do managers need to foster team relationships, company doesn’t want remote managers, and more

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

1. Do I need to foster relationship-building on my team?

I manage two lovely people. We are all fully remote and relatively new hires to a large organization (I’ve been here two years and they have been here between 3-6 months). I onboarded 100% virtually and I understand the struggle of getting to know people virtually. To combat this, my team members schedule time each week to check in with each other about their lives, etc., spending time discussing non-work related topics. I think this is great, but I am not interested in participating. One of the things I love about working remotely is not having to participate in the idle office chat with coworkers. Our jobs are also really busy with long hours and I feel that any time spent chatting is just making my day longer — I want to finish my work so I can hang out with my own friends and family.

As their manager, how important is fostering team building in a virtual environment and what are my responsibilities to do so? Is it okay to just let them connect together on their own schedules or am I responsible for helping build the camaraderie of this virtual team?

You don’t need to schedule virtual events specifically for bonding if that’s not your style (it’s not mine either), but you do need to ensure that you’re cultivating strong relationships with your staff members and creating opportunities for them to do that too if they want to. I’m a big believer that if you’re intentional about it, you can usually do that as you’re working on things together, rather than having to make it its own separate thing.

However! The part about you wanting to avoid idle chat worries me a bit. As a manager, you should make sure that you’re taking time to check in with your staff members on a personal level when you have occasion to talk. Most people want to feel their manager cares about them as a person, not just as a work resource, and having good relationships generally leads to better work (in both directions) and can be a key part of job satisfaction for a lot of people.* You also need to be intentional about building a team culture where people feel positive and engaged, and it’s hard to do that if you see all non-work chat as a distraction to avoid. So while you don’t need to organize formal team-building, it might be worth looking at how you’re approaching team relationship-building in general.

* There are, of course, people who are exceptions to this, and you should adapt your management style to fit the context. Management is never one-size-fits-all.

2. I want to promote a great employee, but my company is resisting because she’s remote

I hired an employee at the end of 2019 into an entry level role for the start up I work at. I’ve been in my field 25+ years and she is easily the best employee I have ever had. She works so hard that I’ve actually gifted her extra PTO days to make up for all the extra hours she puts in. She’s young (in her mid-20’s) but incredibly educated and qualified and is just fabulous — never misses deadlines, takes on extra responsibilities, is kind and helpful to other staff, always offers to help me during busy times, and I can’t even remember the last time she made a minor error (and has never made a serious one!). I want to promote her to a mid-level role, I think she deserves it, and she’s a great asset to the company. This is an employee I seriously want to keep around.

About four months into the pandemic (we were all remote by this point), she scheduled a meeting with me and disclosed that she has an extremely serious, chronic mental illness (considered a disability by the ADA) and that working from home had been a blessing and game changer for her, and asked if she could remain permanently remote (additionally, she lives about 90 minutes away from the office). I said yes without hesitation and looped in HR to get her a formal ADA accommodation approval to protect her moving forward.

Recently, I expressed to upper management that I’d like to promote her. Several of the men on the team pushed back and said they don’t want new managers who are working permanently remote. Is this even legal? I did push back in the meeting, but it didn’t go anywhere and I’d like to bring it up with them again. I worry that her not moving up in the company will affect her happiness here in the long run, and more importantly, I fear this could be disability discrimination, since she has that ADA request in HR’s records. For the record, most of these high level managers are continuing to work remotely at least a few days a week (as am I). What should I do here?

It’s legal for a company to decide they don’t want new managers to be permanently remote, as long as they make exceptions for disabilities where required by law.

It sounds like the people who pushed back about promoting your employee aren’t necessarily aware that she’s remote because of a disability accommodation, so I wouldn’t assume they’re advocating illegal discrimination (at least not so far); “we want on-site managers” isn’t the same as “we won’t make exceptions when the law and other circumstances require us to.”

You should talk to HR about the situation and ask specifically for guidance about how to promote your employee while ensuring her remote-work accommodation remains in effect. As long as being remote won’t prevent her from performing the essential functions of the job you want to promote her into, they should provide you with back-up about the company’s legal obligations if anyone gives you more pushback on those grounds.

3. My company has an anti-vaxx agenda— and I’m the HR director

I’ve been my company’s HR director for a year now. My current company is pretty right wing (as am I, but I base my beliefs on science and research not political agendas) and they have never once implemented a mask requirement. While they have provided ample paid leave as required and encouraged sick staff to stay home, their overall response is that Covid isn’t a big deal and that staff’s rights and privacy are more important than their health. Social distancing signs are posted, but never enforced and only two employees wear masks regularly.

I informed my boss of the new federal vaccine mandate, encouraging us to put together an action plan to get ahead of the game. However, the communication going out to the employees is that we will not implement a vaccine mandate or mask requirement. We would do weekly testing but no one seems to want to start talking about the logistics! I’ve put together a plan myself to have just in case, but they also want to market us as a non-vaccinated employer for recruiting purposes!

I’m frustrated that my beliefs are a stark contrast to my employer’s. I have a hard time representing my company as a leader who needs to communicate policies that I know are not in the best interest of staff and are unethical. To willfully not comply with a federal mandate goes against all I do as a HR director. What advice do you have to help me convince my board to get their head out of their ass, or should I give my services to a company whose values align better with my own?

The latter. Unless you’ve seen signs that your company’s leadership is open to being convinced — which doesn’t sound like the case — you’ll be fighting an uphill battle that you’re likely to lose. That would be a problem for anyone at your company, but it’s a particular problem for you as the HR director since you’re being asked to implement, oversee, and promote policies that are unethical (and illegal if they don’t comply with the vaccinated-or-testing mandate). Time to leave. I’m sorry.

4. Did my employer interview me for a promotion even though someone else already had it?

I work in a supermarket and recently a promotion opened up, so I applied for it. A few days later I had an interview. It didn’t go too well because of nerves, so it was not a shock that I didn’t get it. My problem is that I have now found out that the person who did get it was possibly told they had it before I even went for my interview for the position. I feel like the manager wasted my time and put me through unnecessary stress. I’m wondering if there are rules that should stop them from doing this. If so, what can be done about it?

No, there’s no law or other rule that prohibits this. But it doesn’t sound like you know for sure what happened. Sometimes an employer might interview you even when they’re planning to hire someone else for the position because they have another spot you might be right for, or they know something else is opening up down the road, or they want to get a better sense of how you might grow there in the future.

5. Coworkers from the job I was fired from are ignoring my LinkedIn requests

I had a previous job where I was dismissed for performance issues. I’ve now been in a new job for a few months. I have requested to connect with coworkers from the previous place on LinkedIn, but some have appeared to ignore me (I have seen them doing other things on LinkedIn while my request is hanging) while others have connected with me. There are also some that I remain in touch with socially as well. With the ones who have ignored me, is it possible that they didn’t wish to (at least publicly) associate with me, based on the circumstances of my leaving? If so, was it a mistake that I reached out to them on LinkedIn at all, or do you feel like there was no harm in my wishes to stay connected there?

You’re reading too much into it, I think. Yes, some of them may have ignored your connection request because of your firing. But others may have ignored it because they missed the notification (which is easy to do even if you’re doing other stuff on LinkedIn around the same time) or because they’re picky about who they connect with or who knows what. But assuming you didn’t blast them all in a bitter all-staff email as you left or otherwise figuratively give them the finger, you didn’t do anything wrong by trying to connect.

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request: Letters like #1 tend to generate a lot of comments from people who hate socializing at work and feel strongly they shouldn’t be expected to, to the point that what’s a pretty outlier viewpoint often ends up disproportionately represented here. In this discussion, please focus comments on letter #1 on advice for the manager, not your personal feelings about whether you do or don’t like socializing at work.

  2. Viki*

    I started a new job (same company) fully remote. My team is full of engineers and as someone who is a analytical but not introvert, the very transactional/no small talk without me initiating (how was your weekend?/how are you? Real basic) has been hard to adapt too—especially with no office interactions that general build a warmth.

    My manager is very warm and welcoming and does the small chat in team meetings which has made me feel like I sort of know my colleagues. If my manager didn’t do the small talk, attempting to know me as a person as well as her sr analyst, I would not be as happy to be on the team even though I enjoy the work.

    I don’t need to know your life—hell I don’t need to know anything. We can have a conversation about how we hate the new update in software but I just need something than just work

    1. Viki*

      To whit-if management makes no effort to me, it will make me very discouraged and make me start looking on how to leave the team/culture fit

    2. AcademiaNut*

      For the manager’s perspective, it doesn’t need to be a lot of time – a couple of minutes at the beginning or end of the meeting of light non work chat can go a long way. I think of it as social lubricant. By itself it doesn’t seem to be much, but a little bit keeps everything else running smoothly.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this is what we’ve been doing throughout the pandemic. Now we’re hybrid, and we’ve continued doing this. It’s similar to informal chat at an in-person meeting before the meeting starts. I’ve always enjoyed these, at least as long as they don’t require us to reveal anything too personal. My employer hasn’t, because psychological safety is important for employee satisfaction and retention, and our leadership recognizes that it can’t be forced, and any attempts to do so will only backfire.

        I feel like I have a very good relationship with my current manager. She started in June, and I haven’t yet met her in person. I’m looking forward to next week, when I’m going to do so. I’m also looking forward to meeting the six other people who’ve been hired during the time we’ve been remote, because I’ve only met one of them so far on one of my days at the office.

        I’ve always been a bit meh on intentional team building stuff, but simple politeness, and showing that you care about your coworkers/reports as people, not just as resources, goes a long way as a social lubricant.

      2. Miss Muffet*

        Totally this. Long before the pandemic, my teams have been virtual around the country and in multiple locations in India. I managed new managers who really struggled with the offshore teams, especially. It was amazing how small changes like starting the weekly status meetings with a little small talk like, what did you do this weekend, or how are your kids? would smooth the way to better relationships. I have really found that people who think their managers care about them as people and not just employees have teams that are more willing to go the extra mile when needed.

      3. Indigo a la mode*

        Totally agree. It doesn’t have to be forced. I literally just got off a call with my boss where we took care of business for 10 minutes and then, totally naturally, segued into a chat about ways of preparing Thanksgiving turkeys. Nothing more personal than “I learned to spatchcock a turkey last year and I’m never going back,” easy fun chat break for five minutes, hang up. But it goes a long way toward rapport and good working relationships.

      4. Anne*

        Yes this! My boss’s 95% remote team of 6 people meet weekly for what’s 50% problem solving & 50% socialization. She doesn’t come to those meetings, which would make me feel like she isn’t invested. EXCEPT that she always takes 5-10 minutes of our weekly check ins to see if we are doing okay as a person. It gives us a chance to see her as a person, to see how invested she is in us, & to help present any context for slow weeks. Thinking of it as context for work may help: Don’t you want to know if someone is dealing with major life changes? Wouldn’t being able to shuffle their work around temporarily so you can retain them be really useful to you?

      5. myswtghst*

        Exactly. My manager and I often start our 1:1 with a brief chat about a shared non-work interest, then move on to the work. I do get frustrated if we spend too much time in our larger team meetings on non-work stuff because our time is limited, but when we’re all remote and don’t get to have those impromptu conversations in the hallway, it is nice to check in with each other for a little bit.

      6. Yorick*

        They don’t have to be much! They don’t need to be formal or icebreakery either. At the beginning of our team meetings, we’ll just mention what we did over the weekend or for Halloween or whatever, and we’ll let the conversation run its course before getting to the point of the meeting.

    3. Stitching Away*

      Indeed, part of a manager’s job is to make the people you are managing feel like they want to stay in their jobs. To that end, what you need to do to accomplish that is not extraneous to work, but part of your work. It’s not a separate thing.

      This is not to say it has to be some separate social event or whatever. But reframe it as part of your job, because as long as you are annoyed by the entire idea of it being a separate non-work task, you aren’t going to want to do it, and the employees will know.

      1. myswtghst*

        This framing is great, and I think very helpful for someone who doesn’t want to “socialize” at work. It isn’t about adding forced social time on top of a busy workday; it’s finding opportunities to connect during that workday in a way that builds camaraderie and trust.

    4. MissGirl*

      Bless my old manager’s heart, she had much the same view as OP. I never saw this present more then when we had all gathered in the lobby to go to a team lunch. She came out of her office, swiftly walked by us, and muttered, “the sooner we go, the sooner we get back.” Despite her curmudgeonly attitude, she was a great manager in a lot of ways and was one of the few who noticed when I hit a rough patch and needed a kind word.

      However, it took a few years of working under her before I wasn’t a little scared of her and worried about my own socializing at work. I would take new employees aside and explain her personality when I saw them struggling to communicate with her. Even at twenty-five, I was a bit curmudgeonly as well so I related better to her than others did.

      Please, schedule time to speak with your employees, if only a few minutes. Get to know them and theirs. We’re working with each other hours a day and many of us are isolated in our WFM world. The only one-on-one meeting I have where I can do a little social talking is with my manager (yay, being a team of one). As much as I’m an introvert who loves home office, I miss walking around the office and having that off-the-cuff discussion.

      1. kicking_k*

        Yes, this. Different managers have different styles, but a little active facilitating will go a long way to making you more approachable.

        I’ve recently gone from having a very “people person” manager to a perfectly nice, but more reserved straight-to-business one. It’s been harder than I’d expected to adjust, especially when I work pretty much independently of the rest of the team that I am nominally on (all the others are remote). Old Manager had twice-weekly social sessions, but with the departure of both her and the next-most social person, these have petered out. As I’m the only one on the team not remote, I have to contact someone actively if I want to hear a human voice (or even text chat).

        Unconsciously, I was beginning to feel I couldn’t mention anything to my manager that wasn’t strictly connected to the task at hand, even if it was work-relevant, until he and a colleague briefly had a chat about sports in front of me. I have no interest in sports really, but it did break the ice and indicate that it is allowable to mention that you have a life.

        So it doesn’t have to be a lot of small talk; just the occasional friendly comment or question, I think.

        1. Srsly*

          I feel this so hard. My former manager was warm, friendly, interested in people and caring. Not all our meetings were chatty, but I knew she cared about me and indeed, our very first meeting was a “let’s just chat” one.
          Fast forward to new job, new manager – very British, very “let’s just get on with work” guy who has *never* asked me a question about myself nor expressed interest in getting to know me. It took seven weeks before he asked “how was your weekend?” and even that has stopped after a couple of occurrences. Importantly, he has never fostered a horizontal relationship between me and my other teammate, either.

          I have rarely felt so demoralized and isolated in a new job. I can trust my manager will have my back on work or procedural issues, but I feel like a warm body delivering work tasks. I simply don’t understand taking so little interest in a new starter that you never bother to make them feel welcome, much less integrate them into the team. :( I’m two months in, and thinking of leaving.

          1. Mannequin*

            “Fast forward to new job, new manager – very British, very “let’s just get on with work” guy who has *never* asked me a question about myself nor expressed interest in getting to know me. It took seven weeks before he asked “how was your weekend?” and even that has stopped after a couple of occurrences.”

            This would be my *perfect* manager.

            Why would it bother me if my boss doesn’t care or ask about my life outside of work? This is a professional relationship, and as such, I do not require them to fulfill my personal emotional needs and honestly find it bizarre that people do. Isn’t that what my personal relationships, outside of work, are for? And why on earth would I want to waste my limited emotional/social bandwidth forcing fake friendships with work people who IRL I don’t have enough in common with to make even 30 seconds of small talk and have none left to spend in people I actually care about?

            1. XO Nirvana*

              Yes, it’s tough when the connections feel forced. My current manager has made it clear that we need, in her eyes, to also be friends “for this to work,” which is a professional boundary I’m not comfortable with anyone crossing.

              I’m fine making friends through work and have plenty of times, but not as requirement for achieving my next promotion, or under any sort of threat.

    5. Xena*

      This hits home to me too. I started a new job on a hybrid system where we rotate in and out of teams on a week-to-week basis, and interned at the same place fully remote. As the new person (and as a completely green intern) reaching out to start the socialization was a really, really uncomfortable prospect. I had no idea of the office norms, personalities, roles, etc, that I was dealing with. Those managers that did take the time to either have a short catch-up chat with me or include me in their team’s conversations are the ones I had the best working relationship with.

    6. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Exactly. Some people’s ‘idle chatter’ is other people’s ‘basic manners’.

      Just a few minutes at the beginning or end of a call is often enough to make people feel like they’re not just a cog in a machine.

      1. Venus*

        I think that ‘idle chatter’ can vary a lot in definition, so LW1 may have a good balance if they are spending a few minutes catching up on How was your weekend? while avoiding long discussions about the dog’s thyroid treatment or how mother is adapting to the retirement village.

      2. C0ra*

        I see it very much as basic manners. Doesn’t have to be personal, as the person we’re replying to said it can be about the latest software update or some industry news, but I need to know that you are a human being who can communicate with others and not a robot overlord wielding me as a tool.

        1. Mannequin*

          I was raised by people who came from an era where asking unsolicited personal questions of people you didn’t know well was considered nosy and rude, not Basic Manners. That was saying Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, Your Welcome, May I etc + treating everyone around you with the honesty, courtesy, consideration, and respect they deserve simply for existing as a human being (and if you didn’t, you certainly didn’t have the right to expect to be treated with honesty, courtesy, consideration and respect by others.)

