my coworker sends us incessant updates about her kid

A reader writes:

My office is working from home and so long as you get your work done, it’s looking to be a permanent change. The only people asked to return are those who struggle with their work or don’t have reliable internet service.

My team is very small with only six of us, so we work fairly closely. We have an inner office messaging program that is very useful for communication. One of my coworkers spends most the day talking about her kid on it. She’s also texts or sends pictures and videos out over Facebook to a group chat. Nobody ever responds as we are all sick of it. The occasional kid story is fine. I don’t need to know every second of your kid’s day though. It’s not that I hate kids, but I’m trying to do my job. Her role has different metrics that are less demanding than mine.

I’ve asked her to not send me the messages. I’ve told her I’m busy with work. It doesn’t stop. She gets offended and will take a few-hour break from sending messages, but then it starts right back again. I can’t block her and I have to check the messages as they could be work-related.

My manager is great, but if I involve management then they have to take action. I don’t want to lose the message program as it’s very helpful, and I don’t want it to become highly supervised as most are good with it. I know my coworker can’t afford to be asked to return to the office as she has nobody to watch her kid. (Behavior issues with the kid have resulted in no babysitters or family left willing to help.) I really don’t want to have to bring this to management. I’ve tried addressing it politely as I will still need to work with her. But it’s been over a year of this, so I don’t think it’s going to change and I’m looking for other suggestions of how to handle this.

I wrote back and asked, “Can you tell me more about why you don’t want to mention it to your manager? It sounds like that might be the only option at this point.”

It’s because I have been with this company for going on 10 years. In a previous department, when issues like this were brought up, management stepped in and started to micromanage everything. It made the managers and employees miserable. Many people quit. I considered it myself, but I had health issues and needed to keep my insurance. That department is considered one of the most toxic in the company and has the highest turnover rate. I do not want to see that start here as I like this new department.

The department I’m in now has only been around two years. We’ve been given more freedom to do our jobs and be treated more like adults. In the previous department, we had the message system. People complained about non-work related messages and they started to monitor them and enforcing discipline if they found messages not specific to work. Eventually they removed the message system as it was too much work to monitor. I don’t want to move to that level of monitoring. With us working from home, it’s nice to hear life updates from coworkers. I think it helps us still feel a bit of the office environment with knowing your coworkers as we don’t have that personal interaction.

Complaints about excessive non-work messages on a message program will not turn a good manager into a bad one or a well-functioning team into a toxic one. I’d assume that what happened in your old department was about that manager, or maybe that team. (Although you said the micromanaging made the managers miserable too — so were the micromanaging directives coming from above them? And are those micromanagers above your current team too? If so, I understand the concern more.)

Either way, the thing is that you don’t have a lot of options here. You’ve done the logical thing — you’ve asked your coworker directly to stop messaging you — and it hasn’t worked. You can’t block her because her messages could be work-related. So at this point, you probably need to either escalate it to your manager or decide to live with it.

Unless … exactly how direct have you been? And how clear? If you’ve just said “please don’t send me these messages, I’m busy,” she might be hearing “I’m busy right now so don’t message me for a few hours but later is fine.”If so, that would explain why she starts right back up again a few hours later. And you certainly wouldn’t be the first person to water down your real message out of a desire to be polite.

If you haven’t been absolutely crystal clear with her, that’s the next step. Crystal clear in this case means something like, “Jane, I apologize if I wasn’t clear about this earlier, but when I’ve asked you to stop messaging me about Percival, I didn’t just mean for the day — I meant all the time. I’m nearly always on deadline, and it’s too distracting to get so many social messages while I’m trying to focus on work. Going forward, as a permanent thing, please don’t message me unless it’s about work.”

You might feel rude saying this. But it’s not rude; it’s a necessary communication to a coworker who is ignoring norms and hints and direct requests. Really, if anyone is being rude, it’s your coworker — it’s rude to monopolize people’s time on any topic. It would be just as rude if she were sending you constant messages about recipes or her cat or her exercise routine after you’d asked her to stop. (In fact, you don’t even need to mention her kid when you address this. You could just say “non-work messages” if you want.) But it’s okay if she’s a little offended. It might be be a good outcome, if it means she stops bombarding you.

Also, if you’ve only addressed this by text, try picking up the phone and calling her to say it. Sometimes with people who aren’t “hearing” a message over text or email, having a phone or in-person conversation drives home that you’re serious in a different way (especially so if you hardly ever talk that way).

I wonder, too, about technical solutions. You mentioned you can’t block her because you need to see work-related messages, but could you suggest your team create a separate channel for non-work talk? That would be something you could check only when you felt like it, and it might solve this. Or could you block just Jane and tell her to email you when she needs you? (You could be straightforward about why: “I’m turning off messages from you because all the non-work stuff makes it hard for me to focus. If you need to send me something about work, please email it.”)

But if you’ve already been that clear and technical solutions aren’t possible, then you probably do need to decide if you trust your manager to handle it better than your last boss handled a similar issue or if you’re not willing to go that route (in which case you’d be stuck just living with this).

{ 247 comments… read them below }

  1. Me*

    “I know my coworker can’t afford to be asked to return to the office as she has nobody to watch her kid.”

    It may feel harsh but that is very much not your responsibility. I suspect your employer will not appreciate that she is providing care for a dependent on the clock. most employers expect work time to be work time with your full focus.

    And if she’s messaging non-stop about the kid, well its clear what her focus is.

    1. Canadian Valkyrie*

      I agree but only to a point. We’re still not clear of the pandemic and the reality for a lot of people is having to manage childcare responsibilities and work due to inaccessible (or unaffordable) child care alternatives, since not everyone can afford a day care or sitter and not everyone has family or friends who can step in. So while I think it sucks, because ideally she’d have some division there, it might not be an option for her at this time.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Whether or not she has an option is still NOT LW’s problem. It is not on LW to put up with non work related interruptions just because her coworker has limited daycare options. As I say below, companies are going to start expecting childcare arrangements during work hours again. Which still does not make it LW’s problem to solve.

        1. serenity*

          Is “childcare” the issue here or is it a co-worker who overshares info and pictures about her kid, which she sounds like she would do wherever she is?

          I would share OP’s frustration if I were in her shoes but it sounds like this is a co-worker issue about an interoffice chat system that would be there whether or not folks are in an actual office. I hope responses to this letter don’t turn into another referendum on remote work. That’s not the issue here!

          1. Me*

            According to the OP the messaging about the child is most of the day and essentially a play by play of the child’s day.

            So yes, it is a childcare issue for the coworker.

            For the OP, that’s not their problem. Their problem is it’s interfering with their work. They have no responsibility to try to shield their coworker from consequences because they feel bad for their situation.

              1. Allonge*

                If anything, it’s the other way around: when she is messaging she is neither working nor caring for the child.

              2. Me*

                Correct and none of that is the point.

                The OP mentioned one of the reasons they were hesitant to contact management was because of the coworkers childcare situation.

                The point is that is in no way the OP’s problem and they are not responsible for any consequences the coworker may face because of it.

                1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

                  In the OP’s letter, it sounded like the issues with childcare were not Covid-related.

                2. Raida*

                  to be realistic – Yes, it is not OP’s *job* to make decisions that can impact her co-worker’s daycare arrangements.
                  But that does not mean OP would not be acting to trigger issues for the co-worker in regards to daycare, or that OP would not feel responsibility for that impact, or that their team would consider a coldly logical decision that impacts co-worker’s personal life to be alright, etc.

                  OP is, to me, responsible for making it clear there is an issue so that the other person has all the information they need to make good decisions.
                  OP *is* responsible for how their actions impact others, but has to come to terms with the other person being *most* responsible for those impacts.

                  So I agree that you can’t twist yourself into knots trying to protect people from themselves, [as long as it’s been made clear there’s an issue which the other person has decided to not take seriously]. OP’s tried to resolve it, approaching the manager is not something OP should feel bad about in regards to daycare, and OP should allow the manager to be the one taking responsibility for these decisions and personal life impact conversations with the co-worker.

                3. fhqwhgads*

                  It sounds to me like the subtext of that is “and if management knows she’s doing all this non-work stuff she might get fired/have other consequences” that OP might personally find excessive given the offense. Which of course leaves OP right where they are: learn to live with it or go to management and risk consequences to either the whole team (overkill that happened before) or consequences to only the talker (an actual appropriate result and probably what OP should be looking for and not feeling guilty about).

            1. serenity*

              “So yes, it is a childcare issue for the coworker.”

              No, it’s not. This is someone who is chatting too much on Slack and disrupting her co-workers. Whether she is chatting about her kid, her cat, her llama-grooming ambitions, or about Madonna, is not the point at all.

              1. Me*

                It actually is the point because that’s one to the reasons the OP is hesitant to go to management. We take OP’s at their word and they say there is a childcare issue.

                Again, it doesn’t matter what is really going on – this is about addressing the OP’s concerns.

                1. serenity*

                  The OP’s concerns are about a disruptively chatty co-worker. Not said co-worker’s childcare.

                  It seems you have quite strong opinions about stay-at-home parents, childcare, and remote work. These aren’t relevant to the issue here.

              2. GammaGirl1908*

                Agree. This has NOTHING to do with child care. Carrie Coworker can do whatever she wants with her kid without talking about it all day on the message system. Her lack of other child care does not compel her to type messages about her kid all day.

                Also, as often happens when issues like this come up, I’m always baffled that the parent who won’t XYZ about their kid is oblivious that they’re surely not the only parent, or even the only single parent, and yet they’re the only one that won’t XYZ about their kid.

                (Yes, I have a colleague who will not shush about her kids. Every email or comment in a meeting just HAS to include a mention of them. Probably 70% of the team has kids, but somehow she is the only one where they get mentioned at absolutely every opportunity.)

