how can I help a new employee learn to be more professional?

A reader writes:

My new employee, Jane, is a couple years into her career and this is her first job working on a team. She has been here a week and I can tell she’s going to need some training on professionalism since she doesn’t have a lot of office experience. For example, her friends have stopped by twice to hang out in her office during the day. The first time it was around lunch, so I chalked it up to a lunch break. But today it happened in the morning. I stopped in to chat about a project with Jane, thinking her friend would take the hint and step out, but the friend stayed and ended up chiming in with her thoughts on our project.

I know Jane will need some guidance and mentorship on professionalism, but I’m not sure how actively to approach the subject. For instance, should I go ahead and tell her now that her friends are welcome to stop by, but it should be around lunch and not while she’s working? Or should I give her time to recognize this on her own? How direct should I be with feedback when she is just starting out? Do I tell her quickly with the idea of “nipping things in the bud” or give it some time to see if minor things turn into ongoing issues?

I answer this question — and two others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Managing a frequently pregnant senior leadership team
  • Asking an employee to be more accessible when working from home

{ 157 comments… read them below }

  1. Akcipitrokulo*

    I get you were taken aback… but why on earth didn’t you tell the friend to leave?

    “I’m sorry, I need to talk to (employee). Please excuse us.” And if they don’t leave, “Let me show you out.”

    But then you spoke about a project in front of an outsider?


    Just tell them.

      1. Anonys*

        I am really confused as to whether these friends are simply colleagues who work in the same building or for the same company as OP but for a different department or if these are actually externals who just come by to hang out?

        Everyone seems to assume it’s the latter, but to me that would be weird enough that OP would have explicitly mentioned it? Surely the company has some kind of policy around external visitors?

        In my company, people have certainly very occasionally shown a family member or significant other to show them around the office but it would totally not ok for someone without a business reason to be there to just hang out. Even for lunch hour, I would tell the employee that it’s ok if her friends quickly step into the office to pick her up but not to hang around in a work area for an extended period of time.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I would not assume that every company has policy about external visitors. In fact it seems certain this one didn’t or that would have been mentioned.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            In my previous workplace, a friend of mine actually popped in for a cup of tea because she happened to have a hairdresser’s appointment in the area, but came on the wrong day, so she decided to come and see me so that her journey wasn’t for nothing. Luckily there were no bosses around, and I didn’t have a deadline to meet. She’s in her 50s, works as a teacher, so surely she should have known it’s not on to just turn up at someone’s workplace? Maybe she’s one of these people who don’t think anyone’s work is important except her own? I gave her a cup of tea then pushed her out firmly saying I had work to do.

      2. Egmont Apostrophe*

        Like Patrick MacGoohan in Braveheart when his son’s boyfriend wants to advise on military strategy?

    1. New Mom*

      I had the exact same thing happen to me a few years ago. I host interns and/or short term recent grads every summer and one year one of the guys did this. I was like the OP, I was so stunned that I didn’t say anything in the moment. I kept thinking that maybe there was another explanation for the situation but nope, his friend had come to chill at the office.

      I did pull him aside a day or so later to address that and a few other things (he was hourly but would come in 10 minutes late but record himself as being on time). Since he had no professional experience he wasn’t being shady, he was truly clueless. It was kind of excruciating though because he was not used to any sort of criticism so he was so upset anytime I had to talk to him that he looked physically ill and terrified that he was about to be fired. So I’d have to almost comfort him when we had talks.

      On a better note, our interns are starting soon and one of the Office Norms bullet points I have is a breakdown of “guests in the office” so they know as soon as they start.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think your reaction was really normal! In a lot of social situations, letting a one-off error be a one-off lets everyone move along with minimal friction. When other people don’t respond to social cues, we try to grease the treads and carry on so society doesn’t fall apart. Reprogramming that instinct (and I think women are more prone to it, as we are more expected to make things pleasant) takes some effort, and good judgment about when to object and when to let something slide.

    2. MsClaw*

      It’s not uncommon for people to freeze up and just not address something when it’s so far outside their norm. I can totally understand where LW1 is coming from. But yes, *especially* because that happened they need to address it with the employee.

      I don’t know what kind of jobs the employee had before, but an office is typically unlike a bar, say, where your friends might sit at the counter and chat with you when it’s slow. I have never been in a friend’s office just for funzies. Even if I were meeting them for lunch, we’d be meeting in a lobby common area or a restaurant or something, not like hanging out in her cube to nosh.

    3. starfox*

      Yeah this one is bizarrely passive to me! And then to ask if they should just wait for the employee to figure it out on her own? No? You are her manager. Manage!

    4. Meow*

      Yeah, I was thinking, this is the kind of thing most people in my generation figured out when they were teens working at the mall, and their boss went, “Stop lollygagging and get back to work!”
      …And then I wondered why OP didn’t do just that? Granted, in a professional environment, you might have to be more sensitive about verbally disciplining people in earshot and obviously you’d phrase it more nicely, but still.

      I’m guessing OP is just shocked that she has to explicitly communicate a lesson that most people learn before they get their first office job, but if this is her employee’s first time working on a team at all, then they have to learn sometime!

      1. starfox*

        Ehh I had a different experience working retail. Peoples’ friends would stop by to chat and hang out all the time and it was never a big deal. Even in more professional type jobs on campus in grad school, it wasn’t unheard of for friends to stop by. If that’s the kind of environment Jane is used to working in, then she probably sees nothing wrong with it.

        But that’s why the manager needs to nip it now instead of trying to get Jane to somehow figure it out by osmosis? Dirty looks? idk. I don’t understand why the manager is being so passive.

        1. si*

          Yeah, one of my best friends worked in a smallish shop, and if it was quiet I’d visit him to hang out in the back room and smoke (!). That was 20ish years ago. What we learned about work from that would definitely not fly in any offices I know.

        2. turquoisecow*

          Yeah, OP, Jane is not going to figure this out on her own if no one explicitly tells her. How do you expect her to figure it out if not from direct conversation? And who better to give that direct conversation than her boss? If I was Jane’s coworker and saw this happening, it might annoy me, but I wouldn’t feel it was my place to say anything. But as her boss, it is 100% your place.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, when my husband worked in a used bookstore in college I went and hung there a lot. I did not do the same when he worked in a wings delivery restaurant. That kind of thing can vary wildly depending on where you work, and it’s certainly possible this person previously worked somewhere it was normal and just needed to be told that wasn’t usually done in an office.

