employees sleeping at work during snow storm, recruiter sexually harassed me on a phone interview, and more

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

1. Employees sleeping on cots in building during snow storm

I work at a large medical laboratory in a state prone to heavy snow storms. Whenever there is a snowstorm, the lab stays open and employees are expected to come to work unless they can make other arrangements with their supervisors, such as time off or reorganized schedules. Many of the employees have long commutes and families.

The company has the policy that in case of a snow storm, the employees can obtain cots and toiletry kits from the security department and sleep in offices and conference rooms. These rooms have ceiling-to-floor glass walls. I have never done this, but I find it rather creepy and wonder about liabilities arising from possible assaults or harassment. Of course, there would be further problems if the power went out or the employees were stranded in the building. I thought this policy would end after a hotel was built across the street last year, but they are continuing it. Have you ever heard of such a policy?

Yes, and in some cases it makes sense — like with jobs where you absolutely must have coverage, like fire stations, or with jobs where it’s a truly voluntary option to make people’s lives more convenient.

In this case, it sounds like it’s part of pressuring people to come in when it’s not going to be safe for them to drive home, and unless the work truly requires that, that’s not cool.

The glass walls wouldn’t bother me if no one was being pressured into overnight stays and the rooms were just for people’s convenience, but that’s not the case here. Either way, though, I’d think they could add some blinds.

2. Recruiter sexually harassed me on a phone interview

I have been getting serious about job searching, but am currently employed in a good job, so I’m taking my time. I recently applied for a position online and a recruiter got in touch with me. While talking, he said something sexual harrass-y/ inappropriate: “Wow, I feel like I should be paying $4.99 minute to talk to you; your voice is so sexy. And then while my mind was struggling to recover from that, he said, “I hope you look as good as you sound — they’ll give you the job right away.”

I ended the call after I realized what he meant (I didn’t hang up, but I quickly got out of the conversation). Now, he’s left me a voicemail that he wants to talk again to move me forward in the process.

I feel as though I don’t want to, but am I thinking clearly about this? This was very early in the process, but the pay and skills they were looking for seem as though it would work for me, but I wasn’t insanely excited. Am I being silly to just want to ignore this and move on? I know this individual doesn’t work directly for the hiring company, but he works closely with them according to him, so I’m feeling a little down on them if they think this guy is okay, even though I don’t know that.

Eeeeww, that’s outrageously inappropriate. Not just a little off, not just people-have-different-standards-for-this-stuff, but 100% clearly not okay. He sexually harassed you.

You should contact the HR department at the company he was recruiting on behalf of, and let them know what he said. They will want to know, believe me. You can frame it as “I thought I should report it to you since I’m sure that you don’t want someone representing your company sexually harassing candidates. If there’s someone else there I can talk with about the job, I’d be interested in doing that, but I obviously don’t want to speak with Fergus again.”

3. Senior leadership seem to be babysitting our chatroom

I work on a five-person team with a mix of local and remote workers at a midsize company. All of our communication takes place in a chatroom. Recently, a couple VPs, who we do not interact with on a daily basis, have started lurking in our chat. I think they joined to know what’s going on with the team, but it feels invasive and slightly uncomfortable to know that higher-ups are reading every word of our group’s banter in real-time. While obviously the nature of e-communication is that it can be viewed by anyone, there is something distinctly stifling about having these people watching our conversations, day in and day out. I am afraid they are going to draw conclusions about things without having all the context of actually being on the team. If they want to know the status of a project, it would make more sense for them to just ask us for a report.

I want to bring this up to my manager, but don’t know how. Am I overthinking this?

It’s possible that they started joining the chat because they’ve had requests to be more accessible, who knows. Do they ever contribute there — answer questions, ask their own questions, etc.? If so, it’s a pretty legitimate use of the chat room and I don’t think you can bring it up.

But if they’re just lurking there, I think it’s fair game to ask about it (and also, that’s a really weird use of their time). You could say this to your manager: “I noticed that Jane and Fergus have started logging into the chatroom every day but never participate. I was curious if you knew what was behind that.”

4. Asking a new manager for a raise

I’m coming up on my two-year anniversary at my company, which I was also hoping would be a good time to ask for a raise. I do believe that I’m contributing at a much higher level than when I was hired.

Here’s the tricky part: My former manager was let go just after giving me a glowing one-year review. I still don’t have a new manager, but it’s looking like someone might be hired right before my two-year mark. Is there any way I can ask for a raise at my review with a new manager (who will be very experienced, but new to our company), or am I just out of luck? I’ve built a strong track record with others in the company, but obviously my new manager won’t know much about my work first-hand when giving me my review.

You can definitely give it a shot, especially since it’s been two years since your salary was last set. You’re at a disadvantage because the new manager doesn’t know your work and isn’t likely to spend capital going to bat for you in the way your old boss might have been, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t try at all.

If she’s going to do an annual review for you though (which is a bit tricky if she doesn’t know your work, but there are ways to do it anyway), that’s a good time to bring it up. You can acknowledge that she doesn’t know your work as well as ideally would be the case, but lay out as concrete a case as you can showing that you’ve performed at a high level in the role, and be sure to mention that your salary hasn’t been changed since you started two years ago.

Also, be proactive and send her a run-down of your accomplishments well ahead of when you think she’s likely to start working on reviews. Good luck!

5. Recruiter sent me LinkedIn profiles of my interviewer — what am I supposed to do with them?

As part of my phone interview prep, a recruiter sent me the LinkedIn links of the the three people I will be talking to. How do I proceed? Look at their profiles, connect? Wait to connect after the interview, or not at all? I’m just curious the way this should work professionally.

For now, just use the profiles as background to get a better feel for who you’re talking to (and in particular, their roles at the company). If you feel particular rapport with any of them, it’s fine to send a connection request after the interview, but I’d wait until then.

Also, if they don’t accept the request, don’t take it personally. Different people use LinkedIn differently — some people only connect with people they know a bit better than this, and some people connect more liberally.

{ 237 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    #2, please say something to the company—this was 1000% sexual harassment, and the recruiter is vile. Your reaction is totally normal and reasonable, and it’s valid not to want to work with someone who is vastly inappropriate, unprofessional, and harassing. But if you’re not feeling up to it, know that that’s ok, too, and that you owe him/the company nothing.

    #1, assuming your organization doesn’t need 24/7 coverage, the set-up sounds awful (especially with a hotel nearby). Do folks just have to cot-up in these all-glass-walled rooms with their normal clothes on?? It seems like, at a minimum, the company should invest in sleep rooms like the ones doctors/residents use when on call at hospitals…

    1. Graciosa*

      I’m kind of curious about how sleep rooms in hospitals are different – can you add a bit of color? It’s not something I’m familiar with.

      I am familiar with Red Cross shelters, so the idea of sheltering in place at work didn’t produce the same reaction (especially since I could take the provided cot anywhere I wanted to feel safe – that’s a lot more privacy than is typical for emergency shelters!). I do understand, however, that it’s not the right comparison. Non-essential personnel should never be pressured to come into work in dangerous weather. There’s nothing that important going on at the office.

      But if there was an actual emergency, I would be thrilled to have cots provided. There should be more to the company’s emergency plans than just providing cots – the OP might find it reassuring to check – but if there isn’t and I were stuck there, I would recruit a group of co-workers I trusted to share a conference room. You could even take turns keeping watch if you felt it necessary.

      Not sure how hospital sleep rooms work, though, and I would love to be enlightened –

        1. The Strand*

          That second link makes my blood boil. I hate to think about hard working staff doing 12 hours or more and having no place to even take a nap.

      1. Me2*

        When I worked in the Medical Director’s office of a large urban hospital, we had a Doctor’s Lounge with eight private sleep rooms. Each had a twin bed and a locking door. The lounge also provided food and beverages 24 hours a day, showers, and was accessible to any physician in the hospital. I believe the Nursing Director’s office also had a lounge and a few sleep rooms for nursing staff. We were not a teaching hospital so didn’t have a continual use for the rooms for residents and interns working long hours, but some house physicians like ER doctors would use the rooms. They were also used for, ahem, extracurricular activities.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          That set-up sounds nice. From what I remember of watching ‘ER’, their sleep room was basically a closet with a small cot in it.

      2. Drago cucina*

        They can vary a lot depending on the hospital. In some it’s a room with bunk beds. At one hospital the anesthetist and OR nurses shared a tiny “lounge” with a love seat and two chairs. One hospital had a nice room with a twin bed, couch, mini-fridge and microwave.

      3. NewDoc*

        As residents, ours were small room with locking door, twin bed, phone, computer. On some rotations (typically the ICU) it was more like little sleep cubicles within the unit itself so that we’d be close by if there was a problem; on others (consulting services, etc) there was a call suite with call rooms, lounge, gym, showers in the basement. During snowstorms they would turn the attached clinic into an emergency sleep facility with cots in exam rooms.

      4. Jomola*

        The large teaching hospital I worked in had a large classroom that had 3 rooms off to the side. The rooms were big enough for a twin bed in each. Those were the sleep rooms for the residents on call. Only the 1st and 2nd resident on call stayed at the hospital. 3rd and 4th had to be able to respond within 20 minutes of a call. Faculty had sofas in their offices they slept in. My office was right off the recovery room and there were 2 other sub offices in mine that had sofas in them too. On a particularly bad night, every sofa and sleep room were used.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      It’s so iiiiiickkyyyyyy. SO ICKY. That’s so, so, so unprofessional.

  2. Graciosa*

    To the OP in #2, I really want to encourage you to speak up.

    One of the reasons some people get away with this is that those subjected to this behavior want to avoid the perceived hassle of saying something instead of forgetting it and moving on. Those who can walk away easily often do just that. This reinforces the offender’s belief that his behavior is acceptable (or that he won’t get in trouble either way).

    You are in a great position to deal with it, because the offender here doesn’t actually control your paycheck – only access to a job you’re not even sure you want. You don’t work with him and never have to see him again.

    The next person he targets may not be so lucky.

    Please help her out.

    1. Tex*

      But … he has access to her contact info (including home address?), maybe social media (linked in, twitter) and her entire work and educational history.

      I would say something, but it would still give me pause since he has so much info.

      1. Someone*

        I wouldn’t assume he’ll be able to identify who complains about him. If he’s done this to one woman, he’s done it to others, so there will be lots of candidates. There’s no reason to believe HR will tell him who complained. (And if he’s really that stalkery, he could stalk her now, for different reasons.)

        She should do what she’s comfortable with, but I agree complaining is relatively low cost. If she’s really worried, she could use a burner/anonymous email address for first contact with HR, and then use her real name later.

        1. Myrin*

          I agree. I sometimes feel like this “But he has X information about you so he might do really horrible things if you complain about him!” argument (which is not what Tex is saying, I realise that, I was just reminded of it because of the following subthread) is like the personal version of the “But he might sue if you fire him!” we see on here quite often. Because, I mean, yes, he might. But I don’t think I’m mis-assuming when I guess that most of the time, especially with someone who sounds like a run-of-the-mill creeper who seizes the moment to be lecherous, he will be upset but not do anything at all, especially since, like you say, all things going normally, he won’t know who it was who complained about him anyway.

        2. sitting with sad salad*

          Creeeeeeepy. I would definitely report. Not only to help future potential victims, but also to help his current employer. They might need a paper trail or see a pattern of behavior before being able to take action against him. They wont be able to do that without your formal complaint.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          +1 – there’s a lot of research that shows that harassers don’t just harass one person – and that they escalate, if they think they can get away with it (eg, in the UK, 20 years ago, flashers used to be seen as something comedic, and not a big deal – but these days the Police come down really hard on them, because they’re likely to escalate. It’s one of the reasons there’s a big campaign to report gropers on the Tube right now, too)

        1. Mookie*

          And he has demonstrated a distaste for normal boundaries whereas she is going above and beyond to provide him every benefit of the doubt. I’d be slightly wary of repercussions, too.

