I saw my employee’s X-rated chat

A reader writes:

Today, during a screensharing session with my new direct report, Barb, I saw something inappropriate on her screen and did not speak up. I was so dumbfounded that I quickly wrapped up and ended our call. I’m almost sure I saw her chat session with another person in the company with explicit reference to body parts that would be covered by a swimsuit, wet t-shirts, etc. Should I say anything to Barb? Or should I try to forget I ever saw anything? (Both the screenshare software and chat software are part of the same company provided system; it’s typically used for training and collaboration)

Barb and I work at different offices. I’ve been recently promoted to a manager position with Barb on my team. Barb is newly reporting to me for a few months now, but prior to that we worked together on a special three-month project together. Since I was in a senior position to Barb, I assumed a leadership role in that collaborative arrangement, but this was not formal management – we worked together as colleagues. Then Barb began reporting to her new manager, and later, the new manager put Barb on a PIP. Essentially, Barb’s manager felt that Barb wasn’t a fit for her role and was trying to manage her out; there was a skill mismatch, but Barb also needed to improve her attention to detail.

Meanwhile, our department head granted us the opportunity of adding a new teammate to my team. At this time, I learned from my manager that Barb was close to losing her job. I proposed bringing Barb over to my team. I thought Barb could be a good fit for my team. During the interviews, my manager and I were up front with Barb that she would need to improve her attention to detail to be successful in the role. Barb indicated commitment to improving that area and seemed genuinely excited about the opportunity. Per some of your other advice columns, I’ve had both specific conversations at the time errors presented, and a general conversation about the pattern of errors, backed up by retraining. For what it’s worth, the errors seem very simple, but impactful or embarrassing if not corrected. Because of these frequent errors, I’ve had to hold back on fully transitioning some of the more accountable portions of the job where errors can have a more damaging effect.

To summarize, my concerns are about:

• Inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. Unfortunately, I don’t have a reference point for the dynamic Barb has in-person with others in her office.
• Barb started off our meeting by mentioning that she had a very busy day and was trying to juggle responsibilities. Her workload has not yet risen to “very busy,” in fact I’m still holding back on fully transitioning work. These types of conversations would be a distraction from work responsibilities, which are currently not completed to a satisfactory level.
• Since my view of the chat window happened very quickly, and I have no “proof,” I’m not sure I can or should say anything, especially when the content was something I’d rather not repeat.

Would love your advice as this situation has made me uncomfortable.

Given the whole picture here — low performance plus sending sexual messages at work and on work systems — I’d be thinking seriously about whether you want to keep Barb in the job or not. (I’m assuming for the purpose of this post that you could see Barb was a willing participant in the conversation.)

This is someone who was previously going to be fired because of attention to detail, was warned she’d need to increase her attention to detail when you hired her, is still showing those same issues and not working at the level you need, and hasn’t been able to take on the full work of the role — and in the middle of that is sending dirty messages at work using work equipment.

I’d seriously consider cutting your losses and moving her out of the role. But if you’re not ready to do that or your company doesn’t allow you to do that without going through a formal process first, then there are two things you should do.

First, take this as background info confirming that there are serious issues with Barb’s work and judgment and that you need to get much more hands-on in managing her. That would mean resolving to figure out quickly if she’s going to be able to do the job or not, and whether she can bring the level of professionalism and attention to detail you need. That’s something you’d want to do anyway, regardless of this incident, so this would just be the impetus to really lean into it and come to a conclusion quickly. This could be a situation where you give her really clear feedback about what needs to change and give her a few weeks to demonstrate the changes you need. (Obviously you need to follow whatever procedures your company has for letting under-performers go, but the idea here is that you’d get aggressive about following that path.)

Second, while you’re doing that, it sounds like you need to dig deeper into how Barb is using your company chat program. If your company is like most, it has policies that allow it to examine chat and email logs when managers have reason to suspect wrongdoing, and your IT people can check to see if this was a one-time thing or part of a pattern. Depending on how your company handles this kind of thing you might need to loop in HR too — and definitely do that if there’s any chance that the recipient of Barb’s messages didn’t welcome them. I’m assuming this was an, er, mutual exchange. If you don’t know that for sure, that’s an additional issue.

Once you look into it, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find out that this is the tip of the iceberg — and if that’s true, that warrants cutting your losses immediately.

All of this goes to Barb’s judgment, her professionalism, and how she spends her time at work. Take it seriously and act swiftly.

(In some ways, it’s more interesting to ponder how to handle this situation if Barb were a fantastic employee. In that case, I could see just talking her — “A message popped up when we were screen sharing that was really inappropriate for work. I want to trust your judgment and hope that was a one-time error in judgment. Can you assure me that’s the case and it won’t happen again?” But that’s not your context.)

{ 273 comments… read them below }

  1. Quill

    If you’re that close to a coworker, it boggles the mind that you wouldn’t take the conversation to someplace more private, like text, instead of a company chat. I mean, everyone knows those can be monitored, right?

    1. Not Me

      It always amazes me the things I find when I start looking thru emails or chats during an investigation. It’s like everyone thinks their email is private at work. IT IS NOT.

      1. Anonomoose

        Right? IT guy here. Don’t be Barbs. Don’t make me read through this kind of thing. It feels super creepy to know this stuff about your co workers, particularly if it shows up as part of a different investigation. Get each other’s numbers and sext instead.

        1. seejay

          or even worse… don’t make us *view* photos. I had to do an investigation that required going into email and pulling up an employee’s nudes that she had sent out to another coworker.

          I was low enough in the totem pole of investigators that once it opened up into that level of harassment, I wrapped it up into a neat little package and handed it over to my boss.

          1. Anonomoose

            Aaaaaaahgh, this sounds like a nightmare. My old boss sat us all down at one point an went through exactly what we had to do if we uncovered something like this by mistake as part of an HR investigation.

            It basically boiled down to “go and get a rep from HR, work with them literally next to you, explain what every command you’re typing in is going to do to them, and for God’s sake rip out any USB drives you have plugged in, so it doesn’t look like you are copying anything.”

            It’s a nightmare if you have good backups, as you have to go through and scrub them.

            1. seejay

              I was specifically investigating as part of a harassment complaint and was gathering evidence to support either side of the investigation (as a computer forensic analyst) so the expectation was “anything that looked weird or suspect”. We were looking for emails between the accused and the complainant, but what we *weren’t* expecting was the extent they went. It was a bit of a shocker at that point.

              What’s also the kicker is that… this was all done through the company’s email which was all very clearly stored due to being a financial institute. Urm… that’s a capital D dumb move?

              1. Anonomoose

                Whow. In academia, where I work, I’d expect this kind of blurring of boundaries, but finance presumably has auditors in all the time. That is spectacularly dumb.

          2. Aguslawa

            Quick question, since I am curious: I heard somewhere that IT usually records screens of all employees to keep tabs on who is online shopping or chatgting during work hours. Is it true and does that mean that somewhere in the database of my company there is a video of how I pop into Facebook Messenger and tell my fiancee to buy toilet paper on his way home?

            1. Purrsnikitty

              I work in IT but not the part that might do what you describe. It’s technically possible, and some companies probably do it, but not all of them. If they do, it’s probably single screenshots at random times or regular intervals. And then these might not even be checked until there’s a reason to.

              What increases the likelihood of this is if the company is all about security and keeping an eye on things, if you are specifically targeted for an internal investigation, if the company goes through a campaign of proper-use-of-its-equipment… and other factors such as the size and competence of the IT department, internal policies and local laws (some countries protect employee privacy even during company computer use).

        2. TardyTardis

          A local police officer in my town has the ‘joy’ of looking through sex offenders’ computer files. We nearly took up a collection so he could spend some quality time in the Happy Hut.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD

      Not everybody knows that. We only just started using instant messaging software about a year ago, but one of our IT techs told me people have already been reprimanded for inappropriate content in their IMs. Everybody on my organization knows our emails are public property and are stored and monitored, but it didn’t occur to them that their chat logs would also be archived and subject to public record requests.

        1. Aion

          Be careful if you are the employer. This is far from settled law and some states do ban keyloggers.

      1. Yvette

        At LastJob the chats were saved in a folder in our email for our use/protection and who only knows where else. I loved it because there were some situations where I needed the “paper” trail it provided. But I knew to keep it business related, with the occaisional “how was your weekend” chit chat.

      2. Devil Fish

        Does your chat program not give a warning at the top of the chat? At my last employer, every IM chain started with a warning at the top that basically said “Anything said in chat is property of the company, chats are automatically saved and can be viewed by the company at any time for any reason.”

        It seemed helpful, even if wasn’t helpful enough because … people are going to people.

      3. Triumphant Fox

        One of my employers was too cheap to actually pay for slack, so we used the free version. When someone left (which was often) their seat was handed over to a new person, who got the joy of having all of their previous chats stored.
        The thing about Slack (at the time – it’s been a few years since I’ve used it) was that you had to individually delete every message in your account to wipe them out. Two employees who spent a lot of time trash talking other employees realized before they left that their logs would stay and spent DAYS deleting them.

    3. Fortitude Jones

      They shouldknow if the employer does a good job during the onboarding process (most places I’ve worked have had us watch videos about appropriate uses of email/IM and sign off on an Acceptable Use policy); however, if a company doesn’t do that or doesn’t periodically send an email out to everyone reminding them of this, then I could see an employee not really knowing IM counts and it’s just email that’s monitored.

