do I have to drive my employee’s employee, AI attending meetings, and more

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

1. Do I have to drive my employee’s employee?

I have an employee (there is a middle manager between us, so I am his grandboss) who doesn’t have a car. He was told when he got hired he needed a car for this job and he said he would get one. So far, he has Ubered to get to where he needs to be. I don’t care how he gets to and from work/other events he needs to attend for his job as long as he is reliably on time (this has not been an issue so far). However, he often asks for rides from me and/or his boss to/from work. Our office is about 30 minutes outside the city we both live in, but we live on opposite sides and I picked where to live specifically to make my commute easier. He and his direct supervisor live much closer together and his boss has so far not brought it up to me as an issue. I told him I could bring him from the office back to where I live or anywhere along the way. So far, he has not taken me up on this more than a couple times, but I’m worried it will continue.

The problem is … I don’t actually want to give him a ride. My commute is my time to listen to music or a podcast or process my day — I don’t want to talk about work with my direct report’s direct report. But I also feel guilty since I am going back in the same direction anyway and he’d otherwise pay for an Uber, and I know I make significantly more money than him. Plus, our industry often has blurry lines between being colleagues and being friends. Do I need to feel guilty about not driving him on my way? If I’m in the clear, how do I bow out without sounding like a horrible boss?

You won’t sound like a horrible boss for not giving rides to/from work to someone who was told when he was hired that he would need a car for the job (or even if he hadn’t been told that, frankly). Rides are a favor, not something anyone is entitled to. It’s also perfectly plausible that you have other things you need to do on your commute — maybe you’ve set aside the time to catch up with your sister, or you head to the gym after work, or you’re meeting a friend, or — as you said — you use the time to process your day. It’s also not a great idea to regularly give extra one-on-one time to one team member and not the others; once or twice is no big deal, but if you did it regularly, people could rightly feel weird about it.

If he asks again, it’s reasonable to say, “My schedule before and after work has gotten more complicated and I can’t help out with rides anymore.” (You could also say that proactively if you think he otherwise might be counting on you without your knowledge.) Make sure to also talk with his manager to make sure she’s comfortable with how she’s handling it as well … and also make sure the employee isn’t pressuring for coworkers for rides they’d rather not give.

2. AI attending meetings

I was a bit weirded out on a Zoom meeting today, when one of the participants had an AI tool join on their behalf and transcribe and summarize the meeting. A link to the transcription, and then a summary was also emailed out — I’m not sure whether to everyone on the meeting invite, or just everyone who attended. Either way, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was being spied on, and I feel like the tool is crossing all sorts of boundaries by mass emailing a transcript. (We take shared notes for this meeting, and anyone with the link can access them, so it’s not like this is a secret meeting, but that feels different from an unexpected AI transcript.)

What I’m wondering: is this sort of thing becoming normal? Are there ways I can reasonably push back on people sending AIs to meetings on their behalf? At my org we have a lot of pretty candid discussions during meetings — but if an AI were in the room, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having those discussions. No one else in today’s meeting seemed too squicked out by this, so I’m unsure if I’m just behind the times to think that if you can’t attend a meeting, you should review the (human-written) notes or catch up with a colleague.

Nah, a lot of people wouldn’t be comfortable with that. Your company itself might not be comfortable with that, if anything proprietary was discussed!

It’s possible your coworker didn’t even realize the AI tool was going to join (see this letter), but either way it’s reasonable to bring this up within your team or organization and ask for clear guidelines on when AI involvement is and isn’t okay. You could also simply say at the start of future meetings, “We’re going to be speaking candidly here and if anyone is using AI transcription tools, please turn them off.” Also, if you note an AI tool in attendance, it’s fine to call it out and ask that it be removed.

3. A squabble over a desk

I have a member of staff, Ann, who uses DSE equipment for health reasons. It’s a busy office and every desk is a hot desk. She is not always in the office due to driving around for appointments. A new starter, Beth, sat at the desk where Ann’s designated equipment is. Ann was abrupt when requesting Beth to move, as she needed her equipment to set up her desk at a different location. Beth then made a flippant comment to a coworker, Chris, saying, “I wouldn’t sit there if I were you” and giggled with Chris. This was said in front of Ann, which made her feel uncomfortable.

Now, three months later, Ann is stating she feels there is an atmosphere from the incident that is causing her anxiety and she feels this is discrimination due to her disability. I have asked Beth to apologize but she hasn’t. Ann will not let this go, but she also hasn’t attempted to resolve it herself and refuses to try, as she doesn’t see what she has done wrong. She wants an apology or says she will make a formal complaint. I don’t feel a formal complaint is necessary for such a minor incident.

Is something else going on beyond that one interaction? Has Beth been weird or hostile toward Ann since then? Has Chris? If not and it’s really just one that one incident three months ago, have you explained to Ann that Beth didn’t know why she told her to move, and that Ann being abrupt about it contributed to the misunderstanding? If so and Ann doesn’t care … let her file the formal complaint if she wants to. It doesn’t sound like much will come of it, but if she wants to do that, she can.

Separately, what’s up with Beth refusing to apologize after you asked her to? This is all so much messier than it needs to be — and people’s reactions so unnecessarily intense on all sides of it — that I wonder if there’s something else going on with the culture of your team.

(Also: how much of a pain is Ann’s equipment to move? If it’s a hassle, then she’s not a good candidate for hot-desking, and should be entitled to keep her stuff at one work station, even if that means someone occasionally needs to move.)

4. How do I find a recruiter?

I am sitting at 20+ years of various office/administrative experience, with some retail and project management thrown into the mix. I have one bachelor’s and four associates, all in disparate subjects. The most recent one was me trying to get into another career field, which didn’t pan out, even with a lot of networking on my part.

Basically, I get a job and then leave after a respectable amount of time because Reasons (it’s boring or there is no growth or the pay is bad, etc.). I also still don’t know what I want to do as a career, like so many other elder Millennials. I’ve been told by many people that I would be good at X or Y job, but I feel I’m missing the crucial “actually did that job and have experience doing those tasks” part. Because of these factors, my husband has suggested that I use a recruiter, because as he put it, “it might help with having somebody to talk to with an ‘expert opinion.’”

How do I go about getting a recruiter? What sort of due diligence should I use to find one that won’t have me writing to you about their bad behaviors? And maybe a secondary question of: is engaging a recruiter in this situation a good idea? Are there any alternatives?

So, recruiters work for employers: employers hire them to fill jobs, and they seek out candidates for those specific positions. They’re not really job counselors for people looking for work. Now, if you’re in a field that uses recruiters a lot, you could approach some who work in your field and talk about whether they’re working on any openings that you might be a good fit for. But if you don’t really have a target field or an in-demand skill set, that won’t work well.

If you’re looking for someone to help you figure out what kinds of jobs to target, you might find someone like a career coach more useful (although their quality can be very hit-or-miss).

5. What to say to an employee’s message that they’re out sick

How should a manager respond to a text or email from an employee that they are sick and will not be at work that day? I usually say something like, “I’m sorry to hear that you’re sick. I hope you feel better soon. Thanks for letting me know.”

Is that sufficiently warm? Is there something else that I should say? (Other than quick work-related questions like, “Should I cancel the llama meeting?”)

Nope, that’s fine! Personally I would go a little less formal (“Sorry to hear it, hope you feel better soon!”) but that’s just individual style.

{ 672 comments… read them below }

  1. GladImNotThereAnymore*

    LW 2, I’d be very careful with including AI. My company recently even had a talk on incorporating generative AI in the workplace and it was mentioned that many systems use user input as training data. For instance, they demonstrated an otherwise innocuous query that after a period of time, emitted names and contact information unrelated to the query that had been absorbed from other users. They made a point of stating that if AI is to analyze data, for instance, the data should be anonymized so proprietary information isn’t revealed, or to explicitly use AI tools that run independently and are only accessible internally. Although your meeting may not be secret, it still may have had discussion that shouldn’t be known outside of the company and it is possible that it was leaked via the AI inadvertently.

    1. Student*

      You should absolutely always assume AI products are sending all prompts and inputs and outputs back to their corporate database. Those corporations will use them to obtain maximum profit for themselves. They are already plagiarizing huge amounts of data and will do the same to people who use them.

      That AI attendee may very well have made a full, raw audio recording of the meeting and sent that back to headquarters, along with its version of the transcript it made, and any other information it might’ve been able to harvest from the meeting and/or the invite (like attendee names or attachments).

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. I’d be very careful about using general AI services anywhere near proprietary data. A customized, proprietary AI that doesn’t send any data outside the company is another matter entirely and can in many cases be perfectly fine.

          1. AI fun*

            There are places to find the GPT part of the AI to install on a server. Open AI used to offer a stripped version of the model to experimentation. For a full proprietary model that doesn’t phone home, you will need to build and host it yourself. There are tutorials on YouTube if you are interested in checking it out.

            1. rightokaysure*

              This isn’t true at all. OpenAI will sell a propriety version of its system, that sends nothing back to AI, to anybody who will pay for it.

      2. Nesprin*

        +1. There’s a push to make AI algorithms for healthcare HIPAA protected as the training data becomes incorporated into the algorithm to the extent that some data could be extracted back from the algorithm.

        1. LW2*

          I am! So, I really question how it can be legal for this AI to join and record the call. (Obviously we sometimes record Zoom calls, but everyone in the meeting sees that and has to confirm…)

    2. Tiger Snake*

      The AI tool is becoming normal though. Most of the online meeting functions have now onboarded so that these are either part of their default offerings or part of their advanced offering. We’re going to have to go forward assuming this is the way the world is now and set our policies accordingly.

      1. amoeba*

        But this sounds like an external (possibly predatory?) software, not like a feature of Teams or Zoom – definitely something that would be considered a huge security risk and absolutely unacceptable in my company!

          1. amoeba*

            Well, sure, but at least that one’s sanctioned by company IT (at which point it’s not my job to worry about anymore!)

            But I remember the last letter, where the software basically installed itself and started transcribing for everybody who had received a transcript (which is how that LW got it) – now that reads much more like malware than anything else!

            1. LW2*

              I went back to that last letter, and I think this may actually be the same tool that was being referred to there–I found out that the person wasn’t even aware their AI bot attended on the meeting on their behalf. (Which, yikes. The way it behaves really does feel malware-ish.)

              1. DJ Abbott*

                Definitely not ok! Most programs ask before they do things. IMO it’s rude to install itself and do things without asking, and in this case predatory too.
                Please, let’s band against this before more companies think it’s acceptable.

          2. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            Yeah, why would Microsoft not scrape? There’s profit in that thar data!

            When I saw they’d put their own AI “assistant” on my personal computer during a Windows update, I took the time to learn to remove it. Not because I hate AI, but because I’m not paying them for the privilege of helping them train their LLM.

            AI is here to stay but while we’re learning about the security risks, we need to be very careful and at least choose which LLMs we let scrape our data.

        1. M*

          I use Tactiq, which *used* to just scrape the meeting captions from Google Meet, and was imperfect but secure. (And useful for double-checking to-dos/etc after meetings.)

          Just went to check properly before saying more than that here, and discovered they’ve now expanded the role of OpenAI from add-ons to actual transcribing, so now I have to work out if I can turn that *off* or if I have to stop using it for data security reasons. Urgh.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          And it’s not considered one at all in mine. About half of the time we have one in different meetings. I don’t like them, don’t use them, and don’t click on whatever it sends at the end of meetings. But like it or not, they’re around and will likely be officially integrated with these programs in time.

        3. Who's Zoomin' Who?*

          It’s a new feature in Zoom. My manager loves it because now nobody has to take minutes–Zoom does it! They wanted me to turn it on in my weekly team meetings, but so far I have just quietly failed to comply; I want my team to be able to speak freely, so we don’t record our meetings (I think you have to be recording to use the AI transcription).

      2. Juniper*

        For Europeans, this isn’t a matter of just assuming this is the way of the world now and coming up with some new policies. GDPR makes wide-scale integration of AI an incredibly delicate and onerous task. Many (most?) companies are probably not even MS Copilot ready (whether or not they’ve already implemented in), much less capable of handling third party software in a responsible way. AI might be the way of the world now, but that doesn’t mean we can throw the door open.

      3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        Eh, only for a few years until the bubble bursts because the current AI model is unsustainable and unprofitable.

        If there’s anything actually useful in these AI tools (and so far the only thing I’ve seen is the transcription/closed captioning issue mentioned below) it’s a good idea to start figuring out how to get that without the privacy and garbage data downsides now, either by having actual humans do the work or creating bespoke tools with much more limited scope and access.

    3. Brain the Brian*

      I was giving a presentation in a very large, plenary-style Zoom meeting with several hundred attendees last December, and no fewer than 25 AI assistants “attended” without warning and transcribed. I had mentally steeled myself for presenting to such a large group, but the presence of those AI notetakers was something I just could not shake. It was really weird, honestly, and I definitely did not give my best presentation.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        It honestly just feels so presumptuous, especially for a presentation like the one you describe. If it were me, I would have been pretty livid — I didn’t give permission for my work or likeness to be siphoned off into an AI and the assumption I’d be fine with it is really gross.

    4. JubJubtheIguana*

      Ask what the purpose of the transcription tool is. Is it a tool that generates live captions during the Zoom, or one that only sends a transcription at the end of the meeting? Because the former is quite possibly for disability access and thus protected by the ADA.

      In my industry pretty much all Zoom meetings have an AI transcription (live caption generating) service running during the meeting as an essential access tool for D/deaf people, it’s just considered a completely standard accommodation (regardless of whether or not there are any D/deaf people present, in the ethos of embedding disability access on a structural level).

      I get the impression from the wording that the participant wasn’t even in the meeting, and was recording the meeting remotely in lieu of actually attending. That’s a very different thing, of course. But there are lots of AI Zoom tools that exist solely for disability access and I would be extremely wary of making a blanket statement banning things disabled people rely on and are legally entitled to. If there’s even a small chance this could be used as an access tool, banning it could be in breach of ADA.

      1. birch*

        Yeah, this. My first thought is that the meeting wasn’t accessible and someone was using it to transcribe so they could access the meeting. But in that case I think the person themself would have to join the meeting too. In any case you should ask why the tool is being used and outline some standard policies for its use.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Yep, another legitimate use of AI transcription for accessibility purposes is to help neurodivergent folks who struggle with writing coherent notes while also paying attention to what’s being said!

          In fact, one way to address this issue, plus non-accessibility reasons why someone might want a meeting transcribed, is for the meeting organizer to set up the captioning/transcription by their preferred method and then notify app meeting attendees that it’s going to be done. That gives you more standing to kick out unauthorized AI transcribers and allows you to choose one that you feel comfortable using – or even hire a human captioner if you’re not comfortable using an AI tool at all.

          1. not nice, don't care*

            Yes!! I have terrible problems being a notetaker, and in fact am considering rotating off a committee I really like just to not have to take notes any more. I don’t touch type and most groups I’m on do live notes in a google doc so everyone can follow along.
            Having this automated would let me add my expertise to a group, instead of always feeling awkward and left behind in conversations.

            Note: committee chairs are absolutely ok with alternate methods/accommodations etc but if I want to play along as a non-disclosed person, I’m out of luck.

      2. Skytext*

        The ADA is not a free pass! It doesn’t mean companies have to allow any- and everything an employee might desire to accommodate their disability. It only requires that companies make “reasonable” accommodations. If this AI tool is endangering proprietary company info, as was mentioned above, they don’t have to allow it. Also, the employee needs to apply for and be approved for an accommodation—they don’t get to decide to do it all on their own. Also, an accommodation may not be reasonable if it makes other employees uncomfortable. Like if a blind person insisted on touching people’s faces to learn what they look like, or if an employee claimed their disability makes it too painful to wear clothes, therefore they have to be naked in the office (before anyone jumps on me, these are crazy examples just for illustration purposes—I can’t think of any real-life examples right now). Whether other employees discomfort with the AI is enough to ban it is the company’s call, but it’s something that needs to be taken into account when deciding whether to grant the accommodation.

        1. Antilles*

          Also, this attendee has presumably attended previous meetings for the company. So one obvious alternative to AI is “what did we do for our previous meetings? can we just go back to that?”

        2. sb51*

          Nope, not a free pass, but if you’re running a big meeting like this you might want to figure out a live transcription tool you are comfortable with and set it up even if no one has asked.

          (I work for a large company and we’ve bought an inside-the-firewall tool . It’s allowed anywhere, anytime, no need to get an official accommodation, but absolutely nothing else is. Mostly the problem I see starting is not having a human take notes because “the AI will do it” but while it’s pretty good at transcribing, it sucks at summarizing decisions—it will correctly-ish describe the topic but completely blow the actual agreement/decision/consensus (if any), plus it doesn’t know who’s who in a meeting room so that “person’s” contributions are incoherent.)

      3. Accessibility Consultant*

        Thank you. This is hugely important for access. I vehemently disagree with Alison’s answer here. “AI tool” is one thing, standard transcription and live captions is equality.

    5. Silver Robin*

      yeah, I work in the legal field and we use Zoom to talk to external partners. Since we only need Zoom a handful of times a week, one person at the office has a paid account and we just use that for those external meetings. One of the staff at a partner org started using an AI assistant and now our Zoom account holder is getting transcripts for meetings they were never at. We talk about cases and judges and other sensitive matters. The AI also does not leave when that staff member leaves, which is awkward. Like if she shows up for office hours with her bot and dips out after her questions are answered, she then gets a transcript of everything else that happened without her.

      One of the supervisors on my team was legitimately concerned about the legality of that AI but also just confidentiality more generally, even if it is technically fine legal wise.

      1. Cyndi*

        Ohhhh we had a Zoom consult the other day with a potential client who had an AI transcription bot going, and he kicked it out at the start of the meeting, but now I’m wondering if I should be concerned about it popping up spontaneously in our other calls.

      2. Aglaia761*

        I personally use Fathom Notetaker, and it does attend all of my meetings automatically. I also have a setting that sends out an email to all participants asking for consent to record the meeting and if anyone declines, the notetaker will not join.

        However, the meeting host can kick the notetakers out of the meeting. You’re not powerless; the notetaker is on the participant list and can be removed if you don’t want it there.

      3. Pierrot*

        Oof, that sounds like it could potentially be a pretty serious issue and breach of attorney client privilege. Is there any way for one of the supervisors on your team to let the partner org know (either the staff member directly or her supervisor)? I think that whether or not AI transcription is allowed during the meetings she attends is one thing, but if the bot is sending transcripts to an outside org or transcribing meetings after the staffer leaves, that definitely crosses a line.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Systems use user input as training data.
      Even I (not a tech-y) know this about AI systems, and I am just agog that so many companies are like “But not our proprietary data, right? Like they’re not going to go to some other company and output our proprietary information/plans/etc in response to similar prompts, right? I feel like if we believe hard enough, that’s how it will work.”

    7. Contracts Killer*

      I agree with all of this. I’m an attorney, and I’ve been in several legal ed classes discussing AI implications. Every company should have a CLEAR AND COMMUNICATED policy about AI. Also, before anyone on staff uses AI for anything that includes trade secrets, proprietary information, etc. an attorney should be reviewing the terms and conditions of the AI to confirm that the company’s data will not be added to the AI’s learning data.

      For paid AI services, this should be a specific term within the contract you sign. If you are only e-signing a purchase order, there should be a hyperlink or website address within the purchase order that directs you to the terms and conditions.

      For free services, you can likely find it by going to the bottom of the service’s website and clicking on something like “terms and conditions” or “user agreement.”

      1. Data Slicentist*

        As a data scientist, I’ve had people wonder why I’m not using more AI tools like this, but I was waiting for a company policy! We now have one in place and while it could be more detailed, I feel much more comfortable. I work with generative AI, but I am happy to open a ticket for our legal team to review things before I start using them.
        When Zoom added a transcription feature, we got a message from Legal about it pretty quickly.

      2. KTB2*

        Yeah, my company uses Teams, so recording and transcription are built in if you turn them on. Aside from that, my company has also explicitly said that company information is NOT to go through AI, including ChatGPT. So this type of thing would cause waves, and not in a good way.

    8. Kit Kendrick*

      My company uses Google Meet which has a recording tool with transcription built in, so you don’t even need an AI puppet to attend. (We use it when recording training sessions, and get everyone’s buy-in before starting the recording.)

    9. AI regulator*

      Yeah, not only is this sending data back to a third party (assuming it’s a 3rd party AI they’re using), but having the AI listen to and transcribe calls may violate wiretapping or call-recording laws, depending on what jurisdictions the participants on the call are sitting in. If you’re in an all-party consent jurisdiction, you really need EVERYONE’S consent before you turn it on. There is SO much potential legal liability here.

      (If anyone on the call is in the EU and your colleague is doing this without explicit affirmative, informed consent, they are crazy and you are being exposed to a ton of liability.)

    10. Momma Bear*

      My company recently notified everyone that Adobe rolled out an AI beta and we needed to make sure it was disabled. This might be an IT-level concern.

    11. Bruce*

      My company has AI tools for coding type work, and we are very very clear what is allowed and that other uses of AI are not allowed. Using it to transcribe a meeting would be at the top of the list of no-nos.

    12. lilsheba*

      AI is nothing but a form of cheating, using theft to do it, I hope it never comes up in my work. I refuse to use it myself.

      1. yeah*

        This is really intense! You can disagree with this specific use of AI or with data scraping — I’m not thrilled about it myself — but there are plenty of applications of AI in fields like medicine or vaccine development that literally help save lives. It’s a very grey area and the ethical implications of various uses of AI are not always easy to parse.

        1. lilsheba*

          Good for that I guess but in general AI is a form of cheating. I won’t use it to write or do anything artistic.

    13. IWasNeverHere*

      The February 7 issue of the Office Watch newsletter (office-watch dot com) contains an article titled “Copilot’s Legal Trap or what you’re giving to Microsoft” that raises concerns about Microsoft’s Co-Pilot AI. In the article, it quotes part of Microsoft’s terms of use: “… by using the Online Services, posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting content you are granting Microsoft, its affiliated companies and third party partners permission to use the Prompts, Creations, customizations (including GPTs) , and related content in connection with the operation of its businesses”. (It also explains where to find this buried information.) It might be worth a read and some investigating to find out what else users are giving over to AI services.

  2. Viki*

    I will push back on the ai tool. I use Microsoft copilot every day for every formal meeting because we have to produce notes/agenda and it is honestly a huge time saver.

    We’re also an org where we record a lot of meetings, so that might be a different culture for that. But the AI notes is a huge help and while we have limited licenses, they’re prized possessions for that ability.

    1. I already forgot my name*

      Same. I think our meeting software enabled it or it was enabled without my team knowing and they were a bit spooked at first, but then we realized it meant no designated note taker. Also it helps keep the agenda tight and makes people actually call out action items and summarize because we know that’s how it’s going to be spit out. It’s off for my 1x1s and happy hours though.

    2. Tiger Snake*

      Not all AI tools are created equal, and that’s where the rub lies with these things. Copilot collects data but swears that it deletes data after use, but it does need to send that data offshore to be processed in the first place, which can also run by other legal problems depending on what you do. Some AI products can let you restrict your data residency, and other AI products keep all that data to continue building their models for several years before its deleted.

      1. Batman*

        Yeah, my first thought was about where the data is going. For my industry, my country’s privacy laws make the use of AI tools incredibly unwise. Obviously everyone should know their own industry’s legal situation, but….I suspect a lot of people are using AI in ways that are, uh, incredibly incautious.

    3. Anna*

      Agree 1000%. I am a bit surprised at the answer here – Copilot and other Microsoft tools have been doing this for a while. It makes life way easier for meeting organizers to not have to take notes, follow up with action items. It’s more inclusive for global companies where English may not be everyone’s native language. I don’t see it as any different from recording meetings, which people have been doing for years. Any time something becomes part of the standard Microsoft portfolio seems like there must be a certain level of core business users.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I don’t love when people record meetings either, to be perfectly honest, and I wish it was something people didn’t take for granted that everyone is just fine with, especially in the context of “you’re fine with meeting recordings, therefore you’re fine with AI.”

    4. LedgerMan*

      Absolutely agree. I work in a highly regulated industry with access to all kinds of very proprietary data and even we are using GenAI and launching copilot, amongst other tools. Though I will say we also have some partnerships and our own sandboxes and servers as a safety precaution.

    5. Malarkey01*

      I think this is an area that is evolving very quickly. Highly regulated, high profile organization and we went from conference calls to video calls to recording most meetings and transcribing calls to using AI for notes and agendas pretty quickly (over 3 years). Every meeting invite contains a recording notice and calls start with a notice to leave if you are not comfortable with recording.

      This is now the default norm here.

      1. Phryne*

        -start with a notice to leave if you are not comfortable with recording.

        That in itself is hugely problematic (and fortunately illegal where I am). You will literally force people to consent against their will or face consequences to their ability to do their work. That is not consent at all of course.

        1. myfanwy*

          Yes! In the place where I work to earn money to live, how am I supposed to just opt out of meetings that my boss expects me to attend?

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            Thank you both for saying this. There’s lots of “Well, Microsoft is already doing this anyway, so we should just passively accept the intrusion of AI!!” commentary today and I’d say one massive difference is that there are things I’m required to grudgingly accept because I need to get paid and things I’m not required to accept because they’re actually not yet a fait accompli and we have time to push back on this kind of thing.

            “It’s the new norm” is only the case because people are willing to let it be, and it’s worth examining how, when, and why we’re complicit in these things.

            1. Student*

              There’s a huge difference between “My company has opted into ML theft of their data and I have to comply with their unwise IT policy” and “I have personally decided to attach an ML tool to my company’s meetings that contain proprietary data without understanding the risks and consequences, without getting our IT department involved, and without following legally required audio recording consent laws in my state”.

              We have sympathy if you’re stuck with the former – but ultimately you’re stuck with a bad IT policy. Plenty of people are just doing the latter and are opening themselves up to lots of potential problems, probably unwittingly.

        2. House On The Rock*

          Thank you! I work in a culture where recording is pretty common and I generally don’t object, but every time I get the popup about “recording in progress, leave if you don’t want to be recorded” I roll my eyes because it’s not like I can just skip meetings that are a huge part of my job (and in many cases actually required for staff to attend).

        3. Emmy Noether*

          Yeah, when we (extremely rarely) record at work, it’s presented as “is everyone ok, or we will not record”. Which isn’t ideal either, as of course there’s some pressure to say yes to not inconvenience whoever requested the recording and to not be “difficult”. But at least it doesn’t pretend you can just leave a mandatory work meeting with no consequences.

        4. Casual Fribsday*

          Thank you for saying this. I would never consent to recording in my personal life, but at work I had to decide it’s not on my list of Hills to Die On. That doesn’t mean I approve, it means I know that most workplaces would ask me to be even more lax with my privacy, and I need money to live.

      2. Antilles*

        It might be the default norm in your company and that’s perfectly fine, but there’s a huge difference between an established corporate policy/norm that everybody is aware of versus one random employee deciding on their own.

      3. Parakeet*

        I work in a field where using these tools at meetings where certain specific types of information are discussed, would violate our confidentiality obligations under the laws that fund us.

        Recording wouldn’t as long as the recordings were kept totally internal to an organization, but it wouldn’t be considered best practice. We record, for instance, the webinars we run, and interviews with candidates for executive positions, so that people can watch them later. But not random meetings.

