we start meetings by sharing positive things from our personal lives, is it fair to make employees pay for parking, and more

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

1. We’re required to start meetings by sharing positive things from our personal lives

My company has just been bought by another company and we’re about to start the process of integrating the two. I do think this is a really good thing, apart from one thing.

Their meetings require everyone to start by stating one positive thing that’s happened in their work life, and one in their personal life.

Apart from detesting the forced positivity of this, I’m a very private person and don’t want to talk about my life outside of work, especially not for the express purpose of facilitating meetings. I don’t particularly want to list positive things from work either, but I think I probably have less of a leg to stand on there.

How do I handle this? I don’t have the standing to get them to stop doing it (although I will be raising it with our senior management that it’s likely to be a real blocker to getting the two teams to integrate well), so I really need a way to handle this when I start having meetings with them. Help!

I’m a big believer in just cheerfully and matter-of-factly turning this kind of exercise into something different that you are comfortable with. So for example, when it’s your turn you could cheerfully say, “Oh, I’m too private for that kind of personal sharing, but a positive thing that’s happened at work this week is…” (It’ll especially help if you make sure your work example is good — not just one bitter sentence that exudes “I am saying this part under duress too,” but rather something you seem to enthusiastically offer.)

Also, since you’re a little uncomfortable with the work part too, try mentioning something someone else did that impressed you. If you see it as an opportunity to amplify someone else’s work, you might feel more comfortable with that.

I’m required to share with my boss a weekly best and worst from my personal life

2. Is it fair to make employees pay for parking?

I work for a large company that is pretty much considered “the only game in town” in its home city — and frankly, the state. Everyone who lives here, for the most part, regards it for its solid pay, great benefits, etc. By and large, it is a good place to work, and I’m generally happy. But I’m starting to wonder if the company is maybe taking advantage of its workforce somewhat.

One thing that has never sat well with me is its policy on parking. If you drive to and from work, workers are forced to pay for parking that the company contracts out from the city’s parking lots. Monthly parking fees are dependent on your job classification, but it generally amounts to around $75-85/employee. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s not insignificant, either.

To be fair, our employer does offer shuttle services to those who live somewhat nearby, and walking, biking, carpooling, and metered parking are always options, but is it right for such a large company — or any company, really — to oblige their employees to pay for parking at work?

I wouldn’t say it’s unfair, really; it’s pretty common.

If the company owned the lot and was turning a profit by charging employees to park in it (at least beyond what it costs to maintain the lot), that would be wrong. But in your case, they’re acting as a sort of a middle man by leasing the space from the city and then passing on those costs to employees who want convenient parking. That’s a pretty typical way to do it. And of course, if charging for parking reduces the number of cars on the roads by encouraging more people to take public transportation or get to and from work by other methods, that’s ultimately a good thing.

One caveat: I’m assuming that “parking fees are dependent on your job classification” means that lower-paid employees pay less; if it’s the opposite and execs get subsidized parking, that’s worth objecting to.

3. Can I opt out of work travel while I’m breast-feeding?

I live across the country from my employer, one of a handful of remote workers. There’s a work trip coming up that I’m expected to attend, which will require me to be away from home for four days. I’m a new mom to a four-month old, and this would be the first time I’ve been away overnight since she was born. I’m also exclusively breast-feeding.

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to make this trip while breast-feeding! Including: the ick factor of having to pump in an airport, the fact that I’m likely to deal with some uncomfortable engorgement since the pump isn’t 100% effective, the awkwardness of excusing myself six times per day to go pump, and the challenge of milk storage while traveling and at my destination — to name a few. I won’t be able to pump enough in advance to feed my daughter, so I’ll also need to get my baby used to formula before the trip, which isn’t something I’d planned to do at this stage, though I’m open to it. And this doesn’t even get into the fact that we’ll be staying at a camp with shared rooms and bunk beds — in other words, little if any privacy! Presumably this means I’d be spending several hours a day pumping in a bathroom, and then storing bottles of milk in a shared fridge? All of this sounds awful.

My boss is kind and thoughtful, but while they might be open to my request not to go, I don’t expect them to really get why this would be so hard. (And I’m not keen on explaining the challenges of pumping to them.) I know that people make this work, but honestly, it just sounds so uncomfortable in so many ways. Is it reasonable to ask to be excused from work travel while breast-feeding? How might this request come across?

This is an all-staff event, but it’s not one that I’m involved in planning, nor do I have any particular responsibilities. So my absence wouldn’t create more work for anyone else.

It’s really, really normal to say you can’t travel while you’re breast-feeding. Some people are comfortable doing it; some people aren’t. It’s fine to say travel would be difficult for you while you’re breast-feeding (especially at a camping site, good lord) and you don’t need to get into all the reasons why. People opt out of travel while they’re nursing all the time and you should expect it not to be a big deal.

4. Can I give a gift to one of my employees but not the others?

I am on the leadership team at a remote company. The department I manage has a large number of people, with a few direct reports. One report is one step below me, Roberta, and a few others are technically a few steps below me by title, but I’m their direct manager.

Roberta has a big personal milestone coming up (buying her first home) and I’d like to send a gift. Since we’re remote, this would be mailed and not given in person, so no one else would see this happen. However, I haven’t done this for anyone else before (no one else has bought a home, but have had other milestones, such as having their first kid) and while I don’t have anything against doing this for others, I don’t have any specific plans for always doing this.

Is this an okay thing to do? As one step below me, Roberta is literally a lifesaver for my day to day and I’ve worked with her the longest, which is why it even came to mind to do it.

If you’re going to do it, you should do something equivalent for other employees’ big life events or it will look like favoritism and you risk stirring up resentment. You’re thinking others won’t know since everyone is remote, but all it would take is Roberta mentioning to a coworker how thoughtful it was of you, and then you’ll have other people who report to you will be wondering what it means that you didn’t send a gift for their wedding or the birth of their kid or their own home purchase. When it comes to this kind of life-event recognition, it’s too messy not to treat everyone who reports to you the same way.

5. Improving our company’s work/life balance

I have recently been tasked with being part of a committee addressing work/life balance issues in a very intense field for the company I work for. This company really has a hustle culture, and the top leadership are recognizing that we need to do really support work life/balance for employees. It’s made more complicated by a couple of factors, however. First, we work in mental health in 24-hour crisis treatment, so it’s a very emotionally draining field that absolutely requires we have staff available at the drop of a hat any moment of the day. It’s not an exaggeration to say that people’s lives depend upon this responsibility. In addition, like most social service things, the rates we are paid don’t support high pay or tons of benefits for our employees. I think we do a pretty good job given the resources we have to work with, but it’s not going to be as easy as just giving people more PTO or flexing their hours or allowing them to work from home. Those kinds of things aren’t an option in this kind of work.

Any tips for supporting work/life balance in this kind of field, when the obvious things are made much more difficult by the nature of the work we do?

I’m happy to throw this out to readers for suggestions, but the stuff that really makes a difference comes down to money — because it’s about more staffing, better pay, and more time off. Those are things that have to come from the top and aren’t within your control as a committee (although you can make recommendations about them). You can do other things around the edges — have the company bring in food, relax the dress code (although in that field it’s likely already pretty relaxed), look for policies that make people’s lives harder and suggest ways to change them … but ultimately making a truly significant difference will be about money (and I know that’s tough in health care; this letter was enlightening).

{ 738 comments… read them below }

  1. Turquoisecow*

    #3 – my sister-in-law breastfed her kids and neither of her daughters would take a bottle at all so when she had to go to a conference she actually brought along her mother and daughter, and they stayed in the hotel the conference was located at, and she came up every few hours or so to feed the baby. That doesn’t seem like a good option for you given the lack of privacy in the sleeping arrangements, but it’s the only way I’ve ever heard of a new mom managing business travel while still nursing.

    1. Artemesia*

      When I needed to attend a high profile meeting when my son was 7 most old and mostly breastfed, I brought him and arranged a babysitter on site while I was doing the actual work. But you have to really NEED to be at the meeting or event for this to make any sense. I was the keynote speaker and it was useful for my career. I would not have done it for a meeting or as a participant rather than key presenter. And of course I had my own room in an actual hotel with privacy and hot and cold running water.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah I think this conference was one that her organization was running and it was super important she be there, otherwise she would have skipped it. And it just so happened with timing that both of her daughters were young at the time.

      2. Mary*

        Yes, this is the only solution that would work. If you are required to attend you will need to bring both baby and childcare with you. You should not feel obliged to switch to pumping because of work. Work will need to provide accommodation for your child and childcare and possibly transport to and from the site where you are working. And of course you will need a private room for feeding your child, suitable for purpose, possibly with a fridge, sink, easy chair etc.

        If your presence is vital your employer will make it happen, but as you said it sounds like you are not required so your employer will probably say there is no need to attend.

      3. KateM*

        Yep, I had a similar situation, with a 7mo, too. Plus, I was nursing not pumping which saved a lot of time and has less of an ick factor (those idiots at the conference put me in a room with three other women, instead of my husband as we had asked).

    2. Lilo*

      When I did go back to work, it took my husband (he stacked part of his paternity leave after my maternity leave) days to get my son to take a bottle. We had to work with a lactation consultant.

      I also would not be comfortable with 24 hour pumping. The pump isn’t as efficient as the baby so going from not pumping or pumping a couple times a day to only pumping, you risk chronic engorgement or even mastitis (this is different from someone who’s already exclusively pumping). And a few days of that could trigger a supply drop and mess with breastfeeding when you get back.

      As someone who’s been there, I’d definitely try to get out of it.

      1. Kai*

        I kinda laughed out loud at tat part: she’s ok with her baby transitioning to formula.
        What does the baby say about that? Lol. You just cannot force these things, especially under duress. Most exclusively breast fed babies never take a bottle, they just go right to sippy cups.

        1. Lilo*

          Yes, that’s another aspect, my son eventually took a bottle but only of pumped breastmilk. He wouldn’t take formula. I was lucky enough to keep nursing fully until he was over one.

        2. PickleFish*

          I had a tough breastfeeding journey that started with exclusively pumping the first 4 1/2 months. I tried giving my son formula for the first time at 4 months-he projectile vomited it a couple hours later. He was not a baby that spit up.

          I was hired in a new position/different agency when he was 6 months and traveled for training with him and my Mom from 7-9 months. The first hotel we stayed in had a mini fridge and sink in the bathroom. My male supervisor thought it was wonderful. I switched to a suite with an apartment fridge including a kitchen sink for washing bottles/pump parts and freezer for ice packs/milk preservation.
          If LW is sleeping in a group setting, she’ll be waking people up during the night when she pumps. LW stay home and don’t risk mastitis or your supply for a work trip.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Came here to say this. When my younger son was 7-8 months old, I ended up in the hospital overnight with mastitis. We did not have family in town and all the friends that could’ve come around and helped my husband with the kids, were out of town for a long national holiday weekend. He came in the night I was admitted, panicking, raising his voice at me and the doctor, telling me I’d made a big mistake by checking in. He brought my son with him, whom I tried to nurse, but couldn’t because he was distracted by my IV (everybody say Awwww! really, it was adorable). Came back the next day and said for me to sign a release and come back home. They wanted to keep me much longer and were not happy to see me go! (I lived around the corner and came back 2x/day for the following two weeks for antibiotic shots.) Here’s the point I’m getting to with this rambling story – I came home to every surface littered with all kinds of baby food (formula, mashed veggies, homemade soup, baby food cans etc) in various bottles and containers. My son had refused every last one of those foods that his poor dad had scraped together and tried to offer him. And he was twice the age of OP’s daughter! The odds are super high that she won’t take the bottle, period, if she’s been exclusively breastfeeding up to now. I assume the workplace will understand, don’t know what to think of them if they don’t as this is very very common and it’s not like OP knew that she’d be going to a conference in 13 months when she got pregnant with that baby. It is what it is at this point and that’s how the workplace should see it – she can’t go because she can’t.

          (To head off the “but I was able to with mine…” my older son was a very reluctant breastfeeder and happily switched to bottle and formula at five months. I was able to with one and absolutely unable to with the other. Younger son ended up nursing till 21 months and would’ve gone longer if we hadn’t weaned him.)

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Ex-husband now :) yeah he’s been given an earful about it over the years. And yes, that incident was one of the many things that contributed to our marriage’s eventual ending.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, her mother tried giving daughter #2 a bottle a few times and she just screamed and would not take it, and continued screaming until her mom finally came.

        When I had a kid several years later she gave us a bag full of various bottles with different style nipples that she had tried and none of them worked. Meanwhile my kid never latched properly and exclusively drank from whatever bottle you gave her, so we used them all.

        1. Goldie*

          I worked full time and my baby went to day care and she never too a bottle. It was tough. She had to start baby food young.

          I brought my baby to Las Vegas when I presented at a conference and had a colleague take her while I was presenting. Obviously I’m American. The international attendees were shocked and horrified that I was back to work with a 16 lbs 4 months old baby.

          I brought my mom to a different mandatory conference I attended. It seems crazy to me now.

          I think breastfeeding a great excuse to stay home. Or bring a fussy baby to the conference dorm.

      3. Quokka*

        I agree too. Not everyone has the same breastfeeding experience, so it doesn’t matter if others have done it and it was fine.
        If you get any pushback, explain that if baby starts to refuse the formula/bottle (or it starts to make them unwell), you would have to go home early anyway. Same if you ended up with mastitis (kinda defeats the point if you are spending ages in the shower trying to get a lump out or get engorged and leak through all your clothes/nursing pads).
        The point about the supply impact is good too. My boy was 8 weeks prem and I had to exclusively pump for the first 4-6weeks since he was in the hospital, and my supply never recovered (we had other issues as well, both me and him). I ended up mixed feeding for 10months until he developed a bottle preference and refused the breast (this is another risk! After 4 days bub may not take the breast anymore and then you are stuck with pumping/formula – which is more time consuming and expensive!).
        Honestly, if breastfeeding is working well for you don’t risk damaging that.

      4. Capybara Manager*

        Yeah, I would strongly advise OP to opt out of this trip if at all possible. Baby is still REALLY young, this whole thing could really mess with OP’s milk supply, the idea of pumping during a work event at a campground (!!!) makes my head explode, and here’s the thing: whether or not a specific baby takes a bottle or accepts formula is not up to you, it’s up to the baby.

        Also, I went back to work when my baby was 13 months old and well into eating solids and drinking water, and it was still a difficult adjustment, boob-wise.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      I traveled for a court case when my daughter was 5 months old. It was there and back within 24 hours, and it worked out ok, but it was very uncomfortable. I do have to say, my daughter was very easy to feed (would take boob or bottle, and was ok with formula, though she preferred real), so there wasn’t a problem on that side.

      However, I really, really do not recommend pumping on a train, or in a train station, or in public toilets in a court building. Uncomfortable and unhygienic (I dumped the milk in any case, no way to keep it fresh). It was also really hard to align the timing of opportunities to pump and need to pump – it was just really uncomfortable for me, but may be more of a serious problem for people with a tendency to mastitis. I wouldn’t do it for more than one day, or if I had reason to think that it would disturb my routine for more than that day.

      1. Lilo*

        I want to also note that mastitis when it hits, hits fast and hard. When I had it, I went from being fine to running a fever in a matter of hours (mastitis feels like you have the flu but are also getting punched in the chest). I got antibiotics right away but pumping was so painful I avoided it 100% for a week (nursing was better). I could only wear large baggy t shirts under sweatshirts for about 2 days.

        Don’t risk that on a work trip.

        1. Kay*

          This. Don’t risk mastitis while staying at a camping lodge! When I got mastitis on a work trip, my fever rose so fast that I became delirious at a work event and apparently loudly insisted that my coworkers put the moon in a cup and bring it to me while I was slumped on a couch, shivering and sweating. Fortunately my coworkers and I have a great relationship and they were able to help me get to an urgent care for antibiotics, but the whole situation was unfortunate. And every so often “cup of moon” gets brought up again!

        2. Mercurial*

          You’re absolutely right, I’ve had it several times and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more unwell. Physical pain as well as systemic illness. It needs immediate treatment too. And 4 days without feeding it could totally affect supply going forward (might be reparable with cluster feeding when you get back, but that’s no fun either). Add me to the “don’t do it if you can avoid it” camp.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I had it too. It was bad. I had a high fever and had to be admitted to the hospital. Very dangerous if not treated quickly.

    4. Non-Camper Van Beethoven*

      #3 Surely the actual question should be why is their company asking them to share rooms and sleep in bunk beds! Are the employees 8 years old and on a youth camp? Even if it’s a charity\non-profit and they are using the old got to save money pitch (Question: Where are the C Suite sleeping?). Great way to show how much you value your employees – sleep in a bunk bed for 4 nights ‘cos we love ya. I couldn’t even get up to the top bunk :-)
      Could you shed some more light on this please #3? It sounds dreadful

      1. mf*

        Yeah, this could be an issue for all sorts of reasons. What about mixing people who snore with light sleepers? What about employees who have insomnia or sleep issues/disorders? What about people who need more hours of sleep, perhaps due to disability or health problems?

        1. I Have RBF*

          Plus the increased risk of spreading Covid while bunking in with coworkers. Having to try to mask while changing or sleeping would be ridiculous, but I wouldn’t have a choice. Then there comes all of the idiocy/peer pressure from coworkers that I’d have to sleep in the same room with wanting me to “take off the face rag” or some other ill-informed talking point.

          I have insomnia and use a CPAP. Most bunk dorms wouldn’t even have a place to plus it in. Plus, I’m disabled – I absolutely can not climb into an upper bunk.

          This would have been mostly okay when I was a kid (except for the inevitable bullying), but not as an adult.

      2. But what to call me?*

        Yes, this is terrible and immediately horrified me!

        First of all, it’s a ridiculous way to have adults sleep. Second of all, in addition to the breast feeding situation, it’s likely to create problems for anyone with any kind of medical condition or disability that requires even relatively simple daily management.

        Taking medication? (I am!) Are you going to slip off to take it privately, explain it to your coworkers, or take it in front of them without comment and hope none of them get nosey? (My ADHD meds work just fine, thanks, and I don’t need anyone’s thoughts on the overmedication of modern America, diet advice, or suspicion that I suddenly can’t handle my job.)

        Use any kind of medical device before/after/during sleep? What will your coworkers think of it? Will they ask? Do you feel like explaining? If you don’t explain, will they privately wonder and come up with their own explanations? Will they treat you differently because of it? (Yep, this thing on my foot is a plantar fasciitis night splint. I’m wearing it because I’m prone to plantar fasciitis, especially when walking around in these fancy conference shoes all day, so I’d like to head it off before it turns into a year of misery. No, I don’t need you to teach me about shoe inserts. Yes, I know about stretching. No, I do not need you ‘helping’ me by discouraging me from walking around.)

        Unusual sleeping arrangement? How strange will it look to other people? Will they think it’s silly? (Yes, I did haul this weighted blanket all the way out here. Yes, it did make my suitcase pretty heavy. Yes, I did it anyway, because otherwise I would lie awake all night because the room is too open and weird and distracting. Also I’ve arranged the other blankets this way because I can already tell this bed is going to lock up my back to the point of needing physical therapy to fix it if I don’t. Also I will definitely be doing some rather obvious stretching in the morning. No, this is not some terrible condition in need of pity or of you taking tasks off my hands to ‘help’. I’ve got it all well managed, thanks!)

        And then there’s, you know, just being exhausted from spending all day doing whatever you’re there to do and needing a few hours of peace and quiet to recover before doing it all again, but clearly the kind of company that would put employees in this situation doesn’t care about that.

      3. ReallyBadPerson*

        This. I was scratching my head wondering why commenters were focused solely on the breastfeeding dilemma (although that was LW’s main concern) and not on the fact that she has to go on a literal camping trip with her colleagues! I’d nope right out for that reason alone.

      4. Just Another Techie*

        Yes, exactly! Even leaving aside the horrors of pumping at a campsite (I did it, for four days, when my baby was 3 days old, because of a long irrelevant story where I ended up the only adult willing to chaperone a church youth group trip, and while I was fine and didn’t develop mastitis or even much engorgement, I still wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy!) That whole setup sounds like a recipe for your whole staff to be out with back problems the next week.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If the company insists you be there, the only logistics tweak I can imagine is renting a small RV for you, baby and caretaker. That could create an awkward separation from your cabin-bunking co-workers –but if I were your co-worker I’d approve. If important enough to shut the office down & pay people to attend a retreat, it’s too important to exclude you for breast-feeding. In reverse, if it’s not important enough to spend a few hundred extra to ensble 100% attendance, then why bother at all?

      (And I’d REALLY rather you & baby sleep separately for purely selfish reasons. I survived night-time diaper changes with my own; I prefer to avoid to avoid repeats until I’m a babysitting great-aunt or grandma. I have enough trouble sleeping in a strange bed without invoking “wake up because a baby needs you” instincts.)

    6. Mona Lisa*

      I’ve been pretty fortunate with both of my kids that I was able to switch between breastfeeding and pumped milk at young ages when I travelled for work. There are work arounds for a lot of what the LW mentioned, but the second I read “staying at a camp with shared rooms and bunk beds” everything screeched to a halt! There are very few compromises that could make that situation safe and comfortable for her, and I would absolutely refuse this trip unless her job was on the line.

      1. Observer*

        but the second I read “staying at a camp with shared rooms and bunk beds” everything screeched to a halt!

        This is true, but may also make things harder for her. Because I’d be willing to bet that there are others who are not happy at all, and will perceive her as using the baby and nursing as an “excuse”.

        1. Mona Lisa*

          That’s between them and their managers. The LW has a legitimate medical reason that makes this “retreat” situation nearly impossible for her to manage. If another co-worker had a medical condition that could not be accommodated at the campsite, then I would hope they’d be excused as well and that it wouldn’t be held against them.

        2. This_is_Todays_Name*

          Anyone who’d think like that is a resentful, bitter person to begin with. I doubt this one event is going to suddenly turn a sane, reasonable person into someone whispering “she just used that baby as an excuse” behind her back. I wouldn’t even give this sort of nonsense a second thought.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        Yeah I’ve done work trips away from my breastfed babies (as well as local overnight shifts) and there’s certainly ways to manage it but… shared rooms, bunk beds? Even without breastfeeding I would probably be looking for a way to get out of this!

    7. Spero*

      I also brought my kiddo and MIL to a conference when she was nursing.
      If that’s not an option for the trip, I would approach the organizing staff to request accommodations. It’s not legal for your employer to force you to pump in public/in a bathroom and not having access to a fridge/freezer is also questionable within workplace accommodations. I would state that you need to know you will have access to a private area with outlets to pump for several hours a day (which is not an open bunkhouse or bathroom) a fridge/freezer where you are able to keep items, and an understanding that this will mean you miss a substantial portion of the scheduled events with a plan for that. Ex if there is an offsite portion of the event will they secure a pumping room for you at that location or will they transport you back to the home base to pump? Once you lay out the accommodations that would be necessary given their choice of location, if it’s not an immediate ‘oh yes here is the plan’ and it’s great then that gives you an opportunity to say ‘if you aren’t able to offer the accommodations that would be needed for me to participate in this event, I am willing to forgo the event/zoom in for x.’
      Keep in mind, this is a medical condition. If you are not able to pump you can get mastitis and become dangerously ill very quickly, and they certainly don’t want to send you to the ER on day 3 of a 4 day event due to their negligence in accommodating you. So they need to offer you accommodations for these needs as your employer, and you don’t need to go into details about what pumping is like/what you are specifically doing you just need to state what the needs are and ask the plan for providing them.

      1. Spero*

        I forgot – you need to have access to a LOCKED private area on the bunkhouse site and at all activity sites. The last thing you need is another lost coworker stumbling in looking for the bathroom or a site employee who isn’t aware coming into their office that you’ve set up in.

    8. Lizzianna*

      I did this for my first travel after my daughter was born. My agency actually paid for some of the costs for my husband to travel with us, the federal government (OPM) recently issued guidance saying this was an allowable expense for agencies to pay. The guidance isn’t binding on private employers, but could come in handy for discussions about what’s “standard” so I like to highlight in these discussions. It also says that agencies can pay for overnighting frozen milk and if additional lodging expenses are needed (I’ve had hotels that charge extra for a fridge in the room, although that’s getting less common in most business hotels).

      That said, I would completely understand if an employee wanted to minimize travel during her first year back from maternity leave. Even without breastfeeding, leaving a baby that little is SO HARD and it puts a huge workload on one’s partner. I had a different job when my son was born and was dealing with what I now realize was undiagnosed post partum depression and anxiety, and could not have left him. Fortunately, my supervisor was very understanding and didn’t require me to travel until he was 1. To me, it’s a reasonable request for most jobs.

  2. DietCokeDinosaur*

    LW 5: I have a success story of using a similar committee to get higher pay for those of us who were burnt out.

    I was part of a staff council for preschool teachers at my non-profit agency, the lowest of my rank were making $15/hr in a HCOL area. We had been working all through the pandemic, only closing for 2 weeks in March 2020. After 3 years of giving us things like free lunches and water bottles to promote work/life balance and show appreciation, we were finally able to meet with the executives where I laid out very precisely, using numbers from my own paycheck and others stories, to finally communicate Alison’s idea that the best work/life balance and appreciation is better pay and more days off. We were able to get a $3/hr raise for all frontline workers the next month, though we’re still working on getting teacher work days in our classrooms.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Congratulations on achieving this! Good on you for fighting for it so effectively.

    2. Generic Name*

      This is awesome! I think this is the only way to enact real change. I’m giving this organization some real side-eye. Upper management acknowledges that staff feel overworked, and instead of doing the obvious and increasing pay, increasing PTO, increasing staff/decreasing caseload, they’ve formed a committee of employees. I’m sure they’re hoping that the committee will come back with suggestions like “jeans Friday” and pizza lunches. If there are some small things around the edges that you think will help, by all means suggest those things.

      I suggest doing what DietCokeDinosaur did and give management cold hard numbers. Is the pay at your organization in line with what they could be making elsewhere in your industry? Now is a good time to look at pay equity are white men paid more for the same job than everyone else? Is time off comparable to other orgs? Why isn’t Flex Time or WFH possible? I started seeing a therapist remotely during the pandemic, and she is now exclusively remote. Our sessions are video chat, and it works very well for me. Don’t preemptively take anything off the table. I suggest coming up with a list that you think would make a real difference and let management be the ones to tell everyone, “sorry no raises or flexibility”. I think it would also be good to provide some numbers on the costs of turnover. People with options (the best employees that companies would want to retain) will find other jobs if they are unhappy enough.

      1. LW 5*

        Hi! LW here. First, I think I probably should have noted that I am a high level employee who reports directly to the CEO. So, it’s more than just a committee of employees. Second, we do residential and crisis stabilization level treatment for children and adolescents, so that’s why WFH isn’t an option. This isn’t just our therapists – it’s also the direct care workers we want to support. You can’t exactly supervise the milieu from home!

        We do pay at least industry average or better. The issue is that what we do is just really, really, really hard and we can’t just charge more to pay more. Healthcare (physical or mental) doesn’t work that way . . .

        1. Boof*

          Outside of more pay or more time off, make sure tine off is protected HARD. If anyone tries to work, check email, etc when they are off, kindly shoo them away. Zero pressure to work when off. For the 24 hr coverage, have call shifts and not everyone always at risk of being called snytime. Make the schedule as flexible as possible and if there are undesirable shifts that are hard to fill, try to scrounge some kind of bonus or incentive for doing them

    3. MassMatt*

      Congratulations on a great outcome. But it’s a sad statement about society priorities that people doing literally lifesaving work are poorly compensated, drastically overworked, and in danger of so much burnout.

      Solutions to this problem is unfortunately far beyond things like gift cards or free lunches, as Alison says.

  3. Wendy Darling*

    Is it fair to make employees pay for parking? No, probably not. Is it typical? Yes. :(

    I work downtown in a big city and pay a truly exorbitant amount for parking. My company gives us a monthly transit stipend but it only covers about a third of the cost of a parking space where the office is. I could theoretically take transit but it would triple the length of my commute and also the only transit currently available is the bus. I get wildly motion sick if I’m on a bus for more than 10-15 minutes.

    I’m counting down the days until we get light rail. It’ll still be an hour each way but at least I don’t get sick riding it. An hour each way while I play Switch games or read a book is no big deal, whereas an hour each way staring angrily out a window while I try not to barf is rough.

    1. Goober*

      The flip side of that is that if the company is leasing (part of) a private lot from a third party and not passing it on, we’d be reading a letter from someone who doesn’t drive to work about how unfair it is that some employees get subsidized parking, and others get nothing.

      There’s no right answer there.

      1. Tricia*

        I work at a public library downtown in my city. It has an underground parkade, but only management gets subsidized parking, the rest of us don’t. We also have a few dozen branches, which all have free parking, so some of us from downtown are slightly resentful of that fact. It doesn’t help that when we have courses held downtown, attendees from branches get their parking paid for, but even if we were attending and drove our cars, they wouldn’t validate our parking. Parking is a fraught subject around here!

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Oof. See, that’s what Alison was referring to where she said if upper level execs get free parking and lower level people don’t, that is DEFINITELY unfair.

      2. KateM*

        It is quite possible that when employer leases a lot, the employees already do get subsidized parking. At least $80 per month doesn’t sound so much even for the low-COL area that I live in – my train tickets if I had to commute each day would be around 60$ a month.

        1. Kate*

          Yes, this. I once heard parking referred to as “storage of personal property” and it entirely changed my thoughts on this. Does your $80 a month or whatever cover all the costs of maintenance and staffing for the storage of your large piece of personal property while you’re at work? Probably not and so you’re already enjoying a subsidy that walkers/bikers/public transit users don’t get.

          1. Ominous Adversary*

            Is there any other “large piece of personal property” that companies routinely expect (and sometimes require) you to own and use to get to work reliably – and to store near your workplace while you’re there? Do we need to get into the weeds about how public transit is generally not a profitable enterprise and is subsidized by people who drive too?

            The “personal property” argument is imported from Japan, which has excellent public transit and walkability, and where cars are rarely a necessity or an expectation. It doesn’t work well in the US, where public transit is uneven at best, especially in areas that would most benefit from residents not having to pay for a car.

            1. Justin D*

              I get both sides of it. Problem is transit service is oftentimes based on ridership, and if people can easily drive they’re not going to take it, so the lines bever get built.

        2. Anon this time*

          This exactly. $80 a month for parking seems pretty inexpensive. My monthly bus pass is $50 and I live in a relatively low cost of living area.

          Also, and importantly, I think we should not be externalizing the cost of driving cars. If there are other options available like LW says, then people who choose to drive should pay all the costs of driving. That includes parking fees.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I thought that amount sounded likely to be subsidized or at least discounted.

          At my job, the company owns one lot and then leases some others and a parking garage. The owned lot is a few blocks away and the parking garage connects to the building. You can park in the lot for free or pay a small monthly amount that is heavily subsidized (down to like $15 per month I think) to park in the garage.

          When I started I was told they had to put me in the lot and I could join a waiting list for the garage. When I got a slot I turned it down–I was very happy in the free lot!

      3. MassMatt*

        I very nearly wrote that letter. I worked for a large company that paid all sorts of lip service to sustainability etc but the buildings (not quite a campus, but several large leased buildings) all had large lots for free parking. Those taking public transit got nothing. The nearest subway stop was about a mile away from the furthest building, the company ran a shuttle FOR MAIL between the buildings but if you were using public transit you were on your own.

        The dress code (no client-facing roles, BTW) required dress shoes, and specifically prohibited any “inclement weather shoes”, so have fun in winter.

        I recall MANY conversations where people complained about how public transit was “a wasteful money pit, it always loses money”. Meanwhile no one even considered that all these roads, stoplights, etc are not “turning a profit”.

        1. Galoshes Galore*

          As a person who works in DC, where we have seasonal torrential rain, rare snow, and an Extremely Formal Dress Code:

          You wear the bad-weather shoes during your commute. You keep a pair of dress shoes in your desk drawer or locker (or bring them in a bag/backpack). You change shoes once you get to work. You change shoes again to leave work.

          If they have nowhere to keep shoes? Ask around with other staff first. Then, if there’s really nowhere you can put your shoes during the day, talk to the boss. See if you can work with the boss to find a spot to hide bad-weather shoes as needed.

          If you think that’s bad, though, I used to have a job (not in DC, thankfully) where one of the work hazards was occasionally getting your clothing confiscated, with no possible forewarning. We kept back-up clothes at our desks.

          1. K8T*

            Yeah I didn’t understand that part of the comment, I live where inclement weather is very common and everyone just changes out of their boots and into their work shoes once at work.

          2. SpaceySteph*

            I need to know more about getting your clothes confiscated? Were they like contaminated by chemicals? Someone really liked your blouse? WHAT is going on here?

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              I don’t know but in my line of work sudden contamination (either hazardous or just really gross) is a possibility. I not only keep a change of clothes on hand, I keep a box of disposable coveralls on hand in case an unprepared coworker faces going home in the buff.

      4. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        They should subsidize both the parking AND public transportation for those who use it.

        I quit a job over parking when my company moved to a downtown city. The change of having to pay to park was $5k per year! NOPE! The company lost at least ten employees over that move.

        1. lilsheba*

          I had the opposite happen at a former job. It moved from a nice convenient location that was quick and easy to do on public transit (I didn’t own a car) to a place that took hours to commute to and from and required three busses, a train and a shuttle. It was the most awful commute ever but “the parking is free!!!” whooooop de dooooooo. That doesn’t help ME at all!

          1. Shan*

            Several years ago one of the big companies in my industry moved away from the business core to a place way on the outskirts of the city, and while that was a perk for some people, I absolutely would have quit if I’d been working there.

        2. Ominous Adversary*

          That’s common in many large companies located in urban areas with public transit, like the San Francisco Bay Area – employees can choose to have free/subsidized parking, or free/subsidized transit passes.