        4. tamarack and fireweed*

          I think environments with public foot traffic are somewhat different from traditional offices, as are visits by “friends” from across the hallway (employees of the same company). A certain level of socializing can be acceptable there.

          Of course, that means a *small* level of socializing, and/or socializing that is compatible with the job. As in “now that you’re working at the library / music store / coffee shop I thought I’d stop by, give you a thumbs up and check out the place – any good books / CDs / frappés lately?”

          It should be clear that socializing that distracts the employee from their job more than negligibly and especially the situation in the letter, a lack of awareness that a supervisor’s requests take total precedence, is not professional behavior of course.

        5. Cat*

          So, I am old and maybe my memory is not the best. But, I had the same experience working high school jobs in restaurants and then in retail. And, yes, friends would come hang out and talk to me during slow times. But they would never have hung around while my manager was trying to talk to me about work. And, I would have known to tell them not to, if they didn’t clue in.

          Still, when I got my first professional job that was in an office (cublicle) and not public-facing, I never would have thought it was OK to have friends visit me to hang out.

          This is just to say that I can understand why the OP was caught off guard about having to have this discussion. I don’t think it is a given that no one will understand without directions that they should not be socializing on the clock.

          Definitely agree that being passive is not good. They should privately talk to the employee and simply say that it is unprofessional to have his/her friends hang out in the office.

      2. Rose*

        This is not generational. This is a letter about one very out of touch person. Can we stop attributing bad behavior to “kids these days?” Your generation has some clueless people in it too.

        1. Meow*

          Sorry I came off that way, I really meant it to be more of a self-effacing joke about my age (and the fact that malls are barely a thing here anymore) than any actual remark about generational differences.

    5. Loulou*

      There are so many letters like this, though (where the advice boils down to “just tell them”). I agree it seems like common sense, but we would not have this website if everyone realized they could and should just directly say the thing that would solve the problem (yes, even managers).

      1. soontoberetired*

        Yes, a lot of people are afraid of being direct. I once told someone to stop chatting with a friend from another area since he was supposed to be dealing with a crisis! He didn’t get what he was doing was wrong but our system was in crisis, and he was supposed to be managing it getting back up. We had 300 people who couldn’t work and he was chatting about nothing with someone for 20 minutes when I told him to cut it out.

        Also, we have training videos on appropriate work place behavour that includes stuff like not inviting friends to hang around the office. I no longer think that was weird.

      2. MsClaw*

        I also think there’s a lot of basic job-having behavior that we expect people to just pick up by osmosis or common sense, and some people (who may be otherwise excellent employees) need things spelled out for them.

        Like, we had a guy who just didn’t show up for work for two days. He didn’t call, email, text, slack, etc to say he wasn’t coming in. He just…. didn’t show up. Or respond to the first several calls or messages when we started looking for him. When we finally got ahold of him he just seemed…. confused about the idea that he was supposed to inform someone that he was taking a day off since our office didn’t have a leave pre-approval process. I wouldn’t have thought I’d have to tell someone that an off-the-shoulder romper was not appropriate for a C-suite type business meeting, but I did (‘dressy for brunch’ is not the same as dressy for business).

        It absolutely can be uncomfortable to be all “Zebulon, I need to talk to you about something that happened earlier. When we have visitors in the conference room, you need to refrain from loud phone conversations right outside the door” or whatever (to you) obvious breach of business etiquette has taken place. But the sooner, the better. Some people are just never going to pick up a clue; make it crystal clear.

    6. Anon here*

      OP says they expected the visitor to leave, and was surprised they didn’t.

      “Why on earth” — OP is asking what to do, doesn’t need to be snarked at.

    7. Nanani*

      Honestly, this.

      One of my first jobs explicitly told new hires that friends, family etc. could not come into employee areas, could not be hanging out during work time, etc.
      But not everyone gets told that, or the “common sense” they’ve observed is missing some critical information, or their past jobs were really casual, or maybe a lot of things.

      TELL. THEM. The sooner the better for all the reasons already mentioned.

  2. Annie j*

    It seems strange to me that people who are not associated with the company can just walk into staff offices, surely there must be data protection implications, in my building no one is allowed in without a pass.

    1. WellRed*

      Sure in big(ger) companies. I don’t need a pass or anything else to get into my office. Just a good old key. Not sure what data protection implications you think apply to your average boring office.

      1. Annie J*

        Well it depends what work is being done there of course but it’s not just bigger companies that deal with sensitive information.
        When I say sensitive I don’t mean confidential, just information that’s only for the people who have to know about it who are working in the company, and most companies will have suppliers or customer details.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yep. I’ve worked for a number of companies, including my parent’s small mom-and-pop business when I was a kid, and none of them allowed free-range public in all areas. All have had varying degrees of open-to-the-public, with my current employer being entirely closed due to the nature of the work.

          Even in the places without confidentiality issues, there was customer info, billing/payment info, draft work for customers, and, in one case, machinery that did not need non-employees near it (sensitive and/or hand-crushing). Our local government office, which is very small, has public and non-public spaces. I can go hang out there anywhere the public is welcome; I cannot go hang out there in my friend’s office in an non-public area. I also worked for a guy who was fanatical about “business proprietary secrets” and felt anyone who wanted to use the restroom was trying to rip of his intellectual property – outlier for sure, there are are all types.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          It’s just a fact that offices vary. In most private companies, yes, there’s either electronic access control or a receptionist.

          But I work in higher education, and even though I’m in a building that houses offices, research labs, a library, and only very few seminar rooms used for teaching and presentations, it’s from 7:30 to 5:30 to foot traffic. You can just walk in, and are supposed to. And for other places who have either the general public or vendors/customers coming in it’s somewhat in the middle. The staff offices in a library or a museum, or a utility company or a logistics company may or may not be physically well separated from the areas that see traffic. So it’s not necessarily super shocking to see the occasional non-employee sticking around, especially a boss’s spouse, a vendor’s rep, or indeed the apprentice’s mate.

      2. starfox*

        My office deals with confidential information but we’re also a small business. We certainly can’t afford somewhere that’s going to enforce having a “pass.”

        Then again, my coworkers bring their children to work every day in the summer or when they’re sick and can’t go to school when they’re out of school, so we probably aren’t the epitome of professionalism!