      1. fhqwhgads

        I think there’s a generally a disconnect between “is stored/can be reviewed by IT at any time” and “will actually do so”. Plus a good helping of people either just assuming no one would ever have a reason to investigate them – and thus assuming they will not be investigated- and people being REALLY LAZY. Like, assuming this is consenual behavior text from your own damn phone vs IM in the work chat program that’s right there on the device you’re already using cuz you’re at work and working? Laziness wins so often and the totally inappropriate for work stuff goes in the work chat. It’s like people don’t have enough of a criminal mastermind mindset to take 3 seconds of effort to make it less likely they’ll get caught.

        1. Devil Fish

          I kind of wonder if there’s a difference in people’s minds re: obviously “corporate” chat programs vs ones that have a personal app available?

          Something like Outlook IM that’s only on your work computer is one thing, but a lot of people have Slack on their personal phones and have personal conversations through that along with business. (It freaks me out to mix business and personal but I’ve worked at a couple Retail Hell LLC companies and they had a fondness for GroupMe and I’m just now wondering what if anything they logged from that and whether personal conversations got caught up in that logging if you didn’t set up a separate login for work stuff.)

        2. MsSolo

          I think there’s also a bit of a disconnect with their own behaviour and behaviour that overlaps with other people. Just because you personally haven’t triggered an investigation doesn’t mean IT might not read your chats with a coworker when investigating them. I’m sure Barb’s colleague is going to get a nasty shock when they discover their chats are being read not because of their performance issues, but because of Barb’s (because, as Alison says, if Barb was a superstar this would probably just be worthy of a quiet word).

    4. Karo

      I’ve done stuff like this before. Nothing this explicit, but talked about work-inappropriate things on chat with friends who I could’ve been texting (politics, religion). For me, IMing a friend-coworker requires less of a break in concentration than texting does. If nothing else, when they respond I can see it’s from them – I don’t have to stop what I’m doing and check my phone to see if it’s something important that needs attention. Also, TBH, texting during the day makes you look disengaged with your job while IMing a coworker can make you look more engaged.

      And I have always known that they can be monitored, but I also know that they’re only likely to be monitored if there’s an issue with our work or a situation like the one in the letter, neither of which applied to my friends or me.

      So, all this to say I know it’s a bad idea, but I don’t always care.

        1. Purt's Peas

          That’s a pretty strange way to frame casually IMing with coworkers, which is extremely normal.

          Karo’s making a point about how they view the privacy level of their slack messages: not particularly private, but private enough for politics and religion. Things that you don’t want to make others uncomfortable by overhearing, but that are neither hugely private nor fundamentally work inappropriate.

      1. Emily K

        Yeah, honestly – if you’re expecting people to always behave 100% rationally 100% of the time, you’re going to be disappointed. People engage in irrational behavior – like doing something they know is risky – all the time for various reasons. The human mind strongly prefers the path of least resistance and many, many people routinely trade security/care for convenience/speed not because they haven’t considered the risk but because on a deeper psychological level we are not wired to care about/react to certain types of risk.

      2. Devil Fish

        Same. Also nothing explicit, just casual conversation, which was banned by the company: all chats were supposed to be for work purposes only, but I was there for 7 years and never got caught, so.

        The funny part is the company said certain words (NSFW body parts, swears, drugs, alcohol) would trigger an automatic review of the chats, so everyone started subbing out the bad words and replacing them with words that made zero sense in the context of the sentence. It read strangely close to Cockney rhyming slang.

    5. Greg

      I’m reminded of Peter Sztrok and Lisa Page, the FBI employees whose affair became part of the whole Russia investigation. Leaving the politics of the issue entirely aside, what I found fascinating was that they conducted their affair over texts on their government-issued phones, precisely because they didn’t want their spouses to find any evidence on their personal phones. I get the logic, but c’mon! Those aren’t just company property; it should have been eminently foreseeable, especially given that they were working on such politically charged investigations, that the texts could become public. At the least, they should have gotten burner phones and used those.

      1. Devil Fish

        If their spouses are routinely going through their personal phones—which I assume was going on if they didn’t want there to be “evidence” on their personal phones for spouses to find (sidebar: reading someone’s texts to try to catch them doing something wrong? So gross)—how were they going to explain having a burner to that distrustful spouse?

        1. robot

          I agree that purposefully reading through someone’s texts is a violation of privacy. But it’s not unusual to, say, be driving and hand your phone to your husband and say “can you text Jen that we’re running late for dinner?” If he opens the messaging app, he could easily see something you were trying to hide without actually digging. Or if you don’t turn off message previews on your lock screen. Also, it’s probably easier if your spouse says “who’s texting you so much?” to say “oh, it’s a work thing!”

        2. Triumphant Fox

          Get a phone that looks like your work phone but isn’t? It doesn’t have to scream “BURNER!!!!!”

          Also, my phone connects to my car and messages pop up, so it would be awkward AF if a sext from someone was read aloud while spouse was in the car.

    6. Goldfinch

      I’ve worked at places that specifically mentioned that chat was not archived as a matter of policy. The point was that if you needed to saying something like “Hey, Fergus, the llamas are exploding and could hurt someone” it was to be kept off e-mail.

      People may misconstrue that concept to mean that chat is private. It’s obviously not.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        I worked at an insurance company that had that policy for precisely that reason – in the event of a lawsuit, they did not want anyone to pull the transcripts from Skype conversations.

        1. animaniactoo

          That may not be enough to help them. Skype themselves may be storing some of those messages. Way back when AOL instant messaging was all the rage, my aunt was able to capture messages deleted by her ex to use as discovery in the divorce because AOL had them stored.

          My rule of thumb is to NEVER assume that anything that has been written or posted in a digital format somewhere somehow is ever completely private and unfindable.

        2. NW Mossy

          We had the opposite issue! It’s changed now, but back when I first started at my company, employees in certain roles that required licensing were prohibited from using company IM. At that time, the system we used couldn’t keep the necessary records of their chat logs to demonstrate that all of their communications were monitored to ensure their compliance with regulatory requirements about what they can/cannot say under their licenses.

        3. Wintermute

          same here, at current job.

          Skype is not recorded, Microsoft Teams is. This matters when you need to make sure to have a record of making a request, especially.

    7. Purt's Peas

      Seriously. Like, if your company makes you feel surveilled on chat and does stuff like randomly search and heavily monitor your logs–that’s really bad and over the top–most companies DON’T heavily surveil their chats. I think it’s ok to have casual conversation on eg Slack. But to imagine they’re so lightly monitored as to be safe for sexual escapades is a whole other level of trust in your IT department.

    8. Oryx

      I’ve worked places where it even flags certain words and sends a notification to the user. Presumably, HR, too.

    9. Artemesia

      The biggest intern horror show I am aware involved an intern sending material via company Email to other interns from his program in the same city. A surprising number of people think they have privacy on company platforms.

      In this case it really highlights what a terrible idea it is to volunteer to ‘save someone’s job’. If you see a great widget painter who happens to be in a sales role where she is failing, then sure bring her onto your painting team. But someone who is a screw up who doesn’t pay attention to detail? Why would you want to bring that person on board and then have to deal with the fact that they are an incompetent. Don’t save people who are not clearly going to be a good member of your team.

      1. Traffic_Spiral

        “an intern sending material via company Email to other interns from his program?”

        Was the “material” his penis?

      2. Devil Fish

        This is harsh. LW said they worked with the report previously, her new manager seemed to be on a campaign to get rid of her and LW thought she’d be a good fit for the role on her team. She may or may not be salvageable but there’s no reason to imply LW made an obvious mistake here.

    10. lemon

      I think people do it because of the convenience factor– the company IM is right there on their screen, so they can look like they’re working at the same time. Whereas, if you’re texting, anyone walking by can obviously tell.

      They could also be married, and therefore don’t want any record on their personal phone.

      Or, I had one coworker who work-IMed me a borderline inappropriate amount because he didn’t have a smartphone. And also, if he did, I wouldn’t have given him my number anyway.

    11. The Other Dawn

      In my experience, nope, people still don’t know this stuff can be or is monitored. Boggles my mind.

    12. Sick Civil Servant

      You’d think so, but no. I had to investigate people’s internet usage at the request of their managers, before we locked it down. One of my former coworkers got caught looking at “foot porn.” That is information you can never unlearn!!

  2. A Nonymous

    While screen sharing with a colleague once, we looked at his google calendar to schedule our next meeting … on which he, apparently, puts reminders for very specific sex acts with his wife. OMG. I will never be able to unsee that.

    1. KimberlyR

      I sure hope he accidentally linked his personal and work Google calendars, not that he used his work one for his sex schedule…

      1. A Nonymous

        We work in a field where people are notoriously bad at boundaries, and this colleague is worse than average. I’m very sure that he only has one google calendar.

    2. Mathilde

      I assume that every work email I send will be read out loud in front of the whole company one day.

      1. ampersand

        This! Barring a person having overall terrible judgment, you really can’t go wrong if you start with this assumption.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        My favorite guideline I ever heard was from an attorney: “Dance like no one’s watching. Email like it will one day be read aloud in court.”

        1. Kuododi

          Or my personal rule of thumb:. Never put anything out on any electronic platform you wouldn’t be happy to show your beloved great-grandmother.

          ;)

          Enjoy!!!

          1. Vicky Austin

            The former IT specialist at my old job said something similar, “Never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to have quoted on the front page of the newspaper.”

            1. Devil Fish

              “Front page of the newspaper? So don’t write anything I wouldn’t want like 5 people to see? Got it.”

