employer recorded audio and video while I was in bed … and more

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

1. My employer was recording audio and video while I was in bed

I normally work on site, but got Covid and had to work from home for a week. I felt pretty bad, so I was in bed for the first two days. I always put my work laptop to sleep at night and one night my husband complained that our wifi was slow. I checked our provider app, which details what is connected to our home network and using bandwidth. I was disturbed to find that my laptop wasn’t actually asleep and was recording both video and audio. This has to be illegal, right? I was in my bedroom, hardly clothed. This feels like a severe invasion of my privacy. I was never told this was being done. I feel violated and wonder where all the footage goes.

What the F’ing F. No, it’s not legal. Employers can legally monitor you through both audio and video as long as they have a legitimate business reason for doing so and it’s while you are working, and, generally, as long as they inform you/you consent to the monitoring. (Check what you’ve signed about devices.) However, recording in places where you’d reasonably expect privacy, like bathrooms and bedrooms, is almost always prohibited, as is — again — recording you at home when you’re not working.

It’s likely that the specifics of what happened was an error (they presumably didn’t expect or intend to record you in your bedroom) but it’s still unacceptable — and if you didn’t know your computer was recording video and audio in general, even outside your bedroom, that’s a problem and something you should take up with your employer immediately. (And meanwhile, get and use a camera cover ASAP.)

2. Colleagues who want long, inefficient calls and meetings for everything

I recently joined the board of a small nonprofit with no full-time staff, which means that board members do a lot of day-to-day work ourselves, and my role is particularly heavy with those day-to-day tasks. I’m struggling to work effectively with two of our long-term board members, because our professional norms are very different. They both tend towards emails with many long paragraphs, phone/voicemail/zoom as often as possible, and don’t seem to care when meetings run long or off-topic.

To me, they don’t seem to respect my time or know how to work efficiently (a 40-minute zoom call just to share complaints that generates no solutions or action items?). But I assume to them, I am overbearing or dismissive when I ask for an email instead of a call or want an agenda before scheduling something or when I try to keep meetings on-topic and on-schedule. And to be fair, my recent choice to let my voicemail box fill up so I wouldn’t get more messages is definitely not the most professional approach!

If someone I managed at my day job had these habits, I would coach them pretty intensively to make adjustments. But I don’t manage my co-board-members, and I am hesitant to apply norms that may not be as universal as I think. I don’t know where these differences are coming from — career stage (I’m mid-career, they are both semi-retired), generation (millennial vs baby boomers), industry (I work in tech, they were both lawyers), or even just personality. I’m at my wit’s end because the constant phone calls are eating away at the time I need to do the day-to-day running of the organization, and as I get frustrated, I get even more behind. Should I discuss it with them? Or just set very firm and clear boundaries for myself, and accept that they may not like it?

Do both! Tell them that your day-to-day tasks for the organization take up X hours per week so you’re looking for ways to work more efficiently and part of that will be that you need to use email rather than calls when you can, will ask for agendas before scheduling meetings, and will need to keep meetings on-topic and on-schedule. And then after that, enforce very clear boundaries for yourself — don’t pick up unscheduled phone calls, announce at the start of meetings that you have a hard stop at X time and need to get through Y and Z before then, and decline meetings that you don’t think will be a good use of time.

See how that goes. It’s possible they’ll adapt, but it’s also possible it’ll cause tension or other issues to the point that you should reevaluate if the org is the right fit for you. It sounds like you’re volunteering your time, and there’s no reason to do that past a certain (fairly low) point of aggravation. (For what it’s worth, I’ll also add that a small nonprofit with no full-time staff where the board does all the work is … a very specific model, and one where you should make sure the outcomes the org gets are strong enough to warrant the sacrifices you’re going to be making.)

3. When coworkers leave

I am several months into my first traditional office job. I work on a small, high-performing team in a much larger institution. Recently, one of my team members (not my manager, but senior to me and someone I work with daily) shared that she will be leaving soon to pursue other projects. There’s nothing particularly dramatic in her decision to resign, but I feel completely destabilized at the thought of this person leaving. She has years of institutional knowledge and has been a valuable resource and sounding board as I’ve gotten to know the organization and my role. I’m also realizing how much I rely on her as a first line of answers, compared to our less available manager. I’m feeling emotional about her leaving, but that doesn’t feel appropriate for the very professional context we know each other in. What advice do you have for transitions like this that are healthy, but still feel upsetting? How can I make the most of the last few weeks with this coworker while preparing myself to continue to contribute positively to the next evolution of my team?

The most important thing to know is … life goes on. Things will return to feeling normal faster than you think they will, even when the person who left felt indispensable. Especially early in your career when might not have seen a lot of key colleagues leave, it can feel like their departure will change everything, but it probably won’t change that much. In fact, you might even find that other relationships move in to fill the hole of that person’s departure. (What can change things a lot is if the person who replaces them is problematic in significant ways, but hopefully that won’t be the case.)

Also, keep in mind that you can stay in contact after she leaves. She could turn out to be someone who can mentor you, or just be a helpful professional contact or even become a friend.

4. Can you leave a degree off your resume?

I’m helping my husband job search and fill out applications. Is it okay to not disclose all his education? He’s a smart guy so he thought it would be a good idea to go to college at a well regarded university on his GI Bill. So he got a BS in a general business major. But the jobs he likes and the work he does and what he is very talented at is very hands-on building, fixing, machinery of all kinds. When he applies to work somewhere, they’re pretty honest about him being overqualified because he has a degree. The automatic responses sometimes suggest other jobs in the company he should apply for. Example: he is applying for maintenance and they suggest he should apply to be a nurse. Can we just leave off that he has a degree? He is so unmarketable with it.

He can leave it off. A resume isn’t required to be a comprehensive account of everything you’ve ever done! It’s a marketing document and you can leave things off if they don’t strengthen your candidacy. It’s not that he’d be hiding his degree; he’s just judging that it’s not relevant to the jobs he’s applying for.

5. My old company tried to recruit me but now is ghosting me

I left a position at the height of the pandemic on relatively good terms. I’ve kept relationships with my old team. Recently, I met up with an old teammate who has tried to recruit me back a few times. They mentioned a potential role under someone at my old company who I know and respect. Once we confirmed I’d be interested, they texted the hiring manager on the spot, who said they wanted to talk to me.

At the end of our dinner, my old teammate gave me the hiring manager’s cell phone number. I reached out within two days over text with something like, “Hope you’re well, teammate said there may be potential to chat about a role, let me know a good time to talk.” I didn’t get a response, but know this person’s job is incredibly complex and busy, so I wasn’t too concerned. It’s not a posted role or anything, so I also chalked it up to timing or that they hadn’t had a role allocation sorted.

After a few weeks, I texted the old teammate to confirm I had reached out but hadn’t heard back, and to let me know if they heard anything further. I also included other non-work stuff we connect on. But now it’s been days and I haven’t heard back from them, either. Did I make any blunders here? I am worried I missed some kind of unspoken rule about this kind of thing. I struggle with small talk and usually prefer to be to the point, so should I have eased in more? I hope it’s a case of everyone’s lives being busy, but I am worried!

It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. It sounds like the kind of thing that often happens with hiring, where higher priorities just get in the way and/or the person doesn’t respond until they have something concrete to report. (I don’t know why it’s so widely seen as acceptable to handle hiring stuff that way, but it is.) It’s also possible that the hiring manager decided they don’t want to talk after all, but if that happens, it’s unlikely to be anything about the way you handled it on your side.

I’d assume it’s not happening (for now, at least) for reasons that have nothing to do with you, and let them reach back out if that changes.

{ 254 comments… read them below }

  1. Jane*

    OP2, I’ve known several partner-level lawyers who liked to think out loud rather than sitting down to type things up. It’s something that junior associates don’t really have the luxury of doing due to various time constraints but feels like it’s more prevalent the higher up you go. I also think that they’re probably used to having someone to vent to/at and enjoy doing it. That doesn’t mean they’re right, just that it happens.

    1. Miss Modernity*

      The OP2 situation is basically a conflict between people who prefer e-mail and those who prefer telephone conversations. OP’s preference for the former does not inherently trump the other board members’ preference for the letter.

      Moreover, there can be perfectly good reasons to prefer voice communications over written ones. You can’t subpoena a phone call. The lawyers may get this point.

      1. Jane*

        I don’t think so, given the inefficiency that she describes. As a junior lawyer I sat in on plenty of unproductive vent sessions that I felt like I couldn’t walk away from.

      2. The OTHER Other*

        This goes beyond a preference for email vs: meetings or phone calls, these lengthy callas and agenda-less meetings sound extremely tedious.

        I think the issue is more that the other board members are retired and have too much time on their hands, and this charitable work is a social outlet for them.

        Alison’s advice is spot on, including re-thinking whether this position is a good fit.

      3. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Except the LW also says they send overly long emails, too. I don’t think it’s a mode of conversation conflict, it’s a clash in work styles between someone working with a sense of urgency and is most focused on getting tasks done, whether in email or in a meeting, and two people working at a more relaxed pace who don’t seem to feel constrained by time limits and may be somewhat more interested and invested in being part of a process than in getting to the outcome.

    2. iliketoknit*

      I will add that lawyers often do this to avoid creating a paper trail, because documents often have to be given to the other side in litigation, or, if you’re in the government, are subject to FOIA requests. No one can hand over an oral conversation. (There are of course exceptions under both circumstances, including certain kinds of attorney work product, but if you don’t write something down to begin with, you can’t get into a fight over whether it has to be disclosed.) This culture frustrates newer lawyers I know to no end, because they’re millenials or even early Gen Z and just don’t use phones actually to talk to people, but they will be assimilated eventually. (I’m Gen X and I hate the phone and avoid it as much as possible, so I don’t think it’s just generational, but I do think post-texting generations never got in the habit of using the phone to actually talk, so it’s more painful to adopt the “don’t put it in writing” mentality.)

      1. rubble*

        lol I think I would be a terrible lawyer then, I need to write things down or I don’t remember them!

        1. Michelle Smith*

          You’re absolutely allowed to write things down as a lawyer. I wrote everything down all the time. There are just consequences. For example, if you write down what the witness says and they say something different later in a deposition or at trial, you will have to deal with cross-examination on that point. It is what it is though. Never writing things down is incredibly irresponsible IMO. Our memories are terrible compared to just writing things down contemporaneously.

        2. L.H. Puttgrass*

          The lawyers I know write things down more than other people, not less. If you want detailed notes of a meeting, have a lawyer take them! I mostly work with non-litigators, but the litigators know that nearly everything they write will be protected as privileged or attorney work product, and that writing things down is really useful for remembering things later, so there’s very little “don’t create a paper trail” among the lawyers.

          BTW, what we write tends to be long-winded, too.

          1. Nicosloanica*

            I’m confused, if you tell your colleague you are aware of X or Y fact of the case, they can’t put your colleague on the stand and compel them to reveal this? Interesting. Maybe that’s hearsay or protected conversation or something.

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              It depends (and that’s your canonical lawyer answer). But if you’re a lawyer and you’re discussing active litigation with your client or another lawyer in your firm? Then yes, that’s generally protected under the attorney work product doctrine or attorney-client privilege or both (with narrow exceptions like conversations that are furtherance of an ongoing crime and such). The idea is that attorneys need to be free to work on cases and have candid discussions with their clients and other lawyers about the strengths, weaknesses, and facts of a case without fear of those conversations being introduced as evidence. There are exceptions and details I won’t get into here (mostly because I’m not a trial lawyer and it’s been ages since I studied any of this stuff), but that’s the general idea.

              1. Nicosloanica*

                Huh, thank you! Seems odd that notes don’t fall under that bucket but conversations do. I guess the law is often kinda loopy though.

