updates: my entry-level employee gave me a bunch of off-base “constructive criticism,” and more

Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Is it weird to have my video on if everyone else’s is off? (#3 at the link)

This is just a quick update on the Zoom etiquette question I had last year. I found both your input and readers’ feedback helpful! I hadn’t considered the privacy issues, the possibility that I might be coercing camera use or that general zoom fatigue might be overwhelming for some. With these perspectives, I just went with it and stopped turning on my camera unless someone turned theirs on (which rarely happened). While awkward for me at first, I ended up LOVING no cameras. I love not worrying about how I look (I hand write notes, which can make me look unengaged), that my kids can be in the background and no one will know, and that my and others’ work is based on what we do – not how we look and present ourselves.

I’m happy to say I have fully embraced a no-camera worklife. So much so, that every time the new hire turns on their camera for every meeting, I find it mildly aggressive and can’t figure out why they won’t just turn it off.

Thank you so much for posting my question last year. It was really helpful to get so many views on my camera question.

2. My entry-level employee gave me a bunch of off-base “constructive criticism”

I remember writing my letter and being incredibly frustrated because I couldn’t fire her without making a massive stink and throwing my weight around – ah, the joys of middle management. The coworker she was bullying happened to be much quicker to learn our processes and had a better attitude than she did and the problem employee began actively excluding her and being snarky and rude whenever they encountered each other.

After I wrote in and read all the replies I realized that keeping this person around was ruining the culture of the office and even though firing her was outside of my control, she didn’t have to be my problem. I began documenting thoroughly every single problematic interaction I had with her or observed and passing it on to all three of the grand-bosses who did have the ability to let her go – and cc’ing HR. They very quickly got tired of having to micromanage her tantrums and attitude once I stopped handling the issues for them. I left that job shortly after for unrelated reasons and last I heard she got herself fired.

The bullying never got better and I’ve refused to give references for this person when contacted. This happened early in my management career and since then I’ve learned that if I don’t have the ability to fire someone I don’t have the responsibility to fix their behavior either – I make it the problem of the people who do and keep bringing it back to them over and over until they handle it.

3. I have a LOT of vacations planned this year … when do I tell interviewers? (#2 at the link)

I’m the letter writer who wanted to know how to approach needing a lot of vacation time when searching for a new role, and things worked out beautifully!

I found a new role with a start date after my first (and longest) vacation this year, which alleviated a lot of my anxiety around the job transition. I did what you said – I brought up the time needed at the offer stage, and I was able to successfully negotiate the precise number of vacation days I’ll need this calendar year to make the travel work! Even better, this company has an unlimited PTO policy after a year of employment, so in the future, I won’t even need to fret about it.

This job is not only a return to an industry and role I’ve enjoyed in the past, but it also comes with a 50% salary increase and some lifestyle changes that I believe will have a positive impact on my mental health. (I’ll advocate all day long for the right to WFH but I also know I personally do best in a primarily in-person environment.)

4. How to get feedback as a manager (#3 at the link)

Thank you so much for posting my question! I had a busy day (and couple of weeks since then!) and wasn’t able to interact much in the comments but I really appreciated your advice and that of the commentariat.

This week, I used a protocol suggested by one or two folks in the comments, and asked my team to work together to answer some guiding questions about my supervision. They came up with some very thoughtful and insightful feedback that I haven’t heard previously in my one on one conversations, and that I agree is an area that would be interesting and helpful for me to experiment with changing! I’m looking forward to implementing it and seeing how it goes (and then getting their feedback on that, too). So thank you for giving me some language to use, and thanks to the commentariat for their helpful suggestions as well!

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. AthenaC*

    OP1 – Why does it feel “mildly aggressive” if someone else has their camera on? They aren’t asking anything of you. There’s a lot of reasons people might prefer to have their camera on that aren’t directed at you; if they change their minds and turn their camera off later, that also isn’t directed at you.

    I would gently encourage you to try not to be invested in other people’s camera choices such that you don’t have any sort of emotional reaction to their choices.

    1. Double A*

      Also lol at the idea of having a camera on as “coercive”? There are a lot of great comments on this site but also a strong anti-social streak that comes out around issues like this. It also doesn’t take the other perspective — I wonder if junior staff find the complete lack of cameras alienating and isolating. How weird would it be to have no idea what your coworkers look like? I mean yes it’s not technically necessary to know but also we learned a lot about the effects of isolation over the last few years. I wonder if this ends up being limited to junior staff’s careers, something that gets poo pooed in conversations about WFH.

