employer wants me to block sites on my personal laptop, helping an employee who stutters, and more

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

1. My employer sent me software for my personal laptop that blocks adult sites

I have recently taken on an almost full-time job with a client I used to freelance for. I work remotely, so up until now I’ve been working on my personal computer, which has worked fine for all involved. Their IT person recently sent me a link to some antivirus software, saying that now that I’m a permanent staff member, it’s important that I’m protected. I did have some questions (they’re all Windows! I’m an Apple person!) but I installed it, no problems.

However. I now realize that this software has been … blocking me from accessing porn sites. Obviously this would be unacceptable on a work computer, but what I do in my own time should not be my employer’s concern, right? I am mortified at the thought that this data could be accessed by a colleague, and also fairly indignant at what feels like an overstep.

Do I have any standing to push back? And, if so, would you suggest that I bring it up as an issue of authority, or couch it in some kind of inoffensive “oh, I couldn’t get it to work” language? (We’re not in the U.S., if that’s relevant.)

Of course, I could just uninstall the software! I feel like I should let them know that I’m uninstalling it though, and I’m wondering if I need to give them a reason, and what to do if they push back. I imagine they could fairly respond along the lines of “because our work is sensitive in X and Y way, we need all computers accessing our data to be protected.” I’m not super-keen on paying for my own anti-virus software, but I feel like I may need to offer that as a solution if I don’t want to use the one they’re providing?

Eh, I’d just pick your own anti-virus software and uninstall theirs, unless you’ve signed something or otherwise agreed to a policy saying you’ll use it. This is your personal computer. If they want to save money by having you use your personal computer, then they’re giving up some control over it. Alternately, they’re welcome to supply you with a company laptop that has any software they want on it.

If you feel obligated to inform them, you could send a note saying, “I found the software was blocking legitimate sites, so I’ve switched to OtherSoftware instead.”

By the way, make sure they haven’t had you install anything that allows them to do a remote wipe of your data, which is a thing.

2. Rules of engagement in a new office layout

In January, my office moved locations. Our new office is an upgrade in quality compared to our old digs, but came with a 25% reduction in square footage and smaller cubicles with shorter walls. My colleagues and I are in much closer quarters now and dealing with a pretty jarring reduction in personal privacy. Where our cube walls were six feet tall in our old building, they are now under five feet. The old building felt very quiet and private, and the new space offers little privacy. Anyone can look around and see what is happening in all of the cubes on a given floor.

Most people have responded in what I believe to be a constructive way, by pretending as if the old cube walls were still in place and avoiding looking into people’s cubes when they pass by. Others have yet to get the message, and I’m not sure they will without some instruction. A few people on my floor look into my cube every time they pass by. This doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but when it happens several times an hour (I sit by the copy machine in a high traffic area), it’s hard not to feel like my privacy is being invaded. I’m not sure if it’s relevant, but these “peepers” all happen to be men, and I’m a woman. Additionally, people (men) often stop at my desk to ask if I know where so-and-so sits or if so-and-so is in the office today (even when I’m wearing headphones or on a call). I don’t want to harp on my male colleagues, but so far this has not been an issue with women, and my floor is about 80% women.

I really want to be helpful, but I get so many inquiries that it’s becoming difficult to maintain the concentration required for my highly analytical work. These two situations are completely new for me, and I’m not sure a) how to kindly ask these men to stop peeping at me while they walk by, and b) how to make clear that I am a research analyst and memorizing people’s schedules and floor plan isn’t one of my other duties as assigned. Do you have any advice?

The less gratifying you make the interruptions for people, the less they’ll probably happen. Taking calls with your back to the cubicle opening may help — you can pointedly not see them when they interrupt a call. Or you can look confused/mildly annoyed, point to the phone, and turn away to continue your conversation. If you’re not on a call but just focused on work, take a loooong time to respond — look absorbed, keep typing, then slowly drag yourself away from your screen while looking highly distracted, and say, “Sorry, I’m super focused on what I working on — can you repeat that?” Then when they ask where a colleague is, look confused about why they’re asking you and say, “No idea.” Do that a few times and most people will get the idea that you’re not their office guide. (You need to tailor this to the person, though — you can’t lay it on this heavy for someone senior to you.)

If it’s not antithetical to your office culture, you can also try a sign that says “on deadline — please do not interrupt unless emergency” or similar.

As for the peepers, any chance you can rearrange your set-up so their view of you is blocked more than it is now? Or, failing that, can you rearrange so that your back is to them and you’re not distracted by every passing peeper? I know you want them to stop altogether, but there’s not really a way to say “stop looking at me when you walk by,” so finding ways to be less impacted by it may be your best bet.

3. Do I need to use my limited PTO for an incentive vacation?

I performed well enough last year for my company to award me an incentive vacation (yay!). The dates they have selected cover two days of my company’s traditional work week. I was expecting the vacation to fall outside of our allotted PTO, since it was framed as a reward for excellent performance. But I’m now learning that the expectation is that I will use two days of my PTO allowance to take the vacation.

Our company has an all-in-one PTO policy, meaning that I need to keep a few days in reserve for illnesses and emergencies—and I have my own travel plans this year. There’s no precedent for this in our company because it’s the first year of the incentive program, and I’m the only one who qualified.

Is it unreasonable of me to expect the company to give me an additional two days off as a part of the reward? Or is it unreasonable of the company to expect employees to treat a reward as something that comes at a cost of sorts to us?

I wouldn’t say it’s egregious, but it’s not great. It waters down the reward significantly.

But if it’s the first year the company is doing it, they might just not have thought it through. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say, “I really appreciate this reward. But I’ve got all my PTO planned out for this year and don’t have any remaining I could use for this, especially since I need a few days in reserve for sickness and emergencies. Since it’s an incentive vacation, would the company consider not pulling the time from my PTO? Otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to take the trip.”

4. Helping an employee who stutters

I am pretty new to management—in fact, I’m on my second intern ever. He has a stutter. I’m cool about speech disabilities, since I have a disabled brother; I don’t react to his stutter at all, and he seems comfortable speaking in front of me. We have a friendly, easy rapport. I have noticed that in meetings or when he’s talking with others in our department—situations where he’s more uncomfortable or nervous—he stutters more. I’m wondering if there are best practices for addressing something like this. I would be comfortable bringing it up in one of our check-ins, and saying something like: “I noticed that you stutter. Is there anything I can do to support you?” But I don’t want to disturb our existing dynamic. Do you have any advice?

I’d love to hear from readers with stutters on this one, but my thought is that the best thing you can do is follow your employee’s lead, not raise it unless he does, and be his advocate with others. (For example, if you notice people are finishing his sentences for him rather than giving him time to finish, you could privately speak with them and ask them not to do that.)

5. I heard the place I’d love to work is actually awful

I recently applied to what I thought was my dream job — but then I spoke to a previous supervisor who I like and respect and who worked there several years ago. She told me that it’s a hostile work environment and that the CEO is unstable and awful to her employees. I just got asked to interview — do I do it? I don’t like my current job and I’ve been fixated on working at this place for over a year. What do you think?

There’s no harm in interviewing and getting more information, but I’d be very, very wary. The kind of insider knowledge your manager gave you is incredibly valuable when you’re job searching — it’s what can keep you from ending up in a nightmare. Unless something has changed since she worked there (like a new CEO and culture revamp), put a lot of weight on her assessment.

(And this is a good reminder that you can never really know from the outside what a place is really like to work at.)

{ 486 comments… read them below }

  1. Mid*

    Pshh, LW 1, just watch porn on your phone instead!

    But in all seriousness, you should have virus protection on your computer, so I’d uninstall the IT one, but check to see if your ISP offers you one for free.

    1. Some Sort of Management consultant*

      I have the opposite problem, I (like most everyone else at my firm) only use our company phones… no personal phones. ;)

    2. Ego Chamber*

      Yeah, I was sort of curious what LW1 is doing for virus protection if they don’t want a paid service (nothing? anything?), since that’s not a great cost-savings strategy if your machine gets full of viruses/malware/adware/etc and porn sites are often crawling with all of the above. I’m curious what type of block messages they’re getting, since there’s a difference between “Blocked due to content” and “Blocked due to trojan attempt.”

        1. Goldfinch*

          Yup, I use Macs at work, and there is no third-party antivirus installed on the Macbooks themselves. Security is carried out at the firewall/network level. Our InfoSec guy is a national conference speaker, so I assume he’s pretty on the ball.

          1. Lucia*

            Counterpoint: My husband is a CIO at a fortune 50. They have had plenty of Mac laptops that have come in with malware and viruses from the users searching for porn sites. So many that they now have a policy that the Mac users have to pay the replacement costs if the machine is trashed by porn-related viruses.

            Interestingly, he says he’s never had a woman trash a Mac b/c of negligent porn-surfing. Not that he thinks that women don’t view porn on company laptops, but that the must be smarter about it or just luckier or something.

            They have tried banning all porn, but that’s actually a lot harder than people think and often leads to people finding ways of doing it surreptitiously and more dangerously.

            1. Lucia*

              PS With respect to the data-erasing aspects, this is absolute a requirement for any employees of the company my husband works for. No work for the company – none – can be done on a computer that they cannot remotely wipe when done. Why? He works for a company with very stringent federal and state requirements on data privacy. There is no choice. They have to be able to completely wipe the machine.

              Because of this, it is absolutely disclosed up front. People who use their own machines must agree to have a personal and work desktop, to only install the software on the work desktop, and to backup the personal desktop to the cloud. This is so that the data-erase required at the end of the employment period doesn’t completely destroy all the personal data.

              Also, if you are relying solely on one device and storing locally in the age of free cloud storage, you really, truly need to spend some time learning how to use the cloud for your own sake. Computers don’t’ last forever. Some absolutely die for no good reason.

              1. Yvette*

                I worked remotely twice a week for old company, more if weather was bad. All remote work was done on my personal laptop, however access was done via a VPN to the physical company office desktop. Once done the access was a window on the laptop. No data could be copied or saved to the laptop hard drive, you could not even cut from a doc on the VPN and paste to a doc on the laptop. For all intents and purposes it was a physically distinct machine. When I left, there was no wiping etc. My PW access to the VPN was terminated ant that was it. Also office desktops had no data ports an any documents saved were on a company shared drive.

                1. Lucia*

                  VPNs are always the way to go when possible.

                  The issue is for my husband’s company is that some of the workers are in areas with spotty internet or no internet at all. Hence, the policy.

                  He has federal data requirements that make HIPAA look like a cakewalk. So for those who can’t do all work on a VPN, they have the data-wipe agreement.

                2. Lucia*

                  Also, I do almost all my work now as a lawyer by using the cloud and online software. Almost nothing of mine is “stored locally” or even accessed that way.

                  I think this will all become less of an issue as that becomes the norm.

              2. foolofgrace*

                I am embarrassed to state that I am confused by “the cloud”. It is my understanding that there is no one “cloud”; you can use (and sign up for, probably for a fee?) google, verizon, etc. So you have to remember which cloud you’re using. Please correct me if I’m wrong, I need all the info I can get.

                1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

                  “The cloud” is just an abstract term for all the different options you’re mentioning.

                  Just like “the Internet” is just an abstract term for all the sites out there and the networks connecting them.

                2. Lime Lehmer*

                  You are correct, the “cloud is not a single location and you do have to remember where you backed up your data.
                  It is just like when you save files to different locations on your computer. You can save files to your desktop, folder, external drive or to a cloud (think internet) based storage system.

                  If you don’t want to use a cloud based system, you can save files to a thumb or external drive.
                  You can automate this process and backing up a computer regularly is a good idea.

                3. Lucia*

                  Yes. All the “cloud” means is that the data isn’t stored on the device. It’s stored on someone else’s server. Your are accessing your data via the internet.

                  There are multiple cloud services, some are free, some are paid. I have a free Icloud and a paid ICloud. I get Up to 50 GB of storage for 99 cents per month. If you aren’t a heavy-data user, that’s usually sufficient.

                  I prefer the cloud b/c of ease of access and security. My house is more likely to burn down and my device fail than Apple loosing all my data.

                4. Lucia*

                  As Lime Leather says, there are options. Which you chose depends on your needs and your preferences.

                  I would, however, advise against storing your data only on one device.

                5. Lucia*

                  Please don’t be embarrassed. I never assume everyone has the same life experience, knowledge, or skill set.

                6. TootsNYC*

                  and any of those companies can go under at any time as well.

                  If you really need it forever, print it out. Or move it to a storage medium under your control (and hope the format doesn’t become obsolete).

                7. twig*

                  Also chiming in to say: Don’t be embarassed.

                  Some useful terminology that I learned in an IS class (in which I was the oldest student at the ripe old age of 40 a few years back)

                  Digital Immigrant: Someone who did NOT grow up with the internet
                  Digital Native: Someone who DID grow up with the internet

                  Us digital immigrants gained most of our computery knowledge on the job — so we tend to have a good idea of how to use technology in our work.

                  Digital natives, learned while playing around on the internet growing up.

                  Because of this, Both groups assume that Digital Natives have better tech skills when it comes to work. BUT because, Digital Immigrants learned technology in the workplace, our work-related tech skills actually tend to be better than those of Digital Natives.

                  For example: I JUST stumbled my way through setting up Venmo on my phone last night. I’m pretty sure that I”m late to that party.

                  But my 20 year old student worker needs to be walked through formatting an excel document to print properly with the needed headers and footers.

                  I’ve recently started consolidating my paperwork and stuff in the cloud — I’m using the g-drive associated with my “professional” sounding gmail address (name@gmail.com as opposed to sillymoniker@gmail.com)

                8. Timothy (TRiG)*

                  “The Cloud” just means “someone else’s computer, accessed over the internet”. It can be a good thing (more security from housefire, flooding, or hard drive failure), but you are using someone else’s computer to store your stuff on, so there’s security implications there.

                  I use Dropbox, and consider myself safe unless a three-letter agency comes after me with a warrant, which seems unlikely at this point. Your calculus may vary.


              3. Jojo*

                If i was using a personal computer for work i would purchase a separate one. And write it off as a work expense. If they did not provide one.

            2. Quill*

              Possibly the cheapest / most virus ridden porn sites cater so much to men that most women don’t go there?

            3. Black Bellamy*

              Not to split hairs, but these viruses didn’t come from people searching for anything. On a Mac the user has to provide an affirmative confirmation. So they clicked on some link, got a pop-up saying “hey install this” and then they clicked OK. I’m sure it said “Important Flash Update” or some other lie, but in the end the user had to agree.

            4. Alexandra Lynch*

              Anecdotally in my observation, women tend to prefer to read their porn rather than see their porn. There’s not a ton of viruses on, say, the fanfiction archives, and some of that is nicely porny porn porn. (I write it, I should know.) So it flies under the radar.

      1. LW1*

        I don’t think it specified? It just showed the name of the site. I can probably check though — what would the difference be, practically?

        1. LW1*

          Ugh, sorry — long-time lurker, first-time commenter, so I’m still getting the hang of the system here! I’ve just been relying on the inbuilt Mac antivirus, and have never had any problems with it before. My above comment is about the Trojan vs content block message.

          1. Violet Fox*

            Realistically that’s all you need. Well that and actually being careful about where you install software from.

            1. Lucia*

              And any pop-ups you click. Make sure that your Mac is set to not allow pop-ups unless it’s from verified sites.

          2. lemon*

            A content block would just mean that the site is being blocked because your employer doesn’t want folks looking at porn (but is probably otherwise safe).

            A Trojan warning would mean the site you’re visiting is malicious and trying to infect your computer.

          3. Mid*

            I have a Mac but mine is getting old enough that the built in can’t be updated anymore. But yeah, the built in antivirus should be fine. As long as you’re using it!

      2. Bree*

        Yeah, I was think that lots of porn sites do have viruses, aggressive pop-ups, links to questionable places. If it’s very thorough software, could be reacting to all that, not because it’s porn? Of course, not if it’s all adult sites, but could be tested.

        Also wonder if there might be settings somewhere that could be adjusted.

      3. Lucia*

        Husband is an IT exec. His take on porn and viruses:

        Buy a cheap Amazon tablet for under $50. Use it solely and only for porn. Amazon also allows you to buy fires on installments without interest. So you could get a “porn tablet” for installments of $11 per month.

        If you can’t afford the $50, learn to use private browsing on your MAC and completely wipe all history/cookies/etc. when done. The latter approach Is not 100% guarantee of virus protection.

        Also, No disrespect to the Mac experts, but I know from my husband’s work horror stories that MACS can, and do get malware and viruses from people watching porn. They are safer that Window’s systems, but they are not rendered bullet proof by the better firewall and installation protections. He’s had to deal with infected Macs more often than one might think.


        On a personal note: I bought a Fire tablet solely so I can read books, watch my tv shows/movies, and peruse AAM and CA while in the bath. They are more water-resistant than most other devices. I currently have a MAC desktop, a personal iPad, a work iPad Pro, an iPhone, and an Amazon tablet named “Rubber Ducky.” Having Rubber Ducky has been so freeing b/c I can use it in the bath, outside, in my art studio, any anywhere else messy or potentially dangerous without any worry I’m about to destroy a very expensive piece of kit. For anyone who can afford it, I highly recommend having a “don’t worry if I junk it” tablet around.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          buy a cheap Amazon tablet for under $50. Use it solely and only for porn. Amazon also allows you to buy fires on installments without interest. So you could get a “porn tablet” for installments of $11 per month.

          Also in IT, and recommend the same.

          You don’t even need a full-fledged tablet. Any old phone with wifi-only will do.

          Never (never ever) use something for porn that could come near your work network. Neeeevvvveerrrrr.

          1. Lucia*

            Or has sensitive personal data. Don’t put your finances on the same device (or anything linked) as your porn.

            I have my data on my personal Icloud account across all my personal MAC devices. This never, ever touches work and never touches my Fire.

        2. steve*

          As someone who also works in IT, I’m genuinely surprised by some of these comments. It’s 2o20 – major porn sites have a lot more to gain in business from customers who trust them than they do by distributing viruses or malware, etc. If you’re looking at one of the major mainstream sites (of which there are quite a few), you don’t really need to worry about malware any more than you would on, say, Youtube. I guess you might have problems if you’re looking for super obscure stuff or trawling through the Dark Web, but that’s true for any kind of content at this point.

      4. Amethystmoon*

        Good point, you do need to have something. I usually just use whatever my laptop came with. I believe it’s Norton.

    3. T2*

      IT expert here. It is your computer, so use whatever software you want. If they were that concerned they would send you a PC to use.

      However, I would not suggest installing AV provided by your ISP. The ISP may have a different agenda than yours. ISPs have an interest in aggregating and selling your browser history, and in worst cases, even your personally specific data. Essentially I would not recommend trusting them at all.

      1. Ebrofin*

        ISPs in the US don’t aggregate and sell your browser history. The major ISPs actually state on their sites that they don’t do this. Your cell provider may sell your mobile data in the aggregate. However, your browser vendor and anyone that can put a cookie on your browser are merrily selling your data.

        1. Thegs*

          ISPs 100% do aggregate your browsing history and sell access to it:

          https://www.xfinity.com/privacy/policy#privacy-how – “We use the information we collect to […] eliver personalized marketing and advertising”

          https://about.att.com/csr/home/privacy/full_privacy_policy.html – “We use your information to […] market our services, […] for advertising

          https://www.verizon.com/about/privacy/full-privacy-policy#acc-item-31 – “We use information to: […] Better predict content and marketing offers that may interest you”

          I mean, sure they don’t sell the data because they own advertising networks and aren’t interested in selling to their competitors, but they do sell the access to your data in the exact same Manner Facebook or Google does.

      2. IT bad guy*

        IT person here to0 – I would be curious to know if the OP uses the computer to access corporate networks, documents etc. If I had a user asking to use their personal device they would have to agree to install some software that is on all of the devices on our network – software that protects us from ransomware etc. If they don’t agree, their device isn’t allowed on our network – but we will gladly provide them with the equipment they need.
        Also – once installed, the user cannot uninstall. I have a recent hire who asked to use his macbook on our network and I told him he needed to install software in order to do that – he told me he would prove to me why he doesn’t need to do that and I said that is the deal – if you want it on our network you must install the software – he continued to argue, but our security isn’t negotiable. We currently have no one using a personal computer on our systems.

        1. LW1*

          What do you mean by corporate networks? I do use my computer to connect to our Sharepoint and OneDrive, but I’m not sure if that’s what you mean.

