I accidentally sent my team erotica, mumbling boss, and more

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

1. I accidentally sent my team a graphic paragraph of erotica

I write erotica as a hobby. The other day, I was in a Zoom meeting with my boss and several coworkers. My boss didn’t have the link handy for a shared document that we were discussing and asked someone to put the link into the chat. I copied and pasted the link and quickly sent the message. Except … the link had not actually copied and instead I sent everyone the last thing on my clipboard, which was a rather graphic paragraph from erotica I was writing the previous night! (I work from my personal computer.)

Needless to say, I’m mortified. In the moment, I said something like “oh my god, I’m so sorry, that’s not what I meant to send” and the meeting proceeded as if nothing had happened, for which I was very grateful. I haven’t said anything else to my boss or coworkers about it. My question is, do I need to address it? For context, I am not particularly close with these coworkers because we are only working together for this project, which is new. Our work is related to progressive politics, so I don’t think anyone on the call is especially puritanical, and there wasn’t anything particularly offensive in the paragraph I sent, though it was graphic and definitely NSFW! I would really rather not say anything — I feel awkward enough as is — but I’m not sure what the professional thing is to do here.

Oh noooo.

My initial reaction was that you really should say something to your boss afterwards to explain it … but the more I think about it, the more I think you already handled it in the moment. You apologized and you made it clear it wasn’t what you meant to send, so you covered those bases. If people seemed shocked or very uncomfortable, that would change my answer, but you apologized and everyone moved on so I think you can leave it there. If you had sent a graphic photo rather than text, I’d handle it differently.

2. I can’t hear my mumbling boss

My old manager recently moved out of his position and I have a new boss who’s a decent guy but his speech is damn near incomprehensible. He’ll start a sentence clearly and loudly but within a few seconds he’s gone back to quietly mumbling. I’m worried there’s only so many times I can say “What?” or “Sorry?” or “Could you please repeat that?” before I start coming across as really rude. Obviously, it’s also a problem when I’m working off of instructions that I can only hope I’ve understood correctly. I’ve recently had a hearing test for unrelated reasons and I don’t have this problem with anyone else in my life so I’m pretty sure it’s not me. Is there a polite way to address this issue?

It’s not rude to have to repeatedly tell someone you can’t hear them. I get that it feels awkward, but try to remember that it’s really not rude so that you’re not saddled with that worry on top of the original frustration.

It might help to address the issue more directly the next time it’s happening: “I’m sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you. Can you speak more loudly?” And then the next time you have to speak up (whether in that same conversation or a later one): “I hate to keep asking you to repeat yourself, but I’m still having trouble hearing you. I don’t normally have this problem so I think it might be that you’re speaking quietly.”

If he doesn’t try to speak more loudly/clearly after that, then all you can really do is continue as you have been. He’ll either take steps to change things on his side or he won’t, but you’ve got to say what you need to say to be able to receive whatever he’s saying.

3. Recruiters are withdrawing interview invitations after I ask to delay a week because of a family death

I’m an older worker, and I’ve been conducting a clandestine job search for a while. My 91-year-old mother died recently. She was in a care facility, and she had dementia. I took a week’s bereavement leave to help my sister with funeral arrangements, contacting family members, and attending my mother’s funeral.

I recently received some replies to my resume off job boards requesting immediate phone, Zoom, or face-to-face interviews. While I have a dim view of job boards, I realize you sometimes have to play the game with prospective employers. I’ve politely explained that my mother passed away a few short days ago, and that I’m unable to accept the interviews right now, but I would be pleased to interview in a week’s time. With the exception of one of these employers, who gave their condolences and agreed to this, the rest have either ghosted me, or sent me canned notifications informing me that I’ve been disqualified as a candidate.

While none of this comes as any great surprise, and conventional wisdom tells me to write them off, it does seem a little odd that informing them that I can’t immediately interview with them due to my mother’s death has resulted in this type of behavior.

I’m guessing these are external recruiters since they’re contacting you after seeing your resume on job boards. They often use a model where they work quickly, and if they can’t talk to you within a few days they’ve often moved on to other candidates (or other positions entirely) by the time you’re available. Partly it’s because this type of recruiter treats the work as a numbers game, and if they have enough other plausible candidates who can connect earlier, they’ll just fill their slots with them.

Those sorts of recruiters aside, there are times when a company genuinely needs to move quickly with interviews and can’t wait a week (for example, because a decision-maker is about to be out of town). But in those cases, a good company will explain that so you know, not just leave you hanging.

4. Taking vacation during my notice period

I am looking to switch jobs and I have an offer I have already signed for a start date of October 31. I have not yet told my current employer but I was going to do it this week. But what complicates it is that I have a pre-scheduled vacation in the middle of this time (October 10-14) that I cannot (and will not) cancel.

Can the current employer legally refuse to honor that? How do I go about this?

Yes, they can legally refuse to honor it. Some companies have policies that you can’t use vacation time during your notice period (because the point of the notice period is to give you time to document and transition your work), although they’re often more flexible when (a) the vacation was already scheduled and (b) you’re giving a longer-than-average notice period. That last point is especially relevant for your timeline — you’re planning to give five weeks of notice. It would be silly for them to say you can’t have a week off in the middle of that, particularly when you instead could have given your notice when you returned and still be offering a full two weeks. Assuming they’re not a wildly unreasonable place, they’re likely to see it the same way.

I’d say this when you resign: “I want to give you as much notice as possible, so I’m giving five weeks with the understanding that I’ll still be able to take October 10-14 off as we’d already planned.”

All this said, are you sure you want to give that much notice? For some jobs it makes sense, and for others it doesn’t. Pay attention to how much notice others there at your approximate level have given and how their notice periods have gone.

5. Should I tell a recruiter I’ll never want to work for her company?

I have received a couple of emails from a recruiter for a company that I know I am not interested in working for. They are an employee of that company, which is in a constant state of hiring. I have previously gone through an extensive interviewing process there, and it is pretty clear to me that I do not have the required level of enthusiasm for working there that interviewers expect. More importantly, I just don’t think it’s a place I could ever feel great about working.

So far, I have ignored her emails, but I wonder if I should reply? And should I tell her that I’m not interested in working for that company ever, or should I just say that I’m happy in my current position?

“I’m happy in my current position but I’ll reach out if I’m ever interested in exploring a move.”

Or you can continue ignoring the messages (recruiters are used to that), but I wouldn’t say you’re not interested in working there ever — that’s the kind of thing that could end up being noted in their database, and it’s possible that things there could change enough that you might feel differently in the future.

{ 291 comments… read them below }

  1. ENFP in Texas*

    “I’m happy in my current position but I’ll reach out if I’m ever interested in exploring a move.”

    I use this one a lot, and it keeps recruiters from repeatedly contacting me.

    1. Cold and Tired*

      Agreed – this serves the purpose of getting recruiters off your back without burning a bridge you might want someday down the road, even if it seems unlikely now.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        For anyone who says “but I would never work for that company”, think about all the weird corporate mergers we have had. Competitors buy each other. Corporations diversify.
        Don’t burn the bridge with Icky Co, Ltd, because someday it might buy your dream employer…or get bought by your dream employer.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          So insert the word “voluntarily” in “I would never work for that company.”

          There are certain companies that, if they bought my employer—well, first of all, it would be front-page news for a private company to buy the U.S. Government (other than through the usual way of flooding the right politicians with tons of money). But people can and do look for jobs when their company is bought by one they don’t want to look for. There was lots of talk, for example, that Twitter could lose a lot of people if Elon Musk bought the company.

        2. LW5*

          I like the wording suggested by ENFP, and these are good points I honestly hadn’t considered. I think the comparison to the company being acquired by Elon Musk is particularly apt, except it’s already owned by someone whose values I don’t appreciate. I suppose there is a way that this company could get new leadership and make it more palatable. And there was a time when I probably could (should?) have jumped to the company and would have felt good about it. But a big part of the vibe I got when I interviewed (a previous manager is working there and had a position on his team) was that I was not evincing the required level of enthusiasm for working for them. This seems very important to them, and they are truly not a company about which I could gin up that much enthusiasm!

          1. Nancy*

            That was wording quoted from the post :-)

            I agree too, cultures change, management changes, mergers happen, never foreclose opportunities when you do not have to.

        3. Seaside Gal*

          Exactly. My husband said he’d never work for ex-employer again. The company he went to was bought out by ex-employer. OOPS!

          1. Ridiculous Penguin*

            A million years ago, I worked in print journalism. I left a subsidiary of a big newspaper whose politics I didn’t like to go to a higher-level job at a different well-respected family-owned newspaper chain.

            One week after I arrived, the family announced they were selling to the big newspaper I’d just left. They were horrible, horrible people.

            [When 9/11 happened I was in the hospital having a 2nd-trimester miscarriage. The Managing Editor came to the hospital on 9/12; I thought he was going to bring me flowers or see how I was doing, but… he came to lay me off. (“The “good news” he had for me was that if I worked on October 1, I could get benefits until the end of the month.)]

        4. DataSci*

          If my employer got bought by one of my “I will never work there” companies (highly unlikely, as they’re in different industries), I’d start my job hunt the day the deal was announced, and one way or the other be out before it was finalized (hopefully with an offer in hand, but in any case not giving them one minute of my work). In my field there are a fair number of places I’d never work for, because they are actively evil and working to do harm. I don’t know why you think this is some sort of gotcha, when I say “never” I mean it.

          1. Vio*

            Not everyone has that luxury unfortunately. If it’s the choice between compromising your principles or being unable to feed your children then most people will grudgingly compromise. Ideally we should never have to make that choice, but we live in a far less than ideal world

    2. Smithy*

      I’ve used versions of this one and also if it’s cases of an organization where I’d be open to working for a narrow team or set of offices, I’ve mentioned that my family situation currently doesn’t allow me to relocate (or relocate internationally) and I’ll reach out to them when that changes.

      For most recruiters – even decent ones, they deal with such high volumes of jobs and candidates, that setting bland but straightforward boundaries is usually easiest. If they’re bad/push recruiters that’s one thing – but hoping a recruiter understands your nuances around why Employer X is on your “no” list has such a high likelihood of being misconstrued.

    3. Lauren*

      I told Biogen that they killed a grandmother in my family (BIL’s) and I would never work for them because they knew about Covid in Italy when they had that massive covid spreading meeting that let it take hold in Massachusetts when those dozens of Italian attendees came knowing they had it. I do not regret telling the recruiter that, and she was like ‘wow’ but was like ‘ok’. I wanted someone to know, because the news barely made a blip about their responsibility for bringing it here. The strain was traced back to that event and like 400K in Mass got it because of that event – again it was traced because the Italian strain was tracked so it was definitive that my BILs grandmother got that specific strain from someone who attended that event and it spread.

      1. LW5*

        Amazing. Good on you. Okay, the company in question does not have that level of moral culpability…except actually they could be held accountable for deaths of their own workers. I’m sorry for your family’s trauma and loss.

        1. Lauren*

          Yeah, they are not legally responsible, but legit those Italian attendees were escaping the lockdown there so they did know they were sick and still came. And it was open knowledge that lots of attendees had it and it was early for masking here and yes, it would have come eventually. But the company did things knowingly by not alerting people until after it was over, shutting down midway when they found out and still allowing the sick people to walk around attending dozens of sessions. Who knows if she would have survived a different strain, but it was that one and they were still tracking it then. It’s a healthcare company too, so it’s extra for me.

    4. RPOhno*

      Because jobs in my profession tends to cluster around specific industries, I get a lot of mileage out of “I’m not in a position to relocate at this time, but will keep you in mind if that changes.” I figure if they want to be aggressive enough to offer a relocation package, I could be convinced…

  2. Seal*

    #2 – One of my past bosses was a quiet talker. Everyone who met with him was resigned to leaning in and paying close attention so you could hear what he was saying. On the other hand, it did ensure that people paid attention in meetings, so maybe it was intentional on his part.

