our coworker is cheating on our friend, boycotting staff picture day, and more

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

1. Should we tell our friend that our coworker might be cheating on her?

After working together for years, my friend, Jane, left our company for a new job. As young professionals in a big city, most of us developed friendships outside of work — happy hours, birthday parties, nights out, etc. Jane met her boyfriend, Joe, when they both started at the company and he still works here. Over the years, he was promoted to manager. And the group of us remain friends and colleagues.

Now that Jane has left the company, Joe has developed a close friendship with another coworker, B, that has everyone wondering what’s going on. We still see Jane regularly, and though Joe and Jane appear to be a couple, we have heard and witnessed trouble in the relationship. Since we still work with Joe, we avoid asking questions. It seems obvious there is something going on with B and Joe, and at this point we feel morally obligated to tell Jane as a friend. But we have been staying out of it since he is a manager and we do not want anything said to affect our working relationship.

We fear Jane will eventually find out and be upset we never told her, especially since she is no longer a coworker and just our friend. We’ve joked about mailing an anonymous letter, which sadly seems like the best solution. Is there anything we can do? Is it best to continue to stay quiet?

Don’t send an anonymous letter! That can actually be very cruel, since she’d have no way to weigh the credibility of the information, and it can make the recipient feel suspicious of everyone they know.

You don’t say exactly why you think something is going on between Joe and B, but if all you’ve seen is a close friendship, that’s not enough to act on. People have close friendships with the opposite sex, even when they’re in committed relationships. If you’ve seen that it’s more than that, though … well, it takes us out of the realm of work advice, so I’m going to link you to this Carolyn Hax post on whether to tell a friend she’s being cheated on.

You also don’t say if Joe is your manager or just a manager. If he’s your manager, you really need to distance yourself from him; you can’t have close friendships with your boss (and right here you’re seeing one of the many reasons why). You also shouldn’t be close friends with your boss’s girlfriend. So there’s a lot of distancing and erecting of professional boundaries that needs to go on here.

2. Weird interview, weird rejection, weird offer

I’m writing in regards to an interview I had a short time ago, in an health clinic office. I didn’t get the job, which was for a recruitment-based role, but a few details of the process are bothering me.

One of the questions was “Who do you look up to and why?” My answer was my mother, and explained that at the time she just completed her master’s degree at ~50 years old while also raising my siblings and getting a promotion at her full-time job. The interviewer replied “That’s great, but what about someone famous?” Should I have had a more well-known example? The thing is, I don’t look up to any celebrities because I don’t follow them, and don’t know their personal/professional journeys.

The day after the interview, the interviewer called me saying that I hadn’t gotten the job because they weren’t able to get in contact with any of my references. The interviewer, who left a voicemail, left several suggestions to improve my future job search, including getting new references. Without sounding egotistical, my references (a mix of academic and professional) are busy — I can’t fault them for not responding within one business day to an interviewer. Am I way off base?

I received a voicemail from the interviewer a few days later asking if I would still like the position, because my references had (finally) gotten in contact with him. I admit that I didn’t give a call back, because the whole situation raised a red flag for me. The rejection and suggestions for improvements left via voicemail, followed by an offer later made me think the office was either highly demanding and/or disorganized. What are your thoughts?

I think it’s a bad interview question (it tells them nothing about how well you’d do the work), and his response to your answer was even worse. I don’t think it’s so bad that it’s is a reason not to take the job though, assuming other things seemed good. But the “we’re rejecting you because your references haven’t gotten back to us in 24 hours,” followed by “wait, they did and now we want you” is pretty ridiculous. To say nothing of the condescending, unsolicited advice to get new references. If the interviewer would be your manager, then yeah, I’d have serious reservations.

3. Can I boycott staff picture day?

Is it acceptable to boycott “picture day”?

I am an upper level manager in a mid-size company. My company is getting everyone’s pictures taken, kind of like in grade school. I don’t take good photos under the best of circumstances. Think Forrest Gump. That’s me. Even posing for one makes me incredibly self-conscious. I’m stuck in a vicious cycle of being self-conscious, taking an incredibly bad photo, then being more self-conscious for the next one. Just the thought has me in tears and my heart racing. I am afraid I will have a panic attack over it in front of everyone. I already ducked out once, but short of taking a vacation day, I don’t know how to get out of this one. Plus, they are also taking group pictures, and I will be conspicuous by my absence. The group picture is not so bad as at least I won’t be alone.

I am willing to pay for my own photographer and have photos made after getting my hair and make up done professionally, without half the company standing in line behind me. This would give me more confidence and I would feel less exposed, but the admin in charge of this nightmare said everyone needs the same background.

So do I go to my boss and explain that I feel very uncomfortable getting my photo taken in this way, and again offer the private photographer suggestion? Or does that undermine my credibility, or make me look vain? I’m very good at what I do, but have very real and extreme anxiety over having a picture taken.

I sympathize — I don’t love this either. But yeah, unfortunately, it’s going to look like you’re making too big a deal out of it — being either strangely vain or strangely delicate. That said, you might decide that you’ve got capital stored up and are willing to spend some of it on this, which is certainly your prerogative — maybe getting out of it is worth more to you than the credibility hit you’ll take in the process.

But also keep in mind that if professional hair and makeup will make you feel better, there’s no reason why you can’t have it done the morning of the company photos, which might help you.

4. Do we have the right to be concerned about our friend’s work situation?

Strange situation here. My friend is a salaried employee, yet she works several hours of “overtime” throughout the week. She doesn’t get paid for working overtime. Most recently, she spent a Sunday “working” a full day, which honestly is her decision. The thing that was strange to us was the fact that instead of going into her office, we found out that she was directly going to her manager’s house. What are your thoughts on this relationship, and as her friend do we have the right to be concerned?

I don’t totally understand the concern here. If she’s an exempt employee (which many salaried professionals are, although not all), she’s not legally required to be paid for overtime, and it can be common in many professional jobs to work several “extra” hours a week. The part about working from her manager’s house is less typical, but it’s not unheard of to tackle a project at a coworker’s home, especially if it’s during off hours and the house is closer to the other person than the office is. (It can also be totally sketchy, of course, but that wouldn’t be my first assumption if she doesn’t seem bothered by it.)

If you’re concerned about something specific, you can certainly ask her about it. But after that, unless there’s something truly abusive going on, you probably need to accept that it’s her career to manage as she sees fit.

5. Should you include months in the dates of employment on your resume?

I had a question about dates on resumes. I always thought you should include the months and the years, but my husband said he learned in his MBA program to just add the years and no months. What is your recommendation?

It depends on how clear your tenure at each job will be without months. If you write that you were at a job from 2015-2016, when I’m looking at your resume I’m going to be acutely aware that I have no idea if that was 24 months (January 2015 – December 2016) or two months (December 2015 – January 2016). On the other hand, if you write that you were there from 2011-2016, that’s a long enough period that it doesn’t matter as much.

If you do something like the first example, a good interviewer will clarify with you how long you were really there — and if it turns out it was only a small portion of that range, it’s going to look like you were trying to conceal that and that looks shady.

{ 387 comments… read them below }

  1. MK*

    I don’t look up to celebrities, because I cannot forget that my idea of them is based on a carefully curated image. And I wouldn’t know what to say to this question, because, while I admire specific accomplishments in a lot of people, it comes across as if they are asking for your hero, and I don’t do hero worship.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I guess if the interviewer didn’t specify “famous for being an actor/musician/TV personality”, you could go with someone like Katherine Johnson who is famous for much cooler reasons.

      1. MK*

        Eh, it’s still someone who I only know through their public image. I can admire someone’s work accomplishments or career trajectory or overall lifetime acheivement, but “looking up” to anyone has a “fan” vibe that is just distasteful to me.

        1. please*

          “I admire Katherine Johnson’s work achievements” is a perfectly valid answer.

          To OP 2: “Celebrities” are only a subset of famous people. I would hope you follow the news and/or know enough history from school to be able to mention some person famous for an achievement that is not primarily a “celebrity.”

          An important interview, and life skill, is not to parse a question so tightly that it makes it impossible for you to respond with something that is both true and reflects well on you. Too many people, including on this blog, box themselves in and think they must answer exactly the question in the way they project the interviewer wants. No, they should be responding in ways that reflect well on them and that is related to the general question the interviewer is asking. The question (which I’m not saying was a good question) was to get at some combination of what kind of information you have about the world and what traits/values you admire. Just because you don’t know the journey of, say, Melinda Gates, doesn’t mean you can’t say “Melinda Gates, because of all she is doing to help people around the world.”

          This is a skill. Practice it. In your daily life, if someone you need to be responsive to asks you a question you find difficult, pause and think for a moment how to shift your answer so something that is truthful, meets your needs, and is relevant to their question.

          1. Jilly*

            Exactly. Jonas Salk is famous, but he isn’t a celebrity. And I can say I admire his decision to not patent the polio vaccine in order to ensure the widest dissemination possible. Or the good old standby of Abraham Lincoln!

            1. Nye*

              Salk was my first thought, too!

              Although, come to think of it, I vaguely recall writing a college admissions essay about “someone who inspired me” on Kermit the Frog. (I think these questions are silly and respond accordingly.) I got in.

          2. LW2*

            I responded with a historical figure. The interviewer still seemed unsatisfied with the answer, which is why I wrote celebrity in my letter. My issue with the interviewer was that I did answer with a truthful, relevant answer to the initial question, which was surprisingly dismissed.

            1. KitKat*

              First, I think the interviewer’s question was poorly worded and the interviewer himself sounds awkward at best.

              That said, I think in interviews in general, it’s best to imagine that every question unless otherwise stated is preceded by “in your professional life” e.g. “In your professional life, who do you look up to and why?” Ideally, I think you would have started with the historical figure and not your mother, since I think you never want to miss an opportunity to underscore a strength of yours as a candidate by talking about something more personal.

              Not that this is at all the same, but one time when I asked a candidate about experience with diverse groups of people, she told me a very long story about how her mom’s coming out, and how her mom gave her a whole new sex talk when that happened! I was obviously more careful to say experience WORKING with diverse groups of people after that, but the working/professional side is typically implied in questions like these.

              But again, the question was not worded well and that’s on the interviewer, not you.

              1. Millennial Lawyer*

                I totally agree with you that you have to assume you should model your answer in a way that gives more information about you professionally, rather than overly personal information, but I think OP’s answer was normal and pretty good – she could tie in that her work ethic is from her mom.

                1. Alton*

                  Agreed. Admiring a parent for their work ethic or drive to achieve their goals sounds like an appropriate answer to me.
                  And personally, it comes across as genuine because realistically, a lot of people are more directly influenced and inspired by people they know than by celebrities or historical figures. And with people you know, sometimes you can have a more nuanced perspective. For example, I used to work for someone who was very accomplished in her field, but what I admired about her more was her ability to stay calm under pressure, how she treated people with respect, and how her success was an extension of her “go-getter” attitude. I think with public figures, you may or may not be able to see things like that.

                2. KitKat*

                  That’s totally true! I definitely don’t think people should never mention that they have a mother in an interview, I just think when you do introduce something personal like that, you have to be pretty explicit about how it ties in to what you’re trying to get across about yourself as a professional, and sometimes it’s just easier to pick a non personal example, like a coworker or a public figure you admire.

                  Like if you just tell me how amazing your mom is, but don’t transition that to talking about the lessons you’ve learned from that professionally, I’m just going to wish I could hire your awesome mom :)

                3. Lindsay J*

                  Yes. I’ve answered similar questions with a very similar answer about my mom, who, after having two kids went back to school to get her masters degree at 32, and went from being a waitress to being a teacher and who has won teacher of the year, become department head, and ultimately went and got another degree and became a guidance counselor.

                  I think the way I frame the answer shows, “I value hard work work and academic achievement, and appreciated having a role model that showed that I could have a full and fulfilling career even my 20s didn’t turn out the way I would have liked, career-wise,” rather than, “I love my Mommy and think she is the greatest.”

              2. Kate*

                “In your professional life, who do you look up to and why?” Ideally, I think you would have started with the historical figure and not your mother

                I’m still not really understanding this. I can understand why discussing how your mother gave you a whole new sex talk after coming out is a bit personal for an interview, but mentioning you have a mother certainly is not. Especially given that LW2 explained her admiration was that her mother pursued an advanced degree while raising children and holding down a full-time job (where she clearly excelled at both since her children grew to admire her and her employer promoted her). These are absolutely qualities that an employer should want. Someone who is hard working, able to multitask and still excel, and strive for more (whether her reasons for getting a masters were for personal or professional achievement). I thought it was a great answer. Insisting she name a famous person just doesn’t make sense to me. She could have easily said, “I admire Bill Gates because he’s really wealthy.” Bill Gates could be a great answer for so many other reasons, but framing it about his wealth makes it a terrible answer. So given LW2 explanation for choosing her mother, I’m just not understanding why anyone thinks a famous person would have been better.

                1. KitKat*

                  Very true! There are definitely still famous people answers that would be bad. I think part of this for me is that as a young professional who still frequently gets carded, I find it safer to stay away from mentioning my mom in interviews at all. I was sort of assuming the OP was also fairly young, if her mom is only ~50, but that could definitely be wrong.

                  Regardless, I think the main problem is that the interviewer seems to have had a very specific type of answer in mind, while asking a very vague question, which is a lose-lose for everyone.

                2. NaoNao*

                  I think it’s very subtle, but the reason could be because if you mention a friend, family member, or other personal connection, you’re “biased” and your accolades are through “rose colored glasses” of love.
                  So the interview is trying to get a feeling for what professional accomplishments light you up inside: is it research, inventions, creating something helpful for humanity, art work, managing huge corporations succesfully, being an iconoclast in the field…what is it that YOU aspire to be professionally.

                  So when/if an interviewer mentions a family member, even if their accomplishments are significant, their life trajectory is likely to be more…I don’t know how to put it…humble I guess? NOT playing down the legit accomplishments of the LW2’s mom!

                  That’s my take on it. They’re looking for someone to think bigger.

              3. Artemesia*

                I remember two candidates in a row when asked about a challenge they had overcome nattered on endlessly about their divorce and how they had successfully come through that. Just no. Not that or IVF, or difficulties with your kids, or other family members etc etc. All those things are important things, but they are not what you talk about when in a job interview. And I say this although I consider deciding to divorce my first husband one of the greatest accomplishments of my life; not ever going to mention that in a professional context. When they ask questions like this always have a professionally relevant response, or if a newbie to the work world, a response that builds on something potentially relevant. for example, an experience as a youth coach or with a difficult management issue on the school paper or whatever if you are new to the workforce.

              4. Specialk9*

                (Snicker) I’m just imagining your face. Oh, hey, so we’re talking about your sex talk now! How fun. And… Unexpected, in this context.

            2. Tuxedo Cat*

              I feel like the interviewer had a strange/unusual agenda with that question. To me, when you ask someone about a person they admire and why, you’re getting a sense of qualities they care about. It doesn’t matter if it’s a celebrity or a family member. Or rather, it shouldn’t matter.

            3. MassMatt*

              Unless you mom is also a historical figure, this info is missing from the letter. IMO a parent or teacher (or other non-famous person) is a perfectly good answer. Did the interviewer act disappointed with your citing your mother, and then did you respond with a historic figure that he was not familiar with?

              Either we are not agreeing what “historical figure” means, something is missing, or the interviewer is even more odd than I thought.

      2. Not a Morning Person*

        Or someone like Marie Curie, Albert Schweitzer, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Frederick Douglas, Queen Elizabeth I, Abraham Lincoln, or any number of other people who are famous and not celebrities. Famous does not necessarily equal celebrity.

        1. SallytooShort*

          But what do any of these answers actually say about you as a person? That you admire people who are admirable? Who doesn’t?

          The answer about the mother gives very specific things she admires. That she had ambition, that she cared about her education, that she was tenacious enough to do it at an advanced age, etc.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      #2 is just so odd on so many levels. I feel for OP#2; I would have been miffed about the 24 hour turnaround (which is ludicrous), but then to offer tips on my candidacy and later make an offer? Whoever was hiring/interviewing doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing.

      1. Future Analyst*

        Yeah. The presumption of “you dummy, let me tell you how you should run your job search” is very off-putting. OP 2, I totally support you not taking the job– that person sounds like a jerk.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        Sometimes your initial interview (especially a phone screen) is not going to be your manager. It might be worth finding out. If they’re not going to have anything to do with your role, it might be worth considering downgrading the red flag to pink.

        1. einahpets*

          But if this was the initial interview/phone screen, the red flag to me would be them wanting to talk to my references.

          I’ve unfortunately done this job search thing enough times recently that I try and be extremely considerate of my references’ time. I try to avoid providing my reference contact information until I know whether I want to take a job, and that is usually only after I have had an in-person interview with the hiring manager.

    3. JamieS*

      Same here. I’ve never looked up to anyone in my life. There are people I know who have accomplished goals that I’m happy for/proud of them for accomplishing but I don’t look up to them for it and it has no impact on my actions beyond congratulating them and helping them celebrate. My best guess is that interviewers ask the question to get a sense of what motivates a candidate so I generally answer by explaining I motivate myself and then give a brief but somewhat detailed outline for how I set and accomplish goals. I somewhat suspect that’s not the correct approach though.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I can never think of an answer of people ask who I look up to – unless fictional characters are allowed.