    4. snowglobe*

      I would really focus on getting a company-provided computer. If you uninstall the company provided software and then you do get a virus that gets into the company system, you will take the blame for that. It’s not unreasonable for a company to want to ensure that any computer logging in to their system is protected via a malware protection software that they have vetted. I would guess that getting a company-provided computer would cause fewer problems than uninstalling their software.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, I think from the letter nothing indicates that they have asked for that yet so I wouldn’t write it off as them forcing him to use his personal computer as a cost saving measure just yet. I would say that you understand that as a full time employee now they want to have control over the software on your computer, but that you’re not comfortable with that on your personal laptop and would prefer they issue a work laptop.

        1. LW1*

          Thanks for the advice — you’re right, they’re not forcing me to use a personal computer. It’s just been a natural progression which, until now, has suited everyone. I have no idea what the response would be if I asked for them to supply one, but I’ll send an update if anything interesting happens.

          Interesting that you’ve assumed gender here!

      2. Antilles*

        Frankly, even if IT approved an alternative anti-virus, I’d *still* be pushing for a company-provided computer for all sorts of other reasons:
        >You might end up fighting this battle multiple times when a new IT guy joins (not knowing the history) and wants to push back to standardize things.
        >You might run into other software requirements from the company that are more difficult to get around.
        >Legally, if you’re using your personal computer heavily for projects, it’s now discoverable if a project goes sideways or could get seized as evidence if there’s a police raid…even if you’re not at all involved with it, they’ll still take it first and figure it out later.
        >Spillover between your free time and work time because “well, since the computer is already on…”.
        >If the computer crashes, it’s your time/money/hassle to fix it ASAP so you can get back to work, whereas if it’s a work PC, IT would be dealing with it.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agree with this, although my California bias means that I think they should provide a laptop or compensate you for commandeering yours. :)

    5. Jellybean*

      If you’re in a private enough space to use a laptop, then purchase a Chromecast if the phone screen is not sufficient! :)

    6. anon atm*

      Plenty of virus protection software doesn’t block porn sites, though. I don’t think it makes sense to assume they aren’t using anything. I use Microsoft’s Windows Defender software and I can still access porn.

    7. Phony Genius*

      Keep this in mind: if you found out that it blocks the site when you tried to access it, then your employer probably knows you were trying to access the site. They may or may not care about that, regardless of whether or not they should.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        IMHO this right here is reason to never, ever use your personal device for an employer’s work.
        I’ve seen enough hostile managers and back-stabbing colleagues to expect that one day someone will be looking for a reason to get me in trouble or fired, and if I was using my personal computer for work they would look at the history for something they could use against me.
        It’s usually not reasonable. At my old job a manager I had never met tried to cause trouble for me. Politics? Projecting his issues? Something else? No way to tell.
        Protect yourself by getting a work-issued computer for work.
        Also as Antilles mentioned, they will do the maintenance and that takes significant stress, time and money off of you.

    8. anon4this*

      Mac/Apple computers are a weird exception!
      They actually don’t really need Virus protection since most viruses target PCs/Window computers.
      There’s plenty of free anti-virus software for Apple computers out there (I’ve had a Mac book Pro since 2014 and still using and never had a virus and only have free Avast anti-virus software).

        1. Annie*

          Worked in an apple specialist for years; we used malwarebytes almost exclusively for screening, and then did malware removal by hand. Apple computers have very robust protection but it is very easy for an inexperienced user to get adware on their computer.

          1. anon4this*

            I mean, malicious software can be added to any computer system.
            But most virus don’t target Macs/Apple computers…

            1. Antilles*

              The key word there is “most”. For years, it really was true that “Macs never get targeted by viruses” – due to some mix of small market share (not worth bothering) and gaping holes in the standard Windows security (easier targets). But Apple products are now used commonly enough in business and professional settings that there absolutely are viruses, ransomware, etc specifically targeted at Macs. There are fewer viruses that can hit Macs, but it’s now a lucrative enough market that it’s no longer a zero.
              Unfortunately, the bigger issue is that this “I’m 100% safe, I got a Mac!” myth is pervasive enough that a lot of Apple users are lax with their security in other ways. Even ignoring viruses, there’s still all sorts of crap to worry about – adware/spyware, macros hidden in Word documents, spoofed emails, the seemingly limitless supply of social engineering scams, and so forth. While plenty of users do take security seriously (and you seem to be one of those, kudos), a sadly large amount of Mac users still rely on the dated “Macs are immune! I’m good!” mindset.

            2. Annie*

              Yes, of course. In fact, guidance from Apple themselves required us to no longer say “Macs don’t get viruses!” And instead detail why macs are safer in daily use. (Unsurprisingly, Apple has very strict guidelines for what you do or do not say when selling their products, even in a non corporate store).

              There are plenty of adware/malwares that target Macs, though. Far more than most people assume.

          2. Lucia*

            It’s not 100% about experience.

            I’ve had people hand me USBs with malware to transfer data.

            Very few people virus screen USBs properly.

    9. Here for the Comments*

      Exactly! That is why God (or a smart IT/phone person) invented the ‘Private’ mode for the internet

      1. pancakes*

        “Private mode” only applies to the browser – i.e., the browser itself is not saving your browsing history or cookies. It does *not* mean that your employer can’t, say, track your activity if you’re using their wifi. It also doesn’t mean that your activity is hidden from your ISP.

  2. CW*

    #1 – Blocking sites? Sounds so much like they are treating you like a high school student. Why? Because my high school did this when I was a teenager. And this was 2007; we didn’t have smartphones or social media. Now, I know you probably don’t condone to watching porn, but to block you from sites? You’re an adult, and you should treated like one. This just reeks of childish treatment.

    #5 – I agree with Alison. Be wary. I ignored a warning once and it was one of the biggest mistakes of my career. I will save you the full story, but the CEO and my direct boss were extremely narcissistic and abusive. I ended up walking out of that job without saying a word because I was so afraid to face my boss. In fact, I nearly had an anxiety attack. So if you want to go to the interview, go for it. You got nothing to lose. But if you spot any red flags, run! You don’t want to end up quitting your job and start a new one in a toxic environment.

    1. Mm*

      Nah, many company virus software blocks porn sites because they often contains ads that link to malware and viruses. Sure, a smart person isn’t going to click on those – but someone will. Since you shouldn’t be watching porn at work, it’s an easy decision to just block all of it.

      It’s just weird in this situation because it’s the LW’s personal computer.

    2. Sherm*

      #5. I would say decline the job unless it’s green flags all the way. I know someone who is a nightmare boss, but she hides it pretty well when interviewing people. She comes across as a bit trying of your patience, but friendly. I think astute interviewees would have their Spidey senses tingling a little, though. Listen to what your gut is telling you. And try to get other insider opinions as well, if possible.

    3. Artemesia*

      I almost took a job with a woman I knew professionally and while I knew she was intense and dominating, also knew she was sharp and effective and I thought I’d cope with her fine as I had working in professional association events etc. A closer friend detailed the disaster that working with her had been and I heeded the advice. Further events made pretty clear that she was a terrible boss and unethical (e.g. she took all of the bonus money given her to distribute by the larger organization (she ran a local site) and kept it as her own bonus. When the company found out several years in that she was doing it, they took that power away from her. So yeah — you are lucky to have gotten this information from someone you trust — good luck in the search.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        They didn’t fire her for theft? Doesn’t speak too well of the company so you dodged a bullet twice.

    4. Lady Heather*

      Our school recommended we practice for an exam with a website whose name was formatted like this: mathematicsexam.org.
      We couldn’t actually access that website on school computers, though, and half the class couldn’t access it at home either.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Oh man, was this back in the 90s when whoever set up the filter based it mostly on keywords in site names because there wasn’t a good understanding of metadata yet so most people didn’t realize they filter for that instead? And you could get around the filter really easy by clicking a link to the website you wanted if it was on an approved site?

        I went to school around then and we got an object lesson on top-level domains because whitehouse dot gov, dot org and dot com were all very, very different sites (a kid in my history class wrote a paper citing the bonkers conspiracy theory whitehouse dot org instead of the official one (and whitehouse dot com was of course a porn site)).

        1. MsSolo*

          Our school system blocked any site where there was somewhere on the page you could enter data (I think in an attempt to stop us all accessing chat rooms and forums, which we had been). This meant it blocked most search engines, email sites, and anything that required a log in or password, but did not, in fact, block the playboy website, much to our teenage amusement.

        2. Batty Twerp*

          My first job was in the civil service and we had one of those. It was interesting trying to source information on specific sites in Scunthorpe, for example

          1. Alexandra Lynch*

            I currently post at a website that has installed a large nanny filter.
            So I cannot post a cute story about how my cat hid in a shopping bag. Because the insult “douchebag” is on the filter. (headdesk)
            So is “Muslim”, which does make comparative religion discussion (the point of the site) a little challenging.
            The mods just spend a lot of time approving people’s posts. And griping.

        3. Lady Heather*

          It was the 2000s – not sure how it worked specifically. But it’s very likely it was something like that – I think the ‘parental blocks’ at least were almost all ‘ban keyword’ types.

          The ‘clicking a link’ thing reminds me.. During lunch hour, we were allowed to use computers only for educational purposes. That included a page that was specifically aimed at kids – it was the page that just about all schools in the country had as their computer’s homepage and listed all kinds of resources like other educational websites, how to write a paper, fact of the day, etc.
          It took me two lunch breaks to figure out that if you went to the ‘how to make your own website’ section, and then to ‘examples of websites made by children’, and then to the last website, and clicked ‘Games’ in the sidebar, it’d take you to the then most popular online gaming site at the time.
          And thus, from the third day until the end of the year, we played online games during lunch.

          1. Fikly*

            Did anyone else play the game where you chose two words, searched on them in google (no quotation marks!) and won if you got only one result?

          2. Wired Wolf*

            In high school–late 1990’s–I quickly figured out how to bypass the filter our school used (BESS, for the curious)…at the time it was based solely on URL/search keywords and a LOT of legitimate sites were blocked. We had no real IT department to speak of, and accessing a website via IP address was virtually unknown to the gatekeepers (probably because the concept was fairly obscure). Once you got into a ‘banned’ site using the numerical address nothing on the site was filtered.

            Two weeks into the semester and I had compiled quite the list of sites with associated IP addresses to get around the filter…being literally the only person in the building who knew how to do this I made a bit of pocket money either ‘translating’ sites or showing kids and teachers how to do it.

        4. an infinite number of monkeys*

          Our government agency blocks categories of websites from being accessed by the wi-fi network, so employees can’t visit websites categorized under alcohol, gambling, etc.

          Fine, but (in addition to our many other, more core activities) we also run visitor information centers, and tourists using the public wi-fi are subject to the same restrictions. So somebody coming in to visit wine country can’t look up vineyards, on their own personal device, if they’re using the provided wi-fi. They get one of those angry “THIS CATEGORY IS FORBIDDEN, YOU REPROBATE, HOW DARE YOU” messages if they try.

          It’s just great.

          1. Governmint Condition*

            My agency posted a video on YouTube of some work that they had done, and asked all of us to watch it.

            (Pause to allow you to predict what I’m going to say next.)

            YouTube is blocked from all of our computers.

            (Another pause to allow you to predict what I’m going to say next.)

            IT refused to make an exception to remove the block, even temporarily, so we wound up having to watch the video from home.

      2. SweetestCin*

        To this day, some spam filters have a field day with my last name. The fact that this still happens in 2020 is really quite frustrating because it means that something is filtering based on three letters in a text string and flagging it.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        Ah, the infamous “Scunthorpe problem.” (I’d tell you to google it, but…) It’s named after the town of Scunthorpe in England which infamously has a long history of issues with various profanity filters.

      4. Jay*

        My daughter graduated HS in 2018. She could not do research on a school computer for a term paper on breast cancer, because they had blocked all the sites that had the word “breast.”

      5. Quill*

        Oh, the good old scunthorpe problem!

        Did it also only have Ask Jeeves installed as a search engine?

        (I also remember how it took five layers of sites to go AROUND the firewall in my middle school… search dogpileDOTcom for MamaDOTcom for the archived wikipedia page for salt, which would get you via the wiki search page to wikipedia proper, which you could use to search either yahoo or google, then link to that, THEN open youtube… One of my classmates wrote their second person “how to” instructions paper in the 7th grade about that. It was SUPPOSED to be about how to do the Numa Numa dance but in order to get to the video…)

      6. Salsa Your Face*

        Reminds me of when I was in high school in the 90s, and went to the school library trying to do research for a paper about cancer. Was blocked from any site that mentioned breast cancer. Not too helpful, there.

      7. That Girl from Quinn's House*


        Oh school internet on Netscape Navigator in the early 00’s.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I doubt they thought of it that way. Their settings for the software are likely intended for their own work computers, where it’s normal to block porn and a lot of foreign websites. I think IT didn’t think that through when offering to someone who doesn’t use a company computer. At least I hope not! Because some software also includes company keystroke tracking and other tracking/monitoring.

    6. Amethystmoon*

      They block sites at my job and some of them are legitimate. Example: Sometimes, people in advertising need to actually watch ads on places like YouTube to see what the competition is doing. You have to get special permission from management then. They totally got block-happy in the last year, I’m surprised they don’t block this site yet.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        My last work required a bunch of webinars that were hosted on YouTube. They were blocked. Thus, people had to do their webinars at home (and without being paid) which meant that many people just didn’t do them at all and managers started getting HR nastygrams about non-compliant employees. It was fun.

        1. JimmyJab*

          I think Not Me agrees with you as the orginal commenter on this thread said something like, “I’m sure OP doesn’t condone watching porn, but . . .”

          1. Washi*

            I think it might actually be a typo and be supposed to read “they probably don’t condone you watching” – the grammar is wonky in a way that always happens to me when I change my mind about a sentence and go back to edit it but end up with a bit of a mishmash of prepositions :)

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      LW5: The key is “Who do you trust?” If the warning comes from a trusted source with no obvious incentive to lie, and no history of lunacy, then this is a very reliable source. Anything from inside the company is less reliable, as their incentives all line up to present happy face to job applicants.

  3. Mm*

    Letter #1, this is the first time I’ve strongly disagreed with Alison. Data security is an important issue and not having their software could be putting your company at risk. Depending on coubtry and laws, you could also be increasing your personal liability.

    Personally I’d either ask for a work computer (you can use a ton of reasons, such as the software slowing down your computer) or, if you personally prefer to use this Mac, buy a cheap Chromebook for sensitive web browsing. Also, very few experienced IT people are going to be surprised you look at porn on your personal computer. Company virus software blocks these sites *because* workers using their *company* laptop to watch porn is such a common problem.

    I’ll also note that if a company deals in any sensitive data, then they *should* have the ability to wipe your computer remotely in case it is stolen. You can ask about the policy, but general companies will only do this if you report a device as stolen or ask them to wipe it.

    1. Talia*

      If an employer wants to be that confident in their data security, they can spring for a work computer. They should NEVER have the ability to remote wipe your personal computer; if the stuff they’re putting on is so secure it needs that capacity, then they need to give you their hardware for it.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Agreed. I control my computer and you control yours. You want a computer you have the power to wipe? Better get your own, then.

        1. SweetestCin*

          This is half the reason I refused to “use my own device” at the most recent former employer in my resume. They wanted the ability to remotely wipe, and they also reserved the right to hold onto my personal device for 30 calendar days upon my leaving in order to make sure that all of “their” data was removed.

          Nope, nope, nope. My cellphone and laptop were mine, my work phone and work laptop were theirs.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            This is the reason I won’t BYOD ever. No one but me gets to choose if my personal device is getting wiped.

      2. Mm*

        Totally fair, but also some people like to use personal devices too. I work in Health IT and when random doctor tells me his phone was stolen you better bet I want the ability to remote wipe her dictation about her patients – Stacy’s genital warts, John’s complaints about not being able to get an erection, etc. It stinks that includes her vacation pics, but the phone is unlikely to be recovered so it’s not really the wipe causing the loss.

        1. Observer*

          There is a reason why many employers actually forbid it. Also, if you CHOOSE to use your own device, that’s part of the deal. But it’s totally NOT appropriate for an employer to demand that.

        2. TL -*

          I work for a hospital and their cell phone software actually creates a work profile on your phone, so they apparently only wipe those apps (this is even on my work-provided device.)

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Yes, what if that went wrong? I’d rather have a work phone.
              OTOH, I used to work at a hospital and the physicians were delighted when we got a program that allowed them to enter bills from their phones.

      3. Random IT person*

        As an IT person, i understand the Bring Your Own Device culture – but that goes out of the windows when you deal in sensitive, confidential or potentially damaging information. Then using a PERSONAL device for COMPANY data should be the biggest NO ever.

        And, not sure if this is the case for OP, giving an employer the option to potentially wipe your private computer? Seriously? What if you have pictures of your loyal dog on his last days – that you do not have anywhere else (make a backup NOW!)? THose would be gone too.

        If your company wants to block sites – they are within their right to do so – but not on a private computer.
        WHether it is porn you want to watch – or sites that could be seen as such (when i worked at sony – they blocked the site for the Dixie Chicks (a band contracted by Sony) due to the word ‘chicks’) – the bottom line it is a private PC.

        The only way the company is allowed to do this, would be on devices they own, and have provided to you.

        Uninstall the software (make a backup of your data first – just in case) and make sure you have a good security to replace it with.
        Then – inform company IT / your boss and say ‘this software had unexpected side effects on my PC, i had to remove it’. If you get pushback you can remind them that this is your personal device – if they demand you use the software request they issue you a company device.

        1. Lora*

          Agreed. Furthermore – if information is truly, honestly, super secret squirrel and MUST NOT EVER be compromised: why would you allow it to be anywhere other than a dedicated sandbox? I don’t allow automation systems that, if compromised, would create a crater in the ground to be connected to a network; they have their own dedicated space with completely separate, airgapped servers and only a handful of people get access to use them.

          Oh wait, it isn’t THAT secret? Oh, well then.

      4. T2*

        Stolen phones is a thing. At work, we have the policy that any stolen device will be remotely wiped. We further have policies that require device encryption, require passwords and such.

        We have a disclaimer that people sign agreeing to allow us to manage those phones if they use them to access company email , company data or company WiFi.

        When people are terminated, as a condition of severance, they agree to allow us to inspect their phones, to remove company data, or remote wipe. If they refuse to cooperate they are missing out on Severance which usually is a month’s pay.

        People can and do refuse, of course. But then they have to carry two phones.

        The point is that a company has to maintain control over company data.

        Personally, I just use work devices for work.

        1. M*

          I’ve never understood why it’s considered so inconvenient to have two phones. I’ve done it before and would always choose it over commingling work and personal on my own device. It also had the benefit of being able to truly disconnect when I chose to do so. I left it behind when I went on vacation or checked it only occasionally when not in the office so it couldn’t interrupt my personal time.

          1. Senor Montoya*

            Agreed. I often tote around my personal phone and my work-issued laptop. Sometimes I stuff my personal iPad in the laptop bag too (it’s better for reading books and doing the crossword puzzle). What’s another phone? It’s smaller than the other gear. Put the work phone in a different colored and different textured case than your personal phone, easy-peasy.

          2. JxB*

            I found it hugely inconvenient to carry two phones. The space it took, making sure two devices turned off during appropriate times, having two numbers for people to reach me. Plus, I actually found it more at risk of being lost. The one in use would often be in sight, in my hand/pocket but the other – maybe not used for hours, perhaps a day or two would – I THOUGHT – be tucked away in my purse. But is it? Or did I actually leave it behind? Absolutely I understand the security aspect (and public information request possibility since we are government). But now, everything is backed up in the cloud. After a few years I gladly gave back my office phone and use my personal phone for everything. My organization has mobile device management (MDM) policies. If the phone needs to be wiped, no big deal. I’ll just restore from backup.

            1. Emily S*

              Don’t forget “keeping two devices charged” which can very often mean needing two chargers at the same time so you always have to bring two when you travel and keep two in the car, or needing to find two empty outlets instead of just one, otherwise having to try to prioritize which phone you’re going to charge for 10 minutes before getting on the plane or while you’re driving to work if you drive an older car with only one outlet and you haven’t purchased a multi-USB adapter thing.

              1. Observer*

                Please, all you need is a charger with two ports. Carrying an extra cable with your phone is not THAT difficult.

                This is not hard to find or expensive equipment.

          3. Librarian1*

            I think that if you’re a person who carries their stuff in their pockets rather than in a bag, it would be pretty inconvenient to have two phones taking up pocket real estate. Phones these days are really damn big.

