coworker plagiarized my paper, should I tell my boss we can all see he’s offline, and more

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

1. My coworker plagiarized my paper

I’m curious about an issue that happened to me a number of years ago and how you would have advised me back then. I had a coworker who I knew on an acquaintance level. We were friendly and would occasionally interact when our work overlapped and attended monthly team meetings together. We had different managers, but the same grandboss.

I was working on my master’s degree via distance learning and so was she. At one point she was taking a class I had just finished. I shared with her my papers from that course, along with the professor’s feedback. One paper in particular I had done poorly on, but the feedback on that paper was invaluable and helped me moving forward. I shared it with her as I felt it could help her too.

A few months later, I was on maternity leave, and got a call from the university. They told me that this coworker had submitted my (poorly written!) paper as her own. They did a Track Changes report on it, and she had swapped out the cover page info and that was it. I was not in trouble as I am allowed to share my work as I wish, but they wanted to know if she had been given it or stolen it in some way. Because I was busy with my new baby, I let it go.

However, I had no clue how to handle this at work when I returned. She plagiarized me, blatantly. But it was not really a work issue, and I assume the school handled it but I don’t know how. I never brought it up with her, but heard from others that she had taken a leave from school and work around that time due to health issues. I just sat on it, and she was eventually promoted on a temporary basis. She didn’t do well and was not offered the job when it went permanent. She then left the organization. She also never finished her degree, as far as I am aware. Should I have spoken up? If so, how would I have addressed it? It felt sort of gossipy to bring it up, but would it have been really?

You certainly would have had standing to address it with her. The easiest way would have been to just be straightforward: “The school contacted me to say you’d turned in my paper as your own. What happened?” (Obviously you know what happened — she decided it would be easier to plagiarize your work. But asking that question is a way to make it clear you you know and aren’t giving her a pass.) (Also, why that paper of all papers, when it got a bad grade? So many bad choices here.)

But I think you’re asking whether you should have brought the incident to anyone else’s attention. You didn’t need to, but you could have. Caveat: if you were a manager, you would have had more of an obligation to raise it as something your employer might want to be aware of when considering her for promotions, etc. (because it’s a pretty serious ethical violation that’s sort of work-adjacent, even though it didn’t happen at work).

2. Should I tell my boss we can all see he’s offline?

I’ve had my boss for three years and he’s really struggled as he didn’t have previous management experience or experience in what our specific team does. We do get along personally, but it’s been hard for me professionally as I continue to handle most of the day-to-day and I’m afraid eveyone is finally starting to notice he doesn’t contribute much.

The main issue is a classic lack of availability. Someone on another team let me know a while back that my boss wasn’t available on Teams until after 10:30 a.m. most mornings.

I’ve seen this as well, like his boss will message our team with a request and my boss won’t see it for several hours in the morning when he should be available. I really want to avoid our team looking bad because of this. I know boss really struggles with technology (he’s early 40s, only a few years older than me) and doesn’t have email on his phone, etc., so I don’t think he knows everyone can see he’s still sleeping. Is there any possible way to point this out without it getting more awkward?

It’s not a problem you have to solve; it’s on your boss, not you.

But if you really want to say something, you could approach it as if you assume he’s working then but for some reason his Teams setting isn’t showing it: “I’m not sure if you realized this, but your Teams setting has been showing you as unavailable until about 10:30 most mornings. It might be worth looking at your settings if you don’t mean for it to.”

3. Diplomatically criticizing AI in an interview

I’m at the second stage of interviews for a job I’m really excited about, and it’s in large part thanks to your advice on cover letters! Since it’s a copywriting position, I’ve been tasked with a few small writing assignments to demonstrate my skills.

I’m writing to you because one of the tasks is to edit content generated by AI into a cohesive text. Following my initial interview, I’m aware this will be something the company wants the hired person to experiment with to potentially speed up the work process. I was cautiously excited about that goal; I don’t have a lot of experience with AI, but I’m a curious person and quick to pick up new tech skills.

The problem is, the text I’m editing for this exercise is really bad. At first glance, the text seems fairly intelligible, but a closer look reveals it’s just word salad camouflaged by mostly correct grammar and varied syntax. I’m talking blatantly false claims, incorrect explanations of concepts, wordy, repetitive ideas, and a tone that doesn’t match the company’s brand at all.

If I make it to the next round of interviews, I’m pretty sure I will be asked about my experience editing this AI content. I don’t want to lie and say it was great and I loved using it, but I also don’t want to knock myself out of the running for the position by being too honest, especially since it’s only a slice of what the job would be.

How can I diplomatically say that it took me more time to edit the AI nonsense than it would have for me to just write the requested copy from scratch? I’m open to try again and experiment more with AI-generated content (I recognize that this tech is advancing very quickly), but I obviously have reservations about how effective using this tech will really be.

If you just want a diplomatic answer: “I’m really interested in how refining the prompts might change the quality of the output. The AI text in this exercise required a lot of editing — so much that it would have been faster to write it from scratch — so I’m interested in experimenting with ways to try to improve its output.”

But you also want to make sure that you don’t end up in a job where you’re uncomfortable with their use of AI, or their work processes in general … and this is an opportunity to explore their philosophy on AI, how realistic they seem about its current limitations, and how receptive they are to well-explained pushback. So a different option would be to say something like, “The AI text in this exercise required a lot of editing — so much that it would have been faster to write it from scratch — so I’m interested in what your experience with it has been. Have you found you can get better output by refining the prompts you put in?” … and “How are you figuring out where AI will improve your efficiency and where the technology isn’t aligned enough with your needs yet?”

Read an update to this letter

4. Company posted a better job after I interviewed for something else

One week ago I had an interview for a job at a very small, very specialized state agency. The job is a slight stretch beyond my core expertise, but I’m confident I could pick up the new skills quickly, I have always wanted to work for one of the very small number of these agencies, and it was the first job they had posted since I moved to this city almost a year ago. However, today they posted a second opening that is more suited to my expertise and more aligned with the activities I’d ideally like to do, as well as being permanent, while the first job is funded for only a few years.

There’s a decent chance that I’ll hear back about the first job before the closing date for the second, three weeks from now. If I would ideally like to have the best chance at the second job, but would prefer a shot at the first over neither, what are your recommendations? Important notes: both have the same hiring manager and the job market here is quite small. I have many more years total experience than either job asks for, but in the way of government jobs I think, the description calls for experience in very specific tasks. I’d say I meet the qualifications for both jobs, the second more than the first.

Go ahead and apply for the second job (it’s government, so you can’t skip that step) and then email the hiring manager and say something like, “I wanted to let you know I also applied for the X position. I’m very interested the Y position as well, but the X job is a particularly strong match with my background. I’d be glad to be considered for either or both.”

5. Two weeks notice when you don’t work five days a week

How does the standard two-week notice period apply for cases where an employee works four days a week (or fewer)? In a post from 2009, you write “two weeks notice means 10 business days.” For the four-day-workweek individual, are these 10 days spaced out over three weeks? Or would it be fair to assume it’s business days regardless of if the employee normally works that day or not?

If it helps, let’s assume the company is the kind that allows people to serve out their notice periods to the full extent. What is reasonable for the employee to offer?

It typically means two calendar weeks from when you give your notice, even if you work four days a week.

{ 385 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    I had a boss try to claim that because I didn’t work Fridays, my notice period would have to be 12 working days (10 of my working days but 2 weeks plus 2 days). HR ended up overruling him, siding with me that 2 weeks on the calendar was all that was expected.

    1. Ron McDon*

      So glad HR shut that down – that implies that if someone only works 1 day a week, he thinks they should work a 10 week notice period!

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        My boss was like that too. Funnily enough it didn’t work out like that for paid leave, if I took a week, five days were deducted.
        Similarly, he “forgot” that I worked a 6-hour day when counting up the hours I’d be taking off in lieu of overtime pay (so if I took a day off, he’d deduct eight hours), but he never forgot that I worked part-time when it came to salary.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Whaaaaat you had to use leave for days you weren’t working anyway?! That’s not how this is meant to work!

          1. SpaceySteph*

            I guess it depends on the schedule as to whether this is ridiculous or reasonable. If you don’t work Fridays because you work 4-10s, but leave days are still 8hr increments, then you owe those 40 hours either way.

            But if rebel had a part time schedule, then yeah this is totally NOT cool!

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I assume there are reasons you wanted to work a notice period, but that would prompt me to announce today was my last day and peace out.

      1. rayray*

        yeah, notice periods aren’t legally mandated, at least in the USA. They’re a courtesy. You could just as easily say your last day is Friday and peace out then. Some people will quit on the spot too. It’s not the boss’s decision.

    3. JB*

      Since when does the boss get to dictate what your notice period will be? The notice is a courtesy, not a requirement.

    4. Van Wilder*

      I once gave my two weeks notice late-morning Monday, with my last day being the following Friday. My boss told me I wasn’t giving a “full two weeks” because Monday was almost half over. I do not miss that place.

  2. Observer*

    #3 – AI text in an editing job.

    Here is a question for you: Do you actually WANT to work for a company that is unwilling to hear that the text they are handing you is bad? Of course you want to say it politely, and Allison (as usual) provides a great script. But the key thing to keep in mind is that if telling them that you could probably have done a faster job starting from scratch or that the work had really serious inaccuracies, assuming that’s true, would keep them from hiring you, it’s probably a company you should avoid working for if you can afford to. Because clearly they don’t want to hear anything “negative”.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I’d be very worried that they were planning on moving to a model where the content is AI generated, and the human is hired to edit it into a useful state. Editing poorly written, error ridden text is a very different job than writing the text yourself, so the LW needs to be sure what the job is intended to be, and whether they want to do it.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        This this this! A LOT of “news” sites and content farms are already doing this, and they’re all blinded by how easy it is to quickly fill your site with custom text (if you have absolutely no standards for quality). They use AI to justify paying their “writers” less because you’re just “touching up” an already-written piece, it’s not like we should have to pay you per word like we would if you were the actual author, and oh by the way you’re technically a contract employee so if you happen to end up working for less than minimum wage that’s not our fault, that’s your bad time management :-\

        Some companies will try AI, decide they actually want to publish articles that people will want to read, and will get back to hiring humans six months from now. (Well, they’ll try – lots of places that normally accept short story and article submissions are swamped by AI-written articles from “writers” trying to take shortcuts right now.) Some companies will double down on the AI revolution and won’t notice their reader engagement slipping until it’s too late.

        Personally, I’d be upfront about my concerns with the AI-generated text and if that kept me from being hired, that’s probably a good thing.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes. This AI lark is to copywriting what machine translation is to translation. We keep saying we can do better starting from scratch, but businesses are looking to cut costs wherever they can and will try to make us proofread a machine translation. I simply refuse to do it.
        On one occasion the client lied, telling me that his assistant translated the document. I could tell that it was a machine translation though, because proofreading machine translation triggers migraines in me. I told him as much and said I would no longer provide proofreading services to him. Now he sends me translations only. Maybe not as many as before, but I’m fine with that, I have plenty of work. I’m actually having to refuse work because I earned too much last year and will have to change my status if it continues (which would involve paying double the amount of tax).
        I do hope editing AI content doesn’t trigger migraines too!

        1. Garlic Knot*

          I once had to write a multi-page report for the C-suite (in my fifth language, to boot) explaining why sticking a brand promotion text into Google Translate is not a good business practice, even if it’s touched up after.

          Another time we engaged a third-party translation company, and their product ended up not up to par even with the discounted price. Two days later I accidentally discovered it was an “edited” Google Translate text and was incensed: even I could do it better and without the extra cost!

          1. Midwest Manager*

            This makes me think of that old TV show “News Radio.” There’s an episode where the station owner wrote a book that was translated into another language, then translated back and printed from the 2nd translation. You can find it by searching “News Radio Jimmy’s book”.

            1. Bee*

              There’s actually a lot of this on Amazon, bafflingly! My mom mostly reads ebooks these days, and she wanted to read the Anne of Green Gables books because I was so obsessed with them as a kid, so she bought the ebook and was just absolutely baffled by how I was able to read them so easily at 8, she was really struggling with it. My dad took a look at it and went, “hmm, this looks like German” – she had somehow bought a copy that had been translated into German (or something with a very similar grammatical structure) and then machine translated back into English. Why would you do this when the text is in the public domain and you can just sell the original? I have absolutely no clue.

        2. Random Dice*

          “On one occasion the client lied, telling me that his assistant translated the document. I could tell that it was a machine translation though, because proofreading machine translation triggers migraines in me.”

          I’m very interested in knowing more!

        3. allathian*

          Yeah. I’m so glad I mainly work with two smallish languages, Finnish and Swedish. No AI translations for us to deal with yet, although I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

          I took a certification in regulatory translation a few years ago. Legalese is often obscure enough when it’s written by humans, but looking at even a few lines of AI translated text just gave me a headache. I definitely wouldn’t want to proofread *that* all day…

      3. Erin*

        +1 to this. It sounds like the role that you interviewed for is to edit the txt and train the AI how to think. I do this in my job on a slightly different level, and it requires many, maaany edits to the AI generated feed.

        One thing I would ask is: do you currently have a procedure or process by which all people in this role edit the AI generated information? If they don’t, they are in their infancy with this, and you could offer to create those guidelines. If they do, you will simply be expected to follow the guidelines to train the AI how to think.

      4. Lacey*

        Yes. I don’t write, I design, but people are already making noises about how we could use AI content and we’d just have to do “touch ups” to take out the ten-thousand fingers.

        I’m already in the job, so it’s different, but I’ve said quite plainly that I don’t want my job to be touching up AI art/design. I want to create things myself.

    2. Blueberry Patch Girl*

      I was thinking this. I would 100% want to know if the employer could handle the feedback that the text had serious issues.

    3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This! I’m a tech editor and journalist who works with AI for a number of purposes but never for content production, and I get asked all the time why not.

      AI is dependent upon two things: the relevance and quality of the data it can access. The majority of people aren’t aware that the AI programs they use are time-limited (for a variety of reasons) which means the AI may only be able to assemble a paper from internet sources pre-2019 (which is a big deal). That means a lot of text would not be relevant.

      Quality-wise, if your topic is fairly nuanced or has less available information online (for example an academic topic with little existing research or research that is behind paywalls), that AI will have little to pull from. In a majority of cases for anything resembling an article, you will end up with a piece that is 8th grade quality writing at best. Not the same as an 8th-grade reading level, but meaning it isn’t structurally well-formed, perhaps repeats entire paragraphs in different ways, and includes entirely outdated data. And this is with the highest rated AI program currently available.

      For your interview, one perspective you might take for discussion is some version of the following points: “I really need to know more about the program that generated this piece. The quality was insufficient for use for this task and I am curious as to the source and age of the information it has access to as well as to what this particular program was designed to do initially. As AI stands now, regardless of the program, its primary strength in writing is that it can create partially-useable texts suitable for purposes such as bulk, mid-quality SEO, form documents and letters, and in very generally summarizing mass volumes of information. I don’t think the program used in this case suits tasks for this role and I honestly believe that if it is crucial to use it, it will waste more company resources than it is worth.”

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      The thing is, AI text is this month’s hot new thing. We are still early in the hype cycle. At this point, I don’t think most companies have a “philosophy on AI” beyond its being a potential cost saver. Some will jump in with both feet, and it will be hilarious. I am looking forward to the inevitable report about a company using AI to create legally binding text, then not carefully reviewing it. Hijinks! In the meantime, lots of places are dabbling with it as a creator of first drafts. They will be disappointed, for the reasons that the LW points out. Taking a first draft of fluent BS and turning it into something coherent is harder than just writing it.

      The language Alison suggests is perfect. If the company pushes back, this suggests that they are dazzled by shiny objects. If it isn’t this one, it will be the next. Dealing with this is exhausting.

    5. Angelinha*

      I feel like they know it’s bad and that’s why they’re hiring an editor to fix it…right?

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yes and no. The work it’d take for an editor to edit something written by a capable human is a lot less than to edit something very poorly written by an AI. In other words, if the AI were a human, it would not have gotten the job in the first place because the output is that crappy. They should’ve still had editors when they had human writers. So if the job is now primarily going to be editing AI garbage, that’s very different job than normal.

      2. linger*

        Compare what happened with Journatic in 2013. Their business model was:
        1. Harvest online data (e.g. funeral notices, property sales ads).
        2. Hire second-language writers overseas (in e.g. the Philippines or Brazil) to bash that data into paragraphs, at about USD0.30 per story (when, for comparison, an American freelancer could expect USD6 per story).
        3. Hire an American editor to fix the inevitable language errors.
        4. Use the resulting stories in “hyper-local” neighbourhood inserts in regional newspapers.

        The quality and relevance of the resulting stories was obviously substandard (because nobody was left making any decisions about newsworthiness of the content), but what ultimately sank the company was their practice of assigning fake (Caucasian-sounding) names to the story writers (the owner claimed that the “text assembly” stage 2 didn’t count as “writing”). When that came out (This American Life story “Forgive Us Our Press Passes”, in episode 468 “Switcheroo”) media companies rushed to disassociate themselves from Journatic.

    6. OrigCassandra*

      This. What I notice about places that are gung-ho for AI is that they lack respect for the work they think AI can do, as well as the people who do it.

      I’d walk if at all possible, OP3.

      1. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

        This plus they also lack respect for the human writers whose work their AI is likely ripping off. That content doesn’t come out of thin air.

    7. London Lass*

      #3 – I would consider the possibility that they know the text they included in the task is badly written, and they are interested to see how you respond to that situation. The letter says this is a route they want the new joiner to explore. Maybe they know it needs work (or might not be viabale at this stage) and genuinely want to hear your thoughts on it. If that’s the case, avoiding the issue might count against you.

      Obviously, this is something you can probably judge much better in an actual conversation, and how frank you are to start with will depend on how much you are willing to risk losing the job over this issue. But I wouldn’t jump to conclusions until you’ve actually met them and had the chance to see how they react.

    8. Managing to get by*

      Could they have intentionally given you some of the worst AI text to see how you handled that?