        1. Mookie*

          I’ve actually fielded this question twice, in adulthood and for fairly grown-up sorts of jobs, and now I anticipate it in every interview and would love to say “the character I play in my imaginary fantasies. She’s done it all: nonchalantly cured cancer, smitted my enemies, found out where that Bishop’s Bird Stump got to, made her student-loan company pay her, the whole nine yards.”

          A friend of mine is convinced she landed a run-of-the-mill summer job as a teenager for her answer: “you ever hear of Mother Theresa? [long pause for people to nod affirmatively or look increasingly uncomfortable] Not her, I can tell you that much.” She’s very convincing and persuasive when she delivers weird shit in a dry tone, so that probably helped.

          1. Science!*

            Internet high 5 for the Connie Willis reference (speaking of celebrities, I have an autographed copy of that book ;)

          2. Just Allison*

            I love your answer, for the most part when I was hiring for my office I would throw in a random question near the end of the interview. Just to see if we would get along, help them relax, and just end the interview with some light banter. I loved it when I would get a truly random fun answer.

        2. Arielle*

          My answer would be Captain Picard 100% of the time and if they don’t like it, they’re not someone I want to work for.

    4. SS Express*

      I’m thinking the interviewer meant someone famous as in a historical figure or world leader or maybe a well-known business person, as opposed to a movie star – but it’s still ridiculous.

      1. MK*

        It’s not the person, it’s the idea of “looking up”. I can tell you about historical figures that in my opinion had a positive influence in human history, world leaders that I think have the right views on important issues and successful professionals whose careers I think impressive. I don’t look up to these people as a whole; I admire/respect/agree with specific aspects of their personality/actions.

        1. Myrin*

          Eh, I think you’re taking that a bit too literally and narrow(ly?). I’d say that most people who use “look up to” either with regards to themselves or others don’t mean “I admire this person in all ways and aspire to be like them in every little detail you can think of” but rather exactly what you describe here (admiring/respecting specific aspects of their personality/actions). There’s a professor at my alma mater whom I know because I worked for her and took several of her classes over the years, but I still don’t know her that well personally (I know her better than all other professors I’ve had save for my doctoral advisor, but still not well) and yet I’d 100% say that I look up to her.

          All of that still doesn’t make it a good interview question, though.

        2. please*

          If you are are frank in interviews as you are here you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you got that kind of question in an interview just say “I admire the way X did Y.” That’s it. Don’t make it hard on yourself by thinking you have to say someone you look up to in toto.

        3. TL -*

          But I would imagine that’s what they’re actually asking in an interview – not for how you’re looking for a full-on hero but just to hear you expand on a person you admire and why.
          For instance, if you were applying for a PR position, Kim Kardashian might be an excellent response: “Her take-down of Taylor Swift was an excellent example of using social media to anticipate and control a situation that had the potential to get quite negative for Kanye. I admire her foresight and the handling of a sticky situation with a lot of backstory.”

          You may not admire everything about Kim, or want to be her, but calling out something specific relevant to the topic at hand is generally what people are looking for.

          1. Jesca*

            I am not sure it would be a good idea to pick a polarizing person or reference a controversial situation. I would keep it “beauty pageant”.

            For instance, Sure I can admire Roger Stone’s ability to predict and then take down a candidate at the right moment to destroy an entire third party (Green party), but I probably wouldn’t say that … (And caveat: As impressive as it was, it was still very wrong – Roger Stone is kind of mustache- twisting evil!)

      2. LW2*

        I ended up stating a historical figure, but was still irked that my initial answer was dismissed so quickly.

        1. Ten*

          I would have been too. It comes off as disrespectful on his part, in my view. If the interviewer was looking for a “someone famous” answer, he should have specified that.

        2. disconnect*

          You were being negged. There was no answer that would have resulted in a winning point from this interviewer.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah, either negging or someone with really awkward social skills who is also letting a tiny bit of power go to his head.

        3. Artemesia*

          For better or worse, referencing Mommy is likely to come across as immature in this situation especially if you are young. My mother was also an awesome woman who triumphed over great difficulties to be the woman she was, but I don’t talk about Mommy in a job interview. But for the guy to then dismiss your historical reference? Well sounds like a pretty incompetent interviewer.

    5. Not Australian*

      I got a version of this question at an interview once – ‘which famous person do you identify with most?’ Luckily I was able to be reasonably coherent about it; I chose Princess Anne, because there had been some striking parallels in our lives (apart from the money aspect, of course), and just managed to stop myself from adding “And she doesn’t suffer fools, either” at the end.

    6. GG Two shoes*

      I would say Mr. Rogers. I genuinely admire him and he is well-known enough for folks to recognize him.

      I have lots of historical figures I like more, but I don’t want to alienate an interviewer.

    7. Oxford Coma*

      Does it have to be human? My hero is the mantis shrimp. Gorgeous, sees a huge spectrum of wavelengths, and attacks with such vigor it causes the sea near it to momentarily boil. Team Mantis!

      1. Batshua*

        I mean, that’s more awesome/weird than my answer to “If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?” — yes, I was asked this in an interview, and I said kumquat.

  2. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP3, I feel your pain. We had a staff photo shoot about 18 months or so ago. I’m not as anxious as you, but I also feel I don’t photograph well & am self-concious about it. They brought in a professional make-up artist we could see… let’s just say the “natural” look took 30 minutes to put do & the last thing it did was look natural. I had no words when I saw the finished product. If there had been negatives, I’d have burned them. I have no advice, just commiseration. Good luck.

    1. TL -*

      A good natural look can take thirty minutes to an hour, though it sounds like yours wasn’t producing the results you want.

      1. SS Express*

        Yep, a natural often takes longer than a dramatic look because everything needs to be built up slowly and blended carefully. If the make up artist was working to 30 minutes per person I’m not surprised it didn’t look great!

      1. [insert witty user name here]*

        OP3 – I also hate having my picture taken. I always look at them and think, “is THAT what I look like??? That is not what I see in the mirror!”

        Could you talk to the person organizing the photos and explain your apprehension (just a little) and ask if you could be scheduled for a time when the photographer has a few extra minutes to spend with you? Then they could take a few shots, show them to you (digital cameras make this so easy), and if you want to adjust your facial expression or pose, you could do so. Failing that, do any of your friends dabble in photography and could help you practice some poses? Sometimes you have to pose yourself in a way that feels SOOOO awkward, but ends up presenting your best angle.

        Good luck! And definitely get your hair and makeup done that morning.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          These are great suggestions and as the person who often does the photographing, I’d be down with them. I want people to be as comfortable as possible. I’ll often chat with them off and on while taking the photos (if it’s a 5-10 minute thing where we’re trying different locations outside for lighting). And one of my best tricks is to wait until we’re “done,” chat a few sentences more, and then when I can see them smiling and relaxing in relief, say, “wow, you look great, let me take a couple more,” and take 2-3 photos real quick. Those are often the best. Actually, that works when I interview people for articles. The best quotes can come after I say, “that was great, thanks for your time, it was really interesting.”

          I wonder if phlebotomists have similar tricks. Sort of feels like the same job sometimes!

          1. Lindsay J*

            This. Part of being a good photographer is getting people to feel at ease in front of a camera.

            I was a photographer in an Old Time Photo studio for a couple years, and getting people to feel comfortable in front of the camera was by far the most important part of the process. And these were people who were somewhat voluntarily coming in for photos as a fun activity, not people being forced to do it for a job or school. (I say somewhat voluntarily because in a lot of cases there was one family member or friend that wasn’t super into the idea but were going through with it because everyone else in their group was).

            The other biggest part was having flattering poses for all body types (and using the camera and lighting in flattering ways), and being on alert for things that most people don’t like to see in their pictures. (Like, a lot of women don’t like it when you can see their ears through their hair in a picture, which I never knew before starting the job. Almost nobody likes it when you can see a double chin. Etc.)

            Handling people and their insecurities was so much more important than technical skill. And if you did it well the pictures sold themselves. It was really nice hearing sometimes how happy some one was to finally have a picture that they felt that they looked good in.

            I know I personally hate the way I look in most candid shots. But I do have some pictures of me from that job that I really like. And now I know how to use some of the posing tricks myself in more casual group photos and selfies.

      2. Say what, now?*

        One thing to remember is that with a group shot, typically one individual doesn’t stand out much. So if you’re dressed in neutral colours and an uninteresting cut the eye will be drawn elsewhere. That’s my strategy for these things since I don’t like it either.

      3. Samiratou*

        What are they going to do with the photos? Would you be able to go through with the this one and then get your own photos taken later and replace these photos with the professional ones?

      4. Say Cheese*

        Another thing to keep in mind is that, as a person in upper management, you really set the tone. If you are absent, it will really tick off others who are feeling forced into it as well that you can “get away” with it when they can’t. From personal experience, at one company, a few members of upper management didn’t attend, but to the rest of staff it looked like they just blew it off (I have no idea the real reasons behind it) and it really damaged morale. In another company, no one made a big deal about it, so no one else made a big deal about it – if that makes any sense. I second the person who suggested you go at the beginning or end so you can have a few extra minutes with fewer people around, and let the photographer know that you need help to be a good subject. If they are a good photographer, they should be able to work with you on that.

      5. Competent Commenter*

        OP3, I’m really sorry this is so stressful for you. I’ve had some anxiety about being photographed, although not as bad as you’re experiencing, and I can empathize. Have you considered practicing taking your own photo as a way to reduce anxiety? That helped me a lot. I noticed it when I was setting up to take portraits for a client (not a professional photographer but they just needed simple head shots of the leadership team). I had my camera on a tripod and took a couple of photos of myself with the timer to see how it was coming out. I ended up using one as my LinkedIn profile photo for years because it looked great. This was pre-selfies, so these days it’s easier, although if you can prop up your phone and use a timer it’s better, as it’s more like facing another photographer, and you have more options for body language.

        I realized that part of the stress was “performing” the smile and expression for the photographer. I really panic at any kind of performative requirement, like dancing, speaking in front of a crowd, etc. So I’d look stressed, the photo would be bad, and as you say, the cycle would worsen. Practicing alone meant that I could relax and perform without anyone watching. I learned which expressions look better. I learned to put my face forward so that my chin wouldn’t squash flat. I learned how to make my body and face relax for a second or two while the photo was taken, and to turn my head versus shoulders to a slight angle instead of being photographed straight on. I started to look better in photos and then the cycle started going in the positive direction instead. I’m never going to be a model but I have a decent number of photos now where I think I look pretty good, and my anxiety is pretty much gone. You can probably google better tips than this, with some visuals. I might just do that myself next. :)

        The other thing I’ve realized now that I’m in a job where I take all the head shots (what can I say, I’m an amateur with a good eye and a decent office DSLR) is that I LOVE the people who are able to be performative, so to speak. I’m not thinking, “What a weirdo, look how this person gets all into it and smiles big and then does it again, and again, and again as we change angles, that’s so fake and strange, ugh!” which I think is what my unexamined assumptions were before. Instead, I’m thinking how great it is that they’re giving me what I need so we can wrap up. It’s a relief for me as the photographer. So I’m actually less conspicuous or weird when I smile for a portrait than when I don’t, if that makes sense, and I want to be less conspicuous and weird. I don’t think I’m explaining this well but it was as huge realization for me.

        Good luck! I really feel you on this!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          These are such good tips! I had to do a photo shoot with a professional photographer last year and (a) I was dreading it and (b) she gave me a lot of tips like this, which made it so much better. One thing that seemed really effective — before you smile for the photo, take a deep breath and as you’re exhaling, that’s when you smile. You sort of breathe into the smile. It relaxes your face and the photo comes out better. You feel silly, but it works.

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            Yes! I had professional author headshots lovthese many years ago (and haven’t brought myself to spring for new ones yet), and the photographer was great at listening to what I wanted and then in directing me to help achieve that.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I HATE getting my pic taken. A coworker who does photography did a photo shoot with me in 2016 for author headshots. Her work was good–she really knows how to use light–but I hated the way I looked. I felt horribly awkward posing for them. The one you see on my avatar (and Twitter and my blog) is a salon selfie.

            Ima try this breathing through the smile tip next time I take a selfie or someone else takes my picture.

        2. Oxford Coma*

          A friend of mine who is a wedding photographer calls this “feeling the smile”.

          Most people practice in a mirror until they like what they see. That should only be your first step. Once you like what you see, close your eyes and teach yourself what that look feels like. Then, practice developing that look by feel alone. Then, double-check yourself in the mirror to confirm. Once you can recreate the expression by muscle memory, you’re golden.

      6. MrsCHX*

        If it isn’t for your badge or you don’t work at say, a school, you do not need to have your photo taken. I have several employees who refused when we had a “yearbook” (cheesy, I know!) and then for group photos.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Your WORK brought in a makeup artist??? That seems extremely weird to me. Unless you work in fashion or something? We have staff photos and some people choose to do their hair or makeup more or less, but work would never assume we should need professional makeup to look acceptable.

      1. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

        It depends on the profession or level of profession. Many executives have professional photo shoots and make up artists are much more common place today than they were 10 years ago. Especially if the head shots will be in various publications/web for events, speaking engagements, conferences, etc.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Huh. I hope it’s optional, for those who don’t wear makeup. This would definitely rub me the wrong way (but I’m not in the kind of field that has a lot of individual visibility, so maybe this is just outside my ken).

          1. pomme de terre*

            For these kind of shoots, the make-up is mostly covering up blemishes and shine for men and women alike. Maybe some slight enhancements like blush or a tad of eyebrow pencil. It’s a ‘natural look’ where you look like the best version of yourself, not the full Kardashian.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Oh, good point, if the men have to do it too I guess I don’t feel so weird about it. Maybe it’s more like being on TV, I think they all wear makeup so the camera doesn’t turn them grey or whatever. Just thinking of my white collar office where we *do* take staff photos (just for our internal stuff) and having a makeup artist on site would seem very odd.

      2. straws*

        We have an employee who also works as an FX makeup artist. I’d definitely be ok with this, if I got to be a zombie or a ghoul in my staff photo.

      3. Pollygrammer*

        Wasn’t there a letter way back where the LW’s headshot was unexpectedly photoshopped to the point that she was unrecognizable?

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      We have mandatory staff photos – they are called yearbook pictures. I am a reasonable person who takes decent photographs off-campus but in 21 years I’ve taken 21 horrible photos. Bonus: it goes on my teacher ID badge that I am obligated to wear every day! And on the school website!

      I hate Picture Day but I’m used to it. Good luck and…I’m sorry.

      1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

        My staff photo is so horrible. And the big boss took it (no professionals) so I can’t even complain about it. Naturally, it’s the number one result that comes up when you google my name…

    4. Artemesia*

      I take terrible pictures and empathize entirely but I think making a big deal about this is a mistake. You take bad pictures? ah well. They are putting up pictures on the company website, don’t make them track you down.

    5. Jesmlet*

      Same, we had to do this about 8 months ago and I was NOT happy about it. What we ended up doing is pairing up and helping each other look more natural and like ourselves while actually doing it. I’m super self-conscious being on that side of the camera but with my coworker cracking jokes behind the guy, I was a lot more comfortable.

      I also have professional photoshop software so after everyone saw their raw pictures, I offered to touch up whatever they wanted. I got a lot of “can you get rid of the bags under my eyes?” and “holy crap my hair looks frizzy, is there any way to fix that?”

  3. Mad Baggins*

    #4 I wonder if there aren’t other subtle details that prompted this letter but didn’t make it in. Like other changes in the friend’s behavior, how the friend seems to feel about her job overall, what is known about the manager, how often this is happening, etc. Often there are subtle warning signs that we pick up subconsciously and can be hard to verbalize or justify. But of course they can lead us astray as well, like what sounds like footsteps behind you turns out to be your hand sanitizer clipped to your bag bouncing as you walk… Maybe you need to look at these other signs more closely.

    1. Cobol*

      I’m interested in more info from OP on what they think is going on. The two words quoted indicate something (and I think working from your manager’s house is plenty weird).
      All that being said, as Allison says, working a few hours overtime as an exempt employee is incredibly common. I’d say expected.

        1. Cobol*

          In that case the house is the work right? If you were discussing other houses would you meet at them, or a neutral location?

      1. Yorick*

        “Overtime” might have quotation marks just because it’s extra hours worked that aren’t paid as overtime.

      2. Ama*

        I once interviewed for a job with a high level university administrator where her staff cheerfully talked about how she lived right off campus so sometimes they would go over to her apartment in the morning to bring her items. I think they could see on my face that I considered that less “fun” than they did (I’ve had some bad experiences with bosses who wanted to be overly involved in my personal life and have a pretty strict work-life boundary as a result), and I wasn’t at all surprised that I didn’t get the job.

        Which is just to say that I do think it’s uncommon to spend that much time at your boss’s house in the course of normal work, but it’s also up to the OP’s friend to decide if that bothers her or not.

      3. Lindsay J*

        I worked from my boss’s house before.

