my new boss scolded us about our private chat messages

A reader writes:

I’m wondering how to address a doozy of an email my new boss sent yesterday, which has left my coworkers and me uncomfortable and a bit panicky. In this email to my whole department, she stated HR and senior leadership had informed her about a private chat group connected to our team which often “contains negative and unproductive conversations.” She then went on to remind us that chat conversations are monitored and to make sure our messages are work-appropriate.

The thing is, I am 98% certain I know what chat group she is talking about because it’s the only major chat group my whole team uses, and the only negative comments made recently are about my boss. In my opinion, none of these comments are malicious or cross a line, and there really aren’t a lot of them. For example, after our boss invited the whole team to a meeting with another team where it turned out our department were not the ones who needed to respond to the issue, there was understandably some frustration briefly aired in the chat. Other than those very few and far between criticisms, the chat is very productive and positive. Believe me, I’ve been part of toxic work chats before, and this ain’t it!

A lot of people on my team feel a bit blindsighted and uncomfortable that they are being spied on. There is also a lot of confusion about why HR and upper management are involved and why they would be looking at our chats specifically. My boss is new and has only been in this role for about a month, so this on top of a general lack of communication on expectations and changes she has implemented, has left people very uneasy. Do you have any advice on how to handle something like this? Should I just let it go and let things fall where they may?

Assuming you’re using something like company-run Slack for the chat group, it’s true that you should be aware that anything you write there could be read by your boss or someone else at the company.

It’s also true that monitoring employee chats is really heavy-handed unless there’s some specific reason to look at them (like allegations of harassment or bullying).

I wish we knew if your boss had looked at the group herself before delivering this message, or if she just heard about it from “HR and senior leadership” and was just passing along the message from them at their request.

If she was just passing along the message rather than speaking for herself, I’d be less concerned. Who knows, it’s possible that HR had a legitimate reason to look at the group at some point, were concerned by what they saw, mentioned it to her, and she just dutifully passed on the message to the rest of you without doing any particular investigation herself. You might think the content of the group is mild enough that HR shouldn’t have been concerned, let alone alerted your boss, but sometimes complaints can sound a lot sharper to an outsider than they’re intended within a group.

But if your boss looked at the group herself and the message is her own, I don’t like it.

Any manager should be aware that sometimes people are going to air frustrations about them. People blow off steam and vent, and sometimes managers do things that are genuinely annoying and people are going to talk to each other about that. It doesn’t feel great to come face-to-face with it, but as long as it’s not malicious or so constant that it makes the culture toxic, it’s just something you’ve got to accept as a manager.

And frankly, if it is malicious or so constant that it’s making the whole culture toxic, the first thing a manager should do upon discovering that is some self-reflection about how that situation has come about. Now, maybe your manager has done that (you wouldn’t necessarily know), but ideally she would have taken it as a flag that she needs to be talking to people more and getting a better feel for how things are going, not just issuing a “stop it” edict. If the concerns people were sharing are serious ones, a “stop it” edict won’t help — and if their concerns aren’t serious and this was just light venting, she’s going to look overly heavy-handed.

So if this was your boss’s message to you — as opposed to passing it along at HR’s request — it’s useful information about her style and instincts. Not encouraging information, but useful nonetheless.

But where does that leave you, when you don’t know which of the two scenarios it is? All you can really do is take it as a reminder that private chats on company systems are never private, and if you wouldn’t want your boss to read something you write there, don’t write it. It’s not necessarily that anyone is spying on you, but these are work programs and your employer can have reasons to look at them that have nothing to do with you. (And keep in mind that even if your manager never has any reason to look at your communications, if they’re looking at the messages of someone who was talking to you, they’ll see your side of conversations too.)

The bigger problem, I think, is that you’ve got a new boss who’s not communicating well, while making a bunch of changes. Throw something like this in the middle of it, and of course it’s going to leave people rattled. But she is right that you should remember the company can see everything you do … and there’s not enough info here to know whether this incident says anything beyond that (like that she’s thin-skinned or spying on you, etc.). I’d try to move on from this and just pay a lot of attention to what else you observe from her.

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{ 245 comments… read them below }

  1. The Cosmic Avenger*

    So, basically, the beatings will continue until morale improves. I’d start interviewing ASAP, because not only is the boss a bad manager, but upper management is actively supporting their methods.

    1. tessa*


      I’d want more info. before being so drastic. It’s possible there is a company policy that states whether this kind of thing is allowed. If it is, OP can decide if she wants to continue working there. If it isn’t, and manager is acting on manager’s behalf, OP can decide if she wants to work there.

      Alison has forum rules, and they are accepted and defended, and enforced. Why can’t anyone else?

      1. Smithy*

        I don’t think the conditions described above require quitting without a new job lined up, but based on previous workplaces – the situation above would cause me to take Cosmic Avenger’s advice to the letter.

        I had one job (non-government and unrelated to security or high level confidentiality) that brought in this level of user surveillance and it was really part of a lot of other miserable management as opposed to more generic policies. Basically, we had an internet usage policy that was wildly draconian but was enforced in a completely discretionary manner to target individuals and teams.

        In believing what the OP said that the venting was truly mild and not part of a more toxic discussion – to have either HR/Upper Management engaging in this kind of review in combination with how the supervisor is behavior OR the supervisor is checking and also communicating in this fashion – I wouldn’t want to stay.

        1. tessa*

          Well, your experience is a single – and, as such – nongeneralizable story.

          There’s no evidence that the OP put forth about “…we had an internet usage policy that was wildly draconian but was enforced in a completely discretionary manner to target individuals and teams.” If that were occurring, OP likely would be writing in a different letter.

          I don’t understand making the LW’s letter the stage on which to register wariness about a previous experience that isn’t really like the OP’s. She should find out more information, and go from there.

          1. Smithy*

            Ultimately – I think a big reason why you’ll get split answers around this kind of employer surveillance is different experiences and I’d say that Alison’s own answer echoes that in her opening paragraphs. 1) nothing you do at work is private from your employers and 2) monitoring chats like this is really heavy handed.

            Some commenters focus on #1 (and there are a ton of jobs where all communication is privy to Freedom of Information Act requests or similar surveillance to that kind of response makes sense). And some comments – such as myself – focus on #2.

            Depending on your job and industry, putting the emphasis on 1 or 2 will be different. But if someone in my industry told me this story, there are only a few very very narrow kinds of reasons to justify it. Not that anyone needs to listen to me or any other commenter on the internet. It just would not indicate a workplace culture or supervisor within the traditional confines of my industry.

            1. L-squared*

              While I agree, the problem is, if they do have valid reason to have looked into a private chat, they likely can’t disclose that anyway. Like if one person has some kind of investigation going on, that wouldn’t be shared with OP, but at the same time, its valid to look into it and find some issues with what is being discussed.

              Its kind a no win.

              1. Fikly*

                Except it’s less about the reason, and more about the response in this case.

                Regardless of the reason they had for looking at the chat, and who was doing the looking, it’s the response to what the OP describes as fairly minor complaints that has the OP concerned, and for good reason.

                A company only acts in its own interests, and a company is rarely smart enough to realize that having happy employees are in its own interests. So every employee needs to watch their back, because a company will not protect them the second they feel threatened, or just like they can save a penny by acting against the employee, because under capitalism, saving a penny in the short term is in the company’s interest.

      2. anonymous goose*

        A company policy stating whether…venting about your boss on a private internal chat is allowed or not?

    2. Olive*

      “She then went on to remind us that chat conversations are monitored and to make sure our messages are work-appropriate.”

      This seems pretty mild for “beatings”.

      1. Adultier Adult*

        I felt the same way.. Maybe a guilty conscience instead of it being a super terrible management job….

      2. Ellis Bell*

        It’s a phrase which doesn’t literally mean beatings; it means improving morale by scolding or other punishments. Which… is not good for morale.

        1. Olive*

          I understand that, but there’s not really any punishment here. I think the LW would be best off deciding that this particular PSA doesn’t directly apply to her and she doesn’t need to worry about it unless it becomes a much bigger issue than one comment.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            You can be concerned about clueless management and an own-goal in company wide morale, without being personally concerned about your own neck. I agree OP isn’t likely to be punished I just don’t think that’s what is making them uneasy.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I agree, it seems like ultimately the boss reminded them that the messages are monitored and they should be mindful of that… and I mean, they probably should! I would never in one million years write a complaint about my boss on a company message system, that seems like a stupid thing to do on its face to me and it definitely doesn’t seem like something I would want to demand the right to do.

            If you want to complain about your, do it on a call! Or send messages to your outside-of-work friends.

        2. Snow Globe*

          It’s always hard to guess tone in emails, but to me that doesn’t even sound like a scolding, just a heads up warning that chats may be monitored.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I agree with this actually, even though that’s not how it’s come across to the staff. I think it’s probably more down to thoughtlessness than to deliberately make everyone feel paranoid and wrong footed. It’s also kind of in line with what OP says about their poor communication that the tone is not clear.

        3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Everyone knows that. It still is really mild. She did not even mention potential consequences, just advised everyone to remember they are monitored and to keep that in mind on the chat. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I think it might not have come from her. And it is possible there is another chat a few team members use that OP is not aware of.

  2. Daniel*

    “The bigger problem, I think, is that you’ve got a new boss who’s not communicating well, while making a bunch of changes.”


  3. Chilipepper Attitude*

    We got the same email and IT was literally added to every group so that they would see ALL the chats. It was … odd and unsettling.

    And it was not Elon, just a local municipality that was tone policing.

    I have a new job now.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Oh, I don’t have a new job because of the chat thing. It was just a bad job and communication overall. There were much bigger problems that contributed to my decision to move on.

