my remote coworkers refuse to chat or make social pleasantries with me

A reader writes:

I’m having an ongoing, anxiety inducing problem at work I’m hoping you can help me with:

Remote work is now the permanent state at my company, and I’m happy about that. However, when I try to ask my coworkers about their weekend, their opinion on something non-work related, or other “small talk” type stuff via MS Teams chat they very rarely respond. I understand that these types of conversations are less urgent than the work they need to get done, but I find it hurtful and honestly rude to be ignored by my colleagues and superiors. Is a bit of pleasantry an unreasonable thing to ask for? If it’s not unreasonable, how can I make it happen? It’s not just one coworker, but a larger atmosphere of standoffishness.

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked, “Do you notice other folks chatting with each other on Teams or can you not really tell since everyone is remote? And does your team have anything like Teams channels for socializing?”

Everyone is remote, so it’s hard to tell if others chat on Teams. We do have some unit-wide social channels in Teams, but it’s very rare that anyone ever posts there and it’s definitely not the sort of thing people use for “water cooler” type discussions. Our project teams are generally just 2-3 people and tend to last about 6 months, so it’s conceivable that I could one day be on a team with some other friendly people (this has happened before), but as it stands the past year has been very isolating.

That does sound very isolating.

You’re not being unreasonable in wanting some basic pleasantries with coworkers, and it’s awfully rude for people to routinely ignore you! (That’s something that presumably wouldn’t happen if you were working in person; it’s very unlikely someone would totally blank you when you asked how their weekend was if you were standing right in front of them.) To be clear, it isn’t weird for someone to get caught up in work and not be able to respond to every social query that appears in a chat program — what’s unusual is that it sounds like it’s happening most or all of the time.

That makes me wonder if it’s always been this way since you’ve been working with this team or whether they started out friendlier. If they started out chattier and then became less so … well, how chatty were you in the beginning? If you’re a lot chattier than they are, some people will respond to that by withdrawing completely. If you were interrupting them for social stuff multiple times a day or not reading the room about how busy someone was (which is definitely harder to do when everyone is remote), that could explain how things ended up here. This wouldn’t be a great way for them to handle it, but it’s possible.

Alternately, any chance you did something that offended people? If you, say, insisted on dead-naming a colleague or taunted someone for their nut allergy, you could end up here. (I’m assuming you did not do these things. I’m just covering all the bases.)

It’s just as possible, though, that this isn’t about you at all, and instead this team just doesn’t do social talk. That’s especially possible since you said the team is only a few people; it’s easier to have that happen on a tiny team than a larger one, which would presumably have a greater variety of personalities on it.

Either way, it sounds like your team’s culture might not be a great fit for you, if everyone else just likes to do their work and not build relationships beyond that. Sometimes that happens — the work can be exactly what you want, but if the culture you’re doing it in doesn’t match you, it can be an uncomfortable fit.

However, before you conclude that, here are some things you could try:

1. Do you ever do phone or video calls with coworkers? It might be easier to form social connections when you’re talking via those methods, rather than text-based chat.

2. Can you focus on building relationships through the work itself, rather than through non-work-related stuff? For example, if you’re grappling with a work challenge, could you ask a coworker for advice? Or ask to pick someone’s brain about a project they did last year that’s similar to something you’re doing now? Sometimes people who aren’t big on talking about their weekends will happily bond over work projects (and that can lead to warmer relationships that might naturally pick up a more social component in time).

3. Can you ask your manager about what you’re noticing? You might get useful insights if you say something like, “I’m finding it hard to build relationships with people on the team. I’ve tried using Teams to ask people about their weekends or other small talk topics, and I rarely get a response. Is this team just not very social or do you think there’s another approach I should be trying?” For that matter, you could ask this of a coworker or two, too. Who knows what you’ll hear that might help you make sense of it.

Ultimately, though, this team’s culture might just not be for you. It sounds like you’ll change teams in the next six months, so there’s at least hope of something different in the next one.

{ 508 comments… read them below }

  1. Melanie Cavill*

    Some people just aren’t looking to make friends in the workplace. You may be better off if you don’t take that as a personal slight or as about you at all.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I think I’d suggest OP might look into a friends chat, a discord for professionals in her sector, or a social media platform like twitter to address her feelings of isolation. It doesn’t sound like her coworkers are going to fill this need for her.

    2. Cmdrshpard*

      It was a little unclear to me if “how was your weekend?” were being made one on one or in a general chat asking everyone?

      I have known most of my co-workers before the pandemic and am friendly with them. During the start/end of meetings we will chat socially. But I have sometimes articles/comments/events in our random chat channels and get crickets. I am pretty certain it is not about be but sometimes people miss things in chat or are busy.

      If a question is posed generally “How was everyone’s weekend?” the need to respond might get diffused, “Oh they didn’t ask me specifically I don’t need to respond someone else will.” and then no one responds.

      Even in the office there are days when people are a lot chattier than others, some days even in the office I barely see/talk to coworkers.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        I wondered that as well. If these are general group questions, and especially if the chat is fast-paced, it’s easy to let it slip by.

    3. ferrina*

      My workplace tends to be very work focused. My colleagues won’t respond to personal chats- they’re focusing on the work. They are perfectly pleasant when I ask them about anything work-related, though.

    4. Wheels on Fire*

      My workplace is very friendly, but it would be unusual for one coworker to sent a strictly social chat message to another coworker (unless they are already close friends). Instead talk socially at the beginning or end of calls. I wonder if OP’s coworkers are just not chat message kind of people.

      1. Erie*

        Even if that’s the case, it’s pretty rude to ignore an overture; it’s a bit different from just never initiating them. IMO this goes beyond the usual “some people aren’t into socializing at work” advice, which is why I think it’s good that Alison’s advice went beyond that

        1. Loulou*

          Right, I would consider “not being into socializing” to look more like just replying “fine, thanks! you?” and not turning it into a whole discussion. Ignoring altogether is definitely unusual.

          1. TechWorker*

            I think it depends how busy the coworkers are… if I miss a social message from someone because I am in back to back meetings, and getting lots of work related chat… I mean I would probably *try* to respond when I was less busy (or send a ‘sorry missed this catch you soon’ type message) but I wouldn’t make it a priority.

          2. Down the rabbit hole*

            I would worry about reciprocating and getting sucked into a back and forth dialogue. In my experience, most people who initiate the social chat have something they want to talk about and I don’t have the bandwidth or interest.

            I do try to delay my response and keep it brief and without asking a question return. Something like “I’m doing well and I hope you are too!” is my go-to response.

            I’m also the type of person who is easily drained by having to fill other peoples need for socializing. If someone like the LW had a pattern of being chatty, I would start avoiding their messages and sending a response hours later when I knew they were offline. I personally like that our chat software can let me peek at messages without notifying the sender that I have read it and am actively avoiding responding.

            1. Ann Nonymous*

              Yes. I think maybe the poster’s colleagues are worried (maybe based on past interactions) that any response will elicit a long social conversation or try to.

      2. Kay*

        This. I have to figure out how to get the things I need to do done in an amount of time not entirely sufficient for all my tasks – every day. I would absolutely ignore a chat message/email/any communication from a work contact strictly asking about my weekend or other personal questions. If I felt like getting personal I might respond to a Monday am work request that mentioned enjoying my weekend – but just personal and with no context? No thanks.

        It sounds to me like the co-workers have a workload that requires, well, work! If they had a bunch of free time and were bored constantly perhaps they might be chatting about their personal lives during work hours, but being productive is a good thing in my opinion.

    5. LRL*

      And I think this is more common in WFH. One thing I love about being WFH is that I have actual choice in my friends and am not just stuck with whoever works on the same team as me because we are literally stuck in the same physical space for the majority of the day.

      Let us normalize the difference between coworkers and friends.

      1. Lex*

        This this this!!

        When we came back to days in the office I immediately noticed how many of my coworkers were expecting work to meet extroverted social needs and how happy they were to essentially hold other people hostage via polite social norms. I despise it.

        I have a wonderful social life filled with friends — they’re just not people I work with.

        “If you’re a lot chattier than they are, some people will respond to that by withdrawing completely.” << This was and is absolutely me.

        1. Down the rabbit hole*

          Yes! I feel held hostage and then made to feel like a bad human for not having the same extroverted needs.

          I have totally withdrawn socially and I’m happy to spend 50 hours a week working remotely over 35 hours a week having to socialize while I work.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Totally withdrawing socially is not actually… healthy or good though. That’s how you start getting close to agoraphobia. I’ve noticed a lot of commenters here would be happy to stay in their own little housepod forevermore and never have to interact with others again, but like – that’s scary. There’s a whole society out there and withdrawing from it because of “introversion” (withdrawing socially is well past introversion) cannot be good for you.

            Which is to say, let’s not act like it’s crazy for OP to want to have pleasantries with her coworkers. That’s a perfectly normal thing to do, and this attitude that “I don’t ever want anyone to talk to me or try to be friends with me at work” is… frankly a little miserable. I personally wouldn’t be proud of despising other people trying to connect with me.

            An introvert

            1. allathian*

              Oh yes, absolutely.

              I love the fact that my team has a social chat channel on Teams, and my organization has a channel on Yammer for water cooler chats. These let people engage as much, or as little, as they want in social chats.

              We also have 15-minute Teams meetings 3 times a week just to socialize a bit. These are completely voluntary, some people try to make it to every meeting, others never show up.

              I also have a Teams chat with my close coworker open all the time. We don’t talk constantly, but usually greet each other in the morning and say goodbye in the afternoon. We often also talk about our weekends, etc.

              I’m an introvert, although admittedly a fairly chatty one. I don’t go to work to make friends and I pretty much never socialize with my coworkers outside of work, but I do try to be friendly. Engaging in some casual non-work chat, whether in person or virtually, is a part of that. I honestly wouldn’t want to work in an environment where I was constantly so busy that I didn’t have any time to connect with my coworkers on a slightly more personal level.

              In the OP’s situation, I’d feel very isolated as well.

            2. Avril Ludgateaux*

              I’m also an introvert who prefers to avoid perfunctory socialization with colleagues – but the time and energy I save from WFH helps me nurture the personal relationships I want to cultivate. I’m hardly socially isolated by WFH, even if I’m more distant from my coworkers.

              One of the reasons I love WFH is because, as a consummate introvert, I find socialization to be draining, even when I enjoy it. (This past weekend I went to two events on consecutive days and interacted with a large number of people – I loved every minute, but Sunday I was completely mentally wiped out [and in physical pain, which didn’t help]. I needed a whole day to recover.) I deal with fatigue as it is, and in the past, I would be so tired from work that I’d rarely even go out with friends on weekends, and I struggled to exercise or even engage in solitary but energy or focus-intensive hobbies. A big part of it was the commute, but another part was that at the office, I had to be “on” and ready to chat all the time and I got pulled into small talk constantly, often with the pretense of “let’s talk about this work related thing” and then we’d go off on tangents. Now that I’ve ditched both the commute and a big part of the voluntary-but-mandatory interactions, I have so much more time and energy. Not only do I get better output from my work, I find myself seeing and talking to my friends a whole lot more, socializing on my own terms, generally having an improved mood.

              I agree it’s not healthy to completely shut yourself off from the world, but I would hope that “Down the rabbit hole” has some social bonds they do hold dear, just ones wholly separate from their work life.

      2. Lydia*

        Let us normalize the difference between being friendly and casual with your coworkers and trying to be their friends. Not every friendly overture is an attempt to be your best buddy; sometimes it’s just being friendly, the end.

        1. Allegra*

          Thank you–I don’t see anything here saying the OP is trying to make coworkers their friends or implying work is their only social outlet and they’re making that their coworkers’ problems. They’re just looking for collegiality.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yes to this. There’s a difference between social lubricant/warm congeniality and being friends/trying to make friends.

            Back when I rode the bus to work I would say good morning to the bus driver and the security guard at my office, and they would say good morning (or at least “morning”) back. That’s not “trying to be friends” that’s “recognizing you as a person who’s job involves interacting with me”.

            When we went to WFH back in 2020 one of my immediate coworkers would always start the day by saying “good morning” over IM. Our other coworker, who was much more social/outgoing in person never said “good morning” over IM and if you messaged it to her would not respond. This was someone I’d worked with for several years who always greeted people in person, and it felt weird/cold.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, I get what you’re saying, it is odd. That said, for some people, online interactions are almost if not completely as rewarding as in-person ones, but others need to be in person. Some people find online interactions so artificial and unrewarding that they prefer not to engage online at all, and your other coworker may be one of those people.

        2. Anonymous Koala*

          That’s true, but the level of social lubricant that’s required or expected in WFH settings is much less than what’s expected for in-person settings. Going outside the social norms for friendly interaction in either direction is likely to irk colleagues. It sounds like whatever the OP’s doing is outside the (perfectly acceptable) norms for her workplace.

      3. Anonymous Koala*

        “ Let us normalize the difference between coworkers and friends.”

        So much this. The best thing about wfh is that now I have the energy to make friends with people I actually like and want to spend time with, instead of exhausting my social capacity at work.

    6. TeenieBopper*

      Yeah, this was my immediate thought like three sentences in. This person wants to use work as a social outlet (which is fine, I guess, if not for me) and her coworkers don’t. I’ve been fully remote like a lot of people since March 2020 and I can count on one hand the number of non-work conversations/messages I’ve had on Teams in that two and a half years (and it’s awesome). If one of my coworkers messaged me out of the blue on Monday with “How was your weekend?” I’d be like “WTF is this?” and think it was incredibly needy. While I honestly like all of my coworkers, get along great, and even have a fair number of hobbies/interests in common with them, I’m not nor do I want to be friends with them. I have actual friends for that.

      I will say that the exception to this is my weekly one on one with my boss that’s held via a call instead of a chat where we’ll frequently talk about non-work stuff at the beginning or end of the meeting. Being a regular meeting and more importantly, via a call, makes this a lot more natural. That being said, I’m still not friends with him.

      1. foobar*

        Why is someone being friendly “needy”? If they were hitting you up all day long constantly, “needy” feels fair, but thinking that asking someone how their weekend was is needy feels a bit … aggressively antisocial tbh. I don’t think there is anything wrong with pleasantries. It’s one thing if you don’t personally care for talking with others, but calling others “needy” for making small talk feels judgy.

        1. Lydia*

          Don’t you know? Any attempt at a friendly, casual inquiry is a cry for help from a needy, desperate person trying to be your best friend in and out of work.

          1. Anne Wentworth*

            *Continuing* to pursue social, non-work conversation after the other person has made it clear they’re not interested indicates neediness. And a lack of concern for the other person’s comfort.

            1. Down the rabbit hole*

              Thank you! I am so tired of the social pressure to share my life with people (even in meaningless little snippets). I am uncomfortable with small talk and every time I’m asked about what I did over the weekend I have lied because I don’t want to talk about myself in any context.

              I really just want to do my job and get on with my day.

                1. Down the rabbit hole*

                  Until they ask “what did you do?” I have had too many interactions beyond just “how was it?”

                2. anti social socialite*


                  My past weekend was world-shatteringly awful. However when a coworker said good morning and asked how my weekend was, I just smiled and said “good, thanks! How about you?”

                  Her response was equally short “it was nice! See ya around.”

                  Manners are free!

                3. Stevie*

                  Yup, and if you really feel you need to add something more specific, “Nothing much. Just enjoyed the chance to relax.” That’s my standard answer and is pretty relatable for everyone.

                4. Anon for this one*

                  Out of nesting – this is in response to anti-social socialite.

                  First, I’m sorry your weekend was awful. I hope things improve for you soon.

                  Second, while I’m not on the spectrum, I’m not far off it, and lying like this – which you describe as “manners” – is not free. It takes work to take my actual weekend (“The side effects from chemo hit me pretty hard, and I had to work up the energy to get off the couch enough to clean up” – when most of my colleagues don’t know my medical situation) and blandly say “Oh, not much, you?” I’ll do it, of course, but it’s not without effort.

                5. Courageous cat*

                  I am honestly surprised some of the replies here. We live in a society. It’s ok to participate a little. It costs you nothing.

                6. JM60*

                  @Courageous cat

                  It costs you nothing.

                  The comment right before yours was explaining how it actually does cost them something. Granted, it costs little for most people to give a quick, vague response.

                7. Courageous cat*

                  @jm60 it takes WORK to say “fine thanks” when you had a bad weekend? That costs them something? It’s part of living in a society. I’m not buying that at all.

                8. enlyghten*

                  You assume they leave it at that. Most folks at my work use it as a springboard to talk AT me about their weekend or ask probing questions about my personal life. I owe them neither.

            2. foobar*

              But that’s not what TeenieBopper said. (S)he made it sound like if they ever reached out to him/her *at all* asking how their weekend was, (s)he would think it was incredibly needy. Like, the first time “offense” is needy.

        2. Back in Person*

          Yeah, as someone with social anxiety, this whole attitude of “if you weren’t best friends with me since kindergarten and you say more than 3 words in a row to me you’re automatically needy/creepy/desperate/trying to be my live in BFF” is why I keep my distance from people at work lmao

      2. Koalafied*

        I admit that I would find it a little strange if a coworker I hadn’t already warmed up to in a somewhat more personal way chatted me what seemed to be a purely social message. I might even be vaguely annoyed if they were at all slow to send another message after my initial reply and I couldn’t tell whether there was a work question coming, because I’ll often delay things like starting a video training or taking my afternoon walk if I get a chat right beforehand, since the use of chat over email indicates a high likelihood of being time-sensitive. I’ve definitely been annoyed before when my break gets delayed by a chat from someone who isn’t immediately responsive back to me when I answer them.

        However, I truly can’t fathom any scenario in which I would flat out ignore someone’s messages. Like Alison said, even if it’s just, “fine, thanks! hope yours was too,” or, “Not bad! I’m actually head down on a report right now – before I dive back in, do you need anything from me?” or even hours later sending, “Sorry I missed you earlier – was back to back in meetings all day! Let me know if you needed anything.” Bottom line I would send SOMETHING instead of just ignoring a coworker. I feel like a few commenters are bending over backwards to justify rudeness.

        1. Lydia*

          If you’re WFH full time, though, this is literally the only way someone can get a baseline interaction with you.

    7. Be kind, rewind*

      There’s a HUGE difference between making friends and engaging in a social pleasantly or 2 when you have time. “I didn’t see this until now because I was busy, but my weekend was relaxing, thanks!”

      Ignoring all messages is weird.

      1. Teacher back from covid*

        Weird but now available to folks who want to be left alone. It seems an efficient tactic. Unacceptable in person but blithely done via electronic communications.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          I think that the extroverts don’t understand that introverts honestly just want to be left alone. No pleasantries. No small talk. Just alone. Gosh, that would be so nice. If I could work from home all day for what I make now, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Am I appropriately chatty at work? — Yes, I am. Social, even. But would I prefer not to be? — Yes, absolutely. But then you’ve got folks all upset and causing trouble for you at work because you don’t play the social game. It’s exhausting. By the end of my day, I sometimes just need to lay alone in my bedroom doing nothing because I am so exhausted with having to talk to people all day long.

          1. Wheels on Fire*

            Please don’t lump all introverts together like this. I am very much an introvert, but I wouldn’t want to be alone alllll the time and I very much enjoy having a friendly relationship with my coworkers. Not all of us are antisocial trolls who will lash out if you disturb us.

            1. London Calling*

              Thanks. I get a bit fed up of this ‘introverts don’t want anyone to talk to them ever’ business. I’d class myself as an introvert and one of the worst downsides of WFH was the lack of casual human contact F2F with colleagues.

              1. Courageous cat*

                Right. As an introvert, I need working in person more than ever. The human interaction can be hard some days but it’s so much more mentally healthy for me to exercise my social muscle, so to speak.

              2. Nancy*

                Yep. I’m an introvert. I was one of the first people back in the office so I could be around other people. And I can handle having conversations with my coworkers.

                Introverts do in fact like other people.

                1. London Calling*

                  When my manager took me off furlough (August 2020) she said ‘you can go into the office if you want.’ I was in there like a shot. Usually there were only four or five of us and it was quiet, but the change of location and the access to a desk and decent equipment had a noticeably beneficial effect both on my work and crucially my mood.

              3. allathian*

                Oh yes, this. It’s fine to be antisocial if that’s the way you roll, but just stop the “introverts don’t want any non-work conversations at work” already.

            2. Analytical Tree Hugger*


              As a species, we are way more complicated and diverse than any binary system can describe.

            3. Jam today*

              Yes, thank you for this. I’m an introvert, but want a congenial working environment. Saying hi and keeping the very basic of pleasantries is my happy place. I would be offended if my Teams chat went unanswered.

              1. amoeba*

                Yep. I’m not an introvert but have many close friends who are, and all of them enjoy a friendly working environment. Also, a few of them are quite anxious in social situations (same as me, an extrovert, actually) and not getting a reply to a friendly chat would leave them feeling quite bad.

                That said, socialising via chat message “out of the blue” would be quite unusual in our team, as well. I think calls work much better for this – either before/after meetings, but when we were fully remote, we also had a weekly (fully optional) virtual coffee break. If your team is open to something like this (although from the description, I fear they might not be…), this could be a better option? Or just have calls about work topics (when they make sense, of course) and see if you can connect in those? Not overdoing it, of course, but I feel like 2-3 mins of small talk are kind of universally accepted and normal, at least in my company…

          2. Down the rabbit hole*

            I really love working from home. My awkward and introverted personality is thriving without the constant anxiety from needing to be prepared for small talk.

          3. Lydia*

            Introversion is not a synonym for rudeness. Introverts aren’t misanthropes. It’s well past the time to retire the idea that introverts are people who don’t want to have any interaction while extroverts are all about all interactions everywhere.

          4. Courageous cat*

            Lol I am so sorry but no, that is absolutely not true, and that’s not what introversion is. Introversion is not an opting out of society thing, it’s a “I need to recharge after being social” thing.

            As an introvert I hate this generalization a lot.

            1. allathian*

              So do I. I’m a chatty introvert. Spending lots of time with other people drains me, but curiously enough, if I don’t get any interaction at all (IM works just fine) with anyone all day, I feel just as drained.

              During our vacation season in the summer, I had some weeks on my calendar without any meetings scheduled at all. It did make me feel a bit isolated and less engaged in my work, especially during the weeks when my close coworker was on vacation.

            2. Avril Ludgateaux*

              As an introvert, I would call it a mischaracterization rather than a generalization. I prefer to do my socializing on my own terms because I learned, thanks to WFH, that one of the many factors influencing my constant fatigue/lack of energy, was indeed workplace socialization and being “on” all the time. That said, now that I can limit that, I choose to invest my energy in meaningful personal relationships, rather than obligatory ones, and being able to shrink back socially during the work day helps me recover from the socialization I like to do (that nonetheless drains me of energy). “Introversion” does not mean “reclusiveness”. It just means I have to spend energy to socialize, rather than deriving energy from socialization, and therefore I have to “budget” my capacity for it. I, too, start to feel terribly down if I am completely isolated.

              THAT SAID, I feel for OP. Unless people are simply not seeing the messages (I always have Teams on in the background, but I manage to miss the notifications 100% of the time and people tend to fall back on email in this office, anyway), it is rude not to even acknowledge them. If they don’t want to talk, they can say as much – “hi OP, I had a great weekend, thanks for asking! I’m in the zone right now and would like to minimize interruptions, so unless it is work related, I can’t spare the concentration to chat.” or something like that – something that acknowledges the message but sets a clear and politely communicated boundary. Courtesy and tact are undervalued skills.