    9. Twix*

      Professional software engineer here, with some experience working with AI. I strongly disagree with people saying that AI is the next fad technology; or more accurately that it’s just a fad. I expect it to be a transformational technology on par with the internet that radically reshapes the world economy. But two things to bear in mind are that it is the current “hot thing”, and that it’s a technology essentially fresh out of beta testing driven by an incredibly powerful and flexible algorithm. The former means that a lot of companies are trying to shoehorn it into content creation in ways that don’t really make sense for its actual capabilities. The latter means that the quality of content it is capable of producing is likely to improve quickly and dramatically (and has been!) as developers better understand its limitations and how to train it effectively.

      So to the original question, LW, I would not assume that editing superficially coherent word salad into bad articles is what a job editing AI content will consist of long-term, but it is the state of the technology right now. Be aware that taking a job like that may involve substantially more involvement in the tech side of things than traditional journalism or copy-editing, since you’ll be the person with eyes on the quality of the raw output. I think both of Allison’s scripts are good. I also think it would be reasonable to ask something like “I’m very interested in the potential for AI to streamline content generation. However, I know that it’s a very new and developing technology, and the sample I edited had enough issues that it would have been quicker to write it from scratch. What’s your plan for incorporating AI into your process?”

  3. Slothy*

    “I’m not sure if you realized this, but your Teams setting has been showing you as unavailable until about 10:30 most mornings. It might be worth looking at your settings if you don’t mean for it to.”

    Real talk…maybe I’m too nonconfrontational, but I can’t imagine actually saying this to a boss…

    1. Dolly*

      Same. My boss’s hourly idle status has long been the topic of chit chat but I can’t imagine saying that to her lol

      1. Random Dice*

        It seems similar hazardous to one’s continued employment as that underperforming guy who mansplained his boss’ performance to her.

    2. PollyQ*

      3rd. I don’t see anything good coming of this, and possibly quite a lot of bad. Much safer to leave it alone.

    3. Heidi*

      I’m not sure why the OP for this letter is assuming that her boss is sleeping. He could be, of course, but as we have learned from this site, he could be working a completely different full time job. Maybe it would be more diplomatic to mention that so-and-so was trying to reach him and ask if there another way he’d prefer to be contacted during the morning hours.

      1. I HATE Teams.*

        Agree. I can use Teams simultaneously on different apps. Even if I’m online on one, it will show me as away from another.

        You can tell other people have this issue because when you message them they will respond even when “Offline” or “Away”. Something about our computer settings shows that Teams is often inaccurate.

        1. Anon in Aotearoa*

          Exactly; Teams isn’t 100% accurate. I work in Teams for my primary client, and I’ve just learned that I often appear “away” (orange) when I’m really working in a different tab elsewhere in that client’s Microsoft suite. I’m mildly horrified, as I’m a freelancer charging by the hour, working mostly remotely, and I really don’t want to give my client the impression that I’m not working when really I am.

          So you can definitely use the “Teams might be acting weirdly on your computer – I read about that on the Internet” line.

          1. Autumnheart*

            My team routinely has conversations that go, “Am I green or am I a white x?” and “He’s orange right now, but he’ll probably be back in a bit.”

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          Yeah, just this past week I spent about 10 minutes messaging back and forth on Teams with a colleague who showed as offline the entire time.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I often set “appear offline” overnight so my laptop doesn’t chime with notifications …and sometimes I forget to turn it back on immediately. I get a LOT of good focus time those mornings so I’m not sorry.

            1. Prospect gone bad*

              It usually turns back to green as soon as someone giggles their mouth. I’ve never had any of these “issues” with teams people are claiming here and I’ve seen people use them as excuses for not wanting to say “woops I took a really long lunch and wasn’t here”

              Teams is not that glitchy. Personally when I’ve tried to appear away to focus, it keeps going back to green when I love the mouse. So in that case I put it to “In a meeting”

              But it’s almost impossible to make it appear “away” by accident while also working on your computer

              1. Pencil*

                You may not realize this, but different companies set different parameters for when Teams will show away or whatever. Please don’t accuse other commenters of lying. Just because your settings work well for you doesn’t mean every company has good settings. Personally I have seen Teams turn yellow while I was actively working with mouse and keyboard but with Teams minimized.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  Yeah. My Teams is yellow right now as I’m typing this. If I open the window itself it will turn green in ~ten seconds.

                  If this is because of the way my company set this up, I doubt they’re even aware of it. It’s also inconsistent, and sometimes dependent on my phone settings vs my computer settings. People have been writing more about tracking Teams statuses in different ways and I really just want to say – don’t.

                2. Phryne*

                  This. We have both MS Teams and Skype for Business on our work laptops and I have very very often seen the two not agreeing with each other on my status while I am working. I have co-workers who show as offline for 200 days in Skype while they are talking to me in Teams. I’ve had Teams on ‘Do not disturb’, which should block all calls, and still get calls. Seen co-workers ‘in a call’ on teams who were sitting next to me not in a call. We also have work Phones, and whatever you do with those seem to have an effect too. (And we have not even started on the fact that depending on jobs, it is very possible to do work while not actively on a computer)
                  The status in Teams is *utterly* unreliable and judgeing your coworkers by it is a huge no-no where I work.

                3. cuddleshark*

                  Ugh, this makes so much sense. I wasn’t having this problem with Teams until a couple months ago. Teams only shows me as green if I’m actively using Teams. If not, it gives me about 5 minutes and marks me as away. I can be answering emails, writing in Word, etc… Teams doesn’t care. Just jiggling a mouse does nothing; I have to actively touch the Teams window. It’s the worst.

                  I’ve googled and read about other people experiencing variations of the same issue, but there’s NOTHING in the settings related to the status. (The most common suggested solution is to create an all-day calendar event and setting your status to available, which isn’t really a useful solution for me.) I always figured it was a bad update or just bad UX on Microsoft’s part.

              2. Maglev No Longer to Crazytown*

                I have been frequently working exuberantly in both Word and Excel… And then realize to my horror that I have been shown as “away” for an extended time in Teams. I have checked settings and there is nothing else I can do, but to show as active, I need to actually alt-tab to Teams and move my mouse IN TEAMS. Apparently mine is just jealously sociopathic if I pay attention to anyone other than it. And I rarely am actively using it.

                1. abca*

                  Yes it’s the same for me. It’s always so strange to see people be so certain that “this is how it works on my computer so surely my experience is universal and other people must be wrong”. It depends on organization settings, but also on OS, so even within the same organization there is variation. For some time I wondered if people who always show as active on Teams were just sending messages all day (because that’s the only time it is green for me). I was wondering if they did not have actual work to do, or if they indeed did the mouse juggle thing.

                2. SarahKay*

                  My Teams is okay if I’m using other Office programs, but will sulk and refuse to play nicely if I dare to spend time using SAP, doing training on Chrome, or any other non-Office-suite program.
                  Fortunately my manager trusts me to do my work regardless of what Teams tells him I am doing.

              3. Glomarization, Esq.*

                Nah, Teams is garbage. Never mind that I can’t trust someone’s availability status as reported by Teams — I can’t trust that it’s even delivering messages to the office next door most of the time.

              4. Everything Bagel*

                My Teams has me appear away when I come back to work unless I actually click inside the teams app. If I just come back and start working in a spreadsheet, I’ll appear away until I use Teams again. So annoying.

              5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

                If people are using Outlook as their email and calendar, Teams will pick up on anything in your calendar and use that as your status; so I’ve had meetings that ended early, started late or just got cancelled at the last minute, but didn’t bother updating my calendar and Teams will still show me “In a meeting.” My boss and I have a shared calendar so we know when folks are out of office, and Teams often thinks I am out instead of my boss, because it’s on my shared calendar. My org will often have training sessions or Town Halls and auto populate them onto everyone’s calendars as a reminder, whether I’m attending or not, Teams thinks I’m out…

              6. Clovers*

                My Teams doesn’t turn from yellow to green until I specifically maximize Teams. If I jiggle the mouse and just open Outlook instead, it stays “away”.

        3. AnotherLibrarian*

          Yeah, I would suspect the settings are wrong before I would suspect someone of anything else.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Yeah, I have focus time booked so Teams shows me as “focusing”, but sometimes I just close it so there is zero distraction from it. It’s entirely possible that is what the boss is doing (and not picking up that messages sent earlier might need his attention at the time, so he may have to modify that just because he’s the boss).

              1. Capybarely*

                In Slack (so not teams but similar-ish) I’ve noticed I don’t receive notifications for messages that were sent during do not disturb hours. I hope there’s a workaround that I haven’t found yet…
                But if Boss is in a similar notifications setup, he could be merrily working and assuming he’d get pinged if anything *had* come through.

        4. Rich H*

          I have noticed several times before that Teams is showing yellow for me even after several minutes of typing.

          1. Lilo*

            Teams also sometimes won’t feed me messages for 30 minutes. I can see on the sidebar something has been written but nothing appears in the chat.

            Teams, IMO, is quite glitchy.

          2. Verthandi*

            I was watching a training video from the Files tab in one of the teams I’m a member of and it went to yellow after 5 min. After 20 min of me watching and not touching the mouse or keyboard, the screen went black.

            So even if you’re inside Teams with an active file, the indicator is highly inaccurate. It’s an IT setting, as before, you actually had to lock your computer before it would show you as “Away” and it would be green forever if you went to lunch and forgot to lock.

            Now that we’re mostly remote, the settings we can’t change show us as Away when we’re actively working, but I think management knows this and has us announce our arrivals, breaks, back from breaks, and offline.

        5. fhqwhgads*

          True. Or sometimes someone forgets to set themselves as not away when they come back. BUT the key in the letter is the boss isn’t responding at all during those “away” times. Hell, twice a week I forget to set myself active on slack, but people know I’m there when I’m supposed to be because I respond to stuff.

        6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh Teams – we both love and hate you. Last night at work my whole team was showing as Offline at different random times during the night. We just kept joking about Teams made us ghosts at random points during the shift.

          The point is, tech can fail. If you’ve got the sort of relationship with the manager where you can mention the online availability issue, give him an out. But otherwise – he’s the manager, let him handle his business himself.

        7. baffled*

          My Teams won’t show chat notifications half the time. I’m actively working, icon shows green, then at random I’ll get a notice of activity or chat from much earlier, even when I’ve been clicking in Teams.

      2. Jamtoday*

        Also not sure why the assumption is the boss is sleeping. People might need a later start time because they do school drop off, check in on elderly parents or have other responsibilities. Working 10-6 is becoming much more common place.

        1. John*

          Or the boss could be using that time to focus on projects that they’re working on individually before opening Teams and being distracted by requests (that may or may not be appropriate for their role if it’s important that they’re available for questions the whole day, but that’s between them and their boss)

          1. gawaine*

            This! There are people in the organization who’ll see availability and start just randomly Teams’ing.

            Made worse by the fact that Skype, WebEx, and Zoom don’t interact with Teams to know whether they should show pop-ups or not – I’ve had a screen shared on WebEx and had people just repeatedly Teams me, regardless of availability. Even Teams on the web (which is what we have to use when certain other organizations create the meeting) doesn’t interact with the Teams app.

            As a 40-something year old computer software guy, I find the “maybe he’s too old to understand how I want him to use technology” tone really insulting.

            1. Escape from HNB*

              I echo the age-ism thing. I’m 55 and built programs in HTML before some of my co-workers were born. Please don’t assume that people over 40 don’t know technology.

            2. Employee No. 24601*

              I read the start of the sentence and assumed it would end up being along the lines of “He’s just a few years older than me, in his 40s, so definitely someone in a generation who grew up with technology” And was thrown by the writer making 40s sound ancient… especially since they sound close in age!

            3. Yorick*

              Hm, I interpreted that as “he’s not good at technology but it’s not because he’s old” but maybe the LW is super young and thinks 40-something is too old to know how to do stuff.

              1. KatCardigans*

                No, LW says she’s only a few years younger. I definitely read this the same way you initially interpreted it.

            4. I have RBF*

              As a 40-something year old computer software guy, I find the “maybe he’s too old to understand how I want him to use technology” tone really insulting.

              As a 60-something year old sysadmin I concur.

              I was in the first generation to really start to have personal computers. The Apple II was released in 1977, when I was in high school. The IBM PC came out in 1981.

              Someone in their 40s has lived in a world with personal computers and other “technology” since they were toddler, at least. They aren’t “old”, nor have they lacked exposure to “technology” unless perhaps they come from a poor, third world country.

              The excuse was fine in 1995 when I got a shut-in friend of mine online at age 50. It’s not now.

      3. GammaGirl1908*

        I would be especially careful about talking to the boss because of LW’s rather confrontational assumption that Boss is asleep. There are any number of perfectly valid explanations, with a simple one being that he took Teams out of his startup folder, because he didn’t like it attacking him when he turned on his computer first thing, and he turns it on when he has a meeting. I don’t know what their field is, but he could prefer quiet writing time in the morning. He could be on the phone. He even could be putting in extra time at night that LW doesn’t see, and so he’s allowed to move a little more slowly in the morning (everyone’s not a morning person).

        If LW wants to ask him to be more available in the morning because she really needs to speak to him, that’s one thing, but go in to that conversation with a blank slate and a neutral request, not the assumption that he’s slacking and he needs to fix it.

        1. EmmaUK*

          The assumption that he is bad with tech because he is in his early forties made my face crack.

          1. Varthema*

            I thought that too the first time and had a *record scratch* sound in my head, but upon a reread the OP is saying that he’s bad at tech *despite* being in his early 40s (just a few years older than herself). Phew.

          2. Haven’t picked a username yet*

            I thought it was so hilariously out of touch as a person in my early 40s.

            1. Prospect gone bad*

              Mid 40s here and everyone was complaining about us like “lazy kids these days” like five minutes ago. I also don’t get the age part here

          3. Washi*

            I think the OP meant the opposite, that he IS bad at tech but he’s only a couple years older so there’s no age excuse.

            (I don’t think there’s ever an age excuse/reason but I think OP gave his age and hers to rule it out)

            1. Smithy*

              That’s how I read it – but I think it’s actually far far more common these days to have people of all ages to hit a wide range of tech comfort regardless of age.

              I will also say, I used to work for a place where our Teams was a more reliable source of knowing when someone was or was not available to reach for a question. I now have a job where people use both Teams and Skype, and relying on Teams as an indication of how available someone is – useless. So if the OP’s boss is going from a place where green/orange/red was never used or reliable to this place where it’s more of an active indicator.

              I think that things like notifications around availability easily turn into etiquette or cultural markers that can be as limited to a workplace or even a team. And so it becomes easy to assume that because it’s standard practice where you are, that because someone else operates differently they’re being rude or malicious when they’ve just come from a place with a different workplace cultural practice.

            2. Not Okay*

              67 here and quite tech competent. Many in my age group invented tech and were early adopters. Even mild ageism is disgusting.

              1. I have RBF*


                My first foray into working in tech, for a startup, was in 1983/4 – IBM PC XT/AT time frame. It was also my first experience of a failed startup.

                When people act like I can’t do tech because of my age I get really, really irked. Most of them weren’t even born when I got my start.

          4. Pants*

            Ditto. Then my petulant brain kicked in and made me think “but can he write in cursive?” I’m definitely old but still have remnants of my snotty teenage years sometimes.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          OP doesn’t really need to speak to him in the morning. How do I know this… because OP and their team are doing the duties that really should be the boss’s to do – and I presume they are doing them competently. It’s the grandboss (manager’s boss) and people outside the team who are trying to get hold of him, and it sounds like those are actual work requests. OP and her team are inadvertently enabling him.

        3. Thegreatprevaricator*

          This! I don’t really see why it is letter writers business? I don’t see it’s affecting their work, and while they are concerned this might affect perceptions of team there’s no evidence that it does. I think dislike is over spilling into assumptions. I’m applying my own work culture here but I can be off Teams and working and I don’t expect immediate responses to emails. Particularly not from my line manager whose diary is pretty booked out and we’ve discussed the need to book in time to attend to tasks that aren’t simply being present.

        4. Sloanicota*

          Yeah I don’t think this would be hard to bring up at all. Just find a time you actually want the boss in the morning and say something like, “your teams often shows you as not available in the mornings, would it be alright if I called you during that time?” and see where the conversation goes from there. This seems perfectly normal and factual to me.

      4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        They also don’t know whether he’s working long hours into the night while they’re logged off and doing personal stuff.

        1. Prospect gone bad*

          That would be more realistic. Tbh I’m so tired of everyone acting like teams is so glitchy instead of just admitting they working different hours or were on a break when you called or texted them and that’s why it took them so long to respond.

          Work in the office with a group and suddenly it’s green when everyone is there and yellow whenever they walk away. It’s not glitchy

          1. Myrin*

            I don’t use Teams and have no horse in this race but are you saying the people talking on here about the problems they’ve encountered with the programme are lying?
            I mean, I have no trouble believing that people who use Teams’s supposed glitchiness as an excuse exist, possibly even a lot of them, but I also don’t see why the troubles people talk about here, on this anonymous internet advice blog, shouldn’t be real.

            1. Prospect gone bad*

              People are absolutely stretching the truth about how glitchy teams is. It’s not calling people liars and violating site rules. But if everyone came on here talking about how it’s normal for cars to break down once a week, we’d also correct it

              I work in software and IT adjacent and have heard all sorts of myths about some of these programs but as I’ve said, when we’re in the office, suddenly the statuses are always accurate

              People should just say that they’re taking a long lunch or going on a break instead of pretending their computers have all these issues. Then you waste time troubleshooting non existent problems. Very similar to the way that everybody tells software support that they restarted their computer when they didn’t.

                1. Prospect gone bad*

                  You’re taking a very argumentative approach

                  I’m just talking about logically, how the software works. I do think people are adding a lot of stuff to it

              1. What now?*

                I mean, some cars do break down once a week. It depends on the circumstances surrounding the car.