        3. The Shadow Knows*

          The problem with the “special rules for executives” theory is that this company probably recruits executives nationwide and has to convince them to move to Benton^H^H^H^ Podunk, Ill. That means they are in a position to demand the company pay for parking when they get hired. By contrast, lower-level employees who aren’t geographically mobile have no choice but to get hired by Wa^H^H Acme, Inc. There’s no other game in town, and they won’t move. So they’re not in a position to demand paid parking.

          Moral: be willing to relocate.

          1. Melissa*

            My organization gets around the “no special rules for executives” by saying these are the people who have to drive to meetings during the day.

            I’m in a government agency, so Civil Service also factors in. I’m in the headquarters, and there are 20+ satellites throughout the city. When I transferred into my job from being a satellite worker, I effectively took a pay cut. The satellites all have free parking. Headquarters does not.

            When building the new headquarters, someone made a decision to turn over the management of our dedicated (and more than adequate) parking garage to another city agency. The employees didn’t kick up a fuss at the time, because we were told there would be ample parking for us. And we could SEE how big the garage was being built.

            Then we found out there was a sectioned off piece of the garage only accessible via secondary key card. There were enough spots there for the executives, and a few left over. Every six months, a lottery is drawn for those slots. After a few lottery season, most of us dropped out of participation. Because we’d have to give up a spot in nearby garages for 6 months, without the guarantee they could re-lease it afterwards.

            After MANY years, employees, with much help from the union, have gotten across to management how badly that looks.

            The compromise was for the garage to set aside a few more slots in the regular garage, and for our agency to subsidize all the reserved slots. No change in the lottery system.

            As it stands, I’m making about 2,000 less per year than other staff at my level, and the executives/lucky folk are paying half the going rate of monthly garage parking.

            And our Board seems fine with that.

            None of the board members ever pay to park-our agency pays their parking for the day.

      5. Dona Florinda*

        Eh. I work from home now, but my previous employer offered subsidized parking lot for those who drive or bus passes for those who didn’t. The only people in disavantage would be those who walk or bike to work, but even then, it seems like a minor thing to complain about.
        It’s not really unfair, actually I think it’s way to make things fairer to those who can’t walk or bike to work, like disabled folks, people who live way too far (like me), parents who have to drop off their kids…

        1. Pat*

          At my last job, I had to drive because I picked up my dogs from daycare after work every day. Otherwise, I would gladly have parked at the metro station and taken the bus, which is what I did for a previous job in the same area – before I had the dogs.

          My current company has options for commuting that I think are quite fair. You can request either (1) cash deposited with your paycheck – a bit over $100/2x month OR (2) parking pass with a 50% discount OR (3) parking at the metro station+metro pass. They’re is also a none-of-the-above option, but I assume that’s for people who are completely remote.

        2. Friendo*

          Think of it in reverse, would it make sense to subsidize people with higher rent costs because they are located closer to the office? Because what you’re describing is functionally the opposite. In most cities, there is no way a bus pass or public transit benefits are equal to the market value of a parking spot.

      6. Thirty Helens Agree*

        “If the company owned the lot and was turning a profit by charging employees to park in it (at least beyond what it costs to maintain the lot), that would be wrong.”–Alison

        Public university employee here: Our campus forces us to pay massive (even when pro-rated by earnings) fees every year for decals, and there *are* no nearby alternatives for parking. We’re a captive income source, paying the institution for whom we work for the luxury of parking in their lots (that are already faculty/staff-only, so we’re not taking away from student areas at all) so we may do underfunded work for them all day.

        I’m pretty sure most of Higher Ed looks this way. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying it’s rampant…at least in public education.

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

          Yup same here. I am lucky that my university offers us a heavily discounted bus pass for the entire year. (It’s the same cost as 3 months of a typical bus pass). For those who drive there is also free street parking available within a few blocks. It would suck for those who work on the opposite side of campus but for those who are on the south and west sides, it works well. However, those who do have to drive have a very limited window of when they can purchase passes, and sometimes the lot you want is gone so you have to go further away. Also, it is really expensive.

        2. Tiffany Aching*

          Similar situation here. I work for a private university, and we’re situated right next to the downtown business district and a bunch of government offices. No free parking within a reasonable walking distance, public transit is unreliable and doesn’t cover the whole town anyway, and yet we have to pay to park in the lots that the university owns. They don’t even prorate the cost for lower wage workers, it’s the same fee regardless.

        3. Academia is nuts*

          I went looking for the academia post to share the pain of paying to park to work. My university does have the advantage of being rural, so there is a remote parking lot that is discounted. So my choices are over $400/yr. for a hunting license close to my office or $36/yr for a guarantee of a spot (mainly due to the lack of other people) 1.5 miles from my office.
          Partially to make myself exercise and partially since I am cheap (frugal?), I went with the walk across campus.
          Did I mention that last year that parking services made the parking pass in force until 10 at night rather than the five it used to be. Oh, but I could buy an evening pass for the privilege of working even more hours. Yeah, nah.

          1. Burger Bob*

            Sometimes easier said than done. In my own town, the local university is far and away the largest employer. My husband works in IT, and that’s pretty much the only reliable place in town to get a job in that line of work. There are lots of other examples of that where people really don’t have many good alternative employers to choose from unless they want to move (or commute) 60+ miles away.

        4. Burger Bob*

          Same for my husband. There IS a free bus system in town that is run by the university (the main hub is in the center of campus). He’s not opposed to using it and has done so before when one of our cars has been in the shop of something. The problem is the nearest bus stop is a nearly 30 minute walk from our house, which makes bussing in inclement weather rather off-putting. And, as he points out, if you ever need to leave work at a weird time of day to go to some kind of appointment or something, it’s pretty tough to be reliant on the bus schedule. So he kind of has to have a parking pass for those occasions if nothing else. I told him he should look into becoming a bike person. Still would have the inclement weather issue though.

      7. Sharkie*

        My partner’s company subsidizes both parking passes and public transportation passes for everyone. Its a no brainer honestly.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Ours does that. Our main office is in a major city’s downtown. We’re moving soon (building did not renew our lease) and the new location will only have about 75% of our current one’s available spaces, so we’re going to move to a more hybrid situation so not everyone ends up at the office on the same days. We’re currently 2 WFH/3 in office.

          They already subsidize public transit, which is nice, too. We also have a well-kept, locked bike room for the folks who cycle to work (I keep my bike there so I can use it on the downtown trail). I believe we’ll have one at the new office location as well. It’s never felt like folks not driving to work are short changed.

          We do NEED to be in office a couple of days a week. For the work we do, I understand why that’s necessary. It will be nice to have that additional flexibility and also keep our paid for parking! We can park there on weekends, too :)

          1. Sharkie*

            Yeah that situation is very similar to my partners! I get free parking my office with 24/7 access in a major city as well. It just makes sense for companies to attempt to make their employee’s lives easier.

        2. Capybara Manager*

          Yeah, that really should be the norm.

          I work 100% remote now so I have no commuting costs, but my previous job had free parking for employees who drove to work yet offered zero transit subsidy for those of us who commuted that way … even though the car park was small enough that if every person in the building had brought a car, they wouldn’t all have fit.

      8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Nothing wrong with subsidizing parking and Cycling and bus or train travel! Here we get 50% of public transit or a % to cover mileage or a refund for any Cycling equipment (100% unless you exceed the amount you would get for public transport).

    2. MK*

      Why is it unfair? I think it’s inaccurate to say the employer is making OP pay for parking, they just aren’t offering it for free, and it’s not really something that an employer is expected to provide. I even disagree with Alison that it would be problematic to make a profit: if the company didn’t do anything about this, the employees would be paying to another company or the city itself; what’s the difference? The only issue I would have is if the employer was requiring pay for parking in their own property, or if they charged too much (though that would be an issue if the city or an unrelated parking company did it). Also, the price seems low to me, in my lower than most col country, the monthly fee is usually 100 euros.

    3. Emma*

      Oof, I wouldn’t want to use the bus if it meant feeling like that every day either. I wonder if you could get free parking as a disability accommodation, in that situation.

      I’m interested that the bus is worse for you than a car, too! My experience has always been that cars are much worse, because there’s so much glass that even if you’re trying hard to focus on the road ahead of you, your brain can’t help but register that everything is moving. Whereas on a bus, you effectively have a whole room of stuff to look at, so it’s easier to not process the motion. Brains are funny things.

      1. KateM*

        The person with really bad motion sickness that I know is *helped* when their eyes see that they are moving – what gets them sick is their eyes seeing no motion but brain registering that there is some.

        I can do tiny stuff (reading, knitting, playing a game) in train or plane, but not in bus or car – I think train and plane are shaking around more gracefully than bus and car.

        1. The Man from Chicago*

          I used to have motion sickness – I think it came down to a connection between seeing motion and causing the motion.

          Passenger in bus? Bad. Passenger in car? Bad, but a bit less. Driving car? Fine. Driving bus (did it a few times at a transit museum, fun to drift a bus)? Fine.

          Brains are weird things.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        As someone who also gets motion sick easily, cars do tend to be worse than buses, BUT I never get sick if I’m the one driving (something about being in control of the movement). I think this is typical?

        1. Chirpy*

          This is what happens with me, I get dizzy on circular on/off ramps, but not if I’m driving. Also probably why I can stand the Tilt-o-Whirl better than any other spinny carnaval rides, you have (some) control over the spinning.

          Overall, I don’t get motion sick easily in vehicles, but the bigger the vehicle, the safer (most likely to happen in a car, vs no problems with trains/planes.) Anything that spins though is probably out.

        2. WS*

          Yes, I’ve had bad motion sickness my entire life (my family can drive along familiar roads and say oh, that’s where you threw up when you were ten! That’s where you threw up on your fifth birthday! That’s where you threw up so much that we had to change your clothes by the side of the road!) but I am vastly better, though not 100%, when driving. I had an hour’s trip each way on the bus to school and never got used to that. One thing that really bothered me on public transport is when they put those big ads over the whole side of the bus so on the glass it’s a series of dots. Having to look through those would make me sick incredibly fast.

          1. Mrs. Bond*

            My earliest memory is throwing up in the car. I was small enough to be in a car seat, in a car my parents sold when I was 3.

            Just the smell of a bus makes me nauseous.

        3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          For me buses are always worse than cars. So much lurching! The way buses moves makes me queasy. It’s also amplified by other associated bus-things like the noise and fumes.

      3. Wendy Darling*

        I also get motion sick in cars if I’m a passenger but not if I’m driving, which is quite common. It’s also less severe if I can sit in front, since I can look straight out, versus in the back.

      4. JB (not in Houston)*

        This is interesting–I am *much* worse on buses than in cars. But not all buses. Weirdly, the less nice the bus is, the better I feel. I don’t know the right words to describe them, but school buses that are poorly insulated (that’s not the right way to phrase it), those are fine. It’s the nicer, more insulated buses that get chartered for group travel/tour bus kinds of buses that make me sick. I think it has something to do with air circulation, but I’m not totally clear on it. I definitely would not be able to commute by city bus.

        Wendy Darling, will the transit stipend cover the light rail? That would be great if it does.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Ha, this is so true. I’m super carsick and the worst ever was inside the cabin of a luxury boat, because you’re so disconnected from the rhythm of the waves and not getting any fresh air / wind. A fancy bus can be similar. I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve read the sickness comes from the body being unable to match up what you’re brain thinks is happening (you’re stationary and indoors) with what your inner ear thinks is happening (you’re rocking or moving) and thus concluding you may have been poisoned and should purge.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            It makes total sense! That would explain why the cheaper type of bus is fine for me, and maybe why I do ok on light rail/some kinds of trolleys but not my regional commuter train.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          The light rail is part of the same transit system as the accursed bus and the stipend is about the cost of a monthly pass… The issue is that the opening of the light rail keeps getting pushed back! It’s been 2 years out for 4 years now.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          Oooh, I also have the effect that the “nicer” the vehicle, the worse it is. Worst is my dad’s BMW, which reliably makes me sick within 5 minutes. It’s like that thing is a soft warm padded capsule where what is happening inside has no relationship with the outside whatsoever, and I cannot stand it.

    4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      We have to pay for parking (directly to the landlord for a monthly pass, about $180 a month, to the company for a day pass) unless it’s a company car. Only field service, outside sales employees and a few managers have company cars.
      The rest of us gets a subsidized transit pass (we pay $10 per month for free travel on all local and regional transport in Germany, about the size of California) and free bicycle parking (and showers). Transit is excellent so it works for most. We are hybrid so most people cycle or use transit when not working from home.

    5. Not Robin Hood*

      In Nottingham UK, Raleigh is a big bicycle manufacturer. You may have heard of them. Nottingham City Council were short of cash due to some poor decision making (unusual for a council I know). So they decided to charge everyone who parked for work in their own companies car park a fee. Yes, thats right, it’s your firms own car park but because it’s in the catchment area set out by Nottingham Council – you have to pay or your company has to pay.
      The catchment area just happened to include the car parks for Raleigh, literally 1,000s of cars, cue the image of a modern day Sheriff of Nottingham rubbing their hands.
      However, Raleigh have been around since practically Victorian times, so have a lot of buildings scattered around. They picked a building just outside the catchment area, demolished it nad turned it into a massive car park. They basically cut the councils anticipated income in half with this massive “up yours”.
      The Nottingham Post was full of wonderfully whiny comments from the council afterwards.
      Raleigh remaining mostly majestically silent.

        1. B*

          Definitely thought that was where this was going! Maybe a fleet of bicycles to borrow for the last mile from the garage to the office, at least?

      1. Thirty Helens Agree*

        Bahaha! All I can picture is Cary Elwes looking smugly upon the “Sheriff of Rottingham” while resting his arm on a parking meter. (Thanks, Mel Brooks.)

    6. Well...*

      I had to pay huge fees for parking in remote lots as a grad student, which was very irritating because I was teaching a lot of the uni (up to and including lecturing, managing TA’s, and being fully responsible for 400-person classes). Grad students do a lot of the work that runs a university and it sucks they have the same parking access as undergrads.

      In my statewide union, I heard stories from other unis about grad students needing to get to work >1 hr early to search for parking, often spending significant time looking for parking, sometimes missing whole classes they had to teach because they couldn’t find parking (or getting a ticket instead so the could do their jobs). People who couldn’t afford to live nearby or had caregiving responsibilities that required daily car use were just being totally screwed.

      Now I’m realizing faculty also have to pay a lot, which feels like garbage too. Half my grant money goes to pay for facilities, but parking doesn’t count I guess…

      1. parkinggripes*

        I also work for a university and have to pay $70/month to park in a lot the university owns. The fact that the lot is owned by my employer is what makes it irritating to me, especially because I strongly suspect the upkeep on this lot (not guarded, full of trash, cars keep getting broken into, someone’s car got stolen the other day in broad daylight and oh oops they’d turned off the security camera a couple of months ago so it didn’t record anything) isn’t costing them nearly as much as we’re paying.

        At least the parking fees are taken out of my salary pre-tax, and I don’t work on campus so I don’t have to pay the much much higher costs to park in the garage that actually does get upkeep.

        1. Well...*

          Yup, it’s a scam. They can charge whatever they want, and they own all the nearby land do what are we gonna do.

    7. Yellow cake*

      Yeah I don’t see why I should be subsidising my colleagues’ car parking. Money they spend on free parking is money not available for raises for everyone.

      They shouldn’t make money of employees, but provided there is public transport, bike facilities, etc, I don’t see why they’d have to provide free parking.

      1. People before cars*

        I agree. Discussions about paying for parking usually leave out those who walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation. Do those employees have to subsidize others who choose to use a car, or choose to live far away from work? Why are drivers considered the norm? Can they park farther/cheaper away and walk? Would drivers be ok with “green” employees being given compensation instead for helping tackle climate change?

        Owning a car is a personal choice. Being compensated for that choice (without even taking other employees alt travel expenses into consideration, to boot!) would be unfair as well as contribute to global climate issues.

        1. This_Daydreamer*

          What if you work in an area with a high cost of living? Most of my coworkers flat out can’t afford to live within biking distance, and the bus system doesn’t go anywhere near them.

          1. TypeFun*

            Honestly? You usually get roommates so you can live close enough. that’s what I did as a student in one of the most expensive cities in America. You still end up paying 1k for rent but if you make ~40k you can make it work. Rent farther out is still unaffordable without roommates and the added cost of a car, gas, insurance, and parking would make it more expensive than just living closer.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Not everyone is in a situation where they can move closer to work, though. If you already have a good living situation but aren’t close to public transit or close enough to bike, or if you have disabilities that would make this impossible, then what? Moving can be a solution sometimes but a lot of the time it just isn’t possible.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                Some of these solutions range from “difficult” to “impossible” for various reasons, but I think it boils down to: these are the available parking options for this job. If the parking situation doesn’t work for you, and there’s no way to get to work without driving, it’s time find a new job.

                1. Hlao-roo*

                  I want to add on to my answer:

                  If the company/organization can still find qualified employees, there’s no incentive for them to pay for or subsidize the cost of parking. They can likely find enough employees who will pay for parking or can walk/bike/transit to work. If the company starts to run into staffing problems, then they may start looking into options like free/subsidized parking for employees.

                2. Joielle*

                  Yeah – at the risk of sounding un-empathetic, this is where I come down on it too. For a lot of reasons, it doesn’t make sense for employers in parking-constrained areas to heavily subsidize the cost of parking. So the options are – pay a lot for parking, use a non-car method of transportation which will be less convenient to some degree, negotiate more remote work, move closer to the office, or find another job. That’s not to say that any of those options are necessarily simple, but those are the options.

                3. Courageous cat*

                  @Joielle, exactly. People will debate this to the death (totally understandably, in the sense that it is sometimes hard to make certain things work, especially if your salary isn’t high) but this is one of the few situations in life where it truly boils down to like… you just gotta figure it out. Some things aren’t going to be easy and you have to figure out how you want to make it work. “There’s no options” is rarely the case.

            2. Well...*

              lol tell that to students at UCSC. There are literally grad students living in busses there, or 6 students in a two-bedroom apt. “Just deal with it” isn’t an answer to the cost of living crisis.

              1. TypeFun*

                To be clear, I don’t think it’s right that it’s so expensive! I think rent in metro areas is seriously effed up in the us. I was explaining what i did as a grad student making 40k where my rent in a shared apartment was more than 1k. Obviously you need a different option if you have a different family situation. But realistically, there are only so many options in the current reality we live in if you need to work in a city. You can live farther out and drive in and pay for parking or get roommates and live closer. But the broader solution isn’t make having a car easier. It’s make public transit a better option. Because that helps more people and by reducing congestion it dramatically improves life for the people who still have to drive. And rent control! I wish we still did that here

                1. I Have RBF*

                  You realize that for families with kids that “You can … get roommates and live closer.” is not an option, right? “Get roommates” is not always a solution to housing cost issues.

                  I say this as a person with a spouse and three roommates in a house that I own. I had roommates in my younger days who stole from me, didn’t pay their share of the utilities but ran up the bill, conducted drug buys in the living room, etc.

                  This simplistic “Oh, if you don’t want to pay for parking just get roommates and live closer so you can ride the bus like a college student” is not the bourgeois beatdown you seem to be trying for.

            3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Sure, the secretary with a husband (oops he probably works too) and the 3 kids should just move closer to her office and get roommates so they don’t have to pay to park. Oh wait, what if its FARTHER from the husband’s job then, and he has to pay to park?

              Just move closer and get roommates is a very impractical solution.

              1. Well...*

                Yup, again with the absurdly common assumption that everyone is in their early 20s, no dependents, no spouse (or a spouse who doesn’t have a job), and just has the flexibility to live wherever. So much of career infrastructure is build around it.

                Postdoc life is so extreme like this, you have to move all over the place every few years, and if you’re married and your partner also works, good luck I guess. Grants in Europe are specifically designed around increasing mobility like this (they do give generous family support, but like… what if your spouse also has a career and doesn’t just want to be supported).

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                Yep – I work in DC, my husband works in Maryland (on a government compound without walking distance housing, but still in a high COL area). Unless we’re now maintaining two residences in a high COL area – hardly a cost-saving measure – at least one of us is not in walking/biking distance to work.

            4. NotAnotherManager!*

              This really only works for people who are single and childfree. I lived with roommates when I first moved to DC and was making $25K/year. It was the only way, but there is a reason that roommate horror stories are a thing. There are some very undesirable roommates out there – ones where you’re lucky when they only have weird habits (labeling individual food items like Kraft singles) versus stealing from you or running a small scale drug ring out of your place (not me, that was a friend’s).

              Now, I have children that I do not want to do the rando roomie thing with, and rent walking distance to my office is more than double my current housing costs in the ‘burbs. I split the difference and take the metro to work, which, at $15/day round trip + parking at the station, is still cheaper than onsite parking. I would still have to have a car to take my children to their 7,000 activities and doctor/therapy appointments.

          2. Sparkle Llama*

            I would much rather get paid $2000 more a year than have that go to parking. It totally depends on the metro area but where I live there are a lot of great opportunities to reduce the cost of commuting for making decisions that reduce the number of cars on the road. There are carpool matching services (some even provide you with a minivan to use for a large carpool), massively reduced parking fees for carpools (I think $50 a month instead of $150), park and ride lots to be able to take the bus or the train the last 20 minutes and leave the car in the suburbs, and the transit org provides reimbursement for a certain amount of back up transportation for having to leave work late or early if you have a pass. All of those great programs become less effective if employers just pay for parking.

            I would say it is different if the employer is located in an area that isn’t downtown or a major employment hub like a university since parking is more likely to be the only real option.

        2. Jackalope*

          Why does it have to be an either/or situation? Have free parking AND good bike parking (secure, not in a spot where it’s easy to vandalize) plus a transit subsidy. I agree that cars are horrible for our planet, and for the majority of my working career I’ve chosen other options for getting to work, but I recognize that especially in the US we’ve built our traveling system largely around cars and solving needs to fall on the shoulders of society at large, not individuals.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            There will never be public will to change the system as long as driving cars is cheaper and far more convenient than other options.

        3. Jezebella*

          Easy to say all of this if you can afford to live near your workplace, have a large and reliable public transport system that won’t triple your commute, and/or are abled enough to bike or walk to work. Some circumstances require a car to commute. Try a little empathy.

          1. My Cabbages!*

            In which case, you trade convenience for money. Which is not an uncommon trade-off.

            My work is in a high COL city, and I live in a suburb. I can have a 45 minute drive or a 1.25 hour transit commute. The transit is fully subsidized, the parking is only partially so. Sometimes it’s worth paying for the lowered travel time, sometimes the extra time is worth the lack of having to pay attention to the road.

        4. Totally Minnie*

          Owning a car is not always a personal choice. I live in an area with absolutely abysmal public transit, to the point that if I were going to take the bus to work, I would have to walk 4.5 miles to the nearest bus stop and spend 2.5 hours on the bus, then walk another mile to my office.

          In the US, at least, people driving cars is considered the default because the people who designed most of our cities made it that way. Me sacrificing 6 hours of my day to switch to public transit instead of using a car isn’t going to change city planning priorities.

          I would love it if switching to public transit was an option for me. But it’s not, and that’s not my fault.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Same where I live. I started my first US job before I had a car or a driver license. My dad dropped me off on my first day and I took the bus home from work – 1.5 hours by bus, 15 minutes by car. Not even exaggerating, I had to walk to a bus stop, wait for a bus, get off because it only went in a straight line, wait for the next bus that stopped in walking distance from my home, walk home. No way was that something I could do every day.

            I am also old enough to remember when people were being asked in job interviews if they have a car, and turned down for a job if they said no. Or lost their job if they lost their car or license. Reasoning being that they couldn’t get to work reliably or on short notice.

        5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Owning a car was a personal choice in my home country, where public transportation was stellar, everywhere was walkable, and most towns were small enough that one could walk to school or work. To say that it is in most of, say, the US, feels disingenuous to me. My partner and I shared a car for a few months this year and it was hard even though I currently live alone and work remotely. we had to schedule for things like me going to a doctor, going to visit my mom six miles away. I don’t ride a bike, can’t walk everywhere, and can’t afford to uber everywhere. At least my current neighborhood is walkable enough that I could do some errands without a car, but that’s very rare in my metro area. If I had to drive to an office and had kids in school or daycare, I simply wouldn’t have been able to function without having a car all to myself.

        6. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I live in a rural area. No public transport. A vehicle is a necessity. Even when we were still in office and I lived a mere 10-15 minutes drive from work, public transportation was iffy at best. Busses ran late, didn’t go to all areas, and stopped running before some people’s shifts ended. I could have in theory rode my bike to work but for large parts of the year the weather is not conducive to that. Also there was no place to park your bike at the office unless you wanted to drag it up the stairs and stick it in your cubicle for the day. When the entire company was in Building A there was free parking in a lot right across the street. Company got moved to several other buildings. Rumours were flying that we’d have to pay for parking as several was in down town areas were there was little parking available. Loads of people planned on retiring early or just out and out quitting over this. We live in the Midwest were most businesses have huge parking lots for employees and customers and meter parking tends to be at things like the court houses or a few blocks of down town. Paying for parking is something that the local society rebels against. People will park blocks away in sketchy neighbourhoods rather than feed a meter. They did end up with a free parking lot for our building about a block away. No security, no fence. (1 car jacking and multiple car break ins) Upper management and a few handicap spots were stuck in a lot right next to the building which caused a lot of grumbling from people slumping it in thru the snow from a block away. Honestly they don’t pay us well enough for me to consider paying $70-80 a month to be able to attend work.

        7. Willow Pillow*

          Unfortunately, non-drivers subsidize private vehicle ownership regardless! I’ve repeatedly heard the misconception that gas taxes, registration fees, etc., pay for roads – this is part of the municipal budget where I live (in Canada). Someone who lives centrally tends to have a higher COL due to property value, and if they also live closer to their workplace they’re paying more for roads but using them less, effectively subsidizing people who live further away and drive more. Larger vehicles put a lot more wear and tear on roads too – think 800x as much for a large pickup vs a subcompact – and fees aren’t proportional in that case (at least where I live!).

        8. Tuckerman*

          I’d say owning a car is a personal choice but not owning a car is much more feasible for those privileged to live close to public transportation, where housing is more expensive.

          It’s also generally more feasible for childless people, as taking a febrile toddler on a combination of buses/trains/walking to the doctor sucks (not to mention late night ER trips). Parking farther is something I’ve done in the past, but no longer since I have to run to pick up kiddo from daycare. I drive 25 miles to work because I can’t afford to live close to work and jobs close to where I live don’t pay a livable wage.

          It’s also worth noting, the big transit systems run at a deficit, meaning they are subsidized heavily. If they weren’t subsidized, fares would be much higher.

          I commuted via bicycle for years, in another city, until a driver ran a stop sign and hit me. Unfortunately most cities aren’t designed for bikes and I wish it was different and hope that improves over the next decades.

        9. B*

          Owning a car should be a personal choice — and I am 100% aligned with the politics suggested by your moniker — but let’s be honest, in much of the U.S. it is a de facto requirement for a full life. That shouldn’t be true, and we should be aggressively improving public transit, building walkable communities and undoing the damage that car infrastructure did to our cities in the 20th century. But outside of a handful of U.S. cities, you’re a second class citizen without a car.

        10. Distracted Librarian*

          I disagree with the reasoning here. Many employer-provided benefits compensate an employee for a particular choice. One big, expensive example: subsidized health insurance coverage for families. Having a partner and/or kids is a personal choice, and one could easily argue that money spent on family coverage is not available for raises for everyone.

          I don’t think employers are obligated to subsidize parking costs for employees, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable or inappropriate for them to do so. Not everyone benefits from every employer-provided benefit. And that doesn’t bother me at all.

      2. I should be working*

        I worked at a company that offered free parking to employees who needed it, but gave a “green incentive” to employees who did not not use parking. I suspect that the amount they gave the non-drivers was lower than the amount the company paid per parking spot, but they made sure it was just enough to cover the cost of a monthly bus pass for our city. I walked to work so just got extra cash that I spent on whatever I wanted.
        providing a free parking pass was the norm among companies in my area, pre-covid anyways.

        1. B*

          I love this approach. So simple while aligning people’s incentives properly. Except the amount should be enough for a transit pass plus a little extra.

      3. Well...*

        Cool, so people who live in areas with no access to public transportation, people who live in areas without safe bike paths, people who live in areas where it’s not safe to walk alone and would have to walk at night (in grad school I often had to go home at 3am), and people with disabilities have to pay more to access their work place.

        Also people with caregiving responsibilities who need to use a car daily in order to get everyone where they need to go and get to work on time.

        This argument was used against grad students for a long time, and it’s trash. One grad student in my union had to drive her mom to and from dialysis (super far away) while trying to get to the classes she had to teach, plus struggling to even find parking once she got to campus because of these policies to attack individual drivers for environmental/cost cutting reasons. Like I’m all for saving the planet but why is the burden falling on the people with the most difficult personal circumstances?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Because they are the easiest targets. It’s a bit harder to attack and shame a corporation for, I don’t know, dumping fuel into an ocean, than it is to go after an old lady next door for failing to bike everywhere or eat vegan. My pet peeve.

          1. Well...*

            Yup, and then we harass that lady and feel like we made a difference. Meanwhile, even if every single old lady in the world stopped driving and put themselves under house arrest, the temperatures continue to rise.

            1. I Have RBF*


              I have lost count of how much I, a disabled person, have felt like I was being shamed for using a car and working from home. Even on here, I am always being reminded to “be aware of my privilege“. It pretty bad when a situation to preserve the life and health of yourself and your housemates, that you have worked hard to attain, is passed off and derided as some sort of unearned privilege!!

              I want help the planet, but I can’t do it if I’m sick or broke. Plus, no matter how much I recycle, compost, reuse, do without, waste my time on the bus, swelter and get rashes with my A/C set to 80, etc, etc, it still won’t cancel out the massive pollution from the large, multinational polluter corporations! It’s like trying to bail out a huge boat with a teaspoon. So I refuse to do stuff that significantly degrades my quality of life.

        2. My Cabbages!*

          The answer is to allow applications for permits for those people, not to subsidize parking for everyone. Because then you get the parking lots filled up with people who could use other transportation, and the people in the “difficult personal circumstances” can’t park anyway because there’s no room.

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            And then 1) people have to disclose all kinds of personal things to get subsidized parking (disabilities, health conditions, family situations), and 2) who decides which situations qualify? Does my motion sickness on transit count? My sore back that’s aggravated by standing on overfilled buses and trains?

            I’d rather not have my employer involved in my transit decisions. Offer parking (subsidized or not), maybe subsidize bus passes to encourage people not to drive, but leave it at that.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              It would work like any other accommodations process. People disclose, depending on circumstances might be asked for documentation (e.g. doctor’s note), and get accommodations based on individual circumstances.

              If your employer typically provides unsubsidized parking but will cover the cost as an accommodation in specific circumstances, you aren’t forced to disclose anything. You can still choose to pay for parking like everyone else. It just means you have the option to disclose.

          2. Well...*

            That is absolutely not the answer, and how would you even start doing that? Are you going to ask people if they feel safe on their walk home? Are you going to investigate whether their answer is true or false?

            That is wildly unrealistic, and honestly the overhead it would take to check that would probably cost more money than that parking. If you’re so concerned about losing your raises over this.

        3. I Have RBF*


          Why is it that the poorest, disabled, or ones with additional responsibilities must bear the burden of saving the planet?

          Transit is set up in my area such that only the poor or desperate can afford to use it – it doesn’t go everywhere, and takes oodles of inefficient time to get to where it does go, and only runs even remotely reliable during peak commutes, which screws over shift workers – who are most likely to have to use transit because they don’t make enough to afford to live near their jobs or own cars.

          Yes, when I was young and going to college, I rode my bike the nearly 7 miles to the university, until I got run off the road twice. Then I switched to the bus, which took the same amount of time as a bike. I had the time to burn, since I didn’t have a relationship or other family obligations. I was also poor as hell, and if you are poor you don’t have money, so you pay the cost in extra time out of your life.

          See, what the transit boosters never realize is that there is a hidden equation for commute costs that takes in to account people’s earning power:
          Car: Gas + upkeep + tolls + parking + (commute time * hourly rate) = Car commute cost
          Transit: Fare + (commute time * hourly rate) = Transit commute

          What transit planners leave out is the (commute time * hourly rate) component. If a person’s hourly rate is low, the costs of a car commute exceed those of a transit commute. But for a medium to high earner? The sheer time involved in a transit commute dwarfs the savings from the lower fares.

          So the practical equation rules out cars for minimum wage earners, and rules out transit for middle to high earners. This is the actual problem we have when we talk about the time for transit vs time for driving.

          The only way to get the high earners out of their cars is to make transit take less time than driving. This works well in traffic congested cities with subways or elevated trains – the only way transit is faster than cars is if it has a dedicated right-of-way. The light rail in my city partially fails on this because it is mostly at grade level – the trains stop for stop lights and go very slowly due to pedestrian cross-traffic downtown.

          One of my early commutes went the other way: It took nearly two hours to drive on congested roads, plus expensive city parking, versus a 20 minute drive to the train station, 30 minutes on the train, and a block walk to the office (about 10 min.) So driving the whole way took longer, and even without the fare/fuel costs, it won completely on time alone and I wasn’t making that much.

          /transit ramble

          1. Well...*

            Thank you! Excellent points.

            “Why is it that the poorest, disabled, or ones with additional responsibilities must bear the burden of saving the planet?” because according to neoliberalism, we must charge them for all kinds of use taxes that wealthy people can easily pay to keep their own lifestyles, otherwise the problem can’t possibly be solved! Long discussions that say basically exactly this are in the comment threads below. It makes me extremely pessimistic about the future of our planet tbh.

