I might have brought COVID-19 to work in January, is my mom a bad manager, and more

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

1. Should I tell my employer I may have brought COVID-19 to work in January?

I’m hoping you can help me with an ethical dilemma I am having. Back in mid-January, I took a trip to Northern Italy, where I caught a weird little respiratory virus. I didn’t think too much of it at the time (the virus wasn’t really on anyone’s radar at that point), but now I see that my symptoms were consistent with COVID-19. I was also visiting areas that have now been particularly hard-hit in the pandemic.

I got sick on my way home, but didn’t feel sick enough to stay home from work when I got back, so I went in as normal — with symptoms. Again, coronavirus wasn’t really on anyone’s radar in the U.S. at that point. I am not sure if it was COVID-19 and there’s no way to find out for sure now, as I’ve fully recovered except for a minor cough. I’m also not sure if I would have been contagious when I got back. This was back in late January, so if I did bring it to work it’s now been far beyond the incubation period for the virus. But I want to be socially responsible, so should I notify my employer anyway? If you were my manager, would you want to know? (There have been no reported cases of coronavirus in my workplace or coworkers’ families at this point.)

My initial thought was it’s been two months, the incubation period is two weeks, and no one got sick, so there’s nothing anyone can do with the information now. My second thought was … hmmm, if someone connected to one of your coworkers did get sick (and you didn’t know about it), is it useful to be able to track it to the source? My third thought was that this is beyond my expertise and you need someone with public health expertise to weigh in.

The best thing to do is to call your local public health or state health department (wherever inquiries are being directed to where you live) and ask them how to proceed.

2. My mom makes her team stay on video all day

My mom is a younger boomer who manages a fairly young team at a start-up. I am in my mid-twenties and have never managed anyone, but I’ve been in the workforce for several years.

Her entire team is working from home, and when I was chatting with her about how that was going, she mentioned that she makes them keep their video cameras on. At. All. Times. I asked her if she trusts her team to do what they’re supposed to be doing, and she said yes, but she likes the confirmation.

I know that this is probably none of my business, but from what she’s told me about her team they seem pretty capable, and I know a few have kids and other distractions right now. I know they might be uncomfortable pushing back, since she’s pretty no-nonsense. Do I have an obligation to do more than just hinting that it might not be best practice? She can’t fire me from being her kid, so it’s not like I have much to lose. I just don’t know how qualified I am to make that distinction since, as I said, I am not a manager, nor have I ever been.

For what it’s worth, she doesn’t have any boundary issues with me, nor has she ever been especially pushy. I think this might be a generational thing?

It’s not a generational thing; it’s a managerial style thing. Making your team work on video all day long because you “like the confirmation” that they’re working is the sign of a manager who (a) isn’t skilled at isn’t thoughtful about (I changed that since it’s your mom) assessing productivity and (b) isn’t aware or doesn’t care that it’s intrusive and heavy-handed and will make her team feel untrusted and completely devoid of any privacy (and how that impacts things like morale, creativity, and long-term retention). You see those things in every generation of managers.

I don’t think you’re obligated to get into this with her, but if you’re willing to, it would be a kindness to her team. She might dismiss you as not knowing what you’re talking about, so maybe you could show her this, this, and/or this.

3. Getting promoted in the midst of this crisis

I have worked at the same company for five years. I started by answering the phones and slowly climbed up the chain by working hard and forming strong relationships with the people I work with. A couple months ago, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to move into a role that is several steps above what I do now. I was so excited (and a little nervous too!). I was just waiting on an official offer letter…

Then COVID-19 struck. Our offices closed. We are all working from home. Projects are paused. Everyone is stressed. Everything feels uncertain. I feel a little disoriented myself.

With everything going on, I decided I would shut up for a couple weeks before asking about what was happening with my new position. But to my surprise, despite everything going on in the world, I was just promoted into my new position today! I am so happy! I want to shout it from the rooftops! I want to go out and celebrate and tell all my friends … but you know, social distancing and stuff.

Would it be totally distasteful for me to update my LinkedIn with this new information? For some reason, seeing that new title on my LinkedIn page is one of the things that excites me the most. But I feel like a horrible person doing this considering the current environment. Businesses are closing, people are getting laid off left and right, some people aren’t getting paid right now. And here I am, getting a raise and a promotion at the end of the damn world. Should I keep my news quiet for a while? Will I look out of touch if I share my news on LinkedIn?

Share it on LinkedIn. Sharing professional updates on a site meant for professional updates isn’t distasteful. I understand your hesitation — you wouldn’t want to run into a wake and bellow, “I GOT A PROMOTION!” — but work is still happening and people are still being hired and promoted and you’re allowed to have an accurate title on LinkedIn.

You’re not rubbing it in anyone’s face; you’re just updating your info. (And some people will be happy for the normalcy of it.)

Congratulations on your promotion!

4. How do you earn political capital at work?

I’m newish to the workforce (five years) and enjoy reading your blog during downtime as a way of learning a bit about professional norms and handling workplace issues.

There’s a term that pops up a lot that I wanted to ask about: capital. I understand the gist is that it’s value that an employee earns and can use for their benefit. But it seems really nebulous. How does one earn capital? Is it just inherent from your position and tenure, or do you have more or less based on performance? And when and how do you use capital? Does it vary by workplace? Professional experience?

Capital in the work sense is influence that you build and bank over time and can use to advocate for yourself, others, projects, changes, etc. How much capital you have is based on how long you’ve worked at your company, how senior your position is, how well you get along with people, how much your work is valued, how much your boss likes you personally, how accommodating you’ve been to others, and generally how much good will you’ve accumulated.

I saw commenter CM define it really well recently:

“You build social or political capital by building relationships and establishing a good reputation and track record for yourself. This type of capital is your reputation, credibility, and value to the organization, which translates into influence and power to change things.

If you are a star employee, you build up lots of capital. So if there are things you want to see changed — whether for yourself, or on behalf of others — you can ‘spend’ that capital by advocating for change. And there’s a good chance that change will happen because the organization wants to keep you happy, or even because people think, ‘If Star suggested it, it must be a good idea.’ On the other hand, if you never get your work done, you’ll be seen as complaining. Even if you’re a star employee, if you argue about every little thing, you’re exceeding your capital and you may start to be seen as a troublemaker. For most of us, we need to pick our battles and decide how to spend our capital.”

5. Cover letters for internal positions

I’ve read and utilized so much of your cover letter advice in previous job hunts — thank you! My boss has recently taken a new position within the company and I’ll be throwing my hat in the ring for the promotion. While I’ve already talked to the hiring manager (my grandboss) about my interest in the position, I will have to formally apply through our internal job posting portal. This is my first time applying for a job posting internally, and I’m struggling with how my cover letter should be structured differently from cover letters I’ve written as an outside candidate. I have a strong and familiar relationship with the hiring manager, so the words I’m putting to paper seem awkwardly formal in that context.

You want the same content you’d use for an external cover letter — i.e., talk a little about why you’re interested in the position but mostly about why you’d excel at it, without just summarizing your resume — but your tone can reflect that you already know each other. Use the same tone you’d use when emailing your grandboss about anything else work-related; you don’t have to pretend a formal relationship if you have a more informal one with each other. (Obviously don’t take that too far; if you normally speak to each other exclusively in internet slang, don’t do that here. But a normal, warm, collegial tone is good.)

Also, don’t assume that she knows the details of your work or your accomplishments. She may not, or may only know in generalities, so don’t pass up mentioning something just because you assume she already knows it. Include any specifics about how you’ve stood out against your peers (like “resolved 15% more cases than management team average” or whatever), although that’s true for external cover letters too.

{ 333 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I don’t typically ask this, but if you’re giving advice on #1 (the person worried she brought coronavirus into her office), please state your credentials (or note if you’re weighing in as a layperson). There’s some misinformation below that I want people to be more easily able to sort through.

    Even with credentials stated, of course, no one should take anonymous blog comments as gospel, and the OP should still call her public health department.

  2. nnn*

    For #1, you could contact your public health authority and ask them. (I don’t know exactly what your public health authority would be called in the US, but I’m sure the internet can tell you.)

    That way, for any action you do or don’t take at work, you have the back-up of saying you were following the advice of Public Health.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      This is a good idea. I’m afraid that Alison’s request for people with expertise to weigh in has brought out a lot of misinformation below, so I’m not sure that OP will be able to pick out the useful information from the comments.

        1. Ferret*

          And how are you going to verify those credentials or check what counts as ‘misinformation’? Unless someone is linking to a reliable source that specifically addresses this question there is no way that OP1 is going to be getting any sort of proper insight.

          Also- our understanding of this disease and where it might have originated and spread from is still evolving. I appreciate that this blog provides useful information on employment and some related legal matters (which are relatively straightforward to verify) but it is a very very very bad idea to expect an anonymous public forum to act as a serious source for public health information

          1. Yorick*

            If someone says they’re a public health official of some sort and then gives a reasonable answer, LW can think about whether to take their advice. We don’t have to assume people are liars.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            People should always take anonymous blog comments with a huge grain of salt, on any topic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be helpful in pointing people in the right direction to investigate further.

            That said, I’ve updated the advice in the post and the note at the top.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I’m an epidemiologist with an MPH and a background in biology, I also did some work earlier this month advising healthcare professionals with COVID19 exposures. At 2 months, there’s very little that telling your work could do to help the situation. You’re not contagious anymore, you don’t have a known COVID19 case (it could have still been a normal cold or the flu). Anyone who found out about this exposure has already blown past the 14 day quarantine period and either experienced symptoms or didn’t. Additionally, we’re at a point in many places where we should all assume we’ve been exposed to COVID19, often through situations like this where people didn’t know what they had.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            And everyone should just be working off the assumption that they’re a asymptomatic carrier for the time being.

            1. Someone On-Line*

              As an MPH as well, I basically agree with this. IF your state is doing contact tracing right now, they could potentially look back to see if anyone has become sick from your workplace, but they probably wouldn’t take the time right now, especially without a positive test from you.

              And OP, please don’t feel any guilt over this. You did nothing wrong. You made the best decisions with the information you had at the time.

              1. bluephone*

                Not a medical person but my county (a particularly hard-hit area in PA) stopped bothering with contact tracing almost 2 weeks ago because we already had so many confirmed cases that they were like “lol, why bother, we need to focus on which buildings can double as makeshift morgues by mid-April.” Take care of yourself, OP! I think you’re already being far more responsible about this than other people (including elected officials) have been and you’ve done what you can.

            2. Toothless*

              I have a question about the asymptomatic carrier thing – if you don’t ever get symptoms, do you still stop being a carrier within 14 days of exposure? I just saw a drunk history video about Typhoid Mary and it said she stayed an asymptomatic carrier her whole life, and it made me nervous

              1. Nesprin*

                Typhoid is very different- it’s a bacterium that lives on you for as long as you have it. Like strains of E. Coli it makes some people really sick, and others it doesn’t affect (i.e. why americans can’t drink the water in mexico, even thought mexicans drink it)

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  Yeah, the mechanism of action is different. Bacteria can live mostly by themselves, viruses need other cells to pass it along. In this case, it’s doing a lot of it’s work in lung cells- you’d notice if it kept on exploding lung cells forever. There’s some viruses that violate this rule, and live in you dormant for a while, and then pop back out in times of stress: the herpes viruses in particular like to hide out in you body (genital herpes, cold sores, chicken pox). There’s no evidence that covid19 will do this, and it seems like it would be… unusual for an RNA virus to do that? Herpes simplex viruses are DNA viruses, and I think they lay dormant by embedding themselves into cell DNA. They also haven’t found anyone that I know of that tests positive for the virus indefinitely.

                  But anyway, transmitting COVID19 to someone 2 years from now will be a lot less bad than transmitting it now. More people will be immune (natural immunity from having got it, or hopefully from a vaccine), the ERs won’t be totally underwater (which is one of our biggest problems at the moment), and we may have more knowledge of treatments.

          2. Ben Marcus Consulting*

            Seconded. COO of a large medical group in Bay Area. At this point the only thing you’ll achieve by telling anyone is starting panic among your colleagues. Morally and ethically, you have no obligations to satisfy here.

          3. Doc in a Box*

            Thirded. I’m a physician with a research background in population health and health system utilization, although not an infectious diseases doc.

            State health departments, at least in the US, barely have the resources right now to do appropriate contact tracing for people who are currently symptomatic with a positive test. They almost certainly don’t have the bandwidth to track down and notify everyone in every building you were during a 14 day period two months ago.

            By all means, inform the health dept to do your due diligence, but I’d be surprised if you got any response beyond “…ok.” I would not inform your employer if you were at all worried about discrimination or repercussions. (Which sadly has happened in my health care organization.)

          4. Amy*

            I tested positive for Covid-19 in New York almost two weeks ago. Even with a positive test, they weren’t interested in who I’d been in contact with. They are completely overwhelmed. Phone wait times were about 3 hours on hold (with no callback option) last time I called about the results. I later was able to get the results by agreeing to get them via text message. Speaking to a person is hard right now.

            (I’m not saying this to be discouraging, just realistic)

            1. wittyrepartee*

              We are sorry. I hope you’re feeling better now, and got to wait it out at home rather than in the hospital.

          5. Thomas E*

            Not an expert but…

            Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease with an average doubling time of about once every 3 days in the UK.

            If you’d brought it back to your area so early it’d be really obvious by now. Your area would have been a major epicenter of the disease…

            No, you almost certainly didn’t have it.

    2. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      Layperson, no creds. My concern is that they may turn on you. History has a long track record of what happens when people are scared and want to blame someone for circumstances.

      1. Nic*

        Ditto creds (none to speak of!) – over in the UK, we’ve had some cases of medical personnel in rented accommodation being turned out by their landlords because they were scared of exposure.

        I would follow Alison’s advice in checking in with public health, but unless they tell you to, I would absolutely not volunteer the information to your management at this time. The illness you had is over and no longer infectious, you worked with the best info you had at the time and didn’t realise it might be something out of the ordinary (and it still might have been a normal ‘flu/similar, especially given that you don’t mention having an unusual number of coworkers or relatives getting sick in the weeks that directly followed your illness) – so don’t open yourself to someone ill-informed wanting a target for retribution.

    3. Perpal*

      Yes; no idea if the symptoms were COVID or not, and the timing is a little iffy, but the only agency that might have any need to know is the public health department.
      I don’t think we have a test yet that shows prior infection/immunity though. Most likely the health department won’t have any guidance and will advice to not assume LW1 is immune/keep up social distancing.

      1. Perpal*

        US physician; not an infectious disease specialist or with the CDC/public health department

      2. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

        I mean, I have chronic illnesses that mimic most of COVID-19 closely, and my… monthlies mimic those symptoms VERY CLOSELY. I may run a low-grade fever, I can’t smell much of anything, there are days when I have zero appetite, and my joints always hurt. And I’m a smoker, so I cough. It’s not a dry cough, mind, but there is a cough. And my nose runs all winter long – right now it has that ‘you’re catching a cold’ feeling, where it’s dry and achy, but nope, no actual cold.

        So the only thing I can do is social distance and if anything veers into COVID territitory, to notify the one client I’ve seen these past 2 weeks.

    4. 42*

      Former respiratory therapist here. The only reason why I *might* consider saying something is that there are plenty of asymptomatic but positive cases who are vectors for spread. So while no one in your office appears to have gotten sick, they could have been positive and asymptomatic and passed it. That’s the only scenario I can imagine where disclosing might have some benefit.

      And yes, a call to the CDC would be a good place to start for getting advice.

    5. hermit crab*

      I have a public health degree (though am not an infectious disease or COVID-19 expert) and I second this recommendation. In the U.S., state/county/city health departments get accredited by the CDC and are (should be) our frontline public health information sources because they understand both national recommendations and local conditions/considerations. Many jurisdictions now have non-emergency COVID-19 hotlines where folks can call and get advice on questions just like this one.