    1. FearNot*

      I have a coworker like this and I’ve really had to just start interrupting him and say “I can’t understand you, can you please repeat that?” all day. He’ll speak normally but then his pitch drops into this inscrutable low grumbly whisper. I’m pretty sure it’s a self-confidence thing on his part, but I don’t have the patience for it, and he doesn’t seem bothered by me saying I can’t hear him (but I’m also old, so I can use that as an excuse).

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        My husband’s voice is similar. Especially in the car, the timbre of his voice just matches the ambient road/car noise that it gets completely lost. Luckily, we know each other well enough for me to not be shy about saying, “Hon, I can’t hear you at all. LOUDER!”

      2. Deaf Anon*

        I am hearing impaired. Quiet talkers/mumblers drive me nuts. It’s especially frustrating when, told I cannot here them, say “Oh, OK at a louder volume and then immediately dial their volume down to the original level, or even lower. If someone repeatedly tells you they cannot hear you and you keep talking at the same volume (or lower!) then you are being a jerk.

        Masks have been hell on the hearing-impaired that lip-read. There are masks with a transparent window that allow lip reading but while I can get one to wear, I can’t go handing them out to everyone I talk to. COVID can’t end soon enough.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Speaking as someone who is hard of hearing, this sort of thing drives me wild. When it happens, the first time I’ll just say, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” The second time I say, “I’m so sorry, but I’m very hard of hearing. Could you please repeat that louder and a little more slowly?” After that, one of the following: “I’m deaf and can’t hear you. Please repeat that louder” “Bob, please. You KNOW I can’t hear you. Speak louder please.” “Please accommodate my disability and speak up”

      I do wear hearing aids and I can hear everyone else just fine. Mumbling, whispering Bob, however…

      1. smeep248*

        my ex boyfriend was like this. I can generally tell that someone in another room is speaking but I can’t make out words and then I have ADD on top of it so it takes my brain a couple seconds to tune in. For 5+ years I just kept asking him “can you either get my attention so I can see and hear you before you begin your mumbling OR could you not get mad at me when I remind you that I can’t hear and attend to you?!”

        1. BatManDan*

          Had to tell my (now ex-) wife, “When you start talking from the other room, I just assume you are talking to yourself. If you don’t say my name, and wait for me to reply or turn and face you, you’ll have to assume I didn’t hear anything at all.”

        2. lilsheba*

          My ex boyfriend was exactly the same way! He would mumble, I’d say what? and he’d mumble, and repeat the what? and he would get so mad at me! I would tell him “if you would quit mumbling I could understand what you’re saying!” I’m hard of hearing in that area, and someone has to speak directly to me and clearly and speak up or I just don’t get it.

        3. GlitterIsEverything*

          For a while, I had auditory auras with my migraines. Instead of blurred or distorted vision, I had dulled hearing that specifically affected deeper vocal tones.

          For the longest time, I had to tell my husband and two boys to look directly at me when speaking, or to make sure they had my attention when they started talking. I still have to do that sometimes, though thankfully not as often.

        4. Kaittydid*

          My ex spouse would do this, and then get mad that I was hard of hearing at him or something. Divorce was the right choice for many reasons. My most recent ex was much better in at least that regard. She’d wait for either me or her to go to the other to repeat herself, and would rephrase if two repetitions didn’t work.

          Asking people to repeat themselves is awkward, but it also shows that you do really want to know what they said. Sometimes I tell people that after I’ve asked for a repetition. “I’m sorry, I really want to know what you’re saying but I just can’t hear you. I’m hard of hearing. Could you rephrase that, maybe?” It gets easier with time.

        5. Starbuck*

          Ah, this has been a lifelong peeve of mine! People, don’t start talking to someone until you’ve actively engaged their attention!

        6. April*

          I used to get in arguments about this with an ex-boyfriend!

          Me, early on in the relationship: If I’m on the computer or reading a book or watching TV, you have to say my name and get eye contact or I’m not actually listening to you. Even if I respond to you in complete sentences, because I can do that on auto-pilot without realizing I’ve done it. GET. EYE. CONTACT.

          Him, constantly: I can’t believe you don’t remember that thing I told you/that thing we talked about that was important!!
          Me: what was I doing when we had this conversation
          Him: reading a book
          Me: and did you say my name and get eye contact??
          Him: no, but–
          Me: *deepest of sighs*

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I have auditory processing disorder, and one thing that helps me is to look at the person’s lips while they’re speaking. Another thing she can do is repeat back what she thought she heard, or repeat back the part she heard, “So you want me to inventory the teapots and then what was the next step?” But I ask people to start over all the time (sometimes saying, I was taking notes and missed that, which is often true).

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        I’ve got moderate industrial hearing loss and have a really tough time making out words when there is background noise. It wasn’t until the Plague had us all in masks that I suddenly realized how much I’ve relied on watching peoples’ lips move with speech. I had been totally unconscious of needing that supplemental info for my brain to process conversation!

      2. Bee*

        Same! My mom used to get annoyed when I asked her to repeat something and ask what I thought she said, and I would always be like, literal gibberish, it wasn’t even words. Being able to look at the person’s mouth helps a LOT, as does knowing you’re supposed to be paying attention at the start of the sentence. Mumblers are still a problem, though – sometimes you just have to keep asking people to repeat themselves.

        1. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

          Oh heck yes. I have spent something like 20 years in kennels, which is loud, very loud, and I’m sure my hearing has suffered for it. I remember a guy trying to flirt with me using the “sexy mumble”, and getting mad when I told him he needed to stop that crap and speak up if he wanted me to hear him.

          First of all, sir…. go away. Lol

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        I don’t have a hearing disorder, but I definitely use lip reading in helping me understand those who aren’t speaking loudly enough or clearly enough. The main problem I have now in the pandemic is that people are wearing masks, which is good! But if they’re a low mumbler, the mask just muffles them further with the added issue of not being able to read their lips. A lot of times, I want to just say, “Use your diaphragm! Enunciate!”

    4. ferrina*

      In 1:1 conversations, one trick is to repeat and reframe. If you don’t want to interrupt him, wait until he’s done talking, then say “Okay, what I hear you saying is that you want to update the layout of the TPS report. I think you want to do chronological reporting- is that right? You were speaking really quietly so I was having trouble hearing you.”

      @Seal, this is a legit teaching trick. If you have an unruly class, you raise your voice for just a moment so everyone can hear you over the din, then immediately lower it so they need to stop talking to hear you. It’s not supposed to be used ad nauseum though, and definitely not for 1:1 conversations.

    5. Koalafied*

      This is a small thing, but may help the LW some: I’ve had similar issues before someone I had to ask to repeat themselves a lot and I felt inexplicably rude doing it even though I knew rationally it wasn’t rude.

      Nonetheless, I found, “What’s that?”/”What was that?” feels less abrasive coming out of my mouth and thus easier for me to be comfortable saying, even repeatedly in one conversation if needed, compared to just, “What?”

    6. giraffecat*

      I’m a quiet talker and it’s not intentional. I have done a lot of work to try to talk louder and more clearly, even going to a vocal coach. I’ve gotten better, but I still have to consciously think about speaking louder, so when my mind is focused on something else, I tend to revert to speaking quietly again as it’s my natural voice.

      I never mind when someone asks me to repeat something or speak louder, even repeatedly. I’m more likely to get frustrated with myself than with them because it means that I am failing at communicating effectively. They’re doing nothing wrong by trying to make sure they can understand what I’m trying to say.

      1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

        My voice is extremely soft. I know this and make a conscious effort when speaking with people to make sure they hear me. I don’t know if it’s because I know that I make the effort or what but I find constantly asking someone to repeat themselves extremely frustrating. I have been known to walk away from conversations with no warning after one too many asks to speak up (however that has been in personal life, not work life.)

      2. Soft speak*

        Thank you! Those of us who speak softly, we are not doing it on purpose, or being jerks (!) I promise. I only wish I could speak louder. I understand that it’s hard for people to hear me, but trust me when I say it creates more problems for me than for them. And I am used to being asked to repeat myself, so I won’t get offended or anything.

    7. Lauren*

      I’m deaf in one ear and I totally bring it up every time if someone mumbles. Putting it on me, but it helps to say ‘hard of hearing’ and they make an effort to speak up.

      1. Kaittydid*

        Me, too. Sometimes I’ll mention that I physically cannot hear better, if someone gets snippy with me.

    8. Melissa*

      I’ve tried letting a coworker know I can’t hear them- they start sentences out audibly, and then revert to low mumbling. After a few times of me speaking up, they began to “show concern” for me that I might need to go to an audiologist, because my hearing loss seems to be getting worse.

      Except, I don’t have this issue with anyone else speaking.

      Heh…I’ve given up, so if they are still nagging me to get my hearing check, at least I can’t hear them doing it. And, by bringing it up a few times, I feel I’m covered if they try to throw me under the bus for not knowing something they have supposedly told me. I’ve got my explanation ready, just in case it comes up:

      “I have told you multiple times I cannot hear you speaking, and why. At this point, I don’t feel I sneed to continue reminding you of this. If I do not acknowledge what you are telling me, it means I have not heard you.”

    9. Ama*

      I have been told by many, many people that I am sometimes hard to hear when I am speaking conversationally, and I have come to the conclusion that I just don’t seem to be able to correctly judge my own volume (kind of the opposite of the loud talkers who don’t realize how loud they are). I do make an effort to put more of my “public speaking voice” on in meetings now that I know this, but I never think anyone who asks me to speak up is rude.

    10. Academic Fibro Warrior*

      My husband (and his father and brother)–whisperers. I just don’t answer, get up and walk away, if I can’t hear them. And I have some mild hearing loss because concerts in college. They will not change. It’s worse if they are stuffed up, because they literally whisper and complain they are shouting. I guess being stuffed up really reverberates in their head. My MIL apparently just always said “no” whenever FIL said anything she couldn’t hear.

      With quiet people at work, I write down what I can hear and then make them read it over and change it as needed, and then I email a final list for their approval/knowledge. I’ve noticed with the family that they are extraordinarly sensitive to noises and experience physical discomfort when people are loud around them. (I do, too, when my chronic fatigue condition flares, so I have some sympathy). It’s much worse when they are tired/sleepy/sick. I have actually made husband send me an agenda before serious conversations about life stuff so I can follow what he says. Drove him batty, but finally told him, you can either talk at a normal level throughout the conversations or you can write things down. Since you won’t speak louder, writing down is the only option. (he doesn’t move his mouth much either, so lipreading, which is what my nearly deaf father has always done until someone took his hearing loss seriously, is basically impossible). Husband doesn’t like it…but having an alternate option to get information across really has reduced the squabbling. I haven’t had a colleague or boss as bad as husband, but I find the writing alternate/backup method more productive than saying ‘what’ 88 times. Because I will walk away and throw out, if you really wanted me to be part of this conversation you’d make an effort, but since you’re not it obviously isn’t important enough for me to try to hear you. Do not recommend, btw.

  3. many bells down*

    oh noooo #1, I very nearly did the same thing. A co-worker had been sending inappropriate emails from his work account, I had to paste some examples in an email to my boss… and I guess it was still in my clipboard when I went to paste something into the chat of my Zoom church service! Fortunately I caught myself before hitting enter, but only just. I sympathize.

    1. My dear Wormwood*

      I’m reading this in bed and I had to resist the urge to scootch down and hide myself under the covers. I’m so sorry OP1!

      But I think Alison is right, if nobody has commented or become chilly they probably thought it was a genuine mistake and are cringing on your behalf as well. If they already know you as a professional and reliable colleague, I’m sure that helps too.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yeah, everyone moved on. Honestly, once you apologized OP, they probably promptly forgot it because they are thinking about their own lives: what errands to run after work, what to make for dinner, etc. You are thinking about it because it happened to you, so you think it is this BIG THING that everyone is thinking about. But in general, folks are thinking about us a lot less than we think they are.