    8. Snow Globe*

      When I transferred from a suburban location with free parking to a downtown location that had subsidized, but still costly, parking, I managed to negotiate a bump to my salary to cover the parking costs (this was a transfer within the same company to a job with the same salary range, so normally wouldn’t have a pay bump). A few years later I transferred out to another location with free parking; no impact to the salary. About five years later, I got a promotion and returned downtown, but asked for more than the normal promotion bump due to the parking situation, and got it again. So, it is possible, at least with some companies, to negotiate that. At my company though, they couldn’t just give you free parking since the parking lot was owned by another company, but the manager could put it into the salary.

      1. LJ*

        And a great example of how negotiating salary, even a little bit, can pay dividends down the road!

    9. Rara Avis*

      My husband worked in a downtown location with no parking. Employees who wanted to drive had to pay for a spot in a public lot. The employer, however, did fully subsidize public transit, which ran past their front door.

    10. Beth*

      I really feel like there’s a practical element here that’s aside from the fairness question, too.

      If employers want their employees to be on time, then they probably want them to have transit options that aren’t subject to the whims of “My connecting bus came early, so I missed the connection, and the next one isn’t for another half an hour” or “my train just stopped while underground between stations, I was stuck there for 15 minutes”. Of course anyone can be delayed if there’s terrible weather or a major accident, but I’ve commuted by public transit and I’ve commuted by car, and driving has been more reliable in every place I’ve lived except NYC.

      If employers want people to drive, then they need to accept that people need somewhere to put the car. They can offer free parking; they can offer subsidized parking that’s genuinely cheaper than all the other nearby options; or they can accept that a lot of people are going to do what the letter yesterday was complaining about–find cheap/free street parking and need to move their cars regularly throughout the day. I think it’s probably in most employers’ best interest to do one of the first two options! On a straight up business level, it makes more sense to me to ensure that your employees have as little transportation trouble as possible.

    11. tinyhipsterboy*

      imo, if your business is located somewhere where the only parking is paid, parking is part of the price of operations. Doesn’t matter if the employee location changes (like if you’re a freelancer going to multiple places) or if it’s a single retail store. You shouldn’t have to pay for access to work, especially if the job already requires reliable transportation (which most seem to, I think?). Though I think it would be good to also have a stipend for public transit, the reliable transportation requirement does kind of get around that.

      It’s one thing to pay for, idk, some form of preferred parking. But parking at all? It’s typical, but I really don’t think it’s fair.

    12. Dek*

      Oh man, I miss public transportation so BADLY.

      I don’t mind the commute I have. It’s generally not that bad (barring that time I totaled my car on the way to work last year when someone tried to make a blind left turn in front of me), and hey, I can sing in my car, and also the car doubles as storage…(it shouldn’t. but it does.)


      I do miss just being able to spend the commute to work reading or knitting or doing something other than having to navigate through traffic…

    13. tamarack etc.*

      I work for a university. Student parking passes cost less (about 50%) than employee parking passes, and passes for temp employees (including adjuncts) are at about the student parking pass level. We have the option of having parking fees deducted from pre-tax paychecks, and it amounts to about $25 per month, for the full amount (one car – multi-car passes are a little more). I think that is a fair amount. It’s small enough in the greater scheme that it’s not the ultimate make-it-or-break-it charge to the paycheck. At the same time, we get services for it – parking maintenance, outlets at every parking space for the winter (sub-Arctic climate – we have oil pan and battery heaters).

  4. Looby*

    For number 1. My husbands system is to answer but make them regret asking, at a recent meeting they were to share something that made them laugh that week and his response was “seeing someone walk into a glass door that morning.”
    Maybe not for everyone but I wish I had seen his coworkers faces.

    1. I am Emily's failing memory*

      “I saw a goose steal a piece of bread from a child this morning. The child started crying. It was hilarious.”

      1. allathian*

        “I saw a seagull dive-bomb our CEO and crap all over his 5k Armani suit. I laughed until I almost peed myself.”

        Or maybe not. Might get me fired…

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        “I filmed a seagull just throw down on this three year old and take its sandwich right from its chubby hand. Already got sixty thousand likes!”

      1. ClaireW*

        Yeah this has been my approach before when I’ve had to do this (usually for one-off event/meeting “icebreakers”) – “I had a really nice breakfast”, “my commute was pretty chill”, “I’m wearing this outfit I like”

      2. Lacey*

        Always my go-to.

        “What’s something you’re thankful for?”
        “Stop lights”
        “Um…. good. Next?”

        1. ferrina*

          My mind immediately leapt to the weather! There’s usually something you can say:
          “It’s sunny today, and it’s nice to see the sun.”
          “It’s rainy today, which is great for the plants”
          “It might snow, which would be very pretty.”
          “It’s windy, and it makes the leaves dance.”
          “There’s thunder and lightning, very very frightening, and now I will have Queen songs stuck in my head and enjoy Freddy Mercury’s dulcet tones all day.”

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            Dang it. Now I’LL have Freddy Mercury in my head… unless Destra’s Carnival can out-sing Freddy. Both are damn catchy…

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Try The Bangles! Seriously, Walk Like An Egyptian will drive away any other tune.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        That would be my plan — “had a great peach” “hit every green light on my way to work on Wednesday” “made it home right before the rain last night” — like that.

        TBH, having that in the back of my head all week to find something to say probably would give me a better attitude in general, even if I originally resented it.

        1. Delta Delta*

          The best peach I ever had was in Connecticut in 2008. Never overlook the power of a hood peach.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            Palisade Peaches are FINALLY available!! They come from the Western Slope area of Colorado and beat a Georgia peach any day! I end up buying BOXES of them and canning / freezing / jamming enough for gifts and cobbler throughout the year. :)

      4. Totally Minnie*

        We had a question like that at a training I went to once, and my answer was “the banana I had for breakfast was at the perfect state of ripeness.”

      5. AnonORama*

        Yeah, my org does this too (thanks, highly paid management consultants!) and I usually say something like “had a delicious dinner” or “finished my knitting project” or, most recently, “my air conditioning is fixed!” This may work because no one in the particular meeting was in charge of putting this stupid requirement on us, but it has gone over fine.

      6. Lizzianna*

        This is what I do.

        The coffee I got this morning was good.

        The flowers looked nice on the way to work.

        There was a funny bird in my yard this morning.

        Janet in admin ordered my favorite pens.

        Sarah was particularly helpful on yesterday’s project.

        Especially for work ones, I tend to use it as an opportunity to deflect and show appreciation to someone else.

      7. Melody Powers*

        I thought this was what they had in mind in the first place. I don’t know why so many people are treating this like the answers in this thread are against the spirit of the thing or something. I don’t see in the letter where it has to be something intensely personal.

      8. Fish Microwaver*

        Yeah, I would say something completely mundane such as “I made an awesome smoothie for breakfast” or “my car started first go this morning “. Otherwise there’s ” I woke up on the right side of the daisies today”.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes to innocuous letter of the law participation–non-work, but impersonal.

      I’d even go further and say this is a time to use the polite lie. Borrow things from the “little joys” thread on the Saturday open forum, if you’re flat out of ideas.

      For what it’s worth my husband sees it as “trying to build a positive attitude”, and as much of a private person as he is he “can’t say it’s a bad idea.” And even he agreed that innocuous impersonal positives would fill the bill.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, agreed. “I’m really enjoying the sunshine today!”, “It’s so nice it’s raining, it’s a break from the heat”, “I saw some really nice flowers on my walk in”, “I’m reading a book I’m really enjoying *”, “I made a dish my mom used to make, it really brought back memories *”, etc.

        * Use with caution, someone will ask for more details.

      2. Aerin*

        I like the idea of taking them from other people. You could cultivate a list of sentiments that are not necessarily untrue, in case they do prompt conversation, but are so bland and boring that they’re unlikely to. “I slept well last night.” “There was no traffic this morning.” “I’m looking forward to the lunch special.”

        There’s also something to be said for cultivating a work self, deciding which details of your life and personality you’re okay with work people knowing. Things like favorite TV shows, favorite restaurants, and a hobby or two are (often, not always) pretty safe and provide enough fodder for bland small talk.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Yes, I had to do this activity every week a few years ago. Mine one week was: “Game of Thrones is back.” But probably 65% of the time, I would share that I was pleased with the weather or forecasted weather.

      1. Jojo*

        I was thinking malicious compliance as well, but my malicious compliance might look something like this: Oh, so good thing in my personal life, I’m about to finish a quilt I’ve been working on for a year…I’ve been reading this book about color and it’s given me so many new ideas…I’ve also been thinking about how I should be using my scraps and really reconsidering my relationship with our consumption driven culture… All of those “…” would be filled with detailed thoughts about the matter and I would draw it out as long as possible into tedious detail. Then I’d finish by passing my phone around to show everyone a picture of said quilt. (Then I might hide in the bathroom until my coworkers no longer what to flog me for wasting so much of their time)

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              “I have eight thousand pictures of him sleeping on my phone! Finally a chance to share!”

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            Is it sad that I’m strongly considering hosting a basic mending course at my local arts & crafts center? I’ve spent HOURS this summer extending the pockets of ALL jeans and shorts who can’t fit my phone easily. I’m actually rather excited about it! Hemming is simple, so long as you have either a fellow (preferably persnickety) human or a full length mirror. Letting out is a PAIN, but taking in can usually be rather simple. I found Downtown Tailoring on YouTube; she has an AWESOME set of videos about how to mend or modify garments. :)

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          One solution is to bore them to death.

          I might be cranky and say In my personal life no one asked me to share anything I didn’t want to just to fake positivity.

          How many people are in this meeting? How long does this take from time that could be spent on the actual meeting agenda?

        2. TeaCoziesRUs*

          Ummm… apparel, rather than crafting nerd is me. And I can go on for LENGTH about my idea to invest in some Dharma dyes so that when my muslins (mock-ups) are good, I can tie-dye them and wear them as useful garments. :) I’m happy to talk color splits on ice-dying, whether shibori makes for more pleasing patterns than spirals or scrunch, my newest project that I’m cutting out or whatever, etc.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I came here to suggest something like this, but I had a different spin on it. We had a boss several years ago that was super into workplace positivity and gratitude and talked about it at every team meeting and in every daily standup. The big thing he tried to teach us was to be grateful for *everything*. Can you see? can you hear? did you wake up today? was the sky blue? did the birds sing? be grateful for that. So my thought was that I’d be saying things along those lines. “Great weather today” “I saw a flower in the parking lot” “No birds pooped on my car last night” etc etc

    4. Alpaca Bag*

      My coffee was extra tasty and the right temperature today! I live indoors. I have a job. I’m grateful for indoor plumbing. My cat ate a bug and didn’t throw up.

    5. Mockingjay*

      So, this is serious reply to LW 1. My company uses the same business philosophy, which includes opening internal team meetings with Personal Best and Business Best. We’ve been doing it for about 6 years.

      Like most people, I initially rolled my eyes and had much the same reaction to revealing personal stuff. But when led by a competent manager, employees are free to answer Personal Best as they chose or not at all. I have one teammate who has the same answer every week: “All good here.” There are a few people that love to share details of their lives, so this is a perfect outlet. “That’s really great to hear” or “oh, that’s wonderful!” Then we move on. It’s a soft opener and not really the point of the meeting.

      What’s important in these meetings is the Business Best. We’re technical support under contract to a government agency, and the agency’s work has more than tripled in recent years. With this growth has come pain – too much work, not enough staff, new processes that no one has training on, new engineering work… At first, everyone tried to say something positive, but some weeks there was literally no good news. Finally one brave soul said: “you know what? It’s been a crappy week. The customer is a PITA, pushed up the due date without notice, then rejected the rushed deliverable three times for piddly stuff.” Then we can delve into these issues during the meeting and plan solutions. We’ve all gotten very blunt about issues and we’ve fixed a lot of things.

      Long answer short: if you have a good manager running these type meetings, they can be very effective and informative. If not, don’t dwell on the personal stuff; come up with something innocuous – saw a movie, had some good food – and move on with the rest of your day.

    6. Dr. Vibrissae*

      I mean, I would love hearing that. I don’t like or dislike these types of intros, but I’ve never considered that anyone expected more basic than “I finished the report I was working on, and I had a good bagel this morning”. I assumed the point is just to break the ‘not speaking’ barrier for everyone in the room so that they are more likely to contribute later in the meeting if warranted. I have to do the same thing to get my kid talking in the evenings.

    7. Capybara Manager*

      My approach to this, in groups where I don’t feel comfortable sharing real things, is to make the positive things from my personal life very, very trivial. Things like
      * my coffee was extra delicious yesterday
      * I saw a bunny on my way to work today
      * it’s supposed to stop raining tomorrow, yay

      Why do people implement these kinds of things? In a past job I was on a team where we started sharing “highs and lows” at the beginning of each meeting (I forget if they were weekly or biweekly), and it was because it was an annoying job and there was otherwise a tendency for people to endlessly kvetch. It worked pretty well because (1) it was work-related, although you could share something more personal if you wanted to, (2) you could share a high, a low, or both, (3) it was something we decided as a team to implement, and (4) it didn’t totally cut off the opportunity to kvetch, but did focus it better and offered an opportunity for some kvelling too.

    8. mlem*

      Same answer every. single. time. Like, “I finished my university degree, and I got hired at this company!” Positive things, correctly categorized, and utterly uninformative.

    9. RVA Cat*

      At least that’s a harmless way to make them regret asking.

      My immediate thought was people oversharing things like “that rash finally cleared up” or “my date came home with me and…[HR insues]”.

    10. goddessoftransitory*

      “The Great One has finally contacted us, and the cosmic uprising begins.” Do not blink.

    11. Database Developer Dude*

      Okay, I -do not- recommend doing this, but I saw it happen, and it was funny AF. I was in a job where the insisted we share, and one of my coworkers was this young guy just out of college. He shared what happened on his date the previous evening…..in detail. I’ve never seen so many red faces!!!! Needless to say, this requirement went away quickly.

    1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Right? Can you imagine if every worker in every downtown tower got free parking? Each ‘rush hour’ would last for days!

      Also, a lol from me at this part of the letter: there’s a free shuttle, or walking, biking, carpooling, or other parking….but the company is OBLIGING their employees to pay for parking spots. Yeesh.

      1. People before cars*

        This. Cars need to stop being considered the norm. They do a lot of damage and we need to find ways to help employees not have to drive in to work—exactly like this company is doing!

          1. Willow Pillow*

            It can be! Making cigarettes more expensive helps to lower smoking rates, for instance. Making it more expensive to drive helps people to choose more environmentally-friendly options. It doesn’t have to be that everyone sells their cars, lives in a shoebox-sized apartment downtown, and bikes everywhere, but reducing our reliance on private cars is still a net benefit for everyone.

            1. mlem*

              Making one choice more painful than another is not “helping” that individual person in the common-sense understanding of helping. That’s like saying you’ll help someone suffer less from a headache by breaking their arm.

              1. Willow Pillow*

                That’s a simplistic view of “helping”. There are plenty of other “common-sense” examples where making one choice more difficult is helpful, like children doing homework and chores, or an accountability partner for an exercise program.

                1. Dek*

                  I mean, with an accountability partner, that’s something you opt in for. The other things you’re describing are…kind of infantilizing. Like operating under the assumption that people aren’t Making Good Choices because they just Don’t Know Better.

                  Instead of considering that maybe people are making those choices because that’s the best option available to them. You don’t “help” by making that option worse. You help by making other options better. And by understanding that sometimes people still need to make the choice you don’t approve of.

                2. Willow Pillow*

                  The subsidization of driving isn’t far off either, though – people complain about the other options being made better because they see the $170MM in the budget for new bike lanes, but not the $850MM every year for road maintenance.

                  (I’m not going to touch your points on personal approval or prohibition as they come off as red herrings against fighting climate change)

                3. Dek*

                  Did you respond to the wrong comment? Because I didn’t say anything about subsidizing driving.

                  I will say, NONE of this is “red herrings against fighting climate change”

                  Fighting climate change means actually UNDERSTANDING why people do what they do. If you’re laboring under the impression that adding another couple hundred onto the cost of owning a car will somehow make people stop relying on them so much, then you’re not going to get very far with actually ending car reliance.

                  I am all for ending car reliance. I would LOVE to have efficient public transportation where I live now.

                  Owning a car is already expensive af. There’s the note. The insurance. The gas. The maintenance. There’s the hassle of dealing with all of that. There’s the risk every time you have to drive on a crowded road full of frustrated drivers.

                  Punishing people for needing a car to get around by letting their employer take back a cut of their wages is NOT an effective way to fight car reliance or climate change. It’s just a way to punish people who are just trying to get by.

            2. Dek*

              How about instead of making it more expensive to drive to “help” people to make Good Choices… we make those Good Choices more easily and readily available?

              A company taking a chunk of a worker’s paycheck if they drive isn’t reducing reliance on private cars. INFRASTRUCTURE does that.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                This, exactly! What helps people move away from dependence on cars is addressing the public transit system itself to ensure that it functions in a way that lets people use cars less often. What doesn’t help is penalizing people for using cars when the public transit system isn’t yet in a condition that would make it more usable.

                1. Dek*

                  I mean, those ideas don’t involve employers charging staff to park, which is the discussion at hand, so this doesn’t really seem like the time or place to get into Ideas for Government Funding…

            3. Dek*

              “Making cigarettes more expensive helps to lower smoking rates, for instance.”

              True! And outlawing alcohol helps lower public drunkeness!

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Make them fulltime remote, that’s the only way to help them not have to drive to work, everything else won’t work for everyone for reasons stated by myself and others.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              And telling people to bike to work or be ashamed of themselves for driving is?!

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                My point is that I see a number of commenters in this thread shaming and berating people for doing what they have to do the only way they can do it (getting to work the only way they can) in the name of “helping them not have to drive to work” and to me this is absurd and places the blame on people who have nothing to blame themselves for. Lets be realistic. if they have to commute to work and the office is anywhere other than NYC, they have to drive to work.

                1. somehow*

                  “…if they have to commute to work and the office is anywhere other than NYC, they have to drive to work.”

                  Not everyone. My small city has fantastic public transportation, and very cheaply or for free. I’m sure other are in the same situation.

                2. Coconutty*

                  Do you really think that New York is the only city in the US where people walk, bike, or take public transit to work???

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I am honestly happy for the small minority of US locations where people are able to get by without a car. But can you please remember that the rest of us exist?

        2. Also-ADHD*

          RTO is exacerbating this. My company is remote first thankfully, but traffic is back to normal/horrible and it’s an environmental problem as well and needlessly so, because many jobs can be done from home, and many folks would work from home, reducing car use and other transportation and environmental footprint issues.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I mean, I worked downtown. I woke up every morning, dropped kid 1 off at school, dropped kid 2 off at daycare, drove the 20 miles to work, paid for parking. One of my duties was also driving out to a client’s site an extra 45 miles away in the opposite direction from my home. I sometimes got calls from school or daycare that a child was sick and to come get him right away. Guess I could’ve walked or biked or carpooled to all those things. A lol right back from me.

        1. Madame X*

          I think you’re looking at this backwards. Encouraging other forms of transportation also helps people who are car drivers. If parking was free, then everyone would park in the parking deck, but then you’d have the problem of not having enough parking. When companies charge for parking, it now Incentivizes people who have the option of using the other transportation methods to use those alternatives instead . This also benefits people who have to drive in because it frees up more parking spots for people who truly cannot choose the other options.

          I used to work downtown 30 Min from where I live and I took the train as often as I could because it was so inconvenient to have to drive in the city, be stuck in traffic and find parking in a paid parking deck that was most likely already full.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Ah I see. You are saying that a train that went from my home to my work, my one kid’s daycare, my other kid’s school, my client’s site, and came every 5 minutes so I could catch it to school or daycare on short notice, would’ve helped curb my reliance on driving. Totally agree. Or, or what if my kids and I all could fly! then we wouldn’t have had to drive at all. Just flap our arms and we’re there!

            We had a train, it was a 20 min drive from my home, and then another 10-15 min walk from the train station to my work – it would’ve worked if not for the daycare/school dropoff/pickup, the client site, and the last-minute calls to me as my kids’ caregiver. People who did not have any of that going on were taking it. I’d be happily taking it now if I needed to commute downtown. I did not have that luxury then. Like, I don’t even have a dog in this fight right now, I work remotely and my children are adults and my mother is living independently. But a lot of people are in the same situation that I was 20 years ago. And no they do not have alternatives. They’d be using them if they did. To charge them out the wazoo for work parking would accomplish nothing other than having them pay out the wazoo for work parking.

            1. BottleBlonde*

              I don’t think that’s the point they were making at all. The point is that it would be worse for all of us who *do* have to drive if parking was free, because more people who *don’t* have to drive would choose to do so. More people driving = more traffic, longer commute, needing to leave the house earlier to ensure you get a spot in the lot, etc.

              I drive to work and probably will for the foreseeable future because of constraints like the ones you described – and while I’m not exactly thrilled about paying to park, I’m happy that many of my coworkers choose other transport options.

            2. The Charioteer*

              That’s not what they said at all. They said was that less people driving makes things more convenient for people like you, who have to drive.

      3. Sunflower*

        I agree. Any bus/light rail/ etc passes should be free, they should facilitate carpool or vanpool, but individual driving should not be free.

    2. Lisa Vanderpump*

      My company forces me to work from an office, shouldn’t they cover my train fare? /s

      1. metadata minion*

        Subsidized transit fare is a pretty common thing, to encourage people to use public transit.

        1. Lisa Vanderpump*

          Commuter benefits? Sure. But I’ve never encountered a workplace that covers this 100%.

          1. Orange You Glad*

            Mine covered $45 pre month which is about half the price of a monthly transit pass in my city. It was great but went away post-COVID (one of the trade-offs for WFH flexibility).

          2. EasternPhoebe*

            My employer covers all of our commuter costs for bus, train, and bikeshare! It used to be only 50% covered, but management realized how cheap these costs are compared to parking subsidies and increased it to 100%. As a train commuter, I’m so happy.

          3. My Cabbages!*

            Mine does, and gives me 5 days of parking a month for day where I really need to drive in. But I am lucky in that regard.

          4. Sunflower*

            Our company subsidizes our regional transit pass (train/bus) 100%, as did my last one. I think there are heavy tax incentives to offer green options.

          5. Capybara Manager*

            I’ve never worked anywhere that does this but there are definitely workplaces where I live that do it … or at least used to, pre-COVID.

      2. Panda*

        I am in favor of employers subsidizing public transit for commutes, but if someone chooses to drive a car to work every day when decent public transit alternatives are available, then they should pay for their own parking.

        Most of my colleagues took public transit prior to the COVID shutdown, but started driving to and from work post lockdown and have never gone back to public transit.

        1. Jezebella*

          *When decent public transit alternatives are available* is almost impossible to define for every worker. What’s a “decent” time for the commute? How far is too far to walk? What if you’re disabled? What if it’s 100 degrees every day for weeks on end? What if your immune system is compromised and being on a crowded bus or train is a real health risk?

          Also, PS? Covid still exists.

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Define choosing. Someone who has take a sick relative to their care is that choosing to drive? Someone who has to drop the kids at school because the district spent money on the 18th administrator instead of busses is that choosing?

          No one size fits all workers for their transportation needs. Just like all in the office or all remote does not fit all workers. The solution is flexibility, which includes subsidies for all transport to work. For bicyclists that might mean assistance to maintain the bike in a safe condition, while for drivers its subsidized/free parking.

          Because the costs of getting to work hit the lowest paid the hardest.

          1. Dek*

            I don’t normally subscribe to the idea of “big city folks are out of touch with the Rest Of Us” but every time I see comments like those, I feel like it’s coming from folks who never lived in one of the thousands of cities built by and for cars that span the US.

            Living somewhere you don’t HAVE to drive to get anywhere is wonderful. I loved it.

            Where I live now, I can’t even go to the bookstore or the target that’s less than a mile from me without my car, because 1) it’s too hot most of the year and 2) no mortal can cross the road between me and them on foot.

            1. Eater of Hotdish*

              Right? I live in the absolute middle of nowhere surrounded by…pretty much amber waves of grain. We’re ridiculously lucky to have a shoebox-sized grocery store in my town of maybe 350 people. But if you need something like therapy, gluten-free bread, pants that you can try on first, x-rays for that ankle you thought you sprained but whoops, it’s broken! –or specialized care for Aunt Matilda who has Alzheimer’s, or…or…

              Well, you’d better have access to a vehicle. My spouse and I are unusual locally for having only one car between us. We can get away with it because we live in town, and he works remotely.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Ah yeah I remember the time when we lived in a suburb 30 min from downtown, with the usual suburban infrastructure, shopping etc, and I had my then 6-grader son call me at five pm like “Mom, I went to Jimmy’s after school to do homework and now I’m at this intersection of (two 6-lane roads) and no one’s letting me cross and I’ve been here an hour – can you come pick me up?”

              The absolute majority of places in this country is wildly car-centric. The suburb we lived in was even walkable and had sidewalks, but people were positively baffled when they saw a pedestrian and did not know how to react to that. And there was always someone going 50 in a 35, running a red light etc, so in the end, like you said, no mortal could cross on foot. Walk your dog up and down your block, yes. Walk to work during rush hour? are you kidding?

            3. fhqwhgads*

              Yeah, there closes store is a Target 2 miles from my house, and in certain times of year I guess I’d call that walkable, except for the part where there are no sidewalks. And it’s hilly as hell, so I’m sure someone could maybe bike it, but I can’t.

              1. Dek*

                We’ve got no hills, but we’ve also got no trees or tall buildings either, so no shade. And yeah, sidewalks are not a guarantee and often end abruptly.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Historical path dependency: A century and a half ago, for certain types of job, downtown was where you worked. You might live there as well, but if not you took a streetcar, which at that time probably was horse-drawn, though various sorts of mechanized transit was starting to come into play. You could in theory take a personal horse-drawn vehicle, but that would be insane even if you owned such a thing, which you didn’t unless you were rich or it was your work vehicle. Even senior management took the streetcars.

      As automobiles enter the picture, the streets are gradually (and only partially) adapted to them. The commercial possibilities of renting parking spaces soon became apparent. But well into the automobile era, the typical office worker still took transit. A company providing parking for its employees simply wasn’t in the picture. This has changed in that more employees drive, out of practical necessity or personal preference, and modern downtown office buildings typically have underground parking, but this process of adaptation has only been partial. In the meantime, the same company might have suburban facilities, which of course have dedicated parking lots. That’s just the way it is.

    4. Lynn*

      I worked for my former employer, Central Parking, from 2003 to 2015.

      I mainly worked in the downtown core, and since I could not afford a car, I took the bus and light rail to work.

      Central Parking managed several parking garages and parking lots in the downtown core.

      And yes, there was a parking fee for daily parking as well as parking passes.

    5. K8T*

      Right! I’m very lucky and now work someplace that does provide free parking for all employees but that is incredibly rare, especially for my industry. I had to pay to park for all of my previous positions until I got high enough up for that to be a part of the package but if you choose to accept a job downtown, personal transit costs should be factored into that decision.

    6. Dek*

      Ok, but if we don’t work in a downtown core and our city doesn’t actually have transit…

      I mean, it’s worth considering that maybe the life circumstances that prompted the question are different from your own?

    7. Shan*

      A parking pass in my office downtown is $485 CAD/month for unreserved, and $585 for reserved. Daily rate is $24/day if you arrive before 9. My company pays us a $50 transportation stipend each pay period, regardless of what method you take. I walk to work, but because it costs $$$ to live inner-city, I’m really not saving any money compared to a coworker living out in the ‘burbs and paying for gas and parking. And if my company subsidized parking more than the amount they already do, that cost would be spread amongst all of us, while only benefiting some. I’m cool with that when it comes to taxes, not when it comes to my coworkers parking.

      I recognize I probably live in a much higher COL than the LW, but $80 when you have several other options doesn’t seem particularly bad!

  5. Allonge*

    LW5 – can you work towards making sure that people can disconnect? That no manager asks for a justification of PTO (and it’s not discussed negatively on any level), that people are not expected (heavily discouraged, in fact) to check their email off the clock and so on? I get that you need 24/7 availability, but it cannot be the same people alll the time.

    Also: look at what you mean by hustle culture and try to change the specifics that don’t actually go towards saving lives. Are people expected to be Enthusiastic!About!theMission! all the time? Can your staff opt out of meetings that may or may not be helpful to their mental health? Can you discourage competition on how long people stay in the office past hours, etc?

    1. Observer*

      can you work towards making sure that people can disconnect? That no manager asks for a justification of PTO (and it’s not discussed negatively on any level), that people are not expected (heavily discouraged, in fact) to check their email off the clock and so on?

      This is *excellent*. You may not be able to give more time, but at least let people use the time you’ve already budgeted. And I mean *really* let. Because if managers ask for justification and make negative comments or even faces when people take time, then it’s not freely allowing people to take the time.

      All the rest of this comment is excellent, but this is a real key.

    2. My Dear Wormwood*

      A surprisingly helpful thing our last vice-chancellor made a mission of was streamlining all the paperwork and admin stuff as much as possible. Being an old organisation, things had accumulated and never been rationalised, so you needed 17 signatures (I’m not joking) to get maternity leave approved. Now you need 3 and they can all be e-signatures on a pdf form.

      It’s so good to be able to get on with the actual job.

      1. Ashley*

        The policy thing can be huge. There are definitely some issues that are regulated, but the number of times the answer is because that is how we have always done it is amazing. Even trying to triage the one call / who has to respond to emergencies. Is it possible to assign things so you get a week where you won’t be called in?
        Also I would really look at the hustle culture. Do you ever get to flex in the opposite direction? If you have slower periods are you able to easily duck out early. If you are running at bare minimum staffing this isn’t an option and at that point it is really an issue of trying to not run that way. (Which is an entire issue that doesn’t necessarily mean you just need to pay better because there are areas / industries where you can not find people for all the openings.)

    3. Matt*

      This exactly. If I ever found myself in that kind of job, the single most important thing for me would be plannable, reliable time off – not on duty, not on call. There needs to be a rotating schedule with everyone getting the opportunity to real free time so the “ready to work at the drop of a hat” burden only falls on those currently scheduled on call, and not to every single person 7/24.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And I’d suggest that day/night shift not rotate– let employees pick & keep a regular schedule so they don’t destroy their health. If there’s extra pay for overnight shifts some people will want that.

        1. metadata minion*

          Ditto! If enough staff push back, by all means keep the rotation, but as much as I hated working evenings/nights, it’s much easier for me to just go nocturnal than to try to flip back and forth.

    4. Daria grace*

      I second this re PTO. I’m in a somewhat stressful job. While on paper our leave provisions are probably a little better than average, the amount of pleading, planning and bureaucracy wrangling often required to get leave even outside peak periods approved is a big contributor to staff feeling burned out and demoralised

    5. nnn*

      Building on this, part of letting people disconnect might be designating who is on call when. If you’re on call, you might get called. If you’re not on call, you won’t get called.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        And building in flexibility the next day if you are on call. Or even if there is a particularly stressful day they can take fewer calls the next day or even just have a paperwork day. Things that give them time to recover instead of going from crisis to crisis.

    6. AcademiaNut*

      The two practical things that occurred to me off the top of my head were structuring time off (not just PTO, but days people are not scheduled to work) so that the employees can genuinely check out and refresh, and not be flinching every time their phone rings because it might be work, and to have really good health insurance, so that employees can access help when they need it.

      On a more general level, the message from management needs to be “take care of yourself – you need to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others”. If employees are getting messages like “you have to come in on your day off/work overtime/keep doing a job that doesn’t pay a living wage/drive yourself to the breaking point otherwise people will die” (with the unspoken message being “and it will be your fault”), they’re going to burn out faster.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        This. One thing I fought for when I was a manager was to shift our opening hours to give people breathing room to get administrative work done. If we didn’t get the paperwork cleared out, it effected people’s benefits pretty dramatically. Yet by having our customer service hours for the full duty day we couldn’t clear the paperwork queue quickly enough.

        If you are open 24/7, can you build shifts in such a way that there is enough coverage so that everyone can have blocks of time to complete their documentation or other paperwork? I.E. I work the front desk doing intakes from 8-10, Paperwork 10-11, lunch from 11-12, front desk 12-16, paperwork 16-17. Jo(e) is my counterpart, but would do paperwork from 8-9, when we’re slower, then back me up out front 9-11, solo 11-12, lunch 12-13, paperwork 13-14, then front desk rest of the day.

        Also, when I had a heavy burden, it helped to work a modified 40, in which I worked 9 hrs/day, then had every other Friday off. It allowed me an extra hour after closing to work on paperwork.

    7. NothingIsLittle*

      This is really the only thing I thought of that would make a material difference in the situation described except for those listed as no-gos. People are going to be mostly aware of what they’re signing on for (if not, that’s a separate problem that needs to be addressed!), but not being able to disconnect from work will not be something they anticipate and makes them burn out much faster.

      My best friend is a licensed therapist and her previous job was incredibly understaffed, to the point where the remaining staff were essentially always on call. She ended up at her psychiatrist with panic attacks needing medication to handle the job and her company has yet to do anything about their staffing problem. Her new job is the exact same type of work, with similarly gut-wrenching patients, and because she is allowed to disconnect when she’s not scheduled she is no longer having panic attacks and has stopped the medication.

      I say that to illustrate that if this is something the OPs company isn’t doing, it will make a real difference!

    8. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Role modeling is also useful. Let employees see their bosses prioritizing family time, taking breaks, and building time into their schedules for self-care — along with encouraging their staff to do the same.

      1. I Have RBF*


        My company has “unlimited PTO”. It could be really sucky, but my boss models taking time off, taking off sick when he is sick, scheduling medical stuff during work hours and saying so, etc. The group I am in has a IT back-end support role, so there are often nights and weekends for patching and upgrades. He encourages us to flex out work time because of these things, so if we end up working all Saturday we take a day off during the next week, etc.

        He is a prime example of management modeling healthy work-life boundaries.

