how much social media use at work is too much?

A reader writes:

How much personal social media use at work is too much? I’m fine with my staff taking five-minute Facebook breaks a couple of times throughout the day, but I’m afraid I have a few that are pushing the boundaries of acceptable use. I know I have at least one employee actively tweeting throughout their workday, and it makes me question the level of attention they are giving to their job. We are in a customer-service industry, where most employees spend about half of their shift at a service desk and half of their shift working on computers at cubicles in a shared work environment.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Employee keeps telling me about his dating life
  • Should I say something about my coworker’s old self-harm scars?
  • Explaining why I’m leaving my own business for a traditional job again

{ 185 comments… read them below }

  1. Betty*

    Regarding the LW who saw the scars, it seems like there’s a whole category of letters that fundamentally need the preschool message “we don’t talk about other people’s bodies”. (It also reminds me of the letter writer who had an interviewer write an incredibly inappropriate email based on the assumption that scars from a baking-related accident were self-injury.)

    1. sookie st james*

      Totally agree. Doesn’t feel that well-intentioned to me due to how inappropriate I think the LW’s impulse to interfere is – it’s honestly kind of patronising

      1. Moonstone*

        It feels extremely patronizing! That LW really ticked me off. His coworker certainly doesn’t need him to come in and provide a doctor’s number (!!) and lame advice about learning better coping methods.

        Obviously she is dealing with it or has dealt with it or whatever – either way, the coworker has it under control and that dude needs to mind his own business and keep his thoughts to himself. I’m highly annoyed by that whole letter.

    2. Here we go again*

      Treat those scars just like anyone else’s old scars. It’s impolite to talk about that sort of thing. She’s obviously moved on with her life and is probably doesn’t want to talk about it and could be very embarrassed.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, and although she probably has moved on bringing up the subject could be extremely triggering for her and possibly cause her to self-harm again. Definitely not a subject that should be brought up in casual conversation at all. Even if you are a trained therapist, you are not your coworker’s therapist and you should absolutely leave this alone.

      2. MEH Squared*

        And even if she weren’t embarassed by it, she might be annoyed that he brought it up. I would be. I have many scars (some old self-harm ones, but most just from being clumsy and being keloid), which I don’t hide. If someone I didn’t know well were to hand me a doctor’s number while mentioning self-harm, I would give them a hard stare and tell them to put the number away. I wouldn’t be embarrassed; I would be angry because it is none of his business.

        1. Vio*

          Exactly. Just because somebody is comfortable showing their scars doesn’t mean there’s an invitation to talk about them and especially not to leap to conclusions about them. Fresh cuts would be worrying but even then it’s a case of “that looks painful” or something to give them an opening to discuss it further if they want to.
          It’s common to want to be helpful but there’s nothing about old scars to suggest any need for help and there’s no such thing as a scar that’s “clearly deliberate”, just what people often assume is a suicide attempt or self harm because they look like the ones shown in TV and films but in real life they can be caused by a wide variety of different things.

      3. Corporate Goth*

        Or they’re potentially not self-harm scars at all, but some dude making an assumption based on what’s absolutely none of his business.

        1. ferrina*

          Yep. The LW that Betty referenced with the inappropriate interviewer mentioned that their scars were from cooking. Assuming doesn’t lead to good things.

          1. Mongrel*

            In the long ago I worked at a a bakery, pulling big trays out of the oven is a great way to get a lot of burns on your arms that turn into minor scars (they disappeared after a couple of years)

        2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          THIS. I have a lot of scars on my arms from years of being scratched or bitten by cats (and a dog or six) through my career in animal care. I had people asking about them, assuming they’re self harm scars, and it’s annoying. People need to keep those thoughts to themselves.

      4. Andie Begins*

        The thing that gets me is that the OP can tell that they are old scars. Scars don’t really go away; they can fade over time and maybe there are some plastic surgery interventions to lessen the appearance of scar tissue but what is a doctor going to do about healed self harm scars?

        To be clear, I don’t think the OP was concerned about the aesthetic of visible scar tissue but the leap from “I saw my coworker’s old self harm scars” to “I should tell her to see a doctor in the here-and-now” feels very weird to me.* Why the assumption that it’s still an ongoing issue?

        I don’t want to sound harsh but it sounds to me like the OP recognized the coworker had a history of self harm and they were uncomfortable sitting with that information and wanted to do something to discharge the discomfort for themselves. I am glad they wrote to Alison instead and hope they took the advice on board in this case and in the future.

        *(I don’t have any research to hand about prevalence of self harm in the general population but I and everyone in my life with a history of self harm started as teenagers and stopped pretty shortly into adulthood proper, and if I saw obviously-old self harm scars on a coworker I’d probably assume a similar time frame.)

        1. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

          I don’t think the OP was suggesting a doctor for the appearance of the scars but because self harm is not a safe or healthy coping mechanism. He was thinking that she needs to see a therapist. Which, being that they are old, and there are no visible signs that she is struggling then she has the help she needs and this would just be problematic.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I can’t imagine handing someone a therapist’s number, even if they explicitly asked me for it. At least where I live, it is *really hard* to get accepted as a new patient at any practice, not to mention all the insurance coverage shenanigans. There’s a very low chance it would be of any use whatsoever.

            1. Inksmith*

              And it’s not like she isn’t aware of the existence of therapists and that they can help with mental health issues. If she needs help, she’s not failing to get it because she doesn’t know she can, so suggesting she see someone is literally useless to her.

          2. Splendid Colors*

            If I had self-harm scars, especially if they were clearly OLD, and someone gave me the mental health talk, I would let him know that it was so inappropriate I’d go to HR for disability harassment should he try it again.

      5. Francie Foxglove*

        And what makes him think the scars are “clearly” from self-harm? As I said in the other thread about scars, I would love it if the scars are from pulling a baby out of a burning car, or saving a former co-worker from being flattened by a heavy object: some kind of heroic act.

        1. Pickles*

          Pffftlolol. Mine are from a bunny. He didn’t like getting his nails clipped. At ALL. I know what it looks like…and it’s an utterly ridiculous tale.

          1. Sophia Brooks*

            I was attacked by a kitten and have scars on my legs that look like self harm. It is a pain

        2. Julia*

          I’m guessing it was something like the scars are multiple parallel lines or are in a relatively small patch of skin. Basically scars that don’t look random scattered.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was absolutely reminded of that recent letter and also the bananas updates to it not long after. If this LW wants to know how to react, they can read all the fantastic comments to that letter, but your TL;DR is spot-on.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      To me the most annoying part is the assumption that because at one point she *had* a bad coping strategy, that therefore she must still have this. And the assumption she hasn’t ever talked to a doctor about it and needs that advice.

