my boss sent a friend to spy on me at my house

A reader writes:

I work for a very large company and am working from home. When I spoke to my manager on the phone recently, she hinted about whether I was watching TV while working. I told her I can’t watch TV while I work because it’s too distracting, but I listen to podcasts for background noise, as I did when we were in the office.

Now I see that she sent a friend of hers to check on me from outside of my house. I saw her stop on the road in front of my house on her bike, text, then go around the block, come back in front of my house, and stop and text again. She was obviously peering in. I saw her since I was working at the kitchen table, and she didn’t see me since she was looking in my living room windows.

I understand if they want to track what I’m doing on my laptop (I know they do this) and I have no problem with that, but I do have an issue with her friend spying on me in front of my house. Is this legal? A friend thought this would be harassment. What are your thoughts?

What on earth? This is both incredibly intrusive of your manager and incredibly passive (a weird combination). If she has concerns about whether you’re really working while you’re at home, she needs to address that directly and examine your actual work output … not send a friend to peek in your windows.

And aside from the ridiculous privacy violation and general absurdity, what was she expecting to accomplish? If the friend saw you preparing food or doing laundry instead of working, what would that prove? It would tell her nothing more than that you took a short break just as you might do at the office. She’d need to either spy on you for hours or see something truly extreme for it to be any use, like spotting you passed out in a sea of beer cans or perhaps putting the finishing touches on an intricate tattoo that you’d clearly been at for hours.

It’s surprisingly foolish.

Anyway, a lot of jurisdictions do make it illegal to deliberately loiter and peek in windows (see Peeping Tom laws), but I don’t think that angle is your best bet here. If it were happening repeatedly and after you’d attempted to address it with your manager, maybe — but for now, your better bet is to talk to your manager and ask what’s up.

I’d say this: “Something strange just happened. Your friend Jane was just here and seemed to be looking in my windows! It was incredibly unnerving. Do you know what’s going on?”

That alone might ensure it doesn’t happen again, since people who engage in bizarrely amateur spy games often don’t like being called out on them.

But you also need to address the bigger issue, which is the apparent total lack of trust she has in you. I would say, “This happened right after you asked if I was watching TV while working. Do you have concerns about how focused I am on work when I’m at home?” … followed by, “Could we take a look at my output for the last few weeks so you can see what I’m getting done? I don’t want you to have doubts about my productivity, and I think looking at the work I’ve done will hopefully set that to rest.”

Of course, none of that will change the fact that you’re working for someone who sent a friend to peer in your windows and spy on you. That’s probably not salvageable in any real way.

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. Myrin*

    “since people who engage in bizarrely amateur spy games often don’t like being called out on them.”
    This isn’t quite as good as black magic being an occupational hazard but it definitely falls in the same category. Sometimes… weird things happen in the world.

  2. juliebulie*

    I’d invite Jane in for some lemonade and offer to let her stay and watch me work as long as she’s quiet and doesn’t touch anything.

    1. juliebulie*

      And hey, doesn’t Jane have things to do? Why does Jane get to play Peeping Tina while OP isn’t even allowed to have the TV on?

      1. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

        My husband has been working from home for years and has the TV on (no sound), and his personal computer right next to him. I see him leaning back relaxing or on ‘his’ computer lots during the day.

        Know what? He’s one of the top performers in his office. He manages his time well and gets everything done well before it’s due. Having a TV on is not a problem if you can work with one on.

        1. juliebulie*

          I agree – I use it to screen out noise from outside (construction work, passersby, vehicles, etc.).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I used to use it to keep from falling asleep, back when it was very quiet during the day in my neighborhood. I’d just pop on Kitchen Nightmare reruns at a low volume—I could ignore them, since I’d seen them all, and the background talking was like office chatter.

            1. CarolynM*

              2 coworkers and I, all 3 working in different offices and having never met in person, recently discovered we all watch Hell’s Kitchen in the background when we work. Something weirdly soothing about Gordon flipping out on people!

          2. jenkins*

            My work includes two unbelievably repetitive, boring tasks that takes several hours to complete. I stick something easy like Star Trek on to occupy the rest of my brain while I’m doing them, because otherwise I become so zombified I make horrible mistakes. It’s the only time I use TV during work time, and I do it because it *improves* my productivity on those specific tasks. No one knows I do this, supervisor is pleased with my speed and reliability, everyone wins.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Same! I have some boring tasks that tend to make me want to zone out, and putting on something I’ve seen a million times before actually helps. I also do that when I’m feeling poorly enough to need to rest and close my eyes, but not poorly enough to actually nap.

          3. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

            Same here – there’s a ton of construction going on outside, and my HVAC sometimes has a weird buzz. If I had to listen to that in silence all day, I’d lose my mind, but the sound of West Wing is basically office noise, so…

        2. Them Boots*

          This is actually a really good tip for those having trouble working from home without other faces to see! With the sound off on the tv, it’s like being in the office with headphones on.

          1. Triumphant Fox*

            So. True. Also, it just helps jumpstart my brain sometimes. Looking at new things, thinking in new ways. I find I come back to my work in better shape.

        3. Anonys*

          I am very firmly in camp would never watch TV, listen to a podcast or even music while working, including during the most mundane parts of my job (even when organizing my files). I often enjoy the quietness in my brain while doing fairly routine and mindless tasks in silence (most of my jobs requires talking and complex topics). Having the TV on in silence would really bother me, because to me it would be like, what’s the point, or I would get interested in what’s happening on the screen. I usually take my TV time very seriously and give it my full attention ;)

          However, I know and accept that other people feel differently. OP’s boss is probably like me (with a hefty dose of deranged control freak) but just cant imagine that anyone might have a different working style.

          1. pancakes*

            Maybe; maybe she’s just a control freak and inept at it. It doesn’t matter what the boss’s reasons are because this is wildly inappropriate behavior.

          2. Kit Kendrick*

            If I’m doing something completely repetitive I’ll sometimes have a audiobook or podcast on to keep me from making mistakes out of boredom (my brain doesn’t go quiet when understimulated — it wanders.) Otherwise I usually have some cocktail of noise-canceling so I don’t accidentally get distracted by my neighbors’ calls and conversations.

            I once completely bemused one of those controlling managers who wanted to know what I always had playing on my earphones so I passed them over for him to listen. It was white “babble” noise calibrated to block voices on a random volume slider under a thunderstorm on a metal roof, a crackling fireplace, and the bass range of a cat purring. He no longer suspected me of secretly enjoying my work but I think I did cement the idea that I’m weird.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              Ah, yes, Ambient Mixer is one of my favorite websites. I’m sure crappy bosses would imagine I’m listening to some rapturously distracting thing but it’s just Sherlock Holmes’ apartment on a rainy night.

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                I have that website bookmarked! There’s one mix I made that sounds like walking through a forest on a pleasant Autumn afternoon and it’s very soothing. It’s so useful for drowning out my loud coworkers when they discuss the latest reality show episode at top volume 5 feet from me. Well, in the Before Times anyway. Now the noisy distraction is my 3 year old.

                In fact, I think I need to queue it up at some point tomorrow. We’ve been holed up in our house for almost 4 months now and I think the nature sounds will help the cabin fever.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  I did not know this was a things. I immediately sent this link to a few dear friends who live alone.

              2. Crackling fire*

                Thank you so much for this recommendation, I didn’t know about it and now I’m in the Ravenclaw common room.

          3. Not Getting Into Bad Habits*

            I’ve been keeping my TV on because I don’t want to get in the habit of working in lovely silence, because silence is something I can’t get in the office. I don’t want to lose the ability to work in the loud chaos that I have learned over the years. So, yeah, my TV is on, but I’m just practicing ignoring noise, not paying attention to it.

            1. Anonys*

              That’s so interesting! I’ve actually been enjoying the quiet at home, though I don’t usually terribly mind the office chatter. I feel like that fades into the background more than a TV would – especially since TV shows have a coherent narrative and are often quite interesting. My office also isn’t crazy loud though, for an open floor plan.

              1. Not Getting Into Bad Habits*

                The law office I work for is basically one long hallway with offices on either side and secretary cubicles in the middle. Frequently, the attorneys will be in the their offices, doors open and call each other on speaker phone. So I’m in the middle, hearing each attorney twice, once through their door, and once through the speakerphone. That’s the kind of thing I have to work through. I just can’t get used to silence, not matter how much I love it.

          4. GerryL*

            When I worked — whether from home or at the office — talking disrupted my concentration. Music was okay. Since retiring, I stream French news radio in the background much of the day. It’s a lot easier to tune out a foreign language, and it preps my ears for when I do want to settle down to study.

        4. MsChanandlerBong*

          Having the TV on actually makes me MORE productive. I have ADHD, and I cannot stand to work in silence. My brain just whirls through every thought possible, from what I might have for lunch to what my kindergarten crush might be up to these days. Having noise in the background keeps my brain quiet so I can do my work.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t have an ADHD diagnosis but I can relate to that. I’ve been working from home since last summer and often have a long-play YouTube video of a bonfire, ocean waves, or a train or canal boat journey on in the background. Live bird feeder cams are good too, until they get to be too exciting for the cat. If I put on a show or a movie I’d get sucked in, but I do need to take my eyes off my laptop screen now and then.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              I use Ambient Mixer a lot so I can adjust the sounds to exactly what I want. They probably have bird sounds but without the video so you cat won’t get distracted.

          2. Pretzelgirl*

            I am the same way. I cannot do music though, because I love to sing along. I do podcasts or ASMR sounds. Helps me so much!

            1. Anonapots*

              I do music if I have to do something language related like writing. If it’s something that’s repetitive like updating a spreadsheet or whatever, I can listen to podcasts.

              1. allathian*

                I write for a living so podcasts are out. I can’t listen to them in the background anyway, because I just tune them out completely. If I want to listen to a podcast, I need to do it in a dark room, with my eyes shut. And even then, my internal monologue will probably tune it out half the time. Honestly, podcasts are a total waste of time for me. I don’t do audio books either. I’ve only listened to one audio book, and that was because I liked the narrator’s voice and I knew the story from reading the book previously. Conference calls/video meetings are fine as long as I have some input at least occasionally, but I find it almost impossible to focus if I’m just listening to a presentation.

                I’ve been enjoying WFH in a fairly quiet environment at home. I do get interrupted by my family occasionally, but not all the time. Luckily we have a liberal WFH policy, so I won’t have to give this up completely when we do go back in the fall.

        5. SDSmith82*

          Same here- top performer- and it’s always on. Especially while working from home as it keeps my dog occupied and drowns out road noise.

          I’m lucky enough that my boss doesn’t care, as she knows I’m getting my stuff handled, and that it’s not an issue. But she’s one of those mythical creatures known as “a Great Boss”. She trust me to handle my own work, and asks if/when I can take on more, if I hadn’t volunteered for more, without setting us up for failure.

        6. Half-Caf Latte*

          I’ve started taking walks around the neighborhood during our town hall format meetings. It’s all info dissemination, and having my body occupied has made my mind more receptive to the info, whereas when i attended in a huge conference room, i’d pay more attention to how uncomfortable the chairs were and zone out on the talkers. I’m never going back.

      2. Jojo*

        Time to let the dog out. My little chihuahua would bark up a storm chasing her off . Whole neighborhood would see.. report loiterer to police. They staking out the neighborhood for a heist.

    2. Mid*

      Honestly that was my first idea too. Just open up the door and greet her. I’d bet that Jane would panic and run away.

      1. nnn*

        That’s what I was thinking. Get up, put on a mask, open the door, “Excuse me, can I help you…Jane! What a surprise to see you on my doorstep in the middle of a pandemic! Is everything okay??

        But first comment on your office’s Slack “BRB, there’s someone looking in my window.”

        And then when you come back “Don’t worry, I’m safe, it was Boss’s friend Jane. [insert whatever Jane’s cover story is here]”

        1. EddieSherbert*

          ^^^ This! My first reaction is definitely to call her out on it mid-peeping but I LOVE the addition of “BRB someone is looking in my windows” on an office chat!

        2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          But first comment on your office’s Slack “BRB, there’s someone looking in my window.”
          Cheers!!!

        3. sofar*

          Came here to say the same thing. “Jane? Jane! Hi! What brings you to the neighborhood?”

          And then message the boss, “You’ll never believe who was just in my neighborhood. Jane! So good to catch up with her!”

        4. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

          Love it! Intrusive people often get flustered when caught or called out. This would be awesome!

        5. Alice's Rabbit*

          Genius! Also, it let’s your coworkers know this happened. Because I am willing to bet OP isn’t the only one that the boss is spying on. But likely everyone else is in the same boat and is unsure how – or if – to mention it.