                Like how circumstances around Corporate Teams accounts are different. And how the software on computers conflicting with Teams may be different.
                For example, Teams in my Virtual Machine (via a dedicated VPN) refuses to allow me to see a shared screen, so I have to exit it and join calls outside of it. I also can’t blur my background when using Teams in the VM but can everywhere else.

                Different circumstances can equal different results.

              2. Essess*

                I am also in IT and I am NOT stretching the truth when I say that once my teams turns yellow, it will NOT come back to green until I bring up the teams screen and have it in focus when I wiggle my mouse. It has been this way for a year or two. I have used teams for many years and this is a recent issue that I’ve noticed.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  Mine has always been like that. It usually doesn’t go idle unless I haven’t moved my mouse or hit a key in a few minutes, but once it does go idle I have to open up Teams to make it go back to green. If I forget to do so, it looks like my bathroom breaks take way longer than they really do!

              3. Avril Ludgateaux*

                It’s not calling people liars and violating site rules.

                “Your Honor, I wasn’t breaking the law when I drove away from the car accident. I merely relocated myself to a much more remote and comfortable location than the scene of the accident, but that wasn’t “leaving the scene of the accident.””

              4. gawaine*

                Teams is inconsistent, depending on what devices it’s installed on and how it’s managed, and which device you used last for a meeting. Yes, there are probably people who use the device status as an excuse, the same way people would blame bad cell service, dial up issues, etc. in the past. And I’m sure your office is awesome in the way it’s set up.

                For us, there’s at least one failure mode where IT’s answer is for me to restart my cell phone and ensure I don’t let it connect to the VPN, so I can set the status via the desktop app first.

          2. ecnaseener*

            The thing about glitchiness is, it’s not consistent. You really have such a hard time believing a lot of people experience an issue you haven’t t experienced that you’ve decided it’s this huge collective lie?

            1. Prospect gone bad*

              I don’t know why people are so defensive about this. It’s not deep. This is an area people do stretch the truth about. “I didn’t have cell service.” “Oh the email must have gone to spam.” “I didn’t see the meeting invite.” “Yes I restarted my computer.”

              These are social lubricants to prevent embarrassment but it seems like people are treating them like literal facts

              1. DisgruntledPelican*

                People are defensive because you’re calling them liars and saying what they’ve experienced didn’t happen. It’s not that deep. If you think everyone in this comment section is lying, why don’t you just move along instead of continuing to argue.

              2. Not Okay*

                But…all these things can and do happen. Maybe the dog didn’t eat anybody’s homework, but crap happens every day.

          3. AngryOctopus*

            Teams certainly can be glitchy. I’ve been logged in sending people messages and it’s shown me as not logged on. I’ve had to message my boss and say “I know it says I’m not here but I am so our meeting can start on time!”, because both of us generally just glance at the Teams symbol to see if the other is in yet (we’re both very early people but occasionally get delayed by traffic). So yes, it can be very glitchy. And also people can be around and have it closed, or set it to “show offline” so they won’t be distured or lots of other reasons.

            1. I have RBF*

              I’ve used Teams, Slack and Zoom chat. Of the three, the most reliable seems to be Slack, and even then it depends on the corporate configuration. Second most reliable is Zoom chat. I’d put Teams at the bottom, because I can be looking at a Teams message, but not have my mouse “in” the Teams window, and suddenly Teams shows me as not being available. IME, YMMV, of course.

          4. Mairead*

            Can’t speak for anyone else, but I use Teams for work and status is absolutely not reliable. It mostly works ok but definitely not 100%. Interestingly, it seems to often still show me as green when I’ve been at lunch for the previous half-hour.

            1. I HATE Teams.*

              The status will randomly change based on things I don’t understand. Busy to available when I’ve deliberately set it to Busy. I think it depends on our calendars.

              Also, of course, if your meeting is set for an hour, but the meeting ends in 20 minutes, it will say you’re in the meeting for the full hour. Of course it’s not always accurate to what you’re actually doing! That shouldn’t be hard for anyone to believe!

            2. Prospect gone bad*

              This is sort of where I land. It can have glitches but it’s not my first go to when somebody’s status is away. It seems that the comment section has turned into people acting like it’s the super glitchy program that never works and that’s sort of ridiculous.

              I think this one struck a chord because I deal with troubleshooting in my job and I waste loads of time with people who look really smart making up all these myths about how different things don’t work and whenever I get involved it’s usually something really dumb. Or I can tell from the logs that they lied about the thing not working or just don’t know really basic things about computers and their jobs.

              I try to strike a balance between being polite and being factual. But sometimes you need to tell the person they’re wrong because they’ll start spreading myths about all these programs

              At my last job that was all these standing myths about one of their main programs and it turns out people were just using it incorrectly and it involves a lot of education and it was hard because once the ideas were set that the program had issues, it’s really hard to get people to admit that they were mostly user issues and the rumors about it were false

              1. Truth Bomb*

                And your attitude is why people hate dealing with their IT depts. we’re all liars and stupid. Got it.

          5. Eldritch Office Worker*

            My dude, I am sitting here in an office and looking at the Teams statuses, and they are not aligned with who is and isn’t working. Mine is yellow, I’m clearly on my computer. The person across the hall is yellow, she on a call that I can see on her Outlook calendar, so it should be red. People are not universally lying.

          6. Malarkey01*

            What a weird take that dozens of us are lying. In a conference room yesterday where we all had our laptops open and were reviewing/editing a doc together and over half of us were yellow including the person sharing their screen on the projector and actively typing. We even commented on it.

          7. Phryne*

            It is massively, intensely, thoroughly glitching, and please stop insisting that your personal experience with it somehow invalidates dozens of others here with other experiences.

          8. Redaktorin*

            Teams in my organization sometimes doesn’t like to upload photos, so I switch to my phone. Sometimes I also switch to my phone Teams app if I’m going to the bathroom for a while but think I might get contacted for something urgent. I also recently made a mistake and downloaded a textbook for work-relevant training in a format that only my personal laptop can handle, so I’ll switch to the personal laptop during downtime to do the training, checking the Teams app on my phone to see if projects come in.

            This appears to make Teams mad at me, and it basically just shows me as away all the time, no matter what I’m doing. Usually, but not always, I can reset it by quitting and opening the program back up again from my computer, but it’s annoying to do that over and over during the day.

            Anyway, I hope this detailed explanation of why my Teams status doesn’t mean anything will help you stop calling everybody liars in this thread, jeez. What a strange and mean-spirited hill to die on.

          9. Avril Ludgateaux*

            You’re really invested in calling people here liars because their anecdotal experience doesn’t line up with yours. Why is your anecdote superior? Why should we take yours as more true? Step back for a second and realize likely nobody else commenting here works for your organization and with your technology. And yes, your organization’s technology – namely, their ISP, their e-mail servers, as well as the way IT has set up various permissions – determine how well Teams will work and how responsive it is.

            1. Prospect gone bad*

              It surprises me how people get super defensive over stuff that’s not that deep. See my other comment. A lot of people here are taking one off situations and acting like they’re super common and as I’ve said elsewhere I do software troubleshooting for my job and a solid 80% of issues are user issues or them never restarting and accepting updates

              In the work world I treat these like issues to fix, we don’t ignore them because it’s calling the user a “liar.” That’s completely irrelevant

              If somebody is a person whose status in a program is always wrong, they should try to escalate it to IT or something instead of just saying it’s the way the program works, because it’s not how the program works

              Porten point. People would rather be right about it being wrong than fixing problems sometimes. And if you work in IT or software it’s sort of irrelevant whether I’m wrong or the other person is wrong you just want the issue fixed

              1. Kettle*

                You calling other people defensive is a real clear case of pot calling the kettle black.
                ‘are user issues or them never restarting and accepting updates’
                I can’t accept updates. I do not have authorisation to on my laptop, that is all under control of IT. I do a restart every time I have an issue though, before contacting IT, to see it that fixes the issue. That does not change the fact that Teams does not work like you claim. At all. For anyone in my organisation I’ve ever discussed it with.

                I’m really glad you don’t work for my organisation though. Our IT people actually listen to people, not tell them they must be incompetent or stupid because their actual experience is not the expected one. Must be hard to troubleshoot IT issues when your reflex is to assume people are too incompetent to tell you what they see in front of them.

                1. Wishing*

                  Prospect Gone Bad won’t stop derailing any topic they disagree with until the heat death of the universe (and maybe not even then)

      5. BossOffline*

        OP, here! He’s told our he likes to sleep in and doesn’t like early meetings. He’s told us he has a lot of anxiety (he’ll usually let us know if he didn’t sleep well the night before).

        1. Redaktorin*

          I mean, if he openly admits he’s sleeping during his scheduled work hours when people are trying to get in touch with him, that’s a pretty big issue! And maybe one that needs addressing regardless of what his Teams status says. I might mention this to one of his bosses, given the chance, but I’m petty.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Okay – that info changes things. In this case, what would happen if you and the rest of the team just stopped picking up the ball and covering for him?

          It sounds a bit like he may be an oversharer, is there a way that maybe you can get him to tamp down on that, as knowing less of his personal business may help pull this back to a more office level – you know when he’s available or not, but not why he isn’t available.

        3. Michelle Smith*

          This is important context, thank you. I don’t mean this to sound as confrontational as it could be interpreted, but why is this Teams status thing your problem to address then? You know he has personal preferences and medical reasons that he isn’t active on Teams in the morning. So you know why he is unavailable. Presumably his boss knows too, and if they don’t, it’s up to your grandboss to have that conversation with him. I would let this go and let his manager deal with it if it’s a problem for that manager. And quite frankly the person who approached you about your boss’ availability really should have taken it up with grandboss in the first place, not you.

          I really don’t think it’s up to you to figure out a solution to your boss’ morning availability. I would instead focus only on how it’s impacting you and your work. If you regularly need answers from them first thing in the morning (genuinely need in the first hour of your workday, and not just want), that’s the conversation I’d have (“hey boss, how should I approach these questions when I need an answer before you’re available? should I ask Mary instead? would you prefer I just wait until you’re available and work on another task?”) rather than worrying about the opinion of someone from another team about boss’ Teams status. The reputation of your boss and your team is not really your responsibility or concern.

        4. Slothy*

          I think my feeling would be then…does it make sense to ask him about his Teams setting and instead would it make sense to have a larger conversation about him being unavailable? Like, the whole “I’m going to pretend you don’t know how Teams works” thing feels disingenuous. I guess there’s a larger conversation to be had about the boss not…bossing, but I don’t even know how that would go, because that’s 1,000 times more uncomfortable.

          But given that you did mention there’s an issue with him not being good at his job, the question really isn’t “Should I tell my boss we all know he’s offline” and more “My boss is unavailable/in over his head in this role. What can/should I do?”

          The reason I had felt originally uncomfortable with the script proposed is that it felt a little…manage-y. Like, I don’t feel it’s my place to tell my boss “Hey I don’t know if you’re aware, but FYI, you might want to do X.” It feels like something the boss would be telling the employee. But in this case, him being unavailable on Teams chat is just a symptom of a larger problem that someone needs to address. I guess ideally grandboss?

        5. Thalia*

          He often lets you know how he slept? That sounds way too personal for work, especially for a boss. It’s fine once in a while but not all the time. Honestly, just be matter of fact with people at work; @ him into emails when you need him and make it obvious that deadlines pass due to his lack of response (“I sent that to X at noon yesterday but haven’t heard back yet”). I don’t think addressing his Teams status is going to do anything. Plus, if he’s specifically said it’s anxiety-related, he may have accommodations, or he may be exempt and work late to make up the time… we don’t know & your work might be touchy about it for legal reasons. However, if he’s not doing his job and it’s a significant roadblock to you doing yours, document, put the onus on him, make it obvious to others, and relax after that because that’s all you can really do apart from going to his boss.

      6. GrooveBat*

        Yeah, it seems like a HUGE jump to go from “unavailable on Teams” to “sleeping.” There are plenty of times I set myself to “unavailable” so people will leave me alone and let me get deep work done.

        And I struggle to understand why OP feels it necessary to intervene here. From what I see, the problem isn’t necessarily with their boss’s Teams status; it’s with a general lack of responsiveness and availability when they need him. I would recommend OP focus on addressing that and leave the Teams status issue completely out of it.

        1. GrooveBat*

          Just saw OP’s update, so that makes a little more sense. However, it’s still not a Teams status problem; it’s a “how can we get the participation/input we need from you when you’re unavailable” problem.

    4. Mid*

      I can imagine saying it to a boss, as long as I had a good relationship with them. Also, the boss truly might be working, and just showing as unavailable.

      Mine was stuck as offline for two straight weeks, I forget to change it when I’m back from lunch, etc. Boss could be using it as a way to show they’re busy and don’t want to be interrupted (which is usually marked as red, but someone could put away instead.)

      It’s not really confrontational to point it out, I think. You aren’t accusing them of anything, just saying “I’ve noticed X, it’s something people often have an issue with, just wanted to flag it for you.” I don’t see it as any more confrontational than telling someone their fly is down or they have spinach in their teeth or their toddler is mooning the zoom meeting.

    5. Cheryl Blossom*

      I can. It’s not confrontational if you don’t say it in a confrontational way.

      1. Prospect gone bad*

        Idk depends on job. For me the whole concept is confrontational but I don’t need my boss on an emergency basis at 9:05 everyday, so there would be no reason to know exactly where he was at that time. I can still email him, just not expect an answer at 9:10. And my position is pretty normal

        Maybe if you work with patients in a medical office and need immediate answers it’s a different thing though

        But if I asked my boss he’d be annoyed I was wondering exactly what he was doing and not focused on what I actually needed

        1. ecnaseener*

          But the script doesn’t mention what the boss is doing at all, let alone “exactly” what he’s doing! That’s the point of it – it steers clear of are you online / are you working / etc. to just say FYI if you want to show up as available for messages it’s not working.

        2. Smithy*

          I would say that sharing this information in writing probably risks being interpreted as a confrontation, but provided the OP really thinks around what they’re trying to say – it may be more information sharing than being confrontational.

          I used to work in a place where the CEO prioritized those who were available earlier in the day (i.e. starting at 7:30 or 8) as opposed to staying after 5pm. We were all salaried, but while based in the US, also worked a lot with Europe and Africa. This was never said as a need or must do, but it was a workplace preference.

          A few people had accommodations to start at 10/10:30 – but that was proactively arranged as an official start time. And while the rest of us didn’t always have work to do as early as 7:30, being available on Teams/Email for the occasional early morning ping as well as formally scheduled meetings helped with the overall culture. None of this was ever formally shared and for those who weren’t picking up on it, having either your direct reports or peers share aspects of this culture could only help you out. Either in formally requesting the late start accommodation or adjusting your own behavior.

    6. philmar*

      Seriously? This is about as nonconfrontational as you can get. “Are you actually online before 10:30? Because Teams says you aren’t” might be a little too much, but giving them the smokescreen of “it must be a problem with your settings” makes it very softened.

    7. bamcheeks*

      We’ve also had plenty of discussion here about why Teams might show you as unavailable but you’re still working! Reading, writing or working out ideas on paper for example, or speaking to someone on a phone that doesn’t go through your PC.

      How about something like, “I just wanted to clarify your availability. There have been a few morning where there’s nothing in your calendar, but we’ve not been able to get in touch with you, and it’s held up our work process. Would it be possible for you to block out in your calendar when you’re working offline, or put in some office hours when we know you’re around to answer questions?”

      If it’s genuinely an issue that you can’t get a hold of him— rather than you’re all just feeling pissed off because you think he’s still in bed— there are much more constructive ways to handle this.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Exactly. If you need him to be online at 9AM in order to answer Work Questions that move your process forward, you can absolutely just say “hey, could you have Teams open starting at time X? We often have questions that need your sign-off before we can continue our work.”. He may just have it closed because he’s a slow starter and doesn’t want to deal with Teams in the AM (but now has a reason to, so must adjust).

      2. BossOffline*

        OP, here! I love this approach as, for example, right now my grand boss and I have been waiting on a reply from my boss for over an hour to try and schedule a last minute meeting today. I don’t know my boss’s availability so this could be a good way to frame it.

    8. ecnaseener*

      Are you saying there’s an even less confrontational way to phrase it that you would be comfortable with, or are you just saying you would never bring the topic up (and presumably wouldn’t have written in asking how to bring it up?…)

    9. Snow Globe*

      “I’m not sure if you realized this, but your Teams setting has been showing you as unavailable until about 10:30 most mornings. It might be worth looking at your settings if you don’t mean for it to.”

      I don’t like the way that is phrased, because one way to read it is that there is a way the boss can change the settings in Teams to show he’s available when he is not. It almost sounds as if you are trying to help the boss hide the fact that he’s not working.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Although tbh the boss might be working. Sometimes I’m not in teams but I’m taking phone calls or planning my day in my lil notebook or tbh typing my lil report in my laptop

    10. The Person from the Resume*

      Wow! That’s a soft peddle IMO. I’m also assuming the boss is not so computer illiterate or dumb not to already understand this.

      If it impacted me, I’d ask him to give me a heads up if he’s starting work late so I can adjust accordingly.

      Otherwise, let him get caught and disciplined or fired for cause.

      1. GrooveBat*

        Well, by showing up as “unavailable” on Teams he IS giving the heads up that he’s starting work late. It would be more problematic if he were showing up as available and not being responsive.

        As I mentioned above, the larger issue here is that OP isn’t getting input/answers they need from their boss in a timely fashion. There’s no inherent problem with someone being unavailable for a 90 minute period early in the morning (I mean, heck, I have direct reports on the West Coast who don’t start work until 3 hours after I do, and another direct report who lives in the UK and starts work five hours before I do, and I just work around that schedule). The problem is, stuff isn’t getting done and the rest of the team is stalled.

        I’d recommend finding a workaround, making sure the boss’s Outlook calendar/availability is visible to OP so they can schedule meetings, etc. without having to ask boss every time, and basically just assuming boss won’t be available before 10:30 a.m. From there, it’s up to grandboss to address.

