am I being considered for too many jobs, my former tenant’s manager is requesting money from me, and more

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

1. My former tenant’s “manager” is requesting money for her time spent on a lease dispute

I have been in conflict with a former tenant (Sara) for a few weeks, for various reasons that I am not going to list here but are part of the usual conflicts tenants and landlords can have at the end of a tenancy (cleanliness, state of the garden, etc.). The usual legal process is taking place in order for me to be able to deduct costs I incurred, from her deposit. We are going through a simplified process because the claim is low (less than $1000) and no solicitors are involved.

Sara works for a well-known global company and I have just received an email from someone claiming to be her manager, asking me to pay the equivalent of one week of Sara’s salary for the time she had to take off work to deal with the conflict. The email address seems to be legitimate, using the company’s domain name and I can find the name of the person on LinkedIn as working there but they don’t seem to hold a senior position. The email is not clear as to whom the compensation should be paid and does not detail how the compensation was computed (one week seems a very long time to send a few emails — the process has taken me one hour so far).

Now, I have no problem answering to this person that I do not know who they are and that they need to follow a legal process if they want to claim anything from me. However, I know that such a big global company would never start a litigation like this (no solicitor involved, even in-house, unclear claim) so I suspect Sara to have organized it. And so here is my question: shall I contact the company to inform them of this claim made in their name?

My first idea was to wait to see if I receive a second email, as at the end of the day Sara is very young and I don’t want her to lose her job over this. Now I am not too sure. As a manager, I would want to know this. Apart from this email, I have never been in touch with Sara’s employer, I just saw salary statements before she moved in.

Wow, yeah, I suspect you’re right that this isn’t a genuine request from Sara’s company but instead came from a coworker at her request, for all the reasons you stated. And if I were Sara’s employer, I’d sure as hell want to know that she (and a coworker, it sounds like) were doing this. (Although it’s possible that it’s actually Sara’s manager going rogue here — it’s possible that she has a manager without a particularly senior-sounding title, and that that person is out of their gourd. It could still be a demand that wasn’t sanctioned by the company, without being something Sara herself organized. Who knows.)

In any case, you could certainly alert her employer if you want to, and there’s nothing wrong with doing that. That said, it might make things more contentious with Sara and it doesn’t really get you any closer to any of the outcomes you want here (which presumably are just to handle the end of her lease with as little hassle as possible). Ultimately I’d get clarity on what you want here (just to settle the lease situation as quickly and easily as possible? to take a stand on principle that this email is messed up and there should be consequences?) and proceed accordingly.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. A job candidate disclosed he was fired for watching porn at work

I’m a recruiter at a mid-sized company, and we are hiring for a manager in a fairly niche department and have had some trouble getting qualified candidates. I recently talked to an applicant who seemed to be a good fit; he didn’t check all of our boxes, but I certainly thought that he could do the job relatively well with minimal training time. He had been at a related government agency for over six years, and since then had had a string of short-term, contract roles. When I asked him why he had left the government job, he told me that he had been asked to resign because he had been viewing pornography at work (on his government-issued computer). He told me that he knew it reflected poorly on him and he’s learned a lot since the incident.

If he hadn’t disclosed that to me, I would have absolutely forwarded him on to the hiring manager and recommended a phone call, but since he told me, it gave me pause. I checked in with my boss and another leader in HR that I trust; both told me not to move forward with him. My reaction was to move him forward without alerting the hiring manager. What are your thoughts? On the one hand, I applaud him for being up front, but on the other hand there was obviously a lack of good judgement on his part.

You absolutely should not move him forward without telling the hiring manager; that would be keeping info from the hiring manager that she might want, and it’s not your job to do that. Moreover, if she were to find out about it, it would destroy her trust in you because ultimately, it’s up to her if this is a deal-breaker for her.

I’d forward the candidate’s info to the hiring manager with a note saying that normally you’d recommend this candidate for an interview, but the reason he was fired from his last job may be prohibitive, and then explain the situation and ask how she’d like to proceed. It should be her call.

About the situation overall: I assume he’s trying to be straightforward about what happened, perhaps in part to take responsibility for it but also because he figures you’re likely to hear about it at the reference-checking stage. There’s a decent chance that he’s not going to do it again, having now been fired from one job for it, but it’s also true that it says something pretty bad about his judgment. I’d be skeptical about hiring him if the incident was recent (in part because if he did something else inappropriate at work, that would be partially on me for ignoring this info).

3. Am I being considered for too many jobs?

Is it possible to be under consideration for too many different positions? For context, I finished my bachelors degree this summer and have been applying for jobs incessantly for the past 4-6 weeks. I received nothing but rejections for the first four weeks and then suddenly, I got a flurry of phone interview requests. So many that I’m now under consideration for eight positions (potentially more if we count the temp/recruiting agency that I met with early this week) and I feel … overwhelmed, to say the least. So, is there such a thing as too many interviews and companies considering me to hire at once? Do I opt out of the ones I’m not thrilled with? Do I wait it out and just let the process roll on? Do I stop applying for other positions? Do I sound overwhelmed?

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with interviewing with eight different companies at once. Logistically, it could become a problem if they all want to schedule interviews in the same three-day period or something like that, but they’re probably not all going to be moving on exactly the same schedule. Some will move quickly, some will take longer, some won’t get back to you after the first interview, some will reject you, and so forth.

I wouldn’t drop out of any unless you’re truly sure you’re not interested. Otherwise you risk closing off some options and then not getting offers from the others. If some of them are conflicting with others (like too many interviews in the same short period, with no option to choose different dates), then prioritize based on your order of interest. But otherwise I’d just let things play out and see what happens. (And if these are all phone interviews so far, I wouldn’t worry at all. Phone interviews are easier to juggle logistically, and you probably won’t hear back from all over them post-phone-interview.)

You could indeed take a short break from applying for jobs if you’d like … although balance that against the reality that these eight may end in zero offers, and decide how comfortable you are with that risk. It might make more sense to just scale back and only apply for things you’re highly interested in.

4. Should I be sitting at this table?

After reading Lean In, I’ve tried to be much more concientious of how I interact in meetings and what that says about me — including sitting at the table. However, I’m not really sure whether I should apply that advice to this particular situation.

There is a weekly staff meeting mid-level managers attend. Normally I wouldn’t be on the invite list (too low ranking), but I lead a special committee that gives a report once a month during this meeting. There are not enough seats at the conference table, so about 30% of people end up sitting in chairs at the outskirts of the room.

On the one hand, this meeting really isn’t for me and I don’t have the “authority” to interact or speak up during any part of the meeting except when I’m presenting, so who am I to take the spot of someone “more important” at this table? But on the other hand, I sometimes worry that presenting from the outskirts of the room is weird and those on the telephone won’t be able to hear me if I’m so far away from the microphone. Presenters at these meetings always remain in their seats rather than standing at the front of the room.

If the meeting isn’t really “for” you and you’re not interacting or speaking during any part of it other than when you’re giving your report, I wouldn’t take one of the chairs at the table. It makes more sense for the people who are actively participating in the meeting to be at the table, when there’s limited seating there.

But because you’re concerned about whether people on the phone can hear you clearly, you could ask next time whether they can — and if they can’t, could suggest that you move closer to the phone when you present.

5. Can I ask for an office?

I am the one of three people with my position at my company. Two of us work in the same building and the third is at another location. I am the newest of the three of us so it didn’t bother me that I don’t have an office while the other two do. But one of my colleagues just gave her notice that she’s leaving. Is it rude to ask for her office?

Nope. Because you’re in the same job as she is, it would be fine to say something to your manager like, “After Jane leaves, would it be possible for me to move into her office? I’d love to have walls, which usually make it easier for me to concentrate.” (If you were in very different jobs, my advice would be different — in that case it might have been a deliberate decision for the person in her role to have the privacy of an office, and it would be likely they’d want her replacement to have the space.)

{ 534 comments… read them below }

  1. Butter Makes Things Better*

    OP4, great instinct to ask AAM first! I once made the mistake of taking what I thought was a free seat at a meeting in an attempt to be assertive without any understanding of the work culture. The senior managers turned to stare at me like the robocop in Terminator 2. If only I could’ve melted into the floor like he did …

      1. Butter Makes Things Better*

        I can’t remember if I sat there through the whole meeting or not. I do know I didn’t sit at the table again until years later when I graduated to active participant.

        At that table, staffers not at the table would give updates or present info, depending on their role, but they wouldn’t earn a seat (even with folks on the conference phone) because senior staff would potentially speak multiple times. I attempted a seat grab when I wasn’t even a occasional speaker; I’d just come from a previous job where you could sit at the table if you wanted to.

        1. Imaginary Number*

          This is such a weird workplace culture thing.

          When I was in the Army, at least, it was definitely something people talked about. Probably ad nauseum. To the point of having “rehearsal briefings” where the topic of who sits at the table for the final briefing was discussed down to details like “CPT Snuffy will sit here unless LTC Wuffles shows up with the CG”. Then there would still be this last-minute awkward shuffle where some of the lower ranking officers would move up to the table and then back again because someone would arrive late.

          My current workplace is almost the opposite unless it’s a meeting with a high level exec or a customer. The senior people, if they aren’t chairing the meeting, often hang out in the outer row of seats because they want to be able to leave in the middle or discreetly check emails. The downside to this is you’re often in the same situation you talked about: where you come into a meeting and you don’t know if it’s rude to hang out on the outside or if it’s rude to take a seat at the table. I’ve been in meetings where everyone takes an outside seat and the chair shows up and there’s no one at the table with them. That’s awkward too.

        2. Jay Bee*

          I actually present in a meeting where I intentionally don’t sit at the table. There are so many crazy office politics taking place about our already ridiculous staff meeting that the table is for members a certain department…even though they don’t present.

          Well, now they do (again). But they didn’t before. But before that they did. That’s how messed up this is.

        3. JustaTech*

          Oh, that’s so awkward. One lab I worked in had cross-lab meetings where one person would present their research. By unspoken law the table was reserved for 1) the person presenting 2) the bagels and 3) the PIs (principal investigators, the big deal, many millions in grants lab leaders).
          And then there was this one grad student who seemed totally oblivious to this rule, and the looks, and just kept sitting there while other lab leaders were up against the wall.

          1. HM*

            This is why rules shouldn’t be unspoken. If the grad student isn’t to sit there, they should be informed of that. This goes for all workplaces. Expecting someone to be psychic then being appalled when they aren’t is ridiculous.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      The OP’s first thought was to Ask A Manager? I’d suggest that she ask her own manager first (or at least now that she knows Alison’s answer to ask her own manager second).

      1. Anna*

        I think it’s the sort of thing you know is important but might not want to ask your actual manager about. It’s one of those things where it’s completely normal to get an outside opinion on the situation without fear of judgment. Know what I mean?

      2. LW #4*

        I was hoping to get an outside opinion because I work in a technical department so my managers, while excellent at math, aren’t the greatest for giving me advice on the soft skills. This meeting is also above their level.

    2. epi*

      I think it’s definitely a know your office thing. I attend conferences all the time where I sit at the table as one of the most junior people present. (Others are faculty, university staff, and leadership at partner organizations… I am a research assistant at these meetings.) At any given meeting, most of those people are there to listen and maybe advise, while I am usually presenting.

      I arrive early and will get up and offer my seat to guests, people senior to me who are presenters, or anyone so senior to me that I find them intimidating. Only one person has ever asked me to move, and while I did it, my boss was pissed that she asked.

      If I were the OP I’d just ask my boss or the meeting organizer. And try different approaches when in doubt. Times I have hung back at these meetings, people who knew I was presenting made room and insisted that i move up.

    3. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)*

      I feel like the questions, and the comments, have lately leaned toward “workplace conundrums with heavy social/political baggage attached” and I think these kinds of subtle but important ettiquette and norms stuff is a refreshing change of pace. Or return to pace, I guess.

    4. Kelly L.*

      I remember there being a letter a few years ago about a conference room where only bigwigs were allowed at the table, and everybody else had to stand around the perimeter. I always thought they needed a bigger damn conference room, but what do I know?

    5. AdminX2*

      I would say get up from the seat and present from the front of the room and then return when done your section, unless the room is seriously not good for movement. We sadly have several meetings like that due to over demand and too few room options.

    6. Catabodua*

      I got told to move during a meeting. I was mortified. As in, the meeting stopped and waited for me to move.

      More context: I was the junior person, but who did all the work so knew the shit, and attended the meeting with my direct manager. She sat at the table. I sat next to her. She did not tell me to sit elsewhere.

      A more senior person came in, and in an effort to cause the least amount of ruckus in a tight space that was already mostly full I tried to move over one seat, which would place me next to the very senior of all senior people in the room. I assumed my boss would slide over to the seat I was in and the new senior person would take her place.

      The very very senior person told me to move so that new person could sit next to them. (As in “No, move back to your seat. New Person will sit here.”) So the meeting stopped while the new person basically climbed over six people’s feet who were sitting on the perimeter of the room and disrupted papers/water bottles that were on the floor in front of folks to pull out the chair I had tried to move in to. All in order to make sure that person sat next to the V-VIP.

      I am forever grateful that our portion was already done, so I didn’t have to try to present after that. When I tried to talk to my direct manager about it, she just flapped her hands and told me not to worry about it. But I never looked at either of those senior folks the same way again.

  2. Alldogsarepuppies*

    is #1 a thing a company could legitimately ask a landlord to do? I’ve never heard anything like that but I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on landlord-tenant law.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I can’t speak for all countries, but generally speaking, no. It’s not reasonable for someone to ask for compensation for lost wages/time, and it’s especially unusual/rare for an employer to contact an employee’s former landlord to compensate the employee (the money wouldn’t even go to the company).

    2. JamieS*

      It might be possible for the employee (tenant) to sue the landlord for lost wages and win, I’d speculate the hardship would have to be greater than what OP describes though, but I’m not sure the employer would have any standing to bring a suit.

      That being said somewhere in the world there’s probably some specific scenario that could/has happened where an employer could file a suit against a tenant’s landlord and win.

      1. SignalLost*

        The hardship would actually have to entail lost wages. It just sounds like Sarah took time off (compensated or not) by choice, not that she lost wages out of need. My apartment building had a fire years ago that left the building without power for a month; my landlord’s insurance did compensate the woman who worked from home for her expenses in getting a working space for the duration of the repairs – this was before coworking spaces were common in our city. That’s the kind of hardship I would expect any such claim to need to meet; this sounds like Sarah took time off and either wants to double-dip or took it uncompensated and hopes to recoup her wages. But I can’t imagine she could possibly prove the landlord caused her hardship.

        1. Dweali*

          Or Sarah is just petty enough to want to be a pain in the butt to the former landlord and cool if she gets some cash back from it

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Never something I’ve heard of. The company isn’t a party to the tenancy, so them having any say direct in matters is unusual.

      My thinking would be to contact Sara first and ask her if she knows anything about this. It’s possible that she was not involved in this at all.

      I’d be contacting her employers legal department over this scam attempt regardless. At most, I’d give her warning that I will be doing so.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I wouldn’t either! Although if Sara owes OP any money that is still outstanding (as against the deposit that’s already in OP’s possession), I’d wait to inform her company until after OP collects the money.

      1. AsItIs*


        I would reply to the “manager’s” email saying “Thank you for your email. I shall be in contact with the company’s Legal Department concerning this matter forthwith.” And then do it.

        I bet that would put a stop to the scam.

      1. AnonToday*

        Yeah, the thing is, a real demand letter would not have omitted the information omitted here.

        I could see some pro se litigant trying to claim “attorneys fees” for the time they spent on the case, but I could never see it working, particularly not in landlord tenant court. The judge I clerked for was ruthless in his questioning and slashing of submitted documented attorneys fees and they had to be highly specific.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        From my advanced years I actually feel kind of sorry for the tenant and coworker. “Oh you poor babies, that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. And everyone a decade older than you knows it.”

        1. Liane*

          Even IF this letter was from a manager who let Sara take paid time off to deal with the rental dispute (which I doubt), it’s still deep in “not how this works” territory.

    4. MK*

      It depends on jurisdiction, but I doubt there is one weird enough that an employer can demand compensation for someone taking their employees’ time. It sounds to be this is an ill-thought intimidation tactic on Sarah’s part; trying to spoil the OP that they will become embroiled in a dispute with a huge company if they press their claim.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I’d be very surprised if they could. The Landlord has no contract with the employer and no control over when Sara deals with any paperwork.

      Sara might be able to include an element for her time in any claim she personally made against the landlord, *if* she won her over all case.

      I would be letting the company know, but I might ot do so straight away. Quite apart from anything else, if you want to claim money from Sara, you don’t want her to be sacked and penniless!

    6. AnonToday*

      This is not legal advice, but in the jurisdiction I have done a little bit of collections and landlord tenant in, no. I can’t rule out that there is some weird law in some other jurisdiction but I have never heard of anything like this. From a legal standpoint it doesn’t make sense, they have no relationship whatsoever and any “harm” to the company was the result of their employee’s choice to conduct her legal business during work hours, for which she could have taken leave.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It seems like sending a stern letter to a cold virus. “You caused Sara to miss three days of work! Better write a check to ACME Corp for the sick pay she collected.”

    7. Ren*

      I suspect this has nothing to do with the company or time off but is the tenant wanting her full deposit back (plus possibly a few “punitive” dollars on top).

      1. irene adler*

        I think you are exactly correct. It was a ploy to get back full deposit and ‘teach’ landlord a lesson.

    8. Iona*

      Not allowed on any of the US states here I’ve practiced law.

      Alao, in the USA, it if doesn’t come from the company’s legal department or isn’t notice of a lawsuit, I’d ignore it.

      It sounds like OP is the UK, So it might be a little bit different there but it’s generally similar laws.

      She should check to see if the company has a legal department listed on their website. I’d send a copy of the email to them and HR.

      I’m sure they will be very interested.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Solicitor made me think UK – but we don’t use $, so probably not.

        (If it is UK, then yeah, not happening – and also it’s not Scotland as deposits there are held in the guarantee scheme.)

        1. Annie Moose*

          “Garden” also made me think UK. Alison does occasionally edit letters for American spelling, I believe, so it’s possible she converted a £ amount to $ for the ease of American readers?

            1. OP1*

              Hi all,
              I converted the local currency into USD to be understood by most readers.
              This is not the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, it is a European country, I learnt British English, not American English, hence the British way of saying things.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Y’all, please stop trying to guess the OP’s country. This isn’t helpful (are we going to suddenly bring a detailed knowledge of Latvian law to the discussion?) and if she wanted to share it, she would have shared it.

        2. OhNo*

          Could easily be Canada or Australia – I believe they both use some UK-specific phrasing, but also have their own version of dollars.

          1. Mephyle*

            Australia, then – because Canada uses dollars but the phrasing about lawyers is more similar to U.S. I don’t think we talk about solicitors.

            1. Jaybeetee*

              Canadian here. My father is a lawyer, and his business cards say “Barrister, Solicitor, Notary Public.” Those titles are a thing here – but in regular conversation, no one uses them. We’d just say “I’m meeting with my lawyer this week to update my will” or what have you.

              Also, when I read “garden” in the OP, I’m assuming they mean a “yard” (as opposed to a literal flower bed/vegetable garden), which at least in my neck of the woods, that word wouldn’t be used in that way. (At any rate, OP has also commented by now to say they’re European and not British nor from the Commonwealth – just wanted to educate!)

    9. Snickerdoodle*

      I 100% think Sara and her manager are trying to scam the OP out of money and that the company absolutely needs to know about it.

      1. Ginger ale for all*

        I am not entirely sure that her manager is actually involved. I can’t see that scam passing the bulls*** test of any other person besides the loon who thought it up.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          That’s also very possible; maybe Sara hacked the “manager’s” email or created a fake account, maybe it’s a coworker claiming to be a manager, etc. Who knows. Either way, there’s no way a legitimate claim would ever come from a random email like that. It’s like those dumb scam phone calls claiming to be the IRS. Since when has anything legal or financial NOT involved copious amounts of paperwork?

          1. Anna*

            I’m more inclined to think it’s neither a hack or fake account or even that Sara’s friend is her actual manager, rather it’s just a friend claiming to be her manager demanding this.

    10. Engineer Woman*

      Isn’t this what PTO is for? Why would Sara be using company time to conduct her own business?

    11. Dr. Pepper*

      I’m not a lawyer, but I would think absolutely not. If Sara and/or whoever else is scamming people during work hours, that’s the company’s problem and they would sort it out directly with the employees involved, not send vague demands to the prospective victim. Because this is a scam. 100% scam.