          That doesn’t mean, LW, that I’m advising you not to contact his HR but that, unlike Graciosa, I don’t think you’re obligated to for the sake of future victims. You’re not to blame for his lack of propriety or inability or unwillingness to recognize his own bad behavior at all; he is a grown-up, he has a job, his employers appear to be lax in training and/or monitoring him, he contacted you directly, and you didn’t create this situation nor is it up to you to singlehandedly solve it if, for any reason, your instincts — which seem pretty right on to me thus far — tell you to simply avoid the company and block this person’s number. It’s your call. Prioritize yourself before bearing any responsibility for this man’s decisions.

          1. Sas*

            ++ Especially to your last sentence. ” tell you to simply avoid the company and block this person’s number” And this. Unfortunately for whatever reason that company, not sure what it is, decides to allow this person to “recruit” for them, I use “” because well he seems like he’s doing really good work there, it’s on them.

          2. Observer*

            Oh, please! No one is implying that the OP is in any way responsible for this guy’s behavior. But, the reality is that if people won’t speak up, they wind up sharing some complicity. Your claim that the company is lax has no basis. What are they supposed to do? Monitor every call made by an outside recruiter.

            Of course, if the OP has reason to think that this guy will actually pose a risk to her if she complains, that changes the calculation. Based on what *we* know, it’s unlikely, so the encouragement to contact the company makes sense. If there is stuff that the OP hasn’t mentioned, then she’llhave to adjust accordingly.

    2. Milton*

      I recently had to call my BIL out on some crap he pulls on his female coworkers. As you’ve stated, he thought his behavior was acceptable because no one ever called him out on it. I ended my conversation with, “that is creepy. Do not do that.”

      This clown probably thinks he’s giving you “compliments” when he is in fact sexually harassing who knows how many other applicants. Ugh, I’m sorry you had to go through this.

      1. LW#2*

        Yeah, I could tell this guy probably thought he was being really cute.

        That’s great that you had that conversation with your BIL. You did him a great service and also anyone he ends up working with down the line!

      2. Monday Anon*

        I once had to call out a male colleague on something inappropriate that he said to me. He immediately and profusely apologized, and then added that he needed to go apologize to another female colleague because he had said the same thing to her. These types of things should always be brought to the person’s attention.

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      OP’s in a good position to be believed, as well. He followed up wanting to move her forward in the process, which means she isn’t like to be dismissed as sour grapes.

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      I don’t think it’s fair to the LW to guilt her into speaking up on behalf of future targets. Because if she doesn’t speak up and it happens again, this type of thinking puts the blame on the LW for not reporting it and not on the recruiter (not that I think that’s what you’re implying, but that’s how these things often tend to go).

      The LW should report him if she feels comfortable doing so – and she should do it for her own self, not because she’s obligated to any other potential targets.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I agree, but I also don’t think it’s out of line to tell her that she might be saving someone else the hassle later. Some people would be comfortable, but might decide to just let it slide, in a case like this, just for themselves. But when brought up that it would also help others, would be more inclined to do it- not at of guilt, but out of that realization/better understanding. There can be a happy medium between pressuring and not mentioning it at all.

        1. Sas*

          It seems though that the “happy medium ” is letting OP do whatever they would like and if you are close to OP, to be completely understanding of that. Some of these at home recruiting positions do not go well though. Not only are they often given to people with little training, but often to people that confuse following company script with following a legal one. Honestly, many of these positions are fraught with problems from this harassment example above to people asking questions they should not ask (REALLY) and/or riding someone hard about the salary broken down into hourly for a beginning-level, part-time, non-benefits paid position (going off on a bit of a rant, I apologize for that.) Honestly, working in the comfort of one’s home seems to be the problem for some of these people (: ( ). I’m sure some do it well. Not saying that. I haven’t met many though.

        2. NonProfit Nancy*

          Agree. There are lots of times I would let it go, for my own sake – it wasn’t that big a deal, and reporting it / following up etc is likely to be a hassle. But knowing that somebody who does it to me, is much more likely to do something worse to someone else – particularly someone who can’t fight back – reminds me to go through the hassle anyway. If OP feels unsafe I wouldn’t want her to be pressured, but if she’s just weighing the balance of effort versus reward it’s helpful to factor the effect on others.

          1. Sas*

            “But knowing that somebody who does it to me, is much more likely to do something worse to someone else” This is something that can really damage people though. There is nothing to show that at all. More than likely he “talks” to people like that or this is a one-time thing. Who knows? But, this situation is partly why companies should not try to low-ball everything through outsourcing, not training adequately, or not closely watching recruiting. Recruiting should not be some who gives no f—s part of a business, it is an important aspect that shows people many things about the company itself.

            1. Observer*

              In fact, this is a well established pattern. It may be the first time that this person did this. But, all the evidence is that people who breach boundaries generally do so on an ongoing basis, and that they do NOT stop on their own.

              1. NonProfit Nancy*

                It’s never the first time they do this. It won’t be the last time either. Someone who says something this outrageous in this situation … this isn’t something he just came up with because he was so charmed by OPs sexy voice. And people like this, are counting on you giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming their good intentions. That’s how they get away with it so long.

                1. Observer*

                  Well, there always has to be a first time. But, it doesn’t matter – it’s outrageous and if he gets away with this there WILL be another time, and another and another. The only thing that will stop him is if someone speaks up – and it may take more than one person to speak up.

            2. NonProfit Nancy*

              But OP didn’t feel that excited about this job, and actually was advanced anyway. What about an applicant who desperately needs this job? He says something like that to her, and she closes her eyes to bite back a sob – she needs him to like her, she needs this opportunity. She feels like she has to flirt back, and who knows where it ends up. I would never assume that someone who hits on me an inappropriate way is actually just overcome by my charms – he’s someone who acts inappropriately when he thinks he can get away with it. I’m just the person he’s doing it to right now.

    5. Mat*

      I also agree to #2, speaking up on sexual harassment will really make a difference in hopefully stopping the offender from attacking other women. Also if they feel uncertain about the job, its probably best to follow that gut feeling and turn them down.

  3. Gadfly*

    On #2–independent recruiter, or does he have a boss? If he represents an agency, they ought to want to know also.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      I was going to say this also. If he has a boss, they would want to know. Top-quality candidates don’t work with sleazeballs.

    2. LW#2*

      His company did work for the hiring company and they asked them to find a few people in the area to fill out their IT department. This happens so much that there is a small department in the recruiter’s company that does that for their clients.

      So, he does have a boss, but they are not solely in the business of recruiting.

      1. eplawyer*

        He has a boss. Report him to his boss. The boss needs to know, even if recruiting is not their sole business, that one aspect of their business has this guy doing this. Clearly they think the recruiting part is profitable or they wouldn’t do it. If this guy keeps up with his behavior, it becomes less profitable as good candidates don’t want to work with him.

        Speak up. If he decides to retaliate (low probability, he’s a jerk, not necessarily a stalker), you have legal resources you can use.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Agreed. This guy’s behavior is sabotaging their recruiting efforts and setting the company up for a lawsuit.

          Plus, creeper’s reference to 900 numbers makes it clear he is absolutely old enough to know better. (I’m 40 and remember those being a thing when I was in high school.)

      2. Observer*

        This is another reason his boss should want to know. The recruiting company may not have any legal obligations to the people they recruit for other companies. But they sure do have a legal responsibility to their staff. Even if he is not doing this kind of garbage to other staff at his company, a smart company is going to want to make sure that everyone knows that this stuff is NOT OK, and that the company will deal with it wherever and whenever they find out about it.

  4. Mike C.*

    #2 Please speak up, you don’t deserve this.

    #1 I run a similar chat room, and I would consider flooding it with highly technical discussions designed to alienate your upper management. For instance, I run a similar chat room at work for data nerds, so I would just start talking about mathematical models or statistical techniques or whatever and eventually they’re going to get bored of it and leave.

    #4 This is what I hate about reorgs – having to go through the whole song and dance about what you’re doing for the company and so on then once they trust you it’s time to reorg again. Wheee!

    1. Jamie*

      Even if it’s covert, I think a deliberate attempt to alienate upper management is unnecessarily adversarial. Not to mention the inference that they’d get bored with tech talk is a little insulting as many people in upper management have technical abilities and interest.

      No one even knows what they’re doing. If I had to venture a guess I’d assume they were popping in to scroll up and kind of get an overview of how things are being discussed and forgot to log out.

      If they wanted to read every word they could pull a log and no one on the OP’s team would know.

      I honestly can’t imagine anyone sitting there actually lurking and watching people chat in real time, so I’d assume reasonable explanation until I knew otherwise.

      1. Mike C.*

        How can it be that the discussion of highly relevant topics in a place designed for such topics is adversarial? Should they suddenly stop discussing those things because management figures showed up? Also, many in upper management don’t have those skills because they were busy learning management stuff rather than technical stuff – it’s not an insult to their intelligence but an acknowledgement that there is only a limited amount of time.

        You can’t imagine busybodies watching purple just because they can? I have to deal with this sort of thing all the time. After a while it becomes incredibly annoying to have to explain to yet another busybody manager that just because you aren’t constantly typing on the keyboard doesn’t mean you aren’t actually working.

        1. sunny-dee*

          It’s inherently adversarial if you’re flooding the chat with topics that will presumably bore or confuse someone in an attempt to run them off. Jamie isn’t saying “don’t have real and normal technical discussions to avoid upsetting upper management.” S/he is saying “don’t flood the channel in an attempt to run people off, even if it’s subtle.”

          1. Mike C.*

            It’s a chatroom, you cannot be expected to cater to the whims of every person who happens to drop in. If someone invites themselves into a space and can’t keep up that’s their own problem.

            1. Misc*

              You specifically said above to discuss topics in ways designed purely to alienate, though, not ‘continue as normal without taking the time to handhold’. That’s not normal usage, even if the specifics allow plausible deniability. That, in fact, *is* catering, just with hostile instead of welcoming intentions,

              1. Mike C.*

                If they can’t keep up and they’re otherwise stifling productive conversation by their presence then they shouldn’t be welcomed.

                I mean come on, I really don’t understand why these tactics are upsetting to so many – this site thrives on scripts and techniques where the root cause is completely ignored (saying “wow” when someone asks you an inappropriate question is a great example) for some more passive technique.

                The OP is trying to get real work done and you can’t do that when it looks like someone is just standing over your shoulder. These VPs aren’t adding anything to the discussion. That’s a problem. Because of the power differential, the OP can’t directly to tell them to buzz off. So I suggest something that still allows them to be productive, is on topic and should give them the hint that this place isn’t for them.

                1. NaoNao*

                  One of the reasons there are so many “passive” solutions and scripts here is that it’s not practical or advisable to put everyone who does something hurtful or counterproductive on “blast” immediately or spend lots of effort and time correcting behavior that is likely going to continue anyway.
                  People aren’t machines and don’t run on code to be debugged—we may not know what the root cause is, or why it’s occurring. A “root cause” of rudeness might be stifled grief, or it might be someone whose parents were neglectful and didn’t help them learn manners. Or they might be a dedicated jerk who doesn’t care.
                  Scripts and other techniques allow for a “nudge” rather than a blast. They allow a relationship to possibly flourish in the future. They allow people to behave in a way they feel comfortable with, rather than sinking to the other parties’ level. Also, not everyone has the wherewithal to deal with the fallout and their own emotions in order to fix the “root cause”.
                  It’s not our job or problem to fix “root causes” and tell Shelia the admin “Shelia, you’re being inexcusably rude to me. Please stop”.

