my coworker is taking cell phone photos of us during staff meetings

A reader writes:

I work at a mid-sized private university. I can’t begin to describe the number of odd characters we have working here, myself probably included in that. The department I work for at the moment is far from professional, unfortunately, but so far I have been able to deal with most of the quirks. However, it’s been brought to my attention that our assistant director sits in meetings and takes pictures of the attendees with his phone. For many reasons, I do not think this is just to document who was there. I also know that he keeps these photos. How I know this is a long story, so let’s just go with the fact that I know.

I am really creeped out by this. Okay, full disclosure, I don’t like having my picture taken, so maybe it’s me and it’s not such a big deal. And I know that it’s legal and all that to take pictures of people who are out in public without their permission. But this just feels wrong to me. I don’t even know what I can do about it, but is it worth bringing up to my director or to HR? Or should I just start bringing a huge notebook and hiding behind that when I have to be in meetings with this guy?

What the hell?!

I wrote back to this reader and asked for the additional context she had alluded to. Her response:

Well, as far as the department being generally unprofessional, I could write a book, but mostly it’s the constant sexual innuendo that goes on among a certain group of about five people, the “photographer” included. I am no prude, but we are at work and there are student workers around a lot of the time. So, that sort of sets the tone towards “pervy.”

A coworker has a crush on this guy and she flirts like crazy with him, so he lets his guard down around her and she told me that she actually saw some of the “candid” pictures on his computer, and there were LOTS of folders that she assumed also contained pictures. There have also been two women who have told me that he was Facebook stalking them, although they were both able to get him to back off by just ignoring him. He also isn’t particularly stealthy about taking pictures, so it’s sort of obvious what he’s doing once you’ve been clued in.

I repeat: What the hell?!

You need to tell him to stop, immediately. At the next meeting where you see this, say, “Jim, please stop talking photos of me and others during this meeting. It’s inappropriate.” Say this loudly enough for others at the meeting to hear, because ideally you want group pressure to make him stop doing this.

If it continues after that, address it again: “Jim, I already told you I don’t want you taking my picture. Why are you continuing to take photos without people’s permission?”

And at that point, go talk to your and/or his manager as well: “Jim has been regularly taking photos on his phone of people at meetings without their permission. This makes me uncomfortable, and I’ve asked him to stop. It has not stopped, however, so now I’m asking you to tell him to stop.”

And frankly, while I’m a big fan of addressing things directly with the person causing the problem to start with, you could also talk to HR if you see this as part of a generally sexualized atmosphere that’s making you uncomfortable. I’m actually not sure if that’s the case or not from your letter — but if it’s bothering you in that context, that’s what sexual harassment policies are there for. And your university almost certainly has a sexual harassment policy, so you could take a look at that and see if it’s being violated. (It probably is — most include language prohibiting “unwelcome  verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” that “interferes with a person’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment” or something to that effect.) That policy should also lay out a procedure for reporting this type of conduct, and that would tell you precisely the steps to follow if you feel uncomfortable with the sexualized culture overall and want to go that route.

But if it’s really just the photo-taking rather than the broader atmosphere, then it’s less an HR thing and more something for your manager and his manager to deal with.


Read an update to this letter here.

{ 136 comments… read them below }

  1. Bryce*

    IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion), this organization is cruising for a lawsuit big time. I’d assume that this university is receiving Federal money in the form of student loan and grant dollars, so there may also be sanctions there.

    I’d strongly consider looking for another job, as it’s likely that the environment there won’t change barring legal action.

    1. Mike C.*

      Really? If this is a public institution, many states have *very* strong protections not only against this sort of harassment, but also have strong protections against retaliation for reporting it.

