someone stole my work history, my coworkers are angry about an HR investigation, and more

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

1. My coworker made up stories about my medical condition, HR is investigating, and my coworkers are upset

I had a mastectomy in November. I didn’t tell my coworkers that I was having this procedure done because the last thing I wanted was people drawing attention to my chest. I knew people would be curious, but I figured they’d eventually let it go. One coworker has been (since I went on leave) asking around the office trying to figure out why I’m out and has even made up stories about a hand surgery and work comp claim and “woman surgery” (whatever that is). I should have let it go, but it’s January. I reached my breaking point yesterday and sent an email to my boss to ask this coworker to stop speculating why I needed surgery and to respect my privacy. Instead, my manager escalated this to HR.

I know I should have let this go, because now HR wants to interview the people who told me these crazy claims (in confidence) and there’s apparently no way to stop this process once it has started. I’m very angry at myself for not just moving on. One of the coworkers has already expressed that she never should have said anything to me in the first place and another is angry that they have to deal with HR. I’m not sure how to start repairing these relationships. Do you have advice?

Your manager most likely escalated it to HR because the company has a legal obligation to act when someone might be being harassed for certain medical conditions (anything that might be covered under the ADA, which this likely is). It’s true she could have simply had a stern conversation with your coworker and shut it down, but I can understand why she wanted HR involved — this kind of thing has the potential to be serious for the company if they don’t handle it correctly. HR is doing an investigation for the same reason. (More here.)

Regardless, if anyone is upset with you over this process, they’re absolutely wrong. The person who caused this is your coworker, who is a boundary-violating jerk. You put up with it far longer than you should have, and you had every reason to finally ask for it to be stopped. If your coworkers ask you about, you can shrug and say, “I just asked Jane to tell Lucinda to knock it off. They thought it required a more serious response than that because the company can have legal liability when there’s a medical condition involved. I’m not going to argue with that. But I gave Lucinda every chance to cut it out before I finally mentioned it to Jane.” Or even, “If you’re annoyed to have to deal with HR, that’s on Lucinda, who’s been doing this for months and had every chance to stop.”

You could also tell HR what’s happening and ask that they make it clear to people that you didn’t cause this and blaming you for it is crap.

2. Should I mandate video conferencing?

I manage a small team of software developers. We are spread out over 4-5 locations and so rely heavily on conferencing technology. We tried using video to increase participation and team “bonding” since team members may only see each other once a year, if that. We had good participation at first, but now hardly anyone turns on the video. In doing some research, it seems the only way for it to be effective is to have full buy-in from team members. I’m wondering if using video is valuable enough to mandate using it on daily stand-ups (if we can’t get 100% participation), or if we should not put too much time on this and put focus on other necessary areas. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Ugh, no! Don’t make people turn on their video if they don’t want to, which they clearly don’t. Some people hate appearing on video. There’s not enough to be gained by insisting on overriding their preferences.

As a manager, you’re going to have to have a certain number of requirements that annoy people. Don’t add to that number when you don’t have to.

3. Someone with my name has stolen my work history

I have a very common name, and live in a large metro area. Think Anna Jones in New York or Jennifer Johnson in Los Angeles. I’ve been at my current role for three years, and am fairly happy here but when I see a job opening that seems like it would be a great opportunity, I apply. This means I’m applying to a small handful of roles a month. I’ve had a few interviews and one offer I didn’t accept a few months ago.

This week my boss came into my office and asked me if I was planning on leaving the company. I frantically tried to think how he could possibly know i was applying when he said that HR had been contacted on behalf of a company conducting a pre-employment background check before I could start a new position. I was flabbergasted and told him I had no idea what he was talking about. I even checked all my emails when I was alone and I haven’t really been in the running for another job in weeks.

I spoke with HR, and they showed me the email asking to confirm employment, which they had answered according to policy before someone decided they should tip off my boss. I’ve never heard of this company before, let alone applied for a job with them. When I contacted them, they put me through to a hiring manager who told me I’d been in for an interview a few days ago.

They wouldn’t show me the submitted resume due to “privacy concerns,” which is absurd, but I’m sure that someone with my same name is using my actual credentials to get jobs. I looked at my Linkedin and now recognize that it had tons of random people viewing it, one of whom worked at the company that supposedly hired me. I am freaking out. I don’t know how much damage has been done to my professional reputation, because I have no idea who this is. Is this illegal? What should I do?

Holy hell. Someone out there has stolen your work history and is posing as you! This one is outside my expertise, but it’s worth having at least a preliminary conversation with a lawyer to find out your options.

I’d think that the company that hired this fraud would be interested in cooperating with you to stop them, but their “privacy concerns” stonewalling indicates otherwise. A lawyer might be able to get past that stonewalling though, who knows. It’s worth talking with one. (Lawyers, want to weigh in via the comments?)

4. Should I get a graduate degree in a field I don’t plan to work in?

I’m a recent college graduate currently working in data science. I’m considering leaving my job in a year or two to pursue a two-year master’s degree in theology or biblical studies. For a variety of reasons, I doubt I’ll be able to find a job in ministry that I’ll be successful in — I primarily want to study theology because it’s a personal passion of mine, and I so I would probably try to find another job in data science afterwards. But I’m worried that employers would question whether I’m really committed to my career. Or maybe they’d just think I’m a weirdo at risk of bringing religion into the workplace?

As a hiring manager, if you saw a candidate about five years out of college with three years of relevant experience but fresh out of an unrelated (religious) master’s program, how much of a red flag would that be?

The thing about fresh master’s degrees is that employers usually assume you want to use them — and so if you’re applying for an unrelated job, they assume you’ll leave as soon as something in “your field” comes along. Not always, but a lot. You can sometimes talk your way out of that, by giving a compelling, believable explanation of why you did the program and why you want the unrelated job you’re applying for. But it’s the kind of thing that will make some hiring managers worry, and if they have other qualified candidates whose resumes aren’t raising those same questions, some won’t bother talking to you to find out more about your situation.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. But you’d want to go into it with your eyes open to that piece of it.

Updated to add: Some commenters are noting this is less likely to be an issue in data science. So know your field!

{ 750 comments… read them below }

  1. PJ*

    RE LW3: I wonder if her work history is the only thing that person has borrowed? I really hate to think of the worst case scenario, but if that person was using that identity to get a job, one has to assume they had some anticipation of proving identity if hired so…..yeah.

    1. Please Don't*

      You have to supply a social security number and the company can verify that the name and social security number match.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        If that happens, it might actually be a “good thing” for OP because then it rises to a level where the DOL and FBI become interested.

        1. Veronica Mars*

          I think this is still something LW could take to the police now. Identity theft is identity theft, even if its for a more indirect kind of financial gain. Worst case scenario, LW spends 30 minutes down at the station to hear “we can’t help you” and best case, she gets lots of free help dealing with this.

          I can kind of see how the hiring manager might have felt unsure of how to proceed and made the immediate call not to disclose information. If I was in the middle of hiring someone and received a random call saying mean things about them, my first reaction wouldn’t be to hand over whatever information the caller requested. But if the police showed up and asked where Fake Jane was, I’d lead them right to her.

          1. AKchic*

            If the person is using the LW’s SSN and claiming taxes, then the IRS will certainly want to know.
            As will the credit bureaus.

            Having dealt with identity theft, this merits pulling credit reports *now* and going through them with a fine-tooth comb and flagging any and all suspicious activity. If compromised, reporting the fraud and letting the IRS know of it and reporting the issue to law enforcement.
            This sounds like a good time to get an identity locker of some sort (there are advertisements for it). If the LW already has one and this has happened, then they should be asking the agency why this wasn’t already caught / prevented.

            1. Ophelia*

              It’s free to lock all three credit bureaus. My husband and I have ours locked as well as our minor child’s… and we’ve also locked our IRS accounts. We cannot file taxes without providing a specific PIN/password. This is because we were the victims of identity theft and we didn’t want to fall to it again. Companies that charge fees for this aren’t doing anything you can’t do yourself.

              1. The Bimmer Guy*

                Yeah, definitely freeze your credit and IRS accounts. You can unlock them instantly if you need to apply for credit, yourself.

        2. Artemesia*

          But Anna Smith will have her own social security number Even so the feds really don’t often move on identity theft even when people hand them the evidence; this is a constant theme of people who write about their experiences with having someone assume their identity.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          No. There is not one SSN for all people named “Anna Smith” and one for everyone named “Jennifer Jones.” The SSNs will be different unless the fake person stole the LW’s along with her work history.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            That’s not what he means.

            If her name is really the same. Anna Smith’s real SSN will match her name. They don’t have to steal the OPs SSN. So it’s not that level of identity theft.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No — the employer doesn’t know what the OP’s SSN is. The fraudster will give them the fraudster’s own SSN, and the govt will confirm the SSN given is for a person named “Anna Smith.” They’re looking for a name/SSN match, and they’ll get it.

            1. Iwearsocksforu*

              But I think what the rebuttal from “Elitist” means is that for verification of employment to those places, the SSN won’t match. Typically, those places would be provided the last 4 of the SSN along with the name and work history info. Presumably, if they are competent in their jobs, the SSN mismatch would be a flag that this isn’t the same person even though the job and name match.

              Though in the SSN verification piece, sure, that would match.

              1. Retro*

                That’s very interesting. I always assumed that background check people would manually contact your former place of work to confirm whether a “Anna Smith” had worked there from Year 2010-2012 and wouldn’t provide the last four digits of the SSN.

                1. TrainerGirl*

                  I think there is a verification service called The Work Number. Not sure if that’s manual as well, but that might be something that could flag a SSN mismatch.

                2. J Kate*

                  When I provide verification of enployment for someone with a common name I do ask for last 4 of the SSN just to make sure it’s the same person.

            2. Elitist Semicolon*

              Oh! I understand now. I thought the original comment was suggesting that Anna Smith #1 would have the same number as Anna Smith #2, just by dint of being named “Anna Smith.”

              I apologize, Evan B! Objection withdrawn.

    2. JKP*

      Except that the OP mentioned she has a common name. It’s entirely possible that this person has the same exact name and searched around for other namesakes whose work history she could steal. She could then use her real SSN and ID. It’s quite a devious plan.

        1. JKP*

          Oh, for sure, but if there are a ton of Jane Smiths in her metro, it might be hard to pinpoint which specific one is stealing her resume if she can’t get the info from the hiring manager.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t trust Fake Jane to draw a line between “Job history theft” and “Credit card theft”.

          Its free and easy to freeze your credit report at the credit reporting bureaus. If you ever need to access your credit to actually apply for something, its quick to unfreeze. I recommend it to everyone, but especially LW.

          1. saddesklunch*

            I recommend credit freezing to everyone as well, but I do think it’s worth it to note that whether or not it’s free to freeze depends on your state – in mine it ranges from $10-$20 depending on the agency.

            1. Llama Wrangler*

              I believe credit freezing is now free in the US — the one upside of the equifax debacle. (Link in following comment.)

              1. Minocho*

                You are correct, Llama Wrangler ( and smart to separate the comments. Mine contains links, and is still in moderation.). After the Equifax breach, consumer advocates finally got congress to pass a federal law to make freezing (and unfreezing) your credit free.

                Bureaus were making money off of charging to both freeze and unfreeze credit until then.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Bloody Experian charged me $5. I froze everything until after I filed my tax return, including Innovis and ChexSystems.

            2. Epsilon Delta*

              As of 2019 there is a federal law that makes it free to freeze and unfreeze your credit at all three agencies.

              I did it, it took 10 minutes, and was painless. I agree that everybody should do this.

          2. Annony*

            I agree. At this point the OP doesn’t really know if this person is just stealing her resume or if it goes deeper. She may also want to make sure she has an up to date picture and contact information on linked in to make it harder for the other person to pass as her.

            1. Mama Bear*

              Absolutely. This is probably deeper than the resume and I would make all efforts to protect other aspects of my identity.

      1. Tau*

        What I’m wondering is what she’s doing about references and educational transcripts/certificates.

        1. [insert witty user name here]*

          Transcripts probably aren’t necessary if she’s getting away with it. References are a little trickier, but when people get desperate (or just devious), they’ll either pay for fake references or get friends to pose as fake references.

          1. Vemasi*

            She can probably get away with using LW’s real reference, up to a point. If the new company calls and asks about Anna Jones, LW’s old employer will still remember LW. Even if old managers are turned off by not having been asked by LW, there’s a good chance it won’t come back to bite the identity thief, especially since hiring managers will sometimes go outside your provided references.

            It’s risky, but depending on the level of LW’s previous work, Identity Thief could get away with it.

            1. RecoveringSWO*

              Good point. LW should probably contact all of her previous employers and request that they get her permission before giving any reference or work history checks.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Or, they’ll go through OP’s LinkedIn contacts and figure out who they can email via LinkedIn and ask them to be a reference.

          3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            For the educational bit, they can just alter the resume to include their real degree, even if it isn’t so related to the job history. Plenty of folks get a degree that doesn’t tie into their profession in the most obvious way.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          I just ordered transcripts to apply for grad school, and all I needed was my name and DOB. Its not exactly a rigorous system.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          If the companies are just calling the references and asking “Did Jane Smith work for you?” . . . well, she did, just not the Jane Smith who is applying. Unless they’re also sending the reference a photograph of the Jane Smith in question, the references may simply be answering based on their experiences with Jane Smith the OP, not knowing it’s Jane Smith the Impostor who is applying.

        4. logicbutton*

          The references are OP’s current and former employers. That was probably the point of stealing a specific person’s work history: if not for references, they could make up a completely fictional resume.

      2. Scarlet*

        NGL I was pretty desperate during the recession and strongly considered this. It’s pretty clever and I hadn’t heard of it before.

        Thankfully I decided against.

      3. msjwhittz*

        I don’t think that works for actual background checks, though, which the OP said was being conducted for this other person? SSN is not used for reference checks but verified background checks do use a person’s SSN and ID. So it does sound at least likely that the fraudster has obtained some of that info.

        1. Dragoning*

          Just about every time I have to do a “background check” they force me to fill out all that work history, etc. myself. They could’ve put the info in and never used it, just called the places listed.

          1. msjwhittz*

            Yes you have to provide the info for the background check company to check against, but my understanding is then the info is verified by the background check company.
            Actual background checks are expensive, so I think in the US they’re rare except in specific industries. In the OP’s case this “background check” might actually just have been a reference check/employment verification, which could have led to the confusion and/or made it easier for someone to use her employment history.

      4. JSPA*

        isn’t it possible that they worked at the same place at some point…LinkedIn or a person connected to one of them on linked in got confused…and the other person has also been oblivious (and pasted in their linked in info without noticing that they’d become intertwined)? Person 2 may be thrilled at how many interviews they are getting, without having put 2 and 2 together? I can see someone who’s young, a bit feckless (or otherwise disorganized but not criminal)not remembering the name of their official supervisor when they were, say, an intern or temp, and going with what some app suggested.

        1. logicbutton*

          Idk, surely the checker asked OP’s HR to confirm OP’s dates of employment, and since apparently nothing flagged as strange for either of them, that suggests that Person 2 has OP’s employer down as their current place of employment. Even if Person 2 were prone to mixups like that, I think they’d know where they were currently working.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Nooooo, identity theft IS criminal. Everyone knows that. She’s a criminal.

          Besides, the people who do this sort of thing rarely do it just once, especially if they get away with it.

      5. Laura*

        Yes, I know someone’s who had a ne’er do well relative named Bob Johnson who 40 years ago called our state’s largest university to say he graduated in x year and needed a copy of his diploma and transcripts. He then used whatever he received to get a job.

    3. Sue*

      I’m pretty sure the person has the same name as OP to be doing this. But please follow Alison’s advice, this needs to be shut down as soon as possible. It’s identity theft but will probably require a civil, not criminal action to stop.

      1. Sleepytime Tea*

        One option to consider – make sure your LinkedIn has your picture on it! I know it’s something I generally avoid, but a good start here, if this person is indeed basically using your LinkedIn as their resume, is to make it abundantly clear you are not the same person, with a big ‘ol picture of your face front and center.

        1. AKchic*

          This. As much as we want to avoid random people ogling our pictures, being harassed, or we hate how our photos look; sometimes having a photo is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
          This is a thing that doesn’t seem to happen often, but it apparently does happen.
          So does meeting in public for interviews, and wanting to recognize who you’re supposed to be meeting is a thing.

    4. Snuck*

      I’d put something on your LinkedIn, I’m not sure how to word it, but something along the lines of “I have a very common surname and occasionally am contacted by people looking for someone with the same name as I have, or in the past someone has misrepresented me as themselves, please be careful and contact me directly if you are interested in my profile and we can arrange to chat.”

      That should be enough of a headsup?

      And… talk to a lawyer. And… tighten your online presence up. And clear up your work history and explain to your HR and boss (in writing) what has been happening and if you are casually applying for jobs it looks like you’ll either have to come clean, or stop for a bit, or run this risk with your own applications? Maybe in your own applications you could mention in the references section “Please note I have had a person impersonating me with the same name and using my work history. If you would like to contact my references they are available on request and I can confirm to them you are genuine before you ring. This issue will be resolved by lawyers in due course, and I expect this to be a short term problem.”

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes, social media loves when you store lots of information about yourself on them. Especially LinkedIn because it’s your “professional presence”. The problem is that your resume contains a lot of very personal information about you, and it’s open to almost everybody!

        I once met up with a new networking contact when I was desperate for a new job. Not only did he use LinkedIn to hit on me, from our conversation it was clear that he had done some Googling of me and found some blog posts from years-old jobs and asked me about the details I had mentioned in them. Based on my LinkedIn profile, this stranger could find out so much about me! I tightened up my online presence after that and took almost everything down from LinkedIn. There is no reason for your “networks” to know everywhere you have ever worked, and no reason for strangers to see your profile details. If you apply to a job through their site you can usually submit a resume attachment instead of using your profile.

        Do not forget that LinkedIn is social media. If you wouldn’t do it on Facebook, don’t do it on LinkedIn!

        1. Mary*

          >> no reason for strangers to see your profile details

          It is actually super-helpful for new graduates to be able to see what entry-level roles people and where they went yesterday, but that is not a reason to put yourself at risk!

          1. Kelsi*

            I’m assuming that was supposed to be “and where they went to school” but that is a very funny mistake in a thread about people knowing too much about you from social media!

        2. Veronica Mars*

          I am astonished by the sheer number of people willing to put their entire resume, including address and phone number, on LinkedIn. Do you want spam calls? Because this is how you get spam calls.

            1. Veronica Mars*

              But LinkedIn users can contact you through LinkedIn, they don’t need to call you or drop by your house. My LinkedIn resume still has a list of where I’ve worked and key accomplishments, but is scrubbed of ‘sensitive’ accomplishments and contact info. I still get plenty of people reaching out to me.

              1. BoredRecruiter*

                If you check LinkedIn regularly, and if that recruiter pays for InMails. I’d much rather have their email address and not have to use one of the 30 InMail credits I get per month.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                Same – if someone wants to offer you a job, all they have to do is send you a message on the platform. (Or, as the more annoying ones do, call the main number of your current job and ask to be transferred to you.) I’m not putting my address and cell on a public website, and I’ve not found this to be a barrier to being recruited on LinkedIn.

              3. AKchic*

                I use a throw-away Google Voice number and a throw-away email account for LinkdIn. Only real friends get my real number. Everyone else gets the spam number.

            2. B*

              Absolutely – but it’s completely unnecessary to have that level of private contact info listed. I’ve gotten most of my major career advancements through being recruited (starting on LinkedIn), and they just send a private message on the platform. Usually that turns into a phone call, and if we want to pursue it further we take it to personal communication platforms after that.

        3. B*

          I’m all about live and let live, so you do what you gotta do – but I feel like your comment makes some pretty bold blanket statements that might be the case for you, but definitely not across the board. If I took down my full work history, I would have missed out on the last three times I was recruited by new employers. The job opportunities I’ve been recruited for (all of which started on LinkedIn) have been, by far, the largest advancements in my careers. Most have been positions that were not being advertised, so there’s no other way I would have heard about it or been deemed a solid match.

          Don’t get me wrong, security it incredibly important, and I completely respect the decision to sacrifice potential benefits and opportunities in the effort of having more control over your info. However, presenting that choice as one without a downside is misleading.

          1. Avasarala*

            Of course the benefit of having all your information out there is it’s easier to learn about you and contact you. I don’t think I need to be clear that social media is fun and helpful when used as intended. But many many many people don’t realize that there is a downside to being easier to find and contact. I’ve been able to find great jobs and advance my career without sacrificing my safety and privacy, and compromising my standards was not worth it to me.

        4. Hell in a Teacup*

          I had an interview where a potential boss printed out my Facebook page and showed it to me. I ALWAYS locked that down but boy did that terrify me even more.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Yes. A photo or description of yourself might help too, if you were happy to have that on there.

        1. snowglobe*

          I was going to suggest the same thing regarding a photo. There must not be one now, or the person who conducted the interview (and who checked the Linked In profile, per the LW) would have (hopefully) noticed.

        2. a heather*

          That was my first thought — make sure you have a very recognizable picture of you, so that potential employers might get the first clue from that.

          1. RVA Cat*

            I was wondering about the photo. This is getting SWF enough I wonder if the fraudster cut & dyed her hair etc. to look more like the OP?

              1. Veronica Mars*

                Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.

                Thanks, AAM, for giving me a new thing to be terrified of. Just when I’d gotten over You…

        3. MsClaw*

          I’m not sure how a photo would help exactly. The Impostor can still copy details from OP’s resume into the Impostor’s profile. If the Impostor’s profile is the one recruiters are seeing or that employers are being sent, then the fact that OP has a picture on her own profile won’t matter.

          OP having a picture on her profile won’t stop people from accepting connection requests from Imposter, because they’ll probably just think ‘oh yeah, I worked with someone named OP back at Teapots Inc’. It won’t make any difference when people call for references etc.

          The best bets for OP here are checking her credit report (and probably locking it down just as a precaution regardless) to make sure nothing else has been appropriated. And to call some of her old contacts and let them know what’s been going on. And talking to a lawyer!

          1. logicbutton*

            Good point, although if that’s what the person did, OP might be able to search for their profile and report it. Maybe? I don’t really know how LinkedIn works.

    5. Observer*

      This.

      OP, put a freeze on your credit. It’s a bit of a pain if you need to take out a loan, but it could save you a LOT of trouble. And the credit agencies need to do this for free.

      1. LavaLamp*

        You can also put a fraud alert on your SSN. I had to do this a few years ago when someone was using mine to get a cell phone plan.

      2. Veronica Mars*

        I actually don’t even find it to be a pain to unfreeze. Its like 30 seconds online compared to a lifetime of cleaning up mess from identity theft.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Yes! We did this after the whole Equifax thing and it hasn’t been a big deal. The only time we’ve needed to unfreeze has been getting a new car. I can’t easily apply for a credit card at stores, but that’s a benefit and a nice excuse to say “no thanks!”

        2. Ophelia*

          Agreed. Hubby, minor son, and I all have credit freezes. My hubby and I have literally sat in the car dealership, pressed the button to unfreeze the specific reporting agency, had the dealership pull it, then freeze it again. It was cake.

      3. New Job So Much Better*

        Yes, do this right away. It’s free and easy, and now you can put initial alerts on for longer than 90 days.

      4. Joie*

        As someone in the same name conundrum, I would 110% agree on the credit freeze.

        While my identity was not stolen, I had a very hard few months getting the other Jane Smith off my credit report. With my life being a cosmic joke turns out the other Jane Smith was born in the same city in the other hospital, we have the same birthday (including year) and her SIN was 1 digit off from mine – apparently we registered and were processed one right after the other. Yeah. It was a long few months before we could sort out if this was identity theft or not, it was a relief to know it was just an honest error but also what are the odds.

        I put a freeze on my credit and just get it taken off anytime I need to do anything with my credit.

        1. Employee of the Bearimy*

          I had something similar, although it wasn’t quite that bad – same first/middle/last name, born in the same state a couple of years apart. We both had student loans from the same lender and apparently our files were combined at some point, which then populated out to the major credit agencies and even SSA. While I’m pretty sure the other Ms. Bearimy never knowingly impersonated me, she accessed a lot of credit that she could only have done using the payment history from my credit report (which had been conflated with hers). Meanwhile she apparently never paid her bills and had something like 22 accounts in arrears, which I had to clean up.

        2. Anon for this*

          I have a twin sister, with the same initials but reversed. The issues it creates are very similar. Changing my surname when I married helped a lot.

    6. WoodswomanWrites*

      LW #3, in addition to the solid advice you’ve already gotten, ave you contacted LinkedIn about this? I imagine they have experience with this happening and might be able to provide advice about next steps.

    7. Grey*

      Is it possible that, as part of their background check, the hiring company found the LinkedIn profile and assumed it was their applicant?

      1. StregaJessa*

        That’s what I’m wondering. Like the hiring manager found it on their own and is citing “privacy concerns” out of panic that they didn’t actually pick the right Jenny Smith. This is still best case scenario for OP, who should explore all possibilities and protect herself from this happening again.

      2. lcsa99*

        I though of this too but it doesn’t really work – her LinkedIn profile would have to match whatever resume they were given. If they were recruiting through LinkedIn and never saw a resume, they would have only found LW’s contact information. I just can’t think of a logical way this can be an innocent mistake.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          That’s only if the hiring manager isn’t an idiot. This scenario (which seems entirely plausible to me) presupposes that the hiring manager is in fact dumb enough to think that anyone with the same very common name must be the same person. If the LW were named Rufus Snodgrass, it would be more reasonable to jump to this conclusion.

          Punch my name into Google Scholar and will will find at least two of us. I’m the baseball history one.

          1. lcsa99*

            But I think if not ONE of the jobs on the resume matched the LinkedIn profile, even a dumbbell would realize it isn’t the same person. And the chances of two people who happen to have the same name and happen to live in the same area also happened to work at one or a couple of the same companies at different times are just too high for me to believe. There would have to be enough similarities between the two for any hiring manager or even an HR underling to assume they are the same person.

            1. International Holding, Unlimited*

              I’ve worked with some real dumbbells. This thread was my first thought, as well.

      3. becca*

        I was wondering something similar to this, only via google. A lot of people don’t put their current employer on their resume precisely because they don’t want their boss interrupting their work to ask why they’re leaving the company; someone doing hiring at the other company could have googled the name and thought they found their applicant’s current position, which was left off their resume for Reasons. And then went ahead and called that employer anyway.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I’m in my eleventh year with my boss. That would be a heck of an employment gap if I left it off. Not that I’m on the market. I wouldn’t have stayed this long if I were dissatisfied.

    8. Quill*

      Someone apparently used my SSN to get a job a year ago. The fact that it’s used for even submitting to some positions puts it at risk, unfortunately…

      They don’t appear to have had any other information on me, so I assume it leaked out via a recruiting or temping agency during my job search.

      1. Annony*

        That’s horrible! I knew someone that happened to and they had a terrible time clearing it up with the IRS.

        1. Quill*

          Nothing else has actually happened so far, so I’m guessing it was only borrowed for a citizenship or background test.

    9. SM*

      Don’t background checks require social security numbers? Depending on what social the identity theft is giving, it should be easily cleared up…

      1. Annony*

        Not all jobs do background checks (or at least not in depth ones). It could be that the thief is applying for jobs that either don’t have a background check or only look into criminal history and/or credit.

      2. Brett*

        Not directly, no, because they generally require a tax transcript which will require an ssn to retrieve.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This company appears to be doing their own, half-a$$ed “background check”. If they’d hired a BG check company, like my current and previous employer did, this would not have happened, because to your point, the impostor does not have OP’s SSN.

      4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Depends. I had checks and clearances done by multiple companies and governments over my career, and the depth varied considerably, as did the time it took (sorry, cannot be more specific than that).

    10. Automated*

      Honestly, unless there are more context op left out, there really is no evidence that someone stole her work history.

      Random people are looking at your profile on linked in? Yeah me too.

      Someone with the same or similar sounding name calles for employment verification and they got confused thinking it was you? also likely.

      To leap from those two things to “someone is posing as me to get jobs” is quite a leap to me.

      Especially considering you reached out to the other company, and they stonewalled. I am assuming you reached out to other company and laid out the facts that whoever they just verified, your company thought it was you so you are confirming you did not interview with them and the confirmation was wrong. And not “your new hire is a fraud. In which case i would stonewall you too.

      Im not sure what anyone is expecting a lawyer to do here. Force the other company to share the resume?

      1. Beehoppy*

        But if they called to confirm a work history they would have said did Jane Smith work there as a Llama Stylist from 7/10-present. I assume the letter writer is the only one who would match that description.

        And then to have someone from the same organization look at your profile in the same time frame? Not too much of a stretch.

      2. so many questions*

        She’s worked there for years. How would these new employers have so little idea about who they are hiring? You think they interviewed someone with no resume, didn’t ask about their experience, and then went on linked in to get info for the background check?

        1. Automated*

          I think most likely the background check was over zealous and returned false information not on the other applicants resume.

          I had similar issues on my credit scores, where I was constantly confused with my mother and sister. Credit scores whole purpose is to get this right and even they mess it up from time to time.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          I’ve worked for companies that dumb. They pushed all the reference calls onto the Onboarding Dept instead of having the interviewer do it and they refused to call any references provided by (and requested from) the candidates. Onboarding would pull up a LinkedIn profile on their phone and ask the interviewer “Is this the right Jenny Jones?” The interviewer would glance at it and say “Yeah I think so,” and then Onboarding would call whichever companies were listed in their employment history. It was bonkers.

      3. Blueberry*

        A lawyer can provide legal advice, since, well, they presumably know more about the law than non-lawyers. They may be able to offer other options that we non-lawyers do not know of.

        Unless you’re a lawyer *and* want to offer a free consultation in the comments here? I don’t think that’s how it’s usually done, though.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I wanted to believe this when I first saw your comment (because that’d be a lot less hassle for the LW), but, as someone already pointed out above, the only way LW’s LinkedIn profile would match the other person’s resume is if the other person copied LW’s work history into their resume from LW’s profile. If it did not match, they wouldn’t even be calling.

        1. JSPA*

          Or the list is short, and some applicants leave irrelevant (or too- advanced) jobs and degrees off a resume for fear of looking overqualified, “too old,” or not having the right focus. Especially if current job is left off, I can see “name, some other random detail and overlap at some past job” being enough to make someone say, “this might be the right one, I’ll cold – call current job.”

