coworker saw embarrassing content on my phone, my dad keeps responding to my employee on Facebook, and more

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

1. Coworker saw embarrassing content on my phone

I work in a small department library at a university, and came in to catch up on some work while the office was closed over the holidays. The office was totally empty, but there was one other person, a graduate student (who I do not supervise), who had also, unbeknownst to me, come in to work that day. I was listening to samples of audiobooks on my headphones while I caught up on some rote work, when the student saw I was there and came to ask me a question.

a shirtless man with a tie with the title "Boss Man"

the cover in question

As she came over, I clicked on the audio player to pause so I could hear her and she caught a glimpse of the cover of the book, which was suggestive. There was no actual nudity or anything, but the book was a romance novel, and while the content was actually rather tame, the cover was … a lot. Of course she saw, however briefly, and was visibly embarrassed. I went to find her to follow up on her question just a few minutes later, and she was gone.

I don’t normally listen to audiobooks at the office, but I don’t feel like I did anything wrong necessarily? That said, I am mortified and feel terrible that she was embarrassed, and worse that this may damage our working relationship in some way. I think I know the answer to this, but do I need to follow up on this in some way, or should I just let it go as an embarrassing moment for us both?

Ooooh, that’s … quite a cover. Part of her embarrassment might be that it looks like it could be outright porn or erotica rather than a romance novel — in other words, at least for our purposes here, something where the major themes are graphic sexual content intended to arouse. (Although my husband insists he’d think it was an ad for cologne, so who knows.)

As for what to do, you do have the option of saying nothing and just being scrupulously professional with her from here on. Personally, though, if it were me, I’d have more peace of mind if I said something. You could say, “I was embarrassed that you saw what I was listening to the other day — I was scrolling through audiobook samples while I worked and didn’t realize how racy that cover looked. I wanted to apologize for it!”

2. My father keeps responding to my employee’s posts on Facebook

My father keeps responding to my employee’s political posts on Facebook. To make things even more awkward, my father is very conservative and my employee is very liberal, so you can guess that their opinions go together like oil and water. I feel that it is inappropriate for my father to be interacting with someone I supervise, and I asked him to stop. He feels that Facebook is a public forum, and that the fact that I supervise someone should not deny his right to respond to a public post.

(Before I was promoted to be his supervisor, I was friends with this employee on Facebook. When I became his manager I did not unfriend or block him, just stopped interacting or commenting on his posts completely, and let him know I’d be doing that. At some point, though, he and my father friended each other, but it was almost certainly because they were both connected to me. I realize now I should have completely cut the Facebook connection/unfriended this employee at the beginning. Lesson learned!)

While the posts in question are political, I would feel uncomfortable with my father interacting with any of my employees over Facebook, no matter how innocuous the topic. To me, it feels like it crosses boundaries. As I have asked him to stop without success, should I mention to my employee that I am aware of the posts and he is welcome to block my father if he wishes? Or should I stay out of it because Facebook is a public forum, and this is outside and unrelated to work?

For some context: The employee knows this is my father. My father is retired and has no relationship at all to my workplace. My employee has never mentioned my father’s Facebook responses at work.

Aggggh, what is your father doing?! Personally, if my parent were doing this, I would seriously consider sneaking on to their computer and unfriending the employee, but assuming that’s not an option and you know a harder line stance with your dad would be fruitless, then yeah, say something to your employee. I’d say, “I’m so sorry about my father’s comments on your Facebook posts. I have no idea how you two ended up connected, but it’s incredibly weird that he’s doing that. Please feel free to unfriend or block him with impunity.” If he says he doesn’t feel the need to, it might be worth telling him that you’re going to unfriend him so you’re not getting riled up by your dad’s comments and not to take it personally since you should have done that when you became his manager anyway. Say this all in a warm tone and it should be fine.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I found a perfect candidate — do I need to interview others?

I recently posted a position that’s a bit above entry-level. People from various backgrounds could do well in the role, but I had a pretty specific profile in mind when I wrote the job description. Basically, I was thinking I’ll never find someone who checks all these boxes, but I did! This person has the right education, the right work experience, lives in the right location, and comes with a glowing recommendation from a former colleague who I couldn’t respect more. Our first phone conversation was the professional equivalent of a great first date. We’re even on the same page about salary (I took your advice and gave our range up front).

I haven’t interviewed anyone else yet. I know best practice is to talk to several candidates, but I just can’t get excited about any of the other resumes in my inbox. Do I need to keep looking even though I think I’ve found “the one”?

In general, if you find a candidate who’s clearly head and shoulders above your other candidates, it can be okay to go ahead and make the hire without going through process for process’s sake. But not always — it depends on your circumstances.

First, are you not excited about the other candidates because they’re clearly not as strong as she is, or are you not excited about them because you’ve already interviewed someone who seems great and it feels easier/faster to wrap up now? If it’s the former, you don’t need to interview them for the sake of process. But if it’s the latter, it’s worth talking to them. There can be more than one really great candidate in an applicant pool, and you want to hire the best of the best.

Also, have you hired for this position before? If so, you probably have the experience to know if this candidate is an unusually good, hard-to-find match. But if you haven’t, you might be wrongly assuming that’s the case — and it’s worth talking with other candidates before making a decision.

And last, if this candidate is like you demographically (same age, gender, race, and/or educational background) or you just like her a lot on a personal level, those are both notorious sources of bias. In either of those cases, you shouldn’t curtail your search after interviewing a single person; you’d want to expose yourself to more candidates and make sure she’s really the most qualified.

4. Chronic nail biting in meetings

I recently hired someone who I have since observed is a constant nail biter. I have been around nail biters previously, but I have never experienced it at this heightened level. It is constant and chronic. I am sure some of this behavior is subconscious and at other times it is a nervous habit.

It can be distracting in meetings because there are occasional noises. It is also not hygienic. The nail biting was not present during the interview process, which means the habit may be somewhat controllable. As this person’s manager, is this something I should address with this them AND, if so, how do I approach this sensitive subject?

Is it genuinely a problem? If it’s truly distracting in meetings or it’s making them look unprofessional in front of clients, then you can absolutely address it. But if it really comes down to “I think this is a mildly gross habit that people shouldn’t do, but it’s not really impacting anything at work,” leave it alone.

If there’s a real work reason to address it, though, then you could say, “It can be distracting when you bite your nails in meetings. I know that can be a hard habit to break, but I’m hoping you can work on controlling it during meetings.” (Do be aware, though, that it can be really tough for some people to stop this habit, and it might be more of a struggle than you’d imagine. If flagging it once doesn’t resolve it, I wouldn’t keep harping on it.)

5. When should I follow up about an interview invitation that I haven’t heard back about?

I applied for an internal position. I received an email yesterday about scheduling an interview, asking when I’d be available. I replied quickly but have not heard anything more.

I’m a usually anxious person and I keep telling myself that the person probably got caught up in meetings or a project and I’ll hear back from him today. However, if I don’t hear back, how long should I wait before following up and is there a good script to follow so I sound confident and not insecure?

Give it at least two full business days, and possibly three — meaning that if you replied at 2 pm on Monday, the absolute earliest you should follow up is 2 pm on Wednesday, and maybe not until Thursday. But if this was just yesterday, you’re not at the point yet where you should be giving this any thought (although I realize anxiety doesn’t care about that). Whoever contacted you has other priorities to deal with, might be trying to coordinate schedules, could be out sick, etc. Plus, it’s an internal position so the chances of them ghosting you are lower than usual.

When you do follow up, you can just reply to your earlier email and say, “Hi, just wanted to check back in with you on scheduling. I’m really interested in talking more and would love to nail down a time.”

{ 453 comments… read them below }

  1. Eve*

    I am very (very) liberal but enjoy some debate with people on the other side on Facebook. I’d definitely do as Alison suggested but they might keep engaging and that’s okay too.

    1. bunniferous*

      My elderly mother in law is on Facebook. I love her very much but occasionally I have to privately message someone and let them know who they are dealing with….(She is in her 80s and is a real hoot. Worth the occasional cringe. )

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        I had to apologize for my aggressive and polar-opposite-to-99%-of-my-friend-list niece so many times privately, OMG. It was my mistake to try to hold onto FB as a support and communication device with like minded friends (in These Times We Live In) while also as family connection tool.

        Eventually I gave up and haven’t been on FB in 1.5 years. You can find me over at Twitter making anonymous connections under a pseudonym that don’t have a personal stake. And not having to apologize for anyone.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I unfollowed one of my DH’s siblings on FB, because I didn’t want to see her political posts. Which mostly works ok, except for the day that person commented in an ignorant way on one of my posts. And didn’t react well when I indicated I didn’t like what they said. Unsurprisingly to me, a bunch of my friends jumped in and it got messy for awhile. (Keeping this vague intentionally.)

          But we then ended up having an actual conversation…and on one of my later posts on a related topic, my IL actually seems to have learned something. I still have that person unfollowed, but haven’t unfriended them, and they still like or comment on my stuff occasionally, but haven’t started any other blowups. So it could have been worse.

          This, though, is why I have exactly one coworker as a FB friend, and that person is a friend outside of work and is in a different department. Otherwise I just don’t friend coworkers at all…I generally like having that boundary.

          1. Steve*

            I have the opposite tactic: I don’t ‘friend’ family on Facebook, and in fact I sought them out early on and blocked them so they don’t know that I exist on there. I never really understood why, until now. When I started, it was to friend quite a few coworkers as we move around a lot, and it was a fun way to keep in touch. For me, Facebook is a way to keep track of acquaintances and colleagues, whereas family can contact me by email and phone (and we all get updates via my nosy great-aunt). Having read the OP’s letter, and these comments, I am pleased with my decisions on boundaries.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I think that’s part of what makes this stuff so complex…but also so interesting. People have really different boundaries and preferences, and that’s pretty cool, but also a challenge on occasion.

              I currently have friend requests from relatives I don’t much care for that I have left in limbo, because I don’t really care to give them that much access to my life, but I also don’t want the potential drama of blocking them. I did block one other relative who I happen to know has polar opposite views to my own, and I didn’t really want to deal with that person.

              1. Leisel*

                I do that as well. I’m pretty sure I have like 15 friend requests stacked up by now, but I just leave them there. Mostly my mother’s employees (who I’ve known my whole life). I’ll accept relatives, but immediately go in and adjust their settings to not see much about me. My dad asked me once why I never post pictures and I just kind of brushed it off because I didn’t want to tell him he’s hidden from seeing my pictures!

            2. Bagpuss*

              I’m the other way round – I use facebook primarily for family and close friends, and don’t friend co-workers. (I keep my privacy settings pretty tight so unless you are my friend on facebook, you won’t see my posts.)

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                Same. It’s a great way to stay kind of caught up without the effort of phone calls. I don’t friend coworkers or even acquaintances – that’s what LinkedIn and email are for.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Same here. It’s just not worth it, and I sometimes like and share posts that I don’t necessarily want my coworkers to know I’m laughing about, mostly memes or funny things that are NSFW. Those don’t really belong in my work atmosphere. If I want to share something personal with them, I’ll tell them to their face.

            3. Clisby*

              Some people take the exact opposite approach, though. The only reason I got on FB was to keep track of my large, extended family. If I had to choose, acquaintances and work colleagues would be the ones relegated to email and phone.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            My FB is so boring that I friend anyone and everyone. It is pretty much all pet pictures, jokes about statistics, and nature pictures. I mostly keep it so that I have a way of keeping in touch with a slew of friends and coworkers, especially overseas, who change jobs/countries/phones pretty often.

            1. schnauzerfan*

              This is my middle of operation. FB pretty much wide open… Accept friend requests from anyone I know irl or online. Post lots of dog and sunrise pics. Don’t touch politics, and if someone gets annoying they get hid. Really annoying and they get blocked. I am supremely oblivious to friends and or family bickering. Course living in a smaller town, I’d go nuts if I worried about “boundaries”

              1. Emily K*

                Yep, I rarely post anything provocative on my own page. I have 2-3 friends who regularly make a point to stir up debate on their own pages and keep their posts friends-only, so if I’m looking to talk about a recent political event I just find a post about it on one of their pages where the only people who will see my comments are our mutual friends.

              2. Ann Nonymous*

                I created a Secret FB page with some like-minded (politically) friends so we could vent there and not on our walls. We have now grown to more than 400 members who explode there in private and not in their public FB space and write the snarky responses we’d like to write to our friends’ idiotic posts but don’t dare to really write.

                1. AnnaBananna*

                  Thank you for doing that, actually. The political vitriol on Facebook has ruined two of my family member’s relationships with each other (two members have ostrasized two other family members), just by screaming at each other about Trump via Facebook. And they don’t ‘get’ that all of that vitriol affects the other innocent folks that are casually reading update feeds at lunchtime or while standing in line for a latte when they were hoping for cute pygmy goat memes (or is that just me?). I wish more folks were thoughtful enough to do the same as you have. I think there’s a time and a place for political debate, but #1 I think it should be consensual, and right now a ton of folks are unwillingly getting virtually smacked around by political shrapnel. Such aggression really doesn’t provide much value to anyone.

            2. AnnaBananna*

              YAY to statistical jokes! There’s a high probability that I would be your friend, gladly. ;)

              1. TardyTardis*

                God, I love the smell of regressions in the morning…but if you really love statistics, the site FiveThirtyEight has a ton of material to work with. Ok, we have fun in the comments section, too, but when you’re allowed to look at bits of some of their models, it’s a lot of fun.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I was going to say “make a secret group, invite your friends, do not invite the niece”. But you’re right that your real name would still be attached to whatever you post. That kills me with FB. I keep active on it because of the friends/groups that are in other state or all over the country, and that I won’t keep in touch with otherwise; and for the events that I attend for these groups. But the connection to my real name is killing me. One of my sons ditched it altogether for that same reason, went to Reddit, is happy there, and does not plan on going back.

        3. Free Meercats*

          I’m curious why you felt you had to apologize for what your niece said (assuming said niece is an adult.) I have relatives with whom I and my friends don’t agree, but their opinions are their own, not mine; and my friends understand that. I get that she was aggressive, but that’s on her, not you.

      2. Quill*

        My early 70’s aunt is… gullible. Usually on facebook I wait for her kids to call her on stuff, or do the cheerful misunderstanding… i.e. “Share if you think sharia law is bad” becomes “Glad you agree that laws should never be based on ANY religion, Aunt M.” Or if feeling extra snarky, I might add “Glad your state took the right stance on not posting the 10 commandments on courthouses!”

        As opposed to people like… my parents’ cousins… who I straight up soft block, more because “I don’t actually know you, we last met while I was having a diaper change and you live in texas, but we got hooked up through mom’s account somehow.”

        90% of my relative facebook interaction lately, however, has either been through messenger via “Hey did you want me to bring cornbread for thanksgiving” or “Hi boomer, you’ve been hacked, you posted five vaccum cleaner ads to the album ‘garden inspiration'”

      3. OP2*

        That’s why I don’t really expect my father to change – he is in his upper 80s and pretty set in his ways. He is also an extrovert who loves to ‘debate’ people.

    2. Avasarala*

      I find that people less used to social media really don’t understand the subtle difference between “posting on someone’s timeline/responding to their post” and someone directly asking for their opinion. It’s not like the coworker is yelling in the town square inviting public debate. It’s more like the coworker was talking to friends at the grocery store, and you happened to be in the same aisle and overheard. If you’re very close friends with the coworker, or it’s about something related to you, you can assume that they would also want to share with you, and it’s safe to chime in. But if you’re not very close (ie child’s subordinate) and it’s not about you, then it’s kind of weird to butt in with your opinion.

      OP if your dad saw your neighbor’s sister (or equivalent semi-distant acquaintance, though it’s not clear your dad has ever met this person IRL) in town and overheard them complaining about taxes, would he jump in to correct them?

      If not, then this might be a good way to show him that Facebook is not really a “public” forum and not everything that shows up on his feed is to/for him. If so, then instead I would lean on how uncomfortable it makes you feel, how embarrassing it is, and appeal to him as your dad who cares about you and your career.

      As a last resort I would resort to public shaming by commenting myself: “Yikes Dad, can you not pick fights with my coworkers on Facebook please? Mondays are tough enough!”

      1. pentamom*

        Once the Dad and co-worker friended one another, though, it went from walking into the conversation in the next grocery aisle, to being one of the friends in the group being addressed, even if not the best or closest friend. If this were happening only on co-worker’s public posts, your analogy would apply. I’ve been in that situation between two relatives on opposite sides of the family who would normally never interact, and it got really ugly for a while. But this isn’t that — they chose to friend one another.

        Co-worker has the option of unfriending Dad. If co-worker doesn’t want to do that, then co-worker is apparently not as bothered by it as LW. I think the only thing LW can do is unfriend co-worker after first explaining why — from a professional standpoint, LW should have done it as soon as they became supervisor/employee. Just say LW is housecleaning the friends list and realized that they shouldn’t be Facebook friends in light of their professional relationship. I’m not even sure Dad’s role has to be mentioned. Dad and co-worker are adults and can be FB friends and interact as they choose to, or not. As long as LW isn’t in the middle, it’s not relevant.