        2. Observer*

          We have a dual policy. There are people who are *allowed* to use their own phone, but they have to agree to allow us to wipe. Those are the people who are almost certainly NOT carrying the most sensitive data. We also never demand it. Then we have the people who are FORBIDDEN from using their own phones. If they are carrying the more sensitive data, then they just deal with two phones.

          In your case, as long as people have the option to get a work phone, I’m ok with your policy. If they TECHNICALLY have the option but it’s strongly discouraged, that’s a problem.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        BYOD is a deal breaker for me. I can’t risk all my stuff being wiped. Also, WHY do people even look at porn at work? It’s not worth the risk of getting caught. Be a grown-up and wait until you get home. Then you can porn all you want.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Also wouldn’t it be amazingly distracting? Thinking about sex/getting aroused at work would do serious damage to my ability to focus and get things done.

        2. Mm*

          The really common scenarios are 1. An older person who doesn’t own a laptop and doesn’t understand why using his work laptop at home in bed is a bad idea. 2. Business travelers who don’t bring a personal laptop.

    2. Observer*

      If their security is that important to them, then they need to give the OP a computer. You don’t get to insist that your employee use their personal equipment and then stomp on its functionality.

      1. Mm*

        Yep, and if data security is important to them and the LW wants their own computer than they will probably give them one. But LW also mentions having a Mac and sometimes people prefer to use their personal Mac over a company windows computer. It’s not a one size fits all problem and the costs should lie with the company, but if someone wants to use a personal device than they need to follow company data protocols.

        1. Hiring Mgr2*

          I completely agree – I think OP should request a company issued laptop. The IT security topic is a great way to bring that up. Something along the lines of, “IT sent me some software to load on my personal computer now that I’m full time. I realized that I really should have a company laptop so that I can keep my personal computer reserved for personal use.”

          I have noticed that there are some really mundane/routine websites that I personally visit that my company laptop blocks. You can address that if you get push back from the company. Things like personal online banking – often a company computer will block that – but if all you have is your personal laptop, that’s a problem.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            I think it’s a software problem too. My company when I’m logged onto their server either on-site or via VPN, blocks access to a lot of sites (gambling sites for instance), even YouTube, although it just gives you a “don’t go here unless you have legitimate business.” Funny enough it allows Facebook and other social media.
            But at home, if I’m not signed on through VPN, then I can access any site. Of course, I haven’t tried and wouldn’t try an adult site because I”m sure it’s still tracking in the background what sites I visit. But on a business trip, I can stream Netflix or Hulu without an issue, whereas it wouldn’t allow me if I were signed on to our network.

      2. Goldfinch*

        Hard agree. My stuff, my rules. I’ve backed out of freelance assignments because they refused to offer equipment but were eager to tell me what to do with my stuff.

      3. snowglobe*

        I agree, but it’s not clear to me that the company ‘insisted’ on the OP using their personal computer. They used their personal computer when they freelanced, the company may not have even thought about providing a new computer. Just ask.

    3. Felicia*

      That’s really assuming too much to rush to judgement. If LW felt that security was extra important above what is normal, they would have said. And for that matter, the company would have supplied their own for the same reason. The fact is (a) this is LW’s private computer and (b) the company only called it anti-virus without mentioning they were essentially limiting the devices ability to function without informing LW. This is a huge intrusion on their part. I would suggest asking for a company computer, but if they won’t provide one, LW is not obligated to continue this invasion.

      1. Mm*

        If they don’t give LW a company computer than the LW can absolutely say the alternative is her not having the virus software. That is absolutely reasonable, but she can’t just hide that she uninstalled virus software just because it feels like an overreach. As a freelancer she was likely liable for any data breaches, but now her company is and she needs to find a compromise.

        Lots of company virus software blocks sites that commonly have malware/virus ads – like porn sites. If it’s rare that an employee has a personal computer at this company the IT person probably didn’t even think to mention it.

        1. LW1*

          Thanks for your perspective. We’re not dealing with anything along those lines — there are certainly aspects of our work that are confidential, but not that I’m involved with. I agree that I need to tell them when I uninstall it! I do prefer using my own computer, so I suppose it makes sense to suggest an alternative.

          1. Observer*

            The problem is that if you are connecting to your office, that could be a route into the system. So, depending on the setup, making sure that your computer is protected could be really important anyway.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            When you say you prefer to use your own, does that mean if the company offered you a work laptop/desktop you would refuse it? If that is the case then I think you have to agree to the company provided security software.

            As others have said if the company wants to have certain software installed on devices used for work they need to provide you with a work device, but if you really want to use your own device then I think you need to accept the companies software.

            1. LW1*

              I wouldn’t refuse it, no! But it hasn’t been offered. I get the sense that the urgency is coming from our IT person (which makes sense, as that’s his priority), but he’d rather not open the conversation about providing a work computer, because he isn’t sure that the company will view that as enough of a risk to justify the expense.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            You really can’t be a tunnel into their IT systems. You need to either use a company-issued computer, or make sure that your security is up to their requirements. Porn sites are huge virus centers, and it’s legit for them to require ‘no porn sites on computers connecting to our network.’

            If you want to peruse porn, split that into a device that doesn’t connect to your employer. Used tablets can be $50, new are $150ish, and they should run video with no problems. We just picked one up specifically for netflix, and it’s fine.

      2. Goldfinch*

        It’s so much of an intrusion that I would go into lockdown mode. They misled the LW about the purpose of software that they demanded that she use on personal equipment–who’s to say there isn’t also a keystroke logger in there?

        I’d wipe the drive and start over.

        1. Annie Moose*

          I doubt it was misleading so much as a miscommunication. Porn sites are well-known hotbeds for malware and viruses; blocking them is an easy and effective step to avoiding viruses. The IT person likely didn’t know LW1 was using a personal computer–they probably just got told, “send Jane the AV software” and did so–and therefore didn’t realize they would need to mention “also, this blocks sites that people shouldn’t be going to on their work computers”.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, the actual application and it blocking porn sites is not the problem, it’s the entire idea that the company provided software that may have a suite of other applications besides antivirus is on the personal computer.

          2. LW1*

            The IT person definitely did know that it’s my personal computer. I don’t think he was misleading me either though — I think this is just what they use in the office, and he didn’t think about the appropriacy of installing it on a private computer.

            However, I’ve now discovered that it has a “tamper-proof” password meaning that I can’t uninstall it, which… isn’t great.

    4. AnonyNurse*

      Current employer has a bring your own device policy for phones. They used to use an app that allowed remote wiping.

      And then they accidentally wiped 150 peoples phones. Just bricked a bunch of current and former employees a few years ago. Oops.

      They now use secure apps that they can wipe but that don’t allow access to the whole phone.

      Don’t allow an employer to have wipe privileges, no matter how great they are and how confident you are. Mistakes happen!

    5. Artemesia*

      or maybe you quit or they fire you and you discover that your kids’ childhood pictures are gone and your personal records.

      1. Mm*

        This can happen but is rare, you can always ask your IT department on their policy
        If you want to use your own device for work data you need to accept the restrictions your IT deems necessary. I work in Health IT and when random doctor tells me his phone was stolen you better bet I want the ability to remote wipe her dictation about her patients – Stacy’s genital warts, John’s complaints about not being able to get an erection, etc. It stinks that includes her vacation pics, but the phone is unlikely to be recovered so it’s not really the wipe causing the loss.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          You’re giving a hypothetical and other people are contributing their experiences that are contrary to your example but unless someone comes in here with statistics about how/when employers typically wipe personal devices of their employees, there’s not a lot of point in continuing to copy/paste your hypothetical.

        2. Observer*

          Sure, but if your security is that important, you make sure that your “random doctor” is CLEAR about the risk and that you are going to do a remote wipe at your discretion.

      2. Amy*

        Is the threat of a remote wipe as concerning now with the cloud? My company has is BYOD policy (with a $50 month stipend) and and includes the possibility of a remote wipe. I back up all my personal data and it would be no different than if I lost the phone or dropped it in the bathtub.

        My laptop broke recently, I got a new one, logged into the cloud and not only did all files return but they returned to the exact same place – picture of my kids top left, expense file bottom right etc.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Just make sure you have it configured correctly, and that everything you want to save is actually included! Personally I have multiple backups in different places just in case.

        2. blackcat*

          Some remote wiping software also clears all data from the cloud storage associated with the device!

        3. Amy*

          I’m not sure how a remote wipe would affect privately stored data in, for example, iCloud with a personal username / password.

    6. Tinker*

      That last paragraph — perhaps companies will generally only INTENTIONALLY wipe a device if you report it as stolen or ask them to wipe it, but disastrous exceptions to “generally” as well as departures from “intentionally” abound. I would not suggest being casual about the decision to let a company have that sort of access on a device that they keep valuable personal data on or use in a way that might cause such data to accumulate.

      Also, needless to say, a company that has people install remote wiping software on their personal devices had better make sure that those people consent. I wouldn’t think that this was likely to happen unless LW was quite inattentive, but if they do find that their “antivirus” came with a bonus feature of that magnitude I’d be… let’s say, highly concerned about what sort of explanation the company had for that.

      1. Mm*

        I absolutely agree the company should be upfront if they have you install anything that allows remote wiping. That being said, it sounds like LW is one of the few people with a personal device (guess from the Mac and windows comment) so it also might be something they didn’t think to mention – like the site blocking. Really the company probably just shouldn’t let her use a personal computer unless they have a defined “bring your own device” policy, but we are still in the early days of standards around these things.

      2. Quill*

        It doesn’t even need to be a remote wipe or remote access application to cause major problems for the LW. Some antiviruses come with antipiracy software or other add-ons that can mangle people’s personal files, especially if they’re system specific (developed for windows, used on mac, or vice versa.)

    7. Anonomoose*

      It’s less than ideal, but, if your home computer isn’t too full, you can partition the hard drive. I have a clearly labeled “work” partition, with a separate OS on it to my “home” partition. A bit of work to set up, though.

      Still think you should push for a separate work laptop, but this gives decent separation, allows you to install the antivirus, but then also lets you watch what you like.

      1. MsSolo*

        My organisation only allows for personal devices if you can demonstrate they’ve been partitioned, so they can wipe what they need to when you leave – I don’t think many people have taken them up for it for computers when they’re very happy to supply laptops, but I know a few people had their phones partitioned to save carrying two around.

      2. e271828*

        I hope LW1 sees your note, Anonomoose, because partitioning is probably the best and most workable solution. One can even install a Windows emulator in the partition. (The employer should pay for that software.) As a long-term solution, if the employer is a Windows shop, they should supply a computer, because at some point (Murphy’s Law says it will be the most inconvenient) the team will run into an incompatibility.

        1. Anonomoose*

          It would be worth adding that this is imperfect as security, but that it’s a lot better than what LW1 has now. There is a very small chance that someone might write a rootkit or a nasty bios thing that could hit both partitions. I’d say it was less likely than you getting each partition infected with a different type of malware, but, still, it’s a risk

    8. grace*

      Agreed. I work in pharma research and this is really, really common. A lot of contracts with the companies require specific blocking to work on their practice, especially if you’re handling PHI.

      But if the LW isn’t in that field I can see how it can be jarring. I’d just check your contract and make sure you aren’t in violation if you don’t use it, and if you are, I would recommend getting a separate laptop for work.

    9. T2*

      Just to clear up a few things. Is IT guys don’t block these kinds of things because we wish to be every’s mom. We block them because of all of the harmful security risks these kind of sites bring.

      Our job is the protection of your company, thereby protecting the means by which we all support our families. We aren’t really out to get you.

      Google City of Baltimore Crypto for just one example of a horror story when we don’t do our jobs effectively.

        1. IT bad guy*

          I love how everyone assumes that the IT people are just mean and the company cheap. The OP already said she prefers to use her own laptop.

          At our company we provide you with the computer equipment you need (and it is very nice stuff too!). IF you prefer to use your own – you will have to get it to the standards of the company provided equipment, which includes 2 pieces of software that must be installed and cannot be un-installed until you leave the company.

          So far no one is using their personal – because once this is known they decline.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not assuming anything. In some cases, it most definitely IS the company making these demands.

            The OP never asked for another computer, so we don’t know what would happen if they asked. My point simply is that anyone who says “these items are necessary so you can’t ask for an exception” can only say that if they are also willing to provide the equipment. And some people ARE saying or implying that without acknowledging that. Not everyone – you’re not the only one who noted that their company provides the equipment people need – but some.

    10. Brett*

      Chipping in on this to agree with everyone who says they should buy you a work computer. There will be some resistance to this, because adding a Mac to a Windows enterprise adds a lot of new work for one device (and because of the cost). But they will significantly increase their data security compared to BYOD with your personal computer, though, and that should be well worth the cost. And the Mac laptop will be a company asset, one that retains value reasonably well.

    11. JM60*

      But they didn’t require it when the OP was a contractor. While it often does make sense to have such software on remote devices, if that level of security wasn’t needed when they were a contractor, then it probably isn’t needed when they became an employee. If the employer wants to spring this on the OP, they should provide their own device.

      1. Brett*

        OP was a freelancer. Freelancers normally have much more strict limitations on the data they can access and handle, and so they can use their own device while full time employees have to use work devices.

        1. LW1*

          Just jumping in to say that this isn’t the case — my role and permissions have stayed the same, just the number of hours has increased. I suspect that the change isn’t actually part of the procedure when someone becomes a full-time employee; I think they’re just upping their security in general and this is the first time it’s occurred to them.

  4. RUKiddingMe*

    Never use your own device for an employer.

    I own this business and even I keep my personal devices…personal.

    Don’t cross the streams!

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Good rule. I’ve had several bullshit minimum wage retail jobs where a manager asked me whether I had a laptop and then told me to bring it in so I could do the online training on it instead of tying up one of the PCs in the office. From personal experience, that’s a good way to get a laptop stolen, so now I always say I only have a desktop (and of course they wouldn’t replace the laptop, since it was my responsibility to “secure it properly” in a building that had no options to do that and I didn’t have a car at work).

      1. Queer Earthling*

        Unless you’re me. I’m a freelancer who writes adult content, so porn is, sometimes, my work. lmao

    2. JM60*

      I think it really depends on the use. If you’re mostly just using the device to open a terminal to the employer’s server, then using your own device is unlikely to cause problems.

  5. Rose*

    I would also consider asking to have my cubicle moved. Even if it’s only a few cubicles over one way or another, it may make a difference.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yeah. I used to work with my back to an area where people sometimes congregated and talked. Horribly uncomfortable to work while wondering if people were watching me (they probably weren’t). Once they moved me, life was soooo much better!

    1. Not So Little My*

      It’s worth it to ask for a less trafficked cubicle, citing your need to concentrate for analytical work. Barring that, a rolling divider or whiteboard could give you more privacy.

      1. Carlie*

        I like that – my first thought was to use something to build the wall higher, maybe plants, but whiteboards give you the explanation of wanting more workspace!
        I just did a quick search and found “privacy panel” and “privacy wall” that are attachments specifically made to attach to the top of cubicle walls. Going to your boss with a specific product solution might get better results than trying to get people to change their nosy behavior.

        1. Mookie*

          As you say, large potted plant in the sightline between the person and the doorway can work a treat, and those screens you mention work pretty well, in my experience, and aren’t really jarring to anybody but looky-loos. Hopefully the office wouldn’t balk at either. These, and a rearrangement of desk and chair, are reasonable accommodations for people who simply cannot perform to par under these conditions and with this layout.

          In addition to Alison’s “no idea” script, I would gently escalate with something like “there’s no reason for me to know that” if it continues apace.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I would be tempted to use a large potted plant as a de facto doorway, moving it out of the way to get in and out. I doubt the bosses would like this, though.

        2. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

          LW #2 – I was writing, and saw that Carlie already made the suggestion I was going to make. Another search term is “cubicle wall extender”. If several people are feeling discomfort with the new layout, it may work to ask as a group.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Since OP sits close to the copier and is a woman (!!!), the menprobaly assume she is an admin of some sort. Of course they ask her questions on people’s whereabouts. That can be shut down with a simple “No idea, why not ask (whoever the admin is)?” That gets across OP is not the admin. Do it every single time. If OP responds even once, they learn they can ask.

      Not much you can do about privacy because that’s the set up. You can’t stop people from glancing in. It’s human nature for some folks.

      1. GothicBee*

        Yes, this is basically what I do and it works pretty well. I work at an open desk near the printer and even though my workplace is pretty great, the location is still the worst. Pretty much no one (unless they’re very new) assumes I’m admin because of our setup, but I was still getting tons of questions re: where is so and so or what printer paper to use. I found that if you go the polite but confused “No idea” route most people will naturally quit asking.

        However, I wouldn’t necessarily redirect them to someone else unless there’s a very obvious person who would definitely have the answer (i.e., the admin). I found that when I redirected people to someone, they’d end up coming back to me with other questions in the future. But that will also kind of depend on the question they’re asking and your workplace.

    3. BethRA*

      Or asking if they can add barriers around the copier/kitchen/common area or along those corridors. which would help minimize distractions for people in those areas even if the peeping weren’t an issue.

    4. epi*

      I might eventually, but there are other things the OP could do first. I used to have to sit right by the copier, in an open-ish area, as the youngest woman in the department despite haviya scientific job, not an admin one. Our space was just that undersized.

      The OP should request privacy screens for their monitor(s)– it will go a long way to make staring as unrewarding as interrupting. IME they don’t necessarily have to make a strong case that they’re doing anything sensitive; these screens are cheap and easily justified by just finding the new space distracting. They can also keep the most prominent cube decor kind of boring, saving the stuff they most enjoy looking at for right around and behind the monitor. Don’t have a lot of sign art or things people will be drawn to read or stare at. Breaking up sightlines with bulky stuff like plants or whiteboards is a good idea, too. If the OP’s cube holds a printed nameplate, they should change theirs to make it clear they’re an analyst.

      I used to have this issue– men openly staring into my cube as they passed– in my old office. It bothered me so much especially since I was a student worker and perfectly entitled to be doing personal work at times, and the people who did it were all men who didn’t work with me or even know me. We all ate at our desks and it made me feel so uncomfortable doing that because these men did not even try to be discreet about whatever they were looking at. Never heard of it happening to someone else before! To the OP, just because this is easier to address indirectly doesn’t mean that this behavior isn’t real and really rude!

    5. Hiring Mgr2*

      I’d recommend suggesting some kind of “do not disturb” signage that can be posted at the entrance to cubes (by your name place is helpful) that everyone can use. It can be informal – like a post it note that says “ON A CALL” or more formal – like permanent “DO NOT DISTURB” signs that you can hang when you’re working on something detail oriented, on a tight deadline, or on a call.

      There’s quite a bit of research out there that demonstrates being interrupted while working causes more errors, and it takes more time to get re-focused after an interruption, which can not only affect quality of work but work time as well.

      Considering that everyone is in the same boat with this new space – I’d look up the data on interruptions and make a business case for do not disturb signs. When used properly – it deters people from stopping by your desk to ask where someone is, or a routine question. If they see your DND sign is up – they can either wait until it comes down or send you an email, and you can reply when able.

      Two caveats to this – if abused, the sign loses it’s meaning. For example – if you leave your sign up all day every day; people will start to ignore it. Develop some ground grounds that work for your office as to when it should be used and should not be used. Second – sometimes interruptions are necessary. Think major, time-sensitive issues. You should not interrupt someone to ask where the toner is, or even to ask for an update on a project. But let’s say an irate customer just called and you’re the only one who knows what’s going on with that client. You may need to be interrupted to deal with that “fire” and cannot be upset by that – it will happen eventually.

  6. Hi All*

    Re letter #4–Ask your intern! I would so much rather be asked about accomadations than have an uninformed manager correcting my coworkers behind my back. LW, I would also leave your brother out of future discussions about this intern, especially with the intern himself. Unless your brother has an identical diagnosis, it could come across as simplifying the vast and varied realities of humans with disabilities. And it has a kind of “my one black friend means I am not raciest” vibe, which I am sure is not your intention. Finally, I want to plug the use of person-first language in the workplace. “Employee with a disability,” not “disabled employee,” etc.

    1. valentine*

      I also noticed the vibe.

      Plenty of people describe themselves as disabled and some find person-first patronizing.

