my company reads every email we send and put cameras in our offices

A reader writes:

I recently switched jobs, and I’m a bit concerned that my new employer may be a micromanager. I left a very informal office environment for the same role in a much more conservative industry (for better pay), so I’m having trouble deciding whether some of the behaviors that are making me uncomfortable are actually a big deal or if I’m just overreacting because I’m not used to it.

One of the first things that alarmed me was that I learned the company’s CEO (who I report to directly) has our email system set up so that he is automatically blind copied on every single email that is sent out from a company address. I have nothing to hide as I wouldn’t be foolish enough to send personal information through a company address, but in previous jobs, coworkers and I have used email to exchange quick remarks, make lunch plans, etc. It isn’t that it would be inappropriate for the boss to see these exchanges. It’s just bizarre that he would bother to keep such a close watch on every message we send.

As an isolated oddity, I could probably let it go, but there are plenty of other things. For example, a couple of weeks after I started working there, they announced they were implementing a ban on company computers for any personal business. We had to sign a form stating we would not use social media at work, and that we wouldn’t visit any blogs or other non-work related sites from a company computer, even while on lunch. They installed software surveillance and changed the company’s wifi password so that we could not connect from personal devices.

They also recently installed security cameras that include audio in each of our offices. I am fine with having video surveillance for common areas, but it feels odd to me that my boss could be watching me from his office at any point in the day without my knowing. Again, it isn’t that I have something to hide, but sometimes on my lunch break, I close the door to take a personal call, and now I feel like there is nowhere to get any privacy. And despite being on salary, we are all required to clock in and out so that the boss can see how much time we spend away from our desks during the week.

I could go on, but this information feels like enough to get across what kind of atmosphere this is. Maybe this is more common than I realize, but I have never worked in any place that is so cautious, and it is beginning to feel very prison-like. Although my boss repeatedly tells me (almost as if he senses my apprehension) that I am “the very last person” he’d ever be watching or be suspicious of and that I am far from the reason he is taking such precautions, I feel very strange knowing that I have someone invading my space to that degree, even if they are paying me. It seems that they’ve chosen to treat everyone as if they can’t be trusted rather than address their concerns with the individuals who they suspect of something.

Am I overreacting? Is this normal? Is there a good rule of thumb for determining whether your boss is a micromanager? I would also appreciate any suggestion for addressing this.

Noooooooo. This is not normal.

It is not normal for your boss to be bcc’d on every email you send. Generally the idea is that an employer hires people it trusts to do their jobs competently and responsibly, trains them appropriately, reviews their work as needed, and addresses any problems by talking to them. Typically “we will spy on everything you email out” is not the way this gets done.

That alone would be weird enough, but then you throw in security cameras in each person’s office? With audio? I don’t know how to tell you how far away from normal that is. It’s not something that’s done (I guess maybe it might be if you were actually working from a prison, as a prisoner? but otherwise no), and it’s insulting.

The ban on using computers for personal reasons isn’t that unusual or outrageous, although when you combine it with the rest of this, it seems like part of an overall pattern of rigid control and suspicion.

Even at highly dysfunctional companies, you don’t tend to see this level of control and distrust. It’s actually quite extraordinary!

This is well past micromanagement. Micromanagement is more like “my boss constantly checks up on my work and dictates how I do the smallest details, even though I have an established track record of doing my job well.” This is more like … well, I don’t even know what to call it. This is closer to if Kim Jong-un was deposed in North Korea and got hired as your CEO.

Because of how over-the-top the situation is, I don’t know that it makes a lot of sense to try and resolve it — as opposed to just getting out of there when you can. You could certainly give it a shot by pointing out that these measures are highly unusual and send the message that the company doesn’t trust people, are likely to make people miserable and drive away good employees, and will make the company far less competitive. But even if that worked (and I’m skeptical that it would), you’d still be working for someone who thinks this kind of thing is reasonable — which means it’s pretty likely that you’re going to see all sorts of other management problems too. So getting out is really the only thing that makes sense here.

{ 442 comments… read them below }

    1. fposte

      Interesting question. The OP says they’re on salary, so they’re not federally entitled to pumping breaks; it could just be they don’t give them and that’s how they avoid the problem.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It varies by state! If you’re not federally entitled to pumping breaks, your only back stop is state law. There’s no need to create a private place if there are no employees who qualify for using said private place.

          I think the bigger problem is that this approach is insane, full stop.

        2. LadyCop

          “cameras in every office” is not the same as “cameras in literally every room. Not that I’d put that past the OP’s boss…but…just sayin’

    2. legalchef

      I was literally going to post the same question, which immediately occurred to me because I just started pumping when I read this.

    3. Observer

      For women who qualify, absolutely. The OP is apparently exempt though, so unless there are state laws at play, he can get away with this.

  1. fposte

    So quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who’s reading the CEO’s email and watching his security footage? Because this level of suspicion makes me wonder if he’s up to something and is just projecting.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Oooh yeah, this does sound like the rule that the most suspicious romantic partners are the ones cheating themselves, and so seeing it in the most mundane of dry-cleaning pick-ups.

        1. Code Monkey, the SQL

          That was my *immediate* thought as well. Also the reassurances that “You’re the last person I would think I need to worry about.” Sounds a lot like ‘Gift of Fear’ where the man trying to walk the woman to her car says “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you,” and then goes on to try and assault her.

    1. KK

      Great point! Has anyone seen the movie ‘The Circle’ (Emma Watson/Tom Hanks)? Not a great movie, but the plot line reminds me of what you describe; the OP being watched so closely could indicate that the CEO is doing something fishy.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean

        I went to look up that movie on Netflix. Since we have multiple accounts it says “Who’s Watching?” and I almost looked over my shoulder for a camera.

      2. DaniCalifornia

        Oh I watched that! It was good in a get you to think way, but yeah the overall plot/ending wasn’t great. It really made me think about some of my social media privacy and my obligation to make sure I don’t share everything.

      1. Liane

        Yes. I have heard there’s a version in French that goes something like, “A man looks behind bedroom doors only if he’s hidden there before.”

      2. Specialk9

        Under my bed, I check for zombies, monsters, and ghouls that grab ankles. Judging by Dr Who, I’m not alone in this.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I had just about gotten over this random anxiety of night, but after that damn blanket monster, and Clara grabbing tiny Doctor’s ankle in the past in the episode “Listen,” uh uh.

        2. MJLurver

          I can only have a bed that has no space underneath the bed frame/mattress area. Meaning it can’t have more than 2″-3″ (that’s inches, Spinal Tap, lol) between the floor and bottom of the bed.

          Until I moved out of my parents’ house at 17, I literally checked under my bed EVERY SINGLE NIGHT before going to bed. I’ve watched too many “Friday the 13th(s)” “Poltergeist(s)” and “Nightmare on Elm Street(s)” and know a monster, clown, or man with a 3′ machete will be hiding under there if I don’t check. Some nights I would take a running leap into the bed and trick my sister into coming into my room to check under the bed for me……either way, someone was making sure nothing was under there. Especially a clown.

    2. Anony

      Also, if he is monitoring his employees to this extent, how does he actually have time to run a company?

      1. Hildegard Von Bingen

        That was my first thought. If he’s reading all those emails, he’s operating in a highly inefficient manner – when does he find time to perform his core functions?

        If he just wants those emails on file in case he needs to pull out a problematic email, he can have his IT shop store them for a specified period of time. No need for the blind cc…unless he wants employees to feel “watched” (and intimidated).

        And the video? Who’s watching it? Anybody? Is it stored? For how long?
        And to what end?

        What next? Drawbridge? Portcullis? Moat stocked with piranhas? Armed guards patrolling the perimeter?

        This guy sounds like a paranoid dick. I’d be looking around for something else immediately.

        1. CoveredInBees

          Thank you for teaching me that there is a specific word for portcullis! I love learning highly specific terms for things and I’d always called them a “vertically-sliding gate.”

        2. Specialk9

          I assumed he had set up keyword searches. But that’s possible with all outgoing mail anyway, routine actually, so I dunno.

          It’s not a good sign, any way you look at it. He may be crooked, paranoid, controlling, trying to intimidate, pervy, poor at prioritizing…

        1. Legal Beagle

          And the expense! Using company money to install security cameras in every office is a hugely inefficient use of funds, besides creating a toxic atmosphere for employees.

    3. Trout 'Waver

      I thought the same thing. It’s like the old joke about how to spot a thief: He’s the one with the tallest fence around his house.

    4. kingderella

      My thoughts exactly. My company is a little control-freaky (although not to that extent) and I’m almost certain they’re hiding some fishy things on an administrative level.

    5. Regular Commenter Going Incognito for this

      Likely, yes.

      I worked for someone who micromanaged me beyond all belief – screaming about the tiniest of inconsequential formatting errors, screaming about being even one minute late to my salaried job (although I regularly stayed well beyond departure time), screamed about even checking my email on my personal phone during the day, etc.

      Turns out he was completely incompetent at his job and uses his “work from home” days to shoot pOrn.

      I am not kidding.

      1. Clever Name

        So *that’s* what my boss was doing on his “work from home” days when nobody could reach him! ;)

      2. Julia the Survivor

        Making porn movies? There’s an appropriate time and place to do that if that’s what he likes…

    6. NewHerePleaseBeNice

      This way my first thought. He’s up to something, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a whole raft of skeletons in the closet.

    7. LKW

      I didn’t leap to that conclusion. I worked in legal discovery for a number of years, to me this sounds like extreme compliance/ risk management but done in a really really bad way. If a legal or compliance issue arises, the financial impact of not controlling this information can be significant so perhaps this person read or heard about a case and decided that they needed to take control of something, but again this is not the best way to do it.

      There is no reason someone in the c-suite should be monitoring emails. Their time and attention is needed elsewhere. There are plenty of reasonably priced services that can scan for key words and reasonably priced storage solutions too. I would hope the Board would question this decision.

      As for the cameras, as long as it’s within state law, not much you can do there except wear some of that camera blinding anti-paparazzi clothing.

      1. Cheshire Cat

        Maybe this is the duck club workplace & the CEO wants to stamp it out ;)

        Otherwise, the cameras are over the top.

      2. Samata

        This is an interesting perspective because my very first thought was “sounds like a lawsuit almost bankrupted this company and now they are going to extremes”

        1. LavaLamp

          I’d be finding the camera lenses and putting my vast post-it collection to use. It would at least tell you if they’re really watching any of it or not.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I was wondering all last week what letter would have the King Jong-un reference, and this was both horrifying but weirdly satisfying.

    1. Observer

      Unfortunately, I suspect that he’s more than that, and not in a good way.

      I really wonder what he’s up to.

    2. Jady

      This must vary by industry significantly.

      All of what the OP described overall is pretty normal in my industry, with one exception. We do get to use our computers and phones for personal reasons (within reason), but all social media sites and such are blocked.

      I’d suspect emails at most companies are at least archived, which means they are accessible by certain people if they want it at any time. Most companies will be able to track your internet traffic data when you’re on their network.

      We have an IT thing installed on all our machines that let’s them access, look up, see all installed programs, take control of machines, and who knows what else. My husband worked for a company that prevent users from installing anything on their machines – even something like a browser.

      Most offices I’ve worked out have cameras, and record audio, but I’ve always been in a cube-farm. Extremely few people (literally 1 at my current job) has a designated private office. I have no idea if they have recording in there.

      We don’t have to “clock in / clock out”, but we have security badges to unlock our doors to enter and leave the building… and I know factually that they track that information too.

      I think for OP’s workplace it’s just a lot more obvious that they are spying. Most places are more discreet about it.

      1. Normally A Lurker

        Yea, at least some of this varies by industry.

        All of our emails and our chat logs are not only archived, but read by our legal department. We sign things saying that.

        To be fair though, the clocking in and out on salary AND the recording of personal offices feels a little weird, even in my industry.

        1. Rachael

          I think that the big difference is that your legal department is reviewing, not one person sitting on a throne who is spying on everyone. Once is standard practice. The other is paranoid spying.

          1. Natalie

            I feel like the legal department and a CEO would be reviewing for different things, too. My legal department (presumably) doesn’t care about anything other than liability so they’re not going to be coming to me to criticize my tone, or how quickly I responded, or some other non-legal issue. But a boss that institutes this level of surveillance seems like they’re going to care about all sorts of things that a normal person would not care about.

            I’m pretty new at my job right now so I copy my boss on a lot of emails and I hate it because I second guess my wording constantly. And he is a pretty typical boss, not going full dictator like this boss.

        2. LBK

          I assure you no one in your legal department is sitting there read through your emails/chats on a daily basis – they’re there to be reviewed for compliance purposes if needed but active monitoring is really unusual. And normal compliance monitoring is definitely not done by automatically BCCing the CEO on every email, that’s insane. There’s no way this is about simple record retention.

