my coworker puts on a show of being busy when she’s not, invasive client, and more

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

1. My coworker puts on a show of being busy — but it’s not required

I supervise the day-to-day tasks of and serve as a resource for a coworker, but we share a boss. I used to complete their tasks, so I have a pretty good idea of the work required and the amount of time it takes.

This person does a good job on the tasks, is competent, and overall well liked. However, they put on a big show of being busy, often announcing that they will be working late, coming in on the weekend, cancelling vacation days, and working when sick. I admire their commitment to the job, but that level of time and emotional commitment is simply not required and, to be honest, I find the complaints about staying late really annoying, particularly as it’s not required to complete the actual tasks.

I’ve encouraged them to take days off, hand off tasks to me if they need to be out, go home at the end of the day, and not come in on the weekends. Is there anything else I can do? Or should I just decide it’s none of my business if this person has no desire for a personal life or leisure time and listening to them complain is just something I need to get used to?

If you really want to tackle it, the way to do it is to take their complaints very, very seriously (the way you hopefully would if you believed all those extra hours were necessary). Sit down with them and say, “I’m really concerned about the extra hours you’re reporting having to work. We absolutely don’t want you needing to work late or over the weekend, cancelling vacation, or working while sick. Let’s dig into your workload so we can figure out what’s going on. We need to get you down to a reasonable work week so you don’t burn out.”

If through that conversation it emerges that the person just prefers to work that way and you were their manager, you could say, “When you announce to others that you need to work so many extra hours or cancel vacation, it gives other people the impression that our team is horribly overworking you. That’s not the case, and it cause problems if people believe it is. For example, if we ever had an opening on our team, internal candidates might hesitate to apply if they thought the workload was crushing. So at a minimum we need to change the messaging you’re putting out, but I’d really like to see you change your actual hours as well — starting with at least no more canceling vacation or working while sick.”

Since you’re not this person’s boss, you’d need to do a softer version of this (maybe just leaving off the last sentence) — but you could also strategize with your own boss about whether this is something she’d want to address herself.

2. Could doing adult work harm your future spouse’s career?

I am writing to you on behalf of a friend. She has recently started to supplement her income from her part time job by selling nude photos and then progressed to selling amateur porn videos. She not someone you could search on Pornhub and find because she sells through subscription sites so its not like she’s the next Riley Reid or anything but you can tell from her social media that she is doing this. I have no problem with this and neither does her boyfriend. The other day an acquaintance commented that while they had no problem with what she is doing, she should think about how it might affect her partner in the future. They plan to get married when they are done with school and he has a background in accounting and finance with experience working for a bank. The acquaintance was concerned that since this is a more conservative field, being “the guy whose wife does/did porn” will keep him from getting a job or ever getting promoted.

My friend is very used to “but what about your future” comments concerning her own future employment (she’s not too concerned since her dream job is to work for a sex toy company) but was a bit thrown off by the idea her actions could affect her partner’s future. She keeps mentioning it so I thought I would ask if this is an actual worry or if the acquaintance was just being paranoid. My friend loves what she is doing and it has really helped her confidence and self esteem, as well as helping her escape a financially abusive family. I would hate to see her give up on something she loves so much solely based on this person’s comment but I also understand her concerns about not wanting to mess things up for someone she cares deeply about. I’m hoping to be able to help my friend know what is a reasonable level of concern so she can stop worrying about it without knowing for sure if its even a legitimate concern.

I mean, it’s possible. Stuff you put on the internet can be found years later and in situations you wouldn’t have wanted, so yes, it’s possible that her husband’s colleagues could discover it, and if they did, it’s possible that it could be A Thing that’s gossiped about. How likely that is depends on how much she puts out, how much attention it garners, and how identifiable she is in it. But I doubt it’s something that would keep him from getting a job or getting promoted (that would be more of a concern for her career than his — sexist culture being what it is, it’s possible that because of the genders here it won’t impact him in those ways at all), but it’s certainly introducing that possibility. If they want absolutely zero risk of that, this is not zero risk.

But I’m inclined to think the acquaintance is concern trolling, and that these are two adults who are able to decide the degree of risk they’re willing to tolerate for themselves.

3. Client wants to monitor our work in a weird and invasive way

My company provides marketing consulting for numerous companies on an independent contractor basis. Nothing out of the ordinary, typical agency set-up. But we have one client who is being weirdly aggressive about our relationship and their ability to monitor our work.

For a little background, none of our contracts sell work by the hour. It’s all a fixed cost for a variety of work in our specific field. We don’t promise to work for a given client on specific days or times, just throughout the month with some various deadlines for work being delivered.

This client uses a time tracking program for all their employees and contractors. When we first started, they asked us to use it too. I was against it, but installed it to get an idea of what it did before responding to them. I was quite shocked to discover that this tool was taking screenshots of my entire desktop and saving them online in a site where myself and the admins at the client company could access. I shut this down immediately, because it seems to at least get really close to violating employee/contractor boundaries and it’s a massive privacy and data security risk.

We argued, but my stance was that if they insist on us using this, I will rip up their contract and we will not work together. They gave. It’s come back up a couple times, though. They seem to take a few months to come up with responses to my concerns, like, “You shouldn’t be working on anything but our work at one time, so we would never see private info for your other clients.”

My stance has not and will not change. We’ll never ever ever use software like this that a client has access to. But am I right to be so firm in my stance? Would you ever consider this being reasonable?

Nooo. Not reasonable, and really odd. You’re consulting for them; you’re not an employee. You’re just not answerable to them in the way they seem to want you to be. They don’t get to track your time or monitor your computer (!).

Personally, I’d say, “This has come up a few times and so I want to be really clear that this is not something we’d ever agree to, at all, for the reasons I’ve explained. Knowing that that won’t change, does it still make sense to work together?”

Also, I’m skeptical that this could be the only weirdness with them. Are they really a good client otherwise?

4. I just rejected a job offer but I still have to sit on a panel with the hiring manager

I was offered a job just a few weeks ago but ended up accepting a counteroffer from my job (I know you don’t believe in counteroffers and your advice was absolutely noted, I considered whether or not to do so very carefully!). The hiring manager is an executive director in my field and took it very well. However, our field is quite small in this community so we will run into each other a lot.

I have a close relationship with the university where I did my graduate program and one of the professors made a call for our community to come speak to an internship class they are teaching. Three people will be on this panel—me, a colleague at another organization, and the executive director I just declined a job with. We’ll be discussing career paths and how we got in the field, and obviously this is going to be a big elephant in the room.

I am at a loss as far as the social aspect goes. I know we will both handle it professionally when public-facing, but do you have advice on how I should interact with her as far as “small talk”? I don’t know if I should mention the job offer, ask if they found someone, or just pretend it didn’t happen? Or should I back out of the panel at this point and just wait for things to cool down?

You’re over-thinking it! This shouldn’t be a big deal. Definitely don’t back out of the panel!

People turn down jobs. It happens, it’s part of doing business, and it’s very unlikely that the hiring manager holds a grudge or took it personally. Interact with her the way you would any other colleague in your field — you don’t need to refer to her offer or anything related to the hiring process. It’s just “good to see you again” and then normal interaction, as if the offer rejection never happened.

5. How can I ask about staff turnover in an interview?

I have an interview with an organization I really admire. It’s an org I’ve been wanting to work at for a few years, because they seem to be on the cutting edge of the sector I’m currently working in. However, I’ve noticed that they’ve had lots of employee turnover in the last one to two years. Some of the positions that I saw open two years ago are now open again. Is there a tactful way to ask about staff turnover? Or is there a way to frame a question around organizational culture that can tell me more about why there has been lots of staff turnover?

It’s possible that this isn’t turnover, but rather growth — that they’re adding additional llama handler slots or so forth. But you can ask! Say it this way: “I noticed you’re advertising for a few positions now that were also open a year or two ago. Is that turnover, or staff growth, or something else?” You can also ask, “What’s your staff turnover been like in the last few years? How long have people typically stayed in this role and on this team?”

If you do hear there’s been high turnover, that’s a sign to do more digging outside the interview process, like talking to people who have worked there in the recent past.

{ 378 comments… read them below }

  1. Diahann Carroll*

    #2

    But I’m inclined to think the acquaintance is concern trolling, and that these are two adults who are able to decide the degree of risk they’re willing to tolerate for themselves.

    This. And OP, if your friend is truly concerned herself now that people have put doubt in her mind, she can always wear fun masks in her videos so no one can see her face. I imagine she’s not using her real name, so her boyfriend’s future porn-watching colleagues (if he has any) shouldn’t recognize her if they were to ever meet her in person.

    1. SJG*

      I second the mask comment. I used to do things similar to your friend (judge if you want, it helped put me through college!). I wore a wig and colored contacts at all times as well as a mask if closeups of my face were going to be a factor. I also never wore jewelry or anything else that could identify me. While that material is still floating out there in the universe somewhere it’s never come back to me 10+ years after the fact.

      1. Nee Attitude*

        The OP’s friend has, no doubt, thought extensively about how she’s going to preserve her identity for her own sake. She’s also taking the steps necessary to make sure that happens, what with working through a network and not going directly to amateur porn sites, etc.

        This is just another case of a busybody being triggered and running off at the mouth. This acquaintance has no business commenting on someone who she doesn’t even sound like she knows very well. And this person’s speculating is causing the OP’s friend to potentially doubt herself, which is lighter fluid to a BBQ grill for gossips.

        If the OP wants some advice to give to her friend, she should tell her friend to earnestly ask, “How do you know that?“ and (regarding the “conservative client”) “They’ve done that before? Tell me more.” Let the acquaintance squirm, hem and haw while trying to come up with a valid reason for why she cares so much (yet knows so little). It’ll make it perfectly clear that she has nothing important or urgent to tell your friend.

        1. MK*

          Or they could tell you about the five instances they know of, where one spouce’s sex work negatively affected the other’s career. Maybe this acquaintance is concern-trolling, maybe have had actual experiences that informed their opinion, maybe they saw a documentary about revenge porn last week and are still shocked.

          There is no need to villainise anyone (especially if this was one comment and not this person constantly trying to convince the OP’s friend to give up sex work). In any case, the person who is in the best position to know about potential consequences is also the one most concerned here: the boyfriend. If the OP wants to give any advice to her friend, tell her to stop agonizing about hypothetical scenarios and have a discussion with her partner about it, assuming they haven’t had one already. It’s possible he is fine with the risk, or that his type of role isn’t vulnerable to conservative clients’ whims.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          Yep, this definitely reads as “I’ll SAY I’m okay with it but I’m not actually okay with it for reasons I can’t/don’t want to say, so I need to find another reason.”

        3. Yorick*

          I don’t know, the letter says that it’s clear from her social media that she does this. So it is a little more likely that her husband’s colleagues can judge. But still, I agree the friend is concern trolling and she and her husband can decide these things for themselves.

          1. Annony*

            I do think that is the one part she should really think about. There doesn’t seem to be a strong reason to stop, but if she is concerned she could remove it from her social media.

            1. Avasarala*

              I agree–I can definitely see it being a thing from social media. I would recommend she lock it down and make a separate account not tied to him.

            2. selena81*

              I think she probably uses social media as advertisement, and perhaps also to create a girl-next-door image (a sex-positive yoga-mom rather than an unhinged junkie).
              But it would definitely be best to use a dedicated account for her sex-work.

              I hope she takes into account the possibility that she might not want to work in the sex-toy industry in the future: dreams change, and unfortunately that kind of career-switch is different then f.e. switching from accounting to art.

              Anyway, it’s her life, she appears to already take steps to guard her privacy, and i agree with Allison that possible fallout will probably be more about a few months of office-gossip rather than a complete career-breaker.

        4. GreyjoyGardens*

          I think this is a great response. Make the concern troll squirm, and they, not OP’s friend, will come out looking like “the bad guy” – prurient and/or nosy. That’s a good way to make them back down unless they truly have no shame.

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          It’s also possible that the “busybody” thinks that the BF is aiming for a job with higher levels of background check/scrutiny, too. Some financial positions (no clue if the BF’s would fall into this category) require almost security-clearance level checks to head off insider trading or blackmail concerns, depending on how high up he is/how much money he controls. It’s less about pearl-clutching over adult work and more about whether or not this is going to pique a security officer’s concerns that the BF could be extorted over his wife’s adult content.

          (I don’t work in finance but have swapped comparison stories with some of them over drinks on their disclosure forms v. my TS clearance process.)

          1. selena81*

            Yeah, it depends a lot on what type of work you do.
            Criminal-background checks are of course standard, but i’ve also applied to a job regarding terrorism-financing and there were some hoops to jump through.

        6. TootsNYC*

          if this acquaintance knows what the wife is doing, and if it’s obvious from her social media that she’s doing this, then the husband’s future colleagues are going to know.

          Even if only through gossip.

          if, as the OP says, “you can tell from her social media that she is doing this,” then she is NOT being locked-down about it.

      2. Looc64*

        I was reading a blog written by someone who did webcams or something, and she mentioned that masks weren’t allowed by the service she used, because they needed to verify that it was actually her doing the shows, and not someone else who was underage. So the mask thing might not be viable.

        1. Lark*

          I know a couple of people who’ve done various kinds of sex work but want to stay pretty discreet, and they swear by good quality wigs and a make-up style that’s different from what they usually like.

          Actually, if the LW’s friend is concerned about this and not just concerned about the concern troll AND if she has progressed to this own and doesn’t have a lot of friends in the field so she doesn’t have great access to advice, she can pretty certainly find some forums and stuff online. If she has acquaintances from the service where she posts her videos, they might know. Other sex workers would be best qualified to give her detailed advice and might have some other good tips on marketing, taxes, etc.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          I still think that plausible deniability is there, unless Friend has some very distinctive tattoos or wears very distinctive jewelry. Barring these, nobody can be *sure* it’s Friend in those videos/photos and denying, deflecting, and/or shaming the Nosy Parker is an option.

          1. Quill*

            I was assuming that the potential problem was needing to use social media that could be traced back to her legal name to advertise.

          2. TootsNYC*

            The OP says it’s obvious from her social media that she does this, and someone who is a mere acquaintance knows she does this.

            there’s no plausible deniability here.

        3. selena81*

          I would guess a mask may also be bad for business: that customers want to see her face and not just an anonymous body ?

    2. Viola*

      I used to think that. Till a local teacher was fired from his private school gig bc parents were concerned about his morals. Why? Someone found amateur porn of this sister.

      It they are living in a major coastal city with lots of people and anonymity, yes it’s concern trolling.
      A mid-size city in the Bible Belt? Not

      There are three questions that need to be asked:

      Can the performer make herself reasonably anonymous in the videos?

      If not, is the area they live in/will live in if sufficient population it’s unlikely she’d be recognized by a random person walking down the street? In other words, what is the general level of anonymity she’s they live? Los Angeles or Mayberry?

      Finally, do they live in a liberal area? A liberal state?

      If this were a friend in LA or San Fran my advice would be very, very different than if they live in a small, conservative city or even a mid-size city ina very conservative state.

      If LA, this is concern trolling. If she’s the preachers daughter in Mayberry, it’s not

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Teaching, youth ministry, anything to do with kids – that is a WHOLE OTHER ball of wax than industries where you’re working with other grown-ups. In many cases, teachers and their families have to be like Caesar’s wife, above reproach, with utterly G-rated private lives. I’ve heard of teachers being fired because they posted pics of themselves with drinks or something on Facebook or Instagram.

        If Friend’s fiance was going into teaching, or daycare, or anything to do with children, then I’d think that Busybody has a point. But unless the job involves some kind of high-level security clearance, I don’t think that Friend’s fiance is in any danger. (and face it, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip – Friend and fiance could break up between now and the time fiance gets a job.)

        1. Viola*

          Maybe. Maybe not. Also depends upon if they are in an at-will state or not.

          Even in very liberal states, I’ve seen people fired for a lot less when it comes to anything that remotely touches on human sexuality.

          We have idea what the situation is for the LW and her boyfriend. So, to say. 100% it’s concern trolling is as fan fiction as to say he works for the FBI.

          We simply don’t know.

          Also, calling it concern trolling and telling them to disregard it is not really useful advice.

          Helping the LW frame whether or not it is a problem would be.

          For this, I’d recommend she go through Dan Savage’s archives. Somewhere back in time I remember a webcam provider writing in and asking him how risky it was. He did a ton of research and spoke directly to the women who were doing it. They had a lot of good advice.

          Honestly, this is an interesting subject for us all to get dug into in terms of what should happen. As for what does, the only people who can really provide LW with useful information are women who have done this. For that, I’m not sure there are a lot of people on this site who have that background.

          If this is something LW is serious about doing, she needs to find mentors who have been there, done that, and have the bumper-sticker to prove it.

          Finally, my impression is that most of the posters here are going to skew toward acceptance of sex work. I do not necessarily think hat we represent the population at large. Consequently, I’m not sure whether our own biases will lead us to tell LW it isn’t a problem when it might very well be.