        Just move on as they are. You will laugh about this in a few years.

        1. LW1*

          thank you for the kind words—for obvious reasons I have been too embarrassed to discuss this incident with other people in my life so I needed some reassurance!

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Honestly this is the biggest reason I’d never want to us met home computer for work purposes – I would 100% do something like this by accident. This is also definitely the sort of thing that makes me glad you can edit Teams Chats. Sympathies OP!

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, likewise. The most exciting thing I’ve ever done with my work computer is let my husband use it to do online traffic school.

    3. Anon flr*

      #1. Did something similar long ago in the age of dot matrix, by sending an email from a friend containing a decidedly NSFW chapter of the novel she was writing not to my local printer but to a printer somewhere in the vast university network. I never dared enquire where, and I pray it ended up in the recycling without anyone looking past the cover page.

      I keep a separate work login on my home computer.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So Many Printers…this is why my default printer at home and the office is now print to pdf.

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        I’ve done this before – with the first draft of a grant proposal. That doesn’t sound so bad, but I’m a person who struggles mightily with writer’s block; my primary method to get around this is to write the most unhinged first draft that I possibly can. The goal is to work out what content should be in there and what order it should go in, but I can’t do that without prematurely optimizing the language for flow and elegance, wasting infinite hours that I don’t actually have to spare. Unless…I make sure that it’s absolutely impossible to put what I’m writing into the final product. Basically, my first drafts are written by an extremely foul-mouthed LOLcat.

        Of course, I’d put my name on the thing. So I set out to look for it. Wasn’t hard to find, I just followed the sound of laughter…

        1. My dear Wormwood*

          One of my former bosses coped with the peer review system in a similar way, with a frustrated stream-of-consciousness rebuttal letter. I got to tidy it up and take out the swearing, chuckling all the while. Reviewer 3 can indeed get bent.

    4. Anon for this*

      #1. Did something similar long ago in the age of dot matrix, by sending an email from a friend containing a decidedly NSFW chapter of the novel she was writing not to my local printer but to a printer somewhere in the vast university network. I never dared enquire where, and I pray it ended up in the recycling without anyone looking past the cover page.

      I keep a separate work login on my home computer.

    5. bamcheeks*

      I did a C&P in a meeting chat the other day and before I pressed Return I noticed it was a paragraph from a very confidential email I’d written to HR about a direct report who was in that meeting rather than the innocuous link to a shared doc. moment of hyperventilation there.

    6. I am not a cat*

      I have a Zoom meeting tonight and now I’m kinda paranoid I’m going to do something that will give me major insomnia.

      LW1, we’ve all had memorable moments on Zoom the past couple of years. The moments we remember most clearly are our own. We’re all cringing right with you in sympathy.

      1. Middle Aged MBA Student*

        Best username ever.

        In one of my business school classes a naked man walked by in the background of a classmate’s zoom screen and nobody batted an eyelash. I guess we’re used to zoom fails now?

        1. I am not a cat*

          Thank you! I switched to this in memory of the greatest of the Zoom fails. It seemed appropriate for the topic at hand.

          And, yeah, we’re all very used to Zoom oopsies. We’ve seen so many that they just kind of blend together and I think we’ve all just decided that we’re not going to take offense. After all, any one of us could be the next one trying to figure out how to deal with our coworkers witnessing something that we didn’t want witnessed.

    7. TinySoprano*

      I came within milliseconds of accidentally sending a prestigious opera scholarship a picture of my cat instead of my headshot one time. Though he was a very cute cat, so in retrospect maybe I should’ve sent it… (He was a ginger tabby exotic shorthair. Garfield in the flesh.)

  4. Sammmmmmm*

    LW 4: Wait to give notice. Start compiling your SOPs/transition materials now- but don’t give the notice until you get back. It will still give your employer the full two weeks, and you’ll already have a head start on the transition back work.

    Remember, two weeks is still a curtesy.

    Congrats and enjoy your vacay!

    1. Mockingjay*

      This. The ‘unofficial standard’ two-week notice is precisely for this – wrap-up or turnover of tasks, writing or updating SOPs. Quietly do your prep, enjoy your vacation, then give notice. Your transition plan will be ready to smooth your notice period and leave a last impression of professionalism with management and coworkers.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Yes this. Or if they can afford it just give two weeks now, take vacation and have a few weeks of time off.

      I gave a nearly 4 week notice this summer because I had a vacation scheduled and my new job wanted me to start after, and at old job had a major project due right before my vacation and the other person on it was still on medical leave. I wish I just gave two weeks and had some extra time off between jobs. It wasn’t bad or anything but the last week and a half it felt like “Oh you’re still here…” and there wasn’t much for me to do. I WFH so I filled the time otherwise but it would have been super awkward in the office.

      1. CR*

        This would be my suggestion. Give your notice now, end work, then take your vacation. Bonus is if you have accrued vacation time you didn’t take they’ll pay you for it.

      2. HMS*

        I’ve always wondered how that works with health insurance. Would you just not be covered for that in between period?

        1. Captain+Swan*

          That’s something that would need to be checked before giving the notice. Some places would cover until the end of month, some until the end of the pay period. The individual might have to use Cobra for a couple of weeks to maintain coverage.

        2. SpaceySteph*

          Yeah I would have loved to take off a week or so between jobs but I carried the health insurance for my whole family and it terminated at midnight on the last day of employment. I switched from a company that didn’t observe Juneteenth to one that did so I worked Juneteenth Monday for one company and then started the very next day for the next company to ensure no gap in medical coverage (mainly for my kids)

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          A lot of work insurance policies will cover the whole month if you’ve worked in that month at all. That’s why so many of my coworkers have resigned or retired on the first of the month.

          1. Lydia*

            Yep. When I switched jobs last year, my last day worked out to be on the first of month so I was able to take care of some things on the old insurance and then when I had the new insurance, could double up on a few things. Would recommend.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*


            My last job said they would be covering the entire month after they let me go mid-month (clearance issue). They didn’t. They only covered half the month, and the Cobra people took three months to tell me so it screwed up the coverage on some dental work. I was pissed.

      3. seeeeeps*

        Are you me??? This exact thing happened to me this summer. During my vacation they had time to get used to me being gone and everyone acted weird af toward me when I got back. I actually called them out on it and it got slightly better, but I still majorly regretted not taking additional vacation time or only giving two weeks notice (same employer, so I could have switched over jobs before, during, or after vacation with no disruption in pay or benefits).

        1. Seawren*

          I’m doing this right now, but I framed it as giving 2 weeks notice, being totally offline for 2 weeks, then available for a final week to wrap up any loose ends. My employer jumped at the offer and I figure the 2 weeks I’m away gives them time to figure out everything they need to know before I’m gone for good.

    3. thelettermegan*


      There’s some companies that will cut you check for two weeks and usher you out the door before you can say ‘resign’. For many, losing 3 weeks pay could be a great hardship.

    4. Bunny Girl*

      I did this when I started my job hunt. I updated all the procedures for my job and got everything in order so that my transition period was super smooth.

    5. LT*

      Two weeks maybe be a courtesy, but always check the policies. My company won’t pay out accrued PTO unless your notice is equal to your annual PTO allotment, so I have to give 4+ weeks notice or I’ll lose the many weeks I have banked. Similar rule at my last job.
      if you take time off during your notice period, you have to add that many days on to it.

    6. Sapphire*

      I had almost the exact same situation as the LW. I was in a hard-to-fill position and was there for 7 years so the employer would have benefited greatly from a prolonged notice. I accepted a new offer for May 1 in late March. I could have given 4+ weeks and taken my planned one-week off that was already booked in mid-April, but my company flatly refused to honor any PTO during a notice period. I traveled and gave them 2 weeks’ notice on my return.

  5. AcademiaNut*

    LW1 is another good argument for why employers shouldn’t expect their employees to use their own devices. Writing erotica on your own time is a perfectly acceptable hobby; with a separate computer for work and personal stuff, the problem wouldn’t have arisen.

    1. Peachy Melba*

      There are a ‘million’ reasons not to use your personal computer for work. This wasn’t on my list till now. LOL

      1. Observer*

        This is a perfect example of something I talk about when talking about disaster planning and resilience. You can’t plan for EVERY contingency, but if you make sure to cover a wide range of more probable situations, you’ll probably also cover a lot of the memorable ones.

        Till today, my favorite of the genre was the guy who had fire ants cut his Fiber line. And it happened to him TWICE. It’s not the kind of thing normal people plan for! But there are so many other ways to lose your physical connection, that it’s wise to plan for that. Then when the ants show up, you have a fall back…

    2. KateM*

      It *could* have still happened (there was a story here about a coworker pasting an answer to an ad in work e-mail), but then employee would have no excuse.

    3. MJ*

      I setup a separate user login on my personal computer for each major client I had as a freelancer. It made it much easier when searching for files not to have multiple “2015 year end” documents show up and chance sending the wrong one.

      1. HelenofWhat*

        I scrolled down to say exactly this! Except I am not a freelancer, just a person who also writes erotica as a hobby / is an adult who likes adult things.
        I have a separate work computer at this job, but at a previous one I had to use my own, so I created a Work user login for work. It really is super helpful to avoid situations like this, but also just to feel an additional separation of work/life.
        Given the many times I’ve even just accidentally copy-pasted an AAM link or new article instead of a work link into an email, knowing that adult stuff is not at all happening on the work profile helps ease my anxiety.

      2. LW1*

        LW1 here – this is an excellent suggestion and one I will definitely be taking. No way I want this to happen ever again!

      3. Bubbletea*

        I did this after I accidentally pasted a letter to a client into a Facebook messenger chat. Thankfully I was able to delete it before it had been read, but I still had to report it as a near miss and go through the data protection breach process. Now I have a work laptop.

      4. Curmudgeon in California*

        My current job sent me a well locked down laptop, and uses pretty robust software to make sure that nothing “unapproved” is installed. Being as it’s a work machine, I don’t use Slack (we chat on Zoom), Facebook or Twitter on it. Not do I log in to any other “social media” sites.

        I count AAM as a professional development site, because I get to learn from other people’s mistakes here. Anything else tends to be regular news or news in my field.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Respectfully, OP1 didn’t ask for computer advice. They only asked how to handle their gaffe with boss and coworkers.

      OP1, you handled the situation in the moment. Just in case, be prepared for the subject to come up with a curious colleague: “Oh, that? I write in my spare time, that was a clip from a draft.” (But I doubt it will.)

      1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

        Respectfully, how to prevent a recurrence and communicate that it won’t happen again is part of the response – a manager may ask to talk about it days later

      2. Koalafied*

        AcademiaNut’s comment seems to me more a criticism of employers not providing employees with a work laptop, which invites this kind of problem, not advice for LW1.

    5. Lenora Rose*

      Long ago enough that I’m going to use the words “3 1/2″ floppy disk”, I was working a combination front desk reception/admin assistant position in a relatively quiet office. The boss, who worked right across from me but couldn’t see my computer, was open about being okay with me filling in time with other activities as long as I prioritized getting work done and dealing with staff/customers.

      Anyhow, so yes, writing is one of my hobbies. I was working on a novel at the time – high fantasy stuff, and 95% work safe. I didn’t store it on the work computer; I brought in a 3 1/2″ floppy disk with the project, and took it back home afterwards. (Yes, there was virus checking at both ends. Nothing in that line ever happened.) And this will sound either very silly or fake, but it’s true, I never worked on the 5% of the story that wasn’t work safe at work, because the times I HAD tried that, it felt extra awkward in a way bits about magic or battles or such did not.