      3. River Otter*

        Your average boring office has personal information on employees there and probably has financial information related to the business, and all of that needs to be protected.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My previous office was in premises that used to be a shop. There was an automatic door that opened any time anyone went anywhere near it. The design invites you in. In the last few years, there was no manager on site, just a random set of employees getting on with their work. Friends could and did walk in.

    2. Coach*

      It seems strange to me that people can’t imagine workplaces different from there own. Here’s an example: I used to be a manager at a town office and I shared a space with the director of the recreation dept. We worked in a public building and people (town employees and visitors) frequently stopped by. There was no sensitive data and no security.

      1. Excel-sior*

        Maybe it’s a hangover from a time they worked in retail? I used to pop in and have a chat with friends and vice versa, if i was passing and it was quiet. Mind you, even then i wouldn’t have dreamed of doing the same if they were in an office.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        There’s also a big difference between having random members of the public wandering thorough an open office, with computers, file drawers, phones and all the tools of business in one big room, and having a building that’s open to the public, but where anything confidential or sensitive is in an office that has a door that is locked when unoccuped. I work at a university – my building is open to students, visitors (both professional and public), various vendors, etc., but the admin offices and labs are locked if there’s no-one in them, and my own office, while shared with two others, is also lockable, and should be locked when empty.

    3. Tinkerbell*

      This depends a lot on whether your workplace is generally set up to accept walk-ins and what the person’s job duties are. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the receptionist’s friend stop by for a quick chat in many industries (and stay on the customer side of the counter) – much less so for the IT person whose office is in the server room.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      It’s strange to me as well. Granted, I work in an industry with highly sensitive information and could never discuss a work project in front of a stranger without violating a host of business and ethical rules, but we’ve never had free-range people in our building.

      I have a lot of new college grads on one of my teams, and we did have one who had their friends come by, but that was very quickly nipped in the bud with a short, direct conversation. It’s very infrequent, though – that was one of maybe 50 people over the years?

    5. OyHiOh*

      In my building, there is a keyed door for employee access, and public facing doors elsewhere on the building that anyone can use, any time the building is open. The section of the building my office is in, is completely publicly accessible – and needs to be, due to the walk-in/drop off nature of most of the small businesses and orgs that have offices here.

    6. Ann Perkins Knope*

      I’ve worked at a lot of places that had a certain expectation to be open to the public, gov’t offices and nonprofits that have offices but are open to drop-ins, visitors, people just curious, people with a specific question, form, or request…varying degrees of security but certainly almost anyone could get in and it wouldn’t be weird right off the bat to be there, so this isn’t universal and people can not know. It’s still strange – Only retail, mostly food places, can I just imagine parking yourself as a friend at someone’s work, and even there hard to see a lot of people being comfortable just hanging out for hours while someone was supposed to be working, including chiming in on work things, so I don’t think this is a hugely widespread thing, but, you know, if they don’t know, they don’t know, you gotta tell ’em.

      1. alienor*

        Yeah, I remember stopping in to see friends at work when we were in high school, but even then it’d be a 5-minute visit, and I’d buy a frozen yogurt or a soda or whatever the place sold so I had an excuse to be there.

      1. eastcoastkate*

        Yeah this is what I was thinking- which makes the letter read differently than random external non-work friends.

      2. Bucky Barnes*

        I answered before I saw your reply but this is exactly what I thought as well.

      3. Yvette*

        Same here, the letter was not clear if they were other employees or outside friends.

      4. unaccountably*

        Why would the manager have been that taken aback at seeing one of OP’s work friends in her office?

        1. unaccountably*

          *Jane’s friends, I mean. Surely having work friends occasionally in your office wouldn’t warrant a letter to AAM.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, if it was work friends, this wouldn’t be a big issue. And it would’ve been an easy fix for OP to just tell them, “hey, we need to focus on this task.”

          Outside work friends is a whole different deal. I don’t know why they would be stopping by randomly

          I did have occasion when I was coming in town to visit a friend to go by their work, but then he would work and I would sit quietly at another desk doing my own thing while he finished up his work. I certainly wouldn’t listen in a work conversation and provide my own thoughts on it. That’s just crazy. I also assumed that my friend got permission to let me sit at another desk and work quietly while he was doing his job and finishing up work for the day.

      5. CoveredinBees*

        That’s what I had assumed too. Fellow employees who worked on a different team or department.

        1. Nelliebelle1197*

          A week isn’t long enough to have friends at work who just hang in your office.

          1. amoeba*

            True, but I kind of assumed Jane was already in the company before and thus still had friends from her previous team (and was just transferred to letter writers team, not new to the company). But yeah, it isn’t specified, reads quite differently if we’re actually talking outsiders!

      6. Ellie*

        That’s what I assumed too – they must be office workers who work in other parts of the building. No way could a completely random person get past reception in the vast majority of offices. I was going to suggest asking them what team they are from, and redirecting them that way (and possibly looping in their manager if it happens more than a couple of times).

        But there is a chance that OP works in a place that’s open to the public, in which case they might just be random friends. Still, I’d take it up with them directly as they were the ones that butted in – ask where they work and let them know they can’t hang out, come back at lunch time, etc.

    7. LTR FTW*

      I worked for a dot com back in the day, and my friends came to hang out in my office all the time! Probably because there was a never-ending supply of beer in the fridge, and because everyone in my office was young and single. That was the most fun job I ever had.

    8. Oakwood*

      It’s not just data security.

      • Theft (you don’t know who these people are).
      • Insurance. What if they injure themselves in your office? Your employees have read the handbook on office safety. Have these people? Nope. So, if they injure themselves doing something stupid they are in for a big payday at your expense.

    9. anonymous73*

      Depends on many factors, but I took it to mean friends that also worked at the company. If she’s got random friends coming into an office they don’t work in, that’s a whole other issue even if it is lunch time.

        1. Ellie*

          She could have known them from before she started working there – most places I’ve started at, I’ve known a few people already from past jobs, internships, and from university. It would be really normal to have a few ‘welcome to the company’ visits within your first week, but you wouldn’t expect them to hang around.

    10. Bucky Barnes*

      It didn’t occur to me that this was someone from outside. I was reading it like a work friend. This is completely different to me.