        2. Quill*

          Not even recognizable drinks, but “holding a red solo cup that could contain booze”

          Few teachers I know young enough to have had an internet presence prior to this decade go by their legal name on social media, but it’s still a risk.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s still an issue in liberal areas. Many I knew who stripped go far far far away from their home areas to try to avoid the issue at times. And it’s just stripping. Argh :(

        1. Viola*

          I also worry b/c all it takes is one obsessive “fan” and you are toast. All my friends who have done any type of sex work or any type of work men sexualized have experienced men finding out their personal details and boundary stomping.

          It’s not that we should tell LW not to do this, only that she needs to be aware of the risks, do everything she can to minimize them, and have plans in place to go nuclear if someone violates boundaries.

          All of my friends and a few family members who worked as strippers or in webcamming learned the ropes from someone else. Unless you’ve done it, you really, really can’t 100% know just what the risks are, how likely they are to happen, and how to avoid them.

          LW needs to find a mentor in her area to help her sort this all out realistically;.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Mate of mine is a drag queen who does stripping and some nude videos for money (I’ll ask please nobody ask for links because anonymity). He moved to our area years ago to avoid his family being shamed.

          Though, these days he’s a bit calmer about it after several years of working at one of my past employers. Nobody recognises him out of makeup or bothers his husband anymore but I do sometimes get panicked emails from him at 3am when he thinks he’s been ‘found out’.

          It’s frankly heartbreaking that he’s got something he loves doing, and earns money from, but which the world terrifies him about.

          1. selena81*

            The thing that boggles my mind about such stories is that most of the people who are doing the shaming must have found these picks while masturbating: it’s such a ‘what give YOU the right to judge’ situation

      3. Daffy Duck*

        Yeah, how conservative your area is (or even major clients) will be a determining factor on if this will even be a issue or if it is a big deal. I have a teacher friend who was written up because someone else posted a FB photo at a training conference where two (what appeared to be alcoholic) drinks were sitting on the table near her, she wasn’t even drinking. She doesn’t have a drinking problem or a FB page, but a parent recognized her from someone else’s page and complained to the principal.
        Another anecdote, years ago one of the charities in our town (possibly a women’s shelter – but details are fuzzy) was having a fundraiser and hired the Chippendale’s Dancers. Various locals volunteered to be waitstaff, bartend, etc. My mother found out our veterinarian volunteered as a server during the dancing and immediately switched to the vet on the other side of town. It wasn’t the charity she had issues with but (horrors!) male dancers – some people are very judgmental and have no sense of humor.

      4. KoiFeeder*

        Of his /sister/? And they fired him for that? Presumably his sister is an adult with no correlation to him or his job.

        1. Bibliovore*

          Yeah. But people are sometimes very strange. And I know it makes no difference to potential risk or lack thereof, but I can’t help but think of Noah Webster’s reported response to a lady who praised him for not including “improper words” in his dictionary: he observed she had gone looking for them.

    3. annie o mous*

      I agree with this. If I learned the names of spouses of my co-workers, I honestly never though twice about it. I never even thought to Google them. Also my guess is if someone does run across her, and then realizes it is her they probably won’t say anything. If I saw something like that I would probably be too embarrassed to bring it up to even my friends, much less my colleagues.

      1. Mags*

        I would say the social media would be the issue. I have a friend who used to do sex work and is still linked with a number of their old friends who are still active. A couple of times I have clicked the twitter handle of someone who said something Funny/clever/I was unsure of the context for and found myself one click away from sexual content. It isn’t an issue for my friend (he is open about his old job), but for someone with a more conservative job it could be. I have also read some stories of sex workers being alarmed by ‘friending’ algorithms on various social media sites that tied their non-work life to their work one. Which could go the same way for the boyfriend and his future co-workers. I certainly think a chat about open she wants to be on social media vs how important it is the couple are connected on social media could be valuable. Maybe the boyfriend doesn’t care at all. Maybe the girlfriend would rather not have office parties or events where her partners co-workers might be jerks about her job, and would rather not link the two. Consider the issues now and they won’t be such issues later, you know.

        1. MsMaryMary*

          I want to second being very careful on social media. A former coworker, we’ll call him Wakeem, was dating an adult film actress. We live in a midsized midwestern city and work in a conservative industry. Shortly after he was hired, someone put together clues on Wakeem’s Facebook page to figure out his girlfriend worked in adult films. I believe his page linked to hers because they were in a relationship together, and her page promoted her career. OldJob asked him to remove the direct ties to her page because they were afraid clients might take offense. Around the office, however, it really wasn’t an issue and I think I few people (men) placed Wakeem in a higher sense of esteem.

          About a year later, Wakeem and his girlfriend had a very ugly break up, and she sent messages to his boss and the owner of our company making a variety of allegations and threats to Wakeem. Now, the ex-GF’s occupation became something of a double-edged sword. If she had been a teacher or an accountant, I think everything she said would have been taken more seriously. On the other hand, some coworkers (especially the owner) questioned Wakeem’s judgement for being in a relationship “with someone like that” at all. Last I heard, Wakeem was still employed and in the process of getting a restraining order.

    4. Chatterby*

      I could actually see this being a big thing that could damage her partner’s career under either of the two circumstances:
      1) His job requires an extremely high security clearance and intensive background check, which doesn’t happen too often, but more frequently in his industry than average
      2) He, or she, mention her job to his co-workers. It would definitely be A Thing. People do not respect strippers and do not respect the people who date or marry them. They wonder what’s wrong with them and assume they’re perverts or broken people. You do not want your coworkers thinking you’re a pervert. Known perverts do not get promotions.
      It would also become his defining characteristic. When introduced or mentioned to others, do you want to be “John, the purchasing accountant who handles the Smith account” or “John, y’know, the guy who’s married to a sex worker”?
      If they stay pretty mum, they should be perfectly fine; mutually assured destruction should keep them safe from coworkers who stumble on the videos.

      The fact that she hasn’t even thought how her life choices affect those who share that life is somewhat concerning, and makes me wonder if she’s considered what will happen if she decides to have children. Somehow, I don’t think she’s thought of, or prepared for, the possibility of her child coming home from school and reporting she’s being bullied, or excluded because of her mother’s job, which absolutely will happen if Mom is being open about that information.
      But, if they’re both being very circumspect about that knowledge, they should be ok.

      1. aebhel*

        I mean, we don’t know that she hasn’t thought about it? It’s equally possible that she has, and her risk tolerance is just different than the person who’s concerned.

        (Also, ‘but what about the hypothetical children that you don’t have yet and may not actually want’ is… not really a great road to go down when it comes to adult women’s life choices, for one thing, and for another, plenty of sex workers have kids and have strategies for dealing with exactly this scenario.)

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          I agree completely the comment about children was kind of ick.

          Plus many security clearance checks look for activities or secrets that leave the person open to blackmail. If everyone knows his wife does sex work, he cannot be blackmailed with it. If it’s treated as something that is a shameful secret, he can. Being matter-of-fact about his wife’s work actually makes him more likely to pass a security check, not less.

    5. aebhel*

      Yeah, I think given all the particulars (and assuming that the boyfriend isn’t *also* in these videos, which it sounds like he’s not), it’s not really that likely to bounce back on him.

      FWIW, my brother’s girlfriend was a camgirl for a while, and it has had exactly zero impact on his job situation.

      1. GreenDoor*

        If anything, the OP’s friend should be prepared for social situations. If her boyfriend brings her to a work party, for example, she will likely get the “and what do you do?” question. Both should have an appropriate response ready. He’ll have to gauge his employers and coworkers, to know whether the truth, or a lie, or a something in between would be best. And how much he says might also depend on whether clients will be at these gatherings. They should also discuss together how he will talk about her at work – we all discuss our home lives at work and coworkers will likely ask what she does. How much he says and the wording he uses to say it should be given thought – by both of them as a couple – so that he’s prepared when he starts any new job. She might also want to rehearse how to deflect/react if she runs into a client at one of his work functions. I think there was a post in AAM from a doctor that asked how to react when running into patients in public. The strategies would probably be the same for the friend and her boyfriend.

  2. MK*

    #1, it doesn’t really change the advice, but you might not want to go into that conversation convinced your colleague is faking busyness. That you used to be able to get the same tasks done inside a regular schedule doesn’t prove this; it’s possible that you are an unusually fast worker or that some element of the work has changed, affecting the workload. Or maybe they are just a complainer.

    1. FaintlyMacabre*

      Also, some people aren’t great at realizing how much time they waste. They actually do need extra time to make up all the time they waste chatting about how busy they are. Which then feeds into their perception of themselves as virtuous workers who work more than everyone else, and of course they need to ensure everyone knows how big of a martyr they are… and so on.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        So true. My coworker to a T. A big issue with her, though, is that she creates tons of busy work and it looks like she’s constantly shoulder to the wheel. If someone takes a break she makes disapproving faces like they’re goofing off (she’s nobody’s supervisor but she’s a real queen bee), but recently after a period of big extra projects, I heard her telling people in a little martyr voice, “It got to be so much I just *had* to take a break.” Nonsense. Our company policy and state law entitle us to a 10-min break in the morning & the afternoon, and she often has plenty of time to hang out with her buds and chat about her kids etc., so strictly speaking she is taking breaks.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oh, you mean there’s more than one person who “never takes breaks” because standing at someone else’s desk talking for 30 minutes doesn’t count?

      2. Chapped!!*

        I have a co worker that is such a people person that she CANNOT work until she’s talked to Every. Single. Person. who walks through the door. She cannot start work until she’s exhausted all her options to chat or until an “emergency” issue comes up. Sometimes it’s not until lunch that she actually starts to work. And then she’s become agitated because she is so far behind that she’s “required” to skip lunch (her call, not management) and then works past quit time. Given that some of her tasks do effect me, I get irritated by it. But she’s been there for 30+ years and no one will call her on it.

        1. NYCProducer*

          I work with one of those, too. Can never seem to get their work done on time and yet is rarely at their desk because they’re chatting with everyone. Management is aware but ignores it, despite it causing everyone else to wait for them as well. They ended up getting promoted to manager, and now the behavior is same/worse, but they have more power. I stay at my desk, do my work, go home. I sometimes don’t even stop for lunch, because I’d rather finish and get home on time. We could both probably stand to move closer to the middle!

        2. Red 5*

          I had a similar coworker once upon a time, only her thing was to come in, clock in, get everything at her desk ready, then go to chat with a friend who worked in another department in a place where she couldn’t actually do anything that was her job the entire time they were chatting. She’d be in there an hour or more. But IDK, maybe they said they were talking about work stuff? I doubt anybody cared enough to check.

          The problem was, she did this basically every single day, leaving me to cover the work myself the entire time she was chatting, and I got written up for being ten minutes late a couple times. She’d clocked in on time, so she was “on time” and nobody cared.

      3. Lynn Marie*

        I sometimes need to work late or on the weekend to compensate for the time I have to spend during the day dealing with co-workers who waste my time.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          I wonder how much work I actually do in a week if you take out all the meetings that are pretty much useless, but that I need to attend because X thinks it’s important I’m there… My employer probably pays me to do about 10 hours of real work a week.

      4. Working Mom*

        I had a coworker who I suspect was like this – I never witnessed her truly “wasting time” in terms of chatting, etc – besides the normal amount in an office. But, you never know what kind of busy work people create for themselves – or waste time online instead of working. However – I also suspected this coworker wanted to stop socializing with certain people (including me and others) and so her go-to was always that she was too busy to chat, too busy to go out to lunch (but she’s go out to lunch with others), too busy for happy hour, etc. Not quite the same scenario as above b/c she wasn’t giving off the impression that our dept was burying her in work, etc. More like everyone just know this person was the “I’m so busy!!” type. It made me sad to lose what used to be my best friend at work – but ultimately if she was “too busy” to spend any time with me (in or out of the office) to any extent, she made a choice not to prioritize our friendship in any way.

        Bit off topic, sorry. Clearly I’m still sad about this!

      5. BookLady*

        This happened with me and a co-worker recently. When I started at my job, it was a split role between me and one other person (I did about 70% of the work, she did about 30%, plus some other tasks that I did not have). And she was constantly overworked, spent almost every night working until 11pm or midnight, worked weekends and while sick, and never took vacation. (She even maxed out her vacation accrual and took periodic Fridays off to use up the time, but she’d end up working a few hours on those days anyway.) She and others at the office mentioned how busy our job was like, “Gosh, So-and-So works all the time, so it’s a really busy role!”

        I got worried that I’d signed up for working at all hours without realizing it, but I’ve been here for about 18 months now, and that’s just not true. I learned that this co-worker of mine just did not manage her time well or work efficiently. And our manage (bless her) saw that I was handling things well and changed up our responsibilities so that we no longer had a split role. I am no managing the full 100% of this role, and the co-worker has very different responsibilities. And I’m still getting it all done in 40 hours a week (plus maybe a single evening of extra time every 2-3 months, which I find perfectly reasonable).

        So maybe LW #2 is exceptionally fast. Maybe their co-worker is bad at time management. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. I think Alison’s advice still applies in those cases, but it might also be worth having a conversation about time management, too.

    2. Willis*

      This. It may be that the co-worker is just considerably slower at these tasks than the OP (because of lack of expertise, some desire to be more thorough than necessary, or just being a slow worker) or that they don’t realize how much time they waste with stuff not related to work or poor attempts at multi-tasking. I think AAM’s advice is good, but I agree I’d go into the conversation with a sincere “let’s figure out what’s going on here” rather than the assumption that this is fake.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I have a relative who is extremely accurate at her work, but takes forever to do things, in large part because she’s so meticulous, both at work and in volunteer activities. It’s definitely been a problem for her – she’ll complain about being overworked and not able to take time off, but is completely unwilling to pass off work that’s at the 99% level rather that the 99.99% level, or to delegate work to othe people.

        This sort of thing is a fireable problem in hourly/salaried non-exempt jobs, because few employers are willing to shell out for 20 or 30 hours a week of unnecessary overtime. In exempt jobs, it doesn’t cost the employer money, but it can be incredibly annoying to deal with someone who is determined to play the martyr, and often bad for general morale. And it’s a disastrous attitude in someone who is managing people.

        1. Lena Clare*

          In exempt jobs, it doesn’t cost the employer money

          It does if the exempt employee has to take extended leave because of burnout, or other people end up covering that employee’s work because it’s not done in a timely manner.

          1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            Or if spending an extra day to make something perfect instead of good enough delays others and causes missed deadlines.

            1. TootsNYC*

              or if the delays from their time-wasting mean you have to settle for good enough when you could have had perfect…

              That’s what happens in my field when people waste time.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes exactly. At my previous job, I was the only mother needing to leave to pick up my kids (and not getting paid obviously as from that time). My colleagues were all fresh graduates without any other commitments in life. They would often stay a couple of hours late to finish up their work (and accrued overtime would later translate into days off).
        My boss was convinced I was a slacker and they all worked hard. Then he ran some stats and found that despite working an average of three hours less every day, I was managing more projects, translating more words and proofreading more words too. Basically, I was putting in more work in less time. (I didn’t tell him that I took more breaks than my colleagues too!)
        So OP you may simply be a stellar employee. I’d say it’s worth looking into. Once we were taken over by another company that took the stats very seriously, my colleague had to change her working methods to be able to increase her productivity because they refused to compensate for overtime. She did manage to eliminate some needless checks, but ended up taking work home in secret to keep her stats up.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          (We were supposed to translate 2,500 words a day, which is reasonable. I did 3,800, she barely scraped 1,500.)

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        I have a bad habit of slipping into “if I just get organized…” mode. I’ll end up wasting a whole day just trying to figure out the best way to “organize” everything or “fix” that one messy process. I have had to teach myself how to stop every 20 minutes or so (thanks, Pomodoro timer!) and make sure what I’m doing is actually still useful or if I’m just nit picking. It is so easy to get caught in that loop.

        I think if you do want to help your coworker, and I think it’s a good idea, don’t go in with a “where are you wasting time?” attitude. It’ll feel condescending and she’ll probably get defensive. Try to keep a “I really want to see what’s different or if I can help” tone. I know when I get in that loop hearing cracks about spending time at the coffee machine don’t really help me a lot, they just make me feel like even more of a failure. I know I’m not doing it the best, but I’m overwhelmed.

    3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      1) a relative of mine is also prone to 70 hour workweeks on salary with canceled vacations, taking calls all night, etc. not because he is in any way actually required to do that much work, but has a tremendous fear of not being viewed as indispensable. It’s a matter of job security and also a major dose of pride. With a large family to support, he sets the bar for his position so high that no one would ever want to replace him. And as he’s the first college graduate in a corporate/industrial scene, he translates the workdays of his agricultural family to the office: emails at 6am, project reports until 8pm.
      So there are a lot of factors at play in these situations..but almost always fear of how you are perceived.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        “Fear of not being viewed as indispensable” oh man, you described me. I am having health issues and my personal life is getting more complicated, so I am trying to cut back my hours at work, but…

          1. Legal Beagle*

            Yes!!! Also, working hard today can’t eliminate the possibility that circumstances will change tomorrow. Terrifying, but that’s reality. The company could restructure or go out of business, anything could happen, unrelated to your work performance. Do a great job, but set limits for yourself. Also, cultivate positive references, keep track of your achievements, build your network – give yourself a smoother path to the next job, should you ever need it on short notice.

