my manager’s partner speaks up in our private meetings

A reader writes:

My manager of 1+ year takes our one-on-one meetings out loud in the same room as her partner, who occasionally pipes up in response to something I or my manager have said. He doesn’t do it all that much, but I can frequently hear him coughing or rustling around, making it pretty obvious he’s right there. Either way, it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable and even more so frustrated by my boss’s clear lack of boundaries. This has been going on for quite some time now. I was able to put it in the back my mind until the partner spoke up again recently and renewed my frustration.

I should probably note nothing the partner says is of much significance, usually just passing comments. I’ve heard him chuckle in the past when I’ve made a funny comment, add details when my boss was sharing something from her personal life, and agree with positive feedback my boss gave me once. So, none of it is outright negative, it’s just kind of strange that he is there! And I think about what that may be like if I ever have to bring something more sensitive to my manager’s attention.

Both my manager and I work from home most of the time. We both live in a city in one-bedroom apartments with our partners, so I am empathetic to the challenges of sharing a small home workspace with another person. But the difference is, my partner and I use headphones when taking calls or go into separate rooms when necessary (like when having private conversations with direct reports or needing a bit more quiet).

I am not sure how to proceed. I want to ask my manager if she could do the bare minimum of wearing headphones but I A) am nervous to initiate this conversation and am a bit upset that this is something I have to do, and B) am afraid it may alter the nature of our relationship, which is otherwise pretty casual and friendly. Not to mention that if and when I start this conversation, my manager’s partner will likely be in the same room to hear it. I’m cringing by how awkward and inappropriate this all feels. Help!

Yes, this would be uncomfortable! You’re thinking you’re having a private work-related discussion with your boss and suddenly her partner is part of the conversation, making clear he’s been listening all along. His interjecting to agree with her feedback about your work is particularly inappropriate, even though the feedback was positive! He’s not the person who should be assessing you, good or bad.

The explosion of remote work does mean that a lot of people are working from small spaces with a partner unavoidably around. But it’s one thing to know they’re working from the same room, and another to have him join your conversation! Generally people realize they need to preserve at least the illusion of privacy in that kind of set-up … and you should be able to trust that if you need to talk about something sensitive or awkward with your boss, there’s not an audience who might jump in with their own opinions.

Bringing this up with your boss doesn’t need to be a big deal. You could say, “Would you be up for wearing headphones when we talk so that we have some privacy? I know Brian often works from the same space and I sometimes need more of a private zone when we meet.” This is such a reasonable thing to suggest that it’s really unlikely that it would alter your relationship with your boss — and if you don’t want to say it when Brian might hear it (although frankly it might not be bad for him to hear that and maybe realize his behavior has been weird), you could email it to her before your next meeting.

If you’re hesitant to do this — although you shouldn’t be — at a minimum you could do it ahead of calls where you know you’ll particularly want privacy. For example, you could send an email ahead of time saying, “I need to discuss something more confidential when we talk this afternoon — would you be able to wear headphones or take our call where you can’t be overheard?”

{ 167 comments… read them below }

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I know! So very much uncool and uncomfortable.

      I work from home and don’t use headphone, but I live alone. There is no one else around to overhear.

      1. Koalafied*

        My cat does sometimes have very loud opinions about the amount of food in his dish that he shares while I’m on a call.

        1. Cocorico*

          My roosters feel the same way, and know what window to crow next to if they haven’t been fed yet. I had a headset that blocked it out really well which just broke, so now I forget people can hear it, until they start laughing because a bunch of roosters crowing during a meeting is NOT something you expect, lol.

      1. Doris Thatcher*

        I would have a LOT of difficulty controlling the look on my face the first time this happened!

    2. Artemesia*

      it is always shocking to see the incompetence of so many managers. This is just dumbly obvious. How could any manager allow this to happen more than once?

  1. Jessica*

    Yeah, this is gross and I hate LW’s manager. There might not be a great path for her to do this, but if I managed somebody who was this clueless and thoughtless and unprofessional, I would want to know about it so I could fix it.
    LW, does anyone else besides you report to your manager? Maybe this could be a strength-in-numbers thing.

    1. OhNo*

      Depending on the competence of HR at this company, there might also be a path there. You could maybe ask them for guidance on how to approach it with your manager, if there are any company guidelines about privacy for review meetings, etc.

      In an ideal world, HR would then either gently coach your boss about it without bringing up your name, or they would loop in your boss’ boss to do the same thing.

      1. ferrina*

        I’d try talking to the boss before going to HR. HR might try to intervene, and then the boss would likely get annoyed that someone complained to HR about them.

        If you can work it into casual conversation, that might be a different story- “So when I was talking to Boss during our 1:1, Brian mentioned something…” After all, Boss doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, so it shouldn’t be a big deal if you happen to mention it to Boss’s Boss, right?

        1. Cait*

          Agreed. If OP wants to maintain a cordial relationship with the Boss, I’d start by being friendly but direct. If you go to HR before even mentioning it to the Boss it would definitely put a strain on the relationship. After all, it could be the Boss is just clueless (not really an excuse but at least not malicious) and a simple “Can we please have some privacy?” would do the trick. I’d only escalate to HR if Boss got upset by the request or said they’d make a change and then did nothing.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Yep, sometimes people just need a slight nudge. My boss used to Slack me in the afternoons at like 4:45 wanting to have a long back and forth about new projects, when I’m trying to pee, clean up my workspace, and wind down for the day so I can make the 1 hr+ commute back home. The later after 5 pm on the dot I leave, the longer it will take me to get a train home. I only had to bring it up once (“would you mind picking this back up in the morning, I need to leave right at 5 to make my train”) and she never did it again.

            She wasn’t intentionally lengthening my commute. She is 100% remote and lives in another city entirely and owns a car. I would have thought it went without saying that non-time sensitive, but lengthy discussions should really happen before 4:30 whenever possible, but it just didn’t occur to her since her commute is a few indoor footsteps.

            This situation is obviously worse and an actual lapse in judgment as opposed to a misunderstanding about schedules. But I’d always start with the assumption that someone just isn’t thinking and needs a polite nudge to come to the obvious conclusion. If she’s otherwise a great boss, give her the benefit of the doubt and the courtesy of having the uncomfortable conversation first.

      2. Smithy*

        I have to agree that going to HR likely has a risk of being viewed as an escalation. For many many people, interactions with HR are equivalent to being “in trouble” – even if HR is relatively competent.

        That being said, my take is that likely the strongest “strength in numbers” approach the OP can take is a very neutral, and upbeat approach to proactively asking their supervisor to wear headphones for every meeting whenever there’s something more confidential or sensitive they’d like to discuss. And therefore the numbers approach is more to do with amount of times the OP (and possibly other coworkers ask) ask for headphones to be worn.