      (I also recommend checking whether your local public health call center will accept delivered pizzas or other food! Ours has been very appreciative of donated delivery meals.)

    6. AnonPubHealth*

      To add to this – most places in the US are no longer doing contact tracing because community transmission is so widespread that it is no longer feasible or particularly useful in containing the disease. I agree, though, that contacting your local or state department of health is best for advice on how to proceed. State and local DPHs all seem to have a COVID-19 hotline listed on their website to call with these sorts of questions.

    7. Nervous Nellie*

      Enthusiastically agreeing with nnn. My neighbor tested positive this week, and is really quite sick. He graciously contacted our apt building’s property manager early in the week and gave his whereabouts for the last couple of weeks (ie. laundry room Monday 7am-9am, mail room Friday and Tuesday 10am). He works in the health industry so he knew the drill. He asked her to email the entire building with his picture and whereabouts, and urge any of us who were in contact with him to contact the local Public Health office. I did so on Wed, and I can’t tell you how surprised and grateful the phone agent was, because us all calling saves them the time-consuming search. I am also self-quarantining for 2 weeks minimum, and will hope my neighbor will be ok. Think good thoughts for him, AAM friends!

      And yes, OP, your report could be a piece of the puzzle for your local Public Health office. It’s a quick call, and they will be so grateful.

    8. Kyrielle*

      This. OP #1, I also want to say – and I am not a professional in any way – I just want to say thank you for being concerned and thoughtful about this possibility.

  3. AnonyNurse*

    The virus emerged in late December in China. First cases in Italy were diagnosed at the end of January in travelers from China. First community transmission mid-Feb. Whatever crud you got wasn’t Covid-19. It simply wasn’t in circulation in Italy in mid-January. There’s nothing to report to anyone and because there’s so much misleading info and fear out there, you’re likely to just scare your colleagues for literally no reason.

        1. C*

          Patient zero is a confusing term here, because it’s not clearly defined. I’ve heard it used for the first confirmed case (index case in epidemiology) and the primary case (first person who brought a disease into a certain population). The first person who was called ‘patient zero’ in media (though he was actually patient O, not zero) was an index case, and ended up not having been the primary case.

    1. Geneticist*

      Genetic data so far suggests “patient zero” was probably mid-late November/early December in China (no sample available but that’s the computed ancestor of the samples sequenced so far). First *known* Italian community transmission in mid-Feb, which likely means it was circulating for a while before that. Currently reasonable to suspect it was probably around at undetected low levels in mid-late January (similar to WA state).

      Note that everything is moving so fast that few papers on this sort of thing haven’t been reviewed/published yet, however reliable scientists have been reporting on the data as it comes in.

      PhD in genetics

      1. mourning mammoths*

        Exactly this. In a small town in Italy when they had 1 known confirmed infection (who died) they shut the town down and tested everyone. They found 90 more infected.

        Cities everywhere will need to revisit pneumonia deaths from late 2019 onwards to confirm if it was covid or not.

        1. darsynia*

          This is a very good point. I’ve heard many people complain that by the USA not testing early and often, we’ll never truly know how many COVID19 deaths there were, but at the same time, there are procedures and records in place that show trends, and these deaths will be against those trends. That’s how hospitals catch bad actors–if your nurse’s shifts have 150% more deaths than when she’s off shift, she should be investigated to see what she’s doing! So while it will be next to impossible to get a completely accurate number of COVID19 deaths, there will be strong indicators in those comparisons to historical data.

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Lay person who has learned about medical stuff to manage my allergies and worked in hospital administration.
          I was sick with what appeared to be flu in early January, even though I had a flu shot. I recovered from this and then had pneumonia in mid-January. I wasn’t tested for covid-19.
          I had not traveled but I live in a very large, diverse American city.
          I’ve been wondering if I had covid-19 but there’s no way to know.

      2. Lemur*

        No expertise at all, but just from reading.

        The best guess is that it probably reached Italy in Mid to Late January. What you have to remember though is that you don’t go from one person having it to hundreds and thousands that quickly. So it is certainly possible that you came into contact with one of the small numbers of people in Italy who had been exposed when you were there in the middle of January, but it would have been pretty bad luck. Chances it was just a cold or flu.

    2. Nassan*

      Not an expert but this also came up in my country which is next to Italy. We had a huge spike in flu cases in the beginning of February (in some schools 25% students stayed home). Many many people went skiing to now-affected areas in January and February. Our first Covid-19 case was in March and for over a week we did many many tests and were able to track the source of all people who got sick. Our epidemiologists took great care to track the spread of virus, we’re one of the top countries by tests conducted per capita.
      All of this to say – if the spike in flu cases in Feb. was due to Covid-19, I think we would have known. It wouldn’t have died down just like that. There would be more people in intensive care. There’s a big difference in development of sicknesses now vs. Feb. And epidemiologists are not linking it to the Feb. cases. I think they would have known, because we have public health system and many people with flu got tested and had chest x-rays done so they have data from Feb. I think you’re okay.

      1. MK*

        Not an expert, but we had the same experience. I agree with Alison that there doesn’t seem to be anything actionable in this situation; the OP focuses on her workplace, but she almost certainly came into contact with a lot of people while going about her life for the last months. If Covid-19 has already spread to her town, she might have been the person who brought it there, but it probably doesn’t matter now.

        In any case, telling her coworkers risks spreading panic for little or no benefit. The best advice is the one quoted above to contact the healthcare authority in her town and follow their directions; who knows, they might decide to test everyone in her workplace as a precaution if they have the resourses.

        And, OP, get that persistent (2 months!) cough a.s.a.p., if it is at all possible; during a pandemic is not a good time to get sick with anything, much less something that might turn series. [Fun personal anecdote: I ignored the neck pains I began to have in middle February and didn’t go to the doctor till middle March. He perscribed anti-inflammatory pills and physical therapy, after one session of which my country went on lock-down. The pills didn’t work, the pain got much worse and now I have to get injections (meaning an exception to the lock-down) that, bonus point, suppress my immune sustem exactly when I need it to work at full force. Oh, and did I mention the stylish orthopedic collar I am currently sporting? Don’t be me, OP]

        1. TardyTardis*

          I was lucky, I finished the last physical therapy sessions on my wrist three weeks ago, right before people began to panic…(yes, I’m still doing the exercises).

      2. Miss Silver*

        Interesting. I’m a school nurse in the mid Atlantic part of the US. We had a terrible flu season in February with unusual absenteeism and I too wondered retroactively if it might have been untested Covid. But there didn’t appear to be an accompanying spike in the ICUs which you would expect based on what is happening in New York and elsewhere. Plus a lot of people in my state are still testing negative. Hope a cheap and readily available antibody test comes through.

    3. Media Monkey*

      we were in northern italy (Bologna) the weekend of 1st/2nd Feb. (from the UK). we did not need to quarantine or inform anyone or get tested unless we had returned after 19th Feb. I’m not in healthcare, but i don’t think you did anything wrong, there was no evidence at the time that Italy was going to be so badly hit or cases in Italy then, so i don’t see why you would need to say anything.

    4. Grbtw*

      Hi OP, not an expert. One of my coworkers got seriously ill in early January, his job requires lot of airports, but he never left the country. He worked through his illness…somehow. Nobody at the office got sick, everyone else had their flu shots.

      I don’t believe he had COVID, i didn’t even know about it as I avoid the news most of the time, but looking back, I don’t think so. Even if he did, I wouldn’t expect him to worry about it.

      There’s a lot of panic, it’s not necessarily safe to put that out there directly, the advice to contact your health department is a good one, they can choose to use the information, and they won’t share your information if they investigate. The reason the county isn’t sharing personal information with the public is because blame is not useful, and the easiest thing to cling to in times like these.

  4. nnn*

    One thing that struck me in #2 is, assuming they’re doing computer work, having everyone on video doesn’t tell you if they’re working. It tells you if they’re in the vicinity of their computer, but you can’t see what they’re doing. (I mean, right now I’m commenting on a blog, and if I had my camera on you would see that I’m looking at the screen and typing, just like I do while working.)

    OP would know better than I do whether this idea would lead her mother to ease up or to crack down with stricter monitoring measures.

    1. Annie on a Mouse*

      The other issue I see with insisting people keep their cameras on at all times right now is that… These AREN’T normal times. Everyone is doing the best they can to keep their companies running, but we’re all massively distracted. Parents are suddenly finding themselves with children to home school. The best time to go to the grocery store is roughly when you should be getting to work. We’re all worried about friends and family and wondering whether the slightly runny nose is from the hot sauce at lunch or something more nefarious. And of course, we’re checking the total case count in our communities twenty times a day.

      OP, I know this is your mom, so I won’t pile on—but people need space and flexibility right now. There is so much uncertainty, and sometimes you just need to pace around the room or make yet another cup of coffee or take a fifteen minute walk or whatever. Requiring cameras to be on at all times denies people the ability to manage stress the way that works best for them. And as others have pointed out, it doesn’t even ensure productivity, so you’re sacrificing morale for questionable gains.

      Just to give a counter example: my company has gone out of its way to encourage people to work whatever nontraditional schedule they need to balance their personal commitments, be they childcare or otherwise. Leadership has sent out emails reminding us it’s not unprofessional if we’re unavailable at times. We’re encouraged to go for walks mid-day. Knowing I’m judged by my output and not hours-in-chair removes at least one stressor.

      1. many bells down*

        It’s EXHAUSTING to be suddenly doing entirely remote work when that wasn’t your job before. Plus a lot of companies just didn’t have sufficient technology to handle it and we’re trying to catch up.

        Plus there’s all the mental health anxiety of suddenly being mostly confined to home, all the fun activities are closed… I know my concentration is shot to hell.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Yes. Even in the best of circumstances, being constantly, literally, watched while working remotely is going to be stressful and irritating, to the point that people will leave jobs over it. And now, with people figuring out how to telework, watching kids, and being scared and worried, it’s worse. It’s not going to increase productivity – it’s going to make it plummet.

          Get a Slack channel for the group. Set up morning and afternoon check ins if appropriate. Ask for a daily summary of what’s been done, and plans for the next day. These aren’t necessarily to monitor people, but to keep communication flowing, and to help focus on priorities. Give people some slack for life stuff, and if possible, let them flex their time if it helps.

          I’m curious – is it a two way video? ie, can the employees watch the OP’s mother and make sure she’s appropriately supervising at all times? See her scratch her nose, make weird faces at the monitor, drink her coffee? If not, suggest that it’s only fare to share the self consciousness.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            I’d even argue against 2 daily check-ins and a daily summary of the work you’ve done. All of these things point to the fact that OP’s mom doesn’t trust her employees to get their work done. That may not be her intent, but it’s the message she’s sending. Managers need to treat people like adults, not kids that need to be monitored constantly.

            1. KRM*

              Yes to this. My boss and I check in once a week. And I’m normally someone who works in a research lab, so I don’t have a ton of non-lab stuff to do! But management prepared for this, and I have a list of tasks to work on that we talk about in our once a week meeting. It’s actually less than on a normal workday because we have to make more of an effort to check in!

              1. CheeryO*

                Our department is on mandatory three-a-day check-ins, and it’s exhausting. It’s about a hundred times more oversight than we get in normal times, and there is not enough work coming in to have concrete accomplishments to point to every day. It’s been a huge source of added anxiety for me, and it’s definitely getting factored into my mental arithmetic for a future job search.

            2. TardyTardis*

              Besides, a manager should be able to tell if stuff is getting done by the product that shows up.

        2. foxinabox*

          Yeah, I’ll be real–for reasons that don’t require exploring at this juncture, etc., my workload from home (where I’m usually not) has been at or above the levels it usually is, and involved both tearing down a ton of my really exciting previous work and pivoting in a way we just aren’t prepared to do with ease or grace. I’ve also previously noted on AAM that I have a major mental illness (or two, or whatever, some!). Everyone is in their own specific version of an awful time right now, but mine has involved a lot of needing space and privacy to fully break down, and all day video would be literally unmanageable.

          1. Lavender Menace*

            I also have a mental health disorder and I am in a job that requires meetings all day long, and I have started turning my camera off during some of them, especially if I am not speaking or leading the meeting. It’s unbelievably stressful and not helping my anxiety to feel watched all the time. I also unplug the camera as soon as I’m done with work.

      2. allathian*

        Agreed. There’s also the matter of bandwidth. Video should only be used when absolutely necessary to ensure that the networks can handle the load. This could be another thing to bring up with supervisors who insist on video at all times.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          Yes, I was thinking exactly the same. Does OP4’s mom have punitive measures in mind if one of her team starts having network connection problems, for example? Might be worth gently pushing back on this one OP4 – its hot nothing to do with being a manager or not, it’s about doing the right thing as a human during uncertain times.

          PS “I trust them, but like the confirmation” = “Fingers crossed, I don’t trust them really.”

        2. Meg Murry*

          My thoughts as well. It seems awfully rude to hog bandwidth right now “just because”. Our internet connection is not super reliable right now, so my family is having to basically take turns, which means making everyone else stop any internet usage beyond basic web browsing & emailing when one of us needs to be online for a meeting. Its annoying but (mostly) working for us right now – but it would not if more than one of us had to be on video for large chunks of the day. In lots of households right now, there are 2 (or more) adults trying to telecommute, plus college students and K-12 kids trying to have online classes, so this seems like an unnecessary waste of bandwidth. I’m also assuming the employees are using company provided computers/laptops? Because if they are expected to keep video on all day on their personal/family computer and prevent anyone else in the family from being able to use the computer, that’s asking way too much.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Yeah, I have a friend who’s working from home with four kids, all of whom have online school requirements. They just don’t have enough bandwidth for everybody to be doing everything all at once.

        3. EH*

          THIS. I have coworkers who don’t use video on calls because it grinds things to a halt (some areas are DSL only, for example, so they’re limited in what they can do). Having video on all day is wasteful.

        4. Glitsy Gus*

          Yes, this on top of everything else regarding morale and just basic human empathy.

          My company has told all of us to only use video when necessary and even to minimize our VPN use by copying the items you need to work on for the day to your laptop, then log back out of it again. After that, of course reconnect if you need to get to something that requires VPN, but if you don’t need it, please stay logged out so there is more bandwidth for the people who really do need it.

          Maybe sit across the table from your mom and just stare at her while she works. Show her how disconcerting and awkward it feels. I’m mostly kidding, and also not bagging on your mom, these are weird times and all of us are having to figure things out as we go. But at the same time, kind of not kidding, if you think it would help her understand.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Even if it were appropriate to watch someone every single second while they WFH (it’s not), this is *not* normal WFH and it’s like she’s in their house, not just a home office but their house with their family all.the.time. It just feels weirdly…intrusive to me.

        I know I didn’t articulate that well… but yeah she needs to trust people and stop watching them every minute. For several reasons.

        1. Kat in VA*

          I’ve been having issues with dead(er) wifi spots in my house for video calls, so today on a smaller group, I got up and walked to a few different rooms, trying to find a more stable connection.

          BossMan joked about me “giving a tour” of my house and while everything is reasonably neat and clean, it didn’t occur to me that while I was just thinking “find a spot where I have four or five bars on the wifi”, everyone else was ogling my house and furnishings and then making comments – not in a mean way, just a “oh that’s a nice china cabinet” or whatever.

          Having to have a camera on 24/7 would be torture for me – sometimes I’m working in the living room, sometimes on the porch when I grab a smoke, sometimes upstairs while sitting on the bed. Having someone know every time I got up to pee, or grab yet another Red Bull, or talk to my husband is a hard, HARD pass.

      4. Daria Grace*

        I’ve cried a bunch of times at the office and while working from home since this pandemic took hold. The idea of that being on camera is horrifying

        1. Chili*

          Seconded. People are getting very ill and some are dying. Forcing your colleagues to be on camera at all times at work is especially cruel right now. Also, in light of this crisis, most people’s productivity is probably slightly decreased, not necessarily because they are working from home, but because it’s a pandemic.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Yeah the thing is that companies and bosses need to realize that this is not business as usual. The old playbook is no longer relevant to the current game that’s on the field.

