we’re being unknowingly videotaped at meetings, should you always be job-searching, and more

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

1. We’re being unknowingly videotaped at town hall meetings

I’m a full-time remote employee who works for a large company. We regularly have “town halls” at multiple levels — full company, full department, full “section,” etc. These town halls are through Microsoft Teams and to simplify things, when you log on, you’re muted and don’t have video. You can only see the presenter. There is no gallery mode and there are no video/sound options presented to you.

Except! As it turns out, you are on video! The director of each section (ours has about 40 people in his section, others may have less or more) gets to view you and your reactions to every town hall word being said, unbeknownst to you! (I learned this recently while at some in-person meetings — my boss and everyone at her level didn’t know this, but as we all watched a town hall together on a big screen, he was watching everyone else on his computer.)

This horrifies me. The number of ways this could go wrong seems staggering. Is this normal?

What, no! This is not normal and it’s not okay. You should never be filmed without your knowledge and consent. Not only is this a huge invasion of privacy, but it’s asking for all sorts of problems — think about the sorts of things people do at home when they just forget they’re on video, let alone when they didn’t know they were on video in the first place.

It’s worth taking a look at exactly what notifications/disclaimers you see when you’re logged on (I’d be really surprised if Teams didn’t have something informing you that your video would be on, even if it’s not prominent). Either way, at a minimum it’s something you should let your coworkers know about, and you might consider asking for it to be stopped or more prominently disclosed (or just cover your camera).

2. Should I always be job-searching?

I read the letter from the person whose coworker was putting mistakes in her work in horror — I’m super anxious and also pretty conscientious, so this kind of thing would mess me all the way up — and noted the number of commenters suggesting that OP might want to go ahead and start job searching regardless of which path they take to address their coworker’s shenanigans. And searching for a new job is something you often recommend as a possible option for folks who write in. An acquaintance of mine is always job-searching — “for leverage.” I’m wondering about your thoughts on this. Pros? Cons? Are there folks who are always job searching, regardless of whether they feel good about their current jobs? Why? Does it feel like “leverage”? What kind of guidelines do they set for themselves to keep it manageable?

No, it’s not normal to always be job-searching, if by that you mean actively searching through job listings and applying for jobs. It’s more common to always be open to something new if you happen to hear about the right thing, but the idea of always being in job-application mode sounds exhausting and most people aren’t. Also, if you’re constantly changing jobs it’s going to hurt you after a while; you’ll become less employable and eventually you’ll have a harder time getting the jobs you want.

In the letter you linked, there was a serious problem with the person’s manager — the writer was being reprimanded for things she didn’t do and didn’t trust her boss to listen to reason. That’s a big deal, and it indicates both her job and her reputation could be in jeopardy, so it makes sense for her to think about leaving if she can’t resolve the situation another way. But that’s not a typical situation! Most people’s situations aren’t nearly that dramatic.

When your acquaintance says she’s always searching “for leverage,” she probably means that when she has other options, it’s easier to set boundaries or walk away from a job that isn’t serving her interests anymore. Hopefully she doesn’t mean that she’s explicitly using it as leverage with her boss — like regularly announcing that she’s on the verge of taking another job — because that’s the kind of thing you can do once, not multiple times; doing it regularly would drain it of all its power (and she’d likely just be told to go).

3. I don’t want my manager’s job when she leaves

I work on a team of five people at a company of about 1,000 people. Our role is fairly niche and requires specialized training and education. Our supervisor has started hinting that she’s looking at retiring in the next couple of years. She has started bringing me into meetings with her, teaching me elements of her role that don’t apply to mine, and other actions that make me assume she’s expecting me to step into her role when she goes. I suppose from the outside it makes the most logical sense. Of the remaining team members, three are nearing retirement age and one just graduated from college, while I’ve been in the field for a decade and am in my late 30s.

The thing is, I don’t want her job. I really enjoy my current role. Each day brings enough unique challenges that I don’t get bored but I also feel comfortable. If I step up into my supervisor’s role, I’ll have to add additional meetings in the evening hours that will cut into my time with my young children. I’ll have to drop my favorite task that I currently perform and pass it to a more junior employee. In addition, I’ll be responsible for the department budget (I’m terrible at math!). Honestly, I’m just not a natural leader and the prospect of taking on her role fills me with anxiety.

When I’ve told people this, I’ve been told I’ll be “shooting myself in the foot” career-wise. My husband feels it will give my company a bad impression of me and a coworker I confided in expressed concern that I might lose my current job if I refuse.

How do I professionally let people know that I’m perfectly happy where I am and that I have no desire to climb the ladder any higher without sounding like a slacker or emphasizing my weaknesses?

You’re surrounded by bad advice! It’s not “shooting yourself in the foot” to avoid a job you don’t want. And you’re highly unlikely to lose your current job if you decline (!). Your manager is assuming that you’d be excited for the promotion because people often are, but it’s a completely normal and okay thing to explain that you’re happy where you are and not interested in that specific role right now. Since it sounds like she hasn’t explicitly said what she’s planning for you, you could say, “I noticed you’ve started mentoring me in things like X and Y and I wondered if it’s because you figure I’ll be looking at management roles in the next few years. I wanted to say that I’m really happy with my current role and don’t have management as a goal. I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing now and get better and better at it.”

I don’t want to move up into a leadership role

4. HR says we can’t contact a coworker on leave even to find out when she’ll be back

I’m a teacher and we had a question about what’s allowed with FMLA. A colleague told us she would be out for a surgery. She asked the department to cover for her for three weeks, after which she would be back. The department arranged teachers to cover the extra classes while she is out (I’m one of the teachers covering a class for her). It’s day two of this colleague being gone and our department head just got told by HR that we actually need to hire a long-term sub for the next 12 weeks, which is not what we understood from our colleague. HR says we can’t reach out to our colleague now that she’s gone in any way to understand what the discrepancy is, but from what we know of our colleague and what she told us about the surgery, we are almost positive there is no need for coverage for that long.

The department head ended up getting around this by emailing the department email list letting us know we would need to put together a hiring committee to hire someone to cover several classes for the next 12 weeks, and she mentioned the classes that our colleague teaches. Our colleague almost immediately replied to the department head and cc’d HR to ask what was going on and to reiterate that she will be back in three weeks.

So there are two questions: is HR right that there is no legal way to ask our colleague whether she will be out for three weeks or 12? And did our department head do something wrong in her approach?

Your HR is being weird. It’s true that federal law forbids what’s called “FMLA interference,” meaning asking someone to perform work while they’re on FMLA leave. But courts have been clear that fielding occasional calls about your job is a professional courtesy, as long as it’s “reasonable contact” limited to things like “inquiries about the location of files or passing along institutional or status knowledge.” Confirming the length of time someone will be out is completely fine (as long as it’s not done in a harassing way, like calling them daily to pressure them to return).

Your department head’s approach — emailing the department list, knowing the coworker on leave would see it if she chose to check her email — seems pretty smart, given the circumstances.

Read an update to this letter

5. Telling people I’ve resigned

I recently resigned from a job and my manager asked me to let my full team know (after her bosses and relevant senior people were informed by her). I’ve always had a manager handle team updates when I’ve departed past jobs, whether in a full team meeting/quick regroup or via a team email. I called the people I worked closely with 1:1 (I am remote). I started to call people I don’t work as closely with, and it got awkward so I switched to IMs. The team is big, and some people report to other people who aren’t my manger, are technically in different departments, and/or have a person between us with whom they most often work. I have no idea if I handled this correctly. Would it have been better to push through the awkwardness with everyone or was I okay IMing?

IMing is fine, but really email would have been ideal — you could have put everyone you wanted to inform on the email and done it in one message. That’s a pretty typical way to do it; you definitely do not need to call people individually, unless there are people you actively wanted to tell individually.

{ 421 comments… read them below }

      1. Wendy Darling*

        You can also buy cheap stick-on sliding shutters online. They don’t last forever but they’re also like $5 for six. And they make cute ones if you’re into that.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Me too – and I just realized that I have forgotten to do this on my new laptop. Off to find the tape!

        2. thatlibrarylady*

          Unless you have certain models of a Macbook air – the screen is so thin it cracks when you shut the lid with a shutter on it.

          1. Pippa K*

            Yikes! I’ve used camera covers on two different models of MacBook Air and haven’t had any problem, for what it’s worth, so it’s definitely ok some models. The sliding covers I use are like the ones Wendy Darling mentioned, not much thicker than two pieces of heavy tape. They’re cheap and work great. I’ll put a link in reply to this.

            1. H3llifIknow*

              I’m cheap. I cut a piece of a dark purple sticky note into a little square and stuck it on. It’s been there over a year and still hanging in!

        3. MassMatt*

          I came to mention this. The letter is horrifying, and the company should definitely be told to knock it off, but evidently there are ways people can access your camera remotely. Not sure if the cameral light would be on but even if it were that’s something a lot of people would probably miss.

          The shutter is hardware not software, so no way for a company with no boundaries or nefarious internet creep to get around it.

          1. fluffy*

            Most (but not all) cameras have the activity light directly linked to the power to the camera chip, so there’s no way for them to be active and recording without the light being on.

            However, the light turns on and off so quickly that it’s possible to do momentary snapshots without the user being likely to notice.

          2. Random Dice*

            I’ve read cybersecurity reports of creeps recording people secretly, disabling the light.

            1. Goody*

              This is my solution. And it mostly blends into the black bezel around my screen, so people around me in meatspace would have to get pretty close to realize it’s covered.

          1. NeedRain47*

            I’ve used a post it note to cover the camera on my macbook for years. Guaranteed no damage.

        4. I have RBF*

          I have a bunch of these from trade shows. They are handy, but a little post-it over the camera works too.

        5. Momma Bear*

          Pre built in shutter I did this, or a piece of opaque tape works, too. My company puts the equipment labels right across the camera. However, if it’s not clearly disclosed (or that they are recording), that’s a huge invasion of privacy, especially since they are specifically watching reactions. Nooo, that is not good.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I was looking at a review of a camera cover and noticed that one of the reviews had a photo of the cover on a laptop. The same model as my work laptop, in fact. In the photo you could see the slider for the built-in camera cover just above the aftermarket one. I had a good giggle.

            (To be fair I’m sure that person, like me, was just issued a laptop with absolutely no information about its features and so just had no idea what that little plastic ridge was. Unlike me, apparently this person does not immediately try out every unfamiliar switch or button to see what it does.)

            1. SunriseRuby*

              Oh, my goodness, thanks to your description, I just identified mine on my laptop. I didn’t know this slider existed before!

              1. Wendy Darling*

                They really look like the latches laptops used to have to open them, back before everything just closed with magnets, but mysteriously inaccessible from the outside.

        6. Vio*

          I just use a blob of blu-tac on my work laptop, my home computer doesn’t even have a camera anyway.

      2. Liz*

        Mine does and it’s always closed! On my other computers I always have a post it over the camera.

      3. Recently Retired*

        When my company started using Zoom, the “word on the street” was to always cover your camera on your work computer when you weren’t using it. I had been covering the camera on my personal laptop for years with a “Post-it” until Covid lockdown when I was elected president of my Service club and had to host at least one meeting per week. This message is a reminder to me that it’s time to start it again, as there are computer viruses which turn on your camera remotely. Secondary reminder to remember that there are viruses that turn on your phone camera and microphone, too.

        1. Grumpy Old NCO*

          On my personal laptop (Dell G7), after the warranty had expired, I bought a pair of DPST microswitches, opened the case for the screen portion and carefully mounted those switches in the screen edge, then physically wired them in, one in line with the camera connection, the other with the microphone connection, to give myself hardware cutoffs for both.

          I know, not necessarily an option for people using worked-own computers, and not everyone feels comfortable doing physical hardware hacks. But I wanted to be sure camera and mic are OFF when I decide I want them off, without any possibility of software overriding my settings.

        1. I have RBF*

          Thank you for the info! My work laptop is a Lenovo, and just above the camera there is a little slider that, if pushed to the left, covers your camera and shows a little red dot to indicate it’s covered.

          For things like camera security, hardware is better than software. To make sure my external camera can’t be abused I can always unplug it.

    1. Nook Noon*

      Exactly. The moment we moved to permanent WFH in March ‘20, a black piece of tape went right over the camera. Only came off for one interview over Teams when I moved up a level, and right back on it went!

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Everyone on my all-remote team at a previous job either taped over their cameras or got camera covers after the time my manager’s camera unexpectedly turned on when she was in a bathrobe. No one saw anything untoward but that would have been bad for a client facing meeting!

        My current company is hybrid and has a very cameras-on culture so I have to suck it up and look presentable. :(

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Ha ha ha! Me too. Whenever I accidentally hover over the camera icon on Teams I see that my camera shows nothing but neon pink.

        Seriously this is awful. (Also super weird that you don’t know you’re on cameras technology-wise I mean. I’d think the app should tell you unless it’s not through Teams that they’re activating the camera and some type of spy app.) Tell people and encourage them to cover their cameras too.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah I’m confused about how this happens TBH. I could see the screen being in presenter mode and it being unclear that you’re on camera, but it should be pretty obvious if you look at the settings, and most programs ask you if you want to turn on your camera or mic when you join.

          1. H3llifIknow*

            My first thought was that the LW might be confused? When we are in a town hall, we are all together in one room and we can all see each other’s conference rooms full of people, but…. If I disable my camera, I can’t see a way for the company to override that. But, to be on the safe side, my work laptop stays closed and I use 2 large external monitors, so the laptop is never open, hence no camera worries. My boss told us we all needed to be “on camera” when we speak in meetings and I said, “Nope. I’m a cyber analyst and I’m not allowing my camera to be enabled and turned on… EVER.” That “rule” got shut down pretty quickly.

      2. octopodes*

        Same. Ostensibly it’s supposed to make it easier to remember to take it off when I need the camera, but most of the time I still forget and spend a minute wondering why I’m just showing pink.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. I have masking tape, and it’s so easy to tell at a glance if my camera is covered or not. That tape has been my constant companion since my first hybrid job (pre-pandemic)

        2. Sara without an H*

          I use blue painters tape. It’s an attractive color on screen when I realize that I haven’t removed it when I turned on the camera.

          1. emmelemm*

            Blue painter’s tape is better than masking tape or electrical tape because it has less stickiness and won’t leave residue when/if you need to remove it.

        3. Too Many Tabs Open*

          I have a piece of aluminum foil folded over the top of my desktop, so if I forget to move it I show as green lights from the reflection of the “camera is active” light. It’s a cool effect.

      3. Jessica Ganschen*

        I have a few rolls of whiteboard tape that I bought a while ago so I could make myself a custom calendar. That… still has not happened, but I did find out that a couple layers over my camera works great to block it!

    2. many bells down*

      a member of our congregation recently passed away, and it always looked like he had his finger covering the camera when he was at Zoom services. According to his son, he used to put a *paper bag* over his camera. Which he left on.

    3. Pennyworth*

      Me too – and I just realized that I have forgotten to do this on my new laptop. Off to find the tape!

    4. Cheshire Cat*

      Or keep your laptop closed if you have external monitors, unless there’s a meeting where you want to use the camera.

      My company offered to buy external cameras for anyone who wanted them, but I didn’t request one. I used to have one on my personal computer and it would turn itself on randomly. Or someone else turned it on remotely? No idea, and I found it creepy.

        1. Aye Nonny Nonny*

          That’s what I just did.
          On other news, I found out that performance metrics for a related department are posted to a SharePoint I can access. That does not seem normal – I’d only expect that sort of “public shaming” in a sales job. Yet here we are.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            Is it intended for you to look at them or do you just happen to have access to that folder and took a look? Because I think it’s valid for companies to track performance metrics, and they gotta store them somewhere. If you have to dig a bit to find them, I don’t think that’s public shaming.

            1. Lydia*

              You can password protect things on Sharepoint so only your team can see it. Even if you have to dig, it should be protected from people who don’t need to see it.

              1. doreen*

                It should be protected – but it might not be intended to be public shaming. I once came across performance evaluations in a shared drive – but what happened was that people accidently saved them in the drive that had the templates.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              We used to have a project manager who oversaw manufacturing processes. In his downtime, he’d meander around the shared drives, gleaning whatever info he could. At one point my manager was doing some IT work on the network, and noticed Dave had accessed a bunch of files owned by a complete different group. Turns out there was one person in finance who for some reason would copy all their work and archive files over to a shared drive location when housekeeping their local PC and workgroup’s system – basically do a clean sweep and then move everything back again. But they had some issues with follow through, attention to detail, so would often leave folders hanging out on the shared drive when they were done.

              Management followed up with 3 things 1) restructuring the network so that files from had default permission groups, depending on the user who created them, and shared workspaces were segregated by workgroup. That limited which files could go where and who could access them if they somehow got out “into the wild.” 2) training people on appropriate file management practices, how to manage sensitive information, approved back up and device maintenance procedures. (which were all in place, but this person just liked to do their own thing and thought it didn’t matter) But also, #3) having a sit down with the guy who claimed he was so busy at his job yet somehow had lots of time to go cruising around shared drives and reading files that were obviously not related to his job duties.