        1. Risha*

          Yes, I have to agree. I admit this particular scenario makes me feel a little icky, but after thinking about it a little, it’s only because the OP is still inserting herself in the middle. I’m mutuals with all sorts of people that I originally connected to via other people I actually know in real life, some of whom I don’t actually remember who it was that originally connected us. At a certain point, people become mutuals just because they are. I think my SIL’s mother is hilarious; if something unfortunate someday happens to my brother’s marriage, I’m probably not going to stop responding to her unless she blocks me. Is Sharon on FB who shares my former last name an obscure relative of my ex-husband, or is it just a coincidence? I honestly have no clue at this point, and it doesn’t matter at all.

        2. Alton*

          I agree, and ultimately, the LW’s employee may feel this way, too, but I think there’s still some social nuance when it comes to responding to stuff. I’m Facebook friends with a lot of casual acquaintances, and sometimes they share very personal things that I wouldn’t feel comfortable responding to, or I’ll observe that they seem to be engaging with closer friends and relatives, and sense that my butting in might be awkward. Sure, Facebook allows people to tailor who can see posts and they haven’t excluded me, but I would still feel weird butting in.

          Rather than a grocery store with strangers, I think it’s more like being at a party with various friends and acquaintances. There are times when it makes sense to jump into a conversation and times when it’s awkward.

        3. Employee of the Bearimy*

          The thing is, we don’t know if the employee feels like they can’t unfriend Dad without making it awkward for LW. So giving them explicit permission to do that could really help the situation.

          1. Artemesia*

            I’d be begging her to do so and telling her that his behavior was mortifying to me. This father is clearly deeply boundary challenged. I wonder if he would intrude on his son’s work life as he has his daughter’s — if feels like classic toxic masculine behavior.

        4. Avasarala*

          “Once the Dad and co-worker friended one another, though, it went from walking into the conversation in the next grocery aisle, to being one of the friends in the group being addressed, even if not the best or closest friend.”
          Honestly I don’t agree! Just because you write a post and it is visible to all your friends, doesn’t mean that every single friend needs to weigh in on it. Like when you write a post in Spanish and your English-only aunt comments to ask what you said. Or when your mom comments on every single thing you post no matter the content. You know that person, but they can’t judge that they’re not talking to you right now.

          OP should encourage the coworker to unfriend their dad and start pressuring their dad to stop fighting with strangers on social media.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        See, I view a public post as the equivalent of yelling in the town square. (See also: why I don’t comment on my FB friends’ public posts.) OP mentioned the employee’s posts being public, hence my 2 cents on this. First time I found myself in a weird situation of that nature (I commented on a friend’s post, a random stranger started arguing with me, and a coworker who was my FB friend jumped in to defend me from the stranger…. awkward does not begin to describe this), I messaged the friend and said, “Hey, Fergus, do you know that your post is set to public and just about everyone and their dog are commenting on it?” and Fergus wrote back with “Yup, that was intentional. I set my political posts to public because I want to encourage free discussion on my page” !!!?!?! okay, you do you, Fergus, but I won’t be commenting on your stuff from now on.

        Now OP’s employee and OP’s dad have somehow ended being FB friends, so even if the employee locked the privacy down, it wouldn’t stop dad from commenting. This is such an odd situation tbh (I have accepted my managers’ requests because I didn’t have the spine to decline, but I can safely say I have never friended a manager’s parent), that I suspect both the employee and the dad are enjoying the banter. (OP, not so much.)

        1. Mia*

          OP says they’re public, but I don’t think there’s actually a way for anyone but the person making the posts to see whether or not they’re public or only visible to people on their friends list. Idk how much that matters given that the employee and OP’s father are FB friends, but it’s still worth noting.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            There’s a little globe icon next to a public one, and a “person with several heads”(?) icon next to a friends-only one.

            1. Employee of the Bearimy*

              One head is friends-only, several heads is friends-of-friends, and a gear is for a restricted list.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I agree with you about public posts being the equivalent of yelling or posting a notice on the town square about a topic, but @Avasarala can also use social media as more of a small personal conversation if they choose to do that.

          I think social media does not have once set defined use or what it is for and individuals can use it how they wish. Just because person A uses social media one way does not mean person B has to use it the same way. There is one social media site that I was on where someone would make a post/rant and then close the post to prevent people from commenting. There were a number of people who were upset at not being given the opportunity to respond and calling for that individual to be banned. The person was not violating any TOC’s the platform specifically gave people the right to close the post and prevent further comments, so they were not using it wrong, just in a different way than people thought they should.

          The only issue in OP’s case is if the coworker is afraid that unfriending/blocking the father might make OP mad at them. So I think Alison is right OP should say feel free to unfriend/block my father. Then if the coworker still chooses to keep that person on then they are willingly allowing it.

      3. Scion*

        If I was in the grocery store and overheard two coworkers discussing politics in a way I disagreed with, I would *absolutely not* butt into the conversation to insert my own views!

      4. Tzeitel*

        Key example: my grandmother asking why Keith Olbermann keeps bugging her on Facebook. I explained to her that she must have “liked” his public page at some point because he is not trying to talk to my grandmother personally. She insists she did not. Keith just has it out for my grandma, I guess. Sigh.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          hahahaha hhahaha

          There is only one rational explanation for this. Keith has a crush on your grandma.

      5. Sharrbe*

        This is why Facebook made me crazy and I left it. I like keeping my worlds separate. I don’t want my crazy cousin who is constantly having crisises begging for money via GoFundMe becoming friends with a colleague. I don’t want one friend at one end of the political spectrum to start arguing with another friend of mind at the other end and then I feel uncomfortable being the person who “brought them together”. The whole social media thing just baffles me. What is so appealling about it? I know I sound like a 90 year old hermit, I know, but don’t other people want to keep various parts of their lives from filtering into the others? The only thing I found it useful for was finding old friends who have moved far away, but once I located them I just moved to texting them instead.

        1. Blueberry*

          I totally agree with you. I have several other pseudonyms in other parts of the Internet for various sides of myself. Collapsing my whole life under my legal name, and thus bringing my fundamentalist Christian relatives in contact with my Wiccan and queer friends, would be a recipe for disaster.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I joined a nerd meetup group but found that one of the people in the group is friends on Facebook AND in meatspace with a relative of mine who is problematic in her dealings with life and whom I am not really all that close to.

          I was in agony waiting to see if the group person would drag my relative into the group and I would end up seeing her more than I wanted to. Luckily, that did not happen.

        3. Gazebo Slayer*

          Oh, I DEFINITELY keep different spheres of my life separate. I have several Internet pseudonyms that I don’t mix (if you ever see a Gazebo Slayer anywhere but AAM, they’re not me), have very little activity online under my real name, and am nervous and cautious about even introducing IRL friends of mine who haven’t previously met.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        I like that grocery store analogy, but I think the dad is unlikely to see reason to given his unreasonable talk about his “rights,” which really have nothing to do with the situation. He is determined to look at this as a freedom of speech issue, which is ridiculous. This isn’t about whether he is legally allowed to comment on the Facebook posts or whether they are considered public or not. It’s about the fact that his daughter has told him she is uncomfortable having him interact with her employees, and he doesn’t seem to care. People who cling to their misunderstandings of “freedom of speech” rarely have the ability to understand that there are lots of times that you *can* speak, but that doesn’t mean you should.

        1. Sharrbe*

          Yep. They believe that “freedom of speech” means freedom from the consequences of that speech. No one is getting thrown into jail by the government for expressing an opinion. That’s all that “freedom of speech” covers.

        2. Avasarala*

          I agree completely. That’s when I would go for the “do it for me” tactic: “You have the freedom to post but your choices are hurting my job and career. Can you speak freely elsewhere?”

          And if dad doesn’t care about OP’s wellbeing enough for that, well, that’s a bigger problem.

      7. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I see this SO OFTEN on the internet. “Don’t post on my page!” when they’ve commented on a news article with 4800 comments/posted in a public Facebook group/”liked” a company on Facebook and now those posts are showing up on their News Feed.

        That’s just…not how it works.

    3. QCI*

      The employee knows he could block/unfriend the dad if he wanted too, and since he hasn’t I wouldn’t make it my business what they post about. Let adults adult.

      1. snowglobe*

        It’s possible that, since the employee knows that this is the boss’s dad, they might feel that blocking/unfriending the dad might be considered rude by the boss. That’s why the OP should say something, just to let the employee know that it is okay with them to ignore their dad.

        1. QCI*

          Possibly, but OP didn’t set them up, and it’s FB, not work related. Unless employee thinks OP is incredibly petty, retaliation wouldn’t be high on my list of reasons not to remove someone from FB.

          1. Blueberry*

            After quite a few negative experiences, I’d assume everyone with power over me is petty enough to do something like retaliate against me for de-friending their family member on Facebook, or anything else I do that they dislike whether at work or not, unless they prove otherwise. (This is why I don’t use Facebook, but that’s another discussion.) I think LW should speak to their employee, both to make this situation clear and to earn their trust henceforth.

      2. yala*

        I think apologizing for the father’s behavior (especially if OP doesn’t share his opinions) is probably a nice gesture. It doesn’t have to be over the top, just a little “Ha, yeah, I saw that. I’m sorry, I’ve asked him to stop, but feel free to block him if you want to.”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, I would mention that in passing too. After that, it’s up to the employee to take whatever FB-related action (or none) towards dad.

      3. Dagny*

        Eh, I have a parent who overuses social media and ingratiates themselves into my friend group. It’s a pile of awkward because this person will get really personal – not just hitting “like” on posts of kids, but will try to set up coffee meetings, etc. with my friends (who are like a two hour drive away), basically, trying to make all of my friends their own friends. I’ve had to play goalie for a while, telling people that it’s okay to not engage, okay to not accept the friend request.

        Point is, some parents really don’t understand the boundaries with their adult child’s friends (or employees), so you have to actually tell the friends/employees that you fully support them if they draw boundaries.

    4. Veronica Mars*

      Ever since my company made it perfectly clear that anything you say on Facebook that they decide reflects badly on the business is grounds for firing (even if its the result of a ‘friend’ screenshotting you and emailing it to the company, not a public post on like a news channel) I nope the heck out of all political debate on Facebook, even of the bland “I’m voting for so-and-so” type.

      And honestly, my life is so much better for it.
      My stress level is minus 10,000. I might still engage anonymously on twitter or whatever. But turns out that discussing politics within view of a huge family with wildly opposite opinions was stressing me out more than I knew. I guess because it mattered to me more that they all got along and were nice to each other.

  2. Heidi*

    Boss Man would be a hilarious name for a cologne. I would vote for pretending it never happened, like when someone farts in public. It seems like the kind of thing where calling attention to it would make it even more awkward.

      1. Zip Silver*

        I agree with Allison’s hubs. It definitely comes across as a cologne ad. Hugo Boss is right in the money, tbh.

          1. Bluephone*

            Same I just assumed the ads setting on the site was being weird and dumping ads in the middle of questions.
            Honestly I think the best thing is just to move on like nothing happened. if OP’s coworker wants to make it weird that reflects poorly on her (IMO)

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Me too! I thought it was an ad inserted into the page. I didn’t realize it was the cover until Allison specifically referenced it in her answer.

              I think it would be fine to ignore it if you wanted, especially if you don’t run into this student very often. If you do see her a lot and she seems a little weirded out you could say, “Oh, hey, sorry about Thursday, I didn’t realize that book cover was showing on my phone! How embarrassing!” then act like it isn’t a big deal, because it really isn’t.

        1. nutella fitzgerald*

          I also thought it was a cologne ad. Perhaps Alison can start a fragrance line: “Manager Woman by Alison Green” or “Eau de Senior Blogger Green”

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            The first fragrance should be “Eau de piss cup” or “Eau de cup piss,” followed by “Microwave fish,” “stolen spice,” and “sheettporui” to avoid any copyright infringement.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          Agreeing with the cologne ad thing. Heck, whoever sells Fierce more or less beheaded their male model for it. Boss Man by Hugo Boss would be my first, second, and third thought unless I was told otherwise.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Another vote for totally-thought-it-was-a-cologne ad. I actually didn’t realize that was the book in question on first read – assumed it was an ad on the page.

          1. TiffanyAching*

            Same! I scrolled past, thought it was an ad, and had to backtrack when Alison’s response made it seem like she’d seen the picture of the cover.

        4. Veronica Mars*

          Yes I agree. Honestly, I’d be a little more concerned about the grad student’s judgement if she truly was “visibly embarrassed” by it. Like, why is she so offended by this?

          1. Close Bracket*

            People are allowed to have whatever comfort level with images of half naked dudes in the workplace without it being a reflection on their judgement. It is, after all, a workplace. Judging somebody for being embarrassed and jumping right to offended is somewhat questionable judgement right there.

          2. Funbud*

            I chalked it up to her being a bit naive. But no judgment implied; some people have just led more sheltered lives. But I’d be tempted (only tempted, mind you!) to make sure I had something a bit MORE racy on file for the next time she might accidentally see me checking out audio books!

        5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Yep, or Abercrombie and Fitch. For a clothing retailer, their ads never seem to have any clothes in them.

        6. ce77*

          I thought it was cologne too!! Had to read all the way into the letter to look over and realize it was the cover (which, as a fellow reader of romance novels, is a HILARIOUSLY overly erotic cover given a normal romance novel).

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, unless I was picking up on any continued awkwardness with her, I’d probably just let this go. It’s pretty easy to attribute to being a random ad or cheesy book cover or some other equally innocent explanation (image on a popular workplace advice column??) that I wouldn’t assume this meant my coworker was listening to porn at work.

      Side note though – After reading the blurb for it, I kind of want Alison’s tips on what to do when the hot stranger who saves you from a dud of a date turns out to be your sexy new boss…

      1. Kahunabob*

        Willis, agreed! How does one deal with this?
        Sidenote: that cover looks like it’s totally stolen from a cologne add.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Right? I looked at it and thought it was an ad, and at a glance I’d think it was just displayed on a website.

          1. T3k*

            Same! I didn’t read the letter fully yet and just saw the pic and went “oh! That’s a nice looking, if unusual, ad!” then actually read the letter xD

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              So now I’ve gone back and looked at the picture, which I totally skimmed before. Hooooooo. I can see why LW is mortified!

              Though FWIW and IM(limited)E actual erotica tends to have more conservative covers…

          2. RecentAAMfan*

            I thought it was an ad too! And was curious as to why the internet, in its infinite wisdom, thought I should see it!

              1. Yvette*

                “Though I thought of the Calvin Klein underwear ads.” How is that possible? He obviously isn’t wearing any! :-)

          3. Ethyl*

            I had to read the question three times before I realized that was the cover and not an ad! Plus, the big red letters saying BOSS made it extra seem like a cologne ad! I also personally don’t think it’s that racy, and if I were LW I would just move on and never mention it again.

          4. Environmental Compliance*

            Me too. I would have assumed they were on some podcast thing and that add popped up, because it’s always the weird ads that pop up when anyone else is paying attention.

            FWIW though I also would have just chuckled at it and not even given it a second thought, because my first thought would not have been “this person is listening to erotica at work”. *shrug*

        2. Chili*

          I thought the cover was a cologne ad until I read the caption! Unless it seemed like the grad student got a really good look and is very concerned, I think it can be safely ignored in part because there are a lot of innocuous explanations for the risqué-ish imagery, like it being an ad for cologne. I always wonder what people think if they walk by my computer and an ad for underwear has randomly appeared on some website (which actually happened fairly frequently on this site for me until I got a better ad blocker).

          1. Chili*

            If the LW had mentioned in the moment, “Omg, sorry about this book cover! It’s a romance novel with a much tamer vibe than the cover makes it look!” I think that would have been ideal.
            Since that didn’t happen, I think bringing it up days later makes it a bigger deal than it is/ might make it seem like you are trying to cover something up. Like I mentioned above, there are so many innocuous explanations and so many ads are randomly very sexual that I bet the grad student has already moved on.

            1. Reality.Bites*

              Bringing it up days later also risks, “Wow, I can’t believe it took them all this time to come up with that lame cover cover story.”

              1. SomebodyElse*

                About the only way it can be done is to somewhat manufacture a conversation that you can slip the explanation in.

                At a time when the other person is around…
                “Ughh these stupid ads! I looked at vacuum cleaner bags once and now I’m being spammed with hoover ads. At least it’s not as bad as that week or two after I clicked on what I thought was a self help book and it turned out to be a steamy romance novel. I was inundated with half naked men for a week! “

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  You were inundated with “ads of half naked men for a week,” or “inundated with half naked men for a week?” If it is the second can I get the name of the self help/romance novel?

          2. Works in IT*

            I spent five minutes looking for the cover in question. My eyes were skimming over it because it looked like an ad.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yeah I thought the linked word was going to take me to the picture and then I thought I’d scroll down to the comments and find people asking Alison if she forgot to include a link to the image. Instead I saw other people seemed to have seen it and spent a good few minutes trying to figure out how I had missed it.

              I honestly don’t think that cover is particularly bad at all, especially at only a glance. I assumed it would have two people on it, engaging in… activities. This doesn’t seem any worse than a lot of movie posters that just feature the attractive lead characters, or a Calvin Klein advertisement.

              I think bringing it up would make it a bigger deal than it is! I vote don’t mention it.

            2. Alton*

              Same here! I didn’t even notice it until I saw people referring to it in the comments. I don’t think it’s that racy. It’s on par with a lot of ads I see in magazines.