            1. Legal Beagle*

              (Speaking from experience of having a close family member work themselves into the ground for a company that abruptly went into bankruptcy.)

            2. TootsNYC*

              Being so focused on sacrificing oneself for the company can blind oneself to the true financial status of the company. You can be so focused on overperforming that you don’t read the writing on the wall in terms of sales, etc.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Sadly, I have no in-demand skills and an abysmal work history, so I am kind of stuck. I don’t do job hunting any more.

            It’s hard and scary to try to set boundaries to your hours when your boss’s response to my reluctance to work two 60-hour weeks for him when I also had a second job was “I work a lot more than you do!” Which was in fact what my boss said. :-/

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, and they probably genuinely *think* they are busy / working harder than others. People I have worked with who have behaved like this have, so far as I have been able to tell, genuinely thought that they were working hard and that the extra time was necessary to complete their work, and were very resistant to any other perspective.

      It was fairly obvious in each case that they were not either busier, or achieving more, than others doing the same job, but were not managing their time as well, or were spending much more time chatting, or otherwise taking breaks.

      In one case, I actually had to lay out for them how much time they were spending doing non-work stuff – long personal phone calls, long chats with co-workers (where the co-worker was on break but they were not treating it as their own break) – they were completely convinced that they were working solidly and only taking the minimum breaks they were entitled to.

      Ifyou have the authority, then I think that having a conversation and starting by getting their perspective is sensible – if they are wrong, then address that, but listen first!

      1. Myrin*

        That’s been my experience as well. (And I love that you actually explicitly spelled it out for that one person – that’s great management!) Although I’ve seen two different kinds of behaviour surrounding this phenomenon – some people will behave like OP’s coworker, moaning and grumping and making sure everyone knows about “poor me”, while others will quietly work themselves to the bone and slowly wither away even though they don’t have any outside pressure to do so going on. I think the loud, outward busyness is more common, though.

        1. Bagpuss*

          It wasn’t very successful. They didn’t change their habits and I think continued to believe that they were working as hard or harder than others, but they did grumble less (at least where I could hear them)…

          the other person I tried to help who had a similar mindset just refused to accept any suggestions about how they could better manage their work so they could actually do their job and not be staying late every night. I never did get to the bottom of what they actually spent their time doing, it certainly wasn’t working, and every single suggestion was met with “that wouldn’t work for me”. That person would up resigning just ahead if their being sacked, at which point we found that, other than cleaning up the mess they had left, we didn’t actually need to replace them as they were doing so little. But they were always in til 7 or 8 at night and claimed to be ‘snowed under’ !

          1. EPLawyer*

            “That person would up resigning just ahead if their being sacked, at which point we found that, other than cleaning up the mess they had left, we didn’t actually need to replace them as they were doing so little. ”

            Ouch. Let this be a lesson to all. Don’t be seen as so busy that you aren’t actually doing anything at all. The company will find you are not indispensable – and you were in fact not needed at all.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Ugh, I feel like I’ve been doing this all February! Just internally moaning about my work and getting very little done. Go away, Winter blues!!

        2. Thankful for AAM*

          Or people will just continue to underperform with no sense that that is true. Some won’t care, others will complain amd wonder why they are not promoted.

      2. Washi*

        Agreed! I had a coworker like this, and I think the issue was that her reaction to any mild workload increase was not to put her head down and power through it, but to vent her stress to everyone around her. Then she would vent and procrastinate so much that she would lose further productive time, causing a previously very manageable backlog to truly pile up, which in turn continued the cycle. At no point in this could she have ever been convinced that she had a hand in her own misfortunes.

        However, I do think Alison’s script would have helped, if combined with putting together a detailed plan and check ins for getting back on track (if there actually is a backlog due to time-wasting.) There would be no point in getting into the “why” but greater accountability for results probably would have helped.

    5. Mookie*

      I think that’s actually going to be the most productive way to approach it. If everything the LW says and thinks is true (and I accept that this may not be so and that the co-worker is simply working at their own par) this co-worker’s performative conscientiousness is a useful tool for getting them to understand that Behaving Overworked doesn’t necessarily enhance theie reputation in the manner they think it does. Expressing concern that they are taking an unexpectedly long time to complete their tasks, and that thus far they have not managed to improve on their time-efficiency and project turnover, may put a dent in their ego if worded the right way. If this person is a people-pleaser or validation-seeker, they expect regularly staying late to be rewarded, admired, or gushed over; treating that choice as aberrant, concerning, and a demerit could nip it in the bud. As others have said, though, this situation may need more management and direction than that.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I totally believe the OP on this (and I’ve had That Coworker) myself but I like Alison’s advice because it gets to the root of the problem while both letting the coworker save face and alerting them that getting their work done efficiently will be more admired than the martyr act.

      2. richard*

        indeed, the co-worker’s ‘busy martyr’ strategy could also make them look quite incompetent.

        “we’ve become concerned that you’re not meeting deadlines in a timely manner/in expected timeframes”

        1. TootsNYC*

          When i had an employee who was doing this, that IS what I wondered.

          Turns out it wasn’t, but that was one of the things I explored.
          And it was one of the reasons I gave her for why she should stop.

          She made herself look bad, and she made me look bad.

    6. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      That is a possibility. There are a lot of possibilities here.

      I once had a colleague who spent the work day socializing with everyone – work was her social life. She got her actual work done at night. She was fine with that. She didn’t complain about it. Her manager knew and was fine with it.

      I’ve also had the work martyr colleagues who acted like they worked harder than anyone else, yada, yada, yada.

      I had one coworker who constantly complained that she worked so hard and such long hours. She was otherwise nice, but really complained a lot. I think she really did work hard. But no matter how early I got to the office, she was already there. One morning the external fire alarm in my condo building malfunctioned, went off, and there was no sign of it stopping. So I figured it would be better to just get ready and go to the office just to get away from the piercing noise. I arrived at the office around 5 or 6am and she was there. I laughed to myself that no matter how early I arrived at work, she’d be there and wondered whether she’d be there if I had arrived at 2am. The VP in her area was overly demanding, and she never pushed back (I’m not sure she could). Our boss and other colleagues dismissed her as a complainer and martyr. They spent a lot of time gossiping about this but really didn’t do much to resolve the situation. It was probably a combination of the demanding VP, a boss who wasn’t truly supportive, and the colleague being a work martyr who thrives on complaining.

      There have been other colleagues who have been less pleasant work martyrs. Some did work hard (or at least appeared to) while others were good at shoving their work into others while offering to help you with your work only when it was convenient for them. (Not that you even want their help, but it’s a pathetic attempt at reciprocation or a way for them to set it up so you owe them some time in the future.) Some people also don’t have any perception of how much work they are shoving on to others.

      One coworker went on vacation and I was expected to cover some of her work while she was out. I was happy to do so, but she really piled it on. I was traveling and in all day meetings that week, so the only time I had to do her work for her was at night and on the plane while also trying to get my own work done. She knew this, acknowledged it, acte r car d apologetic in a fake way, and still threw a bunch of her work into my lap. I ended up working nights and two weekends on her work even once she was back. (And she didn’t work those nights and weekends once she was back.) And then she acted like I was a horrible person when I went on vacation and gave her an easy task to cover while I was away. Like I was a slacker for taking PTO but she had every right to.

      I do agree that some tasks take some people longer than others. For these people, it might be better to see how you can truly help them succeed and get the job done faster rather than penalizing them.

      And then there are the work martyrs. Unfortunately, the work martyrs sometimes set the pace for everyone else. I wish more managers would recognize that.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        I’ve had a colleague who socialized most of the day and worked at home on actual tasks. It was a giant PITA to “work” with her, because she sucked up so much of everybody else’s time socializing.

        Well, not me so much, because I put her on a socializing diet — I’d chat with her for five minutes whenever she got around to me, then cut her off with “Whelp, I’ve got to get back to work now, talk to you tomorrow!” Then walk away and do my work, and not respond to efforts to chat later in the day — Oh hi, yeah, well, I’m super busy, I’ll talk to you tomorrow (turn back to work; if she didn’t leave at that point I’d get up and say, OK, see ya! and close my office door — I really am ok returning awkward to sender!). Haha, she eventually left me along.

    7. Delta Delta*

      I worked with someone who loved to go on and on about how she was so busy and always had so much to do all the time. She usually arrived at the office an hour and a half after everyone else and left around the same time. Then she would make a big show of coming in on weekends. (“I was here for FIVE HOURS on Sunday and I’m still so busy!”) I figured out that she was spending most of her time talking about how busy she was, and if she would have just shut her mouth and done her work she would have gotten it done. And if she would have bothered to get to work around the same time as everyone else, she would have magically found six and a half hours in her week where she could have done the work and not had to come in on weekends. But – this didn’t fit with her “I’m sooooooo busy” narrative that she enjoyed. And she knew that the boss was frequently in the office on weekends catching up on things, so it looked to the boss like she was a nose-to-the grindstone superstar for coming in. She just figured out how to game that particular part of the narrative.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Your former coworker sounds so obnoxious. Do people like that realize nobody likes them?

        1. Minimax*

          Sadly even the OP admit their fault “I admire her work ethic” is often rewarded with these types.

      2. Traveling Teacher*

        Jeez, these are the people who didn’t study for their major exams til the night before while they were in school, then made a big show of telling everyone that they studied so hard that they pulled an all-nighter!

        1. Oranges*

          I’m one of those. But I fully admitted that it was because I did bupkis. I never really needed to study in my classes until a couple in college that wouldn’t “click” with me. That was a rude awakening.

      3. Roy G. Biv*

        Ugh. This was my boss at my first job. Show up late, socialize, finally start work around 1 pm, and then criticize the rest of the staff for leaving at 5 pm. He would ask, in complete exasperation – “Am I the only working? Why can I never find anyone when I need them?”

        Because we all showed at 8 am, got stuff done, and left at 5 pm, as the office manager explicitly told us to, Steve. The worker bees rarely get to make up their own working hours.

    8. Jennifer Juniper*

      Or maybe the coworker got some terrible advice telling her she has to appear “busy” all the time in order to look like a good team player and get ahead at the office.

    9. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      While true it seems like a pretty big difference if OP was able to get the work done without working extra time, and this person has to works nights & weekends, cancel time off and come in sick. Yes, OP needs to go in with an open mind, but it sounds to me like either they are working smarter not harder (and the serious conversation Alison recommended is needed to fix that), or they are spending too much time during regular business hours doing non-work related things. It could also be the extreme version that they want attention for being a martyr and are faking the whole thing to get it.

  3. Observer*

    #3- Your client is way out of line. Firstly, even if you billed by the hour, they should not be requiring this type of software. And since you are not billing by the hour, time tracking software is not relevant.

    I think you need to stop arguing with them. It’s very simple – this software offers nothing that is relevant to your contract and the services you provide. Either they can continue to use your services without the software or they can find another vendor.

    Something to consider: Either they are ignorant or they are liars. Actual time tracking software is not something you generally launch – it runs in the background and you trigger it to start / stop the clock via a designated keystroke or something similar. Also, it is extremely unusual for time tracking systems to actually take screen shots. That sounds far more like employee monitoring software.

    Would you mind sharing the name of the software they asked you to load?

    1. Mindy*

      I’ve been looking into various freelancing sites — upwork, guru, etc. At least one of them used software like this (it is optional but recommended to reassure the clients, especially if they are paying hourly, and may be required if you want access to their arbitration services in case of dispute). If I recall correctly, it would track number of keystrokes and mouse clicks, start and stop times, and take a screenshot every ten minutes. So my guess is that the client here is used to something like this from working with hourly freelancers. (Not saying I agree with the approach, just adding some context to what *might* be going on.)

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        That is indeed how it worked when I had a long-term gig on oDesk, Upwork’s former incarnation. It tracked activity from keystrokes and mouse movement and took screenshots at some random interval somewhere within the 10-minute block. It would also take pictures using the computer’s camera (but that feature could thankfully be disabled). For clients who use the tracker, billing is based on what the tracker picks up. If the tracker picks up 30 hours and 20 minutes of work, that’s what you’re getting paid for unless the client overrides it.

        It was actually a little easy to game, because every time it took a screenshot, that screenshot counted for the full 10 minutes, so if you logged in at 10:58 and it took a screenshot again at 11:02, that technically counted as a full 20 minutes of work. This was a contract job that very clearly violated the IRS requirements of what a contractor is and required the use of the tracker to closely monitor everything, so no one felt too bad about this strategy.

      2. Observer*

        This stuff is common, but calling it time tracking software is a misnomer. his stuff is the kind of thing that you may not be allowed to legally install in some jurisdictions without the consent of the user and owner of the computer. Because to do what it does, it needs to sink it’s hooks into your system and you can’t control when and how it records your work.

        AND, these things generally record EVERYTHING, not just the work you are doing for the company that installed the software.

    2. Violet Fox*

      The other thing is that as a contractor who is likely working on other clients projects as well, it’s a great way to share proprietary information with the wrong people.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        That is exactly what I thought when OP described what was happening. OP’s IT department needs to sweep her machine at the very least to make sure the software is really completely uninstalled, and maybe even a systemwide check of the company’s computers.
        My company had a strict no installing ANYTHING policy (healthcare organization), and a few times an employee would try to do it anyway, once causing a system problem lasting over a day. Only specific IT personnel could install software.

        1. Quill*

          Honestly given that it’s spyware there’s a chance that they’ll have to really get in there, possibly remove all the data from the hard drive and do a full wipe and reinstall of programs.

          The more I think about this program the more alarming I find it.

          1. Maria Lopez*

            I was surprised that the OP would even install non-proprietary software. I guess that’s the cynic in me, in addition to seeing first hand how business systems, let alone personal computers, can be messed up by non-approved software, often non-maliciously. In this case, however, I don’t think this was benign.

        2. SpaceNovice*

          All of this. IT sweep of the computer and other resources. People shouldn’t be able to install things on their computers unless they’ve been internally certified by IT to do so. AND OP needs to send a strongly worded email with backing from IT to the client.

          I can understand why companies would want to use software like this but it is ENTIRELY not okay, regardless if it’s a personal or corporate computer.

      2. Gumby*

        Even if it isn’t proprietary info, it could give an inaccurate picture of what a person is working on.

        I keep several tabs open in my browser all the time. Just because xkcd is open in a tab all the time doesn’t mean I am looking at it all the time; I check every other day as it is updated – it takes maybe 10 minutes a week. And yet it would appear in every screen shot. (Ditto my company’s WordPress account – I edit the website maybe once a month; an online course description that I am noodling about asking work to cover; and the FAR website which I consult as needed.) They would look at a screenshot and think I am doing 4 other tasks at the same time even though, nope, I just like to have lots of tabs available at my fingertips.

    3. Medico*

      Oooh yes, totally agree here. This is a huge overstep and like Alison said, probably the tip of a weirdness mountain.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Oh, good point about the weirdness mountain. This is an “If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” situation. In this case, that the clients are very clueless about many aspects of the work, and will try to get around that via constant screen shots.

    4. Random IT person*

      Frankly – ‘way out of line’ is too mild.
      This ‘customer’ is installing actual spyware. Taking screenshots and saving them without you having any control / access? (can you imagine being a defense contractor working on some confidential parts? – or, since OP mentioned marketing – you`re working on a new product launch which should remain confidential until it can be launched country wide / globally… ??)

      I would indeed stop arguing with them – and then move to the next step – stop with them.
      Fire the client (out of a canon, into the sun) – unless they`ll sign a) a contract that includes a paragraph that no software of third parties will be installed on any of (company name)s computers, nor will this become a requirement, and b) you get immediate access to the location they have your screenshots – and give you full rights to remove any and all that are irrelevant to this particular client.

      However – having said that…
      If this client believes you really should only work on their account on time/date XYZ – and your company has the option – why not set up a machine purely for them (billed to them of course). With nothing on it except what is needed for them – and they can have the spyware on it if they really want. (of course, this would come at a higher price due to ‘special accomodations’).

      But if you have a machine you use for various projects for various clients – send them the biggest, loudest, brightest NO you can.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “… why not set up a machine purely for them (billed to them of course). With nothing on it except what is needed for them – and they can have the spyware on it if they really want.”

        I get what you’re saying here, but I’d do a hard no in this.

        Doing this would likely only serve to support in their minds that OP’s company is Client’s employee.

        They are already acting that way. No reason to encourage that line of thought. The opposite actually AFAIC.

        Client needs to hear, and understand that they are a client not “the boss” in the traditional way.

        Honestly unless it’s financially or otherwise completely prohibitive, I’d find a way to fire this client. *

        *I’ve fired clients before, even regular, dependable in terms of bringing me their business/referrals type clients for less than this.

