employee’s husband hanging out in office, job searching from a work laptop, and more

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

1. Employee wants her husband to hang out in our office for hours every day

I have a coworker who lives a good distance away from the office (a 1.5 hour commute), and as a result, she carpools with her husband to and from work each day. Her husband was recently laid off, but is still driving her to and from work each day. My coworker is now requesting that he be allowed to “hang out” in the office for a couple hours in the morning in order to allow time for traffic to die down, so his return trip home is not as difficult. This would apparently include afternoons, as well, in that he would arrive early and stay in the office until they are ready to depart for home.

We are a relatively small office of 6-7 employees, so his presence would not go unnoticed. While I don’t believe he would cause too much distraction, I don’t feel it’s appropriate for non-staff individuals to occupy a spot in the office during business hours on a fairly consistent basis (until he finds a new job? that could well be months). I’m worried it would also set a precedent for others in the office, should they too wish to have a spouse, relative, or friend come into the office for extended periods. I’m not unsympathetic to the commuting aspect they both endure, but I don’t feel the company is responsible for providing them a place to hang out; surely he can spend his time at a local coffee house, bookstore, or restaurant versus in the office of company he’s not employed at? Am I being too harsh in this opinion?

Nope, I think you’re being totally reasonable. Having an employee’s spouse hang out in the office every day for three or four hours (!) would be pretty weird and likely to be a distraction. It’s entirely reasonable for your company to say, “Sorry, we’re not set up to accommodate that, but hopefully he can find a bookstore or coffee shop nearby.”

2. Can I use my work laptop to job search during non-work hours?

I don’t currently have a personal laptop. Mine died after college, and since then I’ve always had company-issued laptops, and iPads and whatnot have covered anything I need for personal use. I’m getting ready to job hunt, and I’m wondering if it would be a major risk to try job searching (including saving and submitting cover letters and resumes) on my work laptop, as long as I’m doing it at home and outside of work hours. If it makes any difference, I work for a nonprofit and I doubt they will check up on it, but I feel like that’s not the point. I really have no reason to buy a personal laptop.

Don’t do it. First, it’s possible that they will somehow come across your job search materials saved there. If they do, they won’t know that you only used it for job searching during non-work hours, and it’s going to look terrible. It’s the kind of thing that would instantly impact people’s assessment of your professionalism and judgment. Why risk that?

Second, using your employer’s resources to facilitate a search for work somewhere else is just a tacky thing to do. You’re basically using their property to subsidize your job search. You may not have had a reason to buy a laptop before, but it sounds like now you do (or you could use libraries, etc.).

3. My boss keeps telling people “we share one brain”

My boss constantly says to both me and our entire organization that “we (she and I) share one brain.” While I understand that she thinks she is complimenting me, I find it somewhat demeaning. I have my own brain, and I use it frequently to create successful strategies to acquire new business and retain those who currently support us. In fact, a vast majority of the time, my strategies, plans and tactics are utilized for our department with great success, but again she tells everyone that while I created the strategy, she was thinking the exact same thing since we “share one brain.”

I feel like she will be very hurt if I ask her not to mention the “one brain” thing again, but I’d also like to forge my own identity and demonstrate my skills. How should I approach this issue?

Honestly, I’d try to just let it go if you can. It’s unlikely that any of your coworkers actually think you share one brain, and it’s probably clear to anyone who works with you closely that you’re generating plenty of ideas and strategies from your single-occupancy brain. It’s unlikely her “one brain” comments are landing in a way that would be at all harmful to you, whereas asking her to cut this out comes with the risk of landing poorly with her.

That said, if you’re committed to addressing it, I’d say, “I’d be honored to share a brain with you, Jane, but that expression actually drives me batty.” Or, if you want more substance in your objection, you could say: “I really appreciate that we’re so frequently on the same page, but I worry that saying we share a brain ends up inadvertently minimizing the work I do, especially to people who don’t work closely with me. It’s probably silly, but it’s on my mind so I wanted to mention it.” You could leave off that last sentence if it annoys you on principle, but that kind of thing can make awkward messages easier for people to receive.

4. My references don’t actually know much about my work

I have been reading your blog for months, and I credit it for getting me to the final round of my dream job. My dream job wanted three references who were/are direct supervisors. The thing is that I am an attorney who has worked at the same firm for nearly 10 years. I only have two actual supervisors, and really very little oversight. My bosses are busy, and one tends to only get involved in my work if there is an issue, which luckily is very rare in my case.

Anyway, I provided these two people as requested and for a third reference provided a very senior coworker who actually is familiar with my work, probably more so than my supervisors. I explained that the senior coworker was not technically my supervisor but is familiar with my work.

My bosses were both contacted, and my coworker was not. The HR person called me yesterday because she had an additional question for one of my bosses that she forgot to ask and he wasn’t returning her call. I gave my boss her phone number. My boss came to see me afterwards and said the HR person wanted to know about my analytical abilities and writing capabilities. He told her he didn’t really know and referred her to my other boss.

Both of these skills are critical for the job I am seeking. I am pretty shaken up, and I do not know what to do. My boss is probably being honest, as he has never read anything I have written, but I think he should have some idea if I have good analytical skills. If the job had asked simply for references, I would have provided coworkers who are actually familiar with my work and not even listed my bosses. And it was a huge deal for me to tell my bosses I am considering leaving and even ask for the reference in the first place. Should I contact the HR person and offer to provide more references? Is there any way I can correct this situation and avoid losing my prospective job? I have been actively seeking a job for two years, and this job is the closest I have come.

Yes, contact the HR person, explain again that your two current managers don’t interact much with your work, and offer to connect her to people who can.

It’s really normal for employers to only want to speak with managers as references, because generally managers are better positioned to really evaluate your work. In this case, though, that’s apparently not true — so just explain again and offer some ways that she can get the information she needs.

5. Rescheduling an interview because of a death in the family

I’m in the second round of interviews for a company that I really want to work for and for a job that would be an awesome opportunity to step into my career of choice. The company took the available times that I sent them and then gave me an interview time and date, which I confirmed. However, my great-grandmother passed away yesterday and I was notified this afternoon that the service will be held on the same day as the interview (the service is in my hometown, and I live two hours away in another state). I want to be with my family, but I’m afraid it’ll affect my chances of getting the job. What’s the best way to approach this?

This stuff happens. Email them right away and say that you’ve had a death in the family and the funeral is scheduled in X city for the same day as your interview, and ask if it’s possible to reschedule.

The majority of employers will be totally fine with rescheduling. Occasionally, you might encounter an employer who resists — possibly because they have legitimate scheduling constraints (for example, interviewers only all in town on that day), which they should explain, or because they’re overly rigid or just not that into you — but you if that happens, you can cross that bridge when you get to it. Most of the time, though, it’ll be fine.

{ 327 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Stephanie

    #1: Or if he doesn’t want to spend money at a coffee shop or bookstore, he could look for a local library. If you’re in a large city and happen to work downtown/in a CBD, there might be privately-owned public spaces, like a skyscraper atrium, lobby or terrace where he could hang out while he waits.

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      1. AMG

        My guess was that he wants to use the office resources (internet, printing docs, etc.) to job search. Library may not have all of that but certainly should have what he needs to conduct a job search.

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      2. OriginalEmma

        The only problem with the library suggestion is if the workplace is in a different county than where the OP/husband live. He may not be able to access its resources.

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        1. Temperance

          He wouldn’t be able to check out books or maybe use the computer, but he could read books and magazines. He also might be able to get a membership due to formerly working in the county. I’m a member of my neighborhood library and the Big City library.

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        2. katamia

          Some library systems have reciprocity agreements with other nearby systems. Mine can be used in the entire state of Maryland plus DC and parts of Virginia, for example. If coworker rejects the library suggestion because it’s in another county, it’s worth seeing if there’s a similar agreement where OP is.

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          1. Doriana Gray

            And not only reciprocity agreements, but every library I’ve ever been in (including the one I used to work at) has allowed guests access to computers with a generic login.

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    1. ginger ale for all

      The local public library answer would work for LW2 as well. A vast majority of them have computers available to the public. Libraries want your business and they are free.

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    2. Colette

      Around here, libraries open later than he typical business (around 10, I think), so it might be a good option in the afternoon, but perhaps not as good in the morning. Not that that means hanging out at someone else’s job is ok. (Does the coworker not drive? Because it seems odd that he’d want to spend most of his day getting her to/from work.)

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      1. anon former 911 dispatcher

        They may only have the one car. If she drives it in such a long distance he might be stuck at home all day – no grocery store, no interviews. And getting a second car when he’s just been laid off is likely not feasible.

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          1. fposte

            Theoretically, he wouldn’t be there all day–it would just be a couple of hours at either end. But if he’s staying until 10 and then getting home at 11:30 after a 1.5 hour commute, and then leaving again at 1:30 to get there by 3, it’s hardly worth his going home and I wouldn’t be surprised if the request or the presence turned into all-day.

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              1. Temperance

                That’s much different to me. I was picturing the scenario in your above comment – where he’s basically there all day, and why not see Wife for lunch, too?

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          2. INTP

            He could leave the office to go to interviews or errands if he needs to because the car would be there so I see how it could work out well for him. But I agree with fposte that it would probably become an all day thing, and it’s definitely not the company’s problem.

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        1. Allison

          To be fair, he could be home most days as a default arrangement, then drive her to work when he does need the car for interviews.

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          1. Elizabeth West

            This could work. You usually know ahead of time when you’ll have an interview, so he can drop her off and then go to it and then go do whatever.

            I think once he gets another job, they might want to look into getting a second vehicle, though.

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            1. Middle Name Jane

              But do we know for sure that they only have 1 car? I don’t see where that was specified, but I could have overlooked it.

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      2. Luke

        Techncially, they do have more than 1 car, but they prefer to travel together to take advantage of carpool and express lanes, etc. Now that the husband is out of work, he’s driving her to and from work each day solely for this purpose.

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        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          The amount of time and money they save by using carpool and express lanes has to be dwarfed by the amount of time and gas money lost by all that driving back and forth. Makes me think there has to be more to it — like they’re in a weirdly dependent or controlling relationship or something.

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          1. eplawyer

            I agree. They are losing money by him making 4 trips a day. When he working, that made sense because it was 2 trips a day. Now, when they are down one income, they are doing twice as much driving. I don’t think they thought this through.

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          2. Luke

            That’s my suspicion, as well, and I agree.. it does not “add” up, so to speak. But nevertheless, that’s the official reason I’m being given, and therefore have to proceed on that particular premise.

            To be clear, nothing in the request ever touched on the husband specifically utilizing his time in the office to job hunt; only to pass time and “surf the internet” (which admittedly, could very well be a blanket statement to include job searching activity)

            In either case, I still find the request to be pretty inappropriate overall..

            I thought of perhaps responding along the lines of “while company policy won’t permit this on a regular basis, if it would assist him in the short term, he can spend up to 1 hour in the morning, and 1 hour again in the evening, here in the office, this week only..” (as a way to show we’re willing to help out as much as we can, but the answer is no)

            Or is that just setting things up for a bigger headache when the time comes to pull the plug? Also, I have to consider that ANY leeway given here, will subject the rest of the team to the situation (i.e., that’s 1 week of having an awkward non employee in here)

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            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Ah, so this makes it sound like you’re not just a peer but someone with the authority to say yes or no to the request? If that’s right, I’d do a blanket no, using the language I suggested in the post, but if you’re not too bothered by letting him do an hour or two a day for a week, then sure. It’s really your call.

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            2. Colette

              I have no idea why someone who should be job hunting is going out of his way to make it difficult for himself to do that. I’m sure he has his reasons.

              I agree you should say no. If you want to be nice, you could offer to let him spend an hour a day in the office no more than once a month (rather than for a week). That would be an option if he had an interview, for example, but not as a regular thing.

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    3. mander

      Other places to try are museums (especially museum cafes), government buildings, pubs, and educational establishments or places that host continuing education type classes. In my city, for instance, there is a famous concert hall that has a public atrium where anyone can come in and sit at a table, use the internet, etc. Its ostensible purpose is to provide access for people who are taking occasional classes but I went in there a couple of times as a postgrad with my laptop. I also sometimes went to a pub that was open all day and had free wifi. They also served food and coffee all day, so it wasn’t really like hanging out in the bar (it helped that the pub had taken over some historic council chambers and was decorated with shelves full of old books, so it was like being in a library that happened to serve beer).

      I’d think it would be very strange if my co-worker’s husband was hanging around my office all day. I’m sympathetic to the situation but I think it’s inappropriate for him to be there.

