difficult ex is my new coworker, taking video calls in a coffeeshop, and more

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

1. My contentious ex is now my coworker

Today, my ex (mom of our two kids) showed up for orientation at the hospital were I work (without any heads-up). She’s contentious (especially lately since my new wife and I just had a baby) and she loves starting public screaming matches at inappropriate times (daycare, pediatrician’s, etc). I’m a private person and non-confrontational so I just walk away. I prefer not to work the same shifts in order to avoid conflict and embarrassment, especially since she will resent that she must defer to my directives (doctor vs nurse). I want to go to HR, but don’t know if she disclosed our former relationship and I’m afraid they’ll think I am creating trouble since no conflict has happened, yet. I’m also nervous that if I request not being on the same shift, they’ll send me to back to nights (I transferred to days a month ago after finishing a PhD and with a new baby, I’m enjoying the regular hours). Should I go to HR? How should I approach this and how much should I share?

Whoa, yes, you should disclose it, if only for your own protection in case she causes problems. Say this: “I just learned that my ex-wife, Jane Warbleworth, has been hired here as a nurse. We share two children and the relationship since our divorce has been a contentious one, despite my efforts to minimize that. I wanted to make you aware of the relationship and ask if it’s possible not to have her assigned to my shifts given the difficult dynamic. I’m particularly concerned about her ability to take direction from me.”

You could add, “My strong preference is to keep my current schedule. Is there a way to do both of those things?” There might not be — but my guess is that if you’re the doctor and the longer-term employee, it’s likely that you’ll be given at least some priority.

2. Taking video calls in a coffeeshop

I recently started a new, fully remote job. I love it. Now that I’m back home, I want to meet up with old colleagues for lunch on occasion. However, my house is a good 20-30 minutes away from where I’d meet them. Also, this job is more demanding than any I’ve had in a while, and I have a lot of back-to-back meetings. We’re a cameras-on meeting culture. I know how you feel about it, but I actually really appreciate it as we’re all remote.

So, in order to get out of my house from time to time, I would like to drive to a coffee place with wifi in the morning before my meetings, work, then meet my colleague for lunch, and then drive home or back to said coffeeshop to finish my meetings.

Besides the obvious — make sure I order something (or multiple items), don’t take up a ton of space, don’t talk about confidential information, use headphones — what else do I need to know? I’m especially concerned I’ll be looked at as rude for having conversations while there. I would try to get a spot against a wall, so there aren’t random cameos on camera. Anything else I should be considering/aware of?

Well … I’m writing this from a quiet coffeeshop where just a few minutes ago I was feeling mildly annoyed by someone having a cell phone conversation next to me. They’re not in the wrong — this isn’t the quiet car of a train — but there is something about hearing only one side of a conversation that’s more jarring/distracting than two people talking in person, particularly in an otherwise fairly quiet room. So I don’t love the idea. (It does depend on how quiet the space is though — if it’s a loud, bustling restaurant, it’s going to be far less distracting. Although the background noise may make it unworkable on your end.)

What do others think?

3. When people say their boss yelled at them, how do I know if they mean it literally?

How would you you suggest reacting when someone says their boss yelled at them? Of course, the literal interpretation leans toward an abusive boss, but it feels like just about everyone I’ve interpreted it that way with was using hyperbole to refer to being corrected or the like. My standard approach so far has been to assume an abusive boss unless I witnessed the exchange in question (which I’d normally only be able to do with coworkers rather than friends), but that seems to be coming across as naivete and overreaction rather than kindness in the face of a potentially abusive situation. Any thoughts on how to navigate this more adeptly?

Yeah, a lot of people use “I got yelled at” when they really mean their boss expressed a concern or told them to do something differently. While it can be just a colloquialism, it can also be a problem (one that people who aren’t managers don’t always understand) because yelling is abusive, and it’s not cool to give the impression your boss is out of control and abusive.

If it’s not clear from the context which version someone means — and if it’s a situation where it really matters (as opposed to just a friend venting about work) — you could try saying, “Just to make sure I’m understanding, she actually yelled at you? As in raised her voice?” Or you could say, “Did she literally yell or do you mean that figuratively?” If the person says no, it was just a correction, you could say, “Okay, good. Yelling is awful, and I’d be really concerned to hear Jane had done that.”

4. Is this employer being too persistent with their job offer?

I was hoping to get your take on a job offer I recently got from a start-up. My first offer from them was below my salary expectations. I countered with a salary figure that was quite a bit (10-12%) higher than what they originally proposed. They ended up raising the salary offer by about 1%. I declined the offer. Days later, I got a call from the recruiter, asking me to reconsider. She met my salary expectations. I still wasn’t totally sold on the job from the start, and PTO was really low. I tried to look them up on Glassdoor/Indeed, and it became clear pretty quickly that upper management had made some fake reviews to inflate their scores. However, almost all former employees left negative reviews. Ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to accept the new offer. I went with my gut and declined again. Hours after I declined, the recruiter emailed asking me to reconsider again! This time, she offered an increase in some other benefits that I had asked her about after my final round of interviews.

I’m exhausted by this process, and I can’t help but think that the company seems a little desperate. I’m pretty young and recently graduated, so this definitely isn’t a managerial or executive role. However, I’ve been searching for jobs for two months, and there aren’t a lot of options right now in my field. I’m not in dire need of a paycheck just yet, and I’m hoping to find another job that is more exciting to me. My friends and peers have said that it’s generally easier to explain a gap in employment than to leave a nightmare job after a month (hopefully that’s good advice!). (Note from Alison: Yes, although typically you’d just leave the one-month stint off your resume.) But overall, do you think that this amount of persistence on a job offer (on the part of the company/recruiter) is a red flag, or is this situation more typical than I realize? At this point, would it be wiser to walk away, or to hear them out one last time?

There’s no harm in hearing them out, but maintain high levels of skepticism when you do, for the following reasons:

* They do seem desperate, and I’d want to understand what’s behind that. Do you have very hard-to-find skills? Or are they underpaying or having trouble attracting candidates for another reason?
* A 1% increase to their offer when you countered with something much higher is pretty ridiculous (especially when they then met your salary request a few days later).
* Low PTO is a bad sign. Especially if they’re desperate, since why hasn’t it occurred to them that might be something to fix?
* The fake online reviews are a very bad sign and the mark of a company with serious culture issues (and little real interest in fixing them).
* You already weren’t sold on the job itself.

Persistence from an employer isn’t always a bad sign, but this kind of persistence is. It would be different if it came across more as, “We respect your decision, but we also genuinely believe you’d love it here because of (reasons tailored to what you’ve told them you’re looking for) and would love a second chance to talk through your concerns if you’re open to that.”

In any case, two months isn’t an excessively long job search, and you don’t sound like you’re in a spot where you need to accept anything that’s offered to you. Proceed with deep caution.

5. Asking my employer to pay for a standing desk when I work from home

I started a 100% remote job with a small company several months ago and I love it! I have a home office but my set-up isn’t ideal. My desk is really short and my old office chair isn’t very comfortable so by the end of the day I’m feeling sore.

Would it be appropriate to ask the company to subsidize or pay for the cost of a standing desk? I don’t have a medical condition that would require it, I’d just like to stop sitting all day. My company subsidized the cost of my phone plan and sent me a state-of-the-art laptop when I began so I think they have pretty generous policies, but I don’t want to sound entitled or like I’m demanding equipment I should just go buy myself. Should I ask my boss? HR? Any tips on wording? I’m new to working from home and I’m still learning to navigate it.

Some companies would cover this and some wouldn’t, but it’s not unreasonable to ask about it. I’d word it this way, probably to your boss: “I’m not sure what our policies are on equipment for remote workers’ home offices. I’m interested in getting a standing desk — is that something I could talk to the company about covering?”

{ 626 comments… read them below }

  1. actually, my name's Marina*

    LW#2: Maybe what you need is a shared workspace that you can go to once or twice a week? A coffee shop definitely won’t suit; not only might your conversation disturb others, other people’s conversation may well distract you.

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        A library is a much better idea, check out what’s in your area! My city has a one with booths you can book for work, a great view, and a coffee stand integrated into the space.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Library study room, rental office, or ask to flex your schedule or take some PTO to extend your lunch hour that day.
        I work in public spaces well–but not calls. The background sounds will interrupt communication making the whole thing hard on your co-workers.

      3. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, this is exactly what I came to the comments to suggest! Several of my local libraries have study rooms you can book, and that would be a much better solution than a coffee shop.

      4. Mrs B*

        I would also suggest seeing if a library can accommodate, some have dedicated private study rooms you can book, or perhaps a community/board room that is infrequently used. Most have wifi and outlets you can use as well, some even have cafes .

      5. RecentAAMfan*

        I think the point is that the OP would actually like to be around people, bustle etc.
        If OP wanted a quiet room, they already have that option…at home

        1. lulu*

          the point was to be able to meet former colleagues for lunch, 30 minutes away from their home, and to find a place to work close to the lunch location

        2. Yorick*

          They could still work in a coffee shop when they don’t have meetings, and use a library study room instead when they do.

        3. Parenthetically*

          Interestingly, my local library is very bustle-y! There’s a busy cafe in the front, and it’s always buzzing with activity. It still has the nice studious feeling of a library but that’s more due to its excellent design than people holding their voices down to faint whispers. It’s perfectly possible to have a normal conversation their without getting shushed by a librarian. And there are half a dozen spaces — some bookable, some first-come first-served — that would be excellent for taking a video call. More, even, when the weather is nice, since it also has a number of nicely sheltered outdoor seating areas with tables and chairs!

        4. TiaTeapot*

          It’s…really hard to both be around bustle and do a job (video meetings) for which bustle is going to be detrimental. But working from home can be isolating even when you really like it, & having a place to go that’s away, which allows/requires interacting with people before & after getting work done can be a sanity-saver.

        5. Benjamin*

          I’m totally late to the conversation, but I head to one of the big hotels (I’m in a moderate sized city, 1m people). They usually have a coffee shop with free Wifi. So if you sit in the lobby near the coffee shop it’s just as good as being in the cafe. And in my town there are lots of meetings happening in the lobbies.

      6. Zennish*

        Many libraries, in my neck of the woods anyway, do have rules about how long or how far in advance you can book their study rooms, to make sure everyone has a chance to use them. If you try to book them for four hours a day, five days a week, now until forever, you’ll probably get a no. Just something to be aware of and ask about up front, depending on your scheduling needs.

        1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

          It sounds like this is just on the occasional day that OP wants to meet up with friends for lunch, and that they will usually be working from home. Otherwise, I would recommend a coworking space, or depending on the frequency of meetings, only booking a library room when they do occur.

          1. Al*

            My local libraries let you book study rooms up to 14 days in advance, for two hours per day (either as one block, or two separate hours). They are a lifesaver!!! I live in a metro area with several different municipalities in close proximity, and one city’s library system doesn’t even require you to have a library card to reserve rooms.

      7. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, our library in OldCity had little conference rooms you could reserve. They were free; you just had to make a reservation. They also had big rooms with projectors, etc., but you wouldn’t need that.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I think if you have an occasional short conversation at a coffee shop it’s okay, but if phone conversations or telecons are a major part of your work, it’s probably a bad idea. As Alison says, there’s something particularly distracting about hearing half of a conversation. If the coffee shop is quiet enough to have a meeting in, you’re going to distract people, and if it’s noisy enough that you aren’t bothering people, it’ll be hard to have a meeting.

      It depends a bit on your voice, though. I share an office with two people. One has telecons and speaks quietly enough that it doesn’t bother me, the other has a big booming voice that can literally make me jump when he speaks up in a meeting.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        If the coffee shop is quiet enough to have a meeting in, you’re going to distract people, and if it’s noisy enough that you aren’t bothering people, it’ll be hard to have a meeting.

        The last part is important: coffee shops aren’t as quiet as people think they are, and the sound of the background noise is highly distracting on a call. I work from home 100% (so Monday through Friday), but my coworker only works from home on Fridays, and I can tell she does it at a coffee shop somewhere because anytime she calls me and she’s not on mute, I can hear the sound of machines whirring in the background, the coffee shop music, and other people’s loud conversations. It’s highly annoying to listen to.

        If you’re going to work from a coffee shop to be able to meet your friends for lunch, I’d advise you make sure you have no meetings/calls that day and only do it once a week.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          The last time I went to Starbucks looking for a quiet place to work, two young girls chased each other in circles around my chair. The time before that, at 3 p.m. the previously near-empty place filled up with teens who’d just gotten out of school. You can’t predict these things and it could make you look hugely unprofessional.

          Use the library or join a coworking space. It’ll be much more conducive to actual work!

          1. Lily*

            Yeah, or imagine 5 people turning up to do their video conferences there! (And @OP before you say that this is unrealistic: if your “it’s perfectly fine to do that” bases on “because I’ll be the only one doing that”, think again. It can’t be really fine if the condition for it is only one person does that).

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, the Starbucks where I am are either so small that you can’t get away from the few other people who are there, or, there is one that was formerly an actual restaurant and is huge for a Starbucks, but then everyone goes there because it actually has elbow room, so it’s noisy.

            So . . . I wouldn’t be thrilled about the OP’s half-conversation, but I also think that the coffee shops where I am aren’t really quiet enough to make calls effectively.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          Every time I see people on conference calls at Starbucks (or worse, Panera), I judge the heck out of them (sorry). It just seems so unprofessional to me – especially since the background noise is so annoying for people on the receiving end of the conference call. As a project manager, its agony waiting for people to unmute to shout over the background noise, then quickly remute. Its just not a productive conversation method.

          Plus, for some reason they always seem to sit on the main isle so the whole world can see their screen (you just never know when something not-exactly-for-public-consumption will flash up on the screen). And, honestly, it really upsets me that I am forced to walk in front of their camera to pick up my order.

          1. Terri*

            I’m a waitress in a nice hotel restaurant- the amount of people who FaceTime from the dining room (NOT with headphones) is insane, but what takes the cake is the time 2 women came in for breakfast and had a conference call, on speaker. No headphones, no whispered tones, just every part of the conference call for everyone to hear. We have a business center that’s free to use, a conference room that can be rented, and obviously they have their own room!

            1. CupcakeCounter*

              I gave my mother hell this past summer for answering her phone and putting it on speaker in the middle of the very busy farmers market. She got upset and pointed around at the dozen or so people we could see using FaceTime as they walked around. My reply was along the lines of “just because they are being rude doesn’t mean you have to join in the fray…call her back later”. I said my comment quite loudly and lots of people on FaceTime and speakerphone scowled at me but I received a round of applause from the general public.

              1. Veronica Mars*

                I just plain do not understand the benefit of having conversations on speakerphone when you’re the only one listening.

                The cleaning ladies at my work use FaceTime WHILE CLEANING THE BATHROOMS and I just… hate it so much.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Oh, interesting! I use speakerphone all the time at home by myself! I have a newborn and a toddler so having my hands free is a must.

                2. ThatGirl*

                  I use speakerphone sometimes when I’m talking to my mom, for instance, and need to set the phone down for a minute. If you don’t have earbuds handy and need your hands free, or don’t want to hold the phone to your ear for that long, it works.

                3. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

                  I do it for hands-free if I’m alone in my house or walking to or from my car with stuff to carry, but it’s more convenient if I’m already wearing headphones with an in-line mic. I would never walk around in public with speakerphone blaring, that’s so rude and everyone can hear your whole conversation!

                  Coincidentally, this week someone was walking around Facetiming their boyfriend in the locker room of my gym. It looked like he was driving, too.

                4. Veronica Mars*

                  Sorry, I should have added an ‘in public’. I get wanting to have your hands free at home when multitasking. I don’t get strolling down the sidewalk holding your phone up to your face yelling into it, when if you just took it off speakerphone you could be heard much more clearly (and people around you wouldn’t be subject to the awful, loud, tinny, robot speakerphone noise).

                5. MoopySwarpet*

                  My dad can hear better when the phone is on speaker than when it is next to his head. However, when he takes calls in public he tries to find a quiet spot or says he will call back later.

                6. Jack Russell Terrier*

                  Please please use headphones to be handsfree if others can hear. It is very disturbing.

              2. LTL*

                That’s not rude. It’s one thing if it’s a quiet space, but if it’s a public place where it’s normal for people to talk anyways, there’s nothing wrong with having a phone conversation. I can see the argument for Facetime since you’re catching other people on video without their consent.

                I can understand that some people have a pet peeve with putting the phone on speaker but that doesn’t mean those using speaker phone are doing anything wrong.

                1. Turquoisecow*

                  It might not be rude, but it’s annoying to have to listen to another person’s call on speakerphone. Also, even if it’s not a private conversation with sensitive material, do you really want everyone else in the hotel lobby, market, or coffee shop hearing you gossip? I don’t want to hear it, and you’re taking away my ability to not hear it. Put the phone to your ear!!

                2. londonedit*

                  I can’t really put my finger on why, but I find it rude. Or if not rude, then thoughtlessly disruptive. It’s become a ‘thing’ now for people to FaceTime everywhere (on public transport, walking down the street, in coffee shops, etc). I find it annoying enough when you’re only hearing one side of the conversation (just as someone having a loud mobile phone conversation is annoying) but when they’ve got it on speaker, so you’re hearing their extra-loud side (because everyone has to speak particularly loudly on a speakerphone call) and also a tinny voice on the other end responding, and they’re walking around with their phone in front of their face rather than paying attention to their surroundings…that feels extra rude to me.

                3. Aquawoman*

                  Having a normal-tone conversation is fine but specifically because it’s not distracting to others. A speakerphone conversation does not sound like a normal conversation and is distracting to others. Also, if the area involves walking around (such as the very busy farmer’s market), the person on the phone will not be paying enough attention to walking. People on their phones are always in the way in crowded areas where people are walking. If they think they’re managing it, they’re wrong.

                4. Zennish*

                  Personally, I find it rude. There is a difference between it’s okay to talk and dominating the space with your conversation, which speakerphone calls in a public area tend to do, more often than not.

                5. MassMatt*

                  listening to someone else’s phone conversation is annoying for the reason Alison mentioned (only hearing 1/2 of it forces your brain to fill in the other side) but also because people speaking on a phone often lose perspective or due to background noise START TALKING LIKE THIS! I have been on a train multiple times when I can hear someone else on a phone call at the opposite end of the car. That’s LOUD!

                  It just reinforces how inane most phone conversations are. “NOTHING MUCH. HOW ABOUT YOU? I’M ON THE TRAIN. THE TRAIN!!! ” Ugh.

                6. DarnTheMan*

                  Echoing other commenters; I find it annoying, especially because people seem to compensate for the fact that they’re out in a semi-noisy public space by talking a lot louder than they would if they were having an actual face to face conversation. I don’t expect absolute silence on my commute but if I could recount every word of someone else’s conversation while listening to my podcast, then you’re being too loud.

                7. so many questions*

                  Yeah, it’s rude. You can call it a pet peeve and try to excuse this behavior all you want, but really, it’s not being considerate of others.

                8. Veronica Mars*

                  To me, the definition of rude is “doing something easily avoidable that many other people find annoying.” Actually, I looked it up, and this definition seemed particularly fitting “lacking subtlety or sophistication.”

                  Its true that I find loud-speakerphone-robot-distorted-voice particularly jarring. But I bet I’m not alone. My brain can easily filter out normal conversation, but not the tinny speakerphone voice or the person yelling in reply.
                  And that’s the other half of it, you have to talk louder to be heard by a speakerphone, since the microphone is much further from your mouth and picking up more background noise.

                9. Eeeek*

                  It’s generally considered rude among the the friends and colleagues I have. And my family thinks it is Very Rude.

                10. Mme Pince*

                  I think it’s incredibly rude to have public calls on speakerphone. No one wants to be part of your conversation, and there’s something about the volume and way speakerphone calls sound that makes them much more noticeable thank two people having a conversation in a public space. I feel the same way about people playing music and other media out loud in public. No one is interested in your (general your) musical taste, you movie, YouTube video, or personal call. I think people also have a tendency to speak louder on calls, so even with headphones, it is sometimes more distracting than an in person conversation.

                11. londonedit*

                  MassMatt – the whole ‘NOTHING MUCH. HOW ABOUT YOU? I’M ON THE TRAIN. THE TRAIN!!!’ thing has been annoying for long enough that 20 years ago the British comedian Dom Joly had a recurring skit on his TV show, Trigger Happy TV, where several times an episode he’d be in some notable place or other, you’d hear a loud old-school Nokia ringtone blaring, and then he’d have an enormous – like, almost as big as him – mobile phone. He’d then go ‘HELLO??? HELLO??? NO, I’M AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM. YEAH, IT’S RUBBISH’. Part of the whole idea was that there would be unsuspecting members of the public all around him, who would react in horror (just as they would to anyone having a loud phone conversation, but magnified!)

                12. sin nombre*

                  You are not alone, Veronica Mars. That “awful, loud, tinny, robot speakerphone noise” is intolerable to me. I think it’s incredibly rude to subject everyone around you in public to it, and absolutely inexcusable to do it someplace your audience is captive like on public transit. Especially when you can avoid it as easily as putting the damn phone against your ear, or here’s a crazy idea, waiting to have your conversation until you’re in a place where you won’t bother other people. People who do this are acting like other people around them in the world just don’t exist or don’t matter.

                13. pancakes*

                  I agree with londonedit. Maybe it feels extra rude to some of us because people who do this seem to be acting as if they’re alone / not in public when they are in fact in public?

                14. Mr. Shark*

                  I agree with everyone else. It is rude. As everyone has said, the person on your side of the speakerphone is talking louder than a normal phone conversation. Plus you can hear the other person on the other side of the speakerphone conversation.
                  Additionally, you tend to want to be more quiet because you know the other person can hear everything over the speakerphone on your side of the conversation. So you get interrupted by just having normal conversation or normal noise. For instance, not in a public place, I’d be watching television, and my mother who is in town, makes a phone call, and puts it on speaker, and suddenly I’m being asked to turn down the TV so the TV doesn’t interrupt the conversation that should be a one-to-one conversation not over the speaker phone.
                  In public, it’s even worse.

            2. Tomalak*

              Terri, did you say something to them? A cheap cafe is one thing, but I think restaurant customers have a reasonable expectation that they’re not going to have to listen to broadcast from other people’s devices.

              If someone did that in a restaurant I’d ask the staff to have a word, and if they didn’t solve it I’d refuse to pay. I wouldn’t blame the staff personally if they didn’t do it for whatever reason – but if that’s the restaurant policy I’d certainly walk out without paying and go to a decent restaurant.

              1. ellex42*

                Not long ago I was in a restaurant for lunch with my mother, and at the neighboring table were 3 people who were Facetiming someone with a baby. So these people are passing the tablet around, speaking very loudly to the baby, who is laughing and squealing (as babies do) on the other end of the call, and naturally they have the volume turned up so they can hear the baby (and the adult with the baby). It was incredibly annoying and disruptive, and to my mother’s embarrassment, I did ask the waitress if the manager could have a word with them.

                And we keep going back to that restaurant because the manager came over and requested that they tone it down a bit. Granted, this is a “family-friendly” restaurant, and there are often young children and even infants who sometimes make a fair amount of noise, but these were adults basically shouting at their tablet.

                It probably helped that the waitress had been over several times to ask if they were ready to order and they kept putting her off.

              2. Terri*

                I did not- all the other people in the restaurant were on the other side of the dining room & no one seemed annoyed (except the staff). This kind of stuff (phone calls, FaceTime, etc) tends to happen at breakfast, I guess because people see it as less formal than dinner?

                If someone else had complained, we would’ve asked the women to go to one of the private spaces.

            3. Antilles*

              That’s insane.
              I’d honestly be tempted to take the booth next to them and either turn on a podcast without headphones or start my own conversation to see if I could drive them away.

          2. EPLawyer*

            “it really upsets me that I am forced to walk in front of their camera to pick up my order.”

            This is the other part of it. This is a camera on culture. Which means everyone on the call will see everyone in the background. That doesn’t strike me as very professional.

            This is a new job. You want your colleagues to see you as professional even when they don’t actually see you every day. Find somewhere other than a coffee shop to have your conferences.

            1. we're basically gods*

              My job is in a coworking space (we have an office for our small team, but there’s other single desks around) and even there, I hate when I realize I’ve walked behind someone’s conference call on my way back to my office. Argh.

          3. Seifer*

            I also judge the hell out of them, so you are not alone there. The worst for me was when my friend and I were at brunch, so crowded Saturday morning, and there were two guys on a conference call… with video… and tons and tons and tons of paperwork everywhere. Some of the stuff was definitely confidential, and I was wincing the whole time.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Very tempted to go over to their table and start ostentatiously taking photos of the papers.

          4. GDub*

            Yeah, I don’t go to my local coffee shop to be an unwilling witness to your half of a videoconference. It’s rude to patrons and will look sloppy to your colleagues.

          5. Lily Rowan*

            It’s funny because I was just thinking my local Panera would really work for this — they have a lot of space with a lot of nooks and crannies, so the OP might be able to find a discreet corner where she wouldn’t be bothering anyone with her calls!

            1. Emmie*

              I came here to mention Panera, though the wi-fi is slow. There’s more noise in the background, so less people will be interrupted. You can also sit with your back to a window, so your webcam sees glare or outside activity instead of people. OP may find that neither Panera nor a coffee shop works for these meetings. Other people can hear your side of the conversation, and that’s not good if you are discussing confidential company business. Sometimes info isn’t necessarily top secret, but I found myself filtering my comments in meetings when I was in a public space because it’s info that outsiders should not hear. I am a remote employee too who is required to be on web cam. I understand the need to see people IRL. But perhaps the best place to look is a local co-working space if you’d like to do this regularly instead of sporadically where you can interact with others. If you decide to use coffee shops and fast-casual restaurants, look at your company’s IT policy about using VPN and accessing confidential info on public wi-fi.

            2. Veronica Mars*

              I guess, reflecting, I was channeling my hate for people who host entire business meetings of 10+ people at Panera (meanwhile glaring at families with young kids nearby for the ‘disrespectful interruptions’ of happy kid noises). It probably wouldn’t be the worst place for video conferencing because, like you said, nooks.

              1. Liz*

                A very large (20+ people) Bible Study used to meet weekly at my local Panera. At least they were quiet most of the time.

          6. Facepalm*

            Yes, ignoring how rude it is for the people in the coffee shop around you, I can’t imagine being on the other end of that call. If my colleague were on a video call from the coffee shop, I would find it so unprofessional and distracting.

            1. Duckles*

              100% remote and the only time I take calls from a coffee shop is if it’s back to back with an in-person client meeting or the like that requires me to be away from my desk, and I apologize to people on the call in advance. The reality is, I meet coworkers to co-work if I have a free afternoon, or meet for lunch if I have a couple-hour window. I think you just have to only meet friends on slow days or, if you have the power to, schedule things around meeting friends.