        Seriously if I wanted a “boss,” someone monitoring my hours/work flow/etc. I’d find a corporate gig with a matching 401K instead of being on the hook for allllll of this by myself. I’m kinda assuming OP thinks similarly.

        OP shut this down!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, as soon as you’re saying “Discourage them by setting up this incredibly elaborate hoop” realize that you could just preemptively discourage them by saying “Nopety nope nope bye!”

        2. Random IT person*

          Of course, that would be my gut response – fire them.
          But – if this is not an option for whatever reason – bill the hell out of them with a separate machine.

          Though, i`m still worried a bit about the potentially confidential info that these screenshots may have captured – and would require access to them, and the power to permanently delete those before firing this client.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yep, I’m glad you called it what it is: spyware. You don’t even know what this software is doing beyond the screenshots – keylogging? Copying files from your hard drives and sending them to this mysterious server? Installing backdoors?

        Did they even tell you the name of the software?

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          The potential, and stated intent of some, for keylogging is what gets a hard “NOPE!” out of me. I would never be able to type a password on that system without having to immediately go to another system and change that password.

        2. Random IT person*

          To be honest – even with my creative mind – i cannot call this anything else than spyware.
          (And then i had not even considered the other potentials – such as keylogging, file mining etc.)

      3. Quill*

        It’s a security concern even within the client’s company, given how the storage website can likely be accessed by people who created the program, or via mining the whole thing…

    5. Media Monkey*

      totally. as an agency person for the past 20 odd years, i have never heard of anything like this. clients have to be aware that agency staff don’t just work for them and there’s no way clients would stay with an agency where another company (potentially a competitor if your agency has a specialism) could randomly screengrab work being created for them.

        1. londonedit*

          This is what I was thinking. I believe the US has similar rules around freelancers/contractors and full-time employees as we do in the UK – if we want to engage a freelancer to do a job, part of the process involves us having to go through an online test to prove to HMRC that they should indeed be designated as self-employed and not as an employee. Part of that designation involves them being able to choose how/when/where to do the work we’re asking them to do. If they’re not doing that, we can’t claim to be hiring them on a freelance basis and HMRC will tell us that we should be paying them as an employee. I can’t see how that would square with a company checking up on what freelancers are doing with their computers at any given moment.

          1. Antilles*

            Yes, that concept exists in the US too. There’s essentially a “level of control” test – if the company exercises too much control over an independent contractor, you cannot designate that employee an IC. The line is a bit blurry, but telling a contractor they cannot work on any other projects simultaneously would definitely raise some red flags.
            That said, the way OP describes this setup, it’s not clear if this applies, except as an analogy of “see, this is pretty absurd guys”. It seems like the Client is hiring OP’s Company, which then hires OP. In this case, it’d be the responsibility of OP’s Company to make sure they aren’t misclassifying employees, *not* an outside business entity that just hired Company to build teapots.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’d definitely throw every data protection law in the face of anyone who demanded I install such invasive software. It…disturbs me on the same level as the ex manager who logged every single visit to the bog and hauled me in for a meeting when I went more than once an hour or took more than 2 minutes each time.

            Just because you pay me, either as an employee or freelancer, it does not mean you have ownership of me and my actions.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              If I had a boss who got pissed if it took me more than two minutes in the bathroom, they would rapidly become an ex-boss.

              1. Random IT person*

                Indeed.
                And even then – you can counter with ‘please tell me where you learned to control your inner plumbing to that extent – and does the company sponsor training there’

          1. Media Monkey*

            to be clear, sometimes agency people are 100% dedicated to one client, however even in that instance this wouldn’t fly anywhere i have worked. you might be accessing agency-confidential information to do your job which clients could not be allowed to see. for example a cost attributed internally to a person vs a marked-up client cost, personnel information etc.

      1. Spied Upon OP #3*

        “clients have to be aware that agency staff don’t just work for them”

        Usually it’s easy to spot these types of clients during the sales process and just avoid working with them. These folks work with a lot of other freelancers and didn’t raise red flags until after everything was signed. :-( But because of them, our sales process is going to include asking about any company tools/software they expect us to use.

        1. Media Monkey*

          sometimes people get a bit overexcited if they win a pitch and don’t always pick these things up in the face of someone handing them their business and therefore potential cash! good idea to formalise that ahead of the actual onboarding!

    6. Sun Tzu*

      This is absurd. OP should consider ending his contract with the client.

      And “you shouldn’t be working on anything but our work at one time” is not a reason. What if a pop-up of a IM or of an excerpt of an incoming mail appears onscreen and the spyware chooses that moment to do a screenshot?

      1. Media Monkey*

        or you are working on something for that client, then the phone rings with someone asking about a different client and you have to pull up their work? just horrible.

      2. Antilles*

        And “you shouldn’t be working on anything but our work at one time” is not a reason.
        Yeah, that jumped out at me too.
        When you hire a subconsultant, the expectation is that they’re working on other jobs than yours. In many (most?) industries, it’d be totally normal for a subs to even be working with some of your direct competitors.
        If you want exclusivity, you either bring that team in-house or pay a sizable premium to get it written in the contract.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I mean, in a given 10 second interval, I am working only on one project. But the client doesn’t get to say “From 2-4 every afternoon, Falling works on nothing but our work. No one emails. No one calls.”

          I think this is very much the fantasy that when XYZ assigned Daphne and Dwayne to your account, Daphne and Dwayne ceased to do anything for anyone else ever.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s an insane explanation. If you want them to work exclusively on your work, then hire them as an employee. You cannot engage in this level of direction and weird surveillance with a consultant.

    7. Tan*

      I agree this is way out of line for a contractor and may not be legal (depending on the location). This is clearly a company that wants an employee-employer relationship with a contractor. It maybe an old school micromanager or part of one of a weird modern Floober phenomena where they are innovating new ways to cut wages and workers-rights. In any case I’d just say no. Also if it is taking screenshoots it could gather all kinds of commercially sensitive information not just other work but clients and staff personal information (you can’t control if/when a personal message will pop up in a message email), and but also possible proprietary information such as your software passwords which in tern maybe linked to password for personal banking (I hope not but many people keep to simple password forms) etc…This gathering of information is becoming more and, more controlled, its a massive no, unless they pay for a new computer, software etc purely for their project.

    8. Kat in VA*

      This sounds a whole lot less like time tracking software and a whole lot more like insider threat security software.

    9. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      This client sounds weird. They also sound like they have control issues. Some clients think they own their vendors. The client is paying for the deliverable and expertise you’re providing. Even if they were paying you hourly, there would be some mutual expectation as to how many hours would be spent their project and the final number would be somewhere close to that. This client sounds controlling and a client not worth working with. Alison’s script is spot on.

    10. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would have a problem with it being an employee of the company. Unless you work for some top secret government agency, having software like that on employee machines is basically saying you have zero trust in them. It would be a deal breaker for me.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I used to work in a technology field that helps lawyers sort through digital evidence, and we had a case come through where a law firm had received screencaps and videos from this sort of software that the company owner had installed on all work computers. He was absolutely nuts and vindictive and exactly the type of person you’d think installed this software. His spyware also caught and employee selling their company data, though, so he thought he was totally vindicated in using it to spy on all of the employees.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Don’t you hate when the crazy person’s plan pays off, thus making them feel their craziness (and vindictiveness) is justified?

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            It was crazymaking. I felt so, so sorry for the poor attorney who was tasked with handling this guy. He was not happy to terminate and sue, he wanted to burn the former employee to the ground and was enraged the court only awarded him substantial monetary damages. He wanted the employee blackballed from multiple, tangentially-related industries and to promise never to work in the states in which his company operated, which was, like, half of the country. (And I only heard some of it because our contract only involved certain portions of the case.)

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Is it even legally possible to demand in a lawsuit settlement that someone just not work in certain states at all? Or even to bar them from multiple industries? I mean, there are professional organizations that will kick someone out for bad behavior, and professions requiring licensure where you can lose your license if you break the rules, but can you just get a court to say “defendant is permanently banned from ever working for any company in the construction industry” or something?

      2. Quill*

        I’m a contractor and I’d pitch a fit – I need to use my personal email while at work sometimes to keep in contact with the company that’s paying me, and having a database that would grab my personal email any time it was open is a Problem.

    11. Paulina*

      Ugh, spyware. Also, even in its most inocuous uses, this software will track the amount of time you spend working on their contract. Let’s say you’re very efficient on some deliverables and get them done quickly, will they try to get a cheaper deal next time because they think they’re overpaying? Even time monitoring gives them information you may not want them to have.

    12. Spied Upon OP #3*

      Hey Observer and everyone below. Thanks for reaffirming my worldview, haha. I should note that I totally held back in my original question as to how absurd I think this request is by the client. But I did actually want to get some affirmation or a different opinion on the matter and I figured attempting to be measured in my ask was the way to go.

      As for the software – I am happy to name it because it is monitoring/spyware software in the guise of time tracking. It’s called Hubstaff. From everything I saw (and I did get a look into the admin view) it only takes screenshots while the clock is running. That’s still totally out of line and I have zero ability to know/trust if the tool itself is storing additional info that admins don’t even see – huge risk.

      To Allison’s point – they are a mixed bag overall. This issue came up on day one with them and I squashed it. But it’s come back up as they are very needy in terms of our time for meetings, redundant communication (send me a message, then post it in basecamp, then let’s get on a call) and we were not accomplishing much of our real work. When we tried addressing that, the spyware issue came up again, and again.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        It is a totally absurd request, and, unless these people are a really good client, I’d consider ending the contract after your current engagement is up. They sound like the type who want the price and benefit of contract work at the control of full-time employees. (Actually, they sound nuts.)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Interesting that the whole neediness/control aspect promptly popped up in other guises as well.

      3. Legal Beagle*

        Yikes. Even without the tracking software (which is terrible and I would object to that even from an actual employer), they sound like a terrible client and a huge drain on your time and resources.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        We had a client once who demanded all our internal IP addresses (not external ones!) for every single server before they’d sign a contract with us. Such information is absolutely useless, so we asked them why they needed it.

        The response that came back also demanded remote administrative logins to our server farm, any-hour access to our office and my personal (not work) phone number and a demand I be accessible 24/7.

        That was my first experience with an overly controlling client. I sincerely hope your other and future clients give you a far easier time.

        (No, we didn’t give into their demands. Still did the work but made a vow to never ever deal with that client again.)

        1. Candi*

          “remote administrative logins to our server farm”

          Can we say security breach? Wow. This goes beyond controlling into a difficulty in perceiving reality.

          And your personal number? They can go hang.

        2. Random IT person*

          Remote admin login to servers??
          WTAF??
          What kind of justification did they give for that – other than ‘WANT ??

      5. NR*

        OP3 it sounds like they are the client you don’t need. We hire consultants to do R & D work with big $$ implications if it got to competitors and have never used this sort of spyware – what we do is either provide them with computers which are dedicated to our work only (or if not practical lease dedicated ones from them which we have full remote access to – not to monitor how many hours they are putting in but because we are buying the intellectual property which is being created)

        We also have it fully spelled out in the contracts with them how it works (we have the right to remote wipe in case someone accidentally loses the laptop etc) and warn them that all documents etc created are backed up to our cloud. Everyone understands the deal – We might check browsing history if there was a data breach but I’ve only seen it happen once in the last 3 years and no-one cared about the dodgy jokes or kitten videos, it was tracking down the data breach only which turned out to be a Trojan someone had accidentally uploaded with some dodgy software addon and the hole was plugged (a laptop had been set up with full admin rights instead of restricted ones) And this was on a multi million $ R & D project.

        We have never ever used the kind of spyware you are talking about – it’s a major security risk in itself for goodness sake. It also sounds like the kind of software a coercive or controlling and abusive spouse or parent would use and I bet they onsell the data as well. Ugh

      6. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I would definitely, after you’ve completed whatever work you are currently contracted to do, be “too busy unfortunately to take on more work at the moment”.

        You don’t necessarily want to burn bridges, or have them bad mouth you to other potential clients, but they sound like far too much effort and not worth whatever they are paying.

        Does your contract or work agreement stipulate timelines for reverts, and that type of thing? Because if your work is due for review on Thursday and they’re hassling you on Monday already, maybe that is something you can push back on, just stick with the timelines that were agreed and if they want work or face time sooner they’ll have to pay for “above and beyond” what was agreed. But seriously, ugh, just fire them.

        1. Spied Upon OP #3*

          We have very limited mention of deadlines for any of our ongoing contracts as the type of stuff we’re doing within the scope still varies a lot over time. But whenever we put a deadline out there, we hit it. They aren’t even worried about that part of it. It’s just a control thing.

      7. Observer*

        Yeah, this is not time tracking software – it MONITORING software – and they call it that themselves. It’s a totally different beast and has not place on a computer that does not belong to them.

        I can see some use cases for it, but noting REMOTELY relating to a contractor relationship.

        Also, they are still not being completely forthcoming. I just gave a quick look at the product and it actually seems to be a very good one of its kind – which makes it more dangerous, because it’s designed to really sink it’s hooks into multiple systems. Those integrations could be genuinely useful, but not in your context. Also, the screen shot capability apparently can be turned off. The fact that they didn’t tell you that says that either they don’t understand their own tools, or that they cannot be trusted.

        Not that I would agree to using the software even if they did shut off that capacity – but at least then I might think that there is some competence and good faith. (It also does make the product marginally less dangerous, because it’s at least one source of potentially sensitive information that the product doesn’t get.)

        1. Spied Upon OP #3*

          Thanks for the reminder! It’s been a while since we checked out this software, but I completely forgot about how crazy some of the monitoring gets. I could maybe justify something like this in a helpdesk setting or a few other places, but you’re right, it goes way overboard for anything like what we’re doing.

      8. Candi*

        Someone upthread said they ran into such “monitoring” software as being used to track freelancers.

        Googling brings up that it was invented when the co-creators were trying to figure out how to better track their freelancers.

        I know some freelancers aren’t worth the pennies paid to them, but both creating this and using this shows a MASSIVE level of distrust of all freelancers. Every single one.

        I’d hate to live in their heads.

    13. Stormy Weather*

      I agree. The contract states they are not paying you by the hour. Personally, I’d be insulted. They have no rights to be monitoring keystrokes and taking screenshots. It’s creepy and invasive.

      I’d ditch them as a client. If they’re not going to trust you after signing a contract, I think it would only go downhill from here.

  4. Pants*

    Re #5, this happened to me at my most recent interview. I asked, giving them face saving off ramps: “I’ve noticed that you’re filling multiple positions and also that the client has a a reputation for being demanding [I’d done the research]. Are the positions open because people moved on to bigger assignments [lead with best-case assumption] or was there an issue with the client [deflecting awkwardness to client instead of the hiring company]?” The panel seemed to relax a bit and acknowledged that they didn’t manage the contract efficiently [small company trying to swim in bigger pond]. This led to a new round of “how would you deal with that” questions (oops) but also resulted in a significantly higher salary offer.

    I’m guessing that this outcome is rare, but you should definitely ask!

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Very definitely you should try to find out! A few years ago I went thru a spate of jobs that didn’t work out, and I was job hunting again in a matter of months. All those jobs had a years-long history of high turnover and I turned out to be working for the co. “boss from hell” who couldn’t keep staff long enough to go on the 401k, and didn’t seem to want to. I’ve been on my current job over 10 years now, but there’s been a lot of turnover since I arrived. It started when the office got a NewBoss. She finally moved to another job at the co. However, at the same time our team expanded so there was a lot of hiring for a few months. BUt all those job postings weren’t all growth. Some of the new people left in a flash so we were hiring the same job again.

    2. Anonymous Penguin*

      DEFINITELY ask about it. I was interviewing one place which had seemed fairly normal so far, and mentioned that I’d seen the same position open the previous year. I asked about it and the interviewer launched into a diatribe about how millennials just don’t know how to be professional, the multiple people they have had quit with no notice after only a couple of months, and how the last person walked out in the middle of the day and blocked everyone’s phone numbers so the manager *had to* drive to the employee’s house to “check on her.”

      I finished things up as quickly as I could and emailed to politely say “no way will I work here” as soon as I got back.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I talked to a mgr I knew, a neighbor, after one of my jobs from hell ended and I saw it advertised hete again on a job board. He said when you see the same job comes up again and again, it’s a problem with the manager, not the employees. It would be nice if there was any way to search Indeed, Simply Hired, etc., to see how often a job had been posted in the previous 5 years.

  5. Anon re video issues*

    What I have learned from a friend who has an innocuously-themed, and mildly popular, hobby YouTube channel, is that people do recognize you outside the video context all the time. Even guests who appeared briefly on the video channel are recognized years later. So I would suggest proceeding on the basis that your friend will for sure be recognized by her future husband’s colleagues. Whatever that means is up to her and him.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. Personally, I’d say the worst outcome is probably going to be just the douchebags in the office going “heh, your wife has nice tits” or something, but yeah, assume that people are gonna know.

    2. Julia*

      I’d have no problem admitting that I watch an innocuous Youtube channel. But people at the husband’s work would have to admit that they saw her in a porn, and reasonable people don’t talk about porn at work.

