company delayed telling us about a possible Covid exposure, coworkers won’t use my correct title, and more

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

1. My company delayed telling us about a possible Covid exposure

I am in Los Angeles in the midst of the ongoing Covid disaster. Our job is considered essential, so our office is still open and we’re doing a hybrid work-from-home/in-office thing. I live near the office and our work-from-home setup is cumbersome so I still go in. The employees in the office are mostly good at social distancing and practicing workplace hygiene, and for the most part we’re separate enough that I am comfortable.

Today, we were informed there was a potential Covid exposure because the wife of an employee has it. This employee was new and had been in the office and a number of us had assisted in training him, so all of us who had been in any contact with him were exposed. He went for testing today and is awaiting his results. I also went for my test and am awaiting mine.

The issue is, YESTERDAY morning my boss texted me to ask if I had a work-from-home laptop, and I told him I didn’t and didn’t hear anything else from him. I then spent the day with the other person in my pod at home. This was evidence to me that they clearly were aware there was a potential exposure well before today and waited at least a day and a half to tell us anything. When I confronted my boss about this, he confirmed that he had been told not to tell us by his boss and HR.

I am furious about this, for myself, for my podded partner, and for my coworkers and their friends/families. We all could have quarantined earlier and gotten tested sooner, but instead they delayed for reasons that make no sense. There was nothing HR-wise that would have necessitated this delay; they could have told us right away there was an exposure without naming the person. We are in the middle of Los Angeles, the epicenter of the pandemic, and people are dying. It seems like we weren’t told because it would disrupt work slightly, there is no other reason.

I’m not sure where to go from here; I was so angry I wanted to quit but I can’t afford to do that. Is this reaction wrong? I am in a rage.

You’re not overreacting.

Your company instructed your boss not to tell you about a possible Covid exposure. Their reason for doing that was almost certainly to buy them time to figure out a communications plan and minimize the disruption to work, at the expense of your and your coworkers’ safety. That’s what they cared about more.

It’s possible they were strictly adhering to the CDC guidance to alert people who had contact with an employee who had tested positive for Covid, whereas your coworker is still waiting on test results. But I doubt that was their reasoning since they ended up telling you before the coworker’s test results were back, and telling your boss to keep it from you is a crap move either way.

Can you and your coworkers formally complain about how this was handled and insist on putting different procedures in place for the future? Can you ask for an accounting of why HR directed your boss to hide the info for a day and a half? You can’t change what’s already happened but I’d care a lot about whether they know they messed up and will get it right next time or whether they’re cavalier even after hearing people’s objections.

2. My coworkers refuse to use my correct title

I work in a small office of seven people. I’m introduced by my colleagues via email on a very regular basis. However, my colleagues refuse to use my hard-earned director title in those introductions. They always use something related to my skill set but never my actual title (“tech guru” is my favorite). I can assure you there’s no confusion over my title — they know. This really gets under my skin and makes me feel like I’m not being treated with respect. Am I being too sensitive about an innocent mistake? Is there a way I might address this politely?

Why not just introduce yourself with your title? If a coworker says “This is Jane, our tech guru,” you can respond with “Hi, I’m Jane Porcupine, our IT director.”

Beyond that, context matters. Is it an informal office where most people don’t get introduced with titles? Or are you the only one whose title isn’t used? Is there anything else that makes you feel disrespected by colleagues? If it’s part of a pattern, I’d focus on the pattern more than the title. If it’s not part of a bigger pattern, I wouldn’t worry too much about the title.

An exception to that is if you think demographic differences are in play, like if you’ve noticed that who does and doesn’t get titles used seems to divide along race or gender lines. In that case, you could say (later, not in front of the person you’re being introduced to), “I prefer to be introduced by my title so people know what my role is. So please introduce me as our IT director, not the tech guru.”

3. My senior colleague is a creepy, sexist, abusive jerk

I’m in a supervisor position at a financial company and I’ve learned from another employee that her manager (both are from another location) is treating her inappropriately. Her manager has made comments to other employees about her pants not being work-appropriate either because they were jeans material or too tight. She claims they were neither of those. (I lean towards believing her because this same manager tried to complain about my attire when I was trying to get to my current supervisor role.) He has also yelled across the office when she was helping customers to tell her she is doing it wrong, then brought her into his office to berate her by saying, “You’re better than this, I should fire you for such actions!” The employee explained to me the situation and I promise this was not that extreme of a situation that she should’ve been spoken to like that.

The icing on the cake is there is a rumor that when she first started he commented that she was shaped just like his wife when she was that young. (The employee is 20 and the manager is in his 50’s.) He has supposedly stalked her on Facebook too.

This employee is in the process of moving to another location. Even though this does not involve me, I can’t stop thinking about the situation. I can’t decide if I need to speak up and talk to our HR about keeping an eye on manager or if I need to just mind my business. This manager is at the main location of our company and is senior to me.

Please do report it to HR. As a manager, you have an obligation to report sexual harassment (even if it’s not toward someone on your team), and that comment about the employee’s body is gross. Combine it with a tendency to hassle women about their clothing and the Facebook stalking plus a generally abusive approach, and you’ve got more than enough to talk with HR. Tell them you’ve had your own run-ins with this guy too but hearing about it happening to a young woman who he has authority over made you feel obligated to report it. If they don’t think it’s your business, they can tell you that — but I don’t think that’ll be the case.

4. Is it bad to have no online presence at all?

I know you’ve said before that not coming up when googled isn’t usually a bad thing. I was wondering whether you’d say that’s still the case, now that previously anonymous platforms push for real names and seemingly everything is a Facebook group.

I have a fairly unique name (common English first name, weirdly transliterated Greek surname) and no social media accounts of any kind, so when googled my name returns results of people with the “correct” transliteration and sometimes suggests you may have meant a different name entirely. I was told by the last person to hire me that he found it weird he couldn’t find me, though since I got the job it obviously wasn’t a dealbreaker!

Nah, you should be fine. Lots of people don’t have any online presence. There are some fields where it matters (like social media and some types of PR or marketing) but for most people in most fields, it’s not a problem not to show up in a google search. It’s pretty common!

As for that person who commented on it, I think he was saying it was unusual but not that it was problematic or concerning.

I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future there’s even a certain cachet to being unfindable online.

5. I’ll need time off for surgery right after starting a new job

I am about to receive a job offer (the organization has explicitly said that they will call my references early next week, and if everything sounds good out they’ll be sending along an offer letter). I have been job searching for a long time and am very relieved … but I’m also about to have surgery in the middle of February and will need at least a week off work to recover afterwards, based on the intensiveness of the procedure. The organization hasn’t set an exact start date, but the surgery will likely be about a week after it based on the hiring timeline.

I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a script or language to use or ways I should communicate this to the organization that won’t reflect poorly on me? I’ve been aware I would be having surgery on this day for a while, but I didn’t bring it up earlier in the hiring process because it would have been irrelevant if I didn’t get the job. Is there a good way to inquire about pushing back the start date, or generally to talk about my unavailability during that time that is respectful but also makes it clear this time away isn’t optional? I can use my time off for sure, but it seems silly to me to start the job, take a week off, and then come back right after. It’s a very liberal nonprofit with less than 10 employees, and this is a newly created junior position, if that matters.

Just be up-front! If they make you an offer, at that point say, “I’ve just learned I need to have surgery in February and will need recovery time of at least a week afterward. The surgery is scheduled for (date), so I’d be out until at least (date). I realize it could be disruptive to take that time off right away. Would it be better to set my start date for after that?”

Needing surgery won’t reflect badly on you. There’s a small chance they won’t be willing or able to accommodate it for some reason but most employers, having decided you’re the person they want to hire, will be willing to work around something like this. And waiting until this point to raise it won’t reflect badly on you either — for all they know, it just got scheduled in the last few days.

{ 454 comments… read them below }

  1. From Canada*

    The best people have an amazing online presence that can only be found if those people want to be found.

    1. Julia*

      I have to disagree. When I Google a professional contact and they have *no* online presence, not even a LinkedIn profile, it causes me to become slightly hesitant about them. I don’t meet anyone in a professional capacity without googling them first, so this would always come up. And I don’t work in social media, PR or marketing.

      I believe that people are more comfortable when you’re at least a little “on the map”. To me it’s on the same level as someone showing up to an interview in a mismatched suit or having a Hotmail email address – not a serious strike against you if other stuff checks out, but an indication that your professional presence may be slightly askew. I would also get a little nervous about going on a date with somebody who is ungoogleable, for similar reasons.

      To be clear, if you have a common name and your results don’t rise to the top, totally fine – but a unique name and literally zero hits? Odd. Sadly, being “normal” enough to put your interviewer/date at ease is still important even if you’re not doing anything wrong by being odd.

      I recognize Alison has more hiring experience than I do so my instincts may be off. Maybe this has changed very recently, when she hasn’t been doing much hiring? I think she works in mgmt consulting, so maybe has a great sense of recent trends, idk – but this advice just doesn’t fit for me.

      1. BubbleTea*

        What is the concern, though? Someone dressed unprofessionally or with a weird email address is possibly someone who doesn’t quite understand work norms, but why would not using Facebook be an issue? They may have only recently changed their name, or just not want to use their real name online. I can’t see why that affects work. Dating is different, because in that situation personal life is very relevant. I don’t care whether my accountant uses Twitter or not.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I just googled myself to test this. I got married three and a half years ago and changed my name. The only result that is actually me is my LinkedIn page. If I didn’t have that, all the results would be clearly not me (either they’re from other countries or they’re dead, my name is old fashioned). But I do have social media accounts, I just don’t use my full name on them.

          1. ellex42*

            Just googled myself as well. I have an online presence, but not under my actual name, which is extremely unique (if you can spell it). The majority of hits are an extremely distant relative (as in, I only know we’re related due to having the same last name and there’s a noticeable resemblance to a closer relative) who is an actress in another country. Hits for my name are almost entirely White Pages type hits.

            I had a Linked In a while back when I was job searching, but the amount of spam I got through that account was so ridiculous that I deleted it. I’ve had coworkers who were astounded that I didn’t have a Facebook or Instagram account, but I wouldn’t want to connect to my coworkers through social media anyway.

            Honestly, I don’t want a social media presence with my actual name *because* it’s so extremely unique that my address would be incredibly easy to find. It’s one thing if you already know my name (and how to spell it)…but in terms of social media, I’d prefer to be fairly anonymous.

            1. Quill*

              Same on the “googleable name” front. I have slowly been pruning away any information that, for example, facebook knows about me, and I am definitely not providing any of that info to future sites.

          2. Just Another Zebra*

            Out of curiousity, I googled myself as well. Turns out, I’m an American country singer.

            What’s funny is I actually DO have a fairly extensive online presence, but I go by Nickname Middle name pretty much everywhere, so you’d really have to know me to find me. My husband has the same set up. LinkedIn isn’t used in my industry, so if I have one, it’s from college and is over a decade old.

            I’d definitely reevaluate your bias on this one.

            1. Not Really John Smith*

              I have SUCH a common name that you’d never find me if you searched for me. (Think “John Smith.”) I hope no one cares that I’m not SO online that I end up trumping the million other people with the same name.

          3. emmelemm*

            Same. I have a (very barebones) LinkedIn page that is me, and then lots of hits/partial hits that are mostly long dead, or in the UK. (I have a very old-fashioned, very British name.)

        2. Julia*

          I would care more about LinkedIn than Facebook. But really, it’s about having *some* presence.

          I guess I could argue it demonstrates that you put yourself out there and engage with your professional network in the ways that are most common to do these days – i.e., virtually. But really, it’s just my gut feeling about what’s “normal”, which as I said sadly plays more of a role in hiring than it should.

          1. Clarice*

            You mean it’s your bias and you haven’t bothered to question it.

            This says a lot more about you than anyone else.

            1. pancakes*

              I agree, and would add that a feeling of increased safety or wholesome normality that comes from merely seeing that someone has an online presence is quite shallow. What Julia is describing is a feeling, not a discerning thought process. There are all sorts of violent and untrustworthy people with a presence online. I think it’s a big mistake to see visibility as signifying trustworthiness.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I think that comes off as rather aggressive, certainly it’s something I tend say when I’m very angry with someone who’s insulted me. Julia has just mentioned that it feels a bit off, she hasn’t said she’d refuse to invite someone in for an interview. It’s just that a piece of information is missing, no worse than if they didn’t supply some documentation. Maybe they can’t give a copy of their diploma because they didn’t actually pass that course, but maybe the original got destroyed in a fire. If the candidate is otherwise strong and she’s not inundated with CVs she’ll probably set up an interview.
              She does also say “sadly”, recognising that relying on gut feelings is not always the best way to go about it.

              Julia, one possible reason for a lack of online presence could be poverty, not being able to afford an internet plan and having to do everything down at the library at a per hour rate which will soon be more expensive unless you keep online activity to a bare minimum. Maybe you hire people whose pay grade means that’s very highly unlikely, but it could still be the case for, say, an IT guy from India sending tons of money home because he has about six sisters all needing a dowry and his father is sick needing expensive medicine

          2. Lance*

            The main trouble with that line of thinking is that people engage with their networks in any number of different ways. Some people are just… shall I say, quieter about it. The only thing not having a LinkedIn profile would tell me about someone is that they just don’t want a LinkedIn profile (as has openly been the case with several commenters on this blog in recent years). That’s nothing about professional judgement; that’s just personal preference.

          3. Metadata minion*

            I think this varies a lot by field. I’m pretty active on library Twitter threads, but not under my real name, and that’s not at all unusual for librarians. We’re also a profession that’s still in love with email listservs, which wouldn’t come up in a Google search. I will come up under my real name for my listing on my workplace, which is extremely standard for academic libraries, but if my workplace were unusually privacy-conscious that wouldn’t say anything about my own professional attitude.

            1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

              Museum worker/former archivist chiming in to say the same thing! We are largely Twitter and listserv people. If we have Linkedin, there’s a minimum of care and feeding. YMMV on this, but in my experience, an underground-style Twitter and a smaller professional digital footprint usually signals “worker” and a high profile, polished presence usually signals “executive.” I venture this has more to do with some of the labor issues that are finally being brought up in libraries/museums/archives since the workers need a safer space to discuss without repercussion… but again, ymmv. TBH, I’d be more skeptical of a really big digital footprint and a perfect LinkedIn, largely because of the upstairs/downstairs culture of cultural heritage.

              I do google people that apply for jobs, but the red flags I’m looking for are things like bigotry and racism, not a good LinkedIn or a personal website. I use HR and (discreet!) word of mouth for “are they who they say they are?” and am happy with the results.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Julia just a comment, you are unintentionally discriminating against anyone who has been stalked or left an abusive relationship. I have two friends who changed their names for personal protection and do not let that new name show up on social media.

            1. Gyratory Circus*

              Excellent point.

              I’ve got a kid who will be entering the workforce soon, and has zero public social media presence except a barebones LinkedIn. Their father became abusive when they were younger and took off (parental rights were terminated), and they want to be as unfindable as possible so that he can’t track them down.

            2. FallingSlowly*

              Thank you for saying this.
              I am in this category and was dismayed by the comment by Julia, because I worry about my lack of LinkedIn being looked at as a negative by possible employers. I don’t want to have to tell strangers the reason why I can’t have my full name and workplace identified together, and if I do then they would switch from judging me for not having LinkedIn, to possibly judging me for having a violent and stalkery ex.

            3. Lacey*

              Yes. Also, I know when my friend was training for a nursing position at a detention facility she was advised not to have her full name on social, in case one of the inmates got upset at her and would use social media to find her and target her.

            4. Bagpuss*

              Good point. A friends of mine had their daughter by adoption. Child’s family of origin were abusive and so neither child, , nor child’s parents have anything about online – very occasionally they will have something on facebook which references the fact that they have a child, but nothing about name or gender, the school they attend, definitely no photos, and if they mention the adoption they deliberately give a different date to when it actually happened,

              Child is not old enough to be job hunting yet but when they are , they may well have no online presence.

            5. Anonymous Badger*

              This was what I was going to say as well. This is why several people in my network have no online presence. It’s for their own safety.

              1. Momma Bear*

                We have friends in a similar boat re: a child. There are also plenty of people escaping abusive situations that keep a low to no profile so their vindictive ex doesn’t find them. I would look for information on someone online as a data point, but I would not give it more weight than the interview, resume, etc. There are also professions where you are discouraged from having an online presence, so if someone came from that kind of industry, they may actually be showing good professionalism by not having social media accounts.

          5. NeverComments*

            This is concerning. What other irrelevant things do you consider in hiring decisions because they don’t fit your idea of “normal.” Yikes

          6. hbc*

            It seems like you’re almost there, so forgive me if any of this sounds harsh: you can’t say “sadly” about a phenomenon that you are actively, knowingly, and voluntarily participating in. Like, “Sadly, women are paid less than men for the same work, so I pay them 10% less.”

            If there’s a reason that you need people who are comfortable having an online presence, then that’s a fine thing to use in your decision-making process. (Maybe a Zero Presence person *could* do it just fine, but all things being equal, I’m betting on the guy who already has 300 connections on LinkedIn too.) But if you’re just screening for normality, then you might as well ban redheads or medieval literature fans. “Huh, they don’t have an online presence” should hit the same level of concern as “Huh, I don’t meet a lot of people from Lichtenstein.”

            1. Myrin*

              Off-topic but I just literally laughed out loud because I actually am, indeed, a redhead with a degree in medieval literature and no online presence.

                1. Myrin*

                  I’m not, but I actually don’t live too far from it (a couple of hours by car).
                  (If we’re talking about Liechtenstein the tiny country, as opposed to Lichtenstein the castle, which is slightly closer to me and where I wouldn’t mind living, either!)

              1. Ophelia*

                LOL, I am a redhead with an undergrad degree concentration in medieval history, but I *do* have an online presence, so watch out! ;-)

              2. starsaphire*

                Team Medieval Literature Redheads! Where’s the next meeting? :D

                (My online presence is all for my pen name.)

          7. EPLawyer*

            I do literally nothing with Linked In. It just doesn’t serve my needs. Very few lawyers “interact with their network” on something public like Linked In. At least in my experience. We prefer listservs set up by the bar association where we can ask for advice on cases, get practice management tips, etc. all without the general public seeing it. Or recruiters or vendors who will then spam us.

            If someone doesn’t have a law firm website, I wonder. But that’s because I see law firm websites as advertising. But not everyone wants to advertise that way. That’s about it.

            1. Lora*

              Just curious, does this vary state to state? Thinking about my divorce lawyer, I found him via a couple of listings online both from the state bar association which does little profiles of lawyers, their specialties, where they went to school, how long they have been practicing, often with headshots and lists of awards they’ve won. I admit I picked him because he had a lot of “Winner, Best Family Law Practice Of (state), 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002…” type results in various searches, all of which were hanging in his waiting room in a giant brass-and-black-enamel Wall Of Fame type arrangement. He had a very large public & internet presence in that sense (he’s since retired), just not on LI.

              1. LimeJello*

                In my experience, it varies by practice area more than anything else. For example, I’m a corporate lawyer who primarily represents large international companies, so my clients aren’t looking for lawyers by trawling online listings or LinkedIn. My clients are referred to me by my other clients, or because I went to law school with their general counsel, or because I sit on the board of a nonprofit that they regularly donate to. It’s very common – I would even say the norm – for lawyers in my industry to have no online presence other than their firm bio and possibly a sparse LinkedIn page. For lawyers who represent individuals, it is more common to advertise through bar associations and other services that connect you with people outside the legal world.

                1. Lora*

                  Thanks, this makes sense. The only other lawyers I regularly interact with are patent attorneys, who typically have some LinkedIn presence but aren’t super active – and this may be just because my STEM industry makes heavy use of LinkedIn particularly. Thanks again for the explanation!

                2. Anne Elliot*

                  Yep, very much related to whether the lawyer has to sing for their supper, meaning advertise for clients. I am a government lawyer so my client is my state agency. I have a very bare LinkedIn account that, if it disappeared tomorrow, I frankly wouldn’t care. I have a very limited online presence overall, in my case justified in large part by the type of work I do. Which just goes to show it varies hugely not just by field but by specialty. In the work I do, it would be odd if you were talking much about your job online.

          8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            You’d hate me then. This site is the closest thing I have to a “Social Media Presence” and it’s clearly not my real name at the end of my comments. Sorry, I just don’t have time for the rest of it.

              1. Southern Gentleman*

                I know, right? I still have an AOL email address. It’s free and I’ve discovered no compelling reason to go about the trouble of changing it on everything. Maybe there’s something I’m missing?

                1. Anne Elliot*

                  Well, I’m the first to say have whatever email account you want, but an AOL account does IMO telegraph that you are a geezer. It’s like having a flip phone. Sure, you can have one and being used to it is a fine reason to keep it, but it does mean (1) you were old enough to have that phone/email account back in the day; and (2) you are not interested in keeping current with technological advances adopted by almost everyone else, without a compelling reason to do so. Even my dad moved his email to a yahoo account, and he’s 85.

                  And this is no fling against old geezers. I am approaching geezerhood at warp speed myself and looking forward to telling all you kids to get off my lawn.

                2. Deliliah*

                  Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL accounts are frequently spam traps. I work in email marketing and we often just blanket ban sending to those addresses because of the hit on deliverability we take because of it. To me, having one signifies that you aren’t aware they are outdated and potentially problematic. It depends on the field you’re in, obviously. There are many fields where not being aware of that wouldn’t matter one bit. It matters very much in my field.

                3. JustaTech*

                  In your personal life there’s nothing wrong with an AOL or hotmail account, assuming the address isn’t something embarrassing (mmmbopfan82 might not be what you want to tell the world today, for example).

                  In your professional life they can seem a little out of date or casual. I had a professor in the early 2000’s who used an AOL address for all of the class-related emails they wanted us to submit, and my classmates and I judged them negatively for it (mostly because we thought that the professor should have a school email address).

                  And while some people might see an AOL address as a sign of “geezerdom”, it also says “I’ve been on the internet for 20+ years”, which isn’t a bad thing.

              2. Anne of Green Gables*

                The kind of assumptions about this makes me crazy. My non-work email address is hotmail. I set it up when I graduated from college and lost my student email. It’s my full name and nothing else, all my friends and family from the last 20 years have it, and it functions as email. Why should I change to something where I will need to add numbers or punctuation that people then need to remember, that mean people from my life 10 years ago couldn’t find me if they wanted to, and offers no additional functionality just to make someone else comfortable? It’s not what I use for work but it is what would be on my resume were I job searching. I’m pretty well respected in my professional circle so if someone chose to eliminate me as a candidate just because of a hotmail address, quite frankly they’d be missing out.

          9. Crivens!*

            I don’t have much of an online presence that’s connected to my real name because I have a cyber stalker that has been at it for half a decade. When I get a job I will in fact be shutting down my LinkedIn, the only thing under my real name, because this stalker has tried to harass me at every job I’ve had.

            Does that change your math any on this issue?