      5. Socrates Johnson*

        The new job’s tasks would have to make sense with OPs history which is why I think this is not the case. For example, OP is in Llama training and her current job is at the Llama Training Agency. If NOT OP is legit and she applied for a job doing mouse grooming, her prior job as a llama trainer wouldn’t make sense. Even if they didn’t have the resume but just looked at LinkedIN, Why would Mouse Grooming Inc be calling the Llama Training Agency?

    11. Will the Real Jane Smith Please Stand Up?*

      If they looked at your LinkedIn profile and the other “Jane Smith” came in for an interview, wouldn’t they realize that they’re dealing with two different people? Unless “Jane Smith” also looks a lot like you.

      1. B*

        Honestly, in my experience it isn’t all that uncommon for people to show up and look entirely different thank their LI profile. Obviously there are some features that would be a definitive tip off, but if it’s just a difference in hair color/length/style, weight, etc. I wouldn’t say anything or think it unusual. Unfortunately, kind of like with dating profiles, people will often post a photo they feel is most flattering (or professional), but is not an accurate representation or is extremely outdated. I see it most often in relation to weight.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My LI profile photo is ten years old, partly because I have never bothered to update it (and never have a professional-looking photo of myself at hand), partly because I am afraid of the employer’s reaction when they see how old I am. LW3’s letter really got me thinking that I need to update it as soon as I can.

    12. Another Reply*

      OMG there was a Law & Order SVU episode that featured something like this. I think the person’s name was “Terry Smith” or something and they got a job as front desk at an upscale hotel by stealing the person’s work history. Only in the L&O case, the person stealing the other person’s W/H was male, and (she) the “Real Terry” was still working at the other hotel when the investigators went to check on “his” work history. I’m sure there’s a reason how THAT circumstance couldn’t really happen, but … it was entertaining. OP, your experience is horrifying and I’m sorry.

    13. JamieS*

      It’s also possible someone with the same be as OP applied for a job and someone at that company found OP’s LinkedIn and assumed it was that candidate’s profile. We don’t actually know for sure someone even stole anything from OP

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I think the idea is, unless the applicant had in some way claimed to have worked at OP’s company, it makes no sense that NewEmployer would call to confirm Jane Smith worked there at whatever time period. If they searched for and found OP’s LinkedIn, and then started calling all the employers listed on it – to confirm what was on that randomly-selected-save-for-the-name LinkedIn were true…that makes no sense. I mean, we’ve had letters about all sorts of nonsense hiring processes. But for the most part, in order for it to get far enough that those people are calling OP’s employer about “Jane Smith”, the applicant would’ve either: claimed to have had the job history listed on OP’s LinkedIn OR claimed that OP’s LinkedIn was her own. It is possible the HR from the applied-to company presumed they were on the correct LinkedIn and called all employers listed there – even if none of them matched the applicants resume or application materials – but that’d be exceptionally stupid. They should validate what the candidate did claim, not what they didn’t.

        1. JamieS*

          Employers find their own references beyond what someone lists all the time. It’s not outside the realm of possibility someone searched for Anna Jones in Somewhere, CA and made a mistake. There could also legitimately be another Anna Jones that works or has worked at OP’s company and HR or the other company made a mistake and got the two Annas confused.

          Regardless of the likelihood someone made a mistake/incorrect assumption I think it’s more likely a mistake occurred then that someone decided to copy OP’s work history.

          1. JamieS*

            Also they don’t have to call all employers listed. My LinkedIn says where I currently work and I’m sure it’s common for others as well

          2. fhqwhgads*

            But my point is, if the applicant didn’t in some way crib OP’s info, it is very very unlikely they have anything in common OTHER than the name. If the got this info from a search, if it were a genuine misunderstanding then none of the info in those search results matched but the name, it’s absurd to assume you’ve got the correct Jane Smith. It seems like it would’ve come up for the OP already given she discussed it with her boss and HR if there is currently another employee with her same name, and even so, same position too? Doubt it. It is possible it’s a mistake, but then the reference checker made some epic bad judgement calls. So it’s either a super ballsy info thief or a super stupid reference checker.

            1. JamieS*

              It’s not that unlikely someone with a very common name, as OP notes she has, would have someone with the same name either working in her company (past or present) or in the same field.

              If we’re looking at likelihood that’s far more likely than some random person found OP’s resume and decided to appropriate it as their own.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Especially since not everyone keeps their LinkedIn up to date. I worked with a few people at Borders (the bookstore that went out of business in 2011) whose LI only lists their employment up to Borders, which still says “until present.” I assume they abandoned the platform. Whoever’s doing the reference check for LW’s name-twin might have seen the one company where they overlapped and assumed LW’s LI was an abandoned profile.

                (Personally, I kind of hope LW goes full Pepe Silvia and searches her own name on LinkedIn and clicks on all of them looking for the copypasta impostor.)

          3. Allison Wonderland*

            Yeah… this is why the reliance on social media profiles like Linkedin freaks me out a bit. People could be looking at the wrong person and jump to conclusions. It happened to me and my roommate when we applied for an apartment. The landlord did her own “background check” and looked up our social media profiles to decide whether we were responsible enough to rent to. She saw some red flags on my roommate’s profiles that were nowhere to be found on her actual accounts… so she must have been looking at someone with a similar name. Hopefully an employer would be more thorough than this though?

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Aaaand this is why real background checks give you the option to get a copy of the information they found and dispute anything that’s incorrect. -_-

  2. Cobol*

    OP 5 while I think Allison’s advice is true for most, you’re a data scientist, with experience. Unless the world drastically changes, I think you’ll be fine. It’s not 2012 anymore, but you’re still in demand.

    1. Blue*

      I wonder if it would be possible for LW5 to continue working in their field (maybe part time or as a freelancer?) to maintain recent relevant work experience/demonstrate ongoing interest in data science.

      As a current divinity student, I say go for it – it’s extremely challenging, very fun, and truly weird. A great combo!

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, if I wanted to go to grad school simply for the joy of it, I’d feel no pressure to complete the program within two years and just take some online/evening classes if that’s possible. Might even be cheaper too!

        1. Sparrow*

          Evening classes, etc. was my thought, too. Personally, I wouldn’t delay (or potentially derail) my career for a grad degree I didn’t expect to use, but I might take classes for fun that would work toward that degree.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Exactly. And while there are new tools being created everyday, I personally know how quickly coding can leave the mind when it’s not in use.

            LW, I would at the very least take a couple of side data jobs during the grad program to keep up with the industry. Maybe even use your data viz skills to highlight something theology related for your portfolio. Your interests aren’t entirely unaligned with data science. Everything can be studied, even if it’s a qualitative study! :)

        2. Elemeno P.*

          Yes, same. I got my MA online and part-time, and I took two classes a semester because I do want to use it soon. If it’s really a passion and not going to be used, one class a semester will be very enriching without being overly stressful.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, if you’re just taking the classes because you think they are interesting then I don’t think there’s any reason you need to quit your job to go back to school! If you don’t want to do your full time job and school at the same time, I would at the very least consider trying to work part-time while taking classes to avoid the resume gap.

          1. becca*

            I got a job at a university, and now I can take classes that I think are interesting for free. Freeeeee! *spins around like Maria on the mountain*

        4. TootsNYC*

          Or combine–do some evening classes for awhile, and then take a year off to finish the degree full-time.

          You time out of the industry is shorter, and it’s easier to explain as a hobby or “special interest of mine” than 3 years would be.

      2. Green great dragon*

        I was going to suggest that. Our company would be fine with you going part time to study (we have many data scientists).

    2. The Domain and the Range*

      Yeah, I’d say that Data Science is one of the fields where this is doable. Especially if you can somehow connect what you’d learn to what you’ll be working on.

      One of the better definitions of data science is the intersection of domain expertise, computer science and statistics.

    3. MK*

      Is this going to be true when the OP is a data scientist with experience that is two years old and a gap in their résumé? Also, not to be alarmist, but if the recession of the last decade taught me anything is that tjings can change very quickly; no one can be sure what the professional landscape is going to look like in 3 years time, when the OP is ready to job search again.

      1. Product Person*

        Yeah, I manage data scientists and would like to see the candidate show they were keeping up with the developments in the field, which change a lot. Keeping employment in the field during your studies would help.

      2. Maya Elena*

        There is a huge dispersion in the level of “data science” companies use, need, and can handle. Yeah, if you want to work for Google or Amazon, you probably need to be au courant. But there are places that will worship the ground you walk on for knowing Excel. If you’re willing to take a hit on salary and/or prestige, you’ll find work.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          People get all a flutter because I can use Tableau which is seriously the easiest program in the world to pick up the basics on. My SAS and R skills only impress the other data nerds

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            Mmmm. R. I haven’t had any projects that require me to analyze data in too long. I miss it.

          2. Helena1*

            I’m definitely impressed by R! I use Stata, which is kind of middling (get kudos from the non-statisticians, absolutely none from actual specialists). Amateurs/dabblers in my field use SPSS.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Really? Not in my area. Here admin assistants are expected to know the entire MS Office Suite proficiently. Data scientists need to know databases, analysis software, and statistics, for starters.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            The point was that there is a ton of data leverage using excel. In fact, I just breka the news to a new hire that we wouldn’t be getting her a license for SAS because most of our study groups are way too small to even need it. SPSS might even be overkill in some groups we look at. For the rest, we use either Excel, Power BI and the occasional Tableau for custom contribution visuals that we haven’t parlayed into Power BI yet (Because, lazy).

      3. PennyLane*

        That’s exactly what I was wondering. It’s an in demand field it seems, but if you aren’t working in that field while you’re getting that degree AND your degree is unrelated to the job, then I’d question how current your skills and knowledge are for the job compared to other candidates who have been working in the field as well as your commitment.

        And your comment about lessons from the recession are so true.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Well, and it’s still a hugely growing field as directors of non-technical departments begin to understand that their analysts simply aren’t equipped to handle their data needs. That said, the SaaS self-service data tools out there are growing, and making it ever easier for the lay person. So, who really knows.

    4. DataSci*

      I’m a data scientist (not a manager, but everywhere I’ve worked we’ve all been involved in hiring decisions) and “took two years off for a master’s in an unrelated, non-technical field” would be a pass for me. Honestly I’d rather see “took two years off to travel” since it’s obvious that’s not going to turn into a career path, but you still have the “this person is two years stale” problem. There are a lot of so-called data scientists out there who I wouldn’t consider hiring. I agree with the emerging consensus for “take night classes”. Find a consulting position or something you can do part-time, if you want, but make it clear on your resume that data science is your career and theology is just an interest.

      As far as the “weirdo bringing up religion in the workplace”, for me that would depend a lot on the particular school. A standard divinity school? No problem. A super-conservative place might make me question your compatibility as far as working with our LGBT colleagues.

  3. MollyG*

    #4 Allison’s answer is true for almost all masters degrees, but I think a religious degree is different. It is not uncommon for someone to study divinity for reasons other then professional development or to get a better job. If confronted just say you are getting it for personal or spiritual reasons and still want to work in data.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Confronted? That happens?? Oh, that conversation would SO not go well for the initiator if someone had that conversation with me. That’s just wrong on so many levels.

      1. Jamey*

        I think they mean confronted in an interview with questions like, “why are you applying for a job thats not in the field you studied? do you intend to leave for this other field if an opportunity comes up?”

        Which is pretty reasonable and not really wrong on many levels

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Okay, fair enough. I know if I were pursuing a degree solely because of my passion for the subject and it had nothing to do with my work, I’d do it part time while continuing to work, so it wouldn’t matter…and I wouldn’t put it on my resume in the first place, so that wouldn’t come up.

          1. B*

            Ya this was my thought. I don’t really see why it needs to be an issue, or even be brought up. Granted, it hadn’t occurred to me that OP would be going to school full time without working because… well.. wow, I’m jealous of the level of privilege that allows for take YEARS off work while spending money on a Masters I don’t intend to use as leverage for higher income. I don’t mean that in a sarcastic or snarky way, I’m legit jealous!

        2. Hedgehug*

          I have a religious studies degree and legitimately was confronted in a job interview about it from an anti-religious prejudiced a-hole asking me “what are you gonna be a nun or something?” Needless to say, I withdrew my application.

      2. Brett*

        It happens. I had a rep from Wells Fargo once hound me out of a career fair because I have a geography degree (even though the job they were recruiting for was allegedly in spatial risk analysis – it was really just selling investments though). I gave up on career fairs in general in college because I had so many negative experiences with recruiters over my degree, including a lot of cancelled appointments.

          1. Helena1*

            Climate science often falls under physical geography, as does a lot of geology/erosion/flooding etc. There is some crossover with the chemistry and engineering depts.

            Human/social geography is a massively diverse field, which includes stuff like town planning, sociology, transit infrastructure, public health, there’s crossover with architecture….

            My (philosophy undergrad, interaction architect day job) husband’s MA Geography thesis looked at how uptake of VR affects people’s interactions with the city (perceptions of safety, inclusion/exclusion of marginalised groups, sense of belonging). Directly relevant to his day job designing interfaces.

            Some of the other lecture series he attended were about project-managing mega-infrastructure projects like the channel tunnel, the wider social impact of gentrification/curated urban renewal, assessing the impact of cycle lanes on the rest of the transit system, and the sociology of (specific) slums in the global south.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Hound you out of a career fair? How did that happen?? Career fairs are usually huge, and how did he hound you out of it?

      3. Mommy.MD*

        During a job interview. Confronted = strong term meaning asking about why they sought this degree and aren’t using it.

    2. JJ*

      Or just….leave it off the resume? OP says the have an undergrad degree, since it sounds like essentially a passion project (more power to ya!) if it’s causing issues I’d just omit it and if it ever is revealed, tell coworkers exactly what you told us, that you’re super passionate about it but data science is your profession.

    3. Massmatt*

      I’m puzzled why #4 would put the divinity degree on the resume at all if the most likely effect is to cause employers to doubt his long-term commitment to the job.

      Resumes are marketing documents, not summaries of all your life experiences that may or may not be relevant to a job.

      1. B*

        I’m assuming it’s to explain an employment gap, but at the same time it seems really strange and unusual to me that someone would be able to quit their job for years, while spending money pursuing a master’s they do not expect to see a financially kick back from. Especially because that speaks to a level of financial stability that would lead me to believe OP doesn’t even need to work… in which case they would be pursuing a line of work that relates to their passion more.

        Idk, this just blows my mind so many levels!

  4. Rick Tq*

    OP4, have you considered a part-time or evening Master’s program that could allow you to work and study at the same time?

    Two years of retirement contributions this early in your career can multiply many times over 30+ years along with not taking on a lot of student loan debt.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I completely agree with this – if the degree is just for your personal development try for a part time program. I know they have them as my uncle and cousin’s husband both attended this type of program.
      Some companies will also have tuition reimbursement to help with some of the costs. Look carefully at the plan though as many require the classes to relate directly to your current or a potential future role (i.e. have some benefit to the company). Unless you work for a religious organization your desired program probably won’t help your company. Also…find out if there are any companies with a strong affiliation to your religion that need data scientists or try to get a job with the college you would like to attend.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Also agree. Did mine nights and weekends at a Catholic university years ago, worked full time.

      2. Lesbian Jesus*

        OP #5 here. Unfortunately, finding a job with a religious organization would be more difficult for me than most, because I’m a lesbian. And most of my connections in the religious world are in the United Methodist Church, which is literally about to split over cONtrOveRSIal questions like “should we hire lesbians”

        1. Lily Rowan*

          But the split is good, right? So you’ll know who’s who going forward, at least? (I don’t know a lot of Methodists, but I know a bunch of lesbian ministers.)

        2. A Teacher*

          Fellow Methodist, if the vote at the General Assembly goes the way they are talking, you will have a split denomination anyway–which means those Methodist contacts could come in handy. The non-traditionalist churches are expected to be about 75% of the total denomination and will do away with the traditional plan if all goes through. That could work to your favor by the time you graduate.

        3. kittymommy*

          So I actually have a Master’s of Divinity and did not get ordained (also UMC) due to the length of time needed in a local parish to become an elder. I currently work in government as an executive assistant and have not had any issues with workplaces questioning how long I may be with them. If anything it tends to be a conversation starter for quite a few and they are genuinely fascinated with it.

          If it’s your passion, go for it. While I’m definitely in debt due to student loans I don’t regret getting the degree. You may want to look at some schools that offer online programs. The school I went to had a strong online presence though a couple of courses needed to be taken on campus. One of the main reasons was that we had a lot of older students (i.e. not straight form university) and a big international population.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          Hi, OP#5 – a close family member is actually finishing up a masters in divinity with the hope of working within a UMC-related church/organization. They did their masters degree part-time while working and are pretty realistic about the fact that they will likely need to maintain at least a part-time secular job in order to pursue the religious work about which they are most passionate. (They are also devastated by the results of the last conference and would rather be split and allied with the more open church than stuck in a denomination that discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community.) They have also looked at Unitarian Universalist positions and non-denominational options in their field of interest.

          I would also add that you do not have to put your master’s degree on your resume for positions in unrelated fields. I have what I call a “for fun” master’s degree (yes, I’m a nerd) in a field unrelated to my profession. I completed it very part-time while working, and I did not expect it to have any impact on my career (I just liked the subject matter). When I was working on my degree, my boss did ask point blank if I was planning on switching field, which I was not and am not. What I do now pays much better than that would.

          1. pancakes*

            How would anyone be “stuck in” a bigoted religious denomination? Unless it’s a cult? The idea that someone would be powerless to break with an organization they choose to align themselves with makes no sense.

            1. Triumphant Fox*

              It matters for ordination purposes, especially in Methodism. There are a lot of churches who are faced with the prospect of their church property being taken away, their pastors’ pensions disappearing, and their funding being revoked if they leave the denomination entirely. Pastors rely on the denomination to place them and it can be real challenge to try to pastor a church elsewhere if most of your networks are suddenly not an option.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                This, exactly. This particular family member has spent months in the ordination process, which is arduous, time-consuming, and has cost out-of-pocket already. Can they walk away? Absolutely. But it’s not the same a deciding to simply attend a different church AND the welcoming, progressive UMC to which they belong could also be lost to the congregation, since it belongs to the UMC.

                And, just from a cultural perspective, our entire family has been UMC for years, and, just like I’m sure it has been difficult for a lot of Catholics to simply walk away from the traditions and culture in which they were raised following the abuse scandal, it’s not as easy as it may seem to just can rituals that are a big part of your life because other churches, many on entirely different continents, are living in the 1950s.

                1. pancakes*

                  I understand it would be difficult in several ways, with layers of painful experiences, but still can’t quite understand why someone would make a point of doing all that work to formally align themselves with an organization they have a fundamental disagreement with, and/or one deeply divided on something very important to them. Particularly because my understanding of religious practice, admittedly as someone who’s been atheist since early childhood, is that the public-facing & ceremonial aspects of religious practice aren’t the entirety of religious devotion. I suppose it could be as uncomfortable to talk about the more personal aspects of religion in public as it is to make a point of feeling excluded by the public-facing aspects of a religious culture, but I have a hard time understanding why people often seem to prefer being aligned with a church they don’t entirely admire or respect—or one that fundamentally does not respect their existence—to practicing their religious values on their own.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Because churches evolve over time, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. For decades, there has been a wide margin between official UM doctrine and what one experiences in one’s own church – I grew in an conservative area, and my UMC was not – the minister for most of my childhood was a woman and the youth director was a lesbian. I had no idea what “official” church teachings were, just what I saw in front of me at church. And, frankly, churches are a lot like political candidates in that you are unlikely to find one that ticks every single one of your boxes. The one we went to was welcoming, open, and had very active youth, community service, and music programs.

                  In my family member’s case, they began work on their degree and ordination before the last UM General Assembly where the delegates voted down a measure that would have allowed churches to ordain and marry LGBT+ folks. The UMC has been arguing about this since the 70s, and, in practice, many of its churches in the US have chosen to follow their own conscience rather than the official teachings and rarely are ordinations stripped because of it. The last GA was a surprise because the measure to join the 21st century, officially (as many churches have practiced for quite a long time), had been recommended by an internal committee, and was expected to pass but was narrowly defeated. Hence the concern about increased scrutiny or strictness leading to de-0rdination, loss of church property, etc.

                  Many people are also read into a religion as a kid, so there is an element of family memory to religion and some of its rituals are built into you family traditions in a way that is very difficult to strip out. I am as atheist as they come, but I went to church with my grandparents and have a fondness for the ritual of a service at their church and a deep love of many hymns and Christian Christmas music despite not having faith. Bottom line is they remind me of my grandparents and the amazing holiday celebrations we had when I was a kid. Declining to participate does remove you from some aspects of family celebration – my mother has chosen to belong to a different faith that does not celebrate certain holidays, and it has been extremely difficult for me because she cannot (will not) be part of holiday traditions I’d hoped to carry on with my own children. If it were pure logic, it’d be much easier, but it’s not.

        5. Northwest Rev*

          This is so frustrating and sad, that you being your authentic self seems like a barrier to ministry. I don’t know how deep your ties are to the Methodist church, or if you are committed to staying in the denomination but there are other mainline demons that are open and affirming, including the PCUSA which has a relatively compatibility reformed theology. You probably know all this but if a full time call to ministry is really where your heart is there are options. Good luck in your discernment

        6. Lesbian Moses*

          I’m not sure if you’re willing to go outside of the UMC, but I’m a lesbian who has landed several (lay) ministry jobs (mostly in the Episcopal denomination). I think if you’re open, there are enough affirming religious organizations that finding something wouldn’t be impossible!

        7. Bisexual Jesus*

          Hi Lesbian Jesus,
          I don’t really have any advice to offer, but I basically wanted to say that I’m in pretty much the same boat with the UMC and I feel you and you’re not alone.

        8. rj*

          hey OP 5, I’m from a different church background than you are but in mine lots of people go to seminary part time, and a degree like MTS or MA in biblical studies is usually 2 yrs rather than the 3 for an MDiv because it’s not seen as preparation for a pastor. I would be surprised if there weren’t part time options at a methodist seminary near you because so many people (especially women) who think about being pastors do so as a second career later in life.

    2. Smithy*

      Professionally and financially speaking – this is the wise advice.

      However, as someone who got a second graduate degree in my mid-20’s, while not working and going to school full time – it was a personally amazing experience. Being a full-time student allows for a different kind of holistic experience that I really benefited from.

      While it certainly had a financial hit, I also ended up getting a job a month after my degree ended. I always knew that with everything the degree was giving me, it certainly did not require maintaining a 4.0 GPA – so my last semester I mixed my classes with applying/interviewing for a lot of jobs.

      There is no financial planner out there who would cheerlead what I did – but it was the right call for me and I don’t regret it.

    3. Lesbian Jesus*

      OP #5 here! I’m considering a lot of options including part time and non-degree programs. I promise I have never considered taking out student loans to go to seminary, I can hardly think of a worse financial decision haha. I’m considering full time study because there seem to be more scholarships available for full time students than for part time distributive programs – so it may actually be less expensive.

      1. Annony*

        How plentiful are part time jobs in your field? That might be a good way to keep your employment history current and then you could even leave the masters degree off your resume when applying since you don’t have a gap.

        1. GreenDoor*

          While you continue to find (fingers crossed!) a job in the ministry, you could create a non-ministry version of your resume and move the degree under a “Personal Interests” section and put “Currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Divinity” . I would take that well as a hiring manager – to me it reads that you have interests, actively work on personal goals, that you’ve adopted the attitude that we never stop learning, and that you are well rounded person, having interests that have nothing to do with what you do for paid employment.

      2. Mona Lisa*

        Another option to consider would be looking for employment at a higher education institution. Universities hire data scientists all of the time, and while they’re not as well compensated as the private sector, employees typically get tuition waivers for a set number of credits each semester at either the institution or at a partner school. I’ve had lots of friends complete part-time or on-line masters programs over the years because it was nearly free. (Typically you have to pay some enrollment and application fees, but the tuition is waived.)

      3. kt*

        A few other thoughts:

        * Consider data sci consulting/freelancing on the side as you do the degree; this will allow you to have less of a gap on your resume and keep your skills current while not being full-time.
        * As you go through, you might find ways in which data & divinity converge — don’t discount the weird ways you could be used for good :)
        * I do know lots of folks who have done evening programs. They can be very good.

      4. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Based on your responses you most likely have already thought of this. But while going full time might make the cost of the program less expensive due to scholarships, I would consider potential income for working part-time and full-time, working full time while going to school part time might leave you in a better financial position even if you pay a bit more for the program.

        If you go full time the program costs $10k a year but you cant work at all it means you have negative $10k income for the year, if you go full time at $10k cost and work part-time and make $20k a year you have a positive $10k income for the year, if you go part time and the program costs $15k per year and work full time making $40k per year you have a positive $25k income.

    4. Mommy.MD*

      Unless they have money and time to burn I’d say skip the degree and follow this passion with personal study.

      1. B*

        100% this. I’m really not clear on the benefit of pursuing a formal degree versus self study, or classes etc. Especially if the formal degree would require scholarships since those are limited and presumably receiving one would prevent someone else from getting it who, most likely, needs the degree to advance professionally/financially. Granted, that’s a touchy subject for me because I went to school on full merit scholarships and would have been devastated if I hadn’t been able to get a basic higher education degree because they had been granted to someone going to school ‘for fun’ instead.

        /end rant

  5. MissGirl*

    I have to disagree with the advice on letter four. My company is mostly remote and video conferencing is mandated. We are called out, gently, if we have it turned off. It makes a world of difference in making connections with people you otherwise would never meet in person. I get it’s uncomfortable but a lot of things are in the workplace. Some people struggle with phone calls yet sometimes you have get on a call.

    People are much more engaged when in video and less likely to be distracted.

    I would find this annoying if you were mostly meeting in person and had the occasional teleconference. Being on video is the new reality of a lot of companies, especially those with a global workforce.

    1. JKP*

      A good compromise would be to have only 1 call per week a mandated video call, and then the rest of the them regularly audio calls. The thing with regular video calls for people who work from home is that you then have to put on real clothes every day.

      1. Edwina*

        I think this REALLY depends on where you work and what you do. I’m a screenwriter, and work at home, where I basically wear some sort of pajama pants and a t-shirt and sort of tousle my hair so it looks presentable to my husband and never wear makeup. I LOATHE video calls and refuse to do them (i pretend that I can’t manage them technically, people always expect writers to have their heads in the clouds for some reason). And I have never been on a single call where it would have made the slightest difference. If I was already dressed and in an office, I could see where this could make sense, especially if you have global teams. But for those of us who work from home, it’s a terrible imposition.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          My all-remote team just got surprise webcams from our management with the goal of “improving engagement” – everyone utterly hates it (in part because, yeah, we don’t like having to worry about being presentable) and it’s probably going to reduce our survey results next time around. They didn’t actually ask anyone what might improve the engagement scores, which were already at like 4.6/5, someone just decided this was the way to go.

          1. EPLawyer*

            This right here. Know your team. just because some study says this is the way to go to “bond” does not mean it is the right thing for your team.

            Is bonding even an issue? Do they work well together and meet goals and deadlines? Then you are fine. No need to add in something else. If they don’t, well its going to take more than video conferences to fix the problem.

            Clearly everyone on your team does not like video conferencing. Why force it? So they can all bond over hating video conferencing?

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              My team doesn’t even need to work together. Literally, we have a bunch of individual contributors and 90% of them LOVE that they can log on, do their production work, and log off without having to interact with anyone else. :-P like, that’s why they have been with us for 10+ years.

            2. Lily Rowan*

              Yeah, I think that’s important — is the team working well together? Do they need to? That’s the real issue.

            3. violet04*

              Exactly. Everyone I work with is remote and video conferencing is not going to help me bond with them. I actually find it rather distracting and it doesn’t really provide any value to me.

              1. iglwif*

                Bingo. If the team is working well together without it, then no need to fix what ain’t broke, and if they aren’t working well together, there’s probably more going on than not seeing each other on video…

            4. Falling Diphthong*

              There’s probably a study showing that forcing your team to spend their own money to travel for a full-day of terror-filled white-water rafting also improves bonding.

        2. MtnLaurel*

          Agreed. I also work on a mostly remote team and we very rarely do video. I personally hate it and don’t find it useful for “team building” or “bonding.” We accomplish this from our shared focus on the client.

        3. ChimericalOne*

          Yeah, but LW2 says that their participation was great at first, so it doesn’t seem to me like the team actually hates it, or pushed back, or anything like that — just that they got lazy about it. I get that — I do videoconferencing & teleconferencing throughout the day, and it’s nice when you can turn off the cam and just sit there eating cookies or blowing your nose or fiddling with something without it being obvious to the other party. But there is an advantage to seeing people when it comes to bonding, and there is an advantage to bonding when it comes to teams.

          LW2 might start by polling her team & seeing what they actually think about using video, either once per week or once per day (depending on the frequency of their calls), and then, once she’s got a better idea of whether they actually hate it or are just being a bit lazy, ask them to step up.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I suspect the initial compliance was because people thought they had to, and the fall off was because they realized they didn’t. One day Fergus turned off his camera, and nothing bad happened, and other people followed suit.

            1. B*

              This. If I was ever in a situation of having this forced on me (literally unheard of in every global position I’ve held) – my plan would be to go along with it in the hopes it fizzles quickly, and then ease away from it. If confronted, escalate as needed and if it is truly a top priority for the company and they are unwilling to compromise – well then it isn’t a good fit for either of us. I wouldn’t push back immediately, because I’d assume they were already aware that it would be disliked and are pushing it because they’ve been instructed to (but hopefully have little reason to enforce it).

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Exactly. I was thinking that maybe even just to welcome new team members, have a *scheduled* video-mandatory, introductory team meeting, and then once a quarter or even a year. But once you’ve seen someone’s face and can put a face to their voice or words on the screen, the chance for misunderstandings (like flame wars) goes WAY down. But to say they’re unnecessary for a remote-only team is ignoring group dynamics and how we process and place the social identities of others.

        1. Krabby*

          Agreed. Our company has a lot of remote employees and we have set it up so anyone can video into a meeting if they give a heads up. However, it’s mandatory to video in for your annual review and your team’s quarterly status report.

          It seems to help and we’ve received lots of positive comments since we initiated that.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        The best option seems like it would be good to require video only on the meetings where face to face interaction would be valuable (e.g. team check ins with verbal updates only, new hire orientations) and have it optional for other meetings. Not every meeting is going to benefit from video. For example, I don’t like video when there are presentations because I catch myself watching the other participants and not the presentation.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Agreeing with this so hard. I had a job a while ago that had a group training/orientation thing for a week via video with presentations to “compliment” the irl training (lol no are you effing kidding?). All I could focus on during the presentations was how sh!t the lighting and camera set-up was for everyone stuck in the back corner of a break room/stock room with the one computer with a webcam that wasn’t being used by management—or at least I assume everyone else was in a similar situation to mine.