      1. Hi All*

        The CDC has some helpful resources on why it should not be the professional norm to describe people in ways that lead with their disabilities. Personally, if someone called me a disabled employee, I would point them to my performance reviews and ask them what other adjectives come to mind! :) But people should of course be allowed to refer to themselves in whatever way they choose, and their perferences respected.

    2. RD*

      I am nervous that this letter is going to lead to a lot of suggestions for accommodations. I work in education, and I can attest that an accommodation that works well for one person might not be useful at all for another, even if they have identical diagnoses. The person who knows what would be helpful to your intern is your intern, not internet commenters.

    3. Grand Mouse*

      Don’t want it to be a big derail, but will ping that “person first language” is a contested issue in the disabled community- many prefer to just have the adjective! And I’m sure it varies by the disability, individual, age, etc.

      To me, as a multiply disabled person (see, I’m using it there), using “person with x” seems trying to be overly PC and I am usually a fan of PC language! Being sensitive to others is a good thing, but sometimes it can come across as trying to make the speaker more comfortable.l than the recipient. And my disabilities aren’t an unspeakable thing that need to be distanced from me!

      Again, not trying to create a huge debate, just that it’s not as cut and dry as “do this”. Also goes to recognizing the preferences of the individual!

    4. A Silver Spork*

      Also disabled here, and person-first language is basically nails on chalkboard to me. I’m not going to make a stink over it if someone calls me a “person with a disability” or a “person with chronic pain” or whatever, but… it grates on my nerves. (I mean, this is one of two cases I can think of where person-first is typically used. You wouldn’t call me a “person who is trans” or a “person who immigrated”… I assume.) I recall seeing a study that it’s very generational – younger folks tend to prefer disability-first language, older folks person-first.

  7. Kevin*

    LW 1, you don’t need antivirus on a Mac. (It’s very clear that the Windows guys at your contracting company have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to Macs. Either that or they just sent you NetNanny-type software and told you it was antivirus.)

    This is not to say that Macs cannot be attacked by malware. They are targeted (increasingly so) and so something like MalwareBytes, which is anti-malware software, is not a bad idea. macOS also has built-in malware detection/elimination capabilities (called XProtect) as well as a number of security features designed to stop malicious code from running.

    Browsing porn on sketchy free sites is a good way to potentially become a victim of malware, or at least adware. But it boils down to pretty simple advice. If you are downloading software, make sure it’s from a reputable source. Don’t open attachments sent to you by email unless you’re expecting them. If you’re prompted for your Mac administrator password and you’re not expecting to be (you would expect it when installing software, for example, but not when opening an email attachment) don’t enter your password and click Cancel instead. Don’t install browser extensions that random ads tell you to.

    But a virus, in the sense of a piece of self-propagating malicious software, is virtually, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent on macOS.

    Michael Tsai, who is a well-respected Mac software author and writer, recently posted about this here: https://mjtsai.com/blog/2020/02/13/2020-state-of-mac-malware/

    1. Eng*

      I believe you that they can have separate technical definitions, but malware and virus are basically synonymous to most people. I really wouldn’t read much into the letter saying “antivirus” vs “antimalware” or try to split hairs on which is accurate.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Yup. My project role involves working with a Mac, and the antivirus IT installed messed up my internet connection to the point I couldn’t browse the internet alone. I removed it and the Mac started working again. I told IT and they shrugged.

    3. Observer*

      You really are splitting hairs in a way that is just not useful. Malware is most definitely a problem. Many people, even competent IT pros use the term malware and viruses interchangeably, outside of technical contexts when you’re trying to do diagnostics etc.

      And while your advice is good, there are enough exploits out there that no competent IT person should be comfortable with depending on that to secure their company computers.

    4. Quill*

      Kevin: you absolutely need an antivirus /antimalware package for the average user, but you need one that is actually made for macs.

      A lot of my college classmates (not that long ago, I graduated in ’14) thought they were virus protected because they had a mac and the college issued firewall / antivirus.

      They were not. (For some reason this was especially prevalent in business majors? It may have had more to do with other fields finding pcs more convenient though, not anything on the business majors’ individual judgement.)

      This isn’t even getting into my ongoing saga of the college’s cheap antivirus software fighting my Windows Vista to the death… or Securom turning up to fight the antivirus… (Thanks EA. /s)

      1. Eva*

        Exactly. People have taken the fact that less attacks are written to target Macs to mean “Macs don’t get viruses! We don’t have to do anything because we’re virus proof!” and it’s so, so far from the truth.

        Any computer can get infected with something. Every computer should be protected. The shape and size of that protection should be tailored and up to the owner of the machine, but don’t skimp because of your OS.

    5. JKP*

      Agree with you, Kevin. Antivirus software on a Mac is like wearing a lifejacket to swim in your backyard swimming pool. Some adults have drowned in a swimming pool, but it is vanishingly rare for someone who knows how to swim and practices basic water safety to drown in their pool. And the tradeoff of trying to swim laps while slowed down by a lifejacket means that it’s just not worth it and no one does it.

      Using Windows is like being in the middle of the ocean. Even experienced swimmers will wear a lifejacket in the ocean because there are too many things out of their control. We’re all just so used to the tradeoff in speed and performance of all that antivirus software on Windows that we don’t realize the sacrifice.

      I actually have a Windows machine without updates and antivirus software, because it’s never once ever connected to the internet. It runs the same software so much faster than the same setup at work that has internet access and all the updates and virus scanning that goes with it.

  8. Anony*

    Hi OP #4, have you considered talking to your intern as you would with any other intern about seeming flustered, uncomfortable, or nervous in meetings? There are public speaking groups and resources to help build their confidence in one of their first working situations that could be beneficial to future interns as well!

    1. Tau*

      Please don’t do this. Increased levels of stuttering don’t equal being flustered, uncomfortable or nervous – certainly not to the level of talking to them and recommending public speaking classes! If you pulled this on me I would be quite offended.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Oh, I may have misunderstood the comment – I think Anony was suggesting that the OP offer the same support for nerves in meeting as he would a non-stuttering employee.

        But I guess I’m also assuming that when the OP says the intern seems nervous he’s going on more than just the stutter. (FWIW, this support is something that would be routinely offered at my workplace, to all interns.)

      2. Mookie*

        Thank you, Tau. Stuttering and stammering do not stem from anxiety, although both may cause anxiety, and being in an otherwise anxious state for entirely unrelated reasons does not always make them “worse.” In other words, speech disorders are naturally variable in their intensity and merely observing a pattern change in certain conditions does not give a lay stranger any special insight into the etiology of an individual’s disorder.

        This intern has had several decade’s worth of experience navigating their disorder. It’s a given that he already has strategies in place and knows how to anticipate and plan around triggers for a quick response. The goal is never to eradicate or control the stutter but make it easier to communicate “around” and “through” it. That may sound “flustered,” but it isn’t. LW, please follow your instincts and do not try to manage this for him or coach him without him explicitly requesting you to do so, which he will not.

        1. Anonnnnn*

          I have found that, personally, I stutter LESS when I’m nervous, because I’m on edge and paying more attention to how I form my sentences. This intern has been dealing with this for many years; if they want help, they can seek it out from a professional–they’re an adult. I feel like offering help or resources for something that someone has dealt with their entire life is patronizing. It seems that LW is assuming that no one has ever offered this intern resources. I’m sure parents have, at the very least.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            I have a stammer, and if it comes up when I’m speaking publicly, I stop, take a breath, acknowledge it, and then move on.

            Honestly, this is probably the only thing that will help your employee — being able to safely acknowledge their verbal problem and move on. I have to speak publicly regularly, and my colleagues have gotten used to me saying “damn stammer “ in the middle of stuff and just waiting a moment.

        2. PoppingINForThis*

          +1. I know several people with stutters (my mom was one) and, yes, he knows he stutters. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but there is nothing you can do to “help” him. Stuttering is NOT due to nervousness. Please just…wait for him to finish speaking! If you must, advise others to do the same. There is nothing more irritating than other people finishing a stuttering person’s sentences.

          1. LizardOfOdds*

            So much this. My sister stutters and there’s nothing more infuriating than someone trying to “help” her when she doesn’t need it more than an extra second to finish her thought.

          2. SwitchingGenres*

            Agree. I stutter. The best “accommodation” I could have it others just being patient and waiting for me to finish speaking. I’d be embarrassed and uncomfortable if I was offered some sort of public speaking class. That has 0 to do with stuttering.

            1. lyssinflannel*


              I’m in my mid-30’s and have had a stutter my whole life – it gets worse when I’m nervous, tired, upset, and particularly when I speak to my boss. It has taken me 33 years to become comfortable bringing my speech up on my own and for this reason I’d recommend that you follow your employees lead. Not everyone with a stutter is comfortable talking about it. That being said, if this person were to mention it, I’m sure they’d be grateful for the support!

        3. LW4*

          Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for validating my instincts, also to other posters on this thread. I now see how wrong I was to even consider bringing this up.

    2. Sylvan*

      Does he seem flustered, nervous, or uncomfortable, though, or is he just stuttering?

      I have a slight stutter, which I’ve never sought any medical attention for. My dad and his relatives stutter. They’re not nervous, they just stutter. That’s… just how some people are?

      I’d honestly leave the employee alone about the issue altogether as he is probably already doing what he can to speak fluidly. There is no real point in discussing it.

    3. Moxie*

      No no no!! Please don’t do this. My brother stuttered as a child (which was enhanced I’m anxious situations), and he had a guidance counselor who treated it as a behavioral problem that he could just be coached out of. It doesn’t work like that, at all. My brother was pretty scarred by it. Stress makes my body less able to regulate my blood sugar, but imagine treating my diabetes this way.

    4. OhBehave*

      A definite NO to the public speaking groups. Intern knows he stutters. My son stuttered in elementary school and years of speech therapy helped him tremendously. Sometimes it doesn’t help. It’s normal for someone to be nervous, etc. in meetings.

    5. 5 Leaf Clover*

      Speech pathologist here jumping in to second-third-fourth what everyone is saying. Anony seems to be assuming that the stuttering comes from nervousness – this is NOT the case! (It’s very commonly thought though, so I’m glad we have the opportunity to quell this common myth.)

      1. dreamingofthebeach*

        For me with my unique *that-long-pause-was-for-dramatic-impact* speech/cadence — it likely appears to be driven by nervousness, but only in that since I KNOW it is there, and how frustrating it is for me, let alone anyone trying to follow me, I get more nervous about how everyone will act — but that doesn’t change how I speak. I bring it up if I am comfortable and belive it will allow others to relax a bit, otherwise, they just have to wait for my brain to take a breather and slow down enough to have my mouth catch up.

    6. SLP*

      Speech-language pathologist here! Absolutely DO NOT do this. Stuttering has its foundations among number of complex communication, motor, and psychological systems. People don’t stutter because they are nervous. (In fact, some people who stutter and some experts in the field would go so far as to say that they are nervous BECAUSE they stutter.) I think Alison’s advice is spot-on.

      1. John*

        Joining in as another SLP here.

        Consider, in addition to what everyone else has said, that stuttering is covered by the ADA like any other disability, and I would treat it as such – do not try to help this intern any more than you would try to help an intern in a wheelchair absent their specific assistance for help or accommodations.

  9. Bowserkitty*

    By the way, make sure they haven’t had you install anything that allows them to do a remote wipe of your data, which is a thing.

    Goodness, I didn’t even consider this as a thing!!! Thank you for pointing it out.

    And to the OP#1, echoing what others said – you should have some sort of anti-virus/firewall no matter what!

    1. JKP*

      They have a Mac, not a Windows computer. I’ve had a Mac since the original 1985 Mac (which has now been converted into an aquarium), never had antivirus, and never had any issues.

      My BF however had used Windows for years, so when he switched to Mac, he felt like he really needed to have antivirus/antimalware software no matter what. The antivirus software for Mac was a processing and RAM hog that slowed his computer down to basically be unusable, way worse than any virus. And then in trying to uninstall it, it was so deeply embedded we couldn’t get rid of it completely and had to wipe his computer and reinstall the OS and everything from scratch. This was reputable commercial antivirus software sold in stores.

      He tried a bunch of other brands of Mac antivirus software and then gave up, because they all caused problems with his Mac.

      1. Ferret*

        Most people don’t really need any antivirus software on Windows either now- Windows Defender is pretty good and historically antivirus software has been a significant source of vulnerabilities

        1. Quill*

          Look, I had a work computer that I had to MANUALLY remove a variety of viruses that made the computer a wall of dicks from. It was a pain in the ass (and how I became the IT person at that office.)

          The average user cannot be trusted to just use windows defender properly.

          1. Eva*

            I agree with you, but I’d add: let’s be honest, the average user can’t be trusted to use email properly so honestly as much as my IT department’s rules make me crazy sometimes I am willing to acknowledge that they are dealing with a lot of idiots, and whether or not I’m one of them I have no idea. But they’ve seen worse than I can imagine, that’s for sure.

            (Seriously people, stop clicking on things in emails)

      2. Bowserkitty*

        Ohhh, I didn’t know that :o I always heard that Macs were largely virus-immune but I didn’t know how possible. Are they immune to malware and stuff like that too, then?

        1. InfoSec engineer*

          This…is not accurate. Macs aren’t immune to anything. It used to be the case that there was simply far less malware out there targeted at Macs because they had a smaller market share, but that is no longer true.

          In addition, modern antivirus software uses behavioral detection to catch malware that changes its own file signatures to avoid detection, and ideally has protection against other types of attacks as well (like hacking attempts).

          It’s late and I don’t have time now but I think I’m gonna write up some information about malware for the Friday thread. But basically, no, Macs are not immune to malware. There are a lot of opinions out there about how best to protect yourself, including opinions that are needlessly contrarian and ones that only make sense in the context of a large company with a dedicated IT team monitoring things. If your level of technology is such that sorting through all this seems overwhelming, you should probably be using some sort of antivirus so you don’t have to worry about the details to be protected. Turning on Windows Defender is fine for Windows. I’ll try and write up some of the research I did last year on how to pick antivirus for your Mac or Linux machine.

          Also, use a password manager.

          1. T2*

            Security tester here. I also agree. The additional point that I would bring out is that no operating system is inherently secure. Not even Linux. They constantly find security bugs that need to be patched. The only difference is the target market shares are smaller.

            Keep your system patched and periodically scan for malware.

          2. Yvette*

            Exactly, MACs tended to not get viruses because people did not bother creating them. Not because they were bullet proof.

      3. Daisy*

        I apologies in advance if this sounds patronizing, as I do not intend to be: unless you are a very skilled power users (or you do proper hygiene as some of the IT people here suggested), you have no idea if your mac computer is virus free. When I say power users, I don’t mean being able to kill a program via the Activity Monitor, but being able to run and understand portscan reports and monitor your network, and more advanced skills.
        Unlike what we experienced in the 80s and 90s, most of the viruses and malware now are NOT destructive, they actually try to be as invisible as possible. This is because they want to remain there, to read your data (think about passwords you input when your browse, CC payments and so on), or to use your connection (DDOS attach done with infected machines are extremely common), or in the mildest cases use your CPU/GPU (a classic is to use it to mine bitcoins).
        You may never notice, so be smart and stay safe.

  10. Mills*

    OP #2 – I’d like to add on to Alison’s excellent advice by saying you should ask these men “why are you asking me that?” when they enquire where something is or if a colleague is in, if you feel comfortable to do so. No doubt them asking a woman is rooted in sexist assumptions about women and office administration. Make them mentally address their biases. Good luck :)

    1. London Lass*

      Meh. I’m a woman, but if someone asked me that, I would just be confused – if I’m asking, it’s because that person happens to be conveniently located near me at the time and I think they are more likely to know the answer than me.

      As to the possibly sexist dynamic, if the office is 80% women, odds are that whoever they ask is going to be female. Besides which, the more sexist they actually are, the more likely this question is just to go straight over their heads.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        It’s still a useful question to have answered because if LW2 consistently gets an answer like “because you’re next to the copier/near the upper management offices/the last cube before the main hallway” that’s a good basis for asking to move to a less-trafficked area so she can better concentrate on her analytical work.

      2. Fikly*

        Except the LW is pointing out that the only people asking her are men, not that only women are being asked. If the office is 80% women, 80% of the people asking her should be women, not 100% men. So that’s super sexist.

        1. Sharon*

          I suspect that the reason more men ask her things is because men are on average taller than women. In all of the cube farms I’ve worked in with 5-foot cube walls, the men could easily see over the walls when they were standing or walking by. And I’ve seen them simply stand up to ask a neighbor questions over the wall. For this reason, I think Alison missed the mark in her answer to this OP.

          She advises the OP to keep her back to the cube “door” but if the men are talking to her over the walls that won’t help. Also, Alison advises to be clearly busy on the phone, but I didn’t see where the OP said they were interrupting phone calls, just her work as an analyst. As a fellow analyst, I think she’s focused very strongly on her computer, and there are people who don’t realize how disruptive it is to your train of thought and focus when they interrupt that.

          1. Fikly*

            It’s not more men. It’s only men. There are plenty of women who are tall enough, and given that 80% of her company is women, there’s a big enough sample size.

            Why are you bending over backwards to find some convoluted explanation that isn’t men behaving badly?

          2. Nitpicker*

            I’d just like to point at that the OP does say they’re interrupting phone calls:
            “Additionally, people (men) often stop at my desk to ask if I know where so-and-so sits or if so-and-so is in the office today (even when I’m wearing headphones or on a call)”

            So there’s really more to it than them being able to see her and thinking she’s not as busy as she is.
            And as others say, unless all the women at this office are short (which would be a strange coincidence), there must be something behind the fact only men do this.

          3. Wot, no sugar?*

            I find it hilarious that the cube farm LW expects coworkers to adjust to the new arrangement by NOT LOOKING at people now that they are visible! Good luck with that. These horrific open work stations are a natural consequence of years of employees’ allowing “the man” to run roughshod over our rights, driving unions out of existence because you’re pissed that some blue collar guys are actually being allowed to make a living wage, and overwhelmingly buying into the “we’re lucky to have a job” philosophy. This is where we are now, and you’re gonna have to suck it up, because it’s not getting any better. Having coworkers looking at you is the least of your worries.

            1. Fikly*

              She’s not expecting people not to look, she’s expecting people not to interrupt her. Huge difference.

              And to suggest that employees’ have been allowing employers to have the power says that you think employees had more power at some point, which is a frankly bizarre notion.

          4. Librarian1*

            Also, I don’t think these are people who are talking over the cube walls, I think they are people who are walking somewhere and stop and ask her questions because of where she’s located. Or at the very least, are out of their cubes to use the copier and ask her because she’s next to the copier.

      3. Mookie*

        Sexist behavior isn’t really about men being confused or ignorant, though. It’s an ingrained habit that could do with introspection and effort on the part of the sexists, but they’re well aware that they’re treating men and women differently when they rely on women to do this kind of labor. The sticking point is not ignorance, but will.

      4. LQ*

        But the odds were also there the person asking the question is female, and the OP is saying everyone who’s asked her is a man, even though the floor is 80% female…

    2. Lady Carrie*

      I *try* to handle the annoying people with humor.
      One of my go-to reactions is to pretend that someone is telling me a joke.
      Julius: Do you know where Marc Anthony is?
      Me: (chuckling, anxiously waiting for punch line) I give up…where is he?!?

      Annoying? Perhaps, but most folks don’t come back for seconds.

      1. MsM*

        “Not my day to watch him” has always been my dad’s preferred phrase. I’m not saying I recommend it in an office setting, but if someone’s being particularly obnoxious and/or stubborn…

      1. Avasarala*

        Me too. It’s pretty obvious why they’re asking–they don’t know where X is and they think OP knows.

        I don’t know why only men are asking OP–I guess if I squint real hard I can see how gendered socialization can lead to that? Are all 20% of the men refusing to learn the seating chart?

        I would advise OP go “no I can’t” vs “no I won’t” because this seems like a small thing to pull “that’s not my job” on.

  11. Adiat*

    #1, it’s all about work/life balance.

    Seriously though, security is important. You should ask if the software is required by policy to access corporate data. If so, you may have to consider other options for your extracurriculars or consider asking for a corporate device.

    1. Fikly*

      If security is that important to the company, then it’s their burden to pay for it, not LW’s. Thus they need to pay for a work laptop.

      1. Mikasa*

        Obviously but OP says they want to use their Mac so we dont know if they told the company they dont want a work laptop.

  12. Clementine*

    For the first poster, unless you don’t really care about making an unfortunate impression at this job (whether justified or not), I’d go along with their IT policies for this computer, and get another one (whatever type) for all the other sites. This is not a hill to die on, in my opinion.