    9. t-vex*

      Yes yes yes. I also work in a field where it’s not unreasonable to receive a call after hours or on the weekend but when I’m on PTO I’m *on PTO.* Unless the building is on fire and I’m the only person with an extinguisher, nobody bothers me, ever. It’s such a necessary break.

    10. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Hear, hear.

      And this can apply to every time scale – vacations, weekends, evenings, lunch hour, 5-minute break to clear your head.

  6. FavoRITA*

    #1: My old company had us do that too. I had a coworker that would basically just say the same thing every week, some variation of “Did some reading” or “watched (insert show).” That was her way of not getting personal.

    1. EG*

      Yeah! That’s what I was going to suggest. A reasonable interpretation is that people just want some reminder that everyone is human. I’d just say something innocuous like “saw a good sunset on the way home”/”enjoying the weather that we are having” (Or if you have pets or children, “my cat was cute” is always a winner).

      It doesn’t have to be deeply personal or particularly informative.

      1. SquirtleSquad*

        That’s what I used to do also at my last job. “I got a free slice of banana bread”, “I went for a nice hike”. If it was work related “I finished x task”. There was a period though where we had to start with something we admired about a team member, that one could get tricky.

        1. Czhorat*

          “To the best of my knowledge, Jeff has never killed anyone who didn’t deserve it” is usually accurate.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My autistic son was a pro at this when he was young. I have a Mother’s day letter from him somewhere, that he had to write at school and that had to list the things that made me important to others, and that contains this brilliant statement “you are important to trees because you inhale oxygen and exhale CO2”.

          1. Clisby*

            Yes! People make a big to-do about how plants contribute to us, but how many talk about how important we are to plants?

      2. Matt*

        “my cat was cute”
        And if you don’t actually have a cat, just invent one for this purpose. (That’s what I’d probably do in this situation)

        1. Sharpie*

          I would absolutely borrow my sister’s kid or dog for cuteness. The kid is nearly three, and the dog is a fluffy as all get out Pom-chi.

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        “I saw a neat bug”

        In very few offices will you be asked follow-up questions about what kind of bug you saw.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I once worked with someone who had a degree in entomology. We had more bug-focused discussions than most offices.

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I think derailing a “moment of positivity” meeting activity into a neat bug/bird/plant ID session would be a pretty major win, actually.

            (I was the kind of kid who went to zoo camp and nature camp with a note from my mom explaining that I was there because I liked animals and plants and wanted to spend all day watching them, and please do not make me do the “fun” group activities, though. I’d much rather ID plants than play freeze tag.)

        1. metadata minion*

          At my current job, I have achieved a life goal of being the person summoned to come escort weird bugs out of the library, or just to look at them so they can be properly identified.

      4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        What if you decided to respect the humanity of your colleagues as the default rather than requiring them to provide you with warm fuzzies? Even mentally rephrasing it as “some reminder that everyone has a life outside work” might help.

        (I say this as a queer person, so there genuinely are people out there who don’t want to treat me as human – that’s no doubt coloring my reading of the phrase.)

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          My brain doesn’t work right so I’m like ‘ of course everyone is a human!’ The sad part is when people ask me these things my brain forgets literally anything I have seen or done this week.

    2. Observer*

      Yes, this is what I was coming to say.

      Comment on the nice weather if you had it; answer the “did anything interesting over the weekend” question; comment on some event that lots of people are buzzing positively about (eg I’m thinking about going to the new Rice Sculpture exhibit that’s coming in to town); some really bland activity, without detail are all perfectly good answers that don’t require getting into really personal stuff.

      1. Little Sushi*

        Yes! more bland answers:
        -I got my morning walk in
        -I’ve finished all the washing (including packing it away).
        -I solved a life-admin problem
        -I sent a letter to a dear friend
        -I’ve decided what’s for dinner for the rest of the week (!!!!!!)
        -i saw a seagull swoop and take chips from someone’s lunch (it made me laugh)

        1. Satan’s Panties*

          The problem is, no matter what context you use for the personal stuff, it feels like show-and-tell in first grade.

          Funny thing: I used to keep a journal and note the most *important* thing that happened each work day. Still not something I’d want to share, because “important” could mean a negative or positive experience. The idea was to identify patterns, so I could reduce the negatives and increase the positives. But depending on one’s coworkers, it might not be wise to share either.

        2. FashionablyEvil*

          Right? The options are endless:

          The tomatoes in the garden are getting ripe
          I’m looking forward to the weekend because the weather is supposed to be beautiful
          I remembered to return my overdue library book
          I saw a cool bird that I didn’t recognize
          I saw some kids jumping in puddles and having a great time

          There are a million things that are mildly pleasant and don’t really reveal anything about you.

        3. ecnaseener*

          “I slept well last night” is also a good one — universally relatable, doesn’t reveal anything about your personality or preferences.

    3. yvve*

      Honestly, I feel like if you are trying to avoid drawing attention to your private life, this is the way to go. Declaring that you prefer not to tell anyone anything about your life will get way more notice than just picking a really really obvious thing that says nothing about you in particular. I would go with something like “I got a good parking spot this morning!” or “It was very sunny on thursday”

      1. The Rural Juror*

        This feels right on the nose for me. I have a coworker who is slightly intrusive and I just try to be a grey rock.

        We had a team lunch one day and she was asking personal questions. When I pushed back a bit and said it wasn’t appropriate, she got huffy and said something to effect of, “We spend 40 hours a week with our coworkers. We deserve to know them better.”

        SO wrong on so many levels, but she still refuses to understand why it’s inappropriate. Not to a I-need-to-tell-HR level, but just in an annoying way. She likes to say things like, “Well, we know Juror doesn’t like to share.” but that just makes her sound snarky.

        If this was coming from the management level, I’d want to pull my hair out!

    4. alienor*

      Agreed. I think the LW is conflating “personal” and “private.” Anything not directly work-related is personal; it doesn’t have to reveal information about your health or your home life or any topics that are generally considered to be private.

      1. JM60*

        True. Personal doesn’t necessarily mean private. However, it should be up to someone how private they want their personal life. One person might prefer something about their personal life to be private, even though most others wouldn’t consider it to be very private.

      2. Smithy*

        Exactly – I will also add that for some people, knowing that John likes to cook and Jane takes walks does help them at work. Feeling closer to their coworkers on that very light social level improves their quality of work.

        And for others it’s not desired or it’s always easy to draw a line between “I enjoyed yesterday’s weather” with “I enjoyed yesterday’s weather until my child had another stressful meltdown”. So for the OP, while this may feel like a task they’d rather not do at all – maybe it’s helpful to keep in mind that this open-ended prompt was chosen to not be too invasive but to support that first group’s work style.

        We have a new set up to our team meetings that includes an ice breaker for every meeting, but it’s shared before hand. At first these seemed silly and kind of irritating, but being able to think about it in advance made it far more helpful. When you have 24 hours to consider what type of cheese you are, it makes for a far different experience than 30 seconds.

        1. Engineer*

          You know what would be more helpful? Not having an ice breaker at all! Really, you’re doing them for *every* meeting? That’s 5-10 minutes that could be spent answering questions about the TPS project – and also, I find it hard to believe that your colleagues *still* need ice breakers after all this time.

          They’re not at a meeting to socialize, they’re there to do work. Nothing is gained by knowing what kind of cheese someone would be.

          1. Smithy*

            I don’t lead this meeting, not my choice to put them in.

            However, we are a largely remote team and the person overseeing the department knows that our work does benefit from our team having more interpersonal bonds than others. So the mixed-up ice breakers were added to include a “5-10 min” socializing piece, particularly to help newer hirers build those bonds as they joined the team.

            It wasn’t a decision that came out of nowhere, and it was made with genuine business considerations. I don’t know if it’d be my choice if I was leading this meeting, but I understand it.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              When I was on a team that did this kind of question at our monthly meetings, it was to get everyone talking, so they would be more likely to contribute to the rest of the meeting. Knowing what the question was in advance really helped the more reticent folks. (And in our case, it was an option — something good, personal OR professional)

          2. Happy meal with extra happy*

            Here’s the thing. From your response, it seems like you think this is 100% the correct answer – no ice breakers/socialization in meetings. But, I think you’re completely wrong. I gain a ton of things by learning little things about my coworkers. It makes me feel more connected to them and thus I enjoy going to work more.

            Just because you don’t find value in something doesn’t mean no one else either and thus that something should be banned.

            1. Engineer*

              I learn the little things in my day-to-day interactions with my coworkers, when we pass by the coffee, or are waiting for the microwave, or the system have crashed again and we have to wait 10 minutes. Natural, normal conversation that takes shape organically. Forcing it in a meeting just makes it one more thing to get through.

              1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                But once again, you’re acting like your personal opinions are the correct way. I enjoy short, opening prompts in meetings, and I don’t think they’re unnecessary.

              2. Lady_Lessa*

                One factor that you are neglecting is how much contact does the team have in person. It is largely remote, no remote at all, or somewhere in-between.

                Personally, I like the idea of advance notice about the topic.

            2. Also-ADHD*

              Forced ice breakers are a problem, where everyone must participate. I think a prompt where people can participate is okay (at larger meetings or if you have enough people who seem keen and volunteer) but I think forced ice breakers are often not inclusive. They can cause me personally extreme distress and anxiety that ruins my focus for the whole day (though I’m good at masking it and people may not guess that), as a person with autism and ADHD. And I am a good communicator and will even offer to jump in on optional ice breakers but saying a mandatory positive thing in every meeting would literally be something I’d probably wind up leaving over after asking for accommodation (disability) in the meantime. That’s how awfully disabling that choice on the company’s part sounds to me. I’m only disabled usually by choices like this and am highly capable otherwise.

          3. AnonORama*

            Ours take at least 15 minutes of the hour meeting; it’s amusing that the same management consulting book that suggests this kind of sharing is also all about the meeting hard-stops. (I like the latter better than the former.) I don’t like to share and resent the wasting of time, so I keep mine to less than a minute — finished a knitting project! had a friend in town! my air conditioning was fixed! — and most folks also do the same.

    5. Filicophyta*

      Yes, if they force you to make a positive comment (which would be terrible for reasons mentioned), give a variation on the same bland comment each meeting. For example; “I had a great chat with a new neighbour”. Alter the adjective to, ‘interesting’, ‘difficult’, ’elderly’, ‘lonely’, ‘busy’, ‘my oldest’.
      Probably no one is really listening and it will take a long time for anyone to catch on.

    6. desdemona*

      I work in an industry that often does these types of meeting starters, and I almost always comment on how happy I was with my morning coffee. Meaningless and bland, but fills the prompt.

      1. snoopythedog*

        As a facilitator who uses a similar prompt to the LW, this answer is perfect! I’m not looking for anything deep or private, just something human, even if it’s benign. It also really helps me understand everyone’s headspace. I catch on that Abe isn’t sharing anything deep, and therefore doesn’t want to and I should avoid an overly personal question/joke/probe. Or, like in my meeting yesterday, I learned that one of the participants was not in the mood to share at all and therefore didn’t probe for their participation and insights much during the meeting (their response to ‘what’s one thing that brought you joy this summer’ was ‘I don’t have anything. my days are all the same’.)

    7. Too Stunned To Speak*

      I had an employer who used to do the personal/work good news exercise (I believe it’s part of the Traction Level 10 meeting model). I generally just asked if anyone had personal or business news to share rather than doing it as a round-robin. But I don’t believe the personal piece was ever intended to get deep unless someone really wanted to. It was just a quick way for teams to connect over little things (who else read that good book, a delicious recipe someone made, how they like their coffee, or even a day of good weather). Sometimes people would share big news, like buying a house, but that wasn’t expected. I saw it as a way to avoid diving into business without the human aspect of it.

    8. allathian*

      Lots of people are conflating personal and private, and consequently are having kittens about sharing anything personal at work.

      “I really enjoyed my first cup of coffee this morning” is personal because it’s not directly work-related, but it’s not private like “my new anti-depressant is finally working, and I’m so euphoric that I don’t know what to do with myself” would be.

      We have a standup meeting on Monday morning, and sometimes we start it with an icebreaker round about the weekend, etc. People generally share something slightly personal but not private.

      1. JM60*

        If I was forced to state something positive from good recently from my personal life, the first thing that would enter my mind as an answer would probably either be something in the NSFW category, or something I’d rather not share at work for some other reason. Then, I’d probably come up with something like “I really enjoyed my first cup of coffee this morning” as a way to get through the question. But I think it kind of defeats the point of having the question. It would just feel inauthentic excuse for an answer (even if I truly enjoyed the coffee or whatever else I thought of as an answer).

        My company has some bi-weekly written check-ins. This usually includes several optional question and a couple mandatory question. Occasionally they make a question along the lines of “What went well in your personal life” a mandatory question, in which case the totality of my reply is usually “.”. (note: I wouldn’t do that if my manager hadn’t known me for years before these written “check-ins”)

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          I mean, I don’t think the point is to be authentic? Having everyone think of something positive at the start of the meeting puts everyone in a positive frame of mind, which can be helpful for discussions and consensus in the rest of the meeting. I don’t think it’s meant to be a genuine ‘get-to-know-your-colleagues’ and more than ‘how are you’ is a genuine inquiry into someone’s health in a work context.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah…I’m always surprised by the reaction of commenters here to this sort of thing. If you’re genuinely being asked to share very personal and private things, then OK, that’s not good. But if you’re simply being asked to share something positive, I really can’t see the harm. It’s like when people here have kittens about colleagues asking ‘How was your weekend?’ You don’t actually have to tell them anything about your weekend. All people are looking for is a bit of interaction – ‘Oh, pretty quiet!’ or ‘Would have been nicer if the sun had made an appearance!’ is totally fine. Same here – it’s just about getting people to start their day in a positive frame of mind, which I think is a good thing. I’m pretty sure it’s been proven that people’s general wellbeing improves if they’re able to have a more positive outlook. All you’d need to say would be ‘Saw a lovely sunrise this morning’ or ‘Remembered my umbrella and didn’t get wet’ or ‘Got a free coffee from the shop down the road’. It doesn’t need to be anything that gets into your deep personal feelings. It’s just nice to start the day thinking about something good.

            1. JM60*

              But if you’re simply being asked to share something positive, I really can’t see the harm.

              One scenario in which it can cause harm is in the case of Birdle below. If life is tough and there is nothing positive (at least that you can think of) then being asked to come up with something positive can be depressing. It can serve as a reminder of how tough life is at the moment, which is the opposite of putting someone in a “in a positive frame of mind.”

              Even in the more common scenario that life is okay – or even great – I don’t like being forced to answer this question in a work context when the genuine answers that first come to my mind are often things I either shouldn’t or don’t want to divulge at work.

              Even if life is going great, AND the first thing that pops into my mind is something positive in my personal life that I don’t mind sharing at work, I usually don’t care if my coworkers know that positive thing or not. If you are the type of person who does like to share something positive from your personal life, there are ways to do that without forcing people to do so.

              I’m pretty sure it’s been proven that people’s general wellbeing improves if they’re able to have a more positive outlook.

              Forcing people to answer this question doesn’t necessarily make them have a more positive outlook. You can have a more positive outlook by privately appreciating whatever good sunrise or whatever without sharing it. For me personally, the main effect of being forced to answer this at work is that I become annoyed at having to answer it, rather than being in a positive state of mind.

              1. Antilles*

                I don’t like being forced to answer this question in a work context when the genuine answers that first come to my mind are often things I either shouldn’t or don’t want to divulge at work.
                How are you “forced” to answer though? That’s the point londonedit is making here: If you don’t want to answer anything real, you can just give some vague “it was fine, just sort of chilled out” answer, quickly bounce it back “not much to tell, how was yours”, or even a minor white lie. This isn’t a court of law; nobody’s cross-examining you on whether you told the truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth.
                Frankly, the blunt reality is that in most work-related cases, the person asking this question doesn’t even *want* a court-of-law level of transparency and honesty; they’re just making general conversation and will be perfectly happy with a generic 10-20 second answer of meh just yardwork and errands, nothing too exciting.

                1. Engineer*

                  So why bother asking these questions at all, if even the lead doesn’t care? Seems to me like they’d generate a lot more good will if they just focused on the meeting and agenda and wrap up five minutes early because they didn’t ask asinine questions.

                2. Jackalope*

                  Can’t reply any more but this is in response to what Engineer wrote: someone – I think it was Captain Awkward, but it may have been Alison – described this questions as, “Hello, fellow human! I too am human! Let me ask one of the socially acceptable vague questions of you so you can answer and we can human together!” Just like in the US, asking people you don’t know well how they’re doing is more of a greeting than an actual inquiry into their lives, and can safely be dealt with as such, “Share a good thing about your week” is a socially acceptable, general question that gives people flexibility in how they want to respond. If you want to be open you can. If you don’t then you can talk about the weather or TPS reports or whatever.

                3. Observer*

                  <i.Seems to me like they’d generate a lot more good will if they just focused on the meeting and agenda and wrap up five minutes early because they didn’t ask asinine questions.

                  The little evidence we have says otherwise. Because while mostly no one cares about the details, they *do* care – and react to – people being non-robotic in a mildly positive way.

                4. JM60*


                  Your boss is making you do it, so you’re forced to give a reply. Unlike with “how are you?”, which you can respond to with an, “ok”, it forces you to respond with something specific (even if it’s inauthentic, which defeats the whole point IMO).

                5. JM60*


                  The question, “what’s something that went well in your life” forces you to respond with something specific. When I’m asked the question, I’m going to:

                  1st: Do the mental work of looking for a genuine answer that I’m willing to share, even if it’s something very bland (e.g., “I enjoyed my morning coffee”).

                  2nd: If I couldn’t think of a real response I’d be willing to share, I’d think of something fabricated (e.g., “I enjoyed my morning coffee” when I didn’t actually drink coffee that morning).

                  Being asked, “How are you doing” doesn’t require me to do either. I can just reply with “ok/alright/good/etc”.

                6. Birdle*

                  Can’t speak for other people, but the very first part of our work day is a daily meeting of everyone in our unit. She goes around and asks everyone for their good news, and if you don’t have any, everything comes to a screeching halt while she asks you several times if you’re sure, really sure, there’s nothing? At all? While everyone stares at you. She doesn’t accept, ‘It’s a nice day!’ or ‘I got to work on time!’ or even, ‘I found a dollar in my coat!’

                  To clarify, it’s not just inconvenient that a few minutes are wasted. It delays patient care.

            2. Not a positive pigeon*

              I just don’t get the point. If it isn’t meant genuinely, stop wasting my time and get on with the work stuff. It doesn’t put me in a good mood or foster positive relationships for me, it makes me grumpy and irritated and annoyed with you.

              “It’s just nice to start the day thinking about something good.” Nope. It’s not. Maybe it is for YOU, but that is not a universal experience, and people need to stop assuming it is. It’s annoying. If you are trying to change my emotional state I feel manipulated and that is not conducive to positivity.

              Maybe it’s time some people actually took the time to understand and recognise neurodiversity in action instead of paying lip service and then judging people because we don’t like this fake nonsense.

              1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                Maybe your proposal would make other people miserable, including neurodivergent people (as an example, me). I actively enjoy icebreaker activities because I like the structuralized social aspect of it. I’m sometimes awkward and uncomfortable in casual situations, but I like socializing with people, so I enjoy the structure and rules of icebreakers.

            3. Chirpy*

              The harm can be:
              – depressing for someone going through a rough time and struggling to find something sufficiently “good” can highlight how bad everything else is going
              – also awkward/depressing for everyone if everyone else has good stories and maybe the best you have is “still alive”
              – anxiety producing for people with anxiety, because you either have to have something “good enough to count” or come up with something on the spot
              – what you share can cause pushback from other coworkers, such as jealousy about something great, misplaced concern and/or prying if you go with something too bland
              – can turn into a toxic positivity culture
              – puts people in the spotlight, which can be very uncomfortable for people who are anxious, neurodivergent, introverts, or just private people at work.

              Starting every day/meeting like this would honestly make me irritated instead of in a positive mood. If people have good news they want to share with their coworkers they will, no need to force it.

            4. Irish Teacher*

              While it’s not something that would bother me greatly, just make me roll my eyes, this is part of the problem from my point of view: “I’m pretty sure it’s been proven that people’s general wellbeing improves if they’re able to have a more positive outlook.” For one thing, I don’t think being told to “say something positive” has anything to do with having a more positive outlook. A positive outlook comes from within, not from a boss telling you what to do. A person with no expertise in mental health isn’t going to change somebody’s outlook by telling them “say something positive.”

              And also, my “general wellbeing” has nothing to do with my boss. And obviously, I am going to know far better what is good for my “general wellbeing” than a non-medical professional who knows little about my personal circumstances.

              There seems to be a tendency now for some bosses to google stuff about wellbeing and try and introduce it to the workplace, apparently not considering that their employees have google too and anything that is relevant to their personal circumstances, they are likely to have read up on in far more detail than the boss has and have probably discussed it with an actual medical professional.

              In my mind, the only input a boss should have into their employees wellbeing is to control what the employees cannot without his input, such as their working hours, reducing toxic elements of the workplace, etc. They should not be trying to encourage employees to “improve their wellbeing” in any specific ways because quite frankly, they are highly likely to be completely wrong as to what will improve wellbeing. They are unlikely to be qualified to tell good advice from bad, so they are going to do one of two things – either give bad and potentially harmful advice or give obvious stuff that most of their employees already know, since they have no more information than the employees and far less than those the information is likely to be pertinent to.

              And I think in the workplace, “trying to get people to adopt a positive outlook” is suspicious as it generally means “we aren’t going to make working here tolerable so we want you all to be positive despite the issues. Change your outlook and stop complaining about problems because we don’t want to hear about them.” If people in the workplace don’t have a positive outlook, bosses should be trying to see if there are issues contributing to that, not trying to get the employees to change their outlook about it.

              I wouldn’t mind this exercise in and of itself, because I think things like that generally just mean the person hosting isn’t sure how to start a meeting and came across this suggestion somewhere, but if I thought they were trying to make people more positive that would bother me because the point of meetings is to focus on the problems and a manager starting by “trying to get people to be positive” indicates “I don’t want to hear about any problems; I want you all thinking of the positive so I can convince myself all is fine and I don’t need to change anything.”

              1. IndyBobo*

                My boss requires us all to kick off meetings with a “gratitude” and everything you’ve written is 100% accurate.
                She also told a story once about how her child was complaining so they sat down and wrote out five things the child is grateful for, which just confirmed to me that she is using this exercise to try to reduce complaints, whether those complaints are valid or not.
                Generally I just talk about non-private things like the weather but it doesn’t remove the feeling that I am being pressured by my boss to have a specific emotion. I suspect LW1 is feeling the same and while I appreciate other commenters practical suggestions, the root issue isn’t addressed by talking about coffee and kittens. Based on my own situation and what it feels like to be in a meeting where everyone is coming up with gratitudes (which can be work-related! So it’s not even as bad) I strongly believe that LW1s company requiring employees to have a specific emotional and mental perspective is an overstep. There are so many better ways to talk about success professionally and so many better ways to help employees get to know each other.

            5. Smithy*

              While there certainly are ways this exercise can cause harm, and are also ways that it is harder for some than it is for others – I really think that analysis can be applied to just about any workplace group activity. Most have the ability to be run unprofessionally, irritate some members expected to participate, and not lead to 100% improved performance.

              That all being said, for everyone who dislikes these activities – lots of people do like a more social or interpersonal workplace. And for some jobs, there are markers that it improves performance. So acknowledging when they’re done less offensively (giving advance notice of the prompt, having prompts that are not about genuine health or private matters, exercise doesn’t take huge amount of meeting time, etc.) is relevant. Because there are versions done poorly, and there are also people at your office, on your team or perhaps who you manage who might benefit from efforts to have those closer personal ties.

              1. IndyBobo*

                I actually really enjoy a social and interpersonal workplace! And I actually like ice breakers where we can get to know people a bit- likes, dislikes, where you’d like to travel to, that kind of mundane chitchat stuff.

                It’s being required to feel positive or grateful that I don’t like. It’s emotional labor.

                I’m curious if there is a gender or generational divide on these types of workplace exercises…

            6. umami*

              Yeah, I’m a little surprised at the inability to just make meaningless small talk in a meeting. Having a standard question for people to answer is not the same as being ‘forced’ to come up with an answer. You know it’s coming, it shouldn’t be so challenging to formulate an appropriate response, and on some days, I’m sure just saying ‘nothing particular comes to mind today’ is going to be fine. But refusing to engage with coworkers in such an innocuous way seems really strange and overly defensive.

          2. JM60*

            Forcing me to divulge something positive from my personal life certainly doesn’t put me in a positive frame of mind if it’s an inauthentic (or alternatively if it’s authentic, but I’m reluctant to divulge it). Nor do I think it would be particularly helpful for discussions (and I probably wouldn’t want it to be discussed).

            more than ‘how are you’ is a genuine inquiry into someone’s health in a work context.

            This probably varies from person to person, but I usually don’t want people to inquire about my mental health at work beyond a “how are you”. At least with a “how are you”, I can give a vague “ok” or whatever if I don’t feel like answering, but asking me something good that happened is forcing me to come up with some specific item.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              Well, if I heard a bunch of coworkers say good things that happened, even if they’re minor, that would make me feel happier. (Lol, my username works well for this comment.)

              1. JM60*

                It wouldn’t make me feel any happier if they were saying those good things in the context of a forced happiness exercise, especially if I suspect that many people are making up inauthentic replies to get through the question. It might make me a bit happier organically hearing those things outside of a forced happiness exercise, but even then, my personal happiness isn’t very tied to the goings-on in my co-worker’s lives. I wish them well, but hearing something good or bad from their personal lives usually isn’t going to make or break my day.

                Also, I could see how it could actively make someone more miserable if their life is currently a living hell for some reason, and they have to hear everyone else say good things that happened in their life.

                1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                  This…kinda bums me out. Like, there’s a huge spectrum between tying my personal happiness to others (which isn’t what I said) and feeling happy for another person’s happiness/joy.

                2. JM60*

                  @Happy meal with extra happy

                  Much of the discussion is about how this question is meant to be “phatic discourse”, and it doesn’t matter if someone’s answer about enjoying their morning coffee (or whatever) is authentic. You’re right about the fact that you can take joy in someone else’s joy without anchoring your emotional state to theirs, but I personally don’t derive joy from what I perceive to be inauthentic “joy” as a matter of “phatic discourse”.

                  Even when I think others are expressing genuine joy about their morning coffee, the annoyance/anxiety of having to answer the question would probably outweigh the joy I would derive from the other person’s genuine joy (especially if me thinking of an answer would distract me from listening to the others).

          3. Engineer*

            Shockingly, being told to be positive has never resulted in me truly being positive or putting me in a positive midset – usually results in the opposite, actually, because I rather resent being told how to feel.

            1. petard*

              I’m with you, the forced positivity just teally sticks in my craw. Growing up we had to do some version of saying something positive at every dinner for years, for a while it was “compliment somebody” and for a while it was “say one good thing that happened today” and I hate hate hated it.
              As for advice to LW, try focusing on something bland like the weather. However in my family I relied on weather so much it got banned, so maybe mix it up with cute pets or other suggestions from the thread.

            2. A Datum*

              Nobody in this exercise is telling you to be positive. They are asking you to share a positive thing, which is not the same as telling you to be positive.

              1. JM60*

                @A Datum

                I think that’s somewhat of a distinction without a difference in this case. A “positive thing” is presumably something that you derive joy from. Being forced to report on what you found to be joyful can suck the joy out of it (or at very least, suck the joy out of sharing that joy with others).

        2. kt*

          I’ve recently, thanks to Ebony Elizabeth Thomas on Twitter, learned the term “phatic discourse.” I’m thrilled! It explains so much more than the phrase “small talk”. In particular, phatic discource/communication/speech does not seek to offer or obtain information — it seeks to slightly strengthen social ties and situate you in relationship to others.

          The part that I like about the descriptions that I’ve read — as opposed to what I’ve previously learned about “small talk” — is that phatic communication/phrases are not meant to be authentic or informative. JM60, I’m sort of riffing off what you said because you used the word “inauthentic,” and I think this is a big sticking point for a lot of folks — they want to be authentic, they don’t want to be inauthentic or lie, they want to bring their whole selves to work, etc. (And in particular I used to take thing verrrrrry literally, as I’m probably somewhere on that autism spectrum.) From what I’m reading, phatic communication is more about “I acknowledge you as a human, probably not a threat, I’m also not an imminent physical threat, let’s move toward other issues with that acknowledgement”. It’s the starter, and as such is pre-authenticity. Once you’ve gotten the non-threat part out of the way, you’ve laid the groundwork to move to the authentic or informative if needed.

          (So is it like how cats sniff each others’ butts?)

          I think it’s ok, then, to say “I had a great coffee/tea this morning!” The ball can be returned to your court later by a colleague saying, What kind of coffee/tea? Have you ever used an AeroPress? My cousin took me on a camping trip and forgot the coffee, it was rough. (authentic or informative conversation *later*)

          1. JM60*

            I think one problem with using “what’s something that went well in your life” for “phatic discourse” is that you have to come up with something specific, even if it’s fabricated. When I’m asked the question, I’m going to:

            1st: Do the mental work of looking for a genuine answer that I’m willing to share, even if it’s something very bland (e.g., “I enjoyed my morning coffee”).

            2nd: If I couldn’t think of a real response I’d be willing to share, I’d think of something fabricated (e.g., “I enjoyed my morning coffee” when I didn’t actually drink coffee that morning).

            Being asked, “How are you doing” doesn’t require me to do either. I can just reply with “ok/alright/good/etc”.

            Once you’ve gotten the non-threat part out of the way, you’ve laid the groundwork to move to the authentic or informative if needed.

            I really don’t see how this exercise – taken as “phatic discourse” – lays any groundwork to move forward with something authentic or informative.

            I think it’s ok, then, to say “I had a great coffee/tea this morning!” The ball can be returned to your court later by a colleague saying, What kind of coffee/tea?

            If the answer about enjoying coffee was fabricated because I couldn’t think of a real answer, then I certainly wouldn’t want to be asked about that coffee. Even if I really did have coffee, but it’s a stretch I used to come up with something I’m willing to share as a “good” thing in my life, then I don’t really care about the coffee that much, and therefore don’t really want to talk about the coffee.

          2. metadata minion*

            I think a problem a lot of people are running into is that this exercise isn’t really phatic discourse — that’s generally culturally-agreed-upon scripts like “how are you”/”fine thanks and you”. There are plenty of acceptable variations, but both people know how the conversation is going to go and the whole thing more or less translates to “I greet you peacefully, fellow human” and neither person is really paying much attention to the literal meaning of the words used.

            For icebreakers, you are presumably supposed to give a “real”, non-scripted answer, but individual situations will vary widely on what the acceptable range of replies to give are. Can I, in fact, talk about the cool bug I saw? Is the leader one of those people who expects some Deep Moment of Joy or is a default response about coffee ok? On the other hand, if I really do have some profound thing to talk about, can I do so or will it be oversharing?

            To bring it back to the original example, it’s kind of like the moment of confusion when I’m asked “how are you?” in medical settings. Does the nurse mean “I acknowledge your presence” or “so, why are you in the urgent care clinic today?”.

            1. A Datum*

              The exercise really is phatic discourse. There is a generally culturally-agreed-upon discourse with plenty of acceptable variations that can range from sharing a specific thing (“I saw a cool bug”) to sharing something common and general (“made it into work and didn’t forget anything”).

              You are way over thinking this, and also forgetting that the phatic moments are “how are you?” are also sometimes mis-used to extract a deep moment of joy.

              1. JM60*

                Phatic expressions are ones that do not seek or offer information. “How are you?” is phatic discourse in many countries because it’s socially acceptable to answer with “good” (and move on from there) whether or not one is genuinely doing well, and with the understanding that the respondent might not genuinely be doing “good”.

                If someone asks you “what’s one thing positive from your personal life”, I think it would be expected that:

                1) It genuinely happened, and wasn’t an answer completely fabricated.


                2) You genuinely consider it to be at least somewhat positive.

        3. A Datum*

          the first thing that would enter my mind as an answer would probably either be something in the NSFW category

          As professionals, we develop the skill to stifle the first thing that comes to mind and answer constructively.

          1. JM60*

            This comes across as a bit rude to me. Obviously, we all have to filter out unconstructive/inappropriate answers from time to time. But just because I have the skill to do that doesn’t mean that I want to have to go through the effort to do that for an unnecessary question that lends itself to being personal. That’s especially true when many of the appropriate alternative answers are either things I’d prefer to not divulge at work, or answers that are inauthentic (either because they’re fabricated, or because it feels like a a stretch to call it a “positive” thing).

    9. Yikes Stripes*

      Yep, my agency has this as an icebreaker every time we have any kind of group meeting, and my answers are always something along the lines of the following:

      “I had a chance to sleep in this weekend and enjoyed it very much”
      “I went on a walk and got to pet a dog/cat”
      “The roses in my neighbor’s yard are really beautiful right now and I don’t have to remember to prune them”
      “I tried a new recipe and it was delicious”
      “I’m having a particularly good hair day today”

      These all satisfy the criteria of “positive in my personal life” and are bland enough that I don’t feel like I’m sharing too much of myself.

      I don’t mind sharing things from work, because I’ve worked very hard with my therapist to embrace that I’m good at what I do and own my achievements – but it took a *lot* of time and effort to get there, and if that’s not something you want to do then I second the advice to pump up someone else’s wins.

    10. Richard Hershberger*

      “[My favorite professional sports team] won last night.” Or if they didn’t, “[Rival team] lost.” This seriously is how I would go, if forced into this. No effort would be required beyond checking the scores that morning, which I do anyway.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          “[Favorite team] had some good plays last night, even if they couldn’t score enough to win the game” or “[Favorite team] lost last night, but I’m looking forward to their redemption during the next game” or “[Rival team] may have won last night, but they’ll surely lose next time they play [favorite team].”