    12. LadyByTheLake*

      This is utterly bogus in the United States. There is NO POSSIBLE WAY that the company sanctioned this.

  3. Greg NY*

    #2: You need to do what the hiring manager asks you to do, that’s your job as a recruiter regardless of whether or not they agree with you (provided, of course, that they aren’t discriminating against the candidate for an illegal reason).

    As far as the hiring manager goes, what they are doing is legal, as I said. But it is terribly misguided. This candidate explained what they did wrong, that they learned from it, and came clean on their own volition. It’s no different than any other wrongdoing, and in fact is better than some. It’s certainly better than embezzling money, for example. The biggest problem I see is that porn carries a very high risk of introducing viruses into an organization’s computer network. I do not think porn itself, viewed discreetly, is a problem, and I would think that viewing it on one’s personal phone (connected to a cellular network, not wi-fi) or viewing previously downloaded porn files scanned for threats, out of sight of coworkers, is fine.

    Nonetheless, I feel it is fine, but sometimes you need to steer clear of controversial things that may not be fine to others. You need to know your colleagues and your workplace. The biggest transgression this candidate had was to view it on a government issued computer, which might contain sensitive information that could become infected from the porn.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I am trying so hard not to have my brain explode.

      No, this is not “no different than any other wrongdoing.” All wrongs are not equally bad, and while it may not be murder or embezzlement, what this guy did was objectively completely out of line and unacceptable in 99% of workplaces.

      Viewing porn at work is nearly always inappropriate, regardless how “discreet” a person thinks they’re being. It doesn’t matter if it’s on their phone, their laptop, or whatever. It’s especially egregious for government employees, who receive training about why they cannot and should not access porn (or other streaming services) using government resources/computers. The cybersecurity angle is relevant regardless of the type of employer. It can also create legal liability for an employer. So let’s not pretend that this is somehow not a big deal when it is.

      The only mitigating factor (and it is not very mitigating) is if this were the applicant’s first job, or if they were particularly inexperienced. But it’s not OP’s role to determine whether the candidate is still worthwhile. Either way, OP has to disclose this information to the hiring manager.

      1. Husky*

        While I am personally against porn in general, I don’t think watching porn at work is an unforgivable wrongdoing. It’s a lapse of judgement, not malice and not negligence. I don’t think that someone who was fired for this and who freely admits to it will ever repeat that mistake again. Unlike other wrongdoings at work (like embezzlement) it doesn’t show a lack of good character, just a mistake

        1. wherewolf*

          I totally disagree. I think it shows incredibly poor judgment and a lack of respect for their workplace and coworkers. It creates an environment of sexual harassment. How many #MeToo stories included male workers watching porn at work?

          1. RVA Cat*

            This, 100%. He. Watched. Porn. On. A. Government. Computer. He was there 6 years so was a grown-@$$ man in his late 20s at least. This doesn’t mean he should never work anywhere again but a lot short stints in lower-status jobs is…karma. He dug himself a hole that will take years of his best behavior to dig out of. OP, tell the hiring manager!

            1. Snickerdoodle*

              Seriously. I use a government computer at work, and I occasionally surf the Internet on my lunch hour/breaks, but I would NEVER look at porn at work. I can only assume the URLs are blocked anyway (even ESPN is blocked), but I wouldn’t dare even check.

              I suspect that his short stints in other jobs are not coincidental. That’s not karma; that’s a pattern.

              1. Autumnheart*

                Not necessarily. A lot of contracts are short-term, 3-6 months. He may well have taken them because that’s what he was able to get. It doesn’t mean he quit or got fired from every job.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It shows a lack of good judgment, and in many jobs, it’s an unforgivable wrongdoing. I cannot believe that in 2018 we are still arguing over whether it’s ok to watch porn at work.

          1. JM60*

            I know this is a very late reply that you’ll probably never see, but I couldn’t resist.

            Husky wasn’t “arguing over whether it’s ok to watch porn at work.” They were disagreeing about how bad it is. I’m sure you disagree with Husky about how bad it is, but I find it a little ironic that you (I think) misinterpreted Husky in this way after saying in a previous comment, “All wrongs are not equally bad”.

        3. Pumpkin Soup*

          Have you ever worked with someone who watched porn?

          Trust me, it is not nice to have someone do that in the same office as you. What do you think people do while they watch it – sit there passively browsing the net?

          People watch porn to get turned on. Getting turned on is not an appropriate thing to do at work.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            There are the exact words I was looking for. Yes – porn is not just random entertainment. Porn makes you horny. Intentionally getting horny at work is a big NO.

            1. KRM*

              Yes! If you want a break at work, watch kitten/puppy/screaming goat videos. Not porn. In my first job a dude got caught watching porn on one of the three shared computers (it was 1999), and it was pretty unpleasant to still have to work with him after. Not OK.

              1. Allison*

                I have Vine compilations running in the background on one of my screens while I work. I doubt my manager would be thrilled if he found out but so far I haven’t gotten in trouble for it.

          2. Nita*

            Exactly. And also, there’s the bit about him sitting around doing this instead of, you know, working. Also not a quality one would want in an applicant.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            Getting turned on is not an appropriate thing to do at work.

            Perfectly gets to the heart of the non-cyber-security aspect.

          4. One of the Sarahs*

            Every time “porn at work” comes up, there are people who defend it, and I legitimately don’t understand how they can. The only reason to watch porn is to get sexually aroused – it’s not for the storylines, or the cinematography, and even when those are good in porn, they’re there to help turn people on. It’s not sex negative, or prudish to say that it’s inappropriate to intentionally try to be turned on at work (outside of a ridiculously small number of circumstances) – and I legitimately don’t understand why (a small minority of) commentators think it’s no big deal.

            1. Husky*

              I agree it’s extremely inappropriate. I just don’t agree that it’s something one can’t learn from and that once you’re caught doing it you become unemployable. It’s a very big mistake and something that should never happen but it’s a mistake that people can learn from. It’s not something like stealing or getting into a fight at work that shows a clear lack of character. It’s a bad violation that people can learn from

              1. wherewolf*

                I think it’s exactly like getting into a fight at work. “I don’t understand professional and social norms, I’ve made no effort to learn, and I’m not interested in trying”

          5. Courageous cat*

            Yeah dude, seriously. People aren’t just casually watching it like they watch The Good Place out of the corner of their eye. People watch porn to masturbate, or as you said, get turned on at the very least. That is never appropriate at work unless you literally work in porn. (I used to work in a very sex/porn-oriented office and it STILL wasn’t appropriate).

          6. JM60*

            “What do you think people do while they watch it – sit there passively browsing the net?”

            Not that it would make it okay, but to my knowledge, but it’s actually not uncommon for people to passively viewing porn without *ahem* doing more related activities, especially if they are heavy porn consumers.

        4. Totally Minnie*

          The job he was fired from was a government job. I’ve worked for four municipal governments over the course of my career, and every single time I’ve been required to sign a statement confirming that I had read and understood the computer use policy, and that any violation of this policy would be a cause for disciplinary action up to and including termination. A person who’s been on the receiving end of that policy explanation and has heard tell of people being fired or asked to resign for violations of the computer use policy (and every government I’ve worked for has some stories on that front) would know that this is not something you mess around with. It’s not likely that this was an accidental infraction. That throws up all kinds of red flags for me.

          I can’t say for certain whether I’d hire this particular applicant, but that’s why OP should explain the scenario to the hiring manager. It’s that person’s decision to make, and they should have all the pertinent information.

          1. Carlee*

            I work for the Canadian government and, not only do we get the same warnings about never, ever watching porn on work computers, every computer I’ve ever been issued has a filter that blocks you from looking at the purportedly inappropriate website and directs you to call IT to give you access to said site if it is required for a work-related reason.

            (Note: There’s no work-related reason for looking at porn on a work computer that I can think of).

            My portfolio includes replenishments for multilateral institutions (WHO, UNICEF, etc), with a focus on maternal and public health.

            Hilariously, the screening software used to make me call IT whenever I attempted to access websites related to sexually transmitted diseases that were clearly NOT porn like:

            – WHO’s 3 by 5 initiative to get 3 million people on lifesaving anti-retroviral mess by 2015
            – Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria
            – any and all funding for NGOs fighting sex trafficking (e.g NGO that provides housing, counselling and a high school/trade school education to minors who had survived the sex trade)

            1. Lynn Whitehat*

              I work in cyber-security. At a previous job, we would go on the “red network” (not connected to the rest of our Intranet) and intentionally go to porn and other sketchy sites in order to get malware “in the wild”. That’s really the only exception I can think of.

            2. Kivrin*

              Not sure if it requires watching porn on a government computer, but somewhere in the Patent Office, there is a patent examiner spending all day every day looking at sex toy inventions.

              1. President Porpoise*

                There’s also some unfortunate people in Customs and Border protection who are required under law to sit and watch the objectionable videos that cross the border, I think in part to catch underage stuff. So, yeah, those poor people who have to do it are an exception.

            3. media monkey*

              i work in the media side of advertising. we do screen site lists for clients and i have worked on clients in the past (playboy TV being a good example), also film clients on certain type of films where the prospective audience is 18+ (like horror films).

            4. calonkat*

              I work for state government and keep content on part of our website updated. Part of my job is checking links that have been reported as “bad”. Sometimes the site owners let them lapse and unbeknownst to us, the website was bought by someone who posts inappropriate things.
              After I find one of these, and remove it, I then have to report to our IT department what happened, so they know that when I clicked on “” I was not intending to look at naughty pictures/gambling (the two most common that pick up sites with any traffic).

              So, not really looking, but I do have the responsibility to verify that a link no longer works (then after removing and reporting myself, I try to find the original content at it’s new location).

            5. Yorick*

              I work in corrections, and sometimes agents who supervise sex offenders do have to look up porn sites. But that’s a rare type of case that kind of points to how much you usually shouldn’t be looking at porn at work.

          2. Holly*

            I agree this has to be explained to the hiring manager.. and potentially investigated further like contacting references from that job. What if it was a certain type of porn that would really sound alarms??

        5. AnonToday*

          You are also ignoring that porn websites and porn watching often risks viruses.

          It’s incredibly inappropriate, could be extremely harassing for coworkers and is an major IT risk.

          Nope nope and nope.

        6. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Aside from everything else that people have said, this is a huge security/IT risk. Porn sites are infamous for their textually transmitted diseases.

        7. Temperance*

          It’s not a mere lapse in judgment. He was caught doing so, which meant that he very well may have exposed others to his gross habits. Seriously, watch pornography on your own time.

          1. dunstvangeet*

            Not necessairly. At my current place of work, they caught someone watching netflix on his computer because of the excessive bandwidth usage (IT then remoted into his computer and watched netflix with him for a little while, after which they terminated him).

            It was probably something like that which got him caught (or they traced viruses and bugs back to his computer)

        8. soon 2be former fed*

          Yes, it is an unforgivable wrongdoing, and you are rationalizing. Sex of any type does not belong in the workplace. So, Bubba gets all riled up and just goes back to his spreadsheet. Sure.

        9. Lexi Kate*

          Nope its unforgivable. The freely admiring of it does not equate to never doing it again, only to that the candidate acknowledges that they were fired because of it.

        10. Lizzy May*

          I disagree. It absolutely shows a lack of good character. Watching porn at work means risking forcing others to watch porn. That’s poor character. At least one other person was forced to see the porn in this case since someone caught the candidate and it’s far more likely several people were forced to see the porn as it’s likely an IT employee had to go into the computer to investigate.
          You want to watch porn in the privacy of your own home on your own devices, go to it, (I don’t like personally but getting into that would be derailing) but it’s never okay to force others to be a part of your personal sex life and that’s the risk you run when you watch porn at work or use a work device to watch porn at home.

          1. Husky*

            Of course watching porn at work is a terrible thing to do for all the reasons you outlined. But it’s really not that hard for someone who is otherwise a decent person to get into the trap of viewing porn while at work. Is it good? No. Is it acceptable? No. Should that person be fired? Yes. Does it mean that they can never learn and that they don’t respect other people? No.

            Porn is just so common among men and many of them are addicted. It’s not OK in the least but they can learn and grow above it. I don’t think it’s OK to make that person unemployable, on par with thieves or sexual harrassers.

            1. teclatrans*

              The…trap? of viewing pork at work??? How…how does one fall so easily into such a trap? Why would any man think it’s okay to watch porn at work? Why is work a place for casual sexual gratification?

              1. Husky*

                I think you underestimate the number of men who are addicted to porn. It’s really not that hard for someone who grew up with it to have a lapse of judgement and view it at work. Of course, this is 100% not OK and the guy should be fired but it doesn’t mean he can never be a good employee again and that he can’t learn from his mistake. You can be a totally normal guy and a good employee and still make this terrible mistake. It’s not just deviants that do it. All I’m saying is, a guy who got fired for something like that has likely already been punished plenty for it, not just financially but also socially. Can you imagine how big of a humiliation this is? Unless the guy is a sociopath, he has likely learned to never ever do anything remotely similar. I don’t understand why you don’t believe people can grow and learn.

                1. Sylvan*

                  Sometimes your actions have consequences, like people not wanting to hire you when you tell them you’ve done something that they don’t want to happen in their workplace.

                2. Husky*

                  And his actions did have consequences!! He got fired and humiliated. How long does he need to be punished for it? I think the fact that he owes his mistake and freely admits to it, even though it’s extremely embarrassing for him, shows that he is very unlikely to ever make this mistake again. Should he just stay unemployed forever?

                3. Sylvan*

                  I don’t know or care about “punishment.” Declining to hire somebody who has done something you don’t want to happen within your company is not “punishment,” it is just an obvious choice.

                  Someone else can hire him. I don’t know why you’re so hung up on this one opening at OP’s workplace being his one shot at redemption. There are other jobs in the world.

                4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                  Just because he was ‘Humiliated’ for being caught out doing something super unacceptable does not mean his consequences are at an end. He has branded himself as someone who can not be trusted to behave professionally and he has to live with that. Which may mean not being able to get a job at the same level he was at before. He will have to start lower and slowly build up his reputation again until he can be trusted to advance. I for one don’t think he should be managing anyone right now.

                5. wherewolf*

                  You can make the same argument for embezzlement. “Of course it’s not OK and they should be fired, but it’s so easy to fall into the trap of stealing from your employer. Some people are kleptomaniacs or have bad debt, it’s just a lapse of judgment. Unless the guy is a sociopath, he has likely learned his lesson–are you saying he should never work again?”

                  Both those people can work somewhere, but not for/with me!

                6. SarahTheEntwife*

                  If it’s so easy of a trap to fall into, what’s keeping him from falling into the same trap again?

                  I don’t necessarily think it’s unforgiveable, but I have no problem with a hiring manager deciding that they’d like to find someone else with stunning qualifications and no previous problem watching porn on a government computer.

            2. Legalese*

              Poor men? If they have a porn addiction that they cannot control well enough to not watch porn at work, they should get out of the work place and into counseling.

            3. paxfelis*

              If watching porn at work is a trap that’s easy to fall into, then you-generic need to work on your self-control and judgment. Forcing someone into your virtual bedroom without their consent is not the mark of a decent person.

              Unemployable? No, it shouldn’t make someone unemployable, but they’re going to have to prove they’re trustworthy, and why should any employer want to take that risk with other candidates out there?

              On par with sexual harassers? Why not, when that’s exactly what it is, sexual excitement with an added exhibitionistic kick?

            4. Myrin*

              I don’t understand why you’re so adamant about this “all men watch porn”, “it’s sooo hard to resist porn”, and “porn addiction” business. It’s like the porn equivalent of the mythical boner werewolf.

              1. ofotherworlds*

                Porn addiction is absolutely a thing. It’s pretty powerful hit of dopamine, among other hormones, and once you get used to it it can be hard to stop. It’s a form of OCD.

                As for “all men”, in a Pew study 25% of men admitted to watching porn. Pee thinks the real percentage is rather higher.

            5. Turquoisecow*

              How is this a trap? If he accidentally clicks on a porn website, he can leave. If he does it intentionally, it was of his own free will. No one lured him down a dark staircase with the promise of cupcakes and oh! there’s some porn he has to watch first.

              It was 100% his decision. If he has an addiction he can and should get treatment for it, but let’s not pretend there was any kind of “trap.” Millions of people go to work everyday and avoid porn. It’s not that hard.

              1. Husky*

                The trap is giving into his urges. Everyone has different urges and weaknesses. As long as they own their mistakes and learn from them, they can rise above them and be good employees.

                1. Toxicnudibranch*

                  I mean, “people who don’t understand appropriate sexual behavior” is not a protected class.

            6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Porn addiction is not a valid reason to watch porn at work, full stop. If you’re addicted, seek treatment. We don’t tell folks who are addicted to substances to do lines of coke at their desk, and it’s mind-boggling to me that we should sympathize with men who are so out of bounds that they watch porn at their desk.

              In many jobs, exposing someone else to your porn watching (or watching porn frequently) is a form of sexual harassment. So yes, it should be treated as seriously and consequentially as “thieves and sexual harassers.”

            7. Autumnheart*

              Watching porn in the workplace puts one exactly on par with thieves and sexual harassers. That’s literally what a person doing, using company resources to engage in sexually inappropriate behavior around their coworkers.

        11. MCMonkeyBean*

          I wouldn’t call it an “unforgivable wrongdoing” but I am utterly baffled that anyone would describe it as “fine.”

          1. Anna*

            Agreed. It’s not unforgiveable. (What? This guy is to never work anywhere ever again because he did something stupid? Not even illegal stupid?) But he isn’t in a space where he can be trusted and since he has been so open about it, he probably also knows there’s a chance he won’t be hired because of it. At some point someone may be willing to take a risk that he HAS learned his lesson, but it’s okay if that doesn’t happen right away and it’s also okay if this hiring manager decides they don’t want to take that risk.

        12. Someone Else*

          It doesn’t matter whether we or OP think it’s forgiveable or unforgiveable. It’s the hiring manager’s decision. It’s OP’s job to present relevant info to the hiring manager about the candidate so the hiring manager can make their decision. So in terms of actionable advice for OP, OP should present the candidate and this info to the hiring manager, so HM can make the call. I think Alison’s advice was spot on. Be truthful: they would normally be a no-brainer candidate to push through, except this red flag. Then let the HM decide.

      2. Thursday Next*

        Alison, is there any way to close comments on a particular thread? While having several comments responding to the original, problematic post are fine, seeing that there are 120+ comments responding to this is actually a derail from the original question, ad it gives this thread disproportionate importance compared to others with fewer responses.

        A few representative comments would get the point across. Otherwise, this becomes the Re-educate GregNY thread, and I’m not sure that’s helpful to anyone.

          1. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

            I’ve been meaning to ask for a while if you have ever considered switching the order of comments. I feel like showing the most recent at top would help the discussion to stay fresh (although it’s also possible people will post things that have already been mentioned, that’s the trade off) and allow things like this thread to die off naturally by being buried by newer content.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Oh, that’s interesting! I don’t know if that’s even doable in WordPress or not, but I will put it on my list to think about. (I am contemplating a whole bunch of comment section stuff, including how I do/don’t moderate.)

            2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              I feel like Slate does this – and I find it disorienting. When most recent comments go to the top you don’t see who they are directly replying to. I like this setup much better.

            3. Courageous cat*

              I would personally be into it if it had upvotes and was sorted by Top like Reddit, but that’s probably hard to do and not desired by everyone.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I apologize for fueling the fire. I know I should know better than to feed trolls, but GregNY’s comments (especially re: women, sex, sexual harassment, inclusion in the workplace, norms about manager’s responsibilities) are often presented as if they’re rational when they are not, and they are almost always damaging.

          In this case, I was especially concerned because OP was already contemplating advancing the candidate over their boss’s objection and not disclosing the porn watching. If someone is already waffling on something this serious, then GregNY’s recommendations begin to sound reasonable when they are vile, reputation destroying, and unprofessional.

    2. JamieS*

      Yeah I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of concurrence on the “porn is acceptable at the office as long as you’re not using WiFi” front.

    3. Pumpkin Soup*

      The hiring manager isn’t doing anything so what did you mean when you said they’re wrong?

      This is completely ridiculous “advice” as there is plenty wrong with viewing porn at work.