      I mean, my default assumption about anyone with any kind of condition or sign of issues is “They probably already know all the advice I, a complete stranger/coworker/casual acquaintance/friend/family member but not fully acquainted with their medical history, could possibly give them.”

      For close friends, I usually commiserate with them about the bad advice they get elsewhere, which also tells me what advice they’ve heard. (Except my Mom. Her I say “what would you have told a patient like this before you retired?” and assume she has expert advice.)

      1. a tester, not a developer*

        You should hire out as a freelance consultant to support people with chronic medical conditions who are slowly being driven mad by comments like “Oh, my friend had the same thing you do (are you sure about that Susan?) and she cured it by doing yoga/taking an unapproved combo of drugs/no longer eating foods that start with a vowel”.

        1. Miss Muffet*

          Even better when it isn’t even the condition you think it is just from looking. Ask every person with alopecia who is assumed to be going through cancer treatment, and approached by strangers with advice or commiseration. Year after year after year.

          1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

            Or any woman who voluntarily cuts her hair off for no reason other than not wanting to deal with it.

        2. Robin*

          “no longer eating foods that started with a vowel” – so glad I was not drinking anything when I read that!

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I got a chuckle as well. Like most diets I hear about, I couldn’t stick to that one. Give me back my avocados, asparagus, olive oil and ice cream!

        3. Lenora Rose*

          I can’t see this being of much help since all I could do is not and smile and agree that they have indeed heard it all…

          (There is a sad counter truth which is that some folks, and I definitely include me in that number, know that certain specific pieces of advice *would* help us in particular and still don’t do it… But I’ve also never found a magic solution for “Make me take my own advice” and until I do, I refuse to try and get anyone else to take mine.)

      2. Empress Matilda*

        Yeah, I’m going to guess she has probably heard of these people called “doctors,” and may even know how to “make an appointment” if she needs one.

        Seriously, dude. What do you think you can possibly offer her, as a near-stranger with no knowledge of her medical history, that she hasn’t already thought of?

        1. Gerry Kaey*

          Yeah but his ego will feel real good and he’ll get to go around believing that he saved someone’s life. (I realize this may be ungenerous but whatever I’m bitter about all the people who “helped” when I was self harming but were really just stroking their own savior complex.)

          1. Empress Matilda*

            No, I think you’re reading it right – it’s entirely about his ego. If it really was about helping her, he might have started by thinking about her point of view for half a second.

            I’m sorry you’ve experienced this as well, and glad to hear it’s in the past for you.

          2. ferrina*

            Yikes, you may be very right. Some people are exactly like that.

            I know several Officially Good Do-Gooders who perform magnanimous acts- whether you want them or not- so they can tell others about how magnanimous they are. The acts range from actually helpful to “I and every expert ever told you not to do that, and now you screwed everything up!”, but the Do-Gooder doesn’t care about actual impact. They just want the tale of when they were clearly benevolent heroes. These people are awful.

        2. MEH Squared*

          Your comment made me laugh heartily, but also knowingly nod. Dude. She knows those things. Even if she didn’t, she doesn’t need someone she barely knows to gallop in and save her (and she probably would ignore him–I would).

          I used to self-harm. I knew what I was doing. I knew it was maladaptive. I would have told him (silently) to fuck off. If I hadn’t known myself that well and just felt I was spiraling out of control, I would have reacted even worse to such interference from a coworker.

        3. Mansplainer*

          Ugh, yes! He’s assuming she’s a complete idiot who hasn’t thought of going to a doctor. So patronizing. I’m glad the LW questioned himself before saying that to her.

          1. Rex Libris*

            I was just wondering what the relevant equivalent of mansplaining would be… manvising? manhelping?

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Not to be confused with the much cooler Mantavention, which is an invention that lets you fly through water like a Manta Ray.

      3. But what to call me?*

        The awareness that someone with a problem (or a presumed problem) has probably already heard all the advice about their problem that might pop into the head of a person who has just now learned about the problem seems to be quite rare.

        Surely if the person with the problem just knew this *one life-changing piece of information* (apparently that therapists exist, in this case?) their problem would be solved!

        (A bad-advice-commiserating friend would be an lovely thing to have. I only have the miracle problem-solving advice-givers, such as my grandma, who upon me explaining what executive function is and that mine doesn’t work very well, promptly found a random list of ADHD advice online and presented it as the solution to all of my problems. And then these people get mad when you, who actually live with your problem with all of its complications, don’t gratefully take in their sage wisdom and use it to solve all of your problems, including the ones they only think you have.)

        1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          At least she didn’t tell you “It’s all in your head.” To which the answer is, “Well damn, that’s right!”

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I instantly thought of baking when I read this because the one time I got perfectly straight, matching scars, they were actually burn lines was off a baking tray. Not only did I burn both arms at once, I did the exact same thing again a week later and got two parallel lines on each arm.

      1. Robin*

        My sympathies, this is 100% something I would do. I still have a mark on my arm from a baking-related burn from…4 months ago now?

    6. RuledbyCats*

      Regarding advice, I have made a point to engrave on my own brain the following tweet content from Karolyn Sharp (Sept 2022):

      Was at a training once where the facilitator said “Unsolicited advice is criticism. Always.”
      Half the room audibly gasped/ objected.
      The other half shouted a chorus of yes/thank you/ amen.
      She offered no quarter to the “just being helpful” brigade. It was glorious.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        “Unsolicited advice is criticism. Always.”


        Since I am both fat and disabled, I get tons of unsolicited advice about what others see as issues I must address. (I even get it here.)

        My gut response is wanted to say (or type) “FUCK OFF!” I usually manage to temper it to a mild “Mind your own business, please.”

    7. Twix*

      Man, that letter pissed me off on two different levels.

      On the one hand I have Major Depressive Disorder, among other mental health diagnoses, and the constant stream of “advice” and “help” and “encouragement” from people who know absolutely nothing about MDD but just know I need their help is insufferable. If you see old self-harm scars on a person who is successfully holding down a steady job and has no outward signs of decompensation, do not make condescending assumptions about their mental health and ability to manage it. It’s not going to help, and it could very likely hurt by making them feel self-conscious and noticeably damaged. If you do want to actively try to help, 1) Treat them like an adult equal and 2) Make yourself a safe and supportive person to talk to if they want to and without pressuring them to do so.

      On the other hand, I have a bunch of thin scars across the inside of one wrist that a number of people have assumed were from self-harm. Where they actually came from was using fine-point mechanical pencils in college. The brand I preferred had such fine tips that if I put them in my pocket point-down, they would sometimes poke through the fabric of my pants at the exact level my wrists hang at. I scratched myself really good on em a bunch of times, apparently enough to leave scars. If you don’t know the situation, don’t assume.