          10. Anna Karenina*

            People may not want to be found due to people in their past. They may go by a completely different name socially than what they would use on a resume. I know plenty of great workers not on LinkedIn.
            In my industry, you don’t really “engage” with your professional network. I really don’t want my personal info out there, you can’t search me on FB.

          11. Galloping Gargoyles*

            I deleted my LinkedIn account three years ago with no regrets. If you Google me you’ll find me because of my job but you won’t find me on LinkedIn. I honestly did not see any value to LI and tons of people that I didn’t know that wanted to connect with me there because of my position. I would hope a future employer wouldn’t hold that against me.

        3. UKDancer*

          Yes I think dating and recruitment are very different. I would always google someone I was going on a date with fairly extensively to check what they were telling me, that they worked where they said, etc.

          I would not google someone I was recruiting or expect a social media presence. I would probably check Linked in but not much apart from that. There are a lot of other ways of picking up issues / discrepancies when you are recruiting.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I would google someone I was recruiting but it’s to see whether they have an online presence which is concerning, not to see whether they have one at all.
            So not having a online presence wouldn’t be a massive red flag – having public social media accounts full of racist / sexist comments, or character attacks on your current employer and coworkers or loads of photos showing them engaging in illegal activities would be.

        4. Quill*

          Also if you’re weeding people out by “I can’t find them under their legal name on the internet” you’re potentially excluding people with damn good reasons to have no online presence (see: victims of stalking and domestic violence, witness protection program participants) from your search. Or just people who have good internet security sense and do all their online socializing under an alias, a huge number of people have decided they don’t need facebook knowing their last name and current residence.

        5. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Online dating requires more than just google, actual background checks are needed, as people on there lie like rugs. People get so frustrated now when they can’t find out stuff about you just from social media, it’s a form of nosiness that has no place in hiring. If you are concerned about who you are hiring, confirm any resume claims and check references.

      2. Allonge*

        Serious question: can you explain why it makes you uneasy, and is it not connected to your industry/field somehow? The last time I googled anyone before meeting them was when we got a new supervisor three years ago.

        I know there is a ‘everything is online’ thing, and as a former academic with a unique name, I am easy to find (except you cannot see much of what I have been up to in the last decade). But there are millions of people who have zero interest in doing social media with their real names, or at all, and their jobs don’t depend on it, so they just are not foundable. What’s wrong with this, professionaly?

        To be clear, I see dating as a completely different thing, and in any case you do what makes you feel safe.

        1. Julia*

          I tried my best to explain why it makes me uneasy in my first comment. It’s probably not a great explanation, but after all, it’s a feeling about social norms rather than a reasoned argument about what people should do.

          To be clear, I am not on personal social media and I know lots of people who aren’t on social media. But those people usually have LinkedIn profiles, or personal webpages, or a bio on their employer’s website. Or in the case of physicians, for example, they’re usually on those websites that list doctors in your area. “Online presence” is not the same as Instagram or Facebook.

          1. Allonge*

            Sorry, what I read in your comment sounded like ‘I find it weird and that makes me uneasy, as everybody finds this weird, right?’. Just to give a more specific example: I have no idea what’s wrong with a Hotmail email address either. It’s not all universal knowledge, is what I am trying to say.

            I have no issue with you organising your life like this, it’s up to you!

            Please consider that not all professions/companies have a full listing of all their staff on their websites though. I personally see nothing reassuring about a LinkedIn registration either. One of my previous bosses (fired) had his old job title on there for years after he left.

            1. Scarlet2*

              Yeah, I’m really wondering about the thing with hotmail addresses as well. Like, I’ve had one for about 15 years, it’s my main email address, not sure why I’d be expected to change it or what’s so weird about that?

              1. Metadata minion*

                To me it reads as mildly old-fashioned or non-tech-savvy, but if tech-savviness is going to be a big part of the job I’m hiring for, I presumably have the rest of your resume to see how awesome you are with computer networking and the hotmail thing will read as just a bit quirky.

                1. Snow Globe*

                  It could also mean that the person was an early adopter of email, before gmail was even a thing. I had a yahoo email address years before google started offering email. And why change an established email address if you don’t need to?

                2. Pennyworth*

                  What is especially tech savvy about having a more recent, common email provider? I’m asking because my email address actually pre-dates hotmail because I have never seen any reason to change it. It also seems to insulate me from unsolicited emails.

                3. Florp*

                  Yeah, honestly I’m old and in a small industry. I have a few contacts that pop up every 5 or ten years. When you have a professional network, changing your email address just because it says hotmail is probably way more hassle than it’s worth.

                4. DarnTheMan*

                  Which is hilarious to me because my job is entirely about social media but I still use a Hotmail address; it was the ‘work’ address my sister made for me when I was 15 and applying for jobs for the first time, and since it’s attached to so many things now, I’ve never had the inclination to switch it.

              2. The Other Dawn*

                I’ve had my hotmail address for something like 20 years and there’s no way I’m changing it. I have no reason to do so. I really don’t get the hang-ups with hotmail. If someone is going to judge me for having a hotmail address, that’s not someone whose opinion I care about.

                1. JC*

                  I would agree- if you are using something like then that is not appropriate for work (and you would be surprised how many people do use a bad address and need to be told to set up a professional account -firstname lastname!) But discriminating or assuming someone is not tech savvy? That’s a reach. I’ve had my email for over 15 years- why would I change it?

                2. SomebodyElse*

                  My hotmail account will be with me until the bitter end… I managed to get lastnamefirstname @ hotmail which should indicate really how old my account is.

                  Now I will say that I generally don’t use this except for shopping, legacy accounts, and potentially spammy things that I don’t want to use a fake email for. But yeah, I’m hanging on to it and will wear it with a badge of honor!

                3. The Other Dawn*

                  My hotmail is my main email address and I couldn’t care less if people think I’m “older” or “non-tech savvy.” I have a gmail account, but I really only use it for my blog and that’s it. I see no reason to use gmail as my main account, not only because I have so many things linked to the hotmail address, but because I hate the gmail interface.

                  The only times I’d ever judge someone’s choice of email address is if it’s something sexual or really immature, or if it’s clearly two people, like spouses, sharing a single address. And that would mostly be in the context of hiring.

                4. LW #4*

                  My hotmail address was my first ever email address, if it weren’t on a thousand spam lists I would totally still use it as my main address. Not professionally, it’s along the lines of “crazygalyay”, but it has a more respectable alias on the account.
                  I went too far in the opposite direction, though. I host my own email with both a generic domain for anything I don’t trust being tied to my actual identity, and because I could (and so my dad can have his So I have functionally infinite email addresses and frequently forget what I’ve used where. I would be so lost without my password manager!

              3. Allonge*

                If I had to guess, the problem could be that it reads ‘old’, as does my aol email – which could be a warning sign for, say, underage people being targeted for grooming by adults online, and taught as such. And perhaps some only remember that hotmail = creepy, but not the WHY? I don’t know. Totally guessing, here.

              4. pbnj*

                To me, discriminating against a hotmail address is a subtle way of doing age discrimination since most folks with a hotmail are over a certain age.

                1. Lora*

                  Hey, I resemble that remark….actually I am Old and have an email provided by my phone company which I switched to from MSN when I moved closer to the city where we had DSL (and believe me that was a serious upgrade at the time). Before MSN I had email via my old university account, which required me to use a command line to telnet to their server and then open Pine. If you had a G3 Mac you could set it up to run the university’s version of Eudora…it’s mostly an inertia thing, tell you the truth. My phone company email is actually firstinitiallastname, it’s so old.

                  Before my mother went to assisted living, she had an Earthlink account which she paid $30/month for, and it was a serious security problem. Getting her to give up that account and move to Gmail was harder than getting her to stop driving.

                2. pbnj*

                  I hope it didn’t come off as a dig against folks with “retro” email addresses. I just meant that there is probably some unconscious bias going on with email addresses related to age discrimination.

                3. Lora*

                  No, I’m actually agreeing with you on that point! I’m sort of hoping it will be a fashion thing and someday I’ll be back in style, like the people who have the first Twitter handle of -at-Mike or whatever.

                  Then again, I’m the weirdo who buys old rotary phones at flea markets and converts them to run on Arduino, so maybe I just like old things…

              5. Bopper*

                Me too…I have had my hotmail email address forever…at some point will it be retro?

                Although on the other hand, if someone has an email address, does that make you wonder?

                1. ThatGirl*

                  I have to admit, a hotmail or aol email address might make me chuckle a little (wow, look at this person still using hotmail!) but it wouldn’t make me not want to hire them – unless it was something blatantly unprofessional or weird.

                  I still have a yahoo email address from the 90s, but I’ve all but abandoned it and can’t even remember my password for it. It was something very silly and not one I’d give out to anyone in a work context. I’ve had my gmail address since circa 2000, so it’s not as if gmail is super new either.

              6. nonegiven*

                My hotmail address is over 20 years old. I also have an alias that is my real name at outlook.

            2. Quill*

              I mean, a hotmail address is probably (but not necessarily) old… but there’s probably some privacy benefits that come with not using the all knowing google and microsoft to connect every piece of your online presence directly back to your phone number and legal name.

              I’d also be somewhat worried about the email account just suddenly shuttering (happened to me with an account linked to a local ISP that I’d had for years… yes, it was mostly a spam trap by that point but that’s the inevitable end of an email address that you use to sign up to random game forums as a teenager.)

          2. Asenath*

            There’s a difference between people who have a listing on, say, the website of a professional or government body that shows all licensed personnel in their area (like doctors) and the vast majority of workers who aren’t on such lists, and who might not even have a listing on their current employer’s website. I can think of one large local employer which simply doesn’t publish such information; if you don’t already know the direct contact information of one of their employees, you have to start with the contact information for their department, and hope the person who answers knows who they are and how to reach them.

            Maybe it is age dependent, or job dependent or area dependent, but I wouldn’t think twice if someone didn’t have an online presence. Mine is minimal, at least as far as anything work-related goes (I do participate in some online forums, obviously!). I was on LinkedIn for a while, but I rarely used it and eventually deleted my account. Most of my friends and co-workers are online, but I think they’re usually on Facebook and they usually use that account for family and friends, not work. I don’t think I know anyone other than me who has a personal webpage – mine is practically dormant, entirely personal, and doesn’t come up on a straightforward search on my real name, although it will if you add other search terms.

            1. Urt*

              Company’s also might list their personnel since they don’t want every random person and headhunter to contact their people or to make phishing attacks via social engineering easier.

              1. LW #4*

                Or they work with the public in a way that leaves them open to harassment if there’s a list of everyone’s contact information on the company website. That’s why they took everyone’s names and email addresses off my employer’s company website. Why on earth anyone thought it was a good idea to post that info online in the first place is beyond me.

                1. PT*

                  I worked in a rec center years ago, and my boss was walking down the street one day maybe a mile from work when a man catcalled her and yelled her name, job title, full proper name of our rec center and its address, and her office phone number at her.

                  She called the police.

          3. Oxford Comma*

            The two things aren’t the same though. I could look up a doctor on a state health dept. website that lists their licensing information. Not so long ago, I could have called a medical library and they could have looked the person up in a directory. That’s not really an online presence.

            An increasing number of our younger hires are eschewing social media. Or if they have those accounts, they’re under pseudonyms. There are a lot of really good reasons not to have your personal information out there for everyone to see. LinkedIn is not really all that used in my field and I’ve been debating about deleting it entirely because there’s so much stuff on there that could be used to track me and the benefit isn’t all that great.

            Now if you were talking about a company not having an online presence, that might be a different thing altogether.

          4. merp*

            Hey Julia, I really hope you read the other comments about why this might be a problem. You don’t have to respond, ofc, but this is kind of a big deal for certain reasons people are pointing out.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        There’s too many variables surrounding why someone may not have an online presence to be definitive about it being a good or bad thing.

        (Only one person in the world has my full name. Me. My CV and legal documents are in that name but my FB etc. are under a different one that’s more common)

        1. Retired Prof*

          I am also the only person in the world (or at least on the internet) with my name. I am an academic, so I have a significant professional Google presence but my social media is under an alias because I lead a semi-public professional life. I think people’s internet presence varies tremendously depending on their profession, culture and personal preferences, and making assumptions based on the lack of an internet presence is foolish.

      4. Urt*

        I prefer to conduct my social live with people, not as a product among products to further somebody else’s profit line.

        1. Just saying*

          Presumably with the exception of this online remark being hosted on someone else’s business platform?

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I think suggestion that an anonymous comment section on a blog are the same as Facebook, Instagram, etc. is a big disingenuous. I’m sure Alison has a good marketing analytics suite going, but it’s not linked to real names or deliberately designed to be addictive and keep people on platform and sharing more and more with less and less control over how public it is.

            1. Rayray*


              I don’t see how you could compare using a fake screen name on a comment on a blog to having your name, birthday, picture, and more on a website like Facebook. It’s not at all the same.

            2. Just saying*

              Mmm I still think it’s a little unfortunate to be “I don’t even OWN a TV” levels of smug about online interaction when you are, in fact, interacting online. Just one man’s opinion, here on the ol’ internet.

              1. Urt*

                I don’t even OWN a TV.
                I watch the streams of the public channels. Why bother with yet another device.

      5. Underemployed Erin*

        People do not keep LinkedIn for the same reason they don’t keep Hotmail email addresses. The reason is security. Some high in demand people with vast networks were adding people they met at conferences to their LinkedIn. The people from the conferences were misrepresenting their connections to befriend all the friends of the highly networked person.

        I think people quit using Hotmail when Hotmail was recycling old email addresses. That means you could send an email to your old friend at Hotmail, and that email might go to whoever holds the address now and not your old friend.

        In summary, people may avoid both of these things due to security concerns.

        1. Koalafied*

          All email providers recycle email addresses. Legally, you have to go six months without logging into your email account and then your email providers can reclaim it (and usually turns it into a spam trap and starts penalizing bulk senders who continue emailing an account that hasn’t shown any signs of life in over six months).

          Also not sure exactly how the LinkedIn thing is a security concern. It’s true that some people add everyone they ever bump into. I think it’s generally understood that just because someone has a mutual connection with you on LinkedIn doesn’t mean either of you are necessarily close to the mutual. Are you saying that people were then lying about knowing Super Networker personally since childhood in order to… What, exactly? Trick people into connecting with them who normally don’t connect with strangers but were willing to make an exception because this liar… Was connected to someone they vaguely know from meeting once at a conference and who has ten thousand connections? And then what exactly did these “people” gain by tricking people into connecting? What is the security risk?

      6. Florp*

        Oh, I hope you’ll reconsider. You might be filtering out good people for no reason. There are lots of reasons very responsible people might not have an online presence. I have a high-school teacher friend who doesn’t use his real name on Facebook because he doesn’t want inappropriate connections with underage students. If someone has been the victim of identity theft, spousal abuse, stalking or rape, they might work really hard to keep themselves off the grid to avoid further harassment. I stay off SM personally. My online professional presence would not give you the breadth of my 30 years experience in my industry. I once had the job of placing ads on Facebook and that taught me to be very uncomfortable with putting my data online.

      7. Marketing Automation Guru*

        I am friends with someone who had a stalker, and her profiles everywhere (including LinkedIn) are very locked down. No pictures, no current work, no groups or awards, nobody can see anything unless she directly connects with them. All because she’s hiding from a stalker.

        Not exactly something you can explain away in a cover letter!

      8. Guacamole Bob*

        I don’t think it would make me hesitant about a person, necessarily, but it might strike me as a little odd if the person was literally nowhere online, at least if they had an unusual name. I’m the only person with my name, and a google search comes up with stuff like the programs from community theater shows I was involved with in high school, that one time I was interviewed about a work project for a local industry blog, an obituary for a relative with me listed as a surviving family member, a listing for my grad school thesis, real estate listings as owner of my home, etc.

        Even my very privacy-obsessed mother shows up a little bit – some sort of college alumni record, a reference to her time on a city board a couple decades ago, etc. – though it’s a lot harder to tell what’s her and what’s not because of the nickname she goes by.

        If someone has a common name and I can’t tell which stuff is theirs, no big deal. But it would strike me as a little strange if there were literally no record of someone. For a low-level position, I’d just be a little extra sure to check references and be sure the person is who they say they are – maybe it was a name change or maybe they’re just low profile. For a higher-level position, it might raise some flags that there’s no sign of presenting at conferences, serving on local industry committees, and that sort of thing (that sort of stuff is most of the results for my name at that point).

      9. Aquawoman*

        This is a good example of how problematic it can be to expect people to adhere to norms that aren’t directly work-related. What if that person has no online presence because they’ve been stalked? Even at a less serious level, you’re considering someone who’s unusual in a benign way as being suspect in some way.

      10. lapgiraffe*

        Ok to throw Julia a small bone here, she brings up dating and I can confirm that if one is on the apps, you search their online presence as both a safety feature and also to just suss out what you’re getting into (debatable whether this is a good practice or not, but that’s for the weekend open thread…). I can completely see how the “normalcy” of this behavior has seeped into her professional life, but there’s a lot of great comments here explaining why it’s a limiting if not fully discriminatory lens. I hope that Julia can step back and take in everything here objectively, and perhaps give some thought as to why it’s similarly not a great perspective for the dating apps.

        1. LW #4*

          The dating part is interesting to me. I met my now-fiance on an online dating site, where my way of protecting myself was to be even more privacy-focused rather than trying to find out anything about the men I was chatting with. My profile had just one picture that barely showed my face (taken from a distance and I was wearing a big sunhat and sunglasses) and I wouldn’t disclose more than a nickname and my mobile number as far as identifiable information. I wouldn’t meet anyone in person until we’d been chatting via either the dating site’s app or text for a good couple of weeks, then it was meeting in a nearby town where we met and left by landmarks so they wouldn’t know what bus I’d taken to get there.
          The refusing to meet quickly I think had the most impact. The obvious creeps threw up red flags before then, and of the rest we either clicked and talking was easy, or we didn’t and conversation petered out (and some unknown number of more subtle creeps left me for easier targets I guess).

          1. lapgiraffe*

            Congrats on the engagement! I’d say your experience is dramatically different than what most of my friends do ( or what I used to do, but haven’t been on online dating or apps in over five years out of personal preference). People move from chatting to coffee rather fast these days, and people share a lot of personal identifying information up front (name, work, college, hometown), which is how one is able to get to internet sleuthing so easily. I’d be curious to know what dating site you used if you’re willing to share, I’d love to get my friend on one that values getting to know someone rather than online shopping for women on the apps.

            1. LW #4*

              I wouldn’t say it was the site promoting conversation so much as my own history of meeting people off the internet. Before using OkCupid I’d talk to online friends from forums or reddit and sometimes the opportunity to meet presented itself. I just applied the same approach, but even more paranoid since they were definitely within an hour’s drive and not hundreds/thousands of miles away.
              I know the site has changed since I was using it, so YMMV for what it’s like now.

      11. AnnOtterMouse*

        I have a tough situation with this. I’d rather have no social media presence at all, but… my married name is shared by someone in the vaguely political, US alt-right world who I could not have known existed when I got married (she was a child then). When you google my name it comes up with pages and pages of stuff on this literal Nazi. Then some stuff about another person with a shared name who’s life as a celebrity is somewhat well known but MUCH more innocuous. Then me. If you google me + my profession (eg AnnOtterMouse + teapots), I come up a bit faster, but not much, since Nazi OtterMouse has made the news in my profession, too. I’ve had many people ask if I am Nazi OtterMouse or related to her, and it’s always uncomfortable.

        My choice was to have some online presence (FB set to mostly private, LinkedIn, public professional twitter with little content) and make it clear to colleagues and employers that I’m not a Nazi or this other woman.

      12. NotAnotherManager!*

        I don’t use social media and have very little online presence that you’d find under my real name. If you search for me, you’re going to get a party girl with zero social media discretion from Georgia and someone with a public professional licensure in the southwest US – neither of which is me, despite a fairly distinctive name. The real me does exist, and there will be some hits for me that are pretty old, mostly academic and a professional interview that I did as a favor to an industry acquaintance. Online networking on LinkedIn mostly seems to amount to people posting links to articles and then commenting on them at a very shallow level – I get far more out of professional groups, conferences, and closed peer listservs than I ever got from LinkedIn.

        Honestly, I don’t feel the need to share my every thought with the world. I’m not “curating my brand”, and I don’t work in PR, social media marketing, journalism, or a field that my online presence matters. I’m a very private person and don’t have any interest in sharing my personal life with the internet at large, which has nothing to do with my ability to do my job. I have some personal history as an abuse victim that makes privacy important to me, but that’s no one’s business by my family’s. There’s a lot about the psychology of social media that I don’t care for (plenty of documentaries out on it – dopamine hit of “likes”, doxing/shaming), and I’m also not interested in giving Facebook and it’s ilk my personal information for free.

        The “has an old email domain” thing always cracks me up, too. I have email addresses on several domains, and I use one of the gmail ones because I’m aware of this bizarre bias some people have, but I’ve been using email and other forms of technology since the late 1990s, and, frankly, I’m more technologically savvy than 99% of my fresh college graduate employees – computers were difficult to use early on, not intuitive/no GUI, and it taught excellent problem-solving and technical skills. I was a very early adopter, and most of my career is built around getting reluctant people to use technology to do their jobs better. And if it’s that a non-gmail domain reads as “old”, well then we’re walking into age discrimination.

        I hope your HR department offers training for interviewers about what can and cannot be considered during an interview process to evaluate someone’s candidacy. Ours does a handout for interviewers that would tell you that you can’t downgrade someone for this, but I have learned over the years that our HR is better than most.

        1. Minerva*

          I’m continually amazed by this idea that young means tech savvy. I mean, if you’re talking about 40s as being too old to understand whatever thing, do you really think the engineers who came up with these neat new things that came our 5 or 10 years ago were all new grads who had one idea and now can’t use their products?

          I’m good at some tech, iffy at other stuff, but I find new grads are just as likely to have huge gaps they don’t know about in their knowledge.

        2. alienor*

          “If you search for me, you’re going to get a party girl with zero social media discretion from Georgia and someone with a public professional licensure in the southwest US – neither of which is me, despite a fairly distinctive name.”

          To me, that first one is the reason to have at least some online presence. I can’t control what a party girl in Georgia posts, and I don’t want her or someone like her to be the first hit employers get when they search for me (nothing wrong with partying, I did it when I was younger, but that was then), but I can put my own curated information out there to counteract whatever Party Girl is up to. So, I have a LinkedIn account and a rarely updated Facebook account under my full professional name, and that’s what comes up when you Google me. Any other social media I have is under a shortened version of my name (Instagram, my real Facebook), or a completely fake name (Tumblr).

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            She’s 10 years younger than me, is has an entirely different educational background than I do, lives 800 miles out of my geographic region, and works in a different industry. If someone googling my name can’t tell the difference between her online persona and the resume in front of them, I’m not sure that I’d want to work for them, to be honest – literally the only things we have in common are our name and gender. I really doubt we’re applying for the same jobs. If there was a reasonable change of confusion or I worked in an industry where online reputation management/curation was a job qualification, I’d consider it.

