my boss wants to check in with my doctor, employer wants to hear our worst lockdown moments, and more

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

1. My boss wants to be able to check in with my doctor about me

I recently reported to my managers that I am fighting through a rather difficult health issue that is slightly stigmatized in mainstream culture, due to not being understood well. It is slightly sensitive to the profession in which I work, but is a valid health condition. It has impacted certain areas of my performance, but nothing beyond what I believe can be reasonably overcome. My profession is also related to healthcare and healing.

In talking with my managers about returning to my position (after taking needed time off to heal), one of the suggestions from my manager was for them to be placed in contact with my mental health/medical team so that the managers could be in the loop for any reason. (Mind you, my prior lack of performance was in no way harmful to myself or others, just below standard performance and expectations.)

It was mentioned out of what seemed like concern, as if my managers should be somehow involved in my healing process, but it struck me as a bit off (I couldn’t tell if it was care or control, for example). I wondered if you had thoughts on this. Can a manager ask an employee for contact information for an employee’s mental health/wellness team to “check on them,” should anything go awry in the managers’ eyes?

Whoa, no, that is not okay. Your employer can ask for certain information from your doctor as outlined in laws like the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act, but that information is very narrowly in the law and is really only to (a) confirm that you have a condition that qualifies under those laws and/or (b) to explain the need for reasonable accommodations. They can’t ask to be in touch with your medical team so they’re “looped in” on how your treatment is going (and your doctor wouldn’t be able to tell them anyway unless you waived your rights under HIPAA).

Legalities aside, it’s a terribly inappropriate request. Your managers aren’t part of your medical team, and you aren’t their child; you are an adult performing a job. They should not be asking to involve themselves in your private medical affairs.

One option for a response: “I don’t think that would make sense and legally we can’t do it anyway, but if something comes up that’s concerning you, I’d appreciate if you’d flag it for me. If there’s ever a need for me to check with my doctor, I’ll of course handle that privately but will keep you in the loop if something affects works or any needed medical accommodations.”

2. I took a job because I could work from home — but now it sounds like that may change

I got laid off in the beginning of the pandemic right before starting my maternity leave. It was a bit difficult to find a new job in my field with everything that was going on, but I used every single bit of advice I learned from you for searching and interviews and managed to get a job I am excited about, starting next week.

A big reason for me accepting the job offer was that the manager said I could work remotely as much as I wanted to. My boss said they don’t even notice or care who is in the office. When I accepted the offer, I made it clear that the possibility of remote working was a big reason for me accepting the role.

I have prepared a plan for a nanny to take care of my baby at home, with my husband present before lunch and me working from home during the afternoon. We cannot leave our baby alone with a nanny yet, for specific reasons.

However, last week I was visiting my new workplace and my new manager expressed some frustration with employees working remotely, and indicated that there are going to be some changes being made around working from home. I’m now very very stressed. Our set-up for our baby relies on working from home half days. Can or should I address this before I start? And if so what should I say? This new job is very important to me, but so is my child.

It’s reasonable to say that remote work was a big part of why you accepted the job and ask whether that’s changing! I’d contact your new manager and say it this way: “I wanted to check with you about the plans for remote work. Remote work was an important thing I was looking for in a new role and a big part of why I was able to accept the position, so I was concerned by what you said about possible changes in that regard when we talked last week. Can you tell you me more about what’s likely to change?” (You could also specify that your child care arrangements depend on the remote work that was agreed to, if you judge that it would help your case. In some cases it would; in others it might not.)

From there, your next steps would depend on how willing you’d be to walk away from the job over this — but get more info and see where things stand.

3. Employer wants us to share our best and worst lockdown moments

Our office is having a reopening party and while I have no issues with that (vaccinations and masks are required, attendance and continuing remote work are all optional), our general manager sent out an email that included the following paragraph: “Share your lock-down moments! We want to see and hear about some of your best (and worst) moments of lock-down. Please submit your stories and pictures here before April 22nd.”

The thoughtlessness of the request sent my jaw to the floor, where it has remained for days. Share your Covid trauma with your management and colleagues! It’s so wildly out of touch — and to boot, we’re in NYC, which was obviously hit hard and early in the pandemic!

Managers, noooo. For you, the pandemic might have been all learning to bake bread and getting to wear sweatpants every day. For other people, it was loved ones dying (as well as mental health crises, isolation, and a child care cataclysm that still isn’t over).

I’m sure this employer means well — they’re imagining photos of terrible beards and stories about your fifth-grader’s successful mask-sewing business — but it’s awfully insensitive.

4. Do I still have a coop placement?

I’m in my second to last year of an undergrad engineering degree, and my university sponsors a coop placement. I’m happy with where I got matched, but they’ve told me that the original funding fell through. They said they are looking for more funding. It’s now less than a month to when my work term would start, and my emails to them aren’t giving me answers about if I have a job there in three weeks or not. How can I yell for help?

It sounds like, as things stand right now, the job is no longer there. It might return if they find funding, but as of right now it doesn’t exist — so the safest thing is to assume the job is no more and plan accordingly. Contact your university’s coop office immediately (or whoever works with coop placements), explain what happened, and ask for help.

5. I don’t want my coworker talking about my religion

I am a woman in my mid-twenties, working at a small food service business. A few weeks ago, we hired a retired lady who works the same shift as me. Overall she has been friendly, helpful, and effective.

A few days ago, she started talking to me about religion. I had mentioned at one point about a week prior that I practice religion, and a few days ago she started a discussion and told me that she was raised in my religion, but left it as an adult. She listed several reasons why she dislikes my religion and will never go back. Outside of work, I welcome these conversations, but at work I felt like responding would sound preachy or argumentative. She made generalizations about people in my faith that were inaccurate and stereotypical.

Then she started to talk about her marriage because she was married in my faith and was complaining about the process. She got married later in life, and remarked that her marriage is so good because “it’s not like she’s some 22-year-old kid getting married.” I got married at age 21, which she knows.

During this whole time, I had no idea what to say, so I just smiled and nodded. She absolutely has the right to her beliefs, same as I do, but I don’t feel like work is an appropriate place to tell someone all the reasons you dislike their religion or generalize them as a dumb kid because they got married young. I don’t know what to do about this, especially since she is a friend of the owner. What should I do?

If she brings it up again: “I don’t like to talk about religion at work, I’m sure you understand!” And if it continues after that, say more firmly, “I’m not comfortable discussing religion at work. Please don’t keep bringing this up with me.”

Most people will stop at that point unless they are truly A Problem, but if she continues, it really is an okay thing to bring to your manager, even though your coworker is friends with the owner (and even if your manager and owner are the same person). Most managers don’t want their employees harassing other employees about religion and if you can plainly say, “I’ve told her to stop but she keeps bringing it up,” it’s going to be clearly a her problem, not a you problem. (If the business has 15 or more employees, it’s also covered by federal anti-discrimination law, which means your employer is legally obligated to put a stop to it. If you’ve got under 15 employees, they might not be — but check your state laws because some kick in at a lower employee threshold.)

Read an update to this letter here

{ 497 comments… read them below }

  1. Marnix*

    Ohhh…. OP #1– Please do gives another moments thought of sharing all that information they want now, as Alison said. AND whatever nutty ideas they may come up in the future.
    Personally, I’d be considering informing a much higher person, HR, perhaps even an attorney.
    Stand up for your privacy.
    Good luck!

    1. Casper Lives*

      Yes I wish for OP’s sake, she hadn’t told her manager the exact health issue. Sometimes it can seem safe to divulge to your boss. And then the boss gets weird / stereotypes the condition, and starts crossing boundaries. It’s best to avoid all that by couching it as “a new health issue I’m working to resolve. Please bring up what I need to improve on my performance.”

      1. BubbleTea*

        It’s possible it wasn’t something LW could hide – for instance, a skin condition and LW works with food (so needed additional PPE) or something that causes involuntary physical movements and LW works in a glass shop (so can’t stock the shelves safely any more). They said they work in healthcare/healing and I can easily see how they might make a passing comment that got seized upon.

        It shouldn’t be necessary to keep things a secret because the manager can’t behave appropriately. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, LW!

      2. DataGirl*

        The mention of mental health professionals makes me think that some kind of hospitalization or long-term treatment may have been involved, in which case it may have been unavoidable telling her manager at least minor details. Especially if OP had to go on FMLA or otherwise be out for a longer term, she’d need sign off from her doctor(s) to go back to work. I don’t want to sit here and armchair diagnose, and it’s unclear to me if OP is involved in patient care or working on the admin side of healthcare, but I can think of conditions that if patient care were involved, management would need more details to be sure they weren’t a threat to patients (addiction, for example). I’m not saying that the manager is in any way right to want to be in touch with their doctor, but I can understand the impulse to want to be involved, especially if the manager is a healthcare professional themselves, they may think they can help.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t want to sit here and armchair diagnose, and it’s unclear to me if OP is involved in patient care or working on the admin side of healthcare, but I can think of conditions that if patient care were involved, management would need more details to be sure they weren’t a threat to patients (addiction, for example).

          I was wondering if it was something along these lines. I mean, if the manager also works in healthcare, surely they understand HIPAA and know what they’re asking for is inappropriate. But maybe they thought an occasional “yes, LW is still okay to work” update from LW’s healthcare team was appropriate?

          1. Unalaska*

            Any employee at any time could be dealing with addiction or another health issue without management’s awareness.

          2. Kat in Boots*

            You’d be surprised how many people who work in health care don’t recognize the ins and outs of HIPAA. This is especially true when an unusual or unexpected situation occurs: I can see someone who is familiar with HIPAA in their “day job” (i.e., patient care) just not registering that this is inappropriate when talking to a colleague. In their mind, a colleague is not a patient or their patient. Should they know this? Yes, absolutely. But, like most humans, managers often tend to rely on their personal instincts (get as much info as possible, express concern, share personal stories), rather than the law. This is why hospitals and other facilities have legal counsel! :-) Also, why managers need training.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              Well, and it doesn’t violate HIPAA on the part of the manager- that’s just a normal overstep, albeit by someone who should know better. The manager is not the employee’s provider, and is receiving the information rather than giving it out. It would certainly violate HIPAA on the part of the provider that’s being asked to provide that information to someone’s boss though.

          3. doreen*

            It’s probably inappropriate for the employer to ask – but it’s unlikely it has anything to do with HIPAA. HIPAA more or less restricts how covered entities disclose information – it does not restrict employers from asking the employee for that information or asking the employee to sign a release authorizing a healthcare provider to disclose the information.

    2. John Smith*

      I had an argument with my manager who was questioning my state of mind following a turbulent time for which I was receiving therapy paid for by my employer. He’s generally an interfering so and so who didn’t accept “I’m fine” as an answer and wanted to speak to my therapist. When I told my therapist of this, she kindly write a letter advising him to mind his own business and that any future request would be reported to HR. He never asked me again.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Remember the letter from the OP whose boss said he expects a payment of 20% of the salary from OP’s NEXT job because working for him gave OP the skills and connections to get the job.
      Alison replied: “He can also ask for your first born son. “
      And
      “Your boss is a loon.”
      I guess she didn’t include those this time cuz it’s just understood.

    4. anonymous73*

      I think reaching out to HR or a lawyer is a little premature. OP should respond as Alison suggests and then if manager doesn’t accept that answer or doesn’t drop it, go to HR. Going over someone’s head to report something is generally not the way to go until you’ve tried taking care of it with the source first (except in extreme and potentially unsafe circumstances). Yes this was very inappropriate of OP’s manager to even ask, but it isn’t DEFCON 1 level. And if the request came from a place of concern as OP suggested, manager should be receptive to Alison’s suggested response.

      1. bamcheeks*

        The request is so inappropriate that they should tell HR because this is a manager who needs to urgently recalibrate their understanding of how to manage an employee with a health condition. It’s good that LW recognises that this request is unreasonable and probably illegal, but if the boss asks another person who is less clued-up or doesn’t feel able to refuse, they could be opening up all sorts of liabilities. HR should want to know that they have a manager who would make this request so they can deal with it.

      2. Nope, not today*

        I feel like this is definitely HR should know, even if he backs down immediately – he is clearly a manager in need of additional training and oversight!

        1. quill is only classic who adjacent via friends*

          Yeah. You don’t tell HR because you want to punish someone once they’ve met some arbitrary measure of “is doing bad / illegal thing even after I asked nicely for them to stop,” you tell HR to cover your ass for when boss complains about you not giving them all your health details, but couched in more plausible language.

      3. Velawciraptor*

        This is the sort of thing HR needs to know about immediately for a couple of reasons.

        1) The manager is opening the company up to liability with such requests and needs to be put in check and/or given additional training.
        2) To make a record ahead of time in case of any attempts at retaliation when OP pushes back.

    5. katw*

      I took some time off after an adverse medication reaction that impacted my performance. My manager required that she be allowed to speak to my doctor directly prior to my returning. She wouldn’t accept the letter that was provided.
      And HR backed her up.
      I was in the room with my doctor for the call – I had to schedule and pay for an appointment to have her call. She asked such inappropriate questions. This always felt so wrong to me

      1. Princesss Sparklepony*

        Did your doctor answer the inappropriate questions or did they tell the boss that the questions were inappropriate and refused to answer them. (I hope they did the latter.)

    6. Alto Power*

      Yes, it’s time to get HR involved.

      FWIW, I was the FMLA person for a 6,000 employee company for almost two years and was the backup an SME for five years more. It is possible for a health care provider to disclose no specifics about a health condition on a FMLA certification form but still provide all the information necessary for approval of FMLA. Once the provider checks off the box that says the reason for absences meets the state criteria for a “serious health condition” under the law, there is no obligation to state more. Most doctors will put too much unnecessary info on the form.

      One form that came through was a classic for being crystal clear that FMLA should be approved yet said nothing specific about the illness. The certification form was for the person who had been my immediate boss but was now my grandboss due to a promotion. The right boxes were checked without further details ; she probably filled out the form herself (she was well versed in the law) and had her provider sign it. There was no question about approving FMLA for the time indicated.

      Grandboss was noted to be secretive about her personal life so this FMLA form was par for the course for her. She also avoided phone calls and meetings whenever possible. I worked remotely from her on the other side of the country; to keep tabs on me I had to cc her on certain e-mails and submit a detailed weekly report on what I was doing. If you picked up a call and she was on the other end of the line, it meant you were in major trouble with her.

  2. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – the request from your manager is so beyond inappropriate that my jaw nearly hit the floor. I would be pushing back – hard – on the idea that your manager has any right to your medical information. If you have HR, I would mention it as a concern. If the suggestion came from HR, I’d be reaching out to the HR VP. I’d also be seriously considering whether your manager or workplace in general is a root cause of your current issues – someone who is that far out of touch with normal manager boundaries may very well be out of touch in other areas as well.

    Your manager gets to manage your performance in your role, not your mental health.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, that type of boundary crossing does not happen in a vacuum. I worked in human services and boundaries were so loose they really didn’t exist. One time I was having an on-going issue. My boss did not approve of my doc because he had gotten caught writing his own scripts. The boss made it sound like the company was going to get involved because I wasn’t getting better and I insisted on going to this questionable doc.
      Ya know how being sick magnifies everything, well I was in fear of losing my job over this doc. I really did not know what would happen next. So I asked the doc about the problem. He explained that he did everything the court ordered (therapy, etc) and he got his license back. He landed on that he thought the experience made him a better doc because he learned so much about what it is like to be a patient. (Keep in mind, he can’t undo the past he can only change the present and the future.) I was satisfied with the answer. The boss could not believe I actually asked that question… and after that left me alone.

      What I learned here, is when this stuff comes up at work, start dragging other people into the conversation.
      My instinct was to crawl under a rock. (Again, when a person doesn’t feel well this can be a natural reaction.) You don’t have to crawl under a rock. You can effectively advocate for yourself.

      Bosses also got involved in weighing in on our financials and our at-home lives. Overall a severe information diet was absolutely necessary to continue on with the job.

      Confusingly, the boss’ points were not without some merit. I did end up leaving that doc and getting more effective treatment elsewhere. If I had not been so busy discussing this with the boss, I might have made the switch sooner. But I had a very finite amount of energy for all of this. In Boss’ efforts to help me, Boss made it all take longer and be more difficult.

    2. ferrina*

      Is the manager managing OP’s performance?

      I wonder if the (deeply inappropriate) request for medical information is because the manager doesn’t know how to manage OP’s performance, so they want to be able to tell the docs to manager her performance. Or maybe they want the docs to give them a reason to fire OP so they don’t have to feel guilty about it. I have worked with managers that are so conflict avoidant and so bad at managing performance that they’ve tied themselves in knots to pin their “management” on someone else.

    3. Dinwar*

      “Your manager gets to manage your performance in your role, not your mental health.”

      Where’s the line, though? I’m not being sarcastic or anything–it’s a genuine question.

      Businesses are increasingly aware of mental health issues and their impact on work quality and margin. Basically they’re looping mental health in with occupational health and safety. And to an extent that’s a good thing. Work is a major source of stress, and trying not to mentally break your employees is always a good idea!

      The problem is, occupational health and safety has always wanted to dictate home lives as well. From a business perspective it makes sense; after all, if I break my leg at home I’m just as unable to do my job as I would be if I were to break it at the jobsite. But occupational health people are obsessive. I’ve been given checklists for household chores (like mowing, weeding, using a ladder, and the like) before, and told I was to fill them out. I tossed them and informed the person that they had no business dictating my personal life, but they constantly push back on the grounds that safety at home impacts safety at the office.

      I’ve seen indications that mental health is going the same route. Companies know that well-rested, focused employees who are in a good place mentally are efficient, effective workers. And they’re going about helping employees be well-rested, focused employees in a good place mentally in the same way they do inclusion, environmental awareness, or any other initiative–badly, and often as an excuse to expand their control of workers’ lives. Some do well, but 1) we as a culture have abandoned the practice of training managers, so many are really bad at the role, and 2) many people who supervise managers don’t really know what they’re allowed to do, or don’t care as long as quarterly margin exceeds target.

      1. ferrina*

        The line is Work Performance. If your health is impacting your work, then the boss needs to focus on the work. So they can’t say “I need you to stop having headaches” but they can say “I need you to stop wincing in meetings”. They can’t say “Go to bed at 9pm”, but they can say “I need you to be able to focus while you are at work and take steps to make sure you can do that.” They can even ask if there is anything they can do to help, or let you know about what resources are available.

        The occupational health people at your company sound awful and overreaching. I don’t know about the legality of the take-home lists (I assume their legal? I don’t know what law would outlaw it) but it’s absolutely ridiculous.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        It’s the manager’s job to make expectations for performance clear. It’s the employee’s job to determine what, if anything, they need in the way of accommodations to be able to meet those expectations (or if they can’t meet them and the accommodation they need is for those expectations to be adjusted). It’s then the manager’s job (often with HR helping) to determine if those accommodations are reasonable for them to make, and then to make them, if so. It’s also the employee’s job to take care of themselves such that they are able to meet the expectations of their role. What you’re talking about–asking you to do things at home–is NOT what a workplace should be doing. It’s up to YOU to determine what steps you need to take in your private home life, to ensure you’re in a place where you can continue to do your work.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        Your manager gets to manage your performance in your role, not your mental health

        I think that’s the line right there. Just because some employers try to bulldoze past the line doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

        1. Dinwar*

          But mental health impacts performance. The Trigger States are all mental, for example. So the line isn’t as clear as it first seems. And let’s face it, work is a major source of distress (as opposed to eustress), so it should be treated the same as any other occupational illness/injury. If you think managers don’t manage that sort of thing, you’ve never been involved in an injury. If you have an occupational nurse or onsite nurse, the reason isn’t because they care about your health, it has to do with the definition of an OSHA recordable.

          I also think few of us would want to work in a job where the manager’s attitude was “I don’t care what you’re going through, you need to produce 176 widgets by COB.” We want a bit more sympathy from bosses these days.

          There’s a gray zone, where some people will consider an action managerial over-reach while others consider it appropriate, and which is right depends on cultural fit. And that introduces the possibility of scope creep. It’s hardly speculation or conspiracy theorizing to point out that this has already happened with other aspects of occupational health–I’ll grant that the take-home checklists were extreme, even for my company, but the concept behind them certainly isn’t. Check out OSHA’s website sometime, or pretty much any occupational safety blog.

      4. Really?*

        Dinwar, that’s quite a rant and overreaction. Providing safety information is not the same as controlling what you do at your home! You seem to resent an employer seeing their employees as human beings and not one-dimensional labor producers.

        The op’s situation is over the top and unacceptable, a bridge much too far. OP should disclose nothing more, disengage as much as possible (hopefully it’s not too late to establish some kind of reasonable boundary), and do their work the best they can.

        1. pancakes*

          The main problem is that it’s simply not on-point. As many people have pointed out, there are legal limits to what employers are entitled to. The fact that OSHA has an occupational safety blog as part of its website is neither here nor there.

      5. pancakes*

        “The problem is, occupational health and safety has always wanted to dictate home lives as well.”

        I’m not sure where you are or what line of work you’re in, but I started working from home well before the pandemic (lawyer, NYC) and have never experienced anything remotely like this, and I would be very, very surprised to encounter the sort of checklists you describe. That does not seem at all normal to me!

        You also say that “we as a culture have abandoned the practice of training managers,” and I don’t at all disagree that training is important but I don’t think there was ever a sort of golden age where it was standard? Particularly in small businesses. Particularly in the US, where many people seem to think anything worth learning can be self-taught.

        1. Dinwar*

          It’s not normal. It was an egregious over-reach on the part of the company and we flat-out refused to do it. But pushing employees to comply with company mandated safety procedures during off-work hours isn’t unusual. Again, OSHA actively encourages this–see their website. And many safety professionals are on board–every book, lecture, and blog on this topic has something along these lines. Add mental health to this already-established trend and it’s easy to get managerial over-reach.

          Maybe it’s a construction/construction-adjacent industry thing, but I’ve seen it in other industries (today, on a military base, for example).

          To be clear, I acknowledge that the thing is illegal. I just also know it happens, and it’s following a clearly-established pattern and stemming from easily identified and often good impulses on behalf of employers and employees. To counter this trend, you have to know why it exists and how it’s likely to play out.