    8. Nina Bee*

      Also how does the LW know that the person isn’t already actively managing any potential issues (if there even are any anymore). Just because they’re seeing the scars for the first time doesn’t mean it’s news to the person with them. She’s been living with the consequences of whatever happened for a long time probably, and has more than likely worked with professionals and dealt with it long ago (assuming the scars are self harm at all).

  2. lilsheba*

    I have to agree about the social media use. I’m on various sites all day BUT my work is still done and in a timely manner and well done. I have zero complaints about my work, social media among other things are time passers while I wait for work to come in, it doesn’t replace it.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      It feels like any other distraction at work: is it preventing me from meeting my own goals/deliverables, or is it preventing someone else from meeting theirs? No? Then I’m not seeing how it’s much different than a lot of other workplace distractions, of which there are too many to be named but that can’t be easily curbed by blocking access to certain websites.

      1. Smithy*

        Yes. I would also say that sometimes focusing on quantitative markers – such as how much time is ok to be on social media or colleagues engaging in social conversation – is often more indicative of managers struggling with either the language or tools to articulate what the actual problem is.

        Issues of optics in particular I’ve found the corrections that managers are often uncomfortable giving because it can often be seen as a lack of fairness between employees with jobs or situations that are relatively similar. If someone’s desk was next to the CEO’s office or another high traffic area where lots of high profile external guests would come by – there might be a higher expectation of having a very limited use of taking personal phone calls or having social media or personal shopping/email sites visible. Someone else with the same job and work expectations but a desk in a different location wouldn’t.

        Instead of addressing the optics impacting expectations and having a more direct conversation about that – a default to fairness fix can be seen as simple. Where everyone is told to only use social media 5 mintues a day or something. Which instead doesn’t help better grow the professionalism of the person with the job in a more optics sensitive role and then confuses the person who’s desk is in the corner and meeting all of their KPI’s to a high level to now have their social media time clock watched.

        1. Higher Ed*

          Sometimes people fool themselves into believing they’re getting their work done, when they really are only meeting the bare minimum. This is the situation in my office. A colleague and I have used the same software for the same amount of time, with the same training, however, their understanding and skill with it is far less than mine, so I end up correcting their mistakes and sometimes am flat out given extra work because the managers know I will do it correctly. They “technically” complete their work then spend hours on Facebook and YouTube, rather than training to learn how to better use the software and the managers don’t want to have the difficult conversations to fix this.

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            This mostly sounds like a problem with the managers, tbh. People doing the bare minimum are going to do the bare minimum regardless of whether or not they’ve got Facebook or YouTube at their fingertips.

          2. Smithy*

            Similar situation where telling everyone – you only get 5 minutes to be on Facebook and YouTube. Or how much time on your phone It just upsets people who use those tools to listen to music, touch base with family, or for periodic breaks. And the person not training will just find another to not be trained…..

          3. Ellis Bell*

            This isn’t a social media problem, it’s a management one. If they’re not being directed to train and improve, they’re deliberately being left twiddling their thumbs, so it doesn’t matter whether they’re watching Tiktok or making paper aeroplanes.

            1. Higher Ed*

              I realize it is mostly a management problem, but I would also like people to be honest with themselves and be sure that there is absolutely nothing even remotely work related they can be doing instead.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I used to think that way, but I’ve read enough studies on productivity to learn that for high-focus work, humans are only capable of doing it for about 3 hours per day. So yes, we can fill the rest of our time going to meetings/answering emails/reading industry articles, or we can spend it loitering on Facebook, but in either case we can’t really be more productive.

                1. Allonge*

                  Or do the rest of the job that does NOT require high focus work, come on!

                  It’s a pretty disingenious way of interpreting that statistic to say you won’t get more than three ours of work out of me anyway.

                2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

                  Surgeons, nurses, pilots, and many other careers are required to focus a lot more hours in a day than that. If we can define a NICU nurse’s job as low focus, I’m sure most office jobs have a lot of low focus work.

            2. Just Another Cog*

              I have to agree it’s a management problem, Ellis Bell. I’ve had co-workers who are on social media all day and do a crappy job that affects me because I need their work done right in order to do mine. There are others who can take social media breaks, but also do a great job. Sometimes mentioning the problem to the manager works, but more often it goes in one ear and out the other. It’s very frustrating.

      2. starsaphire*

        I worked in an office before the advent of social media. (hashtag get off my lawn)

        I would like to proudly tell you that my pencils were perfectly sharp, my hanging folders and files scrupulously labeled and organized, and aaaalll of the paper clips in my paper clip dispenser were aligned to face the same direction and stand perfectly upright. Multiple times a week.

        Procrastinators gonna procrastinate. :)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I started drinking coffee for an excuse to hang out in the breakroom while it brewed and chat with people who came in.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Same! I will sometimes get a coffee in the office and not even drink more than a few sips, just because it is a socially accepted way to get a brain break, some socialisation, and stretch one’s legs.

      3. Fishsticks*

        Yes, but see, then you don’t LOOK busy, and the appearance of working is the important thing here…

        Joking, somewhat. Valid concerns about social media use are very real, if they are affecting level of work accomplished or the quality of work. But I’ve just heard so many managers/bosses ragging on literally anything employees do that isn’t staring at a screen and/or folding clothes that have already been folded seven times…

    2. Totally Minnie*

      Also, the LW says their staff spend a large chunk of their day at a customer service desk. When I worked in a library, I spent around half of most work days at the service desk, and most of my ongoing projects were things I had to do in the staff office. If my service desk hours were slow, I often didn’t have anything to do other than scroll through blogs and social media.

      1. E. Chauvelin*

        Library was my immediate thought on this one, too, and agreed. Plus the things that one could theoretically work on while on a service desk shift are sometimes things that it would be hard to do while also staying alert for people who need assistance. If you can wander away from the physical desk for a bit and straighten shelves, for example, there’s a limit to how in-depth you can get before it gets too big a project to do while keeping an eye on the desk to see if someone has approached it. Not to mention that the viability of maintaining sightlines so you can see people/they can find you is going to vary a lot depending on the setup of the library in question. Sometimes you wander a bit, ask some people if they’re finding everything they need, put a few things on a shelving cart, and then check a blog.

      2. ferrina*

        Yep, I think it’s an important distinction of whether they had other things they were supposed to be doing. If there’s not much going on, well, there’s just not much going on.

      3. sundae funday*

        If they’re working the service desk, it sounds like they might be getting interrupted often. I can’t function on other projects when I know I’m going to be distracted.

        This reminds me of when our receptionist went on maternity leave and we were taking turns running the front desk. I couldn’t work on my projects that required deep thought and focus because the phone would ring unexpectedly. But I could scroll Instagram mindlessly while waiting for the phone to ring or someone to come into the office.