      1. Greg NY*

        What I meant is that it wasn’t illegal on the part of the hiring manager, but it’s shortsighted. People deserve a chance at redemption. This candidate came clean and explained what he learned. What should such a person say when asked why they left their last job (or, alternatively, why they were fired from their last job)? The possible introduction of viruses or malware is a serious thing, but someone shouldn’t be tarnished completely just because they viewed porn. Aside from the network security issue (which I admit is big), is there any reason that someone that viewed porn should be considered unfit for a job?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          There are a lot of honest but diplomatic responses when asked why you left your job that do not require you to disclose it was from watching porn. There are any number of reasons why a person that viewed porn at work is unfit for a job, including the risk of creating legal liability for the employer.

          Ideally we’d give commenters advice that reflects the reality of the workplace and helps them navigate that reality. Arguing that a hiring manager is shortsighted because they may find the person’s prior conduct disqualifying does not help OP understand how or why they should navigate a tricky situation.

          1. Fuzzy Lady*

            I’m so suprised he said this! He could have honestly said “I was let go for violating the agency’s computer use policy” and left the word “porn” out of the discussion! He would have been equally honest, so as not to get caught in a lie during reference checking, wouldnt have put the image of porn-watching in anyone’s head, and he could have spent more words on the learning from the mistake side of the situation. Just, ugh.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Not gonna lie, if someone told me they’d been let go for violating the agency’s computer use policy, my mind would have gone right to porn.

              1. blackcat*

                IDK. My husband violated an acceptable use policy by installing linux on a computer so he could compile some code faster.
                I did it by going through the mac back door loophole to create an admin account so I could install software on my own computer rather than waiting WEEKS for IT to do it. I really couldn’t do my job. I had expressed my frustration with IT to my boss and he said find a work around (I think he meant a workaround so I didn’t need to install software. But I took a broad interpretation of his instructions). Basically any acceptable use policy says don’t muck with the OS. We both mucked with the OS.

                In both cases, we were caught. In both cases, IT didn’t do anything about it. His did a grumble grumble you should have asked us first. I got a pat on the back and was basically told that, in doing what I had done without breaking anything, I had proven that I was tech-savy enough to have admin privileges on my own computer. Then for my remaining 2 years at that job, my colleagues kept asking me how on earth I got my own admin privileges. I would just respond, “Carl [IT guy] deemed me worthy.”

                So my mind might go to someone attempting to do what my husband and I have done–streamlining a process in a way that wasn’t totally okay–but in a setting where that is a BIG DEAL rather than an IT headache. And I would assume it would be a big deal in the public sector or any job dealing with confidential stuff. That wasn’t the case for either of us.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I didn’t say there were no other possible violations. I said that my mind would have gone straight to porn. Because the other possible violations are SO MUCH BETTER, that I think anyone would have owned up to them immediately.

                2. blackcat*

                  My point is that not everyone’s mind will go to the same thing. Personal experience shapes that.

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @blackcat Okay, but surely I’m allowed to say what *I* would have thought, without you insisting that I might actually not?

              2. samiratou*

                Yup. I do give the guy credit for being candid, and as long as it was followed by “it was my first job I was really stupid and it will never happen again” I might consider interviewing the guy, but I wouldn’t blame the HM for going NOPE!, either.

              3. Totally Minnie*

                I’ve known of people who were fired for a variety of computer use infractions. Gambling, online dating, downloading pirated movies, it doesn’t have to be porn.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Yes, there are lots of possible infractions. But if yours were something less than porn, wouldn’t you fess up to that, rather than let people assume the worst?

                2. Anna*

                  @Rusty Shackelford So you’re basically saying this guy’s only option was to admit it was for watching porn, so he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t? I mean, you don’t actually know you would have thought of porn because you’re just assuming you would. And you’re also assuming people would just offer information upfront so they could avoid making people think it was porn. That’s some circular logic right there.

            2. CRM*

              I think this response would be a big red flag for most interviewers, and if they didn’t press for further information then they would probably assume he was looking at a bad website. I don’t think there is a nice way to cover this up- he made a terrible mistake at work, and he needs to live with the consequences.

            3. Blue*

              I admit this is complete supposition, but the only reason I can imagine him being so candid is that he assumed they’d contact his old employer for a reference check and hear the truth, so he wanted to get out ahead of it and emphasize that he’d learned from the experience? Because otherwise, I’m pretty astounded.

        2. jd*

          Because watching porn is a sexual practice and sexual practices don’t belong in a place of work????? (Unless the purpose of the place of work is sex work as an obvious exception.) Like, don’t do sex stuff at work. Don’t watch porn, don’t jerk off, don’t start a duck club. Don’t????

          I initially misread the letter assuming the porn had been watched *at home* but on a work computer (like a laptop) which is a bone-headed move and shows poor judgement for sure, but watching it AT WORK is a whole different scale of NOPE and a disturbing lack of understanding of appropriate behaviour in a workplace. I can totally understand having serious reservations about hiring this person.

          1. ellen*

            It crosses my mind that I have, in fact, viewed Porn at work. By accident. Looking at someone else’s phone, on their request to help them with a technical issue (no, I am not and was not in IT) and I did actually help out with solving the problem. My friend with the phone was horrified, I was horrified, we quietly never mentioned it again, but I could certainly envision a third party who actually did work at that workplace filing a formal complaint on the two of us for some kind of harassment. (She got one fellow written up and spoken to sternly because he was coming out of a dressing room buckling the belt portion of his uniform. It was a tiny dressing room, and I doubt he actually had any kind of idea she was there. It ended his career at that business.)
            I’m presuming that this is not that kind of “viewing porn at work” situation. I do wonder if people would feel differently if he had sought and was in treatment for sex addiction? (I’m not even sure how deeply I believe in that as a treatable problem, but if something hits the right dopamine receptors, I gather it can become addictive.)

            1. Temperance*

              I wouldn’t feel differently about it. The activity is the issue here. It’s akin to someone with an alcohol addiction drinking at work. Even if you’re an addict, you can’t use while working. Same for pornography viewing.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              No, I would not feel differently if someone was in treatment for sex addiction. Medical accommodation does not require other people to witness a person’s porn watching, and it’s not a reasonable accommodation to have at most workplaces. If someone had a substance abuse addiction that was not under control (let’s say alcoholism), we would not encourage managers to give those folks a chance to interview or suggest that they allow the person to drink discreetly on the job.

                1. Temperance*

                  He still had the terrible judgment to watch pornography at work.

                  I’m kind of really over the idea that men who do disgusting things deserve extra chances to reform their reputation. We live in a world where women who report harassment face tremendous personal consequences, so please excuse me if I DGAF about the reputations of “reformed” porn addicts.

                2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

                  …. Seriously? If the person has overcome their addiction, then it shouldn’t be an issue!

                3. Totally Minnie*

                  Then you say that as part of your explanation in the interview. If you’re going to come right out and say you got fired for watching porn at work, you for sure need to include the bit about “I have since received counseling to overcome that problem and I can assure you that nothing of that nature will happen again.” It lets the interviewer know you’re aware of how very serious an infraction this is and that you’ve put in a lot of work toward not doing it again.

                  It’s the same thing you’d do if you were fired for being drunk at work.

                  *all “you” statements refer to the general “you,” not to any particular poster here.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            “Don’t take naked photos of yourself at work. Including in your boss’s office” was an earlier letter.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          The stunning lack of judgement involved in looking at porn while at work! That’s not a computer issue – it would be the same if the employee had a stash of Playboys in their office that they pulled out during slow times at work.

          It’s not directly related to their ability to do the tasks related to their job, sure, but people are fired (or not hired in the first place) for all sorts of not directly related to their job task reasons that indicate that they have questionable judgement, or can’t be trusted to behave reasonably and ethically.

        4. wherewolf*

          Are you confusing watching porn at home with watching porn at work? Are you really arguing that someone who looks at images of graphic sexual content and nudity while on the clock has done nothing wrong? At the very least they should be fired for not working!

          1. Greg NY*

            That’s why I said “discreetly”. And I’m assuming that this person was a professional, who is a salaried worker paid to complete a set of tasks rather than work a certain number of hours. It’s perfectly acceptable for salaried workers to do any number of non-work things during business hours, such as their personal email, online shopping, etc. If this was an hourly worker, I’d wholeheartedly agree with you, because unlike a salaried worker, they are on the clock and are being paid to work.

            I’d also like to add that I’d personally never watch porn while at work, and that’s because I’m cognizant of my image and how I’d be viewed by others who don’t share the same opinion. But I am being cautious. I may feel it’s fine to do, but I realize that not everyone else does. It’s like those who eat heated fish or who clip toenails at work. It’s something to think twice about.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, it’s not like microwaving fish. That … is probably one of the more bizarre things I’ve ever heard anyone say there.

              It’s really not okay to masturbate at work, which pretty frequently accompanies porn watching. Or to intentionally arouse oneself. Or to bring sexual materials in the office where there’s a chance that a coworker could become an unconsenting bystander. It’s really, really not okay.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’m struggling with the fact that there’s a handful of commenters suggesting this isn’t “as bad” as SH, when this is a textbook way to walk into a SH hostile workplace lawsuit.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                Isn’t it generally considered sexual harassment to subject your coworkers to you watching porn? That’s definitely been a thing in the sexual harassment training the places I’ve worked.

              2. Sparklehorse*

                What if you accidentally clicked on something that contained child porn? Now your company may be in for a world of hurt because that’s on their computers.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              OMG, are we seriously discussing whether it’s ok for salaried workers to watch porn at work? But it’s not ok for hourly workers because they’re “on the clock”? Seriously!?

              Your argument is so derailing and so outside of normal boundaries. It is not even comparable to microwaving fish or clipping your toenails. It is 1000% unacceptable in nearly all workplaces, and it’s bizarre to me that you’re beating the drum for the pro-cellphone-porn-at-work contingent.

            3. wherewolf*

              Is watching pron one of the tasks a salaried professional is paid to do? This is not along the lines of microwaving fish or checking personal email. This is along the lines of sexual harassment and having sex at work. You don’t do sex or naked stuff at work. You don’t talk about it, you don’t read about it, you don’t watch it, you don’t do it… I’m really confused why you are arguing this because it seems like a basic workplace norm all over the world. It’s derailing the thread because the advice for OP shouldn’t be “I don’t personally think it’s that bad but it’s your call,” it’s “this is absolutely something a hiring manager would want to know and you need to tell them.”

            4. Greg NY*

              Alright, I don’t want a repeat of a couple of weeks ago with the sexual harassment derail, so I’m going to stop saying anything in regard to this particular letter.

              1. wherewolf*

                Yeah, man, I think you should really take a step back and recalibrate your professional working norms and your ideas of what workplace sexual harassment looks like, because it sounds like they are way off base. We need you telling other dudes to knock it off, not “well, different strokes.”

                1. EPLawyer*

                  I see what you did there.

                  Watching porn at work is never okay. Whether hourly or salary. Whether on your own device or a company issued device.
                  This is a bright red line that says in very big letters — DO NOT CROSS.

                  Having said this, the name should be forwarded to the hiring manager. Let the hiring manager decide if its a never in no way will I consider this person or just one more piece of information in making the decision. Of course, ANYONE hiring him needs to make it explicit No PORN or you are summarily fired, walked out by security.

                2. JSPA*

                  LOL, “strokes.”
                  To be scrupulously fair, I’m pretty sure quite a few top level people, in offices with thick walls and doors that lock and high – stress, long – hours positions do this (and some have after hours sex on their desks, too). As Dan Savage says, the rule on perving at work is whether there’s any circumstance where anyone could become aware of it in any way. He points out that a lot of people can defer their physical reactions; they’re basically storing a mental image library for later enjoyment. By definition, we’re not aware of any coworkers who really are “doing it right”– and being convinced that people who think they’re getting away with it, are all kidding themselves, is ascertainment bias. We literally do not know the norm here (in the scientific sense of “norm.”) We can only say that a single slip-up violates the “so long as nobody is ever aware” clause, and that it’s therefore a bonehead risk to run.

                  Could be like the great “wiping your bottom sitting or standing” divide. People who do it the one way have no idea (and are shocked at the idea) that there are a roughly equal number of people who do it the other way. (That was a US study, i think, so this isn’t due to global differences.)

                  If you found out through truly anonymous surveys [there is no such thing on the internet] that the same divide existed with porn, what would you do with that information (besides scattering bottles of alcohol – based hand sanitizer liberally around the workplace)?

                  Separately, the circumstances matter: whether the dude was reading Manga and clicked through to something not work – appropriate, or went in search, repeatedly, of stroke material. If you’re dealing with a compulsion, the problem is far more likely to recur. And if it’s a diagnosed medical issue…i hate to think what might come up, as far as discussing accommodations!

                3. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Yeah, the one time this would be totally excusable is if it WERE totally accidental. I once worked at a job where we had poor spam filters and the preview pane on Outlook open by default…. yeahhhh. Also, I browsed a wiki in some downtime where, to my shock, a page had been vandalized with a really disgusting porn image. Fortunately no one saw either (except me, ick)… but that is the one circumstance where it’s totally understandable!

              2. Izzy*

                Good choice. While you’re at it, I would have a think about how and why you’ve managed to elicit responses like this twice in a couple of weeks on these topics.

              3. RVA Cat*

                The whole “okay for the bosses but not for the peons” takes this into some gross Weinstein/Lauer/droit de seigneur territory.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Yeah, seriously. I am generally not a fan of “okay for the bosses but not for the peons” but it’s especially icky here.

            5. MommyMD*

              It’s never correct or excusable to watch porn in the workplace, period. Unless you’re a porn movie maker. There’s no defending it.

            6. Lexi Kate*

              No everything you are saying is wrong. It is not ok to watch porn at work and the only comparable is having sex with yourself at your desk or watching your cube mate have sex at their desk. It is in no way equilivent with microwaving fish, bringing in Curry, or burning popcorn or any other food item you might have an aversion to.

              Just so you know defending getting yourself off at work, and worse defending other people getting off at work makes you loose all creditability in everything.

            7. MCMonkeyBean*

              In this example “discreetly” seems to just mean “not getting caught.” Just because someone didn’t catch you doing something wrong doesn’t mean it wasn’t still the wrong thing to do.

              1. boo bot*

                Yeah, but also though – this guy did get caught! By definition, I think he failed the discretion test.

            8. Courageous cat*

              Greg! These people watching porn at work aren’t casually viewing it! They are watching it to get turned on and likely LITERALLY masturbate. I am completely beside myself with confusion over this comment, hah.

            9. Courageous cat*

              What’s so especially asinine about this is that eating heated fish and watching porn at work are not, like, two things on the same spectrum of “bad to do at work”, where maybe they’re on different sides of the spectrum. They are on TWO WILDLY VASTLY DIFFERENT spectrums altogether and it’s so concerning that someone in this world thinks otherwise!

              1. Courageous cat*

                I realize this comes off meaner than I intended so I apologize but I also can’t help but wonder how many things this person says just to purposely rile people (particularly women, it seems) up. I cannot imagine it being genuine.

          2. Husky*

            Come on, should people be fired for reading AAM or checking FB at work because they’re not working? Watching porn at work is not good at all but not because the person was not working.

            1. Lance*

              This and that are not remotely comparable, though. Watching porn in public (which work effectively is, because there’s coworkers/possibly clients around) can be a very quick way to get hit with a sexual harassment charge; not so for AAM, or (generally, I assume) FB.

            2. wherewolf*

              I mean, it’s also bad because of the fact that it’s porn, at work, but that doesn’t seem to be egregious enough to Greg (or you). That’s why I said “at the very least.”

        5. Pumpkin Soup*

          And I meant that the hiring manager’s actions weren’t detailed in the letter so it’s strange you feel able to comment on them.

          1. Clare*

            Right? The hiring manager doesn’t even know. And it’s not their responsibility to give strangers a chance at redemption, it’s their job to hire the person who is the best fit for the position.

        6. Lioness*

          The way people get a chance of redemption is by working their way back up. Redemption isn’t “I messed up at this one place, let me get a similar/better position and promise to never do it again”. That’s not learning anything. It’s not tarnishing his life completely. He’ll be able to get a job, that is lower in pay, prestige, etc.

          Also, whether he was salaried/hourly, porn at work is not okay. His biggest transgression was watching porn at work, not just that it wasn’t his computer.

        7. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Ughhhhhh. “People deserve a chance at redemption”. You know what? Sometimes they don’t! Sometimes people don’t deserve a chance at redemption. Sometimes people need to pay for what they did wrong and suffer the consequences. And the consequences of watching porn at work is people deciding that you are unprofessional and a high risk for sexual behavior at the office and not giving you awesome jobs.

          1. Husky*

            I agree that not everyone deserves a chance at redemption but since basically every single male has seen porn, watching porn at work while terrible judgement, is not even close to unforgivable, for many men it’s similar to checking Facebook

            1. Lexi Kate*

              No its not, and that you think this is a huge problem.

              If watching porn is the same as reading a feed on what is going on with people in your life, you have problems. Get Help

            2. Lizzy May*

              Oh no it’s not. Watching porn at work is nothing like checking facebook at work. Nothing!

              Watching porn at work is a huge problem. Please do not diminish the severity of sexually harassing your coworkers (which is the risk being taken when you watch porn at work or on a work device) by comparing it to something mundane.

            3. Lizzy May*

              Please don’t diminish the severity of this (exposing at least one coworker to porn against their will) with something mundane like checking facebook. The candidate in question engaged in sexual behavior at work. That’s never okay.

                1. Temperance*

                  No, you minimized the damage of sexually explicit activity at work, because apparently all men like porn.

              1. Husky*

                No, porn is never OK at work. But most men will actually learn that they should never ever view it again at work if they’re caught in such a humiliating manner and lose their job over it. If they’re caught a second time then that’s certainly very worrying but being caught once doesn’t mean they can never better themselves. The reality is, it’s not just bad guys or guys who are dangerous to women or guys who sexually harass women can do something like that. Completely normal guys who respect women and who are not sexist can make that mistake and they can learn from it. Is it a big mistake? Yes, it certainly is. Is it ever OK to view porn at work? No, never.

                1. wherewolf*

                  No. Guys who respect women know that they don’t want to see Dave watching porn at work. So they don’t do it either. Those two are completely incompatible.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s not comparable, and I’m concerned that you’re normalizing behavior that is really toxic (and often illegal) in the workplace. It’s more than terrible judgment, and to suggest otherwise is a real disservice to OP. I’m also troubled by the low expectations being set for men. Most men I know understand that watching porn at work is absolutely inappropriate and not at all like checking Facebook.

              1. AnonToday*

                I feel like these comments “how long does he need to be punished” are often applied to sexual harassment too. Not getting hired for a job due to a red flag isn’t punishment. You might not get hired because you failed a certain class in school or were terminated for timeliness. This idea that somehow sexual behavior is an exception is pretty sick.

            5. Courageous cat*

              Ok I am sorry but do most, or even some, people routinely masturbate while checking Facebook? This argument is absurd.

        8. Temperance*

          Do you honestly not see why this is a big deal? It’s not the same as viewing other content that might introduce malware, like online gambling sites (which would also be wrong, to be clear), because it’s sexual in nature.

        9. caryatis*

          I have no problem with porn in private, but if a person is unable to go 8-10 hours without watching porn, I would have some serious questions about how that person operates–is there an addiction? Mental illness? Just total lack of self-control? Is that going to translate into lack of control over sexual impulses toward coworkers? It’s such an extreme transgression of boundaries.

          1. Husky*

            I don’t think looking at porn and having a hard time not looking at porn translates into lack of self control with coworkers. Porn makes actual, living people less attractive. And many men, even those who are very respectful or timid towards women, still have trouble resisting porn.

            While watching porn at work is definitely a fireable offense, it doesn’t mean that someone is forever broken because of it. I’m sure most people can learn from it and never repeat this ever again once they’re humiliated by getting caught and getting fired.

            1. caryatis*

              > Porn makes actual, living people less attractive. And many men, even those who are very respectful or timid towards women, still have trouble resisting porn.

              Where in the world is this coming from? Porn does not make people less attractive. And most men (and women) have enough self-control to avoid watching porn at work. In private, there’s no reason to “resist” it. I think there is some pretty twisted Puritanism behind this comment.

              1. Husky*

                There’s pretty good evidence that porn does make actual people less attractive to those viewing it. Not many women look like porn stars after all and real life can never match the variety in porn. Porn is like a super normal stimulus to the brain and real life looks bland compared to it.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  “He won’t harass you, because he thinks you’re fugly after watching porn” is not an argument I thought I’d ever see.

                  There have been some studies about porn giving men unrealistic expectations, but men don’t sexually harass because women are just sooo pretty, they sexually harass to exercise power.

