I flashed my entire team during a video call

A reader writes:

I would love any and all advice on this because I’m sincerely lost on what to do.

To preface this, I do have a privacy camera cover which makes this mistake even more avoidable.

I work remotely and during a morning meeting with our entire team, I noticed an incessant knocking at my door, I picked up my phone to message (presumably) my roommate that I was in a meeting and would answer her later, when I saw an abundance of doorbell camera notifications that someone I had cut contact with, whom I did not give my address to, was now at my door and had been spamming the doorbell until my roommate (who did not know any better) opened the door for them.

Without thinking. I felt a rush of anxiety that made me disoriented and panicked, and I immediately went to change from my shorts into pants (I understand completely this wasn’t necessary, I just really wasn’t thinking) to tell them to leave … all while still connected to the meeting on video. Right after I finished putting on pants, I heard,”For chrissake OP turn off your camera.” I realized I just flashed my ENTIRE team, was mortified, and turned off the camera and left the meeting and dealt with the unwelcome person.

Based on the influx of messages sent to me afterwards from coworkers, some were asking me what happened since they weren’t paying attention … and others offered condolences/checked in on me as they saw exactly what happened. I haven’t answered any of them because I have no excuses to give and I’m honestly beyond mortified and humiliated that this happened, and now I’m just a sobbing mess from both incidents and I really don’t know how to recover.

You had two upsetting incidents happen at the same time, and I think that might be your brain conflating them in your reaction now.

Of course you were and are incredibly rattled by someone you had cut contact with incessantly pounding on your door, particularly someone who shouldn’t have even known where you live. That’s a genuinely scary and upsetting thing. I think it is possible that the completely understandable “something bad is happening” response to that is now also wrapped up in the way you’re processing the pants incident, since they happened simultaneously and both shocked your system.

In other words, I think you might not be a sobbing mess right now if the doorbell intruder hadn’t happened. You’d be embarrassed, of course, but I bet your response would be less intense. If you can look at it that way and try to separate the two, it might help you feel better about the work part.

You changed from shorts to pants in front of your team. I know it’s cold comfort, but YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So, so, so many people have had incidents like this (and worse!) since attending meetings on camera from our personal space became so ubiquitous two years ago. I would be surprised if you’re the first person in your organization to have done something embarrassing on camera in front of a group! And I’m sure your coworkers know how easily it can happen — many of them are probably well aware it could have been them. No decent person would judge you for it; they’ll just feel bad and want to make sure you’re okay/not feeling humiliated.

I don’t think you need to do anything to recover in their eyes. Assuming you don’t already have a reputation as, like, a creepy flasher, no one is going to think you did it intentionally; people know it was a mistake. It’s okay to just … move forward. You don’t need to send out a mass apology or anything. You don’t even need to respond to all those emails people sent if you don’t want to; most people will get that you’re not looking to relive it. (That said, if one was from your manager, do respond to that one — but it doesn’t need to be a big thing, just “agggh, mortified, will of course be more careful in the future about remembering my camera is on.”)

You will move past this. (And everyone else has probably already moved past it!)

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann O. Nymous*

    Aw OP, what an awful situation. Also, screw your coworker who responded so harshly — it was clearly an accident and there’s no reason for them to have spoken to you so harshly. A calm “hey OP, you probably want to turn off your camera” would have sufficed.

    Please don’t beat. yourself up over this, it was an accident.

    1. HR Ninja*

      Right? Y’know those Reddit “AITA” threads? I feel like the OP is definitely “NTA”. The jerky coworker is!

    2. Jo*

      My immediate thought was the coworker couldn’t have a more mature response such as “hey, OP, your camera is on?” Sorry all of it happened, but you have no reason to beat yourself up over this.

      1. Harvey 6 3.5*

        I agree. The best response would have been for the meeting organizer to mute OP and then begin sharing the most relevant thing she had on her screen (even a calendar for timing issues), so that OPs window would be minimized and hopefully even offscreen for most participants.

    3. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I think the coworkers had probably started calmly and OP didn’t hear, understand, or respond, so they escalated in intensity to grab her attention.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Also if they had no context for what was happening they might be quite uncertain of the situation; all they know is that OP is checking her phone during a meeting, getting up, changing clothes, and walking off screen. They might not have understood the urgency and just thought she was checked out and didn’t realize the camera was on. I only say this in the spirit of OP letting it go if their reaction wasn’t sympathetic at the moment; presumably it would have been if they understood what was going on.

          1. Wisteria*

            Look, you don’t have any better control over your fight/flight/freeze reaction than either OP or their coworker does. If you saw contextless disrobing over zoom, if you were even able to verbalize, you would start with “for chrissakes” too.

            1. JM60*

              Perhaps you would start exclaiming, “For chrissakes” in that context, but I’m sure I and many others wouldn’t. It sounds like that one person may have been the only person who harshly reacted in the OPs meeting.

              It can be more difficult to moderate your in-the-moment when reacting to something unexpected, but most people don’t 100% lose the ability to control themselves in most such circumstances. To say otherwise could excuse some really terrible behavior. In this case, “For chrissakes” isn’t the worst possible reaction to seeing someone accidentally flash you, but it is unnecessarily harsh and draws more attention to the accident (ensuring that others will notice when they otherwise might not have).

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                I very nearly did even worse–I was going to join a fan group Zoom call and just as I was booting up realized that I had not yet put on any clothes at all that day.

                I barely closed out in time!

            2. Parakeet*

              I’m late on this, but the idea that seeing someone accidentally change from shorts to pants on Zoom must have provoked a defense cascade reaction, and that such a reaction means that you cannot control whether you say something mean over a video call, is a pretty odd idea, to me (a trauma survivor who has worked professionally and as a volunteer with trauma survivors and who is all too familiar with how such reactions can play out).

        1. Be kind, rewind*

          Yeah, the person’s response wasn’t ideal, but I think it’s best to take this more charitable interpretation.

          As a similar story, I was once in a bathroom stall at work that I thought was locked, but apparently the lock was loose, because a coworker came in and started walking into my stall. The correct response rom me should have been, “hey, there’s someone in here”, but I panicked and pushed the stall door back closed, which ended up hitting the coworker. We both were embarrassed and apologetic! Luckily it was a coworker that I was cool with, so we could both laugh it off.

          So I can totally see how the coworker also had a panic moment and didn’t respond in an ideal manner.

      2. OtterB*

        This is what I was thinking, that coworker started more calmly (or with a private message) but then got stuck in “Ack! Must get OP’s attention!” May or may not be true, but it might be less embarassing for OP to view it that way.

        1. Anecdata*

          Yeah, I’d think of it this way. They were thinking “oh no, poor op doesn’t realize, what do I do???” and it came out harsh. I can definitely imagine my brain doing this! (And OP, I can promise you that if I were your coworker the only thought process would be a mix of “ack, there but for the grace…” and “how can I help ??”).

          Also if I were in charge of zoom — I’d add a feature where the host can override a participant’s camera, same as they can mute someone! This has happened to too many ppl!
          (And if you are host on a call where this happens, FWIW you can just kick the person out of the call and send them a slack note)

          1. jtr*

            You can turn off someone’s camera now (at least I can in the version I have) if you are the host. THEY have to turn it back on, of course. But it has to be the host doing it, and maybe they didn’t notice?

    4. Stopgap*

      I don’t get why it seems harsh to people? A bit exasperated, perhaps. It’s not like they knew that OP was dealing with a stalker.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Yes, it would be great if every person had absolute control over their emotions at all time and never ever said a single word tinged with negative emotion. Unfortunately, we have limbic systems and are not in fact perfect beings of light and love.

          1. sherlock bones*

            wishing you more light and love than you showed to someone whose suggestion was “maybe be patient with people” since it seems like you might need some, yourself.

            1. Erin*

              I feel like I’m seeing a lot of people, all of whom seem to be getting accused of insufficient patience or generosity.

              So I’ll say this: I could see myself saying this, in an “exasperated” tone, with the intention (and in the hopes) that this will make the recipient code it as what it actually is to accidentally flash coworkers due to an unwitting wardrobe malfunction: a faux pas.

              NBD, Not worthy of meetings with HR or PIPs, definitely something that should be avoided, where possible, in the future, but it’s no bigger than a faux pas. People might then followup with other stories-
              For example, a year-ish ago, my brother “signed out” but didn’t actually sign out of a family Zoom, then walked around his flat. Naked.
              I, my other 2 brothers, and our mum were all shocked, laughing, trying to communicate to him that his video was still on but also trying not to see anything…

              It happens. It can happen to anyone, on a good day. And when you’re witness, knowing how best to intervene, clearly and loudly enough that a person away from their headphones will still hear it, and in a way that doesn’t increase the likelihood that they’ll turn back to the computer in a way that shows…

              Well, I don’t need to stretch overmuch to find genuine best-intention reasons for this co-worker’s actions

          2. Lyda*

            Exasperation isn’t the kind of emotion that just comes out. Shock? Yes. Surprise? Yes. Exasperation is absolutely an emotion you can control and consider before you let it come out in your tone.