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I’d take pictures of her thru the windows and post them on my blog or other social media with a big caption “DO YOU KNOW THIS WOMAN?” Or maybe breathlessly say to boss, “Some strange woman has been hanging around outside my home! I’ve contacted neighborhood watch and got video in case the police need evidence!” But it would be cool to sling open the door and say, “Hey, aren’t you my boss’s friend Jane? Nice to see you! Gee, I’d love to ask you in for tea and crumpets but I’m on the clock and have a lot of work to do now! C-ya!”

    3. Emi.*

      My great-grandmother used to take lemonade to the FBI agents surveilling her house during the Cold War.

      1. JanetM*

        Is it too early to ask for details on the weekend open thread? Your great-grandmother sounds like a fascinating person.

        1. Emi.*

          They were German-American and had organized food aid to Germany after WWII, so they were under suspicion during WWII and then they had the absolute gall to organize MORE aid after that war ended. My great-grandfather ended up getting a medal from Konrad Adenauer. :)

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            That is great!
            Now I have an image of the FBI assignment room, “Bob, you’re on the Muller house this week.” “Nice! Mrs. Muller makes the BEST lemonade! Maybe she’ll have some of those cookies she gave us last month.”

            1. Shirley Keeldar*

              This cracked me up. Envisioning a young, fresh-faced FBI recruit getting all excited about cookies while his hardboiled boss looks on in weary dismay.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        LOL That makes me think of a first-person story I heard on public radio that I’ve been looking for for years. Someone had hired surveillance on the narrator, the watcher was not unobtrusive, and it was winter. So the narrator went out and offered something warm to the watcher.
        “I would not say no to a nice lentil soup!” is now a catch-phrase in my family. (And if anyone knows this reference, I’d really appreciate a source!)

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          The indexing bots are quick. I tried to google the phrase. It shows up *once* on the internet. I didn’t even think that was possible.

      3. anon for this.*

        My dad went over to the guys tailing us (diplomatic family overseas during the Cold War) and told them how long we’d be gone when they followed us to the marina one afternoon and…did not have a boat themselves to observe us taking a cruise on our powerboat.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, I love that!!

        When I was still at OldExjob, I contacted the FBI for help with a novel. I just called the local office, since at the time, I didn’t yet know about the media office in D.C. So one day, there was a black car with tinted windows idling outside the office. It was so obviously a government car; also, there was no reason for anyone to be out there, since we were by ourselves at the end of a cul-de-sac in an industrial park. The sales guys were peering out the window like, “Who is that and what are they doing?”

        I looked out the window and said, “Oh, that’s probably the FBI. I called them about my book. Hi, FBI!” I waved out the window and went back to my desk. Right after that, the car pulled away, and a few days after that, they called me back, lol.

        I’m sure there’s a file on me; I just haven’t bothered to check.

      5. Anonymous this time*

        My next door neighbors were mixed up in stuff that is Very Bad. The FBI, IRS, INS, AFT, and international law enforcement were involved at various times. These neighbors had a big party. (We learned later for one of their, er, associates who was being deported!) Lots of cars were lining the street. Other neighbor across the street, a retired military guy with a star or two, noticed a car partially blocking his driveway with two guys sitting in it and boldly tapped on the window to ask why they were sitting there. FBI badges were flashed and he was told they were watching the party house. Guess they weren’t trying to keep anything secret.

      6. WoodswomanWrites*

        I know someone who used to wave and say hello to the FBI agents hanging out in front of her house. Her brother, who had done nothing illegal, was being investigated by the House Unamerican Activities Committee. She ended up being interviewed on TV when Edward R. Murrow featured the issue on his show.

      1. juliebulie*

        It’s not a sincere offer.
        I mean, I might still give her the lemonade, but it would be airborne.

    4. Mazzy*

      On a serious note, if it happens again, it would be good to just walk aside. Pretend you’re getting the mail, the newspaper, going on a walk, to the car, who cares, then wave at the person and ask how they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic thing, just enough to get their heart rate up.

      1. Drew*

        This is what went through my head. “Oh, Jane, didn’t expect to see you right now to my mailbox! I’d love to invite you in, but COVID, you know, plus I have a bunch of work to do done. I’ll make sure to tell Charlotte we ran idea each other on the my next conference call – what a weird coinydink! Enjoy the rest of your bike ride; the greenbelt down the street a mile or so is a great way to get away from it all.”

      2. GreenDoor*

        Love this. I’d go out my back door and sneak around to the front and call out a cheery Hello. Or throw up an unexpected window and lean out – like from upstairs, or pop my head out a basement window or something. Freak her out, good!

    5. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      This is less satisfying than mooning Jane, but more prudent in the long run.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        I think it’s arguably more satisfying. To moon someone, you have to turn your back on them, which makes it harder to observe their facial expressions and fully savor their reaction. But ymmv, of course! ;-p

        1. TardyTardis*

          This is where the porch camera comes in handy–you can save that footage for the next office Christmas party.

    6. OhBehave*

      Set up a sprinkler near the road and turn it on when she’s around. Especially if she circles around again!

  3. EPLawyer*

    What on EARTH??? Yeah your boss is not good at the spying thing. Your agent is not supposed to get caught. She either needs better agents or needs to knock it off. I vote for the latter.

    You can really tell the bosses who HATED the idea of WFH before Covid. Having it forced upon them is making them LOOSE their DAMN MINDS.

    1. Important Moi*

      Can HR do anything with this information?

      Would it be worth it to filing a police report on this stranger and mentioning it to the boss – e.g. “Hi Boss, bhile I working at home, someone peered through my window. Freaked me out so much I filed a police report.”

      1. KD*

        I’d totally be tempted to be like “I’m so freaked out that someone has been spying on my at my home, certainly you understand I’m unable to concentrate on work at all while feeling so unsafe.”

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Oh, that’s good! Really drives home how inappropriate and ineffective this is.

      2. pancakes*

        I doubt police would be willing to take a report based on just one incident of someone being outside someone else’s home. I think it would be excessive to try to get them to, and unlikely to resolve the problem the boss has with people working from home.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Two incidents. She came by twice and did the exact same thing both times.
          That’s clearly a pattern, and yes, the police can follow up on that.

          1. pancakes*

            Going around the block in between doesn’t make it two separate incidents. It isn’t illegal to stop one’s bike in front of someone else’s home and send a text, and trying to involve police would both display poor judgment and, as I said, be unlikely to resolve the problem between the letter writer and their boss.

        2. Happy*

          Unfortunately, sometimes they will do more than just take a report. Sureshbhai Patel was paralyzed by police in Madison, Alabama after someone reported him for walking around a neighborhood and peering into garages.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, well, many people, especially in the US, are very wary of calling the cops even in an emergency. Only white middle class or wealthy cishet people can do this safely. This isn’t an emergency, just an annoying boss. I agree that it needs to stop, but calling the cops isn’t the solution.

    2. rayray*

      It’s like on The Office when Dwight wasted his day spying on Oscar when he called in sick. Also when Dwight and Toby stalked Darryl when he had time off for his injury.

      It’s hilarious but also disturbing that people like this exist in real life. So what if this person was watching TV? So long as they had good results, does it matter? I’d bet the people that complain about people watching tv or taking a few minutes to do errands like switch out laundry or whatnot are the same ones at the office that take their time making coffee in the morning, observing other people at their desk and making snide remarks because they took a quick solitaire break (all while not doing their own jobs), complaining when other people chat – yet they go in and sit around talking with the boss.

      I wish these people could understand that you need to treat people like adults. Spying and tattling will not get the results you want.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I actually have youtube videos going a lot of the time when I’m actually at work getting stuff done. I need a little bit of background noise when I’m doing repetitive tasks, and listening to movie reviews gets the job done. I don’t see why somebody working at home with the TV on for background noise would be a problem at all.

      2. TardyTardis*

        Although after the Banking Problem, the Plumbing Problem, and the Computer Problem, all in the last two days, passed out in a sea of beer cans actually sounds kind of good…

    1. Mama Bear*

      This is one way to get them to realize that they have been seen. It’s a definite WTH moment.

  4. Reed*

    I think I’d’ve leaned out of a window to shout ‘HEY JANE, HOW ARE YOU? LONG TIME NO SEE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING ROUND HERE? DO YOU COME HERE OFTEN? HOW’S YOUR LIFE GOING? WHAT ARE YOU UP TO THESE DAYS?’

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I would have called my boss and said, ‘Jane is looking in my living room. If you want to spy on me, you have to tell her that she has to look in my kitchen because I am actually watching her from my kitchen table. Do you want to tell her or do you want me to let her know so that she can spy on me properly going forward?’
      This jerk would have a conniption trying to spy on me. Sometimes I take meetings in my bedroom if my kids are being loud, or work on the patio if it’s a nice day. What a dipshit.

      1. FuzzFrogs*

        I think OP should 100% deploy a combo of this and Reed’s comment if Jane comes by again. They both need to be shamed.

      2. Kat in VA*

        I’ll do you one better – I have a 100-ish yard long driveway. Sometimes I work in my bedroom upstairs, sometimes I work in the front room (behind heavy curtains), sometimes I work on the couch in the den if the kids are elsewhere.

        Someone trying to spy on me would have a very difficult time.

        That being said, this whole thing has a very What The Hell™ feel to it!

        1. knitting librarian (with cats)*

          I live at the far end of a dead-end dirt road ~ 7/10 of a mile long. I share it with three neighbors, clustered near the ‘front’ {at the paved road} end. I think I average 1.7 phone calls from neighbors per friend visit, telling me someone is on the way to me ;-)

          Fortunately, my boss trusts me to get my work done, as anyone sent spying would not be able to arrive unannounced ~ plus my house is set into a hill, so the windows for my office area are a full level above the ground.

      3. Charamei*

        I love the idea of addressing it like it’s part of your normal work day. “Hi Boss. So obviously you’ve got Jane spying on me this week, and I just wanted to check some of the protocols around this. For example, is she going to watch me in the toilet? Should I let her know if I have to leave the house for any reason? I can’t find anything in the employee handbook, so perhaps I should inform HR of the omission so they can correct it?”

    2. Lana Kane*

      I am picturing this happening as the OP runs after Jane as she furiously bikes away.

  5. Phony Genius*

    What caught my attention here is that the boss sent a friend to to the spying. Not an employee, but a friend of hers. Technically, if she did this, then the friend was working for the company. I wonder if anybody at the very large company would be interested to know that this boss essentially had somebody illegally do work for the company for free. Of course, elevating this to upper management will require some proof that the boss sent her.

    1. Colette*

      I doubt the company is in the business of spying on people. If I ask a friend about something work-related, they’re not working for my employer.

      (I do question the friend’s judgement, though. Why would she agree to do this?)

      1. Reed*

        Gosh, yes, this. If any of my friends asked me to go spy on their employees, they’d be getting an earful of ‘what the actual hey is wrong with you right now?’.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I would just smile and nod, and then ask the employee, ‘what do you want me to tell them?’ Slytherin common room rules here, eh what?

      2. Phony Genius*

        Asking and talking about something work-related is one thing. But once the line is crossed into actually taking the time to do something (like spying), I think we’re now into the legal definition of work.

        1. Colette*

          Maybe, but it’s a stretch. The friend presumably doesn’t have any official affiliation with the company. If someone asked, she probably wouldn’t say she was working. She presumably hasn’t provided any information (SSN, etc.) to the company. I suppose someone could try to make the case that she was an employee, but … for what purpose?

        2. pancakes*

          The legal definition of work in what sense? In a payroll sense? A tax sense? Would asking a friend in the vicinity to pick up iced coffee and stop by the office to drop it off also be work, then? Please don’t waste any time trying to answer these questions — I’m trying to point out that this is not the right direction to move in to resolve the problem here.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            No, but asking a friend to check on your employees – which is part of a manager’s job – would be work.

            1. pancakes*

              And therefore . . . ? How is identifying what happened here as work or not-work useful?

              1. Passerby*

                To answer your earlier question, the legal definition of work in a “liability” sense. I think PG’s point was that in engaging Jane to check on/spy on her employees, OP’s manager took some extremely reckless steps that upper management and HR would probably not look kindly on, because they might expose the company to potential horrors if for instance Jane bites it on her bike while she’s pedaling like made away from OP’s house, or if, say, OP had suddenly looked up to find Jane peering in her window like a creeper and had a heart attack from the shock. Making an issue out of these kinds of scenarios might not be the most expeditious/practical way to address this manager having communication and trust and judgment issues, but it’s not not worth bringing up in an upward feedback situation. And that can definitely be useful for the people who evaluate the manager’s performance when considering whether they want to keep trusting her to be in charge of others.

      3. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

        Boredom, I would guess. Staying home with nothing to do takes its toll.