              So basically, re-training so that people weren’t purposely parking stuff where it didn’t belong, system controls to prevent it happening by accident and but then also refocusing the guy who spent time time nosing around areas that weren’t his to manage.

      1. pandop*

        I have the opposite situation. The internal camera on my home PC turns itself off randomly, when it is supposed to be on – like in the middle of an online dance class!

      2. Aqua409*

        When I was remote and my previous employer provided an external camera; when it was turned on, there was a little red light that would be on.

    5. Coffee Cup*

      #1 – I am guessing it is the company equipment and not Teams allowing this spying, which is why there is no notification. How horrible…

    6. DJ Abbott*

      It would be interesting to see what would happen if LW1 and her colleagues all cover their cameras next time. Would management say anything?
      I wonder if there’s a polite and appropriate way to give management some copies of 1984…

      1. East Coast Girl*

        I was wondering the same. Sounds like the organization is probably too big to pull it off, but I’d love an update saying that at the next town hall EVERYONE in the virtual audience had their cameras covered. One would hope management would know they were busted at that point.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        Except they already know they are the ones who are spying and they’re OK with it. :(

      3. Hannah Lee*

        They know they are spying, but are they willing to tip their hand by calling out people who have covered their cameras?

        The people covering their cameras technically aren’t violating any rule or blocking the stated purpose of these meetings. So what would be the stated reason for management to call out anyone who isn’t showing their face?

        1. DJ Abbott*

          They’ll probably make up some other (ridiculous and obviously disingenuous) reason. *eyeroll*

    7. nobadcats*

      Yep. My “camera” is always set to “off” in Teams meetings, and because I’m a suspenders and a belt kinda girl, I also always have a sticky note over the eye on my laptop.

    8. I exist*

      I love the feature on my current work desktop. The camera hides inside the top so it can’t see anything unless I press it to pop it out.
      Several years ago, I had a sliding camera cover that was a (I think branded) giveaway item.

      1. Cautious*

        We have some of these, and it took me a while to understand why a co-worker had a strip of tape across the top 1″ or so of their monitor. Apparently they worried that the camera could see through their monitor when it was pushed down (in the “off”/”hidden” position). Pretty sure that is not the case and there are solid aspects of the monitor that the camera would not be able to see through even if it tried…but still makes for a fun story.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I didn’t know my camera popped up at first so can firmly attest, if it’s turned on while “inside” you get some interesting blur from the extreme close up interior of the desktop, and not a view of anyone or anything outside.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          There’s also something hilarious about believing a full cm of desktop innards is see through but a piece of tape is adequate.

      2. RecoveringSWO*

        I received one from Lexis that has their “Stop sign” indicator on it (alerting researchers to use caution with this source as it may have been overturned). I thought it was a genius use of branded swag and I’m sad I don’t have more!

    9. A Simple Narwhal*

      Same! I actually have a little cover that slides open and closed to physically cover the camera, it was a piece of swag from a security company! Works a treat and I never have to worry about it falling off or it being a hassle to uncover when I do want(/need) to be on camera.

      I started covering my camera years ago after seeing an episode of Mr. Robot where a woman is blackmailed because someone hacked her computer and got video/pictures of her undressed through her uncovered camera. Might have been a bit of a fantastical situation but I’ve always felt better having the ability to cover my camera.

      Sounds like OP1’s director saw that episode and instead of being horrified went “oh what a great idea!”.

      1. Lirael*

        Angela Moss, after her boyfriend, WHO (also) WORKED FOR A CYBER SECURITY COMPANY, put a cd from a random “street artist” into his computer with no security checks.

        Still bugs me that she paid the price for that!!

    10. Avril Ludgateaux*

      My dad, the philatelist, took to using a postage stamp, haha. It’s sticky enough you can re-use it for a while. I just take an old post-it note, once the reminder is no longer needed, folded over itself multiple times. ~~~Upcycling~~~

    11. There You Are*

      Every now and then, I’ll notice the microphone icon in my taskbar is active and, sure enough, the blue light on my external camera will be lit up, too.

      If IT is spying on me, then they’ll hear me singing to my cat and they’ll see a sign I have tacked to the wall behind my monitor that says, “STOP SPYING ON ME” because I always keep that camera turned towards the wall unless I’m in a video meeting.

      I have a soft, thin foam sticker over my laptop camera. The laptop camera comes with a slider but it’s hard to tell when it’s open or closed, so I use the sticker.

    12. Smiley*

      Hopefully a bit of comfort for everyone, the hardware of most inbuilt webcams mean the webcam and light are linked up such that the camera can not be on without the light also turning on (to indicate that it’s on). While this obviously doesn’t stop a hacker from spying on you, you’d at least probably notice that they were spying on you. Given this, I’m baffled how the situation the LW describes could occur without anyone noticing!

  1. Eric*

    #1, I really don’t think there is a way for Teams to send video like that. That makes me wonder if there is some sort of software on your work computer that lets them monitor your video all the time, not just in meetings, and that’s what they were looking at. I’d seriously consider a physical lens cover for your webcam.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, we record many of our Teams meetings (overtly, for reference purposes), and there’s always a Teams-generated pop-up that you have to dismiss when the host starts recording.

      1. mlem*

        “Recording” isn’t the same as “video feed is on”, though, and the LW describes the latter.

    2. Lyudie*

      Yeah, I’d be really shocked if Teams could actually do this. I am no Microsoft fangirl but surely they are not dumb enough to allow this.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, that letter doesn’t sound possible to me tbh, if they are saying that the boss is literally watching them in the Teams meeting even though they have their cameras marked as “off.” Like, I believe that an employer would do this but I do not believe Teams would be stupid enough to allow it to be possible.

    4. pbnj*

      It sounded to me like they were watching in a conference room since it says they watched together on a big screen. I wonder if whoever setup the computer, went straight to the presentation view, so it wasn’t obvious you weren’t on screen.

      1. Celeste*

        That’s what I was picturing – presentation view for all the participants, but the host can still view everyone (if their camera is on).

        1. NotBatman*

          Oh yeah, that’s almost certainly what’s happening. Good point. That suggests this is an honest miscommunication, which (even if not the case) is probably a good assumption to have when letting one’s coworkers know what is going on.

  2. Observer*

    #1- Video on Teams

    You are definitely missing some information. I don’t think it’s possible to set up teams to prevent you from turning off your camera. But if I’m wrong, the simple solution is to cover your webcam camera. If your webcam doesn’t have a cover a post-it or piece of paper will do it.

    Whether your camera is on is a separate thing from whether you can see any video. And I’m pretty sure that you can set up the default on Teams to start without your video going (just as you can start it muted.) Also, Teams (as do all of the conferencing tools whose operation I’m familiar with) shows when you audio and video are muted. So, give a look at the little video camera icon – if it doesn’t have a line through it, it’s on. But you should be able to click on it and turn that off.

    1. greenland*

      One clarifying thing — in “Town Hall” or webinar style meetings, you usually don’t have the option to even turn on your audio and video, so you wouldn’t be able to look at those icons and turn them on or off.

      OP, is it possible that when you saw a bunch of camera-on people in a gallery view on your boss’s screen, what you were seeing was the view of all the Town Hall presenters (who, because they were going to be taking an active role in the webinar, DID have cameras on) and not all the webinar viewers such as yourself? (Not trying to doubt you! Just have hosted many webinars in my life.)

      1. Observer*

        One clarifying thing — in “Town Hall” or webinar style meetings, you usually don’t have the option to even turn on your audio and video, so you wouldn’t be able to look at those icons and turn them on or off.

        In those cases, the presenter actually generally can’t see the participants either. It’s a broadcast, and nothing is coming into the presenters (from the audience).

        That’s why I’m saying that the OP is missing information. Either what they saw was other presenters / other webinars, or there is a different app in play here.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, I was confused because when we have town hall/all-company meetings it’s a live presentation rather than an actual meeting, so it’s a broadcast over Teams and all the presenter sees is how many people are watching. It’s not like an actual meeting where you can see who’s in the ‘room’ and where people can turn cameras and mics on/off.

      2. Heidi*

        I was wondering if there were additional cameras installed in offices or conference rooms that are feeding to the director’s computer. I guess it’s also possible that the director is attending a second Teams meeting besides the Town Hall (risky, but doable). Because you can’t turn on someone else’s camera through the standard Teams settings. The company would have to install separate apps to do that. Which I guess they can do if everyone is using their equipment. But not telling people they’re doing it is not okay.

        1. Snow Globe*

          The other thing is – every webcam that I’ve ever seen lights up when the camera is on. It’s certainly possible for people to not notice the light, but I’d have a hard time believing that every single person missed the camera light in every meeting.

          1. Myrin*

            That’s what I’ve been wondering about as someone who basically never uses a webcam – is it even possible for there to not be a light (mine is a green glowing dot right next to the lens) unless someone had manually tinkered with the laptop/camera itself?

            1. High Score!*

              The webcam SHOULD light up when it’s turned on BUT they can be hacked to where the camera is turned on but the light is off. That’s why you see computer programmers with painters tape, sticky notes, or blocking devices over their cameras when they’re not using them.
              Same for your microphone.

            2. lilyp*

              I think it can be pretty easy to miss that little light if you’re not paying attention to it specifically. I also think sometimes the light stays on when your video is muted in-app/in-browser-window (because the app is still running & has access to the camera even if it’s not currently using it) so people might be used to seeing that light even when their video is muted.

          2. A Simple Narwhal*

            Just a bit of anecdotal evidence – my work computer (hp laptop) does not have a light that turns on when the camera is on, there’s no way to tell at a glance if the camera is on. (Which is why I have a physical cover for it.)

          3. irritable vowel*

            Yes, agreed. I think the OP is misunderstanding what they saw, unless they saw their own face on the screen.

      3. bighairnoheart*

        This is what I was thinking as well, thank you for mentioning it. OP, definitely cover up your camera for the next Town Hall meeting, even if it’s just with a post it, so you have a little peace of mind. But it really might not be a bad idea to do more digging to see what’s going on here.

        1. DannyG*

          I use a lens cleaner cloth: one draped over the good camera and a smaller one over the laptop camera. Works great, nice aqua color, won’t hurt the camera lens.

  3. xl*

    #4 strikes me as potentially someone having a knee-jerk reaction after having had some sort of run-in with the teachers’ union in the past (if there is one).

    I’m in a union and I’ve been in officer positions before, and I found it’s not uncommon for people in management positions to just claim they “can’t” do something when they are too confused/scared/exasperated to learn the rules of exactly how they can and can’t go about it.

  4. Observer*

    #4 – HR being weird about FMLA

    It very much sounds like someone has no idea of what they are doing at least in regards to FMLA. FMLA allows *UP TO* 12 weeks of leave. It sounds like someone decided that it actually REQUIRES 12 weeks of leave.

    In any case, they don’t know what they are doing. And your boss was very smart.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      It’s also possible there were complications with the surgery and the plan has changed. If the employee informed HR they needed the full 12 weeks, that would absolutely explain the situation. Employee should not be required to inform the colleagues of the details. If HR says they now need 12 weeks coverage, I’d believe them and not bother coworker.

      1. Observer*

        No, it wouldn’t. Sure, staff are not entitled to any medical details. But it’s absolutely not the case that someone like the department head was not allowed to reach out to the teacher and say “Hey, HR said that you’re actually going to be out for 12 weeks. Did they understand that correctly?” And if the answer is yes, they could even follow up with something like “Do you have any lesson plans or materials? Could you let us know where we could find them?” Note, no request for explanations, no request for the person to actually do any work.

        Now, with competent HR it makes sense to trust them. But when they say something that is clearly incorrect, that makes you wonder what’s going on. And it turns out that they did, in fact, get SOMETHING wrong.

        1. Mae*

          “No, it wouldn’t.”


          Yeah, it could, possibly. And doing something incorrectly doesn’t necessarily make a person or a team incompetent. It could be s/he/they are taking instructions from on high.

          Please stop the absolutism.

          1. Observer*

            Please stop with the “what ifs” that make no sense. What HR said was incorrect, and there is a ton of precedent that it’s perfectly OK to reach out in this way.

            Given that HR was clearly wrong on the matter of how long the person was going to be out, I see no reason to reach for explanations that are, at best, extremely unlikely.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        That would have been a plausible explanation (and my first guess) if the colleague hadn’t written back to say they only need the 3 weeks!

        It’s a bit of a mystery why HR thought it would be 12 weeks.

      3. Dragon_Dreamer*

        This was my thought, that there were complications. Every surgery has risks. Something may have happened to require extra healing time.

        1. Dahlia*

          But the colleague literally wrote back and said it didn’t, and they’d only be out 3 weeks.

          1. Marley's Ghost*

            Oh my goodness, thank you for pointing that out. I totally misread it (and must not have been the only one!) as saying that a different colleague was the one to reiterate that the person on leave would be back in three weeks.

      4. JSPA*

        That could have been true, except that it wasn’t.

        It’s highly dependent on how reliable your HR is, and how reliable and communicative your coworker is.

        If you know your coworker to be excellent at informing people / having mechanisms in place to give an update, and you know your HR to be…uneven at best…then this is an EXCELLENT way to deal with that problem.

        You’re not making individualized contact, yet you are letting the person have visibility into the fact that something strange is going on, and that if it’s not something they want to have happen, they may need to choose to make contact.

        “Why are you out longer” is far more intrusive and individualized.

        I believe there would also be room under the law for a “get well” card sent to the home address, saying, “Hope you are on the mend! We have been so worried for you because HR let us know you’ll be out for 12 weeks, not the expected 3 weeks. Please take all the time you need, and accept our sympathy and support. But also please let HR know, if they have their wires crossed.”

        1. Ray Gillette*

          “That could have been true, except that it wasn’t.”

          A common plague of comments sections where people rush to comment without carefully reading the whole letter/article and miss key details.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreeing here. How much trust to place in pronouncements from HR depend on what you know about both HR’s reliability and the coworker in question and their personal communication tendencies.

          In this case it sounds like somebody in HR was “confused” and boss took a smart approach to clearing the confusion up. But there really isn’t any hard and fast rules (other than the ones laid out in the FMLA guidelines) about how to handle things. You have to know and look at the people in the situation.

      5. Insert Clever Name Here*

        But there have NOT been complications with the surgery. OP says the teacher who is out replied to the department head’s email and cc’d HR asking what is going on and confirming they will be back at 3 weeks.

      6. Falling Diphthong*

        “You aren’t entitled to know the surgical complications” was where I was right up until the boss figured out a way to ping the employee, who was like “WTF I’m only out for three weeks; you don’t need to hire someone for 12.” Which turned that call into “double-check when you receive a demand that everyone do something very expensive and time-consuming that contradicts what you understand to be the requirements.”

        1. Observer*

          Which turned that call into “double-check when you receive a demand that everyone do something very expensive and time-consuming that contradicts what you understand to be the requirements.”


          1. MigraineMonth*

            That right there is 75% of my job description.

            “So you previously wanted [simple thing], and now you want [complicated and expensive thing], is that correct?”

        2. Kevin Sours*

          At the same time it’s still gotta be the same answer if the result was “oh yeah things have changed I’m out 12 weeks”. But then I don’t think it’s really realistic to make “how long an employee needs to be on leave” confidential information. Even if it can, sometimes, be suggestive.

      7. Mike S*

        This happened to me. I went in for a procedure on a Friday with a 1 week recovery time. They discovered that things were a lot worse, and I ended up having major surgery and being out for 6 weeks.

        1. Lefty2233*

          I’ve also had instances where my doctors office told me I’d be out for 2-3 weeks and they filled out the leave paperwork approving 4 weeks. They submitted it to the third party insurance that manages our leave process and it was approved and communicated to my HR dept that I would be out for 4 weeks. It seems like folks are quick to dunk on HR! I do believe it is wrong for coworkers to contact an employee asking when they will return and HR should validate how much time is approved / requested. If there any discrepancies between what the employee requested and what was approved, then it needs to be sorted out between the employee, HR, the doctor, and or the insurance company. But I don’t think an employee needs everyone in the department all up in their business about when they returning.

      8. Lenora Rose*

        Coworker replied and was as confused as everyone else about the sudden extension, though.

      9. Labrat*

        that was my first thought, but the teacher in question has asked what was going on in the group e-mail.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I dunno, I’ve heard management at my office say “we have no idea how X is doing or when she’ll be back” re: someone on leave before. They pretty much acted like they couldn’t ask, weren’t hearing from the person, and had no idea what was going on.

      1. Observer*

        Well, maybe your management / HR don’t know what they are doing RE FMLA.

        FMLA absolutely does allow an employer to contact an employee that is out on leave about their expected return date. Of course that contact needs to be reasonable (eg you do not ask every day), but you can definitely ask.

      2. Twix*

        As someone who has dealt with FMLA a lot as an employee (multiple chronic health issues), I’ve run into that pretty often and it always seems to fall into one of two camps. Sometimes it comes from managers who think that’s actually what they’re required to do, or have no idea what’s required but know that that’s a safe course of action. Other times it’s an easy way for managers to deflect questions about things they may have been told in confidence or otherwise don’t feel they can ethically share with people who don’t have a need to know even if it would be legal to do so.

