business live action role-play, online blunders that can cost you a job, and more

Five articles you might find interesting —

* A Time article on social media blunders that can cost you a job (I’m interviewed, talking about a job applicant who blogged about his masturbation habits)

* CBS News reports on new research finding that of a sample of students who graduated from college in the mid 2000’s, 24% were living with their parents, 74% were getting financial help from their families, only 47% had full-time jobs that paid at least $30,000 a year, and 23% were unemployed or underemployed.

* A new court ruling in California means that if California employees must use their cell phones for work-related calls, they must be reimbursed a reasonable portion of their cell phone bills for that use.

* This is a fascinating New Republic article about how the experience of trans people — who generally stay in the same careers after they change genders — highlights the differences that men and women experience in the workplace. As you might expect, people who start living as men report being treated with more respect, and people who start living as women have found that behaviors that used to to garner them respect are now seen as off-putting.

* This is a totally weird article about “business live action role-play,” or a fake virtual office with “passive aggressive notes about food stolen out of the fridge, mandates about office dress and office supplies, and tips for improving synergy.”

{ 84 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Maybe I’m alone here, but I’m not seeing much of a difference between the BLARP folks and the example AaM discusses in the first item.

    1. Laura*

      HAH. Is that why the BLARP people are having so much fun?

      Seriously though, I can only assume that those 2,500 people either do not and never have worked in an office, or are making fun of those who do (with far less wit than Scott Adams, I might add).

      1. sophiabrooks*

        When I was a kid I LOVED to play office, and I made stationary and memos and statements and account books. I had a Secretaries’ Handbook, and manuals on accounting from the turn of the century. I would have LOVED this before I worked at an office. And possibly prior to age 12. But it says a teenager started it, so maybe that explains it.

        1. fposte*

          It reminds me of the Munchausen’s by Internet people. I guess a job is like a disease–it’s great to have everything about it but the it itself.

        2. Laura*

          Oh, so did I! If only getting to one as an adult could be such fun. I also collect kitschy mid-century secretarial advice manuals *grins*!

          Some of those memoranda posted in the article seemed to have a heavily satirical bent, and others sounded just like, well, teenagers. I suppose the community is a mix of both.

        3. Kelly L.*

          Me too. And I loved to do taxes! Seriously. I would get extra tax forms from the post office when my parents picked up theirs, and “do taxes” for my dolls. And then I wanted to do my parents’ taxes too because it was So! Fun! Lol!

      2. Mephyle*

        I can see the BLARP group potentially catching on among freelancers who work at home. In my industry, a whole lot of us already spend all day together on Facebook sharing advice and venting about clients.

      3. Stryker*

        Actually, after checking out the Facebook group, it seems to reflect some real truisms of working in a corporate/office environment.

        Example 1:
        “To: All
        Re: Men’s bathroom
        Please note that the potted plant in the men’s bathroom is for decorative purposes only. It is an artificial plant, and does not need ‘watering’. There are urinals and bathroom stalls provided for your convenience, please make use of these.

        Example #2:
        I’m working remotely from home today, but I need to use the office fax. If I print something to the printer, can someone please collect it and then fax it to the number provided on the page?

        TELL me you haven’t read emails or encountered attitudes like these before in the office. There’s also some on the insane politically-correct winter holiday celebrations and other gems… Frankly, I’m tempted to join the group myself.

    2. Tinker*

      Kind of funny side note — it’s not that uncommon to encounter LARP folks who are real careful about not having pictures going around of them in costume because they’re concerned about having trouble at work if folks know that they dress up as an elf on weekends. ‘Cause it’s unprofessional, or something.

      1. Old Admin*

        Oh yes, a member of our Star Trek LARP game left because she went to law school and was worried about her reputation… right.

    3. Liane*

      As some of you know form the Sunday Free-for-All threads, I love roleplaying games. I just shared the article with one of my fellow players. We were amused but won’t join in on this one. We play, among other reasons, to forget about our jobs! Well, I will confess to sometimes pretending the latest Big Bad Evil I’m fighting with a Lightsaber or Vorpal Blade is a Workplace Annoyance…
      But it was a fun read.