          7. DeeEm*

            I have no issues with people taking calls at restaurants, etc. Noise is noise, and if two people having a conversation is acceptable, it’s acceptable whether I can hear both of them or not. What I *DO* have a problem with is people taking up TABLES far longer than they otherwise would have because they are doing work…especially during busy times. It’s hard enough to find a table just to sit and munch/sip your drink, but when people are there with laptops doing work taking up a table, it irritates me.

        3. Anax*

          Depending on your coworkers, it may also make them unable to understand the call at all, and they may not flag that for you explicitly. E.g., folks with minor hearing impairments, autistic folks, folks with ADHD, folks for whom English is a second language…

          I know that I have trouble with background noise, but I’m reluctant to flag it in meetings if it’s only an occasional issue and I’m not a key participant; it wouldn’t change much in the moment, my input isn’t super important, and the situation is unlikely to come up again.

          (I lipread in person, but that’s not possible over the phone, and video quality/syncing is generally not good enough to help much. Phones are manageable under normal circumstances, but poor connections or background noise make the whole call unintelligible gibberish for me.)

        4. Rainy*

          When I was in grad school, on weekends sometimes to get out of the house and…well…do my reading in a different place, really, I’d go set up at my favourite table at the Panera my younger sister worked at. I’d eat a meal there, she’d usually join me on her break, and I’d let people know I was there, so that often friends and classmates would join me and we’d study together for a few hours. It was nice, a little bustle-y but I also study better when I have noise in the background so it worked for me.

          One term I didn’t need to be in classes on Fridays, and every other week or so I’d go spend my study hours there. One Friday there was a woman clearly “working from the coffeeshop”, except she was in commercial real estate, and she was making cold calls and having phone meetings. On speaker. In the Panera. When my sister went on break and came to have lunch with me and we were talking, the real estate agent kept glaring at us, and at one point muted her phone and said “COULD YOU SHUT UP” to us. I waited till she unmuted and said “I’m at a coffeeshop having a conversation, maybe you could GET AN OFFICE”, which wasn’t very nice, but I was annoyed.

          To sum up: having phone or skype meetings at coffeeshops is not always going to go the way you want it to. Better to find a more private space, because if it’s a quiet establishment you’re going to be the asshole, and if it’s not, the people on the other end are going to be distracted. And yelling at people for doing normal coffeeshop things in coffeeshops is probably not the greatest idea.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            I don’t blame you one minute. She had no expectation of quiet in a coffee shop. Her speaker conversation is a different story completely. You should have an expectation that someone isn’t on a speaker phone conversation at any place in public.

        5. Quill*

          Also please consider that the people on the other end may have trouble processing you vs the teenagers talking a table over vs the constant bell as people enter…

          Many people are okay to work with that much background noise but not to listen to a call that contains it.

      2. Willis*

        Agree agree agree. I have a 100% work from home team that meets at a local coffee shop that’s pretty much set up for work (large folding tables, lots of outlets, etc.) But it would be waaay to loud for a video conference. You’d have to be speaking over other adjacent meetings, which would be really annoying, likely to you and to them. On the other hand, you’re pretty much going to be disturbing everyone with a video call in a really quiet shop. You could maybe get away with it if it’s a big meeting that you don’t really have to participate much in, but it doesn’t sound like that the case. Also, trying to talk in a low, non-disruptive voice will come across weird on the call.

        I’d look at co-working or library space. Or schedule the lunches on days without meetings if you’re lunch hours are flexible.

      3. MistOrMister*

        This was my thought as well….either it will be too loud for everyone to uear comfortably, or everyone nearby will be disturbed. If I was at a coffee shop trying to work quietly, read, or have a conversation with a friend and someone was in there having video calls, I would liely find it distracting and highly annoying. We’ve all seen that person and we all dislike them. A coffeeshop is not your personal office and really just shouldn’t be treated as one. And no one calling you for work wants to hear all this coffeeshop background noise. If I keep hearing yells for someone’s soy macchiato and jumbo frap and whatnot, it’s going to distract me.

        On a related note, I used to see a guy in the dining area of the local Whole Foods. He had a desktop Mac and brought this huge screen in to set up on their bar area. It was hilarious to see this guy sitting there with this ginormous box at his feet that he used to lug the thing around. I never saw him doing conferencing though, and he didn’t take up any more space than someone eating normally would have. Plus, I have just realized, he always sat at the bar part, so he was never taking up a full table, which seemed especially thoughtful during the lunch rush.

        1. Morning Glory*

          Yea, this would be really irritating and rude to other customers. OP, it’s not that you would be “looked at as rude,” you would genuinely be behaving rudely.

        2. Lazy Line Painter Jane*

          This this this. I also work remotely 100% of the time with a video conference culture and I would NEVER do a call in a coffee shop. I have had some colleagues that have taken them in coffee shops in the past and it’s been a disaster. Do not underestimate the sensitivity of mics on computers and headsets – they pick up everything. That kid babbling on the other side of the room, the background music, the baristas – everything. Despite your best efforts, you will be asked to raise your voice by your colleagues so that they can hear you. When I’m in a coffee shop on my own time, I’m usually there to read and decompress. Hearing a shouted one-sided conversation is the worst and ruins the experience.

          If you aren’t heading into a big city to meet your friends, co-working spaces are becoming more common in suburban areas and can be very reasonably priced compared to their urban templates. I live in central CT and found one that is very much geared towards small local businesses who can’t afford or don’t need big, permanent office space. That could be a great option if it’s well-located.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Ha ha I can’t think of a single coffee shop *or* library near me that is actually quiet and comfortable enough to make me want to sit and read.

          1. Quill*

            My local library is pretty cosy but you gotta know where to sit so the events area isn’t directly nearby.

        4. Megabeth*

          Whole Foods Guy has a counterpart at a Starbucks in my former hometown. Starbucks Guy would set up an old Dell desktop (complete with monitor/keyboard/mouse of course) and an inkjet printer. And he was a frequent speakerphone abuser as well. Wish I could say he was a nice guy, all I ever got from him were glares when I dared to speak nearby.

      4. WS*

        +1. I used to go to a particular coffee shop after a regular weekday appointment and there was often a fairly loud guy taking business calls and videoconferencing there. One week he wasn’t there and I mentioned it to the owner – she’d had to ask him to leave because nobody would go in that entire area of the cafe while he was shouting away, and she was losing business. Other people worked there, but not on the phone.

        1. WellRed*

          I wish more business owners would realize that catering to the one risks losing many others. Kind of like in an office, actually.

      5. Smithy*

        The inconsistency of the noises at coffee shops is a huge part of what makes them so difficult. I used to do a lot of work at a coffee shop in an afternoon, though not conference calling. Even though it was the same coffee shop and the same time of day when I went, it could range from mom’s with tots book club day to no one but me. Not to mention, the spots that worked best for me were one’s with convenient outlet access. So whether I could sit in a more or less private nook also varied based on who came before me with a similar outlet agenda.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Strong agree. I often work in coffee shops because I like the background noise. But people taking video and phone conferences are incredibly disruptive/distracting without realizing it, and it’s often disruptive for the person on the other side of the camera (because of all the background noise). It’s also difficult to talk about anything that may be sensitive or better suited for a private location.

        I like the suggestion, above, of renting a coworking space from time to time or utilizing library resources.

    2. Sue*

      It would definitely bother me. Short cell calls are a bit annoying, but long meetings with your verbal participation seem completely out of place in a shop. No way not to bother other customers.

    3. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Aside from the noise issue too OP, whichever public space you work from I would think about getting a back up wifi solution. I usually use my phone as a hotspot, because public wifi is so frustratingly slow or limiting.
      Also, it isn’t secure! So carefully consider what you plan to do or access, how your company’s data security policies may apply, and if you’ll be restricted from getting your work done if you do use the public wifi.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        The lack of privacy on public wifi is a huge concern to take into consideration. With the advent in hacking/phishing, you don’t want to mess around and get a virus at said coffee shop and be responsible for your company’s entire network shutting down at 4:59 pm when the main help desk folks have packed it in for the day.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I know it was a rare situation, but I was definitely peeved after having to clean several spambots off an email account because a user had taken their work laptop to an unsecured connection. (There’s a long tale behind this which I’ll save for an open post)

      2. No Tribble At All*

        +1!! Even if the wifi has a password, it could be an older wifi standard (WEP vs WEP2) which is much less secure!

    4. Reliquary*

      Yes, LW #2 should check out local co-working spaces, which are often rentable by the hour — at least they are in my city. Also, public libraries and university libraries often have work carrels and meeting rooms. Those are great ideas as well. (My private university opens our library to any resident of our city. The LW should make some phone calls or do some web searches to find out about the policies of the libraries near them.)

      1. Senor Montoya*

        University library — that’s an excellent idea. The libraries at the large state U I work at is open to the public. Can’t check out books and can’t reserve facilities like rooms, but can certainly *use* them if they’re open. Ask to speak to a librarian at the main desk to see what services and facilities are available.

        But don’t use a carrel — those are generally open and you will disturb others. Use one of the study rooms or workspace rooms.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          I would call ahead to find out if you can use the study rooms at a university library. They’ve always been in demand in the places I’ve worked and are usually limited to users who are students/faculty/staff.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Oh, yeah! The grad school I graduated from has tons of meeting and study spaces in its library that would work for this, and it’s open to the public.

      3. V8 Fiend*

        I would be very careful about this. I’m a former academic librarian at a public university. While our library was technically open to the public, we had such an issue with community members using study rooms/conference rooms to work in, we had to develop a policy and severely limit the spaces non-university folk were allowed to use . It got pretty ugly for a while.

        TL;DR: University libraries are for students, faculty, and staff. Don’t assume you can just use the space.

        1. Alice*

          And it may be that you’re 100% welcome to use the library’s public spaces, like reading rooms or no-login-required computers, but you’re not able to use limited resources like study rooms.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yes, or you can use them for quiet work, but I can’t imagine any university libraries I’ve been in that would be happy with conference callers.

            1. V8 Fiend*

              Exactly, and that was our issue! One group in particular, from the same local marketing firm, got so upset when we changed the policy that they took it to the Board of Regents!

    5. One of the Sarahs*

      Worst case scenarios (aside from disturbing other customers):

      Coffee shop is too loud for you/colleagues on the call, so you have to stop, making the meeting have to be rescheduled/wastes colleagues’ time.

      Staff ask you to leave because you’re louder than you think/not buying enough (which you couldn’t, as you’re on calls all the time)/eating their bandwidth – which wastes everyone‘s time.

      As others have said, if you rely on wifi, it’s not strong enough/patchy.

      All would make you look unprofessional, because they’re avoidable problems, so I say don’t do it.

      1. Lilyp*

        Also, it’s good that you’re aware of not talking about confidential information, but what would you actually do if it comes up as part of the meeting? Like if a co-worker in a meeting directly asks you to remind them of a big client’s name, would you just refuse to answer? Say you’ll text it to them? Whisper? Make up a code name? I can’t think of a way to handle it that wouldn’t be awkward. Plus it’s a lot of mental overhead to be constantly monitoring yourself and there’s a real risk you could slip up eventually.

      2. TootsNYC*

        It’s very possible that even if you keep buying food, the staff won’t want you there for more than an hour or two. Because the vibe you give off may be off-putting to other customers.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      On the occasions I’ve been asked to do video interviews I take my laptop over to my in-laws place. They have an office set up there, with great connections, and it looks and sounds more professional than my house (I love my cat, but interviewers aren’t interested in his backside or his yowls). Maybe a friend or family has a room you could borrow now and again?

    7. staceyizme*

      Exactly this! A coworking space will offer different options for pricing and the coffee is free! (If you only need a day here and there, day passes are generally available.)

    8. Bree*

      Yes to temporary workspace of some kind – camping out at a coffee shop for a whole day is too much. Library is the best first option, but in my area there are lots of shared offices popping up you can rent by the hour or day.

      There’s even an app where coffee shops, restaurants, offices, etc. rent out spare workspaces Airbnb style, guaranteeing WiFi and power and free coffee. If you’re “officially” using the space for work they’re likely to put you somewhere less disruptive.

        1. Bree*

          The one I’ve heard of is called Flexday, but I think it’s Toronto-specific. I’m sure there are similar ones in other large urban areas.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger*

      As others have mentioned, there may be better alternatives, but LW #2, if you’re set on doing this, I have some advice for making it work.

      As others have said, the noise level matters. Too quiet and you might be disturbing other customers, too noisy and your colleagues will have trouble hearing you. But if you’re wearing headphones with a boom microphone, you should be able to work in a broad middle range, especially if you cup your hand around your boom mic when you talk, and maybe mute when you’re not talking if the shop is on the noisy side. If it’s on the quiet side, and you cup your hand around the mic when you talk, you should be quieter than any quiet conversation, and I don’t know of any coffee shops where it would be rude to have a quiet conversation with someone at your table, so I don’t see why a teleconference at the same level or lower should be any different, as long as you position yourself properly (e.g., in a corner, not facing any other customers) you should be much less intrusive than any in-person conversation.

      If you’re going to try to do this with a laptop’s built-in microphone, though, you really need to get a room, so to speak. Either a rented workspace, a community meeting room, or stay home.

      1. bluephone*

        I’m also wondering if there might be privacy/security concerns about the content of the meeting? Like that is one of my bugaboos about all the “phone call on speakerphone,” “videoconferencing with no headphones,” etc nonsense in public places these days. Are your coworkers back at the office or wherever going to be thrilled to bits that potentially-sensitive information (revenue, shortfalls, layoffs, planned mergers, etc) are being blasted all over the local Starbucks?

      2. Lilyp*

        I actually think you could get away with it noise-wise if the meetings are ones where you’re listening and not talking (like you are talking <10% of the time). Issues about interruptions, confidentiality, etc…. depends on your workplace how much of an issue it'd be.

        Honestly, you should pick a friendly/trustworthy coworker and ask them for an honest opinion — with a fully remote team they could have different norms around this (the fact that they're a video-on team already shows they have a different culture from what this commentariat would like or find acceptable!)

    10. The Messy Headed Momma*

      I think I just found my new career – opening a coffee shop/lunch space where folks can have these kinds of meetings! Killer wi-fi, local coffee, sound proofing on the walls…I bet somebody would make small fortune until the next big thing came up!

      1. LQ*

        The problem is building that space is really expensive. You wouldn’t actually soundproof it (SUPER expensive), just dampen it, but even then you’d need some kind of walls, which eats into your table space, which eats into revenue space. And then what you have is essentially a cubical farm with a coffee bar. Which people who want to “work from a coffee shop” would hate.

      2. TootsNYC*

        it’s called a co-working space or a coffee shop.

        Coffee shops used to kind of do this–until most of them discovered that it didn’t really produce enough revenue and it drove other revenue sources away.

    11. PaddyHaha*

      If you are doing video meetings, why not do them in your car? Use the back seat for more room. What is the benefit from doing the calls from a cafe? You are not going to order food during the meeting, and even if the cafe is usually quiet, it is no guarantee that it will remain that way for your calls.

    12. Abogado Avocado*

      #2 Because you have a car, I would propose you do the call in your car. That way, it’s relatively soundproof and you don’t have to worry about others hearing or seeing information that your employer may not want disseminated in a public place. (As a lawyer, I immediately clam up on conference calls when I hear that a participant is in a public place unless I can be assured that privilege or confidentiality won’t be breached.)

      If you are using WiFi for the call, this means you’ll have to use cellular or your car’s WiFi (if it has that), but you can bill your employer for the cell service if it’s expensive. I appreciate that convenience (and access to coffee) is an issue here, but my inclination is that discretion is the better part of valor here.

    13. Kali*

      I agree with this advice. A coffee shop is a terrible place for a meeting. I go to a very busy one to write. The loud ambient noise does not bother me a bit, but I have to leave when someone gets on video chat near me – the person *in* the shop with me practically has to shout over the noise, while the person on the other side has that tinny, through-speakers quality that cuts right through the ambient noise and stabs at my eardrums. God forbid there be any interference – like a screeching cat dragged across a chalkboard. I have also repeatedly heard the person on the other side ask for repeated information, because the person in the coffee shop can’t be heard.

      Please don’t be that person, OP#2.

      1. tommy*

        I agree — don’t be that person, OP #2.

        “I would try to get a spot against a wall, so there aren’t random cameos on camera.”

        But that’s no guarantee, and once you were there and planning to do the call there, you might not leave if you couldn’t get that wall seat. I don’t like the idea of accidentally, even unknowingly, making a cameo in your call. Whether or not I ever found out about it, it feels intrusive to me right now overall.

    14. Agent Diane*

      Belated +1 for booking a co-work space. I use one I can hire for the day and it’s the cost of three coffees. And has free coffee, security (wifi fob), nice toilets, quieter meeting spaces, secure WiFi. You might also find it a productive environment to work in as a change from home.

    15. booksbooksbooksmorebooks*

      Agreed, libraries with a ‘loud’ zone, or shared workspaces can be good; but it really really depends on the cafe if this will fly. Hotel cafes and bars are usually quite good for this as they’re often designed for people in transition needing semi-private spaces to work & being a little busier, if that’s an option.

      We have a really solid remote policy at work and a few other considerations from our expectation doc:
      – Good headphones, tested for mic pickup quality and not just your own listening experience
      – Wifi that can handle video calls without dropping (this is a real issue and not fair on the cafe if they get busy, you’re likely not going to be able to maintain the level of wifi needed if there are more people using the connection)
      – Ideally, somewhere with a door… there are plenty of short term rentals (small bookable coworking spaces like Breather or regional hubs are my preference) and libraries with bookable meeting rooms + cafes are an amazing option: book a free room for a while and go out into the cafe when you need the company/stimulation

      Another thing is to watch confidentiality – we use a VPN and a privacy screen when traveling, if your company’s remote they’ll likely be open to paying for those & maybe a good headset for you. Honestly if your teams mostly remote this is a good conversation to bring up with everyone to get their tips.

    16. TardyTardis*

      I will admit that if I overhear one side of a conversation at a coffee shop, I may use parts of it to further torture my current hero, but I can easily see problems if meetings are held at a coffee shop. Avoiding confidential stuff is harder than you think, especially if you are really concentrating on the meeting.

  2. Sami*

    OP 2 — What about a coworking space?
    Or try a library (public, college, etc.).
    Many aren’t the shush-and-be-quiet places anymore. You might be able to find a spot where it would be fine for your meetings.
    Good luck!

    1. OrangeHat*

      I have to take calls in coffee shops all the time – it’s the nature of my company’s work that people are out and about at events constantly and just have to dial in from meetings from wherever they can. I tend to keep my camera off when in public places, and sometimes dial in from my phone rather than laptop because it doesn’t seem to pick up as much background noise.
      How well it works also depends on how much you’re expected to contribute to the meeting – I wouldn’t try to lead a training session where I’ll be doing 80% of the talking from a Starbucks, but if it’s a group meeting where you only need to come of mute to chip in occasionally it’s normally fine – I just explain where I am and ask people to forgive any background noise at the start.
      Also, in the UK at least, I’ve found that pubs/bars during the day are actually much quieter than coffee shops – you DEFINITELY want cameras off in that case though. Hotel lobbies/lounges can work too.

      1. OrangeHat*

        Oh, and also, pick your meetings – there are some senior staff I’d go out of my way to be in a quiet place to talk to, but a conversation with a co-worker I’m friendly with is as easy to do in public as a phone call with anyone else I’d call while out and about. If you can schedule these more casual meetings for the morning you’d be working in public then you’ll make your life a bit easier.

      2. Dr D*

        Good point about bars/ hotel lounges. I’m surprised to see no one else here saying that they do calls in cafes. I do a lot of work in cafes, and at certain at certain times, the norm is for virtually everyone there to be working, and many take calls, though not usually for hours at a time. If I have to make or take a call, which is unusual, I step outside if possible (possibly back to my car) and use my sell phone.

      3. Washi*

        Yes to large hotel lobbies! I’ve sometimes been between meetings in various locations in the city and had to find a quiet place to take a call, and hotel lobbies are usually perfect for that, since they generally have wifi and are often practically deserted. I wouldn’t camp out in one literally all day, but if you just wanted to get out of the house for a bit, they’re perfect for that.

      4. epi*

        Hotel lobbies are what I would suggest. They often have a cafe, there’s more room to spread out, they’re designed to provide several different zones that can’t really hear each other, and they expect people to be doing business travel type activities.

        You don’t need to use the business center, which several people in the thread are misunderstanding. Just the lobby.

      5. Antilles*

        Interesting note about the hotel lobbies: There was a story that recently came out (shout-out to cleveland.com) that a surprising amount of government business and politics in Ohio actually happens in the hotel lobby across the street from the statehouse. There’s basically a small nook with a table and chairs tucked away in the corner so it’s impossible to overhear and used as generic neutral ground.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Not sure what types of libraries you’re visiting, but the ones around here are fairly quiet. And it would be very obnoxious and annoying if someone sat in there making conference calls.

      1. Mel_05*

        I think they were talking about ones with private work rooms. Not all libraries have those, but some do.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      If you’re at the library — please. Please. See if they have a room you can use. Don’t do your video calls out in the public spaces. While libraries are generally not shush-y places any more, the other patrons do NOT want to hear your phone call. They want to read, write, do homework, converse quietly. Phone calls of any sort disturb everyone else and are very bad manners.

      I feel the same about coffee shops, even bustling and noisy ones — the noise there is people chatting, ordering drinks, laughter, convivial noises. Business calls annoy others; in fact, even in the busiest and loudest coffeeshops I frequent, no one makes any sort of phone call in the coffee shop — people step outside to do that.

  3. Artemesia*

    In my experience when people, especially subordinates, use the phrase ‘she yelled at me’, they are describing a perfectly innocuous bit of negative feedback. There are people who really yell at their employees, but lots more people who describe normal management they don’t want to hear as ‘yelling’. I would never assume an abusive environment without a lot more evidence of that.

    1. Anony For This*

      I have wondered about this. I am in a relatively new job – just less than a year and a colleague that started at the same time as I has mentioned our boss yelling at her when she (my colleague) has done something wrong. Our boss has definitely provided very critical feedback to me and she sometimes has difficult expectations but I’ve never been “yelled at”. I’ve told my colleague that’s not the experience I have had and honestly don’t know if my boss is really so horrible as to yell.

      1. Arctic*

        I agree with most that most of the time yelling doesn’t mean yelling.
        However, I have a very nice, kind, gentlemanly boss who has yelled at me. Like really yelled. I don’t use the word figuratively having grown up with yellers. And he has yelled at most my long-standing co-workers. Our newest co-worker just straight up told us we were lying. Until the day he was literally screaming at another co-worker for all to hear. Over something very minor.
        (He blames these rare moments on his blood sugar.)
        So, sometimes experiences with a boss do differ and sometimes you just haven’t witnessed it, yet.

        1. Confused About Yelling*

          And this is why I default to treating it seriously when I don’t have more information.

          1. Artemesia*

            I don’t default to thinking the worst without evidence. There are many more people who define anything critical as ‘yelling’ than there are people who actually yell at other people. In nearly 50 years in various organizations in the workforce, I have known a couple of bosses who ‘yell’ at people and dozens of employees who whine about any negative feedback.

          2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

            I’d go by tone of the person reporting it – if someone’s all “yeah, I got yelled at for the widget numbers” as a casual thing, I’d assume hyperbole. If it’s “holy carp, Bob yelled at me about widget numbers!” I’d think something more extreme happened.

            But if the person saying it is being laid-back about it, or normal-levels work ugh-criticism, I’d assume it’s hyperbole. If they’re shaken, or startled, or whispering it to you .. then I’d start thinking they mean yelled-yelled!

            1. AKchic*

              Sometimes, when a person has been yelled at for minor things so often that it becomes normalized, they no longer panic about it and express it calmly.
              It’s no longer “holy Hera, Bob yelled at me about the coffee being too weak!” it becomes “meh, Bob yelled at me because the coffee wasn’t up to his standard” and a shrug.

        2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, I have definitely had managers yell — as in raised volume plus extremely sharp tone. But it’s rare.

          I think in some contexts, the sharp tone by itself can come across as yelling even independent of the volume, but that’s a very qualitative sort of thing where reasonable people may differ on how they receive it.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I agree with you that yelling need not necessarily involve high volume. In my opinion, “yelling” is more about tone than volume

            1. Hiring Mgr2*

              OP, I have always wondered this as well. I worked in an environment for a period of time where the boss was a unique individual and had very high expectations, and he was also very blunt. I had a really bad performance one time – and I went into his office and we discussed it. He was extremely professional, told me what the biggest issues were (and I was not surprised, I knew it was bad) and discussed how to prevent that from happening again, etc. Interestingly, at one point during our meeting, my director manager popped her head into big boss’ office and big boss said with a straight face, “I’m yelling at Hiring Mgr2 right now for X situation.” I actually kind of laughed quietly and smiled, because he was very clearly NOT “yelling” at me, but rather we had an honest and direct conversation about my poor performance in X situation.

              The weird part for me, was that other people on the team always said that they got yelled at (literally). I never saw or heard anything personally, but I always wondered.

        3. Amethystmoon*

          Agreed. I have had managers who literally did yell at me to the point where I was in tears, not just constructive feedback “please do this differently,” but yelled at and actually mocked me. They took advantage of it being a week where people were out at a sales show, so there weren’t many witnesses. The one witness on our team who was there lied to my boss about it happening, so my boss didn’t believe me when I tried to report it. I very nearly quit that day, but luckily found a job in another office location (same company, different area). Found out several months after starting that job that yeller manager lady had been fired. Don’t know why, but maybe it was yelling at the wrong person.

        4. Ego Chamber*

          “(He blames these rare moments on his blood sugar.)”

          Duuuude, nooo, that’s kind of even worse? “I’m full of rage for no reason but I choose to take it out on my employees instead of showing a tiny bit of restraint and self-awareness to stop, think about what’s going on, and then properly treat my medical condition.” Wtf.

          Since he already brought it up, next time you could try saying “Fergus, it seems like you might be having a hyperglycemic episode. Do you need to check your blood sugar and medicate?” If he’s even slightly reasonable—and not just covering for being an absolute asshole—calling it out might help him get this fuckery sorted. (And poorly controlled blood sugar is really bad for your organs and can lead to complications like blindness, kidney failure, etc blah blah blah if you need a charitable reason; but don’t explain his own medical risks to him, that’s rude.) Good luck.

