the CEO makes us rank our personal lives at team meetings

A reader writes:

The CEO of the company I work for likes to be very involved in everyone’s lives and has stated that by being vulnerable and open about what’s going on outside of work, we will perform better on the job.

At company meetings, she makes the whole team rank both our work and personal lives on a scale of 1 to 10 and writes the numbers on a board for everyone to see. It’s supposed to be optional to explain your ratings, but if you don’t or say you don’t want to talk about it, she will ask you questions until you do.

She has made coworkers explain the deaths of friends, anxieties about pet injuries and growing old, and fears about their pregnancies among other things.

No one else seems bothered by this and I’m starting to wonder … is this emotional manipulation or am I being too sensitive?

P.S. She asked a pregnant coworker who was close to her due date if she was dilated and my jaw dropped. No one else batted an eye. That’s incredibly inappropriate … right?

You are not being too sensitive. This is grossly inappropriate and overstepping, and I’m skeptical that no one else is bothered by it. There’s probably some kind of Emperor’s New Clothes thing going on, where no one wants to be the first person to call it out.

How you rank your personal life, and why, is none of your CEO’s business. And “it’s supposed to be optional to explain your ratings, but if you say you don’t want to talk about it, she will ask you questions until you do” is just disgusting — she has people clearly telling her that they don’t want to discuss something personal and she pushes until people feel obligated to discuss the deaths of loved ones and their fears about their pregnancies?! She asked someone if she was dilated?!

None of this is normal, and none of it is okay. People are there to do the job they were hired for, not to undergo some kind of forced emotional audit.

I’m guessing that your CEO read somewhere that it’s good for employees to “bring their whole selves” to work and/or that employers need to recognize that what’s going on in people’s personal lives will affect how they show up at work … but what she’s doing is a wild misunderstanding of what actions should follow from that.

The idea that people should be able to bring their whole selves to work means that employers should make it safe for people to do so if they choose — not that they should require it. (But frankly, we really don’t want everyone bringing their whole self to work; we don’t want the racist or the sexist or the jerk bring that to work. We want that to stay fully out of work, actually.) And recognizing that people’s personal lives will impact them at work means that employers should do things like offer schedule flexibility and time off when it’s needed, understand when someone isn’t 100% on their game, and generally support what people report they need because they are humans, not work robots. It doesn’t mean that employers should demand employees’ personal lives be detailed on a whiteboard at a team meeting.

Good lord.

You didn’t ask for advice, just a reality check, but if you’re stuck in this situation, I’d strongly recommend just always ranking your personal life as 10 and saying “everything’s great!” She’s not entitled to more.

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{ 443 comments… read them below }

  1. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I so want people in these situations to say things like, most of my personal life is great but I’m so stressed by having to share it with coworkers. Or something like that. Make the activity the big problem in your life. And have a study or two to back you up that you can mention.

    Ugh, I am an extrovert and I hate this! I’m so sorry OP

    1. ferrina*

      “I’m a 2 today, because the anxiety of being asked personal questions at this meeting is completely eclipsing any joy from the rest of my life.”

        1. PieRate Jenny*

          Well, it IS Pi Day, after all! And you can always say that you’re rating today a 3.14159.

          And I feel like having some pie, too – it beats cheap-ass rolls any day!

        2. Lady_Lessa*

          What about the imaginary numbers. Like the square root of -1?

          Besides, I like pie (pi)

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            That made me laugh. Wish there was a like button, though. You would get a lot of likes. Usually math makes my head hurt.

    2. Darsynia*

      I pushed back on something like this once! It was one of those ‘everyone share something before we get to the real meat of the meeting’ sorts of things, but we only ever spent 15 minutes on the ‘meat’ because the group leader had no capability to limit sharing. They let me skip multiple times until finally they pushed back and I said that I am most interested in the skills portion of the meeting, and find it distressing that we miss so much of it.

      The leader took this as a personal affront, in retrospect. She said ‘Sounds to me like you should shut up so we could get to the skills portion faster, then?’

      This was an enrichment thing that I was required to attend for college ‘skills building’ and let me tell you I walked out SO FAST. They ended up closing up that entire side branch of the group within a month of my pushing to be allowed to quit without penalty. Heads rolled. I only wish such satisfaction on the others dealing with this, but I suspect the dynamic in a workplace is much different.

      The reason I bring it up is that it’s quite possible that the CEO recognizes that it’s not going their way/this dynamic is being resisted. Is there a way to find out if someone pushed back before and it went so poorly that everyone ‘knows better’ now? That might be useful context to figuring out how to handle this in a way that doesn’t spend too much work capital.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        That’s a great observation. Sometimes making the right noises is the path of least resistance. Participants can protect themselves by creating a script (as varied or as repetitive as they prefer) so they don’t have to engage with the content.

      2. jane's nemesis*

        holy cow, that is BANANAS that she said that to you! I’m so glad you walked out.

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        She said ‘Sounds to me like you should shut up so we could get to the skills portion faster, then?’‘
        My first thought was, “did OP say yep?”
        I bow to you.

        1. Darsynia*

          So, what I said at the time, and I was really proud of it (though yep would have been GREAT) was, ‘Just so we’re clear, did you just tell me to shut up?’

          She said ‘Yes I did.’

          I said ‘I thought so.’ And packed up my things and left.

          I got to the car and proceeded to be an entire MESS for about ten minutes but I left with my dignity. That lady sure did hate her job, but I hope like hell she hated being unemployed more. Still mad about it and it was 14 years ago.

            1. Darsynia*

              Thank you! I don’t want to spam the thread by thanking everyone but genuinely: thank you all so much. It was a really rough time in my life and in a stupid and awesome way, having the poise to say that felt like I’d learned almost as much as if I’d stuck around for those stupid life skills we were meant to be learning anyway!

      4. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

        “The leader took this as a personal affront, in retrospect. She said ‘Sounds to me like you should shut up so we could get to the skills portion faster, then?’”

        “Exactly! Oh I’m so glad you agree.”

      5. MassMatt*

        “Is there a way to find out if someone pushed back before and it went so poorly that everyone ‘knows better’ now?”

        This is good advice. A former employer had meetings in which the staff was encouraged to suggest changes to improve the business. Those that actually suggested anything (no matter how useful, or well-meaning) were subjected to extremely hostile interrogation.

        It was irritating having to sit and listen to the manager fish for comments and mock us for being silent (“It sounds like crickets in here!”) but after seeing suggestions met with abuse it was better than the alternative.

        In the LW’s case the other employees may have all drunk the kool aid but it may well be that they’re just going along with it because it’s easier than the alternative.

        If faced with a manager like this I’d be tempted to just make up stuff for imaginary drama. Maybe just read a soap opera synopsis for material.

        1. On Fire*

          I’d make it my personal challenge to rip off novels/soaps/movies increasingly blatantly, just to see if anyone would recognize it or call me out on it. Like, start with something believable and within a few weeks be brazenly quoting lines from LOTR or something.

          1. 2 Cents*

            “There’s this piece of jewelry that’s been passed down through my family, and now’s the time to return it, but it’s a pain to get to the place of its origin. It’s in the mountains, and the only access is a long path.”

          2. zuzu*

            I actually did that with an English comp instructor in college who wanted us to journal “just for practice writing, and then gave me an F on my journal when I wrote about what was actually happening in my life/dorm and tried to psychoanalyze me (we had a mad pooper on campus. They’d pooped in the laundry room in my dorm. It kind of affected me). I wrote about it a grand total of three (3) times, once when it first happened (and not so much about the poop itself, but about the suspicion falling on a guy in the dorm), a brief mention when it got cleaned up, and a half a sentence when the poopers got caught.

            For this, I got an F and was told I had a fixation with poop.

            I realized she was just like my English teacher from 7th grade, who didn’t want good writing, she wanted happy writing and writing that was finished and she could check off. So, I mentally checked out and just gave her song lyrics from then on out, three times a week, until the end of the semester.

            I got an A for the rest of my journal entries and praise for my poetry. It was right back to 7th grade, when my hated English teacher entered a poem I had deliberately written to be the stupidest thing I could into a contest for the town’s founding day celebration without my knowledge, and it won. And I had to read it in public and see it published in the paper under my name.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              A Tree Grows in Brooklyn had a part about the main character writing pieces for English class that were about feasts and luxury and getting A’s and praise every time. The one time she submitted a piece that reflected her food-insecure household, she got an F.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  I do too! And she had the insight to realize that all the stories about luxury really WERE about her food insecurity and poverty, just shown in a different form. Which was pretty cool for a 13-year-old.

          3. ProducerNYC*

            Like one of the Office episodes where Michael is forcing them to disclose trauma, so they all start using movie plots. Kevin blows it when he tries to use the Weekend at Bernie’s and Michael immediately spots it. Still makes me snicker! (It’s funny when it’s not actually happening at an actual JOB! So sorry, OP)

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Oh, I would start reeling off a Dark Shadows plot! See if they start going wait, a werewolf?

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I had a low-key version of this at my last job where it seemed like some consultant probably told TPTB before I started working there that it’s a good icebreaker at our Monday morning mtgs to ask everyone to say something about what they did that weekend. It had the effect of making me worry all weekend about what I was going to say, or for every little thing I did I would think, “This will make a good thing to tell at MMM!” and thus (again, very low-key) ruined my weekend since I was always thinking about work. I never fought back against it, since it was such a low-key thing and I didn’t feel like spending the capita on it, but OP you would be my HERO if you did what Chilipepper is suggesting you do.

      Or you could grey-rock, as Alison suggests. And when asked to share more details, just say, “Don’t want to talk about it” ad nauseum until either your boss loses her mind or moves on and stops bothering you at all because you are such a grey rock.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Eh, we recap our weekends every Monday, but you can say whatever you like. “I did nothing but hang out with my dogs and sleep” definitely is said at times.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Oh, for sure. No one cared what you said and you could definitely say “Had an uneventful weekend, thanks for asking.” I have no idea how my coworkers felt about it, it just caused me, specifically, low-key anxiety all weekend no matter what I was doing because I’m a performer so I wanted to make sure whatever I said was genius. :-) It was more of a me-problem, and honestly I really liked hearing what everyone else had been up to.

          1. Gail Davidson Durst*

            I write my Monday meeting “fun weekend share” on Friday afternoon when I’m doing my work shutdown ritual. :D

        2. Llama Identity Thief*

          We do the same thing, but it’s not usually in any order, and people can full scale opt out of sharing if they choose to do so.

          I can be an aggressively open book, so I’m usually the first person sharing, even if the update is “I cleaned a ton,” but a fair number of my coworkers are glad they can skip.

        3. I have RBF*

          Q: What did you do this weekend?

          A: I slept a total of 25 hours over two days! It’s my personal best!

          A: I read three books from my reading stack! Woohoo!

          A: I did seven loads of laundry because my cat puked all over on my bed and clean laundry basket! This was a record!

          Exited recounting of mundanities would be hilarious, IMO.

        4. Audrey Puffins*

          I go the theatre a lot, to the point that it is really just a standard weekend activity and I cannot be bothered having small talk conversations with people who consider it a special treat, so my standard response to “what did you do at the weekend?” is something like “oh, the usual; a lot of sitting round, watched some stuff, saw some friends”. 100% true, but setting the conversation at the level I’m willing to meet on a Monday morning!

