my screen share showed an inappropriate tab during a meeting, my boss’s son is a reckless driver, and more

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

1. My screen share showed an inappropriate browser tab during a meeting

In my role as project manager for my company, I frequently lead status or check-in meetings. We do these over video conference, and lately I’ve been sharing my screen to review the to-do list and ensure the notes that I capture are accurate. I have dual monitors so I normally pull whatever I need to share over to one side and show just that monitor.

Today I was sharing my screen during a weekly meeting with a large group (nine people). I’m working remotely so I just shared my whole screen (with the focus on a Confluence page in my browser). I realized about 20 minutes into the meeting that I had a few other tabs in the given window, one of which had the headline “What to do with nudes…” (the other tab open was AAM, lol). The site was actually an advice column, but obviously my coworkers have no idea of knowing that. As soon as I realized, I seamlessly moved the tab I needed to share into a new window (at least I think I was pretty smooth).

How bad is this? I feel like the best route may have been to make a quick comment/joke as I noticed it, but the moment has passed. My coworkers are not great about actually looking at my screen share, and often when they ask questions I have to ask them to look at what I’m sharing. Should I mention it in my follow-up email with meeting notes? Should I say something to my manager in case someone says something to her? I have pretty good relationships with most of the people on the call and I’d like to think one of them would have pointed it out to me if they noticed before I did. But I’m feeling pretty embarrassed right now so not sure the right way to handle this.

Oh noooooo. I would be mortified by this too. Personally, when I’m embarrassed by something like this, I find I feel much better if I just plunge in and address whatever the awkward thing was, even if doing that means a second potentially awkward moment. So in your shoes, when I sent out those notes, I’d just include a jokey mention of it at the start of the email — like “I realized after our call that one of the tabs on my screen during my screen-sharing seemed potentially risque; let me assure you it was just an advice column!” (Was it by chance last week’s Dear Prudence, which would fit your description? In that case, I might even just call it “an article in Slate,” thus emphasizing its mainstreaminess even more.) Nine people isn’t a huge group to say that to, and I think you can get away with it in a way that would be harder if the group was hundreds.

There are a lot of people, though, who would say to just ignore the whole thing, arguing that addressing it this way would make too big a deal of it. And they may well be right — but personally I’d still rather address it so I didn’t have it sitting around in my head embarrassing me.

2. How can I tell my team that now that we’re fully staffed, I’m not going to be as relaxed about errors?

My team has been understaffed for quite some time (six months-ish), and everyone has been carrying more than their fair share of the burden during that time. I am extremely appreciative of my team and regularly tell them how grateful I am that they’ve all stepped up to help out.

During this time of overburden, there have been errors and things have slipped through the cracks. I’ve been extremely lenient because of the volume of work the team is handling, and figured errors are to be expected. However, workload aside, I also know that some of these errors could have been avoided with more careful attention to detail and better organization/planning on their part. I have addressed these issues as they have come up, but no more than bringing to their attention and then essentially letting it slide because of their stress levels; I have felt that it’s not reasonable to expect near-perfection when they’re overall being so helpful. I’m still debating with myself about whether or not this was the right approach.

Regardless, we are now FINALLY fully staffed which is absolutely glorious, and within a couple of weeks the orientation of new staff members will be complete and we’ll be able to move forward with reasonable workloads. I want to make my team aware that I’ve been understanding about errors in the past and still very much appreciate the work they put in to tide us over when we were down headcount, but now that we’re fully staffed, we need to make improvements going forward and I won’t be as lenient with the same types of errors. In the future, when issues do come up, I’ll also need to be more firm with them than I have been to ensure corrections are put into place.

Do you have any recommendations on how to communicate this without making them feel underappreciated or seeming like chill manager turned Jekyll and Hyde?

Be straightforward about it, but also don’t expect them to be able to flip the switch into this new mode overnight. Stress is cumulative, and there probably needs to be a buffer period where they can decompress from the past six months of stress. In fact, I’d explicitly say that so they know you get it and also, if you can, encourage them to take some vacation time soon to assist that decompression.

You could thank people for going above and beyond for the past six months and then say something like, “In recognition of how much everyone was shouldering in the last few months, I relaxed our standards a bit on things like X and Y. Now that we’re fully staffed, I want us to return to our previous standards — meaning (insert details here). But before that happens, I think we all need a period to decompress! So let’s take the next few weeks to try to do that first. If your plate still seems very full, come talk to me and we’ll figure out how to redistribute things. And I hope you’ll consider talking some vacation days soon, even if it’s just a few long weekends. If there’s something else you need to help you move out of stressed, overworked mode, let’s talk about it!”

That’s enough to start. And then, after this period of a few weeks, if you do still see someone making too many errors, you can address that with them one-on-one.

3. My boss’s son is a reckless driver and I don’t want to hear about it anymore

My boss’s adult son has wrecked his car three times in the last year. His first accident, he hit a public bus that contained a lady on the way to the hospital! He just recently had his third accident (backed out really fast in a suburban neighborhood without looking and totalled his car). My boss whined about the expense of fixing the car but is giving it back to his adult son anyway.

I just started this job, but I am losing my composure over this situation. It’s only a matter of time before his adult son kills someone and I’m pretty sure my boss will just blame them for dying.

My boss already knows how I feel about his adult son’s driving. At this point, I just don’t want to hear about it anymore. Is there a way I can get my boss to stop telling me about his horrible, no-good, legally-culpable brat? You know, tactfully?

“Can I ask you a favor? It stresses me out to hear about Fergus’s driving — it really sounds like something serious could happen. There’s obviously nothing I can do about it, but would you mind not telling me about it? It really upsets me to hear.”

4. I had to cancel an interview because of illness–will they ask me back?

Early this morning I had to cancel an interview for a job I really want because (please excuse the TMI) overnight the excessive uterine bleeding that began last week and I am trying to control with medication reasserted itself vigorously at 3 a.m. Not only was I unable to sleep the rest of the night, but I became afraid for my immediate health and knew that there was no way I could show up for an interview where I would be meeting with six different people and be at my best mentally or physically. Just to get to the interview would have entailed a long commute by train.

I sent an early morning email to the contact person and said I needed to postpone due to a medical issue that cropped up overnight, could I please reschedule, and to please give my apologies to the people I was to meet. I received a reply thanking me for letting her know and that she would check with the search committee and their schedules.

Should I follow up in a day or so to ask if there is another interview time available? Have I seriously damaged my chances at an interview even though the circumstances were not under my control? How might I repair the situation? I also want to add that the night before the interview I sent another, prior email regarding clarification about the commute time and where I was to meet the contact person, so they would know I had every intent to keep the appointment.

Yes, follow up in a day or so to make sure this stays on their radar and see if you can get a new time nailed down.

As for how it might affect your chances … People get sick and have medical emergencies! Interviewers know that. If these are people you want to work for, they’re not going to decide you’re a flake and thus not interview you. But it is possible that this could mess with their interviewing timeline enough that it’s legitimately hard to reschedule. Ideally that wouldn’t happen, but if, for example, some of their interviewers are in from out of town for this or otherwise have difficult schedules, and if they have other strong candidates, it’s possible that they might end up concluding it can’t easily work out this time. That obviously sucks because this is in no way your fault, but sometimes the timing just ends up not working. Hopefully that won’t be how it plays out though! It’s more likely that they’ll be able to get you rescheduled.

5. Should I tell my manager about my bulimia?

I’m currently a manager with about 20 people as reports across two different teams. I’ve had a quick rise through my organization and am in line to take on another eight reports on yet another team.

I’m also bulimic. I have been for a very long time, and I have gone through periods of recovery and relapse. I have been having a hard time for a few years now. Not only is it a terrible strain mentally, physically I am suffering terribly and am in almost constant pain. Last year I took medical leave to attend treatment. I also have had to spend a week in a hospital two years ago. Now it looks like I will have to take medical leave again.

I am contemplating talking to my boss, and telling her what the problem is. One of the reasons is that I really don’t know how long I will be out of the office, and that’s hard for someone who doesn’t know the details to understand. I guess a part of me too would just be relieved to have the truth out so that things (appointments, the day I passed out in my office) make more sense. I am very sick, but I rarely miss work, get everything done, and have great performance reviews. I seem happy, relate well to my team and others and am well respected for my skills. I actually could be doing a MUCH better job without this problem, but because I’m above average, I don’t think it’s noticeable. My fear though is that any issues I have will be attributed to my bulimia, and it will hurt me professionally. It might put doubts into my boss’s head that I can’t handle my position. Or, she will just think I am a disgusting person. I have a good relationship with her, but sometimes she is really hard to read and a bit unpredictable, and I have no idea how she feels about mental illness. I’m certain that she would keep this a secret, but I am just torn. I dread telling her I have to be out again on leave. I really want to clear the air with her, but I have so many fears about the consequences. Any thoughts on how I should approach this?

I’ve love to live in a society where you could be completely open about this without worrying about repercussions, but the reality is that we don’t — and that you’re right that she may begin seeing everything you do through that lens or holding you back in ways that she wouldn’t otherwise. (Also, even if your boss is great and this doesn’t happen, there’s a risk that she’ll share the info with someone else who will handle it in ways you don’t want — not because she’d deliberately seek to violate your privacy, but because she could think it’s relevant info to, say, HR or another manager.)

But it’s also true that feeling like you have to keep quiet about what’s going on can contribute to feelings of shame or stigma that you shouldn’t have to struggle with. So I’d try reframing it in your mind to this: Ultimately no one at your company needs the details of any medical conditions, and there are lots that people prefer to keep private. You’re keeping this private not out of shame, but because medical details in general are private, and you’re sharing what they need to know, which is what kind of leave or other accommodations you need from them. Good luck!

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    As someone who has struggled with disordered eating almost all my life, I know that fear. Luckily my hospitalization happened when I was in school and was still something that was “acceptable”.

    I’ve given a heads up to my supervisor that I have a chronic Illness that can relapse though has been under control for x amount of time. My therapist advised me to explain it as “iron depletion” and be as vague as I need to be to HR.

    That can be a way because there’s a stigma about being mid to late twenties and having an eating disorder when many think it’s something that’s only found in teenagers. All the best, and I hope you get better.

    1. cat owner*

      So true about the stigma about being older and having an eating disorder. It sucks and it makes me so angry.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        A friend is 40, who is inpatient right now for anorexia. Her work has her off until January, because “They want her to be totally well and able to deal with work related stress.”

        She’s really worried because her job only has to hold a position for 6 months when you are out on medical. They will not let her come back until she is medically cleared. Both from a medical doctor and a psychiatrist.

        Her husband has decent enough insurance, but doesn’t pay for residential treatment. Insurance will pay for ICU, adult medical floor, 2 weeks general inpatient psych unit and 6 weeks general psych partial. day program. She’s looking at private pay, but if she losses her job, they’ll have to declare bankruptcy. Residential is a problem because some programs top out at age 25. So that is an added stress finding one you can afford and will accept you.

        Personally, I would only disclose as much as to keep everyone off your back. My friend’s work got squirrelly after she told everyone.

        I asked my friend about stigma, and she said it really hits overdrive at age 35. Especially from the general medicine providers. They treat you like a drug addict. It’s straight up and fly right, and have so little patience.

        1. OP5*

          Yes, I am 33 and most people don’t think older adults should still have these issues. I’m also currently normal weight, and don’t look like I’m sick. I’ve also experienced unpleasant reactions from medical providers because they assume it is something you should be able to control better. I am deeply ashamed of what I do. I think I would be mortified if many people found out, so I recognize I need to prevent that from happening, especially in a work context.

          1. Bingo*

            I am so sorry to hear that your shame is exacerbated by unpleasant reactions from medical providers, OP5. These are the people we should be able to look to for help without judgement.

            Without getting SUPER off topic here and providing advice I’m not certified to provide, one way my therapist has helped me cope with the shame I feel from my ED is to remember that the ED is NOT you. And the things that you do as a result of the ED is your ED manifesting itself, they are not things YOU would do if the ED wasn’t making you. It’s hard, but try not to conflate the two.

            Wishing you all the best.

      2. Bingo*

        Agreed. I am 31 and have finally sought professional treatment after failed attempts at self treating what I always classified as disordered eating but postponed admitting was ED. On top of that, I identify as feminist and body positive (apparently positive about all bodies but my own…) so the shame/dissonance is real.

        I appear average in weight, so there are no visible signs of my ED. But I’m going for weekly counselling and even when I’m at work, I’m not operating at 100% because my active recovery and the boatloads of work associated with that is always at the back of my mind.

        I’ve explained to my boss that I’m dealing with a recent diagnosis that he need not be worried about, but it will require me to attend regular appointments and that I may seem off while I’m being treated. We have very open communication and I was initially worried he would pry, but he got the hint that I didn’t want to open up further. He hasn’t asked any probing questions and has been very supportive.

    2. Traveling Teacher*


      I don’t think there’s any shame in keeping the specifics to yourself. For one, it’s absolutely true that bulimia is a chronic illness. You’re taking steps to address it proactively, OP, which is wonderful, and the language Viki used is a great way to notify your boss about what’s going on without going into explicit detail.

      We’ve been conditioned to think, in the last decade or so with the advent of social media, that not sharing every personal detail is somehow dishonest or wrong. But, it’s okay to keep deeply personal information personal. I actually think it can be kind to keep specifics to yourself and trusted counselors who are well-informed and know how to give you support.

      Even though you feel like it might make you feel better to completely disclose your situation in the short term to your boss, you might open a whole other can of worms, where your boss begins treating you differently or subconsciously or consciously begins policing you and your choices, among other things. They might be compassionate, even, but in ways that are less than helpful to you.

      In the end, it’s up to you to decide, of course, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping things as vague as possible.

      Best of luck with your continuing recovery.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I love this post. I absolutely agree that there is a trend towards sharing absolutely everything, and a hovering impression that those who don’t are hiding something or not being forthcoming enough. We are entitled to privacy just as much as we should be given space to share. Ultimately, it should be a matter of personal choice, and that choice should be respected.