          I turned off my webcam when a few of my coworkers started screwing around in the background and I could see other trainees watching my feed. Later I got a lecture about “optics” and “verifying my participation” and I will never be able to interpret an audience with their webcams on for no reason as anything other than adult babysitting. (I have no issue turning my webcam on if I’m speaking or if I might be actively participating, that seems reasonable.)

    2. Mike*

      I think it would depend on the meeting. Daily standups don’t require video. A team meeting could. A collaboration meeting doesn’t (since you’ll probably be screen sharing anyways).

    3. Diamond*

      I agree, especially if multiple people are talking in the meeting. Very hard to follow without video.

      1. Baja*

        Really? I listen in weekly to teleconferences involving administrators from across the nation and can easily follow. When they do web conferencing not a single participant turns on video; it is to jointly look over the same documents. Frankly, having 25+ people on video is beyond distracting. That is aside from how much it is simply hated.

      2. snowglobe*

        We use Skype for business, and when video is turned off, it still has icons for each of the participants (with photo if they’ve uploaded it or their initials), and whenever someone speaks, their icon moves to the front so you know who is speaking.

        1. Mama Bear*

          We use Teams and it does the same thing. There’s no need for a video. I’ve also had regular stand ups on the phone with people in other states where no video was possible. You learn the voices and/or you figure it out by context.

          I am not photogenic. I would be irritated to have to be on video regularly.

        2. iglwif*

          Yup.

          I find this infinitely easier to follow than old-school conference calls by phone (which unfortunately I have to do a lot of for professional committees). Video or not video makes much less difference than simply having a visual indicator of who’s speaking!

        3. B*

          Exactly. I primarily use Teams (since R.I.P Skype for Business) and Zoom (for my calls with China), and they do the same thing. It’s not like you don’t know what the people look like, or who’s talking. And they still do this even when someone is sharing their screen.

      3. B*

        Wow, different strokes for different folks I guess! I’m the exact opposite – I find the video distracting, and inevitably at least a few people will have wonky connections, and the lag makes it difficult to see who’s speaking. Maybe if I was only collaborating with one or two people, but my conference calls are usually with 7+ people.

    4. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      So, I’m going to be following the responses to #2 closely today (and should throw up my own discussion in open thread today also. I hope I can get some time to do that!)

      I just had my heart drop a little, reading Alison’s response. We’ve morphed into an org with a large chunk of remote part or full time & I’m about to spend a lot of time and not a small amount of money to put in a system like Zoom for all kinds of interactions. (By “system” I mean, “this is the way we do it”) . I came to this on advice from a good friend who is now inside a competitor who uses this system effectively with excellent participation because that’s the way they do it.

      If I do all of this and nobody wants to use their cameras and it’s not okay to say, guys, really, I really need you to try this new thing, please participate, they could just keep using the damn phone/email and save me the trouble.

      Yikes. Following!

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          eh, the input I have gathered so far is positive, with more input to go, but I’m old. IME any change has resistance and compliance issues,and if you commit to a course, you have to stay that course for awhile to see how something shakes out.

          I don’t want to steal the comment section here to talk All About Me. I’m going to try to be present for open thread and start up there.
          Thanks!

          1. MtnLaurel*

            Oh, Zoom or something similar is fine with synchronous audio and real time screen sharing. Just please don’t require the video.

          2. AliV*

            As a remote individual contributor who would not want to be on video, if my input is actually wanted I would appreciate being able to offer it. It would be helpful to know what the problem was that my manager was hoping to solve with video, and have the opportunity to suggest things that would help me solve the problem. Or perhaps there would be a targeted way to use video that would work for me.

            But if the manager is instituting video and That’s Just The Way It Is, I would rather just hear that and not go through the charade of being asked for my input. Not that you are doing that.

          3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’ve used Zoom and other conferencing systems a lot, but we never used the cameras. The systems are very useful for screen sharing, joint presentations, etc., so it might be worth it even if no one uses the video

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                True. I was just thinking that even without the cameras the system could still make things easier than using straight phone and e-mail.

          4. iglwif*

            We use zoom at my job (among other things) and it’s great! We almost never use the video component, but it shows you who’s in the meeting, who’s muted and not muted, and who’s speaking right now, which is *super* useful, and it makes screen sharing very easy.

        2. Bostonian*

          Input is great and all, but people are going to want to default to what’s comfortable and familiar instead of thinking about how using video could really improve team meetings, which you sometimes don’t know until you try.

          I really resisted (internally… I still went along with it) when my department started doing video conferencing for team meetings as we hired more remote workers, but now that it’s common routine, I really like it! It does make a big difference to be able to see the other people.

          A few caveats: these are weekly or biweekly team meetings. VC is not required daily or for every meeting. Also, people can opt out of video on rare occasions if they are feeling under the weather or otherwise just not ready for their close up that day.

      1. Colette*

        I think it depends on the situation. The daily stand ups the OP references do not need video. It can be nice for ore infrequent meetings, especially if the employees never meet in person.

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        My team is 100% remote and never uses video. Many people, including senior managers, tape over their webcams. When somebody joins a Teams call with video, we say “Hey you accidentally turned on video.” Zero people have ever requested to change this.

        1. Two Dog Night*

          Same here. I’ve been working for an almost entirely remote company for almost 12 years, and we *never* use video. I only know what my boss looks like from his Skype photo. We have a very friendly environment–I don’t think not having video has hurt our working relationships at all.

        2. RemoteMgr*

          Same here – I manage a remote team and RARELY use our webcams. If I am planning a meeting where I DO want webcams on for specific and relevant reason, I put it in the invite to so people have advanced notice so they can plan accordingly. (To get dressed, wear make up, do hair, or whatever it is they wish to do.) Although to be honest, webcam quality isn’t all that great anyway, and I don’t think I’d even notice if someone was wearing PJ’s, no make up, or unwashed hair anyways.

      3. Carlie*

        I could see the occasional video call for getting to know each other, but I find for actual work it stinks. No matter how good the system, video calls tend to be laggy and a bit pixelated, and very distracting. I have to really concentrate on voices in a call to follow the conversation and video weirdness eats half my brainspace. I much prefer audio only. That doesn’t mean just phone necessarily; I do like Zoom’s list of everyone participating and side chat features. But that’s me. You might want to survey your group first.

      4. Gaia*

        Don’t be disheartened. As someone with slight hearing issues, I find it incredibly hard to track who is talking if I can’t see people. My team is dispersed and we have a “video on” policy. Some days I look more presentable than others but it’s never an issue and it makes it easier for people like me to participate fully.

        1. Meg Murry*

          On the flip side, I also have slight hearing issues, and I agree with Carlie above that sometimes poor video quality or lagging actually makes it worse – and it often leads to audio drop outs that make it even harder to understand if it’s an all in one system of video and audio delivery. I’d rather have a clear phone conference than a digitized low quality video+audio call. And the problem is made much worse when using low quality cameras, microphones &/or speakers.

          I’ve also found that some of the problems that video calls are supposed to help can also be addressed by teaching “conference call etiquette” I was taught in past jobs – and that people get more lax on some of that etiquette on video calls, when it’s still just as important for people with hearing difficulties, visual difficulties, low quality connections or other barriers to participation.
          (Examples of conference call etiquette I’m speaking of: introducing yourself by name (and location/division/title as relevant) each time you speak, don’t speak over other people or interrupt, slow down when you speak so everyone can understand you, don’t use jargon, talk directly into the microphone/speakerphone not just in the general direction, mute your line when you aren’t speaking, etc).

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Most video-enbabled teleconferencing systems I’ve used have a feature that highlights, in the participant list, the person who is speaking. I have a slight hearing loss, and that’s the system I find works best, particularly when video quality is not great.

        3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          I also follow the conversation better if I can see people’s faces. I can see who is talking. And the mouth movements and facial expressions sometimes make it easier to understand what’s being said. We work with remote teams in India and it’s not always easy to differentiate who is talking when you haven’t met them. Unfamiliar accents are easier to follow when there are visual cues.

          1. B*

            In my experience I have not found video to be helpful in this regard, so this is definitely a blanket assumption. And I’m in a global position primarily dealing with overseas suppliers, lots of heavy accents and language barriers. Luckily, every platform I’ve encountered displays who is speaking, so we all make sure to call in separately (vs one phone in a conference room) if we are in the office so it will display accurately.

        4. Missy Murdoch*

          I’m in a similar situation. Im not hard of hearing, but struggle with auditory processing due to another disability. I only have sporadic conference calls (they’re actually for an org I volunteer with, not my regular job) but w/o video I can have a really difficult time following along. It’s so helpful to see someone’s gestures, facial expressions, and their words actually coming out of their mouth. I know it’s a hassle for some people to edit their workhabits when theyre on video, but I really do appreciate it. It makes a big difference in helping me understand what’s being said.

        5. B*

          Every platform I’ve used (~5 or so over the years?) shows who is speaking. Even is a screen is being shared. I also have slight hearing issues, and this is exactly why I love those platforms. Video is irrelevant (and IMO, therefore unnecessary because I agree with Alisson – don’t rock the boat unless you need to).

          1. LlamaGoose*

            How do you see who is speaking, but not actually see the person as they are speaking? Also, how does knowing who is speaking help you process the actual words being said better? Is it like, an auto-generated subtitle or something?

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Mine makes the icon with the person’s log in icon double in size and change color. Others I have used show a little volume bar at the bottom of the icon or changed the color.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              There is text at the top of the meeting window that says “NAME is speaking” whenever that person’s mic is active (the name being whatever you supplied when you connected to the meeting). It might say two people are speaking if they’re talking over each other it. It does it for every participant – whether they have camera turned on or off.
              At least that’s what immediately came to mind when I read the comment you’re responding to. B may have meant something else.

        6. Flower*

          Yeah, this struck me as an accessibility thing.

          For many people, it’s not whether or not there’s an indicator of who’s speaking, it’s a matter of seeing the person’s face to help distinguish some words or concepts.

          I was also thinking about how deaf people use almost solely video calls. Obviously they’re not going to be able to lipread the whole thing and most of their coworkers probably don’t sign proficiently, but while there are speech to text functions on most of these programs, I’m sure they occasionally fail, and differences in facial expression or gestures might clarify what was actually meant.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I’m not deaf but I’ve never used a video software with internet speeds that could give a stable enough connection for lipreading, especially if you’re talking about a meeting with multiple participants on different camera/audio set ups. Same for using expressions or gestures to add context: video chat all lands pretty far into the uncanny valley for me.

            This is probably different at companies that have a lot of resources to pour into a full working system of video conferencing tech, so I think the main lesson is if you decide to implement video do not go cheap.

          2. Giant Squid*

            “deaf people use almost solely video calls” –this sounds strange, if I couldn’t hear it seems that it would be much easier to have a live text chat session than trying to read lips via video call. Is this based off of personal experience from yourself or a friend, etc.? I’m not hard-of-hearing and don’t know anyone who is, so I’m curious about how this would be accommodated.

      5. hbc*

        I think lots and lots of employees will be resistant to it, especially if they’ve gotten used to the Clothing Optional uniform. But in my experience, it’s improved engagement so, so much when we’ve implemented it. Tracking who the heck is speaking if you’re bad with voices, being able to see that someone’s pondering or waving their hand trying to get a word in or nodding in agreement or making a “WTF?” face, or even being able to make better small talk when the cat inevitably crosses the camera.

        1. Sally*

          I agree about video improving engagement in meetings, AND I don’t like having to get dressed, put on makeup, and fix my hair when I’m working from home. But in my experience, it really does make for better meetings, so I feel mixed about it.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            Same. It makes a big difference, in my experience, especially for gauging reactions from people who are quiet & for allowing more “space” for folks to jump in who are a little more tentative. Some groups probably don’t need it (where everyone is more assertive or outgoing), but some teams would probably benefit quite a bit. I’d poll my workforce first to see how people felt about the idea, and then announce it on a trial basis for, say, 3-4 months. After that, if people still hate it (broadly), maybe relegate it to special occasions. But I don’t think you need to nix it entirely, even if people are grumpy about it.

            I would also say: if your discussions are never at all heated — they’re just “Here’s what’s happening, now get back to work” — it doesn’t make a difference. But if they ever involve saying things like, “We can’t do that thing you really want us to do & here’s why,” IMO, the negative emotional impact is greatly softened by being able to see people’s faces & body language.

        2. JF*

          Man, I feel so much less engaged on a video call – all my energy is spent making sure I don’t move or speak, or look distracted at any point. I can’t even get a sip of coffee because that feels gross to do on camera. At one point, I was forced into participation on this, luckily that stopped.

          1. Giant Squid*

            Same, it’s a massive distraction for me and I’m staring at my face the whole time. I can’t meet at my desk, because I don’t want people to see my messy home office. I have to move the lamp to make sure I have good lighting, etc. I would find a new role ASAP if I had to do this every morning.

            It does sound like video is helpful for some people though…so maybe a middle ground would be to encourage it? My current workplace does that; people in the office are on video, and some people working remotely get on camera, but plenty of people stay voice only. I think there’s probably an intelligent middle ground here.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              My home office is messy as heck, and I don’t care. I kill my video when I’m eating, though.

              1. Giant Squid*

                After thinking about it, I think there might be a correlation with video anxiety. I’m fat. There are certain stereotypes I feel I have to counteract–being lazy, sloppy, etc.

                On camera, there’s a lot more work involved for me to feel comfortable with how I’m presenting myself. I need to be a paragon of cleanliness, dressed business casual, staring at the camera with proper posture (from a low angle), bright lighting.

                That’s all probably unnecessary, and there are people smaller than me who have those same anxieties, and people larger than me who don’t. I’m just sort of thinking out loud–this topic is always interesting because it tends to split the AAM comments.

                1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                  Not to mention the exponential growth of my chins as I look down at the computer or what have you. I feel very uncomfortable on the camera because I am fat–and I have to stare at me being fat while I’m also trying to, you know, do my job.

                2. pancakes*

                  I think I see what you mean. Fat people are seen as being ambassadors for fat people in general—I do think that is a very common and mostly unspoken view, and a very unfair one. It isn’t a necessary social narrative in the first place. It would be less exhausting and make day-to-day life more interesting for all of us to give people space to be individuals.

      6. Quinalla*

        I am not remote, but I work in a regional office that has about 10 people. Our main office of 100+ is located elsewhere. We have been ramping up video calls and it helps a lot and I find the smaller the group, the more important to have video so you can see reactions, break in more naturally in conversations instead of just feeling like you have to interrupt all the time when you are the only one not in the room, etc.

        Do you need it for every call or to mandate it for every call, no, but I think it is very important for certain types of interactions. If you are trying to collaborate or have a group discussions, absolutely needed. If it is more of a reporting out type of meeting where everyone gets called on anyway or just making announcements, etc. not needed. 1 on 1, it is actually very helpful, but I wouldn’t push it if someone is video adverse. I think overall it is important to get to see people as people and seeing them on video increases this dramatically. It is easy to ignore/dismiss and email from someone you never see, it is harder to ignore phone, it is much harder to ignore someone on video, not quite to the level of in person, but it is close.

        But yes, I do think you have to adapt your strategy to your team and to the meetings. There are a lot of people who don’t like to be on camera, myself included, but the benefits are real.

        1. B*

          There absolutely CAN be benefits, but I don’t think it’s fair to say there are always benefits to video. Like most blanket statements, it’s simply not that black and white. There are scenarios/industries etc. where this would actually be a negative, or neutral. I’m glad the benefits were real for you, but none of us can speak to all people or scenarios.

      7. niamh*

        The company I work for has offices and teams scattered across multiple cities and timezones. In the last few years we’ve moved from never using our webcams to the general expectation that people will use video when possible. Use of video on our WebEx meetings is encouraged but not enforced. This has been a gradual cultural change and we run the gamut of people who basically always use video, people who occasionally use them, people who use video for very specific meetings only, and some people I’ve never seen use their video ever. I had to make myself turn on my video in the beginning but I’ve got used to it. I think definitely helps our very dispersed team, even so that we can make stupid jokes about how two people in different cities must have coordinated their outfits for the day! I’ll never love video but it’s worth encouraging

      8. Super Admin*

        Two of the last three companies I’ve worked for have used Zoom, and I honestly think it’s brilliant for making remote workers feel part of team meetings. Quick calls and stand-ups don’t require video, but a team meeting? Video reassures people that the participants in the call are engaged and present in the meeting in the same way their presence in a conference room does. Sure, there’s often a bit of whinging when someone’s working from home in their PJs, but if you know you have a scheduled meeting it’s not hard to run a brush through your hair and make sure there’s no stains on your t-shirt.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Speak for yourself. I can run a comb through my hair and still have it stick out 6 ways. If I have to do a video, I wear a baseball cap.

          Also, if I’m WFH because I’m sick? I don’t want video on while I blow my nose, cough, and look half dead.

          1. DarnTheMan*

            Coming in late but 100+. I was on a video call yesterday while WFH and even though I was dressed, I chose not to turn on my camera because I currently look like I’ve been punched in both eyes, due to my cold shiners, which is not the first impression I wanted to make with a bunch of people I’ve never met before.

      9. Whatever*

        My organization is mostly remote and we use Teams for corresponding. Video is a regular occurrence, especially in 1:1s and small meetings. More than 60% of communication is nonverbal. I manage a team of almost 20 and people don’t mind, it’s just the way we do things. I do make a point to model comfortable behavior for my team and organization wide. I usually have a comfortable sweater on, rarely wear makeup and just give my hair a tousle before a meeting. Ours is a come as you are atmosphere, we focus on a person’s work and ideas rather than how fancy their shirt is. It’s worked very well and collaboration has truly expanded since we implemented the video culture.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          Thank you. Modeling is important to me & I happen to work remotely myself most of the time. I have ZERO personal interest in being on camera! I don’t even use face time! I don’t even like meetings and would prefer to email w/ cc conversation for everything!

          However, our org has changed as has tech. My friend was kind enough to give me a pretty comprehensive description of the way the tools are being used in the competitor and the benefits that she sees & I had to put my “but I don’t want to be on camera” objections aside in order to explore this without prejudice.

          Point being, I think I am in a place to model exactly as you suggest. I’m going to have to dial back from my normal hair standing on end when in the midst of a frantic work session from home and actually pull it back or something. But I believe I can model effectively.

      10. ConsultingIsFun*

        Yeah, I’m a bit shocked as well. Maybe it’s because I’m ‘young’ (I’m 25) and grew up Skype-calling my friends, but I LOVE have video attached to work conferences. I find that I am so much more engaged and get so much more out of a meeting when people are on video.

        There have been numerous studies stating that more of your message is conveyed when you are on video because of your body language also being present. It’s very good for making sure messages aren’t misinterpreted.

        Also…I work from home once a week and always get dressed. Maybe not as nice as I would to go into the office, but I can’t feel productive if I wear gym clothes all day.

        1. Good Luck!*

          Ooh, yes. When I’m talking to my boss and need to read how she feels about what I’ve just said, video is *incredibly* helpful! Is she frowning, distracted, nodding her head? Should I keep going, or is she trying to fit a word in edgewise?

      11. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        You guys are SO HELPFUL!!

        I don’t need to take this to open thread. I have a ton of feedback and advice right here to process. THANK YOU.

      12. Good Luck!*

        I’m a remote employee at a 100 person company with about 75% on-site and 25% remote.

        My managers have made it the norm that we do video on calls when we can, and it goes fine. On one of my teams we normally avoided videos (think “Oh, I don’t want you to see my messy room, lol!”) until the manager pointed out that as a team we were having minor issues with interrupting, reading the tone of the room, and remote employees feeling included with the on-site team. She asked that we “experiment” with video calls for all team meetings, and worked to make sure the on-site teams videos were set up so we could see who was at the table. That seemed to help improve buy-in and adoption.

        Some caveats:
        – For large meetings the remote employees don’t use video. It’s more for interpersonal or small team situations.
        – When quality is bad/distracting we typically drop the video first to see if that improves the call quality. We’re a web-based company so having strong internet speeds is something we invest in overall.
        – I think the remote employees kind of enjoying having an interesting background in our videos. e.g. art, plants, or knick-knacks. Some of us like to show off our “home branch office” to our coworkers; I think we like the small bonding opportunities it provides to get to know a little extra about the person.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Last video call I had, my little stink butt kitten kept jumping up on the computer, which gave the group quite the chuckle. We live in a loft and don’t have rooms we can lock the beasts in, so I zipped her into my hoodie.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            My husband has to do Skype meetings pretty often for his work. Our cat has crashed so many of them, people now ask for her, and are disappointed if she doesn’t pay a visit.

            1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

              My husband works from home and does video calls daily with our dog in view. Apparently people love Background Dog and my husband makes sure that our dog’s favorite spots are visible behind him anytime he rearranges the room.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            I love seeing people’s cats on video. One of our remote people has a beautiful orange cat that curls up and snoozes in a corner behind him.

          3. nonegiven*

            My son’s cat usually lays on the window sill watching birds but once in a while she gets interested in the voices and will come and peer at the screen.

      13. JJ*

        Oh man I so disagree with a lot of people on this! Listen, I am a millennial, if I could get out of phone calls and video conferences, I WOULD. However, I’ve noticed I have VASTLY different feelings and engagement levels towards my freelance clients for whom video conferencing is the norm. Those people actually make me feel as if I’m part of a team, which in turn makes me more apt to deliver good, timely work than those who are strictly email/text (and as a result, are basically fictional in my head). Not to mention I enjoy doing their work more because of that relationship. The video conference clients are always the long-term ones, because we really do develop more trust than the email/phone call ones.

        Not all meetings need to be video, just like how some phone calls could be emails or texts. Just use discretion based on the needs and content of the meeting. Yes, it’s annoying to put on work clothes/makeup, yes, it’s a pain to make sure the art on the wall behind me represents me professionally and that the lighting is decent. Doing work is a pain, I say just let people gripe and suck it up, video chat really is a valuable tool.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          So you’re saying video calls are a way to manipulate people into liking you more and giving you preferential assignments and (hopefully, in the long term) more business and money? Sold.

      14. JB*

        I have a daily call for a project and we require everyone to be on video on the Monday call. It’s far more helpful than I expected it to be.

        I can not even believe it myself that I think it’s a good thing. I was one of the last to install their video phone and use it–like 6 months after we got them.

        However, it makes the discussion easier when you can see people and their expressions and while it doesn’t necessarily make everyone BFFs, it helps people get to know people and who is who, faster. It also stopped lots of people talking over each other, or 6 people starting to talk and then going “oh, sorry, who else was trying to speak?”.

        We do realize that it’s a drag when every single call is on video, so we mandated the Monday call only.

      15. Malarkey01*

        I manage a large dispersed team and we use this system but very very rarely use the video. From my personal feedback I find video decreases my own productivity and information retention. When we are together in a conference I do look at people while they talk but they are normally 5-25 ft away and our vision shows them as “blobs” or “large blocks” with faces while it synthesizing the other things in our site of vision. However on video conferencing I have someone hyper focused 6-12 INCHES from my face when I see every muscle twitch. I’m also hyper aware and self conscious of my own face when talking because every facial movement you make close up is exaggerated and my attention is pulled from what I’m saying to monitoring how I look saying it. Normal conversation becomes stilted.

        Someone having a small snack in a conference room (where sometimes someone will run in with a cookie or bag or chips because they’ve had back to back to back meeting) I probably wouldn’t even notice, someone doing that on video is a big distracting WTH??

        I now restrict them to formal presentations and otherwise just use audio only.

      16. remoter*

        I work fully remotely for a team that is half in one office, 1/4 in another and 1/4 distributed. Zoom is my lifesaver. I put my camera on in every meeting because I find it so important to see people face to face, and in my department, everyone else does it as well. If someone can’t they generally explain it.

        I just want to encourage you to put in Zoom. I wouldn’t have considered taking this remote position without zoom.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          Thanks for this.

          My friend is tech averse. When *she* gave me the recommendation for the Zoom system this competitor is using, that’s when I sat up and took notice, even though I am not inclined to video myself.

          Everything you just said is what she said!

      17. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        I have to thank everybody one more time. I have read every comment to my post at least 2x, and taken it all on board – both pro and con.

        We never set out to Have A Remote Workforce. It came about slowly, over the years, as one key employee here and another there, moved for family reasons and we wanted to retain them. Our systems allowing easy remote work evolved & then a slew of key or good employees started families, where remote working several days a week meant being able to retain them full time.

        THEN came the parking lot crisis. We’ve run out of space & it is cost prohibitive to expand the lot (because of factors that are way more expensive than pouring parking lot tar). At that point, provided the job and the performance level of the employee suited, the answer to “can I work remotely a few days a week” became an automatic “yes”.

        Now, everything is reversed. We look at seats in house as valuable and how they need to be filled by people who *have* to be in house. We’re going to start recruiting for fully remote, you can live anywhere in the USA, positions.

        So. Time to evaluate what new tools and systems should be in place for Wakeen’s in 2020. You guys have been immensely helpful. <3

    5. Phyllis*

      Like singing, which we discussed earlier this week, video is triggering for many people with anxiety, and requiring its use is a form of hazing even if you have “bidness reasons” for wanting to use it.

      1. Double A*

        These things are… not at all alike. If you’re a remote worker it’s a fairly standard expectation that you will video conference periodically. There may be individuals for whom this is anxiety producing and they can work out with their management accommodations, but it is totally reasonable to expect your remote workers to periodically use their video cameras. It’s no different than expecting people to show up in a conference room for a meeting, even though some people have intense social anxiety and those meetings could be done over the phone.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yeah if you’re a remote worker with video call anxiety, then you can get together with the singer with stage fright and figure out how to get past these barriers to your jobs.

          A great deal of work can be done via email, chat, and phone, but sometimes seeing faces is helpful for morale and communication.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Sometimes having to be on video is anti-helpful for morale.

            Unless you need me to actually demonstrate something for you, do not insist I be on video more than is absolutely, minimally, necessary. That is “job hunting” level of “no” for me. I’ll do it occasionally but I will definitely not do it as the default setting.

            1. Avasarala*

              Wow, you’re definitely an outlier on this! It sounds like this would be a thing for you, and while I’m sure many employers would happily oblige, your stance is not really common in my experience in the working world. We don’t always use video when we chat, but it’s unusual that it’s a hard “no, and I will leave over this.”

          2. B*

            Definitely. I don’t think there’s any issue with occasional video, but I’m blown away by all of the comments speaking to the ‘obvious’ benefits of daily video calls. I wouldn’t bat an eye at a once a week/as needed arrangement – but more than that and I’d start to feel micromanaged. Especially if I’m working from home. Most of my work is collaborative and on conference calls, and I refuse to literally be on camera (‘under a microscope’) all day. It is really surprising to me that so many people are completely ok with that – and even more so, believe it’s the new norm. Maybe I’m just in a bubble, but this is unheard of in my industry and area lol.

      2. TechWorker*

        ‘Requiring it’s use is a form of hazing’ …. um…. no it’s really really not! This is so far from hazing I can’t really imagine what else you would consider in that category. I get that some folk dislike it and it makes them anxious, but some folk also get anxious at leaving the house to come into the office. You can be sensitive to that ad still accept that video meetings help to get work done.

        Saying that I agree with the other commenters that it’s likely not worth it for a standup, but if you are doing other regular meetings (demo/retrospective + lookaheads for eg?) then I think mandating it there would be both reasonable and something people would quickly get over.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          There are an awful lot of assumptions and brushings-off here of other people’s anxiety. Required regular sessions on video would have me looking for a new job. I look terrible in photos and was bullied for years for my appearance in general. It’s not just “oh, this makes me nervous”, it’s “oh, this brings up decades of misery that I’ve worked really hard to overcome”. So if there isn’t a specific reason you need to see me, let me leave the camera off.

          1. Anom-a-long-a-ding-dong*

            I think the push-back you’re getting is because there IS a specific reason people need/want to see you. This isn’t “I want to scrutinize Dust Bunny’s appearance” or “I want to bring up years of childhood trauma for Dust Bunny,” this is “I work with Dust Bunny and would like to see them as an actual whole person rather than just a disembodied voice or text on a screen, so I can work better with them now and in the future.”

            For every person that has anxiety over video-chatting, there’s probably a person who has anxiety over conference calls or chat because they can’t interpret tone as easily without visual cues and body language. At some point, we have to acknowledge that no one is going to feel 100% comfortable in all circumstances and sometimes when we’re at work, we have to do things we don’t want to do for the good of the other people we work with.

            I hate video-conferencing as much as anyone else, but I still turn on my camera as much as possible, because I work with a lot of remote staff who really appreciate it.

            I also find that when it comes to video conferencing- the more you do it, the less you notice your own video. I used to put a post-it over my little video square to cut down on distraction and the temptation to look at myself, which helped a lot in the beginning. Now, it doesn’t faze me anymore.

            1. ChimericalOne*

              Thank you, yes! There are people who have anxiety over video-less phone calls, and I’m one of them! Asperger’s makes social interactions hard to start with, and it’s even harder when I can’t see people’s faces/body language (which I’ve learned to analyze over the years). During a videoconference, I can tell when someone wants to speak, when someone’s unhappy with/skeptical about something I just said, when someone is confused. I can follow the conversation better because I can see their lips move (I have occasional problems with audio processing), and it helps me stay focused to have to “look sharp” (I won’t find myself fiddling with something unrelated because knowing I’m on camera puts me on alert).

              I don’t like being on video when I don’t have to be — I am definitely not photogenic! Probably a 4 to 4.5 out of 10 at best (hey, someone’s gotta be below average!) — but it’s useful for communication, and for business purposes, good communication is super important.

              It’s 100% fine to not have it for routine / “this is just an update”-type calls, but if you’re actually hashing something out, it really makes a difference.

          2. Kaitlyn*

            Whelp, it sounds like in some settings, your anxieties about this would be a barrier to professional norms. How do you deal with in-person work where your face is, I presume, seen?

            1. Giant Squid*

              There’s a big difference between being out in public, and staring at this small window which represents you, and which everyone else stares at when you talk (on most chat clients). Multiple people have said that being on video makes them anxious and distracted–it still might be required in some roles, but there are many people who are fine being in public but don’t like being on video.

              The “how do you deal with being in public” questions seem less like sincere curiosity and more like trying to challenge people’s experiences.