    2. juliebulie*

      Do we know for sure that she’s not an employee? (Which would make this even more serious imo)

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I was thinking that same thing – the way it’s worded, it’s possible that was someone who was friends with Boss and worked at the same company. The fact that OP recognised the person as a friend of Boss made me lean towards this.

        1. Yorick*

          That’s what I thought too. I wouldn’t recognize anyone who any of my current or former bosses knew outside of work.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer*

    This is the boss for whom tracking software simply isn’t enough…O_o

    (Also, my god, I’d be panicked. I’ve had stalkers. Being peered on through my windows would result in a bad PTSD flare up)

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Same. My dad hired private detectives to spy on my mom when they were getting divorced. I had a vivid, powerful, horrible nightmare that someone was breaking in through the window to kill me…then woke up to see a strange man actually staring at me from that exact window. It took about 30 years for me to be okay with open blinds at night.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          An unethical one – they aren’t supposed to go on property in that state – it’s illegal. But he had lots of former cop friends so I am sure there was no shortage of options. If ever find out who did that, you all will hear me yelling all the way from Missouri.

      1. The Grey Lady*

        Holy crap, I feel your pain. I had a man outside my bedroom window once when I was a child. Neighbor saw him and scared him off. That was probably twenty years ago, and I STILL have a problem with windows.

    2. JM in England*

      Why doesn’t the boss go the whole hog and secretly set up hidden cameras in the OP’s home? The main message I am getting here is that the boss doesn’t trust the OP…

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Please don’t give the bad managers ideas….

        (I’ve already heard of one firm, that I can’t name, that wants their staff to have their video link open all day so the management can make sure they’re concentrating on their work. Go to the bog more than 3 times? That’s cause for a word)

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Wasn’t there something in a previous AAM letter about somebody whose boss wanted them to do screen sharing all day so the boss could watch every keystroke they made, or something like that? I’m forgetting the details but I think I remember the existence of the thing.

  7. Jaybeetee*

    I mean, the whole thing is WTF, but who tf is this friend and why is she agreeing to spend her time this way? Is the boss paying her to bike around checking on people?

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      This made me wonder if the OP is not the only employee Jane is doing this to. Do you suppose the boss gave her a list of employee’s addresses and she is getting her exercise by biking around and checking on them all? I mean, it’s deeply weird but not THAT much weirder than having her check up on OP.

  8. Van Wilder*

    This is deranged enough that I would honestly go straight to HR, if you have a decent HR department at all.

    1. Important Moi*

      I don’t see anything actionable for HR.

      A woman who knows LW’s boss peered through her window? Then what?

      I’m not in HR or a lawyer, but I don’t see what HR could do. Can someone in HR or the law address this?

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I am not HR or a llama either but I would like to think they could tell him to stop. at least.

        1. Annony*

          Yep. HR can definitely talk to the manager and tell them that sending someone to check up on employees is not appropriate and should not continue.

      2. EPLawyer*

        If it continues after being brough to boss’ attention, then yeah HR can have a little talk with Boss or Boss’ boss about Boss’ lack of freaking boundaries. A GOOD HR can help smooth over those conflicts that can affect the good working order of the office. Knowing my boss was (badly) spying on me would be one of those conflicts.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ll give you one scenario: What if the untrained spy had happened on an underaged teen changing clothes?

          1. yala*

            HR would probably like to tell the boss to cut that out now before it escalates to the point where it might be legally actionable.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Well sure, but if OP doesn’t have a teenage daughter the discussion of “oh they might see a minor undressing” is entirely off topic?

              1. yala*

                There are other ways “sending someone to spy on an employee in their own home” could wind up escalating to something illegal. Like SSC said: that’s just one scenario.

                (I mean, who needs underage. If they saw OP in the altogether, at her home where she has a reasonable expectation of privacy, that’s also a lawsuit waiting to happen)

                1. fposte*

                  If Jane’s staying on public property (which is what it sounds like) a lawsuit is pretty unlikely to go anywhere.

          2. Observer*

            Because when you peer into people’s windows you take the risk of seeing things that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy on. Smart companies don’t want to take the chance that one time the snoop is going to see something they had no business looking at.

        1. Essess*

          According to the post, the person looking is sitting on their bike out on the road. They can only see what anyone passing by can see.

            1. Delta Delta*

              I read this that the friend rode her bike around the block, not that she rode around the back of the house. That would be problematic if she did that.

            2. Myrin*

              I think you misread. OP says “I saw her stop on the road in front of my house on her bike, text, then go around the block, come back in front of my house, and stop and text again.” – the back of her house isn’t mentioned anywhere.

            3. Social Commentator*

              It says she went around the block, not “around the back” onto private property.

      4. MicroManagered*

        My employer’s HR department has definitely taken action on employees who followed other employees home or sat outside their home. If OP knows who the friend is enough to recognize her (the way I’ve met some coworkers’ friends, children, or spouses enough to recognize them) then I’d say she has something to report.

        1. MicroManagered*

          Additionally I’d add my employer has policies about accessing people’s personal info (such as address) for a non-business reason. Like you need someone’s address to know where to ship their computer for working at home–that’s a business reason. So there could be that angle as well. OP’s boss had no business sharing OP’s address with a non-employee (assuming Jane is not an employee)

          1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            Excellent point. How did Jane know where OP lives?
            That’s an HR thing right there.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              Not necessarily. If OP is a property owner, all this is public record. And Jane may live in the neighborhood.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Even if it is publicly accessible information, Jane had no business being there. Especially twice.
                Once is a coincidence. Twice is a conspiracy.

      5. Anononon*

        This is squarely in the realm of HR because the boss’s actions are putting the company at legal risk, both criminal and civil.

      6. Akcipitrokulo*

        Mentioned elsewhere – apologies if op is not in eu as not relevant, but here giving the friend op’s address is absolutely illegal and opens the company up to incredibly large fines, loss of reputation…

      7. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        HR could ask the boss if he sent a friend to see if a worker was working at home. And if the answer is yes, say “Don’t do that again.”

      8. Observer*

        Whether or not this is legal, HR can definitely act on it. It’s a total myth that the only things HR can require are legal issues.

        Boss is doing something wildly inappropriate and jaw droppingly stupid. HR can definitely tell her to knock it off. And they can also have a conversation with her manager about her management, judgement and even continued employment.

      9. Felix*

        Please tell me you’re kidding right now. This is in fact a matter of HR because the company could easily be sued for this.

    2. yala*

      Yeah, like…I wouldn’t even feel comfortable asking my boss about this at all? If she’s doing that, then clearly she has no boundaries, so I don’t see what the person below her calling her out would do to fix the situation.

      I’d at least loop HR in. They need to know that a manager does this stuff before it escalates to legal.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Agreed. Also, it creates a paper trail, in case of future problems. Or in case OP isn’t the only one who is being stalked by Jane.

  9. Important Moi*

    File a police report about what you know factually – a suspicious person was seen looking in your windows. You have no idea who this person was.

    1. Trek*

      I agree. I would not give this person a cover story or decide it had anything to do with the manager. Instead I would either file a police report or have a lawyer send her a letter stating to stay off the property. If the person then states she was doing it on her managers behalf the lawyer/police can follow up accordingly. I just would not assume it had anything to do with the company and I would make the person feel uncomfortable and worried about their own actions getting them into legal trouble.

      1. AKchic*

        This. Don’t be coy. Don’t play the game. You recognize her. You know she’s being a nuisance. File the police report and let the cops make contact. Have an attorney write a cease and desist letter (if you can justify the expense).
        Then, when the cops come back with the “Boss/Friend asked me to do this”, then you can go to HR with it and demand that it stop (and if you shelled out money for the C&D, ask for reimbursement because hey, it wouldn’t have been necessary if it hadn’t been for boss.

        1. valentine*

          To call the police here is to respond to one massive escalation with another. Jane did not break the law, and can say she was admiring the house or anything else that leaves the boss out of it, or that she acted alone.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Honestly, this is so out of context and surreal that you’d be within your rights to not recognize even your *boss* in person if they were glimpsed peeping through one window at your house when you were in another room.

    3. irene adler*

      That may not work. I had a neighbor who was peering into my front window. He stood right up against it. Apparently, he liked to taunt my little dog (that’s why the window sill was all scratched up yet I never, ever saw my dog touch the sill.).

      So I called the cops on him. They told me that since this window faced the street I had no expectation of privacy. Hence, neighbor was doing nothing wrong. So I kept the curtain closed at all times to deter him. That was all I could do.

      Might ascertain what the local laws are regarding privacy for windows facing the street.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I would have left the window open and hidden with a water gun (and depending on how pissed I was and the laws, pepper spray or a paintball gun, or some other option) and waited for that guy to come by. Then soak his weird ass.
        Who even does that??

        1. Ali G*

          Ha! I can imagine the conversation: “No officer I did not purposely drench Bob with my water gun. This is just how I water my garden! Bob has no expectation of not getting wet when he is on my porch.”
          And Bob’s a jerk.

          1. Essess*

            Yup… “I was spraying my cat/dog because they were misbehaving and barking in the window”.

        2. irene adler*

          I like you!

          Yeah, I was soooo angry at him, I wished I’d had more than a water gun. He’d become a soprano for sure!

        3. Cookie dough*

          I found out last year my brother in law set up a sprinkler on my disabled mothers lawn that she could control from her phone to hit the front door to the walk in front of her home. She had been getting a lot of solicitors that were being too pushy. She says she tells them no thank you please leave my yard and counts to 10 before she turns the sprinkler on.

      2. Clorinda*

        Wasn’t he on your property while peering in your window? Your local police are lazy. He was clearly trespassing.

        1. MassMatt*

          I was going to ask this. How was he not on your property doing this? Never heard this “the window faces the street, so whelp, what can we do?” Nonsense.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I can totally see this where I live, which is very urban. There are some houses with very little barrier between the sidewalk and the house itself. I could walk right up to a neighbor’s window and wave if I wanted to. I could peer inside pretty closely and I would still be standing on public property, not trespassing. That’s why so many people here have half-blinds and don’t open them regularly. Sometimes I feel bad when I stand directly in front of a neighbor’s window while my dog is peeing on the curb, but that’s no one’s fault.

          2. irene adler*

            I lived in a townhouse. Hence, the land outside of my door is HOA (=common) area. So he’s okay to stand where he did. It’s just that I watched him taunt my dog for a good minute before I walked to the window. He saw me and backed away.

            Yeah, had this been a house, he’d be trespassing onto my land for sure.

            I explained to the police that this guy was up against the window, taunting my little dog. Made no difference.

        2. JSPA*

          People are allowed to walk on your property if it’s not posted “no trespassing” or behind a locked gate. Girl Scout Cookies and delivery people and folks circulating petitions to put candidates or issues on the ballot do it all the time.

          Heck, people are allowed to HUNT on property, if it’s not otherwise in an area where hunting isn’t allowed, unless you post both the No Trespassing and No Hunting signs.

      3. leapingLemur*

        What kind of jerk taunts a dog like that! Plus peering into your window!

        If it were legal, I’d want to record him doing that and then put it on Facebook and NextDoor to shame him.

      4. Dr. Prepper*

        I had a neighbor once in an HOA community who felt it was OK to stand out in the street with a camera with a 1000 mm telephoto lens on it trained on the inside of anybody’s house that had an open window to check for “violations” – the moron was too stupid to even realize there were NO restriction on what you could do/display inside the house – only on the outside and yard. His justification was that he was standing on “common area ground” and was therefore acting legally.

        No subtle response here – I confronted him in the street and told him if I ever saw him in front of my house with a camera again I would beat the living crap out of him, then wait for the cops to arrive.

        I never saw him again. At least not with a camera in his hand.

      5. Jojo*

        Put a camera toward window. Video him scratching your house. Get it for about a month. Charge him with vandalising your house. Sue him for the price of a paint job. Assuming damage is on outside of window. If it is on inside of house it would be unauthorized entry. Also post him torturing and teasing your dog. Charge him with animal cruelty.

    4. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I would go with filing a police report. If you do group work emails, maybe try a PSA one to your co-workers about how people working at home have noticed suspicious activities in their neighbourhood. Advise people to invest in doorbell cams or note any activity. It would be hard for your boss to say, don’t worry it’s only my friend checking up on everyone.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        If this person is not doing anything illegal or explicitly frightening, please don’t call police. Really, just don’t. Especially if Jane black or latino or Middle Eastern looking.

        “Suspicious activities” is used to start all kind of problems with police.

      2. rayray*

        I agree definitely alert other coworkers. I do agree that this does seem like harassment or stalking, but I’d be cautious of pulling the trigger on calling the police just yet. It might be better to ask other people if they have experienced anything and also keep an eye out for it happening again.

    5. Tuckerman*

      Just for stopping in the street and looking over? If she had walked onto the property and up to the windows, I’d agree, but I don’t think there’s anything the cops can do about someone looking at a house from the street?