    6. Also-ADHD*

      I think if it were an organization standard and people expected it, it would be less weird. (Of course there are issues with it.) But I don’t understand why it’s wildly different to attendees from recording the meeting, I agree! And I think most meetings could probably be recorded, though not all, obviously—if sensitive in nature.

      1. Llama Llama*

        At least in my industry, it’s not acceptable to record a meeting unless you get special permissions. My record button is disabled for Teams meetings.

        Assuming this is a third party AI tool, it would be especially unacceptable and a data breach.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        It’s different because a recording doesn’t automatically send data to a third party who does bad things with it.

    7. Rosyglasses*

      I came here to say this – I think Alison’s reply is a bit out of touch; especially for folks with ADHD or who struggle to take written notes. Having one of these tools doesn’t open yourself up to proprietary issues (generally speaking) and it’s great to not focus on writing down notes and instead be present in the meeting. It’s no different from someone recording a teams or zoom call, or writing notes verbatim.

      1. Parakeet*

        I also have ADHD and I disagree. If the tool is or could be sending the content discussed in the meeting to the company that created the tool, it’s very different. I understand that in some industries this would be considered fine, but in some (including mine) it wouldn’t be. It’s not just about proprietary issues; there are fields where because of the nature of the field, people are discussing clients’ health/safety/legal issues/personally identifying information in meetings.

        I get that for people like us taking notes can be especially annoying, but I don’t think that’s a reason to use tools that create data breaches.

    8. Ann O’Nemity*

      Almost all zoom meetings I attend have one or more AI transcribers in “attendance.” The cows are out of the barn.

    9. Prospero*

      Just another voice to say this is rapidly becoming the norm. I have an AI assistant attending most of my meetings to take action items. (which it isn’t very good at, but my boss loves it.)

      I work for an AI startup so we are likely leading the adoption curve, but still. I bet the majority of zooms will have AI assistants 18 months from now.

    10. Midwestern Teapot Creator*

      I was going to say that we record a lot of meetings in my job using Teams and their transcription services.

      Legally just to cover my butt because of consent laws in different states, I always say that I’m going to be recording and it’s for internal use.

    11. not NOT an AI ...*

      I work for one of the big companies that builds and sells AI that summarizes and transcribes meetings, and we are absolutely not ever allowed to use (our proprietary) AI to summarize and transcribe meetings. It introduces way too much legal liability and data risk. It is a fireable offense.

      Do with that information what you will.

    12. Sassy SAAS*

      We recently started to use AI note takers, and I was against it at first. Now that I’ve seen the transcription notes, I’m absolutely for it. The notes are better than my hand-written post its, the transcription bullets actionable items (I like to summarize and repeat everything I’m going to follow up on), and it also categorizes parts of the meetings so that I can easily find a part to re-watch. And the notes are shared internally so my coworkers don’t need me to catch them up.

      I made sure that my internal (coworker to coworker) meetings aren’t recorded, but I like it for client meetings!

      I’m against AI in almost all other cases, but as note takers for people in a lot of meetings with a lot of different clients, it’s a great tool.

    13. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I can see something like AI for helping taking notes in meetings. But it sounds like the person had AI taking the notes and did not actually attend the meeting. I think thats more of the issue than everything else.
      As others have mentioned, I worry about incorrect information being written down, the AI not understanding something someone said, etc. Also, from my understanding AI there are some problems with information being shared. I don’t think this would work in any type of meeting where any confidential information is being given.

    14. Starbuck*

      I think any company that approves using this should do so with the assumption that all that content is being used to make someone else money, and that anyone could look at it. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with all that content being made essentially public, it’s a bad idea.

  3. please think about transcripts*

    RE. the AI tool. While AI does make me very uncomfortable too, please make sure that there is a way to get a transcript of meetings for your attendees. People might be d/Deaf or hard of hearing, they might have auditory processing disorder, they might have trouble picking up sound for any reason – transcripts can really help people, and so many people don’t think about them in meetings at my workplace.

    1. BubbleTea*

      I was thinking the same, I’ve only seen these forms of AI tool being used in the context of a disability adjustment.

    2. ChurchOfDietCoke*

      Not even just accessibility – obviously that is a very important reason to always have a transcript switched on – but also ‘some people couldn’t attend, and some people can skim read a transcript in five minutes rather than having to watch an entire one-hour meeting recording, thus saving them lots of time!’

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Also it’s much easier to search a transcript (or set of transcripts) than try to find the pertinent five minutes in a recording.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        This is what I’m trying to figure out – everyone who’s saying that it’s useful for disability access, why does it specifically have to be an AI that summarizes the data and (presumably) takes it to continue training itself? We already have transcription tools that don’t do that second part, I thought, so why not use those?

        But I admit that anything AI currently gets my hackles up because of how generally unethical their developers/companies have been in using data without permission to train them. Maybe someday that won’t be an issue. (Not to mention the whole “Now we don’t need a dedicated notetaker!” Okay, there goes my and other admins’ jobs.)

        1. Armchair Analyst*

          Who do you think is typing the captions so fast in all those video calls? I know people are used for television captions but in those video calls at work? It is not Oompa Loompas – it is a large language model analysis that can integrate information and provide captions super fast – otherwise known as Artificial Intelligence. It has to be AI because a human would be prohibitively expensive and need to have such specialized skills of typing and listening and availability – that’s why humans are used in, say, a courtroom, but unlikely to be used for an average work meeting. AI can be helpful.

        2. Yellow sports car*

          Automated captions are AIs – they commonly use language models to improve function and fill in gaps.

          I think people are overreacting or under reacting here. Yes they should know data protection requirements of the business and specific meeting. And the best way for a company to do that is to purchase the tools that perform these basic tasks and meet their security needs. That’s how my old job did it – we couldn’t use a lot of basic office tools, but they had equivalents e we could use.

          Captions, transcripts and automated minutes are very useful, time saving tools. They are commonly available – and a very large number of meetings aren’t actually sensitive.

          Banning basic tool sets is not a successful approach in most companies. And if someone as an individual was insisting I can’t use my caption option, or summarise the meeting with AI – because they’re worried about security – but the focus of the meeting is planning the schedule for the event that we will post about publicly a few hours later – I would probably ignore them.

        3. ecnaseener*

          “AI” can be such a fuzzy term. In this case it really is just speech-to-text, which we often don’t think of as AI anymore because we’re used to it. Having the speech-to-text bot join as an “attendee” probably makes it feel more “intelligent,” but there’s also the element of it sending the data to external servers for the transcription, rather than keeping it on your device.

            1. ecnaseener*

              Yes, but I understand the third-party tools might produce better quality. And zoom uses your data for AI training too (unless you have the HIPAA-compliant version or otherwise got them to turn it off for your company), so the security concerns are the same.

              1. amoeba*

                Fair, but then at least for our company that would very, very definitely have to first be cleared with IT security! Maybe I’m just surprised because we can’t even install any software that doesn’t come through the company appstore, so that kind of thing would be completely, absolutely inacceptible…

                (The LW did post further up and clarify that it was apparently indeed a predatory software and the person running it wasn’t even aware it was happening!)

                1. linger*

                  Other commenters used “predatory” and “self-installing”. LW2 commented that it sounded like the same software referred to in an earlier letter, and that that sounded “malware-ish”.
                  In that earlier case, the employee admitted installing the software but, after it joined a meeting the employee was absent from and then sent a transcript to all attendees, claimed they “didn’t know it would do that”. Which falls a little short of the “predatory/malware” bar.

        4. The Disembodied Voice*

          Transcription and especially summarization -is- AI. Whether the input is then transmitted to the developer for further training is another issue.

        5. Emmy Noether*

          I think we’re still finding our definition of what gets labeled as AI. A lot of stuff is currently called that that maybe shouldn’t be, or that wasn’t in the past.

          It was always my understanding that if it doesn’t learn, its not AI, but we were recently being sold a new “AI!!!” search tool and explicitly asked if it learns from our prompts or results lists for the next search, to which the answer was no (to be clear, I’m happy about that). So… *shrug*.

          Probably the same is true for transcription tools.

          1. Kara*

            Do you have any way to verify that the No is true? The industry as a whole hasn’t exactly been operating ethically.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Not directly. It is from a reputable, established company within the EU though, so I’m cautiously trusting. And the question was asked by my colleague as if it was a positive, AND we got our answers from a developer, not sales. So I’m going with probably true.

          2. SnackAttack*

            So I work in tech, where AI is HUGE right now. It can be a bit tricky, but the gist is this: Artificial Intelligence is a broad term for a number of sub-technologies that operate differently but using the same AI “framework,” if that makes sense. Machine Learning, for example, uses data to recognize patterns. When you get “You might also like…” recommendations, that comes from ML, a type of AI. Then, there’s Generative AI. This is stuff like ChatGPT and Dall-E, which are trained on existing data, images, and videos to generate completely new content (well, new but not new). There are other functions that fit within the broader AI functionality, as well. That’s also why in tech you’ll see it called AI/ML.

            All that to say, transcription tools are 100% AI-driven. Microsoft uses its own AI to transcribe calls in Teams; AI (specifically ML) also does things like reduce background noise and allow users to blur their backgrounds.

            1. Parakeet*

              I agree with you about the term “AI” covering a broader range of tools than people realize – normally that’s even a pet peeve for me – but it seemed clear to me that the context of this letter is talking about tools like Zoom AI Companion.

        6. SnackAttack*

          Eh, AI has been around for a long time. In fact, it’s what’s used to fuel transcription tools. The emergence of new Generative AI tools – like ChatGPT – has given people the illusion that AI is a brand-new concept that has yet to be implemented anywhere, but in truth, it’s all around you. Like all technology, it has the potential to help or harm society; the key is to ensure it’s regulated and ethically used (which, of course, is unlikely to happen given our capitalistic society).

      2. AIm to use the tool wisely*

        I work at a university, so there are distinct cc: vs. AI options in Zoom. The cc: is what gets turned on (with permission from the instructor) for students with disabilities so they can read what’s being said in real time. The AI option is more like a “digital assistant” and can do a number of features. Not sure we can embed links on this site, but if you look up “Getting started with Zoom AI Companion features” on the Zoom main page, you can see what it can do.
        I do think there are very good reasons to use the AI features as it can save everyone a bucket load of time, but there should be strong permissions and ground rules around doing so.
        I’m not as concerned with the use of cc: as most security systems have that option set to participant request-host enabled mode, and it’s generally used in contexts to facilitate peoples’ ability to follow the conversation better, like an educational setting.

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      This. I use the captioning tool on Microsoft teams and it does not create a transcript. Creating a transcript is a different tool. I would hope no one is intimidated by my use of an (AI) captioning tool. I need it to more clearly follow the meeting, even though I am not diagnosed hard of hearing

    4. LW2*

      We do have automatic closed captioning turned on for all meetings. (Happily, for the first time in my career I work somewhere where accessibility is a consideration. Any videos have captions, Zoom meetings always have captions available, etc.) It is helpful to remember there may be other purposes for having this sort of AI transcriber join a meeting (it both transcribed and sent a meeting summary; it also recorded the meeting, though, which is very uncomfortable because we are in a state that requires two-party consent), though in this case it turned out the person didn’t realize the AI bot they were testing was joining every meeting on their calendar.

  4. nnn*

    I’d adjust the scripting for #2 to “If anyone is using any recording or transcription tools…”

    Because it doesn’t actually matter if they’re AI – the point is people need to be able to speak off record, regardless of what that record is. (Also, there have been recording and transcription tools around since long before the current AI trend, so people using tools that weren’t originally marketed as AI might not recognize that the message is for them)

    1. Student*

      There are also many states (in the US) with laws about making any audio recordings. Some states allow any participant to make a recording. Some states require everyone in the meeting to consent to an audio recording, otherwise one is breaking the law by recording audio surreptitiously.

      1. CororateDrone*

        Pretty much all remote meeting tools have boilerplate notifications stating that if you stay in the meeting after recording turned on you are providing explicit consent, presumably for exactly that reason.

        1. Phryne*

          Which I am pretty sure are unenforceable in countries under GDPR. That is not freely given consent, so not consent at all. Especially if not attending that meeting has consequences for work/study/legal reasons.

        2. rightokaysure*

          Saying “all Zoom meetings can be recorded” in the TOS is unlikely to satisfy two-party consent laws.

          When the meeting is being recorded BY ZOOM, you get a notice when you join the meeting (or when the recording starts if you are already there). But if a third party does it, there’s typically no notice.

      2. allathian*

        I’m in the EU and thanks to GDPR we’re much stricter on privacy than the US, including the employee’s right to some privacy on company systems. Things like company keyloggers and softare that takes screenshots every few minutes to monitor what employees are doing are outright illegal.

        That said, video meeting software like Teams always lets every attendee know if the meeting is being recorded, and you consent to the meeting being recorded by not logging off. It’s difficult if not impossible to record a meeting surreptitiously. I guess you could do it by using a speaker and recording off of that, but the audio quality would be pretty poor so I don’t understand why anyone would bother.

        Transcription tools are an accessibility issue for many people. I don’t really see the difference in speaking off the record if participants can take notes by hand (and I don’t see a reasonable way of forbidding that, especially not if you’re WFH) and using a transcription tool, as long as it’s one that doesn’t send any data back to the software provider.

        1. nnn*

          You’ve never been at a meeting where someone says “don’t put this in the notes”? Or where conversation would be a lot more circumspect if a word for word transcript was being produced?

          Also about this: “as long as it’s one that doesn’t send any data back to the software provider” – all or at least most commercially available non-customized/non-proprietary AIs do this as far as I’m aware.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I’m not allathian, but I’ve never had anyone else say that in a meeting, no. The expectation is that the note taker will use their judgement, and that the notes are for the people in attendance, who heard the thing anyway.

            On the other hand, *I* have advised people to not put things in writing that they’re not absolutely sure are accurate and well-phrased, if they pertain to potential legal matters in common law countries (because of discovery). I’m not in a common law country, so this is very rare.

            I am curious how discovery will be affected by AI transcripts. Personally, I’d probably immediately dispute that the transcript is accurate. If AI can confabulate citations and give people in drawings extra legs, who’s to say it’s not putting words in my mouth?

          2. Phryne*

            – all or at least most commercially available non-customized/non-proprietary AIs do this as far as I’m aware.

            Yes, which is why their use is not allowed at my workplace. Only tools from businesses we have agreements on GDPR compliancy with. Microsoft does supply this option for instance, we use Teams, but on exclusive servers within the EU. No data is allowed to be sent outside of the EU where GDPR is not adhered to.

          3. Also-ADHD*

            I feel way more uncomfortable with that lack of transparency (in normal project/team meetings that should have notes—I can see an issue with privacy and sensitive info in other kinds of meetings like performance coaching or 1:1) than with an AI tool.

          4. doreen*

            I’ve been meetings where someone said “don’t put this in the notes” – but that only keeps it out of the official minutes, not the notes any participant might take for themself.

        2. jasmine*

          > “It’s difficult if not impossible to record a meeting surreptitiously. I guess you could do it by using a speaker and recording off of that, but the audio quality would be pretty poor…”

          It’s actually quite easy to record the audio of a meeting. You can just use free software like Audacity, which will record anything passing through your computer’s sound system without loss of sound quality. And, of course, it’s easy to grab a snapshot of anything shared on the screen during a meeting with any screenshot tool.

          I wouldn’t be happy if someone recorded a meeting or conversation with me without my knowledge or consent, but it’s good to be aware that it’s easy to do.

          (I use Audacity for recording songs off of YouTube and saving them into MP3 files, but it can also do more complex stuff like music mixing and editing.)

          1. Antilles*

            Especially since in most cases, you don’t need perfect Hollywood-quality recording. Even something as simple as cranking up your computer speaker and putting your cell phone nearby will typically pick up the audio clearly enough to be identifiable and understandable.

          2. Allonge*

            Yes, any sound recording or screen recording tool can do this, without any indication to the rest of the participants.

            I have seen it used for transcription or to replace notes, but it can be just as skeevy as the AI tools in many ways.

    2. David*

      Yeah, that’s a really good point. Among all the reasons that a person might be concerned about meeting audio being shipped off to some other company’s computer program – data privacy, internet bandwidth, making a record of casual statements, etc. – most of those reasons apply equally well whether the program is labeled “AI” or not.

      And like you alluded to at the end, I bet there are a lot of companies making these tools who didn’t even call them “AI” until the current fad started, then they changed their branding to mention “AI” just to make it more appealing to investors. Same technology under the hood, different name. Just to underscore how meaningless labeling something as “AI” might be, in some cases.

      1. The Disembodied Voice*

        This!! There’s a lot more worrying about it now but most of our favorite tools have been using AI and mining us for data for at least a decade now.

    3. Anon for this*

      I mean…I can see this for a one on one and certain situations but…anything you say in a more general meeting is in fact on the record. Other people heard it and can repeat it.

      Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to this because plenty of people around me have objected to being recorded because a higher up once watched a recording of a meeting when I reported a sexist comment. Literally all the men (who commonly said crap like that) freaked out about the recording being used in that way (my boss had it, grandboss requested it). I wish I was exaggerating or making this up…it was a pretty toxic place and I personally would have felt much better if all our Zoom meetings were recorded so there was evidence of stuff like this.

    4. Mouse*

      Transcription or captioning tools are also a big help for your colleagues who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or have auditory processing disorders, though, and may be a medical accommodation to which they are entitled under the ADA.

      1. Parakeet*

        The issue is whether the tool is sending data from the conversation back to the company that created it – or the company is reserving the right to do this in its privacy notice – as is standard in the current wave of “assistant” tools for videoconferencing platforms. Transcription/captioning tools existed long before the current wave did.

  5. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – to echo what Allison said, recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people. ie. the hiring company is the client, and the recruiter finds people who fit the role the company wants to hire. They don’t work on behalf of the candidate.

    It sounds like what you need is to do an inventory of your skills, education, and experience, and figure out what you’re qualified to do. Plug your skills into job boards and see what position descriptions come up. Maybe do some exploring to find out what your interests are with a career coach, and find out what education or experience you would need to get into that field – and then make a plan to get there. That might involve some education in a particular field, or joining a professional organization and pursuing a designation. You might want to look at working for larger organizations that have opportunities for you to start in one function and grow over time into others. (Look for companies that pride themselves on hiring from within – they’re harder to break into because of that, but they tend to be places people are able to grow in).

    1. stratospherica*

      Yep, and you need to be aware of what kind of recruiter you’re approaching too. While an external recruiter might (emphasis on might) have a broad scope of what positions they’re in charge of and might (emphasis on might) be able to check your resume to see if there’s anything that matches what they work on, that isn’t going to be the case for in-house recruiters at a decently-sized company, where recruiters have a pretty defined scope of the positions they hire and don’t know the whole company’s hiring strategies.

      Also, be sure that the person you’re speaking to is actually a recruiter. My role is TA-adjacent, but more focused on branding, analysing the diversity of our talent pool and providing tools for our recruiters, and I really don’t love how much I get people adding me on LinkedIn expecting me to be their personalised job concierge.

      1. MK*

        Presumably an in-house recruiter wouldn’t agree to take on OP as an external client, that sounds like a huge conflict of interest.

      2. Civil serpent*

        My agency has used a staffing services company to screen and send us candidates to interview (and hire) for contracted positions. We provided the list of skills/experience to the company, and they were able to send us some pretty good candidates with a wide range of backgrounds but with transferrable skillsets. This could be a better option than a recruiter for the OP.

    2. WellRed*

      Yes. OP, slow down and really take inventory if your experience etc. what have you liked. What have you hated, why do people tell you They think you’d be good at x? (Ask them). Are you organized and detail oriented? Mechanical? A computer whiz? A creative dreamer? Do you prefer working with your hands? With people? Collecting associates degrees is not a career path. It’s time to really start digging into a potential career path.

      1. ferrina*


        A career isn’t set in stone or a pre-printed checklist. It’s what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, and where you are looking for your next step(s). OP has a career path, but it’s been wavy and they can’t see where it leads. Look at that resume and see what story it tells, and think about what makes sense as the next step in that story. As a hiring manager, I do the reverse- I see where someone has been so far and I think about how that history leads to the opening the applied for- sometimes it’s an obvious path, but sometimes I don’t see the connection. When that happens I look for a really, really strong cover letter that explains why this new role makes sense in the context of their experience.

    3. CR*

      Wouldn’t it be nice though if there was someone who could look for jobs for you and tell you what to apply to?

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I had that service when I got laid off in 2020. Some of my fellow laid-off coworkers found it really useful, but my experience was that over the course of three months, they found three(!) job postings for me: one was the wrong job entirely (like, if I’m a Llama Medical Tech, it was a Llama Tech aka stablehand); one was behind a paywall and their service did not give me a copy of the listing, so I would’ve had to pay money to even know if I was interested (who does that??!); and one was the right sort of job but so uninspiring that I didn’t even bother to apply. Meanwhile I found and applied to at least two dozen jobs on my own.

        I really felt like they were pressuring me to take ANY job within three months so that they could keep their statistics up, despite the fact that I wanted to take the time to find a job that had a decent chance of being a good fit. Also their career coach was kind of useless, and their resume-and-cover-letter writing service was worse.

        The only person I talked to who found them useful basically used her career coaching sessions to process being laid off and then discovering that the family pet had just died.

        Meanwhile, one of the jobs I applied to on my own WAS a good fit, and I’m still there.

        I am perfectly willing to name and shame: this was Randstad Risesmart.
        OH! And one of the Randstad recruiters later cold-called me at my personal phone number about a position for which I was the hiring manager. I don’t know for sure that they got that number from having had my resume, but I don’t know how else they would’ve gotten it, and it felt creepy and invasive.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          I had two terrible experiences with that agency, in different cities. One day I happened to be chatting with another tenant in my building the way you do in elevator lobbies and turned out she worked for them. She was nice, smart, and seemed genuinely sorry when I told her about my experiences with them. Maybe I’d have had a better outcome if I’d dealt w someone like her to begin with.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        I mean, outplacement firms kind of do that.
        We offer outplacement for laid off/RIFed employees. The length of the program offered depends on the employee’s level, but ranges from 2-6 months.

    4. Smithy*

      For this OP, I actually think looking in their area for vocational services nonprofits in their area could actually be quite helpful.

      For those with degrees and a solid work history, I think it can be very easy to either forget they exist or assume they’re only for people struggling to get jobs or re-enter the work force. Provided the OP is in an urban area or at least closer to one, there likely are options that serve a relatively broad spectrum of the community.

      Ultimately, the OP should look for one that provides individual job coaching. There might be a required class or two to get to that individual coaching, or a modest fee to work with that coach for X sessions – but that’s someone who will be there to help you think through what kind of job you want, what your resume should look like to get that job, and practicing interviewing.

      Obviously not all of these programs will be perfect, but I did this program with Jewish Vocational Services during one job transition – and while I wouldn’t say I thought all of their advice was 100% for me, none of it was harmful and the coaching was invaluable. My coach was able to pick out those softer emotional worries or anxieties about my job hunt and really practice on those parts. All to say, a wildly different experience from any university career center.

      1. Runner up*

        Just chiming in to suggest that if you haven’t tried your university’s/ community college’s career center, it’s worth at least checking if they have any career counseling-type services that would be useful. My undergraduate and professional schools did not offer this kind of service in a meaningful way, but the graduate school I attended in between did offer counseling/ interest assessment/ similar and helped me solidify my plan to bail and change directions.

      2. Avery*

        Seconding this, as someone who’s both been helped by and briefly worked for a vocational services agency. They helped me when I was trying to figure out my next moves too. They’re a good option to seek out for this.

    5. Sloanicota*

      I feel like OP’s in a tough spot. It’s not just about what you could be good at, it’s what is available and reasonable you could get. You’re just not going to get a midlevel (meaning, anything other than entry level) marketing job even if you’re pretty sure you have the kind of skills required. You could get *entry level* jobs in, say, comms or marketing or social media, but keep in mind, you’ll be competing with recent grads who have that degree. Can you focus on one of your associate degree fields, or are you sure now that none of them are right for you? You’re already an admin, so could you look at admin roles in your field (this is a tough row to hoe in my experience). It only takes one to get started.

    6. T.N.H*

      A lot of industries have talent agencies though. They don’t work for you either, but you can get on their list, meet with the recruiters, and develop a relationship with them. Then they’ll reach out to you with any jobs that seem like a fit.

    7. Throwaway Account*

      To OP#4, I know that learnedthehardway’s advice is good and it works for people, but it did not work for me! If that sounds like you, read on.

      If I could have inventoried my skills on my own I would have! Or I did, but not well I guess. My list seemed so useless and mundane. My list was either too specific, answer phones, or too high level, works independently (and sees opportunities for projects on the job and can do them). Everyone can answer the phones and most jobs need people to work independently!

      None of that helped me see what I like doing or was skilled at. I could be happy in any number of job areas and apply my skills list in most jobs (not rocket surgery or anything like that!). But nothing seemed right when I put those skills into job searches.

      So my advice:
      1. I realized I had limited experience identifying what I wanted. So I practiced. I was very focused on the decisions I made: did I want long or short hair, what activity did I want to do this weekend? I was very thoughtful and practiced making decisions for me and thinking about them. This translated, eventually, into being able to make decisions about big things like work.

      2. I’ve had 2.5 careers AFTER being a sahm for 12 years so there is space for you to land where you want!! Mine all started with focusing on my decisions and what I wanted.

      Here is the very much not straight path I took to my career now in case it helps you. Part of that practicing decision-making led me to do a second bachelor’s in history and a master’s (because I thought I loved history and should work in a museum). And I did love the whole process. I got a job in the uni library (close to a museum) to help pay for the bachelor’s. When I was close to finishing the master’s, my professors told me about a request they got for a last-minute history teacher for a private school. I did that job for 7 years and when the school moved, I had to leave it. Back to the job board (in my state I could only teach in a private school). I found a part-time job in a public library. That led to a full-time job, an MLIS, and a transition to an academic librarian position which I love!

      I hope you find a path that works for you!

    8. Beth*

      Agreed. I went through a similar thought process with my last job hunt, so I get where your husband was coming from. I knew I needed a major career change, and getting there was a hard, long, miserable process. So many people gave me advice that they were sure would help–reach out to recruiters, hire a career coach, do informational interviews, network, go back to school, do a certificate program, do a bootcamp, etc.

      All of those people meant well! But honestly, I tried it all and didn’t find that any of those things helped. Recruiters were open to a chat, but lost interest once they learned that my background wasn’t in the specific industry/role they were hiring for. People were very willing to do informational interviews, and I’d absolutely use that strategy in my next job hunt when I’ll be looking to advance in a field I’m established in…but people mostly didn’t have actionable advice for someone trying to newly break into their field. Since was trying to find roles where I could use my existing transferable skills, education didn’t make a big difference for me. I worked with a career coach who I think would’ve been great in other circumstances, but couldn’t help much when the problem I was facing was “companies want someone with direct experience in the role they’re hiring for and I only have adjacent/transferable experience”.

      The only thing that worked for me was 1) picking a field/role I was targeting and building my application materials to be really targeted at that, and then 2) applying over and over and over and over again for months until I got lucky enough to find a company that would give me a chance. I targeted a field/role with a solidly large job market, where I could apply my existing skills, and where I saw a lot of room for career advancement in the next decade. From there, finding a job was an exercise in endurance.

      I’m now in a role that I like and am good at. It’s not a perfect position–my salary is at the low end of market value, it’s a tiny company so I wear a lot of hats and am doing a lot of process building as I go–but it’s giving me a toe in the door in my new industry. Whenever I do my next job hunt, it’ll be with the direct experience I lacked before. My career plan from here on out is to advance on my current path, and hopefully not have to make any more big jumps.