              3. Christy Hunte*

                Perhaps the OP needs to ascertain from all involved in the messaging system if they as well as as sick of it as well. If so, then ALL OF THEM could issue her the same directive about no more such messages. Doing so professionally and yet strongly clear will serve all team members well. I conclusion of “working together on this will prevent any potential of management involvement.”

        2. NYC Taxi*

          My very large corporation employer announced that starting after Labor Day for any WFH days employees will have to start arranging child care during work hours.

      2. Me*

        Yes that’s a consideration, and if the pandemic is creating issues one would hope the employer would be flexible. However, OP says it’s almost the entire day. Even being considerate of pandemic childcare issues that is a problem.

        Regardless it’s still not the OP’s responsibility.

      3. Naomi*

        True, but childcare issues are a red herring here. Whatever the coworker needs to do for her child, she can do it without telling the entire office!

        1. Rainy*

          Yup. I have several coworkers with small children, and I know that some of them have pretty complicated childcare arrangements since a lot of people are working from home and daycares were closed for a long time, and I hear about their kids about the same amount as I did pre-pandemic, and in some cases much less. So I know it’s possible to not talk about your kids to your coworkers all day, this person is just refusing to do it.

          But I suspect there’s also been an issue of clarity on the LW’s end, because if someone consistently stops the behaviour for a few hours and then restarts without any appearance of understanding, my first assumption is that the LW’s communication of the issue just hasn’t been clear or forceful enough.

          1. serenity*

            if someone consistently stops the behaviour for a few hours and then restarts without any appearance of understanding, my first assumption is that the LW’s communication of the issue just hasn’t been clear or forceful enough

            Very much this. There is a communication problem here or a co-worker that does not respect boundaries. The commenters making this a referendum on parenting skills or remote work are really frustrating. Those aren’t the issues! If one of my direct reports behaved like this, I would have a very direct conversation and say clearly “You must stop disrupting the workdays of your colleagues with the constant chat messages”. It’s that simple!

            1. serenity*

              Actually, I would likely say “Please stop disrupting your colleagues with regular non-work chat messages. They have found it unhelpful and distracting during the workday”. Very simple! Nothing to do with childcare!

              Although, if there are productivity issues (and OP is not well-positioned to know this), I would certainly address that as a manager and monitor and address that as needed.

          2. Freya*

            Heck, I’m the only person at my workplace without kids and 95% of what we all talk about during work hours is work-related!

            (non-work-related topics of conversation include dogs, sport, Covid lockdowns, Weird Dudes, hobbies, and kids)

      4. Joielle*

        If the coworker were worried about having to get childcare during work hours, you’d think she would be even LESS inclined to share tons of kid updates, hoping that people wouldn’t realize she was spending all day with the kid. It’s within her own power to make it so nobody complains to the manager! But, for some reason, she’s doing the opposite.

        I would not feel guilty about bringing it up to the manager. It’s gone on too long and the LW has told her it’s not welcome. If she ends up having to find child care, it’s her own doing.

        1. Rainy*

          As Ron White says, “I had the right to remain silent, I just didn’t have the ability.”

        2. EmbracesTrees*

          This was exactly my thought. If she’s having to care for her child she has less time to get her work done.
          In that case, a responsible employee would be laser-focused on work tasks, not sending personal updates.

      5. Caroline Bowman*

        Yes sure, but evidently this co-worker is working AND caring for a child who has apparently got behavioural problems such that all other care options are non-starters. They are also relentlessly sending info on the child to people who have asked them to stop.

        ”But pandemic, have a heart” is not really applicable here – and I speak as someone with three kids, also working from home in a pandemic. I am all in favour of giving people a break, this stuff is super-hard and sometimes choices are tough, but this has gone way beyond that.

    2. serenity*

      It sounds like the interoffice chat would be there with or without remote work, which isn’t the issue here. The co-worker with poor judgment about oversharing is the issue!

      1. Nanani*

        This. If it was in-person this colleague would probably be talking the ear off anyone who wandered into the break room at the same time as her and waste at least as much time.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Oh, absolutely this would be the in-person colleague who’d start talking the minute their butt was in the chair every morning and continue nonstop until it is time to leave in the evening.

          I sat next to someone who was like that. The person didn’t have kids, so the monologues were about everything else. I like the person. We ended up staying in touch after I left that job. But good lord, most days I wanted to fake my own death to get the talking to stop. It was all day, every day, hugely distracting. Our responsibilities were different and theirs did not require as much attention as my work did. Then on top of it this person apparently (apparently, because a work friend and I *thought* it was them, but have no proof) reported me to our manager for using the internet for not work-related purposes (like what I do right now – forums, news etc.) Bold move from someone that was basically a human talk radio that you couldn’t turn off.

          1. JustaTech*

            I had a coworker, a really nice guy, who was just a firehose of words. He was so bad that the people who sat in his area developed a system where you could signal for an “urgent” phone call to get away from him.

          2. Anonymous Today*

            “But good lord, most days I wanted to fake my own death to get the talking to stop.”

            I really did laugh out loud. I also thought of Noel Coward. (“Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington.)

        2. serenity*

          Exactly. This is a “co-worker with poor boundaries or judgment who overshares with colleagues” problem, not a “remote work is bad because my colleague is chatting about their kid” problem.

    3. anonymouse*

      How about when you start hearing rumblings from your boss that you are not being as productive at home?
      “Is there some reason you didn’t get this done in your normal turn around time?”
      And then, what? You don’t want to “blame” your coworker for your inefficiency because her need to vent about her child is more important than your selfish need to do your job? So you down play the specific reason you couldn’t get through something, make it sound like you can’t work outside the office, or without supervision?
      This is more likely than the office turning into micromanage hell. It’s going to turn into micromanage you, or back in the office you.
      You can protect her from her own actions, but protect yourself first.

      1. Koalafied*

        It doesn’t sound from the letter like this is actually causing OP’s work performance to suffer to that degree, just that they’re incredibly sick of being interrupted by this unwanted content.

        My org has Slack and I’ve left a channel over a single member who used @here once or twice a week for stuff that wasn’t remotely urgent or work-related. (Normally, only direct messages directly notify a user, and messages in a channel just show an unread count that you don’t see until you pull up the Slack window, but @here in a channel causes a direct notification to everyone in the channel.) It wasn’t interrupting me so often that it affected my performance, but unnecessary distractions are annoying and hurt my quality-of-life at work. So I get why/how something can be both maddeningly annoying while also not having a measurable impact on your performance.

        1. Alex Beamish*

          This is a big one. If I get a Slack notification, it means it’s probably something important. If I get too many notifications from a channel, I just mute that channel.
          But if it’s a channel that’s important, and it’s getting pounded by someone sharing junk a couple of times a day, that’s not going to work for me, and I would definitely go to my manager. Share that stuff to Facebook, and I’ll look at it when it’s convenient to me; share it to another channel that I don’t care about; but don’t interfere with my work day.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yeah, our work slack has various non-work channels, and (a) they get ignored a lot longer than work channels when people are busy and (b) anyone @here’ing them would be wildly out of touch.

            We also have an IM program that is direct messages only, and someone messaging on _that_ about anything not work, with any frequency, would be infuriating.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            Zoom has a similar option. We have a non-work chat channel, ones connected to specific teams/projects, and one-offs for small groups. There are also private chats. The non-work one sometimes gets a work-related message, but people don’t put non-work messages in the other channels. And you can ignore as desired.

          3. wordswords*

            Yeah, I was wondering about a separate channel, or a separate group chat, or something. My team uses messaging rather than Slack, but we have a regular group channel for the team, and a separate channel for cute animal pictures, so that nobody’s work message gets lost in the excitement of a coworker’s puppy being cute. A non-work channel might allow everybody else to ignore all the kid updates except for an occasional “wow, that seems stressful!” or “ha, cute!” so the coworker doesn’t feel completely ignored, and meanwhile she can spam it with all the daily updates she likes while everybody else keeps it muted or whatever.

    4. Dumpster Fire*

      Not only is she spending “working time” caring for her child – which may be unavoidable, to some extent; but she’s then compounding the issue by spending yet more time (that she could/should be working) writing messages about it. The pandemic might be making the former a necessity, but the latter is neither necessary nor welcome.

    5. Me*

      There’s a lot of people misunderstanding the point here.

      The OP is concerned about involving management due to the coworkers childcare concerns. And they are correct that the company probably isn’t going to be thrilled with what’s going on. Whether she’s actually taking care of her child of just pinging the chat non-stop about her child, her focus is on the child in some capacity and not on work.

      BUT none of that is the OP’s problem and is not a reason they shouldn’t contact management. If she is really working as expected then there won’t be an issue. If she’s not then management has every right to address it.

    6. Admin 4 life*

      I agree. I have a child who is unable to go to daycare due to his disability and the level of direct care he needs. It’s no one else’s responsibility but mine. My job does not require me to have a daycare arrangement while working from home but they do expect me to manage my time appropriately and be available during business hours.

      My son joins me on the occasional “social/happy hour” call but other than that I do not mention him unless someone asks me directly.

      I get the feeling that OPs coworker is using work as their social outlet. It sounds like the equivalent of someone who stands at your desk and talks at you all day. I would definitely mention it to my supervisor and make it clear that it’s about the constant inappropriate use of the chat system and how it impacts OPs work day.

      1. GreenDooor*

        I was going to say this. If she’s been cooped up in quarantine for a year and a half with this kid…and no social opportunities with non-work adults…she might be blurring the lines between work and social relationships. I know I’ve caught myself almost texting co-workers personal updates many times in the last year or so. This might account for all the kid-stories. It’s not an excuse though! Either OP needs to get more direct or they need to ask the manager to intervene.

        I like the idea of a separate channel for social messages….but I feel like it would be an uphill battle getting the coworker to redirect herself properly.