        Because honestly, I actually think the behavior in question that needs to change isn’t so much the OP’s boss – but rather her partner. Having a supervisor or coworker on a call from home, not wearing head phones, and around family members isn’t unusual. But it’s with that illusion of privacy, so they’re not making mention of listening in. If every time the OP has a topic they reference wanting to discuss more confidentially, and the issue genuinely is more sensitive (i.e. a family/medical appointment issue or work issue you’ve been asked to keep confidential by a more senior staff member) – it will do more to clue in the boss to wearing headphones or that staff are noticing her partner’s interjections.

        1. one L lana*

          I totally agree that the partner is the one who’s really out of line here, but I think it’s fine to blame the OP’s manager for not asking him to change. I work in my living room, and 9 times out of 10 I wear my airpods, but occasionally they’re not charged or I can’t find one or something. If my husband wanders through, I do my best to make sure he can’t be seen (blurred background, tilt my screen so he’s not in the background) or heard (mute when I’m not talking) and it’s usually brief. I cannot imagine him thinking it’s appropriate to chime in! It’s so clearly not! If I tell him about my day later, he never even alludes to having heard anyone in that meeting talking other than me (he’d have heard me anyway).

          I also realize I should probably do a better job of just making sure I have headphones on for every 1:1 — since I never know if someone else wants to bring up something sensitive. I definitely would not take it amiss if a direct report asked me to be more cognizant.

          1. Hydrangea*

            You should do a better job of making sure you wear headphones for meetings, too, and of doing your best to be in a completely different space from your husband for both meetings and 1:1s. It is reasonable to expect company discussions to be limited to a company audience. I realize that it’s not always possible to be in different spaces and that sound travels between rooms as well as within rooms. However, to the extent possible given each person’s circumstances, non-company personnel should not be present where they can overhear company matters.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Another reason to wear headphones is that people with any sort of hearing loss will find it much easier to understand your words.

          2. JustaTech*

            I can hear my husband when he’s on meetings in his office and I’m in the kitchen (at lunch or at the end of the day). I do my best to not listen in (it’s usually not interesting at all, but I’ve picked up some interesting management best practices) and I would never, ever, ever chime in on anything anyone says! I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever shown up on video was when I brought him lunch because he was booked for 8 hours solid.

            Heck, even when he’s just talking to his parents I check to see if 1) they want me on the call and 2) that they know I am listening.

      3. Yellow+Flotsam*

        This really doesn’t raise to needing HR input or involvement. Sure, HR could send an email to boss saying – please wear headphones in your meetings, it makes some of your staff uncomfortable when they can hear Brian and he can hear them – and that’s the end of it.

        Or HR could make this a big deal and boss is now annoyed with LW and (even just unconsciously) disadvantages LW because of this.

        Or HR &/ boss could question LWs professionalism and professional maturity that they needed to involve HR over something so trivial, which could impact promotion or other opportunities.

        As a general rule don’t go to HR over trivial workplace stuff. LW has taken the right approach when unsure how to address something, ask a friend/mentor or other informed person.

  2. Lacey*

    This manager is going to say that she shares it all with Brian anyway so there’s no point in wearing headphones. I almost guarantee.

    1. Hydrangea*

      I will never understand the Partner Hivemind, and I move from “don’t understand” to “completely appalled” when it comes to work subjects. How does the manager keep proprietary stuff proprietary if her partner can hear everything? Her partner didn’t sign any NDAs.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I actually don’t think this is a couple’s mindset, so much as it is a That Guy mindset. I feared from the headline it would be a (very particular flavour of) male interjecting himself and I hoped I was wrong about the gender of the people he was interrupting too. The crazy thing about this species is that they genuinely mean no harm and just think everyone is dying to hear their random wonderings on stuff they know nothing about.

      2. JustaTech*

        As a spouse I *have* signed NDAs, but that was when we were testing out a prototype in our house and there was really no way for me to *not* see or interact with the thing.

        Sometimes my spouse will ask my advice for how to handle a delicate interpersonal issue (“how do I ask this person to stay off the work chat on weekends without causing an anxiety spiral?”) but that would never, ever involve talking to directly to their report!

        (The only, only time I could see my spouse asking me to join on a video call would be if it was something purely social, like we used to do in person.)

    2. Hlao-roo*

      If I were in this situation, there would still be a point in asking my manager to wear headphones. If she wears headphones, then Brian can’t immediately respond to something I say during the meeting (and will be less likely to respond to what the manager says, because only hearing one side of the conversation makes it clearer that he’s not part of it). I don’t have to hear Brian’s interjections, and Brian can’t hear what I’m saying verbatim. I can pretend (if I want to) that my boss shares nothing with Brian because I don’t have any evidence to the contrary. And if I acknowledge the reality that she’s probably sharing details with Brian, I know that they are likely filtered and reduced compared to Brian listening unrestricted to both sides of the meeting/conversation.

      1. ferrina*

        I like this angle- it’s about helping you not be distracted by Brian, rather than the Manager being harebrained. That might make it easier for her to comply.

        Since the manager is okay with this obviously inappropriate situation, I’m guessing that manager has some other not-quite-okay philosophies, which makes me think that you should use kid gloves with this.

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely this.

          For those of us in jobs where none of the work is technically confidential, it’s just more in the realm of “professional discretion” – this is about not being distracted by the flow of information. Like, if I say “Coms John was in the meeting, so as you could guess – some of the language was a little salty”, overhearing your supervisor’s partner react/giggle is disarming. Because while Coms John might be a colleague you’re sure everyone tells their friends/family about….thinking about exactly what and when in that moment is distracting.

          All that to be said, I do think that the requests will be easier at first if the OP has genuinely more sensitive information to discuss. It can just be about having a medical appointment or sick family member, but overtime I think you can slowly expand that to include more work contexts.

    3. Pugetkayak*

      I feel like it’s one of those things where you may assume it happens, but it’s not overt. Like he could be there in the background, but shouldn’t be noticeable.

    4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      And the appropriate response is “there’s a vast difference between you two discussing it when I am not here, and ME having to share the conversation and your attention with Brian.”

      1. Former Young Lady*

        I would never actually advise OP to cheerfully compare Boss’s Husband to Yoko in their next Zoom, but what a delightful daydream it is!

    5. Nina*

      I’m in aerospace, my partner is a teacher. There are absolutely things we aren’t allowed to tell each other. Expecting to be allowed to tell your partner everything about your job is something that sounds insane to me.

