something early like “I’m really trying to keep my day structured, so if we can keep these meetings to the time allotted that would be better for me”. I mean, I suppose that runs the risk of her extending them, but more likely she will respect that.

    1. Filosofickle*

      A sales friend told me their team meetings take a couple hours because of all the chit chat! I’m an introvert (defined as spending energy with people and recharging alone) but also very chatty, so I get it.

      1. Roscoe*

        Ha yeah. I mean, sometimes they are ridiculous. I don’t mind a fair amount of chit chat, but sales people (I’m including myself in this) can go off topic QUICKLY lol, and stay there. But for me, I’m fine until it starts going over the allotted time because of it. I just look at it as this is time I’m going to be here. But if I see that we are only halfway through the agenda with 10 minutes left, I’ll deefinitely try to get people back on track

      2. coffee cup*

        Me too and it’s starting to bother me that people believe introverted people all want to be left alone. We don’t! I’m on my own, for another 3 weeks at least, and I am struggling without human contact. If Jane is an extrovert and really *needs* chat, I can see why she’d be doing this, even though she shouldn’t.

        1. no apples today*

          I think it’s more that the internet version of introverts want everyone to leave them alone rather than how the majority of introverts truly are in real life. I stated something similar below, but there’s a tendency for some introverts to use that marker as a way to justify and excuse being rude to people. Someone performing small talk or social niceties isn’t doing it as an attack in order to make someone’s life purposefully miserable.

        2. Ellen N.*

          I believe that the reason that commenters here are characterizing introverts as wanting to be left alone is because that’s how the letter writer described introverts.

          “Our small team is very high-functioning but fairly introverted, and even in the workplace purely social chit-chat isn’t common.”

          1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

            OP here. I agree with you Ellen. For Alison’s sake, I can’t write a novella on the ins and outs of our team but I did my best to generalize so it would be apparent why this was so difficult for us. Assumptions about anything tend to lead to incorrect generalizations. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            A while back I was working in an office – two translators two software developers four introverts, zero social chit-chat. We worked with our heads down all day, it was so quiet the sales guys next door called it the “silent office”. Then we’d head off for lunch and natter like mad, and after work we’d crack open a bottle of wine and share our favourite music and stuff together.
            The day an extrovert manager moved in with us our productivity went waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down.

          1. Anonapots*

            This. It kind of irritates me. No, you being antisocial isn’t the same as you being an introvert. You are just being an ass.

            I call myself a vert. I really like and appreciate my downtime, but I really like and appreciate my social time, too. When I want to check out, that doesn’t give me the right to be snippy with anyone. I have a friend (ha) who is and calls themselves a misanthrope. I think that is a more appropriate word for what people tend to think of as introverted.

        3. Spencer Hastings*

          Another introvert struggling without human contact here! Everyone needs at least some human contact, and being an introvert makes it harder to notice that I’m not getting enough of it until suddenly I feel really crappy and realize I haven’t really talked to anyone in days.

      3. allathian*

        Me too! I just tend to be picky about the people I’m chatty with. But I can also tolerate fairly long periods of isolation. I’m married and we have a child, so now I’m mostly craving true alone time. Much as I love my family, I wish that my son could go back to school and my husband could go on one of his work trips! And yeah, I’m looking forward to going back to the office whenever that is. We do video conferences with my team once every two weeks for a team meeting and every week for a truly voluntary social chat, but I miss talking to coworkers on other teams.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          oh me too! I just love it once everyone’s got off to work or school and I have the place to myself, oh the blessed silence!

    2. Lygeia*

      I work for a recruiting firm and recruiters are a generally chatty bunch too! I’m moderately social so I have to be the one to keep everyone on track during meetings. They derail so fast! Mostly I find it funny. As long as no one gets mad at me for going “Anyway, back to X client; how are things there?”

    3. SJ*

      Haha this is so true for sales, I called the sales guy for one of the accounts I was going to support and we probably spent over half the call just talking about how things were going. I don’t see him in person more than once or twice a year really, if that, so it’s good to catch up I guess.

      I think every day might be pushing it though, I have a weekly group meeting and that’s worked well enough. I can always call my boss if something comes up.

    4. GilaMonster*

      I like the wording on your suggested assertion “I’m trying to stay structured….” Very polite, professional.

      Reading this letter I was somewhat taken aback since my natural inclination would be to just work while the manager is chatting and go on auto-pilot for responses. However surely in some professions that kind of multi-tasking wouldn’t be useful or recommended.

  4. CutHerSomeSlack*

    I dunno, this sounds like a pretty minor issue really, considering all that’s going on. Nothing is normal now. Maybe she’s really struggling. You all sound a bit callous…. I’m an introvert too, but I wouldn’t think of using that as an excuse to be snippy with someone who obviously needs some human interaction. If this is the worst issue you’ve got right now, be glad for your good fortune. Sheesh.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think that’s useful, though, and Jane’s being a bit callous about her reports’ time, too. The OP wasn’t snippy or suggesting that people should be snippy, just reporting that somebody is verging on it.

      1. Anonapots*

        To be honest, right now I’m having to account for every 30 minutes of my time (welcome to government contracts and trying to come up with reasons to keep your people working) so a 20 -30 minute conversation with my supervisor that I could put on my tracking sheet would be appreciated.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Please don’t do that here. For all you know, the OP is having to work longer hours because of this, when she needs that time for other things, or is having her own anxiety levels increased by hearing about the manager’s anxieties.

      This is a legitimate thing to seek advice about, and I ask that you treat letter-writers kindly.

      commenting rules

      1. Really?*

        Was CutHerSomeSlack really treating the LW unkindly? This IS a minor issue, and in the letter itself the LW states that the calls run about 20-30 minutes. Not a short amount of time, but also not extreme, considering I’m sure that you would have about 20-30 minutes of conversation with your boss spread out over the day. The LW and her colleagues are being rude to their manager, who is simply checking in and being a human.

          1. Really?*

            I’m sorry, I disagree. CutHerSomeSlack was simply pointing that out, and not unkindly, they were just direct and pointing out how much of a non-issue this is.

            If management needs to be understanding of their employees suddenly WFH and all the distractions that come with it (including giving them flexibility and grace on deadlines and such), then shouldn’t the same go for employees. Her manager is trying to be kind to her employees and relate to them on a personal level. Since she’s new, then yes, she may be communicating in a more personal way than employees are used to. Rather than being snippy or passive aggressive, they need to communicate like adults.

            1. Hrovitnir*

              “If this is the worst issue you’ve got right now, be glad for your good fortune. Sheesh” is blatantly patronising, presumptive, and rude; and at the end of the day really it doesn’t matter if you agree (nor I, obviously). It’s Alison’s prerogative to make calls on tone here.

                1. biobotb*

                  I’m sort of confused–does it seem to you that the comment section couldn’t exist if people are expected to adhere to AAM’s standards, and not their own?

                2. Bostonian*

                  “sheesh” is objectively rude, as is completely invalidating OP’s concern: “if this is the worst issue you’ve got right now…” so, yeah, I would say that’s unkind, as well.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The comment section is indeed moderated, and it’s always been the case that I make judgment calls on whether something adheres to the tone I want here or not. That’s how moderated spaces generally work.

                4. MCMonkeyBean*

                  The point of an advice column and its comment section is to offer thoughts and advice on problems big and small. This particular column is specifically for work advice and on the whole most people’s issues at work are often going to be minor compared to all the other problems in the world. That doesn’t mean it’s not still an issue for them or worth thinking about.

                  There are always going to be worse things happening and it’s very rarely useful or helpful or kind to say to someone that their problems don’t matter because people elsewhere are dying or losing everything or otherwise suffering worse.

    3. Not A Squirrel*

      Agree. At least you all have jobs, and if the worst thing is that your otherwise competent boss is chatty you’re really lucky. Your boss will remember how you talk to her during this time when it’s time for performance reviews.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No. We’re not going to do “at least you have a job” here. People get to ask for advice on things that are just annoying. And there are lots of solutions that don’t involve alienating the boss and getting a bad performance review (!).

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight, and also “it’s not cancer or an eating disorder” so you should just “smile” and show us those pretty eyes. Nope!

        1. Bostonian*

          +1 Aaaah the “at least it’s not cancer” letter. I always forget what the exact line was from that letter. Thanks!

    4. Angela*

      I was a little surprised too. With all the strain on one’s mental health right now, not just the radical change in work norms, but with everything else going on in the world, it’s even more important for people to be a little more laid back and kind in the workplace. And by working remotely, you’re cutting any and all (even brief) social interactions you might normally have. I know OP said social chatter isn’t the norm at their work, but with social distancing it’s not hard to imagine work calls might be the only socializing a person has the entire day or week. It helps to lighten the mood a bit, even a quick discussion over what everyone’s eating that day. If you never break the ice it’ll be even worse for morale.

      As someone with a swamped schedule, I’m thankful for a chance to take a breather and video chat with a coworker over non-work things. It breaks up the monotony and helps keep positive connections since we’re all people in this together.

      1. Mediamaven*

        Yes, I think there’s a lot of pressure on managers to humanize their interactions right now, but it’s hard to know what’s the right amount or what’s not enough since this is unprecedented. My team really appreciates it because it makes them feel less scared and stressed.

        1. DKMA*

          Yes, this. The approach being taken by the OP and her team is counterproductive. Everyone is remote working for the first time and they are relying on tone and pacing cues to communicate what they want with the boss.

          It wouldn’t surprise me if the boss had been intentionally increasing non-work talk because she sensed her team was stressed and was trying to put them at ease and it doesn’t sound like anyone came out and told her what they wanted.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Absolutely, we should all be flexible and kind right now! But it’s also true that as the boss, she has an obligation to pay attention to people’s cues and see if she’s stressing them out/annoying them. If she is, she has an extra obligation not to try to fulfill her own social needs via people she has power over.

        The OP isn’t saying “my boss is a monster.” She’s asking, “how can I make this better?”

      3. Mockingjay*

        Curiously, I had a similar situation happen today. We have a weekly check-in, which is usually very focused and quick.

        Half our team was remote even before COVID-19 – so for some of us it has been business as usual. For others who are new to remote work, it became evident today that the current situation is quite a strain. At the end of the meeting, just before we hung up, one coworker broke in to ask if we personally knew anyone affected by the virus. It triggered an outpouring. I think everyone’s been trying so hard to maintain a professional mien these last weeks, we’ve suppressed worry and uncertainty to an unhealthy degree.

        The outburst lasted about 10 minutes. I could tell by voices that people were relieved to let off steam and felt better (temporarily, at least). I think Alison’s suggestion of weekly check-ins is probably a nice balance. We also have a chat program; I’ll use that more often to say “hi” to teammates, instead of only business queries.

      4. EnfysNest*

        But it *doesn’t* help lighten the mood for everyone. The OP is literally saying that this is bringing her morale down. Some of us see social interaction as additional effort, not as something relaxing. Some of us actually see the extra quiet time to be able to focus or to not have to put any effort into small talk as the one upside in this awful situation. Some of us have so many people trying to schedule calls and claim our time to “check in” (when there’s not really that much that can have changed since the last check in) that we feel like we don’t have any time to ourselves anymore, and we actually would prefer to reclaim that down time. Some of us already have the balance with interaction that we want and we’re not looking for sudden added interaction from people we didn’t have a close relationship with before. Some people really do prefer not having ice breakers.