      5. Mary*

        I used to have a work from home job where my contract specified that we should get up and go and hang the washing out or take the dog for a walk during working hours (those were the two examples given!), because sitting at our desk all morning or all afternoon is a health and safety risk.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I LOVE THIS. And yes, sitting at your desk all day is pretty rough on the body and the psyche.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s awesome.

          Exjob did not care what we did—except for the childcare requirement, which I’m sure they’ve suspended for the time being—as long as we got our work done. Of course, managers varied, but they mostly treated everyone like adults.

        3. Amaranth*

          I love hearing about employers who actively promote wellness rather than being glued to the screen for 8 hours….you know, all two of them that I’ve read in the comments so far.

      6. darsynia*

        There’s also the fact that most networks aren’t designed to have the load of constant video conferencing in residential areas, heh.

      7. Dust Bunny*

        This.

        My company isn’t even making me clock in any more (we do that online)–they’re just assuming I’m working eight-hour days. And I am, because I’m not a jerk. If they wanted to they could go into the files that I’m working on and see that work is being done, but I haven’t seen any evidence that anyone has done that. I’m responding to emails, etc.

        Your mom either doesn’t actually trust her team, or she’s kinda power-mad. And what is *she* doing all day if she’s checking on her subordinates?

      8. MCMonkeyBean*

        There’s also the fact that at least some of the people on her team are likely quarantined with other people in their household! If your mom doesn’t think it’s unreasonable to video her own staff all day may she could at least see that there are other people who don’t work for her around. And some of them might also be working from home, and might be working with confidential information so the constant video feed could be a big issue for them.

        The biggest thing though is the very small peace of mind that this affords your mother is almost certainly extremely outweighed by the complete opposite effect on every one of her staff members.

        OP, I think your instinct is a good one and it’s nice of you to want to use the fact that your relationship with her is inherently less fragile than her employees to help them out. I think it’s worth pushing back a little more (but if she won’t budge then she won’t budge and at a certain point I think it’s okay for you to decide it’s ultimately not your business and there’s not much more you can do.)

        1. GilaMonster*

          Absolutely, your first point about having a partner at home who needs privacy is so relevant. Under no circumstances would I or my partner allow that type of surveillance in the home as we both handle sensitive information.

          The fact that none of the employees are pushing back on this leads me to believe this staff may already be pretty beat down by an overbearing manager.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Even without sensitive info there is no way I’d allow an employer, mine or anyone else’s to have that access to my home.

            If I want them in my house I will invite them to come in.

      9. MCMonkeyBean*

        I love that email from your leadership! I’ve honestly just made the decision to work like that myself (been trying to walk 2-3 times a day or else my step count would be like… 300 steps) but having your company straight-up tell you that’s okay would be very reassuring. Definitely the polar opposite of being videoed all day!

      10. Lavender Menace*

        All of this. Managers should be exercising flexibility and compassion at these times, and realizing that expecting 100% productivity equivalent to pre-pandemic times is futile and unrealistic. Give people space to deal with anxiety and their lives.

        I’m a manager and my company has done the same thing as yours: frequently reminded people that we need to adjust our expectations for what we can do from home, give ourselves a break, and take care of ourselves and our families first.

    2. Official non-secrets act*

      Time for some immature advice: so tempted to take the laptop to the bathroom and be like “oops I need to take a dump but since I need to be on camera you guys get to enjoy this live footage”.

      Sorry, couldn’t resist.

      1. valentine*

        you guys get to enjoy this live footage
        An exclusive!

        Mom’s not getting her employees’ authentic work selves. Are they murdering their bladders because they’re anxious about what she’ll think of their elimination schedule? Going to another room to take medication (Bonus if it causes frequent urination!) or for refreshments? Getting muscle cramps and other pain from sitting for so long? Do they feel like they need to be at a desk and not blanketed like a burrito (Mmm, burrito) or in their fort? If they have issues Mom could help with, are those going unmet for fear she’ll blame them on being home? Ask her to turn on the cameras and see where they are in a month.

      2. Anonymous librarian*

        My immature advice would be for OP to tell mom, you have no idea what they are doing so if you REALLY want confirmation, you need to install something so you can remote into their laptops and watch what they are actually doing.

        1. ArtK*

          Please don’t! Mom may latch onto that and keyboard trackers and the like are even more intrusive. It’s infantilizing the employees to monitor them that closely.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I thought I was the only one who had that thought! Yeah, let’s not give mom any new ideas.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Someone apparently actually did this on a video conference. The looks on the faces of her co-meeters were priceless. (I don’t think it was in protest; I think she just lost track of what she was doing and didn’t think that they’d see anything but her face on the camera.)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ha! I saw it when a few friends shared it earlier this week! Had to watch it again on my computer vs phone, just to see the facial expressions! I loved the dead silence and then the lone voice going “I saw nothing”. To whoever it was that did it, we all needed that laugh in these trying times, so thank you – and none of us really saw your face, so you’re good!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I just looked that up — hahahaha, the person at the top who sees it first and starts silently laughing and applauding! :’D

    3. Pretzelgirl*

      Exactly! I am still reporting to work, as I am in an essential role, but my husband is stuck at home. He is always available but takes breaks to keep his sanity. Like taking a walk, getting some exercise, taking a quick shower. He gets in his hours in and work done, but its not a traditional 9-5 work schedule. Most companies are being flexible given the extreme circumstances we are under.

    4. Important Moi*

      I am certain no matter how good of a relationship OP mom have with her staff, her wanted “confirmation” will not be forgotten.

      I am working from home (as many others are). Big Boss sent a company-wide list – send your group projects you’ll be working on for the next month. Immediate supervisor sent a follow-up mail to group EXCLUDING Big Boss – send me daily email about what you do “just in case” someone asks. All righty then !! I send my emails as instructed with the knowledge supervisor doesn’t trust me or the team. Will I make a big fuss? No. But people leave jobs for many reasons, including lack of trust as someone mentioned above,

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Asking for daily updates about what you did each day seems like a reasonable ask and many many miles away from asking people to keep their cameras on all the time…

        1. Important Moi*

          Respectfully, this is about company culture. At my place of employment, this is an overreach. I am not competing for whose work situation is worse.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I agree. Daily check ins feel like an overreach to me.

            However, I also work for a company that allows WFH for whatever reason, and has explicitly stated that we are all adults and they trust us to get our work done.

            I could not work under some of the more draconian “trust but confirm” requirements that these companies have in place.

          2. JustaTech*

            Seconded. During regular, in-office times I meet with my boss on Monday morning for “what’s this week look like?” and on Friday afternoons I send him a “This is what I did this week, here’s what’s planned for next week”.

            The only change now that we’re all WFH is that everyone in my group is doing the Monday meeting together, rather than one-on-one.

            (Honestly I kind of like the weekly write up because it’s helpful to remember what all I did when review season comes around. One year I literally forgot a *huge* rush project until I saw it in my weekly notes.)

            But I work in R&D. The folks who work sales have a completely different culture about reporting their work. As do the folks in the manufacturing plant.

      2. Random IT person*

        For me – the “check in” is “does he reply to mail, answer the phone when it rings”.
        That means, I am working.

        One co-worker from my base office has created a group for just that office in MS teams – just to prove we`re okay and alive (so, a ‘group good morning’).

        But – beyond that.. not much is needed.

        Of course, if a project requires you to do X today, then end of the day you inform the manager “Hey, X is done, you find the results on the server” or something. Totally reasonable, and within company culture in general.

        Anything else – yeah, probably time to polish up the resume, and start looking once this crisis is past.

    5. Kettricken Farseer*

      This is the equivalent to sitting at your desk at work while your boss sits three feet to your right, just silently staring at you. Horrible.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        One question that always comes to my mind when I hear about these things is, how is the boss getting any work done? Either boss is watching everyone on their team all day, like a human surveillance camera, and is not able to do anything else, which is not great. Or the boss is not really watching them and then what’s the point of them being on video?

        1. Lavender Menace*

          This was my first thought. I manage eight people, and I cannot imagine having the time to watch all of them on camera all day long. When is she getting any work done?

    6. Nervous Nellie*

      And related to nnn’s comment, if the staff were working together in an office and not remotely, would the manager (Mum) expect that they were seated at their computers all day long without getting up to stretch, have lunch, make coffee, etc? If that would be ok, why the constant home monitoring? If the OP and Mum are in the US, there are mandated breaks for most employment groups from Labor & Industries agencies, etc. that do not distinguish between in-person & remote work.

      1. sacados*

        Yeah I mean, I get where the logic comes from — Boss is likely thinking “Well if we were in the office I could glance up from my cubicle/poke my head into their office/walk down the hall at any time and be able to see my employees at their desks; this is essentially the same thing right?”
        But the thing is, for all the many reasons other commenters have explained already — it’s really, really not.
        It would be much better to use Slack/Skype/Messenger type chat functions to keep in daily contact with people. That’s what my team and I use, for all those times when you’d just turn to the person next to you and say “hey what’s up with XYZ again?” just do a quick chat.

        1. Paulina*

          My guess is that Boss has anxiety about the current situation, including about the sudden change in their own work environment, and is wanting the employees “there” virtually to soothe their own anxiety. But it’s extremely unfair for them to use their power to soothe their own anxiety by being so intrusive on their employees. The boss needs to challenge themselves to get used to the remote situation and how to manage in that context, not try to alleviate it by putting such a high burden on others.

    7. Mama Bear*

      It’s also eating up bandwidth that families may need for distance learning for their kids.

      I used to work for a company that had a lot of remote folks. When they used Upwork (then Odesk) for timekeeping, they made an agreement with the company to remove screen snapshots every 15 minutes or whatever. The thought being that it’s intrusive and if you were sending a personal email or maybe corresponding with your doctor, the company didn’t need to know that. What mattered more was that you were productive and met your goals. They assumed you were a professional adult. Onerous oversight makes people feel small and micromanaged and actually cuts down on productivity.

      Further, what is a manager like that doing? Are THEY on video all day? Are they productive or just spending the whole day scrutinizing people via a thumbnail? I couldn’t work well with my manager up in my face all day.

      Also, I wouldn’t be the only one home. Kids and spouses might also be home and does the manager get to watch them all day, too? Nitpick when the kid has a potty accident and you have to step away? We are being expected to work FT and homeschool and do childcare….I agree with the others who say these are not normal times. We need to be flexible and understanding. Have a set short meeting during the day and video chat as necessary only, IMO.

  5. Al*

    I literally laughed out loud at the idea of OP#5 and their grand-boss speaking to each other exclusively in internet slang!

    Thanks Alison for the awesome content you make, it’s extra appreciated during this lockdown!

  6. Princesa Zelda*

    OP3– Congratulations!!! I agree with Alison that you absolutely should update your LinkedIn, and I think that calling a few friends and such wouldn’t be out of the question either. Personally, I’m going nuts with anxiety and the entire world acting like it’s Doomsday isn’t helping. If a friend of mine got promoted or had a birthday or something it would make my week, because it’s a positive thing to think about! I’d want to have an electronic toast and maybe text them a picture of a cake that says Congratulations and just generally not think about Coronavirus for five minutes.
    Best of luck in your new position!

    1. Casper Lives*

      I agree! Congratulations OP3. I like to look around FB to find happy or funny posts to comment on positively. There’s a lot of anxiety right now. I feel it as I’m in a higher risk category. It’s nice to hear about good things too. People are still happy about getting married, getting pregnant, having birthdays, fostering/adopting pets, and yes, promotions.

      1. valentine*

        Take your victories where you can, OP3. There will be people who will share in your joy.

        1. MtnLaurel*

          Please do, OP3! I’d be tickled to see it if we are/were connected on LinkedIn. I am trying to stay sane in this crisis by seeking out reasons for joy and celebration, so I would appreciate seeing this news! Congratulations!

    2. Betty*

      Yes! Congratulations! I’d love to hear about ordinary nice things happening right now. And it’s a fact: you got promoted, your LinkedIn should be accurate.

      If anyone gets upset (because…you had the gall to get promoted rather than dying of coronavirus like any decent person? I dunno) then seriously, you didn’t get promoted AT them. In non-weird times, people get laid off, divorced, ill… would you wait to update your LinkedIn until every single contact was having a great day in case it was “distasteful” to let them know the fact that you got promoted on the same day their dog had at have surgery?

    3. Matzoh Ball*

      I agree, OP3! While my family is dealing with layoffs and pay cuts, I have really appreciated the positive work news out there. It gives me much needed hope!

      Congratulations on your promotion!

    4. LeahS*

      Yes, it is extra nice right now to see normal, good things happening to people. I saw yesterday on Linked In that an old colleague of mine got promoted at her new job and was so happy to see it. Congrats #3!

    5. Bree*

      A friend of mine got promoted this week, texted me, and it was a nice bit of good news that brightened my day. Most people would probably be very happy to congratulate the LW – just be thoughtful and sensitive about who and how you tell (maybe be careful if you have friends who are working on the frontlines, or those who have lost their jobs.)

    6. Mary*

      Yes, congrats OP3! That’s so exciting, and you surely deserve it. I understand how you feel, though—I’ve been looking forward to a long-awaited title change and significant salary bump that was supposed to happen July 1, but I just found out it’s probably not happening now. :( I feel bad about it, and I also feel silly because at least I still have a job, am still getting paid, etc.

    7. Thankful for AAM*

      Agreed, a friend of mine just found out that her book proposal got accepted!!

      It is such exciting news!!

      PS she found out on the same day that she does not have covid, she is in a very high risk group and had symptoms.

    8. Chili*

      Yes! Please share this good news!
      A friend of mine just asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding (wedding isn’t until mid 2021, so hopefully things will be okay). It was so nice to hear: 1) her voice 2) something good 3) something unrelated to COVID-19.
      Definitely post on LinkedIn and tell your close friends! Use good social judgement, but please do share!

    9. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Yes. Congratulations!!

      LinkedIn is a very unobtrusive way to announce your wonderful news (it’s not like you’re throwing yourself a party or calling everyone who is laid off to gloat). Most people are going to be happy for you because it’s awesome and we all could use a bit more awesome right now.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I’m going to jump on the congratulations bandwagon! I think this is great news. And I think a lot of people tune LinkedIn out until they need it, so many people won’t even notice. And those that do are going to be the ones who welcome the news. Go for it!

    10. Deejay*

      Do it! My team videoconference two days ago was immensely cheered by someone proudly showing off her new granddaughter.

    11. hayling*

      Totally agree, I would be thrilled to see positive news on LinkedIn, and not just another “how to work from home” clickbait article or discussions of the best webinar provider.

    12. Princess Gerund*

      I agree completely! In fact, in the last week, one of my friends landed a great new job and another got a big promotion. The coronavirus situation doesn’t change how happy and proud I feel for them and their accomplishments; I think people are actually even happier these days to see any kind of bright spot. I agree, you may want to modulate the announcement a little out of sensitivity to those who are losing their jobs, but at the very least put it on LinkedIn, share the news personally with the people you know are in a position to be happy about it, and be proud of your accomplishment. Congratulations!

    13. Librarygal30*

      As someone who has celebrated a birthday during this, I must say it wasn’t very fun. The FB messages, texts, and phone calls were nice, but I wasn’t able to celebrate outside of my house.
      I think I might re-do the going out part of it, once the sheltering in place is lifted, and things return to more normal again.

  7. Heidi*

    For Letter #2: If I knew I was being watched, it would be hard having to be “on” all the time, even with the best of bosses. It’s easier to relax and get into the work knowing I can dance around my office and no one will judge me. On the other hand, it can be futile to try to get a parent to take your professional opinion seriously. They’ve known you since you drew on their walls with crayon. They’re not taking management advice from that kid.