      13. MsMaryMary*

        I do have a LinkedIn profile, but all my other social media is locked down tight. I have a slightly old fashioned first name and an eastern European last name. Other than my LinkedIn, the top hits when you google me are obituaries for ladies born in the late 19th and early 20th century. Hopefully no professional contacts think I’m a ghost.

      14. OyHiOh*

        The standard of expecting professionals to have some kind of online presence assumes a whole bunch of things that ain’t necessarily so. Many people in the US live in places where “networking means “show up at all public meetings” and “write op-eds for the county paper” not “click like on LinkedIn posts.” (I use LinkedIn, I realize I’m oversimplifying.) If anything, the year of COVID should have made this fact glaringly obvious. We know students have struggled with unequal access to internet. We know employees who cannot work at home, as much as they’d like to, because their region lacks robust internet resources to make that possible. Some people don’t have an online footprint because they don’t want to, because they need to be unsearchable for any of the reasons otherwise articulated in this thread, or because they don’t need to because where they live, a digital footprint isn’t necessary.

        The organization I work for has a board of directors. The people on this board are either elected officials or professionals in the field the organization works in. They are not people unused to networking. As I’ve remarked before, I live in a western USA state and my org serves an astonishingly rural quadrant of the state. There are 20+ board members and of them, less than a handful have LinkedIn accounts and of that handful, only one or two actually use their accounts on a regular basis.

      15. Nathan*

        What about people with super common names? There are about five people just in my home city who have my same first + last name. There are also a few people more notable than I who dominate the first page or three of Google results. LinkedIn has something like 60 of us. If you Googled me and found a whole bunch of other folks with my name, would that be the same red flag?

      16. AntsOnMyTable*

        I have never quite understood the Hotmail/outlook bias that I occasionally see pop up. I mean my own work email is Outlook (even though it says .companyname) so major companies are still using it. It is *such* a hassle to change your email address and make sure everyone knows the new one I don’t understand why people expect others to change something that is entirely serviceable. I do have a gmail one that I would use for interviews just because I never use it so easier to catch emails coming in but I personally prefer my Hotmail functionality to the gmail one.

      17. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Julia, your instincts are off. Some of us just do not want to contribute to Mark Zuckerberg’s world domination, and have no interest in oversharing via Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. We are trying to protect the little remnant of privacy that we have left. If I were job hunting in a professional capacity, I would likely setup a minimal LinkedIn because it is helpful for that purpose. But even then I wouldn’t judge someone for not being on LinkedIn. Perhaps they got tired of specious recruiter solicitations, or being hit on even though that is so far from the purpose of LinkedIn. Or they are a domestic violence victim.

        Few people are totally ungoogleable. Even with my aversion to social media, a few things come up under my name. In any case, please rethink your stance here.

  2. Observer*

    #3 – If there was ever something that needed to be reported, THIS IS IT.

    The guy is acting in a way that harms people and puts the company at risk. He needs to be stopped.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Absolutely- this guy makes my skin crawl. You don’t have to keep waiting for something worse before you report, just report (not saying OP is doing this, it’s just a common pattern with this sort of situation). And I wouldn’t necessarily accept it if HR decides it’s not something they want to move on either. Alison says it’s unlikely, and I think she’s right, but I want to emphasize that if that does happen they’re in the wrong and I personally would not feel right letting them drop it without pushing back strongly.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        If he IS “stalking” on FB that’s dumb but extremely helpful because it can be documented. I’d report it ASAP.

        It would be fun to interact w/him on FB w/HR’s involvement / oversight, though they probably wouldn’t. But baiting him would be interesting, to see how far he’d go.

    2. Abogado Avocado*

      #3 – Alison is right: because you are a supervisor at this company and you’ve become aware of illegal acts — sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment are illegal — by another supervisor, you are obligated to report the supervisor to HR. Say that in your written complaint to HR because it shows you’re acting out of concern for the company and not engaging in a personal vendetta (because you’re not). Please do not report him verbally because verbal complaints are easy to ignore. Written ones, not so much.

      Also, please give context to your report by describing your history of hostile work environment experiences with this supervisor. That allows HR to know that this is not a one-off situation, but part of a pattern and practice by this supervisor towards younger female employees. And that context is likely to make a big difference in how he is disciplined.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        If a member of management knows, the company “knows” and has a legal obligation to investigate.

        If the company doesn’t have a policy spelling that out, that increases their liability risk.

        The writer has a legal and moral obligation to the employer (not to mention the employee) to report.

        And the manager is legally protected against retaliation under Title VII.

  3. Roci*

    OP 1 I am so angry on your behalf!!
    The nature of infectious disease compels us to identify any possible contacts to minimize spread. Getting tested is like Schrodinger’s cat, but people act as if it’s “innocent until proven infected”, as if they aren’t dangerous to others while they’re waiting for the results. Especially when people are getting tested because they suspect they’ve contracted it! There is no excuse for not taking steps like informing possible close contacts, getting the workspace disinfected, etc. Keeping this stuff secret spreads infection and kills.

    Worse is it sounds like OP can only conclude that they kept it secret because it would disrupt work slightly–not out of overzealous privacy concerns, not because they didn’t know–but out of INCONVENIENCE. My trust in my employer would be absolutely shattered if I thought they were prioritizing work inconvenience over workers’ lives. I encourage you to frame it that way to your boss so they understand how serious this is.

    1. Solana*

      My work didn’t tell us at all when three people tested positive in different areas, one of which was mine. They claimed that they ‘didn’t want to cause a panic’. (We work with lab animals.) They got reported to OSHA for that and asking people to come in while awaiting test results and were whining about ‘respecting medical privacy’.

      1. The New Normal*

        I just heard a news report this morning about one of the larger cemeteries in my region having to shut down because, per a media release from the cemetery, all of the groundskeepers and the director contracted COVID. My very first thought was “Jesus… medical privacy!” They could have just said they had several cases on staff.

        That’s medical privacy. But telling other employees about exposures is NOT a violation.

      2. JustaTech*

        Please pardon me while I gawp at how utterly dumb your management was/is. What if everyone got sick? Those water bottles don’t refill themselves! They could have had OSHA on one side and their IACUC on the other.

        I hope you all are safe and stay COVID-free.

    2. GarlicBreadAficianado*

      It’s frustrating for sure, but at the same time they were probably following guidelines.

      For instance, in my state, if I have been exposed, I have to “socially isolate” ( I need to stay in my house and should avoid being around my family) until I have a negative test. But my husband and children can continue to go about their lives- going to school, work, the grocery store, basketball practice etc. If I test positive, I must then “quarantine”- which means I need to stay away from my family and kids and cannot leave my house unless going to a medical appointment. It is only at this point that my husband and children need to “socially isolate”

      At the time all of this was happening his wife may have only been “exposed” and awaiting the opportunity to take a test (we have been told that you should wait a minimum of 4 days between time of exposure and test date to make sure you have a viral load that can be detected definitively). As such, if she was in the “exposed” period, but not yet showing symptoms, the new employee and the employer were doing nothing wrong and in fact following guidelines. It’s only when she officially tests positive, that he officially becomes exposed and will need to socially isolate until if/when he tests positive and then will need to shift to quarantine. Once he’s officially positive, the people he worked with that meet certain criteria will then become possible exposures, but the people who live with those people will not be considered as potentially exposed..

      This is one of the reasons people are not handling this well- the rules seem arbitrary and ridiculous. If I was exposed, then during the incubation time my kids and husband would be exposed, but they won’t be considered exposed til I get a positive test and then they can’t test for 5 days after.

      1. insertusername*

        That’s what most employers in my southern state follow as well. If an employee’s spouse tested positive and the employee was waiting on a test result, we would still be expected to come to work if we had no symptoms, even if we had been potentially exposed to the employee. It’s ridiculous because that means I could be walking around at work spreading it to more people (and isn’t the whole point of contact tracing to help stop the spread?), but that is what a lot of guidelines spell out. It’s a mess.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes this is precisely why viruses spread so easily. You can be infectious before you can be proven to have been infected. Short of preventing anyone from coming into contact with anyone else (as the Chinese did in Wuhan – everyone had to stay all day and all night at home, with people taking turns every two days going down to collect a parcel of food dropped off by helicopter) it’s really hard to stamp it right out.

      2. Elaner*

        Safety and Health person here to say the same as above. OP1 There isn’t enough information in question 1 to determine if the company should have told you about the exposure.

        New Employee should have been quarantining from work whenever their wife tested positive (and hopefully wife quarantining from household while test was pending). Unless New Employee tests positive or becomes symptomatic, you wouldn’t tell the coworkers of the new person’s wife had covid. If New Employee was symptomatic within 48 hours of their last day at work, then you check with New Employee which coworkers he was within 6′ of for 15 minutes cumulative over a period of 24 hours. If New Employee identifies none of you as having been within 6′, you also wouldn’t necessarily be notified. Mind you at work, I’ve been double checking those reports with software that we have, so I’m a tiny bit more confident of who’s worked with who during their infectious period.

        Mind you this becomes less clear cut if you’re having 4 day turn arounds on tests like we’ve been seeing, because likelihood of the household of the quarantined developing symptoms at work is higher. Incubation period is 2-14 days in most people and infectious period (cdc def) is the 48 hours prior to being symptomatic.

        1. Anne Elliot*

          Chiming in to say I too am in a state in the American South and my agency notifies us of confirmed cases in our building, specific to the employing agency and the floor, but does not tell us of suspected cases or exposures unrelated to work.

      3. pancakes*

        It’s a mistake to view state guidelines like these as being guidelines on how to stay safe / protect everyone’s health because in many instances the guidelines are meant to shield the economy from disruption, not protect people’s health.

        1. GarlicBreadAficianado*

          Fair enough to using state guidelines and them being meant to shield the economy.. but at the same time thats also how states and private businesses are handling it.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t disagree that many states and businesses are doing this, but the fact that these guidelines are common doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not they’re aligned with what epidemiologists advise. Commonplace is not synonymous with safest or best.

            1. GarlicBreadAficianado*

              But its from the CDC’s guidelines and also from my state’s health dept guidelines, and I’m not in a state where the Governor is blowing this off…

              1. pancakes*

                It isn’t & hasn’t been my intention to comment on a particular state or governor. My point was that following guidelines isn’t synonymous with everyone feeling or being as safe as they can be.

                1. Natalie*

                  “everyone feeling or being as safe as they can be” isn’t a real goal, since it’s entirely unachievable.

                2. pancakes*

                  I wasn’t trying to say or suggest that that’s achievable! There are nonetheless examples of things that can be done better or get us closer, and those things aren’t invariably or instantaneously reflected in state or workplace guidelines. The initial guidance from the CDC, for example, did not call for universal masking. I don’t see it as wise to speak as if guidance is static when scientists are still learning more about the virus. Whether and to what extent public policy incorporates all of what they learn is an open question as well.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes, the guidelines may be wrong, but the company has to follow them. The company could always decide on stricter policy, of course, but that wouldn’t be enforceable by state law.

      4. Ophelia*

        Yeah – we ran into this when my 4-yo was exposed at preschool. By the letter of the regulations, none of the rest of us needed to isolate. In practice, we did, because there is no reasonable way to isolate a 4-yo, and by the time we were notified of a positive test, she was within the infectious window (we were all, thankfully, negative). Also, one thing for the OP to note is that while they certainly should have been notified of a potential exposure, it’s not really recommended to test before ~day 5 post-exposure, since that will give you a more accurate result.

      5. Fed-o*

        Yes. In our federal entity, direct contacts quarantine, contacts-of-contacts still work. If we cleaned every time someone in an employee’s circle had COVID, we’d never work. For those who have to be in-person, there has to be a line. Neither here nor there whether I agree with what has been deemed the acceptable level of risk, but it honestly doesn’t sound like this employee’s workplace is that far out of step.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      At the beginning of this pandemic I could understand (not approve) employers holding back information about possible infected people for fear of causing a panic/not knowing what to do etc.

      But we’re nearly a year into this and ignorance isn’t an excuse anymore. If we look back on the post last year about a coworker who was supposed to be quarantined (not after a test, but because it was judged she’d been exposed) and gone out doing a second job anyway there was still some ‘but what’s the problem?’ comments but very few. I think if that post went up today there’d be even fewer.

      A management that believes withholding information regarding a deadly virus after nearly a year of this nightmare is showing a scary level of wilful ignorance. I’d be pyroclastically angry. My life is on the line here.

      1. kt*

        Yeah, I’m with you, Keymaster. I understand the letter of the law and all that but we’re talking about LA, where they’ve got hospital beds set up in the hospital gift shops. A little bit more pro-active caution would be appreciated!

      2. Researcher*

        Yep, my thoughts exactly. We’ve been doing this for 10 months. We should know by now (managers especially) how to convey this information in a way that is timely, calm, devoid of identifiers, yet still gives people the vital information they need to decide whether/how to protect themselves and their families.

        I thought the willful ignorance was *epitomized* by the question of whether OP has a laptop to work from home. I mean…..WHAT. You don’t know who can and cannot work from home, and what equipment they need to do so by now? This is the basics of business continuity planning. Come ON.

    4. Elaner*

      I’d recommend anyone with the time to at least skim through a contact tracing course. A commenter on here suggested the John Hopkins coursera, and so do I. There’s a lot of different ways to classify cases and complexities to how quarantines and isolations work. In quite a few instances someone can be classified as a probable case and doesn’t need to get tested for the company to act.

      In my area, best bet is to contact your local health department and ask for clarification. If I have to fight about how a case should be handled, I just use them as my source to cite.

      1. TRexx*

        Many people are rightfully scared now. Employers who have information about an increased risk in their workplace, even if not defined as a “high risk” per se should still (in my opinion) communicate the possible risk of exposure to their employees.

        It’s not really a case of what we HAVE to do, but what the employer SHOULD do that matters here.

        Please send some insight to your management team, if they are receptive.

      2. Ashley*

        I think a lot of this goes to the letter or the law as opposed to the spirit and how to keep people the safest. Yes until there is a positive test spouse doesn’t have to isolate / quarantine. That only limits further transmission that has already occurred. Instead of the wife has exposure, spouse should stay home and wait it out with them because spouse likely got it from the wife. This helps stop the spread the fastest. Does it disrupt the economy and work sure, but so does being forced to close businesses because there aren’t enough hospital beds or oxygen to care for patients. To me this is a person who wears a ‘mask’ that isn’t secured to their face or is see through; they may follow the letter by having on a ‘mask’ but not the intent of the law by wearing a mask that keeps us all safer.
        It is going to be a long haul to get to herd immunity if we follow the exact letter of the law only.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        In my experience from assisting with case investigation/response at my organization… this sounds like management did contact the health department for clarification.

        I don’t think the company’s response is bad, actually.

        To be clear: LW was potentially exposed, but doesn’t meet the legal definition of “exposed” in California. The company has no legal obligation to notify them of anything until/unless the coworker is confirmed to have it. They went far beyond the minimum.

        They also may not actually have had enough information to make notifications at the time the manager asked about laptops. It would be reasonable, for example, to ask everyone who had a presence at the work site if they were set up to work from home at the same time as they were investigating to see who might have had contact with the exposed coworker or waiting on guidance from the health department. A garbled, confused, or inaccurate notification can cause more harm than good. Taking a single day to make sure you’ve got the facts straight before spreading them is not excessive.

        Fear and frustration are understandable responses, but just looking at the facts presented in the letter I don’t see anything terrible.

        1. Gene Parmesan*

          I agree with this response, actually. The letter writer was not a close contact because (as of the time of his/her writing) there was not an employee who had tested positive. I know of several instances where only one person in a household had covid, and I wouldn’t presume that the co-worker had it unless/until he tested positive or had symptoms.

          1. HCW*

            Even if the employee tests positive, OP may not be considered a contact. Where I work, if you are masked and distanced, even prolonged interactions (hour+) are not formally considered contacts. We are only contact traced if we have spent 15+ minutes unmasked or less than six feet apart within 2 days of a positive test or onset of symptoms.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              California law is a bit different – calOSHA considers it an exposure if you’ve spent 15+ minutes within six feet during any single day in the high risk period, regardless of whether masks were worn. That period starts 2 days before symptom onset or positive test date and doesn’t end until 10 days after symptom onset/test. However, my local health department typically advises a more conservative approach where exposure is assumed if people spent a prolonged period in an enclosed space together even if they weren’t technically within 6 feet.

              Either way, it’s correct that OP may not be considered a close contact by either state OSHA or local health department. We really don’t have enough details to know.

        2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Agree. I’ve been doing this for months. I do think they bungled this some, but more in the communication itself (i.e., how do you not know who can and cannot effectively work from home at this point?) but they followed the appropriate CDC guidelines. HE needs to be removed from the workplace, but no one else does at this time.

          That said, it’s not a bad idea for the company to notified potential “Person Cs” (that is, people who were around someone who was directly exposed to a positive case) to closely monitor symptoms and be diligent – but everyone should be doing that anyway.

          TL;dr, this isn’t a workplace exposure as defined by the CDC or most State health departments, the employer has no obligation to notify you.

        3. Elaner*

          Ace I was thinking the same thing about bungled communication, and I was hoping to share the health department info for commenters that may not know those resources are available.

    5. Feline*

      I feel so bad for you, OP1. My sister is going through this in her workplace, too. There, the fifth employee sitting in the same open-plan room just tested positive. There’s no way to know whether these employees are all just reckless outside of work, of course, but it looks to employees like it’s spreading at work, and the employer says “we measured, and your chairs are six feet apart. Wear masks if you get up from your desk.” I told her that’s not good enough. They don’t want to be bothered with safety. Employers are going to have to face up to productivity losses whether it’s from making their whole office get COVID or whether it’s making changes to work accommodations to separate employees from each other. Forcing everyone to grin and bear it isn’t getting them through.

      1. kt*

        That’s horrible. We have clear case reports of it spreading up to 20 feet via ventilation patterns (search for something like “korean restaurant coronavirus airflow study” to see what the scientists demonstrated). Truly horrible.

      2. Natalie*

        Well that’s just plain incorrect – employees sharing airspace should be distanced *and* masked, it’s not either/or.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yes – they are all considered proximate contacts if their cubes don’t have 6ft (or higher) walls.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Being six feet apart isn’t enough if you’re sitting there all day. For up to 15 minutes there’s little chance of infection, but the virus is somewhat airborne, so unless you work outdoors or open all doors and windows very regularly (regularly enough to make heating a waste of time), it’ll spread from one person to another. There was a case of a guy getting infected by someone about 20 feet away, in a closed room, both in there at the same time for a fair while (maybe an hour I don’t remember). So you need to mask up all day, not just to move around.

    6. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes the whole point is that you’re supposed to assume that you are positive until the test proves your negative, if you’ve had an exposure. Definitely not the other way around, that flies in the face of logic and epidemiology!

      1. LW #4*

        There has to be a line, though. If an exposure counts as a positive-until-proven-negative case, then exposure to the exposure counts as a positive-until-proven-negative case, then exposure the to exposure to the exposure counts etc. That also very quickly flies in the face of logic. I don’t know where the line should be, it would depend on numbers I don’t have, but I do think there should be one.

        1. boo bot*

          I’m actually not sure it does fly in the face of logic! You’re accurately describing how a highly contagious virus spreads: exposure to the exposure to the exposure is the same as exposure, until proven otherwise. Exposure 3 is just as dangerous as exposure 1 if the virus *has* been passed from one person to the next. As Roci said at the top of this thread, every person exposed is Schrodinger’s cat – until the result is in, their status can’t be known, so the assumption has to be that they’re positive.

          The problem is that there’s no way to draw a line that is both safe and minimally interruptive of business. This is largely a problem that could be solved with money, but that’s not where we’re at.

          1. LW #4*

            If you have a 50% chance of passing it at each exposure stage, by the time you reach number 5 in the chain the chance that they’ll catch the virus is a little over 3%. By 7 it’s under 1%. Is it still logical to send someone to isolation for two weeks when they have a 99% chance of not having actually been exposed?

            1. LW #4*

              Of course I don’t know what the numbers actually are, which is why I said I wouldn’t know where to draw the line, but the chance does diminish because we know that not every exposure to someone with the virus results in catching covid.

            2. boo bot*

              Yeah, I don’t know how the numbers break down at that point, either, but I don’t really think we’re ever going to be in a position where people are mandated to isolate at that level of exposure, so I’m not terribly concerned about it.

          2. Natalie*

            There’s no way to draw a line that is both safe and minimally interruptive of business. This is largely a problem that could be solved with money

            People throw around “interrupting business” like they’re only talking about unimportant stuff people do for pin money. Unfortunately lots of that business is essential work that literally all of us need to survive. Unless you’re throwing that money at the owner of a fleet of autonomous robots, many people actually have to work in person, and they can’t all isolate when someone six degrees of separation from them has tested positive.

            1. boo bot*

              I think you’re right that I should have phrased that part better. The conflating of essentials and “unimportant stuff” is a big part of the problem, and really the key to what I was trying to get at: there’s a difference between “we’re open because we sell food, and people need food,” and “we’re open because both our business and our workers need money to buy food.” The more people are out mingling, including working at non-essential jobs, the more the virus spreads, and the more essential workers who really do have to be working in person are exposed.

              I was a bit glib in my phrasing about the money thing, but the reason is, it’s maddening to me that in this moment when so many things are beyond our control, we’re not fixing the things that actually can be fixed or mitigated with money.

            2. justabot*

              Absolutely. The reality is that in most essential businesses, with public facing jobs, the reality is that people need to work and businesses need to make money.

              You see something like the NFL which has been highly successful being able to carry out a full season with limited hiccups – except you see the absolute resources and unlimited budget thrown at this – daily testing for thousands of people, contact tracing type monitors every player/employee wears, the ability to take TWO planes to a game so less people on each plane, coaches each picked up individually by private car with a plexiglass shield and driven to an away game. Sure it’s great and sets a great example. It’s also COMPLETELY unrealistic for small businesses who are trying just to keep lights on and pay the mortgage and keep a payroll. And staff who needs a paycheck even if Joe Coworker was at a party last weekend where it turns out one of the guest’s sister apparently just had Covid. It would be awesome if the boss said, “You guys should all quarantine/get tested/stay home the next 10 days (with pay), but I can tell you the reality of the situation at my job, and most of what I know about my (terrible) state, that’s not what is playing out.

        2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          This is the line as of right now:
          Person A – Tests positive OR displaying symptoms*
          Person B – Close (6ft or less for 10 min or more) or proximate (same enclosed area for 2+ hours or more) contact** within 48 hours of someone testing positive OR displaying symptoms*, whatever comes first
          Person C – someone who is in contact with Person B

          Person A – isolation
          Person B – quarantine
          Person C – be diligent but otherwise live life as “normal”

          *If tested and comes back negative, would release A from isolation and any Bs from quarantine, but Better Safe than Sorry, treat anyone Symptomatic as positive
          **This is masked or unmasked. Size of space, ventilation patters, and high cubicle walls (6ft or more) DO make a difference. Otherwise not super well defined.