    1. Tallulah in the Sky*

      If there’s going to be a dedicated work computer, the company should pay for it. The solution here shouldn’t be the employee eating the cost. So no, porn is not a hill to die on, but employers expecting employee to take on business expenses is.

    2. Disabled lesbian*

      So OP is required to buy a second personal computer? That would never fly with me, and I wouldn’t be able to afford that. And given that “anti-porn” software is inherently LGBTQ-phobic, I would refuse to install it on a personal device anyway. If the company wants to be able to block sites (and/or perform a remote wipe) they can shell out for a company device.

      1. Disabled ace*

        Would you mind clarifying what you mean by “anti-porn” software is inherently LGBTQ-phobic? Does it block online discussion groups and similar, or do you mean something else?
        (I can imagine that there aren’t so many heterosexual online discussion groups and that therefoThere this disproportionately impacts the non-hetero community. I know some platforms shut down discussions of asexuality because it’s considered lewd – which was.. surprising, to say the least.)

        1. Bartimaeus*

          As I’m given to understand, many porn blockers partially work by simple text filtration of the title or text content of the page. This can cause problems if the blocklist includes the word ‘lesbian’, for example.

          In addition, I’m told sometimes LGBTQ sites can end up on porn blockers’ blocklists because LGBTQ stuff (incl. completely SFW discussion groups, etc) is seen as inherently sexual. That’s a bigger societal-attitudes problem.

          1. Disabled ace*

            So in addition to looking up gay porn, you also couldn’t look up the location of a gay bar, how to file a sexuality discrimination complaint, or participate in discussion groups, or look up information on gender reassignment?
            I understand the problem. Thanks for explaining.

          2. Fikly*

            There is also the infamous example of the AP news article that got censored all over the place because they were reporting on an athlete whose last name was “Gay.”

          3. Harper the Other One*

            Yep, multiple types of site blocking software screen my last name, which includes C O C K. Including the one used by our school board, so every school year begins with a written note to my children’s new teachers explaining they have to add my email address to their whitelist manually or they will never receive my emails.

            In my experience, any blocking software that is rigorous enough to catch all the ways pornography can slip through also blocks a lot of legitimate things.

            1. Observer*

              In my experience that is becoming a lot less common than it used to be, as long as you are willing to invest in decent products.

              We have a spam filter on our work system – we NEED it because literally 75 – 90% of the mail that hits our domain is spam, and a lot of that is either phishing or porn. We have over 100 people on our email and over the last few years I’ve had maybe 2 – 3 false positives in general and one person who had a handful. Now, it’s true that we don’t get rid of ALL the spam that comes through, but it’s a trade-off. Interestingly enough our false positives were not suspected porn, but spam / phishing / threats.

              If the product your Board is using is blocking your work email, either they are using a garbage product or they have not set it up properly. For your students’ families, that’s also a definite possibility – most people have no clue what they are doing.

          4. Observer*

            Yes, but the good ones don’t do that.

            What you are describing is a well known problem – false positives. And it’s totally not just a problem for LGBTQ. The example of not being able find medical information is real. At least it USED to be real. Today, decent scanners no longer use single words in a title to determine if something is porn or not. False positives are still a problem, but if you are using a reasonably up to date filter product, MUCH less than it used to be.

          5. Quill*

            AVEN used to be blocked at multiple places because “asexual” has the word “sex” in it… so I’m assuming that between that and the fact that porn categories featuring or catering to queer people are more likely to share terms with their sexuality, this is mostly from keyword banning.

            Possibly with a side of straight developers’ seeing simple discussion groups as far more sexual than they actually are.

            1. Disabled ace*

              We do use the NSFW label a lot on asexual subreddits, although it’s usually so you don’t accidentally see a mouth-watering baked good such as cake.

              That’s what employers should be worrying about. Employees plotting the best ways to get to the bakery… or the break room… discussing recipes… rushing out of there to pick ingredients at the perfect harvest time…

              Now I’m hungry.

                1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                  On the other hand…what’s the point of being an adult if you can’t have cake for dinner?

                  Or just add a glass of milk. That makes for a balanced dinner, right?

        2. Junior Dev*

          Historically and in modern times, anti-porn laws and policies have been used to also block LGBT and sex education content. Anything from Anthony Comstock’s historic crusade against “obscenity” in the US being used to block info about birth control, to the recent Tumblr porn ban taking down a bunch of blogs about sex education, non-pornographic discussion of kink and sexual health, and gay and trans blogs.

          1. Disabled ace*

            Huh. I hope that Tumbler and Anthony Comstock also block all references to ‘husband’, ‘wife’ and ‘marriage’, otherwise it would be singling out.

            Thanks for explaining.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Comstock died in 1915, so he’s been doing all his blocking from the right hand of Satan for a while now. (Jk, religion is a lie.)

                1. Fikly*

                  Genuinely curious if what you’re objecting to is referring to someone who was against human rights as being in hell, or someone saying that religion is a lie.

                2. OfOtherWorlds*

                  Saying that “religion is a lie”. This site has always had an ethos of mutual respect for others points of view, and that includes not reflexively dunking on religion. That means stating your views as opinions rather than facts. “I am an athiest” rather than “religion is a lie”, because the latter is disrespectful to anyone who follows a religion. That includes Muslims, Jewish people, Hindus and Buddhists as well as Christians.

                  TL/DR- This is not Reddit or Tumblr. Don’t write like you’re on Reddit or Tumblr.

        3. Cambridge Comma*

          At my old job, we couldn’t access the page of the company’s own group for LGTB employees. They only gave advice on e.g. tax status when married in a country that doesn’t recognise your marriage, so people were kept from useful information by the settings.

        4. Smithy*

          I have to add that while LGBTQ nightlife gets the hit the worst – a lot of this kind of software can go after lots of bars/clubs or anything including the sales of alcohol. I once worked at a place that blocked all alcohol brands and some restaurants.

    3. Clementine*

      If the poster wanted to use a company computer, it sounds like they could get one, but it would be Windows, not Mac. If the poster does not want the company computer, and wants to keep this job, then yes, buy another computer for blocked sites. Or get a new job where the company provides the desired computer. But don’t refuse to participate in standard security practices.

      1. Observer*

        That’s a very different question to what this comment is saying though. Sure, if the OP *wants* to use their personal computer for work, they may have to live with using two computers. But this should be THEIR choice, not the choice of their employer.

    4. Observer*

      Seriously? What if the OP were going to sites that you approved of, would you still tell them that it’s not a hill to take a stand on?

      Why does the company get to decide what activities someone does on their own time and own equipment? I despise porn, but this is still a vast over-reach.

      1. Grace*

        Mine would still be the same you shouldn’t use the same computer you work on for non work stuff, don’t crap where you eat. The OP was a freelancer before this job they should have been using separate computers for work and play. Porn sites are notorious for causing computer issues, why take that risk with your livelihood.

        1. Dahlia*

          Because computers are expensive and “just buying” a whole seperate laptop is out of the question for a lot of people??

          1. Grace*

            Its not “just buying” a laptop, the OP’s job was freelance work. Their income is dependent on this laptop it, its a tax deduction as a business owner.

        2. Observer*

          But why is it that the OP should have to buy TWO computers? I’m totally in agreement on keeping the uses separate. But why is it that the OP should be the one paying for the WORK computer?

          1. Grace*

            For this job now that it is full time permanent employee the OP shouldn’t, the company should. However, when they were freelance the Op should have a separate computer that they were not using for porn. Their Job was freelancing, the op was self employed.

  13. Erin*

    A colleague has a funny poster asking people not to interrupt (ok, in his case, unless end of world/cookies), maybe find a meme and print it out? His is funny, but actually works.

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

      …may I suggest a particular type of meme..? lol

      Your colleague’s poster likely works because it is funny. No one reads signs in offices, their eyes gloss over them like they’re just another part of the wall. But you betcha they will stop and look if there is a recognisable meme format (eg: somecards) or something that visually suggests “entertainment”.

      If you don’t feel comfortable with humour, outrageously cute puppies will work too.

  14. Troutwaxer*

    OP # 1, I’d also suggest a good backup program. Meanwhile, why not set up a separate username and login for the company’s work. This isn’t as good as using their computer, but it will definitely give you some separation between your stuff and their stuff.

  15. Mrs Mostable*

    #4 Disabled person her, with a visible disability (crutches). And it really grates me when people makes assumptions about what I can and can not do. I repeatedly have to tell people “if I need help I will ask”. 95% of the things around me I can either handle, or have found a way through life experience to handle. I made it to 50 without your help, it’s quite patronizing to think I can’t handle opening a door. That people think they know better “oh, but that’s probably not going to work for you”, without having walked a day in my shoes (and crutches :) can be quite patronizing, and a bit of a sad reminder that people might see you as unable/disabled – a word I really dislike, as it pretty much labels me as not being able to do things, which can not be further from the truth. I get that it comes from a good place, but most of us (if not all) don’t need “saving”.

    1. Tallulah in the Sky*

      “And it really grates me when people makes assumptions about what I can and can not do.”

      Yep, this. What jumped at me in the letter is that he noticed the intern stuttered more in some settings… but not that it has any impact on their productivity, relationship with colleagues, nothing tangible. Just, they sometime stutter more. So OP is seemingly making an issue out of nothing, nothing needs to be handled, so don’t make your employee feel their stutter is an issue when it really isn’t.

    2. yala*

      Was gonna say.

      Finally applied for some accommodations with our ADA coordinator (fingers crossed), and one thing that stood out to me both from what HR said and the research I did beforehand was: don’t preemptively offer accommodations (beyond, like. Basic accessibility stuff like ramps. Which you should have anyway.) or at least, not to a specific person.

      Heck, HR said they had to be careful about even providing my boss with materials relating to my disability because they would be general statements, rather than something specifically about me, verified by my doctor. And I get it. The same disability can affect different people in different ways.

      If you notice people being rude, speak to them privately. Be supportive with your intern as you would with anyone, but assume that he’ll ask for help if he needs it. With something like a stutter, he probably knows he has it and has done research and developed coping methods for himself.

    3. Fikly*

      Ugh, yes.

      Not to mention, often the “help” people start doing jeopardizes my safety. Like when they pull open a door I am balancing on. I will fall, will you now pay my medical bills?

      Or open a car door in a way that means now I have to go further out into the street to get around the open car door. That one baffles me – do they not understand geometry?

      1. Mrs Mostable*

        “Like when they pull open a door I am balancing on. ”

        This one happened to me last year, I was entering a store, and as I was opening the door, a person bolted from the other side of the store to open it for me – and while he pulled the door open he made me fall to the floor as my weight was against it. BUT I did not get upset, he obviously meant well. But the bolt across the room was excessive, and honestly, again, do people honestly not think I can open a door? But it was clear on his face he was mortified, and will probably think twice about doing that again, so I did not feel the need to rub his face in it. (I was not hurt by the way ;).

        1. Fikly*

          Yeah, if people are physically hurting me I will get upset, regardless of their intention.

          Because guess what! If someone accidentally runs into me with their car, I’m gonna be pretty upset with them. And also, it does not take a genius to to think that maybe pushing on something that someone on crutches is holding might end badly for that person. These people aren’t thinking, or the only thing they are thinking is that their need to feel helpful is more important than any needs I have.

          Also, I have multiple people I’ve encountered who have done this multiple times, despite me telling them why it’s dangerous, so your notion that they will think twice is super flawed.

          Meaning well does not excuse bad behavior.

        2. Paulina*

          Ugh. I expect it’s the same impulse that leads people who see me lifting something heavy to grab for it as they offer to help — I end up speaking very sharply at them to stop, because I’ll lose balance if my counterweight shifts. People who mean well need to think more carefully, and recognize that the person they intend to help is the expert on what they need.

    4. Jeanne*

      I wonder if some people who ask do so not out of “Saving” but as a signal that they’re not going to be hostile to future requests – because they know that some places are?

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Strongly agree with this. Folks who stutter know that they stutter.

      I understand that OP is coming from a place of compassion and good intentions, but asking someone how you can help them stutter less (which is the underlying message) will likely come across as patronizing and ableist. You’re effectively asking a person with a disability how you can support them in being less disabled as opposed to asking how you can ensure they have the accommodations they need to succeed at work. (But please also don’t ask about accommodation as an end-run around this advice!)

    6. Just Ask Us*

      Patronizing and infantilizing! People have assumed my invisible-disability needs based on a one-off, while disregarding things I’ve clearly asked for. For instance, I noted that I would like meetings booked in advance with an agenda, when possible (which shouldn’t even be an accommodation). I had a big personal progress update meeting sprung on me the morning I returned from a medical leave and was overwhelmed after half an hour, and management/HR’s takeaway was that I didn’t want meetings to last longer than half an hour.

      When I brought up my actual request – which I had to have a doctor sign off on – they made some excuse that I wasn’t there to discuss that with. They had my personal email the entire time and could easily have informed me in advance. We are the experts on our respective conditions and we should be equal participants in any accommodation discussions.

    7. Sleve McDichael*

      One rule of thumb to work out whether assistance is appropriate or not is to ask yourself ‘Would I do this for/say this to a shy person or an ESL person?’ If yes, consider proceeding (taking other context into account). If no, then stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200. You’re making it about the stutter.

  16. Artemesia*

    Great advice for the woman being asked to be the receptionist and know hwere everyone is. Any answer that is helpful reinforces your role as handmaiden. Be blunt in your ‘no idea’ with peers and tactful with your ‘I am sorry but I really don’t have any idea what Fergus’s schedule is’ with superiors. Be helpful once or twice and there you are.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      “Sorry Bob, I’m just a data analyst. Maybe try asking the admin person who knows these things?”

      Or something like that.

  17. Mystery Bookworm*

    I’m not a porn watcher, myself, but I honestly think if I was in OP #1’s shoes I’d uninstall the software just on principle! Can’t quite tell if that’s a dramatic over-reaction or not…

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I wouldn’t have installed it in the first place. I realize security is a major thing but if the company wants to protect themselves and have control over what you can access, they need to provide OP with a laptop. I’m not letting you install what you want on a laptop that I own.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      If it’s your own home personal computer, definitely I would not install it. If they install this on company property, it’s perfectly understandable.
      But that’s the problem with using your own equipment, the company still often wants their data to be secure (or to monitor employees) though I don’t think that’s the case here.

  18. Tallulah in the Sky*

    LW #4, if the only difference is that they stutter more, I wouldn’t say anything, to them or anyone. I don’t think it would be a huge problem if you talked to them about their stutter, but (for me at least) it won’t be pleasant or useful.

    I myself stutter and would not like my manager to bring it up, unless it has an impact on my work. All it would do is make me self-conscious about something I can’t change, which is very frustrating. And it would also probably worsen the stutter when I’m talking to them from now on, since I would be way more conscious about it (which tends to worsen it). I see this as someone who has a birthmark or a scar on their face. Sure, this could impact the way they present themselves and how social they are etc… but aside from treating them just like anyone else and not let it bother you, there’s not much you can do, and bringing attention to it would be awkward.

    If it’s really only about the stutter, and your employee seems ok, speaks up, interacts with people,… then you have nothing to do, aside from what you’ve been doing : when the person stutters, don’t react, don’t appear bored or irritated, let them finish what they’re saying, and respond like you would to any other person. But if you notice your intern speaking up less when they stutter more, being more shy in meetings, etc… You can bring that up ! And you don’t have to bring up the stutter. Because it’s probably more a self-confidence issue, or being new to the job, or something like that. Just say something like you noticed he seems to speak up less in big groups, and you want to help him feel comfortable in those situations. If your company has training on speaking up in public or other resources, bring them up. Let them bring up the stutter if they want. Because the truth is, there’s nothing you can do to help stop the stutter, aside from treating him like any other employee and act as if there’s no stutter. So do that, and only bring up the actual issues.

    At least, that’s how I would like my boss to handle it (and how all my bosses have handled it, I can’t remember a single time my stutter has been brought up in that context). To me it’s not a problem, it just is, and that’s how people have reacted to it in professional settings and I’m happy with that. Act as if there’s no stutter is the biggest help you can offer.

    One last note : to you this is new, to this person they’ve had it probably their whole life, they’ve had the time to figure out how they’re comfortable to deal with this in new settings. So to me again, the best you can do is what you’ve been doing (being respectful) and let them handle this how they see fit. If that means talking to people about it, they will.

  19. Tau*

    #4 –

    Hi! I’m your local reader who stutters.

    Alison’s advice on this one is good – I’d just follow his lead and not bring it up. I personally wouldn’t mind someone mentioning it, but I’m a bit of an outlier as far as the stuttering community is concerned and I think a lot of people who stutters would be fairly unhappy with it – and besides, my answer would be “no, there’s nothing I need you to do, thanks for asking.”

    It may be worth having that conversation if he actually shows signs of high discomfort in spoken situations, such as noticeably trying to avoid public speaking or never saying a word in meetings or the like. Which brings me to my next point…

    Stuttering more doesn’t have to mean he’s unduly uncomfortable or nervous. There’s a tendency for fluent people to assume more stuttering = nervousness disproportionate to the situation, and that’s not it at all and is frustrating to encounter. For one, it is *normal* to be slightly more keyed up when talking with more people, people you don’t know as well, or in a higher stakes situation. For those of us who stutter, this can immediately transform into more disfluency, but that doesn’t mean we’re not in the typical human emotional range. For another, stuttering can spike for unrelated reasons as well. Also, it’s really frustrating to have someone use the disability* you can’t help as some sort of cheat sheet to your emotional state. I would like everyone at work to just quietly ignore it when I stutter more and not read into it.

    Finally, the obvious advice: under absolutely no circumstances try to give him advice on how to handle his stutter or what he should do to stutter less. But that hopefully goes without saying :)

    * Oh yeah – another thing I’d recommend is not explicitly talking about it as a disability, as a lot of people who stutter don’t consider themselves disabled and may take offense at the description. As mentioned above, I’m an outlier. Alison, I’m sorry if this reopens the language debate, but I felt this was important for OP to know.

    1. Tau*

      After Tallulah in the Sky’s comment above, I’m going to adjust my advice to: if they show actual issues in spoken situations, have a conversation about THAT, and leave them to bring up the stutter if they think it’s relevant. It’s the better approach.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yeah, there’s a vague memory from an ethics class stirring about some research aiming to show that nervousness / self-consciousness causes stuttering, which did not bear out.

      I personally agreed with another commentor, who suggested supporting the intern as the OP would support a non-stuttering intern….so if it there is visable nervousness, then address it as you would with any intern.

    3. Tallulah in the Sky*

      Thanks for pointing out that an uptick in stuttering doesn’t mean the person is nervous or self-conscious, there are a lot of reasons why someone would stutter. For example, I stutter less when I have prepared what I want to say versus a fluid conversation with people. Or I stutter more when I speak in Dutch or English instead of French, my mother language. Or as I said, when it’s been brought up by someone else, I become more conscious about it and will stutter more as a result. Not one of them has anything to do with nervousness or does it impact how and when I talk to people (although it probably shaped some of my personality traits in some ways growing up).

    4. Recovering journalist*

      As a lifelong stutterer, I echo all of this.

      Things that make me angry/annoyed/frustrated – people telling me I seem nervous, people telling me to relax, people finishing my sentences, people looking away impatiently, people looking down uncomfortably, people assuming I don’t know how to pronounce words and sounding them out like I am in grade school or I’m learning a new language (happens more than you would imagine), etc.

      I sometimes do get nervous speaking in front of crowds, fancy people, people I don’t know. You know else gets nervous in those situations? Almost everyone. And whether or not I stutter more or less is not directly related to how nervous I am. My fluency at any given moment is not your crystal ball to my emotional state. Please don’t mention it.

      Assuming you have simply been treating your intern like a human and letting them speak, please continue to do so. And know that’s a baseline many don’t achieve. So if you’re doing that, you’re doing okay.

      1. Amy Sly*

        It seems like the only managing LW#4 really needs to do is keep herself and her team from reacting badly to the intern: telling people who complete his sentences or mock him to knock it off. And I disagree with Alison’s advice slightly — tell them once in private, but if they keep it up, reprimand them in the moment. That shows that you do have the intern’s back and gives warning to others who might be tempted to imitate the rude folks.

        1. Hydrangea McDuff*

          I wouldn’t reprimand—maybe say, blandly, “Let’s let Bob finish his thought” or something like that. And follow Bob’s lead if he wants the group to circle back to him.