      2. Katieinthemountains*

        At OldJob, we’d say that we’d gotten chewed when we’d been dressed down at a reasonable volume. Yelling was rarer, but it definitely did happen. We put the fun in dysfunction, but the place was definitely subject to many of the small-business issues discussed on this site.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Yes, some people talk about yelling in other contexts too when they mean they didn’t like the tone/style of what someone said and maybe found it a bit aggressive (whether it actually was or not). I had a customer once in a call center job who told me not to yell at them and I was quite confused so I asked my boss to listen to the tape to make sure that my voice hadn’t accidentally gotten louder without me realizing it (because that happens to me sometimes). Turns out there was nothing wrong with my volume and the customer probably thought I was being too repetitive and detailed. For me yelling is a volume thing and if I’m told I yell I would just say the same thing in a quieter voice :)

      1. Jan*

        This. My flatmate will say you shouted at him or said something nasty, when what he really means is he doesn’t like being disagreed with! Or yes, he’ll claim it was your tone. Not that tone can’t be a genuine problem in some cases, but it’s mostly used as a silencing tactic by narcissistic types who feel entitled to having authority over others.

        1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          Yeah. I very recently accused of “barking” at someone when I most certainly didn’t raise my voice. I did disagree with his opinion, and I was abrupt with him (meaning I cut the convo short, as we had to go sit to start church) but barked at him? No.

          I think what it really was, is that I cut off his mansplaining.

          1. Thankful for AAM*

            Re “barking”
            I once walked into our open workroom looking for help for a customer, saw one coworker in there, said, “Susan, can you . . . , ” realized she was on the phone (receiver was under her hair), stopped talking and left.

            Bosses later had a meeting with me about “barking” at other staff.

            People just interpret things differently.

        2. Ms. Ann Thropy*

          Oh, I loathe this practice. It’s an attempt to put you in the wrong and on the defensive for disagreeing, rather than dealing with the issue. I feel it’s a kind of gaslighting.

      2. hermit crab*

        I think the colloquial use of “yelling” can be a lot broader than the standard “angry shouting” meaning, in general. Maybe it’s a regional thing. (I definitely say things like “the printer yelled at me” if I do something wrong and it beeps a lot, for example…) So asking for clarification sounds like a good idea.

        1. doreen*

          I think there are two things about “yelling”. First, “yelling” sometimes used to indicate volume only – if a parent yells out the window to kids that it’s time for dinner there isn’t any anger or other negative emotion involved. Second, there’s a non-literal use of it, where saying that someone yelled at you almost by definition means they were not angrily shouting at you- much like ” I got spanked” at my job means I got some negative feedback without permanent repercussions, not that I was literally spanked. Problem is that the second is very environment/person dependent.

          1. iambrian*

            There’s not really a good word in the English language for “I got a stern talking to, with a warning about the consequences if I don’t correct.” Yelling is probably closest, so yelling it is.
            In reality it is probably the closest to how such conversations make the hearer feel. It’s not really I got yelled at, but I felt the same as if I got yelled at.

              1. Kelly L.*

                So the funny thing is that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought “yell” was more severe than “scold”! But it’s all in how they were used colloquially when you were growing up, probably.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              For the professionally appropriate “I got a stern talking to, with a warning about the consequences if I don’t correct:” Scolded, reprimanded, chastised, rebuked, admonished, chided, told off, dressed down,

              To say the same, but imply it was unprofessionally harsh: berated, ragged on, upbraided, chewed out

          2. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, this rings true for me. Or “I got my hand slapped” doesn’t usually mean you got your hand literally slapped, in my experience; it means you were reprimanded briefly.

          3. TootsNYC*

            “I got spanked” at my job means I got some negative feedback without permanent repercussions

            Or “I got my knuckles rapped.”

            There are so many metaphorical ways to use those phrases, I think it’s best to always inquire, especially when it’s important, or to just suspend judgment until you have more info.

        2. LizB*

          I talk about my printer yelling at me too, but I also have a habit of anthropomorphizing things around me (I’ll also tell my phone to shush if I accidentally left the ringer volume on), so I figured it was just me.

        3. TootsNYC*

          Maybe it’s a regional thing.

          This is a phrase that annoys me. No, it’s not regional–it might be common in a “social circle” or “business network.” Sometimes it’s just “my family” or “my specific workplace.”

          But most of the time, the world is WAY too diverse for most things, especially things as tiny as this, to be truly regional. I mean, I guess if you define “region” as “my middle school” or “the accounting department at Dunder Mifflin.”

      3. Artemesia*

        My daughter once asked me to stop yelling at her when I had laryngitis and could barely whisper but needed to mildly correct her about something. I have observed employees asked to redo a messed up document or a xerox run that produced unreadable results describe the request as ‘being yelled at’ and the person who calmly asked for the redo being described as ‘furious.’

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve always assumed it meant ‘I got an all caps email from the boss’ because I learnt that a few times. It’s not vocal yelling but it’s generally accepted as shouting. Maybe I’m being generous though!

    4. T3k*

      I use the terms “shouting” or “screaming” when I describe hearing a boss literally yelling at another (one of the many dysfunctional qualities at one of my first jobs out of college. And they were so loud, a poor customer could hear it while I tried to help them on the other side of the store).

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We’re having this definition issue with our 13yo, who says she’s been “yelled at” if she receives any correction.
      Standard meanings are important. I hope to hear solutions from others.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I guess this is my own bias, but I associate using “yelled at” like that with teenager behavior. I met up for coffee with a former coworker and she said her current/my former boss yelled at her about following the dress code, which she then admitted to not following. Knowing my boss, it would probably be a stretch to call her stern, let alone actually yelling at anyone.

        To me, describing stuff as yelling when it really wasn’t comes across as pretty immature – like you can’t accept being corrected and have to turn it into some kind of unfair competition. (Not saying your 13 yo is immature for her age, just that I think when adults use “yelled at” to mean corrected, they sound like they are 13 too!)

        1. Amy Sly*

          Agreed. And it makes me think of the line “I’ll give you something to cry about”; if being told “this behavior is unacceptable and you need to do better” is “yelling,” I can only assume they’ve never actually been yelled at or given even stronger correction.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            Could be the opposite, that they grew up in a household of volatile people with quick tempers and maybe even violent tendencies, and any sign of anger makes them think the worst is about to happen.

      2. sb51*

        The standard meaning of “yelled” has shifted to include, in many areas, a normal speaking voice with a chastising tone. Adjusting your definition may be more productive than trying to get her to adjust hers. Now, to be fair, I also grew up in the sort of area, with the sort of family, that when people get angry, their voice goes quiet, flat, and clipped, biting out each word carefully, and it doesn’t indicate less angry than shouting, it’s just a different style. So “yelling” includes that.

        (When I say someone “yelled at” me I generally mean criticized in any volume of voice in a way I found unwarranted or upsetting, just like she does. I might not even remember exactly how their voice sounded, just that I could hear strong disapproval in it. You can push back on whether the correction/criticism was warranted, but I would give up on the naming of it.)

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh, I so know that style! My shoulders kind of go up around my ears anytime people start overenunciating, even though I know some people just do that without rancor!

    6. Lily*

      Yeah but some people don’t realize or don’t care when their voice is way louder and their tone way angrier than what is normal for a serious conversation.
      Not job, but last year I visited my uncle and during some talking about helping the grandparents about which he disagreed with me, he got loud (very loud) and really agressive and dismissive. I’m pretty sure he would be shocked to hear that I told my parents he yelled at me and that I won’t visit him again – because in his mind, he didn’t spit-flying scream at me, so it’s fine – but I won’t be talked to like that.

      1. Lily*

        And for the record, it was shouting in every common definition. Though I’m sure if you asked his wife whether he yelled at me, she wouldn’t think so. She seems to be used to him raising his voice a lot. :(

    7. Daffy Duck*

      I’ve gotta agree with this. Where I live “yelling” means “I got in trouble unfairly” or just “S/He told me something I didn’t want to hear” in most instances instead of actually raising a voice. It is a way of minimizing what the other person said with connotations of “They were emotional, it isn’t my fault.” I also see this as very middle-school behavior. I would never assume the boss actually raised their voice unless I knew that was a common behavior for the boss.

      1. Blueberries for Sal*

        Same. I came to my current environment from one that was largely dysfunctional and had heard plenty of actual yelling in the wild. When colleagues here described being “yelled at,” I’d get very upset on their behalf, see if they were okay, if it warranted talking to HR. Except… when I probed, it turned out that yelling = “expressed annoyance.”

    8. CupcakeCounter*

      I also take into account what I know about the other person. My sister is a sensitive soul (and a bit of a drama queen in her youth) and any interaction that isn’t 100% positive becomes a “thing”. Like a fine wine she is calming down with age but if she told me a boss “yelled” at her, there would be some side eye on my part as I wondered if the “yelling” was the boss simply reminding her for the 5th time this month that she needs to be on time for work or something like that. On my end it is more likely that I would be the one doing the yelling (at the boss since I am an individual contributor and don’t deal with bullshit and condescension well).

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed. One instance of yelling (however that is defined) doesn’t stand alone to prove an abusive environment or an abusive boss.

      However, I have seen many times when the using the word “yelling” reduces the complaint in the listener’s opinion. It’s almost like the word “yelling” makes people stop listening, there is a tendency to assume the speaker is exaggerating. Unwittingly, the speaker discredits themselves. Yet, a good number of people use the word “yell”.

      I am a big fan of finding out surrounding context. What was said? What was the demeanor? What was the tone of voice? Is this a single occurrence or has this behavior been seen before?

      Ex: I get told the boss yelled at a cohort for leaving the safe unlocked. Well, we are supposed to keep it locked at all times, so it is worrisome if the safe is found unlocked. That part is factual. I say something like this in a flat tone of voice so as not to add to the cohort’s upset. How did the boss let you know that? What did he say? I may not ask directly, but I try to keep in mind if this is the only time the boss has “yelled” at the cohort or if this is one story in a line of stories.

      Some stuff boils down to: Correct Message but Bad Delivery. This is a handy phrase to know and refer back to, as some bosses just don’t know how to give instruction. I have encouraged people to pretend they don’t hear the tone of voice or see the body language and just listen to the message itself. When the conversation has ended do you know what is the correct thing to do?

      Words can sting. Correction can really sting especially if the delivery is poor. Correction can also sting if that is all that is dished out, if there is little to no praise ever that is a problem.
      At some point it stops being about the correct use of the word “yelling” and starts to be an entirely larger issue. I do get concerned that I might skate by a real problem. To counter-balance that concern, years ago, I decided to look at the situation as the person discusses the particulars and point out the parts that have merit. Yes, lock the safe, but the boss should not have to be screaming and slamming* things while he says this.

      (This actually works out well because if the person is exaggerating about screaming and slamming things they can grow very uncomfortable when I repeat their own statements back to them. “Well he didn’t really yell that loud and it could be that he just accidentally dropped that book and did not mean to slam it….” Yeah. Okay.

    10. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, I think people are reacting as though you’re being naïve because you’re leaping immediately to assuming they mean abusive yelling, instead of just immediately asking clarifying questions. So instead of “oh no! That’s horrible! You should record it!” your first reaction should tend more toward, “Do you mean he literally yelled at you with his voice? Or just you got in trouble?“ Asking the question can help flag up for them that they might be implying something worse than they really mean without stopping the conversation in its tracks.

    11. High School Teacher*

      I know this is very different, but I’m a high school teacher and I have never, ever, not once, raised my voice at students. However, I have often heard students refer to me as “yelling” at them when I asked them to please have a seat, put their phone away, remain quiet, etc. It is kind of a pet peeve of mine that students refer to requests or discussions as “yelled at.”

      1. Former Employee*

        I would put the word “yelling” on the board and then the definition.

        This is something people should learn by the time they are in high school so they don’t go out into the world misusing words. It could cause real trouble if someone talks about being yelled at in the work place when what they mean is that they were corrected or spoken to or even put on a PIP.

    12. Smithy*

      I think what I’m learning from these threads is that if you are being “yelled” at at work – then it’s probably beneficial to identify different words to describe why an interaction was unsettling if it’s in the context of making an official complaint.

      I used to work overseas in a professional culture that was more ‘shouty’ than the US – but even by those standards my boss would yell, shout, etc. She was also very quick to anger in general when frustrated, and I think it was helpful in equipping me with more specific language to describe why interactions were upsetting or unhelpful.

      There are issues around volume (can someone be heard in another room/down the hallway), anger (cursing, using threatening language, acting out physically like hitting desks/wall, slamming the door), and then also usefulness. If I’ve done something wrong, and my boss’ approach is to bring me in for a two hour meeting to discuss my failures and there is no opportunity to problem solve, have space for me to highlight my concerns, etc. – then it’s an approach to be challenged.

      I have no problem with keeping colloquial “uch, my boss yelled at me today” to sub for standard complaining at home or with friends- but I do think that it’s helpful to know that when talking to a boss, HR, or boss’s boss professionally “being yelled at” has lost its clarity and that it’s beneficially to find more specific ways to explain the concern.

    13. J.B.*

      I definitely worked with a yeller, who made people cry. Unfortunately when such behavior is tolerated, it can become a missing stair and raising it is pointless. My description in a job interview* was that I had to get permission to talk to my colleagues. Which was true, and as mild as could be described.

      *obviously you don’t want to trash talk in a job interview but the limitations were germane to the question

    14. LCH*

      using “yell at” figuratively is sort of weird to me. i’ve had bosses who literally yelled/screamed (sometimes at me, sometimes at others) so i would never say someone had done that when they hadn’t. because it is really bad.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        That’s how I feel. Except that I don’t think I ever said that a boss yelled at me. I always said “shouted” or “screamed.”

  4. Tsunade*

    LW #2: It’s also a good idea to take into consideration the optics of working in a coffee shop (on camera) to your manager/colleagues/etc. Even if you are totally focused on your work, it could cause some side eye depending on the audience. And despite taking steps to negate discussion/sharing of confidential information, you never know what’s going to happen on a conference call – someone could bring something up, share slides, etc. (Totally depends on your workplace! Just food for thought.)

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yup – the camera being on would be distracting for any caller(s) the OP gets while working at the shop as people mill about quite freely and have animated conversations in the background.

      1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        there’s also the fact that the people in the background /haven’t agreed to be on camera/.

        Is that likely to ever be an issue? /probably/ not as long as nothing bizarre happens? But if I was walking by someone and noticed myself moving in their monitor, or had any reason to think the camera was on, it would /bother me/ – I might well walk by slower and try to see the screen to see WHY someone was using their camera in a public place, not because I wanted to snoop but because it just feels /odd/.

        Heck, speak loudly enough and I might even start responding – either because I zone on manners (yes, I am that person – sorry!) or because I’m so irritated by it I want to call attention to it. I really doubt you’d want someone in the coffeeshop responding to the comments in the meeting ….

    2. Tea Rocket*

      Came for this comment re: confidential information on a call. Unless the LW has full control over every meeting she takes in the café, it’s not really up to her whether or not she ends up needing to discuss something confidential.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is my concern as well, and I specifically tell employees working remotely that they cannot work on public spaces where their computer screen can be seen or their conversations overheard. I work in a field with ethically-mandated confidentiality, and the idea of someone chatting about a client issue where others can hear it it would make our general counsel lose his mind.

        1. Nessun*

          Agreed. We have privacy screens for laptops so people can work from wherever they are (flights are a big reason we offer them), but working from a coffee shop is not the same as taking a call from a coffee shop. I’d not want a team member taking my call there (but if they were working on a project they’d blocked off on their calendar, no problem). Who knows where a conversation might have to veer, and you have no control over who’s around or could overhear.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      That’s a good point. LW2 being on video in a public place will limit what others can do on the call, not just LW2. What if a coworker or the boss really needs to bring up a confidential matter but can’t because the LW is in a coffee shop? I’d be irked if I was in their shoes, because it would mean I had to hold off until the next meeting to get the information I needed or schedule a whole separate meeting (and who wants that?). Coworking space of library FTW, LW2

    4. JessicaTate*

      Ditto. My concern was less about annoying other coffee shop patrons (although that’s an issue) than how this will appear to colleagues. Not even just the confidentiality issues (again, important), but the optics of professionalism if you are regularly working from a coffee shop. You noted that it’s a very demanding job; if I were your boss and noticed you were regularly working from such a public place, I’d want to have a chat about it. I mange remote staff. I like to think about it as a parallel to a physical office. If you were at our HQ and were regularly working mornings at a coffee shop so that you could make lunch plans… I’d want to talk about your priorities and whether a coffee shop was as efficient and productive a location for you to be regularly working. If we’ve agreed that your home office is your primary work space and has all of the resources you need to work productively, my expectation is that is where you will work (and work best) MOST of the time.

      That being said, if it’s occasional – like, once every couple of months – sure, fine, whatever. It happens when people travel, for instance, it’s fine. It would be fine occasionally if you worked in our physical office; although, I’d prefer if you could schedule it on a lighter-meeting day to minimize the potential impact.

      If the issue is that working in isolation at home isn’t working for you, I’d suggest (as others have) looking into a co-working space. Much more appropriate and professional-looking.

  5. Beth*

    Re: OP2: As a grad student who spends a lot of time in the kind of coffee shops that are OK with people hanging out and working for hours, I would be pretty annoyed at someone who used the space to do video meetings. Coffee shops aren’t expected to be silent, of course; that’s part of why I like them, I find the low background noise is actually really good for my focus. But video meetings and phone calls are different than background conversation. First of all, as Alison points out, a one-sided conversation is often a lot more disruptive than a closed-loop one. And second, this is just my experience, but I’ve noticed that people trying to speak to someone via a microphone often end up speaking significantly louder than people talking to someone across the table from them (maybe it takes extra volume for the microphone to pick them up clearly? maybe we just all have this habit and do it without thinking? who knows).

    Even with that, if you were doing a quick call and then moving on to something else, I would maybe roll my eyes but mostly ignore it. But hours of meeting-heavy work? It’s actually common at a lot of places I work at to ask someone to watch your stuff and step out for a minute if you need to take a phone call; this kind of arrangement would be seen as very rude, even with the precautions you discuss. You need to find an actual private space for that.

    1. Ludo*

      Yes, I was going to say the same thing about voice volume on video calls

      People end up almost shouting without realizing it. It would be very annoying in a coffee shop

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        People end up almost shouting without realizing it.

        Hell, I do this at home with a portable conference speakerphone, lol. I don’t know why since that thing picks up everything on its own, and when I catch myself being really loud, I try to modulate my voice so that it goes back to normal, but then I end up speaking lower than normal.

      2. Bee*

        It’s also worse when you’ve got headphones in because you can’t actually hear the volume of your own voice!

    2. C*

      I cosign all of this. I too like to take my laptop to coffee shops to work just to get out of the house, and the only things that can make it hard for me to actually concentrate are other customers acting like it’s their house. I don’t want to hear forty minutes of half a phone call. I don’t want to hear your children running around or playing games on full-volume. I don’t want to listen to the AC/DC concert you had to watch on your phone in Starbucks.

      Like, normal background noise is actually soothing. But someone on and off meetings all day would just make me leave and feel frustrated that I need to find a different place to work for the day.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Yes – even if their voice doesn’t increase in volume, the deliberate careful enunciation is piercing in a public space.

      LW, please don’t.

  6. Sue*

    #1, It isn’t clear from the letter whether your children with your ex are young or not but if they are please think hard about what you do here. If you use your seniority to potentially bump her to a night or swing shift and that has an impact on her ability to care for your kids during her time with them, it could have some serious consequences. Obviously, your children could be adversely affected and if it ended up as an issue in court, your actions might not be looked upon favorably. This is especially true if there have not been any incidents (at the workplace) to precipitate your actions. I would notify HR of the situation but think carefully about the schedule change request.

    1. Ludo*

      I totally agree, I think it’s a good idea to let HR know what’s going on but I don’t like asking to be scheduled at different shifts

      1. Lily*

        I can’t imagine a hospital agreeing to coordinate a nurse’s and a doctor’s shift so they never work together. It wouldn’t work at my employer at all.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I actually think that they definitely shouldn’t be on the same shift. The OP needs to be able to give directions to their ex, and have them followed. If they were still married and blissfully in love it would be inappropriate to have a spouse supervising their partner like that. Even if they were on the same level, I think it’s pretty reasonable not to want to work closely with an acrimonious ex. If they had been together as coworkers it would be different (that’s the price you pay for dating coworkers), but she’s coming into a job he’s already established at. At a minimum, the OP needs to go to HR or their boss and explain the new employee is their ex, and they shouldn’t be scheduled on the same shift, or work on the same patients.

        What I want to know is why the OP’s ex applied for a job at the same place as an ex partner they’re on bad terms with! Unless it’s the only, or dominant employer of healthcare workers, that seems like a red flag to me.

        1. Tuckerman*

          It wasn’t clear from the letter how closely they’d work together. Same unit? Same patients? Occasional or rare patient hand offs/consults? What is the most likely impact? I totally get thinking through the worst case scenario, but if a nurse doesn’t follow a doctor’s orders, I’m guessing that’s serious violation of hospital policy and would not be in the ex’s best interest. It could even threaten her license.

          From my understanding of hospital scheduling, I suspect it would be tricky to have no overlap. That’s a lot of work for just the potential for a problem. The request is likely to impact other employees’ schedules as well.

          1. Not for academics*

            Right! Where I am (a large university medical school/large hospital over many buildings) a doctor and a nurse could each work a lifetime and never see each other.

      3. Snuck*

        MUCH easier to find another nurse, than another doctor.

        If this blows up it’s Jane that’s going to be looking for another job, not OP.

        Mind you, I would say the OP needs to provide some consideration to Jane’s needs as well, they need to find an agreement in between / mediate a solution. The OP’s children need their mother around, and Jane needs to allow the OP some time with their baby. I would suggest though that a new baby has a very varied schedule and is probably easier to work around than school aged children who have very firm times that they have to be places (and not), and the flexibility if it can at all could/should flow the nurse’s way in some ways if she has school aged children she is caring for full time (the OP does not mention that he has the children part time etc, if he does then whatever schedule they can work mutually is best).

        Ideally they’d all find jobs in different locations though. Is this a small town where there’s limited options?

        A final thought is all of this might be supposition. Jane might be seeking a midnight shift so she can spend the days with her kids/who knows…

        1. Snuck*

          Hrm… just re-read. “Day care and paediatricians” mentioned… so small kids.

          I’m in Australia, where parenting orders often specify things like who is to pick up and take children to these appointments AND how the various parents are to interact with each other. Is this something in the US? Where you can say “Only Parent A will collect the child on agreed days, and hand over will be via ChildCare where Parents B will drop in the morning, and Parent A collect in the afternoon. The parents will alternate term open classrooms and all teacher meetings and non urgent medical and dental appointments will be coordinated and attended by Parent B” and “Parent A and Parent B will only communicate via email or text message, will refrain from using inappropriate language or antagonistic phrases when referring to each other in conversation with the child/ren and will only refer to the other parent in conversations in a way the supports the relationship”.

          1. LizB*

            I’ve never heard of a custody agreement in the US that specifies how the two parents communicate. There’s a sense that if you cause problems, your ex may be able to take you back to court and get more custody because you’re not behaving well, but I don’t think we spell it out like your example.

            1. Not Australian*

              “I’ve never heard of a custody agreement in the US that specifies how the two parents communicate.”

              Nor I in the UK, and TBH it would have been really useful in my case. “Parent A will contact Parent B directly and refrain from trying to worm his way into her mother’s good books instead.” Would’ve prevented a lot of heartache.

              1. valentine*

                The OP’s children need their mother around
                Not necessarily.

                Jane needs to allow the OP some time with their baby.
                They’re not a collective. Jane has zero obligation to OP’s new baby.

            2. EPLawyer*

              I’ve been writing them a lot lately. There are even apps that facilitate communicate (and keep it from being changed so there is no doubt what was said).

              I would NOT tell HR that the relationship with the ex is contentious. HR will document this. Then when contentious ex tkes you back to court over something, any lawyer worth their JD will subpoena those records. Which WILL be used to show YOU are the problem not her. The judge will not be happy with you.

              Tell HR about the relationship sure. But that’s it. THEN if there is a problem you can go to HR and have them document it. Do not pre-emptively label her the troublemaker. It will only make you look bad in the long run.

              1. Poppy+Lavendar*

                Yep. I only do occasional pro-bono work. Almost all of it now requires written communication. Period.

                The judges want both to de-escalate the situation and to be able to read the texts if there is an issue.

                This is in a small, often backward rural area that’s about 20 years behind the times. So, I’d imagine it’s getting widespread.

                I also agree not to label her the trouble maker. If I were the Judge, I’d be worried he was one of those dudes who labeled every ex a trouble-maker or crazy even when her emotional reaction was in reasonable proportion to his actions. This is a thing that happens. No idea if LW is that guy, but it’s common enough that some people would suspect him of being the real villain.

              2. LizB*

                I stand corrected by several people with more expertise! Thanks, y’all. (And I’m glad this kind of specification is becoming common/is maybe already widespread — it seems very helpful for kids and parents.)

                1. Poppy+Lavendar*

                  If he’s not doing this now and he reads this comments, he absolutely needs to have no face-to-face words with her. Everything needs to go in writing. Don’t ever say anything you could not justify to the judge.

                  Even innocent spouses end up saying and doing things out of whack.

              3. Arctic*

                You are assuming that OP cares about custody of his kids. Nothing in the letter suggests that is the case. How having the mother on night shifts or fired would impact them isn’t mentioned as a concern at all.

                1. Unfairness*

                  Nothing in the letter implies this guy doesn’t care about his children. Ask a Manager isn’t about child rearing, it’s about work. So he asked a work question and left out the childcare issues which aren’t the subject of this site.

                  It is deeply unfair of you to assume OP doesn’t care about his children. It’s also deeply unfair to suggest that OP has to endure abusive behavior from his ex at work, or he is a bad father. Would you expect a mother to do the same?

              4. tinyhipsterboy*

                Eh, I think if the relationship is contentious, it might honestly be a good idea to give a heads up. It doesn’t have to be “my ex is awful and hates listening to me and is vindictive, please schedule her away from me,” but can simply be “I just learned that my ex-wife, Jane Warbleworth, has been hired here as a nurse. We share two children, and there have been issues on and off in the relationship since the divorce, so I wanted to make you aware of the relationship. I don’t think problems will arise, but I wanted to flag it for you just in case.”

                That way, it doesn’t blame the ex, but it flags that the relationship isn’t completely harmonious. Otherwise, if the ex tends to cause trouble out of nowhere (which can and does happen), they might take her at her word instead of believing the OP.

              5. AJK*

                I’m not an attorney but I work in family law and a big part of my job involves drafting custody agreements for the attorneys. For several reasons, almost all of the cases that come into our office are highly contested and so all of our custody agreements are very specific about every tiny thing, especially communication. We even help clients get scholarships to some of those apps if they can’t afford them, because sometimes it’s the only way two people can co-parent at all.

            3. EngineerMom*

              I live in the US, and one of my coworkers actually does have a custody agreement that is very specific about how the two parents communicate, due to a very contentious divorce that started with one parent accusing the other of shaking the younger child as an infant. There’s language in there detailing a maximum word limit per email, that the emails must be factual only, and stick to one topic per email, etc.

