I manage my sister, and she overshares about her breaks and sick time

A reader writes:

I’m hoping you can help me with this conundrum. This situation is complicated by the fact that this is a family business, and all employees are my relatives and/or their romantic partners, but we have virtual assistant team members (independent contractors or third party services) who are party to these conversations.

Background: I’m the main operator, but not the owner, of our family business, which leans more informal than most workplaces. We have some on-site operations, but significant “back office” admin occurs virtually. It’s my responsibility to set the tone and culture, and I believe I should change some things. One problem is my younger sister, Amanda, overshares about breaks and sick time in the primary team communication channel. I think it creates a problematic impression for everyone, but especially for our virtual team who aren’t family members.

For example, when taking breaks, Amanda doesn’t say, “I’m taking my 15 minute break, back soon.” She includes details like “I’m walking my dog, be back after feeding him lunch.” Or when taking personal time: “I’m taking my dog to the vet for throwing up, might have to get his stomach pumped, wish me luck it’s nothing serious.” She also has intermittent chronic illness that the family all agreed means she can be flexible with her work hours, but she overshares this to the team also. Instead of saying “taking a sick day” or “out on sick time for a few hours,” she provides excessive details like “Have a major migraine, must go lay down for a while, don’t know when I’ll be back or if I can make the weekly team meeting,” or “My stomach is really bothering me, stuck in the restroom, please don’t contact me unless it’s an emergency.” Similarly she overshares her doctors’ visits, such as “Leaving for my appointment with my gastroenterologist, if the tests they run hurt too bad I might not be back online today.”

Her role is functionally entry-level, but she’s not a recent college graduate. She’s in her early 30s.

Oversharing about her dog, doctors, and symptoms happens nearly every day. Symptom-related sick time overshares occur two to three times per week, and she has one to three doctor appointments per month. Over time, this creates a broad impression that she is constantly taking frivolous breaks or what feels like an unusual amount of sick time, both in general and compared to other employees and team members. Family members have commented as much and, although no virtual team members have explicitly said so, I suspect they also feel this way. I’m concerned about the impact on company culture and morale. She’s privately told me and other family members that previously, both corporate and mom-and-pop employers have punished her when she clocks in late or needs to take sick time due to her symptoms or have been unsupportive of her needs for medical appointments.

From an operating perspective, our solution has been to give her flexibility for start times, end times, and breaks, and not assign her projects or tasks that require specific hours. For example, she doesn’t open or close the office or answer phone calls, but she does set up and updates customers in our CRM, process submitted applications within 24 hours, create and schedule invoices, pay bills, collect and label receipts from purchases, review security footage, initially categorize expenses for our bookkeeper, etc. These tasks largely don’t have an difference if they’re completed at 9 am, noon, or 3 pm, as long as a backlog doesn’t build up. She works 35-40 hours a week, and quality of those tasks isn’t a concern.

Can you provide some guidance about how to approach this conversation? She‘s previously been upset and resistant to feedback that she perceives is critical of her chronic illness, both from family and from previous employers. Her actual taking of breaks is within the guidelines we agreed upon, but the nature of if and how she shares with the team needs to change. I don’t think she’s aware of the impression this creates. She’s also expressed interest in raises and moving up into a position of higher responsibility, and I want to be clear about what would need to change for that to happen without coming across as judgmental or unsupportive of her medical needs.

It sounds like she’s talking to you as family rather than as colleagues … because you are in fact family.

This can be a hard boundary to draw in businesses where nearly everyone is family (and especially where those who aren’t are remote).

But that doesn’t mean you can’t address it!

I’d frame it as, “When you’re out sick or for a break or an appointment, we don’t need to know any details — only that you’re out and when you expect to be back. I want you to stop including details beyond that, because it creates the impression that we expect people to justify their time away. I don’t want other people to feel pressure to provide personal details about their own time away. We’re happy with your schedule and your work, and we trust you to manage your time well. Going forward, please just announce you’ll be out for X amount of time, no reason needed.”

Also, does she need to alert you to 15-minute breaks at all? Ideally you’d tell her that she doesn’t need to alert anyone to those dog-walking breaks at all (just like you presumably wouldn’t expect people to message “I’m going to zone out for 15 minutes”). If she truly needs to keep people that updated on her availability, that’s different — but based on the work you describe her doing, she doesn’t need to. Again, you trust her to manage her own schedule and get her work done. She doesn’t need to provide a minute-by-minute narration.

If framing it as “this is sending problematic signals to others about what’s expected of them” doesn’t work, then you could say, “As the business is growing, we need to professionalize the way we operate. Nothing needs to change about your schedule. The system we came up with for breaks and time off is working well. However, I want you to move from sharing details about why you’ll be out (like taking care of your dog or the details of an illness) and just say that you’ll be out and when you’ll be back. That’s what we’d ask of non-family employees, and I want to move us in that direction now.”

You could say, “Sharing this level of detail is making people feel like you’re constantly away, whereas they wouldn’t notice it at all if you gave less info. And some of it’s an overshare that people prefer not to hear, like details about GI symptoms.” But since she’s previously been upset and resistant to feedback that she perceives as connected to her health, just go with the more business-focused reasons above. Those aren’t about her; they’re about the business and what it needs, and you’re on solid ground taking a firm stance.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. CityMouse*

    This seems like pretty typical sister talk. my sister texts me when she’s taking her dog to the vet and we neither work together nor live in thr same state.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yeah, I wonder if the letter-writer could use the suggested scripts with an “as the business operator,” and then add on “as your sibling, of course I care your dog and your health and you can always share those details with me by text” (or whatever the letter-writer’s preferred method of personal communication is). Of course, this only applies if the letter-writer does want all of the details the sister is currently sharing in the work communication channel.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Bingo. Whenever my sister goes home, I get hundreds of texts like this and updates on people we know.

    3. ZH*

      I wonder if part of this is that she’s treating these comms like a family group chat (where ‘ugh, migraine’ is pretty normal). Maybe something explicit about the non-family observers would make it clearer why this is a problem? “I totally get wanting us to know about your life, because we care about it, but this is a much narrower channel–if you want us to know details, just text”?

      1. wordswords*

        Yeah, that was my thinking. It sounds like she’s thinking of this as updating her family members about what’s going on in her day and whether she might not be back for X thing — because she is! — and not thinking about the fact that she’s also sharing those details with non-family employees in a work context — which she also is.

        Is there a way to make a separate family-only group channel as part of whatever work chat set-up you’ve got going? That way, she can update family members about her migraines to whatever extent she feels warranted, and you can make it much more clearly about the business side of things when you ask that she keep the updates to the wider chat of coworkers much more to the “stepping away from my desk, should be back around X:00!” level of detail. That’ll also let you express sympathy as her sister without creating the impression that this is a work culture where all employees are expected to share details of their sick days, familial levels of sympathy about a headache, etc.