          3. Aiani*

            When I first saw the picture I wondered why my ad blocker wasn’t working. Then I read the question and understood.

        3. MissGirl*

          I didn’t even notice it. I’m so used to ignoring ads. I had to scroll back up, thinking there was a link I missed. I would err on not saying anything to not double down on the awkwardness for both of you.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think the advice from AAM would be “Don’t date your boss while they are your boss ever…. even if there is a fire. If you really must date then one of you must leave the reporting line, ideally the company entirely.”

          I think Alison a few years ago did an column/post giving advice to TV show/movie characters and Meredith Grey was on of them wasn’t it?

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          “… and to my surprise my terribly handsome shirtless coworker with the rippling abs quacked at me. What did it mean? Gazing into his hungry gray eyes, I suddenly had to know….”

      2. Hugo Bossman*

        I’m the LW on this one, and I think this is the approach I’ve decided to go with. I’ve interacted with the the student in question since, briefly, and she seems fine, so I think this may have been one of those situations where it felt much more embarrassing than it was.

        And I didn’t buy the book to find out, but my feeling from the sample is that Alison would have for sure dismissed any questions from this guy as fake, because the whole scenario is bananas.

        1. Zip Silver*

          They usually are. An ex girlfriend of mine writes romance novels, and apparently they only pay the writers $2k a pop, plus residuals. Not exactly high literature. I’ve seen my ex pump out a (very lame) romance novel in 2 weeks and get it published.

          1. Anon for this.*

            Interesting. My company pays $5k against a royalty rate which varies. Lots of people self-pub, too.

          2. OtterB*

            Tangent from the post, but that’s … vastly oversimplifying a complex business sector with lots of publishers and publishing avenues. And dissing a whole genre whose books range from yes, poorly written bananapants crazy through fun (and nothing wrong with fun) to truly excellent.

            1. Steve*

              I wouldn’t worry about anyone getting the wrong impression about an industry from a ‘this is my anecdotal experience, where one person doesn’t try very hard and gets paid little money as a result’

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, I lurk romancelandia and publishing twitter enough to know that there are different business models for pretty much every major publisher. Some are paint by numbers novelettes with minimal editing and, I suspect, copy paste sex scenes lightly tweaked, others take a year or more to produce.

                (There are also a LOT of paint by numbers thrillers, but those tend to be less of a ‘publisher format’ and more of a ‘author format’ situation.)

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I have for years joked that Stephen King and Nicolas Sparks use a mad libs template to write most of their recent novels.

          3. Lying Over the Ocean*

            The romance publishing industry is worth more than a billion dollars a year — larger than every other genre (about as big as mystery and sff combined) — and has a lot of different pay structures depending on the publisher, the format, etc.

          4. AnonEMoose*

            I’m just curious to see how the current blowup in the Romance Writers of America works out. It’s like watching a real-time soap opera unfold.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  I don’t think it’s about a moral high ground…I think it’s partly “This is bad…how do we not do this?” and maybe partly the irresistible fascination of a train wreck in progress.

                2. Quill*

                  Moral high ground? Probably no.

                  Learning how to, maybe, not explode? More likely. Then again, 2019 had approximately 2 publishing scandals a month for the first 6 months, if they didn’t learn then…

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                It has definitely been the talk of a lot of SF Twitter as well as Romance Twitter lately!

            1. Havarti*

              I’ve been following the RWA disaster show for its valuable “how not to run a business” lessons.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                See also: “How not to handle a complaint” and “why you should not ‘encourage’ someone to file a complaint for BS reasons.”

                1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  Also: “the importance of writing bylaws not for the Board/Execs you have, and not for the Board/Execs you hope to have, but also to protect you in case you end up with the Board/Execs you desperately hope you never have”, which is something I had a lot of trouble explaining to an (unrelated) non-profit last year when they were voting on bylaws changes. I bet I can win that argument at this year’s AGM and fix some of the Potential Stupid they voted in last year by citing this…

        2. Relaxed Librarian*

          I know this situation was in an academic library, but if someone is distressed by that cover, they definitely should not switch to working in public libraries. Romance novels are a staple and the covers are highly entertaining (or embarrassing if that’s how you take it). I can’t keep track of how many naked/near-naked people or erotically suggestive poses that I’ve seen on run-of-the-mill romances. But seriously, a public library means opened condoms with mayonnaise squeezed on them and left sitting on a chair with the condiment wrapper, people kissing in the stacks, people grabbing each others’ genitals as they say goodbye in the parking lot – and that’s just the tame, laugh-it-off, people-are-weird stuff.

          1. Lils*

            Came here to say something similar, but about academic libraries–anyone who works in any library can’t remain squeamish about sexual content. Many, many academic libraries collect porn and erotica. We have piles of it!

            1. Lils*

              Honestly, it might even be part of a librarian’s *job* to read books like this! They could be writing a book review, reviewing for content, etc. Personally I have had to flip through erotica books donated to the library at my desk. I wouldn’t do it again, but I wouldn’t worry about the incident described above AT ALL.

      3. Veronica Mars*

        OMG yes, a book by Alison on how to handle all the ridiculous boss/employee plotlines of various ridiculous romance novels? Like “How Shades of Grey Would Go Down In The Real World”?
        Now THAT is something I’d read.

        1. Aealias*

          I flat can’t read those books anymore, because I always hear Alison in my head: “Oh, NOOOOOOOO!”

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I think the Powers that Be at Hugo Boss decided that Boss Man wasn’t a good name, so they chose Hugo Man and Boss Bottled for Him instead.

        That looks like a very cheesy picture, and as if it was left over from a perfume advertising photoshoot. Nevertheless, I can understand why it was embarrassing.

        1. Liane*

          My first reaction to the image was, “Ugh, look at those abs–the artist needs to get a better set of body morphs. Wait, that’s Boss Man’s fist, not a six pack–they just aren’t good at posing or postwork. Guess I was wrong, I am skilled enough to do book cover art.” (One of my hobbies is 3d art.)

          1. Anononon*

            Nope, it’s definitely his abs. If you look at the very bottom left corner, you can see his fingers from his other hand.

          2. Orange You Glad*

            That was my thought! His tie looks like it’s sinking into his chest because his abs are too distorted?!

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      What am I missing here? Is Boss Man the title of the book the OP was listening to? Is there a link somewhere in the letter? I’ve looked and looked, but I don’t see one.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Never mind…I just saw the illustration Alison posted.

        Sorry, it’s late here! I’ll see myself out now.

      2. snowglobe*

        It took me a while, as well, which just goes to show how much that photo looks like a cologne ad. I saw it three times, before I realized that’s what people were talking about. I would bet that the grad student forgot about that cover within 5 seconds of seeing it.

    3. Pony tailed wonder*

      I wonder what kind of questions AAM would get about Boss Man and from Boss Man.
      But it looks like a cologne ad and the other person might have thought that if they happened to see it.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I have had Kindle books that the author updated — and the covers changed when I synced my device. The first one I noticed, my daughter was in about 5th grade and reading kid lit on my device for school. I deleted the book from device to avoid that question for a little longer.
      (If anyone from Apple reads this, their ‘family’ settings for kindle still show ALL the covers in a library even if the child settings are turned on. Yikes.)

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’m pretty sure you can get a Kindle app on an Apple product? I think that is how my dad and Mr. Gumption read their Kindle books because they don’t have a separate device.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            ^ Hit submit too soon.

            Sometimes apps behave slightly differently on different operating systems. Can’t tell you the number of times Mr. Gumption has asked for my help on an app and when he shows it to me it is somewhat different than it is on my Android.

            1. Quill*

              My mom constantly asked me to help her out with computer or ipad stuff when I lived at home, and the answer, every time, was “I don’t do tech support for apple products.”

          2. Daisy*

            But why would they control how pictures display in an app they don’t make? I may as well complain to Apple about Ask A Manager posting that picture because I’m reading the site on my iPhone.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Correct, Amazon would be responsible for all versions of Kindle apps, Apple and Google just approve them for their app stores, reviewing them mostly for security purposes. You may be thinking of smart TVs, where the TV manufacturer is basically given an API and has to code the app for their hardware. That’s because there’s a lot more variation in TV platforms, whereas pretty much all phones use one of the two standardized operating systems.

      1. Morning reader*

        Love this! It’s what I often call my cats… “my boo” for one of them becomes “boos” when referring to both, sometimes they are the boo-cats. “Boos-men” would work too as they are male cats. But they don’t need cologne. A de-scenter near the litter box, maybe.

    5. kittymommy*

      I honestly dismissed the picture as a pop up ad in my brain and didn’t really even register it. It wasn’t until I read the letter and the answer (and tried to figure out if I missed a link for this picture somewhere) that I realized that the “ad” was the cover! LW, yeah, the picture is pretty racy (weirdly not for an ad but definitely for a strictly romance-only novel) but it’s likely that the student didn’t even think it was a cover of a novel.

      1. Leisel*

        At first I was little peeved – Agh! Why would they start putting ads in the middle of these paragraphs?! Now I have to read around them. Keep your ads out of here! – Then I realized as well. It wasn’t until I really started looking at it closely I saw that the title is strategically placed and that he’s not JUST shirtless. If the grad student is embarrassed by this then they’ll be embarrassed by most ads of sexual nature. They are worse things on billboards!

      2. LimeTwist*

        Me too. I honestly thought it was a weirdly formatted ad here on AAM at first. Then I read the question and realized it was actual letter content :)

    1. Is it Friday yet?*

      Same… it’s so bizarre to me that you would friend the parent of someone you work with. I’m curious who sent the initial request and why.

      1. Sharkie*

        Exactly- Like I can see it if you were friends with the parent independently of the coworker (Go to the same church, volunteer for the same projects, on the same board) but if you have no other connection that is weird.

        1. Sharkie*

          Unless coworker has very common name and dad thought they were friending joe smith from daughter’s wedding instead of joe smith from work. That happened to a friend of mine from high school, he kept on getting friend requests from my camp friends because they thought he was camp Joe since he was friends with me lol

          1. Doubleglazed Bill*

            I don’t know about the USA but in the UK ‘camp’ has two very different meanings, 1) pertaining to stays under canvas, 2)a now somewhat out dated term for for a obviously gay man. I am looking at you post, and nearly snorted a mouthful of tea on my tablet.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        My father-in-law tries to friend many people who have even a tenuous connection with him – his grandkids’ former teacher (despite living in another state), his daughter’s friends, his ex-wife’s new in-laws. It’s…awkward sometimes.

        1. OP2*

          This is my father too. He friends everyone. When I originally spoke to him, he did tell me that he didn’t
          know that he had friended and was responding to my employee. Unfortunately he doesn’t think that’s relevant.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Yeah, I know folks like this too.

            I do think the best option is to just let your employee know that you won’t be at all hurt or offended if he decides he’s had enough of your dad’s comments and blocks him. He probably already knows this, but it can’t hurt to just say it to remove all doubt.

        2. I'm just here for the comments*

          I ended up as Facebook friends with some pretty random people, just because we were connected by being friends with my spouse or other mutual friends. They weren’t complete strangers, it’s just Facebook connected us and they sent out friend requests to all the “you may know” suggestions (and yes, I know people who do this). At the time I was pretty laid-back about my friends list so I accepted requests (later ended up unfriending or blocking people, but that’s a different story). I didn’t even realise my spouse didn’t like a person, because they were all in the same group. All this to say that making connections on Facebook can be low-effort, and maybe the employee doesn’t yet realize they can block the father without offending the LW.

        3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          My dad has friended my mom’s brother on Facebook. That wouldn’t be particularly strange except that my parents have been divorced for over 20 years. (My mom and I both don’t have Facebook accounts and never have. They have some common interests (golfing, mostly), but it’s pretty weird that one of my main sources of pictures of my cousin’s kids from my mom’s side of the family is my dad. (Of course, some of dad’s relatives still send mom Christmas letters each year, so I guess this is more “family is complicated” rather than “Facebook is uniquely weird”.)

          1. Epiphyta*

            My ex and my brother are friends on FB, and we’ve been divorced for 20+ years. They’d established their own relationship independent of me, I get no say in whether it continues. It helps that it was an amicable end and we worked on maintaining good relations for the sake of all of the children in the family, who were quite close.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Many use Facebook to find new friends or even romance I’ve learned thanks to Catfish.

        I get requests for connecting with people from various avenues. It’s not how I use the platform but it’s not that unusual!

    2. Senor Montoya*

      Yes, and I think that the problematic person here is the employee, who is getting into it with the father of their supervisor (OP says employee knows this is her dad). That’s just not very professional. If it were me, I’d say to my dad “Dad, this is making things uncomfortable for me at work, could you please not?” And then I’d never mention it to him ever again. To my employee I’d say, this is breaking a professional boundary and I would like you to stop.

      1. Observer*

        No, you don’t get to tell your employees who to engage with or not. And unless they are behaving in a way that would get them in trouble if it were just “any” person, you don’t get to tell them how they engage with people just because they are related to you.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I’m really confused where you see that in the letter. The employee makes posts, as people do, and the father is the one responding to them. How is the employee the “problematic person” here “getting into it” with the father?

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        The letter says that the father is commenting on the employee’s posts.
        Nothing indicates at all that the employee is responding in any way, let alone “getting into it” with him.

      4. Avasarala*

        “How dare my employee leave their thoughts on their personal Facebook for my dad to find”…?

  3. staceyizme*

    On the NSFW audio book cover- in a library, uniquely, I’d say that you get a pass! Libraries have a culture of inherent tolerance (at least in theory) and your grad student may have left for any number of reasons. I think that you can let this go without worrying any more.

    1. Marie*

      Agreed. Most of the library staff I’ve known closely have been a little kinky. If the book is on the shelves, they aren’t going to judge you for it.

      1. Quill*

        At book club, I once had a conversation with a librarian that can be summarized as “I know she knows, and she knows that I know that she knows, about the existence of adult mods for a computer game we both like,” while the rest of book club doesn’t have a clue.

        I have, since, avoided speculation about how she knows about the existence of said adult mods. (I have… possibly more fandom exposure, so they’re maybe more likely to come up in online conversation for me? One is very popular because it introduces a bunch of other related game mods. Unless I know her under a screen name as well.)

    2. Lilo*

      I was just thinking about how my kindle has ads for all sorts of books when it’s powered off, including some Romance novels (nothing too bad but a bit over the top sometimes).

    3. Not Australian*

      Totally agree. Apologising or explaining makes it seem like the OP is ashamed of it, and that’s not an appropriate attitude for anyone in a library where it should be possible to research and/or discuss pretty much anything without fear of censure. Appearing embarrassed, OP, could run the risk of making a reader feel embarrassed in turn; if you want them to be comfortable, *you* need to be comfortable first.

      1. Hugo Bossman*

        I’m the LW on this one, and I hadn’t actually made that connection- thanks for this.

        I would never in a million years think judge someone for their research inquiries or personal reading preferences. I was mostly thinking of the workplace angle before, but I would hate to even put out the vibe that some content is inherently embarrassing!

        That said, I’ll still probably keep my audio player hidden from now on, no matter what I’m listening to!

      2. ExcitedAndTerrified*

        To back up what others, and particularly Not Australian are saying here… If this sort of thing is something your grad student looked uncomfortable about, you probably should be having a conversation with them, about that attitude, and how much damage it can do to a community they serve.

        I’ve worked in libraries that served communities where attitudes like this weren’t nipped in the bud – the first library I ever worked at still had a section for the ‘books on perversion’ (translation: anything on LGBTQ issues) that you had to ask a staff member to give you access to; this wasn’t even a decade ago – because it would have been ’embarrassing’ to have the books out with the general collection. New librarians just accepted that old rationale without thought, because ‘clearly’ the older workers new the community best. When I started digging into things it became clear that the policy was the product of one former head librarian, which no one had ever questioned (yes, I got that policy changed and the books added to the general collection). I once had a complaint made to my library director about me by the head of collections policy for our state library consortium, because I sent a note to the consortium’s collection development group that pointed out there was not a single book on a few different topics (BDSM, polyamory, etc) in ANY libraries in the state.

        In my opinion, one of the things a good library worker has to be on guard against is their own biases. You don’t have to stop having them, or read the material if you don’t want to. But you do need to be aware of what they are, so that you can avoid inflicting them on your patrons. Helping your grad student to understand that would be a good thing.

        1. Kaaaaaren*

          I think lecturing the grad student for being a judgmental prude would be the wrong way to go here. She was probably embarrassed because she maybe interrupted her co-worker listening to erotica at work and nothing about that situation indicates that the grad student would be judgmental about a random library patron taking out an erotic book.

        2. Hugo Bossman*

          To clarify, I’m the LW, and the student in question doesn’t work in the library, but in an adjoining department. The main door was locked, but she came in through sort of a side office entrance. So she’s a patron, not staff, and I probably wouldn’t advise her on managing her reaction, of course.

          But we have a lot of sensitive content in our collection, and what you’re describing is something that our staff takes very seriously, so I think your (very well-made) point stands!

          1. ExcitedAndTerrified*

            Ah! I misunderstood the student’s relation to the department. Yes, if they’re not a library student/worker, then it would be inappropriate to advise her on managing her reaction.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Ah now I wonder if you DO have student workers. Because if I were going to meet up with a student worker, and got the time wrong, it would be mightily embarrassing to have a full-time librarian find me in an employee area.
            Just means less reason for you to worry, Hugo Bossman/OP1.