        1. A*

          Sure, but this is their boss. I would agree with your comment if this was one coworker to another. These are unprecedented times, but I don’t find it unreasonable for their boss to require a certain amount of direct interaction, especially given that OP mentioned that WFH is not the norm in their workplace. Daily does seem a bit much at this point and I think it’s more than fair (regardless of the reason) to request a weekly call instead. But I don’t think it would be reasonable to push back on that.

        2. Amanda*

          Thank you for saying this. I’m one of those for whom social interaction is effort at the best of times, and small talk is close to torture.

          People are different, and kindness goes both ways. I do try to be more patient with the people who want to just chat. I understand they’re stressed and the contact helps them. But I wish people would also understand it doesn’t necessarily help ME, it often just makes me more stressed out. And that sometimes, on bad days, I do not. Want. To. Chat.

          It’s not a personal insult (and I have been treated as if it is). Sometimes I just need some time for myself with my own anxieties, without piling up other people’s too!

        3. Really?*

          Sure, but wouldn’t the reasonable response be to simply communicate that? Not be rude, passive aggressive, or straight out ignore the manager. But just say it. I don’t understand the issue, when the solution seems so obvious. I would imagine that the LW and her team would never be this unprofessional under normal circumstances, so why now?

          1. JM60*

            Unfortunately, as Amanda says above, many people would take it as a personal insult if you try to directly communicate that (even though it’s not). I’m a fan of direct communication in general, but I can understand why someone might not want to directly communicate that excessive socializing doesn’t lighten their mood. To many people, it sounds like, “I don’t want to socialize with you.”

          2. EnfysNest*

            That’s exactly what Alison is recommending. No one is advocating being snippy or passive aggressive. Alison’s response is very clear that that’s not okay. And that’s not what the OP wants to do. Simply saying “I’m not really up for much non-work chit-chat currently” is not rude or unprofessional, as long as it’s said in a polite way. OP obviously isn’t just deciding between two maximum extremes of “Say absolutely nothing and pretend to love spending multiple hours a week in conversations that make her uncomfortable” vs “Shout at her boss that she never wants to speak to her again and then ignoring all communication from her in future.” The recommendation is that she politely request to reduce the frequency and/or length of the non-work discussions and the focus on the virus in order to protect her own mental health and personal social energy.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes, that’s why they wrote in. They have specifically said they want to have a discussion with their manager on the issue and are looking for some help with wording that won’t sound rude.

        4. Bostonian*

          Thanks for saying this, and saying it so well.

          The OP is literally saying that all this extra talk, especially talk ABOUT the virus, is making things worse for her.

          If we can accept generally speaking that some people would prefer to keep virus talk to a minimum at work (because we’re all consuming a lot of news and information already about it), then why can’t we extend that same grace to OP?

          1. LQ*

            I think info about covid-19 is just everywhere now and it’s all anyone can talk about, and while we want to be there to support each other at work as much as we can, daily checkins that ramble on and on about the pandemic can be really draining.

            I also find the increase in meetings doesn’t decrease the actual workload – and it is lengthening our workdays, which is not ok.

            We’re having a team ‘how is everyone’ checkin every day and I’ve told my reports that they are ok to skip it if they have deadlines or just aren’t up for it today – and I’m doing the same. I think decreasing the checkins to every few days or capping them at 10 minutes could really help.

            1. EnfysNest*

              Yeah, daily just seems like way too much. What’s supposed to have changed between yesterday and today? It’s nice to want to make sure your coworkers/employees are doing okay, but to ask about it every day would make it feel (for me) like it’s just a checklist item to get out of the way. (But then, I’m also someone who was already internally cringing at my one coworker who greets everyone every morning with a bright “Good morning, how are you, did you have a good evening yesterday” spiel even before all of this. Small talk just feels very false and surface level to me and to have to engage the same question with basically the same answer every single day is very draining to me, not encouraging. That might not be the case for everyone, but for me it ends up becoming a chore to endure, not a real point of connection.

      5. JM60*

        “it’s not hard to imagine work calls might be the only socializing a person has the entire day or week”

        What about calling a friend or family member for that? Phones aren’t just for work.

        It’s also worth noting that a conversation that helps one person’s mental health during this time, might also be mentally draining emotional labor for the other person. So kindness and consideration should go both ways here.

      6. Tired*

        “it’s not hard to imagine work calls might be the only socializing a person has the entire day or week”

        It’s not LW’s job to fix that for her boss, and it’s not cool for the boss to use her employees to meet a social need she isn’t getting elsewhere. I have sympathy for her but that doesn’t make what she’s doing okay. She needs to call a friend instead.

        LW said that talking about the virus with her boss is stressing her out. Why is it more important to make sure the boss’s socializing needs are met than LW’s need to keep work time focused on work? It’s clear that the LW is looking to find a workable compromise, here, and that is extremely reasonable.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s not a competition to see who is dealing with the worst situation. Clearly a daily call isn’t necessary if it only involved 5 minutes of work talk, and this isn’t a minor issue, nor are they being callous. I enjoy chit chatting with colleagues, but if I’m buried in work, I don’t have time for that. And if Jane is struggling, she needs to find another outlet.

      1. un-pleased*

        That’s not precisely true. I just had one this week that was more heavily weighted on chitchat and then a few solid minutes of work talk. It’s way more efficient that the many emails we were sending back and forth.

    6. Fikly*

      It’s not a competition for who has the worst problem. Everyone’s problems are valid.

      Also, it’s not ok to tell people how to feel about things.

    7. The Starsong Princess*

      I don’t know if this is a big deal. Would you spend 15 or 20 minutes a day chatting with your boss or colleagues if you are in the office once you added up all the kitchen/ water cooler / elevator encounters? I know I would.

      I’ve led a lot of people from a distance and building a rapport is important. The easiest way is by chatting. However, OP is finding that it’s a lot. I’d recommend asking to move these meetings to every other day “Now that we’re in a groove, Jane.” and later try to move them to once a week.

      1. kathjnc*

        Agreed. The first time I had a manager who wasn’t located in the same office as me I initially had a bit of that “I’ve got things to do” reaction to not getting right down to business, but quickly realized how important chatting about other things was to rapport and feeling comfortable with and trusting of someone I rarely got to see in person. I really appreciated that she deliberately made that effort. If every day is a bit much for sure suggest less frequency, but I think there’s real value to spending a bit of time strengthening that human connection with co-workers, even if it’s not as spontaneous as it would if you happen to be by the coffee maker at the same time.

      2. No bees on Typhon*

        Right, and add in the time you usually spend interacting with other humans (the horror!) on your commute, grabbing coffee to go, picking up a few extra groceries on the way home instead of doing a big shop every week or so, etc. It all adds up. Surely there’s enough space in that usual daily “small talk budget” to avoid being rude to a colleague.

    8. Marthooh*

      “…what’s the best way to discuss it with her without being rude or appearing uncaring?”

      This does not sound callous to me. The OP says Jane’s attempt at socializing is a problem for the team, not that it’s anyone’s only problem or biggest problem. If Jane feels bored or lonely, there are other ways she can deal with that than forcing her direct reports to chat with her.

  5. Sharon*

    It’s entirely possible that your manager views social chit-chat as an important engagement tool in this environment, especially if she’s relatively new and hasn’t built up a strong relationship with you already. Some people would feel really put-out if their manager was entirely focused on project deadlines without acknowledging that their employees are real people dealing with a lot of stress right now and trying to juggle work and home. So she probably thinks she’s being a good manager, and a lot of people would agree (just not your kind of people!) I would suggest saying you appreciate her reaching out, but “that you’re finding it makes you more stressed, not less, to talk about the current crisis and say it would help you to stick to just work on these calls.”

    1. Roscoe*

      Amen. If on my 1 on 1s with my boss, it was just all business, I’d be very put off by that

      1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

        OP here. Thank you Sharon, this is a good way to think about why she’s been like this!

        1. Cats and dogs*

          Sharon makes a very good point but OP I want to validate your feelings. Every day is way too much.

    2. Chili*

      Yeah, a lot of people do really get a lot of bonding with their coworkers on a human level (I know I do!), but this particular crew does not and your manager is fairly new and doesn’t seem to know that yet. At the beginning of your call, I might try and say, “Hey, I’ve noticed sometimes these meetings run a bit long and I’m trying to work really efficiently to maintain work-life balance while working from home. Would you mind if we tried to keep these calls to ten minutes?” The calls may end up having 5-7 minutes of social time, but that’s still an improvement from 15-20.

    3. Quickbeam*

      My boss calls constantly and chats about her cats, her other business, her family. I put her on speakerphone and just keep working….or take a break and knit. I don’t like social chit chat but it seems to meet a need for her.

    4. Managing to Get By*

      Our management has been told to be sure to engage with our direct reports on a personal level on a consistent basis. Not daily but minimum of weekly. We have had some required training on managing in a virtual space and given guidelines for staying connected with our teams.

      Sometimes these calls get a bit awkward and they often end up verging back to work related topics. I let the team member take the lead on whether we talk work or personal and I’m so far only scheduling 1 per week but I do have multiple ad hoc calls throughout the week with each team member as they need help on specific projects so we’re staying connected.

      We’ve also been told to do video calls as much as possible to see body language etc. Luckily most of my team does NOT want to have a casual video chat every couple of days because I HATE video calls. There’s a weird delay so it doesn’t feel natural and I don’t understand why a phone call isn’t enough. Then again, I’m from a generation that spent hours on the phone in our youth while most of my direct reports have grown up online. I get the feeling some of them would rather IM than talk so I also respect that.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      I would suggest saying you appreciate her reaching out, but “that you’re finding it makes you more stressed, not less, to talk about the current crisis and say it would help you to stick to just work on these calls.”

      I’ve had to say something similar to my mother. And if it works on my mother, it should work on anyone. However, if she switches to non-Covid talk, which was *my* goal, that’s still not going to help in your situation.

    6. Nesprin*

      Question: is she just bored? i.e. if she’s managing 6 high- functioning SMEs without being a SME herself…does she have anything to do?

      1. nonegiven*

        That’s what I wondered. If she is spending 20-30 minutes each with 6 reports, 5 days a week, that is a quarter to a third of a 40 hour week. Or am I miss-mathing that?

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Jane may also be getting pushed by upper management who has traditionally not wanted work from home. I could imagine an upper manager saying “we all need to be talking with our people at least 20 minutes a day.” If that’s the case, a better solution would be to actually expand your 5 minutes to go over things that don’t normally need going over with the manager you can even say it that way! ” since we’re not in the office for you to see me walking down to purchasing, receiving, or legal, do you want a rundown of the routine tasks that I’ve gotten out of the way today? I can tell you what I have planned for the afternoon, too.”

      1. Uranus Wars*

        We have a director right now instructing their managers to do this with their direct reports. The director absolutely does not think people can be productive from home…but can’t see how forced check-ins aren’t making it better.