    6. BatManDan*

      It’s been my experience that about half the partnered people I know do that “hivemind” thing, and the other half doesn’t. In work and personal stuff, I adhere to “it’s not my story to tell.” For example, if my best friend and his wife were struggling in their marriage, I may tell my wife that Female Friend needs an ear / has some things to share, but I won’t repeat the things she’s said to ME about what the issues are. It surprises some folks that I won’t tell their story to my wife, but I don’t think it right, and I know I may get the story wrong anyway. The flipside is, it can be incredibly difficult to tell people “That’s not something I want to know, or need to know, so I’m going to cut you off there.” Current example: my mom married Al about 8 years ago (she’s now 80, he’s 86). The two of them live a LONG way away from me, and even further from his grown kids (all 50+ years old).My wife and I accompanied Mom and Al to visit his family (probably his last visit – stage 4 prostate cancer), and while he was talking with his four kids in the living room, his D-I-L (whom I’d only met about 2 hours before) wanted to tell me all the reasons Al is distant from his kids. There is NO part of that story (that goes back 40 years!) that would have any impact on the way I treat Mom and Al (nor Al’s kids, but that’s moot, since I’ll probably never see them again or interact with them in any way, ever). But, it was important to her that she air her grievances, probably because she wants / needs someone to agree with her. Fortunately, she didn’t persist when I told that I was intentionally avoiding learning anything about their family’s long-standing grievances.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Well done, you on that.
        She can save that for her friends, her therapist or her priest. Your dance card is full.

      2. JustaTech*

        Oh my goodness I wish I had your resoluteness/perseverance/boundaries when my husband’s family starts talking about their dead relatives. It comes up literally every single time we get together with them. Like, it’s good to know the background of why Aunt M doesn’t speak to Uncle C, but I don’t need to hear it all rehashed in detail at lunch and dinner.

        And the time Aunt L read Grandpa J’s long letter about why he remarried after Grandma H died was just miserable and inappropriate. (I tried hiding in the bathroom but there was no sound insulation.)

    7. Erin*

      I feel like the manager shares everything with their partner as well, which is annoying in itself, and can’t they think of other things to talk about besides… I have a similar set-up in my home office (as do many of my co-workers) and I’ve never experienced this. A few of my co-workers who know my husband have waved if they see him in the background of a meeting, but that’s it.

      Anyway, this would totally bug me. I would try both of the methods Alison outlined. I might also try to acknowledge the partner, and then make a point of asking my manager if they were too busy/wanted to meet later when they had some privacy, etc. something like “Oh hey, Jim. Didn’t realize you were in the room. Pam, do you want to reschedule this for a time when we can chat privately?” This is slightly passive-aggressive, but, boundary challenged people frequently need more than one ask or more than one gentle reminder to change a troubling behavior.

  3. louvella*

    That is really something. Like yes of course my partner is in the room frequently when I’m in meetings, but I use headphones and she stays out of the background to at least preserve the illusion of privacy!

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Exactly this. I stay out of sight and am quiet when my better half is on the phone and its work related.

      Same token – His employees are also aware that if they call him late evening/early morning and he’s still at home, well. Chance that the wife might overhear. Of course, typically if his work phone rings, I dodge out of the room because I have enough of my own stuff at work without worrying about his.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “I dodge out of the room because I have enough of my own stuff at work without worrying about his.”

        So much this.

      2. louvella*

        I mean, I wouldn’t disclose her presence to anyone, because it’s just the reality of working from home and there’s not really another place for her to go, but also she can’t hear what they’re saying anyway!

        1. Ann Onymous*

          The reality for a lot of people (especially since the pandemic) is that they are working from home in a space that’s not totally private from other members of their household, but most people have decided to abide by an unwritten rule where you pretend you can’t overhear your family member’s work calls. Apparently this manager’s partner didn’t get that memo.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yup. The only thing I hear about my husband’s work calls is that they’re happening – he’s talking to someone. I don’t need or want to hear anything else, just enough to know not to go try to talk to him for a minute, right then.

            1. one L lana*

              Yep. Also, boundaries on this stuff are important. My husband was having a tough time at work earlier this year and having to overhear just his side of his conversations with his manager where he was clearly being chewed out was pretty awful. (It’s a small apartment and our phone voices are loud.) I really would not have wanted to hear the manager’s side of it.

    2. Antilles*

      Yeah to me it’s really about keeping the illusion of privacy.
      If you think about the physical office comparison, if you’re not talking about anything super sensitive and leaving the door open, plenty of one-on-one meetings would be easy enough to overhear by anybody in nearby offices. Frankly, in many offices I’ve been in, the walls are thin enough that a person in the directly adjacent office could overhear even if the door is closed.
      But even though the other person *could* overhear and you’d sometimes hear coughing/movement/etc, people would generally maintain the polite fiction by *not* actively butting into the conversation nor commenting on it afterwards.

      1. DarthVelma*

        This. In the before times, the meeting room where our management team held it’s weekly meetings was on the other side of a very thin wall from my office. I heard things. I couldn’t help but hear things. I reminded them repeatedly that I could hear things. And we all pretended that I didn’t and I never said anything about what I heard.

        1. Pugetkayak*

          It’s like overhearing things in a cubicle farm. You just…pretend you didn’t hear it.

    3. Starbuck*

      Yeah, this is wild! Manager is most in the wrong for not enforcing the boundary with partner – but what on EARTH is partner thinking?? How do you not realize this is so inappropriate?

      1. Karen, but not that kind of Karen*

        Right?! On the rare instances when my husband is on work Zooms (he is a teacher, so mostly in person work), I will put on my own headphones and listen to music in order to avoid hearing his meeting. Sometimes his colleagues may shout out to me before the meeting officially begins, but we pretend I don’t exists once anything needs to be discussed.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        “… what on EARTH is partner thinking??”

        This is where my brain just completely boggled.

        I can’t imagine the scenario where someone I lived with was having a one-on-one video meeting with someone *I do not manage or even work with* where I would decide to pipe up with my hot take in the middle of their conversation.

        Brian, dude, this is NONE of your business. You do not know the context of what LW and their manager are discussing, you do not have any standing with LW as an employer, manager, peer, etc. I don’t care if you’re bored, or if other people are having a work discussion in your airspace. Your 2 cents about… whatever … is not only not valuable or useful, it is negative useful.

        And if the genders on this are not masked, if the partner is a man and LW’s boss is a woman, this also is giving off a whiff of “guy who feels entitled to weigh in on stuff that has zero to do with him, and who finishes his GFs, wife’s sentences, corrects details in her stories because of course she’s not capable of functioning as a competent human without his input”

        1. Short’n’stout*

          The entitlement thing stood out to me as well. I wonder what the rest of their relationship is like.