        1. Loch Lomond*

          Reminds me of the part on Mad Men where Megan was at the front desk, and they made her read magazines instead of novels while up there- having the receptionist reading a thick tome visually implies that they don’t get much business! But looking up from a magazine is similarly easy to looking up from Instagram.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        My first non-babysitting job was at the circulation desk of the local library, and I spent my downtime reading the coolest-looking children’s books.

      5. Lyngend*

        Same at the call center. No clients being sent through my queu? No training to be done? Then we are either going to be talking to our co-workers or doing something like reading.
        Working at a new call center where they’re like “no crafts or puzzles or reading. Only helping clients reading knowledge articles and doing paper work”
        I’m absolutely going to be wfh as much as possible so they don’t if I have my pc on social media/reading or not.
        I’ve had too many days on other jobs with multiple hours a day with no calls, or clients. And the idea of spending 4 hours in a row rereading documents I’ve already memorized isn’t appealing. Not being able to to split my attention between destress and studying, with nothing else to do? Nope.

  3. metadata minion*

    For Letter #3, a couple of additions:

    1 – As we saw in that letter with the horrible interviewer, those scars could absolutely be from plenty of other things! Surgery, oven racks, other variations on weird accidents…

    2 – Even if they were recent, and were definitely self-harm, this doesn’t mean she needs a coworker’s help. It also doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a therapist or other mental health care. Mental health care isn’t magic. It often takes a long time to find a treatment that works, and even if you’re doing pretty well overall, you can slip back into harmful coping mechanisms if you’re going through a bad spot.

    1. Skyblue*

      Thank you for your second comment! People often talk like all you have to do is call a doctor, and… Ta-da! Mental health problems are solved.

      Sometimes things are treated quickly, and that’s great, but that’s not everyone’s situation.

  4. Funfetti*

    Perfect timing for OP#4! That’s exactly where I am right now – started my own business, the stress of sales etc looking for jobs – and I have an interview today.

    I don’t regret trying this path – if anything it’s taught me I prefer stability and then I can be selective about clients for additional income. I think it broadened my horizons but it was definitely a journey that I am hopeful employers can see as an asset.

  5. The Cosmic Avenger*

    For #1, yes, PLEASE don’t treat the symptom, treat the disease….if there is one! If productivity is fine, don’t worry what they’re doing. I have managed social media accounts in the past, but even now that I don’t, I follow plenty of industry related accounts on social media, and many of these social media accounts and communities have helped foster and develop the work skills I have (accessibility compliance, Drupal development, general website design, etc.).

    1. another Hero*

      it sounds like a library; twitter isn’t an uncommon way to stay connected with the field. doesn’t mean it can’t be a waste of time! but if the employee has few peers who share either their responsibilities or their demographic traits, if they have limited opportunities for professional development, if they don’t get a lot of chances to contribute meaningful feedback at work, anything like that, I’d consider that if work was getting done. it could even be useful for the employer. but even if not, twitter isn’t inherently worse than other brain breaks.

    2. ferrina*

      Yes! My work isn’t the same, but I never tracked social media usage among my team. I always suspected one of my high performers had more social media usage at work, but 1) he was a high performer and 2) he always let me know when he had down time, and he was the first to volunteer when he had extra time. With a worker like that, why would I nitpick? Whatever he’s doing, it’s clearly working for him!

  6. fgcommenter*

    Social media is great decompression, helping to avoid burnout and all the mistakes that go along with it.

  7. WorkForYourPay*

    RE: Social Media Use

    If it isn’t part of their job to use social media, they shouldn’t be on the site unless they’re on a break. Just like with duty creep, break creep can seriously alter the calculus for someone’s job description and can cause long term issues with load balancing.

    Also, social media sites are scouring you for information. Seems to be bad form to use them at your work site.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If you’re trying to optimize a job to be engaged 100% of on duty time…I guess? But that’s not true for most jobs. Workflow varies, people perform tasks at different rates. The important thing is whether or not the work is getting done.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Manufacturing jobs pioneered the 8-day workday because that’s the maximum amount of time someone could work before they made serious mistakes or were injured.

        For most jobs that require a high degree of mental focus, the maximum amount of productive time is actually about 3 hours a day, on average. So even if I’m super productive and work 6 focused hours today, I’m going to be unfocused tomorrow because my brain needs the rest.

        If employers want 100% productivity, they shouldn’t require 8-hour days.

        1. scandi*

          Manufacturing unions pioneered the eight hour workday because it was more reasonable than previous, longer workdays. Manufacturing employers would cheerfully still be requiring 12+ hours a day if they were allowed to (see your average sweatshop in countries where murders of union activists are still common). There is nothing magical about the eight hour number. (And manufacturing jobs are far from a monolith in terms of mental and physical effort needed for the job, so why would there be one single “optimal” number for all of them?)

        2. ThreeHoursDoesntCutIt*

          If you really believe that you’d never function in any job I’ve ever had. Or grad school. Or college. Or a lot of hobbies for that matter. 3 hours? Seriously?

    2. Spearmint*

      I disagree. What matters is the quality of work. I agree “break creep” can be a thing, but so many things other than social medics use can cause it. If a particular employee isn’t getting enough done and spend lots of time on social media, that’s one thing, but a blanket ban is misguided. You wouldn’t ban chit chat between coworkers just because one employee might be doing it too often instead of working.

      1. Giant Kitty*

        A friend of mine once worked at a place that banned chit chat between workers- for no discernible reason, as all they were doing was measuring & mixing various items to make potpourri. She was let go because she couldn’t be silent all day.

    3. Lenora Rose*

      This is definitely possible — at a former job, it became an issue for me, though notably about the same time I was getting frustrated with them keeping me as a contractor well past the point where they should have hired for the role if they really wanted it to keep going. For some reason, through several roles with varying down time, at a happier/better workplace, it generally hasn’t been, even on the days it’s hard to tear away from the phone at break time.

      And the answer, as Alison noted, is to keep an eye on actual productivity measures.

    4. CharlieBrown*

      Well it isn’t part of my job description to do a lot of things that I do at work, so this is just not how things work in the real world.

      That said, don’t use your work computer for personal social media use.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          If I want to look up who wrote the song I heard on the car radio using my work laptop, I’m going to. I don’t log into social media with it, but the occasional Google isn’t breaking anyone.

        2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Last year, I worked about 80% outside my official job description-with the blessing and encouragement of my manager when I told him I’d develop this new service (I didn’t ask, he just had veto powers – I’m senior enough for that).
          Part of my job in consulting requires spending time on news sites to spot trends; I do that in less productive times. Still I must actively fight my tendency to procrastinate; getting sucked down that rabbit hole is a real danger for me.
          I don’t have any social media except LinkedIn for both the time sink and privacy reasons.
          We are allowed to use our work laptops for personal stuff; there is a folder explicitly reserved for it but I prefer using an SD card (encrypted with Bitlocker to go) so I can pull my personal stuff out whenever I like. With my traveling (113 business travel days in 2022), it makes sense to not carry a personal laptop.