                2. Tardigrade*

                  I would also like to retort with Lewis Black’s assertion that “every breast is a great breast,” but that isn’t even the most problematic part of your argument, which seems to be that men can only have self control around less attractive women. And that’s totally inaccurate.

                3. Husky*

                  Of course that men can and should have self control no matter how attractive a woman is. But resisting the urge to watch porn is nothing like resisting the urge to touch real life women. They’re just so completely different you can’t really judge how good a man is at not harassing women based on how good he is at resisting watching porn. And this definitely has to do with the fact that porn is a super normal stimulus and it’s habit forming because of its unending novelty in ways that real life people can never be. Watching porn compulsively is very, very different from sexual assault and harassment.

            2. paxfelis*

              “Having a hard time not looking at porn” is not a lack of self control. Matter of fact, having a hard time not doing something, and NOT DOING IT ANYWAY, is exactly what self control is. Self control is a requirement of living in society, having a job, and relating to other people, politicians notwithstanding.

              Thank you for letting us know you’ve got a lack of self control.

              1. Husky*

                So unless you maintain perfect self control, all the time, you can’t live in society? You’re never allowed a slip up? You can never recover after you lose self control? I don’t think anyone can live up to that standard

                1. AnonToday*

                  This isn’t eating an extra solve of cake or picking your nose. This is behavior that can be actively harassing to colleagues. Come on.

                2. Husky*

                  Yes, and it can be done without any malicious intent. It doesn’t mean the person is incapable of self control ever again. People make big mistakes and learn from them. Some companies even hire people with a criminal record.

                3. Turquoisecow*

                  It doesn’t matter their intent. It’s inappropriate behavior. You don’t get naked in the workplace. You don’t have sex in the workplace. You don’t look at or read material related to sex – ie porn – in the workplace. You only use the toilet for toilet related things. Why? Because your coworkers don’t want to be involved in any of that.

                4. blackcat*

                  Husky, but what would a company take that risk? If they have an applicant who has engaged in a behavior that could get them in legal trouble, why not go with an applicant without that risk?

                  There are plenty of criminal infractions that I would find to be less problematic than what’s going on here. A lot of people end up in criminal trouble because of unpaid traffic violations, for example. As long as they’re not driving *as a part of their job,* that’s not relevant. Same goes for a minor drug charge as long as it wasn’t on the clock. Those two issues cover A LOT of people who are shut out of jobs due to criminal background.

                  I would also like to point out that now is not the time to argue that people who engage in sexually charge behavior at work deserve a second chance. It’s a raw issue for many people at the moment. We know that people can engage in all sorts of bad behavior and still hold very big, important powerful jobs. Society often gives (white, privileged) men plenty of second chances. Lectures about making sure a dude (of admittedly ambiguous background) gets the benefit of the doubt are likely to get people riled up.

                5. Carlee*

                  There is a VAST difference between “maintaining perfect self-control at all times” at work and “having the self-control to not watch porn at work”. The former is probably impossible for a human, whereas the latter is the bare-bones minimum requirement for professionalism.

                  There’s also a huge difference between “punishment” and “natural consequences”. The natural consequences of watching porn at work includes both:
                  1) getting fired for watching porn at work
                  2) other people not wanting to hire you because you got fired for watching porn at work.

                6. paxfelis*

                  There are minimum standards for living in society, having a job, and relating to other people. Not trying to force anyone into your sex life is one of those standards.

                  You don’t have to agree with me. The fact that you’re trying to get me to agree with you makes me wonder what you try to get away with, and relieved that I don’t know you in person.

        10. Archaeopteryx*

          Job candidates can be smart enough to know how to be upfront about the reason they got fired without having gained the integrity or maturity to not do something just as bad at the next place. It’s definitely better when they state contrition like this, but it shouldn’t be some magic bullet that negates their former lack of judgment.

        11. Sylvan*

          Some people don’t like it when work resources are used for porn.

          I’m sorry that not everybody wants to be part of a man’s redemption arc, but there it is.

    4. wherewolf*

      “I do not think porn itself, viewed discreetly, is a problem, and I would think that viewing it on one’s personal phone (connected to a cellular network, not wi-fi) or viewing previously downloaded porn files scanned for threats, out of sight of coworkers, is fine.”

      Wait, Greg, I must have misread you, because there is no way you are claiming that watching porn at work is fine as long as it is not visible to others and on your own phone/previously downloaded to your work computer and scanned for viruses? Surely you agree that watching porn is never OK at any workplace under any circumstances (barring, say, working at PornHub)??

      1. Greg NY*

        I just posted a comment above. It’s best avoided unless you know others are OK with it. My own opinion is that it’s OK (and I gave that opinion mainly to explain why this candidate deserves a chance at redemption), but I do realize that I’m probably in the minority (I certainly am among my fellow commenters so far) and that it’s best to steer clear of anything controversial, whether in a workplace, on an airplane, or in any other environment where you will be in close proximity to others.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “It’s best avoided unless you know others are OK with it.”

          What are the circumstances where you would know that your coworkers were okay with you viewing porn at work? There’s no way to get to the point where you know that without already having gone really wrong, risked making someone uncomfortable, run afoul of sexual harassment laws, etc.

          This is really clear-cut.

          1. wherewolf*

            Yeah, seriously Greg, are you saying you poll your cube-mates to ask if they’re OK with you pulling up a sexy video during lunch? Where do you work so I can avoid it like the plague??

            1. The Original K.*

              If my coworker came to me and said, “Hey, I have some down time, are you OK with me firing up PornHub?” I’d report him to HR.

          2. JamieS*

            I think we’ve stumbled across your next book: In-office sex, drugs, and heavy drinking – conversations to gauge your co-workers tolerance.

            1. wherewolf*

              Yes, I would like to know if it is OK for me to drink whiskey at work. It will be in a discreet flask so it’s OK, right? /s

              1. RVA Cat*

                Perfect analogy!

                Also this whole conversation makes me think of Key & Peele’s “homophobic co-worker” male/male harassment sketch.

          3. AnonToday*

            My sister is a prosecutor who occasionally handles sex trafficking cases and sometimes has to view pornographic films victims were made to appear in. Doing so requires paperwork and the office has a special room to view sensitive material. The don’t want victims or witnesses coming in to talk about their case and accidentally seeing graphic or upsetting material.

          4. NW Mossy*

            Mr. Mossy spent YEARS putting up with his colleague who always had it up and running, which made every single interaction with that guy unbelievably awkward, most of all with the frantic minimization of screens when he’d stop at colleague’s office.

            Mr. Mossy tried so many different things to avoid it – the “heads-up I’m coming by your office” message, walking loudly across the office to announce his presence in advance, trying to get colleague to visit him rather than vice versa. None of it worked until finally colleague got a smartphone and shifted his viewing habits to that.

            I’ll also point out that this is an office staffed entirely by cis hetero men. All you dudes watching this stuff at work thinking no one cares because you’re all bros? NOPE. Stop telling yourself this lie immediately.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Porn is not “controversial”—it’s absolutely inappropriate in almost all industries. In what universe would you be aware that their coworkers are ok with you stimulating yourself sexually at work? If you ask, you’re inviting a sexual harassment lawsuit, and if you don’t ask, you’re inviting a sexual harassment lawsuit. Your coworkers shouldn’t even know that you’re stimulating yourself at work, and you shouldn’t be doing it to begin with.

        3. Ron McDon*

          Please tell me you wouldn’t watch porn on an airplane?!

          Porn should only be watched in your home or somewhere like a hotel room – never at work, or anywhere where anyone else might accidentally see it. You’re talking about watching porn at work as if it’s like watching a tv show, and it is completely different!

          I don’t know if you’re doubling down on this to provoke a reaction, but if you really think watching porn in public is ok as long as you’re discreet I am happy to confirm you are very wrong.

        4. Kat*

          Greg NY,
          That you don’t seem to truly understand just how wrong, inappropriate and, quite frankly, disgusting it is to watch porn at work (or on an airplane, in any public space, or any other space where others could unwillingly see it — or you reacting to it) is beyond frustrating to those of us who’ve had to deal with this matter.

          And although you personally claim you wouldn’t watch porn at work, I don’t believe that one bit. You’re taking far too firm a stance on this, like you’re trying to make a case for workplace porn-watching to be considered nothing more than microwaving fish or clipping toe nails.

          I think you should get some help because there’s a gap in your thinking that isn’t normal. I can’t help but wonder what other boundaries you’d be willing to cross.

          1. Nox*

            Hey this is really rough! I get that the guy is wrong but let’s not imply hes going to cross other boundaries or is requiring help!

            This above post needs to be edited or removed.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              That particular commenter has a history of being rather dismissive towards women and has expressed problematic views regarding sexual harassment, so I don’t think Kat’s comment is that huge of a leap.

            2. Consuela Schlepkiss*

              Um, it would seem based on Greg’s advice around sex-related issues that perhaps there is a serious inability to understand workplace norms and how certain things create an environment that makes some nasty behavior possible and accepted. Like, across multiple days. If I found out Greg was my colleague, that would for sure affect how safe I felt around him. The fact is, his comments create an appearance that unsavory stuff is cool with him. That’s not good on the face of it.

            3. Toxicnudibranch*

              No, this is GregNY’s standard thing. It’s a clear pattern of behavior that she’s calling out.

            4. Courageous cat*

              Let’s not be the comment police – the above post is more than welcome to stand if Alison deems it so, and frankly I think they’re right. His comments have crossed numerous boundaries and he’s also flat out saying he thinks it’s ok to watch porn at work, so I don’t think “implying” he would cross boundaries is needed.

        5. Amber T*

          This is why Louis CK was a sleeze bag – because he asked people (women) of less power than him if they were ok with him masturbating in front of them.

          Now I work in a pretty sane office and trust my coworkers, and I also admit that the power of #metoo has given me a lot more confidence in myself as a woman in a male dominated work place, so if something shitty like a coworker asking me if he could watch porn next to me happened, I think I’d be able to react appropriately. But 5 years ago, in my awfully dysfunctional office, if my male boss, or even my male coworker, asked could he watch porn next to me? Or jack off next to me? Or do anything sexual next to me? I know I would have awkwardly giggled and went “haha ok sure” and sat there and counted down the seconds until I could have left. I HATE that. I despise that that’s what would have been my reaction. But I’m woman, and we’re not supposed to be confrontational, especially at work, especially with our male superiors.

          So no, watching porn *at work* is not ok, even if you think everyone around you is ok with it, because you know what? They’re probably not ok with it. There’s always a hierarchy of power, even if it’s just who the boss likes more. I’m all for LW giving the interviewee the benefit of the down since he came clean and didn’t give off any weird vibes maybe? But don’t watch porn at work.

        6. Bea*

          You can get arrested for watching porn in public. How dare you say it’s okay to do on an aircraft. This is grotesque and dangerous behavior. You can not force sexual based things upon others around you.

          Porn has its place and that place is in private and with consenting adults. Asking your co-workers if they’re cool with it are grounds for immediate termination. This is a disgusting conversation.

        7. AnotherJill*

          It’s pretty simple really. Are you getting paid to watch porn at work? If the answer is yes, watch porn at work. If the answer is no, don’t watch porn at work.

        8. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I can see where you’re coming from on the redemption thing (and I personally might be inclined to give him a chance, depending on the overall circumstances). However, although I have nothing against porn in general myself, it’s never going to be appropriate to watch at work. Just like it’s never going to be appropriate to engage in any other kind of sexual activity at work, even if your colleagues are OK with it.

    5. Research Division*

      “It’s no different than any other wrongdoing” is so wrong it’s making my teeth itch. What fresh hell is this?

      Greg, if you are playing devil’s advocate, please stop. You’re not doing it effectively. But if you actually believe what you are saying, there is something seriously out of whack with your sense of decency and professionalism, and you should do some reflecting on that. And probably stop trying to give advice, since you are coming from a perspective that is very out of line with professional norms, and thus unhelpful and possibly harmful.

    6. nutella fitzgerald*

      Are you arguing that we should assume the candidate was just watching porn for entertainment and to find out what happened next, like when people discover Breaking Bad and binge the whole thing on Netflix?

      1. Not Australian*

        Surely the purpose of porn is to arouse? That and the workplace should be utterly incompatible, IMHO, unless one has a kink for staplers or something.

      2. AnonToday*

        Also, let’s get real, he was probably watching this on his government-issued computer, in the government internet connection. Which was how he got caught.

        This both A) presents an IT risk (viruses and spyware are not uncommon on these sites) and B) uses resources (bandwidth for video). So even from an iT perspective alone, this is a HUGE no no.

    7. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’m having a really, really difficult time believing that the view “watching porn at work isn’t a problem so long as you can read the room and run regular virus scans” is not outright trolling.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Even if we’re purely looking at this from an IT perspective, no self-respecting IT department is going to be okay with employees indulging in any practice that runs a high risk of getting viruses, whether it’s watching porn or streaming pirated anime or downloading shady torrents or getting Notepad++ from the world’s sketchiest download site because some higher up decided to block all the normal software sites. “Oh, just run extra virus scans!” NO. That’s such a terrible idea.

        (not to mention that “regular virus scans” will NOT save you from things like ransomware. Just. Don’t do sketchy things on your work computer. Do Not.)

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I disagree with Alison. I would forward the email to Sara’s company’s legal department, and I don’t think there’s any relationship to salvage with Sara. You’re already going through a contentious process, and if it’s at the point where someone is commandeering their company’s name, they’ve already gone beyond being reasonable or mature.

    Sara’s request is, on its face, ridiculous. It sounds like you’re outside of the United States, but over here, in many small claims courts (or administrative courts), the litigants are not entitled to compensation for time taken to litigate their claims. Even when they win, they’re often limited to recovery of attorney’s fees, which don’t apply in small claims courts.

    Next, any halfway decent legal department is going to be livid if someone is using company letterhead to imply they’re representing the employer. This isn’t personal (although it could bite Sara and her coworker)—it’s important for companies to control who speaks on their behalf, especially in legal processes. In the very unlikely scenario that the coworker is in fact representing the company, the legal department will be able to clarify and confirm that for you.

      1. LeRainDrop*

        I totally agree with PCBH. I can’t envision this being a valid claim from the employer to the landlord. If they had a beef about Sara taking time away from work to deal with the tenancy issues, then they would be managing that performance issue with her directly, not with you. I would be shocked if this email to you had been authorized by someone with authority at the employer. I would promptly notify the employer’s legal department.

        1. Sarah N*

          Yes, furthermore, since this is another country and we can’t know all the details, if this IS somehow a legitimate claim in OP’s jurisdiction, at least you will get that sorted out and know what the actual situation is by talking to legal. Honestly, even if you thought this WAS a real letter (which I don’t in this case), getting in touch with the legal department would still be the right move so as to work out all the details, make the payment properly so it was documented, etc. So if Sara tries to be all “Oh wah, you got me fiiiiiiiiiired!” once you report it, you can plausibly claim, “Look, this wasn’t vindictive, I was just trying to seek more details on how to handle the situation!”

    1. neverjaunty*

      This. Whoever sent the email is purporting to insert the company (by saying they’re management) into this legal dispute. The company, and particularly its legal counsel, would 100% want to know this. I am baffled at AAM’s “it’s not your place” advice – you’re the target of the damn email!

      If you don’t know who their solicitors are, you can always call the company and explain you’ve received an email from a ,amateur and would like to speak to someone in the legal department.

    2. JamieS*

      I think the root of Alison’s advice stems from OP not having any obligation to tell Sara’s employer if they don’t feel like it not some need to salvage the relationship with Sara or the idea Sara’s employer wouldn’t want to know.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        And moreover that it’s ok for the OP to prioritize wrapping things up with Sara and getting the money they’re seeking in the landlord-tenant dispute over anything to do with Sara’s work. It sounds like OP isn’t out to punish Sara and just wants to settle things, which is reasonable (e.g. if Sara ruined the carpet in the apartment, her getting fired won’t help pay for a new carpet but her writing OP a check would). So if communicating with Sara’s employer could slow down getting the original dispute settled, OP shouldn’t have to work against their own interests out of some sense of duty to Sara’s employer. (Unlike if, say, OP discovered that Sara was committing violent crimes – in which case even if reporting her to the police might slow the rental dispute and make it less likely for OP to get the money, OP would still have a moral obligation to report it.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s where I’m getting stuck. I’m having a hard time understanding how OP notifying the employer will affect the underlying dispute (it sounds like it likely wouldn’t affect it at all—Sara isn’t interested in settling the case and it’s being actively litigated right now).

            1. MK*

              I don’t see how your went from “no attorneys involved” to “actively litigated”; it sounds to me more like a mediation process, but even if they are in small claims court or something similar, there is a difference between a defendant who is disputing your claims and one who has an actively hostile relationship to you. Not to mention the practical side: Sarah might lose her job and not have any money to pay the OP anyway, she might leave town, making it impossible to recover the costs, etc.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It sounds like OP is in a small claims court or a mandatory mediation program. I probably should have been more precise with my words—when I said “actively litigated,” I meant actively going through whatever quasi-judicial process the OP has already undertaken. At least among the attorneys I’ve worked with, we use “litigated” to refer to prosecution through any tribunal, including administrative court, small claims court, or regular court, so I don’t associate it with having to have an attorney. I realize that that may be an unusual, uncommon, or inaccurate use of “litigate,” however.

                If Sara loses her job or her ability to pay or skips town, that doesn’t necessarily make it impossible to recover costs (it might make it easier for OP if it results in a default judgment). It sounds like the deposit is in escrow or being held in trust, and OP can still access it pending the outcome of the process they’ve undertaken.

                1. MK*

                  Sure, but the point stands: getting Sarah in trouble at work or possibly fired can complicate the resolution of the dispute. It might not, but you seemed to be saying that there is no way for that to happen, which I find inaccurate.

                2. OP1*

                  Hi all,
                  Thanks for your replies. To clarify, I am not in the US and the legal process I am going through with Sara is an administrative compulsory mediation process designed for tenants and landlords conflicts. The case is reviewed by a “judge”, it is a written process, there are no hearings (I submitted my claim with evidence of damage and costs, the “judge” asked Sara for her reply and will decide based on what is provided to her). The money I am claiming from Sara for the damage on the property is on an escrow account. so her employment status will have no impact on whether or not she will be able to reimburse me, the “judge” will decide.
                  I have no doubt that the claim for the loss in earning is baseless.
                  Thank you for highlighting the fact that I need to know what my goal is and actually it is to have the conflict settled and not to hear of Sara ever again, as she has been very difficult to deal during her tenancy (it is a story in itself, she would have loud parties, other tenants of flats in the building complained about her to their landlords or left because of her behaviour; I did not have to go to court to evict her as she decided to leave beforehand – the mediation procedure is the last step of a very long and painful process).
                  Therefore, right now, I am not going to do anything about the email. If I receive another one I will contact the company’s legal department to clarify whether or not the company is raising a claim against me but for the moment I will leave it at that.
                  Thank you all again for your replies

                3. Clare*

                  @OP1 that is understandable. I’ve never been a landlord but I’ve been the roommate of someone like Sara before, and sometimes you do just need to wadh your hands of them for your own sanity.

                4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                  OP1 – That sounds like a sensible choice. If she keeps trying to push it, I agree you should let someone know. Unless it would be helpful to your side to let the Judge know she is trying to extort money out of you?

                5. The Other Dawn*

                  OP1, I’m a landlord (unfortunately) and I agree that you’re doing the right thing. Settle the dispute first, and then wait and see if you get another email. If you do, send it on over to her employer.

                6. McWhadden*

                  OP1 Best of luck! Sara sounds like a nightmare. As much as it would be nice to see her get some retribution for her behavior at work, I think you’re doing the right thing. People are crazy. Who knows how she might escalate.

          2. JSPA*

            If she’s making bad choices (we know of at least a couple, but it’s not a stretch to think there might be more)…

            and if that, along with her other circumstances, and coming up with first, last and deposit on a new place have left her in a financial bind (statistically very likely for her age group, depending where in the world she is)…

            and if that’s part of why she’s fighting for the deposit…

            then making her suddenly far more broke and far more desperate is probably going to make her more determined to fight, or to do something even more drastic.

            Many of the world’s Saras would probably benefit, long-term, from getting a kick in the pants as far as ethical work behavior, eating crow, moving back in with the folks, and returning to a lower level of the work world with a far-reduced sense of entitlement. However, in any particular case, that presumes this particular Sara has folks to move back in with, and that the folks are not themselves part of the problem (norms-wise or in some other way).