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen

            This is one of the reasons I have my parents and in-laws as friends on social media. Keeps it completely SFW.

        2. Alexander Graham Yell

          Our old lawyer told me the same thing and it is burned in my brain.

          Of course, this is also the one who sent me a text implying he’d give me a good recommendation bc he really wanted to sleep with me, so definitely a, “Do as I say, not as I do,” kind of thing.

        3. Liz

          I once emailed a colleague to tell her that she was a queen, an icon and a professional inspiration for all of us admin assistants, and that, while I didn’t send anything via work email that I wouldn’t want included in an affidavit, I’d be happy for any court to know how good her work is.

          No regrets.

      3. Amber T

        When we’re training/onboarding new employees, we tell them to think before they send any email and pretend that the head of our company is standing over their shoulder reading it.

      4. gyrfalcon

        I have actually seen someone’s email published on the front page of the newspaper. This makes it very literal for me “don’t write anything in email that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper.”

        1. Electric Sheep

          I have not seen it on the front page, but I have seen someone in my org’s email quoted in the media. Not a position I’d want to be in

    3. Turquoisecow

      My husband notes recently that a coworker put his upcoming interview on the shared work calendar.

      He debated whether or not to give the guy a heads up. Doesn’t seem like anyone else noticed.

        1. Turquoisecow

          Possible? It had all the details, like time and location and address.

          The guy is a known slacker who somehow keeps his job, but has also expressed his unhappiness with the current position, so it’s believable that he’s looking.

    4. Vicky Austin

      Yeah, if you’re going to schedule sex on your electronic calendar, at least come up with a code word that won’t be easily recognized by a third party as sex. For instance, “iron clothes” or “call Frank.”

      1. Fortitude Jones

        Right! I don’t even put the names of my doctor’s appointments on my calendar, and this guy is doing this, lol.

  3. NewHerePleaseBeNice

    Hmm. At the minimum I’d be asking IT for transcripts of her use of the chat program.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice

        Exactly. At best, she’s wasting lots of company time flirting with a coworker. At worst, she’s sexually harassing someone.

        1. JSPA

          Eh, or she could be complaining with a friend in an actually fairly work-appropriate way.

          “I take back suggestion 4 blouses and vests from CheapoFashionHouse. Caught in light rain. Was SO SHEER oh, mama, no, no, no. wet T shirt contest 4 sure. hairline at the top of my ___ My ____’s, color, size, shape, all on show for your entertainment. Did videoconference with the video off while stuffing TP in bra & panties. ‘technical difficulties,’ LOL. DO NOT BUY. So sorry for the bad suggestion.”

          1. Baru Cormorant

            Woof, that’s still too much detail for work. Hairline at the top of what?? I’d feel so uncomfortable overhearing that.

            1. JSPA

              It’s not for everyone, which is why it IS a problem that she didn’t block her chat before screen sharing.

              But I’ve overheard guys laughing ruefully about a “sharting” incident / (“hope you didn’t eat the Ziti”), or something plumber’s-crack-related, without it being either harassment or sexual. Women talking to each other about having had a “wardrobe malfunction” is squarely in the same ballpark. “This happened, it could happen to someone else, I’m warning you.”

              I worked someplace with a broken drinking fountain that would, depending in part on how they’d tried to repair it and in part on who was using water elsewhere, soak

              a) the front of your pants, in a hidden trickle out the side
              b) your face, in a blast
              c) your shirt, to a greater or lesser degree, either high or low.

              People discussed what had happened and how it might look in more-or-less graphic ways, not to be gross, but as fair warning and a reminder to the next person.

              (The people called to fix it always took down the post-it note saying “danger” or “broken” or “sprays” or “out of order,” because it was theoretically fixed.)

              Point is, there’s all sorts of body-related talk that’s actually not automatically inappropriate between work colleagues who are also friends and who also happen to be comfortable with that level of detail. So long as it stays between those (cool-with-it) people. Which this clearly didn’t.

              1. TardyTardis

                ‘Sharting’–have not heard that before, but I know exactly what it means Just Because. Learn something new every day.

      2. LKW

        At a minimum it’d be in appropriate use of company systems. I don’t think people realize that if the company is sued, say for breach of contract or something totally unrelated to harassment – your emails and chats can be pulled and sent to an attorney for viewing. Everything. While the attorney may not raise the flag, it’s highly likely that they would as part of managing the relationship with the client, to let them know they have a potential issue.

    1. Alli525

      Yeah, agreed. I don’t think there’s enough info in OP’s letter (and doesn’t sound like OP has that info and withheld it in their letter) to know where the fault lies, or even if the chat was actually explicit. Referring to one’s breasts in a work chat MAY have been inappropriate, or it could have been innocuous, depending on context:
      —“Fergus commented on my breasts again today, ugh”
      —“Wet t-shirt contest at lunch, can’t wait to get my t*ts all soaking wet!!”
      —“It is so hard to find shirts that cover my boobs, I’m thinking about getting a breast reduction”
      —“Want me to give you a peek at my tatas [because we are already consensually, sexually involved] during our smoke break later?”
      —“80085 lololololol”

      1. morning glory

        Agreed, the bra/wet tshirt reference seems like OP avoiding saying ‘breast’ and not necessarily words Barb used. An IM about breasts is not necessarily sexually explicit.

        1. valentine

          or even if the chat was actually explicit
          Given OP doesn’t want to repeat what they saw, even here, tells me it was explicit and obviously inappropriate, or they would’ve said why not.

          I’m wondering why OP hasn’t told Barb her work’s unsatisfactory, especially if that, and not her newness, is the reason for holding back the full workload.

          1. Kat

            Op doesn’t say she saw something so crass she won’t repeat it. She said she’s fairly sure she saw a particular crass word.

          2. Devil Fish

            OP has told Barb her work is unsatisfactory though? She’s coaching her on it (and also saw the IM as part of a training which may or may not be related).

            OP said Barb didn’t deserve to feel “so busy” because she isn’t doing the full workload but it seems odd to me for a third party to judge what “busy” means for another person, especially since tasks tend to fill all time allocated to them regardless of difficulty.

          3. JSPA

            Saw so fast she’s not sure of context, though.

            People are very different in what words they use innocently, and what words they use sexually, to refer to body parts.

            If you yourself would say “my privates” unless talking sexy, you may assume the worst when confronted with “my y*ni” or “my v@j@yj@y” or my C-word (or whatever). Same with breasts vs T!ts, B**bs, r@ack, h**ters, etc.

            But y’know, if she were reading AAM while complaining about being totally swamped, that could be just as much of a problem. Or if she left her personal shopping list for her kid’s birthday party up while screen sharing. There may or may not be an inappropriate-expressions-of-sexuality-at-work problem. There may or may not be a “not-work-appropriate-use-of-computers” problem.

            There IS an “attention to detail problem”–which is yet another example of a known problem. And there is very likely a “bad use of time while at work” problem.

            I’d first ask whether those two are enough of a reason to turf her out, if she’s in a probationary period. If so, there’s your answer. If not, a glance at the chat logs may be in order.

      2. Zephy

        Barb and/or her conversational partner also could have been using that slang term for breasts in a whole other context, one that doesn’t refer to literal body parts, like “Well, looks like the Jones account has gone t*ts up, nice one Fergus” or “calm your t*ts,” if that’s the only word OP saw and didn’t have time to read the whole sentence.

        1. BethRA

          OP mentions “body parts that would be covered by a swimsuit, wet t-shirts, etc.” – which seems like more than a simple/casual use of slang. I’m also not sure it’s helpful to assume the OP is imagining the problem they’re asking for advice about.

          1. morning glory

            I don’t think anyone is doing that, we’re backing up the advice to get the transcripts, especially given how fast notifications pop up then disappear, and given the wording ‘I’m almost sure.”

          2. TootsNYC

            I wonder if Barb realizes that she’s not being given the full workload. If she’s complaining about being “so busy,” that makes me wonder. Either she’s trying to persuade the boss not to GIVE here the full workload, or she isn’t capable of handling it.

            1. Yorick

              I don’t know, she said she was busy that day. Even if you’re not on a full workload yet, you could still have one or two super busy days.

          3. Kat

            Saying she’s imagining the problem is extremely different from pointing out that there are non-sexual reasons for using the words of specific body parts at work. My two cube mates and I slack complain about pregnancy/nursing/PMS symptoms all the time. People talk about their bodies sometimes.

        2. Vicky Austin

          Or:
          That’s t*t for tat
          I have something to get off my chest
          Keep abreast of the competition
          He’s a real boob
          Booby prize

      3. Observer

        The OP was pretty clearly using euphemisms – so much so that I think we can trust them that it WAS inappropriate.

        In the VERY slim chance that is was something like “Fergus commented on my breasts again today, ugh”, that’s all the more reason to get the transcripts because that would me that the company has a significant problem on its hands that it needs to deal with.

    2. Wintermute

      I don’t think that necessarily follows, I mean, it would confirm their suspicions but at that point, unless they want to try to make a case for punishment for inappropriate use of work technology (it is, of course, but if it’s just an inappropriate conversation it’s probably just going to result in a warning and maybe a reminder to everyone that chats are recorded). Plus, nowhere I’ve worked would give someone’s manager the transcripts directly. Usually you’d have to talk to HR and they would investigate as appropriate and you may or may not be told what’s found as a result of their investigation, which may or may not include pulling their records.

