my boss is smothering the hell out of me

A reader writes:

I’ve been with my company 10 years. I was promoted to a new position in February, shortly before the pandemic erupted. Since mid-March, we’ve all been working from home. I already worked from home several days a week by choice, so I have a good set-up for it, am accustomed to its challenges, and am more productive and more comfortable here.

But my new manager is absolutely smothering me. She was showing signs of micromanaging before this started, but I think the working remote really threw it into overdrive. She is insisting on daily video “check-ins,” in addition to our regularly scheduled meetings. I am now talking to my boss more than I am talking to my partner, my family, and my best friends. She wants to know what I’m doing for fun, what I’m doing for exercise, what I’ve been cooking, are my finances okay? Ma’am – I am sheltering in place, please stop asking if I did anything fun last night. No. I walked my dogs and did a puzzle. Making me say it out loud depresses me.

On top of that, we go through my to-do list Every. Day. I already am having a lot of anxiety right now (who isn’t?) and having to a daily report-out on my productivity only adds to that. I have gotten to the point where I get a pit in my stomach every day leading up to our meetings. Some days I’m hugely productive. Other days fears about this virus have kept me up all night and I’m struggling to see my computer screen straight. I am a good worker, I will always get what is needed done — on time and well — but my output varies day to day, and honestly, nothing we are doing right now is critical.

I surmise that my manager is dealing with her stress and anxiety over the pandemic by throwing herself fully into our work, but all of us handle it differently and that’s not how I’ve reacted. Getting ahead on projects that are due in the fourth quarter feels strange and pointless to me, given our current situation. I’ve tried to mention that the daily meetings were not helpful for me, but she says she feels that it’s very important we stay in touch.

How do I get out of this? I’d be fine with weekly check-ins, but every day is really bringing me down – and I’m already down.

Suddenly having to run their teams remotely has brought out the worst in a lot of managers. Lots of people have no idea how to effectively manage a remote team, and so instead they’re just … insisting on a lot of contact and hoping that takes care of it.

There are some jobs where things change so quickly that daily meetings can make sense. It doesn’t sound like your job is one of them. You were working relatively independently before this started, and that shouldn’t need to change just because your location did. Insisting that someone who’s used to more autonomy (and who is performing well) suddenly start having daily check-ins is pretty much guaranteed to demoralize them as well as interrupt their focus and make them less productive. And asking you to go through your to-do list with your manager every day is infantilizing. No wonder you’ve grown to dread these calls!

And that’s before we even get into the daily inquiries about your personal life. That would be exhausting from most family members; it’s truly boundary-crossing when it’s from your boss.

The most likely explanation for all this is that your boss simply has no idea how to manage in our current circumstances (and possibly isn’t the most skilled manager the rest of the time) and has flailed her way into this setup because it makes her feel like she’s doing something — not realizing that what’s she’s doing is demoralizing you and adding to your stress.

I know you’ve already tried telling her that the daily meetings aren’t helpful to you, but I’d try a more direct, more explicit conversation. Your message shouldn’t just be that the meetings aren’t helpful; you need to say that they’re actively impeding you. She still might not want to change anything, but this at least will give her information she doesn’t currently have — and should nudge her to think more seriously about whether the current setup is warranted.

I’d frame it this way when you talk to her: “Now that we’ve been working from home for a month, can we revisit the system we’re using to stay in touch? I’m finding that checking in every day feels like too much and is actually adding to my stress and making it more difficult to stay focused. I worked more independently in the office and want to propose that we return to a system more similar to the one we had there, where we had a standing weekly meeting and then connected outside of that when specific needs came up.”

If she’s resistant, ask if she’s open to trying your proposed change for a week or two and then revisiting it. Managers who are hesitant to agree to a change often are more willing to agree to a short-term experiment rather than a permanent change — and then if they see that it goes well, are more likely to say yes to continuing it.

But if she won’t budge on the calls, it’s at least reasonable for you to set boundaries about all those inquiries into your personal life. The next time she starts quizzing you about your finances (!), your family, your exercise, and/or your cooking, it’s okay to say, “I’m actually finding that talking so much about how we’re handling the quarantine is causing me more stress — especially because it highlights how difficult things are. I’d be grateful for a break from focusing on it.” Or, “Would you mind if we went straight to our work agenda today? I’m pretty burned out on quarantine talk” (or feeling especially stressed, or so forth).

And if that doesn’t work and she continues to pepper you with these sorts of questions, it’s fine to resort to utterly boring, information-free responses like, “Oh, you know. No real changes. So shall we talk about project X?”

I originally published this at New York Magazine.

{ 137 comments… read them below }

  1. Smothered and Stressed*

    We are required to have twice daily team calls and send in an “updated” workload spreadsheet every evening.

    This comes from my great-grandboss, so there isn’t much my supervisor can do.

    But she’s been really cool, she lets us talk as much or as little as we want about all the weird parts of life.

    I dunno. Some people, I guess.

    1. bennie*

      yeah, i have similar, with an asana board, twice daily check in and wrapup emails, and a morning meeting

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      This would drive me to begin looking for a new job. That’s entirely too much and infantilizing. You have my sympathies having to deal with this.

    3. tink*

      We have to do a form submission at the end of each day with what accounting codes we’re using for the day (regular time, leave, etc) and roughly what we did and for how long if we were wfh. The downside is we ALSO have to enter our own time, but don’t have access to our form submissions, so I’m having to record my time twice and bug my manager if I forget a day.

      1. baconeggandcheeseplz*

        Can you screenshot the forms before you submit them so that you’ll have the record of each day? Or start recording everything in an excel spreadsheet and then you can just input into the form sheet and your hours tracker platfomr?

    4. Memily*

      These people clearly either don’t have young kids or don’t have to care for them if they do. There is no way in hell would be able to carve out time for twice daily meetings with my toddler still at home.

      1. Emily*

        Seriously! Between my own Zoom fatigue and taking care of my preschooler solo all day, two meetings would be about it for my productivity.

    5. KayDeeAye*

      My boss was really jittery at the start – mostly because of her boss, I’m pretty sure, because while she has control-freak tendencies, he is His Royal Highness, Prince of Control Freakyness. But things have settled down quite a bit now. I mean, we’re still meeting as a team far too often (twice/week), and that’s in addition to weekly 1-1s, but it’s mostly pretty workable.

      What helped her (which helped *me*) was simply sending her, at the beginning of each day, a list of the things I’d be working on each day. It isn’t in any great detail – it’s just a general bulleted list – but it allows her to know what I’m doing, and it allows her to say to her boss, should he ask, “Kay is working on these specific things.”