        It was a family owned business where I worked for the owners so the personal and professional lines were a bit blurred. Some of the stuff I did in the office was burning all their cds onto a computer and uploading them to their new ipod, helping their kids make a powerpoint for their homework, etc.

        Come tax time they wanted me to help organize and code their receipts for personal vs business purposes. All the stuff was at their house, so it made more sense for them to set up a table for me in their home office so I could work from there rather than them hauling all of the stuff to the office where there was limited space. I was 95% comfortable with it (and the other 5% discomfort was just the awkwardness that comes from being in someone else’s house that you don’t know extremely well. Do I take my shoes off or leave them on? What if I clog the toilet? Where is the toilet for that matter? Are they going to make me take a tour of the house – I hope they don’t make me take a tour because I run out of things to say after about 2 rooms?)

    2. sacados*

      Agreed. The working from the manager’s house thing is definitely weird.
      But other than that, there’s absolutely nothing in the letter itself that seems at all concerning or out of the ordinary. Which either means the pertinent details didn’t make it in/aren’t explained well, or the LW just really doesn’t understand the norms of a salaried job.

      1. Artemesia*

        What I don’t get about this letter and the letter about the cheating boyfriend is how this is any business of the letter writer. This seems like a major boundary crossing for a friend. The overtime issues is zero. The work at his house? Well I suppose saying ‘doesn’t that make you uncomfortable’ is appropriate as a friend, but beyond this, not your monkey.

        1. Casuan*

          re the house & overtime letter:
          I agree about boundaries although I can’t fault the friend for being concerned. I assumed there were other yellow flags for the OP that weren’t conveyed in the letter. &or the OP might not have thought of alternate legit scenarios.
          Both letters are analogous to the many “This happened, is it normal” questions that AAM answers. The OPs weren’t certain & had a safe place to ask. :)

        2. Specialk9*

          Yeah, I got the interfering nosy Parker vibe from both of these letters. A lot of people get very confused about how much of other people’s lives they get to control (“is it 40%? 30%?”).

          Hint: it’s 0%. You don’t get to make other adults’ decisions for them, you don’t get to force them not to do things you disapprove of, and you don’t get to nonconsensually manage their careers for them. Keep your eyes on your own yoga mat.

    3. paul*

      I’m not sure if I’m just being naive or not, but working at someone’s house during an after hours thing is weird as hell to me.

      Putting in a few extra hours isn’t, particularly if you’re salary but at another person’s house?

      1. Sherm*

        My grandboss has occasionally worked with my boss at my boss’s home on the weekend, because boss cares for an elderly person and doesn’t have the help on the weekends that she hires for the weekdays. I think it’s actually less weird to work at a house in off-hours compared to usual working times, because as with my boss you might not have the arrangements then to go to the office.

        1. Not Australian*

          And depending on the situation the office might actually not be available at weekends, i.e. if it’s in a shared building with no custodian which is locked outside normal business hours.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          And Starbucks really ought to be reserved for the occasional half hour meeting, not hours of time with documents spread over several tables.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I guess it depends on the job but it also seemed weird to me.

        I think the letter writer could just simply ask their friend if everything is okay.

          1. Casuan*

            OP4, you asked if you had the right to be concerned about your friend’s work situation.
            Yes, absolutely. That’s what friends do.
            However the most you can do is to ask your friend if everything is okay & to listen & advise her if she asks for your thoughts. It would be extremely rare for there to be a circumstance in which you’d need to do anything more than that.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        It depends on the field and sometimes, even the individuals. I’m in academia, which is its own weirdness. I know graduate students who have stayed at their advisor’s homes and postdocs who have stayed at their PI’s homes temporarily. I definitely have worked at a boss’s home. These are not all same-sex situations, either. However, their families are home.

        I’m aware that it’s one of those things people should probably think about, though. I wouldn’t want a student over at my home.

    4. Discordia Angel Jones*

      I actually think OP4 thinks their friend is involved in shenanigans with the manager.

      I can’t otherwise explain the liberal use of “overtime” and “working”.

      TBH, if that’s true its entirely correct that there should be more signs of this.

      It’s also possible that there are no shenanigans. I’m not sure why OP4 & friends don’t ask their friend about it outright, to be honest.

      1. Myrin*

        That’s the impression I got, too. At minimum, the OP thinks her friend isn’t actually working overtime; why else put the expressions in quotation marks, after all? But also, the fact that the summarising question of this letter is “What are your thoughts on this relationship […]?” makes me think that the OP assumes there’s something romantically/sexually inappropriate going on between her friend and her boss.

        1. MK*

          I think she might be worried the boss is manipulating the work situation (late nights together, getting her to come to his house) to create intimacy with the friend and have a personal/sexual relationship with her. Which, it could be. Not all potential harassers are overt about it, many try the subtle approach of pretending ithe boundaries just happened to get blurred.

      2. Snowglobe*

        But even if there were “shenanigans”, why does the OP think it’s their place to offer the friend advice about it? This letter struck me as being really patronizing. The friend doesn’t indicate that she has any issues with the work situation, it is therefore none of the OP’s business.

        1. MK*

          She might be worried the boss is manipulating the work relationship to hit on the friend. Long nights working together, spending a lot of time with eachother, bringing her to his house, etc. I am sure many a workplace affair started that way.

        2. Lindsay J*

          It can be difficult to tell from inside of a situation when you’re being mistreated or taken advantage of.

          I know when I was in an abusive relationship, my friends flagged his behaviors as troubling before I was ready to realize or admit that they were.

          And how many letters do we get here that are ostensibly about a small work issue, but the details in the letter or comments illuminate huge dysfunction beyond what is in the letter that the OP hasn’t considered to be “off” in any way.

          But really, unless the friend is actually feeling uncomfortable about it and is ready to see on their own that it’s a bad situation, all the letter writer can do is ask her how she feels about it. If she says she feels uncomfortable about it, that’s one thing. If she doesn’t see anything wrong, at max you can state your feelings once, “I think it’s odd he has you work from his house all the time. In most jobs that doesn’t happen,” or “I think they’re taking advantage of you by making you work so much overtime every single week. Once in awhile would be okay, but it sounds like you’re overloaded and they should really hire a second person to help you out,” and then leave it until or unless she brings it up again and does state that she’s unhappy about it.

          1. Casuan*

            Totally nailed it!
            Yay that you’re no longer in that relationship & yay to your friends who had your back!

      3. The Other Dawn*

        That’s my impression, too, based on the quotes used and just the overall tone. As for working from the manager’s house, I don’t think there’s enough information in the letter to know whether that’s weird or not. Depending on the industry, her job, access to the building, etc., it might be perfectly normal.

      4. Competent Commenter*

        Yeah, I wondered that too. It was either, “I think my friend is sleeping with the boss and calling it overtime and weekend work,” or it’s “I don’t actually understand how exempt employment works or that sometimes work meetings can be outside the office so I think my friend is being exploited.” And I’m leaning more towards the first as being the more likely interpretation of the OP’s meaning.

    5. MK*

      Working from the boss’ house can be a major red flag, a sign of an over-demanding boss or absolutely nothing, depending on whether there is a reason for it. For example, if the boss and the friend both live 10 minutes from eachother and 1 hour from the office, it makes perfect sense. But he could just be a jerk who wanted to lose as little of his time as possible, so he arranged the most conveinient location for him. Or he might be sexually harrassing her.

      Talk to your friend.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        This. In the midst of a trial, I had a strategy meeting after a day of court with a client and a more senior attorney at my house. Sounds weird but the court house was 10 minutes from my house and 30+ from the office in the opposite direction from the client and other attorney’s house. I also have a diabetic cat I had to give a shot before going to the office. My husband was traveling for work and I did not expect court to run over its usual closing time as much as it did. If anyone just heard that I had a client or another attorney at my house while my husband was traveling it sounds sketchy. In reality, it made the most sense for everyone in the situation. Bonus, there was food at my house!

        1. Mikasa*

          I mean… they’re friends? It’s not her business, but sometimes you want to know if your friend is okay (assuming that’s the goal).

    6. Audiophile*

      I’ve never had a job where working from a boss’s house would have been an option. If OP’s friend is a personal assistant or consultant, I see it as less strange.

      And working extra hours without paid overtime is so common, that doesn’t really concern me at all. Over the 2 weeks between the end and beginning of the year, I worked so many extra hours, including weekend hours.

      1. MK*

        Regularly working from the boss’s house would be very odd; but I got the impression it was a one-time thing on a Sunday. There would be many cases when that might make sense, like not having access to the office, or it being too far, or the boss not being able to leave the house for some reason.

    7. Lora*

      Huh. I mean, you never know. Once upon a time I had a guy working for me as a technician at MegaPharma, and he mentioned that he had a handyman/landscaping business on the side for extra money, if I knew anyone who needed those services, and I did actually hire him to do some repairs on my house and paid him cash. He did a better job than other contractors I’d hired. And I have a farm hand whose day job is being a vet tech for my vet, and I’d hire her to tech for me in an instant – she has good hands.

      “footsteps behind you turns out to be your hand sanitizer clipped to your bag bouncing as you walk” Ha, this morning I thought someone was in the backseat of my car and it turned out to be the ice scraper sliding around on the seat every time I braked. Had a moment yesterday when I thought the cats or a squirrel had somehow gotten into a crawlspace and it turned out to be water pipes having partially-frozen water hammer.

    8. Peggy*

      This is somewhat off topic, but I found it confusing that OP4 kept writing in the first person plural. Who is “we”? Are you the Queen?

      1. Emi.*

        S/he is speaking on behalf of the group of work-friends that’s concerned about this–they’ve all been discussing how concerned to be and what to do, but only one of them actually wrote the letter (“the group of us remain friends and colleagues. … But we have been staying out of it since he is a manager … We’ve joked about mailing an anonymous letter”).

        1. Peggy*

          No, not that letter, the one about the meetings at the manager’s house. That letter didn’t specify a group, but the OP clears it up below.

    9. OP#4*

      Thanks for picking up on that Mad Baggins.

      Yes there have been several strange instances that make us tilt our heads.

      My friend (does not drive) trains into the city where they work and their manager also does not have a car. There have been 1 or 2 instances where the friend has brought their manager back to our apartment after we’ve said that we’d rather not make the 40 minute drive to drop them off and has asked us to drive their manager home.

      My friend and the manager are constantly texting and snapchatting to the point that another friend pointed it out during a trip together.

      Lastly there have been personality quirks and changes that we’ve noticed.

      I understand that my friend is an adult and entitled to do what they wish but I can’t help but be annoyed with the manager. I am an HR professional and if this were happening in my office, the manager would be spoken to.

      1. Peggy*

        This sounds like less of a work issue (since they’re not your colleagues) and more of a friend issue. I would think that how to proceed depends a lot on what the motivation is. Are you curious to know what’s going on in your friend’s life? Then you could say, lightly, “So, what’s going on with you and Alex? You guys have been spending a lot of time together!” (Assuming both parties are otherwise unpartnered; otherwise it gets tricker.) If it seems like this would be welcome, you could raise concerns about how a relationship with their manager could affect their job/career/reputation.
        Are you concerned about your friend’s well being? That’s a different sort of conversation. “Hey, I love you, and I’ve been a little worried lately. I’ve noticed that [insert personality changes] and I wanted to check in with you about it. If you want to talk, I’m here.”
        Or are you just annoyed that they’re asking you for rides on behalf of the manager? In that case, you can say no in the moment, and maybe let them know in a different convo that you aren’t comfortable being asked to give the manager rides.
        Good luck!

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        I don’t understand what you meant when you wrote this: “My friend (does not drive) trains into the city where they work and their manager also does not have a car. There have been 1 or 2 instances where the friend has brought their manager back to our apartment after we’ve said that we’d rather not make the 40 minute drive to drop them off and has asked us to drive their manager home”

        Who is asking you what – is friend asking you for a ride, is friend asking you to drive manager somewhere? Does your friend live with you? Why are they coming over to your apartment, just to hang out? It sounds like your friend is close friends with manager and has invited manager into social settings. Do you find the manager socially unpleasant and does it seem like he or she is harming your friend in some way? Or is it just that it seems objectively inappropriate that your friend has a close social relationship with his or her manager?

      3. Specialk9*

        You seem to be overstepping the bounds of friendship. Your desire to know doesn’t trump their right to privacy.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          I think you’re being overly harsh on LW here. Clearly LW wrote out of concern, not out of curiosity. AAM gets a lot of letters like “This thing is happening, should I be worried?” and I don’t see how this is any different. Yes it’s a friend not LW, but I feel like we can’t draw the line here re: caring about others’ lives when so many of us are clamoring for updates in the comments!

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I am not seeing anything worrisome here, but it is probably because I am not there seeing it first hand and I don’t know the particulars of the setting.

        A far as the rides are concerned, it’s fine to say no. Or you can say, “Well this one time because you are in a pinch but I won’t be able to help after this time.”
        I probably would have given the ride so I could try to figure out what is up with them, if I was worried.

        The changes in your friend could be just because she is tired, you say she works OT a lot. Plus she works on her day off? I would probably have some personality changes, too. It happens when I do not get enough rest and the laundry and dishes are piling up. Why not just ask her, “Hey, you don’t seem like yourself lately, what’s up?” I like this because it does not assume the job/boss is the answer. You may find she has a headache she cannot shake off or you may find something that you never anticipated.

      5. Mad Baggins*

        Yeah this sounds like you’ve got several yellow flags as Casuan said that contribute to your overall weird feeling about the situation and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what is weird and why.

        It can be totally normal to work overtime.
        It can be totally normal to work from your boss’s house.
        It can be totally normal to text your boss frequently (about work matters).
        But you are noticing a pattern of changes where your friend is investing a lot of time and energy into their relationship with their boss, to the point that they are blind to how it’s impacting others (the constant texting, not realizing you wouldn’t want to drive home the boss because why wouldn’t you? Boss is so great!). This is frustrating to you because it’s always annoying when a friend starts a relationship and goes blind to all else that moves, but it’s extra annoying because you’re HR and you know managers and their subordinates should not be romantically involved.

        Unfortunately unless you’re HR at the company you can only approach the situation as their friend, and show patience and support, but also concern that they could be endangering themselves at work if they date their boss, and also drawing a firm line between their choices and obligations to the boss and yours–your friend may want to go out of their way for the boss, but you sure don’t!

        Sorry for the wall of text and if I made any assumptions here–I kind of read into the details a bit–anyway good luck and enjoy the soap opera!

  4. Casuan*

    If you must have your photo taken, keep in mind that everyone already knows what you look like & they respect/like/love* you anyway!
    & Probably you’re the only one who thinks the photo looks horrid. Certainly do what makes you more comfortable, although sometimes one can look a bit too polished for a staff photo & it looks unnatural.
    What matters is that *you* are happy with it.
    Sorry you’re being compelled to do this. Many of us feel your pain!

    *like can be for professional & personal relationships; love is for personal only
    I wanted to include that because I took the risk you hate having any photos taken, not just at work. :)

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      This. No one really cares what you look like in a staff photo – it’s not like they’re posting it on group tinder. Or well, if they are, you’ve got bigger problems.

      1. Mookie*

        No one really cares what you look like in a staff photo

        This is true — most people are self-centered but almost all of us enjoy a good spectacle now and again and very few of us ever want to be the object of that spectacle — but this is largely how social phobias, self-consciousness, and social awkwardness manifest, as anxieties that often appear invisible to bystanders but require a great deal of effort and planning to control, often leading to the additional anxiety of being ‘caught out’ looking quasi-neurotic about something.

        I don’t think the LW’s concern is what her co-workers or clients will think of the picture or rate it for its beauty and accuracy, both, but of the processes involving in arriving at the point at which the photograph is produced. I sympathize with her. This, meaning that pattern of behavior, can be really exhausting and demoralizing and we learn to fear and avoid things that trigger or exacerbate it, and sometimes that avoidance is self-destructive.

        I wish I had some good advice for how you can shirk this, LW, without consequence — I’m assuming that you’ve straight-up asked if you could skip it or already know that doing so won’t work in this situation — but hang in there. Good luck to you.

        1. Clare*

          OP please don’t try to shirk this, as uncomfortable as it might feel. Having been the poor admin in charge of wrangling people for things like this, no one will care what your picture looks like, but they will care if you make what should be a simple request overly difficult.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I think, too, that being she’s an upper-level manager, she should try and just get through it as best she can. I feel like it would be different if she wasn’t a manager. She could probably fly under the radar in that case.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I’m a little surprised at everyone here saying the photo is no big deal and no one cares. True, no one really cares, but we have to have our photos on our Outlook and Skype profiles so our coworkers see them all the time. When I’m on the company SharePoint sites, which is almost all the time, there is my picture staring right back at me. Nevermind that this goes into newsletters, conference presentation packets, proposal presentations, etc. Depending on your position, this picture can be everywhere.

        Now, all that said, I am an employee who actually did skip picture day. It was a mistake. I was stuck with my 8-year old badge photo on Outlook, etc. (older versions of these did not require photos). But, my company has set up a photo studio and you can go get a professional picture taken by HR at a scheduled time. I had multiple photos taken and got to choose the best one. No one really wants you to have a photo circulating that you aren’t happy with, so I think you could ask your company to replace it with your own professional photo if you aren’t happy with it.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          (To clarify, I skipped photo day when they brought in a photographer, had a crappy picture for a few years, then had my photo done later when they had added a studio in-house.)