          My parents and family were warm, kind, loving, nurturing, giving and very, VERY funny, totally unlike the stereotypes people here keep giving of people who are cold unemotional robots.

    7. Forgot My Name Again*

      Seconded. I work alone in my department, and I’ve recently changed line managers, and it’s had a devastating effect on my work. The previous one saw me through the pandemic, weekly meetings with a team (all the lone workers lumped together), where we spent only a few minutes checking in, talking about gardening, families, walks or whatever, and the rest on work. And that was great. As Alison said, I felt valued not just for my work but as a person (doubly so when I was furloughed but still invited to participate in the weekly check-ins). Fast forward to my new line manager who dissolved the weekly team meetings, has never seen me in person, constantly postpones or cancels our monthly 1-2-1s (still waiting for October’s!), has never made the effort to visit my workspace even now we’re both onsite – I’ve never been so close to just giving up and throwing in the towel.

      1. Maglev to Crazytown*

        I am also living this hell and somehow am maintaining the high performer label despite feeling that the bottom has dropped out of my career. I would rather do any job than this.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, there is no need for the boss to join in the weekly personal chats (they might actually prefer not having a boss in those) but I think at least some baseline level of occasionally starting meetings with “did anyone do anything fun this weekend?” or something can go a long way into making everyone feel like humans.

      Leaving a few minutes here and there for personal small talk is not going to extend your workday a noticeable amount! And honestly it may be helpful to think that putting in some amount of effort to make your employees feel seen is *part* of your workday as a manager.

    9. quill*

      Pandemic remote socialization in the office tends to fall into two extremes that we hear about on AAM: pedal to the metal turbowork with no down time, or mandatory fun eating up people’s out of work hours. OP 1 is not the first manager to struggle to find one of the many possible happy mediums, but what a lot of people seem to need out of office socialization is to rest for a few minutes, and feel less like a robot. Ultimately if you can’t take a 5 minute break during your workday without having to make up the time, you’re far too overloaded with work.

      And small talk doesn’t have to be personal either: you can despise your database, discuss old policies, mention missing the coffee shop across the street from your building.

    10. Web of Pies*

      OP1, I think you should gauge your team’s social needs and introversion/extroversion levels and make a plan accordingly. If they’re already having regular social hangouts, they’re showing that they don’t share your attitude about work relationships (they want closer ones), and are probably going to feel more connected to the job if you make a little effort to seem interested in them. They’ll probably also be more conscientious in their work if they feel like you care about them as people. As the manager, you have the added advantage of not only having social methods of demonstrating that you care about them as people, you can recognize and reward them, and also use your powers to accommodate them when they need some time off or other work-related support. You can convey “I’m here for you” via manager support more than “let’s be besties.”

      Personally OP, I share your feelings on the topic and think fully-remote work can be very beneficial to the work/life balance of people like us, but you’re the boss so you have to accommodate other types of people at least a little.

    11. Smithy*

      As someone who also started a job during the pandemic, I just want to say that I agree with all of this.

      While certainly there are people on both extremes who either want zero non-work social interaction or who thrived on Zoom Happy Hours, the reality for so many more is something in them middle was far more useful. And for new hires, I’d say that it’s not even about feeling a bit more of a human connection with co-workers, but also just literally learning about them and that may improve our working relationship. Things like who has kids (and therefore has more remote work/scheduling dynamics) or is chattier (therefore likely needs a 45 min meeting vs 30 to get through everything) can be social, but also improve how we work with people.

      I recently had a meeting with someone where as a tip I suggested scheduling a meeting instead of following up via email as a more effective way to get answers. But then also suggested that being overly polite also helped. Basically this is scheduling a meeting because its someone who won’t answer emails, so some “super niceness” helps because it doesn’t help to get the answers needed to call out that dynamic. All practical work advice, but it came out of an informal meeting winddown that mixed some personal conversation with stray workplace questions. For newer staff, missing out on those moments is what hurts and makes onboarding take longer.

    12. A Feast of Fools*

      I’m one step below manager level in my team. There are six people below me and three peers. Everyone is new except for two people below me, and me. Most of us are still remote.

      At the start of team meetings (video), I purposefully try to say something neutral-ish or goofy like, “Do I sound funny? I just wolfed down a big spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s and my tongue feels frozen.” And then ask one of the managers or the VP if they like ice cream / have a favorite flavor, or what to do when you get an ice cream headache.

      Basically, I’m trying to demonstrate that (1) It’s OK to talk to the managers like they’re real people, and (2) It’s OK to say something “stupid” in front of the group.

      This usually opens up the conversation for all but the most timid of our team. And it only takes up maaaaybe 2 minutes of the meeting time.

      When I first started two years ago, I was pretty much the only person speaking up about non-work things. Now, if I dial into a meeting right as it starts, I usually catch one of the managers mid-sentence about something neutral-ish / conversational [their dog did something funny, how much rain the got in the storms overnight, etc.] For us, that seems to work better than forced online social get-togethers or scripted games / questions, which we tried at the beginning of the pandemic.

  3. Pam Adams*

    I’m hoping the manager in #1 is regularly checking in with their employees- scheduled one on ones? I would probably prefer not to have my manager regularly showing up in our team social chats.

    1. New Bee*

      #1: Most of our meetings start with an icebreaker or opening whiparound, and spending just 5 min can help you get to know your team as people without a significant time commitment. (When it’s a large group we either share out via chat in virtual meetings or have folks talk with a partner.) Besides asking about the weekend, some common ones we use include:
      -Rose, thorn, bud (something good, something in progress, something challenging)
      -What would you do if…? (you won the lottery, you could go anywhere for free, etc.)
      -This or That (summer/winter; 80 music/90s music, etc.)
      -Temperature check (How are you feeling? Do you want to shift or stay?)

      If you meet with the same group regularly, you can rotate coming up with the prompts. And there are a bunch of “silly question” resources online, but you have to know your audience. (Some recent examples from meetings I’ve been in: If you were a professional athlete, what would your walkout song be? What fashion trend would you bring back?)

      1. infopubs*

        Starting most meetings with this kind of icebreaker? I would hate this with the burning fire of a thousand suns. Seriously, this is “quit this job” territory.

        1. pancakes*

          That’s pretty extremist, and not very relevant because most people aren’t nearly that extremist.

        2. Artemesia*

          I like OP1 dislike synthetic ‘team building’ whether in the classroom or on the job. BUT I also recognize the personal connection is important to people. My solution when teaching, especially graduate professional students was to design ice breakers and team building exercises around the work. People got acquainted with each other in the process of exercises that also framed the concepts and goals we would be working with. But that was at the start, not every class. Ice breakers like those here would be at best annoying done regularly for many people. And touching base can occur without something precious and gimmicky.

          1. Rachel in NYC*

            My boss does a game every couple of weeks. (with no requirement that people play. we have about a 50% participation rate.) We have a weekly department meeting where everyone can bring up any work things that are going on or fun (or not so fun) personal things they want to share with the group.

            (We followed along for months as a coworker got an above ground pool put in. It was a saga for her but lots of fun for us.)

            The games be can anything from bingo (which you’d think would be silly but my group is dead serious about it) to hidden talent (one of my coworkers can sing the ABCs) to playing codenames online. Whoever wins gets a prize of the pizza of your choice delivered to your home.

            I’d say it works. Some people always play. Some people only play certain games. Some people never play. But there’s no pressure. And if you win- there is an actual prize.

        3. WhatAMaroon*

          We do Something similar but only start our Friday meetings this way. We’ve had a decent turnover on our project team this year and it’s been a great way for people to start to know/get comfortable with each other. Even the person who’s the least social person on our team can tolerate at least one time a week and it’s made his sort of “to the point” and kind of stand offishness personality less scary for the rest of the team and that’s helped them get more comfortable with asking him for help and interacting overall. He might not love it but I think he even recognizes how it’s smoothed the path for him. It’s the kind of stuff that if we were going in person you might gradually get to know about someone as you walk to and from meetings or meet for lunch and I think for more people than not that connection on a team does matter

        4. DataSci*

          HARD SAME. This is infantile. Natural, organic catching up at the beginning of a team meeting? Great. Putting people on the spot week after week with stupid time-wasting icebreakers where you’ll be judged for not coming up with a “walk-off-song” in the moment? I’d be finding excuses to be five minutes late to every meeting.

          1. Sasha*

            If everyone is remote, it is entirely possible the team basically ^are^ “a group of people you don’t know”.

            And during lockdown you couldn’t bond over sports, or what your weekend plans were, because sport was cancelled, and your colleagues were doing the exact same as you every weekend – sitting at home.

            I’d have no issue with “catch up with Ben, and if you run out of stuff to talk about, here’s a silly exercise so you aren’t sitting looking at each other awkwardly”.

        5. Emilia Bedelia*

          I think the mileage with this one varies a lot based on how many meetings you actually have.

          For people who have 1 or 2 biweekly meetings, this might be fine. For me, 6 meetings a day with an icebreaker would drive me up the wall, but in certain contexts I think an icebreaker would work. I like the “rose/bud/thorn” phrasing for a team meeting context – as someone who has lots of thorns at work, it would be nice to think about roses for a change.
          Most importantly, if the people at this company like having icebreakers, then fine for them! It’s hardly the most egregious work annoyance – I’d probably rather have a stupid icebreaker than a fish microwaver or loud personal chatter next to me.

          1. OhNo*

            This is where I fall on it, too. It also depends a little on the size of the group and how long it takes. Taking five minutes out of a meeting every other week with a small-to-medium size group? No big deal. Taking ten minutes or more out when we meet twice a week? No thanks. My current work group meets every other week and though we don’t have a formal icebreaker for each meeting, we do usually spend a few minutes chatting up top to catch up with each other, and that works perfectly for our team.

            I will say that I’m biased here, though. As someone who is pretty socially awkward, I like small talk as a way to ease into a conversation, or get a feel for someone’s mood before I jump into the main topic.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        We had those when Current Job was a brand new startup with 15 employees. I loved loved loved everything about the company – EXCEPT FOR THAT. OMG so cringey. Also likely to set you up for othering yourself in public if you haven’t grown up in the US like everyone else in the room (since a lot of these icebreaker questions turn out to be US-centric, e.g. what was your school mascot, what was your favorite sports team growing up, what was your favorite (insert cultural reference from before you came to the country) etc. Additionally I hate being the center of attention and being put on the spot. I used to dread icebreaker time. Even though I’d worked with everyone in the room at my previous job, had known them for years, and was close friends with a few. Please, no. “How was everybody’s weekend” would suffice.

        1. New But Not New*

          I’ve never participated in any ice breaker activity that wasn’t forced, artificial, and cringe-inducing. Not the way to go, just let people introduce themselves however they want to.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m in a team where 3 of 8 are in different states and we have onboarded 4 new people (me, 1 other out of state person, boss of my boss, 1 new person at main office) and we had an initial 30 min introduction meeting for each new hire where we had that type of ice breaker, but after that it has been more organic, casual interaction. Generally boss of boss will do 1-2 minutes of “How’s it going?” “How’s $state?” “How are the pets/kids/plants?” at a team meeting (1/2 hr per week of updates) but it is very unscripted. During my 1:1 my manager checks in as well in a “How are things? You have too much/not enough on your plate?” kind of way. Overall, I feel like we are a pretty tight team

    2. Snow Globe*

      Agree with your second statement – the fact that the LW’s two employees are having regular get togethers on their own is a good sign that they are building their relationship, and LW’s presence there probably would be a hindrance. A few minutes of chit chat at one on one’s or other regular team meetings would be sufficient.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was going to say 1:1s too. Talk about work updates and issues, and the personal information that is pertinent will come out organically.

    4. toolate*

      I’m on a brand-new team in my organization – my boss and I were the founding members when we were hired in early 2020 (so also, we have been mostly remote over our time together). From the start, she and I have had weekly one-on-ones. The dynamic changed a little bit when we hired a third person on our team. We now have a weekly team meeting, and we all also each have one-on-ones with each other. (So, for instance, three meetings for me total.)

      This is pretty useful in some ways – my boss is sometimes too busy to meet with us, so I’ve been able to onboard the new person in some ways and show her some of the ropes, and also chat casually with her about her experience moving to a new city where our organization is located.

      I do wonder how this arrangement works if we add another person on our team, which is something upper management has talked about. At some point we can’t continue endlessly multiplying the one-on-ones, right? My boss for one has at least 6 standing one-on-ones with various people across the organization scheduled on her weekly calendar, I think. Part of this is the virtual environment – it’s hard to have the kind of casual updates that are critical from other corners of the organization if you can’t stick your head in their office or pull them aside, so those kinds of interactions have to get intentionally scheduled as regular one-on-ones. But I do wonder how we handle this if we add another person.

  4. Allegra*

    LW #1, have you thought about team-building things that don’t require you to be interacting in real time? For example, my office added a pet pictures channel to our Slack workspace when we all went remote for the pandemic, and it’s helped me get to know not only department colleagues, but also a lot of people I barely crossed paths with at the office. We also added a “watercooler” channel for people to share an interesting news story or fun local thing in the way we might have chatted about things in the office kitchen. It’s been great to dip into those channels and have a nice moment of interaction when I need a little break, just like I would have gotten up to go make a cup of tea or something.

    And since some people do really prefer talking in person, I like how my boss does it: during our weekly team check-in meetings she’ll ask if anybody did anything fun over the weekend, or ask if we got a chance to enjoy the change in the weather, things like that. Small things that only take maybe three or four minutes of a meeting, but help us feel connected.

    1. Willis*

      I like your examples of non-real time interaction. My team has always worked from home but usually met in-person at least once a week and often traveled together pre-pandemic. We’ve not done any travel since March 2020 and during covid two (of four) people moved hours away. So now all of our interaction is virtual, and it’s a noticeable difference despite having been WFH previously. I take your manager’s approach of small talk at the beginning of our weekly meeting, but also think adding some lightheartedness on Slack can help keep communication and connectedness going even if there aren’t specific work reasons for it. In my experience, that also makes people feel better about reaching out about work questions…if you hardly ever talk to your boss it seems like a bigger deal to ask a question versus if you’re in more frequent, albeit low-stakes, conversation. It’s a balance though…I definitely don’t want people to feel like their time is being wasted with silly activities in the name of socialization.

    2. Beth*

      I really like the suggestions for non-real-time interactions! I think one of the issues with team-building and relationship-building in a remote environment is that it can feel forced–no one wants to schedule a time and send a zoom link to have a water-cooler chat. But if you’re willing to break out of what counts as ‘interaction’ in an in-person environment, there are lots of ways to humanize remote work environments. That’s all most people really want, is to feel like there’s room for our humanity at work as well as our productivity.

      1. BethDH*

        Yes. Also there are ways to keep it more closely tied to work if that works for your team. One manager I had often made time in group meetings to ask what part of a project each of us found most challenging or gave us the most sense of accomplishment or things like that. She also asked about this kind of thing in one-on-ones as part of assessment and career planning, but the group version gave us time to share things we were proud of with each other, which was humanizing but also had a group work function in keeping us aware of how our team members were growing in skills and interests.

    3. Harper the Other One*

      Not in a work context, but I’m a member of a Facebook group that basically does the same – we have a “daily chat thread” which is just for people to fire out updates about their lives, vent about frustrations, share fun pictures of pets/kids, etc. It’s amazingly effective at building a bond in the group even when basically none of us have ever met in person.

    4. Anonym*

      I really like the idea of voluntary topic of interest Slack channels! My company doesn’t have them, but a friend recently mentioned finding her company’s [Brand] Metalheads channel and getting great music recommendations. I’ve gotten to connect with colleagues via our art appreciation group, which adds a lovely dimension to working relationships and is completely voluntary. It’s nice to get to know the non-work side of people and to do so when you actually feel up for it.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yes, this is a great idea because you can do it in between two different tasks, or to cool off after a stressful phone call. It helps to get to know each other a little, gives you an “in” for conversations to break the ice at the start of meetings along the lines of “oh you’re the one who posts the photos of that adorable kitty, I’m kind of hoping she’ll interrupt this meeting at some point”.

  5. The silent i*

    LW #1: I started a new job 3 months ago with mostly fully remote coworkers. I think if you were my manager I’d want to know that you support me attending these type of meetings (especially if it’s on the clock, but if not, make that clear). And if it’s a new employee maybe show up virtually to the first one to introduce them, my manager had an appointment on my first similar meeting and it felt awkward to have to introduce myself.

  6. Eye roll*

    I hope LW#2 considers whether their employee even wants to move into management. It may be that more responsibility for projects, better choice of work, and a senior contributor position with an accompanying raise appeal more. And those things do not require her to move up as a “new manager.”

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this is a fair point to make. I’m not interested in being a manager, but I do value the meetings other departments invite us to occasionally. They’re brainstorming meetings about what each of us can do to make the process smoother. I wasn’t invited to these when I was just hired, but I’ve been working here for 14 years…

      I would recommend that the LW checks with the employee about what kind of advancement she’s looking for, certainly before disclosing anything about her ADA accommodations to the management team (can that even be disclosed without her consent?). I have a feeling that people who don’t believe you can be an effective manager if you’re 100% remote also don’t believe that you can be an effective manager if you have a mental illness that requires ADA accommodations. This is certainly not true at all. And even if discrimination on medical grounds is illegal, we all know that it happens. The LW may well decide that she’d rather stay in her current position where she’s valued for her contributions rather than disclose to the management team why she’s remote. She should be allowed to make that decision, because once the disclosure’s made, you can’t walk it back.

