my boss hates when I mute myself on group calls, telling a job I’d only take it if I could work remotely, and more

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

1. Shouldn’t we mute ourselves during group calls?

Our org is working remotely right now. A few times a week, I’m on calls with my boss and two coworkers. During these calls, I keep myself muted when I’m not one of the people in the conversation. For example, if my boss and a coworker are talking about a project they are working on that I have zero involvement in, I’m not really in that conversation and will mute myself. When appropriate, I’ll unmute for a few seconds to add in encouraging responses to indicate I’m listening and engaged. (This is not to fake that I’m listening and engaged; I am actually listening and engaged.)

Over the past few weeks, my boss has started commenting on me muting myself. It’s happening repeatedly and often, to the point that it makes me equal parts irritated, uncomfortable, and worried/wondering why it’s become an issue. It usually sounds something like this: “Well, Jane is over there muted” or “Jane, you keep going on and off mute” or “Jane, do you know you’re muted?“ —all said when I’m not being addressed or am a party in the conversation. It may also be relevant that we don’t have videos on during these calls, and the comments aren’t being made to anyone else.

It’s obvious my boss doesn’t like it, so I know the answer to what to do is to stop muting myself. But my question to you is, is this weird? I thought muting yourself when not speaking was the norm. Or at the very least, it’s a sign of respect for the people you’re talking with so that your background noise doesn’t overtake their speaking.

For what it’s worth, our boss never mutes their end of the calls. We can hear them typing, audibly reacting to chats or emails, talking with their dog, muttering about the people walking by their window, etc. It’s distracting and a little demoralizing. Maybe I’ve started muting myself more without realizing it as a reaction to that? It’s weird to me that it’s become “a thing” and I’m wondering if my read on work norms is wrong, or maybe things have changed or evolved in the past year and I’m not aware?

No, you are right and your boss is the outlier! Muting yourself on a group call when you’re not actively engaged is usually considered proper etiquette, especially if you’re anywhere with background noise. If anything, most people have become more conscientious about muting themselves over the last year, with so many more group calls than previously.

Any chance your boss thinks you’re muting yourself for some kind of problematic reason — like that you’re actively doing something else instead of listening? It sounds like they have plenty of reason to know that’s not the case (you’re paying attention and showing signs you’re actively engaged), but the comments are oddly critical of a normal practice. It’s made all the stranger by your boss’s own aggressive lack of muting on their end (muttering about the people walking by their window?!).

In any case, your read on work norms is not wrong. Your boss just has a hang-up about muting for some reason. (You are right, though, you should stop muting yourself in light of her response.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Can I say I’d only take a new job if I can be remote?

Late last year, I had the opportunity to interview at a dream company (it’s a huge, globally known corporation). I knew the hiring manager as we worked in the same division at a previous company. I was completely sold on this company throughout the interviewing process—great benefits, lots of room for growth, etc.

Their only concern was that I would have to move about five hours away from where I am now if I accepted the position. They were very clear that everyone would have to work from the office full-time once the vaccine came out, no exceptions. At that time, I assured them didn’t mind at all. I have family in that state and there were many job opportunities in the area for my husband.

Unfortunately, I did not get the role. I was pretty heartbroken about it. The feedback I got from the hiring manager was that it was between one other person and me, and they chose the person with more experience. I let them know that really liked the company and hoped they would keep me in mind for future opportunities.

A few months later, the hiring manager reached out and asked if I would be interested in reapplying for the role. At that point, I had already accepted a fully remote job and my husband also started a new job. It just was not the right time to pick up and move five hours away. So I politely declined and said I wanted to see things through at my new company for now.

What I wanted to say was, “Look, you want me, I want to work for you, but moving five hours is out of the question now. I will reapply if I can be remote full-time. You and I both know that I am a great fit for this company and that I am sure that we can make it work.” Maybe I’d say it more eloquently, but you know what I mean.

So many of my friends and family keep asking me why I didn’t just go ahead and ask. There really wasn’t anything for me to lose. But I feel like that’s a completely delusional ask. Do you think it’s totally inappropriate to ask something like this? Leadership was very against remote work throughout the interview process and could not stress enough about reopening the second employees got vaccinated. If someone was very clear about their requirements, I shouldn’t try to negotiate.

Nope, it’s not delusional. They reached back out and asked if you might still be interested. The honest answer is, “Yes, but only if I can be remote.” It’s okay to say that; they’re approaching you, after all! It’s fine to give them your real answer. If it doesn’t work for them, they’ll let you know.

(That said, there are a lot of downsides to being the one remote person at a company where everyone else is in-person: You’re likely to be left out of informal or ad hoc discussions, you’ll be the only person joining meetings remotely, you’ll have less visibility with your boss and other decision-makers, you probably won’t get a shot at as many opportunities as people who are in the office do … and it can feel a lot easier to cut you if cuts need to be made. You might be fine with all that in exchange for being able to stay remote, but make sure to think carefully about those downsides.)

3. My boss ghosted the candidate I recommended

My team was recently hiring for a position, and Rob, a former coworker of mine, reached out to let me know he was interested. I thought he’d be a great fit, so I put in a good word for him with my manager (who is the hiring manager). My manager, Jon, brought Rob in for an interview, and ultimately Rob made it through four rounds of interviews, one of which included a test that required several hours to complete.

A few weeks after that, Jon updated me that he thought Rob was still a very strong candidate, but that he’d realized he should talk to a more diverse pool before making a hire. (Rob is white.) That was the last I ever heard from Jon about Rob. This week, Jon announced to the team that he’d filled the role with someone who isn’t Rob.

Obviously, I’m not upset that they didn’t hire Rob, but what upsets me is that Rob says he was ghosted after four rounds of interviews and the time-consuming test and never even received a rejection email. I care a lot about diversity, of course, and am a woman of color myself, but I still feel frustrated that it seems like Rob was put through this whole process and then rejected due to something that had nothing to do with his qualifications. I also feel Rob was owed a rejection of some sort after investing so much time into the process.

I am not sure if I should let Rob know that the position has been filled (the person does not start for another month) or if that would be going behind my manager’s back. I am also not sure if there is anything I can say to Jon to indicate that I feel it was discourteous to ghost Rob. Am I out of line for thinking it’s discourteous to me, in addition to him, since I made the referral?

It’s rude to both of you. It’s rude to Rob, who invested significant time in the interview process, and it’s rude to you because your connections should be treated with care by your manager. This kind of ghosting of candidates is very, very common — but doing it to someone who a current employee recommended is particularly thoughtless. (For what it’s worth, it’s not clear that Rob was rejected over something that had nothing to do with his qualifications — it sounds like Jon wanted to ensure he had a diverse interview pool but presumably then chose the candidate he thought was the strongest. But either way, Rob deserved an answer.)

You could say to Jon now, “Rob has asked me about the status of the job and mentioned he hasn’t heard anything yet. Could you let him know you filled the position? I worry it could affect my relationship with him if he feels he was left hanging.”

4. A good experience with an interview presentation

Prior to an interview, I was asked to create a presentation about myself and my previous work. I found this a little weird and stressful, so I went looking for advice on your website and basically everything I found was negative or awkward experiences. Well, I went to my interview and it turned out to be really great, honestly the best and most enjoyable interview I’ve ever had. So I thought I’d write-in to tell you how interview presentations can be positive on occasion.

This was for a mid-career, highly technical and specific engineering role at a company of around 70 people. I was asked to put together about 5 slides: a slide about me (where I got my degree, my previous jobs), a slide describing the general technical skills I developed as a foundation in my prior jobs, a slide describing work I’ve done that applied particularly to the role I was interviewing for, and a slide or two about what I thought the key factors were for addressing the technical problem at the core of the role.

At the interview, it turned out that they didn’t want me to stand up and go through it all as a straight presentation. It was really a tool to provide some structure and guide the conversation between myself and the interview panel. On each slide I’d talk through it some, maybe pause part of the way through, they would ask me questions to get more detail, sometimes we would jump ahead or back a slide if the info they were asking about was on a different page. It was very casual and flowing.

All in all, the interview had the same content and questions as a regular conversational interview, but having the presentation at hand made me feel so much more relaxed. With the slides right there, I didn’t have to worry about completely blanking and forgetting something from my resume, and I was able to make sure I had an opportunity to highlight my most relevant prior experience without the interviewers needing to ask a specific question about it. I think it was also helpful on the side of the interviewers to have something displayed in discrete chunks instead of having to look down and parse through a whole resume at once. Plus it’s great for folks who have trouble focusing or absorbing information only through audio.

Obviously this doesn’t work for every type of job, and frequently presentation requests are just unnecessary work that add nothing of value to the interview (and even in this situation I could see it going poorly if I hadn’t been given details on what they wanted for each slide), but in some instances it can be a tool to make an interview better than it would be otherwise. In the end, I got the job, accepted it, and so far have had a great month working at this company!

Thanks for giving an example of how these can go well! We tend to hear about the bad experiences here because people are writing in for advice (just as we tend to hear about the bad managers and the bad coworkers), but there are definitely times when presentations in interviews make sense and are set up well!

{ 339 comments… read them below }

  1. restingbutchface*

    OP1 – I have a set of headphones with its own little control button. I can plsy with the volume or mute myself without touching the settings in the plstform we use. Super helpful, I just searched for call centre headset on Amazon

    1. LabTechNoMore*

      I did this too after my boss said the same thing, unmuting my virtual mic for me during the meeting in which he stated his preference. It was a Zoom meet, and I was visible on camera, so it’s not like there was any pressing need for me to be unmuted. (Also, my fidgetiness, squeaky office chair noises, and stomach grumbles always seem to be picked up on mic and don’t sound particularly flattering on the other end of these calls.) Calling them a micromanager would be an understatement. Didn’t last long there.

      1. restingbutchface*

        He unmuted you?? I thought the rudest virtual meeting etiquette was from my boss, who muted people he didn’t agree with but actually. I think you win. What if there was traffic noise? Or a partner who just turned the blender on? That is bizarre, I’m glad it was short lived for you.

        1. ecnaseener*

          LOL I think muting people is ruder than unmuting them. (Both very rude, but if we’re voting!)

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I lean the other way – Muting people tends to be more necessary, when someone isn’t aware of how much background noise there is, or they’re causing feedback, or just derailing a meeting. I don’t really think it should be seen as rude (or rather, as no more rude than saying ‘let’s table that topic for another meeting, since it’s not on the agenda’)

            Unmuting someone either indicates they’re completely incompetent (ie, they can’t figure out how to do it themselves), you’re a control freak (setting yourself up as the only person to unmute everyone), or that you want to spy on them for some reason (by unmuting when they don’t know you are doing it). It’s a heck of a lot ruder, in my mind.

            Also, if the meeting is being recorded, and either you or the other person is in a two party consent state, unmuting someone and capturing anyone who might be in the background of their recording is of arguable legality.

            1. Kes*

              I agree that muting people is more often necessary than unmuting, especially when they’re not talking but have background noise, but I think muting people you don’t agree with to stop them from talking is more rude than unmuting people (even though that’s obviously not a great thing to do either)

              1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

                Why not both? Muting people who are actively talking AND unmuting people are both extremely rude!

            2. restingbutchface*

              Agree with all your points – however you’re giving my boss too much credit by assuming he isn’t a giant adult baby :) he mutes people if they try to talk back while he is yelling at them because god forbid anyone try to de-escalate or defend themselves.

              Luckily I have a good relationship with him so after seeing it more than once I called him to say it was outrageous and he just couldn’t do that anymore, especially as 2/3 examples I saw were women. I doubt he really took my advice to heart and understood how he should change for the better, but the implied message of what would happen if HR/bosses knew he was muting women was enough. Don’t care if he hasn’t had a change of heart, I only care that he changes his behaviour.

        2. ampersand*

          Oooh this is the remote version of the boss who taped employees’ mouths shut during meetings when they didn’t like what the employees had to say.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          or somebody screaming in another room, like your in-laws having a mega argument…
          no, unmuting you without warning or permission is worse, it’s an infringement of your privacy.

      2. TimeTravlR*

        In our platform we can’t unmute people. It’s considered an invasion of privacy, and rightly so!! Also my home office chair is crazy squeaky and nobody needs to hear that while they are trying to carry on a meeting!

        1. So sleepy*

          Right?! I’m a little bit traumatized to realize this is even possible. And questioning every time I accidentally unmuted myself (though still pretty sure it was just me, doing that would never go over well with my employer/work culture).

          1. fhqwhgads*

            This feature is usually used in the context of a meeting that is really more of a presentation from one or two people, and it is intentional that everyone else be muted. Rather than trust people to all mute themselves or end up in a “hey you need to mute”, the meeting organizer can just automatically mute everyone. But then for Q&A at the end, they unmute only the person who is being called on.
            Muting people in a discussion because you disagree with them, or randomly unmuting a person who is not actively in the discussion is weird and rude and stupid, but the feature’s existence has a purpose that is not that.

            1. MassMatt*

              I’m dumbfounded that bosses are griping about people muting themselves. Many group meetings are disrupted by background noise from people that forget to do this and have to be reminded specifically. I’m sure many offices have the repeat offenders that blithely ignore the general reminders and have to be called out by name—“Steve. Steve! STEVE! Mute yourself, we are all tired of shouting over your barking dog”

              I was trying to figure why someone would have an issue with someone else using mute and it probably has to do with insecurity, they think the person is sighing and talking under their breath about them or something. Seems a bit paranoid. The boss in the letter seems to have no consideration for others with his background noise, etc so it’s not occurring to him that anyone else might.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                We have several people higher up the ladder in our organization that will listen in to calls while they’re driving. They’re not usually adding to the conversation, they just want to be informed. Every once in a while they’ll forget to mute themselves…and then they’re driving so it’s really not safe to ask them to mute… and for some reason the administrator of the meeting won’t mute them! We can hear their turn signal and the road noise. It’s distracting! If you know they mean to be muted, just mute them!!!