      2. Lizard on a Chair*

        We do this at my (small) company, but it’s fine to say “I had a low-key weekend” or “I went grocery shopping” and leave it at that. No one pushes for details and we go around the group quickly, then move on.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        “Laundry. For an exciting break, I went to the drugstore.”

        I mean, I get why they think it’s a nice, neutral topic, but let’s face it, most weekends are boring.

      4. Chirpy*

        I mostly just let my manager think I spent my weekend “just relaxing, didn’t do much” because he’s a massive sports bro and is just going to be confused by my extreme geekery. Details get rationed to break up the monotony.

    4. OP*

      I am an extreme introvert so this whole situation is literally torture. I wish I could opt out but I’m afraid it would jeopardize my job!

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Take up some kind of hobby and just talk about that? I get a fair bit of mileage out of sewing projects.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Something technical would be good. Now that I know how to spin, I can talk about whorls and yards/pound of fibre and other technical details until people’s eyes glaze over. It’s a wonderful way to get people to quit talking to you…. (unless they share the same passion, but at least then you’re talking about something you enjoy).

          1. 1LFTW*

            Or just exploit the most technical aspect of something you already do: “I bought a new colored pencil. It’s ‘carmine’, because the ‘crimson’ I already had wasn’t cutting it. What’s the difference between ‘crimson’ and ‘carmine’, you ask? Well…”

      2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        Perhaps in a non-stressful moment you could come up with some innocuous and non-threatening (and maybe even mildly humorous) responses to have in your back pocket, so you’re not feeling on the spot. You would be entitled to feel satisfaction for having sidestepped the clutches this horribly invasive person.

        1. Sara without an H*

          This. OP (and like you, I’m an introvert), you’ll experience much less stress if you don’t try to respond to this whole silly interrogation on the spot. Take some time and come up with a small portfolio of stuff you can “share” without compromising yourself. Pets (pets are always a hit), innocuous hobbies, non-controversial books or television shows, that sort of thing. If you prep in advance, you’ll remove a lot of the pressure on yourself.

          My last employer went through a “sharing” stage, though it wasn’t nearly this invasive. I found it much less obnoxious after I learned to “pack a lunch” before the meeting started.

        2. snow Day*

          Yeah — like scrunch up your face, put your elbow on the table and your chin in your hand…. “Let’s seeee…. I did laundry! I washed my hair!! I walked the dog: she had the cutest new doggie coat in red plaid! Want to see a picture?? Talked to my parents on the phone for 30 minutes and to my sister for 20 minutes. My sister is starting to garden with above ground planting and it is soooooo interesting!! Did you know that the ratio of green to brown in compost is different with raised beds? Fascinating!
          Dazzle them with boring minutiae and you should be off the hook for a really long time!!

      3. zuzu*


        I’m very serious. They have no right to know what you’re doing in your off time, so you might as well lie.

        You can choose to be the most interesting person in the world, you can rip off the plots or characters of your favorite books, movies, TV shows, songs, what have you, or you can be aggressively boring.

        Another option is to just be that leeeeetle bit weird that makes the CEO sorry she asked. Like, your hobby is taxidermy or creating dioramas from insects you’ve pinned. You’re running out of ideas for your dioramas, and it’s stressing you out. Maybe she has some ideas?

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Be like the Uriah’s Heap* proprietress on Wednesday and taxidermy road kills into elaborate displays!

          *Best name for a store EVER

        2. ursula*

          Strongly agree with lying. I have 3 all-purpose “how was your weekend” responses I choose between when I don’t know someone well enough to get into it:
          “Low-key, how about you?” (for when I had a fine weekend but dont want to chat about it)
          “Mostly errands. You?” (for any situation where I don’t really feel rested)
          “Just took care of some family stuff. And you?” (to me, this is strong code for ‘private, further questions not welcome, also if I seem tired or stressed you know why’)

        3. metadata minion*

          I’m not saying people shouldn’t do this if they want — it sounds hilarious and fun for many people — but for someone who’s already anxious about this weird share-your-life segment, having to keep track of random stories and lies is not necessarily any less stressful.

      4. coffee*

        I’m quite extroverted and being interrogated by my boss so she could rank my life & dig up all the bad things in it sounds like hell. Like I don’t think many people would enjoy this!

      5. Teapot Wrangler*

        It does sound pretty hellish. I think I would gradually work myself up from current to 9/10. Depending on their personality either 10 – Everything is awesome! or 9- everything is awesome but I guess there’s always room for some improvement! Should shut them up. Good luck!!!

      6. Jaid*

        I play Stardew Valley and this weekend loaded a ton of mods to it to look pretty and stuff and it crashed. I’m willing to talk about making a farm game include hot springs and Victorian furniture until the cows come home.

    5. Zircon*

      I was once on a training course and the trainers asked each participant to say “where did you come from and how did you get here”. Everyone else gave long winded stories introducing themselves and their terrible past – which was clearly what was wanted. I answered “I’m from [city] and came here by car”. I wasn’t popular for the rest of the two days of training, but it did mean everyone after me was a lot more succinct.

      1. Tierrainney*

        I love it. Reminds me of the joke where the small child asks their parent, where did I come from. the parent gives them the whole birds and bees message, before asking why they wanted to know. “well Joey says he came from Philadelphia, so I wanted to know where I came from”

    6. Inkognyto*

      Rank yourself a 15.

      When CEO says it only goes to 10. You say that 10 is for normal people and your life is AMAZING, and doesn’t abid by other people scale.

      I’m mostly joking but I’ve seen some success when people asking you to rank things nothing to do with work is to show how silly it a ranking system is by questioning if it’s the proper scale to use and basically making a discussion itself. But that de-railment only works if others hop onboard and pop in and just ‘take over’ the meeting, which can be fun if it works.

      I once had to track everything I did once for an audit of ‘time’ it was a company that was hired in.
      I was an IT Security Admin for a Hospital system. I did like 100 tickets a day or more on various access onboarding/offboarding etc.

      I’d take copy of my daily tickets during the last 1 hr. (it dropped to like 75% or so of my total), then just write times in that totaled 6-7 hrs for all of my daily work. If there was research or a long project I’d put that in but that was an outlier.

      The last entry was “Time tracking all of my daily tickets 1-2 hrs).
      I did track them the first few days and writing down how long each was did take 1 hr of my day to track it. But later, nope, I just estimated and used that hour to decompress.

      No one ever complained. I realized later 1 was doing like 2x the work of a co-worker as he rarely did more than 30 so I didn’t really feel that bad. The 2 others were easily 1.5 more than him.

      They did fire a lot of middle mgmt later that year that turns out didn’t do a whole helva lot.

    7. Marlon Oil*

      We had to do this recently, I said privately afterwards to the senor manager responsible that it made me feel this way. I’m in the UK where this sort of thing is blurring the boundaries of legality re. creating an environment that forces people with disabilities (like me) to feel they have to disclose them. I looked up the law and sent it on to the manager, and she was grateful and said the activity wouldn’t be repeated. It’s unpleasant to have to do but it can be done!

  2. soontoberetired*

    how does someone become a CEO and be so clueless? or is there a book out there that suggests things like this?

    I shouldn’t be surprised thought – the past couple of years I’ve had to tell some management types to back off about some personal stuff, and they were both new management people. I did so on my own behalf and on behalf of a friend who was out for a family emergency. His immediate boss knew, but the project bosses didn’t and they were asking too many questions. I politely reminded them it was an excused open ended leave and that’s all they needed to know. They were pushy about it to the point I almost had to get the manager involved.

    1. Roland*

      They start their own company. OP has regular meetings that both a) have the CEO in the room and b) are small enough to go around the room doing anything, sounds like a small company.

    2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      CEOs do NOT automatically have good “people skills”, boundaries or even, alas, common sense! They may have gotten to their position by having very different skill sets and their deficits may have been overlooked because of what else they bring to the company. And once ensconced in that corner office, they have free rein (and “reign”!) to do whatever they please because everyone else is (A) their subordinate and (B) afraid of antagonizing them and losing their own jobs.

      Regular readers of AAM won’t be surprised by this outrageous boundary-stomping on the part of this totally clueless CEO – we’ve all read too many letters just like this one!

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        The Info reverse Michael Scott. Great at peopleing; crap at businessing.

        But now I’m wondering, how was OP’s CEO running a business well while wasting all this time?

      2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        Such a CEO may be very, very good at whatever got them into this position in the first place. Soon they begin to think that they are very, very good at everything, and then there’s no talking to them (Elon, I’m thinking of you).

        1. Kevin Sours*

          In too many situations “whatever got them into this position in the first place” was “relentless self promotion”.

    3. 1-800-BrownCow*

      An acquaintance of mine is involved in MLM and she calls herself a “CEO”. You aren’t required to meet certain requirements or have a certain education to use that title. This CEO likely did not work her way up through the ranks of a multibillion dollar Fortune 500 company. She could run a small, local company started by her dad, with 20 employees, and be the CEO. Or maybe she is CEO of a large company and got there with other skills, just not people skills.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Pretty sure my ex-boss whose “company” was 3 underpaid people on short-term contracts, one close friend and an expensive lawyer still calls himself a CEO ten years later. This despite the fact that everyone except the lawyer left within 6 months.

        Based on the rage-quit rant, I’m pretty sure that friendship never recovered, either.

      2. Isabel Archer*

        A CEO is the Chief Executive Officer….of a registered corporation. All corporations are required, by law, to have one employee designated as an officer. If there’s really only one employee (no CFO or COO, etc.) then sure, she can be the CEO — again, provided there’s an actual registered business entity which has filed Articles of Incorporation with the state.
        My point is: No corporation? No CEO. So if your friend’s MLM isn’t one, calling herself CEO is as absurd as calling herself Queen. Or Sheriff.

    4. Qwerty*

      “is there a book out there that suggests things like this?”

      Kinda? I’ve been in management trainings that ordered us to have our entire team rank how they felt every day and then call people out *in front of the entire team* if there are multiple bad days and what the cause is.

      Recommendation on business stuff seems to follow this pattern:
      1. Take an aspect of a successful team/business
      2. Wildly extrapolate and potential flip the cause/effect
      3. Force people to follow unnatural practices in pursuit of the goal from step 2

      When you are part of a good, supportive team, you probably feel comfortable telling your boss about personal stuff that would affect your work, both good and bad. Leadership Thought Leaders (TM) flip this to say that employee must be vulnerable and talk about their personal lives in order to be productive

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        This is right. Also, I think another vector of infection is that certain techniques or processes are proposed to solve a specific problem, to be implemented once with a group of specific individuals experiencing a particular challenge of some kind. But then the technique gets overgeneralized and overzealous managers think: Gee, everyone should do this every week!

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Great analysis.

        Also, it’s hard to make a lot of money by preaching common sense. People are much more excited to spend money for “this one weird trick that always makes your company succeed” than to actually buckle down and do the work of managing effectively.

      3. Lizzo*

        Excellent point. The head of our organization does have a personal check-in built in as part of (bi-)weekly private check-ins with her direct reports, and that’s structured as good things, bad things, and overall rank how you’re feeling 1-10. But she is an excellent leader and manager, and has proven time and time again through her actions that she cares about us as humans (e.g. moving the entire organization to remote work, and also adopting a four day work week), so while nobody is forced to participate, they do feel encouraged to be honest about any challenges they may be having, knowing they’ll receive the support they need.