      1. TechWorker*

        Reasonable people don’t take about porn at work but it’s also not so much of a societal no-no that admitting to it between ‘colleagues who also friends’ is likely to be a big deal. I have *zero* trouble believing that there are work cultures where the fact someone’s wife does porn is shared as a ‘juicy’ piece of gossip.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Plus, for the most part, many people who watch porn consider themselves much better people than those who actually make the porn, and would see little problem with snickering about it openly.

      2. DiscoCat*

        True, but there is also the sexist and misogynistic nature of porn’s place in society. It’s ok after hours for the men to prove they’re real men’s men and compare notes on their porn consumption. It’s ok for them to consume, but the people, especially the women, who work in the industry are shamed and treated like dirt.

      3. Lady Blerd*

        I would not be so sure about that last part, it varies greatly in offices, even the most posh highbrow work can have locker room talk and and break room rumours and it is not exclusive to men although if she is doing private chat work, them maybe it will be the male coworkers who will see her depending on who she caters too.

    3. merp*

      would youtube and porn sites that require subscriptions be similar in that regard though? I agree that it’s a good idea to proceed that way just to make sure they have a plan if it happens, but I don’t know if it’s as likely as if these videos were just freely available and able to be googled.

      1. Viola*

        There is no such think as keeping it entirely behind a paywall and for your users only. There are tons of videos on free porn sites that were clearly made by videoing a streamed personal session.

        When perusing some of the major sharing/amateur sites, it’s clear That a lot of content is stolen from various sources, including personal pay-to-view personalized content sites.

    4. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I know someone who’s had strangers approach her in public and call her by her stage name, completely oblivious to the fact that the people with her might not know she’s been in adult films in the past.

      I also have a friend who’s worked for an adult website, and they would get calls all the time from people who appeared in movies years ago asking if they can be taken off the Internet. There are so many pirate copies floating around that this is impossible.

      1. Viola*

        The internet is forever. Be it porn or kitty cats.

        Also, no matter how much trouble you take to keep it depersonalized and make it difficult for someone to recognize you, if your face is visible in the film, semi-decent facial recognition software can find you if you’ve also got personal photos anywhere on the net.

        This is not as difficult as people are making it out to be.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Facial recognition software is improving rapidly. I think we’re only a few years away from being able to put a face pic into Google and bring up a Facebook profile, and an obsessed, tech-savvy fan can already do this. Pretty much anyone who’s been photographed topless at a music festival 20 years ago is at risk now.

    5. Alice's Rabbit*

      Yeah, unless she’s gone to great lengths to conceal her identity in every photo and video (I’m talking wig, mask, covering any tattoos or birthmarks, maybe adding a few fake ones) she will be recognized at some point. And just because she only works through the paid site doesn’t mean a customer hasn’t copied the videos and uploaded them elsewhere; that sort of thing is pretty standard in the adult entertainment industry. Once it’s on the internet, it will spread, and people will see it.
      So she needs to assume she will be recognized at some point.
      As her fiance has chosen a very conservative field, unfortunately that does mean this could affect his employment. I know no one here wants to admit it, but many people do automatically distrust folks who work in adult entertainment. And that distrust can – and likely will – call her future husband’s judgement into question with his bosses if/when they find out.
      I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is, at least from what I’ve seen.

    6. Observer*

      Yeah, I’m a bit taken aback at some of the minimizing of the issue.

      Most of the suggestions made to “hide” AW’s identity are not likely to work, and with time (and the widespread use of facial tracking software, ugh!) it’s going to get worse. So the reality IS that she’s likely to be recognized at some point.

      Only she and her BF know how this is likely to affect his career and it’s also totally their choice to take that risk. But they really should think about it. Of course, it’s quite possible that the friend is concern trolling. But they have still brought up a potentially significant issue. The two things are not mutually exclusive – in fact the “best” concern troll tend to pick up on real issues.

    7. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, and I think that’s the long and short of it. It’s a good idea for them to be aware and think about it, as it probably will come up somehow at some point down the road. If they’re both fine with what she’s doing and have set clear boundaries, that’s great and they probably don’t need to change anything. It’s still better to think it through so you’re ready when Bob from Accounting starts to blush when he shakes your friend’s hand at the office Holiday party rather than be caught by surprise that she’s being recognized.

      But the friend was probably making it a bigger issue, and probably being more pearl-clutchy, than was necessary.

  6. Anon y Mouse*

    Re: #2. Legit question: what’s concern trolling? Haven’t heard that phrase before. I could make an assumption through context but figured I’d ask.

    1. AnonyLawyer*

      Instead of the friend expressing her own personal disapproval of the activity, she couches it as a fake concern about what “other people” might think.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Even the pretense of being on that side can be absent. I have read columns by Republicans advising Democrats what they need to do to get a Democrat elected. Surprisingly, the advise is to nominate someone who holds Republican positions.

        1. Candi*

          Considering how both parties are always going at it, I wasn’t surprised last year to read a survey’s results (survey done properly,too) that said that about a third of the people in the US don’t affiliate with either party -and that most of them were under 35. In other words, standard “millennia” range.

          I wonder why that generation specifically doesn’t trust either party? /snark

          (I’m Oregon Trail gen, if it matters.)

          (One reason to not trust either: Way back in the early 1930s, one of the contributors identified as contributing to the Depression happening was real estate nonsense -search “Florida land deals” for one type. A specific law was passed saying don’t do that.

          In the 1990s, when Clinton was in office, the Democrats AND Republicans had a great idea; repeal that nasty law that was making it hard to mess around with real estate deals. BOTH parties were responsible for putting it through Congress, and Clinton signed off on it.

          We all know about the real estate bubble that was one of the big contributors to the Recession.)

    2. SS Express*

      Oh you’re a working mother? That must be so stressful and tiring! And are you sure your childcare provider is qualified and not mistreating kids like I saw once on the news? I don’t have a problem with mothers working, I’m raising these things because I’m looking out for everyone’s best interests :)

      I’d never judge people based on their body type, I just think Lizzo sets an unhealthy example for people because, you know, she couldn’t *possibly* be in decent health, unlike every thin musician who is of course living the healthiest lifestyle.

      etc

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Ugh, the comments about Lizzo drive me crazy. Her shows are incredibly athletic! I know plenty of thin people who couldn’t do them day after day but “we’re worried about her HEEEAAALLLTTHHH”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I dated someone for two years who had a tendency to go “but their HEEEAAALLLTTHHH” anytime he’d see extra weight on a person. I’ll give him credit, he never did it to me, except one time, a few days before we broke up (his idea, but fairly mutual, because at that point I was like “if we ever move in together, how am I going to eat?!”) I gained a bit more weight than I’d wanted to in the first few months after he and I ended things, because I was all “oh yay, the food police is gone, pass the chocolate! now where’s that tub of ice cream?” It’s my pet peeve now and I will not hesitate to call out anyone who does that. And they will always respond saying that they are only worried about people’s health (while having a less than healthy relationship with food themselves.)

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I tend to get very, very acerbic with the self-appointed food police. I also call them liars and busybodies when they use the “only worried about people’s health” line. I tend to go from 0 to b!tch when I get that kind of crap.

        2. EngineerMom*

          Yeah, the “health” thing is totally bogus. First of all, no one *owes* “healthy” to anyone – the state of one’s health is between that person and their medical team. Period. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they are “healthy” or not.

          And what does “healthy” mean, anyway? Is someone who has a chronic illness that they are managing to the best of their ability “healthy”? What about someone who is disabled?

          Usually when someone looks at an non-standard body and makes claims relating to “healthy” what they really mean is “that person doesn’t conform to my personal ideal figure, therefore there is something wrong with them.”

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            “And what does “healthy” mean, anyway? Is someone who has a chronic illness that they are managing to the best of their ability “healthy”? What about someone who is disabled?”

            Thank you for articulating so clearly what I have been unable to up until now. There’s always been that nagging feeling that something is messed up with our obsession with health=thin beyond the obvious and now I have words for it.

            1. Candi*

              What bugs me is this obsession with absolutely skinniness is barely over 100+ years old, 150. While desiring a slender figure goes back a bit, as corsets can attest, being skinny to the point deemed “attractive” by modern society would have had our ancestors worrying about dysentery or TB. That level of skinny also is often not healthy for the person involved; some people are naturally rails (and should not be snarked at for their lack of “meat”, thankyouverymuch), but most people can’t get that level of skinny without hurting their health.

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                Lord knows I can’t. I once got down to a size 12….during a super stressful and busy time of my college life where I didn’t have time to eat more than one meal a day plus a Slim Fast bar and I was hiking all over campus, probably about 4-5 miles a day I’d estimate. Lasted a whole year and as soon as I got home I went right back up to a size 16 and have been there ever since despite lifting weights, training for a half marathon, figuring out some dietary changes to help regulate my chronic illness, etc. I’ve been this way since puberty. It’s a hormone imbalance and incurable.

        3. Eillah*

          And, strangely, overweight men are rarely (if ever) accused of promoting unhealthy lifestyles. Hmmm…. I wonder why…..

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            And they even glorify “dad bod” while shoving diet products at “mom bod”. I cannot even.

        4. LemonLyman*

          Totally agree! She posts a lot of stories on Insta of her working out (I think she brings her trainer on the road). But she’s also singing, dancing, and playing the flute during her shows. She’s gotta get in good cardio to keep up the lung capacity she has!

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I told someone who did that to me once that the (absolutely wonderful) lady who took care of my kids from infant to preschool had more than 30 years experience between her kids and everyone’s who’d come before mine, and I was pretty sure she had a better idea of what she was doing than I did.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Seriously. I am so thankful for the people who care for my son and the friends he makes there. His teachers raise a red flag if they see any developmental issues, or if he’s sick, or if something is off with him and I don’t have to wonder, “Am I missing something crucial because I’m so new at this????” They make all the crafts, play outside every day, get healthy food that he eats sitting next to other kids in chairs built for his size. He can run! He can play with so. many. things. I don’t have room for that at home.

          In all the research on child outcomes, one of the only really consistent factors to performance later in life is stress of the mom. I’ve latched onto that. I come home well-rested and fulfilled and ready to play with my son every night and hang out every weekend. Not working would lead to money stress and just a depressed mom, which would not be best for my son.

          Thanks for the concern, though.

    3. Beth Jacobs*

      I wasn’t aware of the phrase “concern trolling”, but it so perfectly describes a phenomenon when people claim to be “just looking out for you” when they’re actually being dicks.

  7. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. Does the employee get paid overtime? If so, I could imagine them trying to get extra money if they happened to be struggling. If not, I have worked with an office martyr in the past, and trying to get them to hand over tasks could be difficult.

    1. LemonLyman*

      In my experience, office martyrs also have a tendency to WAY overdo the work. Like, if they are supposed to be painting yellow flowers on teapots, they instead paint a full landscape on each teapot. Then they want to be acknowledged for all the hard work that went into each landscape. They need to learn how to pace the time usage and energy exerted so they can accomplish all their tasks appropriately.

      1. Willis*

        You pretty much summarized one (salaried) employee I’m managing now. Except it would be 3 teapots with a landscape on them and one that’s just yellow, cause hey, “there wasn’t time to do flowers on all of them, even when I worked over the weekend.” We’re working on pacing…

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        And, let me guess, the client never asked for a full landscape and would be puzzled to see one on the teapot they ordered?

      3. Arielle*

        Ugggghhh I went to grad school with someone like this. If we were assigned a 10-page paper she’d write a SIXTY page paper. It drove me crazy because the ability to 1) follow directions and 2) edit yourself is also a skill and she was being rewarded for doing neither.

        1. EngineerMom*

          omg, YES to the editing! I had a college prof who was absolutely brutal on page limits for papers, and made it very clear that being wordy was not the same thing as proving one’s point well.

          1. Roy G. Biv*

            Yes! One of my favorite professors pointed out he was looking for clarity of thought, and the ability to express the topic within the word limit. Turning in twice the number of pages was NOT earning extra credit. It’s called “not doing the assignment correctly,” and needed to be treated as such.

        2. Candi*

          In my English World Literature Class, we have Very Specific Guidelines for the essays. One of the things noted is twice the minimum requested number of pages will not get you extra credit unless you actually SAY SOMETHING useful -if it’s clearly padding (teacher’s judgement), you could get marked down.

          There’s also a link in the Canvas classroom modules for genuine actual credit, if student’s want to go that route.

          (I wish I could post the doc with the list of guidelines here -some of them practically announce with trumpets, “Students have tried this clearly irresponsible/stupid/chicanery before. DON’T DO IT.”)

        3. LemonLyman*

          Could you imagine if your boss wanted a 1 page memo to give to leadership on current beet farming practices and you gave 6 pages? Or they wanted a 5 minute presentation on the skincare routine of llamas and you prepared 20 minutes? It’s the same in school. Page/word limits are a great opportunity to practice some of the skills that are necessary beyond the classroom.

      4. B**** in the corner of the poster*

        UGH working with someone like this now. It’s awful because now everyone expects that much work out of us, and it’s not realistic. She keeps volunteering to do other peoples jobs, which essentially volunteers all of us. It’s become a real problem.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      According to office rumors, our office martyr at OldJob worked on their side job when they stayed late, after everyone was gone… We were salary. Office martyr used to receive employee of the month awards all the time, with the manager’s comment always being “They work crazy hours!” (Which sadly shows that a lot of the time, this attitude flows from the top.)

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I was thinking about OT too. If she’s hourly she may be milking the company for more money.

  8. TK*

    #1 I have the reverse issue. Everyone at my small but rapidly growing company is being asked to do more work than we can finish in 40 hrs a week. I am pretty firm about keeping my nights and weekends, but there are martyr types who are working early and late every day, and on weekends. Is it ok for me to keep working normal hours (45 max) when some team members are throwing all their time into it? For reference it’s marketing, it’s not life or death. I’ve been asking for additional headcount since we’re financially successful but it’s at least 6 months out.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Following this because I’ve also gotten sucked into the culture of everyone trying to be indispensable – I ended up moving to a country with a healthier work/life balance in general but I wish there were more protections stateside for employees who don’t want to be treated like on-call/96 hour shift doctors.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s fine to keep your boundaries and stick to 45hrs. But honestly if you’re the only one doing that, people will notice and possibly comment. It may mean they’ll be promoted or treated more favorably. That’s always a possibility when you go against the grain of what the company has requested of you, despite the requests being difficult like adding hours to everyone. It’s all about the office culture in the end. Sometimes people are flexible and reasonable, other times they want to work you to death and will demand it in the end.

      Do your thing. They’re hopefully the reasonable sort who won’t care and act messy about you having a limit on your contributions.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      That’s a really tricky one.

      It comes down to whether your management is expecting you do get everything done, no matter how much time it takes, or if they expect you to work reasonable hours, with not everything getting done. (or magical thinking, where you all work 40 hours a week, *and* everything gets done). It also depends on the nature of the work, likelihood of burnout, and how many people are on each side.

      It’s definitely possible that you will be seen as less of a team player, or less dedicated, if you’re going home at 5 when everyone else is there until 8 or 9. If they’re that short on people, you’re unlikely to get fired, but it may hurt your promotion or raise prospects, or result in resentment from coworkers.

      If you’re in the minority, it’s more likely to hurt you than if it’s just a few people working insane hours.

      On the other hand, there’s a limit to how productive you can be when working hours like this for months on end. If your job has easily measurable productivity markers, you may actually be more productive working an extra five hours a week than the people who are working 20 extra and are exhausted and making mistakes and having to redo stuff. Also, those people are more likely to genuinely burn out, and end up quitting (with or without something lined up).

      Personally, I’d be very unwilling to work myself into the ground and give up life outside of work because my job couldn’t manage to hire extra people to cover the increased workload.

    4. Tan*

      It sounds like you are doing what the company requested and more. The company simple wants more for nothing. It is particularly galling as the “financially successful”, yet won’t hire more. 6 months? That sounds like “never, unless someone quits, maybe”. This sound a lot like management don’t care or consider turnover inevitable etc. Really what you need is other staff to work less so that management are forced to hire. That maybe hard to do directly. But perhaps simple chat with coworkers and normalise a better work/life balance: ” last night I found xyz box set and ended up watching it for 5 hours”, “this morning I had such a nice walk to work, even stopped for a coffee at …”, “this weekend I spent walking through .. saw” etc. Basically try to make your coworkers become a little jealous of the fact you have a life because if they are constantly putting in extra they won’t be. Any kickback can be dealt with as a “I’m contracted 9-5 40 hours a week and I work 45 hours”… remember the company owes you time off at the end of the day (unless you have a job where you specifically are asked to be “on call”)

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s going to look bad if you’re the only one not putting in the extra hours, especially knowing there’s help on the horizon. Nobody wants to work a bunch of extra hours, but if everyone is pitching in except for you, when it comes time for promotions and raises, you may get passed over for one of the others who worked overtime to get the work done.

      1. Fikly*

        It will look bad, but you should also consider if you want to continue working here, given they’ve changed the expectations.