        1. Avril Ludgateaux*

          As I mentioned above, the larger issue here is that OP isn’t getting input/answers they need from their boss in a timely fashion. There’s no inherent problem with someone being unavailable for a 90 minute period early in the morning (I mean, heck, I have direct reports on the West Coast who don’t start work until 3 hours after I do, and another direct report who lives in the UK and starts work five hours before I do, and I just work around that schedule). The problem is, stuff isn’t getting done and the rest of the team is stalled.

          THIS! I never have Teams on unless I am in a call/meeting – it drains resources and honestly, chats interrupt my workflow. But I am always responsive by email and phone. If somebody needs me to hop on Teams for a quick chat, they send me an e-mail and 9/10 times I respond within minutes.

          The problem is that OP’s Boss is not responsive, not that they are not on Teams. I think if OP reaches out, that needs to be the primary focus of the conversation.

          e.g. “Hey Boss, the last few times I’ve asked you about [urgent matters], I did not get a response for several days, after I had already had to go over your head to handle the matters. Is there anything we can do to make sure I can get your attention when needed? What is the best way to reach you?”

          Or something more diplomatic than that. Point out the problem is the boss’s responsiveness (or lack thereof) and not his perceived availability, per se, because in truth, a subordinate really can’t demand their boss be available all the time (especially not if they have a host of other subordinates to manage, and their own workload). But they can reasonably expect timely responses.

    11. Lacey*

      My boss often appears as offline. He’s salaried, so, what-evs?

      It doesn’t effect much for us, but if it did and I disliked my boss, I wouldn’t be risking him being mad at me for something that would help him. It sounds like people would eventually notice that he’s a problem and that would be on him.

    12. ferrina*

      This isn’t confrontational- it’s just letting the boss know about a potential tech issue.

      If LW were saying “you need to be at work on time”- yes, that’s confrontational. But- “I can’t hear you- is your mic on?” isn’t confrontational. And saying “The Teams status looks like it’s not working” isn’t confrontational.

      That said, I have had some retaliatory, nasty bosses who would see that as calling them out (“What do you mean, you’re checking on the status of the report?! Do you think I can’t do my job?!”). So think about how your boss reacts to other standard feedback and questions.

      1. GrooveBat*

        But how is it a tech issue? Teams says boss is unavailable *when boss is unavailable.*

        1. ferrina*

          Is he? Or is he just not answering Teams?

          Okay, he’s almost certainly not actually online, but plausible deniability is a beautiful thing. LW can act like it’s a tech issue (because of course boss is online!), then boss can either fix or not. It can be a gentler way of warning people that their behavior is being seen.

          This is only because LW seems determined to say something. Personally, I’d leave this one alone.

    13. Mockingjay*

      I’m supposed to be on Teams all day. I don’t log in for the first hour or so. I need that hour to go through emails, prep tasks for the day. My supervisor gets this; there are times when she’s offline or just schedules a block so she can work undisturbed. Teams is also a bandwidth hog and there are times when I have to turn it off completely so I can log into something else. We won’t get into how the stupid status indicator isn’t accurate.

      OP2, can you contact Boss by email or phone or text? He might simply loathe Teams and not want to use it. If there are other means to contact him, use those. He might prefer that anyway.

    14. learnedthehardway*

      Has anyone tried to reach out to the manager by other means? Personally, I avoid Teams as much as possible. I don’t need additional distractions in my life, and instant message apps are a time suck.

    15. 2 Cents*

      Also, I tend to not answer my Teams questions immediately if I’m doing something else. (Sometimes I block out periods where I don’t have it open!) And my boss says she ignores messages when she is doing something else. In my org, Teams messaging doesn’t equal instant attention all the time. Also, I’ve found I can be using it for a call on my main computer and it’ll show me idle. Because it’s stupid.

    16. Paisley*

      I’m very new to Office 365/Teams. We only converted to it about 2 weeks ago. I noticed that my Teams shows me as unavailable when I have an appointment in my calendar. The boss probably doesn’t have appointments every day until 10:30 (unless he books that time off for uninterrupted work), but he could conceivably be working, but his calendar is blocked off at that time. Or sometimes I forget to turn on teams (we don’t use it except for virtual meetings) and it probably shows me offline when it’s not logged on. Again, we are just learning about it, so I could be wrong.

    17. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree. Also–I’m curious how late the boss works? Maybe he prefers a shifted schedule where he doesn’t start until 10:30 but then he works late. If so I don’t think there is a problem with that unless it is actively affecting OP, but to me that still seems like there would be plenty of overlapping time to discuss things so if there are communication issues then that is really a separate question.

      (I’m also really not clear on why OP is assuming the boss doesn’t know this tbh. If the boss is ever on Teams then he would obviously see other people’s status markers so I don’t know why he wouldn’t understand how his own status marker works…)

    18. Erie*

      Yeah, i had an immediate disagree reaction to this piece of advice as well. There is no way it comes across as alerting him to an innocent error. It is certain to be heard as a passive-aggressive attempt to chide him for waking up late. Almost worse than actually just coming out and saying “hey, people know you don’t start work until 10:30,” because it sounds more dishonest, IMO.

  4. Jessica*

    While there’s a difference in that LW1 can’t call the cops over the plagiarism, on a social level I would treat this coworker the same way I would if they had burglarized my house.

    1. Schmassion*

      I don’t think it’s the same impact though. It’s bad, but I would mostly be curious what their motivation was. They seem to have been struggling in life/in a bad place (and I have no information on why) , so was this a desperate and ill-advised attempt to move the degree along? I’m not condoning the action, the plagiarism should not have happened. But apart from a los of trust, LW1 was not impacted that much (neither her work or degree suffered), so if anything of be wondering why they did it.

      1. OP1*

        Yeah, it had no real impact on me. I was scared at first that I’d be in trouble for giving it to her, but I wasn’t.

        I think the health issues were real and she was desperate. There is no other logical reason for such a blatant move with a bad paper.

        1. KateM*

          Was it a bad paper because the topics was hard in the first place? In that case, it may be that what she herself could come up with was totally hopeless.

          1. OP1*

            More that it was only my second grad level paper and I just wasn’t very good at writing them yet. But the feedback on that paper helped me with the last paper in that class, where I got a much higher grade and was therefore able to pull off a decent grade for the class.
            It would have been early in her courses too.

        2. iliketoknit*

          Yes, I suspect the choice to use a bad paper was that she was feeling desperate enough to plagiarize, but guilty enough about it not to use a good paper, in that she wanted to get credit and pass but maybe not benefit from your (good) work by getting a good grade she didn’t deserve. That, or she just thought a bad paper would face less scrutiny than a good one?

          1. Ariaflame*

            If it was another current student the term would be purloining. Some terms fit several instances though and definitely plagiarism. If it was from one of those ‘study help’ sites then it might fall under ghostwriting.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            This is kind of my thought as well – life blew up in her face, but she still had to turn something in for the assignment and she was desperate. I bet she was hoping turn something in and get a bad grade, and then live to face the next assignment when hopefully life was less crazy was the goal.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          Based on many conversations with teacher-friends (anecdotes about students surprised when they got caught) I suspect she may have chosen the bad paper mistakenly thinking they wouldn’t plagiarism-check it because it wasn’t good. Or she was just that desperate. Although seriously, not changing a dang word is an interesting choice.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, I realize in academia this is a huge deal but TBH I would assume she was desperate and scared, made a stupid mistake, and got caught. If I had been hurt by it I’d be pissed but since I wasn’t – I don’t know. Alison says that every time she shares a sample cover letter, no matter how many times she says not to use it, people 100% use it. I hear this and I just roll my eyes that people are stupid and desperate (and not smart enough to realize why this won’t work). It’s not something I would put on the line of a home burglary at all. Just my take.

    2. MK*

      Has anyone ever burglarized your house? Because comparing the violation of having your home invaded and your physical safety threatened with someone trying to cheat on a school project by using your work is definitely not a usual response. This level of outrage might be expected if it was a doctoral thesis, or work that might affect your future.

      Also, if you did treat that person as a housebreaking, you would be doing them a great favour, by taking attention away from their dishonesty with what many would consider a gross overreaction.

      1. iliketoknit*

        Because you mentioned plagiarizing a doctoral thesis, I have to trot out one of my favorite stories from my college teaching days: In the early 2000s, I was supervising a student working on her senior thesis, which was on a topic that grew out of a class I’d taught. My student, being a super overachiever, borrowed via interlibrary loan a doctoral thesis on the subject from something like the early-1970s (or 80s? I forget) – only to find that it was a *word for word copy* of a classic book I’d assigned in the class.

        I contacted the department that had awarded the PhD and let them know what my student had discovered. They were horrified and tracked down the original PhD student, who confessed that yes, they had plagiarized their entire dissertation. The department sent me a copy of the letter their grad wrote in response. It was actually very sad – they described being desperate and doing something they knew they should never have done, and having had it hanging over them as a constant source of misery for 20-30 years; I think they were almost grateful to finally be discovered. IIRC, they said while they were doing their degree they had a sick parent and so weren’t able to work much, and then their spouse was threatening to leave them if they didn’t finish their damn degree. And they didn’t end up getting an academic job anyway (to be clear, it was an arts/humanities subject where the PhD would have served basically no economic goal other than to enter academia).

        The department rescinded the degree.

        I felt badly for the student, because I kinda feel like if you’re being supervised properly, your advisor/committee should be able to tell if you *copied an entire book word for word.* I very much had the image of someone cast out into the wilderness who popped back up with a complete manuscript no one had seen any part of previously, and no one blinking an eye at the fact that this student had turned up with something complete, polished, and definitive. But obviously, copying a complete book is NOT the way to go!

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          For as closely as I worked with my advisor on my dissertation, I have no idea how people could plagiarize one. First, I used her data that she was incredibly familiar with. Then, I went through almost 5 drafts for each chapter, working and reworking my own research results into something sounding like competence. I can’t imagine working with a doctoral student who just submits an amazing bit of research and writing that needs no editing and not investigating it somewhat. Just, what would a dissertation advisor be doing in that case?

          1. Indubitably Delicious*

            I think it varies by field, and would be more difficult in the sciences than in the humanities (and more difficult now than in the past, since the number of unsearchable references is decreasing).

          2. MK*

            My guess would be that most cases of plagiarism aren’t of amazing work, but more solid, unexciting stuff. If a mediocre student submits truly brilliant work out the blue, that would get notice and be examined, not to mention that the work is likely to be already known. But if a mediocre student finds published work that is fine but didn’t get a lot of interest, the advisor and the committee are more likely to think “yeah, sounds about right for their ability, it’s good enough to pass, let’s move on”.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      That seems a bit extreme and I say that as someone who has had their work plagiarized before. When most students plagiarize, it is an act of desperation, not one of malice or personal gain.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        That seems a bit extreme and I say that as someone whose house has been burgled!

        1. AnonORama*

          I’ve both been plagiarized (research and large portions of text of a non-academic article) and have had my house burglarized and never thought to compare them. I don’t like being stolen from under any circumstances, of course, but seeing blocks of my writing in a Board member’s published article didn’t hold a candle to coming home to a scraped door, popped lock, filthy footprints on my carpeting and several items — including a piece of jewelry with sentimental and financial value — missing. Everyone experiences these things differently, and my article wasn’t overly high-stakes; I was just irritated because the guy who plagiarized my article did it out of laziness. I’m sure about 4 people who weren’t my family members even read the thing anyway. The burglary was much worse because it made me feel unsafe in my own home. (I know folks overuse “unsafe,” but I mean “a stranger came into my home and stole from me” unsafe, not “someone insulted me on the internet” unsafe.)

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I mean Jessica’s reaction is a bit extreme, not what you’re saying! oh for an edit button!!

      3. Butterfly Counter*


        At least no these days. It’s for personal gain (of time and a good grade). Many who plagiarize just don’t feel like doing the work and figure they have a work-around for the technology that will flag plagiarism. I’ve seen entire websites that coach students how to plagiarize and the best sources to get their papers.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Honestly nothing is completely black and white, but on the whole I think there are two main categories of plagerizers.

          Group 1 is the too lazy to do the work but plagiarize because they also feel entitled to a good grade. From past experience this is the group that has all the repeat offenders – they really don’t care or see that what they’ve done is wrong so why are they going to amend their behavior.

          Group 2 are the ones pushed to do something stupid because of desperation. Life has blown up in their face and for whatever reason the only way out they can see in that moment is a one time lapse to the mistake. It’s still wrong – but this group generally even if they don’t get caught don’t do it again.

          Given that the person left the program and was having troubles at work because they were under a lot of health and life stress I wonder if coworker was part of my group two.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            For clarification, I don’t think a person in group two shouldn’t face consequences for the plagiarism, just that maybe including a list of resources or options available (like how to request an extension on the due date if applicable) may be beneficial to a person in group two so that they can make better decisions if they are pushed to desperation again.

            And I feel no remorse at all in throwing the full book at the group one folks – they should know better and just don’t care.

          1. MK*

            Also, just because these websites exist nowdays doesn’t mean every single case of plagiarism now falls into that category.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            Right. They’d rather just submit a bad paper rather than try to come up with anything on their own. To me that reads lazy rather than desperate.

            Of course #notallstudents, but in my experience, this is the rule vs. the exception.

        2. MK*

          Also, just because these websites exist nowdays doesn’t mean every single case of plagiarism now falls into that category.

        3. linger*

          Certainly it’s not always a one-off act of desperation. Sometimes it’s ongoing and self-serving. It’s more understandable among ESL students who may use native text as initial scaffolding (persistence of which into the final draft is sometimes truly accidental, but nevertheless stems from poor practice around delimiting and citing non-original text). There are also those who try to make excuses based around “cultural differences” concerning norms around re-use of respected classic works; but in truth, academia is its own “culture”, admitting very little grey area: even if you’re quoting instantly recognisable Shakespearean text, the source should be named.
          Our (mandatory) thesis writing course explicitly warned against plagiarism, setting out the likely consequences, and explaining requirements for crediting all sources of information or text, and accurately marking the extent of quoted material.
          Even so, a few students who passed through our grad program were caught plagiarizing. Some were caught through Turnitin, but more often, a human recognised extended uncredited text from a source because that human had suggested the student read it in the first place. Most were consequently dumped from the program. One somehow still graduated, after being allowed to write extensive replacement sections, but apparently learned nothing from that experience: some years later, when another student was looking for papers relevant to their own topic, they found identical text in two papers, the more recent publication being credited to that former student.

      4. Cei*

        I mean, that’s also true for burglarizing someone’s home. I agree that seeing them as the same is extreme, but you have every reason to be very pissed at someone plagiarizing you regardless of motive.

      5. Avril Ludgateaux*

        When most students plagiarize, it is an act of desperation, not one of malice or personal gain.

        But it’s literally done for personal gain. If the alternative is to fail or underperform, there is no motivation for plagiarism other than personal gain. Potentially mitigating circumstances are incidental. I can’t think of a sympathetic circumstance where a person needs to specifically plagiarize a paper to keep a roof over their head or food in their belly.

    4. Well...*

      Except LW wasn’t making money off this work and so it’s hard for me to see how they took a monetary hit. Also the personal space invasion aspect is completely different (it would be more like if you invited someone over and they grabbed something off a shelf, except afterwards you still had a copy of the thing and it wasn’t of monetary value at all. Like they stole a photo you could just print again).

      1. Askalice*

        I wouldn’t consider it on a par with burglary (!) but I would struggle to respect their intelligence moving forward, as it is standard knowledge that universities run everything through a plagiarism checker. Definitely in Australia, anyway.

        I probably would have mentioned it to them (“did you seriously submit my trashy essay as your own?!?) or someone at work, and at least be keeping a close eye moving forward.

        1. A British academic*

          Yes, university plagiarism checking software is pretty good, and thinking you can fool it in such a basic way shows very poor judgement (as well as being unerhical). All students are informed multiple times their work will be checked, and (at least where I work) have to tick a statement on the cover sheet confirming that they understand what plagiarism means and haven’t done it. Yet every year some students still do it, and I really don’t get it. We have generous extensions for those in genuine difficult circumstances. First offence for cheating is a written warning and having to redo the assignment, they only get the boot if its 2nd case of misconduct. We also give them the opportunity to have a second go if they fail, which is surely less embarrassing than having academic misconduct on their record?

          (AI-generated text is more of a pain in the arse and currently takes longer to check for, and when they pay someone else to write assignments for them it’s harder to prove.)

          1. A British academic*

            PS Of course I feel sympathy for those students in really difficult circumstances who haven’t been able to do their coursework – but that’s why we have personal tutors and mitigating circumstances applications (which take less time to fill in than finding a relevant text to steal and adjusting it, if you’re coming up to a deadline).

        2. Jaybird*

          I don’t think I’d compare it with breaking and entering, but in that I wouldn’t want to associate with or see someone who broke into my house, I also wouldn’t want to have anything to do with someone who plagiarized from me.

        3. Distracted Librarian*

          I would have trouble respecting their ethics moving forward. Regardless of the reason it’s done, plagiarism is dishonest, and I try to have as little as possible to do with dishonest people.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      It’s more a violation of trust than of safety, property, space or privacy. There’s also no real harm done, but I am sure OP is left with some residual weird feelings after they trusted them enough to help them out. Personally I would let it all drop and thank the stars that I have never been that desperate. If I felt compelled to say anything I would probably keep it mild; something like “I thought at first that I would be in trouble too, and that was pretty unpleasant for me” buy YMMV. I think the ethics of this, and the impact on another person would probably have been raised by the university anyway when she was caught.

      1. OP1*

        This is how I felt. Plus I was literally on post partum day 3. Not the time to be worrying about confronting this. She knows what I did, and I’m fairly confident she knows that I know. That’s enough.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, sounds like a shock and I can totally see you wanting to say something but then deciding not to. If she hadn’t been caught or faced any consequences that would be different I think.

    6. Alanis*

      A lot of people don’t realise that all the papers submitted for classes are added to the TurnItIn database. I had a colleague who was pulled up and given a 0 on a paper that he reused from a previous class. Apparently you can plagiarise yourself and if you are reusing work, you need to reference your previous paper. So the colleague might not have realised that plagiarism isn’t just copying official sources.