              That’s on top of language detailing exactly how and when the kids are picked up (always through a third party, and some of the visits are specified down to the hour), when he needs to notify her of travel arrangements (plane flights for the kids, his rental car info when he’s in town to visit them, as he lives on the west coast, and we live in the Chicago area), how many days they both have to reimburse the other for child-related expenses like therapy or afterschool care.

              It really depends on the divorce, how contentious is was, and how well the parents involved do at communication and co-parenting. But absolutely that kind of detail does happen in the US.

            4. Snuck*

              In Australia this isn’t the first round of custody usually, it’s when it’s gone nuclear… but this is usually what is done to try to limit the damage of the adults. The idea is that the amount of time each parent has with the child/ren is based on the child’s needs, not the parent’s desires… and thus if the parents are going to behave well or badly shouldn’t reflect their ability to get more/less time, but what the kid actually should have. If a parent consistently disregards these sorts of orders then it is showing that the parent is not a safe place for the child to be, and can alter their custody, but if a parent behaves ‘badly’ it isn’t fair to punish the child’s access to the parent. Likewise access to visitation/custody is not changed by paying of child support (until you get so far into arrears you risk jail of course!).

            5. The Rafters*

              My sister and her ex had exactly this type of custody arrangement per court order, for reasons possibly similar to LW. Communication was by text only and about the child only. They are in the US. They never had to worry about working together, but I just can’t imagine …

            6. AKchic*

              I’ve seen plenty of cases where parents are given directives on how they are to communicate. From choosing court-approved apps for written communication, using third-party intermediaries when one ex continually tries to manipulate and use child custody to harass the other instead of actually discussing logistics of pick up/drop off, and when one parent just drops out of communication all together and allows the new partner to take over their communication (and parenting) duties instead (and these partners tend to rotate frequently).

              Some people really will make things complicated after a break-up. Almost as if they are purposely trying to punish the other person.

              It is best for the OP to let HR know what is going on now, in case Jane decides to campaign against OP in the workplace. She might not, but it’s not a risk worth taking. I also recommend documenting all other incidents and keeping as much communication as possible written with the idea that it could be used in court some day.

            7. Ego Chamber*

              “I’ve never heard of a custody agreement in the US that specifies how the two parents communicate.”

              I am in the US and I’ve had multiple coworkers whose custody agreements did that. It’s for when the two parties are unable to communicate like reasonable adults and usually goes alongside things like specifying a neutral place to pass the kids from one parent to the other so things don’t go to hell.

          2. CupcakeCounter*

            I know lots of situations where the parents communicate completely through their lawyers or the court system, but not one where it was court ordered to do it that way. My friend is a teacher and it frustrates her to no end some of the hoops she has to jump through for unfriendly exes – separate parent teacher conferences, a schedule so she knows who to call on what day if the kid is sick or having discipline issues (she got screamed at – literally – by one mom for calling her instead of the dad on “his” day), etc… She even had one case where she would have to email the mom all of the homework because dad wouldn’t make the kids do it and quite frequently “forgot” to put it back in their backpacks. Kids were starting to fail and the dad tried to blame the mom “for splitting up their family”. Literally jeopardizing his kids’ futures because she had the gall to leave him.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Yup – been there done that as well in a former job (daycare). The director actually got a lawyer to speak to one family court judge to keep employees from being called to testify (both parents were trying to use our facility as proof the other parent was incompetent), and in another case we had to tell the parents we could no longer provide care for their child due to all the verbal and physical fights they kept having in our parking lot. I felt so badly for both kids in those cases.

              No, I don’t miss and will never go back to working in childcare.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I’m surprised it took more than one physical fight. A kid got functionally expelled from my middle school because his parents had a physical altercation- although they were picking him up early due to illness, so this occurred on school grounds during classroom hours.

          3. Daisy-dog*

            I actually read a custodian agreement for an elderly person that named 2 custodians said they should remain from fighting in front of that person. In the US. I’m not an expert on these documents though.

      4. Lynca*

        Honestly it makes sense. While nurses are super important for patient care- if they can’t work productively with the other parts of the medical team that’s going to be a serious problem for overall patient care. They definitely don’t want her working on their patients as her ex, if she would be unethical/unprofessional about the attending physician’s directions just because of who provided them.

        They may not need to change shifts if it’s a large hospital but they definitely need to be separated because that’s a big deal. And definitely not something your employer would want to find out about after it started happening.

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I agree with letting HR know, and also asking if you could be kept in separate teams so that there is not even a whiff of “people in or formerly in a personal relationship supervising” each other. This may not be possible at all hospitals, but could be something that the hospital would do.

        In the experiences I’ve had (many relatives who worked in hospitals) HR would not go to the extreme of putting couples or former couples on separate shifts, but separate teams was always done.

    2. Sleve McDichael*

      I could be completely off-tack here, but I would think that either 1. she was offered days, in which case his request would be declined or 2. she took the job knowing that her employer would choose her shifts and has plans in place for that. In either case, whether or not he asks to be on different shifts to her, her kids wouldn’t be affected. But I don’t work in hospitals so that’s based on my experience.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        I also don’t work in hospitals but I know there are often many departments, where I’m betting staff of one department – say, peds – probably don’t interact much with, say, oncology. So if they are in the same hospital, and hospitals are large, what are the chances they will actually work together? I could be very wrong on how it works in a large health care setting.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          A close friend is a nurse in a large hospital, and yes, there can be a lot of separation. But on thinking about it more – it really depends on the hospital’s needs. A pediatric nurse is not seamlessly transferable with an ortho or onco nurse. So if she was hired into the LW’s speciality, it could get tricky.

          Either way, HR should know about the prior relationship. I’m not sure about letting them know explicitly about the conflict – it seems like you’d have to balance the divorce politics and the career politics.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            Yeah. I’m struggling a lot with some of the language in the letter, although it reads to me as perhaps non-native English, so I’m trying to figure out what might be word-choice issues vs. actual problems. Also aware this may not be US-based, which changes context.

            The bit about “taking directive” bugs me, in part because that’s not how modern healthcare teams function and there’s been a lot of effort to ensure mutual respect and eliminate outdated perspectives of nurses as subservient to physicians; but also in part because in fact if this is a situation where the ex will question orders regularly or be obstructionist, that’s bad for patients, and, again, modern healthcare is patient-centered, not provider-centered.

            OPs framing of their own shifts and HR interactions makes it seem like they’re an employed physician, which hints at larger academic centers. Physician shift work also makes me think ED/OB/anesthesia/hospitalist, many of which do tend to have close working relationships with the nursing staff (again, not exactly subordinate but ED and anesthesia do tend to be more directive in the approach).

            Even at big hospitals where nurses can be pretty specialised, and unlikely to float outside their specialty (Women’s health nursing is usually an island unto itself within the hospital, for example), there are plenty of instances where a physician is still responsible for care across service lines, or orders are signed under their names.

            All this to say: my advice to the OP would be to avoid saying “I don’t think she’ll take directive from me”, and aim more for “we’ve had contentious communication and she’s made civil communication impossible” – although there’s got to be a better way to say that.

            1. Perbie*

              I want nurses to bring things up but trust me a nurse who decides to do their own thing despite discussion or argue in front of a patient etc can make things hell for everyone

    3. Lena Clare*

      Yes, well said.

      I’m concerned that we’re only getting half of the story here…we have no idea why the LW’s ex is behaving the way that she is.

      I had an ex who gave me accounts of his ex-wife being “crazy”. As I got to know him more, I realised she wasn’t crazy, her behaviour was very much influenced by the things he was doing to her.

      I’m not saying that’s going on here, but…we just don’t know. And especially as she’s not caused any difficulties yet.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          Reuw, but this poster leans a little too much on making the ex sound like a loose cannon while he says he is the non-confrontational, rational one. He’d have been better off saying that they don’t work well together. Nothing about her not being able to take direction from him. That is over the top and inflammatory.

          1. WS*

            Not in this situation, I don’t think – a nurse needs to be able to take direction from a doctor as a fundamental part of their job, and if there’s a problem with that, you don’t want to find out at the cost of a patient’s life. I agree that it would be inflammatory in most employment situations, though.

          2. Anononon*

            And then comments here would have said that he hasn’t provided any details, so his story seems fishy.

          3. Dahlia*

            As I’m assuming this poster is male, the slant of this conversation kind of comes off as not believing male victims of domestic abuse. If a woman wrote about her ex-husband who often screamed at her in public, we wouldn’t ask why she didn’t want to work with him. Maybe we should give the OP the same benefit of the doubt.

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              I think we can be conscious simultaneously that male victim of abuse is a possibility and also that “crazy ex girlfriend/wife” is a depressingly common trope.

              1. Dahlia*

                As the site rules ask us to believe letter writers, I think that’s probably a better way to go than inferring things that have no evidence besides the LW’s presumed gender.

            2. tinyhipsterboy*

              It’s difficult either way. Male victims of domestic abuse are often not believed, and when kids enter the picture, mothers are often listened to over fathers, but “crazy ex-wife” is also a really common narrative, and men often get off lightly if any accusations of bad behavior come up. I agree: we just have to give OP the benefit of the doubt.

              1. Burned Out Supervisor*

                Statistically, during custody disputes, if the father expresses interest in sole physical custody, he will get it over the mother.

            3. Maria Lopez*

              I would not be one of those people. Anytime a person makes another person 100% the problem with no qualifiers I want to know more.

          4. MK*

            Many (most) posters “lean a little too much” (a.k.a. a lot) in making others seem like the unreasonable bad guy, and we are not telling them they should have been more careful in their phrasing. And the problem isn’t that they aren’t working well together; it’s that his ex has, in the past, decided to hass out their parenting disagreements in public and loudly, so he doesn’t trust her to behave professionally. Is it possible that the OP’s own behaviour is provoking his ex? Sure, but in every letter there could be details we aren’t told that might change our perspective.

            1. Snuck*

              I agree MK.

              I guess sticking to provable facts in a professional way is best.

              “Jane is my ex-wife and we have a complicated relationship. In the past this has spilled into public upsets. I would prefer not to work on the same shift as Jane, or if we have to work at the same times, I would prefer to be on a different ward to Jane and not cross paths with any regularity. I understand occasionally unexpected shift changes could affect this, but right now I would prefer to work professionally and effectively, and retain my current shift schedule so I can spend time with my baby, and have you help this with a low key solution.”

              And then if Jane does blow up in public just rise so far professionally above it that it’s nothing to do with you. Do NOT raise any niggles, any issues etc you have with Jane unless they endanger patient care, and do it through the same official channels you’d do it with if it was any other nurse (and with the same threshold “Last week I raised that Nurse Frida had left Patient X wound open while showering, I noticed this week that Patient Y had the same happen and it was Nurse Jane this time, can you please address this with all the nursing staff”).

              If it’s a small nursing home, or a one doctor per shift hospital… then it’s different. Then raise it early, simply, and politely and say “I’m sorry, I am not going to be able to work on the same shift as my ex wife Jane, as in the past she has abused me in public. I would also prefer not to lose my current schedule as we have made numerous plans around this current availability for the foreseeable future and I am not going to change those plans. Can you please assign Nurse Jane to a different schedule to me, or if I am going to be the only doctor working with her patients then I need to declare a potential professional conflict given our past marital history”.

              1. Snuck*

                Your goal is in two years time at the Christmas Party for someone to say “Wow, I had NO IDEA you were Jane’s ex”.

              2. valentine*

                Jane is my ex-wife and we have a complicated relationship. In the past this has spilled into public upsets.
                This is way too vague. After consulting my lawyer, I’d stick to facts: “She has yelled at me in the pediatrician’s office (during a visit for our children/my newborn/which was also her workplace/including expletives?) and I don’t want even the potential of that happening here.”

                I would be extremely concerned about her capability for sabotage.

                1. Mary*

                  I know it’s the site rules, but I think it’s kind of ironic that we are taking, “my ex starts screaming matches with me” at face value in the VERY SAME SET OF LETTERS that includes ” a lot of people use “I got yelled at” when they really mean their boss expressed a concern or told them to do something differently”!

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  There’s a huge difference between ‘yelled at’ (colloquial term with many known interpretations) and ‘screaming matches’.

                3. valentine*

                  The only problem with “starts screaming matches” is it means OP1 screams back. If that’s not what they mean, they should rephrase.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        The policy here is that we take the OP at their word.

        “She’s not caused any difficulties yet” is hardly the point. OP says that they have concerns based the ex’s previous behaviour and their difficult relationship. It’s not for us to second guess that.

        I can’t help wondering whether you’d make this comment if OP was a female writing in about her difficult ex husband, who had previously thrown tantrums at the paediatrician’s rooms.

        1. Dr D*

          Yes. Would we be this concerned about the welfare of a volatile male ex doing this to a woman? Some people might, which is unfortunate, but in any case, this attitude is part of why men tend not to seek support when they face harassment from women. This sounds like potential stalking behavior to me. Taking LW at his word, it is possible the ex got this job to harass and / or sabotage LW.

          1. Shamy*

            I actually thought it seemed a bit stalkerish too. Seems very weird that she would choose to work at the same hospital as OP. And I do feel like people might react differently if the genders were flipped.

            1. tinyhipsterboy*

              Eh, we don’t know where the hospital is located or how long the two have been separated. It’s entirely possible she didn’t know which hospital he was at or that there’s only one hospital in their area. (Of course, it’s possible that she *is* potentially stalking him, but my point is that we simply don’t know.)

          2. Rachel Greep*

            Besides, how do we know OP is a man? There are female doctors with wives, children, ex-wives…

            1. Formerly Ella Vader*

              Yes. And if the OP is thinking that maybe Jane didn’t tell HR about the conflict of interest when she was hired, the OP’s also got to decide whether it’s worth outing Jane nonconsensually, if OP goes to HR. That’s a thing. Some places, a big thing.

        2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          I may be completely alone and way off base here, but I believe you can read a lot into a letter by how it’s written and how the OP frames the problem. Usually I’m very sensitive to any hint of a gendered issue, but in this case when I reread the letter several times, all I got was a sense of resignation, “here we go again, what do I do?”
          Maybe I’m wrong and maybe the OP is indeed some master manipulator. But as someone else mentions here, that level of sociopath is pretty damn uncommon. And frankly, I don’t think they’d be AAM readers, writing in for advice.

          1. Allypopx*

            I get the same tone you do. These things are often volatile. There’s nothing to make me think we should be suspicious of the story.

          2. Oranges*

            Ditto. And yes, how people phrase things and what words they use are often very illuminating.

            It’s one of the reasons I like reading advice columns and the comments (when civil). I get my take on the situation and then get other people’s reaction. And other reactions to the reactions. The rabbit hole is deep.

            1. Poppy+Lavendar*

              It also makes you aware of the “Dirty Lens” problem. No one is truly objective.

              If you want to see a dirty lens, go read Ask Amy’s recent letter on the Granny who doesn’t want to carry out punishments on her grandchildren and accused an older sibling of “tattling.” That’s all extremely dirty lens stuff.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I also got a strong sense of “oh crud, here we go again, what’s going to happen this time” and OP just wanting to get ahead of things before a single problem happens.

            I said above, go to HR and ask if at all possible to not be on the same team as the ex, framed as a case of wanting to ensure the hospital doesn’t ever have to face issues with exes or currently in a relationship co-workers in supervisory chains of command.

            For OP, just do your best to never engage with her at work, and if ex wants to discuss your kids at work ask to schedule a time when you are both off work, as you wish to keep work and personal separate.

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Document all your interactions with her at work. If possible, communicate only by email or text, and take screen shots of the texts and save them.
              This is to have just in case she causes problems or sabotages you at work. You will need documentation showing what really happened.

        3. LTL*

          Agreed. I understand where Lena Clare is coming from. It’s sadly common for abusive men to portray a woman as crazy or too emotional. But we can’t speculate. The best thing we can do is trust the LW, per Allison’s rules.

          1. Poppy+Lavendar*

            Yes, be he also needs to know this is a thing men do that women and woke men are wary of. Assuming good faith and honest assessment on his part that 100% the victim of an unhinged spouse: He still needs to be aware of the fact that coming out with “she’s crazy” might make him look like one of those men who blame their exes for everything and label them “b**^%$# be crazy.“ I know I always am suspicious of an man who labels and ex as crazy. I need to either really know the man well or see some evidence before I believe it. Denying the inherent misogyny in how breakups and female behavior are framed in our culture doesn’t help him. It could mean he steps into a trap in unintentionally.

            If she is truly crazy and unhinged, let her show her backside. She will.

            He needs to make sure his bosses know it’s a “high conflict” divorce with ongoing issues in communication and some public confrontation. That’s it.

            Also, assuming we are all wrong and that he’s the jerk and she’s reacting appropriately: still not ok for her to bring that into a workplace, particularly a hospital. So, for me, it isn’t even about who is at fault for this. Unless there’s an imminent threat of harm, you check that at the door.

            Finally, having done a few high conflict divorces, I’ve seen spouses behavior absolutely vilely in private, but be angels in public. Just because she screamed at him in the past does not mean she’s going to do it here.

              1. valentine*

                Just because she screamed at him in the past does not mean she’s going to do it here.
                She’s been screaming at them in public, so, are you saying she’s about to play a verbal game of “I’m not touching you”?

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              Agreed.

              This is something I’ve really been conscious of as I’ve been transitioning to male, because I have an ex-fiancee who was mentally ill in a way that resulted in a lot of abusive behavior and the eventual end of the relationship. I try very hard not to frame her in my head as “my crazy ex” because — that’s not what she was. She was ill, and a lot of effects of that illness fell hard on me, but I do not want to be That Guy being all ‘oh she was crazy’ like that’s an explanation for everything.

              Male victims of abuse need a hell of a lot more support and belief than they get, but “crazy female ex” is still a yellow flag in a lot of discussions.

              1. Poppy+Lavendar*

                Absolutely 1000% agree.

                I am also really glad to hear you are spending a bit of time thinking about male privilege. I think it’s one thing that’s a sticky wicket in a lot of discussions on gender transition or even any gender queerness. It’s not my place as a cis-woman to but my nose in, but I would bet it adds a whole ‘nother level of difficulty to an already difficult process. I recently read a great article by a late-transitioning trans woman who realized both that she had brought her former male privileged behaviors (e.g., how she talked in conversation, how she took up public space, how she viewed female emotional reactions) into her new social spaces and that she was now a victim of prejudice against women (e.g., her opinions before were respected, now they are denigrated). It was a painful, painful read. I do hope there is far more of this discussion in ways that help everyone understand our screwed up views on gender and sexuality.

                Male victims of abuse are also victims of the patriarchy. How we view them is absolutely viewed by how we view maleness and victimhood.

                It’s a toxic mess we are only beginning to understand.

        4. Unfit to Be Tied*

          Yes, but there’s a long history of men portraying and insinuating that women are crazy, which is probably where some of these comments are stemming from. I know that some of this language the LW used made my haunches go up because of this context. Doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but it does mean that you have to be sensitive to that history.

          1. Poppy+Lavendar*

            I hope he reads these comments and understands we know nothing about him. We do know the cultural context. He may have never been made aware of how men weaponize the understandable emotional reactions of women to men’s bad behavior. If he isn’t, he really needs to be.

            Also, he may want to ask his divorce attorney for how to proceed. He doesn’t want to do anything that will inadvertently drag him back to court. What makes sense in normal human interaction is sometimes the exact wrong thing to do in a divorce or custody situation.

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              Yeah, IA hard with consulting the attorney. It’s really, eminently reasonable of him to not want to work with his ex — and I’d think the hospital would also not want him working with his ex! — but something that could come across like him interfering with her employment, especially if it gets her moved onto a less desirable shift, could land them back in court or make the whole coparenting relationship even more difficult than it already is.

              1. Poppy+Lavendar*

                That also depends upon how many public blowouts there have been. One? Pshhh. A handful? That’s nothing unusual. Judge won’t likely care beyond chastising all parties to behavior. But if it’s constant and there’s absolutely no ability for a civil conversation, that’s something else.

                We don’t know enough here to give him advice on that.

                People emotionally lashing out in public is not an anomaly in divorce proceedings. It should be, but it’s not.

                1. Poppy+Lavendar*

                  Rereading it, he suggests multiple public screaming matches.

                  If I’m correct on this, he needs to speak to his divorce and custody attorney ASAP. One wrong step here can ripple through the next few years and beyond his sharing custody with his ex.

      2. Colette*

        It’s likely that the ex has a different version of events, and that the OP has his own issues – but she has chosen to work where he works. If she’d taken a job elsewhere, she could avoid the chance of seeing him at work. Having him quit his job and find a new one (so that he won’t have to see her at work) is a different level of effort.

    4. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      I think the more important question for HR (than shifts) needs to be about not getting assigned to the same patient’s care team, as patients cross over shifts and departments. Nurses and doctors have to work together in the interests of good patient outcomes, and that doesn’t mean doctors just issue directives that the nurse has to follow. Doctors make mistakes too and nurses are often the ones to intervene and push back on a potentially harmful course of action. So open, respectful, 2-way communication between everyone looking after a patient is critical.

      It sounds like this can’t happen between OP and ex-wife. And really, it doesn’t matter whose story anyone is sympathetic to or why. They just can’t work together looking after the same patients. It’s too big a risk.

      HR need to know, and they need to bring OP’s and ex-wife’s managers in the loop.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        +1.

        I know that doctors tend to be specialists, but I had understood that nurses are more flexible – so if LW is an endocrinologist maybe XW could be assigned to work on a paeds/ortho ward where they would be less likely to bump into each other.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Yes, I have a friend who is a paeds intensive care specialist nurse so I’m aware it can be very specialised, which is why I said “more flexible” rather than “totally flexible”. I apologise if that was not as clear as I intended.

            But I feel LW would have mentioned if they have the same narrow specialism (which wouldn’t be that unlikely, as it could well have been how they met) and even if XW is a specialist she may have more flexibility than established LW, and it would be a relatively straightforward way for TPTB to keep them from working together.

      2. Collarbone High*

        Well said, Cat Meme, and I agree strongly with all of this. As a patient, I’ve been caught in the middle of doctor/nurse clashes and it suuuucks. If they can’t work collaboratively, the hospital needs to find a way to work around that.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        +100

        Being used as a pawn in an ugly relationship battle while dying in the ER is going to show up in my nightmares from now on. I’ve had enough trouble in the hospital without contentious exes involved.

    5. Snuck*

      I agree…sort of.

      There’s a lot we don’t know of this situation, and often each party thinks they are acting very rationally in a separation when they aren’t really thinking empathetically.

      I think it’s reasonable to ask (as the OP also has a need for regular hours), and it’s entirely possible for both to be scheduled away from each other (as a hospital generally runs more than one clinic or space at a time) at the same time.

      Where one party has the power to influence the income of the other though, and that affects the outcomes for their shared children, that could be a conflict you don’t want to pull the trigger on, especially in the very litigious USA. I’d be cautious about doing anything that might affect your ex’s ability to draw a reasonable income in a reasonable way, or your child care costs could sky rocket if she can prove in court that you did that, and reasonably so.

      She could find a different job elsewhere, why isn’t she? I doubt she’s looking to work the exact same shift as you, and if she is and it’s all very stalker horrid then address that, but Occam’s Razor says she’s just wanting a pay check so she can pay rent.

      1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        Regarding where she’s looking for work — my understanding is that a hospital system can be a major local employer in a lot of areas. People don’t always have a ton of flexibility on what jobs they’re able to take. If OP’s situation is like that, I wouldn’t find her also getting a job there to be particularly suspicious — but that’s a very qualitative sort of assessment about local job availability.

        1. DerJungerLudendorff*

          Depending on their work situation, she may not know (or know for certain) that he works there. I get the impression the divorce was at least several years ago, and LW doesn’t mention if they inform each other on where they work.
          Or she may think that a different department and job is enough difference that she can either fly under the radar or isn’t obligated to inform him.

          But this is all speculation.

    6. JSPA*

      If there’s more than one team or more than one shifting chain of command, it’s much better to ask that they be separated by that, rather than by shift. OP does not have a right to adjust the ex’s schedule to manage their anxiety about misbehavior; OP does have a right to avoid direct – chain – of – command situations.

      I’m more than a little leery of the assumption that because the ex is loud and confrontational in public (which embarrasses OP), that the ex is also unprofessional in a professional setting. Those are not the same thing.

      If one parent was supposed to do X and didn’t (whether that’s bring a child’s jacket or show up on time or make sure homework or school book travel with the child or gave the child their medicine) the other parent is not necessarily out of control if they call parent 1 out in public, in a way that other people can hear, with frustration and anger in their voice. But if parent one is very shy very retiring very private or simply very averse to being thought of as other than perfect, that could register with them as, “ex was confrontational.”

      We’ve had a lot of conversations here about how people perceive being called out as being yelled at. The situations described turn out to span the gamut from scary and dangerous, through mildly unprofessional, to completely normal.

      If OP is legitimately concerned about any risk to patients then this is a very severe issue. If OP is worried that ex will put her hands on her hips, roll her eyes, snort, and give long withering up and down stares that imply she’s internally listing a litany of faults? Well, that’s truly uncomfortable, but not intrinsically a risk to patients.

      Finally if any part of the contentiousness has to do with custody, and more specifically, which parent is better placed to parent, based on things like employment benefits and schedules, OP should be wary of being high handed. Asking scheduling to work with OP AND with the ex is a better long-term strategy then asking to have the ex rescheduled for OP’s benefit.

      1. KarenK*

        “If OP is worried that ex will put her hands on her hips, roll her eyes, snort, and give long withering up and down stares that imply she’s internally listing a litany of faults? Well, that’s truly uncomfortable, but not intrinsically a risk to patients.”

        I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. This is unprofessional behavior. It is one of my hospital’s core values to treat our coworkers with respect and professionalism. Behaving like that would not be okay, regardless of the people involved. Doing this will get you fired here.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          +1

          That’s not okay behavior, and implying that it shouldn’t impact OP as long as it doesn’t directly impact patients is pretty unkind.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            It does directly impact patients! I would be, at the very least, extraordinarily uncomfortable in that sort of situation, and that’s going to have an effect on the care I receive.

          2. JSPA*

            I didn’t say that it was okay. But it’s reasonable to wait and see if that thing happens, and deal with it if it does, rather than preemptively switching schedules.

            “Wait and see” doesn’t work if there’s any anticipated risk to patients! But the POSSIBILITY of an act of rudeness to OP does not automatically rise to that level.

            Punishing people for what we envision them possibly doing (and forcing someone onto permanent night shift, which is statistically quite dramatically deleterious to health) is something to reserve for situations where it’s not reasonable or safe to wait and see.

      2. Unfairness*

        “If OP is worried that ex will put her hands on her hips, roll her eyes, snort, and give long withering up and down stares that imply she’s internally listing a litany of faults? Well, that’s truly uncomfortable, but not intrinsically a risk to patients.”