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        My friend has grade school kids. Sometimes I invite them over for dinner or lunch. They are between 10 and 6. If the come in the door and see me at my desk, the oldest turns and says “Not Tom is working.” And they go get some toys and play until I’m done.

        After two years of their dad, me, their friends’ parents working from home, THEY understand how to behave.

        Now granted, sometimes they get louder, but ultimately, they try!

    4. Generic Name*

      Your last sentence is key. The ILLUSION of privacy. It’s like having a work-related discussion in a cube farm or an open office. You pretend that you can’t hear conversations all around you/you tune them out. It’s weird when coworkers who are not involved in the conversation to chime in, and I know there has been at least one letter here asking how to handle that situation.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Reminds me of my last workplace, which made the baffling decision to go “open office” to “encourage collaboration”. As a result, every time I asked the person working next to me how the org wanted employees to do X, I acquired an entire Greek Chorus of opinions from other coworkers. It would take 15 minutes before everyone settled back down again. (Yay, collaboration!)

        Then I’d just do what the first person I asked told me to do, because I’d chosen to ask them for a reason.

      2. Smithy*

        Provided the OP’s work isn’t officially confidential, I do think that this being a disruption to the illusion of privacy is more about the OP’s supervisor being weak at enforcing this professional norm with her partner. With WFH – and at least with my work – occasional disruptions from pets or children on Zoom calls are viewed as similar as office disruptions like sirens or construction noise. Normal when momentary, and necessary to reschedule a meeting if severe.

        Whatever this says about the OP’s supervisor, the partner and/or their relationship – I think the main point is that being bothered by this isn’t unreasonable. But it’s likely going to be a correction request that needs to be made a lot. And finding a way to make that point of regular correction more neutral and normal will probably do a lot to keeping the relationship with the supervisor positive.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          This is such a thoughtful, well-written juxtaposition. In my queendom, it would be mandatory reading for all prospective Zoom users.

    5. works with realtors*

      I won’t lie, I’m a little freaked out by everyone calling the manager outrageous – my spouse is also sometimes in the same room, and like yours, stays confined to the background. (Hence replying in line to you, for context, but from here on out my comment is addressed to universal-you)

      Is the objection, you think, the fact that he’s interjecting and clearly listening – or is it that the manager isn’t taking extra steps for privacy (headphones)?

      I take my calls without headphones, but my spouse literally isn’t even listening, let alone interjecting – AITA? Yikes, Monday mental crisis!

      1. one L lana*

        My objection is almost entirely to the husband’s behavior. I will also occasionally take a call without headphones in the same room as my husband, but he would never dream of jumping in or making his presence known.

        That said, I think I’m going to be a little more conscientious about headphones for one-on-ones. I always try to wear them if I know I’m going to have a sensitive conversation (like an annual review or a tough piece of feedback), but direct reports can bring up sensitive stuff on their own, too. I’m trying to think how I would feel if I had vented to my manager about a workplace issue, or disclosed medical information, and found out later their spouse was listening in — I don’t think I’d care that much, but it does seem like a situation that’s worth avoiding if possible.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          The spouse interjecting is the most outrageous thing. If the manager can’t convince their spouse to not listen in and comment on work meetings, they need to take steps to make sure their spouse can’t do so. However, headphones should be standard in most situations where someone else can overhear, and I do think that sensitive discussions (like performance reviews, or anything involving finances or health) should be done with an expectation of actual privacy, not just pretend privacy.

          I also think there’s big difference between someone commenting to their spouse at dinner that they had a difficult performance meeting with their report, and having the spouse listen to the full conversation, or even one half of it.

          1. Hydrangea*

            I also think there’s big difference between someone commenting to their spouse at dinner that they had a difficult performance meeting with their report, and having the spouse listen to the full conversation, or even one half of it.

            (emphasis mine)


      2. Hydrangea*

        Ideally, you would use headphones, or he would use headphones, or you would go a different room for the duration of the call, or he would go to a different room, or any combination of those things, and likewise when he is on calls. Expecting only people who work for the same company to overhear company business is reasonable, and expecting only 2 people to be present during a 1-on-1 is reasonable.

        1. louvella*

          Not everyone has multiple rooms, but this is why we have headphones. At least then it’s only half of the conversation that’s overheard.

      3. Yellow+Flotsam*

        I’m not so bothered myself. I’d want to know that the call might not be private, and I’d expect you to take overt action if it sounded like I was about to bring up private stuff.

        But then I’m used to open plan workplaces, so assume conversations can be overheard unless I’m told otherwise.

      4. Yoga Pants*

        Same here although I have interjected when my husband is talking about me to his team. Its usually an funny antic to get his team talking or something at my expense (terrible baking skills, getting yellow paint on the new car, buying a sweater on wish and it being a 1x and fitting my 4Y niece) Now I’m second guessing how terrible that might be. He can talk about work all day and I can tune it out but he mentions my name and even with headphones on I zoom in on what he is saying.

  4. Green Goose*

    I have this same issue with one of my direct reports. They have always worked 99% remotely and their partner has a job that rarely requires them in an office. We’ve worked together for years and they have moved multiple times, and regardless of where they are living, the partner always seems to be within earshot of what is going on. I forget about it sometimes, but then I’ll hear the partner shuffling or coughing and I realize they are probably within feet of my direct report. And the partner will definitely interject if we’re talking about something personal, which due to how busy our work is, is not that often. I haven’t said anything about it because I mostly just think it’s weird, but can’t outweigh the awkwardness of bringing it up. But it would be much more annoying and uncomfortable if the roles were reversed and it was my bosses partner who was interjecting.

  5. Curmudgeon in California*

    Oh ye gods and little fishies! This would squick me too.

    I understand that getting privacy in a WFH environment is hard if you have a crowded household. I WFH in the room my spouse is often in, and sometimes they have to interrupt. But when they are doing something in the room and I have a meeting, either they, or I, or both will wear headphones. It aids in both of us concentrating on what we are doing. If they need to do something noisy, like take a call, they go into another room.

    Eventually we need to re-arrange where my workstation is, but that will involve shuffling at least 3 rooms, and since we are both old and disabled this could take weeks.

  6. Petty Betty*

    I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. The audacity. I know I’m tactless enough to have said something about it after the first time it happened (because we do allow the person to deal with it privately the first time, after that, nope, y’all getting my opinion since y’all wanna be a team in this ish). A third time after my commentary would certainly bring an email to HR/higher ups. Because if he’s got the temerity to comment on my stuff that he’s listening in on, it’s certain he’s listening in on other things.