    1. LeahS*

      YES. I am starting to go stir crazy and yesterday starting doing old dances from when I was a cheerleader in HS in my home “break room” to get so me energy out. I… would not want someone to be taping me do that. So embarrassing! haha

    2. Amethystmoon*

      That and I would have to wonder is boss is enforcing the dress code at home. This is the nice part of working from home and not having video.

    3. Mel_05*

      Yeah, I have a hard time doing good work if I’m being watched. An open office is one thing, but to just be constantly have someone viewing me work would be paralyzing.

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      *gasp*

      HOW DID YOU KNOW? It was decades ago and the wall has been painted and we don’t even live there anymore! (Mom, I’m so sorry I drew on the wall with crayons. I knew better, too.)

    5. Jaydee*

      At work, your boss can stop into your office at any time, but you know that and have some sort of warning. If you have your own office, you’ll hear them at the doorway. If you’re in an open plan area, you’ll see them coming down the hall.

      On camera, there’s no warning.

      Which means OP 2’s mom *will* catch someone picking their nose or popping a zit. She will see someone’s naked toddler come running into the room. She will hear someone’s spouse or teenager yell from the bathroom for more TP. She will get a real close-up shot of an employee eating soup while trying to read tiny print in a spreadsheet on a small laptop screen.

      OP’s mom does not want to see these things. OP’s mom wants to know her employees are working.

      The way to accomplish these two goals is to set up regular check-ins with each employee individually and/or with different teams. Then, assess 1) whether the employee is responding in a timely fashion to email/calls/chat messages and 2) whether the employee is producing an adequate quantity and quality of work. The first tells you if the employee is generally available when you expect them to be available. The second tells you if the employee is actually *working.*

      1. Random IT person*

        She might say she wants to know they are working.
        However, she also says she trusts her team.

        Which is it?

  8. Kate*

    #1 Report it because theya re trying to trace all sources and you may have been one. This is important information for finding a solution. Report it to the CDC, if you don’t feel safe reporting it to your employer.

    1. designbot*

      Agreed. One of the criteria for getting tested is, have you been in contact with someone with the virus, or who has recently travelled to affected areas? As someone who is currently symptomatic but does not meet the criteria for testing, I’ll say that it would be a help to any of your coworkers who might otherwise be unable to get tested.

      1. valentine*

        Report it because theya re trying to trace all sources
        Layperson. Agreed. Maybe others had the same experience, or just mild symptoms they considered unremarkable.

      2. Annony*

        If it was closer to when she got back from Italy that would be true, but since it was so long ago it will not actually help them get tested now and won’t be considered at all for people who came into contact with people she came in contact with. (Source: I work at a hospital and keep getting email updates on what the criteria is for testing).

    2. Observer*

      Actually, it probably isn’t – As nnn noted, the timeline means that it’s highly unlikely that it’s Covid 19.

      1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that COVID-19 might have been circulating for a few months before being officially diagnosed/identified, particularly since people weren’t looking for it and the symptoms for many are quite mild. So just because it was January doesn’t necessarily rule out COVID-19.

      2. Lilandy*

        Layperson. There are reports here in europe that it may have been in Italy as early as January. Problem was it wasn’t picked up on until February which may have contributed to the spread of it there in a short space of time.

    3. An Actual Epidemiologist*

      This is actually not true. The number of new cases is so overwhelming right now that contact tracing is not possible for most cases and many health departments are not doing it at all. The current strategy is mitigation— preventing as many new infections as possible. If OP reported it, there wouldn’t be anything useful that could be done with that information. 

      1. Lora*

        Antibodies from serum would definitely be useful to other patients though!

        https://inside.mountsinai.org/blog/mount-sinai-to-begin-the-transfer-of-covid-19-antibodies-into-critically-ill-patients/

        Depending on your location, antibody tests may shortly be available: http://www.diazyme.com/diazyme-laboratories-inc-announces-availability-of-covid-19-antibody-tests

        There are different reports on whether the first case in Italy was truly on 20 Feb (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2763188) or earlier and the patients were lumped in with flu-related pneumonia; we know that surveillance at the time was extremely inadequate and did not accurately indicate the scope of the infection (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30627-9/fulltext), especially since there were several more diagnoses within 24 hours of the first one. Given the virus’ incubation period, the general opinion is that it had been in Italy at least a month earlier: in countries where monitoring has been more rigorous, there is a lag period between the first diagnosis and several more.

        I think you should definitely report it to your physician via telemedicine and also the public health authorities who are performing tracking, in the event that you may wish to donate serum.

        -MS, Microbiology & ChemEng

      2. AGD*

        Layperson. I am in the same situation as OP #1 (I flew back from the UK in early February and then was sick for more than two weeks). I let my boss know much later that I thought I’d had that virus, but was still wondering about this. Thanks!

      3. Lora*

        I already replied with lots of links (including the peer-reviewed flavor) so it’s in moderation, but convalescent serum may be critical to saving lives if it turns out OP was indeed infected and chooses to donate.

        1. Rowan*

          Indeed! In NYC, they are asking for anyone who might have had covid-19 to donate blood ASAP, as they need the antibodies to treat those who are currently ill. I don’t know if they tell the person who donated whether their blood tested positive for antibodies or not, but it’s worth a shot if OP #1 does want to know for sure.

          (No medical expertise)

          1. Annony*

            As far as I know, they are still working on an antibody test. Even when they do get one it is highly unlikely that she would have access to the results from donating.
            (Source: The hospital I work at is working on developing an antibody test.)

        2. An Actual Epidemiologist*

          Based on the details OP gave, its unlikely that they actually had the virus and there are so many people who are known to have had the it, that it wouldn’t be worth the time of any health department to follow up with OP about it.

          1. Lora*

            Ordinarily I would agree, and if OP is not in the US then absolutely you’re 100% right, but the way different governments have been responding varies so hugely, I tend to think now it depends on their exact location. Each wave is going to hit so differently depending on local characteristics, and the logistics in some regions are not at all coordinated – I don’t think it’s necessarily a good assumption that plasma from recovered patients in NYC would be made available to a fresh wave of infections in say, Wyoming. Under other political circumstances I think, you are absolutely right, we would be sending packs of frozen plasma wherever it needs to go from the first wave of recovered patients, but this response is very uncoordinated in the US.

            Even regionally, since all responses are being managed by individual states, there’s a huge disparity in available resources between one state and its neighbor. In my state there is testing available and your doctor can send you to a drive-through testing center via telemedicine; in the state where one of my work sites is, there is absolutely no testing available for anyone no matter their circumstances or symptoms. In my state there are several major academic and industrial groups who would be delighted to get their hands on potentially convalescent plasma, as they’re working on any number of recombinant treatment efforts and test protocols, and in other states – nothing, they don’t have any industry of that type and their academic groups are focused on other fields.

            1. An Actual Epidemiologist*

              There are plenty of confirmed sources of convalescent plasma right now and there will be even more sources in the next couple of weeks as people who are sick now recover. I haven’t seen a single piece of communication from any health authority asking for people to come forward if they think they might have had the virus 2 months ago. It’s just not worth anyone’s time to pursue that. I guarantee that any health department that OP contacted about this would say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And I’m not the only one who thinks that. Literally every person in this thread who has identified themselves as a public health professional has advised OP not to bother reporting this. 

  9. Tinker*

    For #2, if I left my camera on in the house all day, eventually anyone watching would see something they didn’t wanna.

    Let us endeavor to preserve certain fictions about our colleagues.

    1. many bells down*

      I was trying to get an elderly minister logged into Teams for the first time. I’m talking him through setting up and logging in over the phone, and I said “okay, can you see me calling you on your screen now?”

      He says “Yes! … oh no wait I’m not wearing a shirt!” XD

    2. Anonymous WFH parent*

      In my house it could be the underaged kid mooning me to be funny (even though I’ve said it’s not) or coming in half dressed to ask about clean underwear (even though it’s that kid’s chore to bring up the clean laundry). And the other adult in the house is inescapably in range of video from time to time….and would be annoyed.

      1. Lance*

        Yeah, people are cooped up in their own houses right now, with anyone else that lives with them; expecting them (or anyone else there) to be in a full state of dress at all times isn’t an expectation I’d call particularly realistic or reasonable, to be honest.

      2. Reality.Bites*

        Wait – you told a kid something wasn’t funny and they kept doing it anyway? I’m shocked. I’ve never heard of such a thing happening. ;)

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          lol…. We’ve taken to telling the kid that the horse is dead and he’s playing chopsticks on the skeleton and he still keeps going…

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            At this point, it’s their own personal inside joke. What would happen if you laughed HIGH-LARIOUSLY at it?

      3. Random IT person*

        Your comment makes me wonder – we (parents) know kids do silly things.
        Like mooning, walking around in various state of being (un)dressed etc.

        But, with some random manager watching (recording?) things – where would the line between checking up and perving be? Or just massive invasion of privacy? Maybe my partner works from home too – but works on confidential things.. would those me seen (recorded?) too?

    3. Sara without an H*

      There is a legend in my workplace about a certain video conference call a few years back. One of the participants, perfectly groomed and dressed, had neglected to close the door directly behind her. Participants were treated to a view of her husband, wandering down the hallway totally nude.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Oh man my husband has a bad habit of wearing a shirt and boxer briefs but no pants/shorts. From far away it looks like he’s just wearing short shorts. Close up though…

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        ROTFLMAO!

        My wife will sometimes come behind me to hand me stuff, and I sometimes need to remind her that I’m on a call. She’s usually mostly dressed, though, just… unkempt.

    4. Eating on Screen*

      When I was reading #2, I was shoving a super messy egg scramble with melting cheese into my mouth. My laptop camera view of that would be horrific. It’s also not necessary for anyone to see I’m wearing the same hoodie for the 5th day in a row.

  10. Sparkelle*

    #2 I can just see mom smiling contently at her screen as she watches her team busily typing away…applying for new jobs.

  11. Observer*

    #2 – As someone old enough to be your mother, I can tell you that this is NOT generational.

    If there is any way to tactfully bring this up with her, please do so. This would be a bad idea under any circumstances, but given that the work at home set up is not normal, nor was it planed out in advance and set up in a way that would be optimal, it makes it even worse, because she’s forcing her staff to share the interior of their homes (and the activities of the people who live with them) so she can have “confirmation”.

    1. Sara without an H*

      No, it’s definitely not a generational thing. OP#2, I think your mother — who is undoubtedly a lovely person in private life — is a bit controlling as a manager, even in normal circumstances. Now that circumstances aren’t normal, her controlling instincts have gone into overdrive. Her staff will undoubtedly resent it and, as Tinker mentions upstream, eventually your mother will see something she can’t unsee.

      You might try introducing her to Ask a Manager, mentioning how much you’ve learned from the blog, and including the links Alison provided in her response.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t know that this helps, but I do wonder if the LW’s mom is a person who needs the outside accountability of someone watching her? Like the whole: he accused you of cheating because he’s doing it himself already. She doesn’t believe they’ll work unsupervised because she can’t.

      “Hey Mom, if your boss isn’t watching you all day, why are you watching your employees?”

  12. Observer*

    #3 – I’m going to say that Allison is right. But more, tell your family and friends. I can tell you that hearing people’s good news now makes me feel better, because it’s a respite from all of the terribleness. It’s also a reminder that the “this too shall pass” and the world is not actually ending.

    1. Willis*

      Yes! I think OP’s right to be thoughtful about it (and sure, I wouldn’t go out of my way to tell a friend who’d just been laid off) but for a lot of people it’s nice to hear some happy bits of news now. I mean, I’m happy for the OP and I don’t even know them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ditto from me, OP. I am very happy for you and it gives me a feeling of normalcy. It’s a reassuring sense that we will continue on. Congrats. Hard earned, I am sure.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Any bi of normalcy — even hearing about a promotion is sooooo important right now. it shows the world has not gone completely mad. Just mostly.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      Yes. As someone who just lost my job, I would be happy for anyone who is thriving in theirs. Even if it was a former co-worker.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Seconded. I am out of work, jobs have dried up, and a neighbor I spend a fair bit of time with just tested positive and is really unwell. I am worried for him and twitching at every possible symptom. I am aching for some good news!

        Alison, would you consider creating a thread for happy news that we could all contribute to – maybe once a week? That and a steady supply of cat coworker pics would be incredibly helpful. Thank you for this forum!

  13. SusanIvanova*

    #2 Having the videos on all the time sucks down bandwidth like you wouldn’t believe. Mine is so bad that if I turn my camera on, I can’t get video *or* audio from anyone else.

    It’s also affecting global bandwidth – YouTube has turned down the default quality just because the whole net is so congested with everyone trying to find something to do.

    1. nnn*

      OMG! I didn’t know YouTube had turned down it’s default quality, and I’ve been frantically fiddling with my video settings trying to figure out what changed! Thank you!

    2. DroptheDeadDonkey*

      Exactly this. So with everyone struggling to work from home using home Internet services anyone insisting that their team keep their video is being incredibly selfish.
      OP, have a word with you mum for the sake of the rest of us please!!

    3. ContemporaryIssued*

      Great point. We’ve been having wifi problems and I think it’s because everybody is overloading the system. My work’s IT actually recommended not video conferencing unless it’s necessary for some reason and doing voice only meetings.

    4. Beth*

      This is my thought as well. Bandwith is so on demand these days–between adults using Zoom for work meetings/kids using it for school, everyone using video (zoom, discord, skype, facetime, or their other service of choice) for socializing, and everyone streaming TV shows and youtube videos as an attempt to stay entertained at home, we’re really pushing the limits of both what any single family’s plan is likely to cover, and what an internet service can provide on a neighborhood- or city-wide scale. I know most of us don’t think of the internet in the same way as we do water or electricity–we think of it as something limitless, not something that gets consumed when we use it–but there are actually limits, and widespread heavy use of video streaming really pushes at that.

      If your mom isn’t convinced to change her management strategy by Alison’s answer, maybe reminding her that this is using bandwith that kids could be using to access their classrooms would make an impact.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      This might be your inroad, OP. You can talk about conserving resources and letting others have a turn, etc. Clearly her company has everyone WFH so they can keep working. But if they can’t access video, that kind of defeats the point. Encourage her that there are other ways that people can show productivity.

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

      Last time I checked, it was both Youtube and Netflix. Don’t know about other streaming services.

    7. WFHHalloweenCat*

      Absolutely! If my boss was forcing me to keep a video stream going, I wouldn’t be able to do any of my other work because I lose internet connectivity if I have too many internet applications open, including our VPN! I have to be very mindful of what I have running simultaneously so as not to overload my connection. If any of your mom’s employees are needing to do a lot of VPN based work, or internet based work, having the video on could actually decrease their productivity.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oooh, good point. I know it was a challenge for my workplace to get our VPN to a point where it wouldn’t slow down to a crawl when everyone was suddenly on it. Most of us used to intermittently wfh, but not often and not the entire office campus at the same time. Streaming video all day on top of that could’ve done us in.

    9. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      This is a good angle for OP to take, I think. Rather than focusing on the moral/emotional angle, this is practical — hey Mom, if everyone is keeping their cameras on, the quality of their connection to actually do their work is gonna degrade, so you’re sacrificing actual operational efficiency for this panopticon scheme.

    10. ThursdaysGeek*

      This is my issue. I use a cellular hotspot because I’m out in the tules, and yesterday, my entire afternoon was spent rebooting and trying to get a stable connection. OP’s mom is somewhat like people who are buying all the TP – she’s taking resources that the rest of us also need. I can’t use video and get anything done, because I can barely get things done without it. Also, I work for a utility, so I am kind of an essential employee.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        The tules! Are you in California? (Have you ever seen a tule elk?)

        I’m used to hearing “the boonies” and loved learning that we have an actual Boonville nearby, but I haven’t heard “the tules” used that way and I think I love it.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I grew up in southern Oregon, and yes, I’ve seen tules. But not a tule elk! Being in the tules is exactly like being in the boonies. Also, I need a Thneed.