        1. Liane*

          I love Depp & his version was very different, although I like the traditional versions better. My family prefers his though.
          I am a big fan of a certain feline, as it’s name is my maiden name. My daughter played that role in the high school play a year or 2 ago.

  2. Tinker*

    So, someone makes a live-action roleplaying game about work drama… that promptly ends up having LARP drama? Excellent. I flee screaming into the woods one, I flee screaming into the woods two, I flee screaming into the woods three.

      1. Tinker*

        Heh, I spent the entire weekend at an event so it’s a miracle I acknowledge the existence of anyone who’s touching their head.

  3. Laura*

    “A feud has broken out, and many of the original members are rebelling, lashing out, and leaving the group. It’s been taken over by the people who they were making fun of, who they say, are ruining the fun. A new CEO, David Frew, a real-life lawyer, has replaced Oscar.”

    Sounds suspiciously like how real life law firm partnerships are formed…

      1. Vladimir*

        You are right, the comments were terrible. Especially from a certain guy (i wont name him but I am sure anyone can guess). Interestingly enough, these awful comments did`t even bother with adressing the article, I guess they just wanted to rant.

        However the article itself was very interesting, and sad in many ways.

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      Couple years ago I read an article by a biologist who went from male to female. She said she had given a paper at a conference and a while later in the hallway, was walking behind two men who were discussing her paper. One of them said “It was a good paper, but I think her brother’s work is better.”!!! Same person, same work, but now that she is a woman, it isn’t as good.

      1. Annie*

        For anyone who is curious, I think this is referring to Ben Barres — a Stanford neurobiologist. The genders in his story are reversed from Barbara in Swampeast’s comment, but I recognize the anecdote. Ben now hears about how his work is better than his “sister” Barbara’s old papers. He speaks a lot on issues regarding women and LGBT folks in science, and it’s just fascinating because he has really received different treatment from people.

    2. manybellsdown*

      There’s actually a startling number of trans*women in the video game industry. Which I find fascinating because it’s an industry that’s traditionally been difficult for women. Check out “Burger Becky”. She’s got some interesting things to say about it.

  4. Malissa*

    The article about trans people was really interesting. I don’t know if I should feel vindicated or depressed about some of the confirmations about gender stereotypes.

    1. Lisa*

      I know what you mean about vindicated / depressed. The aggressive part is what kills me, I wish my take-charge-ness was valuable – but its usually the part in my review that I get called out for in a negative way. ‘You need to be more collaborative’, but then the next review will be ‘you need to take-charge more, and stop taking a backseat’. Can’t win if your boss thinks like this. So I left my favorite job twice.

  5. Jennifer*

    Really curious what other people think about the California law. Should employers reimburse a portion of their employee’s cell phone bill?

    1. Malissa*

      Yes. It’s a business expense. They are paying for the convenience of using their employees cell phones in the course of business.

    2. LBK*

      I think there’s a lot of grey area that will make this hard to enforce. Some are clear cut – if you’re expected to be answering client calls/emails on your phone at all times, they should be paying. But what about a job where you’re on call but, at most, would be using your phone to get a call that says you have to come in? Or if you’re expected to get client emails on your phone but you don’t have to respond to anything unless it’s an emergency? Or (like in most retail jobs) there’s no other way to communicate with coworkers and employees?

      1. Mike C.*

        I think those small issues really pale in comparison to the companies that expect employees to foot the entire bill for high end phones that are used extensively at work.

        Besides, the law says “a reasonable portion”, so for those examples, it would be a few bucks on a paycheck every so often. That’s really no big deal in comparison to the harm being caused by the types of employers I’ve already mentioned.

        1. LBK*

          I agree, I just think “a reasonable portion” is suuuuper vague. Although maybe there’s more detail and suggested guidance in the actual law itself.

    3. Mike C.*

      I don’t see why not – business expenses should be borne by the owners/investors of the company. They’re the ones receiving the profits of the enterprise. If not, then why not charge employees the cost of utilities to power/heat their offices, B&O taxes, licensing fees and so on?