    7. myself*

      This is all true. As a mother of a special needs child that has an impossible time finding affordable and trustworthy daycare/babysitting, I guarantee you this woman’s overwhelmed, socially isolated, and is having a hard time. I would make that phone call to tell her to stop with the constant kid talk, but during that call, acknowledge that her situation sounds difficult. Let her know that while you empathize, but it’s work time, and this isn’t appropriate. I would also recommend that she reach out to parents as teachers – they have some outstanding resources for parents. I was a kid in the pilot program, and when I had mine, they were among the first to point out warning signs and offer referrals to other resources to help me get my kid the help he needed.

  2. anonymouse*

    Can you set her notices to a different sound?
    That way you can learn to ignore them. And if they are work related, well, if you are later replying to IMs from her, you can then tell her that urgent work things need to be emailed because the IM has become so social, that you can’t react to it constantly and still be productive.
    Does she send work IMs?

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        No, but sometimes you can’t stop someone else; you can only adjust how you react to them. If Carrie Coworker is going to keep spamming the channel, at least LW can figure how how to avoid the noncritical messages.

      2. A Person*

        Actually, it does. LW’s problem is that they’re overwhelmed by IM’s from this coworker. The work issues of the coworker not getting any work done is their manager’s problem, not LW’s.

    1. Raida*

      I’d probably just get a new Social channel created for people to chat in, post jokes, home updates.
      Hell, I’d go to some effort once a day for just five minutes to ooh and ahh at everyone else’s updates to make it feel like a fun catchup

  3. quill*

    other technical solutions that may apply: some sort of filtration, if the platform you communicate on allows it, that dumps everything with photos and / or keywords regarding coworker’s kid in a separate folder. Or getting someone else on the team to clarify your social media related internet use – you probably should not be using a facebook group for any work-related communications! (Which would mean that you, personally, could block that one…)

    1. stampysmom*

      This is what I was coming to post. You could filter messages out that have the kid’s name or the word school for example – if your program allows it. Google can turn up some good results when you get the right query for certain problems. If you share the application maybe someone here could tell you how to do this?

  4. EnidWhatever*

    I admit I am really amused at the idea of setting up a non-work chat where this woman just constantly posts about her kid and absolutely nobody else ever looks at it. PLEASE suggest this if the tech will support it.

      1. JRR*

        If they’re using Slack, it’s surprising this obvious solution hasn’t already been implemented.

        1. Raida*

          I’ll bet they haven’t done it because they don’t want to notify the manager. Many work chat clients have this functionality and don’t even need IT to help out.

      2. Canadian Yankee*

        Yeah, we use Slack and have a dedicated channel for parents to talk about kids, another for pet owners to post cute pet pictures, another to swap recipes and post food selfies, etc. We even quarantined pandemic talk into its own special channel with pretty strong departmental guidelines that there shouldn’t be any c*vid talk anywhere else so that people who are stressed by it don’t have to see it.

        Our department is over 300 people though, so it can support all of these niches. It’s going to be tough if she’s the only person in a small group who wants to talk about parenting non-stop.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            My job’s Teams chat for pets is super popular! And a great incentive to learn how to turn off specific notifications in Teams. :)

        1. Pants*

          We have a great group of “social” chats at my company. The tattoo one is a personal fave.

        2. Karo*

          Alternatively OP’s team could set up one massive non-work channel (like Alison’s non-work open threads) where she can talk about her kid, I could talk about my dogs, etc. She still gets to tell her stories but they’re a lot easier to mute, and you don’t have to worry about her being all alone in the parenting channel.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          … and this might open an avenue to getting this situation resolved while giving the coworker an out for her dignity: “Can we have a channel for parent post and a channel for pet posts so that we can keep the existing channel free for work questions only? Parenting and pet posts are *fine* but for work posts I need to check them at once, and I *need* [not: want] the volume of posts that make me react to go down.”

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        We use Teams at my office and you could do this on Teams, too.

        Another thought: could you set up a new group chat *without* the co-irker, then mute the chat she’s on? If you still need to monitor that one for work stuff, maybe just go look at it every 30 mins, hour, or however frequently you can stand to sift through all the Percival updates.

    1. boo bot*

      Yeah, this was my first thought. And it might not just be her! Other people might want to post about their kids or pets or mushroom gardens too if there’s a dedicated channel for it.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Ouch, but good point.

        On the other hand, it kinda sounds like everyone’s ignoring her kid posts anyway?

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          There’s ignore and ignore – it sounds as though they’re having to read them, even if they don’t react or reply.

          Something you can mute is useful, whether it’s a Facebook friends whose posts don’t appear in your feed, or a chat that doesn’t send you live notifications.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        This is the question. It might be that she needs an outlet, but not an audience. My wife has a friend who recently retired and moved to a different state where she doesn’t know anybody. She calls me wife and will monologue for an hour at a time, mostly complaining. My wife feels a friendship obligation to put up with this, but can mostly do other stuff during the monologue. This seems to fill the need. I am hoping that as things reopen she will make new friends, but if she makes complaining monologues at random strangers she meets on the street, this will be tough.

      3. M*

        Nah, she’s not getting replies already, per OP. Move it to a channel that people can check on *their* schedule, and she’ll almost certainly get more replies.

      4. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Then OP can just redirect her back there, which should be a lot easier than getting her to stop entirely.

      5. OhNoYouDidn't*

        Maybe, but if she does that, it’s much easier to give a stern reminder that there is another channel for personal posts and those are not to be posted on the work channel. I think accountability is easier with a personal channel set up.

    2. Aurion*

      Yeah, dedicated channel (or similar) for this seems like the best solution. And OP can frame it as “I can’t find the important work messages in between all the pics and chatter about Percival! This is better for all involved”.

      If anyone has admin privileges on the chat program, they can delete her messages if she spams the work channels with Percival pics and stories.

      1. EngineerMom*

        I think you should block this coworker and then send an apologetic note. “Hello xx please make sure you email me if you have any work related concerns I had to block you from messenger since the constant un work related messages are preventing me from being able to work. Thanks!”

    3. Miss Annie*

      Or, a channel for nonwork posts, and all of the rest of you spam it with pet pictures to drive home how annoying it is. You know, bury her posts with a$$hole cat pics.

      1. Firecat*

        General Pawten is not an asshole! He’s a smooshy booshy loving kittyboi … who just happens to bite and scratch /s

    4. Lacey*

      This is where my mind went too! We have slack and there’s a chit-chat group that I am a part of, but largely ignore. But when people want to send work related messages they just send it to the person or group directly.

    5. Parakeet*

      Yeah I’m a fan of the technical solution here. Other people have mentioned that Slack supports this. Teams does too – when we went remote, some coworkers set up a team in Teams that was meant to simulate the office lunch table and its dynamic of come-and-go casual chit-chat. The technical solution also creates an opt-in outlet where other people can send non-work messages if they want, without being disruptive to working teams/channels.

  5. EPLawyer*

    Can you rope in other coworkers to also send the same message? If they are ignoring it because they are sick of it, well the co-irker doesn’t know they are ignoring, she just knows they aren’t responding. The more people who tell her to knock it off the better chance it will get through.

    I do wonder how much work she is actually doing if she has this much time to do this. Even if her metrics are different from yours it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have them. Companies are going to start requiring childcare during work hours again.

    1. Pants*

      This is what I’m wondering. Is she posting these to the team chats? Because if so, put that “knock it off” message in there and see if others come on board or post “reaction” emojis.

      Also agree about her work focus not being really on work. And also that she’s a co-irker. I’m irked by her. Want me to tell her to knock it off? I’m happy to be your Anger Translator.

  6. Tati*

    You said that everyone is sick of it. If she has multiple people (or everyone) asking her to stop, that might help quite a bit. What if instead of getting no responses to her kid posts, her only responses were people asking her not to send things like that while they are trying to work?

  7. Canadian Valkyrie*

    I’m actually kind of wondering what is going on with this woman. For example, does she have friends or family she can bombard instead? And what are other coworkers talking about? For example, if other coworkers are only talking about work, why is she missing the social Q to not do it so much? Also if other coworkers talk about their own stuff why is she missing the queue that a she’s overdoing it? And why is it specifically about her kid? I’m just curious about the context, which could help resolve it.

    It could be that she genuinely thinks people think it is interesting. She might think that you are the only one who doesn’t care. I’ve also noticed a supply of people who have children were literally all they do is talk with their kid in general.

    1. Boadicea*

      I’m very familiar. “My sprog is the light of my life so surely it must be the light of everyone else’s too”

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        More charitably – it’s sometimes hard to separate what you find amusing/cute from what is universally amusing/cute, and many people fail to take the step back to reconsider. Especially when it comes to kids and pets! It’s a well known thing that parents look at their newborns and think “this is the cutest baby I have ever seen. I didn’t think my baby would be cute because babies mostly look like potatoes, but this baby! This one is actually cute! I did it!” And then two years late go back and look at their photos and go “oh… oh no. My baby was also a potato, wtf was I thinking?”

        And so too, it’s not “OF COURSE everyone else must care very deeply and be totally delighted by my kid!” necessarily when it comes to oversharing about offspring. It’s more “omg this was hysterical, people love funny stuff, I’m going to share it” – but forgetting to remember that Parent Goggles* can be very intense.

        *or Pet Owner Goggles etc… I get sent a lot of pet photos where I’m like “oh cool, your dog is in a different location than the last time you sent me a photo of them. Neat?”

        1. Jenna*

          Lol. You’re spot on. Sometimes I cringe when I look back on photos of my baby – she was such a blob! ;-) And omg, so true about pet photos. I can’t see the point in ever seeing more than one photo of a particular dog or cat, because they look exactly the same in every photo. I am 100% faking my interest in anyone’s pet. Unless maybe they had a cool tarantula or something.