    11. Alliesaurus*

      I’ve worked at all sizes of companies and a couple that had fob/card access to the employee offices just required visitors check in at the front desk. But as long as an employee escorted them in, they could go sit in an office or what-have-you. Obviously the intention is you don’t bring in guests just to hang out, but I could see that happening if it wasn’t spelled out to a newbie (it was at one office and wasn’t at another, but I was well enough into the work world that I knew better).

    12. New Mom*

      This is super true for offices, but for people who have only ever had student jobs they may not “get” it. I remember in college I would drop by my friend’s jobs all the time, and we both assumed it was fine. I remember hanging out with my roommate at her gym job and thinking nothing of it, and maybe other students come from more laid back work environments and just don’t realize.

      1. New Mom*

        Which is why it’s really important to correct the behavior early on as a manager.

      2. Cee*

        Interesting to hear from someone who assumed it was fine to hang out at your friend’s college job!

        I work in a college archive and supervise many student employees at their on campus jobs. A handful have had friends stop by and hang out but we always tell them we can’t have non-employees just hanging around. I’ve always wondered why the friends would even want to sit at their friend’s job, let alone why both parties assumed this would be ok. College jobs are definitely a bit more loosey goosey but I thought it would at least be clear that the job is not to get paid while hanging out with your friends.

        Of course, using the archive’s services while your friend is working is one thing. Just coming by to sit with them makes no sense.

        I guess we academic supervisors need to be diligent about explaining this so people don’t bring this weirdness to their post college jobs.

        1. New Mom*

          Yeah, I would never do that now haha. But I can remember hanging out with her for over an hour chatting on multiple occasions and neither of us thought anything of it #professional

        2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          A gym job that a college student is different than having an on campus job in the archives.
          but i get your meaning. I would see it sometimes with the RA’s when they had to staff the desk. Granted these were students too, but still.

      3. Mr. Shark*

        I think something like a gym job (or I had a job at a bowling alley) is a lot different than hanging out at an office, which a person should be working more consistently all day. Gyms and bowling alleys have lulls in the work requirements, like retail or a job at the mall, where it wouldn’t be that strange to just chat with someone.

        In an office job, for the most part, you should be focused on work and can’t really have someone just hanging around for the moment that you don’t need to be working on something. That would be a big distraction.

    13. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I don’t think the friend just walked in the building and sat in the office. The employee probably brought them in. So even if there were areas that you needed a badge or a visitor pass the employee would have let her in or gotten her a pass.

    14. Fikly*

      The other week I was trying to find a doctor’s office in a hospital, and managed to accidentally walk onto a ward and not once get stopped by anyone or get covid screened. I was HORRIFIED.

  3. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    To the first letter writer, you actually reinforced the opposite of what you wanted by not being direct when the friend remained present for the project discussion. By proceeding normally and without addressing it directly (when the friend offered unsolicited input no less!), you’ve signaled to the employee that everything about the situation was appropriate typical. It’s especially important for you to be clear, direct, and kind about these expectations going forward.

    1. Budgie Buddy*


      New employee will be learning by osmosis. For example in this scenario she will learn that the boss is apparently fine with friends stopping by during work hours. That’s the problem with expecting people to pick up on hints and cues. The pick up on ALL the cues you’re sending out, not just specific ones you hope they’ll catch.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Eh – I think the manager can have the conversation now without losing anything. Just saying “I didn’t want to embarrass you or your friend, but it’s not okay to have people stop by the office unless you’re on the way out for lunch or a break. While you’re working, we need you focused, and we shouldn’t be discussing projects in front of people who are not employees.” would be perfectly fine.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I agree. Jane isn’t a pet undergoing operand conditioning. I can’t tell our dog “oops, I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of [other dog] so I didn’t say anything in the moment, but from now on you can’t steal food from the counter” – he’ll have learned how to do this and isn’t going to stop based on reason. Unlike a human being able to accept reasoning.

        At least, one hopes.

  4. Warrior Princess Xena*

    As someone who is still learning the ropes of a professional workplace, please please please tell your new staff about these expectations as soon and as gently as possible and don’t assume they’ll just be picked up. Especially if you’ve got a hybrid or remote setup, and ESPECIALLY if the move to hybrid or remote has been recent in the last two years. I’d much rather learn I’m stepping over a line new rather than 6 months down the road when it’s grown into the thing I’m known for

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Forever thankful to a supervisor and mentor who went out of her way to SHOW us what she meant by example in both real life situations and by setting up mock situations for us (she took mentorship pretty seriously).

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    OP3: Signing into the IM system is a perfectly normal thing, and explaining it as the norm for everyone working remotely is fine.

    But unless this program is connected to spyware, I am shaking my head that you think she must be goofing off. You should be able to tell if she only accomplishes half as much when she works at home, which would be a reasonable thing to address. For that matter, people goof off while sitting in your general vicinity and you can see the top of their head over the cube wall.

    1. LIZZIE*

      Right? I kind of felt like this was veering into the “well, if you’re not IN the office where I can’t SEE you, then you must not really be working” territory. And as you said, people goof off both working in the office, out of it, and at home.
      And TBH, if the manager is feeling like the WFH employee may not be doing what they are supposed to, then to me, they aren’t being a very efficient manager.

      1. unaccountably*

        This. Managers act like no one ever played solitaire or surfed the internet in their cubicles before.

        I manage remotely and I know that my reports are doing their work because it’s my job to (a) know what their work is, and (b) know whether they’ve done it or not.

    2. Mockingjay*

      #3, I see intertwined issues.

      – The employee should be signed into chat as required.
      – Likely the employee is more productive at home, due to fewer interruptions (including chat).

      It’s that fine line between an employee having the capacity to help out here and there, and being held to a higher standard because they are more productive. If the latter, I can see an employee ducking off chat to “hide.”

      Per Alison, ask her to sign in as required, then discuss her workload. I do have concern about what OP means to “help others on the team.” This is an older letter, so OP3 probably isn’t around to respond, but I hope OP3 isn’t counting on the employee to pick up the slack from underperforming coworkers. That’s OP3’s job to fix.

      1. Maurynna*

        Yeah my first thought was that she probably does it to be left alone. Going to WFH and having a program like Teams has given some folks the impression that chat should be used to communicate information that is better suited for email (important but not urgent/requiring immediate attention). Having that chat box flash constantly while trying to focus drives me insane. I’ve tried putting on my focus status but teams still flashes that stupid window.

        I understand the requirement to have them signed on while working, but if constant interruptions are distracting her, then maybe some expectations for chat etiquette need to be set for the entire team.