      4. SarahKay*

        When you are part of a good, supportive team, you probably feel comfortable telling your boss about personal stuff that would affect your work, both good and bad.

        This! I trust my manager; I’ve consistently seen him do the right thing by and for his team, so I share information about my personal life with him.
        If I had OP’s CEO as my manager then every day would be an 8 – good but not amazing, and nothing bad going on, and then as grey-rock as I could possibly be for any follow-up.

    5. OP*

      She made the company herself, otherwise there’s no way she’d be in a position to force people’s hands like this!

    6. fgcommenter*

      or is there a book out there that suggests things like this?

      “How to acquire information on people that you can use to manipulate them.”

      “I know your son has been sick for a long time; despite your attempts to talk around the issue, it’s been clear from the pieces of information you relinquish. It would be a real shame if your pushes for raises or better working conditions caused you to lose this job and put his health at risk.”

  3. learnedthehardway*

    Jaw. Drop.

    Of course, you could have some fun with this…..I think the way to get rid of this is for someone to rate their personal life a ZERO, regale everyone with (horrible, made up) details, and make the CEO so darn uncomfortable that they decide the whole thing is NOT A GOOD IDEA.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      That is a good direction! I’d be having many many problems with my vagina. So many vagina problems, in my vagina. Lots of vagina doctors and vagina medications with vagina applicators.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        The CEO already asked if someone was dilated. They’re happily up in all that business.

        1. MurpMaureep*

          I was just about to say that – sadly, this CEO might very well perk up and strike an “OH DO TELL!?!?!?!” stance and the mention of “vagina problems”.

      2. EngineerResearcher*

        I don’t know, if she’s comfortable asking pregnant coworkers about dilation, she might just keep asking for info on this too!

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Put out containers of pepto and immodium, rate your day as a 3 and then just gesture.

      3. Bluebird*

        Yeah I’d start going into great detail about the color and consistency of your vaginal discharge.

      4. LifeBeforeCorona*

        You can always begin with “this morning my anal fissures were acting up and I prepared a slide presentation on effective treatments.”

    2. EPLawyer*

      My personal life is a zero because I know I will have to rank it and explain it.

      Or you know, recount something horrible and if you have the ability to do so – burst into tears and run out of the room. Maybe everyone will get so uncomfortable the CEO will get a clue by four.

      Or you know, just state it out — I’m sorry, but if this is optional, I am opting out. I prefer to keep my work life and personal life separate. Just repeat as the CEO questions you until she gets bored.

      Or polish up the resume and get out of this bananapants place.

    3. Sedna*

      I am having an ongoing battle with digestive health issues. I don’t think I could resist the urge to explain my experiences with poop in full detail to this CEO.

      1. Rainy*

        Mr Rainy and I both have had a lifetime of digestive issues of varying severity but regular (ha ha) type, and we are on the opposite end of the digestive issue spectrum from one another, so between us, our dog, and our two cats (one of whom also has digestive issues), we talk *a lot* about poop at home, and if I were LW’s coworker I would happily weaponize this to make everyone super uncomfortable. :D

        1. Sedna*

          Right? I can absolutely maintain eye contact while going in hard on colitis and C. diff treatment. I would prefer not to, but I will.

          1. Rainy*

            I grew up on a farm and worked with pets professionally for some years in my 20s. I have zero delicacy left.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I’m on year three of trying to get my digestive issues under control. Yesterday, a dietitian I’ve just started working with mentioned with great delicacy that she knew this was awkward to talk about, but she needs to ask me about my toilet habits.

          That’s when I pulled out my poop journal and offered to read it to her.

          1. I have RBF*

            I have an application on my phone that I try to use whenever I poop, just to track whether it’s getting worse or better. (PoopLog, Android only.) Lots of data over the last five years, although my current phone only has a year and a half.

        3. Kacihall*

          my first grader has been dealing with gastro issues since he was two (in retrospect, though all the primary Dr and nurses I asked said he was just nervous about the potty and ignored it for 3 years til I basically demanded a referral to a gastroenterologist.) while it is MOSTLY under control, there’s still a few incidents a month so I have PLENTY of poop stories that I’m very used to sharing.

      2. Sara without an H*

        Ooh, yes, and make them full of vivid detail. Please include a full description of color nd consistency.

      3. Sales Geek*

        How about a “show and tell” with the pictures and video from my latest colonoscopy. And yes, my gastroenterologist does provide both to patients.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          Ooh! Have a colonoscopy photo leader board. 5 points if you don’t have to go back and take Mag Cit an hour before they scope you, ten points if the “little” camera-capsule you swallow is found by the scope because it got slowed down on a switchback turn! Extra points if you have a Dr. who still uses those gallon jugs and flavoring packets.

          Fifty points if you brought a recorder to catch medical personnel making horrible comments while you were unconscious.

    4. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

      I can guarantee I’d be work friends with everyone in this string of comments.

        1. Hi, I'm Troy McClure*

          If this site had upvotes, I’d give you one for the Being There reference. Too many people haven’t heard of that movie, and it’s so good!

    5. Antilles*

      The alternate strategy I would find fun is to put up a number, then when she asks, demur and say “well, that’s a bit of a story”. Then when asked again, proceed to go into excruciating detail about all sorts of aspects of what I did last week, wasting 30+ minutes of CEO’s life until they cut me off and decide that you know I don’t really want to know about Ant’s week long rating.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is where my having geeky hobby interests pays off. My personal life is a perfect 10! because I just had this insight about the relationship between the National League and the American Association in the 1880s, which I will now go on about at very extremely excruciatingly long length without taking a breath…

        Yes, I really could do that. Sadly, I have enough self-awareness not to. My annual 19th century baseball nerd conference is coming up next month. It gives me three days to get it out of my system for the year.

        1. Nea*

          I was late to work today because I was explaining why someone was wrong about one of Jane Austen’s lesser known books with direct quotes. I was explaining it on Tumblr, but if someone got up in my grill I have just a wealth of information about Northanger Abbey I’m happy to share. With footnotes.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Fun fact: Catherine Morland’s fondness for baseball is important in very early baseball history.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            Let’s discuss Mansfield Park next! I have an exhaustive diatribe about how perfectly she uses the “shy” personality of Fanny Price all ready to go!

        2. Petty Betty*

          I’d consider doing something similar. I have ADHD and have some long-time hobbies. I could easily hold somebody hostage with my verbal diarrhea about ren fair, period appropriate costuming, cosplay, LARPing, cosplaying, costuming, prop-making, yarn, crocheting, my pets, sci-fi/fantasy, certain fandom(s) lore, pirates and history AND what I might like to eat this week…

        3. Irish Teacher*

          *laughs* I could do that with de Valera and Irish politics. “Well, I’m a ten because I just found out that when de Valera was in prison, he was doing algebra and the authorities thought he was writing something in code and that’s hilarious because…”

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And heck, you could just steal the plots of books you’ve read, TV shows or movies you’ve watched, songs you like… I went to a resort and my daughter and her friend were fighting and my son was being weird after he broke his phone. I got mugged in our hotel room…

        Honestly, I’d probably just go on about my cats.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          True story, I once heard some of my twelve-year-olds talking about what sounded like a very toxic relationship with someone who was making a lot of poor choices. I was just walking over to give my young-teen-pep-talk-on-healthy-relationships (and why you don’t need a partner at age 12, especially if the person in question is not in a good place)…when I realized they were summarizing the plot of season 2 Grey’s Anatomy.

      3. Hi, I'm Troy McClure*

        Burst into tears and have to be escorted out of the meeting. Include veiled references to some non-specific tragedy. Get a colleague friend in on it to back up your story.

        And they say you’ll never use your drama degree.

    6. Sociology Rocks*

      Reading through the thread the other idea I have is do the exact opposite, rank it a 10 and go into extensive explicit detail about made up NSFW activities with one’s partner(s). Given how oblivious this CEO seems few kinds of inappropriate might actually register, but it at least get everyone else in the room uncomfortable enough to object to further discussion.

    7. Miette*

      Yes, I would be so tempted to just offer vague details about fictional people, and just keep going with it…

      “Right now, everything’s at, like, a 4? Turns out my son’s still super bummed about his dad dying last year? So now he keeps seeing his ghost? On our roof? It’s pretty worrying. Anyhoo, I do look forward to that traveling theater troupe coming through my town in a couple weeks…”

      1. S*

        “…and his ex-girlfriend is having a hard time handling their breakup. Her dad is a family friend, so he’s in and out of the house a lot, and of course he has opinions. It’s gotten really awkward and it’s making my son a little paranoid.”

        1. Gracely*

          “…once, he found her dad hiding behind the curtains, so it’s not like the paranoia isn’t justified.”

          1. I remain. . . Anatole*

            “And now there is this visiting thespian group that wants to crash at the house. . .”

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        ” I mean, I get marrying his uncle is kind of seen as a trashy move but believe me, it makes sense! It does! I think his crazy girlfriend’s putting all this in his head, honestly.”

      1. hodie-hi*

        YES! Bring it to the meetings, use a pointer, and be very descriptive about the color and smell, and how long it took to… errr… produce each bowel movement.

    8. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      There’s always the shaggy dog story option. Endless inane details, on and on and on, and soon enough the CEO will be relieved in those meetings where you share only breifly.

    9. Sleeve McQueen*

      “I scaled the wall of the perimeter under cover of darkness and then I…oh I’ve already said too much”

    1. kristinyc*

      I was going to say! Go the Jim route and just start describing a movie plot as if it was your own life.

      1. She of Many Hats*

        Especially if it’s a really well-known, obvious movie like Star Wars, Titanic, Avatar, or the Wizard of Oz.

        1. Chirpy*

          “So, I was going to go to the store to hang out with my friends, but then my uncle bought some used Droids from some traveling salespeople and he needed them refurbished right away. Well, when I got started, I found a message from this woman who was looking for a guy with the same last name as my crazy neighbor, so I went over to his house to ask, and turns out “Ben” is just a nickname, and he’s the one she was looking for. Unfortunately, my aunt and uncle’s house burned down while I was at Ben’s, so since I didn’t have anything better to do, we went to a dive bar and found this drug smuggler and his friend that could get us to where the woman lives fast, whichwas good because Ben really wanted to avoid cops….”

  4. zolk*

    I know you can’t, but it would be very funny (if you didn’t need a reference // were about to leave for a new role) to just start ranking work as a 1 and specifically call out this activity as the main factor. Or if you got a group to all rate work as a 1 until the behaviour stopped.

    1. zolk*

      “Oh my personal life? A 10! No one ever asks me to rank stuff in my personal life and that really gives it a boost.”

    2. OP*

      When I can leave this weird environment, I may just print these comments out and leave them in the break room.

  5. ferrina*

    It’s kind of funny (insofar as this madness can be funny) that this is being posted on Pi day.

    Today I’m a 3.1415

    1. Polar Vortex*

      Is it weird I hope the LW has a meeting today and is able to use this comment and rating? Because I’d 100% do that if I had to do these sorts of things.

      1. Manders*

        I think technically anything you write for pi is truncated, because it is an indefinite number.

    1. irene adler*

      Please -yes!

      What is it about people who have this need to delve into the personal lives of others?