    4. Editor*

      Some newspapers now require reporters to provide their own cell phones and cameras for use at work. There’s been a long history of photographers having to provide their equipment the way mechanics provide their equipment, but at one time a paper I worked for also provided a small equipment allowance each year so the photographers could upgrade lenses and replace camera bodies and so on.

      I think employers should have to pay toward the cell phone bill if having a cell phone is required by the employer, unless the use is incidental (one or two very short calls a month).

  6. illini02*

    So I feel that this has probably been discussed someplace, but I’m really still curios of WHY a company would want to punish or not hire someone because of pictures of them drinking. I mean, assuming they are 21, if I’m having a glass of wine at dinner, or a beer at a football game, or shots at a bar, why does it matter? I feel that these same issues aren’t applied to people smoking. I think its an unfair assumption that what someone chooses to legally do on the weekend will make them a worse employee. I guess if you worked for an anti-drinking organization or something to that effect, I’d understand it, but it just seems like such a weird POV to have. I’m far more turned off by smoking, but I couldn’t see myself rejecting a job candidate because of it.

    1. LBK*

      Totally with you on that. It’s so bizarre that in some ways you’re expected to not act like a human once you have a job – I have a hard time believing not a single person involved in the decision to fire her has ever had a drink.

    2. Malissa*

      Because people want teachers and the like to be perfect people that some how manage to handle a class of 30 children and don’t feel the need to drink after hours.
      It’s like seeing your accountant at the Casino. Some people like to hold other people to higher standards because of the trust they put in them.

      1. Mike C.*

        Depends. If s/he is only playing the Pass line or counting cards, that’s fine. Keno? Heck no, time to find another.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s been discussed quite a few times here and I think it’s safe to say that no one here thinks that a photo of you having a glass of wine with dinner or a beer at a football game should disqualify you from a job or get you in trouble.

      Photos that seem to glorify binge-drinking, like keg stands or someone obviously passed out drunk, are a different issue, for reasons that I assume are pretty clear.

      1. Melissa*

        But the example was of a 24-year-old teacher who got fired because she was holding a glass of wine and a glass of beer. The school claimed that her pictures “promoted alcohol use” after an anonymous person (claims to be a parent, but was probably a friend who had a beef) reported her to the principal. Her pictures weren’t remotely glorifying binge-drinking.

        And that wasn’t the first story I’ve read like that, where someone got fired or reprimanded because they were holding a red Solo cup or a bottle of beer like a normal person.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, but I was responding to illini02’s question to people here about why they’d care. And to an extent, to the fact that illini02 frequently asks commenters here questions about why they care so much about whatever the topic of the day is :)

    4. OriginalYup*

      In some of the specific examples elsewhere online, there was a religion component: i.e. teacher at a faith-based school seen drinking alcohol (either by photo on social media or in person at a restaurant), when the faith of that school specifically prohibits alcohol and teachers signed a “I will live by the tenets of Faith” type agreement upon hire.

    5. Larisa*

      I totally agree! I am sick of this expectation that you have to be in ‘work mode’ 24/7 when my employer doesn’t own me after hours. I’m almost 30, why is it any of their concern if there is a picture of me on Facebook holding a glass of wine or holding a shotglass? I’m of legal age.

    6. Gene*

      This is in Georgia, Southern Baptist Central. There are still about a dozen dry counties there, though I don’t think Barrow County is one of them. Someone should follow around the members of the school board and administration and post photos of them with a drink in their hands.

    7. Elsajeni*

      In the case of teachers, I think it’s an issue of parents and administrators expecting teachers to be perfect role models for their students, and then assuming that “perfect role model” means “never [openly] drinking alcohol,” rather than, say, “modeling moderate and responsible behavior around alcohol.”

      1. Adam*

        And also these days a lot of teachers are Facebook friends with their students. I know a woman in her 30’s who is a high school swim coach and distributes practice and meet information via Facebook because apparently none of the kids use email.