        2. Pants*

          Absolutely agree on newborn babies. They all look like aliens to me. Ick. A few companies ago, a woman sent out several photos of newborn. Including one where it was covered in all the “just came out of the oven” stuff. AND PHOTOS OF HER CROWNING. FROM THE CROWNING ANGLE. I contemplated giving her the bill for my therapy.

          1. Shenandoah*

            Oh nooooooo. I love babies – even the most Winston Churchill-est, alien/old man newborns – and I would not have wanted to see those for a colleague. Close friend, sure, but whew. Boundaries fail!

        3. Julia*

          “this is the cutest baby I have ever seen. I didn’t think my baby would be cute because babies mostly look like potatoes, but this baby! This one is actually cute! I did it!”

          Oooof, this was hilariously close to home, as someone who has a newborn niece and does actually genuinely think she is cuter than all the other potato babies in the world! Humans, man! We are susceptible.

        4. Susan Calvin*

          This is so real.

          I don’t have any of my own, but the first time I saw a baby I was actually already emotionally invested in (my best friend’s first), I was blown away!

    2. anonymouse*

      I think the facts that she no longer has friends or family to watch child combined with her nonstop chatter about her kid to remote coworkers are telling.
      The people who know and loved her cut her off.
      She is an emotional vampire.

      1. FFT*

        Eh, I don’t know if it’s necessarily that. Having a child with behavioural challenges/issues quickly reduces the number of supportive friends and family in your life. It’s also very possible the constant talk about her child is a way to seek validation; having a child with those issues can quickly drain your self confidence, among other things. I’m not saying it’s alright that she’s spamming her coworkers about her child daily but I don’t think those two things equate her being a bad person or emotional vampire.

        1. Lacey*

          I would agree with this. I know a family whose child has a condition that makes him very challenging and exhausting, even to his parents. It’s just hard. And they’re fortunate to have really supportive friends and family, but even then, it doesn’t look the same as if he were less difficult to care for.

        2. Observer*

          Having a child with behavioural challenges/issues quickly reduces the number of supportive friends and family in your life

          Also, people can be supportive but not ABLE to provide childcare. Behavioral challenges could mean that more childcare is needed. And even if not, it’s harder to make a match. So, for instance, if behavior issues include hitting caregivers and the kid is too big for Grandma to physically restrain, Grandma is probably not going to take on childcare.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Sounds like there are challenges with her child, and work is her escape – but not really because she goes on about that kid at work. Maybe it’s a case of over emphasizing the positives because everything else is such a challenge.

        If any of that rings true – maybe a suggestion of EAP if it’s a possibility. They may be able to help plug he into some other resources to help ease the pressure on her (that spills onto everyone else through the constant texting about her kid).

      3. Koalafied*

        This just seems to be a rush to judgment based on knowing all of two things about someone. Plenty of people can be oversharers or too chatty and lack access to childcare without being “emotional vampires.”

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I rather suspect she’s isolated, lonely, and antsy–the LW says the kid’s behavior has burned out all capable family members–but that doesn’t change the fact that this is the wrong outlet and she’s driving people nuts.

    4. CoveredInBees*

      My guess is this woman is overwhelmed and lonely. If the behaviors are an issue, I can imagine her social life has disappeared too and the kid is all she has going on to talk about. Where I am, full day care is in short supply and I don’t know any daycares or camps offering extended day. None of this is OP’s problem but background on why this is happening.

      I think Allison’s point about being super clear that OP can’t deal with social messages during work hours would be the best move forward.

      1. Let's Just Say*

        Agreed. I feel bad for this woman, who sounds overwhelmed and lonely. But it’s still not OP’s problem. Leave/mute the Facebook chat, and be direct about no non-work messages on the office messaging system.

      2. Money*

        No point complaining, do something about it. The odd thing is it is their behaviour driving people away. As an adult you have to learn self-awareness.

        1. Observer*

          You don’t really know that that’s why she has a problem with childcare. She could be perfectly socially adept and still be up a creek in terms of child care. If she can’t get a paid babysitter to care for the child, that indicates some fairly significant behavioral issues.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I appreciate the distinction–something can be not OP’s problem to fix, but understanding the context of the behavior can make it easier to endure.

        I too suspect a lonely woman and the people in the Slack Channel her one social outlet.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Being ignored on the Slack Channel is hardly rewarding for her, and just annoying for everyone else.

  8. WantonSeedStitch*

    I like the fact that our office’s messaging program has separate channels set up for work and non-work stuff. If someone doesn’t want to have to deal with non-work stuff, they can either leave or turn off notifications on the non-work-related channels. I occasionally share pictures of my baby in a channel where that’s appropriate, because I know a lot of people enjoy it, but not every day or even every week by a long shot!

    1. LC*

      Yep, this is the way to go.

      Team channels and project channels (if needed) are key, but having a non-work channel is just as necessary. It’d be so much easier to direct her there rather than getting her to actually stop.

      1. LC*

        That could even be nice for other people too. Sometimes I run across something amusing or interesting that I think would be fun to share, but it’s not really work related. Sometimes it’s nice to just have the option of a bit of chit chat.

      2. OhNo*

        Definitely agree. Having a dedicated space for sharing non-work things, fun things, humor, etc. is pretty important. When everyone’s in the office there’s usually a designated space for that – the break room. When building an online office equivalent, you have to build the space in there, too.

    2. Fierce Jindo*

      I actually can’t believe anyone would have notifications on for non-work channels! Sounds like a nightmare to me. But yes, we have separate channels too and it’s great.

  9. Boadicea*

    Not to… project… but Alison’s point that a good manager won’t turn into someone awful over one messaging issue is a good one. Perhaps because you’ve been severely bitten by that once, you’re now on high alert for the same thing happening, and overemphasizing how likely it is (this is apparently a natural thing our limbic system does). Either that, or I’m just completely reading myself into this post…

    1. pretzelgirl*

      I agree, I think it should be brought up to management. Its been a while since the previous incident and now I am sure people really depend on the messaging feature due to the pandemic.

      1. LC*

        Especially since LW says their current manager is great and the previous management was … not.

        I feel like this is something a reasonable manager would want to know and would be able to deal with without just taking the whole system away.

    2. OhNoYouDidn't*

      Maybe mentioning to management that it’s a problem and offering the solution of a separate non-work channel in the team chat program would be a good way to go. Get the buy in from the manager who can use the new guidelines to hold this worker accountable.

  10. Tracy*

    I wonder if coworker has enough work to keep them busy? Also, does she really want to work or be a stay at home parent?

    1. pretzelgirl*

      She also could be incredibly lonely. I had an acquaintance like this. Granted it was’nt a co-worker but she would text me all.the.time. About random stuff. I hate to say it, but eventually I stopped responding. She backed off quite a bit and now only texts occasionally.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        Yeah, I suspect she’s lonely, and she really doesn’t want to be a stay at home mum, but that’s literally all that’s going on in her life outside of work (and she may well not have enough work to keep her busy). She reminds me a lot of some SAHPs I know who are starved for adult interaction but only have their kids to talk about – even negative responses are still giving them something they’re not getting from their kids.

        This doesn’t change the advice to the LW, but it may help them tamp down their irritation while they’re looking for a solution.

      2. Money*

        I tried that with an acquaintance I don’t want to know but it didn’t stop her. Whoever invented block should win the Nobel Prize.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      Most people work because they need the paycheck, not because they “really” want to

      1. Koalafied*

        True, but that doesn’t mean they want to be a primary childcare provider instead.

      2. Raida*

        But they do *really* want to interact with adults and use their brains and feel like they achieved something tangible – and that’s what a lot of new parents miss about work

  11. Delta Delta*

    I suspect if this annoys LW it annoys other team members, as well. LW would be well-advised to ask the coworker again to stop. I also like the backup solution of a non-work channel. That would potentially do two things: 1. It would send the non-work stuff to a place where LW doesn’t have to see it and can ignore it. and 2. If there are performance issues with this coworker, it can be a place that management can see what’s going on. while micromanaging is no fun for anyone involved (although maybe for the micromanager but I don’t know), there may need to be some more actual managing of this person since it seems like she’s spending an awful lot of work time on non-work stuff.

  12. ENFP in Texas*

    “Unless it’s work-related, please do not send me anything via our work chat program. I don’t have time to sift through numerous non-work-related chat messages to find the things that I need to respond to and take action on. “

    1. Clorinda*

      This is good, but a single message won’t do it. It should be cut and paste in response to every. Single. Email. from this person until she stops.

      1. NYC Taxi*

        Yes, like an auto reply. OP should set up an auto reply for all of this woman’s messages until she stops the kid talk.

      2. Goody*

        The problem I see with replying to every single non-work message like this is that it further clutters up the channel, which will make finding the messages requiring action even more difficult.

        1. LC*

          If they have Slack, you can reply to individual messages to make it a mini-thread that you have to expand to fully read. I really liked that feature, it was handy for a lot of reasons. My new company uses Teams and that’s definitely one feature I miss.

    2. Quantum Hall Effect*

      Way harsh, Tai. How about:

      “Hi Susan, All the social chat messages are making it really hard for me to find the things that I need to respond to and take action on! Could you step back from the non-work updates and only send work stuff during the day? Thanks so much!”

      Repeat as necessary.

  13. Mare*

    I appreciate you wanting to come up with solutions that do not involve management but to do so, you have to be very direct with her. I like the options already mentioned regarding a separate non work chat group or a different notification sound if it comes from her but if those are not feasible you must state very directly and very clearly that if the non work messages don’t stop you will need to escalate to management because it is causing a significant distruption. Let her know what is at stake. You have been gracious so far and this would be the last bit of grace you afford her. Just make sure she knows it and knows exactly what she has to lose (along with potentially more of the team.) In fact, let her know that she is not only going to lose XYZ but the team will be impacted as well due to her unwillingness to respect the work only chat/post request.