          1. Observer*

            I agree. A public reprimand is likely to make things a lot worse.

            It’s generally not helpful or necessary. Reasonable people will notice if the OP mildly stops the interruption. And if the interrupter won’t stop even with private reprimands and appropriate escalation of consequences, then the results of that will also be evident to people. The one thing I *might* do in such a case is to let the intern know that I was actually working on it. It would depend on the person in question.

            1. Amy Sly*

              Sorry, my word choice was bad. The scripts I had in mind meaning “knock it off” was along the lines of “Please let Bob finish” or “I believe Bob was talking” for the interrupters; simple interjections that refocus the conversation back to Bob, with escalating tones of voice that go from polite reminders to “you know better so stop it” as necessary. The same kinds of scripts, in fact, one might use to control a meeting with someone who constantly talked over others, whether women, people of color, or just simple introverts.

              I agree with the general dictum to “praise in public, reprimand in private,” but I also recognize that shame and making an example pour encouragez les autres are also tools that may be necessary from time to time. The embarrassment of people who get called out for refusing to amend behavior that prevents effective teamwork is their problem, not mine.

          2. KiwiSLP*

            I’m a speech pathologist and thought I’d give my perspective, the main thing here is, as others have said, let the intern finish speaking (and modelling this for other staff) and don’t give them advice on their stutter -most adults who stutter have something they do to help their stutter already -whether that’s a technique their SLP gave them or something they came up with themselves.
            To add to the thoughts on stuttering as a disability: it’s generally considered a motor/coordination issue with the speech mechanism only and a lot of the time is the only speech/language/cognitive impairment someone has and has no impact on their intelligence.

            1. 5 Leaf Clover*

              And many adults who stutter prefer not to try to “help their stutter”, as they find they communicate better and feel more relaxed when they don’t always have to think about their speech.

        2. AnonymousLlama*

          I too found Allison advice about talking to the interns coworkers privately to be uncomfortable. I would rather the manager “correct” people in front of everyone, like they would any employee.Like “lets Bob finish his thought”. And it sounds worse that the manager would go privately to a coworker and be like “lets be nice to Bob he has a stutter”. That sounds like it could get you into more hot water. What if Bob finds out you are talking behind his back AND assuming he has a stutter. Awkward. I like what OP said about “I noticed ___, how can I support you?” But after reading through other posters maybe just change it to I noticed you struggle with public speaking or struggle in meetings or something, anyone have any ideas? I just think if my manager offered to support me or asked if I would like help that would be nice.

          1. Observer*

            What the manager should say is NOT “lets be nice to poor Bob.” But “Please stop interrupting Bob when he’s talking. It’s rude.”

            That’s not “talking about Bob” or assuming anything. It’s standard supervision regarding rude behavior.

    5. Harper the Other One*

      Thank you for commenting! My 11-year-old son has a stutter and I was going to say that this was my observation – its frequency seems unrelated to anxiety, although it’s occasionally triggered by him being so excited about something that his brain is ahead of his mouth. We were also advised by a speech pathologist that the best thing to do is just give him time to speak.

    6. Observer*

      Finally, the obvious advice: under absolutely no circumstances try to give him advice on how to handle his stutter or what he should do to stutter less.

      Goodness, YES!

      This is true for pretty much every disability.

    7. Caleb*

      It’s funny you should mention that it’s probably best not to label this as a disability “as a lot of people who stutter don’t consider themselves disabled and may take offense at the description. I was in speech therapy from the time I was 4 years old until my sophomore year of high school and no one around me ever really mentioned my stutter, ever. I mean, my family tried to help me, kids at school laughed at me, the usual–but no one at work ever mentioned it. My most recent job is at a bank and after my training period the only issue my trainer had with me was my stutter when answering the phone (unfortunately for me the name of the bank is *full* of problem sounds and letters for me, but such is life). Before my trainer (who I genuinely enjoy and love working with) even finished her sentence the HR rep we were meeting was shaking her head with wide eyes. She told my trainer she couldn’t touch that discussion (I had also gotten into a good working relationship with this HR rep and she said she had no concerns anyway). But that was the first time, at 29 years old, that I realized maybe I had something that was classified as a ‘disability’. I still don’t think that way, but I do think back on that moment often.

      tl;dr I still don’t think I have a disability (never considered it) and that works for me. But that isn’t how it will sit with everyone, so proceed with caution, OP.

      1. Tau*

        I came at the topic sort of sideways – I’m also autistic, and in my early twenties had the realisation that the serious problems I was having were not because I was inexplicably lazy but because of significant executive function problems, were not going to magically go away one day, and that I needed help. The whole thing involved a lot of angst and gnashing teeth and tears, but eventually I came to terms with the idea of being disabled. So when a year or so later the thought hit me that hey, under the social model definition of disability I was using my stutter totally qualified, I’d already done all the heavy lifting and it was easy to view that as one as well. But hardly any other people who stutter I’ve met consider themselves disabled, and I do get why – I rejected the label before that experience, and coming to terms with it was hard. It shouldn’t be pushed on anyone who doesn’t want it.

        The main things I do think it’d be good for people to be aware of are:
        – even if you don’t consider your stutter a disability, the law very well might, and that can give you real protection. Like in your example: no, your trainer does not get to say that your stutter is a problem, and if someone wants to make an issue of it you do have recourse.
        – try not to be super ableist about it. Like, nobody has to ID as disabled if they don’t want to, but I’ve spoken to people who stutter who’d basically say “well, I’m not disabled because I can still do things and my life isn’t terrible and my stutter doesn’t define me” and… that is actually pretty offensive to disabled people? I am fairly sure your average wheelchair user would object at their life being described that way? I certainly don’t view mine like that?

        but that is getting into intra-stuttering-community stuff now, for OP it’s mainly important to know that here be dragons, please don’t poke them.

    8. LegallyBrunette*

      As a fellow stutterer – I second everything you’ve said, Tau!

      Advice for the OP:

      First and foremost, *don’t* *don’t* *don’t* refer to a stutter as a disability, and, if your brother’s disability is something other than merely a speech impediment, please don’t compare this intern’s stutter with your brother’s disability. There’s often an incorrect perception that a speech impediment is connected with a developmental or intellectual disability, and for the vast majority of stutterers, that is very much *NOT* the case. Stutterers are of normal intelligence and know exactly what they want to say, but a physical block outside of our control prevents us from doing so at the time and the pace we would like to.

      Don’t bring up the stutter with the intern unless he brings it up first or asks for advice about his communication skills, etc. Personally, having attention drawn to my stutter is one of the (many and often unpredictable) things that tend to make my stutter worse.

      The best thing you can do is to not react to your intern’s stutter and allow him to finish speaking uninterrupted. You should also encourage others to do so. If someone interrupts when your intern hasn’t finished speaking, address the interrupter’s behavior, not your intern’s speech, directly with “Let him finish.” If another employee seems to not understand the situation or is reacting inappropriately to your intern, you can privately and discreetly explain to other employees the situation.

  20. zebra*

    LW4, leave it alone. It’s great that your intern feels comfortable with you. He knows you know he stutters; so does everyone else. If he were in a high level position and the stutter was causing clarity of communication difficulties with high profile clients, for instance, you might have standing to check in with him about it and talk about strategies. But he’s at the intern level and it sounds like this isn’t causing any actual work problems, so you should let it be.

    The one possible exception might be if he doesn’t have the work experience to know that he could be asking for an accommodation. I’d doubt it, because he’s likely stuttered for many years and is accustomed to working with teachers/authority figures in the way that works best for him, but if this is his first real professional experience there’s a chance he might not know what he’s entitled to. If you haven’t already I think you could, ONCE, as part of a regular check-in, ask him explicitly if there’s anything else you could do to support him in his role, but keep it general and don’t mention the stutter. If he still doesn’t bring it up, you need to drop it until/unless there is a specific work consequence/issue with it.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      That was my question, this is an intern. They may or may not know that they can ask or how to ask for anything.

      In that case, is asking if there is anything else the boss could do to support the intern enough?

      We see so often that people new to the workforce do not know so much. Despite years of having a stutter and dealing with teachers, school is not the same as work and the intern may not have a clear idea of how to ask for what they need.

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

    OP2: how strict are the rules in your new office for personal effects..?

    At Ikea they have those lightweight shelf things that could hook over the edge of the cubicle divider. You could fill them with tallish plastic plants to give yourself an extra foot or so of visual obstruction over the cubicle wall. Even if you just did it on the side/corner where the peepers walk past, that might help? You could make it look quite attractive too.

    1. TimeTravelR*

      Believe it or not, I once worked in an office that did not allow anything to show above the level of the cubicle. No plants on top of file bin, nothing.
      But, at least the cubicle walls were tall!

    2. JSPA*

      If it’s not a fire code violation–which is a serious thing, having to do with the ability of firefighters not only to see, but to spray water unimpeded, which requires a certain clearance between top of any shelf or partition, and ceiling (whether hard or drop)–I was going to suggest taping some sort of banner / sign that adds at least 10 inches of height.

      This could be purely decorative (or branded to your company’s logo, so it’s harder for them to complain) or it could include arrows to the printer and to the offices most in demand. It would (unfortunately) register as passive aggressive for it to say, “Analyst at work; please don’t ask who’s in or out.”

      Another fix might be to aim a light so that it shines in the face of anyone who looks in at you. That’s the less pleasant solution, but it’s also harder to define, thus harder to forbid.

      And if someone says, “your light shines in my eyes when I look into your cubicle,” you can smilingly answer, “yes, it does.”

  22. Melissa*

    LW 2 a few thoughts: If you’re at the end of an aisle maybe your employer will switch out the aisle facing cubicle wall with a taller one? My workplace uses those for some cubicles on the end in high traffic areas while the rest are the under-5-foot variety. And I second Alison’s suggestion for a sign, but if your office culture allows they could be more explicit like “STOP” (we use STOP/GO magnets on overhead bins).

    1. EPLawyer*

      Now I am having flashbacks to Office Space. Except instead of expanding the cubicle outwards, the walls get a little bit higher every day until they are back to 6 feet and no one notices.

  23. Akcipitrokulo*

    LW4… best is to leave it. He knows he stutters. Having an overall environment which is open and trusting and having regular 1-1s for everyone means that anyone with any concern can raise it – but don’t do anything special.

    For people interrupting – handle it the same way you would if someone were interrupting and speaking over/for a colleague. Say “actually I think John was speaking” or whatever.

  24. Princesa Zelda*

    Another reader with a stutter here! For me, my stutter is part of a larger group of language-related migraine symptoms, or at least that’s what it looks like to my doctor. There is absolutely nothing I can do to prevent or alleviate it, since my migraine triggers are things like “the sun.” It’s not tied to my emotional state, besides causing frustration. ;) I concur with Alison — don’t bring it up with him unless he brings it up with you, let him finish his sentences, etc, and have private conversations to correct people who are accidentally rude about it. I think it’s great that you want to support your intern, and I wish you both a lot of luck!

  25. Batgirl*

    LW2, you say that the men who are making you feel uncomfortable equate to “a few people”, which may be more solvable than dealing with a large and changing population of passing guys.
    You have an excellent work argument for asking for more privacy, but even without that I think it will blow over.
    First of all, it’s new. It sounds like a few guys have noticed you simultaneously because of the new set up, and are trying to make a connection in ways which I’m sure feel low key to them: eye contact and asking you where Fred went or how long has Mary been in a meeting.
    It feels more burdensome to you because it’s frequent but they will likely give up soon when no rapport emerges, especially if you seem puzzled or interrupted.
    Secondly, it’s not that many people you need to remember to be short with. I don’t know about you but when it’s seemingly everyone who needs help I just give up the monosyllable act (which in itself is draining) and be helpful, which doesn’t help with extinguishing the expectation.
    Lastly, just sympathy on how much it suuuuuuuuuucks to be on the receiving end of so many draining and annoying interactions. I wish it a speedy death.

  26. CoffeeLover*

    #2 man I remember the good ol’ days of cubical walls. I haven’t had one of those in years. I actually think you’re luck to even have those OP. A lot of offices have completely abandoned the cubicle set up and just have everyone sitting in open areas. Like desks in a row with no separation. Everyone taking calls and talking… it’s loud and distracting. But I think it gets easier over time as you and your coworkers learn to work in this new environment.

    Also – Headphones (especially the big over the ear kind) when you need to focus are a blessing. People need to have to really want to talk to you to go through the effort of getting your attention when wearing headphones. Sends a clear do not disturb signal when you need it.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      The letter says she tried headphones and people still bother her to ask. (Not a lot of sense in telling LW2 how much worse the situation could be at length imo.)

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I think it’s a perspective thing that’s worth keeping in mind when she’s addressing the issue. It’s obviously been a jarring change for the LW but ultimately she’s gone from 6-foot cubicle walls to 5-foot cubicle walls. She still has a significant level of privacy that’s a big improvement on the majority of offices. She clearly feels quite strongly about this (talking about ‘peepers’ and her lack of privacy etc etc) but I think keeping a degree of perspective about this would help any requests for improvements come across a lot more reasonably.

        1. epi*

          But why? There’s actually a lot of evidence that open office spaces are bad for productivity and health. The noise and lack of privacy impede many people from doing their jobs, and stress most people out. Before they became common, people hated cubicles for the same reason. They’re not some luxury– they’re the bare minimum at a company that isn’t saving costs on space by taking it out of their employees’ well-being. The OP’s issue is also a common example of how these spaces are disproportionately unpleasant for women. Not only does the OP get interrupted and insulted, she now has to figure out how to protect her own time while not offending the men who are actually causing the problem!

          I really doubt that the OP is going to get her employer to upgrade all the cubes, if she even wants that. But this trend is actually terrible and will never change as long as employees are assumed to have no opinion about it. Telling someone in a crappy environment to keep it in perspective is really not helpful or kind– people are allowed to have feelings about their own problems even if it could somehow be worse. Just telling everyone to suck it up because there are people out there who have to hotdesk is a recipe for everyone’s work environment to get worse, not better.

          1. Lora*

            Oh, it’s not that planners don’t think people have an opinion about it. They know for a fact that employees will hate open offices, hoteling, and whatever else architects can come up with to save space. They just do NOT care. At all. Even a little bit.

            Office space costs $100/square foot to build and about half that annually to maintain. There are regulatory restrictions on the ratio of people per building : toilets and parking spaces; in Europe they have additional restrictions on windows / sunlight access that you have to consider (make your buildings long and skinny, or add skylights). Every other parameter you can think of to maximize # of employees per square foot can and will be used to torturous effect.

            I try to convince the planners to let as many people work remotely as possible, and tell managers who are uncomfortable with remote workers, “we are doing this explicitly because it saves the company $x / year. Unless you can get the budget for $x / year, plus extra to cover your employees’ new commuting costs, just to soothe your *feelings*, you will not get butts in seats. I do not think the EC will be happy to spend $x / year + initial CAPEX of $XXX for your feelings, I think they will tell you to have a glass of whiskey and get over it, but if you must, give it a try…”

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            If it’s unkind to tell someone who wants to forbid the people she works with from *looking at her* to get a little perspective then I actually am fine with that.

          3. Massmatt*

            I don’t know the numbers but I assume open offices are cheaper to build and maintain than cubes. There’s also a belief that it fosters more collaboration. And probably where an employee thinks “privacy, yay, I can get my work done without being bothered by my coworkers” some managers think “privacy, boo, maybe they’re goofing off”.

            I remember I first encountered this when a health insurance company I worked for as a contractor was moving to a new location, it was far away so I was not part of it, but I saw the open layout and was glad I was not going there.

            The biggest change along with reduced privacy and increased noise was almost eliminating desk space. At the time we used a lot of paperwork, where were we supposed to put it, on our keyboards? Plus, we had 2 teams doing data entry, 1 doing QC, and 2 taking calls from customers. No collaboration there, people were working individually. The 1st 3 teams need quiet. The other group is noisy, and needs privacy. It was going to be a nightmare.

      2. Leisel*

        A lot of people say “headphones” when they’re really wearing earbuds. People interrupt me often because they can’t see my earbuds, but I prefer those over headphones and the interruptions aren’t horrible. I think that’s what CoffeeLover means. Make the headphones VERY apparent, then be extra slow to remove them when someone interrupts you.

    2. Jackiemorgan*

      Op2 I was going to say the same about your cubical walls. Most workplaces I know of have been going through a journey of offices to cubicles to cubicles with lower walls to open plan (no walls) to hotdesking where you don’t even have a guaranteed desk to work! Some day you will look back at your low cubicle walls as a peak point in privacy!

    3. AnonymousLlama*

      Also, if this is a new office setup I don’t think it would be out of line to say something like “I’ve recently been seated next to the copier but given the nature of my job this is really distracting/makes it difficult to focus, etc. Would it be possible to move to a more secluded corner of the office?”

  27. LW1*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison! And especially for the heads-up about remote wiping. I updated my OS a few days ago and their software was asking for some pretty high-level access that seems like it would tend in that direction. I’ll uninstall it with glee.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      My company has a Bring Your Own Device program for mobile in lieu of getting a company phone where they’ll pay for the 2nd line. But the catch is they install security before you can utilize the Outlook functions. This will wipe your device if you ever leave, plus who knows what else they look at. NOPE! If I cannot get a phone, I’ll pass.

      I don’t think your company had any evil designs by giving you this software (hopefully not) but they probably do have it preconfigured for their company property computers and devices and didn’t really think about it.

      1. ITGirl*

        If it makes you feel any better, for the most part IT is too busy to care what people are doing on their personal phones. The only reason they insist on features like that is because it’s easier to push your email and updates from our server to you that way. Less time spent fixing each individual phone that way.

        1. Massmatt*

          But it’s still an intrusion on my privacy. I accept that what I do on company machines at work is not private. But that means conversely that what I do on MY machines outside of work is MINE.

          And this goes beyond IT. If the company has access, who knows whether it stays compartmentalized or if a manager gets it.

          Plus, the issue isn’t just spyware, it’s the fact that they are denying access to internet sites their contractor (not employee!) is accessing outside of work, on her own machine. Or wipe the device, including pictures of her kids? Hell no!

          Either the company provides the machine for work use only, in which case they can have whatever software on it they want, or I use my machine and it remains mine.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        That’s not a very robust mobile device management program. Our sandboxes, so the company stuff gets installed in a manner that it can be wiped without a full device wipe. I would also opt for a second phone if ours required full wipe permissions. I am required to have a screen lock on as well.

    2. Observer*

      Anti malware, by definition, needs some pretty deep hooks into your OS, or it can’t do its job. So it doesn’t mean that it’s set up to do a remote wipe.

      I get why you want to wipe it, but if your main concern is the remote wipe, it check whether the software you have actually is even capable of doing that. If it is, I’d ask the IT folks about it.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have to admit that, coming from a place with much greater confidentiality and a career in collecting data from all manner of people/devices for litigation, the thought of asking remote employees to use their own computers for work makes my left eye twitch. (Fun fact: Most corporate document reviews will have porn in the data, and we will find those emails between intracompany affair partners that NO ONE wanted to see.) There are so, so many issues with it, including, but not limited to:
      * Increased risk of viruses/malware to the corporate from the non-corporate computer
      * Inability to control security (passwords, location, security patching, etc.) on said computer, which it sounds like this employer is dealing with partially with this antivirus+ program
      * If you’re not using cloud storage, there is a big risk of data loss in the event of a local disk failure or theft, absent regular and reliable user-created backups
      * If the employee walks, you may have lost a bunch of company data, particularly if the parting of ways was not amicable
      * Software license compliance issues as many enterprise-scale licenses are only for company owned/leased devices
      * Should the company be sued, having to either hold or forensically image a privately-owned device for discovery (i.e., you don’t want people like me having to sort through your computer files)
      * Giving a company the security and control required to effectively manage a computer is not something I’d be willing to do on my personal device
      * Technical support calls for unsupported programs/features – people used to have the gall to call our help desk for assistance with their music downloads from iTunes not working… iTunes is not a business-related program (and the analyst really needs to help the person whose Word just ate it, not get The Best of Tony Bennett downloaded)

  28. Prague*

    #2: Get your office to put up a room layout sign with where everyone sits. Post by entrances and maybe by the copy machine. Works wonders!

  29. Mannheim Steamroller*


    If you opt out of the “incentive trip” to avoid using your PTO, don’t be surprised if the company tries to bill you for it (which would torpedo office morale, but that’s another letter).