          1. Elaner*

            Thank you for the great explanation! I plan to steal this for some folks that seem to forget how this works every couple of weeks!!

    7. MsClaw*

      A *lot* of people have weird ideas about HIPAA and that leads some office places to emphasize protecting privacy versus warning others. Like, our bosses have told us that if we test positive or have been exposed, we’re not to post it, email it, etc, to our teams ‘because that’s a HIPAA violation’ (it 100% isn’t. It is not a violation for me to announce medical information about myself. But that’s their ruling).

      Instead we are supposed to inform our supervisor and provide a list of anyone we’ve been in close contact with in the last 48 hours. But at no point would our bosses be like ‘hey, Hoder has COVID’ or ‘Sandor’s wife has tested positive so he won’t be coming in this week’ or anything like that. People just …. sometimes aren’t in, and unless they put you on their been-in-close-contact list, you just have to decide on your own whether you’ve potentially been exposed when someone is mysteriously absent.

      So it’s possible your office is taking a similar round-about approach. I’m not saying they’re doing the right thing, but just that they may have similar weird ideas about ‘protecting privacy’.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        LW1 is in California, and our regulations explicitly require employers to protect the confidentiality and personally identifying information of people with covid. It’s not HIPAA, it’s part of the state labor code. You’re not legally allowed to reveal the identity of the person with covid even when you’re notifying people of exposure. So in this case it’s probably not a “weird idea about protecting privacy,” it’s actual compliance with the law.

        Your company’s policy is baffling though. 48 hours is not nearly a long enough time to be looking at – our health department (and state law) says any close contacts from two days before SYMPTOMS started count as exposure – which means depending on when your test results come in, you might be looking back up to two weeks!

        1. MsClaw*

          Fair enough. While I can see the logic (and the need to follow laws) that *employers* shouldn’t share employee health info, it is definitely not a HIPAA issue for *me* to tell people that *I* am sick. But we’ve been told it’s a violation for us to tell other people at work if we are sick.

          And since people aren’t allowed to put out a message saying ‘I’m not feeling well and I’m getting a COVID test today’ or ‘I tested positive this weekend’ they are relying on people to accurately remember who they’ve been around. Now, of course, we’re not *supposed* to be hanging out in each other’s cubes but oddly enough, people are doing stuff they shouldn’t.

          So if Bill gets sick and he tells management he spent some time in Jane’s office, they’ll tell Jane she needs to quarantine. But if Bill also took the elevator with Raj and Alice helped him troubleshoot an issue at his desk and he forgot about both of those, they don’t get any warning and keep coming to work. They might notice Bill’s not around, but they won’t know why.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Oh, absolutely – I agree that the employee should be able to disclose their own diagnosis to coworkers! And either way it’s not HIPAA since that’s specifically for your healthcare providers.

            While I understand and respect the intent of CA’s privacy laws, it has been quite frustrating for us in responding to cases. Because I’m not legally allowed to let anybody know Bill is out of work because he’s in quarantine, which means if he forgot about someone he spent time with I have no way to know they were exposed. Plus it means people feel like management is lying or hiding things even if we’re doing our absolute best to keep people in the loop… and that sort of mistrust indirectly leads to people not following safety policies.

            We also had one instance where there were only two guys on the shift and one got covid. How the heck are we supposed to tell the other guy he was exposed at work “without revealing the name or personally identifying information of the Covid-19 case”?! At a certain point you really can’t keep it secret.

            Basically… it’s a mess even if the employer is trying their hardest to be responsible.

            1. MsClaw*

              Oh geez! yeah, I think the rules are well-intentioned but have some weird impacts.

              They have now given us sheets where we’re supposed to log when anyone is in contact with us less than 6 feet away for 15 minutes or more to get around the memory issue — but that relies on people actually filling out the log.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        HIPAA does not apply to workplaces. HIPAA applies to medical providers, insurance companies, and HR ONLY from a health benefits/PHI perspective (i.e., in the context of an employer who is self-insured and/or keeps PHI on file for FMLA, etc.)

        COVID-19 falls under the ADA. The ADA is far more permissive than HIPAA, in that people can be told about it *on a need to know basis* and they *cannot retaliate against someone for it*

        More here:

    8. The New Normal*

      OP#1: I know the other posters are sharing about their experiences and Alison shared the CDC’s guidance, but as a fellow Californian, I also know that LA County has tighter restrictions that your employer is in violation of. If you go to the LA County DPH Contact Tracing page, you will see that people who experience symptoms are to immediately isolate pending a test. Until a negative test is received AND SYMPTOMS SUBSIDE, people are assumed to be positive. Which means upon notification of symptoms and a pending test, your employer was required to notify DPH and allow them to conduct contact tracing (which means you would have been directed to isolate within an hour) or they are required to conduct their own contact tracing (which means you would have been directed to isolate within an hour) before giving that information to DPH. In addition, your office should have been closed to allow for deep cleaning.

      My employer does this very helpful “Person A, Person B” graph. Can’t share it, but there are several COVID Quarantine or Isolation Matrix or Decision Tools available online. In the state of California, ours also specifically state that any exposure over 15 minutes in a day within the same room (regardless of social distancing or mask use) requires isolation until negative tests.

      Bottom line: this company should be reported to Cal/OSHA. They are NOT following guidelines.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Where’s the line, though? Isolating an exposed individual pending test results makes sense. But if you assume anyone exposed to them is also positive, then anyone exposed to those people is also assumed to be positive… it very quickly gets out of hand.

        I’m in California but not LA county, so I’m not clear how your local regs differ from the state. However what you’re describing in terms of notification/isolation within one hour of contact to an exposed person is definitely not the cal/OSHA standard. The state requirement is to notify people who have been exposed to a known covid case within one day of the employer being notified about the case. Until test results are back, coworker doesn’t meet the cal/OSHA definition of a covid case. Exposure is defined (by cal/OSHA) as cumulative 15 minutes within six feet of over a 24 hour period – distance does matter, but masks don’t, so it’s not necessarily anyone in the same room.

        Again, LA county may have stricter rules than the state as a whole… but what you’re describing is definitely not statewide requirements.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Just to clarify, when I say masks don’t matter I’m only talking about whether mask use affects the cal/OSHA definition of exposure to covid. Masks absolutely matter for public health and reducing transmission!

        2. The New Normal*

          The line is symptoms. If the initial exposed person is symptomatic and pending a test result, they are considered positive until otherwise. I should have clarified that originally; my apologies.

          The person who has tested positive is considered Person A. Person B is the next level of exposure who is symptomatic and pending test results. They isolate. Person C is exposed to Person B but doesn’t need to isolate unless Person B is a positive.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I agree with what you’re saying. When I read the letter, my interpretation was that Coworker was isolating because of exposure and hadn’t necessarily had symptoms. If he was symptomatic and had a known exposure, the risk to his contacts is much higher so it would make sense for them to isolate pending his test results.

  4. Jaybeetee*

    LW4: My brother shares a first and last name with a celebrity who became famous after my brother was born. Ergo, my brother is effectively ungooglable.

    For that matter, I am nearly ungooglable, save for my LinkedIn. Apart from that, there are zero hits, even though I have (pretty locked-down) social media. There are others with the same or similar names as me, and that same celebrity.

    Think about any “John Smith” type person you know or anyone whose name is even similar to a famous person. They’ll likely be nearly impossible to search, even with fairly specific parameters.

    This just… isn’t that much of a thing, and certainly not a thing that should impede you in any way.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        There’s a very funny episode of “Call My Agent” where they dig out a person sharing the same name as a film star to get round an awkward clause in a contract.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I’m a “Jane Smith” and even knowing everything about myself it’s very difficult for me to find my online presence. If I want people to find me, I have to reach out to them which really helps control who has access to me.

      1. Rayray*

        When I Google myself, plenty of other people come up. I believe my last name is probably in the top 100 most common names in the USA and the UK. My middle name that I go by was somewhat common for baby girls in the 60s-80s. Not super popular but also a well known name.

        Another issue for me is that I go by my middle name so sometimes things appear with my first name that I don’t use except when I need to legally (less common than my middle name but I’ve known a handful of people with the name on my lifetime)

        1. Rayray*

          Edit to add, I actually met a girl in college with my same name. I had a class with her best friend and she introduced us one time. I even met her grandfather one time at a volunteer gig one time where I had my full name on my name tag.

          1. Quill*

            One of my friends spent all of college getting mail for “Jenny Doe” and “Jennifer Doe” and “Jen Doe” and email for jdoe1@college(dot)edu through jdoe7@college(dot)edu…

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’m not a Jane Smith but there was a woman with my exact name and even spelling (both first and last names can be spelt two different ways). According to her FB profile she was a member of the Texan Obama haters group, so I would get added by some very weird “patriots” until I put some very peace-and-love quotes from Gandhi and Mandela on my wall to make sure they’d realise I wasn’t the right one.

    2. LW #4*

      I feel like John Smith and, say, Millie Bobby Brown are in a slightly different situation, though.
      What prompted the question was me trying to google a new hire (I had no involvement in the hiring process, I’m just training her) and discovering that she shares a name with a well-published medical writer. My assumption was “ah, the [name] I’m looking for is probably out there somewhere, just hidden by all this”. Compare that to a name where you know for a fact that it’s NOT out there somewhere, because it doesn’t even return people with the same name, there’s no plausible deniability.

      1. Allonge*

        You are right that it feels different, but I think this just points out how arbitrary this whole thing is.

        1. nona*

          +1 – Because in the John Smith case, your John Smith might not have an online presence, but you are okay with that because you know you can’t find it because it is obscured by the all the other John Smiths? But if you can’t find something for Totally Unique that’s weird?

          In John Smith’s case, you are assuming he does have an account, you just can’t find it because of all the other hits. In Totally Unqiue, you can’t find it because it’s not there. In either case, you can’t find it, but you have different feelings about the people because you are making different assumptions.

      2. Lyra Silvertongue*

        I have to say I think you’re putting a lot of stock in the autocorrect options offered by a search engine platform. I don’t think you can even say you know for a fact that such a name isn’t out there just because of that.

        1. LW #4*

          I’m putting stock in specifically clicking on “search for [original name]” or putting the name in quotes and still receiving results for completely different names. When defining “out there” as “findable by this search engine” (which is what I was getting at in my previous comment), that’s a true statement.

          1. Momma Bear*

            I have the same name as several other people who show up online with a standard Google search. Many people have trouble finding *me*. It’s not that I don’t have accounts, but that they are locked down and the other people come up first. I have had the same problem as other posters above where I had to lower my shields and reach out to people to connect with them. You would not be likely to find much about me via anything except maybe LinkedIn, which still won’t tell you much that isn’t already on my resume. I don’t think I have that common a name but Google says otherwise. The basic point is, you shouldn’t put too much stock in social media presence unless the job is specifically to run the social media accounts for the company or something. Upshot of not having a major social media presence is that they are also unlikely to represent your company badly online.

      3. sacados*

        I agree with you that if I was looking up “TotallyUnique deNameville” and came up with literally nothing, I would have a moment of “huh, that’s odd.” And like Allonge says, it is 1000% arbitrary and irrational because if I were googling John Smith — or even “John Smith teapots” — and couldn’t find the specific person, I would probably just assume they had some kind of online presence but were just impossible to single out from the million other results.
        So I think while being “un-Googleable” will probably always be something that people will notice and maybe even ask about, that doesn’t necessarily (and shouldn’t!) mean that they’ll be suspicious or have a bad impression of you.

    3. Ama*

      I’ve mentioned this before but there is a woman about a decade younger than me, from my hometown, who has the same first and last name (neither of which are particularly common). We have inadvertently been following each other her entire life — she enrolled at the same dance school I went to (the first year that caused the school staff to send confirmation of both our enrollments to me which was confusing since I was in high school and she was in a baby ballet class). I moved across the country and started working at a university — she ended up attending that university as a student (discovered when a well-meaning coworker tried to deliver a package to me from our hometown that was meant for her). Her father has the same first and last name as one of my uncles, and she has a brother with a similar name to one of mine.

      Those sites that try to aggregate info for public directories are always mashing our identities and those of our relatives together. The end result is that it is almost impossible to tell which one of us is which online unless you know what we look like or can pick up the tiny differences in our bios that don’t really show up in an online profile (especially as I believe we both currently hide our birth dates on our social media profiles).

      1. MCL*

        I worked for a college that had a just-graduated student with the same first and last name as mine (also not super common, but there are a small number of us according to Google). It just threw IT for a total loop, for whatever reason. I was assigned what had been her email address, and started getting all kinds of notifications that were meant for her. I had to contact IT multiple times to get a new, unique-to-me email address.

    4. Sunny*

      My brother’s results when you search his first and last name are a famous actor from Texas (several results), a musician, and various lawyers and doctors named that in my area. He does have an online presence, but it’s mostly not under his real name, and anything that is under his real name is buried under the actor. Even his middle name doesn’t help, because his middle name is also the name of a decent-sized city.

      My online real-name presence is a mess because some of it’s under my pre-transition name, so that’s also a possible concern. I did get LinkedIn converted over, though.

  5. ..Kat..*

    LW1. In Oregon, a hospital is NOT required to let bedside caregivers (nurses, respiratory therapists, doctors, etc) that they have been exposed to Covid 19 by a patient.

    1. What?*

      What is the point of this comment? LW1 is in an office in CA, not a hospital in Oregon.

      I cannot understand the impulse so many people have to respond to obvious injustices and wrongdoings by pointing out other issues. “A hospital in a different state has an immoral policy; therefore, you have no right to complain that your office is risking your life as well!!”

      If this was intended as “solidarity, my workplace wants to kill me too,” that’s more understandable… But it definitely reads like scolding the OP for daring to complain.

      1. Perusing the Comments*

        This sounds a bit harsh and potentially out of touch with AAM’s commenting rules.

          1. Perusing the Comments*

            No. It was directed at What?’s comment. There was no need to jump on another commenter’s case and frankly I’m shocked AAM hasn’t removed it yet. What? is obviously injecting their own bias into reading the parent comment.

            1. anon2*

              Why shocked? She’s up front in the comment rules that she doesn’t see every comment and isn’t online round the clock and specifically asks people to flag things rather doing what you just did here.

      2. Esmeralda*

        No, it reads like “Here’s another and even more horrible workplace!”

        Why assume the worst of a commenter with absolutely no evidence? That’s against this site’s rules. And it’s just not very nice.

      3. Observer*

        A hospital in a different state has an immoral policy; therefore, you have no right to complain that your office is risking your life as well!!”

        Actually, the policy is not immoral – the reverse is true. Because the idea here is that we just assume some level of exposure. Given the number of diagnosed cased flooding in to hospitals on the one hand, and the number of people each staff member comes into contact with on a daily basis, it’s just not possible to assume zero exposure. So we just need to act as though all staff have been exposed on a regular basis.

        But of course that still means that it’s not a good parallel to this situation, so the essential point remains. I would just have probably put it as “People working in hospitals are always being exposed, so why are you complaining that your company unnecessarily increased your exposure?”

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Sadly there are many places, and people, still determined to pretend that Covid isn’t a big issue. Honestly at this point, fighting back and complaining up the chain against such callous behaviour is all we have left.

      (Dear world: you’ve had a rocky start to 2021 and I’m putting you on a PIP)

      1. Indy Dem*

        Just make sure you give clear and defined goals for 2021 to work on. Don’t make them generic like “Don’t suck as bad as 2020”. :)

    3. Ana Gram*

      They shouldn’t actually be exposed. I’m an EMT and I treat covid and suspected covid patients all the time. I wear appropriate PPE and am therefore not exposed. Sure, my medical director could tell me about each patient who has a positive test, but why? The assumption is that I’m doing my job correctly and not endangering myself. The hospital’s position sounds reasonable to me give these times we’re in.

      1. NeverComments*

        Obviously PPE is not 100% reliable. Look at all the healthcare workers who have contracted COVID.

      2. pancakes*

        In previous comments you’ve said that you “hire cops,” and are “a volunteer EMT.” Whatever your actual job is, it’s unsettling to see someone who works with patients misunderstand what exposure is and how PPE works.

        1. Ana Gram*

          Thank you for reading my posts! My full time job is in public safety where I hire law enforcement officers and civilians. On the weekends, I volunteer as an EMT. Currently, we enter every call in full PPE- goggles, face shield, N95 mask, gown, and gloves. I’m fortunate to volunteer in an area that has access to effective PPE (honestly, if we didn’t, I would stop volunteering) and I haven’t been exposed to covid given the precautions we take. On the flip side, I have been exposed in my personal life and had to quarantine. If we had to quarantine every time we treated a covid patient or were later notified a patient had covid, the system would collapse, I fear.

          1. pancakes*

            The PPE you wear and your feelings about the practicality of quarantining don’t have any bearing on what the CDC and other experts categorize as exposure, though. It is simply not correct to say that PPE categorically makes exposure something other than exposure. It’s also an odd thing to say when thousands of healthcare workers have died of covid.

            1. Ana Gram*

              In fairness, these aren’t my feelings on the definition of exposure. These are the guidelines set in place by my medical director in concert with the director of the health department. It’s been working well for us so I assume we’ll keep these guidelines in place. It sounds like you feel that healthcare workers should quarantine each time they treat a covid/suspected covid patient because they may have been exposed? That would obviously be the safest course of action but it’s just not possible. It would essentially eliminate all volunteers and force employees to work maybe a shift or two before heading home for 2 weeks.

              There’s no way to stay completely safe from this (or any) disease but we’re doing our best to balance our own safety with our ability to treat patients. I’ve treated patients with all sorts of communicable and infectious diseases during my time in EMS and see no reason to stop at this point.

              1. pancakes*

                I’m not sure how I can be any clearer that my point isn’t to propose quarantine guidelines of my own or from any particular source, but to take issue with your view that people wearing PPE aren’t exposed to the virus.

                1. Ana Gram*

                  I think we’re just talking at cross purposes. Yes, we’re technically exposed since we’re not wearing hazmat suits. No, we’re not exposed in the sense that we need to quarantine. Much of the CDC’s guidance is for the general public who isn’t wearing PPE as we are and isn’t trained and fit tested to wear N95’s as we are.

                  ..Kat.. mentioned the policy at a hospital in Oregon. I chimed in because I’m also not notified every time I treat a patient who later turns out to have covid and I don’t have an issue with this. YMMV.

                2. pancakes*

                  As commenter James pointed out just below, even someone wearing a hazmat suit can be exposed while putting it on, taking it off, adjusting the fit, etc. I don’t think we’re talking at cross purposes so much as I think you’re being very imprecise about a subject better served by clarity.

      3. James*

        OSHA requires that anyone wearing PPE submit to annual testing to ensure that they are not exposed to the things they wear PPE for. In my case (remediation) this includes blood tests, hearing tests, breathing tests, EKGs, and a few others.

        I wear the required PPE. I’m still potentially exposed. Donning, doffing, and maintenance are opportunities for exposure. There are limits to PPE (EMTs in my experience [half my family are EMTs] don’t wear Level C, and gloves only cover the hands). You eventually get breakthrough.

        I am also subject to random and scheduled audits and inspections, by a pretty wide variety of organizations within and outside the company. Part of this is to ensure proper PPE use. Got dinged because one of my crew had a hard hat that had expired, for example (it hadn’t, but the in service date had worn off).

        I agree that it’s not warranted to give you notice of every positive test, just like I don’t need to know the concentration of contaminant every sample I take; the presumption is it’s all dangerous. But if your hospital is assuming you’re doing your job without verification they are incompetent, putting everyone at risk, and failing to engage in the basics of an occupational safety plan.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I work in a medical setting and I am not considered “exposed” to covid if I’ve cared for patients with covid while wearing full ppe, BUT I am also tested multiple times per week. So yes, what’s considered exposure is different for medical workers, but in my experience it typically goes along with other precautions that the general public is not able to take.

          If I were the OP, my frustration would be that they DID eventually tell me, so obviously they knew and were able to say something, but didn’t do so in a timely manner. I would probably be asking about what exactly the policy is regarding notifications of potential exposure so at least I understood the risk. If they don’t have a policy and are just winging it (which is what it seems like) that’s a big problem!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            That’s the thing, there’s really no benefit in delaying giving people the information that they are at a higher risk. The probability of infection isn’t reduced because you didn’t know for a day or so.

            Granted, the last time I worked in a viral research lab was before the pandemic but we had a ‘assume that you’re never 100% safe’ rule.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Unless you’re wearing a full body RACAL biowarfare suit there’s no 100% effective PPE for preventing viruses getting to you.

        Probability mechanics being what they are I’d argue people in the medical field have to get tested MORE often than us general public people.

    4. Old and Don’t Care*

      Every nurse I know who works in a hospital assumes they are constantly exposed at work. It’s the nature of the beast.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is like blood exposure — you assume all blood is infectious. You assume if you give patient care you are being exposed to COVID. Knowing probably doesn’t matter in a hospital — but it certainly does in the workplace.

    5. ..Kat..*

      My point was that if a hospital is not required to notify frontline workers of Covid exposure , I am not surprised that a non-healthcare company is not notifying employees right away.

  6. staceyizme*

    I hate to say it, but a modicum of delay seems to be the norm. We got an email from a contractor whose employee tested positive and it was a day or a day and a half later. People still freak out before they sort things out, it seems. In your shoes, though, I’d find ways to report this confidentially to anyone or any entity positioned to require better behavior whether through social shaming, regulatory force or force of employment law, if applicable. Your rage makes sense, so even if you don’t quit, pick a measured and meaningful response and execute it. Your brain will stress somewhat less because you have completed an action in response.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      I think that’s understandable the first time it comes up, but I think it’s a good idea for the writer to follow up so that next time there isn’t any delay. It’s the business’ responsibility to have a plan in place that prevents delays like this in the future- we’re talking about a serious risk where a day’s delay could easily cost lives. I suppose I agree with both you and Alison. The delay isn’t surprising, but it’s not acceptable either and the LW should bring it up with her company and push for it to never happen again.

  7. LongTimeReader*

    LW2, I’m curious if your title is descriptive (like Director of Llama Grooming) or general (just Director). If it’s the latter, perhaps your colleagues are trying to introduce you in a way that describes your functional role to others, so they know what to reach out to you about. Similarly, if there are multiple people with your tittle, it might also be a way to differentiate who does what. I think Allison’s recommendation is great. If you want to be recognized by your title, feel free to call it out when you introduce yourself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you coworkers weren’t purposely excluding it in malice or disrespect.