        1. Grace*

          Even if it’s a private institution, it would still be under the state’s anti-discrimination laws (like any other private employer). My state, California, has the Department of Fair Employment & Housing. And there’s loads of appellate court rulings across the U.S. making third-party sexual harassment

  2. Brittany*

    Okay, this has to be Alternate Reality University because I cannot seriously imagine this scenario happening! The fact that he has potentially dozens of folders of candid photos on his desktop? This couldn’t get more creepy. There is so much wrong there I don’t even know where to begin, but I would definitely go to HR with this just for fear of him deleting all the evidence!

    1. College Career Counselor*

      I would bet that if he’s got pictures stored on a university computer, they’ve (meaning IT) also got back-ups of his photo files, even if he deletes them or if they’re “only” on his desktop. I defer to Jamie on this, but in colleges and universities where I have worked, IT backed up everything on a monthly/weekly/nightly basis. So IT might be able to recover the “evidence” if it became a “she said/he said” thing.

      1. Jamie*

        Every company is different, but I don’t do backups for stuff stored locally (desktop, local documents.)

        I back up the servers – plenty of room and everyone has their own private share (not that admin can’t access, but it’s not available to the network) and anything to be backed up needs to be stored there so that’s the documents path.

        Regarding backups – and I have NO idea how things work in academia and I’m sure there are different regulations – how long they are kept depends. A lot of places have the last ten days, three weeks, a month…after which things are rewritten…with the exception of what is deliberately archived.

        If you kept every single file of every single user once deleted indefinitely the space requirements would be enormous.

        If people store files per policy then if they have a crash and I have to reformat or replace their computer it’s no big deal – they haven’t lost a thing. If they insist on storing things on their desktop then they are taking the risk. And if you lose stuff and whine – I will pull out the usage policy you agreed to before I let you on the network where you signed that you know what does and doesn’t get backed up and your responsibilities to store properly.

        Sorry – tangent – this is kind of a thing for me.

        This is something that IT should be informed about and they can easily sniff around before he deletes everything, even if it’s local. I would certainly have questions about why a user had copious amounts of employee pics on their computer.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I totally agree with your tangent.

          Back in September I worked very hard on a spreadsheet for the new teller manager to use for tracking teller balancing differences (I work at a bank). I emailed it to her and instructed her where to save the attachment, how to do it, etc. So Big Disastrous Event happened in December and many PCs had to be reformatted. Fast forward to February when we are cited by the auditor for not tracking differences. When I check it out to see what happened, the teller manager tells me that ever since Big Disastrous Event happened she can’t find the spreadsheet anymore and that I have to retrieve it for her. (Never mind that she hasn’t been able to find it since December and it’s now February.) So I go through the backups and there’s nothing. Come to find out she had saved it on her hard drive. So this time I placed it on the network over there myself.

        2. The gold digger*

          While we are on IT policy, could we give a big slap with a mackerel to those who not only do not save their files to the network drive, but who keep multiple versions of what you send them on their desktop and then use OLD versions in presentations and then get mad at you because the information is wrong? Even though the current version is the only version saved on the network drive?

          And also – “20130508ChocTeaProdStats” is NOT a good file name. It should be “Chocolate Teapot Production Statistics – Melting Losses April 2013” and should go in the “Chocolate teapots\Production Statistics\Melting Losses” folder on the shared drive. (Which is right after “Production Statistics\Eating Losses.)(If you move up a level, you get to “Chocolate Coffee Pots” and those related files.)(And if you want to put all those stats together, you make a spreadsheet called “Teapots and Coffee Pots Combined Production Statistics” and link back to the original data so if you have to change a number in the source data, the report updates automatically.)

          1. Ruffingit*

            YES!! Thank you. I hate this. I had a boss once who wanted me to keep all the versions of a document I worked on nearly daily. This document was over 400 pages long and about 10 megs and as I mentioned, I worked on it nearly daily so keeping every version with any changes was going to mean a ton of versions every month.

            There was no reason to keep several different versions of the thing, it was just confusing to everyone. I didn’t bother doing that. I was a contractor at the time so I had some control of how I managed the project, but holy heck was it ridiculous to think that keeping multiple versions of a huge document was worthwhile. They had a shared site I could upload it to and people often asked for sections of the document for client use. I knew that uploading 50 million versions was just going to get very confusing for everyone so I didn’t bother doing it. The boss never said anything after the one request.