    6. MissDisplaced*

      It’s funny because with my work, we started out having way more calls and check-ins, but now almost 2 months into full time WFH we’re down to only one meeting a week. My manager keeps cancelling our one-on-ones, so I guess she’s busy elsewhere. I don’t mind, I’ve plenty to do. Daily check-ins would sort of drive me bonkers.

    7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I was having to do twice daily meetings and a spreadsheet – now it’s down to one meeting and one spreadsheet a day. However the one meeting is now an “all hands” and is averaging 8 mins – and the last five have all had relevant process updates so I totally get it.

      (The spreadsheet has been a part of life the entire time I’ve been at this job – I just go with it – I’ve dealt with soo much worse in the past.)

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I need to figure out how to get my team to do this. I am the manager. We have a check-in every Friday to talk. Sometimes 15 minutes in we are completely caught up on work and life. But it’s almost like they are making up things to talk about or drag out topics just for the sake of staying on the call.

          As their manager, I want to be there if this is what they need so I haven’t cut them off . But it is draining on me – which I realize is part of being a manager but boy am I hopeful we’ll strike a better groove soon.

    8. BlackBelt Jones*

      Yes, I work for a similar micromanage-y place.

      We’re doing two video meetings a day and turning in a list of planned work each week. We also have occasional project-related meetings with other groups. It’s not pleasant, but it’s better than being on-site during a pandemic.

  2. Hellophoebe*

    My boss was the same at the start of the pandemic, we have settled on twice weekly check-ins as a compromise, most of which are purely social. It’s more for my boss than for me, she needs a lot of social contact and seems to be struggling with lack of social contact. It’s not ideal but I can live with it for now.

    1. Random IT Guy*

      I would argue that this is more or less a good setup.
      You know from the start it`s not micromanaging – and some people need more contact than others.

      The manager in OPs scenario however sounds like a nightmare.

  3. bennie*

    i already have to send in daily check in emails at the top and bottom of every day, and we have a daily virtual video zoom every morning for my team (it used to be a daily standup when we were at the office) – is that weird/too much? i don’t really love it but i get why we do it and just go along with it

    1. KimberlyR*

      That would be too much for me! But if you’re fine with it, its probably fine. I wonder if all your team members are fine with it though.

    2. Ashley*

      I don’t get too and bottom in most jobs what has changed overnight? I really love shared spreadsheets for shared project info.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      The emails are too much if you’re doing virtual stand-ups every day.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      2 check-ins per day PLUS a video meeting every day feels like WAY too much for me. I’d still be working on the same thing at 5pm I was working on at 8am due to the nature of my work, so I’d literally have nothing to contribute in meetings like that. Unless you’re working on things that really do need more constant updates. I know the PR people were living like that, but now even that has settled down.

    5. Mazzy*

      My lord I can’t handle that as a manager! Three weekly meetings is a lot for me to handle let alone daily meetings! Unless I had nothing else to do besides “manage” people instead of producing other types of output

    6. Quidge*

      Maybe this is why I didn’t think this quite met the bar for micromanaging – I’m a writer in a software company and daily standups are just – what we do!

      The only change is that my team now has an official 15 minute Teams one, too, instead of just catching up informally during the day and attending standups for the teams we work with. That’s actually been a positive change: possibly because it replaces something we did anyway, because my role is meeting-light and it helps structure my day a little, and I can see how it would help my manager. (I can struggle with punctuality and structure at the best of times, and some of my team can worry-spiral with very little provocation! Low-key checking-in helps all of us.)

      That said, I otherwise have a lot of autonomy and trust from my manager, and their management style/attitude hasn’t really changed since we went WfH. No email summaries or going through to-do lists unless we decide to chat about what we’re up to! That is probably the difference, to be honest.

    7. Saaam*

      That would be way too much for me. Especially because, like the letter writer, my productivity varies from day to day. That many check-ins would create unreasonable pressure for me to produce substantial work every single day and give me anxiety. But in my job the projects are quite long, anywhere from 3 months – 5 years, so twice daily check-ins would just be a waste of time. Maybe in other industries that many check-ins makes sense.

  4. Elizabeth West*

    Errrgghh how frustrating. The constant questioning on personal quarantine stuff makes me think she’s dumping her own anxiety on the OP. Some people process by talking it out, but she shouldn’t be doing that with her direct report.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      This is what I was thinking. This is her way of dealing with grief/anxiety/feeling trapped. I bet she’s unaware.

    2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I’m getting the sense that the boss is feeling socially isolated now that they’re not seeing anyone in the office, and are using the op to fill their social needs, under the assumption that everyone else feels the same as them

      1. The Original K.*

        Me too – I suspect the manager is more extroverted and is craving social interaction.

        1. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

          This is me. I’m an extrovert managing a team of introverts. The only thing that works is completely optional “coffee breaks.” Anything else —forced zoom checkins — is awkward for literally everyone involved. A group email updating where we are with everything works the best. I lean on my friends, not my coworkers, when I need human interaction.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      That’s exactly what she’s doing, and it’s unfair to the OP since she has her own anxiety to manage.

    4. Butterfly Counter*

      This is what I thought and my personal solution would be to stop “rewarding” the behavior by being as boring as possible about the personal things.

      “What are you doing for fun?” -“Nothing.”
      “What are you doing for exercise?” – “I’m not.”
      “What have you been cooking?” – “I don’t know.”

      This done with a flat, disinterested affect may get the point across better than anything. I know they helped a lot when coworkers were getting too flirtatious when I was a young temp. Granted the dynamics are slightly different and I’m not endorsing being overtly rude, but the personal questions are crossing a boundary and if OP can’t push back, non-engagement might be the way to go.

      1. CatsOnAKeyboard*

        I’d worry in this case that a flat response would actually make her engage more out of concern that the OP is depressed/doing badly. I think just asking for what the OP wants – not to talk about it – would have a better result.

    5. Hills to Die on*

      Ma’am – I am sheltering in place, please stop asking if I did anything fun last night = lol. Only because it’s not happening to me.

    6. Pennyworth*

      I’d be inclined to tell her next Monday that I have realized over the weekend that it important for my mental health to separate the work and non-work aspect of my life, and so I would like to confine out discussions to work related matters only. Any further non work questions to be met with ‘I’d prefer not to discuss non-work matters.’

  5. Anon Anon*

    The only way I could get my boss to quit the daily meetings with my department was to tell her that I ended up losing entire days of work time to meeting for meetings where everyone was repeating themselves. Now we just have them twice a week. However, that comes on top of her wanting to sit in the twice weekly team meetings I have, as well as her weekly division meeting, and any interdepartmental meetings. And I know she sits in on other departments meetings as well.