          1. pancakes*

            No one disagrees that OSHA encourages compliance with safety procedures. Prying into employee’s mental health is not a safety procedure. Mental health awareness vaguely becoming trendy for employers to talk about doesn’t make it one.

  3. Casper Lives*

    OP5 – Please take Alison’s advice to talk directly to her! It sounds like you and the coworker have a bit of miscommunication. The coworker shouldn’t be commenting on your age marrying etc. But you smiling and nodding is a social signal that you’re a) okay with the topic and b) could convey agreement with coworker.

    If coworker is as nice and helpful as she seems, she’ll agree to drop the religious topic at work altogether. I don’t recommend hinting since it can be misinterpreted or overlooked.

    1. Ginger Pet Lady*

      Not only should you ask her to stop commenting on religion, you should be more conscious of sharing any details of your life (like the age that you got married) that she might take as license to comment on. Stop feeding the troll, if you will.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Yes. Even though you only “mentioned” your religion earlier on, you did open a door.

        When I took my job, Toxic Coworker unloaded a TON of her personal stuff on me–medical information about her family members, their financial challenges, multiple times and extensively, and right out in the office where anyone walking by would’ve heard it all. One day I made a passing remark about something she’d told me. She was instantly furious and complained to our boss that I was talking about her family. I got called in and chewed out. Well, who talked about her family first as it if were an open topic of conversation?

        Doesn’t at all sound like that in your case! But since she’d opened the door, I never imagined she’d blow up like that. You can certainly close the door again by letting coworker know it’s not a topic you care to make conversation about.

        1. allathian*

          Ugh, how awful. How did that incident affect your relationship going forward?

          I have an internal monologue going in my head all the time I’m awake, but a former classmate could only process things verbally if she could vocalize as well. As you can imagine, this got her into trouble at school, until she learned to just move her lips and tongue as if she were speaking, but without vocalizing what she was saying. Anyway, sometimes she’d be surprised when someone else commented on what she felt were her internal thoughts, but that she had actually said out loud.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Relationship was terrible at first and continued for years under Old Manager. New Manager (since just before covid) has really worked on creating more teamwork and preventing friction. WFH has helped tremendously. However, it’s still touchy at times. Thanks for asking!

        2. ferrina*

          Eh, there’s a difference between casually mentioning something and talking about it a LOT. Casually mentioning your religion a single time isn’t an invitation for people to monologue at you, the same way that mentioning that you have a headache isn’t an invitation for people to diagnose you and suggest treatments.

          1. Loulou*

            Yeah, saying “I go to this church” is absolutely not the same as oversharing about your marriage or finances. Talking about religion at work is often inappropriate, but mentioning your religion is not — and part of living in a pluralistic society is hearing that people belong to religions you don’t like and not reacting like this coworker.

            1. TiredMama*

              That was my reaction too. Also, the coworker is disparaging the religion and making passive aggressive type comments. This is not friendly conversation.

          2. JamminOnMyPlanner*

            I agree. I’m really not *that* religious in that I’m a “progressive Christian” who doesn’t try to ~evangelize~ or anything because I think we’re all on our own paths here.

            However, I do enjoy church and I’m active in my church’s choir. As I get friendly with coworkers, it always reaches a point where I have to hide the fact that I attend church just when making small-talk, like about weekend activities or whatever. Eventually, it just comes up… but it’s not an invitation to critique my church choices.

        3. miro*

          I see what you’re getting at here (and your experience with that coworker sounds really sucky–I’m sorry you had to deal with that) but I think it’s worth keeping in mind that simply not mentioning one’s religion is not equally easy across all faith groups.

          If OP wears a hijab, kippah, or other visible marker of their faith, it might not even take much mentioning for people to know. If it’s more like fasting at certain times, keeping Kosher, not eating meat on Fridays, not drinking caffeine, etc, then it might not be obvious to everyone but certainly former members of the faith might notice and ask/comment (someone below mentioned being questioned about their faith whenever people saw them not drinking coffee).

          If OP needs to take time off to celebrate holidays that their office’s calendar doesn’t otherwise observe, it might be easier to say “yeah, I’m taking time off for [holiday]” than keeping it secret (and again, a former member of the faith might clock it) or bring more secretive: “I’m taking time off for Nunya–yeah, nunya bizness!”(not that I don’t support that option too)

          Now sure, those may be things that OP can (and may want to, at least with this person) avoid, but sometimes trying to talk around something is more complicated then just coming out and saying it. OP may feel (as I do) that if people are going to casually mention their Easter plans then why should they have to conceal their plans for a religious/cultural holiday? Or OP may find that “sorry, I’m fasting for Lent/Ramadan” appeases their easily-offended-if-you-don’t-eat-his-baked-goods coworker better than “not interested, Joe”–again, it’s not that OP is forced to mention their religion, but I’m just trying to show how easily it can come into the workplace in a pretty solidly appropriate/non-oversharey way (IMO)

          1. DataGirl*

            Also the opposite. I’m Jewish but I have a Christian name and I’m Reform so I don’t wear a tichel or anything to make it obvious that I’m not Christian. I can’t count how many people ask me about my Easter plans as part of casual conversation in the week or two leading up to Easter, not just colleagues but hair dressers, cashier’s at the grocery store, my chiropractor… people, in my area of the country at least, consider it the equivalent of ‘any plans this weekend?’ The point of my story is not celebrating a common holiday can out you just the same as celebrating one.

            1. LittleMarshmallow*

              I feel like for Easter that’s not really true about the outing unless you choose to share why you don’t celebrate Easter. I came from a Christian background but don’t do anything special for Easter weekend. If asked I simply say nope, just a normal weekend for me and I’ve literally never had anyone ask any follow-up questions or care in the least that I don’t do anything for Easter (as far as I know they also aren’t assuming that I practice some other religion). I will concede that Christmas probably would give more of an eyebrow raise though.

          2. Western Rover*

            Another way it can “easily come into the workplace in a pretty solidly appropriate/non-oversharey way”, e.g. if a person spent two years in a far flung location, perhaps learning a foreign language, on a mission for their church, it might easily come up if someone says they’re going to that location or discovers that the person speaks that language.

            1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

              Yes, I was a missionary in my “younger and more evangelical years” (to paraphrase Fitzgerald). (I’m still religious but not in a “missionary” way).

              I shocked my grad school friends after I’d known them over a year and had a couple drinks and started talking about the 2 years I lived overseas. It’s easy to say “don’t talk about religion” but you actually end up having to censor huge parts of your life.

        4. pancakes*

          When someone tries to start that, that’s when you say something along the lines of, “Hang on, I’m going to stop you right there – let’s not.” Let’s not talk about religion here at work, or let’s not talk about intimate family stuff here at work, etc. Don’t let them “unload” all that!

        5. Unalaska*

          I disagree. Religion is an enormous aspect of culture for most of the planet’s population. If OP had, for example, been wearing some kind of physical signifier of her religion, this would not have “opened a door” to relentless comment. Except in some hypothetical circumstance so specific as to make it almost moot, criticizing another person’s religion is the absolute definition of rudeness. It is an offense against manners so grievous as to justify a passive voice fiat: THIS IS NOT DONE.

          1. JamminOnMyPlanner*

            Yes, exactly. If I accidentally let it slip that I’m on the way to a church service, that’s not an invitation to critique my religion!

            I try not to talk about religion at work but one of my hobbies is singing in a church choir. My commitment to choir actually takes up 3-4 hours in a typical week between practice and services, not to mention extra time during Holy Week, Christmas, etc. It’s not always easy to remember “never mention this thing ever” at work!

              1. Unalaska*

                Who Plays Backgammon wrote that OP “opened a door” by mentioning her religion at all. I believe pancakes is saying that any allusion to one’s religious affiliation—such as mentioning choir practice— in no way invites the kind of remarks OP was subjected to. Well-mannered people do not criticize other people’s religions, even if they share the religion, and especially not in this context. There is no debate to be had. It is not rude, it is rudeness itself.

                1. pancakes*

                  Of course not. It is odd, then, that JamminOnMyPlanner (and maybe one or two other commenters) seem to think that anyone saying or suggesting that religion is perhaps not the best topic for office chitchat is also saying that anyone who mentions or merely reveals something about their religious background has thereby consented to being treated like a piñata about it. That is a pretty wild leap! There is a small but vocal contingent of commenters here who seem to think that anyone who doesn’t share their views on preferences such as, is religion a good topic for office chitchat, must be some sort of monstrous weirdo who is advocating bullying, and/or some other sort of existential threat. It’s not great.

    2. MK*

      One of the most valuable habits I have picked as I grew older was to …not smile at awkward moments. Replacing the “smile and nod” with “Oh?”(raised eyebrows) works wonders to put off a lot of annoyance.

      1. High Score!*

        It’s sad that females are raised to smile and nod rather than being given ways to express discomfort. I was raised like that too and even after being more assertive (or sometimes even aggressive when pushed) for decades, I still sometimes smile and nod so that the other person doesn’t realize that I don’t really agree.
        It’s a hard habit to break but never stop trying.

        1. Aggresuko*

          Yeah, but I’d rather smile and nod than have someone blow up in my face because I made it open that I was having a problem with their behavior. It’s far more likely to blow back on me than on someone else.

      2. Ash*

        This. I’m still working on this, but I’m getting better. It feels unnatural to *not* smile and nod, unfortunately, but the deprogramming is slowly working.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        When I was much younger, I smiled and nodded about things I shouldn’t have. It wasn’t just because I was raised in a very fundamental Christian home with rigid gender roles; a lot of women of my age were never encouraged to even have an opinion, let alone express one – especially if it was an opposite opinion. It was a hard habit to break, but I’d like to think I did.

        Now, I send awkward back to whence it came. I raise an eyebrow, give surprised and/or disappointed looks, or simply say, ‘I don’t appreciate comments about (topic). Please keep them to yourself, thanks.’

    3. Tupac Coachella*

      OP5 sounds like she’s textbook Nice. I don’t mean that as an insult-she legitimately sounds gracious and kind in the way she describes the coworker, and that says a lot about her character to me. However, being Nice often comes with a side of letting one’s own feelings take a backseat in favor of not upsetting others, and that seems to be what’s happening here. The funny thing is, if everything she says about the coworker is true, she’s likely more oblivious than malicious; she thinks of it as small talk about something they have in common, and would likely be embarrassed if she realized how how rude she’s been to this lovely new acquaintance. Just because she’d feel momentary discomfort doesn’t mean that it’s unkind to loop her in that she’s making OP feel uncomfortable. I hope Alison’s advice and the comments here help OP see that she can up the assertiveness and still be the kind, friendly person she seems to be.

    4. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

      I agree, but have to add, OP5, all your working life, and outside it, you’re going to run into people like this who will make inappropriate comments on your personal life, criticize you (openly or passive aggressively), and just generally be a pain. Remember it’s them, not you, and get used to pushing back. It gets easier with practice.

  4. AcademiaNut*

    I’ve come to realize that of the most underrated skill in life is the ability to 1) recognize that other people can have very different experiences than you have had and 2) to consider how this can affect other things.

    I’d bet money the organizer of this think that it’s going to be amusing stories of bad hair and baking, and they’re not expecting a screenshot of someone saying goodbye to a dying loved one over Zoom because they can’t visit the hospital. It’s the same lack of imagination that leads to things like work related activities that some people physically can’t participate in, or giving Christmas gifts of wine and ham to your entire staff, or thinking that telling someone to cheer up and exercise more will cure clinical depression. On a large scale, you have people thinking racism/sexism/harassment etc. isn’t a problem because they personally haven’t experienced it, and they genuinely don’t grasp that, say, a wealthy, straight white man’s experience isn’t universal.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. Rather than make a fuss about it, just come up with an anodyne example or two and let it go; not worth political capital. If you know someone who lost someone during the epidemic and you have a very good relationship with your boss you might mention that this request is going to be pretty traumatic for someone whose parent died of COVID. But you don’t have to right all wrongs.

      1. Zelda*

        I mean, the commentariat here has done plenty of trading stories and commiserating, with only a few forays into the deep tragedies. In fact, some of the ‘ask the readers’ posts might be a handy source for LW3, if they don’t feel like exposing a raw nerve– borrow one of the incidents from there and file off the serial numbers. This one time, a thing happened! (Not necessarily to me.)

      2. Allonge*

        Yeah, not worth poliitcal capital is a good way to look at this.

        Bad idea for an ask? Absolutely. That said, it looks like we are talking about an optional part of an optional party at a company that seems to be handling things well in general. Nobody’s forcing anyone to share specific painful memories.

        1. CheesePlease*

          Even though it’s optional to participate, seeing a powerpoint montage during a company party of “lockdown highlights” of people’s sourdough starters and pandemic puppies would sting when my lockdown also included covid raging through my extended family resulting in multiple deaths and hospitalizations – and a breakdown on my part as a result. So while they’re not forcing anyone to share difficult moments, it’s still not a great idea..? I would push back to my direct manager saying “Just a comment on the lockdown photo sharing” because if enough people speak up in small ways at this dumb idea, maybe people would reconsider

          1. Rosemary*

            I am truly sorry for your losses. I am curious though why something that appears to be optional is necessarily a “dumb idea”? Yes, many, many people suffered trauma as the result of the pandemic. But for many, many people, the pandemic included moments of joy and ridiculousness as well – the pandemic puppies, the sourdough failures, the small children hilariously interrupting zoom calls. I have friends whose family life improved due to lockdown, as spouses who were constantly traveling were home, kids who were overbooked with sports and activities had downtown. And yes, some people who experienced these things along with the trauma and heartbreak of losing someone, of struggles with mental health issues (theirs and/or their kids). However I don’t think highlighting the “positives”, as this company seems to be doing in an optional way, necessarily negates or minimizes the negatives.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I think CheesePlease’s comment that seeing how people had a good time during lockdown when CheesePlease was losing family members to COVID (and not being able to say goodbye because of quarantine and lockdown visitation rules) would cause them to break down pretty much explains why this is a dumb idea.

            2. pancakes*

              Rosemary, did you read CheesePlease’s comment in full before responding? Do you truly not see how a slideshow of sourdough and new puppies might very well indeed feel minimizing to people whose experiences were closer to traumatic than cozy? Come on, now, this isn’t complicated, and there’s no one stopping you from poring over those moments of joy in your private time, without a captive audience of coworkers.

            3. Jora Malli*

              The task itself might be optional, but the request itself could trigger a trauma response for someone whose worse covid experience was the death of multiple family members. Even if they aren’t required to participate, the fact that the worst experience of their life has been turned into a silly party game by their workplace can be extremely harmful.

              1. Lime green Pacer*

                ^ This. I lost nobody during lockdown, but other factors still made it quite traumatic for me (one of the top 3 worst experiences ever), and I would be pretty unhappy with the implication that the “worst thing from lockdown” for an interesting icebreaker.

              2. Metadata minion*

                Exactly. I have both funny and tragic stories from lockdown and in a non-work situation would be happy to talk about weird baking failures or whatever, but assuming someone’s “worst moments” of an ongoing mass death event are something they’d be comfortable sharing at work is profoundly insensitive.

              3. quill*

                Yeah, much like those “trainings” where people are asked “share your worst experience!” the knowledge that it’s been asked of people, someone might wonder why you didn’t participate… it’s going to bring back a lot of bad feelings for a lot of people

                1. JustAnotherKate*

                  All of these “share your worst experiences” just remind me of Hannibal Lecter asking Clarice Starling for her worst memory of childhood. If you’re a manager planning a workplace activity that reminds people of the bad guy in a serial killer movie, this is probably a sign to rethink.

                2. quill*

                  @JustAnotherKate

                  If your team building activity resembles either a cult or a serial killer… the team needs to be disassembled, not built.

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Yeah, I think this right here is the reason that LW should tell their boss they think the ask is completely tone deaf. It’s worth spending the political capital, IMO, unless LW is very new or very very low ranking in the company.

          3. DataGirl*

            I agree. I have been in groups where people have said things like “The pandemic was really a blessing for me because it allowed me to spend more time with my family” and I’m just floored by the lack of consideration to the immense loss and devastation so many people experienced.

            1. Plain Jane*

              I have responded to those comments with “I haven’t seen my 102-year old Grandma and my immune-compromised brother in over 2 years, so. Some of us aren’t having that family experience.” And then I let them sit in the uncomfortable. It’s just appalling the way people think this was like a vacation.

              1. doreen*

                There were some things in my life that improved as part of the response to the pandemic – but a blessing? Nope – it wasn’t a blessing and it wouldn’t have been even if I hadn’t known six people who died from it.

                1. Rosemary*

                  Same here. I call them “silver linings.” My father died shortly before the pandemic, and being able to work from anywhere meant I got to stay with my grieving mom for months, which otherwise would never have been possible. Does it mean I am “happy” that the pandemic happened, or see it is a “blessing”? No way in hell. But am I able to appreciate some things it afforded, like being with my mom? Absolutely.

                2. pancakes*

                  Good for you, but no one should feel obliged or even asked to dig into whether or what they see as “a blessing” for an audience of their coworkers in an effort to force closeness. Or for any other purpose, for that matter.

              2. Jessica*

                I completely understand. I lost two immediate family members during lockdown. It wasn’t Covid-related (cancer, etc.), but the lockdown restrictions meant I couldn’t visit the hospital, say goodbye in person, or attend a funeral. I was far away from my entire family, alone, scared, and depressed. It was a terrible time and it’s very upsetting to think about. I wouldn’t want to participate in that work activity.

            2. Gracely*

              Yeah…the pandemic has shredded my family into pieces, and that was *before* we lost people to Covid. At which point everything got exponentially worse.

              And I’m lucky–my immediate family has generally been in agreement on how to conduct themselves safely. I have so many friends who had to completely cut themselves off from siblings/parents/etc. for their or their young children’s safety.

            3. Church Office Manager*

              I’m one that has good and bad stories from the pandemic, but sharing about my wonderful dog is definitely not going to cancel my sadness of losing my wonderful dad to COVID. If I had to sit through a slideshow like this, I’d be a weepy mess by the end of it.

      3. Lyudie*

        Maybe I’m just running out of F’s as I get older, but I would absolutely burn my capital on this. It’s shockingly tone deaf and hurtful.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      If you want to make this point in a powerful, but not personal way, may I recommend Mark Twain’s “A War Prayer” There are some good YouTube videos. I prefer the ones that start with him wanting the piece only published after his death. “Only dead men can tell the truth”

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I don’t think “A War Prayer” is terribly apt. This employer’s thoughtless ask is the same thing as the zero-sum scenario of the celebration by one side versus another in an armed conflict. One party’s not-unpleasant lockdown experience doesn’t require another party’s tragedy, as a plea to the Almighty for victory in battle does.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I agree very much. I think a lot of it boils down to lack of imagination and I think it has had an impact on at least two of the situations here, the manager who wants to hear all about people’s lockdown experiences and the coworker talking about religion and marriage, who seems to assume that because she wouldn’t have been ready to marry in her early 20s, anybody who married at that age must have made a bad decision and is making stereotypical comments about people of a particular faith based on her experience of it.

      I think lack of imagination also where things like the assumption that everybody MUST go to college (or alternatively that college is a waste of money) or that everybody wants to marry (and an assumption that everybody is straight and wants to marry somebody of the opposite gender often goes along with this) or that everybody is cis or that everybody wants kids or wants to be a boss or run their own business come from.

      The ability to see things from a different point of view and recognise that other people’s experiences are different and that what is right for you may not be right for everybody would prevent an awful lot of conflicts and difficult situations.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Lack of imagination, sheltered life, narrow thinking, etc, all still lands in the same place.
        Unfortunately, the position of management requires one to step out side whatever knowledge they have inside their heads. IF they can’t do that, they are going to have a tough time leading people. Management requires a person to know their limits.

      2. whingedrinking*

        There’s also the need for compartmentalization and boundaries, as well as the good judgement to know where those belong. Even if I do disagree with my coworker who thinks getting married at 19 is a brilliant idea, work isn’t the place to say, “That’s a terrible decision and you shouldn’t do it.”

    4. BethDH*

      They also may be borrowing from the places where this is happening as a particular outgrowth. Lots of colleges, for example, have made spaces for students (and faculty and staff) to submit memories and thoughts from pandemic as people desire, which they can opt into including in the archives. A family member in healthcare said her workplace did something similar, and people could choose for them to be shared (all without names unless the person chose to share them) or write them to be destroyed without reading. Archives are collecting their employees’ thoughts in addition to their larger public campaigns, and the thinking is that it is the kind of thing people working in that field find really meaningful so they’d be more likely to want to do it.

      I guess the point I’m making is that I can imagine a place doing this thoughtfully (opt in, no pressure for them to be “light”, no pressure for others to see them), especially in the fields where there’s necessarily a lot of overlap between work and life. I don’t think “share your lockdown moments” has to be such a misstep in a place that it sounds like is being really thoughtful about not minimizing Covid overall. Though the design of that one does seem kind of casual for the versions of this I’ve seen work well.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I have heard that a lot of city, county, state, territorial, and Tribal health departments have been creating archives of both their work experience and the anecdotal stories, personal and professional, oral and written, from staff and stakeholders with the intention of creating a research archive. I’d bet it is happening federally as well and have relevance for those folks in future pandemics. It can be done well and with purpose other than entertainment, but this doesn’t sound like it.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, I’ve seen similar examples of memorial archives that were organized thoughtfully by trauma-informed leadership. #3 does not sound like that.

    5. mreasy*

      I recently pushed back (delicately) at a suggestion that it’s good for team building for us to share family stories & cultural experiences / traditions with the company. This is fine to do, of course, but the way it was stated implied that people who do this are better team members – which could lead to pressure. If you have the capital, this is a good way to spend it. My coworker whose mother died of COVID early on and she and her family were unable to visit her, or see her father to take comfort together, would probably have a “lowlight” they wouldn’t want to hear. This is awful.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Sometimes sharing a “lowlight” very effectively makes the point…Especially if you can be the first one to speak, you speak in a very very cold voice, and look right at the person who asked. That does take a lot of capital, but can be worth spending it that way.

        1. Gracely*

          It can definitely shut things down. I’ve done that with the death of one of my parents that happened years ago and that I’ve had time to grieve. But not everyone is up for doing that, especially not in the immediate wake of Covid/recent loss (after all, not everyone who’s lost someone from Covid lost them two years ago…people are still dying now, as we speak, so that grief is very, very fresh for some people).