              I think a lot of this is role/industry dependent. I have only interacted with one team that mandated video conferencing (even then, it was more implicit). I am not required to accept being on video in order to make a living in my industry, and could and would look for a new role if someone tried to force this on me every day.

              This may be a requirement in contact-heavy or client-facing roles, and I think that’s where some of the comment friction is coming from.

              1. Kaitlyn*

                I wasn’t really being facetious with the face-to-face (har har) question. I don’t love being appearing on a video call, but I do know that for remote workers such as myself, that kind of thing happens! It’s part of the trade-off that I see in that I don’t have to deal with IRL office politics, I can work in my sweats, I can check my email on the toilet or in bed…but sometimes, I have to shower, put on a professional-grade sweater and some mascara so that you can tell I have eyelashes, and turn on the camera. If it was all day every day, then yes, I would see it as an overstep, but I’m willing to trade a bit of anxiety or discomfort for the benefits of working from home.

                I actually kind of see this as similar to a dog-phobic person interviewing in a dog-friendly office. You can either let the phobia dictate whether or not you take the job (which is fair), or you can try to overcome the phobia (also fair, although definitely more work); what’s not totally fair is accepting the job and then saying “this very integral part of this workplace’s norms is a non-starter for me.”

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  what’s not totally fair is accepting the job and then saying “this very integral part of this workplace’s norms is a non-starter for me.”

                  I mean, all the people dead set against being on video have been mentioning that it’s not something they’re required to do regularly in their job and some have said they’d seek new work if their current employer decided to change that current workplace norm, so I don’t really follow your point here. (You also seem to be dismissing both anxiety and phobias with a glib “or you can overcome it!” like it’s super easy and we’re just being stubborn babies.)

          3. Joielle*

            Well, it sounds like you’d be better suited for non-remote work, then. Just like I’m personally better suited for work where I don’t have to talk on the phone a lot, and someone else might be better suited for work where they’re not stuck at a desk. So it’s fine if you would be looking for a new job! That’s not a reason for everyone to not do video, though, since it seems like there is a legitimate business reason to do it for remote teams.

            1. B*

              ??? Definitely depends on the role/industry because in my experience our remote workers are the ones that would be expected to use video the least. I’ve literally never once had this come up as an issue in any of my global positions or industries, so I think it’s a bit extreme to say they’d be better suited for non-remote work. My response would have been the exact opposite – sounds like a perfect candidate for remote work!

          4. What a mess*

            I found this blog last week. Gotta say, it’s like a cesspool of anxiety. You guys win the anxiety Olympics. Gagh.

      3. DinoGirl*

        I disagree to require workers to use certain technology is hazing. I got this answer, too, re: “remote folks are introverted and don’t like to attend meetings.” I’m sorry, attending meetings is part of the job. And, as with us in the office, you may be required to use a camera to have face time People may not prefer it, but it’s a reasonable request that shouldn’t be unduly upsetting to anyone. Working remotely shouldn’t exempt you from normal work expectations, and if you want a remote job that does, you need to specifically look for a remote job that doesn’t require interaction with colleagues.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Or to expand: that is a ridiculous generalisation. There are perfectly good business reasons to require occasional video conferencing and it is not “hazing” to expect it from remote workers.

      4. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

        No, it’s not a form of hazing. Hazing means intentionally humiliating people. The humiliating is the objective. That’s not the case here, even if some people feel humiliated.

      5. Dumpster Fire*

        Please do not put “expecting employees to participate appropriately in a meeting” into the same category as hazing. That’s just disrespectful to everyone involved. If you’re visible, you’re much more likely to be engaged in the meeting; not being visible means you might be engaged, or you might be playing Candy Crush. Also, think about whether you would’ve been hired if you had said, during the interview, that you were not willing to participate fully in meetings.

        1. Metronomic*

          Also agree it’s totally reasonable to expect remote employees to use video for most meetings especially daily stand ups, as I and my team did at a previous job. Seeing people’s expressions is super helpful for context. The video meetings also kind of forced me to get into a routine and make sure I was presentable (from the waist up) each day – I even started wearing some makeup (like eyeliner) so I didn’t feel I looked so washed out on video.

          Most managers wouldn’t find it acceptable for an employee to refuse to use tools like the phone or email, or refuse to participate in meetings, and requiring staff to use video when they attend most remote meetings feels the same.

      6. NoviceManagerGuy*

        We don’t use video, but I don’t think this makes any sense. I have huge air travel anxiety and try to minimize my need to fly, but requiring me to take occasional business trips isn’t hazing.

      7. Jule*

        I mean, email legitimately triggers my anxiety sometimes, but that’s not a good enough reason for me to be exempt from email.

      8. SomebodyElse*

        Gotta jump on the bandwagon here… video chat may be a lot of things, but hazing is not one of them. Unless it’s required video chat while being made to wear funny hats and false mustaches.

        There are a lot of things that can be ‘triggering’ for people at work that are required. Speaking on the phone, meeting new people, receiving feedback from bosses, and birds in the parking lot are all ‘triggering’ to someone. Guess what, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a requirement.

    6. MadeleinesAreMoreIsh*

      I agree with this. I personally don’t like being on video and I find it awkward. But there is some research to show that people are kinder and more empathetic towards those whose faces they see regularly, and since my team started using video – I am the only remote person with others in the office seeing each other every day – I can feel the team connection has grown significantly, and in general, results have improved (this is of course due to multiple factors as well). So even though I don’t like it, I can see that there genuinely is a real benefit in terms of that greater connection. I don’t know that I’d just suddenly start mandating it, but I’d definitely encourage it. Not everything needs to be on video all the time of course.

    7. Madison*

      Agree to all – video should be the standard. I find it bizarre when there might be a reason ‘oh I have to put on real clothes’ – yup, you should look appropriate for work – just because it’s at home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look fine for a video call.
      The difference in engagement and quality conversation with video far supersedes some people being a bit uncomfortable.
      Turn those cameras on!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Shoulders up.
          Thin tank top straps can look like bra straps in closeups. Off the shoulders shirts&dresses can be even more awkward because the impression is no clothing. (I know someone who used her wedding portrait as her FB cover photo, and the icon-size version was auto-zoomed to show no dress at all. EEP!)

          1. Atlantian*

            Actually, from the bra strap to crotch, since, unless there is something being presented that I need to look at closely I’m standing up and pacing around the room while I am on conference calls. Or, something like a turtleneck or collar since if I am up and pacing around, I then need to bend over the desk to see the screen when something relevant pops up. So, I guess I just would need to start dressing like a fundamentalist cult member every day in my work from home job, which is not what I signed up for.

            I mean, really, are people sitting straight up in their chairs staring directly into the camera like they are giving a deposition for 4-6 hours of conference calls a day? Thank god video is banned in all contexts at my job due to security concerns.

            1. Liddy*

              I mean, really, are people sitting straight up in their chairs staring directly into the camera like they are giving a deposition for 4-6 hours of conference calls a day?

              No, of course not. It’s not that different than meeting in person in a conference room. Participants are expected to sit and pay attention and the meetings usually don’t last more than an hour. Unless your employer would require you to dress like a fundamentalist cult member in their office, they wouldn’t require it for remote employees on a conference call.

            2. Zillah*

              So, I guess I just would need to start dressing like a fundamentalist cult member every day in my work from home job, which is not what I signed up for.

              I get not liking video calls, but I don’t think that hyperbole like this is really helpful. Why on earth would you need to dress like a fundamentalist cult member??

            3. Avasarala*

              What on earth do you normally wear around the house or to brunch or to work that doesn’t cover your body?? Are all your clothes tube tops to the extent that you can only picture “turtleneck” or “fundamentalist cult member”??

              1. RemoteMgr*

                yeah that’s a weird leap! I’ve had to do some report outs to senior leaders and for those I threw a blazer on top of my tee shirt and running shorts. since just the shoulders show – it looks professional, although I looked pretty silly :)

                I think as long as you’re in a tee shirt that doesn’t have a beer logo or something not appropriate for your job (beer logo could be appropriate for your job!), you’re fine. No need to wear a floor length burlap dress! (haha!)

      1. aebhel*

        Why should video be standard? Other than the fact that it’s available technology, what’s the benefit?

        1. theguvnah*

          literally everyone is touting it’s team-building and morale benefits. It’s pretty obvious that video brings an increased level of connection, which is important for many people’s work.

          It’s shocking to me that this seems shocking to people?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s not the norm for the rare meetings in my field. (Screen-sharing is.) I feel valued and part of the team because I get good feedback and more projects. The rare times someone has had a web cam on, it hasn’t added anything to the call beyond the information on the color of their bedspread.

          2. B*

            Jeez with the blanket statements. No it is not “obvious”, because we are all different people with different experiences. The comments are actually fairly representative of both sides of the fence, so your selecting a side based on bias. I think it’s great that in some positions/industries/environments video brings an increased level of connection – but this absolutely is not true across the board.

            I don’t know what’s in the water today, but there’s a lot of blanket statements flying around. It’s equally amusing, and infuriating.

        2. Zillah*

          YMMV on how helpful it is, but it’s not really reasonable to present this as just people using tech to use tech. There are clear benefits for many people.

      2. Lady Whackamole*

        I’m a full-time remote employee – about half of our staff of ~30 is as well – and video makes a big difference for me. Communication isn’t just voice, it includes subtle things like facial expressions and gestures. Sometimes there’s a group meeting where some are calling in individually and some are in the same room, and without video it’s hard to track what’s going on.

        I get feeling awkward, but I see it this way: if we were meeting in person, you would see my face and watch me talk, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. I’m not thinking about it because I’m not looking at myself when we’re in person. It helps if you can learn to ignore your own image and focus on the other faces.

        1. Kaitlyn*

          Yeah, I feel like video is awkward for about five minutes, and then people get into the flow of the meeting. I always feel a bit self-conscious about vidcalls, but I love being able to nod in agreement, smile, etc, and see others doing the same.

      3. Torgo*

        No, it isn’t necessary for all industries. I’m a writer and editor, and I have absolutely no reason to have a videoconference with someone at three in the morning. Don’t make silly blanket statements.

    8. MsSolo*

      Yes, once there’s more than two or three people, video is vital for a smooth conversation (though one you hit 8 or so people, it goes the other way). You can manage one or two people without video, but ultimately, they’re going to struggling to participate as much in the discussion because no one knows if they’re about to speak, so they’ll get talked over a lot more. And if you’re on audio only in all of your meetings, people are going to start making assumptions about whether you’re engaging at all.

      1. Shaka*

        People should assess your engagement based on actual metrics like contributions and work output, not on whether I manage to look vaguely interested on a video screen. I can guarantee you that if I was required to do this, I could fake LOOKING like I was engaged and interested and in fact you’d be getting 20% or less of my actual attention as the rest would be busy managing my annoyance and frustration at the stupidity of requiring this.

        My company and team manages audio only for remote meetings with up to 20 people easily and effectively (most of my actual meetings are with my team of 6). Sticking a camera in someone’s face is not a panacea for for engagement or productivity. And making it mandatory is the sign of management with poor priorities, who favour optics over accomplishment and mandates over collaboration. I don’t want to work for them.

        1. NW Mossy*

          Thing is, contributions and work output are often heavily influenced by the strength of your relationships at work, and video’s a big piece of how many people do that. It’s not that you can’t build a relationship without video, but for many, it makes doing so faster and easier.

          For example, I’ve got several colleagues in an office 3 time zones away. One of them consistently uses video with me, and my relationship with her is MUCH stronger than any of the others even though we interact significantly less often. As a result, we’re able to help each other in the ways that are so subtle that you almost don’t notice – we return each other’s calls faster, we take each other’s views more seriously, and we make mutually beneficial decisions more quickly. I’d never be able to quantify the exact impact our relationship has on my productivity, but I can easily see how much easier it is for me to work with her than anyone else in that site.

        2. MsSolo*

          But if everyone else is on video and you’re not, it’s harder to contribute. People are more likely to talk over you and interrupt you because they’re missing the visual cues that you’re still speaking. It’s not about looking engaged, it’s about actually engaging. Like I said, with big groups it doesn’t work nearly so well (just as with a big group all in the same room you’re going to have people who hardly ever join in, because there isn’t space for everyone to contribute equally). But if there’s four of you, like there is on my team, and you’ve got video off and you’re struggling to get a word in, it’s because they don’t even know you’re trying.

      2. Lora*

        “one you hit 8 or so people, it goes the other way” THIS THIS THIS

        Most of the teleconferences I’m in have anywhere from 10-30 people there. Turn the video on? You’ll see a couple of crowded conference rooms and you still won’t know who is saying what. If it’s a client call, the client DEFINITELY does not want you to see them mute their microphone while they discuss amongst themselves how awful you are / everything they hate about your proposal / ask another person on their team about their opinion.

        Have been in many online conferences with >8 people and this is definitely the point where you do not benefit one whit from video.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Agreed — that’s the exception for sure. With 8+ people, you’re most likely not doing the kind of deep collaboration for which you’d want video, anyway.

          1. Rebecca1*

            Well, this explains a lot. Most of the remote meetings I attend are ten people at a bare minimum (and those are the small group offshoots). I was really confused about the benefits of video being touted!

        2. B*

          Yup. This one of the many, many, MANY reasons I find most of the blanket statements in the comments to be absurd. In my position, this would be absolutely chaos not only due to the number of people but also because we are juggling multiple time zones so people are calling in when they are on the train on their way home, literally in the middle of the night, first thing when they get up, when they are driving to pick their kids up etc. etc.

    9. andy*

      Generally, I feel alienated when managers mandate things like that. It does not feel like bonding or connection, except on base of mutual dislike for manager who would forced us to turn on cameras we don’t want.

    10. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

      This discussion is pointing out how bad meeting hosting/behavior often is.

      Yes, being on video can help with bonding and also communication. But there are basic steps that should be taken with group calls (more than, say, 5 or 6 people) of any kind, and which can be mandated if participants are all from the same organization:
      – require everyone to identify themselves by name before speaking if not 100% obvious.
      – when two people want to speak, give the line first to the person not in the same location as the host/largest group. Individuals alone on a line/video often have a harder time getting words in
      – when making a general call for comments/questions, always ask first for those from people not in the same location as the host/largest group.
      – mute and/or be very very quiet if not talking.
      – have a chat window open so if there are sound problems, or someone is not able to interrupt, they can get attention.
      – remind everyone of these protocols at the start of the meeting or in the meeting invites.

      I also recommend that if people are not using video, they try to set their system so that ideally a photo/headshot appears, or at least a name. A phone number is not good in a larger meeting – name and face is much more clear.

      1. Meg Murry*

        This is what I was trying to say above, but better. If you currently have crappy meetings or crappy conference calls, video meetings aren’t really going to help, or is going to just be putting a band-aid on the existing problems or fixing some issues while causing other (technical related) ones.

    11. Timothy (TRiG)*

      I’m a developer in a slightly spread out team. My boss loves getting us to talk on video and over the phone. Most of us would much much prefer using online chat, text-based. It’s so much clearer. You can scan back over conversations to refresh your memory. People don’t talk over each other. There are fewer misunderstandings. You can include links to tasks in the bug tracker.

      Video conferencing is a mess.

      1. Build Trust*

        I work for a large international company in a globally aligned department. As a new manager of a remote team, the first thing I did was ask that all team and 1:1 meetings be on video conference. It wasn’t a hugely popular idea, but 9 months later the whole team agrees that it made us more cohesive and engaged with each other, not to mention engaged in meetings. Additionally, it is the norm for our global leadership to use video so we really didn’t have an excuse. People who are uncomfortable find a way around it (like pointing the camera mostly at the ceiling) that feels compliant. We do not use the camera strictly for casual quick calls or meetings with local/regional folks outside out department. Within our region widespread use is not fully implemented. I will also say that I have experienced a few emotional phone calls that would have gone much better if a camera had been on for a face to face connection. It is a lot easier to act unprofessionally if you can’t see someone in person.
        I am also on several international teams and video calls are fantastic! I truly feel like I know my co-workers in Russia, Singapore, Mexico, etc. And as our travel budgets get tighter and tighter, and my company focuses on efforts to reduce carbon emissions, I don’t see video conferencing going away.

        1. Build Trust*

          Oh, forgot to mention that the first week of video conferencing being implemented someone got caught working remotely when they did not have permission AND basically napping. I know a little big brothery, but video conference basically exposed some major issues with integrity and accountability on the team that we needed to address immediately.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        Absolutely. Text chat is the way to go, 9 times out of 10. I can respond to things even if I’m not at my desk if it’s urgent. I can take a minute to dig through my emails and get the right answer instead of “I’ll get back to you on that”. I can process and understand what other folks are saying without having to think about my response and my tone and my facial expression all at the same time. Regional accents and idiosyncratic vocabularies become non-issues. And all parties can go back and check what was said – the number of times I’ve saved the day by finding the relevant Slack conversation from six months back is astounding.

        That other 1 time out of 10, we need to screenshare – so still no video required!

        1. iglwif*

          Yup. I am super close to a bunch of my teammates whom I see in person or on video maaaaybe three or four times a year, because we collaborate closely via text and audio Skype/zoom and screen shares more or less daily.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I prefer text-based communication too. But often there are situations where you don’t want a written record of what you’re saying, because it is sensitive for various reasons.

        Ex: My boss Cersei has refused to pay for the vet visit to give the llamas their vaccines, so technically the barn should have been closed and quarantined a month ago, and I’m on the phone with Tyrion working out a plan to get us back in compliance without Cersei being able to use her admin powers to go through my email and Slack that I’m ratting her out while also not having it in writing that our barn is open in violation of the health code.

    12. Mads Bondo Dydensborg*

      Completely agree. (Letter 2).

      Alison is in the wrong here. Remote working and video is now a fact in many business. Participating in a video meeting (whether it is for a whole day or short standups) is much harder than ordinary meetings, but it is a necessary skill that any employee should actively seek to improve.

      In fact, some companies, that have distributed teams, where e.g. 4-5 persons are on premise, and others elsewhere, now require that all members of the team use video for any communication involving of premise people, to “level the playing field”. This, in my opinion, is the correct way to approach it.

      However, if the manager experiences that this is hard for his team members, he/she should address it, and learn what is holding people back.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        My team is about 3/4 remote and we have a weekly team meeting where we all appear on video. The rest of the meetings, only the people that want to appear on video do and the rest of us are there audio-only. It works really well and we get to see each other’s faces regularly but don’t have to all the time if it makes us uncomfortable.

    13. BekaAnne*

      We have a weekly meeting with a client and the client moved to MS Teams with integrated video, so they wanted to use this for the weekly meeting. But we have to go to a room that has web cams installed, because our IT dept disable the webcams on the laptop. Getting time in the telepresence room is tough – so we agreed to do it for a kick off, but then… we’d do it once a month if the room was available. It’s working so far, but yeah, it’s not necessary but it has build a better relationship.

    14. aebhel*

      Yeah, but the reason that people who hate phone calls sometimes have to make phone calls is that it’s one of the most efficient ways of conveying complex information and having a back and forth about it. It seems like the major reason for using video calls in this case is emotional bonding, which… is not likely to happen if everybody involved is wildly uncomfortable, and is not a good reason to make people uncomfortable in the first place.

      1. Quinalla*

        Emotional bonding is a reason, but not the most important one in my experience. Like sometimes picking up the phone and calling because it is more efficient to communicate, turning on the video makes it that much more efficient to communicate as you can pick up on most body language (not all as video is still not that good) that you see in person. And when in groups, it makes it so much easier to naturally break into the conversation. I hate being on video, but I turn my video on every call at work now and ask others to do so too because it is so much easier for me to communicate. It is close to being in the room as you can get without driving/flying hours to be in that room.

        And yes, it helps with team bonding too, but to me the improved communication is way more important.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        If you want me to communicate effectively, then, let’s do chat. I suck at auditory processing and hate forms of communication that don’t leave a paper trail (even if it’s digital). I work much better in writing and very much prefer communication that generates notes.

    15. Person from the Resume*

      I agree with this response and disagree with Alison.

      Yes, I don’t want to do video teleconference, but I don’t like phone calls either. I’ve got to do them when necessary.

      I think the video could help engagement. How many times has someone been asked a question on a teleconference and they show that they have not been paying attention to the disembodies voices speaking? “I was multitasking.”

      Frankly “it takes away the perk of looking a mess while working from home” is a dumb reason not to do it.

      A true con is that your network or your employees home network may not handle the bandwidth. You may need to get decent cameras so people don’t look terrible or the camera is not pointing up their nose when they also look at the screen and work while meeting. That stuff can cost.

      This is something that a company require.

      1. Quill*

        Video can add technical issues to an otherwise smooth teleconference, but so can taking it on a crackly speakerphone in a conference room. Overall, I think the company should focus on clarity and efficiency in their remote work arrangements. If people aren’t engaged, video may not help the issue when it’s often that meetings are too long, audio quality is poor, or they’re only involved with one of the ten projects being discussed.

    16. Jubilance*

      Agreed and came here to say the same thing. My dept is spread across 2 different parts of the US, plus we have team members who work from home. Using video has greatly improved team morale and bonding. While it’s not a “requirement” to use video, it’s greatly encouraged; the only time people don’t use video is if they are dealing with a weaker Wifi signal, or have people/noise in the background that could be distracting. Otherwise the status quo is to use video and nobody makes a big deal about it.

      1. Runaway Shinobi*

        I started using video more frequently last year, and now I much prefer it. Yes, you have to get over that initial discomfort of “being on screen,” but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Nobody is scrutinizing anyone else’s appearance, and you can just switch off your own visual of yourself. And quite honestly, it has made me pay far more attention in meetings than I did before.

    17. Jamey*

      I agree. If we have a reason we want to turn off our video, it’s usually no big deal. (In morning meetings sometimes I’ll say something like “sorry I just washed my hair”)

      But you’re expected to generally turn on the video if you don’t have a specific reason not to, and if you’re leaving it off all the time it would be out of sync with office norms. Interacting on video is the only chance remote coworkers have to really interact with each other in a meaningful way. It’s how you get to know your team, and it’s important.

      1. Emily S*

        Same with my team. It’s not REQUIRED required, but it’s explicitly been strongly encouraged and expected that you will leave it on unless you have a good reason, so people will occasionally say, “I’m going to leave my camera off for this one because I’ve been under the weather and I look frightful,” or whatever.

        I actually find it frustrating when I work with teams that don’t use video – I’m one of those that hates the phone because my hearing is not great and I can understand people a lot better when I have added visual cues to parse, so v-con was a game-changer for me. But I’ve noticed that if you dial into a call and half the people have their video off, as the meeting goes on, everyone else starts turning off their cameras one by one because you start to feel like you’re over-exposed compared to everyone else. That’s why I think it’s important to set an expectation that it will be used whenever feasible, because as soon as you make it optional, every time you’re in a meeting with X person who just doesn’t like video, you’ll lose video for half the attendees due to the contagion effect.

    18. a heather*

      I agree that seeing people really helps with the personal aspect of being coworkers across great distance. I use to work at a company where we almost always used video, even if you were just working from home with a sick kid, and it was nice to see coworkers as people and not just a voice. I’ve worked two places since then and neither use video, and it’s definitely harder to concentrate on just audio.

    19. Emily*

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mandated video calls. My team is also remote, and do video calls about half the time. Everyone kind of understands that you should turn it on when you can, but you don’t have to if it’s inconvenient (calling in from an airport, a call that ends up happening at 6 AM or 9 PM for some people due to time zone differences, etc.). Our calls range from 2-6 people, so video is perfect, and it’s nice to see everyone’s faces. I notice it adds a big difference to how socially engaged I feel while working remotely.

    20. Mr. Tyzik*

      I work on a remote team and video is critical to our chemistry and dynamic as a team. Through video, we learned body language in addition to audio cues, and it gives a better-rounded sense of who your teammate is. When you can picture them in a conversation, that conversation is better regardless of medium. It gives texting, IMng, and emailing difference experiences.

      We use video for team meeting, and choose whether we want audio only or video when we partner off. I would absolutely want video for remote retrospectives and team meeting. I can see requiring it in some scenarios, but not across the board.

    21. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t find that video has any impact on my engagement with other people, and I actually find it distracting, particularly on computers where you can have to look directly at the camera eye to appear on video as though you are looking at people directly, which then means you can’t actually watch the other participants. I would turn it on if my boss forced me to, but I’d be less than well-pleased about it. I work with a number of people that I’ve only communicated with by phone, IM, and email, and my assessment of them is more influenced by their work than whether or not they are on camera. Our in-house phone system has cameras, and the majority of the desk configurations are not set up for the camera to be in front of someone, so you’re usually looking at someone’s ear or, when they get tired of that, their ceiling tiles (when they don’t know how to close the lens or disable video).

      1. Emily S*

        I don’t think there’s an expectation of making direct eye contact on video conferences. People understand the mechanics. On my team most people have multiple monitor setups so they’re always looking (presumably) at their bigger screen and not the tiny laptop screen where the camera is embedded. 99% of the time people are not looking directly into the camera.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          For me, being able to make actual eye contact and seeing who people are looking at is a huge part of the body language that facilitates determining who has the floor when everyone is in the same room. On video, that’s totally lost. I guess you have to learn to do super performative facial expressions to make up for it, and that’s what people respond to? I’m glad I don’t have to do frequent video conferences.

          1. pancakes*

            Noooo! I do think some people respond to that but I don’t want it to become a default. Your comment reminds me of a tweet I saw and think about often—someone I follow said something about social media bringing back silent film-era acting techniques, because a face that isn’t performing doesn’t stand out in a scrolling feed.

          2. Emily S*

            Here again it’s not that different from being in the room with each other. The person who’s speaking isn’t looking directly at each person they’re in the room with the whole time because they only have one set of eyes – they’re often looking at someone else, or at the slides they’re talking about. You can still tell who’s speaking or looking like they’re about to speak without direct eye contact.

    22. Daffy Duck*

      I am full-time remote and would absolutely HATE to go to “required video” conferencing. I have meetings at least three times a week. Video would mean I would need rearrange my desk so the computer camera will get my face (my work requires multiple monitors) instead of most efficient for actual work, wear “professional” clothing, hair & make-up on meeting days (I am extremely fair and look like death NOT warmed over without makeup), drywall my home office or move to another room for the meetings.
      The advantage of my WFH gig is I don’t have to spend money on gas, work clothing, or makeup. Considering I can make over 50% more money working at the local distribution center I would very likely change jobs.

      1. Emily S*

        Just as a counter point – I’m sure your office and others like it would require those things, but my geographically dispersed team has multiple video calls every day, and nobody does any of those things. People are looking slightly off-camera, remote workers still dress like remote workers, and their house in the background is their house in the background, nobody cares what it looks like. Sometimes an adorable pet will be spotted in the background to everyone’s delight. I do get dressed every day even though I’m remote because I have to go outside to walk my dog, but it’s just regular t-shirts and hoodies type of apparel. I’m extremely fair-skinned and never wear make-up, either. If I haven’t washed my hair recently I put it in a ponytail when I’m going on camera.

        Which again, is not to say that your job wouldn’t hold you to a different standard than mine – just that it’s not inevitable that video would always present those challenges.

    23. iglwif*

      Yeah, I think this is a YMMV situation. I’m remote and my company uses a mix of Skype, google hangouts, and zoom for meetings. Having your webcam on is definitely not the norm, although many of us do it sometimes, and if someone tried to make it REQUIRED I think there would be a lot of resentment. A lot of stuff happens during work calls from home that goes unnoticed with video off but would be super distracting with video on–in my case, teenagers wandering behind me to raid the fridge, the dog wanting to get in my lap, even me getting up to make a cup of tea with the speakers on but my mic muted because I’m listening but don’t need to talk right now. And if there’s someone on the call who, like an ex-boss of mine, thinks that doodling or knitting or using a fidget means you’re not paying attention, well, I can contribute to the conversation better if I am knitting and that person can’t see me doing it!

      I mean also I am frequently working in sweatpants with bedhead, but that’s a minor thing: if I know in advance a meeting will have a video component, then I will be appropriately groomed. (If I were calling in from a far-away time zone half an hour before my bedtime, I would be more annoyed by this requirement.)

      There’s another big issue with video: Depending on technical factors like your internet bandwidth/speed and the number of participants and where everyone is, having everyone on video can hog a lot of resources and result in crappy audio, which is a much bigger barrier to engagement than not having video.

      Like, if everyone you’re doing meetings with likes using video, great! But it’s actually much less universally used and MUCH less universally liked than I think you’re thinking it is.

    24. vlookup*

      Agree. I’ve worked on both a distributed team that used exclusively video calls, and a distributed team that used exclusively conference calls, and there’s a world of difference in my experience. The video calls feel more engaging and actually less formal, because you can have a more natural back-and-forth discussion with a group. It’s also way harder to goof off and not pay attention to the call when your video is on, which I suspect is what some people dislike about it.

      I’m not remote, so maybe it feels like less of an imposition since I’m already in the office and not wearing pajamas. But I do work from home occasionally and that feels fine too — I just set up my screen so there’s a neutral background behind me and try to keep the cats out of the frame.

    25. Emily S*

      I agree with this too. When you’re geographically dispersed it makes a HUGE difference to have the video added.

      A lot of people on my team who I guess are less comfortable with being on video will basically point their laptop camera upwards so you get their eyes on top to the ceiling. Even that is 1,000% better than audio-only.

    26. Curmudgeon in California*

      A. I get distracted in video meetings all the time. Some people don’t know when to shut up.

      B. Some people have garbage connections (weather, flakey isps, on DSL) and adding video can really degrade their meeting experience. Unless everyone has a T1, requiring video can be a disaster.

      C. Way back when the dinosaurs roamed, I spent a lot of time on UseNet. Text only. Yet I knew people who fell in love, met IRL, and got married after bonding over text discussions. Video is not required for bonding.

    27. B*

      “It makes a world of difference in making connections with people you otherwise would never meet in person.” For you.

      “People are much more engaged when in video and less likely to be distracted. ” You, and perhaps your team.

      Totally fine to disagree, but blanket statements are unnecessary. I work in a global position and most of my team I’ve NEVER met, and the rest I might see once a year. We still bond. Heck, my primary method of bonding with coworkers is exchanging memes (I’m in a fairly intensive, straight laced line of work – I’m the comic relief!). We use IM platforms throughout the day, so we are also interacting in live time outside our meetings as well, which definitely helps.