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      1. KR

        My city has a bar called the Book & Bar and it is the best thing ever. Sit in there, browse for used books, read, get a drink. Bar for introverts.

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    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I don’t know if it’s still true, but it used to be Starbucks’ corporate policy that you were not obliged to make a purchase in order to spend time in the store.

      Reply
  2. Stephanie

    #2: Oof. I wouldn’t use your work laptop for personal stuff in general. I mean, I’ll do a little recreational browsing at work, but I’d be hesitant to use it as a laptop replacement. It just seems like it’d be one of those things that wasn’t a problem until it was.

    If you don’t need the laptop for much more than using the internet to job search, I would look at a really basic model or even a Chromebook.

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              1. myswtghst

                Which is amazing :) I’ve bought 2+ Kindles (including gifts) and recently a blender from there, all in great condition and still in operation (some several years later).

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      1. Bookworm

        If all you’re doing is online research, and google docs will work for your resume, then a ChromeBook is a really good (affordable) option.

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        1. Anonymous Educator

          +1 on Chromebooks. The cheapest new one is available for US$169. I’m sure if you go used, you can get even cheaper than that.

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      2. Elle the new Fed

        You don’t even need a GOOD laptop. Just a laptop that emails and word processes. I bought a dirt cheap one for $200 while I lived abroad with the intent that it could browse the internet and it’s still chugging along 2 years later. Now it runs my telework software so turned out much better than anticipated.

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    1. Lori

      The only situation that I would find this to be appropriate is when you are in my industry “on reallocation”. That means basically a notice has been given to you from the company that you are to be laid off in x amount of months (somewhere around 4 months usually). All of your job duties usually go away during this time and is replaced with finding a job being your job duty. At the end of the time period, you are then terminated if you have not found a job yet (by that time, you would have either found one internally and moved to that job or you would have found one externally and resigned). This is totally fine to use the work laptop as the company has given you explicit instructions to do so and it is better for their reputation that you find something (so that they can say publicly they do not lay off).

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        1. Lori

          I work for a technology company that is outsourced into a drug making company. The drug making company is who does this (my company kind of does it too as they let us know our contract is ending at x time and we have until that time to find a new role). However, the drug making company is who reallocates their own employees (not the contracted ones).

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        2. Stephanie

          I’ve heard of this before–usually if the company is doing massive layoffs or ending contracts. This also happened to a friend of a friend at a BigLaw firm in the late 00s during the legal market crash–her firm gave her some advance notice and was ok with her doing some searching at work. It also benefits the employer as they might have fewer UI claims if people find a job while still employed.

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          1. Kyrielle

            When my husband’s former employer was going through bankruptcy and liquidation, employees were allowed to job search using company computers/internet and company time, whenever they didn’t have duties they needed to complete. Which meant that everyone they needed to handle the shutdown was doing their work with good heart when they had work, right up until they found other jobs, instead of moping around and making the shutdown process even harder. (And it made us even sadder to see them go, because we loved them lots for doing that. Yes, it basically cost them nothing, but still some companies wouldn’t do it, I think.)

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        3. Clever Girl

          I was notified that my entire department was being eliminated a couple jobs ago. We had three more weeks to stay. Our work petered off and we were allowed to use any down time to job search while at work. It was a post-production facility.

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        4. DMented Kitty

          DH works under a consulting company and gets assigned to projects – depending on the project he could either get extended or “rolled off” after the contract ends. Once rolled off the project, he goes into “bench” for a period of time and his job is to find internal (or external) jobs/projects he is qualified for and will apply for that. He is still compensated for his time on the “bench”. He can also do a bit of professional training during this time (the company provides online free courses), but he needs to be fully “chargeable” after a certain period and the company’s career counselor will follow-up and if the “bench” period takes too long it’s not good because people who have been on “bench” too long are the prime candidates of being let go.

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      1. Beezus

        My mom worked for a federal contractor supporting the shuttle program, and their layoff process was like that as the shuttle program wound down. There were stages of layoffs, employees affected in each stage knew months in advance, there were workshops available on resume, job hunting, and interviewing skills, and as long as their (dwindling) work was done, they were encouraged to job hunt and do coursework to update their skills during work hours and take time off to interview.

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        1. sunny-dee

          I had a friend who worked for a Medicare contractor, and it was the same thing. They were told in November that layoffs would be coming in the spring, and then the layoffs were phased something like every three months.

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    2. Side job

      I’ve been wanting to do something similar to get some side work. I’m not planning to leave my company. I love it. But we’re in a tight spot financially right now. I have a certain piece of software on my work computer that is industry standard for my field that I could use to create things for an outside job. But since my job purchased the license, which is around $1500, it seems like a bad idea. Just really, really wish I could.

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      1. BRR

        It’s likely your company’s license only covers work for your company and you would be violating the agreement by using it for outside work.

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        1. Evie

          You might also run the risk of (depending on laws, contracts etc) your work owning some of your intellectual property if you use their resources.

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          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            My employee handbook says anything I create on my work computer is the property of my work.

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            1. sunny-dee

              Yeah, I have something similar in my handbook, too. If I did a resume or something like a short story, they wouldn’t care, frankly, but I work in technology, and if I started writing a piece of software or running a technical blog, they would most definitely begin asserting their rights.

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    3. BRR

      That was my thought too unless the company specifically tells you it’s ok. My friend is in a situation where her company’s policy is its ok to use her work laptop for limited personal stuff (i.e. She can take it home and online shop but don’t install games on it) and her company phone all she wants.

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        1. BRR

          No matter the company policy, I would likely always refrain from job hunting on my company computer.

          Although when I was on my PIP earlier this year and it became clear that I wasn’t going to pass, my boss told me to neglect all of my work and job hunt on company time. That “my new job was to job hunt.”

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      1. SystemsLady

        Yup, we have to travel a lot, and there’s a lot of hold time, so in light of how impractical it is to bring along two laptops if you don’t have to, nobody really cares if you watch Netflix/use Skype/read blogs/pay bills/etc.

        Job searching though? Yeah no, that’s not a good thing to do no matter what. (Installing Steam or something would also probably be a no)

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    4. Christy

      We just bought a Lenovo IdeaPad (not the chromebook version, an actual cheap laptop) for $200. It comes with a free year of Office365. For $200, you can totally have your own laptop for things like job searching and anything else you wouldn’t want on your work laptop. Sure, it’s not perfect, and storage is minimal, but it’s definitely perfect for our and your purposes.

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      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        The HP Stream is another good option. It also runs full Windows and is only about $200. If you get it from the Microsoft Store, you can get the signature edition which has NO bloatware.

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    5. Rubyrose

      The only time I use a company computer for personal use is when I’m on the road (staying overnight somewhere), after hours, and obviously do not have my personal laptop with me.

      I got burned once. Remote worker, IT could not get my laptop to connect to my home printer. I needed something printed so I emailed the document to my personal email, so I could pick it up on my home computer and print. I was careful – document had no PHI or sensitive information. Two months later I’m contacted by legal. Spent 6 weeks in limbo about what they were going to do; they finally sent me a sternly worded reprimand.

      So 3 months later, when company laptop went belly up and it was going to take a week to send out another one – no electronic work got done. I could have easily used my home laptop, but they sent the clear message previously that they did not want me to use my home laptop for company use. They were not happy.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        My company would not want this either. We handle very sensitive client information and when you work remote, you do it on a company laptop and use VPN. No exceptions. So when I went abroad last, I had to take two laptops (mine had to go because I was in the middle of a 30-day blog challenge).

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    6. Elysian

      More than just not doing this on your work computer, I would want to be able to keep stuff after I leave my job. If you make your resume on your work computer, and get a new job, do you spend a ton of time transferring your information? Or just lose your resume when you hand in your computer? If you were laid off or something and asked to leave in the middle of the day and turn over all your equipment, how much stuff do you have on your work computer that you would lose? This seems like it can only be a problem, and its pretty easily solved by getting an inexpensive computer for personal use.

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      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        I’m in involved in a lot of community activities that benefit my job. My employer considers being visible in community as part of my role.

        So I will occasionally work on things that are related to these groups at work. Instead of saving the work to my work laptop, I save it to my google drive. It’s a good (free) option for saving your files when you don’t want to save it to the machine you’re working from.

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        1. Meg Murry

          Yes – after having more than one computer die catastrophically and having to resurrect my resume by digging through old emails or saying “hey friend, didn’t I have you proofread my resume 2 years ago, do you still have it?” I now keep my resumes and cover letters in both Google Drive and Dropbox.

          Which – relatedly – if you do decide to use your work laptop, OP, I highly recommend doing so in Google Drive, in a separate folder (perhaps called “personal” or something vague like that), in an incognito browser, as opposed to in Microsoft Word on your laptop. Because my newest version of office shows the last 10-15 files I’ve worked on every time I open Word – you don’t want to be in a presentation or meeting with your boss, coworkers or clients when your laptop shows “Resume” and “Cover Letter” in your sidebar as most recently opened files. Same with web searching – use an incognito Window, or it will start to put sites like Indeed . com or Monster . com or careers . majorcompetitor . com in your “most recent or frequently used sites” list. And same thing with personal email – don’t leave your personal gmail logged in and set to popup with new messages on the laptop.

          These all sound like silly, “duh” things, but I have seen all of these things happen with coworkers using laptops to give a presentation. Usually it’s not directly job search related but more personal things, like files related to their divorce, personal bankruptcy filings, online dating or just messages from a significant other that aren’t work related and are embarrassing for the work world to see.

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          1. themmases

            I saw this happen to a trainee in my department once. Residents rotating through had to select a disease and give a presentation to physicians and staff at our morning conference. Many of them chose to bring in their laptops and connect to the projector.

            One resident plugged in his laptop before bringing up his presentation and browsed for it. The first thing I noticed was his background of a beautiful beach cluttered with folders of pirated movies. The second thing I noticed was that one folder wasn’t named for a popular movie; it was named “Group Sex”.

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            1. Artemesia

              A colleague was giving a seminar for grad students and her screen saver came on during a long stretch which showed a picture of her recent wedding with her leaving the church with her considerably older husband. One of the students piped up with ‘Why is your father escorting you OUT of the church?’ AWKWARD.

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              1. Ani

                The husband of a Facebook acquaintance died a few years ago. He was considerably older than her. She would post some photo remembering him and a couple people would post comments about how hard it was when they lost their fathers too. (I chalk it up to her having nearly 1000 FB friends who have probably never met her.) She made it all even more cringe – worthy by posting the first photo of her still-living father she’s ever shared.

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      2. another IT manager

        This. Never keep anything on your local computer that you can’t lose. If you get a new job and ask for help getting your personal documents off the computer, I *might* help you, depending on a lot of factors–but I wouldn’t count on it.

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      3. Ad Astra

        I know I’m in the minority of commenters who don’t have a problem with using a work laptop to job search in the first place. If you’re going to do that, I would advise keeping your resume and all relevant documents in Google Drive or DropBox so they can be accessed from anywhere — for all the reasons you mention.

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        1. sunny-dee

          I agree with you — I have no problems using the work laptop for the relatively small amount of use of job searching, but I would second using external storage, either Dropbox or just a flash drive. Don’t store anything on your laptop you wouldn’t want going over to IT.

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        2. ReanaZ

          Yeah, I’m with you in the minority here. Perhaps it comes from working from chillax nonprofits that are big on “we have good benefits to distract you from the fact that the pay and conditions suck” nature. I have worked for an NFP that said “feel free to treat this like your personal laptop while you’re here” (I didn’t but some did).

          I would be discreet (private browsing) and I would save to DropBox or Google Docs. But I don’t think it’s a big deal if it’s done off-hours. (Companies can monitor your history even with private browsing, but if you don’t think it would be a big deal culturally, they can see the time stamps are after-hours, etc.)

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      4. Jennifer

        If you’ve ever sent an up-to-date resume as an attachment in your email server, or have it uploaded to a job board (Indeed or Monster come to mind), it would be saved as an attachment “in the cloud,” so even if you don’t have a computer or have a period of time where you don’t have access to a computer, the most recent version of the document (cover letters included, too!) are out there and searchable.

        Reply
    7. irritable vowel

      I don’t know — I think this really depends on the industry. I work in higher ed and it’s not a problem at all to use our university-issued laptops or tablets for personal use. If the OP works for a nonprofit and doesn’t think there is likely to be an issue (either because they don’t care or don’t have the tech savvy to check up on non-work-related use), then I wouldn’t worry about it. LW, if you’re concerned about saving things on the laptop, save them directly to a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive (and don’t sync those folders to the local drive). And clear your browser history regularly. When you leave the job wipe all your personal stuff. For an organization without a high sensitivity to information security or a lot of tech savvy, that will probably be enough.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think it’s really common to be able to use your work laptop for personal use (I’ve been able to in every job I’ve had, I think), but the issue is job searching from it in particular. There’s too much risk of someone coming across your documents, or of losing them because you’re let go with no notice (and thus no time to send them to yourself), and the whole thing about it just being an unprofessional thing to do.

