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My company has instituted a new policy that requires me to share the best and worse events from my personal life once a week with my manager. I don't trust my manager and don't feel comfortable sharing that much personal information with him. How should I handle this weekly meeting? If I try not to share personal information, he'll accuse me of being hostile and angry with him. So that's not really an option for me.

The line from the actual policy:

· 3 minute up front “check in” … Best and worst thing personal and biz (supervisor first, then associate)

The manager only asks about the personal and not the business. I think they assume it's fair game if the manager has to share first.

How should I communicate my unease with a new policy?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jul 14 '16 at 0:17
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instituted a new policy that requires me to share the best and worse events from my personal life once a week with my manager

I'd stick to mundane, but unpleasant issues of life: how bad the mess was when your kid/dog/neighbour was violently sick on your couch, the issues around that backed-up toilet you had to get a plumber for, your wife's/aunt's/neighbour's ingrown toenail etc. For best discuss your new high score in some video game, or the joy of watching Harry Potter for the 66th time.

You'll soon get them to pass on this, don't feel you have to share anything really personal with them.

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    There have been periods of several successive weeks during which the worst event in my life suitable for discussion at work was my worst commute. I wonder how many blow-by-blow descriptions of the same roadworks a manager could stand before changing the policy? – Patricia Shanahan Jul 10 '16 at 3:52
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    "Not sure that doesn't violate laws in most countries as you could discuss" That's a huge stretch and detracts from the value of your answer. They're not asking OP to share that kind of stuff. I can't sue my manager for harassment if I volunteer that kind of information when he asks how my weekend was. The rest of your advice is spot-on in case OP just wants to deal with the meetings until they go away without raising a big stink. – Lilienthal Jul 11 '16 at 8:52
  • Plus 1 for taking Lilienthal's advice. (vice-versa also applies.) – Aaron Hall Jul 12 '16 at 21:09
  • Solve the real issue on trust with your manager in some way. Maybe this is the opportunity. It allows you to ask questions one on one. – Luc Franken Jul 13 '16 at 20:26
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I highly doubt that they're asking you to share details of family developments, health, hobbies, etc. Since they contrast "personal" with "business", and since the context is a 1:1 with your manager, they almost certainly mean your own accomplishments and hurdles in the context of the job. I base this on year-end review forms from several employers, where what they mean is "talk about what you personally did" as opposed to "talk about company-wide goals".

So offer things like:

  • "I'm really happy with my design for this new feature."

  • "I lost the better part of a day on bug #666 -- how frustrating!"

  • "I had an idea for improving server response time and ran it by the tech lead; he thinks it's good too so I'd like to prototype it."

  • "I'm having a lot of trouble understanding what the product manager really wants; he keeps changing the requirements on us."

Chances are good that this is what they mean. If it's not, if your manager says "yeah cool, but how's the spouse and kids?", then it'll be time to talk about boundaries.

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    This does make much more sense, unless your management is very confused. – keshlam Jul 10 '16 at 16:08
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    Manager starts off the conversation with "My worse thing is my son did ...". The intent in his mind is to be personal and not work-related. But how you're suggesting the policy should be interpreted makes much more sense. – QED1284 Jul 10 '16 at 18:02
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    That... does make a lot more sense. @QED1284 I'd recommend checking the intent with your HR department or, failing that, whoever came up with this "policy". If I had set this up as a way to guide weekly feedback sessions on personal accomplishments I'd be absolutely horrified to learn that it was misunderstood like this. – Lilienthal Jul 11 '16 at 8:54
  • I'm sure this is the actual intent - to flush out the slackers who share the team's accomplishments and problems in one-to-ones when they've actually done nothing notable themselves. – Julia Hayward Jul 12 '16 at 8:28
  • I sure hope that this is a clarification issue... – R Star Jul 13 '16 at 12:12
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Ugh - what a stupid policy! Hopefully this burns out very quickly.

There's no way that I'd share my personal life with my manager if I didn't feel 100% comfortable with him.

If simply saying "Pass" doesn't work, I'd probably make something up. Perhaps something from the front page of the newspaper or a television series, or your favorite internet feed would work. I'd be tempted to use the same "best and worst events" for a few weeks to see if anyone really cared or not. That way, it would be less work searching for new "events".

I hate to lie. But in the unlikely event that I felt like I wanted to stay at a company with such a foolish policy (what are they thinking?), I'd make an exception.

