our meetings start with instructions about breathing, interviewer told me to ask all the questions, and more

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

1. Our meetings start with too many instructions about breathing

I work in a small nonprofit, managed by kind, well-intentioned people. But they do one thing that really bothers me. They start staff meetings and trainings (and there are many of those) with a session of breathing, and advice about “where we are holding tension in our bodies” and similar topics. We have to breathe with them, sometimes wave our arms, sit a certain way, close our eyes, act like we’re focusing on our “tension,” and listen to their instructions about how to feel.

This feels creepy, invasive and inappropriate to me. It’s not harassment, not sexual, and it’s clearly well intentioned. But I don’t want my managers focused on my body. I don’t want them telling me what to do and feel about my body. And what’s next — hugging? Group therapy? Mandatory yoga?

I’ve been trying to just shut my eyes as instructed and think about something else while they do it, and I should probably try to get better at that. But it leaves me very tense. This seems to be very important to them, and I feel that any resistance would hurt my career. Any advice will be much appreciated.

Yes, that’s an overstep. I’d be more okay with something like “we’re going to take a minute at the start of the meeting to close our eyes and clear our minds” — I still wouldn’t like it, but it would be less invasive than instructions to move your body a certain way and focus on your “tension.” What they’re doing is … A Lot for work meetings.

You’re already doing what I was going to suggest — simply sitting there with your eyes closed. Think about whatever you want during that time! Use it to ponder what’s wrong with Brad Pitt or what you’re going to make for dinner.

If you felt you had the capital to take it on, you could ask that they tone these down or at least do them less frequently. But since your sense is that pushing back would harm you, just sitting there doing your own thing with your eyes closed is your best bet. They can’t make you focus on your “tension”; you can sit there and think about penguins or whatever else you want.

2. Interviewer told me to ask all the questions

I had an interview recently that was very different from what your typical interview is. It was for a first interview, with an HR individual, and she said “I do things differently, where I want you to ask me questions.” The only questions she asked me were if I had seen the salary range/was it okay and if I was comfortable with 100% remote work.

I had my standard interview questions I ask, but was not prepared to basically conduct the interview myself. Am I out of line in thinking she should have warned me this would be the case, so that I could prepare a bit better? I’m okay at thinking on my feet but typically need a bit more time to put together thoughtful questions, which was obviously a hindrance in this case. I knew when I got off that it was not a good interview, and the rejection I just received confirmed that. Maybe this is the new way of doing interviews? Am I completely off-base? Should I prepare to do this more going forward?

It’s not the new way of doing interviews. It’s just this one bad interviewer. Since she’s HR rather than the hiring manager, it wouldn’t have been weird if she had said, “This stage is really for any questions you have about the job or the company or the salary and benefits — the hiring manager will get more into the nitty-gritty of what she’s looking for.” And it’s possible that that’s exactly how she meant it! But she didn’t frame it that way and left you feeling like you had to structure and run an interview yourself without any prep for that. (And yes, she should have told you beforehand so you could have prepared for it.)

This isn’t something that’s likely to come up a lot but if you encounter it again, the way to approach it is that you’re both there to figure out whether you and the job are well-matched. So in theory you could have asked questions about what they’re looking for in the role, what the biggest challenges are, what success will look like a year in, what qualities/previous experiences they’ve found are most predictive of success in the role … but a lot of HR people wouldn’t be able to answer those with the nuance you need; those are really better suited for conversations with the hiring manager.

3. Interviewer asked me to produce free work and present it to their client

I got laid off while on maternity leave (my job wasn’t covered under FMLA, and the company had a very legitimate decline in business so I negotiated severance and moved on), and luckily found a new job within a month! Before I did, I had an experience that really rubbed me the wrong way.

The job was a director-level position who would be brought on to work on a single client account. The final interview was to take the data they sent (theoretically, it was fake data but there was so much of it that I assume it was real, but anonymized), come up with a full 2024 plan to improve their performance based on detailed KPIs, and present the plan not only to the internal hiring team but to the client as well! Not only did this seem like an inordinate amount of work (and work they should be paying someone for), but the fact that the client would be there seemed extremely inappropriate. After a quick review of the request I politely bowed out, and I never even heard back to my “thanks but no thanks” email. What do you think? Was this a normal final interview procedure, or was I right to take it as a giant red flag and move on?

Giant red flag / right to move on.

That’s way too much work to request for free. I could maybe see taking old data — like from several years ago — and asking you to come up with a sliver of that overall plan, like just one small portion in order to see you in action. But this is far too much, and it’s real work, not an obviously-never-going-to-be-used simulation. And yes, having the client there makes it feel even more like it’s real work they might use. It’s possible that the client is involved in hiring for the position and would be there solely in an evaluative capacity … but it doesn’t sound like it (especially if they didn’t explicitly say that).

I tend to think people are too quick to jump to “they’re just trying to get free work from you” (and good hiring exercises are specifically designed not to produce anything they’d use in real life) but in this case it really sounds like they were.

4. Coworkers cc our managers when they don’t need to

It bugs me when colleagues email to ask me for something and copy the email to our supervisors. To me, it sets up a tone of distrust, bottom-covering, and tattling. Is there a way that I can address this issue in a way that doesn’t come across as negative, or should I continue to let it go, especially since most colleagues don’t do it? For the record, I have a reputation for being responsive and easy to work with. I seldom forget to follow through with what I say I will do, and don’t copy supervisors when I need to remind colleagues of things.

In most cases you should let it go. It’s hard to address it without looking like you’re trying to shield yourself from your managers’ view. (That’s not to say it’s not legitimately annoying; it is. This is just about what it can look like.) Also, you never know when someone’s manager said to them, “Email Jane about X and cc me when you do” — which sometimes happens for reasons that have nothing to do with lack of trust in you.

That said, sometimes you’ll have a context where you can credibly say, “I’ve noticed you’ve been cc’ing Cordelia on things like X and Y. She’s mentioned her inbox is swamped as it is and I want to protect her time, so I suggest we only bring her in if there’s a specific need to.”

5. Can I apply for a different internal job after I just changed departments?

I have been working for the same large nonprofit for six years. The location I was working at had zero progression opportunities, so after things changed with my partner’s job I started putting feelers out and saw a posting at my company for a job two pay grades higher at a different location, applied, and got it. I relocated — it’s been 2-1/2 months and I’m settling in well.

Only snag: my company has now posted my dream position (different department, fully remote, same pay grade). How bad would it look if I applied for it so shortly after taking my new role? If this was external I would apply, but as it’s internal my application would go through the same recruitment team as previously. I don’t want to come across as flakey, but I also don’t want to miss out on shooting my shot at something that truly excites me. (I wouldn’t consider looking for the same role with a different employer. My company is a fantastic employer on many levels, I love our cause, and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.) I have a week to decide and I keep going back and forth.

Unless you’re an extraordinarily stellar candidate, they’re very unlikely to consider you for it. The organization has just invested the time and energy to hire you for your current job and you’re still in the middle of learning it; you’d need to be an unusually strong candidate for the new job for them to consider causing that much upheaval to your current team. And even then, they’d be likely to worry about how long you’d stay in the new position, since at that point you’d seem very willing to move around quickly.

I could see this working in a very narrow set of circumstances where you’re an unusually stellar candidate, the job you just took is relatively easy to fill and the new one is much harder, and you have enough rapport with someone involved in hiring that you can have a candid conversation about your interest and ask whether it makes sense to apply. But if all those factors aren’t present, I’d pass it up this time and assume it’s likely to come open again at some point in the future, and you’ll be in a stronger position to apply after you’ve been in your new job for a while.

{ 466 comments… read them below }

  1. Mantic Re*

    Ugh OP #1 I sympathize. I have a monthly virtual meeting at work that always off with starts with a mindfulness exercise focused on breathing. Folks at the meeting seem really into it (including some very high ranked individuals) but I absolutely hate it and always feel like it’s an overstep. I’d be totally up for it on my own time but don’t like it at a work meeting. Thankfully it’s a large enough meeting that I can turn off my camera and read on my phone for the few minutes until it’s over.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this.

      I’ve had mindfulness pushed on me at a development workshop. I’m not particularly anxious in general, but for some odd reason focusing on my breathing spikes my anxiety if I’m sitting still (tai chi’s the only mindfulness/breathing exercise that works for me, unlike yoga it doesn’t require you to get on the floor). I couldn’t do it. Thankfully I had my lunch in a paper bag that time, so I could use that to stop myself hyperventilating before I had a full-blown panic attack.

      1. A (Former) Library Person*

        Yep, this kind of body-focused mindfulness exercise tends to send me into pre-panic attack mode and I have to extract myself quickly. I couldn’t imagine trying to do it in a work context.

        1. SopranoH*

          I’m the same way. I was taking a class over zoom that started with a mindfulness exercise every session. I was dreading it. I looked it up, and apparently anxiety isn’t a completely uncommon response to mindfulness meditation. I realized that it wasn’t doing for me what the instructor intended, so I shut off my camera for the first 5 minutes and did something that actually relaxes me, knitting.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’ve had both experiences. I’m fine with listening to guided meditations or meditating silently. I even got permission to go to a mindfulness workshop with coworkers, and I got a lot out of it.

            Those are all *opt-in*, though. When it’s a requirement or I don’t feel safe, guided mindfulness grates on me. I once had a mild panic attack when it felt like the meditation leader was trying to hypnotize me and I couldn’t move.

            OP, if you do want to push back, you could try gently bringing up that mindfulness can be harmful to some people’s mental health.

          2. rollyex*

            I don’t understand why someone would start doing a practice that they dread in this context. Push back or fake it. If focusing on your breathing would send you into a panic attack, turn of your camera or fake it or say you’re uncomfortable. Yes, I know it’s work, but fight back or evade. Don’t take it. Fake it.

            Learn to fake it or deflect or whatever it takes not to do things you don’t want to do. This is a skill that can be improved with practice.

      2. Myrin*

        Ironically, trying to breathe slowly and mindfully almost always makes my heart race and I end up strangely nervous and not calm at all.
        I don’t know why that is – until reading your comment, I hadn’t even considered that it might be anxiety (something I have no problem with at all normally), but I really have no explanation for it either way.

        1. nnn*

          I don’t know if the same thing you experience, but I found the term “false suffocation alarm” for the thing I experience in these contexts – basically, my brain starts going “Wait, am I actually breathing? Or do I just think I’m breathing??”

          It also caused me enormous problems wearing masks until I discovered the beaky style of N95s that stay further away from your mouth. Something about the way the mask affected the air flow near my nose and mouth triggered the issue.

          1. Beka Cooper*

            Not too long after my university made us all come back on campus, we had an in-person training where the leader led a breathing exercise at the beginning, but we were all masked. My anxiety worsens during breathing exercises, and wearing a mask and trying to breathe deeply just worsened it. And I wear glasses, so the mask fog battle is never ending, even with the masks that I’ve found to work when I’m not exerting myself.

            I actually enjoy yoga videos and deep breathing when I’m completely alone and nobody can see or perceive me. I’ve finally gotten my husband to understand he can’t be in the room puttering around when I’m doing yoga!

            1. Becky,*

              This is so interesting, reading the comments made me realize that the whole thing actually makes me very tense! In addition to feeling intruded on, I’m a lot more tense after this than when I walked into the meeting. Thank you all! These are in person meetings sometimes, so I just have to sit there, but I think about what I’m going to cook, and grocery shopping.
              As long as they don’t touch me, or suggest anything more intrusive, I’m going to work on getting better at ignoring.

            2. Emily*

              A year or so in the pandemic I was diagnosed with high blood pressure after high readings on several visits, which I go for every 3 months to manage an ongoing issue. I bought a machine to use at home which wasn’t posting nearly as bad of numbers, but the doctor was skeptical and seemed to think I was probably just using a cheap/inaccurate machine at home and wanted me to start a blood pressure reducer medication. Finally one appointment I went in and saw a NP because my regular doctor was unavailable. My reading came in high and she suggested we retake it after I first removed the mask I was wearing to see if that would make a difference…and it made a HUGE one, I was well within the normal range once I could breathe freely.

              So yeah, I was literally misdiagnosed with high blood pressure and very nearly put on medication I didn’t need because for several doctor’s visits in a row they only ever took my vitals while I was masked.

          2. Myrin*

            No, that’s not what I’m experiencing (I also didn’t have any problems with masking whatsoever, fortunately), but thanks for the idea anyway! I’m actually quite relieved seeing I’m not the only person this happens to, no matter the reason.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Anxiety can be a much more physiological experience than many people understand. We talk about it in a mental health context a lot, but it can be as simple as “my body is reacting to new stimuli and doesn’t know what to do with it so the neurons are misfiring”. For me, as someone with panic attacks, this happens a LOT with exercise, because a lot of what’s happening (labored breathing, increased heart rate, etc) mimics a panic attack so my body just starts panicking out of…habit? Even if mentally I feel fine. I can see that also happening if you’re just focused in on your autonomic functions in a way you don’t normally. Brain goes “why are we so focused on breathing? are we mad? are we in danger? can we NOT breathe? wtf is happening?”

          We’re just giant computers with buggy software a lot of the time.

            1. Carol the happy elf*

              Ah, crap. Another comic strip I must now research, bookmark, avoid showing 3 nutcakes I know, and never ever miss….

          1. Emily*

            The turning point in my treatment for anxiety came when a therapist I started seeing in my late 20s described a panic attack as something like a fight-or-flight response happening when you’re not actually being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, don’t actually need a surge of energy in order to survive, and don’t have anywhere to put that energy in lieu of running for your life.

            Understanding that what I had up to that moment always experienced as “my mind taking off without me” was actually a physiological response, changed everything for me because it meant I didn’t have to mentally solve the problem that was making me anxious or take a psychoactive drug to force my brain into submission. I could instead treat the anxiety as a physiological response with concrete physiological remedies available (like breathwork and postures).

        3. Sleeve McQueen*

          True story: the company I worked for developed this VR program which had some sort bio-thingamajig that represented your internal state as an ocean. The idea was that you focused on calming yourself and the waves would get smaller and smoother.
          Well, I tried it once. The waves were pretty rough and then I started to feel motion sickness, so I started to freak out that I was going to be sick and then the waves turned into a raging tempest and I noped it out of there.

      3. JSPA*

        “Oh, I have my own practice that fits my needs” is a useful phrase. (It doesn’t specify why, but raises the stakes to a “need.”) They don’t need to know that you hate the whole idea; you could have an old back injury that precludes you from sitting that way, or raising your arms. It could be religious, it could be philosophical. Regardless, “I am working towards the same goal, adapted for my needs” is a message that will work in most settings.

        1. Laura*

          Thank you. I’m going to use that phrase.

          It’s a lot more grown-up than my passive-aggressive “Don’t worry, this is normal, I’ll be back up in a few minutes” coming from the floor after I did the exercises, hyperventilated, and had to either lie down, or faint.

          I’m actually used to pay attention to my breathing because I sing, but that is a technique which is (for me) very incompatible with yoga/meditation breathing.

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            As a singer you may appreciate this. When I sang in the choir, we were taught to take “catch breaths” to keep us going. So when I was taking respirometry tests, which call for you to empty your lungs completely in a fast, hard outflow, I found myself wanting/doing the catch breaths.

            I’m just glad that where I am working, I don’t need that kind of testing any more, I hated it, and had trouble getting good results.

            1. Happily Retired*

              We singers often confuse the medical profession. Due to the deep breathing we routinely do, my doctors go crazy trying to listen to my heart and lungs. “Go ahead, you don’t have to hold your breath. Just breathe normally.” “I AM breathing normally! I just don’t breathe very often.”

              1. Watry*

                I do this too! I play a wind instrument, I just breathe slower than most people! And since I breathe deeply normally, I don’t do so sharply, which seems to confuse them as well.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  What Christmas Carol said below about oboe players and breath control. I can also circular breathe (which I discovered by accident – it wasn’t something I learned to do) so can go on for a loooong time without inhaling deeply.

              2. Salsa Your Face*

                This happens to me too! My definition of “take a deep breath” means a long, slow belly breath. Apparently doctors are looking for something different, and I haven’t figured out what that is yet.

                1. bestbet*

                  Not sure if you’re joking/being hyperbolic, but if it helps I find usually what doctors want when they say this is more of a deep sigh type breath – lots of volume but quickly. It’s definitely difference from what I’d say a “real” deep breath is (i.e. the type you do during singing, meditation, etc.)

                2. rollyex*

                  “and I haven’t figured out what that is yet.”

                  If you ask them, do they explain it better? I assume you have asked for clarity.

              3. Psychae*

                I’m both a doctor and a singer, and it is a thing! I’ve learned to ask people to ‘take some breaths through your mouth’ so the listening bit doesn’t go on for days…

              4. The Formatting Queen*

                Musician-type breathing is also TERRIBLE for scuba diving. I have to really concentrate to breathe much more shallowly than I normally would because otherwise I burn through my air too fast and don’t have as good buoyancy control

            2. cardigarden*

              Oh my god, my asthma breathing test was a riot. She had me breathe in on something like an 8-count and “some people find this one difficult”. Guess who still had air in their lungs?

                1. Long Time Reader*

                  This is so helpful! I haven’t been active in a choir for a few years but could never quite figure out why yoga “slow breathing” seemed so fast!

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                Yes! We used to do a warmup in my choir where we’d inhale for 4 and then ssssss on the exhale and I was almost always the last ssssssss. That’s what happens when you ask a former swimmer and player of two double reeds to “breathe out slowly.”

          2. Sara without an H*

            +1! When my doctor tells me to “take deep breaths” while she listens to my chest, I find myself having to breath a lot faster than usual to keep from confusing her.

      4. 1LFTW*

        This happens to me too. I was participating in some mindfulness-CBT study, and they told us to meditate by “paying attention to your breath”, and I had a full-blown panic attack. Heart-rate spiked over 150 bpm. Haven’t tried to meditate since.