        Reply
        1. sunny-dee

          Most of that relates to *locally stored* documents, though. If you just edit everything directly on a flash drive or in Google docs, there is nothing stored on the system for them to find and also nothing stored there for you to lose.

          Reply
          1. Anonymous Educator

            Yes, but with one caveat—if you don’t work in private browsing mode all the time or don’t manually clear out your cache and history, the actual document may not be stored locally, but the fact you were working on something called sunny-dee résumé may be.

            Reply
          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            But then you’re still left with it being an unprofessional thing to do. I suppose that if the OP is doing it only from home, during non-work hours, and not saving anything on the machine, I’m hard-pressed to point to a specific problem with it, but it’s ingrained in me that you don’t do that. It’s just … ick.

            Reply
            1. Anonymous Educator

              I’m not talking about the ethics/professionalism piece, just the technical can-you-get-caught piece. I fully agree it’s unprofessional and tacky.

              Reply
              1. Lady H

                IT can see Incognito/Private browsing, though. Just because you’re saving something in the cloud using private browsing doesn’t mean your IT department can’t see it! I hope more people realize this!

                Reply
                1. Oryx

                  +1 when you open an Incognito browser window in Chrome it has a note that this won’t stop your workplace IT from seeing what you’re doing.

                2. Anonymous Educator

                  I’m talking about on your home network, because the question was about “If I do this not during work hours….”

                  Unless IT installs some kind of non-malicious spyware that logs all your traffic even when you’re at home, then incognito at home should be fine. Again, talking strictly technologically and not ethically/professionally.

                3. Meg Murry

                  Yes, my Incognito/Private browsing suggestion above was meant for only when doing at home, off the clock personal work. And only to avoid the embarrassment of having “Lady H Resume” be the most recent Microsoft Word Document or “Monster dot com” be the first link that came up in Chrome every time you typed mo …

                  This obviously won’t stop IT from seeing what you were doing on your work laptop at home – it just will keep it from being 100% obvious accidentally.

                  In case it isn’t clear, I’m in the “gray area but leaning toward being an ok thing to do at home on personal time, just don’t be obvious or get caught” camp.

                4. WorkingFromCafeInCA

                  @MegMurry – “This obviously won’t stop IT from seeing what you were doing on your work laptop at home”

                  How do you mean? If you were incognito browsing on your home network, and then go to work the next day, what can IT see? (Aside from anything in your downloads folder, or recent file history stuff, etc). I seriously don’t know this stuff…

                5. Rubyrose

                  This example is from 10 years ago and technology has changed.

                  I inherited an employee who was extremely unproductive. And every time approached his desk he would immediately put on his screensaver, so I could not tell what he had been doing.

                  I had IT install some software on his machine that automatically captured screenshots of whatever he was doing and sent them to me in an email attachment. It was set up for once every 5 minutes minimum and could capture every 30 seconds, depending on activity.

                  The emails were a pain to deal with. But I got my answer. He was writing a state newsletter for a major political party. The company allowed us to do minor personal use of company computers, but explicitly excluded political items and topics. When confronted, he had no clue he had been monitored.

                  I always think of this when I’m on a company computer.

            2. sunny-dee

              Yeah, I think a lot of people have that opinion. I was just saying the concrete objections can be worked around by using some kind of external storage. Whether it’s tacky and unprofessional — that’s more of an opinion. Which is still important to weigh, especially since the larger consensus seems to be against using it for the job search. But the technical side can be worked around to a large extent.

              Reply
    8. Hush42

      I work full time and am a full time student and I use my company laptop to do my homework. But that was also the point of them switching my desktop for a laptop. I actually asked my boss if he could get me a wholesale price on a laptop and he said he could do that or he could just switch out my work computer with a laptop. It’s worked out pretty well. I still have my old personal laptop that works for most things it’s just too slow for my to get my homework done.

      Reply
    9. Liana

      There are some really great, cheap laptop models out there. I got an Amazon-certified refurbished Toshiba laptop for under $350, and it’s perfect for basic stuff like job searching, listening to music, etc. Chromebooks are even cheaper (I’m pretty sure you can find some under $200), and laptops are just really great to have in general, especially if you ever end up working in a job where you don’t get a work laptop. Toshibas and Lenovos are pretty reliable brands IMO, although Lenovos can get pricey.

      Reply
      1. Honeybee

        During the holidays I bought my 9-year-old cousin a new Chromebook for $99. I think it was a Black Friday sale, but sales are usually pretty slumpy during the early part of the year so you might find some great deals. If you want a little Windows computer you could also go for an HP Stream – they’re around $200 and I think they run Windows 10.

        Reply
    10. Miles

      If you ask around & check on craigslist or even charity stores, people are sometimes willing to part with very old laptops or computers for something on the order of $20-50. It won’t be a powerhouse, maybe not even good enough to watch netflix on, but for something like job searching that should be enough.

      Reply
    11. Rater Z

      I picked up my laptop at a pawnshop for $147.

      I needed one with Microsoft Vista because I use Microsoft’s Works for Windows and they left it out when Windows 7 was released. (I thought my tower was crashing but it turned out to be a virus instead.)

      Reply
    12. Honeybee

      You said both of the things I wanted to say. I considered this briefly when I was first issued a company laptop, but the laptop is company policy. They can take it at any time. What happens if there’s an audit and they take your laptop without warning one day and replace it with a new one temporarily? Or what happens if you leave it for a meeting and come back to find that IT had to wipe it because you got a virus or something?

      And I was going to recommend a Chromebook, too. They are pretty inexpensive and will handle the basic job searching tasks pretty easily.

      Reply
  3. MillersSpring

    #3 The next time your manager makes the “one brain” comment, chuckle noticeably. When she or someone reacts, you can say, “I’ve always found Jane’s expression about us having ‘one brain’ sort of odd.” I’m sure someone will agree with you.

    A little chuckle or “Hmph!” often deflates windbags!

    Reply
    1. fposte

      That’s pretty passive-aggressive, though, and it has a higher rishpk of hurting the relationship with the boss than talking to her directly. And we don’t know if she’s a windbag–we just know she has a go-to expression that’s annoying somebody. That’s pretty much universal.

      Reply
    2. Lily in NYC

      Is it just me or is OP misunderstanding the meaning of the phrase? It just means “we are on the same wavelength”.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        I think it offends the OP because she doesn’t see them as being on the same wavelength – she sees the boss as taking credit for her ideas and then claiming they’re so alike that they think of the same wonderful things.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          This is a huge part of it, I think. The OP says she comes up with a great idea, and the boss says, “I was just thinking that very thing; we have the same brain,” and it feels like the next implication is, “…so that means I get partial credit for that idea.”

          If the boss had said, “We think a lot alike,” or “I’m fortunately to have someone on my team who thinks like me,” it might not feel like such an “I get just as much credit too!” grab.

          Reply
      2. fposte

        She’s finding it more offputting than I think is usual, but I don’t think it’s because she misunderstands it; I think she just doesn’t like it.

        Reply
      3. Shannon

        I don’t know. There are also political ramifications to it. When I hear that phrase, I also hear, “Jane is my biggest ally at work.” The OP may not want to be that closely associated with her boss, for whatever reason.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          True–there are positives to that phrase, esp. if it doesn’t come w/ actual credit-hogging.

          It’s a way sometimes of saying, “I trust her,” or “she will react the way I do, so if I’m not around, her answer has a very high probability of very close to my own.”

          All of which can be very good things to have in a boss/subordinate relationship.

          Reply
  4. I'm not a lawyer, but ...

    #1 I would think he’d want to use some of that daily down time to work on his job search, writing resumes and cover letters, searching job boards etc. so you have more reason to say no. You don’t need him using your company’s resources for those activities.

    Reply
  5. Jeanne

    I’m unclear on #1. It says OP has a coworker who wants her husband to hang out there. I’m not sure OP has any ability to say if the husband may be there or not. If your boss says yes to him being there, you could try telling your boss it’s distracting but she may not listen. It does sound weird but you may have to wait and see if it affects your productivity or your coworker’s productivity.

    Reply
    1. KarenT

      Yes, it does sound like it’s a co-worker, not a manager who is writing in. As a co-worker you have no standing to shut it down, other than perhaps telling your boss you find it distracting. (But I get where you’re coming from–I’d find that irksome too)

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, assuming the OP is a coworker and not a manager, she doesn’t have much standing to say anything. The letter sounded to me like she just wanted a reality check on her take on the situation (“Am I being too harsh in this opinion?”).

      Reply
    3. MK

      Well, it’s a possibility that their manager (or whoever gets to make that decision) agrees to let him hang out as long as it’s ok (non-distracting) with the rest of the employees. Or the manager saying no, because he might disturb the rest of the team, and the coworker trying to get the others to say it’s ok to overule that objection. Or even the coworker trying to pre-empt any such objection, so that she can make the request to the boss with her coworkers approval (or at least tolerance).

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        The idea that unemployed husband hanging around the office is NOT distracting is ludicrous. I predict that there will be two toddlers, a few kids after school and an assortment of other workplace delights before the manager decides to manage.

        Reply
        1. Marcela

          Well, that depends. In all offices I’ve worked, all academia, there is always a reception area, a small desk or sofa, where anybody can be without disturbing someone else. And I’m not counting the university space, no. It’s space in our offices.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            That doesn’t mean it’s okay for somebody not in the university to park there for hours every day, though. My school would be unlikely to be comfortable with this, and I wouldn’t find it acceptable as an ongoing practice in the space I have access to.

            Reply
    4. INTP

      It could be a coworker with the authority to decide who gets to hang out and in the office all day, like an office manager.

      Reply
    5. Allison

      I don’t think the question was “can I say no?” or “do I have to allow it?” but rather “is it okay to be annoyed by this?” or maybe even “can I speak up if it causes a distraction?”

      Reply
  6. Mando Diao

    #1: I realize this isn’t the point of the question, but it strikes me as odd that the employee isn’t just driving herself to work. It doesn’t seem like her husband needs the car for his own purposes during the workday. Is she hoping that management will see her husband and spontaneously offer him a job? Or that the proposed 4 hours will turn into, “My husband doesn’t feel like driving home and coming back so he’ll just stay all day”? Because the math she’s suggesting doesn’t make any kind of sense.

    1.5 hour commute
    hang out for 2 hours
    1.5 hour drive back home
    Hang out at home for one hour
    1.5 hour drive back to office
    hang out at office for 2 hours.
    1.5 hour commute home

    I’m at a loss for why anyone (who frankly should be using his time to look for a new job) would volunteer for that kind of set-up. Is there another element in this scenario that would put it into better context? I’m trying not to read anything weird or sinister into this request but it’s hard because it has the vibe of the employee trying to pull one over on OP somehow.

    Reply
    1. KarenT

      In this context it’s probably fair to assume that the OP doesn’t drive or that the husband does need the car for something. Otherwise, I’m sure she would drive heslf in.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Eh, I don’t think the employee is trying to pull anything over on anyone. Some people say “1.5 hour commute” to mean “45 minutes each way, 1.5 hours total.” And/or they could just be boundary-less. Who knows, but I think speculation is likely fruitless in this case. It’s weird regardless.

      Reply
        1. Lily in NYC

          What is left-field about it? They probably share a car. How is he going to go to those interviews you think he should be going on without having a car during the day?

          Reply
          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            Yeah, this didn’t faze me at all. My husband and I only have one car. It suuuucks to be stuck at home when he takes it for the day. It certainly wouldn’t work if I needed to get to an interview/etc.

            Reply
          2. Ghost Town

            My husband and I have one care, and we live the town and county over from where we work. Staying home for any reason is logistical gymnastics b/c of daycare and my husband’s classes after work.

            It does suck, as Victoria Nonprofit (USA) pointed out, to be at home without a car because stuff comes up.

            Reply
        2. Oryx

          Exactly how do you think he’s going to get to these jobs he should be applying and interview to without a car? Not everyone lives somewhere with reliable mass transit.

          Reply
          1. Temperance

            I definitely agree with that, but I honestly don’t understand why he needs to drive her and hang out there every single day. My husband and I had this situation, and on interview days, I gave him a ride to work and then picked him up.