    9. From a leadership coach*

      Finding and vetting coaches: there are good ideas in the thread for things like using your college’s career center. You can also look for them on LinkedIn and have up to 5 people submit proposals. Be clear about what you want (uncertain about how my skills, experiences, and desires fit with career options, etc.) and speak with at least 2 coaches to get a sense of compatibility.
      Ask where they studied/became certified. ICF is the gold standard for certification in the US but lots of schools provide quality coach instruction. The point is you want for them to have studied in a program and not just decided one day they would be a coach.

    10. Happy to help*

      OP #4, if you are with a large company that offers an EAP, you may have the option of free career coaching sessions. Our company just changed providers so now in additional to 8 free therapy sessions, we also receive 8 free coaching sessions. Hope that may be an option for you!

  6. KateM*

    So, basically, the answer to #1 is that you’d be a horrible boss not if you refused, but if you kept giving rides to one of your employees (and not the others).

      1. KateM*

        It was the term that OP used themselves. Maybe thinking it the way I suggested would make it easier for them to refuse, and also help the direct boss to refuse giving rides.

    1. Dragonfly7*

      What nnn said! I’ve yet to personally encounter it outside of this website, but it makes sense to me.

  7. IDK AI*

    I sit in on a disability task force meeting each month that is adjacent to my job. One attendee always uses an AI transcription service as they have limited hearing and severe mobility issues, but don’t yet require a full time caregiver. I don’t know legalities behind AI and use in employment but just wanted to caution that it could be an accessibility thing if it is not offered through a different method.

    1. Student*

      There are many alternative tools that help people who are hard-of-hearing, like me, but that don’t pose the same risks to your organization as ML tools like the one referenced here. You have to make a reasonable accommodation. Tools that actively steal your organization’s information and send it to a corporate entity to be used for that other corporation’s profit are NOT a required accommodation.

      Depending on the nature of your disability task force, you may want to consider whether your AI-using attendee may be putting other people’s protected personal health/medical information at risk.

      1. BubbleTea*

        There’s no evidence that the tool being referenced is stealing data. There are transcription tools that don’t use customer data to train machine learning.

      2. JubJubtheIguana*

        Please don’t invent wild hypotheticals in order to justify refusing basic, industry-standard disability access accommodation is brought up.

        I really don’t understand AAM sometimes. People exploit the concept of disability to create any kind of hypothetical to support a LW absolutely constantly (“maybe the LW has undiagnosed PTSD and is triggered by the sight of a dirty teaspoon!”) but get hostile at a very basic standard accommodation for D/deaf people.

        1. SarahKay*

          Student isn’t exploiting a wild hypothetical; they are merely pointing out correctly that many AI tools will take and use the data from your meeting for the benefit of the AI tool’s parent company, and that there are alternatives available.
          Certainly my company explicitly forbids the use of any but our own proprietary AI for recording meetings or being given any company data.
          As Student points out, there are other tools available.

          1. JubJubtheIguana*

            “But what if this is a Zoom meeting where people are having to share private medical information on the Zoom, and also what if the access software is sending data back” is a pretty major hypothetical. There’s absolutely nothing to suggest either of those things exist – certainly not enough to justify blanket blaming an extremely commonly used industry-standard disability access tool.

            If you’re being expected to disclose private medical information in a company Zoom meeting with lots of people present you have bigger problems that access tools.

            1. SarahKay*

              But there’s a difference between access software – which Student says they already use as a hard-of-hearing person – and an AI.
              And it’s the AI that Student is calling out as a risk, precisely because many of them are known to take and use any and all data that they are exposed to.

            2. LimeRoos*

              That’s not a major hypothetical. There’s a lot of workplaces that deal in private info – healthcare, schools, etc. It’s not just that they might be talking about their own info, it’s that HIPAA and FERPA exist and they can’t share any patient/student data outside of allowed parties.

              I’m in healthcare, if we found out someone was using AI to record and transcribe that would not be good. We have the record/transcribe feature in Teams and that is all we use.

            3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              People are also using those tools for much smaller meetings. A teacher might be authorized to discuss student information with specific colleagues at the same school, but not with everyone they know, or with random Zoom employees or one of Microsoft’s “third-party partners.”

              “Private medical information” doesn’t just mean the details of my last meeting with a specialist. It includes, for example, that an identifiable patient had a CT scan, and was advised to see a specialist. My real name isn’t as unusual as this handle, but I may be the only Gollux’s Real Name with this date of birth.

            4. RagingADHD*

              I think you are wildly oversimplifying and minimizing data privacy rules / requirements.

              Medical information is only one example of sensitive data. Many industries deal with data (banking, finance, law, FERPA, etc, etc) that they are required to have robust protections around, and many more have sensitive business information that they rightfully want to keep proprietary.

              AI meeting tools are proliferating. Many people who try them out (and wind up with an automatic “buddy” embedded in their computer that they have no idea how to turn off) have little or no understanding of how the tools work, what data they are collecting, or what happens to it. Warning about that fact has nothing to do with refusing disability accommodations.

              A disability accommodation should be vetted and set up by the company, to ensure it meets legal and policy requirements as well as the needs of the user. For exactly the same reasons that you wouldn’t want people building DIY ramps into a building out of scrap lumber they found on the side of the road.

            5. Parakeet*

              This is not a “major hypothetical” at all. There are of course fields where this wouldn’t be a big deal, but there are tons of fields where people would be discussing sensitive data. Think of doctors or lawyers conferencing about a case, or a sexual assault crisis center discussing the week’s new intakes in order to match clients with counselors.

              As to the “sending data” part, that’s something the “assistant” tools that join meetings as attendees do. Zoom AI Companion isn’t the same thing as normal Zoom captioning services. It’s literally part of my job to tell organizations in my field that they can’t use these assistant tools at meetings if they’re discussing certain types of information, and that they should back their staff up in leaving any meeting where one of these tools is used and they’re expected to share certain kinds of information.

        2. Random Dice*

          It’s not that, any reasonable meeting software can do transcription.

          But AI tools are actively exfiltrating your data – an enormous security risk!!!!!! – for profit, which is why companies should set which AI tools are acceptable and inside the firewall.

          Cybersecurity risks are NOT a reasonable accommodation because they are not reasonable. But transcription tools are reasonable, so long as they’re approved by the org’s cyber.

          1. blah*

            JubJub’s point is that we don’t know if this particular AI tool is doing that, and it doesn’t help to just assume it does. However, LW’s organization needs to do some work to see if it does pose a security risk and propose an alternate method IF that attendee is using it as an accommodation.

            1. Visually Impaired Guy*

              From a technology point, please assume the AI tool is taking your data unless it states otherwise. It is almost certainly taking that data, and as mentioned elsewhere that info can suddenly show up in someone else’s transcript. The software is still being developed, and for this reason AI tools almost always use the data from those using it, and it can go badly unexpectedly. This happens rarely, but do you want it happening to you?

              I would suggest using another transcript tool unless the information being discussed is okay to be made public.

            2. Starbuck*

              “it doesn’t help to just assume it does. ”

              You should actually assume that it is doing this! Especially if it’s free! When did we get to the point of trusting random software by default? You should always be at least a little critical of new tech that’s promising something very helpful to you as a user for free/very low cost. It means you/your data is the product. There’s a lot of reasons why companies wouldn’t be OK with that!

            3. Corey*

              “It doesn’t help to assume that this leopard will maul your face.”

              Ya we are going to ignore your advice on this one.

            4. Random Dice*

              I’m taking it that you don’t know much about A.I.

              Please trust those of us who know more about it.

      3. SnackAttack*

        Those tools are AI-based, though. The key is that it should come from an established, reputable source that’s verified to be compliant with local regulations and laws. The transcription/captioning functions on Zoom or Teams, for instance, use AI technology; however, they’re not taking your data and regurgitating/selling it to the internet to train other AIs.

    2. Leave Hummus Alone*

      Yes, this! I work with someone who has long COVID and she uses an AI service to help transcribe and summarize the meetings for her as a way to deal with brain fog.

    3. whatchamacallit*

      This. I think it’s fair to ask them not to use it with the caveat that if they need it you will work on an accommodation.

  8. Reality.Bites*

    I used to work in an office with about 140 employees for 100 desks, so most people didn’t have a permanent desk. We had three employees who used screen-reading technology and of course they had their own desks. Even if their equipment had been easily removable, there is no good reason for other employees to be handling their expensive and not easily replaceable equipment – ever.

    1. ghost_cat*

      Hot-desking in our organisation was well.. a hot topic. We had people who had specific monitors, which couldn’t be moved or shifted, complain that the monitor had been moved to a different height in their absence. Or that their chair had been moved to a different height. Quite frankly, I’d rather sort out how to keep the kitchen and shared fridge clean, and be responsible for tracking down the missing teaspoons, than manage the complaints about hot-desking.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I’m betting a lot of fuel for this whole thing is that pretty much everyone hates hot desking. People like to have a space of their own that they have control over, that feels like their own, hot desking takes it away and it’s totally fair that most everyone hates it. I’m betting management has gotten a lot of complaints over it (because it is totally human to hate it) and is sick of defending something that they are doing to save money vs. make their employees feel more comfortable, and are thus semi-blind to things that are a big problem vs. normal problems. Managment have gotten so defensive they are too defensive and don’t want to make an exception for anyone because (again totally reasonably) other people will be looking for exceptions. Ann has probably asked a lot of people to move and is sick of not having control over her own equipment, Beth is probably touchy about the hot desking and anything to do with it.

        Personally I think they should take a look about doing something about everyone getting their own desk, but I also personally would never take a job at a place that did hot desking. Probably more reasonably at least Ann should 100% get a desk that is saved for her, which will probably make her back down on the whole thing. And someone will probably need to have a word with Beth about not getting snarky that Ann gets her own desk.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeaaahhh this is really tough one. It’s like how in my org, getting a cube by the window was the height of status for all of us peons in the cube farm … but then some people started requesting it as an accommodation and, well, it got pretty wild. Everyone hates hot desking so Beth being told to move and pick another desk (was she planning to sit next to Chris and then told she had to go sit in the corner alone, etc) which might have felt very unfair to her, and Ann was no doubt understandably touchy about her equipment and her need to be able to work. This happens when orgs create crappy resource-limited environments in which everyone feels like they have to fight for scraps. See: airplane seating.

      2. lilsheba*

        Why in the world is anyone hot desking in this day and age? In a pandemic? It’s ridiculous. Let people have permanent seats like adults.

        1. linger*

          Serious answer? In many cases hotdesking is a direct result of allowing (some) WFH (in a pandemic), then cutting back on office space because not everybody’s there all the time so the expense can’t be justified, then reducing WFH (because “Covid is over” (eye-roll), or to increase Networking and Productivity (other eye-roll)) without increasing the office space again because it’s no longer in the budget (third-eye-roll).
          And yes, it absolutely sucks.

        2. linger*

          Or to try that again: it’s just another way for corporations to cut costs and increase profits (and executive bonuses) while passing risks off on low-level employees.
          Standard operating procedure in terminal-stage capitalism.

        3. nodramalama*

          They don’t have to ensure there are enough desks on the floor for every employee if they do not work in the office full time

    2. Ann*

      same at my company. We have hot desk (well sort of because we have enough desks that most people have there own) but those with accommodations have a designated spot not matter how little or often people come in.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, my company is adopting hot desking in all locations, however anyone with medical accommodations has a specific desk. In some cases that can be a standing/adjustable desk.

        1. ghost_cat*

          Absolutely agree with this, but we had ongoing complaints about having had their standing desk or monitor at x height and someone moved it to a different height and how it was ‘their desk’. I agree that they should absolutely have preference to get a desk that meets their medical accommodations on the days\ that they are in, but on the other 4 days, yeah let someone else use it in ways that don’t affect you other than 5-10 minutes of having to re-adjust settings.

    3. Lexi Vipond*

      Which is fine as long as you never require more than 97 of the others to come in at once, but somehow I doubt that most offices are going to manage it.

      We now have equipment on one desk which is impossible to work around and almost impossible to move (very heavy, wouldn’t break if you dropped it but might well break you), and can still have a person scheduled for every desk, not including the one who wanted the equipment.

    4. EllenD*

      Offices that I’ve worked in had adjustable desks and chairs to meet specific needs of those who needed them. Depending on the adjustment required, some people would put a calendar on their desk saying which days they intended to be in-office and on days when they weren’t others could use their desk. These tended to be the desks where changes were easy to make and no specific equipment. However, we were strictly forbidden to use their chairs – or rather to adjust their chairs in any way, as these tend to be quite fiddly to get back to the right setting (ie take 15-20 minutes) and all chairs had names attached and there were spare standard chairs to wheel in to use the desk.
      Beth was rude not to move to another desk when Ann was asked. It may be that no-one explained that some people have set desks in a hot-desk setting due to specific needs and using their desk is always a temp option.

      1. Seashell*

        I didn’t get the impression from the letter that Beth didn’t move, just that she made a comment about someone else not sitting at the desk.

        1. Random Dice*

          Beth moved but then hassled the person with the disability, publicly, and flat-out refused to apologize.

          I’m majorly side-eyeing that interaction (and the manager throwing their hands up in the air and not addressing it), as well as the company for hot-desking a disabled person (and the manager forcing her to out her disability and address the social harassment, rather than the manager or HR).

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          That Beth made the comment and has refused to apologize makes me think there was some interpersonal conflict between Ann and Beth before this incident. Even so, the comment was out of line and Beth needs to apologize.

          I don’t really care how nicely Ann asked her to move because she really shouldn’t have had to to begin with. *Management* needs to do something to designate that desks with accommodation equipment are priority for those with that need the accommodation or that those that don’t need the accommodation *must* move. It sounds like they are leaving it up to the person with the accommodation to choose between doing their job and appearing to ask for special favors/taking flack for asking coworkers to move.

      2. NotThatBeth*

        I’m kind of questioning why Beth would just plop herself down at the one desk that had special equipment on it as opposed to anywhere else. Wouldn’t a normal person think that desk had a purpose?

        1. WellRed*

          From the letter, I’m not sure Beth is a normal person or possibly there’s a bigger workplace culture problem.

          1. Crockett*

            That seems a little extreme…she probably just didn’t realize. Maybe it just happened to be the closest one. Both of them should probably just apologize and move on.

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              I agree. “Plop herself down”? If she came into a hot desk situation and hadn’t been informed that the desk she chose was actually reserved for someone due to the equipment, or if there wasn’t a note on the desk saying Ann had priority, Beth couldn’t be expected to know to select another desk. And even if Beth was snotty about making the remark to Chris, Ann is hardly an innocent injured party when it sounds as if she wasn’t very professional or courteous to Beth in asking for her usual desk.

          2. No clever name yet*

            A normal person gets annoyed when a co-worker is “abrupt” with them for doing something they were told they could to (ie, choose any desk), so I’d say Beth is extremely normal. That doesn’t mean she should carry on being cold or whatever to Ann over it forever, but sounds like the initial “I need that desk specifically” conversation could have been handled a little better on Ann’s part too. I don’t really understand all the comments that make the conflict out to be all Beth’s fault. She was told there were no assigned desks! She chose a desk! A co-worker barked at her to get out of that desk! Of course she was a little snarky immediately after that. She was probably mortified that she was treated like she was doing something wrong in front of other people and covered up that mortification with a joke about not sitting there again. This is all extremely understandable to me. Of course Ann needs a permanent desk with her equipment accessible only to her, but that was management’s failure, not Beth’s.

            1. SusieQQ*

              Same, I actually don’t see that Beth did anything wrong here. Or, at least, not anything more wrong than what Ann did. Was the comment a little snarky? Sure. Was she probably feeling defensive because Ann was rude to her? Yeah.

              1. Random Dice*

                When the manager explains that there’s a medical need is when decent human beings would go back and apologize. That Beth is digging in instead is the problem.

                1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  I don’t agree that Beth needs to apologize unless Ann also apologizes for the way she spoke to Beth. As an HR manager once told me, “Just because you have an accommodation doesn’t give you the right to act like a jerk.”

        2. Seashell*

          Is the equipment obviously different from the rest or not? I really don’t know. I also don’t know what the abbreviation DSE in the letter stands for.

          1. LCH*

            the best i can guess is Display Screen Equipment which could be anything? like that riser you can put your monitor on so it is at a better height. not sure what else.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            So far as I can tell DSE is any sort of graphical interface. So literally any type of screen on a monitor, laptop, tablet, phone…

            I’m going to assume it means something more specialized in this case (maybe one with greater contrast, particular ergonomics, built-in accessibility tools or something), but it I don’t know if it would be obviously different from any other setup.

        3. Caliente Papillon*

          To me it sounded like the equipment is left there but not necessarily setup so you can see it.

        4. Myrin*

          Depends on what the special equipment is, exactly.
          (I’m thinking back to my friend from university who was legally blind but had some small amount of sight in one eye – he had a special flat-but-big monitor which could hugely enlarge text and a little box next to it where the screen-reading voice came from. It stood out in his living room back in 2011 but working in an office now, I have coworkers whose monitors looks extremely similar and the box could really just be anything to an outsider. And it could very easily be something even less noticeable in this case.)

        5. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I don’t know, there is always that *one* person who likes to have the ‘special’ desk or wants to use unusual equipment.

      3. Sloanicota*

        I do also think companies have an obligation to make sure the average set-up is not absolutely miserable. If everyone but Beth gets a folding chair in a dank corner, and Beth has a sweet desk set up, you’re setting poor Beth up to have to fight this battle every day. But that doesn’t mean take it away from Beth; it means invest in making the other options better! There’s a lot you can do!

    5. Random Dice*

      I was shocked that a person with a formal ADA medical accommodation requiring physical equipment wouldn’t be given a permanent desk.

      That honestly does sound like grounds for a disability complaint.

      Hey thanks for giving me the equipment I need, per THE LAW, but no thanks for requiring me to have socially isolating and anxiety-producing conversations with coworkers literally every day in which I’m forced to disclose my disability.

      I hope she complains, honestly. This is crap.

      1. Enai*

        Yes, that was my first thought, too. If Ann needs specialised equipment why not mark the workstation with said equimemt as hers? It’s not an efficient use of the time of the person who mistakenly sat there either to have to stop working and move elsewhere, aside from the unnecessary conflict.

      2. FYI*

        Totally agree. I think the co-workers’ snarky giggling was really uncalled-for, and the post says that Ann DID explain why she was making the request.

        Maybe I am just alert to it because I am in an awful mean girls’ environment at work now (involving both men and women), but that kind of rudeness — over a disability! — is absolutely alienating. I feel for Ann, especially since the LW (manager) is not taking her seriously.

        1. Seashell*

          Where in the letter does it say that Ann explained why she was making the request?

          “Ann was abrupt when requesting Beth to move, as she needed her equipment to set up her desk at a different location.”

          Reading that makes me think Ann could have said something like, “Move, I need to get something” or something like, “Can you move? I need to get my disability equipment, so I can set up at another desk.” Not really clear to me, unless I missed something else.

          1. Anya Lastnerve*

            Same. I’m confused as to what Beth is supposed to apologize for. She sat at an unassigned desk and Ann comes in hot demanding she get out of the way and acting all irritated – what did Beth do wrong there? It sounds like OP agrees Ann could have handled it better and so I think Ann should have apologized for being “abrupt”.

              1. I Need Coffee*

                And yet this could have been avoided if Ann didn’t start out the interaction being snippy, particularly since Beth is a new employee and may not have realized Ann had special equipment. Ann should apologize to Beth for being rude initially.

                1. AnonInCanada*

                  This. Beth is new. Ann seemed to snap at her for having the audacity to sit an an unassigned desk that happens to have this special equipment. Maybe there were no other desks available for Beth to use at that particular moment and was unaware of that equipment’s purpose.

                  It wouldn’t bode well for me either, and I may make a quip to a co-worker regarding that behaviour as well. Ann’s actions were more uncalled for. Ann should the one apologizing to Beth for leaving her manners on the kindergarten rug.

              2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                Oh. Ann was uncomfortable.

                And Beth may have felt uncomfortable and defensive after the way Ann spoke to her. It shouldn’t escalate to a juvenile degree, of course, but it cuts both ways.

            1. My Useless 2 Cents*

              Because Ann shouldn’t have had to ask Beth to move. Ann should not have to disclose her disability to the entire office if she doesn’t want to. This is a *management* problem.
              Beth needs to apologize because (whether she knew about the disability at the time or not) her comment mocking her coworkers disability was totally out of line.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                However, Beth isn’t responsible for the management problem. Ann should have taken her snippiness to their boss.

              2. SusieQQ*

                Serious question — where do you see that Beth mocked her coworkers disability? I interpreted the story as Beth basically made a snarky comment about Ann’s abruptness, which is completely separate from her disability.

                1. Treena*

                  Ann has essentially formally complained about a hostile work environment, it’s very unlikely just about a single snarky comment. Even if they’re not mocking her disability, if they’re mocking her need to use her accommodations, it amounts to the same thing.

                  Thing of Bob, a co-worker who WFH as an accommodation having to hear from their in-office workers about how Bob must have it soo great to WFH, isn’t he lucky? Eye rolls, whole nine yards…That is also a hostile work environment.

          2. theletter*

            I’m reading it the same. Ann was abrupt, but she was for a reason, which was not explained to Beth at the time.

            But of course the real villain of the story is the company’s hot desking policy. Ann’s desk should be assigned to her, with appropriate signage in all ways that someone could reserve that desk. Ann’s frustration should have been directed at the office management. Beth could have managed it more gracefully, but she doesn’t have to give a tacit resignation to the unfair hotdesk situation and be the target of gruff behavior.

            I think the best way to resolve this is to sit them down in the same room and apologize to both of them for not assigning all acommodation desks and causing this confusion, and the equiped desks will be assigned going forward.

            Usually one apology creates a cascade of apologies and then nobody can say they didn’t get an apology.

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              I don’t agree that Ann had a “reason” to be abrupt. To ask for her usual desk, yes. But it’s just as incumbent on her as on anyone else to be polite to coworkers.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            It’s extremely unclear to me how the interaction went down or if anyone’s actions were reasonable.

            Was there existing tension between Ann and Beth/Chris? Did Beth realize the desk was set up with disability accommodations? Was Ann just “abrupt” or rude asking Beth to move? Why would Beth and Chris giggle about it? Why is Ann still uncomfortable 3 months later; have there been more incidents, or is she still ruminating over it? Why would Beth refuse to apologize after LW told her she had to?

            I think LW should sit down with Ann and really try to understand what’s going on (from her perspective) in addition to giving her a permanent desk, because the letter prompts a lot more questions than it answers.

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              I would also add–I have been in the position of having to apologize to a coworker who took offense at the slightest thing and would charge in to our boss and complain about me. Boss valued Coworker highly and had worked with her for years, while I was the new stepchild in the department. It totally sucked and smacked of favoritism.

    6. Llama Llama*

      My office similar. We hot desk but several people have their own permanent seats. This should’ve been done long before.

    7. Momma Bear*

      I think for various reasons people with adaptive tech should have assigned desks. Not only will they always know their setup is ready, but that permanence takes them out of the rotation and avoids conflicts like this one.

      I also agree to look at how Beth has been treating people. This feels like more than a desk seat error. Was Ann direct or just not overly flowery about asking Beth to move? If Ann is now feeling so unhappy she’s considering a formal report, this is more than a seating problem.

    8. Visually Impaired Guy*

      I have my own desk because it has special equipment, and thankfully it is clearly mine and not shareable. I happen to know a couple people who live elsewhere and very rarely visit the building, and I have told them that they’re welcome to use my desk if I’m not there that day. We have hot desking, but we don’t have a lot of extra people so almost everyone has a regular desk and it means that the rare visitors sometimes struggle to know where to sit, so I’m glad that the couple coworkers I know well have an option.

  9. Katie*

    #2-same thing happened to me recently! Likely the same program. Its summary of the meeting was kind of hilarious (very, “thanks, Captain Obvious”) but I wouldn’t have said yes to using the program if I knew it recorded the whole thing. I don’t like recording meetings because it feels like a can of worms- like what if someone wants the recording subpoenaed for some kind of legal reason? If the person who used it asked again, I’m going to say no.

    1. sagewhiz*

      This! For a decade, long before AI, I served on the board of a growing, non-profit professional association, and in my first year insisted we provide all board members with a copy of a legal handbook for such bd mmbrs. The atty author was adamant about all orgs NOT recording any meetings (and minutes should only be overview notes). But if they were recorded, to destroy it as soon as the overview notes were transcribed, explicitly because such recordings could be used in legal proceedings.

      1. linger*

        Although the prospect of using the audio recording in legal proceedings becomes somewhat moot if, as in the current case, (i) the company itself never owns a copy of the recording and so cannot be asked to produce it, and (ii) the third-party processing takes place offshore and so is out of jurisdiction. The transcript is another matter, though without the audio it couldn’t be established to be an accurate or complete record.

  10. New Jack Karyn*

    #3: I’m not sure what Ann wants an apology for. She was snappish first; if that desk isn’t reserved, then Beth did nothing wrong by sitting there and didn’t deserve rudeness.

    Is An still perseverating on that one exchange? Might be worth checking into whether anything else has happened. If that really is the only thing, then I think Ann’s gotta let this one go.

    1. ismis*

      I’m with you! If someone snapped at me for using “their” hot desk, I might warn other colleagues as well.

      I once had a colleague (Molly) whose personal mug made it into the communal cupboard. A new colleague (Jane) used the mug to make a coffee and brought it back to her desk. Molly saw it, grabbed it, said “this is my mug!”, and stalked off. When she was complaining later about Jane stealing her mug, we told her off! Jane was new and had no idea about the mug politics, which sometimes were absolutely ridiculous.

      1. bamcheeks*

        This isn’t “mug politics”, this is access to legally protected disability accommodations that make it possible for Ann to do her job with the minimum amount of pain and exhaustion. I think people focussing on the “abruptly” aren’t recognising that this is a really bad situation to have put Ann in. She shouldn’t really have to ask anyone to move, and if it’s not possible to reserve a desk completely it should certainly be clear to everyone that she has priority at that desk space.

        1. I&I*

          Exactly. Obviously she shouldn’t have been abrupt, but since Beth responded with mockery, she clearly wasn’t intimidating. People without disabilities often don’t get that putting an obstacle between you and your assistance isn’t just irritating, it’s frightening. My guess is that Ann was privately panicking at the thought of all the difficulties she might be about to face, hence her tone.

          Beth would have been within her rights to say, ‘I wasn’t aware and I’m moving now, so please don’t snap at me,’ but giggling and making fun? Yeah, I can see why Ann is upset. Beth is acting like access is an eccentric quirk, not a medical need. And it’s daunting to be stuck with people like that, because they may give more trouble in future.

          There’s a pressure on disabled people to handle things perfectly every time, but we’re only human and a little grace goes a long way. Ann might need to apologise too, but Beth needs to apologise more – not for sitting there, but for mocking a colleague in distress.

          1. Kella*

            This is a very good summary of my feelings on the topic.

            I dropped out of college before the end of my freshmen year and since then I’ve developed several disabilities. If I were to return to school, I would 100% need a special chair to sit in because no way my body could tolerate those terrible metal desk/chairs. One of the things that discourages me every time I think about it is the thought of showing up at class and some random person sitting in my special, more comfortable chair and having to convince them to move, over and over and over again.