          1. Safetykats

            I agree. I also work in a highly regulated industry, and all emails are archived and a record is kept of all internet usage. A significant number of internet sites are blocked, although generally these are sites that clearly have no work or “necessary” personal related function, or ones about which the company has secority concerns. (For example, I can access a large number of reference related sites, including Amazon, but not FB; I can access my banking site but not The Onion.) There are not recording devices in our offices but conference rooms have recording capability that is used for certain types of meetings. Building access is electronically controlled such that there a record of your entrances (but not exits). I have worked in buildings where both are recorded. Company car GPS records are also retained.

            HOWEVER – all this information is archived in case it is needed. Emails or internet usage or comings and goings are periodically electronically audited and flagged if determined to be problematic. I might get an email from Security or HR if my staff is keeping weird hours or accessing weird websites. (There was one entertaining incident concerning internet searches for various sizes and types of pipe nipples.)

            This sounds weird enough that I actually wonder if the information is correct. Is it possible that electronic email archiving has been misportrayed as bcc to the CEO? The policy on internet usage is just an overreach. I think everybody allows limited personal use now, because unless you’re going to fire everyone who ever checks the news on their lunch break there’s no point in being that restrictive.

            1. As Close As Breakfast

              I’m a mechanical engineer at a manufacturing facility and many of my projects include both pipe nipples and sex bolts. And both continue to illicit juvenile snickering from me on a regular basis.

        3. Anonymoose

          Yep. All of the OP’s concerns sound like totally normal financial investment services compliance standards. The Bcc to the boss just sounds like he’s the only one legally responsible if something goes down – so it makes sense that he should have access. That said, I highly doubt he’s the ONLY one Bcced. Likely a server somewhere/IT director, etc also gets copied. And if CEO hasn’t set up inbox rules to move all the emails to a folder, he’s a weirdo.

          1. Observer

            Totally not the case.

            From a compliance point of view, BCC to the boss is less than useless. There is no audit trail, there is no accountability, there is no way to guarantee that records can be produced as needed.

            By the same token, cameras in offices is fairly uncommon, even in regulated industries, as noted by a number of commenters who work in those industries. And AUDIO recording is TOTALLY not a common thing. In fact, as noted, there are significant legal problems with that practice.

        4. Specialk9

          Most of those things have been standard in my workplaces too, but this is still very weird. I assume all email and chat is auto-scanned for key words, internet usage blocked and monitored, my screen monitored if there’s a reason (like I am being investigated), that anything I send while connected to their Wifi may be monitored, and that there are cameras around the office.

          But cameras with audio in every office? Bcc’ing the CEO on everything? Having salaried people clock in and out? No internet at all even on breaks? That’s draconian and abnormal and frankly insulting.

          Oh the rush for the doors will be epic to watch. There is something sketchy going on there. And the high performing people who have options will find a less prison like workplace.

      2. a1

        No this is still weird. I posted this below but will repeat here… Isn’t that what the email servers are for? I know none of my work email is private, but it’s also not being directly sent (via BCC or otherwise) to anyone specific. It is accessible though, through proper channels, for auditing or other reasons. And that’s quite normal.

        I’ll add that I work in one of the most regulated fields there is and we don’t have audio recording of our offices and cubicle farms. There is video surveillance, of public areas and access points, but that’s about it. And we’re allowed to access websites for personal use (like this one) as long as it’s not interfering with work.

        1. Myrin

          I was just thinking this. It’s one thing if your boss or IT can technically read all your emails if they have any reason to do so but it’s quite another when all emails get actively sent to him.

            1. Myrin

              I’m trying to think of an analogy to make this more clear for people who see nothing outrageous going on ehre and this is what I’ve come up with:

              The building I live in has a custodian. He has a master key for all flats in the building meaning that technically, he could drop in randomly whenever he feels like it. Thankfully, he doesn’t do that.
              Now, if I haven’t heard of the neighbour we’re close to for several days and have reason to believe something’s happened to her, I can call the custodian and he can open the door and check on my neighbour. That is entirely not the same as if he decided one day that to stop people from doing drugs in the flats, he’d now start roaming all the flats in the building all day.
              What people are talking about with regards to “a company technically has access to all emails sent by employees” is the first instance; what OP’s employer is doing is the second.

              (I realise this is not a perfect analogy – after all, my relationship with my employer is different from my relationship with our custodian – but I think it gets the point across.)

        2. Falling Diphthong

          Yeah, I expect business emails to all be archived somewhere, but bcc-ing–who the heck has decided that the answer to their management problems is a vast, vast increase in the amount of email they get? And can’t come up with some more technically dignified way to access them?

          1. Specialk9

            I mean, it’s so ill advised ok so many levels that I’m kind of stoked that CEO is now buried under 10s of thousands of emails a day. Schadenfreude is sometimes well deserved.

        3. LBK

          Same, I work in finance so we’re pretty heavily regulated and this is an insane amount of oversight that goes beyond security into paranoia.

        4. Yomi

          Exactly on the email thing. There’s a huge difference between “all my email is archived and could be accessed/searched at any time for generally any reason” and “this one person is literally receiving every email we send at all times.” The first is perfectly normal, your work email belongs to your company, not to you. The latter sends off alarm bells in my head that went into overdrive with the “video and audio recording us in our own offices during a normal work day.”

        5. Anonymoose

          Yep I though the audio was creepy too (ex financial investment services here!). That said, maybe in the recent past they had some shady things go down and so their compliance team wants to CYA??

          Either way, I doubt very seriously that whatever chump is forced to watch that video stream is really going to care if anybody calls their mom or makes a nail appointment from their office. Shoot, feel free to catch up on TWD. They just don’t want you doing anything illegal in meetings or calls. Which should not be terribly difficult to avoid!

      3. CAA

        While I agree that most of the items you list are common, I would say that recording audio in work areas is not. In fact, it’s illegal in many states to record people’s conversations without their permission, so companies that do this would have to post notices to cover the recording of any visitors or vendors who might be on the premises.

        Video recording is used in some industries, such as banking, retail and some manufacturing, but it would be really weird in something like software development.

        1. kittymommy

          I was coming here to say this! On my state it’s legal for video (I think my office has about a dozen cameras) but no audio since there must be expressed consent/acknowledgement.

          1. sap

            I shudder to think of the legal mess that’s probably lurking in their records from employees who put someone on speaker phone and don’t warn them about in-office audio recording. This is such a terrible idea (also, I’m imagining what my day would look like if I had to warn all the people on my speakerphone that they were being recorded. Nobody would talk to me!)

      4. Tash

        Yup, same!
        I worked in a call center and we had clean desk policy (no personal items in the office), no paper allowed, computer use exclusively for work purposes and with the client’s tools, surveillance inside and outside the office, and everything done on the computers was accessible to both IT and our managers. To be fair, we worked with confidential information and the client we serviced is all about protecting its customer’s data, so at least we had reason.

        Oh! Just remembered. Every 3 or so months our department would move to a different office, “to avoid employees setting up surveillance systems outside the building to spy through the windows”. This one’s a bit overkill :D

        1. LBK

          That still doesn’t sound normal to me, I worked in a call center in the financial industry where we handled sensitive client info including SSNs and our security wasn’t that draconian.

        2. Bea

          I’ve heard a lot of intense call center stories but this takes the cake. Bravo for them finding places to lease in 3 month increments WTF!!

          1. Yomi

            I was thinking that they meant they moved around within their building that they are in (so departments switched places?) but you know, in this weird world we live in anything is possible.

        3. Antilles

          Every 3 or so months our department would move to a different office, “to avoid employees setting up surveillance systems outside the building to spy through the windows”.
          That’s an absolutely idiotic explanation. First off, that seems like a lot of effort compared to just, I dunno, hanging some black curtains or turning employees’ monitors so they can’t be seen from the windows or whatever.
          More importantly, it doesn’t actually solve the problem. If you really had an employee who was so dedicated to stealing information that they’d set up outside surveillance to spy through the windows…wouldn’t they just move their spy equipment with them? Unless you have some good security around the building itself watching to prevent such things…in which case, there’s also no point in moving the building.

          1. Anonymoose

            Amen! Like, unless an employee has a buddy hanging in a tree with a microphone, optics and somehow duped their server, I have no idea why moving cubicles would help. Maybe the Operations Director just has ADHD. (it happens! Ask my husband about the living room…)

          2. Super Secret Squirre

            That is some weird grade shit. If the people who routinely work in highly classified environments think your call center security protocols are bananas — they’re bananas.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Whoa, audio recording is not normal unless there’s a legitimate business interest that overrides the employee’s privacy interest.

        1. LBK

          I worked in a department where phone calls were recorded for compliance purposes, but even then you could still log out of the monitoring system to make personal calls. I can’t even imagine what kind of industry would require recording all audio in the entire building.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Agreed! Phone calls are a little different, but audio and video-recording all office spaces seems insane. You still have to have a legit business interest, and it doesn’t sound like OP’s boss has one.

      6. Former Hoosier

        Everyone should understand that their emails can be read and in some industries some may be regularly reviewed. Being BCC’d on every single email as a matter of course and having cameras installed in each person’s office goes way beyond this.

        I have also worked many places where you can’t install anything else on computers. That is pretty standard. This is way beyond this.

        1. Troutwaxer

          The reason for not being allowed to install anything on your computer is that IT has to keep track of every application that’s in use. They have to know if a particular app spreads malware (deliberately or otherwise,) whether it has unpatched security problems, what kind of information the app sends to its creators, whether it uninstalls completely if needed (some programs leave vast amounts of junk behind,) whether it grabs permissions it shouldn’t grab, etc., plus the IT dept must know how to support every app which gets used in an important business process. Further, let’s not forget licensing concerns, which can cost a ton of money (and get the company in legal trouble) if not addressed before installing the software.

          Most IT people have happy dreams of the day when the CTO gets permission to lock down the computers.

      1. Joshua

        And remember to post the Glassdoor review using your work computer so the Boss sees a copy of it! /sarcasm

    1. Cinderella's Mistaken Identity

      For all you know, they have secret cameras in the restrooms . . . I agree, run like hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

  2. AnotherAlison

    Having just wrapped up watching Narcos over the holidays, the first thing that came to mind was that the OP’s employer is implementing cartel-level employee monitoring. That’s bad. OP, get out. It’s not normal.

  3. Emi.

    Although my boss repeatedly tells me (almost as if he senses my apprehension) that I am “the very last person” he’d ever be watching or be suspicious of

    This is the workplace equivalent of “Why are you afraid to get in my windowless van? I won’t hurt you.” It’s clearly on his mind to do the very thing he’s denying the intention of, which is why he’s intentionally setting things up so that he can do it. But he toooootally won’t. You can trust him.

    Please find a new job as soon as you can.

      1. Specialk9

        This is why that statement made my skin crawl. It’s like that letter recently with the male coworker who told a woman that he’d never be violent to her (I forget the exact wording but it creeped me out so. much.). It’s the kind of thing that gaslighters say while they’re doing that exact thing, to mess with you.

    1. Fortitude Jones

      I agree, but OP, if you left your last job on a good note, see if you can get that one back. They may be amenable to rehiring you if they haven’t already filled your position and since you’re technically an external candidate, they’d probably match your current salary to get you back (assuming you were a rockstar and/or they just really liked you prior to leaving). It’s a long shot, but your current company and CEO are so out of order that it might be worth it to at least ask your former employer whether it’s an option.

      1. SignalLost

        I like this. If possible, that kind of move might be enough to leave this job off OP’s resume. I … don’t feel like these would be good people to have on a resume for some reason. But if not, it would be presumably pretty easy to explain how abnormal this situation is without veering into badmouthing.

        1. Fortitude Jones

          Yeah, I wouldn’t want this job on my resume either. Can you imagine the insane reference she might get if she leaves? The CEO isn’t playing with a full deck, so I imagine he doesn’t take too kindly to people leaving. Also, if the speculation that he’s the one actually up to something actually comes to fruition and it becomes A Thing in OP’s industry, it might not look good for her going forward.

          If the only reason OP left the prior job was money, it wouldn’t hurt to go back if they were open to it. I’d rather be at a subpar job that I don’t hate while job searching for something better than be at a batshit crazy one. Imagine trying to take breaks to do phone screens during work hours and wondering whether or not someone’s listening in or even just getting the time off to do in person interviews when your every move is being watched.

          1. Natalie

            Although if you go back to that old job, I think you have to commit to staying there for a bit unless you’re comfortable burning the bridge with that job, too. If I hired someone back only to have them quit six months later for another new position, I wouldn’t be thrilled.