        It’ll take a bit of monitoring to make sure the family channel doesn’t end up becoming the venue for work stuff that other people should be looped in on, but that’s a risk with a family business anyway, and presumably something you’re already attuned to in other arenas.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. I worked with people who I knew socially and we had strict “professional interactions” and “social interactions.” If the company is growing, it’s a good time to bring it up in general. Not everyone is close, is family, or needs to know that a colleague was in the bathroom. I think two channels and a reminder now and then on proper use would be good. Also, as the company grows, this kind of thing doesn’t look great to people who may have things going on in their own lives but not feel like they can breeze off for an afternoon to handle it. Remind her that while the family may have an agreement, she needs to handle the optics better.

            1. Non-techy tech editor*

              This. My grand boss also happens to be a good friend. He’s seen me drunk, hungover, and everything in between. However, work time and work channels are strictly professional.

        1. Allonge*

          It’ll take a bit of monitoring to make sure the family channel doesn’t end up becoming the venue for work stuff that other people should be looped in on,

          For this too, it might help to have completely separate apps: e.g. Slack for work and text/Whatsapp etc for family.

      2. Annony*

        Yeah. I think OP should make it clear that if she want to talk about personal things like pets and health she still can, just not through business channels.

      3. Migraines are a serious health problem*

        I wonder if sister is putting this info here because she is being judged by her family / colleagues as taking frivilous time off. OP needs to shut down that ableist characterization: sister hs a disabilty and can do the job with reasonable accomodations. If sister is respected and believed, you can readily redirect the (potential, borderline) oversharing by assuring her of this. The info is likely an attempt to justify herself because she has been and continues to be judged for her disability.

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

      I think the problem is she’s not just texting her sister. I don’t think the OP would have a problem if it was just her. But it sounds like its the open channel, so people who are employees and not family see this.

      1. Dexter Narcisse*

        Can your sister imagine her own situation, but she’s one of the non-family remote workers? So she has all the same pain and challenges, but without the benefit of her sister giving her the thumbs up to have a lie down whenever she needs it? And on top of that, she has to hear about it every time another coworker with the same condition gets special treatment, just because she’s family? If your sister wouldn’t enjoy that situation, maybe she’ll be better able to understand where you’re coming from!

    5. ostentia*

      Typical sister talk doesn’t belong in a work communication channel, though, even if it is a family business. She’s not privately texting her sister, she’s sharing this with every employee at this company.

      1. Jellybeans*

        It doesn’t sound like the “family business” has any employees who aren’t family; the OP mentioned freelance contractors/virtual assistants, but all actual employees are family.

        I’d be interested to learn the number of non-relatives on the group chat, and whether it actually bothers them or if LW is projecting her own discomfort onto them.

        Generally when people accept a freelance contractor gig with an entirely family-run small business, they accept that the family will communicate more informally than a regular business

        1. fidget spinner*

          But it sounds like the independent contractors are also privy to the oversharing.

          As independent contractors, they aren’t getting paid if they don’t work and probably don’t even have insurance. Imagine having to power through sickness to make some money but your boss’s sister is telling you in detail how she’s going to go lie down because she’s sick….

    6. T.N.H*

      A lot of this is within the realm of work talk as well. I tell my team if I have to take my dog to the vet unexpectedly. Multiple times per week is strange though.

      1. Allonge*

        The frequency is as much of an issue as the content, I agree. Indivdiually there may not be anythign terribly wrong with the messages OP quotes, but if these come once a day, more or less, it’s way too much for work.

      2. Chris too*

        I’m glad to hear this – I was thinking I would mention a sick pet too. The level of detail about her personal illnesses etc would seem a bit odd to me to be sharing at work but mentions of one’s pets seems normal. We talk about that kind of thing at work.

        I was worrying I was odd.

        1. Boof*

          I think it depends a lot on the context?
          Mentioning it at a big group meeting about a project would be weird, especially if no one else is chatting about personal stuff. Mentioning it to a few colleagues while you are making a little smalltalk waiting for x or y or other chit chat, totally normal.

        2. Jaydee*

          I think the difference is telling a select few people who might need or want to know the information (your supervisor, the coworker that covers for you when you’re out, your work bestie who you share pet pics and stories with) versus posting it in an all-staff Slack channel. It’s not that it’s wrong to talk about your pets at work, it’s that the frequency, context and audience all matter.

        3. Yorick*

          I might say I was taking the pet to the vet but I wouldn’t describe their symptoms and all that.

        4. Emma*

          Thank goodness I didn’t have to scroll too far to find people with the same outlook – I think sharing the nature of an illness to the extent she is doing it isn’t oversharing (if she was describing an IBS flare in graphic detail that’d be a different matter) but in my current job it’s more of a red flag if people call out vague than call out sick and say in the general terms what’s up with them, for example “Sciatica Flare, WFH today” or “Got no voice and a high temperature, need a duvet and lemsip day”. It helps managers book in the right kind of leave and identify possible accommodations or support if someone is having to call out repeatedly with a health issue, but it’s not required, it’s just how we communicate.
          That said I did once, in a previous job, have to conduct a return to work meeting with an employee who had called in with food poisoning, then followed up in the meeting with “alcohol is a food” – turned out they had had a massive hangover from drinking on a school night…

      3. fidget spinner*

        The sick dog seems pretty normal. Telling your coworkers you’re “stuck in the restroom” is very much not!

    7. fidget spinner*

      I thought she was also saying these things to the remote independent contractors/non-family members, though? Did I read this wrong, because no one else (including Alison) seems to think this!

  2. Yeah...*

    Alison’s last paragraph is something I wish I could say to my co-worker who doesn’t like that she’s perceive as not working (enough) in our hybrid work situation.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Is it something you can share with her to discuss with her manager? “Hey, I read in a work advice column that people given flexibility with chronic conditions might be better served by minimizing out of office notices for under an hour or under half an hour. It’s less distracting if people assume I’m getting a cup of coffee at 3:15 and try again at 3:30 over “oh, she’s out, so it’s a 15 minute thing, but this, that and the other, is she gone for the day?” or even just “gone again, ugh.”

      1. Yeah...*

        It would be a discussion with my co-worker (not our supervisor). She has not been receptive to the idea she should share a little less. The culture of our workplace is if you are gone for a few hours you don’t have to say why. But if you provide a reason, you’re reason is not good enough. Toxic, I know.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I tell my employees, who are often entry-level and less experienced with workplace norms, that they don’t need to mention that they’re away if it’s an hour or less, which is the standard amount of time for a long meeting. It’s expected that people will be unavailable for up to an hour at a time due to meetings, so it’s not useful to know that they’ll be unavailable for that amount of time but for a different reason. Of course I always explain the exceptions, such as if they’re missing an important meeting or otherwise might be expected to be available at that time.

        Over the years of managing new and entry-level employees, I’ve been reminded of all the things that people don’t know until they learn them. I try to be as clear as possible up front.

  3. Problem!*

    Is this the only job she’s ever had or has she worked elsewhere previously?