        2. Jamie*

          The topics aren’t adversarial, but the motivation

          I would consider flooding it with highly technical discussions designed to alienate your upper management.


          I’ve no doubt there are all kinds of bad management practices out there including those who want to waste time watching other people chat – it wouldn’t happen in my environment as no one would have the time, but I’ve worked with people who would have done that. I’m just saying it’s a public discussion no different than if it was had in an office and even if people thought upper management shouldn’t linger and listen in they can, sometimes do, and it’s not something to try to alienate them over.

          1. Mike C.*

            The adversarial activity started with the VPs doing the digital version of standing behind your chair and watching you work without comment.

            Look, their presence is clearly having a negative effect on the OP’s ability to work – given the power differential and the VP’s complete inability to participate at even a basic level, what do you suggest instead?

            1. BPT*

              Only talking about things pertinent to work? I’m not sure what the OP is uncomfortable about exactly – they mention “banter,” so if it’s the case that they’re having funny conversations that are off topic, then my suggestion would just be to stop having conversations that they would feel uncomfortable for their bosses to hear. Yeah it might suck, but that’s part of work. People monitor themselves around their bosses all the time. Plenty of places don’t even have office IM’s set up. If you just have to have these types of conversations, then use a group text or something.

              If OP is instead concerned about their bosses seeing “how the sausage gets made,” the back and forth discussions and the trial of ideas for projects that may not end up working out, then that’s another thing, but again I think it’s just something you have to deal with. They might just pop in to see what’s going on, but if they’re your boss then that’s totally within their purview.

              I don’t see why one would take an adversarial stance against their boss for checking in on their work.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Right, and there’s nothing sacred about “how the sausage gets made.” Decent managers understand that’s what they’re seeing and that it’s not the finished product.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s reading a huge amount into it that isn’t there.

              It’s common in many workplaces for all Slack chats (for example) to be public to anyone in the company, or for a bunch of people to be logged into a particular chat all day even if they only check in once or twice a day. This is not like having someone stand behind your chair and watch you work. You’re painting in a really aggressive way that isn’t aligned with what the OP is actually describing.

            3. Jamie*

              I’d suggest exactly what Alison said in her answer – nicely ask what’s up.

              You’ve made some pretty big assumptions here based on no data:

              -That logging in was adversarial on the part of management
              -Assuming they are doing the equivalent of standing there watching everyone work as opposed to logging in to see how things are going and not logging back out.
              -VP’s complete inability to participate at even a basic level

              You can’t possibly know any of that and it’s not helpful imo to assume the worst without asking about it. And in another post you were talking about interference from management being a problem. So if they participate they suck and if they don’t it means they have a complete inability to do so at a basic level?

              Neither of us have any idea what their motivation was for logging in – I just think it’s bad advice to suggest people try to alienate upper management before a simple civil question which could clear everything up.

              Actually I’d argue it’s almost universally counter productive to deliberately alienate upper management no matter how awful they are, but that’s another issue.

      2. Purest Green*

        I get the concern about management reading online work discussions. As the OP stated, I am afraid they are going to draw conclusions about things without having all the context of actually being on the team.

        The team I’m on uses a messaging system to toss ideas around, only to later speak in person and decide what we messaged earlier wouldn’t work at all. I’ve purposely proposed things I thought might not work but wanted to gauge everyone else’s reactions, and sometimes someone can make something of it, but usually it’s just a really crappy idea. I would shudder to think management were using our chat log as a way to update themselves on what’s going on.

        That said, I do agree it’s best to assume a reasonable explanation first.

        1. Koko*

          Yep. My small team has a private channel we use for brainstorming and tossing around ideas. As the NYT reported last year on results from a massive research study at Google, it takes a certain amount of psychological safety to feel comfortable doing that, and be successful as a team. We have that safety with each other but not with people on other teams.

          Our channel used to be public, but a few people who work with our team and not on it decided to join I guess in case anything relevant to the areas they work with us came up, and everybody suddenly clammed up and didn’t want to share feedback or ideas anymore knowing that people outside our team were “watching us” in these unpolished moments. So eventually we created a private channel to keep the riff-raff out and provide for that necessary psychological safety.

        2. Myrin*

          The OP also says, though, “All of our communication takes place in a chatroom.”, which means that the in-person conversations you have with your team aren’t happening in her situation; here, the VPs “drawing conclusions without having all the context” could only happen if they read like three random sentences in the middle of the chat and didn’t bother to read a bit further up or down (which they should if they really see something they find troubling or weird). Not that that can’t happen but like Jamie says, I’d definitely assume a reasonable explanation first.

        3. NonProfit Nancy*

          My first thought was that perhaps someone had reported an incident on the chatroom (harassment?) and so the higher-ups feel compelled to enter the fray. But I may be paranoid, and it’s still weird they didn’t delegate monitoring the site to someone lower on the totem pole.

      1. Lablizard*

        That was my guess. They are logging in, checking the progress of the project, and then move onto something else without logging out.

          1. Antilles*

            That isn’t necessarily weird.
            1.) If some of the employees’ Chat is to sort of bounce ideas off each other informally, you might actually get more useful information from reading the chat than asking directly because you get to understand the group thought process that made Option A infeasible, Option B seems too expensive, etc, etc.
            2.) Conversely, if all the executives need is quick hit general updates, fast-skimming through Chat might actually be quicker since you can do it from anywhere, any time.

            1. Mike C.*

              Or you’re just end up, like the OP worries, getting a bunch of half backed ideas without any context. There are legitimate reasons why you don’t let everyone watch you make sausage.

              1. BPT*

                But to suggest your bosses have no place in watching you make sausage is way off base. Sure, you might not let the public see the behind the scenes. But higher ups should have an idea of what’s going on in every level of the company. Not all the minutia all the time, but checking in now and then in a chat about processes seems well within a normal boss’ responsibilities. Nothing you do at work is private; you shouldn’t act like it is.

                1. Karen D*


                  The company has every right – and in some places, a duty – to monitor what’s going on in that chat.

                  If, as Alison said, they are good managers, they will know how chat relates to the final products of the work being done.

            2. Jamie*

              Group thought process, dynamic…if I’ve got a team on site just normal observation without spying on them will tell me who is taking the lead, who participates just enough to not get called out, if the team dynamic seems healthy or if some people seem reticent to participate.

              You can’t get all that from reports or even speaking to them individually. It doesn’t mean reading all their chats all the time – but being logged in to read from time to time makes sense to me.

              1. Karen D*

                Me too.

                There is often something curative in the very act of observation. If an employee is doing something she knows isn’t right and she realizes her manager is watching, she’s likely to self-correct. (As I did years ago, when my manager quietly informed me “You know, I can see the reflection of your screen in the window behind you. I don’t mind you spending a little time on eBay when you are on the phone but don’t let it get out of hand.”)

            3. LoiraSafada*

              Yes it is. Drawing your own conclusions from a conversation you’re effectively eavesdropping on is weird and unprofessional.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s actually pretty normal and healthy for managers to duck in to observe how teams are functioning, to inform their thinking about what’s going on on teams they’re responsible for.

              2. BPT*

                “Eavesdropping” to me has the connotation of someone hearing things they have no right to hear. If this is work conversations, then their bosses have every right to hear what’s being said. Especially in a work chatroom. It is not unprofessional for higher ups in a company to check in on work. I don’t get this sentiment at all.

                1. Karen D*

                  Yeah, this seems like a situation where people are reacting as if this was a social setting. It’s not. Workplace etiquette is completely different; employees are being paid for their time and using company resources.

          2. Lablizard*

            Some bosses would consider asking for an update daily to be a bit micromanaging. A quick look at where things are going would be a relatively light managerial touch. Personally, I would have mentioned to the team what I was doing and why I was doing it before joining the chat, but I tend to lean towards transparency when changing things up. Other managers don’t necessarily take that approach

      2. CAA*

        Yeah, if it’s something like hipchat, I can have 30 or more tabs open at a time. I assure you, I am not looking at all of them. I probably popped in once to see if the server outage was affecting this group as well as the other ones I already knew about so I could decide how far and how vociferously to escalate upwards. Then I just didn’t close the tab, because I was off to check on another group and see if they were also affected. Every few months I close out all my open tabs and start over.

        If a chat room is not locked, then it’s not private. Everyone in the company can access it, and technically all the messages, even the ones in the private rooms, belong to your employer. They’re allowed to watch you work if they want to.

    2. Mookie*

      Kind of seems like a waste of time and an unnecessary irritation to colleagues if the chatroom is otherwise proving useful or especially necessary for daily tasks (beyond what the LW mentions as banter, which is pretty ordinary and innocuous).

            1. Elsajeni*

              If it were relevant, presumably it would already be part of the normal flow of chat in that room. Adding a flood of information that isn’t coming up naturally is going to affect the usability of the chat for the OP and the other people in their group, not just for any upper managers who happen to be looking in.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Mike, you said: “I would consider flooding it with highly technical discussions designed to alienate your upper management.” If your chat room discussions are “designed to alienate your upper management,” then by definition, they aren’t focused on anything else. If you say you would design the chat topics for the express purpose of alienating upper management, that means you are not talking about other topics that otherwise would be talked about if they don’t fit that design. Maybe that’s not what you meant, but that’s what you said, and that’s what people are responding to.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Agreeing with JB here. Mike, you specifically proposed changing what people are doing in order to “alienate” management. If that’s not what you meant, then cool, but that’s what people are responding to.

                3. Mike C.*

                  “I would consider flooding it with highly technical discussions designed to alienate your upper management.” If your chat room discussions are “designed to alienate your upper management,” then by definition, they aren’t focused on anything else.

                  Uh, nope. You simply switch to topics or ways of discussing those topics that are more theoretical or require more specialized knowledge while staying within the parameters of the work statement and you can do both. There is a huge difference between how I speak about statistics in front of mixed company and in front of my direct coworkers and the sorts of diction and formalization that will be effective for either group. Normally I’ll be casual for both, but I know that the latter group can handle a more formal and theoretical discussion than the former, and that’s really all I getting at.

                  It’s code switching, nothing more. My mistake if I was being unclear.

                  Really, I just want folks to understand that sometimes one’s presence in a particular work space can be detrimental to the work being done. It would be like attending cancer support group meetings when you aren’t even affected by cancer. If there’s an actual managerial issue then fine but this is seen by some (not just me) as creepy or disruptive behavior.

                4. Apollo Warbucks*

                  Mike the point is you want to go out of your way to make the conversation more difficult than it needs to be with the sole intention of annoying / disrupting the senior management.

                  That is an odd and very adversarial thing to do in responce to someone join the chat room.

    3. Sas*

      Dear Jane and Fergus (that are “drawing conclusions about things without having all the context of actually being on the team”), Do you have something better to do/get management training/ allow people to be just people? No? Alright.

  5. Gaia*

    #2, that is seriously gross. I hope you speak up – the company will want to know what their representative has been doing. You likely are not the only person he speaks to like this and it will cost them the best candidates.