      1. A British academic*

        I’m sorry but it’s standard to tell students about Turnitin in class, put it programme and module handbooks, even (for some courses) invite them to use the sandbox feature to self-check before submitting, and make them sign a cover sheet saying they are aware and understand. It’s also clearly specified that they can’t re-use their own previous papers to get more credits for the same piece of work. There cannot be that many who after all this still genuinely “don’t realise”.

        1. Indubitably Delicious*

          Long prior to TurnItIn, I submitted the same project for two courses (a “creative response” for a literature course, and a final project for a poetry course). It had been a long semester, and I can’t say I’m sorry. Certainly not to the degree I would have been if I’d plagiarized someone else’s work.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Honestly I have little problem with that. The amount of cut and paste that is done NOT in academia is amazing. Is it plagiarism? Of course not, its meeting the requirements that need to be fulfilled in an efficient manner.

            If I had to rewrite every complaint from scratch and only use original work, 1) it would be really confusing to the court and 2) take a LOT more time which is not fair to the clients or me.

            1. linger*

              Journalism, especially, runs the full gamut from “syndicated” full reproduction of articles in multiple outlets, to “re-edited” text from the same agency source (which should be credited, but sometimes is not), to use and recombination of paragraphs from earlier articles as “stock background” in subsequent updates of the same story, or in different stories about the same individual. All of these forms of text reproduction are entirely standard in the industry.

        2. Alanis*

          Wow, what an aggressive response! It may be standard now, but this was a while back (2008, maybe 2009?) and I was a year behind my colleague doing the same Masters. I am the type of person who reads every piece of paper given to me and every bit of the syllabus. There was info about our essays being run through TurnItIn, but there was no sandbox feature available and nothing about reusing your own work. The OP has also indicated that her story was from some years ago. I’m sure things have changed in the past decade, though.

          1. A British academic*

            Sorry if my tone came across to you as aggressive. If you say there was an excuse for not understanding in your context, fair enough. My explanation was how there really isn’t any excuse for it these days. I’m in the middle of moderating a set of assignments now, and on the front of each, they have to state “I confirm that this work is my own individual effort and has not been submitted previously in support of any degree or other course. All quotations and sources of information have been properly acknowledged.” and sign it.
            This does really annoy me as there is so much actually important work that staff could be doing with their available time, rather than the hours lost rechecking by hand every paper Turnitin flags up, then sitting through interminable academic misconduct meetings where students pretend never to have seen the statement that they literally put their signature to.

        3. HBJ*

          I went to college in a time when turn it in was available, and I never had anything like this – signing a sheet, info about turn it in, etc. Also, I don’t recall professors ever saying I couldn’t reuse my own work, and I definitely had professors who explicitly allowed it, as long as it was your own work. So this isn’t blanket.

          (That said, obviously, not knowing about anti-plagiarizism measures does not mean it’s ok to plagiarize. But I absolutely think reusing your own work should be ok.)

          1. linger*

            It’s standard procedure for theses, where the claim of originality is really important. (“Self-plagiarism” comes into play if some material might be “double-counted” for academic credit, in which case material from the earlier paper or course needs to be identified, with the earlier source cited. By contrast, there is usually no problem if some parts of the thesis have been simultaneously submitted for external publication; in that case, the published articles should carry some note that they are based on/ part of the thesis.)

      2. Bit o' Brit*

        I repeated a programming course at university where I submitted almost the exact same code for the exact same assignment the second year I did it. I made a minor improvement based on the feedback I’d got the year prior and got a slightly lower grade. I still sometimes wonder whether a) that counts as self-plagiarism and b) that’s why improving the solution didn’t improve the grade.

        1. Starbuck*

          You definitely would have known if you were being penalized for plagiarism, they don’t beat around the bush with that!

    7. Artemesia*

      We had a grad student who plagiarized someone’s work product for a class and he was suspended from the grad program for it and ended up fired from his job over it.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      That seems like an overreaction to me. It’s more like if you had a statue you made in your house and you invited her over to show it to them and they made the same statue and told all their friends it was their design.

      No one broke into anything and OP was not personally impacted in anyway. The only real issue is that if the coworker did something so blatantly immoral (and honestly stupid, why would you plagiarize something that got a bad grade) that it calls her general judgment into question.

      While we’ll never know for sure, it seems likely that the coworker faced serious consequences for what they did with the school. If they continued to rise at work then it might be worth bringing to someone’s attention, but given that they fizzled out there as well I think if I were OP I would also have not said anything and just remained personally wary of the coworker going forward.

  5. Sunny*

    I’m honestly confused by the age comment for the inept boss. Early 40s means he’s had internet access since high school. I don’t know what industry this is, or how someone’s gotten this far in their career without some basic tech know-how, but this isn’t an age issue. I’m in my mid-40s and have had email since 1995. Many of my coworkers are in their 50s and 60s, and manage email on their phones, understand Teams settings, etc.

    You have a boss problem, although really, it mostly sounds like your grand boss has an employee problem. It’s not on you to cover for him, or ensure he’s working when he’s supposed to. It also sounds like if he’s floating on ineptitude, he’s had enough people catching him along the way that it hasn’t affected him. You don’t need to keep carrying on that pattern.

    1. LJ*

      Yeah this isn’t a tech problem. He can see when his boss messaged hours earlier and he didn’t reply to it.

      But also it depends on organizational norms. Maybe boss came from a different working culture. At companies with a more flex schedule and “core hours”, not replying to a non-urgent message for a few hours until you start your day just isn’t a big deal. Now if it’s impacting your work, and you’re sitting around twiddling your thumbs every morning, that’s a specific problem you can talk to to boss about addressing.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        This – what is the consequence of boss not replying to grand boss for a few hours?
        Is the team getting antsy because of a culture at the company of everyone replying immediately? Is there a consequence to not getting on something immediately?
        The overall ineptitude – this person has been in post for 3 years now. Stop covering for them.
        Also there may be skills they have that is valued in this role by grand boss that you may not consider as not part of the rest of the team’s remit.

      2. Prospect gone bad*

        This makes me wonder. If grand boss is involved, if people are asking complicated questions as quick teams texts and that’s why they don’t get immediate responses

        I get this sometimes. I’ll get a text like “is the new product compliant with the law” as if that’s a quick text and not three days of giving data to legal back and forth for them to analyze

    2. Javert Oui Oui*

      Right? I’m in my early 40’s and very technically adept, and a little horrified at the idea that someone considers that age a factor in low tech skill!

    3. nnn*

      They wrote “he’s early 40s, only a few years older than me” which reads to me like saying “it’s not an age thing, we’re basically the same age.”

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Yes, he was ruling out age as a factor. But it was still annoyingly ageist.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Seriously. Me being 57 means I’ve been using tech and adapting to new tech for 30+ years. Meanwhile, recent grads can be confounded by Outlook.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Especially with the emerging data that Gen Z does not have experience with PCs and data organization, which is causing difficult adjustments to the office (which I have witnessed myself, and it’s really inconsistent). Age just isn’t a reliable metric anymore.

        1. Phryne*

          True, but in as far as age matters, people around 40 are Xennials, and they tend to be on the top end of digital literacy.
          But yes, age means little in general. My parents who are babyboom (true babyboom, not just ‘anybody over 60’ as it is now used) are perfectly computer/tablet/phone literate, while I have co-workers 20 years their junior that keep complaining they are too old to start learning Canvas.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        Seriously – my most technologically advanced client is in his late 70s. He’s starting a tech company. He’s more technologically savvy than I am – I go to him when I need help.

    4. Sherm*

      I think OP2 meant that, indeed, he was at an age where he should be comfortable with the technology, and the fact that he’s not is a sign that he’s not technologically inclined.

      Regardless, I agree that OP2 needs to refrain from covering for the boss. OP2, is there a reason why you think your boss’s performance will be looked at as a statement on the whole team? Do good work, and a healthy company will notice. But don’t do your boss’s work. Grandboss needs to know what’s going on.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah the French say “no need to be more royalist than the king” which sums it up perfectly.

    5. WS*

      I read this the other way around – LW is saying it’s *not* an age issue (he’s not very old or very young and in fact a similar age to LW) but he is nonetheless bad at technology.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      I read it as “he’s bad with tech even though he’s only in his early 40s” rather than “he’s bad with tech because he’s in his early 40s.”

    7. mreasy*

      Early 40s here. I didn’t read it as saying “my boss is so old” but “my boss and I are similar in age so this understanding isn’t due to a generational difference.”

    8. Peanut Hamper*

      Lots of comments here saying they read this the other way, but I really wish that both letter writers and commenters would stop mentioning age in relationship to technology. There is absolutely no correlation between age and the ability to use technology. I know young and old people who are extremely good with technology, as well as young and old people who are extremely bad with technology.

      This gut-instinct to do an age-check whenever a technology issue arises really must cease.

      1. Tape dispenser*

        I think LWs mention it because if they don’t, commenters spin out speculating about the person’s age, and whether there’s ageism involved. I got the impression this LW mentioned it so as to ward off those comments before they began.

      2. MurpMaureep*

        Thank you! I’m in my early 50s and my dad was a very early adopter of tech, including what passed for email and online interaction in the BBS days. We coded simple games together and I was one of the only students with my own modem in college in the early 90s. I wasted my time on Usenet and MUDs way before anyone knew what a web browser was. None of that is to say I’m the bees’ knees, but it is saying I’m just as comfortable with computers as people half my age, and frequently more comfortable with troubleshooting. Age ain’t nothing but a number. Now excuse me while I go update my Angelfire Banylon 5 fansite.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yep. Ken Thompson is 80. Dennis Ritchie died 11 years ago at the age of 70.

          This is not some strange new thing that just fell to earth last week.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      The OP doesn’t say the tech incompetence is because of their age, they just mention it in addition to the detail. My take was that they were trying to head off assumptions about their age being older than it is. Fanfic always happens. Interesting that you had a lot more tech exposure in school than I did though (also mid forties). Everything was paper based , no IT lessons and in my first professional job (2004) there was one email for the office, and one shared internet access computer.

    10. BossOffline*

      OP here! Yes, I actually meant I’m surprised sometimes by the tech knowledge my boss seems to lack compared to the rest of our larger department. For example, he had never used a Google doc before a few months ago even though it’s something most of our department works in weekly. His role is actually more tech based than mine, he would be expected to have a lot of knowledge about specific software and programs that I do not.

  6. Lost my name again*

    One thing to remember is that you never know what alternative work schedule someone has been approved for. I’ve had bosses and peers that had different core hours then the rest of the department to accommodate non-work things. I was looped in on one of the cases and just naturally observed the others over time. With that in mind, I’m almost leaning toward saying nothing. If others have an issue with his availability, especially his boss, they can raise it with him directly imo

    1. Liv*

      Totally agree that people have work schedules and agreements that you might not be aware of, however as a line manager you should communicate that to your team if that’s the case. You don’t need to give the detail or reasoning, but if it’s an approved schedule thing, just ‘Hey, just to let you know my work day doesn’t start til 10:30. If you need anything before then, reach out to X’.

  7. nnn*

    At first glance, the text seems fairly intelligible, but a closer look reveals it’s just word salad camouflaged by mostly correct grammar and varied syntax. I’m talking blatantly false claims, incorrect explanations of concepts, wordy, repetitive ideas, and a tone that doesn’t match the company’s brand at all

    This is an accurate description of AI writing. The “at first glance, the text seems fairly intelligible” part is what actually makes it harder to edit – it tricks our every instinct about what aspects of the text can and can’t be trusted. Basically, the better you are at writing, the less value it adds.

    An analogy I saw on the internet: editing human writing is like if someone loaded your dishwasher incorrectly. You can look at it and see what’s wrong. Editing AI writing is like if you look inside the dishwasher and everything looks good, but you later discover that your spaghetti strainer is under your bed.

    If you’re still interested in working for this company, it’s definitely worth asking intelligent, nuanced questions about how and why they’re using AI, what value they find they’re getting from it, etc.

    I just realized as I was writing that: normally in job interviews, you’re supposed to have intelligent, informed, nuanced questions to ask – that’s considered a sign of being well prepared for the interview!

    This ties in with something I’ve been thinking about lately: people seem weirdly reluctant to outright criticize AI. I’m seeing a lot of people mitigate their criticisms with “Well, I’m sure it’s useful in some cases, but…” rather than just “Nope, wrong tool for the job!”

    So something to think about, LW: how would you talk about it if it were any other tool that’s less fit for purpose?

    1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      An analogy I saw on the internet: editing human writing is like if someone loaded your dishwasher incorrectly. You can look at it and see what’s wrong. Editing AI writing is like if you look inside the dishwasher and everything looks good, but you later discover that your spaghetti strainer is under your bed.

      Tip of the hat to whoever came up with that!

    2. Well...*

      Idk I use it to edit or draft a lot of my emails now, and I’ve used it to generate code. The code works pretty well, but it’s more useful as a reference (what function does this thing again? Oh great) Way faster than Googling.

      It also was able to explain my research pretty well. If I needed a layman’s explanation or inspiration for writing a colloquium/intro slides for a talk, it’s pretty good. Also it can help you craft and elevator pitch for your work. I think it makes pretty good first drafts for very short pieces of writing.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Another analogy is proofreading machine-translated output and human-translated output, where the machine translation looks good but has subtle mistakes. There are no spelling mistakes and the grammar is mostly good, so it doesn’t come across as gibberish when you glance at it.

      I had to proofread a text recently, as a test to work for an agency. I completely rewrote the text in a more appropriate style, made it sound like a native English-speaker had written it. It would have been quicker and easier to translate it from scratch.
      The agency were delighted with my work, they said most people just made a few cosmetic changes. I told them I’d have billed more than for a translation (because of the time wasted trying to make sense of nonsense) and they agreed with my stance.
      Cue a great working relationship!

    4. BubbleTea*

      The main issue with AI is that it has no real way to distinguish between accurate information and disinformation. It’s a rather terrifying way to rapidly snowball the proliferation of attention-grabbing false stories that already spring up all over. When AI starts using AI-generated content as its source material, there will be absolutely no guarantee that anything it writes has any semblance of truth.

      I watched a video yesterday where someone had asked ChatGPT to make a budget for a couple earning $34,000. It looked fairly good until you added the figures up and realises they totalled thousands more than 34k.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        When I’ve occasionally read AI generated pieces (in listicle-style stuff, “40 outrageous neighbours” etc.) it also often contradicts itself within a single paragraph, or completely reverses the meaning of something! That’s probably dependent on the quality of the AI, but when you combine the lack of fact-checking with an innate tendency to screw things up like that, I can easily see AI writing wildly altering narratives very quickly.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        My test with ChatGPT was first to ask it to explain force plays in baseball, then to explain the infield fly rule. Both answers were wrong, but the explanation of the infield fly rule was pretty close while that about force plays was pure Calvinball. I wondered about this, as it is the opposite of what a human is likely to produce. Then I realized that baseball fans internalize force plays at an early age, while many are mystified by the infield fly rule. This means that there are lots of explainers on the internet for the infield fly rule, but not for force plays. Lacking material to work with on force plays, the AI went into full handwave mode. This is worth pondering, for anyone using AI as a research tool.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I think this is a great illustration of the pitfalls of companies wanting to adopt AI. An expert like Richard is going to be able to identify garbage outputs on a topic, but someone unfamiliar is more likely to take the output at face value and think they learned something.

          It can be extremely difficult to convince someone that their shortcut (e.g. choosing AI over a SME to create content, assuming only light editing would be needed) is going to cost them in the long run, when they don’t understand its limits. I think the company’s response to OP’s concerns will be the most telling thing about how successful OP could be in that role.

        2. Capybarely*

          I recently read an “article” about “How To Make A 32 Bit Wine Bottle” (Google this, and then look at the wayback archive!) It conflates programming and winemaking, and every new iteration of the text is more bizarre.

          Side note to developers: stop naming your programming languages and products after common nouns! What sort of astoundingly perfect SEO do you optimistically think exists for users to successfully look up rust wine or brick?

      3. nnn*

        I was recently googling how to fix something around the house, and the first result I clicked on made me feel like the information I need was about to be mentioned in the next sentence or two, but it never mentioned it.

        And I don’t know much about fixing things, so I thought maybe I’d just missed something? So I went back and read more closely, but just couldn’t find what I was looking for!

        Then I noticed it referred to other brand names throughout the text for no reason, so I started looking at the writing style with more scrutiny, and realized it was AI-generated.

        It contained no information whatsoever, but successfully elicited in me the feeling that I was about to find the information I was looking for!

        This really messes up the signal-to-noise ratio of the internet – we never before had to worry about fake repair procedures!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          YouTube is actually good for this sort of thing. You can find videos made by some old guy who has been doing this thing for forty years. AI cannot yet replicate the look and feel of that, and so is easy to avoid.

      4. Nina*

        Yeah, it can’t fact-check and it certainly can’t do anything approaching maths, because it doesn’t ‘know’ anything, it’s just got a database of what words are likely to appear in what order, and obviously in anything involving numbers, the frequency patterns are completely different and trying to predict what’s going to come next as if numbers were words won’t work.

        It might be able to correctly reference an existing journal paper if the existing paper was referenced a lot in its training material, but it’s just as likely to string words together in a way that kind of looks like a reference to a journal paper but if you check it even a tiny bit you’ll discover that the paper doesn’t actually exist.

    5. GraceC*

      Someone at my work shared a tweet from someone who was asked about a paper he had written – except he hasn’t written any paper like that, and said so, and the person emailed back to say “Thanks for letting me know, I’ll stop using ChatGPT for finding research papers”

      Like…yes! Please do! You shouldn’t have been doing that in the first place! It’s not a search engine!

      1. Zweisatz*

        I. really don’t understand why people don’t get that. Why are you not using Google when you want Google??

    6. ecnaseener*

      I’m seeing a lot of people mitigate their criticisms with “Well, I’m sure it’s useful in some cases, but…” rather than just “Nope, wrong tool for the job!”