    5. yala*

      “break creep can seriously alter the calculus for someone’s job description and can cause long term issues with load balancing”

      People aren’t machines are mathematical equations

    6. Kella*

      Just as Alison said, those issues are addressed by focusing on the work output, not by micromanaging someone’s time. For plenty of jobs, it’s okay for people to not be working 100% of the time. If they are getting their work done and/or available for coverage at the required times, then “break creep” isn’t actually a problem.

      It’s really not reasonable to say that people can’t use social media *ever* when on-site at work.

      1. YesIAmRetiredNow*

        I disagree. Don’t use work internet resources for anything personal, period. Get up from the computer, stretch, walk, get some water, roll your shoulders, have a convo with a co-worker to reset” mentally. Stare out the window to give your brain a rest/let something percolate in the back of your mind. Look at career related stuff. Read AAM or other “work related” materials.

        Before social media, one often couldn’t just pull out a newspaper or book, or turn on a TV unless it was specifically OK to do so. Some places allowed a radio, some didn’t. It depends on the nature of the job and they type of work. So pulling out FB or Twitter is the equivalent IMO. And if one’s job allows stuff like this, then measuring work output is reasonable.

        I had “talks” with staff who would stop work to read a newspaper when not on break, with patient orders waiting. I would do so nowadays if they were on FB or Twitter or Tik-Tok, with a 24/7 department that rarely had “nothing to do”. My staff had their breaks, and someone closing their eyes for a minute, or getting up to stretch or for a quick walk or get something to drink were actually doing their job IMO because as others have noted, one can’t just grind away hours upon hours without it affecting things in the long run. But when the Internet started, people often got invested in stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with their work, got distracted, and started making more mistakes. I was surprised at how easily folk got distracted, and how it took longer for them to get “back on track”. Not to mention, people seriously pushed the envelope for “stopping work to do something online”. The IT departments actually had to review all websites daily and block them, because most of them seriously had *nothing* to do with work. Not to mention viruses getting into the system from really inappropriate sites like porn. The hospital policy was “work use only” and all this monitoring had to happen because people just couldn’t help themselves, “oh it’s just a minute” actually logged at hours upon hours of time lost. People were fired for porn sites, for getting the systems affected by viruses, it was insane. So their short “break from work, to help recharge/reset intermittently throughout the day” was no longer a helpful “stretch your legs/back, get up from the chair, take a break from the eyestrain/posture strain”. People got carpel runnel, eyestrain, headaches. This was in the early days, of course, IT has many more tools to prevent inappropriate use and side effects like eyestrain nowadays. But I really strongly believe taking a break from social media while at work, period, unless you are actually “on a break” of 15 minutes or more. The comparison of “work life before social media” and nowadays is crazy. Most of the people I interact with who do this in front of me (customer facing positions) come across as rude, and they seem inattentive/unfocused and make mistakes. So people, please try it for a week, unplug and see how you feel. See if you actually accomplish more, make fewer mistakes, feel better at the end of a day by doing something a little healthier for yourself during your work day, than scrolling. Like voicemail, email, and DVR’s, it will all still be there. And you may be horrified at how *much* time you actually spend on things that really don’t enrich your life all that much.

        1. Such as it is*

          The analogy you made to newspapers seems to suggest that your issues aren’t really with social media, their with employee distraction and performance.

          So – if an employee is distracted and not performing their work duties- that’s what needs to be looked at. If an employee is using company resources inappropriately or in a way that creates security risk – that’s the conversation that needs to happen. (Although social media and porn are definitely not equivalent things, but I will grant you that there are security issues with both).

          To me, there are already so many difficult and challenging things in this world – to judge others on how they take breaks seems so unnecessarily unkind. And as sure and well intentioned as you may be – you truly do not know what works best for someone else.

          I am a doctor, I have a high stress job and, while I don’t often use social media in general, there are days where that’s the thing that’s allowed me to take a mental break, reset and face the rest of my day. Let people have their own small joys.

        2. Scarlet2*

          It’s up to people to choose how they want to “enrich” their lives, don’t you think?

          Besides, I started working in an office long before social media existed (even before each employee had their own Internet connection – there was one for the whole office) and that never stopped anyone from being lazy or unproductive.

        3. yala*

          “My staff had their breaks, and someone closing their eyes for a minute, or getting up to stretch or for a quick walk or get something to drink were actually doing their job IMO because as others have noted, one can’t just grind away hours upon hours without it affecting things in the long run.”

          This…really seems like a difference without distinction. Assuming the work quality/output is the same, why is staring out of a window doing nothing, or getting a coffee, or talking with a coworker about your respective weekends acceptable, but a 3-5 minute twitter scroll isn’t?

          The whole point of “reset mentally” is to pull away from work for a moment. Tbh, a walk or a coffee isn’t gonna do it for me, because my *brain* is still in whatever fog it was in that made me need a quick reset.

          The rest of it all seems a bit like catastrophizing. Some people were viewing porn (?!?) and unsafe sites at work? That’s wildly inappropriate, but also…not social media? Social media’s whole homogenization thing has sort of cut down on the odds of stumbling onto an unsafe site–you’re not likely to get a virus from just scrolling through Twitter. People got carpal tunnel, eye strain, and headaches? Ok, but lots of us are already on a computer the entire time anyway, so that seems moot.

          The rest of your complaints seem to be more about output (poor customer service, etc) than the actual use of social media. That and some rather unnecessary proselytizing.

          1. Tree*

            Also, wouldn’t it be quite common for people to pull out their phone for a quick scroll break rather than use the work computer? I’m not sure that the spector of virus applies for many cases.

            I too am from the Before Social Media Days of Yore. Honest confession – when I was in a job I hated, I used to sneak a book into a bathroom stall and read for half an hour. People waste time in all sorts of ways, not just twitter, and if you ban social media the time wasters will find something else.

        4. Kella*

          Again, all of those are *performance* based problems. Some of them can be directly attributed to the social media usage, but for lots of them, you’re making an assumption that the primary source of the distraction is social media, and not the many many other things that can be distracting.

          And since you’re getting into a general condemnation of social media and recommending that *everyone* unplug, I need to point out that the existence of social media is sometimes the only form of social connection that people with certain disabilities or chronic illnesses have access to. The fact that you feel more enriched when you limit your social media use does not mean that’s a universal fact. And it’s deeply condescending to assume you know what’s good for everyone else, including your employees, and that other people aren’t capable of managing their own mental enrichment.

    7. Jodi*

      Yes, at a previous job we used to joke that if you needed something from Angela in accounting, your best avenue was to post it to her Facebook page as she was always on it and unresponsive to any other means to reach her.

    8. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

      I get on social media on my cell phone. That’s continued now that my workplace is remote.