          3. JM60*

            Your limbic system doesn’t control reflexes; it’s subject to being controlled by your prefrontal cortex.

            There are cases when such reactions are 100% involuntary, such as ~10 of Tourette’s patients when the exhibit coprolalia, but that’s the exception. For most adults, most in-the-moment reactions to unexpected events are at least partially voluntary.

          1. Lyda*

            Sure, if that’s something that happens frequently, I guess. Exasperation is something that builds, normally. It doesn’t just show up.

            And I’m going to have a lot more sympathy for the person who’s being confronted by someone who might be violent than the person who is irritated the OP forgot to cut the camera.

            1. HCW*

              It’s not mutually exclusive, though – we can empathize with OP and with a startled coworker. And a lot of people (particularly women) have had a lot of opportunity for building exasperation around unwanted exposures to others’ bodies.

      1. Nina*

        yeah I’m in a workplace (possibly not a great one, now I think about it) where ‘for chrissakes [name] do X’ ‘ah f**k I forgot to do X’ would be a totally normal interaction, so I’m like ‘hmm yes this seems fine’.

    5. MsClaw*

      To be fair to the shouting coworker, they don’t have any context for what’s going on with OP’s doorbell/stalker/etc, they just know they are suddenly seeing a coworker pantsless. I think there’s several of us who might find that surprising enough to just be like ‘good lord man!’ in response.

      If I were OP I would message the people in the meeting, apologize for my lapse in decorum, explain that I was rattled by something distressing that was happening in my home that required immediate attention, and that I hoped they could all forget the entire incident please.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Yeah, I read it as surprise more than anything! I don’t think it’s helpful to OP to get hung up on the details of the reaction either.

      2. Pen Collector (formerly Gel Pen Destroyer)*

        This. I get what people are saying about being gentle, but we have to remember the co-workers have no context for why OP is suddenly changing their clothes. On the extreme other end, they might think OP is flashing to be deliberately provocative/harassing someone else in the meeting. How people react in the moment doesn’t occur in a vacuum – it will be influenced by their previous interactions with OP. If this was truly a one-off lapse in judgement, it will fade in time. If it’s part of a larger pattern of being inappropriate, then chances are people will have a very different reaction. Since there’s nothing in this letter to suggest that OP regularly behaves inappropriately at work, I suspect it will eventually begin to fade.

      3. MM*

        I think messaging everyone in the meeting is a bad idea and will only keep the incident alive. OP, if you’re feeling the need to respond to the concerned messages you got above and beyond anything involving your manager, or to say something to the assembled group on Zoom: feel very free to farm this task out and consign it to the informal world of the grapevine. I’d suggest you pick your favorite coworker, the one you feel closest to and most comfortable with, out of those who messaged to check on you, and answer that person. Give them some version of apology/reassurance/explanation that you’re comfortable with and indicate that perhaps they could pass this info around if the incident comes up with anybody. (That might mean not including much explanation at all! You do NOT need to explain about your stalker, just whatever feels manageable to you.) And then you can ignore all the other messages and get on with the business of studiously acting like this never happened, which I’m sure is what others want too. But you don’t even have to do this, as Alison said; it’s only if it would make you feel better to address it somehow. This way you can do that with minimal effort/misery.

        This is an absolutely one in a million situation, OP, and I’m so sorry it happened to you. As Alison said, the work part will be behind you sooner than you think. Separately: have a very serious talk with your roommate, because what on earth were they doing letting someone who was spamming the doorbell like that IN?

    6. Ellis Bell*

      We don’t really know what tone it was said in, it’s possible to say those words in a jokey way.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Could easily have been a panicked, first-instinct attempt to fix the problem of Sudden Pantsless Colleague. That’s not something most people have a pre-prepared social script for, which can lead to a less-than-graceful reaction.

        1. socks*

          Yeah, I think people are being really unkind to the coworker. If we can extend OP some grace for accidentally flashing their coworkers, we can extend the coworker some grace for not reacting 100% perfectly. No one (except the stalker) has to be the “bad guy” here.

      2. Moo*

        I can kind of imagine having that response when I see something terribly embarrassing about to happen/happening to someone else. I’m almost in their shoes going “oh god noooo!” More because of the mortification I would feel in their shoes, than any distress on my own part. I don’t know if that makes sense.

        I also think with these inevitable incidents with working from home, that we all should have collective amnesia about them and never mention them again. There are so many incidents like this in the last two years. If I was watching the OP I think I would assume something urgent came up on her phone and she had to go, and in her haste she forgot about the camera.

        OP I hope you’re ok… I know the work stuff is mortifying but it’s really not a thing. I hope the other situation is resolved

  2. Madame X*

    My condolences to you OP. With time, this will less mortifying. On a side note, this is one reason why meetings with the camera off are such a blessing. I meet with clients and or colleagues almost daily for my job and I never turn on my camera, because that is the general practice at my company (people are free to turn on the camera only if they wish to).

      1. Anonym*

        Yes, OP, I’m here to confirm that if I were one of your coworkers I would never think less of you for this, would just want to know that you’re okay (if I perceived that there was a worry or danger), and would be thinking about all the times I’ve had near misses with the webcam. (I don’t really bra anymore, or wear pants for that matter, but sometimes forget that the some areas should stay out of frame…)

        1. to varying degrees*

          If I was a coworker I wouldn’t even be thinking about the “flashing” I would just be worried about the LW and that they’re okay.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            Remember the coworkers do not have the context that a stalker of a sort was at the front door / bedroom door so I don’t think most coworkers are jumping to worrying about the safety of the LW.

            That said, it is an embaressing mistake that I think most people actually fear they will make themselves one day. In this context, the vast majority of people will have great sympathy and understanding that the LW just forgot she was on camera.

            1. Moo*

              I wouldn’t jump to the safety concern, but I’ve been on enough zooms etc where people have rushed off suddenly, that I would assume something urgent came up

        2. Sally*

          I do therapy remotely (I’m the patient), and I don’t always get dressed up for it like I would for work. One time recently I had to get up to go get something, and when I came back to my desk and saw myself in the camera, I freaked and instinctively threw my arm up in front of my chest. I forgot that I was braless with my shirt tucked under my beasts to soak up the sweat. Not a good look! But my therapist and I proceeded as if no one saw anything. I think people are very forgiving about these sorts of things.

  3. Amber Rose*

    OP, your coworkers were worried about you. They’re not mad or making fun of you or anything. In fact, most of them are probably taking your lack of response as a reason to shut up about it because you’re embarrassed and are in the process of forgetting about it right now.

    1. Laura P. Giletti*

      Yes, I too send distanced ((hugs)) and I hope you feel safe now, or have a plan to be safe.

    2. Clorinda*

      Thirding internet hugs and offering a suggestion. Go to Youtube and look for Bernadette Peters singing “You Are Not Alone.”

  4. Elizabeth*

    At the start of WFH in 2020, our HR made a hard rule that no one sees anything below the waist on Teams. It was a bit lighthearted but has been kindly and categorically enforced. Things happen and reasonable people understand that. I flashed a butt cheek at our financial director during the heat of summer because I was wearing swim style shorts 2 sizes too small, and I only dashed away because my dog was barking at a lunch delivery. If you were my colleague, I’d be more concerned about making sure you were safe and looked after, not worried about something I most definitely never saw.

    1. This is Artemesia*

      Of course it was mortifying but the strong reaction you are having is definitely partly because of the scary circumstances that led to it. It really helps to be lighthearted about humiliating moments — even when every cell in your body is screaming ‘this is not funny, I want to flee and never be seen again.’

      work on thinking of this is one of those embarrassing moments everyone has — and frankly, not as embarrassing as the guy who was offered a cigar in an interview, took it, took a puff and barfed all over the hiring manager’s desk, or the person who crapped their pants in a workplace meeting, or the person who got drunk at the office party and made a fool of themselves. It doesn’t feel funny, but try to work past the misery and think of it as ‘one of those things’ — if anyone says anything or if you want to respond to emails, a then short ‘arrrghhhhh, I was so embarrassed’ hits the right tone. We all have embarrassing moments in our lives. This too will soon be old news.

      1. MM*

        Yeah, unfortunately these two incidents are very easy to conflate because they are both instances of suddenly discovering you are vulnerable/exposed in a way you didn’t expect–one of them existential, one of them social, but both bodily. Your home and your modesty (for lack of a better term) were breached almost simultaneously, and there’s a reason we often use “naked” metaphorically to mean, well, vulnerable and exposed. It’s not surprising that the fear and horror of the intruder has transferred to the Zoom incident, and not only because they happened together.