      Also, we definitely did not have any expectations that the chat was private! It was just that any hint that a chat was not directly work-related and the poor IT folks had to pop in and tell us to stop.

      1. soontoberetired*

        and I am sure they had better things to do and were annoyed by the whole thing. Yes, IT can monitor tons of things, but in reality, it is a waste of expensive resources.

    2. Mim*

      haha, this reminds me of something that happened at my workplace too. Big boss decided they wanted to reinvent some wheels that did not need reinventing, and in the process inevitably broke systems and muddied communications that a team had worked for years to improve and perfect. Nobody raised their voices. Nobody said mean things. But there was some polite but direct communication in the form of constructive criticism, which resulted in an HR babysitter for a couple of months in our regular meetings. It was baffling, but in the end I guess unsurprising. Also gratifying that HR obviously saw that they weren’t needed.

      I am still working there. But jumped at the chance to take a different position that puts me less in the thick of that mess, which is still being untangled. In fact, my luck in being able to jump into a different role is probably why I am still here.

    3. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      IT typically doesn’t need to be added to every group. Maybe it’s different in organizations with clearances / PII / HIPAA / whatever. But in my personal experience, the IT department can not show as logged into a chat, and then come in with a stack of printouts showing months of conversations…

      1. Zephy*

        Yeah, IT can basically pull logs of anything anyone does while accessing work resources/using the company wifi. They don’t need to be part of the Slack group or CC’d on the email or standing in your office watching you take Buzzfeed quizzes.

  4. EPLawyer*

    Nothing you put on a company network is private. Nothing you put on a company network is private. Nothing you put on a company network is private.

    Even if it is completely innocent, it is still not private. Now most decent companies are not going to be wasting their time monitoring chat between employees unless a real problem develops. However, employees have NO EXPECTATION of privacy using company chat programs. Keep them in mind before you vent.

    1. Grace Poole*

      Obviously that’s true, but I do seem to remember a few threads here where IT and systems folks said that monitoring private Slack DMs is more trouble than it’s worth. I can’t say that I’ve never exchanged some eye-roll gifs in the DMs during all staff meetings, but we do have text chat for more serious venting.

      1. Smithy*

        This is how I feel.

        I do understand that there are industries such as government, security related companies, and so on where all communication is either privy to Freedom of Information requests or similar and therefore needs to be strictly professional at all times. And those industries cultivate that kind of culture, however lots of industries have a different kind of culture. And to be an employer that adopts a “federal government” Slack DM culture when other competitors don’t – you open yourself up to contributing to colleagues feeling micromanaged and seeking employers where that isn’t the case.

    2. Don*

      “most decent companies are not going to be wasting their time monitoring chat between employees”

      Sadly this does not narrow things down as much as it should.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        And also may not be true. One case of bullying or harassment can trigger HR to set up keyword alerts or regular check-ins. You don’t always know the behind-the-scenes logic.

    3. Cat's Paw for Cats*

      Thank you. I’m really amazed that people think gossiping about the boss, or blowing off steam or whatever it’s now called, on company equipment and possibly on company time is somehow private. I think it would be safe to assume that anything you write in these circumstances is subject to observation by your employers. Most employers don’t have time or need to monitor every employee communication, but I wouldn’t assume that it would never happen. I would definitely work on the assumption that it was monitored. Go offsite and offline if you want to talk privately. Or better, don’t do it at all.

      1. Charlie*

        Don’t do it at all? This is dangerously close to “you can’t discuss working conditions with your colleagues.”

        1. what's in a name*

          Or, it could mean “if you’re going to discuss working conditions with your colleagues and don’t want your boss to know you’re doing it, use personal communication channels instead of work ones.”

          1. AcademiaNut*

            I’m curious if people in remote jobs actually have and use personal emails (or Facebook Messenger, or Whats App, or Line or phone numbers) for their coworkers?

            In an in person job, you can have hallway and coffee break conversations which are not recorded; that’s when you let off a bit of steam, or exchange useful but sub rosa tips on dealing with difficult people (or warnings about who the difficult people are), or swap personal contact information with someone. If a job is fully remote, your main (and often only) contact point with coworkers is company monitored tools, so you really can’t have any communication you wouldn’t want to say to your managers’ faces (or on the front page of the NYT as the saying goes).

            1. londonedit*

              Not all of my coworkers, but I’ve definitely had private conversations with some of the ones I’m friends with via our personal WhatsApp etc while working from home. On one occasion it was because someone wanted to discuss a job opening with me, and on another it was because someone wanted to talk about joining the union. It’s no big deal – they just sent me a message saying ‘Hey, didn’t want to use Teams for this but…’.

            2. Vanellope*

              Both during the time we were virtual and now back at the office my coworker and I will text things we don’t want on the company network. Our IT is not super overbearing but as someone mentioned above, those conversations could come out if they are investigating another matter so it’s just smart to keep any venting/complaining separate.

        2. yellow haired female*

          Not really… just be smart about it and don’t leave incriminating comments in writing using work programs.

          1. Polly*

            What’s “incriminating,” though? Saying “hahaha I skipped the noon meeting to go to spin class and then we went out for mimosas” is obviously a red flag, but I don’t think comments of frustration about a supervisor are or should be considered incriminating. Especially when, as someone pointed out above, these convos have largely replaced watercooler conversations that contain the exact same sentiments, just in a less trackable form.

        3. Boof*

          I am someone who will ALWAYS somehow get caught (meaning, stuff will somehow always get read/overheard by the person i’d least want it to) if i dish; i’d say “don’t dish” is a good ideal to strive for, and definitely don’t dish in text
          Discussing a problem is fine, complaining probably best to minimize for a lot of reasons, especially professionally

      2. what's in a name*

        I’m in government and we’ve been trained from day one to keep personal stuff off of work servers, but even here nobody’s going digging through your emails or chat logs unless you or one of your coworkers give them a reason to. I do know some employees who were fired for inappropriate use of work computers/emails/chats, and none of it was found in a random search. Every time, there was a legitimate work-based reason that managers or HR needed to look at that person’s internet/communication history and they found something concerning by accident.

      3. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        I honestly don’t understand this attitude at all. There’s plenty our employers CAN do, because we live in a capitalist hellscape, but there are still things with in that we can be surprised when they ACTUALLY do.

        Further, even if we’re aware that it’s something employers SOMETIMES do, we can decide it’s not something we’ll tolerate.

        1. Lydia*

          This seems to be missing from the overall conversation. The OP isn’t asking about the rightness of it or that it happens; they’re specifically asking how to handle it and expressing concern that their specific chats were reviewed. I think most people would be surprised if their innocuous Slack chats were brought up by their manager as having been read. It comes off as a passive aggressive warning. If there were actual concerns with what was being discussed, a decent manager would address them directly.

        2. staceyizme*

          This is the baffling part, definitely! Who would listen in on a conversation that they weren’t supposed to hear/ read through a chat that wasn’t addressed to them and then, having found mildly uncomplimentary opinions expressed, conclude that tut-tutting at their direct reports is the answer? (Hint- nobody reasonable.)

      4. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        My coworker and I have a chat on Teams, but anything we are talking about that involves our boss in a less than flattering way we take to text messages. Monitoring chats and screen readers are why.

      5. L'étrangère*

        This whole topic is why, when my last company kindly provided us with Slack and encouraged us to use it, we all obediently got accounts, and put on cute avatars, and exclaimed how cool it was, but kept right on using the completely unrelated chat we had all been using before. We had signed up to that individually, there was nothing company-wide, and if you kept your wits about you and didn’t say anything untoward to the wrong person it was completely private. Not as good as Slack, not as convenient, nothing better actually, but the privacy was priceless..

    4. Ashley*

      So much this! Companies can access all your stuff legally. Even after you leave, if it is still there in writing it can tarnish your reputation when someone is doing normal employee close out of email accounts.
      Sometimes you should not put it in writing or leave a voicemail with details.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      The unsettling thing when this happens is not “Oh my god, did the boss see what I said”, but “Oh my god, the boss is being odd, bizarrely nitpicking on what was said and managing us so we feel actively spied on.” It’s particularly noticeable when a boss is highlighting something which isn’t a big deal, and you weren’t hiding anyway. In the OPs case, they’re baffled that the boss is calling out briefly aired frustrations which happened after a miscommunication. They know that it was visible, they just don’t understand why anyone cares about inevitable and reasonable responses, and that is what makes you question leaders’ judgement. I’ve had a similar interaction when a boss wanted to know “what I was doing” when I was seemingly not working at my desk, on camera. I knew full well I was on camera, I just didn’t think the boss had such poor judgement that she had a) never heard of lunch breaks or taking things out of context b) that she managed us by snooping on our appearances rather than looking at output and c) that she’d be so silly as to make herself look like big brother. I wasn’t personally embarrassed, but I was concerned about boss’ approach. I get a similar vibe from OP.

      1. What She Said*

        I get the same vibe. I had a grand boss talk to my boss about my cell phone usage at my desk. The day in question, the grand boss had walked past my office a total of 4 times in an 8 hour period (only second time I had even see her that week). Yes, I was on my cell phone each time. She had no context. No idea where I was on my work load. Just assumed I was playing around. I’m on my cell during my break (sometimes I prefer my desk over the break room) or sometimes I need to use the calculator cause someone is always stealing mine. Or I’m texting my boss cause that’s how we communicate sometimes when she is off-site. My boss knows all this and told the grand boss we often communicate via text when she’s (the boss) off-site so it was likely during those times she (grand boss) saw me. My boss had my back. Grand boss needed more work to do in their own office.

