updates: the physically demanding team-building, the weekend sleepover, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and for the rest of the year I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Can I recover from two angry explosions at work?

I went through the EAP and was eventually connected with a therapist, whom I’ve been seeing this year. We worked on some anger management techniques that have been helpful, and the sessions have broadened into general talk therapy now, which has been good to have again.

When my letter posted, one of the commenters noted that it sounded like I was very burned out, and boy howdy was that person correct. This year has still been a challenging one, both in terms of the work and in my relationship with my boss, but I’ve also come to realize that a lot of my frustration stemmed from issues with management that were really out of my control. Realizing and dealing with that has helped me and my mindset tremendously. The underlying issues are still there, but I’ve been able to get some mental distance from them. I also plan to start looking for a new job in the new year, and I did some back-of-the-envelope math and know I have enough savings to leave and be OK financially for a good chunk of time. All that combined to say that I’m in a much better mental space as the year ends than I was when it began, but I am also very, very eager to look 2022 in the rearview mirror.

2. We’re doing a physically demanding “team-building” exercise

Thank you to Alison and everyone who was so kind and helpful in the comments! I have a mixed bag update. I spoke to my manager (let’s call him Mike) and he indicated he was already concerned that a team builder at an obstacle course escape room might not be inclusive and he was totally on board to switching. Mike spoke to the organizers and we switched to the place with the 2nd most votes: a golf driving range bar. Luckily, this worked for everyone on my team. The person who had suggested the obstacle course escape room (Angela) seemed to suspect I was the reason we changed and was a bit cold to me for a couple of days. This resolved itself and while I don’t think Angela and I will ever be friends, we are cordial. Which is unfortunate as Angela and I are the only 2 women on our team and she’s part of a clique that includes the majority of our team (they get lunch together during work, walk out at the end of the day together, and are friends outside of work/talk about what they do together on the weekends). They’ve known each other for years, I’ve been on the team less than 2 years, and the 2 others not in the clique joined the team less than 6 months ago, so I doubt it is personal. I’m neurodiverse (and used to it), so not terribly bothered. Plus, being on the board for our disability employee resource group is quite fulfilling (I’m even leading a diversity initiative on campus that is receiving recognition!).

But all of this might be moot as my company (one of the largest tech companies in the world), is struggling and a leak to the press forced them to announce a huge company wide lay-off but they have been very vague regarding the parameters, we won’t know for another few weeks who is likely to be affected. I’m slated for a promotion in Q1 and they announced raises will be affected next year. And they wonder why they receive such poor marks for transparency and trust on employee satisfaction surveys.

3. I can’t afford to keep paying for work I’m not receiving from our nanny

So, it’s a mixed ending. We do still have our nanny and have fought hard to keep her. We have had to engage a lot of backup childcare from family, looked at day-only options where we can pay per day, and get creative with our hours while she is out for vacation so we can save our own PTO for illnesses only. Sometimes we split working on weekends while one parent parents the children. It’s been stressful and we don’t often do anything recreational because we devote all our time off and many weekends to covering childcare, but I just didn’t feel like I could take her vacation and sick time away from her and so we kept everything in the same quantities.

Some changes: because my daughter is now (finally) vaccinated and I was able to receive a bivalent booster in my third trimester with my son, and we have all had COVID (my son in utero), we have come to a different understanding about exposures. There have been so many on both ends (hers and ours) that we couldn’t reasonably continue paid leaves for her exposures and, if we as a family have an exposure and everyone is testing negative and not symptomatic, she needs to either take her own PTO or unpaid time if she doesn’t feel comfortable coming to work. She was in agreement with the change, as she dines indoors now, goes shopping, socializes in large groups, etc. – and so we both have similar overall risk levels. We still disclose all known exposures and test the adults on day 3, but we only quarantine or test the children if someone shows any symptoms. My daughter will soon be old enough to use rapids, and so we will test her as well going forward.

If we are ill at all, we give her paid time that doesn’t count against her total and test everyone before she returns. If we are COVID negative, the paid time ends when we are symptom-free. If we were to test positive, we would pay a full quarantine. If she is ill, she can use her sick time if she would like to or take it unpaid. We ask her to take a COVID test before returning (at our expense) and if she ever were positive we would pay her to quarantine for the CDC recommended period.

This is still a lot of leave, but thankfully a mixture of vaccines, COVID infection, luck, and risk management with NPI’s has meant we have all been COVID-free and not continuously reinfected even as it rips through my office what feels like every other week.