    2. Catalin

      Call your boss’ bluff when he reassures you (again) that he’s not watching or suspicious of YOU: hang a thick wool sweater over the camera and turn on a white noise maker. “Well, boss, since you promised you weren’t monitoring me, what’s the problem?”

    3. Beanie

      If this post was a horror movie the “almost as if he senses my apprehension” part would have me yelling at the screen. Darling – he doesn’t sense your apprehension, he literally sees it.

      I understand some surveillance. I work in a job where every email is part of a public record and every office/room must have a window for viewing etc. But reading your situation I’m going to say no you are not overreacting and yes it is a big deal!

    4. Marthooh

      “Duct tape comes in handy for lots of tasks – it’s not just for restraining murder victims, ya know!”

  4. Meredith

    OP, while my emails don’t automatically BCC my boss, we *do* have an email archiving service. I am in financial services, so this is a matter of compliance, not necessarily Big Brother. I can see every email that goes in/out, but again, it’s meant for flagging purposes only. I guess I just wanted to add my 2 cents that the email correspondance being viewed isn’t all that out of line (again, totally dependent on your work sector!), but the manner in which they are definitely is.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Agreed that the email archiving and bans on non-workplace sites (even on break) are pretty normal. But the bcc’ing and A/V surveillance in each office is way outside of normal.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        I’m just trying to imagine the state of the CEO’s inbox if they are being BCC’ed on every e-mail in the company.

        1. LSP

          Right? That alone makes this post horrifying. Add the video AND audio surveillance, and we’re in a Twilight Zone episode.

        2. Liane

          Aside from the Ginormous Bright Red Flag issues, don’t emails still have limits on how much email they can hold?

          1. Natalie

            Typically, but those are set by the company – they’re not like an inherent quality of an inbox or something. Presumably the CEO has given himself a high enough amount of storage that it’s not a problem.

            1. sap

              Hopefully. Someone with this many krakens swimming around in their gray matter may not do this correctly, though (I mean, they aren’t doing anything else correctly…)

              So I could easily imagine that CEO thinks the BCCing is a sufficient archive and one day old emails are just going to start disappearing or new emails are just going to stop coming, and the archive will be broken.

        3. Immersang

          Right? How does a CEO have time to deal with this? What does it say about his priorities?

          And I thought the micromanaging Managing Director I had at a small startup a few years back was bad. He personally double-checked everything I wrote for the company’s social media. (And no, there wasn’t a good reason for that. After a while, I figured he just felt good about himself when he found something to “correct”, which was usually a matter of taste – how to phrase something – and not actual mistakes ).

          But this? This is ten times more dysfunctional.

      2. Anony

        Swiping in and out can also be normal, even for salaried employees. The security cameras would creep me out though. I have never heard of an office job that had security cameras with sound or even security cameras in private offices. I can’t even think of a legitimate reason to have them. Security cameras without sound in common areas? I have seen that but it is usually to keep employees safe or make sure expensive equipment is not stolen, not to spy on employees.

        1. Former Hoosier

          And except in very specific circumstances, it should not be acceptable to record employees in private offices. Clearly in vaults, money counting areas, pharmacies, I can understand why someone should be recorded but in other jobs that is not acceptable.

      3. Falling Diphthong

        Archiving is much more clearly for the business. The bcc-ing the CEO is him cutting IT out (or… so he imagines) to make sure no one can know what he’s monitoring.

    2. Sigh

      Yeah, exactly, there’s a huge difference between industry mandated compliance and all emails being sent directly to one person. One is normal and a fact of business, the other reeks of insecurity and possibly some sort of like…creepiness. I can’t quite describe it.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Yep, agreed. From a finance perspective, the only thing that seems weird about this is honestly the Bcc’ing the boss instead of just going through a filter & archive program. What a waste of the boss’s time! I actually feel much safer with cameras everywhere at work, because it means I can do stuff like leave my purse at my desk without fretting about it walking off.

      That said, the boss is being super weird about it, and since it sounds like it’s a bunch of major procedural changes all at once, I can see how it feels like Big Brother all of a sudden.

      1. Observer

        You don’t audio for things like keeping your belongings from taking a walk.

        In fact, you may not even need the cameras in each office if all your access points are covered.

        And that’s really the issue here – this is waaay overkill for the legitimate security and compliance issues that a business may have.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          True, I’d missed the note about audio the first time around. That’s way weird and overreach-y.

    4. Observer

      Email archiving is normal – that’s how you “review as needed”. All emails going to the CEO is most definitely NOT.

      Also, as Alison notes, it’s the entire package that utterly creepy here. The idea that idea that no person should ever be allowed to have a conversation that the boss can’t hear while the are in the building is insane.

      1. Sales Geek

        Yes, email archiving is normal but a document retention policy (how long you archive) is more important. In some highly regulated industries archival times are specified. In others, it’s up to the company and often set by legal.

        For example, my former employer (I am retired) had a six month document retention policy. It was purposely set short after being sued by the Federal government several decades ago. All email and calendar entries in our system older than six months were deleted by a policy set in our email client.

        The most important thing here is that anything that’s archived can be subpoenaed. Email archived according to the company policy is fair game in most lawsuits. But if the CEO is keeping *all* correspondence I doubt it’s being pruned/archived/deleted. This is a huge legal exposure should the company be sued. It’s a gold mine for opposing counsel.

        Depending on how the system is run the audio/video surveillance footage is also an exposure in case of a lawsuit of any kind. It’s also a goldmine for hackers — most smaller video surveillance systems are terribly insecure (see https://www.insecam.org/en/bycountry/US/).

        I’m sure you could tell the CEO about this but from the other crazy stuff (video and audio) I doubt it would make a difference. My vote is to leave ASAP.

        1. Observer

          This is a good explanation of part of the reason why this BCC thing doesn’t fly from a compliance point of view.

    5. SignalLost

      I’ve worked at places that have auto-logged all emails. (In fact, had a fun legal wrangle with one that willfully misconstrued a phrase in an email.) That isn’t particularly abnormal, to me, but these aren’t being auto archived, they’re being BCC’d directly to the CEO. There’s a world of difference between auto archiving and BCC’ing, because the latter at least strongly implies someone will read your email routinely, even if that doesn’t happen daily.

        1. SignalLost

          I was going to answer that seriously (mailbox rules) but then I thought about what happens if he replies to an email from an employee and it’s BCC’d so he gets two copies, and then he replies to both copies by accident, and gets more BCC’s, and then I started thinking about those huge reply-all crashes.

          1. oviraptor

            I was thinking the reply-all email chains could maybe come in handy. Just get your co workers on board and in a few short weeks(?) months(?) there will be so many emails the CEO would be buried under an avalanche of email. And of course in my version, he caves due to the overflowing in box and eliminates his sneaky bcc stuff.

            Now, to come up with a plan for getting rid of the AV shenanigans…

            **But, you may not want to follow this plan. It always works out in my version, but in the real world there’s a pretty good chance it won’t. Sigh**

    6. neverjaunty

      If that were the only unusual thing here, maybe. But it isn’t.

      And there really is a difference between archiving emails vs all of them being bcc’d to the CEO.

    7. kb

      On its own I could see the BCC thing as an inefficient attempt at an archival system, but combined with everything else… It’s creepy. Maybe they aren’t actively viewing footage and every email. Maybe they just want to have something to review later if a problem is found, but it definitely seems like they’re setting everything up to watch in real time.

      1. hbc

        Exactly my thought. Our owner is an attempted micromanager who would be ecstatic to hear you can auto-bcc* because he loves the idea that he has access to Everything. I say “attempted” because he gets too many emails to even read the stuff he needs to, so within a week this would go to a sub-folder where maybe one email a quarter was read, or if he’s looking for clues as to why someone quit saying they couldn’t work with him any longer.**

        But he would never dream of cameras or banning sites or anything of that nature.

        *No one tell him please.
        **Not a hypothetical.

    8. LtBroccoli

      I agree that it’s all in the manner they’re doing it. I’m in banking and basically have little to no privacy at work, but it’s done completely differently. There’s a huge difference between “there are people in IT can pull your emails/voicemails/IMs to review whenever they want” (but unless they have reason they likely won’t bother) and “your boss WILL see every email you send”.

      We have cameras all over (barring bathrooms and similar) but again it’s “security MIGHT watch you” whereas this company comes across as “the CEO WILL watch you because he’s a creepy control freak”.

      Maybe it’s the anonymity/professionalism aspect? I accept that it’s part of IT/security’s job to keep an eye on us, and they will be professional & discreet about it. A CEO doing it feels different, feels nosy.

    9. Dotty

      My work has something similar to the bcc – it’s not made known to all staff, just senior managers, but the CEO has all staff accounts added into her outlook which means she can dip in at any time. She also has a keyword setting which means if an email is sent with a subject line containing one of these key words it automatically flags it. Wierdly one of these keywords is ‘lunch’! Fairly sure it’s not normal in itself and definitely agree that collectively, all the factors OP mentions should be a major red flag

    10. Wendy Darling

      It’s pretty normal for your employer to archive and potentially have access to every email you send from your work account — some people recently got busted for sex trafficking because they stupidly used their work emails to solicit prostitutes. But it’s not normal for your employer to *actually actively read all of your emails*.

      Not to mention I have no idea how the CEO keeps their email from imploding into some kind of mailserver black hole if they’re BCCed on every email in the company.

  5. Snark

    “Dear Alison, my coworkers are black and yellow and communicate with me exclusively by buzzing.”

    “Your coworkers are bees. Get out.”

      1. Snark

        I’m envisioning one of those creepy killer bee infestations where they all swarm around somebody’s car or whatever. Like that.

        1. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms

          Yes, and our hero thinks they’re safe, but then the little buggers start squirming in through the vents!

    1. Anon and alone

      “Actually, now that I’ve seen the evidence, it’s even worse than I thought. Your office is full of Odokuro Horribilis. You’re in terrible danger get out! Now!”
      Sorry, I’m reading James Rollins “The Demon Crown” and these wasps are in there. It’s my nightmare, stingy insects.

  6. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

    Where *IS* that Whoopi Goldberg, “you in danger girl” .gif when you need it…

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP, what your company is doing is illegal in several states, which is a good indication of how out of the norm this is. I don’t think it can be resolved. Anyone whose response to creating a surveillance quasi-state is “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” clearly hasn’t read 1984, the Declaration of Independence, or the Bill of Rights.

    Run, please run. Your company is full of evil bees, and your CEO is a madman.

      1. SebbyGrrl

        :[] pinch poke, buy me a coke! (but no actual pinching of course because we are PROFESSIONALS!).

    1. EA

      The whole thing is so very 1984.

      Even the people who believe nonsense like they have nothing to hide so this insanity isn’t an issue, this is bad management. You have a CEO who can’t distinguish between issues and non-issues, probably doesn’t deal well with performance problems (monitoring everyone because of issues with a few, I assume), and spends his time monitoring other than working. The level of control issues will come out in other ways.

    2. Call me St. Vincent

      Definitely illegal in several states. Google your state and “electronic monitoring laws.” Also this could arguably be in violation of the NLRA because it could be viewed as stifling the ability of employees to engage in protected, concerted activity (e.g. meeting privately to discuss working conditions).

  8. NoMoreMrFixit

    How does this guy manage to get any real work done if he is spending all his time spying on his employees?

    1. Jennifer

      Yeah. My old boss was always drowning in emails, how does the guy get any work done if he is constantly reading literally everyone else’s emails all the time?

    2. Cassandra

      My suspicion — and it is only that — is that he isn’t actually reading the email, just piling it up to search through In Case Something Happens. I also suspect that Something Happened In The Past that occasioned this unbelievably over-the-top response.

      Not an excuse! If anything, this suspicion (if correct) only adds to the Workplace of Evil Bees impression, because it makes crystal-clear that this workplace cannot handle problems appropriately.

      1. Midge

        Or he’s just searching them for specific things. Like oh, say, his own name. Just to see what his employees are saying about him.

      2. WellRed

        If he’s also watching and listening in on them in their audiences I think he probably is reading all the emails.

      3. Grits McGee

        Yeah, to me this reeeeeeeks of “one bad experience = express trip to Paranoiaopolis.” But the fact that email is going straight to the CEO instead of a server or archive is an extra bit of weirdness.

      4. Falling Diphthong

        This workplace cannot handle problems appropriately.

        This. It’s like some giant buzzing mutation of management by sending generic group e-mails to address every individual mistake.

    1. London Calling

      Like, NOW. OP – run as if your heels are on fire and your ass is about to catch. This goes beyond anything I’ve ever heard of and not in a good way.