      In my personal experience, video conferencing is not becoming more popular/normalized than before. We have soooo many resources available to us to make our global positions manageable, it seems unnecessary. And more importantly, we would struggle to remain competitive and attract talent specifically because in my area (this has held true across 4 industries I’ve been in, so geography is the only difference I can pin point) this would be such an unusual requirement that it would make us less desirable as an employer. In my experience the majority of people do not like using video, so if we are unable to provide a valid business justification it can work against us.

      I’d be interested to know what industry you’re in, because our experiences are definitely on opposite ends of the spectrum.

    28. Allonge*

      I agree. I also don’t quite get the ‘but I would have to get dressed’ part – I mean, yeah, you should not be naked, but I certainly would not expect remote workers to be wearing suits and full makeup. Wearing something comfy and not revealing should be ok, especially considering that in a lot of cases, all people will see of you is a fairly small and grainy image.

    29. LizardOfOdds*

      Came here to say this. As a leader who’s been leading remote teams for over a decade, video conferencing has completely shifted team dynamics and performance for my teams. People get to know each other more intimately when they can see each others’ body language and faces, and things that go unspoken (like sour faces in response to an idea) are suddenly obvious with video. The team performance benefits I’ve gotten from requiring video with my teams are innumerable, and once people understand that’s the team norm/culture, it’s seriously no big deal. I don’t see this as a preference thing; it’s a work culture and performance thing

    30. Ruthie*

      This has been my experience as well. We’ve started mandating video in my department and it’s made a world of difference in terms of engagement and relationship building, especially for our remote employees. I have to be honest that I get irked when people say that they don’t want to look presentable when working from home. I had to make myself presentable and then commute an hour to my office. I can guarantee you that walking down the hallway is not a barrier to looking presentable, especially when you can still wear whatever pants you want (or don’t want!). I would love to show up to my office in pajamas too, but that’s just now how it works.

    31. W*

      I agree. This is a case of “know your company.” I have a team across multiple time zones, and we always use video to connect. I am personally on video calls much of the day, every day. If someone occasionally left their video off for a reason (e.g., walking through an airport and don’t want to make people on the other end of the call motion sick – LOL), that’s fine. But if someone regularly turned off video, that would be an issue.

    32. Red*

      I’ve been on calls where we use cameras just for the hellos and quick reminders about the agenda/fun question “Favorite snack food right now,” etc that helps people feel like they’re getting to know one another. That works well for the folks who want to see each other but allows people to do their thing without watching what faces are doing for the rest of the call.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Re: #3, this sounds like identity theft. Do you know if the person is also using any of your private financial information, like your SSN or banking info? If this is an assumption of OP’s identity/resume without additional intervention, then it sounds like the tort of appropriation (which is not recognized in all states). But without the confidential information angle, it’s more difficult to enlist law enforcement or others in helping to shut down whoever has stolen your professional identity.

    I defer to other lawyers in the commentariat who may have more experience!

      1. Colette*

        I’m confused about the medical records – wouldn’t the impostor need to know who the OP’s doctor was? Wouldn’t the doctor recognize that it’s an impostor? And what is the benefit to stealing someone else’s medical history? That could be fatal, depending on the person.

        1. Bear Shark*

          Checking medical records is in the hope of catching if someone has been using your information when they receive medical care such as in an emergency room. It’s not about the impostor stealing OP’s medical history, it’s about the impostor getting medical care and using OP’s ID so that the bills are left behind in OP’s name.

          1. Colette*

            Thanks, this is one of those things that those of us without privatized health care don’t understand.

        2. WellRed*

          Worst case scenario, if someone steals your identity and health insurance and uses it for healthcare, you can then have trouble accessing that healthcare. “Sorry, we’ve already filled that lifesaving script for you once this month, you’ll have to wait.”

          1. Meg Murry*

            Or trouble accessing health insurance. It took me a month of going around in circles in order to get everything set up with my (employer provided!) health insurance because of some kind of issue that was being flagged as insurance fraud based on my SSN.

            If someone uses your SSN for work authorization and/or health insurance, it can cause a LOT of headaches for the legitimate owner of those credentials. For OP’s sake I hope this is (only) a matter of the person attempting to steal their resume/work history – that is troubling and bad enough, but if they are stealing other parts of her identity like her SSN that can cause even more problems beyond financial.

        3. Pretzelgirl*

          Well if she has a large health system near her, the imposter may just be able to go in with the hopes she has gone there before. Most large health systems keep insurance info on file. Most of the time, I do have to show an insurance card, but sometimes the person checking me in didn’t ask. Or simply said do you still have XYZ insurance? If you answer yes, they just send you on your way.

        4. Liane*

          Yes, people do steal someone else’s health insurance (policy and group numbers, insurer name) because they won’t be responsible for any bills, as Bear Shark said. Not only does it affect your credit, but you could end up with your legit claims denied because the fraudster maxed out your benefits. It can also be done by providers to obtain drugs or as part of billing fraud. It’s a fairly common form of identity theft in the US, for obvious reasons.
          Worse, it is dangerous healthwise, not just financially, for the victim of this fraud, since the fraudster’s medical history may be added to the victim’s records. A doctor is less likely to consider appendicitis if the thief had theirs out on your insurer’s tab or you could be given drugs you are allergic to, or have other serious side effects from.

          1. RecoveringSWO*

            Even without identity theft, this is something to look into. I know someone whose insurance company merged their online portal with another customer. It took a HIPPA complaint to figure out what happened–turned out two people had the same name and birthday and the online system automatically merged the profiles. I hope that the company changed the process to add a ssn or another differentiating identifier, but if not…be sure to check your online health portals regularly!

      2. AKchic*

        And that credit report.

        I have been hit with identity theft a few times. Once was my 1st ex-husband, but most recently was a few years back, and we just found out that they also took out a student loan in my name. Whoever it was dropped out (because hey, they couldn’t get any more loans in my name and stopped). Well, I’d been fighting with the student loan departments about it. I didn’t sign for it, I wasn’t going to pay for it. But “I” signed the loan (oh no I didn’t!). They garnished my wages. To pay for my own identity theft. I just got a notice saying that they overcharged me, but I only have 60 days to claim the “extra” that they took from me (and they won’t tell me how much “extra” they took). It had better be the whole damned amount because I never took the loan out in the first place! I’ve been fighting this for years.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      But if the theory that it’s a person with the same name is correct, and they didn’t use LW#3’s SSN or other identifying information, isn’t it just fraud that the impostor committed against the other company? Work history isn’t necessarily uniquely identifying, so I don’t see how the fact that the work history is the same as the LW’s doesn’t give her a cause of action…the only thing I can think of is that now her employer thinks she’s interviewing, and it would be really hard to show even civil damages unless she was fired explicitly for that reason. (IANAL, I just do a lot of my own regulatory and legal research.)

  7. HMM*

    OP5: I had a friend who did this exact thing. Left a product management job to go to seminary for two years with no intention of becoming a minister. He then came back home to job search in the tech sector again. He did recently find a job, though he found it harder than expected – not because of the 2 year gap (we’re in Silicon Valley and people have gaps for all kinds of reasons more interesting than “went to study the teachings of our Lord and savior, amen”) but because it had been many years since he had interviewed. He was just out of practice.

    Regardless, my 2cents: do it if you really care about it and you can afford it. Jobs will be waiting if you get back. And I think 2 years doing something you really want to do for the sake of doing it may actually make you want to do something else afterward, something for which you couldn’t possibly prepare now. Good luck and godspeed ;)

  8. Sami*

    OP1: As Alison says, “Holy hell!” The unmitigated gall of some people!
    It’s your jerky coworker’s responsibility to do any repairs to your relationship. If you even want to. Personally I’d stick with polite but cool. And at a good distance.
    Hope you’re doing well.

    1. Julia*

      Right? Who complains about having to talk to HR as a witness? This isn’t middle school and the principal’s office!

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m flabbergasted by this.
        A few years ago, I was involved as a witness in a minor vehicular crime.
        I had to turn up at the police twice to give a statement and also appeared in front of a judge later (even though they turned out to not need me anyway since the defendants confessed from the get-go) – it was a pretty chaotic and, as a result, annoying process but that wasn’t the fault of the police who asked for my statement!

      2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        My coworker did when we went TOGETHER to HR to report rampant sexual harassment that our boss ignored even when right in front of her face. Apparently HR told the offenders who reported them and it got way worse via freezing out for her. She decided to buddy up with the harassers and threw me under the bus. It was awful. Of course HR told us the solution to sexual harassment was a “diversity potluck” because most of the employees were from other countries.

        1. Blueberry*

          That is such wretched behavior from all involved except you. I’m so sorry you were treated so horribly.

        2. Hey there hey*

          Did we use to be coworkers? Sounds like my old job’s policy! If you were “lucky” they moved you to an assignment that mostly kept you away from whoever was harassing you. Oh and then they decided to have a sexual harassment seminar which opened with our director basically blaming “people who can’t just tell someone when something is bothering them” for the number of sexual harassment claims, and then proceeded to some old dude who travels the country doing sexual harassment seminars and whose basic principle seemed to be “people are easily offended these days!” and included a segment which could be titled “Southerners Just Call People Sweetheart And Your Preferences Shouldn’t Matter”.

          1. SebbyGrrl*

            “Southerners Just Call People Sweetheart And Your Preferences Shouldn’t Matter”.

            Needs to be:
            #1 Cross stitched into the backrest of a work chair
            #2 The title of an MFM episode
            #3 Never said aloud much less written down (on a PowerPoint slide – he did that too, right?)

      3. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        I get the idea that the culture in OP1’s office is problematic in a number of ways, so that the coworker’s bizarre and intrusive behavior is just the tip of the iceberg.

        If folks don’t want to talk to HR there’s a reason for it, and none of the possibilities that I can come up with are good:

        – HR sucks and is punitive
        – There are lots of rocks with stinky worms under them, and they don’t want HR digging among the rocks
        – The culture of the place is just nasty or, at best, selfish
        – Workers are under terrible pressure to perform, and having to take time to talk to HR will not be considered by the management as adequate justification for not meeting a deadline

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This was my reaction as well. If OP’s coworkers didn’t want them to address this person’s weird and boundary crossing assertions, why did they even bring it up?

        OP, for the record, if somebody at my office was making wild guesses at why a member of our team needed to take FMLA and our HR rep asked me about it, I’d be happy to share what I had seen and heard, because somebody needs to tell this person that other people’s medical details are none of their business. This is what HR exists for.

      5. AKchic*

        Those who complain generally have a smidgeon of guilt staining them.

        They may have been involved with some gossip on the subject and don’t want it to come to light. Or, they wanted to continue the gossip, and chose to tell the LW instead of shutting the gossiper down, hoping the LW would give them a snappy retort that they could then report back to the gossiper, or give details that would be reported back to the gossiper.
        The fact that the gossiper hopped from idea to idea and landed on “womanly issue” seems to have been given a hint of some kind about the reason for the LW’s absence, which means at least one person was trying to be “helpful” in a way. That “look, I am not going to tell you to shut your trap because I’m being polite, but I will passively hint that this is a ‘female-specific’ surgery so you take my hint that you need to stop talking” but that passive hint was not taken and actually made it worse, so the speaker can now technically be on the hook for gossiping too and doesn’t want to get punished in the fall-out.
        That may fall under the ask vs tell culture. I dunno.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve encountered this personally (it was for a different operation but one a coworker had ‘opinions’ about me getting) and the resultant HR business really stressed me until I realised:

      What my coworker was doing was *no* different to the bullies I had at school. Back then I wished someone would stop them. Now, I had someone willing to step up and say ‘no. You stop this. Now’ to a bully and I took real comfort in that. Someone cared.

      With the coworkers who tried to make me feel bad about it all I started with “look, it’s their fault not mine. If they were less of a git we wouldn’t have this issue” and occasionally adding how much stress and pain this was causing *me*. I did regret losing my cool entirely at one person though who was trying a ‘it’s more stressful for me to see bullying than it is for you to undergo it’ tactic. One of the few times I’ve actually lost my temper.

      TL version: people care about you. Don’t look upon it as a fault and don’t let others tell you otherwise.

      Also, hope you heal well.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        If it’s more stressful for somebody to see bullying than it is to be bullied (WTAF? No) then surely the logical solution is for them to step in and shut it down and enlist the help of all resources available to ensure it stays shut down?*

        (I think what you actually had was an example of the Victimus compleximus narcissisti, which can be recognised by their ability to make everything about them and how hard done by they are.)

        *When I was 19, I was in the park with a big group of school friends meeting up. Most people had left to do a few things; a friend of mine, his sister and two of her friends and me were still dithering on which group to catch up with. And some jerks came over, were rude and insulting – and managed to grab my male friend and pull him about 20 feet away, where they were surrounding him in a circle just kicking at him while he was curled up in a ball. His sister was begging people to help, one of her friends phoned 999, and me and the other girl froze for a second trying to work out how to react. Then I shoved my bags at her, said I couldn’t just watch this happen, and ran at the group screaming with all the fury my 5’2″ self could muster, surprising them enough to break into the middle and get my friend onto his feet. I kinda figured 2 against 12 gave us twice the odds of 1 against 12, at least we could protect each other’s backs. Thankfully these guys had evidently had it drilled into them HARD that hitting a girl is a big no-no so when it became clear that if they wanted to continue beating on him they would have to fight me too, the “fun” went out of the situation and they left.** I did not blame him for getting assaulted. It didn’t occur to me to do that. I figured if I helped we’d hopefully both be able to walk away after; if I didn’t, he might really not be OK after and I would have watched that happen without trying to help.

        **I’m all about treating everybody equally – but I also think surrounding a stranger of any gender and inflicting as much damage on them as possible for no reason is pretty vile. If not wanting to hit me meant they couldn’t hit him, I call this a win for equality. Even if it came from a place of “she’s a girl and we can’t hit her because she’s small and weak” – there is some cognitive dissonance going on if you can see that logic but not that “we can’t attack somebody 12 on 1 because that’s messed up”…

    3. Moo*

      Yeah, I’ve been there before. I fell down the stairs at work and broke my tailbone. HR lady rushed me to the urgent care, I was out for a week (was able to work from home so it wasn’t that bad), a whole bunch of people heard me fall so knew what happened. When I came back my unit partner told me the front desk admin (who had barely spoken two sentences to me the entire time she’d been working there) had been running around the office asking EVERYONE, “IS THE BABY OK?!” I was not pregnant. After several people set her straight on that, when I got back in the office she couldn’t even look at me. I went back to grad school and worked remotely for a few months, and by the next time I was in the office she was gone. I have no idea why, but don’t care!

      1. Leisel*

        In college I had a professor who was…a lot. Right before Thanksgiving break I had to give a presentation in lieu of a final exam (it was a studio class, so this wasn’t unheard of). Normally during a final exam you could leave whenever you were finished, but because we were giving presentations we had to take turns. We had like 2-1/2 hours of allotted “exam time.” I asked the professor if I could present towards the front of the line. I was planning on leaving campus directly after the presentation to drive to see my grandmother, who was in the hospital with pneumonia. I wanted to get there before visiting hours were over for the day, but I could stay for half of the presentations and still make it with time to spare.

        Before we began, the professor got up in front of the group and loudly announced that I needed to go first because of a medial emergency with my grandmother. I was MORTIFIED! I had to get up in front of 30-something other people, who were all looking at me with concern, and give my presentation. When I was finished I went back to my seat to gather my things and everyone was asking me if she was going to be okay. I felt so bad for the person presenting after me because no one was paying attention to that person.

        Not nearly as bad as everyone thinking you’re pregnant, but it still threw me for a loop. Some people just like to stir up drama! It’s such a strange thing, but it seems like they relish in the weird attention.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          On the opposite end of the spectrum of final presentations, I was having an autoimmune flare and really needed to go to the hospital (not ambulance-level bad, but hurling blood and everything but the kitchen sink into a trashcan intermittently bad), and my teacher was so nasty about it when I emailed him that I basically did my presentation and walked out right there.

          That man was an ass, so I really wasn’t expecting anything, and I knew I wouldn’t be failed even if he tried to give me no points for the final.

    4. Bee*

      I’m just amazed by some people’s ability to make things all about themselves. This woman just had a mastectomy, is it truly unthinkable for people to give her some space to process it, and support her in that?

      Hope you’re well OP.

    5. ChimericalOne*

      I hope this is just a case of OP misinterpreting things somehow! Like, I can maybe see someone venting about having to talk to HR if they’re nervous about it & not thinking about how it’ll make OP feel bad (not blaming her, but venting to her), or saying, “I shouldn’t have told you” & meaning that they regret burdening OP, having seen her hit her breaking point. But if the coworkers are really saying this stuff in a “why’d you have to go complain to HR” kinda way, I hope OP just tells them, “I asked Stella to speak with him, but I guess it’s a pretty big deal because of the legal liability around medical stuff, so she escalated it” (making it clear it wasn’t *her* call). And then maybe adds, “I just hope it gets him to stop” to maybe help them refocus on the real cause of the problem (this guy).

      1. pancakes*

        You should seek out & read the thread on this site about the experiences of those of us who’ve been out about our cancer diagnoses at work. Many, many, many people, including me, have experienced coworkers (and others!) behaving terribly unpleasantly in connection with it, in all sorts of ways. People very often say and do things that are childish, cruel, intensely self-regarding, socially inept, etc. It’s not at all uncommon.

        1. old curmudgeon*

          Yup. Had a double mastectomy six years ago and opted against reconstruction (risk of complications, risk of hiding recurrent malignancy), and I also hate wearing falsies, so I go flat-chested.

          I was walking to my desk one morning a year or so after the surgery and a woman just literally burst out of her cubicle to tell me – loudly – about a television show she had seen about women going flat-chested post-mastectomy and what she thought of the entire thing and had I seen it and what did I think and on and on and on. It was one of the few times in my life that I said out loud to another adult “Just. Shut. Up.” and then turned and walked away.

          The LW is absolutely justified keeping her medical details to herself. And quite honestly, her boss is absolutely justified to bring in HR to deal with the gossipy nuisance.

          1. Former Employee*

            Yes! Under the circumstances, I can’t believe you were that restrained. I think that the “F” word would have found its way in there if I were in your situation.

            1. old curmudgeon*

              Dropping F-bombs in the middle of the cube farm is frowned upon, but trust me, it was part of the inner monologue.

          2. pancakes*

            That’s . . . wow. Yikes!! I’m glad you responded as you did. 100% the appropriate thing to say. Necessary, even.

      2. SebbyGrrl*

        Hate to be the “actually” person, one of the the rules of this blog is we take letter writers at their word – we believe them.

        It would appear you have been fortunate enough not to have had the LWs experience – that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It does.

        And as I read some of the other posts I realize I may have been unkind and oblivious thinking we had a shared topic to chat about.

        Now I can reflect on this and how to be different than I previously had – most letters here reflect commonalities we have all had some experience with, slightly or significantly.

    6. Stivee*

      Been there–I once got called into HR and asked if I knew what a “Prince William” is and if I’d heard anyone say it recently. To this day I still wonder why….

      1. Sister Michael*

        Thank you for my risky google search of the day!(Urban Dictionary was there in my hour of need, as I suspected it might be.)

  9. Jimming*

    # 2 – I actually disagree with Alison on this one. I’ve been working remotely for about 5 years now and being on video in meetings does help to build relationships – and it helps me stay focused on the meeting instead of multi-tasking! I’d mandate that everyone turn on their video and once there is a good rapport with the team, then you can loosen that requirement. It makes it more like an in-person meeting.

    1. Eng*

      I agree, and in fact would make sure to state that very clearly to anyone else you hire. I’d agree with Alison if it was a colocated team where people occasionally worked from home, but it’s not reasonable to avoid video when you are on what sounds like a fully remote team. I say this as someone who has had many remote coworkers though I haven’t worked remotely myself.

    2. Double A*

      I work remotely and the culture is that we generally have our videos on for small meetings when we use Google meetings. For larger meetings we use different software so only presenters use video. Then one department conducts particular types of meetings by phone, but that dept is also a bit of a mess.

      However, in more informal meetings it’s not unusual for people to sometimes have their camera off, or to turn it off and on during the meeting (like if they’re snacking during the meeting). We all look pretty scruffy, but if you’re having a particularly unpresentable day it’s also not unusual to leave your camera off, but usually people comment on why. I agree it makes a difference to see people’s faces and I personally like those videos calls! We have a lot of phone calls with clients, so the FaceTime with colleagues kind of perks me up (but probably we’re only in video calls for half an hour a day or less on average).

      1. Jimming*

        Yeah – I think setting expectations is important, too. Like eating on camera – is that ok or should you turn off video? That has to do with the culture. Managers should set those expectations. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be on camera for a 10-15 minute daily stand up. But I’ve been doing it for awhile.

    3. Filosofickle*

      I refused video for a long time. Now I’m one of the biggest proponents! Connecting eye to eye matters. It creates far better conversations and connections. Many colleagues and clients who initially resisted like me also end up really seeing the value. And absolutely, it helps me stay focused on the call. Honestly, I think that’s why many don’t want to be on video. They want to be able to not pay attention.

      I’m not sure I’d 100% mandate it, but highly encouraging it is the right thing to do. It’s a cultural value that can be established and maintained. But it erodes fast — if you don’t prompt people to get onscreen, more and more will drop off.

      1. Jen RO*

        I fully admit that the no. 1 reason I would not turn on my camera would be to freely talk to people, work on my puzzle or send emails in the boring parts of the meeting.

        For my 2 cents: I don’t work remotely, but half the teams I interact with are in other countries. The difference in collaboration before & after meeting face to face is real! Alas, they are not very open to the idea of videoconferencing and they claim meeting room problems, so we never do it… but I do think our cross-site standups would work better if we could put some faces to the names.

        Maybe daily video calls are excessive (though we do have other teams that do them), but I would definitely support weekly ones. Actually, I will raise it again on Monday…

    4. Green great dragon*

      I dislike video meetings because I actually focus better if I can walk around or do mindless tasks. I do them when I must, and the rest of the time there’s a profile photo so at least people can recognise me at our occasional meetings.

      1. aebhel*

        S A M E.

        I have enough trouble staying focused in in-person meetings when I can’t get up and move around; sitting and staring at a video screen for hours on end without being able to get up and walk around sounds like literal torture (and more to the point, there’s no way I’d be able to focus on what was going on).

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, this.

        In meatspace meetings, I doodle. In remote meetings or trainings, I doodle or mess with a bit of silly putty or find something do with my hands so my mind can stay tapped in. If I had to be fixedly staring at a camera the entire time, it’d be pure torture.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve switched the video function on my laptop off and use audio only but it’s because my home bandwidth is really glitchy and slow at peak times. Audio seems to work fine though.

    6. Scarlett*

      I agree. I have been a remote worker at various organizations for the past decade, and in this one small instance, I disagree with Allison. I’ve worked mostly at organizations that offered (but did not require) video conferencing. Which meant that in most places, people opted out….or enough people opted out that anyone who wanted to be on camera felt uncomfortable. I joined a new organization 6 months ago that requires all meetings (even 1:1’s) to be on video conferencing. At first, I chafed at the requirement, based on what Allison noted above, but now that I’ve been engaged in video-based meetings for 6 months, I see why they are required, and I wouldn’t want to go back to camera off. Engagement in meetings is much higher, I feel closer to my colleagues, and it’s much easier to manage conversation flow when you can see people as well as hear them. I think that this is especially true for remote workers in “blended” settings where some team members are on site and others are remote. When I worked in a blended environment, often the in-person team members forgot I was on the phone and conversations became very difficult to follow (many people talking at once), and I was often neglected when it came time to take a vote on a decision. From my own experience, I can attest that requiring on camera meetings is helpful for employees, even if they may not feel that way at first.

      1. Libervermis*

        Agreed, I teach online classes, and my students always comment on how nice it is to see me (when I create intro videos or explanation videos for some element of the class) and see one another (when we have group discussion). If we’re talking a class or job where you saw classmates/coworkers in person sometimes, then fine, video chatting isn’t super important. But fully remote? There are so many studies about how face-focused humans are, how we bond through body language, and so on. Occasionally seeing your coworkers helps facilitate that. Not to mention, an actual conversation (rather than a series of reports) between three or more people who can’t see one another is really hard, because he lack of visual cue that someone is going to speak means you’re often interrupting and/or dealing with long pauses because everyone’s trying to avoid interrupting.

        Who knows, maybe I’m just a fuddy-duddy who is not prepared for our new remote world. I’m introverted, I’m a little awkward, and I still far prefer video chat to phone/audio.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Video or not, your comment about groups forgetting individuals on the phone is such a big problem. I am a consultant, and I try hard to get everyone on equal footing as much as possible — everyone in the same room for meetings, or everyone on their own computer/phone. And when that’s not possible, it’s my job to ensure they are not forgotten. In workshops with remote participants, I create a buddy system between in-room and remote folks so no one gets left out and the in-room person acts as “hands” for any writing or voting activities.

    7. Bible College Dropout*

      I hate video for the same reasons you love it. As someone with ADHD, I concentrate better when I can do something other than sitting perfectly still and only focusing on one thing. (For example, cleaning the kitchen, crocheting, even just pacing up and down my hallway.) Plus I don’t want to make an effort to look presentable for a 15 minute standup or whatever.

      ON TOP OF THAT: I just got a new laptop at work and my webcam is at the bottom of the screen. Like a millimeter above the keyboard. Someone who didn’t have a MySpace and doesn’t know about angles designed this nonsense. (Plus I can’t type and be on camera at the same time!)

    8. Emily S*

      The other way it makes a big difference is if more than a few people ARE in an office in the same room, they forget the people on the phone are even there, and it can be really hard when you’re flying blind to try to find an appropriate moment to jump in. Video eliminates that primary/secondary tier feeling between the people who are present and the people who are remote.

    9. KayDeeAye*

      Just because video helps some people, does that automatically mean that it must help everybody? I don’t think so. I think it’s a nice option…but it should be an option unless there’s a compelling reason to make it mandatory, e.g., someone’s giving a presentation with visuals.

      But the fact that it helps *some* participants is no reason, IMO, to make it mandatory for *all* participants.

    10. cheeky*

      I’m so surprised by people with this opinion. I would be MISERABLE doing video meetings as a routine way of doing business. I do WebEx meetings daily, and I’ve never struggled to follow the meeting or who’s speaking, especially as those applications indicate who’s talking at any given point.

      1. the informatics epidemiologist in the room*

        This works until the other participants (some or all) in the meeting are in a conference room together, and a handful (or only one!) of you are remote. That makes following things more difficult.

        Having said that, I’m not a fan of forced video. Mostly because I’ve worked from home for a long time and my daily routine doesn’t necessarily involve getting out of my pajamas before lunch, LOL. Also, because if you want me to focus on what’s being said during an important meeting, I need to be able to get up and walk around, and I can’t do that if you want me to be on camera. And my camera isn’t necessarily set up to be flattering in my current dual-monitor setup ;-)

  10. Northwest Rev*

    Op4, I am an ordained minister with a MDiv from a high level seminary. My advice is to really ask yourself what you would be hoping to get out of this program. MA’s in theology and 3 year MDiv’s can cost a lot of money. If you don’t plan on using it there are other ways to study high level, academic, solid theology from accredited seminaries and universities that don’t require full time commitment and a high financial burden. Even ic you decide you do want to go and get your MA or MDiv, most good seminaries offer a number of online options and part time options that would require you to quit your job.

    1. BRR*

      This is all good information for the LW. I think there are a variety of ways for them to pursue their passion. And from a career standpoint, I would worry as a hiring manager if their skills are stale and would question their judgement for using their time and money to pursue a degree full-time for a passion when there are more practical options out there.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, I would second this as the wife of a practicing minister. A lot of what he learned was really fascinating, but doing it full time was only necessary because he was launching a new career! The theology school where he got his degree offers multiple online/part time options, as well as one-shot courses designed for people with an interest in theology but not seeking a degree.

      Also, OP, if you do opt for the masters make sure you think about which program carefully. At least here, and MDiv is a very practically focused degree – you learn theology/Biblical history/etc. all to facilitate serving as a preaching minister for a congregation. An MA in theology would be the academic degree, focusing more on theory and in-depth analysis.

    3. Undercover Bagel*

      Yeah, Op4’s letter really surprised me! There is almost an unlimited amount of resources available for people who are interested in learning more about their faith. I’ve been a Christian convert for almost 10 years now, and I’m continuously surprised at just how much there is available for those willing to look for it.

      Maybe if the LW is this interested in going to school for theology/biblical studies there may be a greater discernment process happening for them. Whatever it may be, I hope it goes well for them.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Yeah, there are so many resources out there! I did the Perspectives course several years ago and really enjoyed it. Got a lot out of the lectures and discussions and I still have the book we used for the course.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Not everyone does well in a self-directed situation. I tend to get overwhelmed by just how *much* is out tehre now and really benefit from the structure of a syllabus and instructor and other classmates to bounce ideas off of, especially if I really want to dive into something rather than just “hey Google, give me a 30-minute lesson on the history of the lulav”. The LW has commented elsewhere that it’s not an issue financially.

  11. Dan*

    #2

    “In doing some research, it seems the only way for it to be effective is to have full buy-in from team members. I’m wondering if using video is valuable enough to mandate using it on daily stand-ups.”

    Just an FYI… “full buy-in” and “mandate” are contradictory. If you’re forcing it on people, that’s not buy-in.

    As an aside, depending on the nature of the meetings… I work with a lot of telecommuters, and we tend to have a lot of technical discussions revolving around a screen share of one sort or another. If the screen shares dominate the discussion, I would find video conferencing to just be an annoyance, as I can really only look at one thing at a time.

    1. linger*

      No doubt OP can clarify, but I suspect the more neutral “full uptake” might have been intended. Having everyone convinced it’s necessary (=”full buy-in”) would also be good, but that’s not where things lie at present, forcing OP to consider explicitly making it mandatory if further efforts at persuasion are unsuccessful. So perhaps OP is planning a stepwise approach, starting by attempting to convince the remaining holdouts.

      1. andy*

        Based on article, majority is turning off cameras and dont want the video. Likely finding it uncomfortable. It is not about few holdouts against majority, it is about majority against managers idea.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          They had good participation at first. OP also doesn’t report any complaining or verbal pushback. It could easily be people just getting lazy about it, not actually resistant to it.

          1. andy*

            Could be could be not. OP does not report neither pushback nor lack of it.

            With many managers, verbal pushback means that you are going to be seen as complainer with bad attitude. So people don’t do it and only slowly stop things they don’t particularly or find useless like after doing them a while. Especially non-core less important things like camera.