        Best of luck to you, OP.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          For what it’s worth, I have a coworker who is out on extended medical leave, and I asked her manager if everything was OK with her (obviously not! but she got my intention), and the manager said she actually had no idea what the medical issue is. It could be literally anything physical or mental, and that is 100% fine. Someone on my team was out for surgery, and again, I have no idea what kind or for what. You don’t own anyone any kind of explanation.

          1. Ali G*

            Exactly. I managed a woman who came into my office one afternoon and said “you might have realized I’ve been leaving early the past few Wednesdays.” I had noticed, but she’s a great worker and I trust she’s getting her work done. She explained she was seeing a doc for something that cropped up, but she’d be back to normal soon. I thanked her for letting me know and told her that if she needed anything more than an afternoon a week to let me know, and that I hoped she was feeling OK.
            That was it! I didn’t need more info. She told me what she needed to fix her issue and I willingly gave it to her.

            1. Sally*

              I wanted to add that your manager might ask questions out of concern for you, with all good intentions. However, you STILL don’t have to give her any details. I like Ali G’s comment because it shows that you can keep your medical information private and still maintain a friendly, collegial relationship with your manger.

              When my manager was concerned that I had a bi-weekly doctor’s appointment, I couldn’t figure out what to say. I didn’t tell her that it was therapy, but I think my actual answer was kind of weird because I was trying to respond to her concern without giving details. I will be starting a new job in a couple of weeks, so I’m going to keep in mind these comments and advice when I talk to them about these appointments, and I’ll be better prepared this time.

      2. SusanDC*

        Exactly-there is no shame in keeping medical details/specifics to yourself. Would you feel this way if you had cancer? Needed a colostomy bag? Lupus? Sick is sick and no one should feel ashamed to be sick and need help to get better-and no one needs to know details of said illness, no matter what it is.

      3. Jill*

        There’s not only a trend toward sharing person things, but just in the political times we’re in the attitude is, “if you’re not getting angry about it you’re part of the problem.” Like, “We need to speak up about racism!” “We need to make our voices heard about discrimination!” “MeToo! (as in, we all need tell our stories about sexual harassment” and so on.

        While this tide of speaking up and starting conversations is very encouraging in terms of promoting social change, it does NOT mean that individuals experiencing difficult things MUST share their personal issues/experiences and that if they don’t they’re “part of the problem.” We can speak up about things like eating disorders in a global, geneal sense without making individuals feel pressured to get personal.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          I haven’t seen the “part of the problem” attitude much in the progressive community, though I’ll admit I don’t hang out places like Twitter known for petty squabbling. I think the real point of the movements you mentioned is that people should feel empowered and supported to tell their stories if they wish, and have people out there willing to listen in good faith, especially about topics where victims have been silenced and afraid for a very long time. But those are public sphere conversations, not work. We can only hope that movements like those can eventually bring us a world where if the OP wants to she could tell her manager she is being treated for mental illness and not have to be afraid of misunderstanding and stigma. Or one where people with ADHD can ask for work accommodations without having to tap-dance to avoid explaining why they’re asking for them.

    3. Specialk9*

      I have a chronic illness, that’s not an eating disorder, and I handle it vaguely also. Nobody needs to know the details, just the broad pattern so they don’t assume slacking instead of sick. (And in my eyes, recurring bulemia like this really IS a chronic illness.) Medical privacy should be a right not a luxury.

    4. Union point of view*

      I joined my union as a steward, specifically to help people who have problems with mental health. We are paid well, and have good benefits, but some decisions in my large organization are problematic, and need to be addressed.

      One thing that I have learned, is to try and avoid sharing the details of one’s health with a manager. Our rule is that we need to tell management how our health will affect our job, but not why. So “I have a chronic illness and will likely need X time away from work, and if possible could we discuss options like flex time or working from home because I [get tired easily or have mobility problems].”

      I have had quite a few people come to me because they have problems with their managers. They thought that their illness would elicit sympathy, and maybe at first it did, but then things got weird. And I only see the ones that become problems, so I know that my experience is biased, however these people could have easily avoided the situation by not giving details (for example a person who broke their leg, and they had complications, and their boss was refusing accommodations because they ‘had a normal broken leg and should be able to work by now’).

      1. Anonforthis*

        I agree with this. I had an employee disclose her alcoholism to me once she started getting treatment and while I believe I treated her the same way I’d treat someone with any illness, I admit I had some unpleasant thoughts and worries when she started getting sick with something else the next year. It turned out it was not “relapse” or just her being too hungover to work; but once the seed was planted it was really hard for me to unsee the possibility (since her other illness often flared in the mornings and made her late). Ultimately I don’t think I let any of my brainweasel-y concerns change the way I handled the repeated absences (had a talk, got to the bottom of why she hadn’t been letting us know she was going to be late, figured out it was as much a tech issue as anything, and things improved from there), but I felt pretty gross about attributing her new illness to the addiction she had already disclosed, or worrying that she was maybe lying about the new one to cover up a relapse. To be clear, I would not have been angry or less willing to accommodate her even if that were the case! I just didn’t love the way it made me feel to have to constantly tell myself, “hey, you don’t know the circumstances here, stop filling in the blanks with details of her addiction that you DO know to make the story make sense, it’s not kind or helpful.”

    5. Astrid*

      I totally agree that it’s best to keep an ED vague. Although OP #5 may feel relieved to share this “secret” with her boss, I think there might be adverse long-term consequences (e.g., her boss may be worried about giving her too many responsibilities and want to avoid triggering a relapse; OP may be concerned that her boss is monitoring her food intake).

      I hope OP #5 will explore local support options – an ED can be very isolating, especially since this behavior is naturally something that you want to shield from friends and family. Best of luck with your recovery.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      There’s this ridiculous notion that as an adult, you should have your shit together and be totally over any teenage problems. Eating disorders very much fall into that category for many people, unfortunately. People who have never experienced an eating disorder or anything like it don’t take them seriously; they have this image of the popular cheerleader worrying vainly about her looks… and that’s pretty much it. A sad fact of our society that anything associated with girls, especially teenage girls, is seen as silly, juvenile, and not to be taken seriously.

      I’m a private person by nature, so disclosing personal details is generally not a thing I do, but on the occasions where I’ve done it, I’ve regretted it. I know we’re all supposed to be “open and honest”, but aside from our close personal relationships, that will bite you in the butt. You owe nobody an explanation. All they need to know is that you have a chronic illness or medial issue that will impact your work in X and Y ways and that’s it. Full stop. Some people will press for details. Human curiosity is natural, but that doesn’t mean you are required to satisfy it. Demur, tell them you’re not comfortable discussing it, tell them yes it sucks and then change the subject.

      1. Anonymouish*

        I like this comment a lot and just wanted to add — a lot of supposed ‘teenage’ problems are actually just …problems, from acne to hormones to parental demands to illnesses. We dismiss young people’s problems as ‘not serious’ and so they don’t always get the help they need, but teens are just …young people, and their lives and issues run the gamut as adults’ do.

        1. OP5*

          Right! My issues started as a teen, and were pretty much dismissed. It’s not something you grow out of because you turn 21 or something.
          Perception really matters in a lot of things in the workplace, and I guess this fits assumptions about health issues as well.

          1. Clorinda*

            A lot of mental health issues first manifest themselves in the teen years; that doesn’t make them kid problems. Best wishes to you.

    7. Mouse Princess*

      Thank you for this comment. I recently entered recovery for bulimia for the first time at 27. I am shrouded in shame and guilt that as an adult, I have had this issue for over 10 years and never got help. I fear people won’t take me seriously. I use iron depletion and chronic migraines as excuses at times for absences. Just be aware that “helpful” people will come up with all sorts of treatments you should do…just smile and nod.

      1. lawyer*

        Good for you for getting the help you need. I had anorexia and a purging disorder for over ten years. I’m now 16 years recovered. Please know that it is possible to be completely recovered – it is possible to have a life where this doesn’t control you. I know it can feel hopeless and like it will never be over. But it can. You can get well. I believe in you and I’m thinking of you.

        OP, this goes for you as well.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Oh my goodness, yes. People will tell you about all sorts of things that you should definitely try. Which of course is awkward and awful because it’s usually some generic thing (have you tried yoga? what about herbal tea?) or you have tried it and it did not help. Everyone thinks they’re an expert after reading an article once about something vaguely related. Honestly it’s worth not disclosing details just to avoid this.

    8. Duffman*

      You can be incredibly vague, too. Just imagine if you had another illness like chronic explosive diarrhea. You wouldn’t tell your boss about getting that treated. You’d just say I need to go to the doctor because of a chronic issue.

      Doctors – especially those who treat eating disorders – are going to know to be discrete. You don’t have to worry about it coming out.

  2. ejodee*

    LW1 I think you could keep things vague, assuming the others were focused on their own tabs. Maybe they dreamt it.

  3. sacados*

    OP1 > Honestly this is something I would just let slide, given the extremely high chance that no one noticed/saw it anyway.
    If I’m understanding this correctly, it was just the first few words of the tab headline visible in the window next to the tab you were actually showing. It’s highly unlikely something like that would actually catch the eye. And the text size would have been really small — so depending on what screenshare/videoconference program you are using, it probably wasn’t clear enough for anyone to even be able to read the text in the first place.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, if these were just my peers, I would probably just let it go, since “what to do with nudes” doesn’t even scream “watching porn at work” to me. And I think sending an email to everyone would just prompt more giggles and ensure that everyone remembered it forever. But if my manager was on the call and we had a check in soon, I probably would just mention it to get it off my chest using Alison’s script, because yeah, I would be dying of embarrassment if this were me.

      2. Les G*

        This. Thou shalt not make awkward where no awkward was before, is one of my personal commandments for life.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Yes, yes, yes. Plausible deniability is your friend here – as in, your colleagues will likely deploy this strategy and say they didn’t even notice, whether or not they actually did. It’s like hearing noises from the bathroom – unless there’s something really egregious going on, everybody pretends not to notice them, and the world is a happier place for it.

          I agree that it might be worth saying something to your manager if she was on the call, but otherwise I’d let it go. Chances are that everybody else will have forgotten it by now anyway. This is a good thing!

      3. Specialk9*

        Exactly. Don’t say anything!

        Nude can be a color, especially of shoes and hose.

        My mind assumed you had something truly raunchy up there. This ain’t that. It’s not a big deal, so don’t make it one.

    1. MLB*

      Agree 100%. I’ve been there and yes I was internally mortified. But I never mentioned it again and things were just fine moving forward. More than likely, most of them (if not all) didn’t even notice it and if you bring attention to it, it will make things worse.

      1. Sally*

        Also, if they did notice, they will likely do you the favor of ignoring it. Like the time a coworker wasn’t muted at the beginning of a meeting and said “Damnit!” really loudly for over 100 colleagues to hear. We all just acted like it didn’t happen.

        1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

          We have a colleague that is notorious for leaving “other” stuff open when he’s doing screen shares. My coworker and I do kind of laugh about it, but we don’t hold it against him. We just remind each other not to “pull a Fergus” before starting a screen share…

    2. Mrs_Helm*

      Yep! I did a lot of performing arts growing up, and we were always told “Don’t Broadcast Your Mistakes!” The reason is, it is so unlikely that anyone in the audience noticed, or will remember. They aren’t as focused on YOU as you are.

    3. MissGirl*

      Yes! If I got an email from my coworker I didn’t know super well explaining this, I would probably roll my eyes and think, sure, “an advice column.” Especially if I never saw it. I would think this dude is getting really defensive over a so-called small thing.

      I searched this site found the word “nudes” and opened up a tab. Sure enough, I could see it but it’s tiny and you have to look for it. Really doubtful anyone noticed. If you’re still super anxious about it, you could ask someone you trust in the meeting if they noticed.

      Let this go and your embarrassment will fade. Bring it up and you’re the person looking at nudes in a meeting. Even if they believe you, the teasing you’ll get.

    4. beachlover*

      I agree. As someone who has daily conference calls, where we use screen shares quite often, I rarely pay attention to the what is in the background. And as sacados said, there are many times when the actual presentation is not crystal clear, so I am usually focused on the data being presented.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      I too would just pretend it never happened. If someone brings it up, address it in the moment with a laugh and a breezy “oh that was an article I was reading, yeah, didn’t think about the headline there”.

      If I had not noticed that, and you then brought it up, it would most definitely be a Thing in my mind and I would remember it for a long time.

    6. Adlib*

      At least it wasn’t the HR software where all of your team members’ salaries were up during a conference call once. A friend of mine was on a call where her (terrible) boss was showing that information inadvertently on her screen and never noticed once.

      1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

        Hah! I’ve seen so many inappropriate things, from saucy IMs to tutorials on growing weed.

      2. A username for this site*

        I once had an IT person activate remote desktop while I was reading a Yahoo news article on menstrual issues.

        I’d needed my Yahoo email for valid work reasons, logged out, saw some clickbait article about rare menstrual disorders, couldn’t resist the clickbait annnnnd IT remote logged in.

        That IT guy probably thought it was funny though, but it was embarrassing nonetheless.

    7. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      Yep. If I even noticed a tab like that all and it registered in my brain, I would assume it was either a site about makeup shades or an advice page about how to deal with unsolicited nude pictures. Either way not scandalous.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP, I do not have the experience of struggling with an eating disorder, and I could never understand the full scope of what you’re experiencing. But I do have two chronic illnesses, both of which can be extremely debilitating when they “flare.” Although they can be managed, things like undue stress can always trigger a flare, and when I become stressed out, the additional fear of a flare occurring can set off a fear-stress shame spiral.

    The one time I shared one of my chronic diagnoses with a boss, it was used against me in ways that were incredibly demoralizing. It was essentially concern bias (i.e., changing someone’s working conditions because of your perceptions of their diagnosis/illness, not because of their performance or requested accommodation), which made it even harder to address.

    Because of that experience, and because of continued stigma and misunderstanding regarding mental illness, I strongly recommend referring to your diagnosis as a “chronic illness” that sometimes flares. The truth is that your boss/employer doesn’t need to know your specific diagnosis in order to approve medical leave. And it sounds like the FMLA may apply to you (assuming your employer is a covered entity), which means you should have some legal protection when you need to take medical leave.