                1. JustaTech*

                  I was on a call a while back where someone called in from his car (not that unusual for the sales team) except that it was very clear that he was *driving*!

                  Person leading the call: Bob, Bob are you driving?
                  Bob: yup, just calling in from the road, I’ll be pulling over in a few minutes.
                  Person leading the call: Bob I’m going to put you on mute, please don’t unmute or anything until you’re safely parked!
                  Bob: Sure thing!

                  I will say, he never did that again. But we were all worried!

              2. JustaTech*

                In my org it seems like the people who are least likely to mute themselves are the bosses, while everyone else is aware of the background noise/feedback issues.

                The bosses also seem to be the people least likely to be using headphones (cuts down on a lot of the background noise) and most likely to be typing during a meeting.

                Many years ago we had a whole-company meeting where most people were calling in. And someone, somewhere, was typing right into their phone. It was incredibly loud. The CEO, who was giving an important-to-the-company presentation asked several times for whoever was typing to mute before he lost his cool (something that happened often) and shouted that if everyone didn’t mute this minute he would have to end the meeting. (Because it was on the phone there wasn’t a way to mute everyone.)

                WebEx may be frustrating to use, but at least you can mute everyone.

              3. Aggretsuko*

                Hahahahah, the presenter at yesterday’s meeting had his dogs barking incessantly through the whole thing, and that set off another coworker’s dogs.

                1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  OMG, I would lose my freaking mind! TWO sets of dogs barking back and forth at each other? Yikes!

      3. Joielle*

        I was in a large meeting once and I logged in a few minutes early, muted myself, and went to the bathroom with my headset on… only to hear the meeting organizer say “Oh, everyone is muted! Don’t you want to socialize a little before we start?? I’ll unmute you!” right as I was flushing. So about 50 people got to hear that. Nailed it.

        1. Selina Luna*

          “No, I don’t want to socialize a little before we start.”

          I detest the forced socialization that always happens before meetings, to the point where I always bring something to work on to in-person meetings (we’re teachers; I’m far from the only one).

          I specifically set up a few Meets for my students to socialize, but I advertised them as socializing meets. I didn’t set them up as regular meetings and then have students socialize.

        2. Pomegranate*

          OMG that’s funny and embarrassing at the same time:) At least nobody knew for sure who it was. And I wonder if there were a couple synchronized flushes.

      4. curiousLemur*

        Once when I was in a conference call, my cat started throwing up nearby (hairball). I finished what I had to say as quickly as possible and muted myself so that the group didn’t have to listen to that! One more reason why I like to keep muted when I can.

      5. TheAG*

        How bizarre!! I’m constantly muting people (Dunno maybe it’s our system but if more than 2 people are off mute the sound is AWFUL Also got tired of hearing several dudes snore…)

    2. Bilateralrope*

      I’ve got myself a headset where, if I swing the microphone away from my mouth it gets turned off. The only way anyone would notice is if I’m on video.

      Plus I’ve got no worries about some program listening at the microphone without my permission because it’s a physical switch.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Oh that’s genius. Do you have a brand recommendation at all?

        And OP, I didn’t really explain, but having a headset with separate control functions means you appear unmuted on the screen, but can control the volume and audio entirely from your end. Just be careful you can quickly unmuted yourself when needed.

        1. Bilateralrope*

          I’m using a Turtle Beach Recon 70 gaming headset. Ignore which console they say they are for, that only affects the color it comes in. It uses a standard 3.5mm jack

          Though one annoyance I found was that it has the headphones and microphone on the same jack, and my computer has separate headphone and mic sockets, so I had to buy an adapter.

          I went with them because I needed a headset and the store I had loyalty points with had a limited selection of headsets.

          Stuff being branded for gaming is often more expensive than near-identical stuff that isn’t. But I can see why a mic switch on the headset is far more desirable for people using a console than someone with easy access to software mute buttons.

          1. Mongrel*

            I’ve found gaming stuff does tend to have more varied features than headsets meant for office use (and some of the good office use brands are more expensive, looking at you Jabra) so you can pick & choose the options that suit you best

          2. restingbutchface*

            Brilliant, thank you. I’ve cycled through at least six headsets since lockdown and I haven’t found the perfect one yet – I’m going to try this one. Thanks!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Just test the headset mute with a friend before relying on its invisibility — both Teams & Zoom see&display the mute status of my headset.

        3. Sun Tzu*

          This feature is called flip-to-mute mic. Some headset, for instance the Logitech G332, have it.
          I’m not specifically recommending the Logitech, I have never used it so I cannot say anything about its quality; it just happens that these days I am shopping for a gaming headset and I noticed this model.

          LW1, try to unmute you and start coughing, sniffing, moving your chair, typing, calling your cat, and making all kinds of Annoying Cubicle Noise. Let’s see how long your boss takes to understand.
          (Dilbert reference: )

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            I’d be tempted to guzzle a glass of Mountain Dew right before each meeting, unmute, and then spend the entire session belching.

            1. MrtRvwr1*

              My boss likes to schedule hour long meetings at 12 noon. I usually eat lunch during the call. One day, I really thought I was on mute while eating a PB&J with the potato chips on the inside of the sandwich. We now are on “mute upon entry” and have to unmute ourselves to speak.

    3. Can You Hear Me Now*

      Because of a hearing loss, I seem to experience better sound quality if I call in from my cell phone for audio and use my air pods. I can use the mute button on my phone and it doesn’t show on screen as me being muted.

      1. Coyote Tango*

        This is what I do as well. It also keeps me it the meeting in case my internet fuzzes up and drops me.

    4. LW #1*

      I do use a call center headset, and I’m muting via the button on the headset. In WebEx training, it doesn’t show me as muted in the platform when I use the button on the headset, but in WebEx meeting and Teams, it does. It may be worth investing in a nicer headset with more features.

      I’m intrigued by the suggestion of trying gaming headsets–with two kids and a partner who games, I can easily snag a few different kinds to test.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        You actually may want a less-nice headset in this context. A fancier one with more features is more likely to be able to sync with the application and show your actual mutedness (avoids the dreaded unintentional double-mute). But what you want here is one that doesn’t do that so you can secretly mute. I have a $30 Logitech USB headset whose mute button does not show as muted in Webex and GoToMeeting. I don’t use Teams so I can’t say on that one.

        1. LW #1*

          I have the same/similar Logitech headset and it’s muting me in WebEx when I use the headset mute button. I wonder if I can play with the settings? I’m off to investigate!

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Yeah, this – ideally, you want a head set with a physical, analog switch for the mute, rather than anything digital that could communicate your actual voice status with the software.

      2. LC*

        I definitely hope that a quick conversation with your boss will clear all this up and you’ll be able to mute/unmute yourself as you see fit, but something to consider in case it doesn’t (or even if it does, this is nice for any time you’re unmuted).

        Some headsets are significantly better than others at blocking ambient sound from the mic and only picking up the voice that’s close by, and that makes a huge difference in what the others can hear when you’re unmuted.

        My husband and I work about 8 feet apart in our living room, and no one in any of my meetings can hear him when he’s also on a call. They can’t hear my desk fan blowing directly in my face, they can’t hear any of the “I live on a busy street so there’s always someone yelling, or a truck backing up, or a siren, or a leaf blower, or something” sounds, even with my windows open (it get super warm in my apartment and no a/c, so open windows are essential). And this isn’t just an assumption because no one has said anything, I have specifically asked several times, during several different types of loud sounds, and gotten the “nope, I can’t hear anything but you” each time. (I have a pair of Sennheiser PXC 550-II, and I absolutely love them for lots of reasons, but I’ll sure there are lots of good options out there.)

        I don’t use this as a replace for mute, but it definitely makes me more comfortable when I’m speaking, or even in the small conversational meetings where I just stay unmuted.

    5. WhoKnows*

      Also jumping in to say that OP1 could say something like “When I’m not muted, I get an echo that makes it difficult to understand what people are saying. I don’t want to miss any of the conversation, so I assure you I am listening and will jump in when I have something to say.”

      This would of course assume that OP’s boss is reasonable and it seems they are not.

      1. PT*

        My husband had to switch to using a headset for this reason. If his laptop’s fan clicks into high, it gets picked up by the mike and causes this awful robot-echo for the person on the other end.

      2. ann*

        yeah, that is extremely reasonable but I had a micromanager boss in the past who happened to be obsessed with sound quality and background noise on conference calls. He would have insisted that we speak with IT about this and replace my headset in order to have things exactly as he felt was most appropriate.

        1. restingbutchface*

          Oh hi, we must have had the same boss. It drove me crazy when he would interrupt me because a dog OUTSIDE was barking while I was speaking, or someone else’s mic brushed their shirt and there was a tiniest little scuffle on the line.

          Yet when the favourite coworker kept joining meetings on cell *and* laptop, causing screaming feedback to the extend I would squeal and throw my headset off… nothing was said. Cmon dude, at least be consistently terrible.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      There is a set made by Microsoft that has that feature too. I think they are around $40 on Staples.

      1. LavaLamp*

        My razer kraken kitty ear headphones (usb only, PC gaming headsets might not have a regular jack) will make google say an error if I have my mic muted. It just thinks there isn’t a microphone vs Discord and other platforms that sync with them.

        And no, they aren’t unprofessional. My colleges love them.

    7. Lego Leia*

      I was about to comment on this. Mute your headphones/mic directly, not Zoom (or whatever)! Or, mention at the beiginning of the meeting that there is background noise happening, so you will be on mute so that people don’t have to listen to construction/dog/someone else’s meeting/the dishwasher/whatever.

      1. Krabby*

        Yeah, I do this as well even if it’s 100% not true so that people who have these weird issues about muting won’t question it.

      2. LW #1*

        I use a headset and the mute button on the headset connects with the platform (only exception is WebEx training room). Another commenter suggested I look into the audio set up to see if I can disconnect that.

    8. PeanutButter*

      I was going to suggest this as well. I have a headset with a microphone button – just make sure Teams or Zoom or whatever software doesn’t switch to an alternate mic as soon as it detects the “default” one turn off.

    9. Momma Bear*

      I have used the mute on my keyboard, the mute on my headset and/or the mute on the platform…because I have been burned by thinking I was on mute and I was not…so I am paranoid. In this instance, I’d leave myself unmuted on the platform and mute some other way but I also agree that your boss is weird. Most people need/want others to be muted just like you are. Maybe at a non-meeting time, ask what the issue is. Or point out when background noise is distracting. “Someone is talking to their dog/typing/has a lawnmower outside. Can you mute so I can hear what Ted has to say about the teapot production schedule?”

    10. A Poster Has No Name*

      So glad this is the first comment, as it was my first thought! My headset has a mute button, and I never use the Teams mute, just the one on my headset (it’s easier for me to push that button than hunt for and click the microphone icon, especially on calls with vendors who use different platforms).

    11. Symplicite*

      OP1, similar to this, you can tell the system to call in with you’d cell phone or mobile phone, and can mute yourself via that way. You will still look like you’re not on mute, but you will know you are.

  2. jm*

    LW 1, i’m so sorry the boss is being weird about muting. two of my teammates have terrible connections which cause all sorts of awful noise when they’re on. if we didn’t stay muted until we had something to say, i would lose my mind.

    1. Heidi*

      It is interesting that the boss prefers to let in all the background noise. The first thing anyone says in our meetings now is, “Can everyone turn your microphones off unless you’re speaking?” Then again we’re near a hospital so there’s sirens all the time.

      1. Snailing*

        I’ve been on calls with clients and coworkers were the person who wouldn’t mute themself (after the meeting lead requested everyone to do so, too) was the same person who complained that they couldn’t hear because background noise was disrupting the speaker’s audio. DUDE, IT’S YOU!

        1. MassMatt*

          I hope someone actually said this as opposed to just thinking it. Too often we just silently seethe and hope our eye rolls convey a message, but people with poor social skills don’t notice (or if they do, don’t care), even in an in-person setting, let alone in a virtual meeting. Whomever is running the meeting needs to not just make general announcements, but follow up (using actual words) with the individual offenders, both at the time and afterwards. Everyone forgets to mute or unmute occasionally, or thinks their office will be quiet only to have an unexpected noise burst out, but after over a year of virtual meetings people should understand how to mute.

        2. generic_username*

          The worst…. don’t know how many times I’ve done the “Can everyone please mute themselves. We’re getting some background noise and feedback that’s making it hard to hear” and the culprit doesn’t mute themselves so then I have to says something like “Jane, I think the noise is coming from you since your screen keeps lighting up. Could you please go on mute until you need to speak?” It always feels so rude, but also, I tried being general at first and somehow the culprit is almost always the one person who doesn’t follow the request. I do think people don’t hear their own noises sometimes though…. like when their email notification dings are crazy amplified and when their mic is giving feedback from the speakers.

      2. Jay*

        That’s standard in every Zoom/Teams meeting I’m in. IT set up Teams so that if there are more than four people in the meeting when you join, you’re automatically muted. We assume that when someone unmutes, they want to speak – “Jay, you unmuted. Do you have something to add?” On my work team, background noise ranges from kids, dogs, and street traffic to birds in the backyard, farm equipment and farm animal noises. I’m so glad we mute. We also have a standard to have video on, which helps us at least appear to be engaged.