    6. As per Elaine*

      Yeah, one of my worst pandemic moments thus far was breaking down in tears at my computer in the middle of the workday because I’d let myself think too much about the fact that the holidays were coming up and I wasn’t going to be able to see any of my family. I don’t think that’s the sort of fun, amusing anecdote the bosses are expecting — and I consider myself very lucky that that I don’t have something worse.

      1. Jora Malli*

        My job never went remote. My low point was having a panic attack in the office bathroom when leadership decided to drop covid restrictions way too early (I don’t work there anymore for that very reason). It is not a fun story to share at a work party.

        1. extra-anonymous!*

          My job is in public health, and only went remote after a few of our number died. So then upon mandatory return to the office, I’ve had a few times where my husband’s had to walk me crying out the door like a small child who doesn’t want to go to school. So yeah, I just turned in my notice.

      2. Aggresuko*

        I was literally having crying breakdowns multiple times a day, every day, for the first four months. I couldn’t use a Zoom camera once they provided me with one.

    7. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I’ve come to realize that of the most underrated skill in life is the ability to 1) recognize that other people can have very different experiences than you have had and 2) to consider how this can affect other things.

      This^. I have been learning this skill only in the last few years and I can’t believe it took me until my late 30s to understand that everyone has a different reality. AAM has really helped me see this.

      1. Aggresuko*

        Yeah. Frankly, some people do get treated differently than others, or just fit their jobs better. A lot of people have really great experiences here, apparently…I’m just not one of them because I don’t fit.

    8. pancakes*

      I don’t think it’s a lack of imagination so much as a lack of socialization with people who haven’t been comfortable, secure, and relatively untroubled all their lives.

    9. wittyrepartee*

      “Here’s a picture of me visiting my friend to deliver meals on my way home from the health department every day because I was afraid she’d die alone in her apartment, and work wouldn’t allow us to work from home anyway! Boy that was fun!”

    10. Lily*

      “I’ve come to realize that of the most underrated skill in life is the ability to 1) recognize that other people can have very different experiences than you have had and 2) to consider how this can affect other things.”

      I’d love to see this enshrined on a large public mural, in a highly trafficked, highly visible place.

    11. MeepMeep02*

      I mean, it’s a global pandemic where lots of people died. Can someone actually be so clueless as to not realize that “a million people died and who knows how many more had horrendous health outcomes” may also include some of the employees or families of employees participating in the event? What next – “best and worst moments of surviving Hurricane Katrina (or whatever other natural disaster is close by)?”

    12. Nanani*

      I’ve no doubt that it’s well-meaning, but if LW has the social capital to clue them in to the fact that for a lot of people, “worst” moments will be zoom funerals, they absolutely should.
      They could also push back as a group with other people who feel the same.

    13. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      In various online meetings early in WFH, management “went around the room asking people about to tell something positive about WFH. I was really blue and scared about covid then and didn’t want to share cute little stories about having more time to spend with my pet erzangill Raleigh (no such animal). But I think the boss people WERE trying to help keep people’s spirits up so I pulled a couple of things out of my hat and then they moved on to someone else. If I’d had to maybe I would’ve made something up just to check the box.

  5. Observer*

    She absolutely has the right to her beliefs, same as I do, but I don’t feel like work is an appropriate place to tell someone all the reasons you dislike their religion or generalize them as a dumb kid because they got married young.

    This alone tells me that you are not some dumb kid who got married young because they were too young to know better.

    And if you have to go to HR/your manager, be clear about this. The problem is NOT that she has a different view of the religion and of the right age to get married, etc. The primary problem is that you don’t think that work is the right place for these discussions. The secondary problem is that she seems to be stereotyping people based on religious practice.

    1. allathian*

      And the tertiary problem is that the LW is oversharing things about her private life at work. If you don’t want to run the risk of people judging you for marrying young, don’t tell your coworkers you did just that (although in this case, that ship has undoubtedly sailed). There’s also the “converted zealots” issue. The fact that recent converts are often the most vocal and strict in their observance of their new faith practice also applies to people who have left their former religion, because they’re often its most fervent critics, and are often keen to get those who are still observing their former faith to “see the light” and abandon it.

      1. Claire*

        That a coworker knows LW is a certain religion or married young does not mean LW is “oversharing.” These things can end up coming up naturally in conversation ie “What are you doing this weekend?” “Going to [religious location]” “Celebrating my anniversary.” The problem here is the coworker’s behavior.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          Absolutely. Where you go to church (or don’t), how long you have been married, and about how old you are all fit in basic chitchat parameters. What’s not OK is judging somebody for these things at work.

          1. pancakes*

            Where you go to church isn’t something that has ever come up in day-to-day chitchat in my world, with the exception of one woman I briefly worked with who’d just moved here (NYC) from the south, and seemed to feel compelled to let everyone know, even casual acquaintances, that she was here for work and not because she likes the culture. Of course it’s going to be seen differently elsewhere, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Keeping chitchat lighter and less intimate can be a good option!

            1. pancakes*

              I feel like I should add, it isn’t that people here don’t go to church. There have been a ton of churches in every neighborhood I’ve lived in here, and there are two on the short block I live on – one Baptist, one Catholic. The annual Easter parade is a big deal, Harlem churches are a big deal culturally in terms of influence (I lived there for two years), accommodations for all sorts of Judaism are a big deal, etc. It’s just not something that tends to come up in casual work chitchat, in my experience, and I think that’s for the best.

            2. Unalaska*

              As someone who lives in NYC, it’s hard to imagine how religion doesn’t come up at work. It’s currently Ramadan—this comes up at my workplace all the time. Easter just came up, every fall the Jewish High Holy Days come up, not to mention that there are people everywhere wearing various physical signifiers of faith.

              1. pancakes*

                I didn’t mean to suggest that I’ve never seen an office-wide email or memo about holiday hours, or never heard anyone discuss holiday plans, or never seen anyone wearing a cross or a chai necklace, etc. What I meant — and I thought I was pretty clear about saying it — was that I’ve never worked anyplace where it was commonplace for people to ask one another where or whether they go to church.

                1. Loulou*

                  But there’s a huge difference between mentioning where you personally worship and asking others if or where they do. Your original comment made it sound as though you think it’s extremely unusual for people in New York to mention their own places of worship, which is not the case in my experience. (I would consider it invasive if someone asked me, though I know it’s very common in some cultures)

                2. pancakes*

                  If people think I made it seem like I don’t know anyone religious, or which religion my coworkers belong to, because I said that I’m not accustomed to them asking me or one another specifically which church we attend, that is not attentive reading, in my opinion. That’s reacting to something other than what I said.

                3. pancakes*

                  I want to add, not only does that seem to be a misunderstanding of what I said, it seems to completely ignore what I said for additional context in my 10:28 comment. If people don’t want to read every comment here that’s perfectly fine, I don’t myself, but if people want to respond to a particular view it never hurts to be clear about what it is.

                4. Loulou*

                  Pancakes, you said this: “Where you go to church isn’t something that has ever come up in day-to-day chitchat in my world” and I (and others) did not read that as “people don’t ask where you go to church in my workplace,” but rather “people don’t disclose where they go to church.” And yes, I read your follow-up comment too!

                  When multiple people misunderstand you, the reason may be that your comment expressed something different than you intended, not that they didn’t read it.

                5. pancakes*

                  “Disclose” is a pretty formalistic word, and I just don’t agree that’s a sensible reading of what I said. I think that’s a bit strained. The fact that a handful of people thought so anyhow or still disagree doesn’t shift that for me, so we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

            3. wittyrepartee*

              I always find it annoying that people feel like it’s ok to come to NYC and tell people who live here how much they hate the city that is their home. Imagine doing that in a small town. “Oh yeah, I came here because I had to, not because I like the culture here.”

                1. pancakes*

                  That is just as odd to me because people generally have some choice in where they go to college, in my experience. I don’t think it’s quite as bad for students to be salty about as it is for grown adults, though, being much less mature (in theory if not practice).

              1. pancakes*

                Big same. The most common one in my experience is “I could never live here.” I’ve always had the feeling it wouldn’t go over well for me to announce that to random new acquaintances in places I visit, but it happens all the time nonetheless.

              2. Ingrid*

                Oh this is very common for people to do to small towners like myself! It is just annoying anywhere.

            4. quill*

              It’s come up some places I’ve worked and not others. It really depends on what people are seeking that they might have in common with you, and local culture about knowing your neighbors / acquaintances group affiliations.

              And it’s not just the location of the church that will tell you what specific sect of Christianity someone is from – it’s what dates are important to attend on, whether there are ever weekday services, family rituals that get mentioned in passing, whether they celebrate their birthday… if you were raised in the same faith it can be pretty easy to spot someone who is still practicing.

              1. pancakes*

                It sounds like what you’re describing is people accurately observing that their coworkers seem to attend particular churches or follow specific traditions. What I was responding to was was someone talking about coworkers who apparently haven’t made those observations asking one another which church they attend, or whether they attend. It seems like a few commenters maybe think I was saying that people don’t notice one another’s religious backgrounds here, and that’s very much not what I was saying.

            5. Claire*

              This is going to vary by area and NYC isn’t necessarily normative anymore than another area’s approach is. And there’s all sorts of ways to find out one’s religion or denomination without even mentioning the specific congregation, as others have listed.

              1. pancakes*

                I wasn’t trying to suggest it’s “more normative,” but fwiw there are 8+ million of us, and a majority of Americans (approx. 80%) live in “urban areas.” I’m not sure how exactly the census bureau defines that. I’m not sure I follow what you mean by “all sorts of ways,” short of people wearing religious pendants or saying they’re fasting, etc. In any case, what I was responding to was a comment that it’s common for coworkers to chat about where or whether they go to church.

            6. Observer*

              I have no idea of the SPECIFIC congregations any of my religious coworkers attend. But I do know what their religion is in a number of cases. It just comes up because it’s such a part of people’s lives.

              There is NOTHING “intimate”, for instance, in a Moslem mentioning that they are fasting for Ramadan. Or my Hindu coworker mentioning that her wedding is going to occur over several days. Or a Christian coworker mention that they are so excited for an upcoming vacation cruise with their Church. etc.

              These are normal things to share. The fact that they contain information about the religion of the speaker doesn’t change that.

              1. pancakes*

                I didn’t mean to suggest there’s anything intimate about someone mentioning they’re fasting or going to a wedding, and I don’t believe I did. I also didn’t mean to suggest that I have no idea whether my coworkers are religious, or attend a church, or belong to particular religious groups. To clarify, it would not occur to me to ask a coworker where or whether they attend church, and a comment about that is specifically what I was responding to. No one has ever asked me that at work, either, fwiw, and I would find it both unusual and a little prying if a new work acquaintance did ask that.

        2. allathian*

          Yeah, I fully agree that the problem is the coworker’s behavior. One consequence of that behavior could be that the LW stops sharing things about her private life with that particular coworker, who has shown that she’s judgmental. Protecting yourself from judgmental jerks is not wrong.

        3. DataGirl*

          Exactly. I mentioned this above but so many people asked me last week ‘Have any good plans for Easter’ or some variation, to which my response was ‘I’m Jewish so I don’t celebrate Easter’. It could be something that simple that outed LW’s religion.

          “What are you doing for your birthday?” I’m a JW we don’t celebrate birthdays.
          “Why aren’t you eating lunch with us?” Oh, it’s Ramadan I’m fasting.
          “We’re going out for cocktails, want to join?” Thanks but I’m Mormon I don’t drink.

          1. Metadata minion*

            Yep. And on the marrying-young bit it could have easily been “Oh, yeah, Bob and I got married right out of college; haha young love right?” rather than randomly quizzing one’s coworkers about how old they were.

            1. DataGirl*

              I had my first child at 25 but I looked about 15. I found myself needing to explain the age at which I got married and had kids to judgmental, self-righteous people who were horrified about my perceived ‘teen mom’ status quite often.

      2. MsM*

        No, I think the burden is still on the coworker to realize their opinion on young marriage does not make the slightest bit of difference as to whether or not OP is married and be polite even if being polite means saying nothing. Not on OP to act like it is something weird and wrong.

        1. allathian*

          Agreed. But given that the coworker has shown her true colors here, the appropriate response to a judgmental jerk would be to stop talking about things you know they’re judgmental about in their hearing.

          1. miro*

            It seems like you’re moving the goalposts here–yes, OP may want to shift their relationship with this coworker (and may already have done so) based on the person’s comments. But that’s not what people are disagreeing with in your comment saying the OP was oversharing.

            1. MsM*

              Exactly. It may well be that the simplest solution here is to just avoid this coworker as much as possible and shut down any personal conversation. That doesn’t mean OP “invited” judgmental commentary by being honest about something as basic as their marital status, and in an ideal world, the company/OP’s supervisors would back that up if needed and make it clear that such commentary is inappropriate.

              1. pancakes*

                I don’t disagree, but the idea that “marital status” includes age of marriage also seems like moving goalposts a bit.

                1. MsM*

                  That just takes it into even more ridiculous territory. Is OP supposed to go out of her way to conceal the fact she’s young so no one puts two and two together and decides that entitles them to comment?

                  Plus, OP mentions in one of their comments that the coworker brought up her own age when she got married, without any prompting from OP. Would she have appreciated an “Oh, wow, good thing you didn’t leave it any longer”? I doubt it.

                2. pancakes*

                  Not conceal, no, but many people are judgmental about young marriages. That isn’t new news. Being a bit circumspect about revealing that to anyone is probably not a bad general policy for that reason. Simple harm reduction, or self-protection, if that makes sense, until one can be reasonably sure a new acquaintance isn’t a jerk. I’m not at all saying it should be hidden. Maybe this is something I have peculiar views on, though, because my childhood best friend from 6th grade onward — who I’m still in touch with! — married and had a child in her late teens. She’s one of the most compassionate and fearless people I’ve ever met, fwiw, but I don’t think she would disagree that knowing that one fact about her maybe isn’t the most important thing to get to know about her right away.

                3. Metadata minion*

                  It’s not exactly something I know about every one of my coworkers, but I do know that some met their spouse in high school, or college, or at work, or their partner is from the same city mine is, or I know they just got married two years ago because we threw them a shower. If you don’t talk about your home life at all at work that’s totally fine, but many people do and “how you met your spouse” is not normally considered oversharing unless it’s some sort of dramatically unusual circumstance.

                4. pancakes*

                  It wouldn’t occur to me to include ages in a “how we met” story but then I’ve sometimes dated people who are older than me, and people can be jerks about that too. I suppose some stories are going to reveal ages by nature of meeting in school or whatnot.

                5. Nina*

                  I feel like ‘having to leave work early – important wedding anniversary’ ‘oh wow which one’ ’30th (or 10th, or 20th, or whatever)’ is normal chitchat and it wouldn’t be weird to find out that way how long a coworker had been married.

            2. quill*

              Yeah, we’re all saying that it would be WISE for OP to grey rock this annoying coworker, but OP did nothing wrong by mentioning random facts about their life during office chitchat. OP did not create this problem.

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        The one who’s oversharing is the coworker, honestly, not OP for mentioning fairly benign information like being a person who practices a certain religion and the age she was when she got married.

      4. Moira Rose's Closet*

        I don’t think we can assume that the LW is oversharing. There are so many ways that that could have come up. Maybe LW was taking the day off for a big wedding anniversary and mentioned that to her coworker for work reasons. Maybe LW and her husband have kids who are older than you’d expect for someone her age, and that came up naturally in a water-cooler conversation where people were talking about their kids.

        I know how long all of my coworkers have been married, how old all of their kids are, etc. And I really try to avoid getting into personal stuff at work. Those things just come up in casual conversation sometimes.

      5. anonymous73*

        You’re “victim blaming” and that’s not fair. Sharing your life with new people is a way to create relationships and bond. Co-worker has boundary issues and THAT is what needs to be addressed.

        1. allathian*

          Point taken. But one way to deal with such boundary issues is to stop talking about your private life with that particular coworker. Going gray rock on them and sticking to only talking about work and impersonal issues like the weather is a perfectly appropriate way to deal with inappropriate behavior.

          Honestly, I’m not optimistic that the judgmental coworker will see reason and recognize that her behavior was inappropriate. This is a small business, possibly small enough that anti-discrimination laws don’t apply. The coworker is also friends with the owner, so it’s a toss-up whether they’ll do anything about it, even if the LW brings it up.

      6. Dinwar*

        Suggestions like this are why many people in minority religions keep our heads down. If we spoke up we’d have to deal with this crap, and comments like yours tell us that people view US as the problem, not the coworkers who overstep. If I knew my boss held views like yours I would feel very, very unsafe giving ANY indication of my beliefs. You are enabling the preachy coworker with this attitude.

        1. pancakes*

          Views like . . . what? I feel like I’m missing something here. Many, many, many people have made the observation that recent converts to a religion, and people who’ve just left one, often have a lot to say about it. I don’t see that as being a controversial opinion or “attitude” so much as a simple fact. Is that what you’re responding to or is it something else?

          1. MsM*

            I think what Dinwar is saying is that when you (and to be clear, I’m using the general “you” here) tell OP, “well, you really should have known better than to say or do anything that someone might consider out of the norm if you don’t want them dumping their feelings about that on you, even in a situation where they should know it’s not appropriate to be dumping their feelings in that way regardless of how strongly they might feel them,” what do you think you’re communicating to people for whom even pretending to conform is not an option?

          2. Dinwar*

            The first line of the comment I was responding to was:

            “And the tertiary problem is that the LW is oversharing things about her private life at work. If you don’t want to run the risk of people judging you for marrying young, don’t tell your coworkers you did just that (although in this case, that ship has undoubtedly sailed).”

            1. pancakes*

              I think what I’m not following is the “views like yours” remark. I don’t think of it as a particular “view” that people are often judgmental about young marriages. Whether or not the letter writer overshared about their personal life obviously is a view, and it’s not one I totally co-sign to be clear, but if you were under the impression there can’t possibly be people who think that way among your own coworkers, that’s simply not realistic. The preachy coworker doesn’t need enabling. They are preachy on their own. That’s unacceptable, whether or not anyone here disagrees with Alison’s advice that the manner in which the letter writer’s coworker has overstepped is indeed unacceptable and possibly illegal. Blaming someone here for that behavior because you take exception to something they wrote does not make a whole lot of sense to me.

              1. MsM*

                “but if you were under the impression there can’t possibly be people who think that way among your own coworkers, that’s simply not realistic”

                I don’t believe anyone is arguing that. What I at least am objecting to – and again, I think Dinwar is as well, though I don’t want to put words in their mouth – is the implication in the original comment that it’s OP’s responsibility to police her own speech pre-emptively to avoid the possibility of someone with those views expressing them inappropriately. I’m not sure why you’re confused why that’s struck so many people so very badly, especially when you take it out of this context and apply the same logic to situations where there’s no way to rationalize whatever disapproving views a coworker might hold regarding someone else’s life choices.

                1. pancakes*

                  The idea that it’s bad or a big burden to think about what one is going to share with one’s coworkers — which I think is what you mean by “police her speech”; I call that being circumspect — is confusing to me, yes. Fwiw that is something I personally have been doing for nearly 25 years, because I’ve been in an open relationship off and on, mostly on, since 1998. I was more open about it for a short while when I was younger, and in my experience many people react in all sorts of weird ways I simply don’t want to deal with, so for the most part I don’t tell anyone besides relatively close friends. It is a privilege to be able to keep that to myself in ways other people can’t always do about their relationships, yes, but the idea that being circumspect about my private life is a significant burden rather than something that gives me some freedom and breathing room is not something that would occur to me.

      7. EventPlannerGal*

        I don’t think it sounds like she was oversharing at all.

        I can see a number of comments from you along these lines and I don’t mean to be harsh but I think they are really emblematic of a certain attitude about religion that even many otherwise progressive, tolerant people hold, which is that they’re totally fine! and welcoming! and inclusive! towards different religions… so long as they never see or hear any evidence that a person actually is religious. For many people religion is not a sort of abstract theoretical notion separate from your daily life – it’s something that you actively practise and which might inform your social life, your diet, your clothing, your major life events and everything else. They shouldn’t be expected to avoid any mention of it because someone else is rude and mannerless. Assuming that OP is indiscreet and oversharing and doing something wrong because they have revealed two (2) facts about their life (both of which could have naturally come up in conversation in a million different ways) isn’t great and I think you should think about why that’s your reaction.

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          Yep. And I’ll point out that saying, “If you don’t want your religion — and you, by extension — disparaged at work, then you shouldn’t mention your religion at work,” is the same as saying, “If you didn’t want to be raped, you shouldn’t have worn a short skirt.”

          1. pancakes*

            Has anyone actually said that? I can’t claim to have read every single latest comment yet, but what I saw was someone saying that it’s probably not a good idea to share that you got married young indiscriminately at work, which is simply not on par with saying that people should consider not revealing their religion at work.

            1. Sorrischian*

              “not a good idea to share that you got married young indiscriminately at work”

              LW is in her mid-twenties, the only way to not “share that [she] got married young” would be to, what, pretend that she’s not married? (Even if LW were in a position to conceal how old she was when she got married, this suggestion makes it sound like you think “I got married at 21” is a shameful or at the very least the sort of deeply personal detail that one doesn’t bring up in casual conversation, which strikes me as frankly absurd.)

              1. pancakes*

                That’s fair, but much of this conversation has moved beyond the letter writer as an individual. I emphasized in another comment that I don’t think there’s anything at all shameful about having married young, but I’ll say so again for clarity. Saying that some people can be judgmental jerks about that and maybe it’s a good idea to be circumspect about giving details to new work acquaintances is not the same thing. By “details” I mean, of course it’s generally not realistic or advisable (or desirable, from my perspective as well as yours) for people to try to conceal they’re married at work, but maybe consider holding off on sharing the timeline if that seems like a sensitive subject. There’s a difference between someone in their mid 20s, for example, saying “yeah, I’m married” and “yeah, I’ve been married since ____.” I’m seeing a number of people saying they feel like sharing details like these is a good way to bond, and that is of course their choice, but in many letters we see here it often seems to give rise to weird prying and little digs, and sometimes worse. I’m not saying people should never reveal details about their personal lives – I’m saying that in some workplaces it’s advisable to get a sense of how trustworthy and welcoming people are before doing so. The idea that this is a controversial thing to say is surprising me.