      1. meagain*

        Should the LW check in with her employee about what type of role she would desire? For example, does a promotion at this company/in this department mean that a mid-level role manages other people? Is that something the employee even wants to do? Or is it just the next step up/title? The LW’s employee should certainly be the one to decide for herself what she is able to take on. What does a promotion look like? Is it into a new position with new responsibilities? Is it just an expanded role? Does it involve managing others? Is it more money/raise for the same role?

        Maybe have some general conversations with the employee about her goals to be sure they are aligned with what the LW envisions a promotion and/or updated job description that would look like. From the letter, the LW is worried that the employee not moving up in the company will affect her happiness.

        What are the LW’s goals? Do they want an expanded role/increased workload? I would certainly not assume that they don’t, but if they have disclosed an extremely serious, chronic mental illness, is it reasonable to get a sense if they like the current role they are in (but with a raise) and are performing well, or are they looking to advance in the company and take on a larger role? What would that role look like and is that something they would want (with ADA accommodations)?

        At one point in time, I had enjoyed a job because it was very transactional, I could knock off my tasks, and be done with it, and not take any work home with me. I liked what I was doing, my stress level was low, and it gave me time for self-care. A promotion meant increased workload, a never ending inbox, less structure, and many more meetings, all things I did not have the bandwidth for at the time. More money and some other responsibilities would have been great, but the “next step” role a promotion meant was something that required a different skill set and much more of being “on” than my current role at the time was.

        1. MK*

          That’s not completely accurate. Accommodations are supposed to be the result of a conversation about how the needs of both the employee and the business can be best served.

          I don’t know many higher-ups who would accept the OP basically saying “I want to promote this person, but they must be remote as an accommodation for a disability that I am not going to disclose to you”, if the general rule is that managers must not be completely remote. And even if they did accept it, frankly you are just setting the person up to be the subject of speculation.

          1. doreen*

            I am not even entirely sure that from the letter that there ever was a conversation regarding the needs of the business. I mean, it sounds like the employee asked to stay remote, the OP said fine and then “looped in HR ” to get a formal approval. You wouldn’t “loop in HR” if they weren’t supposed to have any role in the process but it’s not at all clear that HR in this case did anything other than rubberstamp the OP’s decision, or that HR even knows what accommodations are needed or for what reason. To be honest, it doesn’t even sound from the letter that the letter writer obtained any medical documentation of either the disability or the accommodation needed – which not to say that the employee is lying either about the disability or the fact that remote work “had been a blessing and game changer” , but that applies to a lot of people who don’t have a disability

            1. Esmeralda*

              The discussion between employee, LW, and HR = taking into account the needs of the business, as well as the needs of the employee. That was the conversation. LW says “looping in” but bringing in HR is not informal — that’s notification and, I imagine, there was paperwork.

          2. Jill of All Trades*

            Suffice it to say that a past manager called me names and told me I was a burden on the business for wanting to take FMLA to manage my serious and chronic mental illness. She didn’t do that when she thought I only had depression and anxiety.

            Sometimes speculation is kinder and preferred over the reaction to the truth.

          3. Esmeralda*

            The conversation doesn’t have to be with everyone and his dog, however. Just the employee and the appropriate management (in this case, the LW / the employee’s boss) and HR. These other managers don’t need to be involved in determining the accommodation, nor do they need to know the employee’s diagnosis, etc.

          4. New But Not New*

            MK, you are wrong.

            The official determination that a person has a disability can be made by a third party just to protect private medical information.

            Once the “decision maker” (ADA term, typically the immediate supervisor or manager) receives this determination, they must begin the iterative accommodation discussion.

            If requested accommodations allow the employee to perform the essential functions of their job, and do not present an undue hardship to the organization, then the accommodation request must be granted.

            There is frequently misinformation about the ADA on this site.

            1. MK*

              I didn’t think that the determination had to come from the company, I was replying to the comment that the higher-ups don’t need to know what the disability is. In this case, clearly the OP doesn’t have the authority to grant remote work to a manager, they need the ok from a more senior person. Obviously not the whole company needs to know the employee’s private information, but the accommodations discussion must involve someone other than the OP from the company’s side, and this person must be know.

              1. Allegra*

                They don’t, is the thing. If they need documentation of their need for accommodations, one way it regularly happens is a doctor provides a note confirming that person needs XYZ as an accommodation for a medical condition or disability. They never have to disclose what that disability or condition is, just what accommodations they’re requesting and that they’re medically necessary. No one ever has to disclose the exact nature of their disability or medical condition to their employer, or school, or what have you.

                1. doreen*

                  The employer isn’t entitled to a diagnosis per se, but in the case of a non-obvious disability, they are entitled to ask for documentation regarding the disability and the associated limitations.

                  ( From the EEOC- posting link separately)

                  An employee says to an employer, “I’m having trouble reaching tools because of my shoulder injury.” The employer may ask the employee for documentation describing the impairment; the nature, severity, and duration of the impairment; the activity or activities that the impairment limits; and the extent to which the impairment limits the employee’s ability to perform the activity or activities (i.e., the employer is seeking information as to whether the employee has an ADA disability).

                  There are more examples, including one which says the employer can ask why the disability requires the requested accommodation.

            2. EEOC Counselor*

              New But Not New, this is incorrect as well. They don’t have to grant the specific accommodations requested if they offer other ones that also meet the need. For example, if seating is open concept, and the employee has anxiety attacks in that environment and so requests to work remotely, the employer can offer them a private office in a quiet location. This is why someone in a position to approve the accommodations needs to know specifically what the disability is so that they can consider whether or not other accommodations can meet the needs of both the employee and the employer.

              I’m not saying that I think this would be the right thing to do in this case, but as you said, there is a lot of misinformation about ADA accommodations out there.

    2. Allonge*

      That’s what I was thinking – from entry level there could be a step up still in a non-management role (depends on the org of course).

    3. Ange*

      I was about to post the same thing!

      Also, OP#2, from your description of your employee, it sounds like she might be heading for burnout: always works extra, never makes even minor mistakes. It would be worth checking in with her to make sure she’s not taking on too much. (I’m not saying that she is definitely heading for burnout, but that description sounds a lot like me just before I had a mini-breakdown, so it’s worth checking in that she’s not overstretched.) I understand why you want her to keep working at that level, but if by her relaxing slightly from “superstar” to merely “rockstar”, she can have a longer and happier career, that seems worth doing.

      1. KateM*

        About working extra, it seems that OP compensates those extra hours by free time on another days. (“She works so hard that I’ve actually gifted her extra PTO days to make up for all the extra hours she puts in.” I thought that was a standard thing to do, not a special gift from manager, but maybe not.) Of course OP doesn’t mention whether she does use that PTO.

        1. socks*

          I think comp time policies really vary by company. E.g. if she was at my workplace she’d get an official comp day if the company asked her to work most of a day on Saturday, but if she just happened to be working an extra hour or two a day the official comp policy wouldn’t kick in. (Unofficial comp and/or flex time is pretty common though)

    4. LGC*

      True – but unfortunately, a lot of jobs only allow that with management positions. So that may be the employee’s only chance for advancement in the company.

      On the other hand…speaking of managers and speaking of speaking, LW2 didn’t specifically say that she wanted to promote her into management, just a “mid-level” role. So it could also be that upper management heard like 1/5 of the conversation and made assumptions (ask me how I know!).

      1. meagain*

        Toward the start of the letter, she just wrote mid-level role, but then later on down it says, “Several of the men on the team pushed back and said they don’t want new managers who are working permanently remote.”

        I guess it depends on how “manager” positions work at that company. Sometimes a position may just have a title of Manger of X and it’s really just a title and job level classification in the corporate hierarchy. Other places won’t promote to a “Manger” unless you are actively managing others. I think it depends on the workplace.

        1. JustMyImagination*

          Yup, I used to work at an org and had manager in my title. If someone asked me how many reports I had, I responded with “Oh, I manage processes not people”. It struck me as odd in the letter that the employee was hired in an entry level role and next step up would be management so I think you’re on to something that it may not be managing people.

        2. LGC*

          I guess what I could see is that LW2 wants to promote Good Employee to a more senior (but non-personnel management) title, she brought that up with upper management, and upper management only heard “promote” and assumed that LW2 wanted to make Good Employee a personnel manager.

          There isn’t that much information from the letter (so yes, I did just write fanfiction about LW2, deal with it), so I think the first step is for LW2 to clarify that for all parties involved if there are any misunderstandings.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Coming here to say this. OP says I want to reward her for her hard work. Some people might not consider a promotion a reward. Check in with your employee to make sure they really want to move up before going to bat for her.

      She might be fine where she is. Maybe you can offer her a pay raise. I realize that might not be doable if your company has strict pay bands. But there’s other things like instead of making those extra PTO days discretionary make them a permanent part of her compensation package. That way even if you are no longer her boss for whatever reason, she still gets that recognition for her hard work. There’s things that can be done other than promoting someone that might mean more.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Absolutely agree with checking in with employee before going to bat for a promotion that may not even be wanted. I have a lot of the same traits as your employee, and the things that make me a rockstar individual contributor would make me absolutely miserable as a manager. There are so many things you can do for your employee to make her job as an individual contributor more attractive/fulfilling other than a promotion! You can give her more control over the types of work she takes on, or give her more interesting/high profile projects. You can make sure she has time and company funds for professional development, or support her representing your company at industry events or writing articles. You could push for her to get a raise, or public recognition.

    6. Worldwalker*

      Yes. Managing is its own thing, not the natural progression from some other specialty. A person who is a good teapot designer might have neither the skills nor the desire to become a manager instead.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m definitely a little confused about what’s on the table. Most people I think don’t usually move right from entry level to management. There’s usually some stuff in between right? But I also am wondering what options exist in the company without direct reports if that is what the other people were concerned about (and if that’s what she would be interested in).

      I will say that well before the pandemic, a woman at my company was promoted to be my manager and I was a bit concerned about the fact that she was remote at first. She had worked at the company when I joined so I had met her and knew of her peripherally, but she quit when her family moved for her husband’s job. She ended up reaching back out and the let her work remotely because she had always been a stellar employee.

      The remote thing ended up not being an issue at all! We had thankfully recently gotten most of our processes to be mostly electronic anyway so I could send files instead of scanning in hard copies and she went way out of her way to make sure I and the other person she managed (who worked in an office, but not one in the same state as me so our whole team was pretty scattered!) felt a good team connection.

      I think now in a lot of places it’s easier than ever to do that since most companies were forced to make all of their processes work remotely. There is of course always the chance that your company is one of the ones where the remote work has been fine for getting by but not ideal. But otherwise they will hopefully get over their hesitation for remote managers in time–if that’s something she would want. Until then, hopefully there are other options for her career path.

      1. doreen*

        “Most people I think don’t usually move right from entry level to management.” That depends on exactly what is meant by “management” and what field you are talking about. At every job I’ve had since college, the most common career path has been from the entry point for that particular path to a supervisory position (the exceptions are when someone is hired into an entry-level support position and is later promoted into an entry-level professional position or when someone is promoted from an entry-level position to a supervisory title in a position that doesn’t actually supervise anyone).

    8. Jamjari*

      Yeah, either a couple of conversations that should have happened weren’t included in the letter or didn’t happen.
      1) What advancement or path the employee is interested in. Now, employee might say ‘no, I’m happy where I am’ even if they are interested so it’s good to continue having those conversations, and if something comes along for which they’d be suited, asking about that specifically.
      2) Whether the employee wanted the manager to seek ADA accommodation.

    9. LW #2*

      Hi all – I’m letter writer #2. Just wanted to clarify that my employee did indeed disclose her disability with required medical documentation to HR and has expressed the desire to move into management multiple times informally, and formally at her annual reviews.

  7. Remote34*

    LW 1: My manager schedules optional biweekly chats for her team. They’re only half an hour long and we talk about whatever, whether work related or not. As someone who started remotely a few months ago, it’s been really helpful to even just have a little bit of time to get to know people. Even though I don’t go every time, it’s nice to know that she’s available if I want that interaction. So something lower-stakes like that, where people know you’re there to talk to even if they don’t go, might be helpful for you.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      yeah, we have weekly department meetings but they’re short: People give quick updates on what they’re doing, if we have any patrons coming in in person, any operational problems (“The alarm contact at the back door still isn’t connecting. The alarm company will be out to fix it on Tuesday.”); and occasionally a quick story about something fun/interesting/etc. we found in our work (research library). One person tends to over-talk but the department head will discreetly wind things down before it gets out of hand. Twenty minutes or so for four to six people.

    2. DataSci*

      This seems like a really good approach. The time’s available for people who want it, it’s scheduled by the manager so they know it’s OK and don’t feel like it’s slacking off, and it’s OPTIONAL so people don’t feel cornered into idiotic icebreakers (I’m still shocked by the earlier commenter who said they started all meetings with icebreakers – there are few things I hate more than icebreakers) or oversharing that they don’t feel comfortable with.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      My 1:1 with my boss are seriously the best meetings ever. We manage to intertwine very substantive work conversations with work appropriate personal stuff. I actually look forward to them

  8. qvaken*

    OP #1 – I started a job at the start of the pandemic in 2020 at which I effectively had two teams and two managers at two separate organisations. At one organisation, the manager proactively booked catch-ups for the team that we used for socialising as well as work discussions. These were totally optional, though the manager usually attended and so did my teammates and me.

    At the other organisation, I asked my manager for online meetings to interact with my teammates. He organised a few, got tired of doing it, then told me to organise them. My manager attended perhaps less than half the time and my teammates were casual about whether they attended or not. I ended up cancelling the meetings as my time was being wasted waiting on the call by myself. After that, I was moved to a different team, my relationships with my old manager and teammates withered away, and conditions meant that it was quite difficult to have much to do with my new team.

    I quit with plenty of good relationships with people from organisation # 1, while I’m not in contact with anyone from organisation # 2. I left with a very positive relationship with the manager from organisation # 1, but due to the failure to foster the relationship and also some pretty awful behaviors from the manager from organisation # 2, if I saw him in public I would want to avoid him.

    Anyway, I doubt you’re as bad as my 2nd manager was. But my view is that if you spend a bit of time in the week fostering good relationships between yourself and your direct reports and between the two of them through boring catch-ups, it may help them to have a more positive experience overall working with you.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. I prefer to connect to people on LinkedIn only after we have stopped working together. Plus, it is not a site I personally visit regularly, so I may not accept a request immediately. The circumstances of somebody’s departure might also play a role. (Do I want to connect with that person I didn’t really like or get on with?)

    1. Xena*

      Hah, yes. I think now that I’m hired I check on Linkedin and update it maybe once every 6 months, if that.

      1. CBB*

        Same. I occasionally log in if I receive a message, but I rarely accept (or notice) connection requests.

        Once a year or so I’ll go through my pending requests and accept ones from people I know.

    2. Colette*

      I have to say that if someone isn’t good at their job, I’ll think twice about connecting, and the circumstances matter. (Were they previously a good employee who got moved to a role that didn’t use their strengths? Were they constantly a bottleneck that made my job harder? Were they hired for a role that changed significantly? Was the manager known to have unreasonable expectations? Were they great to work with, or sharp and unpleasant? Did they only act pleasantly to those who could do something for them?)

      I wouldn’t be upset, but I might not connect.

    3. EPLawyer*

      YES. Just because someone sends a request doesn’t mean it has to be accepted. After I graduted law school, a guy I spoke maaaaaybe 3 words to in law school kept sending me requests. Like repeatedly. I was all “I didn’t talk to you in law school, why would I connect with you now?” The repeated requests were one of the reasons I didn’t like him in law school. He was one of those schmarmy people that give lawyers a bad name.

    4. Blue Eagle*

      Agreed. I don’t accept requests while we still work together and don’t accept requests from former co-workers or school-mates unless there is a good reason to do so. I don’t get those people with 500+ connections.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Same. I won’t connect on social media at all until one or both of us are no longer at the job. I don’t spend that much time on LinkedIn anyway, only when I’m job hunting. It’s the Internet Explorer of social media.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I won’t connect on Facebook until we’re no longer working together. LinkedIn is supposed to be for people you know professionally and aren’t necessarily personal friends with, such as current coworkers.

    6. PT*

      Linkedin went through a phase where it was automatically sending out connections to everyone’s email address book. And if they have the app, their mobile contacts list. And suggesting connections to everyone from their browser cachet. (I had suggestions from my two of work email addresses, that I accessed via the web app, even though my LinkedIn is solely connected to my personal email, for example.)

      I started ignoring LinkedIn around that time.