      Obviously, the LW’s office has a no-camera culture, which is fine. I just don’t think that should be the default, especially for all-remote offices. In my organization, smaller meetings (like 20 or less) are cameras on. Big meetings are cameras off. 1:1 calls are cameras on. I find it absolutely makes a difference in building our team that we get to sometimes see each other.

      1. Shynosaur*

        I also found it pretty ironic that the LW went from being disturbed by people not turning them on, to being disturbed by people turning them on! I think the LW is putting too much emotional weight on camera choice. It was very strange to go from “I hope having my camera on will help them get familiar with me” to “whoa whoa why is this person leaving their camera on???” Could it be, LW, that they’re leaving it on for the same reasons you used to? lol…

        Agreeing very much with Athena here, LW needs to stop investing so much in what other people are doing with cameras. In my office, we go with the flow–if there’s a “reason” to have them on (introducing new people, catching up with the team), we put them on, but if someone is screensharing or recording, we turn them off. And nobody thinks much of it one way or the other. It wasn’t that strange for the LW to be so invested before, but doing a total 180 while maintaining the same level of investment, it’s strange.

        1. Loulou*

          Yeah, I was baffled by that comment! Why ever could the new hires be leaving their cameras on? Uh, maybe for the same reasons you did, not very long ago? It feels like OP is still overthinking this.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, this. Sounds a lot like my office/team. We normally keep our cameras on for 1:1s and meetings with up to about 7-10 people, although it’s okay to turn your camera off when someone else’s sharing the screen.

          For presentations that are more like webcasts than meetings, with anything between 100 and 2,000 attendees, cameras are off and microphones muted, and the chat is disabled. But there’s usually a conversation thread on Yammer where people can ask questions during and after the event.

          For our departmental town hall meetings of up to about 100 people, the presenters keep their cameras on, the chat and reactions are enabled, and attendees keep their cameras off. If someone wants to ask a question, they raise their hand and turn their camera on for that, or use the chat if they don’t want to talk in front of so many people/it’s more convenient.

          For mid-size meetings of up to about 25 people, we keep our cameras on at the start, and possibly at the end, but when someone’s sharing the screen, we can choose. Some people always keep them on, so the presenter’s never left with just a row of profile photos to look at to gauge audience reactions. But I appreciate being able to switch my camera off at that stage, because I engage better in meetings if I can do something with my hands, like play on my cellphone, and I feel more comfortable doing that with my camera off. That said, there’s no expectation for people to stare at the camera all the time (which IMO is the main reason why using the camera feels so awkward), it’s understood that people need to focus on their screen rather than the camera, and that’s fine.

      2. skaffen-a.*

        if you’re a manager and you turn your camera on, it creates an expectation that the other side should also turn their camera on, hence ‘co-ercive’. also – let the junior staff care about themselves in this matter, or at least ask them what they think before speaking in their stead. i’m sure they’ll manage without your tender care.

        (also i worked for years with people who i had never seen; and some of them i had not even heard once – it’s generally not a problem at all.)

        1. Buffy Rosenberg*

          No need for sarcasm about “without your tender care.” The point is there could be all sorts of reasons why people put their cameras on. Calling it “aggressive” made some people baulk.

      3. Bit o' Brit*

        It’s also incredibly helpful to have cameras on for lip-reading purposes. It makes such a difference to my delayed audio processing, but it’s very difficult to ask of a “cameras off” culture

        1. Campmom*

          This. Being a hard of hearing person, zooms with cameras off really hinders my understanding of what people are saying. Luckily I don’t have to ask too many times but it’s a good reminder to consider accessibility of these. Captions are fine but not always accurate and again, not being able to see a person’s facial expressions/movements makes me unsure of what’s being said.

          1. skaffen-a.*

            perhaps the call should’ve been a chat conference then, if not a series of e-mails?

            1. sb51*

              Honestly, as someone else who’s very visual/lip reads, I would LOVE stuff to be a chat conference more often, but I’m on one extreme of the general population; other folks vastly prefer voice conversations for anything that’s not one or two back-and-forths.

      4. DataSci*

        Zoom (maybe Teams too, I don’t use it) has a “profile picture” option so you can choose to have a static photo of yourself instead of a black box when your camera is off. I’ll add, though, that there are plenty of people who may find advantages in being visually anonymous.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I think maybe in this instance, where everyone has their cameras off and one person has it on, that might strike a person as odd and out of step. “Aggressive” is an odd way to describe it, but I think the LW’s view is shaped by the no-cameras culture of the org.