            I would bet quite a lot that Ann has run into problems getting people to move so she could access her equipment in the past, and Beth making a joke about it made it that much worse. Beth may not have known the context (buuut maybe she did?) but that doesn’t change that this was a difficult situation for Ann.

            1. Alice*

              If it helps bring you some peace of mind, once students choose a seat the first day of class they stick to it for the whole year. In over 10 years of university teaching I have never seen students willingly change seats after the first week of class.

              1. Momma Bear*

                People are very much creatures of habit. I also wonder if this need for Ann to have that desk was explained to Beth upfront or if she only found out the day Ann had to ask her to move.

                Kella, I hop you reach out to the university’s disability office. See what can be arranged for you.

              2. AnonPi*

                Commenting a day late, but not all classes/universities do this. In fact I had maybe 2-3 classes total across 3 universities for my grad/undergrad that had assigned seating. We have gravitated toward a specific section (front/back, left right) but otherwise changed seats all the time.

            2. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

              It sucks that the worry over equipment makes you concerned about returning to school- does your university have an office for accommodations you can talk to? There might already be a better system in place than ‘disabled person needing to convince people to not take their seat’. Or would remote learning work for you? My university had designated note-takers as well as remote/recorded lectures so that could help.

          2. Emily Byrd Starr*

            I agree. As a disabled person, I also think it’s worth mentioning that sometimes disabled people don’t realize that they are coming off as being too abrupt. This is particularly true for my disability (nonverbal learning disability), as my inability to understand nonverbal communication means that I am not always aware of how my own body language and tone of voice is perceived by others. I’m getting better at nonverbal communication now that I’m aware of it, but I still struggle sometimes. We don’t know what Ann’s disability is, and I know we’re not supposed to speculate or diagnose on this site, and I’m not. I’m just saying that, as a neurodivergent person, I’m willing to give Ann a little grace. I also totally agree with what you said about how disabled people are expected to handle everything perfectly all the time and how we’re under so much pressure between the struggles that our disability causes and our need to advocate for ourselves.

            1. I&I*

              Or she might have been in pain, which does wonders for nobody’s tone. There are any number of possible explanations.

              Dispiriting how many people’s imaginations jump to mitigating factors for the non-disabled person, ngl.

            2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              But you can’t have a double standard for workplace behavior. If Adam is snapping at Bob and especially if Adam’s disability isn’t generally known, Bob can’t be expected to just tolerate the rudeness.

              1. I&I*

                There’s nothing in the post that says Beth was unaware, and making allowances for a disability is the literal opposite of a double standard.

                1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  The post also doesn’t say Beth WAS aware. It does say she was new; she was still learning the ropes.

                2. I&I*

                  It’s just notable how many non-disabled people are in a hurry to give her the benefit of the doubt while the disabled commenters … feel this is a familiar situation, let’s say.

          3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

            Playing Devil’s Advocate, it wasn’t clear if Ann said why she needed to move.

            You should never mock anyone regardless, but if someone rudely told me to move without context I might not be so charitable.

            Giggling alone I would give Beth the benefit of the doubt, I know many people who giggle and say weird things when they are embarrassed. If Ann was hostile she might have been flustered and trying to make light in a way that came off weird.

            If this was reddit I would list this one ESH including the boss for letting this drag on for 3 months.

          4. Random Dice*

            Thank you. I’m disabled.

            I have intense anxiety about using the disabilities accommodations I need, because I don’t “look” disabled. If someone were to actually be a jerk about it, it would be so much worse.

        2. ismis*

          Absolutely she should have access and it should be made clear!

          But every desk is a hot desk and Beth is new. I think the failure is the company’s and not Beth’s.

        3. amoeba*

          From my reading, the equipment is portable and she was just annoyed that she had to move it to a different desk – which, fair enough, but not really the Ann’s fault? Also, not like Ann was blocking her equipment/accommodation?

          1. Tiger Snake*

            “not like Ann was blocking her equipment/accommodation?”

            Actually, that’s exactly what it was. LW#3 tells us that Ann asked Beth to move so Ann could get her equipment and move it to another desk for her to use.

            Ann never demanded Beth cannot use the hot desk. She did say that Beth had Ann’s belongings and Ann needed them. It was Beth that then made jokes and accusations exaggerating that Ann was being precious about a desk, when in reality Beth was preventing Ann for getting her property:

            “move, as she needed her equipment to set up her desk at a different location”

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I don’t think Beth was purposely blocking Ann from getting her gear. It sounded more like, just by someone sitting there, it was awkward/impossible to disconnect and remove the equipment. Beth wasn’t preventing Ann from getting what she needed.

              What accusation did Beth make?

              1. amoeba*

                Yes, that’s how I read it – she was basically just sitting in the way and needed to move to the side for a second so Ann could grab her stuff. Which is not blocking something on purpose – also, she probably didn’t know it was Ann’s, so it’s not like she could have moved out of the way preemptively?

        4. Seashell*

          It is not clear that the disability issue was explained to Beth at the time Ann asked her to move. If all Ann said was something like “That’s my desk – you need to move”, Beth is not a mind reader.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            Yeah and the LW makes it seem like the apology was asked for much later (even possibly months later).

          2. NotThatBeth*

            If I am a normal person with common sense and I see 20 plain desks and one with special equipment I don’t need do I assume that desk is for me? Do I then get bitter at the person who needs the equivalent?

            1. blah*

              We don’t know what the equipment looks like – it’s not fair to assume it would be extremely obvious. It’s on the company to let new hires know if certain desks are needed by coworkers.

              1. amoeba*

                Yup, who knows – maybe it was just a slightly different keyboard, or maybe it wasn’t even visible on the desk, but stored in the drawer or whatever!

              2. Treena*

                But surely if that was the case, OP would have said so.

                “I understand why Beth doesn’t want to apologize because the equipment doesn’t look different than the other equipment. I haven’t informed her that that equipment was reserved for Ann because of her disability because I think I’m not supposed to disclose that to other employees.”

                If that was the case, the situation and advice would be obvious. Inform Beth, it’s okay to disclose that something is an accommodation and that’s not the same as ‘outing’ someone’s disability.

                Instead, OP focuses on the two of them being petty refusing to resolve this issue via apologies.

          3. Emily Byrd Starr*

            Ooh, I didn’t even think of it! Perhaps Ann’s disability was not disclosed to Beth, for fear of “outing” Ann. However, as this is a case of accommodation, it is crucial that Beth is aware of Ann’s disability, so she won’t think that Ann is just being obnoxious.

        5. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

          I agree with what you’ve said but the problem is with the company not designating the desk as ‘Ann’s Desk’ in some way, not with Beth for not knowing- we don’t know if Beth is aware of Ann’s disability or the accommodations she needs for it.

          From Beth’s perspective, Ann could just have snapped at her for sitting at a preferred desk, not a medically necessary desk. Or maybe Beth IS aware and in that case she’s totally in the wrong, but the letter writer doesn’t say ‘the office knows about Ann’s disability and is aware of the accommodations/equipment’. Beth is a new employee and it sounds like Ann is often out of the office. This could be one of the first times they’ve even met.

      2. Treena*

        I’m going to ignore the fact that you’re comparing a disability accommodation to mug politics, because ew.

        You’re telling me that brand new to a job, you would warn other colleagues about not sitting at a desk, something existing employees would presumably already know?

        Or is Beth just being petty and looking for other people in the office to validate her snarkiness?

        1. Quack like a Duck*

          But the mug situation could be similar – if Beth didn’t know about Ann’s accessibility needs, then she just sees someone being oddly possessive of what she thought was a shared desk. The same way the coworker in the mug example was oddly possessive of a mug from the shared cupboard. I don’t think comparing the situations is out of line.

          Beth should still apologize for the snark of course, it’s crappy no matter where she was coming from.

          1. NotThatBeth*

            But presumably this desk is different than the others without equipment and a sensible person may have understood it has a specific purpose. Says the librarian who has had to kick patrons out of my chair at the reference desk

            1. Seashell*

              I’m a sensible person, and I have no idea what said equipment might look like. I imagine there’s a range of things to accommodate various disabilities, and some of them might just look like basic computer equipment.

              1. Yorick*

                Some accommodations just look like “slightly” nicer equipment, and you might think whoever gets to it first gets to use it.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Eh, DSE seems to just refer to *any* graphical screen. So it could just be the desk with the largest monitors or additional monitors, or maybe it’s a black box that might be an external hard drive, a dock or some sort of accommodation. From the letter, it sounds like the equipment is pretty portable (Ann was able to set it up at another desk), so it’s possible Ann doesn’t even use the same desk every time she comes in.

            3. Starbuck*

              Maybe? I don’t work at a company fancy enough that all the equipment is standard and purchased all at once – things wear out unevenly and are replaced as needed, so no two stations look exactly the same anyway with a mix of new and older monitors etc. We just don’t know how obvious it was.

          2. Treena*

            No, it’s been three months and most certainly Beth has been informed that the equipment is for accommodations and she continues to *Refuse to apologize*

            If she’s been informed the issue was related to a disability accommodation, then Beth is most certainly being awful. If she hasn’t been informed, then the OP/manager is being a terrible manager and not informing her of the situation. Either way, Ann is not the terrible one here.

        2. blah*

          Please don’t tell me you’re taking your assumptions on Beth as absolute truth (“is Beth just being petty”), because ew.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        I think what makes the warning really weird and indicative of bad judgement is that Beth is new. As a new employee, I definitely wouldn’t say anything to one coworker that could be interpreted as a criticism of another.

        Yeah, being new, she may not have known the reason why Ann needed a particular desk, but as a new person, it’s generally best to assume you don’t know the full story in such a situation rather than just assuming that the other person is being ridiculous and it’s definitely not a good idea for a new employee to mock established employees to each other.

        Not that it would be OK for a long-term employee to react like that either, but I could imagine a situation where they didn’t know about the disability, knew the culture of the organisation was for anybody to use any desk and thought Ann was out-of-step with the culture, but a new employee really isn’t in a position to judge that.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          That’s true but could go the other way too – as the more tenured employee Ann could have assumed Beth didn’t know and been more polite.

          Either way it sounds like alot of drama for one minor incident that happened three months ago.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think this should be a flag to dig in deeper, LW. An incident like this usually fades with time, but the demand for an apology and decision to file a formal report show that it’s snowballing instead.

            I suspect that a) there were pre-existing issues between Ann and Beth before the incident; b) there have been additional incidents between Ann and Beth since the one three months ago (e.g. bullying or cliquishness); or c) Ann is experiencing other issues with the culture in the office (such as microaggressions about her disability) that keep bringing the old incident to the front of her mind.

            Invite Ann to tell you what’s going on, and really listen. Then invite Beth to do the same. Whatever you decide to do in response, *don’t* discourage Ann from making a formal report to HR even if you don’t think it is warranted.

        2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          As a new employee, I wouldn’t assume someone had a disability or that there was an extensive backstory if someone was rude to me from the get-go. After such an exchange, I might assume Ann was trying to push me around when all I did was sit at a desk, to establish a pecking order with the newbie.

    2. Olive*

      Beth’s response seemed like a nervous reaction to me. She could have been more professional but it didn’t seem like a disproportionate response – at this point, forcing apologies over what should have been a minor incident is probably going to make things more awkward. Both employees should have been told separately to briefly consider how they could have each had a more professional response.

      1. Treena*

        If it was just a nervous reaction, then why dig in her heels and refuse to apologize? It’s been explained to her that the equipment was an accommodation, and anyone in their (non-ableist) right mind would be horrified at the misunderstanding and *want* to apologize. The fact that Beth doesn’t means at best she doesn’t understand disability or she doesn’t care to. Either is not a quality to excuse her behavior.

        1. L-squared*

          Probably because she doesn’t feel she needs to apologize when the initial wrong was done by Ann. I sure wouldn’t

          If Ann apologized for snapping at her, maybe she’d apologize too.

          1. I&I*

            So it’s ok to make fun of a disabled colleague because you didn’t like their tone when you blocked the access? This is how hostile work environments kick off.

            1. Treena*

              Seriously, it’s like some of these commenters are willfully ignoring the definition of a hostile work environment.

              1. I&I*

                People often imagine that prejudice against the disabled is like, ‘Ooh, a disabled person, I don’t like their sort!’

                No. One way it often happens is that a disabled person needs something ‘extra’ to level the playing field, and people really, really notice that they aren’t an extra-good person – just an ordinary person with flaws. But here they are taking up space with their wheelchair or bogarting the best desk or asking you to knock off something that a Normal person wouldn’t object to, and who do they think they are? Don’t they realise they should be totally perfect to deserve it?

                People get really focused on all the ways you aren’t an inspirational poster, is what I’m saying. More than they focus on the fact that if your disability isn’t accommodated, you are going to suffer a lot. That … seems to interest them less.

                How angelic does Ann need to be before she deserves to feel like she won’t get mocked for needing access to her disability aid?

                1. Random Dice*

                  Thank you. I’m guessing you are also disabled.

                  Also, ^^^ is why it sucks when the able-bodied
                  shoehorn the disabled onto a motivational poster to inspire the able-bodied. We’re not dolls who exist to motivate you. We just want to do what we need to do, with a minimum of fuss and pain and exhaustion.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              Beth didn’t know Ann needed the gear. I don’t think she was blocking it intentionally, or being a jerk about clearing out so that Ann could get it.

              I get it that people don’t like Beth making the joke or refusing to apologize, but there’s no reason to think she prevented Ann from getting her gear.

              1. I&I*

                When you’re disabled, getting between you and the stuff you need is stressful in itself, because life hurts without it. Life is already an obstacle course, and one more obstacle – well, they may be innocent, but they happen in a context. And the workplace should aware of that context and making it suck less.

                Obviously that doesn’t mean you can be rude, but look: whatever Ann’s condition, it’s serious enough that she keeps needing time off for appointments, yet she’s stuck with hot-desking when she should have a designated area. The workplace was setting her up for an incident like this, because that’s a situation of continual stress and there was always going to come a moment when she let that show somehow. Constant stress is exhausting and disabled people are just people.

                It’s more the workplace’s fault that Beth’s that this happened, but the entire set-up was such that Ann wasn’t being given reliable access to her access aids. Beth caught a tone that was more deserved by management, but refusing to show empathy once she understood the situation … well, she’s not doing everything she can to NOT be a jerk.

                And the workplace is definitely a jerk set-up. Ann getting access shouldn’t create a constant risk of drama.

              2. Treena*

                No one is saying Beth refused Ann access to her gear overtly or is taking issue with the initial snark, it’s the fact that Ann is reporting a hostile work environment over the last three months and reporting that an apology from Beth will suffice. Do you really think Beth’s behavior stopped at a single giggle three months ago? Or has she contributed to a hostile work environment towards Ann?

          1. Treena*

            Maybe it hasn’t. But then that means Ann is even more in the right here, as OP/management should have informed Beth of the disability accommodation context.

            I also have a really hard time believing that in three months, Beth hasn’t figured it out, even if she hasn’t been explicitly informed via a mediation procedure.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Except a company *shouldn’t* inform employees about a coworker’s disability or accommodations. Ann could choose to inform Beth, but LW shouldn’t do so without Ann’s explicit go-ahead.

              Management should have shared work-relevant information (“this is Ann’s permanent desk” or “Ann needs access to this equipment to do her job”), but it would bee completely out of line to say “Due to Ann’s loss of eyesight, she needs to use this larger monitor.” That isn’t information Beth needs and it would violate Ann’s medical privacy.

              1. Treena*

                They can’t disclose the disability or the fact that it’s a disability accommodation, but they can definitely say something that basically gives Beth the info she needs to understand the context.

                From JAN:
                The EEOC offers:
                “If employees ask questions about a coworker who has a disability, the employer must not disclose any medical information in response. An employer also may not tell employees whether it is providing a reasonable accommodation for a particular individual.”
                BUT, they
                “…may explain that it is acting for legitimate business reasons or in compliance with federal law.”

                Thus, a manager might also say:
                “…it has a policy of assisting any employee who encounters difficulties in the workplace,” and that “…many of the workplace issues encountered by employees are personal, and that, in these circumstances, it is the employer’s policy to respect employee privacy.”

                Any of those options would make it abundantly clear that this is for a Legitimate Reason and Ann is not being entitled or whiny in any way.

              2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                Right. But it could be explained to new employees that that particular desk wasn’t available for hot-desking. It wouldn’t have to be a big deal. If anyone asked why Ann always got that desk, it could be explained that it was hers because it had equipment her job required her to use.

          2. Starbuck*

            Yeah I don’t think we know that? The LW wasn’t very detailed, so for all we know they just told Beth that she needed to apologize for being rude to Ann.

        2. I Need Coffee*

          Because if someone was rude to me first and I was asked to apologize to them, I might just dig my heels in too. At most, Ann would get the least sincere apology ever uttered, unless she was also apologizing to me for her rudeness.

        3. Temperance*

          I wouldn’t want to apologize for anything in this instance, either. Beth sat at a desk, not knowing some unspoken rule, and Ann was rude to her. I would be pretty annoyed that I’m supposed to apologize to someone who was the first bad actor and who started the whole thing.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Olive’s point is that Beth might not have been trying to make fun — if all she did was say “I wouldn’t sit there if I were you” with a nervous giggle, I can totally see that as an awkward attempt to externalize/defuse the “coworker at my brand-new job unexpectedly snapped at me for something I didn’t know was wrong” tension she was feeling rather than, like, mean-spirited pointing and laughing.

          I wish the letter was clearer about what’s been happening in the interim.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Your last paragraph. There’s a whole lot more here. I wasn’t even sure if the giggling and tell the other person not to sit there was the same day or later. Then digging in her heels on an apology. Why? What did she say? Did manager ever ask why not? Why is Anne feeling more left out? Over one incidence or two? Or is even more going on like a whisper campaign?

            Instead of acting like Anne’s complaint will go nowhere, OP needs to dig into what else is *really* going on. Also Anne needs an assigned desk ASAP.

            BTW, Happy Day off to the Leap Year Employee.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            I’m trying and failing to parse that sentence as not making fun of Ann (plus, we’re supposed to take the LW at their word, and they clearly said the comment was flippant). It may have been a joke out of nervousness, maybe, but that’s still not ok.

            I’m reacting specifically to the word (dis)proportionate. Proportionate would be to ask to not be spoken to that way. Giggling may be involuntary, even understandable, but not proportionate.

            1. Katie A*

              Giggling isn’t disproportionate to someone (from Beth’s perspective) being randomly rude to you and claiming a desk as theirs when, as far as you’ve been told, they’re all first come first serve.

              Someone making a little joke because their coworker at their new job just made them feel bad for no clear reason is also not a huge deal.

              The fault lies with the company for not giving Ann a permanent spot or, if that’s not possible, for not making the situation clear to Beth (“some spots may have equipment on them, try to avoid using those”) or giving Ann a place to put her equipment when she leaves the office, so she doesn’t have to take it from a desk that is in use.

            2. e271828*

              Giggling plus snippy remark to uninvolved bystander tells me that Beth is a bit immature. I would be keeping an eye/ear on what her other interactions in the office are like for signs of bullying, clique cultivation, or other inappropriate social habits.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I agree with you. In Beth’s shoes I would probably have made an apology for the sake of harmony and moving on, even if I didn’t really think it was warranted, but I can also see that Beth chose not to do that and that’s a valid choice as well. I do think even if the equipment is for a medical need, it doesn’t excuse Ann from being reasonably polite to people. It seems at this stage she’s basically just sulking. If she makes the threat to make an official complaint again, I’d call her bluff and say OK here’s how you start the process. It won’t be upheld, and may even be considered vexatious.

      1. Treena*

        How do you know it wouldn’t be upheld? Maybe Ann’s complaint will be that she has to ask people to move every single day she comes in, and there are fundamental issues with the hot-desking that need addressing.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          I think that’s way more valid and worth addressing than an apology for a single incident (though if there’s more to the incident, I wouldn’t need shocked).

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          (How do I know it won’t be upheld?) Of course I don’t know for sure, but the threat of a complaint is linked to the apology situation (“She wants an apology or says she will make a formal complaint.”), rather than the larger situation of being able to access the equipment when she needs it, on thar and any occasion.

          When this reaches the person hearing the complaint, the first thing they’ll ask is what steps she’s taken to resolve this informally. And she hasn’t taken any (unless you count pouting about it and “not letting go”). The complaint hearer will likely ask Ann to recount again what happened in the original situation, which will go like this: That desk has the equipment on it that I needed. So I asked Beth to move so I could access it. (“And did she move?”) Yes, but she giggled. And she hasn’t apologised. (“Is it possible that she didn’t know you needed that equipment or that that desk was reserved?”) Maybe, but she was still in the wrong and I want an apology. This is causing an atmosphere in the team.

          1. Treena*

            “Ann is stating she feels there is an atmosphere from the incident that is causing her anxiety and she feels this is discrimination due to her disability”

            The complaint is not going to be about a single giggle.

            Many people might think that if management can get Beth to apologize, then that will mean the environment would be less hostile and more tolerable. It’s also extremely common to desperately want to resolve the situation without a formal complaint because you’re keenly aware that formally complaining will perhaps change their behavior but will likely damage the relationship with the coworkers.

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              Or make the environment feel more hostile and intolerable to Beth. She works there too and has the same right as other employees to feel “comfortable.”

              1. I&I*

                Hostile environment refers to a protected class, which as far as we know Ann is and Beth isn’t.

                1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  Yes, it does. But that doesn’t mean Beth wasn’t experiencing a coworker’s hostility even if it wasn’t within the definition of “hostile environment.”

                2. I&I*

                  Beth isn’t complaining about feeling hostility, or ‘an atmophere from the incident’. Ann is.

                  Which, let’s remember, is a more undue burden on Ann. Beth can sit anywhere in the office. If Ann can’t use her equipment, she can’t work: she’s stuck with having to go through the business of re-checking her access to it every day because of the ridiculous hot-desking arrangement. Given that Beth is refusing to apologise, that’s giving strong ‘I’m entitled to comment on your access needs if I feel provoked’ vibes – which means Ann has to come into work every day with the anxiety of not knowing if her disability will end up associated with an issue.

                  Beth has a coworker who might make remarks to her. Ann has a coworker who might make remarks to her ***about how she accesses the stuff that makes it medically possible to do her job.*** One of these things is not like the other.

                  This is all the result of bad management. Ann should have her own space, hot-desking is an accessibility nightmare, and the conflict should have been properly mediated three months ago. And no, neither should have spoken to the other that way.

                  But in a situation that describes two people handling a conflict imperfectly, Beth is ***much better off*** than Ann. This playing field is not level, and pretending it is puts Ann at an unjustifiable disadvantage.

      2. I&I*

        ‘Sulking’ rather than ‘feeling uncomfortable’? You have no basis for that rather nasty assumption.

    4. Earlk*

      Because it’s one thing to abruptly as someone to move if you’re in a rush and it’s another thing to make jokes about one colleague to another in front of the colleague you’re mocking. Ann would be the one who needed to apologise if Beth hadn’t made things worse.

      Although overall the company needs to apologise for having a hot desking policy that doesn’t work for their employees.

    5. Also-ADHD*

      It seems odd Beth won’t apologize at all (just to move on) but even more odd if Ann asked for apology way later. It sounded like she ruminated and then asked, possibly months later, for an after the fact apology for an action that was neither ongoing nor malicious, where she was snapping first? I’m not surprised Alison asked what else could be going on, because otherwise, it’s all very strange.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I would say that everyone was a bit out of line because hot desking and open offices etc grind on people to the point that tiny things become huge things. Especially if you need to have accessibility equipment at your desk! This is speculative, but I think Ann is more annoyed at the hot desking situation than at Beth, but took it out on Beth because this is the umpteenth time she has had to ask someone to move. Beth was also being a bit of a jerk by laughing and giggling about Ann being grumpy about needing her equipment, but maybe she has also gotten a bit fed up of the hot desking situation, and Ann’s grumpiness with it. Also, it might have been unwise but it is really common for people to try to diffuse the awkward atmosphere of curtness with a joke. Just as common; not appreciating a joke when you’re at the end of your tether. Well, now nobody is letting it go because this is a great way to raise their unhappiness with hot desking without saying it’s management’s fault – instead it’s Ann’s fault or Beth’s fault. Really, just stop the madness with the hotdesking and this will all go away – do they at least have trolleys or bins for their equipment? Isn’t it possible to at least give Ann priority?

  11. Fikly*

    LW2: Is there a second issue here? The language used was that the AI attended “on their behalf.”

    So…was this a meeting the person was supposed to attend, and instead of actually attending it, they used an AI to record/transcribe it? Because that’s a whole other thing to address.

    1. CTT*

      I came to the comments to ask exactly that and how to handle it if the attendee isn’t present. This happened in a zoom meeting recently where someone had their third party AI log in and transcribe the meeting. We just got a message in the chat that was like “Jane Smith can’t attend this meeting and [AI Service] is taking notes on her behalf.” This was a very low-stakes meeting to clarify the CLE schedule for the year so there was nothing particularly confidential so we awkwardly continued. But I don’t know what we would have done if it was something more privileged and we didn’t want it transcribed. I guess the organizer could have kicked it out of the meeting, but I wonder if it would try to reconnect?

    2. Nonanon*

      Eh, honestly, “on their behalf” could mean several things: stuck in another meeting, on PTO or other leave and want the summary to catch up, wanted notes for training purposes, person “invited” AI and that’s just the language the program uses even if they were at the meeting. It’s possible, but the letter at its face is “I am uncomfortable with AI notetaking, is there any way we can proceed going forward,” not “my employee is using an AI notetaker to get out of attending meetings.”

    3. TW*

      I read a book set in the post-apocalyptic future recently where exactly this scenario was a thing. Meetings full of AI-assistants who had learned to answer questions/speak like the actual attendees did, who would ping the actual person if anything it couldn’t answer came up. It was funny and believable in a book about the distant future… but now it’s feeling a lot more real.

  12. Olive*

    LW3 is hard to judge without knowing exactly how abrupt Ann was and as Alison already asked, how Beth has behaved since then. If I were a new hire and someone was rude to me in my first week, I wouldn’t make a big deal of it, but I would low key avoid them outside of professional interactions. In my early 20s, I would have been too paralyzed to apologize and might not have remembered making a nervous comment/giggle at all. I mean, I can imagine if someone came up to my desk and demanded I move for reasons unknown to me, looking around the room and saying like “ooooohkaaay then, haha?”. Which might not be the more professional behavior, but doesn’t seem like discrimination to me.

    Now this is speculation and it’s also possible that Ann really wasn’t rude at all and that Beth has plenty of experience starting different jobs, is deliberately bigoted, and has been behaving poorly – it doesn’t sound like the OP knows of any further incidents or behaviors, but it’s definitely worth investigating.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I read it as OP was there for the exchange, witnessed it themselves, and isn’t relying on 2nd hand information. Otherwise, I’d agree with you that someone might be exaggerating Ann’s snapping and downplaying Beth’s reactions.

      1. Treena*

        If OP was there to witness it, why didn’t she shut everything down in the moment? “Oh sorry, Beth I should have told you during on-boarding, but this is Ann’s equipment and she has priority over it.” My guess is she didn’t witness it, but it would be even worse if she did and hasn’t been able to shut down Beth’s bad behavior for three months!

        1. amoeba*

          But was Beth even using the equipment? From what I read, Ann just told her to move to the side so she could grab her stuff and take it to a different desk. (In an abrupt way because she was annoyed by having to move?)