    8. TechWorker*

      +1 – she may also be under pressure from her own management to keep checking in with employees and make sure they’re ok. I think this is definitely a scenario where words need to be used – it *is* harder to read people over video and if she’s reading annoyance or mild irritation as stress she might not realise that the chit chat is a cause of the stress vs a welcomed way to unwind.

  6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    At a minimum, tell the boss you feel a lot of time pressure so want to dive into work more quickly. Say it explicitly.

  7. None the Wiser*

    Something we’ve implemented: a half-hour online “Happy Hour” at 4:30 on Fridays. Perhaps if there is a specific time to unwind and talk about stuff people can request that non-work-related things be saved until then? Might not work with this one, though.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      We’ve done similar things with “virtual coffee breaks”, but tbh those are only a hit with people who are given to chit-chat in a physical office environment too, which doesn’t sound like *anyone* in OP’s team except the boss…

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Could be, but I know when I’m busy I don’t want any parts of any chit chat. I want to put my head down, get my work done and keep the socializing to a bare minimum (if any at all).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I like this a lot. And if it is optional all the better. I supervised one group of people where the setting was we were right next to each other all week long. Stress built up. Each Friday after lunch, I cut some slack on the rules regarding loudness, joking around, etc. (Rules about safety, basic human decency etc were still in place.) They had to let off steam some how. And I also insisted on a period of time at the end of the day be spent getting set up for Monday. (This fit our setting, ymmv, of course.)

      I do believe it helped with productivity levels to be able to connect with others. I also think that organizing their work for the upcoming week was just as important. Each setting has different needs perhaps OP can help the boss to understand what IS of value to the group. And I mean it in the context of saying what TO DO, as opposed to telling her what not to do.

  8. I AM a Lawyer*

    One thing we have done is have a weekly coffee hour that is designated for non-work discussion of how we’re doing and other personal information. That helps keep us socially connected to each other, but it is limited to once a week. I wonder if you could suggest something like that since it appears Jane is starved for that kind of conversation and keep your daily calls (if she insists on them) to a 5 minute work check in.

    1. almost empty nester*

      Based on OP’s description of her group, I’m thinking Jane would be all alone on a coffee hour social call.

  9. Marie*

    I would get a physical headache if I had to endure this, and I’m not kidding, not to mention how enervating this sounds. You have my sympathy. I am not a phone person (and Zoom wears me out even more!)—I can’t tell what the conference format is for your situation. No matter: I would have to be more direct: “I appreciate catching up in person, but the phone/video conferencing format physically hurts me/wears me out, and I need to save my energy for work tasks. Due to my limitation, can we please talk about only what is needed for me to get my work done in these times.”

    1. Marie*

      I wrote the comment re daily check ins. I think the once a week “happy hour” calls / check ins are a great idea; it could be social and kind and helpful vs draining with work still ahead to be accomplished.

    2. B*

      I don’t know what OP’s line of work is, but at least for me I would be extremely concerned with using this language. It could read like I’m not up for/capable of doing my job (at least for me, a large portion of it is collaborative and on conference calls), and would lead to concern over how I’d handle interactions with external contacts. I highly recommend not spinning this in the direction of ‘I am physically injured by our phone calls’. Or seriously overhaul the word choices.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’d worry about it from the context that every job has a requirement of working with others and maintaining working relationships with others. I mentioned about the difference between saying what NOT to do vs. saying what TO DO. I think that it would be wise to offer some type of suggestion the boss can work with.

        1. Marie*

          @not so new reader. I agree with your take on my language. I was a teacher for years and years and in person contacts did not wear me out. Something about screens and phones does hurt me. I’m currently on disability (pretty much housebound since the car accident —not my fault—four years ago), so I’m likely not the best person to have commented, but video social meetings really tax me. They also seem to take place in slowed down and not real time. The combination of screen and communication is physically tiring in a way that teaching never was, and in a way that even the telephone is not. I so agree with you re my language —I’ve had to use that word “limitation” post accident, but yeah, in real life working situations it does not hold up. I will say that being direct and kind at the same time does go a long way; when I speak from my own perspective vs what the other person is or is not doing. Alison’s advice/verbiage and that of yourself and other commentators is always helpful with that goal.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      This might be an okay way to discuss the problem online but when talking to your employer I really think this is not appropriate. If one of my colleagues claimed that they were being physically harmed by their manager, and it turned out that what they meant was that they couldn’t cope with 15 minutes of non-work conversation a day, that would appear – at best – bizarre and concerning. You can’t talk to your manager like you would on a discussion forum for enervated introverts.

      1. Marie*

        Did you name-call me an enervated introvert? I’m out of here. Screen time physically/ scientifically does enervate humans. I’m thankful that I’m not your colleague and that I’m done wasting screen time on this column.
        All peace and blessings to you and yours.

  10. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    So I have very little confidence this is happening, buuuuuut giving Jane the benefit of the doubt, just in case there’s a 2% chance:

    Possibility 1: Could she be using these conversations like non-directed therapy, hoping that some work stuff will bubble up to the top of your brain while you’re chatting about inanities? Especially if the cut-and-dried work stuff invariably goes first in the conversation.

    Possibility 2: Given that OP said that the office was very anti-telecommuting, could Jane be directed by higher-ups to do this kind of thing? “Keep your reports on the line for at least 20 minutes every day, so that you can tell if they’re slacking off.”

    1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

      Original letter writer here- I don’t think the time frame was mandated, but I do believe the daily check ins were! I posted an update later down the comments.

      1. Quickbeam*

        I feel your pain about the anti-remote bias. My boss constantly talks about getting us back to the office. It’s like they see us as an untethered balloon without a cube farm!

  11. HelloHello*

    I fully understand how annoying this is if you’re not a fan of social chit chat at work, but I’d encourage you and your coworkers to be as empathetic as possible to your manager right now. She’s new to the team, so still trying to build rapport with you all, and like everyone else in the country she’s facing a really stressful, unprecedented time at the moment, and it sounds like she is feeling the need for more socialization at work. It’d be one thing if these meetings were going in for hours and leaving you unable to finish your work within normal business hours, but 15 minutes a day of chatting is a pretty small amount of time.

    See if you can switch the calls to once or twice a week instead of daily, and speak up if you’re swamped with work and need the time to finish your projects, but if you’re able to stomach it I think indulging your manager in an occasional 15 minutes of small talk would be a real kindness right now.

  12. CupcakeCounter*

    ***cringe***
    I’m a Jane. Just talking to someone other than a family member is really nice and I’m not doing a great job of getting off the various calls/chats. Although I’m trying to keep the topics OFF the pandemic so at least I’m not doing that…

    1. Threeve*

      I’m fairly introverted, but I would hate to work calls with no social interaction right now. You’re probably fine.

    2. PretzelGirl*

      I am a Jane too, and would be so more if I WFH (currently reporting to the office, deemed essential). I guess its hard for me to not have some none work chit chat. Even if its just a quick “How are you holding up?” or a simple “How are you?” Pandemic or not.

    3. Tired*

      Anyone who is seeing themselves in Jane – just let your employees lead the conversation. Ask them how they’re doing and mirror the type of answer they give. If they give a longer answer and then ask how you’re doing back, safe bet they’re open to a conversation. If they give a brief or vague answer, aren’t returning the question, or are bringing up work stuff quickly – that’s a sure sign that they aren’t interested in conversation. Give them a brief response as well and then shift to work. LW’s boss is ignoring those signals, which is the problem.

  13. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

    Hi Everyone! Letter writer here with a bit of an (unexciting?) update already! Staring this week, we’ve moved to thrice-weekly check-ins. It’s a very new experience for our whole company and I think they were overly concerned with keeping us all connected, hence the daily check-ins. Now that we’ve been WFH for a month, they’re starting to realize that we are just as- or more!- productive than we are in the office. Jane has also “gotten the hint” that this team isn’t gonna be super social with her, and after an initial “How are you doing?” she moves right into work-related talk. All’s well that ends well!

    1. Red Stapler*

      Nice to hear! Sounds like it was some growing pains and people trying to figure out the current situation.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Phew!

      I was going to start worrying that my one-on-one check-ins with my team were too chatty, but they are only once a week, which seems more normal! And also they are basically the same level of chatty as our in-the-office check-ins were.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Weekly meetings are fine. I inherited a new manager in February so we’ve been doing weekly 1 on 1 meetings because we’re in different locations. My former manager and I were in the same office so it wasn’t needed. Now that most of us are home, I think it’s important to have regular check-ins but daily meetings are a little much.

    3. Ellen N.*

      I would like to encourage people reading/commenting here to entertain the idea of spending some time finding out how your coworkers are doing.

      My husband is a teacher. He is currently calling the parents of his students who haven’t turned in their homework.

      One of the parents asked where he/she could get food.

      If calls are all business, your coworkers might believe that you don’t want to hear that they are in need of help.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes checking in on a personal level is a good thing, but when you’re meeting DAILY (which IMO is completely unnecessary and screams “I don’t trust you”), and using a large portion of each meeting to discuss personal topics, that’s a little much.

        1. Fikly*

          Meeting daily totally depends on the job.

          My team works around the clock, and handovers between shifts are critical so information doesn’t get dropped. We have three times daily meetings, at each shift handover (everyone has two meetings per shift, one when they start work, one when they finish). This is super important to us, regardless of whether we are working in office or remote.

          But agreed, it’s the portion that’s the problem. It seems like over 75% of it is not about work – it should be the opposite.

        2. no apples today*

          I have to believe most people appalled at meeting daily have never been in a tech environment. Daily meetings are not unusual. We have a 20 minute scrum every single day, sometimes multiple scrums if you’re on multiple projects/clients at one time. It starts with some light small talk before everyone gets to their blockers/updates for the day.

          Daily meetings aren’t always nefarious and about lack of trust. A daily 20 minute meeting is really not something outrageous for some jobs.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Actually I am in tech and aware of scrum meetings, which are not about chit chat, but a daily check in on project work. If you spent the majority of the scrum meeting talking about your personal life, you’d be wasting everyone’s time.

          2. Ralph Wiggum*

            The issue isn’t daily meetings. The issue is useless daily meetings.

            Scrum meetings are explicitly about work items and (should) stay productive. The OP’s situation is having a daily 20 minute call to hear about her boss’s personal life.

            Light small talk is one thing — forced socialization as a captive audience (because your boss has the authority) is another.

      2. professor*

        I mean…if they are my coworker and not my report that I supervise, I think it’s completely valid for me to NOT want to hear about their need for help. I’m overwhelmed with all that I have to handle personally and professionally, and I don’t have the capacity to also help people who are just my colleagues with their personal things- this has mental health costs to me. I only want to hear about work things if I’m not friends with them.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          oops submitted by accident.
          “My husband is a teacher. He is currently calling the parents of his students who haven’t turned in their homework.
          One of the parents asked where he/she could get food.
          If calls are all business, your coworkers might believe that you don’t want to hear that they are in need of help.”
          It sounds like OP is in a very different line of business to your husband. There’s often a caring side to teaching. I teach just one class a week and I have made a point of telling students to let me know if they have problems. Not that I can necessarily fix them, but I can listen, and I can choose to be lenient when marking their work.
          OP isn’t necessarily saying they don’t want any interaction, just not 15 min a day. And their manager is fairly new, so they haven’t built up the kind of rapport that makes it natural for OP to confide if they have problems. And it sounds more like the manager needing to talk through her own anxieties rather than just listen: I’m pretty sure your husband is not telling the parents with an empty fridge about his own problems.