    2. FD*

      I honestly think that the real answer is that most CEOs understand normal employees in the same way that 1950s sitcoms understood women. They are strange and foreign creatures and require guide books to be understood. Most of the guide books available to CEOs are written by extremely highly paid consultants who don’t know their head from their a**.

      This leads to them taking a bunch of management books that use mostly buzz words as the Bible when it comes to increasing employee satisfaction, which they theoretically understand is important, instead of doing what should be the basic common sense thing of managing well, paying well, and providing good benefits.

      It also has the benefit of being much cheaper and easier than doing the simple common sense things. It’s fundamentally the management equivalent of those weight loss diet pills that get hocked on late night television.

  6. Jane Bingley*

    If you have the wiggle room/standing, it can be worth it to simply react in a shocked way when something shocking happens. This often takes practice (many people, especially women, tend not to react outwardly when shocked) but it can go a long way. A sentence like “wow, that seems way too personal” when someone is asked about their cervix, or “I thought sharing was optional?” if someone tries to decline and is pushed to say more. I suspect others aren’t happy about this and will be more likely to speak up/jump in once someone has broken the ice and started pointing out how messed up this is.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I’d just lie. Flat out lie. “10, everything’s great.” “9, didn’t get that last laundry load folded over the weekend. But hey, it’s only towels.” “10, had an excellent burger.” (btw, I did NOT have a burger.)

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        This is what I would do, probably. Or relate everything to a hobby. 10 because I got the front beds mulched, 7 because I have to get rid of a huge patch of creeping charlie.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        “I ate so many damn nachos I’ll be wearing my baggy pants all week. Gonna have more for lunch, honestly. Just conquer that nacho mountain.”

    2. Miss Muffet*

      I’d be super tempted if i was that pregnant person to be like, “just to be clear, you’re asking about my cervix?” Just to hand that awkward right on back

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Problem is that people like this are often so oblivious that they’d respond with, “Yes! How’s it going? I know when I was pregnant… [insert long overly personal story].” Malicious compliance doesn’t really work with these folks because they genuinely want to know about other people’s deeply private business and will just continue to escalate.

        1. This Old House*

          And x1000 when those people are pregnant. I’ve been asked about my cervix at work in each of my pregnancies. (Different jobs, different coworkers, once a coworker I really didn’t even know. I was only pretty sure I knew what her name was!) People just legit think “are you dilated?” is casual small talk appropriate for all circumstances.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      +1 for “I thought sharing was optional” as this seems like a very standard, non rude thing to say. Why code it as numbers if you’re going to longhand it for people anyway?

  7. Free Meerkats*

    “My personal life is a 4 today and I won’t be answering any questions about it.”

    “I said I won’t answer any questions about it.”

    “Again, not answering.”

    “Haven’t I been clear?”



    1. Free Meerkats*

      Also, nobody can make you do anything but die. There are frequently consequences to not doing something, but they can’t *make you*.

      1. Overit*

        Back when I was younger and less of an immovable object, I had a new-to-us boss who insisted on staff sharing personal info/background in staff meetings. Or corner you in your office and block the doorway. Then…she would use that info to manipulate you.
        So if, for example, you said your father was hyper controlling and subsequently gave the boss pushback or feedback that she did noy like, she would shake her head sadly and say, “Now now, Susie, don’t confuse me with your father. There is no need for that kind of teenage rebellion in the workplace. Don’t you agree that we need to keep our personal issues out of work?” Smile smile smile.
        That boss is a major reason why I became an immovable object on personal matters at work.

        1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

          Too bad you couldn’t have replied, “You’re right, I am confusing you with my father, I wonder why…”

      2. Gerry Keay*

        Okay, but like there’s a vast sea of coercion and manipulation in between “forcing” and “not forcing,” and when people’s livelihoods are on the line, those consequences can sometimes look like “not having food/shelter/medical insurance” which can in fact lead to dying. So I get what you’re saying from a philosophical free will standpoint, but it’s not really practical advice when capitalism coerces us into so many behaviors we dislike.

        1. metadata minion*

          Yes, thank you! Sure, no boss can psychically control you to stay in that soul-sucking job, but when your options are “terrible job” or “losing home, food, and medical care”, it’s really not a choice anymore.

    2. ferrina*

      Or take the politician’s approach:
      “Do I have any concerns about my physical health? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Today the roads are riddled with potholes, and what are our infrastructure dollars being used for? That’s a major topic of concern for our community. We need safe roads. I truly feel it’s a priority, and I’m glad that others that feel the same. Thank you for your questions today, we don’t have time for follow-up questions.”

      Or go full Vetinari:
      [Cold stare] “Don’t let me detain you”

        1. Momma Bear*

          Or channel your inner Granny Weatherwax. Because, you know, OP’s office is full of bees anyway…

          1. Good Enough For Government Work*

            I had to break out the Granny Weatherwax Stare a while ago to deal with some transphobic colleagues.

            Someone made a remark about another colleague and I just spun round in my chair and Looked at them. Silence promptly reigned…

          2. MsM*

            “I can’t be having with this” feels like an extremely appropriate sentiment under the circumstances.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’m voting for the politician’s answer. It’s definitely an answer, just not to the question that was originally asked.

    3. Sweetbread*

      I have definitely said, casual and chipper, ‘I’m sorry, I’m unable to discuss that at this time on advice from my lawyer/therapist/doctor’.

      Admittedly that was to a different overly intrusive question regarding childhood being posed by a higher up but still. Bonus points, in my case it’s true. Both my therapist and a lawyer have said that I do not have to discuss that with an employer and my doctor has signed various things for appropriate accommodations.

  8. Ms. Yvonne*

    Can you use the same kind of evaluation scale that Maebe Funke’s math is graded with at Awakenings? Eg. maybe today you’re feeling crocodile? Tomorrow a little bit Elvis?

    1. Roy Donk*

      I misread your last sentence as “a little bit Alexis” which honestly, is how I aspire to feel every day.

  9. Goldenrod*

    Wow, no, no, a million times no. HARD PASS.

    I really like that Alison explained this: “The idea that people should be able to bring their whole selves to work means that employers should make it safe for people to do so if they choose — not that they should require it.”

    This is the first explanation of “bring your whole self to work” that makes sense to me. As a bit of an anger freak, I’ve worked very hard over many years to NOT bring my whole self to work. And, frankly, no one wants that!

    I definitely agree with the suggestion to rate every day a 10. “Everything’s going great!” Nuff said.

    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      This. I’m not bringing my whole self to work. They’ve seen parts of it and those didn’t impress them; they’re not getting the whole thing.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Right? You really want the part of my self that’s watching Rifftrax Dinosaurus for the fifteenth time? Because I can bring that, but I think you’ll regret it.

    2. Lavender*

      There’s also the fact that certain aspects of some people’s “whole selves” can set them up for discrimination if revealed at work. I’m openly queer in my personal life, but I err on the side of not bringing it up at work because you never know who might be homophobic. (I live in a part of the world that used to be very politically conservative, and although that’s largely changed in recent years I still need to be cautious.)

    3. OP*

      That’s exactly the approach I take. Always a middle of the road number, always because it’s “the end of the work week and I’m tired!”

      1. Lavender*

        That’s a good answer! I tend to default to “Oh, I’m good, just a little tired” when I’m asked nosy/personal questions.

      2. Bibliothecarial*

        Ah, I have a colleague who says, “it’s Monday! [tuesday, etc.]” with a rueful grimace every time you ask him how he is.

    4. EmKay*

      I’m queer and neurodivergent. I work very hard to NOT bring my “whole self” to work, and I will continue to do so.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        nod! I’m very weird! even my worksona is a little strange but I try to tone it down because people are just trying to get through the day and don’t need to wonder why I’m spinning around or upside down

    5. I have RBF*

      As a bit of an anger freak, I’ve worked very hard over many years to NOT bring my whole self to work. And, frankly, no one wants that!

      Very much this.

      I have struggled for years to leave my anger, irritation and sharp tongue in my luggage. Plus, I’m a bit odd, and don’t want to fly my freak flag on the job. My work self is a subset of my whole self for a reason, damnit.

  10. Tangential*

    Tangentially related – I stopped using a supposedly light-hearted icebreaker during training, “tell us a secret about yourself”, when one participant revealed something sexual and inappropriate, and a few weeks later a different participant revealed a close family member had been murdered. I was horrified, I can’t imagine trying to pry such things out of people deliberately!

    1. CLC*

      Oh dear. I think people have come up with much better ice breaker techniques in recent years. I was at a training a while back where they asked to go around the room and as quickly as possible everyone name a book, tv show, or podcast they’ve been enjoying. I thought that was great as it came with recommendations!

      1. Tangential*

        This was back in the late 90s when I was a fresh-faced young trainer who had read all the textbooks ^⁠_⁠^

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      See. If I tell you, it’s no longer a secret.
      Thank you for giving that one up.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      If it’s a secret, I’m assuming it’s a SECRET because I DON’T WANT ANYONE TO KNOW!

    4. Era*

      Icebreakers are so tricky! One time someone opened a meeting with “favorite conspiracy theory” and I sat there the entire time going “oooh, that one’s kinda antisemetic. that one’s more generally racist. okay that’s just a murder investigation about a child’s death, not sure that counts”

      Fun in theory. Hard to pull off well.

      1. Llama Identity Thief*

        “Fluoride in the water is a government conspiracy” is a government conspiracy.

    5. Jam on Toast*

      Sometimes the awkward comes even when you’re not trying. Participated in one icebreaker at work once where we were asked a very mundane “tell us what book or movie you’d bring with you if you were on a desert island.” Lots of Outlanders and Jane Austens and Marvel movies and what have you. And then one guy, who was really new to the team, cheerfully announces “Yeah, I don’t read very often. But I use to steal cars when I was a teenager” and then proceeded to tell us how he and a buddy use to hotwire cars every weekend and never got caught. There was just this dead silence as everyone took a double take and went….Whhaaa!? It was in front of his boss and grandboss and everyone. It was so awkward.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        “So… you’re telling us never to get stranded with you on Car Island, then?”

  11. Sabina*

    This is gross but I’m the kind of *ssh*le who would lean into it. “My personal life is a 10 since I’ve been having an affair with a ghost. The astral sex is amazing!”

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        That was my thought as well. Sorry for the tangent, but I’m loving that Gates McFadden has totally been *owning* that episode as of late (on her podcast, for instance).

        1. Awesome Sauce*

          I laughed right out loud when she asked Tawny Newsome what she’d do if she found out her maternal line had a ghost sex candle. Hilarious.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Totally. And when she and Kate Mulgrew discussed it, too. I’m surprised she didn’t bring it up with Jack Quaid, given that his character actually *had a line about it* in Lower Decks, lol.

      2. MsM*

        Heck, just make every response some kind of Star Trek plot. “I’m a 2. Still recovering from the whole ‘rapidly evolving into a space lizard’ thing.”

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Oooh, yes! “Man, meeting Mirror!Spock was a unique experience but I’m sure glad I got Mirror!Me back into the Mirror Universe because she was really scaring the cats.”

            1. Jam on Toast*

              @Awesome Sauce Reconfiguring the deflector dish usually helps stabilize it. If that doesn’t work, try emitting a tachyon pulse.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          ” Those damn kidnapping aliens ruined my whole weekend–had to spend it in the holodeck figuring out the dimensions of the table and listening to whispery soundtracks!”