      2. aebhel*

        This. It calls into question the boss’s judgement, perspective, and sense of proportion. It’s not that these communications should be assumes to be private, but it’s weird for management to go out of their way to scold people for airing brief, mild, and understandable frustrations. It would be like if a manager overheard someone express frustration with a miscommunication while in the breakroom and decided to make an issue of it. Like, yeah, there’s no expectation of privacy on work property, but that’s still excessive.

    6. Ben*

      Legally, this is of course correct, but practically it’s more complicated. You have no expectation of privacy in your work Slack in the same way you have no expectation of privacy in your fenced-in backyard.

      Sure, you have no recourse if the authorities decide to read your thousands of chats with a colleague (or fly a helicopter over your house), but in the ordinary sense of the term you don’t *expect* it.

      So, yes, don’t take the risk as an individual, but also don’t be a weird jerk by conducting suspicionless searches of people just because you can.

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        What? Expectations of privacy regarding your home and fenced-in backyard and other ‘curtilage’ are very, very different than expectations of privacy on employer-provided communication channels.

        1. Lydia*

          You’re not understanding what’s being said. There is always a possibility a helicopter will fly over your house, but when it does, you’re surprised. That is the analogy.

    7. Meep*

      My former toxic manager would constantly monitor my computer. It is really old so you would know when she was doing it, because my computer was literally screaming for RAM. Once she got fired, my computer surprisingly started working much better!

      I never expected any privacy and I was using it to work. She didn’t think I was, because she wasn’t, so she spent all her time obsessing over what I was doing rather than actually working. I think you also need to be mindful some people in leadership are absolutely batshit insane and deserve to be vented about.

    8. Hrodvitnir*

      I knew someone would write this. It always feel like it’s missing the point – I doubt many people who write to or read AAM expect otherwise.

      “Nothing is private” =/= you’re not allowed to be concerned when it appears your boss has been reading your chats and taken personal umbrage at acknowledgement of frustration. We don’t know the exact scenario, but it paints a picture that your boss goes out of her way to monitor you, and will take it personally, which is concerning.

      1. goducks*

        Since we don’t know what happened here, it isn’t reasonable to assign thin-skinnedness to this manager. If she’s talking about another chat entirely (one that LW isn’t a party to, which has legit negative comments on it), then she may not even be aware of the comments made in the thread the LW is talking about and as such would not be taking anything personally.

        It may be that the comments she’s referring to are about herself, but it may be that she’s never seen them, or that she saw them and didn’t even pay them any mind, and they’re not what she’s talking about at all. If she’s wholly unaware of these comments, then the picture painted of a thin-skinned boss is entirely accidental.

        1. Lydia*

          We are asked to take LWs at their word. In this case, the LW has said there was some frustration discussed in the chats, but nothing over the top. I would also point out that in all your scenarios, there was no reason to send out an email to her entire staff letting them know their chats can be seen if any of those were the case. Rather, it sounds like a thin-skinned manager giving a passive-aggressive warning that she knows they’ve vented about her.

          1. Hoppity*

            It is taking LW at their word to point out that there are other, perfectly plausible reasons for the email besides the boss reading the group chat. HR could be investigating something unrelated and found the chat or another chat might exist that caused concern.

            1. anonymous goose*

              This makes no sense, though. If HR was investigating something else and the mild complaints about the manager didn’t concern them, why bring it up at all? Regardless of the reason for the original investigation, the very idea that they felt like they needed to “warn” people because they were blowing off steam about a manager they don’t like IS the concern here.

    9. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, exactly. It always amazes me how many people don’t seem to realize this.

      Also, most companies are not going to just decide to monitor chats for no reason–it would be a bug time suck. They usually do it because there’s been a compliant, or some sort of filter caught it due to use of certain words.

    10. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      And yet, many employees do put inappropriate things on the company chat. I had an entirely remote job (whole company was remote) and everyone used their personal laptops to use skype for instant chat. No one connected it to the work laptops or network. And we still played it safe!

    11. anonymous goose*

      I think everybody knows that, but if my manager and HR together take this heavy-handed approach because they saw a few complaints about one of them in one company chat, I too would be looking at them sideways.

  5. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I am so, so cautious about what I put in writing – I don’t even know if there’s anyone here who would know how to look at the private chats, but work sponsored communication is never private (chat, email, even documents saved on your device) and it is not worth the risk it will come back to bite you.

    This sounds mild, and I’m not condoning the reaction, but I would at least take the lesson.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Yep. If I have something to say that I don’t want preserved for all time, I use the phone or talk in person. Anything from general griping to how to get around the university’s dumbass rules to help a student.

      1. Adultier Adult*

        YES! My direct boss and I will literally discuss something via personal phone text AND via university email– the first one to get out our frustration then officially via work email…. It ISNT ever private on company stuff… EVER…

    2. Francine*

      Every company I have ever worked at monitored every person’s chats. The laptop is owned by them. The chat subscription is paid for by them. They have every right to do that.

      It’s weird that people are shocked this happens?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah. Across generations, if something is sensitive everyone will switch to a call and say something like “this doesn’t need to be in writing”. It really does feel like common sense to me.

      2. hellohello*

        I understand and treat work communications as though they are not private, but if I found out my workplace was monitoring my daily communication I’d be looking for a new job. It’s one thing to have the ability to look at private internal communications (as Alison said, there are times it becomes necessary) and another thing altogether for a company to use that power regularly. The latter is a big red flag for me that they don’t trust their employees, are inclined to micromanagement, and don’t understand how to use time and company resources efficiently.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I think this is the most responsible approach. Understand they aren’t private, and understand that intense monitoring is probably a sign of dysfunction. But the distinction is that you make the decision to move on in that scenario, you don’t set yourself up to be disciplined or fired.

        2. Roland*

          Yeah it’s like… I don’t discuss anything in the company lunchroom that I 100% don’t want my boss to know because anyone could be listening, BUT if my boss were following me around with a clipboard to write down what I say that would still be weird.

          1. Miss Muffet*

            This is the best analogy I’ve seen here. There’s “they might hear/see” and “they’re actively watching”…pretty big difference in terms or weirdness!

      3. Pugetkayak*

        Shocked that people actually spend the time to do this (monitor employees chats.) What a waste of time.

      4. Lydia*

        Literally nobody is shocked it can happen, but it would be weird if people weren’t surprised when it did happen to them. Because most of us don’t have conversations that include harassment, or threats, or anything to warrant pulling those chats. Y’all keep confusing being unaware of something with being surprised when it does happen. House fires can happen, I know this. Imagine, though, how surprising it was when my kitchen caught fire.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I work for a government agency and almost everything is FOIAable, including chats. So yeah, I am very very careful about what I type out!

  6. Sloanicota*

    I would also wonder if there might be other chats that OP isn’t aware of and isn’t on. Just speculation, but I feel like there’s enough missing info here that the takeaway is just not to use the chat feature for personal conversation at all, without assuming you know exactly what’s going on here.

      1. Still looking for a name I like*

        I had the same thought. With HR involved that made me even more curious if it was another chat altogether with blatantly bad stuff.

    1. Olive*

      Right, I think there’s a good chance that the major chat group for the whole team isn’t the problem, and that the problem material is in a much smaller chat that a few gossipers incorrectly thought was private.

    2. Heidi*

      I also wondered about this. The OP thought that it must have been a chat with the whole team on it, but if there are smaller chat groups, those might be the issue here. If someone is going to make a really negative comment about their boss, it makes more sense to keep it to a small group of people who you imagine feel the same way, not the whole team (although I guess we don’t know how big this team is).

    3. Cat Tree*

      I had the same thought. This is why the vaguebooking management strategy isn’t great. If some folks had a different chat that really was unprofessional that should have been addressed directly. Or heck, even if they meant this relatively benign chat they should have said so directly. Now folks don’t know whether this admonition is even meant for them.

      1. Hound Dog*

        I wonder if it was vaguebooking, though? The manager/HR could have had a chat with the offender(s) and then issued the statement as a reminder for the department.

        My office regularly holds security awareness trainings and sessions and there’s *always* people who are surprised at what kind of information is accessible by IT. People just… seem to forget.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Interesting. Even if they addressed it with the main offenders though; that’s still really vague to all the other people who have no idea what’s going on! If they are using the chat appropriately, why give them a message to stop using it inappropriately? With no guidance on what is or isn’t okay? If they want people to simply remember that it’s monitored, then why not just say that? As on: “Hey all, as I’m new wanted to be clear I do actively monitor chat threads just to keep up to speed. Please keep in mind going forward that it’s a non private space”. I don’t get the need for extraneous opinions on what’s already been said in the chats, for the benefit of people who are using it fine?!

          1. Hound Dog*

            Yeah, no, it’s still not an informative email and really should be more specific, but I just wanted to push against the idea of it only being vaguebooking. If they did pull chat and DMs, then they know exactly who speak with about those particular messages.

      2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        I am stealing this: “the vaguebooking management strategy”

        It’s ineffective because the ones you will stress out are likely NOT the ones who the message was intended for. The ones the message is intended for rarely pick up on the vauguebooking messages.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Hmm, but the whole approach of group scoldings and “you know who you are” is a piss poor management approach and OP is still right to be given pause by it. The group scolding always hits the most conscientious employees hardest; they scour their brains for anything remotely sub optimal and worry about it being them. The true rebel slackers don’t give any of it a minute’s thought, are sure that everything they do is perfectly wonderful and refuse to care until someone makes them. If this is the first tool out of the manager’s bag, I don’t think OP can expect great leadership, if that’s what they are looking for.