    7. Office Pantomime*

      Curious. Why do you prefer not to connect until after you stop working together? I’ve learned the opposite as a contractor. Some colleagues are good at sharing updates to their industry, promotions, company successes and values, which I find helps me understand their motivations more. Connecting after only seems to be either a weak keep in touch / networking obligation. Though I might be cynical. Hence my curiosity. Is there some negative to connecting earlier that I’m not seeing?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I connected to a few colleagues, at one point the boss was practically ordering us to all connect. When things started souring, I actually disconnected with the managers (it was not straightforward, a more complex process that on FB IIRC), I was worried that someone might notice that I’d been brushing up my profile, getting ready for my next move.
        And in fact, since the firm has some pretty dodgy practices including making contractors wait for six whole illegal months before getting paid, I really don’t want to be closely associated with the firm.

  10. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    LW5, for what it’s worth, when I log into LinkedIn, I may have up to 20 notifications. And 99% of those are ones I would just end up deleting, so unless I’m actively job searching, I’m not going through them. And when I am job searching, I’m looking at jobs rather than my notifications.

    All that to say, your former coworkers may not be ignoring you specifically, but their notifications in general.

  11. Storm in a teacup*

    #LW1 my manager started remotely a year ago and we have a small amount of social/idle chat at the start of our weekly 1-1 catch ups. It meant that a few months later when I had a personal issue arise I felt comfortable discussing what support I needed with my manager in a way I wouldn’t have if we had never spoken about anything other than work.
    I socialise remotely with my peers occasionally, my manager rarely joins and that’s fine. I don’t need to socialise with my manager but I do need for us to get to know each other as human beings.
    I think getting to know your employees on an individual level and making sure they are comfortable with engaging with you when needed is your goal. Often social lubrication can help with making employees feel you are approachable.

  12. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP3: after all the time, the suffering, the death counts, the people left maimed there are still people who believe this virus is ‘no big deal’ there’s nothing you can say to convince them. I’ve tried, now I just go for cutting antivaxx and covid deniers out of my life.

    Like leaving a firm run by them would accomplish.

    I’m truly sorry. Sincerely. This pandemic has shown in crystal clarity which people and companies truly don’t care about others.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, LW#3 sounds really clear-headed about what their company should be doing and kudus to them for proactively putting a testing plan together even when leadership is ignoring the need for it. They definitely deserve to be working somewhere that their commitment to good HR and workplace safety will be taken seriously. Also, covid considerations aside, it’s a pretty bad sign that leadership wants to ignore federal regulations…even if OP were somehow able to “win” this one, is complying with other regulations and best practices going to always be a battle if it doesn’t align with the CEO’s views? That’s not a place that I’d want to be the HR director anyway.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Yup, you nailed it. I feel for LW3 here- it’s got to be hard to realize your efforts to follow the law are being viewed as a negative by your employer.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed. It sounds like OP3 may be one of the few people that understands what may be coming with regards to regulations, and if they are the only willing party things aren’t going to go well.

        I sympathize with people being stuck between the rock of deniers and paying their bills. I think job hunting is in order, just as Alison recommended.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        OP’s company will have a distinct disadvantage in recruiting if they market themselves as anti-vaxx crusaders. For one thing, it will narrow their candidate pool significantly. For another, they’re flouting the law and that can mean fines and/or lawsuits. And it may cost them clients, which could seriously affect the business in the long run.

    2. Your local password resetter*

      Agreed. These people will not change their minds, and OP can’t really force them to. They looked at what OP proposed, rejected it, and then sprinted in the opposite direction. While proudly announcing to the world that they were doing so.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yup, when people are this strongly committed to continuing to suck, there’s nothing you can do except head for the exit. If it’s possible, OP#3, you should notify the county health department or OSHA (or local equivalents) on your way out.

        And what exactly are they planning to put in their job ads, anyway? “Proudly violating federal regulations since 2021”??

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          If an employer put that banner in a help wanted ad in my area, they’d have to turn applicants away.

        2. Shiba Dad*

          I live in a region with a low vaccination rate. A company standing up for “freedom” would get a lot of support in my area.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Oh, I’m sure it absolutely would be attractive to some potential employees. (Not to mention, some companies out there probably want to make themselves into martyrs on this issue for social media likes and donations.) But it’s still profoundly stupid to actually advertise that you’re going to violate federal regulations, because the people who are responsible for enforcing those regulations can read your ad too.

        3. Cera*

          There is a lot of concern over the constitutionality and violation of freedoms that this law imposes. Like it or not, there is something to be said about an employer standing up for their beliefs and handling the consequences that come with that.

          Any yeah, in my area there would be a line at the door.

          1. pancakes*

            There is a lot of concern about that among the right wing fringe, but that’s not everyone’s milieu. No, no one has to applaud an employer “standing up for their beliefs” without any regard for what those beliefs actually are. The idea that the believes themselves are beside the point is vacuous.

          2. Sarah*

            No, I don’t have to applaud a willing disregard for health and safety in the name of “freedoms” (the freedom to infect others with a deadly disease because you’re selfish) and “constitutionality” (the supreme court has been very clear over the years that mandanting vaccines is constitutional). Stand up for one’s beliefs is good if the beliefs are laudable and bad if the beliefs are harmful.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Agreed. I wouldn’t applaud someone spouting out racist stuff because they were standing up for their free speech and believed what they said after all. Maybe I’m inflexible but this is just the same to me.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              “ the supreme court has been very clear over the years that mandanting vaccines is constitutional”
              I was going to post something very similar, but you beat me to it. I remember studying the polio vaccine push, as well as the MMR vaccine push when in college. Those mandates were held up time and time again. I honestly think vaccine mandates are Public Safety Rules, no different than seatbelt laws, drunk driving laws, airplane safety requirements, or not screaming “fire” in a crowded venue. Yes, all of those infringe on us in some way – but a minimal reduction in our freedoms allows more of society to contribute- and that makes all of us stronger.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            There’s a lot to be said about these kind of employers, sure. All of it profane.

            I’d never do business with them again.

          4. New But Not New*

            This is the only public health crisis that has been politicized to an extreme degree, where science no longer matters. Germs don’t care about politics. Vaccination mandates existed before this pandemic (anyone try enrolling a child in public school without a vaccination record?). Health care workers have been mandated to take flu vaccines for years.

            So, no, just no. There is nothing valid to be said here, I find this employer despicable any without any sense of community. The lack of sense of community will be a major contributing factor to the downfall of this nation. “Muh freedom” people will get us all killed. It’s just not intelligent.

            I’ll stop here, my tolerance for anti-vax sentiment is very low. OP should definitely seek employment elsewhere with an organization aligning with her value system.

            Oh, just one more thing. Many of these anti-vax folks are staunch “law and order” supporters until it’s a law they don’t like. Then, disobedience and rebellion are OK! The law means nothing. Hypocrites.

            1. Alice*

              Frank Wilhoit on conservatism: “There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Nah, we are pretty much just rehashing the 1918 flu, smallpox in the early 1900s, etc.. Humans are sadly predictable. Links to follow documenting our dumb

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                1918-1919 influenza

                anti-smallpox vax

  13. Andy*

    I love remote work.

    But remote manager is good idea only if whole teams is mostly remote. Remote manager of an in-sight team is not something I think could work. It is something our company tried multiple times and the manager ended up massively was out of touch each time.

    Unless manager is more of administrative, technical role or the kind of manager that dont lead, then of course it can work.

    1. Chapstick please*

      Agree, unless everyone is remote a manager remote doesn’t work. In my experience having a remote manager when I am in the office has me changing positions quickly, it puts a lot of work on the people in the office and you realize what you are missing out on when you talk to other employees who have managers in house.

    2. Alienor*

      I don’t know, I’ve been in that situation twice and both times it worked fine. The first time was a team of 3 in the same office with our manager remote on the other side of the country, and the second was a team of 7 or 8 where half of us were in one office, half were in another office, and the manager was remote at a third location. The first manager would fly in to visit the team once a quarter, and I never met the second manager in person at all in the two years I worked with them. However, both managers were very warm, personable people (way more than me, tbh) who did put a lot of effort into team building and communication—I’ve had other managers who sat two rows away and were less available when I needed something.

    3. Colette*

      It depends on the culture. I’ve worked on teams with members in 3 countries; obviously the manager was remote for most people.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I was in that situation once and it didn’t go well so I agree.

      Now, however, my entire team is remote and it works pretty well. Our org requires managers to be on site a couple days a week.

    5. Snow Globe*

      I’ve worked on a team where everyone worked in different locations, so whether in the office or working from home, no one was in the same location as the manager. It worked fine. I do think it would be harder if there were a lot of less experienced people who needed guidance, but most of the people in this department had 20+ years of experience and could work independently.

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’ve been the underling in that setup before. It didn’t work, but I don’t think it can’t work.

      I think it requires a few things you can almost get away with skimping on when everyone’s on site:
      1. objective measurements of productivity/quality.
      2. a reasonable amount of trust and cooperation.
      3. a clear understanding of or insulation from the rest of the business onsite.

      I think everyone being on-site is easier for a bad manager.

    7. doreen*

      If the organization is large enough to have multiple locations, there are certainly going to be some managers who work from a different location from at least some of their staff. In my current assignment, I work at the same location as those I manage – but my manager is responsible for four locations. In my previous assignment, I was responsible for eight different locations (most of which had an on-site supervisor) – and my manager was directly or indirectly managing people at about 60 locations.

    8. LGC*

      Agreed – although again, we don’t know what kind of role LW2 is thinking of promoting this employee into!

      You’re right that it’s difficult. During the first US wave of COVID, I ended up working remote for a couple of months. (For reference: I think my home county had the highest rate of COVID in the country (and since I’m in the US, probably the world) at the time, and I was terrified to 1) go out around people at all and 2) probably bring COVID to my employees because I use public transit.) I’m normally on-site, but a more local supervisor had to come in to provide on-site support. I was more administrative and technical then – which was great for me, because I’m better at that to begin with.

      And even then, they tried to get me back to full-time in-office as quickly as possible.

      (If you’re wondering why we had to come in: we were deemed ~*~essential~*~. I don’t know why what we do was essential, but that was not my decision to make or push back on, especially since the rest of the business closed. But that’s another story.)

  14. Kiwiapple*

    OP1: Ok, so you don’t want to join the chat. That’s fine(ish). But do you talk to your employees at all, check in with them, have a 5 minute daily meeting with them, know anything about them?
    At review time, would you be able to speak about your employees softer skills or just their work? If your place of work shuts down for a long weekend or the festive break, will you wish them happy holidays or just disappear offline?
    If you’re asked for a reference in the future, what would that be like? What about the wider organisation, how does your team fit in with them?
    If someone on your team was sick, had a sick relative and needed time off or facing a work issue, would they feel comfortable coming to you? What about problem solving in your work – if I don’t know you at all and you make no effort to know me at all, how would I feel comfortable to go to you if I was having an issue with a stakeholder or trying to troubleshoot something?
    You don’t say how long this scheduled chat is for each week but I would join at least for 5 minutes to try and promote relationship building. Like many so far, I would dislike your manner if you were my manager, the attitude that comes across in your letter is quite unfriendly – I wouldn’t feel part of a team or business.
    You don’t need to know every little thing but one or two general things goes a long way – for both you and them, despite what you think.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I would actually say don’t join the employees’ scheduled chat unless invited. Sometimes people want to hang out without the boss.

      But +1 to everything else you’re saying, even sending “have a good weekend” in the teams chat is better than nothing!

      1. EPLawyer*

        I wouldn’t join the employee chat either. This is something they chose to set up themselves. Let them have it (although make sure it doesn’t turn toxic). Everyone needs a little boss free space. Even the self-employed.

        1. LGC*


          Heck, my employees have kind of turned my office into an impromptu break room (because of ~*~upper management~*~. I know a lot of stuff because they just talk about it in front of me. But I rarely join in because they need a break from me.

          (Speaking of which, the stuff people think I don’t hear is wild. Like, I found out about an employee’s IBS diagnosis because they told their friend. Right in front of my desk. Like three feet away.)

        2. JustaTech*

          You’re very right about the “boss-free space”. My immediate boss has never eaten lunch with the group. There are some boring reasons for this (he eats earlier than most people) but it’s mostly about him having some report-free time and us having some boss-free time.
          Other bosses in our group used to eat with everyone (in the lunchroom, not when the group went out to lunch as a thing) and sometimes it was fine, but if there had just been a really intense document review it could be super tense for everyone.

          But that’s not to say I don’t know my boss as a person! We chit-chat in our weekly one-on-ones about how the weekend went, cats, family, house stuff, all the usual. So knowing your reports as people doesn’t have to be a huge investment of time or talking. It’s can just be regularly asking or listening about the bits and bobs of everyday life.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Thank you for framing the business case. Two minutes of ‘idle chit chat’ at the top of a meeting is a worthy investment for all the reasons you say.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        To add: My CEO also isn’t a chit-chatter, so she tends to say a “how is everyone doing” and then listen quietly as the chat naturally flows. This seems to be her workaround.

    3. WellRed*

      I like how this comment frames what OP describes as “idle” to showcase that it’s good business.

  15. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW3. If a mandate was implemented stating that all employees must be certified before they can operate certain machinery, (show us your bulldozer license and a clean drug test before you start tearing down that building) your company presumably would enforce it without any pushback about privacy and staffs’ rights. A mandate is a mandate whether or not your company agrees with it. Yes, Sasha has operated a bulldozer for 10 years without a problem but now the requirement has changed. Your company can’t pick and choose which mandates to enforce. Or perhaps they can, I’m not familiar with US federal mandates.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Well, that’s the really scary thing – maybe this CEO *would* ignore any mandates he thinks are dumb!

      (In this case, the mandate is to either vaccinate or do weekly testing, so choosing testing doesn’t make the company non-compliant. But if they don’t put a testing plan in place, they will be.)

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        Also, don’t unvaccinated employees have to wear a mask even if testing negative? I, for one, am waiting with glee for my red-necky co-workers to have to don masks.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          In theory, yes, but since LW 3 indicates that their company hasn’t enforced mask mandates at all, it seems unlikely they would start now.

        2. EPLawyer*

          They won’t. If there are not enough inspectors to check food safety reliably NO ONE is going to be checking that the vaccine mandate/testing and masks is being followed. This one is going on the honor system. And well …

          Good grief, look what happened in the NFL last week. They have a vaccine or mask mandate. Players who are KNOWN to not be vaccinated have been going maskless at press conferences all season.

        3. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I’m not holding my breath, though. Spoiler: they won’t even though they’re required to, almost guaranteed.

        4. Amy the Rev*

          Tangent, but it’s sad to me how the term “redneck”, which originally was a slur used by wealthy white folks against the multiracial mine workers of Appalachia who were in solidarity with one another during the mine wars (and wore red bandanas as a way of identifying one another), is now used with essentially the opposite meaning, but still with tinges of classism (I’ve never heard of a wealthy bigot being referred to as a ‘redneck’).

          That being said, watching anti-mask folks being forced to wear masks gives me some glee, too!

          1. Midwest Farmer's Daughter*

            I’ve never heard the “red bandana” etymology. I thought the term came from people who did outdoor manual labor (like farmers) whose necks were sunburned/tanned: “red necks.” Still classist in origins (although some farmers can be quite wealthy!).

          2. Simply the best*

            The term was used to describe poor farmers with a sunburn well before and more widely spread than as a term to refer to mining unions.

    2. JonBob*

      Well, it’s technically not a mandate yet, as it had an initial deadline of Jan 4, but it’s been halted by the courts. As long as the owners think it will be overturned, I see no headway with them.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Initial deadline is actually Dec 5. That’s when policies and processes have to be put in place and employees register their vaccination status. The Jan 4 deadline is for testing.

  16. German Girl*

    #3 don’t walk. Run!
    This company doesn’t deserve you.

    And while I’m very progressive and left wing even from a German perspective, doubly so from a US perspective, I’m very aware that many company owners on both sides of the pond lean more to the right and would loooove an HR manager who shared their broader political views but was level headed enough to take science and safety and federal guidelines seriously, so I’m certain you’re gonna find a good position and I wish you the best of luck with your job search.

    1. pancakes*

      We have really lowered the bar if merely believing that science is a valid way of understand deadly viruses passes for “level headed.”

      1. New But Not New*

        Yep, so sad. I’ve lowered my bar for expectations regarding decent human behavior as a result of the pandemic.

  17. Zoey*

    #1 You talk about ‘work’ and ‘team-building’ as if they are separate and team-building always / only means chatting about personal, non-work things.

    What’s missing for me, from the letter and the answer, is the concept of bonding as workmates and over work. You don’t mention whether you organise any check-ins – like 1:1s with your reports, or team catch-ups – that are about work. Without that context it’s hard to know what it’s like to be in your team overall.

    Bonding as a team is actually a task that teams need to do – so they can get things done together and for their wellbeing. Are you doing anything to facilitate that? Or do you see ‘work’ as ‘doing tasks’?

    1. Myrin*

      I very much agree and picked up on that apparent separation in OP’s letter as well.

      I think, though, that the answer at least touches on that: “[I]f you’re intentional about [cultivating strong relationships with staff members and creating opportunities for them to do that too], you can usually do that as you’re working on things together, rather than having to make it its own separate thing”, a sentiment I very much agree with.