If I was admonished to tell the truth, I'd pick two trivial events each week. Bad = I had to clean out the refrigerator. Good = I had a nice beer.

  • I agree, I'd just use something mundane "stubbed my toe on Wednesday" – Kilisi Jul 9 '16 at 22:18
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    I like the idea of making something up from a television series. It could be fun to tell your boss that your weekend was ruined when your rambunctious neighbor Dennis made a mess in your garden. – Lumberjack Jul 11 '16 at 20:56
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+50

If my answer is too similar to Joe Strazzere's, I'll delete it. The reason I'm still answering is because I did work for a company (for 2 years) that did this, and below is how I handled it.

A couple years ago I worked for a company in the US that had a weekly Monday morning meeting that started off with everyone (around 6 of us) giving their "personal and business best" from the previous week. (There was no written policy saying we had to however!)

For context, people in this meeting did go into very personal things, such as what they did with their family, their significant other, where they went, things about their kids, and so on.

I'm a very private person. This expectation didn't sit well with me, but I didn't want to put myself in 'special snowflake' status and make a big deal about having to answer personal best, either.

Some examples of what I would say in those meetings for 'personal best' for the previous week:

  • I didn't die
  • I paid bills
  • State the price of fuel
  • Give story about triumphing over a clogged drain
  • I mowed the lawn
  • I did nothing over the weekend and it was great
  • I bought new socks

I would start with my personal best, give a very short statement, then transition right into business best. The business best then would catch and hold everyone's attention, and I was in the clear.

If I would have needed to give a 'personal worst', I would have chosen something like:

  • A long line at the grocery store
  • Stepping in a puddle and getting wet socks
  • Traffic/Construction on such-and-such highway (this would have probably worked every week)
  • Got some bad coffee at Johnny's Coffee Emporium

What I perceive as 'personal best' could be anything. The above were always short, true, and didn't compel anyone to ask anything further. I never caught any grief using those types of responses. I would always give a legitimate, detailed, meaningful response to business best, though.

  • @JoeStrazzere Yep, and I expect it's still in place today (2 years after leaving). The company's business is social media and marketing automation, and had a 'super social love fest' type culture. It was actually a pretty good place to work other than what I describe above, and a few other comparatively minor things. – Dan Jul 15 '16 at 15:00
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If I try not to share personal information, he'll accuse me of being hostile and angry with him. So that's not really an option for me.

Well that's unfortunate, because if telling the truth isn't an option, what are your options? Let's review. Your work is asking something of you that is egregiously offside, if you were honest this information could be abused without end and possibly lead to your dismissal.

If you're lying and caught lying, you automatically lose trust at best and it could lead to your dismissal at worst. This tells your manager that its in your character to shrink back and lie your face off rather than speak your mind and stand your ground, even on personal issues.

My answer: reevaluate your assumptions and put all of your options back on the table. Simply stand your ground professionally and politely:

I enjoy working under your direction and professionally I have the utmost respect for you, but I feel that answering these questions honestly would be unprofessional, I'm not comfortable with it, and I'd prefer to respectfully decline rather than lie to you.

Problem solved. If you wind up getting fired because you refuse to have conversation nearly as intimate as pillow talk with your boss, I'd talk to a lawyer and call that a personal victory.

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My company has instituted a new policy that requires me to share the best and worse events from my personal life once a week with my manager.

That is entirely and positively off the rocker. Your private life is not a matter of discussion at your work place, and it is unprofessional for a manager to either tell his life stories or ask employees about theirs. You're there to work, not to share stories.

How should I handle this weekly meeting?

If your company has a HR department, go to them. Mention your concerns with sharing personal information at work. Depending on what country you live in, this could be anywhere from very unprofessional to illegal. Your HR department should put a stop to that fairly quickly.

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If your goal is to protest and get rid of this policy as quickly as possible I would actually go against the grain of most answers here already telling you to mention very mundane events in your week. After confirming with your boss that you can really share the truly worst event from your week, make up a crass story involving prostitutes or other lewd behaviour. Your boss will be too embarrassed to ask you the same question again next week.

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    Or fire you for bringing up such topics in the workplace... – Cypher Jul 12 '16 at 22:47
  • That would be a very "brave" move. And by brave, I mean that in the sense the British mean it in politics – Retired Codger Jul 13 '16 at 12:02

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