            If I went to someone at the company, it would be the boss of the person sending the email (if OP can determine that, from the organizational chart), and I’d start with simply checking if the person in question is still there / reports to the person I’m contacting.

            If Sara is impersonating her boss, or using the email of a manager who’s just left, that’s identity theft, and it’s really not a victimless crime.

            If someone up a level from Sara is doing something unethical and strange, it’s potentially a bigger deal for the company, as the lack of ethics is a major problem in someone in a managerial role. Alternatively, it might simply be evidence that the person’s easy to snow, or a terrible manager, but not unethical.

            I would probably not contact Sara–or only with great care as to the wording–as the implication that you could get her fired might actually encourage her to file a counter suit claiming that you’re trying to blackmail or intimidate her into dropping her original claim to her deposit. I am not suggesting that she’d win such a suit. IANAL. I know we generally try not to say, “don’t do X because someone might file a frivolous suit.” However, it sounds like Sara has no leg to stand on, currently, and is already proven to be litigious and a bit desperate and lacking in some boundaries. Under that circumstance, why give her even a weak additional excuse to lawyer up?

            1. OP1*

              I did not want to explain the whole context before she left the flat as I thought it was mostly irrelevant as to whether or not I should contact the company. However, you nailed it here; her behaviour during the tenancy has been unpredictable to say the least. She accused other tenants of all sorts of imaginary crimes when they started complaining about the noise and other things like blocking the access to the building with her car (this is settled now no one was prosecuted). So unless I receive another email I will not contact Sara’s employer and if I do I will just state the facts I know without making any assumptions.
              I am already very careful when dealing with her directly, I stick to facts and stay very professional.
              Thanks again

              1. JSPA*

                Thought I recognized the type from when I had one of them as a roommate.

                All best wishes / may it all work out for the best.

                Hope you’re making the safety of the other tenants a priority (including changing the locks or adding a lock on the gate, if applicable), even if they’re not terribly concerned. I would not have thought it necessary when I was a 20-something, but I had a bad case of Teenage Invulnerability Curse well into my 30’s.

              2. Observer*

                and if I do I will just state the facts I know without making any assumptions.

                That’s TOTALLY the way to go.

          3. Cardamom*

            There could be a point where Sara has the choice to accept a settlement or press on. She might be less willing to settle if the OP has just caused Sara troubles as work.

        1. LKW*

          This is what I was thinking. Most big companies have pretty clear policies when it comes to using work email, and representation of the organization. It’s highly likely that the person will be disciplined and possibly fired for misrepresentation.

          However, the more I think about it, the more likely this could potentially damage the tenant’s case. Although attorneys aren’t involved, if you were to provide this to a judge with confirmation that the company did not authorize this, it could swing things further in your favor. Even if the tenant claims that she didn’t ask for the letter, the details and the fact that this “manager” has your email says otherwise.

          OP although I’m not a lawyer by any means, I don’t see any downside in reporting this now, getting confirmation this was not authorized and if that’s the case reporting this into the review board or person overseeing your dispute.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. Like I said in the post, if I were Sara’s employer, I’d sure as hell want to know and the OP can alert them if she wants to — but doing that doesn’t help her with any of her own goals in the situation. I think the “not your place” language I used isn’t communicating that correctly — I’ll see if I can come up with a different way to say it in the post.

        1. Yojo*

          I feel like there’s a strong possibility that she would simply attempt to scam in a different way. Sara gets fired=Sara sues OP for getting her fired. Sara claims OP is threatening her. There are all sorts of ways crazy people can make your life difficult without any evidence, and I wouldn’t risk this one until the current legal entanglements are settled.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      TBH I think it’s almost certain the e-mail came from Sara, not from any actual manager, and it’s a lame attempt to scare the LW into standing down on the case. If I were the LW, I’d file it away, finish up the case to a resolution, let it sit for another week or so, and then decide whether to alert the company.

      Sara seems young and immature. I don’t see a reason to blow up her employment over what looks to me like a dumb little stunt. Unless she tries it again before the case is done.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        It is not a dumb little stunt. It is a crime. The employer should be notified, stat. Maybe its time for Sara to grow up.

        1. Anon From Here*

          The LW will have an even harder time collecting any judgment they win if Sara’s suddenly unemployed.

          1. Ginger ale for all*

            With the updates, I am starting to wonder if Sara lost her job with her unpredictable behavior. It’s rare for a person to be out of control in one part of their life and not have any of that bleed over into other parts.

    4. EPLawyer*

      I agree with Alison. The point is to settle this matter with Sara. Not engage in a back and forth with her company as to whether or not they sent the email or who really did and if it was authorized.

      This might go to Sara’s judgment, but its not everyone’s business to police everyone else’s judgment to their employer.

      The best advice is to settle the matter with Sara and move on. The company is not going to follow up and if Sara does get her co-worker to do so, it will only expose Sara further. Nothing will come of this email so take Elsa’s advice — Let It Go.

      1. Observer*

        This is far more than a case of bad judgement. This is dishonest on multiple counts. One, it’s a fraudulent attempt to get money out of someone on false pretenses. Secondly, it’s using someone else’s name (ie the company’s name) in an issue where that entity is totally NOT involved, but could open them to problems.

      2. soon 2be former fed*

        I totally disagree. OP can settle the matter and report the fraud. You have no idea what the company will do. I don’t agree with Alison at all here. Bad behavior should not be excused.

        1. McWhadden*

          This person seems crazy and who knows how she may escalate her behavior if the LW reports it to her work. She’s already doing something that is completely against all reason.

          It’s not right. It’s not fair. But in cases like this it’s probably best for the LW’s well being to let it go unless Sara keeps doing it.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Ah, but what if the LW replies, with an innocent CC to legal and accounts payable, politely asking how she should proceed with the payment? ;-)

            1. Kelly L.*

              I feel like that runs the risk of getting the boss in trouble, and the boss is likely having their email spoofed here.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                We don’t know that the email actually used the name of Sara’s boss – the LW said the “sender” wasn’t very high up in the organization, so it’s possible it was a peer using their own name and pretending to be the boss. And if the email truly was spoofed, that’s pretty easy to tell from a forward, isn’t it?

    5. Ashloo*

      I guess I’m a vindictive grudge-holder, but I would totally forward this to Global Company’s legal department too. I’ve been in OP’s shoes of just wanting to be completely done with a person/situation, and so I do understand their reluctance to stir the pot here. That said, I also wouldn’t mind seeing consequences delivered to someone who was literally trying to threaten me through a big company. I don’t really understand why anyone should care if she loses her job over this misrepresentation.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        Yes! If she loses her job she deserves to. I would never have the nerve to pull a stunt like this. Sara sounds like an all-around piece of work.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      I agree with you, but I have one caveat. If Sara is a crazy person, it’s far, far better to have as little to do with her as possible and speed up the ending of her tenancy as quickly as you can. Perhaps not the best moral choice but it is definitely the best sanity preserving choice. In that case, Alison’s advice is spot on. I have dealt with small claims issues with crazy people before, and it was much better just to make it end as quickly as possible without getting bogged down in trying to do the right thing. The fact that Sara is (likely) trying to scam her former landlord makes me suspect that she is, well, not entirely reasonable. So OP, think about what you know of Sara and decide on the best thing to do. It’s okay to take the sanity preserving choice if that’s what it comes down to.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, my husband is in the landlording business. In the LW’s shoes, he would be trying to get his money and disentangle himself from Sara. Which would include not jeopardizing her employment even if she deserves it. Desperate people with time on their hands = never-ending nightmare.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        OP could always wait until after her tenancy issues with Sara are settled to pass along the email.

        1. epi*

          That is what I would do. From the company’s perspective, this type of behavior– basically fraud– is really serious. They will still want to know about it a few weeks from now when the OP’s business with Sara is concluded.

          From what the OP has said, this is a mandatory process that sounds like it is intended to prevent abusive withholding of deposits. The fact that the OP and Sara are engaged in it doesn’t mean that things are openly contentious– yet. Sara’s attempted fraud is unlikely to have any bearing on whether or not she damaged the carpet in her old apartment, so there is no benefit to the OP bringing it up there, no reason to encourage Sara to make the official process contentious.

      3. OP1*

        She does demonstrate irrational behaviour, I don’t know if she is crazy. But yes, this is why I want to put as much distance between her and me once we are done with the lease conflict

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          I am using “crazy” in the colloquial, general sense. Meaning someone who is unpredictable, irrational, given to emotional outbursts, and prone to make stupid choices. Based on your other comments, Sara sounds like she falls under my definition of a crazy person. You will only get more burned the longer your association with her lasts.

    7. AKchic*

      And honestly, this could come down to the idea of intimidation or extortion. Since Sara knew there were no solicitors involved, she made it appear that there was potential legal backing from her employer in this to intimidate and extort OP into paying the “wages” rather than questioning them, and to go easier on her in court rather than fight for what OP is legally entitled to (intimidation again).

      Bring the letter to court. Send a copy to the company and request clarification. Don’t feel bad for Sara. She put herself into this predicament, not you.
      This reminds me so much of my 1st ex-husband. *sigh* So many horror stories there.

  5. Greg NY*

    #4: Isn’t someone presenting, by definition, considered someone important enough to be sitting at the table at a meeting? Unless everyone there is presenting, those who are only listening and won’t be speaking should be the ones sitting on the outskirts of the room.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      No—presenting doesn’t always connote that someone is “important enough” to sit at the table. For example, I sit on a Board of Directors where staff often give reports. When seats are rare, the staff sit on the outskirts, and that set up is more appropriate than if they displaced Directors.

      As Alison notes, the most OP#4 can do is ask if it’s ok if they sit at the table so that they can better access the phone. If OP is displacing a mid-level manager, then OP should take a seat on the outskirts.

      1. McWhadden*

        I’m also on a board of directors and I or othrts sit to the side if staff is presenting. It’s basic manners.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s not basic manners—it varies by the organization. At our organization, it’s vitally important for the Directors to have a seat at the table for a number of reasons related to language access, cultural norms regarding elders, and ADA access.

          When staff present, they present at the head of the room while standing (imagine a horseshoe set-up with a screen at the front). If Directors speak, they stand at their seat so that it’s easy for others to see who’s speaking. When there are enough seats and room, staff are more than welcome to sit at the table, and some Directors will sit on the outskirts if staff need to be present at the table for discussion. But in 90% of scenarios where seats and space at the table is scarce, it’s perfectly acceptable and appropriate (and fine from a manners/etiquette standpoint) for staff to sit on the outskirts.

        2. Someone Else*

          Which seems to confirm that this is very much dependent on the office and the meeting. Places I’ve worked before generally try to hold meetings in a room large enough that all attendees can sit at the table, with only overflow being one or two people. Generally the rule is “sit where you want” and there was no “priority position” associated with being at the table or not. But clearly in OP’s situation, and a number of examples, that is A Thing. But there have been examples where presenting at all means table, or where table is totally based on hierarchy in the org, or where table is intended for whomever is doing the bulk of the participation in the meeting, so I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule that works for every company or every meeting. You have to know the culture and/or read the room. If you want to approach it from a “manners” standpoint, the best thing to do is ask someone who is already at the table (or whoever is running the meeting) “is it OK if I sit here?” and proceed from there. I don’t think there is a way to know without asking what this office considers Not Done.

    2. Greg NY*

      Yup, although admittedly not one in which there weren’t enough chairs for everyone to sit at the table.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      That’s an awfully aggressive and sarcastic way to disagree with the previous commenter.

      1. Pumpkin Soup*

        I’m fed up of having him mansplain everything, whether he has any knowledge of it or not.

    4. Artemesia*

      No. And it is a major faux pas to speak at a meeting where your role is lesser in this way (except when asked or when presenting) or to take a scarce seat at the table. The only way to manage that would be to ask if you should sit at the table because you are presenting today — or better yet. ‘where should I sit while presenting so the phone will pick up the report?’

    5. Winter*

      once again, no. That’s not how it works. Presenting does not equal importance. There is a hierarchy to be taken into consideration.

      I’m really curious what sort of work you do, Greg. Your experiences and expectations seem so out of line with a professional context that I keep imagining you in some sort of really bizarre job p.

      1. Red Reader*

        I have been wondering that too the last few weeks, after seeing many cringeworthy statements from him.

      2. lost academic*

        I get the same reactions to what we consider workplace norms from people who’ve only worked in a certain part of the tech sector so I’m less surprised, if that happens to be his area. I’ve also noticed that the people I discuss such issues with are resistant to the idea that the norms really do apply nearly everywhere else, which used to surprise me until I realized that there’s people with 15, 20 years of experience now who’ve only ever worked at places that deliberately feel and function as tech startups.

        As an aside, I was explaining to a young colleague of mine that at my husband’s place of work, the “uniform” was very much cargo shorts/jeans and rumpled tshirts. It blew his mind that that could be considered both normal and an expectation.

      3. Greg NY*

        I am involved in HR benefits administration. I work in the office some of the time and at home other times. My main duties are to make changes, enroll, or dis-enroll employees with regard to various benefits, health insurance and a 401(k) occur most often. I also have the responsibility for making sure the current providers are still a good deal for my organization, which is right up my alley because I’m very frugal at home and live below my means.

        My organization, and honestly neither of the past two, have had any major hierarchy. In this one, there is a president and a COO, but it then falls to several department managers and then those who report to them. Perhaps most importantly, everyone is a team and the job of the president, COO, and department managers is to keep everything running smoothly. They know that everyone would fall apart without those who report to them and they are considered nearly equal assets. There are no double standards, everyone is trusted as a professional, and the president and COO conduct themselves the same way they want to see in us.

        If the organizations I’ve worked for are not representative of many organizations today, I understand, but I thought the workplace came a long way from the defined hierarchies of the 1950s and 1960s.

        1. doreen*

          Workplaces have come a long way from what they were – but they never were all alike and still aren’t. I’m going to try to make this presentation situation a bit more concrete for you. Let’s say the HR manager is holding a meeting for all of the HR staff . There aren’t enough seats for everyone at the table, so some are sitting around the edges of the room ( imagine a second ring of chairs surrounding the table). This month, someone from the mailroom is going to explain the new process for overnight shipping. He isn’t participating in any part of the meeting except for his 5-10 minute presentation. He doesn’t need a surface to write on because he isn’t taking any notes. He’s not sitting at the table. In most places I’ve worked, it would be disruptive to have him sitting at the table because he wouldn’t even remain at the meeting after he was done. And it’s not because he’s less valuable – it’s just that he has no more to contribute at a meeting of the HR staff than you would have to contribute to a meeting of the mailroom staff.

          1. I Yam What I Yam*

            A lot of this is workplace- and culture-specific. It’s condescending and not constructive to “make this situation a bit more concrete for you.” What works in your organization may not work in others.

            1. doreen*

              Absolutely what works in one place may not work in others- that’s why I said
              “but they never were all alike and still aren’t.” I didn’t mean to be condescending – but people know their own experiences, and it’s possible that GregT has only been at meetings where the presenters were participating in the full meeting even if their own presentation was short.

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          I think a lot of it depends not just on sector or industry, but on public v. private companies.

          I worked for a publicly-traded company which held quarterly Board Meetings with a set up very similar to what PCBH outlined – the horseshoe table, the Directors around it, staff in seats outside of the table, and the presenter of the moment standing in front of the horseshoe (and in front of the microphones and camera for any off-site attendees). This was in a tech industry not known for being hidebound. The company had a hierarchy that went C-Suite>Vice Presidents>Directors>Senior Managers>Junior Managers>etc. No one below departmental directors cracked the door of the closed-door Board meetings. All that said, the Company was still considered tech industry friendly and easy going. But the Board of Directors is the Board of Directors in a publicly traded company.

          I’ve also worked for private companies and they operate very differently. Much looser, more collegial, less hierarchical. More de facto rules and hierarchies instead of de jure policies and hierarchies. In the private companies, rules for running meetings were loose, to say the least. Anyone relegating others to the literal sidelines during meetings would be hard pressed not to suffer a ton of ribbing for that.

    6. AnonToday*

      Actually if you are just there to present and not part of the meeting otherwise, you should stay to the sides. You aren’t part of the other conversations and will just sit there most of the meeting. During your actual presentation, where you were previously sitting doesn’t matter because you are presumably up at the front now.

      I have, for instance, had to sit through a meeting to give a five minute talk on a specific case. I sat at the back quietly doing other work until it was my time because the other meeting topics didn’t matter to me.

      1. LW #4*

        I think what makes this particularly weird is that no one stands up to present. It’s an odd combination of rigid structure with important people sitting at the front of the room, and an attempt to make things “less scary” (I think?) By having all presenters remain in their seat.

    7. Lexi Kate*

      Nope, most people presenting during a meeting do it standing up and it also depends on what context your presentation has on the meeting and what part you play when your presentation is over. Personally when I present to groups or during meetings I let them tell me where to sit. If they say to sit anywhere I take into account what the full meeting is about and if I am only there to present for a small part of the meeting and that my content is not going to be their only topic I will intentionally not take a seat at the table because what I am there for is not going to be the main topic and I am not in their group.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yep. I agree with everyone who said this.

        I talk to a LOT of people about conference room use and design. There is ba definite hierarchy of who sits where, and “at the table” is always for the more “important” people.

        That said, a good conference room should accommodate talkers from other seats of this is the part of the normal workflow. If it doesn’t, you have a bad conference room.

        1. pleaset*

          ‘There is a definite hierarchy of who sits where, and “at the table” is always for the more “important” people.’

          Worth noting that some organization intentionally do not do this – they (including my organization sometimes) strive to have positioning unrelated to hierarchy. A “junior” person should not assume this without checking, but it’s sometimes the case.

          1. Lance*

            As I’m genuinely curious, what, then, would be the ‘rules’, as it were, for the table? The primary people speaking/involved in the meeting, perhaps? First-come, first-served (I would hope not, personally)? Something else?

            1. Czhorat*

              Usually it’s by job title/level. If there are executives in a meeting, they get seats. Directors get seats. Lower-level employees are more likely to be at the outskirts.

            2. Someone Else*

              I can’t speak for the above, but at orgs I’ve worked with that did not have hierarchical table-sitting rules, the general practice was:
              1) Only have the meeting in a conference room with a table if the table can fit all attendees
              2) For larger meetings, they’re held in either more of a lecture-hall style setup, where whomever presents is at the front and everyone else is seated like an audience, or if the “audience” style setup wouldn’t make sense, then there is no table and there are only chairs in a large circle or U-shape.
              Seating is indeed first-come first-served, unless someone has a specific need, such as to be by the door, or physical access to something else, in which case one might be asked to move/swap seats for someone having a specific need, but in those cases it’s not a big deal or a power play.
              On the rare occasion some people might have been invited to observe-but-not-participate, they might be more likely to sit in a chair against a wall instead of at the table, but even then, depending on who were running the meeting, if there were space at the table, they might be asked to join anyway. Or others might be fine that if someone chose a wall chair, to just let them chill/assume they’re more comfortable there.

          2. Lora*

            Yeah, this is what many companies I’ve worked for have done:

            1. People presenting get a table seat
            2. The person requesting the meeting gets a table seat
            3. The person who decides the budget gets a table seat
            4. Lab PIs sit behind the person doing the presenting for their lab, in the periphery, and will pull up to the table as needed to “drive”; their presence alone is intended to show endorsement of what their chosen representative is presenting to the person who called the meeting
            5. Everyone else, peanut gallery only.

            It’s also worth noting that very important budget-deciding executives seem to enjoy waiting until the lights are dimmed, sneaking in the back row for a seat while wearing casual clothing, and then interrupting your flow with a question in an attempt to have a gotcha moment, and they like to judge how good you are by your ability to answer the question and resume flow. This has been a thing at both large companies and startups I’ve worked for.

    8. Else*

      Not necessarily – sometimes the presenter is only speaking for a few minutes and will then leave, or is offering information to a group of other people who then need to discuss it without their further input, or is presenting to a closed group that they don’t belong, etc. I think it really just depends on the group and its purpose.

    9. sb51*

      #4: The advice given by Allison and most of the commenters doesn’t match what happens at my company, so *my* advice would be to, next time, get to the meeting with the first round of people sitting down and ask the person running it where they’d like you to sit. (Or your manager if they’re in the meeting.)

      (We have a lot of meetings like this; the peripheral chairs aren’t well picked up by the teleconferencing equipment, and presenters often need to use the wireless keyboard/mouse, so presenters usually sit near the front of the room at the table, or there has to be mid-meeting seat swapping. When some presenters aren’t on the regular invite list at all, the outside presenters go first, and then leave the meeting when they’re done. Junior people who are on the every-time invite list tend to sit at the table if they’re presenting, and not move when they’re done, and get scheduled anywhere in the meeting.)