  7. KarenT*

    Alison I have to ask why you didn’t Fire the woman who posted the photo of the donor card? I’m not sure I could have been so nice.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She was young and otherwise smart and capable. I felt confident that a very serious conversation was going to have a major impact on her and that she’d exercise better judgment in the future. But if there had been other issues with her work, I would have handled it differently.

  8. Jen*

    The idea that “millennials” are behind the social media blunders is really annoying to me. I know that Allison didn’t write that, Time did. But in my experience, it has been all ages. Stupidity has no age limit. In my own work experience I have had co-workers who have done the following: 2o-something intern posted Instagrams of himself with bongs, 40-something manager who would call in sick and do 4square/Twitter check-ins at places all over town, 40-something director who bragged on Twitter about how much he screamed at an employee, 30-something co-worker who made fun of a co-worker on Facebook, area VP who is constantly falling for fishing schemes and having her Twitter account attacked by spambots (occasionally porn-related). All terrible. I feel like very often millennials get a bad rep for this when the ones I have worked with tend to be on social media more often but are usually pretty aware of how to use it.

    1. Mike C.*

      This is actually a really good point. If us millennials are doing nothing but using social media day in and day how, how can we possibly be so terrible at it?

      1. Nerd Girl*

        I think the thought behind that idea is that millennials are so used to sharing their lives on social media that they’ve lost the ability to know what’s appropriate to share. I agree with this but I think it applies to all age groups.

        1. Natalie*

          And of course, those standards of what is appropriate are being set largely by people who came of age before social media was a thing. Standards will probably shift as the currently young age and a new group of kids are born and won’t get off of our lawns.

    2. CTO*

      I agree. I do think that because Millennials have been using sites like Facebook for so long, it’s easy for them to forget that the information they’ve shared there goes back several years. For instance, a 25 year-old might not realize that those keg-stand photos that weren’t a big problem when she was 20 are still visible and might be holding her back now.

      But whereas Millennials might be more open about what they share, they’re probably also more likely to be savvy enough to manage their online presence should they choose to do so. People who are newer to these kinds of technology are less likely to have the technological capabilities to grasp concepts like nuanced privacy settings.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah, but I’m going to argue here that you can’t generalize about Millennials in that way (that they’re all more savvy about privacy settings), just like you can’t generalize about them negatively either. Some people are savvy about privacy settings and some are not, and neither of those knows any age limits.

        1. CTO*

          Absolutely–I should’ve been more clear that I didn’t mean to generalize. I know plenty of people of all ages who are very social-media savvy and plenty who aren’t. But there’s probably some truth to the idea that people who have been using social media longer (and in Facebook’s case, then-college students were the only people able to use it, so almost all early adopters were Millennials) might have more experience, and a higher comfort level, with how it works.

        2. Nerd Girl*

          Poor judgement knows no age limits, race, sex, or religion. It amazes me what people think is appropriate to post. My own mother has given me moments where I’ve wondered “what the heck was she thinking?!?!”

        3. Melissa*

          This, plus Millennial encompasses a wide age group. I’m technically a Millennial, but I am 28 and Facebook debuted when I was 18 and a freshman in college (Mark Zuckerberg is only a year older than me). Twitter and Instagram came out during my adult life. So the comments in these endless articles about how Millennials have lived their entire lives on social media and are thus unaware of the conventions never ring true to me – since Millennials are anywhere from about 14 to about 32 years old right now. I’m very, very aware of my social media accounts and have been wary about Facebook ever since they took it from college students only to everyone (and before that, posting tons of snaps on FB wasn’t really a thing).

        4. Mallory Janis Ian*

          This is true about some young people being savvy about technology and some . . . not so much. I have two teenagers at home, but neither of them is particularly savvy about technology. Our home tech support comes from my daughter’s friend, who is great at technology, partly because of her own innate interests and abilities and partly, I think, because her dad is in IT and has taught her a lot.

    3. Mephyle*

      I think this would be a good topic for an article – i.e. how stereotypes about millennials and social media are demonstrably false, based on examples of good and bad social media use by all generations.