  14. Public health anon*

    #1 Covid-19 was not present in Italy in mid-January, so you’re safe – what you had was one of the many other respiratory viruses that circulate every winter. Additionally, even if it was Covid-19, at this point public health departments are so overwhelmed that many are no longer doing contact tracing for anything but immediate contacts of confirmed cases (if that). They are not going to follow up on something from so long ago when they have so many other more pressing concerns. Some of the other commenters seem to think that epidemiologists are trying to trace each outbreak to its origin, but we are way beyond that.

    1. Geneticist*

      Covid-19 quite possibly was present but undetected in mid-January (we’ll know more in the future as more samples are sequenced) but agree, in the U.S. we’re way beyond contact tracing at the moment.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I’m in an area where they are still vigorously contact tracing and testing, and even here, having had the sniffles in mid January wouldn’t trigger testing, unless someone they had been in contact with was a case. My understanding (not a biologist) is that the relevant test would be one testing for antibodies, as the OP would no longer test positive for the disease itself.

    3. NYWeasel*

      I got a very suspicious illness at the end of January after traveling, that resulted in both me and my husband having a very persistent dry cough but no congestion. We are both still occasionally coughing. At the time I got it, I was aware of coronavirus but didn’t know any of the symptoms. The worst of it was over a weekend, but I was still feeling off when I went back the next Monday. At the end of the second week, I had a raging sinus infection which was diagnosed as being viral. My asthma also was set off, and for weeks I’ve been needing to use my inhaler bc my chest has felt tight.

      Was it C19? No one that I worked closely with seemed to get it, and the people who were out sick with the flu either tested positive for flu or were back in the office very quickly. My elderly parents were fine. I don’t feel confident enough to feel like I am safe, but I did feel like this illness was very strange compared to the normal colds I’m used to dealing with.

      At the beginning of the month, I spoke with our health & safety manager about it. It was clear by that point that tests were extremely limited, so I wasn’t going to be able to get tested. He felt that even if I tested positive now, there’d be no way to figure out if it was a new infection or a leftover from January, and since we weren’t seeing community spread over the past month, it wasn’t worth the resources needed to try and track back everyone I interacted with over the past month.

      In your case, I think you’re in a similar position. It’s admirable that you want to be upfront with your coworkers, but realistically the level of testing they would need to do to confirm other infections were linked to you and not from random encounters elsewhere involves way more resources than I expect any health department has available right now. Nor do they want to have 30-50 people begging for tests bc they *might* have been exposed to you in January when there are so many critically ill people struggling to get tested right now. We all need to assume we may be spreading it, and we need to assume those we interact with are spreading it too, and take the proper precautions. Hopefully in the future, we can go back and test for antibodies to see if we have been exposed to it or not. But for right now, if your employer is calm and reasonable, telling them really doesn’t change what they should be doing anyway.

      1. JSPA*

        We had a rough virus of that description circulating Oct-Nov-Dec in the midatlantic and Midwest. Low-to-no fever, but exhausting for an unexpectedly long time, dryer than most, very persistently chest-y and asthma triggering. Basically, there’s nothing super-distinctive (in terms of symptoms) about COVID-19, except that nobody’s resistant (so it passes through a population like a knife through butter) and the degree of inflammatory response / triggering of cytokine storm / whatever else is happening in the later stages. (PhD geneticist, but writing as “personal experience / my asthma was triggered enough to need a steroid inhaler, which happens every few years when there’s a bad but non novel coronavirus circulating.”)

        1. ANFT*

          I had something like that about two months or so ago. I had all the flu symptoms but my fever never got above 101.5. I eventually went to urgent care and tested negative for flu and strep. But I hadn’t been that sick since I had flu and strep at the same time.
          A lady I work with went to urgent care for flu and they were also doing a chest xray on everyone who came in with flu symptoms because they were seeing pneumonia like symptoms more often than usual in sick patients.

  15. Willis*

    For #2 – If the last two weeks of video conferences shows anything, it’s that people have wildly different perspectives on how willing they are to let others see into their lives at home. Some people are strictly no video, others seem to think nothing of being on a video chat while they walk all around the house in sweats. If your mom is more of the latter, it may be that she just doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal to be on camera. If you can impress on her that being on camera constantly would be a major intrusion/distraction to many people (especially at a time when folks are already stressed, in unusual WFH situations, and deserve to have what peace they can find), I do think you’d be doing her employees a big kindness.

    And really, at work would she be standing over every employee she manages for 8 hours a day? Hopefully not. She’d just be communicating with them as needed and expecting them to be reasonably responsive. She can do the same by email, phone, chat, etc.

    1. MAC*

      That’s similar to what I was going to ask OP2 – does she force these people to have their cameras on al the time in the office? Because people can slack off just as much at their desks as they can at home (depending on the layout, of course). Whether or not they are meeting their deliverables should be much more important than whether they had their butt in a seat for 8 forced hours in a row.

    2. RVA Cat*

      There’s also the practice consideration about bandwidth – having video on all the time eats it up and make their actual work tasks take longer because of network lag.

  16. WoodswomanWrites*

    #5, make sure you include specific accomplishments in your cover letter. Your grandboss might not know all of them, and even if they do, it’s possible that your grandboss might pass your application around to others you may be working with to get their input. By including these details, you’re making sure to give the big picture of why you would be a strong fit for the position. Good luck!

    1. MissMeghan*

      +1 I’ve seen fairly frequently where people don’t prepare enough for internal interviews because they over-assume that the decision makers know their accomplishments. I applied somewhere I used to work (and left on good terms), and even though the interviewer knew my accomplishments, they were still expecting me to show that I could articulate what I’d done and be a strong advocate for myself (which to them was an indicator of if I’d be a strong advocate for clients). I lost out to someone who had not worked there before because they were more prepared and more impressive in the interview.

  17. evolution in action*

    Letter 5: As someone who recently lost out on an internal promotion because her great-grandboss didn’t know of her accomplishments, make sure you very clearly note them in the cover letter. I thought I had, but when I gave a presentation two months after another candidate was hired, he was absolutely shocked at all the work that I had done and the results I had generated. My advice: Write it as if you’re external, and then edit it for formality. S/he knows you, but possibly not all that your work entails.

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Write it as if you’re external, and then edit it for formality. S/he knows you, but possibly not all that your work entails.”

  18. professor*

    everyone saying Coronavirus wasn’t in Italy in January….we don’t actually know that. Given the lack of testing, it was likely everywhere earlier than we first found it. I’ve seen models showing it in France by December. And if this person is STILL coughing? I don’t know, at least call the relevant Health Department…

    1. WellRed*

      With regard to the lingering cough, anecdotally, that happens with lots of people and lots of illnesses. I don’t know think it’s a bad idea to call it in, but otherwise, nothing to be gained by panicking co workers (I live in an area testing is severely restricted).

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        I will have a cough for weeks after a simple cold and my sister has one almost year round from a combination of allergies, minor lung damage, and an autoimmune disease so I’m with you on that not being a big deal at this point.

      2. londonedit*

        Definitely. I had a cold/possibly minor chest infection back in late October – the actual illness lasted about 10 days, but it took until the middle of December for my intermittent cough to finally go away.

  19. Dan*

    #4

    Political capital is an interesting thing. If I were advising an early career employee how to build it, I’d suggest the following:

    1. Establish a track record of competency. You don’t need to be a rockstar, but you need to be dependable, reliable, and good at your job. Own your screw ups. That doesn’t mean you have to grovel or anything, it can be as simple as “I made a mistake, sorry.” I’m past the point in my career where I have to issue platitudes of “I promise it’ll never happen again, blah blah blah” but when I mess something up, I own it.

    2. Establish a record as a team player. That doesn’t mean you have to go nuts, but support the team. And likewise, if you have to stick your neck out on something, line up a position with your team/boss ahead of time. Oh, don’t throw anybody under the bus, ever, if you can avoid it. This also means knowing the players and where you stand amongst them.

    3. Don’t rock the boat publically. If you do have to have a tough conversation with someone, do it in private. If it all possible, avoid using the words “I think you were wrong”. That’s an overly strong statement that will put people on the defensive, and they likely will be unable (let alone unwilling) to understand your points. Odds are, they had good reasons for doing what they did, but something got messed up along the way.

    The above are things you can start building on during your first weeks and months at the company. Then:

    4. CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. I was going to try and come up with something more buzz-wordy, but this is as good as anything. You simply *cannot* complain (or what have you) about everything. Along with this is the timing of the battle. You can pick the right battle, but if you pick it at the wrong time, forget it.

    5. When you pick a battle, you better be right. Have some logic/reasoning worked out, and garner support if you can. Picking battles over opinions that are difficult to substantiate with fact generally won’t get you very far. Senior people get the benefit of the doubt, and if something comes down to a matter of opinion, the senior/more experienced person wins. They very much can be overruled with evidence, but you have to have the evidence.

    6. If you’re right, it better be about something that benefits the “greater good”, so to speak. If it’s just about your personal wants/needs/showboating, you’ll burn the political capital fast.

    7. Know when to give up. You may have made your points. You may even be right. But sometimes, despite all that, you get overruled. Accept that with grace.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      For #4, it’s the old boy who cried wolf scenario. If you’re always complaining or indignant about something, people assume it’s you, not them, and stop listening.

      For 4a, I would add “Learn tact and diplomacy!” (subtitle – being right isn’t enough). I’ve known too many people who get upset about something and then lash out, causing hurt feelings and creating enemies. Their defense is inevitable “But I’m right!”

      Yes, they often do have a legitimate grievance. But when you call out someone as incompetent or an idiot, particularly if you’re doing this in front of other people, they’re not going to listen carefully to what you’re saying. They’re going to be hurt and angry, and that’s what’s going to register. And the people who are watching are wondering how long it’s going to be before they offend you, and you attack them.

      There are times when blowing up bridges is worth doing. However, assume that you’re going to get to to this at most *once* at a job, and plan accordingly. Your department is sweeping sexual harassment issues under the rug? Doing illegal things? Endangering people? That can be worth making enemies to deal with. Wanting a more casual dress code, or better coffee in the break room – not so much.

      1. Ralph Wiggum*

        Learning tact and diplomacy is so important!

        If people feel good around you, you’ll have a lot more influence. Give people who make mistakes opportunities to save face, learn how to redirect toxic conversations without blame, and keep criticism to private conversations focused on improvement, not belittling.

        Honestly, read books by Jane Austen. They’re all about diplomacy.

    2. londonedit*

      Agree with all of the above. In my line of work, we need to collaborate with other departments to get the books out on time, so for me capital is about building good relationships with those departments so that when things do go a bit wrong, they’re willing to help out. If I generally get everything over to them when they need it (maybe even a little ahead of schedule sometimes), if I’m friendly and polite and show an understanding of the challenges they’re facing in their own roles, then not only does everything tend to run smoothly on a day-to-day basis, but also I’m building up capital. They know I’m a nice person to work with, they know I’m good at my job, and they know I don’t – as we say in the UK – ‘take the piss’ and ask for favours and special treatment all the time. Which means that when things go a bit off the rails and I do need a favour – say an author delivers late, or we suddenly need to drop an urgent book into the schedule, or I’m trying to do ten things at once and just need a bit of leeway on one of them – my colleagues are happy to oblige. That’s how capital works – it’s building esteem and building working relationships so that people are happy to offer a bit of support when you need it. And of course it works all ways round – if someone is a pleasant person to work with, then I’m happy to do them a favour if they need one. That’s how a healthy and collaborative workplace operates.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        This also relates to #2 above–don’t throw people under the bus. If you’re in a situation where you can predict the boss asking where something was stalled and the answer is another department, meet with them first to say that you anticipate this coming up and don’t want to throw them under the bus, do they have a good answer for you to give? It sounds much better for everyone when your response to the boss is, “I spoke with distribution and there’s an issue with a vendor that’s being fast tracked and closely monitored by John, he expects the product no later than Thursday.” Versus, “We’ve been ready for days and are just waiting for distribution to finish their job.” The former response shows that you’re proactive, detail orientated, and communicative, along with building political capital with other departments.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve had good results pointing out ‘complications to plan for before we start’ to the managers driving a project. (Especially when its not their choice.) Sometimes the plan changed details in a way to prevent a problem. often the change was to designate someone other than me to handle fallout. And once there was a quiet chagrined “Oh so this is what you were talking about” from a senior manager who had the grace to ask me what I’d suggest to address it after the fact.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is a good one for the OP. It’s a nice feather in your cap when you do NOT say, “I told you so!” but shift to, “Okay, here’s an idea for what to do…..”.
        TRY very hard to keep in mind that if they come back to you and say that you were right that can be a show of trust. They trust you not to rub their noses in it. Answer them with class, answer them in a way you would want to be answered if the situation were reversed.

        This one is subtle and payback can be subtle, too. For example months later you will notice someone is in hot water and you will realize you made the same mistake. But all you heard was, “Hey, this got by you, keep an eye so that it doesn’t get by you again.” Different employees can provoke different responses and the variations happen for reasons. People like to say “favoritism”, which can be a false attribution. If you are a known worker who brings their brain to the table, you might get cut some slack right when you really need that slack.

    4. Retail not Retail*

      4 and 5 tripped me up so hard at work – I kept reporting my horrible sexist coworker and the first time was only 4 months into my tenure. (It is or was a high turnover department though). And then I did it again in January and again a few weeks ago.

      Of course the substance of my latter complaints were the way he bullied our work release crew and they’ve now been fired because their living situation (dorm style, group meetings and dinners, get kicked out if you get sick) makes them a liability.

      So I blew capital on an issue that has disappeared.

      But this guy is so negative – or I see him that way – that I go out of my way to be positive. Any work complaints I have now are about the literal tools (this hits my hip like so and hurts like a mother, this only runs for a minute at a time).

      I’m also probably screwing up or not, i’m not sure of the culture in the clean part of the park, by asking questions at every town hall. Everyone gripes and mutters in hourly worker world but no one ASKS. Then later everyone says good question. (One was just a shouted “service road?!” as in are the rumors true are you paving it)

      Can you build meaningful capital in hourly worker land, the land where you’re not making double digits an hour?

      1. JSPA*

        That’s often where it matters most, provided turnover is low enough for there to be institutional memory.

        I don’t know if you’re allowed to improvise, but if you are, “Janelle worked up an invisible pad that stops that tool from hitting the hip, and when Darnell and Lee mentioned the problem, Janelle shared that fix” is going to count for more than, Janelle complains that the tool hits her hip, but it’s an essential tool, we all have hips, and we all either work out a fix or shift our stance or get used to the bruise.” More generally, “how do people deal with X” and “has anyone brought up Y” will not subtract capital the way that “X sucks, and I expect you to listen to me vent about it” or “you need to pay attention to Y, and notice it’s me bringing it up,” don’t.

        If you’re normally quiet, choosing to bring up a good idea is great advice. If you’re a blurter and feelings – sharer to start with, cultivating some reserve / a filter is better advice (and that’s how you build a reputation as someone solid). THEN pop in some of the better ideas.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        You can build some meaningful capital by being a rock solid employee that your boss can count on. This means saying what you will do then actually doing it. This also means if a boss expresses a particular concern, tend to that concern if it’s in your watch/area. Then let the boss know you took care of it, follow-up is a good thing. Likewise with coworkers. Help people as often as possible and where it is reasonable to assist them. (Don’t do their jobs for them and def do not cover their mistakes for them.)

        Not bad mouthing others is a good thing but it takes a bit for bosses to notice. You can report things that are safety issues. Sometimes you can report things and leave the names off the report. “Someone is leaving pallets standing on their sides, when we know we have to lay them down for safety reasons.” Here you could know who is doing it but you just don’t mention the name. Be sure to point out that you have been laying them down on the ground whenever you see it and if true you know that some others are helping to do this also. And you can finish with, “However this safety issue remains an on-going concern.”