      1. Dream Jobbed*

        I first read this as she was coming up to the house and looking in the window, but I think you are right – she was doing from the street.

        I’d just shut the blinds and ignore it in that case. But if someone came on my property to peer in my window, we have a different situation. And if it happened more than once police would be involved.

        Or all the Halloween decorations I have stored might come in handy to leave a few bodies lying around and a bit of blood dripping down the window….

        1. juliebulie*

          If she’s watching when you suddenly close the blinds, that alone might spook her. She’ll know that you saw her.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, the scenario, described objectively, could be entirely harmless – a person wanted to visit someone without knowing the exact address and stopped on the street in front of the house they thought it might be, texted their friend that they were outside, biked a bit further thinking friend’s house might be somewhere else after all, and came back thinking that no, friend’s home MUST be somewhere around here.
        (That’s obviously not the case here but I’d assume that stuff like this happens somewhat regularly; at least I’ve definitely been the person on the bike before.)

        1. Important Moi*

          No. I am not comfortable with dismissing this as harmless. The scenario, described objectively, could be entirely NOT harmless as well.

          1. Myrin*

            Where did I dismiss this as actually harmless? I said “that’s obviously not the case here” – I didn’t suggest in any way that OP erred here; she has ample reason to conclude that this was indeed a ploy initiated by her boss. There’s absolutely no reason to think that this was harmless and I didn’t say that, just that it could be handwaved in a “oh, that was probably just someone looking for their friend’s house” kind of way by any stubborn or apathetic authorities outside of her workplace she might contact about this.

          2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            “The scenario, described objectively, could be entirely NOT harmless as well.”

            Anything could I suppose.

            This, from Aquawoman, is spot-on:
            “I think using the police as a go-to response for everything feeds into the problems created by using the police as the go-to for everything. Ask the manager or just go walk up to the person’s car and ask them what they’re doing. This is not police territory.”

            1. The Grey Lady*

              Yeah, I agree. Please only call the police when you actually need the police, as in something that cannot be handled on your own. If you want to get someone with some authority to put a stop to this, OP should go to HR, not the police.

        2. JSPA*

          Thank you! The police are not a tool for avoiding a conversation with your boss, and it is not OK to turn “I suspect my boss is spying” into “I fear for my safety.”

          Even if your boss is overstepping boundaries; even if Jane is a jerk for helping the boss spy (all of this being speculative–boss could have mentioned it to Jane, and Jane could be curious all on her own, or intending to curry favor); this is not a police matter.

    6. Aquawoman*

      I think using the police as a go-to response for everything feeds into the problems created by using the police as the go-to for everything. Ask the manager or just go walk up to the person’s car and ask them what they’re doing. This is not police territory.

      1. Anon Admin*

        Agree. If I saw them again, I would walk outside, wait for them to circle back and ask them why they are looking in my window. They are either going to lie or out the manager for asking them to do it. They are going to call manager either way to let them know they got “caught” and that might make it stop. Also, definitely close the blinds and/or curtains if you can. They can’t report what they can’t see.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah. I’d be tempted to go up to the coworker’s car *while filming them with my phone* to ask what they’re doing – hopefully the possibility of evidence or even public exposure for their bad behavior will scare them away without needing to involve the cops.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Agree strongly. People, you can’t call the cops on someone for being in a public street and looking at your house! Why would you think that!?

        1. MassMatt*

          It was unclear from both the letter and comment whether the perpetrators were standing in the street or walking onto the property and peering into the window. For the comment, the latter seems likely as the creep was trying to taunt the person’s dog.

          The letter seems a likely trespass also as the LW could tell which windows the creep was looking in, that’s not really something you can tell from a distance. How you could tell if someone was watching TV from the street is a whole other issue but the amateur spy games are nuts so it seems to come with the territory.

          I’m a guy and not small so I would probably not be spooked about going out and saying “what are you doing here” or “get the F off my property” but lots of people would not feel safe doing so. If they are trespassing then I’d feel fine calling the cops, let them explain what they are doing there and stay out of it.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            It is crystal clear from the letter that this was not a trespassing situation. “I saw her stop on the road in front of my house on her bike, text, then go around the block, come back in front of my house, and stop and text again.”

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Wait, what are you talking about? I didn’t see any mention of a dog at all.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              They’re referring to the comment above, about the neighbor taunting a dog through the window.

          3. doreen*

            The letter seems a likely trespass also as the LW could tell which windows the creep was looking in, that’s not really something you can tell from a distance. How you could tell if someone was watching TV from the street is a whole other issue but the amateur spy games are nuts so it seems to come with the territory.

            That depends. There are situations where houses either are not set back from the public sidewalk at all or there is a very small setback (1-2 feet) with no demarcation of the property line – no yard, no fence, it’s just sidewalk from the street to the house. It’s not at all difficult to tell which window is being looked in from 1-2 feet away.

          4. Myrin*

            The letter wasn’t unclear at all! OP says “I saw her stop on the road in front of my house on her bike, text, then go around the block, come back in front of my house” – nothing here suggests that Jane actually walked onto OP’s property.

      4. pancakes*

        Yes. I think it’s unrealistic to think police would track someone down and interview them based on a single complaint about them stopping their bike to send a text in front of a particular house, but it’s also a bad idea to try to get them to. They’re not a concierge service, nor the Stasi.

    7. Important Moi*

      In my jurisdiction, filing a police report is not synonymous for calling the police.

      It documents you thought you saw something suspicious/illegal. It is not a 911 phone call to get the police to come. You have to go the police station in person and file a police report. That’s what happened when I filed one, though technology may have changed this process. A police report can be used as a part of a larger “paper trail” in the event things escalate. This is what was explained to me by the police.

      1. Yorick*

        Sure, you could contact the police about this without calling 911. Even so, I don’t think it’s appropriate. This is an interpersonal issue between OP and her weird boss. OP seems sure the boss was checking on whether she was really working. Unless something else is going on here or it escalates, it’s just not a police matter.

    8. Lucette Kensack*

      C’mon. You want the LW to report someone for… standing in the (presumably public) street for a few seconds, glancing at her house, and looking at her phone? That’s a massive overreaction.

    9. Yorick*

      This really isn’t a police matter. If OP knows the boss sent this person to check on her, the boss (or HR) is the person to talk to. If the boss convinces you she didn’t send Jane there, THEN it might be time for the police.

  10. Have dragon, will quest in exchange for hummus*

    Couldn’t OP just call the cops on the lady for trespassing (and maybe get a restraining order)?

    1. Colette*

      I doubt it based on this story. If it continued, she might be able to make a case, but it’s not generally illegal to stop in front of someone’s house. Streets are public property.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      At most the cops would probably question Jane and what she was up to. Perhaps a warning for loitering or harassment, most likely would be told to move along.

      Depends on where the OP lives and how busy the police are.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Restraining orders are extremely hard to get. They don’t just hand them out because someone looks at your house funny.

        1. MassMatt*

          There’s a whole spectrum of response before getting to restraining orders, starting with a police report. That puts the incident on record and can be used as evidence of whatever pattern of behavior. The first question likely to be asked if this escalates is did you report it and what does the report say. Without that any action is likely to be dismissed.

          I know people are reluctant to involve cops right now in the US but they are the ones best set to handle this.

          1. Yorick*

            This isn’t a case of some rando looking in OP’s house. OP knows what’s going on – her boss overstepped social norms and professional boundaries in trying to check up on her. It’s not a police matter. The best way to handle this is for OP to talk to the boss and/or loop in HR/boss’s boss.

      2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “At most the cops would probably question Jane and what she was up to. ”

        Depends on what Jane looked like, how “respectful vs compliant vs uppity she is,” and the specific police department and officer.

        It’s likely to be no big deal, but she could have a gun pulled on her. She could end up dead. The odds of the latter are very very small, but police in some places overreact.

        Having the police question us is a big deal to some of us. YMMV.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      For this specific instance I wouldn’t call the cops, but I would call my boss and tell her that my neighbor across the street saw someone peering into my window and called the cops. Then I’d say I won’t be on the computer doing work for awhile until I follow-up with my neighbor and find out what happened and see if someone is casing my house out to rip me off. Just enough to scare the boss.
      But what I’d really like to do (but probably wouldn’t have enough time) is get the hose and start to water and “Oops, sorry Jane, what in the world are you doing in my bushes while I’m watering. Did I get you wet? Oh well.”

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “I would call my boss and tell her that my neighbor across the street saw someone peering into my window and called the cops. Then I’d say I won’t be on the computer doing work for awhile until I follow-up with my neighbor and find out what happened and see if someone is casing my house out to rip me off. Just enough to scare the boss. ”

        That’s a pretty elaborate lie that could blow up if the boss finds out it’s not true.

    4. Hallowflame*

      Probably not. It sounds like this person was looking from the street or sidewalk, and legally there is not expectation of privacy through street-facing windows. Also, unless there are clear “No Trespassing” signs posted outside of OP’s home, you can’t charge someone with trespassing until you ask them to leave and they refuse (IANAL).

    5. yala*

      Calling the cops should be an absolute last-to-never resort. You don’t want them to show up and escalate the situation to the point that someone gets hurt.

    6. Yorick*

      People are pointing out that calling the cops is a last resort and they may escalate a situation based on race/demeanor/etc. This is true, but even if the cops handle it super professionally, they will still have wasted their time on this when they could be dealing with real crimes. OP doesn’t think Jane is stalking her or planning a burglary or anything like that. OP thinks her boss sent Jane to see if she is watching TV instead of working. This is an issue to deal with at work.

      1. The Grey Lady*

        Agree. Calling the police is waste of time and an unnecessary escalation. OP may even get in trouble for filing a false police report, depending on how far she takes it. No, this is an issue for Boss and HR.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Agreed. Even bast case scenario, this is something you should try to handle yourself with your boss, and maybe HR first.

        If you do talk you your boss and HR and it keeps happening, especially if Jane is actually walking up to your windows and not just looking from the street, you could go outside and confront Jane. “You are trespassing, Jane. This needs to stop now. I don’t want to call the cops, but you need to stop and if you don’t stay of my property I will.” But this needs to be a very last resort, and if absolutely necessary, a call to the non-emergency line, not 911. The cops are not there for your convenience or to deal with awkwardness. They should only be called for major emergencies that you really can’t handle yourself. OP is a long way from not being able to handle this themselves.

      3. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        And, all else aside, filing a police report is paperwork. No way I am spending an hour or two filling out forms. Waste of my time, waste of the cops’ time. And Ms. Nosy probably wouldn’t ever even hear about it.

        Much quicker to stick your head out the window and just ask Ms. Nosy what she’s doing.

  11. ThatGirl*

    I don’t see how it would be a big deal if you did have the TV on for background noise, anyway, but this is just ridiculous. What matters is whether the work is getting done. I really hope there’s some explanation for this beyond “we’re straight-up spying on you”…

      1. Triplestep*

        For visual people it’s completely different. I cannot look away from a TV, even if I am not interested in the content. That’s why I don’t have a TV on the first floor of my house. I have to want to watch it, and physically go to where it is.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Sure, but there are definitely people who can focus with TV on as background noise, and it’s not much different than a radio for them. The ultimate point is that if work is getting done and that work is up to an appropriate standard, then individuals should be trusted to handle background noise however they like. Everyone operates differently.

          1. leapingLemur*

            There are also people who find it easier to focus if there is some kind of background noise going on. The TV can provide this.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              Our individual offices all have a TV in them with cable. My boss likes to watch the news on a low volume while he’s working (he may have ADHD, but he’s never mentioned it so that’s just my arm chair diagnosis). The TV actually helps him focus, so when he moved in and outfitted a new office suite he put a TV in every room thinking it helps others, too.

              One coworker likes to watch her “stories” (a.k.a. daytime soap operas). One coworker likes to watch cooking shows. I don’t like to watch TV, but I stream music or podcasts through mine on a low volume. There’s also a channel that connects to the front door’s security camera, so sometimes I put it on that channel if I’m expecting a client and want to know when they walk in the front door (since I’m down the hall and cannot see the front entrance from my office).

              There are 5 offices in our suite, and none of us share offices presently, though there’s room for 2 more desks in my office. I think the TVs make us all more productive and polite with each other’s time. We’re all pretty good about not watching the TVs all day, but if someone’s door is closed and you can faintly hear their TV, it means they’re battened down inside working on a tedious task and would prefer not to be bothered. If the door is open and TV volume is off, that’s the signal you can stop in to ask questions and not be a huge bother.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Sure, you have to know what works for you – but to me, having background noise/visual is not distracting. The point is more that it depends on the person, and it’s far more important to judge productivity based on output than on whether you’re glued to your laptop for 8 straight hours.