          1. Caliente Papillon*

            This sounds like an Ann problem. Annoyed someone was (accidentally) where she was supposed to be so she had an attitude when asking them to move so she could get her stuff. If she had not had an attitude she could’ve just said oh hey would you mind choosing another desk because x.
            So she was pissy with Beth and then Beth warned someone else but to sit there – so they didn’t have to be treated rudely next! And Ann is pissed? Ok. I don’t think Beth has anything to apologize for at all – is she supposed to apologize for sitting at a place she didn’t know she shouldn’t have? For warming someone else not to sit there which would be a normal thing to do.

        2. Sneaky Squirrel*

          Yes, I had this question too. If OP is the manager and witnessed the interaction, then why didn’t OP intervene and apologize for placing Beth where Ann’s equipment was in the moment? Or remind Ann that she doesn’t own the desk just because her equipment is there? Even if they didn’t know it was Ann’s equipment at the time, when they saw the exchange got a little tense, they could have taken some ownership.

      2. Olive*

        I read it that OP was there too, but I still think there are a large range of behaviors that could be called abrupt.

        Sometimes women are called inappropriately abrupt for not being fawning and are held to a different, unfair standard of social behavior.
        But also sometimes unacceptable rudeness is downplayed because the bystanders hate conflict and the target of the rudeness is expected to be the one to apologize because it’ll keep the boat from rocking.
        I honestly don’t get a good read on what happened even though the letter describes the events.

        1. br_612*

          Some people would say a woman was abrupt in this scenario just because she didn’t start with “I’m sorry” so . . . yeah. More information needed. Did she stand there tapping her foot with her arms crossed? Or did she just say it in a neutral to cool tone and not apologize for needing her equipment?

          1. Katie A*

            Idk, if someone just said “I need my equipment” in a cool tone, that’s kind of rude. Asking someone to stop doing what they’re doing and getting into the space they’re using for the day is disruptive and it’s good to acknowledge that. “Excuse me” would be a normal way to start that request that would soften things without “I’m sorry.”

            Softening language is good, actually, because it smooths social situations. Women get criticized for not using it when men don’t, and sometimes in situations where it shouldn’t be used, yes. But this is one of those things (like exclamation points or emoji in email) where men should do it more rather than women just doing it less because it’s a useful communication and social tool.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Idk, if someone just said “I need my equipment” in a cool tone, that’s kind of rude.

              Why? Is she supposed to apologize for needing her equipment to do her job? Maybe she should apologize for being disabled and daring to be in the workplace too while she’s at it?

              If someone said to me “I need my equipment, let me get it.” without any apologies for needing it, it would be fine because it’s a simple, neutral statement of fact.

              Disabled people don’t need to apologize for existing or having needs to do their work. We end up doing it anyway, just because so many people have an attitude like we’re supposed to abjectly beg for the favor of being allowed to exist and work with “normal” people.

              Disabled people who are female bodied get doubly expected to mewl and crawl to be allowed in abled spaces, constantly having to apologize for existing and having needs.

              So not, Ann doesn’t need any more softening language. Especially since she probably has to ask the same thing every time she comes in to the office. If you had to do that every time, if would get really old really fast, and she’s probably past over having to beg for her stuff to be able to work.

              Beth needs a thicker skin, and needs to grow up. Ann needs an assigned desk, with signs.

              1. Starbuck*

                No, Ann shouldn’t have to apologize. But again assuming Beth has no idea that Ann has a disability and that this is accommodation equipment – because we don’t know if she knew then or now – in a hot desking situation you’re not supposed to leave personal equipment at a shared station! So without context unfortunately Ann can come across as the unreasonable one. The company and manager definitely need to do a better job with this accommodation,

              2. nodramalama*

                The softening language isn’t because Ann is a woman. The softening language is so that Beth doesn’t feel like she did something wrong. Because she didn’t. Being abrupt about it will read to MOST people that Ann is annoyed with Beth for sitting there.

              3. Katie A*

                I didn’t say she should apologize. In fact, I specifically mentioned a way to acknowledge that you’re disrupting someone without saying “I’m sorry.”

                Even if she did apologize, it obviously wouldn’t be for needing her equipment. It would be for disrupting her coworker. Apologizing for disrupting someone, even when it’s for a good reason, like getting equipment you need.

                It seems like you’re dealing with ableism at work. That must be really difficult, to have people expect you to apologize for needing accommodations. I’ve only had official accommodations during school, and that was hard to ask for sometimes, even though I had backup and wasn’t relying on the accommodations to keep a roof over my head. I can’t imagine how much harder it is when the stakes are higher and people are actively unsupportive. I hope things get better for you there, or you find a place that actually values and respects you.

                1. Katie A*

                  *Apologizing for disrupting someone is the polite and collegial thing to do, even when it’s for a good reason, like getting equipment you need.

  13. Enoby*

    “You’re responsible for finding your own way to work” isn’t really something grown adults should even need to be told. Getting rides is fine once in awhile, but it shouldn’t surprise him to find out it isn’t a sustainable or reliable way to get around. And it’s not the LW’s problem that this guy makes less money, how he manages it, or why he spends it the way he does.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      And its really a bad look for the grandboss to be handling it this way. Not the extra face time so much as, this was a job requirement. Without any other reason, this person is being allowed to slide on it by getting rides from their bosses.

      If they have to pay for an uber, that’s on them for not following a job requirement. This isn’t OP’s problem to fix.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah the thing that really stuck out to me was also that they don’t even live close to each other! Most of the letters we’ve had in the past where OPs feel like they’ve gotten stuck giving a coworker a ride the whole situation starts because the driver is basically able to pick up the coworker on their way.

        I do wonder if because he said he would get one OP thought it would be a more temporary situation. But regardless, it’s time to go back to him and say “we talked about you needing to get a car when we hired you and you said you would do that, that needs to happen sooner rather than later” (or if OP doesn’t care if they take the Uber or gets a ride from a non-coworker they can just say “you need to be responsible for your own transportation and not rely on coworkers.”)

    2. Smithy*

      I think depending on the workplace, this can easily become a more complicated dynamic and it’s likely worth a follow up with this person’s direct supervisor.

      I have a close friend who got a job in a more rural part of the US. She didn’t have a car, and therefore got an apartment less than 3 miles from the office with the expectation that she’d walk. While she didn’t live far from the office, it wasn’t in a part of the world where the roads really had sidewalks and where the weather would get bad (i.e. snow, heavy rain, ice).

      For all of her intentions of being independent, as a young women in a more junior role – from her older coworkers there would often be offers of rides accompanied by concerns about her getting to the office under X conditions (the snow, the rain, in the dark, etc). At some point when you are regularly being offered rides, it’s hard and a bit unfair to expect that person to never speak up when they actually would appreciate a ride (i.e. recently hurt an ankle or have extra items to carry).

      So if this junior employee’s direct supervisor and/or coworkers have regularly been offering rides to/from the office – when they occasionally ask directly, I think it’s unfair to not look at the whole dynamic. If this junior staff member has just been asking directly for rides and never been offered them – that’s one issue. But if this dynamic is going both ways, then it won’t be addressed by just talking to the junior staff member.

    3. Random Bystander*

      Yes–it’s one thing when something really unexpected happens to change your usual plans and need to request a ride or call in suddenly; it’s another thing altogether for “depending on the kindness of others” as the actual plan.

  14. bamcheeks*

    My answer to #3 is to ask whether you’ve had and explicit conversation with Ann about whether that desk is reserved for her or whether that’s not possible but she always has the right to ask people to move. Generally speaking, best practice would be to reserve a desk for the person who needs specialist adaptive equipment, to avoid putting someone in the situation where they have to interrupt someone else’s work in order to access it. If that’s not possible to reserve the desk, you should make it very clear that they have priority there and other people can use it when the person isn’t present, but you need to make priority and changeover as smooth and clear as possible to everyone.

    If you haven’t had that conversation, you’ve put Ann in an awkward position. She now has to go and assert her right to her equipment from someone who might think she’s being fussy, annoying, interrupting etc, or where she’s thinking, “maybe I could just go without it once, it’ll be a little bit of pain but…” I don’t know exactly what “abrupt” means, but you’ve created the situation where Ann’s level of politeness is being judged when she’s simply asking for access. That’s a humiliating situation for many people, and one your accommodations should specifically seek to avoid. She shouldn’t have to do that! And if Beth and Chris were snarking and giggling about her, I’m not surprised she felt alienated and humiliated.

    You should apologise to Ann and reconsider how she accesses her accommodations. You should apologise to Beth for not having made it clear that Ann had priority to that space (ideally, Beth should have known to move when she saw Ann coming and started moving her stuff) but also make it absolutely clear that snarking at a disabled coworker asking (even abruptly!) for access to her legally protected accommodations is unacceptable. And it sounds like you could all do with training on how to make a genuinely accessible workplace.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Yeah, the organization set this whole thing up by not making Ann’s desk permanent. But I don’t think it’s too hard to say,”Hey, let me jump in a second to pull this,” in a pleasant/neutral manner. Beth wasn’t doing anything wrong by sitting there’ she didn’t deserve impoliteness.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think how hard it is can depend on a lot of things. The clearer the priority is, the easier it is to be polite. Being tense and braced for pushback can easily come across as abruptness.

        If Beth and Chris didn’t know this was someone requesting access to her specialist accommodation equipment, the company is in the wrong for not having made that clearer. If Beth and Chris did know and still thought it was ok to snark and giggle at Ann, they’re in the wrong and that’s a pretty serious problem IMO.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Given that Ann is still upset about this exchange three months later, I am not certain that her original shortness with Beth was because she was anticipating pushback.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I’m confused by this logic! You think that if someone was anticipating a microaggression, they wouldn’t be upset by it when it does actually accur?

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I didn’t read Beth making a joke as a microaggression. I read it as a response to being snapped at.

        2. blah*

          This is the most reasonable read on this entire situation here. It’s too late to go back and fix things, LW needs to clear everything up yesterday.

    2. Chocoholic Librarian*

      I agree with your read on this. I read the situation as described in the letter as: Anne is frustrated/in pain/not her very best self, and doesn’t ask Beth for access to her DSE in as chipper or kind a way as Beth and OP would have preferred; Beth, instead of extending some grace to Ann, makes a pretty passive-aggressive comment/joke; and Ann is holding onto the interaction 3 months later because Beth never apologized and, having involved Chris initially, is probably still “joking” with him about it. Maybe even within Ann’s earshot.

      It would be more than fair for Ann to feel frustrated by having to constantly move the equipment she needs to do her job, much less to constantly ask people for their leeway to do so! And Beth was weirdly prepared to alienate Ann despite being new to the company. The combination of Beth’s initial reaction to Ann’s request, and her refusal to apologize, would make me really concerned about her soft skills and/or character. Ann deserves some leeway here, and for Pete’s sake, her own desk!

      1. I Have RBF*

        Being disabled, and having been in a hotdesk environment, it was a big pain in the ass to have to get my gear out of a drawer and set it up every damned day. I actually stopped using the drawer and just hauled my crap around in my backpack. I resented the hell out of having to do that, because if I didn’t my required stuff would vanish, grabbed and (ab)used by everyone around. For them it was novelty, for me it was the ability to work without pain.

        Between the open plan benching and the fact that you couldn’t leave anything specialized at a workstation, I left that job after less than a year.

    3. Treena*

      All of this! All I see is a dysfunctional ableist workplace and a bunch of comments focused on Ann’s “politeness”…

    4. EllenD*

      Absolutely. Ann already faces a lot of challenges, and not have unnecessary stress – like asking for desk or moving equipment – will make it easier for her to do her job and feel less stressed.

      1. Old Lady manager*

        I kind of see it a little different.
        New employee wasn’t notified by anyone that there was an issue with using this desk.
        Another employee asks them to move out of the way so that they can get their stuff not so nicely.
        New employee warns another employee about using that desk.
        New employee get’s “talked too” for attitude because they jokingly said that you don’t want to sit there and why.
        New employee refuses to apologize (Maybe they think that older employee should have their designated desk and thinks that the whole thing is ridiculous or could be because they have taken a course on why women apologize too much .)
        Who knows.
        The people who need to apologize is management and any other long term employees who just sat there and let this play out instead of warning the new hire or defusing the situation while they witnessed it happening “Hey Beth this is Ann” kind of deal. Management needs to apologize to them at the same time and that will free them up to apologize to each other. Then management needs to plan on how to better accommodate the worker who needs accommodation.
        If I was the new person, I would almost feel setup by management.
        The hostile environment that the older employee feels is real but it isn’t because of the new employee. The new employee was just the last straw.
        If it has been months with nothing else bad happening between these two, it also could be that all the resentment that the older employee has for the companies treatment of them is now focused on the new employee. This would also be helped by a management apology and accommodations changes.

    5. Cat Tree*

      Yeah I’m disappointed to see so many comments here policing Ann’s tone. That is an ableist microaggression. Usually the regular commenters here are more aware of this. Ann is put an an awkward and frustrating position. She has almost certainly had other people react in a variety of bad ways when she asked for access to her medically necessary equipment. She has probably encountered people that when she asked too politely, they didn’t think she was serious enough about her request.

      So Ann sees a new person and has to weigh all her previous experiences to try to hit the perfectly delicate balance of asking abruptly enough to be taken seriously but polite enough to not offend them.

      I mean, yeah, it kinda sucks for Beth because she didn’t know. But someone made one abrupt comment to her. Whereas Ann has the mental stress of gaining access to her required equipment, a song-and-dance she has surely give through many times in her life with varying results, but then people are saying that’s no excuse to ever be impolite?

      Frankly, it’s possible that Beth *doesn’t* take Ann’s disability seriously and if Ann had been more polite about it Beth would have complained about Ann being annoying or dramatic instead of rude.

      1. I Have RBF*

        … so many comments here policing Ann’s tone. That is an ableist microaggression.


        It’s not like Ann came along and said “Give me my fucking equipment, damnit!” She was merely abrupt, and didn’t beg forgiveness for needing her equipment to do her job. But apparently that’s not properly subservient enough from a disabled woman in the workplace.

        Seriously, people, those of us who are disabled get pretty damned tired of apologizing for existing and needing “extra” to be able to do our work. It’s why I’m extremely happy to be in a remote job, so I don’t need to deal with people like Beth and Chris when I need to do my job.

    6. Yellow sports car*

      Really depends on what the adaptive equipment is. Some setups are not practical to move around. Others are.

      Some adaptive equipment is as mobile as anyone else’s hotdesk setup (their personal keyboard, mouse, footrest, reading stand etc) – and if that is the case it is reasonable that the employee hotdesks the same as everyone else. It’s annoying to have to set up your desk every day, and may take 15-20 minutes, but that’s the case for everyone.

      Other times you cannot move stuff around and the desk needs to be reserved.

      If the equipment needs to stay in the one spot the employee should request a disability accommodation for a reserved desk. If it is just an annoyance for the employee – then they need to learn to live with it – and advocate strongly for the horror of hot-desking to become mostly extinct.

      (PWD who can hot desk and hates it for reasons unlinked to my disability – I absolutely can easily move my own equipment desk to desk same as everyone else)

      1. Saberise*

        It seems pretty clear here that is it highly mobile so depending on how often she’s working in the office it may be more practical to store it some place else than reserve the desk just for her like others have said. If it’s as simple as a keyboard and/or mouse than they find a place for it to be stored when she’s not there. The added bonus is it’s less wear on that device.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Agreed– I think I did say something originally about if it is something mobile, you still need that conversation to make sure that priority/access is clear.

        I do think if it’s taking people 15-20 minutes to set up desks though, it’s probably a sign that hotdesking may not be the best solution for your organisation!

        1. I Have RBF*

          Even when the only thing I needed to move around was my trackball, it was still a PITA to have to move it around, unplug the mouse, plug in my trackball, and shift around the keyboard so I could use it. Most people could use the generic mouse/keyboard/monitor, so they didn’t need to take 20 minutes to set up, they just sat down and started to work. But I had to do it every day. It got real old, real fast. It would have been worse if I had to ask people to move to get at my stuff.

      3. Treena*

        How would everyone need 15-20 minutes to set up their desk? If the equipment is already on the desk, they choose an empty desk and use the equipment already there. I can’t imagine there’s a place to check-out your keyboard and mouse and bring it to your desk, because if that were the case, this would be a non-issue for Ann. Are you thinking of a more tech-type of hot-desking where people take their laptops from desk to desk? I’m imagining one where every desk has keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc.

        So what is much more likely is that everyone else can walk in and have their pick of desks, saunter over, login, and then start working. Ann, on the other hand, needs to go to the desk where her equipment is kept, have a conversation, pick it up, bring it to another desk, then set it up. Yea that’s not even equal, let alone equitable.

    7. Baunilha*

      Also, even if Ann was a bit rude (and”abrupbt” is not necessarily rude), snarking back at her isn’t the solution, especially if the person who does it is a new employee!

      1. Treena*

        Exactly. If someone is comfortable being obnoxious as a new employee, then that says a lot to me about their character.

        I once went to to teach at a school and parked in an unmarked parking spot close to the front door. On the third day, a teacher told me I was parking in her spot. I said, “Oh I didn’t realize the parking spots were assigned” in a totally non-snarky, genuine, apologetic tone. She said they weren’t assigned, she just always parks there. In my head, I was rolling my eyes SO HARD but smiled and apologized and let her know I wouldn’t park there anymore. A year or two later we ended up collaborating on a project and my co-worker had to remind me of who she was because I had forgotten that she was the obnoxious parker.

        All that to say I would never walk into a new work situation and be snarky like that because I’m conscious of the fact that I’m unaware of many dynamics at play.

  15. mlem*

    For LW2 and recording concerns — yes, Zoom and Meet and similar video conferencing systems notify attendees if they’re recording, but AI participants don’t necessarily do the same. Don’t assume AI transcription *cares* if it’s breaking state law.

    There was a mini-scandal at my company when an interest group met, adjourned, and then received an unexpected AI transcript afterwards. Apparently one of the attendees had paid for a personal subscription to this tool … which was in direct violation of our *licensing* policies. (Because of some prior incident, we’re not allowed to accept any EULAs or Terms of Service for anything not already on the whitelist; if we absolutely need to add a new tool, we have to get it approved by Legal.) This was also in an all-party recording consent state, for bonus fun.

  16. Brain the Brian*

    Maybe I’m just really thick — but what does “DSE” stand for in LW3’s context? I get that it’s some form of adaptive equipment, but I don’t know the specific acronym. Thanks in advance to the ever-helpful commenters here for informing me!

    1. bamcheeks*

      Display screen equipment. Includes the whole computer workstation, though, soo it could be a specific chair, footrest, ergonomic keyboard etc, not just the screen.

      1. New Commenter*

        Thank you! I couldn’t find a logical explanation of “DSE” by googling, and had concluded that it was something used to produce TPS reports.

      2. Saberise*

        It sounds like it can be any of those things. It obviously isn’t all of those things in this case since she was just going to take the device(s) and move to another desk.

    2. Anon For This*

      Y’all…. I was in an online meeting of the 12-step variety earlier this week and someone launched an AI note-taker. Good lord! I mean, the audacity to think recording an anonymous meeting… I was stunned. The moderators jumped on it with a quickness but I’m still amazed that anybody thought that was a good idea.

      1. Firebird*

        We had this happen early in the lockdown. Somebody started recording the meeting on purpose and a couple of others accidentally took screen shots. The screen shots were true accidents because most people were still learning the software. We made them delete everything.
        The guy who was recording, caused other issues and eventually left the group because I wouldn’t let him get away with anything. That’s how this nervous wreck of an anxious introvert learned how to lead meetings and hold people accountable. All because I was the only one who could understand the software.

  17. Bluz*

    LW3-we have hot desking at our organization and staff have to book a desk through a software program online. Our IT dept. blocked off certain desks so they can’t be booked. Maybe a solution so it doesn’t happen in the future.

    I’m scratching my head about the whole dynamic since it seems like something is going on between those two and needs to be addressed. I hope things get resolved since tensions in a workplace is not a good environment to work in.

  18. WorkplaceDisabilityNeedsAssessor*

    LW2 /Allison
    AI transcription is becoming increasingly common reasonable adjustment for people whose are neuro divergent and who would otherwise have difficulty keeping track of the conversation, listen effectively, take notes, and contribute. Caption Ed. is a common/main one. The user should however advise others attendees that they are using a note taking tool and reassure that it’s for their own personal use. This type of AI doesn’t normally join the meeting so i don’t know if this was the purpose in your situation. However I would caution against the stance that these tools are “wrong” and that people shouldn’t use them as they are transforming lives.

    1. Bread Crimes*

      If the AI software is honestly and authentically not sending any of that information back to their parent company… maybe it’s a reasonable accommodation. But given the vast ethical issues about most “AI” out there, and how they regularly steal data (and art, and more) from everything they can touch to turn it into a fine paste that can be fed out to other locations, I’m not sure they’re transforming lives enough (compared to other transcript/captioning equipment, especially!) to make up for their huge drawbacks.

      It feels like the difference between “I’m going to record this meeting to review later” and “I’m going to record this meeting, then upload it to YouTube to review later.” The first seems like a reasonable accommodation! A lot of “AI” software is doing something a lot closer to the latter, even if the users don’t know it, and there’s good reason to object to that being used on other people’s conversations.

    2. LW2*

      Great reminder that these can be used as accessibility tools. In this case, the user was not using it for that purpose; it turned out they were testing it and didn’t realize the AI bot was attending every meeting on their calendar. My org settings are for CCs to always be available for Zooms, as well as meeting transcripts. Obviously that’s using a similar technology but because it’s native to Zoom and can only be accessed by people in the meeting, has a very different feel to me. (It also isn’t automatically & secretly recording the entire meeting, which I later found out this bot did! I’m in a two-party consent state so that is not great.)

  19. H*

    Re letter 2

    Please be polite/careful when drawing attention to what you think is one of those AI. You may find it’s not, and it’s actually software being used to accommodate a disability you’re not aware of; the built in captions and transcript often aren’t of the best quality.

  20. Janne*

    At my last job I had to share a desk with someone who had a disability. She worked from home most of the time, but had to work on site one day a week. She didn’t want to ask for me to go sit somewhere else, so I had to look in my crystal ball to see which would be her in-office day that week. And if I guessed wrong and left the desk as soon as I saw her enter the office (she started later than I) she would sulk all day.
    I now know that that just shouldn’t have been a shared desk. Having a disability is hard enough without having to send away a colleague from your adapted desk every time you come to the office. But we didn’t have enough desks and I had no idea how to know when to leave her desk to her without any communication from her about her in-office days.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I’m unclear from this anecdote why there wasn’t any way to find out when your colleague was going to be in the office. Did she point blank refuse to say? Was she just forgetful and you didn’t want the onus to be on you to follow up?

      1. Boof*

        It really seems out of line to expect a coworker to manage one’s feelings by being sure not to be seen moving for you though

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          It is, and I wouldn’t expect Janne to manage that coworker’s feelings. I’m just confused why it was such an unavoidable mystery when the coworker was showing up and feel like there’s some info missing.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          Yeah this particular anecdote seems to really be on the once-a-week coworker. They 1-didn’t say when they’d be in the office and 2-if they even saw someone move from their desk, they’d sulk? That’s not the behavior of an adult. It’s so easy to say “Hey Janne, I’ll be in on Wed” in a quick message, then Janne isn’t in their seat when they come it.

      2. Janne*

        Yes, she refused to talk about it and she didn’t use an agenda. She refused to talk about it, because it made her feel bad having to “send me away” from her desk, so instead I’d have to get myself away from her desk before she saw it. Totally not doable. Glad I’m away there.

        I asked her for her in-office schedule, but she didn’t want to talk about that.

        I asked if there was any pattern to her in-office days but she also didn’t want to talk about that.

        I initiated small talk to find out when she’d be where, but she didn’t do small talk (tantrum once when I asked her if she had any plans for the coming days).

        In the end the team lead gave me any info he had about her schedule, but he often wasn’t fully up to date so about once every three weeks she’d still come in unexpectedly.

  21. Lilo*

    I find it quite disturbing that Beth refused to apologize. Ann might have been abrupt, but having worked with a coworker with a disability who has special equipment, I don’t think Ann really needs to temper her “I’m going to need that desk” request, she’s legally entitled to it and has probably dealt with a lot of “just five more minutes”.

    I’d watch out for Beth and take a hard look at her behavior. I seriously doubt this is the only instance.l, especially if Ann is feeling iced out.

    1. Treena*

      This! Beth refusing to apologize (as a NEW employee at that!) to a disabled co-worker is a major red flag.

    2. amoeba*

      She didn’t need the desk though, she needed the equipment that was on the desk and was abrupt to Beth because she was in the way? I read it as “make space, I need to grab my keyboard!”

      “Ann was abrupt when requesting Beth to move, as she needed her equipment to set up her desk at a different location.”

      Feels like Ann was just used to leaving her equipment at that one specific desk and was annoyed by having to move it (although apparently it’s indeed policy, whether that’s a good one or not) – guess the older colleagues just avoided that deak out of consideration and Beth wasn’t aware of that?

      1. Lilo*

        I lean, if Ann is constantly having to reset her accommodation equipment, that’s a big problem too. If Beth’s just dropping into a dock, but Ann’s setting up equipment, it’s a no brainer to me than Beth just drops into a new dock.

        1. amoeba*

          Sure, but that’s not the new employee’s fault? I mean, if I’m told that all deals are not desks and then somebody snaps at me for sitting at the wrong desk, that would rub me the wrong way a well.
          Asking “oh sorry, actually my equipment is set up here, it’s such a hassle to move it, would it be alright for you to sit at the desk next to this one instead?” – absolutely no problem, on the other hand.

          But I agree there are different possible interpretations, depending on how hard the equipment is to move and how abrupt/impolite Ann was.

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            Right, it is one thing if Beth knew or could tell from the equipment. It is another if she, as a new hire, was told to pick any free desk and log into work by X hour, did as she was told, and then a coworker with (more seniority? more clout? was there any way for Beth to tell if there was more to it?) came in and barked at her to move without explaining why. In the latter case, as a new hire I’d be left wondering what the office culture is like and whether I’ll need to change jobs soon again.

            Depending on what did in fact happen, a formal complaint might not even go too far? We do not have enough information here.

            As others said, it is on the company for not having set a designated desk for Ann.

            1. I'm just here for the cats!*

              I get where everyone is coming from, and if Beth didn’t know that’s on management. But she knows now and is refusing to apologize, and it sounds like there is more bullying going on. That’s a problem

              1. amoeba*

                I mean, I’d probably refuse to apologise if I’m being snapped at and then three months later, there’s suddenly a complaint about my reaction to that…

                1. A trans person*

                  If you were told you unknowingly used a slur? Kicked somebody’s cane out of reach? Moved someone in a way that looks retaliatory? Deadnamed someone and didn’t notice? Hell yes I would apologize, even months later, and thank them for telling me what happened so I can avoid it later.

                  Not apologizing and digging in makes you a bad person in these circumstances.

                2. Olive*

                  But none of those things happened. She didn’t use a slur, keep Beth from getting her equipment, or call her names as far as we know from this letter.

                3. Starbuck*

                  Huh, people are assuming that Ann’s disability and accommodation has been disclosed to Beth, but we actually don’t know that! Beth may have no clue, since of course the manager should not be revealing that info. They should make it clear there’s a legitimate business reason why Ann needs her set up to work, but they should not be telling Beth that Ann is disabled.