            Reply
            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              As others have pointed out, the coworker may not be able to drive. There are multiple people in my social circle who can’t, due to various disabilities.

              Reply
              1. Anna

                The OP specifically says they carpooled when he worked in the city and that now he’s lost his job, he’s continued to drive her to work. I’m guessing that if there were a disability that would not permit the coworker to drive, the OP would have acknowledged that. I don’t think we’re dealing with that issue; I think it’s a weirder situation than that.

                Reply
                1. Rusty Shackelford

                  Really, the spouse not wanting to stay home without access to a vehicle is NOT all that weird.

            2. Oryx

              As the OP explained, he’s waiting for traffic to die down before getting back on the road. Depending on which way they are driving, I can certainly appreciate that: I drive against traffic every single day, including a previous 45 minute commute. Getting to work is one thing, but if I were to then turn around and try to get back into the city during the middle of rush hour that previous 45 minute drive could easily turn into close to an hour and a half.

              Reply
              1. Artemesia

                But what kind of boundary challenged people think having him hang around his wife’s office for hours EVERY DAY is reasonable, desirable, not disruptive. If this happened once or twice — not big deal, but every day is going to be day care for footloose husband? Yikes.

                Reply
                1. Myrin

                  I agree. I’m compassionate to their situation but ultimately, it’s not the office’s problem to manage and should be dealt with outside of it.

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        I was thinking that the co-worker does not drive.

        Whilst it might be permissable once. “Oh I need to finish up Project X. Take a seat and I will be out in 20 minutes”, this sounds as if the longer the unemployed husband stays in the office, the more likely the bosses will think he is on the payroll.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          I doubt they’ll start paying him because he’s there, but they may get comfortable enough to discuss sensitive information in front of him, which could be a big deal if they’re in an industry where that matters.

          Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        Especially since the guy driving -will- drive both ways at once, it wouldn’t be odd for he and his wife to think of it as a 1.5-hour commute. (I tend to think of my commute as one way, because I only travel one way at a time.)

        Reply
    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      One of my coworkers and his wife chose to be a one car family. His wife works at the university and relies on walking and public transportation, and he drives the car every day.

      However, when she needs the car during the day, she will drive him in and pick him up.

      To me the driving of the OP coworker makes sense, as it allows him to have use of the car during the day (hanging out at office, not so much).

      Reply
    4. Oryx

      I’ve known multiple couples who share a car and these are couples who don’t live in communities with mass transit so someone usually has to drive the other to work and pick them up after. It’s really not all that odd at all.

      Reply
    5. fposte

      And he may be deciding whether or not to retire–or has decided to retire. We can’t really know from here if he “should” be looking for a new job.

      Reply
    6. Mike B.

      I don’t think a lot of people are fighting for the rare privilege of having their spouse allowed to hang out in their office for a couple of hours a day.

      It might not be a request that a business can accommodate, but there’s nothing untoward or even really unreasonable about making it–this setup would apparently be convenient for them. Nothing more to it than that.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Eh, I think it’s a little unreasonable to even ask. There are lots of things that would be convenient for people but they don’t ask because it’s obviously inappropriate (can I bring my kid to work with me every day, can my visiting friend sleep in the office so she doesn’t need to pay for a hotel, etc.).

        Reply
        1. Mike B.

          I don’t think it’s quite so obviously inappropriate, actually. Not every workplace would find a situation like this disruptive–a coworker of mine used to be joined on her late shifts by her husband, who did his own work quietly at an empty desk, and it didn’t really bother anyone. Not the case here, but I’d raise an eyebrow if the employer were unhappy that she even asked.

          Reply
      2. Florida

        I agree that there are probably not a lot of people fighting for the privilege of having their spouse hang out at the office, but it could open the door to people fighting to have other family members, specifically children, hang out at the office. If Jane’s husband can hang out because of transportation issues, can Susan’s teenagers hang out because of transportation issues?
        From an employee perspective, it would be completely awkward to have a co-worker’s husband hanging out at the office.

        Reply
    7. Kyrielle

      That math assumes also that coworker has an 8-hour day, start-to-finish. In my experience, many people have at least a 9-hour day (due to lunch), and often longer. So he may be getting 3-4 hours at home in the middle even if it’s 1.5 hours each way.

      (Although…that doesn’t quite hold up if the coworker has a longer-than-9-hour day since either the beginning or end would probably miss rush hour in that case.)

      But regardless, spouse in the office for four hours a day seems odd to me, yes.

      Reply
      1. Biff

        I live in an area that has famously bad gridlock. Rush hour in the morning starts at about 6am, and it can easily last until 10. At night, it starts at 3 and last until after 7 even on a normal day. If there are special events, all bets are off. It once took me 5 hours to go 60 miles.

        Reply
        1. Kyrielle

          …ow. Noted; it could indeed still apply.

          Also, you have just made me very grateful for our rush hour situation here.

          Reply
          1. Biff

            Still, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me unless they are in one of those odd scenarios where traffic is bad BOTH ways (and this does happen — look at San Fran/Silicon Valley. East/West has a distinct ‘tide’, but North/South is always gummed up both ways.)

            Reply
  7. Blurgle

    #2: You have an iPad? Buy a keyboard case and download the Microsoft Word app. You don’t need anything more – in fact, you don’t even need a subscription to Word, since everything you’d need is covered in the free app.

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Are you actually using this? Because I found the free app doesn’t cover anything at all. What am I doing wrong?

      Reply
    2. Jane

      I keep reading that the free app is useful but I found it totally functionless. I also called Microsoft IT support and they were useless. Not sure why, but even though all the news articles say you can do basically everything using the free app, does not work for me. I ended up buying it cause it makes my life easier for work. Also, in my job I know people use work computers for job hunting. It’s risky but we often don’t have the luxury of down time and being totally off the clock, even on weekends, so people take the risky and multitask (or if we have down time it’s often in the middle of the day at work and recruiters generally communicate with us and we send resumes in during working hours). It’s theoretically doable but to me not worth the energy.

      Reply
      1. Mike B.

        It depends to a point on the employer. Mine prides itself on the frequency with which former employees return to the fold, and tends to turn a blind eye to minor indiscretions like this.

        Reply
    3. Book Person

      Or use the free Pages app on your iPad and either print from that or export it as a Word doc if the free Word app doesn’t have much functionality (I’ve never tried it myself; I find Pages works just fine when I’m travelling for work and don’t want to bring a laptop. Ditto Numbers exporting to Excel.)

      Reply
      1. Lore

        The free Pages is much much better than the free Word but still it’s a little challenging to do anything format-heavy. Cover letters, no problem, but resume bullet points maybe a little harder.

        Reply
    4. Ad Astra

      I keep my resume in Google Drive and can easily update it from the Google Drive iPad app, though it’s a lot harder to create one from scratch or do a major overhaul on just an iPad.

      Reply
  8. New Bee

    Ack, LW1, if your boss asks your opinion, tell her it’s a bad idea. I speak from experience; the same situation is happening at one of the sites I work at, except 1) it’s an unemployed boyfriend (she’s in her first post-college job; he’s yet to find one) and 2) it’s been allowed to go on for months without the site manager directly saying “this is not OK”. Boyfriend basically follows her like a puppy, and I told her she’s damaging her professional network before even building it for being known as “the one with the boyfriend.” I work on-site pretty infrequently, but she attends my training sessions regularly, and he even hangs around those! Just bizarre, all around.

    Reply
  9. Apollo Warbucks

    #2 I don’t see the big deal in using the laptop outside of work it won’t impact on the company at all.

    They would be able to tell when it was used as documents have time stamps on showing when documents were created or edited and any web use would also have time stamps as well, and you should clear up your laptop before giving it back anyway.

    As for using the company property to subsidize the job search, it won’t cost the company a penny, if you were sending out applications on the company dime or forging time sheets so you got paid for interviewing elsewhere then yeah that would be bad but to me using a laptop at home for a few hours isn’t that egregious.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      It’s their property, so any use of it should technically be for the company’s benefit. We used client funds to purchase a fax machine, and we aren’t allowed to have any other projects use it, even if they supplied their own paper and toner, even for outgoing faxes. All work done on that equipment is supposed to be for our client.

      An employer would be right to fire you for using a company laptop for a job search, just as they have the right to say no surfing the Internet on it, on company time or not. It’s a little rigid, sure, but it’s not totally unreasonable.

      Reply
      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I really disagree that the company would be right to fire an employee for using a company laptop for job searching, unless ALL personal use is prohibited.

        Surfing the internet on company time detracts from the work you are doing and it would be directly costing the company money.

        I constantly do more overtime than I’m paid for, pick up work in the evenings and weekends when needed, I use my personal phone for work e-mail and calls and don’t mind doing that I also generally go above what is expected in my role. If my company told that as a thank you for that I couldn’t do something that didn’t cost them a penny but saved me several hundred $ I’d think they were being not just very rigid but extremely petty as well.

        Reply
        1. Mike B.

          When you use your employer’s resources to job search, you’re at once doing something that makes them worry about your future with the company and doing something that’s technically against the rules–a reason to fire you and an excuse to fire you in one convenient package. It doesn’t necessarily matter that you’re a valued employee if they think you’re about to leave them in the lurch.

          Reply
          1. Apollo Warbucks

            I’m talking generally about acceptable personal usage, either you let people use work computers within reason or you don’t. I don’t view job searching as something so bad or morally objectionable that it shouldn’t be done on a work computer.

            And in the UK it would be highly unlikely to get fired for job searching using company equipment unless you were spending hours and hours on it and and it becomes a performance issue that is interfering with doing your job.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              But for most employers “within reason” doesn’t include “making plans to leave us.” This would be outside of “within reason.”

              There are workplaces where it would be okay, of course, but the default is to no, and it would be unwise to assume that it’s okay if you’re not sure. You’d also be unwise to leave any traces of its coming from a workplace computer or account visible to your prospective employers, too.

              Reply
            2. Merry and Bright

              I think that is true for most jobs. When sites are blocked it mostly tends to be stuff like gambling or porn. I did have a year’s contract in a firm that also blocked jobsearch sites so jobs boards, rectuiter sites etc were all blocked. Also some of their main competitors in case you searched on their vacancy pages! That place was definitely not the norm though.

              As you say, performance is the key thing in most places.

              Reply
              1. Solidus Pilcrow

                A former workplace blocked all job hunting sites, all outside email (so no gmail or my contracting company’s email), and all file sharing sites (so no google docs, google drive, etc). They also blocked downloading info to a jump drive and disabled writing CDs/DVDs.

                Reply
                1. Judy

                  I’ve certainly worked at a place (F50) that back in the ’90s you needed a manager to put in username and password to access flash drive or writable CD. The odd thing was you didn’t have that restriction on using floppy drives, and we moved files to and from the lab computers using sneakernet all the time.

                  You also had to put in your proxy password EVERY TIME YOU SWITCHED TO A DIFFERENT PAGE OR RELOADED A PAGE on the internet.

                2. Doriana Gray

                  I worked at a law firm that did this supposedly to boost productivity, and yet, we were on mandatory OT for years (yes, years) because employees were talking and using the Internet on their phones instead of working. So those of us with decent time management skills were punished for no reason.

        2. TootsNYC

          well, they might see looking for a job with the competition (and a great deal of the time, people leave one employer for a very similar employer) as a bit of a betrayal, whereas shopping for a new refrigerator isn’t.

          Reply
    2. AnotherFed

      Personal use of company laptops does cost the company money and risk, though – not a lot, but it’s there. The most basic thing is that it’s hours/wear on a company machine that has a finite lifespan. Job searching is pretty innocuous, but internet browsing does opens the laptop up to viruses, fishing sites, etc. We recently had to get refresher training because someone tried to buy event tickets on a work computer and was actually on some sort of scam mirror site that stole his info. There’s also the risk that if a company employee uses a company laptop to do anything shady, the company at a minimum has to deal with clearing itself in any investigation and could even end up being sued.

      Reply
    3. Ad Astra

      Yeah, I’m with you on this one. There’s certainly no harm in following Alison’s advice, but personally I’m not into purchasing expensive equipment I can’t afford when I already have access to it for free. When I was unemployed, I did my job hunting on my husband’s work-issued computer.

      If the company doesn’t allow personal use, then any personal use is a no-no. But to me, there’s no real difference between using it to Skype your grandma and using it to apply for other jobs.

      Reply
    4. Elizabeth West

      If the OP does use it off-hours for that, I would absolutely not store any of the personal material on the laptop. Put it on Google Drive or similar. The employer could decide at any moment to yank the laptop for any reason, or if it gets lost or stolen, wipe it remotely. Then *POOF* all their documents are gone.