        Now if we could only figure out why one of my coworkers sometimes sounds like Donald Duck on Teams. It’s happened repeatedly. He has to log out and log back in to fix it. It’s only him. It’s amusing to us (and I prefer him that way, honestly) but annoying to him.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        I just keep thinking about the meme that says, “Leaving your Mute button off in Zoom is the new Reply All.”

        I Mute All in meetings I host. Now if I can just get everyone to update their settings so we don’t hear their computer sounds…

        1. generic_username*

          Those email notifications… *eye twitch*

          The head at my company gets them CONSTANTLY when he hosts our all-hands. He’ll be in the middle of talking and suddenly his voice gets quieter and we hear a ding and then his voice gets louder again. He of course doesn’t notice it (and I’m not going to be the one to say anything, lol) but it can make it hard to understand him at times, especially when he’s getting a bunch of emails in a row.

      4. Crabby Patty*

        Right? Same here. In fact, I hear annoyance in people’s voices if those of us who aren’t speaking at the moment aren’t muted.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      OP, your boss is definitely not mainstream and his request is odd. You’re not wrong about this – almost every Webex and Zoom meeting I’ve been on has the boss or meeting coordinator pleading with people to put themselves on mute when they’re not participating.

      Little noises like a running ceiling fan can get amplified depending on the microphone. And sometimes people just do noisy, irritating things on mic. Yes, I’m talking about YOU, current co-worker who eats and smacks your lips while wearing your headset.

  3. Pickled Limes*

    OP1, if you feel like it would work, you could try responding to your boss’s concern with a cheery “Yep, I’m muted! Just trying to keep unexpected noises from distracting everyone.” Sometimes a cheerful, matter of fact explanation can satisfy the other person enough.

    1. Liz*

      Agreed. I would push back, once, and politely. Even now, there are people who just don’t know about muting etiquette. There are also people who are told multiple times and seem to forget or not care, but you won’t know which one your boss is unless you gently inform them. Unless you think they’d react badly, of course.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        I recently heard slurping, and said, “Oh, Rosemary, just to let you know your mic’s on,” and she said “Yes, I meant it to be,” and I have only recently emerged from my cringe of shame.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Wow. I’m trying to think of a reason to do something like that. Was the meeting scheduled over a normal meal time or crazy early/late in her time zone?

          1. TimeTravlR*

            Not quite the same but back in the olden days of dictation/transcription, we had attorneys who would tape their dictation while eating. It was so disgusting to transcribe.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Ick. I am reminded of a temp job where the person I had to transcribe was constantly sniffling & clearing her throat. Only consolation was knowing she was staying shut in her office to avoid giving anyone (me!!) her cold.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                My poor boss had a sinus infection this spring, but was on a Zoom call from home. He was the one having to relay information…and he kept having to stop and *sniiiiiifff* which I knew was embarrassing for him and gross for us, but I’m not sure what else he could have done. I could tell he would turn away and try to conceal the noise from the microphone, but when someone has to stop speaking in order to clear up the junk, everyone is going to be listening more intently.

                1. disconnect*

                  He could say, “I have a cold so I’m going to be intermittently muting myself to cough, apologies in advance for throwing off the timing!” Then whenever he needed to sniff/cough, he could say, “Excuse me” or “Hold on”, mute himself, do whatever, then come back. Treat it matter-of-fact, people will follow your lead.

            2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              My attorney was still dictating in 2017. Probably still is today.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Clarify: a reason for her to be eating or drinking while on phone. Your comment was perfectly fine.

            1. New Job So Much Better*

              My coworker told me she could hear my husband crunching chips all the way across the room. I’m glad she did.

              1. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

                ack as someone with misophonia this would have driven me completely up the wall! i’m glad she told you!

          3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            No! It was a training session, and we’d just switched into small group discussion, so I can see being caught with tea, but she must have deliberately turned her mic on!

        2. SarahKay*

          I don’t think you have any need to cringe in shame on that one. I’d have said Rosemary is the one displaying poor call etiquette; no-one needs to hear slurps!

          1. So sleepy*

            I read it the same way as you did initially, but I think the comment was intended to mean something closer to “cringed at their shameful behaviour”.

          2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            Her reply was so…completely certain that she was in the right that I was sure I was wrong.

        3. JustaTech*

          I recently had a bunch of meetings scheduled where I had to eat much lunch in the middle of a meeting if I was going to get to eat at all so I turned off my camera and muted myself. Then I had several people say “JustaTech, why’s your camera off?” So then I had to unmute and say “I’m scarfing down my lunch and no one needs to see or hear that, I’ll be back on in a few, but I’m listening”.

          Like, if you schedule a meeting over a standard lunch time (even if it’s in another time zone) then don’t get huffy if people try to be polite about food noises! Goodness.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Is Rosemary your boss? Any reason why you can’t then point out that the slurping came over loud and clear and you’d rather not have to listen to that?

      2. Liz*

        Yes! I don’t have a lot of zoom or remote calls at all, but I do have to sit in on one every couple of months, and summarize for my group. As there are a lot of people on the call, MANY who don’t know where the mute button is located, the call leader has had to start muting EVERYONE herself, and letting people know multiple times. I find it very distracting to have to listen to whatever anyone else is doing.

        One of the first calls after starting WFH, someone or something was snoring up a storm! I’m going to say it was a dog, since when politely mentioned everyone should be on mute, it immediately stopped. and if it had been a person, it was kind of fast for them to wake up and do so. But it went on long enough I couldn’t stop laughing.

          1. PhyllisB*

            A friend of mine fell asleep on a conference call. She woke up when she heard her boss say, “I hear snoring??” Talk about the cringe of shame!!

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Unless the people on the call know you don’t have a dog, people ask to see the dog on video, or ask for photos.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  “Sorry, my dog is fiercely private. That’s why I don’t use video.” ;-)

              2. PeanutButter*

                I adopted a toothless old cat in April that likes to sleep directly under my laptop microphone and boy can he SAW LOGS. He honks like a kazoo at the end of his exhalation too. I actually took a video of it once to have in my back pocket if anyone asks wtf the noise is if it happens when I’m talking.

        1. Liz*

          (Usernames are getting confusing on this thread!) Some of the people i work with (clients and colleagues) are the same. I’ve had to talk clients through muting, unmuting, turning camera off and on, and then we repeat the meeting next week and have the same thing again. I also have one guy who doesn’t know how to leave the meeting, so if I’m staying online after I have to just put him in the waiting room, or kick him out. Oh, and the weekly game of “we’re getting a lot of feedback, can people go on mute?” and everyone goes on mute except the person who is actually echoing. But the managers are far too polite to mention anyone by name or mute anybody!

    2. Batty Twerp*

      Not that it applies in your case OP, but I live under an active test flight path – if I didn’t keep myself on mute, you’d never hear any other participants on the call!

      Seconding the “keeping distractions to a minimum” reasoning.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Same. I cringe when I forget to mute myself and the 14:10 to Lisbon is taking off.

      2. Cat Tree*

        I have a weekly team meeting on the same day that the landscapers come to my community. Plus, the timing of the meeting is exactly when the landscapers are literally right outside my window, so that’s fun. I stay on mute as much as possible during this meeting.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Same here! Even with my windows closed people can hear the groundskeeping crew in my subdivision. Big crew with big machines, they do a lot at once and move on to the next subdivision.

          I’m dialing into a conference call shortly and I know the leaf blowers will be in full force by then, but I’m running the meeting so I don’t have a choice.

      3. Empress Matilda*

        Yep. I live next to a freight rail line – there’s no set schedule, but we usually get at least a dozen trains a day. I rarely notice them any more, but the computer mic picks up the noise very clearly!

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. OP doesn’t say whether she’s actually said something like this to her boss. If she hasn’t, she should. It’s just a statement of fact. If the boss keeps pushing, then she’ll just have to stay unmuted.

      I’ll never understand why some people like to stay unmuted when they really need to be on mute due to kids in the background, barking dogs, or whatever else. We have someone from another department who does that and it’s incredibly distracting. She has several parrots that talk and make whistling noises while we’re in the meeting. It was funny the first time. Not so much after a year. But no one, not even her boss, ever says anything about it.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        I have a coworker who cannot seem to figure out how to mute herself on our twice-weekly meetings and so whenever anyone hears dogs barking, even people not in our department will frequently say “(So-and-So), I think you’re not on mute.” (One time it wasn’t her, but that’s the only time I can think of.) We’ve been WFH for over a year and it still happens on the regular.

      2. So sleepy*

        OMG as if no one says anything! She may not even realize the degree to which people can hear it! “Colleague, your birds are really loud today so you might want to go on mute” is so straightforward.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          No, she totally realizes it. People have said multiple times, “Oh, I hear the birds talking to each other.” And she laughs about it. Sometimes others laugh, too, which is probably why it hasn’t been shut down yet. Some people are entertained by it still. And yeah, no one will be direct about it. Lucky for me we’re only in the same meeting once a month or less.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            My coworker was on a Zoom call with us once while he was at our construction site. He kept moving away from these noisy birds, but they would follow him! We spent a good 5 minutes laughing at him trying to escape the stupid birds. He finally went and sat in his car so he could keep giving us updates without the distraction.

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            I know her boss is on the call and doesn’t say anything, but if you have the capital to speak up and ask her to mute because you can’t hear properly over the birds, others will definitely be happy. I have to do that with my coworker who lets her dogs bark (and sometimes just shushes them, on-mic) during our meetings.

            1. Mannequin*

              Being ND, the idea of not politely mentioning that a rude person needs to mute their call because of distracting noises on their end because it might cost some sort of “political capital” is baffling to me. It would never even occur to me that speaking up every time someone did this was NOT the most polite and direct way to solve this problem.

                1. RabbitRabbit*

                  Neurodivergent/neurodiverse, depending on your particular preference for the term.

              1. RabbitRabbit*

                It depends on the situation. I’ve been at my institution a long time and can be pretty blunt at times.

                If the bird lady outranks The Other Dawn significantly and especially if that department/bird lady cause problems for TOD’s department, it may just have become A Thing that people allow them to do whatever they want, because pointing out an issue may just create friction.

                Or it could be the difference between “Ask culture” and “Guess culture” (Bird Lady is Ask and many others on the call are Guess), and the guessers are trying to hint around the situation when Bird Lady might just be assuming that they are brightly commenting on her delightful friends and of course if anyone was having difficulty they would SAY something.

              2. restingbutchface*

                What baffles/fascinates me is how every small decision (which seems obvious to me) has so many conditions, it’s like a flow chart people who aren’t ND seem to automatically and immediately follow.

                Is this person senior to me?
                Is this person someone who took feedback the last time I offered it?
                Who else is on the call?
                What is the company culture on this issue?
                What is the team culture on this issue?
                What is the most senior person on this call likely to think?
                Have I done this before?
                Am I the right person to say this?

                And then if all signs point to yes, say something…

                Verbal or written?
                Now or later?
                Funny and informal or professional and to the point?
                Interrupt now or wait until they finish?

                Like… is it not so *tiring*? I am grateful that my brain actually protects me from a lot of this decision making process, even if I get into trouble sometimes. I’ve got better things to think about.

                1. RabbitRabbit*

                  It is tiring. Which is why a lot of people default to rolling their eyes hard and putting up with it in the moment – sometimes that’s easier than figuring out if they will torpedo their next project by telling someone to mute themselves.

      3. Lacey*

        Yes! We often use zoom for conversations, so everyone’s unmuted by default, but if one of our dogs starts barking or the cars outside start blaring loud music we mute right away!

    4. Purple Princess*

      Yes, I have to do this all the time. my WFH desk is literally butted up against the my kitchenette worksurface. If I stretch, I can reach my kettle from my desk chair. This is great when I’m on a long call and need to make myself a brew as I can do so without having to leave the call, but I do have to mute myself as the kettle boiling can be quite a loud, distracting sound. Ditto for when my partner makes a cuppa, or if he’s on a different lunch time to me and he’s clattering about making himself some food, or if the washing machine is on. Obviously we do try to keep the noise to a minimum, but the imperfect WFH setups that so many of us have today mean that some background noise is inevitable, especially those of us in small apartments without a dedicated WFH space. All we can do is be considerate about the noise and keep ourselves muted to avoid background sounds leaking onto the call.

      1. Liz*

        Same! my “office” is my dining room table, and the calls I need to be on every couple of months coincide with my apartment’s landscaper day. so every time, if i wasn’t on mute, they’d all hear the lawnmowers. and not going to lie, I’ve had to get up and pee a couple of times, and being on mute is great, as i can leave my phone on the table just outside, do my business, and no one is the wiser.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      OP #1’s boss is being super weird! It’s polite to mute if you’re not involved in the conversation.
      Otherwise people would hear all kinds of background noise (kids, dogs, phones, and right now the neighbors’ lawnmowers!). This is definitely her hangup,
      I’d disagree with Allison a bit here, because otherwise your boss is teaching you bad habits (which it sounds like she does) that would be out of the norm elsewhere.

      1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        As long as you know it’s a bad habit / not the norm, you can comply with your boss’s weird request without it altering your sense of reality.

    6. Eat My Squirrel*

      I agree. I would be obviously matter of fact about it. Like of COURSE I was on mute, because that is the polite thing to do. And I would take it one step further and start calling out the boss when they’re not on mute and should be. Like you’re talking and you hear the boss typing or talking to their dog or whatever, stop abruptly and say “oh, sorry, Boss, is there something you need to take care of really quick? I can wait until you’re able to give your full attention again.” (This also works in person for people on their cell phones.) It gives them the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing something important and lets them save face, but do it enough and they’ll either start going on mute or.. actually… pay attention (gasp).