      The fun with novels is that sometimes you have to scroll waaaaay back to fact check a past detail or screw up continuity. So I was working away at the current scene, and had to look something up. I start scrolllllling.

      The accountant comes up from behind to ask me something. I stop mid scroll and turn completely around to face him, doing the full “I am paying attention to this Work Thing Now” body language.

      … Except HE keeps peering over my shoulder and I keep having to draw his attention back to work. I like the movel I’m working on, naturally, so this is both a bit flattering, btu also a bit weird, because a random bit of text in the middle of a story is rarely that attention grabbing. Until he left and I finally turned around.

      Well, apparently, 95% work safe is not work safe ENOUGH. Because naturally, where I has stopped, purely randomly and neither related to what I was writing nor what I was looking up, was darn near the only sex scene in the entire thing. The word “breasts” was prominently visible in the very top line.

      I spend the day blushing, though thankfully not needing to talk to him again.

    6. lilsheba*

      and yet so many do anyway! Luckily mine are separate. But so many companies expect you to use your own stuff, it’s ridiculous.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I’ve never encountered this and it really astonishes me: it’s a really, really, incredibly bad idea information-safety-wise for the company. And that’s not even getting into the myriad of problems it creates for the employees. I don’t even think it would be legal here.

    7. Meganly*

      I have separate work and personal computers, but they share a keyboard and mouse using Synergy, so this could still happen to me because the clipboard works across devices haha. Though it would more likely be something about D&D than erotica lol

  6. Roland*

    > I wouldn’t say you’re not interested in working there ever — that’s the kind of thing that could end up being noted in their database

    What I wouldn’t give to have Amazon get it through their skull I will never work for them. (I don’t feel bad about naming and shaming Amazon.) I’ve told them this probably at least a dozen times over the years but they keep coming. I don’t have unique skills beyond just generally being a software engineer, they’re just unethical and desperate.

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Tech recruiters – especially from recruiting firms, but not just them – are out of this world lately. No, do not send me three emails, or four. I saw them all. I will not come work for your crypto startup featuring face time with a CEO who made headlines during MeToo. I do not have time this week to hop on a call and learn more. Leave me in peace.

      Whosever idea it was to make 2-3 follow-up emails the norm for recruiting deserves a cozy desk next to the cheap ass rolls lady.

      1. Roland*

        4th email from crypto/pharma/fintech startup: “I don’t want to bother you, so just let me know if you are not interested!!!!”

        I remember asking coworkers once upon a time if it was rude to ignore recruiters. I led such a blessedly ignorant life then.

        1. EPLawyer*

          right up there with “to follow up on my previous email, let’s set up an appointment for us to talk.” Dude if I wanted to set an appointment, you would have heard from me already.

          1. Koalafied*

            It’s amazing how many times someone will reply all to their own unanswered message to you and carry on as if there’s a two way conversation happening. Or my favorite, when they apologize for “not being able to connect” with me, as if that’s not a direct outcome of me purposefully ignoring the messages.

    2. talos*

      Amazon units also each have their own recruiters and apparently don’t check internally if I’ve been contacted/responded negatively about other jobs there.

      Amazon was 100% my thought when I saw that letter.

      1. Katekewl*

        I was once approached on LinkedIn by a recruiter for a job at a company that has fought against LGBTQ+ rights in the past. I told her that, as a lesbian, I had no interest in working for a company that didn’t see me as fully human. She thanked me for my candour.

      1. Roland*

        Haha, never feel rude about ignoring Amazon because talking to them doesn’t work. They see any interaction as a positive interaction. Had a hiring manager once message me “because you told the recruiter you’re interested” – I said excuse me why are you lying – he gave the recruiter’s name – and I forwarded him my actual response to the recruiter which was that I never want to work for Amazon. The words didn’t matter, a person or an automated system saw the response and counted it as a win. Had another recruiter respond to me once saying “sorry to bother you” and then got another LinkedIn “intro” message from literally the same recruiter the next day as if I was any other engineer whose profile they just found. I’ve wasted way too much of my time talking to them, don’t make the same mistake as me.

    3. PersephoneUnderground*

      I have told Amazon recruiters that I am not interested in working there until they cooperate with unionization efforts and cease their union busting activities. I want them to know that “kicking down” on the low wage employees costs them recruits they see as valuable (I’m a Software Engineer). Hit them in the wallet.

  7. Ellis Bell*

    OP2, since he can speak clearly at the outset, and he’s probably doing this unconsciously it’s not rude, but a kindness to point this out. If you can get him at the point he starts to turn down the volume with a quick “sorry? you’ve suddenly gone quiet” that’s really helpful to him. If you can name the overall issue, and be as detailed as you can about the pattern (“Ten words in/a minute in you stop speaking loudly enough”) then most people would be grateful for that information. It’s unlikely that you’re the only person he does this with, but he might be unaware he’s doing it at work. It’s a lot for you to constantly police though, so consider asking him for things on email or IM!

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I agree with pairing the ask to repeat the sentence louder with information that he’s trailing off after the end of the sentence. Similar to how you would ask if you were talking to someone on the phone with choppy reception. “Sorry, I heard up to ‘can you send me the’ but lost the last bit. Can you repeat that?” Or “I couldn’t hear after ‘the problem with the teapots,’ can you say the last part a little louder?”

      I know that occasionally when people ask me to repeat myself, especially with just a “what?” or “can you repeat that?” but no specific instruction to be louder/clearer, shame and uncertainty (am I saying the right thing? what if they’re questioning me because I’m wrong?) lead to me repeating myself more softly! Not helpful at all. If something similar is causing this manager to trail off, specifics about what you did/didn’t hear and that you want him to speak louder could be helpful.

    2. AbruptPenguin*

      I like the idea of naming the pattern! He probably doesn’t realize he’s doing it or doesn’t quite know what to do differently to address it. Also, if you can, use the volume and cadence of speaking that is best for your hearing so it gives him something to match. (And yes, ask for email to confirm! Or send him bullet points of your takeaways and have him reply with corrections.)

    3. LW5*

      My mother does this when I ask her to speak up: the first half-sentence is clear, and then she reverts to what I perceive as a mumble. People who do this really feel like they’re shouting, I think, and it’s not sustainable. Moving communication online is a good idea, as is following up after the meeting summarizing what you think you’ve been tasked to do, so he can correct or confirm!

  8. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP1, if you publish your erotica online under a pseudonym, I recommend you delete or highly edit the paragraph you pasted before publishing that story. I am probably overly paranoid but in your shoes wouldn’t want to leave a Google-able trail that could let my coworkers find my work, and a search for a sentence in quotes would usually get right to the story in question.

  9. Lilo*

    The one thing I’ll note with LW1 is that this is something you can get away with once. So you need to take some steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    Just maybe have some transition steps when switching from one to the other. I’m not sure if creating separate log ins on your computer would clear the copy/paste history (any IT people?) but you might consider creating a specific log in for your work and work documents to keep everything separate.

    You can clear your clipboard history and even create some shortcuts to do it faster so you might consider that.

    It’s frustrating they are having you work on a personal device but I know pushing back on that isn’t super likely to get anywhere, but if there’s anyway to do it on a different device, you could try that. But that’s obviously a lot more difficult.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Once is a mistake, twice is problematic. A local politician was caught naked on Zoom during a meeting. Everyone was sympathetic until it happened again. He resigned after the second incident. This is one of the many reasons why I’m reluctant to use my personal phone for more than work phone calls or texts.

    2. High Score!*

      I *never* use the same computer for work and personal use. Purchase a second computer. Black Friday is coming soon. Amazon has hardware sales. If you look there’s lots of ways to get a discount.

      1. Dinwar*

        I don’t trust my company enough to keep anything work-related on my personal computer. I’m a bit of a Luddite, so I also don’t have any company stuff on my phone or tablet–I have a company tablet, a company laptop, and they can call me on my cell if they need anything else.

        During a downturn in the company a few years ago a lot of people got laid off. I watched a lot of people deal with the fallout in terms of devices. They installed company apps on their phones or tablets or whatnot, and they realized too late that those apps contained software they weren’t aware of. A few people got their contacts wiped, for example, and a few got their phones bricked (the company says due to faulty programming…). Easier access to email isn’t worth it.

        1. Koalafied*

          Yep, I have a dedicated work phone just for work email. It runs on a data-only SIM card that piggybacks on my personal cell phone’s unlimited data plan. My work pays the $15 monthly price difference between the unlimited plan that doesn’t include data-only SIM cards and the one that does, but they don’t pay for devices, so every time I get a new personal phone I just “hand-me-down” the old one to myself to become my “new” work phone. Since it only really needs to be capable of running email alongside the corporate security apps and occasionally open a link it’s okay for it to be old and slow.

          The main hassle is actually that I use it for so little that I’m constantly discovering right when I need to leave the house and am thinking I’ll take the work phone with me to keep an eye on email, that the battery has died because I haven’t needed work email on the go in the last 2-3 days, so haven’t touched the phone or charged it in that long either.

      2. Observer*

        For a lot of people, it’s still a big ask. Especially if you are looking for something that’s reasonably ergonomic.

        1. Koalafied*

          Yeah, I make a decent salary and I still went several years without a personal laptop because it was still hard to justify the purchase of an entire computer to duplicate functionally I already had, especially because I save all my personal files to a cloud service and not my work hard drive, so it would literally have been several hundred dollars just to access my cloud drive from my personal PC instead of my work PC or my personal phone. I’m not struggling financially but I’m not so rich I’ll just handwave a several hundred dollar expense when I didn’t strictly need to spend that money. I only recently got my first personal PC since about 2014 because I wanted to play the PC version of a video game and the work machine is not optimized for gaming – that was the point at which I could rationalize the expense of a new laptop, because it would do something that my other devices didn’t already do.

    3. Observer*

      It’s frustrating they are having you work on a personal device but I know pushing back on that isn’t super likely to get anywhere,

      That’s not necessarily true. A lot depends on the specifics. eg Is the OP working from home because THEY want to, or because the employer wants them to? How much political capital do they have? Are there any regulatory / compliance issues this could implicate?

      Pasting porn into a group chat is embarrassing, but generally won’t lead to legal problems or even major workplace issues (other than the possible direct hit to the person doing the pasting). But accidentally pasting confidential information into a group chat unrelated to work? Ouch to the nth degree.

      Which means that this could be a bigger conversation, with this incident used as an example of a larger problem.

    4. Velociraptor Attack*

      We don’t know if OP’s employer is making OP work on a personal device or if they are choosing it.

      I’m very big on the separation of devices as much as I can. My current job gave me the option of using my personal phone (again, with stipend) or getting a company-provided one. I’m more than happy to carry two phones.

  10. Muddlewitch*

    OP2, My boss has early stage Parkinson’s disease which affects his speech (making his speech get quieter and higher as his vocal chords contract with use) and this is a work around we use:
    If meeting on Teams with our quiet manager, we can turn Transcript on for everyone in the meeting or just for ourselves. This creates a typed record of the conversion, and it’s quite good (and algorithm learns vocabulary).

    It’s also possible to start a Teams meeting “on your own”, and use Teams to create an instant transcript (not saved) or a full transcript (saved), from a single laptop, when having a face to face conversation.

    We did ask our boss if we could use transcripts to support our conversations, as full transcripts are like meeting recordings- asking permission is key.

    1. Anon3456*

      This. Is. Amazing!
      I have a boss who must think shes bellowing I her head but I really struggle to hear him. Others agree she uses her ‘indoor voice’ all the time but because Of my hearing loss it’s almost impossible to hear her. I’ve explained the problem to her and she makes no steps to raise her voice to accommodate me.
      Speaking on the phone is purgatory! So this could well be the workaround I was longing for. Thanks!
      And to all quiet speakers, please enunciate and speak more clearly when the problem is raised to you by someone from the deaf community. Cheers!