    I ask because I’ve managed a few employees like her and most of them came from toxic micromanagers who by default assumed anyone taking a break or sick leave was lying about it, so they learned to be overly detailed and graphic about why exactly they needed to step away.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Sounds like the sister has had similarly bad past employers:

      She’s privately told me and other family members that previously, both corporate and mom-and-pop employers have punished her when she clocks in late or needs to take sick time due to her symptoms or have been unsupportive of her needs for medical appointments.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This is a good opening for OP.
        “You’ve said previous employers did X, Y and Z. We don’t do that. We don’t want to do that. We don’t want you to think we’d do that. We do not want staff who is not family to think we do that. Please help us recalibrate and create a flexible, welcoming environment for everyone by modeling the way you’d want to be treated.”

        1. Verity Kindle*

          This is a really good point- there’s a way of framing the request that makes clear it’s making the workplace friendlier for people with chronic illnesses rather than the reverse. She doesn’t have to justify using the flexibility she’s been given, and it’s more helpful to others if she stops. I bet if OP frames it in this light, the sister will be happy to help create a disability friendly culture for others.

          1. fidget spinner*

            I have to point out that, just because OP lets her sister do that, it doesn’t mean their company is actually disability-friendly. They use a lot of independent contractors, and independent contractors typically aren’t salaried and don’t get paid if they’re sick. They often don’t have health insurance.

            Not saying this is necessarily the case with OP’s company… but there’s no evidence they’re disability-friendly to non-family members….

            1. fidget spinner*

              Hence… why it’s so problematic if her sister is saying these things to the independent contractors who probably don’t get the same benefits.

    2. Bird Lady*

      Yes! This!

      I worked for an organization in which showing up incredibly ill was seen as a badge of honor and sort of became the default. In order to have any sick time approved, I would have to explain graphically why I could not get into a car. To have my vacation time respected, I had to explain exactly why I could not be contacted. And to be honest, I still got a work call during my husband’s grandmother’s burial service.

      At my next job, my manager pulled me aside and said that she respected me and had actually sent me home a few times for reporting to work very sick and didn’t need the details of why I needed off – unless I was taking a few days of sick time concurrently. At that point, I needed a doctor’s note. It was so strange to be respected! Leadership eventually changed, and I had to go back to explaining why I needed time off again. Being phone bombed in the middle of a mammogram was the last straw.

      1. RVA Cat*

        *picking my jaw off the floor*
        Trying to decide which work call was worse, the funeral or the mammogram. Going with the funeral as it affects other people.

          1. Bird Lady*

            The Funeral Call: It just so happened that the burial service was the same day as a social media fundraising campaign. And since I was the only one working in development and communications, I essentially had to schedule posts and monitor social media in between funeral things. My husband is a lawyer, and had to take a client call while I was undergoing oral surgery, so he understood and was not upset about monitoring Facebook in the car driving from one place to another. The call was over the Curator not wanting to take a donation over the phone and wanted me to reach out to the donor to get her credit card info. I had trained everyone on how to fill out a paper form at our staff meeting, so she knew how to do it but was refusing.

            The Mammogram Call: Our new ED had been with the organization for just over two months and was still getting the hang of things. She was also banana pants. I had reminded her in person I’d be late to work for the exam, and emailed her everything she would need to meet with a fundraising consultant she decided to hire instead of promoting me to Director. She completely forgot the email I had sent and wanted me to download all the info to her verbally. When she couldn’t get ahold of me, she never thought to look at the calendar or her email, she kept calling. Finally, when I was able to access my phone, I called her back and she screamed at me that senior leadership needed to be available 24/7. But I wasn’t in a leadership role. That role had been vacant for years and she had told me the week before she didn’t view me as qualified to do the job – even though I had been doing it for two years.

            So no, none of the calls were important and had people been competent, I never would have needed to take them.

    3. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

      This was my thought. I’ve had bosses who wanted a detailed explanation for call outs, PTO requests, etc (yes, it was retail, which is its own cesspool of bad management). If the sister has had a couple of these managers in succession, she’s probably come to think of this level of info as the norm. I bet a quick word of reassuring her that her schedule and work quality are good, and it’s too much info, will solve this.

      1. Bast*

        Having come from the background you describe, I was reading the letter and saw nothing wrong, and it was only after coming and reading the comments that I realize how much this STILL impacts me. I still find myself on the fence depending on the circumstances — ie: no one needs graphic details on why someone is taking a sick day (though again, Old Job expected it), but I find it fairly normal for people to be excited about an upcoming vacation day and say something along the lines of — “Just a reminder, I will be on vacation in Vegas next week and won’t be answering emails!” There’s also a different dynamic when someone is all/mostly online vs. in the office, particularly in a client/customer focused role, which I am not sure if this is. When everyone is remote, you don’t know if/when someone will be available so it makes sense to give a heads up and say, “I am clocking out early and will not be available after 1 PM today” “I am taking my lunch break now” or “I am taking a coffee break!” If Jane is simply on a break, her clients can reasonably expect a call back. If Jane is gone for the day, the determination needs to be made if this can wait until tomorrow until Jane is back or whether someone else needs to handle it.

        1. wordswords*

          I agree that it’s totally fine to share some details! I wouldn’t blink if a coworker said any of your examples. And to be honest, most of the individual examples of OP’s sister’s comments aren’t bad as an occasional thing (though the one about being stuck in the restroom was a bit much). But it sounds like OP’s sister is sharing this level of information extremely frequently, which starts to feel less like a bit of optional detail (here’s a human interest fact about my upcoming week off! I know you like dogs, so I’m mentioning that this break is to walk Fido! here’s context for how much I’ll be available by phone this afternoon!) and more like a constantly open, non-optional window into a coworker’s personal life.

        2. allathian*

          I think all of that is totally fine, except I wouldn’t share my vacation plans with anyone except my work friends, and maybe my manager (we have a good, friendly relationship). My OOO only includes the time when I’ll be away if I’m away for a full day or longer, but not for a few hours, when I’ll be back, and who to contact if it’s urgent.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m the youngest, and my older siblings still try to boss me around.

    We had a family business (no reporting structure), and when anyone would try to tell me what to do, I wouldn’t respond very well because they assumed I was clueless, but most of the time I knew more than they did. I did whatever I wanted because who is going to fire me? This sister is acting so much better than we all did!

    That’s why we all have regular careers and don’t live anywhere near each other.

    I know you can’t avoid managing your sister, but you can’t expect her to treat you like a legitimate boss. She will probably never see you that way.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I think that is why Alison’s take, that this is impacting the business and non-family employees, is an effective way to approach it.

    2. Not on board*

      I don’t fully agree with what you’re saying. I work in a family business – I always refer to family members by name (instead of mom or mother for example). My wish for all of us to be perceived as professional and capable is extremely important. Most people don’t realize that some of us are related, and usually only if they see us side by side. It’s true that sometimes the lines are blurred when we are communicating one on one but otherwise we maintain a professional appearance.
      I think phrasing this as wanting to present the business as very professional to anyone who’s not a family member, like other employees, contractors, etc is the way to go. Letting the sister know that it’s fine to share one on one but that it looks better professionally if she doesn’t share details with everyone.