        3. juliebulie*

          I do have that problem when it’s news or a game show. I want to pay attention. So I keep it tuned to a reruns channel that has Westerns most of the afternoon. I have no problem ignoring those. Either I don’t care about the episode or I’ve already seen it a hundred times.

      2. Champion Tweeter*

        I mean, you could be on your smartphone all day and appear to be working (or you ARE working and still on the smarphone. During the Olympics I’ve got sports on all day). It’s so silly to think all of a sudden there are all these other things at home that are different from in the office.

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I watch TV while I work all the time. Usually reruns (Law & Order: SVU marathons). I like the background noise and I don’t really need to pay attention. It keeps me in my chair and focusing on work rather than ambling around my house, getting distracted.

      At my last job, it was very common for people to have TV shows on while they worked. No one cared. This is a really weird thing for employers to freak out over.

      1. The Grey Lady*

        Me too. I let The Golden Girls play while I work. I’ve seen it a million times so I don’t need to pay any attention, and every now and then I’ll catch a joke that will give me a chuckle, which actually helps me stay more alert and engaged with whatever I’m working on.

    2. PennyLane*

      Agreed. I usually like to listen to music or listen to a podcast, but sometimes I turn on the tv & turn the volume really low so I can’t understand what they are saying, but can hear mumbling so it feels more like my office background noise. I just don’t typically enjoy dead silence when I’m working at home.

      1. yala*

        Seriously. At this point, it’s basically SWATing. You know you’re not in danger. Don’t endanger other people just because they’re being inappropriate.

        1. Salymander*

          Agreed. The boss and Jane have poor boundaries and are super weird and annoying, but calling the cops in this situation would be totally inappropriate, possibly dangerous, and a huge waste of police time. And for what? To get back at boss and Jane for being intrusive weirdos? Responding to weirdness by escalating things to that point is unlikely to be helpful to anyone.

          Talking to HR is a better idea. The behavior doesn’t have to be illegal and proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for HR to intervene.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      For what? She is looking at the house from the public street. I look at houses in my neighborhood when going out for a walk. Often the same houses, since it’s the same neighborhood trail.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        This. Cops are supposed to be emergency response personnel, not “the folks who deal with awkward situations I don’t want to deal with.” Talk to your boss, not the police.

    2. Observer*

      That’s an incredibly bad idea. The cops are NOT properly trained to handle stuff like this and it could end really, really badly. And don’t kid yourself- the OP could wind up being the one hurt (or worse.)

  12. Mkitty*

    You absolutely should address this directly with your manager, using Alison’s scripts. But I think you should also be prepared for the possibility that she’ll lie and tell you she didn’t send anyone to spy on you. If she does that, don’t let her get away with it – make sure she knows that you realize what she did, that you want to address her apparent belief that you’re not working when you say you are, and most importantly, that she has a long way to go before *you* can trust *her* again.

    1. Mkitty*

      And also, as Phony Genius said above, maybe you want to tell someone at your company that your boss has done this. Any good HR person would be horrified by it and take action.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “It’s an irrational statement to me.”

        Are you literally telling us there is no reason some people in the US are terrified of the police? If you mean you are not terrified, that’s fine. But I hope you recognize the fear some of us have. It’s real, there are reasons for it (therefore, by definitiion it is rational), and it’s dissapointing to be dismissive of it.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      If that were the case, I would feel free to go after Jane for harassment with both barrels (figurative, not literal. I do not advocate getting a gun involved). Even if I weren’t successful, I could throw salt in this game and/or get Jane to admit that the boss DID send her. Apply some pressure. If she’s lucky, OP can get something in writing from Jane or the police that she can use to go back to HR. I would make that boss think long and hard before doing something like this again (and the boss not using their brain does seem to be an issue here so win/win).

      In any case, I am really hoping for an update on this!

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I’m curious. What are the police going to get Jane for? Looking at a house? From the street? This presumably happened days ago. You’re going to what? Dial up the precinct and demand that the cops go arrest Jane? That they come take a report of a crime?

        And “get Jane to admit that the boss DID send her.. apply some pressure.”? Like, how, exactly? Go to her house and shake her down? Pile into a car with your girlfriends and some baseball bats? Call her on the phone again and again? Because if biking past someone’s house and looking at it is illegal and harassment and something to get the cops and HR involved in, I’m wondering what kind of pressure you think you can put on your coworker that would also be legal and professionally appropriate.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Calm down.
          They aren’t going to ‘get her’ for anything. Have the police go talk to her, see what’s going on, and the end game is not to ‘shake her down’ but to get her to admit that the boss put her up to it so that you have documentation to take to HR.
          And yeah, there are stalking laws that could apply depending on where you live. The cops where I live would absolutely run her off. I’m lucky that I live in a low-crime area where the police have time for this type of thing.
          I’m not sure where you got a car full of Karens with baseball bats – seems to be a bit of an overreaction but rest assured that wasn’t where I was headed.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            “I’m not sure where you got a car full of Karens with baseball bats”

            Yeah, the Karens don’t need weapons. The police have guns. That’s why people call cops – the cops bring the guns and fear. That’s the point.

            “The cops where I live would absolutely run her off. ” With guns. With implied force. That’s the nature of policing (in the US at least). That’s what calling the cops means here.

            “to get her to admit that the boss put her up to it” That’s what police do? They’re your personal truth-extractors. W T F.

            1. yala*

              Right? Like, speaking of overreaction, calling bored and armed folks in to put the fear of God into someone seems like a serious overreaction.

              1. Hills to Die on*

                The fear of God – ????
                Talking. Talking to them so that they will say ‘Boss put me up to this.’ Jane is still responsible for her own actions.

                1. yala*

                  I don’t know what the question marks are for. It’s a common phrase: https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/put-the-fear-of-god-into-someone

                  Many people find *talking* with the police to be terrifying. They’re armed. They have absolute authority. They can get very very angry very very quickly, and things can escalate.

                  With the police, it’s never just “Talking” because you honestly can’t be sure whether or not you got one of the alleged “good ones.”

                2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                  When police come to talk to me I am terrified. Really. Believe that. You may not feel the same when police come to talk to you, but some people do. Many in fact. Particular black people. Listen to us when we say that interaction with the police is terrifying.

                3. Hills to Die on*

                  I have heard the phrase.
                  It’s an irrational statement to me. That’s what the question marks are for.
                  If anyone is stalking me, staring into my windows, circling the block multiple times, etc I’m calling the police. If Jane doesn’t like it, then she can stop acting like an ass. That simple. Agree to disagree.

            2. Hills to Die on*

              Truth extractors – really? By telling someone to quit stalking another person (public property or not)? I’m not suggesting that there is truth serum, guns, or anything else involved.
              Asking the police to intervene on someone behaving inappropriately and possibly violating stalking laws, then getting the story from that person doesn’t require any of those things.
              You are reading things that aren’t there, and inferring things I didn’t write.
              *shrugs*

              1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                You wrote this:
                “to get her to admit that the boss put her up to it”
                and
                “then getting the story from that person”

                “You are reading things that aren’t there, and inferring things I didn’t write.”
                You are seriously misunderstanding the threat that police intervention might pose.

                It doesn’t use truth serum. It *does* use the implied threat of violence or incarceration. That’s fundamental to policing in the US. It’s messed up you don’t see to to see that. Oh wait, I see you do in response to yala’s ” this is an absolute dice role with someone else’s safety, and possibly their life.”

                Please do not call the police unless you/someone is in danger or there is a serious threat to property. Don’t do it.

              2. pancakes*

                Police in the US always have guns on them, and often an assortment of other weapons like tasers as well. I’m not aware of any stalking laws so wildly overreaching as to make a single instance of someone stopping their bike and sending a text in front of someone’s home actionable.

          2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            “The cops where I live would absolutely run her off. I’m lucky that I live in a low-crime area where the police have time for this type of thing.”

            The irony of you typing this and then calling other people Karens is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

          3. yala*

            “Have the police go talk to her, see what’s going on”

            It’s really worth remembering that in many (most?) places, this is an absolute dice role with someone else’s safety, and possibly their life. It’s completely not necessary here, as OP has many other options for dealing with this.

          4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            “Have the police go talk to her, see what’s going on… The cops where I live would absolutely run her off. I’m lucky that I live in a low-crime area where the police have time for this type of thing.”

            So you live in a place with low crime but lots of cops with time on their hands, and your experience is that you can call these cops to have people “run off” public streets if you personally don’t like the look of them, don’t think they belong in your neighborhood, or find their behavior – things like “looking at my house” – threatening or suspicious. You also feel that the cops would, if you asked, go to someone’s house and question them, even in the absence of a crime.

            You also refer to other people as Karens.

          5. fhqwhgads*

            In order to get the cops to “run her off” would require her still being there quite some time later. They’re not going to come at all given the peeper seems to have stopped for a few seconds, looped the block and stopped for another few seconds. Unless during this first incident the looping continued for hours, there is absolutely not expectation that the person would still be present by the time anyone came by. So they wouldn’t come at all. Or if they did, they’d get there and by then she’d be gone. It’s an absolute overreaction to call the cops unless this pattern continues for days, and in a predictable manner, which doesn’t seem is what happened here?

        2. MassMatt*

          It’s unclear whether the person looked from the street or walked up onto the property and looked in the windows. If the former, ok it’s not a police matter but it’s still very weird.

            1. voyager1*

              Did you verify she actually knew the cyclist or how she knew the cyclist was a friend.

      2. Mockingjay*

        For all we know, Jane is a hapless/helpless patsy of the boss who felt forced to spy on the OP. And while spying is a very significant boundary issue, the biggest problem is the Boss, who sent Jane in the first place.

        OP should follow Alison’s advice and try addressing the Boss’s lack of confidence in OP head on. Since Boss is an ass and not going to change, OP can follow up with HR.

        If OP has a trusted coworker or two, she might ask them privately if they too have issues with Boss, to establish whether this is a pattern or unique to the OP. Some bosses are just jerks to everyone. Other bad bosses pick on the person with good performance, perceiving them as rivals for their position.

      3. pancakes*

        It’s pretty striking that earlier in the comments you describe having been scared by private investigators your father hired in connection with a divorce, and further down are arguing in favor of using police to intimidate a woman who stopped her bike in front of a letter writer’s home. What the boss and her friend appear to have done here is indeed creepy and problematic, but trying to frighten either or both of them isn’t the only option to deal with it, nor necessarily the best.

    3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I would really not suggest going into a meeting with your manager, at work, with a scorched earth attitude of needing them to confess everything and grovel at your feet for months. This is a bad manager and a bad situation, but there is no percentage in being unprofessional and treating it like a personal betrayal.

      Especially I would not advise someone to go in with an attitude of “don’t let her get away with it.” You should generally leave people with a way to save face. That doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be fooled by them – but you can be clear that you are on to them while still saying “let’s all agree that this is the story, and move on.”

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I hate to admit it but that’s really the best approach. She should not be allowed to get away with it, but life…
        Sometimes people only back down when you stand on their neck (figuratively, see: ex husband) but this boss doesn’t strike me as that type. She’s a passive-aggressive coward and if you give her an out, she will take it and back down. Ugh.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If OP goes in like that, they are going to look paranoid and problematic. From what I can tell, this happened one time and Jane was not on OP’s property (per Alison’s clarification) so absent any sort of proof, going in with guns blazing is going to backfire.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            Like allowing people to save face? I was actually agreeing with HarvestKaleSlaw…?
            OP won’t look paranoid if she has photographic proof, boss has admitted it, has some kind of documentation, etc.

            I suppose it depends on the goal.
            Get it to stop? Get boss to quit sending friends over? Stop seeing Jane on the street? What does OP want the solution to be?

            1. valentine*

              OP won’t look paranoid if she has photographic proof, boss has admitted it, has some kind of documentation, etc.
              OP can’t win as far as facts or proof. If, instead of greeting or offering help when Jane cycles back, OP’s response to seeing their boss’ friend on their street is to photograph them, much less set about getting confessions* or other documentation, not only will she appear outrageously paranoid, but, as a last resort, having held back only to protect OP’s privacy to the last, the boss can now say she was worried and Jane was kind enough to have a look-see on her way past.

              *No confessions needed: “Jane is looking at [house style]. While I suggested the neighborhood, I didn’t realize you lived there.” Or Jane was lost, etc., etc. The texting is just an educated guess and no one has standing to look at Jane’s phone. But if they did or if Jane wanted to offer a text that reads “I don’t see a TV on”? Well, Jane was wondering how much of the screen neighbors might see if she lived in that style house.

              1. Batgirl*

                I had a really wise mentor tell me that you don’t need proof when the person you’re talking to is the one who knows all about it. Just telling them that you know, is often enough to put it on the table.
                Even when you are talking to others, it can quite often be the case that the truth doesn’t need proof. Accept that you might not be believed outright, but a truthful person of good reputation isn’t going to be outright disbelieved either. If I were HR and both parties were giving me different versions, I’d just bide my time until more truth was presented to me about the boss. Behaviours like these aren’t going anywhere.