    10. LW #4*

      I can see why you would think that, but in this case our organization is so steeply hierarchitcal that it’s not the case. I’m basically just updating the senior managers on metrics since I’m the worker bee who actually runs the report. Then they discuss amongst themselves and let me know if I should change anything for next month. It’s sheer luck that I’m the only person who actually involved enough in the numbers to answer the questions.

  6. The Original OOF*

    #1, I actually disagree with the advice given. I would VERY much want to know if this were one of my employees. You don’t have an obligation to report it now, though. I would wait until the tenant dispute was resolved then forward the email with a question about its validity.

    Watching dishonest people have no consequences really irritates me.

    1. LeRainDrop*

      Me, too. And that’s a better order of operations — get your own compensation from Sara first and then alert the employer’s legal department to the “manager’s” email demand.

    2. MK*

      You don’t actually disagree with the advice given. The employeer would want to know, but the OP has no obligation to tell them, this might complicate settling the dispute, that’s exactly what Alison said.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, exactly. Alison also stated that she would want to know. But the OP doesn’t have to tell them. She gets to decide if it’s worth the time and energy to report it and if it would help her or potentially prolong washing her hands of her tenant.

    3. AnonToday*

      I have to agree. If she’s willing to use the company name like this, the company deserves to know.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      OP#1, I understand why you want to wash your hands of Sara. But as another person living in the world with her, I desperately want someone to smack her hand and say “No! You cannot DO that!” So I hope you’ll forward the email to her employer after your own situation is wrapped up.

      1. pleaset*

        If I was in that position and Sara hadn’t been nasty to me (just clueless) I probably would forward it to her with a note “I received this and am considering contacting your company’s legal team about it.” Leave it at that – ambiguous enough to make her worry a lot.

        I probably wouldn’t do something that would likely result in her being fired.

  7. Greg NY*

    #5: Why would you think it would be rude to ask for her office? The only reason you don’t have an office is that there weren’t enough offices for you to have one (which is why you were the only one of the three with your position not to have one). That problem is now solved, and not only is not rude to ask, you SHOULD ask. If there is a problem or a reason for you not to have that office, your manager will tell you.

    1. Triplestep*

      Its might not be “rude” to ask, but it might be tone deaf. There are often space policies in place that dictate who gets offices (and those may differ by building as space stock often does). From the way the question is written, I am not even clear that the colleague who is leaving is the one colleague with the same job as the LW. (Could be just another colleague with an office.) Either way I would approach asking for the office with some language that indicates she gets there are many factors at play.

      1. Yojo*

        Yeah, I’d ask around a bit first. There are places assign offices purely based on seniority in the company as a whole, not the particular department–to the point that they’ll separate teams just so the next person in line gets the next available office.

    2. InfoSec SemiPro*

      Lots of workplaces have Byzantine, opaque and torturous space use policies.

      Asking your manager should be fine, but space is a hot button topic in lots of jobs for lots of reasons. Wanting to walk cautiously around it is a decent first instinct.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Sort of like the read-the-room of where to sit when there aren’t enough chairs at the table–sometimes it comes across fine, and sometimes people try to melt you through the floor with the laser beams from their eyes.

        I look forward to the letter about distributing office space according to a Hunger Games scenario, thought up by a manager who didn’t understand the Community Paintball episodes are intended as satire.

    3. Almond Butter*

      The OP didn’t say that she doesn’t have an office because there wasn’t enough offices, she said she wasn’t bothered she didn’t get an office because she was new. So now it most likely depends on how many people in the office have been hired before her that have a office worthy title, or how many people hired that have a title above hers that now qualify for the office. Its not rude to ask, but in an office with limited office space OP needs to ask quickly and be ready for being denied.

    4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I haven’t played for an office, but I have done the “How soon after a coworker is fired is it ok to ask for their sweet desk by the window” calculation, and I think it depends a lot on your boss and the culture of the office. We had a bit of a history of ‘first come first serve’ when it came to that kind of thing, so it all worked out. Once when one of my old bosses left, he hadn’t even reached his car in the parking lot with his box of desk stuff when someone else leapt up, ran into the empty office, and slammed the door closed, claiming the office (I would super recommend not doing this, he got away with it but it was much talked about).

    5. Smarty Boots*

      I agree with Greg. Nothing to be lost if OP asks the way AAM suggests. Asking around first as others suggest may = OP loses out on the office unnecessarily and, as a new person, OP may not know yet who is a reliable source to ask around from. Just ask for the office.

  8. Pumpkin Soup*

    #2 The letter writer’s boss told them not to forward this candidate – are you saying they should just ignore their boss altogether?

    1. JamieS*

      I interpreted the letter as OP was given advice from their boss (as opposed to a directive) but still had the agency to move the person on to the hiring manager with the appropriate disclaimers since it’s (presumably) ultimately the hiring manager’s call on who to hire.

      1. wherewolf*

        I’m actually really confused why OP checked with two separate people (“my boss and another leader in HR that I trust”) and BOTH said to reject him, but OP chose to not only keep moving the candidate forward, but to do so “without alerting the hiring manager.” Unless I totally misread this, it sounds like OP was told “ABORT” by two higher-ups and chose to keep going and actively conceal important information from the hiring manager.

        OP, if you’re going to keep this candidate in the ring because you think he deserves a second chance (though I’d argue he also deserves to feel the consequences of his gross choices), at least tell the hiring manager. They need to know this to make an informed decision. And if he gets hired and does something skeezy at work, you could get in severe trouble or even fired if it comes out that you actively hid this information.

        1. JamieS*

          My speculation is OP wants to move him on as a possibility because they’re having trouble getting qualified candidates. IMO deal breakers tend to become a lot fewer when there’s a dearth of candidates.

        2. valentine*

          I found it contradictory that OP #2 defied their boss, then seemed to be of two minds (“on the one hand…”). It makes sense, though, if the reaction was to the confession, not to the boss/colleague’s advice.

        3. McWhadden*

          To answer your first question the labor market is really tight at the moment and she needs to fill this job, which has proven difficult.

          I definitely, absolutely think it would be a horrible mistake to pass this on without giving the Hiring Manager all the information. But I think she is having trouble letting go of one of the only qualified candidates she’s come across in a niche area.

          This blog really came into its own during the Great Recession and sometimes the comments and even Alison forgets that the labor market has changed drastically. Letters like this come up because now recruiters are desperate not just applicants. It can also be seen in how the comments were more mixed on yesterdays “boss stole my chair” letter than they were four years ago (because just taking blatantly rude behavior from your boss is much less a necessity.)

          1. AMPG*

            I think this is really true. A lot of workers still seem traumatized by the Great Recession and unwilling to take risks, but eventually they’ll realize how tight the labor market is and employers will need to shape up.

            However, I’ll note that I’ve been in the position of hiring someone who didn’t check all the boxes and had a behavioral red flag, and I’ve always regretted it. If this candidate was excellent on paper but had this one potentially disqualifying issue, I could see overlooking it, but he’s not even a great fit, just a better fit than many other candidates. I think the OP shouldn’t pass him on.

        4. Nita*

          Yes. That part is weird. If OP has strong reservations about this guy, and they’re backed by two other people in senior positions, their response is… “yay, let’s move forward, and the hiring manager doesn’t need to know about this!” That’s either some serious desperation, or some really bad judgement.

          On re-reading, a couple more things stick out to me. This guy is interviewing for a managerial position, so not only will they have to do their job, but they’ll be responsible for managing others. Also, the government job was a while ago but was followed by a string of short-term jobs. On one hand, glad the guy’s mistake (which he says he learned from) didn’t land him in permanent unemployment land, but on the other hand, the short-term jobs are a bit of a yellow flag. There might be a good reason for the frequent job changes, but it could also be that he’s continuing to have problems in every job he tries – can’t really guess what those problems are, but it’s worth noting.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The only thing I told the OP to do was not to move him forward without giving full info to the hiring manager. Then I said what my stance would be in that situation. But like JamieS, I read it as the decision still being up to the OP. If the OP boss’s has directed her not to advance him (as opposed to just providing input), it’s moot.

    3. MommyMD*

      I agree Pumpkin. Boss said no. Toss the application. Do not forward to the hiring manager even with explanation against boss’s wishes.

    4. MK*

      Not all hierarchies work that way. My supervisor doesn’t have the authority to dictate to me how to handle certain aspects of my job; I am the one signing off on them, I have the responsibility, it’s my decision, and it would in fact be grossly inappropriate to direct me to a specific course of action. I ask for input and advice all the time, but what she tells me is understood to mean “this is what you should do”, not “do this”.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      I read it as “I’d say not to do it” as advice… LW suggested they had asked for and got advice on how to proceed… not an instruction “do not do this”. TBH, personally I’d not do it on either a strong suggestion or an order unless I *really* cared enough to make it an issue!

      But not following strong advice can be OK – if inadvisable – ignoring instruction isn’t.

    6. AnonToday*

      I have to give similar advice to trainees all the time. In a similar situation, while I wouldn’t be upset if a trainee decided to forward the information against my advice, I would want to have a conversation about it as a boss, why this was done and how employee would handle.similar situations in the future. However, forwarding him without this red flag disclosed would seriously affect our working relationship and make me seriously question the employees judgment. She would be substituting her judgment for the hiring manager’s which would make me extremely concerned about whether she would omit material information in the future.

    7. JSPA*


      If I were the hiring manager working with a specific recruiter, and I expected to be dealing with that recruiter, and there were no written, agreed-to blanket rule about “hard no’s” at the recruitment agency, I would not want someone else in the recruitment hierarchy deciding issues like this. I would not want ex felons automatically removed, either, for that matter.

      However, I were working with the recruitment agency more generally, and my company used that recruitment agency knowing that they had set policies on certain sorts of “automatic no,” and this was one of those “automatic no’s”, then I might be a bit repulsed to see that someone who should have been screened out had been passed through.

      OP was not clear whether the directive from above was a written policy–something that they are bound to respect, that the boss is reminding them of–or a personal preference of their boss.

      Frankly, I’m guessing the recruiting boss may have very good reasons for his stance. Recruiting boss may have a nose for the pattern of, “fired from a good job for Reason, then also left multiple jobs quickly now that people at new jobs know to keep an eye out for violations of same.” Recruiting Boss may reasonably deduce that this adds up to “will do this again,” and also believe that people who have not seen the pattern will underestimate the problem and give the guy a chance. Recruiting Boss may feel that this will, of course, reflect worse on the recruiting company (or the recruiting department) than simply taking forever to find someone who’s a good fit for the job.

      I’d probably not send the resume along with the others, but mention there’s another resume that was arguably better than the others in terms of raw skills, but was firmly nixed by your chain of command for other issues. If the hiring manager is desperate, she can ask to see the resume (at which point, your actual client is telling you to pass it along). That way, if she has an “ick” response, she’s forewarned / she has only herself to blame for wanting the information. If she’s not icked out, or she’s desperate for the skill set…there are plenty of people who’d hire someone with technical skills even if they did have a problematic compulsion, e.g. if they can be set them to work from home most days (where they can “relieve stress” as needed) and be offline / no phone on days when their expertise is needed at work.

      1. OP2*

        OP here. Some additional context may be helpful. I work for the company (not part of an outside recruiting agency), so I have worked with this team in the past. One commentor mentioned the tight labor market, and that was absolutely a part of my thinking: it’s REALLY tough to find people for these specific jobs, so it might be worth exploring options we wouldn’t normally look at. My boss told me that she wouldn’t send the candidate forward, but did leave it up to me. I do have a really positive relationship with my boss and she’s not a micromanager at all; I came to her with a problem, she gave her thoughts, but didn’t tell me what to do. As other commentors above and below discussed, the porn aspect is certainly a problem, but it also leads to other potential issues related to it, namely the security aspect and if his interpersonal relationships will be compromised. When he told me, I did immediately think that this is what we tell candidates with spotty history to do, but given the severity of the offence, I’m of the opinion that he needs more time to put this behind him.

        I haven’t sent his resume on for review, and don’t plan to. In related news, the hiring manager had a phone interview with a candidate I had sourced and her response was “I think he’s too good to be true.” Thanks, all, for your thoughts. Once again, you have proven that (with only a couple of exceptions) this is one of the most thoughtful places on the internet!

        1. wherewolf*

          Glad to hear that after all of this the story has a happy ending! With the extra info I think you handled the whole thing well.

  9. Free Meerkats*

    Beyond moving closer if OP4 is worried about being heard, some voice training might be in order. It’s not all volume, there’s more to it than that. The ability to be clearly heard is a great help to me all the time.

    And yeah, it sounds like your place isn’t at the table. Yet.

  10. Observer*

    #2, if you move this person forward without alerting the hiring manager, this could totally blow up your career at your company. To start with, this is information that the hiring manager has a right to – it really is overstepping to decide that they don’t need to know. Considering that you were actually advised to not even move this person forward, it becomes egregious. You are hiding information that you KNOW that your company, or parts of it at least, consider significant. And it looks like you are trying to trick the hiring manager into hiring someone who they would otherwise not hire. Not a good move.

    1. Temperance*

      LW#2 was concerned about the porn viewing at work – rightly – and still wanted to pass this guy along without including the very relevant information about his candidacy. That’s so incredibly messed up.

      Maybe I’m just extra sensitive because it seems like sexual abuse, assault, and inappropriate activity are everywhere right now, but I can’t imagine willingly taking on the liability of someone who has such bad judgment and such a lack of consideration for other people that he views pornography at work and brings it up in a job interview.

      Taken at face value, was he just caught watching explicit content, or was he caught with his hand down his pants?

        1. McWhadden*

          It says she checked in with them because she trusted them (i.e. not because that’s required in the process). There is no indication that a boss saying don’t move forward is the end of the story. And not all workplaces are set-up that way.

  11. Not Australian*

    OP#1: I’d be challenging them to take me to court and prove their case, personally, but I’d also be forwarding a copy to the employer’s legal department with some kind of polite suggestion that it was no doubt sent in error and surely not designed to be taken seriously. Mind you, as a scam, it’s pretty much at the hopeless end of incompetent…

    1. MK*

      I doubt the intent was to get money out of the OP. My guess is that this was sent by Sarah with the vague thought that potential litigation with a huge company would scare the OP out of going after her.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Given the other information OP provided, I would bet this is the case. Sara was a problem tenant — she is continuing to be a problem. The best solution is to just move forward with the process as if the email hadn’t been sent. Then be done with her. It is no OP’s job to police Sara’s life.

          1. Yojo*

            That’s, um, not how adults govern their lives.

            It is definitely not her job to prioritize Sara’s company (???) over her own wellbeing.

  12. I can't remember my old name*

    OP4: If I can offer a slightly different take on this (and noting that my own positions and organizations have been idiosyncratic to say the least): Staying in this meeting for the whole time period may not be helping you. It might be best if you can ask your manager if they can just give you a set time block to present, you wait outside from about five minutes early until you’re brought in, and then leave when you’re done presenting.

    This does at least three things:
    1. It shows your manager that you recognize that you’re not contributing in these meetings in the other sections and that your own time and work enough that you’d rather be doing something productive than sitting in a meeting that isn’t for you and you genuinely can’t contribute to.
    2. It presents the impression to others that you’re not just staffing the meeting, but that you have a job to accomplish and that this meeting is just one part of it. Oddly enough, the advice I’ve gotten – and what I’ve seen in these types of meetings as I’ve gotten more senior – is that it actually enhances your perceived importance to be “brought in” rather than to simply be waiting.
    3. It eliminates the question of where to sit. If you’re to sit, in this case, a seat will be provided, if not, you can stand at the lectern or you project from, and it doesn’t look or feel weird because you aren’t waiting around.

    1. Not Australian*

      This is a good work-around. The OP could attend for only the relevant part of the meeting and use the rest of the time for something else, thus eliminating the problem of where to sit. It’s certainly something worth discussing with management.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      This wouldn’t go over well anywhere I’ve worked. If OP is lower ranking the assumption is she needs to wait around and be available when the higher ranking people are ready for her. Asking to skip out of the parts of a meeting I’m not required for would come across as not wanting to sit in a boring meeting. Usually when I’ve been needed to sit in a higher level meeting I’ve been told to listen and learn – it can be helpful to know what else is happening around the company Just because the OP isn’t allowed to partake in discussion doesn’t mean she doesn’t come out with valuable knowledge about what is going on in the company.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      This wouldn’t come off well anywhere I’ve worked. The only times I’ve seen this done has been to restrict junior level people from information presented or discussed by senior people. Coming in just to present and then leave would make OP4 come across as more junior in my own personal opinion.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      This is what is done at my company (and a previous company) when there’s a Board meeting. People are given time slots to present. They show up at the appointed time and then hang around in the lobby until they’re called, which is usually pretty quickly after they arrive. They go in, present, answer questions and then they leave. The Board room doesn’t have enough room for so many people, and it’s a waste of time to have a bunch of people in a four hour meeting when they’re presentation is maybe 15 minutes long. Managers and Board members would rather people be doing whatever it is they need to do and not waste all that time sitting around.

    5. MLB*

      I don’t know, I feel like this is being made into a bigger deal than it needs to be. IMO this is a case of “using your words”. Don’t make assumptions, stay seated on the outskirts of the room, and ask your manager if you need to make any changes. Having “extras” come into and leave the room during a meeting is distracting. In my experience, getting a bunch of managers into a meeting all at once is difficult enough. If you have multiple people coming in and out of the room it’s going to take longer to refocus and get things done.

    6. LW #4*

      Thanks. I like the idea and see where you’re coming from. Unfortunately I think the time slots are way too unpredictable for it to work in this instance, but I’ll keep it in mind for others.
      I do kind of like getting to know what my executives say and think in their less “gaurded politician” moments so selfishly I enjoy sitting in the whole meeting, but I can see how electing to leave instead would come across as harder working.

  13. Green great dragon*

    #4 If I were one of the mid-level managers, and was mostly listening while you were actually presenting, I would expect you to have a seat at the table rather than me. But that may be driven by the low standards of our teleconferencing kit. So take everyone else’s advice, but be prepared to move/pull your seat forward if others suggest it.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      It would depend on what OP means by presenting. If she’s giving a 20 minute training on a new process, then a seat at the table might be warranted. If it’s a 5 minute departmental update, then probably not.

  14. Dramaholic*

    #2: NOPE. Watching porn at work indicates that person is clueless about workplace norms, respect for coworkers, appropriate boundaries, and just basic common sense. None of those things are easily trainable. That would be an automatic no for me.

    1. AnonToday*

      I have seen someone blow an interview in seconds. We were reinterviewing someone who had been passed over before and he was doing really well. I was ready to recommend him, as was everyone else in the room. Then at the “any questions” portion he suddenly got very aggressive in questioning why he had been passed over before. Huge demeanor switch and a bit scary. Not only was he a universal “no hire”, we put a note in his file not to interview him again. Maybe he was just having a bad day, but we could not take the risk of hiring someone that aggressive, ever.

      1. Myrin*

        For some reason, it took me three tries to read your first sentence correctly because all I got was “I have seen someone blow an interviewer”. I’m clearly too influenced by the second letter when reading responses here today.

    2. Murphy*

      If it were recent, I’d agree with you (and tbh it would color my opinion of the person in general a bit) but I don’t think something like this should follow someone for the rest of their career if they were really able to learn from it and do better.

      1. Camellia*

        This. Alison stated that they were fired ‘from their last job’ but the letter says they were fired and since then have worked contracts. I would question him to see if he KNEW and UNDERSTOOD why what he did was wrong, and then base my decision on that.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Yeah, context matters here and depends on a few things. I can easily seeing a person inexperienced in workplace norms doing this vaguely knowing that it was wrong but not really understanding how badly wrong it really is. I can also see someone knowing exactly how wrong it is and simply thinking they wouldn’t get caught and now of course they’re very sorry. So, yeah, the answer to many things: it depends.

      3. Bea*

        I wouldn’t be the one who gave him the second chance.

        He hasn’t found someone yet willing to hire him either. By all means I’ve worked for men who got their workforce out of prison to do work release, so I know those people are out there. This guy hopefully finds a place who takes the risk but it’s a long hard journey and they are usually labor intensive jobs.

        1. Greg NY*

          Why do you believe that someone shouldn’t have a chance at redemption? Do people not learn from their mistakes? Now if someone committed assault, battery, robbery, or murder, I’d be afraid to be around them, but larceny, embezzlement, or a DUI is salvageable.