        Also, help on the horizon isn’t a given. There’s the promise of help on the horizon. And if the existing employees show they can do the work without the additional help, I’d be shocked if extra help materializes.

        1. Candi*

          It was a few years ago, but there was a letter here where one person had the work of three people shoved on her for reasons, and the LW was asking if there was a way to bring up to the boss they could not continue like this.

          Someone discussed the LW’s description of how hard they tried to stay up on top of everything, and told them to stop that. “Quit juggling, let the balls drop.”

          The point was to show that there was too much work; as long as she was getting everything done, the management could comfort themselves with the illusion that everything was fine.

          Unless the work matyrs cut it out, TK’s workplace is going to be in the same fix. Turnover will ensue, and they’ll lose some or all of their best people because of the comfortable illusion.

    6. EngineerMom*

      It’s definitely ok for you to keep working normal hours, and to draw boundaries around your life as you see fit. Don’t equate hours to productivity. If you’re continuing to meet your benchmarks and goals, the number of hours you work as a salaried employee matter zip.

      If your boss (or company culture) feels differently, that’s another issue, and something to take into account as you determine your future career path.

      Only you can determine what is a good choice for your situation and job. I work in a company that’s pretty flexible about work hours, and I draw very firm boundaries around what I’m willing to do regarding being “on call” for work. My company’s culture is that they will keep loading you up with work until you cry “mercy”, but once you do, they’ll back off and accept the boundary. So it’s up to individual employees to be firm about their boundaries.

    7. Legal Beagle*

      One more vote for yes, it’s ok. I’ve been in this spot, but I logistically couldn’t be at the office all hours like my coworkers could, so I had no choice but to keep firm boundaries around my work/life. It was stressful and I don’t doubt that it held me back, but I read some advice in the comments here once that really helped my perspective – you can’t care more about the company’s success than the company does. Don’t run yourself into the ground trying to cover a staff shortage that the company doesn’t find it worth investing the resources to mitigate. If they were sufficiently motivated to get extra support, they would. Even if you love your job and feel very connected to the company’s success, it’s still just a job. It’s ok (and imo, necessary) to care more about your own wellbeing and happiness than about the company’s bottom line.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        YES. I ran myself into the ground at Old Job. I kept working miracles for my clients, getting an insane amount of work done because I cared about them until I had to just stop and take another job. Suddenly, the people my bosses kept promising to hire materialized when I left. They replaced me with four other people. I really think if I had stayed, they would not have hired anyone for as long as they could.
        The business will not make decisions to hire and take on more costs unless forced to, and they won’t be forced to if everyone works insane hours. You may miss out on promotions, etc. but I think you have to decide what you’re willing to do to live a full life and set that standard, unless there is a clear win for you in the near future. For me, I was learning a new industry and willing to put up with a lot to learn the ropes. If there’s no impending promotion or coveted thing you’re after, the extra hours aren’t worth it.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          And if they can get all that work out of you in your current job, are they really likely to promote you out of it and hire someone who might not take on the load? Like the chestnut about someone being “too valuable” right where they are. Yeah. Right.

    8. Observer*

      You totally can keep to your hours. But, unless you have VERY reasonable bosses, I’d also start looking for a new job. This is ESPECIALLY true if your team mates are not recording the extra time they spend.

      Because the kind of people who think that asking for 50 hour a week on the regular is reasonable are likely to see you are a “not team player” and “not loyal”. Even if they don’t penalize you, who needs that kind of attitude. Having options is good.

  9. Gleeze*

    #5 I always ask why the role is available. Depending on what I know about the role I might ask it’s a new role or growth or changes in the team. I wouldn’t say anything about high turnover unless it’s been reported somewhere.

    You can also easily investigate this yourself. Search in linkedin for people in that role at the company and see their tenure. People in that role previously should also come up so fairly easy to see if it’s a turnover issue.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Same.

      I’m always replacing someone and therefore how long the former person held the position for. That tells me a lot. I’m going to be concerned if they weren’t there at least a few years but that’s due to my role being one that leans long term if the company/leadership isn’t a disaster.

      1. Fikly*

        It’s also very useful to know if it’s a new position, because new positions tend to be less defined and more subject to change, so it helps to be aware of that when considering if you want to take the job if offered it.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          This turned out to be a struggle for me. My position was vacant for four years between my predecessor and me, the responsibilities got spread around, and the company got accustomed to functioning without it. I spent most of my first year twiddling my thumbs and waiting for something to do.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Very true. New positions are tricky beasts that should be something you’re fully aware of being new and sculpted before accepting.

          I had the opposite of Junior Assistant. My position was new but they tried different options for a couple years before I rolled in. I had waist high documents to wade through. They couldn’t not do something for all that time but their fix was very amateur to say the least. They were in a growth spurt plus a secondary business for the owners so it was leaky AF.

          But thankfully that’s my jam. And I left it an actual structured functioning position to fill.

    2. Marion Ravenwood*

      This. It’s one of my stock questions for the ‘is there anything you’d like to ask us?’ bit of the interview.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep, if I forget to tell you why we’re hiring (usually part of my about-the-role spiel at the start of an interview), please ask me!

      Some of my entry-level roles have higher-than-average turnover. Some of it is because the roles have been successful, and we have gotten a lot of request to add another; some of it is because people taking it are basically trying to see if they like the role to go on to graduate/professional school – many leave to pursue more education after a year or two, some people leave sooner because they see enough and know they don’t want to be in the field and want to try another one.

    4. Midwest writer*

      I agree. I’ve had a decent amount of success with it, too. Some jobs I’ve turned down based on the answer, other jobs I got some info that didn’t scare me away, but that gave me a better picture of the employer in general. It’s always been fairly useful.

    5. LW5*

      Oh wow, I’ve never asked that question before. I love that because it’s a pretty straightforward way of finding out what’s going on with the role. Thanks for the suggestion!

    6. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      I also always ask why the position is open. And most of the time, the answer is lies. When I went thru the spate of short term jobs described upthread, I was told by one that it was a newly created position because the work had grown so much. LIE. I learned there had always been 2 people in my role, only someone was always new and someone was always fed up and about to leave. My immediate predecessor didn’t come back after 1 week. Another job told me the person left because they’d just had a baby and wanted more time at home with it. LIE. The “baby” was 2-1/2 yrs old by then and the role had gone from a full-time who retired, to no one, to a part timer, to 2 part timers sharing full time load, to part time again when one quit, to vacant when the 2nd part timer quit. And neither of them had any background in the role but it was “something they wanted to get into.” Jeezy, do employers really think the word isn’t going to get out?

    1. LemonLyman*

      Haha! Same! Although I don’t think we have enough info to conclude that the friend is concern trolling. Since she’s a friend, I’m inclined to think that she is genuinely concerned since pretty much nothing in the internet is anonymous! (Check out the episode “Your Metadata is Showing” episode of the podcast “Note to Self”)

    2. Kat in VA*

      It’s especially insidious because if you have the temerity to get upset, the concern troller and turn around and say, “I was just saying I’m worried about X or Y, you don’t have to get upset about it!”

      1. Paulina*

        The standard response to a concern troll is “Thank you for your concern.” It can enable you to label them appropriately (for yourself, and anyone in the know who hears/reads it), but doesn’t give them traction. Can even be followed up with “I will give it all due consideration” (where “all due” is None).

  10. RUKiddingMe*

    OP3: You are not their employee. You are a separate company providing services on a per job, as opposed to per hour basis.

    They have zero business tracking your hours or dictating how you organize your schedules.

    Their entire and only concern is whether or not your company, as a vendor meets the deadline for deliverables and that said deliverables are as agreed.

    They are thinking of their contractors as employees. They need to be disabused of this notion…sooner rather than later.

  11. LemonLyman*

    OP5 – I agree with Allison. It’s probably because of a growing team. Or maybe the team is made up of 10 people and Person 10 was hired 2 years ago but now Person 4 is leaving. The other possibility is that it’s considered an entry level position and it’s common to shift out of it after a couple of years.

    Other commenters have suggested asking if it’s a new position or if you’d be filling a vacancy. That’s a legitimate question. I’d add asking how large the team is and even how long people on the team have been in their roles. That will give you more info regarding turnover.

  12. CM*

    #3 — I’m 99% sure this is just a cursed client, but you can try having a conversation with them about what problem their spyware is intended to solve.

    If they tell you they want to spy on you because they’re worried that you’re not going to deliver their project on time, you can talk about what happens, contractually, if you fail to deliver on time (they don’t have to pay, or they get a discount, or whatever it is). If they tell you they’re worried that you’re overcharging based on how many hours you actually work on the project, you can try to explain that your pricing structure is based on the value of the work and not how long it takes to produce it (Chris Do has some good speeches about that). If they hedge a lot and tell you it’s just their policy or whatever, you can proactively bring up the first two points and explain that stuff to them anyway.

    Basically, the approach would be, “I’m definitely not installing spyware on my machines, but if there’s another way to help you feel more confident about the project, I am here for you.”

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      This client sounds really controlling. Some clients think they own their vendors. In my experience, a client like this is not worth working with.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      If they do say it’s there policy then the LW can say well it goes against MY company policy to allow clients to have access to other clients information.
      Also, if they are in the EU or work with clients in the EU this may go against GDPR Guidelines (The General Data Protection Regulation).

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Or California’s CCPA…

        There are variations of this that could be compliant with GDPR / CCPA. GDPR / CCPA are about knowledge and consent – the data owner has to know about how you’re going to use the data, and explicitly consent to that usage. So, if the client company said, ‘person X will be viewing the data for Y, and deleting it at Z times’, and LW agreed to this, it would not violate the law. Client employees would have to be informed and consent, client would probably make it a condition of employment.

        This is, of course, not how the client is approaching it.

  13. idi01*

    #3- it is not allowed for employers to look at screenshots of even their own employees in the EU. Technically you can take a screenshot, but only in a legal situation would someone be allowed to look at it.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think that is necessarily or always true – it will often depend on the specifics and on the internal policies.
      I think it is probably the case that employers can’t do it unless they have explicitly told employees that they may / will do so, and they would have to have legitimate reasons for it.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Right – not a GDPR lawyer, but did go through 6+ hours of training on it: if the employer was explicit, obtained consent (and they don’t consider ‘or be fired’ to be coercive, sigh), limited the usage and spread of the data, they could be in compliance.

  14. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I’m an attorney. The thought of installing spyware so one client can continuously monitor my desktop is nearly making me break out in hives over here.

    1. Sled dog mana*

      Healthcare, providing services to multiple clinics. YIKES this is a nightmare waiting to cause a serious data breach.

  15. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    #1: I like Alison’s approach here. It is truly helpful if the coworker needs some help in terms of working more efficiently. And if the coworker is being a work martyr, this calls that out. Either way, I think it will help resolve the problem.

  16. Older Glitch*

    #2 I have something knocking at the back of my brain about certain areas of the finance sector being concerned over the occupations and backgrounds of both the employee and their spouse due to blackmail risks or temptation if in financial difficulty. I’d maybe suggest to them to look at expectations for the types of jobs he intends to work in, just in case.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Excellent point but I think for your average run-of-the-mill staff accountant/financial analyst role at a public company, he should be fine though. My company, Fortune 500 manufacturing, never even asked about my marital status until I filled out my tax and benefit forms so I know they weren’t looking into my husband at all. Government and banking might be different so for the boyfriend, it might just eliminate a few employment opportunities in those sectors. Although since they aren’t married I don’t know how deep they will dig into her anyway.
      Most likely the worst that will happen is he gets a couple “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” looks from some coworkers who have subscribed to her videos. If, down the road they get concerned about that being an issue, they can simply decide she doesn’t attend work events.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah I guess I can imagine a scenario where people find out and it becomes a thing and it gets in the way of promotions… but I can’t really imagine how it would prevent him from getting hired in the first place because why would they even know she is his wife? I feel like it would only ever come up if there’s like a company Christmas party and she attends and someone recognizes her and starts gossiping. If she never even attends social functions with him I’m not sure how anyone would even know they are married, let alone what her side gig is.

    2. Sharikacat*

      A lot of companies are going to worry about the optics about an employee’s partner producing porn, so I would think that the partner’s future career is a consideration if they are still together long-term and he wants to rise to a higher-profile position, either in that company or in a larger company. That said, I also think it’s more of the internal optics rather than the general public. Even if the would-be husband becomes a big financial or accounting executive at Bank of America, Wells Fargo, etc., how many such employees can you name off the top of your head? The only time the general public even briefly remembers corporate individuals is if they’ve done something to gain public attention, which is typically muck-ups of the company-wide-screw-over-the-customers-nationwide-now-there-are-Congressional-hearings level. The friend’s partner should be just fine.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Of course blackmail only works if both parties agree that the information getting out would be a terrible thing. If the response to “I know your wife used to do porn” is “Yup! And dude, she was smokin’ hot! Let me show you!” then there is no blackmail threat.

    4. Paulina*

      Given the friend’s dream job, though, those expectations might affect her entire intended career, not just what she’s doing right now. It’s a big ask, to suggest that she compromise all that for some possible future issue when her bf doesn’t see any problem himself.

  17. TimeTravelR*

    Years ago there was this one company name that kept popping up in my job searches. It seemed like they were always hiring and I just figured that turnover was crazy, they must not take care of their employees… something! So I never applied. One day, a friend of mine asked me to apply for a job with their company. It was *that* company! I was hesitant but I really respected my friend and was definitely in the market for a new job. I applied, was offered a higher level position based on my credentials and interview… turns out it was growth. The average tenure in this company that was (at the time) about 40 years old was about 20 years!

  18. LGC*

    LW2:

    She not someone you could search on Pornhub and find because she sells through subscription sites so its not like she’s the next Riley Reid or anything

    I hate to break it to you, but to paraphrase the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska: The internet is not a truck. It is a series of tube sites.

    That is to say: I would venture to say her videos are less obscure than you think.

    Also, all that said: this wasn’t your question, but just because it might be a risk to her boyfriend’s career doesn’t mean she should stop! It sounds like the main stakeholders in this (which would be her and her boyfriend) are on board with her choice to do sex work, and I’ll assume that the boyfriend (since we’re primarily talking about him) has weighed the pros and cons of this. So, really, my answer is “maybe, but really the acquaintance that screamed ‘BUT WON’T YOU PLEEEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN BOYFRIEND’S CAREER’ is a jerk.”

    1. Sharikacat*

      The friend may sell her videos only to subscribers, but it’s almost a sure thing that some of those are being uploaded to Pornhub and other sites by those very subscribers. Besides, nothing can ever be erased on the Internet.

      1. LGC*

        Yeah, that’s my point – paywalls routinely get breached, and I’d bet the friend’s body of work is in places she doesn’t want it to be. But it’s kind of beside the point anyway, I think. I don’t think it changes the answer, since the friend is already open about her job and her boyfriend is all right with this.

        (I still feel super uncomfortable framing it as being about the boyfriend first, but the question is about his career. If he WAS bothered by any risk, that’s a discussion they need to have.)

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Lots of subscription based sites advertise and release teasers that end up on free bulk sites as well. It’s marketing. You’re going to need to show people your product to get them interested in the program.

      I’ve seen so many cam girls end up on those bulk sites.

  19. Tom Collins*

    People have absolutely lost Security Clearances because their spouse engaged in legal sex work. It’s not necessarily likely but it has happened.

  20. tinybutfierce*

    #1: Oh man, OP, if you have any power to push back on this employee’s behavior, please do. I previously worked with a manager who behaved this way, and it was often outright maddening, because they ended up creating a false sense of urgency and unneeded stress on the rest of the staff. And it genuinely was unnecessary; I was their assistant and knew pretty much everything they did day in and day out, and absolutely none of it required the level of over-worked devotion or emergency they often caused. But it definitely trickled down to everyone else and made them constantly worried they weren’t working enough or hard enough somehow, or at the least, that their manager would think that.

    #3: I can’t even imagine being an actual employee somewhere that uses software like that. It just seems so ridiculously mistrustful of their own staff.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I said the same thing about #3 – that would be a deal breaker for me. If you don’t trust me to get my work done, then I’m out.

    2. Sharbe*

      Had a coworker who claimed the sky was falling every day, and that if we didn’t obsess about our tasks to the same extent that she did – well, we were obviously bad employees who didn’t care about our jobs at all. She came in early, took work home, and had to be practically banned from the building when she was forced to take vacation days, etc. When she finally left we found out here job could be done in a little less than half the time. Threw out about 90% of her paper and digital files.

  21. Minimax*

    Sadly even the OP admit their fault “I admire her work ethic” is often rewarded with these types.

  22. Phillip*

    #3, I would drop this client. IME clients that make an unreasonable request have a high likelihood of revisiting it repeatedly when rejected, as you have found. And if you think about it, they will never have a satisfactory experience since you will never comply. It’s not worth the headache and distraction, assuming this client is roughly equivalent to all your others in terms of workload and revenue.