          3. Paulina*

            Since this was a patron who came in when the library was actually officially closed, then their reaction may have been due to them having realized that you weren’t really “on duty”, and they left because the library was closed.

        3. Lils*

          WTF, I believe you but holy moley, that this old-school policy was still in effect in the 2010s is astonishing. Good for you for making positive changes.

      3. Senor Montoya*

        If the OP says anything (I wouldn’t), the focus for the OP should not be, OP is ashamed, but rather that OP is concerned to have made the student feel embarrassed.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      Agreed, it is a library. This is a core ALA value, privacy and no judging what anyone reads. You can mention it as Alison suggested but if you did mention it, I might also bring up ALA guidelines about not reacting when you see what someone is reading or when a patron asks about a “tough subject.”

      1. Shad*

        I’d think even ALA guidelines would understand having a reaction to actual inappropriate content at work—in that case, the problem isn’t what you’re reading, but where.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Agree. If you want to check out erotica at the library, awesome! We will absolutely help you. If you want to read that erotica while working at the library, unless you’re doing research on erotic content or something the fact that you work in a library doesn’t make it any more appropriate.

          1. Hugo Bossman*

            To clarify, the book itself isn’t categorized as erotica (I didn’t buy it to listen to the whole thing, so I can’t speak to how much NSFW content it actually contains- I was listening to a sample to see if I wanted to use an Audible credit to buy it), which may feel like a distinction without a difference, but I think it’s important to be specific, because I would never listen to something more intentionally explicit like that in the workplace, no matter whether the office was open or closed. (Also, if the office was open, I wouldn’t be listening to audiobooks at all, FWIW, because I’d need to be available for patron inquiries.)

          2. Starbuck*

            As a freshman in college I saw another student in the big, open rows of library computers browsing what looked like commercial pornography (based on the obvious visual content and web design) and being bothered by this (and assuming it must be against the rules!) I went to the front desk to let them know hoping they would do something, but I was told it was actually fine and that if I didn’t like it, I could move to a different computer where I couldn’t see them.

            1. Close Bracket*

              I wonder whether they told you the right thing. Maybe college libraries and libraries in general allow open browsing of pron even if someone objects, but that really strikes me as a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen. And what do they do about patrons who are under 18? There are plenty of 17 yr old college students, and members of the general public also go in college libraries.

              1. Aisling*

                Librarian here. They told her the right thing. Libraries do not and will not ever censor materials. If the library added the materials to their collection, there’s a reason. If a patron is bothered by them, they’re given options on how to avoid whatever collection is bothering them, but that’s it.

                And for kids, libraries don’t act “in loco parentis”, or in place of the parents, even in public libraries. If parents want to accompany their kids to the library and censor what their kids check out, they’re welcome to, but librarians won’t.

            2. san junipero*

              Honestly? It’s not impossible that it was for a research project of some kind. College is weird like that.

        2. Paulina*

          Could that be affected by the office being closed, though? My general rule is that if I’m in after hours to catch up on work, then people who happen to find me in shouldn’t treat me as though it’s regular hours. I still shouldn’t be showing them something that looks inappropriate for the environment, but IMHO the grad student was a bit out of line interrupting, and shouldn’t (and probably didn’t, if only in retrospect) expect full professionalism from someone who is catching up on some things during a closure.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I could see that for some “inappropriate at work” things, but not others, personally. For example, I would play a more political-tinged podcast out loud rather than using headphones if I’m the only one still at work for the day while I catch up on something like filing, but I wouldn’t do that with something like erotica.

    5. Venus*

      I wonder if maybe the staff member immediately left because they were getting ready to leave, noticed that someone else was in the office, and dropped by just before they left. It could very easily have been a coincidence on timing.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Plot twist: she was planning a major after-hours book heist, and the OP’s presence totally foiled her and her international library book smuggling ring!

    6. Elitist Semicolon*

      At one of my library jobs, someone returned the DVD of an art documentary, but when we opened the case to confirm that the correct disc was in fact present, it turned out to be ~1980s-era gay romance. I say “romance” and not “porn” because of course the first thing we did was put it in the nearest DVD player and watch part of it, and wow, was it boring. It sure led to an awkward conversation with the patron, who turned out to be an administrator at our parent institution, though.

    7. Free Meercats*

      From the description in the letter, I was expecting something at least along the lines of a Chuck Tingle tingler, not what (after starting to read the comments) I realized it was the picture next to the post.

      I see that Hugo Bossman has decided to leave it alone; IMM, the right thing to do.

    8. Lime green Pacer*

      Dear AAM: I am a grad student. While I was in the university library over the holiday break, I saw a staff member looking at an audiobook with a very racy cover. I blushed–but not because I’m embarassed by that kind of thing. You see, my roommate is also a male model who does work for romance novels, and guess who was on the cover?! How do I let the staff member know that I was not judging her reading choices but still preserve my roommate’s privacy?

  4. Anonymous Nail Biter*

    #4, as a chronic nail biter, I cringed when I read this letter because I was afraid someone in my office had written it about me. Then I realized it wasn’t because I do avoid biting my nails in meetings with colleagues and would never do it around clients and instead fuss with my fingernails with my hands in my lap. The fact that I reacted this way to your letter is indicative of how self-conscious I am about this unhealthy habit. I’m willing to bet that the nail biter in your office feels similarly.

    For those who have never had a compulsive habit, you may not know how deeply difficult it is to stop. As an adult, I’ve tried all the usual things–painting my fingers with nasty-tasting stuff (I scrubbed it off) , getting fake nails (I cut them off), and counseling (that’s the only thing that seemed to help for a few weeks but when something stressful happened in my life, I picked up the habit again). My next strategy to try is hypnosis.

    I’m with Alison here. If the nail biting is genuinely disruptive and you need to say something, please bear in mind that the person will no doubt be really embarrassed and be as kind in your tone as you can.

    1. I Heart JavaScript*

      As a former nail biter, I agree. It took me years (decades?) to kick the habit and even now, I have to keep them cut short or else I start getting urges again.

      1. river*

        It took me about 5 years (repeated tries) to stop. The key for me was realising it was about chewing, not the nails. I found alternatives to chew, such as gum. Apparently chewing releases endorphins that feel soothing. I chewed gum for about 2 years until I got tired of it, and by then I had completely stopped biting my nails. It’s been 20 years, still don’t.

      2. Al*

        It’s the opposite for me. If my nails are short, I WILL bite them. If I keep them long and painted, for some reason I don’t bite them.

    2. Irishgal*

      Try giving yourself home manicures (cuticle treatment, filing/shaping, and buffing/shining). I found this helped me be more conscious of my nails and where they were and it cured me of biting totally after a 3-6 months or so. Plus my fingers looked so much better (chronic biting leads to thickening of cuticles etc).

      I’ve never bitten since (30 year habit) bur do pick at them and peel them at times now. It’s a personal signal to me now that I need to check in with myself about my mental health.

      1. Emily Spinach*

        Yeah keeping a nail file nearby all the time (so having a bunch) to file instead of chewing helped me, along with keeping them painted more. It took some conscious work, and I had to tackle it at a time when I didn’t have other stressful stuff going on (which can be hard to find!) but I used those methods to stop biting mine. I still pick at my cuticles and peel off nail polish, but mostly the actual biting is solved.

      2. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

        Chronic nail biter here. Then I just have the pretty paint to pick off instead. Gah! Cause the chips drive me batty. What seems to be helping right now is stress putty to play with. Depending on your work, that may or may not fly in meetings.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          This is me too!
          The manicures do help me cut down on the biting quite a bit, but yeah, as soon as the tiniest chip happens on any of the nails, it’s all over. That or, I over file/clip until they are rough and irritating all over again. Also, I can usually distract myself or keep them nicely filed during the day, but my weak point is at night when I’m in bed and all the thoughts of the day are swirling around in my head. It really isn’t practical to use any of my usual distractions in bed with the lights out. It’s really a tough habit to break when your fixation is permanently attached to you!

    3. Love the color green.*

      I am one of the nail biters and reading that others think it’s gross just made me cringe. I have bitten them my entire life and I’m 52 now. I have tried over and over and cannot stop. I have tried everything, was even hit on the hands as a kid to stop. Now I am hyper vigilant on washing my hands so hopefully I don’t have a full petri dish on my hands, but have some compassion please. I started doing this when I grew teeth so it’s not like it was a conscious choice. Having said that, I make sure not to do it in job interviews or meetings.

      1. Abc*

        I bit mine constantly from 12 to 24. The thing that helped me was carrying a nail clipper on me at all times and if I started biting, I’d stop and cut them instead.

        1. Observer*

          That’s an interesting method. But if someone is actually biting in situations like meetings or meals with others, this just is not practical.

      2. cheeky*

        I promise many (hopefully most) of us who are not nail biters do have compassion, but I have to tell you honestly that it will gross out a lot of people because your hands are in your mouth, and you’re chewing on yourself. And I’m very sorry that this makes you feel shame. That is why most people choose to say nothing.

    4. WearingGloves*

      I have a different but rather similar habit (picking and biting the skin off my fingertips, ugh, yeah, I KNOW it’s nasty and disgusting… I remember temporarily shaking the habit when was between four and six years old (i.e. at that age the habit was already firmly established and I knew it was a problem…) and pondering on how my fingers now looked like those of a princess… then I somehow got into the habit again and now I’m nearly 30.

      I THINK I’ve managed to control it enough to keep it down when I’m around people (except for my boyfriend who’s around too much to achieve that), but it’s mostly unconscious. By now the neuronal paths of this behavior must be really, really strong, The usual recommended methods didn’t work for me, either, but some years ago I came up with the idea to buy myself some thin, lacy gloves that can also be worn inside. It actually really helped! The problem was that I had to put the gloves off and on all the time and remember to take them with me at all times, so that approach kinda slowly died before I stopped completely (and anyway, increased stress would probably have made me pick it up again in an instant). Also, I felt a bit self-conscious about wearing them.

      But they were the most efficient method I’ve ever tried, and the gloves are still lying around somewhere… I should probably try again.

      1. WearingGloves*

        Found them. Wearing them now.

        I’m not sure if I’ll dare to look at this specific comment section again in fear of being judged heavily for this…. would like to point out again that it’s super hard to break this habit. In fact, not only have I not managed to shake it, I’ve ALSO taken up other skin-picking habits in the recent years. Thankfully those are only at home and less noticeable, but still. And consequences don’t do shit, I sometimes do this to the point of bleeding and pain but that never makes me stop for longer than a few hours or so -.-

        1. Darcy*

          I have the exact same issue! I carry around a fidget cube because it has little buttons and stuff I can dig my nails into in a satisfying way – I realised that for me it was the satisfaction of getting my nails into something. I also carry around hand lotion and a nail file at all times and try to keep my fingers as smooth and moisturised as possible so there’s no rough edges to start picking at.
          You’re not the only one and anyone judging you for it needs to get some empathy!

          1. Fellow nailbiter*

            I carry a fidget toy to meetings (a squishy ball, a slinky, a Ball of Whacks, etc) to try to keep my hands busy and out of my mouth. If I forget a toy, I doodle geometric designs on the back of my notebook (graph or dot-matrix) paper. I’ve found I need to keep just enough of my mind busy on some slightly physical movement while sitting still that I don’t wander off into a daydream or bite my nails to bloody nubs. We can’t have cell phones or laptops in most meetings, so it’s a lot of people sitting around a projector screen watching one person type. Some toy options are at So OP, this could be an option for your employee if it’s more acceptable to you.
            In terms of stopping, I had luck for awhile using a CBT technique of a rubber band snap on the wrist, but I stopped wearing the band and the habit came back with a vengeance.
            I’ve certainty gotten questions about whatever toy I have that day but no-one has ever asked me to stop (though I don’t have direct supervisor supervision or a daily or even weekly basis). I’m an engineer (mostly computer work of meetings) and actively done this about 4 years.

            1. Kiwiii*

              I don’t bite my nails, but I do need to be doing something with my hands or I stop paying attention to what’s going on around me. A lot of the time, I found that I ended up picking at my face or my neck (I have psoriasis, so there’s always something to pick at). To stop this, I’ve adopted a fidget cube, clicking pens, and I also found a worry ring (mine’s a ring with about a dozen very small movable beads at the front of it, but just about anything with a moving piece works) useful and unobtrusive to fiddle with. My coworker didn’t even notice it as anything other than a ring, and only found out about it when she realized I’d stopped clicking pens in our client meeting.

          2. Now in the Job*

            I came here to talk about the fidget cube! My husband is nearly 34 years old. When he was a teenager, he managed to stop biting his nails… switching to chewing on the cuticles around his nails instead. So his nails look great. And his cuticles look like hell. One time, he even managed to cause a really bad infection in his cuticle, and since he didn’t have insurance, it was like a $300 issue. We’ve tried lots of methods–gross tasting stuff (he’d just eat through it or peel it off), me trimming and lotioning his hands every morning, me grabbing his hands out of his mouth, but a lot of it relied on *me* noticing he was doing it, whereas he has NO IDEA when he is doing it until he has been at it for some time. Definitely recommend a healthy dose of compassion for people fighting this habit. I had thought it would be just a test of willpower to change it, but we’ve been trying on and off for five years and had no real success.

            Until now!

            I realized he does it when his hands are idle: in traffic, watching tv or a movie, in an uncomfortable conversation, etc. So for the holidays this year I bought him a fidget cube, and we routinely check his cuticles for things to trim and to apply cuticle oil. It has been three weeks to the day, and his hands have never looked better. It’s small enough to stick in a pocket or bring to work and be unobtrusive, but has done wonders for him. He has noticed so much progress that he is now more aware when he goes to pick or chew at it, and it’s a lot easier for him to redirect his hands. Highly highly recommend checking them out!

            1. Filosofickle*

              I’ve never been a nail biter, but I definitely chew and pick at my cuticles. If my cuticles have any rough corners or torn edges, it’s irresistible. Especially my thumbs, which end up bleeding. If everything is smooth, healed, and soft and there’s no edge to pick, that stops me — a few times in life I’ve achieved this. But the time it takes to stop long enough to heal are almost impossible, and I have to keep up the cuticle care daily. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to make that happen.

        2. I want gloves*

          Oh my goodness where did you obtain those gloves, I need them. Fidget devices don’t work.

          1. WearingGloves*

            Not sure if you”ll still read this, but I got them from Amazon. Also, they are apparently popular in Asian countries where light skin is the beauty standard.

        3. Arts Akimbo*

          +1! It’s super hard to break the habit because it’s a manifestation of OCD. The brain doesn’t just rewire itself overnight, much as my own miserably bitten nails and cuticles would like. :-/

          As miserable as it is for people to watch, it’s miserable for us who are doing it and unsuccessful at quitting, too.

      2. LCH*

        Same problem. Had this habit for 30 years. Also need to wear gloves in certain situations (at the movies!) or it gets really out of control. Also considering hypnotism.

      3. CheeryO*

        You aren’t alone. I somehow trained my brain into knowing that it’s not acceptable at work, but if you plop me down with a book or movie at home, I’ll have multiple bleeding fingers by the end of it. I do gloves too, and I’m obsessive about nail care and keeping them polished when they’re presentable enough. There’s a (small) Reddit community called /r/dermatophagia if you need extra support.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          When we watch TV at home, I knit or crochet. (And yes, then often have to rlip parts out the next day because I wasn’t paying enough attention. Worth it.)

      4. tinybutfierce*

        I have the EXACT same issue, which is part of some mild-OCD I have going on. I used to be a chronic nail-biter from a very young age, but somehow in my teens, it shifted to the skin-picking, and at twenty-nine, it’s still happening. I KNOW it’s gross, it’s painful (it’s not rare for me to do it to the point of bleeding), but it is literally a compulsion I can’t help; sometimes I’ll catch myself in the middle of doing it and not even realize how long it’s been going on. The best ways I’ve found for myself to try and deal with it is by regularly using a super hydrating hand lotion and a nail file, so there’s less of a chance I’ll find something to pick at to start, and keeping my hands occupied with SOMETHING as much as I can (I keep a fidget cube at my desk or take an interesting -feeling pen to meetings to keep in my lap and mess with; I do the same thing on long car trips), and just generally managing my anxiety as best I can (because of course a spike in that spikes the picking as well).

        It’s rough to deal with it in and of itself, but worrying about others noticing and judging you for it, especially at work, hoooo boy, that’s a whole other anxiety that just adds to the likelihood of it happening even more.

        All that to say, OP#4, I can almost guarantee your employee knows it’s happening (even if they’re not aware of it in the moment) and they’re infinitely more worried and embarrassed about it than you could ever be for them; and it’s also very possible it’s connected to another issue, like OCD, anxiety, etc.. So if you do address it with them, please please please be kind in how you do so.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m over 50 amd have been trying to stop biting my nails since high school. It goes in waves–painting tends to help me avoid it. Fidgeting with my jewelry helps. Being on vacation helps. Reading makes it worse. :(
      My inability to break the hsbit makes me very glad I never tried cigarettes or got prescribed opioids.