        I mentioned this to my sibling, who works in the mental health space. She told me that it’s actually pretty common. Since breathing is automatic, we only tend to pay attention to it when something is “wrong”; for many people, this means that if we pay attention to our breathing, our bodies assume something *must actually be wrong*, and respond with an adrenaline dump. Cue anxiety/panic attack.

        1. Frickityfrack*

          This whole thread, but especially this comment, is making me feel so much better. I really thought there was something wrong with me that focusing on my breath is awful for me. I used to listen to guided meditations to help me fall asleep and a lot of it works but they inevitably include stuff about breathing, so I had to quit. Knowing it’s not just me helps a ton.

          But also, if anyone is listening and wants to get into the guided meditation business, I would literally pay for some without any mention of breathing.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          I wonder whether this also explains why yoga always leaves me feeling irrationally angry? Like, some overblown fight response?

        3. Amyl*

          I failed mindfulness. I could feel my heart rate increase just trying to focus on my breath. I went to a counselor who asked how I was diagnosed with ADHD. she felt better when I failed meditation, apparently that is almost diagnostic.

      5. UKDancer*

        Yes I a m not someone with a history of anxiety and I hate this so much. I’ve tried work mindfulness twice and the breathing section made me so worried whether I was breathing properly or at all that I felt myself hyperventilating.

        I’ve had to do it since on a training course and I tuned the trainer out and made shopping lists in my head. I wish people didn’t put this inn training courses. I think it’s fine for people who want to do it, but it shouldn’t be required.

      6. Bit o' Brit*

        I get this too, but because it causes my heart to pound, I’ve actually made that the solution. Instead of listening to prompts on when to breathe in and out, I count my heartbeats (breathe in 4, hold 2, breathe out 6). It being in time to my heart makes me feel less panicky somehow, and because that breathing pattern is itself calming, it becomes a positive feedback loop – lower heartrate leads to longer breaths, leads to lower heartrate

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      I have had a mindfulness practice for many years. It’s something I personally benefit from. But in the workplace as the mandatory opening to a meeting? No way. Mindfulness is something to choose for yourself, not to be ordered to do as part of your job. I would really dislike this even with a personal practice. Just no.

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        For many years I resisted mindfulness based on some unproductive experiences. One day my workplace offered an opt-in workshop, I tried it out, and ended up liking it.

        But for sure, had this been done the way that LW1 experienced it, I never would have given it a fair shot. That practice is not only invasive, it’s also counterproductive.

    3. Mo*

      There has been a fair amount of research lately about how mindfulness is not a one size fits all easy solution that suits everyone. As people are saying above, it can be triggering for people with anxiety issues or past trauma.

      You might do some reading on this and suggest that you’re concerned that these exercises might be causing harm. I have ADHD and find body scanning exercises impossible to do. They just serve to make me feel completely cut off from the group. Good luck.

      1. Tau*

        I was wondering if this was an ADHD thing – any and all body-scanning exercises tend to leave me feeling anxious and jittery, and focusing specifically on my breathing is about 10x worse. A therapist suggested a visualisation exercise that actually works pretty well to calm me down, but of course that’s not *mindfulness*…

      2. Erin F*

        I wish more people would realize this! Just because a certain exercise works for one person doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for a whole group. I have severe health anxiety (what used to be called hypochondria) and any kind of internally focused or body scanning mindfulness exercise is very hard for me. However there are other types of mindfulness that work great. Heath exercises in the workplace whether it’s walking challenges or weight loss competitions or forced meditation are always going to be exclusionary to some people and if companies insist on doing them anyway the very least they can do is respect the individual boundaries set by their employees.

        1. Mill Miker*

          Even for the people it works for, “grounding yourself in the here and now” is only relaxing if “the here and now” isn’t the source of your stress, or if you’re overreacting/catastrophizing in some way.

          I generally enjoy mindfulness exercises, buy most of my stress comes feeling like work is sapping away my autonomy, so work making me do a mindfulness exercise would just confirm that high levels of stress are the appropriate reaction to the here and now.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Seriously, every health intervention is counter-indicated for some people. Just in my own life there have been times when I had to avoid fiber, increase my salt intake, avoid taking the stairs, not lift weights, etc.

          These are the health interventions I want from my workplace: hire enough workers, fire nightmare coworkers, provide adjustable ergonomic workspaces, and limit the hours worked. Other than that, just don’t! My workplace isn’t my doctor or therapist, and it shouldn’t be.

    4. LilacLily*

      yeaaaah I had something similar at my new job recently. We were asked to join an all-hands face-to-face meeting by dancing and clapping along to the rhythm of the music HR was playing in the meeting room. I just stood there awkwardly, occasionally clapped, but otherwise didn’t spin, raise my arms or engage because I was floored that this was even happening. HR later described the activity as “waking up both sides of our brain”. Barf

      work isn’t a spiritual retreat! I can never understand what goes through people’s minds when they push things like this onto subordinates and think it’s even remotely appropriate.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Did you get any pushback for your insufficient enthusiasm? I would have done the same thing you did. If there were no pushback I would write it off as one deeply misguided HR person. If there were pushback, I would have a heart to heart with my manager. If they agreed with me and would cover my back, then fine. It would simply be a recurring silliness whenever HR got involved. If the manager was all in on the practice, I would conclude this company is a really bad culture fit and start putting out my resume.

        1. LilacLily*

          Surprisingly, no! I was fully expecting some sort of pushback or being called out for not enthusiastically joining in, but it’s been two weeks and neither HR nor my line manager asked me what I thought of the all-hands or why I didn’t seem to want to participate. Horrifyingly, when HR asked at the end of the event if people liked it and wanted this format to make a return for the next all-hands, everyone said yes. A colleague confided in me that people hated the whole thing just as much as I did, but no one’s confident enough to push back or say anything.

          Bonus details: the clapping to the music was actually a Follow the Leader game, where HR prompted a person in the room to clap their hands to a different rhythm from the last person and everyone else had to follow along, so some people started getting creative and clapping overhead like they were swatting flies, lifting and clapping under each leg, spinning in place, etc. One person nearly kicked the office dog when doing the under-the-leg move. I didn’t do any of these, I just stood there clapping halfheartedly while looking around in what was probably terribly hidden object horror, and when HR pointed at me and said it was my turn, I politely asked to be excused because “I hate being the center of attention”. HR insisted once, but when I didn’t back down she just moved along to the next poor sod.

          This isn’t the only thing HR has done that’s extremely misguided, and given that she’s a one-person department and no one actually gives her honest feedback, these incredibly awkward activities will just continue to occur. I’m already looking for other roles because this is insane and I’m not about it AT ALL.

          1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

            If a bunch of colleagues don’t like this exercise there’s an easy way to sabotage it: plan in advance that you will all start clapping at the wrong times, in the wrong rhythm. Everyone would make individual “mistakes” so that it isn’t seen as the conspiracy it is.

            Weaponized incompetence for the win.

            1. Becky*

              I love the idea of weaponized incompetance, which I never heard of before these comments. I will use this!

              1. Carol the happy elf*

                Weaponized incompetencd was invented by the first child on earth who would rather whine for 3 hours than write ten 3-letter words five times each (in 20 minutes!)
                It was refined by the teenager who couldn’t remember how to load the dishwasher, and perfected by the ex who ignored the oil light when he hit a big rock in the road (in MY CAR!) and just kept driving.

                Embrace the weapon when the war demands it!

        2. Rainy*

          We have someone in our office who, in any meeting they are facilitating, wants everyone to stand up at the beginning and dance in place or wave arms etc, and I just don’t. They give me the stink-eye occasionally but I’m just not someone who does that kind of thing and I’m never going to be.

        1. LilacLily*

          That we’re all a family here!!! And having some lighthearted fun before breaking the news that we need to work harder and smarter these last three months to make sure the company reaches 1 million in profits before the end of the year is a good way to motivate employees, isn’t it?!

          1. JSPA*

            Which presumes that all “normal” families do this? Assumptions piled on assumptions…

            But someone is going to have to be honest enough to give feedback when feedback is requested, if anyone hopes to see change.

            1. Emily*

              Ahhh, yes, reminds me of summers as a kid. Every night, Dad would fire up the grill, Mom would make a Jell-O mold, and before we sat down to eat we’d all stand in a circle around the table and play the Clapping Game to wake up both sides of our brains! Oh, such clapping was had!

    5. User12345*

      As someone from the Deaf community who relies on lipreading to ‘hear’ people, this would put me into Massive Stress Mode.
      I had a past experience of realising a whole mindfulness group was (kindly, but still…) laughing that I was still doing a humming exercise that the others had finished a minute beforehand and the teacher had to put a hand on my shoulder to alert me.
      Last time I ever did a group thing like that. I would hate this at work.

      1. Master Procrastinator*

        Well, this has been an eye opening set of responses… I use a lot of these exercises in a work context and they tend to be very well received. I will say that I think they’re relevant to my work context and I’d never ‘require’ anyone to participate. Also, I’m a trained professional with a lot of experience working with trauma and it concerns me that there may be lots of facilitators and managers out there offering mindfulness/meditation/breathing exercises without understanding that connecting with the body has potential to trigger people, as well as being a way to get grounded and calm. It’s so important for people to know that they are in control, that they have choice/agency and that they can do what they need to do to look after themselves if things get too uncomfortable. A one-size-fits-all approach to this stuff doesn’t work (much less anything that feels coercive). And I say this as a neurodivergent person who often needs adaptations and can meet well intentioned, awkward group activities with a ton of discomfort. But I can absolutely attest to the benefits of giving an opportunity for a group to check in with themselves before heading into a difficult conversation, a reflective space or a challenging task requiring calm and focus. I work in a lot of contexts where there’s a commitment to ‘whole person’ working* and a focus on things like flattened hierarchy/collaborative decision making, relational approaches and emotional literacy, but I appreciate many people would hate this environment and just want to show up, do tasks and go home.

        *I see a lot of stories here about pressure to share things people aren’t comfortable sharing, with no discernable reason and apparently no opportunity to bow out of an approach that they weren’t aware that their organisation used. That’s not what I mean by ‘whole person’. For a start, there’s a focus on developing self-awareness that is clearly lacking in leaders who steamroller in with demands that people take psychological risks, with no accounting for the power dynamics, retraumatising etc.

        1. Teacher*

          Anything that management tells employees to do has a coercive part to it.
          Are you sure they’re “well recieved” or do people want to keep their jobs and stay out of trouble?

          1. JSPA*

            Hold on. It really does matter how it’s presented. If there’s an explicit “please opt out if it’s not for you,” Add a decent level of pre-xisting collegiality and kindness, that’s thoroughly reasonable.

            “We’re going to start with something some people find useful, and other people find counterproductive. If you already know or sense that this is not for you, please feel free to do something else that works for you, to further [goal X]. For those who are curious or enthusiastic about [process], here’s what it is, and how it’s supposed to work.”

          2. Master Procrastinator*

            Not the first time I’ve been asked that on this site’s comment thread… And honestly, I’m a pretty good reader of rooms/vibes/people (one advantage or my neurotype, trauma and years of training), so yes I’m sure. Ok, some folks may overadapt and be great at masking their discomfort, but this is why there should always be a get out clause, and also why I lead in a way that suggests, rather than demands. I agree, capitalism means that anything in a work context involves an unequal and often exploitative power dynamic. I realise it’s a privilege to be able to choose and be chosen by workplaces that treat their people like adults with agency and recognise their differing needs, but those are the environments I spend most of my work time in, and when someone doesn’t want to follow a suggestion in the context of personal reflection, they won’t. Explicit permission to look after your own needs is key. I have my own struggles with making sure I’m not enabling wellbeing washing (‘shut up about pay rises and do your lunchtime yoga!’) but still, I’m often concerned by how many people on here seem to work in apparently hostile environments where there’s no trust and mutuality, and expect that to be the norm. It’s a shame and a symptom of a very flawed system I guess.

    6. English Rose*

      This practice just boggles my mind. What a naff thing to do, as we say in England. Definitely think of penguins. I bet about half the other participants are as well.
      Interesting also how many people in this comments thread are talking about how the practice is actually traumatising. If there is someone in your organisation who has the political capital and will to push back, maybe they could raise this.

      1. Clare*

        I’m finding that interesting as well. Definitely a different perspective for me! I don’t like guided mindfulness exercises, but mostly because I can’t concentrate properly on them in public so it feels like a waste of time. It doesn’t feel invasive to me though. You can’t force me to alter my breathing any more than my cats can force me to give them second breakfast – but if you want to do an impersonation of my cats please feel free. I will be passively observing and trying not to get too bored. My sympathies to those who end up hyperventilating, that sounds awful.

        1. English Rose*

          Well if your cats can’t force you to give them a second breakfast they aren’t doing their job right :)

          1. Clare*

            I’ll pass on your feedback in their next performance reviews. They’re hard workers, so I’m sure they’ll make changes and put in extra effort to get some good results!

    7. Pangolin*

      Ugh yeah. I used to run training that featured a breathing/mindfulness exercise but it was online and I encouraged participants to turn off their cameras to give people an unspoken/low pressure way of opting out if it didn’t work for them. There is this assumption that mindfulness is a magic bullet which just solves everything for everyone that can be offputting at best.

    8. LTR FTW*

      Mantic Re – do we work together? Hah! We too have a monthly meeting that kicks off with a mindfulness exercise. I always just turn off the camera and check my social media feeds until it’s over, nobody knows the difference.

      I do personally enjoy mindfulness exercises on my own time, but there’s just no possibility of me getting into that zone when I’m on a work zoom.

      Now I’m wondering if EVERYONE is just checking out for these. I always thought it was just me and everyone else liked it!

    9. rollyex*

      “If you felt you had the capital to take it on, you could ask that they tone these down or at least do them less frequently. But since your sense is that pushing back would harm you, just sitting there doing your own thing with your eyes closed is your best bet. They can’t make you focus on your “tension”; you can sit there and think about penguins or whatever else you want.”

      All this. I had capital and push back against this stuff whenever possible. It works for some people, but not for me, and I’ve said so. People who can push back should push back.

      1. Becky, the original letter writer*

        I have no capital, and I don’t know anyone else working there who dislikes this. The management is very well intentioned but also very sure they know best, and they don’t want any suggestions. But it’s great to hear from commenters here, that others dislike this also, it’s not just me. If they escalate to something I can’t tolerate, I’ll try some of the push back that’s suggested here.
        The most annoying for me is the way they keep saying “our bodies,” and “…your body” –like they never heard of boundaries, and that employees’ bodies are off limits for management.

        1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

          FWIW, mindfulness practices (the ones in vogue today, at least) operate under the assumption that mental health is improved with stronger mind-body connections. They are using it kind of the way a yoga class would use it – it’s not meant to be sexualized or judgmental.

          That’s not to say it’s appropriate for the workplace. It’s just unfortunately very popular in nonprofit spaces right now as a way of “self care” or fighting burnout” or “helping employee mental health” without, you know, actually reducing workloads or paying more or any of the things that actually improve employee mental health.

        2. Special Sauce Phanatic*

          That’s just the language of the practices. Nobody, absolutely nobody, is sitting there thinking specifically of Becky’s body, lungs, tension, or mind. Just sit there and think about whatever. They can’t read your mind.

        3. rollyex*

          ” I don’t know anyone else working there who dislikes this.”

          I would suspect a few others dislike it but are afraid to vocalize this and/or hide it. If you’re not entirely abnormal and you feel a certain way about something, odds are at least some other people do too. Remind yourself of that.

          And also, what Special Sauce Phanatic* said about this.

    10. Sloanicota*

      This has been a huge trend in my sector (nonprofit) and I actually really hate it. I don’t really like woowoo at the best of times, and while I appreciate that meditation has many benefits, it’s not something I want to do in a zoom and it does feel weirdly controlling for someone to take this “instructor” role when I’m here to talk about the budget or whatever. Penguin solidarity.

    11. Mary Ellen Carter*

      The intrusiveness feels like it would be the worst of it, in a work context, but I can see above how many people are distressed by the exercise itself. I recently heard in a religious context, “Now we pause and listen and take a deep breath, but I’m not going to tell you what to do with your body, before going on to…”
      And some people giggled. And others seemed to think the leader was admirably sensitive. But now I’m wondering if that “take a deep breath” can spark anxiety, even with the qualifier.

    12. All Het Up About It*

      I just want to thank the OP and everyone in this thread for giving me new perspectives on mindfulness and breathing. It works very well for me and seems so “mundane” and non-intrusive.

      To hear so many stories about how it is absolutely intrusive for others is a great reminder that even the simplest exercises like breathing exercises might not work for everyone and leading with a reference to using “your own relaxation practice” if you have something that works for you or not participating if this doesn’t work for you is always, ALWAYS a good idea.

    13. Pizza Rat*

      Eww. I’m so sorry. There are so many things wrong with this. I’m glad you’re able to sit it out without getting dinged for it.

      It is totally overstepping. I’m not going to say it has no place at work, but when I’ve been part of meditations at work, it was a group of us who signed up to do it at lunchtime, no forcing at all.

      Mindfulness, as part of the Eightfold Path in Buddhism has been hijacked and commodified and it drives me crazy. Mindfulness is a practice, and not something you can achieve in five minutes. Did I mention I’m Buddhist?

      Much the same thing has happened to yoga in the West.

      The scenario you describe can be damaging to some people for various reasons. Breathing to calm down? Suddenly your brain may dump a whole lot of unresolved stuff into the front of your mind, which is not a fun thing to have happen.