      1. English Rose*

        Yes, I have hearing loss as well, and for me, the key is not so much louder but speaking more clearly. I also often feel like I’m being rude to keep asking people to repeat themselves, and it frustrates me both that people aren’t speaking clearly when they know I have a disability and that I let it get to me!

          1. Jellyfish*

            I have a naturally quiet voice, and I assure you I’m not going around thinking up deliberate ways to make life difficult for people with hearing loss. When I forget to project and just speak normally, it’s frustrating for me too because no one can hear me and I know it’s my fault.

            I hate that I feel like I’m screaming at the wait staff in restaurants just to be heard when everyone else orders without a problem.

            Sometimes no one is being rude, and we don’t need to pass around blame. Just ask for the repetition. If what I’m saying is important, I’ll figure out how to get it across.

            1. Hen in a Windstorm*

              I think if you know you have a problem being heard and you don’t fix it because it feels uncomfortable to you, that is kind of rude.

              You’re favoring your own preference (to avoid feeling awkward) over their need (to hear you). You even framed it as about yourself “if what *I’m saying* is important, *I’ll* figure out” rather than about the other person. So in that sense, you *are* going around making life difficult for people with hearing loss.

              1. Jellyfish*

                So it’s on me to fix the problem, but I’m not allowed to consider how I need to change because that’s selfish. ok.

                I just don’t think that approaching the boss like he’s being deliberately hostile will help solve OP’s issue. It’s unlikely anyone here is being deliberately rude. Approach it as a logistical issue to solve, not a social one.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Please, it’s not just feeling awkward, it’s also a considerable effort to speak louder when your voice is naturally quiet. Jellyfish says they feel like they’re screaming, that means they’re putting in a lot of effort. Screaming is exhausting.
                It’s hard for the hard of hearing, it’s also hard for others. There’s no hardship monopoly.

            2. My+Useless+2+Cents*

              I too have a naturally soft voice and would always try and increase the volume thinking that was the problem. And consequently felt like I was yelling at them. I’ve since learned to not just look at the person I’m speaking to with my head but face my entire body toward that person, roll my shoulders back, and sit/stand up tall. It really helps with projection and cuts down on the feeling I’m yelling.

              1. Kaittydid*

                I like these tips. I tend to speak somewhat quietly, and I’m deaf in one ear. I have to remember to speak up, and also ask for others to speak up. I’ll try the better posture tips and see if that helps!

            3. Unaccountably*

              Same here. I feel like I’m having to yell at everyone, all the time, and it makes me unable to talk for very long because my voice gives out.

              Esmerelda, people aren’t having quiet voices AT you.

          2. Anon for this*

            My mom is starting to lose her speech (quiet and mumbly) due to advancing Parkinson’s. I assure you, her loved ones would all like her to be able to be less “rude” if such a thing we’re possible.

  11. Cathie from Canada*

    For #2, you could also write up a short “next steps” email after your meetings, to summarize what you think he asked you to do – it would clarify if there was something said that you misunderstood.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I was thinking this, but then I realised you can also do this in the conversation itself– there’s no suggestion that there’s something wrong with the boss’s hearing! You can go over your notes and say, “Just to check I’ve understood, I need to … ” and get the nod from your boss.

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed with this, I still think you should ask him to repeat as much as needed and liked the advice above to name the problem (heard you til X, but they you got quiet), but I would definitely use the summarize back approach. I recommend using that anyone, but every single time with this boss. I too would probably just do it in the conversation as I think that would help as more in the moment feedback, but email is fine as well if he will read and reply.

    2. Gnome*

      I came here to say the same to hing. I like this better than doing it in the moment, because then, if he realizes he forgot X and Y, you will get it in writing and not have to check on how you heard that part too.

    3. High Score!*

      This is an excellent idea! I’ve done this before with coworkers that I frequently had misunderstandings with. Works great and everyone is same page.

      1. Gnome*

        I’ve done it with coworkers who seemed to purposefully “forget” or “misunderstand” things. generally a very useful technique.

  12. YeahNo*

    #5 – Meta kept reaching out to me. Usually I just ignored. But the stars aligned and the last time they messaged me I responded with an article revealing Facebook had turned over data on private chats people had about abortion post-Roe with a “thanks but no thanks”.

    No regrets about that bridge.

    1. Troublemaker*

      Yes. Recruiters from certain companies, like Facebook or AWS, should be gently but firmly reminded that we are withholding labor from them because they are complicit in human-rights abuses, and not just because of the miserable working conditions. There are dozens of such employers in every industry, I suspect, and folks have simply gotten used to ignoring them.

      1. MissElizaTudor*


        Also the military, defense contractors, ICE, Border Patrol, police, and prisons.

        It probably won’t change any of these companies’ or organizations’ behavior, but it’s still worth doing. They all do things some people think are good, but human rights abuses should be a deal breaker for anyone who can find other work.

        1. darcy*

          yes, I told a defence contractor that I’d never work for them about ten years ago and have never regretted it.

      2. Generic+Name*

        I told a recruiter from and oil and gas company that it went against my personal ethics to work for an oil and gas company.

      3. Koalafied*

        Every couple of years, including right this moment, I remember that Google’s company motto used to be “Don’t Be Evil.” And then I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, I’ve had recruiters from FB/Meta try to get me interested. I always turn them down.

      I never say “never”, but they are down at the bottom of my list along with every crypto company out there. I would work IT in Walmart or Amazon before I would work for FB/Meta, and those are near the bottom of my list too.

      In the area that I work, systems administration, there is a definite need for a reputation for being ethical. I get a background check for every job, because I literally have my hands on the production services and often PII as well. It is important that I have a reputation for being careful with people’s personal info. Working for Meta, IMO, would destroy that.

  13. AmericanExpat*

    LW4 is interesting. I’ve been out of the US for a decade and where I am, 5 weeks notice is bare minimum (legal requirements usually at least a month, often 2). When I gave my notice earlier this year, my boss commented that 2 months was too short (she had given 3 at her previous job).

    In fact when I gave my notice, I asked for the last 2 weeks off so I could have a break between jobs, and that was fine. So as with many things, interesting to see the differences.

    1. Alienor*

      How do you avoid ending up with nothing to do? The last two times I’ve given notice, I’ve either wrapped up what I was working on during the first week or transitioned it to the person who would see it through, and then spent most of the second week bored because I couldn’t start anything new. I guess with a month or two, there would be higher odds of being able to start and finish a project, but it seems like you’d still be just dragging it out for weeks at the end (not to mention having to say goodbye over a longer period of time).

      1. AmericanExpat*

        Depends on the job, but at my last org, there would never be a project that only lasted a month. And it would take more than a week to do a handover (if there was even a single person to hand over to, as it stands, I handed over to about 4-5 different people).

        I was actually leaving 2 positions as I was mid-transition between teams, so for me, the 6 weeks was worth it.

        But yeah, a lot of people do end up taking the tail end as leave, also it’s easier for the company to pay a salary vs calculating leftover leave payout.

      2. londonedit*

        In my experience (UK; usually a month’s notice is standard but depending how senior you are it could be three or even six months) you just keep working as normal for most of your notice period, and you do the handover prep/finishing things off in your last week or so. It just gives your employer more time to start advertising for a replacement, etc.

        In cases where there’s worry about people taking trade secrets with them or whatever, usually they’re put on gardening leave – they’re sent home to work out their notice period on full pay. Usually in that case it’ll be someone senior with a longer notice period, so the idea is that by the time you’ve spent six months at home twiddling your thumbs, anything you knew about your previous employer’s future plans would be obsolete anyway.

    2. KatEnigma*

      Some places are so paranoid about corporate espionage (admittedly, the one was for good reason) that the second you give notice, they have security there to supervise the cleaning out of your desk and escort you to your car.

      The one place my husband worked, we were moving several states with a newborn and we closed on a house there before he gave notice, but it was a LARGE employer in town and we couldn’t tell anyone for fear that it would get back before we could afford for my husband to be without a job! His manager told him when he gave notice that if he had refused to tell them who he was going to work for or it had been in the same sector, he would have been perp walked out the door immediately. Aerospace and Defense Contractors don’t care- they trade employees all around and don’t worry about it. But the design side of manufacturing? Whoo boy!

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I always wonder what places like that think they’re actually preventing, since anyone who’s planning on stealing trade secrets will have done it before giving notice.

        1. Observer*

          Not necessarily. If they have good DLP (Data Loss Prevention) systems in place, a company could find out what’s happening before too much can be exfiltrated.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I just wrote the names and numbers/emails of the clients I wanted to steal on a piece of paper. Long before the boss even knew I was planning to leave.

            I had checked that the non-compete clause in my contract was null and void beforehand of course!
            No guilt about stealing the clients, those clients were not going to be happy finding out that I had left.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        The reason Aerospace and Defense contractors can trust their people – is most of them have security clearances. You lose the clearance, you lose your CAREER. You pull a stunt when you’re leaving Alpha Company, and show up at Beta Company for work, you will be told to go away.

        In other industries – there are no “clearances”…just non-disclosure / trade secret restrictions.

  14. MistOrMister*

    OP2…I am, unfortunately, sometimes the dreaded low talker (anyone want to wear a puffy shirt?!?). People dont seem to have trouble hearing me over the phone but in person it can be a problem. Usually I pick up on the visual cues and make an effort to speak louder and all goes well. One thing I have noticed is that with my fellow lowtalkers, they often times get annoyed when asked to repeat themselves. Which, in turn annoys me!! Its not MY fault you are mumbling sir/ma’am!!! All of this to say, don’t be surprised if your boss gets an attitude if you ask him to repeat himself. I don’t know why, but some people seem to take it as a personal affront if you cant hear them. I wonder if it might be helpful to point out to him that his speech starts off clear and then goes to mumbling. Maybe he has no,idea it’s happening and could learn to watch for it and self-correct.

    1. NightWing*

      I’m a quiet-talking boss, with an employee who is slightly hard of hearing. We’re in the medical field, so we also wear masks, which makes things harder. He often has to ask me to repeat myself—it isn’t rude! I am the one who should recognize that, if I want him to understand my instructions that I need to make sure I’m speaking loudly enough and clearly enough that he can understand me. If I didn’t, I need to repeat it, and try to be more aware next time.

    2. Esmeralda*

      I’m curious — if you know you do this, why do you wait for a visual cue?

      Universal design — assume there are folks who will have trouble hearing you if you talk low, and talk louder and more clearly. (Not just people who are hearing impaired –and there are a lot more of us than you’d expect — but also people with processing disorders and so on)

      I’m sure you aren’t intending to make things harder for others, and are just not remembering. But maybe make a conscious habit of saying to yourself, speak loudly and enunciate. I and other hearing-impaired folks will thank you.

      1. Washi*

        I definitely agree that erring on the side of louder is better, but I’m not sure I’d say it’s universal. I find it physically uncomfortable to be talked to in a very loud voice and sometimes wish there were a polite way to ask someone to speak a little more softly! That doesn’t trump someone else’s need to hear what’s being said, just saying that there are reasons someone might prefer a lower volume.

        (and I say all this as someone who works with the elderly and I absolutely do make an effort to default to louder and more clear speech since hearing loss is so common in that population)

      2. Jackalope*

        As someone else who naturally speaks more quietly, for me it’s because speaking more loudly can be painful. I’ve tried to learn good voice projecting skills but my voice is naturally quiet, and trying to speak up for any period of time involves either having to concentrate so much on vocal technique that I tend to lose the thread of what I’m saying, or quickly developing a sore throat. If someone needs me to I will and I won’t begrudge it, but it’s unpleasant to try to do so on the regular.

        1. Generic+Name*

          You might consider going to a voice coach. There are ways to project your voice that isn’t damaging to your vocal chords and isn’t shouting either.