    1. Mr Jingles*

      Our IT director of a very small IT department also gets introduced as our tech-guru simply because in the past the full introduction with title discouraged lower management to seek him out for help even when they where supppsed too. They where too shy to ask a director who was in theory several ranks above them to creaze the new sharepoinzs or new roles etc. and then created tickets through the employee it helpdesk instead which was a really innefective way to request ressources for their teams which had to be approved by our it director anyways. The ticket system was only meant for minor requests like extra space on a personel folder or requesting a direct installment of a program instead of using the web-version and so on so the team requests got uneccessarily delayed just because junior management didn’t dare to ‘disturb’ a director. Thus for everyone referred to him as our ‘it-dude’. Solved the problem instantly. Sometimes new supervisors didn’t know he was the director until after their first request and then they’d already experienced his kind and helpful nature and had no qualms to go to him again. That man really was a friendly and laid back dude for sure! But still he got his job done admirably well.
      Something like that could also be in play here.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That’s an excellent point about the tech department. There’s a common belief that you don’t need IT skills to be the IT manager and I’m actually happier being the ‘head geek’ because it seems to acknowledge my technical skills which ‘IT Manager’ doesn’t.

        Having said that though, if I decided I didn’t like being called head geek anymore I’d expect people to drop it once I stated my preference.

      2. Artemesia*

        It all hinges on the norms of the place. If all the men are called Dr. and the female profs called ‘Mrs.’ then you have a problem. If all the directors are routinely referred to by their titles, but the ‘girl’ isn’t, you have a problem.
        If people are routinely referred to by function not title then you don’t have a problem.

    2. Snailing*

      Yes, in my company there are so many vague titles like “Client Executive” and “Account Manager” but each person’s specialty can vary widely. I definitely try to use titles when I can, but sometimes I worry it’s too vague for our client to understand it, so for their comfort, I’ll throw in a descriptor like “XX specialist.”

      We also have a large regional presence, but all our smaller offices are only sort of connected (apparently it’s a goal to get us all more alike in policy/titles/etc) but sometimes I have no idea what the person’s title is even though I know what they do. And then my supervisor and/or boss are pretty informal so they’ll say “Send this to Wendy, our llama-grooming guru” so then I feel pseudo trapped into using the same terms when I link up Wendy and the client over email. I try to search in our internal system for the correct title, but sometimes it’s outdated or, again, is too vague a title.

      But that all points to disorganization within my company versus OP’s feelings about their title, which are totally warranted. I like Allison’s suggestions to insert it in the reply. I also totally rely on people’s email signatures to get their correct title so I can refer to them correctly the next time!

      1. Ophelia*

        Yep. My title says very little about my job, so I often get introduced as “Ophelia is the technical contact on this project” – essentially, the introduction clarifies my role, rather than my title.

    3. Washi*

      I was also wondering whether the OP’s real title is confusing in some way. Like I think a good number of people would hear something like “chief information officer” and not be totally sure what that person does. I think Alison’s script is good for cluing people in that you’d like your official title to be used.

    4. LQ*

      If it’s a 7 person company too it can be a way of saying this is our sole it person. To me “Director” signifies a team of people working with multiple layers of management below and if someone at a 7 person company was the IT Director I’d assume the company was either solely an IT company and it was basically you’re next in line after the CEO and everything is outsourced and everyone works for you, or a company that inflates everyone’s titles. 7 people is small enough where casual is often assumed.

      That said if other people are being described with their titles and you are not, push back hard. If everyone else is “Marketing Dude” or “The Person Who Processes Payroll” then I honestly think you need to let it go a bit, no matter how hard-fought the title because it’s wildly out of sync with your work culture. You can hand onto it but you’ll be doing so against your work culture.

      “This is Sally Director of Marketing, Jack HR Director, and Wakeen the tech guru.” Is not ok and worth pushing back on.

      1. Shenandoah*

        Yes, completely agree with this comment. The 7 person company factor is what I keep coming back to – I really would assume that in a company that small, everyone would be the “the human who does X”.

        1. flo*

          I agree with this, based on the belief that the “doing X” part is the most important reason for the colleagues to be making an introduction. If I’m an outside person who is going to be having conversations or a business relationship with people in LW’s organization, I want to know what LW’s role is in our conversations/relationship. It matters far less to me what LW’s role is in their organization, especially when the organization is so small and the title might not be a useful data point (as opposed to a mega-corporation where there are hundreds of people and hearing that someone is a SVP might give me a frame of reference). Unless there are other interpersonal dynamics at play and this is another symptom of that, I wouldn’t view this as malicious or disrespectful.

      2. Weekend Please*

        Yep. Although since a lot of this is happening by email, I would suggest putting your actual title in your email signature. That is so common that it shouldn’t come across as “pretentious” even in a very informal company where people are the “marketing guy”.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I had the same thought. My title doesn’t really explain what I do to people who don’t work in our industry, and, even within the industry, there’s enough organizational variation that it’s still a little fuzzy. I also work in a medium-sized place where we have to wear more hats, so I do a wider variety of things than someone in a larger organization might.

      All that to say that I’m usually introduced as the person who will be handling X function that best describes my role in the meeting or project itself, not what’s printed on my business cards. We all have a standard signature with our name, title, and contact info in email, so when I respond to a “tech guru, NAM!” or “one responsible for assembling the internet pipes” email, I can include my full information, which shows that I’m “Director of Interwebs”.

      I’ve also found that, unless you know an organization, titles don’t necessarily convey much. A VP at one company is just below C-suite executive; a VP at another company is a sales rep.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘I’ve also found that, unless you know an organization, titles don’t necessarily convey much. A VP at one company is just below C-suite executive; a VP at another company is a sales rep.’

        After decades of corporate recruiting, titles don’t mean a lot to me for that very reason. A friend excitedly told me about his promotion to VP at his $500M company, and the huge raise he got. At the time, I was a simple Recruiting Manager with a Fortune 100 company, and I outearned him by $25k. Kept that to myself, didn’t want to rain on his parade.

        Also: Many of my friends work in the banking industry, and they joke that even entry-level hires get VP titles.

        1. Luke G*

          This! I defy anyone to try to research common salary for the job title “Scientist.” Depending on the company this means anything from “Individual contributor who is maybe 2 years out of college and finally capable of having some independence” to “Highly experienced PhD who runs an entire research group composed of one or more full laboratories, when they aren’t helping set global policy with advanced industry groups.”

    6. Firecat*

      It’s hard to tell, but this is also annoyingly common with IT.

      A former company I worked at would also introduce me as “tech guru” or worse a much lower level title like “tech help”. Basically it was part of their plan to bypass the levels of support and go straight to the top by sowing as much confusion about what my role was as possible.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Being a guru is a compliment that most don’t get in the office.
        It’s about you having knowledge others don’t.
        But you could always make up nicknames like “head cat wrangler” for people who call you that, if you want to. But that can backfire. I’d thank them for the name but correct them w/whatever you feel the difference is.

      1. Longtime Reader*

        Not in every organization! For example, in my office, we have several directors within the department. So if people assumed their title meant they we director of department X, that would be incorrect. They each manage different programs within the department but it would be too long to list those all in their title. So they are all just “directors” with different focus areas not specified. They of course have some shared and common responsibilities, but what they serve as the point person for is not clear for those who are unfamiliar with out work.

    7. BluntBunny*

      In our company our title don’t always describe the function. If OP gets introduced quite regularly could be wise to set up a email signature if you don’t already. Mine automatically is on when starting a new email, doesn’t appear if just replying to a thread but can be added with click of button.
      So when they introduce you as “tech guru” you can reply saying
      “Hi nice to meet you I am the IT director I have worked here for X years”. (This works if it’s on a virtual call as well)

      First name Last Name

  8. Self Employed*

    LW#4, I suggest that if [lastname].com is available, that you buy the domain and just leave it unoccupied. Someone with the more common spelling–who you might not want to be associated with–might buy yours as a potential alternate spelling. Shop around with domain hosts, because it’ll probably be $10/year or even less if you aren’t getting ripped off. You should also be able to forward mail from to your regular email in case you want to have a custom email address. (I’ve been happy with–they have lots of “how to” procedures and decent tech support by chat or phone if you still get lost in jargon.)

    1. Lyra Silvertongue*

      This feels a little like solving a problem that doesn’t exist to be honest. Lots of people in the world share surnames, it would be odd to assume that they are all associated with one another. Doesn’t seem like a big enough deal to stake out a domain name unless you actively want the domain name.

    2. LW #4*

      I mess around with websites as a hobby, so I actually did that a while ago – also using Namecheap! Their support techs are far better than their prices would suggest. My homepage explains the origin and translation of the name because it seemed weird to just have nothing there, but I don’t think it’s even in search engines.

  9. Emmaline*

    Re: #4 – I wonder if this is shifting though, or different among younger generations. My friends typically say they would never date someone without any only presence. I don’t mean like a Kardashian, but rather, the thinking goes like this: “Anyone who’s contributed anything to society should naturally have a records of this out there.” Speaking at a conference, saving a kid from drowning, winning an award, being active in their church, etc. Or even just in the posts of people who may be more “prominent.” My uncle shuns social media himself, but if you google him, he’s in posts about the former mayor of our city, in blogs where people praise his small business, and even an old web page from his college days.

    I find that among 20 and 30 somethings, if can feel either “creepy” if someone is nowhere to be found on line (like “what are they hiding from?”) OR it signals “this person has never accomplished much or done anything professionally or socially worth praise or mention.”

    If course I’m NOT saying those presumptions are correct, AT ALL. But… i think they are increasingly common and worth considering any potential ramifications of, at least.

    1. TechWorker*

      I’m in that age category and don’t think I know anyone who thinks like this… I know plenty of people who don’t use Facebook or other social media and plenty of people who do but take care not to be easily googleable (Eg by not using their full or real name on Facebook).

      I admit to also being skeptical of the view that if you don’t have an online record you don’t contribute to society (?!) not everything is recorded! The internet doesn’t know that you rescue hedgehogs, volunteer for charity, look after your elderly relatives or just got a promotion (unless you’re very senior and it’s a public facing role?)

      1. Scarlet2*

        “I admit to also being skeptical of the view that if you don’t have an online record you don’t contribute to society”

        Same. I can sort of understand digital natives thinking that if you don’t have any online presence you might be “hiding something” (even though that’s still problematic in itself, because stalking victims, for instance, have a very good reason to “hide”), but the idea that you’re not contributing to society if you’re not doing something public is… weird. And the examples are pretty odd too: how many people get in the papers for saving kids (I mean, firefighters and paramedics do it everyday but their names don’t appear in the media for it, so I guess that doesn’t count?). As far winning “awards” and speaking at conferences, I’ve been a professional for over 25 years and have never had the opportunity to do any of those things (nor would I want to, tbh) and it’s certainly not common in my industry. You can lead a quiet life and still “contribute” to society.

        1. Emmaline*

          Hi, I just gave some “for instances”—over a lifetime, even one that’s only up to, say, 40s, people DO tend to have this. I just googled: my aunt who’s a nurse, a cousin who is an undergrad, a neighbor who manages a restaurant, the mother of my nephew’s best friend… and every single one has at least 2 pages of results come up. These aren’t celebrities, just normal people. I also Googled my great grandfather, and up came results of his military record, his work as a scientist, something about a school he taught at, etc. And he was born in 1918 and died 20 yrs ago. Even my late grandma, a lifelong housewife, comes up mentioned in obituaries of her siblings, the archive of a local paper about a church fundraiser 15 yrs ago, and in a couple of photos that her other grandchildren shared. these aren’t celebrities, by any measure.

          Again, I’ll repeat that I didn’t say there was anything inherently wrong or bad about having no online presence. I do know that among women friends, if they meet a man (who isn’t known well in their social circles or communities) and nothing comes up in an online search, that’s a huge red flag when one is trying to do some basic due diligence in such things.

          1. Scarlet2*

            I did it with my name and the first 2 pages of results all concern people who share my name and are not me (they apparently contributed a lot more than I did!). I’m 47 btw. I must be a hermit.

            1. SomebodyElse*

              Don’t feel bad, I got to page 6 and gave up. (previous searches have only come up with my name in a list of participants in a charity sports event from 15 years ago). I did a news search and only when I added quotes to my name did I see the one news article that I knew was out there.

              We are not hermits, we are normal people living average lives :)

          2. LW #4*

            I just tried this with my immediate family. (i.e. similarly unique names to me). My sister has three results: a current LinkedIn profile, a twitter account with two tweets (one in 2012, one in 2014), and as a donor on a JustGiving page. My dad has one result: LinkedIn. My mother returns nothing, which on the one hand isn’t surprising as she hates anything online (she literally phoned her local branch of a major bookshop chain during pre-xmas lockdown and got them to put together an order for her to avoid shopping online), but I also know she had a linkedin profile a while back that she got locked out of (former work email address, forgotten password).

          3. G*

            I’m also in this age category and have never heard anybody say this in terms of contributing to society. I do think this is one of the ways dating (especially online dating) is different than hiring though. If I’m going to meet up with somebody I’ve met online I’m definitely going to google them to see if I can find anything that confirms that what they’ve been telling me about them is true (are they listed in an employee directory or as attending the grad school they say they are, can I find the art classes they say they teach and confirm that they actually teach art, etc.) When hiring you have resumes and cover letters and reference checks.

          4. Guacamole Bob*

            So I share your instincts – not that it’s about accomplishments or contributions to society, but that most people have some results for their name, even if it’s incidental mentions from civic groups and schools and churches and whatnot. Like enough to confirm the spelling of their name and their general metro area and/or industry, in many cases, unless their name is a common one.

            But this thread is making me wonder if there’s some bias I wasn’t aware of in that assumption – maybe my parents’ well-established Episcopal church is more likely to put materials online than a storefront church? Maybe people who don’t go to college are less likely to have education-related listings? Certainly some ethnicities/languages/countries of origin have more people who share common names.


            1. Ann O'nymous*

              A lot of people (especially outside the US) aren’t religious of any description, so mentions on church materials (as an example) just wouldn’t happen.

              I have a relatively common first name, and a relatively common last name, and without adding any other info about me, I got 10 pages through google and none of the listings are anything to do with me!

              1. Allonge*

                Exactly. Also, I know this site is US-based, but living in Europe and having had GDPR for some time now, I cannot imagine any church, school or civil org around here just putting names out there either, especially churches as religious affiliation is sensitive personal data.

                I certainly would not volunteer for any org that insisted on putting my name out there.

                1. Guacamole Bob*

                  Mostly the church stuff for my relatives comes up in the format of, say, being listed as the contact for an upcoming event in a monthly newsletter that’s posted to the website, not “here’s a list of our members.” Similarly, my mother comes up on her college alumni site on a list of regular donors in some sort of publication, not on a list of “here’s everyone who ever went here”. People could presumably ask to be taken off these things or listed anonymously, if they wanted.

              2. Guacamole Bob*

                Yes, with more common names it’s harder to tell that those 15-year-old swim meet results are for the same person that’s applying to the llama groomer job.

                I have an uncommon name, and I’m always surprised when I google myself what kinds of stuff comes up that I didn’t put out there intentionally – high school activities (and I’m old enough that those weren’t online at the time), a reference on a different family member’s blog, a project I worked on with a professor in undergrad, a place where I’m in the acknowledgements of a paper published by a colleague, mentions in family obits, a nonprofit volunteer project from 9 years ago that I’d forgotten about, the slide deck from a presentation I made for my organization to a regional industry thing, my membership on a church committee, etc.

                I had thought that sort of thing was basically universal. I’m realizing through this thread that it’s not.

                1. Ophelia*

                  Yeah – I am, as it turns out, the only person globally with my name (really uncommon last name, uncommon first name), and while most of the hits for me are linkedin and other professional stuff, there are some random references to, like, set design in college and stuff, which is always funny to stumble across. That said, because I’m the only person with my name, I’m pretty careful to keep social media anonymous (or in the case of FB, locked down) because anything there that is under my details probably is, indeed, me.

          5. Observer*

            And what people are telling you is that it’s simply nonsense. I totally get the fear that women deal with. But your data sample is at least as skewed as the sample I gave down below.

            Furthermore, it’s one thing to wonder if someone is hiding something if there is no presence. The assumption of not contributing to society, which is your core claim is seriously stupid. I know that’s a rude thing to say, but look at your own examples. How does being mentioned in someone’s obituary, for instance, indicate anything about someone’s contribution to society?! MAYBE the fact that someone has grandkids who want to share their picture says something about a person’s contributions to society, but most of the others stuff is simply meaningless in that context.

          6. Myrin*

            Conversely, I just googled myself, my sister, and my three closest/oldest friends who are all 29 or 30 and the results were:

            – Myself, who is a medievalist/literary scientist but currently works at a drugstore: A surprising amount of people who share my name, none of whom is me. If you add the city I went to uni at, you will find a critical edition my former advisor published which I also worked on, and the title of a speech I held at a conference in 2019. Both of these are randomly mixed in with a huge amount of other hits and while I guess it’s not impossible to discern that these two, and really only these two, are me, I’d say it’s unlikely for someone who doesn’t already know that about me.
            There is still an article up that was published in our local paper in 2009 about the arts group I was a part of in school, but since the journalist was… let’s say, unprofessional, they misspelt half of the group’s members’ name and neglected to mention three of us entirely, one of whom was me.

            – My sister, who is a retail professional: Nothing. There are a lawyer and an apparently very active politician with her exact, pretty rare name, though, which is interesting.

            – Oldest friend, who is an active hiker, traveller, used to train kids in gymnastics, and works as a physician’s assistant: Nothing. I know that she is pretty active on a regional Instagram variety but it’s not under her real name and hard to find, but even if you do find it, you can only vie a preview. Shares her name with an apparently somewhat well-known Austrian professional cyclist.

            – Second-oldest and closest friend, who is a doctor: Nothing but the address of the practice she works at.

            – Third-oldest friend, who works in publishing and is on parental leave currently: Nothing, neither for her birth name nor for her married name. I know that she at least used to have a Facebook but she must’ve either deleted it or privated it completely (if such a thing is possible).

            So we both seem to have pretty different anecdotes which only lets me conclude that there is, indeed, nothing conclusive about this issue.

        2. anonymous 5*

          I think a lot of “digital natives” (and probably plenty of folks who technically grew up before “everyone” had a computer in the house) are so accustomed to seeing people have an online presence, and for such a variety of things, that it doesn’t even occur to them how much people might have *offline*. Including some pretty decent contributions to society. Selection bias is a powerful thing.

          1. pancakes*

            I’m of the generation that grew up playing Oregon Trail in grade school and I don’t think this mindset is at all common among friends and peers. There have always been people with common names, privacy concerns, stalker concerns, etc., who don’t have a presence online. Fixating on this seems to me like a small town busybody thing to do.

            1. Koalafied*

              Yeah, I know I’m at the other end of the spectrum, but I honestly don’t even reliable Google applicants 100% of the time. And it’s more commonly after I’ve interviewed them than after just reading a resume, I guess because they’ve “jumped off the paper” and come to life for me, so I start to think, “hmm, I wonder if there’s any overlap in our social circles…” Or, “gee, his face looks kinda familiar, I wonder if he’s involved in Local Activism Group and I’ve seen him at events…”

              For the record I’m 35, I have a Facebook in my real name that is mostly private with a few carefully curated benign public posts, a mostly inactive Twitter with my real name that I only used at conferences pre-pandemic and never in between, and an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn that I remember to login to and check messages about once every 4-6 weeks; and I’ve spoken at events and been interviewed for publications in my field. I have a reasonably common name but if you throw in a location or reference to my field I come up pretty easily.

              I still wouldn’t be at all phased my someone who has no online presence. I know plenty of educators who don’t use their real name online, DV victims who keep things locked down, and a surprisingly high percentage of my exes were just totally disinterested in social media and to this day don’t have accounts, or have ones with a public photo that clearly hasn’t been updated in 5 years. (And I live in a major metro area where people don’t just randomly get their name in the paper because they scored the winning goal at a high school soccer match – though I do frequently get Google alerts for a young woman who shares my name in a small Ohio town, who carried her high school team straight to the championship!) There are just so many reasons a person might not be active or findable online that it doesn’t even register to me as interesting, let alone concerning, if I can’t find someone.

            2. Rayray*

              I’m the same generation and I agree. Yes, I know some people that think social media is an essential parent of life, but that’s not everyone. I’ve tried finding many old friends from childhood- teen years with no success. I’d say most people use Facebook and/or Instagram but I’d also bet that majority of people rarely post. I fall into that category where I like to browse and maybe click like or leave a comment or participate in private groups but that’s it. I’ve posted less than five times on the last five years.

              1. Zennish*

                I’m Gen X, and at least among the small sample set of my friends and colleagues, many intentionally have no online presence. My only thought when someone has an extensive online/social media presence is that they’re apparently unconcerned about data mining, the commodification of their personal information, the attention economy, the negative impacts of social media on society, etc. etc.

              2. Emmaline*

                I wasn’t referring to social media specifically, to be clear. I meant ANY online presence. But that’s also the kind of thing social media can help with. If you don’t have any footprint, you can create one that presents your professional or personal strengths.

                1. Guacamole Bob*

                  Yes, this nuance is getting very muddled in this thread. Not having social media at all (or at least not under your real name) doesn’t seem strange to me, though most job seekers find it convenient to have a linked in page. But to have no trace that you’re an actual person who exists in the world is more unusual.

                  My experience may be biased – a few jobs ago I was responsible for taking all the nominations for a particular professional development program and getting them into a database. I googled everyone to check spelling, current organizational affiliation, etc. Nearly everyone was very easily findable, at least to the extent of checking the spelling of their name, and most people had a clear online presence. But it was a skewed sample because the program was for relatively senior people who had some interest in civic involvement, and those are the types of people who are more likely to show up online.

            3. Quill*

              Same, I’m the tail end of the Oregon Trail generation, and it seems more like it’s ingroup than generation related.

              If your whole ingroup is used to “everyone is on all the social media, everyone is a wannabe influencer whos been on myspace and facebook and everything” then it looks weird to people who spend a lot of their online socializing time under pseudonyms.

              1. Myrin*

                That, and additionally, I’ve found that there can be a real and completely not-conscious divide between people who spend a lot of time on the internet and people who don’t.

                What I mean by that is that of my IRL friends, coworkers, and family, me and my sister are the only people who are really familiar with the ins and outs of the internet. After us, there’s my mum who is a Google master and can find you basically any information you could ever desire but who’s not familiar with things like memes or “internet lingo” or what-have-you. And after that, no one in my even broarder circle spends any time just “dicking around” on the internet or spending any real time there absent of a very specific purpose like searching for a particular video or reading an online newspaper.
                And that inevitably leads to confusion when someone hears my sister and me refer to a meme or complete puzzlement when I say that I was feeling bored and just clicking around the internet for hours – it’s simply incomprehensible to them.

                Conversely, I regularly interact with a lot of people on the internet who are online at all hours of the day while curating a particular kind of online personality, getting involved in online drama, and very obviously not spending a lot of time with real-life people. And I’ve quite often seen that result in someone, likewise, being unable to understand that a lot of people simply aren’t interested in everything the internet has to offer, be that social media, forums, or blogs, simply because it’s such an integral part of their lives.