        2. Naptime Enthusiast*

          We have the option to put our professional headshots in Outlook, and the split is about 50/50 as to who does and does not. I chose not to because I look *very* young in my picture and as a woman in a male-dominated field I don’t want that held against me subconsciously. The picture is still in my portfolio if people look me up there, but that takes a lot more work.

        3. Beehoppy*

          I’m the “photo wrangler” in my office, and the problem with that is we have all the team headshots grouped together on our website. When people bring in their own it ends up looking chaotic and incohesive. All the shots have different backgrounds, are from different distances, show different amounts of the body. It looks much nicer if they are all taken at the same time by the same photographer.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I think that is true if you’re going to do photos every year, but my company only brought in a photographer once, and now that was 5 years ago. We have had a lot of new hires since then. What do you do about those folks?

            1. zora*

              Our company does the same thing, and we bring in a photographer once a year. Each division does it slightly differently, but our division has a yearly in person meeting, so we have a photographer there to do a yearly group photo, and they get all the new hires from the past year while we are there.

              There is a company style guide for these photos, so that all photos look similar and coordinated and it’s part of our branding on our website and any marketing materials we use.

    2. hbc*

      Not only do most people not analyze it the same way, but if it’s someone I know, I have a passing thought of “That’s a bad picture of Jane” or, at worst, “Huh, Jane is really not photogenic.” It just doesn’t affect my interactions with them or my judgments about them in any way. In fact, I’m struggling to think of a random factoid or observation that would have *less* impact on my perceptions of someone.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        TBH, most of the people aren’t really going to look at the staff photo anyways. It’s just gonna be on a wall somewhere.

      2. Joielle*

        Yeah, when I see a bad staff photo of someone I know, it gives me a negative opinion of the photographer more than anything. Especially in a situation like this, where it’s a professional and not just an admin with an iPhone. I’d probably think “oh poor Jane, the photographer really botched that one!”

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      OP3, what if you make a doctor’s appointment (actually make one, assuming there is something routine that you could reasonably schedule) that has you getting back at the very end of the individual photo sessions, so that there is no line behind you? Or so that you have to have your picture done after the group ones once everyone else has left?

      1. KitKat*

        That’s what I was thinking! Even if you can’t be the very last one, you might be able to avoid having a whole gaggle of people behind you.

        (And I totally sympathize- I don’t mind pictures in general, but I HATE people watching me take pictures!)

      2. Anonymous Penguin*

        Actually, why not just schedule your hair/makeup appointment then? Find out what the time blocked off for it is, ask if you can have yours done at/near the end, get your hair and makeup right before so you don’t have to worry about doing any touchups, schedule yourself something soothing or relaxing immediately afterwards to reward yourself.

      3. Casuan*

        Doctor’s appointment reminds me of a trend that I hate.
        Some offices now take a photo without your prior consent. They’re going through your paperwork, say “look here” & in the nano-second it take to realise what they’re doing they’ve taken the photo.
        Actually I’m impressed by how seamlessly they do this. It really isn’t different than when they make a photocopy of your driver’s licence, tho still…!
        At least with the licence I have the illusion of giving consent because I get to ask what they do with the information before handing my licence over. I ask this with the sneaky photos, too, albeit after the fact.
        The question isn’t so much how the information is used as it is “Where is this information stored & who has access to it?”

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          The office I work in doesn’t take pictures, but others in the health system do. In our system, the photo goes directly into the same program (Epic) as your medical information and is protected the same way. That doesn’t help with not getting permission, but it would at least be reassurance that the photo is secure (or as secure as anything computer related is in this day and age).

    4. Alli525*

      My department hosted a staff photoshoot last year, and I was the one who coordinated it, so I know there are a couple things you and your company can do to make this easier. First, though, instead of going straight to your manager, I might swing by the coordinator’s office (assuming you two are somewhat on a peer level or you have a good relationship) and just ask for more information about the details. Sometimes having information can help assuage anxieties.

      1. Ask them to have private sessions for the individual photographs. If the format is currently “stand in a line and wait for your turn,” ask if the line can begin at the door to the room where the photos are being taken. This one will probably be the most helpful for the specific worries you mentioned in your letter.
      >>1a: Be straightforward with the photographer that you have a lot of anxiety about being photographed. It won’t the first time they hear that, and will hopefully have some tips and can be extra nice.
      >>1b: If you can’t get private sessions, ask the coordinator if you can go last, or right before the photographer starts their scheduled lunch break.

      2. Definitely do splurge on hair & makeup services if it will make you more comfortable. It may be out of your company’s budget to pay for that for everyone, but it also wouldn’t hurt to ask if it’s possible.

      3. If there is a “review period” where everyone gets to see their shots and select the one they like best, see if that review can take place EITHER (1) during your private session or (2) photographer can upload each person’s individual album of options to Dropbox, and only sends that individual album to the subject. (That way other subjects can’t look at your photos. This was actually a problem at a previous photoshoot we did – everyone got all the shots and apparently there was some teasing, so we changed the process.)

      4. Ask whether you can decline to use ANY of the options if you end up hating all of them.

      5. Stand at the back of the group picture.

      All that said, and even though I was the one coordinating the photoshoot, I declined to have my photo taken. My boss encouraged me several times and maybe was a little disappointed, but my photo wouldn’t have gone on the website or wherever anyway, so it wasn’t that big of a deal in the end.

      1. Gloucesterina*

        Alli525, this is a great example about thinking through a process and figuring how best to accomplish a thing (staff photo related or any other process). Saving your comment to my notes to self folder!

      2. Lora*

        Question for you then: why on earth does the world need these photos for non-public-facing non-sales staff?

        Either it looks kinda tacky (see Mike C’s comment on the family car dealerships) or it’s something nobody looks at. Even for ID badges, security firms are leaning towards not having a photo or identifying information on because stalkers or kidnappers could use it to find out personal info on employees or even just for competitive intelligence.

        I have seen pictures of CEOs used for publications, but that’s the CEO who is essentially public facing to investors.

        If the notion is that people actually look at these things, then it seems to me that you’re wasting valuable marketing space on pictures of people when you could be using that space to display the company’s achievements and what they can do for customers materially. I’d much rather see a picture of an installation a vendor did, a system they built, a wall full of patents they hold, something like that.

    5. AnonFormerAssistantNowBoss*

      When I was 15 years old, I went through all of my family’s pictures and tore up all the pictures of me. I would be shocked if there are more than 20 pictures of me aged 7-15 in my parent’s photo albums.

      Now that I am in my late twenties, I really regret doing that. Yeah, those pictures were hideous. I was an “ugly” kid, bad skin, gap teeth…and then braces, unkempt eyebrows (which probably now would be “in”), and quite the belly, but I can’t deny that for a few very, very awkward years of my life I looked like that. I wish I could look back at bad pictures and laugh about how unflattering they were.

      I am actually kind of flattered when people who once only knew me by a photo, say that they didn’t recognize me at first. Or when people who know me in person, see a photo of me and say “Whoa, you look nothing like this!”. OP, Casuan is right. Your coworkers already know what you look like.

      By boycotting the photo I know you would not be doing the same thing I did as a 15 year old…and simply telling you not to be anxious or not to care about what you look like in pictures isn’t going to do anything for you, but treat yourself to a day-of-beautayyy or something. Take some tried and true steps to make you feel good, whether before or after the photo. That’s just one second in your life, that really, no one but you is going to care about.

      1. Lora*

        Heh, I have no pictures of myself as a teen because my mother was so embarrassed of my pink hair that *she* destroyed all the photos.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I’m a camera-avoider, or at least have been since my awkward teen years. Now I wish I had pics, because what I thought was hideous at 25 is pretty damn good now.

    6. Lora*

      Eh, I’m going to go with OP3’s feelings on this. Some people (especially me, I am specifically the worst person to photograph ever) are just really REALLY not photogenic.

      LastJob required everyone to have their picture taken by the CEO’s wife, who was a professional photographer, and then posted in the office area as well as uploaded to our Outlook accounts and Workday and whatnot. I dutifully explained that I am not photogenic at ALL, let’s just get this over with. Even the photographer was surprised with how badly I translate to 2D; she kept trying to take different angles and spent a lot more time with me than with other people, to no avail. People literally did not recognize me in my photo, at all, that’s how bad it was. I have a nicer drivers license photo, because at least that one people recognize me.

      What in heck is with this trend of having to plaster staff photos everywhere? I managed to get through multiple decades where my only photos were on official ID badges, and the world continued to spin on its axis. I can understand for sales type of jobs, but for everything else – how is this remotely necessary? If you want to impress people with your staff, put up posters of their achievements or something. At CurrentJob, they have photographs of facilities they’ve designed and built up on the walls, and it’s frankly much nicer.

      1. Eye of Sauron*

        Sorry you had such a bad time with your photograph.

        I know my company does the photo thing because we are so spread out. It is kind of nice to have some sense of what the person you have been working with daily for 5+ years looks like if you haven’t had a chance to meet them in person.

        That said, I was really happy to upgrade my corporate picture, first from the mugshot badge photo taken of me at the end of a 90+ degree day, and then to a professional (w/makeup artist) shot from the slightly better mugshot that my husband took of me against the living room wall that replaced the first mugshot.

        Hanging pictures of people on the wall is a little weird.

        1. Lora*

          Then why not let people use their own photos? I’ve used pictures of my dog on the Outlook things when I was told to upload a photo. He’s cuter than me, for sure – even clients said they were happy to see the dog photo rather than a person in a suit with some generic background. I have exactly one decent photo taken many years ago by a friend, and I use that sometimes when people demand a photo although it doesn’t look much like me anymore.

          It’s like the one kid who really enjoyed dressing up in a clip-on bow tie for class photos is running the show and everyone else supposed to go along with it. It’s just weird, so much annoyance for so little gain, and kinda tacky anywhere outside of the company newsletter.

          1. OP3*

            Exactly this! I hope these just get put in a folder somewhere, but I don’t want it in Outlook or Skype where I have to look at the darn thing everyday. I hate looking at photos of others when on a conference call.

      2. Competent Commenter*

        You bring to mind some similar experiences I had where someone said encouragingly that we’d do fine, then took about 50 photos of me and was like “oh.” Since I’ve been told I’m perfectly reasonable looking in person, I just try to ignore how I look in photos.

        On the flip side, I knew a woman who was decent looking in person but in her wedding photos…holy crap! She was stunning! And it wasn’t makeup or lighting. My theory in these outlier cases (good and bad) is that it has to do with how mobile our faces are. She really didn’t have a lot of expressions. That works better in 2D. I’ve noticed those of us who photograph badly tend to have lots of expressions going on. But dammit, we’re interesting people. :)

        1. Risha*

          I went to high school with a girl that did some modeling. (No one famous.) It seemed like a ridiculous rumor, because while thin enough, not only did she show up every day in baggy tees and jeans, no makeup, and uncombed hair, but while not exactly ugly, her features fell solidly into “plain” or “weirdly exaggerated”. Then one day she showed up in full makeup! Turns out what the camera looks for is not very close to what our eyes look for, plus heavy makeup totally makes a massive difference even for real life.

          1. Windchime*

            Yeah, I had a friend like this. She was perfectly decent looking in person, but in photographs she was amazing! It was mostly about her bone structure, I think.

      3. AKchic*

        I can completely relate. Taking photos of me is hard. Even professionals have a hard time. Candids? Oooh boy… it’s a crapshoot.
        And of course, I’m a semi-public person. Pride events, renaissance fair, other volunteer / charity events, even on the news and in the paper a few times. Never a flattering image. Ever. I have a florid complexion. I sweat easily. I have a round/wide face that makes me look heavier than I am. Large nose and a chin that sticks out combined with a double chin/droopy neck. Ears that stick out like an elf (they were great as a child with smaller features and large eyes, but not any more). Large chested with wide shoulders and no hips or rear to speak of.
        Some angles are okay, but most people don’t get those angles. My personality is what makes me “me” and it doesn’t show in photos.

    7. Catherine from Canada*

      OP3 I feel your pain. The best photos of me look mildly deranged, the worst look, well, worse. My sister, who works in advertising and gets her photo taken a lot gave me some advice which has actually helped a bit. She said, “Don’t think of it as looking at a camera, think of it as smiling at a friend, you’ll get a much more natural, relaxed and open look that way.”

  5. Casuan*

    On a related note to the photo question… Why do some professions always include photos in their adverts?
    In the US, it’s mostly realtors, attorneys & physicians. The person in real life almost never resembles the advert photo.

    1. Cobol*

      It’s a false understanding of what people look for. They tend to be gumption fields where a handshake means something.

      1. KR*

        I always thought it was to make people look more approachable, like oh that realtor looks nice and capable, I’ll have them sell my house. That person looks like me, I bet i can trust them.

        1. Cobol*

          Sorry, I wrote as I was falling asleep, and left out a connecting thought. Yes, it’s to generate trust because you know what they look like. What I meant was there’s absolutely no research to show that it works (as you mention you just ignore it), especially the type of pictures you usually see, which are just close cropped, seated studio portraits.

          What I meant by gumption, is they tend to be the same fields where people put a lot of stock in those gumption type ideas, like a firm handshake, or worse I know his/her family.

            1. Lora*

              All of those things are for public-facing roles, like sales. If you aren’t in those roles, how does it add value? And is the value worth the annoyance, and does the same effect occur with bad quality photos?

              It strikes me as a very “team building exercise” type of thing. People do it because they think they should, although the best team interactions really come from working together on a well-managed project, not an awkward evening of bowling and two cheap beers or an afternoon of trust falls and pizza.

      2. Mike C.*

        We’re a FAMBLY CAR DEALERSHIP !!1!!!

        OMG I hate those ads. I don’t give a sh!t about your photogenic family or the fact that your children will never have to work a day in their lives.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Or, as someone once said to me as we left an open house, “Did you see that person who looked like Jane Realtor’s mother?” That’s when you need to update your photo.

        1. many bells down*

          The funny thing is, he hasn’t really changed that much. He’s obviously older and grayer, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t have a current photo instead of one where he’s like 35.

      2. Specialk9*

        Not the same thing, but I went on a date with someone I met online. His photo was him as an 18 year old with a giant mop of curls; he showed up and was a 40 year old tonsured-bald guy. The thing is, I ended up marrying a 40 year old bald guy, I got nothing against it. But him presenting himself as something he so clearly and immediately wasn’t, made me think that he wasn’t honest, and also wasn’t very bright.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      In the case of realtors, they have to use the name and logo of the brokerage (Century 21, etc). But they want you to be attached to them in particular, not Century 21. Their photo is the only way they have to promote themselves.

    3. CM*

      It’s common in professions where you’re primarily hiring a person, not an organization, and you’re supposed to develop some rapport with that person. The idea is that you see them as a real human being more than you would if you just read a list of their accomplishments.

    4. JTL*

      Sorry for the very late reply, but I was really surprised nobody else mentioned this: Historically real estate agents, in particular, have used photos to signal whether they were a white agent for white folks looking at white neighborhoods or a black agent for black folks looking at black neighborhoods. I wouldn’t be surprised if doctors and lawyers had similar pasts.

  6. Undine*

    OP1 It sounds like there’s a lot of gossip going on, both in and out of work, and that’s going to affect how people at work see you. Would Jane be upset that you didn’t run to her and tell her her boyfriend is *gasp* talking to another woman? Maybe. Would Jane be upset if she found out that a bunch of you sat around speculating about her relationship and joking about sending anonymous notes? Absolutely. Hearing this, I picture you all sharing meaningful glances, repressing giggles, running to the parking lot to tell each other “they ate lunch together again today!” If that’s what’s going on, you can be sure your coworkers notice something, and they aren’t thinking, “oh that group is so trustworthy and professional.”

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I didn’t get that feeling at all. Yes LW says “We’ve joked about mailing an anonymous letter” but then immediately follows that with “which sadly seems like the best solution.” It certainly doesn’t seem like LW & co. are giggling about the possible cheating if they’re sad. I read it more like someone threw out the suggestion and then they laughed bitterly and sighed, mulling over the difficult situation.

      1. palomar*

        Eh…. honestly, if you’re pondering telling a friend a “truth” that you think they need to hear, but that truth is based entirely on conjecture and you also think taking the coward’s way out is preferable to speaking to her like an adult, then what you’re doing is not worrying about a friend and wanting to do what’s best for them. What you’re doing is stirring up gossip and centering yourself in the whole mess (oh noes, it’s far too awkward for me to do the right thing and speak up! I’ll just write a note so that I never have to feel awkward or deal with any of this, AND I still get to watch the show and talk about it with my friends!). Ugh.

        1. Specialk9*

          Well, I can think of a more charitable version – I’ve also agonized over whether to MYOB or tell a friend a hard truth – but at the end of the day this scenario has entirely too much conjecture and gossip.