                1. L.H. Puttgrass*

                  An attorney’s notes about a case (or of a meeting with a client or related to a case) would definitely count as protected attorney work product.

            2. doreen*

              Not a lawyer- but worked in government and absolutely did want to avoid putting certain things in writing. Usually, it was conversations about “Should we do A or B or maybe think about C ?” I suppose if it had ever been relevant to a court case and someone knew about the conversation , someone involved in the conversation could have been subpoenaed. But it wasn’t done to keep people from testifying, really. It was so that material that was exempt from being disclosed under the state FOIL wouldn’t accidently be disclosed. For example, inter-and intra-agency records had to be disclosed unless they fell into one of ten or so exemptions. One of those covered recommendations – if there was a final determination to do A that had to be disclosed and there was almost always some written record of it , but my recommendation to do A was exempt.

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                When I was in contracting and had phone conversations, a summary of that conversation definitely went into the file (and a very good thing in a couple of cases). Of course, this was back in the Olden Days when email wasn’t actually a thing yet.

      2. Nicosloanica*

        Question out of curiosity, if you wrote notes in a private code, would you be legally required to reveal the code to the other side? Could you write in shorthand and credibly claim you don’t recall for certain what the abbreviations were for? (yes, I’m a mystery writer, why do you ask).

        1. to varying degrees*

          I would assume so yes. When I worked in government and records were requested via public record request we were required to maintain the spirit of the law not just the letter of the law. I have a vague memory of my mother having to translate her notes for something when she worked as legal secretary.

        2. Adultiest Adult*

          Yes, you would be expected to remember your own code and either product a verbal translation on demand (great way to get yourself subpoenaed instead of your work product, which is much more of a hassle) or produce a written one which met the standards of the court. Not being able to produce one is grounds for firing from your job (I saw it happen) and I’m not even sure what legal consequences on top of it.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oooh, this explains why the former attorney I used to work with would call me up and have a two-hour long phone call that would have been a million times more efficient if he’d just written down his edits and sent them to me. I mean, seriously. Why is *talking through edits* any easier or faster than writing them down? But I guess he was trained to do that. Also he did seem to enjoy the sound of his own voice a lot, so that’s probably the other reason.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          This is how Erle Stanley Gardner became used to dictating the Perry Mason and other books he did…

    3. Roy G. Biv*

      Ugh. Watching someone think out loud, with a captive audience and no agenda — that is one of the many reasons I left marketing.

    4. JB (not in Houston)*

      Also, they may just be used to having a captive audience of junior associates who don’t feel like they can tell them to wrap it up/make it shorter/stay on topic. I’ve seen that a lot with older lawyers, although in my experience it usually correlated with what kind of law they practiced. Of the older lawyers I’ve worked with, those that have a background as trial lawyers will talk your ears off, but the ones who have always done appellate work are more to-the-point and less likely to trap you in a conversation.

      In this case, it could also be that, being semi-retired, they just don’t have as much people interaction as they’re used to, and they are using this to fill that gap.

    5. BatManDan*

      I just assumed the lawyers I know / interact with are long-winded because they are used to billing by the hour, and just assume they should take as much time as possible on everything! LOL. I like Jane’s more generous / less judgmental view of why it happens. Plus, it makes more sense than mine!

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        We’re also trained to spot issues and look at all the facets of an issue from every angle. Some of us even enjoy doing that! But the result of that training can be that we get pretty long-winded as we talk though all of those interesting issues and angles.

        There’s an old, old joke along the lines of a lawyer being someone who will write 20,000 words and call it a “brief.”

  2. Rosyglasses*

    OP1 – I don’t tend toward extreme reactions about work issues but I would be livid and probably quit immediately – that’s how not ok this is. I am furious at the invasion of privacy, whether intentional or not. I’d love an update when you find out the details of what was going on!

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. I’m in Finland, and here even keyloggers are illegal. For an IT department to read an employee’s named email address requires a suspicion of serious wrongdoing and a subpoena. This is why ticketing systems and role-based email addresses to which multiple people have access are essential for the running of any business or public entity. Employers can freely monitor what happens to their files on their servers, etc. and various types of logs are standard, but that’s not an invasion of privacy the way a keylogger would be, never mind recording audio and video without the explicit knowledge and consent of the employee. If something like what happened to the LW happened here, it would count as trespassing/violation of domiciliary peace.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        This is also why I prefer to use my own hardware when I have the option rather than be issued company hardware to bring home with me. Then I know what’s installed and running.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          On the flip side, a company should really want you to use their hardware for the same reason: knowing exactly what’s installed and running on a device containing their data.

          I’m sure *you* know what’s on your devices, but not everyone does, and random employees catching random malware and then giving it access to company data or company software… nightmare. My company is very strict on this, and they implement a level of security I could never afford for myself.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            The best compromise I’ve found is a company-controlled Virtual Machine on my hardware. Then they control what connects to their system and I control how much of its environment it has access to. It cannot record audio with no virtual mic nor video with no virtual cam. Plus, good luck spilling coffee onto it, and I can back it up and recover from a drive failure.

            I also am able to take security more seriously than my employer can. I’ve seen some downright bizarre security and procedural compromises in the name of keeping nontechnical personnel happy.

            Every reason they have to want a physical footprint in my home can be flipped 180 as to why I don’t want it.

          2. Rain's Small Hands*

            I did software asset management for a bit during my career, and people who used their own equipment were horrifying. Because anything that gets used for work is available to audit for licensing – and not everyone has their home copy of all their software license. This is especially true for software that is free or volunteer paid for home use (a lot of malware prevention and virus protection stuff used to be like this) but for profit corporations had no choice but to pay for it.

            After a few million dollars of fines – no you can’t use your home PC to do anything but access web based software.

            And yes, the malware/virus problem was also horrific coming from the PCs not managed by IT.

          3. Deejay*

            The TV series The Rookie addressed this. A new cop takes a photo of a crime scene using his personal phone. His training officer tells him why it’s a bad idea.

            Think of the most embarrassing photo on your phone. Imagine lawyers looking at it if the crime scene photo is used in evidence.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          See, I have never worked somewhere where the company/organization was willing to replace personal equipment if it broke. I don’t want to use my personal devices unless the company is going to replace them when they inevitably break more quickly. Also, it’s nice to be able to just…close the work computer at the end of the day and turn off the work cell phone and just ignore them.

          1. Nicosloanica*

            This is my feeling; I travel for work sometimes and it really irked me to be bringing around my own personal laptop (or tablet). It gets a lot more wear and tear on the road. The company should be paying for that, not me!

          2. Sharkie*

            I worked for a company that paid for my personal lap top repairs after I pointed out that they need me to have a mac to do my job, or I would be more than happy to buy a new laptop with all the programs I needed ( I had bought all the programs years earlier while I was in school) on the company card. The $500 repair vs a $3000 mac sealed the deal

        3. DataSci*

          This is exactly why I don’t want to use my own hardware – I want full control over what is installed and full assurance that there will be no spyware installed.

          For this particular use case, closing the laptop may force it to sleep (and will hide the camera in any case) and a white noise app on a phone or tablet placed near the laptop will drown out a lot of sound.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Same. I work for a government agency, so if I do work on my personal laptop, I’m opening myself up to that device potentially coming under a FOIA request. (Not definitely, but potentially.)

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Agreed, I didn’t mean my personal computer; I meant another computer I also own that’s dedicated to work.

          2. Kacihall*

            I don’t think anyone in my company is savvy enough to set up remote recording, but even if they did… I’m so glad they’ve given me such a terrible laptop that the battery doesn’t work and it needs to be plugged in to work.

        4. MigraineMonth*

          I’m in IT, and I swing the opposite way. I would rather keep my work and personal devices separate so there’s no chance my personal activity is being monitored and the company can’t wipe my personal data when I leave.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Yes, this is beyond outrageous. OP1, document the heck out of everything–bringing it up with your employer, how they respond, etc.–because that will be useful should you decide you need to quit, or face retaliation, or contact an employment attorney. For example, follow up by email to summarize conversations you’ve had.

      I hope you’ll share an update about how this crazy story unfolds.

    3. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

      I doubt this is the company itself, though they are still responsible, but it sounds to more like a rogue IT person who thinks this is cute. Or even profitable, if they are recording video to put out on a pay website somewhere. Yikes.

        1. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

          Because of the insanity of the world we live in. And if you have been reading this site for a long time, you will have come across every variety of stupid and malicious, that’s why.

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, but it’s still more likely that it IS the company, with the second most likely being a ridiculous level of stupidity and incompetence. A rouge employee is the least likely scenario.

          2. Kella*

            Wildly bad actors are possible but the fact that we learn about a lot of them on this site is not representative of the proportion of bad actors vs, mistakes and unintentional acts based in incompetence in the real world. The concentration of wild stories is obviously going to be higher on an advice blog.

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          They are, regrettably, reasonable things to concern yourself with when you find a work controlled device recording at times it shouldn’t be.

          In reality, it’s almost to be hoped that this was the responsibility of a bad actor – one bad actor is something that can potentially be found, fixed, and penalized. If this is corporate policy, though… even if LW gets out of dodge, it is almost certainly still happening to other employees.

      1. somanyquestions*

        Why are they recording her video & audio while she’s working? That alone is plenty creepy enough and I would never trust that employer. This is just another layer of awful.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Intentionally recording is awful and inexcusable.

          Unintentionally recording is awful, but at least worth finding out what happened. It’s downright impressive what people who aren’t tech savvy can do by accident, and this might be a sign of incompetence instead of evil. At which point, you might still judge that you can’t work with that level of incompentence.

          1. Observer*

            Recording *when the computer is in sleep mode* is almost certainly not something that “happened by accident”. And if it did, you are dealing with a level of incompetence and carelessness that is simply dangerous.

            Did someone “accidentally” put a camera in the bathroom? Set all phone calls to record? Provide people’s PII to a marketing company? etc.

            1. I should really pick a name*

              For all we know, the LW changed the setting to allow the camera in sleep mode by accident themselves.
              I feel like finding out more about the situation would come before quitting.

              1. Observer*

                It’s unlikely that the OP did it themselves. But regardless, if the company did it, then it’s inexcusable, regardless of whether it was intentional or not.

              2. Nina*

                as someone who has very carefully and deliberately done exactly that (so I can remote into my personal laptop and check on my pets without having to leave it active and vulnerable to cat feet all the time) I’m not buying that LW could have done that on accident.

            2. Rain's Small Hands*

              I once saw a case where the entire corporate server inventory was wiped out “by accident” – they meant to do an upgrade or something to desktops, and clicked the wrong few buttons, and managed to reimage their servers to Windows desktops. I once worked for a place where the data center ended up shut down because instead of pushing the button that opened the door, someone OPENED THE COVER on the “FIRE!” button and pushed that accidentally – setting off the fire suppression. People can do AMAZINGLY stupid things – and Windows policies are obscure and easy to screw up.

              1. Observer*

                Both of these items are firing level actions in most cases. Sorry, even with good automation in place, re-imaging your servers needs a few steps with some pretty explicit warnings. Ignoring those warnings is generally inexcusable.

                As for the fire alarm, that was probably not an “accident”. It may not have been malicious, but the person took an extra actions and then ignored a specific label. It could be just stupidity, but it’s not just of the “amazing” kind, it’s of the dangerous kind.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Eh, if people think they’re trapped they do some amazing things. I had a VP tell the story of a guy at a major pharma company who was in the walk-in freezer and thought the door was locked, so rather than hit the Giant Red Escape Button (right next to the door) he grabbed the fire ax and hacked his way out of the door, resulting in the entire contents of the freezer (the size of a large room) being lost because they couldn’t close the door again.
                  (I do think that guy was fired.)