4. My team is having a weekend sleepover at a coworker’s house

When I wrote in asking for advice about how to ask for details about a work retreat where my team would be sleeping over at a vacation house together, both you and many commentators basically said “just ask about the details!” I realized I was being overly anxious that even asking would make it obvious that I felt very reluctant to go.

I did ask, and learned that we would be sharing bedrooms, yikes, but it ended up being moot because yet another wave of covid swept through our area right before the scheduled weekend and multiple team members ended up in quarantine due to family members or themselves testing positive.

That said, now that I’ve been at the job longer, I am starting to appreciate the way everyone on the team is so close, and if we did another retreat in the future I would be more enthusiastic about it. I think part of my hesitation was that at my last job, a lot of colleagues were nice to each other’s face and complaining behind their backs, and I couldn’t conceive of a team that was actually this nice, but they are! I’m much happier now.

Thanks for your advice! Sometimes it’s best to just assume the best and act reasonably and assume people will act reasonably in return (even if they haven’t always in the past!)

{ 45 comments… read them below }

  1. Velociraptor Attack*

    I’m curious about something with #3, and I have no doubt this is something you’ve already looked at. You originally mention 3 weeks of vacation and then paid time for doctors appointments, but you didn’t mention how that worked aside from the fact that she had frequent absences for appointments.

    Is your paid time for appointments unlimited and is it something where she’s gone just for an hour or two or is she gone the whole day? Essentially, would it be possible to ask her to book early morning or afternoon appointments as much as possible so your family is better able to cover those hours and maybe spend less time working on weekends?

    As someone with a young kid in daycare, I fully understand the difficulty around actually being able to use your PTO for something that isn’t staying home with sick kids.

  2. That'sNotMyName*

    OP4, I totally get being anxious about that. Even with people I like, I really need to have my own space. And with relatively new coworkers, especially after your last job? Woof.

    1. allathian*

      Oh yes, me too. I sleep poorly enough that my husband and I have had separate bedrooms since our son was born, with the baby sleeping in my husband’s room because I’d wake up every time he snorted in his sleep. If I won’t share a bedroom (except when we travel) with the love of my life, I’m sure as hell not going to share with a coworker, under any circumstances.

      I love my closest friends dearly, but I think the time for sleepovers is over and done with. I’m 50, and I’ve known some of my closest friends since middle school, and I’ve been to sleepovers at their houses. Nobody ever came to a sleepover at our place, because we lived in a one bedroom apartment, with my sister and I sharing the bedroom and our parents sleeping in the living room. There’s a reason why we moved out together when I was 19 and my sister was 17… The reason is that my dad inherited his mother’s old apartment as her executor and only heir when she went into a care home for people with dementia.

    2. ferrina*

      Yeah, that’s very intimate, especially for a new co-worker that’s only been there 2 months! That’s something that the team should build up to (and honestly, I don’t think that’s a great idea in the first place- everyone should be able to unplug from work at night).

      Glad it all turned out for the LW!

  3. WellRed*

    So is OP 4 happy despite the notion of a sleepover(!) wtf and shared rooms to boot (!!!!) wtfwtf? I meN sure it was moot, but future reference well oiled solid sane teams celebrate without donning pajamas. Give me cash, give me free food whatever. Do not give me a pillow fight ffs.

    1. Casey*

      To each their own — I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a baseline or question anyone who declined to participate, but my team got an Airbnb together for a weekend last year and had a collectively good time. Like, you probably wouldn’t bat an eye at shared rooms if it was a sports team or a group of researchers working in a remote location — some jobs feel more like that, though obviously not all do!

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, researchers working in a remote location, or on board a research vessel, members of a sports team, and people serving in the military (except senior officers) are definitely expected to share bedrooms. My sister’s a marine biologist, and when she’s aboard a research vessel or on assigment at a remote research station, she’ll share and not complain. But all the same, she wouldn’t be very happy if she had to share a hotel room at an international conference.

    2. TechWorker*

      Shared room -> pillow fight is a pretty huge jump :p

      I have shared a room with colleagues on a walking holiday – the types of places you stay are the sort where if you booked by yourself you’d be sharing a dorm room with strangers; sharing it with colleagues requires careful choosing of who you share with but otherwise was ‘fine’/no worse than strangers. It was very much optional (and some folks came for the walking but paid to stay somewhere with more space)

    3. amoeba*

      I’ve done that a lot when I was still in academia, and if I had a team now that was as friendly and close as we used to be then, I’d absolutely be fine with it (actually prefer it to having my own room) again.