    1. Elfie*

      I’m interested in whether this is sexual harrassment if it’s not done to you directly. My husband is hard-of-hearing, so before his company said he could email in sick, I’d have to call in sick for him. His boss at the time apparently kept all of my messages, and told the members on his team that Mr. Elfie’s wife had the sexiest voice he knew, and he’d play them my recordings. Obviously, he did this to my husband once, which is how I found out about it. Now, I knew this was creepy, and I felt really uncomfortable knowing he did this, but is this sexual harrassment if it’s done behind your back, and no-one who has my recordings played seems to be uncomfortable. Or is it just entirely creepy and inappropriate, but not actually harrassment (since I’d have never known about it if he hadn’t told my husband).

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I don’t know the technicalities of the law or if what you describe meets the legal definition of sexual harassment, but it’s gross and something I’m sure a half decent HR department would want to shut down.

      2. Harper C*

        EWWWW!!! That is very creepy. I think you should send this question to Alison for her to answer. I wish I knew what to tell you, but all I know is that it is seriously ICKY!!!

      3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Even if it’s not sexual harassment, depending on your state, your husband’s boss might be violating privacy laws by recording you without your consent. Either way, it’s super gross and you are entirely right to be upset by it. I hope “boss at the time” means that a-hole is gone and out of both your lives.

      4. Sas*

        I think that in order for it to be ” sexual harrassment” you must be employed by company, not your husband. Which is kind of the reason why Aam suggests people not calling into their spouses work for any reason really, except possibly some extenuating situations. You could personally take it up with his boss, but then you could be putting husband’s job in a difficult position. Who knows? Remember what that boss did and keep it in your mind he might be creepy, an ass/not give a f—? (Your husband’s company really should have allowed for some sort of accommodation early on. That was a little odd, ODD, also.)

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          First of all, I definitely don’t think that the risk of something like this happening is the reason that Alison advises that people’s spouses not speak with anyone else at their place of work! This is so unusual.

          Second, it’s still unwelcome commentary of a sexual nature to the employee in question, Elfie’s husband even if he is not the subject of it. For another example, if your boss constantly had porn on and was pressuring you to watch it and you were very uncomfortable with it, it’d still be not okay although you weren’t personally the subject of the sexual content. I think it’s kind of beside the point whether or not it would qualify as sexual harassment in a legal case or something so to my mind it’s not really useful to follow that line of reasoning to try to distinguish a bright line is it or isn’t it sexual harassment – it’s not like it would be an OK thing to do if we decided it didn’t “qualify” as sexual harassment.

        2. Junior Dev*

          It was absolutely sexual harassment. Maybe it’s not legally actionable, I’m not an expert, but it is definitely creepy. I’d like to hear from someone with more experience in employment law before anyone tells a poster something doesn’t count.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not sexual harassment of Elfie in the legal, workplace sense because she’s not an employee there. It could be harassment of Elfie’s husband, the employee, although it would likely take more than this to meet the legal bar (depending on the details).

            1. Junior Dev*

              Thank you for weighing in. To clarify, I meant “it’s absolutely sexual harassment” in a moral or personal sense, not legally.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Socially speaking, it’s sexual harassment, even if you don’t have a legal claim (Elfie is not an employee, thus no sexual harassment claim directly between her and husband’s employer).

          Legally speaking, it could be sexual harassment of your husband—there are very rare cases where “vicarious” sexual harassment (i.e., harassment of a close family member who may or may not be an employee negatively impacts the primary employee; in this case, your husband).

      5. Miriam*

        That is so weird and gross. The next time you call, you should call in with the most annoying, high pitched screechy voice you can muster. Think Janice from friends or Fran Drescher’s character the Nanny.

        1. Karanda Baywood*

          That would not serve any purpose. Must we all change our natural voice because someone thinks we sound “sexy”?

          Besides which, OP said her husband is now allowed to email when ill.

          1. Temperance*

            It could serve the purpose of Elfie letting the skeezer know that she’s on to him, and take a bit of her power back.

      6. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It wouldn’t be considered workplace harassment of you, Elfie, since you don’t work there but it potentially could be something that contributes to a hostile workplace/sexual harassment for your husband. This on its own likely wouldn’t meet the bar for a successful lawsuit (although I suppose it depends on the details) but it could be an element of a larger one. Regardless, your husband is on solid ground in telling him to stop and escalating it if he wants to.

      7. Gandalf the Nude*

        In the workplace sense, no you’re not being sexually harassed. But your husband might be. The boss is bringing your husband’s sex life into the workplace in a really gross way. Did your husband tell him to knock it off, by the way? Or go to HR, since telling the boss directly could be complicated by the power dynamics in play?

      8. Observer*

        No idea on the legalities. But I’d bet that if any woman sued over harassment, this would be used in evidence against the company.

        In any case, that’s UTTERLY disgusting.

        1. Elfie*

          Thanks all. The reason I asked is because ex-boss had so much going on that should have got him fired, I just wondered if this was one more reason. He was a bully (hubby collapsed at work, and Creepy Boss literally stepped over him rather than offer help – I can’t even begin to go into everything that was wrong with that bloke). Fortunately, he’s no longer with hubby’s company, but unfortunately, that’s because he’s now retired. However, since hubby’s company has an ingrained culture of bullying and discrimination, just because Creepy Boss is gone hasn’t actually made his life any easier. Hubby is sticking it out because he doesn’t want to retire either (ill health retirement, he’s only in his 40s!), but eventually he will have to quit or get pensioned off. If only Horrible Company would make some reasonable adjustments, but unfortunately you can’t reason with unreasonable people (or an unreasonable culture). But thanks for confirming that it was gross and totally inappropriate – I wasn’t sure if my discomfort was warranted or just being over-sensitive!

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ugh, I’m so sorry, Elfie. You definitely weren’t being oversensitive—ex-boss sounds like a real class act.

          2. Candi*

            You were not over sensitive.

            This is a work advice blog, so advice tends to skew work ways.

            But there are far more laws and regulations then just those for the workplace. And workplaces are generally expected to follow the laws of the places they are physically in.

            It might be worth searching around to see if there’s any state or local laws that apply to your situation. Even if there isn’t, you’ll know you looked at all your options.

  6. MommyMD*

    If you work in the medical field you are often an essential employee. If I don’t show up patients don’t get treated. Weather conditions are secondary. If lab personnel don’t show up life-saving labs don’t get run. This is the field you signed up for. Cots, clean sheets and toiletries sound good to me. I’ve worked with less.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      We actually don’t know the context of the lab from the post, though. On-site and in-house medical labs have different expectations re: hours of operation than non-emergency, standalone labs.

      1. Jeanne*

        We don’t know but labs that don’t have to stay open don’t own cots and other supplies. The room with windows is a little odd but no worse than the nights I slept in my cubicle because it was too dangerous to drive home. I think we have to assume they need staffing. Even in a hospital, they need sleeping room in a snowstorm for doctors, nurses, aides, security, lab scientists, techs for MRIs and other tests, janitors. The lab people might get the conference room.

        I don’t understand the harrassment and assault. Is this threat from coworkers or the public? If it was likely my coworkers, I would refuse to stay. If the public, blinds are good and a lock on the door. If you’ve been harrassed, please report it. If you just don’t want to stay overnight, be honest about that.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          Being aware that assault is a risk if you sleep in an unlocked room at your work doesn’t mean you’ve experienced harassment at work. It’s just realistic about the fact that most sexual assaults happen by people you know and trust.

          And I absolutely did not assume this is a lab in a hospital – there are many medical labs that are not directly attached and most certainly do not provide a 24 hour service. I find dismissive comments about “this is what you signed up for” very rude and unhelpful, even if we knew this was a lab where they signed on expecting to work hell or high water. (Which, I reiterate, we do not.)

          1. MK*

            It’s also extremely unhelpful to blindly encourage the OP to view this as a completely crazy umposition on the part of their employer. No, we don’t know if this lab is expected to stay open no matter what, but, considering that they do go to some trouble and expense, however minimal, to get everyone to come to work, it’s not an unreasonable assumption to make. And I don’t think it’s dismissive to point out that maybe that’s the nature of the work.

            Also, while it’s true that sexual assult can happen at any time and by anyone, it would be extremely adversarial to bring up the prospect, unless one can point to something that makes this a specific concern in the particular situation. After all, your coworkers are in a position to easily commit any number of crimes against you, but most employers would be aghast to hear a request os, say, “you must provide a locked space for me to keep my personal items because they might get stolen by coworkers”, if there haven’t been incidents of theft.

            1. SarahKay*

              If I were expected to leave my purse or other valuable somewhere not under my direct supervision I would absolutely expect to have a personal lockable space to store them in. Because the fact is that people to steal. If management don’t allow for that then I would consider them negligent.
              Likewise, if I’m expected to sleep somewhere with random colleagues, (thus, effectively unconscious and vulnerable) I would expect at least some privacy, and ideally a lockable door. Because the fact is that people do commit assault. Why wait until after it’s happened to some unlucky person before accepting that it’s a risk?

              1. Graciosa*

                Part of the difference in perspective may be different experiences.

                I’m currently working for a company with significant government business (some of which requires a security clearance) and all my large employers have done background checks. If the background check revealed a criminal history that posed additional risk to people or property, that person wouldn’t be hired. Access to our facility requires a badge, and we have security people on site 24/7 literally every day of the year.

                Obviously, this doesn’t protect me from a first-time criminal – or even an experienced one who has never been caught – but I have never had a problem leaving my purse on my desk in the office nor known anyone who has.

                Likewise, my Red Cross experience doesn’t lead me to think demanding a private space with a lockable door is a minimum requirement in an emergency (although I don’t agree that the OP here should be expected to come to work in hazardous conditions). Generally cots are lined up in large, empty rooms (school gymnasiums, for example) and shelter leaders have people designated to stay awake at night to monitor. I was very interested to read the comments about sleep rooms in a hospital – they sound much more appropriate for situations where staying overnight is a more routine part of the job.

                Again, just different experiences leading to a different perspective.

                1. Bolir*

                  Background checks do nothing to protect you from sexual assault as the vast majority of people who commit them are never even arrested, much less convicted.

                  If you think there is little to no chance of an assault occurring in this kind of environment, then I think you’re being naïve. As someone who’s worked in the legal end of this, I can tell you there is absolutely a snowballs chance in hell that I’d ever advise any of my clients to use this kind of set up because the risk of sexual assault is absolutely foreseeable.

                  You need locked rooms with actual privacy. Even monitors are probably not good enough, because what if the monitor is either careless or someone who commits an assault.

                  This is way out of the bounds of reasonable. Having people stay overnight in a job in which the lab must be kept running is not. It’s the way in which they’re doing it.

                  They need a policy where essential people stay at the hotel unless they can’t even cross the street. Then they need to have either individual locked rooms or locked rooms for people can voluntarily sleep in small groups.

                  We’ve done a very poor job of educating our culture on how sexual assault happens and what the risk is. In reality, a woman in this situation has a very high risk of being assaulted compared to walking home drunk at night. This is actually how most rapes and assaults occur: The victim is a vulnerable position (e.g. asleep) in an environment where they feel safe. Predator comes in and attacks.

                  There’s no way I would ever go to sleep in this kind of situation.

                2. Graciosa*

                  I think that your experience may lead you to overestimate the probability of an attack happening because you deal with it – repeatedly – when it does. I understand why you would have that perspective, but I don’t think mine is unreasonable (although I admit that as an attorney, I kind of got a kick out of the accusation of naivete – it doesn’t happen much in my profession).

                  Again, different experiences lead to different perspectives.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I agree with Bolir—from a legal perspective, I would not recommend an employer set folks up without the ability to have locked doors and other privacy protections.