    I think that for some managers (like mine) they don’t have enough to do and/or as Alison indicated they think that conference calls is managing remote workers. I know my manager lives alone and the only contact she has with other people these days i through the conference calls we have, so I suspect some of that is the reason for the love of affair with all these meetings. However, I feel the OP’s pain.

  6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    If the boss continues to be that intrusive, maybe the truth would open her eyes: “My personal life has fallen apart because after those extra meetings I don’t have the time or energy to talk to my mother, let alone my friends.” Or a more polite “Boss, can we skip the personal stuff so I have some social energy left after work to talk to my partner.”

    1. nm*

      I’m a big fan of blunt honesty! Partly because I’m a little obtuse myself, lol.

  7. Lena Clare*

    Oh that sounds so hard! I like Alison’s script and think they’d be very effective.
    It would be a clueless boss indeed who didn’t modify their behaviour after hearing the language used here.

  8. Li0ness*

    I feel like I’m being forced to be that manager by my management. I’m forced to do weekly goal setting meetings (our weekly tasks don’t really change that much), with check ins on Wednesdays and wrap ups on Fridays, that take half an hour each per employee, as well as a morning and evening check in daily, and sometimes midday check ins, and another specific project meeting weekly. I went off on my boss yesterday after there was a small question about my productivity on a major project (politely! professionally! but for me, who is usually very reserved and only expresses facts, not feelings at work, this was pretty passionate) about the fact that since the WFH has started, I’ve been doing 10 hours of check-in meetings and reports about those meetings a week in a 40 hour week. I’m also reasonably sure they don’t read the reports I’m required to produce at all. This resulted in “train one of your team members to take over some of your other duties” which… was not my desired outcome. This team member has enough on her plate, I just need there to be less pointless reporting on mine. These reports are entirely redundant to each other, and make me feel like I’m treating my employees like toddlers.

    I’m doing my best to minimize my impact and interruptions to my employees (I don’t actually require them to do the midweek and end-week meetings with me when I don’t have to), but I’m absolutely at my wits’ end. Anyone out there got any advice, because talking to management obviously wasn’t productive.

    1. Super Admin*

      Ugh. Thank you for trying to talk to them, for your sake and that of your team. Any chance you could get round it with what my manager decided on when told to check in daily with her team – one half hour coffee and catch up with the whole team once a day? (Ours are purely social and optional but are genuinely nice as we are quite a close knit team) That way you can say you spent half an hour with Jane and half an hour with Fergus, and who’s to know it was at the same time while talking about last night’s episode of Grand Designs?

      1. Li0ness*

        If I didn’t have to send beginning and end of the day reports, I could maybe get away with that. Maybe if I asked everyone to know what they were planning for the next day the evening before, I could get away with it? That way it’s just “what did you do today, what are you doing tomorrow, and what’s on netflix for you tonight?”

        Still leaves the problem of the redundant weekly reports, but going down from two dailies into one would probably improve workflow at least. Thinking about “accidentally” sending my next midweek check in report with hot pink font or an accidentally corrupted save file (with a real one as backup!) to see if it’s actually getting read, or even opened.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Like, what has really changed from the end of the day to the beginning of the next day? Does something happen in your company overnight or do you have people in different time zones?

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Right, that’s what I’m wondering. I’m a writer and editor, and a lot of my projects tend to be long-tail with a few one-off editorial requests that have tight turnarounds (like, same day or next day deadlines) from time to time. If my manager required daily updates, I’d have no choice but to respond, “I’m doing the same thing I was doing yesterday. And the day before that.” Even when I was a claims adjuster and worked on up to 11 claims a day, my updates would be pretty much the same – “closed files. Denied claims or issued payments.”

    2. Mockingjay*

      In the office, I can go days without seeing my supervisor. We have a weekly team meeting, but unless there’s something she needs to be clued in, we don’t necessarily speak. She trusts me to do my job, prioritize tasks, upload my stuff to the server, and keep the tracking system updated.

      Remote work – I am required to do daily and weekly reports.

      I don’t get the mindset that, because the laptop is in my living room instead of the office, I suddenly need someone to assign and monitor my work the same way first graders are checked.

      1. allathian*

        That’s… odd. Have you tried asking her directly what’s changed? It may be that the higher-ups are putting pressure on her to check up on you more often.

    3. Sunflower*

      When I used to do weekly check-ins with my boss, I had a sheet and just filled in updates/what I was working on for every project. Can you ask your employees to do that? You can probably google some format of a check-in form and use that.
      Is anyone checking if you are doing morning and evenings check-ins? Instead of calls, can you just ask your employees to shoot you an IM or email?
      Are there any other managers dealing with similar requirements? Could you guys might be able to band together and present a united front?

      This is awful and I feel terrible for you and your employees.

  9. blackcatlady*

    Boss: Are your finances OK? What are you doing for fun? What are you cooking? What is your exercise routine?
    You: Wow. Why would you ask such personal questions? Can we please concentrate on work?

    1. Nanani*

      That would be great with a peer, but unfortunately with a boss, the power dynamic makes this kind of bluntness much more difficult.

      1. allathian*

        It can, but not necessarily. It depends on the relationship you have with your boss. That said, asking about finances is just so out of line that there should be some way to push back on at least that.
        “I’m not comfortable discussing that” is better than MYOB, though!

  10. Lj*

    Tbh This letter and some responses here are making me feel better. I too have a boss who is smothering me though clearly it’s not as bad as it could be. They are very much a “connector”. They want constant meetings to talk through every project, constant check ins. There is a strong performative quality to it that kills me like they are trying to check boxes in a “how to be a good leader” worksheet. I do not find any of it useful. And I don’t need to connect. I need to get work done between watching a toddler.

  11. Diahann Carroll*

    Ma’am – I am sheltering in place, please stop asking if I did anything fun last night. No.

    You sound like me right now, OP – TOO THROUGH. Lol. Your manager is clueless. Alison’s advice was spot-on – tell your manager that her constant check-ins and questions about your free time is stressing you out. You know she’s trying to be helpful, but it’s doing the exact opposite. Hopefully, she’ll get it and leave you alone.

    1. The Original K.*

      I chuckled when I read that line because this is 100% something I would say – I’ve sent many a “ma’am” text.

    2. designbot*

      Something it took me a while to learn is that a question asked in a friendly or productive manner is not the same as a question in a court of law. You do not need to give the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sometimes someone’s asking a question out of politeness and they don’t know another way to start or end a conversation (“How are you?” or “doing anything fun this weekend?”), or sometimes they’re asking the question they think they want the answer to but they’re really leading up to another point and you can jump straight to that point. It’s taken effort for me to not just automatically answer the question that has literally been asked, but to slow down and translate the question for myself a bit and decide what information it is truly useful that I provide.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This may well be true, but when you keep getting these “friendly” questions all day every day, it doesn’t matter that the person asking isn’t expecting a thorough run down of everything you do or feel (though in OP’s manager’s case, it sounds like she does expect just that) – it’s the repetition that becomes infuriating. If I already told you once about my day, don’t then contact me later on that day asking me what I’ve been doing that same dang day, lol. The shit’s annoying, so I feel OP’s pain.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          And this sounds more like an interrogation rather than a friendly-intended question here or there.