                (Now granted, this thread isn’t only about social media but about being randomly mentioned somewhere on the internet which is a bit of a different issue but I find the social media point especially interesting.)

                1. Quill*

                  Oh yeah, I had to explain what QAnon was to my mom the other weeks, because her job does not require internet at all. And my dad’s job requires internet but I think the last time he met a meme it was a lolcat.

                2. Koalafied*

                  I remember being initially surprised at how many people on my work Slack’s #pets channel did not caption their photos with things like “he protecc” and “himb C H O N K Y” and “VERY fast shoob running at imcredible hihg speed” Like I’m so accustomed to all dog and cat photos on the internet being captioned this way that I’d unconsciously decided that the only people who weren’t familiar with this language were probably just not dog/cat lovers or not on the internet at all.

      2. Greige*

        Also in this broad age category and don’t know people like this. I know some people who put it all out there, but in some circles, not keeping your online presence at least limited is considered… naiive? Or maybe social media is just considered too much of a time suck. But in any case, I hear a lot more about my generation’s embrace of social media by older people than is warranted by what I see in reality.

        I feel like the people I know who are least considerate about online privacy tend to be either older or lower SES.

        1. Greige*

          Now I’m feeling weird about that SES remark. There could be a lot of reasons why online privacy is treated differently in different circles, from actual risk to social pressure. It’s just an observation, not a judement.

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            You’re wrong about the older part too. I’m 65 and guard my online privacy like a dog.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I have several relatives and friends who have no online presence. They’re in their 60s, retired, and use emails and their landlines as their means of communications. None of them own cellphones and don’t see the need as long as people are aware of their preferred methods. My late MIL used her cassette answering machine because she understood how it worked.

    3. Ferret*

      I am 30 and don’t recognise this as a reality among any of my friends. In my experience people in this age group are more likely to be taking deliberate steps to obscure / minimise their online presence (esp from people who they don’t know personally already), as they have grown up seeing the negative impact and potential downsides it can bring to have your whole life available to everyone

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        After a few incidents with people who decided to stalk me because I was nice to them once or something I made very sure my real name is really hard to find out there on the net. (Was partially successful at getting it removed from press articles about a case I was involved in)

        1. Ubi Caritas*

          The creep who stalked me worked in the hospital where I was treated after a mini-stroke. As far as I know he never even saw me in person – but he had access to my medical records, so he knew a LOT about me (and seriously, there’s nothing special about me at all!)

          I have a minimal presence online and almost everything out there (like LinkedIn) is wrong. I haven’t bothered to correct LinkedIn because I retired 10 years ago. What you see on the internet may well be wrong.

        2. Fieldpoppy*

          My niece is 16 and is extremely active on tik tok and twitter fan groups (has met friends IRL through it, etc.) but she has zero online presence when you actually google her extremely unique actually name. People are just different about it. We can’t project our own assumptions about social media onto others.

      2. Washi*

        I agree. No online presence could just as easily mean that you are tech savvy enough to avoid appearing in web searches. I think in a job context, it’s weird to read too much into lack of info on google because it could mean so many things. And IMO, better to have low/no online presence than to have your every thought on social media accessible to potential employers!

      3. Rayray*


        I’m 31 and stopped posting regularly a few years back when cancel culture became a thing. I don’t believe anything I have could actually incriminate me but there’s no way to know. Even if I didn’t get canceled , what if some dumb thing from when I was 19 came
        Back to haunt me anyway? Also, knowing how much we are tracked by Facebook, Google, etc is scary.

        It’s also terrifying when you can figure out so much about a persons life. There’s someone I follow because she owns a local boutique and also has an engaging community on that store’s Instagram. She posted updates about when she bought her home and fixed it up. Another time, she posted about running for a local city council.I live in a major metro area but it’s still technically split in many different cities. This particular city bordered mine and I was maybe 1/4 mile from the border so knew she was close by. Then, one day I happened to be on a walk and noticed her campaign signs, a lot of them in one little neighborhood. As I kept walking, I went right by her house. I recognized it from the photos because she posted when the exterior got painted. She probably thought nothing of it, but I found the house super easily.

    4. Observer*

      “Anyone who’s contributed anything to society should naturally have a records of this out there.”

      That’s an idea that is worth pushing back on HARD. Very, very hard.

      I just did a quick google of several people I know – most of them don’t have any presence, and most of the rest are posts that say zero about accomplishments or “contributions to society”. The fact that someone shows up as having gotten engaged or on the list of siblings of someone who has gotten engaged, for example, is not exactly a sign of accomplishment. Yet, these ARE people who are contributing members of society.

      The only way this works is if you buy into the idea that the only worth while things are those that make a splash regardless of actual utility.

      I know that anecdotes are not data, but I have no doubt that actual data would support me – I’m providing this anecdote simply to illustrate a point.

    5. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah, maybe it’s a 30s thing but I’m not like this at all. I was raised using computers but always skeptical of them because they *will* break, taught to default to “people on the internet lie, never use your real name” etc., so I’m a slow adopter of online fads and see online presence as incidental and probably not useful for learning that much about a person unless they actually direct you there or actively put it up themselves like a LinkedIn page, but even then it’s just a tiny starting point.

      It’s one of those “I love technology but don’t trust it” things, so it hardly ever even occurs to me to Google someone, for instance. A business sure, but individuals? It’s just not something I do much if at all. Oh, and I’m a programmer, which probably doesn’t help the “not trusting” part much.

    6. Kiki*

      I’m in my 20s and this is definitely a mindset I’ve encountered from other people my age but it’s generally a minority. A lot of the most successful and hardworking people I know have no internet presence. Not all forms of work and contribution lend themselves to being posted about online.

    7. Quill*

      I’m thinking that by the time you know someone’s full legal name to search, you’ve invested quite a bit into your dating app!

      When it comes to being online and where you’re online I think it’s probably very social group specific, for example “how can you not have facebook?’ is common in people older than me, while many people younger than me never made one. “How can you not be on instagram?” nobody in my friend group is either.

      Any accomplishments I’ve made professionally are either not findable because I mostly worked in R&D, or definitely not going to come up unless you already know what to look for. I’d be pretty skeptical of the idea that it’s “creepy” to not be online under your legal name enough to be recognizeable to a layman’s google-fu, or that it’s evidence of “not contributing to society.” Overall you’re running the risk of negatively impacting people who have changed their name for any reason, or who have had to minimize their online exposure, if you use it for decision making.

      If you look me up you probably find my facebook (need to fix that, tbh) and some articles I wrote for my college newspaper. Maybe an old local newspaper article from when I was accidentally the poster child for a museum-sponsored kids program. If you look up one of my best friends you don’t get anything identifiable because her name is my generation’s equivalent of Jane Doe.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, we had a 20yo student working with us who googled her name and found 20 people with her unusual surname in New York, and two in Ukraine. She remarked that it was weird that there were more in New York, when her family must have originally come from Ukraine. I answere that there were probably far more than two in Ukraine, and she said “no, I looked, there were only two FB accounts”. When I explained that not everybody in Ukraine would have a FB account, her eyes nearly popped out.

  10. Magenta Sky*

    LW #3: Depending on where you are, that obligation to report it to HR, since you are a supervisor (of anyone, not just the victim), may be a pretty big deal. I’m in California, and in our mandatory harassment training every two years, they really, really emphasize that if someone in a supervisory position becomes aware of anything that looks (even a little) like harassment fails to report it, they become *personally* liable to the same degree as the company and everyone else who fails in their obligations (like HR people who blow it off). *Even* *if* *the* *victim* *tells* *you* *not* *to*.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Even if you don’t have a legal requirement to report, I feel you certainly have an ethical requirement to report this.

      Many harassment trainings and policies state that if you are a victim of harassment at work, you should first report it to your manager or another manager if your own manager is the harasser. While I’ve never taken this sort of course from the management side of things, that certainly implies to me that the other manager would be expected to appropriately handle things – in this case, by reporting the harasser to HR.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I think the fact that LW#3 is in a supervisory position obliges her to report this information, even though she’s not the employee’s supervisor. California takes a tougher stand on this than other states, but in most places I’ve worked the company, at least, is liable if a manager learns of harassment and doesn’t report it.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        The OP said he’s a FB stalker, which is interesting, esp. in light of the other OP asking about an online presence.

        Anyway, stalking on FB is a really bad idea and makes it easy for HR to look at him.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*


      Your knowledge is the company’s knowledge, and triggers their duty to investigate.

      Even if their policy doesn’t address your obligation, they can still hold you accountable for not reporting.

      Retaliation for reporting, on the other hand, gives you a right of action in your own right.

  11. Kiitemso*

    #2, I think this is definitely a problem if everybody else is referred to with proper titles except you. In my casual workplace people can easily adopt less official titles among other coworkers or their job explained without a title at all, ie. “Michelle is our tech guru around here” or “Jane is in charge of A and B” or “I ‘m the office jack-of-all-trades” but there are definitely a group of people whose titles don’t get disrespected in this way. Like nobody goes, “Pamela is in charge of us here” instead of “Pamela is the CEO”.

    1. Nicotene*

      In addition to the race/gender stuff that Alison mentioned, I wondered if OP on #2 is younger than other colleagues; I’ve seen that play out before.

  12. Phil*

    #4 With the extreme direction they’re going in in recent weeks, I’ve purged my Twitter and Instagram, and am on my way out of Facebook. I’ll join you off the grid. ;)

    1. LW #4*

      The real battle for me has been getting off Whatsapp, which I only joined because of peer pressure. It’s become the primary method of communication for everyone I know, but that impending February update is just beyond the pale.

      1. allathian*

        I’m not too keen on the update myself, even if I’m in the EU, so the app data sharing with FB doesn’t apply. The first thing I did when I started using my current phone was to uninstall the FB app. I don’t use FB, never have and never intend to use it.

      1. Jobbyjob*

        Some people seem to believe that threatening and inciting violence as public figures shouldn’t be against these companies’ terms of service and these private companies must allow said dangerous people to post whatevs they want.

        1. Phil*

          Not quite. That’s their excuse for the purge, but they’re also kicking people off just for having the “wrong” political views. A friend who had absolutely nothing to do with Jan 6 has been perma-banned just making conservative/right-leaning posts. And this isn’t even a public figure I’m talking about, he’s just a regular guy. And this is happening all across the platforms.

          1. pancakes*

            The only people making claims like this are people seemingly unaware of their own interaction(s) with or proximity to coordinated harassment, or with a similar misunderstanding of hashtag misuse, targeted harassment rules, etc.

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 – is the nature of the surgery something that can reasonably be delayed? If so, another option is to offer to push it back to a time that fits better.

    Otherwise it probably makes sense to ask to delay your start date, assuming the week recovery is predictable (as far as these things go!) The other advantage of that, not mentioned in the answer, is you haven’t burnt through a week of your PTO immediately upon starting so still have it available to use during the year.

    1. Jane Plough*

      Noooooo! OP should not have to delay needed medical procedures for the sake of a week or so delay to a job. Especially in this case where they don’t know it’s going to be a problem for the company because they haven’t even asked (NB even if it is a problem for the company, it’s the company’s problem. Let’s stop prioritizing companies’ needs over our own lives and bodies).
      In any case, as you mentioned, having surgery before the start date is going to be the least disruptive time to do it, from the company’s point of view, so in reality the proposed schedule is doing the company a favour.

      Go ahead and stick to your schedule, OP. You are allowed to have medical needs, and any decent company will accept that.

      1. earl grey aficionado*

        +1, especially since scheduling for surgery and other procedures has been heavily affected by COVID. OP could easily end up in a situation where they offer to reschedule, there’s a COVID spike in their area (or someone on the surgery team gets COVID and can’t get a sub), and then “rescheduled” means “up in the air for weeks” which is hugely disruptive to both the OP and to their potential employer. At least once you’re officially scheduled for surgery you’re on rails in their system and more likely to be a high priority for staff. I had to have an outpatient procedure recently and my doctor and schedulers both warned me about this. Seconding that you should hold onto the current scheduled date, OP – as Alison says, this really shouldn’t be a big deal on the employer’s end, anyway.

    2. with a comma after dearest*

      I was also going to say to LW5, what about insurance?

      Do you know what insurance your new company offers? Does your surgeon accept it?

      And worse, 1 week is a very short time to be in good standing with new insurance. Even if they submit it right away on day 1 – which is a big if because you have to pick your insurance and the new company has to process it – the insurance company will then have to process it too. It makes me nervous that you would be insured in good standing in enough time.

      Personal experience – take several medications, when started a new job 13 years ago I found it took weeks for them to add me – a small office, no HR department as I had had at the bigger firms, just a director of ops who also did onboarding who also did insurance and my insurance wasn’t his priority. And then the insurance company had to process me. I remember being very unnerved to be uninsured for weeks and possibly out of pocket on some meds too. But at least I wasn’t depending on it for imminent surgery.

      1 month out feels more likely – 1 week feels likely impossible – I wonder if they would let you delay your start date by a few weeks so you can have your surgery under your current insurance?

      1. WellRed*

        She specifically states she’s willing to start after surgery, therefore it sounds like that piece of it won’t be relevant.

      2. LW #5*

        I appreciate the concern. I will fortunately be dual insured for a bit rather than losing my old insurance immediately, so I won’t be relying on new insurance that, as you rightly point out, I definitely wouldn’t have yet.

    3. Terrysg*

      Where I am all kinds of surgeries have had to be postponed as hospitals are overrun with covid patients, so it makes sense not to raise the subject until you have a job offer and a definite date for surgery. All to say, it makes no sense too raise the issue earlier. Good luck with the surgery and the job!

      1. Clisby*

        It sounds like LW has had a definite date for surgery for awhile. I agree with most of Alison’s advice, although I don’t know why LW should say she’s just found out when her surgery is scheduled. Why not just say “My surgery is scheduled Feb X”, and go on with the rest of the advice?

        1. Colette*

          That wording sounds like the employer knew about the surgery, though. My immediate thought upon hearing it would be “surgery? what surgery?”

        2. PersephoneUnderground*

          Yeah, I think she should raise it exactly like a pre-planned vacation. It’s not a surprise, but it’s not something that made sense to raise before the offer stage, and it can’t be moved. Only difference is this is much more important than a vacation. No need to make it sound like it’s just come up.

          1. Clisby*

            Exactly. People can’t put their whole lives on hold while they’re waiting to hear back from potential employers. And from the employer’s standpoint, I’d think it was better to delay the start date by a week or two anyway.

    4. fish*

      I once had a pre-planned two weeks off shortly after starting a job. My new boss was clear he wanted me to start before, not after, so the new info could percolate in my mind. He even thought it was something of a plus!

      Maybe you can sell it the same way if you’re concerned.

    5. roger that*

      I disagree. I had a preventive mastectomy because of a high-risk cancer mutation last year and it was already scheduled before I had the job offer. I told them “I need to have a surgery that will require about three weeks out of the office, but will not affect my ability to work after that time. The surgery is scheduled for X date. As a result, I can either begin the job on Y date (before surgery) or Z date (after my 3 weeks of recovery). What would work better on your end?”

      It worked out really well. The hiring manager had a strong preference for me to start sooner, so we did that. She also immediately brought up what we could do to make sure my leave was paid since I wouldn’t have accrued much time off yet.

      Turns out the surgery got postponed because of COVID anyway, so I’m definitely glad we didn’t delay my start date. When the surgery got postponed, I called my boss and said “the surgery we’d talked about before has been postponed because of COVID, so I’ll plan to work normally at that time instead.” And then when the surgery got rescheduled, I called my boss and told her the new date. If the response from the hiring manager gives you any grief about the surgery (and just one week off is such a minor thing!), I’d think of that as a huge red flag about what they would be like to work with if you have any health issues or family needs in the future.

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      It’s been scheduled for quite a while already so it might be pretty complicated to reschedule, unless she can swap with someone, which is not something the clinic secretary would do.

  14. Roeslein*

    #4 It really depends on the job. I’m in management consulting and it is odd when someone who is client-facing / does business development has no online presence whatsoever, since clients are likely to want to look up consultants to find out about their backgrounds (which is a legitimate thing for them to do, after all they pay us a lot of money). Also it’s hard to do business without using LinkedIn and similar tools. It does not happen in the country I’m living in currently though – I guess if your offline network and reputation is sufficiently strong you might not need it as much. But for many in-house jobs I imagine it wouldn’t matter.

  15. The answer is (probably) 42*

    OP #4: I share my name with a first cousin, and she’s in a highly regulated field so if you google our name almost all results are about her and her industry. You get my LinkedIn profile and that’s about it without seriously digging. I do have an online presence, but I stick to sites that have usernames and don’t require using my real name to the extent that I can.

    I MUCH prefer things this way, and I have never found that it gave anyone concern when looking into hiring me, I really don’t think you have to worry.

    (also, I’m eternally grateful to that cousin that she’s both so visible and in a very respectable way!)

  16. CynicalinScotland*

    LW#1, I would also be absolutely furious in your case, in a pandemic employers cannot play stupid games like this. Just a note – if the employee does test positive, you probably need to wait a few days before taking another test. Covid incubation period is generally around 5 days so you could still have it even if the test you just took is negative, depending on when you spent time with them. Obviously of course I hope it turns out that everyone is uninfected but I feel like often the incubation period isn’t factored in to testing.

  17. Groundhogs Again*

    LW #1 – California has some of the strictest workplace notification guidelines in the US. Without more details it’s hard to tell if they were followed though. I highly recommend looking at the Cal OSHA workplace COVID regs for non-medical settings. They were implemented as of Nov 30. If you are exposed at work (if you had close contact with an employee who tests positive within specific time frames) your employer has a host of obligations to you.

    LA County probably has additional requirements as well. All of that said, Unless your employer knowingly allowed a close contact of someone with certain Covid to remain at work, I’m not sure they’ve done anything wrong.

    1. Octopus*

      Yes!! Op#1 needs to look at California’s new OSHA law and their counties requirements. The law has different terms around when employers have to notify employees based on what is considered exposure and required timeframes for notification. There’s not enough information here to know if the law was violated, but it may have been. Employee should probably complain to manager first, with coworkers as Alison suggested. But they may also make an OSHA complaint if the employer violated the terms.
      Alison, you may want to add an edit to your answer to incorporate and spread the word about these important employee protections! I was surprised when you didn’t mention this.

      1. Groundhogs Again*

        Hi Octopus – I totally agree that the new CalOsha rules aren’t getting enough attention. (For non-California people – California has its own OSHA which in many cases has stricter standards than Federal.).

        Also, to refer to a discussion higher in the comments – health care and non-healthcare settings are treated very differently.

    2. MamaSarah*

      Yeppers. Former contact tracer here. Is the employee symptomatic? We may not know, but until he develops symptoms or has a positive test, LW1 is a “contact of a contact”. It’s not the co-worker that is positive, it’s the co-worker’s spouse.
      I spoke with many couples that had a positive partner and never became symptomic or had positive tests. We’re learning isolating at home works if adhered to.
      We don’t have all the details here. I think the employer acted appropriately given that the positive is not actually an employee. LW1, drink lots of water, wash you hands, wear a mask…keep doing all your good covid prevention. Think happy thoughts.

    3. The New Normal*

      Currently the State of California and LA County are both treating pending tests as Assumed Positives.

  18. Sled dog mama*

    LW 2 Please fix this for the sake of the people you have been introduced to. I was introduced to someone at work as “The person in charge of IT” this person attended several meetings as the IT representative (a whole other thing). Person asked some questions that I thought were a little strange/basic for someone with an IT background. I then emailed the person with an issue that I was having getting a work order fulfilled (new, expense software and I couldn’t get anyone to respond to a ticket to install it). Imagine how I cringed when the reply listed his title as VP of something (so he was over several departments, and had no IT background). Fortunately person was very nice and pointed me to the correct person to get this taken care of but I still cringe so hard at that.

  19. Good Vibes Steve*

    LW2: I started my career as a social media manager, and all my colleagues insisted on calling me “social media ninja”. None of them were plagued with a title like this, they used perfectly normal job titles for everyone else. I think there is something about vaguely tech related jobs that makes people want to call you fairly infantilizing titles, while thinking it’s a compliment. In my experience, it’s linked to “famous” representatives of the profession calling themselves those titles (ninja, guru, etc) to pretend they have a cult following.
    It took me years to get people to refer to me properly, but then again, I was very junior. You have seniority, so the change should happen faster. Refer back to your actual title constantly, and it will die down.

    1. Joan Rivers*

      I think you’re taking offense when they’re actually implying you have special knowledge they don’t have. Other jobs usually don’t involve machines and special training — they can be more about schmoozing or managing people or counting widgets. Or at least, they can seem that way.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It’s funny, I straight off assumed Good Vibes Steve was a youngster before getting to where he says he was junior. I think the youth does impact this: to older people, it’s rather unsettling that a youngster can do this social media stuff when we don’t have much of a clue. So we’ll call the youngster a ninja to show that he’s clearly not normal, he has to be especially talented.

    2. Clisby*

      Maybe it depends on the workplace. Most of my working life was in IT, and somebody who was routinely referred to as a “tech guru” was getting WAY more respect than someone referred to as IT Director.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        IT has a culture of deemphasizing formal titles that goes back a *long* way (the people at Bell Labs who were at the very top of the profession rather famously all had the title “Member of Technical Staff”). Humorous informal titles (and sometimes slipping into formal usage) is part of that. It’s true that some noteworthy people have used them in a eye rolling fashion, but the idea that they are somehow driving the trend is, frankly, wrong. Self mocking titles have been a thing since I started as a programmer decades ago. Honestly insisting on the use of “Director” to a programming team is good way to get a reputation as a stuffed suit. It implies that you are think you are due respect because of your position and job title instead of what you can do.

        That said, women — particularly women in tech — are put in a very tough position since their personal accomplishments frequently get downplayed unless they insist upon them. As does their authority. A male director doesn’t have to worry that being referred to as “the tech guru” will cause people forget he’s the director the same way a woman does.

        My advice would be to first, as Alison says, get the lay of the land. If she’s being treated the same as everybody else that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem but it probably means the team is acting in good faith. A heart to heart along the lines of “I know you don’t mean any harm but when you introduce me that way to clients/contractors/other departments it under cuts my authority” would likely have the effect needed (along with, perhaps, accepting with the affection intended when it’s just within the team).

        If it’s not applied equally or if it doesn’t come with the implict acceptance of authority given to male peers it needs to get stepped on. Hard.

  20. Rachel*

    #1 – I think the LW is overreacting. His coworker was exposed, he wasn’t. As a manager at a company of 100 people it is impossible to notify everyone every time someone they interact with interacted with someone who was exposed. CDC guidelines do not require any action when there is a third hand chance of exposure. If someone in my office tests positive, please tell me. Otherwise it just needlessly causes panic.