          *I love Night Terrors*

          1. Deejay*

            Wasn’t Schisms the one with the kidnappy whispery table subspace aliens? And Night Terrors the one where they’re stuck in an energy draining rift and the aliens trying to communicate so they can get out cause problems stopping people dreaming, except Troi who does get the message as a nightmare?

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Yup. Schisms was the one with the table and it was sooooooo boooooooring. Night Terrors was a great episode, IMHO, except the special effects for Troi’s nightmare, which were pretty awful (but probably all they could afford).

  12. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    Today I am a 5 because they’re is nothing particularly good or bad going on, and five feels neutral since it’s in the middle.

    if you can get every single person to say this, it might help.

    1. ShysterB*

      I call this the Miss Rhode Island approach.

      (Marking my calendar now to commemorate April 25th as the perfect date.)

    2. asterisk*

      This was my thought, too. It’s like going “gray rock” when dealing with a narcissist.

  13. CLC*

    I mean it is ridiculously inappropriately that it’s going into details. But I do like the general idea of taking personal life temperature as well as work load temperature. My company uses a temperature scale for workload, but I think most people implicitly include personal pressures in their assessment as well as it’s more about how you are feeling about the workload more than just how many hours you are working or how many items you are responsible for. We don’t typically get into much detail at all though even just purely on work pressure, we discuss the particulars of what we are working on at different times.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Do they actually do anything about the workload or are you all just left on a low boil?

    2. Momma Bear*

      This reminds me of a past life’s standups/scrums. What you were working on, status of that, any blockers? It was helpful to not just the boss but to your coworkers. 15 mins or less for the whole team.

    3. Observer*

      But I do like the general idea of taking personal life temperature as well as work load temperature

      Not in public or called out that explicitly. There have been times in my life where I just did not want to think about my person life while I was in the office because some terrible things were happening. Work was a bit of a refuge. Sure, it was there in the background, and would have played a role in my workload assessment. But at least I didn’t have to look at it in the face, so to speak, during those hours. And there have been times in my life where trying to “rate my life” would have made me dizzy – how do you come up with a score that accounts for Really Good Thing happening at the same time as Really Heartbreaking Thing?

      1. arthur lester*

        This would’ve been me a couple of years ago– “Yeah, the report went really well this week and I got all my mailings done! And I’ve increased efficiency in one of our spreadsheets by almost 80%, so that’s a solid 8/10. Personally? I dissociated in the self-checkout at the grocery store while buying myself an entire cake to eat alone in the house while crying because my mom’s in the hospital again, so uh…whatever that gets ranked.”

        1. arthur lester*

          Don’t get me wrong, I’d love if I could trust anyone I work with with any information about what’s going on in my life and what stressors are afoot but I just… don’t. I don’t need people judging me for being young and single and queer, and I don’t need them judging me for having “weird” hobbies.

    4. Observer*

      But I do like the general idea of taking personal life temperature as well as work load temperature

      No, there is absolutely no good reason to call this out explicitly and in public. There are times where people simply do not want to think about this stuff. Sure, it’s likely to affect how their workday looks and feels, but that can get factored into their work rating. And sometimes people’s personal lives are a complex mix of VERY Bad and Very good, and trying to come up with a number for everyone to judge their “stress level” or “temperature” is the opposite of helpful.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        This. If there’s an issue in your personal life that’s going to affect your work performance, you discuss it with your immediate manager, and you’re allowed to be discrete and circumspect. You may – MAY – share more than that with your immediate coworkers if you’d like.

        “I have a personal issue that may take me away from work for a few hours” can be anything from your toddler is sick, to your spouse is getting tested for a liver transplant, to your neighbor’s tree fell in your front yard and you’ll be out there arguing with him about when he’s going to get it taken care of.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Agree completely! My bosses knew about my mom’s neurodegenerative illness before many of my friends did because I really didn’t want to talk about it at length, but I did want them to know I might be off my game, have unexpected absences etc. Plus it really does depend. If you “took my temperature” the morning after I’ve been supporting my parents, my response would be like a -3. If you asked most of the rest of the time and I’ve been knitting, or at a bonspiel, or even watching tv, I’d be more like an 8.

    5. OP*

      That’s what’s weird about it. In the past, I’ve loved having bosses who cared about how I was doing at home. But they never made me have those conversations in front of coworkers or rank my life.

  14. Brain the Brian*

    I’m imagining a mashup between this CEO and the BioBrother one from awhile back. The poor employee from that letter would doubtless have a very poor “personal life” rating for quite some time!

  15. irene adler*

    I have a few “chatty Cathy’s” here at my work who would REVEL in this exercise- to the exclusion of everyone else.
    They can go on for hours about themselves-with very little prompting. One would probably take up a good portion of meeting time simply deciding what number to rank her personal life. As to why? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother hour right there.

    I say, put these types to work for you.

    1. Lavender*

      Ugh, I used to have a coworker like that. Meetings that could have taken fifteen minutes would end up taking over an hour because she would. not. stop. talking. She was otherwise a very nice person and great at her job, but she was the worst when it came to icebreakers like this (or even just meetings that didn’t have a strict agenda).

    2. Brain the Brian*

      We had one leave a few months ago. I have been orders of magnitude more productive since then.

  16. the cat's ass*

    OMFG, your boss is a complete, awful, tone-deaf goblin. YOU DO NOT ASK ABOUT ANYONE’S CERVIX unless you’re the L&D nurse assisting the owner of the cervix. Yikes on bikes! It would be great if folks could get together and push back real hard on this nutty boundary stomping. I would be amazed if you were the only person creeped out/repelled/offended by this. If by some weird chance you are the only person in your company who has not been turned into a zombie by a giant fungus, the “yeah, everything’s a ten! Unicorns! Rainbows! Vague comments about what you had for breakfast and maybe about your cats” (if you don’t have a pet, maybe make one up, and that’s your go-to) will do it, i hope. Wow, just wow.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      The only time you should hear about the status of someone’s vagina at a staff meeting is if you’re an OB/GYN. Even then, there’d better be a dang good reason for it.

    2. Lirael*

      I mean, even if you’re in labour you aren’t going to be able to answer a question about your cervix ;)

    3. OP*

      I’m glad I was wearing a mask because my jaw LITERALLY DROPPED. I was so shocked! And the coworker she asked just replied, “Not yet!” Like it wasn’t the most intrusive question in the world.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Now I’m wondering if she may have had other boundary-less conversations about the pregnancy at other points, so it wasn’t weird to ask here…? I do know some people who give allllll the details to anyone and everyone.

  17. GreenDoor*

    Had I been asked if I was dilated yet my knee jerk response would be, “Are you seriously asking me to comment on the condition of my vaginal area at a work meeting? Will everyone in this meeting be asked to comment on how their private parts are doing?” then I’d look her dead in the eye and watch her squirm. Because that’s basically the question. WTF.

    So…she’s the CEO. But if your organization has a Board of Directors, I’d consider going to them. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I wouldn’t tell if my Optometrist dilated my EYES.

        But–if I were the pregnant woman, I would stand up, look straight at her, and start sobbing and yelling, “Who the HELL THINKS THIS IS YOUR BUSINESS, SNIFFING AROUND MY CROTCH?

        Did someone on your planet tell you this emotional vampire s**t was HEALTHY? NORMAL?
        My Holy Aunt Hannah, do you not understand that NOTHING IS DECENT about this constant, neverending interrogation,and that NOBODY who is at all NORMAL thinks that having their personal life peeled open could be SANE?!?!”

        Then, I would retch toward the conference table, take a few deep, gasping breaths, clutch my abdomen, grab a chair to steady myself and collapse to the floor slowly.

        Refuse 911, (ethics, after all) but allow someone to drive you home, weeping.

        And sob those ugly snot sobs as they take you away.

        When you return to work, (having insisted on 2 extra days because of the stress of being so violated and attacked,) explain to CEO that your Doctor, a REAL OB/GYN, is furious that anyone would be so creepy and outrageous to ANYONE, much less a pregnant woman. (It helps if you actually have a prenatal appointment where you actually tell your doctor- they really hate people who add stress deliberately to their patients.)

        In fact, a good personal physician will probably get riled at this pretense of “mental health” assistance, much less an OB/GYN worried about the health of the mother and baby both.

        A pregnant woman has the chops to later complain that these fraudulent therapy sessions took so long that her blood sugar went wonky, so she won’t be participating ever again.

        In case this seems a bit overboard, Holy Crapnoodles, this situation is “normalizing” something that can only invalidate the need for boundaries, and badly destabilize humans.
        Good luck getting the Emperor dressed.


      1. Nea*

        I truly hope your job hunt is easy and quickly successful, because there’s no saving this sinking ship.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Yes. The Titanic and the Marie Celeste are both watching this and going “GURL.”

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            Flying Dutchman! The Black Pearl! Crew who were dead and didn’t seem to know it….

      2. I have RBF*


        No, seriously, find a new job ASAP. This is weird dialed up to 11.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      The only time my vagina should be interesting is when I’m about to give birth. Funny anecdote, I gave birth at a teaching hosptial and because there were problems with my pregnancy, my doctor asked if I minded if I was included in the rounds so that the medical residents could see a rare case of what I had. Which is why the residents were excited about my vagina.

      1. Jam on Toast*

        I delivered both my kids at a teaching hospital, so there were lots of eager baby doctors and nurses who were doing their rotation and eager to get hands on experience . Of course, they’re practicing their best bedside manner and all giving me a whole speech before every…single…exam. About 24 hours into the whole process, the newest trainee doctor comes in and starts the spiel once again. I’m dead tired. I’ve been at this for more than 24 hours at this point. I look them dead in the eye and say, “Don’t drop it. Don’t squash it. Don’t kill it. Other than that, I don’t care.”

        They were much more direct and to the point after that.

        1. The cat’s ass*

          As a NP with 40+ years of experience ( a chunk of it in women’s health),and SO MUCH of it in teaching hospitals where enthusiastic medical learners sometimes lose the thread, I think I love you. Brava!!!

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Hee hee! This reminds me of Shirley Jackson’s “The Third’s the Easiest.”

      2. Old Hampshire New Hampshire*

        When I was pregnant and overdue, I had a hospital appointment to assess when would be a good time to induce me. The consultant had a trainee with them, and the trainee was asked to use a doppler to find the baby’s heartbeat. It took them about 10 minutes to find it (I knew the baby was OK because I’d had a scan as well) and when they found a heartbeat, you would have thought they’d produced a rabbit out of a hat by the look on their face. I felt really bad pointing out it was my heartbeat because it was way too slow to be a baby’s.

  18. Frickityfrack*

    I will start a gofundme to pay someone to rate their work as a 10, refuse to explain, then stare the CEO dead in the eyes and cross it out and write 9, then 8, then 7, and so on, every time she asks another question or objects.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I literally just made brownies earlier today and they are officially added to the pot.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        I’d ask if she wanted to see gor herself, then offer to present vag right then and there, while giving her the hardest f around and find out stare.

  19. CommanderBanana*

    Ah, another day, another person in a leadership position who should never have gotten there. Must be a Tuesday.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Second the Buffyism.

      Seriously, I generally hate leaders and leadership because most of them make me so very angry. I’d be TERRIBLE at it, don’t get me wrong, but if they make decisions that even I could do better than that, come on.