    8. Luna*

      I agree with this, not everybody is even enjoying the small talk stuff. Unless you genuinely care about my answer and how I am actually doing, including the bad stuff, there’s really no need for you to ask ‘How are you?’. If you do, I will give an honest answer, and if the honest answer is remotely unpleasant (My weekend was horrendous, I had no time to relax and was run ragged; I got some very bad medical news yesterday, so I’m feeling very tense right now; etc) and you don’t like it… please, just don’t ask if you don’t want to know…

    9. Marna Nightingale*

      I mean, yes. But it’s not entirely clear whether we’re talking about a basically decent workplace culture with a radically lower level of social enmeshment than OP is expecting, or

      we’re talking about the kind of workplace where everyone is so talented, busy and important that they simply cannot be expected to engage in meaningless rituals like basic politeness, or

      they’re perfectly friendly to each other but have decided to freeze out OP for some reason.

      The first is something OP needs to accept and decide if they’re up for adapting to or not.

      The second and third are “Immediately begin making preparations to leave Evil Bees Inc. and never look back,” both because those are both pretty toxic in themselves and because thinking you’re above the petty norms that constrain the sheep and the willingness and ability to engage in open workplace bullying are “May 1 at the Kremlin”-level red flags.

  2. Tink*

    One of the, many, many, many benefits of working from home, for me, is that I’m no longer distracted by exactly these types of conversations. I truly like all of my coworkers. They’re kind, helpful colleagues. But I’m just too busy to, yes, even send a quick message about my weekend if I don’t have to. On the rare days that I’m in the office these types of exchanges derail my work and I fall behind. So while I’m sad for OP who feels isolated, I also think no one is being hurtful on purpose. We’re all just busy trying to get through our work.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I mean, when I think about it of course I’m not literally too busy to send a quick response, but socializing just – isn’t where my head is, really. I wouldn’t just leave a social chat without responding ever but it is going to feel out of step with the norms of my current remote office. We don’t really “chat” over teams, or at all, outside of meeting wind-up / wind-down.

    2. Princess Xena*

      And one of the problems with this is that it may work for a veteran employee on an existing team, but it’s miserably hard for new employees to a team, company, or industry to stay and be skilled when all the existing employees are not interested in socializing at all. It may be more productive in the short run but can have long-lasting consequences as new talent stays away.

      There’s definitely a balance to be struck, but it should be a balance and not “I speak only ever on work things” vs “I’m here for the socializing”

      1. Mellow Gold*

        100% agree with Princess Xena–I am in this same situation where I am not new to my industry and have a strong, in-demand skill set. However, there are times where I’m still treated as an entry-level employee on my team, because I haven’t formed the same social connections with other coworkers.

        I really struggle with the response that comes from A LOT of people who are happy with remote work that it’s also the best approach for everyone. It absolutely is a trade-off where you lose connection with newer employees–in some cases it even devalues your relationships with other veteran coworkers, as though those relationships weren’t built up over time from social interactions. It’s fine if you’re just here for the work, but don’t assume you’ll keep new employees onboard in an isolating environment.

        1. Gato Blanco*

          I am in the same situation and agreed. My colleagues on my team knew each other for a couple years before we all went remote. They would have weekly virtual coffee breaks (non-management staff only, 30 mins to shoot the breeze) with each other that I was never invited to and I only found out about 8 months into my new position when someone finally invited me. But if I dared ask how someone’s weekend was (literally staring at their face on a video call while waiting for other people to join the meeting) they would completely ignore me and like stare off into space or look at their other screen and begin typing. It was so bizarre.

          1. Mellow Gold*

            That’s so weird and off-putting… And blanking is the opposite of my problem–I have a team that talks up inclusion as part of our actual work but functionally does nothing with that mentality in teambuilding.

            And goes to some of Alison’s earlier advice–if it’s an office culture thing, that can you be okay enough with it to stay? I find myself really valuing a team that WANTS to form at least some social connection, and I’m comfortable enough to wait for the right opportunity (instead of the first).

            1. Me ... Just Me*

              This just all seems so clique-y. Why can’t new employees just be valued for their work? Move up in the organization because they do a good job and are dependable rather than who they schmooze with? I actively seek out positions where I don’t have to get 30 minute coffees with the people I work with in order to succeed at my job. That seems like pure misery.

              1. Koalafied*

                This seems a bit like a false duality – that things are either work-related or unrelated schmoozing. Yes, there’s a point where socializing at work is really just a social activity for people who enjoy being social – but it’s also true that fostering warm relationships with colleagues can make the team work more efficiently and individuals work more effectively. Someone who attends the coffee breaks may be better positioned to move up in the organization not because they attended the coffee breaks perse, but because attending the coffee breaks resulted in conversations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and people unexpectedly learned something relevant to their work that made them better at their jobs.

                Sometimes it happens in a conversation that was not ostensibly about work at all. Sometimes it happens because someone told a story about a work project to coworkers who normally wouldn’t have had visibility into that project because they don’t work on it directly, and something in the story turned out to give them the solution to a similar problem they’d been having in their own work.

                I’m rather introverted myself, but I also consider it part of my job to put in the time to make sure I’m periodically connecting with coworkers in more relaxed/informal contexts, and I don’t resent that I have to do that. Because I do it, I’m more aware of what’s happening all across the organization that could potentially be relevant to me, but doesn’t impact me directly enough that I’d obviously be on the list of employees who should be part of the work conversations about it. If I fail to take advantage of my “weak ties” to people I don’t work closely with, and the wealth of useful knowledge they could potentially share with me, and as a result I don’t perform as well as someone who does and they get promoted over me, that’s not me being punished for being introverted. That’s just the consequence of not being as effective in my role as I could be, the same as it’d be with any other job task/skill that I avoided because it wasn’t my favorite part of the job.

              2. Critical Rolls*

                Basic pleasantries are not “schmoozing.” They’re an acknowledgement of your colleagues as human beings. There is a vast difference between “How was your weekend?” “Great, weather was nice.” “Yeah that heat finally broke.” And whatever you’re describing with miserable mandatory socializing.

              3. Mellow Gold*

                I agree with Koalafied here—it’s not coffee with the bosses to get a promotion I’m missing at work. I would call myself an introvert, and I don’t want to spend hours talking to people. But I do want to fall back on caring about my relationships with coworkers as motivation on days where the work itself actually sucks (and every job has those days).

                1. No thank you*

                  I am the type of introvert who hates meaningless small talk. I like the people I work with, and we use Teams extensively for work, but I would find a message *just* asking about my weekend or some other non-work small talk weird and mildly worrisome. And I wouldn’t want to answer. I don’t have time for a real answer, and if you’re not looking for a real answer, I don’t see the point in asking the question in writing. For me, it is initiating small talk in writing, specifically, that I find unusual and unsurprisingly unwelcome. That’s just not normal in my work environment for either the introverts or extroverts on our team, and I hope it remains that way. I would not just ignore the message initially, but if brief responses didn’t work to dissuade someone from using Teams for messages that were purely small talk, I might eventually get to that point.

      2. Tink*

        I’m the newest employee in my office, working in a new industry, so this isn’t universal. It’s worked super well for me. When I’m WFH, I want to keep my head down and get through my work because then I can log off at the end of the day and go enjoy my private life. Any distraction at work cuts into that, so I’m not going to waste time exchanging pleasantries.

        I think there’s a larger conversation to be had about how capitalism has forced our society to turn work colleagues into friends and so many people now rely on socialization at work to the extent that some feel anxiety when this socialization isn’t reciprocated.

        1. Mellow Gold*

          Regardless, social relationships do form the basis of a lot of work interactions.

          I see the other side of the coin that many people do prefer to cut out small talk or distracting interactions when they WFH–however for clarification, my team went fully remote when it was offered, and we have never met in person. I did not accept my job thinking it would be fully remote, and there’s no attempt at any virtual socialization. Chitchat at the top of team calls is dominated by a couple personalities and the team is fine with this, because they have worked together in-person at some point. One person actually joked on a call, “I know what facial expressions So-and-So is making in response to this, even though their camera is off.”

          My point is that I see a lot of comments from people who are (justifiably!) happy with the new WFH or remote arrangements, where they (either explicitly or just tonally) write off that there are others who would be more happy to work in person (even just occasionally) in order to build collegial relationships. I don’t know what faces you are making behind your computer, after all…

          1. Grey Squirrel*

            I wonder if it’s more a side effect of capitalism/American culture which has made it difficult to make friends outside of work while emphasizing work/productivity as essential to one’s identity.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That’s what it seems like to me: I have to be so busy and keep my head down so hard that I won’t even acknowledge a pleasantry for a moment? That’s kind of at the opposite extreme of constant social gad-flying. I wouldn’t find either extreme pleasant.

          2. Allonge*

            Also, ‘I just want to get through work without any distractions and so having a non-work related exchange is taxing’ is a much worse indictment of capitalism for me than getting friendly with people I spend 8+ hours with five days a week.

            1. Loulou*

              Yes lol! I am also pretty depressed thinking about how some commenters seem to define “friend.” Making pleasant chit chat for two minutes a day is not my definition of a close personal friend that fills all my needs for social interaction…

            2. DataSci*

              For some people, like many programmers, any interruption takes time to recover from. It’s not the five minutes of talking about weekends we resent, it’s the half hour to pick up threads of the flow state. This is why having social chitchat before or after meetings works better – we’re already interrupted.

              1. Unaccountably*

                This. I do a lot of programming. I also have raging ADHD. A brief social exchange is just a brief social exchange for someone who wasn’t doing any work at the moment anyway; for me it’s the social exchange and the time it takes to recover my train of thought and remember where I was going when the exchange started. It makes the “pleasantries” much less pleasant, and there’s a higher penalty for me than there was for the person who just felt like stopping to chat.

          3. turquoisecow*

            I mean if I’m spending 8 hours a day working, I don’t have a lot of time after that for socializing, so I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to want to be at least friendly with one’s coworkers. This is true whether I’m sitting in an office or at home in my bedroom.

        2. Been There*

          Social connections can also inform interactions at work. If I have build a connection with someone, they might be more honest with me when I ask how their weekend was. It could’ve been a crap weekend, putting them in a bad mood and they’re not angry at me but just life in general right now.

        3. Panhandlerann*

          I would think it could be quite the opposite: capitalism makes folks toil away at the old grindstone so much that they feel they don’t have time for simple pleasantries with co-workers, who are, after all, human beings and not machines or widgets.

        4. Tired*

          I actually feel less socially isolated WFH because I’m not feeling left out of all the banter & stuff which I’m not good at & also find distracting! I get that some people can make great connections in person but I’m just not someone who can do that…

        5. Nancy*

          This has nothing to do with capitalism. It’s not unusual for people to want to at least be on friendly terms with people they see every day, whether it is school, work, or volunteering. And plenty of people don’t necessarily have built in friends and family hen they start a new job, since they may be in a new city, for example.

          LW: Feeling disconnected form coworkers was one of the biggest complaints from remote workers at my job, so managers set up a bunch of social chat groups and get-togethers to help. And yes, it is all voluntary.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, the same thing happened at my job. Now we have a social Teams channel for our team, and a water cooler channel for the whole organization on Yammer. People can engage as much or as little as they want.

            These social channels are vital for making new employees feel a part of the team, in addition to giving them the tools they need to do a good job, of course. Our current manager was hired during the pandemic. Two people on our team of 15 retired, while the team grew to 22 people. So almost half of the team has started working for us while we were either fully WFH or hybrid. In 2020 and 2021, we also had interns who were WFH all the time. All of them seemed to be very happy about the way they were made to feel welcome.

        6. TechWorker*

          Hard disagree ;)

          As others have said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be friendly with people you interact with. I also think there is actual work value in building relationships… perhaps in a perfect world no-ones work interactions would be coloured by their personal relationship but that’s… not how humans work! There’s a base level of helpfulness expected, but it’s not uncommon to go a bit beyond that if you know someone. I’ve also had cases where I’ve worked with someone who came across as brusque and argumentative over email but was warm and friendly in non work discussions. Realising it was a mismatch in communication & they were coming from an overall positive place vastly improved our working relationship.

          1. AthenaC*

            Right – the people that don’t want any sort of interaction with their coworkers … well okay then. Heaven forbid you actually need something from someone someday – good luck with that!

            I’m sure your coworkers will be perfectly professional, but if people like you they will be WAY more helpful. And you’ll be the same to them, I’m sure.

        7. Robin*

          But…creating community and solidarity, even on a surface level, is a stand against capitalism. If we’re stuck in the cycle of working til we die for the wealthy, you can’t be siloed by yourself and turn away from creating those networks, however small, that will support us as workers. That individual thinking goes against the point of anticapitalist thought and action as a concept. Feel free to figure out how to feed those bonds according to your ability and your means, but forgoing them entirely is more capitalist than you might think.

          1. Rose*

            This – very much agreed. It’s interesting/baffling when I see the same people advocating for labor also insisting that we don’t need to be social with our coworkers.

      3. UKDancer*

        Yes. It’s interesting, all our new members of staff in my part of my company want to be in the office more often so they can pick stuff up and build connections and other team leaders are reporting similar trends. They don’t want to be gossiping at the tea point for hours at a time but it’s a lot easier to establish a network if you can actually meet people at the tea point.

        They’re young millenials who you might expect to want to be remote (given some of the reporting), but they don’t.

      4. Grey Squirrel*

        Agree with Xena–I’m very lucky in that I started fully remote in 2020 and we’ve stayed remote, but several of my coworkers have been open to personal conversations. But usually it’s with folks I’ve worked closely with, and we started talking about personal things after getting to know each other on a project. I like to focus on work (like many of the other commenters) but the fact that I also feel like I know several coworkers as actual people makes me enjoy work a lot more.

      5. Kay*

        But this is where you put the pleasantry and relationship building in with a work communication. I worked for years with people all over the globe and while I built very strong relationships with many of them, not once did that ever come from a strictly personal communication.

        The way to do this is to start small and build on the base – happy Monday, hope you enjoyed the weekend, sorry to bug you before you’ve had a chance to grab coffee but can you resend the TPS report as for some reason the file was corrupted? I’m much more likely to respond with – oh I’m on a permanent jasmine green dragon ball drip so I’m on it but I’ve always wondered about Kopi Luwak, ever tried? – to that email than respond to a random “how was your weekend”.

    3. Snow Globe*

      When our team has our weekly Zoom calls, everyone chats a few minutes about personal stuff and are very friendly, and we often will add a personal question or comment to the end of a work email. But no one sends a message that is just “how was your weekend” and I’d find that pretty distracting. I don’t think it has anything to do with not being friendly, I think it’s just hard to get people’s attention when they are focused. In the office, you can chat in the break room, but remotely you just never know when is a good time.

      1. margaret*

        Yes, this. I have a couple people where I work who have moved to other divisions and we do purely social catch-up chats but these are *friends*. If someone I work with regularly sent me a “how are you?” message I too would sit there waiting for them to get to their work question. It’s much more common for us to start with work questions and then finish up with some pleasantries.

      2. Anonym*

        Yes, this. I respond more kindly than OP’s colleagues, but for the love of all that is holy, please don’t interrupt my work (which is what a Teams/Skype message is) with something that’s not both work-related AND either urgent or very quick. It’s disruptive, it breaks my focus, so let it be for business reasons and be efficient. A social instant message demands a response, so it can put a busy coworker in an uncomfortable position.

        Calls and meetings are a much better time to try *a bit* of small talk or get to know you stuff – everyone there is pretty much assumed to be paying attention to the conversation at hand, and not focused on other work.

        I feel for OP, because that sounds very isolating and the coworkers not acknowledging at all is really unkind, but I hope it helps to understand more of the other side of the dynamic. Wishing you friendlier coworkers with a more compatible work style to yours in future projects, OP!!

      3. BluntBunny*

        Exactly, a project teams chat is work related it will get full of irrelevant things if they include small talk there.
        Also it’s worth noting that most people don’t do anything exciting on the weekends and the answer is the same every week e.g gym, chores, etc. Nothing worth sharing and would get annoying if continually asked. The exception is when someone has gone on vacation or there has been a bank holiday.

    4. Gato Blanco*

      I think this totally makes sense if a colleague was just messaging you out of the blue while you were trying to work on a project. But in my experience it dips into super weird and standoffish territory when it’s like 2 colleagues on a video call waiting for a 3rd to join and colleague A asks, “Hey how was your weekend?” and colleague B just…grey rock does not respond. But if a followup question is posed about the powerpoint, they immediately respond.

      I had this happen with every person on my team at my new job. That was a reeeal weird cultural shift for me.

      1. KatEnigma*

        But here’s what happens. I open up the meeting a couple minutes early to make sure I can join without technical problems, and then I put it on mute and turn off the camera for a minute while I use the restroom, get a cup of coffee, etc. So it looks like I’m there, but I’m not. And then by the time I AM there, it’s been minutes and late to answer the How was your weekend question.

        1. Gato Blanco*

          Oh that’s a completely different scenario. I am talking about I can see their face, they are not on mute, and they still completely act like I have not just addressed them.

          1. TechWorker*

            I am sure you’re right this isn’t it, especially if it happens multiple times, but I fairly often join meetings and haven’t remembered to unmute my laptop (more common in office when I’m moving between open office and meeting rooms, but same applies to first meeting the next day). If I am not looking at the video application to see you’re trying to talk, then it would absolutely look like I’m grey rocking you, until I get the notification the person who’s running the meeting has joined and I switch windows/realise that my laptop is muted.

            1. TechWorker*

              (To be clear when I say ‘unmute’ I mean unmute the audio output from my laptop, which is not visible in the video application)

      2. Teapot Wrangler*

        That’s incredibly rude! I’m shocked that everyone in your team is like that – one person would be weird enough!!!

    5. Esmeralda*

      Or are relieved that they don’t have to perform sociability — one of the tough things about being in office is “How was your weekend” when the true answer is “incredibly sh*tty,” but I need to smooth out my face and say, “oh not too bad, how about you?”

      I can’t ignore someone in person, but I can let a chat that goes to the group just slide.

      1. L*

        RIGHT?! When we got back from lockdown I’d completely lost the ability to respond to the constant “how are yous?” with the expected “Fine.”

        I’ve started responding with “Well, I’m alive.” Because given our current work situation, toxic culture and the world in general being on fire, I’m just not up for pretending anymore.

      2. JM60*

        one of the tough things about being in office is “How was your weekend” when the true answer is “incredibly sh*tty,”

        Or if the question is the related “What did you do on the weekend,” and the true answer is either something you can’t say because it’s NSFW, or it’s something you don’t want to say because it’s incredibly mundane.

    6. No pineapple on pizza*

      “But I’m just too busy to, yes, even send a quick message about my weekend if I don’t have to.”

      Yet you found time in your busy day to read Ask A Manager, and comment here…

      1. Erie*

        I’m with pineapple here. It’s not really that you’re too busy; it’s that you don’t want to. Which is fine. But when someone messages you a question, it’s rude to completely ignore them.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes – there are totally days, weeks even, when if someone starts with How was your weekend on chat and we have not arrived at a work question in maximum one more exchange of plesantries, I definitely go and say ‘look, I would love to chat but I am swamped, what can I help you with’ to practically anyone. But typing fine, how was yours and ok, how are you take less then a minute. Things have to be burning for that not to be possible on most days.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m an introvert and I hate making small talk, but for me, a little bit of chit-chat about enjoying some unexpected nice weather over the weekend is actually something I make myself do, because maintaining pleasant working relations with colleagues is important.

      To the point that when I started freelancing, there were plenty of former colleagues who were prepared to work with me again. The first one, who I had only had a virtual relationship with, sent me work immediately, and recommended me very warmly to all her colleagues, so I started out really well. When I thanked her, she said she was glad to do me a favour, because I was the only colleague who was prepared to take ten minutes listening when she was really upset that the boss didn’t want to renew her contract, and it had made all the difference to a really shitty day.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes – I think it’s totally fine for people not to want to have to perfom social chitchat but it does have consequences down the line.

        OP might just have to find another job to function reasonably-for-them though – if this place is strictly business, this will not improve.

    8. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, exactly. It was fine to have innocuous conversations in person while I was filling up my water bottle or using the the microwave, but I’m not going to go out of my way to have those conversations over group chat.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        Yes, especially if it is just random during the day. As part of a meeting or something else? Fine. But if I’m doing something, I don’t want to stop what I’m in the middle of and chitchat. Tbh, not making lots of small talk is one of the perks of WFH for me. I’ve had work friendships that formed over time, but generally I just want to get my work done. Stopping to chat for chatting’s sake would feel more like another thing to get done rather than something enjoyable.

    9. Yorick*

      This isn’t personal to Tink and I apologize to Tink and anyone else who’s in a very different time zone, but: I see a lot of comments here about how terrible it is that coworkers want to chat sometimes and how commenters are FAR TOO BUSY to say good morning or give a quick response to a social overture. But I’m able to read that because they’re leaving multiple comments all over these posts during work time.

      I know that people vary in how much socializing they want to do at work. I don’t want to be close personal friends with my coworkers either, but I do want to speak to some of them sometimes, and it’s rude to characterize people like that as “holding hostage” or even to unconsciously assume they’re less into doing the actual work. It’s possible that OP is going overboard, but it’s not fair to imply that they don’t have real friends outside of work. It’s not pathetic or needy to want to have warm relationships with the people who you spend 1/3 of your life with.

      1. turquoisecow*


        I think the usual commentariat trend of “oh no I can’t possibly take the time to say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ to my coworkers” is popping up here.

        I don’t think OP is asking that people drop everything to have a long personal conversation with them, they’re just asking for some sort of personal relationship with coworkers, which many people have. The “I’m too busy to say hello” excuse doesn’t fly, because I’m willing to bet the same people have time to chat with people they want to chat with, in addition to commenting on AAM. If you’re also so distracted by one chat message saying “how was your weekend?” that it disrupts your entire workday, then you need to adjust your workflow. Turn off Teams notifications or something.

      2. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Agreed. I’m not saying you have to be friends with everyone you work with, but some of my dearest friends have come from work, and I’m still close with them years after I left the job. I’m an introvert by nature, but I would find it incredibly isolating to sit alone at home for 8 hours a day and just…never talk to my colleagues beyond work-related chat.

      3. Churlish Gambino*

        Oh my gosh, THANK YOU. People, you will not lose hours of productivity by responding “fine, thanks! you?” to a “how was your weekend?” question and they are not going to glom onto you as their New Best Friend. Being friendly at work is not the same as being friends at work.

        Being totally averse to small talk in general shows a worrying lack of soft skills that are just as important for advancement as being a “rockstar” at the actual job.

        1. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

          Your comment on “soft skills” reminded me of the email earlier this week or last week with the letter writer who had started a rumor about their colleague who received the promotion. The colleague wasn’t as good at technical work, but had better soft skills. In the comments section, probably 80-95% of the comments talked about how important soft skills are for roles. Yet today, we get a bunch of messages that are like “please don’t say hello to me! I’m far too busy” :)

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Like everyone in the comments section is Tiger Mike all of a sudden:

            “Do not speak to me when you see me. If I want to to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don’t want to ruin it by saying hello to all of you sons-of-bitches.”

            1. Loulou*

              I LOL’ed! Any newer readers who are confused about this comment, please do yourself a favor and search for Tiger Mike :)

          2. DrSalty*

            Yeah for real. Whenever questions like this come in, people who haaaaaaate talking to their coworkers always pop out of woodwork and fill up the comments section.

        2. Luna*

          I overall don’t mind a small chit-chat at work, I know my boss usually calls at some point during each employee’s shift to ask how things are going at work, how are you doing. I don’t mind those, especially if it’s during a slow time of day because it is something to do.
          And the talks are maybe 90% work stuff and 10% checking in, though usually still somewhat related to work. I like them at that point, as it gives me a chance to ask about things or inform her of stuff happening sooner rather than later.

          But if such a call comes in when I am really busy, it’s just not helpful to anyone. In an office setting, especially with remote work, I think it’s even easier to end up busy with something and you don’t pay much attention to any talk softwares like Skype, WhatsApp, MSN, Slack, etc, whatever may be used. Though if it’s a mostly work-topic used chatting software, I would personally not use that much for non-work chatting, anyway.