  9. Myrin

    “Although my boss repeatedly tells me […] that I am far from the reason he is taking such precautions…”
    Leaving aside what a strange thing that is to say in general – like, it would never even occur to me that such measures had anything to do with me personally of all people; why on earth did he feel the need to point that out?! – this implies that there is a reason he’s taking such “precautions” and I’d really love to know what these are. Not because it would change anything but out of pure curiosity. What exactly happened to him that made him think these are all swell ideas?

    1. SignalLost

      “I wouldn’t break YOUR arm, obviously, but sometimes you have to do that.” It’s a suspiciously specific denial in the wild!

  10. Lady By The Lake

    In certain industries, particularly investment banking/brokerage, it is necessary to have a record of who said what to whom. However, the way this company is going about it seems unusual.

    1. Anna

      Absolutely, but it doesn’t sound like the OP is in that sort of industry and from what you and others have indicated, it still isn’t a normal way of auditing in those industries.

      Back away slowly so as not to startle them, OP, then GTFO.

    2. Lynca

      Email retention is very common in other sectors. But generally it’s done by an outside firm or IT departments. It’s not done directly by your boss or through surveillance. This is pretty far outside of the norms.

      1. a1

        Right! Isn’t that what the email servers are for? I know none of my work email is private, but it’s also not being directly sent (via BCC or otherwise) to anyone specific. It is accessible though, through proper channels, for auditing or other reasons. And that’s quite normal.

        1. sunny-dee

          Exactly. A lot of companies are required to save *all* communications because of Sarbanes-Oxley if they’re publicly traded, regardless of industry. But that’s done through normal IT practices — archives, backups, etc. It’s not all CC’ed to a single person, not least of which because that does nothing to address regulatory requirements about retention and security.

          That’s bizarre and creepy.

    3. Observer

      What the company is doing goes well beyond “unusual”. It is also quite possible that what the CEO is doing wouldn’t meet compliance requirements anyway. And there is no compliance rule that would make universal audio recording a reasonable response.

    1. RVA Cat

      I was wondering about that, too. It’s uncomfortable enough if we assume the OP is male, but the CEO spying on women in their offices and potentially the restroom has my shoulders up around my ears.

    2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo

      Wouldn’t surprise me. I bet the boss would say he needs to make sure that people aren’t spending too much time in the bathroom and that they aren’t there to chitchat or use their cell phones or anything like that.

    3. Call me St. Vincent

      That would definitely be illegal in pretty much every state, even if there isn’t a law on the books, there’s likely case law saying it’s an invasion of privacy. This can also cross into criminal territory.

  11. NW Mossy

    OP, listen to the part of your brain that prompted you to write in to Alison. It is wise in its insistent warning of impending doom. Heed its call and run like a prey animal.

    1. Snark

      There’s this series of YouTube videos with animals acting like assholes, and they all end with a freeze frame, the words THUG LIFE, and a snip of some rap.

      There’s one where a hyena is biting on a limp antelope, and then gets distracted chasing off a cheetah. The antelope jumps up instantly and runs for its life. Freeze frame. “F** k the po-lice!” THUG LIFE.

      So yeah, do that.

  12. Rene

    Eshk. Vibes of 1984 there.

    I hate the notion that if you have nothing to hide then you wouldn’t mind being watched/monitored.

    1. Snark

      I’d take the opportunity to mess with him. Hold a meeting in interpretive dance. Do a ritual to bless your lunch and honor its spirit. Hire someone to run into your office dressed like a ninja; fight them off. Arm-wrestle an invisible person. Microwave fish.

      1. Catalin

        Snark, I was thinking more like a “turn directly to the camera and address it as though it was your boss; have conversations like this loudly, preferably while the boss is walking by your office”, but I rather like the interpretive dance bit.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Or better yet, start having them backwards so that he thinks you’re reciting demonic chants.

        1. Cheesehead

          Ooooooo….turn to the camera and start talking like it’s an episode of “The Office”! That would be AWESOME! “Well, boss, you installed cameras in our offices so I thought we were doing an unmanned Dunder Mifflin documentary type of thing.”

    2. Lady Jay

      Glenn Greenwald has an excellent TED talk on this (I’ll dig up the link and leave it in a comment to my post). Essentially, he responds to that notion (that only people who have something to hide are upset about being monitored) by arguing that any kind of observation necessarily changes our behavior, making us less likely to engage in community and take risks in a way that leads to a free society; we become less free by virtue of being watched.

      1. Natalie

        I buy that. In a totally innocuous version, my typing goes completely to hell when someone is standing next to me to show me something or train me or whatever. It’s completely a function of being uncomfortable being watched, even though I’m doing something routine.

        1. Windchime

          This happens to me, too. My brain freezes or something and I can’t type, or find something in a drop-down list. I used to work with a guy who would stand over my shoulder and patiently say, “It’s alphabetical! It’s alphabetical!”. Not helping, dude.

        2. MJLurver

          OMG me too!!

          I’ve been in human resources for about 20 years off and on. A few years ago I was being trained for a six-month contract HR Director position and the person training me (who was going to be going on maternity leave in a few weeks) would hover an inch behind me and over my left shoulder and impatiently direct me or tell me to type things literally as I was typing them out (correctly) on my own. She finally stopped barking out words and let me do things without the drill sargeant orders, (but kept hovering) and due to how anxious she was making me I literally couldn’t think of the word “resources” (As in “human resources”) and I instead stupidly and accidentally typed “human relationships” – and for the life of me I could not think of the word “resources” -like my brain forgot the word…it was RIDICULOUS.

          All of that to say, I have the same exact problem.

    3. ContentWrangler

      I just feel like I would never be able to relax, knowing I had a video camera with audio watching me all the time and every communication I made being potentially watched.

  13. Observer

    This is incredibly NOT normal.

    As a point of reference – we don’t have cameras in individual offices only in public / shared spaces. eg the hallways, our conference room (via the camera in the hall, since it’s glass walled). Even though we COULD turn audio on, our security vendor advised us to not do so without consulting our lawyer, as this could present some legal problems.

    I’m not saying that what your boss is doing is illegal. I AM saying that what he is doing is soooo out of the norm that even a professional paranoid expects the sound to stay off even in the public spaces.

    However, I will point out that if he has not made it completely clear to the staff that he is doing this, he may have a problem. There is a concept of “expectation of privacy”. So on the computers, he’s clear because he made you sign those forms. Has he been as clear about the cameras?

    What do the rest of the staff have to say about this? Keep in mind that even though you don’t have any privacy, it’s illegal for your boss to punish you for discussing this. On the other hand, I would understand why you might want to discuss this outside of the office.

    Last but not least: Do NOT use your personal equipment for work EVER. I’d be willing to bet that if you use your phone, for instance, to access work email, he’s going to set up the maximum amount of monitoring and control, with no respect for the personal nature of the phone. Who needs it?

    1. SignalLost

      I feel like the cases where audio is recorded (I think retail is moving in this direction), it’s for the benefit of the workers, or at least framed that way. And I’m certain there are people whose jobs have been saved when a customer’s claims are not supported by the audio of the interaction. In an office environment, it’s really not normal, and your point about legal concerns is an interesting one.

    2. Former Hoosier

      I wondered that too. I have certainly done things in my private office that aren’t illegal or inappropriate that I still had an expectation wouldn’t be spied upon such as changing my clothes before working out over lunch or having a private conference with another employee.

  14. Sigh

    Is this even legal? I mean, I guess it is or is grey enough since it is happening, but this would be a wonderful report to the DOL in my state. And your unemployment insurance would practically be a given. Was any of this disclosed beforehand? The few times I worked in a place where we were on camera I had to sign several things stating I knew that and understood how the footage would be stored.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      In most places it’s not legal to record audio and video without violating federal wiretap statutes or labor statutes (it’s presumed that audio recording interferes with workers’ rights to organize). Recording video (no sound) is more complex and varies by industry, location of the cameras, etc. But the audio aspect is extremely problematic.

      I had a client who was on the verge of a bankrupt-ing lawsuit for pulling crap like this. Granted, I’m in California, but OP’s boss’s approach is such a basic violation of federal law that most employment lawyers (nationwide) would drop their jaws over this.

      1. a Gen X manager

        I’m pretty sure that in many states it is legal to record audio if there are signs to notify people as they enter the building (so that even visitors know), rather than just another employment disclosure.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          There are a lot of restrictions on this, even in single-consent states. You have to have a legitimate business interest and can only monitor areas “where business is transacted.” This can be different in retail and call centers (or customer service desks), but it’s very unusual to record audio and video in private offices. But you definitely cannot record audio in any “break” spaces, and you can’t record simply because you want to.

          There are at least three different legal issues at play: federal wiretapping laws, the NLRA, and state laws regarding privacy/recording. OP’s boss sounds like he could be violating all three.

    2. MsChanandlerBong

      I don’t know if it’s illegal in terms of employment law, but I wonder if it’s illegal based on state “wire-tapping” laws. Many states are two-party consent states, so if they are using audio with their video cameras, are they asking if clients/vendors consent to having audio recorded every time someone comes to the office? Or are they just recording everything and not telling anyone? Again, it all depends on the OP’s location.

      1. anon24

        Yes, depending on the state this is illegal unless they explicitly notify anyone entering the building. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business or private. For example, I have a dash camera installed in my car that monitors video and audio on a loop, when the SD card gets full, it just writes over the oldest files. I have to be careful to remember to tell anyone who might ride/drive, or even be around my car with the camera running that they are being video/audio recorded. Not doing this would cause me to be in violation of my state laws.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It can be illegal under federal wiretapping laws, too. But in dual-consent states (like California), it is 100% unlawful to record audio and video.

        1. Jerry Vandesic

          Could the owner require consent as part of an agreement with his employees, either explicitly via signed agreements or implicitly via posted warnings?

          1. Observer

            In a two party consent state, that won’t help with the other party to a call, which creates problems if someone puts a call on speaker.

  15. ZSD

    This whole situation is terrible, but the cameras are really beyond the pale. This morning, I shut my office door and closed my blinds so I could take off my long underwear. What if an employee at this company forgets about the camera when they need to change clothes?
    (I mean, among all the other problems.)

    1. sunny-dee

      Or what if they get a 5 minute phone call from a doctor giving them test results or changing a prescription? Or someone’s school called because their kid got in trouble? It’s certainly not detrimental to the company or time-consuming, but it is insanely invasive to eavesdrop on those kind of personal issues.

    2. anon24

      I worked for a business where we had video only cameras in strategic locations, and managers had the ability to remotely access the cameras from home, which we did in certain situations. One day I called work to check in and my boss answered the phone and was panicked, asking if I had been logged in 5 minutes before. Turns out he was in the building alone, forgot about one of the cameras and changed his clothing in front of it. When he remembered the camera, he deleted the footage, but then he was freaking out thinking I might have been logged in. I promised him I hadn’t been, and also promised him that I would certainly have instantly logged back out had I logged in while he was changing. I can only imagine if something like that happened and the employee didn’t have the ability to delete the tapes.

      1. Former Hoosier

        Because occasionally people who are very responsible and very hard working do something private in their offices. And it isn;t unreasonable to expect not to be recorded doing that. That would creep me out so much that I couldn’t work there. And I am an ardent rule follower.

        1. anon24

          Yes! I am not saying this is ok at all. I wouldn’t be able to work somewhere that I was being watched and recorded at all times. This is not cool. Expecting anyone to spend 8 or 9 hours of their day with zero privacy except in the bathroom is so far beyond the realm of acceptable. They are employees, not prison inmates.

  16. LSP

    So I haven’t even read “The Gift of Fear,” but I’m pretty sure this is one of those posts where that book would be relevant to the OP.

    This is not micromanaging. This is something else entirely, and it ain’t good.

    1. JustaTech

      I have read the Gift of Fear and, yes, it is very appropriate here. And excellent suggestion from the commentariate.

  17. Mb13

    OP your office sounds like how Roger Ailes ran Fox News. Regardless of what you think of the content Fox News produce their offices are notorious for their controlling, spying and constant monitoring. In addition to making their employees feel big brother breathing down their back, the constant monitoring was used to A) maintain loyalty through fear and B) create an environment where harassment and bad behavior can accrue with out consequences.

    An employer that so eager to have this much power over their employees is probably eager to wild that power against their employees. Please keep your head screwed tight and try and play it safe as you look for a new job.

  18. BeautifulVoid

    Although my boss repeatedly tells me (almost as if he senses my apprehension) that I am “the very last person” he’d ever be watching or be suspicious of and that I am far from the reason he is taking such precautions…

    He is absolutely watching you. The more he says he’s not, the more he’s doing it. The reason why is anybody’s guess, but you’re not going to fix this. It’s ultimately up to you if you want to stick it out, but were it me and it was a reasonable option, I’d be running for the hills.