  5. King Friday XIII*

    Oh my gosh, OP, I’m glad you’re okay. I’ve definitely done less rational things where my ex was involved, occasionally at work, and I’m here to tell the tale. Alison is absolutely right, it’s probably much less of a big deal to your coworkers than it obviously and understandably is to you.

  6. 3DogNight*

    All I can say is, I completely understand the need to do weirdly unneccessary things in a moment of pure panic. Don’t beat yourself up on it.
    When I found out my brother died (very unexpectedly) I thought that meal prepping for a week was a good idea, before I drove the 4 hours to get to my family. (Meal prepped, then froze everything, because I wasn’t even going to be there!)

    1. Ginger Pet Lady*

      I did a very similar thing when my brother died unexpectedly. I made a HUGE meal. We were a family of four, I made enough to feed 10-15 people. It wasn’t meal time. We didn’t even eat it before driving there. Husband made me bring it with us (only an hour drive)
      I have no idea if it ever got eaten and I never got those dishes back.
      But my first instinct was also to make food, and a lot of it!

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        This is also my instinct…make all the food. Its weird. Sometimes it can be helpful if I can channel it – oh, so and so got awful news about family member? What’s their favorite freezer meal?

        Anyways, it was what I’ll call a panic response. It should not be a big deal. Side eye to coworkers who can’t get past that.

      2. Christmas Carol*

        Are you from the Midwest? No matter what the relation to the newly departed, when she hears of a death, a Midwest Girl heads for the kitchen. It’s in our DNA.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          We say that about Mormons, and my Jewish friend,”Esther” calls it a Yenta meal. Ever heard of “Funeral Potatoes”? I have the ingredients always on hand.
          When I was a student, a very nice man in my neighborhood suddenly died. All I could think to do was Make Food. All I had in the cupboard was Tuna Helper and canned salmon, so roommate and I took over a salmon-helper casserole. The widow saw us and started laughing; there were a dozen tuna casseroles of all types on the table.
          She said that she disliked fish, but tuna casserole had been “Jack’s” favorite comfort food. He had told her years before that when he died he would let her know he was still around by sending her tuna casserole. She really believed that a dozen casseroles to feed her family was a loving message.

          1. quill*

            That’s hilarious and sweet. (Although I hope the casserole didn’t taste sweet, because I’ve definitely seen midwest canned fish casseroles.)

            1. Hannah Lee*

              Sorry quill, I read your response, thought of a different response and typed it, and then for some reason went back and changed it to something that sounded better – of COURSE it sounded better, I’d just read it LOL!

          1. KTB1*

            SAME, but in my case it’s banana bread. If anything bad happens to any of my friends, they are getting a loaf of banana bread.

      3. EPLawyer*

        Well now I understand why on our first road trip, hubby insisted on unloading everything in fridge and bringing it with us in a COOLER. He was convinced it would go bad before we got back (in 4 days). Never mind what happened to it being in a cooler instead of an unopened fridge. he was still looking for work after moving and was having food insecurity. Even though we were just fine (money was tight, not non-existent I could support us okay just by myself).

        OP, trust me, something else will happen soon and everyone will forget. If you want to, you can reach out to the ones who were concerned, but you don’t have to.

      4. I watered your plants while you had covid*

        I made 3 kinds of fancy layered Jello when I got the call that my Grandmother was likely not going to make it till morning.

        1. ThatGirl*

          The afternoon we knew we had to say goodbye to our dog (that evening), my manager very kindly told me I didn’t need to worry about work, so I made cookie dough. In my defense, it was nearing Christmas and that was on my to-do list, and I knew I wouldn’t feel like it afterward. But also? Nobody would have blamed me if I just hadn’t made them.

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      That makes so much sense to me–in a moment of panic, our brains seize on what is controllable right now–nicely packaged meals for a week or what we’re wearing below the waist. I completely get that pants could feel safer than shorts in that moment. Less exposed, more protected. OP, I bet more people understand than not. Cameras are weird, video meetings are weird, brains are weird, and stuff happens.

      (Sorry to hear about your brother, 3DogNight. That sounds very sad.)

      1. 3DogNight*

        Thank you @Shirley Keeldar! And yes, it’s the conrol part of our brain that takes over, well said!

    3. Malarkey01*

      I got a text from my husband while I was waiting for my hairdresser to start coloring and cutting my hair, who had been feeling sick and went to the doctor. They were putting him into an ambulance to go to the hospital admitting from severe gastro and possibly emergency surgery (awe we’re in our 30s and healthy). In the shock I actually went back with the stylist and got colored and cut without saying a word. Two hours later I got in the car and went OMG I need to rush to the hospital. He ended up okay and it’s sort of a black humor joke in our family that I’ll show up to an emergency with great hair but at the time I just sort of froze which is really unlike me.
      So….it happens and I think a lot of people understand that.

      1. Michelle*

        I freeze when I panic. Twice, on two separate occasions years apart, I watched one of my kids take a serious fall… and I just stood there and watched. A lot of people forget that it’s actually “fight, flight, or freeze.”

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Yeah, shock and adrenaline can produce the human brain equivalent of Error 400 – invalid input. It’s happened to me to a lesser extent. That’s why safety drills are so important, because if the brain doesn’t have a well-known premade plan to default to in an emergency people usually don’t react rationally.

        I’m glad your husband was OK Malarkey! That’s super scary.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Error 400 – invalid input — that’s such a good way to phrase it! I’m stealing that for future use.

        2. Critical Rolls*

          It’s amazing how well drills can work. I grew up in California doing earthquake drills, and when I actually experienced a big quake in my early 20s, my feet took me into a doorway without any input from my higher brain functions.

      3. Zeus*

        It happened to me once after I got the news that a former classmate of mine (from the previous year, not long before) had passed away, about two minutes before I got into an Uber. A minute later, the Uber was involved in a minor collision. No one was hurt, and the drivers exchanged details and drove away, but I was just frozen in the back seat the whole time. I think the driver was weirded out that I didn’t react to the collision at all!

        Which is a lot of words to say, that’s super normal. We don’t do things logically when we’re shocked.

    4. Hannah L*

      I totally get this impulse too. The day my mom died, me and my brother had tickets to see a comedy show. When he called me to tell me the news we agreed to not go, then about 30 minutes later he called me back to say “Maybe we should go?” And we did! And it seems odd, but it was actually very cathartic. Our mom had been sick for a while, and it was a relief to be in a room where no one knew what had happened, and therefore no one had any expectations of how we should act. I definitely cried in the car on the way home once everything set in again, but honestly I think my mom would have approved.

      Grief is very weird, it kind of short circuits your brain.

      1. quill*

        Yes. We had tickets for Rocky Horror the day my dog died suddenly and we decided it would be better to go see it than to try and deal with everything that night. We did come home to a dogless house, which was hard, but I think it was better to have something to DO that wasn’t completely altering our lives that day.

        1. Hannah L*

          Exactly! It helped maintain some sort of normalcy during a very distressing and horrible situation.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Yep, I thought OP probably put pants on because she felt exposed/unsafe–trying to add a layer of protection.

      1. nom de plume*

        This is what I thought too — part what she could control, part armor because she felt vulnerable.

        OP, please be kind to yourself! And if anyone makes another harsh comment, you can shut that down with “I had just learnt that something upsetting had happened.” But mostly, I hope this will fade in time for you.

    6. Hannah Lee*

      OMG, I am so glad to see I’m not the only person who responds to death of a family member by doing something food related and unnecessary. When my father died, I packed up my car and headed to my hometown 1 1/2 away, but stopped on the way at a specialty food market to buy a tray of sandwiches. For some reason the top thing on my mind was procuring 2 dozen cold cut sandwiches on bulkie rolls. Half my 6 person immediate family doesn’t eat bread so ??? not sure what I was thinking.

      But as I’m standing in the busy store at the deli counter the nice guy behind the counter explains that they don’t start lunch service, including making sandwiches, until 11 am and since it’s only 8:30 am, he’s not going to be able to help me. At which point I promptly burst into tears, sobbing and saying between sobs …. but …sob my sob father sob died sob sob sob. They were so sweet, made the sandwich tray anyway, carried it to the check out for me, and then followed me out to put it in the car.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Aw, that is sweet. I think it’s a common reaction to want to DO something to help a fellow human in grief or distress, even a stranger, but there often isn’t anything to do. So they were probably quite relieved to be able to help by making exception sandwiches and carrying them for you.

        I’m sorry for your loss.

    7. DMouse*

      Wow, so interesting to read this thread and see that other people do the same thing. When my dad passed away, the very first thing I did was head to Costco to stock up on groceries for the kids, since I knew I was going out of town for the funeral. Literally the first thing I did – in fact, I ended up calling my boss and a couple other people (to let them know about my dad) from the Costco parking lot.

  7. Foley*

    Please know that decent people are worried about you. As someone who had to move and not notify my (at the time soon-to-be) ex of my address – incessant door knocking can be rattling.