            OP does not report what his people think on the topic at all and considers only two options (mandate it vs ignore it). Therefore, I don’t think they are going to be a team that organizes things by consensus or have open discussions about what who finds comfortable or prefers. More likely, it is gonna be top down decision making. After all, the question was “should I mandate it for everyone”. It was not “how do I find out what they think, why they turned them off” nor “how do I convince them it is good idea”. That is not the kind of manager you talk with openly when you dislike something like that.

            If they actually liked it and are just forgetting to turned cameras on, mandate would not be necessary. He would just mention the cameras once in a while.

          2. andy*

            I will add that daily standup is supposed to be 10min long status report meeting. It is not supposed to have lively discussion. People are supposed to talk in turns, each person talks only once. It is every day coordination and checkup. It is not supposed to be bonding either, that would make it longer.

            It is supposed to be short as exchange for being every day.

            The diffence between different types of meetings and moderation of them matters for software projects.

        2. Emily S*

          I mentioned this up-thread, but that’s not necessarily true. There’s sort of a contagious effect when people start turning off their video. Initially the majority might feel fine being on camera, but the more other people turn off their cameras, the more intensely you feel like there’s a spotlight on you in particular and as cameras go off it starts to cross more and more people’s comfort threshold while at the same time giving them tacit permission to turn their camera off because “everyone else is doing it.”

          My team uses video all the time and even I will turn off my video if I’m joining a call with a vendor or another team that doesn’t use video, because while I don’t mind being on video, I don’t want to be starring in a show where my face is the only thing people have to look at regardless of if someone else is talking.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is a very good point. I much prefer screensharing as it gives more information (in my opinion).

      1. Scarlett*

        Most video conferencing (e.g., WebEx, Zoom, Free Conference Call.com) allows for both screen share and video (and chat) simultaneously now. At my organization, we always screen share to show the agenda and notes being taken, while our video feed is also running. It works great.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          That is a lot going on at one time. If the goal is of video is to have people more engaged and less distracted, having multiple elements going in the conference at once is going to make it tougher to pay attention. Most people use screenshare to show actual content, not just a static agenda, so, if you’ve got content, video, chat, and voice, that can get overwhelming. It’d be like being in a meeting, watching the presenter and all the participants and passing notes at the same time.

          1. Emily S*

            It’s really not any different than being in the same room with other people and having something displayed on the screen in the room. The videos of the humans go down to a small window in the corner of the screen while screen-sharing is enabled and window will only show the person/room that’s currently speaking with everyone else in thumbnails so tiny you can’t really see them. It might sound like a lot, but when you’re actually doing it it’s not really that hard to mainly watch a presentation and occasionally glance into the corner when someone is speaking. Chat is typically only used for things like sharing a link so that people can click on it, which people will say verbally, “I’m going to chat this link so you all can have it,” or whatever.

    3. Daffy Duck*

      I absolutely love screen share! It is great for demonstrations or just real-time meeting notes by the manager/facilitator. It is incredibly useful for those of us who learn by reading rather than by hearing.
      I find having video of all the other people in the meeting on my screen distracting from the person who is talking, and there is often a 1-2 second lag between what I see on screen and the audio, which just makes it worse.

  12. Marie*

    I’m in data science — I’m helping to interview someone tomorrow, in fact! We would interview a dead person if they were still warm (and could spin up a quick model). Resume gaps are not a problem in this field. Alas when I had my youngling, I was in a much less lucrative industry. Now that colleges are churning out DS undergrads, who knows what will happen. I would hope that I could get back into my old field, at a similar letter. I did that field for a long time professionally and academically. That counts for a lot.

    1. Anon for this*

      Data science is hot hot hot. In fact, at least in my area, there aren’t many people who can do it and who have the connection to our field that we need. If you had a degree in basketweaving, we’d look at you.

  13. ASDGFHGJ*

    If I were a hiring manager looking for a data scientist and someone’s resume said they’d just gotten a master’s in theology, it would give me pause — but less because I thought they’d want to leave soon and more because those fields are practically by definition based on belief in the absence of data!

    1. Observer*

      On the other hand, it’s a good idea to have a data scientist who has a handle on the limits of what data can tell you. And, even more crucially, to be dealing with someone who just might have some actual training in thinking about the ethics and morality of the things that you can do with big data.

    2. Loubelou*

      Then perhaps you shouldn’t be hiring. Many of the world’s best scientists are people of faith and it isn’t detrimental to their work in the slightest. Many of them cite faith as their motivation to understand the world better through science.

      1. Thea*

        Can you please cite your peer reviewed sources for the claim that “it isn’t detrimental to their work in the slightest”? Thanks in advance!

        1. Jessica*

          Does history count as evidence for you? It was a Catholic priest who came up with the theory of the Big Bang and a monk who pioneered the study of genetics.

          1. Thea*

            No. They may have done that, I’m not disputing it, but that in no way demonstrates that their work was NOT adversely affected in any way by their faith. (Because proving a negative it pretty much impossible, hence my scepticism of the claim in the first place.)

            Hence why I asked for peer reviewed sources, not anecdotal “evidence”! Thanks for trying, though.

          2. Lepidoptera*

            The scientific method?
            Muslims: Jābir ibn Hayyān (721–815) and Alkindus (801–873) Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040) and potentially a friar Roger Bacon.
            Trigonometry.
            Pagan. Hipparchus of Nicaea

        2. Myrin*

          I mean… why?
          Even if we ignore the fact that one doesn’t need to provide peer reviewed sources whenever one claims something on an online advice forum, it’s really hard to determine in general whether something is truly detrimental to someone’s work or whether any mistakes/weaknesses in their work were just a coincidence or could be attributed to something else entirely.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          In science terms it’s virtually impossible to prove a negative. A proper study would have to show the work output of scientists both before and after incorporating religion into their lives and have significant statistical correlation.

          This is getting off topic though so I’m going to leave it here.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Additionally one can study Theology without it impacting on their own personal beliefs! (Anecdotal evidence: my atheist cousin who studied theology and now works as a software engineer)

      3. Jedi Squirrel*

        “best” and “in the slightest” are highly subjective terms, and “detrimental” really needs to be defined—detrimental how? They can’t do research? They can’t write papers? They’re not available on Sundays?

        This is perhaps why ASDGFHGJ would be reluctant to hire someone as a data scientist who also had a masters in theology. I would be too.

        I like Observer’s point that it’s good to have someone who is good at “thinking about the ethics and morality of the things that you can do with big data” but again, you don’t need a theology degree for this. There are plenty of philosophy classes that can cover this without the religious POV.

        1. Amy Sly*

          My husband’s doing a self-tutoring course on data science. Non-religious folks, may I suggest a field of study that is all about trying to discover meaning from large sets of disparate data has rather quite a lot to do with data science?

      4. Religious Scientist*

        Perhaps “isn’t detrimental to their work in the slightest” isn’t the greatest phrasing, since it opens the door for comments like those above asking for peer reviewed evidence. And obviously that cannot be proven. But I would cite Francis Collins as an example of what I think Loubelou was trying to say. Yes, it cannot be proven that faith did not negatively impact his work. But he has repeatedly been elected to leadership roles by his fellow scientists who respect his work and his rigorous dedication to scientific discovery. And he has many peer reviewed publications to his name, none of which seem to be written from a position of faith. I am not including his role as NIH director, since that’s an appointment, but check out the rest of his CV for information on what I mean. I encourage OP4 to pursue whatever sort of education they are interested in, no matter if that includes theology.

    3. Beth*

      This is a weird attitude to me. Even as an agnostic person myself, I think it’s pretty clear that lots of people are able to balance personal faith with analytical professions without any issue! I don’t think a person’s religious beliefs and interests have any bearing on their ability to do data-based work. Plenty of people are successful in working with data without having to be intensely “show me the quantitative proof” about every single element of their personal lives (and conversely, plenty of atheistic people are actually quite bad at understanding how to use data properly).

    4. Obelia*

      Theology as an academic discipline isn’t. I’d rather not get into a religious debate on AAM and admittedly am not in the US but wouldn’t be super comfortable with a comment thread on justifications for religious discrimination in hiring!

    5. Mookie*

      Speaking of people operating on a dearth of data, there’s this. How easy would it be to just google how a field of study actually works?

    6. Rexish*

      I know a lot of poeple that have studied theology. None of them are (at least outwardly) religious. They are just interested in the sociological aspect of religion and how it effects society and culture. At least here theology is ocnsidered a science as much as any humanistic or societal field.

      1. Helena1*

        And I know somebody who IS extremely religious, and left his BA Theology degree because he didn’t like the way it “questioned the Bible”. He had the idea he would spend three years sitting around doing Bible study and praying, and a theology degree is very much not that.

        1. blackcat*

          Yep. I took one class religious studies class in undergrad, focusing on the New Testament. Multiple students dropped the class when they found it to be “in conflict with their faith.”
          I, however, loved it! So fascinating to study evidence for who actually wrote what when. How can you tell by looking at old documents? How can you trace the “genetics” of a particular translation? Who edited what when?
          SO COOL.
          Obviously it depends on the institution/degree, but I would very much assume a theology degree involved studying the history of a faith and would not assume it implied any particular faith. And MDiv is different though. I would presume someone who went to seminary did so because of their faith. I still wouldn’t think it disqualifies them from anything, but it’s a different beast than theology.

    7. Laura H.*

      Faith and science aren’t mutually exclusive!!

      They may not always compliment each other but they’re NOT supposed to be opposite ends of a spectrum. They are both vehicles which we can use as a way to understand things we don’t know!!!

      I apologize for my tone, but it bothers me that there are people who think faith is the only answer and crap completely on science, and vice versa. I understand that there are people who are that way (on either end of this odd scale), but I don’t get why (and I don’t want to invite an explanation of why either…)

      There are things that data cannot show me, and there are things that faith cannot show me. Sometimes, they fill each other’s gaps, but sometimes neither of them can effectively answer a quandary.

      I offer the biological hodgepodge that is the platypus as case and point. (This offer is a bit tongue in cheekish to lighten up the mood of my comment.)

    8. Lily Rowan*

      I’ve recently seen someone in a divinity school using big data sets to work with ancient texts, so there’s more overlap than you think. These aren’t degrees in praying!

    9. SomebodyElse*

      Umm… you do realize that would be discrimination, right? I echo the comment below that you should not be in a position to hire anyone.

    10. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think one of my favorite professors from college, who teaches multiple science classes, including environmental sustainability, has a phd in biology would disagree with you. She is a nun.

  14. Sweet Witch*

    LW 1: Your boss did the correct thing. Your coworker has passed all kinds of boundaries and some can have legal ramifications for both the coworker and the company if not handled properly. We’ve all had a simple request blow up in our faces, but sometimes it’s necessary. I had a coworker like yours once, she actually thrived on finding out all our “secrets” and telling everyone. The boss tried to handle it quietly and by the time HR got involved, the mess was huge and both the coworker and boss were “let go”. This isn’t tattling to HR, this is handling the investigation properly by people trained to, and most likely legally required to, handle it. You have done nothing wrong, you only asked for your legally granted privacy to be honored, any fall out is their own doing. You’re at home recovering, your boss and other coworkers should have been shutting this person’s vicious gossip down from day 1 – “I understand you’re curious, but it’s not our business.” Since that didn’t happen, it jumped to the step where HR gets involved – to protect you AND the company.

    LW 3: Can you find out if the interviewer looked at their LinkedIn? And if so, is it actually yours? With your picture? If not, start researching LI for all your history to find one that matches then contact LI. I would also ask them if there’s a way to put a warning/notice on your page that your work history has been stolen? Not incredibly familiar with LI, but there should be some measure in place to help you or all the pages would be worthless.

    1. Poppy the Flower*

      #1 – agree! Boss was probably worried the coworker’s behavior could contribute to an actual legally hostile workplace. I want to reinforce that you have the right to stand up for yourself and your privacy. I would personally use the script with your friends that redirects their anger towards nosy coworker. But if they continue to blame you… sometimes people pass along gossip to spread it under the guise of “concern”. This unfortunately may be one of those times that you learned their true character. Finally, I would’ve brought this to HR myself because, and this is gonna sound ludicrous but I’ve had a weird life, in high school I was legitimately stalked by 2 separate busybody moms who went to extremes to try to find out my health information. Not that every busybody is gonna go to this extreme or that your coworker would have, but after I had that experience, I just have zero tolerance for anyone being persistently pushy. (And out their first impulse when running into any family members is still to ask about me.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Gods, mate, that’s horrible! I hope you have fewer nosy rude people in your life these days :(

    2. DinoGirl*

      HR here. Yes, OP, I’m sorry people are upset they have to speak to HR, but this not inappropriate on your boss’ part. Depending on the circumstances, I might have just told the manager they need to talk to the employee about not speculating about someone’s medical condition. But for something pervasive, they might have wanted HR to help…maybe they have told them to stop and they didn’t, for example. You are also protected from retaliation for making the report, so you also should let HR know you’re receiving some backlash and ask if they can help with that in how they’re posing the situation to the employees they’re speaking to.
      You were right to be upset and make the complaint that you did.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. The “friends” who told you about this could have been, uh, actual friends and reported it themselves to the boss or HR. Conversely, they could have told the Gossip to knock it off. These people who are/might be claiming you violated a private confidence had two points of early intervention themselves. They chose not to intervene.
        Instead, they told you in confidence that she was talking about you behind your back. I have to ask what IS the point of doing this? They are merely throwing more fuel on the fire. “Here, let me tell you this upsetting thing and then make you promise not to do anything about it.”

        If anyone gives you static over this simply tell them, “What she is doing could cause legal trouble for the company. Probably not from me, but maybe the next person she does this to. Everyone who knew she was doing this was free to either report her or tell her to stop it. And that did not happen. To expect me to keep it a secret that my basic rights as an employee are being violated is not a realistic expectation. If something similar happens to you, I would encourage you to report it also.”
        [To me the last sentence is critical because that drives the point home, it makes it personal and real to the listener.]

        HR could also do a company wide retraining session on this matter, because there seems to be more than one person who does not understand here.

        I have to marvel really. Here is it 2020 and there are still folks out there who have not gotten the memo to be careful about gossiping because you can get bit your own gossip.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I have to ask what IS the point of doing this? They are merely throwing more fuel on the fire. “Here, let me tell you this upsetting thing and then make you promise not to do anything about it.”

          This exactly. If I were to pass this kind of information to a coworker, it would be with the spoken or unspoken message of “if you want to escalate this, I’ve got your back” etc. But they are upset about having to have OP’s back, so to speak? Then why did they tell? I want to think of a reason that’d make them look good, but all I can come up with is that they used OP for their own entertainment. “Hey let’s pass the gossip that is being spread around her, back to her, and then grab some popcorn and see what happens next”. I am as angry at them as I am at the gossipy coworker. To OP’s question “how do I repair a relationship with them?” – you don’t want to. These people are not to be trusted.

        2. Viette*

          “These people who are/might be claiming you violated a private confidence had two points of early intervention themselves.”

          Yes! Sucks to be her coworkers not getting what they want (to gossip without any blowback), but counting on no-one correcting an unfair and potentially illegal situation just because that correction would be super inconvenient for them was a dumb bet.

          Turns out that if you’re not willing to do anything about a wrong thing you see occurring/participate in, then you may well have to deal with the consequences of someone else doing something about it.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yes it is beyond absurd to share something like this and then try to claim it was “told in confidence.” Did they think OP should know, but not be allowed to actually act on that information? The coworkers are being ridiculous and I am so sorry that OP feels bad for doing exactly the right thing.

            OP: you say at least three times in your letter that you should have just moved past this seeming to think that you did something wrong, but that is just not true and I’m sorry your coworkers have made you feel that way.

        3. AKchic*

          Absolutely. This is more than just a single gossip. This could have been shut down and/or reported well before it ever got to LW. It wasn’t. This was a systemic failure on multiple peoples’ parts.

      2. Threeve*

        I suspect that someone who is annoyed they have to talk to HR is feeling a little nervous and guilty, because maybe they didn’t encourage the jerk coworker but don’t feel like they did enough to discourage her either, and it’s making them defensive.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oh darn. Maybe having to deal with HR will cause them to act next time instead of passing it on.

          This place sounds horrible. LW 1 you did the right thing by not taking it any more. Anyone who blames you was not your work friend. Yes you have to work with these people, but you only have to be civil and make sure the work gets done. Not a darn thing else. If anyone complains shut it down. Also as noted point out that retaliation for making a complaint is also prohibited. Maybe they will finally get a clue. Maybe.

        2. Liane*

          Or maybe some of them are feeling nervous and guilty because the investigation might show they got a kick out of Jerk’s speculations or egged it on. Or that HR might decide they violated policy by not reporting Jerk.

        3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

          I honestly think it’s as simple as they don’t want to be on the record for proceedings that could result in someone’s termination. You know, the whole playground culture where no matter what happens, you never talk to a teacher about it. But who cares if they have bad feelings? OP, this is not on you. This is not a playground but a grownup workplace with really clear rules to deal with just this kind of b.s.

    3. Trek*

      I am wondering if the manager has had other issues with this co-worker beyond the questioning of OP’s medical condition and because of this needs to take additional steps. I’m wondering if the manager wants to build a case for dismissal and needs HR input/help. It seems unlikely this is the first time the coworker crossed the line. Hopefully it’s the last.

  15. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP#1 – Wow, that person is revolting. You don’t have to let something like this go, you have every right to stand up for yourself. Your coworkers should be angry at the person who caused this problem, not you. I’m sorry that happened and really hope everything is resolved soon.

    OP#2 – Alison, thank you for understanding! Being forced to appear on video would make me less likely to bond with people. I’d bond with them by doing my job and working with them. OP, thanks for asking before making people do this.

    OP#3 – That sounds like an absolute nightmare. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. Could you add a middle initial to your name in the meantime, at least on LinkedIn? It might not make a huge difference but could signal to this person that you’re on to her and she might back off. I really hope everything is sorted out quickly for you.

    OP#4 – Not super relevant but your question reminded me that there was someone on AAM who studied theology but worked in finance. It turned out their theological knowledge helped immensely in dealing with clients. I’m so annoyed that I can’t find the thread now! If theology is a passion for you, can you pursue it without the PhD? Either way, good luck!

    1. Loubelou*

      Re OP3, The idea of using your middle initial is brilliant. Put it on your LinkedIn and start using it in job applications, and put a note on your LinkedIn profile that only applications with your middle initial are genuine. Of course the identity thief may eventually notice and do the same, but this could also be a wake up call to them that you are on to them.

      1. Avasarala*

        I think you’d shoot yourself in the foot by adding your middle initial to your LinkedIn, where the stranger got OP’s resume, and then saying “only applications with this are genuine”… that only stops what they’ve already downloaded, and only if the hiring manager checks LinkedIn.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          That’s true, and I definitely don’t think it’s a catch-all solution. It’s just something that might make a difference in the meantime. And if the OP has a legal middle name but only publicly uses the initial, that’ll hopefully make it harder for the imposter. There might be lots of Anna J. Jones in New York but there aren’t as many Anna Juniper Jones, for example.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I like the idea of adding the middle initial but don’t add the note. Instead, on any applications, use your full name (including middle names) and ask your references to do the same on any references they provide – if you let your references know, they can ask anyone making the enquiry to confirm your full name, and hopefully that will mean that only those who have had an actual application from you will have the correct details.
        (if the referee is told “It’s Jane Susannah Doe” when they know you are in fact Jane Serenity Doe, they can the tell the person calling “That’s not the name I have, there may be a mistake but I’m aware that the Jane Doe who works for me did have her identity stolen and used for at least one prior job application, which is why I / we are double checking before providing any information” )

        You could add a note to your linked in to say something like “Due to a recent incident where my identity was stolen and used in a job application, I have requested my current and former employer not to verify any employment details or provide references on my behalf without first checking with me that the application made was genuine. ” and then if you do apply for jobs, mention it at the interview and ask that thy let you know if/when they will be checking references so that you can give your references / former employers their details to do so.

        And maybe tell your employer / former employer that any request will come from you from a specific e-mail account only, e.g. that if you email from janedoe @ really me . com it’;s genuine, but if they get a request from any other address they should alert you, and that if they get a phone call from ‘you’ they need to ask for a confirmatory e-mail. That way, even if the org is too big for them to know you personally, you have a mechanism in place which should make it harder for a fake to get through.

        I’d agree with the other posters advising you to check your credit scores, add a recent photo to your Linked in profile and shit down your privacy settings to make it harder for this to succeed.

        1. JSPA*

          Employers are allowed (so far as I know) to discriminate against people for having been victims of impersonation. It’s scummy, but employers are not going to sign up for security risks and secondhand drama. Having a common name and the potential for confusion is all the motivation needed to explain use of the full name. Or add, “to avoid confusion.”

    2. blackcat*

      Yeah, I am something similar to Jennifer Johnson. Professionally, I am Jennifer Thornbergstein Johnson. I have a very unusual middle name, and use it professionally like a second last name (it is a last name, though it is my original name). Social media is under Jennifer Johnson, so it does not cross over into my online presence. LinkedIn, my professional website, etc are all Jennifer Thornbergstein Johnson.
      I do recommend the full middle name since just adding the middle initial wasn’t enough for me. Depends on your initial/your name though.

  16. Observer*

    #4 – Would you have to put your Masters on your resume? Since you’re not doing this for the career, and it wouldn’t affect your title, why not leave it off?

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Er… because otherwise there’ll be no way of accounting for what she’s done in the past two years and people might think she was in prison?

      1. Amy Sly*

        Having had a three year gap in my work history from a law degree that went nowhere in terms of job prospects, I’ve wondered if prison would actually have looked better.

  17. Em from CT*

    LW4, I did this very thing. After several years of working in the environmental politics/policy space, I went to to seminary, because, like for you, it was a personal passion of mine. I thought I wanted to be a chaplain. Turns out I don’t. It also turns out, surprise surprise, I gravitated towards a lot of classes that had to do with the intersection of environment, politics, and religion. Now, ten years out, I don’t use the degree: and I’m back in the environmental field, in a position that I love, with a Masters in Theological Studies I don’t really use.

    Do I regret it? Not a bit. It was an incredibly valuable few years, in terms of personal growth, life experiences, learning. I’m a better, more thoughtful, more curious person. I loved my time in seminary.

    However, a couple of words of wisdom. At least a large part of that, I suspect, is that I was able to graduate debt-free. I think I’d have a vastly different sense of the value of my degree now if I were paying $800 a month, or whatever, to a loan company for a degree I wasn’t using.

    And people will be people: there will, for sure, be people who think it’s odd, or make assumptions about you. But in my experience, most people find it interesting and unusual, and they are curious, rather than hostile. It often leads to probing questions and interesting conversations.

    For what it’s worth, I know quite a few folks with theological degrees who didn’t go into ministry—one fairly famous business author, another who does policy work—and so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you can choose, fully consciously, to get a degree in another field. But I absolutely agree with Allison on this; being able to tell a story about how the degree fits into your career helps. For me, there’s a pretty clear connection between my religious studies and my environmental justice/community building work. It’s not puplit ministry, but it sure is connected, you know?

    One more thought. Obviously, I’m just a Person On The Internet, and YMMV, so take of this what you will. But I think if there’s one thing I wish I’d thought a littler harder about when I was 27 and applying to theological school, it was that I was conflating my real, deep desire for a [deeper spiritual life][better understanding of the divine][deeper connection to the Holy] with the academic study of religion. In hindsight—and this may seem obvious—I’m not sure school is the place to go if what you want is any of those things that we tend to shorthand with the phrase “a relationship with God.” You can get those things from school, for sure, but that’s not the only way to do it, and sometimes I wonder if I’d realized that at 27, would I have taken the path I did?

    I’m not saying that to dissuade you—I mean, see above re: my lack of regret about doing it. I got three years, surrounded by some of the most amazing people I know, studying the thing that I care most about and that fires me up. So if that would fulfill you, do it! But sometimes I get tripped up by the fact that I still don’t have a real consistent spiritual practice, and I think I thought theological education would get me there.

    1. BRR*

      I really hope the LW sees this comment since it has such great information. I really wish we knew exactly what the LW’s particular passion is, because that’s obviously the key for what they might want to do.

      I can’t help but loosely compare it to myself. Baking has turned into my passion. I’ve loosely contemplated wanting a culinary degree because I feel so unknowledgeable some times but I never want to work in the culinary field. Something like a 5-day intensive course from the San Francisco baking institute would be much more suitable to me.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        (book the five-day intensive course! an internet stranger gives you permission and encouragement! it sounds brilliant!)

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Do the short course! Or take some random baking classes!

        All too often I think we try to justify spending money on a passion that doesn’t provide ROI. But you know what? You don’t have to monetize your passion. You really don’t. If it brings you joy and adds to your life, then that’s the ROI.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Amen. I wish more people understood this, because passion rarely survives the transition from “delightful hobby” to “this is your job.” Heck, I don’t even get into current tier raiding in World of Warcraft, because it is a game, not a second (and unpaid) job!

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Yeah, my big hobby is running. I have sort of monetized it by becoming an ambassador for a local running company. I get paid with free race entries to all of their 15 races this year, and my part is promoting the races to my networks and helping with setup or teardown. A fair trade, I think. And I’m spending soooooo much less money on my hobby now.

            I can’t even imagine becoming a sponsored runner though. All those expectations for performance and networking and media presence…it would be awful.

    2. Mary*

      a Masters in Theological Studies I don’t really use … it was an incredibly valuable few years, in terms of personal growth, life experiences, learning

      I think this is so interesting in terms of what it means to “use” a degree. You might not be “using” the practical skills or the specific knowledge of the degree, but you’re clearly still using the personal growth and I bet that also means things like the approaches and motivations and wider thinking habits you developed in the degree.

      1. All monkeys are French*

        Precisely. My undergraduate degree is in Religious Studies. It has nothing to do with the work I do and all the details are hazy now, but it was an incredibly valuable education in critical thinking.

      2. Em from CT*

        Oh, definitely. I probably should have said “don’t really use in the context of my day job.” I do use it all the time for the exact reasons you mentioned! And, you know, it’s fascinating to me how low the bar really is in terms of religious literacy in many workplaces. To me it’s second nature to not schedule major meetings on Rosh Hashanah (for example), but maybe that’s because I had a very diverse theological education.

      3. Lana Kane*

        I was an art history major who planned to use it in the art world, but life had other plans.

        I always say that I am absolutely using my degree, because I found that it taught me to develop my critical thinking skills, how to construct an argument (so many tests where a work of art that we never covered was presented, and we had to articulate whom we thought made it and why), and how to *see*. Not to mention research skills. I will never consider that degree wasted, even though I am in an entirely different field.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I agree so much with all of this. I have a masters in theological studies and now work in IT. In my case, my MTS has no relevance to my current job. It’s now just an unusual line on my resume.

      I have had a couple of employers mention after I was hired and had worked there for several months that they had some reservations about hiring me, concerned that I wouldn’t fit in because of my religious background. I wasn’t studying as a religious pursuit; my focus was on the intersection of social issues and religion. I’m actually not religious at all. I was surprised to run into that attitude.

    4. Smithy*

      I went for a second Master’s degree in my mid-20’s, that while it technically aligns with my job – was also very much so a means of taking a pause/escape. I wanted to move to a foreign country and start over.

      School seemed like the easiest way to achieve this, though had I been more honest and vulnerable with myself – there were likely other programs that might have achieved similar results for me. Year long volunteerism, intensive language courses, teaching English in a foreign country – etc. School seemed safe because it had a concrete end date, and I’d walk away with “something of value to justify the expense”. And to stress – I have a job where having a Masters matters, but just barely. And in many ways, no one cares what your Masters is in. Having two….

      Going to school abroad put me in a position to get hired right after graduating in a nonprofit overseas. I had amazing friends, lived in a great city, and made no money. It was what I needed and the right move for me. But it’s also very possible I could have achieved a similar experience without school had I been able to be a bit more honest with myself.

      1. Em from CT*

        Oh gosh, this resonates with me so much. School is a framework so many of us are familiar with–we spend nearly twenty years in school, so of course it’s natural that we think of school as the way to figure out what’s next. You get structure and end dates and clear metrics of success, and that can be so easy when you’re grappling with such a complex, nuanced, inchoate issue like “what do I do next with my life” or “what do I believe spiritually” etc.

    5. Hi there*

      I really appreciate this comment. Are you part of a faith community now? If so they may help you discern a good path forward. My denomination has a very formal process for this. It is used most often for people who think they want to be priests (or much less often, deacons, which is what I am). If you are not part of a faith community now, at seminary you would definitely become part of a vibrant community asking important questions. It may be that you are looking for that experience more than a degree.

      1. Em from CT*

        I’m not sure if you’re asking me or OP, but–for me, the answer is, “kind of”? The challenge is that I went to seminary without any formal denominational affiliation–or even religious affiliation, actually–and didn’t find one there. I saw so many seminarian colleagues benefit hugely from having the kind of support network and guidance you describe–and, too, I think many of my colleagues who thrived at seminary were the ones who’d been really engaged with the discernment process for a long time before they actually got to school (which, needless to say, was not me.) So, to OP: if this is something you can avail yourself of, I agree with Hi There that it is worth investigating!

        (It may be that you are looking for that experience more than a degree. So, so valuable an insight. For sure. There are so many ways to get this. Catholic monasteries that have year-long internship programs… long-term Buddhist meditation retreats… oblate programs… hevrutah study. There are so many ways to do this that 27-year-old me didn’t consider, because I’d always been good at school, and school was easy and familiar, and I hated my job, so: hey! grad school was a great next step! Ah, the road not taken…)

        1. Hi there*

          Sorry about that, Em from my home state, I was addressing the OP in the context of your comment. I should have been clearer!

  18. Beth*

    Op1: First, you did nothing wrong. You should not have let this go; it’s invasive and completely unacceptable, and you were absolutely in the right to tell your boss that it needs to stop. The one who is in the wrong here is your coworker who wouldn’t drop it and let you handle your own medical needs in peace.

    I do understand that the investigation puts you in a hard position, though. Your coworkers really should be blaming this one person for putting them through the annoyance of an HR investigation, not you. But as in many situations where an unreasonable person pushes and pushes at a usually-reasonable person until it finally goes too far and their target puts their foot down, your coworkers are instead basically going “You know Bob is just unreasonable like that, he’ll never change. Why couldn’t you continue to suck it up instead of making us deal with the problem?” It’s not fair, but it is a common problem in this kind of situation.