          1. Threeve*

            Or she’s fishing for everything to be reciprocal, and is trying to prompt the LW to ask about HER day, meals, exercise, finances, etc.

            Which is just trying to force an employee to fulfill a friend role for you. Ugh.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Yup. Either way, it’s significantly past the “oh how was your day” transient niceties.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I’d be very tempted to turn my sarcastic side to the max, but that would probably mean burning a bridge in Swedish Christmas Goat style.

  12. CoffeeNut*

    I wonder if some of it is out of concern for your mental health. Our Director is requiring all supervisors check in with their staff daily. Human contact and making sure everyone is doing well is the main reason. He had a family member with a mental health condition and takes anything related very seriously.

    Now, this may not be your boss’s only reason, but reassuring her you are doing well may help.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This sounds plausible, in that it is a one-size-fits-all solution that may in fact be a terrible fit for many people.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, even assuming a good, supportive manager and a workplace that respects mental health needs, my boss is not high on the list of people I want to tell that my anxiety has been acting up. If I need specific support from work, sure, but otherwise I’m going to smooth out anything short of a crisis into “oh, well, things are weird but I’m puttering along ok”.

        1. Juneybug*

          Besides, can your boss really do anything about your mental health (beyond checking in)? Are they trained to help? Do they have tools? Is this a relationship that I want to build with my boss?
          Nah, I will save the mental health issues for my counselor. You know, the person who is trained. Who has tools. The one that I trust with these discussions.

          1. TootsNYC*

            they could encourage you to get that help. They could point you to the EAP.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              If Juneybug already has a counselor, she doesn’t need an EAP recommendation.

            2. Philosophia*

              No, the help we need, as Alison says, is “pay and benefits that make it possible for employees to build up safety nets to help weather future crises.”

    2. allathian*

      What would you say if one of your reports said “these daily check-ins are really stressing me out, would it be OK with you to do it twice a week instead?”

      1. CoffeeNut*

        I would be OK with it. I get where my Director is coming from. Some people, being isolated without human interaction can be hard. However, I also see the other side and am one who prefers not to have a daily check in, but maybe once a week touch base to make sure we are all on the same page with whatever has been going on – work related. When I do my calls, I keep my questions work related and make sure they have what they need from me or if there is anything they are waiting on that I can assist with.

        I don’t know the intent of OPs manager, but hate assuming it’s a negative one without exploring the idea she has the best intentions, just going about it wrong. This doesn’t mean it’s OK to get into people’s personal business, but letting the boss know you are OK and would prefer to focus on work might be all she needs to at least back off a little. I don’t think it will solve the whole problem, as OP states there were signs of this before.

  13. NW Mossy*

    Man, this is such a hard line to walk as a leader right now – it’s really tough to know the right way to be accessible and tuned into the vibe on your team without being a stifling PITA about it.

    I’ve been continuing my pre-pandemic practice of a whole team check-in of 5-10 minutes each morning, a team meeting weekly (30-60 minutes), and a 30-minute 1:1 with each person every other week. There are lots of good reasons not to increase this (my own schedule can’t handle much more), but I worry that I’m missing clues to low-level problems because the passive interaction/observation is missing. I can’t hear those frustrated sighs or catch a confused expression like I normally would, and it’s weirdly destabilizing.

    1. Maybe*

      I guess it depends on your job. WFH on permanent hiatus is not the same thing as when you go to an office each day. Some people prefer to sleep in now that their schedules have become a flat circle, and endless video conference calls make that a lot worse for some. All the check ins are great when people are working together in person, but they lose their pizazz when you also may be dealing with childcare and a partner or gut wrenching solitude. ODK.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      This is a valid point… and I think it’s what is missing from a lot of the advice out there for managers right now.

      I’ve been a remote manager now for about 6 years and it’s not easy. You do find ways to pick up on some of those things… I once had a pen clicker on my team. He would click his pen when he was agitated, nervous, or thinking about something really hard. I loved it, because I could hear it in the background of our calls.

      Not all employees are that easy to read. I’ve gone to asking questions that I know will point me to the state of an employee. ex… “Bob, how many cups of coffee are you up to today?” Bob is pretty notorious for drinking too much coffee when he’s stressed. “Wanda, have you gotten a good walk in today?” Wanda, will go for quick stress walks.

      The other thing is to make sure you are encouraging them to reach out to you… “Hey guys just a reminder, that it’s ok for you to let me know if something is going on… I can’t see your faces, but if you send me the exasperated emoji I’ll know something’s up!”

      1. Koala dreams*

        The thought of that exasperated emoji is lovely! (Of course I hope you only get the happy emoji or the tired emoji, not the exasperated one.)

      2. Tired*

        I would not like it if my boss was asking me if I’d gone on a walk, or how much coffee I’ve had. It feels invasive to me. My physical exercise routine or coffee consumption is my own business.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      “I can’t hear those frustrated sighs or catch a confused expression like I normally would, and it’s weirdly destabilizing.”

      I think that is a very valid point. But instead of more meetings, I think I’d just keep reiterating that you’ll be available for anyone to talk about anything, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Let your team know they can pick up the phone if they need to do so to ask questions or clarify things. That’s really all I want from my managers right now besides the usual priorities and overall direction stuff.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I’m definitely not looking to add any more meetings, because there’s clear diminishing marginal returns to them for both me and my directs. At the risk of sounding flip, I don’t want to wear my stupid ear-squishing headset any more hours in a day than I already do!

        I’m still feeling my way to some of the insights like SomebodyElse describes above, where you pay attention to different clues about morale and find other ways to observe without being intrusive. I noticed a few weeks ago that one of my directs had a weirdly clipped tone when responding to a question about how she was doing, and my follow-up (“are you really fine or is that a don’t-ask-me-about-that fine?”) elicited a really good conversation about a problem she was having with a colleague on another team.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        In my experience people are weirdly reluctant to ask for help, even when you do that. In some cases it just a case of being too close to the problem and not realizing you need help. In others people just don’t want to admit that they’re beat (frequently to themselves). I also find the daily meetings a useful venue to nudge people to wrap up work when it’s really done but people want to do “one more thing”. Gold plating is a occupational hazard in my line of work.