      1. NeedRain47*

        THIS. I’m not eleven years old and will not accept time taken off my recess for someone elses’ bad behavior.

    5. St. Paul Ite*

      I agree.

      It could be a) there’s a new manager so it kicked a flag with IT to do a general review of the group chats. b) something could have happened with the previous manager which caused a request for IT to do a review of the group chats.

      There are many things that go on behind the scenes which aren’t apparent to those not behind the scenes.

      1. Darren*

        It could even just be keyword/phrase monitoring looking for things commonly used as part of bullying/harassment/etc.

        I know my work has such a setup where every Slack message is checked behind the scenes by a system (can’t remember the name of it) for flagging such messages to HR team is notified of any potential issues that they can look into more closely.

        It’s also used to flag other messages to our Compliance team to look for things like insider trading, collusion, etc.

        1. MissMeghan*

          This is what I was wondering! Was there any language in the venting that could have triggered an automated keyword monitor? If the boss is a woman, unfortunately my mind went right to complaints using the b-word which would likely be a monitored word.

    6. irene adler*

      I wondered this too!

      Can chats be removed? I didn’t think this was possible, but maybe someone(s) went on a tear and that got removed before OP was able to read it – and the scolding followed.

    7. MurpMaureep*

      That was my thought too. Honestly nothing the boss said read to me as particularly Draconian or harsh. She said that she’d been made aware by higher ups of a “private chat” that had inappropriate content. She then reminded staff that all communication using company chat programs was monitored. The LW assumes she’s talking about mild venting in a large chat group when, in fact, she may be talking of something much worse in a smaller group. The phrasing “private chat” seems to indicate that.

      Of course this isn’t the best way to approach the situation, but it also feels like the LW might not have the whole story, is already predisposed to not liking the boss, and is reading too much into the message. It’s also possible the boss was coached on how to send the message by higher ups/HR.

      Personally I’d just ask the boss what was up. Not in a “ohhhhh who said what bad thing????” way but as a respectful inquiry to level set on expectations for communication.

    8. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      This was my immediate thought as well.

      I know people have secondary chats outside of our work group one… because *I* have secondary chats outside of our work group chat. No need to put a request of one person in the 8 person chat unless others need to be aware of it. Do some of those occasionally veer off from work chat? Yes. I’m assuming my boss is also aware that secondary chats exist because she has two other chats that I’m in that the whole group is not.

    9. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      That is what I was thinking. Maybe a few team members have their own “mean girls” style chat going on of which most of the team is unaware. It’s not like those team members would fess up to the group either to alleviate their concerns, because then they would be outing themselves to the group. I wouldn’t worry too much if I was OP, but I would resist any urges to lightly complain or even have mild and short non-work related discussions on the chat.

  7. Alice*

    I work in an industry where we are aware any of our chats or emails could end up being used in court or plastered on the front page of the newspaper, and it is drilled into us to be mindful of what and how we are posting. All emails and chat programs internal and external are monitored and have key word searches set up (HR and IT have monitoring permissions buts daily review is generally performed through an automated application). This seems totally acceptable to me. It’s a work platform- don’t complain about your boss there or treat it like a personal group chat!

    1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

      I’m in a similar situation. I guess that’s why I’m surprised that people would do it at all.

    2. I need a new name...*

      Tone is definitely difficult in written communication, but I also felt that this read fine.

      Obviously LW has more context for the Manager’s behaviour and their reading might be more correct. But also perhaps LW and others are feeling panicked because they had, in fact, not realised that the chats were being monitored and they’re embarrassed by at least some of what they’ve written in the past.

      Also Alison has mentioned before that when things are going badly in more serious areas, it’s easy to start carrying that feeling over to all things. This could be happening here.

      New manager, new changes = overall uneasiness/disagreement/frustration. Perhaps those feelings are bleeding over into this specific communication that is otherwise fairly standard and possibly quite a prudent reminder?

    3. Aitch Arr*

      As I’ve heard my company’s external legal counsel say: “Don’t say (or email) anything you wouldn’t want to repeat on the stand.”

  8. tessa*

    Work chats make good spaces for bullying, unkind rumor-mongering, etc. It should always have oversight. Not sure I get the “But the company owes me my privacy on its resources!” push back. Besides, negative comments don’t have to cross a line to be worrisome, and I question the wisdom of anyone who thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to complain about the boss on work time on a traceable platform. Go outside or call each other to vent; it’s not complicated.

    1. ferrina*

      There’s a difference between “oversight” and “supervising like your employees are children and/or evil spies”. Oversight is good- you can double check claims, verify HR complaints, and jump in as needed, but in general, you don’t jump in unless needed. Oversupervision is bad- it tells employees you don’t trust them to act like adults and make good decisions, and it often wastes time as someone has to watch everyone meticulously (and you can’t thoroughly watch people while doing other work).

      1. Hound Dog*

        Right. It’s one thing to be able to remote access in or be able to pull logs if something comes up. It’s another to require video monitoring software or keystroke loggers. People are rightfully pushing back against the latter; the former is standard security and business.

      2. tessa*

        Hard disagree. Employees aren’t owed online privacy on work time using company resources. They might receive that privacy on company resources, but ultimately, they aren’t owed it. Go outside, make a call, take a walk, but to put things online and then become angry that they’re found is oddly naive.

        1. goducks*

          People have weird ideas about privacy when it comes to digital spaces. I watched a message board I was on erupt into absolute chaos with it became learned that there was another message board elsewhere where people discussed what was happening on the first board. Despite the fact that anybody who landed on the website could read any message on the board, it seems a lot of the posters thought that just the regulars were there, and they were shocked to discover that there were a lot of people who were reading their comments. It felt private and intimate to them, but it was absolutely the opposite.
          Even though most employers have policies that are explicit about no expectation of privacy on employer systems, its amazing how frequently people just forget that anything they type might be seen.

          1. Ray Gillette*

            Great example of the difference between privacy and anonymity. Of course my posts on a publicly-viewable message board are public. But learning that a group of non-members care enough to lurk with the specific intent of gossiping about me on a different message board would feel weird and upsetting. Who cares that much about what I’m saying, and why?

        2. Lydia*

          Don’t treat adults like children and don’t micro-manage, both of which can be accomplished by not reading through every chat your employees have. There’s really no other option. I think you’re projecting the anger thing. Nobody here is angry; what we’re saying is there’s no disagreement that oversight is necessary. What’s unnecessary is monitoring. That is poor leadership.

    2. Deanna Troi*

      I agree with Tessa – there are plenty of reasons why an employer would legitimately need to look at the chats – for FOIA requests if projects were discussed on them, bullying or harassment complaints, concerns about fraud, etc. I’m pretty surprised by the reaction of so many here that this is outrageous. The most shocking thing to me is that the LW said that “understandably” they vented on the team chat. No, I don’t understand why anyone would say anything on a workplace chat that they wouldn’t want their boss to see.

  9. Moira Rose*

    I know I’ve talked about this before, but my cousin used to be a fairly highly placed employee at the American headquarters of a major international bank. She took great pleasure in telling me about how she would monitor the chat conversations of the interns and new employees in her department and fire them if they said anything she considered negative, particularly about her. She framed it as a cautionary tale for me (as she’s more than a decade my senior), but I’ve been in the white-collar working world for over 15 years now, and I’ve never had a manager who pulled that shit, ever. I don’t think it’s considered normal behavior! I think my cousin is just kind of a vindictive and paranoid manager.

  10. Neon*

    Why do people use company-owned chat functions for any sort of work griping?

    Set up a group text or similar with your cool colleagues and then you can complain about whoever/whatever you want on a network that the bosses can’t see.

    1. danmei kid*

      Which is all fun and games until someone in that group chat turns on the rest of you and sends screen shots to management on their way out the door.

      1. PinkCandyfloss*

        I’ve known people to be fired over things they said about their employer on their LOCKED Twitter account, meaning someone screenshot that and sent it in – so don’t expect that there will always be zero consequences by taking the griping off of company servers.

      2. Neon*

        Well sure, there’s always a risk when you’re saying unflattering things about the people you work with.

        Assuming that you are going to do that, there’s still a lot less risk overall in doing it off of the company network.

        Not only are there extra steps required to get you in trouble, it’s a lot harder for whatever narc is turning people in to prove the legitimacy of their screenshots vs something that’s accessible on the company servers.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          There may always be a risk but there will always be 100x more risk if something is in writing, wherever it may be. Non work channels are better, but still not smart.

      3. Critical Rolls*

        This is not normal or reasonable. Not to say it would never happen, but it’s atypical enough that I’m not convinced it’s helpful.

    2. Tuesday*

      I can see this, but it sounds like the griping was pretty minor. I never chat anything I wouldn’t want my coworkers to see, but that doesn’t mean I never mention obstacles or problems I’m having. I can see a situation where OP never writes anything she wouldn’t want her boss to see and the boss is still upset about it. It sounds like the complaints were reasonable and the boss is just overreacting to anything that isn’t a ringing endorsement of her leadership.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Good point. Whatever was said may have been relatively harmless, but possibly the boss already has insecurities about how things are going and took it out of proportion. Like Alison said, consider the reaction along with other observable behaviors from the boss. The sum of all the parts may make working under this person extremely unenjoyable :(

        1. JustaTech*

          I agree this is more likely than the OP’s chat is full of actually unkind/nasty things about the boss.

          I’ve been in work chats where we were strategizing on how to tell someone something (because we couldn’t just tell this person flat out “that won’t work”), and I’m sure if that person were to read those chats while annoyed with us they would come across as very unflattering.
          And that’s before you get to the whole “misinterpretation of tone” thing that’s so easy in text.