      3. JSPA*

        Sometimes that’s literally true. Some problems and treatments have tight parameters, as far as time needed. Some are all over the place.

        Remember the letter about the person who flashed her (no longer en-boob-ened) chest, because horrible gossipy coworkers refused to believe she’d had breast cancer, due to how little time off she’d needed, compared to another coworker with breast cancer?

      4. bamcheeks*

        I have said this before, and the actual situation was that the person who was off was not communicating very effectively! Fergus was off with a documented mental illness exacerbated by stress, and kept giving return dates and then … not returning. We could neither say, “he obviously won’t be back next Monday, let’s be realistic” nor “he’s back in next Monday, so we only need cover for this week.” And the reason for being off was obviously confidential.

        I think most people understood that it was stress/mental health and a delicate situation, but there were probably some people who just thought we didn’t know how sick leave worked!

      5. MurpMaureep*

        They could also be saying this out if an abundance of caution. Management is allowed contact with someone for planning purposes, but the employee may not want anything shared, or it could just be more prudent not to. I’ve managed a number of people who took FMLA, and the advice I’ve gotten from HR is not to discuss details with other staff if at all possible. This is my preferred method. It’s always been startling to me how much people feel entitled to know about their coworkers’ situations (that’s not in response to the above comment, but true nonetheless).

    3. Cheshire Cat*

      Could HR have meant that everyone couldn’t contact the coworker? LW says that “we” can’t contact the person. “We” in this context could mean “the school”, but it could also mean “each individual affected by the colleague being out.”

      1. mlem*

        Yeah, I took it as meaning the organization wanting all inquiries filtered through HR so they can ensure boundaries aren’t being crossed. That only works when HR doesn’t act like they’ve messed up, though.

    4. doreen*

      I’m not at all sure what’s going on with HR in #4. Why is HR looking to hire a sub for 12 weeks when the co-worker says they will be back after 3 weeks ? And about the FMLA interference – I understand the law forbids HR/the department head/anyone acting on behalf of the company from contacting the person who is out under certain circumstances but does it really require the employer to somehow keep co-workers from contacting the person?

      1. Observer*

        I understand the law forbids HR/the department head/anyone acting on behalf of the company from contacting the person who is out under certain circumstances

        Well, actually that’s not what the law requires.

        but does it really require the employer to somehow keep co-workers from contacting the person?

        Possibly, yes. Of course the workplace can’t be expected to monitor everything that employees do on their own time. But they are required to make it clear that they should NOT be contacting the FMLA employee on behalf of the company and CERTAINLY not bother them, and they should take action if they know (or have reason to know) that employees are crossing the line.

    5. Phony Genius*

      Don’t be surprised to see a letter here in the next month or so from a substitute teacher who says they were hired for 12 weeks, and told after 3 weeks that they were no longer needed.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – sadly I can definitely see this happening. Though hopefully with the teacher who is out being fairly certain still that they will be back in three weeks……

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I was once on the receiving end of that as a temp when I was covering for someone who was out for surgery. The woman I was covering for “Buffy” had told the boss “Giles” about half way through her sick leave that she wasn’t recovering as fast as she’d expected and she might need another week off. As it turned out, she did start recovering more quickly and felt she could return on her original date. Buffy thought that she only needed to update Giles if she was definitely going to need more time off, so didn’t get in touch; when Giles heard no more from her he assumed she was still needing the extra sick time and arranged with the temp agency to keep me for longer. It happened that another coworker “Willow” had bumped into Buffy in the street and found out that way that Buffy was coming back on the original date, which Giles ended up breaking to me just as I was finishing at the end of what turned out to be my last day.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        That was my assumption, that HR may well figure that saying 12 weeks will get them more applicants. I don’t know how things work in the US, but here, it is fairly common for subbing to be longer or shorter than expected. Often, it’s unavoidable. Complications can occur, etc, but there have been times when I arrived at the school and realised instantly that the job was different than I had been told (one case I was asked to sub for 3 or 4 days and went into the classroom, to find notes for almost a month, which is how long it ended up being. In that case, I am guessing they wanted the option to find somebody else if I wasn’t suitable. That’s the opposite from this situation, but…I have had situations that ended earlier than expected too.)

      4. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, having seen how some companies work, it wouldn’t surprise me if HR was just either arbitrarily trying to higher for the standard MAX leave time to avoid having to re-source if the original leave had to be extended after 3 weeks. (ie less work for them, but lousy to whoever they get to fill the role, which is really short sighted for HR at a workplace that often needs short – mid term coverage for hundreds or dozens of employees)

        Or the other thing that came to mind is HR knows they are going to need a body for a completely different coverage gap, and have just lumped those requirements into the current sub requirement but didn’t bother to communicate it. That can happen due to everything from trying to avoid extra paperwork, to working the budget categories they have, manipulating reqs/funds, to being saavy about what’s coming down the pike that hasn’t officially been approved yet (so everything from smart forward planning to laziness to nefariousness)

    6. Luca*

      One thing HR depts should do in any event, is be realistic when informing covering colleagues that someone’s leave is being extended.

      They don’t have to be perfect, or violate the employee’s privacy. Just don’t say the leave has been extended “another month” when they know the employee won’t be returning that soon. Think an injury that turns out to be more serious and requires surgery, which means a longer healing time and possibly physical therapy.

      Then the covering colleagues know not to postpone their own plans because the employee really is expected back in a month.

  5. GammaGirl1908*


    There are fields where it does make sense always to be keeping your ear to the ground. I know lots of people who work for consulting firms, and they work on contracts that tend to last anywhere from a few months to a few years. After a contract ends (or, notably, the part of the contract where your experience is useful), the company may put you on another contract, and that process can last several years … but at the end of any given contract, they may tell you they don’t have any more work for you, and your last day on staff will be in a week. Those people tend to hop from company to company more than other people do, and they tend to be very open to listening to pitches from other companies that have a contract that suits their experience.

    But if you’re not in one of those fields, and you would know if you were, then it’s less common to keep actively searching.

    I do know a few people who aren’t in those fields who seem to change jobs every couple of years or less, and I assume that either a) they get bored very quickly, or b) they are focused primarily on advancement for advancement’s sake, not on learning their current job.

    Also, even people who don’t change jobs very often would be well served by keeping their résumé updated when they add new duties or experiences or skills. Sometimes opportunities fall in your lap, or things change suddenly, and you don’t want to be starting from scratch. (As they say, luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.) But that’s different from jobhunting, where you are constantly and actively applying and interviewing.

    1. AnonForThis*

      Yes, there’s a difference between actively looking and interviewing even right after getting a job, and keeping your resume/Linked-In up to date and occasionally browsing job listings. And job searching can range from keeping an eye on job listings in case something really good comes up, to devoting multiple days a week to searching out job listings and preparing application materials in an attempt to get a new job before you quit your current one in despair.

    2. Artemesia*

      This. In fields where turnover is high — lots of tech fields — it is just smart to always be scanning for opportunities. This is different than a full on job search; people I know doing this are not applying and going on interviews, BUT when the merger is announced or the re-org or the layoffs, it is wise to know what is out there and to have your materials like resume and such ready to go on a dime. This also means if something amazing comes along, you pick up on it and are ready to apply.

    3. Mae*

      Perusing job ads periodically is also a good way to stay informed about emergent skills, trends, etc. I look at job ads from time to time, and when I see patterns in emergent skills and trends, I plan my professional development accordingly.

    4. Sara without an H*

      I am now retired, but I the field I worked in (librarianship) evolved rapidly and radically during the course of my career. I made it a practice to regularly check job listings, not so much because I was actually looking for a new position, but to check out what skills employers were asking for. This let me update my own skills and keep from getting stale.

      So OP#2, I don’t think you need to be actually job searching, unless you’re unhappy where you are. But keeping an eye on what employers are looking for in your industry is a good practice and will leave you better positioned to job search, if and when you decide to make a move.

    5. Alternative Person*

      Very much this.

      My field also has a fair few short term jobs crop up, so it makes sense for me to pursue the ads semi regularly.

    6. Emily (she/hers)*

      I have an opposite situation: Jobs in my field don’t open up very often, and once hired, people tend to stay a long time. So I’ll typically scan job postings every couple of months, just in case something pops up that I don’t want to miss. But it’s a fairly passive strategy.

      1. Overeducated*

        Same here. When opportunities are few and far between it’s worth keeping an eye out, even if you’re not really trying to move.

  6. GingerCookie*

    #2 You have to consider your values and priorities too. I mostly just want health insurance and to be able to do volunteer work in my free time, so I haven’t been trying to bump up the ladder throughout my life. Some people want a pension. Some people their work is their gift to this world. Some people, they are driven to move up the ranks at a company. Whether you should be job search dependings on your values. In that instance there was such significant disfunction at the company, which threatens anyone’s abilities to follow any of their values. Start at your values, analyze the facts of the situation, and work backwords. Or not, I’m not your mom, your girlfriend, your priest, your rabbi, your therapist, your imam, your bbf, your life coach etc. etc. etc. <3

    1. Clown Eradicator*

      Yep, agree with the above. The highest I would ever want to go is my boss’ position, which is pretty much management. I do keep everything updated and browse job listings some, because there are aspects of my company that I hate, but generally love my actual duties. I would also like to be able to quit my part time gig, but would need at least $15k more a year to do that. (I realize that I did this all to myself, though, since I haven’t finished college and got lucky with this position.)

      1. NotBatman*

        I work in higher ed, and it’s a running joke that professors play “not it!” for who has to be head of the department. The promotion comes with higher pay and fewer teaching responsibilities – but most of us love teaching so much that we signed on for this low-paying industry on purpose, and hate the thought of dealing with the bureaucracy of leadership. Plus, if you’re too good at being a department head, there’s a risk someone will make you [shudder] dean of the whole school.

  7. Quickbeam*

    Re: #3…..you get to decide what your career goals are despite how convenient it would be to the organization for you to be promoted. I got shoved into a management role I hated many years ago…when it happened to me again with my last job, I was firm and consistent that it would not happen again.

    People were somewhat annoyed for a while but they got over it. My field was super niche and on paper everyone thought I’d be a perfect fit. To the day I retired people would ask me why…..but I’d have been miserable; management isn’t for everyone. Stick to your guns.

    1. Sherm*

      This will probably be my reality in about a year, and I’m already dreading it. I think my soon-to-be-retiring boss has realized that I’m not interested, but there’s a slew of other people who might be vexed that I’ll be saying “no thanks”. People, talk to an employee before you assign them a future job.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Speak up now. Don’t wait to be slotted in to the role you don’t want. Follow Alison’s advice to give everyone time to adjust to the idea.

        1. ferrina*

          Yep. See if you can get ahead of it. If it’s in your personality, you can make jokes about how Boss’s job is definitely not for you, and how you are so glad you don’t have to do their job. This can help lodge in people brains that this is a Nope, Never situation (note: only use this for a Never situation, not for a Not Right Now. Once this finally gets lodged in people’s brains, it’s really hard to get out.)

    2. Bagpuss*

      YEs. My dad (now happily retired) was in a very techy, geeky job. Periodically they tried to make him a manager because that was what promotion looked like. He had zero interest in becoming a manager and made it clear he was not interested and would not do it, and further that since he was extremely good at what he did, and had a lot of very specialized knowledge, it would make no sense at all for the business either to ‘promote’ him to a role where he was n longer using those skills, or to put him in a position where he chose to leave because they weren’t willing/able to raise his pay without also changing his role.

      Eventually they saw sense and created an ‘internal consultant’ role for him, to allow them to put him into a higher pay bracket without having to turn him into a manager , but apparently they had to go a surprisingly long way up the chain of command to do it. I think he did suggest to them that they re-think the way they structured things because while he was in a uniquely strong position to negotiate, he felt that it was an issue for a lot of people doing the type of work he did , that the only route for promotion was into management.

      1. gingergene*

        One of the things I really like about my company is that they have a technical track and a management track that both allow for advancement (and salary increases). In my field, there is little overlap between management skills and the technical skills required for most individual contributor roles. At previous companies this resulted in people taking management roles they were *really* unsuited for, because it was the only way to advance.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          That is so common! People get promoted OUT of the job they are good at and INTO a job they are bad at! It’s so frustrating for those of us who end up working under those managers.

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              In my field it’s not even incompetence, it’s just that different strengths are needed for management vs IC. My work is similar to sales and people who succeed are great at going their own way, moving quickly, focusing almost entirely outside of the organization, towing the line of asking forgiveness vs. permission, etc. ICs need to hit their metrics above all else. Management requires lots of communication in all directions, strategic thinking, doing what’s best for the team, forging good relationships across the organization, delegating instead of doing, and spending A LOT of time on things that don’t show up in your metrics. The best managers I’ve had weren’t outstanding ICs, and a lot of the more challenging bosses I’ve had were superstars at the work who got promoted and now have to spend a lot of time on things they don’t enjoy and aren’t particularly comfortable with.

          1. Bruce*

            I was lucky when I refused a promotion in management, instead of getting pushed out they promoted me a level on the technical track… I was very pleasantly surprised because I’d pretty much written off any further advancement at my age. My retiring manager did guilt trip me that I need to stick around so he doesn’t look bad for going to bat for me, but so far I’m finding the new role less stressful

        2. Howard Bannister*

          My employer finally saw the light and started doing this about seven years ago. Lots of people who excel as individual contributors will flounder in management. My best manager was actually fairly poor as an individual contributor — they’re different skills, and cultivating either one is difficult. Somebody who’s good at both is not the rule!

    3. The Original K.*

      I actively do not want my boss’s job – like if I were forced into it, I’d start looking to leave. It’s moot as I doubt she’s going anywhere, but if she did and they asked me to throw my hat in the ring, I’d refuse. Like @Bruce says below, I’m overworked in my current role and my boss’s is much worse. Whatever the pay increase is, it’s not worth it.

      1. CL*

        Agree with all of this. Add into that my boss and I have very different technical expertise. We work closely together but imagine he oversaw teapot shipping logistics and I did teapot package design. There is no way I could do his job (or him mine).

    4. OrigCassandra*

      Yep. The associate-director position for my department opened up a few years back due to retirement, and the department chair was nudging me pretty hard to apply. In hindsight, if I had applied, my experience in the department and my generally-decent reputation there would have made me a shoo-in.

      But in that position I’d do a lot less teaching (which I generally enjoy) and a lot more crisis management (which stresses me out), red-tape wrangling (which stresses me out and makes me angry), and meetings meetings meetings (uuuuuuuugh). I can do the management stuff. I can do the leadership stuff, even. But I hate it. (I have four service-related leadership positions at the moment. It’s at least two too many for my peace. One’s going away shortly — task force — and I’m actively trying to get out from under another.)

      So I declined to apply. I still have my job. Zero regrets.

    5. SarahKay*

      I willingly went into a management role in a previous company, and discovered that I hated it. I had to work very hard to be merely okay at it because I hated confrontation, even as mild as telling someone that something wasn’t right. I did tell them, because that was what the job required, but when I moved on to a new company and role three years later I decided ‘Never Again!’

      I’ve actually been very upfront (albeit very politely) with my past three managers that being asked to manage someone would be a deal-breaker for me and I’d look for a new job if it happened.

      I really enjoy what I do in my current role, I’m good at it, it’s the right match for my skills and personality, and I’m paid enough. There’s no benefit for me in being promoted into management, and realistically there’s no benefit for my manager / grand-boss because they’d lose an excellent individual contributor and gain a barely-average manager. And luckily my manager fully agrees with my assessment!

    6. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I actively sought and obtained a leadership role in my early 40s. Unfortunately, it came with a boss from hell and I hung on way too long. Once I got out and recovered, I was in my mid-50s and I had gotten it out of my system. I have the skills and might have thrived and enjoyed it with a different boss – but once was enough. I was lucky enough to be able to take a year off and then took a job that suited me perfectly. I’m a doc, and I wanted to see my patients, write my notes, and be left alone. Three months after I started, my boss said “Let’s talk about your future with the company.” I said “I don’t have one.” He looked kind of panicked and I explained that I wanted to stay, I loved the work, and I did not want to advance. At all. Ever.

      I retired from that job at the end of 2021 after turning down at least four more requests/suggestions about advancement. The only “no” that was difficult was when the boss who hired me announced he was leaving and my entire team looked at me. Literally. And then one by one tried to convince me to apply for the job. Glad I didn’t.

    7. B*

      In my workplace, many of the managers would have preferred to keep being subject matter experts in their previous jobs, except that they didn’t want to report to any of the people who would have taken the management jobs if they didn’t. I think this is an aspect people sometimes overlook. You might prefer not to be a manager, but that means you will pretty quickly find yourself reporting to a manager who is less experienced than you. It can take a lot of restraint not to second-guess and undermine them. You’ve really got to make sure you’re ok with all sides of staying in your role.