        That is NOT OKAY work behavior, and I can’t believe you think it would be acceptable anywhere, let alone in a hospital. If I were a patient in a hospital and saw a nurse treating a doctor that way, I wouldn’t be uncomfortable, I would be trying to get transferred to another hospital where the staff behave like professionals and not 13 year olds in a snit.

        1. JSPA*

          The question isn’t whether that behavior is acceptable. It’s not. The question is whether that’s sort of behavior is so dangerous and disruptive that it needs to be pre-empted. OP does not give a single example of the Ex being unprofessional in her own workplace. Her doing that is an extrapolation, not an interpolation. OP is also very vague about what might trigger the behavior. If it’s specific to the kids and circumstance, that’s not happening at work. Conversely if she’s a stalker, OP may be under – reacting (that is, being on opposing shifts would not stop her from ege messing with OP’s patients in OP’s absence).

          OP needs to talk through the actual threat level with scheduling, and decide what (if anything) needs to be done preemptively, rather than post-facto.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        …it would be truly uncomfortable because it’s deeply unprofessional. I expect medical professionals to at least try to make me feel comfortable and safe, not just put my arm in a cast while eyerolling at each other or whatever, and I would feel really unnerved if that’s how the people treating me behaved. (Especially since that sort of response to a doctor would to me imply that she thinks that his decisions are wrong or stupid.)

        I mean, I agree that they don’t have to be warm and affectionate with each other. If she can interact with him calmly and evenly, take directions and maintain a neutral demeanour around him, to me the bar has been met. But what you’re describing doesn’t even meet that.

      4. AKchic*

        That is absolutely not okay behavior. Not only is it unprofessional for the person doing the actions, but it undermines the person it is directed at and puts doubt into the minds of all observers about the credibility and competency of *both* people involved (the bully and bullied). And yes, it is considered bullying behavior, as far as schoolyard tactics are concerned.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      Aren’t most hospitals big enough that Jane could be scheduled for floors / departments where LW doesn’t have patients?

      A friend of mine is a nurse in the ortho dept at a hospital, and the number of people he knows off his floor is limited, even after 8 years. The doctors may roam a little (ie, ICU or surgery, then ortho / recovery), but if they’re an ortho doc, then she could be in pediatrics, or something like this, instead of time shifted.

      1. Snuck*

        Depends… I’m in Australia, so it could be different… but rural hospitals in Australia commonly only have one (or zero!) doctors on a shift (and instead use Telehealth – video doctors). Many small towns will have a ‘hospital’ but it’s really a nursing post with video doctor. The town might have a doctor’s surgery for day time appointments but it’s generally a doctor who does not live and work full time in town, they drive in and stay a couple of days of the week and then drive out.

        This is common only an hour out of the major cities.

    8. Senor Montoya*

      That may be true, but if I were a patient, I sure as shootin wouldn’t want a nurse who refused to take orders from my doctor or who took orders but was pissy about it, or who argued with the doctor about their custody arrangement. And I’ll bet the hospital does not want that either.

      OP must talk to HR about this immediately; OP can request that they not work together and let HR figure out how to make that happen. It’s all kinds of problematic and I can see lots of ways that “lawsuit” would be in the future.

      1. JSPA*

        Yup, if & when that happens, she needs to be reassigned, put on a different shift, put on PIP or fired.

        If.

        And when.

        “Someone might something” is a rotten basis for scheduling, unless it’s by mutual agreement.

        I’ve seen “my ex makes me uncomfortable” rounded up to “ex will probably be unstable, unprofessional or even dangerous” way too often; statistically, this is fairly rarely true of “single female ex raising kids.” She presumably really needs the job; she has every reason to be professional. Her demeanor outside of work really isn’t reliably predictive.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I don’t work in healthcare so don’t know how this works, but this part jumped out at me too. OP seems to be saying that the best case scenario for them would be to have the ex working all nights, all the time. I think being a doctor and having the seniority, OP might get the request granted; but then what? What happens when the ex finds out. I am a peaceful person, but if I learned that my ex had used his clout to assign me to all night shifts indefinitely, there’d probably be words exchanged.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        But would you apply to the mid-size company (1K – 5K employees) where your ex was a manager and expect that to have no impact on your options?

        I know hospitals pay better than offices / clinics, and that many areas have only a couple of hospitals, but I’d have to include that in my employment calculations.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Hard to tell without knowing the location, the job market, and the ex’s job options. If I had a choice between a job where my ex works and no job, I’d have to go with the former.

          1. Shan*

            Yeah, I think the fact she took the job despite the ex working there indicates she probably didn’t have a better or equal option elsewhere. Given that it sounds like she’s a single mom (OP doesn’t mention her being remarried), I can understand why she’d take the best paying option.

          2. RC Rascal*

            If ex is out of work she may not feel she has a choice. We do not have information about if ex is leaving an opportunity for this or if she is unemployed. But, if you are out of work then an offer is an offer, even if it isn’t ideal.

      2. T R*

        I don’t think “separate shifts” necessarily means nights for the ex. Hospital shifts don’t tend to be a standard 12 hours on-and-off.

    10. Plus Ultra*

      I find it telling that everyone is “take the OP at face value” but he seems absolutely not at all concerned about his children with this woman. There’s no mention of a custody agreement. He admits he just walks away from her. It’s entirely possible these “screaming matches” are the result of him not being present in his children’s lives now that he has a shiny new baby and Ph.D. and that his ex feels she needs to confront him on the rare occasion he shows up in their lives.

      For a group of people who are so quick to point out gender biases, it seems this letter has gone over everyone’s heads.

      1. Crivens!*

        Take the OP at face value is one of the rules here, that’s why people are reminding others of it.

        And this is just creating fanfiction, at this point.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Exactly. I could write a fanfic where she was such a controlling witch that he left her to escape the abuse. She was able to sweettalk the family court judge into giving her full custody. She conveniently signs the kids up for extracurricular activities that happen on his rare custody weekends to deny him visitation rights while constantly telling the kids that “Daddy doesn’t love you anymore” and demanding enormous child support payments so she could stay at home. Perhaps the confrontation at the pediatrician was because he had the unremitting gall to use the same colleague who is his friend and the best around for his new child that they had used for their children. Now she’s deliberately getting a job at his hospital so she can make it a hostile work environment and punish him for wanting a spouse who doesn’t treat him like a walking wallet.

          Yes, some men are cads who abandon their families for younger women. Some women also treat their husbands, before and after the divorce, with vindictive cruelty. We simply don’t know what stereotypical behavior, if any, may be in play here. As such, let’s take the letter on face value.

      2. No Name #1*

        I think that in all breakup/divorce stories there can be 2-3 sides of issue. But this is Ask a Manager, a website for addressing workplace issues, not relationship or marriage problems. In this case, an ex knowingly sought out and accepted a position where she would be working with her ex, possibly under his supervision. She did not do him the courtesy of letting him know when she was applying so that they could address any conflicts of interest.Taking that at face value, she made a very inappropriate decision that would potentially have negative results for *anyone*. Then consider that this is in a healthcare field, at a HOSPITAL, where both parties are patient-facing. It’s already a high stress industry, and any distractions, mis-steps or conflicts there could be serious consequences for the patient. And to be clear, I believe that the ex and the LW are equally likely to be the source of conflict and I don’t want to put it all on the ex because I agree that there are misogynistic double standards, but in this case the LW has acknowledged the potential for issues and it is not clear that the ex feels the same way.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          There’s nothing in the face value of the letter that says she “knowingly sought out” the job. Nothing in the OP’s letter has any indication that she left another job for this one, that she had other employment options, or that she even knows he works there.

      3. SimplyTheBest*

        He writing into a work blog to ask a question about work. Why do you need to know what his custody arrangement is?

      4. Not another MD drama*

        That is a LOT of imagining/ projecting. I am very present in my daughter’s lives. Have 50/50 physical custody, attend all school activities & meetings with teachers. I divorced Jane, not my children. For someone who is alluding to gender biases… thinking the man likely left his kids behind for shinny new life without basis or fact seems pretty gender biased to me.

        1. JSPA*

          Uh, you mentioned how nice it was to not do night shift because of new partner and new baby… no mention of the older kids except in context of the ex.

    11. Not a dr*

      I just want to point out that you seem to be assuming the mother is the primary or only caretaker. Night shifts would make it just as hard for OP to take care of his 3 children (2 with his ex and current baby)

    12. Yorick*

      Nowadays, the doctors don’t have formal power over nurses. They give them instructions, but they don’t hire/fire/supervise. OP might have the informal ability to get her moved to another shift, but he may not, either. The best course of action is to say it’s best if your work doesn’t overlap with hers, while you stay on your current schedule, and HR and whoever else is involved in these decisions can figure out how to accomplish that. I’d probably mention that there’s been a lot of conflict, but I wouldn’t get into any specifics unless something happens at work.

    13. No Name #1*

      I totally understand this, but it also seems like the nurse/ex-wife took this job knowing that her ex-husband was a doctor there and that their schedules would likely overlap. In that case, she also should have considered the consequences of knowingly accepting a job at her ex’s workplace without letting him know that she had applied. This might also be the kind of thing that is addressed with a judge or in mediation.

    14. Not another MD drama*

      This is OP, we actually share 50/50 custody, one week with each- so night shift would affect me as much as her. Also, one of the reasons I think she did this to cause trouble (and am looking for ways to avoid it) is that there are at least 4 other hospitals within a 10 mile radius- two closer to her house, and there is a shortage of nursing staff so all are currently hiring.

      1. Not another MD drama*

        Ok, after reading all the comments there is a lot to clarify:
        – We have 50/50 custody, we trade every other week. It is cringe worthy that so many here assume that because I am the male, I do not participate/ care for my children’s well-being. I did not include this detail because it is irrelevant to the current issue of work.
        – This is not the only hospital in the area. It is a big town and like I said above, there are no less than 4 hospitals within a ten mile radius. Also, she does know this is where I work.
        -I do think my re-marrying and having a baby is a factor in her behavior. She also, insisted in changing our daughters from their usual daycare (closer to her house) to the one were my wife takes her daughter (closer to our house). This we just celebrated because it means only one pick-up in the afternoons when kids are with us.
        – English is not my first language, that has no relevance to the issue.
        – I described myself as non-confrontational/ private. I never used the words rational/irrational to describe either one of us. I’m aware that being non-confrontational is a conflict all on its own but I don’t respond to being screamed at and refuse to engage over private affairs in a public manner.
        – The type of conflict we have: Our daughter’s dose on a prescribed a medication was recently changed. When she arrived at my place the label had been ripped off the bottle. Instead, Jane told me to give her X dose/day. I know that X is below the minimum clinical dose of Y. After repeatedly texting Jane to please give me correct dosing information, she insists that I don’t respect her as a professional or parent, she’s a nurse and understands dosing. I proceed to call pediatricians office to verify dosing information. As is expected pediatrician asks us both to come into office, measures remaining medicine, determines daughter is not being given correct dose and informs us that if this happens again we will be “fired as patients”. Proceed to Jane screaming about this being my fault for not respecting her. Doctor did not take kindly to the screaming in front of other patients and asked us not to return to his office.
        Anyway, I have set up an appointment later on today at HR (in 1/2 hour, so I’ll give update soon). I am glad for all the feedback suggesting I keep it simple & don’t give examples because the thoughts of having to share personal conflict/info was giving me hives.

        1. valentine*

          English is not my first language, that has no relevance to the issue.
          Especially if English is her first language and/or the language of your workplace and/or court system, it’ll help you to reduce colloquialisms. “Screaming match” means you responded in kind. You want to be very careful about (even mistakenly) misrepresenting incidents.

          The Rx incident is frightening. If you don’t have online access to your children’s medical records, or perhaps even if you do, maybe you can have the custody agreement amended to where Rx bottles must retain their labels. (Although, is she able to get a fake label?) You’ve no way to know if she just removes the correct dose from the bottle and never administers it.

          1. AKchic*

            The Rx incident bothers me too. That absolutely needs to be documented in your own records, even though the doctor will certainly note it in his files on your children.

            Good luck today!

          2. Not another MD drama*

            I already go the lawyers involved, along with the new pediatrician and the school social worker. It has been agreed that the medicine will be administered by the school nurse Mon-Fri. Failure tu hand in the medicine on Monday, by either of us, will result in involvement of social worker. I can’t do anything about the off time (Sats & Suns) but the medicine has made daughter feel so much better that she actually reminds us during breakfast (imagine what a difference it makes that a 6 yo actually reminds you to give them yucky meds).

        2. KoiFeeder*

          The fact that she changed the dosage label is giving me hives. Eeesh. That’s legitimately terrifying that she’d do that to her own child.

        3. Snuck*

          Oh wow. I didn’t see all this. Thanks for the clarification because this puts a whole new spin on it.

          Your initial email was polite and withdrawn, it felt cold and clinical to me, and I know that was in an attempt to remove the emotion, but these are emotional issues, with deep passionate responses. Not just between you and your family and ex, but also in readers who draw on their own history when trying to respond.

          Having read all of this I say “Yes, go to HR, explain that this is a complicated situation with your ex, and ask for your schedule to be protected, and for assurance that wherever possibly your schedules and patient care will not overlap.” I’m not sure if I’d include all the personal information, or the professionally damaging ones about changing labels etc because that could lead to her being fired from the job and cause legal issues, but you could seek legal guidance from someone in your area on that. “Complicated” suggests “not easy” and “I am caught in a bind here” without saying “Aggressive” and “psychotic” both those other terms are pretty much nukes in custody battles and HR won’t see you as professional if you use terms that are very heavy handed. If you are unsure how to say it ask a colleague.

          Good luck!

          1. Perpal*

            “Your initial email was polite and withdrawn, it felt cold and clinical to me, and I know that was in an attempt to remove the emotion, but these are emotional issues, with deep passionate responses. ” I hope this prompts people to examine their biases and assumptions if they leapt to questioning the LW despite a commentariat that usually says it’s desirable to support rather than interrogate a victim. If more context is desired to try to judge the level of safety concern, that’s fine, but I’m saddened at how many folks here jumped to trying to minimize and question the LW and make up scenarios where they are the problem.

    15. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      The onus is on the custodial parent to have childcare lined up before taking a job. Since he didn’t know in advance that she was going to be working in the same place, it’s possible that childcare is a non-issue in this case.

  7. Work Aunt*

    I have a work “niece” and she likes to spend some of her time working from a coffee shop. I’m not a client so it’s not a huge deal but sometimes the latte machine sound is piercing along with a lot of other coffee shop noise. If she was interacting with clients during that time, I works be uncomfortable with that.

        1. JustMyImagination*

          Noooo! There’s already so much line blurring when companies describe themselves as “family”, let’s not actually use familial terms for colleagues.

          1. Liane*

            “Grandboss” and even “great-grandboss” have been staples on this site for years. But that doesn’t mean AAM and we commenters are all okay with the But Faaaaamily Inc.* business model. Quite the opposite. Alison has made clear it’s a terrible idea many times.

            *inspired by Capt. Awkward

            1. JustMyImagination*

              But the prefix grand and great aren’t distinctly family terms. To me, work-aunt and work-niece skew closer to work-mom.

              1. doreen*

                “Great” and “Grand” aren’t intrinsically family terms – but the combination of them with a relationship kind of is and “great-grandboss” is a play on that. People talk about grandfathers and great-aunts and great-great grandaughters – but nobody talks about their great-grand friend and expects people to understand that it’s a friend of a friend of a friend.

            1. londonedit*

              I don’t love it but I do think it’s a slightly less clumsy shorthand than ‘my boss’s boss’s boss’.

        2. It Me*

          lol I have never heard work aunt or work niece – your guess makes sense and I hate it even more now in that context. Ooof. But thanks for the clarity!

    1. Jaid*

      The Chinese have words for that! Shixiong and Shijie are senior male and female, Shidi and Shimei are the male and female young’uns. One learns something from Chinese martial arts/fantasy novels :-)

      1. Aurion*

        Those terms imply they’ve studied/apprenticed under the same master, and there’s often a familial aspect to living/studying together for years/decades at a time–probably too close a connotation.

        Xuezhang/xuejie/xuedi/xuemei is closer to what you’re looking for, since they’re used in contemporary school vernacular, but I think they’re far less common outside of the school setting.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, if your meetings are generally something you call in to and just listen 90% of the time you may be OK, IF you use headphones and keep the mic muted. I have some of those, where I need to get the info being discussed, but only maybe end up asking one or two quick clarifying questions during the hour. I’ve done that in a coffee shop and it’s OK, because it really isn’t that disruptive, though it still isn’t my preference.

      When you need to talk a lot, though, the mic will pick up a lot more than you think so your coworkers have to hear all the background noise, and you will talk louder than normal, which you are then subjecting everyone else to that. So, as others suggested, a library or something may be a better option.

  8. Bunny*

    3.

    I just want to double down on context!

    I have a tendency to say my boss/coworker/husband “yelled at me” but anyone that knows the least bit about my work life or home life knows that at worst being “yelled at” means a mild misunderstanding or disagreement, it’s obvious hyperbole.

    I guess my only suggestion would be ask yourself how well you know this person and probably if you should know them better. Being literally yelled at tends to be at least a minorly traumatic experience and if it is expressed at the level of not getting them having to eat a turkey sandwich at a meeting because all the ham was gone it’s almost certainly not serious or you haven’t noticed someone that has been severally mental broken down by their job.

    1. Confused About Yelling*

      OP 3 here. The thing is, I’ve been reading this blog enough (and have enough retail experience) to know there exist people who would express excessive anger over not having the right lunchmeat available. They may not be common, but I try to be compassionate when listening to someone’s story of potential abuse (whatever relationship is the source) until I have a reason not to be.

      1. Washi*

        I’m wondering if you feel like clarifying what yelling means = doubting someone’s experience of abuse? I think it’s always better to clarify whether in personal or professional contexts and as long as it’s done kindly, shouldn’t come across as like, accusing someone of lying. And personally, I would be horrified that someone went around quietly thinking my boss was abusive because one time I got a little dramatic in my retelling of a time I was corrected! And if my boss really was abusive, I would want that to be clarified too.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          I think Alison’s suggestion of clarifying is perfectly fine – if said with a worried tone it’s expressing concern, not doubt. “Whoa, like yelled yelled? Jane shouted at you?” asked with a tinge of alarm (and it sounds like OP2 is in fact a bit alarmed by hearing people say this) covers all bases.

          If someone was literally yelled at they will likely elaborate with seriousness. It would probably be a relief to have someone believing them that yes, they were actually yelled at.

          If someone is speaking figuratively (as I would be, just this morning I told my husband that the 1 year old yelled at me for offering him the wrong banana – he was quite vocal, but “yelling” it was not) they’ll likely just laugh and clarify that haha of course not yelling-yelling but boy was my boss displeased that I authorized the Widget Count without their approval.

        2. JSPA*

          Exactly! If someone says my boss is abusive / my boss punched me / my boss grabbed Joe by the shoulders and shook him / my boss screams at us about how we are subhuman trash, and you say oh that can’t be so, that’s doubting abuse.

          If someone says my boss yelled at me, that’s ambiguous. It’s perfectly reasonable to say, do you mean “yelled” as in screamed in your face? As in, briskly reminded you (again) not to pile glassware in the sink (while looking irritated)? As in, said loudly and very emphatically that [eating in the lab/unapproved transfer of radioactive reagents] [should be a firing offense / is a reason someone could shut the entire lab down]?

        3. Allypopx*

          Yes! I always just interject with a quick “wait like, yell-yelled?” when someone uses that phrase during a story. Most likely the response is something like “obviously not” and I give a quick “just making sure! continue” and that’s it. And if they said yes my tone and intensity would change. But a quick clarification doesn’t have to be a big deal!

      2. Jostling*

        I think self-policing is a great way to start, as is the gentle policing language that Allison suggested (“oh, good, I’m glad she didn’t actually yell, that would have been so out of character for Jane!”). I definitely use “got yelled at” as an idiom for “got negative feedback that I didn’t agree with,” and I try to publicly correct myself and say, “I was scolded,” just to recontextualize what I am describing. (I feel like the grammatical shift from “Jane yelled at me” to the passive “I was scolded” helps take responsibility and defuse the situation with a bit of humor – of course I was not actually “scolded” at work!) Similarly, when I’m venting and say “[my partner] and I got in a fight,” I’ll shift and say, “actually, we disagreed.” Modeling that correction can make others more comfortable with doing it, too!

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’m curious about the context in which you are looking to make this clarification: Is this in any sort of official capacity or just when you are listening to people talk about work socially? If the former I can understand that you feel you have to make sure people feel safe. But if it’s the latter then honestly I think you’re overthinking it. You can be compassionate and sympathetic to someone’s bad day at work even without knowing exactly how bad the situation they are describing is and whether or not it involves actual abuse.

        If these are social situations and you try to get them to clarify whether their boss was actually literally yelling–if the answer is “no” they were just venting and being hyperbolic then you are likely to alienate them and make them feel like they can’t or shouldn’t vent their problems to you. And if the answer is “yes” their boss was actually screaming and is psychologically abusive… what would that change? Would you actually do anything differently?

      4. Smithy*

        As someone who used to have a boss who “yelled” in a broad manner of problematic ways – I think when getting more insight, the following is really helpful.

        1) How loud? Was the conversation something held in a private office, but those in offices close by (or worse far away) could overhear? Or in an open office plan, again – did the volume of the conversation match the setting.

        2) How angry? Perhaps swearing or violent language/imagery was used. The person could hit a desk or the wall, or perhaps slam a desk drawer or door. Other ‘outside usual conversation’ markers of anger can include becoming red, making a fist, spitting when speaking, etc.

        3) How useful? If someone is criticized for a very long period of time but unable to speak, find solutions, plan for next, etc – basically just has to sit there for a prolonged period and hear why they did something bad, how they’re awful, who would ever think to do that – that’s worrisome.

        So I think when listening – digging into all of these pieces can help decide where on the scale of venting to abuse this ranges. I genuinely did have a boss who would employ all three of the above in a variety of fashions – sometimes combined, sometimes not. So this is not to say that someone can’t be angry at a direct report, turn red, and then take a deep breath and have a productive conversation. But in looking for more literal cues to what “they yelled” means – all of this can be really insightful.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This reminds me of a time that I made a mistake at work, told my boss, she asked me to be more careful, I agreed, and we walked away. No fuss, no muss, and I wouldn’t have remembered it except one time she said, “I had to yell at Gumption for doing the same thing”. I did a double take and asked, “You yelled at me before?” because I didn’t remember being yelled at and one would think I would. She mentioned the prior instance and I was internally thinking, “Huh. That wasn’t yelling, but whatever”. Yelling might be something that is in the eye of the yeller and the yelled at?

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        My wife and I had a friend whose marriage was rocky, and they were often in our house, venting. And there were some real problems there, like “going to the bar after work for 1 beer” turning into being gone until bedtime, but my wife and I had a very very bad impression of our friend’s husband based on “He screamed at me”. This phrase was used on multiple occasions, and we took it literally. (Note: they used the word “scream”, not “yell”.)

        Well, after a few months of this, I heard that my own wife screamed at our friend over a board game, and I knew for a fact that it was flat impossible. She just doesn’t scream, or even yell. So I probed gently and learned that our friend was conveying the level of emotional interaction and not volume at all. This led to a thorough rethinking of everything we thought we knew about this friend and their marriage. (The marriage made it thru the rough patch and the friendship withered away.)

  9. zebra*

    LW2, I would stay away from coffee shops for a few reasons. First, there’s often background noise that can be distracting for both you and the folks you’re meeting with; and, if you wear noise canceling headphones, you’ll be unable to modulate your voice the same way you would otherwise and you’d likely end up talking very loudly. Also, even though it’s 2020, many cafes still have pretty shitty wifi; you can’t predict how many people there will be streaming video or sucking up lots of bandwidth doing whatever. I have one remote colleague who often takes calls from Starbucks and I swear half the time we can’t hear her for one reason or another.

    Try places that are meant for working, like coworking spaces or libraries. Or, make your phone a hotspot and go sit in a park or another more secluded public place.

    Also, speaking as a fellow remote worker, try mixing up your schedule a little bit so you’re not so focused on getting out of the house in the middle of the day when you have a lot of meetings. You could meet someone for breakfast, or a midmorning coffee break, or a late afternoon dog walk, or plan to get to a bar right when happy hour starts. Sometimes I even have work-from-home coworking sessions, where a friend and I meet at one of our houses to work separately but nearby. See what works for you!

  10. AntiSocialite*

    OP 1: Whoah, that’s more than a little crazy, bordering on psycho. I would definitely impress upon HR the difficulty she would have in the usual doctor/nurse dynamic of taking orders and following directions. Have you ever needed a mediator or some kind of family court person to help the two of you communicate? I would also mention that as an example of her inability to have discussions and/or cause scenes. They do not want that crap happening in front of patients!

    OP 2: Noooooo! No video calls in public spaces like a cafe! You are violating other people’s privacy by recording them via audio or video, which is unavoidable as they walk past you, sit near you, etc. And there are all sorts of laws about two party consent. Not to mention it’s just plain rude. Plus, there is going to be a lot of background noise that will be picked up in your audio. Look into a co-work rental or something similar (some libraries have free rooms!).

    OP 3: Unless you need to know if it’s literal for HR reasons, you can just ignore the comment rather than probe and get into a big “but is it really” type exchange. But yes, some people really do get “yelled at”. I’ve had a male and female boss in different industries do it in quite spectacular fashions. As a result, I will say things like “I was criticized” if it wasn’t actually yelling.

    OP 4: Red flags galore! Alison’s points are all really valid. Go with your gut if you aren’t desperate for a paycheck.

    OP 5: A lot of remote or distributed companies cover the cost of work station type stuff. Couldn’t hurt to ask. If they don’t cover it, places like Amazon tend to have a decent selection.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      OP 5: A lot of remote or distributed companies cover the cost of work station type stuff. Couldn’t hurt to ask. If they don’t cover it, places like Amazon tend to have a decent selection.

      This. I’m fully remote, as are many of my coworkers around the globe, and our company has a remote worker’s policy that says we’re entitled to the same equipment and materials as in-house employees. All we have to do is raise a request via our online portal, and IT will send us whatever we ask for. Because my company has built-in standing desks, I’m sure that if I wanted one, they would send me a desktop version since they couldn’t send me a cubicle. OP should check to see if her company has a similar policy on her company’s intranet. If she doesn’t see one, then definitely reach out to IT or HR about it.

      1. Fikly*

        My company is a mix of in-house and remote, and as a remote, I get a standard budget per year for anything I need for my home set up. I just buy within that budget through the process they set up and it’s all good.

        And thus my external monitor and my supportive desk chair.