        1. EngineeringFun*

          Yeah I came here to say I do solitary detailed work when I’m home M F because I’m slammed with meetings TWR, so I turn off my teams. I can get so much more work done at home than in the office! I do turn it on at points during the day to make sure I don’t miss something.

        2. Ellie*

          Mine too – I often set my status to away or busy when I really need to get a document reviewed, or something else that has to be done by deadline. There’s a general expectation that you’ll be available during the workday though – why not just phrase it as that? Can you please make sure you’re logged into chat for most of the day? You need to be available for any questions, etc. I know its less productive for you, but its more productive for the team to have people available.

        3. amoeba*

          I’d use the “do not disturb” setting for that (you don’t see pop-up notifications in that mode on teams, do you? Not sure as I rarely use it). Being offline does actually look like you’re not on your computer in our company (which is not a problem, we’re very flexible and it’s completely fine to have appointments etc during the day). But I’d definitely wonder if somebody was constantly offline. Probably would actually worry whether they’re OK.

      2. LittleMarshmallow*

        As someone who would like my manager to assign some of my overflowing plate to a colleague or two that has less on theirs, the statement about thinking the person shouldn’t have to help others is a little unfair.

        It is the managers job to know what their employees are doing and move work around as needed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that those that are struggling with full plates are poor performers and their less piled on colleagues are rock stars.

        LW probably needs to work with whole team on resource allocation as Allison pointed out in her comment about having LW talk to their report about their workload.

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Heck, it’s fine to require her to sign in to the IM system just as a condition of working on any day, in the office or at home. But sometimes when I’m working from home I use that time to focus on the big projects that require a chunk of time, that people calling or popping by my desk or IMing me would distract from. Working from home can be a great way to focus away from distractions.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I have found that a great way to balance ‘I use home as a place away from distractions’ vs ‘it’s hard to see that I exist’ is to put some sort of designated calendar block visible that says ‘focus time – DND’. We use outlook + teams, so those of course play well together, but this is doable even with less integrated systems and does provide some sort of technological body language of ‘I’m here and working, just focusing’.

        Also, working away from distractions is nice, but sometimes the things that distract us are things that are relevant and important. So just signing off of all workplace communication for a day without having communicated that you’re doing a focus day can be not great if it turns out that your coworkers/manager need you for something time-sensitive.

        1. Lexi Lynn*

          Does she even know she isn’t signed in? It might automatically load in the office, but not over VPN.

          Whenever I reboot my computer, Teams signs me out randomly the first couple of days. No idea why on day 1.5 post reboot, I may be showing as offline, but on day 2.5, that never happens.

          1. Sandan Librarian*

            I was going to say the same thing. My VPN doesn’t always sign me into our IM when I work from home and it’s not something I’d notice because folks so rarely try to contact me via IM anyway.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Right, I understand focus time. But working in-office or working from home, you should be available if something comes up. IM system is now the default of dropping by your office/cubicle for something that comes up and needs to be addressed immediately.

        If a message flashes on your screen, and you are in the middle of something, you simply let the person know that you’ll get back to them as soon as you finish up. But they should be able to get ahold of you during the business day. If the person is not signing on to the IM system, then it becomes much more difficult for coworkers, including the LW, to get ahold of the person as needed.

    4. anonymous73*

      I found it odd that Alison mentioned that this employee may not know she’s supposed to sign into the IM program while WFH. If she signs in at work, common sense would tell her that she needs to sign in from home too. Just because she’s home doesn’t mean anything about her work day changes other than the location.

      1. Loredena*

        Because there might be an extra step due to vpn that she’s just not taking/doesn’t realize she needs to do to log in is my thought

        1. Obscure*

          We have two step verification for Teams when we are working from home but it logs in automatically when we are in the office (assume it’s based on IP address or something like that).

    5. tamarack and fireweed*

      I agree. Just clearly laying out the expectation that she’s signed into IM should be enough.

      There could be technical reasons why she isn’t – for example, probably the IM system requires having the company VPN on, which may make the internet connection slower or otherwise interfere with how her personal computer is networked (if she uses her own) (ask me how I know…), and if she sees the IM as not critical for her communications, AND doesn’t need the VPN for the rest of her job, then she may just not bother and doesn’t realize the hand-wringing she causes. (Or her installation is somehow messed up and she didn’t get around to ask IT about it, or IT wasn’t able to resolve it on her personal computer etc. etc.)

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. Signing in to an IM or not says nothing about whether she’s working. But the fact that you, as her manager, don’t know whether she’s working or not doesn’t say good things about you as a manager.

      See, for remote, or even hybrid, work, you need to manage based on results not on “presence” in the office or on chat. Because someone can “look busy” in the office or on chat. So unless you have clear expectations of work output, her being on chat only makes her available to chat with you, not “busy” like you expect.

      That being said, if she’s turning in her work on time, and accomplishing more when she’s at home, it may be that she’s not turning on chat because it’s a distraction engine, not a resource.

      I strongly suggest you pick up some books on “Results Oriented Management” and try to apply the principals to your workplace. The pandemic is not over, and a big surge could have most of your office our sick, or fully remote again. Being able to manage remote employees is a long term career skill for a manager going forward.

  6. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    The Pregnancy Leave issue can be addressed by broadening it. “We’ve seen that when senior managers are out for extended periods we have issues with coverage. What can we do to be planful about these situations — which could come up for many different reasons, including illness, injuries, moving to other jobs etc.? It is good practice to have succession planning.”

    1. Oakwood*

      This is a good idea. Addressing the issue as only a pregnancy issue is likely to leave the LW open to accusations of sexism.

    2. Melicious*

      Yes, I think you might get further with the broader language. Yes, maternity leaves and increased flexibility before and after are temporary. But if you’re having issues every time someone needs leave or accommodation, your company doesn’t have adequate fallbacks in place for the unexpected or for potential longer term disruptions.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      Yes – this is the correct way to handle it. There are numerous situations where people may need to be out. And in fact I’d be less concerned about maternity leave – which at least to an extent allows planning time – and more concerned with sudden unplanned absences. No one plans a heart attack or serious car accident.

      They should be planning succession and coverage for extended absences, planned and unplanned – the reason shouldn’t matter.