      I’m guessing this is to do with how quickly AI is advancing (as LW mentioned) – you can get familiar with one particular language model and confidently say that’s the wrong tool for the job, but you can’t confidently say so about AI as a whole unless you’re really tapped into the whole scene. For all you know the next bigger, better language model (or at least a better-trained GPT variant) is coming out tomorrow.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        I think you are basically right about this. All technologies move and change and develop, especially in their early stages. I think people are responding rationally in many cases, saying basically: This tool doesn’t exactly work, but I can see the trajectory, so I can’t write off the technology entirely.

      2. Spearmint*

        Yeah but a lot do these limitations, like the tendency to “hallucinate” false information, is inherent to the design of large language models. Doesn’t matter how much data or computing power you throw at them, these issues persist.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Getting off-topic but I think it’s way too early to know that for sure! It’s not going to be about the quantity of data or computing power, it’s going to be about the quality of training data, how it’s used, quality of all the different parts of the architecture, etc.

    7. sookie st james*

      “The better you are at writing, the less value it adds.”

      THIS is why I’m so uneasy about it, as a fellow copywriter. You’d be shocked by the number of people who are supposed to approve texts who barely read them – I know this because documents from our external PR teams will make it to my desk riddled with errors (including the name of the company/products), having gone through several team members who are supposed to check it before it gets to me for ‘final proof reading’. And instead I have to do total rewrites.

      When people are skim-reading, and they *always are*, AI is good at making something look like a well-put together document at a glance. And now we have people who don’t write for a living frothing at the mouth to say how useful it is and use it in place of human labour. Copywriters have an uphill battle ahead to convince people why we’re still necessary!

    8. HalJordan*

      I saw recently someone saying that all the headlines about ChatGPT can be summed up as “language model returns text!” and I think that’s critical. People keep talking about whether its output is “right” or “wrong” or “hallucinations” or whatever, but they don’t understand that it’s not actually trying to answer their questions.

      It’s not trying to answer anything. It’s providing a conglomeration of words that have *some probability of being related to the input text, in a structured format according to the finite and learnable rules of English grammar. Whatever it gives you is what you asked for: even if you thought you were asking for something specific, all it is able to give you is text. Not a bug. Not a feature. Just its inherent limits.

      And it makes it terrifying to edit, and so incredibly slow, bc if you’re editing a human’s work, you can call them and ask ‘what were you trying to say with XX?’. You can’t ask ChatGPT that, because it is not trying to say anything. It did its job; it gave you text. If you wanted something else, you shouldn’t have used it.

      There was a comment here recently about “boundless enthusiasm and a head full of soup”–there is nothing better to apply that to than ChatGPT.

  8. Andrea*

    In my experience as a college instructor plagiarism is always at some level an act of desperation. She sent in the LW’s paper because she was up against a deadline and hadn’t written her own/didn’t feel like hers was good enough/whatever. I don’t think it’s an eternal black mark against a student (and depending on the severity of the incident, it wasn’t even always an automatic failure in the classes I taught for–NB I feel very differently about people who have earned their degrees and are plagiarizing scholarship/books/articles), but it also doesn’t surprise me to hear that this person had a pattern of underperformance overall.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I was going to say this too. It’s usually too insecure to believe my work is good enough or ran out of time and panicked. From that point of view, it actually makes sense to use the “bad” essay: there’s a rationalisation of “well, I know I’ll pass with this, I’m not trying to get a high mark or anything, this’ll just let me pass and move on to the next module and I’ll never have to do this again.”

    2. EPLawyer*

      Not always. For a truly bonkers plagiarism mess, check out #Receptiogate. Either on twitter if you are still there or over on the fediverse (Mastadon). It started right before Christmas and is STILL going on.

      1. Andrea*

        Yes, the Receptiogate person is part of why I specified that I don’t think plagiarism is forgivable in people who have earned advanced degrees.

  9. existential axolotl*

    For the AI LW— I’d also consider whether you editing the AI writing into something intelligible will make it look like the base text the AI gives you is better than it is, and encourage your bosses to want to keep using it even if it’s inefficient. What kind of oversight would there be? I’d hate to have people attribute your work to the AI generation being better than it is and misunderstand how much effort it is for you, because that kind of thing could affect performance reviews, raises, etc. I’d be VERY honest about the quality of the AI’s work before editing so as not to undermine your own work.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah, this is the kind of thing where you’d need to use Track Changes to show exactly how much you’re changing, and add in comments to explain what is wrong and the research you had to conduct (mostly a list of links to the websites you consulted will be enough). Obviously this will add even more time to the insane amount of time already spent on the job.

      I’d be tempted to do the job from scratch, specifying the amount of time, then edit the AI text to show that writing from scratch produces a better result, and there’s less fear that a mistake might have slipped through.

  10. Mothman*

    I’m going to sound very anti-AI here, but I’m actually not. I love it as a tool, kind of like how even as a teacher I thought SparkNotes were great. But, to that LW, I’m going to go a step further: That particular job you describe scares me. Not in a “they’re coming for my job!” way but in a “this is so toxic” way. I get being excited about a job, but I’d at least ask for further clarification on how they plan to use the tool before agreeing to anything. Here’s why.

    I’m a writer/editor in a relatively high position, and my company is investigating how we can use AI to speed up our work. I feel like using it to DO the work is beyond unethical.

    1. It’s going to end up increasing the churn and burn. “Why do you feel like you’re overworked??? We took this whole step away!”
    2. I already think it’s unethical to pay people 1¢ per word just because they live in a different country, and this would take even that 1¢ away.
    3. You’re 100% the fall guy.
    4. It’s plagiarism. I don’t mean you using the work, as that’s likely not considered plagiarism. The work itself is *already* plagiarized when it’s decent.

    I also edit almost unreadable work on the regular as a freelancer in addition to my regular job. It’s insanely stressful and results in a lot of arguments or hours of extra work. Except here you don’t have a writer to argue with. You have no one to tell to redo the research.

    You are essentially going to write pieces from scratch PLUS justify why you deviated from the AI.

    Icing on the cake: I found out a well-known AI is plagiarizing my team’s work. I thought it sounded a little too close, so I asked it about its sources…voila. It’s a good AI with reasonably reliable outcomes. It could also be caught by a plagiarism checker and, even if it’s not, people could easily recognize “close enough” thinfs if they’re in your field. If it was pushed through even close to as-is, your name could be attached to plagiarism.

    I love AI and could talk about its potential in our field all day. It basically would be the best little research assistant and perhaps proofreader (NOT editor). But…oh dear. I’d run. I’ve been churned and burned in this industry twice, and it breaks you. Best case scenario is that this is the outcome if they’re really hoping to use it in this way.

    Good luck!

    1. Daisy*

      AI is like having a toddler help you clean house. Folks who have never done it think that extra pair of hands is helpful. People who actually know how to do a good job know it is faster to do it yourself.

      1. allathian*

        The thing with toddlers, though, is that they’re at an age where parental attention is what they crave more than anything else. So yes, let the toddler “help” at least sometimes, it’s the only way they’ll learn. (My son loved sorting table knives, forks, and spoons into the right slots in the kitchen drawer when he was less than 3 years old when I’d removed all sharp utensils first, now at 13 he can fill and empty the dishwasher by himself). If you don’t, you have only yourself to blame if your teenager won’t clean their room and can’t do any chores properly when they go to college, and all their roommates hate them for that. Sure, you can start them on chores a bit later, when they’re 7 or so, but they might be more resistant by that age.

        I might be willing to work with AI (translation) a few years from now as long as I’m allowed to teach it, too. Certainly for a long time it’s going to take less time to just do it myself, but AI needs the feedback to learn.

    2. Garlic Knot*

      I also see a problem with AI “training” materials: no consent, credit, or compensation for the original creators. Same with image generation.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes, it’s the primary basis for my objection. The theft is so rampant and blatant. Inexcusable.

    3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I have been investigating using AI as a writer / marketer and honestly, having it write anything longform is useless. It has to be entirely rewritten.

      Thus far, the only strong uses I see for it are topic idea generation and summarizing long content.

      I actually recently attended a webinar about AI in marketing. The biggest question was “will AI take my job” and the answer is – not any time soon. BUT someone who can effectively use AI might.

      But IMO, any company who cares about quality will not use AI to create content from scratch because it is less than useless.

      1. Dinwar*

        “I actually recently attended a webinar about AI in marketing. The biggest question was “will AI take my job” and the answer is – not any time soon. BUT someone who can effectively use AI might.”

        I mean, that’s what a marketing team WOULD say, isn’t it?

        I like the essay on “A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry”. If all you want is one unit of essay, it works great! It’ll spit out as many essays as you want! But if all you’re doing is producing quantities of essays, you’re not really doing anything worth doing. The point of an essay–or an industry publication, or whatever–is to organize, synthesize, and effectively present information (remembering that communication is what the listener does). LLMs can do the latter, badly, but can’t do either of the other two.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          To be clear, it wasn’t the marketing teams for AI giving the webinar. It was marketing professionals who do frequent continuing education for marketers to maintain their certifications. It is a very hot topic right now, so the webinar explored ways marketers could incorporate AI into their jobs.

          They also strongly felt full content generation was not a a strength of AI and only companies who don’t know what they are doing would do that.

          But they listed a number of ways to effectively use AI. And as more companies start wondering how it can help them, people who have spent time using AI might have a leg up on marketers who haven’t touched it at all. So that’s not an absurd statement.

  11. John Smith*

    #2, I’d say you really need to stop covering up your boss’s shortcomings. A colleague does the same for my boss (an officious incompetent clown, as one colleague deacibes him) and all it achieves is to stop major problems being identified and addressed. I’m not saying you throw him under a bus or highlight issues, but do you really want to continue covering for him and the stress it’s causing?

    BTW, my Teams shows me as being away or even offline when I’m on the damned thing typing away!

    1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I was chatting with a colleague today, and half of her dots throughout our chat history were red, and half were yellow! It was a new level of Teams dot mystery.

    2. kiki*

      Yeah, it seems like the scenario described by LW makes it pretty clear to boss’s boss that they are not online until 10:30 pretty consistently (“his boss will message our team with a request and my boss won’t see it for several hours in the morning when he should be available”).

      It’s really not up to LW to manage this. And the Teams status seems like a bit of a red herring– people can tell boss isn’t working because he’s not responding to anything before 10:30, it doesn’t really matter if boss knows that teams statuses reflect his actual working hours. It sounds like maybe LW’s boss out and proud doesn’t start working until 10:30?

    3. Generic Name*

      This! Not only is it not your job to solve this problem with your boss, why would you want to cover for him? From your comments, it looks like his boss is aware. Either his boss will deal with it or they won’t, and then you can decide if you are okay with the situation as it stands.

  12. NforKnowledge*

    I truly don’t think ChatGPT and the like are good for anything except generating spam for content farms. I have yet to see a single convincing example of something useful it can do. Write simple code? It’s probably already on stackoverflow and you need to edit it for mistakes anyway. Write a student paper? Yeah, a bad one that reads like a struggling highschooler was desperately trying to reach the required word count two hours before the deadline.

    1. Well...*

      I use it to write emails I’m struggling with/nervous about (its calm and friendly tone really helps alleviate my anxiety that I will sound like a jerk if I say what I need to say in the email), and it’s so much faster than stack exchange. You don’t need to give it a specific search term, you can just say, “How do I do this?” and there’s the code. Really great if you forgot the name of the thing, which is usually my problem. Stack exchange is good if you know the name of the thing, but don’t understand why it isn’t working. It’s a complementary reference.

      1. Spearmint*

        Yeah but it sometimes produces incorrect code, or it produces code that is correct but has some other flaw (like uses too much memory unnecessarily). At least on Stack Overflow I can trust the answers are pretty much always good.

        1. Well...*

          I’m just using it as a reference, not to implement directly. Have you tried just asking it, “Write some code that does XYZ in Python?” If you forgot some numpy function, suddenly there’s the name of the thing you need. Who cares if how it’s implemented? I’m going to implement it myself, I’m just looking up names of things.

          I also think a lot of these “it’s not perfect!” cries are reminiscent of the Wikipedia panic of times past. Yes, sometimes things are wrong, but it will likely get better with time, and also, traditional sources have wrong answers as well. I’ve seen pretty bad answers on Stack Exchange, or more likely, completely missing answers for the thing I need.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Elsewhere online, people were describing ChatGPT as a lossy compression algorithm for the internet:

        If you give it a text prompt, it will usually return a string of text that was found near your prompt. That’s fine for some formulaic things, like rescheduling a dental appointment. But it doesn’t check for accuracy, so “explain why you can’t caramelize onions in ten minutes” and “how do I caramelize onions in ten minutes” are likely to return the same thing. And it doesn’t handle novelty well, hence the hallucinations if you ask it for Abraham Lincoln’s speech to the Union Army in 1867, or the best way to care for colorless green skazlorls.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I have seen suggestions with the fiction writing community of using AI for writing prompts, to conquer the “blank page” problem. Maybe! My writing is of a different sort, where the blank page isn’t the issue, so I can’t say how useful it is.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think it’s a tool. Tools can be used nefariously – you can hit someone over the head with a hammer – but they can be used constructively as well. I’ve seen it used for a first draft of a resume, a push over the hump of writer’s block, hell even just for entertainment. And tools also get refined over time. This is relatively new technology.

      I have some ethical issues with AI, mainly stemming from it’s impact on the art community, but I’m not ready to throw emerging tech in the trash because it’s buggy at first.

    4. sam_i_am*

      For code writing: It was able to solve several days of Advent of Code this year faster than any human did. Those are new problems, not on Stack Overflow. It’s still not great at coding without a thorough check, but it’s not like it’s just copying answers verbatim.

    5. highelec*

      I wonder how it would do at coming up with an outline for a paper. Especially for undergrad or high school level work, when the goal is not necessarily to express a new-in-the-field viewpoint, but just to practice building arguments and developing voice, having a quick way to generate a base to start from could be an asset.

      1. Well...*

        I think this is a really good use for it. It gave me a nice outline for a talk I had to give. I also think this will make certain homework assignments obsolete, much like calculators have done. Before teaching students to outline and overcome the blank page were important skills. Now, AI can do that for you, so you won’t see so many assignments that are “outline this paper”

  13. CD*

    Is it possible that LW2’s boss is purposely staying unavailable for the first hour or two of the day? I work for a small organization where a handful of folks use slack and maybe one department uses Teams. Slack is great, but distracting. If more of the team used slack or Teams, I’d want to carve out time every day without all the direct messaging.

    1. ecnaseener*

      That was my thinking too – maybe LW is assuming the worst because they already know their boss is under-delivering, but for anyone who doesn’t know that, the conclusion is “this guy doesn’t open teams first thing in the morning and doesn’t respond terribly quickly,” not “this guy’s still asleep” (!)

    2. rayray*

      I think this is a great point. I have set myself as unavailable when I was slammed with work and just wanted to get things done.

  14. Little Beans*

    I don’t know how Microsoft teams works, but what does “should be working” mean? I’m the supervisor of a team of exempt employees and many of us don’t work 9-5. For example, I often don’t start my workday until 10, but I work until the work is done. I also supervise staff who regularly have to log out for an hour or two midday to, say, pick up a kid from school. Yes, this means sometimes you have to wait a couple hours for someone to respond to something. So if this were my team, it wouldn’t necessarily matter what hours a person was online, as long as work is getting done. If work isn’t getting done, that’s a separate issue…

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Sometimes this kind of disagreement can come about when a set hours culture person encounters a flexi hours culture person. I don’t know if that’s the case for OP – they could know it is very expressly a “be online at 9” culture – but there’s loads of companies where it’s vague and people get annoyed based on the stricter rules of previous jobs.

    2. Sharon*

      I agree the OP made a lot of assumptions here, the main one being that the boss is sleeping when he’s supposed to be working. Maybe he is working but not on Teams. Maybe he doesn’t start until 10:30 and that’s OK.

      I would approach this as an availability issue the same way as if you knew the boss was in VIP client meetings when you needed input from him. Ask him, “when we need XYZ and you’re not available, should we just wait for you to get back to us, or should we go to somebody else?” If he says wait, and that’s causing you to miss agreed deadlines, that can be escalated to his supervisor and a new process can be worked out.

    3. Managing to get by*

      We can tell if someone is online and whether they have been active on the keyboard, are in a meeting, are free etc by the color of the “dot” next to their name in Teams. We even say “find someone whose dot is green” when we have a rush.

      I sometimes mark mine “do not disturb” when I need time to work on a project, but still get constant IM pings. I also used to have a direct report who worked an earlier shift and would watch for my dot to turn green in the morning and then hit me with up to a dozen little questions that were not rushes and could have been emailed over for me to answer later in the day.

      Those two things caused me to set my dot grey to look like I was offline, just to get some peace! I couldn’t turn it all the way off in case of an actual emergency (my boss new to ping me anyway and I’d reply) but being 100% available 100% of the time just isn’t workable for some people.

      I’d say focus on the need, is the boss showing offline when emergencies come up, and if so how to reach them in those cases, rather than on the schedule.

      1. Random Dice*

        There was a whole recent thread about how bonkers bad the MS Teams status message is at reflecting whether one is actually working, including whether one is currently at that second typing in Teams. Look up “mouse jiggler”.

  15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (boss is offline) I don’t think I would bring it up at all with the boss! Let him fail on his own ‘merits’. If/when people notice – that will reflect badly on him, not on all of you as a team. I have to wonder why he’s been given this job exactly if he has neither management experience nor “domain” experience! Perhaps he’s been moved there from somewhere else to see if he does any better … Let this one play out.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. It’s eyeroll enducing, I can see how it would be annoying – but even good bosses have habits that drive their employees up a wall sometimes. I think at the end of the day, he’s the boss and you just grin and bear it until it’s a real issue.

      He doesn’t respond to something time sensitive and something bad happens? Raise it then. “How can we better contact you in an emergency?” But your emails are just unread longer than you’d like? Or you’re trying to cover for him looking bad to *his* boss? Don’t pick those battles.