      If I heard someone eating or with background noise, I would break into the conversation and say “I’m sorry, but could whoever is eating please go on mute, the sounds of your eating in my ear are really bothering me!” “I’m sorry, but could whoever has the barking dog and screaming child in the background please go on mute? It’s hard to hear the conversation.”

      I think if you pointed out how obviously rude it is to stay off mute, it could finally become acceptable to your boss. It’s also entirely reasonable to have a conversation with your boss, and I’m surprised Alison didn’t suggest it, just ask “I’ve noticed you seem to have a concern about me muting myself in meetings. I mute myself because I don’t want my background noise to interrupt or distract anyone. I was wondering what your concern about that is?”

      1. Mannequin*

        “ I’m surprised Alison didn’t suggest it, just ask “I’ve noticed you seem to have a concern about me muting myself in meetings. I mute myself because I don’t want my background noise to interrupt or distract anyone. I was wondering what your concern about that is?””

        Exactly my thinking.

      2. JustaTech*

        I was kind of amazed to discover how hard it was to tell my VP that the audio problems we were having was because *he* needed to mute. Like, I could not bring myself to unmute my mic and say “Dan, it looks like the feedback is coming from you, can you try muting?”.

        Someone must have finally spoken with him outside of the meeting because he started muting and the problem went away.
        But there were 20 of us in that meeting and no one said anything! (And Dan’s not a scary guy who would bite your head off for saying that. It was just this weird thing.)

    7. Dust Bunny*

      I have a neighbor who really likes power tools. You definitely want me muted when I’m not talking on a group call.

      (I would love to mute the neighbor, frankly, but so far, no dice.)

      1. PT*

        I live in a neighborhood where there’s a ton of house-flipping and construction going on. So I got all set up for a virtual doctor’s appointment last summer in a nice quiet spot, and at that very moment, a cement truck showed up. The doctor’s appointment was three minutes long, exactly long enough for a cement truck to pour a driveway.

        1. quill*


          “Doctor, I am hearing a high pitched, annoying noise. Is this a symptom I should be concerned about.”


          “No, I hear it too.”

    8. learnedthehardway*

      Or tell them you’re typing notes and the clacking on the keyboard is loud.

    9. Jaydee*

      That’s what I was wondering too. It seems like it would be worthy a cheery and matter-of fact push-back like that once. And then if the boss persists, go ahead and unmute and let her hear all the traffic noises and barking neighbor dogs and keyboard clicking and paper shuffling and chair squeaking that she apparently craves.

    10. bananab*

      I was surprised this wasn’t the guidance here (not questioning it, what the hell do I know). To me, boss thinking you’re doing something wrong when you’re actually doing something right is something very worth clarifying.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, you’re right! I noted this below — I assumed the LW had already explained it, but looking at the letter again it doesn’t indicate either way. If she hasn’t, she should.

      2. LW #1*

        I have vaguely explained it in the moment—stuff like my dog is nearby, the dehumidifier has kicked on, the neighbor is getting a new roof—but the comments aren’t typically said in a way that Boss wants a response (rhetorical questions or passive-aggressive observations). There’s a difference between “Jane, why do you keep muting yourself?” and “Jane is over there there muted.”

        Especially after reading Alison’s reply and the comments, I feel pretty confident I’m not off base and plan to bring it up in my next 1:1.

  4. LoV*

    OP1: Funny, my boss has muted me (when I forgot to mute myself) because of ambient noise or me bumping the microphone or coughing or…. It’s good manners to mute yourself because otherwise you’ll probably inject random noise into the conversation. But hey, if your boss wants you to unmute, I guess you have to unmute? Good luck!

    1. Phil*

      I find I can be more relaxed in my listening when I’m on a call when I’m muted, because I don’t have to be hyper-vigilant about noises from my environment (Did they hear that car honk? Can I shift my weight without my chair squeaking? Is it OK if the heat comes on? etc).

  5. MK*

    OP2, I think the reason you hesitate to ask is because you have framed the situation in your head in a way that is, well, exaggerated and somewhat presumptuous, and when you put it into words you realize it’s not going to come across well, no matter how “eloquently” you phrase it. They don’t want you, period, they asked you to reapply. You might like working there and you might be a great fit, that’s really something only working there will show for sure. And you really can’t be sure being remote will work for a company you haven’t worked with before, maybe you just believe it because you want to.

    Instead try to think of the situation like “Apparently we both are interested in having me work for you, but moving is put of the question for me right now. Will you consider remote work?”.

    1. Snow Globe*

      While I think OP could have brought up the issue without offense – after all things have changed since the original interviews – I also think that OP is very likely correct that this company would not have agreed to the remote work. If they brought it up multiple times in the interview process, it is a big deal to them and I doubt they would change their mind for this one employee. I mention that because the OP seems to be second guessing themselves and really I don’t think bringing it up would have made any difference in this case.

      1. allathian*

        True, but the difference here is that the company reached out to the LW. It’s entirely appropriate to say that “I’m only interested in a full-time remote position, would you be willing to consider that?” I agree that it’s unlikely that the LW would get the job. In any case, I think the LW is probably better off at their current, decent job.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Maybe something like “unfortunately, moving isn’t an option at this time or else I’d be interested. Has your policy on remote work changed?”

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yes, this is how I would have phrased it. “Due to my husband’s new job, moving to your area isn’t an option right now. I’d definitely be interested if it could be done remotely, if that policy has changed.”

            1. B-loved*

              OP 2 here! I am kicking myself that I didn’t say this, but I was definitely already predicting they would have said no because being in the office was extremely important to them.

              I truly didn’t have anything to lose so I should have just asked.

              I do agree with Alison, and I realized that if even if everything worked out, it would have been tough being the only remote employee.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                So it sounds like asking wouldn’t have hurt, but also probably wouldn’t have helped either. Not a lot to regret!

          2. hbc*

            Yes, I would definitely emphasize that the circumstances have changed and that she’s aware that the default terms require a move. Otherwise, they could conclude that OP was stringing them along earlier.

            1. B-loved*

              Op2 here! Yes you made me realize that I didn’t want to come off as if I was stringing them along last year. I didn’t want to appear finicky.

          3. Annony*

            I think something like this would have been appropriate. The OPs wording probably wouldn’t land well, but basically saying that they aren’t interested unless that policy has changed is perfectly fine.

          4. Windchime*

            I really think it’s worth a shot. My workplace went from “You can work from home one day per week” to fully remote within the space of a few months. I would have never, ever dreamed that they would go in this direction. So it’s definitely worth a try to ask them if their stance has changed.

  6. Annie*

    OP 3,
    I don’t think it’s great that you feel that Rob was not hired because he’s white, already people of colour struggle with the perception that they only got their jobs because of their skin colour, not because they are actually any good at them and while this, of course, is not true, the perception still lingers.
    i’m not saying that a company should hire a person of colour instead of a white candidate if they are both equally skilled, however I think it is important for large companies to realise that historically, people of colour had not had the same opportunities as their white counterparts even though they have the same training and expertise, and when you consider how many mediocre white men seem to get positions anywhere that they wish to, while for everyone else it is in fact an uphill battle, I do think that diversity in the workplace is always a good thing because it brings about this range of experiences to the job role.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, while certainly factually right, this comment reads a bit… IDK, “condescending” seems a bit too strong but I can’t think of anything better at the moment; “‘splainy”, maybe?… in this particular context.

      2. ToodlesTeaTops*

        I was going to say this. OP doesn’t need to be explained anything about discrimination. Mediocre white men and historic perception have nothing to do with this letter. The hiring manager was rude for multiple reasons.

      3. Jennifer*

        “Woman of color” is a broad term and people have different experiences and perceptions based on their culture, background and a wide range of things. I didn’t have a problem with Annie’s comment and didn’t really care for the implication in the OP’s letter. Rob was not rejected because of his race. The hiring manager wanted to widen the pool to include more diverse candidate and it looks like they found someone better than Rob.

        The rude thing here is that the hiring manager didn’t bother to reach out to Rob at all after putting him through what sounds like a pretty rigorous interview process. He wasn’t rejected because of his race and that’s what the letter implies.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I’m quite taken aback that he was put through four rounds of interviews including a long test! I’m in Europe, I have literally never had more than one interview for any job in my entire life.

    1. Delphine*

      It doesn’t appear that you read the full letter. The LW isn’t upset that he wasn’t hired or that the company decided to interview more candidates.

      1. Eden*

        Disagree that they didn’t read the letter… Quote: “I still feel frustrated that it seems like Rob was put through this whole process and then rejected due to something that had nothing to do with his qualifications”.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Depends on how the last phrase was meant. He certainly wasn’t UN-qualified. Many final decisions aren’t based purely on qualifications – if you have a great candidate pool the best ones could (and ideally, should) all be equally qualified.

          Since the LW is a woman of color, it could be the case that the comment to her about diversifying the hiring pool was made by her boss partially or entirely out of making a show about diversity – or that it could have been completely sincere. And it could be that Not-Rob turned out to be an utter rockstar of a candidate regardless of diversity-related reasons and that broadening the search was exactly the right thing to do.

          It’s not even a given that he was going to have the job except for the diversity hire effort; her manager called him a ‘strong candidate’ but that’s still not a guarantee. I get being disappointed that you’re not going to have someone in the role who you know, but the problem here is the main topic of the letter – the boss ghosting Rob after all that interviewing work.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            Equally qualified, or qualified in different incomparable ways, yeah.

            Also, do we know that the eventual hire wasn’t also a white guy? All the letter says is that it’s not Rob. The LW was told that they were looking for a more diverse candidate pool, but what the result of that was (or if they were even telling her the truth) isn’t explicitly mentioned in the letter.

            1. Threeve*

              Right–the boss wasn’t deciding between Rob and another candidate. He was deciding between Rob and continuing to recruit applicants, because he wanted to be able to include people who weren’t white men in the applicant pool.

              That isn’t the problem; the issue is that he was really inconsiderate about it.

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              Agreed. It can be hard to tell from the outside unless you’re on the interview panel and know the decision-making process.

              We recruited a new director for our department a few years back and after a few rounds of interviews and candidate pool winnowing, it came down to two women, one external candidate and one internal. Both were highly qualified, possibly moreso – on paper – on the external candidate’s side as she had direct experience in that actual job. But the external candidate’s presentation of her work history was to hear about a site that was a disaster, come in and bring order to chaos, then get bored until she hears about a new disaster-cleanup opportunity. (And there wasn’t any “and now I’d like to stop putting out fires” element to her presentation.) The internal candidate did a good job of presenting how she had not only put out fires but also helped previous departments grow and mature and thrive.

              We were not a disaster. We needed someone who seemed like they wanted to stick around and help us grow, and the internal candidate definitely made that case. The external candidate knew what our situation was but failed to make her case that she wanted to help us grow and wanted to stick around and be a part of our institution. I was only in one of the interview sessions for the final two but I absolutely know that a clear picture of our situation and who we were looking for was provided, and I know that our group’s feedback heavily leaned into that element.

        2. Delphine*

          I think the emphasis is on “this whole process,” based on everything else in the letter. He went through four rounds of interviews before the company thought, hey, maybe we should consider additional candidates, and then he was apparently taken out of consideration without a word.

    2. disconnect*

      Way I read it, it’s not about color, it’s about the employer ghosting a candidate. Ghosting is a shitty thing to do to anyone. Ghosting is an exceptionally shitty thing to do to someone who’s had this much involvement with an organization.

  7. Anon For This*


    I don’t think it’s presumptuous to ask if a company would consider remote work since your circumstances changed. I think I would be hesitant to ask that of a company that made their anti-remote work stance evident throughout the interview process.

    I’d investigate if they’ve changed their minds about remote work because I wouldn’t want to work for a company that was anti-remote work even if they made an exception for me. I’d be afraid the company would change their minds and I’d face losing that job. But a lot of companies that were “can’t wait until everyone gets back” last year have started to realize that WFM didn’t work out too poorly and maybe it is something they can offer.


    I wonder if they have a policy where rejected candidates will only be contacted after the new hire starts. Since your friend was one of the first people interviewed, the wait is very long for him. I hope talking to your boss sheds some light on the situation.

    1. B-loved*

      OP2 here! Yes, you are right, I think I would be afraid they could easily cut me loose if I were the only remote employee but things definitely could have changed since last year.

      1. disconnect*

        That is a great thing to keep in mind, and I think it’s very reasonable to tell them “I’d be interested in a remote position; I know you’ve said that’s not an option, and if that’s the case, then my answer is no.” If they’re actually still against remote workers, it’ll be a quick conversation, then you can both get on with your lives, and they’ll have one data point of what a qualified candidate would require to come work for them. And if they make an issue out of it like “how dare you waste our time” you can shrug your shoulders and move on.

  8. Fran Fine*

    I just did something like this, OP #2. A company I previously interviewed with two years ago (and used their salary band and subsequent tentative offer to negotiate salary with my current employer) reached back out to me last week about an open role they’d like to fill. The internal recruiter said she found my resume in their system and thought I’d be a good fit, so if I wanted to apply for it (it’s the same type of role as the one I previously interviewed for, just in a different division), to do so and let her know so we can discuss it.