    6. Lynca*

      I’ve bit my nails all my life and honestly the only time it stopped was when I was pregnant or I had fake nails. I wasn’t as anxious as a I normally am (as my husband tells it the pregnancy hormones really mellowed me out) and I had really nice nails. The fake nails worked because I couldn’t get at them. I also really try not to do it in front of other people. I understand people have strong feelings about it.

      I find I do it more when I am anxious but I work in a field where acrylic nails are a bit of a hazard so I can’t fall back on that like I did when I was a strictly office/retail worker. But on the flip side, long nails would also get in the way so short nails are common. No one thinks twice about it as far as I can tell.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        I’m not a nail biter, but I do have misophonia, and other people biting nails triggers it like mad. To the point where just seeing someone bite their nails, even without sound, now triggers it. A complete collision of anxieties!
        If I were the OP I would be gentle about it but there are so many people who do notice and react to it I think it’s important to at least frame it as something to try to be conscious about in meetings. Much like I can’t let my misophonia erupt in public environments and tell my clients to stop chewing like that.

    7. mreasy*

      YMMV but I got my tongue pierced when I was 20 and it cured my nail biting! Not everyone can do this (and I no longer have a tongue stud) but it’s a thought?

    8. PhyllisB*

      My youngest daughter used to be a nail biter. She decided she wanted to quit because she was biting so much her fingers bled. She got porcelain nails. They looked so pretty she didn’t want to ruin them (besides, they’re not cheap!!) By the time she got tired of the upkeep and got rid of them she had broken the habit.

    9. Rachel*

      +1 to all of the above; I am also a compulsive nail biter (for me it goes with the territory of anxiety disorders), and I do feel self-conscious at work – I try really hard to be professional and competent, but this makes me feel bad. For what it’s worth, there is a condition called onychophagia that is compulsive nail biting, and it requires treatment.

      I usually solve this by getting acrylics for a while, but am still searching for a long-term solution.

    10. Mookie*

      Lifelong nail picker chiming in. I try to rein it in in public and with mixed company, but it definitely manifests at work when I’m brain-storming or listening intently.

      And a general heads-up for non-biters/pickers, not all of us actively want to stop. Fair play to the people who do want to and/or who are seriously suffering health-wise and I wish them well, but this is a compulsion that helps me be productive, a fidget device I can never lose and costs me nothing to re-generate but time. There are worse and more disruptive ways to mindlessly channel excess or nervous energy for better concentration and engagement.

      1. Just J.*

        This is me too. I used to bite my nails when I was a kid and teenager. I can’t remember what finally got me to stop (I was in college), but I still pick at my fingers and twist my hands and fingers as a way to dissipate stress and nervous energy.

        I’m very aware that I do this.

        When I’ve had fidget spinners and other devices, I drove everyone nuts around me playing with them (and boy oh boy do I love fidget spinners). So my old habits are the quietest. In meetings, I just keep my hands under the table.

        OP – I’m not sure how to address this with your employee. As you can see from this thread, they are probably doing it as a stress response, so maybe ask your employee how you can help dissipate stress before meetings?? Tackle the underlying issue and not the symptom of it?

      2. ScienceMommy*

        Agree with Mookie- I don’t really bite my nails, I pick at the nail instead, but it’s been a lifelong habit (seriously, my mom told me she never had to clip my nails as a baby, probably because I was already picking at them then!) and to be honest, I don’t really want to stop either. I recognize that it’s a huge way for me to relieve stress and anxiety. My nails aren’t ever bleeding and for the most part never even hurt, despite how short my nails are. I’d really worry that if I stop picking my nails, I’ll start some other more destructive habit to ease my stress instead. Also, like many of the comments have mentioned, I often don’t even realize when I’m doing it, so if I did actually want to stop, it would be extremely difficult. I know a girl who suffered from trichotillomania, and I view nail biting/picking in a pretty similar light, as that is considered an obsessive compulsive disorder, and for many people, nail biting fits that as well. So yes, on behalf of all the anxious, obsessive compulsive nail biters out there, please be careful in how you approach this.

    11. Picard*

      Fellow biter here too. I dont want this to be an ad or anything but simply a “what worked for me”. Nail stickers. They have multiple brands (color street, jamberry, and some that you find in the drugstore). They are easy to apply and pretty hard to pick off. it took me a few months and now I dont even wear them much anymore.

      That said, my daughter is a biter too and she has not been able to stop. her nails are SO SHORT the nail stickers dont stay on at all.

      We both have some anxiety issues so I would say long term therapy is probably your best bet.


      As for your coirker, yeah its a gross habit – not sure you can get them to change easily but I think a single mention is probably not going to go awry.

      1. BFRBs are Nightmares*

        Thank you for posting the link. I have trichotillomania and a little compassion in the workplace goes a long way. 1 in 20 people have a Body Focused Repetitive Behavior!

    12. Duck Duck Goose*

      I’m a recovered nail biter, but it took me taking care of my nails at home so I didn’t want to bite them (and this still took years). I also absolutely have to keep a nail kit on me at all times now because if I’m out and a nail chips or something, I can’t stand it and I’ll bite it down until it’s even (and often too short). So if I have a clipper and a file on hand, then I can take care of it easily.

      There’s so many reasons for nail biting (and it really does take a lot to stop!) but I hope you find something that works!

    13. AY*

      I’ve been a persistent, particularly gross nail biter for 25 years (at its worst, I had multiple cuticles bleeding several times per day). I knew it was unprofessional, and I was filled with so much shame at work when I’d have to bandage my bleeding fingers before a meeting. I switched to a less stressful job and made it a priority to get regular gel manicures. I’ve stopped biting my nails now, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully kick the cuticle picking. The first time I worked up the courage to get a manicure, I cried because I never thought my nails/hands could look decent.

      1. Anon for this.*

        I’m a biter that has mostly stopped, and have been able to maintain long (natural) nails for years, though I do sometimes nibble long nails to get them even. It took all my will power to stop. It’s not easy. I want to do it. When I get stressed and think I’m going to bite again, I paint them or get a manicure/give myself one. I still want to bite my nails, and I definitely still fuss over them.

    14. Rockin Takin*

      I am always hyper aware that people notice I bite my nails, but I haven’t been able to find a way to stop. I also have a problem with twirling my hair too. I’ve managed to stop biting on/off for 20 years, but nothing has ever really cured me of this habit. It’s embarrassing and frustrating.

      If it’s just a personal issue with nail biters, I would leave it be. But if you really think it’s affecting business relationships, carefully bring it up.

      That being said, I haven’t noticed it affect my business relationships with clients. I’ve been in day long meetings with them where I know they’ve seen me twist my hair or bite my nails, and they never had a problem with it. (When I left my last company, the main client actually sought me out on Linked In to tell me how much she enjoyed working with me, so I feel like if she was disgusted with my nail biting she wouldn’t have taken the time to do that.)

    15. Smithy*

      Question around bringing this up with a direct report – I also definitely have picking tendencies, but when I’m particularly stressed I know I can engage in some very obvious playing with my hair. Largely twirling around the finger, but definite.

      My mom was the one to tell me and flag it as very noticeable and unprofessional. If I know I’m stressed and have important all day external meetings – I’m likely better served wearing my hair up. And in cases that are high stress but short, like interviewing, hair back helps but also making sure that I have a notebook in one hand and pen in the other so that my hands have the chance to occupied and hold something. My mom flagging it certainly hasn’t stopped it, but did help me at least be more aware of exactly how obvious it is and specific contexts where I need help to ensure it doesn’t happen.

      That being said – for the OP’s direct report, what do you think would be the kindest and most helpful way to flag this? Even in a way to flag the larger message of “it’s not that I’m watching you at your desk, but in meetings – particularly with other departments or senior leaders – it may be helpful for professionally to find other avenues to prevent that”. Just curious the advice that you would give to help deliver the message to a direct report without making it sound like “you are awful and must stop doing this at all times”.

    16. Shadowbelle*

      I don’t bite my nails, but I have a hard time concentrating in meetings (there is rarely any need to take notes) and need to do something with my hands. I have a squishy ball that I use to exercise my hands for guitar playing, and I now take it to meetings with me so that I can keep my hands occupied. This might work for nail-biters in some situations — if you’re doing something else with your hands, maybe you won’t bite?

      This is what I use (Gaiam Restore Hand Therapy Kit)

    17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I wish you the best in kicking the habit. It took me until I was 31 and I was gnawing my fingers to the point of nail bed and skin damages due to my anxiety disorder.

      Now I’ve had to be truly evil and carry a nail kit. My nails break easily. If I start a nibble, I won’t stop there.

    18. NotAnotherManager!*

      My mom is also a (recovering) chronic nail/cuticle biter and skin picker, and it just flat-out grosses me out. I’ve lived with it all my life, and my reaction to it is very visceral and I usually need a moment to get it into check because I know she’s not doing it to bother me in particular, it’s just very hard for her to control. She literally chews on her fingers until they bleed – I feel like she’s always bandaged or holding a tissue over a bloody spot. No one’s doing that for fun. She’s only started to do it less within the past 10 years or so, and she’s in her 70s, and she has almost full fingernails (she’d chewed them halfway down the nail bed) for what I think is the first time in her life.

      I would have a really hard time sitting in a meeting with someone who was chewing on their fingers/nails, but I would also feel bad complaining about it, given my mom’s struggles with quitting. But both nail biting and knuckle cracking set my teeth on edge, and it’s hard for me to concentrate on the task at hand while trying to drown out or ignore either of those.

      Now I also kind of feel bad about telling one of my direct reports that he couldn’t clip his nails (or do any other sort of personal grooming) at his desk, in case that was a coping strategy. The men’s room is about 10 feet away and we’re allowed all the breaks we need in a day, but if that’s an anti-biting strategy for him, I hope it’s not a problem.

    19. roll-bringer*

      Yeah, I’m also a nail-biter, and while I can keep myself from doing it in meetings, I instead pick at my cuticles in my lap – which means I can walk out of a meeting with shredded, bloody fingers, if it was particularly stressful. (Like annual reviews!!)

      Which isn’t to say it’s not worth trying to avoid nail biting in meetings, but that – if it were as simple as just cutting the habit, your employee would have done so already.

    20. JustaTech*

      My boss is a nail biter. I have only ever said anything about it to him once, when he complained that his lack of fingernails was making a thing in the lab hard for him to do. I said “Hey, I’ve got some really nasty nail polish if you want to try.” That’s it.

      Me, I wasn’t a nail biter. I was something even less acceptable – a thumb sucker. Until like 23. It was a combination of my first professional job (that I thought could be a career) and my first (last and only) set of acrylics that finally got me to quit. And looking back, part of what helped me quit was that I was in that “new job honeymoon” phase where I wasn’t (yet) stressed out by work. But all of it, it’s so hard to stop.

    21. Broken Nail*

      Also chronic nailbiter/finger picker. I finally have the habit somewhat controlled (i.e. I no longer bite until I bleed). It’s taken years to get here. I use several methods: keep my nails clipped short, keep them painted (I still pick at the chipped paint, but it’s an improvement), keep clippers and a file nearby at all times, wear a fidget spinner ring, have water handy at all times so my mouth doesn’t default to my fingers, and had my boyfriend call me out for years when he spotted me chewing. This hasn’t even stopped it, it just minimizes the risk of damage.

      But if you trapped me in a room without my clippers for long enough and the was a particularly annoying spot on my finger, I’d probably bite or pick.

    22. SDSmith82*

      Fellow chronic nail biter. I had the same fear as far as it being my team. But I’m not the only nail biter, and it’s not disruptive (though it drives my husband nuts). It can technically be considered a mental disorder (it’s on the OCD list, i believe) so the boss needs to thread carefully in some states. It’s not just a habit that can be broken easily. I’ve had brief stops in the activity (managed to last like a 1.5 years when I would get acrylic nails) but that was the only thing that really worked. None of the other “solutions” work (sprays, nasty flavors, etc). I probably should go the therapy route, but tbh- I’m terrified that getting through all of the stuff would make it worse. So I bite my nails, compulsively, and that’s that. Shaming me for it just makes me more nervous, and instead of biting, I’ll pick at the skin around the fingers.

    23. Arjay*

      I understand wanting the employee to control the habit, but as a chronic nail biter who can’t quit, I would either be able to not bite my nails OR be able to pay attention to the meeting content, but not both for very long. I know that’s not really the boss’s problem ,but it’s something to consider when thinking about addressing the habit.

  5. Stormfeather*

    For #1… for once I’m not sure about Alison’s wording here. It sounds a bit like someone who doth protest too much, along the lines of “I just read it for the articles, really,” even if in this case it’s the truth. I’d still probably lean toward the sign of saying something just so it’s not the elephant in the room, but maybe something just off the cuff laughing about being caught listening to a romance novel (which doesn’t sound like a made-up excuse, but also gets the whole “she was listening to porn” off the table).

    As for #2, I haven’t really used Facebook much lately but I know you used to be able to put people into groups that you could limit posts to. Maybe the simplest answer here is just to restrict certain posts to groups that include the father or the employee, but not both? Unless of course they changed that functionality.

    And TBH I actually lean a bit toward the father’s point of view here, in that yeah, Facebook is social media, it’s not an in-office Slack or something, and anyone friending someone from work has to expect that they’ll be interacting with Not Work people. It’s still a bit rude of him to keep engaging after being asked to please not, though.

    1. Willis*

      I think for #2 the issue is that the father is responding to things the employee posts on his own page, completely unrelated to anything to do with the OP or their Facebook page. The OP just sees the interaction but isn’t involved at all. I like Alison’s advice to let the employee know its fine to block or unfriend the father. But, it may also be that both the employee and dad are fine with some public political debate and don’t mind the interaction (not my approach to FB but definitely some people’s).

      1. Stormfeather*

        (Sorry I’m late responding, have been sidetracked the last few days)

        Ah, I completely somehow missed that it was the employee’s own page. I had pictured them interacting on the OP’s posts, which that’s kinda how social media works if you friend your coworkers/employees. But yeah, on the one hand maybe they just hit it off and enjoy the debates, but it would be totally good to give the employee a heads up that the OP really won’t hold it against them if they block the father or whatever.

    2. Ruby*

      I also like Alison’s advice, the employee might be afraid there would be some consequence to either unfriending or fighting with their boss’s dad. OP needs to be clear that is not the case so the employee isn’t stuck being harassed on their Facebook page.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I agree about #1 – OP did nothing wrong and there’s no need to bring it up again.

      For #2 the employee and father have friended each other so they can communicate outside of the OP. As Alison suggested, I would just mention once to the employee that they shouldn’t feel obligated to remain friends with OP’s father on FB and then leave it alone.

  6. KWu*

    I know (from this site!) that “gross habit that people shouldn’t do, but it’s not really impacting anything at work” includes not washing hands after going to the bathroom, but ew. Adding it to the “very grateful for being able to work remotely” list. LW2, I would very likely be unable to stop myself from mentally noting everything the nail biter colleague touches after I saw the nail biting and would unfortunately also probably be/feel pretty awkward.

    1. TechWorker*

      Honestly even hygiene wise I think you are probably the outlier there… if you wash your hands before eating anyway then getting a tiny bit of someone’s saliva on your hand is not going to do you any harm. Note plenty of people do not wash their hands *after* eating so it’s not just nail biters you’d need to worry about :p

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, snacking at your desk without washing your hands after every handful of trail mix is darn near universal at my workplace. Humans are germy. We have natural defenses to deal with it pretty well, and innovations like handwashing to take care of the rest.

        1. Allypopx*

          Germs can even be good. They help build immunities.

          I am a nail biter and try to keep a small thing of hand sanitzier near by for the comfort of others, but tbh I’m not the only nail biter in my office and none of us care. Being around humans means assuming a certain level of grossness.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        Yep. Newsflash: if you have a normal face-to-face conversation with someone, you end up covered in their saliva. Just so ya know . . .

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          No. It’s pretty impossible.

          But the point is it’s spreading germs. They’re going hand to mouth. Hand to desk items. Hand to mouth. Hand back to keyboard.

          Just as grubby as gnawing on your nails and then touching things. Without the cheeto dust involved.

          1. Close Bracket*

            This strikes me as grosser for the nail biter than for the people around them. I personally will freak the eff out if it is brought to my attention that I touched something with another person’s spit on it, but rationally speaking, I wash my hands before I eat so their spit germs will not make it into my mouth (rationally speaking, I touch the surfaces of the shared microwave multiple times a day without washing my hands after so all their other germs WILL make it into my mouth). I wonder what the overlap is of nail biters and people who don’t wash their hands after using the rest room?

    2. Observer*

      That’s an out-sized reaction. The fact is that people put their fingers to their mouths countless times a day without sanitizing their hands and the touch things. And cover their mouths when they yawn, which seems less germy, but really is not materially different. And that’s not even including the people who use their hands to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. Or touch their shoe. Or touch any other item that’s been touched by others, for that matter.

      1. Allypopx*

        I’m leaning with my finger against my lip right now lol it’s not a particularly strange pose. I’m sure whatever I’m touching on the subway before I get to work is way more of a concern.