            I suspect that she wanted to keep them to compare versions and see exactly what I was doing on a daily basis since my being a contractor meant she had little control and she couldn’t stand that. Whatever her problem was, I no longer work there and am glad of it. The inefficiency of keeping multiple versions of this document was just the tip of the iceberg with the crazy that went on there.

            1. bob*

              Slightly aside but many pieces of software will allow you to version your files by default but you may have to dig around for it.

          2. J*

            Agreed mostly except 2013-05-18 is the correct (ISO standard) dating nomenclature. It makes it possible to sort files by date based on filename.

                1. Jessa*

                  That’s my thought exactly. Unless you are absolutely certain that everyone is naming the file EXACTLY the same so that the only difference is the date at the end?

                  No, I prefer the date up front for another reason. If I’m looking for the report for May 1999 to compare it to the report of May 2013, it’s a heckuva lot faster to have the date up front where I can scan down the list.

                2. The gold digger*

                  If I am searching for a file and it’s not in a folder in a directory, naming it with the date first makes it almost impossible to find. I look for financial reports by country by date and for marketing analyses by segment and for business plans. If I don’t know the date that someone wrote that file, then I don’t have a chance of finding it.

                  That is, a list of files that look like this (only 100 times longer) is useless to me:


                3. The gold digger*

                  And the date the file was saved has its own field in Microsoft in the directory. You can sort by date even if the date is not in the file name.

                4. -X-*

                  Date at end or beginning depends on context and use – what is the typical purpose of the sort? What are typical users looking for when they scan a list.

                  If a folder is full of files or folders about one vendor, then probably at the start makes sense. If it’s full of correspondence with many people about one topic, then perhaps the end makes sense if you’re looking for “What did we tell person X about this?”

                  Standards have to be built for clarity and usability, and the usability varies by purpose.

        3. just anonymous*

          i’m so glad i read this today! i just went and put all my desktop files on the server. now i can finish reading these comments – THANK YOU!

        4. Ed*

          Personally, I would go to HR before confronting the guy. We get requests from HR all the time to snoop on people’s computers/email. There could all sorts of inappropriate pictures – down blouses, up skirts, while you’re bending over, etc. I could almost write a book about some of the twisted things I’ve seen on computers throughout my career. I’ve seen more self-taken penis photos than I can count. But once the user is tipped off, the evidence is gone (though I can usually still find traces of it).

      2. Anonymous*

        My college backs-up daily. To my knowledge they cannot access anything deleted from the network more than one day ago.

      3. Lillie Lane*

        I totally could see his happening at my job, wih my boss being the culprit. My university does back up some computers, but only certain departments. We are at a remote location and he has a (grant-funded) laptop but to my knowledge IT does not have anything to do with that computer.

        My boss is a creepy psycho and he has photos of my coworker on his computer. He has been walking in a sexual harassment gray area with her. Once he gave her copies of the photos (the reason he had them was benign) but then he bragged to us that he had wasted *3 hours* of his afternoon playing around with the photos in PowerPoint to clarify he pixelation in her facial features. We were completely grossed out.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Wow. That is beyond creepy. That is a lawsuit waiting to happen and it’s amazing to me this guy would openly brag about this. Clueless beyond measure on a number of levels in addition to creepy.

      4. Cassie*

        At my university, we can pay to have our computer backed up – I think they do a simple nightly backup and then more extensive monthly backups, to tapes? I believe they keep them forever. My computer has crashed before and they were able to restore my files and emails from the tapes.

        But it’s not a given, meaning you have to elect to have your computer backed up. And we have to pay for the service (not out of my own pocket; my boss’s account covers it).

  3. Jamie*

    Ick is right – the hell?

    I hate having my picture taken, so I’m trying to see this objectively but it’s hard…I would not remain in a room where this was happening.