      4. Plain Jane*

        Thank you!! I also work remote and my whole team is remote across our state. we often start our days with “how are you?” and THEN ask a work question. I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking any work questions of my team if I never got a response from my hellos and how was your weekend small talk.

      5. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

        It never ceases to amaze me how hostile so many commenters are here about bare minimum niceties with coworkers.

      6. Legal Beagle*

        Completely agree. Moreover, the trend of treating anything remotely social or “personal” as an inordinate burden outside of workplace expectations doesn’t quite square with the (correct!) expectation that employees be treated as more than just cogs in the machine/faceless worker bees.

        When we talk about wanting mentorship from more senior employees, stretch projects that involve extra work or risk from managers, or grace from coworkers during difficult times in our personal lives, we should recognize that a lot of those things (which are a mix of professional and social) come out of forming relationships with our coworkers through things like exchanging casual greetings or making small talk about things like what you did over the weekend.

  3. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “Sometimes people who aren’t big on talking about their weekends will happily bond over work projects (and that can lead to warmer relationships that might naturally pick up a more social component in time).”

    This is me. I’d like to think I wouldn’t ghost you if you sent me social pleasantries over Teams, but my reaction would definitely be forced and surface level. I like to keep my work life and personal life separate most of the time.

    As you get closer to people and find out what you may have in common, those lines can soften a bit. But I’d definitely prefer a coworker approach me from a work perspective, particularly if we don’t know each other well. That doesn’t mean it has to be all business – we could chat about a project or decompress from a long meeting or something more personal – but I’d prefer it to be in our shared context.

    1. DogTrainer*


      I’ve always only really engaged with coworkers on work things back when we were in-office and still now that we’re virtual. If someone asks me how my weekend was, my answer is “Fine. And yours?” And I only did this because I knew it was the polite thing to do.

      But if you want to talk about dog behavior or training, I’m all yours.

      1. ShinyPenny*

        Then the Soft Skill is learning how to answer *any* question with an amusing dog-training anecdote!
        As Miss Manners says, you are never obliged to answer the question you were asked– you just generally need to invent SOMETHING to say when it’s your conversational turn. (Unless you decide its appropriate to go nuclear with The Cut Direct. But it’s a pretty big social error to deploy that as your default response to a friendly overture at work.)
        You can absolutely develop the skill of constructing a smooth and friendly answer out of the topic you prefer.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Nod. My personal life is VERY ODD and sounds weird. By the time I think of what some work stranger would want to know I have been distracted by some work thing…

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I would actually take some time during my commute to think about how to frame what I got up to at the weekend. Social interaction seems to be wildly underrated on this website, but it oils the works.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I spend my commute trying to work up the will to get through the day, I’m not doing that.

          Social interaction is very important. Different flavors of social interaction work better for different people. You can be social and still keep appropriate boundaries between your work and personal life.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          and both can be summarized by “hung out with some friends.” How was my weekend? It was nice, hung out with some friends.

          If someone presses you on “what did you do? No like, exactly??” they are being the weird one. But “oh no how do I tell my coworkers I got blackout drunk at murder podcast festival? I better just not respond to an IM asking me how my weekend went” is being the weird one first.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Oh I complete the circuit if asked directly, but it’s hard to go from my brain to social brain. And sometimes I might not have the capacity for this game( which is why I’m at home and not the office. )

      2. LB*

        They want to know “fine, thanks!” Or “too short!” Or “ugh, not the best, how was yours?”

        They aren’t asking for a blow-by-blow.

        1. UKDancer*

          This so much. I mean just say something conventional. “Good thanks” or “ok shame the weather was too hot / too rainy” or if you want something more personal just mention something anodyne that you did such as “good, got caught up on my chores” or even “fun thanks, I went for Sunday lunch with my family.”

          You don’t need to tell them the details of your life and most people won’t want to know. You just need to say something appropriate and bland.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      This is me. I wouldn’t blank somebody who asked “how was your weekend?” but my answer would likely be along the line of “fine, and yours?” Whereas if you ask me about what I am doing with a particular class or what I thought of the first exam in the new history course (which took place last June), I will talk your ears off. I will also do the latter if you ask me about politics or history or books. I find small talk difficult (it is possible I might not be entirely neurotypical) and if I am tired or distracted, I am capable of completely forgetting or stumbling over the set answers.

      (As this is a career site, I will say that the hardest part of interviews for me is the small talk at the start. Once we start talking work, I’m on a roll.)

      I am the same with friends which means my friends are often fellow teachers and/or possibly neuroatypical.

    4. Gnome*

      This is an important point. In person, you might have work tangential stuff to talk about (e.g. “I can’t believe that meeting went so long, I thought we’d still be sitting in it next week”) that might or might not spark a short social conversation. That shared context is really important. If someone is just… chatting at me and I don’t know them, it’s super awkward. these sort of not-task-focused interactions are the step in the direction of acquaintance.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        Yes. This is what I was thinking. It is awkward and if I’m in the middle of something, I don’t want to stop and then have to get myself refocused.

    5. Allonge*

      While this is totally reasonable, I am wondering how isolating it must be to be a new(ish) coworker at a place where everyone is like this. How do you get to the point where it’s ok to chat about whatever work project? For me, some social lead-in is needed before I ask someone if this presentation was really as incomprehensible as it seemed to me or whatever, and I am neither overly social nor a chatterbox.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’ve never had it be a problem, and I spend a lot of time with new hires. We talk about how they’re adjusting, workplace dynamics, what kind of work they’re being given, random little low stakes questions or observations that have come up, good places to get lunch…you still socialize. It’s just work related socialization.

      2. cabbagepants*

        When I train new hires I will explicitly advise them on when to ask other people on our team for help or input. It’s hard if the new person doesn’t know that they can ask for this kind of guidance from their trainer/manager, but to anyone reading this, you can definitely can!

    6. Mockingjay*

      My response varies. I belong to a technical support team; we’re remote across the country and get assigned to different projects. Consequently we’ve gotten pretty tight because we help each other with project snags, cross-training, workload redistribution, etc., and have gotten to know about our
      personal lives. We chat fairly frequently but don’t worry if someone doesn’t respond; usually they’re just busy.

      The projects we’re assigned to? These are a mixed bag; some teams are great to work with and we develop comraderie. Others – we are strictly professional to get the job done and that’s all. My project is the latter. My project colleagues know very little about me and we never chat.

  4. Sara B*

    My first instinct is that Alison’s “seen as too chatty at first” scenario is the most likely. I don’t like to write about my life – I don’t even like to text my friends long messages! I’d rather tell them in person/over the phone.
    I’m also pretty busy at work. I’d be happy to get coffee and chat if we were in person, but remote, I’m just not interested, even if the other person is lovely. So, as Melanie says, please don’t take it personally, but it might not be in the cards.

    1. starsaphire*

      It could honestly be the office culture, too. My previous job – we were in an open plan office – was the sort of place where you’d get weird looks if you so much as greeted someone in the hallway. I still don’t know the name of the guy who sat three feet to my right for the first six months I was there; I never heard him speak until the day he quit, and he never so much as looked my direction.

      Some offices just have a super different vibe.

    2. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

      I get the impulse Sara B. It’s so easy to cocoon working from home.
      I’d be worried that if the work culture does not provide in-person opportunities to connect with existing or new colleagues those relationships will be eroded or never built. As much as our society is all about productivity and separating work and personal lives, some degree of human connection is essential to being a successful team. Even those random pleasantries of ‘how was your weekend’, ‘the weather was really terrible, didn’t feel like leaving my house’, ‘tried baking a new cake’, ‘fixed the tap’, ‘saw a funny dog on my walk today’, whatever, go a long way towards building those relationships. It’s so much easier to approach Joni who likes funny dogs rather than Joni I’m very distant and professional with.

      1. LoneKey*

        Thanks Jeff! OP here, and this is really exactly what I was getting at. I know people are busy, and I’m not trying to chat up people every day with “insert whatever inane chit-chat”, I’m just trying to occasionally build somewhat friendly connections with the people I am directly staffed on projects with. Since we’re unlikely to ever meet in person and I was onboarded remotely I’ll never have the chance to allow a natural rapport to build.

        1. KRM*

          I get that, but if you’re messaging someone out of the blue with “how was your weekend?” I’m betting they’re thinking “okay, great, what’s your question?”. And then there’s no follow up from you with a question, so they go merrily along with whatever they were working on. If you do that enough, they’re going to ignore those messages because they know there won’t be a work question coming. I know when certain departments message me at work, if they don’t follow up “Hello KRM” with a question or task, I’m going to ignore it, because I need to go take care of my cells and run some experiments, not have small talk with some IT guy I’ve never met. If it’s important or time sensitive, I should be getting a message about it right after the hello. Maybe try attaching “hope you had a good weekend” or sentiment as appropriate to a work email/Teams work question, and just be friendly that way.

          1. LoneKey*

            Would you say that this holds even if the person attempting to speak with you is not some random IT guy you’ve never met but rather a person you are directly collaborating on a report with?

            1. Wisteria*

              I would, especially this part:

              Maybe try attaching “hope you had a good weekend” or sentiment as appropriate to a work email/Teams work question, and just be friendly that way.

              Drive by electronic interruptions are way worse than drive by in person interruptions. In person, someone can see if you are busy, and they generally keep walking if you are. When you drop something in Skype/teams/whatever, you force people to switch their concentration regardless of what they are doing. It’s disruptive, and when not followed by a work question, it’s doubly annoying. Your interaction style is probably leading to *less* connection with your coworkers. Save the chit chat for the tail end of functional conversations.

              Or, do as I suggested above, and instead of letting resentment build that they don’t interact the way you want them to, start to appreciate the ways they *do* interact as friendly and helpful.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I think it’s pretty weird from someone that you have an immediate working relationship with. I’m on a team of five and we went permanently remote in June. A couple of us are new to the team (I’m new to the team; my other coworker is new to the university, the state, and the country).

              We still chat a little with each other because we directly “know” each other from being on the same team. I don’t do the same with coworkers who are more distantly connected, but it seems weird to treat your direct coworkers as distantly as you would someone from a distant, unrelated department.

  5. L-squared*

    I’ll be honest, random chit chat with coworkers I don’t know isn’t really something I do either. I would never just flat out ignore people. But I’m probably not going to have a long chat over slack and teams about it either. The only people I do that with are people I already have an established relationship with. This is likely not really about you, just kind of the new reality with so much remote work. You lose out on a lot of those random “catch up” things. Maybe they are just less interested in the social relationships at work than you are. That happens. Hell, it happens in person as well. Some people just don’t chat as much. However, its much easier to see that Jane is just not chatty when you are in an office with her.

    1. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

      What would you recommend to establish those relationships with new colleagues at work if all work is remote and primarily email/chat based?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        There’s another recent post from just the other day where the OP asks for team building ideas, you might find something there.

      2. L-squared*

        I mean, you probably need to establish a relationship first in a work sense or some way instead of just direct messaging.

        Like, my company has slack channels for different interests, and those typically have more random conversation, and some side chats may break out from there, I assume Teams has something similar

    2. Erie*

      “I would never just flat out ignore people. But…”

      This reaction is all over this thread. But the thing is, LW didn’t write in saying her coworkers are introverts who spend a lot of time on AAM. She wrote in to say her coworkers are *flat out ignoring* her. It’s like if a manager wrote in to ask about an employee who was consistently missing deadlines and all the comments said “I would never consistently miss deadlines, but I have missed a few. You should go easy on her.” It’s not the same thing.

      1. L-squared*

        I mean, the problem is missing deadlines is a work related thing, questions about your weekend just aren’t. So while I personally don’t think ignoring her is nice, I’m not going to act like its some mortal sin either. The best way OP can deal is to reframe this as not being about her.

        1. Lydia*

          If responding to a innocuous question about your weekend is the literal difference between making or missing a deadline, you’ve planned poorly already. It’s also not required to answer immediately. You could just come back to it. “Hey! Was tied up with something earlier. Mine was good. How was yours?” If you ignore a coworker entirely, you’re probably not that great of a coworker to start with.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I think the point was “yeah, the coworkers are clearly being rude, but it’s not necessarily a sign that they don’t like you. It could be just they don’t like small talk or are introverts AND are being rude and possibly self-centred.” I think the “I would never ignore people” is meant to point out that no, this is not a normal reaction, but the rest is meant as an explanation of why people may not want to make small talk, even with people they like.

        There are people who just won’t do anything to accomodate others and act very much from their own preferences, so the comments about disliking socialising, etc are more a “well, if I WERE a rude person, I would probably choose to do that too, so it’s more likely the person is just somebody who is both rude and dislikes small talk/socialising at work than that this is an indication they dislike you.”

      3. Nonny Moose*

        I’m curious if the coworkers were always ignoring OP or if they were responsive at first and then stopped to limit the small talk.

  6. Smitty*

    Many people are also more reserved about sharing personal details with coworkers. What kinds of questions are you asking? Are your questions more along the lines of “How was your weekend” or are they more along the lines of “What did you do this weekend?” I’m fairly open at work, but if someone routinely asked me questions that I felt were overly personal, I might be rubbed the wrong way (depending on our relationship). Unless we are fairly close, I might be comfortable talking about everything over the weekend.

    Also when you say you ask “their opinion on something non-work related,” what kinds of topics are you attempting to discuss? If you are venturing into politics or something along those lines, people may not want to get into those discussions at work.

    1. turquoisecow*

      “How was your weekend” is not an overly personal question. If you interpret it as such then I think that’s on you, but it’s a very common small talk conversation starter. You don’t have to go into details – as with “how are you?”, you can just say “fine” and move on with your day.

      1. Smitty*

        That’s what I was trying to say. Asking “how was your weekend” to someone who is more private shouldn’t be too much to answer. A simple, “good, it was relaxing. How about yours” is easy enough to type back. However, if the OP is leaning more towards questions like “What did you do this weekend” “Who did you go with” etc etc, then someone who is more private might be more hesitant to share, depending on their relationship.

        I only say that because of the portion where the OP says that they will ask coworkers’ opinions on non-work related matters. I just wonder if they believe they are engaging in pleasantries when they’re being a bit more intrusive than they think they are.

      2. Skytext*

        turquoisecow, I think Smitty was giving “how was your weekend?” as an example of an acceptable question, whereas “what did you do over the weekend?” could be seen as nosy and probing for details about your personal life. Some other examples of how similar questions can be fine vs. nosy are:

        How’s your family? – fine
        Are you married/do you have children? – nosy
        (Upon returning from a sick day)
        How are you feeling/are you feeling better? – fine
        What was the matter with you? -nosy

    2. len*

      Interesting, which of those questions about one’s weekend would you consider overly personal? To me they’re basically indistinguishable and equally impersonal.

      1. Smitty*

        I would say that asking what someone did is more personal than asking how it was, since you are asking for details. If a work friend asked what I did, I would have no problem chatting about it. If there is someone that I don’t feel close with asking for details about my weekend, I would be less comfortable answering them.

      2. DataSci*

        “How was your weekend” is a greeting. It can be answered with “fine, and yours?”, even if that’s a total lie. “What did you do this weekend?” is more intrusive, and there are plenty of reasons people may not want to share the details.

    3. Replaceable*

      Also, some people may prefer a genuine connection rather than a perceived robotic conversation. I’ve had coworkers who seem to ask the same thing to everyone and didn’t seem interested in what I would say and just wanted to have a conversation.

      For chatty people, they have no problem having these conversations. For others, they don’t want to feel like they are replaceable in the conversation. It may not even be how personal the question is, but more that it feels like a waste of time. If no one responds to how was your weekend, maybe they don’t think you would really be interested or one might dominate the conversation. I’ve definitely had coworkers who are using my response as an excuse to tell a story I am not interested in.

      Or I don’t have much of an opinion on something and really don’t want to have a conversation about something. Or I do have an opinion, but really don’t think we are at the same level. For example, people have seen my baseball hat and made a comment about my team. But it’s obvious that they don’t know what they are talking about. I don’t owe someone a conversation, especially if it feels like I’m replaceable in the conversation. With remote work, I can set better boundaries and not get stuck sucked into as many conversations where I’m talked to. That’s rude as well.

  7. chc34*

    I would honestly say don’t push it. You’ve tried, it hasn’t been reciprocated, and I think trying to push it further is only going to make people resent you.

  8. Elle*

    I have a very friendly remote office. When we’re on calls or in person we do talk about weekend plans, etc. However Teams and emails are all business. We get a lot of messages and a non work related question would get bumped to the bottom of priorities. It’s nothing personal but they get distracting when we’re focusing on other things.

    1. Llama Wrangler*

      Agreed – I am happy to chat with coworkers briefly about personal things on a call, but would never send a teams message about it, and would find it distracting if someone was regularly chat messaging me social questions.

      But if OP isn’t having meetings that offer that kind of small talk opportunity, and if there are no (optional) social calls or hangouts, I could see how that would be very isolating!

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Same for me. Starting a Zoom meeting? Plenty of chatter about non-work items. A phone call? Always start with small talk. Slack/Teams/text? All business.

      The problem may be the medium, not the people.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Our unwritten rule was video conference and one specific Slack channel for social stuff. Everything else was work only.

        Maybe OP could suggest ask her manager about a monthly video chat and see how that’s received. It could be this is just not that kind of place.

    3. CR*

      Agreed with this. When someone messages me on Teams it’s work. I’m happy to ask how your weekend was, etc, if we have a video call.

    4. Emma*

      This is how my team operates as well. We have a weekly check in call with the team (5 people) and the first 15-20 minutes is socializing. We almost never use instant messaging for chit chat – that’s all work. And I would definitely feel odd if I simply randomly received a “how was your weekend?” inquiry from someone I didn’t already have a sociable relationship with.

      This feels like something OP needs to take up with their manager. “I’m feeling disconnected from the team. Would it be possible for us to establish a brief but regular socialization meeting?” I think relationships would grow pretty naturally from there.

  9. Architect*

    For me personally, I will do small talk, etc if we are face to face or voice chatting of any kind (although I have more tolerance for it on video rather than voice-only). Often those are in the “killing time until the entire team shows up for the meeting” scenario.
    With Teams/chat – look, I’m in work mode and that’s the format for a quick question. Just ask the question and let me get back to work. I don’t need you to instigate small talk before asking me your basic question, because it’s actually MORE disruptive in text only, as I sit there waiting for your response to come back, wondering if you’ve finally gotten to the point or are just going to tell me about your vacation for another five minutes of awkward time-delayed text chat.
    So for me, it’s the medium, not necessarily the people.

    1. Cascadia*

      Yes I completely agree! Trying to do social chats with people on ms teams sounds awful. But my office has lots of other mediums for communication.

    2. Snow Globe*

      And kind of annoying if you stop what you are doing to respond to a ping, then find out it’s something non-work related. In the office you can usually tell when people are focusing on their computer, there is no way to know when you are remote.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      There also may be a generational thing? My kids grew up with text chat and are perfectly comfortable with it as a mode of social interaction. It seems very uncomfortable to me. In a spoken setting, whether in person or virtual, I am perfectly OK with small talk. But send me an IM asking how was my weekend and I got nothing to say.

      1. Architect*

        If we start a conversation in person, and continue it via Teams, I’m fine, because the unspoken “this is casual and non-urgent” line has been drawn. And if I just send or receive an interesting article or funny meme with no preamble, that’s good too, because that is clearly social and does not require immediate response.
        I think it’s the awkward out of the blue: “Hi”……”How was your weekend?”……”Did you do anything fun?”…… Where I’m trying to figure out if you are getting to the point of asking me a question, or if I can ignore it until I have down time that really bugs me.

      2. Mid*

        That’s my guess as well, as someone from the IM generation. I don’t feel a difference in virtual versus in-person socializing, they’re equal in my book. But, I spent all my formative years interacting both in-person and online with people, and made “internet friends” with people when I was 12 that I’m still close to today, while most of my IRL friends from that age are no longer part of my life. So, to me, text chats aren’t any more disruptive than someone popping in to say in person, if anything, they’re less disruptive, and you’re more likely to get a better response from me via text since I can respond when I have the time and bandwidth.

        Of course, there are exceptions for all people across any generation, but I’ve noticed that my generation, that grew up using internet chatting as a regular thing, are less likely to hate Teams chats and more likely to use them socially at work, just like they would chat in a cube farm.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Totally disagree, personally. I’m 30, I grew up on AIM, tons of my friends are internet friends. At work it’s different.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I’m sure there’s some generation/age element to it, but some of us young folk just don’t like social texting even though we grew up with it! (Just ask all the Discord server’s I’ve ghosted.)

    4. Pocket Mouse*

      Yep, same for me. It can feel awkward to keep it all business on Teams/chat (especially right after a weekend or one of the parties returning from vacation) but I soooo do not want to have those convos via typing, with time delays, where it might or might not turn into a work topic, and where my employer can see what I write. Totally happy to have that kind of chit chat at the start of a meeting, or even receive an ask via Teams like “Hey, I have a question for you about Project X, and would also love to hear about your vacation! Do you have a few minutes this afternoon for a call?”

      But recapping my weekend via text/typing to a colleague? No. I already don’t love doing it with friends, and here I am at work, working. Please don’t ask me to spend my work time in this way, I have enough on my plate.

    5. Data Bear*

      This, one million percent.

      I will always drop in a bit of socialization with people if we’re interacting in person. If you text me to ask “hey do you have a minute for a question” and then call me on the phone, I am happy to chit-chat for a few minutes after we resolve the question. If you send me email and throw in a paragraph of paragraph of how things are going, I’ll respond similarly.

      I do not like socializing over chat.

      It’s a pacing thing. You don’t type fast enough for me to be able to engage fully with the conversation, but your responses also come too quickly for me to only check-in when I’m between tasks. Sitting there waiting to jump on the next reply because otherwise you’ll think I’m snubbing you is AGONIZING and I hate it.

      Find a different way to communicate, and I’m all ears.

    6. Atlantica*

      Yep 100%. I’m a super sociable extrovert type but social chat on teams is a hard no. My work even has a nohello status you can set which tells folks you don’t need them to make chit chat before a request for which I am profoundly grateful!

  10. socks*

    Seconding the question about whether the team ever has calls. I’m more than happy to chat a bit at the beginning of a call, but someone messaging me for chit-chat would drive me up a wall unless we were already buddies.

    Out loud, the “Hi, how was your weekend?” “Good, how was yours?” “Good!” exchange takes about two seconds and causes very little distraction. In text, the same exchange requires shifting focus, finding the message, typing, waiting, typing, waiting more, and then going back to whatever I was doing. It’s just way more disruptive than saying hi while walking past someone’s desk.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is exactly how I feel. Many of our video calls have a brief small-talk at the beginning, especially if we are waiting for someone to show up to begin. When I do check-ins with my folks, I always ask about their families/weekends/big thing they had going on before turning to business.

      If people started randomly IMing me with small-talk stuff, I would find that irritating and more time-consuming than I’d have to spend. I also find it more awkward to end those – do you just stop messaging? Say, “Well, I’ve got to get back to work now”? Mondays also tend to be my worst day in terms of business and delegating things to be done, so getting a, “How was your weekend?” IM would not be my first choice.

    2. Bread Crimes*

      Huh, this is interesting to me, because it actually takes me a lot less time and distraction to respond to text chatter than in-person types. The asynchronous aspect, and not being auditory, means I can dip in and out of text places and respond to whatever’s come up recently, whereas actual spoken conversation requires I stop what I’m doing and pay attention to that instead, however briefly.

      I enjoy both styles, for slightly different purposes. But in such a small team, maybe everyone else finds text derailing in the way you do.