                  It’s definitely worth running a risk assessment and planning around worst-case scenarios; it’s more important to prevent a problem than to wait until something terrible happens to fix it (and from a legal and insurance perspective, it’s better to prevent/avoid something than to wait for it to happen).

              2. MK*

                Usually, though, you would not be expected to leave your possessions unsupervised, but neither would a demand for locked space be accommodated. In my workplace there is no locked space available for people in my level; you can either leave your belongings or carry them around with you, but a demand for locked space would come off very oddly, considering that most people leave their bags unsupervised and there has never been an incident of theft.

                In the same vein, if you have a workplace with sexism issues, you have something concrete to push back on the arrangement the OP describes. But if it’s a cordial and professional atmosphere, bringing up possible assault is going to come off oddly.

            2. Kate*

              Um, It’s standard practice in every single office I’ve worked in to provide a locking desk drawer at minimum so that employees have a safe secure place to leave valuables when in meetings. Most people don’t bother with locking their drawer, but if there was a rash of office thefts then I’d expect everyone would be locating the keys asap and keeping a better eye out. None of the offices I’ve worked at have had incidence of theft, and good employers want to keep it that way and remove temptation.

            3. Observer*

              Actually, most employers would NOT be “aghast” to hear a request for lockable space for valuables before actual thefts have happened. At least, not reasonable ones! Putting your head in the sand is not exactly a good way to run a business. And while I wonder how high the real risk of assault is, the chance of workplace theft when there are a lot of people and unsecured valuables is very, very high.

            4. Abc*

              Actually, I work in a “stand-alone” medical lab (reference lab) and we typically do require round the clock coverage. My lab is fairly decent about letting people who live further away stay home on snowy days. When the weather is bad, we usually get fewer specimens. I have certainly heard of technicians sleeping at labs before though I’ve never had to do it myself.

              Please understand that our field is very demanding and has a horrible work-life balance. It sucks but OP’s employer is not exceptionally weird on this issue

          2. Artemesia*

            My BIL owns a path lab and they turn around tests in 24 hours or less; people’s lives often hang on this. They would not be able to function if lots of employees didn’t show up (although much of this is automated, there are phases that require human expertise. Many of the people whose tests are being run are in kidney failure or in other dire situations. Just because a lab is not physically located in a hospital doesn’t mean that the work is not time sensitive.

          3. Ovidte*

            This time of the sleeping situation is exactly where predators are likely to strike.

            I’ve known plenty of rape victims. None of them were attacked by strangers on the street. Those that were not date raped were assaulted in situations very similar to this one. That is, a lot of adults around so the people thought they were safe, but once everyone went to sleep, they were not. Sexual assault at adult parties where people sleep over, conventions, and in work environments that require people to sleep on site are rife w assault.

            And you never really know who’s a rapist until they’ve actually done it. It’s not as if they run around making it obvious to the whole world. If they did, there wouldn’t be a rape problem.

            I really don’t understand people who are trying to minimize the risk here. I can only assume they have not read a great deal about rape or they’ve been fortunate enough to have no direct experience with it and are basing their opinions on what they think rather than what they know.

            1. Jeanne*

              Of course anyone can be attacked anywhere. That does not mean this sleeping situation is unreasonable. It is completely impossible to live in a bubble of safety. If this specific employee has been raped and has issues with the arrangements, that needs to be addressed separately.

        2. BananaPants*

          I don’t get the concern over harassment and assault, either. What kind of place are people working where they worry about coworkers assaulting them while they sleep?! If that’s a legitimate concern then putting blinds on the windows would actually be less-safe.

          This kind of thing is VERY common in the medical field. The fact that they have cots and toiletry kits readily available indicates that this is expected of at least some employees. My mother works for a hospital where they set up cots in the outpatient clinic before snowstorms and hurricanes. Docs, nurses, and clinical staff who might have trouble making it in for their shifts during the storm are allowed to come before the storm and stay overnight if necessary. It’s not much fun, but it’s part of the job. It’s like my neighbor who’s full time National Guard; when we have a storm he knows he’ll be sleeping on a cot at the armory for the duration because it’s his job.

          My husband works in a central pharmacy that’s open round the clock 365 days a year. They don’t offer cots, but employees are expected to still go to work in storms; patients need their meds regardless of the weather. Their general rule is that once you can safely travel, you need to get to work if you’re scheduled to work, even if it’s just a partial shift.

          1. Temperance*

            Gently pushing back a bit here – people who have been assaulted and harassed can be concerned about circumstances which could lead to assault. It has nothing to do with the actual quality of coworkers or the place, but the fact that sleeping outside of one’s home/circumstances under one’s control can make you feel vulnerable.

            1. Jules the First*

              Yes, it’s true that unfamiliar sleeping arrangements can be anything from uncomfortable to intolerable for assault survivors, but (as a survivor) I think that these are things you take up with your therapist first, and then possibly with your manager if there are modifications which would help you be more comfortable. Would I be comfortable with the arrangements described? Maybe, if cots were sufficiently far apart, or if rooms were single-gender, or if there was a private space I could retreat to occasionally. But if that weren’t the case, then I’d be speaking to my therapist about coping strategies and my manager about making alternative arrangements.

            2. Jeanne*

              But that is a reason to work with that one employee not to change the regular arrangement. Maybe that employee can stay home.

    2. Lily*

      This – my husband is a nurse at a hospital and he and all connected personnel (including off-site lab) are essential personnel. There are important labs that cannot be run at the hospital and need to be rushed to the off-site lab. Some of these tests are 24-48 hour turnaround. For someone in the ICU delaying that to 72 hours can be deadly. I also agree with it being unhelpful to the OP to position this as highly unusual or wrong. The medical profession operates very differently from the private sector.

      1. Kj*

        Yes, this. If this is a lab that does tests for medical stuff, it likely needs to be open no matter what. When I worked a residential treatment facility, we had to be staffed 24/7. If there was a snowstorm, staff would sleep in a wing that wasn’t in current use. You wend home if you had to and could be safe BUT if no one was getting in, you stayed so the residents had care. It sucked, but it was needed. You got paid for it, they fed us and overall, it wasn’t the worst way to spend a couple days. If the concern is the rooms with the windows, hanging paper or sheets would solve that pretty quickly. I don’t think the employer is liable if an employee is inappropriate or, god forbid, a rapist. Glass windows do not cause people to behave badly.

          1. BananaPants*

            OP’s not working while they’re sleeping, and I would not expect them to be paid for time not working. The cots and toiletry kits are being provided as a convenience for employees who would prefer to stay over rather than having to try to travel during or immediately after a bad storm.

          2. Kj*

            You weren’t paid when you were sleeping or on a rest break, but you generally went into overtime, as the next shift couldn’t get in. Pay-wise it was usually worth it, as you picked up a bunch of hours and just would have been stranded at home otherwise(everything else in the city shut down- I was a student at the time and was happy because I could work and earn money while getting a few days off from school).

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It depends on the state and OP’s profession. For example, specialists will often be paid if they’re on call (and on-site) but sleeping, and in some states, this extends to nurses and residents. But it’s not always the case, so worth checking your state laws.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I would think the glass windows reduce the risk of assault. The assaulter would run the risk of being seen assaulting. I worked in corrections and we also had required staffing no matter the conditions. We had an unused wing available to us but most of us bunked up with other staff that lived local. I couch surfed in snow storms. I agree with others that you need to know more about the job requirements to say if this is a reasonable expectation but I wouldn’t advise complaining about it if it is really a must be staffed thing. Also, you are not required to actually stay there you are just required to get to work. You get to choose if you stay for free on a cot, bunk up with a nearby coworker, rent a hotel at your own expense or brave the commute. That’s industry standard for essential jobs. Sometimes the local hotel will charge a discounted rate for essential employees but I have never seen an employer pay for those hotels in public service at least.

      2. Doe-eyed*

        I’d go furthermore to say that even in our connected research facilities people frequently sleep in the labs if bad weather is coming to care for the animals and to babysit important projects. This is a professional norm for this industry.

      1. Mike C.*

        And to clarify, this isn’t a personal attack, it’s a line of thinking that leads to no improvement in the workplace ever being justified because “you’re worked for less”.

      2. Junior Dev*

        Yes, this. I wrote about being accused of being “entitled” for wanting to know what my job duties entailed in an earlier comment thread. Literally any bad job experience you can imagine, someone could chime in with something potentially worse. It’s unhelpful because people are generally not saying “I have the world’s worst job,” they are saying “this is bothering me, is there anything I can do about it?”

        Now, pointing out that someone’s expectations are or aren’t realistic can be helpful, but I don’t think it’s at all clear that OP’s expectations are unrealistic.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        She said she’s worked with less, not for less, and her point was that in emergency situations sometimes you make do with what you have because it’s an emergency.

        If you want to present a case for looking at that differently, feel free, but just dropping in “that’s a terrible attitude” makes the temperature here more heated overall, and I want to lower it, not raise it.

  7. Audiophile*

    #1 I worked for a financial company through a security staffing firm, and when it snowed we were pressured to come into work. There were several employees that worked directly for the financial company in their security department who were expected to stay as well, because even if the building was closed it was technically open as employees were allowed 24/7 access. I stayed a few times, we were free to sleep in meeting rooms, conference rooms, lounges, it wasn’t the best but it certainly could have been worse, I discovered that when I got transferred to a different client that had a roach problem. I knew what I was signing up for, so I dealt with it until I was able to make a career change.

    #2 Definitely report it, that’s not even remotely ok. I’m sure the client he’s representing would want to be alerted to what he’s doing.

    #5 With the way LinkedIn works, depending on if your profile is public or private, they may get a message that people are looking at their profile. I’m not sure exactly how LinkedIn calculates it, but it seems to be based on a 7 day time frame. Like Alison said, if, after meeting them, you feel a rapport request to connect with them. I’ve done this after interviews and interviewers request to connect with me.

  8. Jamie*

    Regarding upper management babysitting chat, OP, could the banter be an issue?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of banter personally and it can be a sign of a great team. But I’ve also seen some employees, the less “banterish” if you will, have issues with it. Annoyance, feeling left out, offended by some jokes, etc. If one of the team members were uncomfortable with something it could be a response by management to see for themselves.

    Tbh I’m not sure why it would be stifling or invasive. It’s a company chat room to which many people have access. To find it invasive for people who have a legitimate business interest in the project to read the chat is strange to me. Maybe I’m missing something.

    And it would be a lot harder to take something out of context in a chat where they can scroll up as opposed to in the office where they may overhear only parts of a conversation.

    1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

      “Banter” can also end up creating a distinctly… male culture. (Ask me how I know.)

      1. Elizabeth*

        This. The second “banter” was used in this letter, everything slid into focus based on every experience I’ve ever had that involves the word “banter”. That’s not to say OP’s usage here is the same — could very well be coincidental! — but “banter” is often code for at best “goofing off” and at worst some really awful harassment disguised as jokes.

        1. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

          I started thinking about cheeky banter at Nando’s and someone’s mate Dave being an absolute ledge.

          Note to self: less memes.

        2. Junior Dev*

          Ugh yes. My current job is better in this regard but I’ve worked at a place where the office Slack channel was often flooded with offensive jokes, and the culture of the place was such that you couldn’t say anything without being labeled a wet blanket.

          I can also see not wanting to feel monitored though. Today I had a co-worker leave critical comments on some code I hadn’t yet submitted for review and I felt a little irritated that he was basically judging incomplete work. I imagine it’s a similar dynamic if people get criticized for informal conversations, or ones where they are just throwing ideas around without expecting them to be polished or even to work.