    I would check your policies about using photos. We have a policy that we need permission before using any employee photos online, in a brochure, marketing materials…what have you. If you have the same thing you could feign concern that your image will be used without your consent so you want to know what all the pictures are for.

    And I can tell you I am all about capturing the moment. I surreptitiously snapped my son walking into his first day on his first job, my other son when he was walking the dog with a new leash, my daughter doing anything because the girl loves nothing more than being photographed….but I have never in the hundreds of meetings I’ve attended felt the urge to do so at work.

    That’s just crazy.

    1. Runon*

      I would actually have concerns about privacy and confidential documents as well. Working at a University it wouldn’t be surprising to have student files being worked on, if a desktop was in the “candid” and there was private information. I just think at my org nearly every meeting and at every desk there is some information that you do not want someone taking a photo of so someone doing that should be stopped because of that.

      (Not to mention the horrible ish factor. And the we are here to work, not take 100000 instagram photos factor.)

    2. Jessa*

      In most cases unless you signed something at hire about them using photos of you, they probably cannot unless you give them a release. And I can’t think of any business relevant reason to take pictures like that, that does not ALSO have the fact that the pictures are BEING TAKEN as part of it.

      I know for instance I worked for a place where they were doing an advert campaign, so we were told a few days before that they were going to take pictures on this shift and maybe we should clean up our areas or wear something other than our usually completely ratty and casual stuff. Non customer facing answering service employees, our dress code was neat, clean, not obscene. I worked overnight. We wore whatever we wanted.

      But when they were going to do stuff like brochures they TOLD us in advance.

      If someone was taking pictures at the meeting or the company patlatch for the newsletter, they SAID so, and NOBODY who said “please don’t take my picture for that” got told they had to.

      1. The gold digger*

        Ha. If you are hosting a Chinese delegation at work, and they want a photo, you have to suck it up. I hate having my picture taken and I especially hate having it taken by people whose political system and economic system I despise so much.

        1. Ash*

          I think that this post is insanely insensitive. Do you think that the people in the Chinese delegation all chose their government and economic system? Why be a bad host to them because of their government? Would you think it was fair if they did the same thing to a group of American workers from your company? This is just bad behavior on your part.

          1. the gold digger*

            Ash, no, I don’t think that the people choose their government in China. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the things that I don’t like about it!

            These delegations we see are of very, very high-placed government functionaries who ARE in a position to change things, though. So yes, I do hold them responsible.

            And I have not been a bad host. I suck it up and stand there in the group picture because I don’t want to lose my job. But I don’t have to like it and as far as I know, it’s not bad behavior or insensitive to THINK what I want to THINK.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I’m not seeing it. Might have been a fluke, but if you see it again and are able to email me a screenshot, I would be very grateful (I’d need that in order to be able to show it to my ad network to fix). Thank you!

      1. Jane*

        I saw that too (a video commercial?) but after refreshing a bunch of times, it finally went away.

        1. khilde*

          Ditto here. Refreshed about two times and then it didn’t come back. It looked a video for Norweigans. I swear that’s what it said!

            1. khilde*

              I thought maybe it was that kind of advertising that’s targeted toward local interests since they know exactly where you are. We’re chock full of Norweigans in these parts!! haha

        2. Liz in a Library*

          It happened to me as well, on a cell phone. I’ll try to catch a screenshot next time.

        1. Sourire*

          I believe it was for Norwegian Cruise Line (I got it too) but wouldn’t it be way more fun (in a silly non-trafficing way) if it was selling Norwegians.

          1. Elise*

            How disappointing. I was about to inquire what the going rate was for a good Norwegian these days. :(

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yeah. I’m getting a video (with the title of “Norwegians” on a court of some kind) floating on top of the title and the first paragraphs.

      1. Jamie*

        Weird – nothing in Firefox so I checked I.E., Safari, and Chrome and nothing unusual here.