      1. Lab Boss*

        I’ve seen this really work well when the new, less-experienced manager and the subject matter expert can come to the right kind of understanding. Specifically that the expert has to be willing to be managed, but the manager has to understand that this is a person who needs substantially less management on most things, and whose opinions are usually valuable. After all, part of being the subject matter expert isn’t just “I can do task X” but also “I know everything that can go wrong with task X, I’ve seen us try 30 different ways to do task X and know the pros and cons of all of them, and I can tell you exactly why we do this part of task X that seems counterintuitive.”

    8. MigraineMonth*

      I worked at a company where they were pressured high-performing individual contributors to become managers. As a result, I had multiple teammates become my manger, then go back to teammates a year later because they hated it. (Presumably management in general, not just managing me. Hopefully.)

    9. Ama*

      Yes, for many years I reported directly to our ED (nonprofit) and a few years in she mentioned she thought I’d make a good ED myself some day and I told her honestly that I have no interest in a job that would require me to be more of a generalist and stay on top of everything an org is doing — I much prefer being a specialist and focusing on a specific portfolio (I was a second-level employee at the time and told her my goal was to become Director of my department, which I have since done). I also don’t mind a little direct people management (I have one FT direct report and also manage one of our PT contractors), but wouldn’t have the patience for managing managers if that makes sense.

    10. Peon*

      YES. I had a very frank conversation with my former boss before she retired and was really clear I didn’t want her job. Partly, I don’t want to “manage” people, like hiring/firing/evaluations. I wouldn’t mind supervising, maybe. But also, I’d been on her team for 15 years and my coworkers were my friends. I *REALLY* didn’t want to manage *THEM* specifically, lol.

      But honestly, day to day, I’d rather be someone’s right hand person. Radar O’Reilly, y’know?

  8. Bruce*

    #3 My director called me in to say he was retiring and told me I was queued up to take over, it would be a real promotion… and I instantly said “I’m already stressed out with my current role, there is no way I can take on more work!” He was quite taken aback, but having blurted it out I felt quite sure of my decision… I’m very close to retiring myself and to step up would mean I’d have to put that off, also would have evening meetings every night of the week. Eventually they found a senior guy who took over his role, another guy to take over mine, AND they promoted me as an individual contributor working remotely from the home we picked after my wife retired… win-win-win! Both the new director and new manager are doing great, and I’m still working hard but with less impossible stress

    1. Celeste*

      Glad it worked out so well! My director is retiring, but I’m already overwhelmed and don’t want to move into a position with more work of the kind I don’t like. I hope it works out well for me too.

    2. KateM*

      I think it is amazing that not only did they find other people to take over those roles, they also found ways to lessen YOUR stress.

  9. The other Virginia*

    #1 I think that there is likely a misunderstanding about Microsoft Teams works which is a good thing for you! What you are describing is known as a Teams life event. And rest assured, as an attendee, you can neither be seen nor heard. It’s not even an option. I believe that what you saw was the presenter viewing other panelists or presenters of the town hall which is how the live events work.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, but Teams gets updated all the time (in the background where I work) and features come and go. And as others have pointed out above, this may be some sort of other software that is actively monitoring people. LW has a right to be scared and/or repulsed by her company’s activity.

      1. RagingADHD*

        If we’re going to talk about what it could be no matter how unlikely, then it could be that LW’s boss is the secret head of the NSA and is spying on the LW with tiny remote controlled cameras installed in their home smoke detector.

        Or we could look at what is most likely to be reality, which is that LW has misunderstood something.

        1. DataSci*

          Companies overly monitor their employees all the time. There’s known technology to remotely turn on a laptop camera – there’s a notorious case where a school district did this and then accused a student of “inappropriate behavior” for something he did in his own home, while he was unaware the camera was on. It’s hardly tinfoil-hat level paranoia to wonder if this is happening.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I think perhaps you have missed some of the comments & replies from LW, in which it becomes evident that LW is not entirely clear on what software platform they are using, what type of meeting it is, or how it all works.

            Yes, inappropriate tracking exists. But the descriptions the LW is giving more closely resemble a perfectly legitimate situation that has been misunderstood.

      2. Sheila*

        You’re strangely assuming that scared and repulsed is her ideal emotional state and chastising someone for trying to help her, by describing an actual program that closely matches what she describes, with none of the invasiveness she was fearing. What an odd way to respond.

    2. bighairnoheart*

      Yes, that’s exactly what it sounded like to me! OP, knowing that this is a possible explanation, please try to do a little digging to get more information. Of course it’s (unfortunately) always possible that your company is secretly recording you, but this kind of thing is really common too, so I wouldn’t jump to either conclusion without more info. Regardless, report back here with an update once you find out for sure, if you can!

  10. AnotherLibrarian*

    #2: While I don’t think you need to be constantly actively job hunting, I do think it is in your best interest to have some idea on what is out there in the big wide world in your field (whatever that field might be). Knowing the lay of the land and keeping your resume relatively up to date (I update mine annually around when I do my annual evaluation) means that you’re ready if you do decide to put out feelers. I think if you don’t ever look around, it is very easy to become convinced that that job you have is the only job you might ever want and lose sight of the fact that you probably have more options than you think you do. Because I think if you lose sight of the options you have, you may end up settling for something that is less than ideal.

    1. Lily*

      Absolutely – I reguarly check the main job boards in my field because I want to know what is going on in the field, who is hiring, whether they’re hiring cos of high turnover or due to growth, want kind of roles they’re hiring for, what are the new skills that are needed etc etc. Very useful to at least know what’s happening.
      The typical amount of ‘job switching’ is very variable depending on sector and field etc so really important to know what’s typical in your field. I work in a field with lots of 1-year, 2-year contracts or projects – I’ve recently learned the hard way that a hiring manager concerned about my ‘frequent switching’ is a hiring manager who probably doesn’t really get the work that I do, is out of touch with all sorts of other developments in the field and is someone from whom I’m unlikely to learn a lot or benefit from much career-wise. I really regret overcoming her concerns and getting her to hire me! Live and learn lol.

    2. kiki*

      Yes! Especially as your tenure at an organization gets longer, I think it’s important to make sure you’re aware of what else is out there. I’ve seen a lot of long-tenure folks become absorbed in dysfunctional organizations and then not eel like they could leave. So many of them, once finally convinced to apply, found jobs where they were paid nearly double and often had better work-life balance too. It’s easy to start thinking, “Oh, nowhere else will have X or Y only to realize that nearly everywhere has not only X & Y but also Z”

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I get a ton of job postings sent my way (recruiter newsletters, LinkedIn, etc) and at least once a week I look at a couple that look either interesting for the future or similar to what I do now. Sometimes it’s curiosity to see what they’re paying so I can tell my boss if we’re not competitive when we try to hire, and sometimes (like this morning) it’s because it’s a job I’d be interested in a year or two and it’s good to see what the requirements and pay are like. That’s actually how I found my current job; exactly a year ago I was pretty unhappy in a job I’d just started when a friend posted a great job opening on LinkedIn and I decided to throw my hat in the ring. That didn’t end up being the job I was hired for but it did open my eyes to what else is out there and I decided to start looking more actively.

  11. GammaGirl1908*


    I changed jobs last year after 14 years. My previous job was still remote and we usually met by Teams / Zoom, so, about three weeks* out:

    (*it is important here that I work for the government, and I had pretty good relationships with my team and my boss. I wasn’t in any danger of getting punished or badmouthed or pushed out, AND there was a lot of bureaucracy and red tape to deal with, so it made sense to have a couple of weeks of lead time. That is far from the case for a lot of jobs.)

    I told my team of two peers during our weekly meeting (one of them had been a reference, so she wasn’t surprised). I then scheduled a meeting with my direct boss to tell her. These conversations started with something like, “I wanted to let you know that I have accepted another position, and my first day there is scheduled for the first.”

    At that point, I told the three of them that if it came up, they could let other people know. Also, at that point, I started telling other people I worked with. If I met with them or encountered them, I started volunteering the information that I had accepted another position, and that my last day would be at the end of the month.

    Once the end of the month rolled around, I did what I have seen other people in that office do, which was to send out an email message BCCing my division (about 100 people) and any other individuals that I had worked with and wanted to inform (another 50-75?). The message said that that I was moving on, that I had learned so much being their colleague, and that I hoped they would stay in touch. I invited them to connect with me on LinkedIn and provided my home email address (people connected on LinkedIn, but I haven’t gotten any emails). I sent that message a few days before my actual last day (like, on Tuesday when my last day was Friday) so that I could tie up any loose ends and answer any emails sending well wishes or asking questions.

    That was it! If there was anybody I missed, they needed to get it by word of mouth or figure it out themselves.

  12. Gemstones*

    I’m a little confused about the first question. In the letter title, it says OP is being videotaped without their consent, but the letter just says they’re visible but didn’t realize they were. The first scenario is bad, but the second seems like more of a misunderstanding. Are people actually being taped, or are they just visible?

    1. Myrin*

      The titles are generally written by Alison, so when in doubt, I always go off of what the actual letter says – in this case, I agree with you that it doesn’t sound like anyone is being taped.

    2. JustKnope*

      In my experience, events like town halls are always recorded. So it would be “taped” in that instance. But even if it weren’t, being on video without your knowledge is a huge invasion even if it’s not being recorded!

    3. ecnaseener*

      They’re being taped as in video is being recorded and transmitted, without their knowledge or consent. By “actually being taped” are you asking whether the meeting is being recorded? I would still call it being “videotaped” even if it was just a live feed.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      Are people actually being taped, or are they just visible?

      We don’t really know. All we have is this:

      but as we all watched a town hall together on a big screen, he was watching everyone else on his computer

      It’s possible to be visible without being recorded, but it’s also possible that they are being recorded even if they aren’t visible on this person’s screen. We don’t really even know that this was Teams; as others have pointed out, it could be some other software installed that is monitoring employee’s cameras.

      But that’s not necessarily the big issue here. The big issue is that employees are being monitored without their consent or even knowledge. To what end? To make sure they are showing the appropriate response? To make sure they are actually there? This, to me, seems to be the issue here.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I’m guessing it’s completely unrelated to Teams and instead there was either a security camera or a conference room camera where the team was watching the town hall.

        I would call it *more* weird that the Boss was watching through Not Teams because that seems so much more set up/deliberate.

        We do Town Halls all the time, and the presentation/Q&A is recorded, not the audience.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Saying “we’re all watching the town hall on a screen, while the boss is watching people” seems to mean that there is a camera on the room(s) where people are watching. This is often so when there are live questions, the speaker can see the room/who is asking. The boss is on a laptop, so can see all the live feeds from rooms/presenter cameras, perhaps because they’re in charge of questions or Q&A. Given that OP seems to be in a room, it’s not that surprising that there is a camera on the room, and not that somehow Teams is recording everyone on their own cameras.

      3. TechWorker*

        Or as others have pointed out, it’s possible the director is on some view where he sees everyone presenting or due to present… if OP saw names/faces and knows that isn’t the case, then I agree this is all hugely creepy regardless of recording. But does OP definitely know that?

    5. Observer*

      ped without their consent, but the letter just says they’re visible but didn’t realize they were. The first scenario is bad, but the second seems like more of a misunderstanding. Are people actually being taped, or are they just visible?

      The thing is that even if it’s not being recorded, it is still a major overstep. It’s essentially like peeping into someone’s window. No one would say “Oh, never mind, they didn’t record it!”

  13. Inkognyto*

    LW 5:

    Here is what I do.

    I write a nice general email. People I talk too.

    In that email. I BCC Everyone. So no one knows who else who got emailed.

    1. Antilles*

      Yeah, this is a good solution that I’ve seen a lot of people do.

      If there’s people you’re particularly close to, I’d probably follow up with them more directly afterwards (IM, call, stop by if you’re in-office). Even though your email probably includes something like “would love to stay in touch via my personal email and cell”, the direct follow-up makes it much more likely that you actually do “stay in touch” afterwards.

  14. Jo*

    #3 It is okay to not want to climb, or to have found a position you are happy with.

    I am currently in a position that is substantially lower heirarchically than previous roles I have held. But it is a more specialised role and I really enjoy it. Because of my past I do often help with more advanced tasks which has led to people assuming I’ll apply for promotion. But they don’t allow me to do my favourite parts of the role, and overall aren’t a career progression anyway.

    It got to the point a year or so ago (after the umpteenth time of of implying they’d move someone into my position to ‘free me up’) that I had to be forcefully blunt and say that the only reason I still worked for them was because of the love of the role I was in. And if I was forced into a different role I would not work for them anymore. They have backed off since.

  15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (always be job searching):

    > Hopefully she doesn’t mean that she’s explicitly using it as leverage with her boss — like regularly announcing that she’s on the verge of taking another job — because that’s the kind of thing you can do once, not multiple times; doing it regularly would drain it of all its power (and she’d likely just be told to go).

    Agreed, I’ve just seen this in action. Someone I work with but isn’t in my team got an offer a couple of years ago and leveraged it into change in his current role (I know his preference was to stay at the company but various changes needed to happen). A few months ago the same thing happened, he went to them with another offer (different prospective company) and was told OK, sounds good, confirmed your last date will be x.

    Personally I would have to think hard about retaining someone who did this, I’d be more ready with “OK sounds good” than most even at the first iteration. On the surface it is just calling their bluff which is often a good approach to a situation with threats (which this is — a threat!) but also there must have been some reason they were looking.

    I’ve also been on the other side of it where I got an offer from a role which I had only applied to to demonstrate to my friend that “see, I’ve got no chance” (long story). I then realised the prospective role was a lot better and that I was being underpaid etc at the current place. I really did intend to resign and take the new offer but ended up being guilt tripped into staying with the promise of more money etc which never materialised. I don’t make the same mistake twice and also would not use a job offer as leverage for those reasons.

  16. Irish Teacher.*

    LW 3, I am not in the US and I know your rules are different but it seems to me that even for three weeks, a sub who is qualified in the subject sounds like a good idea. Three weeks of switching around and of colleagues taking on extra classes is a lot. Of course, if each class has the same teacher taking them for all their periods each week, it’s less of an issue, though that’s a lot of extra work for each teacher.

    Again, I know your rules are different but I would wonder if the school is either looking for a sub who is available for up to 12 weeks (because you never know how things can change) or more problematically, if they are planning to imply to the sub it will be for 12 weeks, thinking more people would be willing to accept a 12 week job than a 3 week one.

    It sounds like your colleague is pretty clear that she is not planning on being out for 12 weeks and as if she knows no more about this than the rest of you.

    And not being allowed to reach out to her seems odd. There’s a big difference between contacting somebody with work related questions and contacting them to ask how they are and when they’ll be back.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      In the United States, the rules and regulations vary on a state-by-state basis. So in some states, there could be a rule about having a certified teacher to cover any length of absence over a given period of time, or there might not be. And in some states, if there’s no state law, then it’s on a district-by-district basis. (Yes, our priorities concerning public education are completely messed up.)

      In reality, I have seen some districts try to hire the same substitute (preferably suitably credentialed), but in reality around here, we have such an acute shortage of both teachers and substitutes that they just take whoever they can get, which means the students could have a different substitute teacher for each day of that three weeks.

      1. CL*

        Exactly. In some districts/states, long term subs are required to be certified teachers whenever possible. In my district, that’s the difference between an individual with a HS diploma and 2 years of college versus a master’s degree with education credentials. And most people I know that are certified teachers, left teaching for a reason…retirement, burnout, family matters.

    2. Delta Delta*

      The first thing that crossed my mind is that it’s now mid-march (when the letter is published; not sure when they sent it), but if this is a regular September-June school, and the colleague is out for surgery now, it might make more sense for them to not return for the end of the school year and come back in the fall. Just a thought.

      1. Observer*

        What does that have to do with anything, though? The teacher said that they ARE coming back. And they confirmed it with their response email. Why would HR just decide that they are not coming back? That makes no sense.

    3. doreen*

      Around here, the public school systems tend to have a “bank” of subs who are called on to fill in – some of them just want a day here and there while others would like a full time position but haven’t gotten one and you could probably say the position will last for “3-12 weeks”. But the way the letter talks about “hiring a sub” , I don’t think it’s that sort of system. My kids’ small private schools had some retired teachers who would fill in for a couple of days – but anything more than a couple of days would have involved either other teachers covering or hiring a sub – and I don’t know if it’s realistic to try to hire a sub for 3 weeks.

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

        That’s how I always understood how subs work. there is a bank of qualified subs and maybe the same person wouldn’t be able to take all 3 weeks but there would be some and wouldn’t need to hire.

        I find it really odd that they are looking to hire a sub, becuase the process of hiring someone would take longer than the person is being out for.
        The only thing I can think of is that there is another teacher who is going to be out around the same time, and will be out for longer and so HR added the classes needing covering for both teachers. I sure hope that’s what is going on and that HR or someone wasn’t trying to be shady and push the teacher out by hiring someone new.

        1. BlueSwimmer*

          I’m a high school department chair. In my district, when someone is on extended leave, like parental or for surgery, we hire a long term sub specifically for the position if it is longer than ten days. We do interview people because we are looking for someone who can teach the content and they are paid at a higher rate than daily subs. It’s always a challenge to find someone, and every department chair considers themselves lucky if they know a retired teacher who is always willing to step into this role.