    1. Banana*

      If you’re accessing it on your work computer or using workplace wifi, they can probably see it.

      If YOU are not, but one of your coworkers is, they can probably see it.

      Everyone needs to vent about work but the best way to do it is verbally, off property, or limit it to a degree you won’t mind being connected to you professionally.

  11. danmei kid*

    There is no expectation of privacy at work when using a company chat program. This is something employees regularly forget. There can be keyword triggers set up by AI monitoring that can trip an email to HR or a manager that alerts them something of note was said in the chat.

    Also it’s not unheard of for an employee in the group chat to themselves feel uncomfortable with messages in the chat, or recognize some sort of violation in the chat, and secretly whistleblow to HR or management, triggering them to dig deeper into the chat. You should always keep in mind that the call could be coming from inside the house.

    But in any case: everything you say at work on a work server on work time needs to be work appropriate.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Yes, you can assume anything you say at work might be screenshotted and e-mailed at the very minimum. Don’t say anything during work hours on work equipment you don’t want reported to management.

    2. to varying degrees*

      This is exactly what I thought. Instead of “horrible manager is trolling are chats” it’s a lot more likely something was said in the chats that got reported.

      Both at my current and past jobs our chats and emails could be looked at anytime and all the time, but in reality no one had time for that and the only instances were they were read was when someone went to management and then they were reviewed.

      1. ferrina*

        That’s the healthy way to do it.

        But I have had a manager who tried to get the “scuttlebutt” by pestering me to report what people said to me (I was a hub of informal information). She would have 100% been monitoring chats. And yes, she was horribly ineffective and mismanaged her time.

    3. Water Snake*

      All of these are more likely than an HR person or senior management person actively reading chats.

      Regardless, keep the venting verbal, and only between trusted colleagues, and preferably even off-site.

    4. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      There is no legal expectation. That doesn’t mean that people don’t…expect…their managers to be reasonable people with better things to do.

    1. urguncle*

      YEP. If your company pays for Slack, the admin user can see any messages being sent, including DMs.

    2. Pink Candyfloss*

      Yes. If you are sending messages on a company Slack, the admin can see your DMs. Inter-employee DMs can be subpoenaed in court as well. They are not private either. Your company can see EVERYTHING. If you’re typing this comment on a browser on your work laptop logged in to your company VPN – they can see your keystroke log for this, too.

  12. Olive*

    “A private chat group connected to our team” and the “major chat group my whole team uses” don’t sound like the same thing to me.

    I think that the manager thought (innocently but apparently incorrectly), that she should remind the entire team that their chats aren’t truly private without naming and shaming the specific situation and culprits. (Bob and Alice have been gossiping about everyone else in the office and finally it leaked out and they had to be investigated). My guess is that she wanted to address the issue more widely while staying vague and it backfired.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I had the same thought, that this could be related to private messages that the LW wasn’t involved with, and the reminder from the manager might have been because some of those messages were truly inappropriate. (And maybe not about the manager at all, could be inappropriate jokes, etc.)

    2. SofiaDeo*

      Yes, this. I had to fire someone who went to a porn site at work and infected the entire network. This was in the early days, before IT had to be so, so stringent about internet use. The company wide email that went out to everyone afterwards was a reminder not to use the company internet for anything other than company business. So one really doesn’t know the intent behind LW’s manager sending out a “reminder” that Slack channels are technically work channels. And I can imagine employees at that workplace who had been using the Internet to do online banking or checking private email, wondering at how “heavy handed” our company was to send out an email like that!

    3. Stede Bonnet*

      That’s a very generous reading. I think it sounds more like this new manager is deeply insecure and thin-skinned, saw (or simply heard about) some messages that stung, and is invoking HR and senior leadership in order to gang up on her team to spook them into never expressing the slightest dissatisfaction with her. I would bet neither HR nor senior leadership know the first thing about this.

      There’s never a reason to remind staff about bad professional choices they aren’t making instead of addressing the people engaging in problematic behaviour.

  13. Essess*

    Another thing to remember is that any chats occurring on company servers can be subject to FOIA requests or legal subpoenas. Negative grousing could end up being relevant or used against employees later if it comes up during investigations over other issues. ALWAYS expect chats on company resources to be read, scanned, stored, or filtered for keywords. A major reason for this is to protect the company from liability if someone complained about harassment or hostile work environment occurring in the chat. Since it is on company time and company servers, the company has to make sure it is compliant with labor rules.
    It is pretty common, especially with new management, to go in and review any team channels to make sure there are no hidden issues that will come up to blindside the manager later.

    1. goducks*

      My former boss spent a day on the witness stand explaining a somewhat flip comment he’d made to me via email about a vendor that we ended up in a lawsuit against. The email was turned over to the other side as part of discovery (along with all emails), and their attorney just spent forever trying to make it seem like it was something in court. It wasn’t, but if you stripped it of all tone and squinted at it you could make it into a sort of a slight about the vendor. But boy did he learn his lesson that anything he says at work might bite him.

  14. WillowSunstar*

    I would say avoid chatting in a location/using software that is monitored. Find another way to chat about the boss. Perhaps meet on Zoom (or on another software app that you can all use for free) after work or at lunch? Or in person at lunch/after work if that’s possible?

  15. Dinwar*

    This sort of thing is precisely why I don’t believe electronic communications can replace in-person discussions in terms of building relationships. Monitoring of communications, especially to this degree, necessarily has a chilling effect on open discussion. There’s always three parties: The two involved, and a third unidentified party that will always interpret your statements in the worst possible light. You cannot–CANNOT–have an open discourse under such conditions. It’s psychology; if you watch people they behave differently.

    Secondly, how do these managers have so much time on their hands? I manage a handful of people and I certainly don’t have time to read their messages, regardless of media. And as others have said, a manager needs to expect a certain amount of griping. There are limits (when they identify the equipment operator they’re going to ask to bury me I start to worry), but quite frankly you need to expect a certain amount of this. If you can’t handle that you can’t handle management, just like someone who’s afraid of heights can’t be an electrical lineman or someone who’s afraid of storms can’t be a sailor.

    1. SofiaDeo*

      All one has to do is set up keywords; if the keywords are tripped, that instigates the investigation. Like, one could set up the word “bitch” and a convo that was a “XXX is such a bitch” as well as “boy, doing all this extra work because of the error is such a bitch” would both get flagged. The latter is mild an innocuous, but I too would remind my staff that work Slacks aren’t private if I got pulled i to a discussion of someone using the word “bitch” even if it turned out to be nothing, like this example.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      YES!!!! I could not agree more with your first paragraph. During COVID, it has been very hard to build relationships that have any level of trust with people whom I have only known “virtually,” and I’ve gotten the distinct feeling that everyone is always looking to cover themselves despite my never having done anything to make them distrust me or believe I would do anything of that nature. It’s almost as if instead of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, they are all operating from the opposite perspective, as if to believe that eventually every single communication about something will need to be defended to the hilt. It’s definitely not my preferred way of interacting.

  16. hellohello*

    Honestly shocked by all the people here who say they’re fine with a company monitoring individual conversations/communications. I know that it’s always possible for any conversation I have in writing/on company programs to be read, and I’m very careful about what I put in writing, but I also would be extremely reluctant to work for a company that was regularly monitoring me like that. It’s one thing the ability to read private chats/emails/etc., and it’s another thing to actually use that power without a specific reason (ie investigating harassment claims, recovering work after an employee leaves, etc.). If a company is regularly reading over their employees conversations, it strikes me as a workplace that doesn’t trust its employees, micromanages, has poor time and resource management, and is fostering a culture of paranoia that wouldn’t be pleasant to work in.

    1. ferrina*

      Agree. There’s a big difference between CAN and DOES. A company generally CAN monitor conversations like this in case they need it later, but that doesn’t mean that someone is staring at it looking for issues. It’s the difference between the shop that has cameras to address theft/issues, and the boss that actively watches the cameras all day.

    2. Snow Globe*

      We really don’t know that the company or manager is regularly reading through these messages; something could have been reported to management by another employee for example. I don’t think anyone is saying they are fine with managers constantly monitoring chats, just that you should always assume that anything on company equipment could be seen.

      1. what's in a name*

        I went back and re-read the letter, and there’s really know way to know what OP’s boss means by “monitored.” Does she mean someone is reading through them all day every day? Does she mean an algorithm searches for keywords and flags potential problems to management? Does she mean management has access to them and can look at them if/when necessary? Because I’m more okay with certain levels of monitoring than I am with others.

        Based on the OP’s description of the boss overall, I’m inclined to think she’s just not a good communicator. It’s pretty likely that she meant “we can look at these if we have reason to believe we need to” and expressed it in a way that made staff think “I am actively reading all messages in team chats.”

      2. Dinwar*

        If someone reported to me that my staff were griping about me in the company chat, I’d tell them to go away and stop wasting my time. I expect my staff to gripe about me to a certain extent. It’s part of the job.

        1. what's in a name*

          I’m just going to reiterate that we don’t know for sure that the boss was talking about the same group chat OP is thinking of. It could be a case of a boss who is too sensitive and didn’t like people grouching about her, or it could have been another chat group entirely where the participants were being much more inappropriate. The boss is communicating this poorly, so OP doesn’t really know what level of inappropriate she’s referring to.

          1. Dinwar*

            That relies on not taking the LW at their word. I’ve reviewed enough “anonymous surveys” to know that it’s not terribly hard to know who wrote what, nor is it hard to identify via context clues (the LW gives us several, but it’s fair to assume there are more) when someone is referring to you. Until someone can provide textual evidence–meaning something in the letter–your argument is, in essence, asking me to accept the interpretation of someone with no first-hand knowledge of the situation in contradiction to the interpretation of someone with first-hand knowledge.