    I’m truly sorry you’re having to manage the additional stress of communicating your health needs to your employer, and I’m wishing you the best.

    1. Glowcat*

      Seconded. I also have a few chronic conditions and I know very well the feeling of “if only I told them exactly what it is they would understand me perfectly”, but it is not so. They often don’t need the details. They sometimes don’t understand, and sometimes you don’t know in advance. They sometimes understand, but the bias is unconscious and the concern bias Princess Consuela mentioned can be very annoying, even if it’s rooted in good will.
      OP, stick with “chronic disease” and if your colleagues are half-decent they will understand that a chronic disease demands respect (and privacy!), no matter what it is. I wish you all the best.

      1. YB*

        Cosigning all of this—I have numerous chronic illnesses, some of which are quite stigmatized, and I’ve found that it goes best at work when I disclose that I have serious medical problems but don’t share much information. I came to this after decades of trial-and-error wherein I would not sometimes disclose anything and then lose jobs due to poor health (which, from my employers’ perspective, just looked like flakiness, because they didn’t know I was sick) and would sometimes overshare and face stigma. So the best path for you might be disclosing that there’s something going on, but not sharing details. You’ll be in my thoughts.

      2. Mookie*

        Yes. I am always surprised what kinds of things people will uncharacteristically hold or use against you. In professional and academic settings in particular people are often unpredictable in their reactions, so it’s important to fully tease out what a worst-case scenario might look like and then figure out if you can emotionally, physically, and financially withstand its likely consequences.

      3. Tau*

        I think this can be a thing with highly stereotyped/stigmatised conditions, where you think if people know the details they’ll understand better… but actually they understand worse because now they’re trying to fit your symptoms and needs into their wrongheaded idea of what X condition means. My Asperger’s is a “chronic condition with occasional flare-ups” to quite a few people because it’s a lot more accurate to what happens and a lot more likely to end with them treating me the way I want than I’d expect “autistic” to get me.

        1. Washi*

          Yes, I was coming here to say this! OP, your coworkers are most likely to be their best selves if they know you have a chronic condition or at most a chronic gastric condition as someone said below (which does have the plus of discouraging questions!) rather than the specific condition.

          I think there’s also a thing where the more specific you get, the more people may assume that you want help/comments. Like if you just say it’s a chronic condition, you’re very clearly telegraphing that you don’t want to share additional details, but once you say it’s bulimia, people may take that openness about the name of the condition as an invitation to ask something they’ve always wondered, or check on your eating/bathroom time, or offer advice, etc

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah. I struggle with this, ironically, from both ends. I love helping people! And catch myself being like, ‘oh man, sorry, you weren’t asking for advice. That sounds rough.’ But I only catch myself because I have a chronic illness and have learned how annoying it is to have people suggest things that of course I tried.

          2. Agenda*

            Not to mention the stories you’ll hear about “my college friend”, “sister’s friend”, “distant and casual acquaintance” who had bulimia and their struggle, which of course you don’t want to hear. But once you share the specifics of an illness, people try to make it clear for you that they “can relate”, and will start sharing stories about things that tangentially touch a minimum common area with your situation. I agree with everyone here, the least amount of details shared will give you more peace.

    2. Annie Moose*

      For somebody coming at this as an outsider (that is, I don’t have any chronic illnesses or conditions), this seems like a great approach. I think it’s natural for people to wonder what’s going on, especially your boss (especially if something really noticeable happens like passing out at the office!), and saying “oh it’s a chronic condition” will go a long way to give people an explanation if you want to give them one, without exposing unnecessary private details. It can give people a framework to contextualize your actions and symptoms. So it could take people from mentally going “Sally’s at another doctor’s appointment–I wonder what’s wrong!” to “Oh, Sally’s at a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. That’s normal”.

      (for a real example–I had a coworker who was working from home quite a lot, and it’s definitely something you notice and wonder about! But I found out he has a chronic condition–I have no clue what condition and it doesn’t matter–and it suddenly made total sense to me. Now when he’s working from home, my thought isn’t “wonder why Joe’s working from home again?” and speculation, it’s “that’s too bad, Joe must have a flare up” and moving on with my life. It took it from something noticeable (because not many of my coworkers work from home regularly) to something normal once I had a little bit of context.)

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      This is quite true. I have a couple chronic issues myself and I’ve caught my husband doing the concern bias thing to me. Of course he knows all the details and exactly what is wrong with me. He does his best to help me when I need it, but I’ve had to call him out when he’s unnecessarily treating me like a delicate flower when there’s no need and it can come across as quite infantilizing, like I can’t manage my own self. He’s pretty much the only person in my life who knows aside from one close friend who also suffers from her own chronic issues so we commiserate together and try to support each other. Nobody else in my life, especially my professional life, needs to know a thing about it except that there is a chronic thing that exists and that it impacts my work in these specific ways. Heck, sometimes I don’t even go that far. I just say I’m “under the weather” or “not feeling great today”. People understand that.

    4. Jadelyn*

      I’d never heard the phrase “concern bias” before, but that’s a great way to refer to that effect. And yeah, it’s so hard to address – because the person probably means well, so if you address it they’ll get hurt feelings and it’ll be all “I was just trying to help!” (because our culture tends to prioritize helpful intent over actual helpful effect as defined by the recipient of the “help” in question.)

  5. Drama Llama*

    #4: I’ve found that people who cancel interviews generally aren’t interested in rescheduling. For some reason they cite “personal emergency” or “medical issue” when they clearly just want to withdraw from the recruitment process – a bit silly, because saying “Thanks but I’m not interested in this role” isn’t going to hurt my feelings! But because that has happened on a number of occasions I default assume an applicant is withdrawing when they cancel. Since that’s not the case for you, follow up and communicate hour availability at another date. Good luck!

    1. Caledonia*

      I’ve had this as well and it’s especially annoying when I have moved them to a different day/slot and then they no show. Just use your words people and tell me you have changed your mind/offer of a place elsewhere (I set up interviews for students for a university programme)

      1. Drama Llama*

        I know, right? I don’t understand why people can’t just say they’re not interested. That’s okay. In fact, I prefer you be straight up so it doesn’t waste my time.

        1. JokeyJules*

          I’ll be honest, the times that I cancelled an interview because I realized it would have been a waste of our time and I wasn’t going to be accepting the position anyway, I was met with a LOT of hostility and hounding. It’s discouraging to do that on the interviewee’s side. However, if I say “oh i’m so sick and need to reschedule” I’ll get a warm response. I realize the right and wrong of it, but still.

          1. Jadelyn*

            This is a case where there are other little white lies you could use besides “I’m sick and need to reschedule [followed by ghosting]”. The simplest is “I’ve just been offered another position and decided to accept, thank you so much for your time and consideration, best of luck in your hiring!” I would recommend that, simply because it doesn’t have the false intent to reschedule and the subsequent flaking out – because that’s what I interpret that as, if a candidate asks to reschedule and then disappears on me. You don’t have to say anything bad about the company or the role or anything, everyone understands that they’re not the only job you applied to and losing candidates to other employers is a fact of life if you do any hiring at all, so it’s highly unlikely to engender hostility (and if it does, that in and of itself is a really ugly red flag tbh) but it’s a cleaner break than pretending like you intend to reschedule if you don’t.

          2. Drama Llama*

            Someone who will respond with hostility for withdrawing your application will also likely be hostile if you lie about needing to reschedule then never show up.

            You’re not obliged to give feedback about the hiring manager’s unprofessionalism. But it’s fine to say “Thanks for your time, but I’ve decided to withdraw my applicarion. I’ve realised this job doesn’t fit what I was looking for/I got another offer/*some other generic reason*”

    2. Emily K*

      Even when they say they need to postpone and want to reschedule, you assume they don’t? LW says that’s what she emailed that morning, and the organizer wrote back and said she would check with the interviewers’ schedules. It doesn’t seems right that the organizer would assume OP is lying and then lie herself about checking with the interviewers to reschedule if she had no intention of doing that.

      1. Washi*

        I think Drama Llama is saying that that when a candidate cancels at the last minute and wants to reschedule, they often don’t show up for their rescheduled interview. That’s often been my experience as well, so when I have someone cancel within less than a day of their interview, I will reschedule if they ask, but I don’t offer, and I won’t go to the same lengths to fit them if their availability is really limited. (Also, I’ve never had someone do this and cite medical reasons, it’s usually “personal reasons” so I would not assume that the OP is flaky if this were me.)

        1. Les G*

          Inventing a medical issue to flake on an interview just seems like you’re *begging* for good ol’ quack doctor Karma to inject you with a vial fulla nasty before the next big event that you actually want to attend.

        2. ZuZus Petals*

          Cosigning this. I have candidates who cancel interviews last minute for “medical reasons” and I will always give them the benefit of the doubt and offer to reschedule. 95% of the time they either never respond with new availability or they no-show to the re-scheduled interview. It’s frustrating, but I’m also not going to stop offering to reschedule because of people like #4 who aren’t lying! #4, if you don’t hear back from the recruiter definitely send a polite follow up email, I think it will go a long way in reiterating that you are serious about the role. Good luck!

        3. Formerly Arlington.*

          Me as well, and oddly, I have gotten incredibly intricate stories of why the candidate cancelled, including emergency surgery and fatal car accidents–only to reschedule (assuming the story was provided because the candidate really did want to be there) and get a no-show again. Super-confusing!

      2. Drama Llama*

        Yes. Because based on experience I know any attempts to reschedule is likely going to be a waste on my time.

    3. Antilles*

      In my experience, it seems like it really depends on how they say it.
      >The candidates who cancel but are incredibly apologetic (both in tone and content), almost to the point of being over-the-top? Pretty much always show up for the rescheduled interview.
      >The candidates who are more generic about it are much more likely to be the ones that aren’t interested in rescheduling and/or skip the revised one.

    4. RainbowGrunge*

      Yeah, if the employer has no interest in rescheduling the interview with OP4, it’s probably due to other candidates “rescheduling” and then no-showing. It is frustrating. I actually tell myself over and over not to give more 2nd chances…I mean, what are the odds that this person just so happened to have car trouble right before the interview, or that they can’t find anyone else to pick up their dog from surgery, or had a funeral come up unexpectedly, or that they got mugged in Mexico the weekend before the interview and were too much in shock to call to tell me about it until the actual day of. I used to be very willing and happy to reschedule, even on such short notice, but I find myself becoming more and more jaded and unbelieving of the excuses I hear and have been telling more and more candidates that we are not able to reschedule the interview.

      That said, yeah, if OP sends another email through out the day, I may be more willing to believe the excuse and more willing to believe they are genuinely interested in the position and company.

    5. Solidus Pilcrow*

      Alison, you said that interviewers understand people sometimes get sick/have medical issues and need to cancel. However these comments (and some further down) indicate that interviewers also understand that people use illness as an excuse to drop out of the hiring process. Given that, does your advice change any? Should people in this situation spin it a little more or apologize more or something?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You always want to sound really mortified/apologetic about this, so that it’s very clear you’re not being cavalier about it, and that helps. I have a post about that somewhere and will see if I can find/link it.

      2. Washi*

        I think it also helps to be uber professional in your reply – definitely apologize, and also offer some days(preferably a lot of availability) when you could come in instead. It’s when I get a one line email that just says “Sorry, I have an unexpected emergency and I can’t come in today. Is there another time I can interview?” that I start to doubt if this person is taking the interview process seriously. Versus something like “Dear Washi, I’m so sorry to cancel with such short notice, but I’ve had an urgent medical issue crop up, and I’m not able to come in for the interview today. I am very interested in this position and would love to reschedule – I’m available any day next week except for Tuesday. I apologize again for the inconvenience this has caused, and understand if you’re not able to reschedule, but hope that I can remain in the running for this opportunity. Best, Applicant”

        1. Willis*

          This. I schedule a ton of interviews for work…not job interviews but I think the trend holds about people who cancel not really wanting to reschedule. I would definitely proactively offer new some days/times that would work for you and include a line reiterating your interest. There’s a huge difference in tone in Washi’s examples and the second is definitely the way to go if you’re still interested in the job.

        2. Greg*

          +1. I also think in cases like the OP’s, it makes sense to use words like “urgent” or “emergency”. Not just because it’s true, but because “I had a medical issue” can come across as evasive, and while you aren’t obligated to reveal medical details to your interviewer, you don’t want them thinking that you’re deliberately hiding something.

          Along the same lines, if your medical problem forced you to go to the hospital, mention that as well. There is obviously a TMI line you don’t want to cross (“My IBS is flaring up and I have explosive diarrhea!”) but I think anything that communicates that this is a serious and unexpected issue should make them more amenable to rescheduling.

        3. Drama Llama*

          Yep – if I received an email like the 2nd example I am far more likely to respond to reschedule.

    6. La Fee Verte*

      Hello, I am #4 with the medical issue.
      What I ended up doing was calling the contact person the next morning at what I figured was the earliest reasonable hour to follow up. I apologized again for the abrupt cancellation and reiterated that I am very interested in the job and hoped to reschedule when I could be at my best. The contact person was very pleasant and promised to get back in touch once she was able to check the schedules of all 6 people involved. The day after that I got an email saying I was rescheduled for Thursday next week (and thankfully not early in the morning!) to which I responded immediately with thanks!

      So I am relieved that I still have an opportunity to meet them, but based on the feedback here, should I email the contact person again, say 2 days before the interview to reconfirm–by way of reassuring them that I really do mean to show up this time?

  6. KayEss*

    I would absolutely not disclose bulimia to your office, under any circumstance. I can’t see it going well in any circumstance, no matter how enlightened your boss and coworkers seem to be about mental illness. The risk that the environment will become inadvertently or actively hostile to you and your ongoing recovery is incredibly high, and the potential rewards are almost nonexistent.