          1. Sylvan*

            Why do you think we’re obligated to be that chance at redemption?

            I don’t want to work with someone who was been sexually inappropriate recently. Sorry. I’m not that accommodating.

            1. ofotherworlds*

              The reason why OP2s company should provide that chance at redemption is in her letter. They “have had some trouble getting qualified candidates”. This dude is qualified and they’re apparently desperate. So they ought to take a chance on a qualified candidate with a big blot on his resume.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            For women, a man who doesn’t know how to draw appropriate boundaries between sex and the workplace is absolutely terrifying. Most of us have been on the receiving end of such a coworker and we’re not in any hurry to repeat the experience.

            Does this dude deserve a shot at redemption? Maybe. Is this particular hiring manager obligated to give that to him? Absolutely not.

    3. CRM*

      Not to mention that it’s a sign of addiction. If you can’t wait until you get home, then you probably have an issue (unless you work around the clock, but even then, there are better and more appropriate ways to relieve stress at work). I wouldn’t trust that it wont happen again.

      1. Bea*

        Right? If they were in a bathroom stall after a late night or something, still bad but they at least tried to seek privacy and not using their work computer! This reeks of voyeurism.

    4. Phoenix Programmer*

      Does it change your mind of guy/gal is like:

      I messed up. I had a serious lapse in judgement and viewed porn on a work device. I realize how serious a mistake that was, that I wasn’t in a good place and have since fgotten the help I needed. I can guarantee it won’t be an issue again and it has not been an issue at my current temp jobs.

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s the closest to an acceptable approach, but still a likely “no”.

        Why would a hiring manager take a risk on subjecting their team to that kind of behavior?

        They’re much more likely to take the candidate who didn’t commit sexual indiscretions at work.

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – Maybe a letter to their legal or general email warning them that their employee’s account appears to have been conpromised, and include the original?

    But it’s down to whether you want to or not. You are under no obligation to inform them or to keep it quiet.

  16. Constanze*


    It’s not really relevant or helpful (sorry OP), but we had a finalist for a video maker lately at work who absolutely watched porn at work, because he has worked 10 years for a porn company.
    It was actually an asset, he was very qualified (notably because the porn industry is ahead in new video technologies) but didn’t get the job because he lacked graphic design experience and there was someone better.

    One of the few examples where extensively talking about porn during a job interview is an asset.

    1. I Heart JavaScript*

      I’ve actually heard the same thing about web developers and info security professionals at porn streaming companies. They’re at the cutting edge and can be a great asset for a candidate.

  17. Jack V*

    OP4: I don’t know how the room’s set up, but are there other people in your situation, if so what do they do? Is it possible to stand up at the front of the room to give your presentation but then sit down again? Would you be displacing someone else (probably not wise if they’re more senior), or are there empty chairs (if you’re sitting at the edge of the room by yourself, that’s something some company cultures would expect but others wouldn’t).

    1. Czhorat*

      This is why proper audiovisual design in boardrooms is important. There is no reason for the perimeter seating to not be mic’d if those not at the table need to present.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      A thing I’ve seen happen is keeping a “presenter’s chair” near the phone that people rotate into for their section of the meeting. That could work for this OP, if she’s not the only person likely to be in the position of presenting too far away from the phone.

    3. LW #4*

      I think I’m in a weird spot because virtually everyone else who presents at these meeting is already on the invite list to the meeting and is senior enough to grab a seat at the table under ordinary circumstances. Really it should be my manager presenting, but he works remote so he sends me in his place. I’ve seen other people my level be brought in for recognition but then they’re asked to stand at the front of the room and they leave right after. My report is usually last on the agenda and others who give similar reports deliver them sitting, from their spot at the table.

  18. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#2: If nothing else, he’s a poor candidate because he hasn’t learned to say that he was fired from that job “for misusing office computer and internet resources.”

    1. MK*

      I don’t think that’s fair. If he knows for a fact that this will come up and cost him the job, being upfront is the best (possibly the only) chance he has.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I agree with MK, and it’s why I might be inclined to take a chance rather than dismiss him outright. Just as I might do the same with someone who had a drinking problem which led to them being fired and getting decent treatment, similar circumstances might lead me to consider this person. Being up front about any other addiction and inappropriate work behaviour and the steps taken to remedy the issue is the usual advice in these kinds of serious circumstances, after all.

        I’ve known people with a porn addiction and they were well aware that it wasn’t appropriate for work but they were so overwhelmed by the compulsion that they did it anyway. But after the right treatment their compulsive porn is under control and now they rarely use it at all.

    2. Important Moi*

      What if when contacting this person’s prior employer for the job, the viewing of porn is revealed as the reason for termination, wouldn’t that be considered a lie?

    3. teclatrans*

      Hm. I could even see a scenario where, like Greg above, he just doesn’t think it’s that big a deal (he might even think he got… shafted). (Sorry.) It might explain him being so open about the cause, if he thinks o thets will recognize that it was a weak reason for firing. Or perhaps he recognizes that it was *technically* wrong, but thinks another man will automatically sympathize.

      Or, maybe he is just clueless, and needs to learn to manage his image. But the past few weeks and “all men get drunk and into bar fights” and maybe-trolls like Greg above have me feeling pretty pessimistic. :-(

    4. Elsajeni*

      I don’t know — you’re not the first person to suggest this, but how much better would you really feel about hiring him if he said “misusing office computer resources,” you called his past managers, and THEY said “oh, yeah, he was watching porn at work”? I feel like, best-case, that has the same effect; worst-case, the interviewer feels like the candidate lied to them or deliberately minimized what they did. At least by being up-front about it, he has the chance to say the “I know it was a massive lapse of judgment and reflects very poorly on me and I’ve learned a lot since then” part RIGHT AWAY, and for the (many) interviewers who’d consider this disqualifying no matter how long ago it was or how aptly he apologizes for it, at least he’s put it out there early so they can cut the process short before either party invests too much time or effort.

  19. Constanze*

    Re: watching porn at work

    This reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me a few months ago. It stuck with me.
    He works for a big cable television company and they have parternships with big porn companies (because of the adult content they stream on some channels).

    My friend had a meeting at the porn company where they showed him and his colleagues porn in virtual reality (with the headset). Apparently, there were 2 versions of the film extract (a few minutes each), a “soft” version and a “hardcore” one. They all took turn watching each version.

    The story made me laugh at the time (what an awkward meeting at work, haha), but I would be quite uncomfortable with this if it was me. I mean, porn companies need to market their innovations like anyone else… but still.

    But I am not sure it is the sex per se I would have an issue with (although I would feel awkward at first), than the clearly gendered version of this kind of movies (a room full of guys taking turn watching women dancing on them and more). It seems more inapropriate at work.

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      I don’t think this is more than extremely tenuously / tangentially related to the letter (what is OP2 going to take from this?). Other commenters might feel differently but I think you might save this / similar stories that aren’t actually a response to the contents of the letter (just to the broadest topic) for the Friday open thread (of which I am a big fan!)

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Yeah I think it’s quite a tangent. Obviously there are plenty of people who work in some aspect of producing porn and it’s an essential part of their job to watch it. But being involved in the technical production is very different from watching it for sexual gratification.

    2. CoveredInBees*

      My husband had to use a special computer to look at porn sites at work. He worked in tech, particularly front end web stuff and they got a lot of applicants from the porn world, which is often at the forefront of many things, so he’d have to open their sites and look over the code.

  20. ShwaMan*

    OP2: Allison is absolutely right, you do NOT want to sweep this under the rug.

    And my take: If *that* is what he *admitted to during an interview*, there is a distinct possibility that the real incident was even worse than the manner he described it.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But there’s an equally distinct possibility that he’s simply putting all his cards on the table, because he know that information will come out when you check his references.

    2. Temperance*

      Yep. That was honestly my first thought. I’m not an expert, but do people regularly view pornography for entertainment purposes, like you would watch a TV show? I’m thinking not.

      1. JSPA*

        Probably more like watching cat videos?

        There are a lot of cultural assumptions in what we mean by “professional.” People do need to compensate when they join a more professional workplace. But at the same time, treating people as deviants because they come from a certain flavor of blue collar background where the norms evolve with a 20 year delay, is really problematic in other ways.

        I buy that porn “users” and more passive porn “viewers” are overlapping but not identical groups. Just as it used to be totally normal (as in, it was the norm) to enter a working class, nearly all-male environment and see pin-up calendars everywhere. People were not jerking off, or getting an actual physical arousal from them. They were looking up from overseeing the chicken gutting and power-washing line and smiling and momentarily thinking, “that’s nice,” as their eyes passed by the industry catalog with the lady busting out of her scanties.

        I’m not arguing for more T&A in the workplace. Obviously. It was awkward for women to enter those spaces (for the men and for the women; and in part because the nice men would get very shy and start turning the calendars to the wall, or saying “don’t look at that, it doesn’t mean anything”).

        I’m just making the point that guys were surrounded by stuff that could also have doubled as “stroke material,” and they were not walking around all the time with bulges and stains. It was background. Something to offset dirty, brutal or grimly sterile surroundings.

        As a side note, some women would put up chippendales calendars, on the assumption that so long as we were all equal, everything was fine. Guys saying “hey, Cathy, Miss April looks a bit like you” were likely to get back, “shucks, that’s too bad, you don’t look anything like Mr. April.” Standards have changed so fast that it’s possible to be unaware of this, I guess. Having lived it, I’m passing it along.

        I’m not talking about the 1950’s, here. This was the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s on the west and east coasts. Taxi dispatching, animal processing, small scale manufacturing, local trucking and shipping, paint stores, laminates and countertops. Explore the abandoned buildings of the larger manufacturing plants and blast furnaces and look in the lockers–you’ll still find some pin ups left behind. Those images didn’t move. Modern ones do. But in both cases, the stimulation of viewing the human bodies need not go beyond, “feeling a bit less exhausted and miserable for a moment.”

        It also strikes me that, these days, based on how many people have what should be immensely private conversations by text or instagram or are swiping on dating apps while riding the bus or while in class or in line at the sandwich shop, I get the sense that many people equate “on my screen” with “inside my head.” Maybe we’ll all see our internet feeds on the inside of our eyelids in a few years, and people will be better able to distinguish “disturbing behavior” from “I am repulsed by what I presume to be your intentions and thoughts.” Those really being two different things.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I feel like it’s kind of condescending toward blue-collar workers to say that they’re unable to understand “don’t watch porn at work.” I worked a bunch of service jobs back in the day, and not only did we all know not to watch porn, we wouldn’t have had the privacy to do so. This “doop de doo, let’s watch porn at work” thing seems to be more a product of cubicles and the illusion of privacy.

          And we’re not talking about one static image here. It wouldn’t be appropriate if he had a risque screensaver or calendar in his office, but that’s not what this guy did.

          1. Temperance*

            I honestly didn’t know how to respond. I’m from a lower-class/blue collar background, and it was never ever expressed to me, implicitly or otherwise, that sexual material at work is okay.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Can we stop using “they’re just working-class/blue-collar” as an excuse for bad behavior or bigoted/misogynistic attitudes? Honestly, (white) “working-class/blue-collar” has become a euphemism for “bigot/misogynist/fascist” used by people who are proud to be disgusting as a way to scream about how oppressed they are. (And yeah, those people mean “white bigots only” when they talk about “working class.”)

          I’ve worked in blue-collar production environments with people who managed not to be like that. In fact, my last manufacturing job was with a very socially aware, kind, decent group of people. Sometimes the “forgotten man” deserves to be forgotten.

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

            I’m not understanding what you mean here:

            by people who are proud to be disgusting as a way to scream about how oppressed they are.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              I mean the sort of crude, bigoted white dudes who wail about “political correctness” whenever they’re told that their racist comments or assgrabbing are not OK. They see themselves as oppressed and their culture as under attack, and they do a lot of posturing about how they’re the “white working class” and nobody cares about their interests and blah blah blah. (Even though many of them are actually middle-class and above, and many people who are white and working-class are NOT bigots and misogynists, and actual legitimate working-class concerns cut across lines of race…)

  21. Wild Bluebell*

    OP1: I’d contact Sara’s employer. This isn’t something she should get away with.
    Actually, if she’s young, it might be a good lesson for her, and it might save her somewhere down the line (because she will know not to do something like this again).

    1. MLB*

      100% agree. I also wouldn’t wait. If you contact the company and they confirm they nobody legitimate sent the email, this can help your case showing that she was trying to swindle money from LW.

  22. Memily*


    Is there any reason you can’t wait? Personally, I would want the whole situation done and dusted before reporting this—it gives your stance more weight (if you win), but it still informs the employer which I feel is the right thing to do. Wait until you have a decision from the judge, then forward the email to the company’s legal team, stating the situation and that you must have received this in error, etc.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      This is my recommendation as well. Conclude your business with Sara and then contact the company.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I wouldn’t do this. If you’ve had a problematic tenant for awhile, I imagine the last thing you want to do is re-engage with them after you’re finally done with them.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I can see this both ways. As a manager, I’d definitely want to know an employee is misusing the company email like this. I don’t care about her housing dispute, but rather that she is likely having someone send an email meant to scare off the landlord using the company email system (I’m making an assumption here, of course). As a landlord who has had a problem tenant (worst year of my life!), I’d wrap up the dispute first to make sure I get my money and get her out of the house, and then probably let her employer know about the email if I got a second one. (I’m not 100% sure I’d contact them. I’d say, for me, it depends on how bad the tenant was.)

        2. Observer*

          This is not about re-engaging with the tenant. It’s simple enough to forward the email with a note saying “This came in while I was in the midst of resolving a dispute with Sara. This is all the information I have about the matter.”

          At that point the ball is the company’s court, but they have a clue that something is up.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            If she lost her job over this, who do you think she would blame? Introspection is rather rare in people who display these types of behaviors.

            1. MommyMD*

              Agree. And then maybe she shows up on OPs doorstep with aggressive boyfriend or worse. I’d just settle my business with her and be done.

          2. Heynonniemouse*

            Of course it’s reengaging. If Sara gets disciplined or fired, she will 100% know who reported the email. From the LW’s additional comment above it sounds like Sara has generally been a nightmare to deal with, and there’s no guarantee that she wouldn’t try to do something to pay the LW back for the report.

    2. OP1*

      I can wait of course, there is no rush. But thanks to the comments above I have come to realise that the less I hear about Sara, the better I feel. So I don’t think I will contact the company unless I receive further emails. I know the company might want to know how their name is being used but I am putting my interest first here.

  23. anon for this*

    OP3, I have a suggestion for you. I’m currently job searching and receiving unemployment, and my state considers job applications and interviews to be equal as long as they add up to at least 5 per week. As Alison said, you shouldn’t hold off on applying for additional jobs. You can and should let yourself apply for fewer jobs during a week that you have a ton of phone interviews.

  24. irene adler*

    From OP#2: When I asked him why he had left the government job, he told me that he had been asked to resign because he had been viewing pornography at work (on his government-issued computer). He told me that he knew it reflected poorly on him and he’s learned a lot since the incident.

    Isn’t this what we instruct job seekers to do who have been fired? State the offending deed and then explain what was learned from the firing. And indicate that the offending behavior will never be repeated.

    I agree that the hiring manager should be fully apprised of this information. But, I’m troubled by the “I’d be skeptical about hiring him if the incident was recent (in part because if he did something else inappropriate at work, that would be partially on me for ignoring this info)” statement**. So how is a candidate like this supposed to procure employment if hiring managers are “skeptical” towards him?

    What else could a candidate such as this do to procure a job?

    I’m asking this because I have a relative who is in a similar situation as the job candidate in #2. I’d like to get some suggestions as to what he could do to better his chances to obtain a job. I’m not trying to be critical of Allison’s advice.
    Thank you.
    **NOTE: I’m assuming here that candidate fully disclosed all offending behavior.

    1. Eliza*

      Unfortunately, if someone has a recent, serious stain on their employment record, sometimes the best thing they can do is to seek out employers that are desperate for someone with their particular skills. Sometimes that can mean considering places they otherwise wouldn’t want to work at (because better workplaces usually have less trouble finding employees). High employee turnover can be a sign of somewhere that’s not a great place to work, but it’s also a sign of somewhere that it’s relatively easy to get hired.

      1. JSPA*

        Maybe that’s….what this is.

        Maybe that’s why they “have had some trouble getting qualified candidates.”

        We don’t know that he’s looking for a bump up from the job he was fired from. We do know that he has some or most of the skills that they really need. We don’t know how desperate the hiring manager is getting. We don’t know the turnover. We don’t know the department’s reputation.

        1. JSPA*

          Sorry, misread that as being about the original situation, not about the question from Irene Adler.

    2. Oculus Rex*

      What he can do:

      – work his network. People who know him are better placed to judge whether this was a one-off lapse in judgement or a serious lack of professionalism. They may be more likely to overlook such an issue.

      – take a step down/back to obtain a job at a lower level than his previous role if necessary, then be scrupulously professional, responsible and work his ass off to repair his reputation. Find a job, any job, that can build a better future.

      – acknowledge the issue, don’t downplay it or try to avoid responsibility, but be prepared to talk about lessons learned and how he plans to ensure the same lapse never happens again

      – find out what the previous employer will say in a reference check. See if he can negotiate a “confirmation of employment only” reference, or if they will bring the reason for his firing up. Use this information to guide how much to reveal in an interview context.

      – recognise that such behavior is good reason for employers to be wary of him, and not act as if this is unfair or unkind to him. Employers who choose not to hire porn-watcher dude are being responsible and sensible. They are not required to give him a chance.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        Add to that – maybe he can do his own research and work on this. I am So. Bloody. Tired of women helping men to be adequate human beings. Isn’t there a male relative that could be doing this? Maybe they’d learn something too?

        1. irene adler*

          How do you know he isn’t doing his own research into this?

          Unless someone is able to raise the dead, there isn’t a male relative -over age 18 – who could be doing this.

          1. Kate, short for Bob*

            Ok fair enough – I’m sorry for that circumstance.

            Perhaps he can get some voluntary experience – with non-vulnerable clientele to avoid bad optics – to both get some more work experience and demonstrate his willingness to grow?

            Good luck

          2. Temperance*

            I mean, is he actually working on this, or are you doing it for him?

            I personally think that he should be doing all of the work himself, because his own bad choices got him into this spot, but YMMV.

      2. Lizzy May*

        All of this. You don’t get to have a major screw-up at work and expect your worklife to chug along consequence free. I do believe that people deserve another shot when they make mistakes or knowingly do something wrong (because viewing porn at work isn’t just a mistake) but those second chances have to be earned. Go work for a temp agency or a lower level job for a while and build a network who can speak to a new level of professionalism.

    3. AnonToday*

      Eat crow. Repeatedly. Not just “I learned my lesson” but “I realize that this had X and Y consequences for my company and coworkers and I am ashamed of my behavior”.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. Also, understand and acknowledge the seriousness of the issue. In the example of the OP’s candidate, for instance, if the candidate actually said that it didn’t reflect well on him, I’d be far more concerned than if he acknowledged that he did something bad and stupid. “Didn’t reflect well” sounds like it’s mostly about the optics, and it’s not.

      1. teclatrans*

        Yes. Maybe OP summarized for brevity’s sake, but if not — and for anybody else who needs to move on after a serious judgment fail — please understand that “learned my lesson and won’t do it again” falls way short of what’s needed. I would need to hear some detailing of exactly what lessons were learned and, where appropriate, how the applicant’s perspective and approach have changed.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      Also, there are plenty of employers who won’t really care if they feel it’s a one-time lapse in judgement, so it may not even hold him back that much.

    5. Nita*

      Apparently this guy has held a string of short-term jobs since… it seems he’s managed to get hired numerous times after the government job, but for whatever reason hasn’t stayed anywhere long. It might be typical for the type of contracts they’re working – in which case he’ll eventually build up enough of a work history that he may not even be asked about the government job, or the reason for leaving it. Or the job-hopping might not be typical, in which case there’s something else going on besides one old lapse in judgement.

    6. Bea*

      It’s very much about finding that one person who will forgive the past. Then when you have the job hold onto it for dear life. All it takes is one employer to take the chance.

      He’ll need to be willing to compromise. Take a job without computer access, I’d hire people with worse pasts at jobs that required physical labor.

      Or find out where paroled people seek employment. They are usually structured so tight that they aren’t worried about slipups.