    14. IJustTeachHere*

      Ugh, had the first one happen to me. This woman used to start our meetings with “mindfulness,” very condescendingly, as though we didn’t know how to breathe or meditate on our own. I didn’t mind until my sister’s “death day” (the anniversary of her passing), and as I left to cry in the bathroom, I ran into a co-worker also crying. Her mother was very unwell and in the hospital. We decided to leave feedback (thankfully, also a norm for the end of our meetings) about the negative impact of promoting mindfulness – sharing our specific circumstances – and I guess we made her uncomfortable enough to finally stop!

    15. Allie*

      My director has instructed my team to do a mindful moment at the start of each department meeting. I’m not a huge fan of them, so I often volunteer to lead them so I don’t have to participate. But when I do them, everything is an invitation (which is how mindfulness should be). I invite people to close their eyes, or look down at their hands. My go-to joke is to soften your gaze, just don’t stare at someone while you do it. Then every instruction is “I invite you to…” or “You can … if you like.”

      When I’m not leading the mindful moment, I usually just look down at the table and daydream for a bit. The people who are into it have their eyes closed, and those of us who aren’t into it aren’t going to rat each other out lol.

  2. TG*

    LW#5 – most internal positions you can’t apply for until you’ve been in your current internal role for at least a year. I wouldn’t mention it until at least a year and then only if it’s something you would have support in applying for.

    1. Finally Adulting*

      Was going to share this as well. Most companies (100,000+ associates) I have been at wouldn’t consider internal applicants who have been at their role for less than a year, and even if they do, it would typically require manager’s approval that would explain the extenuating circumstance

    2. Allonge*

      I don’t know about most companies, but it’s two years at ours (you can of course apply if it’s advertised externally).

      Honestly, internal moves like this can be a great motivation factor for staff but they are a pain in the sense that they create a vacancy the moment they fill one. It’s part of management work of course, but the advice is quite right that there was a lot invested in this move already and it’s unlikely that another one will be encouraged.

    3. Lyngend Canada*

      My. Current company says you need at least 1 year, but doesn’t actually care if it’s less than a year. I hear so many stories about coworks transferring from my role (entry-level customer service) to other less public facing roles after a few months.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      One of my clients has a policy that you have to wait 6 months for hourly roles and 12 months for salaried positions, and you also have to have your manager’s endorsement.

      That said, exceptions do happen if the role is hard to fill and/or the person is exceptionally well qualified and/or if the person made an administrative job move previously (eg. was laid off and came back to a different position, or their position had changed from “special llama coordinator III” to “llama coordinator, special III” – which has happened.)

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I work for a mid-sized organization, and our rule is minimum of 6 months plus no performance issues. The only exception (which is vanishingly rare) is if we are downsizing a role due to lack of need but want to retain a strong performer and have a position that would be a good fit for them.

    1. Feral Humanist*

      I hate to break it to you, but “I got laid off” is pretty standard phrasing in American English, as is “I got fired, “I got promoted,” and “I got hired.”

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Tre P, Alison notes in her commenting rule #7: “Don’t nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices.” What matters is responding to the substance of what letter writers are asking, in a way that is helpful.

    3. Melissa*

      There shouldn’t be a comma before ‘WAS’. Your comment should read: “Please say ‘WAS’!”

            1. Rainy*

              You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy our inefficient processes, not contribute to them! Bring balance to the team, not leave it in darkness!

              You were my brother, Wakeen! I loved you!

      1. PhyllisB*

        This is how some of my Southern friends and relatives would say it. Right after they told me “I seen you at the grocery store, but you were too far away to holler at.”
        Sigh…and people in the South wonder why the rest of the country makes fun of us.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Honestly, it took me a few read-throughs to see the “problem” with that phrasing.

        2. Just Another Starving Artist*

          I find that grammar much less problematic that the insufferable snobs mocking it.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      The LW used the “get passive” version of the passive voice. It has a slightly different emphasis than the “be passive,” but the main difference is one of register, the “get passive” being informal. This is not even close to saying that it is wrong or non-standard. At least not unless you wear a dress suit to the beach. The only criticism that the “get passive” is legitimately subject to is if it is used in a formal context where this level of informality is inappropriate. A question to an advice columnist is not even close. I will reply to this comment to a link from the Cambridge Dictionary discussing it.

      1. Not A Manager*

        I think this is great life advice. “Don’t BE passive, GET passive!” It’s so much more… active.

    5. DJ Abbott*

      I have known people before who got upset about the way words are used, and it’s a waste of time. People are going to say what they’re going to say, and you can’t stop them. Language changes and evolves all the time. There are changes I don’t like either, but I know I can’t stop it.
      You don’t have to like it, but don’t waste energy on it. There are so many better causes where you could do some good.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        There is a long tradition of people making extravagantly over-wrought claims of distress from hearing usages they don’t like. Typically the usages turn out, upon examination, to be perfectly normal and not at all new. They also tend to come from a standard list of usages people complain about. Individual idiosyncratic complaints arise occasionally, but are much less common. This is a matter of signaling a commitment to high standards, without actually having to put in the work to understand the subject matter.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Agreed. See the current pushback on the use of singular “they”, which has been around for centuries.

        2. One linguist*

          There’s also some very interesting sociolinguistics going on in what grammar you decide to take issue with and which group usually uses said grammar.

          Just a thought.

        3. Spencer Hastings*

          My favorite was someone who claimed that split infinitives caused them LITERAL PAIN. It was somewhere on the Internet…maybe this site, maybe somewhere else.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      Did you understand what was said? Then there’s no need to police anyone’s (perfectly correct btw) grammar.

      1. Observer*

        Did you understand what was said? Then there’s no need to police anyone’s (perfectly correct btw) grammar.

        Yes. I would only add “did they say anything intended to offend or denigrate anyone? Or that could be *reasonably* taken that way?”

      2. Clare*

        This! The goal of communication is to convey meaning. Rules simply help prevent ambiguity. If the meaning is unambiguous to the intended audience, everything is fine. Flexibility of language use between contexts is a marker of fluency.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Preach! Language is for communication. When people fuss about grammar or language in everyday communications, it’s not really about grammar.
          Related: people who act like the world is ending because they heard a swear word.

    7. Spencer Hastings*

      The main point has been beaten to death by now, but I just wanted to emphasize how venerable the English “get” passive is. There are attested examples from the 17th century, though it didn’t become really popular until the late 18th. (Nicholas Fleischer, “The origin of passive get”, English Language and Linguistics 10.2: 225–252)

      A simple Google search of “how old is the english get passive” could have told you this in minutes (that’s how I found that paper that gives the examples).

    8. RagingADHD*

      The English language has wonderful variety, and it would be a shame to cull out perfectly standard and appropriate usage as if there could be only one correct way.

      The “be” passive just doesn’t always do the job. “Be bent,” for example, is not nearly so pithy an imperative as when using the “get” passive construction.

  3. Angela*

    #1 I don’t understand why this letter writer thinks that management is focused on their body??

    These exercises are to focus You on and in Your body and (usually) even the person giving instruction is focused on their own body (though it’s possible they may keep an eye out in case they see someone in distress).

    It’s understandable not everyone enjoys this type of body focused guided meditation, but the idea that their management is somehow using these exercises to focus on the letter writers body is very confusing to me.

    1. Pippa K*

      I don’t need my employer to be involved in the relationship I have with my body at any point in the workday. I would absolutely just sit there and think about penguins.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t need my employer to be involved in the relationship I have with my body at any point in the workday. I would absolutely just sit there and think about penguins.

        You are right. But that doesn’t really answer the point @Angela was making. Our employers have no business getting into our relationships with our bodies, our weight, our spouses, our kids or our parents (for a very partial list.) So all of this is a big overstep. But it’s not about focusing on anyone’s body, any more than starting each meeting with guidance on how to get along with your spouse / SO would be their “focus on your spouse”.

        1. Pippa K*

          I didn’t say the employer was focused on employees’ bodies. If my employer is directing me to do particular exercises to “focus on and in” my body, as Angela put it, and particularly in a way that directs me to notice or to feel particular things, that seems to me an involvement in how I relate to my body (which is what I wrote). It sounds like what LW describes is mostly about feeling and letting go of tension, etc., which is probably on the lower end of a scale of intrusive inappropriateness, but still. It’s the penguins for me.

          1. rhymeswithmonet*

            I didn’t say the employer was focused on employees’ bodies.

            No, but the letter writer did, which is what Angela is responding to and wrote her comment about

          2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

            It would actually feel super intrusive to me. I have a reason for NOT connecting to my body. It is really triggering to do so. There’s a reason I dissociate. There’s a reason I only bring certain things up in therapy.

            If my manager is telling me to connect to where I store the tension (and trauma) in my body, that feels inappropriate for work, because I have to then put myself back together and participate in the meeting.

            It is also exceptionally triggering because someone is telling me what to do with my own body.

            There’s a reason I do somatic experiencing therapy with an actual therapist.

            1. Observer*

              It would actually feel super intrusive to me.

              Totally intrusive. I’m having a hard time understanding how the LW is the only one who seems to have an issue with this.

              There’s a reason I do somatic experiencing therapy with an actual therapist.

              100% That’s what I think is the worst thing here. This is not just intrusive, although it *is* intrusive in a major way. But it’s getting into therapeutics in a really, really inappropriate and potentially unsafe way. Which is no surprise – anytime you* start trying to implement therapy indiscriminately in a group setting, you’re asking for trouble.

              *Generic you, not @Filthy Vulgar Mercenary

            2. Mister_L*

              My sympathies.

              I have no trauma, but a few health conditions, some of which I literally feel 90 % of the time.
              So someone telling me to “focus on my body” might get a reply they really wouldn’t want to hear.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I just want to say your comment nested correctly. When you’re writing the comment, the comment box shows up directly underneath the comment you’re replying to (in this case, Pippa K’s comment). But when the comment posts, it will post below any earlier replies to Pippa K’s comment. So allathian’s reply at 12:37am shows up directly under Pippa K’s comment, Observer’s reply at 1:00am is below allathian’s reply, and your reply at 5:39am is below Observer’s.

      2. Dido*

        that’s so dramatic, don’t do it if you don’t want to but don’t act like they’re violating you

          1. metadata minion*

            I realize you’re being sarcastic, but we’re still in a respiratory pandemic and have an increasing number of people who actually can’t breathe easily.

        1. Pippa K*

          You’re reading a lot into my simply saying I don’t think it’s appropriate and I wouldn’t like it. I even clarified it seems “on the lower end of a scale.” Half the comments here seem to be “yeah that seems kind of intrusive and I wouldn’t like it” and the other half seem to be “oh you’re being hysterical, it’s not that big a deal,” and can we not just see why some people would be bothered and others wouldn’t?

    2. Kate short for Bob*

      I had to do a guided meditation at a work event last year that asked us to focus on our ancestors and what they meant to us. My dad had just died the week before. It was extremely unwelcome and I had to leave the event in the end as I was so distressed. I can well imagine a meditation focused on your body – even one that seems ok to most people – could be just as unwelcome.

      1. butter rat*

        Oh, wow! No. So many reasons that would be unwelcome. Some of our ancestors abused us, or were Nazis, or owned slaves. Some of us were adopted!

      2. Ron McDon*

        Similarly, I was doing an online customer service training a few days after a relative had died, where the trainer asked us to take a few moments to think about a recent interaction we’d had with someone in a hospital setting – I had to take a break because I started to cry.

        I was astounded that the trainer hadn’t realised that exercise could be problematic for many attendees.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is an occasional AAM theme–the meeting facilitator who never imagined that “Describe the worst thing that ever happened to you” could elicit responses stronger than “I got cut off in traffic once.”

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes I agree. I had a colleague who survived a famine in Africa. Many of her family did not. Asking people to relive their worst experience sucks.

            I’ve asked people at interview to tell me about a professional challenge they faced and how they overcame it but never about bad personal experiences.

      3. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I know the ancestors thing is big in a lot of cultures, but every time I encounter it I think about how I can’t go very far back in my family because wars have a way of cutting you off from that history when families are split up or outright eliminated.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          I don’t even know who any of my ancestors were, at least not any farther back than my grandparents. And thinking about one set of grandparents makes me sad, because I never got to meet either of them.

          It’s just wrong to ask people you barely know to think about something personal that you have no idea how it might make them feel. I’m getting mad just thinking about it!

      4. chocolate lover*

        I’m sorry, that sounds completely unwelcome even if it were at a different time.

        Personally, I don’t have close relationships with family beyond my immediate family, so my ancestors don’t mean much to me at all. That seems like such an odd question for a work event.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        The Letter Writer gave some examples that made her very uncomfortable: “advice about where we are holding our tension in our bodies,” and “We have to breathe with them, sometimes raise our arms, sit in a certain way.”

        1. butter rat*

          Yes, I took “advice about where we are holding our tension in our bodies” to mean that the person leading this is scrutinizing people’s bodies and giving individual advice based on what they see. Ick!

          1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

            I would be surprised if it meant that. It’s probably just a stock meditation sequence about where desk workers in general keep tension: relax your shoulders, now relax your neck, now your back…

            Still really overbearing though! Can people not just have a meeting without making a big to-do about it?

            1. KateM*

              It reminded me of some very NSFW type of exercises, telling to tension or relax your certain muscles.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                This seems like a really weird jump from what sound like very basic mindfulness/breathing exercises?

            2. amoeba*

              Yeah, I imagined something like a body scan, so you’re guided to go through your own body and feel where there’s tension and let it go. I still don’t think it’s appropriate for work, but it’s less bad than the moderator scrutinising participants’ bodies, for sure!

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I can’t let the tension in my chest muscles go; it’s due to radiation damage.

                The tension in my body isn’t just some inconvenient sign that I have a life outside of work, and it can’t be banished at the start of each meeting by telling it to go away.

                1. darsynia*

                  Oh man, I’m sorry about this, I hope you’re feeling as well as can be expected and very much hope you’re never in the situation in the letter we’re discussing! (my sarcasm meter is massively miscalibrated so I’m adding that none of this is sarcasm <3 )

            3. AngryOctopus*

              Yeah, I expect this at the end of my yoga class, where he does a tension/release sequence. But I sign up for that. I don’t sign up for it at work in any way. I agree this is well-intentioned, but that doesn’t make it less intrusive.

          2. I'm just here for the cats!*

            That’s not what that phrase means. It means checking in with your body and if you feel tension in a certain area you should try to breath and relax. For example: Some people hold tension in their shoulders or maybe their jaw and they should breath in and relax that part of their body.
            It does not mean that there is someone scrutinizing people’s bodies.

    3. MsSolo (UK)*

      Yes; I agree with others that mindfulness is not necessarily an appropriate way to open a meeting, but it’s no more focusing on employees bodies than asking them to picture a beautiful beach would be focusing on their imagined outfits. The assumption is each person is focusing on themself, not on each other. I wonder if the LW’s discomfort with the breathing exercise has lead them to try and find a cause, and they’ve latched on to the idea of being focused on because they’re unaware that the breathing itself might be causing their anxiety.

      1. Observer*

        I agree with others that mindfulness is not necessarily an appropriate way to open a meeting,

        I’d go further than that. Not only is mindfulness not for everyone at all times, making it a bad start for generic work meetings, the company is significantly over-stepping with these generalized sessions that instruct people how to manage their bodies, feelings and “tension”. And that’s before you get to the problem that this is almost certainly being done by people who have zero training in these modalities (because well trained professionals know how out of line this setting is for that kind of practice.)

        I wonder if the LW’s discomfort with the breathing exercise has lead them to try and find a cause, and they’ve latched on to the idea of being focused

        I think that this is very possible. But, OP, you’ll be better off stepping back from that particular line of argument. Whether or not there is a specific focus on people’s bodies, this is a major over-step which *also* has the potential to do real harm to people. And the reality is that they have no way to know. Unless the staff is only 3 people who have known each other in and out of work for decades, the probability that someone has SOMETHING that makes at least some of these activities / exercises a real problem is just very high.

        If you decide to push back the framing of “Obviously you are trying to help us all manage the stress that’s part of our work, but what works is highly personal and there is a good chance that some of these tactics, especially in a public context, is actually contra-indicated for some people and thus could actually be doing some harm.” will probably be more useful to you.

      2. Don't Live to Work*

        All this mindfulness stuff to start a meeting is to make the group more susceptible to whatever indoctrination follows. It’s absolutely not necessary at work and should be a practice individuals engage in on their own time an of their own choice.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Another very weird and adversarial interpretation! I promise you, starting a meeting with “let’s do some deep breathing and stretches! :)” is not an attempt to indoctrinate you into anything, and at most it is a slightly cringe waste of time!

    4. Allonge*

      I see your point, but – if management is present at such an exercise or even is the one asking me to breathe and focus on my body or whatever, the thought that they are checking what I am doing (and therefore they too are focusing on my body) is not that far out there.

      I don’t think I would have an issue with taking a moment to get focused on the meeting topic (I mean, I don’t love the woo aspect of how, but whatever). But my breathing and the tension in my body and all this is not going to help me or many others with that, and it’s pretty invasive to dictate. If the meeting chair said look at the agenda of the meeting, I would not be thinking they are interested in my body.

      1. Awkwardness*

        But what exactly do you think they are focusing on?
        Your chest while you are breathing? This will not be more visible than its you are just there in the meeting, but with the difference that you have your eyes closed and might feel more vulnerable than with your eyes open. But then those feelings of uneasiness are the problem, not the breathing exercise.

        I do agree this might not be the appropriate thing for a work meeting. But I do not exactly get this line of thought that management is somehow focused on the employees body. If everybody follows the exercise correctly, then everybodys attention is with themselves. This applies to the management as well.

        1. Allonge*

          Look – again, I get that if you are familiar with or like these exercises, then there is an obvious-to-you separation between your body and what is in their minds.

          For me: if my managers tell me to think about the agenda / core values of the org / a particular person our mission supports / my breathing / my motivation / tension in my body / what I had for lunch / whatever… that is what I think they are focusing on because that is what they are talking about and telling me to focus on. And some of these are very much ok and others are none of their business.