      Reply
    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’ve come across resumes and cover letters on an employee’s work computer before. It made me think (a) this person is getting ready to leave, so I need to be aware of that when doing long-term planning, (b) they’re possibly doing this during work hours so now I need to consider that there might be an issue with their work ethic and professional judgment and will need to watch them more closely to see if there are other problems too, (c) even if they’re not doing it during work hours, they’re either naive enough or unconcerned enough to do it on a work computer so, again, judgement issues, and (d) this is just unprofessional overall, and it’s lowered my respect for them.

      None of those are things you want colleagues or managers thinking about you, and it’s easily avoided.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        At my company if you apply for an internal position, you have to submit a copy of your resume. So I have a copy of my resume on my work computer so that I can update it if necessary. It makes no sense for me to send myself a copy and then delete it. There are a lot of valid reasons to keep a copy of your resume on your work computer, not all of them nefarious.

        Reply
        1. Doriana Gray

          Yup, same here. Everyone at my company is encouraged to keep their resumes up to date (yes, during work hours and on our work computers) because we do internal employee swaps all the time and the hiring managers will want to see them.

          Reply
        2. simonthegrey

          This. I periodically update my resume because I use it as an example for students writing resumes, and also because I apply for full-time on campus positions as they open up (yay, adjunct). It’s very much accepted where I work, though, for adjuncts to adjunct at multiple community colleges in the area and also for the nearby university (and the for profit college, though I don’t want to work there).

          Reply
    6. Roscoe

      I actually agree. I think it really depends on the job and what they expect from you. Some jobs give these things to you and expect you to take it home with you (fairly often) to do work. I think if that expectation is there, then its kind of assumed you will do some personal things on there. I mean so many companies give their employees cell phones too. I think they’d be foolish to expect that nothing personal (Email, text, browsing) is done on there. Some companies would be real sticklers for it, but I wouldn’t worry about it.

      Reply
      1. AcademiaNut

        My employer explicitly allows work provided computers/iPads to be used for (legal) personal stuff. For one thing, it’s kind of illogical to cart two laptops, plus all the associated cables and peripherals, while travelling, and you use a laptop for work during the day, and for entertainment in the evenings.

        Reply
    7. WorkingFromCafeInCA

      I also don’t see this as a big deal for my company. We are distributed, fewer than 30 employees, all work from home and travel often. There is no IT team; if we need help, we make our own appointment to take the laptop in somewhere. I’m not sure anyone has a separate computer for personal use, aside from a tablet for their kids. I could be wrong though. Now I’m wondering if I’ve made some assumptions here that I should check on.

      They’ve never mentioned that we shouldn’t be using our laptops or cell phones (also paid by them) for personal things. This definitely has me thinking.

      Reply
  10. Random Lurker

    #5 – if the prospective employer is unhappy that you are asking to reschedule an interview for a funeral, that’s a data point for you to consider. If they aren’t flexible with you in a time of need now, they probably won’t be once you are on the payroll.

    As Alison says, these things happen and most are very understanding. But if this is one of those times that they aren’t, it’s worth considering this as a potential red flag.

    Reply
    1. Hlyssande

      Yes, this! How they respond to your request to reschedule will be informative about the company culture.

      OP, I’m so sorry for your loss.

      Reply
    2. K.

      Yeah, it wouldn’t occur to me to do anything other than reschedule for a funeral. That’s a very extenuating circumstance and employers should understand that. If they don’t, it would be a huge red flag. If there’s a panel of interviewers and a lot of scheduling to deal with, they’ll say so – but they should still be compassionate.

      Reply
  11. a person

    #2 If you’re using the company laptop for job hunting during work hours, it’s definitely not OK ( but I do it anyway.) But if you do it during non-work hours, then I don’t see anything wrong with it. If you use the laptop to actually DO other work, well.. then you’ll probably get fired.

    Reply
    1. Michaela T

      I was thinking it would be fine in off hours too. And maybe save personal documents to a cloud drive or a personal hard/flash drive?

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        exactly. Use google docs to store the documents, but I don’t think the browsing for posts or even applying from there is bad.

        Reply
  12. Jesicka309

    OP 3 – no advice, but what your boss says sounds suspiciously like one of those old blonde jokes (something around sharing a brain between two instead of two brains). I immediately thought your boss was saying that you had one brain between two people, which sound even more obvious if your boss doesn’t realize what shes implying.
    Maybe you can gently correct her with similar phrases that are more flattering. Eg “we share a brain!” “ha ha yeah great minds think alike” or “same wavelength? Ha ha ” “yeah, we are pretty in sync as a team”.

    Reply
    1. AnotherTeacher

      Those are good suggestions, if OP3 wants to say anything. I also think Alison’s advice to not say anything is best. It depends on the relationship, whether saying something will cause a problem.

      I can see why OP3 would be annoyed, if the comments come across like the undercutting of abilities and intelligence. I also sensed that OP3 feels the boss isn’t giving due credit. The comments can be seen as complimentary; they can also be seen as the boss’ way to control how much recognition OP3 gets.

      Reply
      1. Three Thousand

        Also, I get the sense the OP thinks the boss isn’t terribly bright in addition to taking credit for her work and is insulted at the association.

        Reply
    2. LBK

      I suppose that’s one reading of it, but I’ve only ever heard the phrase used to mean “we’re on the same wavelength,” so I don’t think the manager means it that way and I’d be surprised if people were hearing it that way.

      Like Three Thousand said above, I’m guessing the real issue is that the manager isn’t someone the OP would really want to be associated with in this way. I’d certainly take it as a compliment if a great manager were constantly saying we thought alike, so I take it the OP’s manager is not so great.

      Reply
  13. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

    #3

    It’s just an expression, and a complimentary one. We say things like that all the time on my team all the time because sometimes it does feel like we share a brain, and we know each other so well we can speak for the other.

    My favorite, in my best Valley Girl voice: “OMG, it’s like we’re the same person!” << usually said when we say the same thing at the same time, or had the same thought overnight about a particular person. The other person responds in Valley Girl squeal: "OMG!!"

    If it bugs you, say something as Alison suggests. You guys don't have one brain if it's bothering you that much and your boss doesn't know it.

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      good god this is an edit mess. I need more coffee. If you share a brain with me, you’ll be able to read this.

      Reply
      1. Audiophile

        Eh it’s not so bad. I might just be saying this because I’m up at this ungodly hour. Ask me again in 6 or 7 hours.

        Reply
    2. Monique

      I’m with Wakeen, we have a version of this, (“Get out of my brain!” whenever my boss and I say/think the exact same thing at the same time.) that is nothing but complimentary. I don’t think anyone thinks they might as well get rid of one of us.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        There’s a joke in there somewhere. Maybe OP can say something like, “My brain is kind of crowded, I am not sure how comfy anyone else would be in my brain.”

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          This could actually be an effective way to always respond. It’s inoffensive and kinda friendly, and it’s funny. And if the OP always says it in response, it might subtly act as a negative reward.

          Reply
    3. JB (not in Houston)

      Sure, but there are certain expressions that drive me crazy, even if they are meant well. Sometimes you get irritated by things that other people don’t mind, and people telling you it shouldn’t be a big deal doesn’t make it less irritating to you.

      Plus, I got the impression from the letter than either the boss isn’t someone the OP wants to be seen as being that similar to or the boss is more or less taking credit for the OP’s ideas.

      Reply
      1. Izzy

        I had a couple of coworkers who joked that they shared a brain. I think it started because four days out of five at least, they came in with the same color shirt on. (They denied any knowledge of the other’s wardrobe plans.) Occasionally one of them would forget something or have one of those mental blank moments, and apologize “Sorry, Lucinda has the brain today!” It was a running gag for years. They were friends, and it was never an attempt to grab or share credit. It’s an expression that probably works best between peers who are friends, and only if both are on board.

        Reply
  14. maria

    I admit I am a little surprised at the comments implying that no one should use their work laptop for anything but work. I use mine daily for personal email and to pay bills and take care of other personal business, as does my boss. I also recently got married and did a lot of wedding work – website, designed programs, etc– almost all off hours, of course.

    I am a high performing, well compensated young professional and this is the norm among my cohort. I see it as a routine perk, and don’t expect it would ever come up as a problem unless there were performance issues. I agree that I would not job search from the laptop, but don’t think the personal – professional line is so strong otherwise. Should I rethink this?

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      I use my work laptop for all kinds of personal crap, but that’s fine in our culture/org. I even paid to upgrade my processor so I could run The Sims 3 on it. (Don’t judge. I like God games, okay?)

      Reply
      1. Laurel Gray

        I used to work with a guy that brought in a personal laptop (allowed) and played The Sims 2 about 75% on free play. He even left the laptop facing outward when he was working so people could see his wacky Sims doing random stuff. His main bachelor Sim could woo hoo in the car, dressing room, hot tub and bed on free play with a variety of neighbors. I still have no idea how he got his Sim to be so “ambitious” via free play. I tried to do free play and usually a stove or fireplace fire kills off half my family, the couple gets divorced, or my kid goes from average teen to degenerate adult.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          Ha, oh dear lord. I’ve never played The Sims while IN the office or anywhere near working hours.

          I’m only admitting to it here under the Cloak of Anonymity.

          (There are a bunch of game mods that can tune your game, btw, which, that’s how he did that. )

          Reply
      2. Ad Astra

        Culture is a big factor here. I’ve had one job where any and all personal use was prohibited (and, for most of us, social media and other non-work sites were blocked, as if we were children). At my current job, people stay late to use their work computers for freelance work, update their portfolios (we have a lot of graphic designers and other creative types), and do whatever else. I would think those with laptops do similar things at home.

        Reply
    2. DHT

      I think it very much depends on your workplace culture. Where I work, any unauthorized use of my company-issued laptop would be cause for dismissal. Friends of mine work in places that don’t seem to care at all.

      Reply
    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      I commented above that the computer is company property and technically it’s not OK to use it for personal use just because it supposedly doesn’t cost the company anything. It costs wear and tear, and exposes the company’s computer and network to malware.

      But I am in the same situation as you — in fact, I’m typing this on a work computer. Because as long as we’re getting our work done, my employer is OK with personal use of company equipment. But what applies to us does not necessarily apply to everyone, and this blog is about general work advice, not advice specific to us. Unless they are told otherwise, they should be cautious and conservative, especially if their employer is very strict about other things.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        Good point.

        The reason we don’t care in my company is that you cannot connect to the company’s servers from your laptop unless you are very specifically going through remote connection, which is sanitized. You can have a host of crap on the rest of the laptop, which our IT department won’t support you on, because they can control what happens through remote.

        “Good luck with that” <<< is what you get if you try to get the IT department to solve problems you created with poor protection or practices.

        And, if somebody fried their laptop into unusable because they did stupid things, I am sure the IT dept would have a lot of restrictions on what they could do, if they ever got a replacement.

        Reply
        1. KR

          We don’t do much to restrict people’s usage here, but if they’re name comes up on our security reports too much they get locked down pretty quickly. It varies from user to user – some can handle it and some can’t.

          Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        Yep. We can get on the internet, but we can’t put music and stuff on our laptops. It’s not supposed to be used for anything but work, really. I wouldn’t want my personal crap all over it. If they needed to swap out my machine or get into it for some reason and did it while I was gone, and they wiped it either on purpose or accidentally, then all my stuff will go bye-bye.

        Reply
    4. blackcat

      It depends on the culture of your organization.

      When I worked at a private school, the rules on the books were no personal use of school-issued laptops. But nearly EVERYONE used their laptops for personal use. I get it–the school issued computers were generally nicer than what people needed for their job, and a comparable computer for personal use would be 2 weeks pay for most people.

      I had a pretty good personal laptop heading into the job and so I only used the work computer for work (it was actually great psychologically for me–it clearly delineated “work time” from “non work time” and kept me more focused when I was working from home). The IT guy verified that I was the only person who he knew who did this, despite the on the books rules.

      The flip side was that if *anything* went wrong with the laptop that they could possibly pin on “personal usage,” employees were charged for repairs. I think I was the only employee who had a computer die who didn’t have to pay out of pocket for some percentage of repairs, because it was verifiable that I hadn’t used it for non-work purposes. I think the big problem is that a lot of teachers let their children interact with their laptops, and so there was a lot of water damage/dropping/etc that happened because of that.

      The worst, though, was when some student walked over to a teacher’s desk carrying coffee and spilled it on the open lap top. They first said that employees were always responsible for water damage (the idea being that would always be the employee’s fault), and they tried to dock the employees pay for the entire cost of a new machine. That was a great way to kill morale.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        Wow! I’ve worked at several private schools, and I’ve never encountered anything like this (employees having to pay for water damage that happened during school, employees having to pay for repairs in general if “personal usage” happened).