    3. LilPinkSock*

      Thank you for saying this. I’m not sure why showing my face in a meeting is aggressive.

    4. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I took this to be overexaggerated, tongue-in-cheek way for the OP to highlight how much their attitude has changed about camera usage, not a literal statement.

      1. OP #1*

        Thank you all for your feedback! Agreed that the use of “mildly aggressive” may have been a poor word choice. Not a Real Giraffe got it correct – it was an overexaggerated, tongue-in-cheek way for me to convey my change in attitude.

        I can assure everyone that this issue has not carried much emotional weight for me, but I did want to post an update because I love reading other letter writer’s updates.

        Again, I appreciate Allison posting my letter and the feedback I received from this group. It was a very small part of the bigger onboarding remotely puzzle I faced last year.

        1. AthenaC*

          Thanks for clarifying! When I saw your response here I admit a laughed a bit in recognition – I still occasionally get in trouble for tongue-in-cheek humor that doesn’t land well over text.

          Anyway, glad this went well for you.

        2. ShinyPenny*

          I totally got your joke, and appreciated the laugh. Gotta love the 180’s our brains can do!
          Thank you for sending in the update!

    5. Shieldmaiden793*

      Came in here just to reply, and you said this so well.

      As a fully remote employee, I love that my area of the org has a “cameras on” policy, and I find interactions more challenging when I can’t see who I’m talking to. Being able to see expressions makes us appreciate each others’ humanity and have more empathy, as well as just being able to read expressions or situations. If someone goes mute because they’re dealing with a screaming baby, seeing the screaming baby would enable me to say “I see you’re busy, we can discuss my question later”. I also frequently give a hand gesture rather than come off mute for something as simple as “I agree”. Cameras on is far superior to cameras off, otherwise we’d all still be using phones to communicate.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This just reminds me how much I miss phone calls. My workplace is default-zoom-everything now, and if there’s no screen sharing to be done, I find it so unnecessary.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Zoom and Teams and probably other platforms already have an easy way to give hand gestures, with zero need for cameras. In fact, many of us use those features even when our cameras are on!

        While I agree that it can be nice sometimes to see people’s faces, I hope you look at the information Alison provided in the original post that explains exactly why a cameras on policy is exhausting for people and I hope you consider that I might not actually want you to see me with my screaming baby for my own personal privacy.

        1. Bit o' Brit*

          I hope you also consider that a cameras off policy is also exhausting and challenging for people with certain disabilities relating to verbal communication. There’s no objective answer as to which is always better.

          1. Thegreatprevaricator*

            This! It shouldn’t be difficult to accommodate competing needs in this case. We have team members who are deaf or hard of hearing. In online team meetings, we enable captions, have interpreters where relevant and also turn our cameras on when speaking. No-one has to have cameras on all the time but if you can put on when speaking it’s acknowledged that this makes it easier for other team members to participate. It’s almost like finding a compromise is possible and that you can acknowledge others differing needs…

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think they understand that and are just pointing out that it’s kind of funny how much their feelings have changed around camera use.

    7. Sloanicota*

      I agree, this line jumped out at me too. OP is intimately familiar with the reasons someone, especially someone new, might have their camera on and not necessarily be “aggressive.” They should understand better than anyone!

    8. HoHumDrum*

      There are times when I prefer camera off and times I prefer my camera to be on. I would hate to be secretly judged either way, LW.

  2. Hlao-roo*

    I’ve learned that if I don’t have the ability to fire someone I don’t have the responsibility to fix their behavior either – I make it the problem of the people who do and keep bringing it back to them over and over until they handle it.

    OP2–this is a great approach to a role with some supervisory tasks but no hire/fire authority! Sounds like you handled the frustrating employee really well.

    1. Jessica*

      Yes, love it! Excuse me, these monkeys flew into my office, but I believe they belong to your circus.

    2. Random Dice*

      #2 was such a great update.

      The gall of that entry-level direct report, to do an impromptu critique session for their own manager. It’s just stunning.

    3. Heffalump*

      At least the higher-ups were willing to act. I wouldn’t assume that that would be true at all companies.

      1. Berkeleyfarm*

        Yep. A lot of places would just let staff melt away, because that sort of employee sucks out morale but they are rarely “that way” with higher-ups. I guess OP wasn’t higher-up enough in that person’s mind.