  16. linger*

    LW3 (AI): I would be entirely honest about what kinds of flaws I found in the AI-generated text, commenting on which were fixable, and which weren’t, on my way to preparing a revision. The best-case scenario is that the goal of the task is actually to perform exactly that analysis en route to a revision — though admittedly, that’s far from certain. But, if that isn’t the goal, do you really want to be stuck in a role where you are expected to “correct” text that would be quicker to write from scratch?

  17. Blueberry Patch Girl*

    LW#$4: As usual, Alison’s suggested text is solid. I have had this happen with a job candidate and they did not give me the heads up. Because I was hiring for both jobs, I ended up super confused as to why they’d applied for the second position. I wish they’d just sent me a quick note letting me know, rather than forcing me to wonder and bring it up myself- because per the rules we were hiring under each pool was supposed to be totally separate, so I had to make sure with HR I was allowed to ask them about it. Such a mess. A simple email would have been super nice.

  18. GythaOgden*

    Boss offline — is stuff otherwise getting done?

    My boss is out and about a lot; as a facilities manager with a number of sites, he obviously has a lot of driving between places. We have had times where things were a bit tough to get hold of him, but for instance yesterday I had two queries that arose while I was on my own in the office, and I could use Teams to ‘wake him up’. We had a really productive afternoon and I’ve seen a more active side of him than I have since he took over 18 months ago — but engaging with him is a matter of patience to send messages and know he may not be able to immediately answer them.

    1. Avril Ludgateaux*

      ^^^ I voiced a similar sentiment above, but the problem OP should focus on is whether the boss is responsive in a timely fashion when he is needed (which he seems not to be, to be fair) and if things are otherwise getting done, and not whether or not he is “available” by some arbitrary metric.

      My boss is rarely available, but typically responsive. As in, I can almost never have a spontaneous meeting or call with him because his schedule is usually packed end-to-end. But I nonetheless get responses to contact and advice on issues I can’t handle myself, within a reasonable time frame. If the OP speaks to her boss, I would advise focusing on how to get *responses* from him and not bringing up the “your Teams status says offline” part of it, at all. Because focusing on perceived availability goes beyond just managing your manager to micromanaging them. If somebody pointed out to me “hey you’re not available according to Teams” I would probably respond (within a minute), “So?”

  19. Cambridge Comma*

    OP3 is taking a test. This means that they will have intentionally chosen a piece of text that’s difficult to work on in order to see what she does with it. It would have been much less interesting to take a good piece.
    If you take an editing test for human-written text, it will typically be an excerpt of something the test-setter found very challenging to edit, with a few extra errors added in to cover all the categories of error. It’s not usually representative of all the text you would usually edit.

    1. londonedit*

      Yep, definitely. Editorial tests are standard in job interviews in my line of work, and generally you’ll get a page or two of text that’s littered with errors of all kinds. I’ve never seen one and thought ‘Wow, this company’s proofs are appalling, is this the kind of stuff I’ll have to work with?’ You understand that it’s test material and not real-world stuff.

      1. Other Alice*

        The difference is that AI generated writing is usually very bad across the board. It will be useful for LW to ask upfront if this is representative of the texts she’d be expected to work with.

        1. Riot Grrrl*

          This is an overgeneralization that has yet to be proven out. Rigorous studies haven’t been done yet on the most recent generation of AI text generators, so we don’t actually know the real quality level. Also assessing “quality” or even “accuracy” is not a simple or straightforward determination and can be highly domain dependent. What may work in the realm of javascript programming may be less effective in, say, rocket science or sports strategizing.

          In the meantime the media is giving us steady diet of highly salient and spectacular stories of the “Oh my god, look what ChatGPT said to me!! It’s time to panic!!!” variety. What we’re not getting is the millions upon millions of perfectly mundane, uneventful uses of the technology, many of which have in fact been happening for years now without most of us being particularly aware of it.

          I heard a group of educators speaking quite sanely on the subject recently. Their main point seemed to be not that AI writing is especially bad or inaccurate (in their subject areas), but that it’s mainly just sort of average and flat. It’s mostly good, they said, but lacking the spark of insight. That is, so far it lacks humanity.

          1. Spearmint*

            I follow the field, and the kinds of AI you’re talking about, large language models, are basically only used for SEO and *some* copywriting. They really aren’t being widely deployed and there really haven’t been many use cases found yet.

            1. Riot Grrrl*

              I’m sorry; I was unclear. By “millions and millions… of uses”, I didn’t mean millions of different applications; I just meant millions of instances; times people have been using the existing applications. Most are entirely mundane and uneventful—even trivial. I don’t think we yet have the data to assert that they are “usually very bad across the board”. Indeed in some domains—such as coding—we have anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

    2. sookie st james*

      I could be wrong, but my understanding from the letter was that the hiring company has framed it as a useful tool that they plan to harness and want to see how the candidates approach that task – which is a different kettle of fish from something explicitly framed as an editing test, I think. More like a separate task similar to writing prompts that give a taster of the kind of work you’d be doing

  20. Varthema*

    It’s definitely possible that they deliberately gave you a really bad bit of AI copy to edit.

    I have hired contractors for a role that’s analogous to copyediting, and one thing I’ve really tried to drill home in the interview and take-home task is the true nature of the work. Despite our carefully worded ad, applicants tended to think that the job was, for example, curating or even painting llama portraits for special exhibitions, where it’s actually more like documenting and labeling llama portraits using some really buggy and dated custom software (which we are fixing, finally!). Super tedious, at times. Despite that, our long-term contractors truly enjoy their work and stick around for years (I was one of them!) but it does require a pretty specific mentality to find enjoyment in it. It was necessary to open candidates’ eyes to the reality of the job to avoid churn in their third week.

    So I was always glad when candidates showed they were clear-eyed about the challenges and shortcomings of the work, and yet were still genuinely interested in proceeding. Make sure that you are in that camp! I think Allison’s wording for those questions would work perfectly.

  21. bamcheeks*

    I am firmly Team Don’t Use Teams To Monitor People’s Working Patterns. We’ve talked about how obnoxious (and inaccurate!) it is when employers do it to staff: it’s just as inaccurate the other way around.

    If your boss is supposed to be available at all times to answer questions, and the lack of availability is holding up your work process, that’s definitely something to address. But “not available on Teams before 10:30” is not in itself evidence of a problem!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Hard agree here. My workplace uses Teams and one of the first things we discovered was that its status indicators are far from accurate, so much so that we don’t rely on them at all.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      +1. Some people say it’s always accurate for them – great! You do what’s appropriate for you with that information. But it’s often not, and I don’t know that we need to be monitoring each other anyway. As you say, measure impact, not “minutes green”.

    3. rayray*

      I agree.

      I don’t understand why it’s so common to monitor people’s Teams status these days. Even if the boss is showing as unavailable, message them anyway with whatever it is you need. If it’s urgent, call them.

      Maybe the boss is sleeping in, or maybe they’re actually working, who really knows. Maybe they intentionally set their self as unavailable so they can get work done without getting messages. It could go the other way too, some people show up as green because they use mouse jigglers, lay an object on the keyboard, use a script to enter a . every minute, etc.

      1. Dinwar*

        “I don’t understand why it’s so common to monitor people’s Teams status these days.”

        Same reason people monitor how high their neighbors grass is: People are nosy, and Teams-monitoring is a cheap way to establish status. There are people who think that their ability to reduce someone’s prestige/status gives them more prestige/status.

        Plus, it’s an outgrowth of the trend towards frictionless communication that email started. We live in a world where any barrier to communication, even potential communication, is seen as a failure on the part of the person we’re trying to reach. While I’m generally not a fan of Cal Newport, his description of offices as “hyperactive hive minds” is pretty accurate.

        (Please note I’m not accusing the LW of this. I’m speaking generally.)

    4. Sedna*

      As someone who regularly works 10:30 to 7: THANK you. Yup! I’m not here until 10:30! I also stay until 7 because that’s when I do my best work, and because that way we have some West Coast coverage!

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, thankfully my org has fully embraced the idea of flex hours. Monitoring someone else’s availability is frowned on, including that of a manager monitoring their report’s availability, provided the report does their job and hands in assignments on time and attends any meetings they’ve agreed to attend. Messaging a report after they’ve logged off for the day that they have to attend a meeting at 9 the next day if they usually log on at 9.30 would be frowned on. The people who deal with mission-critical emergencies are a different matter, but even they aren’t expected to be on call 24/7/365, there’s a separate on-call rota.

        I’m an early bird and when I WFH, I’m routinely at my desk by 7.30 at the latest, and often much earlier than that (6.30 is the earliest I’ve ever started working). My close coworker who is a night owl and who likes to exercise during his lunch break sometimes logs on at 9.30, goes to lunch at 12, returns at 3 and continues working far into the evening, when I normally stop working at 3 or 3.30, depending on the length of my lunch hour. This wouldn’t work for all jobs, not even at my org, but my coworker and I are translators, and that job rarely requires synchronous collaboration, so it works very well for us. The only requirement re working hours is that we attend the meetings we’ve agreed to attend, other than that we can log working hours any time between 6 am and 11 pm. We do have core hours 9-3, but all that means is that if we’re not available for a longer period than an hour during that time, we’re expected to block the time off on our calendars. People who have lots of meetings have started blocking off their lunch hours, too. I’ve found that it’s not necessary for me, because I’m not in meetings all day, every day.

        I love the flexibility, and at this point in my career, you’d have to pay me at least double my current salary (unrealistic) for me to even consider giving it up.

    5. allathian*

      Yeah, me too. The way my org works is that we can contact people on Teams chat regardless of the status they’re showing, it’s up to everyone to manage their settings for each team and channel they’re on. I can IM someone who’s flagging DND and trust that they won’t respond to my message until they can deal with it, and in most cases won’t even *see* the message until they’re available again.

      When I’m flagging DND, I only see my manager’s messages. Usually when I’m DND, I’m in the same meeting with my manager, so it’s unlikely she’s going to send me a message at that point anyway.

      So far, Teams statuses have been pretty reliable at my org. If I WFH at home alone and leave my computer for a few minutes, the status will switch to Away after 5 minutes. At the office it’s a fireable offense to leave your computer unattended without locking it. Locking the computer by removing the smart card we use to log in instantly switches the Teams status to Away.

      Previously our Teams statuses were erratic at best, but the most recent Teams update seems to have fixed most issues, for us at any rate.

  22. Echo echo*

    #3: AI is nowhere near the stage of being able to write *correct* and coherent articles etc. It is just a language learning algorithm, all it does is string together the most used words around a specific concept. (A tad more complicated than that but you get the gist- none of the models available are true thinking AIs which not everyone gets).
    This means that it exacerbates existing biases and repeats both true data and misinformation.
    AI has become a bit of a buzzword, pointing out the issues (and suggesting how you’d handle them) is completely warranted and will help you screen the company for one that doesn’t give unattainable goals/isn’t resistant to feedback.
    For what it’s worth, none of the issues you faced when editing are easy fixes and won’t go away in the near future though they’ll likely become less noticeable.

    1. Artemesia*

      There is a well known travel site that allows a bot to run amuck with ridiculous word garbage. I can only assume that it is owned by the site and is not a troll because they refuse to suspend the account littering the site with its ridiculous advice.

  23. Helvetica*

    LW#4 – I’ve done this successfully! I applied for something below my skillset at a government agency because that was the only opening and it is a notoriously difficult place to get hired at at all. Once I had accepted that job – but before I had started – they launched a second application process for the position I actually wanted (which was a large intake, not one post). So I did exactly what Alison recommends – wrote to the HR and hiring manager about it, applied, and in the end did 1 month in the position I was originally hired for and then switched.
    Good luck!

  24. FD*

    LW2- I can’t help but feeling like there’s a bit of b**** eating crackers with this one. In the abstract, I’m curious if you are truly in a job where you can’t wait a couple of hours to get an answer on something. You might be! I’m imagining the issue maybe more that, for example, he’s super underwater and just straight up and doesn’t respond to things you really do need answers on for days / weeks. If that’s the case I don’t think the Teams thing really is relevant. I think it might be helpful to ask yourself if he was otherwise responsive would it really be an issue if he wasn’t available until 10:30 everyday? (Admittedly I do have a horse in this game as someone who finds it very important to have a couple of hours of undisturbed work time everyday.)

    It might be more productive to focus on whatever the core issue is instead of on the Teams issue,

    1. fluffoth*

      There’s also a possibility that; Teams is totally borked for the guy. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve had to tell a colleague they’re appearing offline when they see themselves as online (always a fun 20 minutes of restarting software/hardware and “am I online yet? how about now?”) and had several points where messages weren’t getting through and it’s not “just a quiet morning”. My hypothesis is Teams was developed as an INTRAoffice messager, and all these billionty different custom-to-each-company wfh solutions was outside the scope of testing during development, causing Teams to not play nice with others.

      So yeah, asking “is Teams working right for you” is valid, as there’s a solid chance the manager’s sat there wondering why no one says hello to him anymore.

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

        Teams can be super finicky. Not alerting people to messages, or in my case still showing me as out of office when I had changed all of my settings, turned off my OOO message, etc.

        Also, maybe he just forgets to sign in to teams. You can set it so that it does not automatically log you in. So he could be working for 2 hours and not realize it,

  25. UKgreen*

    I am almost always ‘offline’ or ‘busy’ for the first couple of hours of a workday. It’s the only way I get any work done without being pinged with inane messages. This morning: OMG, SNOW IN THE UK!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, I start about two hours before everybody else for this very reason: I just need some time to get things done without interruption. If someone else is using Teams (or whatever) to make it look like they’re not available for this very reason, I get it.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, me too. Although because we have a very flexible schedule we’re pretty evenly split into early birds and night owls.

  26. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (plagiarism) – I absolutely would have raised this, especially as I’m assuming (from the details given in the letter) that the degree is work-related even though it wasn’t an incident at work in itself. Would the degree help with career promotion – that she would have been obtaining fraudulently… academic dishonesty is the same type of thing as fraud, really.

    Re “why that of all papers when it wasn’t very good” in the official answer – I expect the reason for that is that she had got so far behind, so her options were submit this paper and hope to get some credit even if it was “only” a D or whatever, or to submit nothing at all and fail that assignment.

    I say this often on here but people are rarely dishonest in only one very specific incident/area. This will be part of a pattern. I expect the company discovered that when she left (reading between the lines, she didn’t leave fully voluntarily even if presented as a resignation).

    BTW the policy that you can share your work is silly for exactly reasons like that, imo.

    1. iliketoknit*

      Being able to share your work with fellow students isn’t silly – it’s a great way for people to learn collectively and be part of an academic community. The problem is people abusing the policy to steal work, not the policy itself.

      1. OP1*

        I was certainly more selective with that and whom I shared work after this. I did give that paper out to multiple people, because the in text comments and feedback were so useful. No one else handed it in as their own.

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      Hard disagree on sharing work being silly.

      In my undergrad days, we had several English faculty who would give you the possible essay questions ahead of time–you got something like 5 possible questions, and on test day, three of them would be on the actual exam and you had to answer 2, or something like that. The questions were frequently re-used, and I remember talking with someone who took the class the year before. He showed me the question options from his year (some the same, some different) and walked me through how he studied for them. I never saw his answers. But talking through how he approached being ready for the questions was extremely helpful; it was like a study skills tutorial tailored for that class and that instructor. I am quite confident that the professor would have been pleased by this–two of her students were talking about the works of literature, and study skills, and organizing thoughts. He didn’t give me any answers, and neither did LW give her co-worker any answers. LW thought that seeing what didn’t work, as well as feedback from the instructor, would help the coworker. And in a lot of cases, it would have. Peer sharing can be a very valuable learning tool.

      1. evens*

        Giving your essay to someone else isn’t remotely near two students discussing possible answers to a question. I tell my students that “working together” means you are discussing each answer together. “Cheating” is “I do some/all the work, you do some/none of the work, and we copy.” Sharing your answers with someone is not a study group.

  27. Chilipepper Attitude*

    For the AI question —
    Mention CNET in your convo about how they plan to use AI. CNET had to retract lots of work that was AI generated bc it was incorrect. And it was (presumably) reviewed by someone in the process.

    For the AI critics, it is great at writing “delicate” emails you don’t want to take the time to write and my IT son loves using it for code. It can be very useful depending on the prompt, the first one works much better than the second:
    – write 500 words on the way x is useful, include y, and z
    – write 500 words about x

    But it does make up facts and it makes up the articles it claims to use to support its writing. And it is essentially plagiarizing everything it writes from some source(s).

  28. Blarg*

    OP2: Not having email on your phone isn’t inherently) a sign of tech ineptness. It’s often a sign of good boundaries and appropriate work/life balance.

    1. Marny*

      This was my reaction too. He’s made a choice to keep his personal time personal. It’s a great example for the boss to set.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Totally agree—I have my work email on my phone mostly so I can get to my calendar, but I encourage all my staff to keep notifications off and to delete it when they go on vacation.

    3. Come On Eileen*

      YES. I am 48 years old. I am completely tech savvy. I took any work-related apps off my phone about six months ago and am enjoying the heck out of it.

    4. Anne of Green Gables*

      I agree! I am 45 and do not use work applications, including email and our chat, on my phone. I frequently encourage my direct reports to remove email and chat from their phones as well, and they seem surprised at how much happier they are when they do, even if they just do it for a week when they are on vacation. (I encourage this in all my direct reports, but it is mainly the younger staff who start using work email and chat on their phones in the first place.)

      1. Random Dice*

        I encourage my direct reports that on leave, they should move their work apps folder off their phone’s main screen, and silence them, so they don’t even hear or see the alerts.

    5. londonedit*

      Yep, I’m 41 and I don’t have work email or Teams on my phone. Granted I’m not a boss, but my boss doesn’t have email or Teams on their phone either. When all the lockdown chaos of 2020 was first happening and we were first on Teams, there was a point where I did have it on my phone, but it only took one instance of me replying to a message half an hour after my official work finish time (I work slightly different hours from my boss) for my boss to say ‘Hey, what are you doing replying to that? Get Teams off your phone and enjoy your evening!’ which was an excellent demonstration of good boundaries.