          1. Allonge*

            And yes, I know that we (hopefully) only have a single agenda for the meeting whereas we all (again, hopefully) have our own bodies to focus on :)

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I took the part about “focused on my body” more to mean “telling me what to do with my body, which is none of their business and acting as if they know better than I do what is going on in my body” rather than as meaning “using the exercises to focus specifically on my body.”

    6. Also-ADHD*

      They’re focused on all employees’ bodies and how they are breathing/holding tension by literally talking about it, I think is LW’s point, not exclusively LW’s.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I think you are confusing the different definitions of ‘focus’; so OP means their body is an inappropriate focus as “the aim or central point of the activity” and you are reading the word ‘focus’ as a “fixation point of your vision”. The OP does not necessarily mean they are being visually scrutinized; more that it is out of bounds for the employer to make such a big overstep as telling them what to do with their own body. I actually think being visually looked at has to feature in these exercises as well though. Even though the employers may not think about looking at their employees bodies as the main point, they probably will cast their eye over everybody’s stance/chest rises/eyes to see how their wonderful idea is being received. If you are a participant who is not doing the exercise ‘right’, that will probably be visible to the bosses, and if you have your eyes closed, you have no idea who is watching you and judging your stance/breathing etc. It’s true that a good practitioner of this would make it very plain that people are in charge of their own bodies and to make their own adaptations, but that kind of practitioner would never do this in a workplace to begin with! This kind of thing has to be very voluntary and people have to feel more empowered than they typically are at work.

    8. darsynia*

      You… just said ‘your body’ in your explanation. You called it ‘body focused guided meditation.’ It’s entirely reasonable for the OP to think the management is focused on their body, they’re focused on everyone’s body. It’s not specific, that doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to be uncomfortable about it.

      Given that OP’s body stands out when they don’t participate in the movement part, Management may indeed be focused on THEIR body, as well. Odd comment.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yep, Angela is contradicting herself here. LW has every right to be upset about this. It’s weird and not at all normal.

    9. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Doesn’t matter if the company is actually focusing on the employee’s body or not, OP feels that they are. Her feelings are legitimate and are one of the reasons she hates the exercise.

      The intent doesn’t really matter, its how it lands. Just like all the so-called kindly intentioned people who want all the details of your illness so they can offer alleged help. Same thing here, the intent might not be to focus on employees’ bodies but that is how it is landing by making this about your body and stress. Not the employer — who is not trained in actually addressing this — job to deal with that. Offering EAP that can actually be anonymously used would be much better.

      1. MK*

        Intent definitely matters when “how it lands” is dependent exactly on what you assume the intent to be. That aside, it’s often the case that being perceived as unreasonable weakens one’s argument. Breathing exercises before work meetings are inappropriate and intrusive, but labeling them as creepy and “my manager is focusing in my body” will come off as an overreaction to many people. OP can appear unreasonable or exaggerating to avoid something they dislike.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Or it just comes across as how the OP actually feels. I know sometimes people don’t mean to make me feel uncomfortable, or that they’re so uninterested on my body they don’t realise they’re putting it on display but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made me uncomfortable, and if they have put a spotlight on my body then I don’t really care what their intentions were in doing so. Sometimes the more uninterested people are in being creepy, and the more certain they are that they can only cause discomfort deliberately, the more bumbling mistakes they are capable are making.

          1. MK*

            And in your private life you can afford not to care about intentions or how you will come across. In a workplace situation, the goal is to resolve the situation with minimal disruption of workplace relationships; a lot of the time people write to AAM not to tell them what to do, but how to handle a situation with diplomacy. And the comments sometimes offer insight on how different people will perceive specific situations or turns of phrase. In this case it is usefull for OP to know that at least some people will find the connection between breathing exercises and managers focusing on employees’ bodies a strech at best.

            1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

              “at least some people will find the connection between breathing exercises and managers focusing on employees’ bodies a strech at best.”

              So what, though? If other people don’t perceive a problem with this that OP does perceive, that means there’s no problem? Or OP should pretend she doesn’t have a problem with this? What’s the advice here?

              1. Awkwardness*

                It is no advice, but feedback for LW to think about their approach.

                The fact that I do not understand the train of thought does not mean that I do not understand that LW has a problem with these exercises and wants to get out.
                But this is more likely if her argument its easily comprehensible instead of a stretch, for example with: “Whenever I try to focus on regular breathing, it stresses me out so much, that it becomes irregular. Could I modify this exercise according to my needs?”

    10. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I thought that was an odd way of looking at the situation. I don’t always like that they do this for every meeting and training, but the employer is not focused on the employees’ bodies.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          But their route to the mind is to instruct the employee’s physical bodies and to think they have the right to direct their bodies as long as the headline says it’s a mental exercise (when it’s not). That is the whole misstep, and it’s a common one imo.

    11. Florp*

      When I have (voluntarily) done mindfulness training with a spiritual leader who is qualified to teach it, they have absolutely checked my posture, position, balance, facial expression, etc. When I have done mindfulness exercises with, say, a yoga instructor, they have always been careful to meet each participant where they are, respect their agency, and let them find their own practice. Again, they are trained to do so. So if the leader is actually trained, sure they are going to look at participants’ bodies.

      More likely, the meeting leader is not trained and is repeating something they experienced elsewhere or read on the internet. They are unlikely to be aware of the many ways a trained person would accommodate different physical, psychological, and spiritual needs in an exercise like this.

      Plus there’s a slightly icky power dynamic at play. You have to worry that lack of participation will reflect badly on you in other parts of your job. So whether or not the leader is actually doing it, you feel like you are required to let them watch the rate of expansion of your ribcage or note whether your arms are waving around. Having that thought process play out in your head during a mindfulness exercise would pretty much negate the intended effect of said exercise.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        Well put. Mindfulness is all over the self-help section these days. I cringe everytime I see someone advertising, “mindfulness in a minute! Try this new technique!”

    12. Beth*

      Telling someone what to do with their body is focusing on their body. Telling someone how to breathe, how to tense or relax muscles, etc intrinsically involves putting focus on their body.

      I’m wondering if you’re mixing up “focus on their body” with “focus on their appearance” or “pass judgment on their body”. Those are often what we mean when we talk about people inappropriately focusing on others’ bodies in the workplace, but they’re not the only possible meanings of the phrase, and they’re not the only ways that attention on the body can be invasive and/or unwelcome.

    13. Martin Blackwood*

      Body focused mindfulness gives me gender dysphoria. Being uncomfortably hyper aware of your body and feeling like you’re being scrutinised even if you’re cis doesn’t seem ridiculous to me.

    14. Jack Russell Terrier*

      As a yoga teacher, this is what we call the mind-body connection – helping you connect to your body and be in tune with it. In no way is ok for some random person to guide people to do this at the start of an everyday business meeting.

      Unless you have a reason to bring someone’s body into the conversation (such as disability accommodation) no-one in a normal office setting should be mentioning – let alone guiding – how your body moves and how you breathe.

      This goes doubly for people who aren’t trained in movement – such as yoga – or in pranayama.

      If they want to bring in a yoga instructor so those who want can move and meditate during lunch, more power to them. What they are doing is not benign.

  4. Viki*

    LW # 4

    Sometimes in general, it’s just easier. If I cc my manager, it’s because the info is needed for them and forwarding an email is adding more work. The loop is closed, and I don’t have to play in box catch up.

    When I’m cc’d, it’s often because it’s about to become my problem, or the info I need and again, a lot easier to just be on the thread in the first place than being forwarded, because if info was not the right info, or there’s more qualifiers, I can jump on the ask easier.

    1. RedinSC*

      I would often ask other team leads to make sure to copy me on requests to my team member so that I could keep an eye on work load, and so that other leads didn’t think they could just assign work to my team members.

      It had nothing to do trust of my team member.

      1. coffee*

        It could also be that the person sending the email isn’t trusted, rather than the person receiving the email.

        But I agree, it’s often what information a manager wants, or a worker’s best guess on what a manager wants. It’s not necessarily about trust.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          That’s where I land. Could be the sender’s supervisor who insists on being cc’d on everything. Sender doesn’t know every supervisor doesn’t want to be cc’d because they know only their supervisor.

          1. Pajamas on Bananas*

            I have worked in multiple places where the supervisor expected to be cc’d on everything. I’ve also had supervisors that required us to cc the receivers’ managers. I’ll be honest, it made me pretty uncomfortable, and sometimes hurt relationships. A lot of people find the practice pretty offensive. YMMV, but sometimes for the sake of necessary work relationships I chose not to do it, and then framed it as forgot if I needed to loop a manager in for any reason. That’s a rare enough occurrence that it was never an issue.

            If I were you, I would assume the other person’s manager is the reason and let it go.

        2. ferrina*

          Or it could be that the manager of the person receiving the email wasn’t to be trusted. Or that there was an untrustworthy third manager that they didn’t even know was involved who had been talking to the recipient’s manager in backroom conversations to try to stage a coup, and the sender’s manager needed to have all the info in order to keep up in the political games.

          Those scenarios happened at least several times a year at OldJob. My team only knew that there was politics, never the actual context of the political games going on. That place was Game of Corporate Thrones.

      2. English Rose*

        Yes, this is what I was coming to say. My boss is keen to make sure our team’s workload is managed effectively, and for this reason I often copy her in on my responses even when she hasn’t been copied in on the original request.
        OP doesn’t really expand on how big these requests are, and maybe it takes just a couple of minutes to find and send something, but if there are multiple requests a day the time adds up and also disturbs focus.

      3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        This! Also in case I am asked about a certain situation, so I am at least aware of the circumstances. It was not uncommon, in my last role, for hiring managers to go answer shopping!

    2. allhailtheboi*

      Agreed. For about two months before I left my job, I copied in my manager to almost every email. Because I was an admin and she was new to the team, I had so much institutional knowledge that it would be impossible for me to hand it all over. It was easier to give her an oversight of my work. Obviously those are specific circumstances, but I wanted to illustrate one of the many innocent reasons someone might CC their manager.

    3. Green great dragon*

      If I ask my reports to do something, I like to be cc’d on the email they send doing. It’s the easiest way for them to let me know it’s done, and if they’re unexpectedly off and I have to pick something up, I have all the info. And I do let them know that’s why.

      1. fanciestcat*

        Yeah, maybe this seems weird to people with supervisors who aren’t close to the work they do, but I’ve always had supervisors who were also the lead for our projects, so it makes sense to just cc them on everything so they stay in the loop. It cuts down on the need for team meetings and like you said, means that my boss can more easily answer questions or even pick up the work if I need to be out.

      2. Antilles*

        This was my thought too. It’s just keeping the manager in the loop about ongoing projects; nothing about trust / checking up / etc, just so the manager is generally up to speed on things.

        1. Clisby*

          And if the manager thinks it’s too much, the manager can tell people not to copy her on everything.

          1. Allonge*

            Exactly. Or they can set up a rule to auto-file the messages or a bunch of other things.

            I had roughly a thousand times where being cc-d was way preferable than something coming in as a surprise.

      3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        This is how it works where I am. My manager also attends higher level meetings where she may be asked in passing “Where do we stand on the Magenta Agreement?” and, even though I am the person working on the Magenta Agreement in the department, it allows her to say “We got comments back from it on Monday and Bunny is following up with Bob in finance on a question about the audit provisions”…me copying her on the email to Bob isn’t to cover my ass with Bob, but so she knows where things stand.

    4. Also-ADHD*

      I CC my manager all the time, or someone else’s manager, to close loops as well. It just makes sense. But lots of other people at my org do too and I never think anything of it. Maybe this is a remote org thing, but we’re very liberal with our CCs where I work!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think it’s definitely impacted by company culture. I know a lot of people feel it is passive aggressive but it’s pretty normal at my company or at least on my team.

    5. WillowSunstar*

      In some teams, this is normal in the course of daily operations. The managers may also be training someone on a new-to-them procedure.

      1. EngineeringFun*

        My new company normally emails with 20-40 people on it all the time. Every morning I get 20-30 emails from over seas workers with all those ccs. Takes me about an hour to go through them all. Welcome to the global work force.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      Sometimes managers want to be in the loop on things, or if something is super sensitive from their side. Eg. I am currently cc’ing 5 people on interactions with one person. His managers need to know what I am telling him, my client person needs to know what was said, and I need to keep the hiring manager in the loop. The reason(s) – a new process that is not working particularly well, the individual needs to be trained on what he is doing, other stakeholders need to see proof of this, and the hiring manager needs to be kept in the loop about why they’re not getting candidates, and I need to CYA.

    7. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I rarely if ever see this as a mistrust thing. Sometimes the manager has asked to be kept in the loop about their report’s workload so they know not to assign more work if the person is swamped. Sometimes the manager is supposed to be copied on important goings-on even if they fully trust their report to handle the particulars. Sometimes it just makes sense to include them in a discussion instead of discussing without them.

    8. Beth*

      I often CC my manager because we work really closely together and I want her to know what’s going on. It’s not about the reporting chain, in our case–it’s about an FYI to my project team, and she does it with me just as often as I do it with her. LW4, maybe some of your coworkers have non-“FYI to management” reasons like this behind their CCs?

    9. Ama*

      Honestly right now I cc my manager on a lot of random things because they have only been my manager for a year and have no experience in my area of focus. Sometimes it is because they need to know that a certain email has gone out, sometimes it is because I want them to see how I handle certain common but tricky situations because they need to be able to cover for me when I am out (and also because, unbeknownst to them, I’m working on leaving this job soon and they will need to be able to step in at that point).

      I let them know I am doing this and they agreed it is useful for them to see how I handle things and the general timeline for certain standard reminders.

    10. AthenaC*

      Some people: “Managers shouldn’t need to be cc’d on emails! That’s bad management!”

      Those same people: “Team meetings are a waste of time and should have been emails instead! Team meetings are bad management!”

      How exactly do they think info is distributed if you don’t cc on email and you don’t have team meetings? Telepathy?


      I’m one of those managers that prefers to be cc’d because whatever my junior team members are working on, I’m expected to know it just as well as they do when they client calls ME (not the junior team member) and has questions. I have yet to find a method to get real-time updates that works quite as efficiently.

      1. rollyex*

        “How exactly do they think info is distributed if you don’t cc on email and you don’t have team meetings? Telepathy?”

        Shared documents. Discussion boards/channels. Project management systems. There are many other media that are possible other than email and meetings. Many can be much more economical with time and less siloed than email and meetings.

    11. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I think CC’ing the manager (yours or the person you are emailing) is often benign, as others have said. Unless it is pointed – they only CC managers when communicating with you and not other colleagues.

      I once had a manager who asked people to BCC him on all communications with me. He was trying to build a case that I was not responding fast enough to e-mails. I only found out about it at my next performance review – there was no discussion about my responsiveness during any of our biweekly one-on-one meetings leading up to the performance review. My problem was not providing status updates if the final response was delayed for any reason (I’d send them an e-mail letting them know “I’ll find out” immediately, then I don’t get the answer from the vendor until a week or so later, and don’t let the original colleague know about the delay in the meantime).

  5. Sean C*

    #4, I actually prefer my manager CC’d on most emails. I’m in a backoffice role with a lot of expertise, but my job isn’t to field arbitrary requests, so my managers act as a gatekeeper to shut down or redirect anything they think I don’t need to be working on, which can be quite a bit.

    1. Excel-sior*

      Same for me. We’re a small team with a heavy workload and whilst I appreciate that people feel they can come to me directly, unless it’s a really simple request, my manager needs to be at least Cc’d in so they canat least be aware of the requests being sent.

      1. Allonge*

        Exactly. In a bunch of cases I loop my manager in at the first possible occasion.

        I do get the sense that OP is talking more about cases where they (OP) are getting a reminder of a request with manager cc-di in, not the first one, but even then it’s not a bad idea: if I am not getting a response from someone, and I need the answer, I will need to go to their manager (maybe the original addressee is out sick or too busy for whatever reason). It’s not about tattling.

    2. iKit*

      Same but for a slightly different reason: I occupy a specific niche on my team. I’m a semi-team lead. I cover most of my team’s needs for my boss when he’s out and he covers for my tasks entirely when I am out. And if there is a meeting he can’t make that he thinks someone on our team should be on, I get sent the invite to attend instead.

      So for virtually EVERY email I send that isn’t to one of our team, I CC him. I’ve had some downright NASTY replies from people saying I didn’t need to involve managers in “this issue” because of this. But, honestly, it’s just to keep him in the loop since he’s on the east coast and I’m on the west coast. If something comes up on something I started working that needs to be addressed ASAP in those few hours the next morning, he has the emails on it.

    3. ferrina*

      I generally don’t care. It won’t change the context of the email at all. I might use less exclamation marks if there’s extra people reading it, but it have a tangible impact on my work or message.

      I do find it funny when people try to CC their manager as a power move. Cool, I’ll just tell them the same thing I told you, and they can take it up with my manager. If anything, now your manager knows exactly what’s happening because I just told them (which means I don’t need to worry about that person leaving out bits….which has happened, sometimes on purpose and sometimes on accident).

  6. Blueberry Queen*

    Oh honey, when my coworkers try those shenanigans on me I cc the CEO in my response… backs them down. However my company is wildly dysfunctional and the CEO can’t fire this inquisitive southern women who knows a little too much… and has proof about his behaviors…

    Most work problems can be solved by knowing the lay of the land and then becoming the land.

    1. Francesca*

      What a very odd and disquieting way to think. There’s something very creepy about your whole comment. I hope it’s just your phrasing and not reflective of your character.

      1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        I am trying to figure out what about the comment prompted your comment. Comment OP works at a dysfunctional company and so they fight fire with fire and cc up the food chain.

        Likewise, they clarifying they have dirt on the CEO so they aren’t at risk of being fired for playing these games (probably an affair, which we can argue the morality of knowing where the bodies are buried and not saying anything but it’s not uncommon for people to know things and not say it so it’s not really that disturbing).

