our boss pushes us to share how we’re doing emotionally at team meetings

A reader writes:

In our weekly team meetings, my supervisor has started having everyone answer the question, “How are you doing emotionally and mentally?”

On one hand, he seems to mean well and be genuine in his concern. On the other hand, I have several invisible illnesses that pre-date this madness and I’m very touchy about sharing anything remotely resembling private health information with an employer, especially when it comes to mental health, because I have always been made to regret it and it’s none of their business unless I need reasonable accommodation. Obviously, none of our mental healths, collectively, are okay. Right??

For more context, I was permanently remote before all this, but the rest of my team wasn’t all remote. So some of them might be friends or have bonds closer than person on the other end of the phone, but to me, these are people I have an 18-month contract to work with and have met many twice.

Other people have been sharing about their kids or their struggles to set up their new remote office and I’ve just been going with a quick “fine” and then changing the subject, but I’m starting to get some pushback like, “Okay, but really, how are you?”

Do I really have to share my feelings? And if my feelings are “everything is on fire and I’m worried about death at every moment,” how on earth am I supposed to phrase that to my manager in a way that doesn’t alienate everyone? I can’t imagine what Emily Post would advise under the circumstances.

“How are you doing emotionally and mentally?” isn’t an appropriate question for group work meetings, for all the reasons you cite.

And when teams do inquire into how people are doing personally, “fine” needs to be an acceptable answer. Pushing for more when someone has made it clear they’re not up for sharing more is boundary-violating and obnoxious.

Since you’re dealing with a manager who doesn’t realize this, here are two options:

* Vagueness, but longer: “I’m hanging in! Stressful times, of course … but doing okay. Getting by! Looking forward to this all being over. Wish I could go to sleep and wake up in January, haha.” You’re still saying nothing, but there are more words, which can make people feel you’ve given more of an answer.

* Modified honesty: “Well, I find my mental health is better when I don’t dwell on the situation too much” (unspoken words here: with you) “so I don’t have a ton to say, but I’m hanging in. It’s good to connect with everyone.”

Note that neither of these options are that yes, you really have to share your feelings. You get to decide what you do and don’t share, and your manager is being rude.

our boss pushes us to share how we’re doing emotionally at team meetings was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.