              2. Yorick*

                Refusing to apologize is not bullying. It sounds like LW is not aware of any bad behavior on Beth’s part, although she needs to look in to it since Ann is complaining about the atmosphere.

                1. Treena*

                  Exactly this. Everyone is throwing up their hands and saying welp, there’s nothing in the letter indicating that Beth did anything else!

                  Except…Ann has explicitly reported a hostile work environment and it’s very clear that OP has not handled this situation appropriately by investigating it. If she even briefly looked into it, there would have been a sentence saying she asked Ann what she meant and what Ann responded with. It’s pretty clear OP is putting her head in the sand and actively not wanting to be aware of any bad behavior.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I think it’s really interesting that a lot of people are reading “Ann was abrupt when requesting Beth to move” as “Ann was rude first” and “Ann was snappish”.

      I don’t know whether this is one of the subtle UK/US English distinctions or culture differences, but to me, “Ann was abrupt when requesting…” most likely means, “Please can I get my things” without a smile, questioning intonation or some extra small talk to soften it. Like, direct, but nowhere near rude or unprofessional when you’re asking for something you’re entitled to. I mean, maybe it was more obviously rude than that, but I don’t think we know that for sure. Whereas Beth’s directly reported speech is really well outside the bounds of professionalism to me, and if it was a nervous reaction or a joke that went wrong, refusing to apologise takes it up a level.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I’m a Brit and I’d regard “Please can I get my things” as polite

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think it can be both technically polite and still be described as abrupt! I don’t think abruptness is necessarily rude. But it may be that that’s one of those cultural things where it’s way more offputting in more indirect cultures than more direct ones.

          1. londonedit*

            Yes – I think my definition of ‘abrupt’ would be ‘as polite as necessary but with no warmth whatsoever’. So a flat ‘Please can I get my things’ would be polite, yes, but it would also be abrupt because it’s not ‘Sorry, Beth – could I just grab my keyboard and mouse? My RSI will flare up terribly if I don’t use them! Thanks’.

            1. 2e*

              Which is why Ann might actually have a valid discrimination complaint here! It’s not okay to require her to disclose her disability and justify/apologize for her access needs in order to use this equipment.

              1. amoeba*

                I mean, if it’s officially a shared desk, you can absolutely not expect somebody to not use it without giving them any kind of explanation, at least?

                1. 2e*

                  The explanation could be “I need this equipment.”

                  If Ann is being treated poorly because she didn’t add, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m disabled”? There’s a problem here, IMO.

                2. amoeba*

                  @2c – oh, yes, absolutely, but just “oh, sorry, could I just grab my equipment? Thanks!” would be fine for the situation as it played out. And if the desk is actually exempt, there should be at least some kind of explanation, even if it’s just “oh, actually, this one is permanently mine due to the setup, so it’s not a hot desk!” would be fine.
                  Sounds like Ann did neither.

            2. Happy meal with extra happy*

              Except that one definition of abrupt is literally “brief to the point of rudeness.” Literally the opposite of polite.

              Realistically, I get that people may have different levels of what counts as abrupt, but I think if we’re taking the LW at their word, well, words have meanings.

            3. I Have RBF*

              … also be abrupt because it’s not ‘Sorry, Beth – could I just grab my keyboard and mouse? My RSI will flare up terribly if I don’t use them! Thanks’.

              Why in the living f*** should Ann constantly, in every interaction involving her equipment, have to apologize for existing while disabled????

              Ann may be abrupt, because she’s over having to beg, but abrupt is not rude.

              1. Treena*

                Exactly. And even if she’s not over having to beg, the fact that she has to ask/apologize every single day she comes in is EXHAUSTING. A simple deadpanned ask without lots of pleases and thank yous can easily be interpreted as abrupt and/or rude. Add the fact that she’s a woman and boom she’s “rude.”

          2. doreen*

            I’m not going to say something can’t be both polite and abrupt – but in my view, “please” or “Can I .. ” takes it out of the abrupt category. To me, abrupt would be ” I need my things.” which isn’t rude but is probably off-putting to a lot of people.

            1. lily*

              I know people who would absolutely disagree with you and insist that “excuse me, I need to get my things please” is the height of rudeness. Plus disabled people get called rude for existing all the time. This is your personal opinion on a subjective description; you have no idea what Ann said or in what tone she said it, only that OP deemed it “abrupt”.

        2. Also-ADHD*

          Yeah that doesn’t seem abrupt. I think if the manager witnessed this all (LW), I wonder why it wasn’t handled more at the time?

      2. amoeba*

        I feel like if it hadn’t been at least a bit aggressive/impolite, there wouldn’t be a reason to specifically mention it in the letter? So yeah, basically I took it as a euphemism for “impolite”.

          1. Don't Usually Read the Comments*

            Yes, it can be. It’s one of the definitions of abrupt: “brief to the point of rudeness.”

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        Personally, I wouldn’t consider “please can I get my things?” as abrupt unless it was said in a way where the “please” was clearly meant as a criticism. To me abrupt would be something like “I need to get my things,” possibly accompanied by a glare or something like the person reaching over the other, snatching up their things and saying, “I need these.”

        To me, abrupt would imply kind of barging in and maybe not being overtly rude but definitely indicating irritation or hurry.

        1. bamcheeks*

          You’ve added a question mark that I didn’t have— I specifically meant that “please can I get my things” with a flat rather than a questioning tone is both polite and abrupt. :)

      1. Lilo*

        I’m saying Ann likely is abrupt in her request because if she’s not very direct, she likely gets met with delays.

      2. Random Dice*

        It’s an example of why disabled people may have run out of spoons* to be elaborately female-coded overly polite when accessing their legally protected disability accommodations, after repeated seemingly-small (to the able-bodied) barriers.

        *units of energy for disabled people

  22. Treena*

    Re #3, I’m really confused as to why the poor management isn’t being focused on… OP is presumably their manager, and yet throws up her hands and says they won’t apologize to each other, they’re not even trying! She doesn’t give any details about the management side…so why can’t we assume she’s poorly managing the situation?

    If Ann has disability accommodations on a desk, she shouldn’t be hot-desking, even if it’s not a pain to move. That is pretty obvious to pretty much anyone. Why did Beth choose that desk? Is it because the equipment is somehow “better” or more attractive? Does Ann have to ask co-workers to access her equipment most days she comes in? When Beth warned Chris away from Ann’s equipment, was it because he was about to swoop in to use the desk with Ann standing *right there*? When Beth giggled at Chris, did Chris calmly explain that this is Ann’s equipment, or did he giggle alongside Beth and roll his eyes? Are Beth and others constantly making little comments about how it’s Ann’s desk and to stay away?

    My point is that a manager has an employee who has stated she feels discriminated against due to her disability, the manager concludes that a complaint isn’t worthy of a “minor incident” without knowing further details about the next THREE months after this incident. (No information or probing about what the “atmosphere” means) All we’ve heard is that OP thinks that apologies should make everything go away, and when both parties refuse, the manager concludes…nothing? Other than a complaint isn’t warranted. Not even a throw-away line about how she doesn’t want Ann to feel discriminated against, but…

    How exactly is Ann supposed to resolve this herself? It sounds like she’s in a hostile environment where people giggle about her need for her equipment and management doesn’t support her need to have exclusive access to her equipment.

    The ableism in these comments are wild. It is so much work just to exist with a disability at work, even in a supportive environment. It’s extra work in a neutral environment and exhausting in an ableist one. Able-bodied people cannot truly understand that, I get it. But the hyper-focus on Ann snapping a single time and completely ignoring all the red flags for an ableist workplace is…well…showing your ableism!

    1. Lilo*

      I really appreciate this comment and I think it raises some excellent points OP should consider about how this office is handling disability accommodations and office culture. Putting Ann in a position where she’s constantly having to assert herself just so she can have the basic equipment to do her job is bad enough and now she’s in a position of being mocked for asserting her rights. None of that is okay.

    2. amoeba*

      Nobody took Ann’s equipment though? At least for me, it was only located at that specific desk and Beth was basically sitting in the way of her taking it.

      And yeah, “oh sorry, could I just grab keyboard” would be the obvious solution, as opposed to “I need my keyboard, make space!”

      Not saying it *has* to be that way, but that’s at least how I read it, so it’s at least a possibility.

      Also, accommodations and disabilities range far and wide – a colleague who just needs to grab his trackball because he needs it instead of a mouse for a shoulder injury would obviously be a different story than, idk, somebody in a wheelchair who’d to move the whole setup including monitor or whatever.

      But I really don’t know why the comments are so firmly on the side of “she took away her equipment and blocked her from her accommodation” when the letter says:

      “Ann was abrupt when requesting Beth to move, as she needed her equipment to set up her desk at a different location.”

      1. bamcheeks*

        I don’t think the comments ARE firmly on that side. There are multiple comments further up saying that Ann was out of line and that Beth is perfectly in the right not to apologise. But both my comment and Treena’s are saying that the bigger problem here is with management, who apparently haven’t clearly delineated Ann’s priority and right to access adaptations that have been agreed because of her disability. The conflict between Ann and Beth is because of that failure of management.

        Management’s role here might be

        1. to firmly support Ann, and come down on Beth because she was openly rude, whereas Ann was lacking in nicety but nowhere near unprofessional, or

        2. it might be to apologise to both parties for putting them in a situation where this conflict occurred, to check in with Ann and see how to the whole DSE equipment situation is working and whether she can commit to asking for her equipment in a less “abrupt” fashion or whether that’s an unreasonable burden and another solution needs to be found, and to stress to Beth that in the future she should not exacerbate minor conflict by making snarky comments.

        Both of these are possible reasonable responsible, but treating this as an incomprehensible personal conflict or Ann as overreactive are extremely bad options.

        It’s also true that adaptive equipment covers a lot of ground. The fact that the company is treating the equipment as portable doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, though, or that treating it as portable isn’t creating a hostile or inaccessible environment for Ann. Unfortunately I know *lots* of examples where workplaces have agreed adaptive equipment but then kind of treated it as “job done”, and not actually done anything to put in place the awareness or systems that mean people can actually benefit from it.

        At the point where someone is saying they’re going to make a formal complaint– like, there’s no guarantee that complaint will be upheld, but you’d want to make REALLY sure that you haven’t just purchased the correct equipment, you’ve made sure that the person is getting the full and required benefit from it. And a lot of places don’t do that.

        1. Random Dice*

          I’m assuming ADA complaints are like OSHA complaints.

          A business really REALLY really REALLY really takes them seriously because the stakes are so high.

          Ann has a really good case, honestly. I’m glad this manager wrote in, because she’s messing up several things. If she’s lucky she still has time to comply with the law, and manage humanely.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        I think it’s unclear if Beth was giggling about the accommodation, but it’s unclear what Beth knows or knew. Both Beth and Ann are essentially “victims” if Beth is being snapped at for where she unknowingly sat and Ann feels self conscious asking for her equipment and feels the workplace is hostile. I think if it was that one incident and the apology was requested much later, especially with no further context given to Beth, the whole thing is super awkward for her too. I think management or the environment does seem more to blame than Ann or Beth, with this information given. But if Beth is continuing comments, or knew Ann had a disability and mocked her for that (I read her comment as an uncomfortable reaction to the way she was told to move), that’s different. Really, the fact that Ann is so upset and no further understanding has been reached (a formal apology isn’t really going to address atmosphere on its own so feels so bizarre as the ask, months later) is a sign something larger is at issue, either with the employees or the company.

        1. Nicole Janvier*

          I think this is the most reasonable of the comments. Without more context, we can’t know if this is an ableist environment or not. We do know that someone didn’t communicate with Beth about Ann’s desk and that the employer took to long to address the issue.

        2. 2e*

          They might both be ‘victims’ or ineffective management, but Ann is also potentially a victim of ableism/discrimination. Those things aren’t equivalent.

          An employee who is put in an awkward interpersonal situation by a poor manager has my sympathy to a point. (They start to lose my sympathy when they respond to the situation with mean-girl comments.)

          I have much greater sympathy for an employee who is being forced to advocate for basic access needs on a regular basis, and who is being mocked for the way in which they advocated for those needs.

          1. Treena*

            Exactly. We can all sympathize with Beth because she was new and a bad manager didn’t give her the needed info. But 3 months later refusing to apologize after knowing the context…? I’m not sympathizing much.

            By the way, I refuse to believe she still has zero clue this is related to a disability accommodation. Surely she has *at a minimum* noticed that Ann has a different schedule, still uses the same equipment and it’s different from the other set-ups/for medical reasons.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I think it likely that Beth has avoided Ann. In a hot desking setup, it would be pretty easy to not learn a coworker’s schedule, observe their workstations, or compare them to other stations. And people are in and out of that office anyway.

              It’s not at all clear that Beth knows Ann has a disability and needs special equipment.

              1. Treena*

                So we can only go by what’s in the letter, except for the made-up story you’ve told yourself about how it’s likely Beth has been avoiding Ann, despite Ann reporting a hostile work environment and proposing the solution of an apology from Beth. Ya that definitely sounds very plausible.

                Excuse me while I pick up my eyeballs, they’re currently rolling on the floor.

      3. lily*

        “Not saying it *has* to be that way, but that’s at least how I read it, so it’s at least a possibility.”

        But why is it so important to you to make sure everyone considers the possibility that Ann might have been rude? do you not see that that itself is ableist? genuinely trying to get you to think abt this

    3. tabloidtainted*

      For the purposes of the letter, I think we need to assume that the giggle incident is the only thing that Ann has reported and a giggle doesn’t make a hostile work environment. If Ann is capable of bringing the giggle incident to her manager and of saying that she’ll file a formal compliant, then she’s also capable of sharing if anything else has happened to contribute to her feeling that Beth is discriminating against her.

      1. Treena*

        Ann has clearly reported a hostile environment due to her disability. From the letter:
        “Ann is stating she feels there is an atmosphere from the incident that is causing her anxiety and she feels this is discrimination due to her disability.”

        Just because OP doesn’t provide details doesn’t mean Ann didn’t provide them. And even if Ann didn’t provide them, the fact that OP didn’t probe and ask what has been happening over the last three months for Ann to feel that way….says a lot about the OP and how seriously they take ableism among their employees.

          1. Treena*

            Yes, and what’s in the letter is a manager relaying that her employee has reported a hostile work environment AND that manager has demonstrated that they do not know how to manage this situation (insisting apologies should make it go away, framing it as two catty women who can’t get along, not realizing Ann shouldn’t be hot-desking, etc. etc.)

            We can see the manager is inept via the letter. The manager admits her disabled employee is reporting a hostile work environment. And your conclusion is…Ann might be the real jerk here…? Your ableism is showing!

        1. lily*

          yeah honestly this screams “OP is unaware of their own ableism” to me
          which is recoverable. by doing better by your disabled employees and listening to them when they tell you something’s wrong.

      1. Garblesnark*

        I am literally so tired of explaining that I am tired of explaining that having to give a detailed listing of every disability diagnosis I’ve ever gotten and how it affects my life is not a fair ask in exchange for the reasonable accommodation I already have on file with HR.

        And I’d bet money that Ann is too.

    4. lily*

      Thank you! LWOP, these are all really important factors you didn’t seem to consider. I hope you take them to heart as they will make you a better manager, especially to your disabled employees

    5. 2e*

      I’d add, if OP is reading: the last time I told a supervisor that I would file a formal complaint if a disability discrimination issue wasn’t addressed, I had a *stack* of supporting documentation. I’d tried to call out minor/isolated incidents, nothing happened, and I realized that I had to protect myself.

      Supervisor told me that I had no basis for a complaint and refused to even consider further investigation. His attitude was, I think, similar to that of LW3: I had a bad attitude, people were frustrated with me, and I needed to change.

      I ended up filing an external complaint. The complaint hasn’t yet been resolved, but the bar for acceptance of this kind of complaint here is pretty high. I don’t know if I’ll be awarded compensation/damages, but I’m sure that the external complaint process has already eaten up more company time/resources than an internal investigation would have. (And I wouldn’t have been asking for damages in an internal investigation! I just wanted a safe workplace.)

      IMO, my supervisor broke the law when he refused to investigate—but he also did the company a real disservice.

      It’s possible that Ann is unreasonably miffed about a single interaction three months ago. It’s more likely that you’ve missed a bigger pattern, and that Ann has kept the receipts.

      1. Garblesnark*

        Cosign. Even if an external investigation finds LW3’s organization to not be at fault, the organization – as a direct result of declining to take Ann seriously for at least three months now – will have to spend, on the low end, thousands of dollars on legal counsel, dozens of hours compiling and submitting documentation, and get to do all of that under the oversight of a government agency. And the organization will not be reimbursed, compensated, or even patted on the back for the trouble, even if they are found faultless. And that’s the best case for the org if Ann escalates – if the outside investigator issues Ann a right to sue letter, or sues on her behalf, they could also be paying damages and penalty fees.

        Further, I seriously doubt that Ann’s concerns are overblown here, because people who are disabled (or otherwise marginalized!) at work are also disabled everywhere else, and we are able to discern when inequitable treatment is exceptional and when it is just part of the ableist environment we all live in. The perspective of the letter that Ann can’t see what she’s done wrong seems a bit paternalistic to me, like LW thinks Ann is a bit stupid and can’t tell anything about how to interact with others in a normal environment. I think that’s a mistake-possibly a very costly one.

        1. 2e*

          Thanks for this.

          I’ll add: whatever it’s costing my former employer, it’s already cost me more. They fired me when I filed the external complaint (claimed it was unrelated, but it wasn’t), so I’ve lost income and health coverage. I haven’t been able to hire a lawyer, so I’ve spent weeks compiling/collating information and writing documents on my own. It’s exhausting.

          And the personal toll? Really, really real. I recognized this week that I need a minor modification to complete some work that I’m doing on a contract basis, and it took me days to drum up the courage to make the request. I finally ended up calling my sister and crying while she reminded me that it was a totally normal request and that any reasonable person would say, “oh, sure, that’s fine!”.

          I said, “right, and they’re not going to call me into a meeting a verbally abuse me for two hours, right?”. Because yeah, that’s what would have happened at my previous job, and it’s made me less able to function in the world.

          (The client today said, “oh, that’s fine!”. It would have been more fine if I’d been able to address it sooner, but that’s where I am now.)

  23. Madame Arcati*

    Honestly I feel like both Beth and Anne could just be a bit more polite, and well…grown up about it? This seems like a storm in a teacup that has caused completely unnecessary resentment on both sides.
    I have an office setup/person I manage in a comparable situation and here is how it would go (in fact i think this has actually happened):
    Beth sits down
    Anne arrives – oh excuse me can just get my widgets
    Beth – oh I’m sorry is this your desk I can move?
    Anne and Beth then come to a polite agreement about Anne putting her widgets on the next desk or it being easier for Beth to move.

    Or more likely (and I have definitely seen this happen!) which is where I agree it’s an other people thing; a new person arrives and you indicate where they can/should sit because – that’s polite welcoming behaviour to a new colleague! If they go to sit at Anne’s desk you say, oh why don’t you sit at [other] desk because I think Anne is in today and she needs those widgets. Or, oh Anne is wfh today you can sit there if you like, just put the widgets on one side.

    I don’t know, we’ve got Anne assuming Beth has rudely taken her desk on purpose out of spite and responded with abruptness, and Beth assuming Anne is being mean and possessive/grabby and responding with mockery. It’s just depressing how the default is assuming malice.

  24. Lilo*

    For LW1, I’d talk to the direct supervisor more closely because this really isn’t okay. He cannot but bugging coworkers for rides constantly and this needs to be shut down. I’d 100% consider this a potentially fire-breathing offense, particularly if he’s putting the onus of his transportation on his supervisor. That’s way outside of norms.

    1. Visually Impaired Guy*

      I agree it’s a problem as he’s regularly asking.
      I’m in a different situation because I can’t drive, so my default is public transit and I take it most of the time. Luckily I have had people offer to drive me over the years and a couple of them did it regularly. One of them was a manager, although she was separate from me and it was at a time when parking was an issue so everyone was encouraged to carpool. Years ago I had a very senior manager give me a ride home a number of times, but it was a horrible, remote location with limited transit and it was only when we happened to be leaving at the same time so it wasn’t organized, and he always offered. I was careful to always stick to their schedule or else I’d take transit, and I never asked or expected it!

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Fireable offense?? Before any talk of firing someone who asked for a ride, the OP could at least say “Sorry, no I won’t be able to do that”

      So far all that’s happened is he’s asked for rides and OP has said yes. What do you want to fire him for?

      1. Lilo*

        Repeatedly making bad requests of coworkers is fireable. This isn’t functionally that different from asking coworkers for money.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          If the request is that bad, then OP needs to let them know. Right now she is going along with it so why would the guy think it’s so terrible?

          There’s no reason OP can’t just tell them they’re not able to drive anymore – OP’s the grandboss!

    3. Yeah...*

      A “fireable offense” needs to explained.

      On what grounds? Does the OP feels uncomfortable saying no?

      The problem – worker asking repeatedly for rides and the solution – worker being fired, don’t seem aligned to me.

  25. Gozer (She/Her)*

    3: I had one of those arguments when I worked for a firm that decided hot desks were a brilliant idea for the techies since we would go out to site. I’m disabled, I need a special chair, height modified desk, specific keyboard and mouse and while it might look simple to adjust them back when someone else took the desk it really wasn’t for me.

    Tracy (not real name) was sat in my desk when I got in one day and I asked her to move. She rolled her eyes, argued that I could just use another desk that afternoon or I could wheel my chair over and sit somewhere else. Management agreed with Tracy. I complained a LOT and eventually got my desk labelled clearly as mine and if anyone uses it they’re to not alter any settings and understand I have priority to it.

    Cost me a lot of political capital and I never got an apology from Tracy. So please, just make sure the disabled among us can have easy access to our accommodations and I’m sure the personal disagreements will go away.

    Wouldn’t hold out for an apology though, based on my experience it’s unlikely to happen.

    1. 2e*

      Unlikely to happen, and likely to bolster Beth’s sense of affront if it did. I imagine it being presented with a lot of eye rolling: “this really shouldn’t be a big deal, but Ann has filed a complaint…”.

    2. JustaTech*

      Yes on the re-adjustments aren’t simple: when my mom got a Aeron chair (way back when they were new) one time I moved the seat down (I was a kid) and somehow that messed up the rest of it badly enough she had to get the engineer to come back to set it up for her again (and took more notes) because it was so complicated to get all like 18 settings right.

      I won’t ever change the settings on my personal work chair because it took so long to get right, so I would never mess with someone else’s chair!

  26. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #3 This is a sloppy and disableist hotdesk system that is always likely to cause problems.
    Ann should have a reserved desk, but if resources are really so scarce (why?) that this is not possible, then at least inform every new coworker before they start that Ann has priority over her desk/equipment. Also put a sign by the desk to remind everyone.

    Beth didn’t know about Ann’s accommodation, so her sarky reaction and giggling with Chris when Ann spoke to her abruptly is understandable, as many people try to claim “their” desk in a hotdesk system.
    BUT then …

    1) Chris presumably knows about the accommodation, so why didn’t he speak up immediately?
    2) Beth should have apologised as soon as her manager requested this. Chris should apologise too. Did the OP explain Ann has an accommodation, or did Beth think this was just smoothing things over with a rude colleague?
    Regardless, when a manager requests an apology, you should do so unless it is one of those absurd “mediations” when the other person has e.g. kissed you.

    The OP needs to be proactive and demand, not request, that Beth apologises and then EM everyone to state clearly that Ann has priority over use of her desk & equipment and anyone refusing this will be receiiving a final warning (since Chris’s giggles suggests even some longterm coworkers don’t take this seriously

    1. Les*

      “The OP needs to be proactive and demand, not request, that Beth apologises ”

      I’d advise against demanding the performative display and instead dictate that people are going to treat each other respectfully and identify who is exempt from hot desking going forward. Demanded apologies are worthless, build resentment, and, in this case, aren’t warranted as management failed to communicate critical information. Moreover, the question of abruptness has muddied the waters. It seems better to reset and give clear expectations for future behavior to everyone.

      1. tg33*

        So, Ann only deserves her accommodations when she asks for them in the right way?

        This seems like a management failure, rather than a problem with Ann or Beth, and their manager should admit what they did wrong and sort out the problem.

        1. ecnaseener*

          None of this has anything to do with Ann deserving her accommodations. No one has said a thing about that.

          If you mean Ann should have a *better* accommodation, ie a reserved desk so she doesn’t have to move her equipment, then yes I agree she should have that regardless of how she asks for it.

          But no, I don’t think she automatically deserves an *apology* if she snapped at a new coworker and the new coworker giggled nervously about it. (I say “if” because we really can’t tell if Ann snapped or just wasn’t perfectly warm, or if Beth’s giggle was just nervous or deliberately mocking.)

        2. Rachel*

          Reasonable accommodation is required under the ADA and basic decency.

          Reasonable accommodation has never and will never include snapping at people, especially somebody new who doesn’t know you need accommodation.

          1. A trans person*

            Expecting marginalized people to respond perfectly to every microaggressin is not “reasonable accommodation” either.

        3. Visually Impaired Guy*

          You missed the part about Ann being exempt from hot desking? She shouldn’t need to ask, it should be absolute.

          I agree that getting an apology from Beth is useless, given that it wouldn’t be well intentioned if forced. It’s better to explain the situation (not necessarily Ann’s disability, but that she needs it), have a specific desk only for Ann, and ensure this doesn’t happen again.

  27. DJ Abbott*

    Is it just me, or are these AI programs very intrusive? Wouldn’t most other programs ask before they did something like recording a meeting and sending out transcripts? It seems like most of the programs I’ve seen in the last 30 years have a box that says “would you like this done?” with Yes or No buttons. Shouldn’t we have a choice about these things?
    The screenshot program where I work is a little like this. It automatically saves screenshots, which might have confidential financial info, until I manually delete them. Every now and then it makes itself my default printer, so I have to check every morning to make sure it hasn’t done that. So rude. These trends need to be nipped in the bud.

  28. Rachel*

    3: the organization needs to reconfigure the desks so Ann always has her accommodation available even if everybody else has a hot desk.

    Ann needs to realize that her ADA accommodation does not have a section that says “permission to snap at people” or “allowed to act any way I want.”

    Beth needs to realize that sometimes people have bad delivery and a valid point. Part of playing the long game is letting the bad delivery go.

  29. Hiring Mgr*

    Personally I think the concern about the AI is a bit overblown. Meetings have been recorded for years, transcripts have been sent out afterward, and so on.

    1. Andromeda*

      Depends on what kind it is. If it’s feeding back the data to learn from, then no they probably shouldn’t be exposing it to proprietary info. But there are “AI” recording/transcription tools that don’t do that, and those are really useful to have.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I hear you, but your ISP, email provider, CRM, MS office, etc all have that same or similar data, or the ability to access it. Not sure how this is markedly different

        1. Gozer (she/her)*

          It gets a little complex but they *are* very different.

          With us in IT we can see everything if we want to (except encrypted payment stuff) but there are strict regulations about when, how and for what purpose. Same for your email provider.

          A proper transcription program will tell you exactly what data it stores and feeds back and usually it’s only error messages.

          AN AI program will be feeding information back constantly to ‘update’ itself and you have no idea what it’ll use or where it is going or for what purpose.

          For this reason all software here must be approved by IT and I’m not letting AI stuff within burping distance.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          “AI” companies are basing their business on training their models on all the data they have access too, so it seems way more likely that your transcript is going to be used in some way. Not that MS, etc., definitely *won’t* be doing that, but it’s not their fundamental business, right?