            Not taking the LW at their word is perverse, in other words. It also multiplies entities unnecessarily–you’ve invented a whole other chat group out of whole cloth (well, out of personal experience, I suspect, but NOT out of the text of the letter).

            1. LDN Layabout*

              But it’s not distrusting the LW, it’s pointing out that the LW doesn’t know what they don’t know.

              Unless they’re omniscient and are aware of every single group chat and have their own oversight over what people report to HR, the LW can’t be aware of what the source of a fairly generic reminder that communications are being monitored is about.

      3. hellohello*

        They made it clear the managers CAN monitor chats, though, and never clarified they weren’t doing so. So even if this was a one off and the manger saw it while looking at chat logs for extremely reasonable reasons, the way she communicated it has now made everyone worried their conversations are being monitored. That’s not a pleasant environment to work in, imo.

      4. Lydia*

        Honestly, I think this is the most likely thing. Something was said that might have toed the line and it was reported. They didn’t find anything actionable, really, but maybe the manager wanted to remind people that sometimes your chats might be looked at.

    3. Chevron*

      I’ve worked in a couple of regulated industries where everything is monitored and we’re constantly reminded that nothing on a work device is private, and it’s not that somebody sits and reads everyone’s messages every day – trigger words on chat / email are set up for a variety of legal and compliance issues (and it wouldn’t surprise me if words that could indicate harassment were included in this), there’s an initial AI screen for those, flagged sections of the chat go to the compliance team, quite a lot is discarded at that stage. If something indicates a problem compliance might talk to the person’s manager to give a verbal reminder of policies, they might launch a full investigation, they might do something in between.

      I used to work in a small firm where the IT guy had everyone’s email inboxes added to his outlook and could just dip in and out of our conversations, that felt weird. But these days and in most big companies, it’s really just a case of specific keywords being flagged by a computer and it’s nothing personal.

    4. Qwerty*

      We don’t know that the chats were read for no reason. I can think of a few plausible scenerios, including that this chat group was found while looking into something. It does sound weird to me that it is a private chat the team uses for most of their conversations, but the boss is not in it? It’s also possible that there was another private chat with only *part* of the team that was being referenced. Or the chats got flagged by a filter – HR systems sometimes have something to flag troublesome chats for security/harassment/regulation reasons.

      I get why the OP is freaked out a bit, but I also think its good to have these sort of reminders. Remote work has moved the water cooler conversations to IM and we’ve all gotten really casual and unfiltered as chats become our primary communication method.

    5. not a player*

      There is a segment of the commentariat that seems to love performing ‘teacher’s/employer’s pet’. I used to describe them to my partner as ‘when someone writes in about being required to wear a collar with ID tags, the commentariat goes wild with recommendations for best/cheapest/coolest place to buy collars and tags, instead of decrying the order to wear them’.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        What. No. That is unhelpful to LW, and a rude and inaccurate generalization about the commenters. You will see many comments here (both this post and this site generally) assuming the worst of all companies and bosses, as well as balanced comments and those giving an undue amount of leeway.

      2. Eyes Kiwami*

        Huh? Is that how you’re framing common questions like “do I have to wear a bra” and so on? Comparing something demeaning and unusual with a very common social expectation is not only disingenuous, it’s also not even accurate–they’re not being “teacher’s pets”, they’re saying “I have nothing of value to contribute but I still must share my opinion!”

        The teacher’s pets are the ones who rule-police about she/her for managers and taking LWs at their word and defending Alison even against kindly-delivered deserved criticism.

  17. Water Snake*

    “…issuing a “stop it” edict.

    The bigger problem, I think, is that you’ve got a new boss who’s not communicating well, while making a bunch of changes.”

    That’s an alarmist take on a pretty mild reminder:

    “She then went on to remind us that chat conversations are monitored and to make sure our messages are work-appropriate.”

    I don’t see a “stop it” edict or any changes, or anything really unreasonable, either. The monitoring is probably passive and rather than active, and probably only happens in the sense of “somebody alerted us to something, so we’re going to go read it.” Which is not unreasonable at all.

    There’s a saying, “Dance like nobody is watching, email like it’s going to be published on the front page of the New York Times.” I think that applies to chat as well.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Saying the boss isn’t communicating well isn’t alarmist. This is a pretty passive aggressive message – not necessarily the part you quoted but the general “someone did something bad remember that we’re watching” message. It’s not worst boss of the year territory, but it’s also not how you address a behavior issue.

      Taking this as information to form your opinion of a new manager and how they’re handling things is pretty tame.

      1. ferrina*

        Agree- it reads as passive aggressive to me. “You’ve been having negative and unproductive conversations” just isn’t a helpful thing to say. I don’t know what conversation you’re talking about, so what do you expect me to do? Should I be apologizing? Do I need to suddenly censor anything that might be perceived as negative?
        I’ve had to reprimand folks for inappropriate/negative office conversations, and this is just not the way to do it.

        1. JustaTech*

          The “unproductive” is particularly unhelpful – what exactly about the conversation was “unproductive”? Was it 20 lines of chat grousing about that thing that got done anyway? Was it 20 lines of chat about what folks did over the weekend?
          Or was it 400 lines of chat complaining about that thing?
          Or 400 lines of chat about the game last night?

          The way to deal with each of those is to actually manage, not just say that chats are “unproductive”.
          (I say this as someone who was once reprimanded by my boss because one of my coworkers thought that we should be having more “intellectual” conversations in the lab – he was mad that the other coworker and I had chatted about her upcoming wedding while we waited for a thing to heat – there was nothing else work-related we could have been doing in that time, but he was still mad.)

    2. Skyblue*

      I had the same reaction. It seemed pretty mild to me – ‘Hey, just remember that people can see your messages.’ I saw it as a tip-off that senior leadership had taken notice. Didn’t come off as scolding to me, and panicking doesn’t seem warranted.

      1. hellohello*

        If the reminder were “hey, remember we are doing sensitive legal work and you shouldn’t put anything in writing you don’t want FOIAed” it would feel eminently reasonable to me. But “hey, remember management can read (implied: is reading) your chats (implied: so you have to be 100% professional every time you speak with your coworkers lest your manager take something the wrong way and get offended)” is a work environment I have no desire to be a part of. There’s obviously space between those two, but “someone said something mean about the boss” does not, in my mind, rise to the level of “worth monitoring chats over.”

    3. Lydia*

      Monitored is the problem word. Any manager monitoring a group chat isn’t actually doing their job, well or otherwise. Occasionally reviewed if something comes up? Sure. Monitoring is weird.

  18. RJ*

    I was burned very badly by a boss who used chats in my department against me. I write very little in chats and keep things vague from now on. There is absolutely no expectation of privacy anywhere in the workplace, in person or virtual, and if you work for a boss who is looking for reasons to pad a case against you in a toxic work environment, chats add fuel to that already negative fire.

  19. DJ Abbott*

    I was around at the beginning of PCs at work, and it was disconcerting to realize I was/could be monitored.
    But I take pleasure in using that against the spies. I haven’t had occasion to lately, but you can make sure you post things management wants to hear to get you and your group on their good side, as one example.
    Meanwhile take venting offline or set up a group chat on your smart phones for real talk. :)

  20. gossip is knowledge sharing*

    While it’s true that there can be no expectation of privacy in work channels (e.g. Slack, email), it’s also true that we don’t have many other ways to connect now. Especially on geographically dispersed teams, there is no physical water cooler. Slack or Teams or is *it*. And humans spending 40 hours a week with other humans need space to talk, vent, etc.

    Workers also need that space to check in with each other on toxic behavior from management and at the executive level.

    I don’t know what the ultimate solution is here, but “just call each other” ain’t it.

    If my manager were pulling that paranoid surveillance crap, I’d quit.

    1. Smithy*

      The reality with that kind of workplace surveillance is that people do move off of workplace channels and onto private channels with coworkers they trust. Which while sure, folks have protected themselves – I don’t think that ultimately that serves most workplaces well.

      For those who are connected privately, it makes those connections more exclusionary and “in crowd”. People who are actual friends and have stronger connections will have the insight and the access to greater knowledge sharing. On the flip side, it removes all bounds of professionalism from the NSFW variety to simply good work-life balance practices (i.e. texts sent at late hours, weekends). So after a bad/frustrating meeting – you have work monitored group chat comments being like “Goodness – that was wild, is anyone else confused????” carrying on for 5-10 minutes followed by some potential follow-up suggestions. Flip side, a private group chat that could include any and all manner of profanity, adult gifs/memes, anger, etc and continue for hours.

      Ultimately the aim is for no one to read either, but in the work monitored group chat – knowing that it *could* be read, the kind of language, the length of discussion, and potentially trying to find some kind of resolution will often help moderate its overall scope. Push all of that communication off official channels – it either won’t happen, or will happen via private channels that are more at risk of social influence to dictate practice.

    2. Dinwar*

      “Workers also need that space to check in with each other on toxic behavior from management and at the executive level.”

      This is absolutely true. During periods of high stress I know I’ve leaned on some other coworkers, and they’ve leaned on me. This is super common in human interactions–common enough to have a name, “horizontal social ties”, and for entire civilizations to have been built on this premise. Add in another thing that’s so common as to have a name–“Counter-signaling”–and things can get…interesting. But it’s also an extremely finely calibrated method, honed by several million years of evolution, to judge how a person is holding up and if they need extra support. And if you’re the manager you are by definition Other–that’s why “You can’t make friends with your direct reports”–so guess who’s going to be the target for a good chunk of the venting.