      I think it’s awesome and very proactive of OP’s reports to have scheduled A Thing for the two of them. I also think that it’s absolutely fine for this Thing to only be for them and not for OP, their manager. I also also think that OP doesn’t have to go out of her way to create a separate Thing for all three of them if she doesn’t want to (it would be fine if she did want it but it’s not a must). But OP asks about her responsibility “for helping build the camaraderie of this virtual team” and… IDK, she’s not responsible for it, especially with two people who have been active in starting their own social tradition, but I do think she has to participate in the way I quoted above, right while they’re working and without making a huge, special fuss about it, and I don’t think that’s much different from in-person interaction.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        In fact, I tend to think if you do need Team Building™️ you probably aren’t working together all that well day-to-day.

        Not universally true, of course. It will vary by industry. Especially at bigger organizations, some segments don’t interact as much, and COVID has cut down on casual lunchtime bonding and all that, but for your central team it’s ideal if workflow is designed in a way that naturally builds collaborative relationships.

    2. Anony*

      I agree. I also think that Allison’s answer maybe isn’t as direct as I would have been. My answer is yes, it is your responsibility as their manager to make sure that there is camaraderie built in the team. If you are a manager, then knowing and supporting the people on your team IS actually a big part of your work – it’s not separate, as Zoey says.

  18. Beth*

    OP3: In addition to the legal and ethical issues around this, you really don’t want your own reputation tarnished by being the HR director who implemented such an out-of-step policy. Staying is not only going to make you feel bad about your work–it may well make you look bad to other prospective employers in your area, especially if your employer goes through with advertising their lack of compliance. It’s past time for you to GTFO and find a work environment that’s more aligned with reality.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I agree.

      I also think that if you are worried about references / leaving after a relatively short period in post, leaving because your employer expressly stated they intended to break the law / wanted you to promote unsafe working arrangements should be valid reasons for any normal employer.

    2. MissMeghan*

      I so agree with this. OP3 you are barreling toward a situation where you will be responsible for implementing policy that violates law, health, safety, and your ethical views. It really sucks, but it’s coming at you fast. How will your professional reputation look if you leave now before this bridge is crossed vs. a year from now?

      You’ve already experienced some questionable policies around not enforcing mask mandates, etc. Each of these things is chipping away at the ethics that should be the bedrock of your professional life. At this point if leadership still won’t make the right call, I don’t know that there’s anything you can do here to convince them otherwise, and you’ll only hurt yourself the longer you stay.

  19. LDN Layabout*

    #OP3 this is a prime example of ‘if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas’. Or in this case, covid.

    I’d be leaving ASAP especially if they’re going to publicise their non-compliance as a recruiting aid. That’s going to reflect directly on you as director of HR.

    1. Beth*

      Yes — OP #3 would not be helped by a resume along the lines of “HR Director of that company that proudly let its people die of a preventable disease.”

    2. RB Purchase*

      100%. OP3, especially if your industry is niche, you need to get out before your employer gets press for being an anti-vax employer (hopefully they haven’t already!). It might give other employers a lot of pause to interviewing you if they know your current employer is doing this.

      1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        I mean, at least it’d be very easy to explain why they’re leaving their current position. And if OP3 words it well it would actually show their integrity and commitment as an HR professional to doing what is best for an employer and it’s employees.
        “Why are you looking to leave CurrentCompany?”
        “CurrentCompany is asking me to violate federal law and act in ways that are contrary to the health & safety of employees and the general public.”

  20. tamarack & fireweed*

    LW #4 – it is of course possible that you were interviewed “just” because they needed to fill an interview roster as per process but everyone already agreed that the designated candidate (DC) would be the one who gets the promotion. But I think there are many other possiblities:

    – The DC may have been the front runner, but the hiring committee deliberately took a good look at you because they are interested in how you’re developing and wonder if/when you’re going to be ready for the next step. They might have been happy to be surprised by you.
    – The DC’s manager may have told them that they’re a shoe-in, but in reality it was quite an open recruitment. (We’ve seen this situation from the other side a few times – someone writing in saying they were given to understand that an upcoming promotion they were interviewing for was theirs, but then someone else got it.)
    – Wishful thinking on the part of the DC, which in the end bore out.
    – Or your source of information may be unreliable.

    In any event, this is not the kind of thing that is being helped by stewing over it.

    1. Snow Globe*

      Early in my career, one of my managers told me that if you interview for an internal promotion but don’t get it, it’s still a good thing, because now you are known as someone who is looking to move up, and you’ll be top of mind with other positions. I have found it to be true; whenever I have not been selected for a position, I’ve been given an opportunity for something else pretty soon afterwards. Something for the LW to keep in mind!

    2. RB Purchase*

      Spot on about your 2nd point as someone who interviewed for an internal promotion that my managers (who weren’t part of the interview process) all acted like I had in the bag while I interviewed only for the position to go to an external candidate who the managers hadn’t even met yet (my managers weren’t the hiring manager).

    3. J*

      Or they might have needed more than one position filled, or at least had room for one.

      From my (long-past) retail experience that’s something that can happen sometimes since overtime is so common in the industry. If a supervisor or manager quits, they’ll often just get the rest to pick up the slack for a while. Then when a second one leaves they realise they need someone so they decide to fill both roles at the same time.

  21. Bagpuss*

    OP#1 I don’t think you need to join the weekly meetings every week but maybe check in for 5-10 minutes once a month or once every three weeks – there is value in getting to know your reports a little and letting them see that you are approachable.

    Also, make sure that you are scheduling regular one-to-ones and while these should focus primarily on work stuff, a couple of minutes of ‘social’ chat at the start helps to build a good working relationship.

    I’m with you in that I am not really interested in chatting and socialising with the majority of my coworkers / employees, but it does have value – it tends to make you more approachable, you get to know a little about people’s situations (which can be useful from a management point of view, knowing if people have something going on in their personal life can affect how you approach their work . I have had situations where I literally had a reminder in my calendar to ask after someone or to make time for a non-work related conversation (kept these private so it wasn’t obvious to other that it was planned!) , because it does have value. I found it helped me as I didn’t feel under pressure to join in every time or to worry about whether I was being enough of a people person, and I found that after I started to do it did make a noticeable difference , that the people concerned were more responsive and helpful with work related things, more likely to volunteer or cooperate when I needed something that was maybe a bit outside their key role etc.

    I found that mentally framing it as being part of my role as a manager helped me as it meant I saw it less as forced/unwelcome socialising and more as part of my job, and also I was able to approach it more as I would any part of my job, and thinking in terms of being useful rather than whether I was personally interested/ finding it fun.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      which can be useful from a management point of view, knowing if people have something going on in their personal life can affect how you approach their work

      This, 100%. I also think it’s important to highlight that this can be completely surface level chat, nothing deep, dark or highly personal and it’ll still help. Either because it provides context from a management point of view or because it makes it easier for an employee to come to you later if they know you’re a least aware of the initial facts.

    2. LittleMarshmallow*

      Random bonding can just be a quick convo before a meeting or something too. Just this morning one of our colleagues was running late so we were waiting for him to start our morning meeting (so we don’t have to rehash details when he gets there). Somehow we got to talking about bribery (not in the illegal business way… more in a travel… this might be a tip, it might be a bribe sorta way) and when he got there we said, we were discussing bribery if you have any stories to contribute! He contributed a silly story. We all laughed and then we started our meeting. It was a lovely way to ease into the day.

  22. Claude*

    LW#4: Could be they wanted to help your career in the long run. You now have a pretty good idea what that interview is like and should be a lot less nervous when the next promotion opportunity comes up. Maybe you also got some insights from the direction of the questions what would make you a stronger candidate next time.

    1. Blackcat girl*

      Came here to say this. You were nervous and think the interview went poorly. This was a learning experience for you! Think about what you would do differently. For the next interview have a friend practice with you. The key to a good interview is preparation! Good luck next time.

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

    OP3, the moment they start to promote themselves as “vaccine-free”/antivax, people will want to know who are behind it, and the head of HR will be on the top five. Get a lawyer and leave before it blows up in your face.

      1. bamcheeks*

        There might be liability for the company if they are broadcasting that they’re not meeting a federal requirement for employment. If I were the Director of HR, I’d want to be absolutely clear that I wasn’t going to be personally on the hook for that liability (both in the strict legal sense, and in terms of the wider ramifications on my reputation), and to have legal advice on what documents, emails, memos etc I ought to be saving to be able to prove that I didn’t approve or like this policy and pushed back against it to the best of my ability.

    1. Anononon*

      I’m wondering who you think the “people” are. Unfortunately, in the US there are large areas where this is the popular stance. And while the regulators may care (to some degree), the general public, at least at the local and semi-local level, would likely support this company.

        1. Anononon*

          I’m not sure what you mean by “local”? But, a quick google search got me an AP article from September saying that support for the federal vaccine mandate is split on party lines. So I’m sure that there are areas that are Republican-majority where most people oppose the mandates. Depending on the location, I’m sure these areas are definitely at least entire towns/cities, if not entire states.

          Those enforcing the regulations are still people. I don’t think it’s pretty radical to suppose that areas opposed to vaccine enforcement will also be less stringent in its enforcement. (Yes, I know the regulations are federal, so they should supersede local politics. But…that isn’t always the reality.)

        2. Anononon*

          What do you mean by where is local? I’m not sure if you’re suggesting that there are not places (at least in the US) where the majority of people are emphatically opposed to vaccine mandates?

          1. pancakes*

            I was asking to call attention to the fact that it’s not self-evident where you’re writing from. The actual answer doesn’t matter. There are also places in the US where people are broadly supportive, like the city of 8+ million people I live in, but again, I’m not sure exactly what you think popularity has to do with enforceability.

            1. Anononon*

              I was simply responding to a comment making a blanket statement that people would kick up a fuss about failing to follow federal regulations, that that’s not true across the board.

              Obviously there are also locations where mandates are generally supported – I live in one!

              Look at the comment right below ours – enforceability depends on people to actually enforce it, and if individuals have issues with the mandate, I’m sure there are other things they can instead focus on, making mandate enforcement a low priority.

        3. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Our county sheriff department declared (at the start of the statewide mandates/health department orders) that it would NOT be enforcing the mask mandates, even if called on a private entity (store) to do so. Because freedoms, constitution, yada, yada, yada.

          It was not the only SD in my state to make this declaration, either.

      1. RB Purchase*

        Good point. I am in a very big city that lends itself to being a pretty liberal and covid-safe bubble. It’s worthwhile to remember that there are large areas of the US that have pushed back on every recommendation when it comes to the pandemic and OP3’s employer could be the status quo of their area.

      2. Observer*

        the general public, at least at the local and semi-local level, would likely support this company.

        A lot of employers, even in those parts of the world, may not see it that way. Even employers who might essentially agree and think they could get away with a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” way of not complying. Or think that they can just pretend or ignore it because OSHA is so understaffed.

    2. Platypus Queen*

      The federal mandate does not kick in until January, and it’s already been stayed by the courts. It is entirely possible that it will be found unconstitutional. If OP3 just doesn’t want to work there anymore for whatever reason, she can and should leave, but the company is not currently doing anything wrong or illegal and there is no reason at all for it, or for OP3, to “lawyer up.”

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        The “emergency rule” is, as you noted, being litigated. That’s the right way to challenge the legality of an administrative rule.

        There are some serious statutory and constitutional questions raised in that litigation, not the least of which is whether the rule complies with the Administrative Procedures Act. Everyone, including the Congress and the President, should follow the law.

        Frankly, I wish more people would be thankful for the opportunity to be vaccinated. I am.

        I lean slightly toward the idea that a constitutionally enacted vaccine mandate would be good public policy. But I also remind myself that not every good idea warrants a legal mandate, just as not every bad idea warrants a legal proscription. And there is plenty of room in the world for reasonable people to respectfully differ as to what constitutes a “good” or “bad” idea.

        And, let’s face it, the details matter, too. A law with good intentions can be written badly so that it creates unintended (or even intended) harms that are distinct from the law’s primary goal.

        Not that I am particularly optimistic about our ability, in the current political climate, to have rational discussions that seriously weigh the costs and benefits of such a law. There are too many people too invested in emotional arguments about slogans right now for me to be optimistic about that ideal of listening and compromising.

        So, for now, I’ll take my own precautions and wait to see how the litigation plays out.

      2. Tali*

        Regardless of the mandate, a company that has been lax with COVID precautions throughout this pandemic is definitely doing something wrong.

      3. Aitch Arr*

        Only the testing part is effective in early January.

        The rest of the ETS goes into effect in early December.

  24. Ferret*

    The linked letter from 2016 about how to overcome your worries about remote working feels like a massive blast from the past. I wonder how a lot of the commenters got on / whether those managers were able to adjust in 2020/21

  25. Mannheim Steamroller*


    From OP: I fear this could be disability discrimination, since she has that ADA request in HR’s records.

    From Alison: “It sounds like the people who pushed back about promoting your employee aren’t necessarily aware that she’s remote because of a disability accommodation….”

    The company itself DOES know about her accommodation (because it’s in HR’s records), so upper management IS presumed to know about it. If she actually wants the promotion and is qualified for it, and if the company chooses a less qualified candidate, then she would have a solid case for discrimination under ADA.

    1. Stevie*

      Would senior-level staff who aren’t in HR know if they haven’t been involved in exercising any appropriate accommodations? Genuine question – I would have assumed only HR and the employee’s manager would know about ADA accommodations unless others are directly involved.

      1. bamcheeks*

        There’s two different things here– what the company is assumed to know in terms of legal liability is what’s written down. But that’s not the same thing as any individual being aware of it. Senior management’s job is to make sure the right people tell them if there is legal liability, and HR and the employee’s job is to tell them that there might be legal liability if they deny a promotion to someone on the basis of something which is a legally-protected accommodation.

        (“might be” because whether or not the employee can work remotely or needs to be on the premises may be absolutely clear-cut, something that needs legal advice, or something that would need to be tested in court, depending on the type of company and the work the team are doing.)

      2. UKDancer*

        I think it depends what the accommodation is as to whether anyone knows. I have one colleague with sight problems who has a really large screen and a reading device to let them magnify up small text in papers. I am pretty sure they’ve got a reasonable adjustment for this but I don’t know the details or what the precise sight issue they have is. It’s just really obvious to anyone who looks at their desk.

        If it’s more of a subtle adjustment then I’d expect only the line manager and HR would be aware. I’ve had a member of staff in my team with a ileostomy bag and the adjustments needed were kept very quiet to protect privacy and I don’t think anyone else in the company was aware.

    2. NewYork*

      Reasonable accommodations may be different for different positions. Supervising people may have different job demand.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yes but that still doesn’t mean that the other managers know that this employees (whose not their direct report and is not a manager) is remote because of ADa.

        And I could be mistaken but isn’t Ada accomodations considered private. Like you wouldn’t announce to the entire team that someone has ADA accomodations so is working remote. You’d say it’s been decided that she will be working remotely going forward.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      HR know, but there’s no reason that individual managers who don’t manage her should know. In fact, ideally they wouldn’t if they don’t have a need to.

  26. FashionablyEvil*

    #1–I would gently ask whether you want to be managing people at all. Obviously there are a lot of ways to build teams, but getting to know people is a pretty fundamental part of the role. It can feel like “wasted time,” but it’s really about building the relationships that will support you later in tackling difficult problems and having challenging conversations and getting the best results from your team.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    #5, I wouldn’t worry about that at. all.

    People’s use of LinkedIn seems to vary wildly. My team and I use it daily and it’s a critical part of our business, but as you’ll see here there are lots of industries/roles where it’s barely used at all and people don’t even have accounts..

  28. NewYork*


    I could not tell if the employee worked in the office before the pandemic and did she move away during the pandemic. I would want to know why she did not need the accommodation at first, but now does. I get it, that she does not want to commute (I do not either), but would need to understand more about this. I can understand a company wanting a manager to be in the office.

    1. Stevie*

      I’m guessing that she didn’t anticipate the positive effects on her mental health from remote work. She might have been struggling mentally while in the office, but thought that was normal. Then, once her and many people’s normal became remote work, she felt a lot better. Or maybe she was recently diagnosed?

      1. Stevie*

        Commenting on my comment to add – I am assuming she wasn’t already working remote. I’m not sure if she would need to request to work remotely if she had already been remote pre-pandemic, but who knows?

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Hey that’s what happened to me! Turns out I was masking the whole time, and once I experienced life without constantly trying to be something I’m not, my stress levels went almost to zero.

        Then my company wanted everyone back in the office full time starting in July. I lasted one month before my doctor told me in no uncertain terms that my health had deteriorated rapidly and to the point where it was either go back to remote or quit because it was that serious. So he wrote a note for accommodation and now I’m back to remote and feeling a thousand times better.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      It doesn’t have anything to do with the commute. I think the LW just added that info in there.

      Plus You do realize that things change. She might not have needed the accommodation at first and later did. Or that she didn’t realize that the benefits of working from home had for her.

      Getting accomodations isn’t some easy thing, especially for mental illness. There’s a lot of stuff people have to do, plus they have to have a diagnosis,.with a treatment plan. Your not going to go through all of that for nothing.

      and with the stigma of mental illness people aren’t going to make it up just so they can WFH. Also there’s the stigma of people with ADA accommodations.