      2. Gumby*

        Question: how does that work when you leave the company? You can obviously return the laptop and the company can stop paying for your wifi bill or whatever. But how do you return chairs and standing desks and other larger furniture-type things? It would be company-owned property. And in-person workers don’t get to take their chair with them when they leave, even if it was special-ordered just for their ergonomic needs.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          You don’t get chairs – desktop standing desks aren’t that big, and you can mail them back (I’ll have to mail back my laptop, external monitor, and speakerphone for example – they sent me the return shipping labels and I saved the boxes they arrived in).

    2. Princesa Zelda*

      IANAL but I’m reasonably sure two-party consent doesn’t apply to incidental recording of others in public places. It’s illegal in two-party consent states to bug someone’s apartment, or record a cell phone conversation, because they have a reasonable expectation of privacy; it’s not illegal to accidentally film other people in public because it’s, well, public rather than reasonably private.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        Also web conference software isn’t (by default, though there usually are options) recording, it’s live streaming. I do believe there’s a legal difference there. (IANAL)

    3. MK*

      Could be that my years as a practising lawyer have distorted my perspective, but #1 is not a crazy situation, much less ”psycho”. It sounds like a pretty common contentious relationship between ex-spouces. Having public fight is not inherently crazy.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Thank you. Ex could be psycho. Or she is just having trouble adjusting to the divorce. Or the “calm rational” way is driving the Ex to the point she has to scream to be heard (counter productive I know).

        I work a lot of cases where the person provokes and provokes and then when the other one snaps points and says “See how crazy my ex is? See what I have to put up with?”

        Now the OP didn’t write in about how to communicate with the Ex. If they did I would have a TON of advice. But they did write in about to handle the situation. Do not paint at black and white to HR. Because it rarely is. YOu want HR to know she is your ex. Just say you got divorced. Most people assume contentious divorce because that’s what we hear about. We rarely hear about the quiet ones. Let HR decide the best way to handle it. You do not want to stand in front of a job and say “Yeah I went to HR and told them my Ex was a problem. But THEY decided to fire her.” Because a judge will have some VERY pointed questions for you.

        1. No Name #1*

          Yeah, I am not a lawyer but I do think that just saying “So and so is my ex wife and I would prefer if you could schedule her for different shifts than mine whenever possible” and they will read between the lines because if HR/management is competent, they will want to avoid causing conflict for the sake of patients and other colleagues. Then, if the ex does anything that deliberately and unambiguously causes conflict, the LW should report it in the most factual, objective way while also documenting.
          I said it in a comment above that I don’t believe that the ex is “psycho”, but I also think that if she knowingly pursued a job where she would be interacting and working under the supervision of an ex with whom she has a contentious relationship, she should have considered the negative consequences (to herself and her children). That being said, I think both parties have equal potential to cause conflict so LW needs to be careful too.

          1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, agreed. “We got divorced and I would prefer not to work in the same area as her” speaks volumes and is really all you need to say.

            Don’t air your dirty (ex-)spousal laundry at work.

          2. JSPA*

            Depending how the hospital advertises jobs and does hiring she may not even have known that the opening was in OP’s section. Or if they’re both in a similar medical subspecialty and if they’re tied to the same area due to having shared kids / custody & visitation agreement (or simply, that’s where they each have roots, family and/or a social network), it may be not at all unusual that they’d bump up against each other, professionally. Not every city has multiple hospitals, each with the same set of specialty departments.

    4. Maria Lopez*

      Why would you just take #1 at face value and assume the ex is the only problem? I have worked on mediation boards in a hospital setting between doctors and nurses both, and there are generally three sides when there is a disagreement between A & B. A’s side, B’s side, and what really happened. It is amazing how hearing only one side you can be so certain that the other person must be the devil personified, UNTIL you hear the other person’s explanation.

      1. Marcia*

        We are asked in the commenting rules to give letter writers the benefit of the doubt, and to trust that they are experts in their own situations. We are also asked to limit speculation on facts not in evidence to actionable points that can help the LW.

        Do you have any of those to offer?

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Why? It’s one of Alison’s general guidelines for this site — we are supposed to trust the situation is as letter writers describe.

      3. Colette*

        Both people were likely an issue in the relationship – and, in fact, it’s possible that the OP was mostly responsible for the breakup. (He could have been the one who decided he wanted out, while she was happy, for example.)

        But she is the one who got a job at the place where he works, and thus she holds the responsibility for putting them in a situation where they might work together.

        1. WellRed*

          “But she is the one who got a job at the place where he works, and thus she holds the responsibility for putting them in a situation where they might work together.”

          Yes! She knew he worked there and neither disclosed it, nor let him know.

    5. Sue Wilson*

      Recording laws usually don’t apply to spaces, like coffee shops, with no reasonable expectation of privacy.

    6. Julia*

      Could we maybe stop calling people (especially women) “crazy” or “psycho” when they act inappropriately? It’s pretty jarring on a site like Alison’s that tries to be inclusive.

    7. OP #4*

      I completely agree– Alison’s insight really helped put things into perspective. After getting feedback from her and others in the comments, it was a lot easier to turn them down one last time.

    8. Not another MD drama*

      Why take what I am saying at face value? Because I am not writing asking for a judgement on “Jane”, I am writing asking how to manage this situation in HR, in the right manner. Also, when I say walk away, I meant figuratively, you know, like you tell people to walk away from fights? It usually includes saying this is not the time or place and I don’t like being screamed at, just text me and we’ll talk about it later (by text as to avoid screaming). Refusing stand or participate in screaming is not the same as covertly provoking someone. I do not have to put up with someone screaming at me. I also recounted one of the situations/added details above.

      I have decided to not give details and just say it was a contentious divorce and would rather not work together. For those saying I don’t care about how it affects her, you might want to re-read my original letter where I said, I don’t know whether she disclosed to HR during process (it is a requirement here) and that is one of my worries.

  11. Gleeze*

    OP#1, I would notify HR that you have a history but not request the scheduling change yet. I know you assume there will be an issue based on previous behaviour but things might be different in a workplace. If something does happen, then you can use that as reasoning for a schedule change and if she is the one mis-behaving, you have more leverage to keep your schedule. And as someone else mentioned, this could have an impact on your children / custody agreements so again, I would wait until there is an actual incident.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Personally, I would want to get a request for aeparate schedules out there before something happened. From what I hear, it can be difficult enough to work with someone you don’t get along with in a hospital setting even when there is no past history. This is someone who has apparently initiated public screaming matches in a variety of places. I REALLY would not want to have that occur at work. Sometimes those things are beyond our control, but if you can swing it by some judicious schedule wrangling, it could save everyone a lot of time and hassle. I know I don’t want to be sick or recovering in the hospital and suddenly the nurse and doctor are having a knock down, drag out fight in my room, knocking over my monitors and possibly ripping out my IV or (god help me if I have one) catheter or whatever other tubing or wires I’ve got sticking out of me!!

      From what I understand about nurse scheduling in a hospital, many of them work 12 hour shifts and either 3 or 4 days a week. If doctor schedules are the same, it would seem they could both work day shifts and be scheduled on different days, which wouldn’t negatively impact either of them. There is some flexibility in tye scheduling so the OP asking for different schedules doesn’t mean his ex is automatically going to get awful hours that don’t work for her child care ability. And maybe they could just move her to another floor/ward. That might be best for everyone so they wouldn’t be running into each other.

      I do question her applying to work at the same place she presumably knows her ex is working. Maybe it’s the best possible place in their area, but it seems like a very weird choice to apply specifically where your ex works and to their department on top of that.

      1. WS*

        Does it say she applied in the LW’s department? It’s not strange to me that two medical people could end up working in the same hospital, especially if it’s the main facility in the area, but unless it’s unusually small (like where I work) it should be easy enough to just roster them to separate areas. Doctor scheduling and nurse scheduling can be identical or very different – there’s so many factors involved that it’s hard to say from this letter.

        1. valentine*

          As a patient, I would not want these two on my case. Is she working there so he can’t always walk away? Is she going to hurt me to hurt him?

          1. Snuck*

            That’s a whole other level of sociopath though. Given the rarity of pure sociopath in society let’s not assume that “Jane” is intentionally going to hurt you to get at him… that sort of thinking is waaaaay over the top.

            1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

              Yeah, she probably just wanted/needed a job and didn’t care that OP worked there. Maybe feeling some satisfaction that it would piss them off/make them feel unbalanced at work would be about as nefarious as it gets.

              I do think there is some danger for patient harm. It’s not common, but I have seen some healthcare professionals in my life get really cavalier about their patients’ humanity and have some scenarios in my head where a nurse would let what they perceive to be a minor harm come to a patient if they thought it would get the doctor they hated in trouble in some way. It’s probably not a likely thing to worry about, but when it comes to people’s lives you need to worry about the less likely outcomes.

            2. KoiFeeder*

              Sure, it’s a 1% chance. But when I go to the hospital, I want a 0% chance of a nurse trying to harm me to get back at the doctor!

              And it’s not necessarily physical harm, either. She could mess up a lot of things that could bring me “harmless” temporary grief that I still don’t want to deal with.

              1. JSPA*

                Let’s say 0.01% (1 in 10,000) and put that in the context of actually likely risks, like nosocomial infections.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  Given what OP1 just said above, if she’s willing to change the label on her daughter’s medication, I don’t want to know what she’d do to mine to get back at her ex!

                  Also, bluntly, I trust the infection more than I trust people. I know that an infection wants to kill me. People usually lie about it.

        2. Not another MD drama*

          She did apply to the psych hospital (within the larger hospital). She has never worked psych before.

      2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        Not even escalating to the level of a “knock down drag out fight” wherein IV lines are in danger, I would not feel comfortable being cared for by a doctor or nurse who I witnessed having a verbal altercation.

        This is 100% unfair but if the gender dynamics were male-doctor and female-nurse, wherein the nurse screamed at the doctor for something and the doctor simply walked away, my lived experience would have me wondering “what did he do to her to drive her to this point?” You just have to look upthread in the comments to see people questioning the OP’s role in their contentious ex when we’ve been given no reason to doubt their narrative. As I said – it’s not fair. But it would be my gut worry and I wouldn’t be able to fully trust that doctor (nor the nurse who yelled at a doctor for any reason other than “this patient is allergic to X, what are you thinking trying to prescribe it, did you even look at their chart?!”).

        Having a person known for yelling at them in public is a liability to the OP’s ability to be trusted by both colleagues and patients.

        1. Not another MD drama*

          This is what worries me the most. That situations like this will happen and will cause patients/ other staff to lose confidence in my ability, etc.

          She engages in loud verbal altercations, I believe it’s her way of trying to cow me or get others on her side but there is less than a 0.0001% chance of it getting physical- she has never been physically violent or threatening.

          1. valentine*

            there is less than a 0.0001% chance of it getting physical- she has never been physically violent or threatening.
            Don’t rely on this. Rely on what you can testify to: She has yet to escalate to this level with you (or in your presence?).

      3. Blueberry*

        Ahahahaha that’s a great mental image of a bareknuckle brawl between a doctor and a nurse. It’s unlikely to happen in a reasonably large hospital, though, except maybe at 2 AM — most discussions of patient care take place in the nurses’s ‘lounge’ (it’s not a lounge) or other areas away from patient rooms, and also there are quite a few other staff members around (other nurses, doctors, ‘techs’ aka nurses’ aides, and whomever else) who’d probably report it/step in to get between them/call in security before it got out of hand. If you were on that much telemetry just the spike in your vitals (from watching the fight gear up) would alert people to go to your room and see what was going on.

        It’s a great mental image, though.

    2. Dahlia*

      As someone who just spent a week in the hospital with a fractured spine, I would really prefer my nurses and doctors to not have personal drama going on.

    3. Susie Q*

      I agree. I also hope there is nothing that OP’s ex can throw in his face like he cheated on her and knocked up his mistress.

      1. Not another MD drama*

        There is not. I waited for divorce to be legally finalized before I started dating, I wouldn’t want my daughters to find out I cheated or feel I abandoned them for someone else. Also, pregnancy came after 8 months of marriage to current.

    4. Essess*

      I agree that you need to notify HR that you have/had a relationship with a new employee that you have the potential of overseeing. A doctor would hand off work to a nurse, so it is reasonable and usually required to notify HR of this type of situation. However, asking for another employee to be moved to a less desirable shift even though they have currently done NOTHING in the workplace to cause any concerns would be overstepping. After notifying HR of the potential conflict of interest due to your relationship, any future actions or changes to your ex’s work schedule or duties should be solely based on their actions after being hired unless you have reason to believe your actual safety is at stake.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        Doctors don’t hand off work to nurses. Nurses hand off work to nurses. If there is a patient on the previous shift with instructions from the doctor, the charge nurse will hand off the instructions during shift change.

  12. Something Blue*

    For #2: What about when the other customers are too loud for you to hear? I’ve seen people try to have serious conversations on their cellphones in diners and get mad at nearby customers for “disrupting” their calls when the other customers were having normal conversations.

    What would you do if someone sits near you with a baby that gets fussy?
    Or someone has a messy breakup at the next table? Or any of the other normal noisy things that happen in public spaces?

    I don’t think you can get around needing a private space for this.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      When I was 100% remote, I didn’t even take phone calls in a coffee shop. Co-workers and clients deserve as little background noise as possible. Some things can’t be helped, like a fire truck going by your office, but remote work means you’re trusted to provide as suitable an environment as if you were in any corporate office.

  13. 100% That B*

    Re #2, as an technology attorney, I dont think anyone should ever work from a coffee shop, ever! (Ok, maybe bloggers and journalists since their content is meant to become public anyway). Make sure you know your company policy on this LW. Some jobs this would be perfectly fine. Some jobs, decidedly not.

    1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      I know of someone who had their life savings cleared out because they did their online banking via a public wifi network at a café. If bank accounts can be accessed that way, imagine the damage that could be inflicted on the lesser security of most company systems..?

  14. MistOrMister*

    OP 3….someone I worked with (in a supporting role, although they were not my boss as I had an official manager) yelled at me. Literally. Whenever I’ve talked about it – including reporting it to my boss as one of the reasons I no longer wanted to work with this person, I said they raised their voice to me twice, and provided the context for it. Both times it appeared to be a matter of they were stressed out and took out their frustration on me over perceived mistakes on my part. Perceived being the key word. In both cases I had done my part properly.

    I was not comfortable saying they yelled at me, as it wasn’t full on screaming. But it was definitely yelling. And by the 2nd time it happened, I was unable to work with them comfortably. I still did so because I had no choice, but I never was able to let go of the anger over being yelled at and having it treated like there was nothing wrong with that kind of thing. Granted, even if they apologized every time it happened, I would still not be ok with it, but at least they would have realized such behavior was inappropriate, and I never saw any sign that was the case. Anyway!! If you’re in a management position and people are coming to you with these issues, definitely ask them to clarify if the other person actually raised their voice to them. I wouldn’t default to assuming voices were raised since so many people say yelled at when they mean criticized. You dont want to brush off someone reporting a serious problem, but you also don’t want to be painting people as yellers who aren’t doing that. For friends who are venting, I don’t know that it really matters if you clarify, unless you just like to have all the facts straight. Although if someone is asking you for advice it does certainly make sense to know which kind of “yelling” they were exposed to.

  15. andy*

    Yelling: just ask for details.

    But also, I find focus on yelling fascinating, because worst managers I seen were not abusive yelling. They were unethical and abusive, sure. But in more subtle ways, insulting with there keeping plausible denial it, lying, manipulating, gaslighting, trying to harm people they don’t like behind back, retaliating any disagreement. Forcing too much conformity. Treating people as things to take advantage of.

    And so on.

    Comparably, people who are temperamental and raise their voice did not seemed such a big deal, as long as they allow employees to push back. E.g. I was able to say “stop yelling” or “you are overreacting” and it would be accepted.

    It is anecdotal of course.

    1. Impy*

      Yeah, having experienced both types, I’d prefer a yeller. The boss that screamed at me at least still gave me raises and promotions – and he didn’t attempt to undermine me with lies and misrepresentations.

    2. Snarkansas*

      I have a boss right now who is an abusive yeller. He doesn’t just yell, which I could probably handle-he yells with the intention of being mean and humiliating to his victim. It’s a small 6-person company and he’s the owner so there’s no hierarchy to report him to.

      So sometimes saying “my boss yelled at me” is minimizing the circumstances, not exaggerating them. Also, I’m looking for a new job even though I’ve been there less than a year.

    3. Confused About Yelling*

      OP 3 here. I completely agree that those are more serious. I’m just better at understanding other people’s meanings in those cases.

      I’m not always good at navigating social situations, and I have a literal mind. I find I am much more confident at knowing the seriousness of other people’s accounts in cases of lying, manipulation, retaliation, etc. than of yelling, since these other behaviors aren’t as prone to hyperbolic descriptions. It also helps that the data you need to see those sorts of patterns is more likely to be in someone’s description of it than in a case of supposed yelling.

      Luckily, I haven’t yet been in a position where how I treat their story matters beyond venting/validation, but when I’m not in a position to hand out official consequences I want to default to giving a potential victim support, hence wanting to have a way to know whether someone means abusive yelling or just disagreement.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        If these are just friends venting to you, I’m honestly wondering why the distinction matters?

        If you were in HR and someone came to you saying someone in the office yelled at them, then of course the specifics matter. But beyond that if someone is saying “I got yelled at today” they clearly did not enjoy _whatever_ the conversation was, regardless if it was being shouted at or simply asked some pointed questions about a typo. “That sucks, I’m sorry” is the proper response in either situation.

  16. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

    OP1: Ooooh this would stress me out! Why is she suddenly working there without telling you? A lie by omission this big does not sound like good intentions on her part.

    It’s possible of course that she isn’t as bad as she sounds – that she didn’t tell you because she needed the job, was worried you’d block that happening, and is going to remain completely professional – etc. But still, flagging it with HR and keeping a cool professional distance at work harms none and protects you.

    If it bears mentioning, I would also be very mindful of not allowing any crossing of the streams between your work and ex-life. Eg: don’t swap the kids between arriving/departing for your shifts, or discuss the kids at work, no matter how convenient. Ensure you don’t slip into any familiarities with her if you have to talk to her. If you do somehow end up working alongside her, find a way to have a 3rd party (not a patient) in the room. And practise your grey rock responses in front of a mirror, just in case, so you have that in your toolkit ready to go. Don’t let that litter tray nudge one iota closer to the food dish!

    1. Snuck*

      Good point about separating kids from work… Don’t send text messages or emails about things while at work, don’t swap forgotten musical instruments or missing lunch boxes, and don’t ever use work as a place to serve papers…

      Keep that home life stuff at home.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        All that stuff. It’s so easy to think, “It’ll be so much simpler to just take that into work and…” nope, nope, nope. You need to quarantine that shit like it’s the Diamond Princess with a fish market on board.

        1. Snuck*

          “You need to quarantine that sit like it’s the Diamond Princess with a fish market on board” is my go to for this week. It’s better than circus/monkeys!

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      Maybe she’s working there because there was a job opening and she doesn’t want to get in a fight either so didn’t bring it up? Unless she’s deliberately asking to be assigned to the same shifts or something, this sounds like an extremely awkward coincidence rather than lying.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I mean, they are both medical professionals, presumably it’s a large workplace and one of a few local options. It doesn’t sound that wild to me.

        1. Snuck*

          Not necessarily ‘weird’ to me.

          It’s possible that she’s an agency nurse and has been sent along, with a view to cover the odd shift, it’s possible she chooses not to talk to her ex because of various reasons, it’s possible this all happened very fast and she hasn’t had time to tell him, it’s possible that it’s for a graveyard shift relief on the weekends he has the kids, it’s possible that she hasn’t told him because she needs the job and fears the power he might (real or imagined) want to assert to mess with her, it could be the kids are now 18 and it’s be 10 years since all the shouting and carry on went down and she’s not even engaged emotionally with him, it could be she doesn’t actually know where he works right now, or what shift he is working… I could go on.

          It would be weird to start there, and then cavalierly wander past with a cheery “Hi, so good to see you” and kiss on the cheek. But not weird to show up to orientation and just go through the motions with it in some of the scenarios above.

          1. Blueberry*

            Yeah, this.

            If I had a contentious ex who worked at one of my few employment options, I would not tell them if I had to take a job at their workplace (I’d also try not to take a job at their workplace, but needs must), out of fear they’d block my employment. I would definitely speak to HR, and first, my divorce lawyer.

            1. A reader*

              Not only would I be concerned about the ex blocking employment, but I would be concerned if the ex tried to preemptively turn my soon-to-be coworkers against me. Who wants to start a new job where your ex already told everyone you were mean/rude/would scream at them for now reason?!

    4. Not another MD drama*

      She recently Changed our girls from their typical daycare to the one my stepdaughter attends so all swapping of forgotten things is done through there. But in truth, our kids have their [insert item] for home with daddy & a separate one for home with mommy.

      1. valentine*

        Using your wife’s daycare and joining your workplace are escalations that keep her in your orbit. She has deliberately created a situation where, every other week, she can see you or your wife at daycare potentially twice a day. Let the staff handle any item transfers and, if possible, stagger your times. I might even hire someone to do the daycare runs, just to avoid her.

  17. Impy*

    I don’t understand that. I’ve only ever used the phrase ‘yelled at’ when I meant, well, that my boss screamed at me. But this is helpful context for why some people were dismissive of that. I spent a long time thinking it was just normal for bosses to yell at you over nothing.

  18. Jimming*

    #2 – I think it’s fine to work from a coffee shop on days where you won’t be talking non-stop in meetings, and – like you said – don’t discuss any confidential info. Personally I like the quiet of my home office, but I’m often in meetings where coworkers are at coffee shops. I don’t think it would be a big deal if it was occasional.

  19. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2, if I owned a coffee shop I wouldn’t want someone having back to back conference calls in my coffee shop. It’s annoying for other customers and frankly I think it’s a bit of a cheek to take over a table for a good part of the day, when you’re probably not going to order more than a few coffees and a snack. You’re not even eating lunch there.

    It would be annoying for other customers because we tend to talk more loudly on conference calls. And depending on their wifi setup, they are probably expecting people to check their messages, listen to music, do their banking. Not have lengthy video calls.

    Background noise is considerably amplified as well so you may find that even if you pick a quiet corner, your colleagues won’t be able to hear you properly. And they may find it odd that you’re obviously working from a “non workspace”, especially if you do this more than every few months.

    I understand your desire to see friends and get out of the house, but you may have to find another way to achieve this. Take a walk at lunchtime and meet your friends after work for example. Or as others have suggested, use a shared working space every few weeks. Once you’ve been with the company for longer, you’ll have a clearer idea of what will work and what won’t.

    1. MK*

      I think it can depend on how busy a coffee shop is. Most of them are not full during non-rush hours, and people staying there for hours order multiple item, or at least should do so.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        Agreed. The irritation factor for other customers would be my main objection.

    2. Annoyed Architect*

      Yes! Conducting your business in someone else’s business is totally obnoxious. It’s unfair on the business (taking space & other resources perhaps not budgeted for), and driving away customers. At least personally, I would never visit a place for leisure that had other people’s business going on around me. You just spoiled what I was there for! Downtime, coffee & a muffin – no – I get to hear someone crapping on about llama grooming that can’t afford a shared business space. They are taking advantage of the letter, not the spirit of what is on offer by the cafe.

      See also: Loud, screaming kids in adult spaces like pubs. WTF? I don’t come and get drunk and loud in your kinder. Piss off with your screaming and whining in my bar.

    3. Millennial Lizard Person*

      +1 to taking up space. Oftentimes I’ll try to get coffee with friends, and some schmuck will be working at the 4-person table with all their important papers spread out. There’s only one of you! Stop taking up the one big table!

    4. tinyhipsterboy*

      As someone who worked in a busy coffee shop for around 4 years, people staying around legitimately isn’t a problem. As long as a customer isn’t disruptive and isn’t taking up the last seat in a busy coffee shop 4 hours after their last purchase, it’s not a big deal. Coffee shop workers have quite a bit more to worry about than someone sitting at a table, at least in my experience. It might be different for smaller local shops, but I’ve also never felt unwelcome in smaller shops when I sit for hours to write.

  20. Maria Lopez*

    OP1- There is something a little off in this letter, or a lot that is being left out, but I don’t think OP is really as calm and non-confrontational as he says.
    In any event, I don’t agree with Alison’s wording of what to say to HR.
    “I just learned that my ex-wife, Jane Warbleworth, has been hired here as a nurse. We share two children and the relationship since our divorce has been a contentious one, despite my efforts to minimize that. I wanted to make you aware of the relationship and ask if it’s possible not to have her assigned to my shifts given the difficult dynamic. I’m particularly concerned about her ability to take direction from me.”
    This makes Jane seem to be a loose cannon while he is portraying himself as the calm, rational one. In this case, less is more. “I just learned that my ex-wife, Jaane Warbleworth, has been hired here as a nurse. We don’t get along that well and I would appreciate not having any shifts assigned to me where we would work together.”
    Alison’s way really makes Jane seem like some psycho who is unprofessional, when in reality it might be OP who is the instigator. In addition, if Jane has already notified HR of the relationship in a very neutral manner, then OP will not come off well using Alison’s script.

    1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      We don’t get along that well and I would appreciate not having any shifts assigned to me where we would work together.

      I don’t agree with saying this. Given how busy and often understaffed hospital departments find themselves, making it about what shift he would personally appreciate makes him sound like the entitled, difficult one.

      I’d suggest framing the last bit around his ability to do his work effectively instead, eg:
      “I’m particularly concerned about the problematic communication issues between us, and the disruptive impact that may have on patient care should we find ourselves working together. Is there a way we can ensure that doesn’t happen?”

      1. valentine*

        OP1 should not say anything that makes it sound like they are the problem or that the misbehavior is mutual. They should also proceed as though it’ll all be aired in court.

    2. Snuck*

      Jane has at least one child in child care (ie, not yet in school?)… if Jane has a young (more than one young?) child, then the fact that the OP has met someone else, had a baby with them (so met them more than a year ago) and moved on could be very difficult.

      Parenting young children is very hard. Doing alone is doubly hard. Of course Jane is going to feel annoyed, especially as she has multiple childREN with the OP, and at least one of them is still quite young. The OP wants a family friendly schedule so he can spend time with his wife and new baby, but probably needs to also consider that his ex has a great need for the same, and if his ex has their shared kids full time she might well need it even more than he does, given he has shared care of one child with a wife, and she has multiple children and I presume no spouse. She needs a childcare, school and family friendly schedule too.

      There’s no easy win.

      1. TV or not TV*

        It is interesting that despite Alison’s hard and fast rule to accept LW at face value, so many here are trying to twist the first letter to make LW the bad guy.

        1. Snuck*

          I’m trying to be … moderate. But there’s a lack of compassion coming across in the OP’s letter, and I assume that’s because divorces are never easy, there’s always a lot of passion in them, and hopefully the OP was being very cautious in what they posted. But sadly it comes across as self centred to me, that the OP hasn’t really stopped to work out what effect this will have on their ex, just the desire to have their own wants met.