    4. Willis*

      Good to hear! I just manage a couple people and we all WFH on a regularly basis, but I’ve been busier over the last few weeks and feel badly that I’ve been talking/Slacking with them less than usual amidst all this. It’s really hard to know the right line to walk in terms of how much/what type of interaction people want, on a regular basis but especially now. Glad to hear your supervisor has adjusted to what fits best for the team.

    5. Jeanne*

      I think you have the makings of a good new manager here!! She sounds extroverted to all of her team’s introversion, she has started a new job during a really difficult time, in an organisation that has refused to contemplate modern business practice, and yet she is able to adapt and change her behaviour in quite a short space of time. I hope you continue to have a great manager / employee relationship – with constructive feed back both ways.

    6. Oxford Comma*

      Yay!

      It’s funny timing but on our video conference call today, our boss just straight out asked how often we wanted to meet and the consensus was reduce it down to once a week.

      Most everything we’ve been dealing with has not been normal and everyone seems to be trying to figure out how it should all work now. So maybe that’s part of what Jane has been struggling with.

    7. Hrovitnir*

      Nice! Great to hear.

      The comments section on letters like this is always so frustrating as people project all over the place. I am an extroverted person in a very social work group, but I can still understand why your problem was frustrating and more than just being expected to compromise on a little humanising chit chat.

    8. allathian*

      That’s wonderful! I hope you can tell her that you really appreciate the way things are now. She’s getting to know her team and changing her ways accordingly. Sounds like it was just that she was new, and WFH was a new thing for your organization.

  14. Jack V*

    We’re mostly ongoing introverts and we knew people would need some amount of social contact so we scheduled explicit “coffee break” video calls for any of us who wanted them, either just to chat or to check in about work stuff less formally.

    It definitely helped and naturally found its own level where a few different people turned up every time. I think most companies need something like that if they don’t already, most people need SOME social contact with colleagues when they’re not saying “good morning” as they come into the office.

    If she has less shortage of social time hopefully it’ll be less tricky to push back on excessive chat?

  15. SwitchingGenres*

    I would hate this. I’m with the OP—this would stress me out. I dislike small talk, especially on the phone or online, and often these days I do not want to talk more about the pandemic. It’s work, I want to keep it to work talk unless we’ve developed a real friendship.

    1. no apples today*

      People can dislike small talk but it’s not okay to snipe at someone over it the way OP’s coworker did. That’s rude and tends to feed into the people who use introversion as a justification for being misanthropic.

    2. bubbleon*

      How are you meant to develop a real friendship with anyone at work without allowing small talk? I’m with you on not rehashing pandemic chatter during every conversation, but I would hope that especially now people who might not usually be chatty could recognize that some of their coworkers are really struggling with isolation and might need 5 or 10 minutes of “nice weather today, how’s your dog?” without shutting down any attempt at connection.

      1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

        OP here. My teammates and I are on friendly terms and sometimes hang out outside of work, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to be friends with my supervisor or boss. We primary communicate via chat and continue to do that now that we are all WFH.

        1. bubbleon*

          You don’t have to be close friends with your supervisor to be friendly, though. I’ve got pretty clear boundaries with my team, we’re not Facebook friends and we only text in case of emergency sickness/weather call outs, etc, but we still all know the names of each others’ pets and can ask occasionally how their significant others are doing.

        2. no apples today*

          Small talk is not being friends with your supervisor, though. Small talk is saying, “hey, how’s the weather in your area? It’s raining pretty hard here today!” because it’s a casual conversation opener about someone’s day. It’s not asking her to hang out for a happy hour.

          If your manager is being shut out of that basic level of small talk, I feel bad for her. She’s new and probably having trouble connecting with her team, and the easiest way to do that when remote is simple small talk about inconsequential things to feel like you have a human connection with people on your team. If people are being curt or cutting off even those types of conversations, that’s going to lead to a horrible dynamic and I wouldn’t blame her for wanting out.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, I am not getting this how is having small talk with someone the same as being a friend? There’s a difference between being friendly and being a friend. Just because I know the names of my boss’ pets/kids/spouse does not mean I am her friend. It just means I realize she is a fellow human being with a life.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            Yes, reading these comments is really making me sympathise even more with Jane. She is new to managing OP’s team, doesn’t have much knowledge of the technical aspects of their work, is having to learn to manage a new team remotely when the company has never done that before, and is now being met with stonewalling and curtness when she tries to get to know them as people. What a delightful team to manage.

            1. JM60*

              “and is now being met with stonewalling and curtness when she tries to get to know them as people. What a delightful team to manage.”

              I think that’s very unfair to the team. They didn’t start trying to minimize her excessive socializing until after they put up with it for a while, and her not getting their hints. I’d be much more sympathetic to her if the chronological order was reversed. Plus, it sounds like only one person was was shutting her down in a rude/snippy manner, while others were trying to find polite ways to get her to keep the personal talk to a minimum.

        3. Really?*

          Being friendly with your supervisor isn’t being close friends, it’s maintaining a good work relationship. It’s being respectful, and completing shutting your manager out to the point of not even asking her how your day is going or getting annoyed that she’s asking that of you is super bizarre and frankly rude.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Thing is, if you hate small talk, you’ll only do it with close friends as a favour to them. Doing it with other people gets us “peopled out”. I don’t want to do that big a favour for my manager. I’m not responsible for her well-being, she’s responsible for mine.
            At a human level, I will listen to her small talk for a bit but 15 min a day is way too much for an introvert.
            My partner is an extrovert and he alone can people me out, as I’ve seen during this lockdown. Both sides need to compromise. The fact that extroverts make more noise about their problems doesn’t mean we should ignore the introverts.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Well small talk really isn’t meant to develop friendships either, it’s meant to develop acquaintanceship at best and put a person behind the business transaction.

        Anyone who thinks the cashiers at the stores are trying to be friends with their small talk about the weather and the type of donuts you’re buying should rethink that!

        There’s the off chance that you find out you have a similar interest or click as friends with that small talk over the course of time but it’s really rarely the point of it!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, in the winter it’s very easy to fall into a conversation with a cashier about a car problem or how the roads were on the way to work. She’s not my friend. She’s a fellow human being, that’s all.

      3. SwitchingGenres*

        With work people who are real friends, we have conversations that aren’t just small talk. With supervisors things are kept more professional, and my supervisors have luckily tended to be good at reading the room and knowing when to keep things business and when to chat. I’ve had some wonderful relationships with bosses, and none of them involved the boss telling me about their dog when I needed to be working.

  16. Super Anon*

    Ugh. I feel for the OP. My boss has taken to daily calls with my entire department. And then she insists on participating and on my weekly checkins with my staff. She’s also doing the same thing with the other department she supervises and that manager. It’s driving us both nuts. I really think it’s because she lives alone and we are the only human contact she gets each day.

  17. staceyizme*

    I think that you’ve got to be prepared to roll with some of this. The team’s attempts to stick to business by sabotaging the manager’s more personal style seem a bit ham fisted. It’s counterproductive to “manage up” by manipulation. Tell her, as a preference, that you’d like to stick to business on the check in calls by lessening the chit-chat AND the frequency of the calls. There’s a hint of “she’s not quite the ideal manager for our team” hiding in your objection to her style of interaction, lack of prowess in some technical areas and description of dismay at “suffering” through these calls. It might be worth pondering your team’s own prejudice in this context.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, if I were that boss I would be very uncomfortable. I would be on the watch for people refusing to accept supervision as I know this can be (not always!) the foundation for a problem with accepting supervision. It feels like they do not accept their new boss.

      I wonder if they think that their boss is a lightweight and not to be taken seriously.

      I could be judging through my own lenses. Any boss I have had who is “all work” ended up being some of the most troublesome bosses I have encountered.

      1. StaceyIzMe*

        I’ll admit to being somewhat biased in this instance in that I generally believe that these sorts of concerns are rooted in gender bias. I simply can’t imagine someone having the temerity to sabotage a manager, even obliquely, for the sake of a little light banter. It really isn’t that the concern isn’t worthy of addressing. It just kind of goes into the “you should smile” category, in my experience. Women are often told how to show up with respect to the face that they present to the world, including their social and professional “face” with its particular traits. Nobody should have to be stuck for a daily dose of small talk. But- rank has its privileges and learning to work with a new manager is as much about being mindful, observant and somewhat tolerant through the adaptation process as it is about establishing more concrete benchmarks. I’m kind of “stuck” for how to word it, exactly, but this struck me as an issue of privilege on the part of the team. And inappropriate privilege, at that. “We’re trying to figure out how to get you to talk less. But- we’re not going to raise the issue directly or explain how we’d prefer to do check-in calls. So- guess what we meant by changing the subject. And getting a bit snippy.”

        1. allathian*

          Did you see the OP’s update above? Looks like things have improved quite a bit (OP = AKA Genevieve Cooper).

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          The whole point of OP’s letter was to find a way of telling the manager nicely though.

  18. NQ*

    I feel bad for Jane. Actually, I feel awful and upset for Jane. In fact, I think I am Jane… not literally, but I left my current job after moving there for only a year (that’s a short time in my industry, and the response has been shock) because nobody would talk. I’m not chatty – definitely wouldn’t take up 20 mins of a meeting chatting about random crap – but I am extroverted.

    1. Fikly*

      Except we’ve seen posts here from people wanting to get their social needs met at work and the answer, repeatedly, has been that that’s not what work is for, that’s what the rest of your life is for. While yes, the vast majority cannot get their social needs met in person right now, Jane is trying to meet her social needs remotely at work, when she should be doing that remotely with the rest of her life.

      Jane is probably unhappy, but that doesn’t mean her need for social interaction justifies the consequences her behavior is having on LW.

      1. Tram*

        OMG 15 minutes of group conversation during a pandemic is too much? I almost can’t take this.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, literally no one said that. These are daily one-on-one conversations with each person, individually, every day, and the OP finds them uncomfortable and adding to her stress rather than lowering it.

          1. Tram*

            I’m sorry. I read it as one call a day with the entire group, with many on the call being snippy. (I still am unsure — it sounds like it would be hours a day of just these calls, which would indeed be bizarrely extreme.)

        2. A*

          In addition to Alison’s comment I think it’s also important to take into account the cumulative impact. I am in a highly collaborative position, and have several calls a day (~4-5 now that things have slowed a bit). If each dissolves into extended small talk/chit chat it really adds up.

          I actually like to chat, but I have had to draw a line. In speaking with my colleagues who seemed the most over-eager to spend time socializing, it turns out they had a significantly lighter workload and weren’t aware that my team was still operating at a close-to-normal capacity.

      2. TechWorker*

        Whilst this may be true in general, it doesn’t change the fact that for many people colleagues are their most frequent social interaction and that’s still true right now during the pandemic. There are many people who don’t have family or close friends around but talk to their coworkers every day. Sure, it’s not perfect and you can say they should go make more friends but life isn’t always that simple eh?