        1. Erica B*

          I use Chrome and have adblock setup, so I never see ads on this site or even places like Facebook. I don’t understand why more people don’t use it (in firefox too)

            1. Jessa*

              Okay, you’re whitelisted. That’s not unreasonable since I use so much of your good advice. I had not thought about that on the blogs I do really care about.

              1. Liz*

                Same, just whitelisted aam too =]

                One of the other blogs I follow posted a page saying that she got 6%- 8% on any purchase made to amazon that she’s linked, even if its not the item she linked to? Like if you navagate from the link etc, I think thats awesome. But she posted about it after I spent $1200 on amazon last week for a new laptop.

            2. Amy*

              Do you get ad revenue for pageviews, or only for clickthroughs? That is, if I let the ads on this page show, but never click any of them, do you make money?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Impressions (page views) and clicks — a higher rate for clicks, but impressions count too, so simply by reading the site and not using ad-blockers, you are generating ad revenue!

                1. Kara*

                  So when I check the site ten times per day to see if you’ve posted anything new (my latest procrastination tactic), you get paid ten time right?

                2. Erica B*

                  holy cow! sounds like decent ad people. I just often don’t think about it, but I can whitelist you, because the way I visit the site, you’ll get more!

            3. Andrea*

              I’ve disabled ABP for your page AAM. Maybe you can do a post on how/why unblocking ads on sites we like is a good thing – keeps our favorite bloggers up and running!

            4. Josh S*

              This is one of the only sites I have whitelisted for AdBlock. Alison, the advice and community here are worth the (amazingly unobtrusive…current example notwithstanding) ads, and I’m happy to give you revenue for page impressions and even the occasional click-through.

              Thanks for all you do!

            1. Jamie*

              Me too – small price to pay. And I’m highly amused by one of the ads that without fail will say, “you might like…” and show me something I JUST bought online for work. I know I like that Seagate hard drive – that’s why I ordered it!

              If I didn’t know how that stuff worked I’d be afraid AAM was haunted.

              1. Rayner*

                I hate the fact that the internet knows what I’ve brought – when I buy things for my friends who have children, for the next six weeks, everything is about children’s toys, and pregnancy cream, and how to loose all the baby weight.

                I just want to drop kick it off a cliff.

      2. Jessa*

        I didn’t get the video but I got a broken script error on my browser (I have an adblocker) but it did stick me up a couple of refreshes, before it went away whatever it was.

    3. Runon*

      Yeah there is a video banner covering part of it for me too. (I’m in chrome.)

  4. SweetPotatoPie*

    This is so utterly strange. And I don’t say that lightly, being in HR for 20 years.

    1. -X-*

      Cameras were usually not as small back in the day. And not part of things its normal to carry in an office (phones).

  5. majigail*

    Most places have policies about this, requiring permission for or even banning personal photos. It’s one people often ignore/ forget about. You might check the employee manual for backup.

    1. Jessa*

      I would also worry because a lot of companies have policies that you can’t have your phone camera ON even. Because of private data.

      1. -X-*

        No way would a ban on camera phones fly in a university in general. It might be possible in a particular lab or office, but not in the institution as a whole.

  6. JR*

    Okay, I need to know how this ends. I really hope the OP is able to give us an update becuase this is just really creepy!

    1. LouG*

      Ditto! Even after reading just the title to this one, I knew I would need an update.

  7. Malissa*


    Yeah this goes high on creep-o-meter. I’d make sure that everybody knew this was going on. Can you say something to him when you see the phone? “Hey Wakeen, can you step out side the room to use your phone, it’s really distracting.”
    Personally I’d be tempted to let a bird fly every time I saw his phone. But I know that’s not exactly helpful.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Or look down and let long hair / scarf cover your face.

      Off-topic, but I love how Wakeen has made its way into the AAM lexicon. :)

      1. Liz T*

        I actually find it kind of annoying. Divorced from its original context, it makes us seem like we don’t understand Hispanic names, or find them somehow silly.