          1. giraffecat*

            I did this and it does help; but it’s not an instant cure all. It takes a lot of practice doing something that doesn’t come naturally to you. Plus, there is still the mental exertion of having to always be thinking about the volume of my voice, on top of trying to listen to the other people talking, processing important information, thinking about the content of what I’m talking about, etc. Not to mention the years of growing up in a household where talking or being loud at all would get you punished so it’s become so ingrained in you to be as quiet as possible. While I do try to be aware of it most of the time, if my mind is busy thinking about other things, I can very easily forget to talk louder.

            I hate seeing people calling it rude to have a quiet speaking voice, like they’re doing it intentionally to annoy you rather than it just being their voice. It’s not always a simple thing of ‘just talk louder’.

            1. Budgie Buddy*

              Yes, I also have a “quiet voice” and I put a lot of effort into speaking and still get talked over or ignored.

              Most people are not “mumbling” on purpose to exasperate others. They are speaking to them in what’s a natural and clear manner. It just doesn’t hit the other person’s ears that way.

              As a quiet person these are the steps I take:
              – go over what I’m saying in my head for maximum clarity of phrasing
              – solicit attention
              – close the distance
              – wait for the other person to look directly at me
              – wait until the other person is completely done speaking
              – straighten posture
              – take a breath
              – SPEAK

              And this is as someone who doesn’t take the extra step of spending money on a vocal coach.

              Sometimes people still look at me like I’m a three-headed alien because they have no idea what I’m talking about even though I’m asking the most basic question. :P

              However it does help to see that a person is making an effort to pay attention to me, even if they still don’t catch what I’m saying. Frustratingly, there are people who will say “You’ll need to speak up – I’m hard of hearing!” while turning away from me and typing on their computer. Whyyy

              Posting this to say the “mumbler” may be already putting a ton of invisible labor into every utterance so it’s not a case of them not trying or not respecting the person they’re speaking to.

            2. Kaittydid*

              Improving things could also be making sure you’re facing the person you’re talking to, that they’re focused on you before you launch into it, etc. I assure you HOH folks are doing things in the background to hear you as best they can, too. The only rude thing would be if you just refuse to even try.

      3. lunchtime caller*

        Presumably they think their volume is fine and so are already starting at a volume meant to be heard and understood, they’re not purposefully whispering. I know I’m naturally loud but it often takes a minute for my ears to catch up to the fact that when I opened my mouth and started at a natural volume, it was dialed a bit too high for the situation. And I can say with confidence due to being naturally loud that people who don’t have trouble hearing don’t particularly want to be shouted at regularly either! So there is no “universal design” for all people and all rooms/contexts, and I think MistorMister is likely doing the best they can.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I also think there are some people who think it’s more polite to be whispery, if I go by the apologetic body language that comes with it. I just had one of these folks in my office a few minutes ago.

        2. MistOrMister*

          Yes, I don’t realize that I am soft spoken. In my head, I am talking at the same volume as everyone else. I definitely am not whispering, I just apparently am a quiet talker. Since most people seem to be able to hear my fine, I don’t realize I’m speaking softly until/unless I run into someone who has trouble hearing me.

      4. MistOrMister*

        A lot of people (I would argue the majority of people I come into contact with) can hear me fine. And in my head, I am talking at a normal volume. I only realize I’m speaking softly when I see someone struggling to hear me, at which point I speak louder. As another commenter wrote, it is also painful for me when I speak at a higher volume for longer periods of time. I already enunciate very well. The only issue with my speech is that I am not overly loud. Given that most people do not express difficulty understanding me when I speak, I don’t feel te onus is pn me to always speak more loudly than my normal level. It seems an acceptable compromise to me to raise my speaking voice as soon as I realize someone is having trouble hearing me. I also have hearing isues and frankly, do not want someone speaking to me in a raised voice just in the assumption that everyone needs them to be talking louder, and I don’t see the need to do it myself. I don’t feel it’s rude to speak at one’s natural volume so long as you either watch for visual cues to correct your volume if you can see a person is struggling or you correct when they ask.

      5. MistOrMister*

        Also, and I do not say this to be rude, but please do not presume to speak for all hearing impaired people. It is specifically because of my hearing issues that I am dialed in to watching to see if others can hear me and correcting if they can’t, because I know what is looks like from my own experience. That being said, I agree that it benefits us all if everyone enunciates properly. However, I do not want most people to automatically talk louder than what I hear when I am out as many would practically be yelling at that point and I don’t find that helpful.

  15. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    I honestly don’t see this guy changing.

    I’ve worked with someone very soft spoken and it was frustrating, to say the least. It was impossible to hear anything she said unless you were standing right next to her. And even then we’d often need her to repeat herself. We were working at a bank branch and it always amazed me how customers could hear her at all, though I noticed they often leaned toward her while she was processing their transaction. No matter how many times people asked her to repeat herself, or told her they can barely hear her, or asked her to speak up, it never changed in the two years we worked together. It’s just her default volume. And it was maddening for all of us who worked with her.

    I think things like repeating back to him what he instructed as a way to make sure you understood would help: “Okay, so you want me to start this project tomorrow and it needs to be done by the end of the month, correct?” Maybe try doing more by electronic methods like email, chat, or whatever your company uses. That could avoid some frustration, along with having the clarity you might not have during a conversation.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I am not optimistic here, either. I belong to a group with a couple mumblers. I have been asking for years for them to speak up. It’s fine for a half hour then it slides. Since this is not work related, I have the option of quitting the group. But I don’t want to because of the purpose of the group.
      Zoom was great, we all could hear each other. But now we are back to in-person and it’s the same thing.

      A friend of mind did suggest using some kind of small microphone. Maybe people here are more aware of what this item might be.

      It’s too bad but this guy’s mumbling is making him ineffective as a boss. I guess I would work with it for a while, asking him to repeat himself. But if he became angry about my chronic requests I would consider asking him what he would like me to do in place of asking him to repeat himself if I do not get what he said.

      I am sorry, OP. It sounds exhausting to me. I’d so get it if you ended up just wanting to leave the job.

      1. LizB*

        I know small lapel microphones exist that can connect directly to hearing aids, but that wouldn’t work in the letter writer’s case since she doesn’t use hearing aids. (Maybe useful info for you, though, if you do?)

  16. Anonymoose*

    #2– An approach I find helpful is to repeat back to the person the part that you did hear. Otherwise you’ll get the same audible beginning followed by mumbles again.

    boss: Can you take those mumble mumble mumble mumble?
    you: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.
    boss: Can you take those mumble mumble mumble mumble?
    boss: Can you take those mumble mumble mumble mumble?
    you: I’m sorry; can I take those what?
    boss: Can you take those ostriches to the movies?

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          If you take an ostrich to the movies, he’ll want some popcorn.
          If you get him some popcorn, he’ll want…

          Etc., etc.

    1. AbruptPenguin*

      This. Also, my brain jumps to supply an interpretation when I don’t hear clearly, so I will also repeat back what I did hear, even if it seems like nonsense. That way it’s clear which words I particularly need to hear enunciated. eg, I’d say, “Sorry, I heard ‘can you take those ostriches to the movies’ — what did you actually say?” and then they can clarify, “No, I said ‘can you take those *stretchers* to the *moon base*.'”

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Or worse, people repeat ONLY the part you heard.

      Boss: “Can you take those ostriches mumble mumble?”
      You: “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear that.
      Boss: “The ostriches!”

  17. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    Whenever I copy and paste something “fun” I then copy something else to have on my clipboard- like a corner of the screen or whatever – after getting THISCLOSE to sending a Drag Race meme to client

    1. Francie Foxglove*

      Once sent my supervisor some photos of llama hooves and tails, and somehow included a photo of my husband and BIL at the local sportsball arena. They were wearing a lot of team gear, and giving the “We’re #1” sign. Only problem? Supervisor was a fan of the rival team!

  18. SJ (they/them)*

    LW #1 I just want to reassure you that I have been 0.5 seconds from being in your exact position. I have a work laptop but for some reason several months ago I needed to be logged onto two calls at once (?) and so was logged onto one from my personal laptop and copy-pasted several paragraphs of borderline-erotic fanfiction into the Zoom chat box. I managed to avoid hitting enter but it was such a close call. I feel for you! It’s going to be okay! You handled the situation perfectly, stuff like this happens with remote work. (Though if you can manage separate logins for work & personal on your laptop, that may help a lot to avoid a repeat).

    Hope you’re able to put this behind you soon.

  19. KatEnigma*

    The recruiters that Spam my email or phone number me while trying to contact my husband are firmly told that he will never be hired through THEM. Since in order to do that, they have bought some list instead of using his public LinkedIn information. (No, I’m not on LinkedIn)

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Back in the early days of cell phones I had a very insistent recruiter keep calling my cell phone looking for my dad (but never leaving more than This is Blah, call me at 555-867-5309 for a message – no I didn’t call him back). He eventually got me during a time I actually had the phone on – and strangely was confused that: 1) I couldn’t just pass the phone to my Boss to take this important call; 2) that he had a wrong number; and 3) that attempting to recruit my Father by calling his child at college several hundred miles away who was studying a completely different profession wasn’t going to result in getting my father to leave the firm he worked for.

      (For those that are curious, I was polite but firm that calling the person’s child probably wasn’t a good strategy for recruiting the candidate he wanted.)

      1. alienor*

        I had the reverse situation – when my daughter was a senior in high school, she kept getting contacted by an Army recruiter. They finally somehow got my number and tried going through me instead, so she responded to them and said “I will never join any branch of the military for any reason. Do not ever contact me or anyone in my family again.” (They gave up at that point.)

    2. KoiFeeder*

      I had very pushy recruiters find my facebook in middle school and try to convince me to put them in contact with my father. Who, while they did at least get the right person, was not on facebook and I had not mentioned him on facebook. It was so utterly creepy that I’ve been too scared to make social media under my name again.

  20. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP#2 – is this in person, or just on screen? Laptop microphones can be very directional. I have a fidgety coworker who is always turning and nodding his head on teleconferences, and his voice fades in and out the whole time.
    If your boss is shy or weirded out by seeing his own face on screen, maybe you can switch to just a plain phone call.

    1. Koalafied*

      Oh, this also happens with people using earbuds with a built-in mic in the cord. It seems to disable the laptop mic when connected (which probably is necessary to prevent feedback), and you can see how every time someone turns their head to the side or pushes the cord aside to get to their keyboard, their voice cuts out entirely for a couple of words before the cord swings back or their head turns back. I have a colleague who uses them a lot, and probably doesn’t even realize it’s a problem. Nobody ever asks her to repeat herself unless it was an especially long drop because it’s smoother to the meeting processions to just infer the missing words from context unless it’s completely impossible.

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    #1 You apologized and everyone moved on.

    If 1) you apologized profusely at the time, and now 2) everyone is trying to memory hole that sucker and continue normally, then they can’t do that if you keep cornering them to apologize some more.

    I take Alison’s point about the type of erotica–you can’t unsee an image, while you can realize halfway through the first sentence that this is not the link to the Weber File and not keep reading. (Some would in some combo of horror and fascination; some would treat it like any other tldr.)

  22. PostalMixup*

    #2, As someone who DOES have hearing loss, I totally understand how awkward it can be to have to continually ask people to repeat themselves. I also have a hard time understanding my manager, and pretty much any soft-spoke man (low frequencies are particularly difficult) with an accent. One thing I learned with COVID is that lip reading can make a huge difference! It can also feel weird to watch people’s mouths while they talk instead of their eyes, but it can help cut down on the number of times you have to ask the speaker to repeat themselves.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Ambient hearing loss here. I half lip-read – but it’s not something I can do deliberately. In fact, if I do try to lip-read, then I can’t do it.

      I do tell people, though, that I can’t hear them if I can’t see their lips move. That does help to get people to at least face me / look up when they are talking.