    1. Ampersand*

      I agree. It sounds like they did the right thing here, even going above and beyond to let the employees know there was a possible third hand exposure. I think it is still an odd thing, notifying the entire office that someone is “infected” and naming them. HR (especially in CA I imagine) are taught to be incredibly sensitive to potential lawsuit situations.

      1. Coffeeeee*

        At my work, if someone tests positive, they ask that person to give them a list of everyone they were within six feet of for less than fifteen minutes in the last two weeks. All of those people are then privately notified and asked to stay home for two weeks and take a test.

    2. Workerbee*

      Hmm. Our company does notify everyone about a possible exposure and with a name. I don’t actually know if they get permission from the coworker first. But it does help get everyone thinking if they did come into contact with that person or were near enough. The combined knowledge of the person with COVID and the rest of the company helps present a fuller picture of possible infection. I was surprised when I first saw this (via email from HR), but, living with an immunocompromised partner, I guess I’m more grateful to be aware. I too would give up that thin veneer of privacy for others.

    3. thatoneoverthere*

      I could be wrong but an exposure to someone who was exposed is not an exposure. You have to be direct contact with someone who tested positive.

      1. Colette*

        You have to be a direct contact of someone who is infected, whether or not they tested positive. (False negatives are fairly common.)

        1. Nicotene*

          This is the real breakdown of most of these plans. They depend on the positive test as the metric. But among my circle I have numerous friends who had an exposure and were symptomatic (and it was pretty clear, like, had dry cough and inexplicable fever after their roommate had Covid) – but kept getting negative test results, meaning none of the appropriate next steps were taken.

      2. Empress Matilda*

        Same in my jurisdiction. My daughter and my husband have both been exposed (separately), and in both cases we were told there was no need for anyone else in the family to get tested. Exposure-to-an-exposure is not the same thing as exposure-to-an-infection.

        I understand why OP1 is upset, and I agree that the company needs to get their act together and come up with a proper communications plan for Covid exposures. But from a H&S perspective, you should be fine.

        Also, are you and your colleagues wearing masks in the office? That would definitely help – both in terms of reducing your chance of exposure, and reducing your worries about it.

    4. CheeryO*

      This is where contact tracing and the direct exposure rules just fall apart. My workplace probably wouldn’t tell us about this either, unless the employee himself tested positive. However, I don’t think it’s overreacting to be concerned about it. Obviously it depends on the timeline and whether the employee was infectious or not while he was in the office, but it’s not a leap to assume that he will eventually test positive as well.

      1. Nicotene*

        Yes sadly this tends to fall under the category of “assume everybody has it all the time.” Especially in LA during the peak it was probably safe to assume that everybody had a next-level contact exposed. Our focus really needs to be on preventing transmission in the office by whatever means possible.

    5. Not Me*

      I totally agree. If we quarantined everyone who was secondarily exposed to covid…we’d quarantine pretty much everyone.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Well… We kinda are? But I know what you mean, it’s a different level. But generally sending anyone who’s a possible risk home and informing people of potential exposure should probably be the default, since it’s reopening offices at all that’s the different approach from the norm right now. If your wife is sick, back to wfh immediately for a start, for example.

        1. Not Me*

          No, we aren’t. If someone is exposed via close contact to someone with covid they need to quarantine (unless they’ve recently recovered, and that has it’s own timelines). But simply being exposed to somoene who is exposed does not mean you need to quarantine. The OP was in contact with someone who was not ill or diagnosed with covid, they have nothing to be notified of.

          1. Nicotene*

            Also OP is concerned for their pod partner; that is, someone (the partner) who spent time with someone (OP) who spent time with someone (coworker) whose wife was positive. In LA during the peak, that is just not going to be actionable sadly.

                1. boo bot*

                  Second, third, fourth-hand etc. exposure is either:
                  (1) Not at all dangerous (because the contact doesn’t have covid) OR
                  (2) EXACTLY AS DANGEROUS AS FIRSTHAND EXPOSURE (because the contact does have covid, and your exposure IS a firsthand exposure)

                  That doesn’t have much bearing on what any given city, state, or workplace regulations happen to be, but if the only exposure that “counted” was firsthand exposure to a confirmed case, this would all have been over a long time ago.

              1. Empress Matilda*

                Well, yes. But also there’s no value in fearmongering 0r panic – that just makes things worse in a different way.

                OP’s pod partner has a vanishingly small chance of being infected through this path, which is now a 4th degree exposure.

                Coworker’s wife (infected) -> coworker (exposed) -> OP (exposed to exposed) -> pod partner (exposed to exposed to exposed)

                I’m not saying it’s impossible – I’m just saying it’s really, really, really unlikely. So this is where the knowledge comes in – if we know that public health officials are saying that an “exposure to an exposure” is nothing to worry about, then it’s reasonable to assume that their exposures are also nothing to worry about.

                As humans, we have a limited capacity for worry – we just can’t take it all on. So as far as knowledge vs ignorance, I would make sure I’m well informed from reputable sources, and take what steps I can to protect myself and my loved ones (masks, distancing, handwashing). Then I would also use that knowledge to decide what’s worth worrying about and what isn’t.

                1. pancakes*

                  Fortunately no one is recommending fear-mongering, panic, or worrying as preventative measures.

          2. pancakes*

            People who were exposed but aren’t ill themselves and/or haven’t been diagnosed with covid because they don’t yet have test results can still transmit the virus, because asymptomatic transmission is possible. Hence the common policy that people with known exposure quarantine while awaiting test results.

            1. Not Me*

              Right, but again, we can’t lock everyone at home if they’ve been 2+ removed from someone with covid. That’s literally all the people. People with “known exposure” need to quarantine, not people “who might’ve been exposed but we aren’t sure”.

              1. pancakes*

                That’s not what you said that I responded to, though, and “2+ removed” does not describe the letter writer or their coworker.

  21. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2, I second Alison’s advice. Unless peers are consistently introduced by title, or you’re seeing other signs of disrespect, just use that script to communicate your title (and maybe also your role on the specific project, so that you don’t seem too hung up on titles): “Hi, I’m Jane Porcupine, our IT director. I’ll be overseeing the software implementation.”

    Possible non-disrespectful reasons for what is happening:

    * Sometimes introductions are contextual, as in, “Jane is our expert on enterprise software” when you are being introduced to the enterprise software implementation team
    * When people speak colloquially, they are less likely to use formal titles, which can sound a little stiff
    * Depending on the company culture, people may value what you do and know more highly than what you are, and their introduction may reflect that

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree, especially with your last point. What’s most important to me when I’m meeting a new person at work is what they do, not the title. The OP’s title is pretty straightforward, but some are not. I just want to know what kinds of questions I can go to you with and how your work overlaps with mine. That’s it.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I’d like to know more about this specific situation.

      My workplace is not very formal and we only use titles if we’re introducing somebody on a Very Professional Level. Somebody insisting on having their title used in an introduction to a new employee or a visitor from within the same industry would come across as pompous and tonedeaf. I mean, I would say that Jane is the head of my department because a new employee might need to know that (although it also says so on our employee directories) but I wouldn’t trot out the full Acting Director of This Department.

    3. D3*

      Given that he started with “girl” and then cheekily asked if he should say “woman” I’m going to guess that this is not just someone who is being informal, but instead is pushing the boundaries of how disrespectful he can be to her. I’m not going to make excuses for someone like that.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        D3, there was no “girl/woman” in the original post. Are you referring to a follow up comment by the OP?

        My comment was based on the original post. I wasn’t “making excuses” for anyone, just putting some ideas out there, based on the (limited) info that was shared.

    4. Renata Ricotta*

      I think this LW is confusing job titles with traditional honorifics like Doctor, Professor, etc. that we often associate with signs of respect or deference. (I kind of think this is silly and outdated, you can just actually treat everyone respectfully, but it is what it is.) That’s not really in play for job titles, at least in the vast majority of office cultures. Working hard to be promoted from Assistant-> Coordinator -> Manager -> Director of X department is relevant for denoting higher pay bands, responsibility, and communicating your level of achievement to external audiences on your resume when job searching. But in most workplaces, titles don’t function as things you call people in conversation.

      1. LW #2*

        Fair point. Kicking myself for the poor use of the word respect. Perhaps I really meant acknowledgement. I think I’m just sensitive because I’m quite young and my older colleagues colleagues do like to undermine my accomplishments. To do so in an outward facing way is what really irks me. But I agree, does anyone but me actually care? Nah.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          IT people sometimes encourage the “guru” idea by not being very communicative and acting like they’re the great savior who comes in to “fix” the situation. I’ve worked w/some who could have explained the fix or that it’s not the user’s fault, it’s in the system, but they prefer to “be the guru.”

        2. Kevin Sours*

          You aren’t wrong to be sensitive. The fact that people are undermining your accomplishment is a serious concern. Humorous and informal titles is commonplace in tech and insisting on the formal title is going to be seen as pretentious. The problem is that woman are faced with the choice between being “pretentious” and having their accomplishments and authority discounted in away that men aren’t (or frankly perceive).

          I wish I could tell you how to navigate that but I don’t have the experience of being a woman in tech that I would need to give you good advice. Is there an older female mentor you could talk to?

        3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          I’m worry you’re being undermined OP2. That sucks. And it does give additional context, although I still wouldn’t change my advice.

          In some companies, this can also be based on outdated perceptions of IT as a less important function, operational rather than strategic, and just there to keep the wheels moving but not to be involved in business decisions. Not sure if that’s relevant for you.

    5. sofar*

      Could also be that the company is disorganized and there’s no way to even look up official titles. There have been a few times where I’ve tried to find a person’s title for my own purposes, but my company does not have an up-to-date org chart. And Workplace puts the onus on people to keep their OWN titles up-to-date, so it’s not a great resource. So unless people have added their current title to Slack/their email signature, there might not even be a place for people to find your official title in a timely way — and therefore simply describe what you do.

  22. Jennifer*

    #1 Something similar happened at hubby’s job. Someone was exposed to COVID and he told his boss and all of his coworkers himself. The boss emailed corporate asking if the branch should be closed while everyone got tested and it was several days before they got a response. The boss decided on his own to close the branch. Corporate finally responded two days later.

    They have decided on their own to be open with one another about things like this since clearly corporate isn’t looking out for them. I understand not everyone feels comfortable sharing medical information but if you can’t trust leadership to tell you the truth, it might be your only recourse.

  23. Roscoe*

    #2. This seems like a minor thing to get worked up on for me. I have a very collaborative company, and sometimes I’ll have people from other departments come in. I may say “this is John a member of our finance team”. He may be the head of finance or just an associate or whatever. I don’t know that it matters as long as correct information is passed along.

    Also, sometimes if I’m running the meeting that someone else is in, I don’t necessarily want them to look toward the other person who may have a higher title than me for answers. Usually, they are there as “backup” essentially, in case something comes up that I can’t answer. But if my “official” title is lower than theirs, it may throw off who is being deferred to.

  24. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

    #4: I had my identity stolen last year, and as a result, I really tried to purge any mention of my name from the net. Now, when its googled, all you get is cross country times from when I was in high school. Like Allison said, its not weird, and unless you’re in something that social media focused, it shouldn’t be an issue. I find more and more people are leaving FB and the like because they do tend to over-reach.

  25. Dandy it is*

    Op #3 I was an assistant supervisor when I was in college and a woman on my team reported to me that the supervisor was sexually harassing her. I had to report it. The thing was, I hadn’t recognized what he was doing to me as harassment until she talked to me. After an investigation, it turned out that he was harassing 15 of 16 the woman on staff. You have to report.

  26. James*

    OP #4: It may be worth Googling yourself to be sure you don’t have an apparent online presence. My name is a family name, so if someone Googles me they see information from my father and grandfather, which has lead to some amusing incidents (they ran my father’s credit score when I bought my wife’s engagement ring, for example). I’ve heard of other people having names of people who have committed crimes or otherwise were in situations that would have reduced employment opportunities.

    It’s worth at least knowing if there’s a potential for such a situation to arise; that way if anyone asks you can say “Yeah, I get that a lot. It’s not me, just someone with the same name.” It’s common enough that most people would chuckle and move on at this point.

    1. LW #4*

      I’m fairly certain that I’m the only person in the world with my name. Vanishingly few people transliterate my (very common in Greek) surname the way my family has, we use the non-standard choice for two different letters/letter combinations.
      The only concerning thing that’s ever come up when googling myself/my immediate family was a site that sold access to people’s information from the public electoral roll. Apparently one year we’d all missed the “opt out” tickbox, as my immediate family was all there, with our unique names and most of our home address. Fortunately data protection laws let me request they be removed, so now if you google my name you get “Did you mean [obviously different name]?”

  27. Coffeeeee*

    I’m realizing this must be more field-specific than I thought (and obviously it’s not something that should in any way affect a hiring decision) but I’m surprised by the lack of Google search results it seems there are for a lot of people! I wasn’t thinking social media, but news articles listing accomplishments or quotes, public announcements of events, references to the person and their roles on their work websites, or public recognitions or awards listed on nonprofit sites, etc. It feels like a lack of any of this would be a total neutral, but a Google search could reveal activism or volunteerism or civic engagement or things like that too.

    1. Urt*

      Most organisations will allow you to opt out of becoming part of their PR scheme, they typically prefer helping hands that don’t want to be mentioned to no helping hands.
      And as has been mentioned many companies aren’t posting their human resource directory online. And even those that do will employ means to prevent scraping for results.

    2. Observer*

      but a Google search could reveal activism or volunteerism or civic engagement or things like that too.

      It depends on what the person does.

      I’m from a community where volunteering is pretty normal. Yet, most of the volunteers names would never show up in a google search – even if you specifically googled the name of the organization they volunteer with. And that doesn’t even start with the activities that people do that are not part of a formal volunteering gig.

      So, yes it MIGHT show stuff. But it really might not.

    3. Can't Sit Still*

      My Google search results include a very old letter to the editor and several animal sponsorships at a local shelter, as well as a ton of historical records, bankruptcy filings and obituaries. It does not include any other social media. I have no idea how that works, since quotes, articles, and social media posts used to come up, but don’t any longer. I think Google thinks I’m dead. LOL!

    4. Jackalope*

      My experience is that most of the places I’ve volunteered in keep the volunteer lists off the internet for our privacy. I’ve never been a bigwig or the contact person for an event (I’m more likely to be the one setting up the tables), and my civic involvement includes things like talking to my reps on the phone, which will never be published. So there’s nothing out there for that sort of work for me. For awhile I was on my former employer’s website but they’ve long since taken that down.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      For my volunteer work, it’s first names only, so that people don’t find us online to harass us (breastfeeding counsellors sometimes get creepy guys asking us creepy questions)

  28. Miniature House*

    #1 My workplace is owned and run by COVID deniers. We have an essential job with VERY close contact with the general public. No one wears a mask in the office except sometimes meeting with clients. They think they’re doing great because they’ve only had one positive case. That one person of course had a cough and fever and refused to get tested for three days while seeing clients. They were positive of course and my employer informed me that someone had it, but I had no close contact with them. Thankfully I knew exactly who it was because this person had complained of symptoms to me the day after we had a long conversation (outside and thankfully masked!). I never got sick, but I was absolutely furious with my employer.
    I’m sorry yours sucks as well. I’m planning to get vaccinated as soon as I can, but I doubt my coworkers are as they’re pretty anti-vax and a little anti-doctor/science. I can’t/won’t leave due to a multitude of reasons and I understand when others say the same, especially right now. I hope you stay safe and healthy going forward.

  29. Mynona*

    LW1. Consider working from home as much as you can, especially in LA, even if it’s inconvenient. I’m in the same situation with work: hot spot, optional WFH, crummy work situation at home, live near the office, prefer office. But I avoid the office as much as possible to reduce my overall risk of exposure and to help out my co-workers who don’t have the same flexibility. And a lot of employers aren’t handling notifications well, including mine.

  30. Cake or Death?*

    “my colleagues refuse to use my hard-earned director title”
    Not trying to be flippant, but how “hard-earned” is a director title at a company of 7? Unless everyone does basically the same work and this person is actually the Director of other employees. But since they said they are referred to “tech guru”, I don’t get the impression that there are other IT people working there. While, technically, if you are the only person in IT, you are the IT Director by default, the title IT Director gives the impression that you are the head of a team.
    We had an employee that was hired to start handling alot of our IT needs (taking the day-to-day tasks off my plate) but also to help in other tasks around the office, as we didn’t have enough full-time IT work. So he was doing travel arrangements, invoice scanning, security clearance paperwork for projects, etc.
    Well, he decided to give himself a bunch of titles, including IT Manager, Housing and Travel Coordinator, Security Compliance Director… He had to be told that he can’t just assign himself titles and, most importantly, those titles actually MEAN something, as far as the Department of Labor goes. He didn’t seem to understand that MANAGER actually had implications farther reaching than just a title on an email. His thought process was, “well, I MANAGE the IT, so I’m the IT Manager.”
    This actually caused a lot of headache during a random DoL audit, where we had to prove that, No, he actually wasn’t a manager.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think? Just because you had a wingnut employee that made up titles, doesn’t mean that the LW is doing the same.

      1. Roscoe*

        Sure, but with 7 people at the company, it is fair to ask “what are you really directing”. Like, director kind of implies a team. And with that small of a company, my guess is its not much of a team unless IT is all they do.

    2. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

      I’m mostly with you, the hard earned could have come from a previous job and at this company they are essentially doing the same work without the people (which kind of makes being a director invalid), but the context is the same with 7 people in the company it seems out of touch to be the director of anything. OP should watch and see how the other 6 people are being introduced and talked to, if no one else is throwing their title around let it go.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Wow, that’s mean!

      Just because it’s a small team doesn’t mean OP doesn’t work hard and it doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard-earned (your implication is that OP didn’t have to work hard in order to get the position).

      Wow. Just, wow.

  31. legal rugby*

    OP#3 – I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. In many states, if you are classified as a supervisor, you have a legal obligation to report sexual harassment when it is reported to you, regardless of if either person involved is your employee. In my state, if you did not report it, you could potentially be personally liable under our state sexual harassment laws – both to the employee, and the employer, who could claim they didn’t receive notice of the actions from you (who knew about it) and therefore, any financial obligation to the employee falls on you. Once you do go to HR, document in your private files on your private computer that you went to HR, who you spoke to, on what date, and what you told them.

  32. KnitterWho*

    I use a reader to read this site and it’s just showing me the headlines instead of the whole article.

  33. AmosBurton*

    Regarding #2, it is incredibly common for the IT folks to be called “tech guru” or “computer guy” or something similar. So common in fact that it is almost the default.

    As Allison said, unless this is part of a specific pattern (or something else deeper is going on that wasn’t mentioned), then, to me, this is normal, and has nothing to do with disrespect (or gender). A (female) CIO at a small company I used to work at was referred to once as our “head geek”, and wore the title with pride.

    I think this is common with specialists. In emails, I frequently am introduced to attorneys as “this is our lawyer, Jake”, not “this is Associate General Counsel Jake”.

    I understand the perspective that the title was earned, and if this was done by management in more formal situations, especially to outsiders, I would agree it was cause for concerns. But absent something bigger, coming across as focused as being “shown respect” by having people (often subordinate) use your title can very well come across as pompous, and may be counterproductive.

    1. LW #2*

      Great point. I’m actually not in IT at all. I don’t even have an extraordinary amount of tech knowledge so I find that designation very cringey. I’m the Director of Grants for a foundation. So I agree that my colleagues are likely providing context for how I might help them. Personally, I would never refer to my colleagues as “programs gurus” so I (perhaps, naively) would expect the same of them. My colleagues do use proper titles for everyone except for me. For context, I am quite young and I’ve moved through the ranks fighting hard to bend a stagnant organizational structure that’s existed since the orgs inception. My colleagues who have been with the org 25+ years seem to resent this. I am entirely open to the idea that it is not malicious but that was certainly my first thought. Thank you for your response.

      1. Esmeralda*

        If everyone else is getting their title recognized and you have reason to believe you are resented for your youth, then yes, not being titled is a sign of disrespect, although possibly it’s not conscious (that doesn’t excuse it, of course).

        I would correct the informal title when it’s happening with external clients or coworkers etc. Cheerfully / with an even and pleasant tone: “Yes, Wakeen, that’s me, I’m the Director of Grants here at Foundation.”

        INternally — a bit trickier. What I’ve done (when all the guys are getting Dr’d and I’m FirstName, or all the guys get titled and I don’t/I get the equivalent of tech guru) is to be reaaaallly jokey about it, so that you’re making the point but it comes across as “you aren’t getting to me”. For instance, “Yes, I am the QUEEN of llama saddle design, you must bow before me” or, with a big smile, “That’s DOCTOR Esmeralda puh-leez, I worked my ass off for that title”

      2. Kevin Sours*

        The more the details come out, the more I think you are right to be concerned about it. You are not overreacting. Unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily change the observation that “coming across as focused as being ‘shown respect’ by having people (often subordinate) use your title can very well come across as pompous, and may be counterproductive.”

        I wish I had useful advice.

  34. katertot*

    #2 I feel for this person, but also fully understand why they say “tech guru”. I’m a young female in a Director role, and one of my colleagues consistently introduces me as a “project manager” when my role is well outside that scope (at least in our organization) and I’ve also had people ask if I was my boss’s assistant so I find I do use my title when I introduce myself. BUT I also work in an organization where we have a lot of generic titles (director of operations, business manager, etc.) and introducing someone with their title often doesn’t convey what they do- so I find myself doing intros that are like “this is x, and in charge of xyz”

  35. blink14*

    OP #5 – I would be upfront about it when you receive the job offer. Explain the recovery time and ask if you would be able to start later. I would keep in mind some buffer time between the expected recovery time and the start date, because things happen and you may need a little more time.

    I had surgery about 5 months after starting my current job, and I outlined the situation when I accepted the offer letter. I didn’t know when it was going to happen, but I knew it was coming. I found out the day of the surgery about a week beforehand and was out totally for about 4 weeks and then worked from home for another 4 or so.

    Also, I’m not sure if you’ve thought about this, but look into any insurance discrepancies that may come up.

    1. Other Alice*

      Strongly agree with leaving some buffer time! I had a surgery scheduled just before starting a new job and took two weeks recovery time as recommended. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken more – I wasn’t at my best yet, and even little things like not being able to carry anything heavy are a real nuisance when you get folders of information from HR, a laptop, etc and then have to carry it all back to your desk.

  36. agnes*

    There are many variables that go into determining whether something is at risk from an exposure, which includes the total amount of time you were around someone , what protections you took, does employee zero actually have covid or were they a first, second, or third degree exposure to a covid positive person; is employee zero symptomatic, etc etc. The CDC guidelines are clear and we’ve used them successfully now for just about a year, with only one workplace covid transmission between employees. And in that case employee zero did not report symptoms and came to work sick, so I would not say it’s a failure of our exposure control plan.

    I would suggest that the LW ask for clarification on what constitutes an exposure in their organization; who is responsible for informing employees, and what is the time frame for being informed. This is important for all employees to know and every organization, no matter what size it is, should have a protocol for this effort. It’s not that hard to put a simple one page explanation out to employees. An organization that won’t do that is pretty shitty.