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

            That makes sense but do you hire though once the person is on leave or before? To me if someone is going on 3 week leave it would make more sense to hire before they go on leave (it its planned a head of time) because otherwise you’re going to be wasting time. You have to have the posting up for some time, like at least a week, then contact everyone that you want to interview. By the time someone is hired the person taking leave will be back.

    4. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      Without knowing the details of when the letter was sent in and where they were in the school year, my only observation is this: There is a massive, massive shortage of substitute teachers in the United States right now, so it may very well be that the school couldn’t find someone, which is why it fell to the OP and her colleagues.

      Also, as other posters have mentioned, there’s no blanket law in the US about how substitutes are handled or who can be a substitute or whether they need to be credentialed, etc.

      Although adding to existing teachers’ workflow isn’t ideal, at least they’re credentialed teachers whom presumably the students know.

      While I was on maternity leave, I was asked to substitute teach at my child’s elementary school. I am a graphic designer with a degree in the humanities and NO experience whatsoever in teaching, but I have my background clearances to be a volunteer at her school, so I ticked the only box they cared about.

      (I did not agree to substitute. I am not qualified and I was not going to take my newborn into an elementary school for a full day.)

  17. Cambridge Comma*

    OP3, I think nowadays it’s so easy to be permanently aware of new vacancies just by having an active search and mail digest that the job search may not be as active as you think. IME the real challenge is getting Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn to stop mailing you with vacancies.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I still have educationposts.ie set to e-mail me any vacancies in my subjects. The odds of my ever applying to any of them are remote as it would mean starting from scratch with no guarantee of permanency and I delete most of the e-mails without even looking at them but no harm in being aware of what’s out there and in the off-chance that something did go seriously wrong in my job (such as a new principal who created a toxic work environment) or say I had reason to want to move, I have the information available to me.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      And sometimes for the actual company to stop emailing you with vacancies. I have three companies I applied with a varying number of years ago that I’ve unsubscribed or turned off notifications or deleted job searches etc etc at least 3 times…. and I still get emails.

  18. NorthernTeacher (just on sn adjusted path)*

    #4. Reasonable or not reasonable?
    My schoolboard says that admin are not suppose to contact employees who are on leave, but our principal regularly does so. Guess I’m looking for a gut check on if the two that happened to me fit within the “reasonable” or not.
    a. Scheduled to be away for four days plus a weekend before returning. Admin emailed me on the second day (23.5 hours after surgery) to tell me I had to remove all non-schoolboard items from my classroom when I returned because of a complaint given to her a month before my leave started. (Not sure if it would influence the definition of reasonable, but the result was multiple panic attacks during the leave that slowed recovery.)
    2. [Above plus other stressors led to…] I was on a stress leave initially anticipated to last three months. I gave my entire grade book and assessment notes (handwritten) to admin along with documentation to help the supply teacher. The grades and notes had been used to write progress report cards that were sent home three days before I left. Two months and 2 weeks later (1 week before first term report cards were due and 2 weeks before I was scheduled to return), she contacted me for “digital copies” because she had lost the originals. Copies don’t exists because it was literally a binder with templates I had been filling in. Turns out they had had a revolving door of supply teachers and no one collected assessment notes, so her plan was to reuse my notes. Fortunately, my therapist helped me realize that “no” is a reasonable answer instead of scrambling to make new notes from student work I still had access to while dealing with panic attacks all over again. (I hadn’t recovered as much as I had been hoping I had.) I emailed back that it was the only copy and explicitly told her to not to contact me while on leave. But a “ok, thanks for trying” email arrived an hour later, then a request for access to a document the next morning. The document had nothing to do with assessment, it was a page with a schedule that was two months out of date and labelled as such. She was grasping at straws…probably searching through all documents I had ever shared to find anything.
    When I told HR, they told me to talk to the union. Union said I would have to go for in-person for a meeting to speak with her, and they would send a representative. I resigned (for multiple reasons) and when HR called me to reconsider, they finally agreed that I would no longer have to monitor my email, and they would tell admin to contact them first before contacting me. My doctor and thrapist extended my stress leave. It made a big difference, and I am finally recovering.

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

      Glad you are recovering. What your admin did was horrible and falls way off of what is expected when you are on leave. Asking you where a file might be is fine. But when you said that there were no digital copies that should have been the end.

      I hope this was a lesson for them.

      1. NorthernTeacher (just on sn adjusted path)*

        Thanks. I had been three years of trying to have boundaries and the response being dismissive or implying that I am causing problems. It reached a point where I was questioning myself on everything…even things that were obviously wrong. I just need to hold out until May when job applications open, and I can apply for a different school.

    2. constant_craving*

      For a, it does sound reasonable to me. It didn’t say you had to address it, so you weren’t being asked to do anything. I would just assume someone on leave wasn’t checking their emails so they’d see the action item once they needed to get back, which is what the admin probably did. A scheduled email may have been better, but seems like a situation where information was being passed along so it didn’t get forgotten due to a delay.

      2 sounds like it was initially a reasonable ask but persisting past when you said what they wanted didn’t exist was unreasonable.

  19. matt*

    LW4…“ HR says we can’t reach out to our colleague…to understand what the discrepancy is, but from what we know of our colleague and what she told us about the surgery, we are almost positive there is no need for coverage for that long.”

    no, you can’t. it’s intrusive.

    there’s no WAY i would tell a colleague why an absence had been extended. ever.

    1. matt*

      i should note here that i’m NOT saying HR can’t contact the colleague for clarification, only that their colleague (or colleagues, as it kinda sounds like that may be in the offing) shouldn’t.

      1. Green great dragon*

        They shouldn’t tell the colleagues why, no. But in those circumstances they absolutely should say clearly ‘We now expect Sarah will be off for longer’ to explain why they need the sub.

        But not in this case, where the colleague is expected back in three weeks, and the whole thing is just bizarre.

    2. Ferret*

      Except if you read the letter it’s clear that HR got it wrong in this case and seem to have based the directive on a complete misunderstanding of FMLA and not on anything from the colleague about needing an extension

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, this. It was HR who said 12 weeks, not the colleague.

        I sometimes feel that people read the first paragraph of a letter, get filled with outrage, and rush to comment without first understanding the entire situation.

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      I agree that the out colleague should not be contacted about WHY a leave might be extended, but I do think confirming that the leave needs to be extended is fine, and normal. Especially in cases like this, where HR was clearly wrong. I am assuming from the letter that LW feels confident that if the leave needed to extended, colleague would have let their team know.

    4. Worldwalker*

      They didn’t say they wanted to know WHY the leave had been extended, only IF the leave had been extended.

    5. Observer*

      there’s no WAY i would tell a colleague why an absence had been extended. ever.

      Except that that wasn’t the question. What the OP’s department was looking for was an explanation of how much time their colleague was going to be out, not WHY they were going to be out longer than expected.

      And it is absolutely ok to check back and confirm HR’s mandate. As you can see, they were wrong.

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

    As it turns out, you are on video! The director of each section (ours has about 40 people in his section, others may have less or more) gets to view you and your reactions to every town hall word being said, unbeknownst to you!

    Have any employees been punished for “facecrime” (having an “incorrect” facial expression)?

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

        Maybe suggest to others, “As long as you’re not on video, you might as well shut off your camera. I do.”

        Then, if the director (or a higher level executive) wants to spill the beans himself by complaining that he can’t see people’s faces, that’s up to him.

        1. Colette*

          I don’t know how you’d shut off a camera you haven’t turned on.

          You could suggest covering the camera, but without an explanation, that would be a little odd, too.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Eh I don’t know that it’s odd. A lot of people have their cameras covered unless they explicitly intend to use them as an extra bit of security.

          2. Observer*

            Nothing odd. I wouldn’t suggest doing it SPECIFICALLY for these town halls, but as general good practice.

    1. RVA Cat*

      My new definition of Workplace Hell is where regular employees’ human emotions get criticized the same way Oscar nominees are when they don’t win.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I just assume this is always happening and plan my face accordingly. Even before zoom and teams people used to talk about Debbie in Marketing’s face when the new bonus structure was announced at staff meeting. Humans are just terrible when put in groups, generally.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Tru, but notice it’s always Debbie, not Don? I mentioned the Oscars because the criticism aimed at Angela Bassett seems tainted with misogynoir.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            That hasn’t been my personal experience, especially if Don is higher up the chain, but as an overarching theme in society absolutely.

  21. JSPA*

    #3: if you want to, and if it’s true, you can add,

    “At whatever point you retire, I’d of course be willing to help a new person transition into the role as seamlessly as possible. In that sense, I of course welcome being included in meetings and planning, even though my long-term goal is to improve and mature as an individual contributor.”

    If your contribution has nothing to do with math, it might (?or might not?) even be safe to add, “I don’t think my issues with math rise to the level of disability, but it would be highly inappropriate for me to take on tasks that involve finances at anything above the personal level.”

    Finally, if the new grad happens to be excellent at personal interaction and planning…and if it might be a few more years before the boss leaves, so they’re no longer brand new …you can say, “I know Rogette is very young, but if their skills and goals align better than mine do with taking a managerial role, I want you to know that I would not resent them eventually becoming my manager, despite my age and seniority, so long as it’s clear that this is not a negative reflection on my job performance and fitness for my current role.”

    (And figure out what you’re going to say and do if the supervisor turns in their resignation in the next month or three, and the company asks you to at least be the “acting” while they search!)

    1. Green great dragon*

      Does being included in these higher meetings help you in your own job? Is it interesting? If so you could mention that you’ve appreciated the insights for your own role but you don’t want to use it to progress.

      Managers! Ask your staff what they want out of their career! It really helps manage them.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        100%. And do this for employees of all stages. Don’t assume your employees “close to retirement age” are a) going to retire when you think and b) don’t have upward ambition. Talk to your young, brand new employees who you aren’t sure have a career path, and find out from them. Don’t assume everyone has management ambitions. Don’t assume parents don’t have higher ambitions because they have other responsibilities. Just DON’T ASSUME. It takes so little energy to ask.

  22. Chick (on phone)*

    I’m a high level admin who works with teams extensively and I’ve never heard of this function. Is there any proof to this claim of filming people when their cameras are off?

    1. Mockingjay*

      Our company records our town halls so employees who can’t attend can view it later. We use WebEx for town halls; Teams for daily work among…well, Teams. With WebEx, we are asked not to have video on; only presenters. Our IT department has the capability to remotely access our laptops and could turn our cameras on, but never have. In daily meetings we are expected to have cameras on, but if I’m feeling scruffy it’s fine to claim “bandwidth” issues and turn it off.

      I’m wondering if the system default was deliberately set to have camera on when you log on. No advice other than the same as Allison’s. Monitoring employees unaware is a very petty, sneaky thing to do.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Proof from the LW? No, since when have people needed proof in order to write into an advice column?

  23. Reluctant Manager*

    #3: Last year I allowed myself to be pressured into taking a management role when I was happy in my individual contributor role. I had reasons; I’ve seen how the department head hires, and didn’t want them hiring my new boss, for one. A couple of people said things like “Don’t you want to *advance*?” that made me feel like a slacker for not wanting a promotion. And now I’m making not a lot more money, and instead of doing the work I used to enjoy, I have to do Manager Things. Do not let anyone make you feel bad for not wanting to leave a job you like for one that has an entirely different set of skills and responsibilities.

  24. Green great dragon*

    When I leave a job I tell, in order, 1) my boss, 2) my 2 or 3 closest peers, as it comes up, confidentially 3) my direct reports (in a team meeting, having discussed with my boss what to say about my replacement), 4) everyone else in my management chain (meeting or single email), 5) everyone else who needs to know (a single email then allowing other managers to tell their teams). Definitely don’t need to do individually.

  25. AlwhoisThatAl*

    #3. Seeing your young children grow up is something you will never get again. Always put children and family first.
    A job is just a job.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      That is coming dangerously close to shaming people for making career choices that are right for them.

      1. AlwhoisThatAl*

        A career choice that is right for them will never include staying late for meetings and missing your children growing up. This American obssession with their job coming above all else is a sickness

        1. ecnaseener*

          Ok, that’s just mean to every parent on here who’s had to make that choice. I know you’re trying to support LW, but the sweeping generalizations aren’t it.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            Except it’s not a sweeping generalization. It’s specifically addressed to LW#3 who said in their letter:

            If I step up into my supervisor’s role, I’ll have to add additional meetings in the evening hours that will cut into my time with my young children.

        2. Malarkey01*

          Yes you’re right food, shelter, and clothing are vastly overrated by families.
          What an insane sweeping generalization you just made which is neither kind of helpful for readers.

          1. JSPA*

            All of those things DO affect your life and your family’s life. Putting a job first, in that circumstance, is really putting family first; their first need IS your employment.

            (And not to beat the tired drum, but… there exist places where minimal roof and food are a given… and people posting very early and very late may disproportionally be based in those places.)

        3. Some words*

          “This American obssession with their job coming above all else is a sickness”

          The U.S. is a country that’s heartless to the non-affluent. Whose top financial official is actively and openly trying to throw millions of people out of work, pretending it’s going to help the economy.

          Yes, most of us try to gain the most economic security we can claw together. Many people feel forced into sacrificing important parts of our lives with the underlying threat of “well if you’re not up to it, there are a dozen people who’ll be happy to.”

        4. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Please refrain from commenting on a culture you clearly don’t understand the nuances of. People make hard choices in this arena that are rarely simply based on personal preference. Sometimes you need money and security to provide for your children’s basic necessities – or to give them a certain quality of life. This varies greatly by geographic area. Sometimes people’s circumstances change. Sometimes what’s best for a family for a myriad of different reasons isn’t obvious from the outside.

          I really need to stress that American capitalism is set up to exploit workers and families, and we cannot just opt out of that system and still expect to survive. Literally survive. Eat, have shelter, get medical care.

      2. Melissa*

        She’s supporting what the OP already said— that part of the reason she doesn’t want the job is that it would cut into evenings with her small children. This commenter didn’t pull it out of the air.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          She’s “supporting what the OP said” by asserting that it’s the objectively correct choice. This is insulting to those who have made different choices.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            The comment was directed specifically at LW#3.

            It is a sweeping generalization to assume that AlwhoisThatAl meant this comment for all people in all situations. (And yes, perhaps it could have been worded better, but I certainly did not feel that this comment was directed at me or people like me, who made different choices.)

            1. Pippa K*

              I think you may have missed AlwhoisAl’s response, which clarified that this was generally intended – that choices that are “right” will “never include stating late for meetings” – and then added a fun extra generalisation about Americans and their “sickness”. No wonder people are reacting negatively.

              1. Peanut Hamper*

                You mean

                A career choice that is right for them


                The comment about American attitudes toward their jobs may have been a bit off-base, but just a bit. Most Americans live to work, rather than work to live.

                1. Pippa K*

                  Yes, obviously that’s the part I mean. The “them” refers to the “people making choices” in the comment to which Al was replying. If Al had meant only the OP specifically, they’d probably have chosen different wording, and anyway they’ve had plenty of time to clarify. It’s puzzling that people are so eager to wave away the generalisation here – and then add more about Americans “living to work” or whatever.

                2. I have RBF*

                  Most Americans live to work, rather than work to live.

                  Incorrect. Most high level executives live to work, and expect that of their employees. Most everybody else, the majority, work to live by paying their bills and enjoying what’s left of their life after they do that.

                  I’m American, have worked in at least four different fields over 40+ years, plus have friends who work in even more, and they work to live. The people that get written about are the ones our corporate masters want us to emulate: the ones who live to work. The establishment offers these folks up as examples, trying to peer-pressure us into thinking that “live to work” is “normal, and “work to live” is slacking and weird. Most people figure the scam out by the time they are 25.

                  Individual contributors, who form the majority of American jobs, by and large work to live.

            2. Spencer Hastings*

              Well, then it would have been fine to say in a private email between people who either know they agree on the issue, or like each other enough that whether they agree doesn’t matter. But as a comment on a public blog, where it’s readable by a wide variety of people, it’s pretty insensitive.

              1. Peanut Hamper*

                If you read a public blog and assume that every comment on there was directed at you, you are going to have a very difficult time of it.

                Most of the world is not about you. Or me.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Sometimes putting your family first means earning enough to support them comfortably. And sometimes nobs are worth doing. I’d never suggest sacrificing your children to your job but sometime, yes, giving your children less attention for half an hour to attend that vital evening meeting is the right choice to make.

      It’s always a balance. LW’s not wrong to make their choice. And others aren’t wrong to make a different one.

  26. Earlk*

    LW 5- I’ve always told direct reports in person as soon as my notice is in and then have a note of my last day in my calendar and email signature and inform people I don’t work closely with as and when I interact with them. I haven’t ever had a notice period less than a month though which allows word of mouth to get around a bit more.

  27. Porchgal*

    LW #2: Is it possible that your boss just wants to be sure she has backup, in case she’s ever out sick or needs someone to cover for her temporarily? If she’s been mentioning an imminent retirement than you’re probably right about being mentored for her job, but it’s also possible they just don’t want to have no one capable of covering for her on a short term basis.