  20. animaniactoo*

    The other option I might go for is a repeat broken record when she continues to dig: “I thought this was supposed to be optional?”

    As long as you don’t break, she can’t get anything from you.

    “I’m not up for discussing this at work. I thought this was supposed to be optional?”

    And every time she says it is, cut her off and say “Great, thanks!” before she can get to the part where she says she just wants to know/cares/etc. Then shift the conversation to something work related or on to the next person. Or “If that’s everything, I’m going to get back to working on X”.

  21. lemon*

    I’m not saying your job is a cult but… this sounds really similar to a cult mind-control technique to me. Public confession of sins is supposed to foster dependence on the group– and the leader of the group by extension. So, suffice it to say, definitely weird and not normal.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Add in denunciation of class enemies and you got yourself a good old-fashioned Maoist Struggle Session! Who is the nearest class enemy? Why is everyone looking at that CEO?

    2. Carol the happy elf*

      I never saw that, but yea verily!

      Either a serious Kool aid Cult, or my sorority during freshman year.

  22. Michelle Smith*

    I hope someone anonymously slips this post to boss so she can see how deeply unhinged her behavior is. Alison gave great, job-saving advice. I personally would object strongly, vocally, every time.

    No, I’m not interested in sharing. I won’t be answering questions about my personal life in the workplace. This is inappropriate, please move on. Why are you asking Ashley about a sensitive personal matter. This is inappropriate, I won’t be coming to these meetings anymore if this continues. Etc.

    I’d probably get fired for insubordination, but I’m not sure how much I’d care.

  23. ZSD*

    The subject line made me think you were collectively rating your personal lives *relative to each other.* “I rate my personal life as better than Jane’s because she has so many allergies but not as good as John’s because his wife is so hot.”
    I’m not saying this would be *better,* but it might at least be more entertaining.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      This was also my initial read (and I’m still not sure how it actually works – is 1 best or is 10?).

    2. Quinalla*

      Glad I wasn’t the only one who anticipated this based on the post title. It wouldn’t be any better, but it would be a funnier story! Like make you stand in order of rating, so is that a 10 or really a 9.95? Ok, you go between Sally & Joe!

      1. Jam on Toast*

        I think there need to be score cards, with a judging panel.
        “Well, Greg, the French judge really likes to see personal suffering, so it’s no surprise she gave Wakeen’s tragic account of euthanizing their cat such a strong score. But the Japanese judges really focus on the professional aspects and how it affects productivity, so I think the fact that Wakeen was too upset to work on the Quarterly Llama reports is going to bring down their overall technical score.”
        “I agree, Judy. But after the flawless dilation story from Cindy in accounting earlier in the meeting, I don’t know if anyone’s score will be enough to catch her. Effacement’s always a winner!”

    3. Here for the Insurance*

      Oh man, I would love this. “I was going to rate myself somewhere in the middle, but now I see it should be much higher. Cause y’all’s lives SUCK.”

  24. Zweisatz*

    If your coworkers are *truly* not batting an eye at this, my question would be what kind of cult of personality is going on with your CEO.

    This kind of emotional sharing is wildly inappropriate in the workplace and could be leveraged to make people sharing vulnerable details about their life vulnerable to further criticism/over-involvement in their personal affairs.

    I truly hope this is an oddly isolated weirdness about your CEO that doesn’t affect the rest of your workday, but if some other stuff is going on that makes you question the company’s professionalism and why people are just falling in line with it, I recommend looking at the BITE model to see where your company falls on that spectrum.

      1. Zweisatz*

        Oh! Oh!!! Well yes, then that would certainly help.

        And honestly it doesn’t have to be a known cult or very organized or even meet all the criteria to be generally dysfunctional and just not healthy *for you*. The original “sick systems” article might also ring a bell or two.

        I hope you get this resolved easily and quickly. 100 % do not hesitate to reach out to friends or family or experts in the field if you feel you need help here.

    1. Observer*

      I truly hope this is an oddly isolated weirdness about your CEO that doesn’t affect the rest of your workday,

      The odds of that are about 0 or less.

  25. theletter*

    I’ve gotten the sense in the past that people who want to take up meeting time digging into personal stuff are not as engaged with their work as they could be. Shouldn’t the CEO have some high-level stuff and things to work on? If she has this much free time, she’s overdelegating.

  26. Kelly*

    This reminds me of a meeting we had at my last toxic job where we had to rate our morale and guess that of the person standing next to us. Boss got redder and more angrier the more results he read and told us we could quit if we were that unhappy. It was basically “beatings will continue until morale improves.” He offered us a catered lunch to help us feel better about being abused and underpaid, then cancelled it day of when one PITA long-timer complained she didn’t want it.

    1. Essess*

      No joke… I was put onto committee that was required to investigate why our big department in the company had such a poor morale response on our employee surveys. All of the members of the committee were chosen by being “volunteered” from the various teams that make up the big department and had to participate. One of the representatives on the committee was terrified about being involved because their team manager had called their small team together and screamed at them about the poor rating and informed them that if the rating wasn’t improved on the next survey then some people on the team will be losing their jobs.

  27. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    We hear far too often about people thrust into management positions who have absolutely no idea what management looks like.

    In the UK there’s a sort of running joke about scoring stuff 7/10 which comes from Strictly, our version of Dancing With The Stars. Anyone bringing a ping pong bat with the number seven on it and brandishing it flamboyantly when their turn comes around would immediately attain legendary status.

  28. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    When I was pregnant, the only comments made about it at work were:

    (1) ‘Please make sure Marketing Unicorn is seated at the back closest to the doors so she can get to the bathroom without having to walk across the whole room.’ (This during multi-hour meetings.)

    That was it. HR asked me to fill out paperwork for my maternity leave based on ‘earliest possible date of leave starting’ (I was a high-risk pregnancy with a lot of appointments at the end) and they gave me paperwork for if I needed to be on bedrest and WFH (I did not.)

    That was it. And had anyone asked me if I was dilated, I would have verbally slapped them into the next decade.

  29. Colorado*

    Ugh, aside from just straight out lying and say 10/10, nothing to report I’d have to say my kid is being an asshole, I want to murder my husband, quit this job with raging glory, and run away to a hut on the beach with my dogs and cats.. oh wait, I wasn’t in this meeting.
    Seriously though, if it’s not an option to bow out I’d be the most uninteresting person in the world.

  30. Megan C.*

    I’m just flabbergasted that anyone thinks this kind of forced and intrusive sharing of personal business is okay at work! It’s so weird! And multiple letters have come in about bosses doing this! It’s so WEIRD!

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      I feel sometimes I work at the only normal place on earth! I know this is a skewed sample because people don’t write to AAM about regular, functional workplaces, but honestly.

  31. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    This feels like a perfect time to start using movie plots when you talk about what’s going on in your life.

    “Well, my trip to New York was great, up until the giant space whale came out of a hole in the sky. That kinda put a damper on things. But on the bright side, I found a great schwarma restaurant!”

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Oooh, yes! “It was kind of annoying that my daughter and I switched bodies especially when we got switched back right in the middle of her waterskiing performance, but luckily it all got worked out, so I’d give my life a 7 right now since I’m a little sore from the skiing.”

    2. Sue Ellen*

      I get to get up at 5:30 every morning so I can beat rush hour traffic, and go sit behind a desk for 8 hours, and miss Oprah Winfrey every day of my summer vacation. And then, I get to drive home in gridlock, in a volvo, with no air conditioning, just so I can take care of you guys and put food on the damn table. It’s a rat race, and it sucks.

  32. Here for the Insurance*

    This type of thing would make me dig in my heels on noncooperation. Go on, keep asking me questions I’m determined not to answer, see how far it gets you. I double dog dare you. I guarantee I’m more stubborn than you are.

  33. JustMe*

    This is my absolute least favorite thing in the workplace. As Alison says, not everything SHOULD be brought into the workplace. I remember being at a job where this kind of thing was common and I was also getting treatment for severe depression. It just felt unfair, because they expect you to share concerns that are big but not so big they make everyone uncomfortable. If I shared my concerns with mental illness and self harm, it wouldn’t be professional.

    For what it’s worth, I was temping at a terribly dysfunctional organization once where this was also very much a thing. The owner of the company had everyone go around the room and say their biggest weakness. I was so fed up (and I had already given notice), so I said, “You know? My biggest weakness is that I’m not very well suited to work for you.” The next day I got a text from a coworker saying, “Hey buddy, the boss said that you’ve done enough in your notice period and don’t need to keep coming in; we’ve got it from here.”

  34. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I would be tempted to write an N-dimensional matrix on the board. Including complex numbers.

    Go ahead, ask me to explain
    4, 0, 3i, 2 + i
    0, -6i, 0, i/2
    i, -2 – 2i, sqrt(2), -i
    3/2, i, 4 + i, 0

    I’ve got all day.

  35. badger*

    I’m a fan of things like, “I will not be talking about it,” and then shutting the heck up. They want to ask further questions? respond with silence. Yes, it’s awkward, but they’re the one making it awkward, they can deal. Because in a situation like that, whoever talks first loses. So just…don’t.

  36. DrSalty*

    If you don’t want to push back on this dumb practice, I would probably give myself an 8 (or whatever is like a middling-good number) and then some bland nothing reason for why it’s not a 10. “The weather is bad, etc”

  37. Trek*

    If you want me to rank my personal life or share information about it you will have to pay me for all hours in a day since your are now including my off hours as work time.

  38. Monday*

    “.. by being vulnerable and open about what’s going on outside of work, we will perform better on the job.”.
    So employees being vulnerable benefits the company. She doesn’t even pretend it’s for the employees’ benefit.

    1. NeedRain47*

      except I don’t think it’s real. What’s her evidence to back this up? There are lots of studies about how to make happier workers and either she didn’t read any, or she did but she misunderstood. (I suspect the latter. People who feel able to be honest about what’s going on in their personal lives at work are probably happier/better workers, but that has to do with trusting your supervisor not to be a jerk, it doesn’t mean forced sharing is a good idea.)

  39. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    I rate my personal life as orange today. With sprinklings of purple.

    Seriously my personal life has been somewhere between terrifying and exhausting the last month and I am getting tired of even my friends doing the “how are you, no how are you REALLY” head bob.

  40. NeedRain47*

    I’m a 1, because sharing personal details shouldn’t be part of my work duties yet here we are. Every week forever.

    (I’ve actually told managers “that’s not a job requirement” when they try to bring my personal life into work. Nope, you don’t get to manage that and go ahead and fire me if you think you do.)

  41. MsM*

    In addition to the TV/movie plots, how about turning the meeting into Book Club? I suggest Bartleby the Scrivener as the first selection.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      There seems to be an entire school of management that could best be described as “A wild misinterpretation of something I heard someone say Brene Brown wrote.”

  42. Not my real name*

    Bring a 10 sided die to the meeting and when asked your rating, make a production of rolling it.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Better yet, take up D&D and report on your adventures, complete with hit dice….

    2. MsM*

      And if boss pushes for more details, ask them to make an opposed insight check with disadvantage!

  43. Zap R.*

    I’m sorry, I don’t have any advice. I just a second to register that your boss asked your coworker how big her cervix was.