      This stuff is NORMAL. This is how people act, across time and culture. Reacting to normal human behaviors by instituting, or implying that you will institute, paranoid surveillance measures, means you’re unfit to be a manager.

      1. tessa*

        Well, sure, people have done this, using a variety of communication channels that are still viable, e.g. verbal conversations, phone conversations, etc.

        I don’t understand why employees are owed an employer-owned online space to complain about…the employer.

        1. DrivingDitalini*

          Because they’re human, and connection is a human need. I’m fully aware that I have to filter what I say on my work chats, but there’s a difference between “someone might overhear you at the water cooler” and “your water cooler conversations are being monitored. Make sure all conversations are productive and work appropriate.” The employer can do that, sure, but it’s a great way to suck all the psychological safety out of your employees’ work relationships. It’s gross for the employee and counter productive for the company.

  21. MurpMaureep*

    Can LW simply approach their boss and ask for clarification? I feel like there’s a disconnect between the boss and the team that’s causing tension, but it isn’t insurmountable. However it is being exacerbated by the boss coming off as rigid/rules oriented and the employees (perhaps) becoming defensive about what’s been happening in the chat.

    All that could be nipped in the bud if someone went to the boss and asked if they could get some clarity around what was considered “inappropriate”. Make clear you are not asking for gossip or naming of names, just understanding to avoid future missteps.

    Boss might realize her message came off as “scolding”, or she might let loose with a full on Captain Queeg rant about everyone being out to get her. The former will help smooth over some of the roughness with a new manager, the latter will inform you about boss’s overall demeanor.

  22. VaguelySpecific*

    There should never be an expectation of privacy for anything done on a work PC. I’ve never known anyone to be disciplined for a chat between teammates but I have know people who were disciplined for sending an email from someone else’s email account (the computer was left logged in and unlocked and the perpetrator sent a fake resignation letter) and people fired for using a 3rd party mouse jiggler. There’s a TikTok account I follow from a IT worker who works in a school system and shows how they monitor rejected google searches from kids on school PCs…I assume most IT has something similar on work PCs.

    The rule I follow is if you aren’t going to say something nice, say it thru text messages on your personal phone ;).

  23. Jessica Fletcher*

    Sounds like the new boss went to the chat and searched for her name and/or “boss”, then reacted badly. Emailing the entire department to tattle on her team? Probably makes her look bad to people she doesn’t even work with.

  24. Beth*

    It seems to me it’s also possible the LW wasn’t part of the chat group in question. Sometimes messaging like this goes out more broadly than they need to.

  25. jinni*

    While I appreciate WFH and digital communication. People have to miss water cooler chat. Plausible deniability isn’t always a bad thing.

  26. Elizabeth*

    Adding to Alison’s comment about being aware that a company run chat can be monitored by the company, you should consider that it can be solicited in lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests, depending on where you work. We keep anything even mildly snarky to non-work chats for this reason at my office.

    I’m a bit over-sensitive, I worked for a company sued by the federal government and had to explain 1,000+ of old emails on a recalled product. My saying a former colleague couldn’t tell his head from is behind, in not so nice terms, is now part of a publicly available lawsuit.

  27. Irish gal*

    My sense is there was a legitimate reason for them to be monitoring a particular chat group (most likely some allegation of bullying or harassment) and they came upon other information. They have been grown up about it IMO opinion and sent a general reminder. Most sensible companies don’t have the resources to fully monitor all chats but have reason to do so occasionally.

  28. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

    I find it so odd how many people are commenting about “expectation of privacy.”

    That is a legal term. It’s about the applicability of the 4th Amendment. Nothing in the letter frames this as a legal question!

    Outside of a legal context, it’s pointless to say there’s “no expectation” when, clearly, staff DID have an expectation. You can say, “you should not have expected privacy.” That would be a bit general IMO. More to the point would be to say, “You should have expected IT and management to read all of your group chats,” if that’s what you believe.

    Obviously, they can legally do that. LW didn’t suggest otherwise. LW and their coworkers did not EXPECT that they actually would, nor did they EXPECT that the contents of this particular group chat would be found questionable. This behavior is new at LW’s workplace; LW and coworkers find this behavior unnerving; LW has asked how to interpret and proceed.

    1. Smithy*

      Yes – more so than a case of privacy, I see this far more as a case of culture.

      You want to tell me about how great the culture is at a workplace – this is not the type of behavior that I would be seeking in a workplace culture. In the US, there are a lot of things employers can do that don’t exactly exalt them as great places to work. At-will firing in particular comes to mind. While businesses can do that with wide latitude, I don’t really want to work somewhere that exercises that right with wide latitude.

      1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        Precisely. This is like when people go on AITA and comment about what someone has the “right” to do. You often have the right to be an a-hole! That is not the question!

  29. Raida*

    If I may offer a more unkind reading of this?

    If this manager is anything like my old manager, when they say “HR and senior leadership” what they mean is “I’m lying. To threaten you. I’ve made this entire ‘complaint’ up. To make you feel that this message isn’t coming from me. To control what you do. To make you grateful to me for letting me know. To keep you unbalanced. Because I’m petty, selfish, etc”

    I would contact your boss directly, ask which group the messages were in. Tell them you want to know if you’re in this group! And you want to find out what messages are being referred to to learn from the situation! And it’s alright if [boss] doesn’t have those details, who’s the person in HR that informed them, you’re comfortable speaking directly with them as it could be sensitive.

    If they firmly try to steer you away from HR – go to HR and ask. Find out if this is true or the boss wielding the authority of those above her to lash out at staff that were critical of her.
    Believe you me, upper management and HR *might* care about some grumbles in a group chat, but they’ll *definitely* care about a manager lying to staff in this manner.

    1. What She Said*

      Had a boss who did this too. Claimed the complaint came from anyone but her when it was clearly her.

      No good would come of asking for more information though. OP just needs to leave this one alone. Just keep their eyes and ears open for whether this will be a regular thing with this boss.

    2. tessa*

      ““I’m lying. To threaten you. I’ve made this entire ‘complaint’ up. To make you feel that this message isn’t coming from me. To control what you do. To make you grateful to me for letting me know. To keep you unbalanced. Because I’m petty, selfish, etc”

      I think this is so over the top. I mean, I’m sorry that happened to you, but if the OP does all this it looks…like a serious over-reaction. good lord…

    3. Ailurophile*

      I’ve experienced this! After a few times, I finally asked, “Can you share with me who made the comment? I’d like to get the feedback from them directly so that I understand it better.”
      Management should protect down, not up. If someone higher up has a problem with an employee, I believe that employee should be able to speak directly to them. Managers don’t often have (or share) the full story.

    4. Stede Bonnet*

      That’s what I see here, too. There’s no reason to invoke senior leadership and HR like that for a casual reminder that work chat isn’t private. I would put money on HR knowing nothing about this. It reads like an attempted threat to me too.

  30. I am just here for the free pizza*

    If this chat space is owned by the company, you need to realize that of course it will be monitored; and never say anything negative, just that everything is all rainbows and unicorns. Just like those supposedly anonymous surveys they send out that have meta tags in the email.

    If you want to chat with colleagues, create a space that is not part of the company. But please remember that if you are doing this on a company computer they can still monitor it.

    1. Lydia*

      Monitored is not the same as overseen. Monitored implies someone is sitting there reading the chats either while they’re happening or after. The chat channel can be accessed and overseen, and management can act on things that come up if necessary. But it’s not true that “it will be monitored.” Nobody has time for that.

    2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Plenty of companies don’t even pay for full-time IT, much less a full-time Slack monitor.

  31. RagingADHD*

    If you wouldn’t say it out loud in the middle of a cube farm, don’t say it on the team chat.

    Your boss, or HR, or anyone who might be offended by your comment, or anyone who might take it out of context, or think it is harsher than you intended, doesn’t have to be “spying” to overhear you at work. All they have to do is be passing by.

    The blanket, unqualified, sunshine and rainbows way that “bring your whole self to work” is usually preached is utter nonsense and does many employees a huge disservice when they take it literally. There are a lot of parts of your “self” that you should not bring to work, and that includes your airing your unfiltered opinions about management.

  32. TB3*

    I work in academia at a public institution, where everything is subject to public information requests. Despite this, I’ve had other admins say things on the university email that you wouldn’t want to hit the fresh air. I generally pick up the phone when I see it and say “perhaps you accidentally sent that and you meant to delete it?”

  33. Jasmine Clark*

    I honestly don’t see what the big deal is. Of course a boss can “spy on” their employees’ work chats. I’m using “spy on” sarcastically. I don’t think the boss is doing anything unreasonable by looking at the chats. Why in the world would someone vent about their boss on a work chatroom? I think that’s odd. I would never expect privacy on a work chat. I would never vent about a boss on a work chat (or email, or whatever) because I would assume the boss may look at it.

    And… maybe there is a work chatroom that LW doesn’t know about. What I mean is, maybe a few employees are chatting with each other in a smaller chatroom that is separate from the main one the whole team uses, and maybe there were some other comments made about the boss that LW isn’t aware of.

    I don’t think LW should worry about this. LW, if you’re not making any negative comments about the boss, then the boss’s warning doesn’t apply to you.

    Also, both the boss and their employees need to be more direct when communicating with each other so that there are no misunderstandings and no one is saying anything behind anyone’s back.

  34. tessa*

    A “You may also like” letter is titled “I found out my coworkers have been mocking me in a group chat for years.”

    Perfect example of the MIS-use of company resources.