    Use the “chronic illness” language others have suggested, and deflect any questions with something like, “I prefer not to talk about personal medical details, but I will be [explanation of when/how long/how frequently you will be out] for some routine care to manage the issue.”

    1. KayEss*

      Sigh… you know you’re up too late over-editing your comments when you realize you’ve used a word like “circumstance” twice in adjacent sentences.

    2. beth*

      Unfortunately, I agree (and I’d say the same about any mental-health related disorder). There are some deep-rooted stigmas about mental illness in our society; disclosing comes with a real risk that your manager will view you (consciously or subconsciously) as less competent and more fragile than they did before. That can be hard to shake even after your health has improved and you’re back at work.

      The only time I’d even consider disclosing a mental health related diagnosis would be if I was seeking an official accommodation for it that I could not access without disclosing. Otherwise, “medical issue” or “chronic illness” is plenty of info for work.

      1. Specialk9*

        I believe that your doctor’s note can simply say something like “I am treating X for a chronic illness. In my medical opinion, X would benefit from the following medical accommodations…” The doctor could also mention the impact at work for the chronic illness, without naming it.

        If going this route, I would recommend that OP send the doctor the requested note wording by email, to help make sure it says what you need.

        1. Anon today*

          A doctors note can say that, but the workplace does not have to accept it. Reasonable accommodations are sometimes more of a negotiation and the workplace does not have to go with the doctor’s recommendation. There are cases where you have to disclose your condition in order to get accommodations.

          1. Yorick*

            I think you could specify some of the reasons that you need a particular accomodation without giving the diagnosis. Like if OP needed to avoid standing for long periods because she might faint, she/her doctor could just clarify that her medical condition makes fainting a possibility, so she needs to be seated.

          2. Specialk9*

            Right, all ADA accommodations are a negotiation. It seems pretty open-ended from when I looked at the law for what I had to submit. Fortunately my work place was not trying to be hardasses, so I didn’t get a lot of legal wrangling. Just mentioning that there are options other than necessarily outing oneself.

        2. beth*

          Whether disclosure of details becomes necessary probably depends on the specific circumstances–the accommodation needed, the specific company’s processes, etc. I think we’re in agreement on the main point, though, which is to keep things as vague as possible and only disclose the absolute bare minimum that you have to disclose to access what you need.

        3. A username for this site*

          Yes, and a nosy or suspicious employer can take the doctor’s information and Google them, thus seeing what kind of doctor they are. If the note says “Dr. Wakeen Ferguson, Teapot University Medical Center,” chances are Teapot University Medical Center has his physician profile posted on their website, listing that he is a psychiatrist in the Teapot University Eating Disorder Specialty Clinic.

    3. DJ Roomba*

      I agree with other comments made wholeheartedly and want to add: the tricky thing about stigma isn’t just the shocked reaction people may have, it’s that there’s the lack of understanding that you have a disease. And a relapse implies (to them) that the sufferer is at fault. If a coworker had a recurrence of cancer, or a 2nd heart attack, people would likely be sympathetic and concerned. But with mental health disorders, rather than compassion, many turn to judgment.

      I am a recovering alcoholic, recovering bulimic (9+ years for both) with an ongoing struggle to manage my depression and anxiety. And I am fully closeted at work because I fear that people will judge me and it could hinder my career growth. I echo what everyone else is saying about calling it a chronic illness and need to say to you as someone who has been in your shoes – this IS an illness (you’re not lying). You DESERVE to get better. You are WORTHY of treatment. Before I went in-patient for my bulimia I struggled with believing I was sick enough or severe enough or thin enough to deserve treatment. I did,and you do too.

      Best of luck and please take the time in treatment to do this for yourself. Be patient and kind to yourself but persevere because if I can recover you can too! I can’t tell you what it’s like to look back at all of the sneaky trips to the bathroom I made while out with friends, and to recall the thrill of finding an empty handicap stall – and realize I don’t have to live that way anymore. I am no longer that person.

      You don’t have to be either – hugs and love and best of luck to you!!!

      1. Specialk9*

        Exactly all of this.

        “This IS an illness (you’re not lying). You DESERVE to get better. You are WORTHY of treatment.”

        1. OP5*

          Thank you for this. I have a huge amount of guilt about have to leave work (I was out for 10 weeks last time) and coming back to find that people had had a really hard time without me. I feel SO alone when I’m at work because I’m continually dealing with so much inner turmoil. Everyone would say I am upbeat and happy, and I WANT them to think this of me, but sometimes I just feel like a fraud. I realize lots of people are dealing with lots of stuff all the time and manage to get through the day and I need to push through that also.

          1. lawyer*

            OP, I am 16 years recovered from anorexia and a purging disorder. Please do what you need to do to get the treatment you need. One thing that we know is that ED treatment is actually really effective. It often takes multiple attempts, but please do not ever lose hope. I never would have thought that I could live a life where I was not ruled by my relationship to food and my body. But now I have a healthier body image and relationship to food than almost anyone I know. There *is* a life beyond this. It *is* possible to recover.

            I believe in you.

          2. Business Cat*

            OP5 – I also recommend you don’t disclose this to your manager, but it sounds like you could use some more social support. Is there a trusted someone that you can talk briefly during the day when you are having a particularly bad moment? The person could either be at work or outside; outside would be more private and at work they would have to be someone who is in friend category, not a direct reporting relationship. I also think its okay for you to say, “I’m not feeling great today” at work when its true and you don’t want to put the effort into being upbeat when you don’t feel it.

            1. Astrid*

              I totally second this recommendation. I’m eternally grateful that I found my current therapist. She helped me through the initial recovery 11 years ago by requiring me to send daily e-mail updates, including the extent of ED conduct (I was brutally honest and it was a wake-up call for me to document it), and she was available for quick telephone sessions, as needed. Unfortunately, I had an extended relapse beginning in mid-2016 and for some reason, I resisted her help. When it reached an acute phase in February 2018, we put the same protocols in place and my recovery took hold quickly (fingers crossed). My therapist was/is a true lifeline and, even when things were bad, it was good to know that she would be there for me.

              I hope you can find someone who gives you this support.

  7. lb*

    #1 – It can’t be worse than the time during a call when the person who was presenting forgot he was sharing his whole screen instead of just the application, and we all watched as he instant messaged with another person in the meeting to complain about a third person in the meeting. It was like a very slow moving trainwreck. :)

    I don’t think you need to say anything. Probably most people didn’t notice, and those who did likely forgot it quickly. Saying something would make it into more of a deal than it is. I think people are pretty used to stuff like this now and everyone has probably accidentally had something weird in a tab and hoped nobody noticed.

    But next time, share only what you need!!

    1. Nom Nom*

      This has happened so often where I am our IT put a compulsory block on IMs while presenting company wide. I, for one, am grateful. OP if you are really really worried, jut check in with someone you get on with ok and see if they noticed / has anyone said anything. At my end, people will immediately pay out on you the minute it’s noticed and everyone will have a good laugh. If no one says anything, you’re in the clear!

    2. GM*

      Ahem – I have actually done this myself! I was in a client conference call sharing my screen when it started on a note of conflict. I pinged my colleague (who was also on the call) saying “This is going downhill”. She cleared her throat rather loudly and veered the discussion somehow. That’s when I realized what I’d done, and of course I was mortified! Luckily it didn’t get any worse than that nor did it diminish their impression of my work. I can only plead my illness as an excuse – I had been feverish the whole day but the meeting was urgent and not possible to reschedule :(

    3. Emily K*

      *raises hand* I once forgot I was sharing my browser open to our team’s Google Cal on a team meeting because we’d been discussing something for so long without referencing the calendar, so I opened a new tab and proceeded to start googling medical symptoms I was having. Luckily they weren’t especially embarrassing ones, it was a small team meeting, and my boss immediately said something, but it still!

      I also once shared an Excel spreadsheet of my personal finances because I thought the spreadsheet I wanted was already open, and selected the “share Excel application” feature instead of “share screen.” In the room where my laptop was just plugged into the HDMI port I flipped to excel, realized it was the wrong spreadsheet, revealed my desktop and double clicked to open the correct one, but I know everyone who was logged on remotely was seeing Excel the entire time even when I had it minimized. Nobody ever said anything to me but it was super embarrassing. I had just got my federal tax refund back so my account balance was much larger than it ever usually is and my direct report, who had actually taken a pay cut from get previous job to come work for us, was one of the people logged on remotely so for a long time I worried that she must think I’m making an insane amount of money and that it would be weird. Eventually enough time passed that I got over the weird feeling.

      1. swingbattabatta*

        I literally just yelled “OH GOD” at my computer around a mouthful of sandwich as I was reading your first paragraph

    4. MLB*

      Yeah I’ve been there and it’s embarrassing but LW needs to let it go. When I’m sharing my screen for a meeting, I close EVERYTHING that’s either non-work related or could cause a potential issue. I go into “Do Not Disturb” status on Skype so if someone sends me an IM it won’t pop up on my screen. Guarantee if you do it once, you’ll be extra careful and never do it again.

      1. Sally*

        Guarantee if you do it once, you’ll be extra careful and never do it again.

        This! I have made some doozies that have prompted preventative measures on my part. So I always try to also learn from other people’s mistakes when the opportunity presents itself!

      2. tangerineRose*

        When I had 2 monitors, I also moved my e-mail and IM screens to the screen I wasn’t going to show – that way, if I received something I didn’t want to show the group, it wouldn’t show up on the shared screen.

    5. Le Sigh*

      My old boss was once giving a presentation on a projection screen to our office and a client when he minimized his file, revealing — on a jumbo-sized screen — his work desktop wallpaper featuring his wife and daughter in bikinis at a resort, holding up drinks. Not that I find women in bikinis scandalous but it was a conservative industry and this was a wall-sized screen, so it was a bit goofy. The client raised an eyebrow and our CEO (who was very proper, prim, and professional type) looked none to enthused.

    6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      This happened last week at a meeting that (unfortunately) I had to leave early from. A coworker told me about it after, one guy who was sharing his screen was bitching about another guy in the meeting via IM. I was so sorry I missed it because I find both people annoying.

      Apparently the coworker who was not involved in the conversation, but was at the meeting had to say “Umm Fergus, can you minimize your IM I can’t see the spreadsheet”

      But yes, if you share your screen or attend conference calls you are doomed to embarrass yourself at some point. The only thing you can do is try to reduce risk by:

      *Do Not depend on mute… it will fail you and everyone will hear what you don’t want them to hear. Better to drop and claim technical difficulties than to depend on mute.
      *Minimize and close all things you don’t want to seen by your coworkers or clients
      *Use 2 different browser clients, one for work and one for personal
      *Don’t be in a hurry to share. Take your time and give your desktop/applications a quick once over to make sure that you don’t have anything visible
      *Try not to IM during meetings (Yeah this is hard sometimes) if you do, assume you will accidentally show it to the meeting at some point, so comment accordingly

      So here’s my story, was on a call and went on mute (allegedly) to yell at my cats who were attacking my puppy and the entire meeting heard me swearing and yelling at the 4 legged miscreants. Oooo was that embarrassing, luckily it was never mentioned again (that I know of…).

    7. MissGirl*

      There was that company that had automatic meetings set up across offices all over the world. When everyone jumped on, two people were having sex in one of the offices not realizing they were live.

      1. MissGirl*

        Visual. Everyone all across the company started hooting and hollering at them. The story was in an open thread when Alison asks for specific stories. I don’t remember the topic.

        1. Sally*

          At my company, those meetings start automatically with audio and visual. Wow, so (1) don’t have sex at the office and (2) if you must, then don’t do it in a video conference room.

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            Yeah, I forgot about that story, and didn’t think to add it to my list of dos and don’ts! But surely having sex in the office really shouldn’t have be spelled out as a don’t… (of course based on the letters to this site, maybe it does!)

            1. Yvette*

              “But surely having sex in the office really shouldn’t have be spelled out as a don’t…”
              But don’t forget Alison’s great advice about needing to make the implicit explicit!!!

    8. Umiel*

      I agree with not bringing it up again. It may be embarrassing, but apologizing for it now will just bring it to the attention of all of the people who didn’t notice it in the first place. Let it go.

  8. Traveling Teacher*

    OP3: Just reading your letter about your boss’ son stressed me out! Sounds like an extremely reckless driver who, at a minimum, needs to go back to driver’s ed.

    I think it’s good that your boss already knows your feelings about the issue, even if he isn’t preventing his son from being a danger to others and himself on the road. Alison’s script is great, and I hope that you don’t have to hear about this anymore.

    1. Specialk9*

      I had a coworker who was stressed about coming out of retirement to pay for his son’s lifestyle (25, living with parents, no disability or such)… including a new car after he wrecked the old one driving recklessly.

      I was annoyed at the grown son, but more so at my coworker, who talked about it A LOT. And then I figured it wasn’t my problem, thank heavens, especially since he finally stopped giving son updates.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Wow, that’s bad. It would have been better for him to stay in retirement and his son would be forced to grow up. :/

    2. EddieSherbert*


      I’m surprised he has’ lost his license yet!

      I also like Alison’s scripts, but if you’re not comfortable saying that, my other thought would be just to show NO INTEREST + a topic change any time he has a son-driving-story (Captain Awkward style) and maybe he’ll get bored of telling you.

      “Son got another ticket! You won’t believe what he did this time!”
      “Probably not! So about this report…”

      “Son wrecked his car again and I have to fix it”
      “Wow, that’s a lot. But I have to go check in with Tina on X project.”

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. Having had a short staffed period at work recently, and for which the department is getting back up to full speed, I have found regular update meetings to be a great help. This is also good for any new people in the department to get a better idea of the projects we are working on.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah, I’ve dealt with a couple of short staffed periods and Alison’s advice that it can take a little time for people to reorient after things are back to normal is very good. My personal experience is that, depending on how long I’ve been working short-staffed, I sometimes have a hard time remembering how I work when I don’t have to work at 150% my normal speed. It takes a bit to remember the low priority steps or tasks I cut out while I was in crisis mode, and sometimes going back to those low priority things feels weird, like I’m not *really* doing my job.