    I work for a 50 employee non-profit which is perpetually understaffed. There are a few key people (myself included) that, if we suddenly had to be out for a week or more, the operation would be in serious trouble. For instance, we only have one person who knows how our payroll system works. This is clearly a problem, but management can’t be bothered to worry about things like this because they’re too busy being mission-focused and idealistic to be bothered with their underlings details.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      ” it’s also possible they just don’t want to have no one capable of covering for her on a short term basis.”

      Still, this person is usually built into a succession plan once they’re trained. And it doesn’t sound like OP wants this job, even occasionally or temporarily.

  28. blackcatperson*

    Letter writer for #1 here. We had a town hall and I paid VERY careful attention to the disclaimer which was that participants were “muted upon entry.” Nothing about not being recorded, even though no one thinks they are! FWIW, the “watcher” is given an invite to a separate teams live with the power to “watch all of you” as he put it to my boss. I will be covering my camera (I often do, but will be double checking!) and warning my coworkers. I’m not sure what else I can do.

    1. Chick (on laptop)*

      It is very, very normal to record town halls so that people who can’t attend live can see it. Also, “mute upon entry,” unless I’m mistaken, is Zoom-specific phrasing, not Teams.

      You’re making something out of nothing.

      1. ecnaseener*

        We all know it’s normal to record town halls. It’s not normal for that recording to include webinar attendees who, as far as they can tell, are not shown on camera. You’re trying awfully hard to make nothing out of something lol!

        1. Chick (on laptop)*

          No, I’m pointing out that the named software doesn’t have a function that records people without them being informed. In a Teams live event it *literally* isn’t possible to do that.

          1. Sylvan*

            Thank you, I’ve been wondering about this because my job holds frequent Teams meetings.

          2. Chick (on laptop)*

            And to be even clearer: it’s not a question of choosing not to secretly watch attendees on camera, it’s that the choice isn’t given to you in the first place. IF this colleague is telling the truth (and that’s a big ‘if,’ I don’t think they are), call their bluff & report them.

            1. Observer*

              Yeah, I think that whatever else is going on, someone is lying. Because what they are describing just is not possible.

              It IS possible that they have some sort of covert monitoring software, but it’s not possible to do what they say JUST using Teams.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                Why are we going so hard to try to discredit this LW, especially knowing that factual details are sometimes changed to preserve anonymity? People are being so much harsher than is warranted.

                1. RagingADHD*


                  1) There are so many conflicting details that the story does not make sense, and points to a fundamental error in the LW’s understanding. Those errors are unlikely to have been introduced in editing, as they have nothing to do with anonymity.

                  2) The LW seems to be very worried about it, and a number of people are trying to *reassure* them, not attack them; and

                  3) There are also a number of people who are responding with a volatile combination of low information and high paranoia. So those trying to explain that the tech doesn’t work that way are trying to reassure them, as well.

                  It’s a sad day when trying to explain how a piece of tech works is viewed as “discrediting” or “harsh.”

                2. fhqwhgads*

                  They’re discrediting the person who told this LW it was happening as described, not discrediting the LW.

                3. Observer*

                  Why are we going so hard to try to discredit this LW,

                  No one is trying to discredit them. But given that Teams actually cannot do what they were told, it’s worth pointing that out. It’s not that anyone thinks that they are lying, are stupid or didn’t see what they saw. It’s that the particular explanation they have does not really match with reality.

                  Note that everyone agrees that covering their webcam would be a good idea until they find out what is actually happening. Because while the most likely thing is that the “watcher” is jerk that’s pulling their leg or just a poor communicator, it’s also possible that another app is in play.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        You can do this on Teams, too, though it’s a particular type of Teams meeting that is intended as a broadcast that people will watch.

    2. Chick (on laptop)*

      Also — the separate invite for presenters/producers versus attendees is the Teams software working as it is supposed to when running a live event. The person you were speaking to was mistaken, and instead of googling it you went straight from 0 to 100.

      1. Myrin*

        You might be right and everything but what’s up with the accusatory tone towards someone who wrote in for help?

        1. Chick (on laptop)*

          Because sometimes, when you’re being unreasonable, people will be firm in response.

          1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

            Firm and accusatory are two different things. And this blog is a place for learning, which happens best when we’re kind and assume good intent on all sides.

            With your specialized knowledge of these kinds of events, do you have any actionable advice OP can take to assure themselves there’s nothing weird happening?

          2. Ellis Bell*

            Well, I didn’t find it to be easily googleable and I am really scratching my head over what is so unreasonable about asking the question. You do know you weren’t compelled to engage with it, right?

            1. Chick (on laptop)*

              Here’s what came up in big text when I googled “teams live event are attendees on camera”

              Teams live events are one-way video meetings, like television or radio broadcasts. Participants can’t see or hear other attendees or contribute their own audio or video. Instead, participants can join in a typed Q&A. This is a handy way to ask questions.

              1. BubbleTea*

                LW specifically stated that the watcher has said they can “watch all of you”, which isn’t aligned with what you’ve posted here.

                1. Chick (on laptop)*

                  The watcher could be mistaken, or joking. I am here from the admin/IT side saying “with zoom and teams, this isn’t possible, the function and option don’t exist in any form to do it, seriously, can’t be done”

            1. len*

              I appreciate you pushing back on this, it’s frustrating to have something asserted that would be a terrifying possibility for everyone who uses Teams but is really just flatly not a possibility, and have everyone just go with it. Something else is going on here or some other piece of software is being used and I’m happy for the LW to get advice on that regardless of the tech side, but I do think it’s helpful to underline that this is really just not how Teams works.

          3. Jj*

            You don’t know all the facts here tho. There have been so many stories about companies stealthily monitoring WFH employees so I totally believe they could be using some other monitoring software.

      2. blackcatperson*

        LW here. I get that you think I’m wrong, and that’s fine. To be clear though, the person who said they could “watch all of you” was not a presenter, so I’m not sure why they’d be in a different live event. A supervisor said she couldn’t tell who was on his screen exactly, but he was in a gallery mode looking at people, so it does seem possible someone somewhere is watching people. I don’t know if this is teams specific or if a secondary software is in play because, as stated, I just found out about this.

        1. Sylvan*

          Can people who are coordinating a presentation together, even if one doesn’t go on camera during the presentation, see one another? I have the impression from my job’s frequent Teams presentations that something like this is possible — it’s like a panel presentation with only one person featured at a time, the audience never on camera.

          1. Chick (on laptop)*

            In a teams live event? yes, producers and presenters are all “behind the curtain,” so to speak. They can see each other & interact with each other; they cannot see attendees.

            1. Sylvan*

              That could be what the person who could “watch all of you” meant, then. Watching all of the presenters.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Please note that terminology might not mean what you think it does.

      Often, recorded will mean that the video is being saved, not just that video is visible.
      Either way, covering your camera when you aren’t using it is always a good practice.

    4. kiki*

      Apologies if this is just monday morning reading comprehension, but I’m little confused as to whether you saw all attendees or if the director told you that he can “watch all of you.”

      If it’s the former, that’s terrifying and you should definitely discreetly warn your colleagues and raise the issue to your boss– people who think they’re off-camera may do embarrassing things while not being watched. That’s not unprofessional of them, it’s just how people are.

      If it’s the latter, I’m wondering if in his view he can see, like, reaction emojis and keep better tabs of who is actively in the webinar at any given time? Perhaps he communicate poorly what he means about watching everyone? I say that in part because this doesn’t seem like any Teams functionality I’m aware of (and I put together webinars).

      1. blackcatperson*

        He said he could “watch all of you” as in see our videos — anyone in his chain of command. The person sitting next to him said they could see some videos and that his screen was in a kind of gallery mode, but couldn’t tell who was shown.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          If they couldn’t tell who was shown that does sound like this is getting blown way out of proportion. They’d have to go out of their way to find software to do something insidious. It could just be the behind the scenes view with the other presenters. It could be a different stream. Cover your camera if that makes you more comfortable, but I wouldn’t run with this kind of incomplete information.

          I would consider how you’re feeling in your workplace if this is the kind of thing you think is plausible, and whether or not you want to stay there.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            I definitely don’t know what’s going on for the LW. But I say one thing as someone who has been a presenter in a Teams meeting of the type the LW describes (it’s just broadcast, nobody can turn on video or audio, chat may be disabled). Essentially, we set up two Teams meetings. The first was just a regular Teams meeting for only the people who would be on camera participating. The second was for people watching the broadcast.

            Obviously, I’m not the LW’s colleague and I don’t know what happened. Or if there is some other functionality I don’t know about that is installed on their work computer that allows secretly turning on the camera. Given the awfulness of some companies, I’d say it’s a possibility. But there are other possibilities, too.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Yeah, something is off here. Two things can be said to be true beyond a doubt:

              1) there’s no downside to covering your camera any time you’re not intending to be on camera

              2) Teams does not have surreptitious spying functionality built-in (but third party tools do exist)

        2. yikes*

          Honestly regardless of whether this person is telling the truth, it is still deeply problematic. Your director spying on his team when they don’t know it is awful, and so is lying about his ability to do that. I don’t see a way that this is a funny “pulling your leg” situation. Even if it’s not true I would push back on this. The lie is obviously better than it being true, but both are bad. If it ends up being overblown, the worst that will happen is the director will be horrified a rumor like this is spreading and happy to clear it up.

        3. Tarjay*

          Honestly nothing about this makes any sense and the only way you’re going to get clarity is if you:
          1: talk to someone at your company
          2: assume that which ever coworker gave you this info is mistaken at best, outright lying at worst

    5. Observer*

      Nothing about not being recorded, even though no one thinks they are! FWIW, the “watcher” is given an invite to a separate teams live with the power to “watch all of you” as he put it to my boss.

      Something makes no sense. Either your company is doing something that is probably illegal or the “watcher” is lying to you. And I’m thinking the latter is possible, not just because recording without explicitly telling you so is generally not legal, I’m also fairly certain that Teams does not have the ability to turn on your camera – and certainly not the ability to turn on your camera without the light going on. What’s more, it’s also not clear how a separate Teams meeting can “watch” another meeting.

      Of course, maybe the “watcher” is lying to you AND the company is doing something illegal. In any case, cover your webcam.

      1. Winter*

        I think the LW may want to consider the possibility that the “watcher” was pulling their leg.

        1. Valancy Trinit*

          MTE. It’s a shitty joke to make, because managers should be trustworthy, but it’s a very common joke.

      2. daffodil*

        In many states recording someone without their knowledge and consent is illegal. My version of teams at least announces when the meeting is being recorded, but maybe there’s some secondary thing. Extremely uncool.
        It also doesn’t give enough credit to skilled nonverbal communicators. If I know I’m being watched, I’ll act differently. Not “better” but in a way that communicates useful information. If you’re watching my nonverbals to know something about how I’m engaging, it’s going to be deceptive if I’m unaware.

    6. Valancy Trinit*

      Do cover your camera and encourage your coworkers to cover their cameras as a best practice.

      Don’t do anything else respective to this situation, including contemplating “what else you can do.” While it is my opinion that you misinterpreted the situation, and very possibly misinterpreted a common joke, there is no benefit to trying to solve a problem already solved by camera covers.

    7. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m sorry but this really, really sounds like this person was joking. Or that something has been misunderstood, like the point made above about presenters being able to see each other but not the audience. I think it is really, really unlikely that Teams includes an option to spy on everyone attending a meeting that nobody here has ever used or heard of. I mean, this should be pretty easy to test, right? I’m sure that many of us have Microsoft Teams installed on our devices right now (I do) – where do I find this feature? If I was to set up a Teams meeting/presentation/live right now, where do I go to find the secret attendee spy mode? I truly do not think this function exists, and it just seems so much more likely that this is a misunderstanding.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup, I think a (bad) joke or misunderstanding is by far the most likely explanation here…

    8. fhqwhgads*

      Generally speaking, it’s not going to tell you you’re NOT being recorded. It should tell you that you are. Most software intended for use in the US bakes that in since there are plenty of states that do not allow single party consent.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, Teams definitely tells you. And you need to have your camera and audio on to be recorded, anyway (which means it’s not possible in Live Events at all! The meeting can be recorded, sure, but only what’s shown to viewers on the screen at the time.)

  29. Ccbac*

    I know so many people who have been constantly and actively applying for jobs done graduating from undergrad. in some fields leaving every year for a different company is the only way to move up/make anything closer to a living wage. I’m seeing less and less interest in retention and growth from within in my field so applying for every open job that is in your area and pays more is pretty common.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In my personal opinion/experience, job hopping a bit for like five or so years after grad school is normal and even healthy. You may not know what kind of job you’re going to thrive in, you might be testing different waters, you might have bad luck! I don’t see that as a red flag. I doubled my salary between the ages of 25 and 30 by switching jobs a couple of times.

      At a certain point, once you’re mid-level or senior, it can start to get a little more of a side eye. So it’s just worth knowing the norms in your industry, and thinking critically about your moves.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Yes, the time one is generally expected to stay in a role gets longer as the role gets more senior, because the work you’re going takes longer to master and start to show results. Even if you have all the applicable skills already, every company is different, and the further up the org chart you go the more your success starts to depend increasingly on your ability to navigate your company’s bureaucracy and internal politics.

        An entry level role can often be mastered well enough to get results in 2-3 months; if they stay for at least a year they’ve provided enough value to be worth the investment.

        A VP or even possibly a Director, depending on the company, is more often going to need about a year just to get fully up to speed on all the things that could arise in their job in the course of a year, and often longer to start to get a feel for how to be truly effective and not just minimally able to keep the status quo going. Those roles are expected to stick around for at least 4-5 years as a general rule. (Obviously things happen you can’t plan for, but most companies would not be eager to hire a senior leader who openly declared they were looking for a 2-3 gig, unless they were a rainmaker of some kind.)

  30. Khatul Madame*

    LW3 if you do not want step into your manager’s position, you should be prepared, and at peace, with the possibility that your next manager will not be as great as this one.
    The range of not-great being from “mildly aggravating” to “making the team’s lives miserable”, up to and including dissolution of the team so the new boss could hire people loyal to them.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m not sure how this is helpful to LW#3, who specifically asked “How do I professionally let people know that I’m perfectly happy where I am and that I have no desire to climb the ladder”.

      What you wrote is true, but the opposite could also happen, and she could end up with a new manager who is even better than her current one.

  31. Wintermute*

    #3– in MOST places this would be no big deal, but I worry about why you’re hearing this from literally everyone around you. There’s a chance that all the people you’re getting advice from are all off-base, and there’s also a chance you are focusing more on it and overestimating the sentiment because people important to you have said it and you’re giving that a lot of weight, but I think the possibility of a kernel of truth (perhaps exaggerated) is as likely as “everyone I know has bad advice here”.

    There very much are fields that are “up or out”, if you were in one you’d probably know that, but it could be company culture and you just haven’t picked up on it.
    But if it’s company culture I wonder why non-coworkers would know, do they have any kind of reason to know more than you do (experience in the field, etc?)

    You’re getting this advice from multiple angles, I don’t think it’s a good idea to just discard it. you don’t need to FOLLOW the advice, but it might be a good idea to interrogate it a bit.

    I would ask your co-worker, especially, because they know the company culture. Especially if they have more tenure or experience at the company or in the field than you do. If they say “if you do that you could be fired” ask them something like “for most companies that would be a really extreme reaction, lots of people aren’t interested in the management track, is there any specific reason you think our workplace might do that?”

    If the answer is a generic “well you should always be ambitious, etc etc” then you can safely ignore it, but if there’s specifics– “Bob said that anyone who turns down a promotion goes to the top of the list in case of layoffs, and when Jane turned down a promotion she was pushed out” or other details of them actually taking adverse action– then it warrants more attention and belief.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      If turning down a promotion put me at the top of the layoff list, I’m not sure I would want to work for a company like that. That’s now how you do layoffs.

      And it’s perfectly normal for people to not want to move up while they are still satisfied with their current role. A company that punishes you for this just sucks.

      It’s also entirely possible that said coworker is bananapants, or is basing their advice on a prior situation which they do not fully understand. “Bob got fired after he turned down a promotion” could be how a higher-up spun it, but the truth could have been “Bob got fired after he turned down a promotion and was found to be embezzling from the company.” Again, a company that fires a worker for wanting to stay in a role which they are good at and which they enjoy is not a company that knows how to manage. And if none of this is true, then coworker is really out in left field with this advice.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Especially since LW3 has a specialized skillset. They would probably be really hard to replace. Unless leadership is totally ridiculous, they probably wouldn’t get rid of the LW.

        1. Momma Bear*

          There was an ongoing joke at a previous company that one high-level but non-managerial coworker simply didn’t want to be the boss. Rather than make him manage people, they kept his expertise in the role he preferred. I think a healthy company acknowledges people’s skills and understands that a good Engineer might not be a great boss, too. I don’t think LW should take a role they do not want/are not well-suited for.

          Further, not all “promotions” are worth it anyway. Do you want more stress and longer days for not that much more work?