  44. Kevin Sours*

    The temptation to roll d100 and come up with increasingly absurd explanations for it would be difficult to resist:
    “See… the problem here is that… my little brother, this morning, got his arm caught in the microwave, and uh… my grandmother dropped acid and she freaked out, and hijacked a school bus full of… penguins, so it’s kind of a family crisis… “

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        You roll the d10 to come up with your first rating and THEN the d100 to “choose your own adventure”

  45. anomnom*

    I would rate myself at 10 and break into the LEGO movie theme song (Everything is AWESOME…) every.single.time.

  46. Polar Vortex*

    Man I’d be really tempted in your shoes to make a game out of it. If you’re going to be forced to speak about your rating, make it fun.

    “I’m only a 9 today because I can’t hit a 10 until I win the lottery!”
    “Sadly I’m a 7 today, I got rick rolled last night and I can’t believe I keep falling for that”
    “I’m a 4, realized the book I’ve been reading in my offtime ends on a cliffhanger and the author is deceased. Never going to get that ending.”
    “Today I’m an 8, the cards told me when I consulted them last night I was going to have a good day!”
    “Spilled coffee on myself this morning and stepped in dog crap, clearly today is working out to be a 1”

    1. Pippa K*

      “I’m at a 10; my parole officer is so proud of how calm I’ve been around stupid intrusive people this week, and plus my knuckles are almost completely healed!”

    2. Troutwaxer*

      “I’m a 4, realized the book I’ve been reading in my offtime ends on a cliffhanger and the author is deceased. Never going to get that ending.”

      Damn. Now you’ve got me wondering when the next Chtorr book is coming out, if it ever does.

      1. Polar Vortex*

        Unless I adore the author, I’ve given up on reading series that are incomplete (unless the books function independently) because I’ve been burned too many times.

  47. Lavender*

    I’d probably consistently rate my personal life as a 7 or 8, and give extremely mundane reasons for doing so. “Things are mostly good because I managed to get a lot of laundry done yesterday, but I’m taking off a few points because I was stuck in traffic this morning.”

    1. jane's nemesis*

      Yup. If you don’t feel like you can push back, this is the way. Make yourself as boring as possible but include tiny details so she can’t push on the premise you didn’t share enough.

      1. Lavender*

        Yep. If she pushes for more details, just get increasingly boring. “Well, I accidentally washed a red shirt with a bunch of white towels, so now everything’s stained pink. On second thought, maybe today’s more like a 6.”

  48. Observer*

    OP, I hope the commentary is putting a smile on your face and is reassuring to you.

    I *am* a bit concern that you even needed a gut check here, though. This is utterly INSANE (I’m trying to not use NSF language here), and you are not CLOSE to being “overly sensitive.” The fact that you have to even ask says that there is probably a ton of other boundary crossing going on, and being normalized.

    This is the CEO, so unless there is an owner or Board of Directors who might actually listen to you, please start looking for a new job. The sooner you start looking, the sooner you will be out of there. And just the fact of the active search will help to reinforce in your mind just how bad this behavior is. I’m trying to stress you out, but it’s important to not let your sense of normal get warped.

    1. OP*

      My friends call it a cult and I’m inclined to agree. My boss reminds me very much of an incredibly charming but narcissistic ex. I have a hard time trusting my instincts, but this is only a drop in the bucket of what boundaries she’s crossed. I’ve left out so many other things because they make me identifiable.

      1. Zarniwoop*

        If so then there’s nothing to be gained pushing back on telling personal stuff, but you should definitely lie so as to not give her anything she can use against yo.

      2. Lavender*

        I’ve also had bad experiences with people who could be accurately described as “charming but narcissistic.” It’s amazing how many lines people can cross without pushback once they’ve managed to convince you that they’re a good person who means well. It’s a manipulation tactic, and it’s not your fault that she’s like this.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Oh yes, the Nice Gloss. People slick it over a LOT of very bad behavior to make sure you can’t get pushback traction. “But they’re so nice!”

      3. Zweisatz*

        Woof OK yeah, that does ring even more alarm bells. My recommendation is to get your ducks in a row as soon as you can to leave this job. Also definitely stay with your strategy to only share superficial fluff. Cults are different in that aspect, but some love to weaponize anything they know about your personal life once you try to/after you leave. The less your coworkers know, the better.

        I am heartened though that you and your friends have a critical perspective on this. Just know that it is easier to deal with this mess mentally the sooner you leave. Give them as little time as possible to change your understanding of normal.

        (Also PS don’t worry about joining the company/the group. Cults have followers because they’re good at what they’re doing and only revealing as much of the woo as new people are likely to swallow. Mix in the group pressure (everybody acts like the sharing is normal) and soon you wonder what’s wrong with you, not them.)

      4. Observer*

        My friends call it a cult and I’m inclined to agree.

        I’m glad your friends are saying this. It’s good that you keep hearing this. Because one thing cults are good at is making you think that what they are doing is perfectly reasonable.

        but this is only a drop in the bucket of what boundaries she’s crossed. I’ve left out so many other things

        I can easily believe this. Which is all the more reason to not give them anything to weaponize against you while looking for a new job.

        Lots of luck!

  49. raincoaster*

    I would answer in such great detail that she would be gasping for breath between tears by the time I was done. I woukd do this every single meeting (making stuff up if I needed to) until either the policy was changed or I was fired. And if I was fired, I bet the policy would be changed anyway.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Reminds me of a post I saw where a guy ordered “really spicy” Thai food, and maybe over emphasized because his receipt read “EXTRA SPICY” about twenty times, and then “make him sorry he was born.”

  50. Zarniwoop*

    “ It’s supposed to be optional to explain your ratings, but if you don’t or say you don’t want to talk about it, she will ask you questions until you do.”
    “Broken record” time.
    “This is supposed to be optional and I don’t want to talk about it.”
    Repeat without any variation at all.
    After a few dozen repetitions she’ll probably give up.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      “On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer that question in accordance with my rights under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America”

  51. RB*

    I think another fun approach would be to say you are at a 1 but then refuse to give any explanation or details. People would think you had just received a horrible medical diagnosis and they would be really nice and helpful to you for the rest of the week.

    Then the following meeting you could say you were at a 10, but again refuse details — that would really get them wondering, with such a big swing in a short period. The curiosity would kill her.

  52. What She Said*

    Me personally, at some point I would just say “declining to participate”. When she probes for more just stare at her in complete silence.

    Return awkward to sender. Your boss is so inappropriate it’s mind boggling.

  53. Carol the happy elf*

    Thank you for pointing this out. CEO types are LESS likely to have good people skills, because something has got to give. This is why reasonable doctors hire office managers and bookkeepers, because otherwise their fees would be paid in small livestock.

    In fact in my (deleted) years, I have only met two or three entrepreneurs who grew a successful business and had any well-managed employees.

  54. FroggerMan*

    See, this is why I have an entire made-up back story for my day jobs. I work temp jobs a lot, so rather than trying to fight personal questions at every new office, I just have a bland and banal life story ready to go!

    Office-FroggerMan loves architecture, reads business how-to books, and has plans with the family every single time any asks me to join after-hours drinks or weekend events. Depending on how pushy people are, I even sometimes pretend I have a kid so I can opt out of everything! (My nephew is a champ for playing along.)

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      The beauty of this story is that it can be reworked and used every day, since the monster reappears in different settings. “Why, just now, I walked into this very meeting and was asked to write a number on the board to rate my personal life. I said to the person asking me “what do you need my number to be” and they told me “I need about 3.50″ and wouldn’t you know it was that damn monster again!”

  55. Celeste*

    “By being vulnerable and open about what’s going on outside of work, we will perform better on the job.”
    Citation needed! WTF

  56. raincoaster*

    I think this blog needs a tag for “ None of this is normal, and none of it is okay.”

    1. Nea*

      Seconded. A vital resource for people who have gotten used to bees or are just starting their careers.

    1. I have RBF*

      And then rate the day’s work accordingly?

      “Today was a six: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool. Diarrhea likely.”

  57. Joseph*

    “None of this is normal, and none of it is okay” – that could be the subtitle of this whole blog.

  58. nona*

    As a Brit living in the US, may I suggest you channel Hugh Grant being interviewed at the Oscars?

  59. Jam on Toast*

    Honestly, the smart ass in me (and those who know me IRL would agree that I’m about 98% smart ass, 2% mature adult) would start stealing the plots from movies, but recount them as mundanely as possible and then wait to see how many people caught on.

    “I found four baby turtles. Someone had abandoned them and I honestly didn’t know if they’d make it. It was right next to this pizza place I like to go to. They have great garlic bites.
    Luckily, my friend April knows a lot about turtles….”

    “I went over to my friend’s place to celebrate Chinese New Year. They have a dry cleaning business. But they’re being audited right now and their daughter’s been really difficult, so I felt like everything was just sort of all over the place.”

    “I found a new doctor for my allergies. My friend Steve recommended him. Honestly, when Steve was a kid, he had the worse immune system and everything. But since he’s started with this Erskine guy, he’s been like a whole new person. He’s got a really holistic, whole body approach that I like.”

    1. Gracely*

      “I went to visit my granddad with family at the park he built, but there were some unexpected encounters with the wildlife that lives there, and long story short, it’ll be awhile before I can look at goats the same way again.”

      “Man, you would not believe how hard it is to pick up an acorn on a frozen lake.”

  60. Nea*

    Just so you have something to say before you run out the door screaming to your healthy new job:

    “I’m only a __ because I get a sinus headache whenever it rains.”

    “I’m up at __ because I finished a great book last night. I’m going to buy the author’s next one.”

    “I’m up at __ because I got a personal best score on (name of game).” (When in doubt, say solitaire.)

    “I’m only at ___ because the grocery store was out of my favorite crackers.”

    “I’m only at __ because they stopped making my favorite shampoo.”

    Small joys, small irritations, nothing about your personality or vulnerabilities (or body parts!)

    1. JessicaTate*

      Exactly! This was how my partner got through the mandated mid-pandemic weekly sharing sessions during his staff meeting Zooms. He’d find the most banal thing in our home life, and that was his story. “We made pizza this weekend.” “There’s a new rabbit in our yard.” “We picked a paint color.” “Having some trouble with aphids in the garden again.”

      If pushed on not being vulnerable enough, say, “Guess I’m lucky and have a pretty boring life right now!”

  61. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    My personal life is a 5 because of my salary.
    Doubling it would get me to a 10 (hint, hint).

  62. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    “The CEO of the company I work for likes to be very involved in everyone’s lives and has stated that by being vulnerable and open about what’s going on outside of work, we will perform better on the job.”

    That does not sound like a legitimate BUSINESS reason to pry into people’s personal lives. I would push back hard — and SUE if she tried to fire me for not participating.

    1. Observer*

      And what exactly could the OP sue for?

      The woman is very bad news. And the OP’s best bet is certainly to find a new job. But unless this is a very unusual situation there is nothing illegal here. Keep in mind that being a jerk is not illegal, neither is being nosy (outside of issues like HIPPA or FERPA) or just straight up nuts.

  63. I have RBF*

    Yikes on bikes! This is so far over the line that it isn’t even in the rearview mirror. How I rate my life has nothing to do with work.

    I am disabled, and if I had to share stuff about my disabilities it would rapidly get into TMI territory. Maybe that’s what is needed: “I get so stressed being asked about my life on a constant basis that it caused an IBS-D flare-up and I have shat my pants two days in a row because of explosive, mostly liquid diarrhea!”

