I have been working at my job for over a year now and I have some minor but extremely annoying interpersonal issues with my boss. He's British and I'm Canadian but we are living in Ireland. I'm a software developer. I think it comes down to having different temperaments and lifestyles.

For example, I am 28 weeks pregnant. During this pregnancy I have been really struggling with sleep disturbances. I tend to wake up at 2AM or 4AM and cannot get back to sleep. I am also a little overweight so the extra weight is really wearing on me now. I'm also hormonal and more irritable than usual and a little stressed about this big life-changing event that will happen in 12 weeks.

My boss likes to do some 'niceties' before diving into talking about work. I don't really enjoy this because I have to lie to him to have a smooth conversation. For example, he asks me how I am. I tell him the truth: I am struggling or I am really tired. He doesn't respond well to this or he said things that I consider to be kind of sexist such as 'oh, it's normally not a problem.' A man telling a woman how pregnancy normally feels doesn't sit well with me or else he doesn't like to hear that I am tired etc. He also didn't want me to work at home even though I am struggling.

I have to lie to him to get through these conversations. If I say 'fine/good, how are you?' it gets this conversation over with but it's incredibly boring and repetitive to have to do this everyday for 5 days a week. I'd rather just jump into saying stuff like 'hey, did you see that email?' or 'hey, did you see that new ticket? What's the priority for the day?'

I also get sick of the routine of a 9-5 job + 1hr 15 mins commute at times and I'm not always thrilled about coming into work but I don't hate my job. My boss has repeatedly said that his children drive him insane and he'd rather be at work than at home. I don't always find my work to be interesting.

Other people don't seem to have an issue with me being honest about being tired. Do you have any suggestions about this situation?

  • Okay, decent, so-so, fine, not bad, meh and content are all terms I'd consider to mean not quite "good" - unless you have absolutely nothing positive in your life, I wouldn't consider any of those to be lies. What exactly is your goal here? Do you want him to stop, or just ignore his question altogether (which I'm assuming you already know won't go down well)? Do you want to find a way to tell him how you actually are? But you've already seen that this doesn't work. Jul 8, 2018 at 8:02
  • I guess I don't understand what his motive is by asking the question if he doesn't want to actually know how I am. I find it repetitive and annoying to have to fake it everyday. No, I'm not actually OK or fine. I guess I want to find a way to bypass this situation altogether. Jul 8, 2018 at 8:04
  • @JoeStrazzere Well I already told them I'd go on leave in September so I'm not sure how it would go over if I changed my mind now. Jul 8, 2018 at 12:20

3 Answers 3


Lying in answer to platitudes is normal. It's always best in a work environment to put your best face forwards and appear positive.

So if you don't want to create a drama about your situation, just say 'I'm fine thanks' like everyone else.

I've been proactively keeping a positive outward expression for so long that it has actually made my whole outlook much more positive. So it's something worth cultivating.

  • I globaly agree with you but there is an example : as an ASD, I can't lie, or with a real struggle. It's a fact and I can't do anything about. So I understand perfectly OP about the fact that she doesn't want to lie at all. The workaround that I've found, it's to just nod at, with a smile. And then, asking back about how fine there are. You don't lie, they are happy because you satisfy the "Socialistic Minimum Platitude Of The Day", everyone's fine.
    – Shad
    Jul 9, 2018 at 9:52
  • Moreover, OP you should not take it too seriously : people don't seem's to be interest in the answer at all. As @Kilisi said, it's just social platitude. Answer it the way you like, but take care to not be rude. If you want to answer and said the truth, then go on ! Maybe next time they will not ask if they don't want an answer hehe.
    – Shad
    Jul 9, 2018 at 9:52
  • 3
    @Shad I also dislike lying, perhaps lying was a poor word choice, answering an empty platitude with another stock empty platitude is pretty normal. I don't think of it as lying, a truthful answer for me in regards to many personal questions would be 'none of your effing business' but I don't say that out loud :-)
    – Kilisi
    Jul 9, 2018 at 13:05

It's a false dichotomy that you must either lie or endure patronizing or normative comments from your boss. Try acknowledging your difficulties, emphasizing that you are coping with them, and seguing to whatever you are planning to do or discuss. Examples:

How are you?

I've been more comfortable, but I don't want to complain. My work still needs to get done, and I'm raring to tackle today's priorities. What's top of the list?


How are you?

A little better than yesterday, thanks. Getting a bit of my energy back. Just the ticket for tackling tickets -- did you see that one about the reports?

So something positive that's not a lie of "fine thanks" and that both acknowledges you are working through difficulties and puts a positive tone to it instead of complaining. Then straight into the work.

Now, it's possible your boss also wants you to ask about him. In that case try something like:

How are you?

I've been more comfortable, but I don't want to complain. How about you?

I'm fine, thanks.

If the boss then moves into the actual topic, great, but if he kind of sits quiet after answering, you can pick it back up:

The work still needs to get done, of course, and I'm raring to tackle today's priorities. What's top of the list?

If you really truly need to work from home sometimes because of how tired you are, that's a conversation of its own and not a response to a scriptlike "how are you today?" question. In that conversation you present your problem and your proposed solution to it, and you brush aside any suggestions of what pregnancies are normally like with "well, that's not the experience I am having with this one." But that's a separate thing.

  • Well, I would be lying. My energy is not coming back. I am not doing better. As you get into the 3rd trimester it actually all goes downhill from there. Jul 9, 2018 at 7:28
  • Obviously you have to tailor what you say so it is not a lie. You're coping with it, or it's not unbearable, or today is a bit better, or whatever you can say that is true. Since you know you'll be asked this, you can plan ahead what you can say that is both true and positive. Jul 9, 2018 at 11:33
  • Well, I'm actually not coping well and it can be unbearable. I hate having to go into work whatsoever at this stage in pregnancy but I have no choice. Jul 30, 2018 at 8:11
  • I'm sorry to hear that. Assuming you still don't want to tell the boss how you are feeling, given how unsympathetic and unhelpful he is about it, you can say something like "it's not easy, but I'm here and ready to tackle today's priorities." The more positive you sound, the more you sound like "don't worry work still matters" the less he has to pick at and complain about, or argue with. I hope things get easier for you. Jul 30, 2018 at 13:01

There seem to be two issues that you raised:

Issue #1: what's the best way to deal with pleasantries?

Be direct: why not just say,

"Thank you for asking, but I'm eager to talk about that email that you sent last night. Do you mind if we dive right into that?"

Positive spin: as @kate-gregory stated, just put a positive spin on how you're feeling and help direct the conversation to the point.

A small note about pleasantries: I can't speak for all managers or supervisors, but I genuinely care about how my team is feeling. It helps me navigate how much work and which work to assign if they've got something going on, it gives me context for PTO requests, and it ultimately helps me relate my direct reports on an interpersonal level. All of our daily interactions involve strokes, and pleasantries are very much part of those transactions.

Issue #2: you want to work from home but your manager / supervisor won't let you.

Issue #2 is not one that you will win. All managers, including myself, exhibit the some form of extrapolation bias--where we use our experiences to determine rules that prescribe what would be the "best common good" for our workforce. Your supervisor believes working from home is not good for the team's morale or productivity and that is based, at least to some extent, on his or her own personal experiences. He or she could have many reasons for this view about working from home because it is not uncommon--I personally share it myself and, for example, insist that my team use time off instead of trying to "work from home."

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