      1. Melissa*

        I would love to write that article had I the time, because stereotypes about Millennials is one of my pet peeves. So much lazy journalism.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      I think that there is a technology aspect to this, too: I started using the ‘net in 1980. All of my social media blunders happened before the term “social media” even existed – there is no reliable record of them anywhere. It’s like there’s a moving, variably-sized ‘window’ of the past during which your online activity can be viewed. “Millenials” and other people who are growing up with the ‘net (and “learning by doing”) are in some ways just the victims of poor timing. If Facebook and Twitter were to go away today – and I sincerely believe they will go away, someday – I question how much of their content will be available in 3 or 5 years time. I know that there are endeavors to archive Internet content, but – have you ever tried to use (for instance)?

    5. Pennalynn Lott*

      And I’m 48 years old but the only things that came up when I searched “Photos of Pennalyn Lott” on Facebook were pictures of my cats and pictures from my childhood. There are ZERO pictures of me after the age of 14. If someone tries to tag me in a photo, I untag myself and write them a note explaining about my crazy ex who will lay low until he sees a current picture of me and then — bam — out comes the crazy again.

      BTW, having a crazy ex is an *awesome* way to make sure you closely monitor your online presence for anything that could be considered negative by anyone at anytime. So Googling me will net you my address (public info since I own my house), pictures of my cats, pictures of me as a child, and my [carefully edited] LinkedIn profile. And maybe the occasional petition I’ve signed (usually involving animals), which doesn’t seem to set the ex off and hopefully won’t prejudice any future employer or client against me.

  9. Larisa*

    Yet everyone loves to call the mid-00s graduates ‘lazy and entitled’. We will never get jobs. By the time the recession picks up, it will be too late for us, we’ll be overtaken by new graduates. We got completely screwed in life.

    1. Melissa*

      I’m a late 2000s grad but I hate the articles – it goes along with the whole Millennial stereotyping, that we are lazy and entitled and too stupid to manage our own public images (despite the contradictory notion that we’ve all spent our entire lives on smartphones and social media). Very few articles are actually looking at the sociological situation that surrounded the Millennial generation’s entry into adulthood, though – particularly the fact that the economy crashed right when the oldest of us were in high school, college or early career. We (collective we) would love to move out of our parents’ basements if rents weren’t so damn high and credit so difficult to obtain. We would love to get full-time well-paying jobs, if employers didn’t require an MA and 3 years’ experience to flip burgers – or offered the alternative of working for them for free for 6 months to a year to ‘see how it goes’. Everything is way more expensive and much harder in our adulthood than it was for our parents, but when we struggle to launch – and all research indicates that Millennials are actually harder working and better educated than Baby Boomers were at our age – we get castigated in the media as if we live in some kind of sociological vacuum.

      1. MommaTRex*

        Hang in there. Many Gen-Xers are waiting for the Baby Boomers to finally retire so that we can fill in their jobs, hopefully leaving some great spots for Gen-Yers and Millennials. Many of us are looking forward to working with the next generations.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          So true, MommaTRex.

          Also true is that we GenXers were also labelled “lazy” and “entitled” and “immature”. Each new generation has scorn heaped on it by the previous generations. (see, “Kids These Days”). I remember when I was being put down by Baby Boomers and their parents (is there even a name for the generation born between, say, 1910 and 1940?) and reading history books where each new generation of youth was determined to be the downfall of society. (Oh, puh-leeze).

          Just think. . . the Millenialls of today will be the Grumpy Old People Who Should Just Retire And Make Room For *Our* Generation in only just a short while, generationally-speaking. ;-)

  10. Larisa*

    I’m getting really sick of the whole expectation that employers should be using social media profiles to make hiring/firing decisions. To me, it completely oversteps the reasonable boundaries of private/professional life. I keep all my profiles on lock down and think I should have every right to vent about a bad day at work, have a political opinion, post a picture in a Halloween costume or have a glass of wine in my hand when I am TWENTY-NINE years old. Employers need to stop feeling entitled to own their employees 24/7.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      I agree with you completely – but we live in an imperfect world.