        People who feel powerless or unheard can have many pent up emotions. This can leave them wordless, they lose the ability to put the situation into words as you point out with your “service roads” example. If you can clearly state a problem and (ideally but not always) offer ideas for solutions you can find yourself in a better spot. Here think about what is actually wrong, how do you describe what is going on? And then go for the bonus section of what types of ideas would ease the situation. Bring this to the boss’ attention or the attention of someone who is able to remedy the problem.

        I learned one way of becoming a go-to person early on by accident. What I was doing was following my cohort over to LOOK at the actual problem. Some problems are very visual, you have to see them. Being willing to walk over and look at something with someone is a good way to build credibility and trust.

        It’s also good to know that when faced with a unique or difficult problem, sometimes JUST asking a good, well-frame question can change the course of the situation. I have gone in on situations with coworkers, where all I did was ask questions. But I was able to string their answers together in a different way and come up with a solution. People usually know about their own work, but panic/fatigue/whatever can prevent them from figuring out what is wrong This Time.

        Trite but true: Honey is better than vinegar. People will listen closer if they can see how something is to their advantage or helpful to them. Yelling at Bob to lay that pallet down on the floor may or may not work.
        Standing beside Bob and saying, “Do you want help putting that pallet on the pile?” might get you the results you want much quicker and also eliminate the need to complain to the boss about Bob leaving pallets leaning against things all the time. And Bob might help you move a few of your own pallets the next day.

        1. Retail not Retail*

          Oh I just shouted service road because it was too much work to say “is it getting paved this week? are the rumors true?” loud enough for everyone to hear.

          The big boss was like crazy this is so popular when out guests won’t notice it at all!

        2. Ralph Wiggum*

          Your pallet example reminded me of a story…

          I was on a public bus when the person across from me lazily tossed a wrapper on the floor. I gave a resigned, “really?” and went to pick it up. He immediately refused to let me help, and threw it away himself. Seems he was fine with a faceless stranger cleaning up after him (transportation worker), but balked at a stranger he saw cleaning up after him (me).

          It’s crazy how little effort it can sometimes take to keep people accountable, even people over which we seemingly have no power. I severely doubt me berating the litterer would have been as effective, and it would likely have left both of us sulky.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I really like this advice and the list it is broken down into!

      For #7, I usually give it two tries and then go “oh well, I tried, I made the higher-ups aware of the problem, it’s on them now”. And yeah, it’s usually been about the “greater good”.

      I was just watching my colleagues who I knew to have a lot of political capital, and followed what they did.

      Got to say, it is easier to get what you ask for if you are a man. Hence, what worked for my “role model” colleagues pretty much anytime they spoke up, worked for me only a couple of times. But a couple of times is better than nothing.

    6. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed on all of this.

      Another thing — one of the best ways I’ve found to build political capital is to specifically focus on what I can do in the course of my work that makes my boss’s job easier. At OldJob, I went from being about in the middle of the pack to being a rockstar in my boss’s eyes by offering to take over a function that had by default fallen to her and that she loathed, and doing a good enough job of it that it was effectively 100% off her plate even to oversee.

      At this job, too, one of the best praises my last boss gave me was that I was incredibly easy to manage — that he could trust me to do what I needed to do, and when I handed him a situation, it was neatly wrapped up with a bow on it for him to do the managerial necessities for. It meant when I applied for the promotion I’m about to step into, he gave my soon-to-be new boss a glowing review of what a great employee I was, especially for someone new to management.

      1. Ralph Wiggum*

        “focus on what I can do in the course of my work that makes my boss’s job easier”

        I came here to say this, too. Making other people’s jobs easier (especially your boss’s) is one of the most effective ways to get recognized quickly.

        Doing your own job well has a danger of not receiving notice and recognition.

    7. OP#4*

      OP #4 here, thanks for the breakdown (I’m a numbers and bullet points kinda person).

      I’ve been at this company all 5 years I’ve been in the workforce, and held a couple different positions. My last one I was working as an analyst for a division of the company that was highly respected (S&OP). I sat in meetings with the CEO and VPs on a regular basis, and I created and modified models during discussions on how to handle different crises.

      I was moved (due to “business need”) into a different department about six months ago. My new boss does not have the same level of respect in the organization as my former boss did, and my role is a glorified admin role (I’m an engineer by degree, this is not my strong suit). Even though I’m working just as hard, I think my political capital has taken a hit by being moved to a different place in the organization, that’s much less visible.

      My husband and I want to move back to his hometown in a few years, and I was hoping I’d have enough political capital to make a case for working remotely (and maybe corona-induced WFH will help). I think in my old position I had enough capital and value to make that request, but in my current role I don’t think I or my boss have the pull to successfully make that request.

      1. Lance*

        Are you still in touch at all with your previous boss? If so, then that would be your best option: while they may no longer be your direct manager, they’re still the one you’ll likely have the most capital with, and who may be able to make something happen… or at least point you in the right direction to getting back to the sort of job you want to be doing.

    8. JustaTech*

      Build bridges! I have a hard time with this one because I’m not very outgoing (and I’m bad with names), but if you can build bridges with other groups and departments, and use those bridges to bring people together to help them fix a problem (even if all you do is connect two people) they’ll remember and appreciate it.

  20. Beth*

    #1: I’m just a layperson in this, but my gut feeling is that it might be good to share the information. I don’t know whether it’s actually likely that you had it, and even if you did I don’t know if tracing it back to you is necessarily a useful pandemic management tool now that it’s known to be in the US. But I do know that testing in my area (and I think a lot of areas in the US) is mostly limited to people who have a known exposure vector of some kind–including contact with someone who’s been in an outbreak area. If any of your coworkers are having concerning symptoms, their ability to report that they had contact with someone who was recently in Italy may make the difference between them getting access to a test or not.

    1. Annony*

      Presumably her coworkers already know she was in Italy in January. At this point, the contact is not recent enough to be taken into account.

  21. Pennyworth*

    #1: I’m definitely not an expert but my understanding is that a blood test is the only way to know for certain if you have had COVID-19 because antibodies will be present. I’d endorse the advice elsewhere here to contact your Public Health authority and get their advice about the need to get tested or to report it at work. Without the proof of a blood test you have nothing definite to report anyway. Anecdotal information about when and where COVID-19 was actually occurring carries no weight.

    1. Call me St. Vincent*

      Antibody testing isn’t available in the US yet. It’s in the process of getting FDA approval.

    2. blackcatlady*

      At the risk of boring everyone let’s define the two tests: #1 is the nasal swab that is processed for a test called RT-PCR. That test detects the actual presence of the virus by looking for the viral genome. It will only give a positive result if you have an active infection with virus present in you nose. #2 is the serological or antibody test. That will detect if you have antibodies against the virus. This second test, if it becomes widely available, will be of great use to map spread and abundance of infection. A positive result means you have been exposed at some point in time. We don’t know how long these antibodies persist in your blood. That level of antibodies is called a titer – it will most likely decrease over time. The hope is if you are re-exposed to the virus your body is primed to mount a rapid response and beat back the virus before you get very sick again. And yes, I’m a lab researcher.

  22. Random IT person*

    OP#2 – she says she trust the team – but needs confirmation. Either she does not know what trust means – or she is micromanaging.
    Please – show her the 3 links Alison gave – and NOT this one :)
    You know why

  23. cncx*

    total layperson here re OP1 however i did go to an affected area the last week of january -i don’t want to mention which one but it was in the news for lying about their number of cases up to and including deporting people who tried to whistleblow, and i flew there so germy airport. In early February i had a fever and a bad headache on a Friday that was so bad i called in a Friday and a Monday, which i never ever do. I was also a little stuffy, chalked it up to allergies, but had the absolute worst headache of my life- i pondered going to the hospital thinking i was having a stroke or something. I also had a cough and some trouble breathing, which happens every allergy season so the only red flag for me was a headache.

    luckily because of my job i’m a frequent hand washer and generally weird about touching my face and stuff and the only person who appears to have gotten sick so far from me is my immediate coworker who sits next to me in open space, who later that next week also had a bad headache and fever. The other people in our open space pod were travelling or on vacation the weeks inbetween me coming back and calling in.

    Now that we’re all confined in Europe, talking with the coworker we’re both thinking we already got it in February from me. No one else in the office appears to be sick, his family didn’t get sick, one person in my entourage also got a bad headache and sniffles but he was also in a bunch of airports so it wasn’t necessarily from me. Disclosure made me feel better and people in my office know that whether i had it or not, i was in an area that had it, and while our country is being aggressive about testing now, they weren’t a few weeks ago and at least one person got an early test because of me (negative).

    in b4 someome says but i wasn’t tested so i don’t know so all that to say i would have felt absolutely horrible had my coworkers’ parents (my coworker who got sick has risk group parents, my coworker i talk with the most has a relative doing chemo) gotten anything from me and i’m pretty angry about the jurisdiction i was in lying about their corona cases because i had no idea and no reason to doubt them at that time. I can’t imagine not being able to talk about this stuff at work and not getting the time off when i needed it. That said, it’s so late now (so i’m in the same boat as op) that i would only disclose to my employer (if i hadnt already which i had) if i thought it would make a difference in testing.

    1. JSPA*

      super intense headache is not a typical presentation (which doesn’t mean much) nor do other viruses stop circulating just because there’re a new one. There’s real risk (personal and epidemiological) if people who have not had the virus act on the assumption that they may be immune (or less susceptible). Until there’s antibody testing so broadly available in your country (not currently, in the US) that people can do curiosity testing, it’s really best to assume that “the thing I had several weeks ago that was strange and bad” wasn’t actually COVID-19. By the numbers, for now, there are a lot more people who had a bad case of something else, in Jan-early Feb. (Even more so for people who had a Thing in Nov-Dec; and there are enough of us in that camp that it should make intuitive sense to you, that those other things were also still circulating when you got sick.)

  24. CM*

    #4 (I’m a different CM than the one mentioned in the response)

    I think the key part of this answer is that capital is good will you’ve built up with people who have the power to help you. And then you spend that good will to get them to help you.

    The thing I want to point out, though, is that the specific suggestions about what builds good will given in the response (e.g., doing good work, being nice to people, etc) only apply if the person who has the power to help you has a relatively pro-social attitude. If they have an anti-social attitude, either you have to build good will with them by doing something amoral, or you can’t build good will with them at all, because they never feel good will toward ANYONE.

    That’s important to realize, because the anti-social people get a lot of mileage out of making us work for their respect, in the belief that one day we’ll “prove ourselves” and finally have enough influence to advocate for better treatment. You can’t just trust that doing the right thing is going to earn you good will — you have to consider the specific people you’re dealing with and what their motivations are.

  25. JM60*

    OP1

    I’m not a medical expert, but I believe an antibody test may be able to confirm whether or not you had COVID-19. Though we don’t yet know for how long they will be present, it is believed the antibodies will be present (and providing immunity) for some time (more than a month or two).

      1. JM60*

        That’s a shame, and it’s stupid that we’re not doing it. A potential strategy to minimize the economic impact of the virus without endangering people is to aggressively give the antibody test to see who has gained immunity, and essentially whitelist them for economic activity. That’s one suggestion I heard from Dr. Zubin Damania (youtuber ZDoggMD), and apparently one country has been doing it with success.

        We should’ve been aggressively testing in general, whether using an antibody testing or directly testing for the disease. We badly dropped the ball on this, and it will cost lives. Even the economic impact of not testing far outweighs the resources needed to aggressively test.

        1. JSPA*

          We don’t yet know about repeat susceptibility. “Currently having antibodies detectable” and “definitely can’t get again in a problematic way” are unfortunately not always the same thing. Even less so, “having had antibodies circulating at the time of testing, but now it’s some months later, and who even knows if that’s still true.”

          And that’s ignoring the (eventual) emergence of divergent strains, which pretty much does happen, automatically. For most diseases, there may still be some partial immunity. For a few (notably, e.g., Dengue) having had one strain makes you dramatically more at risk of severe complications when faced with a different strain.

          Paranthetically–because I’ve already overused actual parentheses–It’s not impossible that something similar could be in play with COVID-19 and other coronaviruses, given the odd, two-phase aspect of the severe response, and strange local variations in who’s most susceptible.

    1. Clisby*

      I’m a layperson also, but – does an antibody test necessarily show that you *had* a particular disease? I thought you could test positive for antibodies if you had been exposed to, but never got the disease.

      1. JM60*

        I believe it means you at least had the virus and fought it off. Some people get the virus without having any symptoms, so I’m guessing that those people could technically be considered to have had the virus (SARS-CoV-2), but not the disease (COVID-19, which stands for COronaVIrus Disease 2019).

        Regardless, we badly need a vaccine (which won’t come until at least next year), because I think there’s otherwise no way to gain immunity without having had the virus.

        1. DyneinWalking*

          You are correct.

          Antibodies are basically puzzle pieces that fit to specific biological molecules that aren’t your own – typically proteins, which have a huge variety of shapes. Antibodies can thereby bind to these molecules (and whatever is attached to them) and bundle them together. Another part is recognized by cells of the immune system, which gobble up the bundles of antibodies and pathogens and digest them.

          Antibodies are produced by cells that have the same “puzzle piece” on their outside (you have huge, huge number of these cells with all kinds of different puzzle pieces you might never need). When they come in contact with the counterpart of this puzzle piece, they proliferate and produce their specific kind of antibody.

          The presence of specific antibodies basically just means “came into contact with a large enough amount of the pathogen to trigger the production of antibodies”. That requirement is always met when you get the disease. But it also covers people who didn’t show symptoms (who nevertheless had a lot of the pathogen in their body at one point). After all, antibodies are a method of fighting the pathogen – ideally, their production should help with not getting ill in the first place. Diseases are really hard to define from a biological standpoint. Basically everybody is constantly fighting diseases (or rather, pathogens) with their immune system – disease is when the immune system can’t keep up anymore. But the threshold is different for different people.

  26. TotalLaypersonTourist*

    We were in Northern Italy the last week of December and there were a lot of Chinese tourists. I had no idea Florence and Milan were such popular tourist destinations for the Chinese. In fact, when people asked us about our trip we joked that there were no Italians in Italy, only American and Chinese tourists. My husband and I were both sick. I came down with what I am sure was a sinus cold almost right after landing. But my husband became ill about six days later with a different thing -a low fever and cough (he is rarely sick). Our 7-year-old got nothing despite touching every possible surface he could touch all the time. Husband was still not well on flight home. He was never terrible-the fever kind of came and went and mostly he was tired. We’ve had lots of conversation about this in recent days. Was it an early form of Coronavirus? It doesn’t appear that there were any outbreaks upon our return Jan 1 or in our community. But we have wondered if this is useful information to anyone tracking virus or not so I understand OP 1’s question/concern.

    1. Blueberry*

      OP’s question is a good one, and the advice they’re getting (talk to local public health authorities) applies to yours too, I’d say. (But my qualifications are pretty much nil.)

  27. not_kate_winslet*

    #1. State health department here: I work in another unit now but I am deployed to epidemiology (where I have former experience), doing case investigations and contact interviews. We’re overwhelmed, but also still have enough space to be somewhat curious (at least for a day or two yet maybe).

    I would call your local public health or state health department (wherever inquiries are being directed to where you live – depends on who is handling the investigations) and just give them a heads up. They may or may not do anything with the information. If there is something compelling in what you’ve told them, they may go back to look at early cases but there is probably going to be a gap between when you traveled and when cases first were being tracked, so they wouldn’t be able to connect it anyway.

    But like others have said, I would not mention it your employer at this point. Your incubation period is long gone and it will just end up cause you problems.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Forgive a tangent — this is the first way to find a bunch of actual science/health experts since we started speculating. We were talking about the cowpox/smallpox interaction and wondered if that’s been ruled out. A hypothetical ‘virusX’ that provides some common immunity would be so helpful I’m going to risk embarrassing myself to ask.