          I think a lot of other people are reading a similar social disconnect in there, so I spelt out how I am reading it, trying on both pairs of shoes for once.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            All of this stuff would normally be a reason not to take a job where your ex already worked.

            1. virago*

              Maybe it’s because I’m from a rural area, but that didn’t faze me. The ex has a specialized set of skills, and this facility may be the best/only/closest option.

          2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            It’s interesting how we’ve read it quite differently, Snuck. I see the “lack of compassion” as simply a factual, unemotional account of the key issues at play. That’s how doctors are trained to think about and solve critical problems. It’s not that they don’t have compassion (generally) it’s just that they have to learn to set emotion aside when facing difficult choices that require rational thought.

            1. Lawyer*

              Yeah, I read this as a pretty factual account that was limited only to information relating to how to handle the workplace situation, rather than dragging in extensive background about their co-parenting relationship, custody schedule, etc.

          3. WellRed*

            But his ex didn’t disclose this to anyone, nor did she mention it to him, knowing he works there. That’s kind of a red flag about their ability to communicate like adults, whether it’s all on her, on him, or both of them.

            At any rate, in most letters like this here, the person already holding the job gets priority at the workplace.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              However, we have no way of knowing if she already told HR. It is entirely possible she wants to avoid LW1 at work as much as they want to avoid her. For this reason, if I were the LW I would go very neutral on this and tell HR that she is an ex, the divorce was rocky, and that I would appreciate it if the prior relationship could be taken into consideration when assigning patient care teams.

          4. Archaeopteryx*

            We know that the ex-wife has screamed in public and now has intentionally taken a job where OP works. Granted that as most people are saying, this could be a result of the job market or typical divorce angst. But I do just want to note that female abusers are typically not taken as seriously as male ones, but can absolutely be just as abusive. Whatever feelings anyone would have if this were a female OP whose male ex-spouse was suddenly following them to their workplace, maybe just consider taking this situation as seriously as that.

            Not saying she’s abusive or “crazy“, or anything in this specific situation, but minimizing abusive behaviors when they come from women has real consequences for people.

        2. LTL*

          I think a lot of people are projecting from situations they’ve seen where the women is pushed into behaving “crazy” by a manipulative partner. I get it, I’m tempted to do the same if I’m being honest. But it’s not fair to do that to the LW. Sure, he *could* be that kind of guy but we have no evidence of that.

          This is a good time for the reminder that men can be victims too. This kind of questioning is part of why it’s harder for them to speak out.

          The LW wrote in for work advice. Let’s not start armchair diagnosing his relationship.

      2. Dahlia*

        “Jane has at least one child in child care”

        Jane AND THE LW have at one point HAD a child in child care. It does not say that child is currently in daycare, it does not say that child is very young (you can’t leave an 8 year old alone for 12 hours a day), and it does not say Jane has primary custody. Those are a lot of assumptions.

    3. Not another MD drama*

      I already posted this above but will post again. I feel so many here are projecting their dead-beat dad biased into this, assuming I don’t have custody of my girls or forgot about them now that there is a new baby. Or assuming that refusing to be verbally abused or publicly humiliated is an aggressive trait on my part…

      – We have 50/50 custody, we trade every other week. It is cringe worthy that so many here assume that because I am the male, I do not participate/ care for my children’s well-being. I did not include this detail because it is irrelevant to the current issue of work.
      – This is not the only hospital in the area. It is a big town and like I said above, there are no less than 4 hospitals within a ten mile radius. Also, she does know this is where I work.
      -I do think my re-marrying and having a baby is a factor in her behavior. She also, insisted in changing our daughters from their usual daycare (closer to her house) to the one were my wife takes her daughter (closer to our house). This we just celebrated because it means only one pick-up in the afternoons when kids are with us.
      – English is not my first language, that has no relevance to the issue.
      – I described myself as non-confrontational/ private. I never used the words rational/irrational to describe either one of us. I’m aware that being non-confrontational is a conflict all on its own but I don’t respond to being screamed at and refuse to engage over private affairs in a public manner.
      – The type of conflict we have: Our daughter’s dose on a prescribed a medication was recently changed. When she arrived at my place the label had been ripped off the bottle. Instead, Jane told me to give her X dose/day. I know that X is below the minimum clinical dose of Y. After repeatedly texting Jane to please give me correct dosing information, she insists that I don’t respect her as a professional or parent, she’s a nurse and understands dosing. I proceed to call pediatricians office to verify dosing information. As is expected pediatrician asks us both to come into office, measures remaining medicine, determines daughter is not being given correct dose and informs us that if this happens again we will be “fired as patients”. Proceed to Jane screaming about this being my fault for not respecting her. Doctor did not take kindly to the screaming in front of other patients and asked us not to return to his office.

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        FWIW, I’m sorry this has been your experience in the comments as a letter writer.

        I have a friend going through similar ex-wife issues, and although his situation isn’t as intense as yours, it’s heartbreaking to see the effect of long term extreme emotional manipulation (verbal and emotional abuse) on a man from an intimate partner. And I specifically say man, because of the cultural conditioning and expectations around male emotions.

        You came here for support and advice. You shouldn’t have had to expend this amount of energy on justifying yourself when you already have a horrifically stressful situation to deal with.

        I’m hoping there’s a positive update to this one.

      2. Adultiest Adult*

        Also sorry that people here won’t take you at your word. This sounds like a really difficult situation and you are trying to handle it logically, which some people appear to be struggling with. My opinion: definitely go to HR and spell out the issue, before it’s an issue. And in my experience, in what is essentially a conflict-of-interest issue, the person who is there first wins. If there’s going to be a scheduling-related issue due to your inability to be on the same shift, she takes the brunt of it because she is the one entering your pre-existing space. Some places may also rely on the doctor-versus-nurse dynamic, and I don’t know if your workplace is one of them, but either way, saying “OP has priority due to seniority” sidesteps that issue. I wish you luck with this!

  21. Sue Wilson*

    2: I wouldn’t do it,because my personal rule is that you need to be at or below the ambient noise of whatever space you’re in, be able to modulate your loudness to match, and you need to be considerate that people may be waiting to use the space you’re in. And I don’t think you can adequately do that while in a meeting. And as people said above, the ambient noise from the cafe could interrupt your meeting and the wifi may suck. That said, while I understand it can be personally distracting to hear one-side conversations, I don’t think that’s actually a reason not to have them or that it raises to the level of rudeness.

  22. PJH*

    #2: “What do others think?”

    I think, that if you’re using technology that allows people miles apart to talk to each other as if they were next to each other, the volume of your voices should be as if that person was next to you, rather than miles away.

    Generally, two people talking next to each other across a table are barely noticeable in a public setting, but for some reason people on phones/teleconferences seem to feel the need to shout into them…

  23. Bemmylover*

    Op2: Check your company’s policies. Many companies (due to the confidential nature of their business) prohibit employees from using public WiFi. It’s completely insecure. There’s also the potential for data leakage when you’re having private conversations in public spaces.
    Your employer may offer enough flexibility that you can take the occasional long break so long as you mark yourself out-of-office in your calendar. Again, check policy.

  24. Beth*

    OP1: Obviously you know your relationship with your ex better than we do, so use your own judgement here, but I wonder if it might help to give her some benefit of the doubt in this case? It sounds like you’re currently operating from an assumption that she will eventually cause trouble for you at work. Maybe she will–but maybe she’s just looking for a paycheck and this happens to be the local hospital that had an appropriate opening.

    I think it makes sense to inform HR of your relationship and let them draw their own conclusions from there. My suspicion is that they’ll hear “former wife, current co-parent” and decide all on their own that it would be better for you to be scheduled separately where possible. I’d personally skip raising active concerns at this point unless you’re very confident that she will refuse to work smoothly with you. The situation itself suggests some reason for concern anyways, and since it doesn’t sound like you have solid evidence that there will be a problem, it seems preemptive to emphasize that further.

    1. LegallyRed*

      I was sort of wondering something along the same lines of the first paragraph. OP1, when was your last major dust-up with your ex? Do you interact regularly without things escalating, or is this one of those situations where you basically have to avoid each other whenever possible by doing child exchanges through school (one parent drops off, the other picks up), communicating via text or email, etc.? Do you regularly inform each other of life changes (such as new jobs, or new babies), or do you just sort of wait for the news to tickle down to the other parent. (In other words, is it odd to you that she didn’t tell you about this job?)

      My point is this: if there is any civility left between the two of you, can you reach out to Jane first and ask her about her new job? “Hey, I saw you at orientation. Congratulations — what will you be doing?” Maybe her answer will be something like, “I signed up for a couple of overnight shifts every month when you have the kids just to make some extra money.” (Something a nurse-friend of mine has done in the past.) Or you’ll get some other confirmation that you won’t be working together, at which point you can disclose the relationship to HR but you don’t need to be quite as detailed / risk coming across as the bitter ex yourself by raising concerns that may or may not materialize.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Are you really willing to risk a patient’s well-being on this?

      I think that because this is health care, LW does not have the luxury of giving his ex the benefit of the doubt.

      1. Shan*

        I think it’s a leap to assume patients will be in danger because they of this. Lots of doctors/nurses/etc don’t get along, but they’re still able to be professional. Unless OP3 has valid reason to believe his ex would risk someone’s life to spite him, that’s a very serious accusation for him to make, and alerting HR to the fact she’s his ex should probably suffice.

      2. Blueberry*

        I wouldn’t risk patient well being on it, but, more to the point, neither HR nor the nursing supervisor who will be managing LW’s ex would want to risk patient well being on it. I think Beth’s suggested wording will be sufficient, not least because it would not help LW to appear as if they are trying to preemptively sabotage their ex’s employment.

  25. Birch*

    #2, do not do this. It’s annoying to the employees of the shop and to everyone around you. Not only because they’re only hearing half of the conversation, like Alison said (if you’re using headphones, which you absolutely should be because the sound quality of video chatting is terrible and you’ll definitely have the volume cranked up in a public space), but because people usually talk slightly louder and with less nuance on the phone and on video chats than they do in person, and that’s incredibly attention-grabbing and distracting! And then for the sake of the people you’re chatting with–even if you had a really high quality headset, some of that ambient noise is going to seep through and be really distracting to your colleagues, possibly so much that the call is not effective at all.

    You’re going to have to deal with the lunch commute, do it on a day when you don’t have any calls in the morning, if that’s possible, or rent a workspace.

  26. Violet Fox*

    #2, are you getting other coffee shop patrons in your video calls without their permission? If so then what you are doing is not only annoying (which people taking these sorts of calls in coffee shops honestly is), but also really bad for the other coffee shop patrons who don’t have the ability to decide if they want to be a part of your call or not, on video or not.

    1. tinyhipsterboy*

      Eh, not exactly. Public spaces like coffee shops don’t have reasonable expectation of privacy; it’s pretty common to see people FaceTiming, for instance, or even making YouTube videos. A public restroom is one thing, as its intended use is privacy, but general businesses, not so much. (It’s not bad practice to blur peoples’ faces out if something is being recorded for later posting, but as an example, many if not most public establishments have security cameras, which pose a similar issue to video calls.)

  27. LGC*

    2) I’m biased since I live right down the street from a coworking space (in the suburbs, no less), but…honestly, that would be my first option. I think that would be less awkward for everyone around you – and you yourself. It’s still a coffee shop, first and foremost – people still might make appearances despite your best efforts.

  28. Mary*

    OP1, you have a ton more institutional power in this situation than the mother of your kids. You are the more senior person in terms of time served, you have a more senior and probably harder-to-fill position. You’re the higher earner. And that’s without thinking about the gender dynamics or asking whether your ex also has a new partner to split childcare with.

    It’s completely reasonable to want to make sure that there is no drama at work, and to give HR a heads-up that you would struggle to work professionally with Jane if that’s the case. But make sure you’re being fair to her. You’ve got a LOT more power in this situation, and you need to make sure you’re using it reasonably.

  29. Retail not Retail*

    Op3 – where does “my boss snapped at me” fall? I’ve only been negatively critiqued once while working (i was doing what we’ve done to the alpacas to the llamas but you mess up the llama later if you do that!) and it still has me skittish about doing that kind of work near …llamas without express permission. Or even the other ungulates. (This metaphor is out of control.)

    My coworker does yell at our work crew and he friggin gestures to them like dogs. We get to ignore him; they don’t. I yelled at him twice when he was pushing my buttons but that was partially because we were outside.

  30. Ashley*

    #2 I’d be more worried about coming off as unprofessional to your coworkers. Even if it’s a quiet shop, you won’t be able to guarantee an undistracting background or for calm.

  31. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    My friend, a woman in an IT job, was accused of yelling at a peer.

    Was she yelling? Probably, and also completely unaware that she was doing it. When she gets excited (and more so when it’s a negative topic), she progressively and rapidly gets louder to the point of possibly yelling. And attempts to tell her “Hey, not so loud!” are completely ignored because she’s so focused on what she’s saying. Once she sinks her teeth in, she cannot be distracted, which is a different issue.

    She really didn’t think she was yelling. It didn’t help that the team she was in at the time really was not supportive and her manager was useless.

    1. Jdc*

      I had an ex who would say i was yelling basically anytime i said anything at all that countered what he said. People seem to confuse disagree with yelling. I liked to tell him “you’ll know when I’m yelling”.

    2. NACSACJACK*

      This was me. Still is, sometimes. When did I miss the class on office behaviors? How come others get to treat me a certain way, yet I don’t get to model their behavior onto others.

  32. Madeleine Matilda*

    OP1 – my brother and his ex are both police officers in the same police department, but on opposite schedules so whoever is off has the kids. Their relationship is very contentious. Similar to your situation, they share children and he is now in a new committed relationship. His ex hates his new partner. They knew each other for years and the ex has never liked her (she has shared this with the family so I know first hand). The new partner is also in law enforcement, although in a different police department. The ex has written the new partner harassing emails and done other things while at work that have gotten her disciplined by her department (never mind the other things she has done outside of work). All of this I share to say that I think Alison is right in her advice to have you alert HR to the relationship. I’m not sure if I would ask to have your schedules adjusted yet. I might see how things go, and just document any issues. I hope for your children’s sake that you and your ex can find a way to peacefully co-parent.

  33. Jdc*

    I would generally say the employer should pay for the desk but in my experience the benefit from working from home means it’s up to you to set up your space. You chose the desk and chair. You should choose a different one. I’d be pretty annoyed hearing that the set up my employee chose in their own home which I had no say in isn’t good enough. I feel like a meanie saying it but I’d really feel like “that’s a you problem”.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      To a point, yes.
      But if this is the OP’s first remote job then there is a chance that the desk and chair are really old and not something she necessarily chose recently. I know a lot of companies who will give a one-time allowance for remote workers to offset the cost of a desk and a chair. If they choose poorly, that’s on them as you noted, and anything after that should be out of pocket. On the flip side, a lot of companies that hire fully remote workers make it clear that the employee is responsible for those items and company only supplies the necessary tech equipment.
      Guess it depends on the company and there are desktop versions of a sit/stand desk that are relatively inexpensive as well. Company might be more open to purchasing that over a true sit/stand desk (my company makes those…they can get pricey).

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, there’s a big difference between “desk and chair I purchased for my home to do bills in 1 hour/week” and “desk I’m going to sit in for work for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week”. I think it’s reasonable for OP to ask for a home office set-up more fit-for-purpose.

  34. Alex*

    OP#2 Definitely a bad idea for all the reasons people have already cited (noise, privacy, optics) but also, coffee shop wifi tends to be less reliable than your own home wifi. Many people using it can affect the bandwidth, and some of my local shops that attract a lot of laptop workers even ban streaming and video to protect the bandwidth for other customers. The whole thing could go really poorly, and if your only excuse is “I wanted to meet my friend for lunch so I came to the coffee shop” it will look like you are prioritizing your social life over your job. It might be different if you were on a business trip and didn’t have a lot of other options around, but that isn’t the case here.

  35. Blue Eagle*

    OP3 If someone told me the boss yelled, I would attempt to clarify this by asking about 1) the amount of anger in the boss’s voice, 2) how loud was it, 3) was the boss actually screaming (i.e. got in the employee’s face) and 4) was what the boss said justified.
    I agree with a number of the above commenters who mentioned that the word “yell” is used to mean a whole range of corrections from quietly stating firmly “you’ve done this wrong, AGAIN” to screaming in your face. The latter is definitely abusive – the former, not so much.

    1. Mary*

      I have also heard “yell” to mean “didn’t raise their voice, but what they said was absolutely unacceptable”, however. The episodes of bullying I’ve witnessed haven’t involved raised voices, but things like a manager scolding one of her reports for wearing inappropriate trousers for work (the trousers were within our casual dress code!) or another time when a manager picked on and ridiculed my colleague for asking a question about whether there was a departmental strategy to cover up the fact that no, there was no departmental strategy. Both of these were examples of managers choosing a scapegoat to cover up some insecurities of their own. In both cases, other senior colleagues who witnessed it checked in with the more junior person to see if they were OK.

      In transactional analysis, both of them were examples of the manager adopting a “parent” tone–scolding and humiliating their report in a really unprofessional and horrible way. We referred to both of them as, “That time that Donna yelled at Holly” and “that meeting where Pete yelled at Robert” and we all knew *exactly* what was meant. But questions about whether they raised their voice wouldn’t get to it, and both Holly and Robert were unsure about saying it was unjustified because it was bullying and it made both of them doubt themselves.

      There’s definitely a use of “yelled at” which is neither about reasonable admonition or in-your-face anger, and I think in both cases unless you’re very sure of the people reporting it and how they tend to talk about conflict and feedback, you’ve perhaps got to hold in mind that you might never be 100% sure which it was.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree with this. I think it’s ok to use “yelled” to refer to abusive behavior that was not in a raised voice. I’ve definitely been “yelled” at at speaking volume, and it was absolutely inappropriate.

  36. irene adler*

    #3: At an interview, I asked my potential boss: “How do you support your reports?”

    The response: “I’m the only one who can yell at you. No one else is allowed to.” Followed by laughter.

    Whether this is at increased volume or not, figured this was a red flag.

  37. Rebecca*

    LW#2: I think a lot of this depends on the place and on how chatty you’ll have to be in meetings. I work in a cameras-on, largely remote culture as well and many people dial in from coffee shops. I’ve done it myself, with varying degrees of success. I’d say it works fairly well in a couple of situations: 1) it’s a brief check-in or stand-up type meeting where everyone is providing short updates on their work and whereabouts, or 2) it’s a meeting where you’re mostly listening and not speaking a lot.
    If I was having a meeting where I needed to do a lot of brainstorming or really dig into a topic, I’m not sure I’d want to do it at a coffee shop, particularly one where people seem to value quiet.
    One thing I’ve done is go to our local library and request a study room for a few hours. In these rooms you can talk quite comfortably without being overheard or observed. Not sure if anything like this is available where you need to be! But perhaps worth looking into. Another suggestion would be a co-working space where you are a member and can use a small office or cubicle for a while.

  38. Tomalak*

    LW2, If you do a video call from a coffee shop, your clients and coworkers will get an embarrassing video of people like me coming over and telling you to turn it off, and the rest of the coffee shop sighing with relief. It’s just ignorant behaviour. Please don’t.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Why, if she’s got headphones on? You wouldn’t hear what the others are saying and it would just be her end. Do you go up to people on the phone and tell them to ha g up? That seems rude. Just my opinion

      1. Tomalak*

        I somehow missed the point about headphones. I do think that makes it a lot better.

        I otherwise agree with Alison’s points, though – it’s inconsiderate to have long phone calls and video calls in a coffee shop whether others only get one or both sides of it. If you blast the noise to the rest of the cafe it’s annoying. If you don’t, the research says the brain involuntarily works extra hard to fill in the gaps in conversation. A quick “Hi, where are you? … Yes, I’m at the coffee shop now… That’s fine, I’ll see you in 10. Bye” seems harmless.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I have certainly fantasized about weighing in on someone’s loud cell call in a shared space, based only on what I have determined of the situation from my end of the shouted call.

        I imagine it’s the sort of thing many people fantasize about, and then someone enacts the fantasy and in the middle of the coffee shop yells “Don’t listen to her! The Burbage Method is a terrible solution!!!” over her shoulder at the screen, and the rest of the coffee shop erupts in applause.

        1. Tomalak*

          I think I’d just tactfully say something like “Look, I don’t mean to be awkward, but you’re disturbing everyone else here”.

      3. Hi*

        I ageee. As long as the volume isn’t louder than a normal indoor voice, what difference does it make if someone is having a phone conversation or if a group is sitting at the table talking?

      1. Tomalak*

        A good staff member would deal with it but I wouldn’t sit quietly if they failed or are rushed off their feet.

    2. JediSquirrel*

      I agree. People who spend hours doing their work in a coffee shop are annoying. I’ll leave, the shop will lose revenue, and only you will be happy.

      Don’t be that person.

      1. Tomalak*

        Agreed. I don’t mind one bit if someone quietly nurses a coffee for hours and works on their laptop.

      2. Jennifer*

        They are annoying but I’m not going to angrily storm up to them and demand they get off the phone. That’s a big time overreaction and I’d honestly worry about the mental state of someone that thinks it’s okay to do that.. The cellphone user isn’t breaking any laws.

        1. Tomalak*

          I am not going to do armchair psychoanalysis on you – “honestly worry about the mental state” etc – but believing there is no room at all in society for consideration and good manners is really odd. Are you saying there is no legal behaviour you would stand up to, no matter how bad?

          And if not “breaking any laws” is your standard then it defeats itself: what law is there against objecting to rude and obnoxious behaviour?

          1. Jennifer*

            Sure, but someone talking on a cell phone? No. That seems like a waste of my time and energy. . I don’t understand people who take a stand against EVERY minor infraction like when someone has 12 items in the 10 items or less line at the store. Who cares? But do you

            1. Tomalak*

              This is all straying massively from the actual letter. I don’t know what I think about ordinary phone calls (depends how loud and long it is, and how loud and so on the venue is, I suppose) or 12 instead of 10 in a store but you are apparently certain you know what I’d think. The actual letter is about someone having business video calls in a cafe and Alison’s points seem apt.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          The bystander helpfully weighing in with their opinions on the topic of the cellphone or video call–at least, what they can discern from their end–ALSO isn’t breaking any laws. So maybe “technically not illegal” is not the standard to aim for here.

  39. hamsterpants*

    LW2, unless you’re in a very tech friendly city, I expect your video feed will completely overwhelm the coffeeshop WiFi. You will get a poor connection and also make it hard for others to use the Wifi. It wouldn’t be fair.

  40. I'm just here for the cats*

    Letter #2 talk to the owner/ manager of the coffee shop. One of my favorites has a meeting room in the back that many people use for calls/Skype. Maybe there’s a place that you could use. Buy a lot of coffee or whatever if you do and tip!
    If that’s not an option is there a library close by? You may be able to get a study room to use. Then go meet up with your friends.

  41. Anxious Annie*

    I fully admit, I have said “I got yelled at today about X”, when it was just a talking to. Its actually something I am working on, so I am glad to see this letter. Some people myself included are super sensitive and don’t take criticism well. So in their mind getting asked to something differently or even a stern talking to can be jarring. As I said I am working on it. I even see a therapist, about my work place anxieties and general self esteem issues.

    That being said, a boss should be able to discuss things with their employees, with out them turning around and saying they yelled at someone. Since yelling particularly at work, is super inappropriate. Which is another reason, I am working on my reaction to things.

  42. Larina*

    LW #4, while I can’t say for certain if this job will be good or not, my suggestion is to not take it. Reading the description made it sounds like my old toxic job (glassdoor reviews especially). Every time I see someone on LinkedIn who just started at my old company, I’m both thrown that someone accepted a job when the glassdoor reviews are so horrid, and morbidly curious to know what incentives or offers they must be giving out to still be able to hire people.

    From someone who left an absolutely detailed and horrific glassdoor review about my former company: Don’t take the job.

    1. OP #4*

      Thank you so much– it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my skepticism! Glassdoor has its flaws, but in this case, the horrible reviews seemed genuine and worthy of consideration.

  43. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – don’t do it. Accept the fact that you work from home now and live too far to have lunch with your former colleagues. Make plans for after work or on the weekends. Sitting in a public place and making conference calls would be obnoxious and rude.

    1. Jdc*

      I agree. You work from home. It isn’t a vacation to have lunch with friends, it’s your job. As your employer I’d be pretty put off by this.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      or block off your schedule for an hour or so before and after the lunch date for “heads down work” that can be done at the coffee shop.
      Seriously though…just don’t do video calls in a public place. I don’t even like to join call in meetings I need to participate in (as opposed to just listen) at my desk. I usually book a small conference room or phone booth space.

      1. Annony*

        Considering how long the drive is, they would be using most of the time to get to and from lunch, not working. It may be better to see if they can take an hour PTO when they want to have lunch with a colleague. But I think the better option is to meet up for breakfast or happy hour.

  44. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

    The “yelled at me” thing really gets me. Growing up, whenever my mom was talking to me sternly I’d wail, “WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?!” To which she’d respond, “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YELLING IS!” Fast forward to now and I totally would say my boss yelled at me after a serious but calm talking to, lol.

  45. Mel_05*

    I’m glad to see so many people rejecting video calls in the coffee shop.

    You cannot do this without ruining the day for everyone else who is in that shop.

    1. Angelinha*

      In Boston this is super common. I might be a little annoyed if the person’s voice is super loud, but I also don’t go to a coffee shop expecting privacy. FWIW OP, I think you are fine assuming you’re not looking at taking a whole day’s worth of meetings there.

    2. Lilyp*

      This is over the top. It’s not a good idea overall but it’s not really any ruder than having a phone conversation or a loud in-person conversation or something, which is par for the course in most coffee shops

  46. Grace*

    #2 Save your co-workers from hating you and don’t do video calls, or really any calls unless you know your going to be on mute the entire time from a public place or your car. The background noise is awful, your co-workers will hate you. Working in a coffee shop, or other area where you cant control the noise is for when you are doing work alone and not including anyone via phone or video. This is my biggest hate for co-workers (we are all work from home). You may think you can do it where the others won’t know or won’t care but your wrong they will know and they will care.

  47. Tomalak*

    “Yeah, a lot of people use “I got yelled at” when they really mean their boss expressed a concern or told them to do something differently.”

    I once got a very weird call at work and was being asked a lot of personal questions as soon as I answered.

    In a normal voice and normal volume I asked things like “Who is this, sorry?” and was told I was screaming at that person. I was completely baffled until I realised this weird tendency.

    1. Annony*

      Generally, you can’t tell for sure. However if there are a ton of negative reviews and then a few glowing ones, it does raise that suspicion. If there are that many negative reviews, the positive reviews should at least mention some of the negative things. Such as: “The hours can be long but I found the work very rewarding” or “Some departments had to deal with X, but that didn’t really affect my department.”