          I’ve also been picked on by whole friend groups because everyone assumed I was The Other Woman (despite the fact that I predated them all by years; and if my best friend and I had wanted to sleep together we would have just, ya know, slept together and not dated other people; and also, ick). Some people simply cannot fathom that a male and female can be friends without sex. It sounds like the assumption here.

    2. MLB*

      I agree. I work in IT and at a majority of my jobs I was one of few females. I had a close relationship with many of my co-workers who were male. It was never any more than a friendship, but I’m sure that others made comments and talked about it, thinking there was something going on.

      On a similar but related note, there was one time I went to lunch with co-workers. We were waiting at a light and witnessed an accident. The driver and other passenger got out to help, and asked me to pull the car over to the side of the road and wait for them. Apparently someone saw me standing there and said something to others in the office, so when I got back to the office I had several people come up to me and ask if I was okay, and said they “had heard I was in an accident”.

      This is how rumors start. LW and friends need to mind their own business unless they witness something blatant and considered cheating with their own eyes.

    3. Etak*

      It doesn’t sound as though LW and their coworkers are delighting in this quite as much as you think they are. I think they’re in an awkward position, trying to figure out what, if anything, they have an obligation to do

      1. grace*

        I agree. At the end of the day it’s likely to come down to how close of a friend Jane is to the LW and their friends, and how sure they are — because telling someone you suspect something without being sure is nearly as bad as not telling someone while being entirely sure.

        LW, if Jane is a close friend, I’d suggest sitting her down, telling her what you’re sure about (not what you can only suspect), and supporting her while remaining professional at work. If she isn’t, then it isn’t your problem to deal with, unfortunately.

        1. Scarlet*

          But what exactly do they plan on telling her? “Your boyfriend has a “close friendship” with a woman at work?” If any of my friends did that, I’d probably give them serious side-eye.
          It’s one thing to actually witness an incident or having actual signs that something fishy is going on, it’s another to start wild conjectures based on someone’s “close friendship”. They seem to imagine a lot of things based on the fact that their friends started dating at work, so apparently that guy cannot be friends with a female coworker unless he’s also getting into her pants or something.
          Unless they have anything more solid than “he’s really good friends with a woman”, they should really mind their own business and stop gossiping. Are they still in high school?

          1. Lady Phoenix*

            THIS. I would feel bad for B if she gets titled “the honewrecker” just for showing my buddy a funny dog video or talking about the latest episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. That shit is damaging.

            Op #1 and friends needs to mind their own business unless they actually catch them kissing or fucking.

            1. London Calling*

              +1. You never know what is going on in someone else’s relationship. Jane might know and not care, she might have guessed if something is up and be trying to deal with it – hell, they might have an open relationship. Or of course, this might be a harmless platonic friendship. Either way, no-one has a right to toss what might be a hand grenade and walk away.

          2. grace*

            That’s exactly what they should tell her – IF they see it (or I suppose hear from a reliable source), and/or IF they’re sure, which is what I said above. Otherwise, refer to ‘it isn’t your problem to deal with’.

            Though for what it’s worth, I’d be pretty ticked if a close friend, or a group of them, suspected my boyfriend was cheating on me and didn’t tell me. Not everyone has that opinion, so LW is in the best position to know what to do re: her friend. But that’s me, not LW, Jane, or the whole situation, which is why I’m not suggesting they tell Jane anything without incontrovertible proof.

            1. Mad Baggins*

              I agree–I’d be pretty mad if I found out my boyfriend was cheating and my friends suspected but didn’t tell me. If it’s a friend whose judgement I trust, that’s important info, and if not, well at least they’re looking out for me.

              LW can always frame it as, “oh I ran into Joe today, he was having lunch with B again,” and then Jane can jump in, “oh yes, B is lovely! She comes over all the time, they’re great friends,” and LW’s fears will be assuaged. Or Jane will say, “…who is B?” and LW can say, “B is a coworker, she and Joe have lunch together all the time.” And then Jane can decide how she wants to talk about that with Joe, and LW has not said anything that would implicate the group or drag others into it.

  7. Casuan*

    re OP5:
    Still one should be consistent…?
    2016–2017 Teapots & Co
    2011–2016 Spouts Inc
    October 2016 – September 2017 Teapots & Co
    April 2011 – October 2016 Spouts Inc

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m not, but I have two clear sections. Recent jobs have months and bullet points. Older jobs only have years and titles. (But I career changed and the old ones are less relevant.)

    2. Purplesaurus*

      I can’t say I’ve seen this done, but I wonder if it would make sense to list it like:
      2016-2017 (7 months) Teapots Inc.

    3. Antilles*

      Yes, I think that you’d want to be consistent. It would just look weird to include months on one line but not on the other, like so:
      October-2016-September 2017 Teapots & Co;
      2011-2016 Sprouts Inc

      That said, if you have your resume split a’la Ramona, it would probably be okay, but until you’re at the stage where it makes sense to separate out into “recent jobs with detail” versus “older jobs without detail”, it’s probably better off to be consistent.

  8. Casuan*

    Sounds like that company could use an organised recruiter…

    That said, it was good you followed your instinct. What you described seems a bit flaky & often staff has limited means & support to change things because it needs to come from the top.
    The interviewer wanted you to name a celebrity & not your mother? That’s bad interviewing, bad values or both.

  9. Melle from Miami*

    AAM – Why would OP #3 expend any social capital by saying they’re going to have a photo taken at their own expense? In these days of social media and image-as-branding for ones photos, wouldn’t it make sense for any company to encourage, rather than discourage an employee from doing whatever will result in the best photo and the one an employee feels most happy and confident about—especially if the employee is happy to shoulder the cost? I cringe when I see the profile photos they will take and use of people. Once a bad photo is out there, it will negatively impact a person for a very long time. I know from experience. A company I did a project with shot photos of us they said were only for internal use, on our grounds pass IDs. As most people know, ID pix (driver’s licenses, passports, etc.) often look horrible. Well that company took those pix and put them on their website. They wouldn’t take them down after, and years later they still come up even though aren’t actively on the company site. Lesson learned. Letting someone else choose your personal photo “brand” is way too risky—UNLESS you are working in fashion and being shot by a top photographer or someone who shoots actors and does wonderful headshots.

    1. TL -*

      No, because the company should, and often does, want a consistent look across all staff photos. Especially for larger companies.
      And personal photo brand aside, most people don’t really place any importance on what your staff photo looks like. It’s usually just used to get an idea of what someone looks like before you go to find them in their department.

      1. here goes*

        It’d be social capital beside as Alison said, it either looks strangely vain or strangely delicate, and the company wants them all to be exactly alike and taken on photo day. So no matter what it looks strange and isn’t what the company wants. Takes capital to do that.

      2. Melle from Miami*

        I beg to differ that “no one puts importance” on the photo. If anyone googles you forever, that horrible photo will come up and you will be judged. Maybe not if you’re an account or a nurse or lab scientist, but definitely in any position where personal image is front and center. Sure, you may not work for such a company now, but maybe your next job or one after that will be. We’re living in an age where people wipe left or right on images all the time. One bad pic… you lose. This sucks and I am not in anyway cosigning this value. But its one thing to be judged on how you ARE (the way you look all the time) versus being judged on a photo someone else may choose of you, that reflects poorly, does NOT look like you in the real world (harsh lighting, bad angles, etc.) If someone doesn’t like the real me, I don’t care. I am comfortable with how I look—and I want my photos to reflect this. I wouldn’t let anyone (family, friend, job, use a photo of me that I hadn’t personally selected—and then, I’d have run it by other colleagues or friends to get their take on what reflects best. I’ve gotten great feedback from friends who are stylists, social media influencers, etc., about what photos not to use and I’m so very grateful for their input to prevent me from making a bad decision. I would never put my trust in some corporate office – again, unless they are hiring top-notch photographers and have great art director who insures everyone looks their best and feels comfortable about the photos used. Making people feel terrible about their photos, if shot and selected thoughtlessly, seems a great way to damage morale.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Maybe you’re in an unusual industry where this is true, but for most people it’s not true that “one bad pic and you lose.”

          Because staff photos are a really normal thing that happens, taken by one photographer who comes in to photograph everyone, making a huge deal about it is likely to look strange and use up capital. You can argue over whether or not that should be the case, but it is the case, and that’s the reality that the OP needs to deal with.

          As I said in the post, the OP may decide she wants to spend that capital anyway. But it definitely does come at a price.

          1. My Cat Posted This For Me, MA*

            Alison is right…but on the other hand, I googled my adult daughter’s new boyfriend and the first photo that comes up is his mug shot. And his face is all beaten up. At least in his other mugshot he’s unmarked. Every mother’s dream…

            Anyway, for those who worry about that work photo that haunts them forever on google, it could be worse, my friends.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I’m sorry you had such a bad experience, but I just don’t think this is the case for most people. There are some atrocious photos of me online and I am positive that nobody cares apart from me.

          1. Casuan*

            Also the law of large numbers kind of applies to this concept. There are already so many photos on social media that when I google something specific I mentally filter out what doesn’t fit what I need. Occasionally a bad photo catches my eye although when it does I don’t think anything bad about the subject (tho admittedly I’m probably secretly glad that it was a photo of me) & then I move on.
            And unfortunately, we can’t always control the images of us that others post on their own social media or any other information.

            1. Myrin*

              The law of large numbers also applies to this situation in another matter, I think: If the photos are bad because of lighting, background, what-have-you, they’re going to be bad for everyone (except maybe someone who’s outstandingly photogenous, although these people seem to be rare), so a weird-looking OP isn’t going to stand out.
              Our local football team has pictures of all of its members on its site; I know almost all of these guys personally and while there’s only two of them I’d personally consider goodlooking, these photos are particularly unflattering to literally every team member. I couldn’t honestly tell you which ones I find especially bad because they’re all so unfortunate.

            2. My Cat Posted This For Me, MA*

              You really do have to filter. I’ll be looking for someone online and get NSFW images of half-dressed women. NO! Not THAT Brittany Smith! Close window! Close faster! And I have to remind my brain sometimes that this has nothing to do with the Brittany I’m looking for. It’s amazing what our brains want to glom onto.

          2. Antilles*

            Especially in today’s era where social media and facial recognition are everywhere. If there ever *was* an era where you could control your photographs online, we’re way out of that.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Unless your job is literally “Make sure no unflattering photo of the client survives online” (I’m picturing targeted hacking) the idea of one unflattering photo somehow undermining you is not tracking for me at all. Just because fictional characters have glamour shots for their DMV photo doesn’t mean anyone expects an image search to return that in real life. Even professional models are expected to look good AFTER a few hours of professional hair and makeup.

              (My most flattering photos involve sunglasses, because then you can’t tell that my eyes are closed.)

        3. TL -*

          I worked as a lab scientist; my last boss wore a suit and tie every day; my manager dressed sharp business casual. They needed to project a professional and trustworthy personal image – we had millions of dollars in grants and used patient samples for our studies. They spent most of their days in and out of meetings with people who were entrusting us to use both samples and money effectively and ethically.
          They both had so-so photos, at best, of them up on the company website – my boss was in the promotional material of every institute he was associated with and the photo qualities were inconsistent.

          If the photos had been of them sacrificing chickens or imbibing illegal substances, it probably would have made a difference. But bad lighting and bad angles? That’s pretty normal for a corporate photo and, given that both of them have made significant strides within their careers in the past few years, I don’t think it’s hurt them at all.

          1. Antilles*

            They both had so-so photos, at best, of them up on the company website – my boss was in the promotional material of every institute he was associated with and the photo qualities were inconsistent.
            In my (stereotypical US office) industry, it’s common for anybody above mid-level to have photos on the company website. You will also (separately) get your photo taken any time you’re in a trade publication, speaking at an event, etc. In all of those photos, mediocrity is basically the standard.
            But the truth is that most people will look at the photo for like, 5 seconds tops – the only reason for the photos is mostly so that you can recognize the person, not because people are judging you for it.

        4. Kerr*

          I’m going to strongly push back on this, because this way lies madness. I’m similar to OP #3 and this, right here, is my anxiety. That one bad photo is IT. But OP, the anxiety lies.

          I hate anything resembling a public photo of me, for many reasons. I’m afraid that not only will I be judged forever by some nebulous “they” who see my photo and judge, but that I actually do look like that picture, all of the time, in all of its frozen horror. (Note to well-meaning people: if you tell me that “you look so good!” in a photo I’m cringing at, this isn’t necessarily consoling.) So I get it. I would be seriously contemplating burning some social capital. With fire.

          But one bad photo is absolutely not IT. Even several bad photos. There are photos of me in existence that I hate, but even though they exist, the bad things I worried about didn’t happen.

          OP, Ramona Flowers’ comment below is excellent and has concrete suggestions. You might also ask your boss if you can arrange to go last (no crowd behind you), or request that the photographer take a few different shots/angles, and let them (the photographer) know that you’re nervous about looking bad.

          1. Birch*

            Yes, this! I had a horrible anxiety about photos in my teens and early 20s fueled by a really awkward stage physically, and it wasn’t until I stopped making such a big deal of it that I got some nice photos. Anxiety is making you upset about it, but your brain is never going to be happy with the photo even if you indulge yourself as much as you can. It’s so much worse to try that hard, use up all your social capital, and still have a photo you don’t like! Learn to brush it off and just not interact with photos you don’t like. You can maybe also prepare for the future by getting a basic professional head shot taken on your own time that you can ask if it can be used.

        5. ainomiaka*

          are these even outside searchable photos? Maybe my industry is very very different from yours but our “staff photos” are not accessible from outside the company and are so that Jane from accounting knows what Bob from HR looks like to go to a meeting when he may work on the other side of the campus. It’s just not as big a deal as you are presenting it. Now, admittedly that’s why my office doesn’t care if you bring your own in as long as it shows your face and has the number of pixels they want. They’re not invested in a uniform look.

        6. a different Vicki*

          One bad photo might do that, if it’s the only photo of you out there. But it doesn’t have to be, and likely isn’t.

          OP can get that separate photo shoot she talked about, and make a point of putting one of those photos on LinkedIn, and one (maybe the same one) on Facebook or Twitter if she uses either of those, and so on. None of them are professional photos: one is by an enthusiastic amateur who brought his camera to a science fiction convention. I asked him to take candid shots of me in the course of panels and socializing, and then send me any he was pleased with. One of those is now my Twitter userpic.

          If you google on my name and “photo,” you’ll also get a few other pictures of me, including a couple of selfies taken at events, and some photos of all sorts of things taken by a namesake of mine.

        7. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

          I agree that the photo is important, especially today. Some of the comments have implied that we no longer control photos of ourselves anyway because of social media, but that’s exactly why you must be vigilant when your employer takes photos of you. My employer requires all employees to sign an agreement that includes a provision giving the employer the right to use the employee’s image for business purposes, marketing, etc. Some employers are particularly thoughtless about posting candid employee images on social media, where the world has access to them. The OP could get a professional headshot, and offer that up for employer use.

          1. Lemon Zinger*

            This is exactly why I expend some of my social capital at work by not participating in the annual photoshoots… because we don’t sign anything. Our photos are instantly property of the employer and are used for promotional purposes in addition to being put on the website.

            Since I can’t control how they use my image, they aren’t going to get my image at all.

        8. Not So NewReader*

          “One bad pic… you lose.”

          Lose what, though? A job? A career? I can’t believe an entire arena of people would look at one pic and say, “That’s it. She will never work in our arena. Gosh, she has a horrid picture.”

          The first thing that hits me, is that these are not my peeps. I don’t care how well or how awful people photograph and I only look for the same in return. So the people who want to drop me off because of a bad photo are no great loss.

          Next thing. There are plenty of wealthy, successful people out there with very bad photos and I mean MANY very bad photos. And their bad photos predate their wealth and success.

          Last thing. I have a friend who comments on other people’s good pics. Why is every single one of their pictures posed and staged? Why is so much thought put into each picture? Why is this person so preoccupied with how they look in pictures? What else is going on there?

    2. Lissa*

      I think this can all be true – it would look better to have the photos taken privately etc. But, if the OP is the only one doing this, they are going to stand out, and it will look odd. I think that while some people might think as you do, many people will be like “why does this one employee care so much about how she looks?” and not “we should all do that!” Doing something really out of step takes social capital in many cases.

      1. Melle from Miami*

        OK, I’m realizing here that I’m in a different professional arena than these commentors, and maybe a different generation. In my universe, showing that you DON’T care how you look (I mean being well put together, clean look, current style, etc. – NOT that you have to be a beauty queen) would make you look super unprofessional and reflect poorly on your employer. The idea is that you WANT people (clients, etc.) to say : These people look sharp! And having employees that understand that their self-presentation is important is something to be encouraged, not penalized.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          But you can do all that and also have photos taken that look unflattering. I do wonder if asking so many people to input on your photos as you mentioned above is actually helpful.

        2. Natalie*

          I think you’re focusing on the result (the photo itself) but the problem in this case is actually the process (everyone getting together and taking the photo). Because the OP describes themselves as having significant anxiety around photos, it’s quite likely that their staff photos look perfectly fine, exactly as fine as the majority of their coworkers. Anxiety has a way of distorting reality, and I know for me that can include thinking that I’m crazily standing out when I’m really just blending into the group. That’s not to say the OP should just “get over it”, but to outside observers like OP’s manager, they may not see anything wrong with the photo and so it will be especially odd to single them out as Objectively Terrible.