    9. ferrina*

      Eh….not that simple. If you’re looking for some calculous-
      What is the ideal mental state for an individual to be able to optimize their output for an individual day? What about sustained over time? And what is the minimum necessary level of output for that role, both on an individual day and taken as an average? What is the average among peers?

      Now, how does each team member get as close to the ideal mental state as possible for maximum optimization over time, and how does that curvature compare to the minimum and average level of work accomplished?

      Different brains work in different ways. Some people will get horribly distracted and output will suffer. But some people will get refreshed, and will be able to sustain higher levels of productivity with strategic breaks (and the frequency, duration and type of break will vary with individual). Individual results will vary- that’s why we like to measure against output rather than calculus.

    10. sundae funday*

      I have ADHD so I tend to work in bursts. I’ll double down and focus hard on something. I also tend to have my headphones in and a YouTube video that I don’t have to pay close attention to playing in the background. It helps me focus. When I do this, I can finish tasks relatively quickly–and probably a lot faster than most of my coworkers. But the cost of that is that I have to give my brain a break to focus on something mindless.

      If it weren’t social media, I guess I’d just stare at the wall.

      1. YesIAmRetiredNow*

        Why not stretch, breathe some fresh air, look out a window/something that is not a screen putting out radiation/affecting eyes. Look at things in the distance, out a window, instead of at a tiny screen. Have a cup of tea or something, focus on the beverage. You may like it. Starting at a wall is not the only option.

        1. sundae funday*

          This is probably the most patronizing comment I’ve ever received about my ADHD. Congrats, I guess.

          1. Appletini*

            Ugh, my sympathies. It takes a lot to come up with a standout bit of clueless obnoxiousness about ADHD considering how much everyday obnoxiousness people spout, but looking at the previous comment I see what you mean.

            1. sundae funday*

              It’s almost impressive in its utter confidence about something the writer is clearly clueless about!

              I wish I had a smidgen of that confidence!

          2. Fishsticks*

            <3 I'm sorry. "Helpful advice" like that is just absolutely exhausting when you know your own neurotype and know how it works.

          3. yala*

            For real. “Why not do these quiet things that actually make your brain scream louder?”

            Nevermind this whole “tiny screen” and “radiation” jabber

          1. yala*

            Five bucks says they don’t actually believe it exists, and that if it does, it can just be treated by Trying Harder.

        2. yala*

          Because for some of us, those things don’t actually create a reset for our brains? I mean, I suppose I could read a book, but that would distract me for a much longer time (and much more thoroughly) than a quick flip through Twitter. Or I could stare out the window and lose all track of time while my thoughts started swirling like a maelstrom until I couldn’t focus on *anything* productive.

          You’re being very condescending and unpleasant now. Maybe you should have a cup of tea.

          1. sundae funday*

            Exactly! Like obviously I and every other ADHDer stares out the window sometimes, but thank you so much for that advice! But yeah, while I’m staring out the window, my brain is going a million miles a minute, so it’s not a “reset” at all, just a million thoughts screaming at me at the same time.

            I have to engage my brain in something else entirely to have that reset. I actually do sometimes read a book on my kindle app, but that’s a lot more distracting than looking at pretty pictures on Instagram for a few minutes!

        3. Esmae*

          Why not trust people to know what works best for their own individual brains? Some people go for walks, some people hang out by the coffee maker and chat, some people scroll twitter. If it works for them, it works.

        4. Confrontation Wednesdays*

          Somehow I don’t think sundae funday is the one who needs to go out and touch grass here.

        5. Kella*

          This is really condescending and rude. You think people have never heard of these strategies, or never tried them for themselves? People with different forms of neurodivergence don’t struggle with things like focus because they lack a key piece of information, and you happen to be the only one who has that key. People with different forms of neurodivergence literally have brains that work in a different way from yours. That’s what it means.

          You’re telling someone to abandon the strategy that works for them in favor of ones they already know don’t work for them. This is why it’s not cool to assume you know people better than they know themselves. It’s not actually intended to help them at all.

    11. Clisby*

      Definitely shouldn’t be using social media on employer-owned devices, unless social media is somehow pertinent to their work.

  8. Pink Candyfloss*

    Some people are more productive when they take frequent short breaks which helps them take a mental breath and refocus. Some people are more productive when they have long uninterrupted periods of focus time. Allison’s advice t look at employee productivity and not social media time is spot on for both and all the ranges in between.

    1. Spearmint*

      Yep. I’m someone who works best in bursts of very focused attention with zero distractions followed by fairly long breaks. Every year I’m told I meet or exceed expectations in every category despite my long breaks. Every employee works differently.

      1. sundae funday*

        Me too! I used to feel guilty about it, but now I realize my bursts of focused attention are only possible because I let my brain have a rest for a while. If I tried to maintain that level of attention all day, I’d be a mess and I wouldn’t get anything done.

        I really think I can get something done in half the time it would take someone else to do it, but the tradeoff is I have to take a break when I’m done.

        1. ferrina*

          This. I’m ADHD, and my brain works in really weird ways. I’m very quick, constantly have multiple trains of thought, and usually looking 6 steps ahead- great for managing projects and crises. Have you ever seen a simulation of a computer running multiple scenarios at once? that’s my brain. Where other people see a wall, I see four different solutions, just let me know what resources we have, and I’ll MacGyver it. But on the flip side, when my brain needs to recharge, it really needs to recharge. When this happens I can either muddle through a day and exhaust myself for very, very little payout, or I can take a break. And yeah, some days aren’t productive. But the next day I’ll produce an incredible solution.

          My brain works best when I work with it. And yes, my brain doesn’t work in the way anyone expects, and it doesn’t follow the laws of Should, but man, it makes great results.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            When thinking about a hard problem I’ll often do something completely unrelated and not highly complex. Like browse certain websites, or even comment. It can’t be too complex because my hindbrain is processing the complicated stuff.

            Even then I still wake up in the middle of the night with likely solutions to work problems springing full-blown into my head.

        2. Alan*

          Me too! Some years ago I was feeling so guilty about social media reading that I finally went into my boss’s office and confessed that I was really struggling with this. I also was often at work 12 hours a day. I loved my job but I needed breaks. He just looked at me and said “You’re my most productive employee. I don’t know what to tell you.” Which I interpreted as “I’m not telling you that this is okay but what I care about is output.” I just gave up worrying. I work intensely for periods of time then I need to veg to let my brain rest.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          I’ve tried denying myself those rest breaks, and the result is not pretty (or productive). I am capable of a certain amount of quality work each week, and trying to push that limit leaves me grouchy, exhausted, error-prone and unfocused.

    2. Still*

      Yes. If you’re a sprinter, you sprint for a few hundred metres and then need to rest. A bad manager will look at you resting between sprints and say: think how much you could do if you ran like that all the time! But that’s not physically possible. There are people who run marathons but they sure as hell aren’t going as fast.