        Note that this is something we’d be doing anyway if we were all in the office, but I find it extra valuable when managing remote. But it’s important to keep it breezy. Official policy is that “missing the check in is no big deal, just don’t make it a habit”

    4. AnonMinion*

      I totally agree. It is a tricky balance, especially for leaders that may know furloughs or layoffs are coming. We need to have a realistic grasp of workloads and without being able to observe in the office we have to ask our direct reports for it. That being said, the daily meetings and pushing for personal information is simply too much.

    5. Kevin Sours*

      I’ve been running a distributed team for a long time now and I find my daily check in call to be invaluable. As you say you miss a *ton* of miscellaneous communication being remote that you really don’t notice until it’s gone and having the daily updates helps with that.

      And I don’t think it’s turned out to be that obtrusive (though obviously my team would have a better perspective). I think format is as important frequency. Keep it short. Keep it on schedule. And keep it low key. The focus should be on making sure that people aren’t blocked in doing their work and not “prove to me that you are working”.

      I also think it helps that I’m giving the same report everybody else is giving.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        And by short I mean I usually get through in 10 minutes and if we hit 2o its because something came up that the team really needed to discuss.

  14. Jedi Squirrel*

    I have a feeling that when this is over, a lot of us are going to have some changed boundaries in our lives. I know I will. Hopefully, we’ll get better at setting and enforcing them as well.

    And good lord the font on that site (Miller Text) is absolutely gorgeous!

  15. SomebodyElse*

    Here’s a couple methods you can try if the direct approach doesn’t work… I’m not saying it would work in all situations, but I’ve used all of them myself at one time or another.

    What happens if you tried cancelling a meeting… “Oh boss, do you mind if we don’t meet tomorrow I really want to get X done and it’s probably going to take me over our meet time. I’ll send you an update instead.”

    If it works, then great. Now the key is to start sliding out of as many as you can without it being obvious. Can you schedule other meetings over top of your standing boss meeting. “Hey boss, I hate to ask this, but I’m setting up a meeting for project X and the only time for it to work is during our Tuesday meeting…”

    They key to this is to start to get the boss out of the habit of the meetings and to show them the world doesn’t end if you don’t talk every day. Make the reasons valid and varied…

    Another tactic, along the same lines as the Alison’s response is to limit the entertainment value of the meetings for your boss.
    -Is there something she doesn’t like to talk about? I had a manager once who hated to make decisions… so if I didn’t really feel like talking to him I would pick something I was working on and ask him to decide on something… typically he’d wander through it and end the meeting before too long.
    – Another meeting tactic is to push someone’s hot button on a work topic (not related to you or your job) and then sit back and listen to them vent for the rest of the meeting.
    -Stick to boring work topics and use the phrase “hmm.. not much new from yesterday. I don’t really have any new updates” or “No change from yesterday on the paper sorting project.” and then stop talking.
    -And then the last thing… list and detail them to death. Take control of the meeting and launch into a list with really minor and boring details, explanations, and or other one sided conversation dominators and run with it.

    Usage of all of these tactics should help in frequency and content :) I’m sorry your boss read one too many articles on how to keep remote teams engaged.

    1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      These are great. Even if they don’t work for everyone, very well observed.

  16. ThatGirl*

    My boss has definitely gotten more micromanagery and keeps hinting that she wants to do, like, zoom happy hours or something… but at least she’s not THIS bad. I think part of the problem with mine is that she really defines herself by her work and she can’t suck up to her boss as much without the in-person contact. I also think that with bosses like this, there’s a tendency to want to show they *care* and they’re *connected* and meanwhile most of us are just trying to get through the day and get the work done.

    1. Liz*

      Yes. THANKFULLY my direct boss, his boss, and my grandboss pretty much leave me to my own devices. If they need me to do something, they contact me, otherwise, no. Grandboss does a weekly email checkin, but lately it hasn’t even been every week. My other boss suggested a zoom happy hour this week, so that will be nice. our group is small, 4, and i know it won’t last that long, so i”m fine with it. But i’m very fortunate not to be micromanaged or expected to explain exactly what i’ve been doing.

  17. Buttercup*

    I’m in a similar situation – my boss was micromanage-y even before the shutdown, and now, he’s on overdrive. He’s also slightly afraid of me personally because I set boundaries really firmly, so I’m not really getting the brunt of it, but I still have the five million check-ins that all cover the same ground and have to adjust my pacing to keep him from questioning every move I make. Honestly, the five million check-ins are my only complaint during social isolation. That and not being able to get good sushi.

  18. PJH*


    I hate even my twice-weekly 1/2hr online meetings. Nothing of import ever gets discussed at them.

    I, and others, communicate more than enough via email to keep anyone and everyone who needs to know in the loop.

  19. Nanc*

    I have nothing useful to add but that graphic–I had that outfit, hairstyle, coffee mug, boxy terminal and copy holder in 1978! Good times!

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      It is glorious.

      I was a kid back then, but good lord, life then seemed so much better, even without the internet. Didn’t even have cable and didn’t even care.

  20. designbot*

    I feel like I’m viewing an alien culture when I hear about this stuff where you don’t report what you’re working on… don’t you collaborate? Don’t people need to know what pieces you’re working on so that they can give or look for input at the appropriate times? Does everyone really have so much autonomy in your organizations and so little to offer each other that you all go and work on your pieces and come back when you think you’re done? If people in my organization did that, everything would take twice as long, because we’d all have to redo everything at least once. We check in every day and it’s literally just hey, I’m working towards this deadline today or I’ll be on this in the morning and that in the afternoon. And then someone might jump in and say ooh let me send you the latest I was working on for that, or I handled something in that same area yesterday that might be beneficial for you to see, or actually hang on a new priority came in that is more important. It’s incredibly valuable for us, and it’s so strange to me that the commentariat here seems to so universally despise daily checkins.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      It depends on what you are doing. Some jobs are collaborative like that. Others are each person concentrating on their own thing. One size does not fit all.

    2. PJH*

      We have email and web-based issue trackers for most of the stuff we needs to collaborate on.

      That said, we’re mainly programmers – we prefer to talk to computers than other humans.

    3. SarahTheEntwife*

      My work right now actually is very solitary since those are the parts of my job that I can do at home, but even when I’m doing the more collaborative aspects, I’m usually just checking in with the people that I’m working on a project with. The whole department rarely needs daily updates on what I’m doing. There are occasionally very time-sensitive projects where I’ll update my supervisor daily, but even there it’s usually a Slack message or something saying “hey, I got step A done today; planning to do B and start on C tomorrow”.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This. My job does not need daily collaboration or communication. The occasional email/IM is fine.