      1. irene adler*

        Sometimes all the glowing positive reviews are dated within a few days or a week of each other. Or there’s clusters of positives, all in a short time span. Almost never find the negative reviews bunched together within a short time span.
        And, most of the positive reviews tend to cite similar positive things about the company. Probably because the poster can’t come up with enough different positive things to write about.

    2. Pretzelgirl*

      I think glass door has a feature that allows you to say if you are current or former employee. I tend to gravitate towards the former employees more

      I agree look at the dates. Once right as glass door was becoming popular the CEO of the company I worked at discovered it. He also discovered the several negative reviews. He sent an email to people who had worked at the company for more than 10 years and asked them to write a positive review. You could tell he did this, because there were like 10 positive reviews on the same day, after a slew of negative ones. When I left I put a review up and mentioned it in my comments.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        When I left I put a review up and mentioned it in my comments

        When you look at the summary of the pros and cons of one of my former employers, under Cons it says, ‘upper management was told to write positive reviews.’

        I was convinced one of the reviews came out of the PR office.

    3. OP #4*

      Yes to all of the points in this thread! A few things that were alarming to me were:
      – There were clusters of reviews that were written within days of each other
      – Almost all positive reviews were by current employees and almost all negative ones were by former employees
      – Upper management had five-star reviews with no real cons (e.g., sometimes things are fast-paced!), and they all seemed to contain the same language. It was like they were going off a script and then minimally personalizing it.
      – The pattern of positive and negative reviews was suspicious, in that for every 2 (more or less) negative reviews, there were 4 positive reviews posted days later. It seemed like they were trying to balance the scales after every couple of negative reviews.

  48. Camellia*

    #standing desk At my company, if you are 100% remote, they would accommodate this. You should at least ask.

    BTW, you mention they subsidize your phone plan. Is that because you use your phone for work? What about internet – do they also subsidize that? Or maybe my question is for all remote workers; if you are an employee, as opposed to a contractor, does your company pay for your internet?

    1. Grace*

      For the internet it depends on the company, and should be part of your negotiation when taking the position. If they cover your internet it should be a business line (in my experience) and they can monitor your internet use. This has never been a issue for me but a co-workers husband started a home business (something that caused the internet company to flag them, notice was sent to the company not the co-worker) and she was fired for using the company internet for it. So if you get it keep in mind what you are using it for but there has been no problem with my family using it for normal stuff and powering our internet TV, but I’m not very technical so take it for what it is.

    2. Beehoppy*

      At my last remote position I was reimbursed $50 per month toward my internet, and there were no restrictions as to how I could use it.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      My company offers remote employees two options: either they’ll reimburse us for internet costs up to $75 a month or they’ll give you a company cell phone/pay your current phone bill up to $75 a month. You have to choose one of the two options – I went with the cellphone because my internet at the time was dirt cheap and I travel for work (and don’t have a work landline at home) and needed a separate phone from my personal one for business use – you can’t have both. They will also purchase office supplies and equipment for remote workers (e.g., external monitors, printers, a wireless mouse), but they won’t buy our home office desk and chair.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I work 100% remote, as does my entire team. Our org provides the computer, either one 24″ or 2 19″ monitors, and keyboard/mouse/headset (for people with VOIP phones). Per policy the computer cannot be connected to a printer in a remote setting (we work with patient medical records, and printing is only allowed on-site at a secured printer) and must be connected via cable (no wifi) to high speed internet, and the org does not provide any office furniture, supplies, or internet stipend.

      On the other hand, my home internet was already plenty oomphy on account of mine is a household of video gamers and streaming tv watchers and the sum total of “office supplies” that I’ve needed in five years is approximately two pens and three pads of post-it notes. And I don’t have to commute or wear pants. So I’m perfectly happy to buy my own desk. And I did in fact just buy a desk from Amazon a couple weeks ago that has a wee electric motor and raises and lowers so I can stand or sit as I choose, big enough for both my work computer and my personal, for about $300.

    5. zebra*

      I get a quarterly check that’s meant to offset the cost of internet. I also get a 10% discount on my phone plan through my employer. I don’t think they would pay for new furniture, but if I needed a monitor or other equipment, that’s covered.

    6. halfmanhalfshark*

      Just to give more examples, I’m 100% remote, with no dedicated office (we have a “hotelling” system for offices that are set up with dual monitors, sit stand desks, decent chairs, and antiseptic cleaning wipes). I get a phone subsidy for putting my work email on my phone, a laptop and docking station, and a VOIP desk phone so I can make calls that appear to come from my work line. I asked if they would provide an “ergonomic home office” stipend that I could put towards a standing desk or a chair that doesn’t make my butt hurt and they were like “LOL no.” Which was disappointing but fine. I bought a sit/stand desk anyway and am saving for the chair.

      I guess my point is that it’s okay to ask, and they might say no, but if they aren’t monsters, they won’t hold it against you.

  49. Coffee Cake*

    #5 I’ve been remote working for 6 years now and the company I work for the the 2 others I interviewed with only cover equipment (computer, phone, initial mouse and keyboard) & Internet. The furniture of your office is your responsibility along with a lockable door.

  50. Amethystmoon*

    #2 probably would depend upon the working remote rules at your company. Mine says we cannot have distracting background noises on a business phone call, so coffee shops are out for me.

    1. Annony*

      I would think about whether anyone else on the video calls has been working in a public place. If not, then don’t do it as the new person.

  51. Catalin*

    #5: I took a slightly-too-tall desk at home, put a Rubbermaid on it with a board/plank on top and it makes the best standing desk. Downstairs, I have a lapdesk that I can set on a box on the kitchen island or rest on the back of a fat chair. You’re limited only by your imagination!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Depending on the desk, too – I had a desk previously that I raised up on a set of 8″ bed risers, the kind that go under the legs of the bed to make more storage underneath? and for me, that raised it to the perfect height for standing.

  52. Elizabeth Proctor*

    LW 2, check out the local library. Many have study rooms you can reserve that you can use when on calls. Be mindful not to take up too much time in the study rooms when you’re not actually in need of that secluded of a space, unless the library seems underused or has a ton of rooms.

    Libraries. The original co-working spaces. And free to boot!

  53. cncx*

    Re OP1, my mom did hospital scheduling at a county hospital in one of those only game in town situations (which may be why the ex applied to work there at all). it’s entirely possible for the two to be scheduled differently without one of them taking all graveyard or something, even at a small hospital. so i don’t think this is an unreasonable HR request to make and OP definitely needs to headsup HR.

  54. OP2*

    OP2 here. A few things to clear up:
    – My company is fine with people working from other places. I’ve had colleagues at coffee shops because their house is being renovated, at a doctor’s office, etc.
    – I have a great set of noise canceling headphones that work on both ends. I wouldn’t be able to hear too much going on around me, and the microphone does well at just picking up what I’m saying. I do know I’d need to be careful about my voice level, though.
    – I would use my hotspot wifi. I don’t need to take down a company’s wifi/be on public wifi.
    – I wouldn’t do this if I was running meetings, only if they were ones I had to listen in on.
    – I am usually on mute if I’m not talking anyway
    – Mornings, evenings, weekends really aren’t a possibility for me. I have two small kids, and plans all the time.

    Thanks for the feedback. Interesting what people are saying here. I wouldn’t go on video if I was showing the vast majority of people walking by (i.e. not against a wall). I agree that it’s out of line to have people on camera that don’t want to be. I’m going to see if there are coworking spaces or the library – I hadn’t thought of that. But honestly, I probably will try it at least once in the future.

    1. Grace*

      You have had co-workers at this job take video calls from coffee shops and doctors offices, or was this at another company or another group? If its this company and this group then your fine, otherwise its not a good idea to be on a video call when you are out in a public place.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Hmm I think the noise cancelling headphones might actually be worse tbh. They might help you and the people on your call but they don’t help the people in the coffee shop. Saying that you know you would need to be careful about your voice level doesn’t really change the fact that if you’re wearing those headphones you will not be very aware of the people around and of how you sound to them.

    3. Annony*

      I’m a bit confused by this response. You said in your letter that you were concerned with appearing rude. Most of the comments said that it would indeed be rude to do a full day of back to back video conferences in a coffee shop and you just don’t care anymore?

    4. Pretzelgirl*

      I would say if you are 100% sure you wouldn’t be talking then maybe doing it a coffee shop would be ok. I still may side eye, if I was a fellow patron in that particular shop.

    5. drpuma*

      OP2, if you can hotspot, why not just take meetings that are 30 minutes or less in your car? Seems like that is the least stressful for you in terms of needing to run around. Or if the weather’s nice where you are you could even do a park bench. You have your own internet – take advantage of it!

    6. Jimming*

      I think you’ll be fine if that’s part of your company culture. Also as long as the coffee shop is okay with it and you tip well!

      1. ACDC*

        This was my thought too. Especially since the OP is saying she doesn’t participate very much in these meetings and is mostly there to listen. I personally don’t see it as rude for these types of meetings (meetings with more active participation though I would do somewhere else).

  55. Eliza*

    2. While LW sounds sensitive to wanting to not infringe on those in the vicinity within the coffeeshop, bottom line: this isn’t your office and please don’t expect it to be (for hours and hours). BUT, LW forgets to consider how this may appear to colleagues on the video call!! Are their implications to be considered on that end too??

  56. Jennifer*

    #2 I hate listening to loud one-sided cell phone convos as well. Loud one-sided video calls are even worse. I don’t care how quiet people think they are being. Ya loud. Could you dash out to your car to take the calls, then come back in for coffee and treats and work until it’s time for lunch? You aren’t doing anything wrong by taking the calls in the coffeshop, but I’m sure the other patrons would appreciate it.

  57. Jennifer*

    As far as the complaints about people being on camera when they don’t want to be – welcome to 2020. I was in line at the grocery store behind someone who was on a video call complaining about long lines and just waved at the person they were talking to. We all laughed about it. Yes, it’s annoying but what are you going to do? You’re likely on camera any time you’re in a public place, whether it’s CCTV or someone taking a photo or video.

  58. austriak*

    #2 – Please don’t take video calls in a coffee shop or any public location. That has got to be one of the most annoying things when out in public.

  59. austriak*

    #4 – Run and don’t look back. The fact that they would lie by making fake reviews is telling of what kind of culture this company has. The only way I would take it is if I was completely desperate and it was the difference between being eating and not eating.

    1. Gail Davidson-Durst*

      Agreed. And even without fake reviews, I’d be really leery. They sound like they’re stingy and very reluctant to give decent pay or good benefits. Do you want to have to winkle every raise out of them for the rest of your term there? Will they even negotiate with you once you work there and they feel like you have less leverage? If it was like pulling teeth when they seem kind of desperate, it’ll only get worse. Also, factor in that you’ll be working with a bunch of coworkers who got lowballed on pay and benefits, and probably didn’t have the leverage to change the offer to what they’re worth. How happy and productive are they going to be? Is the workplace culture likely to be cooperative and cheerful or toxic and resentful?

      1. OP #4*

        You’re right– they were so stingy at first, and I was honestly shocked. It’s really common in my field for people to not negotiate their salary, especially when they’re first starting out, so it seems like they weren’t prepared for someone to be less than impressed with their offer. I also would fully expect to not get raises at all while working there. The salary increase that they agreed to after I declined the first time would be significantly more than anyone else’s at my same experience level (if they didn’t negotiate), and for a start-up, I have a hard time believing that it would be sustainable to have me there long-term. I can also imagine a situation in which they would guilt-trip me about every little thing if I worked there, which could result in an unmanageable and chaotic workload. I really appreciate your insight!

    2. OP #4*

      Agreed! I feel really fortunate to be in a position where I can wait a little longer. Almost all of the (negative) reviews that seemed genuine remarked on how awful the culture is. I’m definitely not interested or willing to be part of a team where lying like this is the norm.

    1. Susie Q*

      Eh, I think it depends on the situation.

      OP’s ex wife could have reputation damaging information about OP that could paint her as the victimized single mother who is trying to survive while her ex-husband doctor is trying to ruin her reputation and keep her from working. This could damage his reputation.

  60. austriak*

    #5 – If they currently do not provide for your office furniture, they are not going to provide a standing desk. If you love and value this job so much, save up and buy one yourself if you see this as a long-term job. I wouldn’t ask if I was you. You may come off as ungrateful and difficult to please.

  61. Workfromhome*

    #2 Another vote for no videoconference at coffee shop. I don’t like videoconference at the best of time ( I don’t like being on camera) How are other non work people at the coffee shop going to feel about being on camera without there consent. Audio only conferences can be a bit better but a lot depends on the dynamic of the meeting (are you the main presenter or just listening and asking the occasional question) If you are the presenter its probably a no. If there is a bit of background when you ask your 1 question and otherwise you are on mute then not a big deal.

    Also depends on the layout. Some places have quiet corners or sofas where you could hold a phone call without really disturbing anyone.

    I admit I take some audio only calls in noisy coffee shops if I am not doing a lot of the talking. Its OK in our culture where people take them in cars etc rather than miss them entirely.

    As for the OP situation if it has to be Video then I agree you need a room or at worst take it in the privacy of your car. If people would be tolerant maybe 1 or 2 times a week of you going “audio only” due to “scheduling” on your end you might be able to get away with it. Say if you meet friends once a week would people tolerate “hey I know we have 15 meetings each week. The 3 on Tuesday will be Audio only for me any problem with that ?

    1. tinyhipsterboy*

      To be fair, they’re already going to be on camera; most businesses have security cams. There’s not really an expectation of privacy in a public area or business unless that place is meant for privacy (i.e. public restrooms).

  62. Buttons*

    Standup Desk: CostCo in the US has an adjustable desk topper for about $200. I purchased that and a cheap under the desk treadmill from Amazon for my home office. My second set up is a large club chair, ottoman, and a roller laptop desk. I take most of my meetings on the treadmill with the stand-up topper extended tall. Then when I am working on my laptop I am in my big comfy chair, usually with a dog on my lap.
    This set up was worth every penny!

  63. Kenzi Wood*

    #2, video calls are generally a no-no at coffee shops, IMO. They’re more distracting than a regular conversation, often because you can’t hear how loud you’re actually talking with headphones in. I’ve seen people start raising their voice on video calls in public places because they can’t hear, or think others on the call can’t hear them. It’s REALLY annoying to other people who are trying to work there.

    If you have to hop on a quick video chat, in the past I’ve parked at the front of a Starbucks, hopped in my car, used the wifi for the call, then went back inside after.

    I eventually just got a coworking space with a meeting space because I was sick of this lol!

  64. Dragoning*

    OP2: Have you considered a coworking space, or even just a focus room in the public library for a few hours? A lot of them have rooms to work and record and study, and they can be fairly soundproof.

  65. WellRed*

    Am I the only that ocassionally wants to walk right up to someone on a really obnoxiously loud video call (no headphones) and lean in and introduce myself and weigh in on whatever they were talking about? No, just me?

      1. Liz*

        I’ve laughed very loudly at speakerphone jokes.

        In my call center days, I got out of work around 11 pm and took the last bus home. The last bus waits for the last subway, so the waits at the station can be long. IN cold weather, you could be stuck on the bus for a while. One night, a man sitting in front of me decided to call up some music (apparently, a few bands still do dial-a-song), with his phone on speaker, very loudly, over and over again. After the third song, I said, very loudly “OH MY GOD! IS THAT A CELL PHONE! I’M SO IMPRESSED!”, the way you might talk to a small child who is showing you something that they are very proud of and that you want to throw away immediately. He gave me a very strange look, then turned the music off.

  66. Jennifer*

    #1 I wouldn’t worry about getting sent back to nights. You’re a doctor and have been working there a while. She’s an unknown entity. People are usually going to take the side of the doctor, for better or worse. In this case, better.

  67. Orange You Glad*

    Working in coffee shops – ok when you are doing individual activities, like checking email or writing up a report; not ok when fielding calls all day, especially video calls
    I honestly never considered what my reaction would be to video calls at a coffee shop because I didn’t think anyone could be that inconsiderate.

  68. Buttons*

    I work from home and sometimes head to Starbucks because my country internet is acting up. If I have to take a call I pop out to the outside area or get into my car. My local Starbucks is set back from the road and there isn’t ever a lot of people in the outside sitting area during the week day. I would never consider taking a call inside the Starbucks, it is rude to the people who are there doing their own thing.

  69. PR Girl*

    #1: Please say something. In any workplace it’s imperative that your directions are followed if you are the one providing them, but it’s even more critical in a hospital where the subordination can impact patient care. Just because you’re not on the same shift or in the same department doesn’t mean the situation would never come up, especially as staffing levels flux and in the event of emergencies like, God forbid, a mass casualty situation where it’s all hands on deck. You need to protect yourself because it sounds like you’d have more to lose professionally if something happened to your employment.

    I agree that you need to think about any impact to your kids, but as a physician, it’s likely your concerns will be taken seriously and you’ll be given preference on shifts over a new employee who is likely still in a probationary period. It’s a lot harder for hospitals and health systems to keep engaged members of the medical staff than nurses.

  70. Employment Lawyer*

    2. Taking video calls in a coffeeshop
    I strongly dislike this and rank it as a 7 on the obnoxious-neighbor scale, though YMMV. Taking a phone call is one thing; scheduling a video conference is another.

    If you plan to try this, get a really good headset-mounted microphone, preferably one which is on a longer microphone boom so it can be placed right in front of your mouth. This will allow you to talk MUCH more quietly while still remaining clear; that would really cut down on the intrusion.

    3. When people say their boss yelled at them, how do I know if they mean it literally?
    In my experience, they usually don’t. People tend to summarize disagreement as worse than it is, and especially chastisement/punishment as worse than it is. “Yelled at me” is a common figure of speech, and is generally not literal (as opposed to “shouted at me”, which is almost always literal.)

    Just clarify, using terms like “literally raise their voice” or “literally shout.”

    Also: while it’s never nice to be shouted at, it is often a way for the shouter to “blow off” some of their anger or annoyance, and lessen future consequences. So the question is not “do you want to be shouted at” (obviously nobody wants that.) Rather, it’s “would you prefer shouting, or an alternate set of no-shouting consequences?” I’ve seen some managers who shouted, but then moved on: when they were told to stop shouting they started writing people up instead. I’m not so sure this was an overall benefit to all of their employees and I bet some of them preferred the shouting.

    4. Is this employer being too persistent with their job offer?
    Yes. Unless you have a very unusual combination of skills in your market, then something is off. (If you’re the “only MBA in town” or “the first applicant they have seen with a triple major in statistical analysis, marketing, and marijuana cultivation” then this may explain it, but only you will know that.)

    5. Asking my employer to pay for a standing desk when I work from home
    I don’t see anything wrong with asking, but one can only ask for so much. You should rank this sort of request so that you focus your “never hurts to ask” requests on the things which are most important to you. If this is near the top, ask away!

    1. OP #4*

      I thought about that too! I’m in a profession that requires licensing/certification and specific education requirements, so the job title is pretty consistent and standardized. Sure, my training was at a prestigious institution, and it was a good match for the job, but I really haven’t been out of school for that long. I believe that there is a slight shortage of people in my profession where I live, but I wouldn’t call my skills very unusual at all, or even “special.” I do hope, however, that I end up encountering someone that triple majored in statistical analysis, marketing, and marijuana cultivation– I’m sure that they would be fascinating to talk to!

    2. OP #4*

      I was thinking about that too! My skills definitely do not meet the “very unusual” threshold. Sure, they’re in relatively high demand these days, and my training/experience was a good match for this particular job, but I haven’t been out of school for very long at all. There are lots of people who do what I do and have way more experience, so I agree that something is off.

  71. Anna Maus*

    If someone comes from an abusive situation, either current or in their background, they feel a lot of pressure to be perfect, and any words that can be interpreted as harsh can be reported as yelling. I realize this isn’t something a manager can manage, but I think it’s worth keeping in mind.

    1. Blueberry*

      Yes, this. I struggle with this in general (and getting a job where I was actually raised-voice yelled at and even called insulting names really put all my previously received scoldings into perspective).

  72. Tisiphone*

    #5 – Whenever I work from home, I tend to roam around my house, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes in the kitty-free office, sometimes outside when the weather is fine. The kitchen has a dedicated area at the counter and it’s perfect for standing. Everywhere else is a sitting space. I love that the battery lasts an entire shift.

    Definitely ask your manager about getting a standing desk. If the answer is no or you have to wait a while for delivery and setup, standing at the kitchen counter might be an option. It’s worth trying. My company is very flexible in that I can work anywhere and don’t have to have a specific room dedicated to being a workspace. The important thing is getting work done.

  73. Daisy-dog*

    #2 – You’ve gotten a ton of advice & feedback, but I don’t think I saw this anywhere. You can buy a mobile hotspot from any cell phone provider. Then you can use that to have conference calls from anywhere – a park, your car, etc. If this is the only thing you use it for, it should last a long time.

    I work for a global team and occasionally have someone from 10-hours ahead of us join a conference call from home. I do not know her situation, but we definitely get a lot of background noise (people talking) that is very clear and makes it hard for us to understand her.

  74. Tidewater 4-1009*

    LW1, if your ex is contentious with you she probably will be with others too, and if so she won’t last.
    I worked in a hospital administration. Around the time I started a nurse who was a friend of my colleague started also. She had clear issues – she was disrespectful and ignored boundaries. She was gone in a few weeks.
    Hopefully your hospital is smart enough to dismiss your ex if she causes problems for you or anyone else.

  75. Pilcrow*

    #4, the pushy employer

    Be careful of communicating through recruiters, especially if they are external to the company. I find it fishy that the *company* offered a 1% increase, but then the *recruiter* comes back offering 1o+% and other benefits. That’s inconsistent.

    There is a certain class of recruiters (not all by any means, but more than a few) that will exaggerate or outright lie. Do they have actual authority to make these promises or are they making it up to get you to sign (and get their fee from the company)? Even if they are legit, it’s another layer to go through and misunderstandings happen.

    If you are still considering going forward, double-check all the promises the recruiter made and get them confirmed from the *actual employer in writing.*

    1. OP #4*

      Such a great point! Luckily for this position, the recruiter was internal, but I’ve worked with many shady external recruiters in the past, and some that were downright manipulative. I remember one external recruiter in the past who insisted on speaking over the phone about every single detail of the job. If I emailed or texted him, he would call minutes later. I ultimately had to tell him that I couldn’t keep track of everything if it wasn’t in writing; he complied with my request to keep conversations limited to email, but it took a lot of self-advocacy to get there. You’re right, it’s so important to double-check all the promises, especially with offers that seem to good to be true. I ended up turning this job down once and for all, but I’ll be sure to remember that in the future.

  76. MissedCalls*

    OP2: I think you can pick your meetings for the coffee shop spaces! If it’s a meeting where you will be do a lot of the talking, I would recommend a coworking space, or more private area. Like others said, the optics of being very active in a meeting while at the coffee shop can be iffy.
    But if it’s one that you need to be active in but not doing a bunch of talking, I think a coffee shop is fine! Especially because you can mute your mic so the background noise isn’t distracting.
    Feel out the surroundings, if you don’t think you’ll stand out, then go for it!

  77. Book Recommendation*

    If anyone is interested into the science behind why there’s such strong reaction to LW #2 proposing doing video calls from coffee shops, there’s actually been research into why overhearing only one side of a conversation is more annoying than overhearing two people talking. Read up on it in Joe Palca & FLora Lichtman’s book Annoying (https://smile.amazon.com/Annoying-Science-What-Bugs-Us/dp/0470638699/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=annoying+flora+lichtman&qid=1582127206&sr=8-1).

    1. eshrai*

      That was pretty interesting! Basically, its annoying because we can’t understand what is going on, which makes it super distracting to us. Anything that is super distracting is annoying by default. I get that. I have ADHD and get annoyed by a lot of normal sounds because I can’t tune anything out unless I’m hyper-focusing. Its kind of cool to understand what is behind the annoyance.

    2. zaracat*

      That’s very interesting, because it also explains why we tend to tend to “fanfic” the unrevealed back story of advice column letter writers!

  78. I Will Steal Your Pens*

    #5 – I have worked in organizations where we gave them to people regardless of a need. I would always advise the managers that the cost is minimal compared to the extent it goes for morale. literally – they are maybe 500$. And as I work for a multi-billion dollar organization – they wont even notice the cost.

    Plus – if they leave it goes back to the company.

  79. tinyhipsterboy*

    #2: I personally wouldn’t mind someone taking a conference call next to me as long as they’re not being ridiculously loud. Customers conversing in a coffee shop is pretty normal, as is someone using their phone. Plus, if I’m working or writing outside of the home, I almost always have headphones on, so if someone next to me is a little louder than normal, I can just turn my music up. The only thing I would be worried about is the company thinking confidential information would get out (since it really depends on each company; some consider any client-related talk to be confidential). If worse comes to worst, there’s always turning on your camera but typing in chat to speak. It really depends on if it’s important you physically speak or if cameras being on are just on to show you’re paying attention.

    I second the library idea, though!

  80. juju*

    #3 – I was a non-traditional college student so I was 30 in classrooms full of 19 year olds. The phenomenon of saying a professor or boss “yelled” at them when in fact I saw them being kindly (or heck – even brusquely) corrected was baffling to me! I *hope* to get feedback; feedback isn’t bad, it’s a good thing! In one instance, I saw a student become indignant when a professor corrected her in an email, asking the student to refer to her as “Dr.” instead of “Ms.” Instead of getting indignant, I wanted to tell the student to be glad that someone took the time to correct her at this point when she has very little at stake, as opposed to when a mistake like that could have a bigger impact on her life. I was hoping that this is just a young adult thing; I hadn’t/haven’t seen people my age and background (i.e. working class) say they got “yelled” at for getting feedback or being corrected.

  81. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    LW #2 – a few things: see if the video call service you’re using offers the option to blur out the background. I use Teams (since the company I work for has switched to it) and it offers this option. It’s great for working at home, or at a client office — or even in a coffeehouse! Second suggestion – get a headset and mic combo where the mic filters out background noise. It’ll make the people on the other end of your call much, much happier! Bonus points if the listening portion of the headset is noise-canceling (although I’m not sure if that’s an option for the combo pieces) if you’re like me and sudden upticks in noises distract you.

    1. Pilcrow*

      I actually saw a commercial for Teams that showed someone in a coffee shop blurring the background!

      My company switched to Teams, too. We are a mostly camera-off culture, but one time our team turned the cameras on and completely distracted ourselves with the novelty of video and playing with the blur background feature. I have to say, it does do a pretty good job, even when people are moving.

  82. Junior Assistant Peon*

    OP 1 – my girlfriend is a hospital nurse, and the nurses she works with are very tight with each other – lots of friendship and socializing outside work. This is not going to end well for you if she gets all the other nurses on her side and convinces them you’re a horrible person. I definitely agree that you need to go to HR – if you start getting anonymous reports of misconduct, it could save your career if they know someone has a grudge.

    1. valentine