    1. OP/LW3*

      I hadn’t even thought of that! I can’t imagine that they’d go that far, but between the PTO issue and other things that have come up around the trip, it’s clear that the company didn’t really think this through before announcing it publicly. I’m going to assume that’s the case, like Alison points out, and approach it with that expectation—maybe they HAVE thought it out but if not, the questions I raise will help them improve the program in the future.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Repeat after me, it is not a reward if there is a cost to the employee. Remember the letter last weekish(?) about the company trip that took the place of a year end bonus but employees were still out of pocket? Same thing here. If you have to use your limited PTO to go somewhere the company picked when they tell you to go, it’s not really a reward. I really wish companies would figure this out.

      1. OP/LW#3*

        Thank you for this reminder. I’m excited for the trip but it’s absolutely not somewhere I would have chosen to go on my own. I’m thinking of something I learned when I worked in hospitality, which is that what makes something hospitable isn’t what *you* think would be nice but what *the person you are trying to make feel comfortable/appreciated* would think is nice. (That is, don’t send a special guest a bottle of champagne unless you know they enjoy champagne.)

        In any case, I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth but this will help me construct my argument. Thanks!

    3. WellRed*

      I am surprised that, if I’m reading correctly, the company picked the actual dates, so to me, that goes double that you shouldn’t have to use your own PTO. But, hopefully, they just didn’t think this all through.

      1. OP/LW#3*

        They did pick the actual dates—well, they gave me a handful of set dates I could choose from, so it was a dual effort. But that sort of goes back to the idea that to take it from my PTO is strange—I want to spend spring in the city where I live, because it’s beautiful that time of year, but that’s when the set vacation dates are.

        I do think they didn’t just think this all through, though. In fact, since this is the first year, I’m going to try to quiet my “am I looking a gift horse in the mouth?” voice by thinking of it that I’m helping set the policy in a thoughtful manner so that next time they’ll get it right.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Now I am confused. I assumed this was one of those horrid “vacation with co-workers” type of things. Then it would make sense for the company to pick the date. Or is it a large enough company that they are running multiple shifts of horrid “vacations with co-workers”?

          Also, is it really a vacation, as in they pick the place and date and pay for the flight and room and board, but you get to do what you want while there? Or are they having excruciating team-building exercises and onanistic speeches by executives? If the latter, this is totally work, and an iron-clad argument against making you burn your PTO for it.

          1. Paulina*

            It sounds like a package deal that they’re getting cheap, which would explain the limited range of set dates that LW3 can choose from (especially if it’s a less popular time for the destination). It will be a far better incentive if they don’t make the “winners” use PTO, since they’re dictating where and approximately when.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Yeah, from reading later comments, I think this is entirely an off-season cheap package. Classy.

              1. OP/LW#3*

                Yep, that’s likely it. I think that the dates they gave me to choose from were dates that fell within the price range that they had determined for the package. Which is fine! But like Paulina points out, that makes them shouldering the PTO all the more important.

                No team-building exercises—it will be just me and my plus-one, with no work obligations. So it will be an actual vacation—giving it the potential to feel like an actual reward.

  30. SLP*

    LW #4, I am a Speech Language Pathologist. Please, please do not speak to your employee about his stuttering. Likely he’s had years of therapy, he’s heard all the home remedies, and he knows himself best. All stutterers are not alike, it’s not one thing. Every stutterer has different issues, different kinds of stuttering and different ways to manage it. The best way to proceed is to completely ignore it. The Stuttering Foundation has amazing resources including a section for employers. There is a lot of mythology around stuttering. It sounds like you’re interested and engaged with this employee, perhaps doing some reading would give you some concrete tips.

    1. LegallyBrunette*

      As a lifelong stutterer, I second your suggestion that “the best way to proceed is to completely ignore it.”

    2. Trader Joe*

      Fellow SLP here and I 100% agree. If your employee needs help, they will ask. Unless the stutter is directly impacting their job performance, it shouldn’t be addressed. The Stuttering Foundation is a wonderful resource, and there are also podcasts that are all about stuttering! If you really want to do something actionable to help, pay attention to your facial expressions. Do your best to not visibly react when they stutter. It can take some practice and awareness, and I think it would benefit both of you in the long run. Also, Alison makes excellent points. I love her suggestions, so make sure to keep them in mind. Your desire to be accommodating and supportive is awesome- just remember that less is more unless your employee tells you otherwise.

  31. CookieWookiee*

    OP#3: Our office went through a similar downsizing. We went from honest-to-goodness offices with walls and doors and everything, to a crowded, cubicle-less open floor plan. It has NOT been pleasant, so I hear you on that!

    My desk was the first one you saw when you entered our space through the only entrance, and there was a lot of traffic. I am not a decorative display, an admin, or a walking talking floor plan, so to prevent Nosey Parkers and delivery persons from bugging and distracting me, I bought an inexpensive 3-foot-high paper and wood screen that fit on the edge of the desk. It definitely helped.

  32. EventPlannerGal*

    LW2: I like the suggestions about rearranging/decorating the cube to block sight lines. If you’re concerned about the data you’re working on or your screen generally, could you look into getting one of those privacy filter screens that fit onto your monitor?

    (Also, since you specifically mention asking, just agreeing hard with Alison here that there really isn’t a way to ask your colleagues to stop looking at you. Even the request would come across as precious, IMO, unless we’re talking really creepy extended staring.)

    1. EgyptMarge*

      +1 to this suggestions. Do a Google search for “computer monitor privacy screen” and you’ll find a million different options. They basically block anyone from reading your screen unless they’re directly in front of it and it’s angled at them. I’m in an end-row cubicle, too, so I keep my monitors a little above eye level and angle them downwards, and it just looks like a black screen to passers-by.

      And headphones + unhelpful/untimely answers for the questioners.

  33. MissDisplaced*

    #2 Can you ask to be moved further away from the printer? Ideally, there should be a buffer zone around copiers because of the noise and foot traffic, but you’d be surprised how this gets overlooked on seating plans.

  34. Adlib*

    OP #2 – Alison’s advice was great, but can you get a “rear view mirror” from Amazon or something? I sit in the middle of the room in an open office layout, and everyone agrees it’s generally the worst place to sit in the entire building. However, I still don’t like people walking up behind me since I also sit near the entrance to my floor. The mirror helps me keep an eye on people, and they can see me do it! Most of the time everyone is good-natured about it or don’t react at all. Maybe if people know you’re seeing them look into your cubicle, they won’t be as tempted to peep.

    (My floor is under remodel so hopefully soon I’ll get my new spot in the corner.)

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Second this. Before the last office move, I sat in a cubicle where a manager and two of the architects had offices directly opposite my cube. I installed a rear view mirror (mine was just a regular old mirror, but I’ve seen special ones in other people’s workspaces). Was amazed at how many people who passed down the hallway, either to visit one of the three people in the offices opposite mine, or going somewhere else, just casually peeped into my cube as they passed by. Why? I’m not that entertaining. I installed the mirror after a coworker once quietly crept into my cube and just stood there, unbeknownst to me. I was working with my back to the hallway minding my own business, then something made me turn around, and lo and behold, there was a woman in my cubicle that I had never talked to before. Just chilling there looking like she’d been standing there a while! Gave me a scare.

    2. James*

      I have one of these. It was a cheap giveaway from somewhere (I don’t even remember where). Convex, meaning it gives me a wide view. I have it up in my cubicle, so that I can tell when folks walk up on me. I don’t do things at work that I’m not supposed to do, or that I’d be embarrassed should someone see it, but I have a strong dislike for having my back exposed. It’s up among a few maps of project sites, a list of tips/tricks for certain processes, standard stuff, so it’s not obnoxiously obvious; it’s just something I have on my wall.

      I don’t think most people have noticed. Those who do either comment that it’s a good idea, or set up their own, depending on how their cubicle is arranged.

    3. tgirl*

      You can use a mirror that’s sold to parents so they can keep an eye on their child in the back seat while driving too.

    4. Alienor*

      I’ve got a rear-view mirror and it’s the best. I actually had a colleague creep up on me and try to scare me by suddenly putting their hands on my shoulders recently (it was a friend, so I wasn’t as mad as I might have been) and they were very disappointed when instead of jumping and shrieking, I just said “Oh, hey [name]” and kept typing.

  35. Contracts Killer*

    LW #2, in our office, most people in cubes keep a small white board posted on the outside. If it’s blank, the unwritten rule is that it’s fine to come in. If it says “On a Call” or “Crunching Numbers”, people generally do not interrupt them. Maybe with the new layout it makes sense for the company to provide these to everyone in cubes. It seems to work well in our office.

        1. Lady Heather*

          How do you even miss that someone is on a phone call?
          Maybe if someone has a headset on all day long and their call involves a lot of silences – but in general, it’s pretty obvious. The headset or the hand to the ear give it away.
          And if someone misses that – I don’t think a sign is going to help.

      1. Contracts Killer*

        Probably not every time, but if they are knee deep in a large project, yes, they seem to update their boards.

  36. Nash*

    Question. Re LW1: if they’re reluctant to get or ask for a separate work computer, can’t they just set up two user profiles in the MacOS, one for work and one for home?

  37. ASW*

    #5 – I would suggest at least interviewing and seeing what kind of vibe you get. While you should be cautious, you also need to keep in mind that there are two sides to every story. When I read your letter, I seriously wondered if you had applied for the current opening at my company until I realized you said this person had been there several years ago. While my company is not perfect by any means and there is plenty of blame to go around, I think many at my company would agree that the person making those accusations was the primary problem.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      It’s true that different people have different ideas of what’s “awful” but this kind of strong warning from a previous supervisor that OP respects and trusts is… not good. Especially given that OP has been wanting to work for this *specific* employer for quite some time. A lot of times the “sexiest” companies to work for are also some of the worst, because they can attract and retain talent simply by virtue of what makes them appealing on the outsid. See: entertainment industry, startups, dysfunctional nonprofits (“but the work is so important”) ….

      Honestly, I’m considering some bland B2B company for my next move because of it.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I am of the mind that it never hurts to go to the interview and form your own opinion of the place.
      But I would definitely ask some questions about the culture–also be sure to read the reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed and see if there is a pattern to be found.
      If the company is a large one, the department you’re in could be completely different from what your former supervisor experienced. Or not. But at least you’ve given it a shot.

  38. Rollergirl09*

    Re: Incentive trip. If this incentive trip is for multiple people and the company wants to be able to write it off as a business expense, they likely have to have a couple “meetings” that you are required to attend while there. If this is the case, they can’t ask you to use PTO because they are asking you to “work” while you’re there. I work for a company with a large incentive trip every spring and I’ve been a couple times. The travel time to get there and the days I was there were all counted as hours worked as I am non-exempt.

    1. OP/LW#3*

      In my case, there’s no work (or even “work”) involved—it’s a vacation for me and a plus-one of my choosing. But good framing for people who might be in similar situations!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        And they pick the date and place where you and your beau/belle go off and do whatever? That is just plain weird. I can see offering to pay for a trip up to a certain price limit, and taking it at a time when there is coverage. But to insist that your idea of fun match theirs? (I can pretty much guarantee that my idea of fun wouldn’t.) That is a truly impressive empathy fail.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Upon further review (of the comments), this looks like they got a cheap package deal by doing this off-season. Is the destination actually pleasant that time of year? I suspect that it is a lie-on-the-beach type of place, but how attractive that is can vary wildly. You might be better of skipping this.

  39. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    OP 5, Alison’s advice is spot on. Go for the interview. See what you can see. But be sure to take the “Ooooh I’d love to work her sosososososo much” blinders off before you even get to the parking lot. Watch for red/yellow flags.

    There is a company like this locally where I live (Clearwater, FL). Every year it hits the Top 10 Best Places to Work list. When I interviewed with them, I was very, very impressed with their benefits and pay.

    But that was all I was impressed with.

    Before my interview, I had (obviously) sent in my resume in consideration for one position. They filled that position but then asked if they could forward my resume for another position. I said sure. They reach out to me to schedule an interview for Thursday at 100pm (this was on a Tuesday). On Thursday, at 1100am, they reach out to me and tell me that they’ve reviewed my cover letter and don’t think I’d be a good fit for this second position so they were cancelling my interview. Ummm, yeah, because that cover letter was written for a different position and not customized for this second position. I kicked my heels up a bit (two hours before the interview–that has been scheduled for two days–and you are only now reviewing my materials? and is anyone besides me aware that my materials were submitted for a completely different position?), spoke with the HR manager and they kept the interview scheduled.

    When I got there and started hearing about the company, red flags abounded. The first, massive, flag was when they told me they subscribe to L. Ron Hubbard’s Administrative Principles (locally, in job seeking circles, we call this the “This company is owned by a Scientologist” flag–and it’s a biiiiig red flag for non-Scientologists). And everything else they told me sounded like Scientology in a business setting and that’s…..not my thing. I don’t even want Scientology in a non-business setting. Of course, I was still put off at their willingness to cancel an interview less than two hours before based on a cover letter written for an entirely different position, but that made it a lot easier to see those flags.

    Go in with the attitude that it doesn’t matter whether you get this job or not–and try to convince yourself you know nothing about this company–and your perspective will be much clearer.

    Good luck!

    1. WellRed*

      Haha. These days, if I hear Clearwater, I automatically think Scientology (I know that’s not fair).

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Sure it is (fair)!!!!!! They own most of downtown Clearwater….and are trying to buy up the rest.

    2. DiscoUkraine!*

      Empress, as soon as I saw your post start with Clearwarter, FL I knew this was somehow going to end in “Scientology”. Good on you for seeing the red flags from miles away.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        I’ve tried to avoid interviewing with companies that are located in *that* particular area of Clearwater. One also has to learn all of the words the Scientologists use and see if they come up in the interview (“Every Friday we will *audit* your metrics.”)

    3. Stormy Weather*

      You dodged a bullet. A friend of mine went to work for a marketing company and it wasn’t until she was in orientation that they introduced the Scientology style of management. She was a basket case until she found another job.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Oh I know it! I’ve lived in this area for 20+ years and it has only been recently that I have seen a tremendous upswing in the Scientology stuff. They are going great guns down here. I pass 3 billboards on my way in to work (~6 miles, 15 minute commute). And they are getting more and more vocal about talking about the Principles. GAAAACK!

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Ick! I feel that way whenever is see job posts that say anything about it being a “faith based” company and steer clear of them. I do not drink any kind of Kool-Aid thanks.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      This is a great anecdote! While OP might not be at high risk of working for Scientologists, taking note of *any* red flags will make it easier to see what else might be there. And I agree it’s worth interviewing for, if only for the experience in sussing out cultural issues.

    1. Antilles*

      I would absolutely NOT offer this pre-emptively.
      If it’s an incentive, the normal business standard is that you’re not burning your own limited PTO because the company is doing this as a reward. Especially since it’s a brand new program and only one person is dealing with this, it’s unlikely they specifically decided “yes, we want employees to burn personal PTO for this”; far more likely they just hadn’t even thought it through.
      So I’d 100% walk in with that completely normal expectation and go from there.
      If they really push back firmly, then maybe you end up in the situation where you use one day of PTO not two…but only as a last-resort compromise than something you proactively suggest.

    2. OP/LW#3*

      I’ve got to agree with the other commenters, though I’ll keep this in mind in case the company pushes back. I was even thinking of just not registering it as PTO on my timesheet but having the conversation Alison suggests seems like a more constructive way to handle it.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, I agree. I think it’s possible they wanted to do a nice thing but didn’t even consider this situation. I’d give them a chance to make it right before offering a compromise.

      2. Carlie*

        If they respond with nope, it’s the trip with your own PTO or no trip at all, see if they will at least substitute 2-3 days of PTO for not going on the trip, or some other extra (like actual bonus money, imagine!) so that you don’t lose the incentive altogether. Figure out the cash value of the trip and try to make them give you the equivalent in some other way if they won’t do the trip plus PTO. They might balk at having not budgeted for the trip plus two vacation days, but the trip itself is budgeted and you should get that budget.

        1. OP/LW#3*

          Carlie, that’s a great suggestion! I would happily take the reward in other ways. I get why they want it to be a vacation, as part of high performance in our industry often involves long hours…but then they need to make it an actual vacation!

        2. Paulina*

          The apparent cash value of the trip may be a lot more than they’re paying for it, given that there’s a set destination and a limited set of dates to select from.

          1. Paulina*

            Impression strongly reinforced by the LW saying (below) that it’s to a warm place, in May…. that’s a deal they got from an operator that’s filling space. It likely isn’t costing them very much, but it looks good until you drill into it.

  40. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #5 – This is why I don’t like the idea of “dream jobs”. The job is one thing, but the people and the culture and everything else is quite another. I’ve had 3 jobs were the job was exactly the same. But it plays out dramatically differently depending on coworkers, management, corporate policies, etc.

    Stop thinking about “dream job”. All it does is set you up for problems. Start thinking about the whole picture.

  41. Jennifer*

    #1 Maybe because you’ve recently moved people legitimately don’t know where certain people’s new seats are and the questions will die down once people are settled? Maybe you aren’t the only one getting questions.

    Also some people tend to look around when they are walking around the office. Sometimes they don’t realize that they’re doing it. Unless someone is leering at you or standing behind you and giving you a death glare, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. You need to give them time to adjust to the new normal.

    1. Observer*

      You know getting into a pretzel to convince someone that they are not seeing what they are aeeing is not useful.

      Here’s the thing – it does not matter if the people asking are genuinely confused. If all of the women have either managed to figure out the floor layout or that the OP is not the keeper of the layout, the guys can learn to do the same thing. Worse, the questions are not even mostly about the layout but about the whereabouts and presence of particular people. Why would anyone think that the OP knows that unless they see her as the Office Manager who keeps attendance. Which, again, why have the women figured out that this is not close to being in the OP’s job description but the men don’t seem to have gotten the memo?

      Worse, they are interrupting her when she is clearly busy/ focused on something else. That’s just rude.

      1. epi*

        I totally agree. The OP actyhas pretty good evidence that the dynamic they are seeing is sexist. Even if there was a mix of genders interrupting her, she’s paying a penalty in work quality, productivity, and happiness because she is a woman somewhat near a copier. It’s just not acceptable.

        The commenting rules here also state that we are supposed to take writers at their word, not second guess whether their problem really exists. It’s not helpful and frankly, it’s ugly when done to a woman experiencing sexism at work.

  42. Angelinha*

    “I’m cool about speech disabilities, since I have a disabled brother.” Just be careful with this – in actuality, as a manager, you’re cool about speech disabilities because it would be against the law not to be! Not saying your experience with your brother can’t help, but be careful not to frame your understanding/tolerance as some kind of favor you’re doing to the employee.

  43. Quill*

    #1: Absolutely remove the antivirus, not because it’s interfering with your personal computer use (which would be sufficient in and of itself) but because there’s a security concern if you have any work for previous clients still on your computer. As Allison pointed out, remote access or “backup to company cloud” is totally appropriate for a company to install on computers that they have purchased, but not on your personal laptop.

    Also, please make sure that existing programs, especially any specialized graphics or disc rewriting / reformatting applications, haven’t been impacted by any antipiracy aspects of the antivirus. Many antipiracy softwares (which may have come with the antivirus or with other programs, never announcing their presence) can hide from a casual uninstaller very effectively, and they can cause huge problems for a variety of programs. (The most notorious one I’ve run into is Securom, but there are others.)

  44. Lady Heather*

    LW2, I see a lot of ‘funny responses’ (and non-funny still-indirect responses) here in the comments for ways you can dissuade people from asking you questions that have nothing to do with you. Please do keep in mind that not everyone picks up on indirect language. I don’t, for one. And a joke wouldn’t give me the message that you don’t like me interruption – if anything, the reverse.

    Also, there’s the Great Litmus Test for how to tell an a-hole from someone who doesn’t get indirect language/social cues/etc:
    Be direct and clear, some variation of “This makes me uncomfortable and you need to stop doing it” said calmly.
    If they continue asking you, they’re a-holes. If they stop doing it, they probably weren’t aware they were doing something wrong.
    Don’t be rude or angry – people’ll just be hurt or defensive and that’s not what your goal is.
    In this case, you could say something like “I’m very focused on my work and you’re pulling me out of my concentration when you ask questions like that – in the future, please ask someone else.” (Or ‘ask the secretary’ or ‘look yourself – we’re all doing focused work here’, depending on your colleague’s situation.)