    1. Ann Ominous*

      “ nope, y’all getting my opinion since y’all wanna be a team in this ish”

      I have tears in my eyes from holding back laughter. I felt this in my soul.

  7. Moi*

    That is SO inappropriate, if I were the manager’s manager I would have a serious conversation about this!

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! I would be livid if one of my people thought this was okay. This isn’t “things happen”, this is “we designed things to happen”.

  8. marvin*

    So, so weird that Brian is so comfortable weighing in on the conversation, even offering his own feedback. I’m so curious about why he thinks this is appropriate and also honestly why he is invested at all. I worked in a small space from home with my partner for several years and I generally had no idea what was going on in any of her work meetings.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Sometimes as a child/teenager I would do schoolwork in my mom’s office, sometimes while she was working. My rule was that anything I heard in there went in one ear and straight out the other, no retention, no talking about it, nothing ever. If I could understand and keep to that at 8 years old, a grown adult should be able to understand and keep to that.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’m not completely shocked. I’m a woman, and I just did a technical training led by another woman, and every single time I asked her a question an older man jumped in to answer it. Incorrectly. Without hearing the actual question in the first place.

      The woman leaning the training was a lot more patient about the interruptions than I would have been, in her place.

      1. marvin*

        I’ve experienced that guy a lot too, but this seems like a particularly weird flavour to me. I think it’s the extreme mundanity of the kinds of things Brian is willing to break the social contract over that really gets me here.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I said the same thing upthread. Sometimes two women, or even just one, having a conversation leads a certain type of guy to just rattle his voicebox and make his presence known.

    3. Pennyworth*

      It sounds as though Brian has been given enough information to feel entitled to join in. I’d tell boss straight up that I did not feel comfortable sharing my work conversations with Brian, and would she please wear headphones. Then I’d ask her if our conversation was going to be private every single time we spoke.

  9. CharlieBrown*

    Another aspect of this is client confidentiality. I work from home, and spend the entire day (and sometimes parts of the weekend) looking at confidential client information all the time. I rarely print anything out, but when I do need to, I do what I do with it and then it goes right into the shredder. I use multiple monitors, and when people were working on the outside of the building, I had to close the blinds, just to prevent any data leakage.

    This is just not a good situation.

    1. Bland Anonymous Burner Handle*

      Confidentiality is so important! I work in higher ed and most of the conversations I have with students are protected by federal law. Suddenly discovering that there’s someone else in the room who can hear everything I’ve been saying would be a nightmare. (Typically I ask, but still.)

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Confidentiality is probably the very real reason for not allowing work from home in a lot of situations – Thinking back, I don’t remember if it came up when we were talking about business reasons to require employees in the office.

      This seems like the sort of scenario where I would say that the manager can’t work from home, because their work from home environment (ie Brian) is such that they can’t ensure either their company, clients’ or employees’ confidentiality.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I know ours definitely thought about it, but we were in a position where we were on site with clients as much as in the office before Covid and when we moved to WFH our firm applied the client travel confidentiality policies to home as well (applications only accessible through secure VPN, auto-locking computers, mandatory IT security training, etc.) I agree with you that if I had a Brian situation I’d probably be making a report to our security and quality assurance folks.

  10. Hydrangea*

    We should introduce the manager’s partner to the boss of the LW who complained when she didn’t stop an impromptu meeting that she wasn’t part of to tell them where she was going. I think they would have a lot to talk about.

  11. Safely Retired*

    “Both my manager and I work from home most of the time. We both live in a city in one-bedroom apartments with our partners.”
    That commonality provides an angle of approach. Get into a conversation about the issues of working from home with limited space and a partner present. Mention problems (even if you have to make them up) that you have had with sharing space. Perhaps put them in the context of problems your partner has had with you working in the same space. Point out how you handle it (headphones, asking your partner to go to another room, anything else). In other words, provide an example of better behavior. Relate your partner’s problems with your experience of hearing your boss’s partner being part of the conversation.

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I don’t understand why it would be necessary to present a fictional scenario when addressing the actual problem is what is needed.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        That is suggested so often on this site, and it is just never a good idea. A good idea for the plot of a sitcom, but not a good idea for real life.

        1. Education Mike*

          I love these comments because Alison’s blog is basically just begging people to handle things not directly (and giving them scripts when doing so is awkward).

          Telling your boss a story about a problem you had and how you solved it is not likely to get them to change their own bad behavior. It’s 2022. The boss presumably knows about headphones and thru functionality. If she didn’t want this to be happening, it wouldn’t be.

          Also, not that I want to align myself with this boss, who is obviously behaving poorly, but if one of my direct reports were trying to passive aggressively guide my behavior by telling little stories about how they’d solve a problem I’d find it very obnoxious.

    2. ferrina*

      It’s hard to do that so late in the game. If this was the second or third time this was happening, I’d approach it this way (“of course you don’t mean for Brian to eavesdrop as you obviously know this would be problematic, so here’s some ideas on how to fix that”

      But at this point manager clearly doesn’t think it’s an issue and has normalized this behavior. You have to assume that Brian would hear this whole conversation and wouldn’t see himself as a problem. They’ve lost plausible deniability, and may take it out on OP. (if they’ve normalized this behavior, I’m worried about what other kind of behavior they might normalize- specifically retaliation)

    3. I should really pick a name*

      But this could be handled so easily with a direct conversation. Why the smoke and mirrors?

    4. Ellis Bell*

      The problem is that the manager is probably used to Nosy Ned and his Important Interruptions of Randomness; much like the slowly boiling frog who is accustomed to the boil. If an outsider tries to raise the issue of having similar problems, the frog will simply respond with “What pot? Which heat? Sounds like you need to sort your relationship out.” Though it would be interesting to try, and it would be much easier if the manager was in fact sick of their partner too.

  12. DrivingDitalini*

    oof! If I can overhear my partner on a call, especially if it’s semi-personal, I’m putting on headphones with white noise. He insists it’s okay, he “has nothing to hide”, but it just feels invasive to me. (not to mention super distracting if I’m working)

    Still, I don’t think it’s going to offend her to ask to use headphones. Hopefully she’s not that sensitive! I guess you could drop a hint like “I don’t want our conversation to bother Rick”, but chances are she’ll reply “Oh, he doesn’t mind!”.

    1. Mockingjay*

      My company has rules about overhearing by other parties when working from home. Work must be private – it’s a requirement for our industry (government contracting).