    1. Jdc*

      Right. Plus you are only working on our work during this time! No i also check my emails, perhaps google my doctors phone number real quick, etc. Such an invasion.

      1. Phillip*

        Right, I don’t know OPs work, but personally I am often not working on any one person’s job long enough at any one time for that sort of monitoring to be meaningful. I’ve definitely had clients that have had that mistaken impression though. And what will they say if you don’t put any time at all on it on a random Wednesday? It would have been because you made a decision based on the needs of your business.

  23. Spring Break shame*

    #2 When my husband was interviewing for a CFO position at a larger company, they looked both of us up very extensively and brought up in his interview their concern about a not adult but very questionable and very sexual and nude video of me when I was 18 on spring break (It was 15 years later when that happened I was 33). He ultimately didn’t get the position, and he went to a smaller company with less of a public image. Up until that position no one had brought it up ever, and the positions he held were high in the company and on the finance side, which is usually a little stricter.

    1. Spring Break shame*

      It was 15 years later when the company looked me up. I put that in an odd spot in the original comment and can’t edit

    2. Jdc*

      Someone looking me up to hire my husband gives me such the creeps, and he works in highly secure gov work.

    3. Ryan Howard’s White Suit*

      My husband also didn’t get a job once because of me. I work in a highly polarizing field and at the time was working for an organization that is universally accepted as a representative of the field. Someone on the hiring committee didn’t like that and blocked him from being hired. Since then I have also been told people have searched for information about me, but what’s out there with my married name is pretty sparse and now that I’m in academia I publish under my maiden name.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      But hopefully a professional is not posting under her real name… the chance of it coming up would be from someone recognizing her in person.

      1. TimeTravelR*

        And if you only recognize her from watching her site… are you ready to admit that in an effort to keep this guy from being hired?! *shrug*

      2. Grace*

        It also depends on what is said in the comments and if anyone shares it and outs her. It also depends on how in depth of a search the employer does, and who they have doing it a company with specialty software or just Jane from HR.

    5. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Did they give a reason? My assumption is that in the role they wouldn’t want someone who might be manipulated, blackmailed I guess, into disclosing company secrets? Or am I being naive?

  24. Jdc*

    LW5: I always ask why the position is open. It gives a lot of insight. Is it a new position and you’re going to be shaping it? Did someone abruptly leave (they likely won’t tell you but you can often get a feeling based on their response). Did Jane just decide to stay home with her new baby and not come back? It’s a very helpful question. They won’t badmouth their own company but read their cues and if it feels like a stock answer.

    1. Mel_05*

      It can give a lot of insight. But, they can also lie.

      Ine place told me they’re having new growth and people never leave – but every year I see them reposting the same two positions and there’s no way they have THAT much growth. And others have verified that the turnover is high.

      Another place told me the person before me left for “personal reasons” which I took at face value. They also told me they hadn’t had anyone in the position before that.

      I took the job.

      The personal reasons turned out to be that she was having a breakdown from the micro management. I also found out that there had been SEVERAL people in the position before her. They apparently left for the same reason.

      1. Jdc*

        They can for sure lie but anyone can be lying at any time. You have to trust your gut and make your decision.

    2. LW5*

      Yeah, I’ve read that a lot of commentators ask that question, which I never have in the past! It’s gonna be my go-to question from now on. Thanks!

  25. Employment Lawyer*

    2. Could doing adult work harm your future spouse’s career?
    At some conservative companies, or in some conservative areas: yes.

    But even there it would only happen once you were already hired, because they are unlikely to give a hoot about your spouse (much less dig into their work history) during the pre-hire phase.

    And at most places they are unlikely to care at all, because nobody really cares what people’s spouses do or did. They may care SOCIALLY of course, because for many monogamous folks it may be harder to understand how someone could be happily partnered with a sex professional, but presumably everyone is already used to that and IMO it is unlikely to have much (if any) effect professionally.

    3. Client wants to monitor our work in a weird and invasive way
    Are you willing to lose the client over this? If so:
    “You are paying me by the job, and I deliver an excellent product. You have absolutely no input over how I produce the work . If you have a specific deadline you need or if you have specific production you need, we can talk about contracting for that. If you generally do not to trust my business to keep your work confidential then you’d be better off going elsewhere, as I am not interested in working with clients who distrust me. But frankly if I want to work on two things at once that is my business and there is absolutely no circumstance where I would ever allow you to track my hours much less monitor my desktop to force me to work in the fashion that you would prefer. If you continue to ask for this I will not be able to continue working for you.”

    If not, just keep saying no, and raise your contract price by 15% to compensate for the pain-in-the-ass factor.

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Ha! Love that. Back when I was freelancing I firmly believed in billing for aggravation (why are you calling me for the 5th time today when I’ve already assured you that I will deliver your job on Friday? You’re hanging the job specs AGAIN when I’m halfway done and now practically have to start over? I just sent you my third monthly invoice and I’ve been very patient regarding your cash flow/staffing/whatever the hell problem, but I did your work and you WILL pay me.) Bluhhhh.

  26. GreyjoyGardens*

    OP #2: I wouldn’t worry about your friend’s work harming her fiance’s career, even in a conservative field like banking. For one thing, there’s always plausible denial – unless Friend has some very distinctive tattoos or something, she and/or Fiance could always say “you must be mistaken” or something like that. And really, unless it’s one of those tiny super-gossipy “close-knit” (ugh) workplaces, most of their future coworkers have better things to do than gossip and speculate about their coworkers’ private lives.

    I would honestly be more worried about impact on his or her career if they wanted to go into teaching or youth ministry or some other profession which involves working with kids, where people often HAVE to appear absolutely squeaky clean, with nothing that would make Tipper Gore blush in their background. Teachers in training have been disciplined or fired for posting pictures to Facebook/Instagram of them partying, clothed, never mind unclothed.

    But if you’re working in a bank with all adults? Who cares. They’re far more concerned about anything to do with money than anything to do with what your friend does.

    1. Goofy*

      Have to respectfully disagree with your first paragraph: it’s never the crime, it’s the cover-up. So if you lie about your spouse being the one in the video, now you’re not just someone who’s married to someone who may have shown bad judgment in the past; you’re someone who yourself is showing dishonesty and bad judgment in the present.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        I think if a *boss* asks, point-blank, then yes, you want to tell the truth (in confidence!). Same with any background checks or security clearances.

        But nosy co-workers? What is wrong with lying to them? It’s none of their business. If they want to play stupid games, they can win stupid prizes.

        1. Quill*

          You don’t even need to lie to the coworkers, necessarily, just bluntly state that that was an inappropriate question to ask.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            yeah, my answer would be, ‘Why are you bringing up porn at work? What does that have to do with the job?!’

            That said: people should never assume the person they see is the person they think it is. Twenty years ago, I looked enough like someone that I was mistaken for her in a grocery store (her ex-coworker), in a restaurant (her friend), and in a parking garage. The parking garage was her *husband*, who wondered why his wife was coming to his work until I got within 10 feet.

            That was so awkward I forgot to ask her name, really wish I had now.

          2. aebhel*

            Yep. Lying isn’t necessary, but a flat, “Wow, what an inappropriate question to ask a coworker,” and then no further information would be a good response.

          3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yesssss, this. Especially since bringing up that at work is dangerous waters towards hostile work environment territory, since the world is slowly changing towards not putting up with this kind of BS.

          4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Although I’d consider that anyone who had the nerve to ask that, it would be fun to lie to. Don’t tell Mom I said that.

  27. Not So Super-visor*

    OP#1: I used to do the same thing as your coworker. When I was pushed to evaluate why I was doing this, the conclusion was that by making myself busy (or appear to be busy), I felt valuable, needed, and important, plus I thought that it would give me an advantage in getting ahead (“look how dedicated I am!”) In all honesty, I was going through a turbulent time in my personal life, and the busyness made me feel important. The thought process was “I can’t take a day off. What would they do without me?” but when I was challenged, I realized that I was taking on coworker’s duties when I came in on weekends (“to help them get caught up”) or spending time on things that I didn’t really need to do (rechecking old reports as an example). I’m actually really grateful to the manager who pushed this, and I have a much better work-life balance now.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      Thank you for your honest and insightful comment. This helps shed light on someone on my staff who has similar tendencies. She’s very dedicated, a solid high B grade performer, but does an awful lot of unnecessary work in the “check and recheck old census reports just in case” category, which has her clocking out at midnight and 1:00 am(!). I can easily imagine that some of what you describe here may be going on with her.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Honestly, that reminds me of my habit of driving around the block after I leave the house just in case I didn’t close the garage door.

    2. Quill*

      I used to take twice as long to do pretty much any form of data entry because my working memory was *so bad* due to anxiety.

      Making templates that autocalculate a lot of these things has saved my bacon more than once.

  28. NicoleK*

    #1 I work with someone like that. She announces how late she stays, what she’s accomplished for the day, and what she intends to work on next. She makes a big show about how busy she is. And she thinks she works harder than anyone else. She doesn’t like other people taking vacations. With her, it’s a combination of low self worth, needing constant reassurance/approval, too much socializing, overall incompetence, inefficiency, and she’s slower than molasses.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yup, been there. “I was here until 8pm” would earn some sympathy if we didn’t know you spent most of your day socializing, making personal phone calls, making lunch and posting on Facebook.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “I was here until 8pm”

        “Gosh, that’s rough. I am thankful that I can work faster than that.”

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        “I was here until 8 pm.”

        “And I was working from 8 am to 5 pm. Funny how we all like to schedule our day a little differently, isn’t it?”

    2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      I had a co-worker like that too. When she was on the phone with her sales guy she would say loud enough for everyone to hear “I think it’s interesting that my co-workers can take breaks and/or leave on time but I’m just sooooo busy.” Didn’t bother me one bit though, I was out the door at 5 with a smile on my face. :-)

  29. blink14*

    OP #2 – Your friend has every right to do what works for her. However, I would strongly caution that anything out on the internet lives forever, in some way or form. Particularly in terms of the work she is doing, it would be very difficult and probably nearly impossible to 100% delete that content and be sure that it is deleted (from screenshots, downloads, etc). We don’t yet know the full weight of the internet’s longevity and impact on people over their lifetime, and how that may change for better or worse over time.

    While in the short term she is gaining positives from it, I do believe it very well could come back at her negatively in the future, and/or may have a negative effect on any current or future partner as well. Particularly if that person is a more “conservative” or security focused industry.

    She may want to start hiding her identity physically on screen, and really beef up her online security. I would think somewhere out in the world there are legitimate security services for people like your friend who put out content on the internet and want to protect their personal security and the security of their content.

    1. Quill*

      At the very least reduce connections of online presence to her legal name. (I’d treat this as obvious but LW says that the industry connection is obvious from her social media.)

  30. drpuma*

    OP2 – I hate to say it, but depending on how entrenched the patriarchy is at your friend’s future husband’s theoretical firm, her adult career could be a feature rather than a bug. It could potentially make him look “good” (ie, hyper masculine) that he bagged a “porn star” and got her to “settle down” (ie, leave the biz, true or not) for him. Entrenched power can be so, so, weird. There are so many unknowns here – I strongly agree with Alison’s conclusion that your friend and her partner should be treated like adults who can make their own decisions.

  31. Matilda Jefferies*

    #4, the flip side to Alison’s advice is that it’s also okay if it does come up! This was your most recent interaction with this person, so likely you’re both going to be thinking about it to some degree. So it’s totally fine if you do happen to ask how the hiring process is going, or if they say something like “we hired our second choice but of course they’re not as good as you are!” I know it feels loaded to you, but at this point it’s almost certainly just chatting.

    1. Sharikacat*

      I also think this hinges on whether the LW used the job offer purely as leverage to get a raise/perks with their original company. I’d be rightfully upset if I invested time in the hiring process only to discover the candidate never had any intention of joining in the first place. But if that’s not the case, then the LW is just fine! The current job may have other benefits that wouldn’t be met at another employer (ease of commute, for example), and maybe the LW has a really great relationship with their colleagues that can make a new job feel risky for the quality of your day. If that company can otherwise retain a good employee with a small raise or some extra PTO, then it makes sense that the LW may have only reluctantly been looking for another job and found those other needs met on the counter-offer.

  32. West*

    Why does the header call out the not actually busy employee as “she” when the letter writer specifically used gender neutral pronouns?

  33. Falling Diphthong*

    #3: Oh hells to the no.

    I would follow your contract ripping up tactic even if it were hourly work. Especially when the work is by the piece rather than hourly. (Some of my better work insights, like how to smooth out this rough section, come when I stop to walk my dogs midday.) There is absolutely no reason for what they are doing beyond “We Can.”

    It reminds me of ridiculous and lengthy pre-interview hoops which appear to have been set up by people who have never interviewed, but think 20 essays is a reasonable first step.

  34. animaniactoo*

    #3, possibly you also need to go back to the client and say some form of this:

    “You seem to have a misunderstanding of the nature of a contractor relationship. As a consultant/independent contractor, we determine what we work on when and how. There can be no expectation on your side that we are exclusively working on your project at any particular moment in time. The only expectation can be that the work will be delivered on time and to the specifications requested. If you wish us to work exclusively for you, that would be a different kind of agreement than the contracts you have in place with us.”

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        hahahahahahha

        My kid saw a a picture of me from high school and had a hard time believing it was really me. And then he saw my parents’ college pictures and just Could Not.

  35. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2 you are essentially this person’s supervisor, so you must have more information about their actual workload and efficiency.

    Are they taking 20% longer than you’d expect? 50%? Is someone upstream delaying them? Are they having to redo work? Or are they working at the same pace as you did, but the workload has increased?

    You should look at all that before you have any kind of conversation with them.

  36. Quill*

    #1. One thing I haven’t seen addressed is that there’s a possibility that pretending to be really busy is done out of fear of looking idle when it comes time for performance to be reviewed. Even if that’s the case, Allison’s script is probably best.

    #3. Honestly if you have the authority, cancel this contract ASAP. The degree of risk to data confidentiality with this program shows that they either have terrible judgement about security (in trying to make you use a program that could give them information about your other clients – the fact that it’s dumping your desktop info into their storage at ANY point is extremely sketchy, because they can therefore capture push notifications from other projects, etc.) or they are actively all right with spying on your other work.

    At several of my previous jobs, installing a program that could capture work and send it off to a third party, even if it was something for a collaboration with an outside company, would have been a firing offense.

  37. swollie*

    OP1: In addition to what Allison and other commenters shared, another possible impact of your co-worker’s busy-ness is that they will just look incompetent. If the work is truly of a type and amount that can be completed reasonably within the workday and they are constantly staying late, working sick, and skipping vacation to complete said work, it’s a really bad look for them and their fit for the work and the company. If other rationale for them to tone it down doesn’t help, maybe this self-facing optics one will.

  38. ACDC*

    I worked for someone like OP #1’s coworker. He would work minimum 12 hour days every work day, would always do extra work at home, etc. For him, it all stemmed from a fear of obsolescence. He was close-ish to retirement and wasn’t very tech savvy (despite working for a tech company), so he was always afraid that they would replace him with someone younger. This was also the reason he gave me approximately 30 minutes of work every day, he was worried I would surpass him and the company would give me his job.

  39. Yikes*

    I’m neurodivergent, which I am not open about at work, and it sometimes takes me much longer to complete tasks than it “should.” I remember in the 10th grade my Spanish teacher called me a liar in front of the class when I said I hadn’t been able to finish something in the allotted time. Just… be open, OP1.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Fair, and very good comment. I know it’s been a real struggle to teach my neurodivergent kid how to find the right level of detail for his work. The 3-page treatises for 2nd grade meant waaaaay too much time spent on homework.

  40. TootsNYC*

    if this acquaintance knows what the wife is doing, and if it’s obvious from her social media that she’s doing this, then the husband’s future colleagues are going to know.

    Even if only through gossip.

    if, as the OP says, “you can tell from her social media that she is doing this,” then she is NOT being locked-down about it.

  41. I'm the sw girl*

    Hi there, This is actually the friend who does porn (did me and my friend go get coffee just so we could read this together and reply? absolutely). I saw that several comments mentioned similar things so i’ll give some extra info. One of my most popular videos has my face very clearly in it for an extended period of time (i’m sure you can figure out why) and i also have several very distinctive tattoos so it is pretty easy to confirm that i am the girl in the video. Social media is a common way to market your porn so it is fairly easy to use that to connect my name to what i do. My partner knows about what I am doing and is supportive. He only asks that I dont try to move from “girl who does porn” to “porn star” and be like super famous or anything because that did make him concerned about how it might affect him. I am in grad school working on an MBA and am very aware how my current side gig (i do have a “real” job as well) could affect future employment. I dont really want to work for a company that wouldnt hire someone because they have done sw. We currently live in a small college town in a state thats not that conservative but our area is but will most likely be moving to a bigger city after we graduate (a midwest big city, not like LA or NY). I wouldnt mind staying involved in sw even if I do end up no longer filming and would love to work for a porn company or sex toy company but have kinda no clue about how to make the transition. Thanks for the advice and i really appreciate how respectful people have been when commenting on this, i’m used to a lot of disrespectful comments regarding what i do so this was nice to see.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Go you! It seems like you’re being fairly thoughtful about it. Life is definitely all about choices and how choices impact your future. Do sit down with your bf and make sure that he’s ok with the limits this will put on his career. State / local govt probably ok, but it might limit his career in federal govt or banking.