          What *will* stand out is skipping photo day and arranging your own photos, because its a completely different process than everybody else. It’s like booking your own flight because you are afraid to fly on Tuesdays or something – the result is the same, but the process and reason are unusual enough to stand out.

        3. Lora*

          Definitely this is just your industry. In mine, you get bonus points for looking like you just rolled out of bed – it means that you’re so brilliant and have such an amazing brain that you don’t waste a thought on trivial things like whether or not you are wearing pants. Really cool glasses are about the only mandatory part of the outfit, and best of all is when you leave your safety glasses perched on top of your head.

          When I dress up for a big presentation, nobody recognizes me. Not that my daily look is downright sloppy, because only the men in my industry get away with that, but it’s kind of artsy hippie-ish, whereas the Client Presentation Suits cost a small fortune at Neiman-Marcus and there’s jewelry, lipstick and hair gel involved. Photos of me in Client Presentation Mode are useless, because nobody recognizes either them or me.

      2. Casuan*

        Lissa has a point: if the photo stands out then it will have the opposite effect than what the OP is going for.

        1. Safetykats*

          I can’t tell from the letter what industry OP is in, but if it’s one where the headshot really matters I would think the company would ensure it’s a really good one. My company does headshots for management; they go on your department’s webpage. The point isn’t to look fabulous; the point is so that people can identify you on sight and so more easily interface with you. In other words, the point is to look the way you actually do every day at work. It would stand out more, and not in a good way, if one person’s headshot looked really different, and especially if it somehow looked like a glamour shot.

          That said, I would maybe ask a friend that you trust what he/she thinks of some of the photos of you that you think are so awful. My guess is that they aren’t that bad, that maybe you’re being too critical of yourself. I would just take a little extra time that morning to make sure you’re reasonably happy with your hair and makeup, wear something that makes you feel good, take a minute before the photo lineup to freshen up, and go with it. And before you try to get photos done by a completely different photographer, I would consider just asking the staff photographer to take a couple of extra shots, so that you can maybe choose the best one.

          1. Lissa*

            Yes- if this is an industry where the photo is really going to matter, then surely the OP is not the only one who takes bad pictures, and the company would want to assure this doesn’t happen. But in most of these photo day situations, it really isn’t about looking good or not, so the company isn’t going to want to put more time or effort into making sure the employees all look their best.

          2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            +1 on the “too critical” angle.
            I’ve known a LOT of people who hate photos of themselves, think they look horrible in all photos etc who are actually extremely attractive people who look normal-fantastic in photos. Not once have they actually been able to assess their photos/looks realistically or objectively. It always makes me so sad.
            There are far more people who *think* they are unphotogenic/look terrible in all pictures than who actually *are*.

    3. hbc*

      “Once a bad photo is out there, it will negatively impact a person for a very long time.”

      You made the case that the bad photo is out there and stayed out there, but you didn’t actually show how it hurt you in any way. I mean, A-list actresses who rely on being attractive almost all have terrible “omg, here she is looking like a hot mess when she thought no one was looking” shots out there, and they still get work.

      If your job is image-driven, there will be more good pictures out there to prove that you look good, and no one is going to judge you for your company deciding to take bad staff photos that one time. Seriously.

      1. Antilles*

        I was thinking the same thing about the Hollywood example. You can’t even stand in the checkout line at the grocery store without seeing half a dozen tabloid covers showing celebrities in unflattering candid photos…celebrities who then still get hired despite having absolutely horrible photos out there.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The funny part is without the hairdo, the clothes and the makeup these folks look just like the rest of us. I was looking at some old pics of Farrah Fawcett. She could have been any kid in any yearbook in the US.

          Sometimes I think if Beauty doesn’t come up and hit us in the face, we just don’t see it.

  10. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 It’s difficult to tell if your suspicions are unfounded because you didn’t include any details on why you think something is going on – and while I do try to take letter writers at their word, you’ve made it clear that you aren’t really sure. That’s not a good enough reason to lob a grenade into someone else’s relationship. I understand that you feel you’re in a difficult position, but I think when we want to say something anonymously it can sometimes be a sign that perhaps we shouldn’t say it. What if you’re wrong? What if you’re right, but Jane wishes you hadn’t told her? (I was glad when someone told me, but they were sure, and did it more carefully and sensitively than an anonymous letter).

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah. I’m very intrigued by this letter because it’s so hard to gauge. The “obvious” thing that seems to be going on between Joe and B could be anything from “we caught them kissing” to the recently-featured “they sat close together in front of a computer screen”. The fact that OP describes it as a “close friendship” makes me think it’s more like the latter but I’m obviously not there to witness anything. What it does appear like to me, though, is that OP and her friends are seeing parallels between how Jane and Joe’s relationship began and what’s now going on between Joe and B (the whole first paragraph detailing how they first met seems to set that up). To which I can only say that you all seem to have met Joe in such a fashion and yet none of you are in a relationship with him – could it be that that’s what’s going on with B as well?

      (Btw, I think OP purprosefully used “he’s a manager” to make it clear that Joe isn’t actually her manager but I could of course be wrong on that.)

  11. ENFP in Texas*

    #1 – not your circus, not your monkeys. If you’re not close enough friends with Jane to talk to her about it face-to-face, then you’re not close enough friends to stick your nose in, period.

    1. Michaela T*

      Exactly. From this “We still see Jane regularly, and though Joe and Jane appear to be a couple, we have heard and witnessed trouble in the relationship.”, I would guess that the OP is not close enough to this couple to get involved.

      1. Ten*

        Agreed. And I think OP should also bear in mind that those in a couple know more about their relationship than those outside it.

  12. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I agree with Alison’s suggestion to have your hair and make-up done anyway if it makes you feel good. I’m so sorry you are feeling so anxious about this – it does sound like every experience of having your photo taken is part of a cycle of anxiety.

    I wonder if you could perhaps think about some distraction techniques for while you are having photos taken. That might mean doing mindfulness or breathing exercises (there are lots on YouTube), thinking about your shopping list, counting backwards, whatever works for you.

    Also would it help to get your own pictures taken anyway? Just so the group photo isn’t your First Scary Photo Of 2018 but hey you already did this yesterday.

    I also think it’s important to remember that anxiety isn’t logical and it’s ok to acknowledge that you find this particular thing really difficult regardless of how other people feel about it. Maybe have a think about whether there anything else that would help make this easier for you. What time of day, for example? Would it help you to get it out the way early? What do you need afterwards – can you arrange to have a break and some quiet time, or do something distracting, whatever will be best for you? Even if you can’t get out of the photo, maybe they can make the process better for you.

    Lastly, maybe ask if you can talk to the photographer. Explain that you find having your photo taken really difficult and that, for example, you don’t want them to comment on whether you’re smiling (or whatever would help). I bet you they will be used to working with people who are anxious about photos.

    1. Marnix*

      I like your idea of having the OP have a mini photo shoot beforehand. Exposure to a professional photographer and having her hair and makeup done can help with her anxiety and allow for any adjustments with her look.

    2. Thlayli*

      I also came here to suggest you talk to the photographer beforehand. Ideally not just 5 mins on the day, but have a phone call with them where you tell them straight out that you have anxiety issues about having your photo taken and maybe arrange to have them set aside a longer time to work with you (for which you will reimburse them). They may even be able to use the same background in their own photo studio on a different day.

    3. Betty*

      This is basically what I came here to say. I think it would be perfectly OK to go to your boss and say “I’m kind of embarrassed about having my photo taken. Would it be OK for me to go first (if you want to get it out the way)/last (if you don’t want the pressure of lots of people behind you) and for you to let the photographer know in advance that I’ll be a bit nervous and that I’d appreciate it if they could take their time?”

      Also yes to the advice that there’s no reason you can’t get your hair and makeup done on the morning of the company shoot!

      Honestly, OP, I would ignore all the people upthread scaremongering about “one bad photo”. The context for these photos is that you’ll be one face among many and you’ll all be in the same style, so yours really won’t stand out from the crowd. (A good reason why you can’t get some other photographer to do it instead!)

      I’m a terrible judge of photos of myself. When I had to have headshots done (as a freelancer), I just told the photographer that I want to look “friendly, professional and competent” and that I didn’t want to see any of the photos except the final edited selection because it would make me self-conscious during the shoot and I’d agonise over it afterwards. You know you, so consider whether it’s better for you to not see any of the photos except for the final one or whether it would help you to have a few to choose from. You can also absolutely mention to the photographer if there’s one (but only one!) thing you feel especially weird about. I told mine that I really did not want to end up looking like I had a double chin, so he kind of posed my head to avoid chin-bunching and odd shadows.

      1. Hannah*

        I think I might (depending on the relationship) be more up front with the boss and say outright that I’m terribly anxious about being photographed, and I know it might seem silly to some people, but the thought of it makes me worry about having a panic attack. And then ask to go first/last/alert the photographer. I think if you just say “embarrassed,” you’re more likely to get brushed aside.

        But yeah, of course, rationally, it’s good to remind yourself that no one cares what you look like in the picture; everyone is much busier looking at/thinking about themselves!

        1. Betty*

          I just don’t think that would be my Plan A. If I said “embarrassed” and ny boss was like “Oh we’re all a little embarrassed, it’ll be fine”, I might well move on to “Actually, it’s more than embarrassed. I am seriously anxious about it to the point of being concerned about having a panic attack and I really hope you can work with me on these accommodations to make it a less stressful experience”. But I wouldn’t go straight for the nuclear option without at least trying something more casual!

  13. MassMatt*

    # 2 I don’t think the question is so bad, it’s an indirect way to find out what traits you admire and value. I think his “how about someone famous?” Response was terrible. But it’s reductive to assume if it’s someone famous it has to be a celebrity. What about an author, leader of a political or social movement, or other historical figure? The choices are pretty endless.

    #4 I think working at the boss’s home off hours is odd, unless there’s a big reason (much closer than the office, etc) but the advice to try to feel her out about it to see if she feels OK about it is the next step. If she’s not being preyed upon or otherwise taken advantage of then let it go.

    Maybe, as others have suggested, there’s more to the story that’s bothering you about this.

    1. TL -*

      Heheh, Beethoven. Any man who can regularly inspire his friends to completely and inconspicuously replace a wardrobe gone rancid so his genius is not disturbed by the need to do laundry is a hero to me.

    2. LW2*

      The sense I got when the interviewer asked me for a “famous person” was a celebrity. I explained why I had selected my mother (hard work, dedication, etc.), so at that point, I had already made it clear what traits I admired in my role model. I ended up listing a historical figure.

  14. The Wall of Creativity*

    So OP#1 suspects fruity shenanigans are going on but OP#4 thinks his/her friend is doing overtime? People set their suspicion bars at very different levels.

    1. Discordia Angel Jones*

      I don’t think OP4 thinks their friend is doing overtime. I think that’s why they’ve called it “overtime” and “working”.

      I think they think there’s shenanigans going on.

      I think OP4 should just ask their friend the question.

      1. The Wall of Creativity*

        Looking at it again, yes you’re probably right.
        On the other hand, all the inverted commas seem to have gone over Alison’s head too, looking at her response, which is all about exempt employees and stuff!

        1. Birch*

          I think she was heading off the red herring that OP presents about “overtime” which I read as OP being suspicious that their friend was being financially taken advantage of. It’s a red herring because many people are exempt (and most people know that–at least OP should have asked), so it makes OP’s concern sound like a thinly veiled excuse to butt in.

        2. boop the first*

          My guess is that Alison doesn’t like to make assumptions, and since OP is skirting so far around their actual question that they’ve forgotten to include one, they can really only expect a vague non-answer in response.

      2. CM*

        I think OP#4’s question shows that OP#4 is not comfortable directly asking what they really want to know, even anonymously to a website. So clearly OP#4 is not going to raise this with her friend, which is the obvious answer.

        But yes, I think these two questions (#1 and #4) are very similar — people with suspicions but no evidence, who are unwilling to directly talk to the person concerned.

      3. Former Hoosier*

        Unless someone thinks their friend is actually being harmed, then they should stay way out of it.
        I often work on weekends. Not always my first choice, but I do.

        And I don’t think it is weird to work at someone’s house especially on the weekend. Sometimes it is closer, or more comfortable or whatever.

  15. Sled dog mama*

    My employer recently did staff photos and I really liked the way they were done. We signed up for appointments at the photographers studio so we all had the same background but if you wanted to get hair/makeup done professionally you just signed up for the time that worked for you.

  16. P to the A*

    I disagree with the suggestion that not feeling comfortable with your photo being taken will necessarily be seen as vain and delicate. At the last place I have worked we had someone who wanted photos of her (which included other people) in a social gathering related to work taken off the internal drive and nobody batted an eyelid. We had someone else made a stink about the choice of photo that was picked to be put on the Christmas card. That was frowned upon.

    Now when mental health and a possible panic attack comes into play, then all bets are off. I am a bit surprised that that got overlooked. You don’t risk a panic attack and suffer all the dread and anxiousness leading up to the photo date because someone might think you are delicate. Your health comes first, always.

    1. Betty*

      I don’t think it’s the not feeling comfortable. It’s perfectly reasonable to admit to being nervous and self-conscious, and to ask that it’s not rushed or that the photographer knows so they can be extra nice. The unreasonable bit would be arranging a whole separate photo shoot after hours with a different photographer (and style and background and lighting…) If I were their boss I would not be happy with this because I would not know whether the result would fit in with the other photos. And it just seems like overkill when there is a company photographer being paid to be there and do everyone.

      1. KitKat*

        Exactly! I have a huge amount of sympathy for OP, but if someone said they would use their own money to take a company headshot, I would still say no. Because what if they spend all that money, and the result is something that couldn’t go on the company website? (Awkward/unprofessional pose or clothing, weirdly cropped, very different background, etc)

        And even if they did let you do that, 1. bringing the photo in to be judged by someone in your company also might make you anxious and 2. as Lissa points out above, you’re actually MORE likely to stand out with a different photo.

    2. ainomiaka*

      but at least in my office removing a social photo vs. not doing a staff directory photo would be very different. The social photo is probably not going to have any business effects. The directory photo less so.

  17. MommyMD*

    Stay out of the boyfriend/girlfriend drama, concentrate on work, keep personal stuff out of the office, and let it work itself out. This is an example of blurred boundaries on all sides

    1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      Exactly, it’s time to take a step back and put up some professional barriers. As a young professional take this as a lesson on how work is not high school. 10 years from now you will be regretting all the energy invested in this drama.

    1. hbc*

      Does that really stop people from getting your picture? Because I just this week had to use the company directory to find out which people I had randomly chatted with at another building. It saved me from being all “Some guy said I should ask about this product, we talked for 10 minutes but I didn’t want to admit I had forgotten his name.”

  18. MommyMD*

    Truthfully no one cares how you look in your work photos. They really do not. Everyone has pressures in life and are busy worrying about themselves and their family and friends. Your work photo doesn’t even hit their radar.

    1. Ten*

      Every once in a while I’ll see a professional photo of a person (like in an ad, or on some form of ID) and wonder what that person thinks of it. It makes me feel less weird about my own self-consciousness.

      1. TL -*

        I made a short animated video with voice-over for an exhibit I’m putting together. Today, I asked my coworkers to review it and had to leave the room while they did because I just could not stand the sound of my own voice anymore. (To me, it sounds like I’m a 3 year old with a pack a day habit. Others tell me my voice is actually pretty pleasant to listen to.)

        The trick (and it’s a hard one) is to realize that you have a very biased view of yourself. Acknowledge your insecurities but remember that other people don’t see you that way and let it go.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Oh, voices! The first time I really heard my voice played back to me, I was horrified–I thought I sounded like the world’s worst vapid cheerleader stereotype (it’s quite high and sort of…bouncy?) so I spent two years deliberately pitching my voice below its natural register to try to sound more “serious”. Finally, I realized that what I was saying, and the confidence of my presentation, did more to make me sound serious and intelligent than a lower pitch, and I’ve stopped. Still not a fan of having to listen to my own voice, though. I don’t think anyone really is.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            You’re hearing your voice with part of it reverberating through the bones in your jaw–everyone sounds different on tape than in their head.

  19. Pat*

    Personally I think people scrutinise their own profile photos a lot more harshly than anyone else would. I used to be super self-conscious about this as well before realising I really don’t look that closely at other people’s profile photos (especially if I already know what they look like!).

    My guess is you probably wouldn’t look that closely at your coworkers pcitures (or appraise their appearance in them), and unless you work in a toxic workplace your coworkers won’t be doing that to you.

  20. Remarkable*

    #1 Mind your business and I suggest you tell your coworkers the same. Joe know that you all are friends with Jane.