    3. Lydia*

      Except if you’re all fully remote and you’re a new person who started remotely, you’re limited in how you can establish that relationship. I would encourage people to remember we’re in a shifting work environment, and our expectations on what is and isn’t okay to establish relationships with coworkers will need to shift, too.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. I expect that it would feel even more awkward for the LW to ask for an in-person call to get to know their coworkers a bit better when they get no response on IM.

  11. Dust Bunny*

    My office is not particularly chatty in-person but we’re definitely less so when we’re remote–I assume everyone is there if their Teams logo is green but we don’t talk unless there is something work-related to say. I (and I think the rest of my coworkers) would find it irritating if someone wanted more chat. Also, none of my coworkers are morning people and we all tend to come in, wave a passing “hello”, and then start working. I only have one who asks about my weekends and honestly she’s the one who sometimes talks too much.

    So . . . I guess I’d advise you to maybe socialize more but not at work.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also, if I answer you the first couple of times, is it going to set a precedent where I have to keep doing it? My weekends aren’t that exciting. I don’t want to be asked about them in perpetuity.

      1. mlem*

        Yeah, I’m the same. If something not-particularly-work comes up, I’ll happily chat along if I’m not busy. (TV shows, vaccination plans, funny headlines, any kind of brief and low-drama topic is fine.) But even though “How was your weekend?” is probably Small Talk 101, it’s too open-ended. It makes me actively stop and switch to my non-work brain, try to remember what (boring) things I did not-at-work for my coworkers, and then filter them to make sure nothing work-inappropriate comes up. It just feels weird. (I know that is 100% an individual-personality thing, but the LW could easily be on a team with two people like me.)

    2. Lydia*

      Let me make sure I understand. Your advise is, a person who is new to the job and is fully remote and probably has friends outside of work, but would like to get to know their coworkers and have a collegiate relationship with them should…socialize more outside of work? I suspect your coworker who asks how your weekend was isn’t the actual problem.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        She’s not getting what she wants from her coworkers and forcing it isn’t going to help. She either accepts this and meets her social needs elsewhere, or finds a different, probably non-remote job. Her call. But she’s not in control of how receptive her coworkers are to being asked about their weekends, so there’s no point in drilling down on that.

  12. Zweisatz*

    My company is very big on remote work, using chat programs etc. and honestly, I expect these kind of short social chats when I’m in a (virtual) meeting/1:1 conversation, not in written format. In chats it’s usually about specific info I need or want to share.

    We do have regular meetings though. If for some reason you never talk to your colleagues, I can see why you would try to find an alternative way.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Same here! I do not think to check social channels at work–at the beginning of a meeting, sure, “how’s your week going?” is nice and if I got silence I’d be miffed. But I don’t go seeking out small talk when it’s not in front of me. (In person, I think this holds as well–I don’t seek out chat with people I don’t know well, but am happy to chat when we’re in the same room.)

  13. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Alison’s advise can be boiled down to: This is either not about you, or it IS about you. In both cases, your solution needs to be finding a different social outlet that isn’t your coworkers. Complaining about this to your manager is very unlikely to result in anything but making it worse for you.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I agree with the first sentence. I don’t think Alison’s advice is to complain to the boss tho, it is to ask the boss for feedback about whether it is the OP or the team. That could be valuable info for the OP.

      Having said that, I’d probably opt for finding another outlet for my own social needs and skip talking to the boss.

    2. Erie*

      Did you read a different advice column than I did? This is pretty much the opposite of what I read Alison to be saying.

    3. Lydia*

      The OP isn’t looking for a social outlet. She is looking to establish a friendly working relationship with her coworkers. She isn’t trying to set up a freaking book club.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. It can be daunting even for a social butterfly to get to know their coworkers in a completely remote environment if there’s no forum set up for that specific purpose. Especially if the employer only went remote during the pandemic and most other employees were onboarded in person. Remote onboarding is possible and can be done well, but it requires a different kind of effort than onboarding in person. For one thing, getting to know your coworkers doesn’t happen automatically, but requires a systematic effort. In my org, we do 1:1s with new employees on our team as a part of onboarding.

  14. Chickaletta*

    I’m starting to notice a trend where people simultaneously want to work remotely from their homes, but then complain that they feel disconnected from work, isolated from coworkers, and struggle to make connections with people. And I don’t say this to be accusatory or anything, but I think our culture has started something we thought we all loved, but are unhappy with some of the consequences. I think some people are still denying the connection because they really want to hang onto the parts about working from home that are good, and there are some! I enjoy working from home too. But we have to admit that it does lead to less connection with coworkers and work overall, and the solution is something we’re going to be figuring out for a while. (And the solution MAY be returning to the office, but that’s something each individual has to decide what works for them. If someone is yearning to be more connected to coworkers and that outweighs the benefits of working from home, then that person is probably better suited for an in-person job).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think this is why a lot of people prefer hybrid. There are drawbacks both to fully in person and fully remote work, and while people may have real preferences one way or the other a lot of it boils down to wanting flexibility.

      1. Gracely*

        This! I want to work from home most of the time, but I don’t mind coming into the office to get some work done. I can get all the coworker social interaction I need/want at that time. If I’m at home and working, I don’t like being interrupted for social stuff; if I’m at the office, there’s an expectation that I’m going to have a minimum amount of “social” time because I’m physically there with other people. The ideal (at least for me) is definitely a mix of both.

        The expectations for social interaction are just different for remote vs. in office. That’s just part of the territory. If you want work to provide social interaction, you need to accept that remote work is not always going to provide that for you–not because there’s something wrong with you or people are being mean to you, but because remote work is inherently less social.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I also think going 100% remote may shine a bit of light for people whose whole lives were work. There’s always been different levels of investment in work socializing, and I know folks for whom watercooler chat and after-work happy hours are virtually their entire social life (even if they have families at home, it’s not always the same outlet). Those opportunities are basically gone. If you have other friends and social outlets, it’s easier to make the switch, but not everyone does.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I’ve mentioned this above, but one thing that I’ve noticed as someone who started a professional job in a virtual environment is that this is something that disproportionately affects new people in a company, office, or team. I’m not advocating that you should be best friends with coworkers, but it’s tremendously hard to try and build even stable coworker connections when your only interaction with them has been impersonal teams chats. Our office is continuing forwards on a hybrid/remote model for the forseeable future, but one thing we have started doing is having all interns be in the office, all new staff start in the office for at least a month, and strongly encouraging senior staff to come into the office a few days a week while interns were present. The result so far is that the current in-person intern cohort is miles ahead in terms of professional understanding and networking when compared to the intern cohort from the same firm 1 year earlier, recruited out of a near-identical talent pool, that was fully remote due to Covid.

      1. Courageous cat*

        “it’s tremendously hard to try and build even stable coworker connections when your only interaction with them has been impersonal teams chats”

        I worked from home for almost a year and a half. I am a firm believer that you can’t. You just cannot build the same relationship and rapport with someone you’ve never met over a computer. New hires are at a disadvantage in the fully remote environment no matter how much the company may try to make it otherwise – your fellow employees just aren’t going to care as much about you because they don’t know you, and that’s a really tough wall to break through.

        I’m sure it’s worked somewhere, but I would never ever take another remote job for this reason.

    4. Mid*

      Maybe, but also, people can have chatty-social time via remote platforms. Heck, over half my closest friends are solely through the internet, and I haven’t met some of them in person and likely never will. That doesn’t mean we aren’t truly friends, and that we don’t have a strong connection.

      Remote work doesn’t inherently mean no-socializing, or even less socializing, depending on how people are utilizing the platforms. I think this team might just be particularly anti-social, and that can be hard to not take personally.

      1. Gracely*

        See, I see that kind of chatty social time as completely different and separate from work. I would never want to chat with my coworkers the way I do with my internet friends. It’s so wildly different to me. I would absolutely have full, ongoing conversations with internet friends even while I was remote working, but having similar conversations with coworkers would just be…weird. The expectations are very very different– the same way having a phone conversation with your bff is going to be a very different experience from a phone conversation with Jane in the admin office.

        1. Mid*

          Oh! I agree that it’s different, because one is inherently a work relationship while the other one was started with the intent to be friends and chat about stuff. I’m not going to open up to my coworkers, in-person or otherwise, about the stuff that I talk to my non-coworker friends about.

          I just don’t think that socializing online at work is inherently impossible, or that people can’t build relationships through coworkers online and need in-person contact to build those working relationships. I realize that my comment made it sound like I want/encourage a different level of socialization than is practical or reasonable. I’m not trying to say that at all, and frankly, if my work chats were as busy as my friend chats, I’d never get anything done in my day.

          I think a better way for me to phrase it would have been: You can still build friendly working relationships online, similar to how they would work in an in-person office, it just depends on people’s attitudes and approaches. Plenty of people build deep personal relationships online, so building work relationships can also be done without in-person time, though having face-time through video platforms can help with that.

      2. Erie*

        Eh, I pretty much disagree with this. The weird thing about remote work that I’ve been noticing over the past two years is that *in theory* it does provide all the same avenues to communicate with coworkers that in-person interaction does, but in practice it is like 500% harder to make lasting connections. There are a bunch of theories about why that is, but it’s a thing, and no reason to pretend it isn’t.

        Friends that you meet online through tumblr or whatever are in a different category, IMO. I also have solely online friends. Doesn’t mean I can connect with remote coworkers.

        1. Mid*

          I wasn’t saying that it was the same, nor that building good working relationships is easy, regardless of the avenue.

          I do think some of the issues we’re seeing are caused by a multitude of factors, some that are and many that aren’t related to work being virtual. Burnout, high turnover, people being more protective of personal time vs work time, people adjusting to new forms of communication and new work tools, etc. Some people aren’t as comfortable on chats as phone calls simply because they’ve spent most of their career using phone calls over chats. Some of my coworkers still don’t like emails when they could call you instead.

          I think probably the biggest thing is people not *wanting* to be as social at work, because when you’re home you realize that the time that would be social in an office can be used to hang out with pets/kids/partners, run errands, clean, etc. When you’re more or less stuck in one place (the office) and the choices are work or socialize, it’s more rewarding to socialize. When you’re at home at the choices are work, socialize, or spend time doing things you actually want to do, the socializing part is less appealing, since it feels like you’re wasting your own personal time. But, that’s just a theory.

          And, again, there are a lot of factors at play, some that are impossible to really measure. We as a collective society have been through some major changes in a very short period of time, and it will take a lot more time to see how things really work out.

          1. Despachito*

            I think your theory is spot on.

            I have been WFH for years, and most of the time I do not even know what the person on the other end of the e-mail looks like. We are perfectly polite, occasionally crack a work-related joke, but if either of us asked how our weekend was it would sound weird.

            I would not qualify it as “unhealthy”, it is just… different. Having more personal interaction has definitely more advantages but I do not feel this particular relationship is wrong.

            The questions about the weekend are much more likely as social lubricant when meeting in person (you are not going to stare at someone in the kitchenette without a word), but on-line, it is not needed as much.

            But if someone does engage in such conversation, I think it is perfectly possible to give a short yet warm answer and not say anything personal, and it does not have to be annoying (because you look at these conversations as “I acknowledge you, fellow human”). I think it is a sacrifice to the fact we are living among people. Nobody can force anyone to engage in lengthy conversations, and I think online it is even easier to make this clear and keep it down to “It was fine, thank you. Hope the same for you. Now about the Jones report….” I doubt this will kill even the most antisocial person, and can go a long way.

    5. ferrina*

      It’s also that most people don’t have much practice socializing in the remote/hybrid environment. I went remote before the pandemic, and it was a different vibe- the team made a conscious effort to bond and had dedicated spaces for socializing. It wasn’t mandatory, but it was something that we could comfortable opt into/out of.

      Remote interactions are inherently different and need a different communication approach. You need to be more thoughtful and deliberate in setting up spaces, and you need to be actively inviting. It’s a different dynamic than what you’d find in office, where opportunities and communication styles have different impacts. But a well thought out communication strategy usually helps with both social interactions and work interactions- the informal information networks can be essential! (Most of my career growth has been by leveraging social/work networks, and I get critical information before most of my colleagues because of my social/work relationships.).

    6. AmberFox*

      I am on a team that was fully remote well before the pandemic, so this is… less a trend to me than it is a fact of life. For some people – including some of my former coworkers – working remote fulltime is HARD. They’re outgoing, gregarious people who need to be able to have those random incidental contacts that you get at work. They thrive there. Put them at home fulltime and they struggle not with focus, but with not getting the breaks and the human interaction they get in the office. For others – myself included – remote is GREAT; I have in the past had my spouse out of town and didn’t actually feel the need to be face-to-face with another human being instead of interacting with them over the internet until a solid three or four days in. And there’s folks all through the spectrum in between. The key is finding the solution that works best for you as an individual, and it sounds like LW might not have.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Absolutely this. People are different– remote is great for some, terrible for others, and for many, it’s somewhere in between. It’s about finding a solution that works for you while keeping in mind that finding the solution may involve some trial and error.

    7. Jocasta Nu*

      There has been a long trend of disassociation throughout the late 20th century, even before social media. Think about how many civic and fraternal groups your town used to have compared to today-and the ones that are left are down to minimal, aging members-and how our grandparents had weekly card or supper parties within the neighborhood (see the book Bowling Alone for great stats and analysis). We have indeed defauled to workfor a lot of our social interactions. With the great shift to wfh, I’m curious if there will soon be another shift to more interactive social spheres again (personally, if the SM companies continue with the over-monetization and extremism, I’m pretty ready for a different model).

    8. TechWorker*

      Some of us never loved it tbh :p
      Obviously there’s the issue that if you’re in the minority that prefers being in you can’t reasonably ask people who wfh to come in for that reason. But I’m glad my company decided to go for 3 days in, 2 days wfh. Wfh days I get to fit in more exercise (though honestly, I am less productive for sure, I probably need to go in a bit more) and in office days I get to see people and get shit done.

  15. Rapunzel Ryder*

    Only one member of our team is remote at the moment but when we were all remote (or two of the three were so it was like we all were) we occasionally posted personal things on a shared Teams chat with the three of us. Expressing joy/frustration with kids/pets or making a comment on something we did. It was us sharing which led to a more natural way for all of us opening up rather than being asked and then put on the spot.
    OP, you might try that method and maybe create a chat with your 2-3 person team (if one does not already exist) and share something small (like if you have a cat and they are looking at your work computer or you can make them be at the computer, send a picture with the message that it looks like you all have a new teammate. Since getting a cat, I have learned lots of people LOVE cats and will always talk about their own).

    1. Rapunzel Ryder*

      ADHD Brain- forgot to add that it takes the pressure off because if it is something that you do not want to respond to, you thumbs up and move on.

  16. sagc*

    Honestly? Part of it, for me, is the fact that it’s just more typing to do. a conversation in the office feels like a break, whereas one using work tools feels a lot closer to more work. Plus, it’s more of a record than a verbal conversation, so people will likely be a bit more reserved.

    So yeah – you’d probably be getting pretty perfunctory answers from me, in this environment.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Totally agreed. I like the occasional interruption in the office – it’s different on messengers though. And I wouldn’t want you to call me just for a social pleasantry either. Unfortunately, it’s just different. It’s easier to disengage from an in-person conversation when it’s over, I don’t need to change what’s on the screen in front of me or task switch in quite the same way, you’re more likely to be able to see if I’m really focused on something and it’s not a good moment…these things just don’t translate.

      1. ferrina*

        This is why I like dedicated Slack channels and virtual coffee chats. You’re able to engage at your leisure and not worry about being interrupted.

    2. Sloanicota*

      This is a great point and I hadn’t thought of it that way. If I’m already using teams to update my boss on a project and try to schedule a phone call with another coworker, it doesn’t feel like a break to also make small chat with a new colleague about my weekend.

    3. NewJobNewGal*

      I was going to say something like that! A friendly conversation by the microwave may last 2 minutes, but in a chat, the same conversation can drag on for 30 minutes. Then there’s the awkwardness of shutting down the chat so I can focus fully on work. I can’t code 80% and have a conversation about Netflix 20%. I have to pick.
      If I’m having a slow moment, then yeah, I’m happy to socialize. But my slow moment doesn’t generally coincide with anyone else’s slow moment.

      1. No pineapple on pizza*

        That’s a really good point which I’d never considered: how much longer a written conversation actually takes.

        1. metadata minion*

          Oh, that’s useful to know! I type really fast and so while I can’t actually type as fast as I talk, it’s not that far off and so I hadn’t quite considered that my experience of text chat is probably different from that of slower typists.

          1. allathian*

            Yup. I type with 9 fingers (I don’t use my left thumb) and without looking at the keyboard. Sure, typing’s slower than talking, but not by much.

            Casual social chats on IM also rarely require an instant reply.

        2. Lydia*

          One of the things I have to remember about written conversations, though, is that they aren’t timed, really. You can respond when you get a bit of time. Not that it’s easy to do in practice, but I do try to remind myself that if I miss a chat message, I can respond when I see it and it will still be fine.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I was just thinking this and wondering how to write it so that it would make sense: Yes, it would feel like more work. It’s more work to read, process, and type an answer than to just say, “Fine, yours?” when one of my coworkers sticks her head in my door. Plus, I’m probably already typing something else so it kind of derails whatever I was doing.

    5. mskyle*

      Yeah, this is it, 100% for me. I live alone and WFH 95% of the time, and I miss casual social interaction with my coworkers. But on the other hand I spend my whole damn day in front of the computer (and a good chunk of it waiting for people to respond to my chat messages and emails) and I feel crotchety about spending even one more minute on that than necessary.

    6. Shan*

      Yes, for me it’s not a matter of not wanting to socialise with my coworkers – it’s specifically the medium. I hated texting, DMing, IMing, etc *before* 2020, and I am absolutely done with it now. Something about it feels demanding of my time in a way that chatting face to face doesn’t. I like it for one-offs – “hey, are you going to Paige’s on Friday” – but hate it for actually conversations. Like, it prevents me from focusing on something else, but doesn’t give me the same social satisfaction that in person conversation does.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      This! I want to connect with my coworkers, but I do not want to spend more time typing and staring at a screen and then also having a record of the conversation that could end up in my performance review or a subpoena someday lol

  17. Alsirm*

    I have to agree with the above comments. I really don’t like chatting about non-work stuff with anyone that I haven’t known for years. So I will chat with colleagues who I know really well, but it does take me years to get there. On the other hand, I will be very happy to help anyone with work related questions. It is nothing personal with any of the people that I work with. I just like to keep my work and personal lives very separate (with a few exception for colleagues that have become friends over the years). I’ll make an exception for one on one video calls, that usually start with a bit of chatter, if they are not meant to answer a very brief question.

  18. SleepyBadger*

    I’m more of a bear than some, especially before my coffee, but I know plenty of others also bristle about sunshiny coworkers trying to make small talk over Slack Channels and the like.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I do, even though I’m not much of a bear…it’s just really exhausting? It takes so much more mental energy to engage with in writing.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        And emoji interpretation. If the frustration/triumph emoji discussion here recently taught me anything, it’s that I have no idea what most of those little pictures represent to other people. It takes time to look them up – I could not figure out why my atheist coworker sent me praying hands, but, apparently, that means “thanks”. So, I have to read, type, and look up all the emojis to make sure I understand what’s being said.

    2. Dona Florinda*

      Yeah, I would probably respond the first few times out of politeness but if OP is constantly messaging people to make small talk, I admit that at some point I’d start ignoring it too.

    3. enlyghten*

      A coworker and I actually had a really nice chat with another coworker who is a bubbly morning person. We explained that we’re a bit grumpy in the morning and not to read too much into it. We offhandedly mentioned that we’d prefer if she walked through our office and flipped us off rather than be bubbly first thing. She took it to heart and now flips us off when she walks through. Makes my morning every time.

  19. I should really pick a name*

    My team does very little social chat over Teams. And when it happens, it tends to be to the general chat group, not directed at a single person (I suppose there could be one-to-one chats that I’m unaware of).
    Most socializing happens during our regular morning meeting (how was your weekend etc…)

    I’d find it odd it someone direct-messaged me for small talk. I’d still respond, but it would feel weird.
    I wonder if part of what makes it different from in-person is that when you’re in person, you can look at someone and get a feel for if they’re focused or not, and if it’s a good time to interrupt.

    Even in person though, most of the “how are you doing” chat was in the morning as people arrived, or during break times.

    Basically, what I’m saying is that your expectations might be out of sync with the people that you’re working with.

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

    My direct team is very chatty on Teams in the morning for about 20 minutes — exchange a few memes, mostly about having coffee and hating the meetings we are about to attend — and then we mostly stop until about 4:30, where we send a few more memes. If you’re hoping for whole paragraphs about someone’s weekend, and sharing a long chat message about yours, you’re probably expecting too much for the chat function. Maybe try to back off whole conversations, and make your communication a bit more one funny post and done.

    1. Sloanicota*

      We have a “random” slack channel for this. But honestly, it doesn’t get a whole lot of use. Perhaps if we had a bunch of new coworkers it would? (I think you can mute notifications for certain threads so it would presumably be less disruptive for everyone else if there was meme-sharing and weekend updates going on).

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This strikes me as way more friendly on Teams than I’ve personally experienced! Even in a friendly office. And that’s absolutely fine – I’m glad it works for your office. But to manage expectations I do think a lot of places aren’t even being that chatty, this is sort of a best case for a social office on Teams.

    3. ThatGirl*

      My immediate team is very social – we have a group Teams chat that goes in spurts but we talk about pets, weekend plans, work stuff, food, etc. We have one perma-remote team member, two in a different office, and the rest our main location, so it’s a good way to bond us all. But it’s also entirely optional and no judgment if you need to mute for the day or week or whatever. I do wonder if it makes a difference that we’re a creative team (writers/designers/photographers).

      1. Sloanicota*

        Curious, did you all used to see each other in person? Or was there a core group that did, which set the culture for the others?

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yes and no – I joined the team fully remotely (covid), but met most folks in person about 5 months after I started. So there was definitely an office culture that kinda continued when everyone went remote. The team member who’s perma-remote used to work out of this office and moved, so he knew everyone in person. The two folks at the other office location are two states away but had come here at least once pre-covid and have been here once in person since (back in June of this year), and they worked together in person before joining this team.

    4. Gracely*

      Back when we were all remote at the start of the pandemic, that’s essentially what my team did. One or two of us would sometimes also drop a cute pic of our pet “helping” us work, but otherwise, the socializing happened at the beginning and end of the work day–and it was actually a really good way to signal to everyone that we were starting/finishing the day. Made it a lot easier to keep decent boundaries on our time.

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

        Yes, beginning and end of the day, but also not really “chatting” about our weekend plans or personal life…just a photo or gif to show we are here. I guess 20 minutes sounds like a lot of “chat” time, but with the size of our team, it’s about 1 post per person.

    5. Teapot Wrangler*

      I think that is a fairly high level of engagement. We don’t really do much social stuff at all on my work’s Teams – I can easily get through a few days without any Teams messages and then they would be primarily work related

  21. Save Bandit*

    I just started a new job semi-recently (in-office) and a handful of my colleagues are remote. One or two of them will regularly chat me during the day about random non-work topics (or very tangentially related) and it is SO distracting. I am ridiculously busy, juggling 5 different things at all times, and honestly chats feel like just one more interruption.

    OP, I do also very much understand your desire to connect. I had been at my previous job for years, and I didn’t realize until I started a new job how much I valued the warm relationships I’d developed with my former colleagues until I was the new kid and didn’t know anyone. I really sympathize with you, I know it’s hard. I hope you find a work friend on your new team.

  22. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I’m pretty chatty even in chat and I ignore a lot of it when I am focused. I don’t even hear some of the messages come in (our system chimes because it monitors client chat too) if I am focused and am not responsible for client messages at that time.

    I do try to respond with a friendly comment if no one else does because that’s me. But I def understand ignoring comments because you are working or because typing is too much (while a quick hello, weekend was great, thanks! in person is less onerous).