    1. Grey

      Yes. I’d interpret this as “Please, let your guard down so I can watch you while you don’t suspect it”. And really, he probably tells everyone they’re the last person he’d be watching. Is he really going to say, “Yeah, you’re at the top of my viewing list”?

  19. JoJo

    “We had to sign a form stating we would not use social media at work, and that we wouldn’t visit any blogs or other non-work related sites from a company computer,”

    The boss is probably tired of employees spending the entire day fooling around on their phones.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Interesting, because I’ve worked in a number of places that don’t have that issue, and we’ve never had to sign anything like that.

    2. Snark

      If that’s a problem, the boss needs to be a normal person about it, and handle individual performance issues on an individual basis. If people are fooling around on their phones to the point that they’re missing deadlines or lowering productivity, that’s something you deal with individuals about. And if there’s no actual demonstrable performance issue, then how much they’re using their phones isn’t really your business, because your business is your business – if your business isn’t affected, then go find something better to do.

    3. LSP

      That’s normal, but the video surveillance is taking that much further. Adding AUDIO on top of that is removing any shred of privacy an employee might have. This is such a deep level of distrust that I’m not sure how anyone gets any work done at this company.

    4. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      How would a policy about company computer use make any difference in employee use of their personal devices?

      1. Fortitude Jones

        Exactly. It doesn’t. In fact, blocking sites is more likely to result in more time wasting via phones. When I worked for Evil Law Firm back in the day (okay, six-seven years ago), they blocked every site except our intranet pages outside of the lunch block (11-2pm). What happened? My coworkers sat on their phones all day surfing the web and texting. Our work was consistently behind, even with mandatory overtime – the ban did not work. Conversely, when I took a job with my now former company, they had no real internet policy outside of the don’t visit porn sites variety, and guess what? People (for the most part) got their work done. When you’re treated like an adult, you tend to act like one.

        1. sunny-dee

          Well, that would be insane for me, too, as part of my regular job. I’m a writer, and I do a ton of research on sites that would qualify as “social media.” (I actually was on a network once which blocked access to Stackoverflow because social media. And I work in software.)

          1. SignalLost

            Yeah, I was working as a graphic designer and had to go to the network admin to get access to DeviantArt for brushes and textures. The stupid part was, they just blocked it because of the name, not because anyone was looking at inappropriate content. I think stackoverflow also got caught up in that one too. At various points a lot of the sites I and the other two designers used got blocked, probably because they couldn’t figure out why we were on pixmac or istock or whatever.

            1. Windchime

              My old job had Facebook blocked, which made sense because there was no work-related reason that anyone would need Facebook and they didn’t want patients to see employees playing around on Facebook. They also had all blogs blocked for one brief, terrifying period and I couldn’t read AAM at lunch!! I asked them to unblock my career development blog and they did, thank god.

          2. Fortitude Jones

            It was insane for us, too, especially the paralegals who’d have to go look things up in our law library as opposed to doing quick Google searches to get answers to questions they had outside of the lunch block. I get that they might have also been worried about viruses and breaches given our clients were banks, but seriously, there had to have been a better way to handle the situation. My next company is the type also frequently targeted for data breaches, but we never had a problem in the four years I worked there and we had little internet oversight.

            1. sap

              Yeah, I’m a lawyer, and I can’t imagine doing my job or any of the secretaries or paralegals doing their jobs without robust internet access. I’m imagining poor paralegals calling IT every time they need to track down an address for service or a company’s phone number or to do a simple fact-check on a demand letter. BAD law firm.

          3. SusanIvanova

            Shortly after my previous company put in blocking software that filtered out places like UrbanDictionary, someone in internal marketing sent out an email using a bit of slang with connotations they weren’t aware of. We joked that this could’ve been avoided if they’d been able to do a search and see UD results.

        2. Elizabeth West

          Blocking interfered with sites I needed to do my actual job, at one workplace. It was my responsibility to manage the trade periodicals we got in the mail. I would have to cancel them on request, but I couldn’t get to their websites to find contact forms or information. I was forever having to ask the IT manager to unblock random and non-problematic stuff. I think he finally said something to my boss, because it got better.

      1. sunny-dee

        Meh, that may be a chicken-egg situation. If it’s as badly managed as it appears to be, they could be hiring good people and completely disincentivizing them to work or demoralizing them. Or they may hire a mix of good and bad, and the good people simply leave because of the bad environment. Bad management has a huge influence on how even good employees perform.

        1. SignalLost

          Yup. I have a pretty good work ethic, or at least my productivity has never been an issue in a review and I’m often praised for my work. By the time my ToxicJob fired me (for other reasons) I was openly playing a game on my phone at my desk. The sense of not being treated like an adult led me to not stop myself not behaving like one.

      2. Tuxedo Cat

        Somewhat tangential: my last job had a staggering number of recent hires who did nothing. From my perspective, it was at least a managerial issues but I suspect there were issues with the hiring process somehow.

        Root cause would’ve pointed that the assoc director wasn’t managing effectively and/or doing a good job at hiring. However, she refused to take any blame for anything and she was best friends with one of the directors. They’re going downhill fast and it’s truly remarkable how no one wants to address the root cause.

        1. Windchime

          There are non-working people at every office job I’ve ever had. In my non-office jobs, it was actually harder for people to shirk work because every station had to be manned, and if you weren’t doing your job there would soon be apples all over the floor. Literally.

          In my current office, there is a guy (“Craig”) that just roams from desk to desk and talks loudly and constantly about everything under the sun *except* for work. My coworker and I joked the other day, wondering if Craig had even touched a keyboard yet (Craig had been in the office several hours by that point). I don’t understand how he is still employed, but he is so I just put on my headphones and do my work. He’s not on my team and not affecting my work; if his manager wants to waste an FTE on a guy that doesn’t work, that’s her business.

  20. Anonymous Educator

    Apart from the major privacy issues, this also seems to be a massive waste of company resources. Who is actually reading all those Bcc’s? Who is making sure that the archived surveillance footage is happening and backed up? Where is all that stuff being stored anyway? It’s like this setup exists just to be creepy and not in any way to be useful. In order for it to be useful, a separate person would have to be hired just to monitor it.

    I work in IT, and users sometimes ask things like “Can you see what I’m doing on my computer? Can you see what’s on my computer?” The truth it is that we have the capability to do so, but we don’t do it. First of all, because it’s creepy and unnecessary. But secondly because we have real jobs. We actually keep tech running. We aren’t just saying “Hey, I wonder what so-and-so employee is up to.”

    The proper way to monitor employees is to not monitor them… and then set up monitoring only if something is suspicious. For example, one place I worked had some laptop thefts that were clearly an inside job (no break-in). So a higher-up confided in IT that it was happening and had us sneakily set up surveillance cameras in key areas. We were able to catch the thief and then took the cameras down. We didn’t just set up surveillance everywhere all the time just for the hell of it.

  21. Justin

    Have you been to a creepy afternoon party recently where you sort of recognize that something is off with someone you run into there?

    We are here to tell you to listen when he tells you to GET OUT.

    Please.

  22. Amber Rose

    The following is the tune that I attached to your post in my head:

    “Merry Christmas, from Chiron Beta Prime
    Where we’re working in a mine for our robot overlords
    Did I say overlords
    I meant protectors.”

    LW, this is so far beyond the pale that it approaches cartoon villainy. I’m picturing like, Mr Burns level of corporate paranoia. Get out of there before they bar the doors and windows.

    (Note that my company does have cameras, but they point at the front and back doors, because it’s security against someone coming in from outside, not from the actual employees.)

    1. Murphy

      “We really hope you’ll come and visit us soon.
      I mean, we’re literally begging you to visit us,
      But make it quick before they [MESSAGE REDACTED]”

      1. Anony

        “On every corner there’s a giant metal Santa Claus who watches over us with glowing red eyes. They carry weapons and they know if you’ve been bad or good. Not everybody’s good but everyone tries. “

        1. A. Nonny Mouse

          “And the rocks outside the airlock exude ammonia-scented snow. It’s like a winter wonderland…”

    2. JoAnna

      “Now it’s time for Christmas dinner – I think the robots sent us a pie!
      You know I love my soylent green.”

  23. Jady

    This must vary by industry significantly.

    All of what the OP described overall is pretty normal in my industry, with one exception. We do get to use our computers and phones for personal reasons (within reason), but all social media sites and such are blocked.

    I’d suspect emails at most companies are at least archived, which means they are accessible by certain people if they want it at any time. Most companies will be able to track your internet traffic data when you’re on their network.

    We have an IT thing installed on all our machines that let’s them access, look up, see all installed programs, take control of machines, and who knows what else. My husband worked for a company that prevent users from installing anything on their machines – even something like a browser.

    Most offices I’ve worked out have cameras, and record audio, but I’ve always been in a cube-farm. Extremely few people (literally 1 at my current job) has a designated private office. I have no idea if they have recording in there.

    We don’t have to “clock in / clock out”, but we have security badges to unlock our doors to enter and leave the building… and I know factually that they track that information too.

    I think for OP’s workplace it’s just a lot more obvious that they are spying. Most places are more discreet about it.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      I’d suspect emails at most companies are at least archived, which means they are accessible by certain people if they want it at any time. Most companies will be able to track your internet traffic data when you’re on their network.

      Yes, any IT department should be able to audit company emails if there is a need to do so. That is wholly different from Bcc’ing every single email exchange to the CEO.

        1. Anony

          If they are being sent directly to the CEO it implies that he actually is looking at them regularly instead of just being able to access them if he needed to.

        2. Observer

          That’s actually generally not true. If compliance or general safety / management concerns are at play, then generally the CEO can’t just do what they want.At minimum, they generally need to go through IT.

          Universal real time monitoring is very different that having an archive that can be accessed as needed.

        3. Anonymous Educator

          CEO could access archived emails anytime they wanted

          Not at most companies. At most companies, the CEO would have to talk to the CTO about a suspicious employee and request logs for a certain period of time or with certain keyword flags. The CEO doesn’t just have unfettered access to people’s emails.

          And there is, in fact, having access to something if you need it and having it automatically delivered to you every moment.

        4. LBK

          Even if they could, most don’t – that’s the difference. A normal CEO has neither the desire nor the time to sit around and read random emails. If they’re requesting access to emails from IT, it’s usually a specific set because they’re looking for something in particular – and even then I think there’s almost no chance the CEO is the one doing it. If it’s really something highly sensitive that can’t be handled by a regular compliance employee, it’s probably still the CTO or general counsel or someone else for whom that would fall more naturally in their domain.

          The CEO actively receiving a copy of every single email sent or received by the company is insane, period. There’s no reasonable purpose it serves beyond paranoid surveillance and fishing for problems.

    2. Observer

      I’d suspect emails at most companies are at least archived, which means they are accessible by certain people if they want it at any time. Most companies will be able to track your internet traffic data when you’re on their network.

      There is a HUGE difference between this and every email going to the CEO. And, in fact, if that’s the only archive of email it’s almost certainly NOT compliant with any regulations around compliance.

      Most offices I’ve worked out have cameras, and record audio,

      You must have worked in some fairly unusual (and possibly shady) offices. Seriously. Recording audio is NOT normal, and in many states it’s flat out illegal. (This is different from recording calls in customer service type setup.)

      1. Jady

        “You must have worked in some fairly unusual (and possibly shady) offices.”

        No, they’re all normal jobs doing legal customer interfacing business. These things have been true for my husband and a handful of friends have said the same things about their jobs.

        1. Anony

          Do you mean recording phone calls? That is different than recording everything you say in the office.

          1. Jady

            I don’t know if calls are recorded. The audio is installed with the camera, it records the office environment.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago

            And you have to disclose that you’re on a recorded line if your company records phone calls.

            1. Jerry Vandesic

              Do you have to disclose if only one side of the conversation is recorded (assuming that the call is not on a speakerphone)? A recording of sounds in the office would only pick up one side of a phone conversation.

        2. Observer

          Given that it’s actually illegal in many states, I’s skeptical. Of course if you are talking about recording calls, that’s actually a very different thing.

          1. Jady

            I don’t know if calls are recorded. The audio is installed in the camera, it records the office environment.

            1. Anna

              Just a head’s up, just because it’s something that happens in jobs you’ve worked doesn’t at all mean it’s normal or appropriate.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Are you talking about calls, or things like walk-up counters where you interact with the public? It’s very rare to audio record individual offices.

          1. Jady

            I don’t know if calls are recorded. The audio is installed in the camera, it records the office environment.