  37. BeadsNotBees*

    LW1: Many people have already clarified in the comments, but there’s not enough info here to label this as an “exposure.” You were exposed to your COWORKER who was exposed to COVID outside of work- you are not considered a contact of a positive case unless your coworker shows symptoms/tests positive AND you were around them for a certain period of time in the infectious window (it’s not a stretch to guess coworker might get it, but there are a lot of factors that play into your own personal risk level at work based on this scenario.) If your coworker started self isolating as soon as he had knowledge of his own exposure, then hopefully the risk is low to you and I don’t find it necessarily egregious that your employer mulled over telling you all. I run an essential business (one that is literally monitored and licensed through the state’s Health Department), and we have successfully been dealing with quarantines, notifications, and exposures this whole time. If I had to notify employees every time we had third-hand contact, I would not have time to do anything else.

      1. littledoctor*

        Where I live, LW1 would be legally required to self-isolate and be tested if they’d been exposed to someone who had potentially been exposed. It would be illegal for LW1 to get a bus, enter a grocery store, etc. until either fourteen days had passed or she’d tested negative at least once. The same would be true for any roommates she had, including her partner. So to me, the idea of not telling her at all seems shocking. I guess America does have much laxer restrictions than a lot of places, though.

        Here, if someone who later tested positive had been in a particular grocery store in the last fourteen days, anyone who’d been in that grocery store at the same time would be contacted by the health department to be tested. You have to give your name and phone number upon entering, say, a restaurant so they can contact you if necessary. If you’ve travelled outside our equivalent of a state, you’re required to isolate for at least fourteen days and to be tested at least twice, once at the 6th, 7th, or 8th day mark and once on the final day. Anyone you live with must isolate as well.

        This might seem extreme or harsh if you live somewhere with less intense restrictions, but the virus is almost nonexistent here as a result.

  38. Zennish*

    Working in libraries can also make one more sensitive to the privacy and data mining issues that go with online activity. I have strong philosophical objections to both the commodification of my personal information and the attention economy in general, thus I have no online presence.

  39. ChachiGambino*

    I always, ALWAYS applaud Allison’s caveat in titles, degrees, and honorifics. Just wanted to throw that in there.

  40. employment lawyah*

    1. My company delayed telling us about a possible Covid exposure
    That’s entirely unacceptable.

    Basically, they put spin in front of health. What they SHOULD do, as you know, is to notify immediately ans say “isolate while we work this out.”

    Your HR person should be fired. They won’t be, but they should be.

    In any case, you’re right to be angry, and you can certainly chat w/ a lawyer. CA is one of the most employee-friendly states in the country so you may have more rights than you think.

    2. My coworkers refuse to use my correct title
    Only seven people? Only 6 others. How many of them are in tech, and how many of those are you directing? That’s a pretty small place to have a “tech director.”

    If everyone ELSE is doing it but not you, yeah they’re being jerks. But is it possible you’re being tweaked because you are being title-focused?

    3. My senior colleague is a creepy, sexist, abusive jerk
    Depends on your capital. I wouldn’t.

    So far, you’ve heard:
    a) A report that he yelled across the office (almost certainly obnoxious, but quite possibly within his baliwick;)
    b) A report that he chastised someone for conduct which you think is fine (maybe bad management, maybe not;)
    c) A report that he commented to a THIRD party about her clothing–not that it was “hot” or “sexy” but that it was “inappropriate for work;” and
    d) Rumors–LITERALLY RUMORS–that he has “stalked her on Facebook” and “thought that she looked like his wife.”

    Now, what I would DEFINITELY do is to make sure that the woman in question knows how to report HERSELF, should she feel it warranted, and you can also let her know you’ll have her back if she does.

    As for you… not so much. I’m all for reporting when you have evidence of bad behavior. But I don’t usually recommend reporting in a “everything suspicious should be investigated” way because it doesn’t always end well. Rumors are rumors. And the other stuff (to the degree your second-hand reports are even anything akin to “evidence,” which I don’t think they really are) are probably not actionable harassment, at least not based on what you describe.

    If it feels important enough to you to do it, go ahead. It may backfire, though.

    4. Is it bad to have no online presence at all?
    Personally, I would try to have a presence, even if it is a little-used web page or account. This conveys the image of “online but boring” rather than “used to be bad online, and wiped the account.”

    It’s better to give people an easy way to conclude “this person isn’t a risk” than make them think that they may be missing something, or that you’re hiding something.

    Set up a public Facebook profile, post a blase picture with your dog every 9 months or so. Set up a Twitter profile; follow a few non-controversial accounts (your professional associations, maybe your country’s political bodies; etc.) That’s what I would do.

    5. I’ll need time off for surgery right after starting a new job
    Just do what AAM says. This should not have any effect at all, unless there is something odd you didn’t mention (like, you were hired specifically to do something in that specific week.)

    1. Observer*

      3. My senior colleague is a creepy, sexist, abusive jerk
      Depends on your capital. I wouldn’t.
      Now, what I would DEFINITELY do is to make sure that the woman in question knows how to report HERSELF, should she feel it warranted, and you can also let her know you’ll have her back if she does.

      Sure. You’ve just comprehensively everything the victims has said and everything the OP happens to know on her own. But she’s still going to not do anything about it and question whether the victim really has something to report. And THAT is supposed to be “having her back”.

      If it feels important enough to you to do it, go ahead. It may backfire, though.

      Thank you for the perfect example of how abusers get away with their abuse.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yeah, this is really bad advice. “Oh, it’s just a rumor” is why people like this continue to be abusive, obnoxious jerks.

        Also, OP has personal experience of this jerk’s jerkiness. That’s all the evidence anyone needs in these comments.

        “it doesn’t always end well” — Yeah, well if anything has shown over the year is that you can make things end well by using your voice.

        Stop giving bad advice and enabling abusers.

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        This!!! Seriously? Abuse doesn’t come with a signed card that says “this is absolutely harassment and reportable”, and in fact people like this usually dance around just on the edge of what they can get away with. They may never cross the line clearly enough for some people to really identify any single incident as bad enough (or after supervisors ignore so many lesser incidents subordinates may not report escalations because they expect to be ignored or blamed. E.g. If you didn’t care he hit on me, why should I risk telling you when he groped me?). But the pushing the line itself, the pattern of behavior itself, is still harassment and should be reported. Just like the employee who’s always on a PIP but barely manages to pass it each time should just be fired already because the repeated PIPs are a problem as a whole.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          Stalking on FB seems like something that can be researched. Either it’s a rumor or it’s true, figure it out. Maybe he’s stalking a lot of women. If he stops stalking one he might do another.

    2. WellRed*

      For the sexist coworker, you seem to have overlooked that the LW has experienced this firsthand.

      As to the comment on a director in a company that tiny, yeah, I eyeroll with you. We had more directors than employees once “director” became a trendy title. They were mainly directors of themselves.

      1. AKchic*

        And they overlook the fact that the LW is also a supervisor, so depending on laws, the LW may be required to report up the chain because now that the employee has reported this to LW, it is now an official Report To A Supervisor (even if it’s not her harassing supervisor, or the supervisor’s supervisor, but merely one who’d already witnessed some of the abuse/harassment firsthand). It is no longer rumor and secondhand information. It is a Report. It must be dealt with.

    3. LW #4*

      That pretty much describes how I used to use social media, though even when I had a facebook account it was under a fake name ([male nickname] [female real first name] [online nickname]). You also used to be able to type my parents’ house name into Google Maps and it would plant a flag on the house, so between that and my unique name using my real name online has never felt safe.

      Plus I don’t gel with social media. Facebook hindered my social life because people would send invites and assume I’d seen them, but I’d not log in until well after the event had happened. I’ve been very active in various online communities before, but only ever when I had very little “offline” social life (case in point, I only started commenting on AAM during lockdown). But as soon as “offline” life took off I stopped needing that “parasocial” interaction and it wasn’t worth the effort it took.

    4. Red 5*

      I think not having a presence is going to send different signals to different people, but a lack of one definitely wouldn’t imply to me that someone used to be online but wiped the account after doing something awful.

      For example, anybody that’s currently entering the job market may have just never had a Facebook because Facebook is for old people now. They might have something like Snapchat or TikTok, but those won’t be under real names and likely won’t have content that’s easily searchable unless they were really popular there (depends on how they choose to use it really, but you know). Twitter is a mix, but if somebody is using their real name on Twitter they’re using it for professional reasons in the first place, as a vastly broad generalization.

      Older generations might be on LinkedIn and might have a professional Twitter but they mostly just do what they’ve always done if it’s still working.

      It’s really going to depend on the individual what message they get from a lack of online presence, and I think you’d want to be hired by somebody who saw it for what it was, just a random thing that’s true about you that has no bearing on your professional life.

  41. Spicy Tuna*

    Regarding #3 – I know that issues like this are absolutely supposed to be reported, but I just want to share my experience from a different perspective.

    I am female. When I was in my 20’s, I had a client that was an older gentleman, originally from another country (so, different customs / norms). My work department was all men. One day, this client came to the office and greeted my male colleagues by name and said to me, “hey baby”. I had a long and productive working relationship with this guy and was not at all offended because it was just him being him.

    After he departed the office, my boss asked me if it bothered me. I said it did not. My boss said he was obligated to say something to my client. I BEGGED him not to. I knew my client would NOT take it well. Boss dug in and said it was an HR issue (HR for our company was located at company HQ half way across the country). I told him I would sign a release agreeing not to not sue the company over this incident. No dice.

    Sure enough, next time I talked to my client, he was offended and said if his calling me “baby” bothered me, I should have said something directly to him. I told him it didn’t bother me at all; it bothered my boss, and he could call me whatever he wanted as long as he kept the business coming in.

    Unfortunately, he decided things were too awkward between us and he took his business elsewhere. I was finishing up a Master’s degree (paid for by the company); as soon as I graduated a month or two later, I left the company.

    So, a box was checked to satisfy HR, but the company lost business and a employee over it.

    1. WellRed*

      I think it’s really shortsighted to chalk this up to a box being checked by HR. And not all clients are worth having.

    2. Observer*

      Two comments on this:

      1. It’s quite possible that your company handled the situation really badly. It is, however, possible that there was more going on there than you were aware of.

      2. Your situation is TOTALLY not the same as what the OP is describing. The employee in question IS bothered by the situation. And the OP has reason to believe that the supervisor’s actions are not just limited to this one victim. Not reporting a pretty clear problem because someone somewhere did not object to a totally different behavior under totally different circumstances is not really a sensible decision.

    3. Ali G*

      That’s a weird hill to die on for both you and the client. Just because you are OK with it, doesn’t mean it’s OK. It’s not OK for any client to treat any employee like that. I, and I might assume, most women would not be OK with being called “baby” in a work context.
      Your boss was 100% right with his actions, because he needed to protect all the employees and the company. The company doesn’t want that kind of liability around.
      FWIW I also started my career in a male dominated industry and we had one lovely southern gent that called me “darlin” on the phone, and sometimes one-on-one. But he always addressed me by name in professional settings and in front of other colleagues. So yeah I was OK with it, because it was a colloquial term he was using in a personal chat, but could put it away when context required it. If he had proceeded to call me Darlin in front of my boss, my boss would have 100% shut that down too.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Yes, ask yourself what compromises you might have made to your self-respect that others could see but you couldn’t.
        We all have to decide what we can put up with but it’s not just about you and what you’ll tolerate. Other people may hear that too. It reflects on you as well as him, do you get that?

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      It’s also possible that your boss or someone else who observed this was uncomfortable with this or they didn’t want to risk the client using a similar form of address to someone who DID mind it. Unfortunately, the “the customer is always right” or a fear of losing business more often has the opposite effect – people who are uncomfortable with a client’s behavior are asked to tolerate it for the sake of business/revenue. Having worked in legal for years, I can say that it’s only recently that firms implemented the “no assholes” rule and didn’t give jerks free rein to abuse the staff, as long as they were bringing in the billables (and treat a reputation for being abusive as a badge of honor). It’s also unfortunate that the client was so sensitive that being asked to not to address a young, female in a blatantly sexist way that they could not longer do business with the organization.

      1. Red 5*

        Exactly this, even if you individually don’t have a problem, the fact that the behavior was happening openly in front of others means that it conveyed to anybody within earshot that your company didn’t just accept but condoned that kind of thing. Maybe you wouldn’t see that signal, but others would, and in the end that could have cost them far more employees and customers, and money in the long term.

        If it was in your office or over the phone where nobody else would hear, maybe there’s an argument, but it wasn’t. We spend a lot of time talking about company culture, this right here is an example of company culture. And the company decided that they didn’t want their culture to be one where clients called their employees baby. You didn’t fit with that culture and so you left. That happens.

    5. Cat Tree*

      So, this guy behaved inappropriately, got offended for being called out on it, and you think *you’re* the one who made things awkward by reporting it? You did nothing wrong here. He should not be calling anyone “Baby” in a professional setting. Your employer was looking out for employees by shutting this down (even if you’re not personally bothered by the behavior, many others would be and this guy isn’t interacting with only you).

      And losing business over this is better than allowing bad behavior to continue. Making money isn’t a reason to excuse any behavior.

    6. D3*

      Wow, the mental gymnastics you are going through to excuse sexist and inappropriate behavior are….spectacular.
      Your company was *right* to stand up for professional treatment of its employees, even if you were willing to deal with it.
      Calling women “baby” in a professional setting is just gross and inappropriate, period.

      1. yikes*

        Seriously. This “different perspective” is so harmful. What this guy did was disrespectful, full stop, and if this poster is okay with being demeaned for money then good for them but 99% of other people would not find that appropriate. This reeks of internalized misogyny.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Sounds like it worked out fine – you got a paid-for master’s degree and then left for another job. And your client is just as much to blame for the situation as your boss – he made the remark, he couldn’t handle the request not to do it in the future.

        Imagine people on the flip side of that who are harassed (like OP#3’s example) but are told that the client’s money was more important than their being treated with professional respect. It’s fine that it didn’t offend you personally, but that doesn’t make it business-appropriate behavior. I’ve let a lot of sexist and classist things roll off my back professionally because I have a good job and a mortgage to pay/kids to feed, but the equation changed when I became management and it wasn’t about my personal feelings or one particular person’s level of tolerance but about the organization we are and the culture leadership wants (and, frankly, the risk to the organization).

      2. Arctic*

        Your company both paid for your degree and wanted to protect you from sexual harassment. You may be fine with it but the client has to be told this behavior is not okay for when he interacts with others.

      3. Joan Rivers*

        Not to be too harsh here, but what would you do or not do for “income”?
        What you might tolerate privately might not be OK in the office where your boss overhears it and others can. If you tolerate so much privately that you’re complicit in behavior that crosses the line, you better hope that client knows not to act like that in front of your boss.
        If you don’t know that, this is a good lesson. It was a good lesson for the inappropriate client, too. Sometimes it takes two to create a toxic workplace.

      4. BBA*

        I mean, if anyone in this situation cost you your income, it was the client who decided to say sexist things in a professional context and who, when asked to stop, chose to punish on you/your company. Because he wanted to continue to feel entitled to make sexist comments when he wants, to whom he wants, free of repercussion, free of anyone calling it out or naming it what it was.

      5. yikes*

        Someone above said it best– not all clients are worth having. The fact he took his business elsewhere because he didn’t get to keep calling you an infantilizing name is clear he prioritized that over treating you like your males colleagues – with respect. I also have to say, when creepy/abusive men try to justify being creeps, they just LOVE it when they see an account like yours. They get to use it to say “See? What I do is fine! She wanted me to do that!”. You’re doing a real disservice to women who have to fight to be taken seriously at work and it sure sounds like you’re trying to excuse the harassing behavior of the manager in letter 3. Not to mention that it’s an entirely different situation with this person’s manager basically continually telling them they’re looking at their butt with the pants comments. I can’t fathom why you would want to excuse that behavior. I would revisit the roots of thoughts that men treating you like that is fine, usually it stems from internalized misogyny.

  42. Salad Daisy*

    I don’t equate Facebook with LinkedIn. I don’t have a Facebook presence but I do have a LinkedIn account. I have a large family that is very gung-ho about Facebook and gets mad if you don’t read all their posts every day and like, or post something back. By not being on FB I avoid all this drama. Actually, I don’t want to have to comment every day on what one sister made for dinner. I do agree that in the business world it is helpful to have a LinkedIn account, and prospective employers may think it odd if you do not have one.

  43. Red 5*

    I wasn’t involved in the actual hiring decisions, but at my job they recently brought on someone new and it was down to two candidates, they asked us to sit in on a meeting to give our candid opinion after about how we thought the person would do on our team. The first thing I did was actually try to start finding the two candidates on Google and figuring out what I could about them, and neither of them had much of an imprint at all. I found them both on LinkedIn (typical in our field) but even those pages were sparse. If they had Facebook pages, they were well locked to friends only, etc.

    Honestly, that to me was MORE impressive than if I could find a lot about them, and I said as much at the time. They had the credentials and work experience, and all a social media presence would have shown me was their personality, and a lack of presence online gives indicators to that as well, IMHO. And I think that what it indicates is positive, though I don’t know that I could explain exactly why.

    If the job involved media, marketing, websites, etc. then you’d want to have an online presence, but most jobs don’t so there’s no need to.

  44. hanners*

    OP5 – I tore my ACL between my first and second interview with a company for my first job out of school. I didn’t bring it up in the second interview, but I did bring it up when I got the offer that I would need to have surgery within a few months of being hired and would need some time off. I’m not sure about the insurance issues that others have described, but I fully agree with the advice that AAM gave about being upfront. A decent company and manager will be understanding about medical issues and previous commitments and work with you to make the appropriate accommodations. I would also suggest that you be realistic about your recovery time and don’t rush back to work out of guilt. Recovering from surgery is exhausting, and even if you feel okay the fatigue can be overwhelming.

  45. cactus lady*

    OP#5 – ask if you can push your start date back if possible. I had surgery my 2nd week of a new job once, and even though it was relatively minor surgery, it was still terrible. It definitely felt like I was starting out behind, I ended up needing to take more time off than originally anticipated, and I was tired and felt “off”, I think because I was also stressed about learning a new job and not wanting to drop the ball on things. I had tried to negotiate a start date so that I’d have a full 10 days to recover and they refused (in retrospect, a huge red flag), but I think it would’ve made all the difference in the world. If you’re able to push your start date back, please please do. You will be really happy about that decision later.

  46. x-rayfiend*

    LW1: we actually had something very similar happen at my workplace recently. My boss was working on site before she tested positive for COVID a week ago, and she just informed us (her direct reports) today. Worse, a handful of us were in direct contact with her early last week before she was out sick, and my company STILL hasn’t informed anyone that we might have been exposed… Needless to say, we’re pretty infuriated!

  47. Anonymously Anonymous*

    I’m looking forward to reading the comments re: LW4 when I have some time later today.

    Earlier this year a disgruntled coworker harassed me online via pretty much all of my “real name” accounts. It was quite frightening. It really made me re-think how I socialize online. As a result, I locked down every account that has a “real name” and have hidden them from view. I’m really trying to get into the habit of straying away from my “real identity” on social media site. I’ve deactivated my Linkedin and intend to only re-activate it while job searching.

    There are a lot of valid reasons for not having a strong online presence and I’ve learned that the hard way.

  48. Gossip Whisperer*

    The situation in LW#1’s case is why large envelopes are landing on employers’ desks right now. My husband’s coworker’s husband (ugh that was hard to follow) tested positive, and said coworker abruptly left work when the positive result came in, rather than hanging back and saying, “hey uh, we might have an issue here so I’m quarantining.” When I mentioned to husband’s friend/boss that if they didn’t have a mitigation plan in place they were going to have a set of cases on their hands, a double entendre for either covid, or legal.

  49. RagingADHD*

    OP1: The thing is, most transmission is from asymptomatic people who don’t know they were exposed.

    So unless you are in an area with extremely low case counts and no community transmission, everyone who is in contact with anyone outside their own home is “possibly exposed” all the time. We are all walking around with a baseline risk, even with masks, distancing, essential tasks only, etc.

    In order to notify, there has to be a reasonable amount of certainty that the risk is truly elevated above your baseline risk. And the guidelines about layers of contact, when to notify, when to isolate, etc are intended to give an estimation of that risk. It’s not magic. It’s a decision matrix.

    You are, most likely, 2 layers or less from someone infected all the time. Everywhere. Always.

    If you haven’t come to terms with that yet, and figured out how to cope with it, it’s high time you did.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I just reread that, and should clarify that I don’t mean it’s no big deal, get over it.

      I mean that if you’re relying on any sort of official notification that you’ve been exposed, you have created a false sense of security.

      We all have to process the fact that we’re constantly being exposed, and proceed accordingly. Being exposed is the default, not the exception.

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      You’re right about the baseline risk being higher than most people realize.

      The zero risk target is unattainable in every context, not just covid.

      We have to manage risks as well as we can, individually, as businesses, and as communities, recognizing that every mitigation measure also has a cost.

      We need to find the best common balance we can, bearing in mind we may also strike very different balances in our personal lives.

  50. E.*

    Hi everyone! I’m the one who wrote post three about the creepy manager.. After I saw Allison’s replied to my question to report or not. I went straight to my HR and said something. From talking to my HR, thankfully I wasn’t the first that felt this strongly about the situation and two employees had already reported the managers actions and it was in the process of being taken care of. I trust my HR and regional a great deal and think very highly of them so I am confident when my HR tells me it will be handled that it will. Thank you so much for all your advise !

  51. SnappinTerrapin*

    I worked about 8 months as site supervisor for a contract security company at a hospital, working alongside the in house security department. Despite all precautions, exposure is unavoidable in this context.

    I eventually got sick with covid. I promptly reported to both my managers and the hospital’s chief of security.

    I told both that, regardless of any qualms about applicability of HIPAA, I believed all I worked with had a “need to know”. That was my ethical obligation, so I expressly waived any privacy claims regarding the fact of infection.

    One of my managers asked which employees were possibly exposed to me. She was not pleased with my response that, even though we were conscientious about masks, it was physically impossible to socially distance in our tiny office at shift change. I’m not sure what she did with the information I gave her, since I was too sick to work for the next few weeks.

    The office space was reduced when the hospital remodeled to create a quarantined registration and triage area for respiratory patients.

    Even good ideas have unintended consequences.

    Fortunately, none of my team members were infected.

    I worked several months there after recovering, and was among the earliest people to be vaccinated.

    I’m still with the company, but I took a transfer to a less stressful position at the same pay rate.

    I’ll consider other opportunities when I get a little rest from the burden of building and leading my team through the pandemic and a couple of hurricanes.

    The hospital security director was kind enough to give me a written commendation and forward a copy to my company. I think Napoleon said something about a bolt of ribbons buying a lot of loyalty from his soldiers.

    Little things do make a difference in morale.

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