        Overall bad advice for the LW since they can’t just cc up the food chain, but I think comment OP is saying to just be petty in return and cc the manager on their correspondences to them, too. The manager really loses in this until they talks to them both — or maybe they like being cc’d…not really the point anymore though. As a note, working in dysfunction often makes people’s relationships and tactics…dysfunctional. However, again, many people in the comments often suggest being petty as a response — sometimes as a joke, sometimes seriously.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          What was “creepy” (although I didn’t think the word creepy until another commenter said it) was that OP of this thread seems to have knowledge that the ceo is doing something not-above-board and has evidence of it. And describes it as his “behaviours”. My mind went to SA or abusive behaviour or some kind.

        2. KateM*

          I thought it was the coworkers of Blueberry Queen whom CEO couldn’t fire, I guess I went by the “women” part of “this women”.

        3. connie*

          It’s the “I can do anything I want since I have dirt” and the aggression for me. This doesn’t sound like a healthy workplace.

          This is a case where someone can’t see how highly specific their situation is and that it doesn’t provide anything generalizable.

          I have a high, complicated project load. My boss is on all my emails because we are both working on the projects; she doesn’t just oversee the work. It’s nothing weird or overstepping and rather more common that some people might expect.

        4. Jelly*

          It was the degrading “Oh honey” for me, and went downhill from there. Just say what you mean, people.

        1. Clare*

          Said the civil engineer specialising in multi-level shopping centre design, with etsy side hustle selling space themed stationery.

      1. Blueberry Queen*

        I’m not a villainess just because I’m going to be the last woman standing. Don’t hire a bad b1tch to your finance department, and then screw around with your reimbursements.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          This is… a very concerning attitude to have at the office. No one at work should be the last one standing, what does that even mean? If no one else is standing then there wouldn’t be any jobs left including your own.

          If your current work environment is toxic enough to bring this out in you then you should really consider looking elsewhere!

    2. Valancy Trinit*

      A work problem that requires assimilating into a sick system is not a work problem worth solving in my opinion. I would simply be hitting the bricks.

    3. Dido*

      I’m sure the CEO has a high opinion of lower-level employees who bring him into their petty squabbles

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Oh, honey, I’m so sad for you that you aren’t actively trying to leave this place. Why on earth are you becoming part of the land?! What a terrible image – I guess you’re slowly being consumed like a rotting tree.

      You say it’s wildly dysfunctional, but then you actually advise someone to bring that same dysfunction into their own job. You have lost the ability to see how bad this is. GET OUT!

      1. Blueberry Queen*

        I lost too much for this job. It’s taken away so much. At this point I have to stay or it won’t be worth it.

        1. spiriferida*

          This comment really just made me sad. I hope that you don’t have to think this way forever. Whatever you lost to this job, you already lost it – staying there won’t change that or make you happy and fulfilled at work. While you might not have the mental energy to search for something better right now, that doesn’t mean it can’t exist.

          I hope things start to change for you.

        2. Carmichael Lemon*

          That’s the sunk cost fallacy…just because you put a lot of effort and sacrifice into this job does not mean you should stay. What does “worth it” even mean? You already sacrificed, you’re not getting that time back. Now leave and don’t give anything more to this workplace.

  7. Observer*

    #4 – Too many CC’s.

    I get why it annoys you and I can see that in many contexts this can set up a sense of distrust. But get out of the mindset of “tattling”. There is almost no context where that’s a good paradigm. If you do need to bring it up, such as the kind of situation that Alison mentions, stick to that. If you go in with a narrative about tattling it’s not going to do you any good and could really hurt your relationships and standing in the organization.

    1. sparks in parks*

      Yes exactly. It’s not tattling (most of the time)… my team lead asks to be cc’d on emails to anybody outside our department. There are let’s say teapot regulated glazes and the team lead is responsible for ensuring compliance.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Or the person sending it could be cc’ing their supervisor because their supervisor is trying to make a case for hiring someone else due to workload. Or is looking at redistributing workload and needs to know where all their people are at. Or needs to be in on the answer to the question because they need the info for a different part of something they’re doing. Or the person is on a PIP and being monitored. Or they have to track email threads on certain topics for paperwork purposes. So many reasons that are pretty benign, so it’s not really worth getting upset about.

    2. JSPA*

      Start by asking, “Does Cordelia require you to cc her?” Because if the answer is yes, you’ll know what’s up. Chances are high that this is between the requestor(s) and their manager(s) whether it’s requirement, habit, ass-covering for a ball one of them dropped, Cordelia’s own manager is unreasonable.

      Also possible is that someone else they request from regularly is not dependable, and instead of making a rule “cc me when requesting from Remi” (or speaking to Remi or to Remi’s manager) they’ve made a blanket rule that encompasses you.

      1. WonderCootie*

        This! There is an office here that has a few, shall we say, unreliable people. The manager of that office has asked that we start cc’ing her on emails to all of her employees so she can document issues. Since it’s related to possible disciplinary actions, I doubt she’s telling her good employees the reasoning.

    3. Pajamas on Bananas*

      My experience in local government in the midwest is that it builds a sense of distrust with most people.

      1. JSPA*

        If people are quick, thorough and generally responsive, there’s nothing to get distrustful about. If some people are not all of the above, and thus don’t want to be held to account… yeah, the accountability piece isn’t the (main) problem.

    4. Salsa Verde*

      Yes, Alison has mentioned many times that bringing up issues to your supervisor is not tattling, and that most communications at work should not be seen as tattling.

      And personally, it sounds so juvenile to me that I can’t imagine using that word to describe anything happening at work.

  8. SometimesYouGottaTakeCharge*

    OP2, you should always be prepared to carry the conversation in an interview. There are some folks out there who are really bad at interviewing and your job as an interviewee is to make sure they get the info they need even if they don’t know how to elicit it.

    I’m not suggesting this is normal or happens often, but it does happen (usually without the other person explicitly saying ask me all the questions). People are rarely trained to interview and some people may have never done it before or just be bad at it.

    I’ve had interviews where I would have sat there in total silence for 30 or 45 minutes if I hadn’t taken control. When theh were really just not asking anything I’d ask questions like “when approaching Foo I would normally use workflow A-B-C – can you tell me how that lines up to what you do?” or “I have experience with X, Y, Z but these tasks have been handled in different ways at different companies. I’m certainly able to do them using whatever process you have in place, but I’ve found Foo to be particularly effective. How well does that fit in with what you do?” or “can you tell me more about job function K mentioned in the ad? it sounds like it might be similar to work I did at Company and really enjoyed.”

    The idea is to get the info you want while also sprinkling about relevant experience, things that you prefer in a job, and to show understanding of what they do and the industry as a whole.

    1. amoeba*

      I can think of many questions I’d ask a hiring manager, but the interview in this case was with HR, in which case I’d probably run out quickly after general stuff like benefits and approach to DEI are covered… at least in my field, they typically know very little about the actual job, which would make a whole interview really hard to fill!

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Also if the company expects me to carry the whole interview, I would question how they run things in general. If I had options I would nope the heck out of there. If you can’t figure out some basic questions for the role you are hiring for, it means you have no clue what you want and its gonna be a hot mess.

    3. Heidi*

      If I had the presence of mind to do this at the moment, I would have asked how other interviewees handled running the interviews. Was there a difference in what the strong candidates asked compared to the weaker candidates? What were the best questions they asked? Were there any questions that should have been asked and weren’t? Then ask those questions, of course. I might also ask for examples of how this process elicited information that would otherwise have been missed.

    4. Purple Jello*

      These are all good questions. Since the interview was with HR, who may not be able to answer specific questions about the job, or details on how they want things done, you could still ask questions about turnover for the position or the department, questions about the hiring manager’s style, what WFH really looks like at the company, who this role interacts with and their turnover rate, ethical questions on how the company handles things like violations (I work in Compliance, so like to know this type of stuff), mandatory annual training and what happens if someone doesn’t do their training in time, training for the position, IT responsiveness/staff ratio, what do they think is the best thing about working there, if you’re working in the office are how many places within 10 minutes can you grab a quick lunch and what are they, etc. You could learn alot about a company from an HR person.

      I usually go into an interview with questions, which may or may not reflect my experiences with previous managers and companies; depending upon the answers I receive, it opens up other avenues of questioning. Of course they should have told you ahead of time, but if you have a basic list about the position and the company, you’ve got somewhere to start if you’re put on the spot again. Change your mindset from you’re “auditioning for the job” to “they need to sell the company and position to you”.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      This is definitely a good skill to have, in case the hiring manager is lousy at interviewing – but it absolutely should not be necessary for speaking with HR.

      When I interview people, I have a set of topics / questions that I cover with all the candidates – this ensures that I hit all the requirements of the position, and also ensures that I am evaluating candidates fairly on the same criteria.

    6. Beth*

      I think this is putting a lot of the onus on the candidate. Yes, you want to be prepared to shine, and yes, being ready to steer the interview in a direction you want if the opportunity can help you show off to your best potential. But in general, if a hiring manager is completely unprepared to run an interview, that’s a big red flag about the hiring manager.

      I think this being an HR interview changes that a little–I wouldn’t judge it as harshly. My experience of HR screens is that they’re often very quick. In this context, “give a brief intro of yourself, this is the salary range is that ok, the position is remote/hybrid in this location/in person in this location is that ok, do you have any questions for me?” raises no flags for me, and I wouldn’t feel pressured to ask a ton of questions afterwards. “I’m excited to learn more about the team and the role, I’m especially curious about X and Y, but maybe that’s better to save for talking to the hiring manager?” is a fine answer there.

  9. See What Will Happen*

    Hi LW5, your story sounds similar to mine: I stagnated in my then-role for 6 years before I took another role that was an advancement and was nice, but was more of a stopover while I left a toxic department. Well of course, two months later, my absolute dream career position opened up. I applied, I was selected, and I accepted. All my acquaintances questioned me about whether it was the right move, and whether I burned a bridge, and whether I made a mistake leaving so soon after just being hired. I entertained those thoughts for a moment but, as my career progressed, I have absolutely no regrets. I agree with Alison that you have to be a candidate worth taking this risk on, but you never know until you try. I didn’t find out until afterwards that the position was created with me in mind in the hopes that I’d apply. Once I applied, all future positions closed. Now the same department I left is thanking me left and right that they get to “borrow” me once a year to train new people. No bridge burned whatsoever.

    1. Despachito*

      This is what I was thinking.

      Is there really so much for OP to lose if they apply (explaining exactly what they told us – that they are aware that this situation is not a standard one but the opening position is their dream job)?

      Convey the information that “I am not a job hopper but this opportunity seems such a great fit that I just couldn’t pass it”?

      What can possibly go wrong other than “no, we are not considering you for that position”?

      1. Lina*

        It impacts their reputation, and how they are viewed in their current role (less committed, a flight risk, not serious) and can affect references, promotion opportunities etc.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Absolutely, but I agree with Despachito that as long as they’re communicating proactively with everyone involved it should be fine.

          “I understand the timing is odd, and I’m very happy in this new role and not looking to leave. This opportunity just means a lot to me and I don’t know when I’ll have another chance, I want to at least know I threw my hat in the ring. If it doesn’t work out, no harm done and I’m very committed to doing well here.”

        2. Lily Rowan*

          And just to emphasize, all of this is true because they are both internal moves. It would be no problem to send out a resume to a different employer.

          I do think, depending on their relationship with the internal recruiter, OP could have a conversation about this to see how it might be received. (I know my current internal recruiter would give me the straight story.)

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I like this advice. This person is well positioned to give you the best feedback.

        3. bamcheeks*

          It’s also deeply unsettling for yourself, unless you’re *very* good at compartmentalising. Right after I accepted a job in the spring (lateral move, shorter commute, leaving an environment I’d really gone off), my new employer posted My Dream Job, with the interview date set for the Friday of my first week. I went back and forwards on it, and eventually decided not to apply because I didn’t want to start a new job with the caveat of, “here I am, ready to get stuck in — unless I get this interview on Friday!” OR to get all invested in the Dream Job, not get it, and feel dissatisfied with New Job. Four months later, I’m still OK with that decision– I’m getting a lot out of New Job and to be honest I’m really enjoying the fact that it’s relatively low stress and wasn’t a big step up where I had a huge amount to prove.

          That said, I think it’s got to be an individual decision– there are risks and rewards to weigh up and only you can decide how they balance out, LW.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I agree with these two points. Would it be possible, OP, that since you’re already at the org, for you to discuss the role with the hiring manager? That way you can get a sense of whether applying would be a good move for you or not. If the manager says they’re looking for someone with a lot more experience than you have or that they wouldn’t consider you because you just moved to a new role, then you have your answer. But it’s possible the manager might encourage you to apply because they know they like you or that you have certain skills they’re looking for. You could also explain that you truly enjoy working for the org and that you wanted advancement so that’s why you applied to your current role, but that the one they just advertised is really more in line with your interests, skills, and career goals.

        Good luck, OP!

        1. bamcheeks*

          I did this in the situation mentioned above (just about to start a new job when the new employer posted Dream Job), and I did this. I pitched it as, “I’m really in two minds because I really would apply for it at any other time, but the timing is not ideal because…” I think you usually will get a sense of whether it’s enthusiastic encouragement or guarded, “well, given you have just started in that role…” and you can lean in to whichever it is: “Well, thank you for the reassurance! I think I will put an application in and we’ll see what happens!” vs “Ahh, such a pity– it looks like a fabulous role, but I think you’ve confirmed what I was thinking, the timing just isn’t quite right for me at the moment. Thanks so much for the opportunity to hear more about it.”

          Unless you’re in a very suspicious and unlovely organisation, or have a very suspicious and unlovely boss, it’s likely to give you useful information and unlikely to make you look like a flight risk.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            If the “fully remote” is the part that makes this a dream job, this could be an opening to say “I like this role but the remote nature of this role appeals to me” and maybe that opens a conversation about incorporating more WFH.

            If its other aspects of the work, you could also open a conversation with management about opportunities to do that kind of work in current role.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I wouldn’t recommend pursuing it, but if they really feel this is something they’d regret not doing I think the first place to start would be with their new manager. In a lot of companies your current manager has to sign off on internal transfers so if that’s the case you might as well lay all your cards on the table with them and find out whether there would be any chance of them letting the internal transfer go through.

        Given that the new role was already a big step up from their previous role, it seems unlikely to me that they would be a particularly outstanding candidate for the “dream” role which is why I don’t think it’s worse risking the relationship with your new boss by pursuing this–especially if you actively want to stay with this company long-term. But only OP knows enough details to consider that part. I would also make sure you think about how likely it is a position would open up in the other department in the future. If you think it’s likely you could pursue that in a couple of years then I think you should wait, but if it’s something that almost never opens up then maybe you think it’s worth the risk.

    2. The Username Lost to Time*

      It sounds like it’s worth applying and hearing the “no” if it truly is a taboo within LW5’s organization. Also, others have mentioned that these types of soft HR rules get broken all the time if an employee really is that valuable and/or has political capital.

      If one of the perks about LW5’s dream position is the fully remote status, then LW5 could examine if they’d be able to convert to fully remote in their current role. It’s a different kind of negotiation, but it may be more feasible than switching jobs entirely.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      They created a job with you in mind but nobody said a word to you? They just secretly hoped you’d apply? Dang, that’s some bad hiring practice. I don’t think that’s anything like this person’s situation.

      “You never know until you try” is not good advice – you might find out this makes you unhirable for the new position *and* on thin ice for the current one. The advice to speak up and find out how it would be received first is better than just blindly firing and hope you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        If you’re in the federal government this is pretty normal (opening a job specifically for you but not telling you)

        I do however agree that it depends on the org and whether going out for this job has the potential to damage your current standing.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > If you’re in the federal government this is pretty normal (opening a job specifically for you but not telling you)

          What do they do if you don’t take the “hint” from the job ad and apply? Do they eventually hire someone else? Do they have managers etc make the hint to you with increasing “obviousness”? It seems a strange thing to me – posting a job with a specific person in mind, then just hoping they find it. What is the reasoning for doing it that way?

          1. See What Will Happen*

            I am in the government and if there is a job posted with you in mind, there will be lots of informal conversations leading up to the job posting, at least from managers in other departments telling you that it would be a good career move for you, even though the timing might be unknown for the posting to go live. I took an open position while I could because of my toxic department; everyone I knew was trying to escape. There’s no guarantee that you will actually get it, and this is especially true if you’re changing departments (lots of people are given a heads-up about a new position from various departments, which means that you’re likely will be on the shortlist if you apply). However, if your department makes it difficult for you to transfer (or openly tries to sabotage you), you’re unlikely to get the position unless things align for you. Also, the job isn’t always posted at a time when you are ready and available to apply since the windows are so short (5-14 days mostly). Managers aren’t allowed to say “I posted this position just for you”; you have to read between the lines. The writer knows their situation best but if this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I don’t see why not.

  10. Clare*

    #1 – I have to admit, my first reaction to the title was “Are you all idiots?”. My colleagues and I occasionally joke about senior management needing to be taught how to breathe when they make particularly bad decisions. Maybe whoever implemented it did so because they found the lessons personally useful.

    1. Clare*

      Ok, forgive me, but I’m still giggling about the ridiculous mental image of a pack of fully grown adults in work attire being instructed on how to breathe!

      “In… and out… in… and out… Great job with your breathing there Wakeen!”
      “Thanks Fergus. I’ve been practising all week.”

      1. Laser99*

        I’m imagining something like a classroom setting. “Ms. Brown, Fergus isn’t breathing right! I saw him!”

    2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      I can’t believe I have to defend this practice after being subjected to it for 2 years at an old job, but it’s not just breathing. It’s the kind of breathing you do when you mediate — similar to what they tell people to do when they’re feeling anxious. Frankly, the letter reads like LW also doesn’t get it as a whole but at the same time, this sort of stuff is highly individual anyway & may work in private but not in a room of colleagues.