    I agree that you don’t have to respond, but they may be worried about the knocking moreso than the flashing. An, everything’s fine (hoping it is!) could smooth that over.

  8. Michelle Smith*

    OP, you’re fine. You weren’t doing anything sexual or inappropriate. You had a traumatic incident occur during a meeting and understandably lost track of what was going on. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but literally everyone makes a mistake now and then. I’m sorry this happened to you and I wish you the best in navigating your personal safety issue with this unwelcome intruder.

    I know it’s not what you’re asking about, but moving forward it might be useful to have a conversation with this and future roommates about not allowing this particular person to know you’re home and not allowing them inside. That way, if it happens again, the roommate knows to call the police or at least threaten to do so so that the person leaves.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      This is such a good point about roommate backup. OP you need support! When I was keeping myself away from a certain person, even the security guard at work knew about the (remote) possibility he could show up. Clearly this person is a mindfucker even if not necessarily dangerous and it helps to have a team you. Just a thought.

  9. MicroManagered*

    Oh no OP I’m sorry this happened!

    I have a person in my life, with whom I’ve cut contact and not shared my address, so I understand perfectly how frightening this was for you! I hope everything is ok on that front and you are doing what you need to, to feel safe.

    If this happened to me, I would let my direct supervisor know that I had a sudden emergency (and you could share the details if you want, but don’t have to) and that you panicked and forgot your camera was on. The person who said ”For chrissake OP turn off your camera” is an ass, and if I were OBSERVING in that meeting, I would be judging him not you.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      All the parts of this.

      Let your direct supervisor know; heck, if there’s any chance you’ll be hybrid or back in an office at some point, it would be prudent to loop them in because having someone show up at work who shouldn’t be in contact with you is terrifying.

      Whoever said “For chrissake…” is indeed an ass, and I’m hoping at least one of your concerned coworkers spelled out for the ass why he or she is in fact, an ass. If you were my coworker, I’d have no problem explaining it clearly to this ass.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I would definitely say something like, “someone was unexpectedly trying to break into my home” so that people wouldn’t think this is a cute incident to tease me about – but of course OP may choose what they’re comfortable sharing (I wouldn’t want to share the situation with my ex with a bunch of coworkers I don’t know well, just because it’s none of their business, but I would share something approximate to provide people context.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        I think I’d say it was a sudden emergency and leave it at that. Saying someone was trying to break into your home will probably draw more questions.

    3. Dona Florinda*


      Please tell your manager that you had an emergency, and if there’s any chance that this person will try to harass you again, you could also share that (the extent of it is up to what you feel comfortable sharing) so your boss knows that you’re just going through something.

  10. Catabodua*

    I know you don’t have to, but I think a simple “Sorry about the meeting this morning. There was an emergency that needed my immediate action, and turning off my camera wasn’t a priority in the moment. Everything is now fine, thank you for your concern.” will shut down most folks. The really persistent nosy people will try to dig, but just ignore them.

    1. Lacey*

      Yup. I don’t think the OP’s coworkers will think badly of the OP either way – but if they need to address it, finding out there was an emergency will only make people more understanding – even without knowing what it was.

      I hope you’re ok OP and that there are no more intrusions into your life from that person.

    2. Gracely*

      Yeah–if OP feels like they need to say something to clear the air/move past what happened, this is a great script for that.

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I wouldn’t say it wasn’t a priority, because it sounds like she thought about it and decided not to!

    4. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I think this is good phrasing overall. Maybe swap in “slipped my mind” for “wasn’t a priority” just to emphasize that things wwere so urgent LW didn’t have time to think about the camera?

    5. Catabodua*

      Perhaps wasn’t a priority should get swapped out with something like slipped my mind or didn’t occur to me.

  11. kiki*

    When I do something embarrassing, something I like to remember is that at least 95% of the people checking in on you like and/or care about you and want you to feel less embarrassed. While it can be distressing to realize all those people did indeed witness your embarrassing moment, if they thought it was an unforgivable transgression, they likely wouldn’t reach out. If they thought you were a Creepy McCreeper, they would have not reached out and gone straight to HR. This stuff happens. And if anyone has a good excuse for panic-changing while forgetting you were on camera, it’s you.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I would also have immediately unpinned or hid your video if I saw this as a simple gesture of humanity. I bet others did that or at least looked away.

  12. Sylvan*

    OP. :( It sounds like your coworkers are very aware that you didn’t do this on purpose — you didn’t flash them in the malicious sense — so that helps. Just say you’re sorry that it happened and move on as quickly as you can. Someday, you might think this is funny, but in the meantime, you have my sympathy for the embarrassment!

  13. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    OP, I am so sorry that happened to you and in similar circumstances I can see myself doing the exact same thing, including, “The solution to this problem requires shorts!”. Give it time and it will eventually just be one of many memories of this job. Mr Gumption full frontal flashed my team once because he didn’t know my camera was on and he walked up behind me so I couldn’t warn him. To the folks who didn’t see it/weren’t paying attention but wanted to know what happened, I said, “Wardrobe malfunction.” For those that offered condolences in my shared mortification, I thanked them and made a joke about being extra careful around cameras. After a few days, no one mentioned it again. Odds are the same will happen for you

    1. many bells down*

      I was helping my daughter do her taxes screensharing over Zoom when her boyfriend strolls butt-naked across the living room behind her. Now whenever I video call her I’m like “Does [hisname] have pants on?”

  14. CLC*

    I’m unclear on whether the coworkers understand that the OP was in distress at the time this happened. Are they asking “what happened” just to humiliate her further with the pants situation, or are they concerned that she seemed to be panicked overall? They would have seen her looking at her phone, her change of facial expression, running away from the meeting, etc. I would also like to point out that none of this is the OP’s mistake—whoever showed up at her door unwanted caused this to happen.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Why on earth would you think they are “trying to humiliate her further”?! Don’t feed her brain weasels. 99.99% of people are nice and are likely concerned that she bailed in the middle of a meeting. I would be!

      1. Moira Rose's Closet*

        Yeah, that’s a really weird take on this. I can’t imagine people emailing OP in order to “humiliate her further.”

      2. NorthernTeacher*

        Agreed that assuming nefarious intentions just makes things worse as it leads to reactions that encourage drama.
        OP said that that particular question came from colleages who were not paying attention to their screen. The sudden, urgent voice to turn off a camera probably caught their attention and not knowing what caused it would leave them wondering. I could see myself asking that same question if it was a colleague I knew well and during casual chit chit next time I saw them. I would expect a funny story like cat bum aimed at the camera and ready to happily share my own (Video lesson outside when a bee decided to join…think flailing arms etc.). But if they brushed off the question or showed discomfort, question dropped and would think about it again. I would take it as a good sign that they (colleages asking what happened) are asking OP directly. It means that either they are not asking other people because they don’t want to be gossiping, or colleagues who did see what happened are being professional and not talking about it.

    2. alienor*

      I’m guessing they probably don’t. If they were focusing on whoever was speaking, or answering emails and doing other work on the side, they would have just glanced up and seen OP in mid-clothes change (and if their Teams setup is anything like the mine, only in a small window off to the side, not full screen or anything) and wondered what had happened to prompt that. They’re most likely not trying to humiliate OP, just confused.

      1. JustaTech*

        Honestly, if I was in a Teams meeting and someone jumped up and changed clothes my first, second and third assumption would be “some kind of emergency”. Something at the door, a fire that I can’t see, insects in their clothing, something like that.

        Depending on how well I knew a person who did that, I probably would send a IM or email asking if they were OK, because it is a weird thing for someone to do, and indicates distress. But I wouldn’t be public about it and I sure wouldn’t be trying to tease or anything!

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah I’m with you that OP hastily changing clothes would clearly have looked like someone on an emergency mission, not like “I flash for funsies”.

  15. Katie N.*

    Someone in my department did something similar (but much worse!) on a team Zoom just weeks after I started a job. I was worried that I would associate that person with their faux pas forever, but after about a week I completely forgot about it and it only pops back into my memory when I see stories like these. It will fade faster than you know!
    I also once accidentally posted a photo to my IG stories where you could see me pantsless in the mirror. I comforted myself by remembering it’s nothing you wouldn’t see on the beach!

    1. JustaTech*

      Yes, that’s another thing to remember, OP, you weren’t naked!
      I have been in professional contexts where I had to change with several coworkers and so I have seen my boss’ underpants. Did I want to? No. Was it a big deal? Also no.

      People will forget, and in less time than you think.

    2. merula*

      Exactly, this is SO SO common.

      I saw a full-on naked butt in on a video meeting last week. The presenter had a virtual background on, so I think she and her partner thought they were in the clear. I saw a person in a towel walk just close enough to be picked up, and then they disappeared into the virtual background for a few seconds, only for a butt to appear next, I think because bending over brought it just close enough to be picked up again.