      Working in IT, unless there are greater concerns, most organizations wouldn’t want to spend the work involved in pulling logs if you think you saw an “adult” conversation, absent some other evidence that this is something they should be concerned about. While it’s possible there is context here we don’t know (one has a record of sexual harassment, etc) I think that’s fairly unlikely. The fact there MAY be might be one reason to mention it, I think there’s enough else going on here that any potential sexually-charged chat is just a red herring.

    1. banzo_bean

      That was my intial reaction because they way OP describes the chat “popping up” it sounds like it was a notification for a message sent by the other person.

    2. Antilles

      Definitely, though with this being a company big enough to have multiple departments and multiple offices, that’s not really OP’s purview. Fortunately, if IT gets involved, it’ll get looped in naturally – they’ll see these messages from Barb but *also* the other side of the chat to address that end of the chat too.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

        If the chat was in fact inappropriate, there are 2 people having that conversation, and if IT uncovers a larger issue, both Barb and the person she was chatting with need to be disciplined. OP shouldn’t ignore the part the other person played in this just because that person is outside of her team or department.

        1. Moray

          And in my experience, when there’s one form of sexual misconduct at work, there is very likely more than one, even if nothing gets officially reported.

          In an old job, after the creepy guy who probably should have been fired for how he behaved in person left for another position, it came to light that he should definitely have been fired based on what turned up in his chat and email records.

          1. TootsNYC

            there is also often some OTHER category of misconduct going on. People who were accused credibly of sexual harassment have been fired for falsifying expenses.

            1. Eve's Husband's Mustache

              There’s so much to this, YES.

              1. people who sexually harass others are not typically the most ethical in other aspects
              AND
              2. it sucks that it’s often easier to fire somebody for “flagrant misconduct” like falsifying expenses rather than the supposedly nebulous “he-said-she-said” of sexual harassment (ugh)
              AND
              3. I’ve worked places (cough universities) where problem employees would be fired for Other Offenses in order to cover up the real issue, which was sexual misconduct (in order to avoid disclosing Title IX issues/ potentially damaging the institution’s reputation)

              1. JSPA

                If you have enough rules (and keep them in the small print), pretty much everyone will occasionally end up on the wrong side of at least one of them, from time to time. That’s how people get “managed out,” often as not.

        2. Fortitude Jones

          Not sexual harassment related, but your message made me think of something that happened at a law firm I worked for ages ago.

          Two employees in different departments had been emailing each other personal conversations during work hours (which was strictly prohibited by our firm, though I’m not sure if that info was widely available), and Employee 1 bragged to Employee 2 that she loved when our department was put on mandatory overtime because that’s when she would do her work for the firm – she used regular work hours, and work equipment, to work on her side hustle. Employee 2 responded back, and apparently IT intercepted this info and sent it directly to HR, who then escalated it all the way up to the firm’s COO. The COO ended her vacation a few days early to come back into the office to personally fire both employees – Employee 1 for time theft and Employee 2 for having personal conversations with Employee 1 over email during work hours. It was a mess.

          Even though I haven’t worked anywhere as oppressive as that since, I still don’t use email or company chat to have private conversations – that’s what cell phones are for.

            1. Fortitude Jones

              LOL! Right?! When she was fired and the COO came to our floor to tell us why, I was stunned speechless.

          1. TardyTardis

            Oh, we had someone like that at old ExJob–she was in IT, so it took some work to catch her, but she was the only person I’ve ever seen escorted out of the building.

        3. Antilles

          I didn’t mean she should completely ignore it, I meant that she should focus on the part of it she can control: Her own employee.
          Certainly she should make the other person’s manager aware of it and pass along whatever IT finds to the relevant parties (manager, department head, HR, whatever), but that discipline is out of her hands; disciplining/firing someone else’s employee is just not how a chain of command works.

      2. Not Me

        IT doesn’t generally look at and address what they pull and send to a manager or HR. The OP should tell the other person’s manager, or HR, so they can handle their own employee.

        At most companies IT would be in a lot of trouble for taking action (other than escalation) on something they see in an others email/chat/etc while doing their IT job.

        1. Observer

          It’s true that “all” they can do is escalate. But they most definitely SHOULD be looking at the addresses, so they know who they need to escalate to. If they are not checking that, they are not doing their jobs. So they would see who the other party is, and report that to the other party.

          1. Not Me

            I honestly wouldn’t expect that. Escalating to the other manager is the responsibility of the requesting manager, not IT. Expecting IT to read and decide whether the information warrants being escalated to the other manager isn’t in their wheelhouse.

            Just because a request is made for a conversation between two people, it’s not the best routine to tell the other manager. If the other person isn’t doing anything wrong a suggestion that they might be can unfairly color how people think of them. That’s why it’s so important to keep something like this only to the “need to know” group.

            1. Moray

              You would expect IT to turn a blind eye to one half of an inappropriate conversation? It’s completely in their wheelhouse to forward an already-flagged conversation to someone’s manager, simply saying “this conversation was flagged.” I suppose they could also ask the already-aware manager to be the one to do the forwarding. But not doing anything is tantamount to covering for someone.

              And also…there’s a reason many companies screen emails for certain keywords or phrases. All IT needs to justifiably forward something to a manager is the presence of inappropriate language; they don’t need to make the decision to pass something up the chain of command on content or context.

              1. Not Me

                I wouldn’t expect IT to read the conversation and make a decision about whether employees are acting appropriately or not. That is not something IT is usually involved in deciding (unless it’s an IT manager making a decision about their direct report in their capacity as a manager).

                Like I said, one half of the conversation can be inappropriate without the other half being so. Passing along that information to someone who does not need it is not usual course when investigating a situation like this.

            2. Yorick

              I think this is especially true because OP is going to want to read all of Barb’s chats, not just the ones to this coworker.

              If IT has been asked to pull conversations for the manager, I don’t think we’d expect IT to also read them and act on them. They’re sending them to someone else to do that.

              1. Wintermute

                I don’t know anyplace they’d just give those to a manager– way too much abuse potential. HR would file the request and HR would be given access to what they need, the manager would just be like any employee reporting an HR disciplinary matter, they probably wouldn’t even be told the results of the investigation unless they need to be involved in termination or discipline.

        2. Wintermute

          I work in IT, you’re spot on. IT is just providing information here. The way this usually goes down is that HR files a request, including what might be called a ‘retention lock’ or a ‘subpoena lock’ (because they’re also used for when a lawyer files a discovery request) that forces everything into archival without any deletions, silently in the background.

          Then once they have secured the accounts involved they’ll either pull the dates/times they’re asked for or run keyword searches, possibly assisted by a program that is designed to search and flag for a wide range of keywords. They’ll compile copies of every message they feel is relevant, and forward it to HR for their investigation.

          Now there are different procedures if IT comes across illegal or inappropriate material when doing their normal job (if they’re clearing out a user space that’s over their space quota and see suspicious files, if they’re assisting with a helpdesk-type issue and see something alarming, etc) but I can say for every place I’ve ever worked that IT views user data to the absolute minimum they can. While employees may have no legal expectation of privacy it’s usually a norm that you should give them as much as is practical, and flagging HR should be limited to egregious cases, illegal actions or obvious ethical breaches, not a little dirty talk.

      3. TootsNYC

        Definitely, though with this being a company big enough to have multiple departments and multiple offices, that’s not really OP’s purview.

        it absolutely is her purview.

        She may not be the one to directly address it with them, but the OP should NOT ignore that. She’s a manager–this is her responsibility.

        heck, even if she were just a colleague, she should say something.

        Even if it’s consensual, it can lead to a hostile work environment for someone else.

    3. Cranky Neighbot

      Alison mentioned that briefly, but yeah. That would be a good thing for OP to review if possible. Perhaps the other employee is also being inappropriate and their manager needs to deal with it; perhaps the other employee is being harassed by Barb; maybe something else entirely is going on.

  4. banzo_bean

    How do you improve attention to detail? This is something that has been brought up in performance reviews with me before (never as a PIP or serious issue, just in my “could improve section”). I really do want to improve my attention to detail, but I have no idea how to do this. Anyone out there had any success with this?

      1. banzo_bean

        Oops sorry, I thought it might be, but since that was the main issue with Barb’s performance I thought I might ask!

        1. Jedi Squirrel

          Seconded, as this is something I have always wondered about myself. I’ve often found myself in a situation where two different people who both have high attention to detail still manage to spot (or miss) completely different things.

        2. Spreadsheets and Books

          I second this. My attention to detail is getting better but it’s still a little lacking.

      2. juliebulie

        I agree that this would be of interest to many readers. It’s something we all struggle with either in ourselves, or in coworkers, employees, etc.

    1. Close Bracket

      Briefly, take note of the kinds of things you have missed and think of strategies to be more alert to them. Maybe you could post more, ahem, details on the context of the feedback (if there is any) so people can help think about more specifics!

    2. LeighTX

      For one thing, don’t have explicit chats open when you share your screen! Silly, but it’s literally that kind of thing that can hold you back. I would say the best way to improve is to slow down and think carefully before you share a screen or send an email or turn in a project or draft; review it at least twice and think about how the recipient will view it. Doing things too quickly, for me, is a way to end up with mistakes.

      1. Jennifer Thneed

        > think about how the recipient will view it

        This is the biggie: try to see things the way other people will see them. Other people are not in your head and they have no context of what they’re seeing. They only have the thing they’re seeing.

        So, spelling and punctuation matter, yes, but also spelling out assumptions (because others won’t have the same automatic assumptions) and laying out the reasoning for decisions or ideas (because others won’t have the same background or access to information) and including relevant history (because others won’t know the same things you know). Not being able to do this is why so many people are bad at editing their own work.