      1. Momma Bear*

        We have family members working at my company. We know who they are, but they call each other by first name (like everyone else) and not mom/dad/hubby, etc. I think that’s better because you’re there to work, and family time is later. One couple in particular is very very careful to maintain a professional distance at work (different departments).

        1. allathian*

          In my organization (a govermental agency with 2,000 employees in 30+ regional offices), there are, or have been, several couples. In every case they were so discreet that it took quite a while for me to catch on, and they worked in different departments and didn’t share a chain of command until the very top. One of the department heads was married to our facilities manager. They didn’t have the same family name, and I only realized it when they were seated at the same table at a company dinner and I overheard them talking about their adult kids.

          Ten years ago, my organization gained a new, fairly large department when we merged with another, tiny agency. It was officially called a merger, but everyone knew we absorbed them. We retained most of the employees from the other organization, including Louise who was in her 60s and who became my work friend. She was very attractive, to the point that men less than half her age would turn their heads to look at her, and she had the sort of dynamic personality that lights up a room when she walks in. Anyway, one day on coffee break she announced that she had to go to a meeting to be “sexually harassed” by another employee, Dan. Jan, who was sitting with us, looked completely stunned and like she couldn’t decide whether to get angry or burst into tears. I looked at her and said something like “I’m sorry, she probably doesn’t know Dan’s your husband. She’s my work friend, do you want me to talk to her?” Jan agreed, the next time I saw Louise I talked to her, and from what I understand, Louise apologized to Jan not long afterwards. Louise’s faux-pas didn’t hurt their relationship from what I could see, although I did notice that Jan started mentioning her husband by name sometimes on our coffee breaks. No doubt Louise also learned that it’s unwise to joke about sexual harassment at work…

          Interestingly we also have a brother and sister who share the same last name. They work in the same, very specialized team, and people often mistake them for a married couple. Both of them are my work friends, and when the sister retired recently, the brother joked with me that the best thing about her retirement was that at least now he’ll no longer get people asking if they’re married.

    3. Statler von Waldorf*

      I disagree. You can and should expect a family member to treat you like a legitimate boss.

      If they can’t, they shouldn’t be your employee.

      1. allathian*

        I get what you’re saying in theory, but in practice it isn’t so easy. Firing a family member will undoubtedly affect the familial relationship as well, and that’s a risk many people prefer not to take.

        That’s why I consider all small family businesses to be toxic for non-family employees until conclusively proven otherwise. Just like I consider nearly all startups to be toxic by default because bro cultures are toxic for anyone who isn’t a bro. With decent leadership some of them may grow out of it as they start hiring more people who aren’t as passionate about the original idea that created the company in the first place.

        1. fidget spinner*

          Yeah, and there aren’t very many entry-level jobs that offer the flexibility that OP’s sister needs. Unlimited PTO without penalty for an entry-level job is really rare, unfortunately.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Bro cultures are pretty toxic for the bros too I think. They just don’t realise it, because they’ve been groomed to think it’s great.

  5. The Baconing*

    I’m a why person, and, if I were OP, I’d wonder why my sister feels the need to overshare. I think this might need to be addressed in a two-fold way. First is via what Alison has already said, but, maybe, from the family angle, there might need to be a conversation about the sister’s emotional needs/support? Maybe, if OP could help to shift the dialogue of their younger sister’s oversharing from the work related communication streams to family communication streams, that could help, too?

    1. Rose*

      Well she addressed directly that her previous role she was micromanaged.

      I also think context can be helpful for some situations. After calling out with a migraine, I’ve had managers blatantly call me out on “how is it possible you were extremely sick and unable to even glance at an email last night but now you’re fine and 100% sure you’re not contagious?”

  6. The Baconing*

    I’m a why person, and I wonder why she feels the need to overshare. Maybe, OP could ask their sister why, and, if the oversharing is less about micromanagement (as suggested in other comments) and more about personal connection, OP could help their sister refocus those conversations to family only lines of communication instead of work lines of communication?

    1. Ym*

      The why is pretty clear, the sister has stated it directly:

      “both corporate and mom-and-pop employers have punished her when she clocks in late or needs to take sick time due to her symptoms or have been unsupportive of her needs for medical appointments”

    2. Cara*

      I suspect because of the bad work experiences OP mentioned, the sister feels like she has to justify her every move

      1. Emma*

        Agreed, sounds like she’s worked somewhere that asked for a level of detail that is pushing the boundaries of legality.

  7. Amy Beth D*

    I also suspect her previous roles and experiences made her feel like she needed justification. Maybe sharing that you trust her to do her work would help her feel secure in her role. People, even family, need to know they are trusted.

  8. burr....it's cold in here*

    why don’t you just make a “family only” chat where she can explain those details to her heart’s content without others having to read it.
    Or, whoever is “supervising” her – she can text them and let them know directly. When I’m having a family issue, I often clue my supervisor in so she knows what’s going on, but I wouldn’t tell the entire office

    1. KateM*

      Just what I was thinking. Ask your sister to put this info in private chat to OP only, or create another channel for family chat (and make sure that SOs of family connections know that they don’t have to stay there if they are not interested in small talk about GI troubles).

    2. Sharon*

      Agree. It sounds like she doesn’t even do work requires continuous availability, so if she’s away for a few hours it shouldn’t matter as long as she’s getting her job done and responding to people in a timely manner. Ask her to tell her supervisor only. This might also help you monitor whether she is actually able to stay on top of her job, because people might be not giving her work she should be doing because of perceived unavailability.

    3. WellRed*

      Maybe the family members would like a break from it too. I can’t be the only one who inwardly groans when my mom and aunt start talking old age, illness and medication when the three of us are hanging out!

      1. allathian*


        Reminds me of how the conversations used to go in my family. My parents are retired scientists in the biological sciences, and my sister decided to follow in their footsteps in the same speciality. One consequence for her was that she was known as Dr. so-and-so’s daughter for much of her early career, although now that both of my parents have been retired for more than 10 years (my dad retired on disability 25 years ago), this doesn’t come up so often anymore. And of course she benefited from our parents’
        professional networks in her early career. Although it must be said that it’s rather amusing to think that some of her oldest coworkers have known her since she was a toddler!

        Anyway, when my parents were still working and my sister was studying their speciality, holiday dinners tended to be rather boring for me. My parents and sister talked shop for much of the time, and I had nothing much to contribute until either I changed the subject intentionally or they realized that I felt left out and changed the subject, for a while at least.