      OP, you’re going to be fine, it will fade. Best of luck with sorting out your responses to coworkers and safeguarding your privacy.

      1. Wisteria*

        “they disappeared into the virtual background for a few seconds, only for a butt to appear next”

        oh gracious, that’s hysterical.

  16. MarySuetheKangaroo*

    Way back when. I (a woman) inadvertently flashed my team in person. I was leaning over when I was presenting to my entire team. I had a loose blouse. My loose blouse allowed everyone to look down my blouse. I did not realize it until someone from my team ( a man) told me.
    I would find this funny. But I was removed from the position for other reasons. Later after my removal, the same guy would come by and remind me of my flashing and how it was great thing. He would also tell me about his sex life. Because I was removed from the position. I didn’t bother to report it to HR or my manager. I eventually left the company. It really angers me that I never said anything. I did not trust HR because I was a failure in leadership.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I’m so sorry. I totally understand why having failed in the leadership role would make you feel you couldn’t report this, but I also hope you realise that wasn’t a true thing and you didn’t deserve his harassment!

    2. Nameless in Customer Service*

      He was absolutely horrendous and you didn’t deserve a single moment of his sexual harassment. I am so so sorry that was done to you.

  17. It's just underwear*

    OP, I am someone who works professionally with people who have experienced trauma and your changing clothes in that moment makes total sense to me! You must have looked panicked and that coworker who made that comment is a jerk. They owe you an apology.
    Sure, they saw you take off clothes but like..
    we have all seen people change clothes before, whatever. People wear less at the beach. I hope you are ok now.

    1. Kapers*

      Came here to make that exact point—this isn’t a weird thing to do (though we all do weird things in a panic.) Changing clothes to deal with a tough situation is like putting on armor and makes total sense.

  18. H3llifIknow*

    Unless you were “going commando” under your shorts, you didn’t flash the team. At worst they saw what they’d see in a bathing suit of some sort. It happens. I’d rather see that then the young guy on our team who constantly forgets he’s on cam and picks his nose, picks at his zits, etc… I’ve had to “Disable all incoming video” on any Teams calls that he is on because it’s just so gross to be on calls with him. Seriously, YOU are more upset and mortified by this than they are. Try to remember something someone ELSE did that was truly embarrassing, and you’ll realize that it’s hard to do because we remember our own embarrassing moments far more than we remember anyone else’s. Respond to those who are reaching out asking if you’re okay with, “I will be; still processing the moment, and hoping it gets forgotten soon” or something. Then LET IT GO.

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

    Can we add that whoever called out OP is a bit of a jerk? The “For chrissake OP turn off your camera” really was uncalled for and drew more attention than she probably would have had otherwise. If they were the presenter they should have just turned off video for her (I believe most platforms allow the presenter or host to do this.) If not then they should have messaged the meeting host or whoever to turn off the video.

    And this just shows how most meetings you don’t really need to have your video on. It sounds like this was a large meeting and that OP was not speaking so really whats the point of video if you are not talking?
    If anyone really asks, especially like your boss or someone higher, I would tell them an emergency situation happened and you completely forgot that you were on camera.

    OP I give you lots of hugs and I hope this blows over soon. And I hope whatever happened with that other person is cleared up and you can continue to live your life in peace. Goodl uck!

    1. Wisteria*

      It’s not like they knew OP had a stalker at their door! “For chrissakes” is a perfectly reasonable start to a sentence direct at a coworker who appears to have taken their pants off out of the blue.

  20. MistOrMister*

    I agree with others that no one is even still thinking about this unless they are coming from a place of concern. I don’t quite like the reaction of the person who spoke up to let OP know they were on camera. Maybe it was just a heat of the moment thing and they wish they’d worded it better, but what they said was a but of a harsh way to get the point across.

    Definitely I wouldn’t feel horrible about what happened. It’s embarrassing, yes, but it was a panic moment. And honestly, if someone who should not be at your place shows up unannounced, it makes perfect sense that you would change into something less revealing. A sort of armoring yourself for the confrontation and lessening of vulnerabilities. I don’t think it would be necessary to say anything to anyone, but at the most I would say someone was knocking and you were changing before answering the door and forgot about the camera. We’ve all done something absentmindedly in these types of situations.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      I’m wondering if that comment was from someone who was themselves embarrassed at seeing it and kind of lashed out? Like, “OMG I don’t want to be seeing this!” Very self-centered, but that’s how brains are in unexpected situations.

      1. Yoyoyo*

        It could also be the case that they tried and failed to get OP’s attention in a milder way before resorting to that comment. Because OP was in trauma mode, she might not have heard quieter communications or seen anyone messaging her in the chat.

  21. Properlike*

    “There was a sudden emergency in the building, but we’re all fine.”
    “Roommate answered the door to a guy who wouldn’t leave and I had to back her up.”
    “Water leak from upstairs apartment.”
    “Sink/toilet suddenly overflowing and I had to help.”

    For the record, any one of these things has happened to at least one person in the world, and you can foist most of the blame onto the roommate if necessary (not in a mean way, just, “they needed my help.”) Because stuff like this happens all the time!

    Or, you can stick with “emergency in the building” and leave it at that. Nothing to be embarrassed about.

    1. merida*

      Agree! OP, you are not required to explain yourself to your colleagues at all, but I love Properlike’s suggestions if you do choose to explain.

      I will add, as a few other commenters suggested, that a colleague who is asking you about the incident after this is probably realizing that something unexpected/unusual happened if they saw you suddenly scramble to change and leave the room. If coworkers are asking “what happened?!!?” what they likely are really asking is just if you’re ok and expressing concern for you, rather than demanding a logical explanation for the incident. You still don’t have to respond to their messages; but it may help a bit to view the messages as concern rather than judgement.

    2. cleo*

      I really like the first two because they’re actually true, but a nice low key version of the truth.

      It may help OP to say this to a couple people that they feel comfortable with at work, who can spread the word / tamp down any gossip.

    3. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      “I had a sudden plumbing emergency!”

      I actually did have one of these earlier this week and had to jump out of a meeting and miss another one. Above was my explanation. People asked if everything was ok but no one asked for any further info!

  22. Ellen Ripley*

    Do you know how the person got your address? If not, try searching your name on the goduckgo search engine. There are these websites that compile people’s personal information and make it publicly available! I was on two of them, and they contained my address, phone number, prior addresses, etc. The good news is they have an avenue to remove your personal information from the site by contacting them (make sure you double check in a day or two that it actually gets removed, but it did work for me). So sorry this happened to you!

    1. OrigCassandra*

      There are also paid services that sweep personal-info sites to get your info removed. They’re not what I would call cheap, but given the time it takes to go after a ton of sites, I think they can be worth the money.

      1. Ellen Ripley*

        Haha thanks for the fix! I should be able to get it right because I am old enough to remember playing “duck duck goose” as a kid…

    2. Splendid Colors*

      DuckDuckGo (not goduckgo) is a search engine and browser that won’t track you, or use previous searches to influence the current search. And to make it clear, the websites that compile personal information are not related to DuckDuckGo. They’re just showing up in a web search.

  23. Hel*

    OP, if I were in your shoes and I *wanted* to address it, I would focus entirely on the *actual* bad thing that happened, which was that someone showed up at your door who should not have been there. The pants thing was a *part* of that – not a separate incident. So at the next team meeting I might say “Some of you may know that someone with whom I cut off contact showed up unexpectedly at my door during our last meeting. This was and is an upsetting thing, and I reacted quickly to resolve it. I’m sorry if some of you were concerned for me in the moment, but rest assured that I am okay now, and safe (also REALLY hope this is true!). Hopefully the incident will not repeat.”

    Think of it this way – if you’re on a Zoom meeting and you see a co-worker suddenly jump up to flee from an intruder, and they’re not wearing pants, are you going to think badly of them that they didn’t turn the privacy filter on first? You were *responding to a dangerous situation.* Also it’s not insane that you changed out of shorts into pants – you were focused on protection for yourself. That includes covering yourself not because pants are somehow magically more defensive than shorts, but because you probably felt *safer* in pants. I would bet that the person who said “For chrissake turn off your camera” is probably going to feel *terrible* once they understand what was going on – not just for making you uncomfortable but from momentarily pulling your focus from where it needed to be.

    Just because nothing happened (at least it sounds like it didn’t), doesn’t mean this wasn’t a dangerous situation. Also, as Alison said your reaction to the incident is being colored by the first upsetting thing – but that may also be your brain trying to focus on the *non* dangerous thing as a a way to protect you. Basically your brain is saying “Hey, rather than be fearful of this awful, terrible, upsetting incident, let’s just be embarrassed because that’s better!” Fear and stress increase your cortisol levels. Embarrassment doesn’t (well, except by making you stressed about your embarrassment). Your brain is trying to protect you – recognize that and believe everyone here when they say no one is judging you. That isn’t to say that some people on your team may end up being really dense/callous, but anyone who tries to tease/mock you for trying to protect yourself (and your roommate!) then they’re not a good person.