    1. Margo Win*

      This was my thought too. I would try Alison’s script and if that doesn’t work, just be blunt with her that the team needs to solve this problem on their own or management will solve it for them – possibly by micromanaging and/or pulling folks back into the office. I’d think that would get some traction with the coworker.

    2. Raida*

      Yes! I try to give people all the information for them to make the decision. Then if they decide “I didn’t mean it” or “Manager won’t care” or “it’s not a big deal” or simply “Whateverrrrrrrrrrrrr” that is on them.
      If they know (or have been told but don’t believe) that action 1 = action 2, they can decide to avoid action 2 by stopping action 1.

  14. EggyParm*

    I dunno what system you use at your office but we use Slack and have channels for all sorts of topics — houseplants, pets, sports, coffee making, baking, parenting, etc — which has allowed us to create space for fun off-topic conversation and keep work channels focused on work. Since we’ve all been remote for over a year, those off-topic channels have been a great way to meet and connect coworkers in new ways without the irritation of getting updates about someone’s soggy bottom pie when you just want to focus on an upcoming deadline for a project.

    If you’re pitching the idea of some non-work focused spaces to your manager or IT team, I would talk about the benefits of having a shared space for extending culture outside of the office and connecting teams in unique ways while working from home. I think having these channels set up would be the easiest solution. Then if you coworker posts a video of her kid’s latest artwork you can always redirect her to the right channel.

  15. opinionated*

    If you ask again and she still doesn’t stop, perhaps ask her a third time and say “I don’t want to have to escalate this to management for [some/all the reasons you’ve indicated above], but this is so distracting that I’m going to have to if it doesn’t stop.” I don’t love the idea of using scare tactics to get someone to do what you want, but it might work in this situation.

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

      This is what i think too. If you’re going to go scorched earth with this coworker, better to try it directly first then escalate to management later if necessary. She isn’t accepting hints, whether intentionally or because she doesn’t understand.

  16. PJH*

    I can’t block her and I have to check the messages as they could be work-related.

    Block/ignore them anyway, then later… “Oh, I’m sorry – I must have missed them between the incessant updates about Percival’s building a Taj Mahal out of Duplo™ bricks…”

    Wouldn’t work, but that’s how I’d like it to play out in my head.

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      I was actually coming here to post exactly this. My old team used to send so much personal chat on our team chat and worst was the banter during work meetings it used to really irritate me. I suggested to my manager we separate out non work stuff to a WhatsApp group (she was one of the offenders) but didn’t get any traction. It took me missing a request for an urgent work response because the chat was so full of non work stuff to get the separation.

  17. Evonon*

    Would it be possible to filter my message attachment for her? If it’s pictures specifically you could do that or filter out by words such as the names of her children or look for on phrases that she writes that accompany photos of her kids. “here’s Anthony!” As an example. Control F can highlight those so you can be sure to only filter those coming from her and not block out things from your coworker named Anthony

  18. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Call your co-worker and point that the managers look at the messages. They can see someone sending lots of non-work messages during the day and are obviously not working their full hours. She is risking being pulled back into the office as a low performer or given more work since she seems to have lots of free time. Also, if she argues that she can’t return to the office because she is looking after her kid, they can push back by insisting that she has childcare during work hours. Because they are paying her to work, not to do childcare on their dime.

    1. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

      I like this idea in conjection with telling her again not to post non work related stuff in the chat. Also to reiterate you will not be able to respond to any of those messages. I understand the LW’s concern if she/he brings this issue with the manager. The chatty one might be unaware of how unprofessional this paints her. If you think she will get upset and retaliate in some form against you, save those chats as proof of the disruption.

    2. fantomina*

      This is what I was thinking, too– “Please stop sending updates on Percival. If management sees non-work messages they’ll start monitoring our messages like they did in Toxic Department, and start micromanaging and scrutinizing our productivity.”

  19. MsClaw*

    I agree about setting up a ‘social’ channel on whatever program you are using. Our team did that and it’s fantastic. Also you might see if your messaging program lets you turn on settings that auto-collapse pictures and videos. It’s the first thing I’ve done with every messaging program we use because I almost never want to see anyone’s very clever gifs. That would also hide images of her kid. It won’t stop you getting the notifications, but I do think it turns down the annoyance level when you don’t actually have to actually see the Top Gun Meme, cat on trampoline, or baby picture.

    Another thing you mentioned is that she also sends things over a facebook group chat.
    Cull your facebook.
    Either unfriend her, unfollow, put her on mute, etc.
    Or at the very least, don’t respond to anything she sends via facebook during the workday. If she’s sending work-related stuff that way, you can ‘train’ her to send it via the office message tool by telling her you’re not checking facebook during the work day if she complains.

  20. Rusty Shackelford*

    You asked her to stop and she did for a few hours? So otherwise she sends you messages about her kid on an hourly basis, or more frequently? This is insane. Even if I cared about the kid, I wouldn’t want to hear that much about them. I can’t imagine getting hourly updates on my own kid.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Same! My kids’ preschool uses an app so teachers can post pictures and short updates on what they did (usually just pictures) during the day. I can check it at my leisure and do so usually at lunch. If I go incoming messages from them hourly, I’d be annoyed and wondering who was watching the kids during that messaging.

      1. quill*

        I love your username and let me say, if I had grubs I would probably prefer them to relate their day to me rather than the preschool updating me all the time. Mostly because I’m a teacher’s kid and while “use social media to give real time updates!” sounds cute, I understand how much time that takes from actually supervising or teaching once you reach a dozen or so kids in one room.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Agreed, preschool teachers are not known for having lots of free time and mental bandwith on their hands for this sort of stuff.

        2. Emi*

          I think you are overestimating how much a preschooler can actually relate to parents about their day. I ask my toddler what she did in daycare and she says “somefing!” or sometimes something that I happen to know she didn’t do, like “ride e’ephant.” I can ask her about things I saw in the updates the daycare sends, but how she responds to “did you [do this thing I have a picture of you doing]?” is essentially a coin toss.

          1. quill*

            I figure that it both varies wildly by kid and age, AND is better practice in communication than knowing from the preschool that today they had coloring time, not playdough time.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I briefly used a daycare that tracked EVERYTHING. So I’d be getting emails like “diaper change 11:26 – wet” and “lunch 12:14 – ate 1/3 carrots and ravioli.” It was wildly unnecessary.

        I send my HUSBAND maybe 1-2 photos/updates per day and it’s only if a kid says something really funny or we go somewhere interesting, not an hourly account of each day.

        1. pope suburban*

          Oh my god, how did they have the time for that?! Like…I’ve only ever had to track my own personal time, to 15-minute intervals, when I was working jobs that had billing. I can’t imagine tracking a handful of small helpless-yet-independent humans to that level, while still making sure none of them injured themselves/other kids. I’m fascinated and horrified in equal measure. I can’t get my head around that kind of workload. Nothing against the daycare or staff either, I have no reason to believe they weren’t lovely functional people, this just scrambles my brain. Too much detail!

  21. Lemming22*

    Are the messages in a group/location others use, and if so is there some way to “sequester” her messages so they are just her (either through a social group or by getting others to use a different, work related group?) If you can make it work so it won’t impact others, I’d start just completely ignoring her messages and if something gets mixed you can note that the social messages made it impossible to filter through to find the work-related ones and that she needs to figure out how to differentiate the two (and thus allow you to block the child updates…)

  22. Pocket Mouse*

    You might be able to invoke the past micromanaging and removal of a communication system as well! In addition to making a clear, specific request that she not send you these updates, remind her that the current messaging system is necessary for work stuff, and if anyone on the team decides it’s too much for them and tries to effect change though management instead of talking with her directly, each of her non-work messages risks a repeat of that past experience. I don’t think this should be the primary approach, but if mentioning that aspect gets her to tone it down across the team, or limits her messages to Facebook only, it’s a win.

  23. Richard Barrell*

    I for one would be absolutely delighted if all my colleagues started posting into a separate Slack channel called “#cute” or something, for pets and baby photos.

    In the main work channels, not so much.

    1. Again With Feeling*

      My team has a channel specifically for babies/kids, pets, and even plants. It’s great because you can mute it if you’re annoyed by that stuff or just not interested, or don’t want to see it for personal reasons (infertility, etc.).

    2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Separate channels are life. I’m in a Discord with a bunch of people from a parenting group, and even THERE we have a “Kid Photos” channel when we just feel like showing off a cute kid. Keeps the other channels free for actual discussion – otherwise we’d be interrupted to be like “awwww what a cutie!” every 10 minutes, ha.

  24. Dino*

    Why not explain the history on this too? Along with “stop messaging about no work things because it’s hard to get my work done” it might help to say “last time too many non work messages were happening on IM, management began monitoring every single message and eventually shut down the messaging system entirely. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us”.

  25. Momma Bear*

    While I very much sympathize with the mom here (being a mom myself) as things shift out of panic pandemic mode, more and more companies will rightly be expecting people to make arrangements for their kid(s). In a previous role, I had to agree in writing to provide childcare most of the time (sick kid type stuff aside) while I was on the clock. If the child cannot behave with sitters, how much time is she spending with him vs work?

    Can OP check for her messages on a schedule, like only once an hour? Is there really anything timely that needs their attention that quickly? I wonder if not responding to anything fast (passive aggressive that it may be) will help reinforce that the coworker’s cluttering up the message system is not helpful.

    AAM often suggests to bring things up in context of job when filing a complaint. If I were to go to my manager, I would emphasize that for most people the message system is really helpful and you don’t want it to be lost or changed BUT the use of it by this one person is problematic in these specific ways that impact the job.