        Secondary benefit: when you have a habit of thinking this way, you “get it” that other people think differently than you, and you can see the advantages that come from diversity in teams and you understand why it’s useful to ask for opinions from people you don’t normally work directly with.

    3. Devil Fish

      As your manager for specific examples of what they consider “attention to detail” and where you’re lacking it (nothing confrontational or anything, just something like “Can you give me an example of what you’re talking about? I want to make sure I’m addressing the parts you’re most concerned with”).

      It’s one of those terms like “reliability” and “insubordination” that have standard, accepted definitions but also tend to be used by shitty managers when they have an issue but not one they’re willing to address in a way that’s specific and measurable—and if they’re not willing to explain what they’re looking for, there’s no way you’ll be able to improve it to their satisfaction.

    4. Myrcallie

      I was put on a PIP for this several years ago, and what I ended up doing was keeping records of the mistakes I’d made so far and compiling a series of checklists for each task I usually carried out (e.g. if I was completing a teapot handle request form, had I used the correct reference number? had I saved copies of the file to the correct locations? had I logged the form in the right place with the right data?) And gradually, that practice built up to the point where it almost wasn’t an issue any more.

      1. TardyTardis

        Checklists are your friend–you would be amazed how much stuff is actually on an invoice.

    5. JSPA

      A lot of the suggestions for people with AD(H)D, recently, also would be helpful for those without ADD, who have some overlapping problems with attention to detail.

  5. grad student

    I don’t think we know for sure that Barb sent the messages and didn’t receive them, do we? Barb could also be the one on the receiving end of harassment from another employee. I definitely think you should dig into the chat logs, but just pointing it that this could be a possibility.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      It’s definitely a possibility, but that’s why OP needs to ask for chat logs and do some investigating. Nothing you’re doing at work is private, and if something is suspicious, OP has every right to look into Barb’s history, whether it be chat, email or even what she’s searching for online (depending on what is/is not restricted).

    2. Liane

      “I don’t think we know for sure that Barb sent the messages and didn’t receive them, do we?”
      The LW (and us!) doesn’t know, but IT can get that information from the chat logs. The logs/transcript will have both/all parties to the chat, including who typed what.

  6. Jamey

    Just a thought… usually if a message pops up during screensharing, it would be because someone else sent it to her.

    Seems like there’s a little speculation about harassment, but is there any chance this is a situation where Barb is the one being harassed by a colleague? And if so, is there a chance that it’s part of what’s affecting her work and attention to detail?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The letter says it was a “chat session with another colleague” so I’m assuming she saw a mutual exchange going on and Barb was an active participate. But if I’m wrong about that and all she saw was a message from someone else, that’s all the more reason to investigate.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Yeah, I think the chat session calls for more investigation (“almost sure” doesn’t quite cut it for me), and I think it’s a smaller part of a larger issue.

      2. Jamey

        Ah, that makes sense… But on the other hand, OP also admits that they’re not 100% positive about what she saw, which means there’s no way she could have absorbed all possible nuance about who is making who uncomfortable.

    2. Jennifer

      If it’s mutual and only intended to be seen by the other person, it’s not harassment. In our sexual harassment training, they used an example of a man and woman having a similar conversation in an elevator where no one else was around. They both enjoyed that kind of humor and neither was offended. It would only have been sexual harassment if a coworker overheard somehow and felt uncomfortable.

      1. Jamey

        The OP says that they’re “almost sure” they saw explicit messages. We definitely don’t have enough information to know that both people were enthusiastic participants in this chat. It’s possible they are, but it’s also possible that either Barb was overstepping with a colleague OR a colleague was overstepping with her. If it’s the latter, it would suck to punish Barb over it.

        1. Jennifer

          She said she saw a “chat session.” That’s not the same thing. If she’s not 100% sure then, by all means, confirm though IT, but I think it’s a leap to assume she’s being sexually harassed.

          1. Jamey

            A chat session that she saw so briefly that she’s not even 100% sure, and therefore cannot possibly have gotten the full nuance of who is making who uncomfortable.

            I’m not assuming she’s being sexually harassed, but I think there are three possibilities that, from the information we have, are equally likely:
            1) two people being mutually inappropriate with each other
            2) barb being inappropriate to someone else
            3) someone else being inappropriate to barb

            I don’t think that’s a leap.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Jamey’s point is that when a notification pops up, all you see is what another person sent to the recipient — not what the recipient would have sent. So a notification isn’t an indication that Barb is necessarily a willing participant in the conversation.

        1. smoke tree

          Depends on the setup–it’s possible that with this software, an incoming message would make the whole chat pop up, or maybe the chat was already visible, but she didn’t notice until a message came in.

          1. Washi

            Yeah, if you’re in Gmail and someone chats you, the whole conversation opens, so you could see the last few messages back and forth.

      3. Rita

        But even if it’s mutual, it’s not appropriate to be doing it on company resources. And no company is going to want this going on during their office hours on their equipment because of the potential for things to slide into harrassment.

        1. Jennifer

          I agree that it’s not appropriate to do on a work computer. But if it’s mutual, it’s not sexual harassment.

          1. Not Me

            If the OP asked Barb to stop and told her OP didn’t want to see that type of sexual content but Barb continued and continued to show it to OP, that could be sexual harassment. The two people involved in the relationship aren’t the only people that can claim a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment.

            1. Jennifer

              But that’s not what happened. I’m aware that another person witnessing it can make it sexual harassment.

          2. PollyQ

            Sure, if it’s mutual, but neither OP nor we know that. Given how common sexual harrassment is, and the damage it does, both to the harrassee and to the company, it only makes sense to be mindful of the possibility that it’s happening.

      4. LKW

        You’re right in that it may not be harassment, but it could be framed as inappropriate use of company computers/systems. Think about viewing perfectly legal porn on a work pc or running a second business from company servers. If anything it raises the question about judgment.

        And as I noted elsewhere you really don’t want this to be found during a discovery process for unrelated litigation.

      5. Collywood

        It might still be inappropriate use of company equipment/systems. At my company, we aren’t supposed to used company stuff for that sort of communication. I assume other companies may have similar policies. Plus, having that on your screen during a meeting is worth a discussion.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Yes, this is a really good point. In any case, the immediate answer is the same: step 1, get transcripts from IT. But if it was only a notification, Barb’s level of participation in the messaging is entirely in doubt until the transcript can be reviewed.

  7. Jennifer

    Oh, Barb. She doesn’t seem to be taking the PIP or the training seriously. If she has a problem with attention to detail she needs to focus on work and re-training until she’s back on track. I always feel sorry for anyone about to lose their job, even when it’s deserved, but that may be your only option here.

  8. Jennifer

    Also rookie mistake. I always disable notifications before screen sharing. I don’t really get inappropriate messages but you never know when something might pop up you don’t want a room of people to see.

    1. Goya de la Mancha

      Even if it’s as benign as “Did you get that TPS report in to Mrs. Taskmaster yet?” it’s a distraction to the training that doesn’t need to be there.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Right??? I’m not worried about inappropriate because I work with people who know better. It’s more about the private/confidential stuff.

      1. Jennifer

        Exactly. I was in a meeting when an interview appointment popped up on my boss’s computer. I didn’t know that person was interviewing for that role and it certainly wasn’t any of my business.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Wasn’t there a letter here a while back about an email notification regarding someone about to be fired that popped up during a screenshare?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          OMG, your memory beat mine. I remember that now that you mention it! Yes, it was like a colleague that was getting let go or something like that. With it in the GD subject line, I just cannot.

    3. Mbarr

      At my last two companies, we *can’t* disable notifications for Skype. It’s just not even an option. (Which is stupid – I don’t even like having the start of my message appearing in the “new message” notification window that appears when someone starts a chat.)

      BUT, we can turn off notifications when you’re sharing your screen – so as long as the monitor/TV/projector is recognized as an external screen, you can avoid chat windows popping up.

      1. Michaela Westen

        You can write something innocuous in the first 2-3 lines so no one sees the sensitive stuff in a notification.
        My boss loves text, and I often start my text to him “Hi it’s Michaela” and then a return to start on the next line.
        One of the reasons is in case he’s distracted he’ll know right away it’s me. The other is to prevent anyone else from seeing the actual message, which often has sensitive and/or confidential content.

        1. JSPA

          Yep, or

          Hi, Michaela here, page down past privacy block
          .
          .
          .
          .
          Personnel / HR issue:
          .
          Janisette reports that Alana isn’t meeting the requirements of the PIP to such a degree that she’d like to discuss moving up the firing process, if at all possible. wants to talk in person ASAP. Unclear if there’s also something HR-worthy; J’s tone / phrasing makes me think there could be.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      I go a bit further than that– I close almost every program with a pop-up, even though I very rarely share my entire screen as opposed to the application I’m sharing. I’m paranoid. I also occasionally get, “X hasn’t sent me what I need yet, he is SO annoying” messages.

      1. Jennifer

        Yep, I used to get those too. I have a personal policy that any venting takes place face to face because I’ve seen that happen.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen

        I once saw “zomg have you seen what the General is wearing today?!” pop up on someone’s screen when he was showing me something. Horrifying for us both. Never. Mentioned. Again.