    11. I hate forced potlucks*

      I worked somewhere that did this too. We started nearly every meeting with it. Sometimes it was nice and other times I just wanted to get on with the meeting.

      As others have said if you really have to participate I would just say something very impersonal. Like commenting on the weather, You are looking forward to Fall/Winter/Spring etc, you had a good latte the other day. Thats sometimes what I did when I couldn’t think of anything.

      I will say this was very hard to do later on in my career there. The company and job I worked for turned into a very toxic place. Mostly bc of one manager in particular and when she was the one asking us to list something positive it was really hard. After one particular terrible week with her, I actually said I had nothing positive to say! Thankfully I got outta there and found a new a job.

    12. Sloanicota*

      Yeah look I dislike forced positivity and support privacy as much as anyone, but I would be a little weirded out if a direct report refused to share one positive thing that happened to them – like, “the roses are blooming right and they’re so pretty” or “I saw a trumpeter swan in the park this morning” or “a stranger let me merge in front of them on the commute.” I’m not sure why that’s the hill to die on TBH.

      1. AnonORama*

        I’m fine sharing something bland, but there’s also an easy way to deal with this — let people pass! That’s what my employer does and, while I think this is silly and a waste of time, it’s not a huge amount of pressure. Some people pass frequently, some only occasionally, some never. And it’s fine, other than the time issue. But, that may also be because the people invested in implementing this model aren’t in the meeting.

      2. AnonORama*

        The easiest way to deal with this is to make it opt-out. We actually are allowed to pass, and it works well. Most folks usually share; I’m happy to share something bland, but a few people pass occasionally and one passes most weeks, which takes the pressure off. That said, none of the people who are really invested in implementing this model are in the one meeting where I have to do this, so I don’t know how that would fly otherwise.

    13. kiki*

      Yeah! While some folks may take this as an opportunity to share something very personal, I think a lot of people take the approach of sharing something positive yet mundane. Nice weather, great cup of tea, sale on cherries at the grocery store. Honestly, I think refusing to participate in the exercise may make folks MORE curious about LW’s personal life, whereas sharing tiny positives will be largely unnoticed/ forgotten.

  7. GoGoGoGoGo*

    While AMA is on the topic of free parking- I would recommend reading Donald Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking,” or one of many articles summarizing it.

    I work in real estate development. Developers hate building parking because it usually doesn’t recoup its investment. The amount that is charged for parking rarely covers the cost of building and maintaining parking. These costs are passed on to everyone- even those that don’t drive. Not to mention the environmental impact of cars (even electric cars).

    1. Lisa Vanderpump*

      Not to mention that with the housing crisis maybe we should focus more on using property for people, not vehicles. Every time I see a floor (or more) of a building dedicated solely to parking I think about how many people could be living there instead.

      1. Lordy Lordy, Look Who's Over 40*

        I see and respect your point. My experience is that I think this will work in specific older cities that were built around subways and such. In my city lots of people get by without a car when they’re young (or retired) and living downtown.
        In my case, I might take public transport once a week if it were still safe. Back to that in a moment. The other 4 days I have to take my elderly & partially disabled family member to the doctor, or I go out to the stable after work, or need to run to the pharmacy at lunch.

        I used to ride the light rail when I was in grad school but my city has been circling the drain for a few years so now, at a minimum, you’d be inhaling second hand fentanyl smoke. Drivers are being assaulted and quitting. And the bus- forget it. The thought of taking my family member (or kids if I had them) to the doctor on the bus makes me howl with laughter and cry for the people who don’t have an option.
        I think incrementally reducing impact in a way that’s realistic in your region is how we make a larger dent in the problem., but being car-free just isn’t realistic as a blanket solution.
        Paying for parking annoys me tremendously, but is unavoidable in some areas.

    2. Annie*

      Does that book talk about how alternatives to parking work better, even for car owners, or is it just a book that states that building parking spaces is a big waste and here’s why?

      1. K*

        He’s an urban planner and this is basically the textbook on parking policy. so yes, he proposes alternatives and potential models. And, the alteŕnatives don’t necessarily eliminate parking!

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I read one of the articles summarizing the book, and yes, there was some discussion about how parking can work better. The tl;dr that I remember was specifically about downtown cores, and the takeaway was that drivers should park their cars in parking garages (and accept that they will have to pay for parking) instead of circling the downtown core looking for the cheapest/most convenient spot. There was more nuance than that in the article (and I assume even more in the book), but I share that tidbit to show that the author does share solutions.

      3. doreen*

        If I remember correctly, it’s less about how alternatives would work better in the current situation and more about changing the incentives to drive and the entire situation- for example, it costs me almost nothing to park my car on the street.(I might pay $15 a year because my car is registered to an address within the city limits, but I’m not sure if that’s still true). If I had to pay the market value of street parking, maybe I wouldn’t have two or three or any cars in a city with good public transit. If off-street parking wasn’t required for apartments, maybe that space could be used for an additional residential unit. The tendency for individual businesses to have their own individual parking lot leads to more space being allocated to parking than would be necessary if the bank that closes at 4 and the restaurant that is only open for dinner shared a lot. Individual parking lots tend to raise prices – that restaurant with free parking has to come up with the money to pay for the purchase/rental of the extra space and maintenance and four people traveling in one car will end up paying the same price as four people who arrive in four separate vehicles. Sometimes parking requirements make walking difficult – I’ve been places where the set up makes it almost impossible to walk from one store to the adjacent one.

        Is this book going to change anything about car-dependent areas that currently exist? – no. But in theory it might change the minds of some people who are against anything that makes life easier for pedestrians or bike riders or public transit users because eliminating a lane of traffic for exclusive use by buses or using a couple of parking spaces for bike rentals makes life more difficult for drivers. And that has little or nothing to do with how easy or difficult public transit is to use – I live in NYC , about half of all households don’t even have a car, most of those that do don’t use the car to commute to work and still people complain that “the city wants to get rid of cars” as if they live in a place where driving is absolutely necessary.

        1. Jackalope*

          The problem in my city is that they go for the stick option rather than the carrot. The city council had stated openly that they want to make downtown less car-friendly and more pedestrian/bicyclist friendly, so they’ve put in fewer parking lots, gotten ride of free parking before a certain time 8, maybe?), and so on. When new housing units are created they proudly state that they aren’t requiring the developers to put in a parking spot for everyone because they want fewer cars and they’re encouraging people to use other modes of transportation.

          Meanwhile the local transit system was gutted about 15 years ago due to a tax shortfall and it’s never recovered. In my old neighborhood the latest buses ran until 6:30, which means that if you have no car you’re stuck at home in the evening and you can’t go anywhere not in walking or biking distance. The bus I used to take to work ran once an hour at the end, so if you missed it then you were in a bad place. The downtown and one of the residential areas are all cut off from the rest of the city by highways and freeways; almost none of the underpasses and overpasses have a shoulder OR bike lanes, so if you’re riding a bike you have to share a lane with no extra space and lots of cranky drivers who yell at you for existing. I ride my bike to work and I’ve had people passing me on a nearly empty two-lane road at 7:30 am yelling at me for being on the road even though there was nothing, NOTHING, to keep them from just going around me in the other empty lane. (Am I bitter? Just a tad.)

          So the end result of this is new housing going up, which is great, but also means that suddenly while neighborhoods have nowhere for people to leave their cars AND no real way to get by without a car. I’ve lived in cities that were set up for not having a car (mostly in Europe), and I loved them. I’d be happy not to have to drive if I could get by that way. But just making parking harder and more expensive doesn’t make the car issue go away, it just makes getting around more onerous. (And I personally have responded by pretty much never going downtown at all because it’s such a hassle now.)

    3. Cat Tree*

      The problem here is that most places in the US don’t have any good alternatives to using cars, and those cars need to go somewhere.

      And I don’t have much sympathy that real estate developers don’t get to make more profit from parking, especially with no proposed alternative to car use.

      1. I hate forced potlucks*

        Yes I live near a medium sized city that has little to no public transport. It would very difficult for most people to commute by bus or train.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I mentioned above that I read one of the articles about the book, and it’s worth pointing out that the title is “The High Cost of Free Parking.” It’s not that parking (and cars) need to be abolished. Cars (and parking) will always have a rather large place in American society. But paying for parking has serious societal benefits, including reducing traffic and making streets more walkable. I second GoGoGoGoGo’s suggestion to read the book or one of the articles to learn more.

      3. GoGoGoGoGo*

        It’s not the developers you should have sympathy for- it is your fellow citizens, who are forced to subsidize your free parking and cheap driving.

        American cars are heavily subsidized in other ways- the federal gas tax (which pays for federal highway maintenance ) hasn’t been raised since it was instituted in 1993. We are all paying for the tax holidays “handout” that drivers got last year, whether we drive or not.

        More EV’s on the road will only increase this subsidy, since they don’t use gasoline (EV’s are also heavier, and put more wear & tear on roads). EV tax credits? Walkers, bikers, and transit riders are also covering that, while getting significantly less subsidy for their environmentally-friendly behavior.

        1. Well...*

          So you’re basically arguing in favor of a use tax. That moves the burden off “fellow citizens” (aka taxpayers, who in principle pay more if they earn more) and onto users. That means rich people will get to park all they want because they can pay the fee, and poor people lose access to downtowns and cities. Great solution.

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Exactly. Most of the business heavy ZIP codes in my area are municipalities that have OPTED OUT of the local bus system. It literally will only take you to the municipality line.

        Currently, when I hit my home and work addressed in the Map of Google, it shows routes between 15-20 miles. Driving or ride share is 27-32 minutes depending on route. Bike shows 1:29 (I think I can probably do this quicker, but then again, there is about three of those miles that are very hazardous to a bike – no shoulder, no sidewalk, you get the drift; also, we don’t have locker/change facilities), which wouldn’t work today because its radar-yellow and red pouring here. Public transit shows 2:32. That’s a half mile walk to the nearest stop, then approximately 15 minutes on bus A, a quarter mile hike to a different stop, about 40 minutes on bus B, undetermined time and layover on a transit shuttle to get on bus C an hour later for about twenty minutes, and then a final one and half mile hike to the end point. This type of ridiculous is NOT at all abnormal for this region. Bonus: routes are subject to change due to ridership.

        Due to lack of good urban planning in the years when my parents were toddlers, this is what we’re stuck with. You’ve got ZIP codes with next to no residential housing, and you’ve got ZIP codes where there’s nothing but. I do not know anyone who has an additional 5 hours to commute by taking public transit, personally.

  8. Pennyworth*

    Being required to share a positive thing from your personal life is a terrible intrusion. What if you are in an abusive relationship, or have a crisis in your family, or are just very depressed? There have been times in my life that I would have burst into tears if asked to talk about something positive at home.

    1. Artemesia*

      I agree it is intrusive and awful. If I felt like I must do this, I would choose things like amazing sunsets and sunrises, the joy in hearing the first bird in the morning as you drank your coffee, the tulips you saw on the way to the office — none of this needs to be true, but all of it is unremittingly not personal.

      I also like the idea of using the good things at work part to occasionally praise others in the group. Might as well get some personal capital out of this foolishness.

    2. Birdle*

      I *am* having a crisis – I have two immediate family members, an ex I still have great affection for and a very beloved cat who all have cancer. My boss does exactly this “share something good!” thing at our mandatory morning meetings. I don’t know what to say anymore, so when she picks me, I just keep my mouth closed, widen my eyes to not cry, and shake my head at her.

      She’s a very kind, cheerful woman, and I think that in my situation she’d still be able to think of happy things to talk about. I’m going to require a lot more medication before I’m at that point again.

      (please no expressions of sympathy, that also make me want to cry)

      1. A (Former) Library Person*

        It’s really weird to me that your boss hasn’t, like, noticed that you are not enthusiastically participating and perhaps re-thought the exercise. Or at least stopped picking you. Asking employees to do this in the first place is one thing, and it can easily come from a place of good intentions; but continuing it when it’s obviously going sideways feels like something quite different to me (probably just simple indifference, but still, as a manager I feel like it’s kind of your job to read the room a little).

        1. Allonge*

          I may have screamed at her to effing stop asking me already at this stage. And I don’t do screaming at people, as a rule. This is indeed incredibly clueless.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Birdle has my full support to at least ask boss nicely if she can stop already with the positive stuff. If Birdle has the spoons, for it, that is. Birdle also has my support to scream at boss about it too. Birdle also has my support for just keeping going however possible and not raising a fuss.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Agreed. Birdle, your boss is kind of terrible for forcing this to continue. Does she think that if she keeps it going you’ll eventually snap out of your funk* or something? It’s actually rather cruel that she keeps doing this to you.

          * You are not in a funk. Your sadness is truly justified.

      2. BreakingDishes*

        Something positive that might make manager rethink: My husband died two months ago, but I still managed to get out of bed today.

    3. Chirpy*

      And when you are going through something horrible, it’s really really taxing to come up with something bland and positive, like “my coffee is good”, because your mental load may literally be “I am barely functioning, don’t ask for positivity because it will be the final toothpick that kills me because I’m already full of knives”.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      I would, in all seriousness, consider job hunting if faced with this requirement. I can come up with all the banalities I need to, but I would resent the mental effort required, and even more the pointless time sink of sitting through everyone’s happy talk.

      I also take forced positivity to be a sign that the environment is not at all positive. If it were, the positivity would not need to be forced. This discussion brings back memories of my time working for Walmart, with the mandatory morning cheer, most of us gauging the precise minimum display of enthusiasm that we could get away with before being allowed to go do our jobs, which the staffing budget did not allow us sufficient time to accomplish even without taking time away for this nonsense.

    5. WellRed*

      Our company started doing a five minute gathering of positivity when I was out for my dad’s death. I declined to participate for a few months afterward and when asked one time said, “I’m mourning my father and can’t be bothered to do some fakery meeting.” I was not asked again.

    6. umami*

      I think the problem is people being ‘required’ to respond. It would be nice to open the floor for people to share if they choose to, not go around the room and expect every single person to respond.

      1. Hazel*

        Yes, this! It’s often a less-expert misread of actual well-designed meeting / icebreaker practices that leads to counter-productive situations like OP’s.

        Rather than a repertoire of bland ‘positives’, why not trot out the exact same one each time ‘nice coffee’ or ‘nice weather the other day’. It gets the point across that this is not worth the time and energy without arguing. Passive-aggressive, yes.

    7. Emikyu*

      I’ve been there too. I’m there right now, actually – the only good thing I can think of is that my girlfriend has been amazing and supporting through some recent family drama. Which, besides reminding me of the whole shitty situation I’ve been dealing with, would also out me as a lesbian to anyone who didn’t know already.

      I’m sure I could come up with something bland if I had a minute to think about it, but my initial reaction would probably involve ugly crying.

  9. Artemesia*

    While it is possible to travel for work while breastfeeding and I have done it — it is really not easy during the first 6 mos when most babies who breastfeed are solely breastfed. It is different if you are feeding a one year old. AND cabins with bunks and no privacy — oh hell no. This is one to just matter of fact opt out of.

    1. BreakingDishes*

      Bunk beds and probably groups in rooms. Forget about the baby. I’d get no sleep. Therefore, there would be no point in my attending this meeting.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      I posted a similar comment and I amused to note that we both labeled this as a “oh hell no” situation.

    3. kiki*

      I know LW is concerned that their boss may not understand their reasoning but I think it’s super common for parents to have a difficult time traveling for the first 6 months to a year after a baby is born. I would be a bit surprised if LW gets any pushback for what sounds like a non-essential trip. (I know some people are really not good at understanding kid stuff and maybe I’ve just lucked out with managers?) A good manager might ask if there are any accommodations they could provide that would help LW feel confident it would be a good trip for them, but I think most decent people know the first year after a baby doesn’t lend itself easily to travel.

    4. Some Words*

      I’m not a parent but I have to think “I have a 4 month old baby” would be a sufficient answer. If someone told me that I’d immediately think “oh yeah, they’re not wanting to travel right now.”

  10. Allonge*

    LW1 – uh, this would annoy me just on principle, so – commiserations. I am not even that much of a private person, but – so many of the things that bring me delight and so stand out need a bunch of context and it would be like explaining a joke – the main point gets lost in telling.

    But, for advice – if you do have to share private things, feel free to make something up, preferably totally mundane (finally got my drippy tap fixed, next door dog is learning not to bark so much, I like that it’s warm / cool now, my favorite food was on sale). And do focus / flesh out more the work element, it’s bound to be more interesting to people in any case.

    1. Differently Anon*

      It’s worth considering that on some teams, being more bland about your personal life than your work life will create its own set of rapport issues.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        This is supposed to be a meeting-starter, so really (ideally) nobody has time to say more than 1 sentence on each topic.

  11. Leen*

    LW 3 — I’m a lactation consultant and I have 2 thoughts for you.

    First, if your employer gives you pushback when you tell them you cannot attend, if you have worked with an IBCLC at all since your baby was born, you could reach out to them and see if the IBCLC will write you a letter outlining the medical needs of a pumping parent, including the risks of being separated from your baby at this stage (mastitis, early weaning, breastmilk storage requirements, etc).

    Second, if you do have to go, your employer is required to provide you with “a place to pump at work, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.” This is a federal standard. (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pump-at-work ) There are also state laws in some states that are more stringent than this. Honestly, mentioning this federal requirement and asking how they will accommodate it might be a good way to get them to quickly say you don’t have to go this year.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Honestly the company should add lactation rooms and dedicated refrigerators to the site anyway. It’s perfectly understandable that LW doesn’t want to go and probably wouldn’t even with a lactation room because of many other challenges, so she shouldn’t go.

      But surely she isn’t the first or last pumping mother to work there. The current set-up seems to exclude many new mothers, even local employees who might otherwise want to go.

    2. Ama*

      This is what I was curious about, this seemed to me like a violation of that law if LW is in the US but I wasn’t sure if the law extended to temporary accommodations when on business trips.

      That said a lot of companies are unaware of this law if they haven’t had a breastfeeding/pumping employee in a while (or if they have bad HR that wait until someone actively pushes them to follow the law). I still feel a lot of shame for how a coworker of mine DID have to pump in a bathroom because our HR person at the time was this woman who started her career in the ’70s and was one of those “you don’t know how lucky you have it now” types and insisted that the bathroom was fine because it locked and wasn’t the bathroom used on a regular basis (it was the wheelchair accessible bathroom, so we were probably violating TWO laws!). I wish I’d known more about the federal standard at the time as I would have expressed more concern that we weren’t meeting it.

      Oddly enough once HR lady was gone we suddenly found the urgency to set up our smallest conference room into a room that met the federal standard before our next breastfeeding employee returned from maternity leave.

  12. Not.a.real.answer.boss*

    Agree. Just give something bland like that. Or that the weather was pleasant over the weekend. The birds are chirping in the garden. You ate some delicious cheap ass rolls for lunch.

    1. Goldie*

      Maybe even share the same factoid every time.

      Or one of these:

      I took a great shower today!
      My shoes don’t squeak
      I am meeting my water drinking goals
      My laundry is on point

          1. Snappy*

            I really like the ridiculous answers to this dumb exercise. “I found out that all goats drink water” is hilarious.

  13. Workaholic*

    #4: yeah… i got a gift from my company and asked a coworker about hers… then found out from my boss that it was a thank you for helping out on a specific project. she didn’t say anything other than she didn’t get anything. it was months ago and I still feel a little bad if I think of it (coworker prob doesnt remember and it was only about $25) gifts to one and not all gets weird.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > I still feel a little bad if I think of it

      Permission to let that go. This one is on your boss, who should have made clear what the gift was for (ie that it was in recognition of that specific project) and that ‘not everyone had received one so please be discreet’.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        (I mean the boss did say so. But this should have been before the gift was distributed, not after the fact.)

    2. I should be working*

      yes, that is totally on your boss. the one time I got a gift like that, it immediately came with a “please keep this to yourself” note, because it was for a time I went above and beyond in a way others couldn’t have due to my role vs. their roles.

    3. Olive*

      I don’t think it’s a problem for a boss or workplace to give small gifts for specifically good performance in a one-off circumstance, but they should be very clear about what the gift is for.

      My boss gave me a small gift card and a thank you note because I had to handle an extremely difficult client who behaved badly toward me. But it was clearly communicated. No one seemed to think this was a problem.

  14. Isabel Archer*

    Breastfeeding OP, what kind of org holds company events that force adult employees to sleep in bunk beds at a camp? People have written in to this forum asking if they had to share a hotel room with a colleague on a work trip, but this is a whole other level. And for 4 days?? Insanity.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      The camp scenario with bunk beds sounds awful, but not as bad as the OP whose boss literally expected her to camp in the woods when travelling OK business instead of getting a hotel!

      1. Observer*

        That’s not much of a bar to clear, is it?

        This gives me similar vibes, to be honest. In that case it was very much a sign of dysfunction, and I suspect that something similar holds true here.

    2. Sharpie*

      Literally the last time I did this as an adult was at a leaders’ weekend for adult Girl Guide leaders (Girls Scout but in the UK)… and we all knew what we’d signed up for. The bunk beds on a campsite was half the point of the weekend!!

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      My husband’s previous job would host mandatory retreats for all employees at a summer camp (at the time the conpany had offices across the country). He had a fun story about the guy in the bunk next to him who got so drunk he barfed on the floor.

      Husband is VERY glad to no longer be with that company.

    4. Student*

      Academia does this for some nutty reason.

      When I was in grad school, I once got sent to a conference with several of my research team members. The professor had made the travel arrangements and hadn’t bothered to inform us what they were – just told us the hotel we were going to. Turns out, he expected five of us to share one room, with one bed. He had his own room, of course. The room wasn’t even big enough to bring enough fold-out cots for us all, so somebody had to sleep upright in a chair.

      Another trip, also grad school, for another conference. The conference organizers are going to have us stay in the on-campus housing for cheap – yay. The catch: some conference organizer decided that a great way for people to get to know each other at the conference would be to assign us to share rooms with a RANDOM STRANGER. You did not get to find out who the random stranger would be in advance, nor arrange to share a room with somebody you knew – and they were deliberately going to assign room mates from different organizations. I spent my entire meal per diem allotment to get a hotel room to myself down the road at the cheapest motel in town, and I was glad I did.

    5. I Have RBF*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t do that in my personal life, let alone for a business trip. It was fine when I was young, unattached and had no major medical issues. Now? At 60+ and disabled? Oh, hell no!

  15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (gifts for direct reports) – there are a couple of things going on here.

    1. Recognition for Roberta for being the “right hand person” to OP. I don’t think a gift celebrating a personal milestone is the right avenue for that recognition. OP could certainly push for something that makes sense in the company structure (rather than in a personal capacity) such as a raise, one off bonus for her work on the TTP Project, better title, etc.

    2. Appearance of favouritism, not much else to be said there.

    3. Appearance that certain life milestones are ‘valued’ more than others. Is it because it is Roberta personally that you want to recognise this (see 1 and 2)? Or is it because buying your first house strikes you as a goal that should be specifically recognised (maybe due to personal identification with it?) – The danger here is that people see that certain life milestones are valued more than others and are resentful, especially if they are not in a position to buy a home (but wish they could) due to pay, job instability, etc.

    4. Even in the letter it comes off as a bit of an arbitrary move that OP wants to give a gift this time but hasn’t (and wouldn’t in the future) always for things like marriage, having a child, etc.

    5. The inevitable complaints from people of “I already have a house. Where’s my gift?” similar to companies that pay towards give up smoking courses etc and a contingent of people say “I already don’t smoke so can I just get the $100”!

    1. Observer*

      #5 is the only one that I think the OP can safely ignore. No matter what you do, some people are going to complain that way – we’ve even seen people complain about *sick leave*.

      You can’t not do mice things because someone is going to be a jerk about it. But you can – and *should* – make sure that when you do nice things that they are equitable and reasonable. And avoid issues 1-4.

    2. Tio*

      One thing that I came to realize about the “Right-hand” employees – you say Roberta is more invaluable to you, but that’s partially a function of her doing her work directly to yours. If you lost the other direct reports who don’t do work directly related to you, you would still feel it! You’re probably just underestimating how much because you don’t feel it directly as much!

  16. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (pay for parking) – the cost of the parking is really just part of the cost of the commute in general (gas, train fares etc). The company is providing access to the third party parking service via an agreement of some kind.

  17. Penny*

    #4- definitely tread carefully, because unequal gifting is one of those things that people will hold onto and remember resentfully for a long time. Source: me, a person who is still salty, years later, about the vast differences in the baby showers at my work.

    1. Killeen*

      I’m also one of those people who never forgot the favouritism shown by my manager who made it obvious who her *pets* were. Way to boost morale!

    2. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      And that’s before you take into account that being able to afford your own home is out of reach for many people, so to some of the team (who are wondering if they will ever be able to own their own place) it will look as though the boss is rewarding someone for being privileged.

      1. Myrin*

        That was actually the thing that immediately stood out to me – not necessarily the privilege aspect (although that is very true) but just the occasion in general; do employers really send their employees a gift when they buy a flat/house/whatever? I’ve never heard of such a thing – although that could just be geographical or simply a blind spot on my end – but it did strike me as odd.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          My boss gave me a gift when I bought my first home, but it was a small token (I think it was a little serving dish, with a cost/value similar to a couple of coffees or a small bunch of flowers).

        2. Antilles*

          I’ve never seen/heard of a company providing a housewarming gift either.
          It’s especially odd when you add the context that OP didn’t send a gift for the employee who had their first kid, because in my experience, that *is* a common scenario for employers to give a gift.

        3. MaxKitty*

          I bought a gift for a single coworker when she bought a new home. She had contributed for years to other coworkers’ weddings and baby showers, so this seemed like a chance for some reciprocation for her.

    3. Time for Tea*

      You’ve just reminded me of a part time job I had as a teenager, at Christmas I didn’t even get a card from the employer (pet sitting for a well off family), and I’m in the UK and this was the 90s, at the time you just did cards for everyone you were even vaguely connected with. The other girl the same age as me who did much less got a well thought out extravagant gift (again, for a teen), worth about £200. Did I continue to work for them, or put myself out as I had been doing? No, I did not.

    4. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, OP I think it’s good to interrogate yourself as to why *this particular employee* and *this particular milestone* are ones you want to celebrate, as opposed to others … you may discover it’s not a business-related motivation like “improving general morale” (does this person remind you of your younger self? Do you feel your advice led them to homebuying? etc) – so even though it’s a kind impulse I’d resist and keep it business-focused.

    5. ferrina*

      Definitely. Even if you have a closer connection with one of your team members, you need to treat that person the same as everyone else.

      I had a boss who was generally a nice lady, but was more attached to one of the junior staff members. This staff member had worked with Boss for several years, while the rest of us were new to the team (cobbled together in a reorg). It was clear that Boss had a closer connection with Junior, because she’d always find the time to meet with Junior, even while I (more senior) had trouble getting on Boss’s calendar (I don’t know if Boss even realized that she was doing this). This disparity- as minor as it was- meant that the team dynamics were way off. I was supposed to supervise one of Junior’s projects, and Junior totally dropped the ball. I had to tread lightly with Junior because if I didn’t, it would get back to Boss before I could tell my side of the story (and Boss would put more weight on what Junior said, because she had worked with Junior for longer).

      As Slonaicota says, think about why *this particular employee* and *this particular milestone* instead of others. Especially since you mention that someone had their first kid! That’s a huge milestone! You need to do a long hard reflection about whether you are really as impartial as you think, and how you need to get back on equal footing. Honestly, this sounds like visibility bias- Roberta is in a role where she has been helpful to you personally, putting her at the forefront of your mind. She’s great, yes, but she’s also being great right in front of you, while other employees are being great outside of your line of sight. Add to that that you aren’t talking about celebrating a work accomplishment- you’re talking about a personal milestone. You’re highlighting that you have a personal connection to Roberta that other employees don’t have access to. You are going to destroy loyalty and morale if they figure out that visibility bias is guiding your actions. People will draw the (very reasonable) conclusion that if they aren’t in a role where they are seen by you and of use to you personally, there will be a ceiling to how much they will be recognized and advocated for.

  18. Varthema*

    LW1 could request that it be made into sharing something positive from the week, but choose personal OR professional? At our biweekly team meeting this is how we start out (it’s framed as sharing “wins”) and some people share one, some share the other. I don’t think it’s toxically positive – it’s a predictable way to ease into the meeting, the professional wins are generally informative about what our teammates are up to (more so than the prompt “what are you working on this week” which typically just ended up with people rambling too long) and the personal ones often make people smile and learn just a little bit more about the humans we work with. And the choice gives room to evade talking about one or the other if it hasn’t been a great week at home or at work. and it’s also a team where “my lunch was really good” would totally count as a win.

    I agree that positivity can get toxic and maybe it already is on your team and that’s why it’s rubbing you the wrong way, but this one is pretty low-key.

    1. Kiki Is The Most*

      I came here to suggest this as well, as this is what we also have at my workplace for our weekly meeting. We also have staff that will “pass” now and then with no questions asked (we want to get through the meeting so the occasional ‘pass’ helps speeds things along). We’ve also reached the point that anything longer than a one-sentence ‘win’ is too much.

  19. Master Procrastinator*

    I’m torn on the ice breaker situation – often these things can be intrusive, unnecessary and great examples of toxic positivity. And insisting on this every meeting when some people are clearly not into it seems unobservant and a bit forced. But I run workshops as an external facilitator where one of the questions I sometimes use as part of the intro/ice breaker is ‘what’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?’ All of the examples people have offered above about sharing small or ‘bland’ examples are expected and welcome when I do this. I’ll usually start the round to set the tone. I tend to get answers like ‘got a good seat on the train’, ‘the barista did some cool art on my coffee’ and ‘cuddles with my kid/cat/dog’. People tend to share these things with genuine enthusiasm (not excessively of course – most participants are British ;-) ). In my context, it introduces a bit of levity and rapport ahead of what can sometimes be pretty intense discussions. But maybe in OP’s situation, the idea that something ‘personal’ is being insisted upon is the issue. I agree that it could be an annoying routine to have to deal with but it doesn’t have to be that deep.

    1. londonedit*

      I am wondering whether this is cultural. We as Brits are very used to questions like ‘How are you?’ and ‘How was your weekend?’ being general ice-breakers that don’t need any sort of in-depth answer. No one actually wants you to go into the gory details of your personal life when they say ‘How are you?’ – in fact a perfectly acceptable British interaction, if you’re passing someone you know, is simply ‘Alright?’ ‘Alright?’. It’s just about acknowledging someone. So I think this is maybe why we don’t have the same ‘This is a gross intrusion of my personal privacy’ reaction to this sort of thing. Of course if the bosses genuinely want people to delve deeply into their personal lives then no, that’s not appropriate. But more generally, ‘Let’s start the meeting with something positive from everyone’ doesn’t need to be in any way intrusive.

      1. jane's nemesis*

        Wait I’m genuinely confused – do you think non-Brits are not used to questions like “how are you” and “how was your weekend”?

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          The distinction londonedit is making is that Brits are used the the questions *not needing* an in-depth answer. As opposed to believing it’s an invitation to unload.

          That said, I’m from the US and I fit their description of Brits. Most of the time these small talk questions do not ask for or require a personal, in-depth answer. But if a good friend asks, I’ll reveal a lot more — it’s really about context. Knowing when it’s a greeting and when it’s genuine concern. I think how one thinks about the questions is more based on the individual than broader national culture.

          1. UKDancer*

            This so much. I don’t know anyone in my social circle (comprised of a mix of introverts, extroverts and others) who has a problem with small talk being surface level and not requiring an in depth, honest answer. I mean it’s what we have very changeable weather for, to give us something to talk about with strangers and colleagues.

            The perception on this site that it’s a massive intrusion seems to be more of a US thing than a UK thing to be honest.

        2. saskia*

          I seems like half the American commenters on this site have serious issues with these types of pleasantries. They don’t see them as the casual glue that holds our work relationships together but deep intrusions on their personal lives, which is toxic or… something.

          1. jane's nemesis*

            I have never known “how are you” or “how was your weekend” to be anything but casual icebreakers. I realized that’s anecdata, but I’m just sort of stunned at the casual assumption that people in the US don’t know how to do surface level small talk!

          2. Happy meal with extra happy*

            There’s a very strong anti-social bias/skew on this site (from commenters from all countries) so I urge you not to take this forum as representative of the US as a whole.

            1. saskia*

              hahah don’t worry, I’m from the U.S. and know how weird it is that people online think like this.

          3. The Reconciler*

            It may seem like half, but it’s really only a few vocal outliers. The vast majority of Americans understand the concept of social pleasantries and have no problem engaging in them. I’ve never met anyone IRL who seems a simple “how are you?” as intrusive or toxic.

          4. evens*

            Exactly, it’s a weird dynamic on this site. In real life, everyone (even in America) knows you say “fine, how are you?” when someone asks how you are.

    2. Carla*

      I hope when you do that ice-breaker that the option to pass is clearly available, offered and not judged. Otherwise, I promise that some of those people are faking the “enthusiasm” you see, and are hurting on the inside.

      I have been that person. When it was clear that I HAD to say something, and I had nothing, I lied. And I felt shame and fear about lysing, even though it was no meaningless, and so much hurt that I was in all this pain and being forced to fake positivity, and it made me so anxious and panicky inside that I could not process the rest of the session. I got nothing out of it. My company had paid for this training, I had been looking forward to it, and one enforced positivity ice-breaker ruined everything.

      1. Master Procrastinator*

        I’ve been a participant in (often compulsory) training sessions ruined by glib comments in the intro, badly facilitated ice breakers and pressur3 to share – I’m aware of the potential dynamics. I think any environment that doesn’t treat people like adults is a problem, whether that involves shaming, insisting on positivity or pressuring people into giving answers. Expectations and reassurances should be set out in a good group agreement at the beginning of a session. And if a facilitator can’t tell* when people are faking enthusiasm or struggling with an activity, there’s a chance they’re not doing a great job.