        There is either someone actively protecting them, or someone working extra smoothing things over when they have long tenures places.

  3. ItBetterNotBeACactus*

    OP3 — I’d be interesting in another follow up on how the unlimited PTO works with your expectations. I hear a lot of mixed reviews. That people take less vacation because of job pressures to not take time off (and there’s no concrete “This is what I lose if you don’t let me take vacation” like a use it/lose it bucket of vacation).

    1. Mid*

      Yeah, I’m pretty strongly anti-unlimited PTO. Largely because I live in a state that requires unused PTO to be paid out when you leave a job, unless it’s unlimited (because that’s seen as having 0 PTO hours.)

      And beyond that, there is often no accountability for people taking time off, or not being allowed to take time off. I personally feel that if you have to get permission to take your unlimited PTO, then it’s not really unlimited. (Blackout dates in industries where that’s relevant being the exception, like accountants not taking off in the beginning of April, or shipping people not taking off before Christmas.) If someone can deny your use of your unlimited PTO, it’s actually limited.

      I’ve seen a few places that have unlimited PTO with a minimum amount of time that people need to take off each quarter/year, which is about the only way I’d consider working for a company with an unlimited policy.

    2. ThisisTodaysName*

      I worked for a large multinational (200K employees worldwide) firm. One of the “perks” they sold me on was unlimited PTO as well as unlimited sick leave. Wellllllll the bloom faded off that rose pretty quickly. Turned out, yeah you could take all the time you wanted, BUT you were expected to make it up since it went against your “utilization” metric which was expected to be 99%. So, in reality, nobody took PTO or sick leave unless they absolutely HAD to, and when they did, they traveled with their work laptop and worked while on vacay to charge time etc.. it was a nightmare. Now I get 4 weeks off and when I go on vacay, I GO ON VACAY. There is no such thing as a free lunch and no such thing as truly unlimited PTO.

    3. OrdinaryJoe*

      “Unlimited” really does seem like it’s potentially a curse. It sounds great but, like you, I’ve seen multiple studies that show people end up using less and often the office culture includes stuff like working while on vacation and frowning upon being totally unplugged. I run into that with my office, the grandboss *loves* to say how much flexibility we all have (true!), point out they worked from Canada for multiple years all summer because of family (true!), but doesn’t point out that you are all but expected to still be at least somewhat engaged while on vacation, weekends, and at least until a ‘reasonable’ hour at night (which seem to be around 1o-11pm)

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      I’ve been working in jobs with “unlimited” PTO since 2005 and I wouldn’t have it any other way personally. Unlimited is really the wrong term imo though – it’s really just about flexibility and not having to worry about how many sick days are left in the bank etc.

      IMO it works very well if you have good management but that’s pretty much true of any work issue

      1. skaffen-a.*

        i too don’t need to worry about how many sick days are left in the bank; mostly because i live in a country that doesn’t regulate how many days are you allowed to be sick.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Completely agree. My last company had unlimited and I’m about to start a job that also has it. At my last job we were encouraged to take at least four weeks/year, but it was more about being able to take a random day off if needed. I was in a role that was pretty autonomous so I had no problem making it work, and the culture absolutely respected, “I can’t meet with the client that week, I’m out.” I encountered maybe two people who took advantage of it and were out way more than the rest of us, but it wasn’t difficult to work around.

        My new company says they have a four-week encouraged minimum policy, so we’ll see how that goes. It was also tough to schedule my interviews because people were out at different times, and they apologized a lot for that, but I took that as a good sign– none of my interviewers felt compelled to change their plans.

      3. ThatGirl*

        I feel like I have the best of both worlds at my current job, in that we have a set amount of PTO but unlimited sick time, so I can take my time off (and get it paid out if I leave) but I don’t have to worry about eating up vacation time if I get sick.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s how we generally have it here (the sick leave isn’t truly unlimited, I think after 6 (?) weeks or so of sick leave for the same reason, the health insurance takes over and you get reduced pay – but in practice it mostly is). It works well and I would hate “unlimited PTO” (and probably track it manually so that I end up taking roughly the same amount that’s common for most jobs.)
          I have, however, heard of companies where it actually does sound nice – they apparently have a minimum that they make sure everybody takes and above that, it’s unlimited. The minimum wasn’t that low, either, like 3-4 weeks, I think? Now this would be quite nice to have, although I still think I prefer a fixed amount plus flextime…

      4. MissGirl*

        Yep, I wouldn’t go back to bucketed PTO for anything. I CAN book a trip without having to count the weeks and multiply the hours. Then stressing for months about getting sick. I just saw an amazing position posted at an old company and didn’t apply because of their tracked PTO.