                1. Eyes Kiwami*

                  It is so benign to share what age you got married. This is not a personal private detail, and getting married in your early 20s used to be the norm! It is weird to judge people based on the age they got married. And it’s weird to assume or suspect people will judge you for doing very normal things!

                2. pancakes*

                  I don’t disagree that it’s generally benign for people to share what age they married with their coworkers, and to be clear I also don’t think the letter writer ought to waste a moment of her time trying to blame herself for her coworker’s behavior. I think there are always a few people out there for whom information like that isn’t fine, because they start to pry or act out like the letter writer’s coworker has. If it works for you in your life to continue to assume that people are not judgmental about young marriages or about aspects of your own personal relationships, continue enjoying that! If it works for you in your area to assume that your coworkers are like-minded before you have much chance to get to know them, go right ahead. I’m going to continue enjoying not revealing many details about myself to my coworkers, and continue being fascinated by the many letters in the AAM mailbag about people getting all up in one another’s business at work.

        2. Allegra*

          Yes, thank you! People can get so weird in this way about religion specifically in a way they recognize would not be great for literally any other aspect of cultural identity.

      8. Falling Diphthong*

        Sharing that you are married, and the age and location where you did it, and the weather that day, would be considered normal mild chitchat in most social situations. Like a lot of other seemingly mild details that can send the right person into “You married in the Catholic faith? Lemme tell you…” or “Your brother married a Mormon? Lemme tell you….” or “Your sister converted to Judaism? Lemme tell you…”

        It’s the Lemme Tell You that’s the problem. “Joe and I met in college, and married right after” is for most people a mild response to “Alex and I met at Comic Con, and were long distance for a couple of years before moving here.”

        (Will note I have had the weird experience of another mom ranting about how her stepson COULD NOT think of getting married in his mid-20s, people should only party then and marry in their mid-30s or later, like she did, and eventually the other moms in the group pointed out that the rest of us had all married at that age or younger and it had been fine. Her stepson ignored her concerns, got married, and is still married. Some people just get launched into rants about their way being the only way–and they’re usually not evil, just narrow in their ability to think outside that box. I suspect sometimes they are insecure about that choice, and so judging all other paths as Clearly Wrong is a comfort.)

      9. quill*

        I don’t think mentioning “oh, it’s my fifth anniversary this weekend” or “no thank you on the doughnuts, I gave up sweets for lent” are oversharing. There are many benign ways these two things could come up and the problem is the coworker processing her problems being raised in that religion at LW, instead of in private or in therapy.

      10. Observer*

        And the tertiary problem is that the LW is oversharing things about her private life at work. If you don’t want to run the risk of people judging you for marrying young, don’t tell your coworkers you did just that

        Oh, come on! This comes up all the time and it’s just ridiculous. I don’t want to be rude, but I can’t think of any other way to say this that’s clear.

        Mentioning how old one was when the got married or their general religious affiliation is NOT “oversharing”. These are not intimate, private details of one’s life. They are the stuff of general chitchat that people who are work-friendly often share.

        There’s also the “converted zealots” issue.

        That’s not the OP’s issue to deal with. The behavior is utterly inappropriate in a work setting, regardless of the reason. And the OP would be best off not starting down that road.

        1. pancakes*

          I think some people are getting hung up on the word “intimate,” which is a little surprising to me because the letter writer’s coworker has covered some pretty intimate ground with their comments. Things like “some 22-year-old kid getting married,” disparaging comments about religion, etc. One of the reasons these comments are hurtful is because they cover intimate subjects, yes? How people feel about their own religious background, and about being interrogated or dismissed by coworkers about it, seems unambiguously pretty intimate to me. Many people feel vulnerable discussing things like this with coworkers, particularly if they are represent minority religious backgrounds. I don’t think any of us disagree on that. So I’m not sure why it’s so off to say that details about people’s religion or young marriage might be intimate in some settings. (Unless, of course, it’s that people who like to talk about this stuff at work prefer to think of themselves as making never-intimate small talk. That would explain it.)

      11. iglwif*

        It’s very, very easy for a coworker to know your religion without any oversharing happening.

        Is it oversharing to wear a cross or magen david necklace? Is it oversharing to cover your hair (tichel, hijab, whatever)? Is it oversharing to mention how old you are in one conversation, and how long you’ve been married in a different conversation? Is it oversharing to not bring a packed lunch to work during Ramadan, or to take vacation time during Passover, or to refrain from eating beef, or to wear a kirpan and kara? Is it oversharing to mention your cousin’s bar mitzvah?

        When you belong to a religious or ethno-religious minority, you often don’t have to say anything directly in order for other members–or in this case, former members–of that minority to “clock” you. You might not have to say anything at all!

      12. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        This is ridiculous. If I accidentally let it slip that I’m on the way to sing at a church service, that’s not an opening to criticize my religion at work. That’s not “oversharing” if I talk about my choir hobby. I try not to, but when you spend 3-4 hours a week on something, it actually becomes difficult to avoid talking about it.

        Tons of people ask questions like, “Oh, how long have you been married?” Saying you’ve been married for 10 years or whatever isn’t “oversharing.”

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think it’s quite fair and definitely don’t think it’s accurate in terms of what commenters actually said to take “maybe don’t tell people at work you married young, people can be jerks about that” and “maybe it’s not a great idea for coworkers to ask one another which church they attend as chitchat” and remodel those ideas to, “don’t ever reveal anything about your religious background or practices to coworkers, and if you do it’s fair for them to be disparaging.” To the contrary, it’s a pretty big departure from what I’ve seen.

      13. A Feast of Fools*

        Nah. I’m an atheist. I used to be a believer. I work with people who are still believers and who go to church and church-related activities weekly.

        Even though I hold very strong opinions about the aspects of religions that damage people, I keep my mouth firmly shut about that at work. If someone at work says they’re a member of one of the denominations I used to be, I don’t launch into a laundry list of why I left those denominations (and, later, religion of any kind).

        Just like if I mention that I’m not religious, my coworkers don’t launch into a laundry list of why they think I’m evil and going to Hell.

        So, no, the onus isn’t on people who don’t want to be berated for their personal choices to keep those choices in the closet. Especially not at work.

    2. Anonymous for this*

      Another problem is that she is *disparaging* the OP’s religion. Not just talking about religion. Not just having a different view of it. If I were the OP, I would be explicit about that piece.

  6. LobsterPhone*

    Re No. 3…I read ‘mask-sewing business’ and imagined an enterprising child creating fantastical masks of owls and other creatures. Whoops.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      For some reason my brain decided to read “mask-sawing business” and made me wonder just what on earth *that* would entail.

    2. Wordnerd*

      For me – I’ve been playing too much Stardew Valley and was excited to learn about Alison’s perspective on the best place to place a chicken coop.

  7. Bayta Darrell*

    LW 2, I would be careful with your wording if you bring up the childcare issue. It’s possible that if you simply say that your childcare situation depends on you being home without any further explanation, it may sound like you’re planning on watching the baby while working. To avoid any misunderstandings about your plan, I think you should be sure to mention that you *have a nanny* but just need to be present at home. Alternatively, you could strengthen your case without mentioning the childcare situation at all just by pointing out that you have a young child who can’t be vaccinated yet and you want a WFH job to protect them. If cases are rising in your area, you can point to that as an additional concern.

    1. Despachito*

      If she states vaccination as the reason, it could backfire though – once the pandemic is over, she could be asked to come back to the office because this reason is no more valid.

      I think it is a good point to mention the nanny – it did not occur to me that “I have to stay at home because of child” could be interpreted as “I am going to take care of her personally during the working hours”, but it definitely can. It might smooth things over to explain why OP absolutely needs to WFH, but she shouldn’t have to – if she agreed that this job would be WFH before accepting it, it sounds a bit like a bait and switch.

      1. quill*

        “after the pandemic is over” is a long term worry for OP at this point – what their child needs will change every year as they grow, and Covid safety measures continue to seesaw wildly within municipalities and within companies.

        Vaccination puts at least a multi-year date on this: for the next four years, work from home is non-negotiable. And it’s a lot faster than doing a round of “You can’t be caring for an infant on the clock” “I’m not, we have a nanny,” “then why aren’t you coming in?” “because work from home is what I agreed to when I started the job”
        “But you don’t NEED to if you have a nanny…” etc.

        1. Very Social*

          Vaccination puts at least a multi-year date on this: for the next four years, work from home is non-negotiable.

          Have you heard some news I haven’t to indicate that no company expects to ever achieve a COVID vaccine for kids under five?

          1. quill*

            It’s taken long enough that it makes sense to plan for the next four years in case it takes longer than that. And of course it’s always possible that the next vaccine won’t cover this relatively new child when it comes out: it could be for 3 and 4 year olds only, etc.

            1. Ayla*

              I heard a report today that Moderna is currently applying for emergency authorization for a vaccine for kids 6m to 5 years. It could be coming soon.

    2. Artemesia*

      That jumped out at me too. Any discussion of childcare as a reason you need work from home needs to start with ‘I have a nanny during work hours, but (am not comfortable not having my husband or me in the home since s/he is so young) or (but s/he needs a medical treatment every afternoon that I don’t want to leave to the nanny) or whatever. If possible don’t bring up child care unless you get pushback on the importance of WFH as a condition of your job. Hope it works out.

    3. Squidlet*

      Yeah I wouldn’t.

      But WFH because of an unvaccinated child is also not going to make sense, if OP is going into the office half-days?

    4. NIGHT OWL*

      Hello, (I am the one asking the question #2) really good point in mentioning the nanny to avoid any confusion ! Thank you!

      1. NIGHT OWL*

        And also as some pointed out, I am very hesitant to mention childcare at all. I hope this workplace is more parent friendly but since I don’t know the culture yet I’m in two minds about it. If I already knew them and they knew me, I think it would be easier

        1. Mockingjay*

          You took this job specifically because it afforded remote work. That said, companies can and do change working conditions and it sounds like this one is preparing to bring all employees back. Before talking to New Manager, can you work up alternatives? This allows you to offer flexibility and compromises during the discussion. Ex: full day in the office once a week; gradually increasing days over 6 months to a year until you are full-time; if employees are returning in groups you can be in the last.

          One more thing, was remote work mentioned in your offer letter, onboarding paperwork, or company website or job ad? That might provide some leverage.

          1. WellRed*

            I understand why OP is worried but we actually don’t know what her work is thinking. Time to ask and go from there.

          2. Oakwood*

            “companies can and do change working conditions”

            You mean like transfering you from corporate IT to cutting meat in the deli of a grocery at 1/3 your previous pay? (A midwest grocery chain actually did this a couple of months ago “to avoid layoffs” then criticized the employees for complaining; I’m not being hyperbolic.)

            What if you were told you had to move from Atlanta (your hometown) to Seattle to keep your job? No transfer assistance; no pay bump; no nothing; just move or quit. (This actually happened to me.)

            Are those just simple “changes to working conditions”?

            WFH was part of her job offer. No different than pay, vacation, or health insurance.

            There is a simple change in working conditions and there are major changes to the employment contract between the employee and the company.

            1. daffodil*

              This is weirdly hostile since you’re not actually contradicting what Mockingjay said. It’s not COOL that this kind of stuff happens, but it obviously happens.

              1. Oakwood*

                No hostility intended. Just being blunt.

                Blanket statements like “they’re a private company so they can do what they want” are rarely accurate and don’t take into account edge cases. Pointing out a couple of those edge cases usually opens people’s eyes.

                1. Joielle*

                  But I don’t think your examples actually make your point – those companies could do those things, and DID do those things. It was not good of them to do that, but they did. It’s legal to be a shitty employer.

                  In the OP’s case, similar to your examples, the company could simply tell her that a condition of her employment has changed and she can either deal with it or leave. That would be a crappy thing to do, but it doesn’t help anything to pretend it’s not a possibility.

          3. Yorick*

            Sure, companies do change working conditions, but good companies consider letting you keep certain aspects if they’re a large part of why you took the job.

        2. Louise*

          Personally, I also wouldn’t mention childcare – plenty of people who might be understanding of how you negotiated/looked for a remote position might bristle if they knew it was for childcare, particularly if you’re a woman.

    5. Asenath*

      Also, that you have made arrangements with a nanny, and you need to know with plenty of lead time if it is possible you will have to change the nanny’s hours or lay her off. Cite local employment rules about notice, if they give decent coverage to domestic workers. No need to mention (yet) that the lead time will be useful if they do turn out to have changed their position on work from home and you need to start looking again.

    6. Venus*

      Also important to mention the plan to go in daily. It’s only half days, but that is very, very different from full remote.

      1. Tuckerman*

        Yeah, going in daily mornings is a lot of consistent time in the office! No question about whether they can reach you.

      2. FlexibilityTakesManyForms*

        I was wondering if LW discussed this part of her plan with the hiring manager in advance. My job actively encourages hybrid work, but any given day has to be 100% telework or 100% at the office; splitting a day half and half is verboten. I don’t think we’re the only company with this policy.

    7. mreasy*

      I don’t think it’s necessary to give a reason. “I took this job with the understanding that I would have X wfh flexibility, which I require. How do we resolve this?” Mentioning childcare will just cause trouble.

      1. Despachito*

        I second this.

        If WFH was the prerequisite from the very beginning (and if you have it in writing, even better), there is no need to explain why you wouldn’t accept the sudden change.

        (Unfortunately, it also means you may have to decide whether to quit over this)

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Maybe you can add, “a full time work from home schedule will not work for my family”

    8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I wonder if OP needs to bring up the reasons at all. Imagine if it was another factor, not hours at all. Like a company car.
      During training you find out that the company car they said they will no longer giving people their own cars soon but you budgeted to pay for the extra insurance on this one and took the job (that is not walk or bus accessible) based on having a car.
      There’s no need for personal reasons. There’s just, this is what we agreed to, if you change it I will leave. Which still sucks

    9. Oakwood*

      I wouldn’t mention ANY reason you need to work from home. It opens a can of worms that allows your employer to nullify your reasons for working from home.

      Bottom line: they promised it as part of the job offer. That’s all you need to focus on.

      This is no different than a company suddenly cutting your pay by 25%, dropping your health insurance, or eliminating vacation and sick days. WFH, like these other things, was part of the package when you took the job.

      Let them know you took their job over others because you were promised permanent WFH.

      Demand they raise your pay by x% to compensate for this lost perk if they insist on going down this road. Don’t give them a number breakdown on how going to the office will cost you more. Instead, tell them this is the pay level you turned down from other companies. Let them know they got a deal on you because there were offering permanent WFH.

      IMHO, work from home will become a standard benefit like company provided health insurance. Many companies just haven’t caught up to the fact yet. So, if they insist you can probably find another WFH position.

    10. J.B.*

      If you are planning to go in half days, it is very very possible your boss won’t even notice. You can’t know until you show up that the grumbling is any more than grumbling. I would favor saying something but in a breezy tone. I accepted this job due to remote possibilities, here is my plan for half days, nanny will be there. Then move on.

      My boss totally grumps about people not coming in at all but half days in the office are pretty common.

  8. Keyboard Cowboy*

    OP4, that’s a big oof from me. Good luck with your extremely last minute coop placement hunt :( :( Do you think it might be worth it to enroll in courses and switch coop schedules, rather than take a rushed or subpar placement?

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      My heart broke a little for LW4 because I have been there. First job out of grad school I got hired but then the funding didn’t come through. I waited and waited, because I didn’t want to be a flake, but then finally took another job. 6 months after that, the funding came through :/

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Good idea – being proactive to reach out to the co-op office is a good idea too.

  9. John Smith*

    #2. “My boss said they don’t even notice or care who is in the office.”.

    That to me is a big red flag and suggests that they’re either lying or negligent. If indeed they didn’t care, then it stands to reason that they would put people in the office without concern for the needs or wishes of staff. I hope they do the decent thing and make accomodations for you that they promised. Good luck.

  10. xl*

    OP #5:

    People like your co-worker give all of us Jack Mormons a bad name. It was a personal decision of mine (and hers) to leave the church, in the same way it’s your personal decision to stay with it. In both cases, it’s nobody else’s business.

    I’m sorry that you have to put up with this kind of nonsense. For what it’s worth, your letter shows a tremendous amount of maturity and patience. I think Alison’s advice is sound—you should shut it down firmly the next time it happens. She might be seeing you as some kind of “ally” due to your similar pasts that have since diverged and is therefore venting to you about her own issues with the religion, but that is inappropriate. I think if you politely and firmly shut it down, she will take a step back and realize how rude her actions are.

    1. Bread Addict*

      I think your second paragraph is right.

      But where does the letter say she is Mormon?

      1. BubbleTea*

        She very specifically doesn’t, and I don’t think we should speculate on which religion it is.

        1. shedubba*

          It’s true. There are several religions, including Mormons, that have a stereotype of this kind of behavior from former members, so we really don’t know what religion the LW is. On the other hand, most other religions don’t have a linguistic equivalent to “Jack Mormons”, which I find a delightful term. I read x1’s comment more in the vein of, “My life experience lines up with your coworker, and even I think she’s wrong,” even if they misidentified LW’s actual religion by revealing theirs.

      2. Artemesia*

        It doesn’t but it is a pretty good inference. I know a lot of lapsed Catholics and am married to one but have never heard them discuss it in this way whereas this is classic ex-Mormon type of conversation.

        1. Jora Malli*

          It’s also a pretty common ex-evangelical talking point, so it’s not specific to form or LDS people. There’s no information in the letter about what religion LW follows, and if she wanted us to know she would have told us.

          1. quill*

            There are a number of christian sects that people tend to leave because the doctrine squeezes them out. And many of those people understandably have trauma from being essentially cut off from what are close knit communities after trying to pretend they are someone they aren’t for years. So although plenty of ex-religious people will tell their whole leaving-the-religion story at the drop of a hat, they should really not be processing it all at strangers and colleagues.

            1. Nameless in Customer Service*

              As one such person I very much agree. When I’ve had coworkers who talked a lot about their churches I’ve sometimes had to bite my lip but it’s neither fair nor productive for me to be vocally angry at them for finding fulfilment in the place I had to flee from.

              1. quill*

                Yeah. I know it’s not the same, but when people talk fondly about memories from the schools I attended growing up, I can get a little squirrely. Maybe it was the best years of their life, but for me, it was not. Growing up in a place that allegedly welcomes everyone and shuts you out does a number on the brain.

              2. Jora Malli*

                Agreed. My current supervisor attends a church much like the one I left and when she talks about it I respond with some variation on “that’s nice” because I am not interested in opening that conversation with her. She’s not the right audience for those stories, so I save them up for more appropriate times. Hopefully OP’s coworker will learn that lesson soon.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I’m former Catholic, in college I was kind of in the inappropriate colleague’s shoes. It just depends on what your experience and family were like. Like, I bet ex-Opus Dei members have some pretty strong feels.

    2. Artemesia*

      And unless you make clear you don’t want to discuss it she make thing it is just good conversational fodder. Shut it down and if it THEN persists you have an issue. Until you tell her that, you don’t. The young marriage comment is a classic type of faux pas from a less than sensitive person; she is thinking about herself not you and probably didn’t even realize that it comes across as an insult to your marriage.

      1. allathian*

        Absolutely. And as a lesson for the future, don’t tell people you married young if you don’t want to be judged for it, LW. To be clear, the age you marry is nobody’s business but yours and your spouse’s. Marrying young is nothing to be ashamed of, but I don’t think it’s anything to be particularly proud of, either.

        Some context: In my area, more than 50 percent of first born children are born to unmarried parents, even if most of them subsequently marry. Most people are secular or non-observant, and sex before marriage is taken for granted in most circles. Many parents advise their kids to cohabit with their partners for a few years before getting married, because splitting up is so much cheaper and simpler than getting a divorce.

        Most of my friends married in their late 20s or early 30s, I was 37 and 8 months pregnant. The one friend who married a week after getting her Master’s degree because she wanted to save herself for marriage for religious reasons, is the only one in my friend circle who’s divorced.

        1. Myrin*

          I might be misreading the intention of your comment but there’s nothing in the letter indicating that OP is “particularly proud of” having married young – she just says that her coworker knows she got married at 21 which could naturally come up in conversation in a number of (completely neutral) ways.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Yep, my husband and I met in college and married at 21 after 3 full years of dating and a year of living together. It’s not hard for people to figure out if I mention a milestone anniversary- or even just that we married right after our degrees – that we must have been young!

            1. Louise*

              Yeah I wouldn’t expect a coworker who was clearly in their 30s to obfuscate if they got married recently, so it seems silly to hold someone who got married at a younger age responsible for their coworkers not finding out.

            2. NoviceManagerGuy*

              I got married just before my 21st birthday – I also met my wife in college and was a year ahead of where my age would place me in school.

              “allathian” seems to have mostly made that post to opine on other people’s relationship choices.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Theres an interesting cultural shift from “cornerstone” marriages to “capstone” marriages.

          A cornerstone marriage is generally when people marry young, and then build their lives (education, career, home, money, family) on and around the partnership. Capstone marriages are when people get their ducks in a row first (degree, career, home, money) and then get married. Children may come before or after (or not at all).

          Neither concept is morally superior to the other, though statistically the latter last longer, maybe because people change less at that point, or because they have already learned from mistakes. The former can last just as well though, if the work is put in.

          Society in our cultural space does seem to encourage the latter more and more.

          1. ferrina*

            I hadn’t heard the terms “cornerstone” and “capstone” marriages before. Great terms! Thanks for sharing these!

            I would add that different cultures/subcultures can vary widely. My personal experience was growing up in a city that favored capstone marriages but in a family that encouraged cornerstone marriages.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            There’s a whole Hidden Brain episode about how people think that their personality is now locked in, but of course different from 10 years earlier–and they think that at all ages. And they are right about the change happening but wrong about how it won’t going forward. (Also, I can think of few things more likely to change you than tying your decisions to the needs of other people–it would be weird if you married and had three kids and none of that affected you in the slightest.)

            I looked up the CDC (I think) stats on marriage some time back, and: People who get married before they are old enough to drive get divorced at much higher rates. Get up to 18-19 and the divorce rater is higher, but in line with people who have divorced once–and I imagine we all know people who divorced once, married a second time, and the second marriage lasted. Get up to the grand age of 20, and the odds of not divorcing flattened out, even if you waited to 30 or 40.