      It might not be a bad thing for the OP to remind her staff that now that they are fully staffed they can build back in time to do whatever kinds of quality checks are best suited to their work (proofreading, double checking numbers, having another person look it over, etc.) and that in fact that *is* considered a good use of their time, now that they have it.

    2. Letter #2 Writer*

      Thank you, Chocolate Teapot and Ama. I appreciate your perspectives as people who have gone through something similar. Good reminder, Ama, to highlight that quality control is valuable time spent.

  10. K*

    LW1: These things happen sometimes. At a past job, my coworker ran a Google image search on ‘breast clip’ during a meeting. The job was related to breast imaging (e.g. mammograms), and we were looking for the medical device–little metal things used to mark a location in the breast, not at all sexy. What Google turned up was mostly nipple clamps! My coworker closed the tab, we had a good laugh about it because what else can you do with something like that, and then things moved on and we went back to the actual subject at hand. If your coworkers noticed an errant tab at all, I bet they did the same.

    1. PB*

      Yep. I’ve had a couple of these moments. Recently, I spent a length of time at work Googling “dicks.” I am in academia, and research book history. I was honestly researching a 19th century publisher named “John Dicks.” Completely innocent and legitimate, but it would have looked, at best, odd to anyone looking over my shoulder or looking at my search log. I mean, yes, there were other keywords in there to keep anything risque from popping up, but there wasn’t a ton of context.

      Another time, I wrote and shared a document called “How to deal with flashers.” “Flashers” was a term used locally for items needing a quick turn-around. Everyone knew that, so the document wasn’t going to catch anyone off-guard, but I took one look at the title and burst into laughter.

      1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

        Knowing that this will potentially be doxxing, I’ll still share that wherever I introduce myself in academia, I soon become known as the robot sex girl. Because I’m writing a book about robot sex.

        1. Specialk9*

          I was hugely curious so I went and looked. The Google search for “robot sex” is long and varied. Without more details I don’t think you’re doxxed.

          1. Patty Mayonnaise*

            I did the same and agreed – there are a surprising number of books about robot sex out there!

            1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

              Now I’m torn between being glad about that, and wanting to tell you where to look. *grin*

      2. MLB*

        I know someone who was looking for the sporting goods website, and just typed in – she got a little more than she was asking for :-)

        1. MsChandandlerBong*

          It now redirects to the sporting-goods company, thankfully (I made the same mistake back in college!)

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          My sister (who was 13 at the time) did that!! She was looking up sports equipment that she wanted, and our dad told her to look at Dick’s (the sporting good store) to see their prices, and she typed in Thankfully, our dad noticed, shouted NOOOOOOOOO and grabbed the laptop away before she could see anything.

        3. Close Bracket*

          I have done the exact same thing with a different company name. I was at work*. It was bad.

          *It was a vendor name, totally work related!

      3. Bibliovore*

        Shall I share about the third grader who googled swords during a class. We see, we “0h, my” , then we move on.

    2. Someone On-Line*

      I work in public health and did an image search for “snuff.” I had forgotten that snuff does not always mean a dry, powdered tobacco product that is placed in the mouth along the gum line or inhaled through the nose. Sometimes it means something *quite* different.

    3. Le Sigh*

      Let’s just say that if you’re trying to explain the British food “pasty” to a coworker, watch how you type it in…esp. if said coworker works in IT.

    4. Serin*

      I was trying to remember the phrase ‘intrusive thoughts,’ and the word ‘intrusive’ was just evading me. So I was doing various searches trying to turn up the word.

      Then I hosted a meeting, and realized that I was sharing a screen with the search box saying, “I have anxiety and thoughts.”

      (I just checked my search box, and right now it says ‘architeuthis.’)

    5. ginger ale for all*

      One of the best backpack/purse’s I have ever had was an ebay purchase. The brand name is Bulge and I just happened to stumble across the backpack purse while browsing. I have since tried to find another bag from them but my god . . . the results I get from the keyword search make me think that the brand name is the reason why they went out of business.

  11. Em too*

    #1 I’d probably associate that headline on a work computer with make-up or fashion rather than anything less work-appropriate.

      1. Daisy*

        I can’t hardly think of an end to the sentence that even suggests porn. ‘What to do with nudes… that you’ve hacked from a celebrity’? Seems like a stretch. They’ll think it was an advice column.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          At most you could think “what to do with nudes that were sent to you unsolicited.” I mean, if you intentionally sent or received them, you’d think you’s know what to do with them.

        2. Specialk9*

          What to do with nudes that don’t match? Put a strong color between them! So a peachy nude shoe, baby blue trousers or skirt, and a tan nude shirt. Maybe throw on a light scarf!

          I assumed fashion…

    1. Jilly*

      Me too. Or that I could not see the whole word. Though I am not exactly sure what word would start with “nudes”…

    2. Jadelyn*

      I assumed it was about getting someone to stop sending you unwanted nudes, not about how to like, idk, get more nudes or something?

  12. Tau*

    OP4 – oh no! I’m so sorry and wish you all the best for your recovery and overall health.

    Reassuring anecdote time: I once had to cancel an interview the day before because of what sounds like basically the same problem as you. There was no problem rescheduling to the week after, and I got a job offer from them.

    This may be projecting, and if it’s not the case for you I apologise – but when we have this sort of health complaint, I think it’s easy to think it’s not as “real” of a medical problem as others because “periods are normal” and we should just deal with them, and to worry that other people will feel like that. (At least, I felt super-guilty about being off sick from work because of period-related anemia). It’s important to remember that a) this is BS, what you have is absolutely a valid and concerning medical issue that needs to be treated and worked around, b) similarly to OP5, none of them need to know what the problem was! All they need to know is that a medical emergency came up, you couldn’t make the appointment, you really want to reschedule.

    One thing I would think about ahead of time is what you want to say when people ask you how you are now at the rescheduled interview, because chances are they will… and it’s possible some of them are looking at this wondering if this was a one-off or you’d be calling in sick at the last minute a lot.

    1. Getaway Girl*

      Seconding the above completely. I had similar issues, caused by endocrine therapy for breast cancer. You start feeling like a junior high school girl again, with all the accompanying embarrassment. But anything of this nature that requires medical intervention to control is not normal. It is medical emergency and that’s all that’s necessary to convey. I hope you’re on the path to feeling better soon, OP4!

  13. Mommy MD*

    Please please please get as much help as you need for your bulimia. You could use the term chronic gastric issues without being specific. It’s also true. Good luck to you.

    1. Jilly*

      As soon as I heard “cronic illness which sometimes flare up”, my mind immediately goes to Crohn’s or some colon ilness and then “no thank you, this is fine, I don’t need more information!”

      1. GG Two shoes*

        because I have Cystic Fibrosis, I always think that everyone who has a chronic illness has CF and they need to be hospitalized (or at home resting) for a ‘flare up’ which often presents as a lung infection.

  14. Bea*

    We don’t regularly reschedule interviews if they’re cancelled unless the person is high on the desirable list given past issues with job candidates. It’s such a crappy situation to be in, I’m hoping that you reconnect with them and they can accommodate the change. It’s very much something that varies between companies. How their schedule is and amount of interviewing they’re doing for any given position.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      …perhaps you should do more rigorous screening beforehand, so you’re only offering interviews to those high on the desirable list?

      1. Bea*

        The point is an opening means we want to hire someone relatively quickly. We do phone screen applicants prior to an in person spot.

        So you’ll get a spot if your resume looks good enough, meets basic criteria and is worth discussing. But unless you’re an expert who captivates the hiring manager with your experience, it’s not worth the risk of drawing out the process for everyone else.

        Drawing out the process means we could lose others by rescheduling someone who couldn’t make it to their designated time. It’s calculating the risk. A candidate is a stranger and you have very little to go on.

      2. puzzld*

        OH, to live in such a world… We started the summer with 3 slots open, we received no applicants that would rank “high” on our desirable list. We had a dozen or so on the “eh, might work” plateau. And a few, oh Hell noes. Now a few years ago we might have 70+ aps for one job, a good half of whom were really good possibilities. We’d end up with 3 or 4 awesome we’d could flip a coin and be happy with any of these folks. Now, as summer is drawing to a close we’ve got one person on board, and two more we are trying to check references on… and their fracking references don’t answer the phone or respond to emails… and our organization has a hard policy that you must check references and get at least two positive ones.

        But more seriously, I don’t want to go back in time to 2010. It was a great time to be hiring, but really sad to have to turn away so many people who really needed a job.

      3. Drama Llama*

        That’s not always how interviews work.

        I’ve met with applicants who were on the “maybe” list and they turned out to be the best fit. Sometimes people don’t present themselves the best over the phone due to nerves.

    2. Erin*

      It depends on the circumstances for cancelling. At work a man cancelled his interview that morning because his wife went into labor the night before. I think they rescheduled it for a week or two later. But every company is different.

      1. Bea*

        For a medical emergency, I’m certain there is more wiggle room if procedure allows!

        I’m still annoyed with a guy who chose his own slot only to email a day before saying he was stuck somewhere with a cancelled flight. He should have built a buffer day in,knowing he was returning. But we pushed things around and accommodated because he has an impressive background we wanted to explore more.

        He strolls in on time for his new interview and was terrible. He didn’t answer questions with specifics, a lot of work arounds and refused to tell us anything that supported his skills. He legit had his resume just memorized and repeated it. Right down to abbreviations you use in writing but not speech. So bizarre…

        Then when he got a rejection letter he responded back blaming the flight causing fatigue.

        Yes. Many in hiring are callous. We’re been burned up and down. Yes, we miss out on great candidates because bad ones ruin nice things for all of us :(

  15. sheep jump death match*

    OP4, I 100% recommend that you disclose that you have a “serious medical issue” or “ongoing but manageable health condition” but not the specific diagnosis or that it is a mental illness.

    You can explain everything you mentioned (ongoing appointments, passing out, physical pain, hospital treatment) in truthful but non-revealing terms. “I need to be seen regularly for monitoring.” “Unfortunately, fatigue and fainting spells are a common symptom for me, especially when I hit a rough patch.” “It depends on how well I respond to the treatment, but most people stay in the hospital for about a week.”

    Source: disclosed the specific dx once and people did a lot of non-actionable but obnoxious stuff around it, mostly “giving” me accommodations that were the opposite of what I wanted or would have asked for and annoying “Diagnosis 101” comments that just exhausted me. I wish I could go back in time and keep them a little further out of my business.

    1. Anonynonnon*

      Yeah, I had a colleague disclose a diagnosis after they had to leave in the middle of an important event due to sudden health stuff. They didn’t have the best performance reviews before this, but HR and our manager freaked out and reassigned all our duties even though Colleague didn’t ask them to. Then Colleague was fired a month later.

      OP, do NOT share a specific diagnosis.

  16. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#1: Nobody saw the tab, and anybody who did see the tab, has forgotten about it. Let it drop.

  17. Mookie*

    I also don’t think LW1 needs to apologize here. A norm was broken, sure, but I don’t think it warrants an explanation; anyone who saw it can figure out what likely happened here, and even if they assume the ‘worst,’ it’s hardly the worst taboo and treating it like one fosters an unhealthy attitude towards private and perfectly harmless personal behavior.

    I’d heed the Streisand effect and not draw additional attention to it. Anyone who noticed also would have noticed the LW discreetly fixing the issue. She demonstrated what one should do if they find themselves in a similar pickle. That’s a good thing. Recognizing that some people will feel uncomfortable being apologized to because they don’t like mixing sex with work, I’d say spare these people that additional awkwardness.

  18. Birch*

    OP1, I think if you do decide to mention it, which of course depends on your relationship with these people being on the more casual side, link the article! If I personally got that email mentioning the tab (whether I noticed it in the moment or not) I would think it sounds like you’re making up the advice column part to CYA. It’s the computer version of “asking for a friend”–“oh no, I wasn’t searching for anything having to do with nudes, I was reading an advice column about nudes!” And I would also be dying of curiosity! You never know, you could strengthen these connections by discovering a mutual love of advice columns.

  19. MuseumChick*

    OP 3, I had a vaguely similar situation a few years ago. I worked for a very small company and the owner who we rarely saw had been in several car accidents. Her #2 person brought us all out to breakfast for some kind of team bonding and off handly mentioned that the owner had been in a car accident a couple of days before. One of the most senior employees just blurted out “She been in a car accident AGAIN?” in a disbelieving/exasperated tone.

    Using a bewildered tone can be very useful in these kinds of situations. Coupled with making statements like “Wow, you are a lot nicer than my parents. My mom would have murdered me.” in a neutral tone.

    1. Ashloo*

      I can’t imagine still respecting Boss as a person for fixing the car and handing it back again. Will his son use an affluenza defense when another person is injured or killed?

    2. Positive Reframer*

      I’d leave out the “nicer” part personally and add similar.

      Wow, if that was me I’d be walking everywhere.

      Man, the only thing I’d have gotten after that was a bus pass.

      Yikes, well a bicycle would be an option.

    3. Observer*

      OP 3, only do this if you can afford to lose your job. And I agree with Positive Reframer – I don’t think “nicer” applies here.

    4. Jill*

      Yea, I have a hard time with parents of adults like this in general.
      Complaining that the kid’s a drug addict…..yet they keep giving him money.
      Complaining that the kid won’t get a job…yet they let him live with them rent free.
      Complaining that the kid smacked up the car again….yet they pay for repairs and just give the car back.
      Complaining that the kid can’t find a nice girl, move out, and get married….yet they never taught him any basic adulting skills and still cook, clean, and do the laundry for him.

      It takes all my resolve not to scream, “Than quit F-ing enabling him!!” OP 3, you have my sympathy. I think Alison’s script is a very professional way of ending the converation.

      1. Nita*

        Yeah. I think the nicest response I’d come up with in this situation is “It’s too bad there are no legal charges for enablers of bad drivers!”