  7. Least My Hair Is Nice*

    To #4: Nail biting can be a super hard habit to break. Nail biters tend to know that it’s unhygienic and makes the nails look less attractive, so I don’t know if pointing things out like that will really help. They will probably give your employee even more anxiety if their biting is already that noticeable. As a nail biter myself, I have genetically weak nails (like tearing them on a sweater or bending the nail on a coke can tab weak) and generalized anxiety. The longest I have been able to keep from biting or tearing my nails when I get a catch was about a month. I’ve even tried bad tasting nail polish to break the cycle with no luck. It hurts when I tear nail bed skin or bleed. I would be mortified if my manager talked to me about it and would try to change, but would probably end up being even more anxious and start biting again. If it’s something you’re really concerned about, maybe speak to your employee on how they are feeling in the job or role? Less anxiety = potentially less nail biting. I do feel this is a case of it being difficult for non-nail biters (who’ve never bit) to understand how major a habit it is to break. I wish you luck, but do be kind to your employee as best you can.

  8. AnonOffice*

    Chewing on your fingers is a gross habit and no one should be doing it at work. It’s helpful for you to gently bring it up. Half the people in the meeting are probably cringing.

    1. valentine*

      Chewing on your fingers is a gross habit and no one should be doing it at work.
      Yes. And there’s sound! I would tell them to stop, just as I would anyone chewing their hair or picking their teeth or ears.

      1. Darcy*

        Calling it “gross” is very unkind as it is often a compulsive behaviour that people have no control over. I have done CBT to try and break the habit of biting the skin around my nails and I still catch myself doing it pretty regularly. Please have some empathy for people who know everyone is judging us for having this habit but just can’t break it.

        [Content note: graphic description of skin picking]
        For years I would almost always have bleeding skin around the edges of one or more nails and would often have peeled skin off all the way over my finger pads – I didn’t used to be able to use the fingerprint sensor on my phone because half the time too much skin was missing from my fingertips. It was extremely painful most of the time and I didn’t want to be doing it, and I was extremely self conscious about how my hands looked. I would avoid shaking hand with people, and often had plasters wrapped around all my fingertips.

        1. Autumnheart*

          It’s not unkind to call it “gross”. It is gross. If it were compulsive nose-picking or crotch-adjusting (we had one of those letters), it’d be just as problematic because it’s gross behavior. And I say that as a lifelong trichotillomania sufferer. It’s not on everyone else to tolerate one person’s gross behavior because it’s tied to a mental disorder. If someone is being distracting in a meeting, drawing blood, going around with visible wounds, etc. then that is a problem.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            Exactly this. Just because it’s a compulsive behavior doesn’t mean other people suddenly lose the right to find it offensive or annoying. People are entitled to their reactions. They’re just not allowed to be jerks about those reactions.

    2. CallofDewey*

      Trust me, all of us who chew our nails know it’s a gross habit. But it’s also incredibly hard to stop. I’ve been trying for years (gross tasting nail polish, acrylics, fidget devices) in addition to anxiety meds and still can’t. Please try and be a bit more understanding- it’s not something we can just stop overnight.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It is a very compulsive behavior. Even when I do manage not to bite my nails, I pick at them/my cuticles.

        1. pentamom*

          A decade or so ago, I switched (semi-consciously, not deliberately) from biting my nails to….picking them. I still bite a bit but mostly I just use my other nails or fingertips to break them off when they get any growth. It is every bit as compulsive as biting used to be. And cuticle picking, of course. I literally just did it between sentences while typing this comment, even though I’m more than usually attuned to the behavior at the moment.

        2. KimberlyR*

          I pick and sometimes bite my cuticles. I can control when I bite them (so not in meetings or around other people) but I don’t always notice when I pick at them. I’ve picked to the point where I bleed around the cuticles on my thumbs. Saying its gross and disgusting isn’t helpful. It is directly caused by my anxiety and hearing how gross other people think it is doesn’t make my anxiety any better…

    3. CheeryO*

      Yeah, I’m a compulsive nail biter (and cuticle/finger skin biter, unfortunately), and this is where I come down. It’s distracting and many people find it really off-putting. I think LW is totally within her bounds to say something. She can present it as something that the employee should do for her own professional development. Even if the employee knows that it’s not ideal (and I’m sure she does), it might be the extra kick in the pants she needs to try a little harder.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        As a reformed nail-biter, I agree. OP should say something, very kindly, about potentially impacting her professional image. Yes, it’s compulsive and very hard to stop or even curb sometimes, but I had to keep in mind that at work it doesn’t present a professional image and I shouldn’t be subjecting other people to my gross habit. If I was at my desk, which was off in the corner, maybe it’s wasn’t a big deal since I didn’t really see any foot traffic and the executives were in another building. But doing it in a meeting was and still is a hard no. When I was trying to stop I would just bring a mini Slinky or something else that doesn’t make noise, just to keep my mind on the meeting and not the fact that I wanted to bite my nails.

  9. Sami*

    OP #4: Nail biting is very very frequently a body-focused repetitive disorder that falls into the OCD category. It’s also very frequently part of an anxiety disorder.
    So you’ll need to tread carefully as this is possibly covered by the ADA or similar laws.
    All that said, as someone with a similar disorder (dermatillomania), your employee is not likely to be able to stop just by a discussion at work.
    The shame is overwhelming!
    And if she’s been doing this for a long time, which is likely the case, you should know there’s no cure.

    1. Alice in Wonderland*

      I still find myself biting my nails (partially because I have sensory issues hate the feeling of my nails being long) and things like a fidget cube might be helpful. They seem a bit more socially acceptable in offices than most other fidget toys, which tend to be brightly coloured and aimed at kids. Can anyone think of a way to tactfully suggest the employee try it? It’s a pity you don’t have one already because then you could have just offered to lend it to them, and getting one and then immediately lending it to them might seem a bit obvious.

    2. Annekitty*

      +1 to this. I also have dermatillomania and nail bite. It sucks and I try my best but not something I can always control.

  10. Play A Doctor On TV*

    As a nail biter myself, I’d need more info on this. If it’s just a quick nibble, I’d let it go. In the past, I’d contort my hands to get the perfect angle, spend 5-10 minutes gnawing on a particularly tenacious part and often end up with blood from turn cuticles. That is absolutely unequivocally gross so maybe you can focus more on that somehow? By the way, I quit by getting acrylic nails. They are terribly unhealthy for nails but I stopped getting them done a couple times and tried reviving my natural nails with creams and supplements but I think 30+ years is never going to be repaired.

    1. Telmereth*

      I am the same with the acrylic nails and at this point I have made peace with the fact that I will always need them. For me it’s a small price to pay for having nice looking hands and nails, when I literally could not stop nail biting any other way!

    2. Granger Chase*

      Yes, this is what I was thinking. It would be worth gently bringing up in private if the nail biting is to the extent that it is drawing blood, which I think makes it more noticeable to people. All the nail biters I have met were always very careful to not leave any “evidence” behind, even though it was a mostly subconscious habit. But if your employee is leaving the nail remnants in the conference room instead of throwing them away I can see why that would also be a reason to have a private conversation about it.

    3. annalisakarenina*

      God, my nail biting habit is awful and would also get bloody. I didn’t do acrylic, but I started getting the dip powder manicures and keeping my nails short. I literally cannot bite through that — especially when my nails end right at my fingertip.

      I also keep cuticle cutters by my desk and at home so I can neatly take care of hang nails without causing damage.

  11. Betty*

    #4: As a former massive nail biter, on the one hand I would appreciate knowing that it has reached the point where it made me look unprofessional in meetings. On the other hand, it is SO difficult to stop. It took me literally years of actively trying to get it to the current point of just the occasional nibble. I really and truly wouldn’t realize I was doing it at all. It is a gross, childish habit but the odds are very strong that your employee knows this already and already wishes she didn’t bite her nails. Please let her know, but also please be patient afterwards.

  12. Blisskrieg*

    Letter writer #3. Keep interviewing! I’ve had ideal candidates fall through very late in the process including during background checks. Or. Ideal candidates who surprisingly didn’t take the offer even though they seemed very interested. Or, even if they do accept and start, if it doesn’t work out a few months from now you’ll be starting again from scratch.

    Also it doesn’t sound like you’ve met them in person (?) I’ve had candidates that had wonderful phone interviews but did not hold up on second, in-person meetings.

    You may indeed go with this candidate but it is always good to have a pool or pipeline in case you’re in the same position a few months from now.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      ^ This. If the candidate is as good as you say they might have more than one offer and they may not end up picking yours. I would interview at least 3 people to have at least one runner up.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      All of this. I’ve been the top choice candidate for positions where I was also first or second interviewed (hiring manager told me) and it was 50/50 on whether I ultimately took the job or not. One position in particular (as an internal vendor auditor for a national bank), the hiring manager asked me not to make any decisions about any offers I was going to receive from my then company (she knew I was also interviewing internally) – she was going to offer me one of the roles she was hiring for, but she needed to continue interviewing candidates since she was staffing for an entirely new team and wanted to make sure I’d have coworkers and a supervisor in place by the time she made my offer.

      I got an offer as expected, but declined to take an internal promotion. Had the hiring manager at the bank stopped interviewing for the particular role I applied for, she would have been screwed since she also made offers to others around me and my strengths. But the position was filled rather quickly after I passed because she had backups in case things with me didn’t work out.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yes, LW#3 — Your letter does indeed sound like a first date; you really, really need to do some more interviewing, especially if you haven’t actually met this person. (!) Interview at least 3-4 people before you make your decision. Your first candidate may sound wonderful only because you don’t have anyone to compare her to.

      And are you doing all this alone? Given that you seem to “fall” for candidates quickly, it might be a very good idea to recruit a knowledgeable colleague to work with you on this to compensate for your own biases. (Which we all have, btw.)

    4. Antilles*

      Agreed 100%.
      As written, it seems like #3 is putting the cart before the horse here – assuming the very first candidate is the perfect fit, possibly not even meeting the candidate in person, assuming that nothing will come up that will crash the deal, no mention of colleagues having the same opinion, etc. It’s awesome that you’re trying to respect the time of other candidates by not intentionally keeping them on the hook when you have mentally eliminated them…but it’s way too early to have made that call.
      In fact, OP’s “great first date” analogy is an interesting comparison, because many (most?) people who’ve dated have a story of a stellar first date that didn’t end as “the one”.

    5. Ali G*

      Yup, you don’t know where else your candidate is interviewing. I was once in the running for 2 different positions that I knew I had a good shot at both. However, I had a clear top choice in my head. I had really great interviews with the other org and they were pretty shocked when I pulled out so late in their process. I won’t say they were definitely going to make me an offer, but I was for sure still in the running. So it’s really important to have a pool of applicants should you #1 not think you are their #1.

    6. Ama*

      Yeah, I went through a really difficult hiring process a few years ago where a bunch of candidates seemed great on paper and in the phone interview but in person were extremely underwhelming, our first really great candidate ended up turning our offer down for a job in a higher paying sector, and our initial actual hire (who seemed perfect for the job all the way through the interview process including reference checks) was completely overwhelmed and resigned after nine days. It can be really difficult to tell how a hiring process is going to turn out and if things fall through it would be good to have other strong candidates in mind to approach.

    7. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Seconding this, Blisskrieg. I’ve interviewed candidates early on that I just KNEW were The One: great, verified experience; great chemistry; great references. And yes, I often ended up hiring that person for my own team, or for my hiring partners. It does happen!

      But candidates have a decision to make, too, and while they were interested at first, sometimes my opportunity wasn’t The One. Or maybe it was, then their career plans changed – spouse is relocating for work, family member needs assistance, they won the lottery (this actually happened to one of my candidates!). Or maybe it was The One, but an even better opportunity came along. Or it was The One, except for one of the people on the team…you get the idea. This is fairly typical, but especially when it’s a candidate’s market like it is now.

      OP, you’ve gotten good advice and I hope you take it. Keep interviewing, and have a back up plan.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      I completely agree with this. I’ve had too many “perfect” candidates not work out for some reason or another, and I’ve also loved the first candidate and still had another who ended up being even better (and, in favorable circumstances have had the opportunity to hire both).

      I am at a stage where we proceed with screening and interviews until we have an accepted offer, and, even then it doesn’t work out sometimes. I had an accepted offer with a clear background and reference check who was supposed to start this week, and they decided to take their current employer’s counter at the last minute.

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This would be my advice too.

      Specifically that you don’t know this person is your only unicorn out there. You’re selling yourself short not speaking to others for something to compare them to.

  13. Jimming*

    I have sympathy for the Facebook OP. While I haven’t been in that specific situation, I’ve been in similar ones and I’ve stopped using Facebook as a result. That’s frustrating. I hope Alison’s advice helps!

  14. Perpal*

    #2 – ooo, it’s annoying but you can’t really control what other people do out of work. You’ve already asked dad to stop and he won’t. I think next step would be to disengage entirely and either leave facebook for a while (if that is a reasonable option) and/or unfollow + mute employee so you don’t see those posts any more. Perhaps you can let the employee know you’re doing it to keep it from distracting you, and not because you are upset by anything.

  15. Lena Clare*

    No. 1

    Yeah that’s not raunchy at all and does indeed look like a cologne advert.

    I’ve no idea why people are funny/snobby about romance novels – personally I think reading thrillers where the covers are violent (say, knife dripping with blood, or ominous character hiding in the shadows) and where the content is sick, are just as inappropriate in the workplace, by that comparison.

    I also don’t know why the student was embarrassed, but anyway. The natural assumption would be that the LW, as a librarian (!) would be looking at book covers as part of their job.

    I feel that mentioning it would be overkill, but Alison’s script is helpful if you would like to say anything, LW. Although – I think Alison’s script does also convey embarrassment that you were consuming this product and I don’t feel you have anything to be embarrassed about!

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      While I can see that the suggestive “finger in mouth” (is he a nail biter too?!) pose tips it into sexy, I buy things at work, during my lunch break, from Amazon. Last year I bought my husband some boxer briefs, so *every single time* I open the site, I am confronted by a model’s crotch (and partial abs) on my homepage. Granted, these are clearly models demonstrating the product, but given the hints of body parts more on display that that audiobook cover, I think the OP may be getting more embarrassed than is really warranted.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        And just to add, my coworker has a calendar of Peter Andre (including images from his early years). She’s had to add little sticky squares to part of his anatomy to comply with the “no nipples on display” policy, but I’d swear those pictures (on permanent show on her desk) are far more risque than that audio cover!

      2. Lena Clare*

        HahahA! Yes, he’s obviously a nail biter- being the Boss Man comes with lots of stress.
        Also lol at the being confronted by male midfriff and boxers area every time you open up Amazon!

        As an aside, I dislike the ‘buy again’ feature there. I can kind of understand buying more than one pair of the same boxers, but last year I bought an expensive fan and a bed frame, and Amazon keeps suggesting I buy another one of each the.exact.same 0.o

      3. Mary*

        Oh God, flashback to when I looked at sports bras during my lunch break and every time I went to the Guardian website for weeks afterwards (legitimately! for work!) all the ads were like, WE HEARD YOU LIKE BOOBS, SO WE GOT YOU SOME BOOBS.

        1. Telmereth*

          Hahaha, oh god I’ve been there too with sports bras, swimwear and in one case “leashes and harnesses” (I was looking for my dog, but Google got creative)! It also doesn’t help that one of the suppliers I use for work quite often has the name “S&M”… I am definitely on a list somewhere!

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            I worked at A POOL and could not shop for pool supplies on the company wifi because all of the companies that sold pool supplies were blocked by the internet filter for “containing pictures of people in a state of undress.”

            They sold swimsuits, in addition to boring things like lane line anchors and ring buoy rope and lifeguard tubes.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            A friend once got blocked for looking up vintage furniture…. you know that blocky oak style with flat leather seats? Well, the AI didn’t know THAT use of the phrase Mission Style!

        2. Mongrel*

          I deal with data for Pharmacies and sometimes have to look up details of products on manufacturers websites.
          All well and good until I hit the Lymphoedema compression garments, which have underwear models in stockings (male & female) & tight vests.
          Also, getting IT to understand that, yes we do receive legitimate e-mails about Viagra & Cialis so can we whitelist these please was also an exercise in pain.

        3. Lora*

          Hahahaha ohhh I hate Google auto-logins and tracking ever so much for this exact reason. God forbid you purchase normal boring granny panties or thermal longjohns on your home computer and then check your Gmail at work.

          Pro tip: use Private Mode AND a VPN when giggling yourself to death over Chuck Tingle books.

          1. Mongrel*

            Honestly, it’s easier to just have a couple of G-mail accounts (other free e-mail options available) and have separate work\home logins

      4. Anon Anon Anon*

        But his finger isn’t in his mouth? he has his hand holding his chin like a lot of poses …

        Or am I that oblivious to what different poses suggest?

        Personally as someone who doesn’t even like romance or sexual novels this cover doesn’t even look that bad (yes I realize what the text is covering but still… is it really THAT bad?)

      5. Oh No She Di'int*

        I feel your pain! I made the mistake of checking a few different websites when replacing some underwear. Now I get endless ads from one of those Chinese mega-websites where they mix in shots of undergarments with what look like bizarre and exotic sex toys. It turn out that they’re almost all weird kitchen implements (think: mini egg poachers). But anyone seeing them intermixed with the underwear could only come to one–very erroneous–conclusion!