                1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                  “I had a really wise mentor tell me that you don’t need proof when the person you’re talking to is the one who knows all about it. Just telling them that you know, is often enough to put it on the table.”

                  I like this.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          I appreciate the deliberate clarification of figurativeness, but perhaps this still isn’t the best metaphor to throw around right now, when the country is still grieving someone murdered by literally having his neck stood on.

        3. RagingADHD*

          So how’s that work, exactly?

          Cop: Why did you spy on HTDO’s house last week?

          Cyclist: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never spied on anyone in my life.

          Cop: So you’re saying you weren’t circling the (street number) block on (date) in order to look in HTDOs windows?

          Cyclist: I ride on that street sometimes, but not to peep in anybody’s windows. What on earth is going on?

          Cop:…Well, don’t do it again.

          Cyclist: Okay?

  13. LifeBeforeCorona*

    2020’s Worst Boss is going to be epic. It might have to be broken down into different categories because there are so many are you freaking serious??!! ones already.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      I was going to say… Any other year and this one would be a finalist in a heartbeat.
      This year? Competition’s going to be TIGHT.

    2. Apocalypse How*

      For fairness sake, they should divide the nominees into COVID-related and non-COVID-related.

    3. Clorinda*

      We’ll need categories, like the Academy Awards. Worst Boss During Lockdown is its own thing.

  14. Autistic Farm Girl*

    I am so lost for words at this. Also her friends are terrible spies.

    Joking aside, as someone who’s been stalked before (by an abusive ex partner) I would probably not have a great reaction to this kind of thing. She has no idea what happened in your past and it could very well trigger anxiety or panic attacks. It’s messed up on so many levels!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      One hopes it’s not a stand your ground state, or it could also be tragic.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Same. I had 3 stalkers. 2 in high school, one in college. I’m still understandably worried about that last one finding me. My cousin had to run him off, brandishing a baseball bat, last time he came by.
      If I saw someone behaving like this, I would absolutely call the non-emergency police number, because you need a paper trail to prove stalking. And if them stopping by to talk with her doesn’t stop this behavior cold, then I would definitely seek a restraining order.
      Likely, however, the cops stopping by to ask her why she was loitering outside this house would scare her off with no further action.
      OP definitely needs to report this to HR, though, whether or not she chooses to get the police involved. And she needs to make sure her coworkers know, just in case it’s happening to them, too, but they’ve been too afraid to say anything. Knowing they aren’t alone might help them come forward. Because it’s unlikely a control freak like this boss is only stalking one employee.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        If she really thinks she’s being stalked – is in fear for her physical or emotional safety – then of course calling the police might be right.

        On the other hand, if the purpose of calling the police is to stop something that is not threatening in that way then don’t do it. Don’t do it. This is perhaps the likeliest outcome but by no means the only one: to ask her why she was loitering outside this house would scare her off with no further action.” It could also end up much much worse.

  15. Bob*

    Document, document, document.
    If your willing, let it happen again and get a photo.
    Then speak to a lawyer. Or talk to a lawyer now.

    Decide if you want to talk to your boss, the company or send a letter or inform the police or whatever with the lawyer’s guidance. Your boss is insane. Empty promises or gaslighting or justification from her is not going to solve this.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I am more inclined this way. And I don’t think I’d be that nice to my boss either! Getting a “friend” to spy and peep into my house crossed any sense of nice or professional in my book.

      Trespassing and peeping into people’s houses is not a good thing to be doing right now given the high tensions in this country.

      1. Bob*

        Its more about documentation, they can deny first hand accounts but try denying a photo or video.

  16. Troutwaxer*

    Unfortunately, with a ten-percent unemployment rate, this isn’t the time to rage-quit. But I was the OP I’d sure be tempted!

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I would definitely be updating my resume. Totally unacceptable – if you have the option.

  17. Akcipitrokulo*

    Of all the things that have provoked an “I would quit” response in my time reading aam, I think this is the most definite.

    I have some pretty severe anxiety issues, mostly under control at work, but because of past incidents having someone peerimg in my windows would likely cause a major panic.

    I need to feel safe in my home.

    I would be so out of there.

  18. Lkr209*

    Oh, man. This is…crazy. Your manager’s friend is crazy for engaging in these shenanigans with her since she’s the one on the line if you decide to call her out on it, since “technically”, you don’t know who this person is or what they’re doing. I’d play dumb and go outside and ask “Do I know you? Why are you trying to see through my windows?” Tell her to get away from your home and call the police. The next time you catch up with your boss say, “The craziest thing happened to me yesterday! I think there’s someone targeting my house for burglary, this woman was on her bike literally peering into my windows! Obviously, I called the police and hope I deterred her enough!” Maybe your boss will admit to putting her up to it, but hopefully she’ll realize she and Jane made a grave error and people will call the police for creepy strangers staring into their homes.

    1. Champion Tweeter*

      I always like this approach..lol. It’s amusing to me and often effective.

    2. pbnj*

      I’d be tempted to tell the burglar story during a staff meeting, especially if your company starts meetings with a “safety moment”.

      1. willow for now*

        Oh, this would be epic, especially if it’s a Zoom meeting with video and you could watch the boss squirm.

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        There are places which start meetings with safety moments? What exactly is one? I think I get the basic idea from the name, but want to make sure. I’ve never heard of a meeting starting this way! It sounds kind of neat, though.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Ooh, I know this one! I know someone who works for a chemical company, and they do this. Her work is very far away from the chemicals, so their “safety moments” are more everyday kinds of things than the people who work in chemical plants, I assume.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            So, like ladder safety, or making sure extension cords aren’t tripping hazards, that kind of thing.

          2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            My girlfriend used to work at a company that had safety moments at the beginning of every meeting (not long after a fatal accident). So almost every meeting began with a reminder of where the fire exits were.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Thank you (and Lily Rowan also!) for the explanation. It sounds like a great idea!

        2. Jojo*

          Ours start with safety minutes. Heat stress warnings. Drink lots of water. Then injury and accident reports. Safety minutes might entail someone fell off a ladder at home cleaning the roof off. Someone was injured changing a tire. That sort of thing. Of course, our body of employees are mechanics.

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    I can’t tell if in EU or not… if you are, it was totally illegal for your boss to give her friend your address. Tell your Data Protection Officer immediately (and stand back while they explode).

    1. pbnj*

      If OP is in the USA – My company has policies on disclosing personal information. Not sure if it is a law, but since OP works for a large company, it is likely they have a written company policy.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        I think good companies pretty much follow the main principles of data protection as basic good practice.

    2. Jojo*

      In the US we have something called the privacy act. It was enacted in the 1970scera due to women being injured ar killed because of domestic violence. It makes it illegal to give out addresses or phone numbers of people you work with. The proper procedure is to give them the phone number of HR. Unfortunately most people are totally unware of the privacy act. It is usually only taught at government businesses. Or the military. But it does also apply to all civilian businesses. It is federal law. Privacy Act of 1976. Many updates to it.

  20. KK*

    I’d have flung open the front door and hollered “Since you’re hellbent on observing me, come on in & pull up a chair for the front row view!”
    But God…..unREAL!

  21. Akcipitrokulo*

    Oooh… if where you live says you need to make accomodations… and stress counts… ask HR if it would constitute a reasonable accomodation to have it stated that your boss will not send people to peek through your windows?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I would be very hesitant to loop in HR. There is really no way for LW to prove what is happening.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        I don’t think this is helpful- you don’t need “proof” to tell HR something is going on, or almost nothing would ever be reported. It’s not a nuclear option, just a report, and the “proof” is your word as their trusted employee that this happened. Yes, someone nefarious could dig in and deny everything, but that’s only one possible outcome, and this reads more like incompetent management than “evil” management to me, so much more likely to get embarrassed and back down.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          And if the boss insists that it never happened, OP can always point out helpful that in that case, it should totally not be a problem to commit to never sending people to peek in their windows. Because if you’d never do that anyhow, then you lose nothing by having your company commit to ensuring that you won’t do it, and neither does the company.

          Of course, if you go through all that and then *do* do it (again), the groundwork has been laid to embarrass the company and ensure that the manager gets in a lot of trouble.

  22. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

    Even if you had the TV on in the background, I honestly don’t see it as any different than a podcast or music unless you’re neglecting work to watch. Some people prefer or even need background noise to work (for those of us with ADHD, it can even help improve focus). I’m not gonna lie: I have 100% streamed shows at work with my phone face down. I’m just listening like I would to a podcast or an audiobook. It’s seriously no different.

    And if your work isn’t suffering for it, who the heck cares? You could be working while standing on your head at home and I wouldn’t care as long as you weren’t making careless mistakes or falling behind.

    Yeesh. Some managers really need to understand that not everyone works the exact same way.

    1. Jojo*

      Also, a tv might be on to keep the kids occupied while you work. After all, at thos this time schools and daycares are also closed. Plus. It is your home. Your boss has no right to tell you what to do your own home even if you are WFH at the moment.

  23. SomebodyElse*

    I’m really at a loss for words here… as a manager I have never once thought to myself… hmm, you know my friend Jane lives near Frank… perhaps she’ll mosey on over there to see what he’s up to.

    On a related note, my husband’s work routinely sends someone by the house to check if he calls in sick (still weird, but they are upfront that they can and will do so), the funny thing is the office manager (who apparently isn’t all that great at her job) refuses to update our home address to the correct one in the department records despite multiple requests to do so (HR has the correct address on file) so they get really confused when they try to verify he’s home on the 9th hole of the country club that is a few blocks away. They always have to call to get the correct address so they can sneakily verify he’s home.

    1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

      Holy crap. What if he had a doctor appointment or had to get a prescription? This is such a gross amount of distrust for adults using their PTO. Why people do things like this is beyond me.

      1. rayray*

        Exactly. You could be sick but out of the house for different reasons. Doctor’s appointment, prescription, or even just going through a drive through. If someone rightfully has that PTO/Sick day, they should be able to use it as they need. This gross overstepping behavior is why people go into work sick and then bring down the rest of the office. Now, more than ever employers should allow people to use sick days ass needed.

        1. Nanani*

          Not to mention that using sick time/PTO to care for another person (sick kids can’t go to school/daycare even before pandemic times) is a normal thing that happens. Sounds like some companies resent the existence of responsibilities other than their work.

        2. Koala dreams*

          Or you could have physical therapy, or be out for a walk, or be at the swimming pool (in the before times). Not all illnesses are cured by sleeping them off!

      2. Observer*

        Well, given how incompetent these folks are, the real question is how do they ever get it right. And how do they stay in business.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      My old job once sent someone round to someone’s house – Fergus had been off sick with a back injury, but hadn’t provided his certificate advising that he was unable to work. Tangerina the manager had been trying to reach him without success, and had eventually asked Wakeen (who lived in roughly the same part of town) to drive past Fergus’s house and try and see if he was in. There was no sign that the house was occupied. Fergus was not happy when he found out – he explained it away by saying he had gone to convalesce at his mother’s (who lived about 100 miles away).

      Not that long afterwards, Fergus moved to another town where it would have been less easy to send someone to check on him. So when later suspicions about his absences arose (this guy is an AAM post all to himself – let’s just say it came out later he was using sickness leave and doing jobs on the side) that particular tactic wasn’t used again.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I had a coworker who had a suspicious home address and it turned out he was actually living in his car. So it behooves people to use tact in such situations.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      That’s still really creepy and inappropriate. Also, it won’t tell them much. Chilling on your couch watching TV healthy might not look any different from doing so sick. And what if he has to go to the doctor or a pharmacy?

      (And when I am sick, the last thing I want is people watching or bothering me. Ugh.)

      1. leapingLemur*

        Yep. Usually when I feel sick, I go to bed, and my place is arranged so that someone coming to look in the windows wouldn’t see me. But if I felt awful to the point where I couldn’t relax and needed something to distract me, I might by on the couch watching TV.

    4. Champion Tweeter*

      You guys are VERY casual about this.
      This is completely horrifying to me and don’t know how I could work in this environment.
      But yes, what if they needed to run out, or WANTED to? Or it was mental health. Totally unacceptable.

    5. Nicole76*

      That’s ridiculous. Furthermore, my car is always parked in the garage and the blinds are closed so it never looks like anyone is home even though I’m here.

    6. SomebodyElse*

      It’s definitely weird… but it is what it is. They are supposed to call in and let them know if they leave for any reason (doctor, prescription, etc). And it’s not exactly evenly applied we just have the great fortune to live in the city where he works, so really easy for them to stop by I’m guessing they don’t drive an hour away to wave at an employee in their jammies.