    4. PlainJane*

      That’s what I was thinking, too–and it’s also true. If someone else breaks a leg or needs surgery or has to deal with a family emergency, you’re still in the same situation. The maternity leaves have brought it into focus, but it’s going to happen with other scenarios as well. Maybe, “For leaves, medical or otherwise, that will exceed three months, the procedure is going to be __________.”

  7. Critical Rolls*

    Regarding the pregnant senior leaders… “We make comprehensive plans for a lot of temporary situations” would be another angle of approach. Since you’ve run into concrete problems, I’m wondering if there isn’t some defensiveness going on about working while having children. Framing it as no different from other situations that might occur, or even as, “we should have plans in place should any of our senior leadership be unable to work for an extended period” might take some of that “you, problem pregnant people” sting out of it.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). Takes many forms – some are very detailed manuals, others just a short SOP. But all address this very situation: when someone or something is unavailable, here are the alternates (people) or alternatives (product or process). It’s just such a sensible thing for any business – profit or non – to have. That’s how I would pitch it to senior leadership.

  8. NotAnotherManager!*

    #3 is not even a weird request – everyone on my team needs to have their IM on if they are working that day, regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home. It’s got nothing to do with productivity or tracking people, just having the team on the same communication channel. We tell everyone this as part of orientation.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Same here. We use the IM app quite a lot, so it’s expected we sign in everyday, whether we’re home or in the office.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. If you’re not on IM, how can someone message you with a question/communicate (which is an expectation of our job duties and our technology). How are you following the groups where the teams communicate with each other?

      1. PhonesStillWork*

        By calling me, generally, or emailing if it’s a team issue. Not every office has embraced IMs.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          For a phone call please IM me first to give me a heads up that you’re calling me.

          … but the LW says: “When she’s in the office, she signs into our company-wide IM system. However, when she’s home, she doesn’t sign in … I’d also like her to be more easily accessible during those hours.” so it seems that the LW’s office has fully embraced the current technology of IM software.

    3. LittleMarshmallow*

      This is a funny thing to me because my job is opposite… if I’m home (which is rare for me) I’m more likely to be signed into Teams and available at the drop of a hat. If I’m in the office I’m probably only at my desk 50% of the time so I show idle all the time. My colleagues know this. They message or email me when they need something and I respond when I can. If it’s really urgent they can call my cell or get someone that’s at their desk to call me on then radio. It’s rarely an issue. We have an extremely cross-functional team so everyone works differently so usually people are cool with the differences.

  9. MuseumChick*

    A few jobs ago I managed a teams of interns working on a multi-year project. Because it was part-time and low pay people would often find better jobs and leave which we expected and were always supportive of. This meant I was rehiring for a least one intern position every year. It attracted a lof of people who were college age or just out of college with little or no work experience. I made time every month or so to teach them something about how most workplaces operate. For example, I sat them all down and explained the confusing world of dress codes. Another time I went over how a (reasonable) manager handles a situation where an employee is having struggles in their personal life and how while we (managers) may want to give things like flex-time, in some jobs its just not feasible, things like that.

    I believe it is the responsibility of managers to teach those who are new to the workforce things like this. What are dress codes and why do they matter? What does HR do and when you should (and shouldn’t) go to them? If you have a problem with a co-worker how can you handle it and when do you need to pull your boss in? etc.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      We do an orientation session on working at our organization and workplace basics – how to schedule meetings, hw to communicate with people, how to solve problems (and who to reach out to when you need help with them), and how feedback is handled on both sides. It’s gotten rave reviews.

  10. Purple Cat*

    I love how so much of Alison’s responses can be boiled down to “Name the specific issue and address it directly”.
    So, LW1 – yes please specifically tell the new employee what your workplace norms are.
    LW2 – No, you absolutely cannot tell somebody having kids has reduced their job capacity. The reality is that every business needs succession planning and a framework for covering unexpected absences. It could just as easily be a medical issue instead of childbirth.
    LW3 – You say logging on IM is the issue. (Which I agree is a basic expectation that you need to lay out), but then you delve into worrying if employee is working at all and just skating by. Different issue – different resolution. Figure out which one (or both) is the issue for you.

    1. anonymous73*

      And to add to #3…don’t assume because employee doesn’t sign on to IM at home she’s trying to hide something. If she’s getting her work done, that’s the only thing you need to be concerned about. If that includes being reachable through IM, you address that specific thing.

      I WFH full time and when I’m not busy, I wash some dishes, throw a load of laundry in the washer, straighten up a room, etc. I get my work done and that’s all y boss cares about. I’m so over managers thinking that when people aren’t in the office, they’re slackers. I’ve worked with a TON of people who slacked off IN the office.

  11. MsMaryMary*

    I think it’s probably just a quick reset of expectations for LW3. Her employee may not even realize she’s not logged in at home. We’ve run into issues with our IM software launching or not launching on start up, or disconnecting when laptops are docked/not docked, of when the wifi connection changes… We even have one person who is definitely logged in and can message us, but to everyone else it looks like she hasn’t been active since March. Technology is a mystery.

    1. Art3mis*

      I’ve had an issue where Teams will show me as away even though I am actively using my laptop.

      1. Flash Packet*

        Teams does this to us at least twice a week. I’ll be chatting with someone and ask if they know that they’re showing offline. They’ll send me a screenshot of their [green, online] status and that’s when I realize the issue is on my end.

        I should make “reboot Teams” one of my daily login steps.

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          HA! that just happened to my co worker.

          What gets me is when I’ve chated a message to someone and they have replied but it still shows unread on my end.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This happened to me the other day. I went back on it and it said “Away” even though I’d been on it just a few minutes before and hadn’t logged out of anything. So weird.

    2. kiki*

      Yes! This should be an easy conversation. There are so many simple reasons she may not be appearing as present on the IM system. They may just not realize it’s the norm or maybe they’re trying to take advantage of appearing as “away” to have fewer interruptions.
      I feel like LW is jumping too far ahead of themselves by guessing their employee is not working or trying to obfuscate when they’re working. Also, to be frank, a lot of employees who appear online may be taking time away from work to do other things too. Appearing as entirely online is kind of the opposite tactic I would take?

  12. Art3mis*

    LW1 I definitely think you should set expectations and help her. No one helped me and I spent many years learning painful lessons that really continue to set me back in a lot of ways. Please help her, not everything is obvious.