          1. KellyK*

            Ooh, good point. I find it hilarious because I’m in on the joke, but it could come across really wrong to someone who’s not.

        1. Ash*

          Then they can either ask about it, take the time to figure it out on their own, or suck it up and not be a big huge baby over something so insignificant on the Internet?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, I wouldn’t say that at all. We have many people who read the comments but don’t comment themselves, and many people won’t bother to inquire about something that vaguely rubs them the wrong way. It’s not being a baby.

            1. Jessa*

              I agree with you on this actually and I really hadn’t thought of it, being in on the whole Wakeen, Shuvon, thing, I didn’t find it…well I don’t know? Racist? Because we phonetic-ed all the names involved. And I think the idea was to come up with a “non-name” so that if we did have Joachin or Siobhan in the readership they wouldn’t think we meant them personally. But a generic person who is an employee of Chocolate Teapots LLC.

              We seriously need an org chart for Chocolate Teapots, Marzipan trays and Caramel Coffee Pots giggle.

          2. KellyK*

            Um…where are you getting any indication that it’s a problem only because someone might “be a big huge baby” over it. (Or, for that matter, that it’s a random reader’s job to follow the comments religiously enough to figure out the in jokes.)

        2. Elise*

          Wakeen is actually an accepted spelling of the name Joaquin. Names often get altered in different regions.

          Maria vs Mary
          John vs Juan
          Sara vs Sarah
          Rebecca vs Rebekah
          Christie vs Christy vs Crysti vs Kristi

          It makes our use of Wakeen as an imaginary character sort of silly, but should not be offensive to anyone who can use Google.

    1. Jamie*

      That explains why I wasn’t getting it. I’m afraid of boats.

      I love that the ads here take my phobias into account. :)

  8. LouG*

    Creepy x 100000. How long has this been going on? Has no one ever told him point blank to stop? He potentially has FOLDERS of photos of co-workes on his computer and other people are aware of this. Too weird for words.

  9. Mimi*

    If Pervy McPerverson is the OP’s Assistant Director, is there a chance she’ll feel too uncomfortable bringing it up to him? Not that she shouldn’t, of course; but I could see where someone would feel uncomfortable about challenging someone in a position of power. Is there a diplomatic way to tell him to knock it off?

    I’m struggling here, bc she shouldn’t have to be “diplomatic” about asking someone not to take secret pics of her; on the other hand, he already sounds pretty unhinged….

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For some reason, I hadn’t registered that this guy could have authority over her. I’d still follow the same course of action, but perhaps change the wording directed at him slightly, to something like, “Jim, are you taking photos of me/us? How come?”

      And a conversation with his manager/HR would probably carry even more gravity, given the power differential between them (meaning that the manager/HR should take it even more seriously).

  10. Anonymous*

    I would run. Get your resume ready and start looking. As we saw in a recent Short Answers post, people who do creepy things at work (and get caught) don’t always go away. They might get their hand slapped or have some kind of settlement, but they may not lose their job. And, while this one particular employee is a creepo to the max, you said that there are actually 5 people in the office who perpetuate a “pervy” culture. All five of these people are not going to go away. Get out as soon as possible.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t tell someone to “run” before they’ve even attempted to address the problem through the channels available to do so. (Plus, the letter writer doesn’t even say she’s especially bothered by that aspect of the culture, just this guy taking photos, which might be easy to get stopped.) Telling someone to quit their job over a coworker’s behavior before even trying to get that behavior addressed is pretty extreme — jobs are not exactly easy to come by for most people.

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree, and I didn’t mean it in a “drop everything now!” kind of way. It just seems to me like there is the immediate problem (Mr. Creepy) and a more general issue with office culture. She didn’t outright say she was bothered by the culture, but that’s the tone I got when I read it. Even if this creep stops taking pictures or leaves the organization, the “pervy” culture certainly isn’t going to change overnight.