  21. Yetanotherjennifer*

    OP 3, I felt the same as you about pictures of myself and the thing that helped me the most was taking selfies. I subscribe to a wardrobe service with a private Facebook group and one of the things that people can do is post selfies of their version of the daily outfit. I’ve found that taking all those selfies and choosing the best one each day to post has made me more comfortable about how I look in pictures, more comfortable around a camera and a little better at appearing my best. I think it would really help if you could spend some time learning to take a good selfie. Take lots of different types in different places and try to have fun with it. Be silly sometimes and perfect your jump shot and your duck face. Take many shots each time and choose the one you like best. You don’t have to share them with anyone. There’s also lots of articles online about how to look your best in pictures and you could practice some of those with your selfies. By the time picture day rolls around you’ll be more comfortable in front of a camera and that picture, good or bad, will be just one of many images of you.

    1. Birch*

      This also works for video or just regular old “I’m so awkward, where do I put my hands in social situations” anxiety. Video yourself. It’s awful for like an hour and then you get sick of caring so much and realize no one else cares either. (Source: I had to videotape myself giving interviews to research subjects and then transcribe them all. I do not recommend this nuclear option.)

    2. Serendipity*

      I was coming here to say the same thing! I absolutely hate photos. I used to be very obviously awkward, self-conscious and just couldn’t smile without looking like I was in pain.
      Then I had kids, and wanted to be present in photos with them. At first I’d take a hundred and keep two (yay for digital photography!).
      I’m better now. I’m still not great, but I can take a mildly awkward photo instead of full-stunned-mullet.

  22. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    LW2. I think the answer about your mother was great. I thought about who I look up to and I’m still stumped. Also, I believe you saved yourself a lot of grief by not going further with this company.

    1. Flower*

      I also can’t come up with an answer that makes sense. I might have answered with the name of my one friend who’s 11 inches taller than me.

    2. Temperance*

      I would say Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Wonder Woman, depending on the context. I really don’t think this is a super hard question.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        It can be hard when you don’t know what they are looking for. I’ve gotten the question twice, both for high school jobs. For one of them I answered “Steve Martin” because he’s multi-talented. It did not go over well. The student who answered “Walt Disney” got a great reaction. It’s not hard to come up with an answer, but it can be hard to come up with the “right” answer.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think the question invites the interviewee to ponder “Which person do I pick in order to get this job?”
          I think some people just tell the interviewer what they think the interviewer wants to hear.

          I remember in grammar school, when asked to fill out a form which included the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would just copy off my neighbor’s paper. I thought that I was not able to answer the question because I did not know what career choices were out there. I mean, I was six years old the first time I was asked. Fast forward decades later, I was talking to a teacher. Her response to my story was, “Oh NO ONE copies like that. Hi, my name is NO ONE.

          People do whatever they do in order to get stupid questions answered and go back to life.

  23. Amelia*

    My company did all our pictures at a retreat from 4-7 during a networking happy hour.
    You can see the progression of some of the pics. Ones taken earlier in the evening, look fairly relaxed.
    Ones taken later in the evening, start looking a bit sloppy.
    I had a fantastic pic… for a dating website. I think I’d had 2 drinks and I had a giant happy look on my face with a slightly ‘come hither’ look in my eye.
    I left it up for a few months and then paid a professional photographer to retake my picture for $100. Worth it (but I saved that company pic for myself!)

    1. Squeeble*

      LOL! My company photo was taken about 20 minutes into my first day on the job. It’s not a BAD picture, but I definitely have a wild, deer-in-the-headlights look in my eyes.

  24. Roscoe*

    #1 Don’t say anything. First off, you don’t know anything for sure. You have suspicions. He has gotten close with someone, but you don’t know they are doing anything. 2nd, he is a manager at your job. This isn’t like telling someone that a boss is embezzling money from the company, this is purely interfering in his personal life, and if he found out, you told her, especially if there was nothing going on, in my opinion he would then have every reason to treat you all worse. This isn’t a work issue, its a personal issue. Stop being a busy body and stay out of it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It would be helpful if everyone just stopped talking about it. Then it might be easier to just forget about it.
      Really, it’s like staring at people in a car accident. If your (the group’s) theory is correct then at least one person is going to come out of this story with their heart broken. Just because people “knew” that would happen does NOT mean the-know-it-alls won something.

      I am not big on all the drama myself. I made a little rule for myself. If I see a problem that I am willing to help on then I do. If I see a problem that I am not willing to help on then I don’t keep discussing it with others. Just as an aside, I am amazed at how many times I can find a way to help an issue in some manner. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out how to be effective, though.

  25. Lady Phoenix*

    OP #1: Doctor Nerdlove covered this quite a bit and he listed why telling Jane would be a BAD idea:
    1. She won’t believe you (especially if it is an anonynous letter)
    2. She will lash out at you for telling her (see phrase “don’t shoot the messager”)
    3. You could assume the wrong thing and possibly damage the relationship of three people (a couple and best friends)

    And yeah, how do you KNOW you manager is cheating on Jane? Have you SEEN the manager and coworker kissing each other? Having sex? Sending sexts? They could very well be good friends and I am sick of insecure people assuming that people of the opposite sex must always be fucking and never buddies.

    Just keep your nose out of this and let the fates decide.

    1. MLB*

      I couldn’t agree with this more. I work in a tiny office now but in my last job I had many male co-workers who became friends, and we were never more than friends. Making assumptions is how rumors get started and it helps no one. This isn’t high school, so be professional and mind your own business.

    2. Lora*

      Word. Last week someone asked if a colleague and I were married. We worked together closely at another job, and talk to each other outside of work a few times a week (but usually about work things – we have slightly different experience, so there’s a lot of “hey, do you know anything about this chemistry? I’ve only seen it once before” type of things); we used to carpool together and he lives about five miles from me, and the person asking had just seen us talking about the weather during the morning commute.

      Dude is a lifelong bachelor, and I’m not into men.

  26. Sandra Stout*

    LW3: I, too, take a terrible picture. But I went to a great photog and he told me how to position my head for a much better picture than usual. And, yes, get your hair/makeup done. If I were you, I’d have a good headshot made, then tell my boss “I have a good headshot already, why not just use this?” Best of luck!

    1. OP3*

      I’ve scheduled a photo session for the week before and will get my hair and makeup done before. If nothing else I can use the other photo on LinkedIn. It is difficult to get hair/makeup done before the company photo for various logistical reasons.

  27. Kittymommy*

    #3. I sympathize. My oeg is doing this too and thus far I’ve been able to avoid it, but let me bring up one point I haven’t seen mentioned. You say you are a upper level manager, which I assume means you have a decent amount of people under you. I guarantee you are not the only one who hates this. You may not be the only one who has anxiety over this. Fixing it so that your get out if the picture our you can have professional pictures, different than everyone else, may end up negatively affecting the morale of those who work for you. Especially if this option is not opened up to all in the company. There are times that upper level management has to set the tone for their staff and this may be one of those times. Except for what would comparatively be the board of directors, all upper level mgmt in my work has done the picture thing (it’s attached to our email, but I honestly couldn’t tell you who has because I don’t even pay attention to the pic) and to varying degrees general staff has, but there would be push back if directors exempted themselves but then forced staff to comply.

    1. OP3*

      Most of my direct reports conveniently have meetings or trips scheduled for the picture session. I’m not asking any questions or forcing anyone to do this unless I am forced to. I would be doing the same if it were not for the group photo. :)

  28. Aiani*

    LW #3 I wanted to share something with you that I hope will make you feel a little better. About 4 months ago my boss and I had to retake badge photos for everyone at our work site. This was over a 1,000 photos. The vast majority of people we saw said that they were not photogenic, or that their hair looked bad or that they looked old even though I felt like really everyone looked good. So many people joked with me that their photo would break the camera that I lost count. Several people came back and asked me to retake their picture again and I had one lady who came in on her day off so that she could get her hair and makeup done just right.

    You are not alone. Going by the experience I had, most people don’t like having their picture taken. Your co-workers will all be focused on their own pictures rather than yours. Also most of us judge our own pictures much more harshly than pictures of other people. I think if you get your hair and makeup done it might help you feel more confident but remember some of your co-workers may very well feel the same way that you do.

    1. Yorick*

      Yes, and some people behind you in line might be relieved if you take a little longer since that will delay the picture taking for them

      1. Temperance*

        Or ramp up their stress, since they’re waiting even longer for an unpleasant task. I do think it is a good thing to take multiple photos, though.

  29. Murphy*

    OP3, I sympathize. Several teams at my organization have photos up on the website. I’m not really on a team, and it’s not something my boss would be into, so I don’t have one. But they’ve been revamping our website and I keep hoping no one will suggest we get photos!

    I’d second getting your hair/makeup done on the day of the photo if that would make you feel better. Could you also maybe show up towards the end of the photo session (maybe be late after getting your hair done?) so you don’t have to wait in line. I could see the standing there dreading it being more anxiety inducing, so maybe if you could just show up and get it over with quickly, it wouldn’t be so bad? (I don’t know how that would work with the group photo though.)

  30. Evergreen*

    I work in an industry where photos are common. Generally they’ll book groups of 5-10 people in 15 minute slots so you have it in your diary, and take a few shots so you can pick the best. It’s unlikely to be like school picture day: a line of hundreds of people, 30 seconds per person.

    If you were to take a vacation day that day they’ll cope (I mean, what will they do about backgrounds for people who start after picture day?) but I personally find it less stressful (still stressful but less so) to have it done with on a day I know about in advance, when I can plan an outfit, hair, makeup etc.

    If you decide to go ahead with it, here are my coping strategies:
    – depending on the admin in question, speak to them in advance. The marketing team don’t want to be sending out a bid with pictures of executives looking deranged, someone sympathetic will understand and make things easier for you. Alternatively if they’re just trying to pump through the list, I wouldn’t bother
    – practice beforehand: take 50 different photos and pick the best. What expression, head tilt, etc looks right. What’s the maximum time you can hold an expression before it looks forced.. What’s the ideal shirt neckline, colour, hair style etc.
    – turn up a few minutes early: often they’ll have a bit of downtime between groups that will give you a bit of extra time to get it right
    – be as cheery as possible from the minute you enter the room. ‘I’m a bit nervous ha ha ha’ ‘that’s a terrible photo! Let’s take it again! I’ve been here for 15 minutes but I’m happy to stay until we get it right hahaha!’ This will help keep your expression natural and happy for the photo, as well as make the photographer and admin more willing to take a few extra shots for you.
    – do not leave the studio/room until you’re reasonably satisfied with the photo – people (not just you) care about the quality of their picture and will also be insistent, it won’t make you look strange or vain or weird that you care about it being right (I mean, as long as you’re friendly about it). This is doubly so if you’re sufficiently high up that your picture will be used for conference/speaking engagements, bids etc

    Don’t feel alone in facing this! Myself and many of my colleagues hate it too, but I eventually figured out a way to get a photo I can live with and I believe you can too!

  31. mcr-red*

    #3 – My company holds a big community event every year and part of my job is to make sure everyone who takes part in the event (think vendors) has their picture taken. Many times it is the same people that take part year after year with a few newbies. Every year, I have certain people that will complain and get cranky with me at picture time. They know this is going to happen. It’s not a surprise. Last year, I had one person simply refuse to do it. I have to admit, I kinda roll my eyes at the people who do this. I’m not the one who decided this, my bosses’ are, yes they know people hate it, no they don’t care, please don’t make my job more miserable than it already is. Don’t take pictures all you want in your personal life, if it’s something you have to do for work or a show like this, please just do it or the lady you’re whining at is going to think nasty thoughts about you.

    1. Ambpersand*

      Been in this position before too. I had two women completely ignore my requests to set up their pictures and AVOID ME for several weeks until I had to give up and move on. In the end, I got in trouble for not getting it done and had to explain to our top boss what had actually happened.

      1. Clare*

        This has happened to me too and honestly it sucks. We all do things we don’t like at work every day, staff photos are no different.

  32. yup*

    #3 – Do you know what the photos will be used for? If it is just for an ID Badge, no one will really look at it to begin with. If it is for something else, they will probably give you a dozen chances and then Photoshop them to death. I’m assuming it’s the latter, in which case, I would encourage you to remind yourself that the end result really won’t even be your face or photo, more a piece of artwork that you managed to inspire. Coming from multiple companies where this was a “thing,” I could not recognize half the people from their photos.

  33. Delta Delta*

    Oh, photos.

    Current job: self-employed. Thought it would be a good idea to have a photo of myself on my website. I have a couple photographer friends – invited one over to take some sort of casual but appropriate-looking photos. The result is an excellent photo that resembles a headshot, but is a little different than what you usually see. I have gotten really good feedback from clients, including one who said, “I like that you included a photo of yourself so I can see you’re a real person. But you don’t look stuffy!” I’m historically not very photogenic, but I think the fact I was able to relax a little during my photos helped immensely, because I ended up with photos I really like.

    1. WellRed*

      Yeah, I have professional headshots, taken by a photographer friend. It makes a difference. I realize not everyone has this option, but LW, I hope with some of the advice here, you can get a photo you like.

  34. TaxAccountant*

    #4 – this is very common (the extra hours, not the manager house) in a number of industries. I work in public accounting and last week worked 70 hours as a salaried employee. That’s 30 hours of “unpaid” overtime. However, I make a pretty good salary in part to compensate for this.

    I know it can be weird if you aren’t used to it. Growing up, most of my family worked non-exempt type jobs and they were quite concerned at first that I wasn’t getting paid but still work a lot of overtime. Also by the fact they perceived it as me “volunteering” to work a lot even though no one specifically says “you need to be here for X hours on saturday” for example. However, in my case, I am expected to look at the work that needs to get done and work accordingly without someone specifically directing you to work extra if needed. Often that means late nights and/or weekends.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      “Growing up, most of my family worked non-exempt type jobs and they were quite concerned at first that I wasn’t getting paid but still work a lot of overtime.”

      I really struggled with this once I got into the working world and became exempt. My dad was always telling me I worked too hard, they weren’t paying me enough, they’re taking advantage of me, it’s not my responsibility, etc. But he was a steel worker in the same shop for 40+ years and was union steward and shop foreman. For him it was a foreign concept that I was paid to do a job and put in the necessary hours, not paid for how many hours I put in.

  35. hbc*

    OP1: “…Joe and Jane appear to be a couple….” If you can’t even be sure that there’s a relationship to be potentially violating, you definitely don’t have standing to interfere, and that’s before we get into the fact that you don’t know if there’s a romantic element to the friendship. Don’t lie, but don’t drop supposedly harmless comments (“Joe and B sure are spending a lot of time together…”) that you wouldn’t have made if B was also a guy.

    OP4: Same basic advice. You have the “right” to be concerned, but no basis for being so, and it would not be good friend behavior to dump your assumptions and judgments on your friend and make them her problem. If you’re genuinely curious about how salaried employment works (sounds like you’re not familiar), then ask with an open mind what the expectations are for work hours or why it makes sense to work at the boss’ house.

    For what it’s worth, it *is* unusual to work at the boss’ house, but “unusual” and “suspicious” are not the same thing.

  36. Ambpersand*

    #3- In addition to booking yourself an appointment that morning for hair and makeup, I would also suggest going shopping beforehand to find a new outfit that you absolutely love. That extra boost of confidence will go miles.

    Also, I don’t want to overstep my bounds here, but I’ve dealt with both Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder for the last 17 years of my life and it sounds like you have some serious anxiety going on. I had similar attacks about small things for years until I started on a medication from my family doctor as-needed for panic attacks and it has made my life so. much. easier. It’s super low dose with almost no side effects, and taking one before I get anxious makes me feel like a normal person again and boom- no panic attack and I can get through whatever it is that I need to. It seems like something similar could really help you here. But if that’s not what you’re interested in I completely understand!

      1. Ambpersand*

        Oh good! I wasn’t sure if I should say anything, but I didn’t even try medication until I was 24 and spent a lot of time wondering why I hadn’t tried it sooner! I completely understand where you’re coming from though- anxiety is such an a-hole and I’m so sorry that you’ve been put into such a stressful position. I hope you can find a workable solution, whatever it may be!

  37. Non-profiteer*

    OP#3 – Could you engineer it so that you are last in line before lunch or before the end of the day, so there isn’t a long line of people behind you, watching the photo being taken? Just schedule some “meetings” and show up at the last minute?

    Also, if it’s available to you, I highly recommend Dry Bar for getting your hair done. I used them before taking my professional photo and it turned out great. It really did make me feel more confident.

  38. JobHuntingAgain*

    RE: #5 – I’m job hunting now due to layoff and my old company hooked me up with a career transition/coaching company to help with the search. They recommended dropping months from my resume, which really irked me. I have a few things in there that are just a few months because I’ve done a lot of contracting, so I’d have things that overlapped or just one year and it struck me as really misguided and potentially misleading.

    It’s probably different for each industry/individual, but there’s something off about not including months. Basically I agree with Alison and I’m glad this question was answered, because I almost asked it myself.

  39. a girl has no name*

    We had staff photos done for security purposes. The photos are on our badge to get in. It was not an option to get out of it, they all had to be the same background, and most of the photos are terrible (like the dmv). We all laugh together about how terrible the photos are. I really would not push back on this. Many employers place photos on the website and on your badge. I totally get being upset by it, but maybe just take it as a part of your job that you don’t like doing, but need to do anyway.

  40. animaniactoo*

    OP#1 – If you say something, you say EXACTLY what you know. Not what you assume, suspect, or think. Only what you KNOW.