      5. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Our manual states it’s not “unlimited” exactly — it’s “take what you need”. Unofficially that means you get a few weeks of standard vacation then add any amount of sick time needed (for you and kids) plus extended absences for bigger (but ideally infrequent) events like honeymoons or mourning. And they really do mean it! Our people take off full vacations regularly, and parents are free to take off time as needed to cover school outages. I had a major personal issue last year and was gone for weeks. I do see the mental downside where i have to remind myself to schedule PTO since there isn’t a bucket i’ll lose, but overall it seems like it works well here. They do encourage us to schedule during slower times but I’ve never heard of any PTO being rejected.

    5. Danish*

      I like it in my current job, which is a very small company where I know the CEO personally and she is also someone who believes strongly in work-life balance and models it. I have been able to take the time for vacations and illnesses easily and without guilt even in periods where we were very busy.

      At my prior job at Huge International Company, unlimited PTO would have absolutely been a curse of guilt and But It’s Not A Good Time, because that’s how they were about our limited PTO :’)

      So I totally believe that it’s down to culture, and also that probably Most American Corporations are not going to be the ideal place for it.

      1. Kyrielle*

        And it depends on your manager, too. I’ve had unlimited PTO at the same company under three different managers now, and my experience has varied from “oh, no problem” to one who was concerned when I hit five weeks of PTO in a 12-month period. (But that was all fine when I pointed out that it was because my two-week summer vacation year one year was in August, and the next year it was in June. Excuse me while I side-eye that, but I did get the vacation I wanted and no further guilt trips…but it sure did make me aware where the line was for that manager.)

    6. Qwerty*

      I kinda like there being a set number of days for the first year? I feel like that help sets the rough standard and solve the uncertainity of “is it too soon to take PTO?” or “how much is standard?”

      I’ve had a couple jobs with unlimited PTO and it really comes down to management. One thing I love is that I’m not bean counting with my days, I can just plan around what trips I want to take and how it coincides with my projects. At one job where I took almost no time off, I was super well rested due to great work life balance and a really flexible schedule – at that place my boss recommended we take a week per quarter like he did. On the other end of the spectrum, I took a lot of time off at a different unlimited job but it was more “recovery time” and not vacation because we worked crazy hard until you got burned out enough that someone told you not to come in for a few days.

    7. KatEnigma*

      At my husband’s company, the unofficial number is 6 weeks. When you’ve taken more FTO than 6 weeks, there will be a conversation with your manager.

      But then in January they put a FTO freeze on anything that isn’t “important” until they get this new high profile product launched that was 6 months late at the time and looks like it will be 12 months late… When I objected to my husband that it’s unfair to say you have unlimited PTO and then not let anyone take any PTO for at least 3 months and what will end up being 6 months.. Well, unimportant or not, he managed to get permission for 3 days during our son’s Spring Break and he says other people have days that are now on the calendar… because you can’t sustain 60 hour weeks (paid OT, despite being exempt) with no time off for months on end.

    8. It Takes T to Tango*

      (Not OP) My company has unlimited PTO and I love it because the company implemented it properly – use it as you need it. When it was first implemented there was an unofficial usage cut-off (no more than x weeks per year based on how long you worked there) but that fell away as we showed we could be trusted to continue to get our work done. We mark our vacations on the calendar so management knows who’s available. If you’re sick, just post it in chat and go back to bed.

      I’m actually taking more time off than when it was accrual-based because I was always paranoid that something would happen and I’d need to cash in the hours. Now it doesn’t matter so I just take time as needed. I don’t feel like I have to take only the absolute minimum vacation. (When we switched from accrued to unlimited, we kept our old, banked hours so I still have all that time saved up.) Not being able to bank up hours as a cushion is a big downside, but it helps encourage people to use PTO since they can’t get the time back when they leave the company.

      Our department is staffed by responsible adults and our work is project based so we’re mindful of how/when we take time off. It’s great for the parents on our team because they don’t stress about taking time off when their kids are sick, school holidays, etc. We’re also WFH so we can remote in for critical meetings and enjoy the rest of the day (or crawl back into bed) and not feel like we’re sacrificing valuable PTO/sick time. (It’s very rare that we have to jump on a call if we’re off that day, but stuff happens.)