  23. DEJ*

    I had a coworker who was incredibly chatty and wasn’t reading the room about how we didn’t have time to sit around and chat. I still remember the time when she apologized up and down about asking for help with a work problem and then when that was finished she sat back and asked eagerly ‘how was your weekend’ while giving off vibes of wanting a lengthy conversation. I can honestly see her writing this type of letter.

    1. AnoninnyC*

      For sure! It’s very draining to have to signal the end of convo to people like that IRL and there’s just no efficient way to do it over Teams if you’ve already done the perfunctory and succinct answer thing. Learning to read the room is the truly biggest soft skill anyone can acquire in a professional setting.

  24. Falling Diphthong*

    Remote contact doesn’t allow for the sort of soft signals to chat less that might be evident in person. For example if someone looks up, smiles, and briefly answers your question, but their body remains aimed at the computer and their gaze goes back to the screen as soon as they finish, you know that they don’t want to chat now.

    Accumulated over time, you might correctly figure out that Hildegard is happy to talk when she is looking at spreadsheets but not when reading, while Jolene wants to keep the social stuff to only a brief exchange at the start of the meeting while you wait for everyone to come in. But given the binary options respond/don’t with remote messages, any attempts at connecting that aren’t welcome right at that moment are going to get the harsher “ignore” rather than the gentler “indicate I am really focused on this other thing right now, but would chat later.”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think I was trying to get to this with one of my earlier comments but you explained it much better.

  25. My Useless 2 Cents*

    I’m more than willing to talk about non-work life with coworkers, however, over I’m not that great over chat. I find the lag in conversation frustrating and I spend more time than I should on trying to make sure what I’m typing can’t be misconstrued. (Especially with people I don’t know well who may not get my sense of humor, which can lean unexpectedly dark and sarcastic).

    I don’t have all that much experience with it but could you see if there would be interest in something like a Friday night happy hour over zoom so something. The video could lend itself to a slightly more organic conversation and once people are a little more familiar with each other allow the odd friendly chat session to develop?

  26. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

    Steven Colbert and James Taylor recently did a song called “You’ve got a Work Friend” that I think speaks to this. I’ll add the link in a comment.

    1. Bexy Bexerson*

      OMG…”But if you quit tomorrow, I’d briefly be bummed” hits hard. I’ve been in that situation countess times.

  27. learnedthehardway*

    Are you talking to people or sending them messages?

    Personally, I’ll make small talk and talk about things like the weekend, etc. while in a live conversation with someone (regardless of in person vs video), where I wouldn’t do that if I’m writing text. And I’m a pretty talkative person, so wouldn’t be surprised if people less chatty than me refused to be chatty in a text-based medium.

    Add to that, there’s a time for chatting and a time to get down to business, and even video conversations tend to be more focused on business, I find. There’s just less leeway for general chitchat in a video conference with several people, than there is when you’re in person. You can’t have those side conversations as easily, and I think people are uncomfortable having a 1:1 type conversation when all 6+ other people on the video conference are paying attention to it.

  28. Required Name*

    I actually have a coworker who does this occasionally, and while I like her, the chats are distracting (even if they happen pretty rarely). Personally, it feels like more work to write multiple responses versus just talking. On my team, we sometimes have some time to chat at the beginning of meetings. There’s usually an opportunity to ask the first couple of people who join how their weekend was, how they are, etc. that’s less committal. Alternatively, maybe your manager can include some “mandatory fun time” during a team meeting that can be an icebreaker.

  29. Person from the Resume*

    This is not very common on my teams. On smaller team teleconference, we have small talk before everyone joins, but once everyone is on it’s time to get down to work because there’s lots of work to do and lots of meetings.

    I don’t get, send, or expect personal chit chat over teams every morning. Maybe once or twice a month. And I like my team. They’re great. We’re very competent and successful and that’s why I like them as colleagues. I don’t actually know much about them personally and their personal life, but that doesn’t prevent successful working relationships.

    What I do is have my cell phone near me (it’s my work phone for those extremely rare telephone calls) and text my friends throughout the day to get that social interaction/chit chat I need. I live alone and work from home. I rely on my friends, my social sports team (twice a week if weather is good), and very recently my CrossFit gym for social interactions.

    I don’t think it’s the LW (although it suppose that’s possible). It’s probably the team culture. Unfortunately they’re inadvertently rude/nonresponsive because they’re busy working. I think LW needs to look outside work for the non-work related or other “small talk” type stuff that she wants and needs. LW can look at adding some more regular things to her life like weekly or monthly activities or meetups for social interactions and just plan meals and hang outs with friends for that. Don’t look for it at work.

  30. Steph*

    Another reason in person small talk is a lot easier is, depending on the work, people can talk and type/work at the same time so it’s not as disruptive. On chats, you’d have to stop the work you are doing to look at and type a response.

  31. Gnome*

    per other comments, I agree that it’s not the same as actual chatting… and it takes longer too.

    I also wonder if there are other places people might chat besides Teams. I, for one, hate Teams with a passion and get annoyed at any chat in it (I also get emails about the messages, which makes me want to pull my hair out), but I’ll Skype of Slack chat with people.

    I’d also offer that if people aren’t using Teams otherwise, they may not have it open or look at it. I’ve been in offices that use it and ones that really don’t, but I thought I’d mention it since it wasn’t clear to me if people were using it all day or at all.

    1. Plain Jane*

      I wondered if people just didn’t have it open, too. My employer switched to Teams but a bunch of departments just don’t use it at all for anything but virtual meetings. If I send one of them a message, they might not see it for days.

    2. allathian*

      You should be able to mute the Teams emails, at least… Look in Settings.

      Our Teams auto-starts when we log in, and it’s mandatory to keep it on at all times when we’re working. DND is fine, though, if you’re focusing and really don’t want to be disturbed for a while.

      We used Skype before switching to Teams 6 months ago, and while neither system is perfect, I vastly prefer the latter, it’s so much more versatile.

  32. Mothman’s Uber*


    I don’t think it’s typical to have social conversations when you’re working remotely. When I’ve worked remote (for medical reasons and for the pandemic), I had no water cooler chat with anyone by way of online messaging. If I talked to someone on the phone, there would be the briefest exchange but it was quickly to work. Social conversations are easy in-person when someone is standing right in front of you. With remote work, it’s a lot of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I didn’t take offense to any of because I was enjoying the quiet atmosphere of work from home and had my social needs met by friends and family. I knew it wasn’t personal because everyone was quick to take up water cooler talks with me when I was back in the office.

    This set up sounds like it doesn’t work for you, OP, so you should look for in-person or at least hybrid work.

    1. allathian*

      It really depends on the organization, though. In mine, the organizational culture expects employees to be open to at least some social interaction at work, even while we’re remote. They try to ensure it through an organizational social channel on Yammer, and I expect that most teams on Teams also have a social channel of some sort. People are free to engage in or ignore these. We also usually start our meetings with some informal small talk. I guess we’re a fairly chatty bunch! I feel like this level of social chat is just right for me.

  33. Sangamo Girl*

    Some cultures just aren’t social. I work in a strong-silent-type dude-centric field. Pre-pandemic we couldn’t even get them to talk in staff meetings. We would plan unit potlucks and when it was time to eat they got food and ate alone in their offices. Some folks just don’t chit chat.

  34. BugTrainer*

    Just wondering, but maybe they don’t want “evidence” of their chit chat stored in their Teams history? I used to have a boss who was VERY against us using instant messaging for non-work related content to the point he’d watch the names of who you’re messaging over your shoulder and ask you to explain why you were speaking to them. With that in mind I’d be worried in a remote working situation that he’d be checking the logs of who we’re talking to.

    1. allathian*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. Your former boss was an outlier, or at least I hope so! Sure, Teams logs could be checked, but at least in my org, some friendly social chat is expected.

  35. Mid*

    While I usually hate attributing things to the “generational divide” I do wonder if the comments today are a reflection of that. I grew up using the Internet as a social platform, chatting and IMing, and so for me, it’s just as easy to build a relationship over text as it is in person. Over half of my closest friends are internet based, and I’ve never met some of them in person, but I have no doubt that we have deep friendships. I don’t find IMing as distracting or mentally consuming as I do in-person conversations, and honestly it’s usually less draining for me to talk on the internet versus in-person. I love text because I can scroll back and review the conversation if I’ve forgotten something or gotten distracted, and that’s not something you can do verbally.

    While it varies by person, and I wouldn’t want to make a blanket statement that “everyone over 45 hates IMs” (because that’s clearly untrue), I do wonder if there’s a generational difference in how people view socializing via the internet versus in-person. It feels like some see virtual as a poor substitute for in-personal connections, while others, like myself, don’t really consider there to be a difference between the two. For me, IMing for an hour builds the same closeness as talking over the phone or being in person for an hour does. I’m sure there are differences between people, but I wonder how this kind of thing can be addressed as we move to a more and more virtual workspace, and generally more virtual world.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think what this analysis misses is purpose of interaction. Socializing over the internet is fine *if I am looking to socialize*. And talking to work *friends* on Teams is also typically different than random pleasantries. But I’m not at work to socialize, and I’m also not trying to check my discord or keep up with text threads while I’m at work.

      With in person interaction it’s a lot easier to signal that you want to disengage and if you’re using a work platform to socialize that’s probably going to be more likely to distract you from other tasks you’re trying to do. The contexts for making friends online and using IM chat for casual work socialization are just very different.

      1. Mid*

        I don’t disagree with you on that. I personally found remote work to be great because I can socialize asynchronously, so I don’t have to reply to the chit-chat immediately, rather than when someone comes by my desk in person, I feel obligated to stop and chat for a bit, even if I was busy. If it’s an IM, you can just not reply that minute and respond when you are available.

        I also think that people value remote socializing less because it’s taking up “personal” time instead of work time. If you’re in an office, you can work or socialize, when you’re at home, that non-working work time can be used for personal errands or socializing with the people in your household, so it feels like more of an interruption of your own time, compared to when you’re stuck in an office and have less options.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I have piles of Internet-based friends but I probably like texting/IMing least of all written communication forms–it has the need-to-be-answered-promptly of verbal communication except that it’s physically more work to execute. I’d much, much, rather send an email or post to a FB wall, to be read at leisure. But the sticking point isn’t that it’s virtual, it’s the timing.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Also, I log in to FB or send an email because I want to be there for that purpose. I don’t come to work to talk about my weekend, and I can’t just leave because, well, I’m at work. Not answering Teams is the last option.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I’m in my mid-40s, so I’m mostly pre-Internet/text/IM, or at least pre-widespread-use-of-Internet/text/IM, but not by a lot. I mostly love the Internet and anything that allows me to make fewer phone calls. But at work, I expect to use them mostly for work.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This is a great point. One of the things I really like about text-based communication is that typically it can be asynchronous – which it sounds like may not be your experience but most of the time if I text someone I am not expecting them to text me back quickly. There is an expectation of immediacy when you send someone a message on teams, especially with the captive-audience aspect of both being at work and able to see if the other person is active. Don’t love that.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          That’s when I send an email, where it’s easier to type, especially if I think I might want to write something longer. I hate “typing” on a phone. (And I like emailing from a phone considerably less than emailing from a real computer.) So far, though, the way my social circle works is that if we send texts, we expect fairly prompt answers. It’s less [synchronous?] than calling but not by a lot.

      3. Mid*

        Ahh I think that might be where different perspectives come in–I don’t feel the need to respond to IMs if I’m otherwise occupied and it would disrupt my workflow, unless it’s something that actually needs a response immediately. Just because I’m online doesn’t mean I can chat, just like if I was in an office space.

    3. ShysterB*

      I don’t see the basic divide as generational. I (53) have a lot of “only on-line friends” who I count as true friends — who, if I were traveling to their city or they were traveling to mine, we would hang out. Or who would come to my help in an emergency (this has actually happened). Many of those people are older than I am (I once took a week-long trip to Oaxaca in my 20s with a friend I met on-line who was in her late 50s at the time). For some of them, the pandemic led to us setting up multiple weekly Zoom sessions (to accommodate different time zones) that are still on-going — those were the first time I actually spoke with a number of people in real-time. I have many friends I’ve never done that with.

      It’s a divide between people who want to socialize at work and those who don’t, and/or a subdivide among those who are happy to socialize at work but NOT over text channels. Despite many long-time on-line friendships, I’m one of those who, as a general rule, really doesn’t want to socialize much with coworkers beyond basic passing-in-the-hallway pleasantries.

      There are some coworkers who have slipped the bonds of the “only limited work social interaction” and moved into “yeah, let’s get together for dinner, bring the spouse and children and let me introduce you to some of my other friends.” But Brian, the guy I always ran into every morning in the 6th floor kitchen? No, Brian, I don’t want to hang out in the kitchen chatting with you for 5 minutes, please just let me get my coffee and let’s leave it with a “Good morning, how are you? Fine, and you?” and go our separate ways. And I don’t want to have social chats via Teams with coworkers, even those who have moved into the outside-work-social-sphere.

      I may have had a point to make when I started typing this comment, but I think I lost it somewhere between Oaxaca and the 6th floor coffee-maker.

    4. Oogie Boogie*

      Not a generational divide. I have lots of virtual friends who I’ve never met, only know by posts on forums and social media. The difference is where. I went looking for those relationships outside of work and found people with mutual hobbies/interests. My work is for work, myself and most coworkers I know aren’t looking for friendships; just to punch the clock and leave.

    5. Teapot Wrangler*

      That might be it but I feel like there’s a big difference between socialising with my friends where I can wait for them to finish typing and work chats where I’m trying to get on with work at the same time. That said, I don’t find it as easy to be collegiate with people remotely as we’re a lot quicker to get down to business rather than having a few minutes of chat so I perhaps put less effort in because I don’t find it works as well.

  36. Budgie Buddy*

    I think Allison’s advice #2 (connect with coworkers over work topics) could also go wrong. I’ve definitely had that coworker who will have an hour long discussion with someone else in the office rather than taking two minutes to Google. I can sort of tell there’s something off with the vibes when someone approaches me with a seemingly straightforward question but they’re really looking to talk at me.

    The same for asking to pick someone’s brain about a project they did. If someone I didn’t usually talk with much asked me that kind of question out of the blue, my reaction would be “Nah.” Like, Why are you randomly asking me to put together a TED Talk for you?

    If OP engages her coworkers more about work topics, she should be mindful that they’re really work questions where the most efficient way to address them is to ask another coworker. Otherwise they could start feeling like this is a “Gotcha! Now you HAVE to talk to me!” situation.

    1. AnoninnyC*

      I worked w someone like that and I had to hid from her whenever I went into the office physically. It was just too much. Nothing is ever a 2-5 minute interchange. Everything turns into an hour long one sided convo where I’m trying to get back to work and she’s yapping her head off all bc I opened the door to answering her work question.

  37. ItIsWhatItIs*

    I would love to hear Allison’s opinion about the tiktok that recently went viral where the person quit because they were being asked to do a bare minimum of socializing with their coworkers. They literally would go to work, wave to the front desk person, put their headphones in and then refuse to talk to people unless absolutely necessary.

    1. Gracely*

      I think being physically in the building with other people requires a different level of interaction than working remotely. If you don’t want to interact with other people, then yes, quit and find a remote job. But there is a bare minimum of socializing you should do when you’re sharing physical space with other people.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Haven’t seen the TikTok in question, but I agree with this take. Alison answered a question from someone in the past who didn’t want to answer when coworkers asked “how are you?” because it felt inauthentic. And Alison answered that in the context of the ritual “how are you?/fine, you?/fine,” the words don’t literally mean “tell me how you are right now” they mean “I acknowledge you, fellow human!” And that acknowledgement is important when sharing physical space.

        1. allathian*

          I would also say that the same acknowledgement is important when you share a virtual space and are working towards the same goal. YMMV, but I’d hate to feel like just another cog in the machine.

  38. RunShaker*

    I started with new company 2 1/2 months ago & work hybrid schedule, alternating 1 week in office & 1 week at home & I don’t see 1/2 of my coworkers due to alternating schedule. It is total opposite in reference to using IM compared to my old company. But I think it has to do with my current company taking longer to move and incorporate technology in general. My old company had been sending correspondence electronically & had it standardize for whole company (mail, composing letters, submitting internal request, practically everything) for 5 plus years. At my new job, a lot is still on paper and each department creates their own work arounds. When Covid forced us to WFH with my old company, it was easy transition. At my new company, many of employees have been here for over 20 years and some still do things the “old way” so chatting on IM isn’t their thing (old way as told to me by coworkers). When we’re in the office, my coworkers are personable & there’s the usual chat. I’m wondering if your office is similar. If so it has nothing to do with you & it’s culture.

  39. Bertha*

    Before the pandemic, my team (and myself) never used any kind of chat software, partly because we were near each other. But, this definitely continued after we went remote. It still feels really strange to me to message anyone on my team with pleasantries, although of course the handful of times that it’s happened, I welcomed it. Maybe it’s partly paranoia that I work for a large company, and most large companies pretty much track everything that you type in to their internal systems.
    Heck, I heard on a call that a new coworker of mine will be at the same event as me this weekend, and I considered messaging her about it, but.. it seems weird when it’s not part of our culture. My husband, who uses messaging chat all the time for his work, told me to just do it. But.. there are a dozen or so people on our team, and none of them ever use chat, pretty much ever but definitely not for casual small talk. Maybe if I’m honest with myself, it’s the aspect that the chat is being “Recorded” or watched, whereas chats around the office or even in a phone call aren’t tracked in the same way.

  40. Angstrom*

    My WFH group will happily chat about non-work stuff on group video calls, but otherwise there’s very little social chat.
    Our boss does do a weekly open-agenda Zoom call where we can share anything, work or non-work. People often share photos and tales of weekend adventures. Maybe suggest something like that?

  41. Mrs. Badcrumble*

    I think the other thing to consider is that MS Teams saves all chats and they are searchable. I don’t mind having my pleasantries recorded, but I’d be uncomfortable having a lot of idle chit-chat complete with timestamps on my permanent record. I will note that I am a naturally suspicious person, and if someone I didn’t know terribly well texted me about how my weekend was, I’d start worrying that they were about to tell me they had seen me dancing on a bar (which would *definitely* be mistaken identity) or otherwise carrying on. Plus, like others have said, it’s tough to convey tone over chat.

    I do understand the goal for building relationships in a social way, though. My team is located at different sites across the globe, but we interact through regular meetings, making sure we have a few minutes at the start carved out to talk about weekends, holidays, family, etc. For me, this keeps is pretty collegial in an unforced way.

  42. Becky*

    I think there is an important clarification needed – if you send a chat with a work-related question does it get answered in a timely fashion?

    If so, then your team is simply not one for personal chit-chat on Teams. It is very rare that I use my Teams chat for anything other than a work question. Those I do engage in personal chats with are those I am also friends with outside of work. We do tend to have more personal chit-chat in calls – while waiting for everyone to join we’ll talk about the weekend, the weather, the latest sports event, whatever. but that NEVER happens in chat.

    If your work related questions are NOT getting answered, that is something you can bring up to your manager.

  43. Lyngend (Canada)*

    They may be afraid to get into trouble for posting something, or talking too much.
    For example it was made very clear we weren’t allowed to disagree with things in chat at work. And the “when” we could chat was very strict in that it made it basically impossible to talk to your co-workers.

  44. Lisaa*

    Question for you, OP – are you messaging them something like just “hey, how was your weekend?” and that’s it?

    I ask because there’s a tendency for people in many workplaces I’ve been in to try to preface their work-related request with small talk, and a lot of people (myself included) get frustrated having to wade through small talk when the actual point of that conversation is the request, especially if it’s split up into different messages. So for example:

    Coworker: Hey, what’s up?
    Me, sighing internally: Not much, what’s up with you?
    5 minute delay
    Coworker: Not much, how was your weekend?
    Me, having been interrupted again: Fine, what can I help you with?
    5 minute delay
    Coworker: Cool, more small talk, etc. Btw, can you help me beep boop the llama widgets?

    That sort of dynamic is hugely irritating to me when I’m trying to be heads down in focus work, to the point that I will purposely not respond to “hey what’s up” messages and only reply when they ask me the real question about the llama widgets.

    So, is it possible that you’re running into that sort of dynamic in your workplace? Some people really don’t like doing async socializing over chat, but if you suggested something like “hey, I’d love to build stronger relationships with people on the team, would you be up for a 1:1 every couple weeks to catch up?” and see if you can get face-time with people that way. Like, personally I dread having to do the “hey what’s up” small talk dance in chat but I will happily book some time in my calendar to catch up with teammates and do my socializing that way.

    1. Lana Kane*

      This drives me bananas. Include the greeting AND the question in the same message. Or, say Hi and then type out your question right away in the second message. Waiting for me to respond to a hi when you’re the one asking me a question makes no sense! My guess is that they want to gauge if I’m there or not, but chat is asynchronous. Leave your message and I will see it.

      1. Dinwar*

        This is where different cultures come into play. Where I work, chat is assumed to be synchronous, or near enough. Email is asynchronous. So if someone doesn’t respond to me within five minutes on a chat text, I can safely assume I’m being ignored or they aren’t at their computer (Teams is funny about switching from green to yellow and back sometimes). Email is also considered more formal, for better or worse; when you send an email it’s expected that you’d be willing to have it read out loud in court, and to defend or justify the statements therein. While chats CAN be taken to court, it’s not as likely and people tend to treat them as a more informal means of communication. “How was your weekend?” would be inappropriate in an email where I work, but fine in a chat.

        I’m not saying the way we do it is right. There isn’t a right or wrong here. But differences in expectations lead to friction, and that has to be managed both on the individual and the team level. Unfortunately this is one of those things you can’t really build a policy for; it’s a bottom-up system, not a top-down.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yes to this. I have a coworker who won’t ask his question until after I respond “hi” to his “hi”. And it does bug me. (But a lot of things about that coworker bug me, so I try to not let it show, and he’s at another site so it’s not like I interact with him often.)

        I guess the difference to me between That Guy saying “hi” and my old coworker who started the day with “good morning” is that I know that eventually That Guy will have a work question I have to stop and answer, whereas my coworker would only say “good morning” and then might not IM me again for hours, or until the end of the day when she signed off. It was basically the exact same interactions we would have sitting in the office (except that in the office there would be a “lunch?” and then we’d go up to the lunch room to eat and chat).

        If the OP is messaging random people I totally understand them not responding. But if it’s their close coworkers, then I can see why it feels uncomfortable.

    2. Atlantica*

      Nohello policies are great for that. My work has one and I love it. It’s not at all rude when done right : “Hey, hope you are good, when you get a few minutes minutes can you help me work out how to beep boop the llamas? Fiona said you were the most familiar with it”. “Sure give me 5 mins to finish this email and let’s hop on a call”. bliss :)

      1. allathian*

        We don’t have a formal nohello policy, but seem to have developed an informal one naturally. I always greet the other person and ask my question in the same IM.

    3. allathian*

      Ugh, those are so annoying. Luckily I haven’t dealt with them for a while, people seem to have adopted a nohello policy without anything ever being said explicitly. It’s probably somewhat cultural, I’m from a fairly direct culture where getting to the point with no preamble, except maybe a greeting in the same IM, is perfectly acceptable.

  45. Purely Allegorical*

    I get the impression that OP is asking people via 1:1 chats… and I could see where that could go wrong. It feels like a lot to be asked every Monday by the same person about my weekend — it’s a social burden I just don’t want to bear. As others have said, typing out my weekend is a lot more focus and energy than a quick drive-by convo.

    This is where I would advocate to your manager that you’d like to start a department-wide chat. Then if someone asks about a weekend, someone else might answer, and the conversational burden is more spread out among people. It gives you more freedom to participate when you want and step back/mute the chat when you don’t want to participate.

    This could also help build stronger connections among your unit, since it sounds like you’re put in small clumps for periods of time that could keep you silo’d from others.