          But I would urge OP to make sure they don’t have a style of banter that is alienating or offending some people in the chat.

    2. Laika*

      I had the same thoughts as you! I also wonder about the possibility that the VPs are passively logged on but not actively lurking or reading in real time – as in, they open a browser tab (or whatever) and leave the chat running in the background so if for some reason they need to pop in or scroll back to see what was said, they can.

    3. Mike C.*

      The reason I would find it baffling or invasive because in my line of work, we’re making important decisions on how to measure and analyze how we’re performing in our business functions. If you start getting upper management involved right away, it’s really easy for someone to start putting their thumb on the scale to make themselves look good or for multiple managers to start fighting over results and it becomes a huge mess.

      By having that space where only relevant parties are involved (and sometimes yes management can be relevant here!) you can have the people with the technical knowledge discuss the merits of a particular analysis based on the technical/practical issues without having to deal with bad, outside influences.

      Look, if we’re talking about situations where relevant coworkers are being excluded or worse activity is going on then yes, nip that crap in the bud. But at the same time, sometimes you need to be able to work with the people in your own area without being watched. They’re adults, treat them as such.

    4. Rat in the Sugar*

      I think it feel stifling because it’s a constant but silent presence of management. Honestly they’re probably just not logging out and not actually reading it constantly, but it still creates that sense of presence.

      Imagine if you were working in your office and a couple of VP’s just stood in the doorway and watched you work, silently. No criticism or questions, not commenting, just silently watching you for hours as you work. Wouldn’t that feel kind of weird?

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yep, that’s what I’m thinking. You don’t have to be doing anything wrong to not want constant supervision.

      2. Artemesia*

        Decades ago I worked as a high school teacher and once attended a board meeting where some of my students were speaking about a project that was controversial that they were involved in; one of the board members stood up and said ‘I understand that these students were assigned by their teacher to come speak here’ which was not true. So I spoke indicating that they were involved in the project under discussion and it was not a class assignment, but that all students (160 or so) in my government classes WERE required to attend two public meetings — city council, night court, school board, etc etc per semester. The next day I had the superintendent of schools and a board member standing in the back of my classroom.

        Yeah being observed by higher management without the purpose being clear or expected feels very much like intimidation. In my case, the moment they walked in, I dropped my plans for that day which were largely discussion of reading and lecture and pivoted to the plans I had made for the next day which involved a simulation using small groups; luckily I had the materials prepared and ready to go. Their being there changed what happened in the classroom that day; the management hanging in the chat room would of course change the nature of the chat.

        1. Mike C.*

          Ugh, that’s just gross. Good for you for getting your students to attend meetings though, that’s a rather important life lesson!

  9. Drago cucina*

    #1– While I wouldn’t want to sleep in an office with glass walls I think this would prevent assault rather than encourage it. Visibility often prevents crime. Is it an environment where harassment already occurs?

    #2–Please contact HR at the company the recruiter is working for and recruiting for. Ick is too soft for this type of behavior.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree about the glass walls. I could never sleep on a cot amongst coworkers, but the literal transparency seems like it would be the safer option.

      Not sure how many employees per room but it would be weird to go to sleep with multiple people and wake up and maybe it’s just you and one other person with whom you may not be comfortable …blinds giving a degree of privacy would make me more uneasy.

      But as I don’t even like sharing bathrooms, this one is so far outside my comfort zone I could be way off base.

    2. blackcat*

      “Visibility often prevents crime.”

      Yes, and this is why, the couple of times I have spent the night in an airport, I have found clusters of people to sleep near, and done so out in the open. It’s super weird to sleep out in the open around strangers, but it’s safer to do that, particularly if you are in view of security cameras.

      1. Tatertot*

        This is what I tell people when they seem astonished that I have slept in dorm-room hostels in Europe as a solo female traveler! I feel way safer sleeping in a 10-bed dorm than alone in the types of hotels that are in my budget…

      2. Koko*

        When I was younger I traveled extensively around the US on a shoestring budget. One of the ways I saved money was only getting a hotel room once or twice a week and sleeping in my car the rest of the time.

        I quickly developed a habit of parking my car directly under a street lamp in a hotel parking lot within sight of the entrance. Hotel parking lots are always full of cars overnight, so I wasn’t likely to be noticed and asked to move along, and with the lamp directly overhead my car’s roof blocked all the direct glare and made it a little bit darker. And on the off-chance anyone did notice me there and try to mess with me, I knew that there were front desk staff awake all night who would notice if anything started to go down in the parking lot right outside the front entrance in the brightest-lit part of the area.

    3. Koko*

      Another thing about #1 and the blinds is that if the office is a LEED-certified building, putting up blinds would likely cause them to lose their certification. We have glass walls on our offices here and we’re not permitted to hang anything that blocks them specifically because our LEED rating is in part calculated from the fact that glass walls let light through and reduce the need for lamps and overhead lights. We can get away with temporarily covering a glass wall for a limited amount of time, but installing a permanent fixture like blinds wouldn’t fly.

    4. Lato*

      That works well unless you have a medical condition or want privacy for another reason. What if you have a devout Muslim working in the lab

      1. drago cucina*

        “Privacy for another reason” should be addressed ahead of time. Changing clothes, taking an injection, etc., could be arranged ahead of time. We have a large denomination in our area that doesn’t believe in “mixed bathing”. That means no swimming in a mixed gender pool, the ocean, etc. If we were this lab and had showers we would have to make sure that, even though they each had a locking door, women and men showered at different times. A pain yes, but something that we would expect to be told about as soon as possible.

        We don’t have a “must be here” work environment. We do have lots of tornadoes and periodic ice storms. So we have emergency supplies in case our staff have no power and water and need to camp here. It will be in the large community room. No privacy and basic food bars, but sometimes work places do the best they can with what they have.

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I suppose the lab isn’t availing itself of the hotel across the road’s services since it is cheaper to accommodate people in the building, and they already have camp beds (But no blankets or pillows? Or are you each supposed to keep a sleeping bag in your desk drawer?)

  11. LadyCop*

    #1. Im confused how this situation increases any likelihood of assault or harassment.

    Also, i used to work at a hotel that would provide rooms for 2nd shift people when the littlest of snow was threatened (I live in a snow tundra state so this was mind boggling.) Meanwhole, I had to drag myself in on time for 3rd shift. Uhhh… if it’s safe enough for me to come in, it’s safe enough for them you leave. No one ever offered me a room…even when I had 8 hour turnarounds.

    1. Oh no, not again*

      Everyone has different comfort levels. I trust the LW has good reasons to be concerned. I would not feel comfortable at all sleeping in the same room as co-workers for numerous reasons.

    2. Lato*

      Anytime you have a group of women sleeping in an area that is neither private nor secure, there is a risk of sexual assault. If you don’t understand that, then I suggest you go do some reading on when and how sexual assaults occur. This is precisely the type of situation in which a rapist would see anopportunity and act.

      The situation you describe seems to involve private or semi private rooms with locks. That’s a totally different situation.

  12. Jamie*

    I’m now fascinated by the sleeping in the lab thing. Is the expectation that you sleep there that night and wake up and work the day as normal? Toiletry kits are fine (depending), but they aren’t showers. Are they feeding you? Is there any kind of comp time worked out? If you have small kids and can’t get home that could cause a spouse to need to juggle their work schedule, or pet care, or whatever…could definitely cost money and cause inconvenience at home.

    If they are essential personnel who need to be there that should be part of the understanding. If not…requiring weather related slumber parties from hell is not reasonable.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      I mean, it’s offered not mandatory. They could try to brave the storm, get themselves a hotel room, etc. I’d probably have an overnight bag with extra food and things to do in quiet time and keep a little fan and blankets in my cube or locker or whatever space there is for coats. Usually now predictions at least give you a measure if a storm of that size is coming.

    2. Mookie*

      I mean, I’ve definitely heard of processing labs and essential personnel working in some specialized clinics braving freak storms and other weather events and unexpected natural disasters for extended periods of time before being relieved by replacement staff, either because these labs are otherwise obliged to operate (and/or accept patients) or because commuter services are unavailable making evacuation untenable and full closure not an option. Usually this involves truly converting office space, lounges, and conference rooms into dedicated, semi-private sleeping areas — some labs and storerooms are clearly unsafe to shelter in, depending on the emergency — and supplementing and expanding emergency provisions, with alternative temporary shelter provided privately by staff members who live locally and can accommodate and transport guests, et al. Depending on the location, these extreme situations are generally rare enough to make the news and are characterized as mildly heroic for all the inconvenience and possible risks involved. But if this is standard policy, something that happens every winter, you’d think it’d be a little less slapdash. Also, depending on the kind of storm, wall-to-wall glass could be hazardous, I suppose.

      1. Kj*

        It isn’t that weird- think of all the places that require 24/7 coverage or people die. Hospitals, treatment centers, dialysis centers, some labs, police, fire, EMT. Now, if you get into one of these fields, you should expect this and plan ahead. And most places with this kind of expectation are set up for it- they generally have food on-site, some level of cot/sleeping space. Most folks working in these places have training in emergency procedures as well and know there is a risk they will stay overnight. I think what is weird to me is that I am used to thinking about this for hospitals and medical facilities that expect patients will sleep there. A lab not attached to the hospital means no cafeteria or extra rooms. That is what is strange about this.

    3. Doe-eyed*

      For us it depends on which lab and what your role is.

      For the research labs, they’re generally on a very laid back schedule and the main thing is just to keep all experiments running and monitor animals. For our hospital lab personnel, you’re expected to work a full shift. But they do have showers on site, they’ll give you fresh scrubs, and people have overnight bags in their cars usually since our area is very reactive to cold weather events. We have a fair amount of people that also live close to the facility and they’ll let people stay there overnight as well if staying at the hospital gets to be too weird. Our staff is freaking awesome and I’m constantly impressed by all of the medical folks we deal with.

  13. Djuna*

    #3 I’m curious about whether it’s a chatroom that requires a daily sign-in, or it it’s something more like Slack or HipChat where you get auto-signed in to every room you’ve ever joined? Could be that they were added to all rooms by an admin and aren’t actively monitoring them but are staying in them in case they do need to ask a question/get clarification on something at some stage. Likelihood is they’re not reading every word, and possibly just have the room muted in their sidebar except for @ notifications.

    My team has a private channel for the non-work banter, but here’s an expectation that if we’re posting in public channels we talk as though everyone is listening. It doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of banter with other teams, that’s all part and parcel of collaboration, but the ratio of banter to work stuff is different. If you’re really concerned about it you could request a private channel for your team so that you can keep the existing one as a strictly work-stuff-only room and keep your banter away from VP eyes.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      This is what I wonder. We use Slack at work and if it’s a public room, it’s generally understood that anyone can join it, and anyone _might_ join it. If you don’t want people to join, make it private. But in Slack, it’s super easy to be part of rooms that you don’t regularly read or keep up on (our CEO is in several channels that I’ve never heard him speak up on, and I certainly don’t assume he’s reading every message, though he could be.

      OP seems to think this behavior from higher-ups is out of the ordinary for their company, so it could be that they’re trying to establish new norms by having more people in more rooms for the sake of better communication/collaboration. This allows higher-ups to see how things are going/what’s happening without needing to hassle anyone for a status report. Maybe they’re just trying to make communication more asynchronous (which can be a tricky balance with Slack)?

  14. Former Invoice Girl*

    #2 – I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said yet, but that guy was inappropriate as hell.