      There are a lot of reasons why this is inappropriate and out of place in a workplace, but people are going for low hanging fruit…on a totally different tree. It’s not productive.

      1. Mongrel*

        “Frankly, the letter reads like LW also doesn’t get it as a whole…”

        But is that on LW or the instigator of the practice?
        The instigator should be able to explain clearly why this is useful for everyone and it’s purpose as a required practice at the beginning of meetings. I’ve seen too many ‘wellness’ initiatives boil down to “I found this useful so now we’re all doing it”

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, and even then the instigator should be aware that no mindfulness exercise will work as intended for everyone, and that they’re overstepping if they insist on everyone participating.

        2. Observer*

          “Frankly, the letter reads like LW also doesn’t get it as a whole…”

          But is that on LW or the instigator of the practice?

          *TOTALLY* on the instigator. I agree with your assessment of this situation. And I think that the OP clearly “gets” that this is not appropriate. That this can be a sensible practice in other contexts is not really relevant, and thus it’s not a matter of the OP failing to understand something that they really should understand.

      2. darsynia*

        You don’t have to defend it. You’re mis-reading the comment you’re responding to, which is about an initial humorous impression. Your emotional connection to the helpfulness of this exercise is causing you to take up the mantle of defending it, but not everyone is comfortable with every practice and stomping on people’s concerns is not doing the ‘defense’ that you may think it is.

        1. darsynia*

          (ahh, there’s a more relevant paragraph at the end, my apologies on ‘misreading,’ but my remark about the comments all over the place to defend stands)

      3. Clare*

        The point of the joke was that both my initial reaction and mental image are wrong and therefore absurd.

        Please be assured I’m not attacking the actual practice. You’re right, I am going for low hanging fruit off a tangentially related tree. Sometimes a spoonful of sugar/humour helps the medicine/annoying training go down, that’s all.

      4. Observer*

        I can’t believe I have to defend this practice after being subjected to it for 2 years at an old job,

        Well, I honestly do *not* think you “need” to defend this practice. Not only that, I don’t think you *should*.

        but it’s not just breathing

        It doesn’t matter *in this context*. Teaching people how to breath is all good and fine, and in a context where that was happening *appropriately*, I would agree with your defense. But this is ridiculous, and not much better (and in some cases WORSE) than just telling people “Breath. In…. Out…In…Whhoosh out…”

      5. I Have RBF*

        I meditate. Have for years as part of my religious practice.

        But I really can’t stand workplace “mindfulness” where they act like you are a just off the turnip truck rube that they must teach the “right” way to relax, or meditate, or whatever.

        Saying “Take two minutes of quiet to focus, meditate or whatever you do to center yourself.” is fine. Then it’s up to you how you do it.

        But doing a “guided meditation” or “breathing exercise” in a simplified, one size fits none style? Do. Not. Want.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      The British Prime Minister who held the brexit referendum was famous for waiting to take important decisions when he was desperate for the loo. If prominent politicians can’t manage their pee appropriately enough to avoid disastrous policy decisions, I can believe that managers need to learn to breathe.

      The upside being that if they learn to breathe they might not stress their minions out so much.

  11. AskForPay*

    LW3, I’ve had some success asking to get paid for work performed during the interview process if it’s actual work the company could use. They usually timebox the work and often pay at a low rate, but it makes it a slightly less lopsided experience. I believe I’ve only had one company refuse outright and I walked away from them.

    That said, the presenting to customers part is just wonky. Before they vet it? And how many different presentations is customer expected to sit through?

    A few of the more onerous interview processes I’ve had involved presentations, but they were usually on a technical topic of my choice to show I could explain te material well. They were not directly relevant to any work at the company.

    I have produced written materials the company might use, but usually got paid for them as noted above.

    1. BellaStella*

      Agree on this for LW3. Ask to be paid. I once worked for 3 full days on a set of comms materials which did land me the job but in the end it was a job I only held for a year – but all of our team had done this create-some-comms-test and passed. They did not pay us, either but now I know better to ask this.

  12. nnn*

    Silly idea inspired by #2:

    Ask them an assortment cliche annoying interview questions.

    “So why do you want me for this job?”
    “What is your organization’s greatest weakness?”
    “Tell me about a time you had to resolve a conflict”

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      “From your annual statements I see you had a gap in revenue during 2020 and 2021. What were you doing during that time?”

      “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake or overlooked a proposed solution to a problem and learned from it. What have you done as a result of this experience?”

    2. coffee*

      “Please provide references from five current and five past employees, covering every year you’ve been in operation.”

    3. BellaStella*

      “Where do you see this firm in five years?”
      “Why should I accept this role?”
      “How has the previous experience of the CEO and C suite shaped their leadership styles?”
      “Why do YOU like working here?”
      “What are the worst traits of your former/current CEO?”
      “What do your Glassdoor reviews say and why do you agree/disagree with them?”

    4. OP2*

      I really wish I had thought of that in the moment! Well, if it happens again I’ll be sure to tackle the interview that way and not how I did, which was floundering. lol

    5. Kristin*

      That’s so brilliant! Hahaha – shoe, other foot.
      “If your organization were a soup what ingredient would it be?” (Actual question)

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (final interview was a client presentation) – I really wonder what they had told the client. Initially I thought they were passing OP off as a “consultant”, but then that wouldn’t make sense if they hired OP, as obviously the client would see that their account manager was the “consultant” who presented that turnaround plan. From the client’s perspective I would probably be unhappy that so much data (even if anonymised) had been shared with someone who isn’t part of the company… I do think it’s more likely than not that something shady was going on, because of being ghosted afterwards (had it put them in an embarrassing spot with the client? oh no!)

    Is it common to have a role exclusively working with one client? What if something happens to that relationship and they are no longer a client, do you get laid off? Is the company itself too dependent on revenue from one client if they have someone dedicated to them?

    1. kiki*

      I have seen firms that have employees dedicated to working with just one client, but I don’t know if it’s common. It is definitely a risk if that client brings in way more business than other clients. It can also make the relationship between that client and the business lopsided– the business then feels pressure to do things that are really outside the norm for that client.

      I actually think that may be part of what’s going on with the role LW applied for– because the client is such a major driver of revenue for the business, the client wants more say over who their new liaison is than is really appropriate.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Sometimes, you gotta focus on one client/person because they suck up so much air.

        Funny story: I had the great good fortune to chat with Eric Holder before he became Attorney General. I was looking at Sports Law and his firm repped the NFL. He told me they had one guy whose sole job was keeping Al Davis in line. I still laugh at that.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I work at firms where we do Federal (US) contracting. It’s kinda common to have high level people or people who are aligned with work to a specific contract to be approved by the client for hire.

      I could see having someone pitch to said client so that they could have more direct experience with a candidate–but I’ve never *actually* seen anyone do this. And I wouldn’t imaging that it would have used actual data.

      And, yes, it is common in some places to work with one client, and I have been one place where they relied heavily on one client to keep the place afloat, and the client was a major pain point for hiring people (that place is a dumpster fire also, but that might just be coincidence).

      1. Ama*

        Also if this is the situation — that the client is being allowed to help assess candidates, that needs to be explained to the candidates when the work is requested. (I personally would probably walk away from a situation where the client had that much say whether or not an actual work project was requested, as that’s just not a work environment I enjoy.)

    3. Katie*

      I do work (and have done work) exclusively for the same client and have for a while. There is a multi year contract for it. There is always a possibility that the contract is not renewed. We get forewarning and have time to find a new role and have a few months to find after the project is completely done to find a new one. If not, yes they are laid off (I am not sure how often it happens because I have been in a really stable role). Some coworkers have much shorter contracts.

    4. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      It’s definitely normal to have whole teams of consultants / analysts / creatives dedicated to a single client. Multi-million dollar retainer accounts require a lot of upkeep and billable hours! My current company has many of those, as well as smaller accounts that are project-based. When we lose a big account like that, they haven’t typically let anyone go at that time, they work to find new accounts for them.

      OTOH in the olden days at ad agencies, it used to be a bit of an inside joke that if Frito Lay moved to a new agency, that team lost their jobs…only to be scooped up by the new agency that wanted their account knowledge, so Frito Lay ended up with a similar team.

  14. JSPA*

    #5, as they’re lovely: “this position, at this organization, is exactly where I’d like to be in a few years. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but while you’re thinking deeply about the job and requirements, would you mind if I put in my resume, and asked for pointers on skills and experience I’d need to develop, to become a strong candidate?”

    If you then turn out to be their ideal hire, they can come back to you, with the unusual suggestion. If, as is more likely, that’s not in the cards, you at least have let them know that you’re eager to develop in that direction.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Oooh I like this. Maybe a chat with your supervisor about your career goals – like what would I need to do to move into this role eventually? If the supervisor says well go for it now, okay. If not, you can lay out a development plan with your organization to continue growing even if its not this specific role.

      One caveat – be careful of calling something your dream job/role, sometimes it turns out it isn’t.

    2. Jamjari*

      Yeah, this is along the lines of what I was going to suggest. Express interest in the role and how to be a strong candidate in future. You never know, they might suggest you apply now.

  15. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

    OP1’s company sounds like the reason people find “gentle reminders” cringe- assuming a weird amount of fragility in the other person. How fraught are these meetings that they would all need meditation exercises beforehand?

    1. Fikly*

      Well, this is a classic example of companies deciding that the way to solve burnout and stress in their employees is to give lip service to self-care, rather than, you know, actually reducing the things causing the burnout and stress that they are directly the cause of.

      Look good, don’t act good.

      1. Mill Miker*

        Yup. A classic:

        You feel overworked? You’re clearly managing your stress wrong. Here’s more work to do that will fix you so that you can handle the work we’re giving you, and then some.

        If you still feel stressed after doing mindfulness properly (ie. In a way that removes all stress), then we can talk about how you could manage your time better (ie. work faster).

    2. JSPA*

      “gentle” is shorthand for, “it’s all fine on my end (no panic, no shaming, not a demand), just a notification / alert.”

      Before people had alerts on their phones for every darn thing, getting a reminder often tended to imply that your slowness had caused someone, somewhere, to sit up and take notice.

      Thus the “this is the no-harm-no-foul sort of reminder” in the subject line.

      If and when all of these functions are automated, the wording will preserably fade away again.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this attempt to manage people’s feelings about receiving the reminder backfires–it so often lands as “I need to tiptoe around your delicate feelings because you obviously will blow up.”

        I think any time we make a point of repeatedly announcing something as framing–“I am very calm” “I am whimsical” “I am almost six feet tall”–it lands as something we don’t actually believe, but hope others will if they hear it often enough.

      2. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

        It’s pretty frequent topic of conversation on here how annoying most people, or at least a majority, find “gentle reminder” as a phrase. There are plenty of ways to make reminders, casual, breezy, and not accusatory without using phrasing that makes a lot of people flinch and eyeroll.

        A casual or “quick” reminder is what you’re going for, which has the opposite effect of “gentle”: it’s chill, where, as gentle implies that someone high-maintenance is reminding someone else who is also assumed to be high-maintenance.

        1. Jelly*

          Yes, hard agree. I can’t stand “gentle” reminder. So condescending. I write “quick reminder,” “brief reminder,” or just “reminder” when sending – guess what? – reminders.

          But then, I resent TH out of sending reminders in the first place. Mark your own calendars! I have my own to manage.

          I will see myself out…

    3. JenLP*

      I mean, I’ve led meetings where the emotions carried over from another meeting or where people were panicking/emotional/stressed; in those situations, I’ve suggested taking a quick deep breath to settle and transition. Reading the comments, I think I might change it up to “let’s take a moment to transition” or something. But never had folks do a whole meditation thing – we got stuff to do.

    4. Humble Schoolmarm*

      To be fair, the online course I’m taking now starts with something like this. Thankfully, it’s mic and camera off so I can roll my eyes and do post-dinner clean up in peace. I don’t think it’s that our prof/the uni thinks we’re delicate, it’s that they know that they are piling three hours of class and classwork and the changes that said classes are supposed to inspire in our teaching onto an already overburdened group. The idea that pondering a tree with a twisted trunk balances out the above is absurd, but I don’t take it as a personal judgement about my resilience.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    LW4, while I agree that sounds really annoying, I think it’s as likely that they are trying to show their manager they have sent the e-mail as that they want the manager to check your reply. It’s possible the manager has a tendency to ask them, “did you e-mail LW like I said?” or “I hope you remembered to mention X in your e-mail to LW,” so they just decided to cc them. Or that they worked under a previous manager who acted like that so they got into the habit of it.

    Of course, it is also possible that they are trying to put pressure on you, but it’s not the only possible reason and it’s probably easier to assume it’s about them or a weird quirk and let it go.

    1. TooTiredTooThink*

      There’s so many reasons to CC mgmt that aren’t negative! I’m currently working as a quasi-project manager; which means I am sending out emails to people to re-task them during their normal work day. Of course I am cc’ing our management so our management knows that a) they have been given additional tasks and b) that their normal work-load may suffer that day. c) or it’s their excuse to ask for OT if necessary (Everyone on our team knows that this project is huge and basically takes 2nd priority when tasked with something).

      Very rarely am I ccing management to put stress on the person to get the task done.

    2. Casey*

      Yeah! Reasons I’m cc’ing my manager that aren’t tattling:

      – they want to get more involved in the project and asked me to cc them on emails so they can get up to speed

      – they have gotten a complaint from your team that our team is sending them too many last-minute requests, so they want to be in the loop of those requests

      – following through on little details isn’t my strength and I want to show my manager that I’m improving

      – we’re talking about allocating resources to this project and I want my manager to be aware that this may take up a chunk of our team’s time

  17. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (internal application when you just made an internal move) – I think due to the timescale it needs to be a discreet conversation first, rather than follow the standard internal application process. They key to it, as the answer alluded to, is going to be whether it is a “dream hire” for the org, as well as a “dream job” for OP. If it is, it doesn’t make business sense to reject OP on the grounds of not having been in the new role a year or whatever arbitrary time.

    Yes, the (current) new team may be put in a difficult spot in this situation. Yes, the manager of OPs current (new) role will no doubt be annoyed at having to recruit again so soon and there will probably be speculation within the team. But if the “bigger picture” is that this is the right move for the org, the manager and team will have to suck it up. There is too much tiptoeing around “not upsetting the manager of that team” (I say this as a manger myself), will so-and-so be upset is almost never a valid reason for a business decision.

    Of course all this only applies if OP is by far the best choice for the new role.

    1. The Meat Embezzler*

      Perfectly said. I’ve been trying to formulate something like this for the past 10 minutes and what you put together is far more concise then what I was even close to punching up.

  18. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    Between the “gentle reminder” thing and this breathing exercise thing, I have not clue why people take such innocuous things so personally lately. LW#1, I hate this stuff as much as you do but you’re doing what you should be doing. Just go along with it and think about the meeting or something. It clearly means more to the rest of them. However, you’re being rather obtuse — it’s not about your body, it’s about storing tension and stress. Particularly in their own body, which is what they are supposed to be thinking about, not yours.

    You might try broaching this from a “this stresses me out more than it relaxes me before a meeting” POV. But if you try to make into being objectified in some manner, you will not only be odd one out, they might be really uncomfortable that you took it to a place no one was at.

    1. Melissa*

      I agree. It’s a silly way to open a meeting, but it isn’t offensive or invasive. If they insisted you go around the room and explain your personal tension/stress, that would be a different matter. Just keep your mouth shut (and your eyes if directed!) and go with it.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        You don’t find it offensive or invasive but you can’t say that for everyone. I’m with the OP that I would find it invasive.

          1. Cardboard Marmalade*

            I’m really surprised by this comment. The mechanism of taking or giving offense is so dependant upon cultural and relational context that I’m honestly hard pressed to think of any examples of things that could be “objectively” not offensive (or, for that matter, objectively offensive).

            1. Clare*

              So I’m honestly not joking this time, I read your comment and my first thought was “Breathing maybe? … Oh.”

              1. Cardboard Marmalade*

                Ha! Great point! Although given how many letters I’ve seen on this site about the maddening array of coughs, snuffles, and nose-whistles that coworkers are able to produce, I feel like even everyday breathing has rich potential to become a battlefield.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            A) No.
            B) Meditation exercises give me panic attacks and I would be loudly causing a fit if forced to do this.

            1. Clare*

              But the thing is, you’re not being forced. Maybe the fact that we usually have to do what the boss says is clouding people’s perspectives here. If the boss tells you to eat a bug, you don’t have to eat the bug. If they tell you to give yourself a panic attack it’s the same. You can throw the bug (or the breathing instructions) in the bin. It’s perfectly ok and very normal to say no to these things in your mind. Bin the bug!

              1. Willow Pillow*

                Sometimes the consequences of not eating the proverbial bug are worse than just sucking it up.

          3. Irish Teacher*

            I think it would be hard to find something objectively not offensive, but this is definitely not. There are many reasons people could consider this offensive from the inherent paternalism, objecting to mindfulness on religious or other reasons, being uncomfortable having to perform (wave arms, etc) in front of colleagues, having past bad experiences with mindfulness, actually knowing about mindfulness and feeling it is being run incorrectly, etc or just being concerned about untrained people teaching poor practice.

        1. rollyex*

          I know why they find it invasive and really hope they would learn to not take it so literally that it invades them. Really, when someone asks you to do something stupid/dangerous for you, and they can’t really tell how much you are doing it, fake it. Ignore it. Don’t give them power.

          The worries expressed here demonstrate a lack of personal agency. Learn to take that agency. You can do it. Practice it.