            I think people are fond of “because I was young” because whatever age you were when you did the thing you now question, you are definitely older now. It doesn’t mean that other people making decisions at that age will obviously come to regret them and need to wait to your current age to make those decisions instead.

            1. quill*

              I know there are states where people can get married as minors, but I did NOT know that there were places that allowed people under sixteen to marry.

              1. Metadata minion*

                Yep. Massachusetts, of all places, has no legal minimum age for marriage. And no, it’s not because we’re all enlightened and liberal and nobody tries to marry off 12-year-olds.

                1. quill*

                  Don’t mind me I’m just going to hide in the vents of the Massachusetts legislature and scream until they do something about that.

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          I think it would be even more likely the LW would come across insensitive comments like “I have a great marriage because we waited until we were mature to marry, not like those kids who go marrying right out of college” if she didn’t mention when she married. The issue isn’t people knowing when she married, in my opinion; the issue is people assuming that marrying young means making a poor decision. One of my uncles married at 21; he and his wife were dating since they were 15, which is hardly rushing into things.

          If anything, talking about her marriage (generally; not lecturing everybody about how she has a great marriage and they’ve been happy since she was 21) might go some way to combating the prejudices of people who think marrying young means marrying somebody you barely know on a whim, thinking you are madly in love and not thinking of the practicalities.

          1. allathian*

            My mom got engaged on her 21st birthday and my parents married two days before her 22nd birthday. My dad’s about a year older and they met at college. When I was in my early 20s, my dad said that the only reason they got married so young was that at the time it was impossible for an unmarried couple to rent an apartment, and that if they’d been able to do so, they’d probably have waited a year or two, at least until both of them had their Master’s degrees. They’re still married, AFAIK happily, so I do know that marriages can be successful even when the couple marries young.

        4. anonymous73*

          You really need to stop blaming OP for this. This is about co-worker crossing boundaries, not what OP shared with them.

        5. Christmas Carol*

          If you’re in your mid-twenties and wearing a wedding ring, your coworkers will probably work out that you married in your early twenties. Unless they all learned their math in Florida.

        6. Seriously?*

          I’m catching a whiff of moral superiority in marrying later because you don’t know people divorcing. Wait a few years. I’m in my 50s and suddenly know a whole slew of people divorcing. They got married at all different times in their lives. Perhaps it’s a pandemic thing, I don’t know. But people divorce for all kinds of reasons, and marrying later doesn’t make you immune.

          1. allathian*

            That’s true. I guess my friends and I have just been lucky, determined to work out any challenges in our marriages, and privileged enough to have access to marriage counseling if necessary.

            1. Tricksie*

              That’s…making an awful lot of negative assumptions and judgements about people who end up divorced. There are many, many, many factors that can go into a divorce even when people are “lucky,” “determined work out challenges,” and try marriage counseling.

          2. Lora*

            I think it’s a time of life thing. That’s the age when the people who had kids in their 20s/early 30s, now have those kids in college and no longer feel like they need to “stay together for the kids,” or when someone has a midlife crisis or has an affair. That’s when people start having serious health problems and begin to reconsider their life choices. When I got divorced it was the middle of the Great Recession and that was blamed for people both splitting up AND not splitting up: financial stresses were ruining relationships when one partner was long term unemployed, but nobody could afford lawyers and their marital homes were underwater so they were staying together, and all around it seemed like nobody was happy whether married OR divorced.

            I will say this for the people with no imagination when it comes to other people’s lives being different from their own: in due time, you will find that even your own life is unrecognizable to you, and you will find yourself in predicaments and miseries which you had imagined only happened to Other People. And if there are folks around who remember your previous lack of sympathy for their position, pray that they are kind enough not to mention it – and do not expect grace from them.

            1. Seriously?*

              I think that is happening again now. People can sell their homes easily, but being able to afford new homes or even an apartment is impossible. I know one couple divorcing but both still live in the home. It’s bad for everyone and the kids are choosing sides.

            2. quill*

              Yeah, a bunch of families that were friends with mine had the parents split once they were empty nesters. The parents had grown apart instead of together and the logistics were so much easier once either they had no more legal dependents, or at least there wasn’t split custody to deal with while one of the kids was still a minor, etc.

        7. HannahS*

          Anything that you tell anyone is fodder for judgement, including all of the details that you shared about yourself here.

          I see that you have values that you and your friends share and you seem to think your one friend who got divorced is divorced because she doesn’t share your values. That’s a weirdly mean perspective, and even if it was true, doesn’t mean that the OP needs to listen to someone repeat stereotypes about her religious group.

        8. miro*

          “don’t tell people you married young if you don’t want to be judged for it, LW”

          Oof. I hear variations of this phrase (“if you don’t want to be judged for [something about you] then don’t tell people”) far too often and I think it’s pretty cruel. Now sure, people who married young are not oppressed/stigmatized in the way that many of the identities/situations this phrase is applied to are, but fundamentally I think this is a really unfortunate way of thinking and talking about people.

          1. turquoisecow*

            Yeah I think OP should feel free to share whatever info she wants to share. The problem is the judging people, not that OP is sharing.

            Replace “married young” with anything else. “Don’t tell people you like peanut butter/enjoy exercise/play D&D/go skiing/observe X religion/ watch American Idol” if you don’t want to be judged for it.” The judging is the problem, not the sharing.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t think it can be replaced with anything else, no, not quite. For many people who aren’t cis heterosexuals, for example, sharing or not sharing “whatever info” they want to share about their relationships is a matter of preserving their safety and comfort. Yes, of course the judging and not the sharing is the problem in situations where that sharing is met with prying, hostility, bullying, or worse, but it doesn’t follow that it’s advisable for everyone to share anything about their personal life and just see how it lands without even a moment’s regard for who their audience is. This topic needs more nuance than “feel free” and “just…no.”

          2. Lady Luck*

            Yeah, it reminds me a lot of, “Well, you shouldn’t be so openly gay if you don’t want to be judged!” Just…no. People who are victims of unnecessary judgement/backlash/criticism are not the ones who need to change their behavior.

        9. S*

          It’s hard to avoid if you’re clearly 22 and you have a spouse, and neither OP nor anyone else should feel obliged to hide something as straightforward as marital status because of fear of being judged.

        10. Parakeet*

          You’re really invested in this assumption that the LW must be unduly proud of their marriage age etc, oversharing, and somehow to blame, and therefore needs your “lesson.” You keep making comments to this effect. There’s no indication that the LW is “particularly proud” of marrying young (or that they’re unaware of cultural norms other than their own and need you to explain to them that those exist). The problem here is the co-worker.

          I am (for various reasons) the paranoid person who won’t disclose what neighborhood I live in in the go-round of intros at volunteer group meetings, so I understand the usefulness of discretion, but 1) I don’t think everyone needs to have the same amount of it or on the exact same topics, and 2) I can easily see the LW’s age of marriage having come up in a bunch of ways in pretty standard chit-chat.

        11. Observer*

          And as a lesson for the future, don’t tell people you married young if you don’t want to be judged for it, LW.

          No. Deciding to treat all people like they are jerks until proven otherwise is NOT a healthy takeaway for the OP.

          Nor is it reasonable for the OP to “learn” that this particular piece of information is something that legitimately invites commentary and criticism from reasonable people.

        12. Nina*

          OP is young. ‘Not telling people’ she married young entails not telling people she’s married, which is a whole can of worms.

    3. S*

      I also immediately thought of the LDS/exmo dynamic. Regardless of the actual religion involved, it’s really important to draw clear boundaries and stick to them, as Alison said. In my experience, if the religion in question is one with a strong proselytizing tradition, both parties can feel an obligation to say something if the topic comes up, but if you close down that impulse with a firm boundary, people are usually pretty reasonable.

      As an added bonus, you can use the same technique in social or family situations: “Let’s not talk about religion, since we disagree!” repeated every. single. time. it comes up until the message is received.

  11. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Funnily enough my answer to OP3 is the same as OP1:

    ‘There are some things I don’t want to discuss with coworkers/management/other people”

    I don’t want my boss seeing my medical notes and knowing how messed up my brain is. (And she’s not legally allowed to do that in the UK either).

    I don’t want people here to know all the bad stuff I’ve gone through in the last two years (one serious incident with the brain problems being part of it) and there’s been nothing positive about this whole situation for me.

    1. MK*

      Not to derail, but the whole “doctors are not legally allowed to share patient information” is almost certainly woth the caveat “without the patient’s permission”. I cannot speak for all jurisdictions of course, but it would be pretty weird if a patient wanted X person to have knowledge of their health condition and the doctor being legally forbidden to do it. The manager is basically asking the OP to add them to the list of persons to whom their doctor is allowed to divulge this information. It’s completely inappropriate, but it wouldn’t be illegal.

      Also, I don’t think it helps to present the situation as more egregious than it is. The manager isn’t asking for copies of the OP’s medical records. They want to be able to talk to the doctor about whether the OP is “safe” to be a work. Again completely inappropriate, and the OP should push back, of course.

      There are industries where workers are required to produce doctors’ certificates at regular intervals that they don’t have certain diseases or are able to do their work safely. If the manager insists, I wonder if the OP would be willing to produce a similar note from their doctor, without any details about their condition.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        True, and thank you for the correction.

        I’ve had a boss in the past ask me for my doctors details so he could check to see if I was truly safe to work (this was after a bad brain moment) – it really rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe because I’m naturally paranoid.

        When I mentioned it to my doctor he said he couldn’t provide that information anyway – he could say that in his opinion I no longer needed to be signed off work but nothing beyond that.

        1. MK*

          It’s natural that you would be offended by that! And I understand that it’s different for, say, a pilot, who has to undergo regular medical examinations to be signed off to fly, but that’s a regulation of their profession that applies to everyone, and another thing to be singled out for a similar requirement because of your medical condition.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, and even for pilots, it’s not foolproof. We’re currently watching Air Crash Investigation! (Mayday! Mayday! in some markets) on Disney+/National Geographic, and there was a case where a German pilot committed suicide in 2015 by intentionally crashing his plane in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board (the copilot had left the cockpit to go to the loo, the pilot refused to open the door again). The pilot had been treated for “suicidal tendencies” and had been declared “unfit to work” by his doctors, but German privacy laws are strict, and in cases like these expect employees to apply for sick leave, the doctors can’t report them as unfit to work to their employers.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              That’s something I’m going to have to think about. When I first got diagnosed with epilepsy the doctor sent the information to the DVLA basically saying I was banned from driving for a while (I got my license back after a set number of years seizure free), but nothing was said to my employer even though at the time I did frequently need to drive for work.

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I remember that one from when it was in the news. It was very tragic, but it’s fortunately also extremely rare for someone who is suicidal to take down that many people with them.

              There’s also the problem that if doctors did disclose that kind of thing against the patient’s will, people would be much less inclined to seek treatment… If there had been a policy of reporting, that same pilot quite likely would not have sought treatment at all, thus no one would have been aware, and it would have ended the same way. Better to safeguard against that kind of thing by having a flight attendant be in the cockpit while the copilot steps away.

              1. allathian*

                Yes, I agree on both counts. Subsequently the FAA has come out with a recommendation/mandate stating that there has to be at least 2 people in the cockpit at all times while the plane is in flight.

                The reasoning is similar when it comes to pregnant people and alcohol or drug abuse. At more or less regular intervals, someone suggests that pregnant people who are found to drink or do drugs should be locked up to protect the fetus. If that actually happened, it would mean that these people would be far less likely to seek treatment, and even more kids would be born with severe fetal alcohol syndrome.

              2. Lady Glittersparkles*

                This is exactly what often happens in the military. People either don’t seek mental health treatment or aren’t fully honest when seeking treatment because the information can have major career consequences.

        2. Zelda*

          “I’ve had a boss in the past ask me for my doctors details so he could check to see if I was truly safe to work (this was after a bad brain moment) – it really rubbed me the wrong way.”

          Because that’s the boss basically saying that a) he doesn’t trust you to tell the truth, and b) his judgement on the matter is better/more important than your doctor’s. Offensive as heck.

      2. Another health care worker*

        I don’t think this is derailing, and I was going to point it out if nobody else did. “We can’t legally do that” is not true technically–the doctor can release almost any info you want if directed by you, in writing, to do so. I wouldn’t go this route, because then your employer could just say “well, can you sign the form please?”

        I am not at all defending the employer’s request, just talking about how to effectively refuse it.

      3. Observer*

        Not to derail, but the whole “doctors are not legally allowed to share patient information” is almost certainly woth the caveat “without the patient’s permission”.

        But in most jurisdictions where such rules exist, an employer cannot require an employee to share any information beyond that which is *required for the job*.

        The manager is basically asking the OP to add them to the list of persons to whom their doctor is allowed to divulge this information. It’s completely inappropriate, but it wouldn’t be illegal.

        Actually, in the US, it’s almost certainly illegal for the boss to ask. It’s certainly illegal for the to require it or to “strongly suggest it”.

        1. MK*

          I meant that it wouldn’t be illegal for the doctor to share medical information with a manager, if the patient instructs them to do so.

          I don’t know how the manager’s request would be viewed here, to be honest, because in any even remotely similar case I can think of, the manager asked the employee to produce a medical certificate clearing them for work, not to contact the doctor themselves.

      4. wittyrepartee*

        I think a lot of doctors would be uncomfortable to have a boss on the list of people who can call in and get whatever information. A lot of times something like that would have to involve you severely restricting the kind of information the boss can get, or signing a paper for each information handover. And certainly there would have to be a time limit.

  12. GrumpyDrone*

    OP5- Just wanted to underline that you opened the door by mentioning your religion at work, and now you see why that can be a problem. If you bring up a lot of details about your personal life at work, they may well become fodder for more than you bargained for. Perhaps consider this going forward,. It’s possible to be friendly without opening doors that expose your personal info to a lot of comments you don’t welcome.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      This doesn’t sit well with me, perhaps because I’ve seen a couple of cases where people who have harassed others for being e.g. LGBT, childfree have defended themselves with ‘well if they hadn’t talked about it I wouldn’t have discussed my views with them’

      I mean, people at work know I’m Wiccan, have no interest in children, am physically disabled, am lgbt and been married to a bloke for a long happy time.

      1. allathian*

        That’s a fair point. Some differences are very visible, and it’s wrong to interpret them as an invitation to comment on them. I shudder to think of the harassment many Muslim women face at work, and just going about their business in general, for choosing to dress modestly and cover their hair/face.

        That said, I do think that in some ways the LW could be more discreet about her private life in future. There’s no reason to mention at work how old you were when you got married, for example.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I think I’m probably unfairly inclined towards being naturally prickly about differences being judged and/or commented on. Like just because I’m visibly disabled doesn’t mean people can a) ask me invasive questions b) judge me or c) mean that I have an obligation to be the ‘friendly face of disabled’.

          I hold the belief that if you say something that marks you out as ‘different’ then that’s okay and should be accepted. With the proviso that this doesn’t apply to bigotry (I.e. if someone is openly antisemetic as their beliefs I ain’t gonna respect that)

          My coworker in another department has commented that I got married ‘awfully young for someone who doesn’t want children’ but I don’t think 24 is that young. I guess I don’t see OP as doing anything wrong at all – but they might want to stop speaking to that particular person who sees it as an invite to rant.

          1. As per Elaine*

            Yeah, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the OP to not share that she’s married (it would be fine for her to choose not to disclose, but she shouldn’t feel forced to hide it) and if we take “mid-twenties” to mean that she’s somewhere between 23 and 27, it could easily be obvious that she got married in her early twenties, especially if she’s on the young side of that.

            She doesn’t even need to talk about her “silver anniversary” or whatever — say she mentions that she and her husband are planning to go to a concert or a nice restaurant after work. Coworker says, “Oh, how long have you been married?” and OP’s options are:
            – tell the truth
            – lie
            – refuse to say, which honestly seems more likely to result in the coworker assuming that she got married at 17 or something, because why else would it be a secret?

            While one can categorically refuse to share any personal information at all with coworkers (assuming that one does not have visible markers of religion, disability, etc, but honestly we may as well count a wedding ring here), it’s a fairly extreme stance and not one that most people would default to without some indication that it was necessary, especially not in a job where casual chit-chat while working is normal and expected.

            1. miro*

              Yeah, it’s been interesting to read this comment section and see how many people are saying “simply don’t mention marriage/religion” as if that’s so easy! And I guess in some office cultures it must be. But for me it’s always been stuff like what you highlight–people ask questions, out of kindness/chit-chat rather than nosiness, but still questions that can easily put you in a position like this.

              1. introverted af*

                Yeah exactly. I try really hard to pick up on when people don’t want to go any deeper than the weather, but if I ask, “how are things going?” and they respond with, “my husband’s car got stolen while he was picking up our kids to go to XYZ religious observance last night, so it’s been rough,” then yeah, I’m gonna respond to that with some basic human warmth. I’m gonna ask when I see them again in a couple days, did they find the car, how are you all doing? because I’m not a robot and I can’t imagine how difficult that would be.

                Conversely, when my coworker says she’s going on FMLA and breezes past that into a discussion of the tasks I’m taking over from her, I’m gonna leave it alone and say at most, I hope she is well as I’m leaving the conversation.

              2. Anonymous for this*

                I look about my age (mid-20s) and wear a wedding ring. It’s pretty obvious I got married young! And when I mention I have 2 kids, it’s even more obvious. Perhaps some people see the wedding ring and hear about my kids and assume I’m older than I look, but it just wouldn’t be practical for me to completely hide my marriage and children in the workplace.

          2. As per Elaine*

            Also, not related to OP’s situation, but it’s really weird that your coworker assumed that having children is the only reason you might want to get married. I would’ve said that most people get married because they want to be married to that person.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              That’s still the predominant attitude where I live: if you’re a woman getting married to a man then it MUST be because you want to have babies. Otherwise they tend to ask ‘why did you even get married then?’.

          3. MK*

            Frankly, if you are of age, you are not “too young” to be married. You might be not mature enough for such a commitment or not ready to take on the challenges, but you can be pushing 30 and still not ready.

        2. bamcheeks*

          But it would be completely normal to say, “Oh, our weekend was lovely thank you– we went out for our silver wedding anniversary!”

        3. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

          It’s so EASY for this to come out naturally without it being an intentional reveal. It could be as simple as OP had ashes on Ash Wednesday or needed to not be followed into the closed-door room that the boss said could be used for daily prayers.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

            I hit submit too soon. Given the time frame, it could also have been turning down an offer of snacks because of Lent or Ramadan.

          2. miro*

            Absolutely! Or they were fasting, or keep Kosher, or don’t drink caffeine, or took off holidays that the office doesn’t have off, or wear a visible marker of their faith, or went to a school related to their religion, or speak a language associated with a given religion and someone asked them about it, or have a name associated with a religion, or… a million other things that would either make their religion obvious or prompt a coworker to assume/ask about it.

            I realize that for some people–esp. atheists and many Prostestant branches–religion = belief. And that’s a perfectly valid way to think about things personally, so long as you understand that that doesn’t map on neatly to every other religion. I think that people who see religion as boiling down to (or synonymous with) a set of internal thoughts/beliefs will tend to assume, in situations like this, that the OP must have been talking about their beliefs at work–and yeah, it’s possible that OP started an unsolicited theological discussion with a coworker, though personally I doubt it. But it’s also possible that religion means something else to OP, and manifests in different ways.

            I’m not sure I’m explaining this very well but hopefully it gets at some of the different ways people come at these discussions :)

            1. Sylvan*

              +1, and I think you did a good job of explaining the difference between religion, belief, and thought, FWIW.

              I’m an atheist in an extremely Christian place/culture and I only learned that from people of other religions on the internet. Someone mentioning their religion isn’t always telling you anything about their beliefs.

              1. quill*

                Yeah, a surprising (to me) few number of religions other than christianity focus on belief to the exclusion of ritual and community. I did classics in college and it took us a while in religion of ancient greece to wrap our heads around the fact that the problem that Athens had with Socrates’ teaching was less that he didn’t personally believe in the gods, and more that he encouraged people to not participate in civic rituals.

                They figured if he’s blaspheming on his own, the gods will get rid of him somehow, but if he messes up civic rituals the gods would be angry at the whole city.

            2. allathian*

              Yes, I think that “I realize that for some people–esp. atheists and many Protestant branches–religion = belief” is a very fair point. I mean, the devout Lutherans I know, mainly my MIL and her husband, go to church occasionally and otherwise practice their religion in private, say by reading the Bible or praying, but that’s it. My SIL is a Lutheran pastor, so she certainly lives her faith every day, but I don’t see that side of her personality. When we spend time with her, she’s just relieved to be able to let go of her professional role, even if it’s a fundamental part of her. But when your religion imposes dietary restrictions, or your religion can be identified by the clothes you wear (yarmulkes, hijabs, turbans…) many people are going to judge you by your religion without necessarily bothering to get to know you as a person, and that’s not OK.

            3. Parakeet*

              Yeah, I’m an atheist Jew (who has experienced plenty of antisemitism, as well as anti-atheist views, since childhood, and it’s actually pretty interesting, though off-topic, how some of the tropes there can overlap and intersect). I’ve noticed that culturally-Protestant atheists have very different understandings of how religion, culture/ethnicity, and belief, fit together, than I do (and often assume, at least in the US, that their understanding is universal). Jewishness is an important part of my identity and experience (and that’s something I didn’t feel “allowed” to really own until adulthood because Protestant hegemony, and its assumptions about how religion and belief fit together, was so strong where I grew up)

              For me, my Jewishness could easily come up at work in my casual mention that I’ll be out for Yom Kippur (or whatever holiday – we get a lot of floating holidays), or my wearing a Star of David or hamsa pendant, or mentioning a delicious [strongly Jewish-coded food] in work chit-chat, or any number of other ways. I also “look Jewish” (obviously there’s no one Jewish look, which is why I put that in scare quotes, but there’s a stereotype, and a lot of people read me as Jewish).

        4. KayDeeAye*

          It doesn’t sound at ALL to me as though the OP overshared. There are lots of normal, neutral ways in which what church you go to might come up in casual work conversations (“How was your weekend?” “It was nice, except that the church picnic had to be cancelled because of rain.” “Oh? Where do you go to church?” And so on.) I don’t see any reason to assume the OP has been even a bit indiscreet.