    4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Eh, there’s a difference between our daily standup meeting with the whole team* (where we can get through 20 updates in less than 15 minutes) plus a shared kanban board, and a manager asking for that same information from each person in 20 separate meetings in the morning, with bonus required updates on your personal situation at home.

      *This is actually a combined standup of 4 teams, plus associated managers. Still takes less than 15 minutes.

    5. Koala dreams*

      Yeah, the daily check-ins could be useful or not depending on your work. In some jobs, it would be normal, in some it would be too much. In my line of work, it’s common to work independently, but at my company, we have a more collaborative work style so it wouldn’t be weird to me to check with my boss twice a day. It’s the personal questions that really takes it over the line for me.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      “Don’t people need to know what pieces you’re working on so that they can give or look for input at the appropriate times?”
      Yes, but that’s what email is for. I work on something, and then email it to the appropriate people for feedback and/or changes. But it depends what you’re working on. Some projects may require more collaboration than this, and then we setup a call to go over the direction of the project. Or, If I need approvals faster, I’ll schedule a group call so I can gather it all at once. But I don’t need this every day!

      And I can’t say that this way of working has really changed since full time WFH. It was pretty much that way when we were in the office. So weekly checkins are the norm, both written and weekly team call.

    7. old curmudgeon*

      I am literally the only person working for my 1,600-person employer who does what I do, or who understands it. I am one of about five people in the 43,000-person statewide network who do/understand what I do.

      So, no, there is no collaboration in what I do. If it gets done, nobody notices or realizes it. If it suddenly were to stop, everyone would panic, but nobody would know what to do about it, despite the fact that I have written literally hundreds of pages of documentation, instructions, procedures, philosophical discussions, etc. on the topic. It’s “too hard.”

      And either way, I do not need (or want) to have daily heart-to-hearts with my manager about it. If I get it done correctly and on time, she is happy, I’m happy, and so is everyone else.

      1. epi*

        This, too. There are parts of my job only I do, and no, no one has any useful input on the process– only what they want the outcome to be. Sometimes steps 1-10 of a project are all me, and no one will really have or want input until at least step 7.

        Your handle made me laugh because the original comment was so uncharitable in making it sound like anyone whose job isn’t too collaborative is just a curmudgeon. An equally uncharitable interpretation could be applied to a working adult who says that having autonomy and applying independent judgment at work is totally alien to them. Or maybe we all do different jobs that require different things of us.

      2. allathian*

        Almost the same. I’m one of two people with the exact same job description, but I’m a part of a larger team with adjacent skills. My boss was promoted from among those with adjacent skills to mine. She understands a lot of what I do, but doesn’t have the same understanding of the subject matter that I and my coworker have. So it’s pretty hands-off. She lets us set our schedules and negotiate deadlines, etc. Sometimes when dealing with other departments, we’ll ask her to prioritize our tasks for us.

        We have a 90-minute team meeting every two weeks and a 30-minute department meeting (two teams who share the same boss). In the last two months that we’ve been mandated to WFH, I’ve had one 1:1 with her (usually quarterly) and 1:2 with her and my coworker as the need arises.

    8. Circe*

      I think there’s a difference between micro-manage-y daily checkins and meetings focused on team collaboration. I’m in a team-based, meeting heavy organization, but all our meetings have objectives, action items, and deliverables. I’ll talk with my boss several times a day depending on where various projects are, but we don’t discuss my personal workload, my mental health, or what I did last night. If anything, I wish my manager were better at setting aside for those topics.

      However, the scenario described in the letter sounds really emotionally draining and counterproductive, and I’m speaking as an extrovert who loves meetings. This seems like a scenario where the letter writer’s boss is getting all of their emotional connection from work, which is unhealthy for everyone. OP, I hope you’re successful in pushing back.

    9. epi*

      Not every job requires that level or frequency of collaboration. Check ins far beyond what is required to get the work done are a hindrance, not a help, and people who care about their work tend to resent that. Right now, they also cause anxiety and distraction in many people who are not at their best, and struggling with personal and professional expectations that they somehow stay productive. Many people at home right now rarely feel like we get meaningful time to ourselves. Not the best headspace to be in before going over your whole to-do list with your team.

      Consider also that people gravitate, if they can, towards companies and roles where the normal, needed amount of interaction is what they’re comfortable with. So not only is extra contact not needed, it’s often not even aimed at a group of people prepared to enjoy it.

    10. Jennifer Thneed*

      Some jobs are like that, and some jobs are not like that. Lots of times, a team works in parallel, doing similar things but in different contexts or for different (internal or external) customers. So they might have best practices to share but they’re not impacting each others’ work.

    11. pamplemousse*

      Yeah, my office is similar and it blows my mind that people just… go days without talking to their boss about what they’re working on? We did mandatory morning check-ins on Slack even before we were all remote — everyone sends a sentence or two to their boss in the morning about what they’re working on that day. It takes 20 seconds but really helps me have a picture of what the team as a whole is up to. But I’m in an industry where things really do change overnight, the work is collaborative, and the vast majority of assignments take less than a week to complete.

      1. designbot*

        Thank you, I was questioning my sanity a bit there. I don’t doubt that there are other types of workplaces out there, but it’s so universally the other way here that I felt like I was taking crazy pills.

        1. BlackBelt Jones*

          I would want to take crazy pills if I had to discuss what I was doing constantly. I like to do what I have to do and be left alone, only discussing something if necessary.

          I’ve been working 30 years at least, and can’t think of a time when it wasn’t like this (except for this pandemic micromanaging madness).

          Different strokes, I guess.

          1. londonedit*

            Same. We have a weekly catch-up video call in my immediate team, and an ongoing Slack chat for any minor questions that might crop up during the day (the sort of thing you’d just turn and quickly ask someone if you were in the office as normal) but apart from that we all get on with our work. It would drive me mad if my boss wanted daily updates about what I was doing (I have worked for a boss like that in the past and it was utterly awful).

          2. allathian*

            Same, although I do appreciate the friendly and easygoing relationship I have with my boss. However, that sort of thing happens naturally or it doesn’t happen, it can’t be forced through intrusive questions.

      2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        To be honest, I really can go days without talking to my boss about what I’m working on. Admittedly a lot of my job is just keeping the day to day stuff ticking over, and there’s only so many ways one can state “Daily plans: emails, phone calls, paperwork” without getting very repetitive. We have a weekly all-office Monday catchup where everyone states what they’re working on for the week and their availability, and any other meetings/catchups are for a specific purpose with just the people involved. If anyone needs something from me, they’ll just flick me an email or drop by my desk (or send me a Teams message, now that we’re all remote). There was a suggestion for all managers to do start and end of day check-ins when we first went remote, I think mostly just to check in on how everyone was coping with the change, but that disappeared pretty quickly. I am sure that people within each team still communicate regularly, but it’s not something that everyone needs to be involved in.