      2. Kay*

        I agree with you about the car, but the lack of job and the drug addiction are a lot more complicated than that and it is often not as simple as they’re ‘enabling’ them. A lot of parents do not feel comfortable kicking their kid out if they have no income and nowhere to live. Some parents prefer a tough love approach but that doesn’t mean every parent who doesn’t is an enabler. Similar to the drug addiction- they may be concerned that if they cut their child off they will be a lot worse off, and they will turn to violence/homelessness/putting themselves in more dangerous positions. The analogies really are not perfect here.

  20. TIFF*

    #1 – Why out yourself if no one said anything? I don’t see how it can help… if it is even remotely against the rules to browse personally you are serving your ass on a platter.

    1. Ali G*

      Yeah I agree. If they were colleagues, I would assume is someone saw it, they would have IM’ed or texted her in the moment to let her know. The fact that no one has brought it up likely means no one noticed.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I actually think there’s a way to gently address the continuing errors and cut them some slack.

        Tell them that they’ve been amazing in the stressful, understaffed stretch, but now they can take their time a little more, make sure they’re organized, work at a less frantic pace.

        You can communicate that things are easier and fewer errors will fall through the cracks. It doesn’t initially have to be presented as a demand, just an advantage and something to be pleased about. Making it stricter and a serious expectation can definitely come later.

        1. Bones*

          Yeah, this is what I was trying to get at. If I worked for OP I’d be pissed that the lecture came before the acknowledgement of hard work (especially since the reason why the employees were so overworked is ultimately on management for not staffing their team).

          1. Letter #2 Writer*

            Thanks for your comments.

            Pollygrammer, I like your suggestion of framing it as an advantage, thank you!

            Bones, I appreciate the candor. For some additional information, I did consistently provide recognition for their hard work. I was promoted a few years ago and experienced the same thing while in their shoes so I had empathy abound. Some of the ways I showed recognition was regular verbal acknowledgement of a job well done, stay interviews (with prompt action taken based on feedback), at one point a staff member was struggling with prioritization so I met with him (at his request) every single morning to help plan his day, if I noticed people were hitting a wall I let them leave early (paid), team lunches to get out of the office, I took several administrative tasks on to alleviate their workload, I went on a PR campaign internally to explain the challenges to other departments so they wouldn’t be as tough on them, kudos messages sent up the chain to the executive so they were aware of their hard work (and, consequentially, thank you messages sent right back down to the team)… it was very important to me that they felt appreciated and supported, and I made sure to get right there in the trenches with them.

            Additionally, the reason we were understaffed was due to a hiring freeze (so we were not the only department affected) and challenges recruiting into our specialized field, which is also something I openly communicated with the team.

            I have no intent to lecture, but I do need to be clear that previous errors that the organization accepted due to workload aren’t going to be acceptable now that we have more bodies on board. Allison’s suggestions are fantastic and will definitely help me navigate this transition period.

            1. Bones*

              This response totally changes my response– you sound like a mindful manager and I wish you the best!

              1. Letter #2 Writer*

                Thanks Bones. I still appreciate the candid response, though. It helped me check myself and go “wait, HAVE I done enough?” We all need to be challenged sometimes :)


    1. Formerly Understaffed Employee*

      Eh, I don’t thing that’s necessarily fair. My boss could have written that letter, except for our understaffed period was longer (despite her best efforts to hire and train as quickly as possibly).

      Our team made mistakes , and sometimes these mistakes affected other teams and departments. When we were 4 people doing the work of 8/9, my boss could defend the mistake to her boss and other folks. She could ask for their understanding and continue to press for the extra headcount we needed so badly.

      Now that we’re fully staffed, when someone makes a big mistake, it’s a lot harder for her to defend that – at the end of the day, our team isn’t in scramble-mode any more, and the margin for big errors is smaller.

      1. Letter #2 Writer*

        Thanks for your perspective as a formerly understaffed employee!

        I am wondering – is there anything your leader did after the fact that you either appreciated or did not appreciate related to handling errors after exiting scramble-mode?

        1. Formerly Understaffed Employee*

          Hiya! I left a comment on another thread which you commented on, so I won’t rehash that. However, that was definitely the biggest thing my boss did to be helpful to me, and I think it was helpful to her as well because she didn’t have any unpleasant surprises pop up later.

          It sounds like you’re handling this really well – it’s a hard situation, and feeling like you have the support and appreciation of a good boss is crucial to getting through it.

          One other thing my boss did that helped – as we came out of scramble-mode, she presented us with facts and statistics that helped us see we weren’t in scramble-mode any more. Our brains had a hard time adjusting so to see things like “when we were in the weeds, you guys were doing 150-200% of the normal workload, but now you are doing 100% of normal” helped that mental transition. It was a reminder that “Oh! I can slow down and think about what I’m doing again!”

          Good luck – it sounds like you have your team’s back and they are lucky to have you!

    2. Anononon*

      I think that’s unnecessarily harsh. This read to me like the OP wants to be chill, but she also wants to set reasonable expectations so her staff aren’t surprised a couple months down the line.

      1. Anon today*

        But it sounds like she is assuming that they will continue making mistakes. If the mistakes were due to being seriously overworked, then they should resolve on their own now. It might be better to wait and see whether that happens and if a mistake occurs then address it. Maybe proactively say that she knows that there have been a lot of mistakes lately because they were understaffed and that she is very happy that they are now fully staffed and that it won’t be an issue moving forward.

        1. neverjaunty*

          A lot of mistakes will have been the result of overwork, but there’s no reason to assume everything will now be error-free – particularly since overwork can lead people to learning bad habits that don’t translate well to a normal staffing situation. And she’s asking how to address that while being compassionate and understanding about how things were pretty bad up to this point.

          Telling her just to chill and let everyone make mistakes isn’t just unrealistic and flip, it’s actively harmful to the workers themselves to take an attitude that everyone should just “chill” on errors.

        2. Annie Moose*

          OP specifically mentioned some errors which she doesn’t think are a result of overwork–I got the impression that’s what she’s concerned about.

          1. Letter #2 Writer*

            Anon today, you’re right that the problems due to overwork will resolve and I won’t see those errors anymore. Even though the new hires are still being trained, I’ve already noticed a massive decrease in these errors. Thank you for the suggestion to openly acknowledge this, I will make sure to do just that!

            But Annie Moose is correct – the reason for the letter was out of concern for the errors that wouldn’t have been related to the overwork. Lots of great suggestions to deal with that from Allison and other commenters! :)

        3. Yorick*

          They were overworked, so OP let errors slide because they may be due to overwork. But sometimes you assume that someone’s mistakes are perfectly understandable – “she’s just new, or he has too much on his plate” – to later realize they’re actually just sloppy or whatever.

          If you explain that these things are important but you let them slide before, you can set them up to do better going forward.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      It’s not unreasonable to expect that people make less errors once they’re back to being fully staffed. OP isn’t coming across to me as being demanding or expecting this to happen overnight. Also, it’s clear to me that OP recognizes they’ve been busting their butts to try and get everything done.

  21. I got laid off it’s fine- Stacie*

    Embarrassing screen share stories! 1) The time the VP of Sales was running like a 30 person video conference and he had his texts going to his MacBook and his brother was sending profanity and sexual explicit language that was popping up for all to see.
    2) SAME VP was in a video conference, another person was screen sharing while a third person talked. He texted the screen sharer some insulting comments about the person talking.

    Don’t have your texts go to your work computer!

    1. Emily K*

      I’m not a Mac/Apple person but I do have a friend who once posted on Facebook pleading for someone to show her how to stop texts to her iPhone from popping up on her Mac at work. Evidently it’s a default behavior if you have an iPhone and a Mac, and the settings to disable it are not very obvious.

      1. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Oh, there was a very funny The Longest Shortest Time podcast episode about a woman whose daughter’s texts were appearing on her Mac, and the daughter knew how to stop it but hadn’t bothered to stop it – and the mom ended up watching her daughter texting someone to buy drugs (in the most naive way imaginable) in real time.

    2. Susan*

      I had a co-worker/friend ping me yesterday to say that she was in a meeting where one of her reports was sharing screen, and she slacked him to try to get him to stop asking one of the stakeholders in the meeting questions without me present (I was invited to the meeting but doublebooked); of course the message showed across screen. I told her I almost slacked someone about wishing someone else in the meeting would not breathe so hard into the open mic (mute! for god sakes mute!); luckily I caught myself before I sent it.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Ugh yes!

        Say what you want about how video games are irrelevant to work but that’s where I learned proper conference call etiquette. If you don’t quickly figure out Push to Talk you are not going to be welcome in voice chats.

      2. AsItIs*

        “Slacked” A new word for me. What does it mean? (I know “slack” means “loose”, but “slacked”?)

        1. Someone Else*

          In the above example it’s a verbification of the software Slack, which is a messaging/file sharing/ etc tool used by many offices. So basically “IMed the person in Slack”.

  22. Bones*

    To OP5’s point— That kind of feels like a Catch 22 situation. How do we reduce stigma of mental illness at work if no one talks about it?

    1. WS*

      People in situations who aren’t immediately subject to the whims and prejudices of others are the ones who need to lead this. Wealthy people. Self-employed people. Writers. Famous people. Regular Jane Smith in her job is often not in a good or safe position to disclose. I have had depression for 20 years now (happy anniversary to me!) but I will talk about having had cancer much more willingly!

      1. PB*

        I agree. Yes, we as a society do need to have more discussions around this. That doesn’t mean that OP or others in the situation should have to fall on their swords.

    2. mreasy*

      I was out about my (then-new) bipolar diagnosis at a former job when it happened. That cast every (rare) conflict that ever occurred in the light of my being at fault/exaggerating/etc., and prevented me from receiving a raise in 4 years despite acknowledged exceptionally strong performance. It was like a flipped switch when I shared my diagnosis. I just can’t recommend this in the workplace, unfortunately. There are too many stories out there like mine.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I had a similar reaction when I disclosed mine at work. Suddenly people treated me differently and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I became more aware of the commercials for bipolar medications and the portrayal of people with bipolar in pop culture and wondered if they were waiting for me to blow, get violent, or otherwise do something heinous.

        I switched jobs. Not making that mistake again. Not disclosing a damn thing but the migraines (that’s unavoidable when I begin puking at the office and need to leave early).

        1. Michaela Westen*

          As an ambassador for a not-yet-acknowledged class of allergies, I have to ask:
          you know migraines can be caused by food allergies, right? You can identify them by keeping a food and symptom diary and looking for symptoms.
          Even if it seems like they’re caused by something else like light or baro pressure drops, food allergies can be a factor. I used to get headaches from storms until I figured out I’m allergic to yeast. Avoiding yeast and generally taking better care of my allergies cleared up the storm effect. :)

    3. Bones*

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that OP has to disclose for the betterment of all mentally ill people. More that it really sucks that the solution to less stigma involves opening yourself up to stigma. It’s a catch 22, and it stinks.

    4. nonymous*

      I think the softer way of learning how to respond to mental illness is exposure in our personal lives. Frankly I don’t have enough bandwidth in my workday to learn how to process my own response (in addition to the work I am paid for), let alone observe the gamut of what works and doesn’t. But in my personal life, I can see how others in my social circle respond and what works or doesn’t, and then model my own behavior accordingly. In my social circle, I am also privy to commentary I wouldn’t hear at work that explains the person’s motivation. There are other dynamics at play outside of work that generally make it a better learning experience, without affecting mine or anyone else’s earning power in case of misstep.

    5. Observer*

      That’s not the OP’s job right now. Right now, they need to do what they need to insure their health.

    6. Jennifer Thneed*

      We don’t. We reduce the stigma of mental illness in society in general, and it will also benefit the workplace.

  23. Colin*

    Proper screen sanitization for a meeting should be something they teach in business school. Clear your desktop, if you’re using an operating system that supports spaces, move all the relevant windows into a clean space and switch to it, turn off notifications, quit your IM and social programs. If you’re using Webex at Cetera only share the application that you’re presenting. If it’s a browser, put the relevant tab in a window by itself and only share that window.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      One of the writing samples I use regularly is just instructions on how to turn off desktop notifications for email and IM’s. (And I always leave my samples behind, same as my resume.) I worked at a place where data security was a BIG deal and it was amazing what we could see in people’s notifications when they were screen sharing — and we did a LOT of screen sharing in meetings at that place.

      (I have another sample that just shows how to turn off the spell-check and grammar-check underlining in Word — again, because of screen shares where those lines were SO distracting to me that I couldn’t pay attention to the meeting.)

    2. AsItIs*

      But when you’re dealing with a VP who doesn’t even know they have to plug a computer into an electrical socket…

  24. Roscoe*

    #3 I’d probably not say anything in your shoes. People at work bring up their kids. Its just a part of working in an office. Just because you don’t like this kids behavior, even if he is an adult, doesn’t mean you should ask him to stop bringing up things that are happening in his life. For your boss, this is something going on that he brings up, just as you have probably brought up things in your life. Just about every office I’ve ever worked in had times that I was tired of hearing about peoples kids, especially little ones. But I suck it up and either ignore it or just smile and nod.

    1. Emily K*

      I had kind of the same reaction. “I don’t want to hear about your bratty kid’s screw ups,” just seems a little too precious to ask of your boss, especially when the reason you think it’s okay to say that is because you morally disapprove of the kid’s behavior. I would personally want to avoid a situation where my boss thinks that I’m morally judging him or his offspring as so inferior/unacceptable to me that I’m declaring the topic verboten.

      1. Roscoe*

        You said this a lot nice than me. But yes. Imagine saying that about a persons 10 year old. Or saying that about someone’s dog who is being a pain. Or someone whose kid had to move home for whatever reason. Just because she thinks she has the moral high ground here, I just don’t think its a good idea

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Eh, I think everyone’s allowed to pick a couple things that stress them out.

          “Scary driving talk stresses me out!” Smile ruefully.

          See also:
          “Yikes, bloody injury talk freaks me out!”

          “Eee, turbulent airplane talk makes me shudder!”

          “No more talking about puking before, during, or after lunch please! My stomach is a delicate flower and it doesn’t like being reminded about that stuff.”