  24. Numb Little Bug*

    No advice as such, but I hope you are okay OP! I think Alison is right though that two upsetting incidents occurring together is going to exacerbate any and all feelings around both of them – and that’s okay! Your colleagues should understand that these things happen, and that you didn’t mean to do it. If you don’t want to get into details with them but they bring it up, just tell them there was an emergency and in your panic you forgot the camera was on!

  25. PleaseNo*

    I’m not sure about others moving on, but I’m sure you’ve given them a story to share with friends/family for a while (I’m reasonably sure they’ll anonymize it). Own what happened and it will have less power over you! Maybe you can tell the story too, without having to say it was you!

    1. c buggy*

      This really doesn’t sound like a story OP’s coworkers would find worth sharing repeatedly, and suggesting otherwise isn’t helpful.

    2. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      Oh, no! I don’t think anyone’s doing that. If this happened in a meeting I were in the only way I would ever repeat it to anyone would be as “I feel for my coworker, hope she’s doing ok after all that!” not as some funny story to tell.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I would totally tell this story as happening to me once I’d made my peace with it. One, because there’s nothing wrong with life malfunctions and two, because you’d be a jerk if you told this about someone else.

  26. Meep*

    If it is any consolation, changing from shorts to pants when handling a stalker seems like a reasonable response to me.

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      Agreed. I feel the need to pull sweats over my shorts when someone delivers food to my house (even for no-contact delivery). If something like this happened to me, I’d be in pants and a hoodie and as covered as possible, because that’s how I’d feel safe.

    2. jane's nemesis*

      Same. Sometimes I have nightmares that I’m not wearing a bra and have answered the door. My first instinct before answering the door is to put a bra on, if I’m not wearing one. That would have been even MORE of a flash than happened here!

  27. Hump Day Yay!*

    PSA: With the proliferation of free people search sites now available, it’s a stalker’s paradise out there. Your current and past home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, family member names, even the names of your neighbors are on display for anyone to see. You do not have to personally share your information for someone to get it.

    You can easily opt-out of some of the sites, others make it more complicated to do so. Discover card recently added an opt-in no-cost service removing your information from nine of the sites, I think it is. But there are many more.

    Privacy is dead, these sites should be illegal or restricted to institutional or business use only.

    OP, sounds like you need a restraining order. Also, think twice before answering the door, you or your roommate. Only you know how prone to violence this person may be, but calling the police may be a safer option for you both. Good luck, and don’t worry about the pants incident. I never use my camera because of bandwith issues, and it’s culturally accepted in my workplace not to do so, so I never have to worry about this kind of embarrassment, but I feel for you.

    1. Random Bystander*

      Totally agree that such sites should not be permitted (or be restricted use) or at the very least, opt-in. Even worse, there was one of those sites which had put my now-ex as living at my current address! I got that straightened out right quick, as well as getting myself and my at-the-time-minor children removed altogether. My ex, for what it is worth, had actually done prison time for violating my order of protection by stalking me, so I have remained on some level of alert.

  28. merida*

    OP, I’m so sorry! I hope everything with the unwelcome guest is ok now; I hope you are safe. Please be kind to yourself and give yourself some grace. Alison is so right: awkward camera moments happen! You are human – and humans are allowed to have a moment where they forget to turn their camera off – even without the understandable panic of an unwelcome guest pounding at their door! I think lots of people would have accidently done the same thing in your shoes (if it were me, I’m sure I’d have been bawling or in a full-on panic attack while accidently flashing). It is ok to be a person. Please be safe, OP!

  29. Carol the happy elf*

    This is horrible for you, and Alison is (as usual) correct. These two events need to be pried apart in your mind, so you can put the right amount of energy to both. The quick-change? It would be embarassingly hilarious, if not for the very real threat of menace from the other. In fact, without the menace, the quick-change wouldn’t have come about.
    Do you have a trustworthy ally at work who can be your minimizer? (if it’s even needed?) One who can say something along the lines of, “That’s nothing; my cousin Matt was sitting on the bed after a shower and didn’t know his wife was on a call while he sprayed himself with jock-itch spray.”
    (His name isn’t Matt, it really happened, “Lisa” was wearing headphones and had no idea, and everybody in her office now knows about his thigh birthmark that’s shaped kind of like Australia, “The land, um, down under”. Among other things, like the brand of jock-itch spray because he held it up and shook it first….) A few Zoom stories, and your switch-off won’t even be on the radar. People love these, and by comparison yours will be mild enough to be easily one-upped.

    Now about your visitor.
    Your safety is essential. OF COURSE you were knocked out of your zone!
    Your reaction was normal, for an abnormal (but all too common) assault on your equilibrium. Please, if you haven’t, read the book, “The Gift of Fear”. There are some things we underreact to, to keep from making a spectacle, but the fact that this person SHOWED UP AGGRESSIVELY AT YOUR DOOR, and persistently demanded attention is terrifying. This escalates it to emotional terrorism if nothing else, and makes this person a credible threat to your safety.
    Don’t talk yourself out of the very real need to act on it. Find someone in authority, and get it shut down (but remember that the wrong kind of police attention can feed the obsession.)
    Best of luck, and update later so we know you’re safe?

    1. cleo*

      Ooh, I like the idea of using an ally for this. There are lots of worse stories out there.

      OP could also tell this ally a low key version of the truth so the ally can say, yeah OP was dealing with an emergency in her building – totally understandable. That’s nothing compared to ….

  30. Abogado Avocado*

    OP, I hope you’re recovering and, most important, have been able to banish the doorbell-spammer from your life. This whole experience sounds awful — and awfully understandable. We have all been in situations where events collided and, later, we can’t quite figure out why we made the choices we made. A friend once told me that the way to recover from mortifying events is to ask myself, “In 10 years, will anyone care about this?” The question helps me put events in perspective because the answer is invariably no.

  31. many bells down*

    I run fairly large Zoom events on a regular basis and I often turn off other people’s cameras! I’ve had full on snoring, head-thrown-back asleep people, people absent-mindedly taking their device into the bathroom, etc. I’m sorry that this wasn’t an option for whoever was running the meeting.

    1. Ladyoflasers*

      I was wondering about that reading the story, why wasn’t the meeting host shutting off op’s video?!?! I’m able to do that whenever I host a zoom meeting, even for smaller events.

  32. Chirpy*

    “There was an emergency in the building” is a good explanation if you don’t want to give details but people still press about why. As embarrassing as this was, it was an accident and most people will understand that.

  33. Regina Phalange*

    I’m the person who sent the first question that Alison linked to. My whole team saw me naked from the waist down…no underwear or anything. I was SO humiliated and truly thought I’d never recover from it. Now, two plus years later, I can look back on it and chuckle. I’m also friends with most of the people on my team (we’ve all moved on from the org.) It’s fine to just move past this…everyone else will be doing the same, I promise.

    1. Regina Phalange*

      Oh to be clear, I’m friends with the people on my team NOW, I wasn’t at the time. Just wanted to make the point that they clearly didn’t think I was a creep and avoid me forever.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Thank you for telling us this — I’m both glad and relieved that the incident dwindled into a funny thing!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Thanks for this update! It’s a good reminder that it’s very possible (and likely!) to recover from this type of thing at work.

  34. Seashell*

    I am assuming that OP was wearing underwear. If so, it’s not great, but not that bad. It’s like being in a bathing suit. Definitely not a Jeffrey Toobin-level error.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I was also thinking this, since wearing underwear is pretty common. The whole thing is still embarrassing, since nobody wants their coworkers to see them in their underwear, but hopefully that at least helped.

      Also, OP’s coworkers are jerks. It sounds like it was pretty apparent something jarring happened that led to this whole situation.

      1. BoobTube*

        I agree about the coworkers! Odds are that someone else was the meeting host, in which case THEY could have turned off the camera. Maybe they were on speaker mode and didn’t see it, just somebody in gallery view did, but they could have handled it better.

    2. Greg*

      I had the same thought, and while that feels nitpicky to point it out, I think it’s actually a window to what Allison was talking about in her response. It’s totally understandable that OP might react that way to two traumatic incidents happening in succession, but I think she’s catastrophizing the second one in a way that’s not helpful to her emotional well being.

      OP, please keep reminding yourself that you didn’t flash anyone, what you did was totally understandable, and it is highly unlikely that your coworkers are judging you for it. If it helps, do a little mental role play and imagine this happened to a colleague rather than to you. Would you really judge them so harshly or would you empathize?

      In the meantime, whatever is going on with the first situation (and you don’t owe us any details), I hope that gets resolved as well.

  35. knope knope knope*

    You’re not alone OP! I turned off my camera during a meeting I couldn’t move with my direct report and a vendor so I could breastfeed my baby. Or… I thought I did. I actually had turned the camera ON and have no idea my breasts were out on screen. Humiliating in the moment but it passed quickly.