      But if OP and Boss are not in an industry with stringent security rules, I can see where you’d get a mixed response to overshared/overheard discussions, because the need for a rule never came up until now. OP thinks: of course work conversations should be private, even if the subject isn’t that important. Boss: eh, who cares, we’re only talking about the late Peterson report. (Assuming Boss ever thought about it.)

      OP, it might be easier to approach the discussion as a telework guideline. “Hey Boss, I’m wondering about privacy requirements for telework. Our company guidelines are vague/don’t mention this. Is it okay if other people in our household overhear work conversations? Are there topics that should be kept company private?”

      Hopefully Boss will realize she is doing exactly this and stops. If not, as a last resort, OP, you can claim misunderstanding. “Boss, could you repeat that? I heard someone else talking in the background.”

  13. WhatAmIDoing*

    I’m horrified that they aren’t even pretending there is privacy.

    Sure, they don’t have a lot of space and half the time they are chatting about work water cooler stuff because the livingroom is the co working space. Some relationships just over share.

    But you pretend. You pretend that you don’t know exactly how your partner feels about the TPS report situation. You pretend that you haven’t been following along with the saga of Jane’s teapot project. You are blissful ignorance. Because 1:1s and work meetings did not hire the couple, they hired one individual.

    Even when I was married to someone in my department and he would get pulled into an after hours call, everyone pretended that anything I knew about it was derived from reading emails and not speakerphone up until the point I was asked to join the call (or vice versa)

    1. Hannah Lee*

      And it’s not like being on board with the pretense of privacy in shared spaces is a new thing!

      It’s been going on as long as there have been shared work spaces at work … anyone who has ever worked in an open office or a cube farm is VERY familiar with how this is done and with the fact that it allows people to keep their sanity when sitting near other people at work.

      1. Antilles*

        Exactly. The analogy here is physical working spaces – where you often *can* overhear people making minor conversations (through an open door) or sometimes even private conversations (through the paper-thin walls), but everybody pretends to never overhear to maintain the shared fiction of soundproof walls.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is super accurate. You put yourself in a mindset of not focusing. Even if you have no choice to be in a small space you can preserve confidentiality. You put on quiet music over your headphones if your partner has a call, or work on opposite sides of the table so you can’t see each other’s screens, or quietly turn over any important-looking documents info-side down and let your partner know “hey, the XYZ documents are out on the table, please put them away”. And if you do hear anything, you don’t talk about it to anyone except maybe your partner and even then you try to avoid it because you don’t want to invest yourself more than you already are.

      Assuming you don’t work at the same location, your deliberate involvement with your partner’s workspace should not extend beyond +1ing to workplace events (if applicable) and being the emergency contact who can call and say “Hey, Fergus has laryngitis today and can’t call in so I’m calling in for them”.

    3. Education Mike*

      Seriously my husband’s colleagues know we share a tiny space and he still makes me do an awkward semi-slither so I’m below the line of his camera when I need to pass by. I’m fascinated that any two people would both be ok with this behavior.

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

    At first I thought that he OP and their boss were taking their one on ones in the same office as the OP’s boss’s business partner, not that they were both WFH and the boss’s significant other was chiming in!! That is all sorts of wrong!

    Please speak up, or at least send an email.

  15. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    “This is such a reasonable thing to suggest that it’s really unlikely that it would alter your relationship with your boss”

    But that’s exactly when it’s most daunting to bring things up! It’s SUCH a reasonable thing to suggest, the fact that you even HAVE to suggest it makes you worry that the other person is not reasonable.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      People are dense. People often react okay when you point out they’re being dense, if you do so gently. The risk that you are not dealing with one of those people just feels extra daunting when it’s your boss.

      1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        It doesn’t just *feel* extra daunting when it’s your boss–it’s also genuinely riskier.

    2. ferrina*

      This! I’m worried that the boss’s norms may be way out of whack. I’d definitely do a bit of ego-soothing while I requested that she wear headphones.

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I agree, the fact that you have to bring it up suggests the boss is not, in fact, reasonable.

      I think things that Alison often mentions can be helpful here: what is the boss like otherwise, are there opportunities that the boss can give or deny, how long are you likely to stay there, etc.

      I had a job where it was very difficult to fire us and I decided that I was not going to get any opportunities anyway, so I often spoke up. But it did little good and I was better off doing what Alison says and getting out the popcorn to watch the show and find humor where I could.

      I think you have to weigh out all the options and then decide to speak up now or only when you actually have something confidential to say.

      I’d likely not take the risk unless there was some benefit (like I needed to speak confidentially to them).

    4. Education Mike*

      It’s like when someone asks you a very stupid question via email and it’s so hard to not sound passive aggressive because you’re saying something so obvious. These things can be the hardest to ask for.

  16. lilsheba*

    Yeah well I use my speaker, and my spouses are up and around for about 3 hours of my working day before they leave for their swing shift job. I don’t like headphones and I am going to use my speaker no matter what. They are rarely here when meetings are happening but if they are they pay no attention and again I’m not using headphones they are way too hot and uncomfortable for me, the speaker is much easier.

    1. Hannah Lee*

      If Brian were like your spouses, LW likely wouldn’t have written in.

      But Brian is not “paying no attention”.
      He’s listening, following along and chiming in from time to time.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      Then I hope you don’t have any direct reports who are counting on you to keep their confidence in 1:1 meetings and the like. If my boss had any number of spouses milling around in the background during our 1:1 Zooms, I’d find it distracting, and it would be much more difficult to be candid with her.

      I get it, headphones can be uncomfortable. Sometimes being the boss means you have to prioritize good business practices over your own convenience and comfort.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        “I get it, headphones can be uncomfortable. Sometimes being the boss means you have to prioritize good business practices over your own convenience and comfort.” It deserved to be said a second time.

          1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

            So you’re not like OP’s manager, and your partner isn’t like OP’s manger’s partner? What exactly were you trying to communicate then?

      2. lilsheba*

        I’m not a boss so it’s a moot point there. And they are beyond uncomfortable, they actually hurt my ears. I had to wear a headset, which were light headphones, for 10 hours a day when I worked in a call center before and the ear pain is massive. Never again.

    3. Elitist Semicolon*

      What would you do if the person on the other end had something they wanted to discuss privately and specifically asked you to put on headphones?

      1. lilsheba*

        I would close the door if I absolutely had to. But I’m alone 90 percent of the time and that is unlikely to even happen.

    4. Generic Name*

      Okay, but presumably your partner isn’t chiming in to the work calls, though right? And they aren’t contributing his/her opinions on the monthly revenue projections (or whatever) and your coworkers don’t see them puttering around in the background, right??? I think as long as there is the illusion of privacy, everybody is fine.