    5. Collywood

      I once sent an IM complaining about how unprepared an outside consultant was during a meeting to the person sharing their screen. And they responded. I was mortified. The consultant (who was actually remarkable unprepared) didn’t mention it, but did make an immediate effort to fix their work product. ‍♀️

    6. Auddish

      At my old company, screen-sharing would automatically trigger a “do not disturb” setting for my Skype account and other people actually COULDN’T send me messages until that setting was off. I don’t know if it ever saved my butt, but it probably did once or twice.

      1. Antilles

        I’m amazed at how many people don’t seem to realize this. Like, at least once a week, I’ll be part of a conference call with someone from another company screen-sharing and they’ll accidentally click over to their email with client information or their browser they left open with their bank information or whatever.

    7. Goldfinch

      Also people who suck at file management need to watch this. My previous grandboss was notorious for saving every damned thing on his desktop, so the whole time he fiddled with the Skype meeting, you could read file names around the edges of the window. I should not be able to see “Fergus PIP Meeting”, put it in a folder FFS.

      1. Nessun

        We just moved to Office 365 and my biggest selling point to staff on the fence about it’s value is: “You can take all your documents off your desktop and save them in OneDrive, and no one will see them if you share your screen!” We do so much by Skype now, people are paranoid about what’s being seen/read when they share screens. (And some of them really should be scared…there is some confidential stuff in those files!)

    8. blackcat

      One time when I was a high school teacher, I planned to get drinks with a new colleague after work.
      He put it in his calendar as “Drinks with Black Cat” (my full name, so definitely something students would recognize.
      A bit before the end of the last day, his calendar popped up a reminder while he was projecting in front of students. “Drinks with Black Cat in 1 hour” He was MORTIFIED. It was like his third week of work at the school!

      As you said, a rookie mistake. He learned to disable notifications while projecting.

    9. wittyrepartee

      I was giving a presentation in grad school when a friend started texting me over gchat to complain about someone I didn’t know a few hundred miles away. I didn’t know how to turn it off, so I had to present through it. Hilarious, embarrassing, and now I disable notifications.

    10. Lucille2

      I regularly screenshare with clients, people outside my company, so I have chat notifications turned off and outlook desktop notifications turned off for this very reason. I also don’t save anything to my desktop, and I only share one of my dual screens; always the same one. I keep anything I have to reference on the non-share screen. My concern isn’t NSFW content, but inadvertently sharing another client’s info. Even the name of another client. I’m careful not to browse my files while sharing a screen. You can always turn off screenshare temporarily to dig things up without oversharing. Anyone in a training role should take some simple precautions to keep proprietary info private.

  9. That Girl From Quinn's House

    A lot of the places I’ve worked had lax IT policies, where people were allowed to have their personal Gmail/Skype accounts logged in at work. So it was entirely possible that you’d get an inappropriate message popping up on your screen, from some goofy friend/significant other thinking it was going to your phone.

    My husband and I now have a rule that all messages sent during the workday have to be work-appropriate, because stupid movie or TV quotes popped up on a shared screen one too many times.

    1. Sled dog mama

      Husband and I have the same policy since he texted me once when my boss was sitting next to me, thus my phone was right in front of her. My phone was unlocked because we were texting a second coworker about an issue and hubby’s message popped up on the screen. That was awkward.

    2. Jennifer

      That’s a good point. But at the same time, if Barb was participating in the chat, it’s still not appropriate work behavior. If it was from a friend or romantic partner, at least another employee wasn’t involved. That would be good news for the OP. Another reason to loop in IT.

    3. ArtyOfficeMouse

      I haven’t logged into personal email on a work computer since my coworker found out that I was pregnant by seeing a Gchat pop up from my best friend, “How did the ultrasound go??? One maybe-baby or more?” (It was twins, FWIW!) I was only 7 weeks pregnant, so it was way earlier than I wanted my colleagues to know.

    4. many bells down

      Oh yes, my husband’s workplace uses Slack. His (large) family also uses a different Slack channel to chat throughout the day. So we’re often messaging each other on Slack via the family channel, which naturally pops up on his work computer since he always has Slack on.

  10. Heidi

    The OP seems more concerned with the inappropriate chat, but I’d be way, way more concerned about the poor performance and low attention to detail if I were in the OP’s position. Barb was already on a PIP and seems possibly overwhelmed with a fraction of her expected workload. While the chat is clearly not appropriate for work, the OP doesn’t give us any indication that it had any impact on anyone’s work performance. If it were just the chat, I’d probably tell her to restrict such comments to her own time and her own computer, whereas I’d probably fire her if she can’t pay attention to detail (assuming that this is important to her job, and it sounds like it is – sidebar: is there any job where attention to detail is completely unimportant?).

      1. valentine

        OP doesn’t give us any indication that it had any impact on anyone’s work performance.
        OP focused on the chat in part because it’s the only visible possible reason Barb said she was busy.

        1. Yorick

          I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t think we know enough to think Barb’s actually overwhelmed with a fraction of her work. Even if you don’t actually have that much on your plate, you could have a lot to do today (or this week) and feel pretty busy.

        2. smoke tree

          I suspect the LW has become habituated to Barb’s normal Barb-isms, but this new evidence of poor judgment is prompting them to reconsider how serious her deficits might be across the board.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Absolutely this. The chats may be a problem (but it sounds like it requires greater investigation), but there’s a mountain of performance problems just lying there. I think this may be a forest-for-the-trees situation. If OP takes a step back, I think it becomes even clearer that the performance problems are dire and require immediate action. OP has already coached Barb and explained the problems directly, and Barb has already been on a PIP. (I’m not sure if the PIP disappeared when she transferred teams, or if she satisfied the PIP and it was vacated.)

      It’s reading a little bit like worrying about stubbing your toe when someone has just had their arm cut off.

    2. Oh No She Di'int

      I don’t think there is any job where attention to detail is completely unimportant. But I do think it matters more for some jobs than others.

      When my business is fully staffed, there is a mix of about 20% big-picture people and 80% detail people. Attention to detail is very important for those 80%. They have to notice if a comma is misplaced.

      For the other 20% it’s much more important that they be able to have big, sweeping ideas and be able to grasp a whole complex situation and come up with a strategic solution. Yes, in a way, they also have to be concerned with detail–you don’t want them adding a zero in Excel and overpaying a vendor by an order of magnitude. But on a day-to-day basis it’s not where the emphasis is.

      1. LQ

        I think that my boss has moved me more and more into a role where my kind of attention to detail is ok. I don’t do well at consistent attention to detail. I’m great when a problem is novel. When I’m trying to figure something out, work through something, learn it, make it operational and standard, but once it is standard it’s so hard for me to keep holding onto it.

        I assume that OP saw something in Barb that was valuable. But that doesn’t mean she is enough to overcome those obstacles. If there was no place for novelty in the work then it might not matter how incredibly good I was at coming up with shiny new solutions because I couldn’t hold the detail. And in that case Barb would be happier some place that was a better fit for her skills. If the work requires a level of detail that Barb can’t hold PLUS all this other noise? It’s time to let her go.

      2. NW Mossy

        It also matters what details you’re being asked to focus on!

        We’ve talked a lot in these comments about Task People and Relationship People, and a big piece of what defines the difference is what types of details are easy for you to notice and retain. Task People thrive on systems thinking, data, and process, so remembering the order of operations and why input X matters to outcome Y is easy for them. Relationship People tend to have great recall for names, faces, and personalities, because those are the details that build bonds between specific individuals.

        If you’ve got a Relationship Person in a Task Person role, switching them to a role that’s more naturally aligned to their strength can absolutely work. I’m aware of one recently in my organization that’s been going amazingly well – just fixing the alignment straightened out a lot of his performance challenges.

    3. Marthooh

      That stood out to me too. “These types of conversations would be a distraction from work responsibilities, which are currently not completed to a satisfactory level” sounds like “Sexts are for closers.” I hope the OP didn’t mean it that way!

      Barb has two different problems: poor performance and unprofessional behavior. She might be able to flourish in a different role, but the behavior would be inappropriate at any job.

      1. Lance

        But it’s like Alison said in her response: this would be a smaller issue if the rest of Barb’s performance was up to par, because then Barb would be someone who’s generally reliable outside… whatever exactly OP saw (and whatever it actually was). Because the fact is, people that do and accomplish more are often given leeway to get away with more, if it comes to it, because of the pure and simple fact of what they do and achieve.

        Barb’s not near that level, which is why this is standing out so much.

      2. Observer

        There are two problems. One is the (potentially) inappropriate nature of the chat. The other is the fact that it’s a totally personal conversation that is clearly a distraction from work. If I have a staff person who consistently knocks it out of the park, I’m not going to care that they are discussing the latest sales. On the other hand, if the person having those conversations is struggling, I would be a lot more concerned about those conversations.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

        I recently had a teapot painter on my team who was just struggling beyond belief with painting teapots, like to a point where we had stopped letting her even attempt to paint teapots because her inability to appropriately paint a teapot was causing us to be at risk of compliance and regulatory issues. She was on a teapot-painting PIP which she failed within three days, but we gave her the remaining 27 days of the PIP to sort brushes for us and try to find another role in the organization that she could be more successful at. She ended up transitioning to the sugar bowl organizing team, with a manager who was familiar with some of her other capabilities and was confident that she could succeed there. (I have no idea how she’s doing now though.)

        Sounds like OP is in the same boots as the sugar-bowl organizing manager, albeit with confidence that turns out to have been misplaced.