  26. LC*

    I just realized that I (and it sounds like many of the other commenters) assumed that she was sending these in the small channel for just your team. But a few others have mentioned email or direct messages (Facebook group aside, which I’m choosing to ignore like I do with Facebook in its entirety), and it doesn’t specifically say in the OP.

    That would definitely change the advice, imo. LW, if you’re reading, could you clarify?

    (Unless it is super clear and it’s just too early for me, which isn’t unlikely.)

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I took it to be a group chat/channel with the whole team. My impression was that LW can’t mute/block because they need to see the work-related messages from everyone else in the same space.

      1. LC*

        That’s definitely how I read it too, but I saw enough responses that seemed like they thought it was direct message or email that I wasn’t sure of myself anymore.

  27. Tuesday*

    The OP says the whole team is sick of it. Maybe they can all propose together that they’ll put a limit on their non-work-related messages? If she hears that it’s a problem for more than one person, maybe that would help.

    1. Electric Sheep*

      Yes, I agree that it would be worth getting other coworkers having the same issues involved!

  28. animaniactoo*

    This feels like something that might also be solved by specifics in a different direction:

    “I do like hearing updates on stuff like people’s kids… but when the volume of it is more frequent than work communication, it feels like it’s overwhelming in a space that I HAVE to pay attention to for work reasons… if you could pull back to one or two kid-related messages a day maximum, that would be really appreciated.”

    And then if that doesn’t work, you could IF YOU WANT – note that this is not a necessary step – but you could say “Hey… I’ve asked you to limit this because of the amount of interference it is. I don’t really want to bring it up with management because I would prefer to resolve it with you directly, but if it continues I want you to know that I will need to mention it as something that is creating a workflow issue.”

    1. gbca*

      I think OP should go to step 2 if step 1 doesn’t work, and combine that with Dino’s suggestion that OP clue in this person about the history – i.e. management might shut messenger down entirely if they think it’s a problem.

    2. Quantum Hall Effect*

      This is a *way* nicer way of expressing the request than some of the other suggestions. I like this one.

  29. NovaGirl*

    Wait, why are you in a group chat with her and why does she have access to you on Facebook?! Is she DM’ing you pictures of her kid or is she sending them to a group or both?

    I feel like every letter that asks “how can I get the obnoxious, oblivious person who can’t take a hint or direct requests to stop doing the thing that annoys me to stop doing that thing” ends in sadness. But we’re all in charge of our own notifications. I don’t see why it’s necessary to jump to check each message from her when you get a notification when 9/10 times it’s an unsolicited picture of her kid and she’s not your boss. Turn off your notifications if you need to so you can get your work done. Check her messages once or twice a day, all at once. There are a lot of technical solutions that will help manage notifications if she’s a pest and you don’t want to talk to management. It’s unfortunately part of working remotely — sometimes people are gonna chitchat in a channel, or message you non-work stuff, and bombard you with notifications, and it’s going to be annoying, and it’s on you to manage your own notifications so you can do what you need to do. This is a remote work skill. And this sounds harsh but this has a “omg don’t text me I’m trying to sleep”/”put your phone on silent before you go to bed, champ” vibe to it.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      I don’t fully agree. If someone sends me a communication at work, I want at least reasonable confidence that the communication is relevant to work.

      Within that definition of “relevant” could be a number of things, and I would expect the communication channel to (reasonably) reflect the level of urgency and importance. Sending instant messages for something that’s not urgent, not work-related, and not important to anybody but the sender is three strikes.

      The coworker is mixing the needles (work-related) into the haystack (LOOKIT MY BABYYYY) because it forces her colleagues to engage with each individual blade of hay. That’s bad for productivity and morale.

      It also turns the attention-seeker into a “missing stair” if her coworkers are expected to engineer a perfect workaround, just to spare her any consequences. Eventually, someone will miss something important. Stop tiptoeing around the hazard. Management needs to step in.

      1. NovaGirl*

        I think I just need more details about these messages — are they DMs or in a work channel? Why is Facebook even a factor when it’s really easy to block or mute someone on Facebook? What’s the context for the group chat, is that necessary for work or something outside of it?

        I don’t think OP is supposed to engineer a workaround, but if they don’t want to get this person in trouble and don’t want to be the one who calls attention to the missing stair, that’s what they’re going to have to do. The answer to “how can I get this person who has historically not listened to any requests not to send kid pics to me and is basically a pathological baby-spammer to stop doing that” is “you literally cannot, if you don’t want to tattle on them and potentially get them in trouble.” So the solution would be managing your notifications.

    2. Tali*

      Normally I agree but this coworker is sooooo way overboard that I can see why OP is overwhelmed. This isn’t just off-topic chit-chat, it’s hourly messages on their work messaging system! But I agree that I would just mute the coworker because odds are it’s not work-related.

  30. Chairman of the Bored*

    I would 100% stop monitoring her chat messages, as long as nothing in them could reasonably be expected to be life/safety critical.

    When/if something gets missed or dropped because a work-related messaged didn’t get read it would be reasonable to tell management “I didn’t know about that because I stopped checking her messages because it was 90% kid stuff and I wasn’t going to use my time and attention sorting signal from noise on a chat thread”.

    1. LC*

      “I chose to ignore potentially work related messages because the sender is annoying”? I’m not sure that would fly with most managers, particularly if they were never made aware of the problem to begin with.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        I was thinking more like “work messages were buried in a pile of crap, and I thought sorting through them wasn’t a good use of the time you’re paying me for”.

        The problem isn’t that the sender is annoying as much as the fact that the sender is cluttering a work channel with lots of stuff that’s not-work.

        If I was filling up my colleagues’ voicemail boxes with 90% stories about something my cat did it would be reasonable for my colleagues to stop listening to voicemails from me, right?

        1. LC*

          I am not a people manager anymore (thank god, I hated it!) so I’m definitely not an authority on how managers would react in a given situation, but I think I’d feel the same about the voicemails situation. If it’s enough of a problem that you (general you) want to just completely ignore one person’s communication, you should bring in your manager before you actually start doing it.

          If I were the manager in that situation, I’d be pretty miffed that this wasn’t brought to me first so I could handle it another way that wouldn’t involve missing actual work communication.

    2. Raida*

      I don’t know any manager would be impressed that someone’s “solution” to an issue was “I didn’t tell you or anyone else this but I just ignore that co-worker and I expected this consequence would happen.”
      All of them would prefer “Here is an issue, here are my ideas on how to tackle it, let me know what you decide.” And if they do nothing, a quick update “I’m going to start filing these messages from Monday. re-iteration of likely consequence.”

      I would *never* just not do a part of my job, knowing there’s a consequence, and letting it happen without telling my manager first so they can be ready for it. Because then it’s MY FAULT, but I could have made it THEIR FAULT for being a crappy manager. 9/10 I’ve found they aren’t a crappy manager and take it seriously.

  31. The Crowening*

    Since you have seen the company’s overreaction in a previous department, could you actually let her in on that and say, “Look, the constant commentary from the homefront is really preventing me from completing my work – I don’t want to miss any work-related messages from you. I’d love to hear what Jack and Sally are up to every now and then, but the constant stream of updates all day every day is not sustainable. I don’t want to have to go to management to look for a technical solution, because the last time that happened they went into full-on policing mode and micromanaged it up one side and down the other, we were all totally miserable, and then that platform was taken away completely. None of us wants that to happen. Can you really try to rein it in so it doesn’t come to that?”

  32. At home with work*

    I wonder if OP is responding and somehow encouraging it through a false sense of being polite? If a coworker sends me a non-work related message and I’m busy, I simply ignore it. It takes only half a second to look at the message determine that’s not important/mark as read.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      It’s the half second 50 times per day that is the issue, though – I really sympathize with the OP, because this kind of thing would drive me up a wall. I lose focus with this kind of thing, and then it takes me a minute or two to refocus on my work.

      Personally, I’d be telling the co-irker that if she can’t keep her messages focused on work, that I’d have to mute her as it becomes too distracting to deal with.

    2. mlem*

      “Ugh, this algorithm is complica–“PLINK!”–ted, if I could just foc–“PLINK! PLINKPLINK!”–us for three seconds, maybe I could –” PLINKPLINKPLINK! “… nope, can’t figure out this algorithm because I don’t have even two seconds to concen–“PLINK”–trate SHUT UP FERGUSELLA OR I WILL MURDER YOU WITH MY MIND.”

      Those little half-second interruptions can add up to a complete standstill when you need unbroken time to address something. Even when you’ve set the sounds to the least-annoying ones you can find.

      … PLINK!

  33. Medusa*

    Is it possible for you to just turn that co-worker’s messages only to silent? That doesn’t solve the problem of her not respecting boundaries, but it could be a possibility if you are adamant about not going to your manager.

  34. Green great dragon*

    Definitely create another channel if possible. But if not, can you create a time slot where everyone is free to chat about non-work stuff and ask her to restrict it to that – maybe over your lunch time? And if you do have to get management involved, hopefully a concrete request like ‘please impose a time limit/separate channel ‘ will mean they’re less like to go overboard with checking every message in response.

    1. No more crappy coffee for me.*

      This is where I’d go first… I’d go to management and say “Hey, is there any way to make additional channels in the messaging app? I love hearing and seeing life updates from my coworkers but having it mixed in with the work stuff can be confusing. It would be great if we could have a separate chat for personal and one for work.”

      If there’s a separate channel for each group, I don’t see why they can’t make 2 channels for your group with 1 for work and 1 for personal.

    2. LC*

      Gah, I feel like that would almost be worse (definitely for me and it sounds like for LW too)!

      It’s easier, albeit annoying, to ignore throughout the day and do a quick scan once or twice to see if anything is work related. If there’s designated time, you can’t really ignore that. LW absolutely shouldn’t have to give up time she could be productive or especially their lunch time (!!!) to have to deal with this.