  23. Bend & Snap*

    #5 I got headhunted by Sig Sauer and told them I wouldn’t work for a firearms company. No regrets.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        A friend worked in HR at Kraft when Philip Morris acquired the company. She said recruiting became much more difficult after the acquisition.

  24. Mal*

    Re: #1, My life hack for avoiding stuff like that…after I’ve copied and pasted something, copy and paste something small/innocuous like “d” or a single space. I never had a bad experience like OP1 (feel so bad for OP1!), but I guess that kind of thing lurks in my mind, and maybe that’s why I always do it?

      1. Kel*

        I feel for you, LW!!! Trust me when I say you’ll remember it long after it’s forgotten. That was meant to be comforting, lol.

  25. Baron*

    3. I’m sorry for your loss. I think the mistake you’re making is overestimating how much actual interest these types of recruiters have in hiring you (or any individual candidate they find on a job board) in the first place. Many recruiters just use job boards for volume—“okay, I’ve spammed X number of candidates, and that should turn into Y number of responses, and I don’t really care from whom”. In this situation, you’re fungible; if your answer is “no, I can’t talk this Thursday”, you’re out. But you were never really “in” in this situation. Think of it like telemarketing—if you say to most telemarketers, “I’ve just had a death in the family, call back in a week,” they usually won’t.

    If these were jobs you were applying to where they had genuine interest, I bet most places would be willing to accommodate your situation. But recruiters on job boards are more of a “thank you, next” situation.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Oooh good analogy with the telemarketers.

      Look at this way OP, if these companies aren’t understanding about your current situation, do you really want to work with them? ghosting you did you a favor of not having to deal with them.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agree – often, recruiters are under a tight timeframe to produce candidates, and if they already have enough, then there’s no reason for them to wait. It’s not personal. At least they replied that they couldn’t accommodate the timeframe the OP was requesting.

      I had one recruiter contact me and by the time I got back in touch (a couple days later), they had already filled their role. That was several years ago, and probably not typical, but it was eye-opening how fast things can move.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        Yes, but we are still hearing so many stories about how hard it is to find people to find employees, particularly in high-skilled jobs. It’s odd that an employer or recruiter who needs to fill a role is dismissing someone due to bereavement. I wonder how much overlap the Venn diagram of “employers finding it hard to hire” and “employers that dismiss people going through bereavement” has.

        I imagine it’s similar to those that require all roles to be 100% in office, or have not raised their pay scale in several years and still describe their salaries as “competitive”.

        1. HelloHello*

          for the recruiters that OP is talking about I think it’s purely numbers and the telemarketer is a good analogy.
          About a year ago I dropped out of the interview process due to my MIL passing (didn’t want to start a new job right after her death, she left behind a child, a lot of things felt up in the air beyond the usual funeral/estate responsibilities and grief). about 5 days later a recruiter reached out asking if it was a better time since it had been a week, and that really soured me! but with these being intial contacts from a job board, I wouldn’t give it much thought

    3. DannyG*

      I lost my sister in the middle of interview rounds for my current position. My future boss & the whole interview team were more than accommodating. They have proven to be very good to work with.

  26. HannahS*

    OP1, I’d actually lean towards apologizing again. I know you work in a progressive space, but sending people sexual content is still a Big Deal (and I recognize that it was an accident,) and it’s a bit hard to know in a zoom meeting how uncomfortable people were. If one of my coworkers made a mistake like you did, I’d appreciate a follow-up message that apologized for sending an inappropriate message by accident, and apologized for possibly making people uncomfortable.

    I’m not asking you to, like, wear a hair shirt for the next month, but I do think that sending erotica to coworkers deserves more than an in-the-moment “Sorry, didn’t mean to do that.”

    1. Observer*

      I disagree. I’m fairly conservative, and this would have made me HUGELY, IMMENSELY uncomfortable. But the OP apologized profusely in the moment, in a way that makes it clear that they get that it’s a big deal. At this point, all I would want is (as another commenter put it) to “memory hole” this. I do NOT want to another conversation about this! I don’t want to hear another word about it, in fact, unless the OP is coming to me to say “I think that my private activities are not so compatible with work, and my supervisor authorized some WFH equipment. What do I need to get?”

      1. LW1*

        This is how I am leaning as well. No one reacted in the moment (other than my boss saying something like, uh, I don’t think that’s the link!) so my guess is that they, like me, do not want to think about it whatsoever and bringing it up would just make things worse. I wish I had the kind of relationship with one of these coworkers where I would feel comfortable asking privately for their honest take, but I don’t know any of them very well so it seems best to just move on, as Alison said.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      But why? LW apologized in the moment and no one has brought it up since then. They’ve obviously moved on. (And if they haven’t, then it’s up to them to say something.)

      All that you’re doing by apologizing yet again is reminding people of it and making it impossible for them to forget about it and move on.

    3. Velociraptor Attack*

      For me, this depends a little on how graphic the piece was and how long of a paragraph it was. A few sentences as a paragraph is a lot easier to take a glance at and capture the information while with a block of text that’s harder.

      Overall though, I’m with you on this. If this happened in my workplace and my coworker only addressed it in the moment as “sorry, wrong thing”, that would feel really flippant to me and I know that I’d appreciate the one-on-one.

      This is so individually dependent that if I were OP, I’d probably talk to my boss at least to apologize and ask them what they felt was the best course with my other coworkers.

  27. Sylvan*

    OP1: That can never happen again. Sounds like you handled it as well as you could and everyone’s moving on.

    One of my coworkers accidentally posted fanfiction about an unusual trope on social media. (Fanfiction readers: It wasn’t omegaverse, but imagine it was. Non-readers: Don’t Google that, it’s NSFW.) Nobody’s upset. Just glad it wasn’t me. And if I wanted to complain about this, which I don’t, I would have to admit I recognized it.

    OP2: Could you tell him that he’s beginning to mumble after beginning sentences at a normal volume? I actually had this problem with a former boss, but I never managed to solve it because I never actually named it clearly.

    OP3: Wow. I wonder what applicants are saying about these people on Glassdoor.

      1. Sylvan*

        Just trying to come up with a slick way to keep the uninformed out of trouble on their work computers. Let’s just say it’s NSFW.

        1. Sylvan*

          You know what, I shouldn’t have said any of this. I could have just said my coworker made a mistake and it wasn’t a big deal.

  28. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-My boss has a heavy Scottish accent. Knowing he was going to call and offer me my job…nerve wracking that I would understand him. It’s a running joke in our office (by him) that English is his second language. He also gets very quiet and mumbly on the phone or zoom and I just ask him to repeat himself. He knows he does it.

  29. J!*

    #3, it may be the recruiters operating on a numbers game, but if it’s not do you really want to work for a place that shows itself to be so inflexible to pretty serious things in a person’s life outside of work (especially a death so close to you)? Sorry about your mom.

  30. Ross*

    Regarding #1 – quick suggestion: create a separate account on your computer for work purposes. It’s a great practice for security and also avoids issues like this.

  31. RagingADHD*

    Point of order:

    People who don’t want to be subjected to sexual material *at work* are not necessarily Puritanical.

    The LW should be prepared for their colleagues to view them skeptically or suspiciously for a while, because “Oops, sorry, I’m so embarrassed!” is exactly what serial harassers say when they are testing the waters. This time it’s an “accident.” The next time it’s a “joke.” The time after that, it might be, “I thought we were friends who could talk about our lives.” And that adds up to an erosion of boundaries that reasonably self-aware people will push back on.

    Not because they’re Puritanical. Because they understand boundaries.

    Lock it down, LW. And be very careful about what you say and the kind of jokes you make.

    You have one strike now, there is no room for another. And if you do anything else that makes people uncomfortable and wind up getting complaints to HR, it isn’t because your colleagues are unreasonable, it’s because *you did inappropriate stuff.*

    Don’t blame-shift.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      This is kind of extreme given that the organization expects people to use their personal computers to carry out their work tasks. There’s bound to be overlap every once in a while, whether or not it’s erotic.

      LW goofed. LW apologized. Nobody said anything. It’s time to move on. If one of LW’s coworkers is really bothered about this, then the onus is on them to say something about it, either to LW or their direct supervisor.

      Move along; there’s nothing else to see here.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Not all overlap is equal, wow. There’s a difference between copypasting porn, versus copypasting, oh, instructions for tying a fly to a fly-fishing line to a group of co-workers.

        I think RagingADHD is trying to make sure that the LW understands that on the surface this seems to be over and done with, but they should be aware that people’s memories can be long. LW’s error is serious and there are some comments here that don’t seem to reflect that seriousness.

        1. LW1*

          Yup, I agree with this, actually (this is what is keeping me up at night!), and while I think/hope that the people in the meeting are the type who will perhaps laugh privately and share a funny story with a friend and otherwise not judge me, I don’t know them well enough to know for sure. I am conscious that I will have to be especially professional and conscientious going forward. Because they would be well within their rights if this negatively affects their views of me!

      2. RagingADHD*

        Nobody said anything *to them.*

        People may well have documented the incident or said something to management or HR that hasn’t gotten back to LW yet. Because that is a very reasonable and prudent thing to do when someone raises red flags at work.

        From your dismissive tone, I must assume you have never been subjected to sexual harassment and don’t have a reflexive response of “Oh, crap, not this again.”

        1. Observer*

          Actually, yes, I’ve been a victim. And I would understand that someone would look at the OP differently. So, the advice to be extra careful in all aspects going forward is good.

          But even people who have been victimized don’t get to assume that in a situation where mistakes are bound to happen a mistake is not a mistake and it REALLY an attempt to push boundaries. Now, if it happened a second time, that would be different. And ANY time someone passes something like this off as “a joke” rather than an extremely mortifying, that’s a whole different issue.

          But the OP seems to understand that.

        2. pieces_of_flair*

          Well, I have been subject to sexual harassment and to me, calling this sexual harassment is dismissive of actual sexual harassment. This was clearly a copy-paste mistake. Yes, OP posted something sexual in the chat, but it was not directed AT anyone, was obviously an accident, and was followed by a mortified apology. IMO it would be an overreaction to go to HR in this situation. What would be the purpose besides trying to get the OP “in trouble?” I went to HR because a coworker groped me. He was not subtle about it. I would not go to HR if a coworker tripped and their hand landed on me accidentally (unless it became a pattern).

    2. jasmine*

      Suspicion from a one-off incident is a bit much. Twice, sure, but sometimes things just happen. We’re all human. OP’s coworkers should understand that.

      I don’t think the comment about being puritanical was about not wanting to read erotica at work, it was about whether OP’s coworkers would judge OP for having erotica on their clipboard (which clearly means they were either reading or writing it).

      1. LW1*

        Thank you, Jasmine, this is what I meant—I’m well aware that no one wants to read or should have to read erotica at work, but my team also knows that this is the computer I use for everything else in my life as well, as do they, so the issue is more about knowing that this is something I do in my non-work time.

      2. M*

        I don’t think the comment about being puritanical was about not wanting to read erotica at work, it was about whether OP’s coworkers would judge OP for having erotica on their clipboard (which clearly means they were either reading or writing it).

        And they may be reading and writing it during the work day. If you know that someone has already copy and pasted things earlier in the day, then you know they are sitting at the computer during designated work time reading or writing erotica, which is not appropriate.

        1. LW1*

          FWIW, this meeting was my first work task of the day and the erotica doc had been closed since the night before (it just didn’t occur to me to clear my clipboard!). I don’t ever do this during work time. But this is a very fair point given that the other people in the meeting don’t know that.

          1. skylight*

            Is creating a separate user login for work on your personal computer an option? That keeps everything separate and would prevent another future incident.

        2. Observer*

          If you know that someone has already copy and pasted things earlier in the day, then you know they are sitting at the computer during designated work time reading or writing erotica, which is not appropriate.