  9. Heather*

    If you have the technology, can’t you just teach her to set up an “away message” or “focus time” message so she doesn’t need to announce anything? This would also be a great practice for the entire company when they are away from their desk for short periods of time.
    Frame it as, knowing when we can access you but being vague as a matter of privacy.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, this. I’m mostly WFM and I set my Teams status to “be right back” when I take a break. That way if someone sends me a message they know it will usually be a few minutes or more before they see a response from me.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is what I’d suggest. It doesn’t seem like she’s actually slacking if she’s still logging 35-40 hrs/week. I’d tell her that since her duties aren’t time sensitive, she needn’t give updates unless she’ll be out of contact for more than say 3 hours. It will calm the update status, and still maintains the level of professional access that is appropriate for her role.
      And just teach her to update her status in the system, rather than in a message, if she’s worried that someone might be bereft if they don’t know exactly where she is at any given moment.

  10. constant_craving*

    Taken one by one, these things don’t generally seem like oversharing, especially because it sounds like they’re going into a slack channel or similar. It seems normal to me to share your dog needs to go to the vet and ask for well wishes. I’m used to coworkers sharing stuff like this across multiple workplaces. The “stuck in the bathroom” would have been a bit over-sharey some places, not others.

    Perhaps it’s the volume of the sharing rather than the specific of the sharing? If not, I wonder if this LW is swinging a little too formal in an attempt to overcompensate for the fact that so many employees are family. Or if it’s clogging out more business-sensitive messages, maybe it’s time to split that communication into two, one more for chatting with co-workers.

    1. varsha10*

      Yeah, I agree, I thought it just sounded kind of chummy and something I’d expect to chat about from people I work closely with (aside from the bathroom thing). But if OP thinks it’s too much for their situation I’m sure it is.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Yeah, aside from the explicit bathroom mention, this is 100% the culture where I work (relatively large corporation). And I don’t think sick time gets questioned or not respected, it’s just how people communicate. Even without explicit mentions of bathroom, you can frequently read between the lines, like when my boss was in a Zoom meeting recently, responding in chat and messaged us, “Sorry, stomach issues, can’t unmute.”

        But yeah, if someone deviates from the norm of our culture, I do have a talk with them. I recently had to talk to one of my top performers and say, “Yes, everyone has bad days, and we’re pretty open and understanding about that here. So you will occasionally see your teammates say they’re not feeling good and not expecting to be super productive today. But if I just went by the number of communications you share on the subject, I would think you were our least productive employee–when, in reality, your work output is impressive in both volume and quality. Tone down the sharing, and if you need to take a break or don’t feel you’re at 100% today, you don’t need to say anything unless you’re actually going to be unreachable.”

        And we had a thorough level-setting on exactly what responsiveness and what output is expected, and what communications are consistent with that. And that worked well!

    2. Beth*

      I was thinking the same thing! People on my team often throw a quick “errands,” “lunch,” “dog walk,” “out sick,” “daycare pickup,” etc in Slack when stepping out for a while. We’re a pretty casual, friendly environment, and I think the little bit of low-stakes openness is nice. (There are one or two people who prefer to just say “OOO for the next half hour”, and no one asks them for details–it really is voluntary. It would be very different if people felt forced to share!)

      If there’s a specific line that OP doesn’t want her to cross, they should say that. (For example, “I want to create a culture here where we all assume medical details are inherently private. It’s fine to say you’re OOO for an appointment, but can you avoid sharing details about what the appointment is for or what symptoms you’re experiencing in the team slack?”) And if it’s a volume issue, OP should address that directly. (Maybe ask her only to notify the team if she expects to be gone for more than an hour?) But OP should also consider whether part of this is more of a style preference than a professionalism issue.

    3. Garlic Microwaver*

      I agree. The content in and of itself is not oversharing, but I think the issue is the audience. The external (“non family”) employee base is noticing.

      1. constant_craving*

        Are they? It sounds like LW is only worried they might, not that she has confirmation of this. I could have missed it though.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah aside from the bathroom comments none of this feels like over sharing to me unless you’re a person who keeps your personal life entirely out of the workplace. When I read the title I was expecting like she went into graphic detail on her medical treatments or vented about boyfriend problems or whatever, which would maybe be okay with a sister but not a boss. But “I’m taking my dog to the vet, might be serious, keep me in your thoughts,” doesn’t sound like over sharing to me, and same with “I’m grabbing lunch at (place) and walking the dog, be back in an hour.” Sure you don’t need to give the details and lots of people don’t but it doesn’t feel egregious for small talk with coworkers.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I agree. It does depend a lot on the size of the organization, though. I’m happy to share quite a lot with my immediate team and even my manager, up to and including vacation plans, but I wouldn’t put anything other than the duration of my absence in an OOO.

        A former manager was a bit of an oversharer. She’d come from an environment where every absence during the workday, except lunch as long as the break was no longer than an hour, required permission from the manager. It has to be said that she never required her reports to do that because our organizational culture was very different. One of my proudest moments at work was when I convinced her to flag her doctor’s appointments private. My employer has mandatory calendar sharing, although it’s expected to flag personal appointments as private, and not even our managers can see those (IT could, but they’re far too busy to bother without a very good reason). Anyway, at one of our 1:1s when she asked if I had any questions, I wondered out loud why she didn’t flag her personal appointments private. She responded with something like “I do it so that people know I’m away for a good reason.” I looked at her and said something like “When I look at your calendar, all I want to know is when you’re available. I really don’t care if you’re going to see the doctor or running personal errands. After all, you never question the absences I flag private in my calendar, either, and I don’t suppose you’d ever do that as long as I get my work done on time.” I think that was a pretty neat case of managing up, if I do say so myself. I also think that that’s when she finally internalized that in our organizational culture we don’t judge the moral worth of employees based on the reasons (if any) they give for their absences.

    5. amoeba*

      Same in my workplace! I mean, it very much depends on the specific channel, obviously – I work for a giant corporation and would certainly not give that kind of info to, like, a big project team. But we have a chat with just my direct coworkers and all of those (except the bathroom one) would be fine in there. And we’re definitely not “like a family”, just friendly with each other.

  11. anon_sighing*

    Those messages (except the ‘stuck in bathroom’ one) seem normal to me in isolation and I’ve only really worked for the government. I do agree she may be overly comfortable because it’s only the frequency is what would make me notice how much of an overshare it is, especially if it’s always and only her. Makes sense with family though — they’re the #1 “why” askers, so you get used to just telling them outright before they need to ask.

    You can tell your sister that its okay for her to have short and simple away messages. I think just stating that may help.

  12. beepboop*

    As someone who is sick a lot due to a few chronic illnesses, I sometimes feel the urge to say WHY I’m sick so people don’t think I’m just being a slacker or “faking it.” Comes from a lot of history I’ve not being believed. For professional reasons I’ve curbed sharing these details, but I wonder if she’s experiencing something similar? If so, telling her that you totally believe the time she takes is legit, and that you will trust she needs it without the details, might help. If she has a history of needing to “prove” she’s really sick to other employers, it makes sense that she overshares.

    1. Laser99*

      So I’m guessing you have to twist yourself into knots between convincing the higher-ups you are truly ill, BUT NOT THAT ILL, so you won’t be mysteriously “laid off”. Right?