      1. LC*

        The second suggestion, I mean. Designating time.

        I’m fully on board with at least one non-work channel being created for everyone.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Oh, they’re totally optional for us! And no less ignorable than they would be during the rest of the day. I certainly wasn’t suggesting LW spends their whole lunch break looking at the channel – rather that if it’s their lunch break they have a great excuse for not engaging.

        1. LC*

          Ohhhh I see what you mean, sorry, I misunderstood.

          Then yes, I can see that being a possible band-aid (doesn’t really get at the heart of the issue, but it fixes it for OP’s day to day).

          I really thought you were suggesting that OP tell coworker that she’d give her a half hour each day during lunch to talk about the kid. Which is a horrifying thought, so I’m glad I was wrong.

    3. Raida*

      I concur, but not lunchtime – like I want to be expected to spend my lunch tied to my desk/phone.
      Just ten minutes morning tea time

  35. Clisby*

    And people who’d like a 10-minute break from focused work might like to check in on the nonwork channel from time to time just for a distraction.

  36. SuperLoris*

    Maybe reframe this to appeal to her goals: “I don’t know if you realize this, but your constant messaging about little Percy give the impression that you are spending most of the work day dealing with your child and not doing work. I know you don’t want to be compelled to come back into the office! Given that fact, I wanted to give you a heads’ up that if anyone turns in these message threads to management, I could see them thinking that you are too distracted with caring for Percy to be properly attentive to work and wouldn’t be surprised if they required you to come back on site as a result. I get that you want to share about Percy, but it might be better to keep sharing about him to just Facebook and other non-work channels.”

  37. BlueBelle*

    Just make a channel that is specifically for non-work related chit chat and turn the notifications off. Problem solved. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

    Feel free to send me all the cat, baby, and dog pictures you have :)

  38. Boof*

    1) make a social channel and a work channel. Every time someone posts something social on the work channel, they need to be told not to do it. If someone repeatedly ignores the rules, maybe they lose messaging privs? JUST the offender, not the people using it properly
    2) yeah it sounds like coworker is doing double duty as a caregiver and working on the clock. I know we aren’t fully through covid yet, but it’s close enough that that will have to be addressed soon, as it shouldn’t be the indefinite solution.
    3) if management here is OK, maybe they have noticed performance issues, and/or maybe their manager telling them directly to focus on work at work would be a stronger message than you asking them

  39. Dark Macadamia*

    I feel already having a work chat and a Facebook chat should make this really easy to address, although I guess the fact that you’re even having this problem means it’s not working. “I’m finding it hard to keep track of info I need, and I also worry that if management sees a work resource being misused they’ll take it away like they did in Old Department. Can we keep all the photos and life updates in the Facebook chat and leave the work one for work only?” It’s… weird that this isn’t happening naturally but maybe she feels like she’ll get a more immediate response in the work one and somehow hasn’t realized that her messages are what Facebook is made for.

  40. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    I agree this might be solved by calling her on the phone and being direct. “Hi Jane, the ongoing messages about Percival in chat have become really distracting. I can’t find the the work-related information I need and the constant interruptions are disrupting my work. Please stop sending unrelated messages in chat. Thank you.” Simple and direct. That’s what I would try if I were you.

  41. I'm just here for the cats*

    I’m not sure what messaging system you are using but could you (or someone on the team who manages it) set up a second chat for more social activities. To me it sounds like there is a group chat function and then the coworker is also private messaging as well as posting on the group chat.

    at my work we use Teams and we set up a second channel for “fun stuff and water cooler talk” Maybe talk to your boss and say something like this
    “we really don’t want to lose the chat function, because it is so important to our work, and we do like getting updates from each other about each others lives, since we aren’t in person anymore. But we’re afraid that work things might get missed with the life stuff. Could we set up a second chat that is only for life updates.” I think if you phrase it this way it’s not going to seem as problematic. And I understand that you are leary because of past experience but keep this in mind:
    1. this is a different manager and team, unless you think it would be coming from someone above your manager I don’t think you will have the same problem
    2. The dynamics have changed now since you are all mostly remote. So leadership should see that there is a legit work need for the chat.

    If you don’t want to or can’t do this could you talk to the other coworkers about this person? Maybe if a bunch of you pushed back she would get the idea. If you are sick of all of the updates I’m sure others are too. Don’t be mean or bully but as a group just go “Hey Jane, We love hearing about Fergus and how he is doing, but we think the hourly updates are a bit much. We would appreciate it if you could limit the updates to daily instead (or whatever works for you all).
    Good luck!

  42. The Prettiest Curse*

    This letter really made me sad for the OP’s colleague. I agree that the OP should focus on the impact the updates are having on everyone’s work, and that the constant updates must be really distracting. But having worked with parents of kids with disabilities and other health conditions, I would really urge the OP and her colleagues to handle this in the most gentle and compassionate way that they can.

    Having a child with a disability or health condition (or behavioral/other issues) can be extremely isolating for parents even outside the context of a pandemic and working from home. Given that this person is already isolated from family and friends, she may feel that literally nobody else cares about her kid and that she has no other outlet to talk about them. Parents of children with disabilities can often feel that their child’s needs are all-consuming, to the point that there is nothing else important in their life. Your colleague sounds like she’s just desperate for human connection and to know that somebody cares. She is definitely seekkng this validation in the wrong way, but please, please raise this issue in the most compassionate way you can.

    Honestly, I would suggest that you try to get someone to refer her to a support group for her kid’s conditions (if that’s at all possible), because she really needs another outlet for the tremendous love that she clearly has for her kid. I hope she finds that outlet, and some support for herself too.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I should add – I’m in no way an expert on this topic (disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, therapist or social worker), I just hsd contact with so many parents who were struggling due to the pandemic. And honestly, the OP’s colleague sounds like she is just drowning. I really feel for her.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I get what you’re saying, but the LW should not suggest support groups or make assumptions about her co-worker’s child. The LW is her colleague and peer. It is not appropriate for her to make such suggestions and would actually be pretty mean out of the blue– “I guess your kid has issues, here are some resources” is a big, big overstep.

      The co-worker didn’t write in. The LW did. She is the one who needs advice, and it is not her place nor her responsibility to fix this woman’s life.

    3. NYC Taxi*

      None of this is OP’s problem, and OP should not be inserting herself into this woman’s personal life.

      1. BRR*

        Yes. First, it’s an overstep of work/personal boundaries. But also the LW needs less of this coworker’s personal life.

      2. nonbinary writer*

        It’s not OP’s problem, but that doesn’t mean OP can’t approach the situation with empathy and understanding. I agree that some of these actions are too much, but I really hate the idea that just because something’s “not our problem” we shouldn’t consider a person’s pain when navigating a situation.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          But OP’s attempts at considering their coworker’s pain haven’t done much to stop the onslaught of non-work messages in channel they have to monitor for work.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Getting someone to refer her to a support group for a condition would probably be a vast overstep into her private business. I’d advise against doing anything like that.

      It’s possible to say ‘mate, you’re really over sharing details of your home life and we don’t need to know what your kid is doing more than once/twice a day at most’ and that’s still compassionate I think.

      (I used to bore people with my health issues a looooong time ago at work till someone told me that I was a) over sharing and b) people were starting to avoid me)

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      I understand where you are coming from and I know that it can be isolating for parents with special needs kids but we don’t really know that the coworker is isolated and needs to join a support group. All we know is that because the kid has behavioral issues that babysitters are hard to find. We just know that family is not able to babysit, not that she has no contact with family. I believe you are overthinking and putting more into the coworkers actions than there really is. For all we know the coworker could be just one of those people who needlessly goes on about their kid, regardless if its online or in person. The LW might not have realized how much her coworker talks about her kid because it was easier to walk away, tune out, etc in office, but now that its online its harder to ignore.

    6. Former Young Lady*

      The “someone” who refers her has to have some authority over her, though. She has already demonstrated that she won’t acknowledge guidance from her peers, no matter how compassionate. It also isn’t their place.

      Your point about isolation is well-taken, but that isolation is not something her coworkers have the standing, the training, or the responsibility to fix. Their responsibility is to approach management and explain what’s going on (with genuine concern for both the colleague and the work mission).

      I have some loved ones who are coping with isolation. It really is a vicious circle, because their demands for attention/emotional labor tend to alienate other people, making the lonely person even lonelier. This tends to be a big blind spot for the person who is doing it. I have yet to persuade any of them to seek appropriate support, because they select their captive audience from those they perceive as lower- or peer-status.

      Otherwise, in this case the boss would already know what she’s doing. The team’s choice to conceal the disruption from management is only going to perpetuate the cycle.

    7. Mental Lentil*

      I get where you are coming from and I agree that empathy is often necessary in such cases, but there’s nothing in LW’s post about any sort of disability. The kid could just be a victim of bad parenting.

  43. RagingADHD*

    It seems like you could significantly reduce the annoyance level if you unfriended her on Facebook. I understand that you need the work messaging, but a Facebook group chat is completely optional, and you aren’t obligated to get those, as you already know they won’t be about work.

    It wouldn’t solve the whole problem, but it would be better than just sitting and stewing about it. After all, she has no reason to think that personal messages would be unwelcome on Facebook — it’s why Facebook exists.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      It sounds like the coworker is messaging both on facebook and on the work chat, which is why she can’t ignore or mute the chat, because there could be legit work related reasons.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Sure she can mute the chat. If the coworker expects a work response on chat, she can put it on the work platform.

  44. Mourning Reader*

    One of the linked, tangentially related old posts mentions a coworker using a frog emoji in her communications. I am wondering what happened to old Pepe, did the alt-right stop using it once it started to be widely recognized? And are there other coded things being used now that would be good to watch for as inappropriate for work?