      2. Fortitude Jones

        Yeah, most places I’ve worked have said if you are currently (or within the last six months) on a PIP, you cannot transfer internally. One company even said that anyone who successfully completes a PIP also has to wait a year to apply for any internal vacancies, though there was an exception for situations where both the employee and current manager thought the employee would be better served on another team. Problem is, most hiring managers don’t want to take on someone with known performance problems. So maybe OP thought Barb would do better on her team given some other skills she thought Barb had, but that didn’t pan out.

        1. Baru Cormorant

          That makes no sense to me if the PIP is for work reasons, not behavior reasons. “This person can’t handle the client aspect of llama grooming, let’s not consider them for llama report writer.” I don’t think internal movement should solely be treated like promotions and hires–it’s also a great way to give people lateral experience and help someone find a better way to contribute.

      3. a1

        This kind of surprised me, too. Not just for a policy reason, either. I was reading along and where it got to Barb had been a PIP and was about to be let go, but I decided she’d be a better fit for OPs group, I was like “What?” Why did OP feel the need to save her? Maybe she really did think she could use Barb, despite current poor performance, but it almost came across as not believing her colleagues. And now she’s seeing that she’s wrong. (I actually don’t mean that harshly, it’s more a quickly typed observation.) So now yes, she has 2 problems with Barb – poor performance, and potentially inappropriate conduct.

    4. One of the Spreadsheet Horde

      The chat is another symptom of the attention to detail problem. Imagine you’re Barb… you have a new boss, know you’re burning through your chances at work, and are sharing your screen. You have options – close the chat program, disable notifications, set the screen sharing so it doesn’t share anything related to chat/email, or indicate within the program you’re screen sharing.

      And you don’t send risqué messages on company devices.

      Barb is not improving her attention to detail.

      1. Jennifer

        My thoughts exactly. She is on the verge of being fired for the second time now and she’s engaging in this kind of behavior. I think this actually could speak to her lack of attention to detail. If she’s engaging in these chats often while she’s supposed to be working, no wonder she’s making easily avoidable mistakes so frequently.

    5. fhqwhgads

      I took it as OP has been concerned about Barb’s work product and now sees “maybe Barb’s been too busy with personal and inappropriate chats to be focusing and improving on the work” as a possible reason why. Doesn’t really change the fact that she should be focused on “Barb’s not up to snuff” but sounded like it was maybe a light-bulb moment.

  11. Person from the Resume

    I don’t blame the LW for not knowing how to react in the moment. It’s a very unexpected surprise.

    If Bard was a colleague, LW could ignore it. Since the LW is Barb’s boss, action needs to be taken especially since Barb in doing very poorly and is inaccurately describing herself as “very busy day and was trying to juggle responsibilities” when apparently she’s busy with X-rated chats. Also it’s a terrible attention to detail to not understand what you’re screensharing and especially if you’re having a NSFW conversation to not ensure it won’t be accidentally shared.

    Honestly it sounds like time to fire Bard. She’s not performing well and is engaging in NSFW conversations instead of trying to improve.

    1. Liane

      “If Bard was a colleague, LW could ignore it.”
      I don’t think so. Harassment by definition, can cover coworkers who just witness it.

      1. MayLou

        I’m in the UK where the laws are different – do you mean that if someone witnesses harassment by a colleague but doesn’t deal with it, they’re also liable? Or do you mean than the witnessing colleague could be considered a victim of harassment? My understanding is that they’re not obligated to claim they’re being harassed if they don’t actually feel harassed (but it might well be reasonable to feel that in the circumstances).

        1. Environmental Compliance

          I believe what Liane is saying is that those that are subject to *witnessing* the acts can claim harassment as well. IE, Bob and Jane are flirting heavily and making very obscene comments around Frank, who can say that the workplace has become sexually charged.

          Possibly not the best wording, but definitely does not mean that if someone doesn’t deal with the sexual harassment as a witness (only a witness) is liable.

    2. Artemesia

      I”d be inclined to fire her for performance and ignore the chat. (not ignore if she is going to be given another PIP or whatever, but if you can IMMEDIATELY fire her, just do it without getting caught up in legalisms about whether this chat was over the line – it will just complicate what looks like a straightforward ‘get on with it’ for a poorly performing worker.

  12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP, it sounds like you’re expending a lot of effort to keep Barb employed, but it’s not clear why. Here’s all the things she’s done:
    1. Consistently underperformed in her previous role so significantly that she was placed on a PIP, in part because of deficiencies in her attention to detail.
    2. After being transferred to your team, continues to underperform in quality and quantity of her workload, including through repeated deficiencies in the same area of competency (attention to detail).
    3. Engages in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior at work, including possibly X-rated conversations with a coworker on company time using company resources.
    4. Lacks good judgment.
    5. Appears to lack load management or planning skills, or is fundamentally unsuited for the jobs she’s filled.

    I know letting someone go is difficult, and it may be that Barb is otherwise perfectly pleasant. But she doesn’t sound like she’s meeting performance expectations. Even more troubling is that she continues to make errors in one key area of competency, and there appears to be no improvement in that key area despite significant investments from her managers (e.g., multiple conversations and work review to identify the problem, being placed on a PIP, lightening her workload to the detriment of the rest of the team). I imagine she’s also dragging down the rest of your team, who may be quietly stewing in the extra load they take on because she cannot, and she’s certainly eating up more of your time than is reasonable.

    As Alison notes, it’s probably worth cutting your losses and letting her go. But I would also probe why you’re currently trying to keep her. I’d then compare all the reasons you want her to stay against the list you provided, and ask yourself if the “reasons to keep her” are worth the cost to your team. It sounds like the X-rated chats are the straw that broke the camel’s back for you. But you have a significant underperformance problem on your hands, and it’s ok to let her go on those grounds.

    1. valentine

      OP, it sounds like you’re expending a lot of effort to keep Barb employed, but it’s not clear why.
      Yes. OP has gone so far as to withhold feedback, but the sooner Barb knows what she’s doing wrong, the sooner she can (potentially) change course.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        Where did it say in the letter that she withholds feedback? I thought OP said she’s had many work review sessions with Barb where these issues were pointed out, but Barb just hasn’t improved.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I think valentine is referring to the part of the letter where OP says Barb talks about being overwhelmed or having a lot of work to do, but OP is actually withholding work from Barb because the current quality of Barb’s work is below expectations.

          (But I agree that OP appears to be providing direct feedback on individual errors. It may be helpful for OP to have a global conversation to make it clear that all of these individual errors are part of a big-picture problem.)

          1. Fortitude Jones

            Yeah, I figured that out down-thread and totally agree with you that a broader conversation about Barb’s work and workload capacity should have been had.

    2. Lance

      I’m a bit curious about that as well. Was Barb’s work (while OP previously worked on a project with her) really so good that it’s worth giving her this much? Is there potential of some sort there that OP saw? Or is she just a pleasant person to get along with, so OP decided to lend her a hand?

      I think, for OP, it’s worth looking at why they extended so much to Barb in spite of proven performance issues, and what they were hoping to get from it.

  13. Funbud

    I haven’t had a good sexy chat on company software in about 20 years! (Sigh)

    That was at an office that rather encouraged sexual hijinks (think “rowdy start-up”) as opposed to clamping down on them. Good times! But I’d never do that today.

    1. Oh No She Di'int

      I feel like those days are waning everywhere. And it’s probably not a moment too soon.

      Look, I love a good sexual hijink myself. And I’m not saying your specific workplace was problematic. But too many such workplaces *were* problematic. Lots of people in workplaces 20 years ago thought that everyone was having a good time. It turns out that far too many people were just putting up with it because they had no other choice.

  14. surprisedcanuk

    I think the LW is missing the important issue. The Chat is just a red herring. Barb performance is the problem. Why would you even higher Barb in the first place.

    1. Liane

      “Why would you even higher Barb in the first place.”

      Three possible reasons I can think of.
      1) Both Former Manager and the LW felt “Bad fit,” not skill shortcomings, was the main reason Barb had problems in the old position
      2) Barb was improving initially (but felt “safe” enough from firing after the move to backslide)
      3) They may have been in a hurry to fill the position on LW’s team

      But I agree, that now Barb has continued/resumed her bad performance, keeping her on isn’t going to work.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      The OP had worked with Barb prior and thought she’d be a better fit for their team. So it’s fair to have given her a chance. But she’s shown she wasn’t just in a bad fit situation and that Barb is her own problem.

      1. Jedi Squirrel

        That was my thought, as well. As a manager, I’ve always thought it was crucial to give employees the benefit of the doubt, because maybe it is just this one situation or whatever that is the problem. But Barb has had that chance, and yeah, it’s not the situation, it’s Barb.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          Yes and we can only know so much about anyone we hire. Sure there are flags everywhere for everyone if you look hard enough but sometimes you have to “try it out”.

          It’s easier to move a person who is struggling to another opening to see if it’s the person or the job. Sadly for Barb, it’s the person it sounds like. [Person within that company that is, since I bet she can do just fine somewhere else with more structure or whatever she needs to succeed!] I’ve even struggled at certain places, never to the point of PIP or anything but when you don’t gel with an organization, your work product is usually going to suffer in some way. So I self selected out if necessary.

  15. Anonymous Poster

    The chat is very serious and could be a major issue. You certainly need to dig into that, because that very much could lead into a harassment issue once it becomes unwelcome. It’s a major error in judgment to engage in that sort of thing on a company system using the company’s chat program.

    The issues outlined also aren’t being resolved. That also needs to be addressed directly.

    Given the totality of the situation, I’d argue it’s time for Barb to move on.

    1. nonymous

      The chat content is also an area that the company is likely to have explicit policies surrounding, if the overall decision is to move Barb out.