    2. Ashley*

      I am wondering if some of the sharing is falling in this category as well. Especially if there are family members questioning the amount of sick time she is taking. Sometimes oversharing makes you feel like you are proving you aren’t abusing the benefits /systems.
      I think helping her find a balance for when she wants support (hoping for good test results) vs when she is unreachable is where you need to find a balance. And I do get it because I have had sick days where I will take some calls and I have had sick days where I give my phone to someone else so no one can reach me. It depends on how sick I am and what is going on in my role at the time.
      I also think sometimes I overshare because of things like depending on how appointment A goes depends on how the afternoon goes and you are trying to set expectations of when people can reach you. It may take trial and error to find a system that works, but I do think some of the comments suggesting a family channel might help with some of this. It is the conveying availability to others I think she may struggle with and it will come down to what those other folks really need to know on her availability. She may need to embrace that other people really don’t need to know her schedule as much as she has been thinking they do.

  13. Ym*

    Ok, Iʻm not trying to jump on OP, but I did want to point a few language things out.

    We know the reason why she does this: she states that she has been punished in jobs before when taking time off for her chronic condition, hence the oversharing. (For what itʻs worth, Iʻll note that Iʻm a bit biased that something like “taking my dog to the vet” would be an extremely normal thing to say in my current and past jobs to note, both for letting people know 1) youʻll be out, 2) youʻre not sure what time youʻll be back, and 3) give the opportunity to give your pet well wishes if they please)

    OP writes:
    “Over time, this creates a broad impression that she is constantly taking frivolous breaks or what feels like an unusual amount of sick time”
    Yes, it is an unusual amount of sick time, but is it “frivolous”? It sounds like, dog stuff aside, it is largely connected to her chronic condition and therefore is necessary for her. Calling it “frivolous” strikes me as dismissive.

    OP writes:
    “She‘s previously been upset and resistant to feedback that she perceives is critical of her chronic illness”
    Sheʻs “perceives” is critical? Listen, I know some of you are rolling your eyes and assuming I am massively nitpicking at this point, but I am really getting the impression that OP does not really believe that all of this is that serious and that what her sister has experienced is in her head.

    In in case, I agree that addressing the issue of oversharing makes total sense. If she does not need to be giving you that information, then by all means, have that conversation with her. But I am getting a little bit of a impression from how OP has written this letter that sister is doing this *because* she senses that OP is somewhat dismissive in her attitudes towards her condition and therefore the extra excuses considered necessary, just like with her previous bosses. However I will say to OP, if this is not correct, feel free to ignore me entirely.

    1. Paint N Drip*

      I did also feel that the language choices pointed vaguely in this same direction. If not OP, then other family may be generally dismissive to her chronic illness needs/experience.
      But also, some of us (ME) find it difficult to ask for what we need. If the sister is ‘oversharing’ to her mostly-family Slack channel, maybe she is asking without asking for care/support. OP’s question is still valid in this light, but all employees are just people and this one employee is HER people who needs not-work care and attention it seems.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Have to agree – when the OP said her sister was “oversharing” – my mind went to the detailed emails I get from my uncle on the medical specifics (including every medication and how it did or did not work) of his health conditions, and what exactly the surgeons did during his back surgery.

    3. Garlic Microwaver*

      It seems like OP is stuck between a rock and a hard place, hence the language they choose to use in their letter. Understandably, they have to remain objective in this employment setup as they are managing others outside the bloodline. That said, someone above stated OP could be overcompensating for any insecurity they feel about managing family, so perhaps it steps from that as well.

    4. Budgie Buddy*

      I felt similarly about the word choice. Like, No Duh she’s creating the impression that she takes a ton of sick time. She does in fact take a ton of sick time so that impression would be correct.

      This person may still in an entry level job in her 30s because she hasn’t been able to move up due to her chronic illness and both the real and perceived ways that affects her work. She may be overcompensating on giving detailed explanations because she doesn’t want to blow this gig. (I’d certainly be wondering who would employ me if I can’t even hold down a job with my own family.)

      OP is right that some of the explanations are TMI, and that should be the focus. It doesn’t have to get complicated or bring in the whole shame spiral related to the chronic illness.

      1. Boof*

        The thing is, it sounds like she’s still working about 40 hrs a week, it’s just flex time? At least that’s what my impression from the LW is. So her sister is unfortunately making it LOOK like she’s away a lot to bystanders, but those who actually SEE her work, like her sister/boss, can see she’s keeping up with her work overall and not really taking a lot overall time off. But that might not be as immediately visible to the bystanders who don’t know the reason X Y and Z always flow smoothly is this person keeping things updated, etc. And while that’s not really their business, it’s still usually in anyone’s interests to present a polished, professional image in the workplace.
        I’m going to agree there’s a few solutions here 1) family chat area for family stuff and 2) tell sister she doesn’t have to share her immediate availability because she very intentionally doesn’t have work that requires immediate availability so there’s no reason to constantly update everyone on her status; it just adds a lot of distraction. Maybe be clear that she only needs to set some sort of out of office/ coverage messages if she’s going to take more than a day off (or whatever).

    5. Awkwardness*

      I felt the language was fine as the sister states what the overall impression. She even says that family members have commented on it.

      If the sister works 35-40 h, but people have the impression she does not because she mentions far more often than others that she is taking a break, then it is in the sister’s best interest to set this impression straight.

    6. Kella*

      I agree. I am also wondering why the problem is being pinned on Amanda’s oversharing and not on family members calling Amanada’s management approved sick time “frivolous.”

  14. Twix*

    I also have a serious chronic illness that impacts my job with what sounds like a similar frequency to OP’s sister’s. I think it’s important to mention that this oversharing is probably in part due to the fact that having to constantly say “I’m going to be out YET AGAIN for an unspecified reason and amount of time” can feel like something people are far more likely to notice and find frustrating and complain about, because sometimes that actually is the case. The oversharing is about feeling a need to justify absences, but often as much or more to coworkers than management. It would be a good idea to ask your sister if she feels like she needs to justify her schedule in order to be taken seriously or treated fairly by her colleagues.

  15. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    When other people are out sick, what do they do?

    If other people just contact their mnagers, or post to the slack channel with something general like “I’m out sick, hope to be back in a couple of days” or “just a reminder, I’m on vacation next week, so contact so-and-so,” you can point to that as a model for how you want her to handle it. Especially if what you want includes “don’t post about being sick unless it means you’ll be missing a meeting” along with not needing to notify people if she’s going to be away for an hour or less and doesn’t have something specific scheduled for that hour.

    You could also tell her that it’s important not to treat her worse than non-family employees, espcially if it looks like she’s getting away with something. Remind her that you know, and she knows, that she’s telling the truth when she says she’s sick.

    I also like Alison’s advice to ask her to say things like “I have a migraine” or “sorry, the dog is sick” to a separate family channel.