          I just got guidance in my somewhat-sensitive job that we should set up a waiting room for all zooms with external people so we can check if they’ve invited an AI assistant and not let that user into the meeting.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            A legit company would only use your own data to train its models for your business only, not intermingling data across their customer base.

            But it seems like there are some shady ones so point taken.

        3. I am Emily's failing memory*

          At my organization the difference would be that we don’t sign on to a new ISP, email provider, CRM, or office suite without both legal and IT’s involvement. Those are major purchases that have lengthy contracts which IT and legal both go through with a fine-tooth comb to check for compliance with our internal requirements and – this absolutely surprised me when I first encountered it – it’s not uncommon for us to request modifications to standard terms & conditions before signing a contract. Apparently if you’re an enterprise business, companies with boilerplate policies instead of individual contracts will still customize the terms for you and grant you contractual exceptions in writing.

          AI assistants, on the other hand, are “shadow systems” that IT and legal aren’t always aware of, and haven’t properly vetted. Because unlike the major software packages listed above, they’re free or cheap, so they don’t trigger a mandatory requisition or RFP process, and they’re easy for a single person to set up on their own without needing a lot of tech savvy or ability to access to company servers or DNS settings to configure them.

        4. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I’m pretty sure Excel isn’t taking the rates contractors have proposed in response to my bid and sending it back to Microsoft headquarters to make formulas work better, though.

      2. Shoes*

        It appears that things are not explained well by management, IT or whoever is responsible for the roll out.

        This is not markedly different but the belief that it is seems pervasive.

    2. Parenthesis Guy*

      I would urge you to read the TOS of your AI tool carefully. We’ve seen some that say that anything captured by the AI can be stored out of country. It’s one thing to take notes about a meeting. It’s another to take notes that get sent to any country that wants it.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I think the difference is when the company chooses the software they want used for recording and transcripts, and then uses it, fine that was a decision that was made at the company level, went through some sort of IT review/approval, etc.
      When a single employee installs something/uses an add on in a meeting that the company was not expecting to be used, and then that thing does the recording and transcription, that’s not inherently OK because the first example is OK. Because no one knows what if any vetting were done.
      It’s not dissimilar to IT saying “do not attach your personal devices to the work network”. An employee saying “but we use laptops on the work network all the time, ergo no big deal for me to attach my personal laptop to the work network. It is a laptop after all.”

    4. Two Fish*

      One difference is that most of the current generation of “AI” programs we’ve been seeing in the last year or two are created by predators for use by dummies. It’s a wild west of lies, content theft, overhyped products, and people jumping the gun to try to appropriate others’ creations and data to make a quick buck.

      So people who respond to others’ use of things like chatGPT with sighs, and eyerolls aren’t reactionary Luddites, they’re reacting appropriately to people adding fuel to a grifty fire.

      (* using Luddites in the colloquial sense, because if you actually look up the story of the Luddites, they had good reasons for what they did)

    5. tabloidtainted*

      Poor understanding of machine learning/AI (as well as overapplication of the terms) is bound to cause problems on both ends of the spectrum–unnecessary caution that prevents people from using tools that are helpful, and throwing caution to the wind and finding out later that you’ve put your organization at risk.

  30. Bookworm*

    LW: Thank you for asking the question. I had an interview last year where the AI transcriber suddenly popped up. I was not made aware it would be used in the interview (although the interviewer apologized) and there was nothing about the interview that would embarrass me if it say somehow got published (beyond the potential privacy violation but as an interview it was fairly boring).

    Hiring orgs, please be clear if you’re going to use AI. A candidate has the right to know.

  31. Ex-prof*

    LW 2: Yet another reason why we need laws requiring AI to be clearly labeled.

    Right now it’s recognizable as AI whenever it shows up. But a year from now?

  32. Ex-prof*

    LW 4, a book recommendation: _Do It: Let’s Get Off Our Buts_ by Peter McWilliams.

    Changed my life; might help you decide how you want to change yours.

  33. Scott*

    LW5 – I have to admit I found your response to an employee call-out kinda funny. If I got something more than “Okay” or “got it”, I’d think something was wrong with my supervisor.

    1. Also-ADHD*

      I think the key is the response mirror the way you normally communicate in that form (how you normally text/email in this case).

    2. AmberFox*

      See, and I appreciate that a little extra effort went into the response! I had a boss who replied to every single PTO-related email (and a lot of other stuff) with “Ok…” and it drove me INSANE.

      1. Two Fish*

        Those ellipses are so annoying! Especially since it kind of functions as a way to express disapproval of your calling out without technically having done so. The professional version of a moody text response that just says “k” .

  34. Frank Bookman*

    LW2 — funny, I used to take live transcriptions of meetings manually for those who were unable to attend. I was recently instructed by a director to stop doing that and find an AI tool to do it instead.

    Since we use Teams and Zoom and both have transcription options built in, that’s what I’ve been doing. Though if I’d found an outside service, I don’t think anyone would bat an eye.

  35. Cabbagepants*

    #2 besides the privacy issue, probably no one is willing to take responsibility for any errors in the AI summary. Especially if the AI nominally transposes the whole meeting, I’d be worried that the AI version becomes “official.” If a human misquotes you, you have a conversation with them up straighten it out. Who is responsible for the AI?

      1. Enoby*

        I imagine AI transcripts could ruin court cases. If it’s so unreliable (and it often is) while being the only record, anyone could say “that’s not what I said, AI got it wrong” and there would be no way of knowing. Or if the court decides the AI is reliable and now you’re stuck with no one believing AI didn’t interpret your accent correctly or whatever. What a nightmare.

  36. Dinwar*

    #1: I’m imagining asking my grand-boss for a ride, and there’s no scenario where I can imagine it ending well. I can imagine plenty where THEY ask ME for a ride, but none where it goes the other way around. A firm but polite no would be perfectly normal and acceptable to pretty much any sane employee. Baffled confusion as to why they think this is an appropriate question would also be appropriate.

    #2: Not sure about AI, but a lot of the meetings I attend these days are recorded and transcriptions are made available. Teams has a feature that allows you to do so. The transcriptions are, frankly, pretty bad, but they’re better than nothing I guess. So I’d say yeah, this is becoming the norm. It’ll be fun to see what happens if/when companies realize Microsoft keeps info from these meetings (I’m very cynical about tech companies), but I don’t currently attend any meetings that are super-proprietary (everything I do involves mandatory public comment periods) so it’s more a “make popcorn and watch” thing for me. Your mileage may vary.

    1. bamcheeks*

      If Microsoft is storing data from meetings without informing people in the EU, the lawsuit is going to make the 2001 browser/antitrust case look trivial.

        1. Dinwar*

          I’m not saying you’re wrong about the laws. But I also know that other companies do this–Grammarly and Roomba for example–and I know that companies have flaunted more significant laws in the past. There are all kinds of ways to appear to comply with laws without actually complying.

          1. Phryne*

            True, but those companies have a very different income model.
            Microsoft is used by some very big players including whole governments and worldwide giant corporations. Not complying to those laws by those governments and corporations would be a huge scandal and if Microsoft was secretly causing them to break those laws there would, like bamcheeks says, a scandal for the ages. These clients expect a professional company providing them what they need, and what they need is reliable, compliant and stable.
            I have no illusions about the private consumer products of Microsoft, they probably data mine away, but the MS branch providing to the business market is not going to jeopardise their billion dollar contracts for some quick data selling.
            And smalltime stuff like Grammarly and Roomba and Zoom and all those techbro AI startups do not come even close in size or financial liability.

          2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            They do this within the EU? I very much doubt it. The EU has hammered Software giants with fines in the billions after they deliberately ignored EU laws

          3. bamcheeks*

            Microsoft isn’t just another company failing to get full consent for data collection though, it’s literally the infrastructure that pretty much every data controller in the EU and UK depends on, and “every data controller” means pretty much every organisation from giant multinationals to little three-person volunteer organisations or church committees. We all have data protection policies which rely on Microsoft products being secure and trustworthy: I can’t even think of a metaphor big enough for what it would mean if Microsoft itself was using all that data unauthorised. It would be like if you woke up one day and there was no money. Not even like, the financial crisis of 2008, but literally no money.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If anything, I’m kind of impressed that the employee seems to have focused their requests directly up the chain of command.

      Quite possibly there’s something going on like they have never bought a car before, and so are unclear where to start, and bumming rides as they always have is just an easier pattern to stick in. It’s something where close family, maybe even a friend (but not your grandboss), could say “Look, this is unsustainable, you need to get a car. I will go with you to three lots this weekend and we’ll do test drives.”

  37. I Hate Acronyms*

    #3: What is DSE? I googled it and nothing relevant came up/ It might help to not use acronyms in posts because not everyone will be familiar with them.
    These employees are acting like children. Hot desking is miserable. I would be irritated to if I had to relocate equipment, but that is due to the hot desking policy. Employee with special needs should be given a permanent workstation as part of their accommodation.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Commenter bamcheeks answered upthread:

      Display screen equipment. Includes the whole computer workstation, though, soo it could be a specific chair, footrest, ergonomic keyboard etc, not just the screen.

      I also hadn’t heard of DSE before today, so I’m glad other commenters have asked and answered this question.

  38. Danie*

    OP1, I have to ask, can the employee work remotely all or some of the time? Do they actually need to be at the office to do some or all of their job, like if they need to use a special piece of equipment that’s only available at the office to complete Task A, bit can they work the rest of the time at home? As someone who’s always getting hit up to drive people places, and who needs the commute as personal downtime if at all possible, it’s one of the many reasons I love hybrid and remote work.

    OP3, you shouldn’t be making Ann hotdesk. And you need to investigate what the problem is with the team culture.

  39. Insert Pun Here*

    I work at a large university, and AI assistants are blocked. The transcription and recording tools within zoom/teams are OK. I assume it’s just too complicated, legally: there’s FERPA to consider, plus proprietary info (licensing, tech transfer, IP/copyright, etc), plus GDPR since we do have a campus in Europe. General Counsel doesn’t have time to vet all the various tools to ensure they’re in compliance and not sending data back to the parent company in a Legally Problematic Way (they probably are), so: blanket ban.

  40. Sarah Connor*

    I just noticed yesterday that Zoom now has a built-in AI tool. When I went to record a call, it said “with AI Assistant” and there was no option to turn it off (maybe in the settings but not in that moment; if I hit record that was it). There was an info pop up that explained it would use the auto-transcript to provide meeting highlights, etc. So this is going to be a thing whether you want to use it or not. I guess it feels a little less icky to have it built into the software you’ve all agreed to use and not a participant taking it upon themselves?

    1. Phryne*

      The many many privacy law problems with Zoom has gotten them completely and utterly blocked and banned from all company equipment at my (EU higher education) workplace years ago.

  41. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    Re, #4 – was there a time (or certain industries?) when it was more common to get connected to an external recruiter who at least treated you like their client (rather than potential employers)?

    Five years ago when my husband was looking for a job in engineering, this was advice we got frequently — specifically from my older relatives (so, Boomers). In our case, we knew pretty quickly it was unhelpful because recruiters in his industry are almost exclusively internal to companies. But I was surprised that at least one Gen-Xer friend in academia made the suggestion, too (albeit, for her the experience with recruiters was in the legal field in the early 2000s). It just struck me as the kind of advice that maybe worked at one point, but doesn’t anymore, although it might also just be the kind of advice that shows someone doesn’t really understand what recruiters actually do.

    1. AnonyLlama*

      I think it’s always the case that *good* 3rd party recruiters a) specialize and b) build deep networks within that specialty. Practically speaking that means as a candidate you can develop a relationship with recruiters in your field and they might help you with your resume, proactively call you with opportunities, etc. But make no mistake, you are the product and the hiring companies are the customers.

      To paint the picture- in the field of Llama Management, there is a staffing company called Richard Quarter. The Richard Quarter rep will have a booth at the local Llama convention, they’ll sponsor industry events and host lunch and learns for the local llama farm. They do all of that so that the Hiring Managers at the Llama farm will call the Richard Quarter recruiter when they have an opening. Then the RQ Recruiter will reach out to Taylor, Chris, and Alex who are all Llama groomers that visited the booth at the last Llama convention to see if any of them are looking for an opportunity.

  42. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    But I also feel guilty since I am going back in the same direction anyway and he’d otherwise pay for an Uber…

    Which is his choice after taking a job where he was told he’d need a car and he agreed to find one. If he wants to spend all his money on Uber instead, that’s up to him.

    And I know I make significantly more money than him…

    Are you concerned his salary isn’t enough for him to buy/lease a car? Or in general? That’s a conversation to be had with his boss and HR/Finance. Don’t feel guilty about earning more than him when you’re doing a higher level job!

    1. anywhere but here*

      +1. If the issue is that his salary is inadequate, do what you can to address that. If the issue is simply that the salaries are different, then, well, that’s life. If he’s making a reasonable amount of money for the work he is doing, it’s not your responsibility to save him from personal expenses.

  43. Kat A.*

    For #3 about the desk for a person with health issues

    People with health problems already have to address inconveniences, mistreatment, mocking, and discrimination on a daily basis. Ann should not have to add a confrontation with an immature coworker to her battles. As a manager, the OP needs to address it. Ann already did in her initial interaction with Beth. But Beth probably needs to hear it from a manager.

    Also, adults who refuse to apologize (in a non-sarcastic way) when they did something wrong tend to lack empathy, which usually shows itself in meanness. You may want to keep an eye on that.

    1. Seashell*

      It’s not clear that Ann mentioned the reason for her needing that desk in the initial interaction. If someone snapped at me with something like, “That’s my desk. Move!”, I might make an awkward joke to cover up my embarrassment at being treated like that and doing something wrong that I didn’t know was wrong as a new employee.

      1. Lilo*

        But if Ann said “I need you to move so I can get my equipment” that’s both abrupt and totally fine. Ann doesn’t need to say please to get the stuff she needs to do her job.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          No, but it’s common courtesy in workplace situations. Using good manners is a far cry from begging.

      2. The Rafters*

        I agree that Ann probably shouldn’t have snapped, but it’s also her right to not have to share the reasons why. She could have just said she had special equipment at that desk and needed to use that specific desk.

        1. Emily Byrd Starr*

          “She could have just said she had special equipment at that desk and needed to use that specific desk.”

          But wouldn’t that be explaining why? Without knowing Ann’s specific disability and why she needed the equipment, it’s hard to say whether or not she needed to disclose her disability.

          For instance, let’s say that an employee named Jane has a physical disability that wasn’t visible needs to park in a space closer to the building, and her coworker, Mark, parks in that space. When he is told he needs to move his car because it’s Jane’s designated space, he needs to be told *why* she needs the designated parking space. Otherwise, he’s likely to think that Jane is just being an entitled a-hole. There really is no way to tell Mark why Jane needs that space without disclosing her disability. (Obviously this would never happen in real life, because we already have specially marked parking spaces for disabled people, but I’m just using this as an example.)

          In other words, it may be necessary for Ann’s coworkers to understand why she needs the specific desk, so they won’t think she’s being entitled or an a-hole or anything like that.

          1. 2e*

            I think the correct answer here is that Ann *never* needs to disclose her disability to a random coworker who is obstructing access to her equipment, even if that obstruction is inadvertent.

            She’s got an approved accommodation, which means that she’s met the employer’s requirements for submitting supporting documentation. In most cases, *even that documentation* wouldn’t be required to specify a diagnosis: it would simply need to state that Ann needs XYZ because of a medical issue.

            It’s unreasonable to construe a coworker as “an entitled a-hole” because they didn’t provide you with personal medical information. I understand why it might *feel* reasonable! But these accommodations are not a courtesy; they’re a legal right.

            I’d also note that the disclosure isn’t without risk. It might smooth over the situation, or it might leave Ann open to all kinds of discrimination: overt hostility, paternalism, speculation about whether or not she’s gaming the system for special treatment…

          2. LGP*

            “(Obviously this would never happen in real life, because we already have specially marked parking spaces for disabled people, but I’m just using this as an example.)”

            I know this isn’t the main point of your comment, but I just have to say that this absolutely does happen with disabled parking spots. Too often, people who have the proper permit/sticker/license plate (but who aren’t visibly disabled) are often accused of taking a disabled spot that they don’t need. And if the person being questioned decides to share why they need it, the accuser is often like “well how I was I supposed to know that?!?” Umm, by the disabled placard on my car?? That’s literally what’s it for. But if you’re not in a wheelchair, some people just refuse to believe that you are disabled.

      3. STG*

        The real issue is the hot desking which has been said repeatedly. However, having a disability or accommodation doesn’t forgive rude behavior. If I was a new employee and someone aggressively and with attitude told me to move, they’d likely get a side eye and a snarky comment.

        Without the context of what was actually said, who knows. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Ann may have been frustrated with telling someone to move. Beth had no way of knowing and Ann may have came off rude in the interaction. Beth’s comment may have been rude as well but at a minimum was interpreted as rude. None of it is good for first interactions though and that memory is likely sticking with both of them. The forced apology seems a bit overboard though. If Beth really feels that Ann was rude, Ann should be apologizing as well though.

  44. Pretty as a Princess*

    I am absolutely choking over the AI assistant question. I am assuming that since the LW was surprised, that this was not a company-announced, licensed, and endorsed tool. The cybersecurity risk of people just picking their own stuff is massive. This question needs to go to the IT team – there should be a well-communicated organizational IT & cybersecurity policy about when it is appropriate to use such tools and *what specific tools are acceptable to use on company infrastructure* and the company should have appropriate licensing for them. ONLY those tools should be allowed – this should not be something up to the discretion of individual employees. Furthermore, anyone who is considering trying to use one of these tools needs to stop, drop, and roll: straight to their IT department to ask what is allowed. You should ALWAYS assume an AI-based tool is feeding your content back into its corpus UNLESS you have a SPECIFIC LICENSE with different conditions. NEVER assume that it is ok to use any of these tools for work without some kind of specific approval. If I found an employee doing this with some random external tool it would be a fireable offense as a direct violation of our IT policy and data/information security rules.

    A good & effective policy will ensure that tools that are used for accessibility are covered appropriately and again, licensed properly by the company. This in no way stomps on or takes away a required accommodation for accessibility.

    A PP mentioned that they have licenses and rules for CoPilot for this purpose: that also most likely means that what is ingested by CoPilot stays within your “four walls” so to speak. It sounds like that company actually has a reasonable cyber risk policy and are diligent about properly licensing tools for commercial use. If you are using the tooling embedded in *your existing IT infrastructure tools* like Teams and Zoom, you should still double check with your IT policy.

    1. Czhorat*

      I’ve had these come up in meetings with clients and other external stakeholders. There’s no way to control who or what logs into a meeting you are attending but not hosting.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        The way to control it is to interrupt the meeting, let the organizer know that these transcribers violate your company IT security policy, and you will not be able to continue with the meeting or discuss any business related information until the transcription is removed or the meeting will need to be rescheduled.

        1. Czhorat*

          That’s a big escalation which might not fly with a client or peer-level external stakeholder; if it isn’t *my* meeting (that I myself called and scheduled) then I feel that I need to be careful how much of my weight I throw around setting terms – it’s especially a time we don’t want to risk antagonizing clients.

          As with many things, there’s the technically right answer, the safest answer, and the most politically expedient answer; the actual answer ends up taking all of these into consideration.

          Assuming that there isn’t truly confidential data under discussion (financial information, proprietary trade secrets, nuclear launch codes, etc) I wouldn’t personally draw a hard line here – especially in meetings which can be recorded on the Teams or Zoom platforms.

      2. Pretty as a Princess*

        When you are attending something that is not hosted on your own infrastructure, you are right. You can’t necessarily control what attends.

        But that said – that doesn’t mitigate any security risk AT ALL, and you should still limit any discussion to be compliant with your data/information security policies. If you wouldn’t be allowed to shove it into Chat GPT, you shouldn’t be saying it out loud in a convo with an AI assistant on board that has not been verified to be compliant with your policies.

        I work in a world where no one would bat an eye at “this isn’t compliant with our infosec policies so we can’t discuss this topic (or have the meeting) on this infra.” I am certain there are lots of places where the rules are far more loosey goosey about data and security – but am also certain that there are a lot of places that truly are not paying attention to what it means when people use these tools. It is very easy to take multiple pieces of innocuous data (or what seems innocuous) or masked and generate non-innocuous or unmasked data from it if it’s just being slurped into a training corpus for an AI tool outside your enclave.

    2. LW2*

      Yeah, this was a call within my org (so not an external vendor using the tool) and this isn’t an approved tool. Thanks for the reminder that there actually isn’t a decision here that falls entirely on the meeting host, that these tools should be vetted by IT! We’re a pretty large complex org so I’m wondering if maybe one group’s IT team OKed the tool for testing, while it hasn’t been approved by the org as a whole. Things to investigate :)

  45. Guest*

    What is going on with adults who take jobs knowing they are required to have reliable transportation (something that’s asked of most workers!) and then whining to colleagues – and worse, bosses – about needing rides? If his Uber rides are draining his budget, it’s time he learned to be more responsible with money. If there’s no one in his part of town to carpool with (which would require him to get a car) he can use public transit or get a bicycle. LW, you don’t need to fib – just remind him that he’s expected to provide his own transportation to and from work and keep an ear out in case he’s badgering others for rides.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Yeah, especially since it was made clear to him in the interview. If it were a case of say him applying for a job where the head office was easily accessible but then being posted to an auxiliary office which was much more difficult to access by public transport or if his hours were odd and this wasn’t communicated to him, like if he was assuming he’d be working normal office hours but it turned out he was expecting to start at 6am or finish at 11pm and public transport didn’t run during those hours and there was nothing in the interview to indicate he would need to have a car or that he was expected to work such odd hours…well, asking his grandboss for lifts still wouldn’t be the way to deal with it, but I could see somebody feeling desperate in that case. If they took a job and then found out it was difficult for them to get to, perhaps after quitting their previous job. But in this case, the situation was clear. It sounds like he had full information and took the job knowing he would need a car.

    2. The Rafters*

      I agree with keeping an ear out for the possibility that OP may bagder coworkers. He may start if he hasn’t already. OP is under no obligation to provide transportation, especially since employee’s need for reliable transportation was made clear prior to starting the job. And so what if grandboss makes more. GB has greater responsibilities.

    3. Lilo*

      I once withdrew after an interview when I realized my plan to use a bus wouldn’t work based on my experience going to the interview. Getting to work is the employee’s responsibility 100%.

    4. Czhorat*

      Part of me gets this, and part of me sees it as the “have you tried not being poor?” blindness to ones own economic privilege.

      A car is expensive, and not all cities are walkable and/or have reliable public transit. Not all employees are physically capable of walking or bicycling to work even if work is close enough to support it.

      I agree that it isn’t necessarily OP’s problem to solve, but I *can* see an adult needing a job, taking one that’s available, and either not having transportation or having something happen to the transportation they relied on (ie, an old car breaks down and there’s no money to replace it).

      Your comment feels a little bit unkind towards people who may have a legitimate struggle.

        1. Czhorat*

          I’m not focused on that word one bit.

          I’m more focused on “it’s time he [sic] learned to be more responsible with his money” as if every adult has an extra several thousand dollars lying around to purchase a car.

          Yes, long-term owning a car is cheaper than having to Uber everywhere in the same way that owning a house is more financial beneficial than renting. It’s a huge – and often inaccurate – assumption that everyone has the cash on hand to invest in either.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            And for anyone who hasn’t bought a used car in the past 5 years, at least in the US they’re still massively more expensive than now then they were pre-pandemic. A 2016 model year car that was sold brand new for $16k in 2016 is currently going for about $16-18k as an 8 year old used vehicle.

          2. anywhere but here*

            You can get a used car for under $5k (which I think is not “several thousand dollars”) and often close to $2k-$3k. This person might have a specific financial situation that makes it not feasible, but generally if a person is working full time and has enough money for things beyond strict necessities (food and housing), they would be eligible for and able to afford a small loan to buy a used car.

            If he’s fundamentally unable to get a car/drive for some reason, that’s one thing, but he took the job with the expectation that he would get a car, and he said he would do so. Sometimes owning a car is an essential expense and a person needs to budget accordingly so that they can do so.

            1. Czhorat*

              Under 5K is by definition “several thousand dollars”. There’s also the fact that a five thousand dollar car is not likely to be reliable transportation; check cars dot com or similar for cars under 5K – most are going to be 15+ years old with over 150000 miles. So in addition to needing to have a few thousand in spendable cash (which is not always a reasonable assumption) there’s also the matter that the employee will STILL be out of a way into the office when the car is inevitably in the shop.

              I don’t want to derail this further, but the advice really reeks of “just stop being poor” and ignores the possibility of genuine financial difficulties.

            2. Starbuck*

              “You can get a used car for under $5k”

              Where I live, cars that cheap are 20+ years old, 200k+ miles, or a “mechanics special” and definitely not something you can get a loan for. To get something that will be drivable for more than six months, it’s going to be more like $10k honestly and it will probably still have something ready to break. Beaters aren’t what they used to be!

  46. HailRobonia*

    re. #2: I play Dungeons and Dragons weekly over the internet, we us a virtual tabletop for the game itself but Zoom for our video conferencing. The dungeon master turned on the Zoom AI thingy as an experiment, and the notes were hilarious….

    “The group discussed the advantages of opening a locked door. Bilbo was concerned that the door was a mimic because he has bad luck with that kind of monster….”

    1. Nonanon*

      No, that’s an accurate DnD transcript, they also need to include Bilbo opening the door anyway because he rolled a one.

  47. Bunny Girl*

    #2 – I’m not a fan of AI, but I would have LOVED this tool at a previous job. I worked in a University Department full of the most pompous people I’ve ever met in real life. They honestly seemed like villains in a period piece. One of my tasks was to take minutes during their meetings, and I would have sawed off my left foot to avoid listening to the over-privileged, ignorant garbage that they talked about during their meeting. If there was an AI tool that would have transcribed and summarized their meeting I would have been delighted.

  48. Toni*

    I am confused. If Ann’s stuff already was on the desk why did Beth sit down? And why didn’t any coworkers inform her about what Beth obviously didn’t know when she sat herself at Ann’s unofficial preferred desk?

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      And I really wonder about Chris’s involvement. Did he not explain the situation to Beth? I assume he knows Ann and is aware of the situation and even if he wasn’t, I would be a bit disconcerted by a new colleague who complained to me about another colleague. If he laughed along with her, that seems like an odd reaction on his part. Surely, saying “yeah, you couldn’t have known but Ann needs that desk because she uses particular equipment” would be a more reasonable response. And even if he didn’t know Ann’s situation, laughing with a new employee at other coworkers seems like a poor decision.

    2. Caliente Papillon*

      Yeah this one is weird to me and the fact that they’re blaming all this on the new hire is kind of ridiculous. Next time say to a new hire Oh can you sit at the next desk over, Ann keeps her special equipment here and it’s best to avoid this desk. Ann could’ve done the same. Frankly I think it’s stuck in her mind how rude and abrupt SHE acted and now she’s trying to act like someone did something to her and she needs then to apologize so she can put it to rest and feel like she did nothing wrong. And then add in Beth (not incorrectly) telling someone don’t sit there if you don’t want to get snapped at – which is TRUE – is also getting Ann’s goat. She made herself look bad and now she’s mad.