    1. INFJ*

      Yes! There are so many layers of gross in his behavior: Taking advantage of a captive audience (OP interested in finding out about a job) to make inappropriate, sexual comments AND insinuating that good looks will get her the job (!!!)

  15. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    #5 I would think it’s for background, not to connect. I always routinely look up interviewers – if I have their names – to learn a bit about them.

  16. Susan*

    #1 – I’m in one of those mandatory 24/7 coverage jobs, and my company makes people stay overnight if there’s a snowstorm, although I live in a place that rarely gets snow so the first snowflake that falls from the sky evokes a huge panic. We’ve had to stay overnight (or all day if we’re working night shift) because of a mere dusting of snow that wasn’t even sticking on the roads.

    I’m not sure how the law works on this, but our collective bargaining agreement says that if the company makes us stay on site overnight, they have to pay us overtime for every hour we are there. The company eventually realized it was cheaper to pay for someone to stay in a hotel room (since they don’t have to pay overtime for that) than to pay overtime for the whole night, even though the nearest hotel is more than 5 miles away and kind of defeats the purpose of having people stay so they don’t have to drive in the snow. If your employer is paying overtime to people staying overnight, it might help to point out that they could save money by putting you in a hotel instead.

  17. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – Yeah, I definitely understand why you’re uncomfortable, OP. Even if ‘will have to stay at work during serious weather’ was disclosed up front, that doesn’t necessarily disclose that your accommodations would be so scanty. It seems like blinds, or a curtain, or something shouldn’t be too much to ask under that situation.

    Also — do you get any notice when you’re going to be expected to stay over? At OldJob, I volunteered for ‘essential personnel’ status, and we generally got a notice the day before it was considered likely that we would be staying the night, so we could come into work the next day with a bag packed and arrangements made. That seems a lot more sensible than ‘you can pick up a toiletry kit at security.’

    #2 – Ugh. Ugh. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. FWIW, reporting the recruiter to everyone who could possibly have an interest seems like a good idea, but that doesn’t make it less awful to have that experience in the first place.

    1. BananaPants*

      It’s likely not a matter of requiring employees to stay over, but rather expecting employees to report on time for their scheduled shifts despite a major weather event. The employer offers the option of staying over with cots and toiletry kits for their employees as a convenience, but if an employee lives within walking distance, has a truck with AWD and a plow, or is otherwise confident they can make it to work on time, no one’s making them have an office slumber party.

  18. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Great timing on the first question. We just had a major snow storm and I came to work early because of the conditions deteriorating through the day. I was told that staff could use empty rooms if we got stranded overnight. Luckily, I was able to make it home later that night but a safe place to sleep was a good option. It’s a long term care home so staff are essential no matter the weather, I think that factors into overnight accommodations.

  19. JB*

    Read through them and come up with some detailed questions to ask the interviewers about their career paths. Not a stalkery “Hey, I see you went to the same college as my brother’s girlfriend’s cousin” thing, more like “How did you make the transition from Teapot Building to Spout Design? What was the process like as an internal hire? I too am interested in pursuing a specialty and growing within the company, what could I do to further that?”

  20. RVA Cat*

    #1 – Wouldn’t blinds, or maybe frosting the glass up to say 4′, also help with privacy when they’re being used as regular offices and conference rooms? Because I can see so many everyday reasons why this fishbowl setup is bad. How is a manager supposed to have a tough conversation with someone if their co-workers are watching?

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      In our office, a small number of offices/conference rooms are private, but most are floor-to-ceiling glass. I actually vastly prefer the glass to having all-private rooms, generally. There’s plenty of more private space to have those convos.

  21. Jessesgirl72*

    #1: Labs work doesn’t pause because of snow. If you’re running tests that have to be checked at intervals, they have to be checked at intervals! Instead of providing cots and hygiene kits, the lab could require that all employees live within an X mile radius (not uncommon for doctors who have to be on call, or other professions like airline pilots). It’s not the company’s fault that people choose long commutes, and people would really complain if they had to limit their housing choices by that much. If you don’t want to use the provided sleep cots, get your own room across the street.

    1. Bolir*

      Expecting them to stay overnight and work and expecting them to sleep in this kind of unsafe environment are two different things.

      Yes, and employer can require you to be on call or on site. But they shouldn’t require everyone to be there 24/7/365. They are employees not indentured servants.

      Also, under no circumstances is it acceptable to the fire employees to sleep in non-private, non-secure environments.

      In addition to the risk of sexual assault, which is much higher than people here seem to be recognizing, this position assumes that there are no religious or other deeply held beliefs that would prevent someone from sleeping on a cot in a publicly accessible space. What if you have an employee with a medical issue? What if you have someone who can’t sleep in this kind of environment because it said medical issue that otherwise does not impact her employment? What if people have PTSD and night terrors? I have a friend who’s a world renowned scientist who has horrible night terrors from childhood trauma. This is something he would rather keep to himself. I guess in this kind of environment he wouldn’t have that right.

      From a lawyer’s perspective, I see this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Even without a lawsuit, it’s still an absolutely crummy way to treat employees

      People have a right to insist on privacy and to not have to be required to work like a serf. Part of the problem with the United States right now is this assumption that people should work all the time and be grateful for it. If that’s what you believe, I don’t think there’s any point of discussing this further. However, I think very few people actually believe that.

      1. Jules the First*

        Reading the original post again, the LW makes fairly clear that this is provided as an option and is not required. While the glass windows aren’t ideal, no one is being forced to take up this option (and, for the record, our glass conference rooms all lock). I think it’s a reasonable compromise between the employer wanting staff to be safe and not being in a position to spring for a large number of (peak need) last minute hotel rooms. While there are liability issues, I suppose, they really aren’t any different from the employer’s liability issues regarding staff who are assaulted in hotels or on planes on business trips.

        And to say that this is an unsafe environment is, I think, unduly alarmist. People sleep in dark rooms full of strangers in hostels, airplanes, trains, airports, ferries, busses, and shelters around the world every night and the number of assaults in these circumstances is not dramatically different from the number assaulted in one-on-one situations. Call it anecdata if you like, but in the last fifteen years, I’ve spent upwards of 300 nights asleep in public places which were, if anything, less safe than what has been described here, and I’ve been assaulted exactly once. Which, incidentally, is precisely the same number of times I’ve been assaulted in my own home.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          This thinking that “oh, I can’t be in a room with this coworker AT NIGHT because s/he might be a sexual predator” is also so silly and dangerous thinking. Rapists don’t need nightfall to rape. In most buildings, all a would-be rapist would need to do is wait around in the stairwells for the females who take the stairs to burn off a few calories- there always ARE some, but not a lot of them, and the stairwell is a lot more secluded than a glass walled conference room!

      2. LCL*

        I agree with you about the expectations of working all the time. I don’t think that was the OPs circumstance though. The employees aren’t expected to stay over. They are expected to come in to work-when public safety agencies say all but nonessential people stay home, they are essential and are expected to be there for their scheduled shift. Management lets them sleep over because that is safer for the employees. We are in the same position; during bad storms we have people sleeping in the locker rooms and conference rooms, so they can get some rest in between shifts without having to drive home. Employees aren’t required to stay over.

      3. BananaPants*

        They’re not expected to or being made to stay overnight, they’re expected to show up on time for a scheduled shift during a weather event where travel may become difficult or impossible. The employer is offering employees the option of sleeping over if they think they won’t be able to make it in or if the weather is too bad to leave immediately after their shift.

        There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that the lab is a space accessible by the public – I’d be shocked if it was. It strikes me as a little over-zealous to claim that a group of presumably-known colleagues sleeping fully clothed on cots in a conference room in a relatively secure building is somehow any more dangerous than sleeping in a hostel while traveling or in an airport waiting area due to a missed flight. Of course an assault can happen anywhere, but this scenario doesn’t strike me as being particularly high-risk.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t think the OP is actually saying the things you’ve gleaned (that people have to be on site 24/7, that they’re working as virtual serfs).

        I mentioned this upthread, but it all depends on what kind of medical lab this is. There are certain labs that are expected to remain open 24/7, and others that are not. And here, it sounds like OP’s employer provides its employees the option of sleeping over so that they don’t miss their shifts, but it’s not mandatory (in fact, the hotel across the street indicates that OP could pay for a room if s/he needed). I’m also sure there are ways to work around accommodation, if needed. But if this were a 24/7 medical lab, then I think what the company has provided is extremely reasonable—there are many “first-responder” style professions (hospitals, fire houses, etc.) where a person is expected to be on call during weird shifts and is allowed to sleep on shift when they’re not needed.

  22. Jessesgirl72*

    #3 Your chats are being logged anyway, for legal reasons, whether or not a senior manager is logged in. If your “banter” (and I too have noticed that a lot of times, banter is code for stuff that makes HR departments nervous!) isn’t appropriate in front of them, then it’s not appropriate in the workplace. Unless you have solid work things they are inhibiting (like brainstorming) then I would really give the side eye to anyone who complained to me about this- because it sounds like your major objection is that they are ruining your fun. So be careful in how you approach your manager, if you do so.

    1. Alton*

      I agree that it’s best to be professional and cautious, but to be fair to the OP, I can definitely see why an acceptable level of friendliness between colleagues might become awkward if a higher-up is present. People behave differently when the big boss is around. That doesn’t always mean that the way they were behaving around peers was inappropriate.

      But I agree that it’s hard to complain about the managers’ presence when the chatroom is a work tool.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        And you can’t have them in front of the boss because? Because you assume he’s an idiot and won’t understand? Or won’t understand brainstorming?

      2. Jamie*

        Management is neither stopping those discussions nor trying to insert themselves in matters where they don’t have expertise. They would be legitimate issues if either were happening but this is a matter of them being logged in and can see chat if they wish. Different issue.

    2. Uzumaki Naruto*

      Chat doesn’t really have to be logged for legal reasons (unless there’s litigation). They definitely could be logged for business reasons, though!

  23. rubyrose*

    #2 – yes, call the company he is recruiting for and his company.

    A number of years ago I would walk my dog every morning. One morning I was approached by a man in a company van (logo and phone on the side) looking to score and thought I was there for that. Told him in no uncertain terms no and proceeded to go home. He kept following me, yelling at me until I lost him by darting into alleys. This was before cell phones, otherwise I would have been calling the police.

    I memorized the name of the company and the tag number. Gave them a call and asked for HR. Yes, she was very interested in my store. I never saw that van again.

    1. Allison*

      A few years ago I was out shoveling my car and a van full of guys drove by, and a bunch of guys in the van wolf whistle’d me. I was shoveling in an old ski jacket, not really a sexy outfit. The van belonged to a roofing company and the guys were in the neighborhood to clear snow from a nearby building, so I eventually crept over to the building’s parking lot to confirm the name of the company, but I was too scared to call and say anything. It was a small company, likely a family business, I was afraid whoever answered the phone would defend the guys and get angry with me for complaining,

      1. rubyrose*

        I can understand that (being afraid). I mean, they knew where you lived.

        Mine also was a small business. When I placed my call I made sure to tell the HR person that if that ever happened to me again I would be consulting a lawyer to sue the company for sexual harassment. She was already interested, but I think that final addition put the icing on the cake.

  24. The Bimmer Guy*

    #2: Gross. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. Yeah, report it to their HR company, and if he’s embarrassed, too bad. He stared the situation and made things uncomfortable; you, OTOH, did nothing to put a toe out of line.

  25. A.Nonymou.S.*

    OP#2, I have been at a company where sexual harassment was covered up and/or dismissed.

    I would recommend first making this thing as public as you feel comfortable doing (preferably through anonymous channels, since we all know what sorts of living-under-a-bridge creatures inhabit the internet.)