  9. Elle*

    I always really appreciate Allison’s responses to anything relating to bodies, especially self harm scars. I haven’t gotten any commentary on mine in a long time (tattoos and a thick watch band tend to cover most of them) but I remember all too well the things colleagues and managers have said in the past. I once had a manager tell me that, due to the scars, they had doubts about “how much the company could trust me.” Eek.

    I truly don’t understand the urge to comment on them or even think too much about them after initially noticing them.

    1. Manders*

      Scars, pregnancies, passing on alcoholic beverages – all of these are things that I cannot imagine asking about or discussing unless the other person brought it up. Seriously, not my business.

      1. Meep*

        Seriously. When I was 3, I took a tumble (well two, but that is neither here nor there) and ended up with a very large scar on my forehead. I remember a lot of my elementary school was spent having to field questions from students AND adults about it. Many weren’t even nice and along the lines of “what is that on your forehead”. I wore bangs for the longest time out of being self-conscious. And I cannot even fathom the hurt at being interogated over scars that aren’t from being a major klutz.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          That sounds rough. However, it’s incumbent on teachers to enquire about scars and bruises on kids because of safeguarding; in no way should an adult who can control their living situation and medical appointments be put through any questions or comments.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Or weight loss/gain. I get persistent nausea when I’m particularly stressed or grieving. Being “complimented” on losing weight, when it is because a loved one died, is awful.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I still remember when some associates saw another woman from the group who had moved away for several years and then came back, significantly thinner. They fell all over themselves complimenting her on her weight loss. Her very dry response? “I had cancer.” Shut that BS down right quick.

        2. londonedit*

          Yep. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition just over a year ago and one of the symptoms while it was flaring up was weight loss. People were saying I looked great, but I was terrified because my other symptoms were a constantly racing heart rate, anxiety and inability to sleep, and while I was losing weight I couldn’t understand why because I was ravenously hungry all the time. Strangely enough no one has commented that I ‘look great’ since everything has been under control with medication and I’ve put all the weight back on plus some extra for good luck. It’s pretty depressing really. Just don’t comment on people’s bodies (unless they invite comment themselves by saying they’re really proud of losing a stone, or saying ‘How does this dress look?’ or whatever).

    2. MsClaw*

      I was lucky enough to not have people ask me about the fairly visible scar I have. One day at work I told the story (somehow we’d gotten on to the topic of childhood injuries) of how I got the scar to a few people who were mildly like ‘aha’ when I shared this. So it was pretty clear to me that they had all noticed the scar but knew better than to ask me about it. If I had to explain it constantly, that would be really upsetting for me.

      So yeah, don’t ask. If people want to share their story with you, they will.

    3. Francie Foxglove*

      “I once had a manager tell me that, due to the scars, they had doubts about ‘how much the company could trust me.’”

      Okay, no snark; I really don’t understand. What logic (if any) led them to conclude “scars = untrustworthy”?

  10. Karate Saw*

    [flatly] I don’t think it’s “kind of you to want to help” at all and I also think (a man if it matters and she a woman if it matters) definitely matters. Picture yourself telling a bro with an old scar on his shin that he should talk to doctor and watch him tell you to get bent.

    1. Robin*

      Yeah, the gender part of it definitely jumped out to me. “The poor, delicate flower needs help” kind of vibe, which is patronizing and unhelpful. Not necessarily what LW was going for, but the vibe is there.

    2. Lirael*

      I have never self harmed and yet I still had a very visceral “ohHELLno” reaction to the idea that self harm is inherently an unhealthy coping mechanism. I mean, I wouldn’t suggest to people that they start self-harming (!!!), but if for example they’re a kid in a dangerous/abusive family environment and self-harming helps them cope until they can escape and get help, I’m not gonna tell them that’s unhealthy. And for all the OP knows it could have been that situation. Much side eye at that one.

      1. Boof*

        I mean, implicit in the name is “harm” and I’d say it’s a bad coping strategy. Body modification is fine when it comes from a positive place “this is cool / i like this!”. Same is true of alcohol and many other things (an alcoholic beverage for pleasure/ taste; ok! Alcohol to escape anxiety; danger!!!). Sure there’s always worse alternatives but as I understand it it’s not a positive thing at all.

      2. Caaan Do!*

        It most certainly is inherently unhealthy. The clue’s right there in the name. Sure, it’s good to not tell someone in a tough situation they’re acting in an unhealthy way, as it would no doubt pile extra shame/stress/trauma on top of them but, having been someone who used to self-harm, the act of harming yourself is definitely not a healthy coping mechanism.

        1. Jessen*

          I think it’s more, like – as someone who grew up in that environment, I have yet to have someone suggest a “healthy” coping mechanism that I could have actually used as a child that would not have simply resulted in me being hurt by an adult instead. And it did a lot of damage the way people focused in on the self-harm as an unhealthy coping mechanism but then didn’t…seem to have any sort of coherent, useful ideas as to what a safe and healthy response would have been? So I have the same reaction because the ultimate message ended up being “it’s healthy to do something you know will cause someone else to hurt you, but not healthy to do it yourself if it prevents this worse harm.”

          So labelling it as inherently unhealthy very much comes across as denial that situations like mine exist? And it was actually a major difficulty for me getting away from abuse that I was the one who was being defined as unhealthy for trying to cope with a situation that made the healthy alternatives dangerous to me. How are crying or punching a pillow or whatever healthy options if you’re just going to get hit for doing them anyway? Sometimes healthy has to be relative to the situation you’re actually in rather than to what we’d like people to do in an ideal situation where you can just leave the house and take a walk or write in a private journal or any of the other things people just assume you can choose to do without consequences.

          1. lspth*

            I agree with you. When I self-harmed, it was because it was the least harmful coping tool available. I had tried and been punished for everything else.

    3. PoolLounger*

      Huh, just realized that the only people who have asked me about my scars are men. Not many people ask, but when they do they’re insistent, asking more even after polite deflections. Never wondered if it was a gender thing, but now…

  11. New Mom*

    I supervised four interns last summer and one of them was constantly scrolling on her phone. I talked with her about it but it didn’t really improve. There ended up being other issues with her work ethic and her output and she’s the only one who would not be eligible for rehire but I remember feeling at a loss. I had told them all during orientation that they could use their phones for work but not for personal use during their non-breaks.
    Since some of them, and potentially her as well, used their phones for the work they did as well it wasn’t as easy as telling them to keep their phones in their desk. I think this year if we host interns again I’ll really hammer in that excessive tiktok scrolling is not okay outside of breaks but we’re pretty busy when the interns are here and I can’t constantly look at their screens to see what they are doing.
    I actually had other employees give me heads up that the one intern was definitely not working. It was pretty annoying, and I couldn’t fire her because of her connection to my company.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      Do they have to use their phones for work? It’d be a lot easier to keep the scrolling down for all the interns if you could just advise them to put their phones away entirely while they’re working. Then you’re not trying to guess if they’re using them for work or scrolling.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I was going to ask how you tell the difference without actually looking at their phone.