      For context… it’s a city fire dept. They have minimum staffing levels and this apparently is one of the tools they use to control overtime and staffing.

      It’s a bit of a different world … these are the same people who interview neighbors as part of candidate selection.

      So yes, I find it bizarre, but it’s not my job so not too much to be done from my perspective. They have a union that they could use to fight this, but like I said weirdly generally accepted.

      1. Observer*

        Well, that’s how they stay in business. But how in heavens name do they manage to operate? Between the ridiculous policies and the totally incompetent way this is being handled, it’s actually pretty scary.

  24. irene adler*

    I’d take a picture from my front window of this ‘spy’. Then email it to boss. No need for any words. Just the picture.

  25. Khatul Madame*

    First of all, I assume that the OP knows the Peeping Lady (PL)’s name and the fact that the PL is her manager’s friend. The PL is out on her bike during work hours, so it’s unlikely that she is working for the same company as OP and manager. If she is working for the same company, tattle to the manager. Goose and gander.
    But if the OP has a partner, parent, or roommate who are strangers to the PL, they can come out to shoo the PL away and threaten to call the police.
    I still have a huge problem with boundaries in this situation – I mean, how many people do you know who live in your neighborhood AND are tight with your coworkers or managers? I don’t know ANYONE who I could ask to do something that could get them threatened/yelled/shot at, or borderline illegal.

  26. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    No one else seems to be saying it but my first thought to OP would be “are you sure?” I would think it more likely that boss has a friend whose exercise route happens to go by OP’s house. I look at people’s houses and yards as go on walks, not for spying but just to see landscaping etc. Unless the friend had her nose pressed to the window glass, she could have just been looking during her water break, not spying.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      ” I saw her stop on the road in front of my house on her bike, text, then go around the block, come back in front of my house, and stop and text again. She was obviously peering in. ”

      Sounds pretty sure :)

      1. Cat*

        Yeah, but that’s also the precise behavior of someone delivering something via an app or looking for a friend’s house on Google Maps. I mean, anything is possible, but if OP is wrong, going straight to her boss and demanding an explanation for something that turns out to be totally unrelated is going to look weird.

          1. Cat*

            Well, unless they’re looking for an address which isn’t always easy to see or whatnot. Or had their attention caught by an interesting plant or piece of art. Or looked like they were peering in based on the angle from the kitchen (where apparently the LW could see them but they couldn’t see the LW, telling us it wasn’t a direct view). Or they were peering for nefarious reasons of their own, not based on directions from the boss. I wasn’t there – I don’t know what happened – but I can see a lot of other possible explanations and an approach to the boss should take that into account. So should an approach to HR, which is going to have those same questions come to mind.

        1. Observer*

          No it isn’t. This person didn’t deliver anything to the OP, and there would have been no reason for a delivery person to either peer in the window or go around the back.

          1. Cat*

            She might have been delivering to an adjacent house and looking for an address. And I read it as saying she went around the block, not in back of the house. If she was trespassing on the property, that’s a different matter.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would take OP at her word that it feels fishy. It would to me under the circumstances she described. Sometimes things that seem perfectly normal to other people set off unconscious alarms, and it’s important to pay attention to those alarms.

      But anything’s possible– that’s why it’s a good idea for the OP to open her door and say hi. Presumably she knows Jane or she at least recognizes her. If someone I knew were to ride a bike past my house and stop and I noticed, I would probably go outside and greet them. If it truly is a coincidence, or if Jane really likes the way the OP’s hydrangea bushes are laid out, then she’ll find out– and she can say to her boss, “Oh hey, I saw Jane” or whatever.

      1. nnn*

        LOL, I accidentally did that to someone once!

        I was walking by these flowers that had a gorgeous fragrance, so I took a photo and texted it to my mother to ask her what kind of flowers they are. She texted me back asking if I could get a better photo, so I went back and got a few different shots.

        As I was doing this, a man emerges from the house with a very suspicious “Excuse me, can I help you?” I’m like “I’m so sorry, I was just trying to identify these flowers because they smell so beautiful!”

        (He relaxed, laughed and very kindly told me that they’re Japanese lilacs)

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, I have a lot of questions about this.

      How do you know your boss’s friend? Did your boss explain WHY she asked if you were watching TV? I mean, did this come up in a “Fergus heard the NCIS theme music when you were on that conference call” or “you seem to be making more mistakes than usual, are you watching TV and not focusing as closely?” Clearly something happened to prompt this question.

      The whole thing just seems really odd to me. I know we are supposed to take letter writers at their word, but this just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean, if you live with other people, then they might be watching TV while your’e working, so what would it even “prove” if your TV was on?

      1. leapingLemur*

        Maybe the boss is just very uncomfortable with having the OP work from home and figures that the OP is taking advantage (because probably the boss would be taking advantage of the situation).

        1. pancakes*

          If someone was shirking their work in favor of watching TV why would they tell their boss “yes, actually, I am watching TV”? Asking a question and expecting a candid response don’t inherently go hand-in-hand.

      2. Myrin*

        I actually assumed the boss heard the podcast OP had on in the background. Reading again, I see that OP didn’t explicitly say that and the boss’s phrasing might as well have been a more general question but it would make the most sense if boss heard music/radio-like talking while on the phone and inquired about it.

      3. Essess*

        So what if the tv is on? There’s a good chance there are other people living in the home too… such as children who aren’t going to keep the tv off for an entire workday, or a spouse that might be furloughed or works a different schedule.

    4. Annie Moose*

      Yeah, and this is why I think OP should talk to her boss directly rather than trying to go to HR, unless OP has direct evidence of her boss sending her friend to her house. (e.g. she overheard a conversation, her boss explicitly told her, she saw a text message between the boss and friend, etc.) If there’s any possibility it’s an unfortunate coincidence, then I’d say you should be wary of going in guns blazing. Approaching it like, “I saw Jane outside my house the other day… she passed by more than once and kept looking in my windows! Do you know what’s up with that?”

      If your boss knew nothing of this and it legitimately was a bizarre coincidence, then nothing will happen and you can continue on in life with no further distruptions.

      If your boss DID know about this, then no, she’s almost certainly not going to admit it, but it’s very likely to get her to knock it off out of embarrassment that you figured it out. Or, if she’s shameless enough to say “yes, I sent a non-employee to your house to verify you were working”, then you have a direct statement you can take to HR.

    5. Similarly Situated*

      Yes, this was my first thought as well. Did OP already know this person was boss’s friend, or is that a presumption that happened because a stranger was texting outside the house? Granted I work in a job where people with clinical paranoia regularly contact us because they believe someone is spying on them, reading their thoughts, etc., so my radar for these things is a bit hyper sensitive.

    6. LGC*

      Not going to lie, I had the same thought, but I don’t know if LW is off base! Her job is already quite intrusive (using key logging software). So I’m inclined to believe her here.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        OP didn’t say anything about key loggers. All they said was that they are aware their work monitors what they do on their computer. That’s pretty common for IT to do. It can be as simple as keeping an eye on visited websites or bandwidth usage.

        1. LGC*

          …you’re right, I misread when she said that they tracked what she did on her laptop. So that does change things a bit.

          (That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was right! But it’s not clear that I am.

  27. ElenaA*

    Wow…

    I am not sure if I would call the cops right away. But on top of Alison’s advice, I would make sure to tell the manager, in person and in writing, that you don’t want them or any of their “friends” by your house, ever again. Even if they make excuse or say it was a coinsidence, or whatever. Tell them you know they sent Jane and you dont want it to happen again. Use a serious tone that says “Official Warning”. After that I would say it is a police/legal matter.

    This is over the top and no way acceptable. .

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think this would be an overly hostile reaction, especially if it only happened once, which is sounds like from the letter.

      OP has no proof and cannot ban someone from being on their street, especially if Jane lives nearby or has family nearby or something. It could just be a weird coincidence.

      1. ElenaA*

        What is hostile in that approach? Telling someone you know they are spying on you and you dont want that to happen again. They are being hostile by spying on OP
        This is very much not okay and needs to be treated that way.

        I would not give them the benefit of doubt unless they gave a Very good reason.

        1. ElenaA*

          And to clarify myself: dont say its a police matter to the manager, but if it happens after you tell them to stop, treat it as such.

        2. Lucette Kensack*

          Telling someone you don’t want them (“or any of their ‘friends'”) on your (presumably public) street — something you have no standing to request or enforce — is pretty hostile. specially when you don’t actually know what happened.

    2. Observer*

      This is a terrible idea. The boss is not going to listen to the OP, and the police are not going to take this seriously either. Calling it an”official warning” is going to sound like the OP thinks they have more power than they do.

      They need to take Alsion’s advice, and also talk to HR. And if their manager stays on, they need to try to find a job working for someone who is not out of their mind.

    3. pancakes*

      A person who doesn’t respect boundaries to the extent of sending a friend to spy on an employee is unlikely to respect a letter demanding that they have more respect for boundaries. Writing “Official Warning” on it doesn’t make it official in any meaningful sense.

  28. Malarkey01*

    This is so weird- and I know different areas have different real estate but between the size of front yards, curtains/blinds, and shrubbery no one would be able to tell what was happening from the sidewalk unless it was night and all the lights were on. At most they could see a car in the driveway or if you were lounging in the yard.

    I would definitely talk to my boss and mention that Jane was outside my house texting and ask what that is about. It is so so weird that I keep wondering if this was just a big coincidence because it’s the only thing that makes sense.

  29. Sunset Maple*

    Clearly you need a Home Alone-style fake party, with Michael Jordan standees and marionettes silhouetted against the closed curtains.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Do it do it do it!

      (You probably shouldn’t *really* do this. But it’s an amazing mental picture.)

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      Not going to lie, my first instinct if I knew it was a Boss’s Friend and not anything nefarious would 100% be attempt to get a cut-out of somebody and put it up so that if you creep through the window you see Betelguese or something vaguely jump-scarey. Or, motion-activated goofy disco lights if you got too close to the window itself.

  30. Anonymouse*

    It’s a shame that you know its your boss’ friend. If you didn’t you could call the police on them, then watch your boss try to explain their way out of the mess when she gets dobbed in and/or tries to retaliate. I bet the owners would LOVE that if they even got an inkling that you were retaliated against because of that.

    But then, I just like watching idiots trapped in their own web of lies

  31. Kitano*

    Not sure if this has been said elsewhere, but were you able to get a picture or recording of the person in question spying on you? Having evidence that this really did happen will only work in your favor later on, so I might even hold off on bringing it up until you have a few damning photos catching this person in the act. You need to be able to prove 1) that it is indeed the friend and 2) that their actions could reasonably be interpreted as spying/peeping.

    Once you have that, it’ll be a lot easier to prove your story to HR/the police/your grandboss etc. Because no offense, but if a coworker told me that their boss sent a friend to spy on them, my first reaction would be extremely skeptical and questioning the coworker’s sanity because of how absolutely bonkers a situation it is. Having proof will only help you in those situations.

    1. mf*

      Strong agree. I would set up my phone near the window to video the Peeping Lady as she circles my block.

      It’s highly likely the boss will gaslight the OP about this. Boss is not going to want to admit that they are using a friend to spy on the OP. If the OP has to escalate this to HR or their grandboss, it may sound like too crazy of a scenario for them to believe it.

  32. Ann O'Nemity*

    Oof, I suggest proceeding with caution.

    While this is creepy, there’s a lot of possible innocent explanations. And if the boss really is capable of doing this, I think they’re also capable of getting defensive and gaslighting the OP if questioned.

      1. RagingADHD*

        The most probable reasonable explanations are that either:

        a) the OP was mistaken, and the person they saw from the kitchen, across 2 rooms, out the window, and all the way at the street, who was most likely wearing a bike helmet and possibly sunglasses, was not in fact the person she believed it to be, but a random stranger confused about directions;

        or b) The cyclist is a friend of OPs boss, but lives nearby or has another friend or relative who lives nearby, and the texting/looking had nothing to do with OP at all.

        1. Observer*

          Neither is remotely probable. In the first case, your suggestion depends on total fantasy. There is absolutely no reason to think that this person was wearing sun glasses. Same for adding distances that the OP never described.

          The second is equally unlikely. Stopping TWICE in front of the same house and peering into the window “just by chance”? No.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            None of that can be proven to third parties if the OP didn’t get photographic evidence. And it’s entirely possible for a third party (grandboss or someone like that) to believe that the OP didn’t see them clearly, or that they didn’t really do the stop-twice thing, they just hesitated and it was misinterpreted, or something like that. The OP may remain 100% perfectly sure that they saw what they saw… but I would definitely not count on being able to convince anyone else of it.