  16. jazzy*

    How would her not explaining the reason behind her absence make it look less frivolous? Not explaining it seems like it would leave a lot more room for unkind assumptions about her work ethic and commitment. That’s how it’s been in my experience as someone with a chronic illness, myself.

    1. Tea Monk*

      Yes, the less information people have, the more they fill in and people have outrageous imaginations.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Exactly. You have, in a single sentence, accurately described the comment section of every single advice column, forum, subreddit, Facebook post, Instagram post, etc.

        I need “people have outrageous imaginations” on one of those needlepoint wall hanging things. (Well…there’s my weekend planned. Off to buy some needlepoint supplies.)

        That said, I do think the key point is that sister just needs to post fewer of these things. People have bodies that need breaks to get a drink, stretch their legs, poop, breathe, etc. We need to just accept that and move on with life. Which most people who work remotely probably have.

        The real key is to assure everyone that they have flexibility and that their working hours (or minutes) will probably not align with all the other people working here.

    2. Boof*

      I feel like people who are unkind are just going to run with it no matter what. If you share more details, that’s more for them to pick apart and wonder how it couldn’t be /that/ bad etc etc…

    3. Beth*

      If someone’s looking to doubt her work ethic, the impact of “isn’t she sick a lot? It’s always something with her” isn’t that different from the impact of “Isn’t she taking a lot of time off? She never explains it either.” Both suggest that she’s not doing her job.

      For someone in a largely asynchronous role with a lot of flexibility, I feel like the easiest way out is to just not announce her breaks. But I understand why she is–a quick “dog walk” or “lunch” or “appointment” FYI is normal at work, it just sounds like she’s doing it more often than most people.

      1. Allonge*


        Sharing this much can be normal in some places, but that does not mean OP is wrong to want to cut down on detailed explanations in general.

        Sister may well have needed to do this in previous workplaces, but that does not mean it’s a good thing to do, and she is recreating the bad here with sharing this with everyone.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah if someone says “taking an hour to lie down with a migraine,” or “stomach issues, sorry to miss the afternoon meeting,” most people will be sympathetic. If she just says “I’m taking the afternoon off,” it might lead to speculation she’s doing something frivolous and misusing sick time.

      Can’t win, I guess.

  17. Hyaline*

    Maybe the LW could proactively set up a separate family chat and start directing/initiating these conversations there, along with the conversation that she doesn’t want to give anyone the impression they need to justify time away. Maybe clarifying with all staff that, say, “you don’t need to announce breaks and email me with sick day notices” could clarify your preference too. Then if that doesn’t take, then she could have them more overt conversation where she says “hey now that we have the family chat, can you share the more specific details there? I don’t want you to feel like I don’t want to hear about what’s going on in your life but Bob and Sue offsite probably don’t need to know about your diarrhea. Love you!”

  18. learnedthehardway*

    I think that perhaps you need to reassure your sister that she doesn’t need to justify every absence from the office. She’s likely providing details (in part) because she feels like she is being judged for having a chronic illness and she probably feels she needs to provide detailed reasons to make it clear that she’s not taking advantage of the flexibility the company is providing.

    The other thing you can do is to say that there are some things she can disclose to you as her manager or to colleagues, but some things that she should reserve for personal time. “I’m going to be out sick today” or “I’m scheduled for an appointment at 3:00 PM” – that’s fine for the office. Detailed descriptions of what is happening – not required, makes people uncomfortable, takes focus off work.

    That said, some level of detail is normal. Letting people know that she has some medical tests and might not be back in the afternoon – well, she’s clearly trying to not take the whole afternoon off, but she can’t promise that won’t happen. Telling someone she has a migraine – that’s not really over-sharing a whole lot. Providing exhaustive detail is not appropriate, but it’s pretty normal office chit chat to say if you’re not feeling well.

  19. stacers*

    Honestly, on my team (all non-family members) of about a dozen people with my previous employer, none of this would be considered oversharing. we all trusted each other to do our jobs as we needed to do them, and were all pet people and all chatty, even over IM, so this level of detail would be normal. And we also had no problem saying ‘none of your business’ if someone asked something we didn’t want to disclose. But … we were in communications and a tight group, so I realize that wouldn’t go over well with everyone.

    I do think it could be a concern in the way Alison says, that others would think they have to justify their time the same way. But is that really a concern? I mean, if she’s known as family of the owners and people just shrug it off as she’s one of ‘those people’ who narrate their life, is it a problem?

  20. MCMonkeyBean*

    Honestly, other than the “stuck in the bathroom” bit–pretty much all of those are things people might say in my team’s work chat. But not multiple times a day, every day.

    I’ve always felt no one should *have* to disclose information about their breaks or time off, but that in many offices it’s normal to give a small amount of detail if your coworkers tend to chat about those things. But if it’s causing issues with other people then it’s probably worth talking to her about.

    It sounds like because of previous jobs she may feel like she has to justify why she needs to be away, so I would come at it from that angle first–that you all understand her needs at a high level so you don’t need to her give you all the details every time. And then second add on that you are worried if she updates for absolutely everything even short breaks then it may create an impression of her being away more than she is.

  21. EA*

    One of my coworkers told me she was going to be out picking up medicine for her dog just yesterday! Not an overshare in my book.

    If it were my sister, I’d just say something like: hey, you can send me the specifics about why you’re out in our private chat, but don’t feel like you have to send it to the whole group – I can help explain if they ever ask. Just put your away message up and take the time you need.

    1. EA*

      Also adding – I think the issue is less with the content and more with the frequency. You could probably limit this a lot by making using away messages part of the broader culture. I agree with AAM that the 15 minute break shouldn’t require a group chat message, unless there’s a coverage issue we’re missing.

  22. Seashell*

    I lean pretty hard away from office small talk or sharing personal info at work, but none of this seems that unusual to me or worth getting upset over. “I’m going to go walk and feed my dog” sounds like something someone would say just to chit-chat, not that the reason for the break should matter to other person. As long as the sister is not describing what’s in the toilet bowl because of it, what does it matter if she says what her illness is? If the conversation is only with LW, then it’s not going to impact what other employees feel like they have to say when they’re sick or taking a break.

    1. Petty_Boop*

      But the LW explicitly said it is NOT just in conversation with her (the sister/manager) but other employees who are not family are often in the conversation, on the call, whatever, as well. So… it DOES matter.

  23. Petty_Boop*

    Sister needs to be told, “when you discuss the number of breaks/sick time you’re taking, it can sound to other non-family employees as if you’re getting more than they are, and are taking an excessive amount of time that they wouldn’t be permitted to take. We don’t want to engender resentment on behalf of staff. Either keep the time away discussions to just me/family and off the zoom calls, or just shoot me an email when you’re taking flex time.”

  24. Garlic Microwaver*

    Maybe a different spin on this. Frame it as caring about the sister instead of sister being insensitive toward everyone else with the sharing. “When you share personal details like XYZ, people can make unfair judgments about you and your work ethic. I wouldn’t want that for you, because you are a good performer. So I’m going to set up a separate family slack for things like medical details. But all you need to tell the team is that you have an appointment, or a commitment that will cause you to be late.”