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Fact is people are being paid to work not to socialise. If OP has deadlines to meet, they don’t want to waste time on chit-chat. And OP says discussing what makes her feel anxious simply makes her more anxious. I’m sure the manager doesn’t actually want that, but she’s not picked up on the cues that the team doesn’t want that much chit-chat. Extroverts have to adapt to the system, the system shouldn’t adapt to them.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I can see Jane’s side and yours too for sure, and I’m introverted AF. But at the same time, you did the right thing, when in a place you didn’t like the vibe/atmosphere you left!

      If I were managing this team, I wouldn’t want to shoot the shit for 20 minutes but if they were snippy and all-business-all-the-time, I’d also not like it either. I’d take on whatever appropriate tone i needed to make the staffers happy and then I’d bounce ASAP.

      That’s the thing. If Jane is miserable or feels this isn’t the right vibe for her, I hope that she doesn’t just crush her own spirits completely and drag it out for ages. But just for the “now” and for the sake of the sanity of others, go along with what the majority seems to prefer.

      we won’t always fit in everywhere we land. It sucks but it’s how humans work! I sure the hell don’t fit most places, lol.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ditto from me. I’d give the employees what they wanted because [reasons]. But I would be outta there at the first chance possible. It just feels too robotic to me. And I have worked plenty of times where there has been a big push of work and everyone is only work focused for long periods of time. But the explanation is obvious: massive work load and looming deadline. The thing that carried us through day after day of barking orders at each other was knowing there was a solid friendly working relationship underneath the hot mess. If there is no established working relationship all that is left is people barking orders at each other.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I get that. I’m moderately introverted, but I don’t think I’d last at a place where I never connected with anyone on a coworker level. There’s one department where I work where they’re all like that: just work only and barely any chat, and they like it because the ones who don’t, don’t tend to stay.

    4. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yeah, I feel bad for Jane, too, because some people’s way to deal with stress is to talk themselves out of it.

      I’m closer to the introvert end of the scale overall, but even I am missing talking to people. I would love to be able to talk to people right now, but

      1) I hate talking on the phone.

      2) The thought of talking to people in real life kind of freaks me out right now.

      Yeah, I’m pretty good at the social distancing thing.

  19. Lucette Kensack*

    A lot of Alison’s answers lean on needing the extra time to work. But the OP doesn’t say that the lost work time is a big issue; how should they handle it if it is transparently not an issue right now? (Even in normal circumstances, if a direct report mentioned, in every meeting, how they needed to get going because they had so much to do, I would be worried about their workload.)

    I’d approach this by setting an agenda for each meeting and taking the lead on navigating her through it. Send her your bullet points in advance (“I’d like to check in about the TPS report and give you an update on the progress on the Penske file.”). Start the meeting with 5 minutes of general chat, then pivot to the agenda: “Ok, what I have today is a couple of questions about the TPS report and update on the Penske file. Is there anything else you want to be sure we cover?” Once you’ve covered your agenda items + anything she added to the agenda, you can say something like: “Ok, great. That’s all I have for today. I’m going to get to work on [something you discussed].”

    1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

      OP here. Thank you for this insightful response! This idea hadn’t occurred to me.

    2. Sam.*

      This approach worked really well for me with my very chatty, extroverted ex-boss! In our ones-on-ones, I felt comfortable setting and steering the agenda in this way (after a few minutes of chit chat at the beginning, as a concession). He followed my lead, to the point that he would catch himself going down a rabbit hole and pivot back to the agenda without me having to give him a nudge. It helped that there was tons of work stuff to cover in those meetings and neither of us had time to burn, but I think it could be useful, regardless.

  20. bubbleon*

    We’re being encouraged to check in with people on a personal level- not as regularly as it sounds like Jane is, but I’m getting fairly regular trainings from HR on how to best support my team and reminders from them not to focus only on work things. It’s possible Jane might be getting similar instruction and taking it a little too literally. That said, it took 2 or 3 rounds of individual calls (over a week or two, not daily) for people on my team to finally admit just how much they were struggling, and that was with a team that gets along and works well together. I wonder if Jane might be reading the pushback from your team as an inability to express problems you might be having, especially given the reaction to your snippy coworker.

    1. Fikly*

      If Jane is getting this instruction, it doesn’t sound like Jane understands how to do it, because it sounds like all Jane is doing is sharing about herself, not actually checking in with how LW and LW’s coworkers are doing.

      1. Really?*

        Seems more to me like OP and her team are so unable to use their words like adults and express that the daily talks about how they’re doing and going into detail is a bit too much. Instead, in the words of OP they simply ignore her or give rude snippy answers. These are one on one calls, so what exactly is Jane supposed to do? Obviously it would seem as though she is only talking about herself because her team is stonewalling her sitting silently and not engaging at all. OP herself said in comments she doesn’t even feel it’s appropriate to be Friendly with her boss and ask her how she is or how her weekend went. That’s bot inappropriate, it’s common decency and building a comfortable working relationship

        1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

          OP here. We are not unable to be adults and “use [our] words” as you so eloquently put it. In fact, a big part of my team’s job is communication, both internal and forward-facing.

          The issue here is that our supervisor is being oblivious to cues that her team isn’t keen on socializing every day. I wrote Alison to find out the kind and appropriate way to bring this up. It’s cut and dry to those outside the situation, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s not that easy. The examples I provided about how my teammates or I responded were to illustrate how we had tried to handle the situation thus far- in no way did I brag or seem proud that this is what we’d done- I was simply being factual.

          Additionally, to be clear, I didn’t say I don’t think it’s appropriate to be friendly, I said that I don’t think it’s appropriate to be FRIENDS with your boss. You are putting words into my mouth that I did not say. Of course I absolutely believe that being friendly and cordial is appropriate and expected in a professional working environment.

          1. JM60*

            Many don’t seem to get that being friendly doesn’t require being friends. Being friendly with people is usually important for building working relationships, being friends with them usually isn’t.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          OP is sticking up for herself I see :-)
          I’d just like to chime in with another remark: for me, asking my manager how her weekend went would be highly intrusive. And if she asked me how mine went, again, I would feel that it’s intrusive. I might not necessarily want to share what I got up to with her. With colleagues, sure why not, but with the manager? no way. If I am asked, I’ll only say something very non-committal. For example, once I came in from work with a great tan so it was obvious I’d been outdoors all weekend. I just mentioned going camping, and didn’t expand on the fact that I’d been camping out at a political rally, because the party organising the rally would be seen as an enemy by my boss.

  21. Ralph Wiggum*

    Daily one-on-one’s is awfully excessive. It makes me wonder if Jane has anything better to do with her time.

    The software industry has more-or-less standardized on daily “stand up” meetings, but these are short, work-focused, and involve the entire team. Martin Fowler has a detailed writeup of how they should go: https://martinfowler.com/articles/itsNotJustStandingUp.html

  22. RS*

    If the check-in calls have agendas, it can be easy to refer to agenda at the top of the call to set the expectations, ala: “I’ve got several things on the agenda to review with you, so we might want to turn to those topics pretty quickly today,” or “As you’ll see from the agenda, there’s not a whole lot I need to run by you today, so I think that we can probably keep today’s check-in pretty short – which is actually great because I’m really trying to make a push on X today and could use the extra time for that.”

    If the check-in calls don’t have agendas, perhaps they should?

  23. Anon for this*

    My workplace is very similar to OP’s, and for the last several years we’ve been reporting to “Jack” (a male clone of Jane). While Jack does not do check-in calls with us at the moment, he used to in the past. Most of us have gone through all five stages with the Jack 1:1 calls – shock, anger, denial, bargaining – and eventually landed on acceptance, where Jack talks (which he badly needs, being an extrovert) and we offer a sympathetic ear. The difference of course is that Jack’s been with us for quite some time, and is well-liked, so doing him this favor does not feel like a big deal. In our case we are also talking about 15-20 minute-long calls. If Jane were to rant for an hour, my advice would be different. If your work is extremely critical and high-volume right now, to the point where 15-20 minutes/day of Jane time will impact your deliverables, then my advice would also be to use the scripts provided by Alison to push back. But if that’s not the case, I would just, for lack of a better word, be there for Jane. Another thing – can you use these calls to your advantage and come to Jane with any questions about the goings-on in the department, any direction changes, upcoming projects that your team will be a part of etc? she’s closer to the top and may have better access to that kind of information. If she’s going to be talking anyway, you might as well have her say something useful once in a while.

    1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

      OP here. Maybe I’m missing the point of your comment, but why am I under any obligation to “be there for Jane?” In my mind she should be there for us, be flexible to meet our needs, and offer her support however she can- not the other way around. I support her by doing my job to the very best of my ability and exceeding expectations on a regular basis, and being steadfastly available to meet the needs of the business, thus making her look good.

      I do appreciate your advice about using the calls to our advantage- thank you!

      1. MommyMD*

        A little empathy goes a long way if she is an otherwise decent boss. We are all human. It’s a weird time.

        1. Fikly*

          But why is Jane’s need for this more important than LW’s need to not be stressed out by Jane’s non-work conversations? Why shouldn’t Jane have empathy for LW?

          1. bubbleon*

            No one’s saying it doesn’t work both ways, it’s just another thing for OP to consider when mentioning it to Jane. “I’m uncomfortable talking about the pandemic and get pretty busy so if we can keep these calls to 5-10 minutes” and allowing for a few minutes of small talk is a very different conversation than “I don’t want to talk about anything but work with you, ever”, especially now.

          2. Pescadero*

            Jane’s need for this is not more important than LW’s need to not be stressed out by Jane’s non-work conversations.

            LW’s need to not be stressed out by Jane’s non-work conversations is not more important Jane’s need for this.

            Jane should have empathy for the LW.

            The LW should have empathy for Jane.

          3. Pennyworth*

            Also, Jane is getting a dose of ’empathy’ from each team member. Depending on the size of the team, she could be spending a large part of her day engaged in social chit chat.

      2. Cobol*

        I’d recommend reading the post and comments about whether it’s okay for workers to have a personality conflict from yesterday (that’s not really what it’s about).

        There’s a relationship personalty scale. It sounds like you’re soon one end, but the other end is just as valid, and common.

      3. Anon for this*

        Yeah, that is why I said that the difference is that Jack has been with us for some time now, whereas Jane is new. Like, we genuinely worry about Jack, because we all go back several years and we know he’s generally been supportive and well-intentioned throughout all those years. We might’ve pushed back hard if he’d started with the social chats right off the bat when we’d first met him. I totally get it that it’s harder when it’s a brand new boss.

      4. EnfysNest*

        Right! One of the memes I’ve seen going around in all this is the “Introverts – check on your extrovert friends, they’re not okay!” and I’m just like… can’t my extrovert friends check on their other extrovert friends? Because I already always had to put aside a lot of my own interaction preferences because the world is extrovert-oriented (try being a theater kid who doesn’t care for hugs – yeah, too bad, the entire cast is hugging), and my one comfort in all of this is that I don’t necessarily have to balance the constant requests for happy hours and hang outs and all the events where we “interact” but it’s all surface level small talk.