    In the linked to article, that would be “I have heard that your husband is having an affair.” Not, “Your husband is having an affair” but “I have heard that”.

    You see Smithers out having dinner with an unknown woman? “I saw Smithers out to dinner with a woman we didn’t know last week. I wasn’t sure if it was a business meeting so I didn’t want to intrude.”

    In the case you present here – well you haven’t said anything beyond B and Joe are spending a lot of time together. So from what you have presented, the most you could say would be “Joe and B seem to be pretty close. Have you met her?” or something similarly straightforward.

    But. Here is the major key – In the main, your job is to deliver any of this as calmly as possible without any sense of negativity or perceptible expectation that your friend should answer you or defend what you saw (or heard).

    Among other reasons, some people have open relationships they don’t necessarily want to advertise, and some people were just out to dinner with their cousin whom you’ve never met, and some people just have friends of the opposite sex and aren’t aware how the friendship is being perceived when they actually ARE just friends. And some people would prefer to bury their head in the sand over whether their partners are having affairs and you want to give them that freedom of choice, while at the same time informing those who would want to have some idea of what is going on and leaving them free to pursue it and not have to discuss it with you. Most people will say they fall into one camp over the other, but their actions don’t always align when faced with it. You don’t want or need the backlash for trying to look out for a friend. So, again, you leave them the choice of what to do with the information (if it even is new information for them) without feeling like they have to “answer to you” because you brought it to them.

  41. SallytooShort*

    OP3 I have nothing constructive to add. But I’d feel the same exact way!

    Currently my largeish organization has people submit their own. Which is great for me. But a lot of people do submit normal selfies which aren’t offensive but not 100% appropriate for the setting. So, I’m thinking that will change soon.

  42. peachie*

    Ugh, OP3, I feel you. I hate having my picture taken, too, but it’s very necessary in my line of work. Some things I’ve found helpful:

    1. Find a professional hair/makeup artist and have them style you before the picture. Makeup for photos is very different than makeup for real life, so find someone who has experience with that. If you contact local headshot/portrait photographers (particularly if their subjects tend to look good/natural), they often have recommendations. If you can’t find anyone (or don’t want to spend money on this, which, fair), the main things to know about portait photography makeup are: matte finish (way more powder than you think you need), minimal or no eyeshadow, light touch on the eyebrows, light coat of mascara, slightly more blush/bronzer than you’d think, and nothing more than chapstick or tinted balm on your lips (if you’re going for a natural look, of course–otherwise, you can certainly do lipstick).

    2. When they do your makeup/hair, take a few selfies before you leave to see if anything looks weird so they can fix it if they need to.

    3. If you can, have a friend take some photos of you. This will help you get comfortable in front of a camera and know what angles make you look the most like yourself. (Most people look the best with their face at a slight angle–think pointing your nose 45 degrees from the camera–with their chin jutting out a bit. This feels weird but looks more natural. Pictures are weird!)

    Good luck!

    1. peachie*

      Oh, also:

      4. Pick your top ahead of time and take some test photos to make it look good. Tops often photograph very different than you think they will–usually, they look way more “busy” on camera than they do in real life. Find something in a solid color with a simple neckline.

    2. Eye of Sauron*

      Your #3 is spot on. I remember getting my Sr Portraits done in HS, and the poses felt ridiculous, but the pictures turned out great. There’s magic that happens in photographs and apparently the key to a good picture is to be able to smile while holding a very unnatural facial pose.

      In other words OP3, listen to the photographer, follow their direction, and try not think about how weird it feels.

  43. Lady Phoenix*

    In addition, OP#1 to no telling Jane for the reason I stated above, it is inportant to know that this is hurting your reputation.

    People are percieve you and your friends as inmature adultchildren who haven’t grown out of high school. No one will trust you with information out of the knowledge that you’re gonna pry your nose into their business and blab all about it to the reat of the workforce.

    Could you imagine if someone disclosed to a “close coworker” that they might be job searching, only for the entire workforce and the boss suddenly knowing it the next day? Or how about the new girl who decides to ask her boss a question, only to be called a “slut” and “homewrecker” one week later because SOMEONE told the group she was sleeping with the boss (when she wasn’t)?

    Can hurt the people involved and can cause anlot of toxic behavior in the workplace. I would shut it down now, while you are young, before it hurts your reputation (because you are young) and it grows into a bad habit in your older years.

    In other words, rumors are one of those things in high school that we should leave in high school along with cliques, mean girls/jocky dude bros, those godawful baggy pants from hottopic with tons and tons of zippers and chains, and Justin Bieber.

  44. Indie*

    How hard is it really, when one friend is being an ass to another, to warn the innocent party? And to stand behind your morals with the guilty party? I think that applies to all nastiness, not just cheating. I mean I can understand not wanting to lose the guilty friend over one mistake but the best way to achieve that is to say: “Hey maybe stop being an asshat. Because as you’ve seen, I won’t cover for you, I wont excuse you and it will endanger our friendship if you keep up this level of bad behaviour”. A true friend tells you when to cut it out. Cheating, bullying, hate language, back stabbing; regardless of the crime your morals aren’t for sale for the price of one (lousy) friendship. Tackling this with a manager-level being is a slightly different problem, but you’d have to have a very underwhelming level of courage to let that stop you. Particularly since there’s a group of you.

    1. SallytooShort*

      They have exactly zero evidence of cheating. He has a friendship with someone. I am close friends with several guys. I’m not cheating with any of them.

      It’s not hard. It’s very easy to blow up someone’s relationship based on little to nothing. But it doesn’t mean you should.

    2. Scarlet*

      Who’s being “an ass”? They’ve seen absolutely nothing, except *gasp* a “close friendship” with a coworker. They can’t “warn” their friend about an affair when they don’t have any evidence (or even ONE FACT supporting their suspicion). Talking to her will only stir sh*t.
      And yes, meddling in a manager’s personal life makes it a particularly bad idea.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      There is no cheating that anyone knows of. There’s what OP1 describes as a close friendship. The guilty party? Guilty of what, a close friendship?

    4. Lady Phoenix*

      I can see this going well.
      Op 1: [Boss] I caught you cheating!
      Boss: What?! Are you serious?!
      Op 1: I saw you talking to B.
      Boss: We were talking about the latest episode of Arrow! She’s my beat friend!
      Op 1: But…
      Boss: Yeah, I think you and your friends need to mind your own business.

      Then Jane drops them for being gossipers and everyone stops talking to them.

  45. Pickles*

    OP3, I completely feel for you on this issue. I have had RBF since before it was a ‘thing’ and usually I appear so, so dower and pissed off in photos. For one work photo, after numerous reshoots in an attempt to capture my face making a human expression, I drew a smiling mouth on a sticky note and stuck it to my face. Thats the one we went with.
    I know everyone says it’s not a big deal and that people aren’t really looking at your photo-and that is true, no one really does care-but God, it’s still stressful.
    I’m 35 years old and the *only* photos of me that do not make me cringe are my wedding photos. Why? Because I spent half a dang day having a team people do my hair and makeup!
    I hate admitting that because it totally does sound like I’m precious or vain. In truth I almost never fret about how I look. I don’t think I’m ugly, it’s just my angular features rarely agree with the camera, at least the way it appears to *me*. Your feelings are justified and valid, though you don’t need anyone else to tell you so. Just know you are so not alone in feeling this way!
    I’m sorry you’re being stressed over something that, to lots of people sounds silly, but to many others is legitimately A Thing To Worry About.

    1. Janie*

      I also hate having my photo taken, and my current job did NOT help at all when they photoshopped the bejeezus out of me (not professionally, just using some random software the HR person had on her computer). I look like a cartoon character with big sparkly eyes (like, Disney princess sparkly) and shiny glossy lips. I NEVER wear lipstick or even lip gloss so it looks particularly ridiculous. When I complained about it to my manager, she said she thought I looked great and she loved the photo, so I am stuck with it :(

  46. Nita*

    #3 – can you have the photographer take several pics, and then pick the one good photo? Do you think you’ll get at least one that’s decent? Failing that, if you’ve got a photo session scheduled in advance, you could just look over the work photos with the photographer, and then give them the photo studio pics and tell them “I’m sorry, I just don’t photograph well! Would you at all mind using these instead? I was afraid this might happen, and took some photos in advance after I had my hair done.”

    I’m one of those people too, so I totally know how you feel. I don’t know what it is. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my face, but I take the worst photos ever. I don’t think I even look like a human being in some of them. Every now and then I’ll get a decent picture and feel very proud of it, but it’s definitely the exception and not the rule. Oddly, I look just fine on video and in the mirror…

  47. Greg*

    #1: Anyone else think they were reading a letter from the narrator of Joshua Ferris’ “And Then We Came to the End”? For those who have never read it, it’s a comic novel about a workplace that’s written entirely in the third-person plural, the joke being that often coworkers operate as a sort of collective.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Yes! That’s what it reminded me of – I’ve been trying to figure out if the LW was using the royal we or assuming everyone in the group was in the same place of wondering if anyone should tell.

      1. Greg*

        Yeah, that was how I took it: There were a group of them among whom it had become a frequent discussion topic, and LW#1 agreed to be the one who wrote AAM.

        By the way, my favorite line in that book was when he winkingly acknowledges the gimmick by writing, “And then one of us — really, it could have been anyone — approached Karen’s desk.”

  48. Snarky*

    #3 – I feel your pain. I have horrible anxiety about having my photo taken. As a result, I’m going to make a counter-argument to getting your hair and makeup professionally done. My best success at managing the anxiety came from trying to not “fix” the problem because all it did was get me to obsess and focus on it even more. I do my best to accept that this will likely never be a fun activity for me, that I’ll probably judge my photo far more harshly than anyone else will, and I try to look forward to photo day if only so I can get it behind me and stop thinking about it. On the day of the photos, I try my best to act casual, joke around with coworkers, (none whom are remotely aware that this is an issue for me), and behave how I’d think I would behave if this wasn’t an issue for me. (Take a relax pose, stop trying to figure out a “good angle”, smile, etc.) After photo day, I try to avoid looking at my photo as much as possible so it doesn’t fester and ultimately fuel more anxiety the next time it comes up.

    Not saying it’s a great solution, but it’s one that has had moderate success with me. Whatever you choose to do, best of luck!

  49. mcr-red*

    OP#1: I believe you that you and your co-workers believe something is going on with Joe and B. One person can mistake a friendship, sure, but an entire office? In my second job, I had a boss A who suddenly had a “friendship” with a female coworker B. One that made everyone else in the office uncomfortable. They would disappear a lot together, and his wife would show up to see him and we’d have to find him, and even though none of us had any proof anything was going on, it made everyone feel like we were covering for this affair. Literally everyone talked about how uncomfortable the situation was. I ended up getting another job and leaving – a few months later, another coworker told me how A’s wife found out and B’s husband found out, and there was a huge mess.

    How to proceed I would say depends on how close of a friend REALLY you are with Joe. Because I think he is the person to “confront”, not Jane. If Joe’s really a close friend, I think you can say, “Hey is there something going on with you and B? Because you’re starting to make the rest of us really uncomfortable.” If he isn’t that kind of a friend, the only thing you can do is get out now, or get some popcorn for it all goes down.

  50. Spider*

    OP #3 — I totally feel you. I loathe getting my picture taken and I uniformly look awful in them. My workplace photo is 4 years old, taken from a distance at an outdoor wedding reception when I was all dolled up and 20 pounds lighter, looking the best I’ve ever looked in a photo, and I still flinch whenever I see it.

    BUT! My office is also about to get a photographer in here to take formal pictures of all of us to use on our website, and this is what is helping me be more zen about it —

    My mother was legitimately beautiful in person and looked merely-average-to-terrible in, oh, 95% of all photographs. So she (understandably) hated having her picture taken, and unfortunately, she had a very poor self-image which she felt her bad photos only corroborated. We had a conversation about this one day when I was a teenager, and I realized that she only ever saw herself in the mirror and in (bad) photos. When we look at ourselves in the mirror our faces are usually expressionless, and photos are static images that flatten 3-D into 2-D. She never saw herself as the rest of the world saw her — at all angles, in all lighting, and (most importantly) full of movement and expression. She never saw her face as she was telling a funny story or beaming with pride or full of compassion. She never saw her own face break into a spontaneous smile. She never knew how cute her facial expression was when she was listening to someone say something scandalous. Really, she had no idea what she truly looked like.

    And neither do we.

    I can look at a bad photograph of my mother and my mind instantly Photoshops away an angle that makes her nose look weird or her eyes look squinty, because I do know what she truly looked like. I can’t do that for myself because I don’t have that inexhaustible mental archive of my own face to draw from, so I see a picture of myself with my face doing something ugly and I think, “Holy crap, that’s hideous. I’m hideous. DELETE.”

    The people you work with what you really look like and will instinctively fill in the wonky features of your picture with their knowledge of the real thing. The people who see your picture who don’t know you will not be able to do this, but if they ever meet you in person, you can bet on them thinking, “Wow, she’s so much better looking in person.” Even celebrities known for their good looks (Keanu Reeves comes to mind) have said people say this to them. Even celebrities NOT known for their good looks say that people tell them that — somewhere in the archives of my mind, I have a memory of Sally Jesse Raphael (anyone remember her?) saying the same thing!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is a beautiful comment, I hope OP sees this and takes it to heart.

      OP, this one sentence is a gem: ” she had a very poor self-image which she felt her bad photos only corroborated.”

      I realized years ago, this was MY problem. I was not where I felt I should be in life and photos were a nasty, in-my-face reminder of that fact. I looked at my pictures and saw someone on the losing side of the battle. And that was my REAL reason. It started with a concern of “what will people think of this picture of me?” My question should have been what will *I* think of this picture of me? My self-acceptance took frequent breaks, okay, I really did not have a self-acceptance.
      When I decided to work at my life more strategically and deliberately, my issues with being photographed went down. I don’t believe that was a coincidence. I started liking me better.

      It’s a good investment of time to help yourself to feel calmer and more reassured here, OP. Photos are everywhere, even BJs Wholesale wants to take your picture for you to join. If you limit your discussion in your head to asking questions such as “What will I think of seeing that this is how I look?” or “Will I decide my own picture is okay?” you might start to get to the nuts and bolts of concern.

      See, there is not much others can do to reassure us, if we don’t have a plan on how we will reassure our own selves. Toss away what others think and dig down to find out what YOU think.

  51. KayEss*

    I can come from the photo issue from both sides. I hate having my photo taken and pretty much the only way I can “grin and bear it” is if I never, ever have to see the photo myself and confront how horrible I look. (I figure other people either don’t care or will be too polite to say anything.) I also work in positions where I have to leverage staff portraits for professional and marketing purposes, and the photo anxiety of highly-placed management is a huge barrier.

    At one place, it was just a given that the director photos in the annual report always had to be in black and white, because one of the EDs refused to have a new headshot taken… so the only one we had available was over ten years old, and only in black and white. We had to design the entire annual report around her refusal to deal with aging. Another guy (highly-sought in his field with name recognition, and also a gentleman d’un certain âge) insisted on using the same oversaturated, dark, grainy photo (again, from almost ten years prior) over a plethora of recent, professionally-taken shots that looked lovely and synced with the rest of the organization’s updated brand aesthetic. Nice guy, great at his job… but I was silently cursing him as I tried to promote his work to an audience used to slick and professional graphics.

    1. EJ*

      Amen to that.
      We have a few executives who refuse to use their professionally done head shots and insist on using grainy photos from 15 years ago that don’t match with the rest of the team. The kicker is that we even offered re-shoots to folks who weren’t happy with theirs and they STILL hated them! One executive in particular, I had to drive her to her re-shoot appointment (still salty about that, she could have taken a cab) which was all the way across town only to have her get the pictures back and say that she hates all of them and wanted to stick with her photo from 10 years ago.

      1. Mmbop*

        In my opinion, it reflects poorly on the mismatched photos. I know I’m making way too many assumptions but I assume the mis matched headshot doesn’t participate in company culture or can’t compromise or follow brand standards/guidelines. There are perfectly innocent explanations, like #3, but they don’t really come across. Nothing drives me more nuts as a designer when I’m asked to include a headshot and I get three professional, matching images and one low-res jpeg outlier.

  52. Noah*

    OP3 — if a lot of the concern is the pressure of people waiting in line behind you, why not show up late at the very end of the picture schedule?

  53. AdamsOffOx*

    1. To me, “What about someone famous” signifies “We want someone who’s stupid and shallow.”

  54. Mmbop*

    Marketing designer, responding to #3. If these photos are going to be used publicly, like on a leadership page on the website, it’s important that they all be shot similarly. It reflects poorly on the company when 9/10 of their photos are cohesive and then there are a few outliers. Depending on how #3’s photos are staged, it may not be feasible to recreate them privately.

  55. Steve*

    “Is it acceptable to boycott “picture day”?”

    Yes, unless it is a group/team/unit picture. If we need a head shot, we ask someone to provide one.

    Although…..we had to point out that one of the volunteers in full pirate regalia and his leg up on a keg Captain Morgan style was not acceptable. Funny as hell (especially given that he operates a boat for us) but not useful.

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