    Well, I wrote back to her that the reason I’m not a current employee there is due to the fact that the company seemed extremely hesitant about me working from home full time (I ended up taking a fully remote position with another company) even though other people I’d be working with in sales were full time remote. I said it didn’t make sense for us to proceed if the company’s stance on this hasn’t changed (and it’s a dumb stance since most companies allow for this position to be remote) – aaaannnd I haven’t heard back, which I figured would be the case, lol.

    I’m at a company that has almost two thirds of their employees either working from home offices or remote/satellite offices around the globe – I’m not leaving for anybody’s office. So now I just ask about remote work upfront all the time so no one is wasting anyone else’s time.

    1. B-loved*

      OP2 here! I’m also in sales, and I also wanted to be like, but it’s sales…why would any company be so hellbent on being in an office when you can literally track productivity by the revenue I am bringing in?

  9. John Smith*

    #1, I’d explain to the boss why you’re muting in a friendly matter of fact way. (That your boss needs the reason explaining to them is strange). Would your boss use their mobile phone if attending a classical music concert or theatre?

    Does your organisation have a policy on video calls that makes reference to muting that you could show your boss, or could your IT/HR dept be approached to produce some guidance?

    This honestly feels like telling someone how to wipe their backsides. Maybe do as your boss asks and find some way of introducing some irritating / embarrassing noise that you conveniently don’t have control over? Or have pretend cringe-inducing conversations with someone in the background (“Steven, your sister just emailed to say she’s pregnant – your going to be a dad! What was that, boss? Noooo! I said that he’s going to be so glad!”). See if your boss’s attitude to muting changes after a few of these.

    1. Former stagehand*

      “Would your boss use their mobile phone in a theater or at a classical music concert?”…the answer is almost assuredly “Yes. Yes they would.”

      (And the years I spent on backstage headsets…where keeping the line clear is essential so everyone can hear their cues and the show will run safely and correctly…that’s where I learned to aggressively mute myself!)

    2. Eat My Squirrel*

      I wouldn’t do pretend conversations. Then it becomes apparent OP is muting because they’re not paying attention. Which is not true and the opposite of what they want to portray.

      1. John Smith*

        The conversation happens while unmuted to make the point that muting should be done :)

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t think that’s the point it will actually convey, though. You’re thinking the boss will go “oh thank goodness OP mutes to block out all these annoying conversations, she should keep doing that”, but my feeling is that the boss will go “aha! So this is why OP mutes, because they’re having all these annoying conversations instead of working!”

    3. Some Lady*

      I suggest staying unmuted and getting about six watchdogs that bark at the tiniest hint of anything. :)

  10. The Prettiest Curse*

    LW #2: There’s certainly no harm in asking! However, given this company’s stance on in-office work, if they did relent it would probably be reluctantly. And if they end up reluctantly changing their stance, they might end up resenting you for it. So I think that your instincts here are probably correct.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      LW2: A year ago, I negotiated successfully to be the only remote employee because I was coming from a similarly strong negotiating place.
      It was awful. I only lasted 9 months before leaving for another job.

      Job 1, I worked at a big hulking company where we all sat in our cubes and conferenced called people around the world. When Covid hit, I realized how preposterous it was I ever went into the office at all. I LOVED working from home. I had a desk where there were windows and I could see the sun! No more commuting! And I was significantly more productive not having to tune out coworkers meetings and political arguments etc. The best.

      Then I got Job 2. Small company, everyone in person except me. I’d actually worked there (in person) beforr and loved it. But remote was just….not the same. Their entire culture and way of doing work was in person, and I was the odd (wo)man out. Every meeting was a nightmare of trying to decipher who was talking in an echoey conference room while I desperately tried to hang onto the conversation, let alone contribute. There were countless hallway conversations I was left out of, entire courses of my projects shifted without anyone even remembering to tell me about it. And it was really lonely… Everyone was having small chat outside of meetings, so it would be multiple weeks before I found out someone got engaged, let alone having any kind of polite “hey how are you” chats that makes a person feel like they’re valued for more than just being a work robot.

      Now I’m on Job 3, which is in person. And I’m very happy with it, because it’s the right kind of place to work in person. I never in a million years would sign up to work for Job 1 in person again, because it’s just a remote kind of job so getting dressed and commuting to sit in a cube all day is yuck. But Job 3 is great – I feel energized and glad to be around people working on projects together. And because of the work I do everything is just so much *easier* when I can see stuff in person.

  11. Freya*

    LW#1 I mute myself in most group calls, unless I’m actively speaking. No one needs to hear the next door neighbour’s dog being sad that my neighbour isn’t home!

    Also, I’ve found that certain setups lead to an echoing feedback loop. For example, a Google chat call where one participant has a Google nest and that nest is on – last time this was true in a call I was in (they may have fixed it since), the nest wouldn’t filter out audio coming from the speakers when transmitting information coming in to the microphone, so it would loop and loop and loop and loop and twenty minutes later I had a migraine that laid me out for a week :-( The looping echo stopped when the nest was turned off.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      I haven’t touched group voice communication for years, and I did so for online gaming instead of work. There we were all expected to use push to talk because, whenever someone didn’t, it caused problems. Mostly the same problems people are having now with open mics, plus a few others that came about because some people were in the chat anytime their computer was on.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      When I zoom, I call in on my phone instead of using my computer audio because it’s a lot better, and then I usually mute my phone instead of the zoom. Muting this way means that the “mute” icon doesn’t appear but I’m still muted thanks to my phone.

  12. Plink*

    OP1, is there a chance your office uses one of those video conferencing systems that goes “Plink!” Every time someone mutes or unmutes themselves? (Looking at you, WebEx!) If so I can understand why constant mute/unmute might grate a little.

    1. Squidhead*

      The meeting owner can turn off the exit/entry Plinks, if that’s the issue. (Just make sure the boss isn’t the meeting Host, since she doesn’t seem bothered by it.) But the Webex my organization uses only Plinks on exit/entry, not mute/unmute. That would be awful!

    2. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      Really? We use webex and there is no sound for the mute/unmute. Enter and exit yes, though I never understand why people don’t turn that off. I would guess the mute unmute noise you are hearing is a similar setting and ours is just permanently off.

      1. JustaTech*

        We also use WebEx and it only makes a noise when other people enter/leave, but I think it makes a noise *to me* when I unmute (so I know I’ve unmuted?). But I don’t hear other people unmuting.

        Our WebEx is also set up that everyone is muted by default on entering, which I think is great but a few people forget about it every single meeting.

    3. Cranky lady*

      I hate this. I never set up Webex meetings but the worst offender of this is our Webex vendor! Just change the setting!!!!! /rant

    4. ENFP in Texas*

      On Webex if you mute/unmute yourself, no one else should hear the tone, it’s just to notify you. If someone else mute/unmutes you, you should also hear the tone, but no one else will.

  13. L P*

    OP 1, I reckon maybe your boss doesn’t understand the difference between muting yourself and turning off your sound!

      1. ecnaseener*

        Maybe! Wouldn’t hurt to say something like “Don’t worry, I’m still here! Just muting my microphone because of background noise”

        Of course, if the boss were to think this through logically, they’d realize that if the LW always answers immediately when addressed, they must be able to hear still.

        1. Threeve*

          “I’m happy to stay unmuted; it’s just sometimes easier for me to listen when I’m not worried about everyone hearing my [dog/spouse/child/neighbor’s lawn mower] in the background and getting distracted. But it’s good to know you’ve never noticed!”

    1. JustaTech*

      That would explain the worst conference call I’ve ever been on: someone was typing into their microphone and talking to other people but couldn’t seem to hear the CEO shouting at them to mute their phone.

      They must have muted the speaker rather than the mic!

  14. Caaan Do!*

    Number 1 is so strange, it’s standard practice in group meetings at my work to mute yourself if you’re not talking, otherwise you get awful screechy distortion noises constantly over the audio.

    On another note, I read the related story about the person who was loudly abusive to her kids while on calls, was there ever an update? That was an awful situation.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Not unless it’s in the current set. Earlier this year, Alison hired someone to find letters with updates & add links to the update into the original columns.

  15. Jessie J*

    My coworker mutes during group meetings and our boss hates it, who comments each time and it stops our meetings to draw attention to our coworker. My coworker still mutes during the next meeting and this issue goes on repeat.
    Honestly I see this as a power play and it’s a bit odd to keep doing this if your boss doesn’t like it. Just unmute.

    1. allathian*

      Your boss is an idiot, as is the LW’s boss. I’m glad I work for people who aren’t…

      1. Jessie J*

        She’s openly not tech savvy and not an
        idiot at all. It’s a bit passive aggressive to continue to do something (simple) that the boss asks us not to do.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I wonder if she has my headphones… the volume/mute control is at just the right height that I bump it on and off against my desk.

          1. So sleepy*

            True! Between my dog and my kids, someone is always managing to accidentally hit the space bar, which turns mute on and off if the call is up on the screen.

        2. Eat My Squirrel*

          If the boss straight up says “don’t mute yourself,” ok yeah, bad idea to keep doing it. That’s not what’s happening to OP1, though. Also, if it did, I would ask why before giving in.
          I really don’t think it’s a power play. Basically your boss is trying to force you to be rude. If your boss said “don’t say thank you!” every time you thanked someone for something, I bet you’d still say thank you.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Muting etiquette is less well known than thank-you etiquette.
            Even though the boss is in the wrong, it does seem weirdly passive-aggressive to just keep doing what you’ve been told not to do, with no acknowledgment that you’ve been told so. Have a conversation like adults.

        3. pancakes*

          I agree that the coworker should stop doing it, but I think it’s at least a bit idiotic for the boss to be so controlling about something so small and so standard. If she can’t understand why people want to reduce background noise during meetings she’s being dense. If she doesn’t understand the basic tech functions of the meetings she’s running she should read or watch a brief primer rather than guessing.

        4. Student*

          Your coworker likely has some good reason that far outweighs the boss’s mild personal preference. It’s also probably a reason that is none of the boss’s business.

          Please remember that your boss is asking your co-worker to have an open microphone in their private home for possibly several hours a day (depending on your workplace meeting culture – I know a practice like this would have an open mic in my home for 6-8 hours every day).

          Maybe your co-worker has children that they believe are entitled to some privacy from your company. Or just noisy kids. Or noisy pets. Or a spouse doing work nearby – who may also be on calls that are private. Or room mates, who are going about their own work and business and social activities, since they are equally entitled to use their personal home, which is out of the co-worker’s actual control.

          Maybe this co-worker lives with someone suffering from a mental illness and doesn’t want you to overhear this person’s private medical struggles. Grandma having an outburst in late-stage dementia; a spouse suffering from anxiety spirals, a kid going through panic attacks, or any number of other things.

          There are so many things that happen in a personal home that you and your boss are just not entitled to know about and do not belong in the middle of.

          Heck, I don’t have any of that going on in my house, and I mute my microphone all the time for more mundane reasons – eating cereal, chewing gum, slurping my drink, fiddling with my microphone, and listening to part of the meeting while on the toilet (…they book meetings nonstop and back to back, and I don’t care what you think of me!). I still won’t take myself off mute and I don’t feel like I need to justify this to anybody.

        5. fhqwhgads*

          This isn’t a “tech savvy” issue; it’s a general politeness issue. The boss asks you to be discourteous to everyone on the call, I feel for the employee who is hesitant to make that her new default normal.

      2. CheezeWhizzard*

        Same here. And I wouldn’t stop muting myself either. My boss doesn’t get to control every single aspect of my working life.

        1. Threeve*

          It reminds me of an old boss who really wanted people to make eye contact with whoever was speaking in (in-person) meetings. Which was stupid! Because sustained eye contact is pointless and creepy and people wanted to be able to take notes.

          But it was kind of his prerogative and it wasn’t a power play or anything; he was sincerely convinced it made meetings go better. So we all just kind of shrugged and went with it. Sometimes it’s just best to accommodate the boss’s idiosyncratic preferences if they aren’t costing you much.

          1. PT*

            I agree with a caveat, the caveat being, you “shrug and went with it” enough times, and eventually it becomes ingrained as a bad habit of your own. Then you are at a job interview, or in another job, and you’re the office Fergus who makes creepy eye contact and never mutes on Zoom calls, and suddenly it’s hindering your ability to function in a professional environment.

    2. LW #1*

      To clarify, the comments started happening, and happening sporadically, in the past 3-4 weeks. It’s been commented on 4-5 times. I’ve worked for Boss for 8+ months, and I’ve been muting/unmuting that entire time.

      After the 5th comment, I changed my behavior. I’m not a power play type and Boss is not one to trifle with, a their way or the highway type. I absolutely get how you could think that, and if I’d kept up the very obviously disliked behavior, I’d agree RE the power play.

      My letter was to figure out if I was off-base in my behavior before I mention it to Boss. Things change and we can get entrenched in our own org sometimes.

  16. Harper the Other One*

    OP3 – I agree with Alison that you should prompt your boss to get back to Rob! He may have forgotten that you have a connection to one of the candidates he interviewed.

    You’re better positioned than me to know what your boss meant, but I wonder if “more diverse” candidate pool also meant more diverse experience/training, not just race/colour/national origin. I live in a university town and I’ve heard from hiring managers that sometimes candidates feel a bit cookie cutter – they all got degree X, did co-op program Y, etc.

    1. JB*

      Honestly, unless there was additional information provided, my assumption is that ‘we need a more diverse pool’ means ‘right now Rob is our only finalist (and we really aren’t sure he’ll work out for this position)’. In my experience, ‘more diverse’ in this context literally just means ‘more than one person’.