          1. JustaTech*

            Or “I tried out that recipe you gave me on my Bible study group and they loved it!”
            There are so many ways that one’s person life can and will slip into conversation at work. It’s not oversharing, it’s being part of a community (work).

            Yes, now that OP knows that their coworker is going to be difficult about everything they can cut way back on what they share with her, but it’s not like my coworker who showed me her X-rays from a terrible accident on her first day (and so very much more later). This coworker is being a jerk, and it is perfectly reasonable (and polite!) for the OP to ask her to stop.

        5. NoviceManagerGuy*

          You seem to be suggesting an impossible standard that would encourage Muslim/Orthodox women to share their religion but Muslim men to be secretive about theirs, and Mormons of any gender to hide theirs.

        6. Yeah, nah*

          If you’re young and wearing a wedding ring, people are going to know you got married at a relatively young age.

          There are a million ways this comes up in casual conversation; it’s not a thing most reasonable people would think to intentionally hide.

      2. Allegra*

        Agree extremely. It should be fine to offhandedly share something about yourself and and feel comfortable that coworkers won’t harass you for it! I take the LW at their word that they only mentioned it the week prior–which means the coworker then thought about for a whole week, and sat LW down and unloaded everything they hate about the LW’s religion on them. That’s not acceptable by any stretch of imagination, and saying “well you did bring it on yourself for mentioning your religion” is really not on.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I think OP isn’t the one who did wrong here, and if someone mentions a religion it doesn’t give everyone else the right to nasty comments or even just an annoying amount of questions. Religion can be a thing that is related to so many things in life, that it’s unreasonable to expect that it can’t be mentioned at all. After all, many people would find it weird if someone doesn’t participate in any small talk or tell anything about their free time ever.

    3. LadyAmalthea*

      Religion is one of those things that comes up, especially if you follow a less common in your area religion. (Being Jewish in Dublin after having worked previously in NYC is a cultural shift for sure.) Respectful people ask some questions out of genuine curiosity and then leave things alone until the next holiday, problematic people do not let things go.

      1. Ayla*

        I cannot tell you how many times I would be and work and be asked, “You don’t drink coffee? Are you Mormon?” I didn’t see any reason I should have to lie.

        1. allathian*

          Agreed. Harassing someone for their religion is wrong. I don’t think people of any faith should face discrimination for their beliefs, as long as they extend the same respect to non-believers. That said, I have zero respect for people who claim their religion as the reason why they won’t take orders from a woman. They can be as misogynistic as they like at home, but it better not spill over into the workplace.

        2. Lady_Lessa*

          I enjoy talking about religion, if the other person starts it, but would NEVER think that not drinking coffee was related to anything except not liking it.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Absolutely. It can affect a lot of practical day-to-day aspects of your life that will naturally come up – what you did at the weekend, what you can eat or wear, what your social life looks like and so on – and I don’t think that mentioning your religion makes someone else’s rude, prying questions your fault.

        1. MsM*

          Especially weekends like this past weekend. The lack of Easter content in any follow-up to the most generic answers imaginable is going to tell someone who doesn’t know my religious background that I’m not an observant Christian pretty quickly. Fortunately, I’m in an environment where I can just say I had seder with my family, and everyone knows and accepts what that means and is cool with it, but not everyone is.

    4. Green great dragon*

      Yeh, the letter sounds like it was closer to ‘last weekend I went to a barbeque and to [place of worship]’ rather than a theological discussion. You may be right, but being on shift every night with a co-worker and never mentioning any personal info to speak of would be… noticeable, shall we say.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I think it’s totally fine to mention religion (or lack of) in passing, if it’s done briefly and in a non-proselytising way. One of my lovely ex-colleagues was a Jehovah’s Witness and she mentioned it (I think) twice in the eight years we worked together.

        Unless you work for an organisation focused on religion or atheism, work just isn’t an appropriate setting to try and convert people to your point of view on religion. But since some people do a lot of social activities focused around their religious community, it’s not realistic to expect people to never mention it at all.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes I mean I make small talk and people discuss leisure activities so I know Peter plays the piano at his church on Sunday. I know Priti cooks a lot for Divali because she brings in food to share. I don’t know the details of their lives and I don’t want to know the details of their religious views. But on a superficial level some small talk is normal.

        I wouldn’t want to work somewhere people didn’t talk about themselves a bit.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree. I don’t think religion or the lack of it should be a taboo subject on a superficial level. It only becomes a problem if people take it upon themselves to pass judgment on others based on their religion. Or for that matter any other personal characteristic, regardless of whether it’s something that they can’t change like skin color, gender identity, sexuality, disability, or something some people can change with difficulty but others can’t no matter how they try and still others see no reason to change, such as weight, or a lifestyle choice, such as being childfree by choice or spending all their PTO on sci-fi conventions.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yep. Asif asks to switch shifts so he doesn’t have to do swing/night during Ramadan. Yulia requests that her sandwich has meat or cheese, but not both. Verna needs to take off a few days for her niece’s Sunrise Ceremony. Vanessa came back from lunch with ashes on her forehead. Jim is grumpy on Monday because his daughter threw her Easter shoes out the car window on the way home from church, a story he tells because, “Dude, toddler life isn’t for the weak”. Marriage is the same. It comes up organically. I know who is married in my team without anyone explicitly saying they are married. I have an approximate length of relationship/marriage based on the details that come up (e.g. kids in elementary vs HS, someone mentioning the birth of a grandkid and they are 40, same sex so not allowed until 2015) in the day-to-day, not from them telling me. It is almost impossible not to learn this stuff over time.

          1. Eff Walsingham*

            This is where I’m landing, as well. I mention my husband occasionally at work, but it’s not because I’m instigating or inviting a referendum on the married state. It’s due to the fact that this dude shares my abode, and a funny thing happened….

            Anecdotally, he’s the third cat.

    5. Squidlet*

      I disagree, unless OP engaged in in-depth discussions, which there is no indication of. We should be able to briefly mention personal details without being forced into repetitive, badgering, conversations.

      When I first started working (decades ago) I was reluctant to tell people that I was a vegetarian, because they just went on, and on, and on about it. But not saying anything opened me up to questions like “why don’t you have some?”, “aren’t you hungry?”, “why aren’t you eating?”, “don’t you eat MEAT?!?”, “WHY NOT?”

      We shouldn’t have to conceal or lie about basic personal stuff to avoid being harassed or cross-questioned.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I absolutely agree. Of course, if you work with insensitive jerks like this, saying nothing can be the only way to avoid what you’re describing. Just because someone insistently asks a question doesn’t mean they’re entitled to an answer. “Why don’t you have some?” “I’m fine, thanks.” “Aren’t you hungry?” “I’m fine, thanks.” “Why aren’t you eating?” “I’m fine, thanks.” “Don’t you eat MEAT?” “I’m fine thanks.” By this point they should give up on you as a hopeless case. If you’ve been conditioned to always be truthful, and are used to having to justify your choices to others, recognizing that they aren’t entitled to an answer can be easier said than done…

        I do think that being vegetarian or vegan is both more common and more accepted than it was a few decades ago. My sister’s been a vegetarian for much of her adult life. IIRC she stopped eating red meat when she was in high school, and stopped eating fish and fowl in her early 20s, and finally stopped putting milk in her coffee about 10 years ago, when decent vegan substitutes became widely available in our area. She won’t turn down a cake that contains eggs and has a whipped cream topping, though. She told me recently that until about 20 years ago, she had to spell out that she was a lacto-ovo-vegetarian when she traveled, went to conferences, or went out to dinner at a restaurant with her friends. Now she just checks the box on the conference registration form, or whatever, and she gets to eat an appetizing vegetarian or vegan dish. Many of her friends are also vegetarian or vegan, and there are several great vegetarian or vegan restaurants in our hometown, and most meat-serving restaurants have decent vegetarian options, although vegan ones are a bit hit and miss. (I’m a flexi-eater, and I often pick the vegetarian option because it’s the most appetizing one.)

        1. Squidlet*

          It’s definitely more common where I live, and I never get this type of response any more.

    6. Asenath*

      I think it’s harsh to put that much of the blame on OP5. Both marriage and non-work activities are common topics for office chit-chat, say, “We’re going out for our anniversary dinner” or “My husband is picking me up” or “I’m really looking forward to the big religious celebration”. Sure, some people will take that sort of thing and run with it, at which time they should be shut down. But it seems extreme to be expected not to mention, even in passing, that one has a husband or enjoys spending time at religious observances.

    7. bamcheeks*

      This is an excessively risk-averse approach to take for most people! If you find it unbearably awkward to say, “I would rather not discuss religion at work, thank you!” then it might be necessary to be this cautious about giving away any private information. But for most people, it’s perfectly reasonable to share information like the fact that you practice a certain religion, expect your co-workers to be respectful of that and to deal with the few boundary-oversteppers directly.

    8. EPLawyer*

      I’ve seen more than one comment like this. One, the letter nowhere says OP started the conversation on religion. Two, even if she did, it does not give the coworker the right to go off on the subject ON MORE THAN ON OCASSION. People are allowed to engage in idle chitchat without then being subjected to rants which are “their fault” for making a comment in the first place.

    9. shedubba*

      I don’t know, this sentiment strikes me as being a bit victim blame-y. As others have said, you can’t reasonably expect someone to never mention their religion at work, ever. As other commentershave said, it comes out in so many little ways that we live our lives. Same with how old LW was when she got married.

    10. BRR*

      I’ve seen this point a few times as I’ve scrolled down the comments and I strongly disagree with it. Or at least I disagree with it without more information. There’s no indication the lw brought up “a lot of details.” Things come up during small talk/casual chit chat at work but that doesn’t mean the topic is now fair game to say whatever negative comments about it that you want.

    11. Let’sBeReal*

      Sometimes you have to mention religion at work, particularly if you’re asking for days off for a religious holiday. (I used to have to do that before I had earned enough paid vacation to use that for my religious observances.) We had an option called “religious comp time” where you could pre-work your hours and then take off paid time for religious holidays. So they had to know it was for a religious purpose for the paperwork.
      That doesn’t mean I am now open fodder for everyone’s opinions on organized religion as a discussion at the office.

    12. mreasy*

      I disagree. Mentioning “church social” as to your weekend plans and answering friendly inquiries as to what church you attend, etc, is by no means an opening to act the way OP’s coworker is acting. I’m all for not sharing personal stuff at work (I have a private IG as my only social media & I don’t follow/accept follows from coworkers, I don’t know my team members’ cellphone numbers, or the names of their spouses/roommates/etc), but if a coworker mentioned a seder dinner, it would t mean I could question the value of Judaism…

    13. Insert Clever Name Here*

      No, people get to decide they don’t want to talk about a subject anymore even if they did at a previous time. If I mentioned that I like the Lord of The Rings trilogy and a coworker took that to mean that every time she saw me she was going to berate me for my taste in literature it doesn’t mean I did anything wrong by mentioning it. I’m allowed to say “I don’t want to discuss this with you.” Coworker is the one making it weird.

    14. anonymous73*

      I really don’t think it’s fair to blame the OP. This is a boundary issue with co-worker, period, and the subject matter is irrelevant.

    15. LW5*

      Hi there, I’m the fifth LW! I have definitely stopped chatting with this coworker about personal things since this happened. Religion first came up in conversation because she asked what I had done over the weekend—I said that I went on a hike and to a barbecue with friends and then went to my religious service.
      I don’t remember how my marriage came up, but we were chatting as we worked. I mentioned something about my husband and we talked about our spouses for a little bit, she also said the age she got married. I probably shouldn’t have shared that in hindsight! I have received comments from strangers like, “You seem young to be married,” but I look very young so I usually assume it’s because of that, not my age!
      Overall, I am definitely more careful now about what I share with my coworkers about my personal life—thank you for your response!

      1. dedicated1776*

        I’m sorry that this one woman with no boundaries is making you doubt your own ability or right to make small talk! It’s absurd. It’s natural to tell a coworker in the course of conversation about spouses how long you’ve been married, for example. It’s rude for said coworker to then judge you for it.

      2. Very Social*

        I’m sorry you have to be so careful about what you share with your coworkers–I hope you’re having a better time with that rude coworker.

        And I’m sorry that you had to see the comments on this post blaming you for your coworker’s rudeness.

    16. Anonymous for this*

      We can never talk about anything about our personal lives ever, at work? I’m spending 40 hours a week with these people, something’s gonna slip out and if it does, it’s MY fault?

      I chat with a co-worker about my vacation spent with my college senior son at X art college. Does that mean I’m *responsible* for the obnoxious co-worker who shares her views on how stupid BFAs are and how unemployable my son is? After all, I shared personal information and opened it up, that’s on me! Or the fragile co-worker who’s angry at my insensitivity for talking about my kid’s success in college when her kid is flunking out? Shame on me for bringing it up!

      To be clear: I’m extremely private and don’t share much about my private life. I like to keep work and everything else separate. But there are some “private” or personal details that are just going to come up in the natural course of a conversation. If someone else is an ass about that, that’s not on me. It’s on *them*.

      1. Dinwar*

        It’s also not possible to totally hide one’s religion in some cases. I don’t have any obvious religious iconography or the like on my person or my desk, and numerous coworkers have commented on it and asked about it. And then there’s the issue of reasonable accommodations that was discussed yesterday. The instant a Muslim asks for an accommodation for Ramadan, everyone knows they’re Muslim. When someone asks for a LEGALLY REQUIRED thing are they responsible for coworkers harassing them? If so, in what sense is the accommodation reasonable?

    17. FridayFriyay*

      This sounds exactly like the people who claim that queer folks open the door to discrimination in the workplace by not keeping our personal lives private. Holding some people to the expectation of completely grey rocking their colleagues to avoid judgement and lecturing while others (typically dominant group members) have license to make what is understood to be normal, work appropriate smalltalk conversation (went to the church BBQ this weekend, celebrated my anniversary etc) is really icky. Stop blaming people for their own marginalization.

      1. miro*

        100% this.

        And maybe people feel comfortable saying this kind of thing to the OP because they see religion as more of a choice than queerness* and/or assume that OP is part of a majority/privileged religion, but I still maintain that normalizing or perpetuating this way of thinking about people and identities. And the thing is, even if you know that you would only use this line against privileged people who you think deserve it, your queer friends/fellow commenters might not be so sure, and it’s a big red flag for us.

        *true, though as a queer person who remains (fairly happily) in a theoretically queerphobic religion because that community is not only my religion but also is interchangeable with my diasporic culture… I do think that some people overestimate how easily religion can be extracted from culture/ethnicity/language. It’s complicated!

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, absolutely. It’s not fair if I get to make an offhand comment about going to lunch with my opposite-sex partner, but if Wakeen mentions going out with his same-sex partner at the weekend, it’s ‘opening the door’ to people’s judgement because he’s chosen to talk about it. People talk about their lives at work! I should be able to say, as an atheist, that my family had a really fun Easter egg hunt on Sunday and I ate far too much chocolate, just as someone else should be able to say they enjoyed spending Passover with friends or that they’re looking forward to Eid. I know there are some people in the commentariat here who don’t want to chat to their co-workers at all ever, but to me, and in all the places I’ve worked, that’s part of being a team. Of course there’s no need to divulge every detail of one’s private life, but we all chat about our weekend plans, commiserate about the neighbours’ building work, talk about the TV we’ve seen, etc etc. And as part of that it’s inevitable that we’ll all have at least a little insight into our colleagues’ lives – even if it’s just ‘Fred lives with Jane and they have a dog; Lily has a girlfriend called Monica, they’ve just come back from a holiday to Spain; Fergus is running a marathon for charity next month’. And there’s no reason why ‘Kate is singing in her church carol service this Christmas’ shouldn’t be part of that.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I agree, I want my queer coworkers to talk about their same-sex spouses, my Jewish manager to talk about how her Passover seder went, my nonbinary coworker to talk about coming out to their parents, and my Christian coworkers to mention their church small group or choir practice. Same as anyone would mention their spouse, kid, dog, parents, whatever.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            Yeah, I think some commenters are getting wrapped around the axle on power structures here and finding ways to make it the LW’s fault because she’s the one leading a more “traditional”/”*-normative” life. But criticizing her for that still isn’t okay, even if it doesn’t contribute to structural discrimination!

    18. Dinwar*

      This is enabling the preachy coworker, and attitudes like this are why many members of minority religions hide their beliefs. You are allowing someone to weaponize normal conversation and alter social norms in ways that give them power. It is wrong to expect people to hide their religion, just as much as it’s wrong to expect a gay man to hide photos of his husband or a transgendered person to hide their gender.

    19. Generic Name*

      No. Mentioning one practices a particular religion at work is not a carte blanche invitation to debate one’s religious practice. It’s possible to have more nuanced boundaries than never discussing a topic versus discussing all aspects of a topic, regardless of how personal or appropriate it is to discuss at work.

    20. Broadway Duchess*

      If a person is mid-twenties and has a spouse, it would stand to reason that the person married in his/her/their twenties. It seems like you’re saying the mere mention of a spouse puts this squarely in OP’s court and it doesn’t. If someone asks me what I did over the weekend and I mention my kids in the response, that doesn’t invite commentary on whether I am too old, young, or otherwise to have had those children (who have already been born, so what would the point be, other than to be a jerk).

    21. Observer*

      If you bring up a lot of details about your personal life at work, they may well become fodder for more than you bargained for. Perhaps consider this going forward,.

      Please do NOT “consider this going forward.” Because there is absolutely no evidence that the OP actually brought up a “lot of details” about her life. The fact that she married young is so obvious that she would have to work pretty hard to hide it, which is ridiculous. And her religious affiliation is also something that could easily have come up in perfectly normal chit chat. And that assumes a religious affiliation that doesn’t have external markers such as Hijab or Bindi.

      Even in a situation where someone over-shares (which is not the case here), that doesn’t make it ok for people to rant at them and tell them how terrible their life choices are.

  13. WoodswomanWrites*

    #3 – Even just reading about the request for pandemic stories and pictures brings tears to my eyes. It’s unfathomable that the general manager sent an email cheerily saying: “Share your lock-down moments!” as if they were asking for wedding photos or a fun picture of you as a baby. I truly don’t understand how someone could have missed the tragedy of a global pandemic – in New York City no less – and so much suffering, even if they didn’t experience it personally. I hope they come to their senses.

    1. Allonge*

      This is not excusing the, franky, stupid request in LW3 but there are millions of people for whom the pandemic is not a tragedy that touched them that deeply/closely. It was inconvenient at times but they got to work from home and had babies and adopted pets and moved into a new house…

      It’s not an excuse not to think! It’s just that their experience was very different.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        I live in New Zealand and by sheer good fortune we vanquished covid for a time, so thankfully no personal tragedies for me – but I still can’t think of a single positive about my lockdown experience, with a business that tanked and a two-year-old to entertain, and I absolutely wouldn’t want to share all about it in a workplace setting. I’m still low-level traumatised by the whole thing, even though most New Yorkers (etc., etc.) would scoff at how easy we had it.

        It’s completely tone-deaf for anybody to assume it was all about sourdough and Duolingo, and even here you’d get a whole lot of WTF.

      2. Colette*

        I’m one of the people less affected. I can work from home; I learned new skills; I’ve been busy with projects around the house. Although I know people who’ve had COVID, it’s been after the vaccines, and no one has been seriously ill.

        And if I could snap my fingers and have it disappear, I would do so. I haven’t seen most of my family in over 2 years (my 5-year-old niece is now 8!), everything is harder than it used to be (do I have a mask?how can the store be out of carrots? should I invite my cousin for Easter, or is the risk too high?)

        The only people for whom the pandemic was neutral or positive overall would be those who don’t believe it’s happening.

        1. Elenna*

          I definitely believe the pandemic is happening, but the pandemic’s effect *on me alone* was positive overall. I got to work from home (and we’re permanently going to a hybrid model), and my social life is small/mostly online which is probably why I don’t know anyone who was seriously ill and the lack of in-person gatherings didn’t really affect me.

          And if I could snap my fingers and make it never have happened, I still would. Because I’m not the only person in the world, so many people died or had long-term health issues, and that’s way, way more important than my ability to sleep in a bit more and work in my pyjamas. Also, I’ve got the good sense to realize that my experience was definitely not universal…

      3. JamminOnMyPlanner*

        Personally, I made so much more money drawing unemployment than I did at my job that I was able to save it and my stimulus payments to pay for a down payment on a house once I got my job back and could get a loan.

    2. Artemesia*

      A million Americans have died; gotta imagine that some of them are related to people in this workplace. It is very insensitive but I am sure the person who thought of it, is thinking cute work from home or hobby stories — and maybe something about shortages of your favorite food — not ‘My Mom died and we haven’t even been able to have the funeral yet.’

      1. KateM*

        I hope the first story that gets shared is along those lines and then the request will be taken back in haste.

        1. Iworktherenow*

          If it wouldn’t be so traumatic for the people forced to participate, I almost wish the employees would coordinate so it was just a litany of reminders how bad it was for people who were not privileged to coast through it.

      2. calonkat*

        It’s not just people who died of COVID, my sister had terminal cancer heading into the pandemic. Visits were severely curtailed after the pandemic started, so I spent much less time than I’d have liked with her (there was also caring for my aged/ailing mother during this, and we couldn’t “cross the streams” because my mother had more hospital visits.) I had multiple friends die, I couldn’t go visit them because of pandemic and parent care. I’ve had to be back in the office and I hate every minute of it (wearing a mask to have zoom meetings is SO MUCH BETTER than being at home and not wearing a mask to have zoom meetings).

        I think there might have been a good way to phrase it, maybe “The last two years have been hard on all of us for a wide variety of reasons and some shared ones. If you have some memories (happy or at least funny please) that you’d be willing to share, please be prepared to do so!”

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m on the official morale/yay team group at work and we have been dormant for a couple years. No surprise. Got an email that we are starting up again. I started to brain storm things to do. Normally, it’s sports jersey day, stuff like that. so I’m at my desk, writing every thought I had. One was: Lockdown hobbies, like what did you do during lock down? Bake bread? Workout? What did I do? Oh yeah…
      “I buried my dad.” Yeah. Cross that off the list.
      That took two seconds to veto.
      How Someone let it get farther than brainstorming is messed up.