  33. 100 Red Swedish Fish*

    I’m not sure where you live in but right now between the pandemic and the protests this could have ended very badly for the person peeking in off the bicycle. People are on the edge right now. I live in a state that has been protesting for over a month now, my neighbors are now all armed to mow their lawn. This was a terrible idea.

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t doubt you when you say your neighbors are armed and on-edge, but that’s ridiculous — no one has been protesting the mowing of lawns.

      1. 100 Red Swedish Fish*

        I’m not sure where you got protesting mowing lawns. We have had 2 neighbors at different ends of the subdivision attacked mowing their lawns in the last week, one is in ICU the other shot back.

        1. pancakes*

          Attacked by who? You mentioned protests twice in your comment about your neighbors being on-edge while mowing their lawns, so that’s why I wanted to point out that no one is protesting the mowing of lawns.

  34. voyager1*

    I am sorry but I need a lot more information on this LW before I can believe this letter. Do you know the cyclist?

    There is a ton of reasons why a cyclist checks her phone. She could be looking at Strava segments or using a navigation app like RideWithGPS. Her passing your house is really irrelevant because she could have been doing intervals. There are several neighborhoods I do interval training on and yes I check my phone afterward sometimes.

    Honestly LW if you feel you we’re being spied on you need to talk to your boss.

    1. juliebulie*

      We take OPs at their word.

      The cyclist wasn’t “passing” OP’s house. She was stopping there and looking and texting, and then coming back and looking. The boss’s friend. This is not a coincidence.

      1. Cat*

        Nobody is doubting the OP’s accounting of events. We’re questioning whether the OP’s interpretation of events is the only possible one. That’s different.

  35. kayakwriter*

    Not sure if this would be true in all or any of the United States, but up here in Canada, the manager’s sharing of the OP’s home address with Peeping Lady would be a violation of our Federal Privacy laws.

    1. Colette*

      This is a good point. If the manager shared the OP’s address, that would be an issue that should be dealt with.

    2. Foxy Hedgehog*

      I’m not sure about state laws here in the US, but it would also certainly be a violation of my company’s privacy policy–essentially no sharing of personal information without an express business purpose is permitted.

      Now I work for a rather large company so LW’s experience may be different, but this might have been a violation of their company SOPs.

  36. Katt*

    This seems a case where HR might actually be useful– after all, one would think the company would prefer to avoid the legal entanglements of your boss sending someone to criminally infringe on your privacy rights.

    1. LGC*

      Yeah. The options presented here are “talk to your manager” and “call the cops on your manager,” and there’s no middle ground.

    2. Colette*

      Someone stopping on the street outside your home is not criminally infringing your privacy rights.

  37. mlem*

    “I understand if they want to track what I’m doing on my laptop (I know they do this) and I have no problem with that [.]”

    Maybe there are fields in which this is normal and reasonable, but it certainly puts my back right up. There are companies that would treat surveillance software as reasonable when it isn’t; I hope OP’s isn’t one of them and that there’s a very good reason for it (legal/regulatory compliance, for example).

    1. Lusara*

      It depends what she means by “track”. If it’s that they have a log of her internet usage and monitor what software she installs on it, that is very common and totally reasonable in any field. If they have a keystroke logger, then that’s not normal.

  38. MCMonkeyBean*

    I am definitely in full agreement with everyone that this is extremely unreasonable, but I do have one clarifying question: did your boss ask about watching TV out of the blue, or did you have your podcast on for background noise while you were talking to her? Just to be clear even if you did this is I am NOT suggesting this was a reasonable response on her part. But I did just want to note that if you have something on for background noise you should probably stop it before talking with anyone else on the phone or over Teams or Zoom or whatever. Not like in a trying to hide it way, just that it would be polite/professional to do so because it may be distracting to them even if it isn’t for you.

  39. RussianInTexas*

    Address it with your manager, possibly even with HR.
    However, looking at your house from the street is not illegal. Even taking photos of your house from the street is not illegal (if you are in the US). It’s also 100% legal to take a photo of someone’s license plate on the public street. And even a child.
    Unless you have some kind of photo/video evidence, calling the cops will be useless, because Jane will just say “no, I wasn’t there”. And if you have the evidence, she was on a public street. She didn’t do anything wrong legally.
    Calling the cops while she is there would be a really serious overreaction too.

    1. LGC*

      In LW’s defense, the allegation is that the friend was looking into the house without consent.

      I’m not a lawyer, but it doesn’t look like this situation falls under Texas’s Peeping Tom law (because the law is about voyeurism). But I think it depends on the state.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I am not a lawyer either.
        But you can look it to the house if it’s visible from the street. That is not on the onlooker to turn away but on the person living in the house to put up some curtains.

        1. Delta Delta*

          I am a lawyer. In fact, not only am I a lawyer but I’m also a law school instructor of constitutional criminal procedure. And guess what – you’ve got it right. If someone knowingly exposes a portion of their home to the outside world that is plainly visible from a public location, it is not unlawful to look at that. Think about the movie “A Christmas Story” – the dad put the leg lamp in the front window specifically so that the whole neighborhood could see. Or think about other times you may walk down the street and are able to see into people’s curtain-less windows. Totally legal.

          Now, is it shady if the boss is actually having a friend ride a bike past OP’s house in the hopes of being able to catch her watching TV during a weekday? Yes. Yes, this is shady and weird, and not even at all logical, because *how would the friend and the boss both know the setup of the inside of OP’s house and if this is even at all a way to know if OP actually is watching TV during the day*? If I were being monitored, a person could walk past my house, see into my living room and see I’m not watching TV. But that’s because my TV is in the basement. And if I were down there watching TV, nobody would be able to tell.

          If the friend had walked up to the window and looked directly in, that’s a different issue, and I think would fairly raise the question about why the friend did that.

          But it’s weird to me that the boss would do this. And if the boss did do this – and I’m not entirely convinced that she did, as we’ve got some gaps in the information – it’s pretty clear OP doesn’t have a lot of trust with her boss anymore. I think a conversation like AAM suggested is the right starting point but it may be that OP needs to find work elsewhere since the trust feels gone.

    2. Amethystmoon*

      Well, if you want to sell said photo of a person, you do need a model release form. But that’s just for selling like on a stock photo site. Technically nothing is stopping people from posting random street photos on a blog or something, as long as they were taken outside in a public area.

  40. Curmudgeon in California*

    “Watching TV”?? If the OP lives with other people, any one of them could be watching TV. Or some folks use it for background noise.
    This is so far outside the manager’s lane that they’ve crossed to the other side of the road trying to cause a wreck.

  41. SMH*

    Check out Ask Amy..neighbor is spying and looking through window with a camera no less and husband wants to moon her. I think it’s great but not sure you want to wait for Jane to return just to run over to the window and drop your pants!

  42. Observer*

    OP, I know that it’s easy to say “get another job.” But. . . Get another job.

    Within the organization, if your current boss is an outlier and you can get a transfer. If she’s not an outlier, or you can’t get a transfer start looking. This is passive aggressive and completely boundary crossing. And even if you get her to stop sending spies, she’s still going to be a terrible, passive aggressive, boundary stomping boss.

    It may take time to find something else, but the sooner you start the sooner you will find something.

  43. Employment Lawyer*

    Sounds like your boss doesn’t trust you.

    You seem to think it’s entirely undeserved. Boss clearly would disagree.

    Boss is acting very strangely. But that only shows “Boss is odd,” not that you’re doing a perfect/medium/bad job. Only you know for sure; I won’t hazard a guess.

    Either way, you need to change this. a) rebuild trust b) switch somehow to a new boss, or c) leave. Not much else you can do.

  44. I'm just here for the cats!*

    This sounds like one of the bosses at my mom’s work. She was just getting things set up for WFH and was on the phone with the tech person.Apparently she said really snarkily that she can’t have the TV on when taking customer calls. My mom was like only like 6 feet from the tv, in the other room, because that was the only place for her to sit at the time. We later rearranged the house and the bedroom so she has a better area. Guess’s what, she still has tv on low And customers can’t hear it. It would be no different than when she was in the call center and there would be other people talki g around her. My mom said that we live in a very small house, there are other people in the house, including another person who is working from home. It’s not going to be completely sike t and there will be less noise at home than at the office because there less people talking at once. She also said that she can’t stop me from talki g because I have to WFH too! Apparently that shut her up.

  45. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    This is so creepy. Your boss and her friend are crazy. Honestly, who does that? I love the advice above to call the stalker out when you see her with “May I help you?” Or “Are you okay?” This is just bizarre. A good, effective manager would not do this. This is not normal.

  46. EC*

    I just don’t get why the boss would even care as long as LW was producing their work on time and correct. My BF has worked for a couple white shoe law firms, and he always works with some kind of background noise, be it the TV or music. His clients have never has an issue with his work, and he gets consistently good reviews. Why should any of his bosses care what his personal work set up is?

    I personally can’t do anything that requires thinking when the TV or music with lyrics is on, but it helps some people focus.

    1. Batgirl*

      Some bosses think that’s all managers actually do. They don’t have the interpersonal skills for coaching, or the organisational skills for creating productive atmospheres and systems; they don’t even understand these concepts. So they think the job is all about physical in-person supervision. Not that you can actually see productivity as it’s happening but its the best metric they can conceive of. When you and I hear ‘manager’ they hear ‘jailkeeper’. If their employees are present and accounted for, appearing somewhat well behaved, then the job is done.

  47. Batgirl*

    How could this ever have gone well for the boss? I’m just trying to imagine the scenario where the boss gets confirmation of the TV being on after OP ‘lied’ about not having it on.
    “OP, we need to have a discussion about your honesty and integrity. You assured me the TV was off, and I’ve been made aware……..you were lying!”
    “It might have been on during my lunch. How would you know that though?”
    “I sent a spy! You never saw her coming!”
    “Well that’s me off to HR”

  48. Anonymouse*

    I cannot believe we have gotten this far down in the comments without someone mentioning the obvious solution.

    Release the hounds.

  49. Elm*

    While I can totally understand being afraid of being watched at home by a superior (been there!), if the friend lives in the neighborhood, this could just be a coincidence–especially if OP’s house is near a Pokestop or that Harry Potter game equivalent. I stopped playing those a year ago, but started back up with Pokemon Go to make me get outside and walk more during the quarantine. I’m sure some people have been like “what is that person doing?” when I randomly stop and mess with my phone in the same place a few times on a walk. I mean, I’m not staring at anyone’s house or anything–in fact, I purposefully turn away when possible so I DON’T freak anyone out–but some people look like they are.

    Unless she was up against the window. Then that’s sketchy as hell and, since OP recognizes them (and therefore knows it’s not a burglar), they should go outside and ask why she’s looking in the windows if it happens again. Or put out some hidden speakers and start playing something like rattlesnake noises or barking dogs. Or creepy children singing. Whatever floats your boat.

  50. Amethystmoon*

    Can’t you just close your curtains/blinds/etc. so no one can see in? This is what I do, but granted, I live in an apartment.

  51. Felix*

    Alison, what’s up with advising OP to be so sweet on this thing and act like it’s no big deal instead of advising her in seeking legal help and inform HR? Not to mention that she needs to find another job.

    1. Observer*

      Allison is here to present people with advice that can actually be useful. Telling them to lawyer up is not useful – there is nothing a lawyer can do in a case like this. So, as long as the OP is there, they need a way to deal with their boss. And Alison DOES point out that ultimately, the situation is not really salvageable. But since most people can’t just afford to quit, knowing that you need to leave so you should start looking does not mean that the person does not need to find some strategies in the short term.

  52. Damien*

    What the hell? This would have me busting out of my front door demanding an explanation from that person so fast. I’d call them out on it straight up and tell them i know what they’re doing. My home is my refuge.

  53. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    You also shouldn’t be okay with being tracked on your laptop. I will never understand the need for managers/companies to treat their employees like children. What they don’t seem to understand is if you treat them like adults, you’ll get more out of them. If someone is going to be a slacker, they’ll find a way to slack off in an office just as easily as if they were at home.

    1. Elm*

      My work put a tracker on my PERSONAL device without my consent because I downloaded my email account. I checked all the paperwork I signed and nothing gave them consent to do so. I haven’t worked there in over a year and it’s STILL on there. It’s not like they can’t see my emails if they want. No need to see how much time I spend playing Solitaire.

      I worked in K-12 education and I don’t have a problem with them tracking teachers’ work computers (it’s partially how someone got caught working porn AT work…), but stay the hell out of my personal stuff.

  54. Luna*

    I recall there being a news segment about this behavior going on because of the increase in working from home because of the pandemic. The overall consensus for this type of behavior from the boss was, “if this is how your boss behaves (spying on you to see if you really are working), you have to wonder if you want to continue having them as a boss”.

    This is weird, and I would bring it up and point out it made you uncomfortable. Also, pretty sure it’s illegal. Not to mention, super creepy.

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