    2. GraceRN*

      I agree with this. At my workplace, when we say diversity, we are also referring to diversity in training/experience, and other traditional social determinants of success as well (social/economic status, personal connections, etc). We want to make sure we’re considering those who didn’t go to a prestigious university, or doesn’t have well-connected parents or friends.

  17. Ash*

    OP1: unmute yourself and then go to town with ambient noise. Cough, sneeze, clear your throat, type loudly, shuffle papers, open a window when someone’s mowing the lawn. That should teach your weird boss!

    1. 2 Cents*

      I was just thinking the same thing, especially if there are lawn services that frequent your area.

      Your boss is very strange. I mute frequently because no one needs to hear my allergy-induced coughing or sneezing or when I take a gulp of water.

    2. Maliciously Compliant*

      Haha! I thought the same thing. Also, eat off mute on calls with this boss and get the same terrible headset one of my coworkers (unintentionally) has that constantly has static. Boss will be begging for muting in no time.

    3. quill*

      Just take the headphones off and let your boss experience the feedback loop of the meeting playing to your microphone…

      Maybe turn on a fan and start crinkling cellophane into the mic too.

  18. TimeTravlR*

    OP1 – If my boss said that to me, my truthful response would be, the sound quality seems better when people who aren’t talking are muted. I might try to find a nicer way to say it but that’s why I do it.

    1. LW #1*

      I like this phrasing/approach. It makes it about the quality of the meeting for everyone, not about my boss being weird about the muting.

    2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I think if my boss made everyone stay unmuted in meetings, I would simply quit. Zoom meetings are bad enough already. Hearing all the background noise, typing, and bodily sounds would be unbearable.

  19. Passive aggressive noise*

    LW1 I think you should unmute but make sure you have annoying sounds in the background! What can you organise without it being obvious? A kettle boiling? A housemate in another call? A lawnmower? Or just touch your mike often and see if you can get them to understand

    1. TimeTravlR*

      It never seems to fail that the landscaping team is right under my office window mowing or weed whacking about the time I am on an important meeting. I am sure nobody wants to hear that!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I would ask you not to– I want to encourage companies to retain WFH options after pandemic restrictions. This could create a manager who is adamantly agains WFH. “Zoom & Teams meetings are too full of distraction, we all need to be together.”. “

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        Even though the boss could easily control the distractions by allowing employees to mute themselves!

    3. EPLawyer*

      I think a simple conversation with boss might be better. Its highly likely that boss thinks you aren’t paying attention. The fact you had you to clarify in your letter that you are shows that it is a common perception. Just a simple, I wanted to talk to you about the muting thing. I always understood it to be how you do this, when not talking you are muted. I am paying attention to the conversation I just don’t want to have any background noise intruding. Is there a reason you want me to stay umuted? I will, of course, if that is your preference, but I want to make sure you knew why I was doing it.

      1. JB*

        This is honestly the best way to approach it. If this boss has never done virtual meetings before the pandemic, he just may be completely unaware of the norms around it.

      2. LW #1*

        I like this phrasing, and TBH I thought the same thing as I typed out the parenthetical comment in my letter. The fact that I have to clarify it means it’s A Thing People Do.

        I had a meeting with Boss this morning, and kept my video on, continued to unmute to talk/mute when my dogs were nearby, I was drinking my coffee, etc. and nay a word was said about the muting. I honestly think it helped that Boss could see me.

        1. AskJeeves*

          That makes a lot of sense. Oblivious people not muting during Zooms is my pet peeve, but if video is off, I can see how your boss would take muting as a sign that you’re not engaged or even have stepped away from your computer. Maybe keeping your video on is an easy compromise! I know some people hate video, but in my experience it makes virtual meetings a lot simpler and more pleasant. I hate talking to disembodied voices in black boxes, and everyone talks over each other because there are no visual cues.

        2. Nancy*

          Your boss may simply have wanted some indication that you are there. Mute plus no video makes it feel like you are talking into a void. We just all keep video on and mute off in meetings of 2-5 people or so, unless there is something loud in the background.

    4. Mannheim Steamroller*

      I came here to say this!!

      My boss holds daily check-ins using Teams (audio only) with my 4-person group, and we can always hear mowers mowing and sirens blaring and dogs barking and dishes being washed. I keep myself muted but can’t require that of others.

  20. D.C. Paralegal*

    LW2: I disagree with Alison on this one, and think your instincts not to bring it up were correct.

    I’m not sure I’d use the word delusional to describe the ask, but based on how you explained the situation, the chances of the company granting it were virtually nil. There’s not much wiggle room in “no exceptions.” Plus, I know if I were the hiring manager and had previously explained why remote work absolutely wasn’t an option, only to have a candidate make it a condition of their employment, I’d be annoyed. Yes, even given the fact that they approached you this time.

    And all that would have been fine in a “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” sense…except you described it as a dream company, where you already have an existing relationship with the hiring manager. So why burn or even slightly singe a bridge on an ask you know the company almost certainly won’t meet? Because who knows, maybe in a year or two or five, you’ll be in a position to make the move and take a position there. And now you’re unburdened by anyone at the company thinking you might be a problem employee who’s reluctant to relocate and holding that against you in the hiring process.

    1. Myrin*

      I’m somewhat in the middle. I agree with you in general but I also don’t think it would’ve been a faux-pas to bring up if it was worded along the lines of “I’d absolutely love to work for you but I would have to be remote and as such, knowing the company’s stance on remote work, I’ll sadly have to decline”.
      That way, the hiring manager becomes aware of the remote point in case they actually do end up having some new possibilites without making it seem like OP completely disregarded everything she’s learned during her earlier interview process.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yes, I like that wording. Very clearly *not* asking for an exception, just being honest on the off chance something has changed.

        And it is *possible* that something has changed. It’s been a while, and remote work is such a hot-button issue. Employees could have pushed back hard enough to get the employer to relax the policy.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      But in this situation they are reaching out to her. There is zero problem with, when they did that, saying “My circumstances have changed and I could only take the job if I could work remote.” That’s the same as saying no with an explanation — and if by some miracle the company changed its mind could lead to something good. That’s not burning a bridge — in fact, saying no without an explanation after being so keen earlier is weird.

    3. BRR*

      Because the hiring manager reached back out to the LW I don’t think this applies. I would agree with you if the LW was reapplying for the position and then asked about remote work, but they could have said their circumstances changed and they won’t be able to relocate. There’s no risk to your reputation in doing that when they approach you.

      1. D.C. Paralegal*

        I disagree. The hypothetical response OP suggested (even a more eloquent version) wasn’t simply floating the idea of remote work. It was aggressively pitching herself for a remote job in spite of having been told that remote work wasn’t possible. I don’t think “I’m sure we can make it work” is something you say to a prospective employer unless you have reason to think it feels the same way.

        The suggestions commenters have made, where the response is more along the lines of “I can’t move now, but if your company changes its stance on remote work, please keep me in mind,” is a far better approach.

        1. BRR*

          Oh I agree with you about the “make it work” part! What I think would be a fine response is something like “my circumstances have changed and I am unable to relocate right now. I would be very interested in this role but unless company x’s remote work policy has changed, i unfortunately will need to pass on this role right now.”

        2. B-loved*

          OP2 here! I admit my hypothetical response came from a “go big or go home” side of me, lol.

          I agree with the suggestions from other commenters – I also would probably highlight that things had changed since the last time we had met as I wouldn’t want to appear as if I were stringing them along the first time around.

    4. So sleepy*

      I tend to agree that it’s unlikely that the company is going to change their approach (unless she applied prior to or early on in the pandemic last year – lots of employers have changed their tune since then). But I don’t think it would be damaging to inquire about it – if anything, it could be argued that they may think she is no longer interested in them at all if she just turns it down.

      They are going to encounter a lot more people that won’t be interested in anything but remote work now, and they may need to re-think their approach unless that are okay with a much smaller candidate pool. I know my current department was aggressively against any work from home (it was infuriating, because in my last position, I could go days without interacting with anyone related to my actual job where my desk was located… eye roll).

      Now, there is a high likelihood that my entire unit will never work from the office again – I’m hoping we can occasionally do in-person meetings and have a desk we can share as needed, but even that probably won’t happen this year. Even if they wanted to bring us all back, we had a number of projects to accommodate an influx of new employees that were put on hold during the pandemic. Those people all still needed to be hired, so even if they wanted to send everybody back now, they’d be short about 20% of the workstations they’d need!

      I suspect that expanding our workspace is looking a lot less cost effective right now, especially since we would also become a lot less competitive for the best candidates in our region if WFH wasn’t an option. All to say that I think even the most die-hard anti-WFH managers and organizations are starting to rethink their policies, whether they want to or not.

      1. B-loved*

        OP2 here! So I applied late last year when most companies I was applying for were under the impression that they would be back in the office full time by April 2021. Obviously, things have changed since then and maybe they did change their tune.

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      They came back to the LW knowing that the LW wants remote work. Saying that the LW shouldn’t bring it up when THEY came to the LW is what’s delusional. They KNOW the LW is looking for remote work.

      1. D.C. Paralegal*

        That’s not an accurate read of the letter. She applied for the job and given the company’s stance on remote work, was willing to move if she got it. They went with someone else. Between then and now, her circumstances changed, requiring remote work. But as far as the company presumably believed when the hiring manager reached out, she would still be willing to move if she got the job.

  21. Myrin*

    #1, you say “It’s obvious my boss doesn’t like it, so I know the answer to what to do is to stop muting myself.” and I agree, but I’m also not sure if you’ve ever addressed this with them at all? Like, what is your reaction when they make these comments?

    More to the point, I’m usually a big proponent of just cheerfully telling someone “oh yes, I’m doing [thing]!” but I’m not a fan of it in this case; that might’ve been a good idea the first time it happened but not now that it’s been going on for some time. Instead, I would earnestly and curiously ask them for their reasoning, not snarkily (although I could understand the temptation to do so) but in a genuine manner – maybe you find out something useful like they’ve misunderstood the feature (not likely if you ask me but who knows).

    But also, you say that they never say anything to your coworkers – does that mean they also mute themselves appropriately but your boss is singling you out for some reason? Because if that’s the case, you may want to bring that up in your enquiry, too.
    (Speaking of your coworkers, any chance one of them knows what’s up and you could approach them about it?)

    Like you acknowledge yourself, this is not a hill to die on, but it’s certainly unusual and annoying enough that I think it’s worth it to at least try and go against it head-on, even if that only means you find out that your boss has no reason for how things are done other than that they want them to be done that way.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I feel like the obvious step here is to find out why the boss has such an issue with this. Is it just a really specific pet peeve? Have there previously been a lot of mute/unmute issues (if I never have to tell someone “you’re on mute!” again it’ll be too soon) and boss thinks it’ll be easier if everyone is just unmuted all the time? Is there a laggy connection somewhere so it seems like OP is taking ages to unmute? (One of my colleagues has this issue due to a bad wifi connection.) Does the boss just have some kind of problem with OP so that this is her BEC thing? It’s such a weird thing to be hung up on that I feel like there HAS to be some kind of explanation!

    2. LW #1*

      RE the coworkers, I’m not sure if they are muting/umuting or just staying unmuted. I don’t watch the microphones in the participants list–which is what it seems like my boss is doing. (It’s weird, right?)

      I like the earnest approach the next time I have a 1:1 with Boss, which TBH isn’t a fake right now. It has me stressed out about something silly and insignificant that isn’t at all related to by job responsibilities.

      1. Allypopx*

        Earnest is good! I think I’d also include also some version of “this is the group call etiquette I’ve encountered most widely as the norm, maybe we can establish it as a group if you have a different preference so everyone is on the same page” but that’ll be hit or miss depending on your boss.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        In Zoom, there’s also an icon that pops up on your video. Teams too, I think. He might be noticing it that way.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oh, wait, you’re not using video. I know it shows up even if your camera is turned off, but if you’re using a call function rather than a “video meeting but without cameras on” function, I don’t know how that would look.

    3. LW #1*

      I usually don’t say anything in response because 1) I’m muted (ha!), and 2) they’re not said in a way that dictates a response. The comments are more just that, comments in passing and then Boss moves back to whatever they were talking about. Occasion I’ll mention something about my dog being nearby or the dehumidifier kicking on, but usually there isn’t time to respond.

      1. LW #1*

        AKA The comments are passive aggressive in nature and rhetorical vs. Boss actually wanting a response.

        1. quill*

          Passive aggression begets malicious compliance.

          Go out and find a VERY CRINKLY chip bag to hold next to your microphone during the next meeting. :)

  22. Sorry I was on mute*

    LW 1: if your company uses Google Meet, when you join the meeting click “join and use phone for audio.” Then you can use the mute button on your phone and no one will know you’re on mute

  23. So sleepy*

    The mute thing is totally blowing my mind. I’d probably just respond with “sorry, lots of background noise right now,” but in my case there is frequently lots of background noise that would totally be disruptive to most calls. We’re more often asking people to go ON mute (including my boss, once, who was furiously taking notes and for some reason his mic was picking the sound up that day).