                2. Observer*

                  Yes, but something is generally very wrong if someone thinks they are trapped without options.

                  Sometimes the problem is that they ARE trapped and they have no option. But if the problem is something else that’s generally time for a firing or a significant re-think of the department or company and maybe some firings.

      2. BatManDan*

        I would quit, even it was unintentional, because that level of incompetence can’t be trusted to get anything right. Of course, I’ve got a hair-trigger, and would quit almost every failure by those above me; must be why I’ve been self-employed for 34 years (48 if you start counting at the lemonade stand).

        1. Cmdrshpard*

          But being unintentional I question who’s incompetence it was.

          Was it actually OP’s fault did they leave a program running that they know records video/audio for certain disclosed things, or was it someone else that kept it running.

          During the past 2/3 years we have seen a fair amount of generally tech savy people that have made zoom/video/audio mistakes.

          The computer might have been recording/streaming but maybe OP left that on and no one was actually watching or doing it on purpose.

          A lot of times tech issues are really user error, but the user does not know/realize it. It can happen to anyone. I consider myself fairly tech savy, but even I have had issues, just the other day I was trying to log into something and the password was not working. Before I reset it, I had a coworker try to log on for me and they were able to get it. I had just been typing in the wrong password, even as I was looking at the exact PW I needed.

          1. Observer*

            Was it actually OP’s fault did they leave a program running that they know records video/audio for certain disclosed things, or was it someone else that kept it running.

            The OP put the computer in sleep mode. That is supposed to suspend everything! If this recording over-rode it, that was NOT something that the OP should have expected!

            The computer might have been recording/streaming but maybe OP left that on and no one was actually watching or doing it on purpose.

            That does NOT matter. If the computer continues to record when IT IS IN SLEEP MODE (yes, I’m shouting) that’s a major over-step. Because *by definition* sleep mode is supposed to PUT EVERYTHING TO SLEEP. Even is someone wasn’t “doing it on purpose”, this could only happen if someone is utterly negligent, in the best case.

            Keep in mind that “I didn’t mean anything” is NOT a defense for things that people SHOULD have known – that’s the definition of culpable negligence. So, the BEST case scenario is that this company is negligent and utterly irresponsible. And what ELSE are they going to do “without meaning it”?

            1. Cmdrshpard*

              OP thinks/attempted to put it in sleep mode, maybe they thought they did but didn’t actually put it in sleep mode, or they put it in sleep mode but something/someone bumped it and brought it out of sleep mode and it restarted the audio/video recording.

              I have had my computer in sleep mode before and had it wake up just by bumping the desk.

              If OP was not told/aware that audio/video recording was something the computer was even enabled to do, yes I agree quitting immediately is a reasonable option. A company recording you without your consent is not one to continue to work for.

              But if OP was aware of the recording generally and they may be partially to blame, I do think some investigation would be warranted to figure out what happened vs quitting on the spot. Was it a technical error, was it OP’s fault, person purposely trying to spy in them/employees.

      3. Observer*

        You’d quit if it was unintentional?

        Why not. If this was unintentional, it means that they are too stupid and incompetent to trust. It’s like the guy who tossed an ax at someone else. He didn’t MEAN any harm, he just “didn’t think”. But he still got fired on the spot because he’s still dangerous.

        The same thing is true here. They did something that is extremely easy to avoid – in fact in most cases you have to take action to make this happen – that is almost certainly illegal and beyond “problematic”. What other stupid, dangerous and / or illegal stuff are they going to do next?

        Think about this – do you think that the the employee who threatened to quit when her third paycheck went missing was wrong? That wasn’t intentional either!

        1. RagingADHD*

          I think the employee who waited three pay periods to do anything about their missing checks was very foolish to wait that long. And that *opening the conversation* with threatening to quit was entirely the wrong way to handle it.

          I also think that just because a user assumes that sleep mode is going to override anything else they may have running does not mean anyone is doing anything nefarious, nor does it mean that the company’s IT people are incompetent or untrustworthy.

          It means the user made an incorrect assumption.

          It is a very bad idea to approach your livelihood (or life in general) from a default position of getting angry or upset when your assumptions turn out to be incorrect. It’s a lot healthier and more productive to start with “clearly something is wrong, let’s find out what happened.” Save your energy until you know what’s actually going on.

          1. Observer*

            You must have read a different incident.

            the employee who waited three pay periods to do anything about their missing checks was very foolish to wait that long.

            Firstly, the employee didn’t wait 3 periods to do something about their pay. They did something after the first missed paycheck, under the reasonable assumption that bringing it to payroll would get it resolved. And it was a perfectly reasonable assumption- any competent payroll person should have been lit on fire by an error like that.

            And that *opening the conversation* with threatening to quit was entirely the wrong way to handle it.

            I don’t think you are right. But it’s not even relevant, because she did NOT open the conversation that way.

            But the bottom line is that she was 100% in the right to threaten to quit if it was not fixed that day, even though it was accidental. Same thing here. Whether or not it was accidental, some things are too big to leave.

            I also think that just because a user assumes that sleep mode is going to override anything else they may have running does not mean anyone is doing anything nefarious, nor does it mean that the company’s IT people are incompetent or untrustworthy.

            You are entitled to your opinion, but you are factually wrong about the most significant issue. The assumption that putting a computer into sleep mode would turn off recording is totally reasonable – that’s one of the things sleep mode is SUPPOSED TO do. Thus, if the company over-rode that without explicitly letting the OP know and getting their consent, they did something wrong.

      4. Rosyglasses*

        Yes – because my trust in the company would be broken beyond repair in that type of scenario if they can’t have checks in place to avoid this on an unintentional basis. It’s simply not in the same category as other unintentional errors that might occur.

    4. Sales Geek*

      No, don’t quite immediately. In fact keep things quiet but do two things:
      1) Talk to colleagues you trust and ask them to check on their PCs for this kind of off-hours recording
      2) Talk to a lawyer.
      This deserves more than a “take this job and shove it” exit. This is lawsuit territory.

      1. Morgan Proctor*

        Yeah, this is egregious enough that I’d at least pay for an hour of a lawyer’s time to see if this is actionable. In many states it’s downright illegal to record without consent, and even if it’s company policy to record during work hours, doing so outside of that time would likely go against those laws. OP, please consider getting an outside legal opinion before you confront your management!

    5. WillowSunstar*

      This is why I always keep my laptop closed while at home unless in a work meeting that requires video to be on. I also power it down at the end of every workday. I’ve read too many horror stories like this online since COVID started.

      1. Pumpkin215*

        Same here! There is always a cover on my camera, unless video is required for a meeting. If I am not working, my laptop is powered down.

        It takes 10 seconds at the end of the day to shut it off. I would be just as livid if I found out a company was recording me, but I also take steps to make sure that won’t happen.

        1. Lost academic*

          She said she put it to sleep. That’s equivalently off but you don’t have to close your files and you can start back up faster. I use that a lot. It’s in an extremely low power state and shouldn’t be possible to record audio and video and obviously be streaming it…. So clearly in this case the laptop wasn’t asleep and there’s a problem.

      2. DannyG*

        Previously I worked in an environment with 100% video coverage due to the nature of the materials we handled. Now I’m working 100% from home, but still with sensitive data. I assume some monitoring. Have covers on my cameras, use headphones/Mike for reducing audio outside my office & converted a large storage space into an office with a door that is closed & locked when I’m not present. Employer provides equipment.

      3. MsSolo UK*

        We’re strongly discouraged from ever leaving a work laptop on sleep overnight – it’s not great for the load on the processor, it impacts on some of the update rollouts, and it leaves you more vulnerable to stuff like this. If you’re not returning within the hour, it should be shut down.

    6. toomuch*

      How about before jumping to conclusions, OP does what should be the first step when unusual behavior occurs: contact your IT team. There could be malware on the laptop. They will scan it, and then you can go from there.


      1. Rosyglasses*

        I said what *I* would do – not what I was recommending the OP do. Two very different things, thanks.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This is what I came looking for — first step is to find out if the COMPANY knows this is happening.

    7. tessa*

      I’d want to “quit immediately” but wouldn’t, not with kids to feed and bills to pay. I’d just resolve to find another job ASAP.

  3. The Real Fran Fine*

    OP #3, if it makes you feel any better, I’m 12 years into my career and had almost the exact same gut punch happen to me around this time last year when I discovered one of my teammates – a woman who had been with my company for 6 or so years and had actually referred me to my new job on her team – was leaving the company to go pursue a different opportunity. Like your person, mine didn’t leave on a bad note and she was a font of institutional knowledge having worked with C-level execs and product teams for years. I would often pick her brain on a topic I happened to be working on, so I kind of panicked when she told me she was moving on when I had only been in the new role 4ish months (I was an internal transfer from another team) – her leaving meant I was now the most tenured company employee with a writing focus in my department. People were going to start coming to me for advice/guidance, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it and got a little freaked out. Then I also felt sad because I just genuinely liked her as a person (when we had time, we had some great non-work chats).

    Well, like Alison said, when we came back from the holiday and dived back into the swing of our work, the feeling of…almost bereavement?…went away and I learned I actually knew a lot more about my company and how things worked than I originally thought I did, lol. I also got promoted this year due to my hard work and being the company history SME for the group, so things really did get better and worked out for me. Plus, her leaving opened up a spot for me in management that I don’t think I would have gotten otherwise anytime soon. That unintended bonus also helped soften the blow, lol.

    This is my long winded way of saying I agree with Alison – this is a normal feeling, but it too shall pass. And she’s right that you can always reach out from time to time to check on her to see how she’s doing if you want to keep that connection going.

    1. allathian*

      Oh yes. When the employee who helped to onboard me when I started in my current job, I had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was relieved because we didn’t get along at all. I realize that I’m at least partly to blame, because I was too dependent on her at the start. But she never said anything, just blew me off, and it left me feeling very insecure, and our extremely work-focused manager didn’t help. I needed more reassurance than they were able/willing to give, but nobody directed me towards any other resources either, so I was left feeling very incompetent.

      But still, when my coworker quit, I felt like I got thrown in at the deep end. But to my surprise, people were happy with my work, and I settled down quickly when the anxiety caused by dealing with my coworker and manager let up, and even my manager realized that I was excelling at my job and gave me my first raise a few months later. I worked on my own for 6 months until we managed to recruit a replacement for my coworker, and now that I was the more experienced one, I realized that I had more to contribute than just my expertise, I could make it easier for the next person to do well in the job.

    2. Mim*

      My situation isn’t identical, but has a lot of similarities to yours. Including the realization that I had grown into one of those people who herself has a lot of institutional knowledge, and was becoming a go-to person when people had questions about things related to my team’s work. And yeah, the confidence also comes with a hefty dose of freakout — I objectively do not have the specific education and experience to fill some knowledge gaps. And I often get hit by a wave of sadness for the team I used to have, and the genuine friendships — some were work friendships, but some persist, and when people who are important to you in any way leave it is absolutely normal to grieve. Even when they’re alive and well and thriving doing new things. I am slowly finding my new people for worky-work stuff and for connection/feeling human and connected. It is hard. It is normal. It is normal for it to be hard.

      1. Lana*

        Yes. I had a very close relationship with the manager who promoted me into management and with whom I worked closely for five years. I cried when she gave notice, I cried the night before she left, I wrote a note about how glad I was to have worked with her and how much her mentorship meant to me.

        But life goes on. I still miss being on the team she led — I’m probably professionally more fulfilled overall, but I have cordial but not close relationships with my colleagues, whereas we had a really amazing group with strong rapport who had fun while doing a good job — but it’s amazing how fast someone you talk to every day becomes somebody you used to know. It’s totally ok to be sad and even grieve, and it’s also OK if you move on, and it’s also ok to feel all of that at once.