        Our extrovert world has suddenly become an introvert world, and that’s the one part of all this that I’m kind of okay with – sure, we all need some level of human interaction, but my needed level is a lot lower than my extrovert friends, and I shouldn’t have to give up the limited stress relief I get from my quiet moments if I don’t feel up to it. Social interaction is draining for me, and I just don’t have the extra energy available for it right now for people who aren’t my family or closest friends.

        1. SwitchingGenres*

          “Social interaction is draining for me, and I just don’t have the extra energy available for it right now for people who aren’t my family or closest friends.“

          Exactly this.

      5. James*

        “In my mind….”

        Here’s the thing: Jane can almost certainly make a sentence that’s equally valid to yours supporting her position. I highly doubt that you would accept her unilateral statement as binding; why should she accept yours?

        You’re defining the roles for both people in this relationship (and a manager/employee relationship IS a relationship), and that’s not how relationships work. In fact, since Jane is your manager, if anyone gets to unilaterally tell someone how the relationship will work it’s her (within limits, obviously).

        Think of it this way: Manager Tools argues that there are three types of power. Role power (“I outrank you, you do what I tell you”), expertise power (“I know more about this, you do what I tell you”), and relationship power (“I’m your friend, please do this”). You rely on expertise power to get things done. Jane relies on role power, but apparently would prefer to rely on relationship power. None of these is wrong–a good manager uses all of them as the situation requires. But I think this perspective may be more useful in handling Jane than “This is the way I work, she should follow it” (which, to be blunt, is how you’re coming off).

        1. JM60*

          “In fact, since Jane is your manager, if anyone gets to unilaterally tell someone how the relationship will work it’s her”

          I think it’s the opposite. The power of a manager over a subordinate should only be used for work-related reasons, not purely personal reasons. It shouldn’t be used to fulfill the manager’s personal social/emotional needs.

          If you remove the power imbalance, I think an introvert’s preference for limited socialization should take priority over an extrovert’s preference for more socialization. “I want to socialize” is more of an imposition than a passive “No thanks.”

          1. allathian*

            Agreed. A manager only has role power in matters that are directly related to work. Sure, they can try to impose communication methods that they prefer on their team, but if they go by what the team prefers instead, they will have a happier staff.

            As seems to be happening here.

          2. James*

            The operative word is “should”. In theory, we SHOULD use 100% of our work time for company business. No one does that. It’s not possible, psychologically, to do that. And the reality is that bosses have more power to set the tone of a group than their underlings. That’s been true since the first time a human told another human “Do this”. In fact, it’s probably older than humans–we see the same behavior in most primates and in many mammals.

            It also sounds like you expect the manager to be subordinate to the workers, to be there solely for their sake. From a worker’s perspective that may sound right, but believe me, from the manager’s perspective it is not. Remember, they’re working for someone higher up as well–and that person is likely putting pressure on them right now to be extra friendly with workers. How often has this blog discussed things like informal Zoom channels or chat channels intentionally set up to take the place of office chit-chat? That’s the kind of thing your manager is likely dealing with.

            As for your last paragraph, I think it needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. NEITHER should be the automatic default. Humans are social critters, and socializing is built into us–to varying degrees, but we all have it, that’s why the Victorian garden hermit fad ended.

            1. JM60*

              “It also sounds like you expect the manager to be subordinate to the workers”

              I have no clue how you got that from my comment. Expecting her from refraining from using her power for personal reasons != “subordinate to the workers”.

              “How often has this blog discussed things like informal Zoom channels or chat channels intentionally set up to take the place of office chit-chat?”

              But I would say the same thing about office chit-chat! If the chatter is solely social, then you should keep it to a minimum if the other person isn’t into it.

              “NEITHER should be the automatic default.”

              I think the default should lean more more towards passively not imposing, rather than imposing. The former doesn’t require anyone’s consent, while the latter may be contrary to someone’s consent (though, not all consent issues are equally egregious).

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            I feel like you are viewing this as much more personal than it actually is, with dastardly Jane intentionally using these chats to “fulfill the manager’s personal social/emotional needs”. I don’t really think that’s what she’s trying to do. She’s a new manager trying to lead a team in an environment that cuts off almost every opportunity for normal interaction with her reports; where she would usually get to know OP and their team through water-cooler chat, offhand remarks and simply existing in the same physical space as them, she now has nothing except these calls. She’s trying to get to know them as people, and when met with silence or snippiness, is probably babbling a little to fill in the gaps.

            Yes, clearly doing this every single day is going overboard and by now she should have gotten the message, especially when the team has taken to blanking her and responding curtly, but I don’t know why the assumption here seems to be that she’s doing it for “purely personal” reasons and trying to use her team as her therapist or social outlet. Trying to get to know your team and establish friendly relationships is pretty normal workplace behaviour, she’s just doing it badly.

            1. James*

              That’s a really good point. Manager Tools suggests this litmus test to see if you know your direct reports: Name their children. If you can’t, you don’t know them well enough. Work doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and knowing that Susan’s child is prone to ear infections is useful for planning. More generally, if you don’t know someone you don’t know how to manage them. It ties back to my earlier point about management being a relationship.

              1. JM60*

                I think that’s a terrible litmus test. Most of the time, you don’t need to know someone on a personal level to be able to manage them well. If someone doesn’t know that I’m gay, they don’t really know me. I don’t think any of my managers at any of my employers knew/know that I’m gay, but I doubt that information was/is necessary for them to manage me well.

                “It ties back to my earlier point about management being a relationship.”

                It’s a relationship, but it’s a working relationship. For some employees, getting to know them as a person better goes a long way in building that working relationship, but for many others, you don’t need to know them very well on a personal level to have a good working relationship with them.

                1. James*

                  I get hiding certain aspects of yourself. I’m a Pagan in the Bible Belt, and I’m pretty sure most of my colleagues think I’m Christian (it’s the default assumption around here, and I don’t actively work against it).

                  Something like whether or not you have kids, though? If you don’t know that, you do not know enough about your staff. Period. Again, this is about more than just being friendly (though a manager that fails at basic human interactions fails at managing); kid affect schedules. If my daughter gets sick, and I’m working from my assigned office (instead of being in the field), I get to stay home that day. If my son’s got a karate tournament I’m not available to work that weekend. These directly affect schedules, workloads, and other things, and therefore a good manager should know these things. In my field allergies and medical conditions are also important to know–if you’re 50 miles from the nearest town I NEED to know if you’re allergic to the medication we brought with us, otherwise you die. If you don’t know major life events that have the potential to impact workload and schedule, you can’t manage your staff.

                  I also don’t think that you can define a working relationship the way you have. The whole concept of “soft skills” demonstrates the futility of this. Let’s say I want a favor from Bill. It’ll help us both out, but it’s not technically Bill’s job. Do I present him with the facts of the situation? Do I look up his favorite basketball team and prepare for a 10 minute discussion about their last game and future prospects? Do I fire off an email, or pick up the phone, or meet with him in person? Do I put the main issue up front, or do I ask after chatting for a few minutes? Everyone’s going to be a little different, and how you ask affects whether you get the favor or not. Humans pick up on these things so well most of us don’t realize we’re doing it, but it all comes into play in a working relationship–and none of it can be outlined in any official documents. You need to get to know people to know this.

                2. JM60*

                  @James

                  “I get hiding certain aspects of yourself.”

                  It’s not a matter of hiding things about myself; it’s a matter of not needing to know who I am outside the workplace in order to have a good working relationship. I never hid the fact that I was gay at work. Rather, very few people I worked with knew about it because talking about my personal life was rarely important for my working relationships with people. In fact, I did come out at work when others brought up the subject of my romantic interests, but that wasn’t very often.

                  There are some people who need a somewhat more personal connection with someone in order to have a good working relationship them, but not all employees are like that.

                  “kid affect schedules”

                  Kids can affect schedules, but the same can be said about medical issues. But managers don’t necessarily need to know about a medical issue unless/until it does in fact affect work, and even then. They only need to know about it to the extent needed for work.

                  “Everyone’s going to be a little different”

                  And part of those differences is that some people need a social-ish relationship with someone to work effectively with someone asking them to do things, while others don’t.

                  “You need to get to know people to know this.”

                  No, you don’t need to forcibly get to know them. If someone is the type of person who needs to be chatted up a minute or two before being asked to do something, they will probably make that obvious in the course of working with them by being chatty themselves. If knowing that they have kids or a husband/wife is important, they will bring up their family in small talk.

                  Managers almost never need to force social-ish interaction in order to get to know their subordinates to the degree needed for their working relationship.

            2. JM60*

              “She’s a new manager trying to lead a team in an environment that cuts off almost every opportunity for normal interaction with her reports; where she would usually get to know OP and their team through water-cooler chat, offhand remarks and simply existing in the same physical space as them, she now has nothing except these calls.”

              But I would say the same thing about office chit-chat! If the chatter is solely social, then you should keep it to a minimum if the other person isn’t into it. 15 or so consecutive minutes of socializing that you didn’t consent to is a bit much when it’s from the same person every day.

              “She’s trying to get to know them as people, and when met with silence or snippiness, is probably babbling a little to fill in the gaps.”

              Keep in mind that they didn’t start trying to minimize her socializing until after they’ve put up with it for a while, and her not getting the hints. I’d be much more sympathetic to her if the order was reversed. Plus, it sounds like only one person was snippy with her, while others were trying to find polite ways to get her to stop.

              Thankfully, the update from the OP indicates that she seems to be letting off on the social chatter, so she probably did eventually get the message.

              “Trying to get to know your team and establish friendly relationships is pretty normal workplace behaviour”

              Having a friendly relationship with your staff is (and should be) normal almost everywhere. Getting to know your staff on a somewhat more social level is normal to do, but also normal to not do. You can have a friendly working relationship without much social chatter!

      6. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t frame it as work obligation. So technically speaking we have zero obligation to be friendly to each other at all because of work. I frame it as an obligation as one human being to another. I don’t want to be treated like a robot so I won’t treat others that way.

        Apparently, you guys are pretty much all friends with each other outside of work? So you have the luxury of already knowing each other as human beings. I don’t think she wants to break up your friend group and I don’t think she wants to be a part of your friend group. I think that she just wants to recognize you all as human beings first and foremost and expects the same in return.

      7. Tired*

        I fully agree. It’s one thing to say we should all extend a little grace to others. It’s another thing entirely to say that someone should “be there” for their boss. It’s messed up that the boss is (unintentionally, probably!) using the power of her position to force her employees to give her emotional support for 20 minutes a day regardless of how it makes the employee feel. I don’t understand why so many people in this thread seem to be prioritizing Jane’s needs over LW’s.

  24. MommyMD*

    She means well. Being snippy is not called for. I’d let it go on 10 or 12 minutes and then politely cut it off. She’s your boss. It makes her feel better and instead of complaining about it behind her back, I’d accept it as part of my work day and move on.

  25. Cobol*

    Maybe OP’s boss and the one from yesterday should simply trade jobs.

    OP it sounds like your profession is stereotypically made up of people who just want to put together heads down and work, but if it’s just cultural to your team, it might be worth not looking at it as her trying to be friends with you, and more thing to be friendly with you.

  26. Goldenrod*

    I’ve had the Extremely Chatty Boss before and I can tell you…..there is NOTHING you can do about it! In my opinion. I think some bosses just really love to socialize and they have the power to inflict that on their reports….and you really just have to endure it. I’ve been there, and I’ve never found a way out.