  36. Just Another Zebra*

    OP, many internet hugs (if you like them), and reassurances that you are neither the first nor last person this will happen to. I agree with all the above commenters that, since you probably feel the need to address it (I would, my anxiety wouldn’t let me sleep otherwise), something along the lines of “there was a sudden emergency and I panicked, and completely forgot my camera was on, so sorry” is totally fine to say to a manager. That really is enough.

    Sometimes, when our brains have 2 very stressful things to process, it focuses on the one that we can control / manage, and makes it the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER. I think that’s happening here, a bit, because the pants-gate is just a mistake.

    I hope you get everything sorted with your other issue.

  37. Superlanon*

    I am someone who, not once, but twice; discovered that I was NOT on mute. Once, saying something inappropriate (aka VERY sexual/raunchy) to my husband; and the 2nd time, yelling at him to “shut the **** up, I’m on a call!” I’m a total disaster so please don’t be so hard on yourself, I promise, people will move on.

  38. tsumommy*

    OP – I’m sorry that this incident will haunt your memory forever, but please give yourself some grace, as you would a friend if this happened to them.

    During lockdown I did not realize my Zoom microphone was on while in a meeting. My husband and adult daughter were being incredibly noisy and I yelled, “For fuck’s sake, I CAN’T HEAR MY MEETING!” And, then someone muted me. So embarrassing. Yet, so common. Hugs to you!

  39. Anonymouse*

    OP, in addition to what everyone else is saying, I just wanted to let you know that the impulse to change from shorts to pants when you had to go confront an unexpected stalker IN YOUR HOME wasn’t an crazy one (being covered up makes you feel psychologically safer! If physical violence is a possibility, it makes you safer, period! I semi-recently had someone show up at my house in the middle of a work day to pick up stuff they’d abandoned during an unpleasant, hostile move-out. I’d had enough notice to put their items out on the lawn, and had already had the locks changed, so I didn’t need to go out to deal with them in person, much less let them inside, but I *still* felt the need to change from a loose, comfy skirt to jeans while they were there, even though it was sweltering) and the panicked part of your brain that vaulted right past details like “turning off my camera/calmly exiting my meeting first” to prepare yourself to deal with your stalker is completely understandable. You were dealing with an emergency in what was supposed to be a safe place! It’s very hard to keep totally calm and methodical in a situation like that.

    If you feel the need to explain what was going on to co-workers, “Sorry about the way I dropped off the call the other day, I had an emergency” covers it 100%. You don’t have to go into the nature/details of that emergency unless you want to and feel comfortable doing so. (I probably wouldn’t unless I was worried it was going to escalate in a way where it might be good for my employer to have some context, or they offered resources I anticipated I might need to take advantage of, but that’s just me.)

    I’m really sorry this happened to you. It sucks, and it’s distressing, and probably nothing can completely take away the sense of embarrassment. But I do hope you’ll think of it as something bad that happened to you, not something bad that *you* did.

  40. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP. Just saying. You’ve overcome what I imagine is a stalker or toxic relative/friend. You will survive this!
    Hang in there.

  41. Canadian Librarian #72*

    OP, if I was one of your coworkers I would feel bad for you (how embarrassing!) but I wouldn’t be upset at you or anything, particularly once I learned what had happened at your home right at that moment, and I doubt any of your coworkers are. (If they are, it’s not really reasonable of them.)

    Most of us have experienced some similar kind of wardrobe-related embarrassment – maybe your fly was down while meeting a client, or your blouse was misbuttoned and exposed part of your bra, or your shirt caccidentally ame up while you were trying to take off a sweater – and while I can definitely agree that these things are wildly embarrassing in the moment, we generally only remember the ones that happen to us. I remember multiple such things happening to me, but can I remember any instances of them happening to others in front of me? Nope. Even though I’m sure they have.

    In this case, I know it might feel different because it’s not an accident per se (i.e., forgetting to zip up), but it is one of those things where in moments of panic or distress, wires get crossed in the brain sometimes and cause us to make weird decisions that seem logical in the moment, and it’s even more common to forget to do something like mute yourself on the phone or turn off a Zoom camera.

    Try not to beat yourself up about this. You didn’t do anything wrong; you made a human mistake while under duress.

    1. Canadian Librarian #72*

      And also, this stalker thing – that is legit scary and traumatic. I want to really underscore here what I said about the crossed wires and panic thing; as someone else said, putting on pants makes sense under those circumstances (more clothes feels safer). Try to be easy on yourself about this.

  42. Goldenrod*

    I actually don’t think this was that bad! (the flashing, not the stalker which is of course terrible but not your fault).

    A much worse mistake (and one that I’ve made) would be losing your temper at work. This is clearly something that was an accident, and like Alison said, VERY common and understandable. You obviously didn’t do it on purpose.

    One suggestion I have – that’s helped me in EVERY aspect of my life – is to try to enjoy the humor of awkwardness. Embrace it, and tell the story to your friends, and laugh about it together. Once you learn how to actually appreciate and savor all the uncomfortable moments in life, you actually start to acquire a love of them, in a weird way.

    And watch some cringe comedy!

    But seriously this really isn’t all that bad, in the grand scheme of things. I love Alison’s advice to just drop it and move on. There is nothing you need to fix here which – again, if you lost your temper, you’d have to fix that. But you are blessedly free of blame in this situation and you can move on without talking about it at work ever again. Good luck!

    1. BoobTube*

      Oh yes, this reminds me of what Brenee Brown recommends about shame— if you’re feeling shame, tell somebody about it, because shame only thrives in isolation. Great idea to tell friends as a ridiculous story. (Assuming it’s not triggering because of the stalker situation.)

  43. So, yeah. It happens.*

    I’m so sorry this happened! But honestly, it will be okay. I had a colleague who took a video call on their phone, got into the shower, and set the phone so the camera was facing them (who knows why). …. the meeting app we use makes it very easy to accidentally turn on the video if you take calls on your phone. (I’ve done it myself, just to less mortifying results.) And people were trying to message this colleague and screaming at them that their camera was on. But they were in the shower, and they didn’t hear. And our app allows you to mute other people, but not to shut off their video. Also, calls stay open until the last person leaves. So nobody could end the meeting as long as this person was on the call. …. so everyone on the call when it started left the call, but people who were late kept joining, seeing their showering colleague, and then leaving again. And it kept happening. After the colleague realized what happened, they sent a message apologizing to everyone. And nobody ever talked about it openly again …. If I were this colleague I would have had a really hard time, I’m sure. But a few months out, I honestly never think about it when I talk to them. Big hugs to you! It will be okay.

  44. Elle*

    This is 100% something I would do. I agree with Allison that it will be quickly forgotten. I hope everything works out safely with your unwanted visitor, though!

  45. Techie*

    Oh no, my sympathies! Hope you’re doing ok. I think your coworkers were startled & worried, but that’s the extent of it. I do slightly disagree with the advice here. I think the best approach is to send out an email along the lines of “Hi everybody, So sorry about the way I left this morning’s meeting. I had to handle an emergency, and clearly forgot to turn my camera off. It’s been handled & I’m happy to say that everything is fine now.” This gives context, shuts down questions, and moves on – you’re free to share the situation with anybody you want, or just invent a plumbing crisis if you’d rather keep the details to yourself.

  46. DaniCalifornia*

    I’m so so so sorry you had to go through both of those things! If it makes you feel any better people do forget. We had an intern accidentally start undressing during a final presentation and we still hired him and I never give it a 2nd thought when I interact with him.

  47. Orora*

    OP, I have an embarassing Zoom story that I hope helps.

    You need to know the background, first. Aside from being an HR Director, I am also a burlesque performer. Like most performers, I have a stage name that’s risque; mine involves breasts. Let’s say it’s Tatas McGee. During the height of lockdown, I took a Zoom dance class using my work computer because it’s better than my personal one. My name on the Zoom was Tatas, because that’s how I’m known in the burlesque community. I made absolutely sure (so I thought) that my name would revert to my real name when I logged off the class.

    Well, you can guess what happened. I logged on to a regular conference call with my boss’s boss (the president) and another high ranking officer, and TATAS was there in large letters as my name. Without saying a word, I went in to change my name immediately, and pretended nothing was wrong. Trying to keep a straight face and act like a professional, serious adult was excruciating, given how mortified I was. But no one mentioned a word.

    I told my boss just in case someone said something. (She knows about my burly career and thought the entire episode was hilarious). To date, no one has said a thing and I’m just assuming everyone is pretending it didn’t happen.

    On another note, I’m sorry this person found you and made you deal with them. I hope you are able to cut them out of your life completely and get peace.

  48. Anono-me*

    That sounds like a very unpleasant morning for you. Please don’t focus yo much on the momentary embarrassment, instead please take care of yourself.