          Not necessarily. If this was at the beginning of the day, or shortly after lunch, then it’s very easy to see how this is still in their clipboard.

          1. M*

            If you know that someone has already copy and pasted things earlier in the day…

            Then that wouldn’t apply to the beginning of the day. I would argue that it shouldn’t be a lunchtime activity either, though. Would you read or view that kind of material if taking lunch in a break room or at your desk in a common office? Either way, it’s so easy not to hold something on your clipboard before work or after lunch. I do not fault the people who would assume it’s intentional and go to HR. It is so much easier to have this not happen than it is to have it happen. Due to my own past experiences, I would assume it a creeper trying to “Oops, I didn’t intend to force my fetish on you *wink*” too.

            1. Observer*

              Would you read or view that kind of material if taking lunch in a break room or at your desk in a common office?

              Except that this is NOT a “common office”. Sure, if someone actually brought their erotica into the office, I would look at it VERY differently. But just like I’m not going to think twice if someone works in sweats at home even though it wouldn’t be appropriate in the office, it’s not reasonable to put the same expectations of lunch time activity on people.

    3. Sylvan*

      I agree about OP having no room to do something like this again, and having no excuse if someone reports them to HR.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Hear, hear. The recipients’ personal beliefs regarding porn have nothing to do with how problematic it is to bring sexualized content into a workplace setting.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      This might be a case where it’s helpful to imagine a letter to AAM from the other side: “some guy I barely know at work sent us all a link to his porn… he apologized but should I go to HR?”

      I don’t think OP needs to say anything else but I do agree that the coworkers might side eye you for a little bit.

    6. Observer*

      Don’t blame-shift.


      The OP didn’t blame shift or call anyone “puritanical”. Nor did anyone else. The OP clearly understands that it was a mistake. And, anyone who insists that it must have REALLY been an attempt to test the borders is the one who is projecting. Because people do actually make mistakes.

      Furthermore, if you have bothered to read the comments, the OP has reiterated that they know this cannot happen again and has taken on board at least one suggestion for keeping this from happening again.

      The people that coworkers should be mad at are the bosses who are having people work from home on a regular basis without giving them separate work equipment. Because if you don’t do personal stuff on a computer, you can’t accidentally share your personal stuff (that isn’t there.)

  32. idwtpaun*

    LW 1, I live in fear of pasting something not work appropriate that I forgot I copied to send to a friend for a laugh. One thing I do sometimes when I really don’t want to risk it (say, I’m presenting for a meeting) is empty the clipboard. Thankfully easy to do on a Windows 10 PC: open the start menu, type “clipboard” until “clipboard settings” pops up as an option. When you open that, “clear clipboard data” is the bottom-most button.

  33. BugTrainer*

    “I hate to keep asking you to repeat yourself, but I’m still having trouble hearing you. I don’t normally have this problem so I think it might be that you’re speaking quietly.”

    Lw2 – Please think before this multi sentence lecture to the speaker. I get it’s frustrating for you but you’re unlikely to have been the first person to point out his speaking difficulties and this long statement about how difficult it is to hear him could make him embarrassed and even more difficult for him to speak.

    1. Sylvan*

      I don’t think I’d use that phrasing, but also, it’s two sentences and he is a grown adult.

      What I would go with: “I’m sorry, but I still can’t hear you. Could you please speak up?”

    2. Observer*

      Maybe it is the first time, maybe it’s not. But unless the OP names the problem and calls it out, they won’t be able to move forward. Obviously you don’t keep repeating it, but it is legitimate to bring it up and ask if the speaker can ameliorate it. And the bit about not having the problem with others is important because all too often if the problem HAS been brought up, the answer is “Well you should have your hearing checked.”

  34. BookCocoon*

    #1 – While I haven’t done this exactly, my org also has the setting where you can’t copy things that are in a Zoom chat, so this kind of thing happens ALL the time, people attempting to copy something from higher up in the Zoom chat for people who joined late, then pasting and hitting Enter without realizing it instead pasted whatever random thing they’d last copied. I’ve worked there over three years and I still forget that you can’t copy things in a Zoom chat. There’s supposedly a security reason for it, but it just seems to lead to confusion and awkwardness!

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Not only that, but in the standalone Zoom chat you can’t even edit your message for typos. Since I am the champion of typos this means I have to not hit enter until I’ve proofread everything twice, because there is no take back.

  35. Elle*

    I feel for you, LW1. I would hope that your colleagues would remember that you’re stuck using your personal laptop for work purposes and adjust their reactions accordingly. I’d feel very different about this happening in a situation where people had dedicated work PCs vs the situation you’re in.

    No one wants something like this to happen, but as always when there is a letter like this, I’m surprised and saddened by the number of commenters going out of their way to say how they’d side-eye you for months after this. Now, can we chip in to get you a dedicated work laptop?!

  36. AngelS.*

    Uh, #1! My manager is the same, but on Teams.
    She’ll say something and then start speaking while having her hand partially over her mouth! May it’s a nervous tic. (?)

  37. beebis*

    LW1 is putting time having a complete stress induced freak out over accidentally sending a vendor a link to a bread recipe instead of the actual text I meant to send into perspective

  38. Dawn*

    LW2: Language that has been legitimately useful to me working in a customer service position where you meet all sorts of people with all sorts of ways of talking:

    “I’m so sorry, but I have some auditory processing issues; could you please speak up/speak clearly/look at me when you’re speaking/whatever else helps when you’re talking to me? I have more trouble understanding than most people and I hate to keep asking you to repeat yourself.”

    I know it goes against the grain but most people are super good about it if you explain that you actually have difficulty processing unclear speech and are more mindful about how they’re speaking subsequently.

  39. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1. RULE #1 = NEVER, EVER, EVER, NEVER EVER use your work computer for personal use.

    Yes, I’ve had my daughter send me a “happy birthday” to my company e-mail. and I’ll concede that I bought baseball tickets on my work computer.

    But EROTICA? Uhh…. bad judgement call.

    1. LW1*

      I don’t have a work computer! We all have to use personal devices. But some other commenters have suggested setting up separate user profiles for work and personal use, which will be my strategy going forward!

      1. Fear of Name Committment*

        LW1, that really sucks. And what a cheap employer. I would still try to get a tablet or something for the writing though.

    2. Fear of Name Committment*

      Yep, as a Fed, you can bet even my AAM reading is on my personal computer only. I do absolutely nothing personal on my work laptop, nothing.

    3. Observer*

      That’s a good rule. What happens when you don’t have a work computer? Is someone supposed to give up their personal device? Buy a second computer? Neither is a reasonable expectation.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Depending on your income level – you would probably buy one (it’s a valid, legitimate business deduction).

        In fact, at one time, a director asked “would you be happy with the situation at (another) company, where you have to buy your own laptop?”

        And I replied “YES. Because the equipment you issue to us is so crappy, so underpowered, I can’t even run our own components on it. It would be worth my spending $700 on a viable machine. It’s deductible and would save me a lot of grief.”

        From him = stunned silence.

        I then chortled = “Oh, from Perry Mason. Never ask a question, unless you are sure what the answer’s gonna be!”

        1. Dawn*

          Oof, I get that. Working from home the company has issued us headsets but I use my OWN, purchased out of my own pocket, because it’s actually wireless and not actually garbage.

        2. Velociraptor Attack*

          Note: Presuming you’re saying it’s a business deduction for taxes, in the US purchasing a business computer is only a deduction if you are self-employed.

        3. Observer*

          All this is fine if you have the income and can deduct it – it is NOT necessarily deductible.

          For a lot of people the cost to buy a second decent computer simply won’t fly.

  40. Cinderblock*

    I tell recruiters that I only work with ones based in my area.

    Recruiters from elsewhere know nothing about the local job market, and some of them lack even basic local geographic knowledge (trying to recruit me for a job 100 miles away.)

    When you post your resume online these guys descend like vultures at a Tibetan sky burial. Ugh.

  41. Hannah L*

    OP 1 I feel you!

    The phones where I work are notoriously terrible and it’s impossible to hear the person on the other end. I always feel bad when I have to ask someone to repeat themselves multiple times.

    Also my dad has been a low volume talker my whole life and despite me asking him to speak louder he always mumbles.

  42. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    LW #2: In addition to asking him to speak up, start asking about your next task via email or chat. If you can’t get your boss not to mumble, maybe you can make it the norm to give instructions in writing.

  43. Tesuji*

    LW #4:

    I can’t fathom the idea of giving that much notice *unless* you’re in an environment where you know exactly how that’s going to land and what’s going to happen next.

    I’m assuming the LW is in the U.S., in which case you should always give notice 100% expecting that you will immediately be terminated, won’t be paid for anything past the moment you gave notice, and won’t be compensated for any unused leave.

    I mean, there are certainly a lot of companies in which this isn’t true (as well as states in which the last isn’t true), but it’s always a possibility, and if that would be catastrophic to you… well, sorry, let the company take the hit rather than take the risk.

    At the least, it feels like the LW needs to know how the company has treated other people who resigned, and proceed accordingly. If they treat people who give two weeks’ notice well, then okay, take that as reasonably safe. If they screw over employees who give notice, then give notice on your last day, effective immediately, and walk away with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

    It is 100% within a company’s power to establish policies that incentivize long notice periods. If they make the choice not to do so… well, then let them reap what they’ve sowed, and move on without a shred of guilt.

  44. AnonyMouse*

    OP4 I would probably just give notice that my last day will be Oct 9th. If they say they want more transition time, offer to work the week following Oct 14. But if you are really concerned about losing the pay in that time period, the safest plan would be to give notice the day you return from vacation (just two weeks).

  45. Kelly With a Why*

    LW2 – do you think your boss would be receptive if you asked him to send you a recap of any important instructions in writing? Or could you send a recap to him to make sure you heard everything correctly? I am hard of hearing and this is a strategy I often employ to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I realize your situation is different from mine because you only have trouble hearing one specific person, but it might be worth a try.

  46. PDB*

    LW2: I used to be a sitcom sound mixer and you would be astonished at the number of actors who have just that speech pattern, but I have a volume control so…

  47. Different talker*

    Re #2:

    I work with someone who speaks so quickly I often cannot understand him. He’s using a language and accent I have no difficulty with in general, but words just get compressed into each other the easy he talks. Theoretically, I could directly ask him to slow down, but this is a case of picking battles, and not trying to change something that is clearly very engrained.

    I do sometimes need to understand things he says though! One strategy I use is to let him know exactly what I think I understood and what I think I missed. For example, “thanks! I heard you say that that you met the client last week, but I didn’t quite catch when you’re scheduled to meet again. when was that?” then he can just reply “next Friday” and he doesn’t have to try to remember and repeat the whole thing he just said, probably on a rush again. also, stating what I think I heard gives me a chance to validate that I really did hear right (did he actually say they met last month?), and also hopefully shows him that I am overall listening and engaged.

  48. Lauren*

    I accidently had this post open in a tab and when sharing my screen, the title with ‘erotica’ popped up lol. they definitely saw it and I stopped my screen share to remove the tab because it was behind the controls and I could not NOT hover it a ton, which of course was making it stick out because Teams hates me and moving my mouse would not immediately remove the hovered title popping out.

  49. ZucchiniBikini*

    #4 – I would absolutely not give notice til returning from your leave. I’m in Australia, where 4 weeks notice for professional jobs once you’ve been there a year or more is normal but you can get away with 3, and I have seen more than one co-worker screwed out of a planned week off because it fell into their notice period. For this reason, the default for most people is to wait until coming back from leave before giving notice unless that would mean giving less than 3 weeks in total. (The reverse can also be true, with a couple of people I know having been encouraged to take almost all of their notice period as leave, to save the organisation having to pay it out on departure – here, employers must pay out all unused vacation leave when a person leaves employment).

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