      1. blackcatlady*

        By now I’d guess we’ve all seen the pics of the virus with its ‘spikes’ on TV. Those spikes are made of proteins, most likely specific to the Covid-19 virus. There may be weak cross-reactivity to other closely related coronaviruses. But think about the flu. The influenza virus mutates all the time and those outer proteins change just enough that we need a new flu vaccine each year to have immunity to that season’s flu. From what I’m seeing this Covid-19 is fairly stable so the big hope is once there is a vaccine based on those unique ‘spikes’ it will be good against the virus without having to tweak it each year. Hey not_kate_winslet can you weigh in if I’ve made a mistake here? (Lab researcher)

        1. blackcatlady*

          You mentioned the smallpox/cowpox interaction. Just like you asked, yes the infection of cowpox resulted in your body making antibodies that also recognized the smallpox virus. In my example above of the flu when you get the flu your body does make antibodies against that flu virus. By the time the next flu season rolls around the virus is different enough that your old antibodies don’t recognize the new flu virus. It’s the same story with the common cold. It would appear this particular coronavirus is unique enough that we don’t have any cross reacting immune response. Hope this helped.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That Pandemic documentary on Netflix mentioned some research being done on a universal vaccine that targets the parts of the flu virus that don’t change, but that is a long way off yet.

        2. not_kate_winslet*

          Yeah, I wish I could but virology/micro is not my strong suit, just epi/public health. This is interesting though!

  28. Q*

    Nothing constructive to add here, I just found “changed it since it’s your mom” to be super wholesome and I needed it, thank you.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I do not mean to snark (I mean, sometimes I do, but not just this second), but did you mean this as a caution to LW 2 that if they decide to send Mom to AAM, Mom might find this letter and be peeved at LW?

  29. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

    Number 4 reminded me of something that happened to a friend of mine, many, many years ago. This isn’t advice, just a vaguely amusing anecdote.

    Jenny was an assistant Head at a large primary school (think assistant principal). Part of her duties were supervising and mentoring NQTs (newly qualified teachers) in their first year. There was one chap, we’ll call him Fergus (I don’t even know his name) who had come into teaching relatively late – he’d been a chemist in industry in his previous life. Apparently, he was extremely knowledgeable and committed but was…not a great teacher. He struggled to control the class and his enthusiasm for the subject sometimes led to him forgetting that he was, in fact, teaching 9 and 10 year olds, not chemists.

    So he goes to Jenny and asks, seemingly apropo of nothing, “how do you get presents?”

    Flustered, Jenny replies, “well, if you’re around at Christmas or Easter or the end of the year, often parents will give you small tokens of their appreciation…”

    Yeah, it turns out he was asking about ‘presence.’ It’s clear in print, it was less clear in person.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      snert

      Also, I misread the first bit as ‘Jenny was an assassin’ and thought this was going in a whole ‘nother direction.

  30. Half-Caf Latte*

    Masters’ Prepared Nurse here, married to an infectious disease physician who is also a healthcare epidemiologist:

    I don’t think you should say anything.

    1)Once “community-spread” exists, contact tracing ceases to be an effective strategy, outside of high-risk exposures (like a healthcare worker who cares for someone without personal protective equipment).

    2) for contact tracing to work, you need an accurate record of all your activities upon your return, not just “I went to work.” Unlikely this far out, and public health folks don’t have time, and posting “ if you ride the train, went to church or the grocery store, dog park, nightclub, or these other 25 places you were exposed months ago” provides no actionable data and just incites panic.

    3) Folks are freaked about this. I think disclosing now won’t be seen as “OP is trying to make sure we have all the information,” but rather “OP came to work sick and put us all at risk.” Even if your workplace previously had a martyr complex around presenteeism, I think people will have selective memories, decide you should have known to stay home while sick, and it will impact your standing in the office.

    4) In addition to public health actionability, if you have coworkers who decide this new information means they want to get tested, it puts a strain on already really limited resources (hotlines, EDs, testing kits). None of the “will we test you” algorithms include “Contact with a travelers to a cdc level3 country 2 months ago”, but the public doesn’t seem to understand everything that’s going on with testing and just “want a test so I can know.”

    NB: I’m in an area estimated to see NYC level activity in 1-2 weeks. Maybe this is different if it’s rural Montana.

    Also, re: testing- don’t want to derail here, but it’s a dumpster fire in all of the US, and the bungling up front means we need to handle it differently, and announcements about random celebs getting tested and how any cvs parkinglot you will be able to drive up AREN’T HELPING.

    OP – if you’re feeling guilty (you shouldn’t) like maybe you unknowingly contributed to the spread in the US, please know that a great way to do something to help is to write to your elected officials and press for the immediate deployment of PPE to healthcare workers on the front lines, through the use of the DPA.

    1. Annony*

      I agree with this. I think it is very important to consider how worried this information will make people and whether the information is actionable. Most likely you will simply stress people out because the information is not actionable at this point. You don’t know if you had it and are outside even your coworkers incubation period from coming into contact with you.

      At this point the best thing for you to do is assume you didn’t have it (and therefore do not have immunity to it) and continue to practice social distancing.

      (Source: E-mails sent out by my employer (a hospital) and information from a coworker who developed symptoms and actually did contact our employer to find out what to do about it (which at this point was basically stay home for two weeks and nothing more))

  31. The Doctor is In*

    LW1: I am a physician. I traveled to Cancun through a US international airport in mid January, and 1 week later developed the worst bronchitis of my life- fever for days, malaise, nausea, cough that would not quit. Husband had same. Coworker got it from me. Lasted a good 2 weeks. I hope it was Covid19, plan to get antibody test when I can. Agree there is no point in telling anyone at work, or telling local health dept.

  32. Catalyst*

    OP#3 – Just came to Congratulations! Definitely shout that from the rooftops and update your LinkedIn – Happy News is the kind of thing we all need to see right now.

  33. Kate*

    I am an epidemiologist with a specialization in infection prevention.

    There is no use in reporting this at this point.

    Not only did you get sick at the height of flu and cold season – and so without a test there’s no way to know what you actually caught – you’re way, way outside the point at which tracking this would confirm anything or reveal anything useful.

    Even if someone who interacted with someone who interacted with you got sick, there is NO way to know if it came from you or the dozens of other clusters that are now springing up.

    You’re fine. Let it rest. Right now reporting this could actually do MORE harm, because it would send your office into a spin of anxiety.

  34. hbc*

    OP2: Does your mom think you’re a hard worker and generally a good employee? If so (even if it’s a totally biased parental opinion), you could pull on your personal experience as an *employee* and say, “I would find it very demoralizing to be watched as if I can’t be trusted to do good work without someone keeping an eye on me, to the point that I’d be polishing my resume.” It’s probably not going to make her do a 180, but it’ll help to plant the seed that there are some downsides to what she’s doing.

  35. Nerd Boss*

    Hi, I’m an epidemiologist with large local health department in Texas and I have a masters in public health with an emphasis in applied epidemiology. In regards to number one, no I don’t think any action is necessary at this point if no one (including the letter writer) is currently experiencing any symptoms. We’re usually only tracing back two weeks prior to symptom onset. At this point there is really nothing we could do if no one is symptomatic.

  36. Fikly*

    LW2:

    The fastest way to make adults behave like irresponsible children is to treat them that way. If they’re already being treated that way, when not acting that way, what incentive do they have to behave any better?

    So your mother is only going to end up with a poorer work product in order to make herself “feel better.”

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    #3 Update LinkedIn!!! With so many people worried about their jobs right now, knowing that some companies out there are following through with promises and hiring can give people hope. In addition, it makes your company look great. A lot of people have been talking about adding a coronavirus question to their interview list so your company will have something positive to add (assuming they are doing the other things right as well).

    #5 I’ve applied for (and gotten) several internal roles and never once wrote a cover letter for them. Are you sure you need this?

  38. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – ask your mom if she stands over her employees’ shoulders all day when they’re all in the office. Then when she says no, remind her that by keeping them on video all day she is essentially doing the same thing. Maybe the comparison will help her understand that what she’s doing is unfair and not helpful. You either trust your employees to do their work or you don’t. And if you don’t, you have a bugger problem than being able to physically see them.

    1. iglwif*

      Great idea! And also that this is even less useful than standing over their shoulders all day, since instead of seeing what they’re working on, she’s just seeing them being at the computer. They could be spending all day watching YouTube videos, reading fanfic, scrolling twitter, or whatever, and you’d never know.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Yes, indeed. If your mom won’t don’t trust her team to do actual work while remote, she can’t trust them to produce actual work in the office, either. In fact, some of the biggest slackers I ever worked with were in the office from 8 am to 6 pm. They knew how to put in face time and bustled from one place to another, looking busy and earnest, but they didn’t produce nearly as much as their peers.

      OP 2, your mother isn’t helping her team during a stressful situation, which is something a good manager should be expected to do. I’ll argue she’s making things harder for her team and will pay for her behavior at some point…heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the busywork she’s so focused on is her team applying for jobs..

      Also, I don’t think this is a generational thing: I’m almost 60 years old and have never treated my team like your mom does – nor would I. There are better ways to confirm my team is producing, and breathing down their necks is not one of them. I hope you can find a way to talk to her about this.

    3. JM in England*

      If a boss did that to me in the office, would love to have the guts to say “If I wanted something that sits on my shoulder, I would buy a parrot!”….

  39. Not So NewReader*

    OP 2: Layperson here. In NYS we have a flu tracker on the NY DOH website.
    We are in week number 11 of the flu season and we have had just over 152,000 cases of flu in NY.

    I was not feeling well AT ALL during that time frame. I did not travel out of my area during that time, nor did I travel outside my area prior to that time. I feel much better now and no one around me got sick.

    To me this is like searching for a needle in a haystack. You were sick at a time when a lot of other people were sick also. I can’t see where it would do you much good to report it and I am also having difficulty figuring out where we would find the person-power to follow up on older cases.

    I will put a link to the NYS DOH flu tracker in my reply to this post. Perhaps your state has a similar map that would be helpful in some manner.

  40. blackcat*

    Hey, OP 1, just to reassure you (as a lay person), a friend who traveled to Norther Italy in mid February got sick upon getting home and was convinced it was COVID.

    Nope, test confirmed flu A (poor friend had *already* had flu B this year, and had a flu shot!).

    There are SO MANY respiratory things (colds, RSV, the flu) which impact different people differently that were circulating/are still circulating at the same time and in the same places as COVID. I really wouldn’t worry about it now. You weren’t there at like peak transmission. And it was two months ago now.

  41. AMT*

    How is watching someone through their webcam like in letter #2 even effective? You’re just seeing someone’s face at their computer. For all you know, they could be watching Netflix all day.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I realized this yesterday when I kept my camera on while my boss was doing a presentation. Usually while he presents I take some notes but also read other things (it helps keep me focused) and now I know that he will never know the difference. I could be sitting here reading AAM all day and he would have no clue. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure that out, but whatever. :)

      1. AMT*

        And then you forget and turn on screensharing and all 50+ tabs of your Snape fanfiction pop up.

        Come to think of it, OP #2, please don’t let your mom know that screensharing exists. She’s going to want a live feed of everyone’s desktop next. *shudder*

        1. iglwif*

          And this is why you keep your work tabs open in one browser and your not-work tabs in a different browser! XD

  42. The Tin Man*

    OP #3 – Congratulations! I am in a similar spot that I have been in line for a promotion but that all feels up-ended now that we are scrambling to cut and postpone costs.

    I keep wanting to reach out to HR to say something like “So…I assume that my promotion is on hold for the time being?” but stop myself because if they are moving forward anyway I don’t want to give them the OK to pause.

  43. My coworker made me sign a cast on her crotch*

    OP 3, congratulations on the promotion! It’s great that you’re being sensitive about it, but as long as you’re not, say, rubbing it in a laid off person’s face that you were promoted, I think its appropriate to post on Linked In. I went through this but with non-work stuff (pregnancy/ttc to be specific) and as long as the other person is being considerate and sensitive (which you are!) I would never begrudge them for sharing their good news.

    1. Sally*

      I’m so interested in the story behind your user name, “My coworker made me sign a cast on her crotch”!

  44. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW #5, I would also recommend that since you know who the hiring manager is for this position, DO NOT address the cover letter “Dear Hiring Manager,” as you might if you are unable to find out the name of that individual. I got a cover letter addressed in that way from one of my own direct-but-soon-to-be-indirect reports when I was hiring to replace my old team leader position, and couldn’t help but think, “come on, you know who I am! Or if you weren’t sure whether I was officially the hiring manager, you could have asked me!”

  45. iglwif*

    OP#2: If you aren’t comfortable critiquing your mom’s management practices, could you instead point out to her that having all her direct reports on video all day long is likely REALLY straining everyone’s internet bandwidth?

  46. FNightingale*

    PhD. Nurse Practitioner.

    At this point, sharing a possible exposure will not do any good. Plus, there were a lot of things going around in January. Could have been the flu or RSV. You won’t know unless you get an antibody test. I would sit on the info and do your part to flatten the curve now. You didn’t do anything wrong, so don’t be hard on yourself.

  47. Quill*

    #1: Be warned that my only expertise is in microbiology, (Bachelor’s in environmental science focused in microbes, chemistry, public health) not virology. That said, given the amount of asymptomatic (and mildly symptomatic) spread COVID has, I would not assume nobody at work got sick or did not pass it on to someone else. Inform your coworkers. Be frank that your suspicions are based on that you were in the right area at the right time with mild respiratory symptoms. They may need this information in order to properly assess the risk that they, or a close family member, has been exposed. If the virus incubates 2 weeks, then for precaution assume that it’s contagious slightly longer than that… so each coworker could be link 1 in a chain of Asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people.

    A month ago is “roughly two incubation periods ago” after all.

    1. Quill*

      Actually I hadn’t considered the potential panic response: given that your company should probably ALREADY assume that everyone who works there has potentially been exposed to COVID, I retract my statement unless the company is not already taking stringent precautions.

  48. Alicia*

    For #3 I think you should share it – in the ways Alison said and maybe in any group chats with friends. It’s good news, something fun and different to talk about (rather than the latest COVID stats), and a sign that things are still going on.

  49. Koala dreams*

    #1 I have no credentials in this area. I don’t see any purpose in telling your work. Check with local authorities if you need to report to them. Where I live, they were tracking cases closely in the beginning, but by now they only test you if you have serious symptoms, a minor cough isn’t enough. So check what’s true for where you live.

    #3 Congratulations! It’s fine either way, and there’s nothing wrong with updating LinkedIn. In these times of physical isolation, connecting over social media gives joy to many people. I’m sure your connections on LinkedIn will be happy for you!

  50. Oxford Comma*

    OP#4: when you come into any job, you usually start with a grace period, right? People are generally going to be patient with you if you make mistakes or ask something that hits a sore spot. If there’s a new manager/CEO/administrator, employees tend to understand that the person needs the time to figure out what’s going on before they implement changes/address issues. To a certain extent, that’s political capital.

    But as the weeks and months pass, if you are mediocre at your job, or if you become that person who keeps asking “I don’t understand why can’t we move the furniture to the left?” or if the new boss keeps wrong-footing it, that political capital is spent. And when you’re new, regardless of your role in an organization, it is very very hard to build it back up again.

    Now if you’re doing your job, keeping up with tasks, excelling at whatever those are, being a generally collegial person, you build it up. So by the time you’ve been there a while and you need to go to your boss with a new idea for a project or maybe ask that question everyone else is afraid to ask in a meeting, you’ve got that bank of political capital.

    In one of my jobs, when things were getting quite toxic, one of librarians–a person, who never ever rocked the boat, just came in and did her job and did it well for years–well she spoke up in a meeting, and everyone paid attention, including the assistant director, who finally got off his butt and did something about the issue. That was a good way of spending political capital.