    I promise that this will fade away in everyone’s memory except your own. (Except maybe yelling coworker, who should remember their own behavior and be mortified. ) I know that we have had some Zoom growing pains in the past few years, because we now have new Zoom meeting policies as a result. But the only incident anyone remembers is the one where the person involved claims the new rule and tells the story at every onboarding and work social event.

    Normally I would 110% agree with the advice to say, nothing or something like “Everything is okay now. I’ll be more mindful of the camera going forward.” However, I am sorry to say that for you everything is not okay. Someone has just aggressively violated social norms directly against you in a way that would make any reasonable person feel threatened. And may continue to do so. I hope you will consider telling your coworkers that Person X (Show photo) is not the be let into the office building and personal information (For example, your direct number or work schedule ) is not to be given out without a specific need to know or to anyone unknown. You may want to see if your office has any protocols for this already established.

    On a personal level, I would also recommend contacting your local abused adult resource center for advice on how to handle being a target of stalking . (I don’t know if your situation is technically stalking, but better to respond now than to wait for escalation. )

  49. Spicy Tuna*

    Stuff happens over Zoom, it’s now just a fact of life. I was on a call when the C-level executive’s toddler ran naked into our Zoom with his wife chasing him not far behind (he had squirted out of her grasp during bath time). Another time, there was a loud fart that was blamed on a dog but no one actually believed that it was the dog. I myself accidentally drank an adult seltzer on a Zoom with the ENTIRE C-suite, earning myself the nickname, “Miller Time”.

  50. Patty Squarepants*

    OP, I know the feeling of mortification all too well. It will pass, trust me.

    Meanwhile, just think about Jeffrey Toobin. Just about EVERYTHING pales in comparison to what he did.

  51. coldfeets*

    OP, I know the situation in the meeting is terrible and stressful, but take comfort in knowing that many people did not see it. And those who did see you were changing probably looked away when they realised what was happening (I look away from my screen when I see someone picking their nose on a call). Someone spoke up to let you know you were still on camera, which is a kindness (though they were very blunt about it). They may have been worried that you were going to change tops, too, and rushed in to alert you.

    So, yes, this was an embarrassing moment. But it’s one you can recover from, and one that your co-workers should be able to move on from. I would explain that there was an emergency in your home that required pants, so people know it was an unusual situation on your end.

    I hope you’re doing okay.

    1. si*

      Yeah, I think the shouting colleague may well have been trying to stop LW from taking anything else off, rather than meaning to convey any kind of outrage or exasperation. LW, you showed less skin in your top and underwear than you would in a swimsuit photo from your vacation – please don’t beat yourself up about it! You had a sudden, frightening situation come up that overrode everything else, and that’s not your fault at all. It’s what brains do in an emergency.

  52. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I was in the background of my husbands last meeting in an underwear and bra.

    He warned me he would have the camera on this time and I forgot!

    It happens to all of us.

  53. OP**

    Hello everyone, this is the letter-writer.

    Thank you to everyone for your amazing support and advice, and thank you to the brave people who shared their own mortifying experiences that they can now laugh at/ where their embarrassment eased with time(this really helped me feel less alone).

    I have to say you were spot on with your advice regarding trying to separate these two bad incidents that occurred at the same time and just focus on what occurred at work vs the context behind it.  I spent the last few days writing/rewriting an apology/work-appropriate explanation that would prevent me from having to give too much personal details and I realized that you were spot-on that I was combining my anxiety, and frankly, shame with the prior incident that sparked my panic and wardrobe malfunction in the meeting. I felt like I had to create some understanding with them that I was paying attention in the meeting/that this wasn’t on purpose. It became apparent to me that had that unwelcome intruder not appeared and the incident had still occurred, sure I’d still be horrifically embarrassed, but by the end of the day I’d be cracking jokes about it and already moving on.
    When I separated them, I was able to leave behind an immense amount of shame and made myself rejoin the meetings with much less embarrassment.

    In the end, I’m deciding to treat it as though it was just a wardrobe malfunction and not send out any messages and do my best to move on and wait until I can laugh about it. The only person who knows what occurred is my manager who checked in with me after the meeting, she then immediately told me to handle that first and then take time to calm down before rejoining work and was generous enough to approve a very last-minute request to take the next day off to calm down/figure out how to deal with the personal incident.

    Some things I saw in the comments who requested more information/I think need more context:
    I saw people upset over the,”for christsake turn off your camera” comment, I honestly hadn’t given this a lot of thought as I felt like thats not a very off-brand response or something to take personally when you see someone in a work meeting just get up and show their backside with no context. They checked in on me after the meeting as well out of concern and really, they were the only thing that anchored me back to reality that I was still in a work meeting so I Could at-least turn off my camera/leave the meeting so I’d like to think of it as a kindness since I was otherwise in too much of a panic to notice.

    some people seemed to think my coworkers were trying to embarrass me by asking what happened. To clear that up, a lot of people usually keep working/are checking emails during meetings, thats not unusual, so I find it easy to believe they were on another screen, heard the shout and came back just to see me quickly leave. So it seemed more like curiosity than anything nor did they press for details when I didn’t respond. My coworkers are genuinely lovely people I’m thankful to know, and I had some people check in//try to reassure me or just not address/ask me about it at all and try to return to normal immediately, both of which I appreciate.
    For the people asking if I was commando under, yes, I was. My backside was fully exposed unfortunately.

    Thank you again everyone and to the people who are concerned, thank you, I am doing my best to take measures to prevent what happened again[as some of you suggested, making protocols with my roommates to not let them inside/talk to them] but it unfortunately looks like I can’t do more than that and its beyond frustrating to me.

    1. BJP*

      OP, so glad to hear your spirits are lifting and you are finding a way to laugh at this.

      Separately, I am concerned for your safety. The person who came to your home seems to be behaving in a very disturbing manner. How do you feel about contacting the police to file a report, so there is at least some record of this happening? That may be a worthwhile step towards pursuing a restraining order?

    2. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      Glad to know you work with understanding people, and that the “crissakes” person was not coming after you any more than that. These are weird times and accidents are going to happen. Personally if I saw someone mooning the Zoom meeting I would probably chalk it up to them saying what we’re all thinking…

      And, it clearly being an accident.

      If everyone you work with has responded with kindness and regard for your feelings, they certainly know you on a level that we don’t, and they are definitely right in their wanting for you to be ok (and we in the commentariat do too of course).

      One day, and you will, tell the story to the kids/grands/whomevers, “You’ll never believe what happened to me once in a Zoom call.” Be well.

  54. Caroline Bowman*

    OP39: I so hear you on the ”pointless appraisal” front. Obviously as Alison says, you cannot refuse to participate in an appraisal, or to go in with an openly negative or discourteous attitude. What you can do is go in and not say much beyond answering any and all questions relating to your work over the past however-long and responding to any feedback, good or bad etcetera. When your manager asks you about your goals or what you want for the next period, THEN you can say ”well Nancy, not much has changed on that since the appraisals we’ve done before, so I’m not really sure what to say” and then *let that awkward silence hang and hang and hang. Neutral, pleasant tone, no sarcasm, just a clear, simple, naming of the issue. Nancy may not realise just how angry and balked you feel, and even if she does, she has a duty to you to more frankly explain the issue or any road blocks. Making you spell out and detail what you want re training, when she clearly knows well that there is zero chance of that happening, repeatedly, is unkind and a bit insulting too.

    That gets my vote. Name the issue at the appropriate time, continue working to your usual good standards, be pleasant and proactive. Don’t be scared of the long, awkward silence. Really lean into it.

  55. Madame Arcati*

    OP, looking at the work side alone, let’s reduce this to the basics. Very briefly* a few of your coworkers saw your underwear. It wasn’t recorded or visible for more than a few moments. It was underwear not your bare bum or other private area. All in all, it’s no biggie. They are adults they’ve all seen a pair of knickers before; I dare say they’ll get over it!
    Chances are most of them are only thinking, “there but for the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster go I…”

  56. BoobTube*

    While working from home I was pumping breast milk a little before hopping on a meeting.
    I heard a “ding dong” sound come from my computer, but couldn’t place it.
    Out of nowhere, I heard the voice of my male coworker “hey, how’s it going?”
    Slowly I realized that I had never closed zoom, only minimized it, after testing something earlier in the morning, and I was now on camera for him to see, and I began frantically looking for the open zoom window to turn off my camera.
    As I scrambled he asked (hearing the pump motor) “…are you… 3D printing something?”
    It was only by the grace of the camera angle that he wasn’t flashed and scarred for life by the grotesque image of nipples being auctioned.

    And I had no scary experience to rattle me, just my regular absent-mindednesses.
    I agree with AAM that you don’t need to reply. If you wanted to, you could say “I had an emergency that was pretty rattling and obviously threw me off my game, but other than the mortification I’m better now.”

Comments are closed.