          Chuckle, smile, make a little exaggerated freaked-out gesture, make it about you, not them. Possibly it won’t be super effective, but it’s not going to piss somebody off, and you can at least extract yourself from the conversation without offending.

          Person who cannot listen to talk of airplane turbulence, blood or vomit and has used this technique on many occasions.

          1. Emily K*

            That might work if boss is coming into the office recounting the details of the crash, but I was reading it like the boss is coming in saying, “Well, I had to pay to repair/replace Dear Jonny’s car AGAIN because he totaled it again!” If that’s the framing, that he’s bitching about the son’s irresponsibility/the cost of the repairs/the hassle etc, it’s hard to make the case that you’re having a visceral gut reaction to something disturbing rather than making a moral judgment about Dear Jonny and His Coddling Parents.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              I think “car crash talk freaks me out!” is still worth a try.

              Personally, I would even consider going with “I’m in debt, and expensive car repairs are definitely in my future, and I try not to think about it!” But that is probably not appropriate for all people or offices.

          2. Dr. Pepper*

            I’ve done the exaggerated “eeek! *squirm* that freaks me out! *shiver*” routine before when people are talking about something like that. Or I simply leave. With a boss, though, I tend more toward slightly horrified stare, possibly with non-committal noises thrown in depending on if they’re just talking at you or if they’re expecting some sort of response.

          3. Hmmmmm*

            Yeah, I would do this, OP #3. I’d probably say “a family member of mine was in a car accident years ago and I hate to hear about them, I’m sorry. Could we please not talk about this sort of thing?”

            Yeah, you have the moral high ground and shouldn’t need to apologize, but that doesn’t mean your boss will suddenly say, “You’re right! Let me suddenly change my opinion of my son and all my behavior!” The point is to get him to quit talking about it, because you’re not going to change him.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Someone whose driving is that bad is likely to cause someone serious injury at some point. It would also stress me out to have to hear about it. I think if the son were constantly driving drunk, we wouldn’t compare asking not to hear about it to someone talking about their 10 year old. It’s just not the same thing. And I totally agree with Pollygrammer, we are allowed to ask at work for people not to talk about something around us that stresses us out. If we have a laundry list of topics that are off limits, that’s one thing, but having one thing we ask people not to talk about around us shouldn’t be that big of a deal. If a coworker told me that my talking about a particular topic stressed them out, I’d not be a jerk about it and refrain from talking about it around them, and I don’t think that’s a big deal. Yeah, if the OP says “you son is morally unacceptable, do not even speak his name in front of me,” that would be bad. But that’s not what’s being proposed here.

          1. Emily K*

            But he’s not driving drunk, as far as we know. This just seems like it’s going to come off, rightly or wrongly, more like, “I think your son is bad at driving and you should feel bad” than “I have strong feelings about this subject matter,” the way it might with something very taboo like drunk driving. Bad driving just isn’t culturally taboo in the same way and it’s very likely that LW’s boss will react defensively to the suggestion that his son’s bad driving is too reprehensible for him to talk about in the office.

          2. JamieS*

            Yeah you’re allowed to ask about it but that doesn’t really change the fact we need to keep in mind that this is OP’s boss not a peer and upsetting your boss has implications that should be taken into consideration.

            Also I wouldn’t compare what OP describes to drunk driving either because we don’t know what exactly caused the accidents. Does he not look before turning/pulling out or is he a bad judge of distance. Does his driveway have a blind spot or is he whipping out without trying to look?

              1. Traveling Teacher*

                *insert scream face here*! That’s just as bad as being drunk. This kid is eventually going to kill someone if he doesn’t make a radical change to his deliberate bad behavior.

              2. Jennifer Thneed*

                Can you chat with the local police about this? Find out how illegal driving while on the phone is in your state, mention it’s been 3 bad accidents in under a year, like that. And most importantly, find out if you can report the driving such that the police investigate.

                I’m sure the insurance company is raising their rates like crazy, but that probably won’t have an impact. But — oh hey, in my state, you get “points” at the Dept of Motor Vehicles for wrong things you do like get in accidents or get traffic tickets. You get enough points, you lose your license. Is the son driving without a license?

                1. JamieS*

                  Unless OP is a witness I don’t know that’s going to make a difference. Even then if it’s not already on record I doubt the police will investigate someone allegedly being on their phone while driving sometime in the past.

          3. Roscoe*

            I think comparing it to drunk driving is a bit much. I’ve known plenty of people who were horrible drivers totally sober. Again, you are stressed out by just hearing the words “johnny totalled his car?” that seems a bit much

            1. Lauren*

              OP 3 is stressed because it’s only a matter of time before the bosses son kills someone. As they mentioned above, the son has gotten into these accidents because he is on his phone. No one totals their car THREE times in a short time span if they are not behaving recklessly.

              I bike to work, and I am constantly fearful of reckless drivers on their phones plowing through the bike lanes. A friend of mine died because someone else was texting and driving, and yes, it is as bad as drunk driving. It is completely within OP’s right not want to hear about this kind of behavior, it is completely horrifying and unacceptable.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              I’m not saying it’s the same as drunk driving, I’m saying that if there were a “good enough” reason to consider the son as a dangerous driver, people wouldn’t think it was too much for her to ask. I’m saying that it’s ok if the OP is stressed by repeatedly hearing about a dangerous driver getting into yet another accident. And someone who gets in that many bad accidents in such a short period of time is almost certainly a dangerous driver. One, maybe even two could be just bad luck, but after that, in that time frame, it’s almost certainly the driver’s fault.

              And it might seem “a bit much” to you, but everyone has their own issues that stress them out, and kind people will avoid talking about your particular stress button around you if you ask them to. If someone tells me a particular topic stresses them out, I’m not going to talk about it around them. I’m not going decide for myself whether they have a good enough reason to be stressed out by it. Maybe the OP’s boss isn’t kind, maybe he’s defensive and a bully, so it’s up to her to decide whether to say anything. But just because you dont’ think she has a good enough reason to ask, doesn’t mean her boss will necessarily agree with you.

            3. Cat Herder*

              A quick google turns up quite a few scientific and medical journal articles from the last ten years that conclude that “the impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk” (that’s from 2006).

              1. Emily K*

                At the time Roscoe posted his comment, OP hadn’t yet posted the information about this being cell phone related.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Yes, but the OP told us that this guy has had 3 accidents in the last year, the most recent when he backed out of a driveway really fast without looking in a suburban area. We have enough information to know that this person is a dangerous driver. “Cell phone distracted user” is just a subcategory of dangerous drivers, as are drunk drivers, and as would be this guy even if we didn’t know it was because he was on his phone.

                  And the cause doesn’t really matter anyway to whether it’s ok for the OP to ask to not be told about the son’s accidents.

            4. Nita*

              Three accidents in a year is pretty much up there with a drunk driver who cannot stop drinking. And FWIW, people who are horrible drivers sober should not be behind the wheel either. I don’t mean someone who keeps scraping the mirror on the mailbox, but… a driver with a seizure disorder killed several kids here recently. She didn’t have a substance abuse problem, and she still had her license… but she did keep having seizures, and her doctor told her numerous times she should not be driving.

        3. Jennifer Thneed*

          I think the fact that this is about a person who will almost certainly injure someone badly (themselves, a passenger, the other driver) does make a difference.

      2. Antilles*

        Agreed. Even though the boss himself doesn’t seem pleased with the kid, there’s a huge difference between “the boss complains about his own kid and criticizes his crummy driving” and “you complain about the boss’s kid”.

    2. KayEss*

      Sadly, the boss is also extremely unlikely to see things OP’s way. He’s clearly already unreasonable about covering for his son, and will probably be unreasonable about any confrontation about it.

      I had a boss who regularly complained about her college-age son spending all his money on designer clothes and having none left for rent… while transferring him more money. We all just smiled sympathetically and rolled our eves in private. Later she hired him to do “business development,” i.e. “screw around on the internet in a secluded office, then cut out at 3:00.”

    3. MLB*

      Yeah I don’t know that saying anything will have a positive result. Your boss is clearly an enabler to his son, and even though he complains to you about it, doesn’t seem to want to change. I’d either change the subject, or make up an excuse and walk away.

      1. Sunflower*

        As everyone noted above, it’s unlikely your boss is going to take well to anything you say. I would probably ignore it and claim you were so caught up in work you didn’t hear him. Then change the subject.

      2. Lehigh*

        This is actually why I would request that we not talk about it – so that I didn’t say something “mean” to the boss about his enabling when I got too fed up.

        But yes, it does risk alienating the boss. Just maybe not as much as a less filtered reaction to the next outrageous story.

    4. Yorick*

      I think the best thing to do is subtly try to steer Boss away from this topic. Like when he says something about Son’s driving, just give a disinterested “oh really?” and then start talking about a work related topic.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +100 to this. He’s most likely telling you for sympathy/validation/an audience. Don’t give it to him.

  25. Persimmons*

    LW 1, weird mistakes and nonsense happening during virtual meetings are basically the norm now. Remember the guy being interviewed whose daughter pranced into the office mid-video? And plenty of commenters here have talked about their colleagues getting an eyeful of cat butt on the webcam. I’m betting your coworkers haven’t given it a second thought.

    That said, I agree that misleading site titles can be irritating. I normally spend my lunch hour reading or doing online research, and I realized that my new-found interest in K-care had led me to a Reddit group called “Asian Beauty” which could be easily misinterpreted!

  26. Ainomiaka*

    LW2-in addition to Alison’s advice to think about how long it takes for the stress that you have been asking your team to deal with every day for months to dissipate, I would encourage you to make your announcement more about process and less about threats than what you initially described. What do you actually expect them to do differently? And don’t just say “I expect no errors.” Do you think they have time now to go back over things and look for errors?-say that. Do you think there are enough people that it’s reasonable for them to trade off proofreading?-say that.

    1. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

      Agreed, more “accentuate the positives of being fully staffed making it easier for all to do their tasks well”
      and less of a “time to crack the whip” in tone.

    2. Formerly Understaffed Employee*

      Yes, agreed! After a long period of under-staffing, one of the best things my boss did was give everyone time to look through all of their active work and see if there was anything that had been neglected. Her attitude was “find the gross stuff, bring it to me, let’s fix it and then we’ll get you on a clean path going forward”.

      It was very non-judgmental and helpful; It was great to have the time to dig out and once I knew there weren’t any more ticking time-bombs in my workload, my stress went down a LOT.

    3. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      OP – You may also want to meet with them and encourage them to slow their work pace. When everyone is in crisis mode, they work faster (make more mistakes) and just try to get something done that will be good enough. This is a good time to remind everyone to take a breath, reset their pace, and really focus on quality. It takes time to readjust to normal after working short for awhile.

    4. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      Or say something like “are we making sure we don’t make any errors? I SAY NO”. Never fails, that approach.

    5. Letter #2 Writer*

      Great suggestion, thank you Ainomaiaka. Allison and I shared the same thought on vacation – the whole team is taking some alternating vacation time over the next several weeks. Once they get back and are refreshed I’ll hold meetings with each of them to discuss and I’ll use what you’ve said as a tool to outline expectations. Appreciated!

  27. Purple Wombat*

    #4- When I went through an interview process a year or two ago, I fainted at a restaurant the day before an interview and was advised not to drive for a few days afterwards (it ended up being some weird viral thing that I had to let run its course). It was mortifying, but I had to cancel the interview the night before it was supposed to happen. They did let me reschedule, thank goodness.

    After the interview, while I was being escorted out, one of my interviewers (a potential peer) mentioned that because I had cancelled the first time, I was being held to a much higher standard in my rescheduled interview, because the only information he had about me before that was that I cancelled an appointment with very short notice.

    Fair? Maybe not, but I appreciated him being honest. If you do get your interview rescheduled, you REALLY have to make sure, even more than usual, that you knock it out of the park. Even though people shouldn’t judge you for it, they might have a bit of a bias.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This is absolutely true. In an interview, you don’t have the social capital you would with people who know you and know that you’re reliable.

  28. Liane*

    LW2. How long has your team been fully staffed? 3 weeks or 3 months? Or you’re onboarding the new people next week?
    Because, these new staffers are going to take time to get up to speed and be able to do the job comparably to the staffers who have been on the team longer. If they have been in similar positions previously it might take less time. So the transition period several people have suggested will be good for them as well as the current members.

    1. Letter #2 Writer*

      Hi Liane, we’ve been fully staffed for a month and I expect the onboarding will be complete in the next couple of weeks (by that I mean they’ll be trained up on job basics and able to go about their days fairly independently).

      I agree that this transition time will be good for both parties. Thanks for your comment :)

  29. Alton*

    #1: If it makes you feel better, I’m very observant, but I probably would have assumed the tab was an advice column or article and not porn. It doesn’t sound like a porn-like title. And major sites like Slate often have a little logo that displays on tabs. I’d feel bad for the presenter having something kind of embarrassing on the screen, but I don’t think I’d assume they were doing anything inappropriate in a context like this.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Me too. It could have been “what to do with nudes you find on shared drive at work.” Or “what to do with nudest talk from an employee.” (And I know the spelling is “nudist,” but that’s not going to occur to someone in the moment). I would definitely give them the benefit of the doubt.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        My brain went here: “What to do with nuder talk in the workplace?”

        “I’m nude!”
        “You’re wearing shoes! *I* am nuder than you.”
        “You’re still wearing socks! Not truly nude, dude!”

  30. Jady*

    To OP #2:

    First, keep in mind new people take time to get up to speed, and that’s going to cost time of your current people. It’s going to take some time before you see the benefits of being fully staffed.

    Second, stress doesn’t just flip off like a switch! As Allison said, these people need time to decompress. This is really important. Encouraging them to use vacation is great, but depending on the job and people (like a lot of USA jobs don’t give vacation or wouldn’t pay on a day off, or people are saving vacation time for specific trips/uses, etc) that may not be viable.

    Think about what other options you have to give people time to relax before the whipping starts. Even things as simple as letting people off work a couple hours early can help a lot.