  4. Librarian of SHIELD*

    LW 2, I’m glad your workplace changed the outing! I wish Angela could have been thoughtful about it instead of blaming you, but it sounds like you weren’t wishing to be friends with her anyway.

    Good luck with the upcoming layoffs, I hope whatever happens you end up in a good place.

    1. LW2*

      Thank you! As of now, my location is spared from the layoffs (chronically understaffed finally pays off?), we shall see what the new year brings!

      1. TechWorker*

        Good Luck! I think nearly everyone is laying off this year :( layoffs being vague is aiui totally normal – they can’t really announce until they know and they can’t be reassuring to some groups because if that gets around then other groups may assume they’re involved (and start to quit). I find it tough too (where I work is announcing in a few weeks time) but try not to worry til I actually know. (It helps that like you I am super busy and our department seems unlikely to be involved.. but who knows!)

    2. An SEO*

      Angela sounds like a peach! Maybe she can be cast in the Mean Girls reboot. Glad the outing was changed, OP, but sorry someone you’d hope could be an ally is indifferent at best.

  5. a*

    Maybe it’s because our kids are all in school and activities with endless potential exposures that we don’t even get told about anymore… but #3 still feels so extra.

    Good on OP that she can make it work, but I would be so resentful if I was spending all my time off on weekday childcare while also paying for a full-time nanny.

    1. Mid*

      And yet, that’s the reality for many, many people currently. Most of the parents I know are spending all of their PTO, and then some, on childcare. Including the ones with full-time childcare.

      Resenting childcare workers doesn’t help anything, but taking that energy and using it to advocate for mandatory PTO and sick leave in all industries for all people, childcare subsidies for families, and increased funding to preschool and childcare centers is a great thing to do.

      1. Ann Ominous*

        You make a great point. We would love to be the nanny in this case! All people should be so supported.

        I hope that we look back in 20 years and tell stories to our grandkids about how you used to have to scramble really hard to find ways to make sure your young kids were cared for, and that the lack of ubiquitous, easily affordable, high quality childcare is looked upon with disbelief … the same ‘Bad Old Days’ perspective as we cast on societies pre-child-labor laws.

      2. Calliope*

        This feels unnecessarily judgy. Parents working half the weekend and juggling childcare and work the rest of the week probably don’t have a ton of extra time or energy to advocate for sweeping policy changes. If they do, they quite likely are already using it to do so. Like, no, of course it’s not the nannie’s fault and resentment isn’t a useful emotion, but an awful lot of people have switched childcare to have greater availability instead of working hard to keep employing the nanny like this person did. I personally wouldn’t do that, if only because as a single mom I actually don’t have the flexibility to juggle childcare with work to that extent.

        1. Observer*

          It’s true that parents in the trenches don’t have a lot of energy to advocate this way. But the person at the top of the thread is NOT in that position any more. But they are looking down their nose at the OP for not “resenting” a childcare worker who is not providing 24×7 childcare, and ~~gasp~~ is given paid time of when there are real exposures.

            1. Calliope*

              (Also they have kids in school so have presumably dealt with this in some form and probably still are on holidays and school closure days and after school).

        2. tamarack+and+fireweed*

          It’s not just up to parents to advocate for that. I don’t think it’s overly judgy – on the contrary, it’s about *not* taking out the strain via judging childcare workers who are trying to have a reasonably safe workplace. (Which is what you say, too, so I’m not sure how what you’re responding to is judgier than your own attitude.)

      3. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I pay for full time care at a center and my son gets sent home for illness literally once a week. I’m all out of vacation days due to a different family issue this year, which means I end up working remotely while also caring for a toddler. And every time I’m reminded that WFH is not a substitute for childcare.

        The whole thing is exhausting. I’m always trying to predict went the next cold will hit and schedule around that. For example, I’m assuming his classmates picked up various bugs over Thanksgiving and brought them in today. So probably Wednesday or Thursday he’ll start having symptoms and will be sent home.

        Fortunately he only needs a negative Covid test and to be fever-free to return, and he’s not prone to fevers. But ugh, I spend every day dreading getting a phone call from daycare.

        1. Samwise*

          I’m many years past this — but I had a similar experience when my child was young. I used so much of my sick and vacation leave when my child picked up whatever was going around at daycare, kindergarten…and just hoping there’d be some leave left when I inevitably got sick too.

          Obviously the pandemic has intensified this situation, but it’s not entirely new.