        1. Lily*

          “It’s totally ok to be sad and even grieve, and it’s also OK if you move on, and it’s also ok to feel all of that at once.”
          Also keeping this.

    3. Maglev to Crazytown*

      I have also seen the flip side of this, where some long time anchors with substantial institutional knowledge and the respect of colleagues started leaving, and it ended up being the front of the avalanche. In that situation, there were a lot of strong technical mid-career people who were disproportionately shouldering the place, and once one of them figuratively pulled their finger out of the dike and walked away, the water started rising for the others still holding things together. A year later, and almost all of those top performers have up and left, as well as the strong newer staff who realized what a wealth of knowledge they had, and really were the only thing keeping them from greener pastures as well.

      1. Smithy*

        Yeah….I came here to say that completely tamping down any kind of fear or worry actually isn’t wise.

        There are lots and lots of workplaces that are “ok” provided you have a good manager or are protected from more chaotic elements. Basically, if you’re well positioned, the job can really work for you – but if you’re poorly positioned the job can be miserable. I don’t think it’s uncommon at all for people to work for supervisors or with senior staff who actually do a LOT to prevent junior staff from being on the front lines of the “worst” of whatever badness is present at any given employer.

        Now this isn’t to say if you feel badly about someone leaving, to immediately look to leave too. But just to pay attention to whether those are feelings of sadness and disappointment at a losing someone we like working with. OR whether it’s worry or anxiety about what will happen when they’re gone. It’s not about then having a panicked reaction but rather acknowledging that this worry is your body letting you know that something bad might be coming and be prepared for it.

        1. Maglev to Crazytown*

          I ended up leaving in the midst of that, and the only strong performers left now because they feel personally obligated to “fix” things are now hitting the point of mentally and physically burning out and breaking. I am friends with several of them still (knee them well for over a decade), and have been coaching them into accepting it is time to go and they can’t do this to themselves. I held on as long as I could before I couldn’t do it anymore. I also keep in touch professionally with some of the younger staff I had been mentoring, and many of them too see the writing on the wall and know they need to get out, because it isn’t and won’t get better. The jobs aren’t going anywhere (think federal funding), but the place is getting a such a local reputation that no one in the area is touching them with a 20 ft pole.

          1. Smithy*

            Yeah – I think that it’s really important to note that a “bad” workplace doesn’t have to mean wildly horrific dumpster fire where you’ll definitely get fired or your employer is going under. It can simply mean that going to work becomes increasingly miserable.

            It’s usually never that one person is 100% responsible for holding all the knowledge or protecting an entire team from rampant chaos. But rather that lots of us work for places that have pros/cons and part of what keeps those pros in balance is often the people that we work with.

            1. Maglev to Crazytown*

              In my work case, I think there actually was that “one person” who if not started it all, drastically accelerated the downfall. They had been there until solid mid career from fresh out of school, and had become known to everyone at all levels as a pillar of stability, competence, and knowledge, with high visibility. It was a dual edged sword because they were able to rise to a certain level, but were not allowed to keep advancing because they were needed where they were. After they left, everyone kept saying, “nothing feels the same anymore without Bob.” So there are some of those individuals at places who really do hold that role, while I know 99% of places do truly have the “hand in a bucket of water mentality” (what happens when you remove your hand from a bucket of water?… You still have a bucket of water.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              My manager/holder of 50% of the team’s institutional knowledge took early retirement shortly after I took my new job. After an adjustment period when the new manager came in, I’ve used the shake-up to advocate for moving off of very old processes, increasing the amount of cross-training and making sure institutional knowledge is better documented.

    4. Lacey*

      Yup. I know one of my coworkers will be leaving probably in the next year and I’m already sad about it. We work closely together! She’s a great person to have on the team!

      And, for me, I hate the idea of breaking in someone new. You do not know what you’re going to get with a new coworker. And while my company has a pretty good track record of hiring good people for my department, it’s still the unknown future.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Your last paragraph is so true. I also don’t like the unknown, so when coworkers leave, I’m always going to be concerned about the replacement hire. The wrong person can really throw off the vibe of a team, especially one that already works together pretty well, and it’s hard to gauge someone’s true personality in interviews sometimes. I hope the OP gets a good replacement coworker soon!

    5. Colette*

      Yeah, I’ve been the person leaving, and I knew it would be hard for those left behind, but I also knew it would be good for them – they’d learn and grow in ways they never would if I stayed there. It’ll be OK.

    6. Generic Name*

      Yep. Often one knowledgeable person leaving opens up opportunities for others. I had a decent relationship with my boss, but when she left, my career at my company skyrocketed. I got a promotion (not her job, but one at the same level) and am now handling things she used to handle and even higher level things. All in the course of a year or so.

    7. Office Lobster DJ*

      Also offering my commiseration for LW3, as someone who has weathered a lot of key people leaving. One memorable one was such a blow that I spent the weeks before their departure trying to conceal a state of constant panic. And, as it turned out, all the worries I had about what their departure would mean….well, they were absolutely founded. But the point is that’s okay! My workplace survived it. I survived it. The lessons I took away from it may not be the ones LW is going to learn, but I guarantee it’s a chance to learn something.

      Also, LW, don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re having an overreaction. It sounds like this is a key figure in your job, the place where you spent a huge chunk of your waking hours. This departure will probably have more of a measurable impact on your daily life than losing a friendship.

      1. Lana*

        We talk to our coworkers so much. Especially in the pandemic, I spent more time with the tight group of managers in my department than I did with anyone other than my husband. It’s totally rational to feel grief about losing those connections even if you don’t consider yourself personally close to them in the way you are to friends.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I had a boss leave and it was really scary because there were so many things it seemed like only he knew how to do (which is why cross-training is so important; don’t let it get to the point where only one person knows how to do things!!!). He did give a ton of notice though and we had a lot of knowledge share meetings to learn as much as we could from him before he left.

      There was one task in particular that I worked on that I never felt like I had a good grasp on because he would review it and then tell me to change a bunch of things without really explaining why. After he left I was so scared about this, but I ended up learning so much more! I had to train my new manager on it and doing that made us dig deep into pieces I’d never really thought about before and I ended up becoming the new subject matter expert on this task. I actually even eventually left my job and joined a different company that hired me for this specific knowledge! (I ended up regretting that move and going back to the first company but that is unrelated lol)

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        If you’re going to snarkily try to correct someone’s grammar, love, make sure you know what you’re talking about. The original past participle of the word “dive” is “dived.” “Dove” came after and according to Merriam-Webster, either version is correct.

        Have a nice day :)

  4. ChrisZ*

    Dear, dear OP#2… I transcribe court hearings. What could be said in 2 minutes in 5 sentences will go on for 10 minutes and 12 pages. Then the judge will chime in with their thoughts, legal argument will ensue, somebody will finally realize that they are waaay deep into something completely irrelevant to the case at hand, and decide it’s time to break for lunch. Thankfully, I get paid by the minute :)

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Oh, this. I am not a lawyer, but I am the child of a lawyer, and so that means that my parents had many lawyer friends. Lawyers can often be … erm … verbose. Most of the time, it’s part of their charm, but apparently not in this case.

      That goes double because these lawyers are retired. They don’t have a schedule as packed with work commitments as LW2 does; this meeting IS the thing they have to do today, whereas LW is trying to bang through this meeting to get to everything else she has to do today.

      LW2 needs to keep the agenda tight at the top of the meeting, and then once she’s gotten through all of the business, and the lawyers start to chat, she can drop off the call and let them keep socializing.

      1. Artemesia*

        given the volunteer nature of all this, the only way to manage it for the oP is the ‘I have a hard stop at 11 and we need to get to X and Y for decisions before then, so I am going to keep us focused on that.’ THEN when this doesn’t happen, which is won’t, you stop at 11 and let a couple of days go by and if X and Y are hindered, that is the price.

        If this kind of discipline doesn’t work, find somewhere else to vounteer.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          This is exactly the strategy my boss has asked me to use at my paid job. We have meetings with external partners that sometimes run over by substantial time periods (upwards of an hour) and she explicitly said, if you have another meeting or something else you need to get done, it’s perfectly fine to just say you have to leave to get to the next thing on time and then leave the call. I haven’t done this yet (my plate isn’t full enough for it to have been necessary so far) but I’ve seen her do it and I’ve never seen anyone react like it was unusual, rude, or unprofessional.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Defending lawyers here. Not all of us drone on.

      I am president of my local philanthropic organization (3rd year in a row, this needs to stop). Before I became president, board meetings went on for 1.5 hours. People wandered off the topic. There were arguments and people stormed out of meetings. Since I became president, I usually bring the meetings in under 45 minutes. Everything gets covered. Everyone has a chance to speak. But when we start getting too detailed on a project, I say “Okay, here’s the committee, report back details at the next meeting” and MOVE ON. If someone wants to skip around on the agenda, I say “We will get to that later.” No one has stormed out and there have been no arguments. Debates and discussion yes. No arguments.

      So OP, set your boundaries. Enforce them. The other 2 will adapt. If they don’t. You are a volunteer and can decide this is not for you.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Also a lawyer, and I agree. I teach a couple law school classes and I try to teach my students the portapotty method of lawyering: get in, do what you’ve got to do, and get the heck out of there.

        But hey, if people want to punch at lawyers, then they do. Those people are also the first to lawyer up at the drop of a hat, so if they want to pay me lots of money to tell them not to talk to cops/actually pay their child support/take down the fence that’s actually on the neighbor’s lawn, fine by me.

        1. FisherCat*

          The portapotty method of lawyering is a hilarious turn of phrase. And also a useful one in the loony place where I am employed.

        2. BorisTheGrump*

          I’m a lawyer and am now considering getting “portapotty lawyering” tattooed on my body.

          Thank you for this

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Agreed. A lawyer can keep things brief and efficient if they have an incentive to — whether because your client is sensitive about their costs, or your time/wordcount is strictly enforced, or your supervising lawyer is pressed for time, or whatever. Law school is pedagogically unsound in a lot of ways, but maybe the experience of having to write law school exam answers in very tight timeframes is good for something.

        1. zuzu*

          Back when I was practicing, I had a case where the judge was going blind, and he required all briefs to be in 18-point type. Only he didn’t raise the page limit.

          Man, did that do good things for my concision.

      3. JustaTech*

        Aregeed that not all lawyers drone on: my aunt the retired lawyer is really good about keeping our family Zoom calls from getting dominated by one person or other, and keeping the conversation flowing.

        My just-now-retired father in law the sales guy? He *loves* to talk and the majority of his business emails (family business so I’ve seen them) are along the lines of “call me” – often in response to a question that would be a single sentence to answer by email.

        As far as I have observed, there are some fields where verbal communication is preferred, and there are some people who prefer verbal communication, and these often but not always overlap.

  5. Bizhiki*

    I’m so curious, what would an appropriate response from the employer be in LW1’s situation? I’m not sure a simple apology would cut it for me, even if it was unintentional. What could LW1 expect as an ideal response?

    1. Ochre*

      At minimum, I would want to know why it happened, what information was recorded (I want to see the tape myself), who authorized the software to be used this way, who activated the recording, who has accessed the recording,
      how the company intends to prove that all copies have been deleted, and how they intend to make sure it won’t happen again.

      The constellation of all those answers is huge…maybe it was a software glitch or feature with unintended consequences, maybe the program or the computer was hacked, maybe someone was acting maliciously, maybe someone made a mistake, etc…but the answers hopefully point towards preventing it in the future. If an actual human did it on purpose, I’d want to know how they will be prevented from doing it again.

    2. MK*

      I think it depends on what exactly is going on. This is a work laptop, right? Is it recording everything constantly as long as it isn’t turned off? Was this a decision on someone’s part, or an unintended feature if software that was installed for another reason?