        *Caveat for some neurodivergent traits, (I say this as a neurodivergent facilitator who’s pretty good at reading people).

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      I am solidly in Team Unnecessary. This is especially true with regular meetings with the same people every time, but even in workshops and the like my eyes roll up and I space out until we get to the substance.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      I can understand an icebreaker in a workshop.
      I don’t see the point in regular meetings with the same people.

      1. Sloanicota*

        But they’re merging to companies, so it actually is kind of an appropriate venue for a little bit of team bonding / getting to know people (and connecting with them as slightly more than “the new Cecil” or whatever). The other role of ice-breakers is so that participants get used to talking and taking the lead in the meeting versus sinking into that place of cow-like attendance where they’re just blinking at the facilitator asking for “anyone? anyone?”

        … not that I have personal experience with this or anything.

        1. kiki*

          Yeah, I actually feel like a little ice breaker like this while merging companies is kind of a nice idea, though I do think doing it indefinitely in all meetings may be overkill.

          I also think a higher than average number of commenters on this site can lean a bit on the intensely private/ anti-social / worst case scenario side. A simple icebreaker like this really can be helpful for fostering better team atmosphere. Yeah, there will be times where somebody is not having a good day and will struggle to come up with any positive to share, but that’s the same with a lot of social niceties and the reason so many people talk about the weather at work.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            The letter is clear that the mandatory happy talk is not a temporary measure during the transition.

            1. kiki*

              It was a permanent fixture of the other company but that doesn’t mean it will definitely stick around permanently after the teams merge, especially if LW and others from their company bring their issues to management. It might! I don’t know all the factors involved. But a lot of things change when companies merge. LW will likely have to deal with this for a while (and I think there may be some benefits to that for bonding of the groups in the short term!) but it’s not a foregone conclusion that this will be the status quo forever.

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I see the point more for regular meetings with coworkers. I’m never going to remember or care about one-off things about people at workshops, but I am going to be happy to hear about coworker A having a particularly good cup of coffee or coworker B’s favorite song playing on the radio on their commute in.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I find in my daily team meetings, there’s some natural chatter. The ice was broken years ago, so there hasn’t been any need for icebreakers.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            This. I am on a committee at church. I have known these people for twenty years. We all have a pretty good idea of what is going on in each others’ lives. This isn’t because of an artificial icebreaker.

      3. goducks*

        I worked for a company that did the positive work thing at each meeting. I kind of rolled my eyes at first, but soon realized that it was really good. So much of the point of meetings is to talk about the stuff that’s not going well at work, so taking a few minutes to remember that some things do go well can help remind us that things aren’t all bad. Also, people sharing their work wins made me aware of things that were happening in the org that I didn’t know about. It helped me understand their roles better, and understand the work of the org better.

  20. CL*

    #3- opting out of the trip is totally an option. Also, there are services like Milk Stork that will ship your milk for you. Never used these personally but many colleagues have.

    1. Observer*

      opting out of the trip is totally an option

      It is, and I think that this makes the most sense.

      Also, there are services like Milk Stork that will ship your milk for you.

      Besides being hugely expensive, there is the slight problem that they probably won’t do pickups from a campground. And that’s before you get to all of the other issues with the whole scenario. So, I think that opting out makes the most sense.

  21. Helvetica*

    LW#4 – not to underestimate the importance of buying a first home but it would feel weird to me if my boss/company wanted to celebrate that for me by giving me a gift.
    I could be having this reaction because in my country, if you buy a new home/move, and you want to celebrate it, you have a housewarming event and then people can bring you gifts but it would be slightly odd to receive an unsolicited gift for it from work. But would such a gift be within the norm in the US in general in the workplace?

    1. Myrin*

      Aaah, I wrote something similar a few comments above yours when I now see I simply should’ve scrolled down a little more. All that to say, yep, I’m in total agreement with you.

    2. mango chiffon*

      I bought a house a few years back and did not have a housewarming event (early covid years) and the thought of one of my directors or supervisors giving me a gift just because its a personal milestone feels somewhat…I don’t know condescending? Maybe not the right word, but something about the reasoning on this feels uncomfortable coming from a supervisor/boss.

    3. Been There*

      It’s fascinating to see everyone being so shocked at the thought of receiving a gift when you buy, when it is such a big milestone.
      My office gets a gift when you buy a home (maybe even for everyone who moves?). I think it’s nice. It’s a small gift card, not much more.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        For everyone who moves? We have at least half our employees move almost every year, that seems like a lot.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        It’s not shocking the thought of receiving a gift when you buy your first home in general. The surprising part is that your boss would do so. Friends, family, my realtor all did housewarming stuff. I have also done so for friends – some of whom I know through work. But a boss/manager/supervisor/employer doing it I have never heard of.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Agreed. I don’t even think I told my boss when I bought my first house, honestly. My boss got me a cake when I got married and even that felt like a lot (it was appreciated in the spirit it was given! But not something I would expect or necessarily want if given the option was presented).

      3. Observer*

        It’s fascinating to see everyone being so shocked at the thought of receiving a gift when you buy, when it is such a big milestone

        Excerpt that that’s not what people are addressing. What they are addressing that it’s *the boss* that’s giving the gift, not a friend. And also that said boss sees a new house as worthy of a gift but not the birth of a child, much less a *first* child. That’s just so odd.

    4. Sloanicota*

      It’s not a general expectation in my part of the US, although I suppose it’s never considered out of place to recognize something good that happened to an employee. But there’d be no expectation or recognized ritual on my part in any place I’ve ever lived.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “But would such a gift be within the norm in the US in general in the workplace?”

      No not typically.

    6. Olive*

      In a US office, it wouldn’t be normal to know the home buying status of any given employee.

      A talkative person might share with everyone that they were buying their first home, but a more reserved person might not mention it at all. And you wouldn’t want to start making assumptions that a younger person was buying a *first* home while an older person was not.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah it’s definitely odd to celebrate something that anyone could be experiencing and think a not-insignificant number of people just wouldn’t mention.

  22. Calanthea*

    LW1 – My work does this and I really like it! As soe of the previous commentators have said, most days, most of us jut go along the lines of “the sun is shining” or “I had a nice cup of tea,” but at least once a week one of us will have something actually pretty lovely – one day when it snowed my colleague shared photos of a frozen waterfall she’d passed on her run, another shared that they’d manager to get Taylor Swift tickets, I’ve been able to mention when I won a sports thing…

    If you think of it as a general small-talk, low key social lubrication exercise, I don’t think there’s much to get upset about. For us, it’s set the ground work for us to be able to share successes outside work in an appropriate space, without it feeling weird or like boasting. If I just turned up in the office and was like “I won a medal,” that would feel off, wheras in the morning catch up it’s just nice, everyone says well done, and then we move on. No-one is there being like “Why do I care that you got concert tickets?”

    This isn’t an exercise to make you share your every thought, it’s just a “show your colleagues you’re human and recognise their humanity also.”

    1. Yellow cake*

      I agree. I value working with humans not robots. It’s a considerable factor in my workplaces being good places to work and worth staying for. Nowhere is ever going to pay me enough for me to trade human connection in my workplace for purely transactional relationships.

      I’m not looking to be besties with everyone. But I want a workplace where people greet each other, and care that someone had a kid/bought a house/won a medal/got married/had a birthday etc.
      Not in the – we need to recognise this with actions – but the simple courtesy of a casual conversation.

      I also value the recognition that we are people not just workers. I get worried when bosses don’t ever mention anything outside of work – and I do worry that they expect work to be 100% of our lives as well. Part of demonstrating work life balance is modeling priorities. So saying openly I took Friday off because I had family in town / or looking forward to my holiday I’m off to the craft show are good things.

      I have run ice breakers where people have been told to share one thing about themselves that has nothing to do with their job/role (together with typical I work in this office in this role). I work in an industry where over work and exploitation is common, and often celebrated as good. I point out that if you can’t say anything about your life other than work – you probably aren’t leaving the office at a reasonable hour, taking days off (eg weekends). I know that there’s going to be some that have hobbies/personal lives they do not want to share – but mostly those people have a story ready to share. The ones who cannot think of anything – it usually was a sign that their job was consuming everything in their lives. It didn’t have to be profound – I watched a movie, I like reading books, I have a pet parrot. It also served (people are strangers) to give people a simple topic to start a conversation at breaks – hey you said you had a parrot, what type? Here was a topic you’ve indicated some willingness to discuss publicly.

      Frankly I think pushing back too strongly on this risks coming across as stand-offish and a little dramatic.

      1. Emikyu*

        I get what you’re saying, but I still don’t think there should be pressure to participate. As someone with severe depression, sometimes coming up with something blandly positive to say is a genuine chore that I just don’t have any mental energy for (yes, I am receiving treatment, and this doesn’t happen often anymore, but it does happen).

        I have no problem with the question being asked, as long as “pass” is an acceptable response.

      2. Pizza Rat*

        Frankly I think pushing back too strongly on this risks coming across as stand-offish and a little dramatic.

        Oh it definitely does to some people, and they will retaliate. The toxic positivity police will be all over it saying, “X is not a team player.” and that kind of thing can trickle up to management and show up in your performance review.

    2. HonorBox*

      I don’t totally mind it either. We start staff meetings by talking about celebrations and challenges. It doesn’t have to be work or personal. It can be whatever people want to share. And not everyone must share.

      *We closed the sale on _______ (piece of business).
      *We had a social post that was shared a bajillion times.
      *I won a contest on the radio and got a sweet free shirt.

      It would be helpful to share with others that not only does it push people to share what might be considered personal details, it can take A LONG TIME if everyone is sharing something positive from both work and personal lives. People are going to start to tune out and it isn’t the best use of the company’s time. If you open things up for people to share organically, and not because they’re required, you’re going to get actual celebrations and not have people staring at their phones while people share.

    3. Nancy*

      I also like it. We mostly did this when people were all still home. It was especially useful for new people in our department, since they didn’t get the regular orientation and tour.

      It makes sense a merging company with so many being new to each other would do this.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      We do this in our weekly staff meetings, and it’s usually the best part of the call. Nobody is expected to bare their souls or share anything deeply personal. I really don’t get what the big deal is. Yes, everyone is there to work, but your coworkers aren’t cyborgs who retreat to a hermetically sealed pod each day and remain in a homeostatic state until the next morning. They’re human beings with lives, families, and friends.

      A couple weeks ago my personal share was that my daughter is now officially in high school, and on the first day she bailed out of the car as soon as she saw me starting to get emotional (like all moms do). It was pretty funny. One of my coworkers shared that she and her husband were going to go see an 80’s cover band that they love that weekend, and my boss shared that she was picking up her new car later that day and was super excited.

      It’s a way to feel more connected with your colleagues, especially if you’re all remote.

    5. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I also like this kind of small talk a great deal. It doesn’t work for everyone all the time, but it makes my experience at work better.

      I’m sure some of this has to do with the kind of work environments we are in. I am frequently put onto new teams, so many times a year I have a whole new set of people to work with. I have also been at my company for a couple of years and never met anyone in person — we’re remote. These bits of chitchat are our foundation, and we won’t get to the other kinds of connection unless we do this.

    6. J*

      I think the key is that you do set the tone as the mundane is perfectly acceptable. My colleague today shared she was thrilled a specific Starbucks drink was back and her counterparts in another city held up their drinks as well. We’re remote but even small things endear us to each other. They didn’t have to share any specific vulnerability and my boss is going through some really personal things so I was really happy to know she’d found something to make her week better. We do this just weekly so in a week, even surrounded by misery, one can usually find something to bring up.

      At a past job, I had a week where someone in my life died and I was out on leave and when I returned the boss privately offered before the call to skip it (which I appreciated) but I opted in and talked about how I’d adopted a cat. It was inherited from the deceased but a pretty big life change and my support network was still grieving (and me too) so I felt a little bit like I had nowhere but work to mention this new and exciting (and terrifying) thing. The cat kind of became a thing people could ask me about as a way of asking how I was coping without asking that question too, which was a lovely way to handle it.

  23. Knope Knope Knope*

    OP 1–if you can’t get out of it, maybe keep the personal thing pretty impersonal and banal so you don’t have to share anything truly private. “I saw the cutest puppy on my way to work today.” “My iced coffee came out the perfect consistency this morning.”etc.

  24. Foxgloves*

    OP1- if they REALLY insist on you sharing a positive from your personal life, you can be really bland- think “I ate a really good cookie yesterday”, “I’m pleased to see a new coffee shop has opened down the street from the office”, “I didn’t hit any red lights on my drive to work today”, “I managed to leave the office on time every day this week”, “the plant on my desk is thriving”. Personal life doesn’t have to mean *actively personal*, and if you can link it back to work in some capacity then all the better!

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I love all the suggestions people have provided! (At this point, I think the LW could just compile a list, consult it before these meetings, and pick one to use.)

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, I definitely do this if I’m resentful of some office ice breaking activity I don’t want to participate in – it’s petty, but if I pick something random or off a list, I feel like I met the letter of the requirement and escaped with my free will LOL

  25. Tangerine Thief*

    Honestly, kind of think OP 1 is over reacting and they will come across as weirdly focused on ‘not being a good team member’ or taking issue at something so petty it’s a waste of energy. Especially as the meetings are, in part, to help two different teams work together that haven’t in the past. The purpose of the exercise is to get to know coworkers in another team and to have something to know about yourselves to break ice.

    As long as what they are being asked to share isn’t ‘soul baring’ or ‘deep emotional dive into trauma’c, I don’t see an issue. It’s easy to get locked into work mode or a negative mindset about yourself, your job, or just life – and asking people to consciously think even slightly positively for 30 seconds is not a hardship. Asking people to share ‘oh, l found a great plant on Saturday for my living room and I’m happy I finally fixed the Curacao report’ is not some terrible imposition that requires you to emotionally bond with everybody.

    Yes, it might not be your favourite question and you might find it trite but also, you are not the only team member.

    At the end of the day, if this is what OP wants to bring up in senior meetings to say they hate it and want it to stop, is that going to reflect poorly on them or waste capital that could otherwise ho to an actual serious issue like ‘i need more time on x report’?

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, it would be an odd place to use up social capital/could be interpreted as a ding against LW. “LW doesn’t want to get to know their new colleagues and is resistant to starting from a positive perspective,” is not really a look you want to cultivate.

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      I see both sides to this. I get what Tangerine Thief is saying. I worked somewhere that did this. For awhile it wasn’t too bad. It was a nice way to get to know co-workers and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy sharing something.

      However my workplace morphed into a toxic hell hole, after some changes in leadership. My whole department was miserable. We were really over worked and under valued. I was also going through a tough time at home with my family. Once all this happened I hated sharing anything and would either make something up or not say anything at all.

      1. Calanthea*

        This is really key isn’t it – if you already hate the job/team/workplace, this is just another thing that’s annoying.
        Maybe feeling resentful of what is a fairly unintrusive social nicety* is a sign that all is not well elsewhere?

        *this is in comparison to the stories we’ve had where people had to share “bad thing that happened” or rate their emotions, etc.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yes — similar to the dust-up on fka Twitter recently about restaurant servers (and then others) saying “Hi, how are you?”

          1. Calanthea*

            Ooh, I didn’t see that… but I remember when someone took lasagne over to their neighbiurs and got absolutely piled on for invading their privacy and being patronising etc etc.
            Sometimes people trying to be nice will not quite land, I guess.

          2. saskia*

            Twitter is not a good place to find accurate judges of normal human interaction. I say this as a regular user of the site from 2009 to early 2023. Being incensed that some convenience store clerk or waiter said “hey, howzitgoin” is some deeply screwed up, asocial nonsense. Responding to this type of pleasantry requires 0% of your mental function and has nothing to do with you as an individual or anything happening in your life; that’s the point. It’s called “small” talk for a reason.

    3. EasternPhoebe*

      I kind of agree…I doubt management wants people to tell their deepest joys and most personal, intimate stories. They just want to hear that Jan liked the new cafe in her neighborhood and Alex just adopted their first cat. And if people are struggling to think of something that feels not too personal (which I understand—I am a VERY private person too, and I do not want to talk about my personal life at work at all) then a generic “I had a relaxing weekend” or “I saw a lovely sunset” is fine.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      And even mundane things can be helpful to learn about people. “I had a great cup of coffee this morning.” Well, now I know that LW drinks coffee. Not everyone drinks coffee – some prefer tea or soda for their caffeine. I may never use that knowledge for anything, but I like knowing it.

      1. alienor*

        I’ve seen a few posters here who felt it was a violation even for coworkers to know a tiny fact like “so and so drinks coffee.” I sometimes wonder if they show up at work wearing bandages and sunglasses like Claude Rains in The Invisible Man.

    5. umami*

      So true! I actually do this with my partner when we get home from work – he automatically jumps to complaining about his day, so on occasion I just ask him to tell me something that was enjoyable about his day. And almost always he says ‘oh, I had a great day!’ OK< but I can't tell, because all you are sharing is the one negative thing that happened!

    6. Dinwar*

      The amount of hostility some people commenting on this blog have towards management and the company they work for sounds exhausting, and this is part of it. I have to police my religious views, and that’s exhausting enough that I can’t imagine putting in the effort to keep everything not work-related separated from work!

      I think one method to deal with this question is to re-frame it. Framing it as “forced positivity” makes it an inherently antagonistic action; it’s something you’re compelled to do against your will. Viewing it as “An attempt, however badly executed, to relate to new team members as people” puts it in the realm of something useful, just maybe not the best way to go about it.

      The other thing to remember is that communication is what the listener does. In certain groups a snarky response, such as many are recommending, would be fine. It’d get a laugh and folks would view it as you showing a sense of humor. In others, however, it would be viewed as an act of aggression or hostility. From the perspective of “An attempt, however badly executed, to relate to new team members as people”, what you’re doing at that point is actively trying to block your team from relating to you as a person. Who wants to work with someone like that?

      One thing that potentially can be done is to suggest that this be reduced from “Everyone say something positive” to “Does anyone have something positive to share?” Some people are going to dominate that conversation, and there are ways to mitigate that, but it’ll cut down on this potential time-sink. Just don’t assign people or call them out; that’s what teachers do to students, not what peers do during meetings.

      And if someone really, genuinely cannot stand the idea of saying one positive thing in a group setting, that person probably needs to find a new job. If you hate your coworkers that much, I can’t imagine you work well with them.

      1. AnonORama*

        Agree 100% on making this an opt-in. We actually have this in one of my company’s meetings, and while it seems a little silly and not the best use of our time, it doesn’t seem harmful if people aren’t being forced to share. I generally go ahead and share something banal, but some folks opt out occasionally and some opt out frequently, and no one ever makes it into a thing. (To be fair, the people really invested in implementing the workplace model that includes these meetings…are not actually in this meeting.)

  26. Paul Pearson*

    LW #5
    aie this makes me cringe. This is so like my work place – our managers regularly talk about work/life balance. Then say they don’t have enough budgets for good wages, can’t offer flexibility, can’t offer time off, need us to be available with minimum notice and can’t reduce work loads that often leave us working unpaid from home long into the night

    Honestly in our case we’d prefer the managers STOP talking about work/life balance as it begins to feel like mockery. I’m sorry you’ve been given such a difficult task to reconcile.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      At my place of employment we had a similar situation where we were on-call for crisis in addition to our crushing case loads. There was a mass exodus of staff when other jobs became available and the company was panicking. There was a survey that basically resulted in being told that they a. had to get rid of on-call (you can contract this out) and b. give staff raises so they are not the lowest paid in the county. At first administration balked at this but when staff’s response was basically “eff around and find out” and more people left changes were made. It’s much more manageable now. We are in helping fields but we are not robots. We need to be treated with as much respect as we give those we serve.

    2. Sloanicota*

      There’s definitely an pattern where companies talk about “balance” and “self care” meaning, “products you should buy or mental/phyiscal habits you should cultivate on your own” OR they mean “inexpensive things we’re going to have at the office which are intended as a perk but also coincidentally are arranged to keep you here longer” – and they are carefully avoiding “things we could change that would actually demonstrably improve your life.”

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Flash back to my 2020-2021 job where we had to interact with customers with absolutely no protections (we asked for plexiglass barriers and were denied and my bosses didn’t require masks until the county passed a mandate), and got regular emails from the director’s assistant about webinars we could sign up for that would teach us to manage our anxiety.

    3. Observer*

      Honestly in our case we’d prefer the managers STOP talking about work/life balance as it begins to feel like mockery.

      I was thinking about that. I could be wrong, but to me it seems that some basic honestly is hugely helpful. Don’t talk about benefits that you can’t offer. Don’t pretend, etc.

      It’s still stressful of course. But talking a good line that’s blatantly contradicted by reality just adds a layer of aggravation.

    4. Girasol*

      Many people are expected to work 9-5 in the office plus a couple more hours to show their loyalty, plus do email and on-call at night, plus do weekends when there’s a crunch, which there always is. If a company wants to offer work/life balance they need to reduce working hours and/or offer more flexibility to work at home or take the afternoon off on recital day in exchange for extra hours some other time. In most cases that means either cutting the scope of the job or increasing the staff or both. Wellness and self care programs just add to the “work” part. I agree with Paul: if a company isn’t willing to take responsibility for the hard choices, then they shouldn’t be hyping a concern about work life balance.

  27. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, if you want to avoid telling people about your private life without having to draw attention to it, one option is to say something really bland, like “I found a pair of my favourite shoes on sale” or “my favourite author has a new book out” or “I found a great hairdresser”.

    You might not be comfortable with that either (and I agree, it’s a really stupid exercise), but if it’s just that you don’t want to share anything personal and you don’t want to have to put energy into pushing back, that would be a way of appearing to take part while really giving no information whatsoever.

    Again, say it cheerfully and like it is something that really did please you and nobody is likely to take much notice of the fact it’s bland.

  28. Birdi*

    Always love how questions like #1 bring a bunch of neurotypicals telling us it’s not that deep, not a big deal, just do this or that or the other. Really shows how ableist and ignorant people generally are about this stuff.

    If you are tempted to leave a comment like that, maybe first try considering whether there might be a genuine reason so many people struggle with this stuff. It’s really not that easy!

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Yes, the whole ‘ if you don’t like an awkward question you should quit your job’ is the sort of weird overreaction that confuses me.

    2. Tangerine Thief*

      It’s not all ‘neurotypicals’ saying it’s not that deep, FYI.

      Based on what the LW wrote, the issue they have is not a mental illness or other serious issue. They just prefer not to do it. People can point issues with this preference.

      1. Ahnon4Thisss*

        Yeah, I’m neurodivergent and I really don’t think it’s that deep, lol. And people have been pretty pleasant as they give ideas of what someone COULD say, not just saying to suck it up and figure it out on their own.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Same. I am as well — ASD / ADHD — and am one of the people saying it’s not that deep. That’s not to say Birdi is wrong or that people don’t struggle with things like this. Of course they do. But ND isn’t a monolith either (it’s diverse, by definition) and sometimes we’re just sharing tricks we have found for ourselves.

          FWIW, in contrast to all the blanket statements thrown around about ND folks and introverts — I am both — I like small talk. For me, small talk is most easy and safe kind of talk! There’s a script for it! It only lasts a couple of minutes! It’s how I find out if someone is safe to have big talk with.

          1. saskia*

            Exactly. Thank you for saying this.
            I feel for the OP, especially since they’re going through merger integration, which can be a difficult process. And if OP knows the tenor of their team and knows their team will hate this exercise and it’ll be a blocker on integration, they’re right to say so to upper management! Different companies, different cultures. But if they themselves just find it uncomfortable while it’ll be a neutral-to-positive experience for everyone else, OP hopefully will find that super simple positives like the commenters are providing will work for this purpose.

          2. Parakeet*

            Yes, same on all counts. I get tired of some people talking like every autistic person is a misanthrope and literally incapable of learning or appreciating bland small talk (which, like you, I find to be among the easiest and safest types of talk because it’s very formulaic).

            It’s better, I think, to let people pass if they prefer. But it really isn’t that deep. And yes, I have also been severely depressed and/or in crisis while answering icebreaker questions before, and for that too, the formulaic nature helps – and in that situation, by answering the question, I have now registered as “someone who participated in the meeting” to the other people at the meeting, and if I feel too bad to do anything much else during the rest of it, it’s less noticeable.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I think it’s pretty ableist to diagnose complete strangers with a disability they neither mention nor give any indication they might have.

      It’s also a huge assumption that the people providing reassurance and scripts are all neurotypical. And extremely ableist to assume that neurodivergent people couldn’t possibly have figured out a workable and repeatable solution to this situation that they are recommending from personal experience.

    4. jane's nemesis*

      I am not neurotypical, but I read (most of) those comments about “just say something bland/trivial” as an attempt to help, not an attempt to minimize ND folks’ discomfort.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        To be fair, it can be both things at the same time. People are sharing their approach to be helpful AND it can feel invalidating to someone who’s struggling with it.

    5. J*

      I love the assumption that any of us who aren’t actively hostile to this couldn’t possible be neurodivergent ourselves. Neurodivergent people can be kind and communicative and it’s weird to act like someone who can hold a job can’t answer a non-work question or be gentle to their colleagues.

    6. Happy meal with extra happy*

      As someone who is neurodivergent, maybe don’t speak for all of us? I actively like these types of activities.

    7. Hiring Mgr*

      In this case though the LW didn’t mention anything about being ND or not, so I wouldn’t think the commentary should include such a diagnosis.

    8. Courageous cat*

      I’d be interested to know how you know who all the “neurotypicals” are. Do we really need to work at creating a wider rift where there really doesn’t need to be one here?

      This stuff is frustrating. It is not ableist to not find something like that a big deal. Let’s save those accusations for things that are actually ableist so we don’t dilute the meaning.

    9. Spencer Hastings*

      Generally, the responses and comments are focused on the LW’s specific situation, so if you have a similar issue but your circumstances are different, not all of that advice will apply to you. Maybe if you sent in a question and mentioned that you were not neurotypical, you might get interestingly different advice.

  29. Washi*

    I had to exclusively pump for my son, got a lot of practice at it, and found pumping at work easier than trying to pump while caring for a Velcro baby.

    And I would not want to go on this trip. Pumping is already enough hassle when you have immediate access to a privacy, an outlet, fridge, and sink and in a cabin situation these are all probably not located together in a way that is not going to make this a giant pain in the butt 6 times a day.

    That being said, it’s possible to maintain a full supply while pumping, it’s not easy and you may want to look up some videos if you do go and practice a bit with hand expressing and other techniques that help pumping be as efficient as possible. It’s doable for some, but it would make me nervous to find out the hard way if pumping doesn’t work for you.

  30. Yellow cake*

    LW5 – look ruthlessly at what you can stop doing. If people are over worked you either need more staff – or less work. So start with less work.

    Do all your employees need a work email? How much unnecessary email do you send around – will a chat system replace dozens of emails? Can you instigate thumbs up instead of written responses as acknowledgement? Can you put a poster in the tea room about the optional whatever coming up rather than sending an email?

    Do you have a lot of days that you do stuff for (Tomorrow is wear it purple, RUOK is coming up) – each individually is great but it can suck a lot of time if you hasn’t to do a lot for all of them. Can you pull back, Chuck some free food in the break room and add a poster rather than “an event”?

    What annoying time suck processes do you have? How much can be removed / automated.

    How much internal training do you have – and what is needed. The schedule should match need – patient confidentiality proceso needed more often than learning not use USB sticks you find in car parks. Even pushing stuff back to every 18 months instead of annual saves a LOT of time across a company.

    Do you need to drop programs? I get that things are life and death – but your staff need to be cared for. High turn over is expensive. Burnout means people aren’t responding at their best. You need your staff to be mentally healthy to help others. If you cannot cover everything you do – and society is not willing to cover the cost – then some stuff has to be dropped. That should happen after you’ve looked at what else can go – but it needs to be a consideration.

    On the side of adding things. Do you have a proper break room? One that doesn’t have clients or staff meetings in? At any time of the day or night, can you’re on site staff grab a cuppa and sit down and eat a meal? Out of sight from clients. If not – this needs to be fixed. A nice break room (preferably with at least free instant coffee and tea – or a machine people can bring pods for) makes a huge difference to the feel of a work place.

  31. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–as someone who has traveled and pumped with both kiddos (starting at 9 months with my first and 6 months with my second), my first thought was, “You could make this work…” And then I got to the bit about camping and my answer screeched to a halt and immediately switched to “oh hell no.”

    I will say, pumping infrastructure has vastly improved since my oldest was a baby 10 years ago. Many more places have spaces to pump (especially airports), but while camping? Definitely not.

    1. VermiciousKnid*

      I had the exact same thought! I first traveled with my pump when my baby was 5 months old. It’s doable if you’re in a hotel with a private room and minifridge. CAMPING? I’d rather eat glass.

    2. Grogu's Mom*

      My daughter was used to a combo of breastfeeding, pumping, and formula from birth (jaundice baby) but work travel (2 nights away at 8 months) still completely changed our breastfeeding relationship. She refused the breast once I got home and I had to exclusively pump or use formula after that.

      It’s true that infrastructure is WAY better than it used to be in the USA especially (thanks to people like Sen. Duckworth) but it’s still tough. Most airports in the US are now required to have some sort of lactation room but often you see the Mamava pods or similar, which don’t have running water to wash out pump parts. (Tip for that: Medela pump wipes are amazing!) Or they only have one room for the whole airport, so you worry that it’ll be occupied when you need it. Another challenge I encountered once was that one flange broke in transit (in a country where lactating people don’t go back to work early enough that local baby stores regularly carry replacement pump parts) and I had to pump one side at a time, basically doubling my pump time for the entire trip.

      I always pumped-and-dumped when I traveled. I looked into shipping milk or traveling with milk and they were way too expensive and/or complicated (like having to request/trust the hotel to freeze milk and hope it didn’t melt enough on the ride to the airport that security would let you through). With camping, I’d be very concerned about having a well-lit place with a good outlet in a private location for middle-of-the-night pumps, and a real refrigerator (most mini-fridges are actually just coolers and not sufficiently cold to preserve breast milk). When I traveled with my family around that age, we booked Residence Inn-type suites so that I didn’t annoy my husband in the middle of the night, can’t imagine your co-workers would be too keen on the 10 pm, 2 am, 6 am pump sessions!

      I also missed out on a LOT of the work part with regular pumping. I requested a room at a conference hotel close to the elevators but instead they involuntarily “upgraded” me to a top-floor room far down the hall from the (very slow) elevators. It took 10 minutes each way just to get from the conference floor to my room, between that and pumping/storing/cleaning up time I’d be gone for at least 40 minutes at a time several times a day, missed out on a lot of conference sessions I was interested in, and didn’t get to have those random networking opportunities that you normally get because I was constantly going back to my room whenever there was any sort of break time. There were also one or two “surprise” highlights of the conference – “look outside, and board the booze cruise, it leaves immediately!” – where the organizers clearly just didn’t consider that people would need to plan in advance to have medical supplies/electricity/privacy available on a certain schedule, so I missed out on those, too.

      It is a tricky situation, because I think a lot of people, myself pre-lactation included, just are completely clueless about what is involved and just how hard it can be even when everything goes right. Mastitis is a really serious condition, which like others said comes on really quickly and is an immediate emergency. I was fortunate not to have that but had clogged ducts a few times and it was incredibly painful. I learned early on that I could not delay my lactation schedule even by a few minutes and that I needed to completely empty out every time or I would pay for it.

      1. VermiciousKnid*

        My office has a pumping room but it’s 3 high-walled cubes in a big room. So sometimes there were 3 women pumping at the same time. It was also clear across the building for me. 8 min there, 8 min back + 30 min pumping and cleaning. No sink, had to use the kitchenette across the hall. I wound up using wipes because I couldn’t bother with the sink. It was such a time suck.

        We did have a program where they would pay for breastmilk to be shipped back while you’re traveling. Milkstork. I once looked up the costs and they were INSANE, so I was very thankful the company paid for it. I shipped breastmilk back every day I traveled. I think I cost the company over $1k in the 6 months where pumping/working overlapped.

    3. tg33*

      I’ve pumped at work, but not while travelling. I was able to pump a bit, but not half as much as I was able to breastfeed, so travelling at 4 months old would effectively mean weaning the child, and possibly blocked milk ducts or mastitas (sp). Personally, I would just say don’t do it. The advice on my last child was not to start solids until 6 months, so I wouldn’t agree to travel until at least then, and probably not until a year.

    4. margarita water*

      This was workable until I saw camping and bunk beds. Honestly the bunk beds haven’t been workable since college.

  32. Testerbert*

    LW2: It sucks, but it is what it is. If they had ‘free’ parking, they’d likely have to pay an awful lot more (and also have a lot more people taking up the ‘benefit’ of not having to pay to park, so start driving in to work, thus paying even more). Unless they gave an equivalent benefit to non-drivers / those who choose not to drive, it might breed resentment.

    Company should lobby loval government to make public transit options not suck; having read both this letter and the other article from yesterday, it horrifies me that people choosing the bus face such infrequent and slow services, but that’s a conscious political choice that has been made to both underfund the routes and not build infrastructure to support it.

    LW5: Money, or time which has a clear monetary value to the recipient. That extends to proper scheduling / ensuring people actually get sufficient time to rest & recuperate. Upper management won’t like hearing it, but this isn’t the sort of problem you can fix with some cheap classes or a one-off gift. People burning out = higher turnover = higher costs in seeking replacements and potential financial penalties for not meeting service levels. Spending X on your current staff is better than paying X+Y once you factor in the continual higher turnover.

  33. A person*

    LW1 – I know toxic positivity is a thing and totally agree you shouldn’t have to share things from your personal life (if they push it you can try things like – “I had all green lights on my commute today” or “I found apples at the store for $1/lb this weekend” or “I tried a new recipe yesterday and it turned out great”. You can look for small positive things without sharing much about your private life.