  13. My heart is a fish*

    #2 – Making it a pregnancy issue is absolutely a mistake. The most I’d do to link the pregnancies to continuity planning would be to say that they had highlighted the truth that someone might be out for an extended period, with or without much in the way of advance notice, and that the org is clearly deficient in planning for such an occurrence. From there I’d expand that in planning for the future, the plans need to cover everyone (not just women) because the next absence could be someone coming down with long covid, could be a traumatic accident with months of recovery, could be just about anything. I’d even steer away from more gendered examples like family caregiving (which often falls on women). Anyone can get hit by a bus, regardless of gender, and I’d lean on that.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think if you phrase it as we need an “employee wins the mega-lotto and retires plan” or some other phrasing that makes it about planning for any sort of coverage as opposed to just focusing on maternity coverages will get a lot more buy-in from these two founders. The key is to get them to realize having a plan for what happens next helps them better serve any employees they have as well as their community/customers. It’s just about trying to phrase it in a way that doesn’t make it feel like a criticism of their desires to have and raise kids – which they may feel is what the board is doing currently and why they are so dismissive of those planning efforts right now.

  14. Sad Desk Salad*

    The IM thing might be something the employee’s not even aware of. Some IM programs you have to sign into intentionally, or adjust your settings to auto-sign-in, and some computer settings might require IT approval. So she may be working away and just not notice she’s not logged into IM, particularly if it’s an under-used platform.

    We currently use Teams, and the video conferencing software is nice, but I HATE the chat function. It’s fine when being used during meetings, but I hate that it pops up every time I log into a meeting, which is multiple times a day. I’m calling into a meeting, not sending a chat. If I need the chat function I’ll go to the chat function, leave me alone. But then of course I haven’t arranged my settings so that impromptu chats, rare though they are, don’t pop up, so the only time I see them is during this intrusive chat pop-up while I’m trying to get to a meeting.

    All this is to say, it might be something that can be handled by adjusting your settings, which is probably something I should go do right now. Sigh.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        I don’t *want* multiple functions in one “app”. I want my IMs separate from my meetings and separate from shared documents and my calendar and whatever other nonsense is in Teams. And I certainly don’t want to be notified every time someone in a Teams meeting I am not attending makes a comment in the chat.

        Rant over. I agree the meeting/video function is mostly fine, but I do not like all the other “features” they crammed into Teams.

  15. Galahad*

    I find it ironic that LW1 with ee’s friend in the office is obviously a problem, but if the person was working from home, with a friend over, the answer would be more about “managing to performance expectations, not monitoring specific activities during the day”, “don’t worry about how they spend their time, look at the work completed”.

    1. P*

      If an employee’s friend joined a zoom call because they were hanging out in the background the commentary would definitely not be “don’t worry”.

    2. unaccountably*

      Lots of people have their spouses in their house when they’re working from home. That doesn’t make it okay for the spouse to come hang around their office all day either. Keep your friends and relations out of the way of your work no matter where you are.

    3. Zudz*

      This is an interesting take, but they’re not the same. As mentioned by others upthread, you don’t let strangers into your office. Even if they’re not nefarious schemers after your proprietary data, they become your (or your organization’s) responsibility in the event of an accident.

      At home, your organization doesn’t have to worry about data thieves (or more traditional forms of thieves, like wallet or lunch), or liability. They just have to trust that the employee will secure their company issued things appropriately.

      It seems more analogous to say: I don’t care if my employees chat with their friends on Discord, or Google Hangouts, or whatever, as long as their work is getting done.

    4. Nanani*

      Well, no. A friend popping into the office is disruptive to other people in the office in ways that the same friend at home is not.
      Chatting with the friend on IM while working would also not be distratcting to the rest of the office, and could be ok as long as the work gets done, but having friend there in person, where your off-topic conversation distracts others, and you aren’t really available to your collegues, is not the same thing.

    5. tamarack and fireweed*

      We have a very collegial work atmosphere and a humane leadership, so people dealing with their dogs, new puppy, small children during our team Zoom calls is never an issue. Neither is a partner walking by – most of us have met each other’s family members. We’re scientists, and independence, freedom to organize our work environment as we see fit as well as a certain amount of idiosyncrasy are probably more valued than just anywhere else. However, if someone always had some friend hanging out during our calls, and possibly just chime into our discussions, our PI would I believe check in with them and make it clear that this is … discouraged.

  16. unaccountably*

    So what actually IS the difference between slacking at home and slacking at work? Because no boss has ever liked perpetual work slackers, but it was never an obsession the way managers are obsessing now about slacking while working from home. Sure, people are out of your sight at home, but most of the time they’re out of your sight at work, too. And if you can’t tell whether they’re doing their work at home, how do you tell whether they’re doing it in the office? Do you have to literally go over to their desk and look? Are you popping out at them and craning your neck to see their computer screen in some sort of surprise inspection? If not, why can’t you take the same mechanism you use for figuring out whether they’re doing their work in the office and just… do that?

    All I can figure out is that it’s one of a few things, largely centered around what counts as Work.

    1. It’s about roles. You are supposed to be a Work Person at work and a Home Person at home, and if you are at home you can’t be playing the role of a Work Person and therefore are not Working.

    2. It’s about performance. Work is a thing you have to do in front of society so that you can perform the Protestant Work Ethic. If you are not performing the Work Ethic in the metaphorical town square, that means you’re not Working. Also anything you want to do in private is de facto suspect and immoral.

    3. It’s about the weird American conviction that in order to be a moral citizen you must do unpleasant or tedious tasks effortfully, preferably extending those tasks far beyond work hours. Being home is (usually) not unpleasant. Therefore, nothing done at home qualifies as Work.

    4. It is *not* about productivity. If it were, there would be widespread recognition that a report that you write while sitting on your couch is no less written than it would be sitting at your desk.

    1. Flash Packet*

      If today weren’t my weekly [stupid, nonsensical, wasteful, inefficient] In-Office Day, I’d stand up and applaud this comment.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I believe it’s about physical and behavioral control, or the perception of same. An employer has traditionally controlled employees by requiring them to appear in person at the designated workplace, at a specific time for a specific duration, wearing clothing that is permitted by company policy, and sit or stand in an assigned workspace, using company-controlled equipment. The employee can only take permitted breaks, which may also be under observation. The employee’s general conduct throughout the day while at the workplace is also under observation, controlled and subject to employer policies. The employee can be observed first-hand performing work under the employer’s control. But an employee that is not physically present and cannot be seen or observed… well, there is no perceived control over that person. And how can a person be trusted to work if the employer has no physical or behavioral control over them? Ha.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        IMO, if they don’t trust the people they hired, why did they hire them?