      It’s really dependent on the company, though. You may get unlimited or “unlimited” – use all the time you want on the 3 days that year which your manager hasn’t designated as critical work days.

  4. Madame X*

    LW1 I work for a company that has a camera off culture. That said, there are some people who prefer to turn the camera on when we meet via MS Teams. For example, my boss usually turns on her camera and I usually turn my camera off when we have our one on ones. It’s never been an issue. I really appreciate that in my company there is a culture that allows people to choose whether or not to turn on or turn off the camera as they feel most comfortable. I really hope you’re able to foster that same type of culture within your working group.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      My govt program tried to say everyone had to have their camera on during Teams meetings. Well, that messed up bandwidth and we had issues so then it was “your camera must be on if you’re talking” and everyone just ignored that and eventually now, only the program manager turns his camera on, and the first thing I do when I log in is go to setting and check “turn off incoming video” so I don’t see it anyway. I find it so annoying. I hate video cameras.

  5. The other Virginia*

    #1–you find it “mildly aggressive” that someone new turns their camera on? Do you think that might be a little sensitive and judgmental? It’s quite possible that the culture or expectations at their previous employer were cameras on. Or maybe they prefer at times like I do, because honestly, it helps keep me focused and prevents me from multitasking when I should be staying engaged. My way of holding myself accountable that has ZERO to do with anyone else. I find it troubling that you or anyone would find that aggressive. Also, I just think it’s odd that you are so focused on this.

  6. JN*

    use the settings! I find looking at other people’s faces during Zoom distracting if they aren’t the one presenting. So I turn on the focus on content setting, or only view speaker.

  7. NotAnotherManager!*

    Re OP#1’s situation – it’s interesting because my company went the opposite way – most of our meetings started out cameras off and then moved to predominantly cameras on. For internal meetings, people tend to be pretty casual, but we do business attire, groomed hair, etc. for meetings where you’re presenting to a larger audience or external meetings. I have a couple of teams that tend to be cameras off, but I tend to default to camera on now unless my coworker(s) prefer not to be on camera.

  8. Gouda*

    LW 1 & 3 really highlight the problem with the WFH/in office/camera on/camera off beefing — not everything is right for everyone! Some people like to work from home, some people prefer an office, some people like camera on, some people like camera off, and they’re not having those preferences at you.

    1. Onward*

      Mostly that’s true, but there definitely are some “my way or the highway” people. I have a friend in management who insists that everyone she meets with be on camera and even in big meetings is SUPER judgmental about people who choose to be off-camera because she finds it unprofessional. I know another person in management who basically called everyone who didn’t want to come back into the office whiny babies because she was fine with doing it (the office is 10 minutes from her house).

      People in general need to be less judgmental about other people’s choices that don’t affect them one wit.

  9. Chilipepper Attitude*

    re #2, My old coworkers still quote something I used to tell them (which I learned here!):
    Pass the pain up the chain!

    What a great example from #2. Thank you!

  10. Immortal for a limited time*

    #1 – a coworker and I just shared a laugh this morning about a guy who does this in a large workgroup that we all belong to. There are approximate 25 members of this group, and we meet in Microsoft Teams. For every meeting, this guy is the ONLY one with his camera on. So if a host isn’t sharing their screen, this guy’s face takes up the entire screen. We aren’t sure how he can be so oblivious to that, but he is. He doesn’t do anything obnoxious like pick his nose, but just having to watch him glance around and sometimes move about his office in HD full-screen splendor is both distracting and hilarious.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Lmao! I have been this guy before simply because I looked cute that day and I like to look at myself. My eyes are not symmetrical so if I manage to get my eyeliner wings to look identical, that is a miracle and you’re all going to look at it whether you want to or not.

  11. Buffy Rosenberg*

    LW1, I’m glad things turned out well but I’m curious about why you now find other people having their cameras on “mildly aggressive.” There’s nothing aggressive about it. You know that because you used to have yours off. I’m confused by this conclusion?

    1. Snell*

      tbh looking at the comments, it looks like comments recommend LW1 not take this matter too seriously (the minutiae of camera use isn’t a definite message, there are lots of varying explanations for it), LW1 tried to lighten up, then comments took LW1 way too seriously. The LW explained further up that that word usage was just humor that didn’t land.