      Also – make sure you look hard into working at Adam and Eve / PHE Inc. Your employment would not affect his getting jobs in the area, and Hillsborough’s in range for Durham / RTP jobs, if you live in N Durham. Hillsborough’s a weird mix of artist colony and red necks (they have a Klan problem), but Durham’s vibrant and cool. PHE is the biggest employer, and from the people I know who work there, a good place to work. The weather’s nice, and you’re 3hrs from either the beach or the mountains.

      – signed, someone who shared an office with the company that first put A&E’s catalog on the web. I got to help with the scanning once in a while…

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Clarification: PHE is the largest single employer in *Hillsborough*, Durham / RTP have a ton of larger companies.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Hey, thanks for the update. I’m sure your sw experience combined with your MBA and your “get things done” approach will serve you well when you decide to move into a different line of work. If you have a research component to your MBA, maybe you could focus on specific aspects of sw that you’re interested in? That might help you figure out how to make the career change and also build up a network.

      I would hope that even people who are pretty conservative about sex (like me) can distinguish between “this is a reason not to promote someone” and “this is something that I might feel weird about but is irrelevant to this person’s work performance and ability to do the job”.

    3. TimeTravelR*

      It occurs to me after reading your OP and the comments that if I were doing a background check, the fact that you are up front and seem pretty open makes it less of a red flag. It’s the stuff that people try to hide that makes them vulnerable to the undue influence of those who want to use it against them. *does that make any sense??? I am incredibly tired today**

    4. Red Light Special*

      Hey, fellow SW here! Congrats on finding a successful side gig, and for being unabashed about it – that’s a big hurdle that makes a huge difference in quality of life. I do think the person fussing about this is probably bringing a lot of social baggage and not much informed knowledge. TLDR: consider separating your personal and professional social media, not linking your boyfriend’s with the latter. If you’ve both considered and consented to the modest risks, don’t worry too much.

      Apologies if you already know all this. Social media is indeed the biggest marketing channel at the moment, whether for online or in-person work, and you pretty much have to use it. There is literally no perfect firewall online if you use it both personally and professionally, especially since you’re already out there. But if you don’t already, I’d recommend having totally separate accounts, scrubbing your pro content from your personal one, and not linking your professional accounts to your or your boyfriend’s personal ones. I’m lucky enough to have come of age online when obscuring your real identity was standard, so I have no online footprint with my legal name. Plenty of nude photos showing my face, and a tiny bit of video, but only my professional identity.

      My husband and I had to think hard about how much to link ourselves online. We settled on a very anonymous Twitter account for him linked with mine (my primary site, professional only), no photos of his face on Twitter at all, and no links between it or me to his Facebook (his primary site, with real-life info) – and I don’t have a Facebook account at all. He has posted photos of us together on FB without my name. Facial recognition software could pin us if someone was motivated; it’s not a perfect solution. But it’s at least an extra few layers between an easy ID and one that takes effort – you can’t connect us with a click or two – and it was with intention and mutual consent after considering the possible penalties. He works in software in a very liberal city, I’m out to my whole family – the risk of professional and personal consequences is low. So far we’ve had no issues with anyone from his work finding that connection, and I do think our precautions help with that.

      The most pragmatic reason to decouple and scrub your social media is that most sites are *very* SW unfriendly, even for legal work (notably Facebook and Instagram, and also PayPal). You risk permanently losing your personal accounts for TOS violation, and if you’re obviously linked to your boyfriend, his may be at risk as well – with no notice, no appeal. Depending on your priorities and what else you both use SM for, that might be a bigger deal than hypothetical future job issues.

      On a more cheerful note, although there’s been a big crackdown online in recent years (and in certain professions, like teaching), general social acceptance of sex work, porn use, and nontraditional careers is increasing. So if there is indeed career risk to your boyfriend, it may lessen with time.

      Good luck, and I hope it’s never an issue!

  42. TootsNYC*

    “When you announce to others that you need to work so many extra hours or cancel vacation, it gives other people the impression that our team is horribly overworking you. That’s not the case, and it cause problems if people believe it is.

    I had to do this with someone who worked for me. And that’s the wording I used. Though I didn’t think about the other applicants.
    What i pointed out what that she was making me look bad, like an incompetent and inconsiderate manager, when in fact, I kept the workflow even and checked in with her to be sure she knew that work could be picked up again in the morning.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Yes, it really does reflect badly on the group and manager in general if people are noticeably overworked.

      I’m in the process of moving internally and am assessing which group I’d like to transfer to, and you bet that I’m keeping my eyes and ears open to catch any sign of people struggling with work/life balance. The groups I’ve written off in my mind have the reputation of being busy and putting in long hours, in addition to the managers of those groups having the reputation of having “high expectations” (which is polite office speak for ‘grueling task master’). How true any of that is I do not know, but I’m not going to put myself in a position to find out firsthand, you know?

  43. Retail not Retail*

    Op1 – we’re hourly so much of these issues don’t apply but I have one coworker who won’t do what we’re sent to do because she sees things that do need doing. Friday was pretty bad because we had a strict deadline so I kept saying, “That’s not what we’re doing!” “It’ll look terrible!” “That is not OUR problem, if it has to be redone because he didn’t arrange enough time, that is on our manager.”

    One day was great because we had separate vehicles so all I did was say yo we’re leaving and not have to make her leave. She thinks we pack up too soon there’s just more to be done!

    The flip side is my work enemy/partner. If he’s in a Mood he’ll drag a task out so we won’t finish or I’ll end up doing most of it.

    It’s hard for some people to balance project based work with strict hours – it means we leave stuff undone until the next day or the next time we get permission to work at that site.

  44. OP#1*

    Hi Everyone – OP1 here. Thanks for the feedback and comments. I especially appreciate the script Allison gave me. I actually had not considered how this made us as a team appear and how it could potentially affect future recruitment.
    Between writing this letter and today, a couple of things have happened. This person seemed particularly overwhelmed one day and we sat down and talked about their workload and walked through a number of their projects and tasks and had a discussion about what to prioritize. It made me realize that they have a lot of difficulty prioritizing tasks, and often spend unnecessary time worrying about things that are due far in the future and attempting to get both those tasks completed while completing imminent tasks at the same time. I have been making an effort to sit down with them regularly and the situation has improved somewhat. To address a lot of the comments, this person is not wasting time socializing, but several of the other root causes of this behavior that commenters suggested are very likely. Also if I am being honest, when I wrote that I admire their commitment to the job, I wrote that so that I wouldn’t seem like a jerk. I think hard work is important, but not at the expense of one’s own sanity and I often have trouble understanding people’s commitment to jobs that don’t involve life or death consequences.

    1. Goldenrod*

      This makes so much sense to me. A former coworker of mine used to do the same thing – and we had pretty much identical jobs, so I saw first hand how it took her 10 times as long to do the same things I was doing.

      I realized it was because she couldn’t prioritize or manage her time effectively. She had a very linear, rigid work style which made her be 100% thorough with tasks she could have done more quickly and lightly – except she didn’t know how to do this. It was all-or-nothing, all the time, about everything.

      This wouldn’t really be a problem, except THEN she worked overtime and on weekends and complained about it! No matter how many (legitimate) shortcuts I showed her, she would not change her work style. And my managers LOVED me and never complained about my output, so it’s not like I was slacking off – I was just prioritizing well.

      Bottom line – it’s really hard to change a work martyr. If not impossible. They get some emotional payoff out of it, and no matter how much they complain, they will NOT consider a different approach.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I have ADHD and this is something I struggled with for a long time.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          I’m talking about this, not being a work matyr:

          “… couldn’t prioritize or manage her time effectively. She had a very linear, rigid work style which made her be 100% thorough with tasks she could have done more quickly and lightly – except she didn’t know how to do this. It was all-or-nothing, all the time, about everything.”

          1. Goldenrod*

            I think what makes it martyr-y (in my opinion) is the constantly complaining and virtue signaling….like, “I am so dedicated, I worked all weekend, and poor me, it’s terrible that I have to work on weekends.”

            If someone just owned it, and said, “I have a hard time prioritizing but I’m open to learning how to do that and I’m working on it” that would be totally different. The person I knew had zero interest in changing anything about her work style, and really seemed to perceive it as a workload problem (not something she was contributing to).

            1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

              There are 2 aspects to being able to prioritise.

              1. Having the domain knowledge to prioritise in a specific situation. For example, if you haven’t worked in emergency medicine you can’t prioritise which patients to treat first. This comes from a combination of “book learning” and experience.

              2. Then, which is difficult for neurotypical folk to understand at all, some of us don’t know how to prioritise at all, because weighing up the different factors is so hard. And sometimes maybe we lack awareness that prioritisation needs to happen, at all. We just optimistically (or something) think that we can do All The Things. Or we just start every new thing that comes along even if we haven’t finished the previous 3 things.

              I didn’t even know that I struggled to prioritise, it was invisible to me, until I got my ADHD diagnosis, and started reading up on how my brain works (compared with how I thought it was supposed to work). I taught myself to prioritise. I have to be a little more vigilant than others not to just leap into things without considering whether they are important (do I need to change my shoes again o will these do), whether there is time to do them (can I actually wash and style my hair in 10 minutes or should I just wear a hat), thinking through the consequences of one course of action over another (should I drive past 7 fuel stations because I might be late for my lecture, even though my tank is almost empty? The answer as you might have guessed was “no”).

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          This is something many neurodivergent people struggle with:
          “… couldn’t prioritize or manage her time effectively. She had a very linear, rigid work style which made her be 100% thorough with tasks she could have done more quickly and lightly – except she didn’t know how to do this. It was all-or-nothing, all the time, about everything.”

    2. Fikly*

      One of the most helpful things my manager did when when I was adjusting to my current job was email me a list of priorities.

      There are a number of things I can be working on in any given shift, and to have a clear list putting them in order from 1-6 was so incredibly helpful when I wasn’t confident enough to be making the calls myself, because I was so new.

    3. Close Bracket*

      I often have trouble understanding people’s commitment to jobs that don’t involve life or death consequences.

      Let go of understanding it, and work on accepting it. I’m not going to comment on “expense of one’s own sanity” part bc that’s not on you to evaluate, but plenty of people are really committed to things that don’t seem important to you. They get to decide what’s important to them and commit to it, even when lives are not on the line. So just, accept it. Take their commitment as a fact about them, like their hair color or email style, and go forward interacting with them with that as a fact in your mind.

  45. Tidewater 4-1009*

    OP1, you might want to be careful addressing your colleague’s habits, in case she’s a workaholic. If she is, she’s finding reasons to work all the time to avoid her life.
    My former boss was a workaholic and I did some research to help deal with him.
    Workaholics are like other addicts – if you confront them they get upset and defensive. If she seems to get disproportionately upset or defensive when you raise the subject, maybe back off and work with your boss on what to do.
    Good luck!

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      Sorry I didn’t see your comment before I posted! I’m glad it’s working out and she’s getting the help she needs. :)

    2. OP#1*

      This is a really good point. I guess it that case, my only concern would be the complaints about the work load?

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I think workaholics do complain. They’re not necessarily happy people. Just addicted.
        My boss used to complain something like “oh I have to do this and this and this Very Important Things and that’s why I can’t get to your thing…” he was very much into being a Dynamic Executive with Very Important Things To Do with upper management, etc.

        It led to a lot of disrespectful behavior. He was almost always late for meetings because he had been at Important Other Meetings. He would text during meetings because of All His Urgent Responsibilities.

        He also let responsibilities that *were* important go for months at a time, and I’m pretty sure this aggravated upper management and corporate, and led to them taking away some of our responsibilities and my position being eliminated. I needed a more interesting job anyway…

  46. I'm just here for the cats*

    If they do say it’s there policy then the LW can say well it goes against MY company policy to allow clients to have access to other clients information.
    Also, if they are in the EU or work with clients in the EU this may go against GDPR Guidelines (The General Data Protection Regulation).

  47. Amethystmoon*

    #1. Is this a temp job or a permanent job? In temporary jobs, people often look busy to avoid getting let go/laid off/whatever you want to call it for there not being enough work for them to do. It’s a skill most temps eventually learn, if for no other reason than to keep getting a paycheck.

    If this is a permanent job, could there be something else going on? Maybe the coworker is having financial difficulties and needs the money from overtime? People don’t always want to discuss their financial difficulties to their coworkers.

    Or could there be something else going on? I had a job once with someone who violated a lot of boundaries. The only way to keep said person from pestering me (this was the guy who would ask newbie questions even 2.5 years into the job, and repeatedly asked the same questions even though they were already documented specifically for him) was to constantly look busy — but I didn’t do any overtime unless I actually had to.

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Good point about the temp jobs. I’ve finished temp jobs sooner than anticipated and was let go beause the project was, like, completed. Burns me up when I remember the time I replaced someone who’d been there 2 weeks on a defined, close-ended project. I got it done in a day and a half so bye-bye job. Another time I was on a project for a week or two and finished in midafternoon of the last day. So they sent me home instead of my working out the last 2 hours. Being efficient can bite you.

  48. M from GA*

    #1- We have someone similar at my employer. She talks about “all” the work she had done, “all” the hours she spent working at after-hour events, etc. and complains about “all” the comp time she has and “won’t ever be able to take it all and vacation time, too!” (*she’s salaried exempt). Truth is, she doesn’t need to be working at events because there’s nothing for her to do, but she shows up, gets a plate if the caterers have extra (they always do) and then sits in the security office irritating the security staff (she is a department director and security is in her chain of command).If it’s an open to the public event and she is supposed to be taking off, she usually shows up anyway. She doesn’t need to do all the extra stuff but it’s like she has no life outside of the job and it drives everyone crazy because she thinks she works harder than anyone. It has really soured her reputation.

    *So all the salaried exempt people get “comp” time for any hours worked over 40. I didn’t think that was how salaried exempt worked but here it does. You are supposed to use it in the period you earned it or the next, but she always claims she’s “too busy”, so she tries to bank it and be gone almost all of November and December. Normally that would make people mad but they are so glad to be free of her for a few weeks no one says anything. She’s been here forever, she’s in her mid-70’s and I think the company is hoping she’ll retire soon so they don’t have to actually manage her.

  49. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

    OP 3: “I was quite shocked to discover that this tool was taking screenshots of my entire desktop and saving them online in a site where myself and the admins at the client company could access.”

    That is shocking, and sounds like a data security nightmare. I can’t see any compliance department worth their salt signing off on this – there has to be private, proprietary company things on the desktop that have nothing to do with this client, and this is definitely above and beyond what’s acceptable.

  50. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP4, especially if you’re in a small field (in your area) then you need to make a point of not feeling awkward about normal, expected occurrences. You’ll end up avoiding a lot of people and missing a lot of opportunities.

  51. LW5*

    Hi all, this is LW5! It’s funny how the simplest way to get an answer to my question about turnover is to ask a super straightforward question on why the job is being posted. Haha. Thanks for all your insight!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      In a world with so many weird “unwritten rules” out there in the interview process, I can’t fault you for asking before just going out and asking it. It’s not that much of a chess game but close!

  52. ynotlot*

    For #5, this can be a red flag (or not!) and it can be really, really hard to parse their answer. Sometimes it means they are growing, sometimes it means they have forced out entire teams multiple times (so the same roles turned over 1, 2, 3 times in that two years) and sometimes it is both! Growing orgs are particularly well positioned to cover up bad turnover because “we’re always hiring because we’re always growing!” They spin it into a sign of organizational health.
    I would recommend asking what is their average tenure for staff, how long do people usually stay? If their answer is any version of “Some people make it to two years, but usually one or less” it’s a red flag even for a young organization. If they have someone who has been there for 14 years, you’re probably good. If they have two, you’re probably golden. If they have people who were hired pre-9/11, they’re doing something really, really right.
    One thing I have noticed recently is some orgs with a lot of bad turnover will outsource some of their hiring to outside firms so it doesn’t look like they have a ton of open positions on their site. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice to figure out if this is happening or to counter it, but something to bear in mind.

  53. LogicalOne*

    1. The person who claims they have too much work to do could be faking it. Fake it till you make it, as the saying goes. For how long? Who knows….but then again they could be indeed drowning with work at which point, you may want to consider delegating tasks to others who are capable of doing so. Any of these could be a possibility. It’s not until you actually do something about it will you discover this person is indeed in a rabbit-hole of work or they are pretending to act busy. Slippery slope here.

  54. Jedi Squirrel*

    OP #3: The clients from hell website is full of things like this.

    At the moment, this is a client from heck, but they will probably move up to hell level soon.

  55. Lifeandlimb*

    #2 – Just want to say that I’ve never heard the phrase “concern trolling” before and I love it.

Comments are closed.