    Other things I have known to be muted (in my or others’ calls):
    -Construction work
    -Dog barking
    -Children whining (mine, most days)
    -Other people in the room on calls / in virtual school
    -Hail (ok, wasn’t me, and he was pulled over to the side of the road to give his update, so he couldn’t put himself on mute, but it was legendary… I couldn’t tell you what he said because everyone on the call was concerned for his safety and not listening to him at all)
    -Needing to respond to children (sorry, am I the only one with a really needy 5 year old? I once had mine walk in on video with a nosebleed that looked like he had been attacked. Everyone on the call would have heard me frantically shouting to my other kid to get tissues. Although in this case they could see me, so it was still hilarious). Also, telling them to go away/that I’m on a call/etc. Thankfully, my boss’ daughter likes to loudly celebrate whenever she accomplishes anything so he’s often muted for this one anyway).
    -Bodily noises (nose blowing, coughing, etc.)
    -SO many other things

    The construction one is surprisingly frequent – at least a few people I know have jackhammers going across the street a lot of days and they are LOUD. Even yard work can be loud – if my spouse is mowing the lawn I definitely need to be on mute.

    All to say, WTF about this hangup?? But I can see a bit where it’s coming from, I guess. And then let him hear me tell my kid that the call is “5 more minutes” when there’s totally about 45 minutes left. Or better, I’ll tell kiddo that it’s actually 45 minutes remaining and everyone can listen to the meltdown that ensues. I think I’m a little touchy about this one!

    1. londonedit*

      I don’t have children and my space is usually very quiet (just me and the radio, which I obviously turn off whenever I have a meeting) but I still make judicious use of the mute button. One of the flats in my block is being renovated and over the last few weeks there have been all sorts of random interruptions by drilling and sawing and whatever else. Once a week we have a team of gardeners who arrive to tidy the outdoor areas – cutting the grass, strimming, talking outside the window. There are plenty of things that need muting, and I think it’s totally normal and polite to mute yourself if there’s background noise! If it’s a casual team catch-up, I’ll probably mention it – ‘I’m going to mute myself while you guys are speaking – there are people with lawn mowers and strimmers outside’ – but in a larger meeting where I’m not actively participating I’ll just mute myself if there’s any background noise going on (or I’ll actually probably just mute myself anyway, no one needs to hear me moving my chair or putting my cup down or whatever).

      I get the feeling the OP’s boss thinks that being on mute means they’re not paying attention, and I think that’s definitely something they should raise with the boss – I’d say something like ‘I prefer to put myself on mute while other people are speaking, because I don’t want to distract everyone with background noise. I’m still listening to everything that’s going on – I just don’t want you to have to listen to my dog/the washing machine/the roadworks outside’.

  24. Foof*

    Op1, i think it’s worth one private chat with the boss that you are muting to minimize background noise for others and can still hear the conversations. Mention you believe this is standard teleconference etiquette, and then ask if boss has concerns about you muting when not talking (see what they say) and verify you will stop doing that (if they still do want that).

  25. Brandine*

    #1 – is there a compelling reason you’re not all on video? Being on video would demonstrate that you’re being attentive without causing the distractions that being unmuted can cause.

    1. LW #1*

      I’m not sure why, but our org norm is no video. We do turn them on for 1:1 or coaching convos, but generally, it’s no video. My grandboss does use video, on every single call. Boss will typically remind us early in the day if we are in a meeting with grandboss that we will need to have videos on (and make a disparaging comment about not liking having to turn their video on).

      Maybe I’ll try just having my video on next time. There are times when one of us, for whatever reason, won’t use video, so it’s not as if the entire meeting must be on the same page.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Exactly. With 15 people on one of our weekly calls, and 3 of them usually calling and just listening while they’re in their cars, it’s not worth the trouble to use video.

    2. NoviceManagerGuy*

      At least for my company turning on video seems to degrade audio quality because Teams decides which to prioritize. So we almost never use video.

      1. So sleepy*

        Same here. Often when I turn on video, my audio stops working (and sometimes my Bluetooth headset! No idea why, and even more annoying because I have to take my laptop off the dock or my microphone will be muffled). Of course, I only put my video on in meetings with big boss, so it’s always during the calls with her that I’m battling audio issues the whole time. FWIW, I’ve had a bit of success closing Outlook and OneDrive during calls as they seem to perform a lot of background activities that take up bandwidth.

        To a certain degree, though, it relies on my kids not being in virtual school or watching videos (which is pretty much the only way I can keep them occupied during meetings). It’s always been annoying to live in an area with limited internet speeds but this past year has been next-level in so many ways.

  26. AndersonDarling*

    #4 I would like to have an interview presentation experience like this! The presentation kind of takes the place of the cover letter in a grand, formal way.
    There are jobs that I apply for where my direct experience is with the job I had 3 jobs ago and all I can do is hope that the reviewer reads my whole resume to get to those accomplishments. I can put it in my cover letter, but you never know how someone will interpret the cover letter. With a presentation, I can do more than just add a line to my resume, I can actually talk about the accomplishment and why it was profound! I don’t have to hope that the interviewer will ask the questions that will let me shine.
    Even in my current role, there are skills that I have that never came up in my interview because I was selling myself to this particular job. So it is automatically assumed I don’t have knowledge/ skills/ talent because I only had 30 min to sell myself and I couldn’t talk about my full background. I would have loved a holistic approach to interviewing like this! “Tell me everything, then tell me what is important to this role.”

  27. Emily*

    LW1 – FWIW, while muting yourself when not talking is definitely an accepted norm at this point it’s also something I’ve seen vary between different groups.
    My virtual lectures with 60-100 people on? Absolutely, everyone mutes, it will be pointed out if you haven’t or the lecturer may blanket mute everyone.
    The small team meetings I have at work with 6-7 people? People generally don’t mute themselves, or at least not intentionally. We usually have at least a couple of times a meeting where someone has accidentally muted themselves and doesn’t realise we can’t hear them. Because we have video we can see this and tell them.
    Is it possible that without video your boss just concerned that this is happening but they can’t see it?

    1. Elsajeni*

      Yes, I can see that — I have a regular voice-chat call with friends, and there’s one guy who is ALWAYS muting himself, forgetting he’s muted himself, and then getting irritated that he’s been talking into the void for god knows how long. If he were on video we’d at least be able to see his mouth moving! As it is, we’ve started doing the occasional “Mike, do you know you’re on mute?” check anytime he stays silent for too long — so if there have been any issues like that on these calls, I can see how the OP’s boss got into the habit, irritating though it is.

  28. LadyByTheLake*

    OP#2 — There was a company that I wanted to work for for many years, but they insisted that people had to relocate to Small Town A. Since I live in City B, which I love and have no interest in Small Town A, I did not apply. I ran into a friend in City B and she told me that she was working for the company. I was floored. It turns out that all she did was asked, and the company had realized that it couldn’t get the applicant pool they needed if they insisted that everyone had to come to Small Town A, so they had changed their stance. I see a lot of companies now that previously insisted on in-person who now accept remote — especially since Covid shows that remote works fine for many jobs. All of which is to say that it never hurts to ask.
    One cautionary note though, echoing Allison’s comment. Eventually I did work for the company, but not in Small Town A. By that time, about half of the people in my department were in Small Town A and the rest were scattered in other locations and having people in other locations had been standard for not quite ten years. There is zero doubt that the people in Small Town A got more information, better opportunities and the benefit of the doubt when issues arose. When downsizing occurred, the people who were not in Small Town A were disproportionately affected. So go into it with that in mind.

    1. B-loved*

      OP#2 here!

      Yeah, I agree that I should have just asked – things have changed on my end – maybe things changed on their end, too, lol. Maybe I wouldn’t have been the only remote candidate.

  29. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    #2: Like your friends said, you should have asked! I dont think its a request that would ever put you on the “do not attempt to hire ever again” list.

    I’ve actually had experience with this! In my new job, they offered me the position, but told me it was going to be 32hrs a week. I said thanks for the offer, but unless it’s 40hrs/week, I just cant afford to take a 20% pay cut. I was honest up front. They said we’ll get back to you, and then called me back a few days later and said, “yeah, we talked to the board, and we can make this a full time position.”

  30. 'nother prof*

    LW #1: FWIW, in field the norm is that you mute yourself when you’re not speaking in large meetings. For a small meeting like the ones described, we tend to all leave our microphones on. The idea is that a small meeting is only going to have people who are relatively involved in the topics discussed, such that they might have a useful idea even when the immediate topic of conversation doesn’t seem directly related to them. By the time they unmuted and got everyone’s attention, the conversation would have moved forward and would have to be rewound, so to speak.

    It might be worth considering whether this could be the root of the problem. You don’t mention anyone else in the meeting muting themselves, so perhaps it’s the norm in your department/organization as well?

    1. grassideas*

      I commented below about the same. Although if you are truly a ‘nother prof (I am too), then I wonder if this is academia-specific? I was kinda floored by Alison’s answer, but only because that’s just… not what my workplace is doing.

      1. PeanutButter*

        I work in academia as professional staff in a small lab, our norm is definitely to mute in meetings if you’re not talking. Then the red mute symbol disappearing from someone’s video tile is taken as an indicator that they have something to say, like the “raise hand” function. But that works because we have a small enough lab that everyone’s tile can be seen at once.

    2. Allonge*

      This is interesting and makes sense as far as it goes, but – background noise does not care if I am in a meeting with 4 or 40 people. Sometimes there are echoes in 1:1 video calls that go away if I mute myself for a few seconds.

      It is important to have the unmute option readily available, for sure, so it does not take a whole operation to unmute myself. But if a conversation goes on to another topic in the second or two it takes to unmute… maybe the conversation is too fast for videoconferencing.

      1. 'nother prof*

        If people have background noise come up, they usually mute then. There are people mowing the lawn outside my window now, so if I was in a meeting I’d mute until they moved further away. That’s the standard where I am though – you only mute in small meetings if something comes up, which is not that common. (It probably helps that it was common to have a home office space quiet enough to read/think/write in even before the pandemic. There were a lot of new things to learn with online teaching, but I never really heard anyone talk about needing home office equipment, you know?)

  31. Minerva*

    Just a quick possible counterargument to the mute :

    In some meetings (not work) we are constantly saying “you’re on mute, George” when we think George should be speaking, or it’s obvious he should respond, and we can’t hear him. The boss may be assuming you are speaking, or prompting you to respond.

    Also, 4 people is on the edge of a call and a meeting. In a 1-1 it would be unusual to mute, the boss may be viewing this as more of a conversation and think you should be jumping in more or that having to unmute slows you down.

    Etiquette is conditional and all, and maybe “you’re on mute” has a tacit “and I think you should be speaking now” allowing you to not be embarrassed if your mind wandered.

  32. Grey*

    With #1, the size of the group matters. If the group is just the 3 of you, then muting would be an odd thing to do.

    Unless anyone is complaining about background noise, what’s the harm in leaving the mic on?

    1. Grey*

      Just noticed the group size is mentioned. With only 4 people, I still think it’s going to make you stand out if you’re the only one muting. I would agree with your boss on this one.

    2. Allypopx*

      But OP is complaining about background noise, and so it makes sense they’d be conscious of their own. Also on the same token, what’s the harm in muting? Besides the boss not liking it, just generally speaking. I wouldn’t find it odd I assume people are just managing their own situations.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Right, especially if that person is engaged and often unmutes themselves to make a comment that shows they’re actively listening.

  33. EPLawyer*

    LW3 – after 4 rounds of interviews and the grueling test, everyone not hired should get a rejection letter. If its a lot of people to send letters to, the the hiring process needs serious fixing. You don’t put people through something like that and just ghost them. People talk, if they want to keep getting good candidates, they need to treat the candidates with respect, not people who should be grateful the company deigned to interview them at all.

    1. whatchamacallit*

      Yes, I got ghosted earlier in the year and it didn’t even require a ridiculous 4 rounds – but the employer reached out to me, cold, asking me to interview and checked all of my references and had be do an exercise that took me about 3 hours. I definitely remember who interviewed me and would have serious reservations about working with them in the future. It’s not good for your candidate recruitment long term.

    2. A Person*

      This! That “test that required several hours to complete” was already kind of an issue for me. I’m not sure that I’d call it a red flag, but I’m side-eyeing it pretty hard. That’s a lot of work for free and I really hope it wasn’t content that the company can go ahead and use.

  34. Junior Assistant Peon*

    #3 – 4 rounds of interviews?! Do companies think people can just duck out of work multiple times a week claiming doctor’s appointments or other vague excuses? I was missing a ridiculous amount of work the last few times I job-hunted while employed because of this horrible trend.

    #4 – If you’re in a field where interview presentations are a possibility, I strongly recommend asking for permission to present at a conference. That way, you’ll have a PowerPoint deck ready to go, and it’ll have been blessed by your current company’s management as not containing any confidential material.

    1. Allypopx*

      Re: #3 I’m dealing with that right now and I’m constantly on edge about it. I have two interviews today and three next week with the same company, all during work hours. It’s so stressful.

        1. Allypopx*

          Thank you I thought so too lol. I had one interview two weeks ago and now I’m having five in rapid succession, it’s a little overwhelming. However if I get the job I think I’ll be in a position to change that for the future so I’m not weighing it against them *too* heavily.

  35. GiantPanda*

    Perhaps your boss is not aware that his background noise is audible.
    Maybe make some comments requesting pictures of the dog or something like that?

  36. Vox Experientia*

    for the OP with the boss who hates mute. that’s crazy – i feel exactly the opposite. i mute people right and left in meetings if i hear them breathing or typing or grunting. it’s basic etiquette. google “conference call etiquette” and send your boss the links you find that discuss it.