      1. BubbleTea*

        Whatever the reason or cause, I’d want to know precisely what was done to delete all the recordings and to ensure it never happens again. A handwavy “oops, we’ll sort that” wouldn’t be enough.

    3. ecnaseener*

      The only response that I’d think could fix this would be “it was a bizarre glitch/mistake/virus, we’re taking immediate steps to delete all recordings and prevent this from happening again.”

      Even if the situation was “oops human error that was supposed to turn off at 5pm” I’d encourage LW to job-search.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I’d also expect “and here is a completely brand new computer” because no way I’d trust that computer again.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I think this needs to be reported by the LW and investigated by the company.

      I do not think the “company” made a decision to do this to every employee. I suspect this could be one creepy person. But if it’s a company decision, tell everyone else and quit.

      Is this on every work laptop, only the women’s, only the LWs? Is it always on or just turned on since working from home/bed?

      I have so many questions that the LW didn’t answer in her question.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      A sincere apology; a clear explanation of what happened; if someone did this, holding them accountable; and a material plan to prevent it from happening again. And then I’d consider whether I was satisfied enough to stay.

  6. Emmy Noether*

    I’m not going to comment on the recording in #1, because that’s just so clearly not ok. But people, please, please, unless you have simulation or database stuff or something running overnight that requires your computer to be on all night, just turn the damn thing OFF. Not sleepmode, off. The planet and your wallet will thank you. As a nice side effect, it cannot record you, accidentally or otherwise, if it’s off.

    1. allathian*

      Absolutely. My employer is big on privacy, so the risk of anything similar happening to me is low. But I still turn my computer off at the end of the workday.

      Besides which, it’s not even 100% certain the employer is to blame, they could’ve been hacked. Granted, the employer is the more likely guilty party, but there are other options to explore, too.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, if I were LW 1, I would approach this as an IT security issue (first) towards my employer. One of the things they tell us to look out for is the computer doing things ‘by itself’, so this is obviously concerning.

        And indeed, turn the thing off and close it. The actual laptop will last longer, too.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I was thinking about this – I always shut my lid, but that’s because I live with a cat who loves keyboards, so it’s more for cat prevention. So when I read this I couldn’t figure out how the camera would be recording until it occurred to me OP must have kept the lid open.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Totally tangential, but have you ever noticed how on TV, they’ll often end a videocall by just shutting the lid, without ending the call? I’m always like WTF are you DOING?! Disconnect! I guess at least there’ll be no video if it doesn’t disconnect, just audio.

          So yeah, shut down and shut the lid.

          1. Rick Tq*

            TV wants/needs a big obvious action like closing the lid. Just clicking a mouse button isn’t dramatic enough. Besides, it is likely the actor is reacting to a blank screen and the other image is inserted in post..

    2. Bilateralrope*


      There were a lot of settings in Windows that I had to disable just to get my desktop to stay asleep when I told it to sleep. For example, ‘wake on lan’ meant that I could never get the desktop to stay off for over a minute if it was plugged into a wired LAN with at least one other computer on it.

      My laptop sometimes wakes up instantly when I tell it to sleep, unless I close the lid. I haven’t got round to figuring out why.

      Best to just shut it down. With modern operating systems on an SSD, it boots up very quickly.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Absolutely. My home office doubles as a guest room, and when I forgot to shut my laptop off once, my guests complained about being woken up by the screen going bright randomly. It’s probably some setting I could change, but I’d rather just remember to turn it off.

        Also, if you never shut it off, Windows will eventually force a reboot for updates, probably just as you sit down right in time for an important meeting.

      2. SarahKay*

        Side note: if you are on a recent version of Windows, you will probably benefit from doing an actual Restart every few days – not Shut Down and then turn it on again, but specifically a Restart.
        Apparently the default for Windows now is to still retain some settings when Shut Down so that it can boot up faster. To really clear everything you need to do a Restart (or adjust settings buried somewhere to make it fully clear on a Shut Down).
        I have no idea who at MS thought this was a good idea, but it came to light recently at work and IT have now set up Restart reminders if we haven’t Restarted in the last five days. I’ve even seen it in action; external webpages wouldn’t load for some reason and shutting down didn’t fix it, but a restart did.

        1. JM60*

          Perhaps you’re referring to the “fast startup” option, which can be disabled in the Power Options.

        2. Bilateralrope*

          That would be the fast startup option.

          Right now the restarts Windows Update requires are enough to prevent my computers from having issues. So I’ll keep using it for now.

        3. mlem*

          … I think you just explained why, when my VPN flakes out on launch after shutdown/start, a restart fixes it. Thank you!

    3. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Always. I call it “giving the computer a break too.” I find the laptop generally works better this way.

      Our IT “tech assistant” used to tell people to leave it on overnight for updates to download and install. Nope, not me! I would keep and eye out for those updates and run them during lunch or at the end of the day before I left.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        This is funny because I used to put my PC to sleep instead of shutting down and my PC was not getting updates and started not working properly. My IT Department told me I should shut down at night so that the system reboots to complete updates. My not shutting down was preventing the updates from completing and my PC was a mess.

    4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Regrettably, the “it can’t record you if it’s off” isn’t entirely true – If the problem is caused by a deliberate actor who has configured the computer (IT or Corporate), it absolutely can be setup to record you, even if you turn the machine off. Methods of doing this can range between false shutdown messages, to simple pre-configured commands that it turn back on at a specific time (or possibly even a defined period of time after the shut down command was issued), to more rare and esoteric methods.

      It gets scary. Best advice is really to keep work machines well away from bedrooms and private spaces, and preferably enclosed in cases when not in use.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Ok, but then it gets into really malicious territory. Shutting off will prevent accidents (such as leaving a call open), and misguided attempts at surveilling employees “while they work”. Setting a machine up to turn/stay on against the user’s will is a whole other level of 100% intentional evil and, as such, much less common.

        1. Observer*

          It does. But to be honest, the minute you are dealing with something running while in sleep mode, you are actually dealing with a high chance of malice. Because most of the things that could accidentally wake the computer up, would actually wake it up and the OP would have known that it’s not in sleep mode.

      2. Nina*

        I make a point of only owning computers that can be fully disconnected from power, including fully removeable battery if it’s a laptop. When I’m not using a laptop, its battery is removed, and it’s unplugged from power, lid closed, and shut in a drawer. When I’m not using a desktop, it’s turned off at the wall (I live in a country where we have power isolation switches at the power socket, this is in fact the normal way of doing it…) and any external camera and microphone are shut in a drawer.

    5. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

      I was going to come in here and say the same thing. Just turn it off.

      Also, lock your screen when you walk away, unless you’re at home and no one is around. People here leave their computers unlocked and leave for 30 minutes, it drives me crazy.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I started doing this when a former coworker bragged about sending “funny” emails from other people’s unlocked accounts as a prank. I no longer work with that… person…, but the Ctrl+L habit has stayed.

        1. Nina*

          in my workplace we’re required by IT policy to lock computers whenever we don’t have a direct line of sight to them (aerospace). There’s a Teams channel that is exclusively used for leaving ‘I LEFT MY COMPUTER UNLOCKED’ messages.

      2. Jojo*

        It’s company policy in my office that you lock your computer while you are away. There have always been people who don’t do it, and it has led to some pranks. I know someone who installed an audio file onto a guy named Dave’s computer and set it to go off every time the guy tried to shut down. The audio was “I’m sorry Dave I’m afraid i can’t do that” from 2001. It’s possible I changed all of the display settings on a coworker’s computer once. Another time, I sent the person an email from themselves that read something along the lines of “Dear CEO, you are a #$!&” That fixed the problem really quickly.

        Those were the good old days. I’m pretty sure I could get fired for doing anything like that today.

        1. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

          It was policy at a couple of projects of mine, but those were also on active military bases dealing with nasty stuff. If IS saw your computer unlocked without you at it, they would lock it down for you and prevent you from signing on. People learn fast after that.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Company legend talks of a long-ago employee who took a screenshot of their coworker’s desktop, set that image as the background screen, and hid all their desktop icons in a folder…. a useful cautionary tale to people who weren’t locking their computer.

      3. Elder McKinley*

        Turn it off! Like a light switch, just go “click”. It’s a cool little Mormon trick. We do it all the time!

    6. UKgreen*

      Agreed! My work laptop used to randomly force software updates at inopportune moments (like in the middle of delivering a training course…) so I now shut it down every evening and let it start up every morning, so any necessary software updates are applied as they appear.

    7. Observer*

      The planet and your wallet will thank you.

      Not necessarily true. Sleep mode (when it’s ACTUALLY on) is efficient enough that it doesn’t necessarily take more energy than the startup of a computer.

    8. Rain's Small Hands*

      So many times in IT we’d get desktop calls that could be fixed by a simple reboot, but the employee hadn’t turned off their PC in MONTHS.

    9. Rara Avis*

      So from an earlier post (on a Friday, maybe) I learned I’m an outlier in that I close all my tabs every day. I also shut down my laptop at the end of every work day. Is it just that I’m older than dirt and retained the habit from my first computer, an Apple IIe? My kid certainly rarely shuts down their laptop. (I turn off my phone every night too, and neither phone nor laptop comes into the bedroom.)

  7. JustSomeone*

    OP 2: is it possible that the social component of this work is a significant part is why these other board members choose to be involved? I could be off base, but I get the sense that maybe the LW is trying to shoehorn a Sleek, Efficient Business approach into a board that mostly wants to socialize with other people who care about, for example, saving the endangered snails.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I noted this upthread, too. The other board members are on the board to spend time with board members. LW is trying her best to zip through this meeting so that she can get to the other things she wants to do. Meanwhile, the meeting IS the thing the other board members want to do. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, but LW needs to be aware that getting off the call is her goal, whereas being on the call is their goal.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Yeh, this was my thought. They are semi-retired, they are enjoying the chats, you have more on your plate and no time.

      Another option is just to flag it’s all taking too much time, and see of someone else can pick up some of your tasks. Ideally the ones causing the most meetings of course.

      1. skadhu*

        Okay, I have to challenge this statement with a “not-all!”

        I have a vivid memory of a younger friend commenting that she would love to retire and have time to relax, and all the retirees around her bursting into hysterical laughter at the thought of being retired and having time to just sit around. Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean you stop working or taking work seriously! I live in a small community where almost all the non-profits are run by volunteer boards (one of which I’m on). On our board a significant number of members work anywhere from half to full time on any given day on organizational work. And some work on multiple boards or committees for different organizations.

        I’m lucky in that mine is a very functional board with people who work well together and get an enormous amount of stuff done, but we still have issues with people going off-topic or this person wants to communicate by email while that person wants phone calls… We have set some procedures in place to minimize these kinds of problems, and they work pretty well.

        But the problem still exists, though we’ve mitigated it. Essentially the issue isn’t that retirees like to chat and waste time because they have so much time that working people don’t, it’s that some PEOPLE like to chat and waste time, or have different working styles that conflict.

    3. OP2 board member*

      Oh, this is for sure part of it! That’s been a little easier to handle – when I schedule board meetings now, I always include a designated “networking” time (6-6:30: arrival and networking. 6:30-8: actual meeting agenda). That has helped keep the purely social stuff out of the main portion of the meeting.

  8. Irish Teacher.*

    While it’s not the issue, I also hope LW1 didn’t feel pressured to work while ill in bed. Working from home once you have recovered or if you are asymptomatic but still have to quarantine makes sense, but generally if you are ill enough to be in bed, you are ill enough to take sick days.

    Of course, it may have been the LW’s choice, but combined with the recording, I’m just hoping this isn’t a company that wants to ensure you are working at all times, even when sick with covid.