      1. Buffy Rosenberg*

        Yes, I stand corrected; I saw OP1’s follow up comment explaining what they meant and I get it. I bridled at the word aggressive because that tone didn’t come across to me at all when I read it!

  12. Yahoo*

    The Feedback as a manager post. I hope there will be positive update on this next year. I would love to see how this turned out

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Same! I love this approach and have tried it myself but I don’t always have the fortitude to see it through to the bitter end.

      1. OP 4*

        It’s been a couple of weeks since I sent my update, so I can share where we’re at now… I let my team know the areas I heard from them and how I would be experimenting with changes. One of their recommendations was to be more direct and less diplomatic with my supervisees. I have two direct reports who have been having some performance issues and was being clear about the issues and coaching them but was not so clear about the level of urgency about changes I needed to see, so I shifted that; one person has been really appreciative of the clarity and the other has… really doubled down and gotten defensive which is part of the issue so we’ve been going in circles a bit. But I think overall it’s been very helpful for me to get clearer with myself about what I need to say and how to say it; and I feel like it’s made me a better manager even if one of my supervisees isn’t happy about the result.

  13. Audiophile*

    I now have a daily morning meeting where it is a mix of cameras on/off and I generally keep mine off. Prior to the meeting being added to my calendar, I had two meetings per week; one was with a person who preferred to have cameras on and one was with a person who preferred to have cameras off.

    I had surgery earlier this month which will necessitate a long recovery, and I announced that I would be keeping my camera off while I recover. It’s required a few reminders on my part, but very few comments from people I have meetings with.

  14. nnn*

    Stemming from #1’s “every time the new hire turns on their camera for every meeting, I find it mildly aggressive and can’t figure out why they won’t just turn it off”, I find it useful for the person who’s onboarding or supervising or working most closely with new hires to drop them bits of information about the culture as they go – not telling them what to do, but sort of calibrating expectations.

    Things like “In team meetings people just talk whenever they have something to say, but in division meetings they raise their hands,” or “You don’t need to ask permission to flex your hours, but do let your team know when you will and won’t be reachable.” In this sort of context, you could drop in “We tend to keep our cameras off during meetings.”

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Although it has to be said that new hires often find it easier to feel like they’re full members of a team if they at least know what their teammates look like.

      In my case, it does help that my office is has a casual dress code, so I wear pretty much the same clothes at home and at the office. Granted, I’ll wear old, holey jeans at home that I wouldn’t wear to the office, but I never went the athleisure route when we went fully remote in March 2020.

  15. Berin*

    I gotta be honest, for me at least, having my camera on forces me to be more engaged. I also like when others’ cameras are on, because otherwise I start to feel like I’m not talking to real people, just voices. A huge part of my job is communicating difficult ideas and change management, and I’ve always found that being able to read visual cues is particularly helpful in communicating, so this could just be a “me” thing.

  16. saskia*

    Visuals are an incredibly important part of communication. That’s one big reason why so many people have context and tone issues when reading internet comments versus just speaking to someone IRL. Phone calls (basically what a video call sans image is) are common in business, so it’s not that I think voice-only is the ‘wrong’ way to communicate, but in an age of remote work, we do not see each other in the office anymore and have to compensate. The fact that the word choice of ‘aggressive’ here is being read as, funnily enough, more aggressive than intended is a demonstration of what I’m talking about.

    I am a manager and run monthly team meetings. In the first 6-10 months of covid, everyone in this meeting slowly started turning off their videos. At one point, I remember speaking to a completely black series of rectangles on my screen and feeling hopeless and confused about where the team stood on any issue I spoke of. I finally decided to simply state I preferred screens to be on. Lo and behold, the meetings are much more collaborative now. I get fewer questions about things I spoke of in the meeting too, meaning people are paying more attention.

  17. kitty*

    As a person who has had her facial expressions policed her entire career (I can’t help that I have RBF–it’s just how my face is), I find camera-off to be really nice. I can listen and participate without being self-conscious. I also work very long hours–often, when I should be making myself presentable, I am actually sending out emails and working on writing assignments (or even sitting in meetings–I have colleagues who live on the other side of the world). Work gets more of me than it should, so camera-off is my little rebellion.

    Our office culture is that folks can choose, and nobody should feel pressured to show their face on Zoom. That doesn’t stop some of my colleagues from making passive-aggressive comments about turned-off cameras, however.

Comments are closed.