        Essentially, I see the RTO and “Butts in Seats” management as being infantilizing – they treat their employees like unruly children who need to be rigidly regimented throughout their day in order to get any work out of them. It’s almost as bad as High School with bells for every occasion, telling you when to get up, move, sit down, etc.

        I have had managers like that, and whole companies structured like that. It actually brings out the rebellious teenager in me – I’m more likely to slack off the tighter the regimentation is.

        Sure, some jobs like an automated assembly line require close coordination of a lot of moving parts. But office work? Naaah.

    3. Ellie*

      Slacking in the office can be disguised fairly easily as ‘building relationships with co-workers’, ‘improving morale’ and ‘networking’. Slacking at home just looks like slacking. Personally I don’t care how much slacking takes place so long as the result is an average or better employee. But this is more like someone ignoring the phone and/or emails at work, you need to log in to chat. Its part of the job.

      1. Unaccountably*

        It’s hard to disguise sitting in your cubicle playing solitaire or web-surfing as “networking,” and both those things happened (and still happen) with non-trivial frequency. In order to buy into the whole “being at work = Working and being at home = not Working” ideology, you have to develop convenient amnesia for what office work actually looked like during the Before Times.

        If there’s an understanding in your office that you turn on the chat program when you’re at home, sure, LW’s employee should be turning it on. But that’s a simple email saying “Hey, can you keep your chat function turned on during WFH days?” and it’s not the LW’s issue. If you go back and reread the letter, the LW has built up this whole fanfiction in her head about how it means that her employee is being sneaky and dishonest and hiding something.

        You can’t tell if someone’s working by whether they have their chat function on. They could be sitting there watching daytime TV and just answering IMs as they come in. Turning the IM on is fine, but it’s not going to address the issue, which is that the LW immediately assumes that her employee has her chat off for nefarious, company-cheating purposes.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*


      The “Butts in Seats” school of management doesn’t actually measure “work”, it measures “presence” and “presence” is assumed to equal “work”. But presence is not work, and work is not presence.

      Lots of managers have completely come unglued the last two years, because they could not judge output based on presence, and many still have no way to judge the actual work getting done! This, especially when it hits the fossilized C-suite, is what is driving the tone deaf RTO thing that wants people back in the office even though the pandemic is NOT over!

      Maybe Alison can do an article on “Results Based Management”, with tips, tricks and links to good resources and books for managers who are still struggling with managing remote employees.

      1. Unaccountably*

        The whole topic just mystifies me, because I’m like – don’t your reports have actual work products? Don’t you know what their job is? Why don’t you know whether that job is getting done or not? Even if their job is to do nothing but sit in meetings all day, wouldn’t someone eventually tell you “Hey, Jane hasn’t been at a meeting in weeks, what’s up?”

        But I guess that to a lot of people, those random water-cooler conversations *are* the work, or are a sufficient stand-in for work, and two people standing in their kitchens next to Brita pitchers will not suffice.

  17. Slow Gin Lizz*

    It’s possible her work computer signs her in automatically but her home computer doesn’t. I’ve had that happen to me sometimes.

  18. Slow Gin Lizz*

    This was supposed to be a comment on another thread, but in case it’s not clear, it’s for OP3.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      And, as you can see, I’m having issues with a work computer right now (it’s brand new and can’t seem to figure out AAM, lol).

  19. Flash Packet*

    Shortly after we rolled out Teams, about 3 months into the pandemic, some manager must have complained about never knowing if their people were working or not because all of a sudden our online status would time out to “Away” in 2-3 minutes instead of 15.

    That annoyed me so much that I bought a USB “mouse jiggler” so I could go get a glass of water and stretch my legs without announcing to my team that I’d walked away from my desk for a few minutes.

    Which is to say…. Even if LW3 tells her employee to log into IM when working from home (which I think they should be doing anyway), LW3 would still only be able to tell from output if the employee was goofing off all day or not.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I should get one of those. I work at the command line so much that I can not touch my mouse for an hour.

  20. Heffalump*

    I gather this isn’t Jane’s first job ever. When I entered the workforce, I implicitly assumed that work is work, and what’s acceptable behavior at one job is acceptable behavior at any job. Over the course of a few jobs I learned (fortunately not the hard way) that this isn’t the case.

  21. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I suspect with the proliferation of remote work, we’re going to see people in their 30s making embarrassing rookie mistakes like this when they get their first in-person office job.

  22. MillennialHR*

    I worked in a coffee shop while in college and even there, I wasn’t able to sit and chat with friends who would come in. This is something you have to be told or learn the hard way. I happened to learn early in life that I didn’t want to be bothered when I was busy at work and being in such a front facing position as a waitress and then, a barista, made it so that even overly friendly customers could be frustrating because I just needed to work! I am in my late 20s, so this is certainly not generational.

  23. toolittletoolate*

    It is perfectly reasonable to have a continuity of operations plan in place for any kind of extended absence of key personnel, and it seems like this is well within the purview of a Board of Directors to expect and perhaps even help design. It sounds like perhaps these “founders” of the non-profit may not have made the mental transition yet that the organization needs more professional systems in place if they want to grow and thrive.

  24. River*

    Ugh. I can relate. There’s a guy at my work that is known to interrupt conversations. For example, a few weeks ago I was having a chat with a co-worker about an upcoming meeting and he walked up to us and stood there so we had to stop our conversation. I noticed what he does is try and eavesdrop for key words or phrases we people are chatting and if the chat sounds sensitive or private, he’ll back off but if not, he will hang around. First of all, don’t try and eavesdrop on other people’s conversations and second of all, don’t stand there like a dog waiting for a bone. Plus he’s known to be a gossip AND the head of a department so there’s that. Then he’ll say “sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt your conversation” to which one of these days I will respond, “Uh yes you did otherwise you wouldn’t have approached us in the first place. You just want to pick up on any possible gossip.” And most of the time what he wants to talk about is something that can be said/discussed over email and/or non time-sensitive topics. Or he’ll “joke” around and say, “go on finish what you were saying. Oh I guess Bob is scared of talking around me hahaha”. It really is annoying. And I’m not sorry but YOU cannot have a say in our conversations or are allowed to chime in to whatever we are talking about. Vamoose!

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