    4. Grey Coder*

      There are, unfortunately, still plenty of people who think Covid is not all that serious. No way of knowing if the cheery manager is one of them, or if they have a faulty sense of empathy, or just haven’t been paying attention. Or if they’re a victim of toxic positivity. Anyway, if I received this request I would do my best to ignore it — not sure I’d have the strength to share my own horrors.

    5. Popinki (she/her)*

      It just sounds like the Cluelessness of the Privileged all over again. Like that list of things to do with your kids while working at home: have them take notes during meetings! Have them submit your helpdesk tickets! Fine for the right kid with the right parent who’s either got reliable child care or a stay-at-home spouse, not so much for a single parent or working couple with a bunch of bored, ornery kids who don’t understand what’s happening but they really wanna go to Chuck E. Cheese and why can’t they?!

      I was very, very, very, very lucky during COVID. I was an essential worker so I kept my job, and my bosses took safety very seriously. I didn’t get the virus, and the people in my circle who did get it recovered from it. I don’t have kids so I didn’t have to worry about homeschooling or child care. However, I was scared, anxious, depressed, lonely, and bored. I basically spent the lockdown flaked out on the couch eating junk food and sending my physcial and mental health into the toilet. Forget baking bread or learning to speak Japanese; it was all I could do to drag myself through the day.

    6. Karo*

      My jaw dropped and then I wondered if I could get away with sending the OP a picture of my father-in-law’s grave so she could submit it for me. And we were *lucky* because they allowed my husband to be there while his father died and he’s the only person I loved that has succumbed to it. WTF are these people thinking.

  14. bamcheeks*

    OP4, not sure who the relevant people in your case will be, but in the UK that would be a “talk to your academic adviser / module leader / course leader / placements team ASAP”. They’ll help you find a new placement or advise you of the next steps or alternatives if you need the placement to complete your course. They may also be aware of sources of funding which would enable you to complete the original placement. Talk to them ASAP!

  15. Healthcare Manager*

    OP 1 – myself and some other colleagues had that happen previously, ironically while working at a mental health workplace. They were in denial that it was the workplace safety issues that were contributing negatively to staff health. Rational conversations with HR and HR VPs weren’t working – we had to get the union involved. I recommend going to Union right NOW.

  16. Other Alice*

    #1, the only time your doctor should be talking to your manager is if your doctor wants to personally tell your manager how inappropriate that kind of request is!

  17. noname*

    OP#3, I’d probably send in 3 photos: 1 of my uncle’s funeral; 1 of my close friend’s father’s funeral; and 1 of another close friend’s father’s funeral.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      Yeah, my lockdown lows are not seeing my parents or sisters for a year and the pretty tragic & traumatic death of a cousin. I don’t have pictures for that, but I could sure doodle some to make a point.

    2. Generic Name*

      Seriously. Or send those news photos of a Covid ward where patients in medically induced comas were kept face down with a note that you don’t have the exact picture of your loved one, but that one is close enough. It’s sad how rare basic empathy seems to be.

    3. Epiphyta*

      “Here’s a screenshot of my cousin’s obituary! Oh, and here’s his wife’s, from three weeks earlier – I had to attend the funerals on Zoom, but I didn’t think to do captures of that.”

  18. Squidlet*

    OP1, this is an example of extreme boundary infringement, and a violation of your privacy and autonomy.

    We’ve seen so many stories about boundary-violating bosses and colleagues. My husband has a few of his own, and small companies seem to the worst offenders.

    Like the potential new boss (and small company owner) who insisted on a restaurant dinner with him (owner), his wife, my husband, and I *as part of the interview process* to see whether “the family” be a good fit.

    And his current boss who makes my husband and his colleagues sleep at his family home, in the guest room (to save money on accommodation, and I suspect to be able to discuss work at any time of the day or night), when they travel to head office. They get to have breakfast in his kitchen, with his wife and kids.

  19. Bookworm*

    #2: I don’t have any advice, just that I’m so sorry and do hope it works out. The frustration that people are not in the office isn’t something that’s limited to your boss, and I expect that we’ll sadly hear more of these types of stories as time goes on. Wishing you the best of luck!

    1. londonedit*

      Yep – here in the UK all the civil servants have been ordered back to the office, because the government thinks it’s time to ‘end the working-from-home culture’. Thankfully my employer isn’t going to force anyone to work in the office until they’re convinced it’s safe to do so, but I have a feeling they’re going to be more and more in the minority as this year goes on.

  20. Yellow*

    LW3 this is clearly not something that you want to take part in – so just don’t. Not every activity has to work for everyone.

    If a return party where people share their good moments from the last 2 years would be upsetting for you – then opt out. But for others this would be enjoyable. It seems clear to me that best (and worst) is referring to the funny worst – not the heart wrenching horrors some dealt with.

    My grandfather went to war. I know full well that it wasn’t fun, and that the worst moments were horrific and the stuff of nightmares. But he had his photo album and he’d show us pictures of the good times, and the funny worst times. And he’d get together with his mates and they’d laugh about the good times they had, and remember.

    1. Trawna*

      But not in a work setting. That is the difference.

      Managers who organize this kind of gathering – and give professional kudos to the sharers – seem to have no idea what bad internal PR it is.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly. My toxic coworker who takes everything the wrong way doesn’t get to know my worst moment in lockdown. My oblivious boss doesn’t get to know how much I cried, because that will impact which assignments he gives me (“ferrina is too sensitive for this”)

        My family though- my sister is the one I laugh and cry with, the one I process pain with, the one that just stays on the phone for five minutes while I steady my breath.

        Work settings should be something that all folks can go to and not feel exposed or triggered by their colleagues. That’s a pretty basic ask.

    2. Generic Name*

      But that was your grandfather’s choice to share with his family. Imagine if immediately upon returning from war (when the trauma is still fresh), your grandfather’s boss told him to share his best/worst moments of the war. When your grandfather shared the photos, I’m guessing it was decades after he returned and not months, so he had time to process, heal, and gain perspective. A reminder to us all that just because something doesn’t bother you, doesn’t mean no one can be bothered by it.

    3. RecdByEmily*

      Replace “lockdown” with any other widespread disaster and it becomes apparent how inappropriate this is. “Share your best stories from when you were displaced because of Hurricane Katrina!” “Tell us your funny stories from the bomb shelter!”
      There certainly are some good and/or funny stories from these scenarios, but they are not something that should be asked for, and certainly not by an employer.

    4. Koala dreams*

      The commenters on this site mostly don’t want to share anything personal with anyone at work (except cute animal photos, of course), bit in real life most people are the opposite. I’m sure that a lot of people will want to share funny pictures and commiserate over the bad memories. I don’t agree that it’s clear they don’t mean the really bad things, I expect that a lot of people would want to share sad memories too. Just like at funerals, often the good and bad memories are mixed together and it’s quick to go from one to the other.

      If you don’t want to participate, just say “no thanks” and ask to be excluded from the future emails about the photo project.

      If you were working together in person, people would soon learn that you are an unusually private person, and preface the information with a “of course it’s optional” or even “I know you aren’t interested, but for those who are, the company is doing a…” Unfortunately that doesn’t work so well over a distance (or in a large very team). You’ll just have to accept that you need to say “no thanks” every time.

      1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        Read the comments that a lot of people have left for Op 1- we’re happy to share, but when it’s appropriate. Asking people to turn a global pandemic into a couple of amusing vignettes is not appropriate.

        1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Oops, I meant Op 5, but the theme stands. Op 5 didn’t overshare info, Op 1 and 3 shouldn’t be asked to share info.

      2. Eff Walsingham*

        Yeah, the people who want to share these sorts of things with their coworkers can go ahead and share them with each other. I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that they should be prohibited from doing so.

        The ick factor comes into it when management gets involved, because the power dynamics involved bring pressure into an already potentially traumatic situation. Managers (especially) should refrain from asking boneheaded insensitive questions (“How was the funeral?”) to their subordinates because it’s unfair to put the burden of tactfulness on the grieving party.

        Can we all not just agree that a pandemic is a bad thing, and potentially leave it at that? One of the small upsides of being an “essential” worker until January, and not getting so much as one day off to learn to bake sourdough, is that at least our bosses didn’t ask daft questions about our personal pandemic highlight reels!

        Capital or no capital, I would absolutely not attempt to conceal how appalled I was by this suggested activity. I would also be prepared to make an effort to think how I personally might head it off before word of it reached anyone who might absolutely uncontrollably break down at the mention of it. I have a fairly dark sense of humour, but put me down for Team “Death is Not a Party Game” nonetheless.

        1. Yellow*

          Personally I think the ick from this is a personal feeling that isn’t at a standard to say no work should have an event where they share photos from the pandemic. I honestly think Just opt out is the answer. Sure there are workplaces with horrid environments where opting out of the occasional event would be problematic, but then in that case it’s not facilitating sharing photos of baking failures or cats zoom bombing meetings that’s the issue.

          Work can have events that you find insensitive without it being something that shouldn’t happen. The alternative can be workplaces with bad internal PR because they won’t do anything because someone could/does get offended.

          Don’t like family day – ok but many other people do. Don’t like cultural events being recognised in the workplace – ok but many other people do. Don’t like birthday celebrations – ok but many other people do. Don’t like food being served at team meetings – ok but many other people do. Don’t like things being decorated to mark causes throughout the year – ok but many other people do.

          Most of the time people should be capable of separating when something bothers them on a personal level vs something rising to a standard where it should not happen. When it’s the former you vent to your personal network, opt out of active participation, and for the most part just deal.

          If a lot of people don’t like the idea they won’t get photos sent in, and the event will bomb. Right now it appears to be a pretty innocuous email inviting people to participate. I’d think differently if there was genuine pressure (letter does not mention any) towards forcing active participation.

          Every workplace I’ve been in has had events that I don’t like. I make sure I participate in general in my workplace, and then opt out of specific things. Maybe I’ve been incredibly lucky, maybe US work culture is completely alien to me – but I think most could easily just not participate in this without it being a huge deal.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t agree that “don’t like gathering to view a slideshow of pandemic highlights, don’t submit a photo” is on par with “don’t like the food being served at meetings, don’t take any.”

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        The commenters on this site mostly don’t want to share anything personal with anyone at work (except cute animal photos, of course), bit in real life most people are the opposite.

        Have you done a survey?

        We don’t choose our coworkers for the most part. When I was young I learned, from a couple of workplaces where my coworkers were by and large far more politicially conservative than I, to be much more circumspect about my life. Getting lectured about the “travesty” and “sin” of the same-sex marriage I mentioned attending the past weekend or listening to my coworkers bond over every transphobic stereotype they could cite really made an impression.

    5. Canadian Public Servant*

      In contrast, my grandfather never talked about what he saw in WWII. With anyone, ever. We knew he came home with a medal. I have often thought about submitting a request for his military records so we could find out more, since my mom has wanted to know. Luckily, as a farmer and gas station attendant, he didn’t have to participate in fun team building activities.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        My grandfather was the same, certainly during my lifetime. I too intend to apply for his service records in order to learn more, but I’m waiting until it’s possible to visit my Aunt in case it’s something she wants us to do together.

  21. Mannheim Steamroller*

    OP#1…

    Is your manager explicitly telling you to waive your HIPAA rights? If so, get it in writing and take it to both your lawyer and HR.

  22. I just work here*

    #1 I agree with everything that has been said about this not being an appropriate request, but I am wondering if there is a different reason for them asking than you think (being involved in your healing). Did your health condition result in erratic behavior in the workplace? Is your boss asking about this because they are concerned about what to do if you exhibit symptoms they don’t know how to address or how to determine when you might need help?

    1. EPLawyer*

      Still none of the boss’ business. If something happens in the workplace that AFFECTS the workplace, he can enquire as to what the appropriate steps are. He CANNOT and SHOULD NOT request direct contact with the doctor.

      1. I just work here*

        oh I definitely agree with you–just suggesting that the LW consider if there is a need to share any type of emergency information–I was quite thankful that one of my employees told me she had diabetes and what the symptoms of the start of a diabetic crash might look like because when I saw her with the beginning stages of a diabetic incident, I knew to get her some OJ and crackers right away. That’s all.

        It is never OK for a supervisor to be communicating with someone’s doctor to get information about an employee’s health condition.

        1. Yellow*

          Never say never! While in most cases that is certainly true, in some job roles/cases it is absolutely appropriate for medical staff to be directly conversing with management. Not (usually) in a keep us in the loop kind of way as appears to be suggested here, but in a responding to specific situation collectively. I personally have done this because it made my life easier (with very strict bounds over what could be shared and when).

          Medical privacy is important. But on a practical level it can be advantageous to be selectively more open. And in very specific scenarios to bring people together to just discuss and have questions answered.

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            I can’t conceive of a situation where an employer would have a legitimate reason to pry into an employee’s health issues. I’m contemplating a theoretical possibility that the employer might legitimately want the doctor’s contact information in order to GIVE information to the doctor, but I’m really uncomfortable trying to stretch my imagination that far.

            Even in that scenario, I see too much potential for abuse. Sadly, almost anything LW does in response, whether to protect her privacy or to expose herself, there is a significant risk the employer will see something that “confirms” their biases about already stigmatized health conditions.

    2. ferrina*

      This would still be bad management. They can’t try to help you manage your symptoms, they can’t take your health matters into their own hands, and they definitely can’t assume that they’ll know more about your health than you do. It completely undermining LW’s autonomy in their health decisions, has an undue influence on LW’s career, and can also just be really toxic if boss decides to manage/judge LW’s health (assuming they even know anything about LW’s health condition).

      What they can do is hold LW accountable for performance and say “you need to [meet all deadlines/always behave professionally]”. If they feel it’s time for a PIP, then they should be consulting with HR and Legal about what that would look like (not the doctor). If they are worried about symptoms, they can ask LW what accommodations (if any) they can provide. If they feel that symptoms continue to be a problem in the workplace (I’m thinking of the letter with the coworker who sobbed nearly every day), then those are performance issues that they can discuss with HR about how to proceed. Otherwise the best thing they can do to help LW heal is to trust them to be doing the best for their health and supporting them in that. Those things are good management.

      1. quill is only classic who adjacent via friends*

        Yeah, not to armchair diagnose OP here, but it sounds very likely that with a stigmatized diagnosis and a suddenly paternalistic employer, OP needs to be wary of other professional pitfalls. There are several mental health conditions that the public erroneously believes make people “dangerous” or “incompetent to make decisions about X,” and that could severely hurt OP’s professional standing if the manager who asked for their medical information to be disclosed acts on those stereotypes! OP, you need HR, if not a lawyer.

    3. quill is only classic who adjacent via friends*

      I mean, literally none of those matters to how unprofessionally the boss is treating OP: you don’t get to end run around someone to ask their doctor what’s wrong with them, for reasons that should be obvious.

  23. Just So Tired*

    I don’t think that’s clear. I think this request might lead to people sharing the worst worst which would have the opposite of what is probably the intended effect, pretty quickly.

  24. Tired Social Worker*

    As someone who works in a role overseen by HIPPA if someone’s employer called and asked questions I would laugh at them and tell them that I would not be providing any information about anyone they asked about under no uncertain terms.

  25. Shiba Dad*

    Management: “Share your worst lock-down moments.”
    OP#3: “Realizing our managers are f*****g morons who thought this was a good idea.”

  26. anonymous73*

    #5 I’m really baffled at the number of comments in here basically blaming OP for oversharing. We don’t know how the conversation went down, but OP’s religion could have been mentioned in casual conversation. The issue here is that her co-worker is crossing a boundary and needs to be told to stop. Full stop.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I agree. It’s completely ok to mention one’s a piece of one’s personal history as part of getting to know a coworker. It’s also completely ok to explicitly say, “we seem to have different views of this, and I prefer not to continue discussing this topic at work.”

  27. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Whoo Boy! Such cluelessness from some of these employers.
    #1 really ought to know better, given it’s some kind of healthcare related work, and #3 is just not thinking how this is not funny. #2 is, well, let’s say I am not surprised many companies said jobs were “WFH” in order to lure new workers during the pandemic and great resignation, and are now faced with big empty offices they have to pay rent on when no one comes in and are rethinking it. Unfortunately, with WFH changing back, we have no rights and employers can change this decision on a whim.

    1. Louise*

      You’re absolutely correct that (most) employees have no rights with regard to schedule/work location changes, but I think it’s important to note that it’s still reasonable to negotiate against/around the change and also to be annoyed about the removal of something you specifically looked for and confirmed before taking the job. I think normalizing that it’s reasonable to push back on these changes can help everyone hang on to negotiated benefits.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Here’s hoping that OP2 has sought-for skills and can get another job, one that actually is WFH.

  28. Kat*

    OP #5 – I’m guessing part of the “issue” here is that your religion may be known for heavy missionary work which often makes members an open book for discussing the faith. Of course you are not obligated to talk about it at work regardless, and you should make that clear to your coworker. Just make sure to be mindful to also not bring it up. It will be hard to get others to not discuss it if you mention it. Religions, no matter how culty, should not be discussed at work. I think this is also a good lesson to not announce your faith to coworkers if you don’t want to talk about it, good or bad.

    1. Claire*

      I don’t think this is reasonable or a good approach. There are all sorts of personal characteristics, including religion, that could come up without being “announced” or even be impossible to hide (one commenter mentioned religious headwear). It’s not reasonable to tell people that they can never mention these things at work. The onus on coworkers is not to disparage personal characteristics.

      1. Kat*

        OP admitted to sharing her religion “I had mentioned at one point about a week prior that I practice religion.” If someone says, “I’m Catholic” it’s reasonable that someone might say, “I left the Catholic church.” It’s not reasonable for anyone to say, “You’re stupid for being Catholic.” However, by announcing your faith, you are opening up the possibility that someone will comment or disagree with it. I do not think that wearing a hijab, leaving to pray, or otherwise “looking” like you belong to a certain faith is the same. It’s also not the same if you were to say, “I need Sundays off for church services.” However, if you’re chatting with coworkers and mention your religion, you are putting the topic on the table. To be clear, I do not think anyone should tell you that you’re wrong or stupid for belonging to any religion, in the context of the workplace.

        In this case it sounds like OP name their religion, their coworker said they used to belong and left for various reasons, and OP is now upset because she doesn’t want the religion discussed around her if it’s not on her terms. It doesn’t sound like her coworker said that OP needs to leave the religion or that she is stupid for being married. Since it’s a triggering topic for OP, she should say she doesn’t want to talk about it and then stop mentioning it.

        What if her coworker had brought up her own experiences without OP sharing her religion? Would it still be bad? I think the implication being taken here is that once OP shared her religion no one else should ever have talked about it. But the coworker is allowed to talk about her own life and experiences, even if they differ from OPs unless OP tells the coworker to stop mentioning the topic. It’s not the coworker’s job to never talk about her own life just because it differs from OPs.

        1. Claire*

          “She listed several reasons why she dislikes my religion,” as LW says in her letter, is not saying “I used to be Catholic” or saying that she only wants to discuss religion on her terms. And yes, listing reasons why you dislike a religion would also be inappropriate even you didn’t know a coworker practiced that religion.

        2. Allegra*

          In this case it sounds like OP name their religion, their coworker said they used to belong and left for various reasons, and OP is now upset because she doesn’t want the religion discussed around her if it’s not on her terms.
          That’s not what happened, though. OP mentioned their religion, the coworker thought about it for a week, and then sat them down to unload: “a few days ago she started a discussion and told me that she was raised in my religion, but left it as an adult. She listed several reasons why she dislikes my religion and will never go back. …She made generalizations about people in my faith that were inaccurate and stereotypical. Then she started to talk about her marriage because she was married in my faith and was complaining about the process”, followed by passive-aggressively disparaging how old OP was when they got married.

          The coworker is allowed to talk about their life, of course, but this was aggressive and targeted. It’s not appropriate to sit a colleague down and unload every reason you don’t like their religion and every bad experience you had with it just because they mentioned it one time. Mentioning something about one’s personal life can invite comment and maybe even discussion, if it’s respectful; this does not sound like that. The LW isn’t saying the coworker shouldn’t be able to talk about her own life, she doesn’t want to be sat down and have a list of why her religion sucks rattled off at her again.

        3. Colette*

          It doesn’t sound to me like the OP wants to discuss religion on any terms. She mentioned that she is a member of a religious community; that’s a simple statement of fact, not a discussion of the religion itself. Someone can say “Oh, I was at a church event last night”, “no thanks, I’m fasting”, or “I’m in my church choir, we practice tonight” without being interested in a debate about religion or hearing someone else talk about all the reasons they don’t (or do!) like that religion.

        4. HannahS*

          I mean, yeah, it would still be bad. Saying, “I dislike [religion] because they’re all [stereotype]” is bad, regardless of who you’re saying it to.

      2. quill is only classic who adjacent via friends*

        Yes. As long as you don’t preach, it’s just a random fact about you. And depending on your traditions it can be extremely hard to hide. It’s on your coworkers to butt out or politely disengage.

        (And yes, I personally have problems with many mainstream religions for equal rights reasons. I don’t go about haranguing people at work about them because 1) unless I know that they, personally, are contributing to harm I have to assume ignorance 2) Lecturing someone about their religion’s flaws is only going to make them double down, and some extremist religious groups rely on other people’s justifiable discomfort to further gaslight their recruits into thinking that everyone outside the religion is mean and horrible, and hey, being persecuted means that you’re right!)

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          I was about to write this comment but your version is better than mine would have been.

      3. mreasy*

        Exactly. Many of my coworkers have kids. I don’t have kids, never wanted them, and kind of think it’s irresponsible to bring kids into the world given the climate crisis and continual global violence. Even though my coworkers “shared their personal info” about having kids, I still wouldn’t be right to harangue them about that decision. This is no different.

    2. RagingADHD*

      This is really blamey toward the LW and shamey toward what you presume to be their religion.

      LW has not done anything wrong by revealing their religious affiliation. That is a normal fact that often comes up in getting-to-know-you type chitchat. They may wear visible signs of the religion, which is also a normal (and legally protected!) thing to do.

      Do you think LW should somehow not look young, or not mention being married, so they don’t get called a “stupid kid?”