    1. TrixM*

      This is what we do in my team. We have a team chat that covers both work and casual topics, and we also check in when we’re logging in, going for lunch, and logging out for the day.

      Some people are chattier than others, but even for them, it’s normally a couple of messages at a time, a few times a day. Some people literally just say hi and goodbye, with the occasional work-related announcement.

      I think I’ve directly IMed with my team members a handful of times each, when we were working on something specific together. But for all ten of us (including our very relaxed boss), the group chat seems to work well. For the less-chatty, they can skim a few times a day to keep up on actual work – we @ people if it’s important – while the rest of us communicate about as much as you’d expect between busy but friendly desk neighbours. So no-one has to feel odd about making the occasional remark on the weather or news of the day.

  46. Robin*

    If you’re looking for a lot of sympathy, you’re not going to get it here; the general atmosphere on this blog is pretty against any sort of work socializing. Which in this instance, gives you a good sense of where your coworkers probably are! I would suggest writing this specific team off, sticking to only work contact, and trying to find other social outlets, at least for a while. Hopefully your next team will be friendlier. And if they aren’t, it might be a sign to move on.

    (For what it’s worth, this would also be really stressful for me and very isolating, so I get it! My last job was like this; I eventually got too sad and depressed and left. There were other reasons, but that was certainly a big factor.)

    1. Dust Bunny*

      That’s not fair: We’re not actively against work socializing in principle, we just lean toward “not our thing”. Because we’re at work, and a lot of people have a lot of stuff they need to get done, and non-work questions and chat from coworkers doesn’t help. We have social lives elsewhere. We’re allowed to not want to socialize beyond a certain point in a situation that is not intended to be social.

      1. Dinwar*

        The issue is, different people and different places have different thresholds.

        Being too busy to socialize is considered a serious warning sign where I work. We even have a term for it (internal joke, so I won’t share because it would mean nothing outside our group). Our work requires us to work really closely together, with very little friction, and random chats help smooth over the inevitable bumps that come up. When someone gets into “head down, get work done” mode it’s a sign things are really sideways, and we need to fix things ASAP.

        The trick is to figure out a way that works for everyone. Ideally, I suppose, the “head down, get work done” types would work together, and the ones who chit-chat would work together, but it’s hard to determine this in an interview.

        And the switch to remote work shattered this for many teams. It’s only been a year, maybe two (depending on the office); that’s really not enough time to figure out the fallout from a radical shift in work practices. We should expect this change to take a generation, not a year, to really reach a new equilibrium.

        1. Antony-mouse*


          Not having chit chat at my work means shit has hit the fan and ideally can you jump in help out!

        2. Dust Bunny*

          My job is pretty much a bunch of people working on separate projects, so it’s totally normal to be too busy, or at least not at enough of a stopping point, to socialize. It’s not that we’re overwhelmed, it’s more that since we don’t typically work together, our lulls aren’t coordinated.

    2. bee*

      Yeah I feel like there needs to be a PSA for the OP at the top that if they venture into the comments, they are going to find a group of people who are (IMO) wildly skewed towards being anti-any socializing at work. For the record, I don’t agree that it’s a representative sample! While I agree that a 1-on-1 Teams chat is not a great way to make small talk/build relationships, I genuinely do like chatting with my coworkers in general, and it’s really hard to do in an organic way when you’re all remote.

      I would also find this stressful and isolating, and (not-unrelatedly) I have been hybrid since August 2020. Part of my job really does need to be in person, but working exclusively from home was really terrible for my mental health, and I think is worse for a lot of people than they’d like to admit.

      1. Courageous cat*

        I agree, the commenters here are not necessarily indicative of society at large, but it’s making me a bit depressed regardless, ha. It seems like a lot of people would be happy never having to speak to a coworker again and it almost feels a little dystopian, like a little bite-sized piece of society splintering apart, seeing that a lot of people have become largely very antisocial.

        Working from home was terrible for my mental health as well, and I’m an introvert (despite everyone saying introverts hate working in office…), so I feel this.

    3. mlem*

      I don’t think that’s fair. The commenters here do trend towards the insular, certainly, and I’m one of them. I have no interest in socializing-only-for-the-sake-of-being-social; but when we were first sent home for Covid, my group started thrice-weekly social-chat video meetings, and I went out of my way to attend them for the sake of more junior staff members. I introduced a social-chatter-only “group” in our Google chat space for the team I coordinate, to try to ensure we didn’t break into smaller cliques, and I participate at least as much as anyone else.

      I’m always thrown by “How was your weekend?”, but I’m among the first to share funny headlines and pictures with my colleagues. There’s a balance that most teams reach over time.

      1. Robin*

        The fact that you’ve put things together for creating social situations is great and admirable! (This is not sarcasm; I genuinely think they are great, and probably incredibly helpful for your team members). But the fact is that the OP is getting responses along the lines of “being messaged something that is not work is exhausting and something I hate”, which is the opposite of sympathy. It IS useful for the OP to see, for nothing else than to get a glimpse of what her coworkers might feel, but sympathetic it is not.

        Also, I would argue that the projects you helped put together ARE a version of socializing-only-for-the-sake-of-being-social; they were just on a bigger level than the individual.

    4. JB (not in Houston)*

      “the general atmosphere on this blog is pretty against any sort of work socializing” I don’t think that’s true at all! Many of us don’t like *forced* socializing, but that’s not the same thing.

      1. foobar*

        Well, you’re calling someone reaching out to chat “forced socialization.” So is “unforced socialization” only when you start the conversation?

        “Forced socialization” is when your employer mandates you to attend a happy hour after work. Someone occasionally trying to be friendly and make small talk is not “forced.”

      2. Lana Kane*

        The issue is how each individual defines “forced”. I’ve seen enough people here define a greeting as forced interaction. Maybe it’s not the majority but enough that many people have noticed.

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod. I’m awkward! I can turn it on in small amounts or if there’s a reason, but both me and my coworkers are not enjoying this.

    5. Hlao-roo*

      Ha, I thought as I was reading the letter “this workplace sounds perfect for all of the anti-social don’t-talk-to-me-about-anything-other-than-work commenters!”

      For the OP, I worked remotely for most of the first two years of the pandemic (roughly March 2020-March 2022) and there were things I liked about it and things I didn’t like. Since March of this year, I’ve been back in the office full-time and on the balance I am much happier because I feel so much less isolated.

    6. LoneKey*

      LW here, I have definitely noticed the anti-socializing at work lean here haha. I do get it, I’m not the world’s most shiny-rainbows kind of person either, but at the same time I find it quite awkward working directly on projects all day with people who are essentially hostile strangers. My projects are all team based, but nobody on my team is ever nice or friendly. Reading the comments here has been quite informative though!

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        LoneKey, have you had video or in-person meetings? If yes, do they use the same tone when they can see you vs. when it’s text? That can help you decide if they are truly “hostile strangers”.

        1. Annony*

          I think this is key. I find chat apps to be awkward. If asked in one how my weekend was I would probably have a three word response at most. If asked in a video call while everyone is getting settled in I would have no problem talking about the cute park I took my daughter to. It is just too much work to type it out.

          1. JM60*

            Chat platforms like Slack sit somewhere between phone calls and email, which is partly why I disagree with Alison’s opinion that being non-responsive to these “small talk” questions in chat are just like being non-responsive to them in-person. As KRM* mentioned above, if I see a Slack notification that just says something like, “How was your weekend?”, I’d assume that it’s just being used as “polite” opening to asking me a work question, and I’d wait for that work question before responding. If that question never comes, then it would be awkward to answer later.

      2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        BTW, I enjoy chatting and learning more about my co-workers. I’m the one in the office always asking people out to lunch. But on a text-based medium? That’s not my speed.

      3. Wisteria*

        “are essentially hostile strangers.”
        “nobody on my team is ever nice or friendly.”

        You are ascribing a value to something that is not inherently valued, that is, you are ascribing the value of “hostile” to an all-business interaction style. You can have choices about how you perceive your coworkers. You have to choice to interrogate your belief that your coworkers are hostile strangers. You could instead choose to believe that they are colleagues (not strangers) with a different interaction style than you have (not hostile). The next time you believe someone was hostile or not nice or not friendly, ask yourself the question, “What if that’s not true?” What if giving you the information you need from them *is* acting nice? What if answering your work questions *is* being nice? What if not replying to your weekend posts *isn’t* hostile? Try granting a little grace instead of judging them.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          Like it or not, if someone rejects literally all overtures to any kind of warmth or collegiality, that behaviour is the behaviour of someone who is indifferent to hostile to other people. I’m going to go ahead and run with the assumption that the OP is not imagining things when they state there is never remotely any friendliness, and that sending out personal messages was only one example of attempts at bonding. Good faith and all that.

          What if giving you the information you need from them *is* acting nice? What if answering your work questions *is* being nice?

          Doing the bare minimum of your job (with absolutely no friendly chat even about work) does not cross the line into “nice”. You can enjoy not being forced into social interaction all you like, but the cost of being cold with people is that you are perceived as cold.

          1. Pocket Mouse*

            LoneKey wrote below about reaching out once (asking a question via Teams chat), and if they don’t respond, not trying again. That’s hardly “literally all overtures”. Don’t conflate one type of overture in one format—that you’re seeing a lot of people here object to for very valid reasons—with overall hostility. LoneKey hasn’t said much on collegiality when live in meetings, or in emails, so we can’t make any assumptions there.

      4. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I get more depressed reading the comments here (only on topics re: social interaction; not anything else) than I ever get from actual interpersonal interaction. I feel like my work, social, and work/social(ish) interactions are all fine, but a stroll through the AAM comment section on a post like this can get me feeling as if nobody ever wants to talk to anyone ever and how dare I even think about it. I think the people who feel really strongly anti-socializing just come out in disproportional numbers?

        1. acmx*

          I don’t get depressed. I feel grateful that I don’t have to work with those who have this ‘fuck you’ attitude.

          Same with the team building comments.

        2. Hrodvitnir*

          Honestly, it makes me even more wary of office work than I already am. My exposure to it always feels like people need to be much more “on” socially – and then on the other hand, the AAM anti-social social committee implies a significant minority of people who are deeply resenting you for attempting the minimal engagement that smooths work relationships required between people you may not love on a personal level.

          I’m always torn between being amused and irriated whenever this comes up.

        3. JM60*

          I think that’s because those who prefer less interactions at work tend to pay a higher penalty if they attempt to enforce their preference at work, so they vent here instead. If you prefer more socializing at work, people probably aren’t going to perceive you as rude for initiating more interactions at work (unless you go to an extreme). If you prefer less socializing at work, there’s a high risk of being perceived as rude if you try to minimize those interactions.

    7. NancyDrew*

      Agreed. The commentariat here leans hard towards anti-socialization at work. The funny thing is that I don’t even consider “How was your weekend” to be “socialization” — it’s just good manners!

      1. LB*

        Exactly, responding to pleasantries doesn’t even count as being friendly, it’s just the baseline politeness of not being rude. It takes 10 seconds. It takes nothing away from you.

        1. The Witch in the Woods*

          I’m very friendly in a work context. We’re a team, there are days when some of us need help and others have a light load. We share work and I’m perfectly happy talking about work. I just don’t want to be social with coworkers when it comes to what I do outside of work. It doesn’t mean I’m impolite

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, but “how was your weekend?” is pretty much the equivalent of “how are you?” Answering “it was fine, how was yours?” is a perfectly acceptable response. You don’t have to go into any detail. And if someone says “okay, but what did you do?” you can give non-committal answers like “oh, nothing much” or “nothing exciting to share, can we look at the llama grooming schedule now?”

            Of course, if you’re in a group of like-minded folks who never talk about their non-work lives at work, you’re good.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t know where “don’t respond to being asked about their weekends” is translating to “actively unfriendly”. I would say my coworkers are pretty friendly, as far as coworkers go, we just don’t ask each other stuff like this. They’re not unapproachable, and if they know something is going on at home they’ll occasionally ask about it discreetly. We just mostly stay out of each others’ personal lives. (We’re not meme-sharers, either, unless a meme happens to be incredibly spot-on to our jobs.) However, we’re also not remote, which might be the underlying problem here for the OP.

      The problem with the “how was your weekend?” thing for me is that it Never Goes Away. And I never have a better answer than, “fine” (mostly because most of my weekends aren’t that interesting, but also because on the rare occasions that they are I don’t want to launch into the explanation they’d require to make sense). So it’s both cloying and uninteresting, and it draws on social energy that I’d rather spend elsewhere.

  47. Lacey*

    Some of us just aren’t chatty or aren’t paying a lot of attention to the general chat.
    I work on a pretty friendly team. I try to check the general chat a couple times a day.

    I rarely comment on it and most of the time big convos happen without me.
    I do chat with the coworkers I work most closely with, but we have our own conversations that are more targeted to our specific interests.

  48. Just another Accountant*

    OP it may be best to find your social outlet outside of work. We are coming into a new generation that has little interest in becoming social with colleagues. We want to do our work and get paid. One of the best benefits of working from home is that we don’t have to hear about little Aidens or Brexlynns first day of school. We have our outside lives for that.

    I am an over sharer by nature. My grandma always told me I have the gift of gab. But by not sharing personal stuff at work it has created a much better working environment for me and my coworkers.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The new Gen Zers in my office are some of the most social and friendly colleagues I’ve ever had, tbh.

      1. Nancy*

        Yeah, our younger workers were the most vocal about hating the lack of socialization when we were fully remote, are the ones I mostly see when I am in the office, and usually have lunch together.

    2. Loulou*

      Where are you getting this generalization from? I don’t find it to be true at all.

      And I don’t understand these “social outlet” comments, tbh. My social life involves doing things out in the world with my friends. Chatting with people at work is a whole different thing — it’s also important (for me) but one has pretty little to do with the other.

    3. Courageous cat*

      This is such a major generalization I’m not even sure where to start. I wish some of y’all would speak for yourselves and not for introverts, not for the *entire generation*, etc.

  49. Weaponized Pumpkin*

    I feel for this OP — this culture would not work for me at all! I seek out small talk with coworkers, on Slack and calls. Socializing outside work doesn’t solve the problem, because feeling connected to people is one of the things that most gives me a sense of purpose at work. Without warm relationships, work has a lot less meaning to me.

    1. foobar*

      Exactly. People say to socialize outside of work, as anyone who likes being social at work is some kind of needy basement dweller who has no friends. I do have a social life outside of work—I meet up with people at least 3-4 times a week! But I’d like to enjoy the 40 hours I spend working, too. Getting to know others and feeling like I’m on a team, not just a replaceable cog pumping out work, is integral to feeling like my work is meaningful.

    2. Maisonneuve*

      I agree. Small talk can irritate me, especially by IM or text. But it’s important for me to feel seen and to see my colleagues as whole people rather than just robots doing our jobs and limiting interactions to necessary transactions. It doesn’t mean they’re friends outside work or even at work if I define friend as confidante.
      Also, I see having friendly relationships as part of my job because it helps build social capital more quickly than task-oriented interaction alone. I’m much more likely to be understanding of missed deadlines or be willing to help in friendly environments.

  50. BBB*

    or maybe your coworkers aren’t checking the chat? or everyone assumes someone else will respond since you threw it out to everyone? maybe no one sees it until long after you posted and feels weird to throw out chat about your weekend when it’s already Wednesday, ya know?
    this doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with OP and more of a work culture thing. not everyone is looking to be chatty or make friends at work, and that’s okay.

  51. Catwhisperer*

    Have you tried setting up a virtual coffee chat with any of your coworkers? I work in a multinational that has always been VC heavy due to differing locations/timezones and that’s one of the things we do if we want to get to know someone better. It’s just a lot easier to get to know someone when you’re looking at them as opposed to text-based mediums. Having a casual scheduled meeting is also nice because it’s a clear break from work for all involved.

  52. PotsPansTeapots*

    I’m 100% remote and my pets are my co-workers. I love it, but I do sometimes miss b.s.-ing in the office. I use Twitter as a way to get that low-stakes socialization in my day. LW could try that or a Discord server, as mentioned upthread. Or you could find a few IRL friends who wouldn’t mind occasional texts during work hours.

  53. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    When we were all remote, we started up a “good morning” thread that was mostly just some of us chatting amongst ourselves but then included the whole office. One thing that sparked conversation was posting the “National [insert ridiculous thing] Day” announcements. It wasn’t quite as personal as “what did you do this weekend?” but it was a bit of whimsy and gave a chance to share some kind of tidbit like which ice cream places were offering free cones, or to tell a story about whatever the heck thing has a day.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Excellent tip. If you want engagement, giving someone something to engage with beyond rote reciprocation is a great tactic.

  54. Gnome*

    I had a coworker in Before Times who was on a different team and I never spoke to her and only really saw her in the restroom. she was super intimidating… but really awesome and I had no way to start a conversation with her… until her got-just-before-covid puppy Zoom-bombed a team meeting while she was talking. Asking how her puppy was when we were back in person was a natural way to get to know her better.

    maybe ask for cameras on? you might find you both have Disney art or something that would be a good way to bond… or at least have a conversation the other person might find interesting.

    1. Grey Squirrel*

      I have to politely disagree… please do not ask people to turn their videos on. That is a surefire way to get many people to resent you.

      1. Gnome*

        I dunno. I think it’s in how it’s done. I’ve had people say stuff like, “Hey, if people’s bandwidth is up to the task, I’d love to do this call with video.” and have it go over just fine (with about half turning on video and half not).

        The key was that there was an easy-out for anyone who didn’t. But doing that once in a blue moon (and ASKING, not demanding) I don’t see a problem with.

        1. Dinwar*

          I’ve never been on a call where my face has added any value to the discussion, at least not at work (video chats with family are something else entirely). Half the time we have something else on-screen, and the other half the time we’re chatting while doing some other task (the chit-chat being intermingled with work-related chatting). I don’t get the point; why do you want to see me? What information does that convey? What purpose does it serve?

          The only halfway-descent response I’ve gotten to the last is “I can tell you’re paying attention.” That got shot down quick, as most of us have two-screen setups, with the one that doesn’t have the camera being better for video calls–meaning that if someone is looking at the camera they’re NOT paying attention. And besides, that’s inapplicable to a friendly discussion (it came up with me on a training call).

          1. foobar*

            Because then I can see you smile if you thought something was amusing, or look puzzled if you don’t understand the presentation, or look bored if it’s not relevant, or tired because you didn’t sleep well. It allows me to adjust how I interact to better suit you, and it also makes you feel like a human being, not just pixels on a screen who pumps out work product.

            1. Gnome*

              yes. It also can make it more apparent when there is a lag or if someone is trying to talk and their mic is off. or… just to connect. if we are discussing the teapot report and screen sharing, it doesn’t make sense. on the other hand, maybe we have to brainstorm and having amore natural back and forth where you can see an idea cross someone’s mind via their facial features would be helpful.

              or.. maybe we have never met in person and we are starting to go back and it might be nice to know that you’ve actually been work with that person you just passed in the hall.

            2. UKDancer*

              Yes, especially if you’re giving a presentation, it’s awful doing it to a sea of turned off cameras. You’re wondering if anyone is there, if people are paying attention and understanding the presentation. Most of the time it makes me feel like a power mad dictator rambling on. I am always grateful when people have the cameras on when I present because it feels a lot more agreeable.

              Obviously I’d never make people have the camera on but I always ask and usually a few people do.

            3. Dinwar*

              You can tell most of that by tone of voice, though. I mean, I’ll grant my laugh isn’t a rattle-the-walls belly-laugh–I tend to be more a quiet chuckling until I can’t breath type–but you can generally tell via someone’s voice if they’re amused, confused, or bored, or the like. I mean, we did it for ages with telephones.

              As for not being pixels, I don’t get that. I honestly don’t. My picture on a screen is still just pixels. It’s always reminded me of the game “Return to Zork”–hardly a complimentary way to describe interpersonal communications.

              1. foobar*

                but that’s assuming that everyone participating on the call is going to speak. Haven’t you ever been on a call where it actually WAS important for you to be there, but you weren’t the primary speaker?

                Even if it’s a meeting where everyone is talking, you don’t speak every time you think the speaker is amusing, or are confused, or what have you. But your face will show it, instantly. Little nuances matter.

                Sure, video and a photo still are both pixels, but one conveys MUCH more information than another.

                1. Dinwar*

                  “Haven’t you ever been on a call where it actually WAS important for you to be there, but you weren’t the primary speaker?”

                  Twice a week. Maybe three times. Usually there’s a design drawing, a map, or a schedule on the screen. Worst case scenario we put the minutes up, so everyone can see what we’re writing. Having faces on the screen is just distracting–it pulls your eyes away from the speaker, or from what’s being presented. And what do you do if you’re in a conference room? Or on a jobsite? It’s MUCH easier to break away to deal with the latest emergency if you’re not on camera.

                  “Little nuances matter.”

                  This may explain why we don’t have our faces onscreen…Yes, nuances matter, but when the contractor tells for the 47th time “We’ll get that to you this week” it’s probably best they don’t see the eyes rolling into the back of our heads!

                  More generally, a lack of information isn’t always a bad thing. Voice-only allows you to better present the image you want to present. You don’t have to worry about body language; you only have verbal communication (including tone, inflection, word choice, and the like) to worry about. And most of us know each other well enough to pick up a significant amount given that data.

                  Like I said, it’s a cultural thing. I don’t think either is right or wrong, it’s what works for each group. For my part, the cons outweigh the pros, and that fits with the culture I work in.

              2. Eldritch Office Worker*

                No I find body language to be super important. My boss always sounds pissed off – she’s not always pissed off, but a lot of people have tones and voices that don’t convey what they mean to convey without the accompanying facial expressions. I find having videos on leads to way less miscommunication on my team. It’s what everyone defaults to anyway but if there’s a person who can’t have their video on it’s always distracting and difficult to collect their input.

          2. Gnome*

            obviously it doesn’t apply to all situations. but asking is a valid option in some cases.
            S ome people like to talk to people (vs disembodied voices) – it just works better for them. asking doesn’t hurt. also, just like your face may not add to a discussion, it certainly won’t detract. :)

            and, I am firmly in the “I’ll keep mine off camp” but if a new coworker asked me, I’d turn it on just because they are obviously asking for a reason.

            1. Dinwar*

              “also, just like your face may not add to a discussion, it certainly won’t detract. :)”

              It actually can. I get migraines, and part of this is random yawning (well, not actually random, but it seems that way for the other person). Explaining over and over “It’s not that I’m bored, I slept fine, I’m just in the early stages of a migraine, no I don’t need time off I’m fine, no seriously I’M FINE” gets tired. Used to get in trouble for it–teachers thought I was falling asleep. Unfortunately for me it happens most when I’m concentrating the hardest. Not having video helps, because I don’t have to constantly explain myself.

              I also have a tendency to memorize certain documents. During work-related discussions I’ll stare off into space, because I’m reading the documents in my head (not photographic memory, I just study them). Takes some time for people to get used to it. Again, having yet another discussion of “I’m paying attention, just checking against the design drawings”–while trying to think really hard on three non-parallel lines at once–gets old.

              Then I have to stage the video. I have a window behind me at work, so I have to remember to block it at certain times of the day. I have to wonder if my background is appropriate if I’m away from my desk–not allowed to show some things where I work. If I’m at home I have to worry about dogs and cats and kids. All of which is obviated by just not using video.

              I get that everyone’s different. Personal preference plays a role here. But the idea that it doesn’t hurt to show yourself on video simply isn’t universally true. I’m not a particularly bad case for any of the examples I gave above; many people I know can give MUCH longer lists. It’s why the group I work with generally avoids video chat–too many complications, not sufficient justification to warrant it.