      2. Laura*

        Go with it… if you a physically able to. If you are not, you’ll end up having to explain medical stuff to the whole group, unless the people running these exercises are very aware of the problems they might be causing.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          Yes! I got stuck doing an “empathy exercise” with a stranger once. It makes sense in theory… but I’m autistic and my brain works differently (search for “The Double Empathy Problem” for context). When an internal rebrand requires me to disclose details of a medical issue in order to not have a panic attack, it is invasive and it is not innocuous.

    2. Annie*

      I think it’s a “straw that broke the camel’s back” thing going on, i.e. it would be easy to bear if there wasn’t a bigger stressor to contend with, but when there is, this “little thing” becomes too much. Think of it like an annoying smell that becomes nauseating when you’re sick or an itch that’s ignorable while you’re relaxed but becomes excruciating while you’re stressed.

      There’s also the “this is cool and all but not right for everyone at this time, including me, and I don’t trust that this is truly innocuous” aspect of these things, too.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      With this, I think it is more the assumption behind it, at least for me. I would find the practice itself silly, annoying and a waste of my time but what would bother me more is the apparent assumption that whoever is running it is sort of in the role of my teacher/parent/medical professional and “knows what is best for me” and I should “just do as they say because ‘it’s good for me’.” There is something very paternalistic about it.

      I don’t think the LW is necessarily being obtuse. I took the part about about their body, to mean the employer trying to tell them what is best for their body and how to move their body (waving their arms, how to SIT) and possibly even telling them how their body feels (not sure if they are saying “be aware of the possibility of tension in your shoulders,” say or if they are saying “release the tension you are all holding in your shoulders”). It’s kinda controlling. I’m sure the company doesn’t mean it that way, but…being told how to SIT. That’s the sort of instruction one gives to preschoolers or early primary school children, not to adults.

      If people want to focus on tension and stress, that’s fine, but they have absolutely no business telling anybody else to focus on the tension and stress they may or may not have in their body, not unless they are a medical practicioner the person is consulting about these issues.

      And that’s before you get into the issue of whether or not the people running this even know how to do it and whether their advice is in any way accurate.

    4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Considering how many people posted right at the top about how focusing on breathing makes them anxious — even when they aren’t normally anxious people I would say this is not an inocuous thing. If something causes anxiety, then its not a good.

      Also notice, Alison did not tell the person to overturn the whole thing. She gave her suggestions for how to deal with it because apparently it isn’t going to stop.

    5. Nightengale*

      This feels pretty invasive to me. Someone telling me how to breathe and how to think when I am there to get work done. I have no problem with being asked to sit quietly while those who want to do mindfullness participate in an activity like this. But it is a huge problem to foist on people who are there to get work done. Sure I can zone out and think about penguins, but then I am explicitly ignoring directions. They should not be giving those directions in the first place.

      I have not encountered this at work but have at a professional conference. It wasn’t that I thought the leader was focusing on my body – there were a few hundred people in the room – but that the leader thought it was OK to tell me what to do with my brain and body rather than my behavior.

      1. rollyex*

        It’s an invasive statement but it need not be invasive in practice if you just don’t do it.

        “Sure I can zone out and think about penguins, but then I am explicitly ignoring directions”

        Right. You can do that. Really you can. It’s like when my mom said “If your friend told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it?”

        “the leader thought it was OK to tell me what to do with my brain and body rather than my behavior.”

        You don’t have to obey them. Really, you don’t.

        Yes it’s bad what these people are asking. No, it need not be a big deal (other than the waste of time and morale) if you just fake it and don’t really do it.

        1. Nightengale*

          Sure, I have the option to just not do it just like I don’t have to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. But that doesn’t mean it’s an OK thing for them to ask of an employee and it’s perfectly reasonable for me to want to educate them on why telling employees to jump off the bridge is not a great idea in the workplace. So that hopefully over time they will learn to stop asking employees to jump off the bridge. Or do mindfulness.

  19. NZReb*

    LW4, one of many possibilities is that it could be about the other person, not you. As a manager, I sometimes tell Bob to email Jane about the teapot he’s working on, and cc me. And it’s not because I don’t trust Jane, it’s because I’m iffy about how good a job Bob’s doing, so it’s part of me keeping an eye on him.

    1. WS*

      +1, and it could also be about the manager. If the manager has a history of denying things they knew or said, the person sending the email may wish to make sure this doesn’t happen to them by putting it all in writing.

  20. Wearer of Red*

    #1 Of course, breathing exercises actually can help with tension, and the problem here is that they’re foisted on you against your will, which is going to cause tension. Since you feel tense as you sit there (I’d be the same – I’d feel restless and mutinous), would you find it useful to do your own breathing exercises – secretly following a pattern that isn’t theirs? Eg, what works for my own body is first just awareness, then gradually building up to a longer exhale than inhale. Exhaling causes a relaxation response for the nervous system, so breathing exercises that focus on a long exhale are the ones that can be helpful for tension. Whenever I’m in a class/session where a leader leads the timing and pattern of breathing, if it doesn’t feel right I switch to doing my own pattern.
    Anyway, a private breathing pattern might help with the tension and also allow you back control of your own body.

    1. allathian*

      It might, or it might not. I find focusing on my breathing, regardless of the rhythm, to be intensely unpleasant and not relaxing at all.

      I have low-level chronic pain that my doctors tell me would probably go away if I lost some weight. This may or may not be true, but I have too much going on in my life at the moment to even consider a lifestyle change that would let me lose weight permanently. (I’ve lost more than 15 percent of my body weight twice in my life, both times I gained it back quickly, with interest, and I’m not keen on trying again.) I also don’t want to have to take painkillers all the time, although I will do so for a more acute issue.

      My way of dealing with my chronic pain is to disassociate myself from my body as much as possible, so any mindfulness exercise that involves being more in touch with my body will be counterproductive. I can do tai chi, because then I’m focused on moving my body rather than inhabiting it.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        Sounds like we’re in a similar position. I also get BEC if anyone says ‘no how are you _really_’ because I’m absolutely not up for performing a physical audit – having to notice and feel everything that’s wrong today – so someone else can feel like they’ve cared.

        It seems like there’s as much misuse of mindfulness as there is of CBT anyway – I won’t respect any organisation imposing either one.


        /end rant/

      2. Cardboard Marmalade*

        This, exactly. There are so many reasons (disability, race, gender/orientation) why someone might have to spend their work day at least partially dissociated from a feeling of pain or unsafe-ness in their bodies just to function and get through the day, and it should be up to them how they manage that, on their own schedule, at times/places that feel safe and healthy for them.

        1. Wearer of Red*

          For the record, I wasn’t endorsing this thing that happens at the beginning of their meetings – I was suggesting something that might help if someone is stuck there. And I said “might” help. I firmly agree that this is likely to be a horrible experience for lots of people.

  21. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, I would honour the kind intention to relax, rather than the specific instruction, if you’re sure it’s coming from a good place. So think about whatever you want, rather than a body part, and if you want to keep your eyes open, or not wave your arms, or not sit a certain way, just go ahead and do that. If you get any queries or push back, just say “I’m going to just lower my eyes, as I find that the most restful way”, or “I’m going to rest my hands on my lap instead because I find that more soothing” or “that’s not comfortable so I’m just going to x”. I find these activities quite restful in yoga, but whenever I’ve come across them at work I suddenly feel really paranoid about closing my eyes; it’s not escaped me that it’s never a properly trained yoga teacher in that kind of situation. If you want to soft pedal into a big picture conversation, I would say: “I really appreciate the intention to relax at the start of meetings, is that the kind of thing you want feedback on as to the impact?” and see what kind of temperature the reception is to your having an opinion on what you do with your body.

  22. MJ*

    LW1 – I also work in the nonprofit sector and find that a lot of people there are absolute twerps about foisting ‘mindfulness’ on people. Some standouts include – getting people to take their shoes off to meditate in a tiny overheated room, and ‘relaxation’ sessions led by the very same manager who regularly bawled people out in front of their colleagues. There’s a real lack of understanding that you can’t wedge meaningful relaxation into a work environment. Just give people time off to meditate if it’s so important.

  23. BubbleTea*

    I feel actively tense and unsafe when directed to close my eyes in public, and certainly wouldn’t be able to relax or focus on my breath in this situation. I was in a training where the final part was something similar – a guided meditation with your eyes closed. Thankfully it was a remote training and the instructor told us to turn off our cameras so we could relax properly. I turned off my camera, muted the call, and went into the kitchen to do the washing up, so that I’d be able to relax more after work had finished. When I saw everyone else’s cameras coming back on, I returned and pretended I’d participated. Trickier to do in person though.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I’ve just left the room for these before – I had a college professor who was super into them and I thought her and I were going to come to blows over it because “quietly sit it out” was not acceptable to her. Definitely harder to do in person but not impossible if the person leading isn’t a jerk.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Not uncommon if the person in charge is REALLY on the mindfulness boat. This one in particular wanted my therapist’s phone number, so by far the worst end of the outliers. But negative reactions to sitting out are what people are worried about in these instances, for the most part.

      1. rollyex*

        I’ve left through room over something similar. I’ve left a Zoom meeting too. And I’ve just said “I’ll pass” and “I’ve got nothing to share” when asked to share something in sort of woo-woo session in a meeting.

  24. Marija*

    LW4 – it was very common to cc the supervisors of frontline staff at my previous org (a large not-for-profit) when we were asking them to do something. This was because frontline staff got so many requests that supervisors needed to be able to step in and tell people no. It was about supporting staff, not micromanaging them. It also had the benefit of supervisors being able to efficiently redirect requests when staff were on leave etc.

  25. Brad Pitt eating with Penguins*

    Wondering about the best topics for LW1 to think about – Alison suggests Brad Pitt, dinner, and penguins. I’d probably go with dinner (or lunch, or my next snack) or something mildly disruptive happening to the meeting leader making us meditate -like an abrupt, short term laryngitis. Any other suggestions for them?

    1. UKDancer*

      I make a shopping list in my head. Or sometimes I count in my head in Polish to practice numbers or name the items on my desk in Polish. That’s quite good for ignoring the speaker and improves my vocab.

    2. Gumby*

      There exists a video of Benedict Cumberbatch trying to say “penguin” that would be an appropriate meditative topic. Would also dispel tension. Would not necessarily result in quiet meditation.

  26. Cards Fan*

    Regarding LW #1, I’ll be in the car for 6 hours today. I suspect a bunch of that time will be spent wondering what IS wrong with Brad Pitt.

    1. Lucy P*

      Love the irony of how 25 years ago we were just day dreaming about this guy and now we’re psychoanalyzing him.

        1. Avery*

          I’m sure at least some part of his issues can be traced back to him being a celebrity that people kept fawning over. That’s not exactly healthy for one’s psyche.

  27. RVA Cat*

    LW1 – Even if it’s well-intentioned, the mindfulness exercise is not only woo but condescending. It reminds me of all the ways subordinates are expected to Perform Happiness for Our Benovent Overlords. It’s gross to me from the whole “men asking women to smile” angle and may have even more baggage for PoC.

  28. I should really pick a name*

    It feels like over the past year there have been significantly more questions to the effect of “I had this one weird/bad experience, is this the new normal?”

    I’m curious if there’s anything that’s happened that’s led to people to consider that possibility from a single data point.

    1. Myrin*

      I actually remember Alison mentioning this years ago already – I’m almost sure it was pre-pandemic, even – so it’s not really new. Back then, some commenters mused that it might be a rhetorical device more than anything (as in, people don’t know what question to ask exactly/how to end their letter/how to best express their confusion, so they default to “is this a new trend/normal?”) and I feel like there’s a lot to that.

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I suspect it’s the pandemic. Pretty much everything I do – work, recreation, home life, travel – has been affected in some way. Even when I’ve gone back to doing things the way I did Before, I still wonder if I should have so there’s an added level of anxiety.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah it’s definitely this. Social norms have changed a LOT, and the hiring space is incredibly different in a lot of industries. Not so much so that I think most people would be unable to navigate it without a heads up, but enough that I think when things strike a particularly discordant note one may wonder if they missed something.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      Without doing the research myself, I’m willing to bet that style of question has always been common here and is not, in fact, the new normal (of AAM questions).

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I saw it even before the pandemic.

      I think it’s a side effect of chasing fads and quick fixes. Nonsensical things come down the pike and the plebs in the trenches never know if it’s a one off, the new normal, or that the plot has been lost.

    5. Ama*

      With job searching questions in particular, because a lot of people go years between job searching it can feel like maybe you’ve missed a change in the standard practices.

  29. Diplomat*

    #2. At first, I thought this was just a quirky interview/interviewer. When I learned that they determined whether you moved forward based off that session, my second thought was….that wasn’t an interview. Meaning, it was an interview or paper, but not actuality. I’d be very curious if the position was miraculously filled by an internal candidate given that some companies require external interviews before promoting someone internally. That’s the vibes this gave.

    1. OP2*

      It’s a smaller organization so not entirely sure if it was internal or someone else who just nailed the interview better than I did. Glad I’m not alone in thinking it was … weird.

  30. Rachel*

    I think concepts move in cycles and right now mindfulness is very popular. My kids have mindfulness workbooks at school.

    One thing that has helped me is to look at all self help/suggestions as a menu. You don’t have to order the whole menu, you just order the food you like or want to try. What other people at the table order is their business.

    This is like an appetizer ordered for the table that you don’t like. Simply do not eat it, there is no reason to say other people were wrong to order it.

    Like nearly every thing else, I suspect this will cycle out in short order, it’s not worth capital to raise it, and I agree with your instincts and Alison’s advice to simply think of other things.

  31. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1, the only people who will know that you have your eyes open are the other people who don’t want to do this.

    1. EA*

      Apparently I’m in the minority, but I don’t think the mindfulness stuff is invasive. It’s pretty typical in nonprofit circles. What would bother me most is the time wasted if done at every meeting! I think it’s an org culture mismatch more than anything; kind of akin to people disliking alcohol at the workplace at a startup, or companies that do lots of retreats. That’s their priority and you can certainly dislike it, but there isn’t anything objectively “wrong” and therefore harder to push back if the whole org culture revolves around it.

      A lot of nonprofit trainings include an “evaluation” of some sort at the end. You might be able to get in feedback there. I’d also say bringing up something like, “I know this is different than how others feel, but the mindfulness exercises actually make me more stressed. Is there any way to make these optional in staff meetings?” in a 1 on 1 with your manager could work.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “It’s pretty typical in nonprofit circles.”

        Twelve years in nonprofits I have to disagree with you there

        1. Observer*

          Twelve years in nonprofits I have to disagree with you there

          Yeah, more than that for me. And no, this is not typical. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in any well run place that I’ve encountered.

      2. Observer*

        but I don’t think the mindfulness stuff is invasive. It’s pretty typical in nonprofit circles.

        That’s a total non-sequitur. Something being common doesn’t make it non-invasive or appropriate. To take one well known example, expecting teachers to pay for supplies in their classrooms is common. That doesn’t make it appropriate.

        Mandating specific mental / emotional health behaviors without the request and active consent of the person being required to perform *is* ~~Inherently~~ invasive. Multiple times over when it’s in public.

        kind of akin to people disliking alcohol at the workplace at a startup, or companies that do lots of retreats. That’s their priority and you can certainly dislike it, but there isn’t anything objectively “wrong” and therefore harder to push back if the whole org culture revolves around it.

        If people are *instructed* to drink alcohol at a work function, that actually *is* objectively wrong. It’s one thing to allow it, and even to provide it. To try to require it? Nope to the nth degree.

      3. Nightengale*

        The fact that it’s popping up in nonprofits doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem, that means the problem is popping up in a lot of places. I haven’t encountered it at work but have at a professional conference (I am in health care) and it felt really invasive for the leader to be telling me how to breathe and how to think. Sure I could have ignored it but why cause me to experience that cognitive dissonance that could have been eliminated by making it optional.

        I did complain in the evaluations and haven’t seen it since although I don’t know if that is just because it was the pet thing of the then-president rather than people complaining.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        I think how typical it is and how invasive it is are two different topics though. Something could be used in every single business in the world and still be invasive and overstepping or something could be very uncommon and yet be completely appropriate.

        I think there are a number of problems here, particularly the idea that an employer is both qualified to and should be giving health advice. To me, stuff like this seems to be turning workplaces into sort of schools (and honestly, I’d debate whether some of this should be done at school either because teachers aren’t mental health experts either and I would argue some are sharing incorrect and even harmful advice) and adults are likely to know far more about their own needs than their boss is, so…it’s going to be pointless at best (if it’s stuff that’s so obvious everybody already knows it) or harmful at worst (if it is something more difficult where the company is likely to be wrong).

        I’ve sat through a couple of advice sessions on things like mental health where I was mentally thinking, “incorrect…actually that’s been debunked,” etc and I’m no expert.

        But even if it is being done correctly by somebody who knows what they are talking about, it still introduces an element to the workplace that I consider problematic, an idea that the boss or the company are sort of “in loco parentis,” there to teach you about what is “good for you”. There is some logic to doing this at school (though as I said, I think it can be problematic there too) both because children presumably don’t know as much as adults and because they may not have access to actual professionals, whereas adults are likely to know more about anything that pertains to them than the boss, so what is the point? And they are likely to be able to access information themselves. If an adult wants to try mindfulness, they can do it. Without forcing it on those who don’t.

        Offering meditation (or alcohol) is cool. Coming in and instructing people on meditation is another matter and would be more akin to somebody coming in and telling people how much they should drink.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      When I ran into this in college I got in trouble because the professor leading them had her eyes open to make sure people were participating, so YMMV a little but this is probably where I’d start.

  32. A person*

    #1: I’ve worked places that required morning stretches for safety reasons (manufacturing type jobs). I never liked it because I hated being watched while doing something like that. Eventually I sorta just got used to it and realized no one else looked any more coordinated or engaged in the activity than I did and no one cared, so it was fine. It’s a little different than your situation because yours is much more of a weird optional sorta thing not something for your safety. But I don’t think it’s worth the capital to fight it.