      1. lilsheba*

        Nope, none of that is going on, I’m in a separate room, with a door open but they are in other parts of the house.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          OK, so it sounds like your overall job duties/work environment are radically different from those of the boss described in the letter.

          Perhaps we also needn’t assume that your painful experience with headphones is relevant to her circumstances?

    5. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I’m hoping this was sarcasm. If not, I hope you never work with literally any form of protected/private information.

    6. Hen in a Windstorm*

      So, “it isn’t a problem, and if it were a problem, we couldn’t solve it, and if we could solve it, I just wouldn’t” is your response? You must be a joy to work with.

      Use ear buds? Ask them to wear headphones? Leave the room? Ask them to leave the room? I mean, you make an effort to solve the problem, not pretend it isn’t a problem. Look at how many options there are when you consider other people’s needs for 2 seconds. Geez.

    7. Unkempt Flatware*

      Good golly. I got what you were saying and absolutely hear you. I’m sorry you got such pointed responses here.

    8. Dr. Rebecca*

      …doing something because it’s more convenient for you, ignoring its impact on anyone else, and doubling down on it when your experience isn’t the one highlighted in the letter is…quite the look.

    9. Warrior Princess Xena*

      It sounds like the difference between you and OP’s manager is that you’re working in a separate room, with a door you can close if you need to, and that you’d be willing to close if something sensitive came up. It also sounds like your spouses are not deliberately inserting themselves into your workplace conversations.

      The problem OP is having isn’t a technological one as much as it is a manager with a fundamental misunderstanding of boundaries one.

  17. Llama Wrangler*

    LW, is any of your work covered by non-disclosure agreements? If so, I’d start there with something like, “Has Brian also signed an NDA for this project? I didn’t see him covered by the agreement that I signed, so I can’t discuss this topic in front of him.”

    1. DarthVelma*

      This is my actual life. My partner and I have happily shared a home office for the entirety of the pandemic. All of his work is covered by NDAs. All of mine is covered by HIPAA, FERPA, and a whole raft of other state and federal privacy laws. Noise cancelling headphones are our friends.

      And even if the OP isn’t working with NDAs or private info, Brian isn’t her supervisor. If he wouldn’t be invited to give input if these meetings were happening in person, then he needs to shut up and go in another room when they’re happening virtually.

    2. Yellow+Flotsam*

      Why be aggressive about it? You could simply cheerfully say – hey boss I need to talk about the super secret confidential project – would you mind kicking Dave out of the office for 15min – sorry Dave!

      Life is easier when your boss likes working with you. It’s almost always in your best interest to save being annoying or aggressive for when it is needed

  18. Cats Are Really Fuzzy*

    The first thing I thought of is maybe the partner is forcing her to take all of her meetings w him there and maybe she doesn’t feel comfortable pushing back.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        True, but …

        OP’s manager having these one on one meetings with their partner in the room, Brian listening in and adding his 2 cents or commentary, and manager isn’t pushing back on Brian or taking any steps to change her video work meeting set up to stop this from happening is putting Brian and Manager’s dynamic with Brian right up in LW’s business.

        Brian shouldn’t even be any part of OP’s reality when having a 1 x 1 call with their manager; the fact that he is is really really odd, and OP or others speculating about how that is even a thing that is happening is a natural result of that.

        For OP, “why is this even happening?” is naturally going to be a part of the calculation when figuring out how to address it. Not that OP is going to mention potential spousal dynamics when bringing it up, but based on what OP knows, has observed about Manager and Brian over time, making a reasonable guess at whether Manager is just clueless, Manager doesn’t care if it’s awkward and stifling to OP or there is some dysfunction between Manager and Brian could be useful when deciding how to proceed, advocate for what they need to have a functional meeting.

  19. Goldie*

    Ugh I have a colleague like this. Colleague’s spouse also works for the same organization (though lower on the food chain, so to speak) so they seem to feel especially entitled to add their two cents and I could scream every time they do it. If my manager’s spouse did this there’s a good chance I’d eventually be annoyed enough to look for another job.

  20. CoveredinBees*

    Ohhhh this is so uncomfortable. My partner and I are both WFH and I would be annoyed if I had to hear his conversations like this.

  21. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    I have no advice, but I want to tell the LW that I am infuriated on your behalf!

  22. LB*

    I could see this happening once and manager not wanting to interrupt the meeting, but as soon as OP logged off that day, the manager should have bitten Brian’s head off and made sure this never happened again! It’s so obviously not cool.

  23. city slicker*

    When we were both working from home, I knew all of my partner’s coworkers by the sound of their voice, personality, and vibes. I managed to never speak up, though!

    I did bring my partner into one of my work conversations once (their expertise was relevant!! although now I’m really cringing!!)

    1. Jay*

      The only time my husband showed up on a work meeting was on “Bring Your Pets to Zoom” day. He brought the pet into the room. That was it. That was enough. I’ve never been on any of his. We are lucky enough to have separate offices in the house and even if we didn’t I’d have to evict him while I was meeting because my work is all covered by HIPPA. Except for the pets, of course.

    2. Education Mike*

      I feel like early pandemic days when everyone was forced to WFH in often inappropriate spaces were all such free for alls. So many people did weird stuff. Cringe once and be done with it! Let it go! Be thankful you weren’t that person who changed thinking their camera was off!

  24. SongbirdT*

    Oh! I have a related story! Way before the pandemic when my husband first started working from home, we shared a home office. His boss knew this, but Hubs and I were both careful to keep quiet on the other person’s calls and just generally act like we weren’t there. One day, his boss calls with some news and told Hubs to take off his headphones so I could join them – ?!?!?! So I did, but I felt soooo weird about it! It was good news – either a big raise or a promotion, I forget which – but it was still so uncomfortable to be included in my spouse’s work conversation BY HIS BOSS.

    So, yeah. Your Manager’s husband is way off base.

  25. iNot*

    On the flip side, when I was a newbie supervisor I used to have a direct report who would have her high school-age daughter in the room while we had 1-on-1 meetings. And yes, sometimes it was while I had to provide constructive feedback that she did not take well. I was too afraid to ask for her daughter to go elsewhere, and she wasn’t always receptive to us having a walking 1-on-1 (I only did those if things were more so an update).

  26. Just in case*

    I used to have a coworker who’s husband controlled her. She was so in love with him, that she would even say “Oh, I called Zeus because he knows about this subject, he agreed that XYZ was the correct answer”. Our manager was so ineffective that she would allow him to make changes to her computer settings. So inappropriate. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough :-/

    1. Yellow+Flotsam*

      On one hand it is pretty normal for people to talk to friends and family about their work and ask opinions (with appropriate confidentiality maintained) – most of us though are smart enough to not highlight that’s what we’re doing.