            Customers don’t ever come into our office.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              That sounds really rare, Jady, and would be illegal in many states. Generally speaking, an employer can only audio-record work spaces where “business is transacted” for a legitimate business purpose. And they usually cannot audio-record any break or non-work spaces (e.g., kitchens, locker rooms, bathrooms). The surveillance where you work sounds out of the norm, even in highly-monitored industries.

    3. Anonymous Educator

      I think for OP’s workplace it’s just a lot more obvious that they are spying. Most places are more discreet about it.

      Having an audit trail is not the same as spying. Spying means they are watching you all the time, even and especially when there is no reason to do so. Normal practices mean they have the ability to investigate something if a need arises.

    4. rldk

      Are you in an industry where it’s expected, though? It doesn’t sound like the OP is. I know like financial services, intelligence, military, security, etc. one knows that when you join the industry, you’ll be subject to a high level of scrutiny and security as part of the industry and the work. But it sounds like it took OP by surprise, which is the red flag.

      1. Jady

        No, I would actually guess a lot of my coworkers don’t even know it’s happening.

        I only learned these things because I tend to talk to IT a lot in my position.

        1. Observer

          Something is VERY off – recording people’s conversations without their knowledge and consent is illegal in most places. Aside from the explicit rules around this, there are issues of “expectation of privacy” when in the workplace. If people reasonably expect that something will be private, then the employer can’t record that unless they make it explicitly clear that whatever will NOT be private. (There is a fair amount of case law on this, and this is true at the Federal level.)

          Also, it’s quite possible that this also runs afoul of the NLRA, because it’s reasonable to see this as something that would inhibit people’s ability to organize and discuss their workplace. It’s illegal to do that.

          1. Jady

            There’s a lot of paperwork when you get hired, it’s been awhile for me but I think its in those documents everyone has to sign.

            1. Observer

              Not good enough, in most cases. Again, the case law is pretty clear that a buried disclosure, or a one time disclosure that never gets repeated is generally not enough when dealing with something like this.

        2. Elizabeth H.

          Do you think many people aren’t aware that they are being audio and video recorded? That seems strange to me. I know we have cameras in our building that monitor the outside of the building and multiple inside spaces, but I don’t think there are any in private or shared offices. We have a security desk with a full time 24/7 security officer because of the nature of the building and who/what’s in it and where it is, and I imagine that security footage is typically kept for some length of time. I would be taken aback and uncomfortable if I learned unexpectedly we were being audio recorded or that there were cameras in every single private office.

            1. LBK

              I doubt it’s obvious that they record audio, though, since that’s really abnormal for typical security cameras.

            2. Observer

              That doesn’t count – people may know that video is being recorded, but not audio. You yourself have said that most people don’t know that they are being recorded. That’s illegal in the vast majority of cases.

            3. Elizabeth H.

              I should have been more clear, I was curious about what you meant when you said “No, I would actually guess a lot of my coworkers don’t even know it’s happening” – did you mean specifically the audio component? Or other levels of surveillance?

              It seems inappropriate to me (apart from any issues of legality that may be involved) if the large majority of people who work in the building don’t fully understand in what ways they are being watched, recorded and monitored.

        3. LBK

          I wonder if you might be misinterpreting what IT is telling you…I think most people understand and accept that nothing you do on your office computer/network is truly private, but did the IT people tell you they’re actually actively sitting there reading through people’s emails, checking their traffic, etc.? Because that would be extremely bizarre if you’ve worked at multiple places where that was the case, unless you’re in some super specific field with crazy regulations.

    5. Arjay

      Curious – you have to swipe your badge to unlock the exit doors? That sounds like a concern for the fire marshal too.

  24. clow

    There is something so creepy about this. The fact that your boss is denying he watches you makes me think he watches you a lot, which is super creepy. I would run, this workplace sounds awful and this complete insanity is probably the tip of the insanity iceberg.

  25. Hildegard Von Bingen

    Jesus Christ, that sounds like North Korea. Who’s your CEO, Kim Jong Un?

    I’d be getting the hell out of Dodge on the first stagecoach out. That is NOT normal (unless your office is in Pyongyang).

      1. Snark

        I’ve been in touch lately with some old colleagues from my EPA days. It’s like drinking with defectors from soviet Russia. The shit they’re saying about the general atmosphere at that agency….it’s BAD.

        1. paul

          Even Texas Parks & Wildlife isn’t *this* bad and based on the horror stories I’ve heard from friends, it’s pretty bad (they’ve all left over the course of the last 2 years so I feel OK saying that).

          1. Snark

            There’s all the stuff we hear about, but there’s also the stuff we don’t hear about. Scott Pruitt is apparently a giant hive of evil killer bees who all fly into a suit and walk around in it all day.

    1. Had the same boss

      Actually, I had a boss like that in South Korea! On top of wanting to be bcc-ed on every email and having cameras she was also incompetent and loved yelling. She had the full package.

  26. Elysian

    This screams as an NLRA violation to me. I’m not normally one to jump to “illegal”, but on top of being batcrap insane this kind of monitoring likely violates the National Labor Relations Act (if the letter writer is in the US), which gives certain employees the right to unionize (or otherwise to discuss wages and working conditions with their coworkers). So this is probably one of the few situations that is both nuts and illegal.

    1. Observer

      Not “some” – ALL workers have a legally protected right to unionize and to discuss the “terms and conditions” of their employment.

      I’m pretty sure that even the current NLRB would view these policies as problematic.

      1. fposte

        I thought that it was only statutory employees, and that managers have been found not to be included there either.

        1. Observer

          But it does cover exempt employees, which is the issue here.

          Worth noting, although not the issue here, is that Federal employees are also not covered.

    2. fposte

      Oh, that’s a really interesting notion. I’m really unschooled on NLRA stuff and wouldn’t have thought about its extending to privacy, but yeah, you’re not likely to discuss working conditions under surveillance.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Agreed. You can get around the NLRA, but you have to make a strong business case for why you’re doing it—especially with audio-recording. You can’t do it just because you want to.

  27. Ragnar Nurkse

    It’s only January 2nd and already we have a candidate for worst boss of 2018. Letter writer, for your own sanity, start planning an exit strategy. Some of these policies make partial sense – many organizations retain employee emails for legal/CYA purposes, or surveil common areas with cameras, or use web filtering to block access to social media. What makes this so egregious is the fact that this is all going through the CEO, rather than your company’s security or IT department; and the in-office cameras and microphones. A CEO should, presumably, have more important things to worry about than the exact timing of his employees’ bathroom breaks. That he is so directly involved in scrutinizing their behavior is, to me, a harbinger of serious organizational dysfunction.

    1. Soz

      100% agree – unless something else comes up this will be my vote for worst boss 2018!

      and yes – BCCing all emails to the CEO seems like the most inneficient thing ever!

  28. ExcitedAndTerrified

    Huh… I have to wonder OP, do you work in a field where industrial espionage is common? Or has your CEO perhaps recently left such a field?

    Because a lot of this sounds like “solutions” a non-security person might come up with, if they had been burned by industrial espionage before (or were having an ongoing problem with it), but was either too cheap, too embarrassed, or too inexperienced to hire professionals to deal with the situation.

    1. Observer

      That’s almost as scary as the control freak idea. What other crazy things would this guy do rather than hiring the appropriate professionals?

      1. sap

        “I’ve been the victim of a professional espionage attack. As someone with no prior security or counterespionage experience, I probably can handle this on my own.”

  29. it_guy

    So what would the next level of escalation be?

    When will they require a chip to be implanted tracking your every step in the office?

  30. Anonymous Poster

    Yes, this is a bit over the top.

    I assume my employer has copies of all of my emails and internet activity, and I think most everyone here expects that at some level. But BCC’ing? I really hope your CEO is too busy being a CEO to be a big-brothery and read your emails, and honestly, why would a CEO want to do that? It’s odd.

    I’ve also seen cameras in sensitive/public areas (except areas like showers and bathrooms), but not in a cubicle farm nor offices. That is weird, and makes me wonder what sparked that particular item.

    Either way, I’d be weirded out by all of that too. It’s extreme, and if employees require that much monitoring, what kind of caliber management and/or employee is one saying they have in such an organization?

    It all reminds me of a game patch note I read recently about introducing robot overlords (I paraphrase): New robot species introduced that will relieve the burden of self-determination. It’s not a good thing.

  31. Sleepily

    I’m having anxiety flashbacks to my first real job, where the owner had video/audio feeds piped directly to his home office. He didn’t TELL anyone that though, which is illegal in my state. As soon as I said something out loud in the office, little stickers popped up under the cameras. But he disliked when I told new hires about them (very, very high turnover. Like, fifty people in one year in a less than 10 person office.)

    It was so ridiculous too. I happen to sit on a chair funny while explaining something on a coworker’s screen (like knees on the chair and holding the back of it. This was a come-in-your-yoga-pants kind of office) and he called another coworker to ask if I was drunk at 9am.

    Then he found out our Glassdoor rating was abysmal and he then made all of us make positive reviews. I think he still does this on pain of formal reprimand.

  32. Suzy Q

    My last office was somewhat like this, with the surveillance. I had a sticky tab over the camera and microphone on my work laptop for these reasons. I have no idea how email and computer usage were monitored, but I’m sure they were. Such bullshit.

  33. AllDogsArePuppies

    I’m so glad Alison conferred this is not normal. My first out of college job had a very similar environment (not cameras or audio recording but they made us keep our door open so they could hear all of our conversations and the BCC). After every phone call we had, they’d walk into my office to ask me to repeat what I said and give a detailed explanation of what the client/vendor said. They also would occasionally dig through the trash can in the tea pot assistant room (where I and one coworker worked) and question each piece of paper in there, call us in to ask questions about the emails we sent that they weren’t included on (how I found out about the BCC) and yell at us for things the llama groomer who rented office space in our suite did (like spilling coffee or taking the bath room key).

    Quit without anything lined up because it was effecting my mental health.

  34. Government Lawyer

    OP run.

    I work in a secured building with secured information. Everything we do on the computers is monitored, there are cameras in all public areas, metal detectors, security guards, random checks for unsecured files… But your message creeps me out. BCCing someone else on every email (implying they want to read them rather than archive them), audio recording, video in your private office, an inability to read the news or make a private call on your breaks – alarm bells should be sounding because this wouldn’t be normal even in a high security setting.

  35. paul

    Were you always at war with Eurasia?

    This is so big brother that I’m skeeved out for you. I’m all for realizing everything you do on a computer is something your IT guys can see, but videotaping and audio recording for every office is so not normal.

  36. AKchic

    I can’t think of any industry that would require *all* of these things at once. The surveillance in prisons or closed mental wards (for security purposes and remote monitoring) is one thing; but you aren’t in that field.
    Being bcc’d on every email ever being sent by any employee? Do any of the recipients outside the agency know? I’m sure many would not appreciate that. If they wanted the owner of the company looped in, they would have looped him in.

    I have to wonder if perhaps this guy is a controlling abuser in his personal life, and it is leaking (like the Titanic) into his work life.
    If you can’t push back and get this to stop, and can’t lead a work-force revolt; please leave the company and Glassdoor this company’s highly questionable policies.
    This just screams domestic abuser MO all over the place to me. As someone who has been in a DV relationship, and as someone who has helped others leave DV relationships.

    1. Mike C.

      Seriously, I’d bet teriyaki that this CEO has bad things come up on a background check. These things don’t happen in isolation.

      OP: For fun, you might want to run your CEO’s name through a few legal databases.

    1. Tabby Baltimore

      Ok, a brief check on the Internet didn’t yield an answer, so, I’ll bite: what does YBSAIGTC stand for?

  37. a Gen X manager

    I once had a department manager (I was a team leader and reported directly to her) add a bcc of my emails to be sent to her without telling me. A friend in IT tipped me off and I immediately started sending ridiculously specific emails to friends to complain about her, but I renamed her from her real name, Liz, to “Helga”. She never said anything to me, but others reported that she was fuming mad over it! I gave my notice on my one year work anniversary right after she gave me the company 1-year card.

  38. Narise

    that I am “the very last person” he’d ever be watching or be suspicious of-Ok so who is he suspicious of? Is he using a net to catch one fish or a just casting to see what he catches?

    Also if FCC is related to this company at all is it possible he’s trying to find out who reported him to the FCC or to some other licensing bureau?

  39. animaniactoo

    OP, if you’re not convinced by now, here’s a few things to think about:

    1) I’m curious about the business you’re in. Can you see any legitimate reason for this level of surveillance?
    2) If you’re not the person who causes him to take such precautions, who IS? And does it make sense to handle that possibly theoretical person by forcing the rest of you to work like this?
    3) You may be the last person he’d be suspicious of or the reason for such “precautions” but that won’t stop you from being hurt by them if something happens that puts you and your job on the line.