    12. Rexish*

      I have my own projects. I discuss with the suppliers, clients and specialists relevant to the task. If i have a question for a colleague about how to do something, I email them. If i need support from a higher up, I email my boss. We do have a weekly meeting where we discuss mutual stuff and if I feel like there is something that needs to be brought up then I bring it up. The team meeting can be the only time in the week when I talk with my manager or some collagues. Our work does not depend on each other.

  21. Richard Hershberger*

    Utterly boring, information-free responses: I am a big fan of these, when speaking with someone who wants something from me that they aren’t going to get. My refinement is to repeat the same response as necessary. By “same response” I mean the exact same words, spoken with the exact same intonation. All very politely, of course. Eventually even the slowest figures out that they aren’t going to get more, and wander off.

    1. allathian*

      Have you ever received feedback where someone accuses you of having a bad attitude? It does sound a bit passive-aggressive to me. To be fair, sometimes passive-aggressive is a perfectly appropriate response. I think in the OP’s case there might be some room for pushback, but if literally nothing else helps, your way might work.

    2. Tired*

      Yeah, I am a fan of just giving the most vague and bland response but said in a pleasant tone. “I’m hanging in there” is a good neutral response that doesn’t open up further questions. For the more specific questions, if the boss asked what I was watching on TV I might say something like, “Oh, I’ll just put on whatever I’m in the mood for at the time.”

  22. If Lucid*

    This sounds so much like what I was asked to do when we all started working from home. I work for a large organization, and when we made the shift to 100% remote work for eligible departments, HR handed down a list of requirements for managers. It included daily department meetings, individual meetings weekly or more frequently if possible, micromanagey level of oversight of their work, and the note that ”your employees may not tell you outright if they need support or accommodations, so try to get a feel for how they are managing their home life and health.”

    I manage a team of 24 high performing, autonomous, fully formed, adult professionals, who don’t need daily oversight in the office or out. I flatly communicated that I was not going to do this. Most managers are still following the list though.
    I compromised with weekly team meetings, bi-weekly one on ones, and 2 hours of “open chat” each week where we keep a video conference open and people can drop in and out if they want. The open hours have led to some pretty good collaboration, but mostly chit chat which is good too.

    1. Aquawoman*

      If I had daily department meetings, it’s be like “anybody…?” “k bye.”

  23. Ann Onny Muss*

    This letter makes me grateful that my manager is not insane. We have one 15 minute daily tag-up with the team, and it’s “Are you experiencing any technical or personal issues/blockers that are preventing you from getting your work done? No? Then you’re good. Yes? Oh, Skype isn’t working? Let me know if it persists, and open a ticket with IT. You’re sick? Get some rest and feel better. You’re homeschooling your kids? Throw a meeting on my calendar so we can discuss a flexible work schedule for you for the time being.” There is also a monthly one-on-one. The rest is pretty much ad hoc meetings. I’m very grateful my manager trusts his employees to be adults.

  24. schnauzerfan*

    This is really hard. Our small team has had a real challenge switching to remote work. Some of us do a lot of computer stuff that is relatively doable from home, except that we have a wonderful fast internet connection at work and I have DSL at home, with another WFH person trying to zoom at the same time I am , and a mother who wants to stream 60s era sitcoms. Some of our staff do very little computer intensive work in their normal work days. They are shelving books and doing face to face with patrons. They all have scanning projects but they don’t have good equipment at home or access to materials.

    So I hand out list of projects that people may work on if they have the equipment, connections, etc. I ask them to report back so we can give them another project. I set up a Slack instance so people who want/need to collaborate have some other tools than email to do so. I occasionally throw out a comment about weather, an event or webinar just to stay in touch. I know none of our staff have small children to care for but several do have other family situations that make WFH challenging. And I do know a couple of them live alone and are dealing with isolation. I don’t want to overstep, but we have mentioned the EAP generally, and if I don’t hear from the singletons every couple of days I make it a point to ask a question, send greetings, something… just to get a proof of life message. I’d like to do more, but I don’t want my concern to become a burden.

  25. Koala dreams*

    I think for some of those personal questions, it would be fine to give boring answers, just like you would answer if somebody asks you “how are you”. You give a polite answer, but don’t get into details:
    I’m fine, thanks. Oh, the usual, nothing special. Not much. Not bad. Alright.

    If she keeps asking for more detail, you can also push back a little: “You are asking some very personal questions. Is there a reason why you need to know about my cooking/finances/exercise?” If she answers that she is trying to be helpful, then you can say: “Oh okay, thanks for the kind thought, I’m good, I got this.”

    I’m sure you can come up with some smoother answers yourself, I’m not very good at expressing things, but that’s the general idea.

    For the work things, I think it might be harder to push back. The suggestion to try it out with the fewer check-ins for a short time sounds good, though.

  26. Tyche*

    I have to admit that I have the opposite problem! As a company, we are not used to WFH, as our jobs require our presence at the office. So, before the quarantine, we prepared to WFH at least for some parts of our jobs, while the owner could go and work from the company.
    But we didn’t organize well, we tend to overlap, we do some work twice and we have problems to manage our share of work. On one hand, I understand because it’s a difficult situation, on the other I’m so stressed!
    Sometime a micromanaging boss seems like a dream to me! :-(

  27. MsChanandlerBong*

    After years of independence, we suddenly had to start posting daily work reports in Slack–how many messages we’ve sent, how many pages edited, how many emails written, etc. Now I’m not going to throw away a job that pays well and has 100% telecommuting over this, but I do find it annoying. The most annoying part is that I know for a fact people pad their work reports, so my (accurate) report makes it look like I do a lot less work.

  28. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    My boss asks questions like this, but she only meets with me once a week or once every two weeks, and she is not at all overbearing. She’s actually had some great advice on things to watch on netflix based on common interests, some crafting ideas, etc. But that is our relationship, and it’s not daily. I would find this much discussion about non-work related issues every day to be intrusive (plus boring! I’m just not interesting enough for that!). Also, she would never ask intrusive questions about my finances!

    I am concerned about Allison’s phrasing about how talking about quarantine stuff emphasizes how hard it is right now – because your boss seems like the type to ramp it up and start checking in to make sure you are ok. You know best if that seems likely, but if you think that is a possibility, you might try something milder. So maybe something like, “I will let you know if I have any concerns financially that I think you could help with,” or “my family and I are following the guidelines on getting physical activity,” or “my evening wasn’t really that interesting, but I think being able to focus on work breaks up the day well. As I said before, I anticipate having X spreadsheet done by …” Another technique is to turn the conversation back on to her – “Oh, my night was quiet, but how was yours? anything exciting?” After all, she might feel socially starved, and if you can get her to agree to fewer calls, then you will probably be ok with letting her chat about herself for a bit (not on a daily call though)!