  45. Sloan Kittering*

    This is a great example of a time where it may “feel” kinder to not be direct with your coworker, but it’s not – especially if your Plan B is to report this to heavy-handed management that may have all sorts of consequences for her. The kind thing to do here is be extremely direct with her, even if it upsets her or hurts her feelings short-term. Remember, she will be much more upset if this somehow ends up getting her fired or reprimanded (not saying this is likely, just pointing it out).

    Some of us are not good at being direct, making people upset, or being disliked. Unfortunately, this is a crystal clear example of a time it’s gotta happen.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      I think you’re absolutely right, Sloan Kittering. Time to say, “I’ve mentioned so many times how disruptive your updates are but you still continue to bombard us with more. I must go to management about this if it doesn’t stop entirely. We just cannot use our chat feature this way and it will get taken away if it doesn’t stop. Please stop all updates about anything not-work-related so that I do not have to involve management”.

      This was hard to write without sounding threatening so maybe someone better at wordsmithing could help. But I totally agree.

  46. Lacey*

    I had a coworker like this, but in person.

    I liked her. She was nice and a good worker.
    I like kids. I willingly listen to many a friend’s kid stories and enjoy them.

    But man oh man, she talked about her kids all. day. long.
    And yeah, there was no way to get her to stop without just offending her.

    Management is probably your best option, but I totally understand why that feels like going scorched earth, given your previous experiences.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, that’s true. That said, sometimes if softer messaging gets you nowhere, it’s necessary to risk offending someone. It’s not the end of the world, at least not if it actually stops the undesirable behavior.

  47. Squirrel*

    Not sure if this has been suggested already, but since you mentioned that there have been problems with other departments getting their chat system taken away or heavily monitored for this kind of thing (personal, not work related chit chat), I wonder if that would be enough to get obsessed mom to stop sharing. Mention it next time she brings up the kiddo, “Hey Jane, you know that x department got their message system disabled for this kind of thing, right? I’d hate for that to happen to us too since it’s so useful for work.”
    Good luck!

  48. Jack Straw*

    At the very least, block the messaging on Facebook.

    I have volunteers who attempt to contact me about shift changes, sign ups, give me their shirt size, etc. via Messenger. I copy/paste a message explaining I don’t conduct business via FB and include my email address/phone number. Volunteers treat things a bit more casually/it isn’t a job, so I get why they do it, but coworkers using Facebook for work? No way.

  49. BRR*

    I think your first step should be the ultra direct approach. Explain that you have to check messages in case they’re work related and her frequent updates are pulling you out of work. I think what’s going to happen though is you’ll need to figure out a tech solution if you don’t want to involve management. Maybe other people IM you directly? Maybe they can email you? If you can’t/don’t want to set up a non-work chat can you make another group without the coworker? I think there are a lot of options you can explore.

  50. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    Aside from the issue with the child-obsessed co-worker, this struck me as pretty foul: “The only people asked to return are those who … don’t have reliable internet service.” Has it been discussed with those employees so they can try to get better service, or is it the lowest-paid employees being punished for being the lowest-paid employees?

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

      I wouldn’t assume someone without great high-speed internet is the lowest paid…some of the nicest homes in my area are up in the mountains or away from urban areas and they can have terrible internet too. I personally know 2 c-suite executives who have come into the office for video conferences during the whole pandemic. This one is a legitimate business need.

  51. Sue D. O'Nym*

    As a new parent, this post makes me feel better about myself. Yes, I will occasionally discuss MiniNym with my co-workers, but usually only if they ask (it’s not uncommon for them to ask how he’s doing, or if he’s learned any new skills), or sometimes during a “Do you have any good news, either personal or work-related” section of a team meeting. (“MiniNym went to his first theme park last week… Sadly, he slept through the Haunted Mansion, which is my favorite ride.”)

    Most of the pictures are only posted on my personal FB page. (Although, when a co-worker asked if MiniNym had started food yet, I shared a picture of him making a face at a spoonful of rice cereal. Also, my Zoom profile picture (for when my camera isn’t on) is a picture of MiniNym, which I guess could be more distracting than a black screen with just my name on it, but I don’t feel like that’s too far over the line)

  52. Chilipepper Attitude*

    If Alison’s script does not work, or maybe in addition to it, could you explain to the coworker that non-work texts/chats are disruptive enough that you are starting to feel your only option is to talk to the manager and you want to avoid that? That in a previous department, that resulted in removing the chat option and you would like to work together to avoid the possibility that the higher ups will remove chat?

  53. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    If she won’t stop, and if you can block her, do that. Let her know that you find her kid updates distracting and that if she needs to contact you for a work reason, she should send an email.

  54. Always Happy*

    I know what you mean in having coworkers sending excessive messages. I’m not sure which platform you use, whether its Slack or Microsoft teams…there should be a way to mute the notifications as they come in, or just mute that person individually.

  55. SaintPaulGal*

    Before escalating to a manager, how about directly laying out for this person why you don’t want to have to do that? Explain that this is getting in the way of your work and of it continues you’ll have to ask for help, and then explain what happened to the team last time something like this came up? The coworker would have to be incredibly tone deaf and incredibly dedicated to updates about the kid if they were to continue after that.

  56. Exhausted Employment Attorney*

    One of the interesting items OP mentions is that they do not want a solution from management that would essentially bar ALL personal/non-work chat. And even if Alison is correct – that managing this situation does not have to turn into bad management – it’s glossing over the fact that even GOOD management could, perfectly legitimately, take the position that the work messaging is to be used for work-related chat only. In fact, I would be concerned from a discrimination standpoint if the child-posting co-worker were told that HER personal messages had to stop, but other co-workers were free to continue their personal postings.
    Cue all the outrage that of course the child-posting person is abusing the privilege, whereas the other employees are not, and “good management” would find a way to crack down on the one while allowing the other… and I would still say that you are absolutely risking a claim that you are discriminating against the parent, because discrimination claims are remarkably easy to make (not as easy to win, but that doesn’t matter – if a contingency lawyer will take the claim because it’s prima facie good enough, they’re going to cost the company PLENTY of money regardless, which means the company will almost certainly pay something in settlement to make it go away).
    In other words, some of what OP is describing about bad/micromanagement could actually stem from a completely legit place that is not necessarily “bad management.” (Not to suggest that there aren’t other examples of bad management in OP’s recital either.)
    I like best the advice and options to try and shut this down (firmly and definitively) with the child-posting employee, because that still holds out hope that the group can continue to work autonomously and have the occasional, non-intrusive personal contact via chat.

    1. allathian*

      Yes to your last paragraph. I don’t think the issue is non-work chat, people aren’t robots. Banning all non-work chat would be overkill, and reasonable employers realize that they can’t expect 100% productivity from workers on the clock. That said, flooding the work chat with non-work topics is still inappropriate. If most employees post 90% work topics and 10% non-work topics, and go to work-only when they’re really busy, and one employee has the reverse ratio, any reasonable manager would realize that something has to be done about it. The problem is that the LW has been burned by other managers at the same organization before. I can totally understand the hesitation to go to management with this.

  57. Raida*

    I think you need to talk to your manager firstly about your experiences in the sh*tty department, and then seugue into “So the reason I bring this up is to put into context why I haven’t come to you in the last year about this issue I’ve tried to resolve myself:

    Because you’ve said you think your manager is good, but also that you have no faith in them not to become a crappy, micromanaging, toxic manager who creates wasteful admin work then removes useful tools.
    That’s what you’ve said by stating you don’t want the same issues to start in this department. Would you say that to their face? Would you say it to their manager?
    Or do you think it’s your own fear/anxiety that is not fully rational keeping you from talking to them? A good manager doesn’t *have* to make bad management decisions just because you saw bad managers do it. Have some faith in them, let them do their job, let them prove they can do it, and give them the background information they need to make good decisions.

  58. MaryH*

    The grimmest thing in this letter is that there is no mention of the kids dad. I stayed at home working as a single mom with kids and lost my GD mind, before I worked out an equitable arrangement with my ex. Now I know I’m making assumptions about coworkers life, but if getting childcare is difficult the dad should be making similar sacrifices of their sanity.
    Now coworker should stop posting, but writing those things out may help her reframe the awfulness, maybe she’s discovering her voice as a writer. Anyway, COVID has damaged the careers of so many mothers, it really will be hard to come back from

  59. Slack Fan*

    Where I work we have separate channels for non-work topics. Food, kids, random, etc. Works great! Unless your messaging app is single channel.

  60. Klio*

    It’s always interesting to see that one day it’s “people should be clear or it’s their fault that they are misunderstood” when a few days before it’s “it’s people’s fault that they misunderstood your unclear idioms”.

  61. Jennifer Juniper*

    If the OP has to live with it, would an occasional message expressing empathy for the coworker’s situation, praising the coworker’s child, etc. be helpful in maintaining good relations? The coworker may be sending these messages because she doesn’t feel heard by anyone.

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      I feel like if the OP had that available bandwidth, they wouldn’t have written the letter.

  62. Ken*

    When I read a line like “Behavior issues with the kid have resulted in no babysitters or family left willing to help” I assume that the co-worker has some serious stresses going on in her life that may be motivating her own behavior. And while that doesn’t mean she gets to behave like this, I also appreciate the motivation to respond with some degree of empathy.

  63. Machiamellie*

    My team has a General chat for work-related chat and a “Happy Hour” chat for non-work related whatever (cat pics, etc.) You could ask your manager to set something like that up. Then you can mute the non-work related chat.

  64. SaffyTaffy*

    I don’t understand why the OP appears to be fixated on how hard it would be to get the parent to stop caring for the kid. That’s not the problem, right? The problem is the constant updates. Caring for the kid and updating coworkers about the kid are two parallel roads, they don’t intersect.

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