              1. Gnome*

                well, I never care enough to stage anything, but that’s just me.

                my comment about faces not detracting was meant lightheartedly. but your point is valid… and it underscores mine that visuals can present information (but it’s not always straight forward).

                again, I think it’s fine if people want them off (mine usually is) but if someone is feeling disconnected AND it makes sense for the meeting (not a screenshare, etc) then it many cases it won’t hurt to ask people, especially if you give them an easy way to opt out

            2. Anon for this one*

              My face will definitely detract. I’m in the middle of chemo and totally bald. Turning my camera on would be a huge distraction, and disclose my medical status to everyone.

  55. JMA*

    This is the main reason why I love working remotely. Every time I’m in the office I have to deal with a few coworkers who like to walk up to my desk unannounced and share the minutiae of their lives while I’m very obviously in the middle of working, and they have zero self-awareness. They just stand there and wait for me to stop typing. Just this morning I was doing a mandatory online training with headphones on and up comes my coworker, standing there waiting for me to acknowledge him. He’s a nice guy, and I wouldn’t mind chatting if he ever showed a single social norm beyond wanting to spill his guts on a daily basis.

    1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      I’m apparently not very likable and sometimes it’s a godsend. Once I worked a job where the guy sitting next to me would not stop chatting with the woman who sat on the OTHER side of him.

      I didn’t even notice, because he ignored me, but after he was eventually fired, his poor target told me she’d tried headphones, she’d googled advice columns, done everything she could to signal that she was working and didn’t want to chat, all to no avail. (He was gay and definitely not hitting on her. He just didn’t want to do his job, and didn’t want to talk to me I guess.)

  56. Liz*

    I’m one of those people who prefers connecting over work-related topics and am not into socializing with colleagues. That said, if someone asked me how my weekend was, I would respond. Its so rude to ignore someone like that!

  57. Golden*

    I’m not WFH but my entire team is based on the other coast, so we mostly communicate via chat too. When I get these types of questions it makes me a little anxious because I don’t know how to transition the chat to what the person wants from me in a work context. I don’t ignore them (although I do ignore “Hi Golden” messages) but it does seem like they’re just an intro for a work topic and the person doesn’t actually want to hear about my weekend apple picking excursion or whatever.

    It doesn’t seem that chat is primarily the venue for social talk for us for your team. In ours, those interested have warm personal discussions over zoom a few minutes before our regular meetings. Could it be the same in your office, and you just need to find out where these communications occur and join in?

  58. Liz*

    I will recount my personal experience.
    My team has a general chat channel, and sometimes it was great–and I very much liked my teammates!
    However, I ultimately had to mute the channel because it was too disruptive. It’s not like anyone was too chatty, but the multiple replies etc killed me (I also have ADHD and the interruptions were really problematic).
    And so because I muted it, I wouldn’t have even seen the “how was your weekend?” messages.
    It wasn’t personal, but I DID have to do my work!

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Muting can be a great idea. And if you want to engage in the fun, you can just go into the chat at manageable brain-break intervals. At coffee break time or whatever. Join in, and then wander off.

    2. Lana Kane*

      In Teams I mute our Water Cooler channel but it’s still visible in my list of channels, and when there are new messages it changes to bold font. That way I can check when I’m so inclined.

  59. Grey Squirrel*

    Another suggestion, OP: if you see yourself in this division for a while longer, perhaps you could volunteer to be an “onboarding buddy” for any new hires in your division. I work fully remote and met someone who is now a good work (and outside-of-work) friend because it was literally her job my first week to talk to me, walk me through random onboarding details, and have lunch once or twice in the first month to see how things were going. It sounds like you are someone who enjoys talking to people, so I’m sure a new hire would be really grateful to have a “mandatory work friend” as they start out.

    1. Grey Squirrel*

      Just to clarify my comment above, the “mandatory work friend” became an “actual work friend” because we enjoyed talking to each other and ended up wanting to spend time together outside of work. Sometimes being forced to interact gives people an opportunity to connect, because (like in your situation) it never feels like there’s a good time during a work day to have an in-depth conversation with someone when you all work remotely. But it doesn’t always happen, and of course no one should expect their “work buddy” to necessarily be an outside-of-work friend.

  60. Excel Jedi*

    Teams chats might be the issue, too. I’ll chat with coworkers on the phone or on a meeting, but I won’t disclose anything personal on a channel that I know is discoverable to IT. Even innocuous stuff (like what I did this weekend) is off-limits in those channels, because it’s not my company’s business. I like to keep those channels for business only.

  61. Also Remote*

    I didn’t see anything in the OP’s post that indicated that they’re looking to rely on their coworkers for deep social connections. They seem to just be seeking a collegial environment, which seems infinitely reasonable! To have your boss in particular ignore you when you start a conversation with a trivial topic seems super poor form, especially since starting with small talk often builds to a bigger conversation where the real issue is revealed. Same with coworkers. Saying “hey, how are things going for you lately?” could very well be a gentle way for someone who’s having a hard time to lead in to asking “do you have the time and bandwidth to help me with X project because I’m overwhelmed.” Soft skills don’t lose their importance when we’re working 100% remote. In many ways, I think they become more important because we lack the visual cues of in-person work.
    For those who are way too busy to engage and the recipients of unwanted chit-chat messages, here are some easy responses you could plop into the chat before you get up to refill your coffee that don’t beg a response but don’t come off as rude:
    “Hey, good to hear from you! Super busy today, but I hope you’re well.”
    “All’s good here — looking forward to talking about Project Z with you at that zoom later this week.”
    “Glad you had a nice weekend. Nothing new with me, just trying to keep up!”
    “Hi – just noticed this message from earlier. I’m not on chat all that often – sorry!”
    We all have to learn how to communicate with the individuals we work with. Sometimes that means becoming more brusque and brief to save time. Sometimes that means adding a few emojis and exclamation points every now and then to convey a little personality.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      100% this! Just like socially, small talk is a foundation for big talk — I need help / How do I handle this / Can you give me feedback. If we don’t have a baseline rapport, I won’t feel comfortable asking for the things that really matter. For me there’s a straight line from small talk to job performance.

  62. DisneyChannelThis*

    I think its really odd to never have any chit chat with people you work with regularly. It’s considered polite here. Further, I think it is even more important for remote workers to have those moments, whether its asynchronous in chat applications or in real time in a minute or two at the beginning/end of meetings. Remote workers are already lacking the casual non-verbal interactions between people sharing space. It seems more like treating people like robots who perform functions if you shut down all non work interaction ever. I would never stay in a company with a culture like that. I’m more than a program that just sends you the numbers for the XYZ report weekly.

    Also, like it literally takes <30seconds to reply to a "did you have a nice weekend" chat. If you've ever browsed the web or checked social media while on the clock you definitely have time to write "Fine thanks and yours?".

    1. foobar*

      Same. I’m not going to begrudge anyone for working remotely if that’s what they really like, but people have to remember that working remotely means you don’t get to know others easily without the incidental chitchat. Work literally becomes assembly line, automaton-like if you are solely about the work and nothing else.

      I’ve worked on several teams now where there is zero interaction beyond the work. It’s really awful; you end up feeling like a replaceable cog in the machine.

    2. Skippy*

      I’m glad you said this — I was starting to wonder if I was a huge outlier because I find a complete lack of personal interaction very jarring. I can understand if people don’t want to be friends with their co-workers but a complete absence of polite conversation feels way too cold to me. Especially when it’s not hugely time consuming.

  63. Dinwar*

    Electronic communications are monitored communications. This necessarily has a chilling effect. I mean, the mere existence of “mouse gigglers” demonstrates that a lot of managers are really averse to non-productive activities at work, and if that includes “I need to think about my response to this email” or “I need to use the facilities” you can be that’s going to include chatting with coworkers about their weekend. Unfortunately, since this is a situation where you only know you’ve misjudged once you’re in trouble, a LOT of people are going to approach it very cautiously.

    Even if your boss is cool with it, even if they encourage it, electronic chit-chat is not a replacement for in-office chats. Spontaneity is absent, for one thing. Anything you need to schedule isn’t going to have the same effect as randomly bumping into each other. Scheduled relationship-building discussions, while useful at times, are a totally different thing from the natural progression of interpersonal relationships, and electronic media haven’t perfected emulating them.

    Further, there are a lot of people who simply aren’t comfortable with electronic communications. Many of us have been doing it for a long time, but many others simply don’t like interacting via text. For one thing, you lose a LOT of the nonverbal communication (which i the majority in English).

    I would hate hate HATE someone asking for a video-chat just to catch up. I’d be fine with an IM asking about my weekend, or about next weekend–a coworker and I play D&D together and we often discuss the upcoming weekend’s game during other (work-related) discussions–but video calls read as far more formal to my mind. Even a regular phone call (which Teams allows) reads as less formal. I’m dead-set against requiring video on conference calls in general, though, and the tone of this blog is generally opposite, so I may be the weird one (which I’m used to).

    1. Sangamo Girl*

      This. All of our communications are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. So if they run a keyword search for “John Doe” in Teams, anything you said gets swept into the search. Even if you thought only your colleague would be the only one to see it. And it wasn’t nice.

  64. Happy*

    I used to have a coworker who would send friendly social messages via Teams chat. It was annoying and distracting and made me do everything I could to avoid interacting with her, in the hopes that she would forget about me and focus on relationships with other people.

    1. DashDash*

      As the coworker who tries to be friendly and say hi to people on Teams so I can both stay connected and not flood their Inboxes . . . this thread has made me decide not to be that person anymore.

      Have you ever considered communicating this to your coworker instead of ignoring her? Be the bigger person? “Hey, I find those messages kind of distracting; could you email instead”?

      1. Happy*

        I responded to her friendly messages in kind — I’m not going to tell someone who is clearly trying to be nice that I don’t want to talk to her.

        But I still found it annoying (and I don’t think email would have been an improvement).

      2. Antony-mouse*

        Please don’t stop! I work remotely for a team that are almost all in person and I live for the few colleagues that actually still reach out to me and ask me how I am as a human rather than treating me like a magic box that work is emailed to and magically reappears done

  65. Person from the Resume*

    On a slightly different topic, I have thought that being full time work from home from the start must be harder.

    I joined a new organization 10 years ago. I went into the office 5 days a week. There were few people in the office and lots of empty desks; they had encouraged people to go full-time work from home. Still I was grateful to be in the office and have a few people to learn from and chat with. Funnily enough, though, I was on a virtual team for projects and the people I worked with everyday for my work were all over the country.

    Eventually I started working from home 1 day a week, 2 days a week, and permanently as I moved far away from the office. I have an understanding of the organization and working virtually. I would have never wanted to to start off full time work from home. Now I wouldn’t say I’m friends or even that friendly with anyone on my team, but I’m not unfriendly. I just don’t do much small talk.

    Back on to the letter the LW doesn’t mention how busy she is, but that kind of Teams conversation feels like a distraction from work.

  66. Lyd*

    We have a casual chat thread on our Slack that staff can use for sharing random memes and make small talk, could you sugest setting up one of those? It was a little janky at first but now we use it quite a lot

  67. NotBatman*

    Something I’ve seen work: be specific. “How was your weekend?” can make me feel like it’s not worth the trouble to type out the conventional response (“fine”), especially in a group chat. Prompts that might work better are things like “What’s your favorite book?” or “Anyone else who lives in MyTown having problems with [specific local problem]?” or “Email pet-peeves. Go!” or “Can someone recommend a good restaurant?” Etc.

    Also, consider messaging a specific person instead of a whole group — seeing a message to a group can make everyone go “someone else will answer.” So say “Belinda, can you recommend a person in the office to talk about house plants?” and then “Joaquin, Belinda says you’ve got a green thumb, and I was wondering if you had any advice on starting a garden…” and so on.

  68. sb51*

    Also, are there other places at your company that virtual socializing is happening? My workplace has a lot of “interest groups” that cross project teams and those can get very social/chitchatty on various internal platforms. (Examples: the video gaming group, various sports, photos of my pet being silly). I’d maybe ask a coworker where, if anywhere, there’s some amount of socialization? Even super introverted work-is-for-work people generally know that isn’t everybody and shouldn’t be offended by the question. Especially since you’re not asking THEM to socialize, you’re just asking for pointers to where the extroverts are.

  69. Pocket Mouse*

    A suggestion: engage in Teams-based pleasantries in a way that doesn’t make an ask of the other party, in two parts. One, avoid contacting someone purely for pleasantries – instead, build them into work-related communications. Two, make statements and offer a bit of your end of the chit chat you’d like to have without directly asking the other person for their end.

    As an example: “Hey Fergus, hope you had a good weekend despite all the rain! My outdoor plans were cancelled so I ended up at the Museum of Camelid Cuteness – highly recommend if you’ve never had a chance to pet a vicuña. Let me know when you’ve had your coffee and are ready to chat about prepping for the project meeting.”

    In short, make an opening but not a demand. I suspect you’ll get a bit more of what you’re looking for this way, but if it’s not enough to satisfy your social itch, I agree this may not be a setting where you should be seeking it- either find another outlet and stop expecting it of colleagues, or find a way to move into a job that gets you more socializing opportunites.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is my favorite strategy.

      [But on a side note, for some strange brain/eyes challenge, I keep reading “Teams-based pleasantries” as “Texas-based pleasantries” and now am thinking about how Texans have some sort of secret water-cooler strategies that I should learn about.]

  70. Xaraja*

    I’ve noticed one of my coworkers in particular always messages me with hello, then I respond back hi, then he asks how I’m doing, so I respond, and then he finally asks his question. It’s really annoying! I know he has a question and it makes everything take a lot longer. So I would just add to Allison’s advice that you might double check whether you’re trying to translate in person norms to remote connections in a way that doesn’t fit. In my example, I’m much more amenable to this coworker chatting a bit after he asks his question (for example, he could say, “hi, Xarajaz, hope you are having a good day, when your have a minute I have a question about xyz program error that I’m getting” and then once it’s figured out he could chat of that’s what he wanted to do.)

    The other thing my one very close coworker and I do is that we say good morning every morning by chat. It’s such a ritual at this point that I have trouble not doing it on vacation whenever I wake up! It seems silly on a one day at a time basis but it really does help build the connection I’ve found. It helps me start the day feeling like someone noticed me.

    1. allathian*

      I also have one coworker I chat with like that. We greet each other in the morning and wish each other a good weekend on Friday afternoon. Sometimes we’ll engage in non-work chat during the day, but not every day.

  71. DataSci*

    Like many respondents, I’m not likely to respond to an out-of-the-blue social chitchat on Slack. We do tend to start meetings with this sort of small talk, which is more than enough for me – if you’re one of the fortunate souls who doesn’t have hours of daily meetings, and thus this isn’t an option for you, can I suggest attaching them to work-related questions, rather than having them stand alone? “Hi DataSci, how was your weekend? I had a question about the llama forecasting” rather than “Hi DataSci, how was your weekend?” with no indication of a work-related question to follow.

  72. rubble*

    I think one aspect of small talk as a remote employee that’s missing compared to in-person work is that the natural scenarios in which you might chat are gone. you never run into them in the corridor anymore, you don’t walk past their desk when you arrive at work, you don’t wait in line for the microwave together anymore. there isn’t really a remote work equivalent for any of these things.

    are you just randomly sending people messages asking them about their weekend, or are you doing at the start/end of work-related chat exchanges? if someone sent me a “how was your weekend?” message when we hadn’t been talking, it would be like if someone came up to me at work while I’m concentrating and asked me that. in person I’d tell them “I’m a bit busy to chat now, sorry.” over chat, since it’s not a real time interaction, I would just ignore it because I’m busy. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how your coworkers are thinking about it too.

    I think you are better off leaving those questions for the tail end of zoom meetings or if a coworker seems particularly chatting one day on the IMs.

  73. Bananacat*

    I feel for the OP. I personally wouldn’t be able to thrive in a work environment that didn’t feel warm. Personal connections and a friendly atmosphere would be essential for me to put forth extra effort for coworkers if they were stuck and really needed help meeting a deadline/proof reading a project/finding extra resources at the last minute/etc. An atmosphere like this would just take the joy of my day away. I think this is pretty common with remote positions though and from the comments I’m reading here, it is where most people like to be, work-wise.

  74. Zephy*

    I’ll +1 the sentiment that it’s probably not you,* OP, but you should probably try to find another outlet for getting your social needs met. Find a Discord server for a hobby/fandom/podcast you like, or if you’re comfortable interacting in meatspace, get a account and find some cool humans to engage with IRL somewhere.

    1. Zephy*

      forgot to add:

      *probably not categorically you, meaning, you’re not objectively horrible – just, this particular team doesn’t engage in text-based communication media the way you do. As evidenced all over this thread, different people find different communication modes easier or harder. I am terminally online so I prefer text based basically always, but I can see how someone wired differently could prefer verbal/face-to-face for their social outlets.

    2. Myrin*

      I’m so confused about why this sentiment – that OP doesn’t have any other outlet but work to get her social needs met – keeps coming up in the comments. Literally nothing in the letter suggests that; you can want warmer relationships with your coworkers without those being your only relationships!

    3. Antony-mouse*

      The thing is I don’t read any of this as about getting social needs met. I get all my social needs met outside of work but I still want to be pleasant and friendly with the people I work with.
      Because friendly small talk means when I have a problem or there’s a big mistake, I have people to go to for help rather than random strangers. Small talk is the basis for the big talk questions about professional development and mentoring and help and assistance

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes definitely. I don’t view my colleagues as friends (although some over time do become so) and get my social needs met perfectly well outside work. But I want to have friendly relations with my colleagues so that the working relationship works better and we have some rapport when we need to collaborate.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, absolutely. I don’t even have to collaborate much in my job, but it’s a lot easier to ask someone for what I need to do my job when I have a friendly work relationship with them.

  75. TeamPottyMouth*

    I once had a casual chat w a coworker where it came up that we had suffered from a bedbug infestation (a year prior). I specifically talked about the great amount of time, money and effort it took to finally get rid of them and how the whole experience had been absolute hell. The coworker shared a similar story about how her kids kept coming home w lice over a period of a couple of years. Two days later, I was called into HR to get lectured about my bedbug problem, how they were inspecting the offices (but had found no evidence of an infestation), and how if I really needed help, they could arrange to pay for the service and have it taken out of my pay.

    So yeah, I don’t talk about my personal life with coworkers anymore.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I mean, that sounds like a big misunderstanding, and not a reason to never talk to your coworkers again.

  76. ggg*

    I had a job whose beginning and end coincided almost exactly with Covid remote work. I had met very few of my co-workers in person when we were all sent home.
    We had a weekly Zoom staff meeting. Nobody would turn on their camera and nobody would speak until the manager arrived. Maybe twice, the manager was late enough that someone said “comm check?” But there was no small talk, no pleasantries, no…nothing. For nearly two years.
    After people returned to work, I ran into some of these people in the building. (We recognized each other from our Skype photos.) They are all very friendly people capable of engaging in small talk. I do not understand why the vibe was so weird for that two year time frame.
    All that is to say…I completely understand how isolating it feels, but I also would not take it personally.

  77. Jennifer Strange*

    I haven’t used MS Teams I’m curious whether this is a situation where the OP is specifically talking in a chat with one person (or a small group of people) as part of an in-the-moment discussion (i.e. people are responding within minutes) and getting no response to pleasantries, or if they’re putting it out into a larger chat where people can respond at their leisure (so it may be an hour or so before anyone responds)? If it’s the latter I could see thinking to myself “Oh, I’ll let someone else respond to that”, especially if the chat is specifically meant to be for work purposes (not because I don’t want to talk about other things, but because I don’t want the work stuff to get lost in the shuffle). Even if it’s the first scenario, assuming it’s a work-specific chat, I’d probably have the same fear about work info getting muddled. A couple of thoughts for the OP:

    1. Again, I don’t know MS Teams, but is it like Slack where you could create a channel that’s just for non-work talk? That may let folks feel like they can put more general talk there.

    2. Instead of asking questions, why not start by answering your own question? So don’t just say “How was your weekend?” but “Hope you had a good weekend! I went to the art museum to see their new Picasso exhibit. It was a really fun day!” That might encourage others to join, rather than feeling like you’re asking the question out of feeling like it’s a necessary pleasantry. You can even try making them more targeted if you know someone’s interests (e.g. “Jane, I know you’re a fan of pizza. Have you tried to new place on Main Street yet?”)

  78. HereKittyKitty*

    We aren’t a very social group at my workplace and some newer folks have been trying to be more “social” on our Teams to minimal success. At least with my setup, I have so many Team channels and not all of them notify me when someone is chatting. And some that do I assume it’s nothing to do with me because it typically isn’t in specific channels where I’m a part of it, but not an active participant in the channel.

    Is it possible that other people don’t have notifications turned on for some channels? Or assume if it’s important they would get a direct message? I don’t answer “how was your weekend” posts because I’m trying to be rude… I just sometimes don’t even see those messages until hours later and by then it feels too late.

  79. Bookworm*

    I have to agree that this may be mostly about culture than anything else and I wouldn’t take it personally.

  80. ADidgeridooForYou*

    This isn’t in direct response to the LW, but more a question for Alison – a lot of times, when people write in on social-related stuff, I’ve noticed that many of the commenters say that they’re not at work to make friends, they don’t like small talk, they aren’t interested in talking to colleagues beyond work-related chat – stuff like that. I know you’re not an omniscient being on all things office-related, but in your opinion, is that just the way this reader base skews? Or is it a trend for workers in general?

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      In case Alison doesn’t see this, she has noted a few times that this site’s commenters skew toward being less social than is typical.

    2. Wheels on Fire*

      I think a lot of the commenters here, especially regular ones, are Very Online kind of people who don’t socialize much to begin with. Definitely not a representative sample.

    3. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      There’s also a larger social justice trend towards viewing with skepticism attempts to make work more “fun,” because employers often do that to cover up exploitative practices. So yes, I think there’s a general trend towards, “I am getting paid to do my job well, I don’t owe anyone an emotional performance.”

      1. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Right, I’m not a fan of mandatory fun like pizza parties and softball teams and what have you, but I’m more talking about natural relationships that build because you’re interacting with people for X hours a day. I guess I see some amount of conversing as just a part of life, not an emotional performance. Like isn’t there a balance between “we’re a family here” and “don’t talk to me about anything but Llama Project Z because you’re not my friend”?

        1. Wheels on Fire*

          Yeah, I think a big problem with this commentariat is that they conflate mandatory fun with basic socialization and everything in between and make all of it sounds completely unnecessary and unreasonable. The very first comment on this post says that “some people don’t want to make friends at work”, which isn’t even what OP asked about. She just wants to build a friendly rapport with people she works with. She’s not looking for a new BFF.

    4. Allonge*

      I think it may not even be this reader base – it’s more that here it’s ok to say ‘I prefer for nobody to talk to me at all, I barely have energy to talk to my closest five humans’ without being judged for it a lot, and so people feel comfortable saying this.

      But this commentariat definitely skews this way!

    5. Pocket Mouse*

      I think you’re conflating two very different positions in opposition to wanting to socialize at work: those that don’t need to socialize at work, and those that actively do not want to socialize at work. The “don’t need to” crew doesn’t mind socializing/small talk somewhat, but since it’s not a priority in this setting, may express chagrin when it’s demanded of them rather than offered as an option. (I count myself as part of this group and expressed chagrin in a prior comment! But I’m totally on board for coffee outings with colleagues and hearing about fun things they did at the start of meetings. It’s highly situational, and I’m much more likely to talk about the chagrin-inducing episodes than the conversations I enjoy.) I suspect this “don’t need to” group comprises a far greater share of the commentariat than you’re giving it credit for, and painting us all with the brush of “actively do not want to”, which I think describes a fairly small number of people.

  81. nonprofit writer*

    OP, just wanted to say I really feel for you and I hope you can find a way to forge the warm work relationships you are looking for.