    1. Ali G*

      If time off isn’t an option, I wonder if some sort of “offsite” for the group to 1) get to know new staff members 2) strategize process going forward and 3) just get away from work for a day! would help.
      No everyone is like me, but I get energized through planning. If the boss can get her team out of the office for a day (or two if they are into it) to just focus on the team function, goals going forward, etc. that may help a lot. They can also work as a team to ID what didn’t go so well while they were flat out, and come up with ideas together to address those going forward.
      What they really need right now is time for the transition of new people, to know their boss hears them about workload, and for everyone to feel a part of the team going forward.

    2. Letter #2 Writer*

      Thanks Jady and Ali G, good points and suggestions.

      Ali G, I think my team would also be energized through planning, I like the offsite brainstorming idea. We are not in a technical field, but for a while I’ve wanted to hold a “hackathon” to get ideas flowing. Maybe now is a good time for that!

  31. Rusty Shackelford*

    #3, sometimes when someone simply wants to vent, and you put the onus on them to fix their problem, they decide not to discuss it with you further. I.e., when someone always complains about being broke… “Oh, yes, it’s awful that you’re always broke. How are you going to fix that? Do you have a budget?” So you might try responding with “I can tell Fergus’s driving really upsets you. I’d be SO concerned if my child caused so many wrecks. It’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or even killed, and I know that must weigh so heavy on your mind. It seems to cost you a lot of money, too. What are you doing about it?” If the conversation becomes uncomfortable enough, he may decide to stop having it.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Oh, great idea, I also like this suggestion!

      You could even cut it down to simply “oh wow, so what are you doing about that?”

    2. Lehigh*

      LOVE this. You get to express how you actually feel, in a way that is sympathetic and helpful.

      And yeah, if the boss isn’t ready to rethink the unhealthy pattern, he’ll likely stop bringing it to you.

  32. Lexi*

    #1 your working remotely use your own computer for non work related stuff. I get it was a mistake and all but come on as a remote worker it’s hard enough to combat the theory that you are in your pajamas sitting at home watching tv and playing on the internet while everyone else is in the office. I don’t think there is any way to address this where it doesn’t look like you are surfing the internet at work, and sadly working remotely that justs adds to the negative stereotype.

  33. Elle*

    #1 – Unfortunately I don’t have any advice but wanted to say that I sympathize because the exact same thing happened to me in a meeting this week, with multiple members of our leadership team. I didn’t have anything risque up, but I did have multiple AAM tabs up, as I’d been searching for ways to deal with a problem employee. Luckily he wasn’t in the meeting!
    I’m hoping in both our cases, the other people in the meeting didn’t see it long enough to actually read the content of the tabs.

    1. Marthooh*

      Well, that’s better than tabs that say: / Update your resu.. / Job search in secr… / Successful interviewi… /

  34. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2, I think you’re being a reasonable and accommodating boss here. Many bosses don’t realize that overworked and stressed out people make more mistakes. Showing your team that you understand that is a good thing. When this happens again, and it likely will, your team knows that you will prioritize and accommodate reasonably.

    However, I think it likely for mistakes to go down as stress levels subside. Rather than a fiat declaration that the standard is no longer relaxed, I think you should treat the mistakes and manage the people as you typically would. I think the problem will correct itself if you manage it well.

  35. OP.1*

    OP #1 here- thank you so much to everyone who has responded with their own embarrassing screen share stories! That and the interpretations of what you all thought the tab might be referring to… Have helped me to put this in perspective.
    I’ve already sent the notes and am now on PTO, so I think my best move is to drop it so I don’t Streisand myself here. Definitely a lesson learned!

  36. Chaordic One*

    OP#4 Yes, please try to reschedule and be very apologetic in your tone. I really hope that they’ll reschedule with you. That said, over the years this has happened to me a couple of times and any time I tried to reschedule I was always told, ‘”No,” and that they had moved on without me in their process. Maybe with the job market being a bit tighter in the last few months they’ll be a bit more open to rescheduling. Good luck!

    1. Ama*

      Having been an admin (and not the decision maker) for quite a few hiring processes, it really is going to depend a lot on the timing of their hiring cycle and the strength of the applicant pool. If you were an early interview in a process they were planning to go on for a while, or if you are one of the few really strong resumes they’ve received, you probably have a better chance at rescheduling than if you are one of the last interviews and they’ve already seen one or two candidates they think would be a strong fit.

  37. Mommy MD*

    Early in my career I once had to cancel an interview leaving a message saying I had to cancel because my street was on lock down by the police because of a gunman barricading himself in one of the houses. It was true, and they rescheduled me, but I knew they thought I was a psycho making up tales. No job.

    1. Observer*

      Today, you could at least send them a link to an article or even the live coverage of the event.

  38. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    #5: One thing that I noticed in your letter that I haven’t seen addressed yet is that you say you are in pain. I have a health condition that comes with pain, and my managers/coworkers know that I have “a chronic condition that sometimes causes pain”. Literally that is the sum total of the information they have, and everyone has been fine with that. And really, I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been to just be able to let myself wince when the pain hits and not have to hide it for fear of giving my health problems away. Hiding it was almost as much strain as feeling it.

    I hope this upcoming round of treatment works well for you, and that your job is accommodating.

  39. Amber Rose*

    #1: From the flip side, I remember watching a presentation that a dude opened from a flash drive that also contained a file with the name of a pornographic film. I thought it was hilarious, which may not make you feel better, but I also didn’t judge him negatively or anything. It was just one of those things that got filed in my brain as a funny side note.

    Maybe it’s my generation, but sex and vague references to sex are not appalling by themselves. The internet alone is basically one enormous sex joke. Innuendo/double entendre has become one of the most frequent forms of humor. People just tune it out, it’s so pervasive.

    1. Nanani*

      This so much. Constant sex jokes flying around are more annoying than anything else, like the mosquitoes of the internet.

  40. Kenneth*

    OP#3, as someone who lost three friends in one calendar year to car accidents – one being my college roommate, and the other two died 6 days apart – I probably could not be… reserved in how I’d respond. I’ve probably been a bit too pushy at times, but given what I just mentioned, it is something I do not take lightly.

    I take safety behind the wheel very seriously, and I’ve pointed it out several times in the past to (mostly younger) coworkers who seem… unconcerned with the fact how they drive has a direct impact on whether they or someone else makes it home at night. The fact A LOT of people seem so unconcerned with how their driving behaviors impact others makes me very defensive behind the wheel. How many of you reading this comment frequently drive while talking on your cell phone, whether or not you use the Bluetooth integration in your car? (Again, I take this very, very seriously, since one of my friends died because *someone else* was on their cell phone.)

    So to hear someone speaking in a somewhat dismissive manner about a person, especially his son!, who had three car accidents in one year, I’d probably be borderline risking my job responding to that one since, again, I likely could not be reserved about it.

    It’s something, again, that I’ve likely been a bit too pushy about, but as noted, I have my reasons. You’re right that it is only a matter of time before he kills someone else or himself behind the wheel. And if your boss is shielding him from legal liability and responsibility for his actions behind the wheel, not just the financial liability, it’s inevitable.

    More people die every year in auto accidents in the United States than by firearms (suicide, homicide, and accidents combined). This isn’t something to take lightly. And while you might not want to hear about it, a casual conversation about the inevitable consequences of his son’s driving behavior might be in order, though may also be inappropriate and, again, risking getting fired.

    1. OP 3*

      Hello, OP #3 here. I’m incredibly sorry for what you’ve experienced and I’m incredibly sorry for how common this is. It makes me so sad and angry.

      No one is entitled to drive and no one is entitled to live without being judged for their reckless behavior. I can’t control my boss or his child, obviously, but if my boss brings up his son again, I’ll remember what you said and take the opportunity to be blunt about the consequences of his son’s behavior. I’ve called his son dangerous, but I haven’t stated outright that the likelihood of his son killing someone is incredibly high. If I do that and don’t get fired, then I’ll use Allison’s script. (I really appreciate the script by the way! Thank you, Allison!)

      This is probably the only comment I’ll be able to respond to for the next 8 hours, but thank you to everyone for your thoughts and comments!

      1. Kenneth*

        There’s also the likelihood his son could kill *himself*. How would he feel about having to bury his son over something so easily foreseen by his current actions? My roommate died because he was apparently reaching for something in his car, momentarily lost control, and was ejected when his car went into a guardrail. He died a couple days later.

      2. Observer*

        You might want to mention the possibility that the son might kill himself, too. Dad is far more likely to be concerned about that.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          +1 (unfortunately)

          Related – my mom used to be a notorious talk-on-the-phone driver and her elderly next door neighbor noticed that my mom would already be pulling her phone out in the driveway – and called her out on it.

          Turns out, the neighbor’s adult son died in a car accident because he was messing around on his phone. My mom does not do that anymore (and actually has a ‘driving mode’ on her phone where if you try to call or text her, her phones does not go off and you get an auto-text reply that she’s driving).

      3. Michaela Westen*

        There is a famous musician in our circle. About 15 years ago an email made the rounds that he needed moral support because his fiancé had died in a car wreck. Apparently she was groping under the seat for her phone and ran her car into a tree.
        I sent him an email that his symptoms sounded like PTS and a few years later saw in an interview he had been treated for it.
        I’ve always remembered that story. How sad and stupid to die that way instead of making it to her wedding.

  41. Environmental Compliance*

    OP 1 – I’m with many others who have stated that no one probably even noticed. I personally probably would have, assumed it was something related to makeup or fashion or something totally innocuous, and immediately forgotten about it by the end of the meeting.

  42. Kes*

    For OP2 – I’d suggest focusing the meeting first as thanking them for all their work during this time and telling them that now that you’re going to be fully staffed their workload should be going back to normal, and to let you know if this isn’t happening. Then you can move on to saying that they’ll have time to slow down and decompress a bit, and that as part of this you want to take a bit more time on items and build in more quality checking (and if there are any specific steps or processes you want to add, explicitly go through them here). If the new people have already started, you could also go through the standards the team is expected to meet for their benefit, but otherwise I wouldn’t bring up the standards in this first meeting if your team already knows what they are.

    From there I’d wait to see how that goes, and after some time if the errors aren’t going down then you can have another meeting to say that in spite of the checking errors are still occurring, and now that you’re fully staffed you really do need to go back to maintaining X standards, and are going to need to crack down a bit to ensure that happens.

    I’d just worry that bringing up errors or standards they aren’t achieving at the end of a stressful time will make them feel unappreciated, and that it might be better to start with how you want processes to change now that you have time (which should remind them of the standards anyway), and then only move on to talk of standards and errors if you don’t see improvement. If your team typically performs well it’s likely the issue will resolve itself once they recover and adjust back to the usual state, so I would wait to see if a crackdown is needed before bringing it up.

    1. Letter #2 Writer*

      Great feedback, thank you Kes. I see some helpful scripting in your comment and will definitely work that into my go-forward planning!

  43. Mimmy*

    #2 – Just wanted to say that you are awesome for wanting to address this with your team. I had a previous job where even small errors were a big deal, especially if it got past the QA checks, so I can completely relate to the stress of having a heavy workload and having to ensure zero errors.

    P.S. I want to clone Alison! I love the suggested script and would love for more employers to have a manager who is as exceptionally thoughtful as she is :)

    1. Letter #2 Writer*

      Thanks Mimmy! I appreciate the support.

      And right?! Oh, if there were only more Alisons in this world…

  44. SechsKatzen*

    #5: Probably best to just say “medical condition” or “chronic medical condition” without being more specific. From my perspective on the employee end, if someone were gone for 10 weeks and I became overloaded as a result, I would be resentful of that person (not saying it’s right, but it’s the reality) and having more details about why they were out so long wouldn’t help. And in any event, unless there’s a specific accommodation related to the medical condition and it needs to be disclosed for that reason, employers don’t need to know that many details.

  45. Cubicle Farm*

    #2: I like your thinking here but I would not have this conversation until your new employees are done with training. Not knowing how training goes at your facility I’m assuming other employees will be training the new hires? If this is the case the employees that are doing the training don’t need the added stress with having the whole “errors” conversation in the back of their minds while trying to train and get their work done at the same time. You might have more people but you don’t necessarily have a full “staff”.

  46. Janey*

    #1 – A vendor was doing a technical demo and I noticed that she had a tab open that had a questionable website name. I pinged the project manager who owned the screenshare meeting and told her about the tab. She was able to discreetly stop the screenshare, tell the vendor about the tab, and by the time the screenshare came back up, the tab was gone. It was good times

  47. ToS*

    For the browser – unless someone mentions it to you – it’s language that has a known, benign interpretation. Presume that everyone has taken it that way, and keep moving. If you have Immature Ike and/or Ida, that’s when clarification might be needed.

    For the disordered eating question – FMLA is protected leave. Look at your employer’s paperwork. Talk to your provider about what they might disclose about your serious health condition, but yes, take care of yourself. It’s a quick road to burnout, or more, if your employer cannot carve out space for essential self-care.

  48. Mariella*

    #4. I’ve had a very similar thing happen, i had a miscarriage, and the blood loss sent me to A&E the day before an interview. Luckily they rescheduled, but i absolutely bombed the new appointment because i scheduled it for 2 days after i was in hospital and just wasnt ready for it. I know you’re keen to schedule another one, but just make sure you’re ok first.

  49. Data Analyst*

    OP #5, I know I’m late but I wanted to share something a great therapist once told me: “there’s a difference between secret and private.” Sometimes when private info causes us shame, it makes us feel like we’re keeping a secret and should “come clean” as part of the healing process. But really, this sort of thing may just be better private, for all the reasons discussed here.

  50. Chicken*

    OP5, I also struggled with bulimia for many years. I left grad school mid-semester to pursue treatment, but rushed through it (inpatient and day program) in order to start the next semester. I relapsed quickly and had to leave that semester too. I did inpatient and day program treatment again, took all the time I needed, and it worked – I’ve now been in recovery for about eight years.

    I felt enormous amounts of shame throughout my illness too – I remember it very clearly, but the feelings are no longer there. I’m sorry that you’re having such a hard time. I hope you’re able to take the time you need to get the treatment you need.

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