    1. MK*

      I assume the OP has no sick time off or didn’t want to use it. Covid affects people in many different ways, I can see someone who didn’t have fever or severe headache and felt able to work, but preferred to do it in bed to be more comfortable.

    2. Hound Dog*

      Yeah ditto. I worked all through my bout with Covid, and in hindsight I probably should have taken a couple days to just rest, but it felt just like a bad headcold for the most part. A day or two of crashing on the couch might of prevented the lingering cough I had.

    3. Dinwar*

      Many people don’t have enough room to have a dedicated office. I know more than a few that made an “office” by putting a desk in their bedroom, so that their spouse could have the kitchen table. This is largely forgotten these days, but at the start of the pandemic a LOT of people were worried about this sort of issue, not having sufficient space.

      And as MK said, Covid hits everyone differently. My bout was pretty mild–no different from my seasonal allergies, in fact–so other than the fact that I had a potentially deadly plague I was fine to work. As long as I was isolated and took breaks, I could answer emails, update spreadsheets, and generally do the work I needed to.

  9. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: I work IT and would be scared into a white face if told that any of our laptops were recording/transmitting audio and visual outside of video meetings. Like, that’s a I could lose my job and face legal consequences if it’s determined I knew about it and did nothing.

    Scary? No, terrifying. You are absolutely in the right to be utterly shocked. If I found my laptop to be doing this I’d be doing a cold shutdown and then putting the darn thing in a faraday cage.

    If the laws in the US are anything like in the UK your IT department should be very quick to plug this error – and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that maybe some system update did this or they hadn’t tested it or didn’t know. I’d rather believe the software or OS did something weird than this was deliberate because the second option would necessitate a run away from this firm like my hair was on fire.

    Stay safe out there people. IT security is important.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      This. It’s a huge liability from an IT security stand point and a legal standpoint. If the recording was done without their consent after the LW had put the laptop in sleep mode, I can easily imagine privacy lawyers circling like sharks.

      IMO, sight and sound monitoring in your home while working is … sketchy. After hours is just plain creepy and boundary breaking. If my laptop is supposed to be asleep, my employer shouldn’t be waking it up to spy on me.

  10. Tiger Snake*

    So there are three things:
    1. You shouldn’t be leaving a laptop on and connected to your wifi overnight anyways; that’s just bad practice, in the same sense that “don’t have your work laptop in your bedroom because it means you’re not disconnecting at the end of the day” is bad practice. So move to making that your new normal even if this gets resolved.

    2. The fact the laptop is recording doesn’t mean its being done by your employer or that the recordings are being sent back to them. The wifi being slow can be explained by the laptop auto-refreshing just as much as it sending data, and if the recordings are being uploaded we don’t know where. Step 1 is to find out; look at your router logs, speak to your IT department, and go from there.

    3. Finally; my emotive reaction:
    It has been more than TEN YEARS since Pennsylvanian schools were given a lawsuit for recording students on laptops without permission. There should be no excuse for this to keep happening and I am so angry that this is just ignored!

    This is surveillance, not phone recordings. In the US, businesses are allowed to monitor their employees but they need to inform their employees they’re doing so, and I believe that they should be given much stronger restrictions about when, how and what justifies their right to monitor you. In Australia, it is illegal – monitoring your employees outside of work is explicitly against the Privacy Act.

    1. Kate*

      “In Australia, it is illegal – monitoring your employees outside of work is explicitly against the Privacy Act.”
      I’m wondering how would the argument go if it is a work laptop and employee is supposed to use it strictly for working – what if employer claimed that it’s OK to monitor the laptop for all the time it is switched on because obviously it is all work time, and should it happen that laptop is recording something private, it is a proof of *employee* breaking rules, not them?

      1. bamcheeks*

        My work laptop has a “sleep” setting and a “hibernate” setting, and when I close it it sometimes activates the first, sometimes the latter, and sometimes neither and just keeps working! So the employer had better have evidence they’ve given employees very clear guidance on what constitutes “off” and how to make sure it’s fully switched off, especially if they’ve installed some kind of spyware that might actually prevent the laptop going into sleep/hibernate automatically.

        1. DataSci*

          Either way, closing it will *conceal the camera*, so that part is at least covered (pun intended). And as I mentioned upthread, a white noise machine near the laptop will muffle sounds. None of this should be necessary, but if the laptop can’t be moved to another room, it will mitigate the damage.

      2. Snow Globe*

        I could maybe see the company monitoring what is going on with the computer–making sure you aren’t watching porn on the company-issued laptop after hours. But they don’t need to turn on the camera and record video for that !

        1. MK*

          Yes, exactly. Monitoring the work the employee does requires knowing what is being done “on” the compute, not around it!

          1. Bilateralrope*

            What about if they are worried about someone extracting confidential data by taking photos of what’s on the screen ?

            Though then they get into the issue of going through all that footage to find something that’s unacceptable.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              Erosion of privacy could solve a lot of crimes and wrongdoings. But, generally, society has decided that there must be a balancing act.

            2. Dinwar*

              Monitoring employees via laptop cameras won’t stop corporate espionage or other bad actors. For one thing there are a thousand reasons why someone would take notes for work. I keep a notebook specifically for meetings, and used a scratch pad to jot down some info I needed to cross-reference just this morning. If I wanted to steal information from my computer screen I could EASILY hide it via such actions. And if anyone asked, I’m merely double-checking a project that had a hicup, like a good employee should! Hand my notebook to the competition and now they have access to confidential information. And how are you going to stop it? NOT letting me do my job? In this case I actually have an email chain a mile long explaining what I’m doing!

              I’m an honest man. I do not try to get away with things, and do not think like a criminal. And it took me all of three seconds to figure out how to circumvent your surveillance. Someone who actually wanted to could find many more ways to do so.

              So your justification for SPYING ON YOUR EMPLOYEES WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT is that you wish to engage in a futile attempt to prevent something that has an extremely low probability of happening.

              To moral principles come into play here.

              First, as Sam Vimes said, you don’t get to say “We’re the good guys” and do bad-guy things. If you want to be a good person you need to act like a good person.

              Second, if you do something that’s just at the edge of the line but technically doesn’t cross it, you have, for all intents and purposes, crossed the line. You know perfectly well you intended to, and are merely making excuses.

            3. Observer*

              What about if they are worried about someone extracting confidential data by taking photos of what’s on the screen ?

              What the others said. But also for that, you don’t need to have recording going on all the time, even in sleep mode. Because someone can’t be taking pictures of sensitive stuff on screen while the compute is in sleep mode.

              I want to highlight something about the invasion of privacy issue. It is true that we sometimes allow invasion of privacy when there is need to find malfeasance. But the idea is that you do that ONLY when you have actual and significant reason to believe that something is happening. We don’t allow police to search every car just because they are worried about contraband etc. In fact, as many here might remember, NYC got slapped down in court over their “stop and frisk” that was based on EXACTLY the kind of theory you mentioned. “Guns are dangerous so we need to just randomly stop and search people in neighborhoods where there are a lot of guns.” turns out to be a really bad way to protect a neighborhood, and it got tossed out of court for good reason.

            4. Tiger Snake*

              What about if they are worried about someone extracting confidential data by taking photos of what’s on the screen ?

              Then they shouldn’t be allowing WFH options in the first place.

              Video monitoring doesn’t stop people from taking images of the screen, and it doesn’t detect when people do. Its is an absolutely Not Relevant control for that scenario! Zero impact on control strength.

              But you know what? That risk isn’t even new! Ever since phones started having cameras this has been a risk in the office. If its such a big deal that you cannot afford to have any residual risk of corporate espionage left over, then you need your staff to work exclusively in a Faraday’s cage.

              There comes a point where you either need to you trust your staff aren’t going to do that, or not have the option at all. This is one of them; monitoring is Not a viable control.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        The argument would go (in most, but not all US locations) you cannot record audio or video without someone’s consent. A company policy to get “proof” of someone misusing work equipment cannot circumvent that. Unless the employee actually did consent, but if the consent form was vague enough that they weren’t expecting, it’d probably not hold water. Hell even if it were specific, you can’t consent to an illegal thing. It’s still illegal. So, recording your bedroom or bathroom because “maybe rule-breaking with company equipment” would still not fly.

        1. BatManDan*

          As I understand it, the rules against recording apply to anywhere that someone would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. You’re walking down the street? I can record you with no permission needed. You’re inside your home? Permission would be needed then.

      4. DyneinWalking*

        First of all, there some US states and several countries where it’s downright illegal to record someone without explicitly and unambiguously notifying them, and in those places, “they were supposed to be working” is going to be completely irrelevant.

        And actually, it’s irrelevant in all other places, too. If you poop on company time, the company may be paying you but still doesn’t get to watch. What matters is not if the time is work time, but the expected privacy.

        In this case, I see it like this: A laptop is a transportable computer, and unless the company strictly forbids taking the laptops home, it is reasonable to expect that employees will take it home and will place it in private spaces. Even if the company doesn’t intend to record private moments, the possibility that this will eventually happen because of a simple user error or a bug is really high (as we can see here) and should therefore be expected. So by recording everything by default, the company is accepting the eventual violation of privacy (which could be really severe) as collateral damage for an unknown and likely insignificant gain.

        IANAL but I think that unless the company has a really, really, really good reason to record audio and video as a default for all the time a work laptop is turned on will get the company in hot legal water, even if they manage to win eventually.

      5. Tiger Snake*

        Still illegal; Privacy Act covers collection, storage, use and disclosure. You must be notified that your information may be collected and for what purpose before collection starts. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that they are collecting only the information they specify as it relates to your employment and tell you if any that isn’t may be collected.


    2. Anonymous Educator*

      You shouldn’t be leaving a laptop on and connected to your wifi overnight anyways;

      It’s reasonable to close your laptop lid when you’re done working, but who’s really disconnecting it from Wi-Fi manually every day?

      1. PostalMixup*

        And it’s not like I’m shutting down my computer every day – I have waaaay too many browser tabs open for that!

        1. tessa*

          You can pin the tabs (right click on each tab, then select “pin”) so that you can shut down your computer and have the tabs open automatically when you re-boot it, f.y.i.

      2. Allonge*

        I am shutting it down every day, which takes care of the wifi. It makes for pretty long-lived laptops, too.

        Have too many tabs open? User Firefox and the ‘restore previous session’ option. Ta-da!

        1. Little Owl*

          Have too many tabs open? User Firefox and the ‘restore previous session’ option.

          This! I have multiple browser windows open, each with +20 tabs, and this is what I do.

          You can go to your browser setting and choose “open/restore previous session” as default, and the browser will automatically restore all your windows and tabs the moment you open the program. Firefox, Chrome, Opera all do this.

          I also disconnect the WiFi before shutting down the laptop. It takes less than one minute to do so, and the same amount to reconnect the next time.

  11. Anonosaurus*

    OP#3, I feel you so much on this one. In a long career I’ve said goodbye to many co-workers I was close to, and have cried at leaving presentations including my own. I think working relationships can become really intense, more so than we really expect and it feels weird to be so much affected by them ending. But I agree with the advice – it will be sad and it will be an adjustment but it’s never as difficult as you think once they’re gone. And if you have a real connection you can maintain that. I’m still friends with people I worked with 20 years ago and the shift in the situation can mean your relationship becomes closer or on a different footing. Your relationship with the co-workers who are still there can also improve as the overall dynamic changes.

    I think it’s best to acknowledge the sadness, not judge yourself for it, and be clear with the person if you want to see them socially or as a mentor/contact once they’ve left as you might have to do some of the work to make that transition happen. But it’s ok to be sad! We spend a lot of time with these folks.