    I have been a freelancer for 6 years and I was desperate to get out of the office environment BUT I realized after leaving that I could not do what I’m doing now without having formed all those warm relationships with colleagues, which has led to referrals and connections that are vital to my consulting work. There is so much that happens in person that’s very hard to replicate online.

    Is it possible to work some basic pleasantries into one-on-one zooms? Or even an email? (if you use email, that is). I’m a writer so I think it’s part of my personality but it’s typical for me to form warm relationships with my clients over email. It’s a work email, but we may drop in a few lines about something from the weekend, something about our families, etc. Sometimes you just have to wait for a natural opening–like, my client mentions he has to change our meeting because his kid is home from daycare due to covid rules, so I might say something about my own kids, and then in our next email exchange, I’ll ask whether his little one is back at daycare. Etc etc.

    Again, writing is literally what I do and I realize the idea of a multi-paragraph email wouldn’t fly in a lot of industries, but… hope you can find something that works. I really don’t think you are off-base in wanting this. And I find it bizarre that colleagues just aren’t responding at all! But I agree with others that if chat doesn’t seem to be yielding the results you want, it’s time to try something else.

  82. yala*

    Honestly, chats and dms et al tend to make me anxious. Not sure why. I’ll use our Teams sometimes, but I think if someone was messaging me just for small talk, I would feel both anxious and kind of annoyed. Small talk in person is fine, but I really don’t want to have to do written small talk. I’m bad at it, and unlike an in-person conversation, it’s hard to extract yourself when you want to be done because the conversation could just be considered “paused.” There’s no official end to a chat conversation.

  83. HereKittyKitty*

    I like chatting through work projects and getting along about work-related things, but the “how was your weekend” and “what are you doing this weekend” questions I falter on. One because I practically do that same thing every weekend, and two, sometimes I don’t want my coworkers to know what I’m doing one weekend because it invites more personal questions I don’t feel comfortable answering!

    I came from a very chatty office to an office that never chats. I prefer the one that doesn’t chat tbh… I like going in and going out and honestly, the less I know about people the more I tend to like em lol.

  84. A Pound of Obscure*

    My organization is smallish (approx 20 people) and I can tell you that even when most of us are in the office, it’s just not a chatty place. Watercooler talk is rare. It’s not that management is overly strict about it; it’s just that from our director on down, everyone is a heads-down, do-your-work-well kind of person. Our IT manager is the one exception; they are kind of a jokester, and everyone knows that and laughs at their goofiness. But those occurrences are still relatively rare. On rare occasion, someone will post something funny or trivial on the MS Teams group for all staff, but most don’t engage. They are probably thinking, Oh, this could become a time-suck… I’ll stay out of it.

    If a new staff person started sending me “how was your weekend?” individual chat messages, I’d be a little surprised (and I will admit, probably a little annoyed) by it.

  85. Rachelle*

    For me, I really think that the medium of communication is what’s killing the chit-chat. I’m fine having personal chats with colleagues, but I would rather stab my eye than do that over messaging. In person is most preferable for chit chat, then over video, then over phone and then finally over messaging. Never personal stuff over email.
    I think I just prefer to have “get to know you” discussions when I can get a sense of how the person is feeling and what to expect out of the conversation.

  86. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    Honestly, to me it’s weird to chat someone “How was your weekend?”

    That’s a “I happened to cross paths with you” question, not a “I’m seeking you out” question. Direct messaging is seeking someone out, not running into someone while you’re getting coffee.

    I send social DMs to coworkers if we watch the same TV show or something and there’s been a new episode, or there’s some other breezy thing we have in common. But “How was your weekend?” is for when we’re in a call on a Monday. It’s polite small talk, not actual conversation.

    1. Nonny Moose*

      Definitely this – when a question like that comes up in chat instead of in-person/a call the person either wants something work related (and should say so) or it’s the type of surface level conversation I used to actively dodge people in the office to avoid.

  87. strawberry jam*

    My workplace has a slack channel for random “water-cooler” type conversations. Of 200 people in my company, that channel would get posted to – once every 2-3 weeks. Then someone new joined the company and started posting “funny” things every day or two. I had to leave the channel. That sort of funny/chit-chat is not for me.

    I’m also not clear on what you expect for “how was your weekend” other than “fine”.

  88. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

    I am one of these not-chatty colleagues, and I’m sorry if I hurt others’ feelings by not being very sociable during work hours. It’s not that I don’t like you/don’t want to interact with you; it’s that I’m so buried that I can’t afford to get off track. The only way I can figure out how to maintain my work/life balance is to be fully on-task when I’m working. I work in the office most of the time — with my door closed — because I can’t afford distractions. If you have a work-related question that’s in my wheelhouse, I will of course be happy to respond. If you want to talk about personal activities and interests, I…. just can’t. Please don’t take it personally.

    1. allathian*

      I’m sorry you’re so buried in work that you can’t take the time to be a human to another human. I’m glad that my employer recognizes that employees are human beings rather than robots.

  89. Anonymous Koala*

    OP, have you thought about trying a co-working space? I think that may give you more of an “office camaraderie” feeling and let you break up the day with casual chat even if your coworkers aren’t up for non-work chatter.

  90. Suzanne*

    I would really, really dislike this. My warm, friendly relationships come from outside work. I’m happy to chit chat for a few minutes if we end up in the office together! But do not bother me with non work related conversation when I’m working remotely, the whole point of taking those jobs is to not have to deal with all that!

    1. Courageous cat*

      So you’re saying you shouldn’t have to have warm, friendly relationships with your coworkers because you work remotely? I don’t feel like that should be the point of taking a remote job, and I think a bare minimum requirement at many (most?) companies is that you are at a minimum warm and/or friendly to the people you work with regardless of whether you’re in office or not. It’s professional to be polite and kind when you can.

  91. The Witch in the Woods*

    If I were remote I’d just respond with one word answers. “How was your weekend?” “Fine.” “Do anything fun?” “Not really” I’m entirely in person and the more time goes on, the less information I volunteer. I’m there to do a job, I don’t want to be friends with my coworkers, nor do I want them to know about my personal life. As it is, I do share more than I would like, especially on a bad day with my mental health. Keeping to myself means I’m on the outskirts of the group dynamic and I’m ok with that.

    1. allathian*

      Sure, and if that works for you, great. But if you ever want a promotion, in most organizations you’d also need good personal connections to get it. In some people’s ideal world, I guess that just doing the substantive work well would be enough, but that’s not the world we live in. In most white collar jobs, building relationships and more or less informal networking are prerequisites for any opportunities to advance.

      To be fair, I’m a senior SME and I’m in a dead-end job in the sense that I can’t get a promotion unless I go into management, and I’m not interested in that. I’m also fairly reticent about my personal life, the people I work closely with know I’m married and that we have a son, some of them may even remember that he’s a teenager, but I very rarely mention him unless his needs impact my job (e.g. doctor’s appointments during the day).

      Building collegial relationships is a requirement of a lot of jobs, it’s just a fact of life.

  92. Curmudgeon in California*

    My current job has a distributed remote team, some of whom used to be in the office together. When I started the team chat channel was… empty. Essentially silent. So, I started with a simple “good morning” or similar greeting every day, partly as a way to let people know I was logged in and available. For the first couple of weeks there was nearly no response. Now morning greetings are habit. There is even a little thawing to talk about local weather or dentist appointments. I’m not pushing, just being friendly and making light chat, usually about work, weather or weekends.

    It’s still no where near as chatty as my previous jobs were, and that’s okay. But much of the team is new to the company and each other, so we’re still finding “our” norm.

    A simple “good morning” as if in passing is a decent way to break the ice. People aren’t called out by name and can react as much as they like.

  93. LondonLady*

    My team (100% remote) has an optional weekly ‘coffee’ where we can join a video call and talk about non work stuff for about 20 minutes. We get to say hi to people’s dogs or appreciate their artwork or advise on great places to eat in city X that someone plans to visit etc. I can’t remember which colleague first suggested it but it works well and it could be you who suggests it.

  94. Lily Potter*

    Good grief, people! The OP is not looking for a personal social group or a work BFF! S/he’s just looking for a tiny bit of personal interaction with her immediate work group. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    I ask each of you that’s “so underwater with work that I don’t have three minutes to socialize” – how long did it take you to post your reply to AAM? The OP works with a very small core group of people. It’s insane that they can’t take a couple of minutes a day to interact with one another on a personal level.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Hm, as I read through, a lot of the comments boil down to ‘socializing is fine but given your team’s culture there are likely better ways to go about it than what you’re currently doing’. Nothing worth chastising the commentariat about!

      And to be fair, AAM brings a lot more value to my day than talking to a colleague about a standard weekend. :)

  95. BeadsNotBees*

    I feel bad for OP who wrote in for legitimate advice/sympathy… and then this comment section basically defended the rude coworkers and made it seem like asking about someone’s weekend was hostile, annoying behavior.

    I don’t care how good you are at your job, how hard a worker you are, etc. Soft skills are an extremely valuable asset and I would much rather work with someone who is technically mediocre and pleasant to be around as opposed to a group of cold super-geniuses.

    Remember, people here online may agree with your POV, but out here in the real world, being a friendly, warm person is a cool thing. Many humans naturally want to build community and kinship with those they work closely with.

    And I’ll say it one more time, introverted and anti-social aren’t the same thing.

    1. Fuse*

      But the behavior is hostile and annoying, when done over chat. The true soft skill here is knowing the time and place for small talk. MS teams chat is not it. The results OP is getting show that.

      OP is struggling with the concept of timing and medium a bit, and is getting some really good advice. OP sounds like a truly lovely and friendly person, and I honestly haven’t seen anyone intimate otherwise.

      And I wanted to point out one bit of irony here… the OP is attempting this communication online. When you start blasting the communication preferences of “people here online” and then contrast that with “the real world,” you can see where the disconnect is. People here online happen to be in real world, and, shockingly, their online communication preferences influence how they respond online.

      Warm, friendly small talk has a time and a place.

      1. SMH*

        There is absolutely nothing hostile about asking someone, “How was your weekend?”

        Even Alison has said that the commenters are out of touch with reality, and stuff like this is why.

      2. allathian*

        Whether Teams is the right place for it or not depends a lot on the organization. My team has a fairly busy social channel. I keep it muted, and only visit when I feel like it, but it can cheer me up on a dreary workday.

        It’s also very difficult for a new remote employee to get to know their coworkers, unless there’s a system in place to do so.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I completely agree with everything you said, BeadsNotBees. I’m not a social butterfly by any means, but I also don’t want to have miserable coworkers who can’t deign to say hi to me or need to put on their critical thinking cap to figure out how to answer, “How was your weekend?” I, too, am introverted. But I’m not anti-social at all.

    3. Nonny Moose*

      You can be pleasant, professional, excellent at socializing, and still not want to manage unrelated small talk over chat on top of the work you’re doing.

      1. SMH*

        She’s asking , “How was your weekend?” not “Give me an hour-by-hour timeline of the last month.”

        Answering with, “Good. How about yours?” is not some unreasonable burden that is piled on top of your work duties. If you have time during the day to read and comment on a work advice blog, you have 10 seconds to write a quick response instead of being anti-social.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          “If you have time during the day to read and comment on a work advice blog, you have 10 seconds to write a quick response instead of being anti-social.”


  96. Fuse*

    “via MS Teams chat”

    There’s your problem. There’s a 0% chance I’m going to do small talk over Teams chat. Forget that.

    Alison was absolutely correct with her first point #1.

    This isn’t rude on the part of your coworkers. You’re trying to forge warm relationships over a media that wasn’t designed to facilitate them. Expecting coworkers to make small talk over chat is annoying to them, and counterproductive for you.

    I was disheartened to read some of the “success stories” here in the comments about how some people co-opted their work chat for small talk. Have a social channel for that. Otherwise each the chat pings you don’t know whether to interrupt your focus and check — it is a time-sensitive work issue, or your coworker’s story about their hair appointment?

    If you want to cultivate a remote work relationship, do it the time-tested way, with a voice call about a work question sandwiched in some personal talk. (Alison’s point #2.) Build that and it may eventually progress to chat, but don’t be upset if it doesn’t.

    1. allathian*

      It really depends on the organization.

      There’s nothing I hate more than an unsolicited phone call. On my personal phone, I don’t even answer unless the number is in my contacts. My work phone rings maybe once a month, and it’s usually a robocall. We don’t have a system to filter those out, but I respond by interrupting their spiel and saying “this is a work phone, please put this number on your don’t call list, goodbye.”

      I respond quickly to IMs on Teams because I absolutely don’t want anyone to call me out of the blue, ever, for a work-related reason, unless it’s a genuine emergency. Voice calls are the best way to get some things done, but even then, I vastly prefer an IM on Teams, “Hi, do you have a few minutes to talk about X?” rather than just someone calling me on Teams.

      It’s entirely possible that this remote employer doesn’t do phone calls at all, or only in emergencies. If that’s the case, the LW is stuck.

  97. Rose*

    I personally would react differently to “how was your weekend?” in the office vs. working from home. I don’t mind little conversations during the workday (usually about work but sometimes more general) with any of my coworkers, but online it feels different. Online it feels more like opening a door I wouldn’t be able to close. Someone hanging by my cubicle to say hi is fine – but it would be weird if they just hung out there, long afterward. The latter is what messaging online feels like to me – like me responding signals that it’s okay to just interrupt me whenever, and I’d be really wary of people taking advantage of that. I’d also feel very tied to my desk in a way I wouldn’t in the office.

    That said, I certainly don’t think the lw did anything wrong, but I think people just don’t want to establish that pattern of online messaging, so they’re just ignoring it. Which is rude, but I think that could be why.

  98. Nonny Moose*

    Even in the office I would ignore frivolous messages (i.e. anything just saying “hi”). I don’t mind a little banter with coworkers, but I’d be willing to guess OP’s coworkers aren’t the type to want an extended conversation during their day.

  99. Alex*

    I have to confess… I’m one of the people who ignores social messages!

    90% of the time, if someone messages me out of the blue with a, “Good morning! How are you?” it’s because they want an actual work thing from me, but want to soften it first, and I’d rather just see what that is before jumping in the chat. So I ignore it until they put in the next question, with whatever they actually need, and then I respond with my long message (starting with pleasantries, for sure, but then the answer).

    Sometimes that does mean I lose track of the social messages that don’t come with a follow up. But they’re rare. My close colleagues all tend to be the type to start mid-conversation on social topics, so it’s pretty much just people who are doing a within-organisation cold call that drop “Hi!” on me out of the blue!

  100. Tara*

    I find teams dm or other IM programs very disruptive. I don’t mind it for a quick question, but I don’t want to chit chat on it. On the other hand most of my meetings (video) include 5-10 minutes of socializing. That to me is much more satisfying and connecting than a few disjointed chat messages. When I am not on calls I’m usually trying to get stuff done and Teams chat has that start stop quality which is distracting and counterproductive. Most of the time I ignore chat if I am on a call because it’s distracting from the me. Lots of reasons why people might not respond—I do set up 30 min check ins with my team members which often include as much social catch-up as work. That might help you feel more connected.

  101. LoneKey*

    OP here with a follow-up question for those who suggest having these chats at the beginning/end of calls rather than sending an IM. It’s not at all unusual for a week to go by where I have zero meetings, with most weeks averaging two or three 30-minute meetings (in the whole week). In the common case that there are no work questions to discuss, even those meetings are often cancelled. I’m generally pretty competent at my job and don’t often need to ask questions I can’t just figure out on my own. Is it not infinitely weirder and more disruptive to request a call with my teammates just to “catch up”? The closest office is about a 20 hour drive away, so I can’t just pop by for the day. Do I just suck it up and not try to speak to my coworkers at all?

    A lot of people have also suggested I make social connections outside of work. To be clear, I have plenty of real friends who I chat with both online and in person. The problem here is not wanting a work friend, it’s working with a small team of people who are unwilling to exchange even basic pleasantries. Not hours of chit chat, not daily or even weekly chit chat, just a simple, one line answer to a “how’s it going” type question between people responsible for the same deliverable who have no other reason to speak to one another. As a rule, though, if someone ignores my first attempt I’m very unlikely to ever try chatting with them again.

    I would prefer to be able to collaborate with these people for the sake of the quality of my work, but since I’ve got the impression that people are too busy to interact with me I only ask work-related questions as a last resort at this point, and even those work-related questions often go ignored.

    1. Maisonneuve*

      I’m sorry you’re in this situation. It’s disheartening that people don’t have basic soft skills to contribute to a collegial atmosphere. Maybe you should raise it with your manager that they don’t answer work questions. That behaviour flies in the face of the suggestion they just want to focus on work and keep personal things out of work. Good luck. I hope some of Alison’s ideas work if you can use them and that your next team is a better fit.

    2. foobar*

      My current job as a software engineer is kind of like that, but your job sounds several steps worse. I am really sorry. It sucks. You end up feeling like a robot!

      Think the best solution is to find another job with more social coworkers. That level is antisocial is just demoralizing.

    3. JM60*

      Is it not infinitely weirder and more disruptive to request a call with my teammates just to “catch up”?

      Yeah, you’re right. That would be much weirder and more disruptive. I don’t know how I would respond to such a request because I personally would hate to have to “catch up” with a coworker via a call. However, there really isn’t a great way to say, “No, I don’t want to ‘catch up’ with you.”

      Does your employer have any chat channel that is a “water cooler” of sorts? If not, then maybe you could recommend it.

    4. allathian*

      Thanks for coming back to comment.

      It sounds very unpleasant and isolating, I’m sorry.

      How long has your company been remote? Have the other people on your team ever worked in an office together?

      Perhaps, if the work culture simply is a work-only one, I’m not sure if you’d get anywhere by trying to force people to be more social. But you should certainly talk to your manager about the fact that your coworkers don’t even answer your work-related questions.

      If all else fails, how about calling your coworkers with work-related questions if they don’t respond on IM? I tend to answer IMs quickly because the last thing I want is a cold call.

    5. Pocket Mouse*

      It does sound like you’re struggling with this, and I’m sorry… but also, this doesn’t feel much like a team! Would it help to mentally reframe your role as independent work, in which you occasionally coordinate with others? Just because you’re working on similar things—or even the same deliverable—doesn’t mean you’re actually working *together* all that much. There’s a group of people you do similar work as, and for the same employer, but if you’re barely connecting around work things it’s hard to see how you’d connect around non-work things in addition. I think this just isn’t a setting that fosters what you’re looking for. You can try things I and others have suggested above, but it sounds like you’re set (or stuck) on communicating your desire to connect with *non-work questions* *via Teams chat*. Commenters here have talked at length about each of those two components, and particularly how the combo of the two is commonly experienced as unhelpful and even disruptive. If you really aren’t in a position to move away from the question format of communicating interest in connection (which would be so easy!) or to move away from primarily (or even just initially?) using the platform for them, and still want social connection from this exceedingly loose level of work connection, then yeah, you’re not set up to get what you want. You can change what you want/expect to match the setting, you can change your setting to match what you want/expect, or you can continue to be anxious and unhappy about your experience with the mismatch.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Pocket Mouse: “Would it help to mentally reframe your role as independent work, in which you occasionally coordinate with others?”

      This is how my job works. We’re not remote any more but we were for a year and, yes, we had short weekly Zoom department meetings and then contacted each other pretty much only if we had a work question. Granted, we already knew each other, and we all get along well, but there just wasn’t a lot of catch-up talk.

      I think you’re conflating two problems, though: If work-related questions aren’t getting answered, that needs to be pursued whether you like the social atmosphere or not. If the team doesn’t function the way you wish it did socially, whether or not this is the job for you is your call.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I confess I’m a bit mystified by the need to “catch up” at all. My coworkers and I never ask each other how it’s going unless we mean a messy project or *maybe* unless we know something particularly taxing is going on in that person’s life. And I would say we get along well as a department. It’s just not how we roll? I guess?

        I’m also kind of put off by the insistence that this is “refusing to contribute to a collegial atmosphere”–maybe their threshhold for “collegial” is simply lower than yours and the difference in expectation is the problem. I am completely fine with my coworkers not asking how I am or about my weekend because I don’t expect them to, and if they suddenly did it would feel weird and overly-personal.

        1. Pocket Mouse*

          “Refusing to contribute to a collegial atmosphere” – good catch on this wording. If someone I work with is pleasant, collaborative, supportive, and seems comfortable (versus defensive or overly formal) when we interact around work topics, that is 100% contributing to a collegial atmosphere. Non-work topics are not required for this kind of contribution.

    7. Teapot Wrangler*

      Yes, it absolutely would be! That said, two or three meetings a week is enough that there must be a few instances where you can have a chat – maybe whilst waiting for others to join. Even something generic about the weather or having a busy day or have you heard back from so-and-so. If not then your team are just hard work – hope for your sake that the next rotation has nicer people!!!

    8. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Remote worker here. I will intentionally call people on video-conference *instead of* exchanging emails and chat messages. I do that because:

      (1) it can be more efficient and faster to speak to someone and get the context and information that I need, and provides visual clues in behavior and tone that written words don’t, AND
      (2) it establishes a better personal relationship and can give me a better opportunity to get to know people, and actually have a CHAT. To me, it is a more natural and organic way to ask someone how their weekend was.

      These systems like Teams chat and email are part of the company’s business records, and I am pretty careful about what I choose to make a part of the company’s business records. At my company, all Teams chat and email are saved and stored indefinitely and are accessible by the company if they so choose. Teams chat messages are *not* private. The messages are discoverable in litigation too. I would find it pretty odd if someone tried to strike up a personal conversation in Teams chat – just not done at my company. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t chat with people – I do it the old fashioned way, but actually talking to them!

  102. Teapot Wrangler*

    I wouldn’t ignore your messages – that feels rude – but I would consciously reply slowly and with little detail so it didn’t turn into a big conversation. I don’t mind a quick chat before or after a meeting but don’t generally have the time to be distracted by a Teams message only to find out that it isn’t work related. I think you’ll have better luck with tagging it onto work stuff like calls! Good luck :-)

  103. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    I commented on this in a reply to a reply, but worth breaking out separately:

    Teams chat and similar IM services, and email, are part of the company’s business records. I have worked at companies where Teams chat and email are saved and stored indefinitely and of course are accessible by the company. Stored messages may be discoverable in litigation. Teams chat messages are really *not* a private conversation. Some people are not going to be comfortable putting personal information in IM, because they know all this.

  104. IndigoJoMuses*

    I feel for the letter writer but I would also find it annoying to be interrupted by teams chat without any business purpose. My immediate team is very friendly despite most of us having started since the pandemic and several of us never having met in person – but since March 2020 we have always had a weekly 30-45 minute social video chat where in theory (not always the reality) we don’t talk about work, just chat about our weekends and hobbies etc. I really like having the structured socialising time and getting to know my team mates better.

  105. WantonSeedStitch*

    I’m a very social person, and while most of my office would probably describe themselves as introverted, we do have a really good spirit of collegiality and warmth between us. We do have some channels on our office chat for more social interactions, but we usually don’t use them for “how was your weekend” type small talk. Instead, folks will post in the general office-wide chat channel about interesting things they’ve learned, or share neat articles or breaking news (or industry-relevant memes). We also have a few specific-topic chat channels for people with shared interest in the topic (TV shows, for example). You can join or start those if you feel like it, but no one pushes about it.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Oops, this wasn’t finished. The random “how was your weekend” stuff usually comes up during the context of actual work-related discussion. I might send a chat message (or an email to a coworker saying “Hi, hope you had a good weekend and were able to take advantage of the awesome weather. I wanted to ask if you had any updates on X project–I’m trying to figure out my own next steps.” That way, people who are more social-chatty can respond with “Oh, the weekend was great! My spouse and I went sailing, and it wasn’t even too cold when we capsized. Sure, here’s the scoop on X project.” And the less social people will usually respond with “Hi Wanton, here’s what I have on X project. Let me know if you need any more info.”

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