      1. I have RBF*

        You have a good boss!

        The only reason I have Zoom chat on my phone is so I can reply to stuff when I’m stuck in the bathroom. It is set to *never* notify me, ever, so it won’t disturb my when I’m heads down, off for the day, or on the weekend.

        I don’t have my company email on my phone, because to do that would mean I’d have to have it in their Airwatch, and then it wouldn’t be my phone anymore.

        1. allathian*

          I guess I’m lucky in that it’s a fireable offense for us to handle work documents on personal devices. So I have a work cell phone, and keep it on vibrate when I’m working and it’s on the desk next to me, and put it on silent or switch it off completely when I’m on vacation. My manager and close coworker are the only people in my org who have my personal cellphone number and email (I’m not on any social media except WhatsApp, and use that to keep in touch with people who are in my contacts anyway), so I’m contactable if there’s such a severe emergency that I have to interrupt my vacation. So far it’s never happened in the 15 years I’ve worked here.

          I’m frankly amazed that so many employers expect their employees to use personal devices for work, and that so many employees are willing to risk their personal stuff getting deleted along with any work stuff if they get fired suddenly or their phone gets stolen (granted, in the latter case their stuff’s probably lost anyway). Never mind giving their employer access to personal stuff that they’d rather not give them access to.

    6. Danish*

      For me it’s both a boundaries thing and a “if I put work email on my phone I’m giving them permission to wipe it at any time” which..nope! This is my personal phone, thanks!

    7. Anonosaurus*

      I have (and pay for) a burner phone for work emails, so that I have mobile access but can switch it off and toss it in a drawer when I am Not Working. Clunky but works for me.

  29. Eng Girl*

    For LW2 my immediate thought is that it’s possible that your boss either has standing meetings most mornings or that they’ve decided to carve out the first couple of hours of their day to actually get work done.

    I do my best “busywork” type tasks first thing in the morning. It’s also when I’m most likely to be interrupted by my team for non-urgent issues because 1st thing in the morning is when they realize they forgot to ask me about something the previous day. I’m in an open office so I don’t get to do this, but god I’d love to be able to say “no one talk to me until 9:30 so I can complete these 6 reports and put my presentation for this afternoons meeting together”

  30. Dinwar*

    #2: I think there are a few questions worth asking in this situation.

    First, is your boss not working, or is he just unavailable? I know a lot of people who look unavailable or even offline on Teams when in fact they’re hard at work and simply don’t want to be disturbed. Teams can be VERY distracting, and if your boss is expected to both produce product and manage he may need to carve time out when he’s best able to do the work so that he doesn’t fall behind. This is particularly the case with new managers, who don’t fully understand that they’re no longer evaluated based on production, but rather on management.

    (For my part, after being in the management role for a while, I DESPISE the concept of a “working manager”. There’s too much work as a manager to realistically do well as a manager and be worth a hoot in terms of production. If your company is expecting your manager to manage and do the work they’re doing you and your boss a disservice. It’s really, really common, but still bad.)

    Second, are the communications actually that urgent? I’ve found that people expect instant responses on Teams whether the request needs an instant response or not. A really common example is someone pinging me for a form that they could easily find themselves–it’s quicker and easier for them to make me look than to put in the effort. If the stuff he’s being asked about can wait until noon without problems, this becomes a perception issue rather than an actual problem.

    He may even be combining the two. I’ve known some people who are intentionally difficult to reach in part to train their employees to try to solve minor problems themselves. I sort of doubt it–this is the sort of thing you’d expect from an experienced manager taking over a team that needs help–but it’s an option.

    As an aside, I dislike extremely the assumption that if one is not on Teams one is not working. I usually am in my job, but there are occasions where my job requires me to be away–site walks, talking to various stakeholders, showing people how to do new tasks, etc. Even in an office or working from home there are plenty of reasons to be off Teams and still working.

    1. blood orange*

      100% agree on all points. I’m totally that guy on the training point. I have many messages on Teams that either should have been an email, they should know already, they should figure out on their own, is easily found, or frankly that was sent to me on a weekend and should have been addressed during the workweek. I frequently put off a response for hours (or days when it’s the weekend) if I know it falls into one of these categories, and then when I answer I’ll say something like “Just seeing this, were you able to find X?”. I also don’t apologize for my “delay” unless it’s truly something I missed and should have answered. Rarely is it urgent, and when it is, I answer. Often, I’ll ask that they send me an email so I’m not forced to stop what I’m doing for a non-urgent item.

      I encourage the same boundaries in our managers (many of whom are the culprits behind the messages to me;)).

      Also, I have an executive in my company who does his “deep work” without distraction in the morning. He blocks his calendar and puts himself on DND. OP, take Alison’s advice and also just assume the best… that usually helps to make the conversation less awkward on your side, and if he’s truly not working it still puts him on notice.

  31. FashionablyEvil*

    #2–Conflating availability and response time with productivity or quality of work is a common mistake. Not being available until 10:30 absent other issues isn’t a problem, IMO.

    I had a colleague who once told me she had clients who sometimes complained when she didn’t respond immediately. She told them she was in a meeting with another client and asked if they’d prefer if she was only half-paying attention in her meetings with them because that’s what would be required for her to reply immediately. They dropped it.

  32. Sangamo Girl*

    #4 If it’s a government that you are applying for, apply for anything and everything that fits your background and skill set. In my organization, I don’t even see what the applicant pool is until the list of eligible candidates has been prepared. So I won’t know which and how many jobs you’ve applied for. And I can’t switch you to another job application pool, even if you are the most qualified candidate I’ve ever seen.

  33. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    LW 2 with the boss who isn’t doing his work said “and I’m afraid eveyone is finally starting to notice he doesn’t contribute much.”

    Why would you be concerned about that? Do you have a sense of responsibility or of you getting in trouble in some way about this?

    This is not your circus or your responsibility. Loyalty to your boss doesn’t mean taking on the emotions around any natural consequences or outcomes of his behavior.

    Some people aren’t meant to manage, and that’s perfectly fine. They’re companies, teams, and often they themselves will be happier if they were not in a management role but rather someplace they’d be a better fit. There are plenty of success stories on here where people realized they weren’t cut out of management and went on to achieve good things in non-management roles. The boss doesn’t have to succeed in this role at all costs. It’s fine.

  34. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    If you’re worried about the Big Bosses fretting about your manager not being on Teams first thing, that’s not a you problem.

    If you’re solving the Big Boss’s requests without your manager’s input, that’s part of your job and you did it well. Copy in your manager to the solution so they know it was needed and was done.

    If you needed your manager’s input, or the BB requests interfere with your ability to get other things done, then you Teams message/email/call your manager for the input, or you chat with them about prioritizing your workload. Here’s the You Problem, aimed correctly.

  35. MurpMaureep*

    I’m in meetings almost all day every day and also have a few staff members who are very bad with boundaries and like to be Green Dot Monitors for everyone including higher ups (yes my workplace is dysfunctional, I 100% acknowledge that). This means that even when I show as busy/presenting, I will receive chats and calls via Teams. Because of our insanely meeting heavy culture, everyone is trained to ignore “busy” statuses and also to reach out anytime someone is free, even if it’s off hours. Sometimes the only way to get work done is to actively log out of teams or set myself to appear offline.

    What I’ve told staff is that Teams will send an email with the chat message if someone is offline. if a matter is urgent they can always preface the message with “this needs attention” or similar.

    All that being said, what I don’t get with LW2 is why they (and their grandboss) can’t simply employ the innate Teams functionality and send a message regardless of status. I’d divorce their boss’s other failings from not being available on Teams. It’s entirely possible that the boss is actively NOT logging on first thing because they want to minimize distractions and focus – LW may not have perfect insight into what’s consuming their boss’s time (nor should they).

  36. Problem!*

    Not being shown online on Teams doesn’t mean someone isn’t working. I won’t log in to Teams till after I’ve been able to sit down and figure out my priorities for the day so I have a small amount of uninterrupted time to myself. It’s the remote work version of having a closed office door.

    Also Teams can be super glitchy so there are times when I’ll think I’m online then go to click over to Teams to message someone and discover it’s logged me out at some point. Teams status != productivity.

    1. Other Alice*

      LW2, is it an issue that your boss doesn’t respond immediately? Have you tried reaching out via email instead? Or if it’s truly something time sensitive, calling?

      A couple of weeks ago I had issues with Teams and for a couple of days I showed as offline. Finally I logged into a meeting and someone mentioned they thought I’d been on holiday. It took a few reboots to fix Teams, and to this day I still don’t get notifications of new messages. I would not take Teams statuses as an indication of anything, aside from how much Teams sucks.

      1. Other Alice*

        Ohh, nesting fail! Although, at least I replied to a related comment, so there’s that!

  37. NeedRain47*

    #3: please please be as honest as you possibly can with your feedback! People who won’t be tasked with directly working with its output need to understand that it is not ready for prime time no matter what those who stand to make money off it say. It’s very, very, very good at spouting absolute nonsense in an authoritative tone that makes it sound factual, which IMO is about the last thing the world needs. Let them know they’re going to need to hire human writers for the forseeable future.

  38. learnedthehardway*

    My guess is that the lousy AI generated piece is on purpose – they want to see if the candidate can a) make something out of it, b) correct it, and c) push back on it.

    If I were the hiring manager, I would want to know that the copywriter I was hiring would NOT rely on AI, but would rather do their own work or only use the AI as an initial resource. A good way to figure this out would be to give an assignment just like the OP received, and see what they do with it.

  39. Hilarious*

    Maybe the boss is working a second six-figure job? That LW was praised for that.

    Or maybe the boss should get a mouse juggler? It was considered a great idea when that person wrote their letter.

    Besides, when others were tracking absences, it was a bad bad thing to do.

    Never change, AaM, never change.

    1. Danish*

      the comments on that letter are “teams is a terrible way to track availability and also why do you care”, so I think the responses have been pretty consistent with both Mouse Jiggler and Second Job, actually. The issue for all three letters is “are they getting their work done?”, if the answer is yes, then who cares.

  40. El l*

    Don’t talk to him about it. Why? Because let’s name the issue.

    This isn’t an availability issue or a technology issue, this is a performance issue. Output and approvals aren’t happening like they should, and that’s his job. You continue to do much of his job for him, which says this problem extends well beyond him not clocking in until 10:30.

    The time for his bosses (not you) to fix that part would’ve been after 1-2 years, not 3. By this point, you can be sure that it’s some mix of his attitude and competence.

    The only way for your team’s performance to get better is for him to leave this role. There’s no way around that.

  41. MCMonkeyBean*

    Maybe I’m off base but I feel like LW3 is overthinking it. They’re not going to hurt the AI’s feelings!

    I actually think focusing on the quality of the prompts over the quality of the output is *less* diplomatic, because then you’re ultimately criticizing the person at the company who did that work rather than the AI itself.

    I’d just go with exactly what you said here: ” It took me more time to edit the AI than it would have for me to just write the requested copy from scratch. I’m open to try again and experiment more with AI-generated content as I recognize that this tech is advancing very quickly, but honestly I have some reservations about how effective using this tech will really be.”

    I don’t know what part of that you’re worried isn’t diplomatic enough! It sounds good to me.

  42. This Old House*

    #2 – I’m surprised at the focus on Teams status! What color his dot is is really not the issue here. Having to do your boss’s work, him not being available when needed (available =/= showing as available on Teams), not getting timely responses – those are the issues. My boss is unapologetically rarely in the office before 10am. She offers us similar flexibility, as much as is consistent with our jobs. I’m not sure she ever (ever!) has Teams open unless she’s specifically in a Teams meeting. If I have something that needs her immediate attention, I text her, including before she’s in in the morning. I have no concerns about her availability or responsiveness, but I *do* need to try to reach her in the way that works for her/us/the department. (It is definitely not Teams!)

    If I were the OP, after the next time I had to wait too long for an AM response, I’d just ask – “I know you’re not always on Teams* first thing – is there a better way to reach you in the morning when we need a quick response?” (Especially since he’s been open with you about not liking early meetings, liking to sleep in – it doesn’t really sound like he’s hiding anything!)

    *”not on Teams,” of course, is not accusing him of “not working,” though he may not be – maybe he’s writing off-line, maybe he does his best productive thinking in the morning over his cup of coffee, and that counts! Even when I get in late, I’ve usually checked my email a couple times and responded to anything timely. It wouldn’t show up in my Teams status, but then again, no one is looking at my Teams status when I’m working at 11pm, either.

  43. alienor*

    On a slightly related note, it’s really annoying me how the “boomer” category keeps getting expanded. I’m 51 and regularly see people my age lumped in with boomers, like…no, that’s my parents. I think at this point it’s just shorthand for any person the speaker considers “old,” whether that’s 45 or 75.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I don’t see any mention of “boomers” in any of the letters.

      If you’re referring to the age comment that LW #2 made, this has been discussed in a few comments above. They are worth reading, because people are interpreting this comment a couple of different ways.

      1. alienor*

        Sorry, this was meant to be a reply to a comment that did mention boomers. You’re correct that the letters didn’t reference it.

    2. Riot Grrrl*

      This is correct. As near as I can tell, when people (particularly very young people) say “boomer”, they don’t mean “Boomer” as in “Baby Boomer”. They are evoking a general description and really an insult; they are not referring to a specific generation born between specific years after World War II. In that way, nearly anyone can be a boomer. I’ve even seen it applied to people who are quite clearly Millennials.

  44. Free Meerkats*

    For #4, this is government. Apply for both; it’s not unusual for people to apply for multiple jobs, especially when they are related jobs and I, as a hiring manager, will likely not even know unless you’re in the top few that will get an interview.

    When I was hired for the Industrial Waste Inspector job that I did for 28 years before I became the Pretreatment Manager, I also had applications in for Water Quality Technician, Surface Water Inspector, Laboratory Technician, and Engineering Technician. I had interviewed for two of those (the WQT was with the same hiring manager.)

    1. Random Dice*

      I hadn’t been sure how to handle that situation, but Alison (as always) had the perfect answer and once I read it, it was clearly the right thing to do.

      Alison is flipping brilliant at this stuff.

  45. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    OP #1 (plagiarism)…

    Based on some people I have worked with, don’t be surprised if she tries to claim that you somehow copied her paper before she wrote it.

  46. Chase*

    #2 – I’m curious if there is a larger issue that is being conflated into a teams availability issue. OP says that boss doesn’t contribute much, and OP is handling the day-to-day tasks. Is issue more that OP is taking on a disproportionate share of the day-to-day tasks than expected? Or possibly that there is a process flow that’s being held up by the boss not being available? I would focus any conversations with the boss by trying to solve an issue with how the day-to-day tasks are handled. The boss not being on teams shouldn’t be brought up except as a clarifying point about how to reach out to boss if they are needed at that time.

  47. Moonlight*


    I would tell HR if I were you. I’m sure you know but unis are generally EXTREMELY clear about plagiarism being bad and why it’s bad and submitting your paper as her own isn’t an accident. A “real” accident is if, say, she references your paper in her own paper and forgot to say “so and so said this” or forgot the APA (name, year, page #) piece (or whatever reference styles she uses; that’s not ok, but also could be explained as a genuine error/oversight. Someone making decisions like that has stunningly bad judgement. Even if she was overwhelmed and didn’t have time, so? Grad students are overwhelmed and pressed for time and might miss deadlines ALL THE TIME. That doesn’t make her special and if she had a situation like that she should’ve talked to her professor and let them know and asked for an extension (I’m strongly in favour of profs offering extensions and being clear on limitations – like X has to be done before Y and ZYZ all have to be submitted by the last day or term or whatever because there’s rarely circumstances in a course where a deadline can’t be moved. I’m terms of “oh this is what the work workd is like”, well, it’s not. Many deadlines are fixed and many are flexible (eg if you have an event on December 31, you can’t just not be ready, but a lot of the deadlines within that are typically flexible as long as you’re aware of the moving pieces – like Y can’t happen until X is done) and I think letting students advocate for moving deadlines can help them learn when something can mor and something can’t and how to plan ahead to ask for an extension (eg day of school and the time to ask)

    All this is to say that if there was a legit problem, cheating wasn’t the answer. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who’s judgement is that bad and I’d just want HR to know ESPECIALLY if the masters was paid for by your org

  48. Ed123*

    LW2 maybe all employees could get together and give the boss a mouse wiggler?

    If the manager is not available for employees so they can get their work done, thats bad and should be brought up. But using offline in teams as a measurement tool is not the way to achieve it.

  49. RagingADHD*

    If MS Teams has advanced to the point that it can tell when someone is sleeping, I think it’s time to give up —our robotic overlords have already won.

    Obviously if the manager isn’t responding timely to the team’s or his own boss’ needs, there is a problem. And the LW can certainly point out how it’s impacting their own work. (The boss can deal with any concerns on that end).

    But time blocking exists. People have different ways of managing their work day and their notifications. This manager’s approach may not be compatible with the team’s needs, but unless his entire job consists of absolutely nothing else but answering messages on Teams, then I think it’s a big stretch to assume that “not available on Teams” means “not working at all.”

  50. evens*

    OP1, as a teacher, I tell students to never share their work with others (especially digitally). The problem is, once it’s out of your hands you don’t have any control over what happens with it. Also, I would say that 90+% of the time, the sharer knows that their work will be copied, and is therefore complicit in cheating. Of course, OP1 may well be that 10-%, but as a teacher it looks really bad.

    Of course, my experience is with teenagers, so YMMV.

  51. virago*

    There’s a lot of good counsel in this discussion, but I want to signal boost ResuMAYDAY and H.Regalis for their excellent advice on, respectively, how to use LinkedIn to showcase your graphic design portfolio in a way that your dad can’t sabotage, and how to live your life so that you have as little contact as possible with him (once you move out).

    Best wishes, OP. We’re all rooting for you.

Comments are closed.