    If your coworkers continue to express annoyance over this, it might help to join them in complaining. For example, responding with “Sorry, I know it’s a hassle, I had no idea it would escalate this far” would give the impression that you think you did something wrong and are taking some level of blame for the situation. But “Ugh right? I can’t believe it’s gone this far. I wish Bob had cut it out on his own, I asked a million times. Or that Dave had handled it, you know? But no, here we are. *eye roll*” gives the (much more accurate) impression that this entire experience is a massive pain in the ass for you in particular and lets you be their companion in griping instead of their target. Mutual venting (as long as you keep it at reasonable levels) is a great bonding method.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I like the wording re saying they’d asked Bob to cut it out. I don’t love the part about blaming Dave (liking Alison’s script better) just because I think given how far things went, that it’s better that the boss got HR involved and I don’t feel like they should be blamed. Of course, if the boss knew all this stuff was being said and they didn’t take any steps to put a stop to it until OP said something, then they deserve all the blame that van be heaped on them!!

      I am flabbergasted that anyone would tell OP they regretted letting them know what kind of rumors the coworker had been spreading!!! The length of time this went on and the fact that false information was being made up and passed around just puts this on a level where it is absurd to me that anyone involved didn’t realize the rumor spreader was completely out of line. I would be sick and tired of hearing someone speculating on another person’s health like this after/during a medical leave! We all get curious, but there is a big difference between wondering casually why person X seems to be able to work from home some days, or if person Y is out sick unexpectedly. And those things only seem to be ok when they’re passing curiosities that aren’t dwelt on. I can’t wrap my head around trying to find out why someone was out on medical leave. It’s just nuts….so unnecessary and invasive.

      1. Beth*

        I admit I’m not too concerned about the manager taking some of the blame here! If these invasive rumors were going around as widely as it sounds like they were, OP’s manager should absolutely have been aware that it was happening and should have talked to the prying coworker about their behavior long ago. Usually the person being gossiped about is the last to know that rumors are flying, so my guess is that either the manager knew, or they’re so estranged from their team that maybe a wake-up call was needed.

        1. Poppy the Flower*

          That’s a really good point. The manager should have shut this down earlier. It’s possible they didn’t know, but if the coworker was really being that shameless it’s doubtful.

    2. Grey Coder*

      I like this, though I probably wouldn’t mention Dave for the reasons in the other comments. (Or frame it as “and Bob kept going even after Dave raised it with him! What a jerk.”) I’d also add in “Turns out because it’s a medical issue there are laws involved, so HR need to make sure Bob doesn’t get us all in legal hot water. “

    3. Marny*

      And maybe it sounds petty, but I’d have a hard time not saying something like, “It’s unfortunate that I was the only one who asked her to stop speculating about my health. Maybe she would have listened if you guys had done so too.” Your coworkers are spineless, OP1.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would not apologize to the co-workers for getting them involved with HR. The co-workers should apologize to OP for letting Gossip Girl continue to spread rumors. I can not stand gossip and I would have shut it down the second Gossip Girl came to me. And if my co-workers were annoyed with ME because I reported it, I wouldn’t care about repairing any relationship because clearly they care more about themselves than having my back. This is no different than witnessing a bullying incident and doing nothing about it.

      1. T R*

        Yeah, I found the “I wish I hadn’t told you about the gossip about you” thing telling. I generally don’t tell people about gossip about them because I prefer to shut it down at the source, when I can. I have a certain amount of experience with aggressors trying to hurt friends by gossiping where I can hear them, hoping I’ll tell my friends and therefore hurt them. I don’t tolerate this kind of triangulating at all, and the person saying this is wrong if they think they’re a completely innocent party.

  19. CouldntPickAUsername*

    #1 reminds me of an interaction I had. There’s one coworker who’s just a kid and can’t quite seem to get his head on straight sometimes. Tired of dealing with it I reported it to a manager and another coworker overheard and said “are you getting John in trouble?” my response was “no, John got himself in trouble”.

    You didn’t cause the investigation, your manager didn’t and HR didn’t. Your coworker caused it. “I can’t believe you got Jane in trouble” “I didn’t, Jane got herself in trouble”

    1. MistOrMister*

      That’s a really good way to put it!! It’s so easy to take the blame when you’re the one who speaks up. But when it comes down to it, if there would be nothing for you to report if the person wasn’t committing certain actions, it’s not your fault if they suffer the consequences. Logically this makes so much sense. Of course, I have a hard time doing this (and suspect many others do as well) because I don’t want to be seen as a tattletale or getting the other person in trouble, especially if I like them. Maybe I can revamp my mindset!!

  20. Beth*

    OP4: I’m currently in grad school in a field I’m deeply passionate about, doing work I absolutely love doing. The work itself is great. My department is pretty great too; it’s very collaborative, the people (both professors and students) are extremely supportive, we have access to a lot of amazing resources. I’m fully funded with a generous (well…for the humanities) stipend. In short, I’m in about as good a position as it gets, in terms of grad school.

    But even with that passion, I have a deal with myself: if I hit a point where I no longer think it’s viable or desirable for me to work in this field after graduation, that’s the point where I move on from the program. There are a lot of downsides inherent to grad school. I’m not making enough to either build savings or do the fun things that my non-academia-track peers are doing (this would obviously be a lot worse if I wasn’t funded, but living on a student stipend is still uncomfortably tight). I work a lot; I don’t have consistent hobbies, and maintaining a ‘life outside school’ is a constant struggle. Even with being in a great department, there’s a lot of administrative nonsense involved: paperwork, requirements to track, fees to pay, all that lovely stuff. Degree requirements mean that I need to take some classes that aren’t really relevant to my personal research interests, which is fine when it’s preparing me for the job market, but would be a lot of pointless work without that incentive. Finals continue to suck, no matter how many years I do them. And every year that I continue in this, my non-academia work experience moves further into the past–which may never matter if I manage to make a career in my field, but definitely would be on my mind if I wasn’t planning on that.

    If I weren’t aiming for a job in my field, I’d still be able to read all the books and articles I’m reading now. I could start a reading group in my field with some likeminded friends; even if I didn’t know anyone who wanted that personally, I’m sure I could find people online. I could probably even hire a tutor to supervise us (maybe a grad student in the field haha) for less than most programs’ tuition rates! I just wouldn’t get a degree at the end–and that’s only a problem if I’m needing to prove my institutionally-declared competence to prospective employers. As much as I love what I’m doing, I don’t think it balances out if you don’t need the degree in hand.

  21. Phil*

    #4 Have you considered online part time at-your-own-pace courses for this? I went to a Bible college… some years ago now… and though I attended in person, they have since introduced an online campus. Could be ideal considering you’re doing it as an interest rather than a career move. There were actually a surprising number of people at my college who just took one to three years off to study and then went back to their previous careers. Or maybe I was just surprised because I did it to launch my career…

    PS – C3 College based in Sydney if you’re curious about where I went.

  22. Audrey Puffins*

    LW3, it feels like something you really shouldn’t have to do if you don’t want to, but if your LinkedIn profile doesn’t currently have a picture of you but you’ve been thinking about putting one up, then at this point it couldn’t hurt. Easy to steal your credentials if they’ve got the same name, WAY harder to steal your face. Not a fix, by any means, just a little something that the fraudster can’t casually handwave away.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I was thinking that too. If OP has short dark hair and brown eyes, and the imposter rolls in with long blonde hair and blue eyes, it would make the interviewer(s) wonder what’s up.

  23. Epsilon Delta*

    Op 3, yikes that is unsettling. I wonder if in addition to taking to a lawyer, you could contact your old workplaces and let them know that someone has impersonated you, so they should check with you first if they’re requested to verify employment. And probably ask your current HR to do that too, even though it might be awkward when you do get a job offer. Hopefully this mess will be sorted out by then.

    1. Tan*

      +1 Current and former employers should be aware of what is happening. “spoke with HR, and they showed me the email asking to confirm employment, which they had answered according to policy”… has your HR rescinded this? Most HR departments would not want to be providing references to non-ex-employees farticularly a potential fraud. The applicants company is being odd (to me)… and I wonder if perhaps the applicant has told them some weird tale to cover this eventuality.Your HR should get back to them with a formal letter saying “It has come to our attention that the Jean Genie you contacted us on ###date for a background check is not one and the same person as the Jean Genie whom we employ. Please consider this letter a formal repeal of our previous letters /emails and a rejection of the request for a background check”
      And as many have says speak to a lawyer

  24. Myrin*

    #3, I cannot get over the “a hiring manager who told me I’d been in for an interview a few days ago” – that sounds like the premise for a psychological thriller where someone is, I don’t know, manipulating you through hypnosis or remotely changing your memories or something. In real life, it’s just so absurd – I think I’d laugh in someone’s face in surprise if they told me that, but also, it’s just really anger-inducing as well as frightening, what with the whole “anyone could be doing this” angle. I agree with others in contacting a lawyer and hope that you’ll be able to get this sorted out quickly and without any further hurdles!

    1. MsSolo*

      This would make a great cold start for one of those books! Where it’d turn out a gaslighting ex has been manipulating his new girlfriend into passing herself off as the protagonist, and a helpful HR professional would help put the pieces together (that both women were his victims, and he’d been trying to mould them into a third, longer ago ex) and there’d be some sort of climax on public transport where the man gets killed and other passengers are confused by the fact everyone seems to have the same name so they don’t know who to say did it.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        A mystery/thriller series focusing on a protagonist who’s an HR professional is an untapped market. Go for it!

    2. Hamburke*

      It’s pretty much The Net with Sandra Bullock – remote employee (before it was popular) gets buggy program from coworker to look into; suddenly, her life is weird and she can’t log in to work; turns out someone is posing as her in the office and noone knows it’s not her bc she doesn’t use video chat so they don’t know what she looks like. I left out the action scenes and now I want to watch that movie…

      1. few hours to the weekend*

        See? This is why you need to use the video option! The LWs are helping solve each other’s problems now! :-)

      1. hamburke*

        <3 Bridget Fonda!

        or that Matt Damon one – The Talented Mr. Ripley – but in both of those, the imposter befriended the victim before taking over their lives.

  25. The Other Katie*

    LW#4: have you thought about doing the Master’s degree part-time? As an avocational student rather than one hoping to make a rapid career change, there’s no reason you can’t, and that should allow you to work and do your degree at the same time. A fair number of people in my not exactly career-oriented MA program did that.

  26. Keymaster of Gozer*

    For number 2.

    I personally feel uncomfortable at video meetings as most of the regular meetings I go to will have something else to look at while talking (a presentation, image, computer screen…etc.) and constantly having to look at people’s faces is off putting for me. I’ve used screen sharing on multiple occasions with remote calls, or if the connection is spotty we have a Slack channel running alongside.

    It’s easier to get buy in from staff when you’ve given them options but said what you’d prefer they use. It makes them feel they’ve made a choice of their own rather than being ordered to do something.

    (Obviously this does not apply in cases where your order is absolutely not up for discussion or options. Such as when disciplining someone)

  27. Mary*

    #2–how about getting your staff’s take on it? Acknowledge that you recognise we all feel awkward with a camera stuck in our faces, but say that you think there’s a benefit to being able to see each other and find out whether they feel the same. You might find that they go, “uggh, yeah, I hate seeing myself but it is actually use to see Brad, Chuck and Brenda, fair enough.” Or you might find they REALLY hate it and don’t see any benefit in “bonding”.

    I wouldn’t necessarily let them decide, but I think it’s useful to find out whether the gradual drop-off of camera use is just people being a bit lazy and letting it slide, or whether they genuinely hate it.

  28. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW2 – please consider that this can be an accessibility issue. I don’t count as D/deaf but my hearing is bad enough that I can’t meaningfully attend or contribute to audio-only calls – I need *some* kind of visual input whether it’s a watch-along or screenshare or the dreaded video call (I hate them too). Visual content may also help neurodiverse coworkers.

    It may be that this isn’t a factor for your current team. But I think it would be good to consider whether your current or any proposed policy would make things more difficult for someone with a relevant disability.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I like your angle on this.

      One of the reasons I prefer screensharing or chat windows is that I can read a whole lot faster than I can process verbal speech. It’s linked to my autism and dislike of direct eye contact.

      I admit I never thought about people who may require the people video input for accessibility reasons. Thank you for broadening my mind on that.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        What it really tells us is that an inclusive meeting includes content in multiple formats!

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Wait – isn’t it normal to be able to read faster than people talk? I read about 2x faster, my husband, parents and siblings are about 1.5x faster. There’s autism diagnoses in this sample, but I hadn’t associated that to reading speed.

        I dislike video chats with faces, but use the chat / screensharing extensively, using my courser to highlight what we’re talking about now.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      As far as I know, my hearing has always been fine, but even when I was young I realized that I could hear a lot better when I was wearing my glasses. It sounds funny, but I think I do use visual clues to add to what I am hearing.

  29. It Me*

    OP #3 is there any chance that this all might be a genuine misunderstanding. I don’t know the size of the company you work for but is there a chance that there is someone with the same or similar name in another department that you might not know (since you said you had a common name) i.e. you’re Anna Jones in communications and she’s Anne Jones in purchasing and the reference checker has caused all this drama by mistyping a common name?

    While this is troubling, I still think there’s a couple of legitimate ways that this might have happened accidentally or through human error on the part of the hiring company. I would start by trying to go back to them and speaking to the hiring manager again. If you take the stance that you’re just trying to help them as they must have mixed up the candidates (since you never came in for interview) they might be a little more forthcoming/ helpful. As Alison says sometimes if you just approach someone like “of course you’re going to be reasonable about this” and “obviously we both want to get to the bottom of this” they will try harder to meet your expectations of them.

    However, I also don’t think a credit check and preliminary conversation with a lawyer is a bad idea just in case the worst case scenario is what’s happened here.

    1. Saberise*

      Another possibility is that the hiring manager pulled the wrong person on Linklin and called her current place of employment. I could see that happening if they are in similar fields. It would seem rather stupid to supply the current employer as a reference if it was someone stealing her work history.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right, Saberise, that could be the case. I really want to know what happens now with the other person and her new job. Like if it turns out that the person really was stealing OP’s work history, will the company rescind the job offer? And if they don’t and the person takes the job, will she turn out to be completely terrible at it and they fire her? Oh, the possibilities! (And we likely won’t ever find out, will we? Sigh.)

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “It would seem rather stupid to supply the current employer as a reference if it was someone stealing her work history.”

        Except that it nearly worked. If LW had a larger employer with a more remote HR company, or if her boss had decided not to bring it up with her, she might have been none the wiser, and somebody could have what looks like a solid reference on file that doesn’t belong to them.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      I had a similar thought. This certainly could be identity theft, and it’s worth taking precautionary measures in case it is. But I can also imagine a world in which a hiring manager was on the hunt for “back channel” references, i.e., previous employers whose names the candidate themself did not supply. They may have done some sleuthing on LinkedIn and thought they’d found “Anna” and figured they’d check a couple of the recent employers listed. Of course it’s terrible practice to contact a current employer, but that doesn’t mean some people wouldn’t do it.

      Oh, and it’s very common for people to look very different in a 1/2-inch square profile photo than they do in real life. So it may not have been an impediment that the photo was not an exact match to the person the hiring manager had seen in the interview.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree that with the little information there is so far it’s not 100% for sure that someone has stolen her information. Definitely she should look into it more and take precautions, but there might not be an issue.

      I can understand that the company’s first response was that they can’t share information on an applicant’s resume because that is probably a good standard procedure, and this situation has likely not come up before where they have to consider what makes the most sense to do here.

      I wonder if you can maybe send them your own resume or a brief outline of your work history and just ask them to confirm whether there is enough overlap that you should be concerned and consult with a lawyer?

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Sending them the information to compare is a good idea. From the other side of this, if I’d interviewed at a company and then they sent a copy of my resume (with at least some of my contact info on it) to a third party, I’d be kind of pissed about it.

  30. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP2, I ask you to consider whether your remote employees are required to have a dedicated workspace when they take the position. Years back when I was the trial for telecommuting, my company had me fill out a form describing the workspace and sending in pics. Turns out they had liability concerns about workplace safety–but it also allowed managers tddress worries about built-in distractions.
    If you never did that, your employees may want to hide that their most productive environment is one that could seem TO OTHERS to be a distraction.
    Like a warm spring day–you might question working on the patio, but they know it means they never go to the window to sigh & wish they were outside.
    And maybe they’re embarrassed at having Mount Foldmore of laundry behind them.
    So…as a first step, get explicit about your expectations for clothes & background. (“Tshirts & hoodies are encouraged for remote work.” for example. And “it’s a good idea to sit with your back to a wall so your video feed isn’t a distraction to US. So yes, you can continue working where you are most productive, as long as I dont see the duck yard behind you because I’d want to ask you questions about ducks instead of deliverables.”
    (All apologies to a previous letter writer for my appropriating her unique situation for my example! )

    1. Hamburke*

      My husband has a quick set up green screen for video calls with “generic office” queued up for when he needs to be on a video call.

      1. Mary*

        But is he not tempted to put, like, Niagara Falls or the Wall of China or whatever in the background?

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I tried to set one of those up in my workspace. That was an unholy mess. My workspace is also my wife’s sewing area, and I have no “pristine” wall space in my house. If there was, it would get a bookshelf or a storage shelf. We have too many side projects to go all Marie Kondo minimalist just for an occasional video call.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          They don’t take much space at all though? There are even ones that attach to the back of your chair with elastic straps. Very popular with streamers.

  31. Grumpy*

    OP 3 — this seems to be incredibly common now, unfortunately, especially if the work can be done remotely.
    Two consultants I worked with in the last year got calls from their agencies saying someone off shore had copied their work history directly from a specialty online recruiting site or LinkedIn and was shopsping that Stolen resume around to get project work, posing as the person.
    I’m sorry this happened to you. It’s awful.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Presumably when the fraudster fails at the new job, it’s the unwitting copy-ee whose reputation takes a hit… YIKES.

  32. andy*

    #2 I am always fascinated by IT managers and hr who try to manage social aspects of teamwork (feelings and friendships) without listening to people or taking their feelings/opinions/preferences into account.

  33. Madame Secretary*

    LW3, someone is using your identity. Place alerts with the major credit bureaus. They will give you free credit reports. Check to make sure other facets of your identity have not been stolen. Let Social Security and the IRS know.

    1. Hamburke*

      You can get a free credit report annually, identity theft and fraud alerts will allow you to obtain them free more frequently. I download my credit reports every year when I do my taxes. I’ve never had issues but my husband, who has a more common name, has had to contest an item or 2.

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        My husband is a Jr and had his credit crossed with his Dad’s and it was a nightmare to fix. This was before we really knew to pull a credit report annually. We went to buy a car, when we were first married. We were quite young. The salesman slammed down a credit report and told us to declare bankruptcy. We were shocked. It was a huge mess to untangle. Including fighting with the credit bureaus. At one point they were refusing to remove a credit card that his Dad took out in the 80s, that got stuck on my husbands credit. We finally said, look he would have been 1 year old! What 1 year old has a credit card.

        Moral of story, kids pull a credit report, as soon as you able!!! Do it frequently!

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          My own credit story is only slightly less stupid and frustrating. One of the credit reporting agencies refused to correct my date of birth. Every creditor on my report except for ONE STORE CARD reported my DOB correctly. That one reported it incorrectly. I even sent them a certified copy of my birth certificate. No dice. They told me I had to settle the matter with that creditor…

          1. nonegiven*

            They are not required to report to the credit bureaus. What they do report, however, they are required to be accurate about.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Right, so Triple D needs to correct his DOB with the creditor and then they’ll update their reporting and it will be all fixed. The credit bureau can’t “correct” it, they just report the information they were given. I don’t understand what people don’t get about that?

        2. Lilo*

          This happened to my Dad too (he is a Jr.). My grandad had fine credit, but credit agencies kept reporting my dad as dead.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Last I checked, you can get a free report from each of the 3 major credit checking companies, so if you rotate, you can do multiple checks for free each year.

        My credit union has a link to our credit score updated every other month or so. It is not as in depth as the report, but would show any big problems, so that I know to go pull a free in depth report.

        Credit Unions are The Bomb.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Discover, Chase, Capital One, Citi and Amex all have an option to view your credit score online. If you have a major credit card, you probably have this option somewhere. (Credit Unions are best but tracking yoru credit score isn’t a niche service like back in the 90s.)

  34. Geek*

    #3

    Have you tried contacting other past employers to see if they have recently been contacted?

    Is it possible that the new place made a mistake? Simple human error seems much more likely than intentional fraud.

    1. Susana*

      Oh, I don’t think simple human error is the more likely scenario, unfortunately. Who has the same name as LW and puts her former employers as theirs as well? Someone is lying/stealing here.

  35. DieTrying*

    OP4: I am a faculty member in a field closely related to the ones you’re considering, and let me say just this: your plan is one that is very common among MDiv/MA students in these disciplines and entirely practicable. In my experience, employers understand the “I have a passion for …” explanation much better for this field than for many others; I’ve seen students go from an MDiv/MA to careers in finance, law, athletic coaching, etc. — to say nothing of the fact that many marry their interest in these topics to sub-fields of their ultimate chosen career. I know nothing of data science, but experience teaches that there will be employers in most fields that slant sufficiently into a social justice/public service/etc. direction to find a theology/biblical studies degree attractive.

    I think the part-time option is one to consider as well — and many schools in this field are doing perfectly defensible online programs as well. My one caveat is to not get too sucked into these fields if you are determined to make a living in another area. Otherwise you may find yourself with a PhD and a faculty position and writing dubious advice on AskAManager ;)

    1. LilyP*

      Yeah I think Allison is right in general but the combo of an in-demand and often very flexible career + a master’s that can easily be understood as a passion project instead of a career stepping stone makes this much more reasonable for you. (and I’m assuming you’ve thought through all the financial implications of missing income, debt, etc and can truly afford the degree)

  36. Christy*

    My larger organization requires video conferencing, and my team has one required video call a week (the team meeting). Otherwise we never have video calls. I offer a “pass” where if you occasionally need a week where you’re off-video, you can do so about once a month. I figure that’s a fair compromise. We all work 80% from home and there’s no expectation of formal dress, just nothing revealing or inappropriate. And we’ve never had an issue with that. We have people show up with wet hair, casual t-shirts, outside, all sorts of things. I throw on the same shell top five minutes before every meeting so I look vaguely professional since I’m the boss.

    It works well for us, and I don’t have the power to change it anyway. And personally, I like it.

  37. LilyP*

    #2 — we can (and will) go back and forth all day about whether video is “worth it” or better than audio, but it’s obviously a subjective question, and the right answer depends on your team. Have you talked to them about video use trailing off and asked why? Since they did try it for a while before stopping they probably have some interesting thoughts and ideas. I’d also get clear on what you’re hoping to accomplish with the video so you can brainstorm alternate solutions with your team (or decide you don’t really have an X problem) if they don’t want to keep doing video.

    For the record I am pro-video where possible — seeing faces helps me follow what’s being said when audio quality is bad, I think having a screen/camera reminds people to include me in the conversation more when I’m the only person calling in, and seeing faces regularly makes it easier for me to remember who’s who and learn new people. But I’m in a slightly different position because I’m the only remote person on my team.

  38. Jael*

    My husband has an MDiv, and we made many friends while he was in seminary who have an MDiv or an MA in a theological area. 4 years after graduation, very few of them have chosen to work in a field that uses their degree (though there are more relevant jobs than you might initially think). When it comes to hiring, people have been curious about why he/they would pursue a masters degree they didn’t plan on using, but it typically has been a question in interviews, not a deal breaker. One of my friends sometimes mentions it in her cover letter to get ahead of the question.

  39. Phillip*

    #2, not completely applicable, but I’ve been full time remote/freelance for years, and if a client or employer required video I would resign easily. When a client even requests it once, I consider it a mild red (yellow?) flag that we should not work together. Some folks just absolutely detest stuff like that and consider it 100 percent an unnecessary waste of time.

  40. HB*

    #1: Your manager did the right thing, and your coworkers’ response is ridiculous. If they hadn’t wanted you to take action then they should have *done it themselves* and stopped the coworker from asking questions/speculating in the moment it happened. Or THEY should have gone to your manager and said ‘This is something you should put a stop to before it becomes more serious.’ The only genuine reason they could have for being upset that HR is now involved is if they exaggerated the extent of the issue and now they realize they’re going to get called out.

  41. Contracts Killer*

    For OP #3, attorney from Indiana here. If you happen to be in our state, you can file an identity theft complaint with the Attorney General. In other states, the AG may accept complaints or perhaps the local prosecutor’s office.

    As another person commented, if you are comfortable with it, add a public profile picture to LinkedIn and even Facebook and other social media.

    Consult an attorney. My guess is they will want to circle back with the company that called checking references and request the contact information for “you”. Then they can send a cease and desist letter, which at least puts her on notice that you know what she’s up to. If that employer is not helpful, check with other past employers. That can also help you determine how frequently this has happened before.

    Request your credit reports. Ensure this person is not stealing your identity other ways. Set a credit freeze with all three credit agencies – it’s easy and free to do.

    Finally, relieve stress by watching the Friends episode titled, “the one with the fake Monica” and try not to become friends with your identity thief…and maybe take up tap dancing lessons. :-)

    1. Jason*

      Another lawyer here (from Washington state).
      This is all excellent advice. In addition, whoever is trying to leverage your name and background for their personal gain is invading your privacy.
      LinkedIn also has a help page for reporting fake profiles. Just search for “Reporting Fake Profiles” and it will pop right up.

  42. CupcakeCounter*

    After reading through #3 I can’t help but think of the letter about the coworker who faked their resume and the cousin blew their cover with that letter writer and she wasn’t sure what to do (leave it be because coworker was doing ok or let the employer know that she had faked the resume). I wonder if she stole someone’s LinkedIn identity.
    (Off to go try to find the letter)

  43. 867-5309*

    I have a slight divergence from Alison’s advice to OP2. Our small tech company has offices in India, Norway and the United States, and a remote team member in Nepal. While most calls are without video, once a month in our company all-hands we require it. It’s nice to see faces (or put faces with names), see people laugh together, etc.

    So, while I totally agree that require it regularly isn’t necessary, I do think it’s okay to do so every once in a while.

  44. Jean*

    OP #1, I am so sorry all this has happened to you and I am ready to punch your a-hole coworkers on your behalf. You did nothing wrong here, and they are the ones who should be worrying about repairing the relationship with YOU after what they did. I hope they all get serious consequences and learn not to be so horrible in the future, and I hope you have excellent health outcomes and a much better work environment going forward.

  45. S*

    I sort of had something like #3 happen but it was nowhere near as bad as the letter writer’s. I had a coworker get fired (she had lied on her resume about her work experience) and then she proceeded to spread rumors about me leaving my job to the people she was still in contact with at work. I had my boss confront me about leaving and I was surprised until I heard through the office gossip mill what my ex coworker was doing. She then proceeded to copy my entire Linked In profile. I had worked for hours to create a professional page listing projects I had headed, etc. I just ignored her since I didn’t want to get entangled in her drama, she was fired for a reason. When I left that job someone must have told because she suddenly started texting me as if we were best friends, like hey! What’s up, I haven’t heard from you in so long! She probably wanted a job at the company I was gong to, I ignored her. WTF

  46. Zap R.*

    OP #1: “Woman surgery?” Are you kidding me? At least you know you can write this person off as a dolt.

  47. Database Developer Dude*

    If you’re pursuing a degree not to use it for work, but solely because you have a passion for the subject, and you’re conceivably still working during that time, why put it on your resume in the first place? Just leave it off. The resume is a marketing document, not a transcript, and anything not relevant to the job you’re pursuing doesn’t need to be on there.

    And to those who would say this is dishonest, seriously, just shut up already. We already know you think prospective employers should have all the power and job seekers have a duty to disclose everything. You’re wrong.

    I have a friend who was unemployed for more than a year, and got a job within two months of taking his Ph.D. off his resume. I see NOTHING wrong with this.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I’m with you. Not only is there nothing wrong with leaving off irrelevant information that is good job hunting practice. When I’m hiring for a position, I don’t want or need to wade through a complete list of every single activity you have ever undertaken. I just want to know what makes you qualified to do THIS job. Leave everything else out.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Why? What business is it of any prospective employer how the job seeker paid for their degree?

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m guessing because it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go into significant debt for a degree you don’t plan to use.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          But LW does plan to use it, just not for the purposes of getting a job. They plan to use it for their personal enrichment. People do all sorts of things with big buckets of money for their own enrichment: trips around the world, collecting cars, etc. A university degree can certainly fall into that category.

          I’m not making an argument about whether it’s economically wise for this particular person–I don’t have their financial details. I’m just saying that to me this is no different from any other personal pursuit, some of which are indeed extremely expensive.

          1. Jennifer*

            I think someone traveling the world or collecting cars with money they already have is quite a bit different. But yes the OP does plan to use it in a way but it doesn’t really apply to their chosen field. If you can do that without acquiring debt, go for it, but I don’t think it makes sense to go into significant debt.

  48. Jennifer*

    #3 Just wanted you to know I can relate. I have a very common first and last name and worked for large companies in the past where there were multiple people with the exact same name. I spent time on IMs and in emails trying to convince people that yes I’m Jennifer Smith but I’m not THAT Jennifer Smith, which is an odd experience to say the least. I have even attended conference calls that I was invited to only to get there and realize that I had no idea what they were talking about because they sent it to the wrong Jennifer.

    I hope you get this straightened out and wish I had more helpful advice but can just offer empathy.

    PS A note to parents – if you have a common last name, please consider giving your kids a first name that’s at least slightly less common.

    1. a heather*

      Highly recommend your PSA. It was bad enough with a VERY uncommon last name, I can’t imagine what it would have been like going through school with my married name, which is super common.

    2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Some of our people with common names will officially add their middle initial to their work email. Which works great until there are two employees named John M Doe in the same business unit at the same level of role. The two constantly had to forward emails and meeting invites. Large company problems…

      Another person in Finance had a name similar to the CFO but with a slightly different spelling (think John Doe and John Dough). He got some interesting misdirected emails and meeting invites.

      1. Jennifer*

        Another good reason to not talk crap about people at work. I got some of those messages that were misdirected too.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        At my old job there was a Prince (a handyman) who used to get emails for a Pringle (the chief executive, who had the same first name and was immediately below him in the address book) – same kind of thing as your John Doe.

        In the same job another guy had the same first and last name as someone in HR and started getting emailed stuff like emails about sick leave meant for the HR guy.