      2. Michelle Smith*

        While all this may be true, I’d still want to know more the way Wintermute suggested finding out. I want to know on my own timeline whether it’s time to look for a new job rather than being taken by surprise.

    2. doreen*

      I’ve been in jobs where there were sort of consequences for not taking a promotion – but the situations there involved someone going through the application process and letting the hiring manager get the necessary approvals and then turning the position down , which would mean it would be 8-12 more weeks before the second choice would actually start in the job. ( very bureaucratic government agencies )But the consequence was just that you would probably never be promoted in the future, not that you would lose your current job.

    3. Artemesia*

      One question to consider: Would you rather make the stretch to management or would you rather have a boss who is less competent than you are? That is very often the real choice.

      1. SarahKay*

        You’re presenting this as though it’s an ‘either/or’ when in fact it could very easily be an ‘and’.
        Taking a management job you don’t want does not guarantee you a good manager – well, unless that management job is CEO, I guess?

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          And even then, no guarantee the board president/chair won’t be a royal pain who you discover insists on personally editing all material on the company website!

        2. Momma Bear*

          OR the new person in the role might be really good. We had a small team looking at a big project. They clearly needed a seasoned captain for that project and the company hired a senior person for the role. Not only has it been a good thing for the project but they have implemented ideas that benefit other parts of the company. Not all new boss situations are bad.

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

        This doesn’t seem helpful. The OP has already said she doesn’t want the job, it would be more time away from her children and she would not have some of the tasks that she has enjoys now. It’s not that she doesn’t want the “stretch” to management or that she doesn’t feel ready. She doesn’t want those tasks.

        Furthermore, there is no evidence that the new boss will be less competent. Someone else from the team or from the company may take over, or they may hire externally and get a great candidate. Your comment makes it seem like if the OP doesn’t take the promotion she will be responsible for the team getting a horrible boss.

        1. dackquiri*

          +1. I get that the opportunity in front LW3 is something a lot of people covet and not many receive, but it really, *really* isn’t for everyone. And my personal philosophy is that taking managerial positions is a moral undertaking. I’ve seen bad management (not just cruel/tyrannical management, even the merely well-intentioned-but-inept) stress out their direct reports to a point where it seems like everyone’s entire quality of life decreased. It’s a big undertaking for which “yes” is not always the right answer; I’m glad LW3 is being honest about it and we should take them at their word.

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

            exactly! how many letters do we read on here that talk about bad managers? They aren’t evil but just bad at being managers. The OP seems to know their strengths and doesn’t want the job.

      3. Felicity Lemon*

        Agree, this question of whether to pursue (or accept) a management role often has nuances such as these to consider.
        Another thought — and this may not be possible in the LW’s position, but something to think about in terms of advancement and opportunity — if the LW becomes the boss, can she delegate some of the tasks that she isn’t as interested in (evening meetings, budget) to her staff, and keep the one(s) that she likes?

      4. metadata minion*

        I’d be fine having a boss who wasn’t as competent at my technical specialty if they were better at management than I am (which…would not be difficult :-b ).

        Periodically in libraries top administration decides it would be a great idea to hire someone who has management experience from somewhere that has nothing to do with libraries and that generally leads to frustration for all involved. But so long as someone more or less comprehends what my job is and why it’s important, I want them to be good at managing so I can be good at cataloging.

        1. Wintermute*

          This is pretty much the norm for IT, at least specialty teams and especially once you get to the people that make the important choices. Your database guys will have forgotten more about the ins and outs of design and implementation than their boss ever knew– the boss just has to understand the overall architecture and how to translate for them into a language upper management will understand.

          It’s not rare for an IT manager to spend 90% of their time on HR-type stuff (approving time off and time sheets, coding billable hours, interviewing, performance reviews, etc), running reports of various kinds to measure system performance, and in meetings speaking for the team and their needs.

  32. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    #4: It sounds as if HR told the LW that none of the absent teacher’s colleagues were allowed to contact her AT ALL – not even to express good wishes for her recovery or ask if she’d like some practical help (grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning, etc.)

    Even given the enormous latitude that American employers have to dictate the terms of their employees’ work-related lives, that strikes me as an enormous overreach (and one which the teachers’ union would object to as well.) If HR is being above-board and following the rules and the law, why would they want to ban even friendly contact with the absent colleague? What’s REALLY going on here?

    1. BubbleTea*

      I can’t speak for the US but in the UK, if someone is on statutory leave, there are rules about what the employer can ask them. I’d guess that any instruction about “we can’t do x” means “we as representatives of the employer”. Colleagues can presumably act in their personal capacity – a text on a personal phone asking how someone is, for instance – but not email from a work address asking when they would be back.

  33. F Bueller*

    LW 4- Maybe I’ve been around schools too long, but is there a chance HR has something else in the works? If they are planning on firing the teacher out on leave, they’d want a long term sun asap and they’d also not want anyone to contact the teacher. I’m hoping it’s not the case, but…

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Let’s not with the fan fiction. This is not at all helpful to the LW, who asked two very specific questions.

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

      Perhaps but that would be a big mistake and would clearly be a lawsuit.

      What I’m thinking is that HR knows another person will be on leave around the same time as the other teacher, but it will be longer. So they want to hire a sub that can cover for both. But HR didn’t/couldn’t tell others.
      the reason I think this is because op mentions their was a list of classes needing coverage and some of them was the teachers who will be out for 3 weeks. It sounds like there were other classes listed,

  34. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #4 reminds me of the time I was out of the office on disability for a few weeks. My terrible supervisor called me to ask me to bring in my cellphone and laptop because someone new was going to be starting and they’d just get me new ones when I came back.

    A call to HR with a firm but “puzzled” tone about why this would be happening ended that request and other job related calls that she kept making.

    (The terrible supervisor never did correct the errors she made in my case notes while she was covering, which made me always out of compliance, but that’s another story.)

    1. Observer*

      Yes, THIS kind of contact is waaaaay out of line. But it’s totally different than what the OP described.

  35. ZSD*

    #4 Can we please have an update to this one? I’m really curious as to why HR has decided to hire someone for 12 weeks when the colleague will only be out for three.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m leaning toward ‘Someone in HR had a deep misunderstanding of FMLA, and acted on that misunderstanding without getting clarification.’

  36. Kat*

    Once you properly resign from your company, you do not need to inform the full staff you have done so. I’d tell my work friends and that would be that.

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

      I think it depends on the company, the level you are, and the position. I would send an email or IM to those I work with the most, even if they are on different teams.

  37. DivergentStitches*

    #4 I feel sorry for the lady out on leave. She’s probably really anxious now and feeling like her job might be in danger. It also probably makes her more likely to check her emails, which she shouldn’t be doing while on leave.

      1. Observer*

        I think a LOT of people would react that way to finding out that HR decided to hire a longer term replacement for what was supposed to be a short term leave – and that HR never bothered to inform them!

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        They told people that they would be out three weeks, and the next thing they hear is that HR is looking to hire someone for three months. That’s very disconcerting.

    1. Lirael*

      Well yeah, but at least she’s been warned that something weird is happening. I would rather know.

  38. BellyButton*

    #1 When ordering new company swag I ordered company branded stick on shutters and tell all new hires to add them to their laptops and get in the habit of using them. You can buy a pack on Amazon that aren’t branded for next to nothing. I keep mine closed even if I have video off, just in case.

    I am curious how this was done. I hold company wide all-hands on Teams, Slack, and Zoom, and if I turn videos off and record I’ve never had people’s videos show up.

  39. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW3, I figure your career could take a worse hit if you got bullied into taking the promotion and didn’t excel. That’s probably a worse threat to your job at your current company than telling them you’re super happy in your current position and want to stay there being awesome at your job.

    I think we would all agree that management requires a skillset that is different than what is needed to do the core functions/tasks of the team. Being awesome at the core functions/tasks doesn’t mean someone will succeed at managing people and all the admin work that is required of managers (budgets – ugh!).

    1. Artemesia*

      I don’t know if this posted before because I keep getting these weird messages about ‘posting too fast’ but one thing to consider is: Would you rather make the stretch to learn to manage OR would you rather have a boss who is less competent than you are? No guarantee that whomever they would hire would not be a lot harder to work for than your current boss or be a less qualified co-worker.

      Obviously make the decision right for you, but give it some thought.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Those aren’t the only two options.
        If you actively don’t want to manage AND you get a crappy boss, you can always look for other work.

        It seems odd to suggest someone stretch themselves to learn to do a job they’re not interested in.

  40. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW #3 , you’re definitely not sabotaging your chances at career advancement by declining to apply for your manager’s job! When weighing whether to apply for a job, you have to balance out what the job will give you versus what it will take from you. For some people, the role above theirs is just more than they want to deal with, ever. For others, they might decide that it’s not a good time to take on that extra level of responsibility. When a lower-level management role opened up on my team, even though I was one of the more senior people on the team, I didn’t want to apply for it. I didn’t have any desire to be a manager at that point. The next time it happened, though, I realized things had changed, and I really DID want to help lead my team into new things. I applied for, and got, the position–and then eventually moved up to the position over that one when my manager changed roles. Clearly, deciding against applying that first time didn’t hurt me.

  41. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Alison is there a new spam setting we should be conscious of? I’ve gotten a “you’re commenting too fast – slow down” message a couple of times but I don’t feel like I’m using a different pace than I normally would. I know there have been issues the last week or so, just want to know if there are parameters to follow.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Also worth noting the first time it popped up I hadn’t commented anything yet.

  42. Almost There Don't Know Where*

    #3: Excluding people from developmental opportunities and consideration for promotion just because they are “nearing” retirement age (whatever that means) is ageism in action and is precisely the type of thing that older employees like me find abhorrent. Unless someone has announced the intent to retire, no assumptions should be made about their career aspirations. All isms are disgusting but this one is so casually accepted and ugh. I wish this board would do better.

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

      What are you talking about? No one is being denied developmental opportunities or promotions because they are nearing retirement. The OP is not near retirement their supervisor is.
      “Our supervisor has started hinting that she’s looking at retiring in the next couple of years. She has started bringing me into meetings with her, teaching me elements of her role that don’t apply to mine, and other actions that make me assume she’s expecting me to step into her role when she goes.”

      The OP is asking for advice on how to NOT get this promotion because she doesn’t want it because it will take her away from her young children, and she enjoys the job she has now.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I think this comment is referring to this line:

        Of the remaining team members, three are nearing retirement age and one just graduated from college, while I’ve been in the field for a decade and am in my late 30s.

        I think that “Almost There Don’t Know Where” is assuming that the three coworkers near retirement age are being passed over because they are, in fact, nearing retirement age. This is a HUGE assumption, because there is nothing in the letter to indicate this.

        People need to calm down before they post a comment.

        1. Almost There Don't Know Where*

          Peanut Hamper, come on now, you’re being disingenuous. I assure you that I am calm. I am not assuming anything, I merely read what the OP wrote. They did not speculate other reasons for being excluded from developmental opportunities. As a minority, I am familiar with plausible deniability when confronted with discrimination. It’s not reasonable for LW’s to include every possible detail about their situation especially when it is a tangential issue. It is reasonable to make assumptions when discrimination, age and otherwise, is rampant. Don’t know how long you have been in the workforce, but I have been incorporate environments for many decades and I have seen and experienced it all.

          I may not be the target AAM demographic, but I do wish there was more recognition and acceptance of the reality of age discrimination in this forum. Discrimination often is not blatant, but is systematized and subtle. Stick around long for yourself, and you’ll see. Just like non-black people may have limited empathy for the lived experience of black people (I am black), younger people can have limited empathy for the lived experiences of older people.

          People need to understand what’s being said before reflexively posting a judgemental comment.

          1. Drowsy Chaperone*

            LW here! Apologies for phrasing that in a way that came across as ageist. I should have been more careful in my wording. My older coworkers have made it clear that with retirement looming, they have no desire to take on a new role and are content to stay where they are. I shouldn’t have phrased that as if their ages automatically disqualified them from the role.

      2. Almost There Don't Know Where*

        I’m just Here for the Cats, read the letter again. OP speculated that their manager was grooming them for promotion because several other coworkers were near retirement age.

        So what are YOU talking about? If the manager indeed was not considering some employees to be promotable because of being near retirement age, that’s classic age discrimination. I was NOT talking about any of OP’s actions. I was commenting on the actions of their manager.

        BTW, OP, do not take a promotion you don’t want. Your job satisfaction will die a slow death. Tell your manager that you love your individual contributor role.


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

          I see where you are coming from. I just think it’s a big leap to go right to ageism. Maybe the boss knows that those other people are planning to retire soon too. There’s a lot we don’t know and either way it’s not what the OP wrote in about, and this isn’t helping them.

  43. BellyButton*

    Part of good company planning is to have succession plans and development around those plans. However, in all my years in OD, HR, and POPs, I have never seen development start like the LW describes that wasn’t part of a development meeting with the employee! Some people have no interest in a leadership role and that is perfectly fine. Speak up now, so that leadership can shift their succession plans.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Oh god I have. All the time. At many different companies. A lot of places don’t even have development meetings until a promotion is explicitly on the table.

      I once had someone being groomed to *take over the company* (several years in the future, mind you, but still) who didn’t know it and unknowingly threw a wrench in everything when she quit.

      1. BellyButton*

        SMH. I have had to caution and coach leaders on how to properly let someone know they have been identified as a successor, without promising a promotion in any set time or at all. But once the development is starting they (and HR) have to have that conversation! I guess I have been lucky — the succession planning process, development planning, etc has always been a part of my job so I make sure it actually happens the way it is supposed to happen.

        The scenario you stated is also why there should be several potential successors because you never know what could happen!

  44. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Regarding #2
    I’m pretty much always job searching, even when I’m relatively happy with my job. I just don’t trust companies anymore! I’ve been a victim of downsizing, layoffs, and bad management too often and as such I’m always “shopping” the job listings.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Same, but I always worry/wonder whether the prospective new company would be any better in that respect (more stable, better planning, better management, etc) or if it would be just more of the same or worse only now I’d have joined more recently and if it was last in first out…

      As an applicant I always ask about things like the stability of the company (not necessarily directly stated in those terms, but e.g. if their revenue is concentrated into a small number of customers I’d ask about that; if there’s any adverse news or things like rumours of M&A in their industry press I would mention that — I don’t expect anything substantial to come out of that most of the time, but more to get a sense of what the ‘feeling’ is around that). As a hiring manager and interviewer I’ve constantly been surprised that so few people ask this or anything like it.

  45. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #2: When I was first out of grad school and interviewing constantly, one of the hiring managers I met with told me that she was “always looking” and that you should always keep your eyes open. I took that advice to heart. In practice, it means always taking the phone call if someone (a former colleague, a contact, a recruiter, etc.) reaches out about a potential position. It’s less about active job searching and more about keeping your network active– even if you’re happy where you are.

    As an example… I took a call last year from a company that really wanted me at the time but I was happy where I was. It was a very pleasant conversation. When I was laid off 8 months later, I reached out to the woman I had spoken with and she was very happy to hear from me. It didn’t come to anything (we tried to set up some meetings but COVID got in the way, and I’ve since had another offer), but it certainly helped me jumpstart my job search post-layoff.

    I tell recruiters all the time that I’m not actively looking but I’m more than happy to talk, and frankly, it puts me in a nice position. You want me? Here’s the number it would take to get me. That kind of thing.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Exactly! Always good to see what’s out there. There is nothing wrong with looking.

  46. Three Flowers*

    #4: the boss’s decision to email the entire group so the person on leave would see the issue might technically be clever, but it was a crappy thing to do to that person. She’s supposed to be on leave recovering from surgery and suddenly she’s getting mass emails on her department listserv that make it sound like her employer is not going to let her come back to work—possibly losing two months of income. Obviously the employer is to blame for the whole situation, but I wonder if the manager actually thought it through or tried other avenues within HR and administration before giving this poor woman such a panic.

    1. Observer*

      When HR tells you something this unreasonable, you don’t wind up with too many options.

      Of course it stinks! But what else was the manager supposed to do? Given how long stuff like this can take, and how much resources, they needed to try something that would have quick results – for the department and the employee’s sake!

      And guess what, the employee will be RIGHT for worrying – what HR pulled was seriously worrisome.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      No, you’re wildly off-base here.

      First, there’s no indication that she’s getting “mass emails on her department listserv”. We have no idea how often an email gets sent to that team email.

      Second, it’s up the coworker who is on leave to decide whether or not to check her email. All we know is that she chose to look at it at least once. (And we have no idea what the surgery was for, but if she is recovering well enough to check it periodically because it makes sense for her to be up-to-date on things, then again, that is her choice.)

      Third, if she’s on leave, presumably it’s paid leave. (Because PTO is a thing, even for teachers.) So she’s not going to possibly lose two months of income.

      Our colleague almost immediately replied to the department head and cc’d HR to ask what was going on and to reiterate that she will be back in three weeks.

      I have no idea how you read this and saw that the colleague was panicking. It’s not unusual to respond fairly quickly to emails, especially when you have email on your phone or tablet.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I’m not sure it is “panic” if the colleague doesn’t normally panic about things, but it does certainly sound like concern at least. (And I can see why — I would be very concerned at this development as well, as I think many/most people would.)