      It’s unclear whether the fact that Barb was already on a PIP when joining OP’s team will carry forward or whether OP will have to restart the PIP process. It is also unclear whether Barb’s status as an existing employee means that she skips the probationary period. Assuming that OP would have to restart PIP and cannot use the probationary period to manage Barb out of the org, the faster path may be to gather documentation regarding chat usage.

    2. LKW

      Use of chat actually saved a friend of mine from a harassment charge. Back when AOL was the only IM he was carrying on with a co-worker. He saved all of his chats. When he decided to end it, she was furious and threatened to go to HR. He didn’t back down and she went to HR. He was extremely embarrassed having to admit to poor judgement on his part, but he produced months of texts including the one where she was threatening to go to HR because he wouldn’t continue the relationship.

  16. voyager1

    It is time for Barb to go… too many performance issues. I would get IT though to pull the chat logs though. Might be some fun reading. But the PIP and performance issues are more important then the sexytime chats

  17. animaniactoo

    Barb started off our meeting by mentioning that she had a very busy day and was trying to juggle responsibilities.

    OP, something like this seems to be an opportune time to say something along the lines of “I’d like to be clear that what you have right now is not as much work as I’d expected you to be handling by now. Given that you feel the level that you’re at is very busy, I’m concerned that you’re going to have problems handling the full workload that is part of the job. Talk to me about why you’re struggling to handle what you have right now. What’s the biggest issue you’re having handling it?”

    Also dig in to what she’s doing to avoid the simple errors showing up in final versions. If her mindset is just “pay better attention” without any sort of formal process to proofread outside of when she’s first working on it, or something that she can be checking it against in the moment, any attempt to “just pay better attention” is a guaranteed failure.

    Curiosity question: Given the attention to detail issues, why did you feel that she would be a good fit for your team? I ask because if that’s a pretty major issue for your team, someone can “get” lots of things that are good for someone in that position, but it would seem to me that it should be a dealbreaker when looking at her as a candidate.

    1. juliebulie

      Yes to all of this. Barb seems oblivious that her work output is too little and too sloppy, and that she’s been caught goofing off. If she is told explicitly that she needs to get a LOT more stuff done, and a LOT more accurately, she should be able to figure out that she doesn’t have time to fart around.

      If she can’t figure that out, then don’t feel bad about having to get rid of her. Instead, feel bad for the more competent people out there who need a job that is currently being held by Barb.

    2. nonymous

      And if OP needs to take time to reflect before giving this type of feedback, now (while they are both new to the manager-subordinate relationship) to set up a system for that to happen. Weekly/semi-weekly/daily check ins that are separate from working on a specific task would make that happen.

      Since Barb seems to be struggling with keeping her improvement on track, it’s also a good way to hold her accountable for driving her own progress, so she can have a place to say “I made a checklist for X activity”. For OP it would give her the framework to be methodical about feedback without introducing the pressure/stress/lack of consistency that an ad-hoc process creates.

    1. Jedi Squirrel

      This is a good point.

      If an employee does great with 50% of what you’d like to give them, but they have no idea that they’re only operating at 50% capacity, they probably think they are doing a great job. It’s important to be open and honest with them, and to say, “You’re doing okay with what’s on your plate, but that’s only half of what this job requires. You need to be able perform all of the requirements as well as you can do half of the requirements.” That way, they have an accurate idea of how well they are actually performing.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        Very good point and is probably what valentine was referring to above – not necessarily a lack of feedback in general, but not giving Barb feedback on the work OP’s withholding from her and an explanation for why she’s doing that. Yes, OP should have had that conversation, but at this point, Barb has sucked up enough time and resources with little results to show for it. It’s best to just let her go and get someone new in who can actually do the job without all the handholding.

  18. banzo_bean

    Barb started off our meeting by mentioning that she had a very busy day and was trying to juggle responsibilities. Her workload has not yet risen to “very busy,” in fact I’m still holding back on fully transitioning work. These types of conversations would be a distraction from work responsibilities, which are currently not completed to a satisfactory level.

    Is Barb’s performance in fact improving? If it is, it strikes me that it might feel like a *very* busy day even if her workload is not fully scaled. If she’s putting in extra time to improve the quality of her work and to build up her skills, she might be *really* busy, but that doesn’t mean that she will always feel that way at that work load.

    It’s unclear if Barb’s mistakes are getting worse, stagnating, or getting better. If she’s getting better but she’s not were she needs to be, I’m not sure I agree with the advice that she’s not worth investing in. If she’s still not up to 100% but she’s made strides in the right direction, perhaps helping her focus and cut out distractions might be a part of her improvment plan.

  19. staceyizme

    If I were your manager, I might wonder why you proposed someone with a serious, ongoing performance issue to join your team? True, you’ve worked with her before and she has relevant skills, but that seems like a very low bar. Add to that the fact that she is still underperforming and lacking in good judgment and you have a very reasonable basis for dismissal. If you can somewhat terrify her into realizing that she is NOT doing an acceptable job and offer her a definite, specific and brief pathway to recovery or resignation, that’s an option. If that’s not a skill in your managerial wheelhouse, firing her now might be a better option.

    1. Drew

      I think this is a bit of an overreach, especially if OP’s team handles very different responsibilities than Barb’s old team. I have seen cases where employees are misplaced in their role and go on to thrive when shifted to something more in line with their skills and interests. (To be clear, I have also seen the opposite: an employee with an attitude problem that got even worse when he was transitioned into a new role, because he saw it as a demotion rather than an attempt to find something he would excel at.)

      Sure, a lot of times it’s pretty obvious that the employee is just a poor fit for the organization as a whole, but especially in a broad-spectrum company, I can see trying someone in a new role when you have reason to suspect that the employee is poorly suited for the specific role but doesn’t have more general issues.

  20. Observer

    By the way, you do not need ironclad proof to act on this.

    And this IS something you most definitely do need to act on. Even if she were a fantastic employee, you would need to act on it. Yes, if she were a fantastic employee and this were a one-time thing, I might limit myself to a stern conversation. But you simply CANNOT let something like this go.

  21. MommyMD

    Barb had red flag written all over her prior to you requesting she join your team. People don’t change all that much. Gotta wonder why you are so invested in her and why you are afraid to clarify a very inappropriate message you saw on her work screen. Maybe it’s time to cut your losses. It’s a fallacy that more time and effort invested in a chronically problem person will fix the issue.

    1. bigX

      Best guess is saving face or too embarrassed after going through effort in inviting Barb to be on their team or because they invited Barb to stay with the company and it’s not working out for exactly the same reasons addressed in a previous reviews (that weren’t mismatched skill sets). Which is also the reason why I think these chat logs are even a “problem” – they are more of a final nail in the coffin to me. This would be an effective non-issue if it was an average or above average employee.

      Chances are Barb and LW got along well as colleagues and wasn’t privvy to the whole picture. The previous relationship clouded their judgement when it came time to think “will this person be hard to manage?”

      1. MommyMD

        Yep. The sunken cost fallacy. Keep throwing time, effort or money at it and sooner or later it pays off. Except it usually doesn’t.

  22. LGC

    So this is the day I get to reference old AAM letters, it seems! Apparently, Jane (of the “Jane has lost her mind” letter) seems to have landed on her feet.

    Anyway. Aside from this, this is something that you definitely should bring up – aside from Jane’s Barb’s other performance issues, even if you didn’t see the right thing that’s still something you want to clarify. At least in my opinion.

    1. WellRed

      Is Jane the one posting new photos of herself taken in the office? Cause, I really need an update on that one.

      1. LGC

        Yeah, that’s the one – I don’t think there was an update on that one but I’ll search in a minute.

    2. PollyQ

      I assume you mean this letter? our employee is taking nude photos in our office and posting them to Facebook (Link below)

    3. LGC

      So, after picking my jaw up off the floor (I’m surprised this still even shocks me): even if Barb works in an office where that kind of talk is acceptable (which is problematic on its own), this is a problem. Could you trust her on a conference call with clients or upper management? From this incident alone I’d have significant concerns. If what you saw was correct, Barb is either careless or unconcerned enough to not close her chat windows. (And also careless enough to talk about private parts on work messaging. I assume you work in a field where discussing private parts of the body is not appropriate in general.)

      So, yeah. This is actually a performance issue in and of itself – much like if she flipped through porn in an actual face to face meeting. (Maybe not THAT bad, but to give you an idea.)

  23. voyager1

    Barb ain’t got nothing on Jane… I mean wet t-shirt vs umm bathroom streaming with Jane.

    Barb needs to up her game!

    :)

    1. LGC

      To be fair, Jane wasn’t streaming video from what I recall. I think she was just posting her nudes to a Facebook group, which…now that I think about it, that might actually be worse.

      (I actually searched for an update to that letter and Alison has received a disturbing number of letters about coworkers’ nudes over the years. I’ve seen a lot of shit – and this is both in the figurative and literal sense – at my job, but thankfully I’ve yet to see any employees unclothed.)

  24. bigX

    The issue is less Barb’s use of the chat and her work itself. Kind of like Alison’s note, if she were a better employee, I would just tell her to keep her work IM professional and leave it at that. To be honest, as long as work is getting done though, I don’t think I would care unless it was real awful stuff but I get LW’s desire for work to remain professional.

    I am interested in why more comments than I expected want to make a federal case out of it (having her logs pulled up and inspected…? Her performance is enough to dismiss her on: what would be accomplished by investigating the log? LW already saw something not OK for work, that’s enough.)

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