      2. New Mom*

        No, they are issued laptops by my organization but some of them said they preferred to do some of the work on their phones. I was really happy with the output from the other three, so I didn’t mind them using their phones and potentially messing around a bit with them. It was just hard when one of them was taking it to the extreme.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The phone addiction probably stopped her from distracting the others with chit chat. It’s not entirely certain that her phone was the issue and she would have been fine without it. I work with younger adults in an educational setting and we ban phone usage because yeah, if you’re very young it can be difficult to have self control over something so distracting. However when someone is truly work shy, they will always find something else to do to pass the time. You can’t ban toilet breaks, or using the break room, or social conversations too because there’ll be plenty of people who use those things responsibly. I would probably let them use it unencumbered at first, then only ban it for those ones who don’t seem able to leave it alone based on their work output.

      1. New Mom*

        Yeah, I’ll need to decide how to approach it for this upcoming summer. I might ban them outright or try this approach.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      If her output was bad and didn’t improve after coaching, does it matter whether it was due to TikTok, doing PhD research, or daydreaming? If she cut down on TikTok and still didn’t do her work, would that have been an improvement?

      I think phone use is a red herring in most performance problems.

    4. Boof*

      Echoing others – sounds like the excessive social media use was an obvious symptom of a problem, but not the problem itself – do you really think her work ethic would have been better if she wasn’t looking at her phone? My guess is she would have distracted with something else (unless she has a real social media addiction)
      I do agree it’s worth addressing professional norms when orienting interns; and that does include something like “have an eager and engaged attitude, pay attention to what’s going on around you and how you can learn or help” etc – MAYBE even a few words along the lines of “we trust you to be adults and won’t micromanage your time, but excessive personal calls and social media browsing is generally not part a professional environment” [or something I’m sure others could come up with something much better]

  12. Alex Rider*

    Scar question: leave it alone. If they are older scars she has most likely received help and doesn’t need someone to bring it up.

  13. Heffalump*

    Some years ago I noticed bruises under a coworker’s makeup and wondered if her husband was battering her. I decided to keep quiet on the theory that asking her about it would put her on the spot. We later got to be friends, and he was indeed battering her. She left him several months later.

    1. Gerry Kaey*

      Ugh yes thank you for this example. Like, what people in pain DON’T need is someone white knighting coming into “save them from themselves” or whatever — despite whar cultural narratives often tell us. If you genuinely care about someone’s wellbeing, befriend them and treat them like a human being, not some project to solve.

      1. Heffalump*

        I didn’t really think it through that far. As I said, it was a matter of not putting her on the spot. Even if I’d thought a white knight was needed, I wouldn’t have been sure I was up to it.

    2. Appletini*

      This is precisely how to deal with such a situation — you gave her a resource and a person she could trust, and quite possibly some extra strength to handle her own situation. WEll done and thank you for the excellent example.

        1. Fishsticks*

          I do think that the isolation aspect of abuse makes creating any new personal connections a huge lifeline for someone who is being abused. Not necessarily because of anything the connection does or says, but simply because they help push back against the abuser’s narrative of the abused person being unlovable, unlikeable, etc. It can provide a nice internal boost to fight back against that poison.

  14. Moonlight*

    1 – I wondered if this employee has enough to do? I had a job once where my manager knew I’d have slow periods but then had the (audacity) to criticize me for checking social media. I’d try to tell her it was a slow day or whatever. This person was older and not on social media so maybe it’s just a different relationship to social media. But this was NOT a job where I could simply find something to do – for example, in retail you can do things like some light cleaning and organizing shelves. Not so here. Most other staff were too busy with their own jobs to cross train me so I cools help them OR were in the same position as me with having slow days and might just be making a show of making themselves look busy or scrolling social media periodically. So if she’s not got enough work that’s worth looking into – maybe her performance is great and she’s getting her work done on time, as allusion suggested checking that.

      1. Fishsticks*

        There is nothing so physically mind-numbing about “busywork”. It was always a special hell to me to have to just… pretend. I could feel the pressure on my brain whenever I had to do it. My current job doesn’t mind phone use as long as work gets done and it lets me do my ‘sprintwork’ and then breathe, which is how I perform best.

  15. unperformative worker*

    My workplace made everyone sign up for Facebook when it was new, hoping to bring tech-averse staff into the 20th century. Then we’d get lectured for using it at work.
    Thank goodness the pandemic broke that nonsense.

      1. Lyngend*

        Can I 100% of the time give my attention to the job when I use social media? No, but 90% of the time yes. The other 10% are things I would be distracted by without social media. Like a good friend dying of cancer.
        And sometimes non-work related usage (not necessarily social media but not excluding it) can make it easier to focus on work. Because then distracting thoughts are no longer distracting me.

        Like today I had to decide which rule to break, using my work computer for a personal reason. Or using my cellphone. (I used my phone). I had a word stuck in my head. But I thought it was a phrase. I needed to know what it was. (I knew it was French. I went from not knowing what it was at all, to thinking it was “do you study?”. It was just the word for studying in French. What I remembered, sound wise )
        But I know how to prioritize and work comes first.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, I’d say no one tell my boss, but they’re happy with my improved professionalism thanks to this site!

    2. Lyngend*

      As per my last job’s rules it would be. Basically everything was social media according to them. But it was the slowest job I’ve ever had… I kept trying busy work only to be told “not today” “wait to run out”. Soooo onto discord I went. And writing notes.
      Since while they were gossiping, I couldn’t leave my desk, since I was criticized for leaving my desk leaving the front unattended. (yet they would leave it unattended when I wasn’t there)

  16. curmudgeon*

    The absolute audacity of some people to think that their unsolicited medical advice is both warranted and wanted.

  17. pcake*

    LW1 – when a job is stressful and I need a break, I often check out a video or social media. The result is I”m less stressed and do better work after the breaks.

  18. Curmudgeon in California*

    Regarding leaving your own (marketing) business:

    Marketing is not sales. You might be great at coming up with marketing material about stuff, but not have any talent for cultivating leads and closing on them.

    If you have no head for sales, going independent can be very difficult. You can market your service all you want, but unless it’s in the right place to generate leads that you can close on, you won’t be a success. My spouse found this out the hard way.

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      You could also phrase it to be not about sales but the logistics of running a business, like admin, accounting, taxes etc. taking time away from the marketing work you love – maybe you found that’s not for you. As almost everyone with a creative streak seems to hate admin work that may sound better in interviews.

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