  33. Fellow Canadian*

    LW1 did not mention this in their letter, so this could be me reading too much into things. However, it feels like “wellness” and “mindfulness” get thrown around a lot as ways for organizations to say they care about employee mental health without actually doing the things that would improve employee mental health (more money, less of a need for emotional investment at a regular frequency, hire more people so less overtime is needed etc). I feel this is especially common in the not-for-profit sector, where wages are low and emotional demands of employees are high.

    If I were LW1, I’d probably be more annoyed for that reason than out of concern that the company was thinking too much about my body.

  34. Bast*

    As a manager, I have had to tell people to STOP cc’ing me in emails that have nothing to do with me and do not need intervention. If there is an actual problem and/or if you need me to address something, fine, but for a standard run of the mill email all it does is eat up time, particularly as I work in a field where one person can send many, MANY emails a day. I do not need to read every single one. I especially do not need to waste time opening all of the “okay” and “thank you” type emails that spam my box when people do this. I find it quite distracting.

    1. Observer*

      As a manager, I have had to tell people to STOP cc’ing me in emails that have nothing to do with me and do not need intervention.

      Yes, if the LW feels like this is just bogging down their manager, that’s one scenario where they could speak up. And Allison provides perfect language for that.

  35. Peanut Hamper*

    LW #1: This is weird and invasive.

    Could you just say that you have trouble doing this around other people and say that you’ll spend the first few minutes of the meeting doing this on your own at your desk, and you’ll join them when it’s finished? They might be willing to accept that. It will appear to them that you are working on your mindfulness and you can just google pictures of penguins until it’s over.

  36. infopubs*

    #2 – Bad Interviewer
    This would really push my buttons. I’d be tempted to respond, “Oh, I prefer the conventional way where you ask me questions, so let’s go with that method.” and then just sit there waiting. Why should I do her job? Harumph.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Right? “Well, if I’m in charge of the interview, then I’m just gonna jump straight to the part where I’m hired.”

    2. Army of Dorkness*

      I had one of these “YOU ask the questions” interview earlier this year. I was a little bit confused about this format, as it was new to me, so I asked to recruiter to explain what the objective was. The recruiter explained that this was the hiring manager’s way of assessing my technical expertise. That said, I ended up structuring my answers this way:
(1) “How would I describe my llama grooming process? My llama grooming process starts with …”;
(2) “How would I structure a llama grooming station and who would be my collaborators in a cross-functional team?”; (3) “If a situation like X arises how would I handle such a scenario?”

      Once I understood the goals and the types of information the hiring manager was trying to elicit, it became easier to come up with questions that would shed more light into how I handle llamas, who evidently needed much grooming in this role.

  37. Single Parent Barbie*

    OP #4 I don’t disagree with the other commenters, but want to bring a different perspective. I don’t CC my boss on everything, but I recently started a new job and it is an easy way for him to know my status on things.

    But I also recognize I developed some serious trust issues from early jobs that it took me a while to work through. Not everyone is going to stab you in the back, but it only takes one bad experience to feel otherwise. It might not have anything to do with you but with the sender.

    On some topics, I have had bosses ask me to send stuff on their behalf or at their behest and I cc them on it because its really just for them.

  38. HailRobonia*

    #1 reminds me of a sketch from the old Tracy Ullman show in which she played a high-level stressed-out executive who, along with another stressed colleague, were sent to a relaxation seminar/workshop that included all sorts of breathing, meditation, yoga, etc.

    At the end of it the colleague said something like “that was so great, I feel calm and serene!” While Tracy Ullman’s character said “I feel more stressed out before…all that%#*^(@% pressure of having to show how relaxed and calm I am and to show I’m the best at de-stressing…”

  39. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP1: your bosses are not actually kind people. They have a dogmatic idea that ‘tension’ is the root of all evils, and that breathing and visualization are the only ways to resolve tension. Regardless of any actual empirical data — like the thoughts and worries that you describe.

    1. EA*

      ….or they just think that the mindfulness exercises are helpful? How would you know that they think tension is the root of all evils? This is a strange story to draw out of what the OP said.

  40. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #1 is your nonprofit related to mental health or are the people doing the meeting therapists? I work with therapists and occasionally we do activities like this. But its only been like once or twice a year. Never at every meeting. Also, on a personal note I hate those breath exercises because I have asthma and can never breathe as deeply as they want you to do. And it annoys me because I’m out of sync with everyone.

  41. HonorBox*

    OP2 – I think this is really an odd situation and would rub me wrong. That said, I’d take the opportunity to steer the interview in the direction I wanted to go. You’d have the chance to talk about the things you’d like to talk about and highlight things about yourself that you think are important to the role. That’s what you’d want in an interview anyway and you can do that in a situation like this without it seeming like you’re taking the interview over. I think the way it was presented is weird and probably started things out oddly, but if that situation comes up at any point in the future, the canvas is yours. You could ask pointed questions and weave some of your personal narrative into the conversation more easily.

  42. MuseumChick*

    OP4: I’m still recovering from a terrible manager I had YEARS ago who was a micromanager, gave contradictory and unclear direction, and who had the most selective (convenient) memory. To this day I will CC my current boss and give deep, detailed information on all my projects when neither of those needed. There could be a million reasons people are CCing your manger on these emails. I’d let it go.

    1. Avery*

      Oh, this one resonates with me. CCing supervisors is already pretty standard in my workplace’s culture, but my habit of asking my boss whether I should go ahead and proceed with what seems like the obvious next step can be traced back to the former boss who actually required such requests every time.
      Actually, everything had to be run by her first. Including every email I sent.
      And then she’d go out of town for a week or two and wonder why I hadn’t done anything in the meantime…
      Thankfully my current boss is much more reasonable, to the point where I wonder whether such questions might be annoying him, or showing an unfortunate lack of initiative on my part. But old habits die hard…

  43. Lacey*

    LW4: It’s possible that their manager requested the CC.

    I’ve had several managers who will occasionally asked to be CC’ed on totally normal interactions for no apparent reason. They must have one, but they don’t explain it to be or the person getting the email.

    I’ve also had a super micro-manager in an org otherwise known for being quite hands off – so I know I must have been annoying the snot out of everyone, but she really did request that I CC her on everything – despite the fact that she never made it through all her emails in any given week.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      He has both a drinking problem and an anger management problem. That’s what’s wrong with Brad Pitt.

  44. Gigi*

    “Use it to ponder what’s wrong with Brad Pitt” blahahahahahahaha! I love you Alison and I will 100% be doing this for the foreseeable future.

  45. Silverose*

    #4 could have been written by a coworker of mine. My company does not always CC management on emails between staff…we typically only start doing so when there has been miscommunication between staff that caused issues. I have a coworker that I always CC management now because so many things when I first started became a he said/she said and no I didn’t/yes you did argument. Then there were also complaints on both sides about inappropriate tone in emails. I forwarded my emails to my supervisor at that time and despite being told I didn’t say anything wrong I still got counseled about tone just so my supervisor could tell her supervisor that everyone was working to improve communication. Now, any written communication to that coworker (and I try to do all communication with that coworker in writing when possible) also gets management on both sides included for full transparency so there are no more arguments about what happened.

  46. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

    For OP #1, I think the only thing I’d want to know is: what does your nonprofit do?

    Because if this is related to any of the goals of the org, you’ll need to play along as much as possible.

  47. Brian*


    We obviously don’t know the full situation here, but I’d also important to remember that different countries have different corporate norms. I work at a US branch for a Japanese company, and the expats here CC managers on *every* email because that is the expectation for their corporate culture. It bothered me at first, since I would typically only do that if there was an issue that needed to be escalated, but have learned to not assume intent without evidence.

  48. Mr. Me*

    #1. participate in a professional organization related to an aspect of the nonprofit sector and there is SO MUCH OF THIS. I hate it. And I meditate and try to practice mindfulness. to me if feels like making people pray before a meeting – something that is totally fine to do on your own, but not great to do in a group. And also – we are at this meeting to talk about reading financial reports or some other practical aspect of our jobs – I don’t need a mindfulness exercise. I don’t need to get centered.

  49. Throwaway Account*

    To OP#1: was a certified Yoga teacher and one important thing we learned is that not every pose is for every person! If you are not “trained” to be ready for a pose or breath work (especially breathing exercises!), then it will cause you harm, stress, etc.

    I don’t know if that helps you but if you can find a thing to do that does help you tune out what they are doing so that you are not stressed, I’m suggesting you tell them that your yoga teacher (me) told you doing the thing you want is what you need to do and the other stuff they are doing is not healthy for you.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      To follow your analogy, I don’t think finding the right pose is the answer when someone wasn’t looking to do yoga in the first place.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think finding the right pose is the answer when someone wasn’t looking to do yoga in the first place

        Sure. But sometimes the question is not “what is the objectively correct thing to do?” But “what can I do to keep this from harming me?” And when someone is insisting on Yoga, you may have to settle on a non-harmful pose if you can’t get out of yoga altogether.

        That’s often true regardless of the problem. That’s something that comes up a lot on this site. Allison will give an answer that she thinks will provide the best outcome for a given LW and their situation and people will often pop up and say things like “How could you give such advice. The boss is WRONG and the LW should not have to do X!” And while those people are correct about the boss and situation they overlook that for the moment, the LW is stuck.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Yes, but Ask a Manager’s answer amounts to “pretend to participate”, while this suggestion is more along the lines of still actively participating.

          1. Throwaway Account*

            I was not saying actively participate, I was offering a way to fake participating while appearing to participate. AND to tell the person insisting on it that those “poses” harm them AND that this pose (head down on the desk, sitting quietly, whatever) is what achieves the same goal.

      2. Throwaway Account*

        Right, but if they have to sit through it, I wanted to give them “permission” to not do the poses and do x thing that they can stand to do.

  50. Deborah*

    LW1, my company decided to do a WHOLE WORK RETREAT on mindfulness. The first day we were supposed to arrive at the destination after dinner and do a 2 hour session, but we were saved by traffic. The second day we were supposed to do two 3 hour sessions during the day and one more 2 hour session after dinner (and meals were supposed to be silent and mindful.) But they wound up cancelling the after dinner session due to mass mutiny. And the last day they had one more 3 hour session also cut short.

    To be fair, I think the workshop people did not have great communication with the company retreat planners — I think our planner was expecting a variety of mindfulness techniques, like yoga, tai chi, etc — but instead these workshop people were into sitting meditation and walking meditation. That’s it.

    I dealt with it by coming to the start of each session, just to see if it was really more of the same, and then bailing out the back. But I’ve been with the company a long time and had social capital to burn.

  51. Whyamihere*

    For #4 we have a new VP and a co worker who wants to advance keeps cc’ing her on emails to look good, but the first action the VP put in was not cc’ing her on everything. We told her once to stop but it is her choice and it is her career track not mine.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Well, that puts the advice upthread to “Lie back and think of penguins” in a whole new light.

  52. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    1. It’s damned annoying when the workplace tries to act like your therapist. I’m sure they’ve got the best of intentions but literally anything connected to a form of meditation carries risks.

    I’ve encountered every fad in management over the years – guided visualisation, yoga, tai chi, releasing stress in the muscles, bodily awareness – and I’ve never done any of them. Because they make me worse.

    This is where my phone comes in real handy. Kindle application, my favourite quotes from Star Trek book and there we go. I’ll sit and read the wise words of Cpt Picard while my coworkers are doing whatever the latest fad is.

    If I get pushback I just say ‘this is how I relax’.

  53. Ssssssssssssssssss*

    Mindfulness exercises at the opening of large group meetings was a big part of my department’s culture. I know for a fact one of the members of this team hated hated hated these things and openly said so.

    It would take a lot to change that part of the culture of that team as some of them think it’s just great. Mindfulness is not a bad thing of itself; but as an icebreaker or a way to “get us all focused on what we’re here to do this week” it’s not the best tool.

    I’m quite certain the person who hated it was thinking of penguins.

  54. slashgirl*

    Re: mindfulness/breathing. At one of my elementary schools, the principal always starts the morning announcements (which are maybe 3-4 minutes long, including the national anthem) with what could be considered “mindfulness”–she asks students to sit at their desks, feet on the floor, hands on their desk, and to take a couple deep breaths so they’re settled and ready to listen.

    What gets me is that when she demos “taking a couple deep breaths” she does it by panting. They are NOT deep breaths and make her sounded winded. I kinda cringe/laugh when she does it, thankfully she only does it once in a great while.

    Honestly, I don’t know if it helps the kids listen or not.

  55. Local Garbage Committee*

    Re LW #1, I feel like I’ve encountered focus on somatic practices in the context of anti-racist work in organizations I’ve been involved with. No clue if that’s what is going on here, and it would probably be best with context, but sharing as a counterpoint to the ‘this is an overstep’ perspective. (FWIW I also struggle with breathing exercises, I focus on the sound of something else – air from a vent, other background noise, and that helps for me)

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Could you perhaps describe why you didn’t feel like it was an overstep where you encountered it?

      1. Local Garbage Committee*

        I mean, it hasn’t REALLY ever been mandatory in my experience (like no out given but also no consequence for not participating), so no I don’t think being asked to do something is really an overstep. It’s something that people find helpful, I’m just not one of them?

    2. Observer*

      but sharing as a counterpoint to the ‘this is an overstep’ perspective.

      Except that it’s not a counterpoint. I’m not convinced that somatic practices are actually a good idea even in the context of anti-racist work. Just because something (anti-racist work) is good, does not mean that every method and practice someone tries on it (somatic practice) is appropriate in every context.

      Stuff like somatic practice simply cannot be mandated in a workplace for everyone in the meeting. And they also absolutely cannot be orchestrated by untrained managers (who have apparently learned just enough to be dangerous.) Somatic practice is a therapeutic modality that, like any therapy, is not universally applicable to all people. And sometimes, even when they are appropriate they don’t work in a way that makes them at all appropriate in group setting – even for people who have *chosen* to be part of the work.

      Given the lack of consent here, it’s insane.

      And that’s assuming that this is actually somatic practice rather than someone’s version of breathworks of various types.

      1. Local Garbage Committee*

        I guess I’ve never been in a situation where it’s mandated, like my employer would know I was thinking about my to do list and not about my breath. I do agree that would be an overstep.

        1. Local Garbage Committee*

          and FWIW I didn’t say that I thought it was a good idea (I don’t really) but that that is the context where I have seen it come up! Truly sorry for mentioning it!

  56. el l*

    I find it very annoying. But I let it go.

    Because for many office cultures and many workers, that’s just how it’s done: CC the boss on everything. It’s conditioned, unthinking behavior. Not a reflection on me.

  57. Dev_Advo*

    LW #4 – I totally understand why this is annoying and honestly when it happens to me it tends to rub me the wrong way. That said I have worked in office cultures where when making an internal request you would cc the persons manager so that they are aware that you are getting something added to your plate. I agree that egregiously doing it or giving extensive feedback while cc’ing a manager is incredibly annoying.

  58. e271828*

    LW4, if your coworkers are cc’ing managers on emails to you, this is on your coworkers and the managers to sort out, not you.

    I am not sure why you are taking offense, nor why Alison suggested that you helpfully manage “Cordelia’s” inbox for her! If the managers don’t want the cc’s, they will say so.

    Unless you have information not included here, you do not know whether the managers have requested this, or whether the coworkers have requested it, or anything else, except that you are having feelings and are annoyed by it, and your reaction is yours to manage, not your coworkers’ or managers’.

  59. Don't Live to Work*

    #3: In my case, copies of messages to my manager usually have nothing to do with who I’m sending the message to. My manager is hands-off, does not hold one-on-one meetings, and I use these copies to let them know what I am doing since they do not seem to care much. I don’t want them to ever be blindsided by something or think I’m not working since I’m 100% remote. Please don’t think someone of copying the manager as being a reflection on you, unless of course you have been non-responsive to prior messages.

  60. Sally Rhubarb*

    #1 makes me think of that IT Crowd episode where Denholm has that stress test machine and says anyone who is stressed out will get fired.

  61. HTS*

    #1 – SOLIDARITY. I have enough seniority now that I have in fact spoken up, and gotten the practice changed. For folks who want to participate in “somatic grounding exercises” or “mindfullness minutes” or whatever – fine. But I have made it clear that (a) I won’t and (b) they can’t make me and (c) I am uncomfortable being asked.

    When we have trainings or EDI meetings or things that are highly likely to start with exercises like that, we start 5 mintues early for those who would like a centering moment before the meeting starts.

    I had a big discussion about it with our last anti-racism training facilitator. We had a productive and lovely conversation about it. I was up front in advance that I would not be a jerk about it in a meeting, or make any comments or behave inappropriately, but that leading with such exercises would make me less comfortable / less willing to share / less productive in the meeting. She ended up adapting her practic a bit in a way that accomodated a lot more ways of being in the world.

    There are other ways to start on common ground.

    I promise I’m not a jerk about it, but it is really not for me.

  62. Kristin*

    OP #2 – Would they let you hire yourself, too? ;) Give yourself pay raises? Approve your own vacations? I would be so tempted to ask!

  63. SB*

    LW4 – I have zero respect for any adult who CCs a manager unless it was a specific request from the manager. If you need to escalate something, you email the manager privately, explain the situation, & leave it with them to manage. The CC function used in OPs story is manipulative & childish.

  64. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    #2 and #3 make me think Alison needs to start a Worst Interviewer of the Year along with worst boss. Awful.

  65. Semi-retired admin*

    LW #4, while I do see your side, here’s another perspective. In my former job, I had many, many people outside of my direct team who needed things from me. Multiple requests for data, reports, etc., all with deadlines. I felt like my boss had no idea how much demand was put on my time because they simply didn’t know about these (entirely legitimate) requests. I just did what was asked and moved on. I really felt like it would be good for my manager to know about them, though.

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