        But it is fairly typical to at least say in acceptable use policy that personal use is not okay. It’s just a CYA measure and is rarely enforced in schools. What it’s most useful for isn’t penalizing faculty/staff for personal use but saving the tech department wasting time and energy rescuing / transferring or doing anything else involved with faculty/staff personal (instead of school-related) files. No, we’re not going to do data recovery to get back erased photos of your grandkids or give you an external drive to transfer your 80 GB’s worth of personal videos. Yes, we will support you when you are having trouble with your computer in such a way that it prevents you sharing/creating curriculum or organizing meetings or doing grades.

        Reply
        1. KR

          This. I’ll help you with whatever you need to get your computer running, but if Kohls is being slow for you and you can’t load the page, that’s really too bad but I have other things to do. I had a user hassle me for weeks because her personal phone wouldn’t stay connected to the WiFi. If you don’t want to use cellular data, turn your phone off but I’m not going to spend time agonizing over whether you can check Facebook during the day without using data.

          Reply
    5. BananaPants

      I agree. I used my work laptop at home for personal use for almost a month after my personal laptop kicked the bucket, before we could afford to buy me a new Chromebook (which I love – OP2, that might be a good choice if money is a factor). I can’t access any company servers or resources without using the VPN with 2-factor authentication, and that’s locked down pretty tightly. I have a copy of my resume on my work laptop and never gave it a second thought. I regularly go on LinkedIn during my work day.

      I certainly wouldn’t visit any unsavory sites or do anything remotely questionable on it, but in my organization there’s nothing wrong with bringing your work laptop home and making appropriate personal use of it.

      Reply
    6. Ani

      Yeah it depends on the company. All that wedding work would never fly at a lot of places. Heck, printing out flyers got one coworker fired. So no, I disagree it’s universal or even widespread to use company laptops that way.

      Reply
    7. Kat

      I agree with this. Every job I’ve had it was no biggie to use your laptop for personal things off hours. I even ran my freelance business off my laptop; no one cared.

      Reply
      1. Sunshine

        Did you ask permission and they granted it? Or were they unaware that you were doing it and never found out?

        I think alot of people assume that it’s okay, and the company never finds out unless something goes wrong. It’s not an issue till it’s an issue. (Not calling you out specifically at all… just an observation for all.)

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        Yeah, I wouldn’t care about wedding planning, or printing up to 25 flyers, or shopping.

        But I -would- care about running your freelance business. But if I don’t know about it, I can’t say something. And if I were your colleague and knew from things you’d said, I wouldn’t go tattle, so the boss might never truly realize.

        How sure are you that “no one cared”?

        Reply
    8. Xay

      I agree that it depends on the nature of your job and your company culture. The company that I work for allows personal use of company laptops because most people travel frequently and the company doesn’t expect everyone to carry around two laptops. On the other hand, I would never use a government computer for anything beyond very light personal use.

      Reply
    9. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think in many jobs, it’s totally normal and fine to use your laptop for personal stuff. I always have. I’m talking solely about job searching on it being an issue.

      Reply
    10. KR

      I agree with this. I don’t bring my work laptop home but I don’t mind doing non-work related things on it as long as I’m not on the clock. This is especially so because my personal computer isn’t functional so anything I need to do on an actual PC and not my phone I can just do on my off time at work. No big deal.

      Reply
    11. Honeybee

      Yeah, I was too. I have a work-issued laptop and although I wouldn’t job search on it, I do take care of a lot of personal business on my computer. I also do have some personal elements on there – like my Spotify music, as I listen to it at work. But it’s the culture of my company as well. We also decorate our laptops with dorky stickers – it’s really common to see people whose work laptops have video game or sci fi stickers on them.

      Reply
  15. Not So NewReader

    OP #3. I am really hoping you do not say too much, if anything at all. If she said you were her right arm would that be less negative? Not saying this with snark in my voice, I promise. She is giving you a very high compliment. I am afraid that if you try to stop the remark, it would cause her to question things.

    My thinking is that if you feel you do not get credit enough for your ideas, then tell her exactly that. It could be that is actually happening, you and your boss think alike so much that she forgets where her ideas end and yours begin. Go to the real point rather than making a case against the use of a certain expression.

    I adore my current boss. Our thinking is so similar that we complete each other’s sentences. I can tell you that my ideas get merged with hers and she thinks some of my ideas were originally her ideas. And sometimes that catches me off guard. “Hey, wait a minute, X was MY idea!”
    I have to remind myself that my boss loves my work and it really does not matter whose idea X was in the bigger picture. There are enough times where she recognizes my ideas that I am on solid ground with her and I will continue to stay on solid ground with her.

    BUT. My boss is very reality based. She knows that I could use a better job. She is quite candid about being a good reference for me and she brings me employment ads. So while she would say we share a brain, there are too many times where she recognizes my individual needs and concerns.

    Here’s what I would say if I were in your shoes: “Boss, sometimes it seems like we think so much alike it’s almost uncanny. But I have times where I wonder if MY originality and MY contributions really show here as being my own work and my own applied thinking.” Then listen closely to what she says next.

    I think in any good partnership there is a blending, where lines get a little blurry. Think about marriages. Spouses know each others preferences and make decisions for each other. Think about dancing partners. If one dance partner sucks then the other partner appears less talented, less able to perform dance moves. Good partners make each other look even better.

    Clearly, I am not you. If I was wanting a promotion, wanting to move up in my field then I would want to know that my boss sees me and my work as distinctly separate from her and her work. If this is the case for you, then I would say go ahead and have that big picture conversation. If you just tell her to stop using a particular expression, the results may fall short of your goal. And she may become worried about her dance partner.

    Reply
    1. Chocolate lover

      Personally I don’t view my relationship with my boss as a “partnership.” Partnership suggests an equal footing. He’s my boss. And in order to advance, my own contributions need to be clearly identified as such or I won’t get promoted. Especially since he doesn’t actually determine if I get promoted, there’s a committee.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I agree that partnership is a weak word, I am trying to think of things where you have to move in coordination with others, so my analogies don’t hold throughout. And yes, boss/employee is not equal footing, and that point kind of fits into what OP is saying- I am not a part of your brain nor a second brain for you. I am your employee.

        Reply
  16. Fleur

    Before using your work laptop for anything personal, I would carefully read your company’s IT policy. Ours does allow personal use, but it also stores our data usage on a company server for X number of years, especially any communication/attachments/USB transfers sent outside the company. And that’s only what they claim to monitor. I looked up the software we use, and it has some pretty invasive capabilities.

    Personally, I only ever do work on my work laptop for that reason. Any personal info like banking, shopping, passwords are not something I want kept on some server somewhere being monitored, even if it’s technically allowed.

    Reply
  17. Three Thousand

    #3 This is the kind of thing that would bother me coming from someone I didn’t like or respect and not at all from someone I did. It sounds like you don’t think much of your boss. You’re coming up with the ideas and she’s obliquely taking credit for them, and she doesn’t seem to be doing much useful work on her own. That won’t stop even if she does stop making cutesy comments.

    Reply
    1. J.B.

      Yeah, I think so. Is there a chance that OP3 is the golden child but 3’s boss isn’t a good manager? In that case speaking up would probably hurt a lot more than help. Trying to let the specific comments go would be safer, and if necessary focus on getting out.

      Reply
    2. AnotherFed

      Agree. It’s such a minor thing that t sounds like the OP might be t BEC stage with the boss. In that case, it is time to move on, regardless of whether the hated phrase stops.

      Reply
    1. Mike B.

      It’s sort of like jaywalking or standing on a chair to reach the upper cabinet; we know it’s a little risky but we do it anyway because we can’t resist saving those little bits of time and effort.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        True, but there’s a difference between breaking the rules when it’s safe and breaking the rules when it isn’t. Jaywalking isn’t really an issue if there aren’t any cars coming, but if you strut into a busy street and get hit by a car it’s almost entirely your fault (most of the time) because you crossed at a time and place you weren’t supposed to. The driver only gets in real trouble if they were speeding, or had plenty of time to stop but hit you anyway. If you step on a chair to reach an upper cabinet but fall down, most people would agree it sucks you got hurt but it was your fault because you were doing something dumb.

        We all do non-work stuff on work laptops. Most of the time it’s not an issue, it only becomes an issue if your performance is weak or you’re missing deadlines and your manager requests an IT audit to find the reason, or if your laptop crashes and IT finds loads of porn downloads while trying to figure out why or recovering your files. Most companies only enforce the “no personal use” rule if the employee’s “play time” gets in the way of their job, is blatant and takes up most of the day (which can cause morale issues among the people who actually do their work), the employee is caught doing something illegal or way over the line, or if the employee gets the company in trouble somehow.

        Reply
      1. Anna

        I guess I’m a terrible amoral person who will cheat and steal as well as do cursory job searches at work.

        Eye roll.

        Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I never have, either. One stresser at at time for me! Where I work now, the rules are super tight. You can’t use the computer for anything but work. I do wonder what it would be like to just wander around the internet for a few minutes at work, though.

        Reply
    2. Elizabeth West

      I never did. I waited until I got home. The only time I ever did anything like that was when we got bought out at Exjob, and I looked in the new company intranet to see what kinds of jobs the conglomerate who owned us had.

      Reply
    3. LBK

      I’ll concede that I’ve browsed job listings at work before (especially our internal job site, which I used to read pretty religiously when I was trying to GTFO of my job) but I wouldn’t write up my resume or send out an application at work – that seems wildly inappropriate to me.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        I actually applied to jobs at the law firm I used to work at; however, I was looking for part-time work to supplement my income, and I got HR and my manager’s approval to do so beforehand (they even gave me time to go on interviews during the day). If I had started searching for full-time positions on company time, I don’t think they would have had a clue, but I wasn’t that bold.

        Reply
  18. Slippy

    #3 “We share one brain but have multiple personalities.”
    “We share one brain, I take the right hand and he takes the left hand, we don’t talk much.”
    “We share one brain and that gives us the collabor….SQUIRREL!”
    “We share one brain, he takes care of the breathing, and I do all the important stuff.”

    Reply
    1. Anna the Accounting Student

      Come to think of it, “squirrel!” would be a good reply to these comments. As in, Boss: “OP and I have one brain, you know.” OP: “Yep, we sure OOH, SQUIRREL!!”

      Reply
  19. Melissa J

    #5 Something similar actually happened to me. I applied for a job on 9/3/14, my dad died 9/4, I got a call back for an interview on 9/5. Thankfully they were totally understanding and scheduled my interview a little ways out. I didn’t end up getting the job, but I was definitely up there in the running. I find most people are understanding about deaths in the family.

    Reply
  20. Deb

    #3 – Alison, I have to disagree with one aspect of your recommendation to this questioner: if OP is going to say something to his/her boss, it is critical to not undermine the comment with language like, “It’s probably silly, but it’s on my mind so I wanted to mention it.” I know it *feels* safer to use that kind of language in a difficult conversation, but in fact it’s counterproductive. If something is bothering you (and this goes for any situation), you need to own it and be honest about it – not say, “here’s what’s bothering me and I’m going out of my way to bring it up, but if it makes you (the listener) uncomfortable, you can just pretend I’m silly and my opinions/thoughts/feelings don’t matter.” I actually think it would be worse for OP to use this language than to not bring it up at all because it’s too easy for the boss to just dismiss OP’s concerns as “silly” (given that OP said it might be, as a defense mechanism), and then OP is stuck in a situation where if he/she brings it up AGAIN, it seems nitpicky and even more awkward.

    The first part of your recommendation – “I really appreciate that we’re so frequently on the same page, but I worry that saying we share a brain ends up inadvertently minimizing the work I do, especially to people who don’t work closely with me.” – stands perfectly fine on its own. If OP is going to say something, he/she should use language like that to declare the situation and how it makes him/her feel, and then pause to see what the boss has to say.

    Reply
    1. AnotherFed

      This is such a strange and minor thing to make a big deal of, though. I agree the best case is not to bring it up with the boss, but if the OP does, softening the language and tone is better – it lets it be an amusing foible instead of a Weird Thing. Making a stink over a complimentary comment is certainly not going to help the OP’s reputation!

      Reply
    2. OOF

      I disagree. It’s powerful to leave aside all apologetic language when speaking to someone who is being wholly inappropriate, or knowingly aggressive in some other way.