  12. Luna*

    A good lesson to turn appliances off instead of just to sleep? Not just because it avoids stuff like this (seriously, WTF, LW’s company?), but also I think it’s overall better for the health and longevity of the appliances…

  13. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    For LW #3, I want to say it’s fine to feel whatever way you feel about things, but Alison’s advice to know that it’s going to be okay is also correct. Since this is your first professional role, it makes sense that this will hit you pretty hard, and I think that in the future, after you’ve been through it even once, you won’t feel so unbalanced when it happens again because you’ll have more experience in the work world and your professional network will have expanded so one person leaving won’t feel like it’s upsetting so much of your work life. (That was a LONG sentence, sorry, no time to fix, I hope I’m getting the point across!)

    1. ferrina*

      LW3 is also still just a few months in to the job. Usually onboarding takes several months to fully get your feet under you (in my industry, 3-6 months is rule of thumb). It sounds like the person who is leaving has been a pivotal resource during this time. It’s awesome that they were there for you! That’s necessary to a good onboarding!
      But at this point you’ll find that you need that less and less. You’ve already started accumulating your own institutional knowledge, and that will only grow. You’ve learned how to do your job and don’t need training on that; now you’re practicing those skills and discovering nuances. It will keep getting easier. You will still miss Ex-Coworker, but you won’t need them in the same way you used to.
      (Oh, and see if they’d be up for virtual coffee in a couple months after they’ve settled at their new job)

  14. Enn Pee*

    I knew someone who refused to accept meeting invitations without an agenda. I’m not sure if that’s possible for you, but worth a thought.
    A former colleague used to put estimated time limits for discussion on each topic – right in the agenda. If the twenty minute mark has been reached for “Llama Grooming,” she’d table any further discussion and move on to the next topic.
    But I don’t think these will work in your case!
    Is it possible for you to block off X hours every week for your service on this board, and stick to that? So – your hours are Monday and Friday from 10am-noon; you won’t be able to meet or respond to non-urgent items outside of those times…

  15. EngineeringFun*

    LW#4 but what about salary negotiations? Would the degree help that? I get this response a lot to. I’m PhD with 20 years exp. It’s usually followed by “what would I do with your talent?” Or “you might get bored and leave”. I just move on to the next company because it won’t be a good fit.

    1. bamcheeks*

      If LW’s husband has made the decision that he prefers using his practical and technical skills rather than his degree-acquired skills, it would be weird to cite his degree as a reason to pay him more. An employer is paying for the skills and work you bring the job: if there’s a place where you can develop because of those skills and add more value to the organisation, great, but there’s no reason for an employer to pay for skills or qualifications you aren’t using.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, it sounds like the OP’s husband enjoys doing hands-on jobs that don’t require a particular level of education – but he happens to have a degree from a different phase of his life. So he’s applying for a job as a general handyman or building maintenance or whatever, and people are looking at his CV and saying ‘Why are you applying for a job in maintenance when you have a business degree? This job won’t use your degree at all, you’re clearly overqualified’. He’s not going to get any more money as a handyman with a degree, because it’s completely irrelevant to the job. And there’s a perception by employers that if you’re ‘overqualified’ then you’ll be looking to leave fairly quickly, because they think their job is just a stopgap until you find something that does use your degree, or they think someone with a degree will be bored painting walls and putting up shelves, or whatever. So in this case I think it’s definitely best for the OP’s husband to just leave the degree off, because it’ll prevent employers having those ‘…but does he *really* want to do this job?’ thoughts.

        1. Riot Grrrl*

          And there’s a perception by employers that if you’re ‘overqualified’ then you’ll be looking to leave fairly quickly, because they think their job is just a stopgap until you find something that does use your degree, or they think someone with a degree will be bored painting walls and putting up shelves, or whatever.

          I’m not sure if you’re taking a stance on this one way or the other, but the reason employers have this perception is because it is so often actually the case. I’ve been hiring people for three decades, starting out naively believing that I’d want to hire the most qualified person I could get my hands on. In fact, you want to hire someone who’s the right fit for the job, which is not necessarily the one with the most “qualifications” in some generic sense. So you’re absolutely right, if OP’s husband truly does want to sort of downshift his employment, one way to help that goal is indeed to leave off irrelevant (over)qualifications.

        2. Not Totally Subclinical*

          Many years ago my mom applied for a retail job. The immediate supervisor was ready to hire her, but higher-up store management said no; the reason given was that she’d listed her master’s degree on her resume, and therefore she was overqualified. Never mind that she’d been out of the workforce for over two decades, and that she wouldn’t have been able to get employment in her old field without a few years of retraining; she had a master’s degree, so it didn’t matter whether she’d otherwise be good at the retail job. Fortunately my dad’s salary was great and they didn’t need the extra money.

        3. hit submit too soo*

          I have been in OP’s husband’s shoes, and I dropped my degree from my resume years ago. When they say “education and experience,” they really mean *relevant* education and experience.

  16. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Oh, no no no. I’d run away from this. The org may be nice and may have a good mission you support and that’s great. But there are problems here. I’d be concerned about the board running the day-to-day operations; that shouldn’t be the function of the board. It also sounds like the board members who do a lot of the work aren’t adept at running the operations. From the letter, it sounds like OP runs into normal office decisions, and the board members hijack the questions into long high-minded chats or zooms. No, there is no reason to spend 40 minutes on whether the mailer goes out on the first or the fifth, or whether it should be on blue paper or green paper. OP isn’t going to have the bandwidth to do this all the time, nor should she. I’d bow out now while there are still pleasant feelings toward the organization, because that will likely very quickly change.

    1. Helewise*

      This isn’t at all unusual for a working board of a young/small non-profit, though. It can be (very) challenging, but not unusual.

  17. Anon in IT*

    OP1, are you sure you weren’t hacked or that there isn’t malware on the device? After you’ve checked all the policies you’ve signed, if it seems like this recording is not allowed, definitely do reach out to IT to make sure the device isn’t infected.

    Also, could it also be that you use a voice-controlled assistant? Like Alexa, these assistants always have to be on recording your voice to work. Of course, this wouldn’t explain the camera.

    1. Observer*

      Like Alexa, these assistants always have to be on recording your voice to work.

      Actually, no they don’t. They need to be listening but not recording or streaming.

  18. Purple Cat*

    OP3, what you’re feeling is totally normal. I had a similar reaction MUCH later in my career when the manager that had given me the opportunity to switch career tracks announced they were leaving. I think a part of me felt like my opportunity was going to disappear just because she was leaving, even though I had been very successful in my role. This will be an opportunity for you to grow and learn and for the organization to spread the knowledge to others.

  19. Fives*

    #3 – I get it. I’ve been at my employer for almost 20 years and in my current role for about 4. The person who was kind of my mentor when I started in this dept left in the spring. He helped me a lot when I started and our cubes were neighboring so we talked during the day. Covid changed things (like how many were in the office at a time), but I was still sad (for me) and happy (for him) that he was leaving. I miss working with him because he’s a great guy and was calm and unflappable (and funny). But I’ve gotten used to what it’s like without him working here. It’ll be different and you’ll miss her but it’ll be OK. (If you haven’t, see if you can get her number so you can maybe stay in contact.)

  20. just another queer reader*

    #2: this sounds like the organization that my grandma used to volunteer at. I decided that it was the club for retired people who missed working.

  21. JHC*

    LW#3: I have also managed/been on several high performing teams that have lost members with deep institutional knowledge. Key to a smooth transition: documentation. Has your departing colleague documented their daily/weekly/monthly/annual tasks? In all their processes and procedures? If not, and if you have the standing to suggest it, you might suggest that they spend their last weeks creating that documentation. It will make things much easier both for their successor and for the rest of the team.

  22. Hornswoggler*

    OP4: I have two complete different CVs. One is for performing work and the other for academic/consultancy/project work in a field related but not linked directly to my performing work. Some things are obviously the same but the performing people don’t want to know your school qualifications and the consultancy clients don’t want to know who taught me (say) the cello.

  23. CheeryO*

    For #3, being on the other side of a similar situation as a mid-career person with a lot of institutional knowledge, I enjoy helping newer staff, even the ones who don’t report to me, but it can be absolutely exhausting to be that person, feeling like you are one of the only people keeping the boat afloat.

    Your coworker probably needed a change (or a raise!), so you should try to re-frame your thoughts to being happy for them. It’s a good growth opportunity for you, even if it feels scary. You will find other resources and probably find that you are able to work more independently than you think without the safety net. Remember that no one has all the answers. There are probably areas where your fresh eyes will be an asset to your team, so be on the lookout for opportunities to step up and be the new bearer of institutional knowledge.

    1. Tired*

      +1 to this comment. I absolutely relate to being the person with the institutional knowledge and it becoming exhausting.

      I also agree with CheeryO about using this as an opportunity to grow – I didn’t become the person with the institutional knowledge until my coworker left and I needed to figure things out that I otherwise would have depended on someone else for.

  24. HearTwoFour*

    OP2, did you interview with the board or sit in on a meeting or two before accepting this role? TBH, it doesn’t sound entirely fair to come in and expect to restyle an infrasture that’s worked for everyone else for quite some time.
    It seems that a bit of compromise and collaboration on your part would help you to work effectively with them, and ultimately, make a positive impact on the organization. As others have suggested, setting boundaries is a good thing, but also try meeting these people where *they* are once in a while. (Which is what you expect them to do for you.)
    You don’t have to become best buds but do you respect them? These members created or sustain the organization you care about so much that you decided to join the board, so they must be doing *something* right.

    1. Nicosloanica*

      I used to work at a mostly-board nonprofit, and to be honest, one of the values of the org was in providing a social outlet to the retired lawyers of the community. That’s partly why the founder started it. It’s a bit like how a small family owned business may, as a feature not a bug, provide low-effort income to family members, which can be confusing to non-family employees if they don’t understand that.

      1. HearTwoFour*

        I think that’s what’s going on here. In insurmountable ways, this board doesn’t seem like a good match for the OP.

  25. Smithy*

    #3 People leave all the time, and missing working with people you like is very normal.

    But, if that feeling isn’t so much sadness but dread and anxiety. Pay attention to that. There are many many places to work that are fine – provided you have a good manager/work with good people. Basically where there’s a mix of pluses and minuses, and provided you can make sure you focus on the good bits of your work – you have the bandwidth necessary to not be overwhelmed by the frustrating or bad bits.

    Very often that person can be a manager, but not always. If part of your job regularly requires getting XYZ report from ABC department that’s known for being difficult but you know one person there who’s easy to work with and takes care of all those issues. And that person leaves. Having anxiety that maybe you’re going to spend a lot of time dealing with cross team tension would be reasonable. Maybe the issue will resolve and be fine. Maybe it will escalate. But just to say, those feelings of fear/worry are very often your body telling you to be aware because there’s a real risk that everything might not be fine.

  26. Ann Onymous*

    LW #1, I know you feel violated – I would too, but unless you’re upset enough that you’d quit no matter what explanation your employer gives you, try to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was unintentional until you know otherwise. If you start by assuming it was accidental, there’s still room to be angry later if it turns out it wasn’t. But if you get angry upfront and it turns out to have been a terrible mistake, or one rouge IT person who gets immediately fired, you may have burned a bridge you didn’t actually want to burn.

    1. Nicosloanica*

      Yeah maybe I wasn’t understanding the facts but I wasn’t sure this was a slam-dunk “gotcha” against OP’s employers. I don’t see evidence that they set the laptop up this way on purpose or were monitoring it. Off the top of my head, creepy third party malware that was installed by someone else or weird computer / wifi app glitch seem just as likely. I’m not saying OP is wrong, I just needed more information to judge.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I wouldn’t automatically assume this was something malicious. It’s more likely to be an accident.