    2. londonedit*

      I also don’t think it’s raunchy at all! You see more than that on the Tube posters with David Gandy or David Beckham or that one who used to be in One Direction in their pants advertising something or other. It looks like some sort of perfume advert or H&M ad or something. I can’t believe someone would be genuinely shocked and offended by seeing that on someone’s phone.

    3. MsSolo*

      I would love an update on this where it turns out the student’s reaction is because they wrote the book, and weren’t expecting to see it in the wild!

    4. KoiFeeder*

      I’ve seen thriller covers that are just “naked woman’s chest covered in blood” or otherwise more raunchy than the above romance novel cover.

    5. Clisby*

      Yeah, I thought it looked like some kind of ad for GQ. Maybe for neckties. IMO, it’s definitely no more risque than plenty of high-fashion magazine ads.

  16. The Bobo*

    I am sitting here at work and fairly sure that this page with that audiobook cover was seen by my coworkers at my new job…hope it wasn’t a career limiting move hahaha

    1. Kes*

      lol right… I get wanting people to be able to see it to judge, but at the same time I was a little surprised that the response to coworkers seeing this embarrassing cover on LW’s screen is to share the cover inline so that all AAM’s readers’ coworkers can see them reading something with the same image

      1. Close Bracket*

        Yeah, I paged down pretty quickly. My discomfort with seeing images of mostly naked dudes at work is not related to my discomfort with the reading material. I’ve read books with similar images. Heck, if something is too racy, I will keep it out of sight even on the bus or where ever. I call it being conscious that other people put their boundaries in a different place than I do.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      When I first saw it I simply thought ads were popping up in new places and it took me a bit to connect the two. If I saw a coworkers screen on a webpage filled with mostly text, one image off to one side or the other doesn’t register as relating to the rest of the content.

  17. Cake*

    I’ve read Vi Keeland and Boss Man. Yep, it’s NSFW but it’s better quality NSFW. What I mean: it’s not at all my kind of books, but I chose to read the easiest stuff I could find during a certain dark period of my life. I never revisited Keeland since then, but if Fifty Shades gets a 2 in quality (I haven’t read it, based on everything I’ve heard on the subject), Keeland gets a solid 7.
    LW, just let it go and it will blow off; better yet, pretend it’s your boyfriend, you’ll have the whole building envying you ;-).

  18. West Coast Reader*

    I just looked up books by Vi Keeland. All of them has the same style as Boss Man. I don’t read romance novels, but now I’m intrigued lol.

  19. Fern*

    Chronic nail biter/picker here looking to add perspective. This kind of behavior can be much, much more complex than a simple “gross habit” and can be linked to mental health issues, as it is with me. As stress and anxiety increase, so too does this behavior. I am often not aware of the behavior as it is ingrained, and I cannot just stop. I implore the letter writer to demonstrate more compassion toward their coworkers whose lives may be more complicated than what surface appearances have to offer.

    1. NailBiter*

      As a recovering nail picker, I’m not sensing of a lack of compassion from LW4. Something being difficult to overcome doesn’t mean employers shouldn’t broach the subject in the first place even if it might make their employees defensive.

      Personally, others pointing out that they notice when I’m doing my bad habit [or worse, when they look at my bleeding cuticles, which is a bad look when you teach hands-on crafts] was a huge motivation for me to stop.

      Therapy for excoriation was a godsend since it helped me deal directly with my anxiety AND changed the ways I cope with it (e.g. by not taking it out on my poor fingers). I would highly recommend looking up therapy for excoriation and body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB) for anyone that wants to overcome it. I remember the first obvious action that worked was to cut bandaids in half lengthwise and keep them on my nails at all times. I thought that it would look stupid and my therapist asked “more stupid than your bleeding cuticles, which brought you here in the first place?” It was a lightbulb moment that didn’t allow me to use the “I didn’t notice” excuse since I definitely noticed when I had a bandaid in the way.

  20. Jemima Bond*

    #1 – fwiw I’m right with Alison’s husband; I had to scroll back up to look at the cover because I had passed it by thinking it was an advert for aftershave. I mean it even suggests the name of a popular brand/designer of same, and loads of ads for men’s grooming products heavily feature a hench bloke with his shirt off.

    #3 I would definitely say interview at least a couple of other candidates. Like online dating; you never really know until you meet them no matter how wonderful they seem on paper. As someone who sifts applications and interviews for my agency, there has been more than one occasion where I’ve looked at the form and thought, this candidate should be great, they do abc, they should know all about xyz, they’ll walk it. And then they turn out to be very disappointing indeed! Your top candidate may well be great at interview but you don’t want to leave yourself scratching round to arrange interviews afterwards if you find out she’s all mouth and no trousers.

    1. Jean marie*

      I am another person who did not immediately realize the image was not an ad and scrolled right on by, for the record.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Your top candidate may well be great at interview but you don’t want to leave yourself scratching round to arrange interviews afterwards if you find out she’s all mouth and no trousers.

      Or if she gets on the job and just doesn’t mesh well with the team and other internal employees due to personality mismatches.

    3. Allypopx*

      Same it didn’t stand out to me at all, I thought it was just an in-page ad until I realized Alison expected us to be able to see something. If it was clearly a book cover on someones device I might give it a light chuckle but I’m not sure I’d give it a second thought after that.

  21. Chriama*

    Honestly, it sounds like both your dad and the employee probably like arguing with each other. People who regularly post controversial stuff on Facebook and continually engage with people who disagree with their opinions rather than blocking, unfriending, or changing what they post are usually doing it because they want to.

    There’s a slight possibility that the employee accidentally friended your dad (or accepted a friend request), realized who he was, and now feels uncomfortable blocking or unfriending him. But you can restrict Facebook posts — and yes, I know privacy settings change all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, and I can’t imagine being more worried about unfriending your boss’s dad than about continuing to post stuff he so vehemently disagrees with. It’s more likely that they like getting riled up/riling each other up.

    So yes say something to your employee on the slight chance that they really were afraid to unfriend your dad. And yes, you should immediately unfriend all your subordinate employees entirely. What’s the point of being friends with someone but not following or interacting with them? Just unfriend them! But I wouldn’t worry about their Facebook feuds any further.

  22. manu*

    #1 at a quick glance, that cover looks like it could be for a music album – could she have been embarrassed because she suddenly thought she had disrupted you listening to music while you were working? i don’t think it’s anything to stress over!

  23. DiscoCat*

    #1 I honestly thought it was an ad for BOSS after shave, caught a glimpse of the more suggestive shading around the thighs and thought that’s how BOSS decided to market this year… But I live in Europe, butts, thighs and sideboob are a totally common sight even in street ads.

    #4 I find it is unhygienic and says a lot about stress levels or inner discomfort. I have female colleagues who decided to get fancy manicures with fake nails to prevent them chomping off their nails. An ex boss had a habit of fiddling on his thumb sking with his index finger until it bleeds, it once caught the vocal attention of a poor PhD student. Awkward for everyone, I feel sorry for ex boss but a lot of that nervousness comes from his own disorganisation and general toxic work culture…

    1. Carlie*

      Add another to the column of “scrolled right past thinking that was a Hugo Boss ad”!

      Nail biting is basically impossible to totally cure, I think. Things that help me: always have a tiny nail file (to smooth any problems) always have lotion (makes your hand taste gross), always have silly putty (you can dig your fingers in). All also provide hand manipulation distraction and are basically quiet. I wouldn’t use them during a meeting right out in front of people, but they help lessen the habit altogether.

      1. mark132*

        After I got some dental work done on one of my front two teeth, it pretty much is imposible for me to bite my nails effectively, and without discomfort. So that’s what cured me. But I understand what you mean. I didn’t stop because it was a bad habit, but rather because I couldn’t anymore.


  24. Anony*

    #2 – I liked Facebook much more before it got hijacked by political posts. I’m glad your dad is messing with this guy.

    1. Czhorat*

      You’re glad that the dad is picking fights over political posts with the OP’s subordinate at work?

      That is not a positive for anyone involved. This sounds like something somebody who doesn’t like the subordinate’s politics would say.

    2. triplehiccup*

      Yeah that makes sense. Some guy you’ve never met disagreeing with another guy you’ve never will improve your experience of a site where you interact with people you’ve met.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Wait, what? Are you talking about when it first started and was only for the college crowd? Because ever since it’s been open to the general public, it’s been full of politics.

      So you’re just like “Yay let’s root for the trollssssss”, classic.

  25. Czhorat*

    A big concern I have regarding OP2 is that much of what passes for conservative politics these days includes hostility to civil rights for LGBT people, for women, and for other minority groups. If OP’s father is promoting bigotry on the employee’s Facebook posts that’s far worse.

    1. anonymous 5*

      This. And if the OP is the supervisor here, I could absolutely see the employee not wanting to rock the boat and therefore shrugging it off with, “oh, it’s OK…” unless OP specifically says, “it’s completely fine to block/unfriend him,” even if the employee and OP were friends before OP was promoted.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, this is a concern I’d have, too. Hopefully that’s not the case and the OP’s dad is sticking with less loaded topics (from an HR perspective).

  26. LGC*

    Oh man. LW1 and LW2 are beating themselves up more than they really should, I think.

    With LW1, I’ll admit I’m intrigued by the cover art. But it’s also really a “sorry you saw that, whoops!” conversation. I’ll admit I’ve seen my share of interesting cover art (for example I found out one of my employees is a Murderino when I glanced at his desk and saw him listening to My Favorite Murder)…and listened to things with possibly compromising titles/images myself. (Notably, In Bed with Nick and Megan, and ESPECIALLY MDWAP. The latter I’ve almost entirely banned from my work routine.)

    LW2 – I’m really passive aggressive, but I’d just unfollow the employee. I don’t think you did anything bad in keeping him as a friend, so I don’t think you NEED to unfriend him (do it if you want!). But you can unfollow right now and save yourself some stress. (You can also snooze the employee and possibly your dad. FB may be evil, but they have some nice shadow banning tools.) I’d apologize for your dad being wildly inappropriate, regardless – but not to beat yourself up over it when doing it. Don’t make it a dramatic thing, and lean more towards “I’m sorry my dad is embarrassing.”

    With regards to your dad’s views on Facebook: I’ve gotten more comfortable with Facebook by scrolling the news feed far less, and treating posts like they’re someone’s front lawn. I mean, your front lawn IS “public” in that anyone driving by can see it, and if it’s filled with “Bernie Beats Trump” or “Keep America Great” lawn signs. But if you just commented on the lawn decor all the time, that’d be weird of you! I myself have Extremely Strong Feelings about politics, but it helps keep me grounded to think about it that way – I don’t yell at front lawns I don’t like in real life (most of the time), so why would I do it constantly on Facebook?

      1. LGC*

        Again, I’m extremely passive-aggressive, but it is the best thing ever. I see something that upsets or annoys me enough, I’ll snooze or unfollow. I refuse to make billionaires in the San Francisco Bay Area wealthy by getting angry at people I went to high school with on the Internet. (Okay, most of the time – I allow myself a hateread now and again.)

        One thing I forgot to mention – talk to your dad because I’d be mortified by my parents arguing with my employees (?!?!) on the internet. (Truth be told, I’m mortified by the idea of my parents arguing on the Internet full-stop – the most threatening thing my mother has ever said to me was that she was considering making a Twitter account.) Plus, I think it’s terrible optics for a family member of yours to repeatedly argue with one of your direct reports – I don’t think you’d get in trouble for it, but if my boss’s relatives argued with me online, I’d feel a bit uncomfortable saying anything back because of that relationship. I wouldn’t try to change your dad’s political opinions (at least, not because of that) – it’s just that his political opinions have a high risk of interfering with your job, and his support of Donald Trump (or Boris Johnson or whatever right-wing politician is in charge in your country) is definitely not that important.

    1. Blueberry*

      I need to take a page from your book. I *do* sometimes comment bitterly on front lawn signs I don’t like.

      1. LGC*

        But did you knock on strangers’ doors and start yelling at them for their terrible political opinions? (Do you knock on distant acquaintances’ doors and start yelling at them for their terrible political opinions?)

        Honestly, I think part of it is that I’m just so used to being different relatively few things faze me. Plus I’m of the opinion that we were always jerks to each other, it’s just nowadays we’re way more open about it.

  27. Bookworm*

    #3: As someone who was a successful candidate who went through a very similar process (they wanted to hire me after the only interview which I think was the first of the batch and the most excited person had to be told they needed to talk to other people): I agree.

    I didn’t accept the job because it wasn’t the one they advertised (internal hire) and I wasn’t told they were interviewing me for another job…until after we began the interview. They were nice people but I didn’t think it was a cultural fit, either. There was also another job that I was waiting on so I declined this one.

  28. Kate Daniels*

    I’ve had a couple friends have similar experiences as #1, but it was that the audiobook actually played through the speakers instead of headphones while listening to a romance book at work because the iPhone and EarPods/AirPods can sometimes be glitchy, so their colleagues heard descriptions of racy scenes for a few moments before they could shut it off. I think that’s even more embarrassing!

    1. Joielle*

      I listen to a podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno, which is HILARIOUS, but if I’m listening on the bus I constantly double check that my headphones are still properly connected! (Basically a guy’s retired dad started writing terrible erotica and he reads it out loud with friends and they make fun of the ridiculous situations, grammar, etc… EXTREMELY raunchy but so so funny.)

      1. Media Monkey*

        OMG i love that podcast! my related story. i was listening to it on the train in the morning (with headphones of course – yaay for monday morning #pornoday) and properly snort-laughed at something that was said. a guy sat opposite me caught my eye and held up his phone and he was listening to it as well.

    2. Quill*

      Lol, I accidentally blasted Creature Feature once, for the five seconds it took to say “corkscrew duck vagina”. (Context: it’s a weird facts about animals podcast and they did a double valentines day special on ‘weird animal courtship’ and ‘evolution has created some ridiculous genitals’)

  29. Thankful for AAM*

    Re #4, I am a nail picker. I have come to realize it is more than a bad habit, it is in the DSM now as a mental illness, dermotillimania, part of pathological grooming. I can control it with a LOT of effort b4 a big event but have never been able to stop completely or on the regular.

    I’d appreciate hearing that you think clients are noticing so I could work on it for meetings. But this is likely much more than a bad habit.

    For me, I notice that when I am very occupied or stressed, I tend not to do it. That is the opposite of what I assumed.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am a picker of sorts, but I usually keep my hand in my lap, out of sight, while I compulsively scratch my middle cuticle with my thumbnail. Maybe I’m personally biased, but I do think there is a big difference between picking at one’s nails and putting them in one’s mouth. Not psychologically, mind you, but in terms of professional decorum.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        True, I was able to stop putting them in my mouth in HS. But I’ve never been able to stop the picking for long.

  30. nep*

    When I first opened the page, on very first glance I thought, whoa, that’s quite an ad for AAM’s site.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      And now I am giggling. That’s bad PhotoShop right there.
      A published author I know hates it when she’s offered cover choices that all use Photoshop tricks to violate the laws of physics and anatomy.

      1. Quill*

        Sometimes the weird cropping / copy pasting that stitches various photos and models together is to remove the watermark on stock photos.

        Source: have seen covers that were (whether by the author or publisher) pretty clearly frankensteined together out of multiple stock photos / mildly racy ads and then either “fixed” by blending over the watermark or by creative positioning in photoshop.

  31. Jaybeetee*

    Re: Boss Man. This reminds me of training I had at an old call centre job about 10 years ago. The “no lewd materials” rule came up, and the trainer pointed out that *most* people understood to, like, not bring actual Playboys on-site (many call centres permit you to have books and magazines at your desk, but not your phone). But lots of people show up with things like… Hustler, Maxim, or other gen magazines with somewhat raunchy covers. She pointed out that at a diverse workplace, such imagery could still make others uncomfortable…

    In this case, I’d prefer to not say anything. Speaking up might make a bigger deal out of it (and you don’t know that she was actually bothered by it). I’d only mention it if it comes up again. But now you know your phone does that! Plan accordingly!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Hustler might not be the one you meant there… IIRC from when I housesat for a single male friend, Playboy is tame by comparison.
      But quibbling aside, I agree. I saw a similar problem with Cosmo.

  32. Achoo*

    #1: Ranganathan’s laws for library science include, “Every reader her book, every book it’s reader.” A foundational principle of librarianship is we don’t judge what people read. That includes ourselves. Let it go.

    1. Nervous Nellie*

      Thank you for this! Yes – I hope OP lets it go. We all seem to spend so much time these days earnestly explaining ourselves. Doing so just makes this so much bigger than it is.

  33. HelloHello*

    To be honest, I found the cover in #1 so unexceptional that it took me reading multiple comments mentioning it to realize it was the cover being referenced and not just a slightly odd ad placement. It’d be one thing if you worked directly with children or in a particularly conservative or religious organization, but you’d be able to find covers exactly that explicit or moreso in pretty much any library you walk into.

  34. Amethystmoon*

    #2 depends on your relationship with your father and coworker. If you have a good relationship with your father, can you just talk to him and say please don’t respond to people from work on Facebook? Also what is your company’s social media policy? Depending on the policy, you may be able to use that as “We have rules we need to follow, and this is breaking them,” kind of thing. Though I do get it that not all relatives will understand that. Last year, I had to unfriend a distant relative who kept making religious right-wing comments on my page, and I have a lot of former coworkers and professional contacts as friends. Her comments did also totally violate my company’s social media policy.