    3. Myrin*

      The relevant part is this:

      “About four months into the pandemic (we were all remote by this point), she scheduled a meeting with me and disclosed that she has an extremely serious, chronic mental illness (considered a disability by the ADA) and that working from home had been a blessing and game changer for her.”

      and I’d say that if you read between the lines, the answers to your questions would be something like this:

      She did work in the office before but not for long (she was hired at the end of 2019). She already lived where she lives now but you can often do strenuous things for a relatively short amount of time but wouldn’t be able to sustain that lifestyle in the long term. In the same vein, that’s why she didn’t need the accommodation at first – because it went okay and by the time they all went remote, she was probably still in that “I can tough it out” phase; alternatively (or additionally), she wasn’t even aware of how helpful working from home would be – she called it “a game changer”, after all, which to me has a certain level of surprise to it.

      All guesswork on my part, of course, but I think it can be reasonably inferred to have happened that way. Maybe OP will interact in the comments and can confirm or talk about this more!

    4. ecnaseener*

      I don’t think questioning the accommodation itself is helpful to the LW’s question. The accommodation has been reviewed and granted, that’s a done deal. Why do you need to understand anything more in order to advise the LW?

      1. NewYork*

        It is not clear to me an accommodation was granted. I am not clear if all non-supervisory employees are allowed to work at home full time, and if supervisors are required to be in the office at least part time. I think the question is is this a reasonable accommodation, which it may or may not be.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Four months into the pandemic, so well over a year ago, LW “looped in HR to get her a formal ADA accommodation approval to protect her moving forward.” I think they would’ve mentioned if that accommodation hadn’t been granted!

    5. Claire*

      You sound quite dismissive like you are suggesting the employee does not need, or did not deserve, the accommodation and I don’t think that’s anyone’s place to decide other than the employee and her company.

      Disabilities can and do change/get worse over time and it’s just nonsense to suggest that if an employee does not request and accommodation on the first hour of the first day of the job that they then don’t need it and are just ‘trying to avoid the commute’ or whatever other things you are accusing her of by way of dismissing a presumably legitimate request.

      For example, even if my company was not generally allowing remote work I would need that accommodation right now due to immunosuppressants I am on that make it dangerous to be in large crowds during a pandemic. 6 months ago, I was not on this medication. Does that mean I shouldn’t be granted any accommodation because I haven’t always needed it?

      1. New But Not New*

        Under the ADA, accommodation arrangements are not set in stone and the iterative discussion process can restart whenever either party feels that the existing agreement isn’t working.

        1. Observer*

          True but not relevant to the comment in question. Also, the change cannot just be that someone decided to change policy _ employers consistently lose those cases. Furthermore, the change cannot be that someone decided that there can be no exceptions to the general policy, unless there is a specific business reason.

    6. bamcheeks*

      I think if you’ve got any familiarity with mental illness, this is pretty clear. If you have a serious mental illness, or any other chronic illness, you are pretty much *always* managing it– it gets better, it gets worse, things like diet, sleep, daylight, livign situations etc impact it, and (the bit that lots of people don’t get) impact on your ability to manage it.

      So the fairly strong implication here is that working from home has made it much easier for OP’s employee to manage her illness, and that she didn’t know it until she tried it. The actual reason it’s helping could be several different things: she’s getting more sleep, she’s finding it easier to get out during the daylight, or easier to exercise, her illness has a agoraphobic or compulsive or eating component which is much easier to manage at home and that’s giving her a ton more enery– all sorts of things.

      Bear in mind she’s in her mid-twenties– young adulthood is when most people with severe mental illnesses are learning to manage it. Most mental illnesses don’t show up (or don’t get diagnosed) until your late teens or twenties, and even if you’re one of the few people who did get diagnosed early, managing it as a teenager who lives with your parents and managing it as an independent adult are very different things. So it’s really extremely, very normal for someone in their mid-twenties to still be figuring out what helps and what doesn’t help– if anything, she is way ahead of the curve!

    7. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      The process of working out what you need as a mental illness accommodation and then asking for it can take a long time.

      I definitely need more accommodations for mine after 2020. It has been particularly brutal to my mental state.

    8. Observer*

      I would want to know why she did not need the accommodation at first, but now does.

      In the US, that question would almost certainly be illegal. All that matters in terms of the ADA is that they DO need this accommodation NOW. It doesn’t matter whether it’s because her condition got worse, her conditions changed (hello pandemic!) or she just didn’t realize that this was the most effective way to manage her disability till she got to try it.

      And the employer has no standing to know which it is. Their standing is to look at whether it’s something they can reasonably allow without undue cost, and to discuss alternatives if the answer is no. But the answer CANNOT depend on the reason she’s just asking about it now.

    9. LW #2*

      Just wanted to clarify my employee did not move during the pandemic – she wasn’t remote before the pandemic started (none of us were) and I don’t think it even occurred to her to ask until we all went remote and she noticed a drastic improvement to her health. She was doing the commute for a few months before March 2020 and never complained about it. She also had two separate doctors give documentation to HR that remote work was the best way for her to maintain that improved health. She didn’t give me specific reasons why the remote work was better, but I have to imagine some of these other commenters were correct – better sleep, increased availability for regular doctors appointments, more exercise, and the ability to work quietly in her home office instead of call in sick on bad mental health days.

  29. meagain*

    OP #4, as much as it feels like a waste of time to interview for a promotion that may just be a perfunctory process, sometimes even having the opportunity to interview helps facilitate that one on one conversation about your skills, goals, etc. I’m sorry that you got nervous and stressed. I think interviewing can be good in general, even when it’s stressful or feels like a wasted effort. The more you interview, the better and more relaxed you get at it. And sometimes in busy settings, it’s really hard to get that face time to talk about your goals and development.

    Even though you didn’t get the job and feel annoyed by the process if someone else had already been chosen, you can still use this as a chance to advocate for yourself. Maybe ask to set aside time for a brief conversation and just reiterate that you would really like to be considered for future manager/promotion roles, and ask for any feedback or guidance on any areas that would give you the necessary skills/experience to be promoted. Some positions may also have turnover and new things can open up. So instead of focusing on being miffed (I get it), focus on moving forward. And keep interviewing when you have opportunities, even for the things you aren’t totally sure yet if you want, because the more you do it, that practice with low stake interviews really will help with nerves, and help give confidence so you feel prepared and ready to crush it when it’s for the job you really do want.

  30. Bookworm*

    #1: I am in wholeheartedly in agreement with you and wish you had been my manager in so many jobs, honestly. And also agree with some of the suggestions on doing other “team building” exercises that might not take time out of your day that don’t require non-work interactions and the like.

    Good luck. I’m sympathetic.

  31. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #2. Have you talked to your employer to see if she even wants to move up in the company? I think you need to talk with her, ask her what her plans are and where she’s like to go. Why go through the work, plus disclose she has ada accomodations to the other managers ( which might skew how they feel about her) if you don’t need to.

  32. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I don’t think you need to schedule chats with your team in the same way they schedule them with each other; however, you should make some effort to chat with them a bit every now and then. As others have mentioned, something like an informal Teams or Slack conversation can go a long way to show people you have a little interest in them, rather it just being business-only all the time. I do that with my team. We’re hybrid right now. When I’m home, I’ll post a picture of my cat sprawled on the floor of my office, which then usually causes a flood of pet pictures from the rest of the team. We chat a bit about how cute Max is or how fluffy Mittens is. If I’m in the office I might ask if anyone did anything fun over the weekend. Then after a few minutes we get back to work. It can help people see you as more approachable, caring, and not “all business all the time.” And you’re also more likely to be “in the know” when things happen, whether it’s with a team member or something going on in the company. As a manager, you don’t want to be seen an unapproachable or uncaring. That’s how mistakes get swept under the rug, or people work around you because they’re afraid they’re bothering you, or people just don’t want to tell you things.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Seconding the advice to use teams/slack/etc. Have a chitchat channel. Unlike in-person chitchat, it doesn’t have to take your full attention or take up meeting time, you just respond when you have a moment.

    2. DataSci*

      It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t be doing this! Slack/Teams/whatever chat channels are great for letting people dip in and out of the socialization to suit their needs.

  33. Not a people person, and yet*

    #1: I have a long history as a curmudgeon with only disdain for my group’s sporadic attempts at team-building. (Draw a pig! Name your favorite song! Guess the famous name taped to your back!) But when we were first sent to WFH and another team member suggested recurring optional social meetings (15-30 min or until people run out of things to do/talk about, 3x/week), I decided that my senior-but-non-management role meant I should be a good example and at least attempt to attend and participate occasionally.

    And to my surprise, I’ve actually enjoyed the calls! Pausing work for a brief designated socialization time means, to an extent anyway, that “real work” isn’t being interrupted by all the chitter-chatter we had in the office. I’ve spoken more to some team members this way than I ever did when we were assigned to different office locations. But even if I weren’t actively enjoying the meetings, I’d still try to participate often enough to encourage others. Seniority means occasionally taking a harmless hit for the team — and I’d say that’s doubly so of people-management.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Seniority means occasionally taking a harmless hit for the team — and I’d say that’s doubly so of people-management.”


  34. Not really a Waitress*

    #1. I am on a mostly remote team. We have 8 sites, two people at each site, plus three people who are not site based floating around. Our team got very big very quickly. While we are all responsible for our sites, we also do a lot of project work. Scheduled team building wasn’t working… but things have evolved more organically.

    On Friday’s we take turns with a fun question and every one shares or answers on our group chat channel Our director might pop in with a picture share or a request for ideas for breakfast. No one is forced to respond and responses appear all throughout the day based on scheduled and time zones. Side chats spring off. Gif wars happen. Because it is so informal I only just now realized there is one person who doesn’t participate, but it took me writing this response and really thinking about it to realize that.

    I would recommend letting the team take the lead. Which is what happened with us. OUr director sparked it off sharing a pet picture and invited us to share, then we kind of took over.

  35. Amy*

    “Idle chatter” gave me an immediate image of Mr Brocklehurst in “Jane Eyre.” I’d try not to use that expression as a manager.

  36. wear floral every day*

    #1 I had been leading a fully remote team from 2010 to 2019 (well, before this term was popular, many of our clients were very sceptical about our remote working conditions, but this is another story). We are talking about a team with over 40 people dispersed across the country (I dont live in the US), with people in their early 20s ranging to early 50s (I was somewhere in the middle back then). I always set 5 or 10 minutes aside to ask about their families or their interests everytime we needed to have a work conversation and share something about me that would contribute to our relationship. I never forgot their birthdays, I always sent gifts for their milestones (not company-issued, that was on my own time and budget). I managed to built a network of trust even with people that I haver nevet met to this day. I am not saying that every manager should act like this if this is a communication style they are not comfortable with. Just saying that taking an interest in the person, not just the employee, that works for you can be important.

  37. Salad Daisy*

    #5 If you think your co-workers are your friends, think again. Once you leave it is as if you never existed. Especially if you were fired, it’s possible your former co-workers do not want to be associated with you on LinkedIn in case the company retaliates.

  38. Zoey*

    #5 I don’t think you made a mistake exactly but it sounds like you had unrealistic expectations. It can take a long time for people to respond even if you haven’t been fired. My current line manager took 4 months to accept my LinkedIn request!

    1. Lacey*

      I agree. When I was fired from a previous job, one coworker accepted my request immediately and sent me a chat asking how I was doing. The other one took weeks or months (I don’t check linkedin that often) and has never acknowledged the connection again in any way.

    2. KayDeeAye*

      Yeah, I check LinkedIn maybe once every few months, unless I’m looking for something/someone specific, and I am therefore really slow to respond to requests.

      That said, I might be fine with connecting to someone who was fired…but it would depend on why they were fired. If it was bad enough that I just don’t care to be around them any more, even virtually, I might ignore the request. It’s hard to formulate a “rule” :-). If they just weren’t a good fit or were often late or just had a bad relationship with a supervisor or something like that, I’d probably connect with them. But…you know…something that shows an ethical or moral lapse, I very well might not.

  39. HannahS*

    For OP1, here is one example of a wonderful manager I had who did not generally socialize or share a lot of details about her personal life. My most recent manager, who I thought was fantastic; until my last week of work, here’s all that I knew about her non-work life:
    – She’d had a baby a year before and was back from leave; her mother provided day care for her little boy. She mentioned it because I was visibly pregnant and discussing child care.
    – She mentioned once that she liked our local basketball team.
    – She mentioned that pre-COVID, she loved to travel.
    Oh, and on a team member’s last day, she’d treat the team to drinks and snacks from our local coffee shop just before our afternoon meeting.

    However, here’s how she demonstrated that she was a supportive manager:
    – Right on the first day, she shared how she likes to run a team, which included discussing her priorities and what we could expect from her.
    – She was very considerate of the fact that I was eight months pregnant, and frequently reminded me to take breaks as needed. She freely gave me time off for medical appointments. She encouraged me to work safely and ensured that I had the resources to do so, since our work has some physically challenging tasks. When I answered the daily, “Morning, how are you?” she was sympathetic to my honest answers.
    – She enquired about my career path and professional goals. She shared her own career path. She made it clear that I was welcome to ask questions about career development, and answered my questions candidly.
    -When discussing work, she’d share stories about other, similar situations: what happened, and what she’d learned–she wasn’t just directive; she’d explain how she came to her decisions and preferences.

    The sum total of this meant that I felt that I knew her well. I felt that I could ask questions and when I made errors, I was comfortable telling her right away. Despite not knowing much about how she lives and spends her time, I did know her well in the sense that I knew what kind of person she was: thoughtful, patient, thorough, honest, and supportive.

    1. londonedit*

      My manager is very similar. I’m not the sort of person who shares a great deal about my personal life and neither is my boss, but as in your example we share enough so that my boss feels like a sympathetic and genuine person to me, and they have an understanding of some of the challenges I have outside work. That definitely makes for a more collaborative relationship, where I feel that I can raise issues about things that are happening at work, knowing they’ll be supportive, and I can also let them know about things that have happened outside work that I might need to take time to deal with.

    2. middle name danger*

      Okay, but…I’m curious about “who I thought was fantastic; until my last week of work”.


      1. Washi*

        I think the “until my last week of work” refers to how much HannahS knows about her, not whether she is fantastic. Or at least I hope so!

      2. HannahS*

        Omg haha I didn’t realize my accidental ambiguity! No, I still think she’s awesome. In my last week she shared a lot about her pregnancy, how she’d prepared her nursery, and a bit about the birth because we were chatting with some nurses about my/their experiences.

    3. Observer*

      When I answered the daily, “Morning, how are you?” she was sympathetic to my honest answers.

      This is SOOO important! Aside from the issue of having some human connection, allowing people’s response to life be less that wonderful at all times is just so important. No one wants the equivalent of “What do you mean! It’s WONDERFUL!”

  40. Lacey*

    LW1 – I suspect my manager largely feels the same way you do. Which is fine, because his employees largely feel the same as well. But, he does take a few minutes when he checks in with us to just make idle chit chat.

    How was your weekend? How do you feel about this weather? Long week! etc.

    It doesn’t take long at all, but it does make things feel friendlier than it would otherwise.

  41. Elm*

    #1: My team is tiny and fully remote. Without those planned weekly chats, we would never have gotten to know and, more importantly, trust one another. We usually end up talking about our pets or dream cars or fun things like that. Most importantly, it makes our boss a person, not just an *Authority Figure.* The latter makes people nervous about things like asking for help or getting a message about a “quick chat.” You don’t have to go out for drinks with them, but please let them see you as a human being. It’ll also help you get a read on what’s really happening that you may not otherwise get. Jane’s dog died? No wonder her work isn’t up to par this week! Things like that.

    It’s only 15 minutes and makes a huge difference. Some weeks, one or more of us doesn’t go. Some weeks it’s canceled because we’re all too busy. But, it happens most weeks.

  42. JohannaCabal*

    #5 I agree with Alison to not read too much into it regarding LinkedIn.

    Also, since you have a new job, it might be better to just focus on building connections there and, of course, doing a good job there (also, I’ve been in your shoes and I know it can be a challenge to find a job following a termination for performance issues so congrats on getting a new job).

    When I got a new job a few months after getting fired, I did as much as I could to build connections and do a good job at the new job. To be fair, I was only at Fired Job for three months (and as much as I hated it, the firing still stung) but I needed to keep my distance from it and the people who worked there (in fact, it’s not even on my LinkedIn).

    I guess I just needed to let go of Fired Job and distancing myself from it allowed me to exceed at the next job (where I was promoted even).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I check LinkedIn like…once every two months. I often miss requests for awhile. I agree, focus on moving forward, not looking back.

  43. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1, you really don’t need to do that much – a little casual/light hearted conversation goes along way. This is probably one of those instances where it’s easier if you know something about sports etc but there are still plenty of topics – even mundane weather, weekend etc.. Sounds small but it really does make a difference

  44. Long Timer*

    I love how Alison’s answers are always throwing themselves at the mercy of the comment section now. There’s still advice, because it’s an advice blog, but the advice is full of backtracking and addendums and visible fear that the comment section will lose it. Case in point, today’s tiny text about how of course this is based on the individual employee, although that goes without saying.