  29. I'm just here for the cats*

    One of the comments over on the New York cite said: “People shouldn’t have to cheer up their superiors in addition to their work. It’s unfair”.

    This is so true. It also made me think how at an old job I was in customer service and if I had a problem or questions there was a team of “seniors” who didn’t take many regular calls and was devoted to team help. Basically they were a step between regular cs and the team manager. I would call and get my help..however I got talked too because I wasn’t “friendly” enough. Basically because I wouldn’t ask how they are doing. I would say hi, give them the info and ask my question. The reason. Why I was talked too about this. I was too direct and because the seniors arent taking as many calls as regular cs they feel left out and they do t get to socialize with the customers. We (cs reps) are their only contact. Keep in mind we were not remote and we all say by each other. Often times there would be casual conversation between calls. I had to make a point to ask about how this day was, etc. It was such a waist of time and it would get me off topic and hard for my mind to get on track.
    Basically if the manger is needing to socialize or feeling anxious she needs to go elsewhere. It’s not up to her employees to make her feel better of to fill a void.

  30. Jennifer Juniper*

    I would not be surprised if the manager was gathering information to use against the LW.

    If the LW reports their finances are bad, the manager could use this to justify not giving them a raise because they need to learn to budget. If the LW is doing well, the manager could use this to justify not giving them a raise because they’re being well-compensated by the company.

    Information about what the LW is cooking or how much they’re exercising can be used to justify invasive “wellness” inquiries on pain of being fired (or being charged more) for being too expensive for the group health insurance if their lifestyle is not “healthy” enough for their manager’s liking.

    1. LJay*

      There’s no evidence of this and this is a really paranoid attitude to take towards what really seem to be innocuous (though unwelcome by the OP) questions.

  31. rayray*

    My deepest sympathies. I worked for a micromanager and I think I actually twitched reading this because it felt so familiar.

    I came on here many times for advice and some of my favorite suggestions were to try staying one step ahead of the micromanager at all times. Take care of the lists and anything she’ll ask about. Do nothing more or less than what she asks. Keep answers brief and to the point.

  32. CW*

    This reminds me off a boss I worked for 3 years ago. Every morning, I would see 6-7 consecutive emails from her and they had to be answered in 5 minutes or less. And it wasn’t just the morning. It would be multiple times a day. It gave me severe anxiety. Also, she never forgets. She would nag, nag, nag, nag, and nag until you got it done. And it had to be perfect, or else she will give me a very bad attitude. She acted like a spoiled 12-year-old brat. Eventually, I quit on the spot. I wasn’t even there for 2 months. She was very abusive. Being underpaid didn’t help either; I had no incentive to tolerate her attitude and stay.

  33. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

    Oh wow. I don’t think I would handle daily meetings well, especially when they’re one-on-ones and on video! Is there any chance you could develop an internet issue which prevents you for using video chat too much? Maybe someone else in the house (partner, child, parakeet) has a very important meeting/class on at that time and gosh, the internet just can’t seem to handle that as well as your daily check-in, can you just send her your to-do list instead? At the very least you might be able to change the video calls to phone check-ins, which would still be annoying but at least you wouldn’t need to spend energy performing attention or masking your eyerolls.
    I agree with others here that it is not your responsibility to manage her insecurity or provide for her social needs, and it’s both unfair and a bit of an abuse of power (whether she realises she’s doing it or not) to use you for that.

  34. Handuo*

    I would point blank ask if HR is making her ask these questions, but in a chatty, non-confrontational way:
    “Oh, so I’ve been wondering! Are they telling you to check in on everyone’s mental health and finances? Because wow, that seems like a really awkward position for you.”

    No matter her reply, I’d say something like “Oh good to know, because it’s been making me feel a bit paranoid! I find it draining to talk about our current situation in that level of detail. But you don’t have to worry about me, I’m managing and I’ll let you know if there are any issues that will impede my work.”

    1. Amaranth*

      Its a really awkward blurring of the professional and personal also. Unless I’m buddies with my boss outside of work, I don’t want to talk about my neuroses and finances and personal challenges. Getting questioned every day, I’d be hunting for a polite way to say ‘none of your business’ and that would probably change the tone to slightly defensive and confrontational. And add to stress. :)

  35. Micromanaged in the Midwest*

    I have a similar situation, but the meetings aren’t just temporary. I started a job earlier this year at a small/medium business in the midwest – a limited market for corporate jobs. I have 10 years of perfectly-aligned experience and an MBA. My boss started a few months earlier and hired me, but does not contribute to my work and has not wanted to learn how to do any of it. Due to a RIF, I’m his only direct report and have assumed more work than what was done by the former employee.
    Nearly all of my work is recurring. I am very well trained (by the former employee) and performing at a high level. I work very well with limited supervision and have a great track record of results.
    After starting, others told me the company stopped warning candidates about the heavy workload (60-80 hours per week) in order to fill the job. After experiencing the workload, I expressed concern to my boss. I even provided a detailed day-by-day list of my responsibilities (again, he is also new) to assure him it is not a time management issue. A few weeks later, he started daily 1-on-1 morning meetings to talk about what I accomplished the previous day and my deliverables for that day. I cringed and dreaded it, but the meetings faded away. He started it again 5 weeks ago and they are here to stay. I recently asked if we could revisit the frequency and try a weekly or even semi-weekly meeting, but he denied and stressed the value of the meeting. These meetings sometimes last 30-45 minutes. He complains about how much everything needs to be improved during at least half of our meetings (I have already made many enhancements). I stressed I could use that time to find more inefficiencies.
    I’m at a loss – exhausted, belittled, and demoralized – after only a handful of months. Unfortunately, I cannot move and the closest neighboring market is 2-hours one-way. I’ve talked to him multiple times, but have had no luck. I could understand if he was trying to rebalance workloads, learn the role, mentoring a fresh graduate, working on a big project, or using a PIP. I am 100% sure I am doing the job well and have received complements from senior leadership. My job would be bad enough with my heavy, unending workload, but it is made unbearable by a micromanager.

  36. Ronin*

    Uggghhh, micro-managers. I used to have an inept manager who was a micro-manager and severely insecure. Once I asked him access to X (a common tool) to do my work. He started asking me questions: Do you know tool X? Have you studied it? How did you study for it? For how long? What is your study technique?

    Seriously? I have a PhD and more than 10 years of experience, plus a sh*tload of professional certifications. I haven’t been asked these questions even when I was a young student doing my first traineeship in the industry.

    The workplace was dysfunctional. I’m glad six months later I was out of there.

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