  35. queen b*

    before I was wiser, I used to listen to My Dad Wrote a Porno (the podcast) on my phone at work. It’s not a graphic cover by any means, but the title causes some side eye if you don’t know what it is.

    1. nep*

      NPR had an interview with the creators/producers of that podcast the other day. Apparently they are touring the US. The entire premise is hilarious.

  36. 7310*

    #4: CHRONIC nail biter/cuticle picker here: I personally would be fine if you said something to me (after getting over my irritation at myself) if it was truly a distraction.
    1. Do not mention it being gross. I know.
    2. Levels of picking are directly related to boredom and stress, so:
    a. Encourage options such as fidget toys or doodling/note taking in your meetings for everyone.
    b. As your hire becomes more comfortable in the workplace, it may decrease.

    1. kel*

      I was just going to say this!!! Maybe offer them something else. I bite my nails from an anxiety response, but having something else to do with my hands might stop me for the length of a meeting.

      Truthfully, if I’m NOT biting my nails or playing with a fidget toy, or doodling…. I’m not actually listening to you, because my brain is too distracted.

  37. Aquawoman*

    My thanks to LW1 for including the cover, it’s hilarious. (I also love the ads for stuff I would never ever read that come up on my Kindle when I turn it off; the descriptions are often priceless). Nail biting for me is beyond mildly irritating, I have a strong reaction to it, like nails on the chalkboard type of thing. It makes me physically squirmy. I wonder if that would change the advice.

  38. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    #2 is a classic example of “yes, it’s legal, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.”

    I don’t know what LW’s relationship with her father is like, but a lot of parents (and other relatives) would be open to a request like “of course it’s legal for you to do that, Dad, but it could make me look bad. There are a billion people on Facebook I don’t work with, please do me a favor and don’t start Facebook arguments with my coworkers.”

    It’s true that LW’s father has the right to do what he’s doing (it’s legal and not against the Facebook terms of service). It’s also true that the LW has the right to unfriend or even block their father on Facebook, if that’s the only way to avoid seeing those posts/comments. (Bringing this up explicitly might lead to an argument, except that the argument already exists, and right now LW’s father may see no personal downside to what he’s doing.)

  39. MissDisplaced*

    Eh! I don’t find that cover any worse than some cologne ads that air on television.
    While it was awkward and embarrassing that a student saw it on your phone, I think I’d maybe just let this go because it feels like bringing it up and apologizing would make it a bigger deal than it is, thus heaping on even more piles of awkwardness.

    1. Quill*

      I’m personally more Yikes’d that the only local radio to play rock music made after 2000 is… heavily… sponsored by a local adult store.

      It’s the cringeworthy voice acting with “Hmmm. I need some help to get this started,” and “Honey, do you like the new outfit I got at [store]?” that means I will never play this station at work. Or in my car when anyone else is riding with me. My embarassment tolerance is exactly enough to get through it while alone and driving. (Not to mention the ‘plot’ of the ad is a wife trying to compete with football for her husband’s attention.)

  40. Bubbles*

    Has anyone mentioned that the graduate student may be embarrassed because they recognized the cover? I think most people would assume it was an ad, but if the GA recognized it, they might have thought it was too racy for work.

    And as an avid reader of trashy Kindle Unlimited romance books, this is a tame book AND cover.

    1. Lena Clare*

      as an avid reader of trashy Kindle Unlimited romance books…

      SAME! And unashamed of it too :D

      1. Bubbles*

        Obsessed! And unashamed… though I don’t share the book covers with anyone. My Kindle is password protected with a password no one knows. LOL

  41. Senor Montoya*

    OP #3: make sure you are following your employer’s guidelines and expectations for hiring. Check with HR about that. If you’re not working for state or federal govt or for a university, you probably have a lot of leeway. On the other hand, some of the slowness with higher ed and govt hiring has to do with equity, fairness, and addressing bias (implicit and otherwise). So give that some thought even if you can do whatever you want.

  42. Automated*

    #5 Im glad Alison brought up ghosting for internal apps. I got an email saying an interview would be scheduled back in August for an internal role….

    Sitting here not sure if I should withdraw officially or just let it hang. And yes I sent 1 follow up about a month in asking if there was a timeline (which was ignored).

    1. Ravenahra*

      OP here – One thing that was aggravating my anxiety on this that I didn’t mention is our office email has been acting up. For some reason it’s been marking mail from people I need to interact with as spam. So, I’ve spent the last 4 days having to check my spam folder and telling Outlook that the items from the director of teapot inventory and the teapot repair group are not spam because those are emails I have to respond to as immediately as possible.

      Good news is that the interviewer reached out late the next day and my interview is scheduled but I really appreciate the guidelines and script provided by Allison. It helps relieve my anxiety that the wait had anything to do with my resume or response.

  43. Jennifer*

    Re: Facebook

    Get into dad’s facebook and block your employee. That would be too obnoxious for me to deal with.

  44. Bunny Girl*

    #3 – I would keep interviewing. As other people have said, even if you do find the perfect candidate, that person could fall through. And if you cancel the other interviews, then call them back later to say the position is open again and you want to interview them, they might think that something happened that made someone else want to drop out – like the salary you offered was too low or the benefits were bad or something along those lines.

    If you do decide to cancel, please give as much notice as possible. I had someone cancel an interview with me right as I was walking out the door. I had spoken with the guy on the phone to set up the interview and he knew I was taking time off work and I was driving across town to do so. He turned out to be a huge jerk so I’m glad I didn’t work for him, but still having such little notice was really irritating.

  45. C in the Hood*

    RE #2: can’t the OP just customize her political posts so that her dad doesn’t see them? I have certain friends who are over-commenters, so I’ve adjusted my settings that they do not see my posts. This doesn’t solve the problem of her dad & co-worker’s FB friendship, but at least she can control what her dad sees on her own end.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      The issue is that he is commenting on posts made by the OP’s employee, not on her own posts.

  46. Observer*

    #2 – either unfriend or un-follow your employee. TELL him that you are doing it, and tell him that he’s free to interact with your father as he sees fit – or to not interact.

  47. EmbarrassingParents*

    UGGG parents. I do not have the best relationship with my mother and grandmother. They are old school Southern women who think I am too ambitious and too outspoken for a girl. They have no idea how successful I am in my career and tend to think it is weird that I work so much and so hard.
    At my wedding my (at the time) grand boss and his wife attended. When he introduced himself to my mother and grandmother, he said he was a colleague and did not identify as my SR VP. My mother and grandmother then proceeded to tell him “funny stories” about me as a child. I heard later, from a friend who overheard some of it, that my grandmother talked about how I was always “so bossy” and always “talked too much.” I am sure he thought it was amusing and I don’t think it changed his opinion of me, but I was mortified.
    I try to remind myself that I wouldn’t let something like that skew my perception of someone if I were in my boss’ position, so OP, I think Alison’s advice to unfriend from your coworker is probably the best bet, your coworker likely knows you well enough to know you do not share your father’s view.

  48. KayZee*

    Ugh! Elderly parents and social media are not a good combination. My mother, age 80, responded to a comment by my son’s football coach on a selfie I posted. He said “looking good” and my mother told him he was a connoisseur of beauty. I am a very average looking woman in my later 50’s but she told this man she’s never met that he was a connoisseur of beauty. I saw it on my phone when I woke up in the morning and sprang up out of my bed like that would help in any way.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      LOL, this is how my mother speaks and she’s only in her 60s. She will also get really indignant when she sees some of the names my brother and I call each other because siblings. “Do you really hate your brother?!” “No, I don’t. We’re teasing, mom. It’s teasing.” “Oh okay because it sounds like you haaaaaaaaaaate each other! You are both beautiful baby angels and should speak nicer to one another.” And she always posts comments about “stunning beautiful ray of sunshine my lovely daughter! My handsome son, with this lucky beautiful lady [who is actually just a bartender or a friend] by his side!!!”.

      I mean it’s better than having a parent that tells us we’re ugly and needs to change ourselves but yeah, it’s uncomfortable in a public forum.

  49. BeckySuz*

    I feel like at this point Facebook is just crazy people yelling at each other. I got off permanently a few months after the election and I don’t miss it at all. My husband (science guy) looooovves to argue with flat earthers on there for funsies. I don’t get it. No one is going on Facebook to have a reasonable discussion with an open mind. It’s mostly just people who will never change their minds yelling at other people who will never change their minds. It’s such a waste of time. As my mother was fond of saying..”you can’t argue with a fool”.

    If my dad was arguing on FB with a coworker you bet your ass I’d have words with him. If that didn’t help I’d move to block. People get really fired up about this stuff and even if OP doesn’t share Dads views it could risk their professionalism relationships if the online arguing gets heated.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I mean, the thing about sites like facebook and twitter is that what you see is entirely dependent on who you follow. What you have described is not my experience on facebook at all. I engage in a lot of facebook groups associated with various interests and in the well moderated groups the discussions I see are usually pretty great.

      1. BeckySuz*

        Hmm…well I’m glad your experience is better than mine. I just got tired of my mom’s friends posting insane bullshit during the election. After being chastised by my mother for calling out her friends one too many times I just got off. In my husband’s case clearly he’s not arguing with rational people so not much hope for a reasonable conversation.

        I think it would be interesting to find a hobby group to follow. I’ve taken up woodworking in the last few years and would def like to interact with other hobby woodworkers . Perhaps I’ll start a new one with no family or friends on it lol

  50. Elenna*

    #1 I’m… honestly not seeing anything about that cover that looks any different from the typical romance novel? I’m usually not good at noticing details in pictures so maybe I’m missing something, although the number of people who thought it was an ad suggests otherwise.

    #4 There’s a pretty big difference between being able to control a habit for a few hours in an interview versus controlling it for 40 hours a week at work. That being said, it’s probably worth at least suggesting that they stop during meetings – just, as other commentors said, be gentle about it because they probably already know it’s gross and are self-conscious.

    1. Elenna*

      Oh, someone pointed out above that the guy isn’t wearing pants. So he isn’t. I guess that’s a detail I didn’t notice, but then a whole lot of other people seem to have not noticed it either, so there’s that…

  51. Anna A Kuipers*

    Man, Boss Man is the gift that keeps on giving, I guess. I thought the whole letter was entertaining, so I skyped a link to this to my sister, which immediately plugged in a close up preview of boss man’s abs, for which I then had to send up a follow-up apology skype.

    1. R Kuipers*

      Sister here: at least it wasn’t as bad as the time I skyped you a picture of a book cover where the photograph of the female author was from the waist up and naked. Oops! my sense of work appropriate is not well developed

  52. surprisecanuk*

    Just to clarify the LW would need to unfriend both his dad and employee. Blocking one will not be enough.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      I agree on that being the optimal solution, but LW might have reasons to want to avoid the drama that will result in blocking/unfriending their father (unless facebook allows you to unfriend/block and the other person doesn’t know? I haven’t had one for a very long time).

  53. hedda*

    This is part of why I don’t friend my managers on facebook unless and until they’re no longer my managers for whatever reason.

  54. HorsingAround*

    Honestly, I was scrolling through this on my phone and when i saw that picture i started wondering what i had been browsing to be seeing an ad for Hugo Boss cologne until I had read far enough to realise it was part of the post.
    Though admittedly the described reaction of their colleague does suggest she thought it was something a bit more steamy.

  55. BFRBs are Nightmares*

    Late to the game as usual, so IDK if OP will see this but for the chronic nail biter – your employee may have a Body Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB) in the same vein as dermotillomania (or excoriation disorder, skin picking) or hair pulling. It’s not a “bad habit”, and it is outlined in the DSM V. If you do approach your employee, do so out of a place of compassion, do not use the word gross (they are more than likely already their own biggest critic) and suggest they find a fidget to use instead. A lot of people (approximately 1/20 people have a BFRB along a spectrum of severity) don’t even know there’s a name for their behavior. I’m not suggesting that you should assume this is the case for sure but would like for LW #4 to have more information about it being a possibility. Good luck!

    I would be grateful, but still ashamed, if a colleague or my boss pointed out my hair pulling at work.

  56. CaptainCaveMan*

    @2 Your father and employee/friend are grown adults doing what grown adults behaving like idiots do…growling at each other on Facebook. Make this a non-issue for YOU by going to your friend and telling them that IF they in any way feel obligated to interact with your father because of you, that you believe your employee/friend is entitled to do whatever they want and there would be no negative change on the workplace if they chose to disassociate themselves from your dad. Then leave it alone. Leave your dad alone, he’s entitled to post anywhere on Facebook and any consequence of that is his own to deal with. You don’t get to suppress anyone’s freedom at any level because it may (or may not) affect your career or workday. If his views bother you or if you truly believe him voicing them is a threat to your professional image, walk away from him. The loss of his child is the consequence he must bear.

    Also…put any and all workplace Facebook connections in a designated group where you don’t see their posts, they don’t see your posts, and nobody else sees that they are you Facebook contacts. Drive a hard, hard line between your personal life and work universe.

  57. Annie Porter*

    To #2: You have all of my sympathy. Before he passed, my dad became an avid, though not at all knowledgeable, Facebook user. In addition to friending all of my friends and colleagues, he once posted a random image of clothed, but very cleavage-y, boobs and TAGGED ME.

    When I asked him what the hell, he had no idea how it had happened (and despite my best instructions, could not get it removed). It ended up in a hilarious comment thread, but sheesh.

    Also, I hope your liberal employee owns him :)

  58. Jessica Fletcher*

    As I started to read the first question, I thought the pic was a suggestive ad for cologne or men’s underwear that was popping up on the post/my reader app, and I was going to screenshot and tweet it as, “hey, talk about my coworkers seeing something inappropriate!”

  59. Jedi Squirrel*

    Well, now we all have something embarrassing on our phones, lol.

    That said, though, you’re allowed to read what you want to read. Libraries are well known for being extremely tolerant about what people check out. It’s just nobody else’s business.

  60. nora*

    I asked my husband (who, coincidentally, is a librarian) what he thought that image was for, with zero context. He instantly said “cologne ad.” I then laughed so hard I almost fell out of bed. Thanks, Allison.

  61. Hawk*

    LW3, I haven’t seen this mentioned yet, but I watched my husband try to hire three “perfect” people in a row last summer, all to find out from their references (or other means, it was church hiring through a denomination that is very complex) that they are not good fits or ineligible. They had to go back to the drawing board once and it was extremely discouraging for the whole committee. Instead of getting your hopes up with one person, definitely have a few more. The third choice person ended up being hired and she was perfect in a way the committee didn’t even know was possible.

  62. J!*

    #3, your candidate sounds great but the “lives in the right location” bit is worrisome. I know logistics can be annoying, but don’t discount how great other candidates might be just because your the person you interviewed wouldn’t have to move.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      That pinged my radar a little bit, too. I don’t care where you live, as long as you can work the hours required and routinely show up on time (+/- DC traffic). The rest is up to the employee to figure out.

  63. Learn From My Fail OP1*

    Some years ago, I had a moment when ordering a book from Amazon to be delivered to my workplace, and failed to have my name as part of the address. The book was delivered to my workplace while I was on holiday, and did the rounds of all the people in the office (some 50 – 80 people, at a guess?) before it landed on my desk, where it sat with its cover on full view until my return. The book in question was Corambis by Sarah Monette.

    Um, yes. What could I say? So I said nothing and let people think what they chose to think. A few people raised their eyebrows at me that first day, but that was all. I think not trying to deny what it was helped immensely – if nothing else, it meant my reading habits didn’t become a subject for conversation.

  64. MissM*

    OP#1, I’d add the words “from the library” to Alison’s script because even if it’s not true, a book from the library implies that you weren’t listening to anything inappropriate for work without having to say the words erotica out loud to a co-worker.

  65. On my second career*

    LW # 3. Keep interviewing. You need to be able to assess the whole individual. Actually, by interviewing others you can make sure you have the right candidate and prove it. Also, hoping that I do not look too prurient, could the LW have a “crush” on the candidate and not know it? Sory, I had to ask

  66. san junipero*

    OP #1 — I think Allison’s advice was off on this one. I’d just let it go and say nothing. If I were a part of that exchange, I’d feel *way* more uncomfortable if you approached me afterwards, especially since this was a patron and not a coworker.

    OP #4 — You’ve gotten great advice on this already, but I wanted to add one thought. If (and only if) the nail-biting is genuinely a disruption that needs intervention, you might offer to work with her to find a more appropriate way to redirect the urge. I’m a terrible skin-picker, but I bought myself a fidget necklace that has worked wonders to cut down on picking in public.

    That said, if you take this approach, TALK TO YOUR HR FIRST and make sure you’re doing it in a way that doesn’t violate any disability protocols or run up against ADA issues. I’m just thinking that if it were me, prior to getting my necklace, I would have welcomed that kind of support.

  67. cheeky*

    I have a coworker with ADHD and a number of body-focused repetitive behaviors (the technical term for things like nail biting, hair pulling, skin picking, etc.). I do not think she’s very aware of these behaviors when she’s engaging in them, and I have (awkwardly for me) asked her to stop on occasion because the behaviors are distressing to me to see (for example, she picks at her skin until she bleeds and eats her scabs while she interacts with me, which is just awful to witness). Does that seem like a fair issue to raise more regularly?

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