    1. Xena*

      That doesn’t strike me as throwing something to the comment section as much as it is the addendum that people are not one size fits all, especially when managing, and especially since other managers and aspiring managers are reading the advice and may or may not think “ooh, i need to be socializing more no matter what”

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Seriously. My team is a bunch of individual contributors who don’t have to do anything together, and like 80% of them have explicitly said they just want to log on, do their work and log off, without chit-chat or team building or whatnot (and the other 20% all came in together when we absorbed their work unit, so they were already perfectly happy to chat among themselves), so what works for me and my team is most emphatically not what would work for this LW’s group.

    2. Adam*

      I don’t think that footnote goes without saying at all. Lots of managers think there’s one right way to manage people and apply it to everyone (indeed, they write in pretty often!). Ensuring everyone is on the same page as to the basics is important.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yeah, the worst managers I have ever had were the ones who assumed everyone wanted the same thing. (Bonus points if they assume everyone wants the same thing but then apply those rewards unevenly, as was the case in one particular role.)

        One of my favourite things about this blog is how Allison encourages managers to recognize the individual needs and talents of their employees while also balancing the business’ needs.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I agree. One of our last management training sessions at work was on how people were staying connected with their teams during virtual and fostering strong team relationships. There were a lot of different approaches described and several who clearly felt their way was the “right” way and were kind of disdainful of others’ practices. Those are the people who need that reminder.

        Case in point: One manager talked about who important public praise and recognition was for ALL employees. I know for a fact that at least two or three of my folks are deeply embarrassed by this sort of thing and the best way to praise them is directly and specifically or to choose them to lead a department project in an area of their expertise. One of them is so averse to public attention that I once waffled on whether or not they’d be upset that I nominated them for an all-organization award as it would require that they get called up to accept at the ceremony – I ultimately did because there was a monetary bonus that I felt they’d appreciate, but they were bright red and clearly very embarrassed when singled out for the win.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      My first thought about the above comment is, “Don’t feed the trolls.”

      And…that’s where I’ll stop.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Okay, I’ve read the entire archives here and haven’t seen what you’re claiming.

          1. Skittles*

            LOL I’m with you! I started out just reading whatever came up when I clicked ‘Surprise Me!’ but soon admitted to myself that I needed to read every single post. Time well spent and I have no regrets.

        1. LimeRoos*

          Have done it here, or at least almost the whole archives. Discovered blog in 2017 (Ghoster ex, omg), used Surprise Me to get through pretty much everything. Highly recommend.

      1. hamsterpants*

        Wherever there is a post about teambuilding or even socializing at work, there are always people who show up in the comments to rant about how much they hate talking with their coworkers and how every possible idea for a teambuilding activity is a waste of time/boring/unsafe/ableist/classist/etc etc. We get it, some of you hate everyone and strictly work for the paycheck. I don’t even blame these people for feeling the way they do, but, it can get super repetitive and overwhelm the advice that would actually work for like 95% of people.

    5. Willis*

      Yeah, I think Alison has a pretty good grasp of what’s going to send the comment section off on tangents and tries to head it off. I appreciate that rather than having to wade through a bunch of comments rehashing arguments that have already been argued to death multiple times in other posts (like today’s example about comments from people who hate any socializing at work).

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Agree for sure. I love this blog, but sometimes all of us commenters get a little too caught in the swirl of rehashing.

      2. Onyx*

        Saying it varies based on the employee is a genuinely important piece of the (general) answer, though, not just something relevant to managing the specific comments section. It’s not a core part of the answer to *this specific LW* because 1) this LW is clearly already inclined towards less chit-chat and unlikely to go overboard and 2) is writing in because she already recognizes that her employees may have different needs than she does, but there are plenty of people (including in management) who think one size fits all. I’ve dealt with (and unfortunately worked for) some of those people, and plenty of them also write into to Alison with their own questions.

    6. Myrin*

      I’ve been reading this site for over seven years now and and I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever seen Alison exhibit “visible fear” of the comment section.

      On the contrary, I admire how she always wades into the thick of it, isn’t afraid to call people out and put a stop to derailing, ridiculous, or even abusive threads, and is always willing to have a reasonable disagreement as long as the other person stays polite as well.

      I don’t see fear, I see someone knowing exactly what her comment section is (or can be) like and wanting to head off completely unnecessary tangents (which is something a lot of other websites could also benefit from, by the way).

      1. Anonym*

        Yes, agree on all points and appreciate it. That sort of thing makes for a much more enjoyable and productive comment section, both for us as readers and for letter writers.

    7. KateM*

      I haven’t read all archives, far from it, but I have read enough to know that it does NOT go without saying.

    8. Beth*

      One of Alison’s strengths is her ability to fit nuance and situational flexibility into even very short answers. I’m not sure why you interpret that as ‘fear that the comment section will lose it’–I read it as a well-developed skill.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Co signed. What’s obvious to you isn’t obvious to everyone and Alison is writing advice that is meant to be universally helpful to people in similar situations. She aims not to present absolutes where they don’t exist and encourage flexible and critical thinking on the part of management. It’s something I’ve come to appreciate and absorb in my many many years reading this blog and certainly isn’t a fear response.

        If anything is a response to head off the comments it’s the pinned post and it’s pretty direct.

    9. LGC*

      In this specific case: yeah, the AAM comments are notorious for having a vocal contingent that is adamantly for WFH and against social interactions with your coworkers as much as possible. (She nods at that in her pinned comment.) So I’m not surprised by that particular addendum.

      Plus, The Internet™ in general likes to hyperfixate on edge cases. It’s something I’ve seen other creators/influencers (and it is wild that I am calling Alison a creator, but there you have it) do, where they backtrack on something you’d think would be implicit because they’ve been burned by it in the past. Posts regularly get 500 comments on-site alone, and the AAM comments are a small part of Alison’s readerbase and commentariat (I know she gave numbers a while back, but I think it was somewhere in the single digits of readership?).

      FWIW, I’ve read the comments and letters much less recently, but I haven’t noticed this in too many other instances.

    10. londonedit*

      I think if anything has changed, it’s the fact that Alison knows how the comments on particular letters are likely to go, and heads that off at the pass with a pinned comment or a note like the one in this case. As she says, she knows that historically any letter that mentions socialising at work is met with cries of ‘But I don’t want to socialise! I don’t want to talk to anyone! I don’t want to know anything about my colleagues!’ which is not representative of how most people and companies are. And in my view it’s much better for Alison to put up a pinned comment saying please let’s not derail on whether you do or don’t like socialising, rather than having 200 comments on it that she then has to go in and tidy up.

    11. ecnaseener*

      This is kind of a weird way to frame it. What you call “backtracking” I’ve always seen as useful nuance. I don’t think you meant this to come off as critical as it did, but you’re making an effort to frame it as Alison being terrified of disagreement, rather than doing her due diligence to give a fully fleshed-out answer.

    12. pancakes*

      Weird sniping. Do you find it convincing when other people take a single, low-key example of a thing and make it sound as if it’s one of many rampant and much more significant things? I don’t see how anyone could.

    13. Loulou*

      This is a really emotional and OTT reading of a super short addendum that said, basically, “ymmv, know your team before you proceed.”

  45. Delta Delta*

    #1 – At my first job out of college I worked for a municipal government in a department of about 11 people. Generally everyone was lovely except one woman. She was very clear that her job is her job and that she would not socialize with anyone. Ever. At all. No group lunches, no friendly chitchat in the hallway. There were a few times I was in the elevator with her first thing in the morning, and I’d say good morning, and she would – and I am not making this up – grunt a response (if she responded at all; usually it was stony silence). One day I said good morning, and she hissed, “I come to work to work, not to socialize.”

    I bring this up because this is a pretty significant end of the spectrum. Don’t be like this lady. Manage well and manage appropriately, and be, you know, kind of human to people. Say good morning, wish people a nice weekend, whatever. You don’t have to gad on and on about how your dog threw up this morning, but you should seem approachable while still managing.

    1. LabTechNoMore*

      Reminds me of the office mate I had who would respond to my “Good morning!” by completely ignoring me, for the entire year we worked together. Good times…

  46. Trek*

    OP 1 I am also the type not to chit chat about private issues or personal life. I am sometimes amazed at what people are willing to share at work. However as I promoted into leadership I learned that people didn’t know me and they wanted to know me as a person. It’s their way of saying this person is like my neighbor or my sister or someone I’ve worked with before now which helps them learn how to frame conversations and the relationship in their mind.

    I thought it was a waste of time but as I started sharing information about my house hunt people changed and suddenly people were asking more questions about me but including me in more conversations about their previous house hunts or remodel projects etc. that helped me learn more about them. This helped me learn how to lead them even better because I learned how they made decisions and how they processed information.

    Since that time I have implemented quarterly one on ones with my supervisor’s direct reports. I introduce myself to new people on these calls and share my history with the company, how I promoted, where I grew up, nothing to detailed or personal but after doing those calls team members reached out to me more when their supervisor was unavailable because they felt more comfortable that this is Trek not big boss.

    I never saw one having anything to do with the other because I’m not introverted or unwilling to talk to someone when needed if I need help. But not everyone feels that way. They worry about making a mistake in front of big boss but also think that boss’ are the man behind the curtain no one sees that have all this knowledge and ability they don’t. And yet all of us were once just like them, qualified to do a job but needing experience to grow and become a leader which is what we have now vs them.

    I will take this knowledge with me to every job. It doesn’t mean this will be needed in every job but my go to default do not discuss anything personal at work is gone. Now I know I don’t discuss personal things at work but I can share some information about myself and this benefits the team and opens lines of communication. Remember an open door policy works better if people are comfortable with the person behind the door.

    1. Anony8373*

      Well said! I do find that managers who can relate to their lower level staff and are open and willing to share to some degree personal details of their lives are the best ones to work with.

  47. SomebodyElse*

    OP 3: A couple of observations (which may or may not be correct but I’m working with the information you provided)

    -You seem to be frustrated that nobody on your leadership team is being proactive about the new rules and having a plan in place. Does this not fall under HR typically? I think it’s correct that you proactively put a plan together and present it to your leadership in your position. Unless there is something else going on where you are actively being blocked by leaders from doing so.

    -Nobody enforcing the social distancing policy. Is it a real policy or is it just some signs posted around? If there has been formal communication and a policy set out to employees that they need to social distance, then I would again think that this would be under the purview of HR to enforce (again, this is could be a wrong assumption for your company) Has either happened, the clear policy or enforcement? But yeah, if it’s just posters I don’t think any really sees them anymore and they are just eye noise.

    -The not mandating vaccines as a recruiting tool… Well it is a way to get people in the door and take advantage of the fact that a lot of people have been suspended or terminated. It may not be what I would do, but it could be effective.

    -To your question about how to convince leadership to enforce the mandate… I’ve always found that attaching $$ to the risk to be effective. So what is the penalty if you are found in violation? Paint that picture… How much has been spent on employee time off due to covid, etc.

    On your last question as to if you should stay, no advice there, I think we all have to make choices about our personal morals and ethics when it comes to where we work, and that’s something that nobody can give you an answer on

    good luck whichever way you decide to go with this and/or working with your company to implement what you are trying to do.

  48. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    LW3: the law says that for employers of >100 people, the company needs to either ensure that its staff are vaccinated (and keep a record of the same) or implement weekly testing for the unvaccinated. The latter includes people who have health or religious exemptions. 22 states have their own state plans, that must be at least as effective as the OSHA plan for protecting workplace safety. So I’m not 100% clear on why you say that your employer, who implements weekly testing, is violating the law by not having a vaccine requirement.

    Your employer is doing a remarkably good job: weekly testing (which isn’t even required yet) and encouraging people to stay at home when they are sick, and supporting that by giving ample PTO. Vaccinated people can still spread the virus. Vaccinated people can have breakthrough infections. While asymptomatic people can and do spread COVID, they are less infectious than their symptomatic counterparts. “Keep your sick butt at home” is something that all companies should be doing, whether it be COVID or “just” the flu.

    1. Willis*

      I think you’re misreading the letter. The OP said their company is NOT doing weekly testing and no one wants to talk about a plan for it, even though they will need it once the law is in effect. This company is not doing a remarkably good job.

  49. Jessica Fletcher*

    3 – If one of the mask wearing employees files a federal complaint about your company not complying, you can be sure the higher ups will scapegoat you. Get out before they ruin your professional reputation.

    5 – If they haven’t declined your invite, they most certainly haven’t seen it. Or saw it, thought they’d click it later, and then forgot about it.

  50. Parakeet*

    I tend to fall onto the curmudgeonly side when it comes to socializing at work, but one thing new managers do here that I think is effective, is having “getting to know you” type hour-long 1:1s with all direct reports (and if they’re at director-level, with the whole staff), where the direct report has a lot of flexibility to guide the conversation. So it will generally start with being purely about work, cover work-related necessities like communication style preference, but can also cover stuff that’s adjacent to work, or even purely personal. I’m somewhat guarded about my personal life at work, but when I got a new manager and had a 1:1 with her, I ended up talking about (in addition to work style stuff) my experience in another field that most people in my current field have no training in, that’s actually really relevant in our field. When we had a new program director who wasn’t in my line of reporting but was doing 1:1s with all the staff, we talked for quite a while about how I thought certain things were going at the org, some of my outside-work activist experience and the ideas it gave me about our own programs, etc. And, in the end, a bit of personal stuff, because I clicked really well with her. Even if you’re talking to someone who only wants to talk about work…talking to them for an hour about work style, their experiences at the company/org, etc, is probably going to give you more of a sense of them as a person than you had before (you can find out what excites them about the work! how they like to be supported as a direct report!). And doing this for all your direct reports will probably give you a sense of their norms and the team culture, to guide your future management.

    I also think regular 1:1s can be good for relationship-building.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with all of this, and we use 1:1s a lot on my team for a variety of reasons – giving people time to talk about issues/challenges/professional growth or training needs specific to them, keeping a pulse of what everyone’s working on and making sure work is evenly balanced, as well as developing personal relationships. Everyone is different – some people want to tell you all about their kids/pets/hobbies, other people just want to make sure that you’re a safe person to come to with work questions and for judgment-free help.

      I’m not a very social person, and I’ve actually gotten feedback on my review that I need to attend more work social gatherings (which I promptly ignored because I had small children at the time and my spouse felt very overwhelmed by always being the primary care provider). But, as part of the management team, I had to fake it until I made it because your team doesn’t generally want to be led by a robot and part of my job was to connect with my team and my team to each other. It’s not about my preferences, it’s about what works best for my team and provides the best support for the organization.

  51. middle name danger*

    #1, I dislike socializing at work. I hate small talk. But if my manager not only made zero effort to get to know me, but also actively avoided existing social conversations, I’d feel like I was being shunned and told I’m not a good cultural fit. There’s a middle ground where my manager knows my partner’s name and my pets’ names but not every detail of my days off or how I feel about the weather.

    1. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

      I agree. I don’t care to really socialize too much at work aside from just saying basic pleasantries and assisting my co-workers where they need my help. I would prefer to spend my off work times with my friends and family not hanging out with my co-workers. As I just mentioned in my paragraph I had one manager who only talked to me three times in person and I felt like that was very impersonal. Then again there is a lot of companies that want you to do the your job and they don’t care. Just as long as you’re making money for the company. It’s very impersonal.

  52. Always Happy*

    OP#4, I hate to say, that is a common issue that I have run into with both my current and former employer. A job is posted internally, however they already have in mind who they want for the position but still have to proceed with the interview process. It sucks but its a part of corporate culture!

  53. Forrest Rhodes*

    About #2:
    +1 to those suggesting that OP find out if the employee even wants to become a manager. Sometimes you like your job just because you enjoy (and are good at) what you’re doing day-to-day. Not everyone is interested in promotions and managing.

  54. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    #1: I had one manager who I only spoke with three times in person while I was on the project. He didn’t really talk much to any of our team. It was limited to chat and email for the most part. Mind you this was when we were working in office and his cubicle was just a few steps away from all of our team. So it’s not like he had a separate office. It was a weird situation when they switched me to a different manager and I didn’t even realize that was the manager until he came over to me. He didn’t even introduce himself as my manager he just more less said this is part of his project. It’s one thing to be more hands-off as a manager but this guy didn’t really seem like he cared to know any of his employees nor seem to do too much. For example, when we were working in office there was an employee who was right next to his desk who would say expletives under her breath after taking phone calls with techs but everyone could hear it and while she was on the phone she would talk down to the techs and yell at them. This was in front of him and he never disciplined her or told her to stop doing that . I think it’s okay for a manager to be a little bit hands off in the sense of not trying to pressure employees to do social activities with their peers. But at the same time I don’t think it’s good to be so hands off you simply don’t talk to any of the employees. I think it’s good to have an environment to where it’s open to collaborate with your fellow peers but not force employees to socialize with other employees. More or less in this paragraph, I’m just trying to convey you need to balance it to where you’re not forcing people to socialize with people just to socialize with people. You want to establish a positive collaboration which will help the company and also help the employees at their jobs. To the letter writer, if you don’t feel like socializing with your employees that’s okay but you should check in on them see how they’re doing. Don’t be like the one manager and just not say much of anything. A good manager will occasionally check in with an employee and not say a bunch of boilerplate jargon.