    Seriously, I would not want to share that, but if I had a pushy manager that insisted, I just might.

  64. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I poked around and found a Vogon poetry generator. Here’s a poem that it made for me. Probably cannot be used verbatim, but I’m sure parts of it would work as a suitable explanation why your personal life is rated a 10 yet again.

    I am also reminded of a teammate who was late to an all-hands meeting and, when he walked into the packed room, was asked by the department head to give everyone the reason why. He deadpan said “I helped an old lady cross the street” and sat down.

    Anyway, here goes. Your generated Vogon Poem

    Read at your own peril!

    See, see the frail sky
    Marvel at its big see through depths.
    Tell me, Marty do you
    Wonder why the Sleepy ignores you?
    Why its foobly stare
    makes you feel sharpie.
    I can tell you, it is
    Worried by your mimsy facial growth
    That looks like
    A aunt.
    What’s more, it knows
    Your spinach potting shed
    Smells of dog.
    Everything under the big frail sky
    Asks why, why do you even bother?
    You only charm centipede.

    1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      Wow, your Vogon poem somehow managed to be a righteous takedown full of withering disdain.
      You only charm centipede?

  65. Alex*

    OP I just want to say that if you are asking yourself “Is this normal?” after your boss has ASKED ABOUT SOMEONE’S VAGINA it’s maybe a sign you have gotten your sense of normalcy skewed by a dysfunctional workplace.

  66. FrivYeti*

    Boy, my temptation in a situation like this would be to just start by rating my personal life at 6 and my work life at 7, and if the boss asks for more information, just respond, “Actually, could you drop my work life number down to 6?”

    And then every time the boss tries to interrogate further, just ask them to drop work-life down another point, until they either get the message or you hit 0 and just sit there silently glaring.

    There is a 0% chance that this would improve the situation, but it would sure be satisfying.

  67. Irish Teacher*

    I’m reminded of the answer my dad gave once when a doctor asked him how he’d rate his pain on a scale of one to ten and he replied, “I wouldn’t.” He didn’t mean to be smart-alecky; he was just worried about his health and panicked, but I think it would be tempting to do it deliberately here.

    I know though that these kind of answers aren’t really an option so what I’d probably do is just go really bland. “10. I’m really looking forward to that concert at the weekend.” “8. I’ve a load of laundry waiting for me this evening.” “7. I have a sinus infection and it’s very irritating.” (Actually, I’d probably do the last a lot because my sinuses really are…troublesome.)

    And yeah, I think Alison has a point about the CEO confusing cause and effect. People in my workplace talk about personal matters a lot more than would probably be recommended here and it’s nice that we can, but it happens spontaneously and naturally, not because we are asked to rank our personal life.

  68. Mark*

    We’ve often done something similar, but with one major difference.

    Everyone is given this four column handout. The first column have many attributes that apply to many people on general basis. Off the top of my head, some might be, “Happy with my social life”, “Ability to be artistic”, “Ability to lead”, “Educational success”, and so on. There are maybe two dozen items.

    The next column is “How important is issue to you?”, and you rate from 1 – 10.

    The next column is, “How well do you feel you meet this?, and you rate from 1- 10.

    For the next column, take the number from the third column minus the number from the second column. At the bottom, you total each number for that fourth column.

    The result is that you see, on an aspect-by-aspect basis, where your reality falls short of your importance, and visa-versa. For example, if I ranked religion a 10 regarding importance, but I feel I’m actually living life at a 4, my score would be -6.

    The goal is that each person has this reminder of what areas they might want to spend more time on certain issues in their life, so that their importance and reality are roughly equal.

    But the main difference between this and the OP is that this is 100% private. Nobody shares anything unless they want to. Many people do share some of their results, and they explain why they think there’s such a difference, but we would never require anyone to do this. It is a self-development exercise we do each year, and we’ve been asked to keep doing it.

    1. Angstrom*

      What does this have to do with your ability to do your job? Why is your HR pushing this at work?

    2. H3llifIknow*

      This is being done… AT WORK? Not a … church retreat? Not at couples therapy? Not with your doctor, pastor, or counselor… but at WORK? And you are okay with that?

  69. Carol the happy elf*

    The only people who EVER asked how dilated I was were my own “Been-there-done-that,” mother, and those whose business it was to check.

    The first time that Husband 1.0 (the failed prototype) heard, “Lets see how dilated you are, Mommy,” he came up to the head of the bed and (really!) looked intently in my eyes.

    “She’s not very dilated, but it’s really, really bright in here.”

    In his defense, he was a clueless idiot.

  70. Earl Great Tea*

    I can’t help but feel like managers and bosses are starting to think they’re also therapists or somehow own their staff’s personal time and lives with this kind of behavior.

  71. Tara.MD*

    Your CEO clearly doesn’t understand boundaries. I’m under the impression that your workplace has a “sorority” type of vibe to it because your situation reminds me of a manager I had years ago. To a lesser extent, she used to overshare; one day, she even talked to us about her daughter’s period and birth control!
    The moral of the story is, never feel obligated to share anything personal at work. You never know what can be used against you.

  72. AH*

    OP, if you have a hobby you feel comfortable talking about, it could be fun to start basing your score on that- as a kind of malicious compliance. Its a bonus if the hobby is a little tedious for others to listen about. (For example, I could talk on and on about Peloton, but I don’t because I notice my friends/family’s eyes glaze over, haha). Add layers of detail to annoy and distract!

  73. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I feel like this is a really good reason to read your daily horoscope.

    I’m a 6 today. Why? because I’m a pisces! bonus if you find one that actually gives you numbers. double bonus if you print it extra large and just put it on the board with a magnet when it’s your turn… “to save time”

    Actually, just print them all and pass them out before hand…

  74. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    My snarky/joke answer would be to give numbers that aren’t on a scale of 0-10, like “17,” “e to the pi i,” “aleph-null,” and “6.02 times 10 to the 23rd,” and cheerfully explain that I chose them because they’re interesting numbers. (17 is a perfectly good prime, that some math geeks will smile at, and interesting in the sense that there’s a proof that there are no uninteresting integers.)

    A bit more seriously, this may be time for what Suzette Haden Elgin calls the “boring baroque,” where you’d say something like “I think it’s probably a seven, because when I talked to my cousin Susie, she’s the one who married an optometrist and moved to Cleveland, where she took up macrame, and I know macrame is supposed to be so Seventies, but really, you should see her plant holders, well anyway, Susie said it’s her son’s seventh birthday next week and they’re asking everyone to give him Legos, and I suppose everyone likes Legos, but I don’t want to get him the same present as I gave my cousin last month, which means I need to look up what exactly I sent cousin Mike, that’s Mike who’s Jen’s youngest, does anyone know a good present-tracking program…..” and on and on and never getting to anything resembling the point, just waiting until the other person wanders away or says “Thank you, Wakeen” and changes the subject.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      This is the kind of monologuing I recommend when a guy’s trying too hard to ask what you’re reading on a bus or plane. “Well, this guy on the cover? You think he’s the bad guy but it turns out he’s got reasons, y’know, and honestly I ALWAYS pictured him with dark hair so I cannot get over them casting Daniel Craig but anyway in chapter two he breaks up with the girl on the back cover here–can you believe how they draw women? Right?–and it turns out it was because he saw her with his brother but it turned out it was her cousin who looks exactly like her and…oh, are you changing seats?”

  75. Carol the happy elf*

    To quote Prospero, “I’ll drown my book….”
    Sounds like that managers’ book needs a few pages flushed, no?

    We were advised by real therapists, (not pretender and poser experts who commit emotional power plays and emotional assault.) It was private, semi-regular, the therapists came through and we each had 30 minutes whether we needed it for venting or played checkers with the therapist. (Our therapist had a small dog and a laser pointer. Best session ever.)

    Generally, work and emotional vampire power plays need to be completely separate, because they never ask the right questions.
    (“So, Carol, about your feelings- do you feel that I’m a power-hungry Napoleon, or a blow-hard asshole?”)

  76. DeeDee*

    I would say the exact some thing at every meeting. “My personal life is a 9 because I my house needs to be vacuumed” or some such. The exact same thing every.single.time.

  77. HailRobonia*

    I think one of the “best kept secrets of success” for any job is having banal/innocuous responses to intrusive questions.

  78. JaneLoe*

    I’ve been reading this blog for several years, and while there have been tons of crazy stories, this was truly jaw dropping. For what it’s worth, I am a mental health therapist and not only do I think this is wildly crossing the line, I would go a step further to question whether or not this approach is some strange manipulative practice that she finds enjoyable in some (very gross) way. Get out of there!!!

  79. IwishIcouldthinkofaname*

    This has brought a song to mind – The Politician Song by Mickey MacConnell, which a friend of mine said was the hardest song he ever learned, as it makes absolutely no sense. It may be useful for inspiration:

    Well I’m very glad you asked me that for at this point in time
    In the circumstances that exist there is in the pipeline
    Infrastructural implications interfaced with lines of thought
    Which lead to grassroots viabilities which at this point I’d rather not
    Enunciate in ambiguities but rather seek to find
    Negotiated compromises which are the bottom line
    For full and frank discussions which could serve to integrate
    With basic fundamental principles to which we all relate
    Not in doctrinaire philosophy which any fool can see
    In inescapable hypothesis confronting you and me
    But in the interests of the common good then you need never fear
    For I have the matter well in hand and I’m glad I made things clear.

  80. TomatoSoup*

    Do people really see no problem with asking someone (who is not your obstetrics patient), “So, how’s your cervix?” or are they afraid to say anything?

    This is absolutely bananapants bizarre and inappropriate.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      I was one of very few women in a large male dominated govt office. Every day it seemed conversation went on for HOURS about sports. Until one day ,I pretended to listen until they mentioned someone getting hit particularly hard, I said, “OMG I know how much that hurts, because I had a 10 pound baby so my uterus was like twice the size of that football and the pain…..” and the looks on their faces were so horrified it was priceless. After that they’d start in on sports and when I felt it had gone on long enough, I’d call out “Uterus” and they’d get back to work.

  81. Esprit de l'escalier*

    I think I would select a personal-life rating related to how well I had done with that day’s Spelling Bee (my secret addiction). I could really talk about it at length if pressed.

  82. HugeTractsofLand*

    This is a (literally) gross overstep and you are NOT wrong to feel flabbergasted! I suggest trying the “I don’t feel like getting into it”/“I don’t have anything to add”/“I thought discussion was optional?” progression of responses to the CEO’s super rude prodding. I think doing that 2-3 times might be enough to make a point/encourage others to do the same without seeming overly adversarial, and if that doesn’t work you can switch to bland answers. Maybe your personal life is constantly at an 8 because you’re playing Skyrim for the foreseeable future and it’s a pretty good game *shrugs*

  83. 2cent*

    Mood marbles and their variants are fine to assess the overall mood of your team. This is not.

  84. H3llifIknow*

    I get so annoyed by these types of “sharing” exercises. Every Monday at staff meeting they want us to discuss what we did over the weekends. There are 70 people in this damn Teams meeting and they take 2 hours. When they get to me, I usually say something like, “I spent the weekend prepping for the XYZ discussion of this meeting so we could spitball some solutions.” It always stops people and we start the actual meeting. IRL I love to laugh and joke and we all get along, but my dislike of pre-meeting chit chat has become pretty well known!

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