    In my experience, HR at this company will do everything they can to cover this up. One of HR’s main functions is to protect the company from lawsuits. I believe that public shaming can be a powerful tool, and I encourage you to consider it.

    You can and probably should involve this company’s HR, but only after you make sure they feel one giant g*ddamn sting from a public rebuke.

    That’s the only way this f*cker will get fired. TRUST ME.

    To AAM: I wrote you about this once. I know there are many reasons you don’t publish letters, but this was about a toxic job that was primarily toxic because I knew about a harassment cover-up, I spoke to HR many times about it to no avail, and it ate away at me, until I felt I was backed into a corner and quit the job without notice. I know it will be a detriment to my career when one day I start looking again (I’m at a great place I love now), and I’d appreciate any advice you could lend, private or otherwise.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m sorry you had the experience you did. It’s actually not the norm for HR to do everything they can to cover up a situation like this. Most companies, upon hearing what happened to the OP, would take it very seriously because it’s a liability for them in a number of ways. Most companies do not want their recruiters sexually harassing people on phone interviews. Plus, the OP has little to nothing to lose here, since she doesn’t work for them.

      (I don’t know which letter was yours but my backlog means that I can only answer a fraction of what I receive, unfortunately.)

    2. Observer*

      While it’s true that one of HR’s functions is to lower the risk of law suits, smart HR people know that covering up harassment is not the way to do that. And, in fact, doing that creates an even greater risk for the company.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “One of HR’s main functions is to protect the company from lawsuits.”

      A good HR department accomplishes that by making sure it is responsive to problems, and is firm about putting a stop to harassment. I’m sorry your experience was with an HR department that misunderstood its role (and not to mention, an HR dept that drastically misunderstood what makes a company legally liable for the bad behavior of some employees, no less).

  26. AKJ*

    #1 – I was a customer service agent for an airline at two different airports, both in snowy areas. We were expected to be there no matter what. The planes may not fly, the airport might shut down, but the passengers still need help. I can remember only once (during a massive blizzard, when we were all on overtime for two or three days in a row) when the company sprang for hotel rooms. I had a long commute, so I paid for lots of hotel rooms over the years. I also crashed with co-workers who lived close by on occasion. I even slept in a chair in the breakroom once, then got up and worked another eight hour shift.
    Some jobs require that level of presence, it’s just part of what you deal with. That being said, a little privacy isn’t too much to ask for.

    1. Bolir*

      if it is truly require that someone be there, then this needs to be done in a way that ensures both privacy and security. As there is a new hotel right across the street, the only reason the company isn’t doing that is because it’s cheap and doesn’t really value employees like it should.

      That being said, there are a lot of companies now that want to keep people on call and on site when it’s not truly essential.

      My husband works in IT. Some of his past companies have wanted employees to stay on site during blizzards. That’s fine if you’re working for a major hospital in the IT system going down could cost somebody’s life. When it’s merely a matter of “keeping the business running “I think it goes too far

  27. always in email jail*

    for #1, I wonder how many people they’re putting in a room together? Are they separating based on gender? For many jobs this would be considered a “perk”, but I understand the privacy concern. Do the doors lock? It sounds like a specific policy or procedure needs to be discussed and written for incidents that require staff to shelter in place.

    What about those paper blinds that can kind of stick on windows like a giant post-it note? Are those an option to keep around for incidents that require staff to stay over night? They’re cheap and temporary but would provide some privacy.

    And for those that asked “are you supposed to keep a sleeping bag in your desk drawer?” the answer is yes. This is common for a lot of jobs. I have a kit of the toiletries i prefer, comfortable clothes that could be slept in, snacks, blanket, etc. to be used if I have to unexpectedly stay the night due to an emergency, or to save myself the trouble of thinking through what I need to pack in addition to the stress of an impending emergency.

  28. Another Lawyer*

    #1, I live in a snowy part of the country, too and this sounds pretty on par for my friends in essential fields. My SO works in academia, but has a long commute and his office has beds if he’s stuck and needs to teach the next day.

    1. Lato*

      But it’s not just requirement that they stay over, which may or may not be reasonable given the circumstances. It’s the fact that they are putting them in non-private and non-secure sleeping arrangements.

      If we assume that it’s perfectly reasonable to force them to stay overnight, that doesn’t solve the problem of the specifics of the sleeping arrangements.

      If I were in this job I would be looking for another one because it’s clear they don’t care about their employees comfort or safety

      1. Another Lawyer*

        It didn’t read to me that they were being forced to sleep there, just that they were still required to be there for their shift, which given snowy weather could be tough.

  29. Amber Rose*

    What is it about the phone that makes some people forget how to behave?! I’ve had more or less the same conversation once with a dude. Was a customer though, so there wasn’t much I could do. Still, it’s creepy, it’s wrong, and you definitely don’t have to put up with it quietly.

  30. Elizabeth West*

    The recruiter–ugh ugh ugh ugh. I’m on the report-it bandwagon here. I hate when someone does something like this; it reflects badly on not only the company, but the profession in general.

    I just talked to a really nice recruiter. He was very professional (and had one of the smoothest voices ever. Like he could be a radio announcer, dang).

  31. Watermelon*

    #2: I dont have any useful feedback for her situation, but curious about organizations that fall into that 1st responder category, require workers’ attendance, but don’t do much to support employees….essentially telling them “figure it out, it’s not our problem”.

      1. Okie not from Muskogee*

        I work in law enforcement, and our agency only recently (in the last two years) purchased cots to store at each operating location. Before that, we had to work (obviously), but we were on our own in terms of accommodations. Even now, with the cots, we’ve had one weather event serious enough to break them out, which was awkward, because there was no place to set them up. It’s easier to crash on someone’s couch than try to deal with the hassle of communal sleep arrangements when the situation is already less than ideal.

        Plus, those cots are uncomfortable!

  32. Kateedoo*

    #3 – Not to jump to conclusions but the wording of your question implied there is quite a bit of casual banter. I wonder if someone raised a concern about the chatter for any reason and a VP is checking in to see if that complaint is justified (which would be the proper way to handle such a situation). It may be a good time to step back and reevaluate the vibe of chat room and make sure there is no chance the tone is making someone uncomfortable.
    If you’re sure that isn’t the case, I wouldn’t worry about it. Generally a VP has much more important tasks to handle during work hours and they may just pop in out of curiosity once in a while and forget to log out when they move onto other things.

  33. LQ*

    #3 I think I’m kind of late to the party for this but I wanted to mention something similar. My director (several levels up from me) used to come into our team or working meetings and just sit in the back of the room for a while and then leave. He rarely spoke up. He clearly made most people nervous. Our boss finally mentioned that the reason he did it was that director was trying to understand if/what processes we were using as we worked. Sort of a how are people thinking about the work thing. He didn’t so much care about the specifics, but he wanted to see how the sausage was being made because hey, when you see it and it is actually a process where just pork and seasonings and used and everyone washes their hands frequently and hairnets are on and spaces are cleaned frequently and well? That’s a good thing.

    He did finally start explaining to people occasionally why he was there, and as he felt like yes, the right processes were being used to make the sausage he doesn’t come nearly as often.

    It doesn’t have to be bad. If your VP is someone who doesn’t understand what happens then maybe it’s not a great place to be at, if you don’t trust your VP then it might not be good. But I think if you trust that your VP understands that this is sausage being made and it isn’t always the prettiest thing? Then I think you can relax a bit and let it happen.

    (And sometimes I know it would happen because he needed to be in a place where no one interrupted him, or he needed to think about a different problem for a while so even physically it wasn’t always that he was paying a whole lot of attention, I think it would be reasonable to assume that online there’s even less paying attention.)

  34. TootsNYC*

    ““I thought I should report it to you since I’m sure that you don’t want someone representing your company sexually harassing candidates. If there’s someone else there I can talk with about the job, I’d be interested in doing that, but I obviously don’t want to speak with Fergus again.””

    I might not use “sexually harassing” in the first sentence. Maybe “behaving so creepily” or “creeping people out.” And “incredibly uncomfortable.” And then say, “This could really come across as sexual harassment–‘Flirt with me, or have sex with me, or else you don’t get to interview for the job.’ I’m sure that’s something you’d want to protect the company from.”

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Why not use the word when the word applies. What Fergus is doing *is* sexual harassment. The company has a responsibly (legal and ethical) to stop what he is doing while he is working for them. It doesn’t just apply to coworkers- it also applies to clients and vendors and anyone else he comes into contact with as part of his job.

  35. Candi*

    #1: There’s not much you can do about the nature of lab work. It is what it is.

    But pushback -especially a group pushback- on the lack of security is definitely warranted.

    I find a lot of arguments here about the chance of sexual assault and rape misunderstand the nature of the acts.

    They are not about sex or sexual attraction. They are about using those acts to assert power, dominate, and control.

    Except for a very few cases of severe hormonal disorders, most attackers can control when, where, and what they do. They can choose not to attack in a situation where it would be too easy to get caught, especially since they don’t know if their victim will be the one brave and strong enough to report it. I use those words because of existing culture.

    On the clear glass providing a deterrent: it might. Maybe. It depends on what the attacker thinks he can get away. From a witness’ side, they may believe that what is going on is consensual, especially if they’re at a distance; humans are good at believing the best of others, and no one wants to admit a crime is taking place right in front of them. They may not see or hear the coercion or threat of harm the attacker is using -if the victim is even awake. Work can be exhausting even without dropping something in someone’s drink. (Less charitably, the witness may not want to get involved.)

    Dividing up by gender won’t work. Men attack men, women attack women, and, yes, women attack men. There’s also the declared/birth/genetic gender issue and the delicacy of navigation that requires in the climate that’s been around for the last year or more.

    This is an explosion waiting to happen, and the company should not wait until the fuse is burning down to handle it.

    1. Candi*

      I forgot to add:

      When I did a report on rape for school, one of the things the cases mentioned were men (usually) who committed rape because the situation was so convenient. There was minimal chance they’d get caught and the victim was right there and unable/unlikely to fight back. Some were men who hadn’t gotten more than a traffic ticket before.

      This situation screams convenience.

      1. PlainJane*

        Not trying to be argumentative, but I’m genuinely confused. A roomful of people seems like a very inconvenient place to commit sexual assault, especially when those people are co-workers who could identify you easily. I’d be skittish about sleeping alone in an unlocked conference room, but a roomful of potential witnesses seems like an excellent deterrent, much as walking at night in a busy area is safer than walking through a deserted parking garage. Am I missing something obvious here? (Again, not being snarky – I’d really like to understand the reasoning, since I feel like I’m really out of step with most of the other commenters on this issue)

  36. Dan*

    #1: I work in a network operations center for a cell phone company, so when the weather’s at its worst we absolutely have to be there and it’s some of our busiest days managing the network, coordinating response and making sure that communications stay reliable while people may be at risk. We have a policy to use the local hotel if at all practical, but if we have to, or are using our backup emergency location, it’s possible we’ll be sleeping on the floor.

    That said, our policy is to use the hotel IF AT ALL PRACTICAL, and sleep here only as a very last resort, and then it’s only because we NEED to keep the network up and running no matter what, our personal comfort and dignity is second to keeping communications running in areas impacted by disasters and storms.

    I find it really strange, wrong-headed and disrespectful that an employer would plan to use cots as what appears to be a cost-saving measure over an accessible hotel– especially given that you’re in an industry that’s important to staff, but not “people can’t call 911 or reach loved ones in danger if we don’t keep our network running” important.

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