    I do think that there is benefit in the exercise of trying to find something positive at work. It’s so easy to get bogged down at work in the negatives that sometimes making sure you’re taking time to search out and reflect on positive things can be a healthy habit to be in. I love the idea of using it to elevate others too! I wish my manager put more effort into finding the positive things at work (not even about me necessarily, just in general). It would make it easier for me to do so.

    I would also argue that if you can’t find anything positive to share about work on like at least a weekly basis, you may want to consider if the role you’re in is right for you. While toxic positivity isn’t good, if you’re only negative about work that can really easily start to spread to your colleagues also (see note above about negative Nelly manager). It only takes one persistent negative Nelly in a group to really start hurting morale on a team.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Toxic positivity is the pressure to only show positive feelings in all circumstances and to never be negative. This isn’t really that (unless there’s more to the story that we don’t know). It’s just a request to share 2 things that are positive before jumping into a work agenda that may be positive/negative/neutral/all of the above. I think it probably is a problem to describe the request with “positive” and “personal” because both words can be a bit charged. They should probably say simply, “Share 2 good things that happened recently inside and outside of work.”

      I definitely agree that if it’s too difficult to share a positive thing about work that the role probably isn’t a good fit anymore (if it ever was). I struggled with this task before more because nothing in my week was noteworthy, but also because I wasn’t really vibing with my role.

  34. John*

    LW1: humor is a great tool when looking to step outside the lines.

    Something like, well, I fell over the dog this morning and the fact that I didn’t break anything would be considered a positive development, right?

    I once famously prefaced a big presentation by sharing that I’d accidentally ingested my dog’s pain meds (true story) an hour earlier and had no idea what effect they might be having… so stay tuned! People were howling (and have never forgotten it).

    Maybe steal someone else’s anecdote in a way. If the guy before you says his kid won the spelling bee, say you were going to share that your kid won the spelling bee, but now that’s off the table, though perhaps now there needs to be an investigation into the true winner. Something like that.

    No one minds if you’re entertaining. These “round the room” exercises just give everyone a chance to speak up so if you do it, it’s rare for a facilitator to insist you strictly adhere to the asssignment.

  35. Jack's Rising Bile*

    I’m a bitter old cuss so hearing that my coworker who is already lucky enough to afford to buy a home is getting a gift from the boss for… being rich enough to buy a home would piss me off.

    But I’m sure your company pays everyone enough that they could also afford homeownership if they wanted, right? :)

  36. ijustworkhere*

    Simple pleasantries don’t have to involve sharing information that you don’t want to. “I saw a beautiful bird this morning’ is one of my go-to answers when asked to share something that I enjoyed this morning.

    It’s difficult to strike a balance between a workplace that doesn’t give a flip about your life and one that is too intrusive. I appreciate when an employer makes at least some effort to recognize that I’m a human being with a personality and a life outside of work. I think the “tell us about something positive today” is an attempt, however fumbling, to do that in a respectful manner. I have learned a lot about my colleagues and the things they enjoy with that kind of sharing.

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1, agree with the overall advice just to say something very bland.

    I was wondering about the part of your letter though where you said you’d mention this to Sr management as a potential problem for integrating the two teams. For something that most people consider very mild, I’d caution that may come off as a bit out of touch.

    1. Lordy Lordy, Look Who's Over 40*

      Indeed. Old Old Job we started our monthly (quarterly? can’t remember) meeting with something new or good from work or personal life. It was fine and set a nice tone, took maybe 10 minutes. They spent a lot of time and money finding something that was proven to help enhance a nice work culture. If something really bad had happened for a person they didn’t have to answer of course. We also wrote optional appreciations for as many coworkers as we wanted to, then they were all read aloud and 2 names were drawn for a gift card. This worked because it was an overall decent place to work. I understand how it can feel fake/forced if it’s being used to paper over an dumpster fire.

      Getting from the commentariat that people hate negativity but also dislike positivity. I am so glad I’m not a manager because even the most innocuous things seem to rub someone the wrong way. (Not an attack on OP#1- just a general observation.)

  38. Grith*

    LW4 – If you want to start *routinely* doing gifts for significant milestones, then it has to start at some point and that may as well be Roberta and her first home. But I think you need to have it straight in your mind:
    * Who gets gifts (direct reports, 2 levels down etc)
    * What events they get gifts for
    * How much you spend on the gift
    And then be super-consistent with all of the above and be prepared to lay out your approach clearly if asked.

    It’s also very important to consider what this implies for people below you who may earn less than you but have reports working for them. If you’re inadvertently starting a culture of “managers buy presents for their staff at important moments”, is that something all management will be able to afford? Is it something they will all be capable of doing fairly? Are all manager:report ratios in your company fairly similar or are some managers going to end up feeling obliged to buy presents significantly more often than others?

    None of which is to say that you shouldn’t do it at all, only that it raises a lot of questions.

  39. Rachel*

    2: regarding parking specifically, I think this is like picking a company team building activity or a catered lunch. There is no way to make everybody happy. Paying for your own parking is standard even if it feels unfair.

    That being said, I am picking up on a Mr. Potter in Bedford Falls (It’s A Wonderful Life) vibes on this letter. I grew up in a town that had a major employer like this and it impacts the community in some unexpected ways. Not all of them are bad, I distinctly remember the company offering scholarships and donating to a lot of public works (off the top of my head, a sensory friendly playground and music pavilion are named after the company, there is more stuff, I am sure).

    There is also this notion that since they are the biggest employer and one notch above providing employees necessary things, they are excellent. They become unimpeachable. And that can lead to being taken advantage of.

    So while I absolutely think parking is not a place to make an stance with an employer, I think it’s smart for the contributor to keep an eye out for things like this.

    1. STG*

      I’ve been working office jobs in a variety of towns (including Seattle) for 25 years and have never paid for parking. Every business I’ve worked for has considered it a cost of doing business and has provided passes. My experience seems like a rarity though.

  40. Pocket Mouse*

    LW #4: You’re inclined to get a gift for someone buying a house (not a typical occasion for celebration at work) but not for the birth of a first child (when people pop out of the woodwork to give gifts and a primary excuse for celebration at work)? I have to wonder if this is more about the employees than the occasions—do you favor Roberta in other ways? Please examine closely whether the people you manage are receiving disparate attention, treatment, or access to you. If they are, I suspect it’s visible to them. This kind of thing causes significant morale and trust problems.

    1. Yellow Rose*

      This, so much. If you as a supervisor or manager (or the leadership collective) are going to gift employees for hard work, goals met or holidays, please make sure it’s timely. I was presented my Christmas ‘surprise’ from the supervisors and managers by my then lead (now supervisor) this past July. This was done in front of a couple of co-workers.

      Nothing says “we value your contributions to the team” like stale candy and a seasonal item that takes up space for the next six months. Except for the raised eyebrows of the co-workers who witnessed this. They were as gobsmacked as I was.

      In retro, I should have sent the leadership team a much belated thank you card.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        You can still send a much belated thank you card. It’s currently only somewhat belated now, so if you wait until October it will be, IMO, much belated.

  41. Elizabeth*

    On #2, I work at an extremely rural agricultural school (with no safe and reliable transit options other than a car), and we’re charged for parking because one year a budget gap needed to be filled and once a school has revenue they’re not giving it up. However, it being a union shop, the rate is income adjusted and some PTO was negotiated in return.

  42. wtaf machine*

    I also work in 24-hour crisis mental health. Can confirm that pay isn’t the best. My workplace offsets this with EXTREMELY generous time off. Almost an unheard of amount of time off, really. But what’s key is you have to actually give your staff the ability to actually take the time. Normalize time off! Also since you are 24-hours, normalize flexing schedules. If someone needs a day off for whatever reason, let them know if they want to save their PTO they can work a weekend day to flex their week. Let them have ability to work remote if they ever want/need to (if possible with roles that are often highly confidential). This flexibility really makes up for not great pay.

  43. DrSalty*

    LW #1, just make up some banal bs so generic it’s impersonal. “It’s a beautiful day today.” “I had a nice lunch.” “The weather is so nice today” “I went for a walk”

  44. Immortal for a limited time*

    #1 – you could turn Alison’s suggestion into a “positive comment from personal life” by saying, “As for my personal life, I’m proud that I’ve been consistent in protecting my privacy” or something like that. It follows the “rules” while gently making a point.
    #2 – having a parking space at all is a luxury for some workers. I’ve experienced all permutations of that in various jobs over the last 30 years. Some employers have been in office buildings on the edge of town with their own (free) parking lots. One of my jobs was located in our state’s capitol complex, where on-street parking is free and open to the public — but good luck finding a spot during a legislative session or public event. Some past jobs were in our downtown district with limited parking. Some of those employers paid for city parking garages or permit spaces; others secured the spots but required employees to pay for them, and a couple employers had a “You’re on your own, good luck, we hope you don’t mind walking a long way” policy. The latter was more common during the Great Recession (2008 to 2013 or so). People felt fortunate just to have a job and employers were cutting costs where possible.

  45. Rosacolleti*

    #3 I can’t believe they would even ask a mother with a baby that young to travel even overnight though i guess if they’ve returned to work that early it might be different.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s not like they’re saying “You! Mother of a 4 month-old! You have to travel!”

      The LW says this is an all-staff event. They’re not going down the employee list checking everyone’s individual circumstances.
      If anyone has a reason they can’t go, it’s on them to bring it up.

      1. Rachel*

        Right, and there are plenty of women who would want to be treated exactly as they were before they got pregnant and had a baby.

        A friend of mine formula fed from the start and would have been furious if it was assumed she wasn’t attending something like this.

      2. WellRed*

        Yep. Lots of comments about the horror of this company requiring OP to travel but she hasn’t even brought it up! The real horror is shared rooms with bunk beds.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      “That early”. In the US we get 12 weeks, not necessarily paid depending on where you are/who you work for. (I’m simplifying here, there’s more nuance. It can be less.)
      So 4 months isn’t returning to work “early” here.

    3. Aquamarine*

      I think it would be a bad idea to assume she doesn’t want to travel just because she has a baby. Someone else in her position might be happy to travel (especially given that not everyone breastfeeds). Employers have to be careful not to just exclude pregnant women and new moms from things.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I’ve had 2 staff have babies lately. One of them wanted to do the same international travel as before and the other wanted not to have to travel. I’ve learnt not to make assumptions about whether people want to travel post children or not. Some do and some don’t but I can’t assume they’d want to pass on the opportunity, I need to check with them as individuals.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Yeah, I agree with this. The employer should absolutely exempt her when she asks, but I would have been livid if my employer preemptively decided what I couldn’t do while breastfeeding.

        I did some work travel when I had an infant, and it wound up being ok. The first time, my baby (~6 months? maybe a little younger?) and my mom came with me, and they stayed in the hotel with me. I would go downstairs for my conference sessions, then go upstairs to the hotel room to feed the baby. The second time, I left the baby (~9 months) at home, and I pumped while I was away.

  46. Yellow cake*

    But unless the LW says they don’t want to travel – how is the boss to know? I’d definitely assume that any of my staff would be doing their regular job when returning from parental leave unless they discussed with me otherwise. I’m definitely not going to break the law by removing opportunities because I think you are breastfeeding.

    If the travel had to happen, it might be a case of postponing till you can – or looking into having someone else hired to do the bits of your job that you currently cannot do. And if it is long term, then might have to rethink your returning full time if you cannot do significant parts of the job. In my industry we can delay a lot of things during leave, but it gets tricky if someone isn’t on leave.

  47. Another Mom*

    LW #3 – I hope you see this! I’ve never commented before but wanted to share this resource I recently learned about from the Bossed Up podcast called A Better Balance. They’re a nonprofit advocacy organization focused specifically on the rights of pregnant workers and caregivers. In addition to having tons of information, they also have resources on how to talk to your boss about these issues. Here’s their page specifically about breastfeeding while working https://www.abetterbalance.org/our-issues/breastfeeding-while-working/ I hope it helps!

  48. Introvert Ted*

    I will never understand why work meetings force people to get personal. It only makes me resentful, as I prefer to keep work life separate from real life.
    I will make a list of some of the bland suggestions here so I can have them on-hand. My problem in these situations is I feel too put on the spot and get flustered, and cannot think of anything relevant to share in the moment. Then I feel self-conscious and lose confidence in myself, despite otherwise being good at my actual job (which does not involve having to speak in front of others or share non-work related info).

  49. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    4mo is a tricky time for breastfeeding more generally, as many babies go through a growth spurt and want to be attached for literal hours at a time (I think my record was 6pm-8am just swapping sides continually). Someone who isn’t in a pumping routine but more of an on-demand situation could find this incredibly challenging.

    It should absolutely be acceptable to decline – even without the camping nonsense – because babies are milk-only for such a short time that this is obviously a time-limited restriction and doesn’t signal that OP is likely to decline other travel in future.

    1. Cows only do it twice a day*

      Don’t tell me that! My 3 month old is already a Velcro baby who eats nonstop, I don’t want to imagine her eating more…
      Also, I have no idea how people manage to maintain breastfeeding while back at work as soon as the norm for the US. Nursing is way more than a full time job for these first few months and pumping takes longer than nursing…

  50. MissAgatha*

    We used to do the one personal/one professional positive at my old company and I can say that truly nobody is invested in your answer, they’re sitting there furiously thinking about their own answer because they forgot about it until the meeting started. My work answers were always like “I got my inbox down to a manageable level” or “I’m taking Friday off so I have a short week.” I also privately called them our Fucking Hoorays, because of My Favorite Murder, so that helped me hate them (slightly) less.

  51. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    #5. I work in the same field and giving staff time away from this is important so some things to do are
    1. Look at your scheduling, do you have a rotating schedule for when staff are “on call” for this and when they know they are off? If not create one.
    2. Extra pay for on-call. Even if these are salaried staff you are requiring them to take time away from their personal lives to do a job. Remember, it IS a job, even if it is also someone’s “calling”.
    3. Allow people to flex time. If someone gets a call at 3 AM for a SI assessment/Crisis call allow them to not be in at 8 AM for their normal duties.
    4. Remember that you want 3 positives for every negative feedback you give staff. Tell them they are doing a good job when they are on call and praise the positive impact they are making, be sure that everyone hears you doing this for all of the staff.

  52. I should really pick a name*

    One report is one step below me, Roberta, and a few others are technically a few steps below me by title

    This isn’t a meaningful distinction for the purposes of gift-giving.
    They’re all your direct reports, so if you’re recognizing milestones, it should be done for everyone.

    You say you don’t have any specific plans for always doing this. To me, that means you shouldn’t do it.
    When one of your justifications is “no one else would see this happen”, that’s a sign that you should start examining your motivations.

    1. Observer*

      When one of your justifications is “no one else would see this happen”, that’s a sign that you should start examining your motivations.

      It’s also a sign that it’s probably a really bad idea, or you would not have to worry about anyone seeing it.

      You also need to be crystal clear about what happens if someone *does* find out. Because it’s quite possible that someone will find out.

  53. RagingADHD*

    LW1 – nobody wants to hear intimate details about your life any more than you want to share them. Just pick something minor that isn’t directly work related.

    Did you go outside for a minute and see something pretty?

    Did you have a nice meal?

    Did a good song come on the radio?

    Did you find your favorite pen?

    Did a pet do something cute?

    Did you learn a cool science fact?

    Did a team you like win a game or get a good player?

    Did you see a good movie?

    Keep it light. It’s just a pleasant little moment in the day. It really isn’t hard, and nobody is trying to invade your privacy.

    If you make it into a “thing” by pointedly refusing to participate, saying it’s too personal or makes you uncomfortable, or otherwise acting like it’s an unreasonable ask, you are going to draw more attention to yourself, and not in a good way.

    1. Anonymous 75*

      Exactly. Tell me something stupid and silly like my favorite color is green, I’ll nod and be like cool, cool I like green too. but make something so mundane into A Big Damn Deal and now I’m probably going to be googling the hell out of you because it seems like you’re hiding something.

  54. Dust Bunny*

    4. Don’t do this.

    If you can’t find a way to spread it around, don’t start sending gifts for life events. I’m unlikely to get married, will never have kids, and cannot afford a home, so if my workplace had a habit of buying gifts for life events that’s three in a row that my younger coworkers (I’ve been here almost twenty years, so I was young enough when I was hired, but it didn’t happen) could be lined up to get that older ones who just happened not to have that kind of luck won’t. Don’t gift for things that aren’t work-related.

    1. EasternPhoebe*

      This!!! It seems that workplaces gifts are usually rewarding people who follow the most ideal life path—people who will get married, have children, buy a house. There’s a level of privilege in there. Can we just dispense with the “milestone” gift giving and appreciate people for their work since it’s, you know, at work?

    2. pally*

      Plus, someone has to keep up with every single employee’s life events or something will be unintentionally overlooked.

      In my company, they do this. Management means well. But this creates resentments.

      I watched many younger co-workers receive generous gifts for getting married, buying a house and for each baby that came along. I was zero for three in these life categories.

      I did manage to buy a small condo. No gift. I heard much later that management was embarrassed they’d overlooked my modest achievement.

      All in all, I’d rather have a set of pots and pans the married folks received than the bouquet of flowers for each family member who passed away that I did receive.

  55. A Simple Narwhal*

    My company does a variation of #1, but in a much more limited way. It’s at our monthly department meeting and the department head opens the meeting by asking if anyone has good news they want to share. It’s a general question to the whole group, no one is singled out, and it’s truly voluntary. It’s a nice way to kickoff the meeting, and it’s usually only a couple people who want to share each time, (usually things like their kid getting into college, buying a house, pregnancy announcements, engagements, booking a big trip, etc) so it’s pretty quick.

    I can’t imagine making everyone share something at the start of every meeting! Surely you eventually run out of things to share, and how much of your meeting time do you burn with this exercise??

    1. Jezebella*

      This last was my question. I would be so annoyed if every meeting started with 15 or 20 minutes of this enforced performance of positivity.

      1. Sparkle Llama*

        We did this for a while at our weekly meetings of my small team (I think 5-6 people) after our manager identified a lack of morale and that we spent a lot of time venting. We work in government which comes with difficult elected officials and members of the public and I think the exercise helped us to remember there were parts of our job we actually liked! And the bar for a positive thing to share was very realistic, so I could share that a meeting I thought would be rough went better than expected, a member of the public thanked me for helping her with X or I successfully worked with another department that can be difficult to get something accomplished. When you can just share you expected to be screamed at and weren’t, it doesn’t feel cheesy.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Seriously! I read the letter and had to wonder how much time this was wasting off the top of the meeting. My positive thing to share would be that at future meetings, I’m showing up after this whole thing is over with.

    2. umami*

      We do this at our monthly division meetings. I call it celebrations, and it’s literally the first agenda item. It’s just a few minutes at the start for anyone who has something they would like to share with the group. Some will want to celebrate a professional achievement, some a personal milestone, or a kid’s success, or a coworker’s kindness. Someone once was excited to share that his chickens were laying eggs. No one is asked to share, it’s completely voluntary. And different people participate at different times, it’s all good! Requiring it of everyone at every meeting would be a whole different ballgame, I’m sure, but also no one can literally force you to respond, so I would suggest anyone who hates the idea to just get comfortable with saying ‘no thanks’, or ‘nothing specific to share today, thanks’.

  56. Czhorat*

    For LW#2, it’s admirable to think about this, but one could argue that parking is part of commuting cost which is typically born by the employee. If your offices are in a city or other congested area then employees will have to pay some cost either to get to the area or to park their cars while they work. You can check if they are eligible for some kind of tax benefit to defray the travel cost.

    (and in case you feel bad about the seventy some dollars per month, I use commuter rail which now costs $341 monthly)

  57. HonorBox*

    Re 5: Money is an equalizer, but I’m wondering how staff would respond to a question of “if we gave you this much more money, would that help?” Maybe some would say it would, but unless it is significant, some may feel like it is just forcing them to be more available. And that doesn’t create balance. Perhaps there’s a way to increase staffing? If you want to create more balance, money may not equal the equation. I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of your team, and I think if I was offered some amount more, I might just think, “great, I have a few more bucks in my paycheck, but I’m still working my tail off, so that’s not really providing balance in the equation.”

    If you added staff, perhaps some of those long hours could be spread out. Is there a way to “force” downtime…like could you give people the opportunity to NOT answer their phones for a period of time? Could arrangements be made for team members to function like firefighters? While they may be on for a number of days in a row, they’re off for a few days too. That might give people balance you and they are seeking. If I knew I didn’t have to be available 24/7 all the time, I wouldn’t have to worry that something I’m doing is going to be interrupted by (notably, very important and impactful) work. That might be worth more than whatever amount you’re offering as a pay increase.

    1. HonorBox*

      Adding: If additional staff isn’t in the budget, you should still look for ways for people to be able to put down their phone. People should be able to not have their work phone tethered to them. Susan knowing that she can be done with work at 5 and not have to worry about it until 8 the next morning will help greatly.

      And not for nothing… ask the team. Do they feel like clear “flex” time would be beneficial? Would a required OUT time be helpful? Do they need a place in the office to escape for a few minutes? Are they inundated with messages at all hours that require a response? Would a little more money help? If they’re given the opportunity to suggest ideas without fear that those ideas will be immediately be shot down, you may find that they have ideas that are workable and would be beneficial to your organization. Some of those may not cost you anything either.

  58. Cranky Lady*

    #1. I wish you could give a very personal positive thing: I had an awesome first date which turned into a weekend of nonstop sex. I was happily sore the next day. Plus he/she was a VERY generous lover (lick your lips, and wink wink). I’m in a rebellious mood this morning.
    The work positive thing: Rufus from accounting finally did some hygiene grooming, he doesn’t smell like old damp clothes today. I can stop holding my breath around him. I hope it lasts.

    Seriously. Personal: I had a peaceful, uneventful weekend. Work: again, peaceful and uneventful in a good way.

    Or, I’m happy to report that life is peaceful and uneventful.

    Then turn to the next person.

  59. nope*

    LW 5: I work an intense 24/4 call center job. The company could afford to pay us more but the C suite doesn’t want to. My manager does a great job of making up for the lack of flexibility and lackluster pay with little things:

    – break room and fridge are always stocked with bagels, assortment of cream cheese, healthy snacks, ice cream in the freezer, variety of coffee flavors, and always remember to get vegan and gluten free options for those who need them. This means that if I’m running late or didn’t make it to the grocery store, my needs are taken care of.

    – backing us up on the W/L boundaries we set. Another business unit member was texting staff at 10:30pm and demanding responses outside of work hours. I ended up blocking that person on my phone and informed my manager as a CYA. My manager supported that decision, and not too long after that person wasn’t working in that role anymore.

    – cutting down meetings: it really sucks to have to attend a mandatory staff meeting with 24/7 availability. No time works for everyone so someone will always have to log on when they should be asleep/doing yoga/cooking a meal. If it can be an email, make it an email.

  60. Bo Glue*

    I work for a prominent public university that very integrated in the town and owns a lot of real estate, including many parking structures and lots. Employees have to pay high prices for parking passes that don’t actually guarantee spaces. Many of the lots, even the “premium” lots, are far from work locations and still require a shuttle/long-ish walk. What’s most infuriating is the university claims they give staff a “benefit” by “subsidizing” parking because they don’t charge as much as, say, a private lot in a large city would.

    Pre-pandemic my spouse had to pay several hundred dollars a year to park in the lot outside his office building that was miles from the central campus and was never full. I, on the other hand, worked in a building across the street from his that the university rented and so parking was free. That’s right, staff have to pay to park at the buildings they own but outside landlords provide free parking. There is no scale based on pay and to get spots, employees at “premium” locations, like our medical center, have to get to work sometimes hours early to secure a spot.

  61. MSW*

    LW 5:
    I worked for a company that thought it was in the same situation. This was social services in the hospital setting and most of us were burned out after the pandemic. Many people quit, myself included, and then the director retired this spring. All the sudden many things are changing and people do seem to be happier. Specifically, they are able to allow flexible schedules, which would have made a HUGE difference for me when I was still there. It’s not possible to work from home but people are now able to pick the schedule that works best for them. A lot of them are working 4 ten hour shifts now. Of course this takes some adjusting and flexibility on others parts, but I do think that helps immensely!

  62. Susan*

    For #2: It was so long ago that I’m a little hazy on the details, but I worked at a place that fell under a local law that said that the company had to have programs in place to encourage use of mass transit and reduce traffic congestion. That company chose to have subsided bus passes, but full cost parking. I wondered if the company in the letter had a similar requirement.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I’ve worked at companies that were under similar requirements, and I’ve always thought is was incredibly foolish to put the onus for increasing use of mass transit on companies that have no control over the usefulness of the mass transit system.

      In general, I think that municipalities that want to increase usage for public transit should improve their transit systems, not try to force employers to figure out ways to compel their staff to ride the bus.

      1. Emikyu*

        Absolutely agreed. I have never lived anywhere where the bus was a realistic option. I mean yes, I had one job where I technically could have taken the bus – it would have been three hours EACH WAY (bizarre circuitous routes around the city), and I would likely have been a few minutes late every day even if it ran on time, but I could technically have done it. I drove half an hour each way instead, because obviously I did.

        I’m all for public transportation! But it has to be actually useable, not just a thing that technically sort of exists. No matter how much you charge for parking, it won’t change the bus route.

  63. Ex-prof*

    LW #2, the employer’s being really generous to offer a shuttle service. I wish all employers did that. If the parking fee annoys, can you park near a stop on the shuttle service for less?

  64. Sunflower*

    #4. No No No. Please no. You will be seen as playing favorites. Either give a gift for all milestones (house, baby, wedding, etc.) or not at all. If you can’t afford or even just don’t want to give gifts to everybody, a simple card is nice, but they still need to be sent to everybody and not just one employee.

  65. SequinPantaloons*

    Adding a different perspective to traveling while breastfeeding just in case any of you are reading these comments and feeling either crazy or like a bad mom. I traveled for a 4 day conference and left my 6 month old son at home with my spouse, 5 year old and dog. My mom came for the week to help out so he wasn’t solo parenting. I bought a wearable breast pump (Willow Go) and pumped in conference sessions. I would go to the “family space” to set up, then pump while I listened to a session, and then take the pump off after the session. It was a lot of energy but worth it for my professional development. To prep my son, we introduced bottles of pumped breast milk at 1 month old and started mixing in a bit (2-4oz per day) of formula soon after, which allowed me to build a freezer stock. All this to say that it’s possible and you’re still a good mom if you travel without your baby while breastfeeding.

    1. tg33*

      If it’s something you want to do and see as valuable, go for it. If you don’t want to go, it’s a huge ask by your employer, and you don’t have to. (IYKWIM)

  66. AB*

    So for #1 the personal/professional thing is probably and EOS (entrepreneurial operating system) thing. We start all our weekly department meetings with a personal/professional win. I’m not a private person but I totally understand! Sometimes people just say they read a good book or had a good meal or are enjoying the weather, etc.. Some people do get more personal but (at least in my organization’s culture) no one bats an eye at very general wins. And sometimes people do share 2 professional wins.

    So just make it your own, but it honestly is a nice way just to get to know the people around you a little better and celebrate big and small things together.

    1. AnonORama*

      Yes, that’s why my employer uses and I think it’s a waste of time, particualrly because hard stops are also required, so it’s cutting out 25% of our substantive meeting time. I admit if it were my decision, I’d skip this and make the meeting 45 minutes instead of an hour. We are given the opportunity to opt out, however, or just mention a professional win and not a personal one (or vice versa), so it doesn’t get horribly intrusive. I’ve definitely passed during bad weeks and it hasn’t been noticeable. Or done the “my air conditioning is working again” type of sharing.

    2. blood orange*

      We run on EOS as well, and I don’t like the existing segue prompt (personal/professional win). We’ve changed it a bit to just “good news from the last week”, and in department meetings we ask a random question which can be really fun. The staff come up with really fun questions, and it only takes 5 minutes to share. It’s less abrupt than diving right in, and it builds camaraderie for staff that are in different locations.

  67. too many dogs*

    LW #2 — The company I work for is downtown in a large city. No free parking is provided for any employee, nor is there a staff parking lot that they charge us to use. We are on our own. We try and find parking lots that we can pay by the month, but they fill up fast, because there is no free parking downtown for any business, for either employees or customers.

  68. Valancy Snaith*

    Are you seriously suggesting American workers are too stupid/dumb/lazy to fight for workers’ rights? Or perhaps that they are unaware that other places do things differently? Nice take.

  69. Generic Name*

    #1 I’m not saying this applies to you, but I think it’s something to consider. I had a quarterly meeting where as an opening ice breaker, we were supposed to answer like 4 questions. Two of them, were the exact ones you mentioned (I guarantee there’s some business book out there to blame). I used to dread those meetings, in part because of those two questions. Looking back, I struggled with coming up with a suitable “work positive” because I was unhappy with my job. So your reluctance to share some small positive tidbit about your work just might be a sign that something deeper is going on. Of course, you might just hate schmaltzy icebreakers, it it’s something to consider.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Suggestion in case it’s helpful to anyone else: if you’re feeling like you hate your job and can’t even come up with a “work positive”, try to think of the last task you finished (or someone else finished but is related to your work in some way). Doesn’t matter if you hated the task. Doesn’t matter if you feel like things are a shitshow at work overall. A thing being “done” = positive. So a good default way to try to answer that question regardless of how you feel in general, is “X is done”. I also really liked Alison’s suggestion of pointing out something good someone else did at work, even if it’s just they did you a solid sometime, or they finished a thing.
      I think a lot of people hate these questions (as do I) because it feels like the stakes are higher than they ought to be. Someone asking for a “positive” somehow means it must be “worth mentioning” whereas a lot of stuff we probably think of as neutral or normal or just exactly what the everyday work is COULD count as an answer to the question. But we don’t think of it because if we weren’t being asked, we wouldn’t think to announce that thing. It’s not significant enough. But since you are being asked, anything that didn’t go wrong is fair game.

  70. el l*

    Lead with, “Look, this will be essentially impossible for me to do. I mean logistically. Don’t think you want to hear all the details why, but believe me when I say it will be huge trouble for me to be a mom and a colleague on this trip, especially in a camp with shared rooms. Please don’t ask me to do this.”

    And if that meets quizzical glances, say, “Besides, honestly I’d appreciate the chance to catch up on projects while I was away on maternity leave.”

  71. Fiona*

    #4 – I agree with everyone else, just don’t do it. You’ve chosen an odd first thing to reward (buying a house) and I also think that once you start this process, it’s a slippery slope. I also think there’s something to be said for materially rewarding people who fulfill basic and often heteronormative societal expectations: marriage, children, buying a house, etc. (And I’m saying this as a woman married to a man who had a BIG traditional wedding – and I love celebrating milestones!)

    But when your work rewards those things, your single, non-children-having, apartment-renting staff will ultimately be left out purely because their milestones don’t necessarily align with society’s. And I just think that’s messier than you want it to be.

    1. Olive*

      I was kind of thinking that the LW might be trying to make a statement about being childfree, but either way, rewarding just one direct report for a circumstance outside of work is messy and inappropriate.

  72. New Mom*

    Wrt LW3, curious if people would feel differently if the work trips were for a fully-remote company, were only 3 days a quarter, and were considered integral to a company’s culture. My breastfeeding journey was tragically very short, but I hope for future kids it won’t be, and that’s my company’s situation.

    1. WellRed*

      No. If the new mom or breastfeeding mom isn’t comfortable traveling that’s it. I don’t see why fully remote matters and I’m hard pressed to see what three days a Q in person will accomplish that’s so integral to the function of the company.

    2. Single Noun*

      Not sure if you’ll see this, but: I agree you shouldn’t have to go if you don’t feel comfortable/safe, and a decent company should respect that, but if you would otherwise want to go and it’s just the logistics getting in the way, I like the suggestion above of bringing baby and grandma (or baby and dad, and leave the older kids with grandma/etc)

  73. BBB*

    regarding parking
    not the OP but would the answer change if I told you my employer sells roughly 6 passes per available parking spot? and the public transportation options are limited at best and not accessible to a large portion of the workforce aka many people have no other option but to drive. and the tiered option exist but may or may not be feasible depending on location (you can pay for the cheaper pass but if there’s a cheaper pass parking spot within a 6 mile radius of your office building is a different question entirely) and they absolutely do turn a profit on parking fees but are quasi-non profit so it goes towards overhead/administration fees rather than profit profit.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yeah, I’m of the opinion that it is fair (and common) for employers to not provide free parking for employees in general. Your scenario strikes me as unfair because I don’t think employers should use parking fees that they charge to employees as a revenue-generator. If the parking fees cover the administration costs of the parking lot maintenance, that’s fair. If they are used for more than that, I don’t like it.

      I also think that places selling parking passes (whether it’s an employer, a university, a garage) should be up-front when they oversell parking so you know when you are buying the pass that you are not buying a guaranteed spot. In the case of employers, I think employees should be told at the offer stage so they can factor that information into their decision about whether or not to accept the job offer.

    2. Bo Glue*

      This sounds very much like how my employer (large public university) handles parking. To park in the lots and structures you have to pay an annual fee of anywhere from $90 a year to over $2k and all but the highest tier doesn’t guarantee a spot, just access to the lot or structure. For buildings that they rent, rather than own, parking is free if it’s available. So you have a famous situation where there are two large office buildings across the street from one another, both filled with university offices, and employees have to pay about $200 a year for parking at one but at the other it is free (course the one where it is free will tow you if you don’t have a sticker).

      The cheaper lots are all very far away from campus and people usually have to take a shuttle, adding even more time for those who don’t make enough to pay for the higher levels.

  74. Orange You Glad*

    #4 – don’t do it. Why are you worried about rewarding a home purchase but haven’t in the past for weddings, etc? It’s generally better to stay away from gifts/rewards for one-time life events since not everyone on your team will experience those life events while working with you.