      What does the company’s device/IT policy say? Chances are, there’s something in there saying they monitor employees and it probably describes how they do it. If that’s the case, then the laptop probably wasn’t put into sleep mode like LW thinks. Best to just shut it down at the end of the workday.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      I agree. That the letter title – My employer was recording audio and video while I was in bed – is inflammatory and makes it sound like the company was purposely trying to record her in bed whereas it seems pretty random that the LW’s laptop was in her bedroom at night with the screen open and camera uncovered. When I shutdown my laptop, I often flip the screen down, and I’d especially do it if I were moving the laptop around.

      The work computer was recording audio and video when the LW didn’t know and she had placed the work laptop in her bedroom. Was it her “employer” (the company making a choice to do this) a single bad actor at her company, or some sort of malware?

      Did anyone suspect she’d bring her work laptop into her bedroom with her? My work laptop never leaves my home office.

      This is upsetting, but who did what and what was intended is currently unknown to the LW. Someone should investigate to get to the bottom of it.

      1. Nicosloanica*

        Now, that fact that we as a nation have replaced “sick leave” with “now keep working, but we’ll let you do it from home because we’re so generous” IS a problem …

        1. doreen*

          That kind of runs in both directions though- when I had COVID , I had no symptoms. Wasn’t sick at all. Of course, I couldn’t go to the office because the fact that I didn’t have symptoms didn’t mean I couldn’t spread it. I wasn’t overjoyed about having to take five days of leave because my employer wouldn’t allow me to work at home.

      2. Dinwar*

        “Did anyone suspect she’d bring her work laptop into her bedroom with her? My work laptop never leaves my home office.”

        A huge number of people are not fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office. It was a major complaint about WFH at the start of the pandemic.

        If employers aren’t aware that employees may not have ideal setups for their WFH “offices” by now, they’re incompetent. If they record people and use “You should have a dedicated office” as an excuse, they’re incompetent and voyeuristic.

      3. Not Totally Subclinical*

        My home office is my bedroom. I’d love to have a separate home office, but the number of rooms and number of people in my house don’t make that possible.

    4. Tesuji*

      Honestly, I don’t know enough about the LW’s tech competence to evaluate the chances, but I’d be wondering if it were user error.

      I mean, “Whoops, I just minimized Zoom instead of closing it, and I just turned off the display rather than putting it in sleep mode” is a thing that could happen.

      (For that matter, even if she did have malware on her computer, I don’t know enough to say for sure that it couldn’t have come from something she installed instead of IT.)

      So, yeah, going in hot has some risks, if you’re not entirely sure what’s going on.

  27. Riot Grrrl*

    #4: One’s professional life is not just a pile of things that happen; it is a story. Or rather, a set of stories with various plot lines that sometimes overlap and intersect and sometimes diverge. The purpose of a resume is to give structure to one of those stories, the story for which the next logical chapter is the job under consideration.

    The way he has chosen to construct the narrative is not the only story he could tell, but it’s a true one, and the one that leads toward what he wants.

  28. Yoga Pants*

    #1 I don’t think I am on the same page as everyone else but what I am getting is that your work laptop that usually stays in the office records you when you are using it and you put it on sleep mode (which you assumed turned the recording off) and got in bed with it? But when you looked at your wifi your laptop was using bandwidth so it was still recording.

    Did you sign an agreement when you started that let you know the Laptop would be recording when it was on? I think this may be the deciding factor on what options you have to go back on.

    Personally I purchased sliders to go on all of our laptops/ipads/anything with a camera so that we are manually in charge of what the camera sees, they are very cheap on Amazon even cheaper on Ebay

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      LW said: I was never told this was being done. I feel violated and wonder where all the footage goes so I think they didn’t know they were being recorded at all.

      1. to varying degrees*

        Still a good question. If it was part of signing acceptance of an employee handbook or IT policies, a lot of people don’t read that stuff.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          And that stuff is also likely to have, somewhere on page 6, something like “these policies are subject to change at any time,” without clarifying how, or whether, you’ll be notified of any changes.

  29. Selina Luna*

    A note from someone who used to fix computers for a living: if you are not going to be using a computer for a long period of time, it can be a good idea to turn them all the way off. If you have them off, people cannot use them to spy on you, but it’s also beneficial for the computer as a way of clearing its RAM (which, admittedly does happen as soon as you turn off the computer, so you don’t need to leave it off). If you turn off your computer while you sleep, you also save some electricity, and in this day and age, every penny helps.

  30. I am just here for the free pizza*

    #1 Some states are what they call two party consent states. Which means both parties need to consent to any recordings. However, if you have already consented to be recorded while at work, your employer may say that you have already given blanket consent.

    A piece of tape is a great way to block your camera during the time that you are looking for a new job. Which you should start doing right away. This is whacked.

    1. Observer*

      However, if you have already consented to be recorded while at work, your employer may say that you have already given blanket consent.

      Nope. Unless the consent actually explicitly calls out that the computer will be recording at ALL times, rather that “while at work”, there is no “blanket consent.” And beyond that, even “blanket consent” doesn’t over-ride normal expectations of privacy.

      1. tessa*

        …”your employer may say that you have already given blanket consent” is NOT the same as “…there is no ‘blanket consent.’”

        1. Observer*

          I’m not sure what you are saying. There is no blanket consent here, and unless their HR *and* Legal departments are as incompetent as the IT department (or as incompetent as the IT department is malicious), they will know that.

          In any case, even if the company says that, it still won’t fly.

  31. Just here for the scripts*

    Totally stealing Alison’s language of “ a (organization with a problematic standard) is … a very specific model,”! It is both classy and clear, and can be used in soooo many work and personal situations.

    Thanks for the morning smile, Alison!

  32. Observer*

    #1 – You really, really should start looking for a new job. Something is SERIOUSLY wrong at your organization.

    Till you find something – cover your web cam at all times, but also go into the settings and for the mike and turn it off. You’ll have to turn it on manually if you have meetings, but that’s just the price you pay when dealing with people this invasive.

    And NEVER EVER leave the laptop where ANYTHING private is having.

    Also, talk to your employer. What they are doing is ridiculously invasive, almost certainly illegal and a good way to blow the business up if something goes wrong.

  33. Johanna Cabal*

    #4 I barely had my master’s degree when I was laid off from my job in early 2009. Keep in mind, this was my first post-college job. I found that it was easier to find a job by removing it from my resume. I used that resume for my next two jobs (one of which was a three-month job that fired me). I did feel somewhat guilty about leaving it off. After I’d been at the second job for about three years, I did mention the left-off master’s degree. And no one batted an eye.

    Now that I’ve been in my field awhile, I do leave the master’s degree on the resume but it’s far at the bottom.

  34. Daisy*

    From personal experience, I would say definitely leave the degree off the resume if he is going into jobs where having one is not standard. I spent years filling out job applications in a small town and being turned down because they figured I wouldn’t stay long. They were wrong, but I never got as far as an interview to tell them so. I’d been out of the workforce for over a decade as a SAHM so employers who would have used my degree weren’t interested either. I did finally find a remote position, and I’m pretty sure I was given a chance because one of my references was (unknown to me) a friend of the owner. I’ve been here close to a decade, and plan to spend at least another decade churning out excellent work here. It turned out OK for me in the end, but the years of no income hit my retirement hard.

  35. Adds*

    #1, WTAF. If purchasing a camera cover isn’t immediately possible for you I would suggest shutting the laptop all the way off and closing the lid when you log out of work in the meantime.

    #2, I feel you. At OldJob, they went through a phase where I, a lowly AP clerk, was a part of at least 2 meetings with the Great Grand Boss per week that were well over 90 mins, accomplished nothing, and could have absolutely been an email if not a text. My personal favorite meetings were the ones where we spent the entire time going over the new color coding scheme for files…. which changed the next week. And then, after THAT meeting, we’d go back to our office and the department manager would have another 30-60 min meeting to rehash what we’d just sat through. I spent more time in meetings about nothing than I did doing my actual job. There seemed to be some confusion between being busy and being productive and being “busy” was rewarded.

    One of the hats I wear for my current day gig is Lay Therapist. The boss likes to call me and tell me things that kind of, tangentially, relate to what I need to know but mostly he’s just talking at me to make himself feel better.

  36. Lcsa99*

    #5 – if you’ve only communicated with the hiring manager via that one text, I might be tempted to send them an email (perhaps with your resume?) or call. Because of the plethora of spam, its possible they have anyone not in their contact list blocked and never got your message.

  37. Saying goodbye*

    #3 – If someone I really liked is leaving, I do take the opportunity to say something professionally meaningful to someone I actually enjoyed working with. “You are one of the best ___ I’ve ever worked with” or “I was so glad to have your invaluable insights over the years on ___” or “I learned a lot from watching you handle ___.” Nothing overly familiar or to suggest they’re doing anything wrong to leave, but I think people appreciate a genuine remark like that. I know I do!

  38. Gran Delusion*

    LW1 could alter their home router’s settings to block the computer in question outside of work hours (if their ISP allows it.)

  39. RB*

    #3: I felt Alison was overly optimistic in her response. Too often, it’s been my experience that when a key colleague leaves, and you have uninvolved or ineffectual management, then folks are left in the lurch and it can be really hard on the ones who are expected to fill the gap. If the support just isn’t there, there’s not much you can do except to acknowledge that things will fall through the cracks and try to get management to understand the spot you’re in and not expect too much right away.

  40. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    For #2, I have so much sympathy and so few suggestions. I’ve been on the Board of an all-volunteer organization for several years now, and it is this weird hybrid of work norms and social norms. It’s hard to have an efficient management structure when everyone is a volunteer who probably self-selected into the role of doing whatever it is that they’re doing, and it’s kind of like your whole organization is run as a potluck rather than a restaurant. Sure, maybe you’ll luck out and people will self-organize into bringing a variety of sides and mains that create a cohesive menu, and someone will bring disposable bowls as well as plates since some people brought crockpot soups, but a lot of the time you end up eating soup out of a coffee cup with a fork followed by a slice of pizza because that’s how everything actually fit together.

    This kind of thing is tolerable if the conversations are fun, but it’s definitely not a restaurant, so there’s also a tendency for meetings to drift into social hour since the only reason a lot of the volunteers are sticking around is that they like the people involved rather than because it’s a functional and efficient work environment. I used to announce two start times for my meetings: room opens at x time for socializing/tech troubleshooting (if on Zoom), and y time for the actual meeting. Pre-pandemic we usually met at restaurants, so there’d similarly be a time before or after the meeting for socializing, but with Zoom you need the organizer to actually open the “meeting” early rather than have the early arrivals all socialize while waiting for the meeting to start regardless.

    (We constantly struggle to get people to volunteer for the load-bearing-but-boring jobs like treasurer or keeping the website running. Lots of people want to do [visible thing the org is known for doing] and no one wants to do the overhead work needed to maintain the org itself over time. I fantasize about being able to raise enough money on a consistent basis to hire an employee who is paid to do that routine/overhead work instead, but that would require a lot more fundraising surplus each year than we currently generate and would be out of norm for our type of org and probably alienate a lot of people. In the meantime, the Board ends up doing a lot of those tasks badly and without clear structural roles in play.)

  41. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Heya LW2, could you potentially start setting boundaries around how much time per week you’re able to dedicate to this group, in total? Like, tell the board that you’re happy to be involved, things are very busy at work, there are family commitments, and for a while you can only do 7 hours a week on the group’s work.

    Then, you have to enforce that boundary. The other members want 10 hours of meetings that week – nope, can’t do it, which are the vital ones? They want a phone call – nope, sorry, have 7 hours of important tasks to take care of this week, it’s gonna have to wait.

    This might cause some tension with other members, particularly if they are devoting more time to it. If they’re weird about it for long, you’ll learn a lot about who you’re dealing with.

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