        It may be 3 weeks of paid leave but I would be surprised if 12 weeks would all be paid (I’m not in the States but from what I understand FMLA allows for 12 weeks but doesn’t stipulate that they have to be paid) so I could understand her thinking that “omg, I’m going to be pushed to be away for 12 weeks and most of that won’t be paid”.

        If I received this my first inclination would be to move up (i.e. earlier) my return date if at all possible…

        Btw I think the “mass” emails doesn’t really refer to the number or frequency of them, but mass in the sense that they are sent out to a fairly large list of people.

  47. Exme*

    LW #1, look on youtube for this video “Microsoft Teams Live Events Overview from 3 Perspectives: Producer, Presenter & Attendee”.

    It sounds likely to me that what you saw was either the Producer or Presenter view of the meeting, so check out that video around minute 7 to see if it looks familiar. Presenters/Producers may have a panel of videos from people on deck to present or answer questions for the town hall.

    Hopefully this is the case so you can be put at ease, although covering camera when not in use is still good advice!

    I hope that is the case and this will be

  48. Exme*

    LW #1, look on youtube for this video “Microsoft Teams Live Events Overview from 3 Perspectives: Producer, Presenter & Attendee”.

    It sounds likely to me that what you saw was either the Producer or Presenter view of the meeting, so check out that video around minute 7 to see if it looks familiar. Presenters/Producers may have a panel of videos from people on deck to present or answer questions for the town hall.

    Hopefully this is the case so you can be put at ease, although covering camera when not in use is still good advice!

  49. El l*

    Another way of putting it is, there’s “passive” job search, and then there’s “active” job search.

    Unless you are both:
    (a) In a secure job (you’ve taken time and thought through every possible way your job could go away) or could handle job loss (you’re close to retirement);
    (b) Happy with where you are and where you’re on track to be;
    You should be passively job searching.
    That means…pretty much everyone.

    What’s the difference? “Passive” means taking the odd call from recruiters. Perhaps looking at Glassdoor or LinkedIn Job listings or any salary ranges you can find online. Listening to people in your network telling you about opportunities you may be interested in. Updating your resume every few months.

    “Active” means all this more frequently…and actively sending your resume about…and approaching people about positions. When we tell people to look for other jobs, we really mean “actively search for a job.”

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I like this distinction and find it highly useful.

      I especially like that the passive job searching means keeping your resume up to date, because then when you need to go into active mode, you’re ready.

    2. NeedRain47*

      This! I get job listings emailed to me, and I skim through them every week or so (literally just read the titles, unless something sounds really weird or good). I’m not “Job searching” so much as seeing what’s out there. It’s useful to be aware of what kind of hiring is going on in your field even if you’re not looking to switch jobs, and on the off chance there’s an ad saying they want to pay a jillion dollars for someone with exactly my experience, I can apply.

  50. Jigglypuff*

    LW1, this is why I always kept a sticky note or index card or similar taped over my camera on my computer. I can remove it if camera is needed, but otherwise no one is seeing anything without my permission. A small cloth – like those used to clean eyeglasses – works as well.

    1. lilsheba*

      I am not paranoid enough to cover my camera. I also use a separate webcam I bought myself because the one on the computer is crap. If it’s on I know it, it lights up. Also can we not use the phrases filming or videotaping, since no film or video tape is in use anymore? Put it down to being autistic but I hate improper wording on things. It’s video recording.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I appreciate why you would find it annoying, but, one of the commenting rules to not nitpick people’s word choices

      2. Observer*

        Also can we not use the phrases filming or videotaping, since no film or video tape is in use anymore? Put it down to being autistic but I hate improper wording on things. It’s video recording.

        If you are going to nit pick, at least make sure that you are correct – and you are NOT correct here. The terms once referred to specific physical media, but that is no longer the case, and this has been trued for years. Language changes, and that is not wrong.

  51. Magenta Panda*

    LW1: I use the plastic white pull tab from a milk carton to cover my laptop’s camera. It’s just the right size.

  52. Some Lady*

    #3 – I’ve been in that situation where I absolutely did not want my manager’s job, so I hear you! But I have found myself needing to cover some aspects of the role during interims between managers, and to help with getting the new person up to speed, so I did find that some cross training was necessary and useful.

    (And, for me, I even learned that there was a lot of budgeting I could manage despite hating/being bad at math, and it was scary but not nearly as scary as I had made it out to be.)

  53. FashionablyEvil*

    #4–I don’t really agree with the advice or the approach here. Yes, HR is being weird, but it’s not the LW’s responsibility to get involved here. The department head should be talking to HR (especially if a temporary hire is needed but also to ask questions like, “Has Jane communicated any changes to her leave plans?”) and the rest of the team should step back until they get more information.

    It seems unkind and unfair to assume that the person on leave is reading and responding to department-wide emails.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This is off-base. It is entirely possible that the absent colleague had informed the department head that they would periodically be checking her email so as she would be up-to-date on things upon her return.

      In fact, given that the department head chose this route, it’s entirely likely that this is the case.

      We also have no idea whether or not the department head reached out to HR beforehand. Maybe they did ask HR that question and did not get a satisfactory response.

      It seems a lot of the assumptions that are being made are being made here in the comments.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > We also have no idea whether or not the department head reached out to HR beforehand. Maybe they did ask HR that question and did not get a satisfactory response.

        I think they must have, because OP says: “HR says we can’t reach out to our colleague now that she’s gone in any way to understand what the discrepancy is”. The only way HR would know that there’s a ‘discrepancy’ and know that the department head knows – is if HR had said “get cover for 12 weeks” and the dept head had said (e.g.) “why, when she told us she is going to be out 3 weeks so we have already made arrangements between us for those classes to be covered?”.

  54. thatoneoverthere*

    #3- I just want to say in solidarity I completely understand where you are coming from. I am 38, 3 kids at home. I have zero desire to be in a management role for sometime. I don’t want to say forever, bc that is a long time, lol. I don’t have the desire to be responsible for a bunch of people, monitor their work and report back up the change. I don’t want the responsibility of many other tasks either. I realize that may stall my career and lower my earning potential but that is ok with me.
    I have seen too many other people in life work too much and get burnt out in managerial roles and that isn’t for me.

    **yes I realize this may not be the case for EVERY management role, or EVERY company. But I made peace with my decision long ago**

  55. Empress Matilda*

    #3, I disagree with Alison on some of this. Not about the main point – if you don’t want your manager’s job, that is absolutely fine! You shouldn’t be pressured into taking a job you don’t want, and if it looks like she’s heading you in that direction, you should definitely have a talk with her.

    But, are you sure you want to shut this door entirely? You don’t want this specific job at this specific time – but are there other management jobs you might want, either in your org or in another one? Do you think you’ll still be happy in your current position two or five or ten years from now?

    Your manager is giving you exposure to people, processes, and skills that you might not get otherwise. My worry in your situation would not be about turning down the manager job, but about turning down the manager *training.* That’s where you really risk shooting yourself in the foot. Most people will understand if you don’t want a specific job at a specific time, but they may see this as you not wanting anything else ever.

    Again, this may very well be true for you! If you’re confident you’ll be happy in your current role for the long term, that’s great. But just be clear in your mind what you want, and what you want to say to your manager. Good luck, whatever you decide!

    1. dackquiri*

      Ooh, that could complicate the refusal, though. While it’s great to get new skills under one’s belt regardless if you see an immediate use for them, the training seems very clearly intended to prepare LW3 for their manager’s position. I think their current stance is very clear: not interested in it—won’t suit my work-life balance, won’t suit my strengths, won’t suit my interests, I don’t want to be a manager to begin with. Those all seem like very true things they can be upfront and honest about. Willfully taking the training is going to add a wrinkle of contradiction (perhaps even interpreted as duplicitousness!).

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Oh, I’m not suggesting that OP should stick with the process and then refuse the job! That would indeed be shooting herself in the foot.

        I just mean, “take the manager’s job now” and “stay in the current job forever” are not the only options, and if it were me I wouldn’t want to close the door on this opportunity unless I was absolutely sure I didn’t need it. So it’s worth OP putting some thought into what she really wants, before talking to her manager.

  56. evens*

    OP3: I wouldn’t say anything right now. First, it’s not like you’ve been offered the job, so it would sound presumptuous to say you don’t want it right now. Second, your boss is retiring in “a couple of years.” Who knows what you’ll want then? You may be ready to move up at that point. Third, you may indeed want that job once you learn it better, or once you see the salary. Don’t close any doors right now.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Yes! This is a much more concise version of what I was trying to say above. Thank you for articulating it so much better than I did.

  57. MCMonkeyBean*

    Letter 3 is very relatable to me! My boss recently told me she imagines me taking over for her some day and I was surprised in the moment, but at our next meeting I was like “I’m so flattered you feel that way, but honestly I do not see myself in a managerial role and am just looking to grow in my current position right now.”

    I am a little nervous because this was all in the context of her being very supportive of me trying to be reclassified as a remote worker and her saying how much she doesn’t want me to lose me because the company is trying to go back to the office. I hope she doesn’t feel less strongly about supporting me knowing that I don’t plan on moving up into her role lol.

  58. dackquiri*

    LW3 – Oh my god, fired??! I think that’s very unlikely! They currently have one management position to fill. If you refuse, they will still have one management position to fill. If they fire you, they now have *two* positions to fill (and no guarantee that your replacement will be anywhere near as good as you)!

    If they’re slimeballs, they might try to make it sound like you don’t have a choice, “jobs change, that’s how it is”, etc. etc. Which is something that I’ve seen places do, but 1) places that were just openly not giving a hoot about morale, and 2) only for duties that could conceivably be included in the original position. Management in no way qualifies, that’s an entirely different job. They’d be foolish to make that bluff more than one time around the table.

    The only case I see where they would matter-of-factly fire you is purely out of spite and to their own detriment.

  59. Ollie*

    I heartily agree #3. I was promoted to a management position and I hated it. Unless you are the owner of the company you have to not only please the people below you, you have to please the people above you and sometimes there isn’t a way to do both. I remember being told that a certain software was being retired which left two people with nothing to do, but I wasn’t allowed to tell them. Anyway I quit that job and went back to the front line until I retired. Every time I heard of a crazy decision from management I just said to myself – above my pay grade. Luckily I worked for one of those top 100 places to work so it was rare. And smart companies realize who is actually doing the work, the front line. In the recession of 2008 the front line employee’s salary was cut by 5%, middle management %10, and upper management 20%.

  60. One HR Opinion*

    For Letter #4 – A few things:
    FMLA does not prohibit people from contacting someone on FMLA, BUT, it does prohibit FMLA interference and retaliation which is often somewhat subjective. So if manager keeps calling asking someone when they are coming back, it can be seen as pressuring them to come back sooner than they are ready to or entitled to.

    There are a lot of unknowns here, but ideally there should have been a real conversation between HR and Manager about what was happening and if they didn’t get clear information, Manager should have gone to next level of HR. Then, and only then, they could/should contact Teacher directly to ask if something had changed.

    Fan fiction: Teacher may think she can come back at 3 weeks; but maybe HR knows that the specific type of surgery they are having means they likely won’t be able to return at 3 weeks like they think. For instance, where I work someone thought they could return 2 weeks after gallbladder surgery, but since they have to be able to do CPR, lift up to 75 lbs, etc. I’ve never seen a doctor approve a leave less than 4 weeks, but more typically it’s 6 weeks.

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

      in regards to your fanfiction: I don’t think that applies here because the OP’s coworker is currently on FLMA. So it sounds like surgery is done and they are recovering so then they do know when they will be back.

  61. One HR Opinion*

    LW3 – You have to do what is best for you and your family situation. My advice, based on my positive experience, would be to let her know. Depending on the relationship you have with her, you’ll know best if it should be formal or informal. What I found helpful was to say, “I really love what I’m doing and the balance/flexibility I have. While I may want to move up at some point, I don’t plan to take on X role-type until my son is at least high school age.”

    Best of luck!

  62. Leave me alone*

    #3 — I feel for you! I’m in a job I like and have zero desire to move up. People look at me like I have 2 heads when I say I don’t want promoted. The next step up in my government office is a minimal raise and a ton of responsibility that I have no interest in. I am that rare creature-totally without ambition.

  63. Luca*

    LW3: Definitely don’t feel pressured into taking a promotion you don’t want.

    Sometime management tries to push people into jobs they might have the ability and skills to do, but not the interest. At least three Glassdoor reviews of a company I was considering, said the company rarely promoted staff from within. And when they did, it was for the firm’s benefit not the employee’s.

  64. DJ*

    LW1 can understand recording a session so those who couldn’t attend can view the recording afterwards. But need to let ppl know. MS Teams will show recording in process. But to record individuals who have cameras off is a no no. No t sure of the legality though in Aust as privacy laws don’t seem to cover employees.
    Plenty of ideas of how to cover your camera and well worth doing!

  65. DJ*

    LW2 agree with Alison no need to be continually jobseeking if happy with job. It’s something conservatives push (ie can’t get stale must remain employable and competitive need to be “flexible” can’t expect job security etc) so they can get more out of ppl for less money. And impacts disproportionately on vulnerable.
    Even if you end up having to job seek later on can always advise lengthy job was ever changing and evolving.

  66. DJ*

    LW3 don’t feel pressured to take a job you don’t want. Good to have a convo with manager RE possibly preparing you for promotion and not interested using Alison’s words. Then your manager can select someone else to succession plan

  67. SB*

    When I log into a townhall on teams I get an alert that the session is being recorded & logging on is acceptance of this…I wonder if this is a regional quirk (I am in Australia where privacy laws are relatively strict as far as notification of recording) rather than the norm.

  68. Grumpy Old NCO*

    Re: Letter #1 – when I was still working (retired during Covoldemort), unless I wanted to be on camera, I had a piece of black electrical tape over the camera lens on my work-issued laptop. No boss ever called me out for a lack of image when we’d been told we could have the camera off, but if they had, I’d have fallen back on the “well, you said we didn’t need to be on camera so I turned my camera off in Teams.” Then I’d ask how, if my camera was set to off, they knew I had covered the lens? Make them admit to overriding my camera setting.

    On my personal laptop (Dell G7), after the warranty had expired, I bought a pair of DPST microswitchs, opened the case for the screen portion and carefully mounted those switches in the screen edge, then physically wired them in, one in line with the camera connection, the other with the microphone connection, to give myself hardware cutoffs for both.

  69. Bureaucratte*

    I have a related question to the FMLA one. When I was on paid parental leave, which also was FMLA, I got a new boss. She asked if she could call me, and–thinking it was a logistics call–I said yes. She then asked me to give a brief on my portfolio and it lasted an hour! I felt like I couldn’t say no because I didn’t have any existing capital with her, but 1. I was on leave and 2. If I KNEW it was going to be a briefing, I would have prepared. It had been months; I didn’t have stats or other facts on hand. How should I have handled this once I realized she was asking substantive questions? (There was someone covering my portfolio).

  70. Adalind*

    #3 – Thank you for posting this! I’m in a similar situation in my small team of 3 people. My manager wants to groom me for her job when she retires and I just don’t want it. I’ve told her multiple times and she seems receptive so we’ll see how it goes. Definitely don’t take something you don’t want or aren’t comfortable doing!

  71. blood orange*

    OP #4 – Just to add another potential layer to your question about whether HR was right. In addition to what Alison said, it’s also possible that HR has run into issues in the past that did create FMLA interference, and they’re being overly cautious now because of that. For instance, if a team member or manager reached out about logistics, but also (intentionally or unintentionally) started conversations that went more in-depth about their work, that could definitely be a problem. If they’ve seen that happen, or they’re concerned about that happening, that could be why they’re mandating no contact. Especially in a really large environment like a school system, I could easily see this happening.

    The 3 weeks/12 weeks thing is a bit more odd to me. I guess it’s possible they’re thinking there are circumstances where medical situations just don’t go to plan, and they want you to have coverage available if you need it. It would be more effective if they explained that, but again if they’re seeing employees not taking hard-and-fast directives seriously when there’s any gray, that could explain that as well.

  72. Mothman*

    So with #1, to be clear, they’re knowingly videotaping people, some of whom likely have children of “naked all the time” age they run into camera view from time to time, without telling the parents their naked children are being recorded?

    Or, they haven’t told a breastfeeding parent that they’re being filmed, even though some prefer breastfeeding totally topless if no one is watching?

    This is…not great. (I freely admit those are extreme examples, but its not like I’m suggesting the impossible!)

  73. Kate*

    Letter #4 is bringing up some unresolved trauma from early COVID. I, and many people from my organization, were furloughed, and someone told our coworkers that they were *under no circumstances allowed to contact us* because that would endanger the unemployment compensation somehow. Which meant that for four months at the start of the pandemic we were starved for even social contact from the people we spent most of our time with, and *no one told us that would happen* so we just thought people had … not cared enough to like, text. Or answer texts. It was *awful.* People need to realize that there are real consequences to policies like this, and be damn sure they’re not be “extra safe just to be careful”.

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