  40. a Gen X manager

    I have a peer in another company who has the security camera software on her work pc in her office and she sits and watches the employees at not just her location at the flagship location, but at the other locations as well. She will literally call another location and ask where Employee X is and if they say “the bathroom” she’ll reply with the number of minutes employee x has been away from her desk and note the absence from desk as a performance issue. This is not at all exaggerated and has happened to dozens of employees there (most of whom have left!). A total nightmare of a manager.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago


      “why were you in the bathroom for 13 minutes and 25 seconds?”
      “because I had to take a dump, would you like proof?”

      I mean seriously WTF is wrong with these people

      1. a Gen X manager

        Right!? Your example quotes reminded me of a detail I forgot! She thought bathroom breaks should be no more than two minutes because it was easy to get to. She makes these “where is” calls if the breaks are longer than THREE minutes. THREE. I didn’t believe this could be true until the third person talked about it when talking about why they were SO happy to escape (her word choice!) that place/manager and she said it completely independently from the other two that I heard the details from. I know people need jobs, but how could anyone put up with this (or OP’s situation!)? One person we hired from that place lasted SEVEN YEARS of the camera monitoring / two minute bathroom breaks.

        1. AKchic

          I can be the epitome of stubbornness. I lasted nearly a decade at my last job, and would still be there now if I hadn’t been headhunted to the one I’m at now. I outlasted some weird people.

          I would have had fun with this one. So much fun.
          “Where were you?” At the pool
          “What were you doing?” Decorating for the party

          Technically not wrong… from a different perspective (my own).

    2. hbc

      I’m pretty sure I would develop a habit of doing everything with my middle fingers. Scratch itches, brush hair out of my face, type applications to other jobs….

    3. WellRed

      Look straight into camera: “I am going to the bathroom now! My estimated time is 7 minutes because I have to poo.” “I am back from the bathroom now!”

    4. Observer

      She’s a nightmare, but the people who have allowed this to continue on are an even bigger nightmare.

  41. Cobol

    I tried to read all of these, but didn’t get through so sorry if I’m repeating.
    I have a slightly different take. It’s not that this is bad, and outdated, but I don’t think it’s nuts.
    I’m guessing OP is working for a smaller company in a conservative (and rigid) field. OP ask yourself can you deal with this? If you can’t leave, but are you working less hours? I’m guessing you used to not take a lunch, but is it common?
    I’m not saying you should. I’m in a similar situation and I’m counting down the days until I can leave,but it’s worth reexamining what is important, and what isn’t.

    1. Cobol

      Oh and I meant to say “It’s not that this isn’t bad and outdated.”
      Totally understand wanting to leave.

      1. Anna

        But OP hasn’t given any indication that this is at all normal in her field, or that any sort of overview is normal. Everything from the OP’s email is that it is NOT normal and she’s checking in to see if she’s being weird. It is bad. Even in industries where close oversight is required, this is weird and bad.

        1. Cobol

          OP is new to their field. I’m not saying it’s normal. It’s super jarring because it’s not normal, but also because it’s different. I just suggested op look at which part is really the deal breaker.

    2. SignalLost

      This seems to go further than people in high-security environments think is normal; I would absolutely categorize this as nuts. Unless, of course, people in North Korea are reading AAM.

      1. Cobol

        I work for a small town bank. I don’t have to clock in and out, but there are cameras all over (no audio). My boss is the ops director and she has access to all. A manager I work with had access to one for a reason, do I’m guessing her boss has access to a bunch too.
        Our email has standard IT governance like other places I’ve worked, but it’s more monitored (just remembering when I started I worked at a fortune 100 bank, and my boss regularly read my emails there too.
        It’s awful and sucks and bad practice, but more common than people think.

  42. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

    It’s very easy for us commenters to tell a letter writer here to run away from a job when we don’t know their financial circumstances, etc. They might be desperate and have no other options.

    That being said, if it’s at all an option OP, pretend you’re on the Price is Right and you’re playing the Race Game. Run!

    1. LBK

      I don’t think most people mean she should quit today, but rather that she should probably keep the job search alive because this doesn’t sound tenable in the long run.

  43. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    Hey, it’s the Kim Jong Un letter! At least he’s not encouraging or forcing you to snitch on each other like in North Korea.

  44. ArtsNerd

    I can usually drop jaws when I talk about the time at ex-job when my boss (on the other coast) texted me during an event to say that our bartenders weren’t putting enough ice in the drinks.

    But this. This is a whole new level.

  45. Amelia

    Sounds like the perfect time to have coughing fits and sneak a whoopee cushion (fake fart noises) into the office. Of they are gonna listen in better make it annoying!

    1. Jeanne

      I agree. Pick your nose, scratch all your itches, talk to yourself about how lunch isn’t digesting well. Send LOTS of emails. “Do you know if the printer works?” “Is Joe at his desk?” “I’ll be away from my desk to go to the bathroom.” Then plenty of thank you and you’re welcome replies.

      Then of course job search and possibly consult a lawyer about all of this.

  46. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    OP, if you have to stay, have you considered a code?

    When my little brother was trying to read my journals and my parents were helicoptering as a teenager, I developed a (written only, though) code.

    I learned Cyrillic (the Russian alphabet) and replaced each English letter with the approximate Cyrillic equivalent. And I taught my friend how to do it, too. So I could write in peace, pass notes, and we could “talk” in writing when my mom was hovering around listening to conversations.

  47. Nita

    Did something happen to prompt this? Did some employee feed a steady stream of company secrets to a competitor and then run off? Was there a massive breach of client data by the staff?

    In any case, whatever it was, having the CEO act as big brother seems very inefficient, potentially illegal (unless the employees somehow gave consent to the audio recording and clients are informed their calls are being taped, it may be against the law), and very invasive. I know information security is a huge problem, but I just can’t imagine that this should be the CEO’s job, or that they have the time or the qualifications for it.

    1. Anna

      Even if there was a former employer who was feeding company secrets to another company, this is such a bizarre way to increase oversight I get a very strong feeling that’s not what’s at play.

    2. Observer

      Even if someone was doing that, it’s still almost certainly illegal to do the audio recording when outsiders are involved in the conversations. And possibly illegal even when it’s only staff, because of the NLRA.

  48. SheLooksFamiliar

    Holy Something Or Other. I’m going to repeat what everyone else has posted, OP – this is not normal. I’ve worked in Fortune 50 companies, in the defense industry, and in small, privately held companies. I’ve never seen this kind of activity, ever. Yikes. No, this is NOT normal. The CEO said you’re ‘the last person’ he’d watch, but you still made the list. You are already under some level of scrutiny but I think you could soon learn what it’s like to be under surveillance for no good reason.

    I will add this thought, though. I’m not qualified to say if the CEO has issues – or worse – but I’ve evaluated enough C-suite leaders to know he’s not displaying leadership traits well-run organizations would prize, even in adverse circumstances. As CEO he gets to create and endorse the company culture he wants. Unfortunately, this one is wildly invasive, adversarial, and insulting. You simply don’t do these things if you’re confident in your leadership, your company’s culture, and your employees. I hope you can find another job as soon as you are able, you deserve better.

  49. Jane!Jane!

    This is a total nightmare of dysfunction to me. I have a hard enough time working in an open Office environment that trying to work with so little privacy would just about do me in.
    I just have to ask if there is any way possible to find out these security policies before taking a job? I realize that it’s too late for the OP but maybe readers will have an idea for others who are job searching like me.

  50. Julia the Survivor

    I’m fortunate to have a job where I’m trusted and treated like a professional. I spend every lunch hour doing my personal things on the internet – reading AAM is one of them! I also check in on Facebook and do my online shopping, check my personal email, do personal research… and my boss trusts me to use these privileges appropriately.
    OP’s employer sounds like the opposite. One of the most important things here is the message – the boss (or company?) doesn’t trust employees to do their work and manage their time without (literal) oversight.
    This sends a message that they don’t respect or trust their employees in any way. This alone would make me leave. It’s horrible to be treated this way!
    Also the inconvenience of not being able to do personal things on my lunch hour would make life much more difficult. OP’s employer will lose good people for these reasons alone.

  51. Candygrammar

    People have made lots of extremely valid, serious points about how messed up this work environment is. But I just keep thinking about how difficult it would be to fart in this kind of panopticon. That’s like, half the reason I ever shut my door.

      1. sap

        It would be amazing if OP started speakerphoning and disclosing the audio recording at the top of each conversation. I bet that OP would have some clients/vendors say something within the first 2 days, and could come back to their boss with “hey so what am I supposed to tell clients when they express concern that my calls with them are recorded? I tell them at the beginning of out calls, of course, since it would be illegal to record them in [a vendor’s state] otherwise…”

  52. spinetingler

    I have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like your boss.

    If you would like to replace the feed from your office camera with a boring loop of you working on the computer. . .

    1. Amelia

      How do you handle like changes in outfits or the passing changes in daylight to night through the day? Do you just make a loop each morning? Can you effects on the light somehow?

  53. FD

    The closest I’ve seen to this was when I worked at a hotel evening shift. There was a camera behind the desk facing the guest area (which is normal) for guest safety reasons, but you could also see the employees behind it. If one of us left the desk for too long (e.g. if say we were away helping a guest), the GM would call and ask where we were. At 8 at night.

    Turned out that this GM tanked the company’s revenue, was notorious for spouting corporate buzzwords without ever saying anything, and ruined morale by flat-out lying to people when he was hiring them.

    If you think this is how you motivate employees, you’re a terrible manager.

    If you have nothing better to do that creepily watch your employees, you’re a terrible worker.

  54. Master Bean Counter

    So my old boss has finally gone off the paranoia deep end?
    I worked under all of these condition except the internet restrictions. But I’m pretty sure he logged all of my internet activity.
    My advice? It doesn’t get better. Start planning your escape now.

  55. Kyle

    I worked for a boss who read every email we wrote. I worked for a small website that wrote about cell phones/consumer electronics. It was owned and operated by one man and he had a full-time staff of 4-5 editors and writers.

    I asked for an email address for emailing corporate PR types because it looked more professional than using a Gmail address or something. He gave it to me.

    I would get sent press releases/pitches on a lot of stuff and obviously some of it I ignored. All of a sudden I get forwarded something from my inbox by the site’s owner asking why I wasn’t covering this? I said I didn’t think it was newsworthy. He forwarded it to another writer to be written about. From then on he would routinely forward from my inbox to other writers. And this account was firstlast@website.com with my name, not news@website.com or something. I made a comment in passing and he said he read every email I sent and received to “protect his brand.”

  56. Escaped Insanity-Ville

    This is creepy. I used to work for an employer that watched us from his home, which was disconcerting because we were women. He would giggle and repeat very personal things that we had discussed in the warehouse.

    It definitely was a dysfunctional place to work.

  57. Safetykats

    As a result of having watched too much football over the holiday, I’m picturing what it would look like if everybody in this office held a sheet of paper in front of their face all the time. I guess you would at least figure out if anyone was really watching.

  58. Former Hoosier

    In my state if you are going to record interactions with the public you have to notify them as soon as they enter the premises. And monitoring employee personal calls is a violation even if you ban personal calls from the office. And really, a complete ban is not reasonable in most situations. Sometimes hard working people do need to take a personal call. And it is easy to tell the difference between someone constantly on the phone and someone who takes a call a few times a year.

  59. I Didn’t Kill Kenny

    I assume LW cannot participate in this discussion since she is at work.

    This is straight up crazyland.

    GET OUT NOW.

  60. Bea

    I’m reminded of the restaurant I used to work at a few months, the cameras made sense but the monitor was at my work station because I shared a desk with the owner. I could see myself working out of the corner of my eye, it was no good for my anxiety.

    This all seems over the top to me but not scary enough to leave. I don’t know who the CEO reports to, it may not be his decision completely.

    I had cameras to monitor and my bosses had the ability to look in whole off site. It was for workers comp reasons. No audio though and the one office was shared. So even the owner was on video while he was working there. I do not think that CEO is paying attention to the cameras unless he is looking for something specific. Like someone calls saying Judy in accounting told them “pay up or imma break your legs” but what Judy said was “Your account is passed due, I need payment today or we will hand it to collections.” I live in a world where fabulous stories have been made up about what has and hasn’t been said. Ick.

  61. SophieChotek

    I wonder if OP and I work for the same company – or the CEOs went to the same school!

    We don’t have cameras in our office, but we have essentially the same e-mail system – well, sort of. Every single email in the entire company is emailed to like 1 secretary and her assistants her read every single email, then forward them to the correct person. Also in the name of transparency and ensuring the CEO knows what is going on. (And I got in really hot water once when I forgot more than once to send to the “main” email ….)