      In a situation like this where the boss is likely oblivious or even knows but thinks her phrase is harmless, the question to ask is: what is my goal in speaking up? Is my goal to stop the behavior by making the offender feel really awkward, thereby ruining your relationship? Or is my goal to stop the behavior while preserving the relationship?

      It’s hard to make it very successfully through the work world, with positive relationships, when you leap to the nuclear option each time someone annoys you. And, chances are, you’re annoying someone else inadvertently right now. Wouldn’t you rather they let you save face by addressing it thoughtfully?

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yep — as I said in my answer, leaving off that bit is an option if you feel strongly about, but softening statements like that can get you a better outcome because they let the other person save face, and where the relationship matters (as it certainly does here) and especially where the offense is not great (again, here), it’s often sensible.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          Although I might suggest “I know you don’t mean it that way” or “I know you don’t mean anything by it,” instead of “maybe it’s silly.”

          that has the same softening effect but it doesn’t open the door to dismissing you, and your comment.

          Reply
          1. Deb

            Just saw this comment after I pressed submit on my reply. I agree that this language could have the softening effect you’re looking for without undermining what OP is saying and feeling (although I hesitate to say, “I know you mean/I know you don’t mean…” when the reason why you’re having this kind of conversation in the first place is you don’t know what they mean – also, it could come across as passive-aggressive, i.e. “surely you don’t mean to say this…”).

            Reply
        2. Deb

          But I think there’s a difference between softening statements and undermining statements (and I say this as someone who is greatly averse to “conflict” and is trying to find a way to make myself more comfortable with difficult conversations by using the former and not the latter). A softening statement could be like, “That particular language about sharing one brain keeps sticking out in my mind, and I wanted to let you know how I feel. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying.” Whereas the recommendation given here strikes me more as undermining. Again, saying how you feel and then following it up with “but this is probably silly” essentially says, “here’s how I feel, but it’s silly, so I guess it doesn’t matter.”

          I appreciate the caveat that it’s up to OP to use whatever language he/she feels most comfortable with, and I think that’s ultimately what matters here (and in every situation). As someone who’s working on avoiding undermining language, I find it helpful to point these things out and have the discussion about the power of the language we choose to use.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            See, your phrasing actually sounds weaker to me – I read “I wanted to let you know how I feel” as the OP complaining about hurt feelings (which would be weird and inappropriate for the office) rather than just wanting to address a pet peeve or minor annoyance. I think you’d want to approach this the way you approach someone who clips their nails at their desk: this isn’t a dealbreaker, it’s just something that bugs me and that seems easy for you to stop doing, so I would appreciate it if you’d stop.

            Reply
        3. Florida

          Maybe a compromise would be, “This might seem silly TO YOU, but…” (Emphasis is for our benefit on this board. Not to suggest you should shout those two words.)
          That’s not the same as say that it’s silly – it’s just acknowledging that the manager might think it’s silly.
          Also, it softens the statement for OP, and allows the manager to save face.
          You can easily insert the “to you” part and still have the statement seem like a very normal, casual statement.

          Reply
    3. Ultraviolet

      I disagree with the idea that softening language is counterproductive in general, or that any softening language in this case would be counterproductive. It’s a tool that can be used well or misapplied, like any other. Personally, I wouldn’t bring up something that was bothering me and then call my opinion “silly.” But I’d definitely be willing to say that it was highly idiosyncratic or weird. And if I thought it was minor, I’d also say it was just a small thing. Not sure whether OP3 thinks of their problem with the boss’s comments as minor, but I would definitely encourage them to describe it as idiosyncratic if they bring it up.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I agree with this notion of it as a tool. I saw the British comedian David Mitchell talking about how he felt there was a strategical value in the apology, for instance, because it steals the language of the problem from the other person; that’s pretty much how I feel.

        I probably wouldn’t use the word “silly,” but I’d have no problem softening it. “Soft” is not the same thing as “not needing to be taken seriously.”

        Reply
    4. LBK

      I think it’s pretty easy to say “you should always just own your problems and be direct about them” but it’s not so simple to execute for a lot of people. You also have to know yourself – if you know that realistically, you’re either going to use the softened language or you’re not going to raise the issue at all, I think the former is clearly the better option. Even if it’s only half as successful as the more direct version, saying nothing has a 0% success rate.

      I also think getting comfortable saying softened versions of things is part of the road to learning to be direct. You have to train yourself to raise issues first and then you can work on your phrasing once you’re accustomed to doing that. Jumping straight into trying to be direct when you don’t want to do it can often have disastrous results – I know I’ve tried and fumbled the hell out of what I wanted to say because I was so nervous, which certainly didn’t end up being as helpful as it would’ve been to just raise it in the way I was more comfortable.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes! To me, there are two reasons for softening statements:

        1. It gives you a better chance at a good outcome (getting the behavior to stop and not causing tension in the relationship).

        2. It often makes it more likely that people will say something at all. Some people just absolutely will not say anything unless they can find softer language. People who don’t feel the need for softening language can leave it off, but for others, it’s the difference between “yes, that would work for me” or “there’s no way in hell I’d say that.”

        I actually think this could be worthy of a post on its own, since it comes up a lot.

        Reply
        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          I’d love a post on this! I think there’s a fine line to walk for women, especially, since we’re socialized to soften things. I try to push back on that tendency in myself, which leaves me confused about when to soften-because-it-works-better and when to toughen-because-I-over-soften-in-general.

          I’m struggling with this in regards to asking a neighbor about cleaning up the branches of a tree (on their property) that is rubbing on my roof. It’s their obligation to pay to have it trimmed, but it’s to my benefit. Hard line to walk!

          Reply
      2. LQ

        I’m someone who has a hard time going for the saying a thing at all and softer language makes it easier. It also makes me more likely to say the thing more confidently, which might sound weird. But if I say a super firm thing and the person doesn’t IMMEDIATELY go “OMG I’m so sorry! I’ll never do that again!” I’ve been known to act like it was a joke and pull all the way back from saying it out of fear. And that person might have been taking a perfectly reasonable second to consider and go, oh, shit, yeah I can see how that’s a problem, now how do I respond. Meanwhile I’ve stopped and said no it’s not a problem I was joking and I’ve just totally screwed the whole thing up in a giant bundle of mess. So asking for something in a softer way commits me to it much more than asking in a firmer way.

        I think that was super confusing :(

        Reply
      3. Not So NewReader

        I used the angle of thinking with my head and my heart. I don’t want a issue to get big and be a drawn out thing. If people feel painted into a corner issues can get big very quickly, so I am not interested in making anyone feel cornered. Hopefully, they would do the same for me if the situation was reversed.

        If you start out soft you can always restate your request in more firmer terms if the conversation is not going well. But it is really hard to start out firm and find out that you did not need to be so firm.
        Like everything else, there are exceptions. Some comments need to be shut down immediately. In those cases, I do not start with a softer approach.

        I believe in trying to meet people on the plane they are using. OP says that she believes her boss thinks it’s a compliment. OP can just calmly state, “I don’t feel complimented.” It’s her feelings, the boss cannot tell her what to feel and when to feel it. Hopefully, the boss is a good boss and she will say something to the effect of, “Well, although I may not be sure why you feel that way, I will respect your wishes and not say it any more.” It would be good if OP can expand a little on why so that the boss gets an idea of what TO DO for her.

        Reply
  21. ModernHypatia

    #4: I’m a librarian, and I’ve often done a combination of managers and people who’ve seen specific parts of my work that my managers/supervisors didn’t see and that were important.

    (In my case, one former supervisor saw me a lot – we worked in the same space, and he is also a librarian. But I’ve also had a supervisor who wasn’t a librarian and didn’t see much of my day to day work either so it would be hard for him to comment about a number of library skills, and one who was a librarian, but didn’t see much of my interaction with patrons or teaching classes, because he was doing other things at those times. He heard about them, but that’s not the same thing as seeing them happen.)

    I make a note on my reference sheet, and what that reference can best comment on (usually something like “I worked evenings with X for 18 months, and so they’ve seen me handle a wide range of reference questions and patron requests.”) so that if the place I was interviewing had questions about a specific skill they could ask a reference who’d seen that. I think it also cued people in nicely that I was thinking about the different skills they might be interested in.

    If you have any additional references that can speak to the writing and analytical component, you might offer those too, even if they’re from a volunteer position or something less formal, since you know that’s a particular question here. Or if you have an actual document you can share, I’ve sometimes had that effectively fill a gap.

    Reply
  22. Sunflower

    #2 is one of those you shouldn’t do it…but a lot of people do and get away with it. At my last job, I knew my company had internet tracking software on my computer so I was very careful. I doubt I would have gotten caught but it wasn’t something I was willing to risk.

    At my current company, if you are not on the server, aka on wi-fi and not connected through VPN, I’m not sure they can monitor your activities. I’m sure there is some way they can but my company wouldn’t care enough to look into it. I realized that IT is mostly concerned with data safety- I suspect the reason watching porn on your work computer is such a big deal has to do more with the possibly of getting viruses on your computer rather than the content.. Unless your company does routine checks of employee’s internet usage, I doubt your manager would ever find out unless he brought it up and asked IT himself.

    My personal computer is shot to shit and while it functions, it’s soooo slow and the screen is cracked. I’m not job searching but I will be at some point and I will probably use my company computer. Working at a law firm, almost everyone brings their computers home with them or travels with them so I think it’s expected that they be used for personal reasons. We are a huge company and our priority is making sure legal documents do not end up in places they shouldn’t be.

    That being said, forge ahead at your own risk.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      IT departments rarely monitor what you’re doing, but they may track what you’re doing—there’s a difference. Monitoring means they’re checking in all the time and would be able to catch you in the moment (or shortly afterwards) if you’re doing something bad (no one has the time or interest to do that). Tracking simply means they’re keeping a log of your activities so they can audit the log later should any concern about your activities come up.

      Reply
    2. KR

      I’ll echo Anonymous Educator. We don’t care what you do, just don’t junk up your machine with malware so we have to fix it later. Then we’ll pay more attention.

      Reply
  23. TootsNYC

    #4–if either of your boss is decent, ask if HE would call back the HR person and say, “Listen, the person who sees her work most closely is Other Senior Colleague Who Isn’t Technically Her Manager. Here’s that colleague’s number.”

    That will put the stamp of managerial approval on Other Senior Colleague.

    And wow, to the new company asking so much from the boss who’s about to lose you.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Or get Other Senior Colleague to call the HR person and say, “OP’s boss suggested I call you to discuss OP’s work in more detail, since I actually see more of it.”

      The idea is that somehow this contact should come at the behest of the boss, who is delegating, which means the lower-level person -officially- speaks on his behalf.

      Reply
    2. OP 4

      OP from #4 here. I actually got the job! So my other boss must have filled in enough gaps to give the new company confidence in my abilities.
      On a side note, I really credit Alison’s blog with helping my interview skills. I had 10 interviews prior to this interview and no offers. I followed the interview advice to the letter, and finally got an offer.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        Congrats! The advice here really is excellent – it led to me getting two job offers at the end of last year. I’ve never had that happen to me. I’m glad this worked out for you as well :)

        Reply
  24. Erin

    #1 – For what it’s worth, I’m normally the “let’s be nice and give everyone the benefit of the doubt” Paula Abdul kind of commenter here, but I have no sympathy for this person. That is weird.

    He should absolutely be hanging out in a nearby coffee shop/Barnes and Noble/library using that time for his job search – and I’d suggest just that when tell her he can’t come around anymore, maybe even throwing in a, “What industry is he in? I’ll keep on eye out for job postings or see if I know anyone who can help out” to kind of lesson the blow. But, yeah. Super, super weird for him to be hanging out at the wife’s office.

    #3 – I’d let it go unless it’s really seeping into her taking credit for your ideas, in which case you’d likely have to head those off as they happen in the moment. Example: Someone compliments you on a project, indicating your supposed collaboration with Jane. You could say something like, “I know Jane likes to say we ‘share a brain’, and I do value her input, but I actually completed this project myself. I am really happy with it, so thank you.”

    Reply
  25. Brett

    #2 What about BYOD situations, where you own the device but the company has extensive access rights and rights to the data on the device? Especially when BYOD is mandatory and not voluntary (e.g. because you have a work laptop, your personal laptops and phones that share a home network with it have to be added to the BYOD security container and are subject to remote wipe).

    Reply
    1. Brett

      (And yeah, Gartner is predicting that mandatory BYOD will be widespread by the end of 2017. Both the security related kind I am talking about, and simple mandatory BYOD where the company does not supply work devices and requires employees to convert personal equipment to work devices.)