    Sometimes it helps to quietly think about how much money you are earning simply by listening to a chatterbox.

  27. You know who*

    My manager has only spoken to me over the phone once since we started working from home on 3/9. And that was only because she needed me to work on something that would be to complicated to explain in an email. When she did call she wanted to chat and ask how I was (fine) is my husband working (no) and other things that really annoyed me, like we’re buddies (not at all) because of our disconnection. Why would I want to ‘chat’ when you’ve basically ignored me for weeks?

    Mind you it’s been this way the whole few years I’ve worked for her but I guess I thought in the current crisis she’d be a human and at least reach out. To read her team emails you’d think she was a very kind and considerate person.

    So excuse me for relating slightly and venting a bit, my situation is such a challenge. Good luck!

    1. bubbleon*

      It sounds like she did reach out and it “really annoyed” you, if you were short during that call I’m not sure why you’d expect her to follow up any more.

      1. You know who*

        I wasn’t short with her but given we basically have no relationship it’s hard, at least for me, to talk to her about my life, my husband being laid off, or any other personal matters, especially at a time like this. I answer, briefly, and ask her about herself to basically make her stop asking me personal questions.

        The only reason she reached out was because she needed something and I wish she would just ask for what she needs. She went over a month without speaking to me directly so there’s no need to put on a show now.

        1. bubbleon*

          I promise I’m not being intentionally dense, but I guess I’m not sure what you’re looking for. Your original post mentioned that you’d expected her to reach out, which she did but it annoyed you because she hadn’t before. Now you’re saying that you wish she’d just ask for what she needs and move on, but saying she “only reached out because she needed something” earlier makes it sound like you wouldn’t really appreciate that either. If you’ve been working together for years I assume you’ve had some kind of conversation with her about your preferences for communication, but now that you’re all working from home now might be the time to revisit it in the context of working effectively in this new environment.

        2. Fikly*

          I too am confused. You said you were upset she hadn’t reached out earlier to check on how you were doing personally, but now you are saying you basically have no relationship and you don’t want to talk about personal issues with them. Given basically no relationship, why would you expect her to reach out on a personal level in the first place? And why are you upset that she’s not doing something that you don’t want her to do?

          Also, you said she did reach out to you because she needed something. So how is that not just asking for what she needs?

          You are making a giant assumption that the only reason she reached out to you after a month was to put on a show. It’s entirely possible that she herself was so busy or stressed or overwhelmed that it simply didn’t occur to her to do so until when she did. Other people’s actions often seem to be all about us, but rarely are.

  28. Cobol*

    This is probably offtopic, but I’ve never heard the term telework used. I know what it is, but it’s always been working from home, or maybe telecommuting.

    Anytime I’ve heard telework since COVID-19, both online and off, it’s been from a company that’s only doing it because they have to, almost like the term telework is an indicator of a company that’s not going to get it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I never heard “work from home” until I started reading AAM. I’ve heard telecommute, telework and remote working. I think it’s just a regional and interchangeable language, not that it’s anything specific to how any company specifically feels about the setup.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Hmm, I’ve been hearing it for years from friends that work for the federal govt. I just assumed it was a federal term. My friends’ workplaces have the option of full-time “telework” btw, where people live several states away and permanently work from home. So at least in that case, they do get it.

      1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

        OP here. Do you think it has to do with region? I’m in the Pacific Northwest, if that makes any difference.

        1. A*

          I think it might be! I’m in New England and I mostly hear WFH or telecommute. When I lived in the South (East Coast), I heard telework a lot more often.

          For some reason telework feels normal to type/read, but extremely awkward to say.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Could be! My teleworking friends are in DC.

            I am in the Rust Belt and I never heard it used at any of my workplaces. It was always WFH.

        2. Cobol*

          I’m in PNW too. Prior to my current job, where we telework, it’s always been remote worker if it’s full time, or WFH if it’s a one day thing. I was always in tech though.

    3. londonedit*

      Could be regional. I’m in the UK and here it’s pretty much always ‘working from home’. I’d never heard ‘telework’ or ‘telecommuting’ or even ‘working remotely’ until I saw the terms on this blog.

  29. blink14*

    I would try to think about this from Jane’s perspective. She’s obligated to one-on-one calls with each of her team members, and she’s probably trying to fill some time on each of these calls. Also, work can often be a huge part of a person’s social interaction – does Jane live alone or maybe have family that lives long distance? Does she have kids and is craving adult level conversation? She could be really lonely and this is her way of trying to retain social interaction in these times.

    Honestly, I’d just grin and bear it. I have daily check in calls with my team, per our boss’ boss’ directive, and 80% of it is talking about weather and personal stuff. I personally find the calls to be extremely irritating and would prefer an every other day situation, but this is the first time my workplace has gone work from home at such a large magnitude, and I get that there has to be some way of checking in with employees.

    1. allathian*

      Maybe now that you’ve been WFH for a while, it might be possible to discuss moving to calls every other day?

  30. iglwif*

    I am a full-time remote worker (i.e., I was remote pre-COVID-19) and an introvert, and I still feel for Jane in this situation, tbh. Up until the end of February, I had 3 weekly outings (2 evening choir rehearsals and Saturday morning services) and basically could go wherever I wanted; now, I only get to leave my apartment to walk the dog, and there are days when my 2 human family members and I get on each other’s last nerve. (There are also days when we’re all grateful to be together rather than alone.)

    That doesn’t mean OP has to squirm and sweat through 15 minutes of Jane chitchat every day. It’s okay to not enjoy that, and it’s also quite possible that OP’s team is super busy and this is genuinely interfering with their ability to get their work done. I personally would find a mandatory daily check-in with my boss to be A Bit Much, even if it was entirely work-focused! But in an office culture that’s very hostile to WFH, upper management might very well insist on that. (the CEO at ExJob was like this–I’d have let my staff WFH whenever, but he was adamant that people had to be in the office. I’m super curious as to how he’s handling the current situation…)

    What my team is doing is a mostly-weekly lunch meeting, where we all (or whoever wants to) get on zoom and literally just eat our lunch and talk about non-work stuff. Our kids, our pets, our grocery situations, our knitting projects, whatever. For us, that mostly works to keep the work meetings work-focused–although when I say “work-focused” what I really mean is that instead of the 5 minutes work talk / 15 minutes chitchat that OP is describing, it’s 5 minutes chitchat / 25 minutes work talk.

    It should never be okay to be snippy or rude or cold to your co-workers, and it’s frankly kind of self-defeating to be snippy or rude to your boss, but it should certainly be okay to say any of the things Alison suggests! And if I were OP, I’d maybe think about suggesting a weekly call (with defined start and end times, that’s important) that’s just for non-work stuff, along with the request to keep the daily check-ins shorter and more work-focused.

  31. k8*

    oh man, im definitely jane in this situation…..fortunately i don’t think any of my coworkers mind too much (we had a 10 minute digression about cockroaches in a meeting today) and if they do, they likely wouldn’t feel shy about letting me know!

    1. k8*

      0n the other hand, i do a weekly check-in with my boss, and im starting to think that even that’s excessive! we do a daily standup though so it might be a slightly different situation.

    2. James*

      I work with a bunch of folks like this. We’ll get off on 30-minute conversations about completely random things, like how to determine the most powerful train engine or which martial arts style is best (a fundamentally answerless question which provides weeks of discussion).

      On the downside, you waste time, and folks not used to that environment can get frustrated. On the plus side, you hear a lot of information that you wouldn’t otherwise–information about the company, information about the site, information about other companies that can affect your job. Nothing illegal, but knowing when, for example, a bike rally is likely to ride through your haul truck route a week in advance is much better than learning about the rally when 2,000 bikes block your path (happened once).

      Neither way is right or wrong, they’re just different styles. Styles that unfortunately don’t work well together in some cases.

    3. mf*

      I think there’s a big difference between being a Jane with your peers vs with your direct reports. Your peers have more standing to cut you off, deny your meeting requests, etc. An employee that reports to you (if you’re a manager) does not. Nothing wrong with seeking a little social interaction with coworkers–just don’t lean on those who are subordinate to you to fulfill your social needs!

  32. almost empty nester*

    Honestly, I feel bad for Jane here. She’s new to the team, and is trying to do a minimum amount of bonding with her new team of reports who seem to be less than welcoming to her. They may not actually be unwelcoming, but if I had a fairly new team that didn’t have the social graces to at least ask me how I was doing, I’d have a difficult time not feeling like my team disliked me. I get that not everyone is chatty, but also it doesn’t sound like a big ask from a group of grownups to be polite and reciprocal in a conversation with their manager for a few minutes each day.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed, but it’s not a few minutes a day. It’s 20. They *are* asking how she’s doing; she’s then running with that for 20 minutes of dog stories, etc.

  33. YoungTen*

    I have a very extroverted, type-A boss (Joanne) who does all her thinking out loud. I tend to be more introverted and try to fight worrying. I have an older close relative who lives in a hard-hit state by the pandemic. She was talking to another coworker loudly about how awful it is is such, such state and Oh the body count is rising! All I wanted to say was “My relative lives in the said state so could we please keep the death talk to a minimum since it’s not conducive to my productivity.” I guess since she works everything out by talking, she cant imagine that some people work things out internally and don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes more extroverted people are not too self-aware and don’t see how what they do actually affects others

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yes exactly. My partner is an extrovert and has to chunner on about whatever is on his mind, he has no idea that I’m saturated and need a bit of peace and quiet.

  34. DKMA*

    So it sounds like this has resolved, which is great, but that’s lucky because from your examples you never actually told her what the issue was. If I was managing someone and they became increasingly curt and snippy with me while there was a pandemic going on I’d become increasingly worried about them and do MORE of this, not less.

    So just like, talk to her about it, don’t use subtle dog training techniques.

    (NB: I’ve been doing a 30 minute team huddle every day since WFH started and just moved 1:1s with my team from 1hr weekly to 2×30 minutes because I’m feeling a negative impact from the sort of informal check-ins that used to be available. About 1/5 of that collective time tends to be non-work, so maybe I’m the wrong one to comment here.)

  35. James*

    I think the real issue is the daily check-ins. Some people are chatters, and that’s just something you have to deal with in a pluralistic society; by the same token they have to deal with introverts. But a daily check-in with a team sounds unreasonable. If a team is working well, knows their tasks, and is getting things done, a weekly check-in should be sufficient, if they even need to be that frequent (some managers are plugged into projects via other roles so they may touch base more frequently). 20 minutes a week to chat is reasonable, and three hours a week to check on your team is reasonable.

  36. Malty*

    The people who were making ‘oh my god get over it’ comments well, clearly weren’t in a kind headspace today, and we’re not here to get into the great introvert vs extrovert debate again, but it is an insight into how truly some people just don’t get it in terms of the energy side of introversion and extroversion. I’m not working as part of the lockdown at the moment and recently noticed 2 nights when I went to bed notably more exhausted than other nights and realised that both times I’d had hour+ conversation on the phone or video call that day. To me, a manager calling for a twenty minute social call per day would be a hindrance I’d have to actively work around even if I liked the person, no exaggeration, and no reflection on their management or intentions. If you’re someone to whom the idea of forced social calls seems very ‘what’s the big deal?’ it’s probably because they don’t actively sap your energy!