  55. Healthcare Worker*

    My daughter recently got married, her wedding was postponed due to covid. My manager knew I was taking time off and why. Never once did he ask me anything about this major life event. Not before the wedding nor after., not even a “congratulations.” You can bet I don’t care a thing for him and certainly don’t feel valued as an employee. He’s definitely the worst boss I’ve ever had.

    1. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

      Even though he’s being impersonal at least he’s being honest with you in that he doesn’t care what you were doing. I understand it doesn’t feel great when you have a manager who doesn’t really care about stuff, but I think it would be even worse to have somebody act like they care for different events in your life and they’re just lying through their teeth. This basically shows you that it is possible he might not stand by you if something were to happen to your job position. Then again if somebody is acting like that then you’re most likely in a very toxic work environment. I know I was.

      1. Anon4This*

        I don’t think feigning a a passing interest in your coworkers is lying through one’s teeth. It’s part of the social lubricant that makes work go smoothly. I ask about all sorts of things that I could not care less about because they’re important to my coworkers, friends, and family. I love my partner, so I listen and ask questions when they talk about their angst over their favorite sports team even though I could not care less about the coach being fired or one of the athletes behaving poorly. I value my coworkers, so I learn their kids’ names and ask how freshman year is going for Jennifer or if James is trying out for baseball this year or how the family dog is adjusting to the foster puppies. I don’t really care about any of those things, but I do care about the relationship with the coworker. I suspect none of them is that keen about my children or latest home improvement project either, but the ask after both.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is also a matter of social values. I wouldn’t put much stock in the wedding of a family member of a coworker either, other than the casual acknowledgment if they brought it up. Hell I was surprised when my coworkers acknowledged my own wedding. I’m also not one to wish a happy birthday, which I know some people in my organization really value so I try to remember but it doesn’t naturally occur to me without effort.

      1. UKDancer*

        I think the key thing is to understand if it’s important to your member of staff and respond. One of my last team was very into football and went to watch his team every weekend. I don’t care about football and never have but it made him happier and more productive when I asked him about the match before we moved onto the business of the day. It was never a long conversation, more “good game?” or “how was the away game, did the trains run on time?” or something similar on my side and he’d let me know what happened. I don’t care at all about Spurs’ premiership prospects but I know my member of staff did so I made a point of asking him.

        I think the key thing is to know what your people care about and be interested in it enough that they feel you care about them and their interests.

      2. Mannequin*

        Same, Eldritch, same. I simply do not view weddings/marriage through the same lens as most people in our culture and personally would think it very strange if a boss or coworker got excited because a relative of mine got married.

        If I found out a coworker or report was angry, resentful, and lost respect for me because I didn’t perform the proper amount of fake enthusiasm after hearing that a some relative of theirs I don’t even know got married, I would be flabbergasted.

        I’d also be annoyed AF. It’s not a slight or an insult if someone doesn’t act out the exact amount of excitement you think they should, and I’d seriously be questioning the emotional & professional judgement of anyone who thought it was worth holding a grudge over.

    3. Anony4839*

      I can relate to you I some way. When I first started my 100% remote job, I was kind of surprised when my first manager didn’t really bother to get to know me a bit outside of work. Even when we went out to lunch my first day, it was all work related talk. Didn’t ask me much about family or interests outside of work. It was the same like that over the course of months and I was the one that made the effort to ask questions about his family, etc but he seemed like the private type of person who doesn’t talk much details about his life and when I did ask him questions, he seemed to respond more of those questions were about him than when I asked about his kids, etc. His lack of interest in my personal life kind of switched my mentality to give up and not really care about his. Luckily I tend to be pretty private about my personal life too so I don’t care much about the small talk.

      He’s not the worst boss but it just makes things less personal but per the comment above, I rather him not ask if he genuinely doesn’t care than to feign asking about my weekend.

  56. Orange You Glad*

    #2 – I would put together exactly what you want this employee’s responsibilities to be, why they are the ideal person to do these duties, and how each can be completed remotely. Try to make a strong argument for this employee without sharing her medical information. I know HR has her ADA info on file, but it still should only be shared with individuals on a need-to-know basis. Also, consider whether or not your company has other managers doing similar work remotely and whether or not they are succeeding (this may be a reaction to another manager who cannot manage remotely). Finally, this employee is only 90 mins away. Would she consider coming into the office every so often to make in-person connections with her direct reports or other members of management? Even before covid, it was common at my company that remote workers would make a special trip into the office as needed (some once per year, some once per month). If you have a good argument in support of this employee that addresses all of their concerns, then you know you’ve done everything you can.

  57. not feeling like i wanna get lit*

    Man, the remote managing question is a hard one. Of course you want to reward your best employees and of course accommodations should be given, but if I was on the team with the remote manager….I would probably be updating my resume. It seems like it would just be a constant communication nightmare. Someone else said that when they had a remote manager, the manager was always deeply out of touch, which seems like how it would go in most situations. Maybe see if there’s another way to reward your employee?

    1. Leg MIA*

      Especially an inexperienced remote manager. First-time managers are always a challenge, but a first-time manager who’s remote? Count me out.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        In this job, I’ve always been in a different state than my manager, and my current one is new as of the beginning of this year. He was a peer, and now he’s the team manager. He’s doing an excellent job, better (I think), than my two previous remote managers. Perhaps he’s had experience before, but in any case, the remote doesn’t appear to be an issue. We have phones, Teams – we communicate just fine.

  58. Pennilyn Lot*

    I’m in a similar situation to the employees in Letter #1 and I think a lot of my managers/supervisors have the same attitude as the LW. It’s really lonely, it’s resulted in me feeling like I have way weaker relationships with my coworkers than people who worked there pre-pandemic, and it’s a big reason why I’m not accepting an offer to extend my contract there. It’s my first office job after freelancing for a long time and what I was hoping to get out of it–interaction with a team, some camaraderie–is nonexistent, and I was less lonely freelancing when I could at least go work with other freelancer friends from time to time. I honestly really disagree that the LW shouldn’t schedule times to chat with the team in a social way. I think that is a reasonable expectation of a manager.

    1. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      I agree, Pennilyn Lot. My supervisor is very hands off. In the 6 years I have worked under him, we have had zero departmental meeting (not even over Zoom when we were remote). Our department does not feel connected.

      He only initiates one meeting with me per year (mandatory evaluations) and keeps them short. I am unhappy, unseen, and actively applying for other positions.

  59. El l*

    Re LW1, look, I sure wish sometimes that work was just work and all we ever cared about was the task at hand.

    But being human makes it a little more complicated than that. Relationship building – building trust that is about more than just the task at hand – is at least a little important in every context, and extremely essential in some business relationships.

    Because there’s no such thing as strictly business, is there? It’s a person’s income, somewhere between a little and a lot of a person’s identity, and where they spend so much of their waking energy. It’s also a big help in getting through half your waking hours spent on someone else’s tasks… if you feel that your colleagues and counterparties are at least okay people and a little relatable. Makes life better.

    So let’s just acknowledge that. Doesn’t mean you have to attend every happy hour, but does mean every now and then you have to do something.

  60. QKL*


    I think that if you’re up for the legwork to see what the managers and HR require before offering the job without disclosing your employee accomodations to anyone but HR, you can bring this promotion to the table to her. It sounds like she’s pretty mature and you’ve created a bridge of trust with her. If the promotion requires part time in the office or full time in the office for a specified period of time, she might be up for the challenge. As long as your stick to your word about the requirements and stick up for her if the uppers push back after she’s accepted the terms, I don’t see a problem for her. I have a pretty serious mental health issue myself, and I’m happy as hell to work through it if it adds value to my life, but a daily grind of exacerbating the issue is part of the equation as well.

    Think of it this way, if I’m walking down my street and have a panic attack, I may start getting them automatically when walking that stretch of road, but I have a car. Do I continue walking? If I’m walking to someplace everyday for a task, that panic attack is going to make that task harder and I would rather rest on my way in the car and save my energy for the task. But, if I’m walking specifically to get healthier, that task is the walk and I can use my task energy to regulate my emotions and will continue to walk. I wouldn’t want someone else making that decision for me, but people feel compelled to push me into decisions, which is what make mental health illness so vulnerable to abuse. Not accusing at all, I get where you’re coming from, but people with mental health issues are still adults with agency, it’s important to push past the instinct to protect us. She may turn it down, she may decide to get a therapist if she doesn’t have one to keep her on track with the new position, she may have already gained enough tools to do it on her own. You won’t know if you don’t ask. We’ve all learned from the Brittney Spears case, if a person can work, they can manage their own lives, that’s the litmus.

    PS, I think your a wonderful manager and it’s really awesome how you see her value.

  61. Don*

    LW1, you and I are a lot alike and when I left my old job for one that was full-time remote I was perfectly happy to leave behind the various unrelated socializing. But it can be a challenge for folks to tell the difference between all-business and please-piss-off. There’s also the danger that you’re letting your direct reports get the idea that you actively want them to minimize contact with you and you’re going to end up unaware of what’s going on before it turns into a big mess.

    I think above suggestions about cultivating some non-linear contact a-la email/slack are good ones. Depending on how often you have other sorts of meetings maybe a weekly 5 minute one on one with each of them would be good. Make it an official work-related meet but without a specific topic. Any particular challenges this week? Something they feel great about? Any upcoming events you should know about? Just having something regular on the books sends the message that you care about what’s up with them and provides an opening for stuff to be brought up that maybe they wouldn’t want to make an explicit call to you about. It’s also a good chance to drop the attaboy praise that maybe they’d otherwise have gotten in passing hallway moments.

    I don’t want my coworkers to be my Friends. I have friends. But I do want to be friendly with the people I work with and I want to be sure they don’t think I’m unfriendly such that they can’t come to me with work issues. That personal water-cooler socializing is how most people make those assessments, so if we want to eschew those things we have to give them other signals and opportunities to know we view that as people beyond their utility to us professionally.

    1. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      I agree with you, Don. I also choose not to be friends with my co-workers outside of work, but want to have pleasant relationships with them. My supervisor is hands off, which hurts our department and negatively affects our cohesion as a team. I do not think he enjoys being a supervisor and wish he would get another job elsewhere (although who knows who would replace him)…

  62. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    General note: Thank you Alison for keeping this place vaccine debate free.

    It is sincerely, deeply, appreciated.

  63. Американка (Amerikanka)*

    OP 1, it depends on your team members, but some people wish their supervisor would check in from time to time, even if it is just to follow up on work projects (encouragement when deserved means a lot). My supervisor is very hands off. He did not initiate any departmental Zoom meetings, even during the pandemic. He does not check in about my work or even say hi. I only meet with him once a year for evaluations.

    As an extrovert, I am dissatisfied in my work situation and feel invisible. I am actively looking for another job. I struggle with feeling like my job does not matter to my supervisor or anyone else. I also wish he was someone I could brainstorm with about ways to continually improve processes at work and explore new ideas (even if he ends up choosing not to move forward with most of them).

  64. ElleKay*

    #5: Did you include a note with your connection request?
    A) you can acknowledge that things weren’t great at your old job and that you’ve changed
    B) they may genuinely not remember you if there’s no context and it’s been awhile.

    I get so many pointless LinkedIn connection requests that I have a policy not connecting to anyone without some reason why or a message. I do not need 1000+ random alumni from my well-known university in what is supposed to be a professional & networking system. I don’t know them and, without context, I don’t know what they want from me.

  65. This One Here*

    A coworker was fired not long ago. She’s now trying to connect with me on LinkedIn. I don’t find much value in LinkedIn, so even if I liked the former colleague, I might now connect with her. Or maybe I will, it’s LinkedIn.

  66. Anony8373*

    Re: #1
    I was also onboarded 100% remote and it took me probably twice as long to get up to speed on things. It’s harder to be the new person when remote because you don’t have that water cooler chat opportunities as opposed to being in the office. 95% of my check-ins with my manager was work-related, until I started thinking if we had a weird relationship if he knew nothing about me and I knew nothing about him.

    I do find that male colleagues are more ok to just talking business while women tend to want to have the interpersonal conversations.

  67. Observer*

    OP, think about this – are you working with humans or robots? A key difference between the two is this:

    For a robot, avoiding any and all chit-chat or social interactions with the humans in its vicinity will makes those minutes available to get work done. Assuming that there is work to be done, every single minute not spent in social interactions is time spent on task.

    Humans are the exact opposite. For humans, generally avoiding any and all social interaction REDUCES their output and effectiveness. Humans are social creatures and they NEED interaction that is not purely and obviously functional and transactional. And they ALSO need breaks. Small one, but still. A little bit of chit chat here and there really fills the need.

    Which is to say that building in a small amount of interactions that are not focused on the job at hand should most definitely not keep you from your friends, family and other pursuits. I am NOT talking about virtual happy hours, “fun” activities or anything like that. Just a bit of effort to actually try to make some human connection.

    1. Mannequin*

      I’m going to hard disagree here.

      There are many, MANY of us who simply do not have the extra mental & emotional bandwidth to fake a bunch of pseudo-friendships with coworkers or bosses that we literally have NOTHING in common with. It doesn’t recharge or refresh us, it drains already limited energy we have for dealing with social interaction that we’d MUCH rather be expending on our IRL people connections- the people we WANT to be around, the relationships that DO refresh us- not a bunch of random we wouldn’t otherwise spend 10 seconds talking to if we didn’t happen to have been hired at the same workplace.

      We want our needs and wishes respected as much as the people who crave friendship at work, without being bullied by being called robots, cold, drones, anti-social and all the other ugly names listed here simply because we don’t want to waste our limited personal resources on fake & effusive performative friendship just to appease all the extroverts.

  68. eisa*

    LW #1 : I’ll go against the majority opinion here ..

    Of the four supervisors I’ve had at CurrentJob, there was one where you felt he had a personal connection to his people.

    That was nice.

    As in : nice-to-have.

    He also took a sincere interest in your work (but trusted you to know your stuff), was knowledgeable about what his team did, was approachable, had a pragmatic and solution-oriented mindset and if you had a problem you could come to him.
    That is what made him a very good manager who you were happy to work for.

    The other three were of different quality and personality (from him and from each other); common factor though: if any of them had tried to talk to me about personal stuff, it would have felt fake and forced – so I preferred it that they did not attempt it.

    Here is my advice :

    If you feel uncomfortable asking about people’s pets or whatever, don’t. It will show.
    What you can do instead :

    Encourage your reports to talk about their work. Let them brag about their successes and vent about their frustrations. Make them feel appreciated for what they do in their job. Have their back. Be honest and transparent with them, as far as humanly possible. Give them credit / praise them to other people, where deserved.

    If you are my supervisor, do all that, and are competent too, I will consider myself pretty lucky !

    1. Mannequin*

      I’d rather have a 109% all business manager who does their job excellently than a friendly & personable one who couldn’t do the job.
      Competence over friendship every time.

  69. Melonhead*

    There are huge, HUGE fines – 6 figures in some cases – for not abiding by the vaccine mandate, ahould it go through. Maybe that would get through to the company. They need to have their policy in place and have everyone vaccinated – or start weekly, company-paid testing of all employees – by January 4. The Supreme Court may eventually nix the mandate, but if they don’t, this company is facing big trouble if they are found out.

    1. Mannequin*

      Once loss of profit is involved, I believe most of these companies will change their tune.

      The rest will go under screaming about being “forced out of business” and GOOD EFFING RIDDANCE

  70. abc123*

    LW #1: I have a manager who has been really insistent, at a time of great chaos and lack of strategy in the company, that we bond with each other by sharing what we did over the weekend in a meeting every Monday. It’s engendered a LOT of bad feelings because we just wanted strategy and guidance to be able to actually do our jobs, and when morale was already so low, forced fun like this was super grating. The manager went so far as to say to us at one point that they thought meeting regularly was important “even if there’s nothing to talk about” which told us a lot about what they valued. So I think first and foremost, make sure you’re tending to the work needs because that will engender positivity and set people up to build relationships naturally. But also, know that people often bond without manager intervention, and managers doing too much to force it can be annoying. (In my case, we were all chit chatting regularly on Slack with each other, but it was out of view of our manager, because our manager was being annoying! And also because we didn’t want to be friends with our manager!)

  71. LW #2*

    Hi all – I’m LW #2. I commented in a thread above, but just wanted to clarify a few things. First, my employee did indeed get a formal ADA accommodation – she disclosed her diagnosis with proper medical documentation to HR. Upper management is aware she has an accommodation but they don’t know her diagnosis. She also has specifically mentioned numerous times, including during formal annual reviews, that she’s interested in management. We have an opening for a management position that would involve managing one entry-level recent grad and one intern. Additionally, most of the company is remote, including myself. We’re all still completely remote as the company is taking the pandemic seriously, but there does seem to be an expectation that people will come in 1-2x a week after the pandemic, but the highest levels of management have indicated they plan to stay permanently remote.

    1. Thursdaysgeek*

      My boss (and rest of team) are in different states from me, so when I was working remotely, it was a lot like coming into the office – I don’t get face time with my manager. And it works fine, because we still communicate. One thing that is nice, that this company does (at least before Covid), is once or twice a year, we do travel to the office where our teammates are, to meet them in person.

      I think, if your employee did come in for a day every month or three, as long as she’s communicating with her team, it can work just fine. There are disadvantages to never seeing your boss, but if there is open and frequent communication, most of that is minor.

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