  25. Lexi Kate*

    #3 This is how it works in most companies where it take a few weeks or more to get enough applicants to sort through and begin the interview process if you are applying from an open position on their website. I personally wouldn’t turn any down right now, with you being new to the workforce and just recently graduated you are in an applicant pool of other applicants just like you so you run the possibility of having a lot of applicants with the same skillset and general background so it may take more tries to get that job. I also wouldn’t quit applying until I received an offer for this reason as well.

    A few years ago I was laid off and had to do a broad job search and that was the stance I took to apply for everything until I got an offer and fortunately or unfortunately I got several job offers and was able to take one for more than I was expecting and with better benefits.

    For my job search I made a quick excel sheet to keep track of all things job search, jobs applied for, title, dates, times, and names of any contacts. I also kept 2 folders one for copies of the jobs and one for the resumes sent for those jobs. Good Luck
    I w

    1. Smithy*

      Completely agree with all of this advise. That being said, I do think that it’s good to know yourself and make sure that you’re building in breaks. Give yourself “weekends” or some other true break in the week where you don’t look at job posts/don’t apply/don’t interview. If after a while you find yourself feeling low where you haven’t received an offer you thought you would or things are just stuck, give yourself a “vacation”.

      I get that not everyone is in a financial place where this is a true option. But giving yourself the time to recharge can be really critical when you are applying and interviewing this intensely. Keep it short and time bound, but getting burnt out and overwhelmed can often lead to more stressed behavior which can translate into weaker interviewing or taking a job that sounds like a poor fit just to be done with interviewing.

      1. CM*

        Yes to all of this — from a purely pragmatic POV, ideally you’d move forward with all the interview processes. It’s better for you to learn about all the positions out there and have lots of options. This requires going through a stressful period and you’ll continue to feel overwhelmed until it’s over, probably in a month or two. But “know yourself” is a great point. You have to balance pragmatism with your mental health and well-being. If you just don’t have the capacity to juggle all this at once and deal with the stress, and you’re really struggling despite building in breaks and other self-care opportunities, I think you should let a few of these interviews go.

  26. LGC*

    …whoo boy!

    LW2, I commend your candidate for his honesty. That’s…about the nicest thing I can say about him.

    Honestly, I might be inclined to agree with your boss here. I don’t know if it’s fair of me and maybe I’m being a prude, but I’d feel really bothered by having that much information revealed to me. You NEED to tell the hiring manager – the candidate obviously thinks it’s relevant information, so I’d defer to his judgment.

    And I’m kind of torn on this. On one hand, the fact that he was able to acknowledge why he got fired and that it was his own wrongdoing shows he takes at least some ownership over his behavior. But also, I’m put off by his lack of discretion, and it makes me wonder whether he really IS sorry for what he did. But ALSO, I know that’s largely my own baggage about sex. But ALSO ALSO, I’m pretty sure that I should be right to have that hangup about talking about porn at work.

    I’m just saying I have Feelings about this.

    1. Yojo*

      I have my doubts that this is about honesty. He probably thinks (from experience or otherwise) that the information will be revealed at some point, and being upfront about it is the best CYA he’s got.

  27. MLB*

    OP3 – In addition to what Alison said, I would take a lot of notes for each company once they contact you so you don’t get them mixed up when you’re arranging interviews and answering questions.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Definitely make sure you’re keeping track of which is which, and try to do some research on each job/company beforehand.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Oh yes! 100% to that! Keep a job/interview log or put each in a different folder. It can get confusing, especially if you answer the phone during the workday and don’t screen. I’ve been caught off guard that way, and they want to start asking you questions or pre-screen you. I’ve learned to mostly screen my calls and call them back or arrange times if at all possible. If that kind of thing happens and you happen to answer, you can always tell them you’re driving and can you call them back in 10 minutes or to text you their number. You should never feel you have to drop what you’re doing and feel surprised or confused about who’s calling and from where.

  28. MissDisplaced*

    #3 It is the bane of job searching it seems. You won’t hear anything for weeks, and then suddenly you get a blast of calls and interviews seemingly all at once. It’s just part of the cycle I suppose, and it’s actually a good problem to have. I would try to keep as many of the call/interviews as possible, because you never really know if you’ll get an offer from any of them (which is also pretty normal). However, you could graciously drop out of certain ones if you know they don’t compare favorably with others or aren’t the right fit (such dropping part-time or contract jobs if you really want a full-time role, etc.). I would also keep applying for new jobs to keep the cycle going, though perhaps you can be a little more selective about what you apply for as you are getting a favorable response with them.
    Good luck!

  29. McWhadden*

    What is the upside of not telling the Hiring Manager really? The candidate is likely to disclose this himself again unless you explicitly tell him not to (then you get into a conspiracy to hide info from the HM.) So, it won’t even be secret for long.

    Honestly, if this is a deal breaker for the HM that’s their call to make.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      For what HM is this not a deal breaker? The red flags that go with hearing that someone got fired for watching porn at work are so more like banners. The candidate has nothing to win by telling this.

      1. McWhadden*

        I think there are some HM who would appreciate that he was honest about it and feel he learned his lesson. Plus, the candidate has niche skills for a position that is hard to fill. That’s the reason the LW is having trouble letting him go. So, that could impact the HM’s choice.

        I’m not advocating for hiring him! At all! But I think there are some who would especially in this tight labor market.

        1. Lexi Kate*

          I think the lack of judgement is too much of a risk to the company just to get someone with a niche skills. I can teach someone skills I can’t fix their need to watch porn and what else comes with that thought process to do it at work. So I would not have interviewed any further with him after hearing that.

        2. Temperance*

          There are plenty of dudes in the comment section here who see it as no big deal, so I have a hunch that this would be more off-putting to women than men. I was honestly surprised to see that LW2 was considering forwarding this dude on without disclosing his history.

  30. Dolphin*

    Re #4 – I recommend that the 3 weeks a month that you’re not presenting, you sit at the outskirts, and the 1 week that you are, you sit at the table. Seems very reasonable to me – that way everyone can hear you when you present and you don’t take up desired space otherwise.

  31. CM*

    For OP#4, I think this is so context-dependent. In some workplaces it would be a shocking faux pas for you to sit at the table, in others people would wonder why you were being so timid by sitting on the outskirts even though you were presenting. In some workplaces people’s positions at the table are the result of ongoing power struggles, in others they’re just seats. I would take all advice here with a big grain of salt, and instead ask your manager what she recommends.

  32. Dance-y Reagan*

    Discussions of office politics aside, my impression from #4 is that y’all need better conference rooms. Maybe not bigger ones, but they should be set up differently.

    Most of my company’s conference rooms contain rows of long tables, much like a laboratory classroom. Speaker/microphone hubs are set up in multiple places throughout the room, evenly spaced throughout. Nobody struggles to shout towards the mic or needs to shuffle around. The projector swivels, and all walls have projector paint. There is no clear “good” spot and people sit based on convenience (people with overlapping meetings, who will need to duck out, choose seating closest to the door).

    1. LW #4*

      That sounds like heaven! Our conference rooms are pretty woeful for such an otherwise well off company. This is one super long table that sits about 20, with another 20 or so chairs against the wall, so the people sitting in perimiter chairs are staring at the backs of people sitting at the table. On the other side of campus there’s an identical room, and the other room is on speaker phone.

  33. Scrooge McLawyer*

    On No. 1, I’d be inclined to use it as leverage. Tell Sara about the email, tell her you plan on reaching out to the company directly through official channels (perhaps by finding out who their in-house lawyer is), and see what her reaction is. My guess is you get the settlement you want pretty fast. Additionally, of course, once you settle the lease, you can still go to her employer if this still has your yogurt truck upturned.

    1. JSPA*

      IANAL, but wouldn’t the word for that would be blackmail, if there’s any hint or implication of a quid pro quo in the communication? Or even if a reasonable person would perceive it to be a threat?

      Seems like a way to make a watertight case involving ≤$1000 into a problematic case with potential losses that are far higher.

      1. Scrooge McLawyer*

        Nah, it’s just a negotiation. It might feel a little like blackmail, but threatening to tell someone else true, non-private information, even if embarrassing to the person you’re talking to, isn’t blackmail.

      1. Scrooge McLawyer*

        I mean, I recommend to clients all the time that they use any circumstances they can to their advantage to shift leverage. If what she wants is to get to an end on the lease settlement, this information can help her get there faster. It’s good advice.

        1. OP1*

          I will not do that knowing her, she would totally loose her mind over this. When she was accusing the other tenants of all sorts of crimes it came to my mind that she was actually describing what she would do. I have of course no evidence for that, it is a gut feeling, but I would rather not take the risk to provoke her unnecessarily. She does not reason like you and me, it is very weird. If she says something it becomes a fact.
          To my amazement she is still employed, but I know as well that she can come across as very “normal” when she wants/needs it.

          1. Scrooge McLawyer*

            Makes sense to me! It only works to shift leverage if it’ll have the desired effect. If it’ll make her worse, pretend it never happened, for sure!

  34. President Porpoise*

    On the porn candidate…

    My father in law was fired from a government job quite a while ago as a result of watching porn on his work computer. It was a new job, too; it was horrible for everyone involved.

    He was deeply, deeply ashamed. It took him quite a long time to find a suitable job in a tangential field – he had to move states. I’m certain that the reason he was fired was a large part of that difficulty. He no longer works management, either. It ate into his retirement savings in a way that he may never recover from.

    That being said, it was massively stupid. He said after the fact that he didn’t know why he had done it; he knew it was wrong and dumb and did it anyway. I am confident that he’ll never do something that stupid again. I would ask him how he navigated it, but honestly, I don’t want to reopen that can of worms. I think he kind of hopes that everyone will forget it ever happened and never talk about it to him again. It was a deeply painful, career-limiting experience.

    I would say, don’t write your candidate off entirely, but have a serious discussion with them about how this limits the jobs that will be considering him. There’s no way he’ll get hired to the gov again, and he probably won’t be taking a management job or a job that requires high integrity, such as finance or compliance. It’s a bad place for him to be, but sometimes, people do really stupid stuff that they instantly regret but it’s already too late. If you can help him get back up, that’d be good.

    The string of short term jobs after the fact may mean there’s a different troubling pattern that you need to look at though.

    1. JS*

      Did he get fired for watching it at work or just watching on his work computer? I think the first is something someone should be automatically fired for but the second, while the company computers are for work purposes, many use it to watch movies etc, when traveling and on social media, etc. I think firing is a bit much for first offense.

      1. President Porpoise*

        He was watching at work, on a work computer. And no, I don’t think it was to harsh a punishment for a first offense. When we’re talking about government computers, we’re talking about sensitive data that is known to be targeted by bad actors. The IT security issues others have presented here go double – you DO NOT risk exposer of a gov computer/network to potential attack. It wasn’t a classified closed network system – but he was definitely working at a place where sensitive work was performed.

        1. JS*

          Well government has different rules and porn sites are known for phishing/hacking so I can see why that would be a major issue. However there are lots of non-porn things as well that would present that employers wouldnt want them on. I think as long as it wasnt at work they shouldnt fire them in general with government work aside, just a regular job.

  35. JS*

    In regards to #2, I don’t understand people who watch porn at work. Not even getting into how unprofessional and inappropriate it is, but I genuinely am curious what they are getting out of it as I hear many people who have been caught weren’t even touching themselves inappropriately but had it on in the background while doing work.

    Only time I have seen this is when I went to new hire training at “big sports production company” HQ. Everyone new was flown in from outer offices and we were given a tour of HQ as part of “rookie training”. During the tour they took us through production offices and hallways. There are these production rooms which remain dark but have floor to ceiling dark windows so you cant really see the people but can see the big screens and bright computer monitors. This one guy had his workspace right in front of the widow and you could see porn playing clear as day made even more obvious since it was shining through the dark room. Someone HAD to have noticed as I walked past on two separate occasions hours apart and it was still playing and it was a heavily frequented area. I didn’t work in that department nor office so I don’t know what happened to him but always wondered.

    1. OB*

      I don’t understand it either… Like, what’s the point? Or do they go to the restroom later and….?
      Can someone enlighten me please? :)

      1. Qosanchia*

        Someone upthread hypothesized that it’s something like pin-up calendars, with sound and motion added. I’m not sure I can exactly empathize with that take on it, but maybe, one step at a time, you go from pinups to music mixes with pinups, to [something happens here] to full blown pornographic videos?

        Dunno. I don’t usually go to PornHub for my music mixes, but I could almost see someone following some artist who did?

  36. CoveredInBees*

    OP 3, for some reason this is really common in job searching. I’d go weeks without hearing a word and then suddenly 8 interviews in two weeks. It is exhausting and, sadly, didn’t always mean I was getting an offer from any of them. Get lots of rest, take lots of notes so you keep the companies/interviewers distinct from each other*, and don’t forget thank you emails. Best of luck!

    *Seriously, they will really start to blur together despite how distinct they feel in the moment. It doesn’t help that you’ll be answering a lot of the same questions over and over again. Don’t forget to note things that you say too.

  37. Professional in the Midwest*

    OP #4, take Lean In with a huge grain of salt. There are some worthwhile concepts in there, but some of her advice strikes me as being out-of-touch with office norms. I think it’s been a long time since Sandberg was a mid-level anything. I don’t doubt that her advice works for a lot of people, but I can tell you that a lot of it would come across as very presumptuous/out of touch/entitled in my world. Know your office; know your culture.

    But, I also have some real issues with how she glosses over her privilege and makes it seem like *everyone* should be able to do things as she did, so take my advice with a grain of salt, too!

    1. Cassandra*

      I would dearly love to see Alison fisk Lean In.

      I know it’s unlikely, but I would sure love it.

      (I think that book is a steaming pile of excrement.)

    2. LW #4*

      I think there’s good and bad to learn from her. I do like how she warns you of things like the way being “assertive” can come across as pushy… But then the balance with suggestions like demanding to sit at the table is hard for me to muddle through.
      I do work in tech so I do think it’s a bit more relevant for me than others. 99% of my coworkers, managers, and directors have highly technical degrees and limited social grace.

  38. Kes*

    OP3 – I wouldn’t drop out of any of the application processes if you don’t have a job and need one and still think you would take that job if you were offered it and none of the others. I would only withdraw if you realize there are reasons you wouldn’t actually be likely to take that one even if it’s the only offer you receive, since you can’t count on any of them panning out for sure.

    I would probably scale back sending out additional applications while you’re proceeding with so many existing ones but don’t stop looking for new positions, just be a little more selective in which jobs are worth applying to at the moment.

  39. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: Apart from everything else that smells bad about all this – a week’s worth of wages? You allude to this yourself, but I have trouble believing that she’s had to miss that much work over this matter. I was on the tenant end of a landlord/tenant dispute a few years back that actually made it to tribunal, and even then, I think my time away from work added up to leaving early one day so I could file, and missing a morning for the actual hearing. If I’d met with a lawyer in there somewhere, probably would have missed a couple more hours. But standard-issue disputes don’t generally require that type of time commitment on any side of the conflict. I’m not seeing any possibility here other than your former tenant trying to scare you off or make trouble for you. If it were me, I’d forward the email to the company and let them figure out what they want to do about it. You wouldn’t be “responsible for her losing her job” – if she wants to not lose her job, she shouldn’t be pulling hijinks like that in the first place.

    LW2: Can we all agree that work should essentially be like church or grandma’s house when it comes to any form of sexual expression (barring jobs where sexuality is in fact a feature of some sort)? I tend to view pr0n at work as almost on-level with “whipping it out” in the office – that is, no, you’re not gonna come back from it. And yes, viewing it at work is considered a potential sign of sexual addiction – it’s a sign that the person is becoming compulsive and is struggling to control their impulses and/or wait for a more appropriate time. As for this particular guy – I rather liked Alison’s advice that if you would otherwise forward the guy onto the next step, do so with a note as to the circumstances. TPTB may take a chance or may not, depending on how desperate they are. Hell, I’ve accidentally pulled up racy fanfics on my phone at work and even been nervous about that – even though if anyone saw at all, they probably would have just seen a wall of text. (Also: I had a Past!Job in a call centre with a diverse set of employees, and we were specifically instructed during training that “adult” sites and publications were obviously a no-go, but to also refrain from bringing in Maxim/Sports Illustrated/Cosmo, or other magazines with sexual imagery on the cover – lots of call centres allowed people to read between calls, at least back then. But even THAT was considered enough to make some colleagues uncomfortable, and we were told not to do it).

    LW3: Congratulations! No, it’s not a problem to be considered by multiple employees at once, though one question you might want to ask, in this case, is if you might benefit from narrowing your focus. If you’re applying to anything-and-everything, and getting a lot of attention, you may find you want to hone in more on specific areas of interest. For most fields of work requiring post-secondary, there usually aren’t THAT many jobs available at one time, so I’m guessing you’re applying to a lot of stuff outside your field too.

  40. Not A Manager*

    I’ve been thinking about the porn candidate. Here’s why I think he’s bad news: He did one thing that seriously violated workplace norms by watching porn at work, but then he did ANOTHER thing that seriously violated workplace norms by admitting it so blatantly.

    Yes, a million points to Hufflepuff for being honest, but IRL you DON’T get points for being that honest, and anyone who has any sense of workplace norms – or social norms, or cause and effect, or nuance – would know that. The fact that he thinks that this level of “full disclosure” (up to and including “but I learned a real lesson there”) to me, is a big red flag in itself.

  41. Could be Anyone*

    #1: I think I would be so mad if someone attempted to scam me in this bizarre manner that I would definitely want her employer to know about it. Personally, I would have a lawyer friend write an “official” response directly to the company’s legal department enclosing a copy of the e-mail and stating how baseless the claim is. And then maybe tell her she owes you for attorney fees. ;) We don’t know the country in question or enough details but it’s very possible she’s actually committing fraud here.

  42. Lucille2*

    #2 – If you do pass the candidate on, you HAVE to tell the hiring manager. Whether or not to give this guy a chance is not your call. I manage people who are tasked with analyzing and reviewing sensitive data. I would be PISSED if a candidate with this history was forwarded to me without this kind of info being disclosed. This may be an environment where they can afford to give a guy with a past a second chance, but it may not. This may be a risk the HM can’t afford or isn’t willing to take.

  43. ofotherworlds*

    I think that deliberately viewing porn at work should almost always be a firing offense. There are many reasons but no excuse. This is true even if the porn was viewed in a men’s room on a personal cell phone. (Speaking as a man I don’t want to hear another man masturbating while I do what the men’s room was built for. Eew.) IOW Greg NY is way off base. But I would pass on this guy’s resume to the hiring manager, with the information that this guy was fired for watching porn at work, for three reasons, in order of importance.
    1. The company is having “some trouble getting qualified candidates” so it might be worth it to hire a qualified candidate with a major blot on his resume. The alternative might be changing the job description or increasing the salary.
    2. I’m not fond of recruiters or HR gatekeeping qualified candidates. Hiring Managers can make their own decisions.
    3. If this came up in a reference check it would be an automatic disqualication. But the man was honest, and that’s worth rewarding.

  44. Essess*

    I would forward a copy of the email to the company’s legal department asking them if this was a valid official request from their company. I would state that it was unusual so I was verifying the authenticity before having it reviewed by my legal team. (Not adding that my legal team might be just me, or that the review could consist of reading it then tossing it in the trash)

  45. MoreLikeAsworstos*

    #1 – seems like popular opinion is to turn her in. I think you can teach her a lesson while ending the relationship once and for all by calling her out directly.

    I’d email her and CC her “boss” with the following message:

    Nothing about this seems legitimate. I am happy to validate this by contacting X person, X Role at x email address and Y person, Y role at Y email to validate this claim.

    However, I understand that you’re young and trying to get your life in order, and that’s a really tough stage of life. You couldn’t pay me enough to be in my twenties. It’s a constant cycle of feeling like you have all the answers, failing miserably, getting humbled, learning a valuable life lesson, growing a bit, then eventually back to feeling like you figured it alllll out.

    Nobody has it all figured out, but everyone will eventually figure out actions have consequences. If you never take responsibility, you never learn the lessons that lead to growth.

    You did x at my property. This cost you $x. And the overwhelming odds are that you asked a coworker to pose as your boss making a ridiculous legal claim on behalf of your company, exposing your company to legal risk and would result in immediate termination at any semi-functional place of work.

    This is my proposal: you accept the results of the conclusion of our contract, never contact me again, and start taking responsibility for your actions. I will take your lack of response as acceptance of my proposal.

    Should you not accept, I will validate per steps outlined above. You may also contact my lawyer at Y email.

    I sincerely wish you the best in your future.

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