    2. Eric*

      In a previous job, there was an employee who managed his own department and was very tight with the owners of the company. He was always a bit odd, making strange jokes and generally trying to make people feel uncomfortable (sample: after a female coworker exited the elevator, he turned to me and said “Do you think she’s a screamer?”).

      One day I was at the urinal (already a good story, right?) and I hear the door open. Next thing I know, I am being forcibly drug away from the urinal by my beltloop. Shocked, I turn my head and see this jagoff grinning. I said, “What is wrong with you? That was completely inappropriate. NEVER touch me.” Then I marched straight to the head of HR and put in a complaint. He was forced to apologize and after that incident was super nice to me.

      Still, it was a pattern of weird stuff being tolerated at that company, and I eventually moved on.

      1. fposte*

        You have to wonder what’s in people’s heads that sets a behavior like that up as a good idea.

        1. Jessa*

          Honestly, nobody told them a firm “no” probably. Or nobody gave them any consequences for it. This stuff dies pretty fast in places where there are consequences for it.

          1. fposte*

            But that first time you even come up with it–where does that kind of thought fit into a sane worldview?

            1. Jamie*

              Right – how does it even occur to one that they might be amused by involving themselves in another person’s urination?

              1. Ruffingit*

                I worked with a woman who was well into her 50s and would say completely inappropriate things to co-workers and even in front of clients once. She was told, point blank, to stop, but she would just laugh like it was a joke and we were all “kidding.” No matter how much the tone was “stern/no I am not joking/stop it now” she simply treated it like it was a big joke, ha ha.

                She eventually left the company for other reasons, but my point is that some people do not get it. Their world view is one where they think their way of being is totally appropriate and even when people say “no, this is wrong, stop” they don’t pick up on it. HR has to come down hard on them and/or they practically have to be sued and even then, they will often treat it as though the were only kidding and why is everyone so uptight.

                It’s screwed up in so many ways that some people just don’t understand professional behavior.

                1. VintageLydia*

                  My FIL is like this. It’s like he has no social calibration at all. Thankfully he works for himself in an industry known for some pretty odd characters.

      2. Yup*

        Good for you for shutting that down! What a bizarro stunt on his part — he sounds unbelievably out of bounds.

  11. littlemoose*

    This has got to be in the top 10 weirdest things people have reported in their letters. Super-creepy! I do hope we get an update on this one.

  12. East Side Tori*

    This is such a strange thing to do. I hope we get an update from the OP!

  13. Lexy*

    Gross. That’s all I can say.

    ONE TIME. I was working with my team in a client’s conference room (we’re auditors) and the table was covered in snacks and coffee and I wanted to get a picture of it for laffs.

    BUT 1) I said “Hey, I’m taking a picture, move if you don’t want to be in it” 2) I made sure there was no documentation in the picture (no computer monitors or paperwork visible) 3) I am not a skeevy gross jerk taking creepshots. Ugh.

      1. Jamie*

        Ha! She’s an auditor – I have no doubt if she had violated the snacks in any way one of her co-workers would have written a CAR and asked her to address the nonconformance immediately.

    1. Jessa*

      But that’s the RIGHT way to take a picture, OMG you should be fired, you’re too competent. How dare you do what you’re SUPPOSED to do (/sarcasm just in case.)

  14. Jamie*

    Has anyone checked online to see if he’s posting these anyway? Instagram, twitter, facebook…whatever? Maybe a flicker account?

    1. Jessa*

      Okay that just…okay that scared me and I’m not even the OP. I never thought about them maybe posting them or taking them off premises like that. EWWWW. and after just talking about deBecker, my alarm just went off.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        That’s the first thing I thought of. Well, maybe not the first thing, but in the first 5 things.

        Creepy. Just creepy.