      Reply
      1. Mockingjay

        We’re looking at BYOD controls here. I refuse to use my cell phone for work, so BYOD won’t be loaded on it. I occasionally work from home via VPN using a work-issued laptop already loaded with extensive security. But I will draw a line about accessing my home network. I’ll give up teleworking instead.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        Well, Gartner is almost certainly wrong about the latter, because it turns out that it creates a whole host of potential legal problems for the employer. Also, it doesn’t always save companies as much as they expected, especially California, where you have to pay for things like cell phone costs (even if the employee has an unlimited plan.)

        Reply
    2. Anonymous Educator

      If it’s a BYOD situation, I can definitely see remote wipe capabilities being a mandatory piece of that, but they certainly can’t think it’s reasonable to monitor all the activity you’re doing on your own device if it’s your own (i.e., not their) device. If they’re going to be so cheap as to not provide you with a work-dedicated device, they can’t really dictate what you do with your own device (my opinion, not the law). That said, if they do have remote wipe capabilities, you’d better make sure you’re doing regular backups!

      Reply
  26. Florida

    We had a county commissioner whose husband came to work with her everyday and hung out in the office, and even attended meetings with her. As soon as the media caught wind of it, a reporter and camera person started showing up to the meetings as well. If an elected official allows one citizen (her husband) into a meeting, she has to allow any interested citizen (reporter) into the meeting. At least that’s how Florida open meeting laws work.
    I feel pretty confident assuming that OP is not an elected official in this particular situation. But there I thought I’d share this story to point out that there may be unintended consequences of something that seems pretty benign like having husband hang out. Two years later, this woman still had a reputation as someone who cannot do her own job and needs husband to help her.

    Reply
    1. Laurel Gray

      I don’t know why this is so hilarious to me. Maybe it’s because I am just picturing female sitcom characters and their husbands? Carrie bringing a laid off Doug to the law office? Dan hanging around the mall diner and later the Lunch Box talking to Roseanne all day?

      Reply
  27. The Butcher of Luverne

    I’ve never heard anyone use the expression “We share a brain.” It seems weird to me. As if the one who says it is naively thinking it’s a hip thing to say. When in reality, if someone said that about me, I too would look askance at the assumption that I think JUST LIKE YOU DO.

    Reply
    1. Honeybee

      I say it a lot when I am referring to someone I agree with a lot or whose thought patterns are really similar to mine. It doesn’t literally mean that we think alike all the time, just that we often do. It’s meant to be a statement of affinity.

      I also also prone to exaggeration and hyperbole in my speech patterns – I’m given to saying “the best thing ever,” “the worst thing ever,” “the most amazing thing I’ve seen this week,” etc.

      Reply
  28. Jane

    Regarding job hunting using a work laptop on company time, I think it totally depends on the specific employer and industry. As an overall rule, your safest bet is obviously not to do it at all. Most people I know do, BUT there are employers that will literally escort people out immediately upon giving notice (no two weeks, nothing) so my guess is for employers like that, if they even get the slightest hint that you are job searching, you are out of there. For other employers, as Alison said, the consequences may be more subtle (e.g., the employer may assume you are trying to leave and you will get less important/meaningful assignments). It’s all about your level or risk tolerance and your employer/industry culture. At my job I frequently get recruiter calls and emails and if IT were to look through my emails they would probably assume I am job hunting (despite the fact that I don’t actually respond to recruiter emails using my work email – I forward them to my personal email then I reply (sometimes using my work laptop) from my personal email account). I have even had a recruiter call me and tell my secretary that he was a recruiter! I never called him back because I thought he was kind of a moron, but just goes to show that in my industry, this type of thing is not so clear cut in terms of people’s expectations. I do think my employer might be annoyed if they thought someone was job hunting, but they are not the kind to fire someone over it – however, they may then get concerned and start looking for a replacement, so it is a slippery slope!

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      I think this is well said. Honestly, if someone wants to take the risk, of course that’s their prerogative….and a lot of comments are defending them in that choice. Fair enough.

      But if they were to write back to Alison two weeks from now, explaining that they job searched on their company laptop, the company found out and terminated their employment? We really wouldn’t have as much to discuss. Because of course, terminating employees who are job searching is the company’s prerogative.

      So it’s a risk. And sympathy for possible fall-out will generally be mitigated by how easy it would be to avoid this risk in the first place.

      Reply
  29. Middle Name Jane

    For letter #1:

    If the husband has been laid off, why is he still driving his wife to work every day? And then making the trip again to pick her up? Wouldn’t his time better be spent, oh–I don’t know–looking for a job? I was laid off during the recession in the late 2000s, and I spent my time job hunting, interviewing, making contacts, etc.

    Yes, he could spend his evenings job hunting. But if he’s constantly ferrying his wife back and forth to work, how is he going to be available for job interviews and such? What a colossal waste of time.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I’m guessing the wife doesn’t drive. And the husband may have decided to retire, or may be doing his job-hunting in the hours he’s not driving his wife. I don’t think the issue is how the husband is spending his time; it’s *where* he’s spending his time.

      Reply
    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Geez, this seems awfully judgmental and at least a little rude.

      Looking for work doesn’t take all your waking hours. Let’s go ahead and assume that the LW’s husband is an intelligent adult who is better able to make decisions about how to spend his time than you could make for him.

      Reply
        1. Ad Astra

          Always a useful link! It seems strange to me that the husband is driving his wife to work every day, but perhaps he’s also in charge of picking up kids or there’s some other reason why he needs access to the car every day, even if he has no interviews scheduled. There are certainly a lot of plausible explanations.

          Reply
          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            Or: They only have one car. He likes driving. They want to spend that time together, rather than separate. The grocery store they prefer is closer to the office than home. Their roommate works from home and they’re trying to give her the space she needs to work effectively. There is no need to the possible explanations.

            Reply
    3. V.V.

      Hi Middle Name Jane,

      When I was laid off I would occasionally drive my husband to work. We only had one car, and the commute was really far, previously we’d carpooled because my job had been in the same area. There were no set hours at his job other than a 5:30am start time and no easy public transportation at home for me. With gas almost 5.00 a gallon driving home and driving back was not an option, if I did not drive him and hang out somewhere, I would not see the car again until he got home at – whenever. This put a damper on job hunting, as our land lord was not about to pay the $6,000 to install the utility pole to allow cable and internet at our house.

      Combine this with my husband not being allowed to use the phone during the day (only executives were permitted to have phones at his job) not even to let me know when he was off, he could have been off at anytime between 2 and 8pm.

      Frankly, if the company did not want me parked in their lot waiting and not driving around and wasting fuel from 4pm on (when he was *usually* off, give or take an hour), they could have allowed him to phone and give me a decent window, because it wasted my time as well not ever knowing when to expect him off. Instead, I would get to hear about how we *just* need to get another car, and/or move. Or that I needed to be out doing something resourcefull at 5:00-8:00pm because I just had all this time to loiter. Or have people assume that I was a jealous wife trying to keep tabs on him (most insulting). Because I waited and picked him up once or twice a week when I had appointments I needed to go to and didn’t stay home to conserve fuel/cash.

      To be fair, this never came from the boss who knew the circumstances and the hours my husband worked, just coworkers who lived nearby, had somewhat normal hours, and could just hop skip and jump home anytime.

      To be clear I am also not trying to speak to this specific letter. I don’t know all the circumstances. I just know when something like this is going on it isn’t always because someone is being lazy/nefarious. Hanging out all hours all the time, doesn’t work unless it is like a food establishment/hangout. For some people and companies it really doesn’t matter if someone is waiting 15 minutes or 3 hours, having someone waiting to pick someone up is frowned upon.

      Reply
  30. SusanIvanova

    I am in a “working notice period” – I’m laid off, but the ax hasn’t fallen yet. If ever there was a time when job-hunting during “working” hours applied, that’s it. (“Working” because they don’t actually have anything for me to do right at the moment.) If I had a manager, he’d approve – he got the non-working version so he’s already gone.

    Reply
  31. mander

    #2, there’s also the possibility of getting a cheap used computer (maybe even look for a free one on Freecycle or the like) and installing a Linux distribution on it. It’s a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never used it before, but there are many distributions that are very user-friendly and designed to work well on older hardware, yet still have all the things you would expect on a modern computer (e.g. decent browser, office suite, graphics editing capability, etc.).

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      Honestly, if you can’t handle installing and configuring Linux, but you’re interested in using it, there are probably at least ten or twenty enthusiastic Linux geeks in your area who’d be more than happy to install and configure it for you for free. There are even organizations that will get old “ewaste” computers, wipe them, and install Linux, and then donate them to non-profits, schools, or needy individuals.

      Reply
      1. dancer

        This is a great idea! I wish I knew of an organization that did this in my area. It’s something I have a decent amount of experience in, and I’d love to volunteer for something like that.

        Reply
  32. jubileejones

    #2: Would your answer differ for an internal job search? I’m in a similar position as OP2 where my personal laptop died a few weeks ago and I am using my work laptop during non-work hours for an internal job search only.

    Reply
  33. LQ

    Would #2 be different if they were internal jobs? I know that some of the things for our internal job seeking nearly require being on a work computer (at work) so I’ve always assumed that was ok, especially within the department. Outside the department seems a little …dodgier, but I know people have done it.

    Reply
  34. E

    Regarding the spouse who wants to hang out: He already has a place to hang out. Why can’t he sit and read in the car? He can bring reading material and snacks from home. He has to park somewhere anyway. He won’t disturb anyone that way. It is cheaper than going to a coffee shop. He would be protected from wind and rain while in the car. He can bring pillows and a blanket to take a nap if he
    wants to do that. He won’t have to walk from the parking spot to another building or other location. Sitting in the car isn’t exciting. But that is the situation you accept when you are carpooling with a spouse.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      In winter in some areas, though, if the car’s not running it’s cold enough to be dangerous – and if the car is running you’re using a lot of gas.

      Another option that works – indoor malls, hanging out in the public walkway’s seating areas sometimes works. (Although, as with libraries, that may not be a good option in the morning.)

      Reply
  35. Liz T

    Your boss saying you share a brain is a HUGE COMPLIMENT. Please don’t step on it. It does not mean what you’re saying it means. I’d be pretty hurt and annoyed if I were that publicly complimentary toward an employee and they took issue because of a very literal interpretation of my high praise.

    Reply
  36. Observer

    #2 Do NOT do anything on your work laptop that you don’t want your organization to know about. Just because it’s a small place and you think they are unlikely to check on it, it doesn’t mean they won’t. And, in fact, once you leave they almost certainly will check what’s on your laptop. Depending on who is doing the looking, you may need to do a deep wipe to avoid them knowing what’s you’ve done. Since people talk, this could be a problem even though you have already given notice. Beyond that, you really can’t know that they won’t look at it. There are sooo many possibilities, many of which are not HIGHLY likely, but not so far out, either, and you may not have any notice, either.

    It’s just unprofessional enough that it could very well be a problem if they find out.

    Reply
  37. OP #2

    Thanks everyone and Alison for the feedback! So many sub threads about this and didn’t know which to respond to, so I thought I would just post here.

    I do use my work laptop for personal things outside of work hours (and during work hours, within reason for a few minutes here and there – at my company no one is getting fired for showing someone a cute cat video or paying your cable bill). Like many posters, I travel a lot, so it’s expected that I will watch Netflix, online shop, etc. in the evenings. However, the job searching line was blurred for me as well – which is why I asked Alison of course – and now I’m leaning towards the side of its just icky. Could I get away with it? Probably? Should I? No.

    I’m going to get myself a cheap laptop as a temporary solution (thanks for all the shopping tips!) and then use that to job hunt – and hopefully get a great job that will pay for a super fancy new laptop later!

    The one thing I am going to do (and already do, though I didn’t mention this in my letter), is continue to update my resume with my current jobs accomplishments on my work computer, and during work hours. The reason being that in my profession it’s very common to be part of a lot of professional organizations, and speak a lot on behalf of the company. So although finding a resume on an employees computer is a bad sign for most managers, my managers know that it’s because I’m constantly having to send it out for conferences and professional associations. So it’s convenient to have it at work and practical to update it there. And yes, having it always updated is going to help me on my job hunt too, but I guess that’s just a perk.

    Thanks again for all your advice!

    Reply
    1. Observer

      Yes, if you do lots of work where an updated resume is important, no one should blink an eye to find that on your computer. But, do keep one thing in mind – you may want to have a different resume for job search than for work purposes. I can tell you that the resume I use for things like proposals (and is perfect for that) would probably never fly if I were looking for a job.

      Also, keep a copy of your resume in the cloud.

      Reply

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