      The pushy, judgy, insulting coworker is entirely in the wrong here. Other people’s opinions about the religion do not make the LW fair game to be targeted.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Would you say “religion, no matter how mainstream, should not be discussed at work”?

      The LW didn’t say “I’m a member of X faith, let me tell you all about it” or tell the ex-member she works with “you poor soul, let me pray for you that you see the light and return to the one true church.”

      It’s not appropriate to tell people “I used to think the way you do, and here are all the reasons why I was wrong, and why your viewpoint is harmful” in response to a mild “I went to church on Sunday” or “we’re looking for a caterer for my son’s bar mitzvah.”

      LW wouldn’t even be obliged to have an in-depth conversation with someone who said “oh, really? I don’t know any members of X religion and I’ve always been curious, let’s have lunch together so I can ask you questions about it.”

      My reaction here is that it’s the “you are misguided, and that lead you to making a bad life choice by getting married young” who should be told that stating her opinions about other people’s beliefs and practices without being asked is inappropriate. The coworker didn’t just say “oh, I was raised X, but I’m an atheist now” or “I grew up in Y church, but haven’t practiced in years.” If the coworker had said something like “I left the church, but I do miss the pot lucks/singing in choir/people I met in youth group,” the LW could have said “yes, I like those too, and do you have plans for the weekend” or “I’m not much of a singer, and how soon do you need that TPS report?” But it doesn’t sound like this coworker would have taken the message from the change to a work-related topic.

    4. Parakeet*

      This is wild. It’s the coworker who needs the “lesson” here, not OP #5. Even aside from the text of the letter not supporting a bunch of commenters’ assumptions about what precisely the OP has been saying about their religion, they clarified it themselves in the comments, stating that it was a casual mention of having attended a service as one of a number of things they did over the weekend. Which should be fine to do, and is very much on the same level as the activities you claim to be fine with. You also don’t know what the OP’s religion is – the bit about missionary work is your own speculation.

    5. Gracely*

      Honestly, it’s also a good lesson to not announce your non-faith to your coworkers in a way that disparages a particular religion. I mean, it would be weird, rude, and offensive if you did that to just about any faith, be it whatever flavor of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, etc. Arguably extra offensive if it’s a minority faith of whatever country you’re in, but still, it’s just not necessary.

      It’s one thing to respond to “oh, I went to this religious service” with “oh, I grew up in that faith but I don’t practice it anymore”.

      It’s a whole other thing to respond with “hey, these are all the things I dislike about your faith. Also, people who get married early (like you did) are stupid”.

  29. Not a Blossom*

    If I were OP #3, I’d send pictures of my relatives who died of COVID and honestly hope it made everyone feel terrible. Good lord.

  30. kristinyc*

    For #3 – In the early pandemic days, when things were at their scariest for my org (which was based in NYC), during an all staff meeting, they were sharing pictures of how people were coping. Some guy who lived in CT shared a picture of himself working in his mudroom surrounded by coats and boots, LOL! It came across as soooo out of touch (as I sat at the tiny desk I was also sharing with my husband, with my 1 year old wiggling on my lap). My boss’s mom had just died from covid in a nursing home, and she was really upset about how the company was treating the pandemic like it as a big slumber party. Most people were…no okay (for all kinds of reasons).

    While I certainly have some nice moments/memories from being home with my son and getting to see a lot of his “firsts” that I might have otherwise missed – seeing a slideshow of Spring 2020 stuff at work would be REALLY hard. It’s not a time of my life I want to relive. I’d imagine many people feel that way.

    1. quill is only classic who adjacent via friends*

      Even those of us who have been relatively lucky with covid so far have spent 2 years with extremely high ambient background stress. I can easily imagine some people barreling up the river of Denial with “my sourdough starter took over the fridge like the blob! Hahaha! I definitely did not cry about that because knowing about the massive numbers of people dying globally and dealing with supply chain issues at work mean my stress is at maximum capacity before I have to scrub the fridge!” and contributing that to the slideshow, whereas people not in denial are flinching back from it.

      This is not to say that the slideshow is a good thing, just that collective trauma strikes in more than one way, and that the people who spent the last two years learning french and baking bread should NOT be the people that leadership calibrates their ideas about team bonding and shared experiences on.

    2. Eff Walsingham*

      I agree. The problem is that it’s so complicated. Humour itself is such a personal concept… how what is genuinely funny to one person is deeply offensive to another. And IMO the overall stress of the pandemic played with our perceptions in some cases.

      Okay, Imma tell a little story here, because it’s somewhat on topic and (as per the topic) there are not a lot of circumstances in which it would be appropriate to recount it. Caution: it involves death and inappropriate laughter. If you’re not down with that, please scroll on.

      In the break room at my then-work, in the early days of the pandemic, when there was much speculation and little knowledge about how the whole thing would play out, I was reading the news. It was bad, and it was, in that case, coming from Italy. The other person in the break room was my 73-year-old colleague who was originally from Italy.

      Upon reading this bad news, I said to my colleague how glad I was that he was with us and not in Italy right then. A young, perfectly friendly colleague came in and asked about the news. When I mentioned the high number of deaths occurring in Italy at that time, his immediate response was, “But they were old though!”

      I am afraid that some unseemly snorfling noise must have escaped me at that point. They both looked at me, and, seeing the look on my face, the look on that young man’s face as he realized what he had just said to an older Italian gentleman…. He was just so horrified, and I laughed so hard, and our colleague looked quite benevolent in spite of all our cloddishness.

      The point I’m trying to make is that in many cases the tragic and the ridiculous became frightfully muddled together during the past couple of years. We now need to figure out for ourselves how to heal from what we suffered, and how to make sense of what we learned. This is absolutely not appropriate material for team bonding exercises.

      TOO. SOON.

  31. Purple Cat*

    Wow. A lot to unpack in the letters and comments.
    LW1 – Your manager is way out of line and you can tell them to pound sand.
    LW2 – You have to be as firm as possible that “Hybrid work was agreed upon and that is a condition of taking this job.” You have to evaluate for yourself if you’re willing to leave this job behind or flex on your criteria of staying home with your child.
    LW3 – I’m sure (well really optimistic) this request just came from a clueless person. They’re imagining Best “cuddling with my cats”. Worst: My child interrupting a presentation. Hahaha, hilarity ensues.
    LW4 – I did a co-op program in college and I can all too easily imagine how incredibly stressed you are right now. Make sure to reach out to your placement office ASAP and explore alternate scenarios. It’s doubtful you actually have a co-op.
    LW5 – I can’t believe I have to say this, but based on some of the other comments, I’ll spell it out. YOU DID NOTHING WRONG TO MENTION YOUR RELIGION AND AGE OF MARRIAGE AT WORK! Your coworker is terrible. And you can now firmly say “This isn’t a topic I want to discuss with you. How is the widget production going?”

  32. Hippeas*

    OP3: you should go to your HR or higher but another way to approach this would be to say “the worst part of my lockdown was losing people I loved to COVID, living in fear of infecting my high-risk family member while also being in pain due to having to postpone much-needed but ‘non-emergency’ medical care like hip replacements and cancer treatments, and then having to decide which of these traumatic experiences was the worst so my employer could create a ‘worst of’ compilation.”

  33. LibraryLady*

    Recently I went to a training where I was asked to share my name and my biggest fear or phobia as an icebreaker. I said “Hi, my name is Sansa and I won’t be sharing a fear or phobia with you because that feels really private. Thanks for understanding.” The trainer was polite but also seemed a little miffed and said there was a reason she wanted me to share it and I said “I hear you, that’s not information I’m comfortable sharing, it feels private. If other people want to share their’s then great, but I won’t be sharing mine” and she moved on. But WHOA. Why would you ask that? She did indeed have a reason, but that wasn’t reason enough for me to share it. Just because someone asks you something, doesn’t mean you have to hand out private information. One thing AAM has done is give me the courage to push back on things like this instead of going along with it despite my discomfort. I want other people to realized that they also, don’t need to overshare against their will.

    FWIW, I’m a teacher and the training was on safety informed care and how to handle tough behavior issues.

    1. Purple Cat*

      Oof. I tend to be sarcastic and am losing my filter so I would have said “My biggest phobia is being expected to publicly share my biggest phobia”.

    2. quill is only classic who adjacent via friends*

      Ironic that the training was on safety informed care when forcing people to admit their fears or mental health problems to random strangers is exactly what you don’t want to be doing…

      1. LibraryLady*

        It is very telling how I as a teacher am expected to share this information but it would be really weird for me to try to force that out of student. The double standard at play here is wildly unreasonable.

        1. quill*

          Teachers are just education vending machines, don’t you know. No reason to pay them fairly or allow them to have private lives. /s

  34. NewYork*

    Not certain what OP 1 will accomplish. She can either say no, and then her boss etc may ask HR to handle and will pursuant to Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act, ask the doctor (a) confirm that you have a condition that qualifies under those laws and/or (b) to explain the need for reasonable accommodations. Then they can reconfirm on a regular basis. And IMHO, employees saying “(Mind you, my prior lack of performance was in no way harmful to myself or others, just below standard performance and expectations.)” raises the question, what accommodations can bring performance up to standard, or does OP think that is not reasonable for employer to expect.

    1. bamcheeks*

      She can either say no, and then her boss etc may ask HR to handle and will pursuant to Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act, ask the doctor (a) confirm that you have a condition that qualifies under those laws and/or (b) to explain the need for reasonable accommodations.

      This is absolutely a better option than giving her boss direct access to her medical team! Can you really not see why HR making a formal request to LW’s doctors for specific information they need in order to arrange ADA accommodations (if that’s what is required) is extremely different from her boss just asking to be able to contact her doctor directly?

      1. NewYork*

        Yes, different. But you may find HR taking a harder approach on what is reasonable accommodations. Your department may cut you more slack than HR. I know mine gave me remote before pandemic. HR will likely insist company not violate laws (if good), but may be loathe to cut any breaks not required by law.

        1. pancakes*

          If HR is retaliatory and/or uneven in how it treats people, those are problems in themselves in addition to the wild over-step of asking to be in direct contact with an employee’s medical team.

  35. Orange You Glad*

    #4 – Talk to your co-op advisor right away and show them the communication you’ve received from the company so far. They are there for these types of issues and they may be able to put more pressure on the company to clarify. The co-op office often has relationships with the companies that offer positions to their students.

    I was a co-op student and now hire students from my university. I remember thinking those co-op advisors didn’t do much but they were great when I had an issue during my 2nd co-op and they’ve been great to work with as an employer.

  36. quill is only classic who adjacent via friends*

    OP 1: absolutely let HR, if you have not heard that they’re grossly incompetent or something, know about this definitely illegal request on the part of your manager. HR is very invested in not inviting legal trouble into the company.

    OP 3: Holy forking shirtballs that’s insensitive. People have died!

  37. TootsNYC*

    I feel like a fuddy duddy, but when people get upset about “share your stories” kinds of things, especially ones that are presented as generally as this one is, I just think, Don’t overreact.
    Share what you’re willing to share. Nobody’s asking for your trauma.

    Edit yourself. That’s your responsibility, not everyone else’s.

    I would imagine this manager is thinking of stories about the time all three kids had to use the computer at once, and it was hard, and how you overcame it. Or something like that. Maybe even the “both parents were sick and we were supposed to isolate from out toddler” scare that has softened into a story that you tell.

    Maybe your scare hasn’t softened into a story, but then don’t tell it, ffs. Especially in this instance. Nobody’s requiring it. They even gave you time to think about it; nobody’s put you on the spot, even.

    Of course, if you’re being pressured, etc., that’s not cool. But if you don’t immediately assume they want to hear all the trauma, you might have brain space to deal with it.

    1. MsM*

      “They even gave you time to think about it”

      Which is the problem, for people who don’t associate COVID with fun or even mildly frustrating anecdotes. If the manager truly means no harm, don’t you think they’d rather have it gently pointed out that they should maybe consider a different bonding activity?

    2. Meep*

      I think for me at least is that the pandemic has been traumatic because my manager at the time made it traumatic to the point I don’t even remember half of it. The stuff I do remember is her cursing at me for having the audacity to renew the business license in 2020 and then the business license not being renewed in 2021 as a result, her blatantly telling me to tell a guy who rejected other job offers to work for us that we still wanted to hire him literal minutes after she told him we weren’t hiring him so it looked like I was making false promises, stringing another guy along who couldn’t even pay rent and then trying to blame me when he went off and found another extra job, the daily diatribe about how I am young and my health didn’t matter unlike hers, etc.

      I think I would have no qualms sharing ‘trauma’ because that is all I have and it was due to work not only mishandling the pandemic but taking it out on their employees who feel trapped. And a lot of people share my experience.

      1. Meep*

        And yes I just trauma dumped on you to show you how insensitive and cruel you are. And I was fortune not to lose anyone. Kindly screw off~

    3. Lime green Pacer*

      The result of people not sharing their true worst moments will minimize the awfulness of the situation for many into a bunch of mild, even funny, anecdotes. Which would be infuriating.

      1. Allonge*

        This may be the case if the call to share came from a ‘history of the pandemic’ project, but this is an optional activity at an optional party. Not contributing in any way says more than enough already, but pushing back gently works too.

    4. Rocket*

      The problem with this response is that in an exercise like this you don’t just share, you also receive what others decide to share. So while I may choose not to share something traumatic that I went through during this pandemic, somebody else might. And then I have to receive their trauma that I did not ask for or want to participate in.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        This. Please don’t expose me to the best/worst of other people’s lives, I didn’t ask for that, all I want is a normal meeting/day at work/whatever.

    5. miss chevious*

      Nobody is asking for my trauma, but what am I supposed to do when work colleagues decide to dump theirs on me? In a “vulnerability” activity unrelated to COVID, several colleagues chose (with the encouragement of management) to share incredibly personal traumas that happened to them that I got to listen to at a meeting. Cool. So my work meeting was an “opportunity” to hear about a sexual assault, and a horrific accident, and an incredibly personal struggle with the mental illness of a family member from people I barely know, and for which no one had appropriate responses. And it’s not a ALL jarring or minimizing to go from that to a story about the time someone screwed up a work presentation or missed a project deadline.

      In OP’s example, her manager is asking for stories about times that are VERY LIKELY to involve trauma of the worst sorts. Even if OP chooses to “edit herself,” why is management creating situations in which people are going to be exposed to this very foreseeable risk?

      1. calonkat*

        I don’t like the activity overall, but my suggestion above was that it MIGHT work if #1 it was completely optional and #2, the request was for happy/funny memories (because asking people to bring up trauma/sadness for a “fun bonding activity” is insane).

        I lost a family member and friends, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the lawyer cat video (still gold).

    6. MeepMeep02*

      I mean, I’d have stories like that, but I can’t imagine being so tone-deaf as to share those stories with people who had much worse pandemic experiences. I’d feel incredibly awkward sharing ANYTHING at such an event.

      And what is it about people assuming COVID is over? Cases are heading up again. Those who haven’t yet had a traumatic COVID experience may yet get their chance.

    7. Nanani*

      This doesn’t affect the fact that it is deeeeply icky to trivialize a global pandemic in which a LOT of people lost loved ones, became disabled, and other life-changing negative things happen.
      One person’s “look for the bread-baking silver lining” is going to be extremely tone deaf if not outright cruel to another. Best to just NOT, and if LW has the power to push for “not”, they should.

    8. Eyes Kiwami*

      I think it’s just fundamentally wrong to act like the pandemic was a funny weird time that is now over, instead of an ongoing epidemic that has traumatized and killed millions of people. Why not say “fun or silly memories from the last year” instead, and people can interpret that as they will? Why ask for “fun lockdown stories” as if a global pandemic should be made light of?

  38. Meep*

    I chuckled at #3, because my former toxic coworker went off the absolute deep end and was an abusive POS to me for the first 18 months. So many great stories to share…

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      Yup, and being the mental health lifeline for three family members (all with mental health diagnoses of varying severity) was a load of laughs for me!

      Did I mention that I am not, in any way, a mental health professional?

  39. Dragon*

    OP 2: The comment could have been about other employees, not necessarily OP. My office returned a few weeks ago, with admin assistants on a hybrid schedule of 3 days in-office/2 days WFH.

    Recently I’ve been seeing some assistants WFHing on their in-office days, and not just occasionally. I’ve actually been doing the opposite, for reasons of my own. Since (so far) I’m not being overly asked to do in-office tasks because I’m there and a colleague isn’t, that’s fine with me.

    I do believe my office is discovering that adjustments may be needed as time goes on. If someone takes advantage or tries to game the system, management needs to deal with that as it happens.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I have a similar take of – ask, don’t jump to worst case scenario. It could be that he was talking about very specific individuals or rolls. Or maybe they just got tired of the loosey goosey, “not even noticing if people are in the office” and they want at least a schedule of when people expect to be in. Or they want more specific overlap. Or they at least want someone in the office everyday.

      “Some changes” does not automatically mean you won’t be able to work half days at home. So, I would advocate for asking, but also, at this point, would avoid mentioning the childcare element.

  40. MsChanandlerBong*

    I couldn’t read all 300+ replies, so apologies if someone has already mentioned this, but the employer’s actions in letter #1 may not be so outrageous depending on the circumstances. OP says they’re in health care; if they have a professional license of some sort and their medical condition interferes with their ability to practice safely, then the employer and/or licensing body may be entitled to a lot more information than an employer in the CPG industry or something not related to health care. I don’t want to speculate about OP’s situation; I’m just posting this because a lot of people seem to think there’s never any valid reason for an employer to request information about a medical condition, but that’s not always the case.

    1. Recruiter*

      This is a really good point, MsChanandlerBong, and through the comments, I saw some adjacent/tangential comments mentioning FAA and military but nothing healthcare-related.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Thanks for this. It’s a really important point about how workplace norms can vary by profession. I can see how health care would have different rules for patient safety reasons.

    3. HannahS*

      Right, but that would be the licensing body, not someone’s own manager, and it would be a formal process where the physician is asked to comment on a specific question, not discuss the details of treatment. I’m not American, but I’m not aware of any field where it would be appropriate for someone’s direct manager to speak to that person’s doctor or to be kept “in the loop.”

    4. Dragonfly7*

      Like FMLA or needing ADA accommodations, I don’t see why the employer would need to know specifics, only whether or not it affects their ability to do their job safely and if alternatives are needed.

  41. DataSci*

    The “I don’t like to talk about religion at work, I’m sure you understand!” is a great standard one, but might need tweaking in this case when OP #5 is the one who first brought up the topic. Maybe adding “in detail” or “any more” to the usual script would help.

  42. Flogging Molly*

    Door no. 5, it’s OK, you can utter the word “Mormon” or “LDS” (OK, the latter is something Spock did a little bit too much of during the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley).

      1. Aggresuko*

        I can think of a few religions that have early marriage as a frequent thing that happens.

    1. H.C.*

      Per earlier comment thread, the LW was intentional about not mentioning which religion (and the only breadcrumb we got is marrying young, which in and of itself isn’t specific to LDS or even being religious for that matter) and that should be respected w/o speculation in the comments.

    2. Killer Queen*

      #1: You’re speculating.
      #2: Whether she is part of the Mormon church or not isn’t relevant to answering her question.
      #3: It might not necessarily be OK considering some of the anti-mormon stuff I’ve seen commented on this site.

  43. A Kate*

    Re: “share your best and worst lockdown moments.” It doesn’t take an Internet-Certified Empath to realize what a lot of people’s worst moments could entail, and it doesn’t take an HR expert to understand why soliciting those stories is a terrible business move.

    But even “share your cute little Dalgona coffee mishap!” prompts are cringeworthy. The only way I could see this being appropriate is in a very narrowly defined “share your funniest growing pains as you learned to work from home,” but even then, that sort of attempt at “engagement” has always struck me as hollow and annoying at the office.

  44. bibliovore*

    #3
    OMG!
    Best: I was locked down with my husband and it turns out that was a gift.
    Worst: He died.

  45. Faith the twilight slayer*

    OP5: One of the most valuable things I have picked up along the way is the knowledge that it’s OK to advocate for yourself when you’re uncomfortable. Fresh out of school and in new position(s), or being new to the workforce, can cause a person to hesitate to speak up for a number of reasons from not wanting to “make waves”, to believing that since you’re new or younger you haven’t “earned the right” to speak up. Not true! Everyone is a person who has the right to be treated with respect, and folks should absolutely respect other peoples limits on what they are comfortable discussing. However, not everyone knows where everyone else’s “line in the sand” is. Simply letting people know what you’re comfortable talking about will help in developing working relationships. I personally think it’s helpful when others point out their limits because not everyone has a “tell” when the line is crossed and my ESP is nonexistent.

  46. Eff Walsingham*

    Confession: when it comes to #3, at “Our office is having a reopening party!” I was already completely horrified.

    Did we learn nothing from the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918? Let’s NOT come together and celebrate! All right, you go ahead if you want to. Personally I’m off crowds for the foreseeable.

  47. DJ*

    #1 get legal advice before you divulge any information about your medical condition. A lot of countries don’t cover employee privacy (i.e. Australia for starters) so once you divulge such information you don’t have comeback from a privacy point of view if your employer/manager/supervisor blabs it. The legal advice can also assist you in whether you can say no without consequences or deciding what information, such as reasonable adjustments/type of work that is unsafe, to divulge. Don’t sign over access to your records and if you absolutely have to provide information to your employer get them to be very clear around what information they need (worth running this past your legal advice) and ask your health care team to put it in writing, ideally you being there when they write the report.

  48. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times*

    For LW3, I was initially going to suggest taking this request for best/worst COVID lockdown moments with a huge grain of salt. First off, it’s not a subpoena; you do not have to answer at all. Second, it should not be taken literally. There is at least one obvious implicit qualifier: you’re being asked to share only *work-appropriate* lockdown stories. If the best moments were XXX rated, you should not share them! You retain full control over what, if anything, you choose to share in response to the call. But then I started thinking that the wording of the invitation (seeking “best” and “worst”) also suggests a second qualifier: the organizers are seeking stories that will be *entertaining* on some level, stories that will make colleagues smile in amusement or groan in sympathy. And that’s where the tone-deafness really comes in, because they are clearly not expecting anyone to share even work-appropriate stories of death and disability. If a few people quietly take the organizers aside and point out just how bad their or their colleagues’ worst moments were, I’d hope the organizers would re-think the entire project.

Comments are closed.