    2. Chinook*

      This, the posting of other people’s photos WITHOUT their knowledge on the internet, is where I have the largest problem with people nowadays. DH, at one time, had a job where we knew certain foreign nationals were going to collect personal information about him and his family. As a result, he wiped himself from the internet (closing Facebook, etc.), and I minimized what I had out there. We went to one function and a girl took a photo of him and a colleague casually mentioned that she was going to post it. Both men would politely asked her not to and, when shesaid it was her right because they was out in public, they both pointed out that they didn’t give her permission to take the photo nor to post it. She didn’t seem to believe that it was a big deal but, since there was atleast one person arrested in town with his personal information and mine, we consider it huge.

      Personally, I don’t want my image out there without my knowledge because I don’t know who will get it and how they will use it.

      1. TL*

        to be fair, if you were in public she did have a right to take and post the photo. (But it’s best to accede to others’ wishes on this matter, so if someone asks you not to, the accepted answer is to delete the photo in front of them.)

        1. Rayner*

          The public thing only counts if you’re in a place where you reasonably could not expect privacy e.g. out on the road, or standing in the middle of a park.

          In a private function and space, yep, you do actually have a right to control your personal image/information. Hence why taking pictures in the middle of starbucks is not a good idea when it’s of other people because it’s not public space.

  15. Rob (Bacon) Bird*

    …… I need a shower. That’s just sick and wrong….and wrong and sick…

  16. Christine*

    Posts aren’t showing up on Facebook again :(

    Off to read the letter—sounds icky just by glancing over the responses!

    1. Christine*

      Aannnnd yeah, I’d say that’s a fairly pervy workplace! I couldn’t quite tell from the original letter, but are others uncomfortable with the photo-taking as well?

  17. JessA*

    Just curious, has anyone been reading about he growing backlash about google glass?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s exactly what this letter made me think of! I can only assume that in a few years, my mail will be full of even more horrible versions of this situation.

      1. LouG*

        Ha! “my coworker blinks rapidly when speaking to me and I’m worried they’re taking pictures”

  18. Joey*

    This isn’t quite the same, but when you work for the govt there are always people trying to take pictures, video and voice recordings in an effort to validate some weird govt corruption theory or to try and catch you wasting tax dollars.

    If I were the op I would tell him to stop the next time he does it. And I would also go to HR and report that he’s taking your picture for no apparent reason, storing them, and its making you uncomfortable. I would also look to see if you have a computer usage policy. Lots of companies prohibit you from downloading or doing personal stuff on work computers.

  19. Hello Vino*

    Highly recommend that OP start looking for another job! To be honest, this pervy workplace doesn’t sound too far off from a place I worked at a couple years ago. Several people, including myself, went to HR when things got too uncomfortable.

    During my exit interview, I mentioned some of the inappropriate behavior and the SVP of HR basically called me an uptight prude and that I needed to develop thicker skin. Clearly, the problem was the office culture/environment, not just a handful of individuals.

  20. Sarah*

    I just want to say that I’d like more crazy questions like this! I love weird co-worker questions.

    1. Anonymous*

      Me too! It makes be keeping believing in my own work delusions. There are worse places I could work and there are crazier people I could be working with.

  21. EA*

    Now, in some situations, I think taking pictures in a team meeting would be acceptable … “Person X has just been promoted to Senior Teapot Analyst. Let’s take a picture of them shaking hands with their manager”, or “It’s Person Y’s birthday today, here’s a cake, how about we take a team picture?”

    But just taking random pictures of people? Yeah, no.

  22. jesicka309*

    I’m judging the coworker with a crush on the creepy photographer. She’s seen the folders, yet still has a crush? :-/

  23. Anonicorn*

    What the crippty crap?!

    “Hmm, my phone doesn’t seem to have reception right now. Jim, let me see yours. [delete photos] Awesome! Thanks a million.”

  24. DOE*

    I haven’t read all the comments so please excuse if this is a repeat but the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has jurisdiction over public and private universities. She could file a sexual harassment claim with that office if the environment is as hostile as it seems on first blush. Or, alternatively, use the possibility of filing a complaint with OCR in her discussions with the creepy guy.

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