    1. sap

      This sounds like the worst job as a secretary, too. Like… I would be having constant anxiety that if I got the appropriate person for an email wrong and the person I sent it to dropped the ball and didn’t tell me/didn’t send it to the right person themselves, I’d be held responsible for the outcome.

      And lots of times there’s just NO WAY for a single secretary to keep track of where all emails are properly routed, because sometimes Fergus might forget to tell the secretaries that he’s on a tight deadline for Client A so all of the Client B-G stuff is on Wakeen’s plate this week even though normally he handles Client Widgets for all, and on Wednesday Client B’s widget request was forwarded to Fergus and he ignored it and now I’m fired.

  62. Bossy Magoo

    I used to work at a company like that. I used to compare it to being in a cult or living in Nazi Germany — it turns you into a paranoid person. My advice would be GET. OUT. ASAP. I got out just about 10 years ago and I still have slight PTSD from how toxic it was. Good luck LW.

  63. ThatLibTech

    Reminds me of a previous job I had (one I’ve mentioned here before: where I needed to volunteer my time to ‘pay back’ for having benefits like a health care plan, hour long paid lunches, etc.)

    They started using the (needed) security cameras to watch us, installed programs on the computers to track what websites we go to* and for how long and could screenshot what our screens were like. I once got in trouble because I read the news too much. It led to a number of websites being blocked, although selectively, as in some websites could be blocked on mine but not others. Noticeably the head boss’ daughter never had anything blocked …

    (* My coworker there was also a student at a local university, who had to check school related info on her breaks. My (not head) boss actually blocked the uni’s website. But because we were non profit and we actually needed to contact the uni for stuff related to our jobs, I had to go take the case to my boss that this was causing a problem. A similar situation for Facebook happened as well.)

    I left two years ago and it still blows my mind how upside down ridiculous that place was.

    1. RVA Cat

      The Upside Down from Stranger Things is actually a pretty good metaphor for this kind of craziness. Except I doubt if even Hawkins Lab would have security cameras in everyone’s offices….

  64. GreyNerdShark

    (Ahh timezones, late as usual)
    Due to government secrecy requirements foreign nationals (that is outsourced units in another country) can only access our systems from cleanrooms. So a room with cameras, not allowed to even bring in paper and pen never mind your own computer or even phone, and keyloggers on the computers.

    But that’s only when accessing our stuff, not all the time.

  65. Pennalynn Lott

    I’ve worked for this guy before. Except it was in the mid-90’s so security cameras in every office was prohibitively expensive. So he had our intercom and phone system set up so that he could listen in to anything being said anywhere in the office.

    Turns out he was a cocaine addict cheating on his wife (with a mistress and prostitutes) and he was paranoid about his wife finding out. And, honestly, he was just over-the-top paranoid and couldn’t stand for anyone to say anything about him that wasn’t effusive flattery. He was a serial sexual harasser and a horrible human being. I was his executive assistant (he was the CEO of the company) and I left in under six months.

    This behavior is NOT normal. Get out as soon as you can, OP.

    1. sap

      I’m just imagining that everyone who worked in this office had periodic, inexplicable snorting noises come out of their intercom every now and then

      1. AKchic

        “I’m sorry… my intercom seems to have caught the sniffles”

        Sorry. I can’t help myself.

  66. Suzy Sunshine

    There is a very popular hotdog stand on a busy street in my city and I heard that the owner lives in a high rise condo across the street so that he can watch his workers throughly a telescope from his apartment!

  67. nonegiven

    Make a point to pretend you’re on the phone with a friend during your lunch break and talk way, way too much about ‘female problems.’

  68. Letter Writer

    OP here. Wow, I am so relieved to read that i am not being weird about this. There are so many wonderful comments here that I haven’t been able to reply to you all individually. I will certainly try to later (at home, when I am not being watched!), but I’m going to attempt to hit the highlights and FAQs real quick:

    – For those who are curious, the position is in a SaaS industry. I am a marketing professional, formerly working in creative agencies, so working in-house is very different – at least it is here.
    – My boss (the CEO) was formerly the company CFO. He comes from a finance background that includes many years in banking, so I suspect this may have something to do with his conservative mentality. But still…to echo many of you, yikes!
    – There was no specific triggering event that I am aware of. The salespeople here are sometimes involved in high dollar b2b transactions, and my understanding is that there are risks of a salesperson taking clients with them when they leave, so they monitor to make sure they don’t. (Which is foolish for a number of reasons I won’t get into here.)
    – I don’t know how they would handle pumping stations for new mothers. That’s a good question. A lady who works down the hall returns from maternity leave next week, so perhaps we will find out.
    – To the brilliant soul who suggested fighting off a ninja, thanks for the LOL today. I don’t think I have the nerve to do this, but it certainly would be hysterical.

    Oh, and say hi to my boss,everyone!

    1. sap

      Given that you work in SaaS, this is all doubly absurd. Your CEO presumably has technical expertise and certainly is aware that BCC isn’t how you archive emails, so this is definitely a case of him wanting to monitor you and not a case of small business Luddite doesn’t know how to set up archiving properly and hasn’t asked for help.

      I’ve done a work with legal compliance for SaaS companies including in finance and healthcare, and even for SaaS companies in sensitive fields the audio/video monitoring isn’t compelled by any compliance regime I’m aware of. Particularly if you’re in the creative subdivision of marketing; marketing people, particularly marketing people who aren’t directly managing overall financial performance or client initiatives/market research, just wouldn’t have access to anything (in a well-run, actually compliance-conscious company) that would subject them to the more stringent auditing/security requirements that get attached to SaaS companies when they contract to be a third-party service provider to a business in a sensitive industry.

      Weird.

    2. AKchic

      Holy flameballs of shame. In all it’s glory.

      Whatever your boss is thinking, the thinking errors are so astronomical I have to wonder if he’s a computer program gone wrong. Does he occasionally ask the whereabouts of John Connor by any chance? No? Okay, just checking.
      Learn the art of subtle middle finger. Oops, you have an itch. Gotta use your middle finger to scratch it. Brush back your hair and use your middle finger. Ear itch! Gotta use that middle finger. Drink coffee with that middle finger extended around your cup.

      Good luck!

    3. Observer

      I’d say that the finance background makes this even LESS comprehensible. Anyone who has deal with audits and compliance knows perfectly well that the BCC routine is useless for that purpose. He wants to see everything and anything when he wants to without any accountability. And that should worry anyone who is paying attention.

  69. Huntington

    This kind of monitoring is more on par with call center-type work, even at the management level. Technically, they record every phone call you make (and do indeed go over them with you, sometimes randomly, often specifically after a complaint); have access to all your correspondence (and it can only be email on behalf of the company, nothing private); are so strict they might not let you print off any paper from your computer at all; and have the technology to track your literal every second on the job once you’ve clocked in. It doesn’t sound like that’s exactly where the OP is, but I just wanted to put it out there that for many, many people, this kind of micromanagement really is reality — it’s just one rung below the white collar office work.

  70. only me

    I thought you might work at my old job, but we had 3 cameras pointed at each of us. Even though there were under 15 employees and none of us dealt with money or anything that needed that sort of surveillance.

    I’ll never understand why anyone would think that level of surveillance is a good idea!

  71. Bob Dennison

    I worked for a company that had a similar although less extreme practice. Each department had an email alias that sent messages to the whole department (marketing@, sales@, product@, and so on). One thing that wasn’t mentioned to anybody was that the founder/CEO was included on all of the lists. It was kind of an open secret and I thought it was kind of odd though not offensive or anything.
    I should also mention this wasn’t a small company, probably 75-100 people with a pretty rigid management structure.

  72. Sarah

    Um this sounds eerily like my old job-which was a crisis center. I left for these very reasons-all these moves to monitor me even when I was at lunch. It felt creepy.

  73. Julia the Survivor

    I have an idea what might be going on here. Assuming he’s not trying to hide something like the cocaine addict…
    I remember in the 90’s-early 2000’s when companies began using the internet. After about 3 years, the concept of “cyberslacking” took hold in corporate America.
    Employers thought their employees would play with the internet instead of working, and that’s when they started blocking things like blogs and social media. How far they went was a clear indicator of how much they trusted and respected their employees.
    Now we have smartphones and over the last few years I’ve thought to myself, “employers have to trust their employees more now because there’s no way to prevent an employee from using the net, texting or making personal calls during work hours”, at least not in the work environments I’ve been in.
    I think maybe LW’s CEO figured this out and is trying to police every minute of every employee to make sure they never “cyberslack” with their phones, or make personal calls or texts, etc. during work hours.
    Of course that’s not really possible and all he’s doing is making his employees feel disrespected and untrusted, and he’ll lose his good people…

  74. mAd Woman

    At my company, all emails are archived to a server forever (in theory so you could get them back if your computer crashed, but in reality often used to investigate performance issues where it’s alleged that you’re ignoring emails or being rude to clients). But no one is reading them as a routine.

    Our IT department does have a big screen with every employee listed on it and their current bandwidth usage, which I find creepy. Occasionally, they will IM you and ask what you’re doing to use all that bandwidth. I guess they think you’ll admit you’re watching Netflix or something… but at least for me, it’s always in the regular course of my work. Downloading images and files from clients or uploading finished work to clients. Makes me feel icky and spied upon every time I get one of those chats.

    1. Observer

      And they are not even actually looking at what you are specifically doing – or they wouldn’t have to ask you.

  75. Fergalicious

    This sounds like a small, possibly new company with a naive CEO who read a few things about the importance of information security and implemented their first impressions on how it goes.

    Is there in-house Legal and IT or are those contracted services ?

  76. Liza55

    This type of environment is sometimes found in financial firms where proprietary strategies and data are considered highly confidential (such as hedge funds, institutional money management firms, family investment offices).

  77. Newbie

    “It seems that they’ve chosen to treat everyone as if they can’t be trusted rather than address their concerns with the individuals who they suspect of something.”

    Wow, did I accidentally write this letter? Our work environments sound very similar down to the owner being paranoid and a micromanager. Thankfully we do not have camera’s in our offices (just in public/shared spaces and I don’t know if the audio is turned on or not), but everything from the demanding to be copied onto every email, changing the company wifi password so people can not access it on personal devises, and requiring salaried employee’s to clock in and out really resonated with me. I got the sense from your letter that your company is larger than mine. I work for a small, family run business and I think the paranoia from our CEO comes from him being unable to relinquish control that he once had. The company went through a large expansion shortly before I was hired so he used to have his hands in everything. Now because of the size it isn’t feasible, but he continues to try and exert as much control as he possibly can.

  78. anyone out there but me

    I am amazed at how many of us have worked for a boss or CEO just like this. Paranoid…. not trusting anyone. I wish I had recognized it sooner, I have some PTSD from my experience with mine. At times she would literally walk through the office to find a reason to enforce some arbitrary rule on the spot (usually something that was fine the day before…. and fine a few days later….) All cell phones had to be turned in to a basket at the front desk (this was not the type of business where having your cell phone was a security or safety issue, she just believed we could not avoid the temptation of talking/texting on company time). She monitored bathroom breaks for frequency and length of stay. You would get in trouble if you were caught chatting with a coworker about anything not related to work.

    OMG I am so happy I got out of there, even if I did stay too long.

    1. Julia the Survivor

      “At times she would literally walk through the office to find a reason to enforce some arbitrary rule on the spot (usually something that was fine the day before…. and fine a few days later….)”
      This is emotional abuse. It wasn’t about what was actually happening, it was about her need to abuse someone to make herself feel better. My father used to do this and I tried for years to find ways to avoid his punishments. Even after I was old enough to understand the problem was with him, not me, the PTSD persisted.
      I wonder if she confiscated cell phones because she was afraid employees would be using them for job-hunting? I got my first cell phone for that reason. :D
      I would never have made it there. Stress makes me pee! “why have you used the restroom 3 times before lunch?” “Because you’re so mean!”

  79. boop the first

    Was the CEO in the retail/hospitality industry before? heh. The places I worked before, they had cameras AND microphones set up. The cameras were linked in such a way that the business owners could easily check in on us while they were comfortably at home. They’d phone in if we weren’t visibly working to their standards. Everyone knew where the blind spots are. It’s just a thing.

  80. paul1010

    I had a bad job a while ago where the CEO had every bounced incoming email bounce into her inbox. I have no idea why she did this – she was completely nuts. Anyway, I had a job interview and my manager there offered to be a reference (she knew everyone was trying to leave, herself included.) My interviewer emailed my manager for a reference, but misspelled the address, so it went to the CEO instead. The CEO then freaked out about me – “why is he leaving!” etc – and my boss had to tell her that, in fact, EVERYONE was leaving and it was just a matter of time.

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