    As someone who went through a stressful home-buying process in the past, the nicest thing my boss did for me was provide flexibility with my work hours so I could run off for inspections or rescheduled appointments at the last minute. If you have the power to grant someone extra time off or flex their work hours, do it. But also do that for anyone’s life events no matter what they are.

  75. Alex*

    My employer is so large that it is actually required by the city to create incentives for its employees not to drive. So parking is really expensive (if you can even get assigned to a lot, which isn’t a given), but they have other options such as discounted public transportation, bike incentives, carpooling incentives, etc.

    Yes, some people still have no other option but to drive, but it does work. I certainly don’t drive, even though it would be much easier to!

  76. Alex*

    Also, I think regardless of breastfeeding, it is reasonable for a mother of a baby that young to say, sorry, I need to be with my baby and can’t travel without her yet.

  77. Milksnake*

    On the topic of dress code if you have handbook rules around things like tattoos, peircings, hair color or style, uniforms/clothing restrictions, jewelry, etc. and there’s room to relax some of that without it being a safety issue lean into this as a starting point. It doesn’t fix the problem but you’d be surprised how much emotional labor it takes for an employee to have to change part of their self expression for work. Especially if they’re overworked and underpaid.

  78. Ms VanSquigglebottoms*

    Re #3: I feel you. I remember attending a work retreat while breastfeeding my daughter and pumping while driving there because I was short on time to get there, then missing lunch to pump again! I felt funny pushing back because the team was almost all moms, and I sensed that they were the “we got through it, you will too” type. Argh!

  79. L-squared*

    #2. Seems pretty standard to me. This becomes one of those things where if they subsidized your parking, then what about the people who choose to bike? Should they get an equivalent perk? By your logic, they should pay for your gas too.

  80. NeedRain*

    When you’re considering taking a job, subtract the cost of parking (and other expenses specific to that job) from your proposed salary and compare it to your expenses at your current job.
    You just need to consider it like anything else for work you have to spend money on- clothes and shoes I wouldn’t otherwise wear come to mind for me, but also gas, tolls, public transport, whatever.

    My past and future workplace, a large university, charges all staff & students for parking, oversells parking (so if you do not get there early you may not get a space) and charges more for the better spaces that only senior people are eligible for. (by senior, I mean age + years of service, not to do with type of job.) I will be paying $424 for a parking pass that allows me to “only” walk up four flights of outdoor stairs that definitely won’t be cleared in the winter. At my current job parking is free and across the street…. but the overall salary is higher so it makes sense.

      1. NeedRain*

        That’s horrible. I’ve always been an early arriver so it’s not a problem, but if I need to leave and come back during the day, forget it, there will be zero spots of any kind.

        1. Dek*

          It’s usually not a problem for me, but they’ve definitely gotten more than their money’s worth from me for stupid fines as well. Which is just like…I paid for parking already. Why do I have to pay y’all more?

      2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        Mine did, too. They also would track who was driving the car. I had a coworker who got a ticket because her college age son borrowed the car from her faculty parking spot to go to a doctor’s appointment and reparked it in the same lot.

  81. Samwise*

    #1. Come up with a totally bland and trivial example that you can use every single day. Or a set of five or six that you can choose from.

    * I got my favorite coffee drink from [cafe] this morning and I’m ready to face the day!
    * All green lights on the way to work!
    * I rewatched [favorite movie] — it always puts me in a good mood!
    * My best friend called and we had a fun talk yesterday
    * I finally got my car inspected/lawn mowed/kitchen floor mopped/taxes done, glad to cross that off my to-do list

    I totally understand your feeling, OP. During lockdown my supervisor insisted on this at our weekly zoom staff meetings, until one of my colleagues said (in the meeting, so we all heard it), You know, [boss name], a lot of us are not having anything good happening, and some of us want work to be a break from our personal lives , so could we just not?

  82. Not my coffee*

    The responses to question 1 from all parties, including Alison, are interesting.

    I wonder if social norms have changed/are changing? The expectation that if one is asked a question, a deep personal honest response is required so “what am I to do if I don’t want to do that?” feel new. The concern about a potential follow up question also feel now.

    But then again, I suspect I skew older than most commenters and I live in an area where bland social niceties are exchanged often, so that colors my perspective. For example, when I say “Hey, how are you?” I d0n’t really need or want great detail. When I’m asked I say “Fine” or “I rested” or something equally as bland.

    As I approach old age I do try to keep abreast of such changes.

    1. NeedRain*

      I’m not that young, and I realize that bland social niceties are sometimes what’s called for. But I’m reallllly not cool with wasting my time and effort making up pointless things to say in meetings every week. I have a lot of things to do and only so much brain power per day and I don’t like to waste it on pointless things. It doesn’t sound like LW can just say “everything’s fine”, either.

      1. doreen*

        I wouldn’t be thrilled about wasting time on this either – but that’s different from believing I have to give a deep, personal and honest response to every “Share a positive thing from your personal life” or ” How was your weekend ?” or “How are you?” and not wanting people to say those things to me because I think the only way to respond is with a private and honest response when in fact , it doesn’t have to be about something private (“from your personal life” doesn’t mean the same thing as “private”) and it doesn’t have to be honest. I can understand objecting because it’s a waste of time, I can understand objecting because there really isn’t anything positive in your life at the moment but I don’t understand why people either think ‘I got a seat on the bus” isn’t a good enough answer or think that is too private to be shared.

        I don’t think the social norms are changing – I think that online communities in general are unrepresentative and there’s a much higher percentage of people who hate small talk, don’t want to say hello/goodbye to coworkers, don’t want to socialize with co-workers at all and think “fine” is not a truthful answer to “how are you” than the percentage of those people in the whole population.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think “Tell me one good thing that happened in your personal life this week!” is itself a change in social norms. I think it’s a leak of therapy stuff into everyday life, where saying to myself “think about what you are grateful for; notice the little things” can be really helpful to me personally when dealing with something rough, but is not appropriate for me to aim as a requirement, uniformly at every human I encounter in my day.

      I agree that people seem to have lost the notion that “How are you” means “I acknowledge your humanity, my fellow life form.” (I recall a great example from someone visiting relatives in a new part of Indonesia, who eventually figured out that everyone immediately asking about her rice pot did not care about her new InstaPot. Her rice pot was full = “fine” and the literal state of the rice pot or her psyche were not what the question was about.)

    3. SoloKid*

      No, they haven’t changed that much. The people that comment on this website IMO are not a representative sample of office workers. Most people do know well enough to say bland niceties even if they are rolling their eyes behind the screen.

  83. Chuck Finley*

    LW 1. I sympathize with not wanting to share details and I’m not very good at making stuff up on the spot. However, I disagree with most of the advice here. Using the “Oh, I’m too private for that kind of personal sharing…” script or going for the zinger as so many commenters advocate will just make you sound like a misanthropic loner who can’t/won’t integrate into the team or even handle basic human interaction. Which is the opposite of what you want.

    Come up with some bland yet pleasant accomplishments; they don’t have to be deep or personal – hit all the traffic lights green on the way in, saw some pretty flowers, cleaned out a closet, made a big batch of food, got the Final Jeopardy question, etc.

    And this next bit is probably not going to sit well, but be the first to offer your bland accomplishment if you can. My experience is that the first couple of people set the tone of the icebreaker, so if you start off bland most will follow in kind. You’ll be doing your co-workers a service by giving them permission to share only basic surface stuff.

  84. MikeM_inMD*

    LW1 – Alison is nicer than I am. I would be tempted to say, “I woke up breathing this morning, and I successfully remembered my password.” each time. But I would do it in a kind voice with a gentle smile on my face.

  85. summerofdiscontent*


    I work in mental health as well. Pretty much all the commenters on this letter have had awesome suggestions as well from paperwork to culture. Alison’s biggest suggestion- money- is frankly one of the best ways to reduce burn out, along with better benefits and more time off. I know it’s not the most feasible answer, but we are an extremely underpaid profession. The cost of burnout is high, economically, physically, and mentally. Your clients will suffer if your staff suffers.

    There is a cultural shift happening where the mental health profession is beginning to become more empowered to demand changes in how we’re treated. The youngest people coming into our profession are especially empowered to demand better pay and working conditions (and rightly so). You’ll never attract and retain top-tier talent if you’re known as the underpaid/overworked agency.

    Also, do you have a solid board that understands the needs and can help find more resources?

    How is supervision at that agency? Regular supervision can help decrease burnout for the people in the field. Facilitated peer groups can be good as well, but they have to be well-managed so that it doesn’t just turn into a grievance fest. If you’re hiring people right out of grad school, can you cover the cost of their clinical supervision as they work towards full licensure?

    From a clinical perspective: stay up to date on the most trauma- and neurobiologically-informed practices in mental health. It is an investment, but I promise you, up-to-date interventions will ultimately make your staff’s lives easier because they will be intervening with clients more effectively and efficiently. And trauma-informed care applies to staff as well. We absorb a lot of secondary and vicarious traumas and stressors in this field. Therapeutic rapport with clients is everything and you cannot connect with clients if you’re living in your own over-activated limbic system. It will also better equip your staff to recognize early signs of stress and burn out in themselves and each other.

    Best of luck! You’re in a position to do a lot of great advocacy for your staff!

  86. GarlicMicrowaver*

    LW 1- what about ridiculous or boring AH responses as a strategy to shut it down?

    -“I had a glorious, S-shaped bowel movement this morning. My GI doctor gave me a gold star.”
    -“I successfully removed a sulfuric tonsil stone with a WaterPik the other day.”
    -“I drank 64 oz of water!”
    -“Oh, you know, I woke up, got out of bed, and dragged a comb across my head.”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Last one *chef’s kiss* gives me an idea of a game I could play with my teammates – how many song lyrics or movie quotes can we work into our answers without anybody else noticing?

    2. Dinwar*

      That’s like the fantasies about overly-dramatic methods of quitting a job: Fun to fantasize about, but not something really want to do in real life. In a lot of ways it would be worse–at least if you quit you’re generally done dealing with the people, but if you say “I took a fantastic dump this morning, seriously it was amazing!” you’ve still got to work with these people. If someone wrote in saying that their coworker said something like that this commentariat would SHRED that coworker for being unprofessional.

      There are groups where that would be fine. I’ve worked with some groups where macabre jokes were the norm, and one where we had a competition to see who had the best story related to decaying marine mammal carcasses (it…sort of made sense in context…). But such a joke is INCREDIBLY risky. You’ve got to know it’s going to land. Otherwise it won’t be the process that looks ridiculous, it’ll be you.

      1. SoloKid*

        Agreed, I also roll my eyes at icebreakers but I would roll them harder at edgy responses. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. If you don’t love ice breakers just say something bland (the water was a good one) and just let everyone get on with their day.

  87. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Neoliberalism and lots of conservative anti-union, everyone-for-himself [sic] propaganda is part of it.

    Labor unions aren’t an exclusively European thing, and never were.

    Donating to an American union’s strike fund would do more good than yet another comment pointing out that things are different where you are.

  88. Jenny*

    I worked in health care, in a variety of settings – large non profit hospitals to small non profit camps/ hospices – none of them really had extra money or ability to provide any “perks”/ extra PTO etc.

    What really was important to me for the work/life balance was the one small non profit I worked at went above and beyond to encourage respect for all employees. The focus from all higher ups was very clear that all of us (nurses, housecleaners, delivery drivers, office staff, physicians etc) were all there to serve the client and all of us mattered. And this was fostered and done in many ways, but the biggest thing was that there really wasn’t a hierarchy between areas (unheard of at that time in health care), and respect of all people and there opinions/ input in their area of speciality was expected. For example: decisions about how the area was used, would include the input from housekeeping and how it would impact their workload.

    Additionally the management was very on top of the dynamics of the team — when I first started (as a nurse), the medical director told a family something that wasn’t correct and as the new nurse I “heard it” from the family and was in a bit of an awkward situation. Nothing horrible but wasn’t super pleasant. After, my manager asked me about it. I told her what happened, but wasn’t super upset about it. Two days later, the medical director sought me out to apologize!!!

    Personally, work life balance in health care – there are always tough situations that stay with you, and crazy hours, but having respect, being able to trust your team and being treated well had a huge impact on my ability to be healthy at work and at home.

  89. Rebecca*

    LW#1 – I’ve had to do the “share personal/work good news” thing for a while now and never really considered it odd, so it’s useful to hear another perspective in case I’d ever think of carrying this on at some point!

    Sometimes I would just say stuff like “I made a great smoothie this morning” or “I slept great!” or I would just skip it without comment. After about the third person takes a turn, people mostly seem to want to get on with the meeting, so nobody noticed/minded very much.

  90. NewJobNewGal*

    #5 Create and enforce policies around toxic communication and bullying.
    Employees and executives that are aggressive and demeaning in the workplace invade the private time of employees. People can’t turn off the terrible things they endured or heard while on the clock. Those experiences invade their private time and rob them of quality time at home.
    There are ways to hustle and meet deadlines without being toxic. If managers make a respectful workplace, it in essence, gives home time back to staff.
    There is a wide space between creating a positive workplace and becoming the ‘thought police.’ Find that middle ground, find employees that are crossing the line, and train them to communicate using positive and productive methods. And be prepared to let go of staff and executives that keep a death grip on their toxic bubble.

  91. The Ginger Ginger*

    LW1 – I have a meeting that uses this format and we all keep it REALLY light. Work stuff is generally a positive update, not something that I’m feeling particularly emotional about. For personal stuff, we all do really innocuous, simple pleasure stuff. And if all else fails on the personal stuff, just make something up.

    Project A is going well. Finally got an update from Y client. Feature X implementation is complete. Team B is really doing excellent work lately. We settled on a new workflow for K task and it’s really speeding things up.

    I had a relaxing weekend. I got to enjoy the sunset last night. I had an excellent lunch today. I ordered new glasses for iced coffee and I really like them. I got to take a really long walk with my dog last night. I bought a new bird feeder and the birds already found it.

  92. Sally Rhubarb*

    LW 4: focus on your team’s work accomplishments, not their potential successes outside of work that not everyone will want or be able to achieve.

  93. JSPA*

    Yeah, “something positive” is so much less intrusive than “best” or “worst.”

    Treat it like show-and-tell in kindergarten–a chance to say something that you’re happy to bring in.

    Or go blindingly mundane:

    “I was folding laundry, and when I got to the socks, it was like the matched pairs were jumping into my hands.”

    “I thought I was out of mustard, but there was another pot behind the pickles.”

    “I had just the right amount of milk left for my coffee.”

    “looks like the blackberries are ripening.”

    “the air smelled delightfully [crisp / warm / damp / dry / like fresh hay / pollen-free] this morning.”

    What’s the worst that happens, if people peg you as someone who gets small pleasures from simple things that are not-at-all-unique-or-tellingly- individual-in-any-way?

    Someone may bring you a nice leaf they spotted, or tell you that they picked blackberries. But they don’t have anything “on you.”

  94. Justme, The OG*

    LW#2: (laughs in Higher Education) I pay $800 a year for the privilege of being able to park on campus.

    1. Dek*

      Oh, ok hang on, I’m adjusting my salt levels, because that’s 8x more than they’re charging me for the same privilege.

      That’s RIDICULOUS. Nearly a thousand dollars a year? Heck, knock it off the paycheck innately and call it a “benefit” or something to make it sting more.

      1. JSPA*

        I’ve worked where the choice was $500/year, or a completely subsidized bus pass. Wasn’t ridiculous; they were making the point that parking is a luxury, not a necessity. (Noting that they did cover for short-term as well as longer- term disability, though).

        1. Dek*

          That’s nice if parking is actually a luxury and not a necessity. Here it’s a necessity. I had a friend who had to rely on a bus to get to work for a bit. He had to allow for at least two hours for what should’ve been a 20 minute drive. And even then it was dicey. We *barely* have a bus system, and bus stops themselves are few and far between.

          I missed where JustMe said anything about having the option of a free, reasonable bus pass. $800/year to park at your job–ESPECIALLY if you’re paying your employer for parking space that THEY own–*is* ridiculous.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Sounds like the cost at my last university job.

            Even the satellite offices for non-teaching staff had paid parking, “to be fair to the people on campus”. But they had actual offices, whereas we were in an open plan with no privacy. Fairness to us didn’t seem to factor in.

            Oh, yeah, they subsidized transit passes, but the satellite offices had no shuttle to the train except a couple specific runs in the morning and the evening, which meant that if you took the train you didn’t dare take lunch. The bus options were even more abysmal, especially if you were coming in from the more distant cities in the metro area.

            To add insult to injury, they owned all of the parking lots, and used the parking money to pay for the transit passes. So the people who drove subsidized the people who took transit, and the university got tax credits for the transit passes. It was revenue neutral for the university, a perk for the people who transit worked for, and a hideous cost for everyone else who liked not having to take forever to get to work.

  95. Observer*

    #1 – Meetings start with positivity

    (although I will be raising it with our senior management that it’s likely to be a real blocker to getting the two teams to integrate well),

    What makes you say that? It’s clear that *you* very much don’t like the idea, but do you know *anything* about the new team and how they operate? Do you even know enough about the rest of the company to know how they will react? Or even the rest of your team / department? Or are you just projecting your reaction to others?

    I know that it’s easy to misread intent but it sounds like your reaction here is a bit of an outlier – the idea that *anything* no matter how mundane that is not work is too private too share it pretty intense. And if you really are so work focused, it’s hard to see how you get enough of a sense of your coworkers to know how they might react to something like this.

    On the other hand, if you already actually do know some basic non-work things about your coworkers (like who drinks coffee and maybe if someone has a pet, etc.) then think about how that happened. That’s about the level of personal you are probably aiming for. Not the ins and outs of your finances, family, etc.

  96. Chickepea*

    I’m seeing a lot of people saying that just pumping for 4 days (one comment even referenced doing it for 24 hours) would be detrimental to milk supply and lead to clogs or mastitis. I know this isn’t a breastfeeding information session
    but I wanted to point out that some women do EXCLUSIVELY pump and are successful at providing their baby with 100% breastmilk and they also aren’t plagued by mastitis and clogs everyday. I exclusively pumped for the last 8 months of my 1 year breastfeeding. I don’t say this to suggest OP should switch to exclusively pumping or that they should have to even consider it for those 4 days, I only say this to balance the comments suggesting exclusively pumping for more than a few hours is a death sentence for your supply and destined to end in mastitis.

    With that out of the way, exclusively pumping is HARD. There are multiple parts to clean, safe storage of milk to consider, pumps to charge to lug around, a strict pumping schedule to follow…if you’re not used to the process, trying to do it for 4 days at a campsite would be awful. I eventually had a pretty good system and routine down and was almost always pumping in the comfort of my home and even that was difficult. My breastfeeding journey was hard but so special to me and I imagine it is for this mama too – she needs to make the decision she knows is right for her baby, her body, and supports her goals as a breastfeeding mom.

    1. Lilo*

      While some women exclusively pump, the reason switching suddenly from exclusively nursing to exclusively pumping can cause mastitis or clogs is because the baby drains the breast differently from a pump. It doesn’t mean women can’t exclusive pump, it just means someone suddenly going from one to the other risks problems.

  97. Jules the 3rd*

    LW 4: If she’s a lifesaver in your day-to-day work, show it by getting her a raise. Tell your bosses how well she is doing, the value she brings (handling A nd B so that you can focus on X and Y). Get her a title bump if that’s what it takes.

    It’s the gift that will keep on giving for the rest of her life.

  98. Leftylanie*

    LW 5: It’s really about changing the mentality regarding responsibility. As social service workers, it’s really easy for us to get caught up in the rescuer role and believe that everything is on our shoulders. It’s really not, and the statement that lives are literally at stake shows how much pressure is on the staff. Make sure there are appropriate boundaries. Everyone go home when they’ve worked their hours. Remember it’s not your problem when you’re off the clock. Keep work at work- turn off the phone and email. Coach staff on how it’s a collective and not individual responsibility. Make sure management has realistic expectations of what can be achieved in 8 hours. Recognize that not everything is a fire and can wait until tomorrow. No one can last long in a culture that promotes crisis mode.

    1. summerofdiscontent*

      “As social service workers, it’s really easy for us to get caught up in the rescuer role and believe that everything is on our shoulders. It’s really not, and the statement that lives are literally at stake shows how much pressure is on the staff. ”

      YES! Excellent points!

      And if these are social workers, our code of ethics is very clear on understanding the limits of our competencies. We are only human and only have so much capacity. That must be modeled from the top on down.

  99. Academia for Life*

    I’ve worked at four universities over my career, and three of them owned their own lots and absolutely charged employees for parking. The fourth was downtown in a city and just got a slightly better deal on the municipal lot.

  100. Aitch Arr*

    #1 – when it comes to the positive thing in your personal life, you can always share what book/show/podcast you’ve enjoyed recently. Low-stakes and still meets the spirit of the question.

  101. Lisa*

    LW4, I would ask you to think about why you want to give a gift in this instance when you haven’t for other major life milestones. From here it really looks like favoritism in an instance that has nothing to do with work performance.

  102. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    #5 As someone who works with those in your profession (college campus counseling) I totally get where you are coming from and I think it’s great that your company realizes that work/life balance is hard in this field. Here are some things I think might help:

    *Allowing people to take time off, and meaningful time off (not just a day here and there) and allow them to completely unplug. No calls, texts or emails from work. In fact being as flexible as you can with time off or changing schedules would be very helpful.

    *From my counselor coworkers they say that they really appreciate having built-in time throughout the day to complete clinical notes. This way they don’t have to take work home or stay late completing notes.

    *Is there a way you can build time for rest in the workweek? For example, have a set time where people can decompress, either with coworkers or on their own. For example, we often have a select day each month where folx can choose to start later but they are still paid for their time. I know this is a 24/7 type of clinic but maybe you can look into something like this.

    *If you don’t already look to see if your company can start some sort of EAP program. Clinicans need someone to talk to too.

  103. atalanta0jess*

    LW 5, re: work life balance – making sure you have a solid pool of on-call workers so that folks feel like they can call in sick or take vacation without burdening their core group, and so there is always adequate staffing on site.

  104. Turtlewings*

    I gotta really disagree with Allison on the parking question. Anywhere in the nation outside of a few big cities, driving a car is the only way to get to work. Period. Charging your employees to park their car is no different than charging them to use their desk chair. Employers need to provide parking for their employees just like they provide office equipment. Otherwise, especially in low-wage jobs, you have people whose entire first hour (or two!) of work only generates enough income to pay for their parking space.

    1. Dek*

      Firmly agreed (and looking at the comments, it seems like this is really common in academia. Because, y’know. College staff make the Big Bucks…)

      I wonder if it’s more that it’s just…this is how it is than this is how it should be. But it really is just absurd.

      1. C.*

        Yeah, I think that’s what surprising me the most from the comments section. “Paying for parking with the sole and specific purpose of going to work is totes normal! Are you crazy, this is how it’s *always *been done! ”

        But should it be, though……….? For companies that, as the LW says are “the only game in town,” surely, there’s some kind of town-gown relationship between the employer and the city where that kind of arrangement can be minimized or eliminated altogether.

        I totally understand everyone’s contributions around green incentives, and I don’t disagree with providing as many transportation options to the employee as possible. But my employer forces us to pay for parking, too, and their business is worth more than the GDP of most small countries put together. It rubs me the wrong way, too.

    2. Jessica*

      Yeah, I get that it’s “normal” for companies that don’t own the lot not to cover the cost of parking for employees, but that’s different from it being ethical.

      We’d all agree, I assume, that making employees pay rent on their desk space wouldn’t be acceptable, even though the company is paying to rent that office space. I’m not sure why the parking lot is different.

      1. I Have RBF*


        Plus, if I have a job that a) is not well served by transit, b) has coverage based requirements for punctuality (the transit very, very often screws up), or c) often has extended hours that make getting home by transit lengthy and difficult, then charging me for parking is literally making me pay extra time and money for the privilege of working.

        That will always leave a bitter taste in my mouth, no matter how much the company brags about its “green initiatives”. Those “green initiatives” have a very real cost to their employees, and no so much to the company itself.

        1. C.*

          Not to mention that, for those working hybrid now, there may not be a reduction in the parking fees they were paying for FT work in the office. This is happening to a couple of my friends right now. They’re working from home 2 or 3 days a week, but still have to pay the same amount they were paying for the FT space.

          The disassociation people have here in the comments section is kind of unreal. Again, I totally agree with the employer should be providing and incentivizing as many green options as possible. But why is it on the employee to subsidize THEIR (the employer’s) parking costs? This is part of the cost of doing business in the location they have chosen to do their business, and I fail to see why that needs to be another expense shouldered by the employee.

  105. Jessica*


    I think the distinction between whether or not the company owns the lot is important.

    I work for a large tech company that’s forcing its employees to come back to the office AND charging us for parking in lots that it owns. I object pretty strongly to this–why should I have to pay my employer to come to work?–but I think it’s different when the company is leasing space in a building and someone else is setting the parking fees.

    I still feel like they should cover it–all of my previous gigs that leased space covered parking for employees–but apparently I’m in the minority on this.

    But there is a significant difference to me between simply declining to cover a fee an employee would be paying to a third party, and making your employees pay you to use a company-owned resource.

    What’s next? Are they going to start charging me a fee to use my company-owned laptop? Charging me rent on my desk? Making me pay a reservation fee to book a conference room?

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      I agree. If the company ownes the lots then the cost to maintain those lots should be included in the budget for the company. It’s no different than building maintenance. After all you don’t have to pay for your desk, or the printer.

      1. Jessica*

        The ableism in some of these comments about driving to work vs biking/walking/public transit is just mind-blowing.

        Congratulations on the unearned privilege you enjoy in having the physical capacity to bike/walk to work, and not having any disabilities or health conditions that make an hour+ commute on public transit difficult, impossible, or humiliating.

        (It’s also not quite ableism, but there are people who also need to drive to work for non-disability-related reasons–like having to get kids to school at a certain time that doesn’t play nice with bus schedules, or even being able to spend hours on a bus. Like having caretaker responsibilities that might mean you have to leave work on short notice. Or a million other reasons that people need the flexibility to leave work when they need to leave, and get somewhere quickly. I’m not sure what to call the dismissal of those reasons.)

        Stop using your position of unearned privilege to advocate for charging other people extra fees to come to work.

        Your employer is supposed to pay you to do your job. Not the other way around.

        1. Jessica*

          And to be clear, I’m Just Here for the Cats!!, the “you” in that comment is generic, not directed at you.

      2. Dek*

        “If the company ownes the lots then the cost to maintain those lots should be included in the budget for the company.”

        Yes, EXACTLY!

        It’s a business expense.

  106. Modesty Poncho*

    Just wanna shout out that I’ve been very educated on mastitis during this discussion – I’d heard it mentioned as a risk in other conversations but I just thought it was pain, I had absolutely no idea it was an illness that required antibiotics and ran a dangerous fever.

  107. TootsNYC*

    this is going to be a highly unpopular and controversial take, but here goes.

    When you’re asked to share something from your personal life, YOU GET TO CHOOSE WHAT YOU SHARE. The vast majority of meeting organizers don’t want to hear your personal things, and even if they’re misguided enough, rest assured that the rest of us don’t want to hear the intimate things.

    Tell them you cleaned out a drawer. You had a nice chat with your brother, and don’t elaborate. You tried a new restaurant. Your dog did something funny on the walk. You’re glad it’s PSL season again.

    There is a benefit to being seen at work as “a person who has a personal life,” or as a complete person. That’s why the organizers do this.

    Don’t spend your time and energy crabbing about this kind of thing. Instead spend it deciding on a strategy that’s comfortable for you. Sure, it’s effort. It may even be uncomfortable–though since you’re choosing what to say, you should choose something comfortable. Welcome to life.

    And pay a little bit of attention to the other people at work, and build your own image of them as fully rounded people.

    1. SometimesMaybe*

      I agree. I don’t really see this as forced or toxic positivity – no one is saying you have to be happy just to share things about your week (and no one wants to hear people complain). As a quick note about acting positively – your co-workers should expect you to be pleasant at work no matter what you are personally dealing with.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Yes, but they don’t get to choose IF they share. And since they’re expected to share one POSITIVE thing, it absolutely is “forced positivity”
      What if there really isn’t anything positive? Sometimes people have real bad weeks and don’t want to share anything. I think back on the week my brother died three days before his wedding and honestly there was NOTHING good about that week. I was charged with canceling the wedding and vendors were SO RUDE and some refused to believe me. And then contacting all the invited guests, and dealing with everyone wanting to know the story, and in some cases wanting me to comfort them, and it was just awful. I didn’t tell anyone at work about the details of what I’d been through, just that we’d had a funeral instead of a wedding. If I’d been asked to share something positive in a work meeting any time in the weeks after that, it would not have gone well.
      I’ve also had a coworker turn into a stalker.
      Let people share what they want *when* they want and *to who* they want. Do not force it in meetings, period.
      Because you can be a full person with a personal life WITHOUT being forced to share *anything*.
      “Welcome to life” – it’s way more complex than you think, and you don’t get to force people to do things – even things you think might be good for them.

      1. SoloKid*

        “What if there really isn’t anything positive?”

        If someone can’t come up with a lie about how their morning coffee/tea was they really should be taking some time off work.

        We all (I hope) manage to start emails/phone calls with “Hello” and end with some kind of “Thank you” (even when we are not feeling thankful) or “Best” regardless of what kind of day we are having, and IMO it takes the same amount of effort to come up with a throwaway icebreaker answer.

      2. lauren731*

        I am so sorry that you endured that. I say this with kindness: That isn’t a standard week and in an ideal world, no one would need to work through that time. I don’t think people expect every day or every week to be wonderful and happy for their coworkers. Asking people to share something positive is not denying that bad things happen and it’s not toxic positivity.

        As others have said, in situations like this you get to choose what you share and you get to choose if it’s even true – no one is going to question your answer. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve made small talk or answered “Good!” when a coworker has asked how I’m doing when the actual answer is “I feel terrible”, “My mom is sick”, “I’d rather be anywhere but here”. At the end of the day, occasional BSing is better for everyone. A happy facade means I’m not getting prying questions, helps me separate life from work, and keeps my mind off the bad stuff so I’m not crying in the office bathroom.

  108. Sunflower*

    OP5 for emotionally draining, high stakes jobs like that, a 32-hour full time work week (viz. the campaign for a four day week) would be ideal. Yes you’d have to staff up to where you have coverage for that, but any burnout prevention you’ll need that anyway. Intense jobs can maintain employees’ intensity by not demanding as much of their time and allowing real recuperation.

  109. Cdel*

    OP #1: I wonder if instead of the 2 positive things (which would also annoy me) you could suggest instead using that time for the team to express gratitude to their coworkers for things they did since the last meeting. At my last job we started our weekly department meetings with gratitude (it was not required for everyone to say something, it was more of an open forum for whoever had something to share) and it was really nice to be able to shout out team members whose contributions may otherwise not have been seen. In your case, it would keep a positive vibe going but would require less personal invasion. Just a thought!

    1. metadata minion*

      I like this as an option to put into the rotation, but it can run into awkwardness if one person gets called out significantly more or less than other people, especially if the person never mentioned just has a less collaborative job than others, or is in one of those roles where most people only consciously notice their work when it goes wrong.

  110. OkOkapi*

    LW #1–Depending on how frequent the meetings are, you could consider planning to share a fun fact you recently learned, rather than something about your life. Then just hop on Wikipedia for 5 minutes before (or a news site that collects news headlines on science or space tend to be good), then pick a story that’s interesting. Ta-da! Your positive is that you learned this interesting new thing, and you probably look like a curious person with interesting tidbits, when in fact you are just sharing facts about the world and not your personal life. Or at least that’s how I would hope it plays out. It would be a lot for daily meetings, but for a meeting every one or two weeks, it’s what I would do.

    1. Policy Wonk*

      I like this – did you know that today is National Waffle Day? Apparently it is also National Peach Pie Day, so I may have to have both!

  111. Dek*

    “If the company owned the lot and was turning a profit by charging employees to park in it (at least beyond what it costs to maintain the lot), that would be wrong.”

    I wonder if that applies to colleges?

    They charge us to park on the campus where I work. The parking lots are the university’s afaik (fees and tickets certainly don’t get paid to the city). There’s no real public transportation to speak of in our city, and most employees don’t live within walking distance of campus (although with our weather, even just the parking lots are barely “walking distance” from the offices on some days, between the heat and the rain).

    I’m a little saltier than usual this year because while I finally got a raise (yay!), it bumped me just over the $30k threshold to charge me full price for parking.

    Given that employees really don’t have any viable option BUT to pay for parking, it really just seems…wrong?

    1. metadata minion*

      Colleges are generally nonprofit institutions, and so while I’m not defending the exorbitant prices many of them charge for parking passes (or, really, anything else…), I think the usual justification is that it helps cover the costs of running a university.

    2. Coco*

      I work for a non profit university and the parking costs are abysmal. The university owns all of the lots. Depending on which lot you park in, the cost ranges from $100-$140 per month. The university minimum wage is $15. You can do the math. Despite paying an exorbitant amount of money, your vehicle is still in real danger of being stolen or broken into. There are no cameras and very few security personnel. There were approximately 200 property theft incidents last quarter.

  112. Anon for this*

    LW 2 – I work in DC. Parking is limited, so those of us privileged to park on site pay a discounted rate. Sounds good, but there is a caveat – the difference between what we pay and the market rate for parking is considered taxable income and is included in our W2s.

  113. Mollie*

    LW 3: I breastfed and gratefully never had to travel. I am also on the side of Try to Get Out of It. Even in vague terms, hopefully your boss could understand 6x/day, bathrooms due to lack of private space, and even just having space to wash/sanitize pump parts and so forth should sound like enough of a hassle in that scenario to get a pass. Good luck with it!