    1. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      Yeah, I don’t think negative comments about people ever belong on a company chat.
      Once a co-worker’s private message folder was saved in a public place due to a glitch. I thought it was a work thing that I needed to see, but the first thing I saw when I opened it was a conversation between the rest of the team (including the manager) badmouthing me. It was a horrible experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, even someone who deserved it.

    2. Lydia*

      Mocking is not the same as, “I don’t understand what’s happening. Is anyone else struggling with this?” Or even, “She’s so disorganized!” We can’t know for sure what end of the spectrum this was, but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t bullying.

  35. Fikly*

    This, right here, is why I tell everyone that ERGs are not safe.

    At best, they are harmless. At worst? Now the company has a list of everyone in that particular minority who is in the group, and they can monitor everything you say.

  36. Nopenopenope*

    There are times I think the audience on
    this site is anti-Manager (yes I’ll prob be bashed for that). The Manager sent an email advising of the situation and reminding the team that their messages can be checked. How is the manager immediately ‘bad’? OP immediately jumped to a conclusion because 1. They were using the company’s system inappropriately and lacked taking ownership of this 2. They don’t like their boss. Who in this day and age would bash their boss on a company system and be shocked that it can be checked? How do they know whether it’s the same chat, whether a fellow coworker shared the messages or they were flagged for being inappropriate? How do we know whether the manager already met with the real culprits and was asked to document this reminder to the team by HR/ leadership? I would have more empathy for OP if the manager lashed out or threatened them but the whole OP is a victim card doesn’t ring true

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I don’t think this site is anti-manager so much as it anti-bad behavior, especially when it comes to a misuse of power dynamics. And I’m not sure we can say whether OP herself used the group chat inappropriately. Nor do I think she’s shocked that the company *can* view the chats, just that she thinks that doing so in this instance is unwarranted and unproductive.

      1. Toxic is Toxic*

        Alison re: the manager reflecting and willing to take negative comments as part of the territory. While I agree with the former, the latter concerns me. Most managers I’ve met expect and accept criticism from their team and are willing to learn from it. However venting about your manager on a group chat using company property is often a sign of toxicity and can even lead to bullying especially if the manager is trying to change culture which the team opposes.

        Managers are people too and we often forget that.

        1. MurpMaureep*

          Thanks for this. As a current manager I appreciate your message/take.

          While I don’t want to come across as “not all managers”, I will say I’m surprised that many people here seem very hesitant to just TALK to their bosses and express their concerns (which is what I’d do if I got a message from my manager I found unclear or worrisome).

          This is hyperbole, but sometimes it feels like both letter writers and commenters view bosses as all being Mr. Slate on The Flintstones!

          Maybe it’s just the world I’m in (broadly academic medical center IT) but my staff have never had any qualms bringing their issues, questions, concerns, personal drama, etc. to me. Which is mostly fine because I see my job as supporting them doing good work. But there’s zero fear on their part of speaking their mind at all times.

    2. Fikly*

      The reason for what you are calling an anti-manager bias is simple: bad managers, even unintentionally, can easily destroy the employees under them in a multitude of ways, up to them losing their jobs, and causing major issues in obtaining future employment, because of the power imbalance.

      Bad employees who are not managers rarely cause other people to lose their jobs. Then add to that, employees have no control over who their managers are, their managers can change at any point with no warning, and their managers are almost always getting paid more than they are, and you have a hint as to why there’s a lot of frustration regarding managers.

      But I’m guessing you’ll call this bashing, given your comment.

      1. Toxic is Toxic*

        Well I have seen bad employees negatively impact their managers’ careers, especially when they are well connected or been with the company a million years so they are untouchable. The power imbalance you refer to doesn’t apply everywhere; in fact it’s why in some Companies meaningful change is difficult and after a while the manager role becomes a revolving door. Re: payment disparity. Im also aware of situations where the pay difference between managers and employees are negligible especially when there is no documentation and the company is reliant on those that built systems etc.

        1. Anonomite*

          Well, I have been bullied by a manager who made the entire close-knit team miserable until she abandoned the ship and left us all sinking, so I guess my experience negates your observations. Managers have privilege and that privilege doesn’t magically go away because one time you saw something different.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      You’d be right IF the OP or their team had in fact “bashed” the manager, but they expressly say this isn’t the case. Also, if you are not concerned about managers behavior short of anyone who “lashed out or threatened” … that’s a pretty low bar in seeking good leadership. I personally like that this isn’t a “but I thought you’d agree with another manager” website.

      1. Toxic is Toxic*

        Let’s face the fact that OP would be less worried if they weren’t part of the chat that had negative comments about their new manager. It’s one thing to bash a manager you already have a relationship with (although it’s still not right to misuse company resources) but to bash someone publicly whose now getting to know their team is not a good sign. Relationships are never 1 way ie both manager and employee have a responsibility and OP and her team aren’t helping the relationship by their actions. The manager isn’t wrong by saying what they did, however if they are unliked then everything and anything they say will be made into a problem. You don’t have to agree with another manager but you also don’t have to agree with another employee just because they are the employee. You are setting a low bar if that is the case on workplace behavior

        1. Lydia*

          The OP doesn’t sound worried about getting caught; she sounds worried that her manager seems to be reading through chats. There is a difference.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with all of this.

      And yes, the audience has become very anti-manager over the years. I’m a manager and that’s why I no longer ask questions in the Friday open thread, or even comment much anymore.

      1. MurpMaureep*

        This is disheartening to hear. I’ve recently been thinking about a couple scenarios I have as a manager that I’d love to crowd source here, specifically *because* I want to crosscheck myself and my instincts. But maybe not…

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          I think it would ultimately be very helpful to you to crosscheck your instincts! just remember to dial down the strength of any responses because they 1)don’t know you and your situation 2) don’t have the automatic modulation that comes with responding in person, they can be as strong as they want anonymously online and 3) any discussion online has a sprinkle of “not everyone can eat sandwiches” and projecting frustrations about their own situation.

          But most people are pretty reasonable and can give you good feedback.

  37. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

    Repeated for emphasis:
    “you should be aware that anything you write there could be read by your boss or someone else at the company.”
    This could include IT, HR, Legal, or even the CEO.
    I have personally seen people fired (fired fired – no severance and no unemployment) for “violating the acceptable use policy” for posting jokes and memes about things like drug use in the team chat.

    1. Lydia*

      That isn’t the same as criticizing a boss, which, unless the boss is incredibly thin-skinned, or it was less about criticism for work matters and more personally motivated, should not be that big a deal.

  38. Gov drone*

    Your chats may also turn up in records requests if you work for the government. And your boss may have to read them all to see if they are relevant.

  39. I need a new name...*

    Tone is definitely difficult in written communication, but I also felt that this read fine.

    Obviously LW has more context for the Manager’s behaviour and their reading might be more correct. But also perhaps LW and others are feeling panicked because they had, in fact, not realised that the chats were being monitored and they’re embarrassed by at least some of what they’ve written in the past.

    Also Alison has mentioned before that when things are going badly in more serious areas, it’s easy to start carrying that feeling over to all things. This could be happening here.

    New manager, new changes = overall uneasiness/disagreement/frustration. Perhaps those feelings are bleeding over into this specific communication that is otherwise fairly standard and possibly quite a prudent reminder?

    1. I need a new name...*

      And just in case it wasn’t a typo, and for future reference:

      ‘blindsighted’ = blindsided

      (I was just reading the comments on a AAM post about this! #boneappletea)

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        Blindsight is a real neurological phenomenon, as well as the title of an interesting scifi novel by Peter Watts.

  40. DeAngel*

    Always blaming management, and employees not having self-awareness and accepting accountability for misuse of company equipment and time.

  41. Toxic is Toxic*

    I wish I could like this 1000 times. There is such a lack of accountability and ownership by OP

  42. Melissa*

    Since the message was over the top, based on OP’s view of what was said…is it possible there were some chats that OP isn’t aware of? There might be more serious complaining going on that OP isn’t seeing, but whoever is monitoring the space sees?

    1. CLC*

      Right I was thinking this as well—maybe there’s a totally different chat that IS a problem that they don’t know about.

  43. CLC*

    I think there are a lot of unknowns here. It’s possible there is something in this chat the LW is missing. It’s possible the manager read the room wrong being new to the company. It’s possible the company is using an algorithm to monitor chats and picked up on key words. It’s possible this is one of those horrible managers that takes any complaint about a situation as a personal dig. I would take as a data point and move on cautiously. As a rule of thumb I don’t use chat to complain about anyone or anything internally.

  44. Gritter*

    As a rule you shouldn’t say anything on a company provided platform that you wouldn’t be happy for your boss to read.

    If you want to vert (perfectly understandable) then set up a WhatsApp group.

  45. Numb Little Bug*

    I would honestly assume that nothing said in work chat programmes is totally private. Not saying that management/HR will read every single message, but remembering that they could is the important thing. How about setting up a whatsapp/facebook chat group to get out those annoying work gripes with colleagues?

  46. Anon for This*

    “In this email to my whole department, she stated HR and senior leadership had informed her about a private chat group connected to our team which often “contains negative and unproductive conversations.””

    I’m surprised that not all that many people brought up the possibility that while the new manager was notified of the existence of the chat group that she may or may not have been told that it was full of negative and unproductive chats. She may have added that tidbit herself.

    If I worked for her, I would pay very close attention to what she says especially in terms of how she expresses her opinions of other people. She may be into gaslighting, in this case to make people feel paranoid and therefore be easier to manipulate. Perhaps she just likes to keep people off balance, which is an unattractive management style.

    Regardless, I would try to be friendly without telling her anything personal and watch her very carefully.

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