        A third coworker in the same job (Cersei Lannister) would get emails for Tyrion Lannister who was immediately below her in the address book. A couple of years after I transferred to another department, Tyrion got arrested and fired for child porn allegations. I remember thinking at the time it was lucky Cersei never got that kind of correspondence.

  49. roll-bringer*

    you don’t need to go to a university to study something that interests you – you can study independently; I once had a classmate who assigned himself a personal research project every year where he would deep dive into some niche interest not covered at school (I remember him telling me about his research about the business end of Disney while we were dissecting a chicken wing in science class.)

  50. Jennifer*

    #1 I had breast reduction surgery (which I know isn’t as serious as your surgery) and didn’t tell anyone either. I ignored the chatter and it eventually died down. I’m sorry that you weren’t as lucky. I don’t understand why people think they have the right to know anything that’s going on with your body. I hope HR will resolve this, but just remember these people brought this on themselves. They were asked to stop repeatedly and didn’t. That’s not on you.

  51. Buttons*

    LW3 I would call that company back and ask to speak to their legal counsel and if they don’t have one then I would ask to speak to their head of HR. I would want to know if they used a company to verify background checks, or if they are doing it on their own. If they use a company, you can call that company and speak to them about your name and putting a flag on your name, so that they have to call you directly.
    Head of HR or Legal counsel should be very concerned by this even if the hiring manager isn’t. Although I am inclined to think that at the moment they were shocked and was unsure of what to do and how to handle it and what they could legally tell you.
    I would start searching for this person. Look on LinkedIn, google her, look on any of the job and resume sites. I bet you will be able to find her. Good luck, this sounds like a nightmare! I hope you will update us.

  52. Arctic*

    I hate hate hate seeing myself on video. Hate it. But I think mandating for an all remote team. Not every single call but one with a critical mass of people? Absolutely.
    Honestly, it’s just a practical thing. I’ve been on so many conference calls where everyone is talking over each other, it’s hard to keep track of who is contributing what, and people just aren’t focused on the call. As much as I hate video, it’s very difficult to regularly hold meetings that way. And people won’t do it unless it’s mandatory. I think it’s a good idea and I won’t do it unless it’s mandatory!

    1. Buttons*

      My entire team is remote, most of us aren’t in the same country or time zone. I ask that one 1:1 call a month be a video call so we can see each other. It is planned, so the person isn’t taken by surprise.
      Outside my team, if I am leading a meeting I will often turn my camera on so people can see me, this sometimes gets people to turn theirs on too.

  53. Ama*

    Yeah, if I got a call from someone who said, “Hi, someone from your company called my office a few days ago to verify my references, but I didn’t apply for a job there,” my response would not be “Yes, you did, you were in a few days ago.” It would be “Huh. We did interview *A* Jane Smith a few days ago, it seems like there must be some kind of mix up, thanks for letting us know.” And then I’d go back to the Jane Smith I interviewed and ask them some follow up questions.

    Then again, I have actually hired someone who didn’t turn out to be quite who she said she was — she was using her correct identity and resume but we think she had friends pose as her references — so I’m much more careful now.

  54. Leela*

    OP 5 – I used to be a recruiter, and this wouldn’t necessarily take someone out of the running but it would raise questions you don’t want me answering myself, so your cover letter needs to be really clear that you studied it as a passion since you had the opportunity. We get a lot of resumes that make absolutely no sense for the role with cover letters that don’t make it clear at all why they’ve applied (think VP of a bank who’s now applying for my entry level IT position…did they just apply to claim it on their unemployment form? Did they misclick the role they were applying for? Have they had such a hard time finding anything in their own field [indicating that others don’t want to hire them for the work they’ve actually got experience in]they’re just swinging wild and seeing what happens?) These are the questions that come up for me right away when I see something like this, or someone who took a master’s in something unrelated to their work history that otherwise is a good fit, I’d wonder if they were having major doubts about what they wanted to do and just want this job to figure things out and move on.

    Now about the “is this person going to be a religious weirdo” thing, I feel like that’s extremely dependent on the company. I could see some people not really thinking anything of it, some people wondering if it could go poorly but keep it in their mind just in case flags start coming up but proceed, and if some people have had a really bad experience before that might color it, or if they have say, a high amount of Muslim employees, they might wonder if those employees are at risk if they bring on someone with that Master’s because said person could be (not is, but could be) more interested in in-office indoctrination in that case, especially if they’ve had that particular experience.

    I do think that it’s possible this could take you out of the running for some jobs but it’s too hard to guess without knowing the companies, their experiences, etc. I’d be really surprised if it took you out of the running for all jobs though! I think the biggest thing is to just make it really clear what your intentions are and what you wanted out of your study.

  55. Buttons*

    One more thing for LW3, why in heck did HR go running to your manager to tell them? They shouldn’t be doing that, I would have a word with them too.

    1. Vancouver*

      HR works for the company, not for the letter writer, and it is relevant for a manager to know if their employee is leaving. As Alison has mentioned before, HR does not have the same confidentiality requirements as, say, a doctor or therapist or priest. Which is inconvenient, but makes a lot of sense.

      1. Buttons*

        I work in HR, and I know the ethics. I would never tell someone this news. Just because someone is checking references doesn’t mean the employee is going to accept the position. It could really do damage to someone’s relationship and future career plans within that company.

        1. Vancouver*

          That’s really interesting – thanks for your perspective! We do things the other way around, and managers are definitely informed. The employee is informed first, so they can control how it’s shared if the manager doesn’t already know. That said, our team also sets the expectation that managers are in charge of this type of contact in most cases anyway, so HR is rarely in that position.

          Do you mind if I ask what industry you work in? I’m thinking of two places that I’ve worked that do inform – one customer service and one science, and I’m curious if maybe there are some different industry norms?

  56. Grapey*

    “As a hiring manager, if you saw a candidate about five years out of college with three years of relevant experience but fresh out of an unrelated (religious) master’s program, how much of a red flag would that be?”

    A red flag would be if you didn’t do anything data science related, even in your personal time, in those two years. Even some github activity around playing with kaggle datasets would be better than nothing.

  57. Vancouver*

    Re Letter 3: As inconvenient as it is, I think the other company did the right thing by not sending you the other resume. They have no way of knowing whether or not you are telling the truth or whether you could be someone who poses a threat to their candidate (or even a current manager competing to win Worst Boss of 2020). Looking at it from the other side, I suspect if they had written in and said “a stranger contacted us asking to see the resume of a candidate” we would not be suggesting that they send that information out, regardless of how good that stranger’s reasons were.

    That doesn’t mean you are out of options, though! I would call the company back and tell either the hiring manager or an HR manager that you’re concerned someone may be posing as you to apply for the job, and ask if they have any solutions for how you can verify this (if they can’t send you the resume, could you send them your resume? Then they could confirm it’s the same information). Really, they should have done this the first time around – but since they didn’t think of it at the time, take the initiative and reach out. If they really don’t want to engage with you, then I agree with Alison that speaking with a lawyer might help you get through to them.

    As far as your professional reputation goes, I know this is scary but it is likely not be as bad as you think. Assuming that this person is using your name for the first time now (which is likely, given that it’s the first your hearing if it), they haven’t done anything that could damage you yet. Even if they got hired at this company under your name, you’re still doing good work at another company – best alibi ever!

    (A number of other commentators have suggested putting a freeze on your credit, reporting to police, and generally taking other identity-theft related precautions. I would definitely recommend that as well – for a few minutes of work you will be safer and hopefully feel more comfortable knowing you’ve reduced some of the risk.)

    1. Hello It's Me*

      It’s pretty odd that they wouldn’t send her the resume for the candidate but they did give out her personal work information to a caller without any permission.

      My past companies require a written signature to verify employment.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Wait, no, that’s two different entities: The PROSPECTIVE employer wouldn’t send the resume, while HER OWN HR department are the ones who gave out the work information.

        1. Vancouver*

          I agree with you that requiring written consent is a good idea (and in Canada and at least parts of Europe, and probably places I don’t know about, it’s required by privacy legislation). There are workplaces that don’t do this, unfortunately – I wish more did.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      I don’t know what the law is wherever OP is but over here (UK) I don’t think the other company COULD send her the resume because of data protection.

      1. Lilo*

        Some people, very strangely, put their SSNs on resumes. At my work we now treat applications as personal information and put them in special disposal now.

  58. Not for academics*

    THIS

    “HR wants to interview the people who told me these crazy claims (in confidence) and there’s apparently no way to stop this process once it has started. I’m very angry at myself for not just moving on. One of the coworkers has already expressed that she never should have said anything to me in the first place and another is angry that they have to deal with HR.”

    is why many people say, “HR is not your friend.” OP, not that it’s your fault, but for the peanut gallery, THIS is exactly why you don’t tattle to HR about personal crap. Because ^ is what they do.

    1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      I fail to see how HR is the problem with OP #1’s workplace. The coworker making up weird stuff about them, yes. The coworkers who are mad at them for having objected to the coworker making up weird stuff about them, yes. HR, not so much.

    2. Torgo*

      She didn’t “tattle” to HR. She told her boss that she wanted her coworker to knock off the gossip. The insufferable coworker is the problem here.

    3. Ego Chamber*

      Don’t tattle to HR because … they’ll investigate your harassment claim even if you try to make them stop because you’re being harassed more, by different people? I’m sorry what.

  59. K.Rae*

    To LW#4: I did exactly this. I worked a couple years in public accounting and decided I wanted to attend a Bible school, fully knowing I wouldn’t enter ministry. When I was about to graduate and looking for work, I put it on my resume and addressed it in all my cover letters. It would have been odd that I had a 2 year gap on my resume. I still have it on there for now, but have considered removing it now that I have other work experience.

    I think the key thing is to frame this experience as something you’re passionate about. And then translating that into the passion you could bring to your future job. It’s not often that you find people who have effectively put their career on hold in order to pursue what they want. To me, as a hiring manger, it demonstrates so many positive traits: you’re somebody who knows what they want and is willing to go after it; you have great self-control/self-regulation; you’re able to think for yourself; you’re well-rounded; you’re not just a dreamer, but a doer.

    I agree with previous commenters regarding the financial aspect of it all (i.e. lost wages/retirement contributions, tuition and living expenses, etc.). Thankfully, I didn’t need to take out loans to attend my program, but I certainly would have thought twice about it if I did. But we all have to count the cost and pay the price, and it’s not always just financial.

    1. pancakes*

      By that standard just about anyone with a post-graduate degree is demonstrating those qualities. I have a JD and don’t agree at all. A degree does not, in itself, signify a well-rounded person, or one with admirable self-control. A doer, maybe, but plenty of people without higher education are doers too. There are & have long been lots of people who go to grad school simply because the economy is bad and they don’t know what else to do with themselves for the next couple years.

      1. K.Rae*

        The crux of my response is based on the WHY behind the LW wanting to pursue this degree in the first place, not the degree itself. It’s not to avoid a bad economy or because they don’t know what to do or even to benefit their career in a direct skill-building way. They want to do it simply because they are passionate about it and willing to give something up to pursue it. That takes courage and, therefore, is something to be admired.

        I, too, have come across so many people who pursue higher degrees because of the reasons you listed and they definitely do not demonstrate the positive traits I listed above.

  60. Tidewater 4-1009*

    Lw4, could you study theology evenings and weekends part-time?
    Then you wouldn’t have to leave your job and if you mention it to employers say it’s your hobby. Which it is. :)

  61. Third or Nothing!*

    LW1: Oh honey, you did not need to pull an Elsa and let this go. What your coworker did was very wrong and frankly cruel and you did the right thing by standing up for yourself. And your boss did the right thing by escalating to HR because your company could get in Big Trouble for not shutting that nonsense down and dealing with it appropriately had he not. This whole situation sucks and I’m sorry you’re dealing with all this fallout and it’s coming down on you and not the person it should – Gossipy Gossippants.

  62. Lilo*

    I think LW3 should contact a lawyer. Someone willing to lie about their resume could do some damage to you. A simple cease and desist may be enough to scare them off. But better to be proactive before they do damage.

  63. Sandman*

    OP 4, I did exactly this and have a 3-year academic degree in theology, with a focus on historical theology. I thought about going on in academia, but decided against it. For me I think it was ultimately about thinking through my faith and being comfortable with its truth claims, especially as far as where the boundary between the knowable and the realm of mystery. It’s been really profitable to me on a personal level.

    Where it limited me is that I worked in admin-type jobs to put myself through school (which aren’t generally my jam) and took on debt, which meant that when I discovered a field that is really exciting to me professionally I wasn’t in a position to pursue a second master’s. Then life happened, and kids happened, and I’ve been kind of working my way in through the side door for a lot of years now. It sounds like you’re in a stronger position than I was; my only advice is to think through some of those secondary long-term implications before jumping. I’d probably still do it again, just differently.

    Also, I think the danger of resume gaps is a little overblown. More people understand that our professional lives aren’t necessarily always linear than did even ten or fifteen years ago. Two years doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

  64. Some Lady*

    4 – While I think that considering short- and long-term financial impact is really important, I don’t think it automatically keeps going to school full time from being the best option. Being fully immersed in a program of study for a period of 1-3 years can be an extraordinary experience, and it can be worth it to find a way to give that to yourself. The information you learn is only part of the experience of going to school. There’s community that turns into life-long networks, there’s allowing yourself to be in a place that prioritizing and grappling with Big Questions, and, especially in a field like this, there’s the need to have time to think, process, and develop your ideas. Going to school part time and learning on your own may be sufficient or better for most people, but it’s okay if it’s not for you. It’s okay if this cost is worth it, and it’s okay if it’s not.

    I would say that you could consider working part time while in school full time, so you’re continuing to build connections in your field and have less of a gap in work history. You could also see if you could combine your interests while you’re in school through volunteer work, an independent study, internship, etc., in which you apply your data-brain to a project relevant to your school, a faith organization, etc. Big organizations of all kinds need to understand their data! And this approach can sometimes lead people to find and be qualified for niche positions for which they would be uniquely suited. Work doesn’t always neatly fall into passion projects and marketable skills–I have been able to build a career in a niche field that I love in large part because I did pursue my passion projects, and they led me to have unique qualifications that made me a better hire for specific jobs, even when I wasn’t necessarily looking for that type of cohesion.

  65. we're basically gods*

    We had a guy who called in for standup once or twice a week when I was a software intern, and it was a running joke in the office that he would only put on a shirt, and that he was probably still in PJs or boxers otherwise! It’s a little bit of a pain to get dressed for a video call, but being able to see people can be SO helpful, and I agree that it really helps to make them feel like more of a real person.

  66. Jane Smith*

    Even in a major metro, this is a story your local newspaper or tv station would be interested in, and that could help you out:
    – Having a reporter call New Company asking for info about fake OP could put pressure on them to cooperate (A story that includes “But the company that hired the imposter won’t return real Jennifer Jones’ calls” is not the kind of publicity New Company wants)
    – Having publicity about it could shut fake OP down
    – Documentation could help if it comes up again with future employers, “Yeah, that’s not me, my work history was stolen, there were even news stories about it at the time”
    – This is something I don’t think most people have considered, but anyone with a common name should probably worry about

    1. Jane Smith*

      Ha, I always use Jane Smith to comment on websites and did not realize some commenters were using “Jane Smith” for the imposter – no connection! :)

  67. theguvnah*

    “Ugh, no! Don’t make people turn on their video if they don’t want to, which they clearly don’t. Some people hate appearing on video. There’s not enough to be gained by insisting on overriding their preferences.
    As a manager, you’re going to have to have a certain number of requirements that annoy people. Don’t add to that number when you don’t have to.”

    As manager of a remote team, I could not disagree more with Alison’s advice here.

  68. Mommy.MD*

    The second HR response is much better and to the point. The first one is way too much explaining and you don’t have to give a detailed explanation. Your gossipy coworker gets what she asked for.

  69. Bookworm*

    #3: I don’t have any advice, just ending you good thoughts on this one. That sounds so bizarre and creepy!! Please update us if you can.

  70. BoiChaplain*

    #4

    At least in my denomination getting a masters in theology may help in a certain situation if you wanted to go into national office work regarding data science. The United Church of Christ has an entire department devoted to understanding trends and data in our denomination and where our denomination is going. It is run by the Center for Analytics, Research and Data.

    I also work in the Data field, although presently human services, and working on getting an equivalent of a Masters of Divinity. I am planning on being a Bi-vocational minister and my undergrad is in Business Management.

    There are ways of using data management / data science experience in a theological setting.

  71. HJordan*

    OP #4 – I left a well-paid nonprofit job to go to grad school full time for fiction writing. Right now, I’m in a job search, looking to reboot my nonprofit career. No, creative writing isn’t religious studies, but it’s about as impractical in the job market — maybe less so? I’m in my 50s and have always carved out little corners of my life for writing – a conference here, a workshop there, between raising a family and working full-time and volunteering. I finally decided this was on my bucket list, applied to 4 MFA programs, was accepted at 2 and wait listed at 1. I’m not going into debt for my degree but it’s’ definitely been a financial hit. However, my spouse is able to support us, which makes a huge difference. I never could have afforded this when I was younger. I decided to go full-time and now that I’m wrapping up my thesis, I don’t regret a moment. It was a transformational experience for me.
    I have been reading the comments with great interest because I have been getting questions in interviews about why I did this if I won’t use the degree. It seems to subside when I let people know my chances of becoming a best-selling author, or even one who can make any kind of living at writing, are pretty slim. I also remind them that I love working for nonprofits, had always planned to return to my field, and have been doing nonprofit work part-time throughout my degree program. Hopefully that’s good enough. Good luck with everything! It’s a tough call.

  72. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    LW #3 – is it possible that this is less of ‘someone is stealing my identity to get a job’ and more of ‘hiring company for other-you made a massive mistake when looking up information’? Are you in a highly specialized industry? If someone was just mirroring your accomplishments, that would be weird — but this is just SO weird! :)

    That said, if you haven’t already, consider updating your LinkedIn profile with a very clear head shot of your face. It wouldn’t stop anyone from stealing information from your LinkedIn (experience, certifications/credentials) and using them to pose as someone with experience they do not have, but it would help inform anyone double-checking that you-you don’t physically match the person they have been interviewing for the job.

  73. san junipero*

    I was somehow more shocked by OP1 than OP4 — OP4 is awful, but OP1 made my jaw literally drop.

    OP1, I have no advice, but I am FURIOUS on your behalf, and I hope you get through this without too much pain or stress. Please keep us updated!

  74. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 100% with Alison on this one. Don’t allow your co-workers to shift the blame to you on this one, or make you feel guilty for addressing it. This is 100% not your fault, nor is it your manager’s fault. This is on the busy body who started spreading rumors about why you were out. It’s a good thing that HR is doing something about this, and in the correct way. We hear so many stories on here about how useless their HR department can be.

    #2 don’t do it. Making people turn on video is not guaranteed to make people more engaged. I work with people all over the US so all of my meetings are over the phone. Yes it’s frustrating when people aren’t paying attention, but it happens and being on video is not going to stop people from multi-tasking if they’re busy – I’ve witnessed many people disengaged in face to face meetings. Plus I’m not sure if your team is in an office, but I WFH and generally look like I just rolled out of bed most days. I’m not making myself presentable because a handle of people are disengaged. That’s something that needs to be addressed in a 1 on 1.

  75. MsChanandlerBong*

    #3 This happens all the time where I work. We hire freelancers to work from home, and TONS of people want to work for us, including people overseas. We make it clear in our ads that you must be authorized to work in the US to be eligible, but people get around that by stealing resumes from LinkedIn. We do phone interviews, and people have gone so far as to purchase American SIM cards or even pay Americans to do the interviews for them so they can give us U.S. phone numbers/not tip us off that they are not eligible. It is amazing what some people will do to try to land a job.

    1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      oh WOW! I regret my comment above expressing disbelief that a person would be this weird about thieving someone’s identity to get a job!

      Apologies LW #3!

    2. 1234*

      …so how did these overseas people plan on getting paid for their work? Don’t most employers require people to fill out an I9 to prove that they are eligible to work in the US?

  76. Jessica*

    Letter #3, re: LinkedIn fraud—A few months ago I got an email from someone I didn’t know, pointing me toward a LinkedIn profile that had my picture on it but someone else’s name. She said that she had suspicions about the company, a small “bro” company with lousy management, trying to appear like it had more female employees than it actually did. (She worked there briefly and then quit.) She then did reverse image searches on all the women’s photos, and sure enough, they were fake.

    Anyway! No help for the letter writer, but thought I’d share. LinkedIn fraud exists, ai!

  77. Kate*

    LW4, I am a professor in a graduate program in religious studies. Your situation is not uncommon. Many masters’ programs now are moving online or evening-only, including ours, as we realize how many professionals in other fields are hungry for this kind of deeper academic engagement. That might be a good option for you, or maybe you could try keeping a freelance hand in your field while you study to make your intentions a little clearer on a resume. I’ve had students who’ve done both. Em from CT makes great points about discerning what it is you really hope for in graduate study, but in my experience, if the scholarly exposure is really what you want, there should be no reason you can’t pursue it and re-enter your current field when you’re ready. Best of luck to you!

  78. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: It sounds like Gossipy Coworker is trying to smear the coworker by falsely claiming she is trans or that she had to have surgery for an STI. That’s what I think of when I hear “woman surgery.” Hopefully I am wrong and the coworker is not a nasty TERF.

  79. Heat's Kitchen*

    #2 I actually completely disagree with Alison. Those that work with dispersed teams, I’m assuming they know that going into the position. For heavily remote fields, it’s very common (and helpful) to have a cameras on culture. I’d just make sure that’s brought up during interviews. Obviously, in this case, OP has tenured employees, so i’d probably chat with them 1:1 to gauge their reactions/thoughts and adjust the policy accordingly.

    #4 – in the end, do what makes you happy, but consider if there is another way to follow your passion without a Master’s degree. Do you really (likely) need to go into debt/pay all that money to get what you want out of it? Are there other courses/roles you can play in your local church to feed your desires? Just a thought, but no wrong answer.

  80. Augusta Hawkins Elton*

    To LW #3, you might have already discovered whether the imposter has made a fake LinkedIn profile. If not, you might be able to spot them just by Googling your own name and clicking through the (many) profiles. If you find one with your name and identical work history, be sure to report it to LinkedIn.

    Also make sure your LinkedIn profile has a current photo of you that is not grainy or blurry.

    I was going to say that you could put a message in ALL CAPS at the top of your profile stating that you are being impersonated. However, the imposter could have foreseen that and put a direct link to a faked LinkedIn profile right on their resume, pre-empting companies from doing a name search and browsing through all those profiles under your shared name.

  81. Daffy Duck*

    If your goal is to increase team bonding I have a few suggestions instead of video conferencing daily. Keep meetings to a minimum, productive workers prefer to get their work done and meetings that aren’t productive tend to put people in a bad mood. Enforce professional and polite interactions among staff, this doesn’t mean no socializing but does mean those digs with the”I’m just kidding” jokes get shut down, information hoarders are not tolerated, and cliques that rebuff others are broken up. Foster a collaborative workplace instead of a competitive “each for themselves” environment. Allow a “fun stuff” Slack channel (or equivalent) for people to post safe-for-work pet photos/jokes/kids graduation/etc. If you have in-person meetings cover all costs to attend and provide good food with relaxed environment where people can actually hear each other converse.

  82. DanniellaBee*

    I disagree with the advice given about not requiring cameras for distributed teams especially if it is a team in tech or software development. I work in tech and we are primarily spread across two offices (Seattle and New York) but we have some other folks who work remote in several other major cities. We all use our cameras because it helps our communication and gives the team a sense of being together to build relationships. It is much harder to do that without a form of face to face communication and distributed teams can’t get that without a camera. A policy like turn your camera on will do far more good than harm and should not be an issue especially for tech workers.

    1. Giant Squid*

      I’m in software development and would hate this and almost everyone I know would hate this. Building relationships happens through text chat with remote teams–you have a channel/chat room where you can share jokes, discuss news, etc. My closest friends growing up were people on IRC who’s faces I’d never seen.

      I do know of software teams that are a lot more collaborative though, and are webcam heavy. I guess it just depends on team culture…but I think it’s something you should hint at in interviews if you have this sort of super-heavy collab environment. I don’t think it should be something that should be forced on a team for the sake of “engagement”.

    2. Buffy*

      I’m with Giant Squid. I’ve been in IT for more than 30 years and with a Seattle based software company for the last 15. We are a global company and on a daily basis, I spend 3/4 of my time on conference calls with people around the world. We never use video and have managed to create very close relationships and have high functioning teams without it. To me, video on is something you use for 1:1 interaction because anything more than that and it’s a distraction. I think making it mandatory will actually drive people away from it. I think a better solution would be to ease into it by starting small and doing 1:1 interactions and work up from there. Also, all things in technology have their time and place. Just because you have it, doesn’t make it appropriate always.

    3. andy*

      Policy like that is typically issue for tech workers more then for others. Typically it was tech workers who got into habits like taping over notebook camera so that even if it is turned on remotely, it cant work. The daily standup is supposed to be 10-15 min long status report. There should be no discussion. You say what you worked on yesterday in turns and then it is over. It is supposed to be short as a trade-off for being daily.

      You are not building sense of engagement with mandating this to people when they don’t want it. You are building sense of alienation, because it makes it clear that our feelings matter less (or not at all) then your feelings. Then it is like talking with HR or manipulative boss, yes it pretended to be “personal” and “relationship”, but everyone is even more happy when it is over.

      If you want to build sense of membership, it is odd to start by discarding opinions and feelings of majority just because they are different then you.

  83. Safely Retired*

    #2
    Not all meetings are created equal. Pick at least one type of meeting, not an ad-hoc gathering but something important, and scheduled ahead of time so everyone knows it is coming. And for those meetings make it a requirement.

  84. JessicaTate*

    LW2 — I disagree with Alison re: the value of video meetings outweighing staff who “don’t like” video, particularly for a permanently distributed team. I have BEEN a remote employee; I currently MANAGE a remote employee; and I have many client teams with whom I work at a distance. In those situations where the person-in-charge (me or someone else) established a culture of “we use video-conferencing for meetings,” the teams functioned much better, had stronger relationships, meetings were less stilted and more productive. When everyone’s on video and one person calls in by phone, their participation is clearly much more disconnected and sporadic than the people who are getting the body language and facial expression clues of the video meeting space.

    I would say that it’s not about mandating, exactly. It’s about being clear with your team about the rationale of why you want to use them, what this approach offers the team, and maybe trying to ease the anxieties of being on video. (And then run a good, productive, efficient meeting. That’s critical.) I think it is absolutely fair to establish it as an expectation of working on a remote team. Since you’re trying to institute it mid-stream (expectations are easier when someone is beginning a role), maybe 1) present your rationale; 2) have everyone commit to it for 3 months solid — during which time you remind passive-aggressive stragglers; and then 3) you can have a team conversation and reassess together about what it’s added. if anything’s been problematic, and/or if it’s just a non-issue. People who aren’t used to it often refuse, but if they get put in a position where it becomes the norm (and have a manger who can run an efficient meeting), it becomes the norm and isn’t any more of a big deal than… having to go to the 3rd floor conference room for your check-ins. Honestly, I also remember feeling anxious when I first had to use it at work, but after time and regular use, it just became routine. I now set it as an expectation of the job for people who work with or for me.

    Personally, I’ve become an advocate for remote teams using video, rather than phone, for almost all voice communication (i.e., IM, text, and email communication is still a go-to for most of the day) — even ad-hoc 1:1 conversations. If you have a good platform, it’s not any more time consuming than dialing a phone, and the face-to-face adds the eye contact and body language that are important parts of human communication.

  85. Fikly*

    #1.

    Some number of your coworkers were behaving very badly, attemping to violate your privacy, spreading rumours about you, and causing you pain as a result while you were on medical leave.

    Now they have been caught, and are upset because they are facing consequences for their bad behavior.

    You are not the asshole here. They are.

  86. Greta*

    #4: My aunt was a music teacher, and she got a masters degree in German literature, simply because it was a topic that interested her. Despite it having nothing to do with her job, she got a pay raise simply for having a masters degree. So even if you don’t take a job in the field of your degree, it can help you in the long run.
    Keep in mind, this was in the 1980’s. I’m not sure if a degree in an unrelated field would necessarily mean a pay raise in 2020.

    1. hamburke*

      usually, it does in education – the paybands for bachelors and masters (and PhD) are offset and only ask for highest level of education not degree. I worked as a sub for a shor time and even that is a different pay band.

  87. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    I am so glad I got off LinkedIn. I had already received a smattering of iffy contacts.

  88. foxinabox*

    LW4 – FWIW, I got an MA in an obscure sub-subject of the humanities–small enough that I went to one of the best available programs on the subject and other departments in the same building didn’t know we existed–and it was an INCREDIBLE learning, social, and living experience that I’m so so so glad I did. Of course I came back to the working world mid-recession and ended up in food service for two years, which was maybe not the most thrilling use of two degrees, but oddly enough that combination of backgrounds is what’s led to my last six years of being 100% in the exact job of my choice, moving quickly to the top of my field. There are lots of paths to success and not all of them are straight and narrow or particularly lucrative but your priorities can sort out whether either of those things are a huge concern to you anyway. I love the way things have turned out for me and I wish you all the best!

  89. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP2: Not a good idea. I hate the way I look on video. I’m a fat white 45-year-old woman. I’d be terrified I’d be mocked for my appearance because I don’t look the way women are supposed to look when they’re on camera (slim, young, tan, perfect smile in place at all times).

    1. Avasarala*

      I don’t know anyone who expects Baywatch actors/news anchors when they video chat their colleagues! If you wouldn’t be mocked walking into the office, why would you be mocked on video? You’re not “on camera”, you’re talking to coworkers… and actually I think video chat would help you realize your coworkers are coworkers, not your audience!

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I apologize for sounding like a narcissist. I have autism, so I took “on camera” way too literally, since videoconferencing technically involves a camera!

        1. Avasarala*

          No problem, I know lots of people (myself included) feel sensitive about their appearance when you can see that little viewfinder in the corner. But I’ve made lots of video calls with family and friends and coworkers around the world and you get used to it! It’s not like being on TV or YouTube at all.

  90. A*

    Regarding video calls, my team had a few remote workers, and a massive problem in meetings with people talking over each other and not being able to see who’s talking. When we started using video conferencing it got much much easier. So there’s definitely at least one logistical reason to use it, even though literally everyone was uncomfortable being on video. We ended up having to put up with it to make the meetings work.

  91. His Grace*

    OP 2: Holy hell, indeed. This may be identity fraud/theft, and I think local law enforcement needs to step in right now.

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