          (The pandemic is more akin to having a very sick child — mine spent many years on and off chemo, and almost nobody then took seriously the hygiene and vaccination protocols that many people followed up til last year. I’ve been furious at anti-vaxxers for many years …)

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      It’s not as much as it sounds like. If I’m understanding right, it can be summarized as Nanny gets extra Covid-specific PTO only when:

      – One of LW’s household is currently symptomatic, until symptoms resolve
      – Nanny or one of LW’s household tests positive, for CDC-specified quarantine period

      Nanny is allowed to use her own PTO days for quarantines beyond what is specified by the CDC, but she won’t get any “extra” time for this since it’s her own preference instead of public health guidelines.

    3. cat in cardboard box*

      At first I figured the update was probably written around a year ago and put into the end-of-year update batch. But the original ask was only published ~6 months ago, so I guess that’s not it. Maybe they are in an area that continues to take covid seriously, in which case I may be a bit envious.

  6. Zee*


    She was in agreement with the change, as she dines indoors now, goes shopping, socializes in large groups, etc.

    Anyone else find it odd and kind of suspicious that someone who was insisting on 2-week quarantines for *exposures* just a few months ago is now cool with taking basically no precautions in her personal life at all?

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Not really. People’s calculuses (calculi?) have changed a lot, based on what they perceive to be their local rates, boosters, maybe having never had Covid, or having had a mild case, and also being sick of it all. “Just a few months” these last few years has felt like an eternity. I’m not saying it’s good/bad/right/wrong, but I have absolutely seen people’s behavior flip this quickly.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yes, there’s also strong social pressure to ignore COVID even if you don’t have a good health profile.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Not really, I think people’s view do change based on thier personal experiences, what they see their friends and family doing, and probably also on the basis that this is not a short trm crisis but likely to be a more-or-less permanent issue

    3. Antilles*

      The answer is right here in the post:
      because my daughter is now (finally) vaccinated and I was able to receive a bivalent booster in my third trimester with my son, and we have all had COVID
      It seems perfectly logical to treat things differently with that context. Their immune systems are better prepared to kill the virus, the risk profile is therefore lower, and it seems reasonable to therefore set up your life differently.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, I would assume those thing mean taking no precautions. The only one that strikes me as really high risk is socialising in large groups and even that depends on what one considers a large group and what the socialising is. If you are talking having a meal somewhere with outdoor seating, for example, it’s probably not that high a risk. Or if she is meeting in groups who are all masking and have been fully vaccinated.

      I see a huge difference in risk level between doing one’s shopping (especially if masked) and caring for children showing covid symptoms, even if they have tested negative, as the antigen tests are not 100% reliable and she is likely to have to get a lot closer to children she is caring for than she would to other customers while shopping.

      Interacting with somebody who has been exposed strike me as a higher level of risk than simply going shopping or even dining indoors. I know people who are pretty cautious – mask pretty much everywhere, eat outside where necessary, etc – and yet they do dine inside if outdoor dining is not available, they do their shopping and occasionally socialise in what could be considered large groups.

  7. Anita,+Darling*

    LW3, it seems like you’re stretched to the breaking point even with the modified arrangement. How much time off/missed care does it work out to, exactly? It’s hard to say, but with the money you are spending on ad-hoc backup care, you might consider having a regular part-time back-up carer (e.g. 1 day a week), and enable you to save some vacation time for yourselves?

    It sounds like you’re still liable to lose significant time of care if someone gets a cough or runny nose, which (in the case of my kids, anyway) is basically continuous always. Good luck but you might need to further renegotiate with this nanny.

  8. ZucchiniBikini*

    It’s situations like LW3’s that have led to a large number of women (almost always women) in my home country, Australia, moving to full WFH, dropping hours, or exiting the workforce altogether during Covid, and to there being a current glut in the market for in-home childcare providers as previous employers are not using them anymore (OTOH, queues for places in childcare centres are lengthy!)

    My down-street neighbour was in a nanny share arrangement for her 2 and 5 year olds (nanny also cared for another family’s 2 year old and the two families split the cost) but there was so much time lost between lockdowns, exposures and infections (of families and the nanny), time that they still paid for, that both families decided it was not worth it to continue. My neighbour ended up leaving her job in May (plans to job-hunt once her elder child starts school next year if she can get a place for the younger in a childcare centre), and I think the other family is managing by a combination of relatives and adjusted work schedules for both parents.