      I have an amazing network, I lean on them. Unless it is advantageous to me, I don’t highlight that their opinion has influenced me. I might say things like “I thought about this a bit more”. If I need to borrow authority, I might say “I discussed this with X and…”

      Your ex-co worker needs to learn to do that.

      If you literally do mean “controls” then your coworker is in an abusive relationship and needs help.

  27. nonny*

    Just wanted to say that when I was sharing a one-bedroom apartment with my partner and we were both working from home and my office space was the bedroom, I would sometimes make my partner get out of bed and go doze on the couch if I had early morning 1:1s with my direct reports so I could get a room to myself, because I knew it was important for those conversations to be private. Absolutely nuts that she doesn’t recognize this.

  28. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    About a year ago I was searching for a therapist for my teenage daughter and I had what was sort of a screening/getting to know each other/phone intake with a therapist I was considering for Daughter. I shared with her what was obviously all sorts of very private information about my daughter, and towards the end of the call, I heard a noise in the background that was one of her young children. She had been in the car having this conversation conversation with her two young children the whole time and failed to tell me. I don’t care whether or not she was wearing headphones, because they could still hear her speak. I was so appalled. Clearly we didn’t work with her. I wonder what this woman was thinking and if she’s ever heard of HIPAA.
    This woman had several choices. I don’t know if she originally planned the call during child time or not but she could have told me that she had to pick up her kids or whatever the situation was and asked me if I was okay with that or give me the option to reschedule. But no, she just did the intake with her children in the same small space as her and decided to not tell me. It was only when I heard it and questioned her that she admitted the truth. She apologized but she really did not seem to understand the issue. And her kids got to hear Mom’s responses to being called on the carpet.

    1. Hydrangea*

      Woooow…. Yeah, I don’t think there is any clause in HIPAA that renders it inapplicable in the presence of minors.

    2. Luna*

      Especially around younger children. They absorb everything they hear, even if you think they are not listening. Especially when you think they aren’t listening. I don’t blame the kids on that, as that is a thing kids do, but that doesn’t mean adults responsible for them have to make it (extra) easy for them.

  29. Beebee*

    LW I feel like your concerns about this are premature. Just ask your boss if she can wear headphones because you don’t like other people hearing your meetings. Assume the best case scenario and that she’ll say “sure no problem” and then wear them. I know you said you don’t like that you have to bring it up but you do otherwise this problem isn’t going to be solved.

    You also say you have a good relationship with your boss — how come you feel nervous to ask this of her? It might be worth asking yourself if this is because you’re overthinking this because the likelihood this will be super small and insignificant is very high! This isn’t meant to be harsh, just reassuring that this is a pretty small issue that you can solve by talking to the person.

  30. Yellow+Flotsam*

    I’m probably an outlier – but I would actually prefer to know that the call is being taken in an open room rather than have the illusion of privacy that isn’t actually there.

    I’d still find the interjections annoying, but I think you do kind of need to accept that unless you specifically ask for a confidential meeting your boss will be in an open space. It’s definitely still ok to ask for headphones, but the partner will still get half the conversation. It’s also ok to straight out ask for the interjections to stop.

    One thing that really hasn’t been sorted with the explosion of WFH is confidentiality. We’ve had this odd situation where housemates are now office mates – but never chosen by or vetted by the company. In pre-COVID days it was typical to require you to have an appropriate space to work from home, usually for WFH positions this was a dedicated, lockable office.

    Personally, I don’t consider 1-bedroom units appropriate as a routine wfh space (but with COVID there was no option). You can’t separate home from work, and if you do not live alone you are usually automatically bringing random people into the workplace – and depending on your set up, your colleagues might not even know there’s a third party in the room! If it is safe to return to the office, maybe you and your boss need to travel in once a week/fortnight/month so you can have open, private discussions (not just the illusion of privacy).

    1. Plumbum*

      The setup matters more than the size of the home, though. If one were in the bedroom while the other used the livingroom with a closed door between the two, that’s perfectly appropriate. Two people working from the same home office in their four-bedroom house, maybe not.

      Separation between work and home is more of a personal cost/benefit. For some, packing away their work equipment at the end of the day is enough separation, others need to be able to close a door, it’s just finding what works.

  31. Luna*

    I understand the difficulty of working from home, but if you are having a one-on-one with another person or an important work call, why wouldn’t you just make sure you make yourself scarce or, at the very least, remain quiet during that call?

    When my mom works from home and tells me there’s an important meeting coming up or a talk with HR and similar, I know that I need to make sure to not bother her with stuff. But she wears a headset during these calls, so I only hear her side, and we also have a bigger place than a one-bedroom apartment, so it’s probably easier to not bother.
    Though, even if I am in the living room next to her bedroom/office, I know to make sure to be quiet. Not my business what is being talked about, nor do I want to distract her.

    1. Yellow+Flotsam*

      I guess it’s probably depends on how often calls happen.

      In a previous job my team and another were stuck right next to each other in an open plan office. If we had a call, we’d take it in a meeting room. They wouldn’t – they took calls at their desks in the middle of the office.

      Thing was, we rarely had calls. They did calls all day every day – it wasn’t practical to move to a meeting room.

      If your (home) office mate has an occasional call you could pop out so they had privacy. But if they are on calls often, then it is completely impractical to leave.

  32. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Even the manners mavens say that someone making using a speaker phone should tell the person on the other end who is in the room with them if the call is not private!

  33. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    This is ammunition for all the bosses who want their WFH employees back in the office!
    Yes, it’s excruciating for OP to be talking to her boss knowing that her partner will hear everything.
    I presume that they’re not working in a sensitive field like nuclear bombs or anything where confidentiality is important…. but even without that, I’m sure the grandboss would not like to know that the partner knows everything that’s going on.
    I mean, I don’t work on anything high-stakes, but I do have to keep my mouth shut about new products or events before they’ve been released or announced, and I don’t let my partner have access to my laptop except on his own session where he can’t look at any of my files.
    Now of course the boss might have given her partner a blow-by-blow account of her day every night before Covid, but actually listening in as she works…. doesn’t he have business of his own to be minding?

  34. Roscoe da Cat*

    I have to say that the number of people who won’t wear headsets and don’t work alone in offices is insane! I am on international calls and invariably someone will have us on speaker and we hear everyone in that person’s office. It is beyond distracting.

    Fine if you have an office or you are alone, but otherwise, be considerate and wear headsets.

Comments are closed.