  25. thatsjustme*

    This doesn’t sound like egregious oversharing to me, but I think the part about making others feel like they need to justify their breaks or time off is really important. And that reasoning will probably go over better with OP’s sister than just finding a nice way to say “Hey don’t tell us about your symptoms.”

  26. Bad Wolf*

    I would flip the script so that the conversation is not a criticism but actually a praise.
    You can say something like: “I know your former employers were less flexible and your absences concerned them. You probably felt like you had to constantly explain yourself to them. I want to assure you that I am not concerned at all. You are doing great. You deliver quality work and you manage your time well all on your own. You never need to explain to us why you will be out. Only let us know when you will be out and when you’ll be back. I completely trust your judgement.”

  27. alex*

    I don’t see the big deal here. Sure, some it is a little TMI, but I think most employees would shrug it off and move on without spiraling into “OMG, does this mean I have to tell my coworkers when I’m pooping?” territory. It sounds like a personality quirk more than anything else. Especially if the work culture is more laidback and informal, I doubt anyone is as bothered about this as the LW. I’d just roll my eyes and let it go.

  28. Zarniwoop*

    “I think it creates a problematic impression for everyone, but especially for our virtual team who aren’t family members.”
    Have you asked if it is in fact creating such an impression?
    It may be nobody else cares, and you don’t need to do anything.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s possible nobody else cares, but kudos to the LW for not wanting to create an impression of nepotism for just this one person. It’s (generally) a good thing to worry about how things might look to others if you are dealing with an unusual situation. (And this relative’s health issues do indeed make it an unusual situation.)

  29. WellRed*

    Having been a longtime reader in this space where people often demand privacy, I’m surprised at how many comments don’t see some of this as oversharing. All the sister needs to do (and it doesn’t sound like she even needs to announce ANYTHING) is say “out for an appt, not sure I’ll be back today.” Stating she’s going to the gastroenterologist and the tests might hurt so she might not be back is a bit much. Maybe she feels a need to over communicate, maybe she wants tea and sympathy. It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t matter in the context of what her colleagues need to do their jobs. Can we trust that LW wants to set a tone that works for the whole team? And I dont love the idea of a separate family chat because I worry work stuff could get posted there that no family members might need. And before anyone gets all whataboutwhatabout, I have team members who overshare some things (omg I don’t need to know you are rebooting) but if they announce they are walking the dog or heading out early for 3nd grade dance recital is more a slice of life for me. Chitchat can be bonding.

  30. Hrodvitnir*

    Hmm. So, to break it down (apologies if the list doesn’t work, not sure if that’s actually an option) :

    Everyone except some remote admin staff are family
    Sister works full time without issue, but needs to flex time due to a chronic illness
    Sister has experienced discrimination due to her disability from past employers
    Family members have complained about Sister taking “frivolous” leave due to her multiple medical appointments and symptoms
    LW is worried non-family employees also perceive it that way

    With the information given, I’d recommend shutting down the family members complaining about frivolous leave, because that’s ridiculous.

    I would also tell sister she doesn’t need to let everyone know when she’s going to be unavailable at all – unless she does need to let people know, in which case maybe a shared calendar and using the “away” function or equivalent might be better?

    If the current expectation is that people post to the chat whenever they’re away, she’s in an awkward position because she will always be away more than other people, so seriously consider if there is an alternative.

    As for the “overshare” component it really depends on what everyone else shares. I also see mentioning your dog when you take your tea break as a non-issue, but sure, if no one else does it that could be rolled into the “wind it back” conversation.

    Basically, I think you can and should tell her she needs to change her communication, but I am concerned you seem to not see a problem with her being judged like that (those people are part of the culture too) when she is performing her job without issue. Frankly, non-family is way less likely to be judgemental like family, especially if she’s reliable to work with.

  31. Jane M.*

    This doesn’t seem that unusual for the workplace? Maybe not an explanation for every 15 minute break, but this kind of sharing sounds pretty normal. My team often checks in with “going to walk the dog – back soon” or “gotta feed the dog and kid” or “my stomach is upset, I’m going to take a break and see how I feel.” This feels a little like sibling stuff that the LW is making a workplace issue.

  32. Star Trek Nutcase*

    Apparently my office was much different than those of other commenters as all these examples would be considered oversharing except possibly with manager and even then less detail is needed. So, nothing for breaks or lunch, and for other stuff just basic (“out 1-5 p”). OOO messages were strongly encouraged for internal & external connections, but again most basic, and no medical details in those (appt. not doctor appt.). Even my more social coworkers tended to not do details though might share details in person with close coworker. (I do realize I favored jobs where less social stuff was valued or expected cause it’s not my thing.)

  33. spaceelf*

    Outside of sharing it with non-family, I don’t see a problem with most of this, save for maybe the bathroom thing.

  34. Also-ADHD*

    Besides the GI stuff, I have seen very similar stuff from my remote teammates. Obviously every workplace is different, but I’ll mention taking the pup out (if anyone might look for me—not every 15 minute walk ever—or if it comes up), or even if I need to run to the vet, sometimes, and people mention their migraines, sick kids, etc. all the time. I guess it’s the quantity plus the gastrointestinal detail that puts this over the top? I’m not necessarily one to share that much, but our public channels have people stepping out and mentioning stuff like this all the time (not gastro but I’ve seen messages about allergy tests, migraines, cancer treatments, parental illness/caregiving, etc.).

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. I also think that it depends a lot on the size of the organization. I share the most with my close coworker who’s also a work friend and who’s directly affected by my absences. I share quite a lot with my manager, although usually not the details of my appointments unless I get a doctor’s note with a diagnosis of my ailment, which I need to give to my manager who sends it to HR. Generally diagnoses aren’t discussed afterwards, the only exception is if an employee needs accommodations, either temporary or permanent.

  35. Just a Manager*

    I’m not sure this is so uncommon. I manage a team of 10 millennials and Gen Yers, and this is common on our team chat.

  36. Kella*

    OP, as a chronically ill person, I am skeptical that the scrutiny Amanda is *currently* experiencing from family members about the validity of her sick time is caused by her being hyperspecific about the reasons for her sick time. In fact, I know that chronically ill folks are constantly doing a balancing act between providing enough detail to be taken seriously but not so much detail that their judgement is questioned, or they’re accused of exaggerating. I suspect there’s a very good chance that if Amanda switched to vague “taking X time off for medical appointment” sharing that the scrutiny would not stop, it would just change.

    You say that Amanda has shared that previous employers have been unsupportive of her medical issues, so it’s likely that that’s contributing to her oversharing. But have you asked her if anyone in her *current* job has given her the impression that she needs to justify her sicktime? When family members make comments about her sick time being frivolous, are you shutting that down? I would do some extra work to make sure that you are not one of the employers proving unsupportive of Amanda’s chronic illness.

Comments are closed.