  37. grassideas*

    LW#1: I greatly prefer unmuted and I’m surprised at the number of comments which seem to feel it’s obvious good manners that you should mute (including LW#1 and Alison)! I’ve only seen two comments above (Emily and ‘nother prof) talk about how this preference varies across groups. Here’s my reasoning:

    I’m holding remote lab meetings and other small meetings, and it’s frustrating when students mute themselves. People who are muted tend to *stay* muted, which means they aren’t jumping in with questions and they aren’t creating a conversation among us. If I ask a question, even if a student does want to answer then there’s still a delay while they unmute. But many students remain muted, thinking that someone else will answer. It’s turning what *would* be a conversation (in-person) into me just talking into the void. You don’t end up getting the same kind of immediate feedback you would in-person. It makes these meetings much slower and much less useful, honestly.

    Fwiw, at my workplace the norms are as follows: mute yourself if you are listening to a prepared formal or informal presentation until the Q&A (like a conference presentation, or a large lecture with lots of people); in small groups everyone is unmuted unless there is excessive background noise (although most people first make an announcement before muting, like “There’s yardwork being done across the street, so I’m going to stay muted unless I need to chime in”) or maybe if you want to multitask and do something noisy (eat?).

    But if I were your boss, I’d probably talk to you about this one-on-one to explain my reasoning and ask if you would be comfortable remaining unmuted. Not make passive aggressive comments in front of everyone.

    1. pancakes*

      The way you explain this makes a lot of sense for your situation, but I’m inclined to think there are differences between students and employees, too. People who have good ideas at work generally don’t need to be goaded to share them the way students sometimes need to be goaded to participate.

      1. grassideas*

        Maybe? I’m pondering now…

        Might just be differences across workplaces though. At my work this is the unofficial standard practice even in meetings with all non-students.

      2. LW #1*

        Speaking as a former teacher, a now corporate trainer, and a parent who has watched two teenagers participate (or not) in virtual classes this year—I do think the students vs. coworkers observation is accurate. I can see wanting to have people unmuted in a class discussion vs. a work meeting.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I did a masters completely online. Students were always muted, for the same reasons that people are always muted during business meetings – even just breathing or movement can be distracting. But the faculty knew that its easy for a student to stay muted so they used a variety of techniques to break the trend. For example, they would use quick polls, they would call on specific students, they would ask students to click the “raise hand” button to indicate something, they would put us in breakout rooms to talk, arrange short presentations, etc. It was very effective and a better experience than my in person classes for my other masters degree.

      In my HOA meeting that has been on Zoom for the past year we keep muted unless we are talking. But our new property manager kept constantly unmuting us, we would mute ourselves, she would mute us. I had to stop the meeting to explain the etiquette to her. She was flabbergasted that anyone would ever mute themselves in a meeting. But there were a whole host of issues with her. She did not last long.

      1. PeanutButter*

        I can also confirm that it is variable across academia – I work in a very small lab, pretty much only 1:1 meetings would have both participants unmuted all the time. Even 3 person meetings people mute by default. I haven’t noticed a delay for them to respond, it’s just a spacebar tap.

        1. I take tea*

          But if your cursor is in the chat, it does not work! That’s so annoying, when you are just suddenly typing space instead of unmuting…

    3. TexasTeacher*

      I feel like when these discussions with a class are in person, you can see students hesitate to answer immediately. The teacher waits, the students look around tentatively at each other, finally someone answers. There’s some pressure for someone to jump in! When students are all muted, with cameras off, it’s harder to get a discussion going, for sure. One of the things I won’t miss at all about this past year! But the teacher/student dynamic is, and should be, different than manager/employee.
      I would pay attention to whether other people are unmuted in these meetings, and ultimately, do what your boss wants, I guess.

    4. OhMy*

      I just posted essentially this comment! It would be unusual to mute myself on a call of 2-3 people where I work. Big things with lots of people, yes, but with 2-3 people even if I’m out of conversation a bit I wouldn’t mute.

      1. Minerva*

        Same here. 10 people in a more formal meeting? Mute. 4 of us talking through something? Probably not unless my son popped in with his tablet or questions about trucks.

      2. pancakes*

        That makes sense. Most of the calls I’m on involve 10 or more people. I wouldn’t mute in a group or 2 or 3 either.

    5. Wisteria*

      It’s turning what *would* be a conversation (in-person) into me just talking into the void.

      That speaks a bit to your skill running these meetings, though. You are the professional, so it is up to you to set the model and be the coach for making meetings effective. That might look like figuring out what you want to hear from people so that you can call on people directly if they don’t speak up. One way to start that is to name the problem (“we aren’t getting much interaction in these meetings”) and say what will be different going forward (“I want to hear people’s thoughts, so I am going to ask people for them directly”) and also state where you want to go with this (“I really want to see discussions happen more organically as we all get used to having to unmute to speak up”).

  38. Jennifer*

    #2 I don’t understand why so many people are afraid to simply ask about remote work. They approached you. There has never been a better time in history to request fully remote work. If it’s a dealbreaker, everyone can move on, no harm, no foul. But there’s no harm in asking.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      But in this case, they were very clear in the first go round that the position was not remote. I understand the OP being respectful in not asking and then second guessing it. OP was trying not to be like the folks who write in to ask, they said the top pay was x and I agreed to that in the interview, can I ask for more now?

      1. Jennifer*

        I don’t understand how it would be disrespectful to just ask the question. Employers don’t hold all the cards anymore. For the first time in years, workers are at an advantage. They approached her and clearly think she’s a strong candidate. She wasn’t hired and hadn’t agreed to anything. I don’t see it as any different from negotiating a higher salary or more PTO.

        1. B-loved*

          OP#2 here! You are so right, and I think I definitely need to break out of that mindset that employers hold all the cards.

  39. Joyce*

    I have worked remotely for almost 10 years and we always mute ourselves. Our platform tends to have ‘interference” when too many participants are unmuted. So, it’s the polite and necessary for call quality.

  40. Jack Straw*

    Here’s the trouble with #4–unless creating a visual presentation is part of the job, it can help/harm candidates. If your slide deck is gorgeous and designed well, that’s an additional skill you bring to the table. If you’re otherwise an excellent fit for the job, and your slide deck looks like a 3rd grader learning PPT created it, that’s likely to count against you (consciously or unconsciously) in the interview.

    If creating presentations is part of the job, by all means have them create one. But if it’s not, why subject them to this?

    1. Jack Straw*

      It reminds me of assigning project when I was a HS teacher. I’d offer a creative, arts and crafts option and a straightforward essay. I usually had a 60/40 with almost half the students opting for the essay.

  41. StripesAndPolkaDots*

    LW2: Some companies that previously, even just a few months ago, were hardcore into “office culture” and no remote work have altered their stances due to losing workers and complaints from workers. My partner’s huge multinational corporation is one of them. In your case I don’t think it would have hurt to politely tell them you can’t move and would be willing to work remotely.

  42. Zach*

    #1- that is absolutely bizarre and the opposite of what should be happening. You should just start belching and making a whole bunch of noise throughout meetings until you’re allowed to be muted again. (Joking, but that would be incredible.)

  43. whatchamacallit*

    LW #3: I got ghosted by an employer who cold-reached out to me, asked me to interview, called all my references and had me do an exercise that took about 3 hours. You’re not off-base, it’s rude, and I definitely will remember who I interviewed with to avoid in the future.

    1. LPUK*

      LW #3 – I had an interview with a company, for a Board role though a VERY prestigious and respected Global headhunter where they flew me over to Ireland to meet the board for a second interview, was told by the headhunter it was between me and another person and I should prepare for a presentation to the board and then nothing…. nothing from the company but also nothing from the headhunter. Complete ghosting> they only had two people in contention at that point, so really not hard to write one email explaining they wouldn’t be taking it further! never rated that headhunter since

  44. I'm just here for the cats*

    #1 I’m surprised Alison didn’t suggest tis but could you have a private conversation with your boss saying why you mute yourself? Especially if there is a lot of my background noise.

    The snarky side of me would purposefully make noise so that the boss would get the idea that it’s really annoying. Think, have window open with lots of traffic, loud eating, have tv or radio on and blame neighbors, tree trimming work. But I don’t think you should go that route. Just talk to boss and if she still wants you un muted just comply.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      …while the neighbors mow their lawns and the unofficial “mayor of the block” loudly holds court next door.

    2. SpicySpice*

      Haha, I literally thought that same thing. I’d be fantasizing about playing audio of dogs barking, heavy construction equipment, etc., and then refuse to mute myself even if people couldn’t hear anything.

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      I wish the boss would pro-up and tell the OP why she has a problem. I can’t stand passive aggression and people who think their snark actually communicates something. Is boss at BEC stage with OP? “Look at OP over there, muting herself like she owns the place”.

  45. ATX*

    OP1 – this is baffling. I always tell people to go on mute when they’re typing or have noise in the background. it’s just common courtesy!

  46. Workfromhome*

    get a recording of jackhammer/construction noise and play it in the background. really loud. Eventually the boss will get annoyed at it and ask ou to mute because its disturbing the call. Problem solved :-)

  47. irene adler*

    Question with #3:
    The hired candidate won’t start the job for another month-per the OP.
    Given that, would it be out of line for the hiring manager to delay issuing those rejection notifications to the other candidates until after the candidate has actually started the job?

    My thought is, what if during the month, the hired candidate withdraws?
    If HR has already issued rejection notices to the remaining candidates, and then goes back and offers the job to one of the rejected candidates, wouldn’t that be viewed as a possible red flag (i.e. “hiring manager can’t make up their mind. First I’m rejected, then I’m offered the job. What gives?”)?
    If HR has not issued the rejection notices, and the hired candidate withdraws, then they offer the job to the second candidate -who has been kept waiting but not rejected.
    (Sure this leaves these candidates hanging for a while. )

  48. LPUK*

    I had a similar situation with my last company, based in Ireland. They wanted a senior marketing person, I had worked with a great person in UK ina previous company, who not only had the skills and experience they were looking for and a really positive attitude, but had a wife who was Irish and was looking to move to Ireland to be closer to family (most people with his level of seniority don’t want to move countries anyway and if they did Ireland is hardly top of the list!). I sounded him out and put him touch with the hiring manager. They had several interviews with him and LOVED him). Then they invited him back to meet the Europe marketing VP as a ‘formality’, produced the offer documentation and a contract ready to sign when he’d finished the ‘getting to know you’ interview… and the VP hated him and refused to see him employed even though the Hiring manager had virtually offered him the job by this stage! We will never know what happened in that meeting….

  49. Muted*

    OP#1- Do you mute yourself on the computer or on your phone? If the former, it’s possible that all the muting and unmuting is beeping in the actual meeting. We use webex, and unfortunately one feature is that the muting and unmuting is a beep in the meeting audio. I would suggest using your phone’s mute option to prevent the beeping sounds. I didn’t realize myself until I heard the beep from a teammember during a call.

      1. Muted*

        Hmm maybe it’s a meeting settings thing. I know that you can set it up to allow a beep for people entering/leaving, or remove that sound altogether. For us, we do hear the mute button being pressed, so I’m picturing a situation where OP1 is constantly muting or unmuting that beeping being a distraction. Otherwise that is weird for the manager to even bring up.

  50. OhMy*

    #1 – I’ll be the outlier here, at my org, if it’s just a few people on the call, it would be odd to mute yourself. The idea of muting yourself for presentations or huge group things is the norm, as you won’t be needing to talk, but on calls of 2-3 people people don’t mute when they’re not talking.

    No one would care or call you out if you did, though, so that’s a different story.

    1. Klio*

      It can be very distracting even in two person meetings to hear background noises like cars, airplanes, playing children, yourself as an echo, breathing. Muting makes sense, even in small meetings.

      1. OhMy*

        It can make sense or not make sense, depending on the situation. Muting isn’t always necessary, and it certainly isn’t expected everywhere, even though it’s common (and therefore if your org doesn’t do it, certainly not worth the capital to fight it).

  51. Rose*

    OP 1 – if I were in your shoes I’d start pulling up YouTube videos of dogs barking, traffic noises, children playing, etc. people go on mute for a very good reason.

  52. Lori Jackson*

    Every call I’m on that isn’t 1on 1 I mute myself. Infact, it’s common for someone to remind us to mute ourselves at the start of a call. This is basic common courtesy.

  53. UKgreen*

    LW1: I spent two hours this afternoon on a small conference call where most people were not muted. It was like trying to have a meeting in zoo. Screaming kids. Screaming pets. Chatty housemates. Typing. Texting beeps.

    Your boss is weird. Put yourself on mute.

  54. boop the first*

    1. Part of me wonders if boss/coworkers just… don’t know how muting works. I mean, maybe they think it mutes both ways and you are completely checked out? If they can say snarky thoughts as they come, you should be allowed to politely say “Yes, of course I’m muted, why wouldn’t I be?”

  55. Database Developer Dude*

    Anyone telling the OP #2 not to ask about remote work is being arrogant in favor of the employer. Let’s not forget, this is the second go-round, and THEY APPROACHED HER!!!!!!!! Asking about remote work and declining if that’s not possible isn’t being entitled on the part of the job candidate…

    If you come to me and ask me to apply for a job, and I cite certain conditions that I need to know whether or not they’ll be entertained…and that’s burning a bridge with you, then keep your raggedly old job offer, because I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.

  56. First time listener, long time caller*

    Disagree on OP1 because it’s a voice call, as long as it’s a pretty small group. When you mute a voice call, it seems sort of like you’re gone and I find it distracting. You may feel like you’re still in the conversation, but everyone else feels your gone. I certainly don’t think there’s a clear “do mute” etiquette as Alison suggests and as certainly exists in video calls.

  57. Pikachu*

    #1 – My Crazy Boss Catalog just keeps expanding, but The Anti-Muter is not one I expected.

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