  37. Insert Witty Name Here*

    I feel for the OP because my boss has daily, hour long calls with us and it’s sometimes helpful, but at other times, it’s annoying. We don’t need to meet *daily*, plus we can all text/call/email each other. Most of the time, it’s more social and less business-related. It’s beginning to wear on me. Boss will say “oh, we don’t need to meet tomorrow” but then something changes and she wants to meet. Other times she seems stressed about something and will snip at us. Sigh….

  38. Catherine*

    It’s really interesting how the lonely LW on Tuesday was told she shouldn’t be seeking to alleviate her need for socialization via work beyond setting up some virtual happy hours or coffee breaks. Here we have someone who appears to be using her work contacts to fulfill her need for socialization, and a lot of the comments seem to be encouraging the LW to go along with it.

    I wonder if, had the boss written in instead of the subordinate here, our reaction would look more like Tuesday. Or does the power differential mean that one can impose one’s social needs on coworkers as long as one is higher on the ladder?

  39. CAndy*

    Jane sounds like she needs sent back for re-training as a manager to be honest.
    Some people love that social chit-chat to the point where it’s impossible to get anything work-related out of them until you’ve sat and talked for a while about this and that.
    Other people find it extremely frustrating to the point of it being intrusive.
    As a manager Jane should be aware of this and measure her approach to each person accordingly.

  40. TPS reporter*

    I get this. I’m an introvert, my boss is extroverted. He loves to chat and daily check ins go on and on. Some of the other team members like it. Some like me are annoyed. I’ve had the direct conversation with him and he won’t change. So I half listen and do work during the call. I’m a boss of a 15 person team. I do try to read the room and do a few minutes of chit chat, which for me is not super fun, then get down to business. Some people would actually like more socialization but I leave it to them to do it amongst themselves. Honestly your team sounds a little standoffish in general and not embracing this new boss. I say force yourself to make a little effort and have the conversation with her one on one to show her that you respect her enough to tell her and you’re trying to forge a bond. Yes she’s your boss but she’s new so cut her some slack.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I am picking up on an undercurrent here but it could be my imagination. No one in this situation is comfortable. I am wondering if something is running in the background that OP is not yet aware of.

  41. Courtney*

    Please be gentle with Jane. I imagine she’s an extrovert, which is hard while you’re all introverts. She usually refills her spoons by being social, and I imagine it’s very hard for her right now. I am struggling with isolation as an extrovert, and I accidentally find myself talking the ear off anyone who talks to me!

    That being said, she should be focusing more on work during specific work calls. Perhaps a suggestion of 15 minutes at the end of the week to discuss any social things? So at 4.45 each week, every one jumps into a Zoom meeting and talks about their plans (are they renovating during their isolation? Picking up a new hobby? Finally pulling out those dumbells they purchased 3 years ago, but never used?) Maybe even a glass of wine or beer could be had during these to really cement the social feeling for her?

    1. CAndy*

      Can’t imagine a situation where an introvert should have to be gentle with an extrovert, particularly one who is a superior.
      These people give introverts hell every day in life. Jane needs to moderate her approach to the individuals she is managing.

      1. Courtney*

        I think you’re showing a startling lack of compassion. I have plenty of introvert friends, and I strongly disagree that I, as one of ‘these people’ (as you so lovingly and kindly put it), do not make my friends lives hell. I wont pretend I haven’t overstepped but they are big, mature, grown ups who talk to me if I do, and I do my best to alter my behaviour to be more manageable for them. How dare you tell me I make peoples lives hell? You have no idea, clearly, what a healthy relationship looks like.

        I am strongly insulted by the way you’ve talked to me. I personally need interaction to refill my spoons, and I am slipping into a depressive episode not getting it. How dare you tell me people shouldn’t try be understanding of me and my own struggles during an unprecedented global event?

        1. Courtney*

          Urgh in my frustration I have misspoken.

          I do not make my friends lives hell. That was my intended phrasing.

        2. JM60*

          I think you’re interpreting what they said way too personally (though, I can’t see their removed comment below). I don’t think they’re saying all extroverts make the lives of introverts a living hell; I think they were referring to some extroverts (not necessarily you) who are too imposing on introverts. As a general rule, the passivity of an introvert is less of an imposition than an extrovert seeking unwanted social interaction. “I don’t want to talk” isn’t really imposing anything, but dragging on a social conversation is.

          People should be considerate of extroverts during this time, but it should go both ways! extroverts should also be considerate of introverts.

    2. allathian*

      They aren’t doing the team meetings, they’re daily one-on-ones. In team meetings it’s much easier to disengage and let those who want to talk do so. But judging by the update, Jane’s getting to know her team a bit better and is realizing that none of them want as much social chat as she does, and she’s doing a lot less of it.
      I think we should give Jane the credit of modifying her behavior to better fit with her team here.

      1. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

        Op here. I definitely feel softer towards her now that I’m not being barraged with non-work-related chit chat every day. As I said in the letter to Alison, she’s been open to feedback in the past- none of us just knew quite how to broach this with her, because none of us have lived through a pandemic. Everyone is struggling right now, whether it be over something small (like their inability to go to the movies) or something big (like being deathly afraid of catching C-19) but the commonality is we are all going through this and we all need to be kinder and softer towards each other. If this was happening outside the pandemic, I would not have written Alison; I would have given direct feedback about desiring the calls to be less social. In writing I hoped that maybe I would help not only my team, but someone else who was feeling particularly stressed by an extroverted manager or friend.

  42. trilusion*

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so maybe someone suggested this already.

    My colleagues and I have reserved a time and video chat especially for chitchat and having a cup of coffee together. It’s not mandatory, and everyone drops in as they like. It usually begins at about 9:40-9:45 and at 10:00 everyone leaves for their daily team meeting. Sometimes there are only 2 people, sometimes 7, and the topics vary.

    OP, you could suggest something like this so you could have a designated time for chitchat and then in turn really focus on work during your 1:1 meetings with your boss?

    1. allathian*

      I think the problem in this case could be that with voluntary social chats, everyone on the team would just opt out. Of course, scheduling one or two such chats would really make it clear that this team isn’t interested in chatting with their coworkers about anything except work, and that trying to force it isn’t going to make the team any happier.

      1. JM60*

        I think if everyone would opt out of voluntary social chats, then they probably aren’t needed.

  43. Jennifer*

    I feel compassion for everyone involved. I think a good middle ground has already been found. Allow for a few minutes of chit chat for extroverts. Let introverts recharge. Be kind.

  44. The Tin Man*

    I really like the idea of bringing up that talking about everything going on is increasing stress, not decreasing. Even if that isn’t necessarily true it feels the kindest way to limit the unwanted social part of the call without the manager feeling like you are rejecting her attempts to connect.

    1. The Tin Man*

      Also how many people are on this team? Is Jane spending half her day or longer just talking to people? I hope she’s able to get her work (aside from the “managing people”) done.

      1. James*

        This comment is somewhat amusing, because in every other thread for weeks everyone has been saying that we shouldn’t expect full output from people. But once you replace “people” with “manager”, that sympathy is gone.

        Making sure your team is okay is part of managing your team. OSHA is increasingly addressing such issues as fatigue management, mental health, and similar factors, indicating an increased understanding that mental state is a critical component of project success. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the first people to say “Leave home problems at the door” under normal circumstances! But this isn’t normal circumstances. Upper management and executives in many companies are pushing managers to be more directly involved in employee mental well-being, as evidenced by informal Slack/Zoom/Microsoft Teams/whatever channels, daily calls, and other programs that folks here oscillate between complaining about and praising.

        What I want to know is, what feedback is Jane getting about this behavior from her manager? Is she being pushed to do more to “help her team through this tough time”? Is she getting praised for trying so hard to connect with her team and make sure they’re handling the situation as well as can be expected? Or is she getting reprimanded because her workload isn’t getting done?

      2. AKA Genevieve Cooper*

        OP here. I think that may be part of the problem- she doesn’t have a lot of work beyond “taking care of the team” right now. As I mentioned, she is fairly new to the team and is from a completely different background as what our team does. Imagine a llama grooming salon supervisor suddenly being in charge of the website for the llama salon company– some common knowledge about llamas, but a whole different skill set. The parent company of the llama salon company sees great things in the future for her, but wants her to experience more departments. I’m sure, in time, there will be projects she can work on but she’s still *that new*…

  45. Meredith*

    I’m an outgoing introvert. I want to talk to people – usually one-on-one or in small groups – on my own terms. This seems… nice, though, in a way. Human interaction in these times is a small shimmer of light in a pretty dark world.

    HOWEVER, my company does a daily “standup” meeting at 9 every day. Everyone is on the call, and we each take turns going through our major tasks for the day – we also screen share a board of our tasks. Although we occasionally have a few minutes of chit-chat, having a purpose and focus for the call keeps on on target. With 10 or so people going through their lists, asking questions, and coordinating with others to touch base about specific things off the call, it takes 15-20 minutes. At the beginning, yes, it took longer – 30 or so. When we were in the office, it took less than 10. Blocking out that time on the calendar really helps, too. So you won’t be interrupted or distracted or see her number pop up and think, “Oh man, I wonder how long THIS will take.”

    TLDR version: have an agenda and block out the time.

  46. Rationally Neurotic*

    With our team we ended up suggesting weekly “check-ins” that are basically chit-chat and making sure everyone is functioning okay, with one a month that is intended to be an actual work meeting. Then, we have smaller meetings with our sub-teams (about 3 people) once a week. I would suggest to her that it might be more useful for her to have a weekly group meeting and then a half hour 1/1 every week or two weeks (depending on how many people on the team and with the goal of giving her a call to someone at least once a day). That would get you down to one group meeting, and one 1/1 where you could make a point of providing updates on your work during your call. A bit lighter than every single day, to say the least. We also suggested (and our manager agrees) that anything longer than about 30 minutes and people start losing focus. Worth a shot!

    1. Rationally Neurotic*

      Also, FWIW, I’m a pretty significant introvert, but without the daily micro-interactions of regular life I find myself missing contact with others quite a bit more. I still hate the group meetings for obvious reasons, but the smaller ones are actually nice to connect a little bit… even with people I went out of my way to avoid interacting with in the office because they annoyed me. Although I have kids, so I might just be desperate for outside contact at this point…

  47. Tempest*

    I do 15-30 minute chats daily with my 3 peers. We’re in a highly technical field, but even so, we happily spend a fourth to a half of that just chit-chating. We also have a running thread on instant message. Many of my work interactions are similarly chatty. If I was faced with a team that didn’t like chit chat, I probably wouldn’t even notice! Partly because of my natural chattiness, but also, over video call, the flow of conversation is so weird that the “I’m not enthusiastic about this conversation” signals can get confused with the “my wifi is bad so everything is stilted” behaviors. But I would definitely pick up on someone asking if we can get the time back/keep the meetings shorter/do a daily 15 min group stsndup intead/etc (and I’d be happy to cut down on the chit-chat once I realized that the other person didn’t need/want the socialization)

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