  51. Treebeardette*

    #1 Master’s degree in public health here. You can always call the health department to ask. However, I wouldn’t say anything to your coworkers because their reactions may make it worse.

  52. Larkinson*

    #1– I work at a local health department and am very involved in COVID-19 response and disease surveillance. DO NOT CALL US about what you think was *maybe* an exposure in January. Don’t call your doctor. No one has time to follow up on a “maybe” exposure from almost 2 months (!) ago. We do not have the energy, time, or capacity. We barely have the capacity to follow up on actual, confirmed, current cases of COVID-19 and their high risk contacts (aka people who live in the house with them). And if someone did get sick from you, they’re already recovered. We would probably never be able to confirm with a test and if we did it would be a waste of a test and PPE.

    Here’s the reality. This is not under control. There’s community spread in much of the country, which means that we’re finding positive cases and there’s no clear link as to who passed COVID on to them. This means that anyone could be infected, including you. Worried your coworkers are possibly exposed from you? Guess what? You and your coworkers are possibly exposed every time they leave the house, because we have community spread. Anyone could have COVID. And we don’t have the supplies to test people, so we will never really know.

    You want to be a good community member? Here’s what you do. Assume you have COVID. Stay home as much as possible. Tell your friends and family to stay home. You’re coughing, so stay home. Go to the grocery store or gas station if you have to, but do it as little as possible and with as much distance and caution as possible. Monitor your symptoms. If you get symptoms, send someone else to the grocery store and stay home. Avoid household members. Hope that you feel better. If you think you’re dying, then you can go to the hospital.

    Isolation is the only tool we have right now. PLEASE use it.

    1. another epi*

      Hope Allison can bump this response because it’s correct– I’m an MPH- level epidemiologist also working on COVID-19 in a local context. Everyone is swamped right now with current cases, there’s no way we’d contact trace for someone with January symptoms– plus the odds you’d remember who you came into contact with almost two months ago are so low as to not be helpful. I agree with others that raising your concerns to your workplace at this point is more likely to cause panic than be helpful. If/when an antibody test is available, try to get one; otherwise absolve yourself as best as possible from any worry/guilt about being an early spreader (because whether you were or not, we’re way past that and you couldn’t have known since our public health response has been so slow!!) and hang out at home as much as you can.

    2. Orange You Glad*

      This is a great perspective. I think it’s important to remember how overloaded every part of the health system is right now. Thank you for doing what you do.

  53. Brett*

    #1
    Former emergency manager who developed the pandemic response plan for one of the 50 largest counties in the US. From the emergency response perspective, including the public health emergency support function, the focus will be on surveillance of current hazard and resource allocation rather than tracing back disease spread. By the time an antibody test is available, the point of information that public health could gain from you is going to be of minimal value (and you could have been repeatedly exposed since your trip to Italy anyway).

    Like Larkinson said above, resources are scarce and there are not the resources available right now to spend on the information that you offer.

  54. Creag an Tuire*

    (Layperson) #1, if you feel safe answering, is your job an “essential” business exempted from your local shelter-in-place/WFH rules? If so, I’d think that makes it more urgent to notify your state’s public health department.

    If on the other hand your colleagues have already been instructed to proceed as if they already have COVID-19, I think the urgency is lesser — still contact them but they may have bigger fish to fry right now.

  55. Elbe*

    For OP#2 I think it’s worth mentioning sometimes people need privacy for legitimate reasons, even if they are doing their work. What happens is someone is quarantined in a studio with their partner? While they’re working, their partner still needs to shower, get dressed, etc. and they need privacy for that. Not everyone has a home office. Demanding constant surveillance in an office is bad enough, but it’s not right to expect that within someone’s home. People who are worried about the economy may not feel able to push back on this, even if it’s a major burden for them and their household.

    And, also, having your video on all day can be a strain on your internet bandwidth, too. If people are at home on one internet connection with two people working from home, one kid watching youtube, and another streaming a TV show… that’s a lot for most people. In some areas, the systems are being overloaded by the number of people using the internet for high-bandwidth activities like video meetings and streaming video.

    There are SO many reasons why the cons outweigh the pros here.

  56. Colorado*

    OP #2: Please show your mom this post and thread. This is not a normal time for anyone and it’s totally unreasonable to ask people to keep their cameras on in the their own personal space with other family members present all day(!!!) And it’s sucking up bandwidth. That reason alone I wouldn’t be able to but it’s invasive and not productive at all. Have a 1/2 hour meeting everyday with the cameras on. This is not the time to be micromanaging people’s productivity. This is a time for empathy, flexibility, kindness, and tolerance. This burns me up. Please show her this and kindly tell her to knock it off.

    1. Blueberry*

      I’m not sure showing Mom this particular discussion will do anything but make her defensive(“YOU TALKED ABOUT ME ON THE INTERNET?!?!?!”), but fortunately Allison gave LW#2 some links to similar discussions that they can and IMO definitely should show their Mom.

      LW#2: THANK YOU and we are cheering you on as you potentially help your mother become a less onerous manager and thus improve her reports’ lives!

    2. James*

      Is there a reason for a half-hour meeting? This could be handled with an email–“I’m currently working on X, Y, and Z. I have X% availability today, looks like I’ll be booked solid the rest of the week.” Maybe a weekly half-hour one-on-one call, plus maybe a daily one if necessary.

      The idea of sitting around on a call where everyone says what they’re working on and what their status is makes me want to run. At the very least I’d have to get a cardboard cut-out of myself to put in front of the camera. It’s a waste of time and resources.

  57. MissDisplaced*

    2. My mom makes her team stay on video all day
    I mean, if you want to get into this and you have a good rapport with your mum, I might further question her as to why it must be video? Video takes up a LOT of bandwidth! Why not use a chat tool like Slack or some other way to ask questions throughout the day when needed? Or an end of the day check-in? Because the use of video strictly for “monitoring” purposes and not actual meetings smacks more on spying/watching than being truly productive here.

  58. OP #1*

    Hi all! OP #1 here. First off, thanks Alison for putting my question out there, and to all the public health and medical professionals who have weighed in. There genuinely isn’t information out there about what people in my situation should do, and my local public health agency is pretty overloaded right now.

    For the laypeople who have commented about being punished for reporting it, that’s a real concern of mine. The trip was a vacation that my boss approved and then punished me for when I got back, and I know mentioning “maybe I brought COVID-19 back to the office” would NOT go over well. But I didn’t want to be irresponsible if it was something I should report.

    Based on everyone’s responses, I don’t think I will say anything. It doesn’t seem like there is anything meaningful that can be done with the info at this point; and speculation could cause more harm than good.

    Thanks again everyone!

    1. Julie*

      #5 – I remember one of my questions about writing internal cover letters is what return address to put on the letter (personal or work). I ended up going with none. So date, skip a line, hiring manager address, etc.

    2. Larkinson*

      Sorry for the tone of my comment earlier– feeling overloaded myself today– but you’re doing the right thing by doing nothing. I know everyone wants to do something, because it feels like they should be able to help somehow– sharing info with the local health department, sewing cloth masks, etc– but the most heroic and effective thing we can all do is to sit at home and do nothing. So you’re doing the right thing. If not already in place and if it’s possible, you could advocate to your boss that everyone who can should be working from home right now and that you should have more paid sick leave– that will be useful for minimizing exposure in the coming days and weeks for all of you.

      Also your boss sounds like a jerk!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      The trip was a vacation that my boss approved and then punished me for when I got back

      Yeesh. I definitely would not say anything then, especially since it might have been something else. What an asshole boss!

  59. ElizabethJane*

    For #2

    If I worked for your mom we’d be having problems – I can leave my camera on all day but you’d see a blank wall for a couple of hours while I deal with my toddler, you’d see my husband and I switching off, and you’d see me working at 4:00 in the morning or 10:00 at night.

    This isn’t a normal time. I’m not working 9-5. I’m working 4-7:30, then 10-2, then 8-11 or whatever. Let people get things done during the day and address productivity issues as they arise. And, if someone is 80% productive leave them alone. Right now that’s good enough.

    1. James*

      There are many, many legitimate reasons–work-related ones–to be away from your computer. For example: I spent half of yesterday on the phone with various folks, which is pretty standard for me. When I’m on the phone I pace, and working from home I pace in the kitchen because that’s where the coffee is. Would this boss chalk that up as unproductive time?

      One of the things I did was send a junior staff member to pick up some supplies necessary for work next week. He necessarily was away from his computer at the time–can’t carry a laptop with you to Office Depot. Would that count as unproductive time?

      Time spent with butts in seats=/=total work time!

  60. I'm just here for the cats*

    #1 ( it in healthcare) the news last night said they were working on a test to see if you have the antibodies of the virus, bit it will be months before it’s available. Just thought I would put that out there.

  61. Senor Montoya*

    OP #2, I am your mom’s age (tail end of the baby boom). Tell her I said to cut it out! We boomers are big on privacy, right? We’re the generation that’s all “independence” and “get out of the way, oldsters”. Seriously, if she was a teenager in the 1970s? Where is this “Big Brother is watching you, employees” coming from?

    And if that doesn’t work, tell her that her employees are going to see her as Old, Out of Touch, and Very Very Uncool.

    (If I were her employee I;d make a video of myself sitting at the computer typing, drinking coffee, picking up the phone, etc., then run it as a loop.)

  62. Senor Montoya*

    OP #4: you don’t have to be high up in the ranks to have capital — some people higher up in fact don’t have much. You can be a leader without having a title, and respected for your knowledge and insight without officially being in charge.

    It’s also context dependent. The chancellor at our university isn’t going to seek me out or necessarily pay attention to my suggestions, but my dean will.

  63. Jane*

    Letter #2 – Your mom is going to lose a lot of employees once people are able to start job searching again. She is forcing her employees to live in a panopticon, a disciplinary method of keeping eyes on the incarcerated at all times. Have you shown her the meme that’s going around of people planning on asking employers how they managed through Covid-19? If I heard about this in an interview, I would nope out immediately. Like cut the interview short immediately. Good luck to you if you try to convince her to stop this madness.

  64. Crest*

    #2: It is horrifying, and I hope you will say a lot more to her than just hinting about it. I can guarantee that if I was watched all hours of the day I would be horrified, disgusted, and probably throwing in some stuff she wouldn’t want to see (at the very least eating slobbishly, not cleaning up, picking nose, etc), but I’d also just stop doing a lot of natural stuff that she might be hoping to watch/learn about me. I would pretty much turn into an automaton and not in a good productive way either. And if I was working for her, I wouldn’t be working for her for very long. I get it that most people wouldn’t want to quit while probably very little hiring is happening but I wouldn’t even care, just quit asap. Who would ever want to be around someone that is so destructive to her employees? If she’s hoping for some work to be accomplished by doing this, think again. Yes, I’m angry on their behalf. And sadly she probably knows this is bad management practice and does it anyway.

  65. Marketing Queen*

    OP #3: I’m finding it’s really helpful to focus on positive things right now. Congratulations on your promotion!

  66. Bookworm*

    #3: Thank you for asking this question. I may be going through something similar (but it had been in the works before COVID-19 took over our lives) and then…BAM. I know how you feel–it does seem a little weird.

    But as someone on the outside: please share. No, don’t be obnoxious, especially as there are people struggling for work right now but you don’t seem to be that way by your very letter and ask. I don’t know you, but these bits of happy news are something we could all use right now. I’m glad this job has worked out for you and that your workplace appreciates you.

    Congratulations!! :)

  67. Observer*

    OP #2 – I think that there is another thing you may want to point out to your mother – Right now, most people are scared enough about their jobs that they are unlikely to quit or even deliberately ratchet down their work. BUT, this WILL have a negative impact on productivity. And, what goes round comes round.

    Point her to all of the stories about prospective employees ghosting employers. Time and again, the folks who look at this stuff for a living say that one of the factors in this is the garbage ways that many employers treat prospective employees. Once the labor market got tight, a lot of people decided that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” And that’ talking about employees doing things that most people agree are inappropriate. Job hunting is NOT inappropriate in any way shape or form. So, people WILL job hunt the second they can. And many will not even give your Mom the courtesy of 2 weeks notice.

    That’s hopefully going to be fairly soon – months not a decade. Which means that even if she’s close to retirement, it IS going to affect her. And if she works at a decent company that does exit interviews right, her employer might very well find out WHY she’s suddenly losing so many people, and decide to do something about that. That might not go so well for her, either.

  68. Recent Promotee*

    OP #3: First off, congrats!

    I was actually notified of a promotion 3 weeks ago, right before most of my office was instructed to work from home and in the midst of a few friends of mine having some of their gigs cancelled due to the virus. I felt really weird about telling friends and family because I felt like this-is-not-the-time however, I’ve been tactful with who I tell the news to, I don’t need to rub my promotion and raise in the face of a friend that lost her job because the restaurant she works at closed.

    My company has announced it via a few different avenues and I’ve been receiving congratulations from colleagues; as I type this, I received two IMs congratulating me, I received another one suggesting celebrating once this is all over. I agree with Alison that this type of news may bring some normalcy during a time of immense uncertainty. I actually have no hesitations about updating my Linkedin profile and Outlook signature, I’m actually looking quite forward to it! I know how you feel, I’ve been beaming with pride and excitement and I don’t think you should let the current situation diminish your feeling of pride and success, you deserve it!

  69. MMD*

    I’m not exactly sure when the Covid letter came in but if it’s recently it doesn’t really serve any purpose to tell your manager now, months after the fact. You may just as easily had another virus as several are circulating. In January our hospital saw a spat of influenza-like patients who tested negative to influenza A and B. I wonder if it was the first appearance of Covid. A few bad pneumonias. No deaths.

  70. Infectious Disease Epi*

    Infectious disease epidemiologist at a state health department in the U.S.

    Pls don’t call the health department about this. They are slammed with questions right now, overwhelmed with the work load and the speed of the outbreak. There is mother to be done with a single person who *might* have been sick with COVID-19 months ago. They are dealing with so many cases right now, they can’t track any back that far.

  71. Sophie1*

    COVID-19 not being on anyone’s radar in mid-Jan is one of the reasons why the American media needs to not be so insular focused. With the amount of 24 hour news sites and news channels, world news needs to be discussed and analysed in more depth rather than being a side note to the main event of arguing about something this or that politician said to push whatever political agenda the channel is pushing.

  72. Happy dance*

    Op#3 Congratulations! This is awesome! I’m in the same boat as you. I feel incredibly grateful and blessed to work for a strong company in an industry that does well in good and bad times. People are bored and tired of the news cycle. Your message will be a breath of fresh air. Share and celebrate. You deserve it.

  73. negotiator*

    On capital – it’s nebulous because it reflects the social relationships of our society. On my small, close knit team it has taken me a long time to build capital because I’m the only woman, I’m significantly younger than the others and when we started working together, a *lot* less experienced. Even though I’d describe them as progressive and supportive, the reality is that I’ve had to work much harder than say, an older male who reflects their idea of a good teapot maker would have in order to be respected and taken seriously. But over a period of several years we’ve got there and I have “capital” – I have the ability to
    change the direction of the team. You’ll probably only know that you have it once you’ve got it.

  74. Ladybug*

    #1 – Thanks for asking the question. It’s exactly this kind of gray area and stray threads that a lot of people are dealing with and not knowing where to turn to get guidance. We want to be socially responsible, as you said, but not be a burden for those whose skills and expertise are needed elsewhere more urgent. I feel like some of the responses to your question, while helpful, have been a bit admonishing and that was not necessary. So I want to say thanks and I understand why you were asking! I’m sure tons of other people who come across this article will find it helpful.

  75. Howie*

    #4 – In my experience, mere exposure effect / proximity effect leading to friendship is often an equal or bigger part of developing capital than performance. For better or worse, in the organizations I’ve been in relationships matter *a lot.*

    Average performance + great relationships = more capital than great performance + average relationships (again, in my experience). Of course the lines are blurrier than that; having quality relationships is its own measure of performance in a way.

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