    As for people looking over your shoulder – I somewhat disagree with Alison. I agree that you probably can’t tell them not to look, but you can say “Any time you look over my cube wall I’m distracted because I think you need something from me – can you try not doing that?” or “You’re standing very close to me, please keep your distance” if someone stands still and looks over your shoulder.
    You can point out how something is bothering you. It won’t help if people just don’t care – but if people do it unconsciously or aren’t aware of how it’s effecting you, they’ll [try to] stop.

    1. epi*

      This is a really good point.

      I also think, the longer you let something like this go on, the more people feel entitled to continue the behavior and the more they identify with it. I know I’d feel a lot more defensive about something I’d been doing daily for six months than something I’d only done twice before being asked to stop.

      The OP can also try making direct eye contact with the staring people. Well meaning people sometimes don’t bother to control their eyeballs (or their necks… Or their shoulders!). Getting caught staring usually chastens normal people. I’d get a handle on the interruptions before trying it though, so it’s clear it’s not an invitation to talk.

      1. Lady Heather*

        Yes – it’s really shameful to know that you’ve been bothering someone for a long time.

        But that’s no reason to talk about ‘normal people’ as though the fact that I probably wouldn’t pick up on it somehow makes me abnormal. Please don’t use that language; it’s not nice.

        1. epi*

          I’d suggest you read again then. The distinction was between people who are well meaning and those who aren’t, not those who do or do not pick up on indirect cues.

          1. Lady Heather*

            Getting caught staring usually chastens normal people.
            The way I read it, your distinction is between people who feel chastened when caught staring and people who won’t.

            I’m not going to argue this with you further.

  45. Rainbow Roses*

    #1 Ask your work for a business computer.

    The first thing my workplace said is to assume everything we do on our work computers can be seen by “someone.” I’m paranoid enough to believe them. My personal (and legal) websites are none of their business.

    What happens if you quit? Can they seize control and you lose everything personal? Better to keep work and personal items separate. Laptops are not that expensive these days. They can spring for one if they want total control.

  46. Sled dog mana*

    I agree completely with those who have said you can’t say anything about the stutter. The only thing you can do is offer the intern the opportunity to do more public speaking. That’s the point of being an intern, you gain experience in things you don’t have experience in but you can’t make it about the stutter.

  47. LaptopWoes*

    I work as a consultant so my laptop is my own. Many of my clients have minimum security requirements for any electronics connecting to their network. I have a laptop I use for work and a personal laptop.

    I don’t understand why, if you are a FTE, why they aren’t providing you with a laptop? Some of my clients give me one to work on as it is easier for them to verify it complies with their security requirements, some of which are federally regulated.

  48. WantonSeedStitch*

    Our office is currently in the process of redesigning our space and getting new cubes and furniture. We’re also going to be going from high cube walls (maybe 66″) to lower ones (about 48″, I think). Overall people are happy about the idea of more light coming into the cubes, since we’re in a basement-level office, but we’re all a little wary about a loss of privacy. The idea of a back to the door as a way of discouraging interruptions has its benefits, but in our office, we’re doing everything we can to AVOID that. The reason is that we’ve found that people tend to get startled and feel uncomfortable when people come up from behind them without warning! It’s pretty disconcerting.

    Our IT help desk is on our floor, and other teams on our floor also work frequently with other people from both inside the building and elsewhere, so we do get visitors, and they can sometimes get confused and wander around looking for the person they’ve come to see. We’re thinking that when we redo our space, we’ll put signs up near the elevator and stairs to point the way to the various teams, so people know where to go. I could see the argument for having a floor plan as well, labeled with people’s names so it’s easy to see where everyone sits. Maybe something like that would cut down on the number of questions OP#2 gets.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      About the signs— it might be useful to put up a sign saying what she DOES do.
      No one would expect that “Department of Esoteric Teapot Analysis” would be monitoring employee whereabouts. And if her title is an impressive one, that could do it too–no one’s going to want to interrupt Senior VP of Llama Strategy to ask for copy-paper suppliers.
      (The interruptions probably won’t stop but I bet they’d become easier to deflect.)

  49. Jeanne*

    I used to manage a volunteer with a stutter. Long previously, I had a high school friend with a stutter. I had learned from that friend that the most important thing you can do is let them finish, don’t rush them or finish sentences. It can be nerve-wracking to try to talk to people when you don’t know if they’re going to be patient, and that can create a feedback loop. So by the time I got to the volunteer, I had the knowledge and confidence to say something like, “Hey I’m always going to give you a chance to finish speaking. Is there anything else I can do to help?” and his answer was to encourage others to do the same on the spot, like if he’s interrupted in a meeting. Not only did that put him at ease so he was more willing to speak up his thoughts, but I hope the other few folks learned something valuable too.

  50. Sara MacIntyre*

    #4 I am a person who stutters and speech-language pathologist. I would like to echo some of the comments said so far in terms of acknowledging the likely awareness this employee has of his stuttering (and the increases that are apparent in more higher stakes situations i.e. meetings, etc.). Many commenters suggested it’s important for your employee who stutters to feel comfortable, accepted, and given the time and opportunity to adjust to the professional world and it seems like your instincts are correct in wanting to help facilitate his comfort and growth in this manner. There are great resources out there for employers because you’re not alone in wanting to help best support your employee in the workplace as a person who stutters. I may suggest the Stuttering Foundation resources, they have a whole Employer page with information, and the downloadable brochure at the top will help: https://www.stutteringhelp.org/answers-employers. Tips in the brochure include: not making overly simplistic remarks like ’take a deep breath,’ giving the person the time and space to finish what they are saying with good, natural eye contact, and understanding that some situations are more difficult than others (i.e. the phone can be more challenging, or presentations, etc.).

    I know many commenters have suggested not approaching your employee or talking to him about his stuttering because it will make him uncomfortable, and that he’s probably already aware…and while I agree, I do think opening up a conversation about it in the right way would be entirely fine, the employee may even feel relieved. You want to definitely make sure you are not by any means sending the message that his stuttering is negatively impacting his job performance, or that he should try to stutter ‘less’ (because that actually likely will increase his stuttering, the less comfortable he is or the more he feels he needs to conceal it the harder it usually is), but if you’re approaching a conversation with him just seeking to learn more about stuttering, acknowledging that it must be difficult, and ask him if there’s any way you can make the workplace environment more comfortable or supportive– I really think if done in the right way, this openness could be really positive. Ideally, as someone gets more comfortable in the professional world, they’ll likely realize that advocating for themselves (and realizing they may need to educate some people professionally along the way) can be hugely beneficial. However, as you noted your employee is an intern and probably has not had this experience yet. Of course, there are many people who prefer to not mention stuttering for their own reasons or beliefs, but I don’t think the perceived stigma that people who stutters assume will be present if they are open about it in the workplace is always the case. In many ways, being more open about stuttering can help a person professionally and can show confidence and self-acceptance.

  51. Paper Jam*


    My old team lead had a stutter, but he led meetings, had many phone calls, talked with clients, coached junior staff, and did hundreds of presentations at a high level. None of us ever thought much about it day to day, and he was a high performer.

    It’s not the kind of thing that you have to accommodate in the sense of providing special services unless he brings it up…treat it as just the manner in which he speaks. I think you just make sure everyone treats their colleagues with respect, as you would with anyone. Singling out an employee with a stutter is a bad move – a well-meaning “I notice you get nervous and stutter in meetings, can I help you?” is going to come across as very condescending. Just don’t finish his sentences for him, and be understanding if conversations with him take longer if he speaks more slowly. That’s it. Don’t define him by it, just treat him as you would with any other intern unless he brings up something specifically.

  52. blink14*

    OP #2 – I was in a set up like this for about a year in my previous space. All of the cube walls were about 4 feet high and each cubed was equipped with a standing desk. They were in rows of 4, with an aisle between rows, and the cubes faced each other in sets of 2 rows. It was a nightmare. No privacy at all, anyone standing at their desk towered over their cube neighbors, hard to speak on the phone for long conversations.

    One thing I noticed quickly is that many people habitually look at people’s screens or turn to see into their cubes – I don’t think most are doing it on purpose, it’s a natural reaction to something in your peripheral vision or something coming straight on. It’s like walking down the aisle at the grocery store – there are so many things going by you on the side, you start to naturally turn your head and look.

    I got a privacy screen for my monitor, and tried to take calls facing away from the entrance to the cube. I was fortunate in that there was an empty cube between me and the outer aisle that went around the cube block. If someone was in that cube, or I had my back directly to that aisle, it would’ve driven me absolutely crazy.

    In my current space, I’m still in a cube, but the cube walls are about 5.5 feet tall and the entrance area is partially walled (its also a bit bigger than my last space). I’m not in a huge open room, but in a smaller block of cubes outside of a wall of offices. I still hate being in a cube, but this set up has been better.

  53. Kat*

    My husband caught his employer going through our computer’s entire harddive years ago. He is a trusted employee with a security clearance, had been there for years, and is still there. All it takes is one over-reaching manager to have IT give access to our personal letters, photos, home movies, prior business dealings, you name it.

    He was never told their software gave them access to the computer. And if he had asked, his manager (he has several) might have not known the correct answer and told him “no.” The software wasn’t supposed to be used that way anyway but was supposed to be only for work stuff.

    But you definitely should always have antiviral & malware protection. Just get your own. Don’t use the company’s.

  54. Oh No She Di'int*

    #3 My feeling is that this is not actually meant to function as a reward for LW at all. Or rather, that’s sort of a side benefit, not the main purpose. My sense is that it’s really designed to make the company look good to everyone else. There’s no question that if this were meant to be a true reward, they would simply make it a true reward without the sacrifices you have to make. However, if the headline is “Stacy wins trip to Bahamas for doing a great job!” then few people are really going to inquire about the details of that. Instead they’ll just see what looks like a pretty cool perk for doing a good job.

    This strikes me as mostly a PR move.

    1. OP/LW#3*

      There’s probably some truth to that. There have been some morale problems here, and I did get the sense that this was one effort to combat that. It’s just…maybe 12 degrees off from *actually* improving morale. I suspect it will get worse, as people keep asking me when I’m going. The answer is May, and it’s to a warm destination, and it’s currently freezing where we live. Everyone’s reaction when I say “May,” even neutrally, has been “Why would you want to go to X in May?” So!

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      This is true of any “reward” that is “Here is something that some hypothetical person would enjoy.” rather than “What can we give you that you would enjoy?”

  55. James*

    #1: I’d push for a laptop. It’s not just keeping personal and professional life separate, either. There are programs that require licenses, and it’s easier for the company if you have a company laptop and need a license. They can also issue routine updates to software packages (seems like they update Office once a week where I work). This includes things like document templates. And as others said, it protects you–my documents have been subpoenaed in the past (not specifically, but as part of the project team).

    Another thing to consider: If the work system gets hacked, YOU get hacked as it stands. Everyone pays bills online now, which means that your personal information would be compromised without you knowing. Alternatively, from the company’s perspective, your online activities could allow someone to hack your computer, which would give them access to the company system. (This has nothing to do with your browsing habits; this is coming from a cybersecurity briefing I routinely give.) Keeping work and personal computer use separate is very important for cybersecurity.

    Fun fact: Church websites are often more dangerous than adult websites in terms of security. Church websites are run by volunteers with little knowledge of cybersecurity, and therefore are often not secure at all. Adult websites (the popular ones) are professionally run–I’ve actually met some folks that worked in IT for one–and are VERY aware that if they get a reputation for having security issues they will collapse quickly. These are generalities, obviously, but in general it’s more risky to visit a church website than an adult one.

  56. Phillip*

    Certainly seems like if you’re transitioning from freelance to nearly full time permanent employment with the company, they should have to provide you a laptop, totally aside from the antivirus issue.

  57. Wing Leader*

    Re OP #4:

    I don’t stutter, but I do have another speech impediment. It’s almost unnoticeable with people I’m comfortable with, but it gets worse in group settings because I’m more nervous. I’d imagine it’s the same with your employee, and I think Alison’s advice is pretty spot-on. Let him deal with it on his own unless he brings it up himself, but make sure you say something if you notice people losing patience with him or making snotty comments about it. He really can’t help it and making him feel embarrassed about it will only make it worse and will make him feel like he can’t speak up at all.

  58. Employment Lawyer*

    1. My employer sent me software for my personal laptop that blocks adult sites
    Honestly this is a really good reason to ask for a new laptop.
    “I know you want me to use my laptop for business. However, outside of business hours I do a lot of personal stuff, including installing software which is my own preference. Also, I am not willing to allow IT to see, control, or monitor my actions outside of work hours. Do you think it would make the most sense for you to provide me with a laptop which I will reserve for business?” Etc

  59. Caleb*

    LW#4 You’ve gotten a lot of good advice and I just wanted to add my support to it. I *hate* when people finish my sentences for me or try to supply the word they think I’m stuck on. Usually, they’re wrong about where I was going and I get even more flustered (which increased the stutter and then we’re off to the races). I think, because this is an intern, you should ask him what he needs. I remember when I first started working feeling paralyzed in situations where I felt nervous, tense, uncomfortable, or tired, because I knew those were all triggers. It’s possible he is still learning how to make this work for him. And if you have this conversation in a way that lets him know you support him and have zero concerns about him or his work, it might give him a space to let you know what helps him.

    Ultimately, though, this is a road he is going to be walking his whole life. He’ll learn the tricks that work for him and he will hopefully (like so many of us) get to the point where it isn’t an issue–which is maybe where he is now. But if you reach out in a way that is intended to support him, I’m not sure that can go wrong.

    Good Luck!

  60. cheeky*

    Given that LW #1 is not a freelancer for this company anymore, they may not be able to pick their own anti-virus software. I certainly don’t have that kind of flexibility in my job. I would ask the company to provide you with a work laptop. I think BYO device policies are stupid, frankly. If you can’t afford a computer for your employee, that’s a problem.

  61. AMT*

    LW #2: Would the office pay for (or could you purchase on your own) something that would make your cubicle wall a foot or so taller? I’ve seen these in offices before. Googling “cubicle wall height extender” and “cubicle privacy panel” leads to a number of products.

  62. SM*

    4- Hi, stutterer here. Please don’t address it. It is not your concern. Mine is sometimes barely noticeable at all, and there’s other days where it’s bad. It’s physical and neurological and I would be horrified if someone said something to me, since there’s nothing I can do.

  63. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    I have a stutter that becomes more pronounced when I’m stressed or tired. Prompting me or finishing my sentences for me just makes it worse. Please be patient and let me finish. By the way, stutter/stammer does not equate dumb.

  64. Pampaloon*

    LW#2 – ask Facilities or HR to post a seating and conference room chart in a visible place, like right as you enter the space or coming out of an elevator so visitors to the work are can find people easily. Name signs at the cubes help as well so folks can realize that so and so is not in when they find the right cube.

  65. ladycrim*

    Man, I felt LW5’s question in my soul. I had a dream employer for decades. I applied to work there several times, though I never got anywhere. (Tons of applicants were clamoring, and I’m nobody special.) Still, I kept an eye on job openings and continued dreaming and hoping.

    Then their CEO (whom I had greatly admired) was accused of disgusting behavior during #metoo and resigned in disgrace. Stories of sexism and racism at the company started coming out. And I started wondering if I had actually dodged a bullet. So, yeah. Take the interview, but give plenty of weight to what your friend said.

  66. ap*

    LW1, I’d skip over installing anything of theirs on your personal machine and right to “hey, send me a company laptop.” As someone who has walked the freelance/employee tightrope, there are streams it is better to cross. Both you and your company will have optimal levels of freedom/control/protection if you use a company machine.

  67. Office Cat*

    LW2, I’d be tempted to keep a spray bottle of water at my desk and point it at anyone who idly peers into your cube without reason. You’ll probably only have to press the trigger once or twice…

  68. Meepmeep*

    I’ve got a mild stutter. I’ll echo everyone else’s advice – please don’t call attention to it. It will just make him self conscious and put him on the spot, and why do that to someone? I had an involuntary cringe reaction just thinking of someone doing that to me.

    As “disabilities” go, it’s pretty mild and shouldn’t affect much of anything. Just treat him as a normal human and be normally empathetic and compassionate.

  69. SusanIvanova*

    #1 If you do have to install software on your computer and you can’t get them to give you a separate one, you could make a separate boot partition on your computer for work stuff, or create a virtual machine. That keeps a hard separation between your stuff and theirs.

  70. LogicalOne*

    #4. I have been in this almost exact situation before, in a similar position to that of your intern. I used to stutter often but not all the time when in the presence of large groups or at meetings. I was recently promoted to my first management position in my life so stuttering came with. I realized it was only until other management started supporting me and supporting my decisions that I gained some confidence. Perhaps your intern is unsure of their decisions or need some leadership and/or validation from others. Are they a millenial? Validation and recognition is important to millenials. It’s just part of them, not to sound bashful, it’s just honesty and they crave it and will help you in the long-run. Trust me, recognition will go a long way. I would try all this before bringing up the stuttering because it may make them self conscious. Give them confidence and maybe that will help. It most definitely helped me and two years into my management career and I notice I barely stutter at all. Give it time and give them confidence. Allison also put it very well when she mentioned to tell others not to finish your interns sentences. That would happen to me as well and it would make me feel stupid like they knew already what I was going to say and not take my opinions seriously. This topic really hits at home for me. Thank you to whoever wrote this. (I am almost wondering if my boss wrote this…I will ask her one of these days) LOL! I wish your intern best of luck and I hope they get over their stuttering. :))

  71. Amylaurita*

    LW 1, Alison’s suggestion that the software is blocking legit sites is totally plausible.
    I was trying to find a place to host a happy hour for my nonprofit’s supporters, and our new software blocked any website that had “bar” or “brew” or “beer” in the URL. It made finding a happy hour location very. challenging.

  72. PWS*

    Op #4 : as a PWS (person who stutters), I have some advice

    First of all, your empathy really comes through in your letter, which is great. Stuttering is a really difficult condition to deal with in the workplace and is so poorly understood.

    Please do not talk about his stuttering with his co-workers, I know it’s not intentional but you’re ‘other’ing’ him when you do this. Every single one of your employees has challenges, his just happens to be obvious in meetings and has a lot of stigma attached to it.

    Please don’t bring this up in a 1:1. He knows he stutters and he knows that you know that he stutters. He may be grateful for this, but more than likely he will be mortified. The best support you can offer him is to follow Allison’s advice and take his lead- if he isn’t bringing up his stuttering up, it likely means he doesn’t want you to. When I started my first professional job, my new boss mentioned that he used to stutter as a child, I assume in a bid to connect and make me feel comfortable. I appreciated that he was trying to be helpful, but it was mortifying. It made me feel like I would always be known as the woman who stutters, not the super smart, awesome biochemist that I am. It also came across as really tone deaf because stuttering as an adorable 4 year old is not even remotely the same as stuttering throughout adolescence and adulthood (two words: high school).

    There are some PWS who talk about it at work, advocate for other PWS and self-identify before meetings, presentations – they’re amazing and I’m happy for them, but I’ve noticed that’s not the majority of us. 90% of my day is spent speaking in large meetings/groups and I openly stutter, but whenever someone mentions it to me, I completely die inside. Please be aware that a lot of PWS feel this way (though not all- I don’t speak for the community! :) )

    Finally (sorry! I know this is a lot!) please try to think of this person just like you do any of your other employees (I’m sure all of them have something going on- anxiety, depression, eating disorders, who knows?! We all struggle). Try to challenge your thoughts when you find yourself pitying or othering him. I’m a successful manager and I still get the occasional person who gives me a look of pity when I start speaking and it makes me really angry (maybe irrationally so!) – so please challenge your ideas about what this persons life is like.

    You sound like a fantastic, empathetic manager- just don’t overthink this :)

  73. LW 2 Checking In!*

    LW #2 here! I wanted to give a quick update. I took Alison’s advice just now. A man just came up to my desk and asked if I know “where the snack store is at.” In fact, I DO know where the snack store is at, but I took a loooooooong time to pull my attention away from my computer screen, asked him to repeat the question, looked at him quizzically, and then said, “I can’t help you with that.” He was a little miffed (or maybe I’m just being over sensitive), but isn’t that the point? I was polite and friendly about it, so I feel good about how it went. Some commenters suggested moving cubicles or putting up some sort of privacy screen. The truth is that I don’t want to move because I like where I sit, and someone else would be subject to these constant inquiries if they sat here. I want to be strong enough to assert my boundaries respectfully and firmly. If I move or put up a screen, I don’t have the opportunity to learn that skill.

Comments are closed.