      Just my opinion, but I think that many of the issues where social media interferes with hiring boil down to “making a bad impression”. A hiring manager is essentially trying to figure out what a candidate is like. I suspect that it’s not so much the picture of the candidate drinking as the “attitude” that comes with the picture: a foodie drinking wine during a gourmet meal is going to come off better than someone chugging beer party-animal style. Again: just my opinion.

      For what it’s worth: there’s always the option of going anonymous with your Wild Side. Although you need to be careful with photos, as there are things like Google Reverse-Image Search that could blow your cover. I’ve got my browser rigged so I can right-click on an image and do a GRIS. I think this is uncommon right now. But things change.

      1. fposte*

        Has GRIS gotten better? It seemed to be a total failure for finding other pictures of the same person when I’ve tried it (it told me I was the Obamas because they too were standing in front of books). If so, unless they’re helpfully standing in front of the same global landmark when they’re misbehaving GRIS may not be much of a risk.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Is it better? I’m not sure I can answer that question. It has tended to work reasonably well for me, but it’s like the Dancing Elephant of story and proverb: it’s not that it works well – the amazing thing is that it works at all. It’s a Google thing, so there’s a fair chance that they’re constantly tweaking it to be better. Either that, or they’ve abandoned it and it will soon disappear. There’s at least one other similar service out there called TinEye. I find GRIS works best at finding duplicate images at different sizes and resolutions; I’ve never really used it much for facial recognition. It can be fun to ‘abuse’ it, too: input a picture with a given color palette and get back different pictures that have similar color palettes. Or input a face picture of someone and get back people who look ‘similar’ to them.

          If you’re curious, there are free Firefox Extensions “Google Reverse Image Search” and “TinEye Reverse Image Search” that will allow you to rightclick on an image embedded in a web page to kick off a search, and maybe 85% of the time they work properly.

  11. hildi*

    There are some really funny people on this site – someone needs to set up a BLARP group of AAM readers named Skull Island. We have all the ingredients for it: chocolate teapots, Wakeen et. al., etc. Reading AAM is an escape; playing BLARP AAM would be……even more of an escape. ha. Clearly I wouldn’t be in charge of creativity.

  12. Coco*

    Really not digging CBS’s characterization of “graduates struggling to become self-supporting adults” as slackers. There are many economic, ethical, and personal reasons that people live with and get financial help from their parents. I also don’t see how the study’s findings support the idea that graduates got a bad education.

    1. Kerr*

      Neither do I. The data was interesting (and a little discouraging for this mid-2000s graduate), but it doesn’t support the “Millennials are slackers!” and “Colleges educated them poorly!” conclusions. (The title is pretty poor journalism.) The reason we don’t have jobs isn’t because we’re all lazy aimless young bums; it’s because the economy has been terrible and we’re not being hired – or not hired at full-time jobs that will pay us enough to move out. Yeah, that article struck a nerve.

  13. Vladimir*

    The artcle in new republic is very interesting.
    I must say I can not really understand how can people put value on people, what they say or do based on their gender. When I judge the opinion gender of the person who holds it is not really important for me (it may be, but only in very very specific cases – and even in these the experience is more important then gender). The same goes for lectures, important is what the person says and how, not the gender. Some I do not get why same trait is seen by some people as good in one gender but bad in the other.

    1. Sarahnova*

      See, the thing is, everyone thinks that, other than the real dinosaurs. “Oh, I’M not biased. I don’t understand how people can be racist/sexist”. There are almost certainly appreciable differences in how you treat people of different genders/races, and because you deny them, you have little chance of challenging them or reducing them.

      1. Vladimir*

        You are right to certain extent, in a sence that not seeing the problem can stop me form solving it . But honesly I did not say I do not treat people of different genders differently, I try not to but it sometimes happen, not in big ways but still. However I never judge someones work based on gender (or race), that I can say for sure and I do not put different values at people based on gender or race. And despite what you say I really have trouble undesratning how can people be so outwardly sexist as in the exmples cited in the article. I just dont get how these people think.

  14. Katrina Bass*

    I just checked out the Facebook search bar thing and that’s crazy! I can see every picture my friends have commented on!

Comments are closed.