    Absolutely it is important for nannies to be paid appropriately and to have safe conditions of work, but the piece that also needs to be considered is that there has to be a worthwhile value proposition for the employer (the family) as well. It is not sustainable for most people to pay for months and months of services they are not receiving.

  9. münchner+kindl*

    Nr. 2 is interesting that this “team building event” didn’t solve the actual problems in the company, which were higher up, and now a bunch of people are laid off.

    1. TechWorker*

      A whole bunch of tech companies are laying people off for a whole bunch of different reasons, expecting any ‘team building event’ to have an impact on that is utterly bizarre :) the layoffs are not due to LWs direct team or management…

  10. The Friends of English Magic*

    I would ask #1 if there are other things that are making them unsatisfied or frustrated in the job. It is harder to have compassion for others if you’re just not happy in the role.

    In my previous role at a non-profit, I worked directly with service users that were in very genuine need of support (and not for reasons that could be in any way considered to be through any fault of their own). They could still at times be difficult to deal with or take their frustrations out on each other or on me.

    I dealt with this with a great deal of compassion for a number of years. But then I reached a point where I was feeling burned out and unappreciated by the organisation, the career progression opportunities that appeared to be on the table disappeared when I went on maternity leave… That was the point when I felt my attitude towards the service users privately shifting towards something more negative. Because it felt like I was continually dealing with the same types of issues with little hope of it leading to anything different.

    I have since left that role and am doing something that is a better use of my skills (still in non profit but less frontline and with more progression opportunities) and it has done wonders for my mental wellbeing.

  11. Anthony-mouse*

    I didn’t think there were that many differences between the UK and the US but reading the Covid nanny update has me a bit confused. There’s seriously waves of Covid sweeping offices on a weekly basis? I work in a school, go to university in person and am part of a fairly large team sports club in the UK and I don’t know anyone who has caught covid in the last 2 months. So that’s probably like 500 kids and maybe 200 adults between the university and sports that I regularly interact with

    1. LJ*

      Did those people catch it previously? Many people I know dodged it for 2 years and caught it recently amid increased travel and activities. I don’t know about waves on a weekly basis, but those with school aged kids especially also have to contend with flu and RSV, so it’s not totally surprising if the kids and parents are in some cycle of flu-like illness on the regular these days unfortunately.

    2. Antilles*

      OP is very much an outlier here.
      The vast majority of the US population isn’t even testing for Covid on any regular basis. If you go to a hospital/doctor, they’ll obviously test you just as they do for influenza, strep, etc. If you’re at home and have obvious symptoms, you might possibly do an at-home test. But if you have very minor symptoms (e.g., just a headache or nausea), you probably don’t even know you have/had Covid; you just have a couple Tylenol and shrug it off as a cold.
      So here in the US, I can say that I’m don’t know anyone who’s caught Covid recently either – but it’s entirely possible that some people (maybe even me!) have had Covid without knowing it.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Yeah, I think it’s settled itself into our roster of ‘seasonal nasties’ and is highly unlikely to go away anytime soon. Fingers crossed that RSV gets smacked a lot harder since that seems to be quite a bit nastier if not quite as fast to spread.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Can’t speak for the US but I’m in Ireland and about a month or six weeks ago, there was another…I wouldn’t say wave, but I knew maybe 6 or 7 people who had it in the space of about two weeks. Suddenly, it was again, “x is off work with covid, y’s spouse has covid.” And a couple of people I worked with started questioning if they should maybe go back to masking. It seems to have blown over a bit, but I think it’s sort of coming in waves. A week or two before that, I would have said that I hadn’t heard of anybody having it in the previous month or so. So I think it’s just a matter of cases increasing and decreasing in different places at different times.

    4. sundae fun day*

      Nah, I live in the US and I don’t know anyone who has caught Covid. Now, someone I know probably has had Covid, but most people don’t even test anymore unless their symptoms are worse than typical cold symptoms.

      It’s also the end of the year, when a lot of people (like myself) don’t have sick days left, so it’s like, hmm, I feel like I have a cold…. Do I take a Covid test and lose a week’s pay if it’s positive? Or do I assume I have a cold and go to work?

    5. Rainy*

      It’s going around in my area–we’ve had people in my office off with Covid at the rate of 1-2 every week or so for a couple of months. My supervisor is out with Covid right now. It’s their second or third infection since July.

      Our NICU/PICUs in my state have no beds due to infants and children with flu, Covid, or RSV–the “tripledemic” has hit us hard.

      Every time I consider stopping masking in public, it starts ripping through my work and community again.

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