      1. Enoby*

        This was my reading. If Beth (and presumably Chris) don’t know what’s going on with Ann, all they know is someone acted like a total weirdo over something (seemingly) trivial. It’s a pretty common thing to point out when someone has had what appears to them to be an outsized reaction to something. I’m assuming Ann’s disability/special need isn’t really common knowledge. And even if they all are aware, it still doesn’t justify Ann being rude to someone still new enough that she could plausibly have forgotten or didn’t immediately recognize the special equipment (there are plenty of offices where some desks have different monitors and things just because they were ordered at different times, so it’s not necessarily obvious). I think Ann overreacted for whatever reason and now she’s embarrassed. Maybe she’s used to having her needs treated trivially and didn’t know that Beth didn’t know about her. That should be cleared up.

        “Someone I was rude to made a mild joke at my expense months ago without knowing the whole story, punish her” is just so out there that I have to wonder what else is going on.

    3. Head sheep counter*

      My read is that her stuff is movable and perhaps stored in a drawer. The comments here where the hot desk looks different so that the average person would clue in are… amazing. Personal equipment can be quite invisible (a smaller than average chair (or vice versa), a keyboard that is actually a normal keyboard but not normal for the office (I’d need an accommodation to get a split one at my current job because the base equipment doesn’t include that), or a monitor riser (this seems like it would be in the obviously different category), or a fancy mouse) we just don’t know from this email.

      If its a small portable item, I can understand why there isn’t an assigned desk. However, where that item is stored could be improved upon. If it isn’t portable, then this is on the employer.

      In all cases… kindness seems like it was in short supply that day. And I don’t think that necessarily makes anyone ableist or whatever. I would not be willing to apologize for being snarky at what appeared to be a unofficial preferred desk request. Especially since I’m 100% certain that I would have directed to pick any desk and I wouldn’t know Ann from Jane from Sally on my first day.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yeah this seems like a situation that has more going on than meets the eye for this to be a source of a problem 3 months on that hasn’t just been resolved or forgotten over time. I mean people make mistakes, most of the time out of ignorance. This doesn’t seem to me like a massive destructive issue. If this is still a bone of contention then it’s worth the manager spending some time trying to figure out what’s under the surface here.

  49. Czhorat*

    I attended a meeting where someone used one of those AI tools. I didn’t notice at the time, but afterward got an email with a link to the AI generated notes. I had to create a login to view them and, because I was doing it with half my attention in between real tasks didn’t read the fine print.

    Long story short, I accidentally gave it permission to join meetings on my behalf and record! I deleted it as soon as I saw it happened, but did get a concerned call from a higher-up in my company saying (reasonably!) that this was not a good thing.

    Will it become acceptable in the future? I don’t know. I tend to take lots of notes in meetings, but sometimes recording *can* break the flow and sometimes I can miss something; I could also see this kind of tool being useful for meetings that don’t directly focus on you but might have one or two actionable items it’s nice to be able to search for afterward.

    Overall, though, we aren’t there yet with this being an acceptable practice. Even with some meetings being recorded adding a third-party AI feels like a step too far and a potential to expose meeting contents to others outsite the immediate sphere of the discussion. I’m genuinely curious how this conversation will play out a decade from now.

  50. danmei kid*

    LW#2, if you have an IT or information security team, if they don’t have a policy on these AI transcription bots they will need to make one. At my company meeting minutes are considered Restricted (a step below Confidential but not releasable to the Public). Having a 3rd party transcription program access Restricted information is not allowed. The 3rd party program may have language in their agreement that allows them to keep and/or publish this information that was transcribed. A security/privacy nightmare!

  51. Jam Today*

    LW2 reminds me of that montage in the movie “Real Genius” when Mitch goes to his lecture class and notices that his fellow students are increasingly just leaving tape recorders on desks so they don’t have to attend, then one day he walks in and sees that the entire class is just tape records recording the lecture, and the professor has replaced himself with a reel-to-reel tape delivering the lecture.

    1. Spacewoman Spiff*

      Hahaha, I went to a conference about online learning and one of the speakers was very enthusiastic about AI. It can be tough to find community in an online class and he painted his vision for a solution which was…every class has an AI TA who can answer the learner’s questions at any time…and there are also fake AI students in the course, who consistently interact with the learner…now I know where he was getting his inspiration. :)

  52. BellaStella*

    On AI tools:
    I work in Europe and we use for meetings for this exact purpose. I love it as it is not perfect but really helpful and also it does a good job recording down 95% of what people say accurately and i have then a means to follow up. Also when people say X then try to back track while not as good as a recording it does help a lot!

  53. IWantToDoEverything*

    LW 4 – Please check out the TED Talk “Why some of us don’t have one true calling” by Emilie Wapnick. I have a BA, an AS, and a professional cert in three different fields. Everyone always called me flighty, a perpetual student, and I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. When I change careers yet again (7 years ago at 40 years old) someone told me about Emilie’s talk and “multipotentialites” and I finally understood myself. Whatever you do, don’t wonder “what’s wrong” with you. Rather, be proud that all of your education and varied experience can be brought together to make you extraordinary in your next pursuit. Check out the mulitpotentialite website Puttylike.

    1. Ama*

      Years ago, I worked with a brilliant medical researcher. He volunteered for the advisory board with my nonprofit employer and attended enough of our meetings that we had several nice chats over meals. He actually spent the first several years of his adult life (starting as soon as he was 18) working on an oil rig, and applied to college and then med school after making friends with the doctor who handled medical care on the rig. He then worked his way all the way to a highly respected researcher position and was considered one of the foremost experts in his field.

      And then in his early 60s, he retired to go do something else and we never heard from him again (which is *highly* unusual in the medical field, usually it’s a long slow retirement process where researchers slowly step back from active research and patient care but keep an advisory role). I always keep thinking he’ll turn up as an artist or a guy running a little restaurant or shop somewhere.

      I’m about to embark on a pretty drastic career change myself (in my mid-40s), and I find myself thinking about him a lot these days, as proof that you don’t have to do one thing your whole life.

      1. Avery*

        Similarly, my favorite high school history teacher had been a lawyer in another life. I don’t know the whole story, but evidently teaching suited him better, and he did it well.
        And any number of colleagues in my paralegal school classes were pursuing it as a second career. In fact, I don’t think anyone there went to paralegal school straight out of high school–I was one of the younger ones then in my mid-to-late-twenties!

  54. Czhorat*

    For #4, the answer I’ve always found is “you don’t have to look for the recruiter – they’ll find you”.

    There are numerous recruiters in my field (commercial AV design), and I’ve gotten plenty of cold messages on LinkedIn from recruiters who have seen the experience and skills I’ve listed there. Some others have industry connections who they’ll lean on to find candidates.

    As Allison said, a recruiter works for the hiring firm, so they’re going to bring candidates with demonstrated experience and skills needed to fill the role; there’s no value add in using a recruiter to find entry-level people with no experience. When you’re a good candidate for a position a recruiter needs to fill they’ll very likely find you.

  55. Helewise*

    OP4, I wonder if you’ve noticed what positions at your past jobs looked more interesting than yours. You sounded a lot like me when you mentioned always getting bored within several months and then looking for something new. I really, really struggled with lower-level jobs because I’d learn everything within the first however many months and then be bored out my mind and move on to something else. I wonder if you might need to pick one of the directions you find more interesting/profitable/in alignment with your hopes for your life, target one of those higher-level positions, and then go all-in on it until you’re able to get to a more interesting role.

    1. Czhorat*

      I feel for OP4 – I basically stumbled into what ended up being my career when my random scraps of experience and education aligned with an immediate need a company had on a large project they’d just won. I have no idea how I’d find a career if I actually had to *plan* it.

  56. Hawk*

    OP 3’s question:
    First of all, the company needs to dedicate space for anyone with accomodations that directly impact their working space. At the core of it, the company is in the wrong, and the manager (OP) should be advocating that the equipment be reserved for Ann. This would have been prevented if the message to all staff as they came into the office/were hired/etc that the equpment is for an accomodation, even if it has to be moved.
    Some other thoughts that go into interpretation of what happened:
    1. Abrupt can mean suddenly, or curtly. I can see it as Ann suddenly appears while Beth is working, or I can see it as the way it is most often being interpreted as curt. Also, as Ann is female and women who are direct are often interpreted as being rude, could she have been just direct? If so, an interpretation of what happened is that Ann came in after Beth was already working, and directly said that she needed to use the equipment. As this is being interpreted through somebody, we can’t know, but I think exploring that meaning is important.
    2. Given the above statement, if the explanation is that Ann was just direct, then why is Ann being asked to apologise for directly requesting access to an accomodation? This is expected of disabled people all the time because… well, how else are we/they supposed to get them?
    3. Culturally (or at least here in the US), the interpretation of disabled people often jumps to “lying”, “rude”, “wrong”, or, to sum up, “the accomodation isn’t necessary because they could just try” before anything else. Given the above two statements, maybe interpretations of the interaction are based in cultural bias on both part of OP, Beth, and Chris (aka ableism).
    I strongly suggest a training on disablity and accomodation for all involved.

      1. Czhorat*

        As a person with no disability, I would be horrified to have even inadvertently blocked someone from the accommodations they need to do their job and would apologize sincerely and immediately for taking their space.

        I assume that Beth was coming from a “fairness” point of view in that if there is hot-desking then they aren’t usually to be reserved, so she might feel that Anne is getting a “perk” in having her own desk. That’s an unkind way of looking at it; I agree that the company is MORE at fault for not giving Anne a reserved desk to remove the friction, but Beth is quite wrong for not apologizing. Her little quip about this is the kind of thing that would be reasonable if Anne wanted the desk because she put a picture of her kids on it, not equipment needed to accomodate her disability.

        TBH, Beth’s unwillingless to apologize is both bizarre and very concerning.

        1. 2e*

          YES. Accommodations are not “perks,” and Beth really should be chagrined.

          It’s really disturbing to me that LW (and so many commenters…) seem to be thinking that this situation is some generic interpersonal scuffle that’s been blown out of proportion. Unless there’s some big piece missing here, I think it’s extremely reasonable for Ann to be feeling distressed.

    1. amoeba*

      Maybe I’m overlooking something, but Ann isn’t actually being asked to apologize? She’s the one expecting one from Beth!

      1. Hawk*

        I may be interpreting “Ann will not let this go, but she also hasn’t attempted to resolve it herself and refuses to try, as she doesn’t see what she has done wrong.” as being implied that she should apologize, especially as the “attempted to resolve it” is a line I usually see when someone is asked to apologize for doing something wrong? (Which, as disabled person and from the perspective of my comment above, is the impression I’m getting overall in this letter).

    2. Mouse*

      Yeah – I also think “abrupt” here is being read by some as “horrifyingly rude” but is likely to merely be “asked directly for what she needed, which Beth did not expect, while being a disabled woman.”

      Source: I am disabled and often seen as a woman; this happens constantly.

      1. Hawk*

        Yep, same, for the source. I also see it a lot at work (public library) towards (female) patrons. The past two weeks in particular.

  57. Millie*

    LW4 – Do you have any friends or colleagues that have hiring experience that could sit down with you and tell you what skills are transferable and what industries tend to have those skills? Are there any areas you are specifically interested in, and maybe you could find someone to do an informational interview if they have time, to talk about how they got into the field?

  58. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’d go a little farther than the advice given, though it was touched on a bit. I think you should talk to the employee and manager separately. Tell the manager that while it is kind that they’ve provided transportation for their employee, they shouldn’t any longer. Not only was the employee specifically told that they needed reliable transportation and they’ve not secured something permanent, there could be a perception that any sort of promotion or additional responsibility is given because the employee is getting more friendly (or even just time) with the manager. Then tell the employee that he is not to ask for rides from others at the office. It was part of the discussion when hired that he’d need to be able to get himself to and from work and meetings and he cannot expect others to provide that.

    OP3 – I’d also suggest giving Ann her own spot so moving equipment isn’t required. But also Ann needs to hear that there’s nothing that will come of a formal complaint. Unless others have continued to make jokes or talk about her negatively, this was a single incident that could have been easily clarified with a little more information about the need to have her equipment set up more permanently.

    1. Mouse*

      Re #3, no, it is not appropriate for LW to tell Ann “nothing will come” of a formal complaint or otherwise dissuade the employee from exercising her right to escalate the hostile work environment (as described in federal law – a pattern of treatment incongruent with that of others based on a protected class) she believes she may be experiencing to HR. And if LW does this, that can go in Ann’s complaint as well, as it would then be a component of the hostile work environment.

  59. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #3 – I don’t like that Beth is the only one being asked to apologize. Beth’s wrong here is accidentally using a desk and making a flippant comment after initially being snapped at. If anything, Ann should be asked to also apologize for an overreaction and possibly Chris for also being involved in making Ann feel uncomfortable.

    The deeper issue here is whether Ann had actual claims to the desk. Had she already claimed the desk for the day, and if so, why was Beth permitted to sit in someone else’s claimed desk? If Ann hadn’t yet come in for the day and every desk is a hot desk, then did Ann have any claim to the desk? Her DSE equipment was there but should her DSE equipment have been there to begin with? It reads to me like Ann’s using her DSE equipment to claim the desk as hers. If she is not exempted from hot desking rules, then Ann needs to be better instructed on how to put away her equipment when not in use. If this desk is hers and is exempted from hot desking, then the company needs to better ensure that this is known and someone should have intervened and asked Beth to sit elsewhere.

    I have a member of staff, Ann, who uses DSE equipment for health reasons. It’s a busy office and every desk is a hot desk. She is not always in the office due to driving around for appointments. A new starter, Beth, sat at the desk where Ann’s designated equipment is. Ann was abrupt when requesting Beth to move, as she needed her equipment to set up her desk at a different location. Beth then made a flippant comment to a coworker, Chris, saying, “I wouldn’t sit there if I were you” and giggled with Chris. This was said in front of Ann, which made her feel uncomfortable

    Now, three months later, Ann is stating she feels there is an atmosphere from the incident that is causing her anxiety and she feels this is discrimination due to her disability. I have asked Beth to apologize but she hasn’t. Ann will not let this go, but she also hasn’t attempted to resolve it herself and refuses to try, as she doesn’t see what she has done wrong. She wants an apology or says she will make a formal complaint. I don’t feel a formal complaint is necessary for such a minor incident.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I didnt mean to include the 3rd/4th paragraphs. I copied them to be able to better read them from the bottom where my comment box was.

    2. MsM*

      “If she is not exempted from hot desking rules, then Ann needs to be better instructed on how to put away her equipment when not in use.”

      This seems patronizing and unhelpful to me. We don’t know what the equipment is, or what transpired between Ann leaving for the day and coming back to find Beth at the workstation. All we know is that the company apparently hasn’t considered how to deal with Ann needing the equipment in the first place, which isn’t fair on Ann or Beth.

      1. Sneaky Squirrel*

        This is fair and I agree I should have worded that better. Generally, my familiarity with hot desking is that the company gives you a place to store your equipment at the end of the day. A box, storage area, etc. In my head, if the company permits for the equipment to remain at the workstation over night, this was included as ‘exempted from hot desking’.

        My point was more intended that if Ann was not following the terms agreed upon by the company and her together (i.e., stuff is more easily moveable and should be stored away), then this is where the conversation needs to go with her.

    3. Head sheep counter*

      I agree. We don’t know if what equipment is and if its portable. If it is small and should be stored for whatever reason at the end of the day, then that says portable to me and the storage solution should be better than a drawer in her preferred hot desk. If it is more involved than that, the company needs to do better.

      Can you imagine your first day, you are told – sit anywhere. You do. An then an abrupt person interrupts your work and implies you’ve done something wrong? Yes, you are going to be embarrassed and awkward. You don’t know Ann. You don’t know … well anything. And if the equipment is in a drawer… Ann is going to come off as one of those office queens who’s laying dibs on an unspoken precedence.

  60. Nonanon*

    So, here’s my issue with the AI assistant summary; when does it start and stop? From time to time, I’ve been asked to hang back on meetings to discuss either projects (“what can we do to move this along” type questions) or as part of my annual review (“how do you think that call went, how can you improve” type questions). In both those instances, there are things that I would not want “summarized” and sent to all attendees; nothing intrinsically badmouthing or disrespectful to another team member or client, but things like “I did get frustrated with the amount of times I needed to repeat myself and had to think of different ways to explain this concept on the fly,” or “I’m concerned that when I give Martha a task, she will tell Bruce that she did it instead of me.” Perfectly okay things to discuss for feedback with a manager, but not something you’d want transcribed for EVERYONE on the meeting to see (especially if this is the first time I’ve brought up Martha and Bruce). If it was JUST your training session summary or JUST an overview of what we talked about in the meeting, sure, but how long is that AI hanging out and who gets to review the transcript?

  61. TeamOne*

    LW2: In sales/product spaces, AI transcription is becoming a norm. Our entire SaaS product company uses it for external meetings. There’s a notice at the beginning of the meeting stating “the notetaker” will join the call. In over 2 years, we’ve not had anyone express concern. It’s used for formal notetaking for our teams to go back to and keep a “paper” trail.

    We are very proprietary as well.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      And your company probably has an approved tool for this that is vetted with all their security policies, under an appropriate license to keep the proprietary information from traveling outside.

      1. TeamOne*

        Yes, that’s correct. Which is why I give good faith in believing LW’s company they are doing business with has the same. I’m sure my company isn’t the only one with security concerns.

        Our tool only sends out the transcription to the host of the call – not everyone. Internal folks can log onto Gong to see calls, though. Not external folk.

  62. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Hot-desking is a red flag for a bad job. I have never heard of a hot-desking environment that wasn’t rancid in multiple other ways – low pay, terrible benefits, bereft culture, childish behavior tolerated/encouraged in the office, etc. Sounds like the office in letter 3 is a typical case.

    1. Pita Chips*

      I never understood the logic of hot-desking. It makes is easier for employees to form cliques (not that some won’t do it anyway) and adds an unnecessary level of instability.

      I want my desk to have my hand sanitizer handy. Not to mention my ibuprofen, emergency snacks, extra contact lens solution, and my small model TARDIS. While I don’t live here, I want my work environment consistent.

      1. I Have RBF*

        When I was in an open plan benching hot-desk environment, we had locking drawers for our office stuff. I finally started keeping everything in my backpack as a mobile office. It sucked. The place was noisy, dysfunctional, and in my first two months there I got pneumonia from people coming to work sick and not washing their hands after they used the bathroom. There were not enough conference rooms for meetings, so people took Teams meetings at their workstations without headphones. Cross talk and inane yapping was the norm. I lasted less than a year.

        IMO, open plans and hot-desking are abusive toward employees. Nothing says “We don’t give a shit about the people who work for us!” more than hot-desking in an open plan noise pit.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Not at all – I worked in a hot desk environment that was great. Not everyone cares about having the same desk every day.

      1. UKDancer*

        Same, it works fine. We have lockers for our stuff. Most people have their things in a desk tidy and get them out when they need them. We don’t have everyone in all the time as most people do some form of hybrid working arrangement so it makes a lot more sense.

        A lot of people have their preferred desks so they book them early on the booking system so they get the one they want. Others are less choosy so they take what’s free. I think it works quite well in my company.

        People with reasonable adjustment needs have their fixed desks and these are clearly marked so everyone knows whose it is. Likewise if you have a particular chair those are also marked so people know not to adjust them. As long as people are reasonable and considerate it can work perfectly fine.

    3. Cinn*

      I once worked somewhere that suggested hot-desking as a way of getting around the fact that when the new hires arrived there wouldn’t be enough desks for everyone. Nevermind that they were all full time with no ability to work remotely. I’ve still no idea how management thought that would work.

  63. Daisy-dog*

    LW4 – What could work for you is coordinating with a staffing agency – or more than one! Some staffing agencies specialize in certain job types (ie: Robert Half and accountants) and some have a broader range of jobs (Aerotek). There are also some that are not nationwide and just local to your area. You can peruse their websites where they provide some job listings for their clients – but not every job they are trying to fill will make the website. Contact them and you’ll likely be scheduled to have an in-depth interview with one of the recruiters. They’ll ask about your experience and education, your skills, and what you want to do. If you want to make a career change, you can explain what you want to do and why you would be a good fit. Afterwards, they’ll reach out to you with any openings they have that might fit what you described. If you don’t like, they won’t put you forward.

    This is not foolproof. I have worked with some not great staffing agencies, but it’s no harm really (no cost to me). It has however worked VERY well for me when I was trying to make a career change.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      I had a friend who did some work via Robert Half and then they liked her so much they extended her an offer to basically be a manager on their end to help match people to projects.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yes, I once got an offer to work with the staffing agency. The base pay was too low though. (Comps would have been high because of that, but I needed a steady paycheck at this stage.)

        1. Avery*

          Similarly, as alluded to up-thread, I once started off getting help from a vocational services agency and ended up taking a part-time seasonal position with them. Not a bad job, either.

    2. Foggy*

      I have worked with a Robert Half type agency in the past and had great results. I think it’s the luck of the draw with them as so many factors can influence how the experience will go (how in demand your skills are/how well they match up with what the agency specializes in, how hot or cold the job market is, the clarity you have on what you want and don’t want in a job, and how well you mesh with the people who work there/the amount of energy they are willing to put into finding the right job for you). In my most recent job search they gave me some amazing advice and talked me through weighing different job offers I received. I knew I was the product. I had to keep clarity about that. But without them I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today, so I have to give credit where it is due.

  64. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW#3– You need to do a little investigation here. Is there a pattern of friction between Ann and Beth? Talk discreetly to some of the other team members to get a sense of what their interactions have been like. You may find that there are other things going on.

    Also: You really need to be more proactive about the issue of people who need assistive devices of any kind in a hot desking environment. At minimum, Ann should have a desk of her own so that she doesn’t have to set up her equipment every time she comes to the office. Check with your HR people about this. While your presenting issue appears to be a disagreement between Ann and Beth, there’s a greater issue of how your organization accommodates employees with disabilities.

    And add this to the list of reasons why “hot desking” is a bad idea…

  65. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I havent even read the rest of the letters but I have to chime in on #3 which is just astonding.

    I’ve worked places where we had to hot desk, and there were several people who had special equipment accommodations. Those desks were off limits to other people. If they have not already done so they need to make part of the accommodation that only Ana uses that desk, even if she is not in that day. If the company doesn’t have enough space then they need to find a different solution.
    I think the OP needs to find out what else is going on. I bet there has been some bullying by Beth beyond this instance. And if I were Ana I would want file a formal complaint too. It’s not about the desk itself, its that she is being signaled out by a coworker for needing to use special equipment. OP also needs to go to Beth and say that her actions are wrong and that this type of bullying will not be tolerated.

    1. K8T*

      This is just making up a scenario about her being a bully which is not alluded to at all. We don’t even know how obvious the equipment is.

      If I, as a new employee, was told to sit at any desk and then had someone be (what I’m reading as) unpleasant about where I chose to sit, I would be pretty taken aback. Beth’s comment was unnecessary but if Anne didn’t need any accommodations and acted like that I don’t think anyone would be on her side.

      Ultimately OP is the problem. Anne shouldn’t have to hot desk and Beth should have been told to avoid where she sits as she has DSE.

      1. A trans person*

        If you’re a marginalized person, the ableism and bullying in the letter isn’t inference or guesswork. It’s text. And all of the players besides Ann, very much including OP, are making it worse.

        1. Treena*

          And this is why ableism and other marginalization will likely never be gone. Unless you’re in the group affected, you can’t see it the way someone who has to deal with it daily does.

  66. Code monkey manager*

    Lw4: you’re definitely not alone. The thing that helped me most was to stop thinking about what CAREER I wanted, and start thinking about what TASKS I wanted to do at work. Are there some skills you’ve enjoyed using more than others at previous roles? Had jobs that sucked except for one piece? Plug that one piece into LinkedIn or another job search site, and see what jobs start to come back that list that skill or task. That’s NOT going to give you jobs to apply for immediately, but it WILL pop up some job titles and industries you’ve never heard of before, and can be a start for more research.

    The best jobs I’ve had were ones where my wildly disparate history somehow combined to be an unlikely best fit. My cover letter when I applied for my current job mentioned my most recent job, a job I had ten years ago in a completely different field, and a personal experience I’ve never mentioned in a job application before. Your wide ranging history and experience is going to make you the best fit for some hiring manager who will be thrilled to find that disparate knowledge in one person.

  67. Karma is My Boyfriend and so is Travis Kelce*

    LW4: Have you read “What Color is Your Parachute?” Might be helpful.

    1. Leave Hummus Alone*

      Echoing this, and a shout-out to StrengthsFinder as well. As Code monkey manager said above, figuring out what tasks you want to do helps a lot in taking that next step in switching careers.

    2. Code Monkey Manager*

      That book helped me a ton. Also “I Don’t Know What I Want But I Know It’s Not This” by Julie Jansen.

  68. Coffee Protein Drink*

    I would say not hot-desking because of the special equipment is a reasonable accommodation for Ann. I suspect that she figured Beth knew about her equipment because everyone in the office does and never formalized this. I think it should be formalized and recorded.

    Ann’s abruptness needs to be addressed, no question, but I think telling her to apologize is not the way to go. It smacks of grade school to me. Suggesting it, perhaps, but telling someone to apologize doesn’t usually get you a sincere one.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      I misread. Telling Beth, not Ann to apologize. Two different thing. Telling someone to apologize isn’t my personal style.

      There is no excuse for what’s turning into outright bullying if it isn’t already.

  69. Jill, not a millennial*

    Could we all agree to stop using terms like “elder Millennial”? No? I’m outnumbered? At least I tried to stop this nonsense? Once upon a time, people used their age as a self-descriptor, but now we use categories assigned to us by pop-culture/social media.

    This could be revolutionary, but the idea that only “elder Millennials” or even “youthful Millennials” don’t know what they want as a career … it’s not exclusively a younger generation thing! Some of us in our late 40s/early 50s are still trying to figure it out. Some of us who are retired. Some of us who died a while ago of old age.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      People have been using generational categories for decades; the term “silent generation” to refer to people in the birth cohort before Boomers has been around since 1951 at the latest. You are welcome to not use those terms yourself, but they’re very helpful shorthand in a lot of ways.

      I agree that not knowing what career you want isn’t exclusive to Millennials, but I think that’s a separate point.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Yes, please, and thank you. I’m a Boomer and most people don’t know it because I exhibit few of the traditional Boomer behaviors and beliefs. I support WFH/hybrid work, and have no problem with split schedules. I coach their career development and planning in ways I wish I had been coached. You know, like asking them about their interests instead of telling them, ‘Here’s your 5 year plan, like it or not!’, asking how they prefer to learn and what I could do to help them build a plan with our L&D org…you know, actually listen to what they have to say and understand what they need.

      I was jokingly called a traitor to my generation by my boss. Sigh.

    1. Czhorat*

      It works well in workplaces that are mostly remote; if work is in the office an average of one week then the company can save considerable space in not having five times as many desks as they have people on site. If it’s three or four days a week then it makes sense for everyone to have their own desk. If you work with lots of physical media or personal tools your own desk is a plus.

      Where the tipping point is can be a case-by-case basis.

      There are also desk reservation systems, even with slick little digital signs, if you want to tech your way into a better hot-desk experience.

      1. Cyndi*

        This is as much anecdata as anyone else’s opinion is but I’ve had three hotdesking jobs, all of them had everyone fully in-office five days a week, and in all three cases I share a couple other commenters’ experience that it went hand in hand with employees being handheld and treated condescendingly in other ways.

        I am thirty or forty years old, and I do not need this **** (playing Russian Roulette every day with having to sit near loud chatty coworkers, leaving my phone in my locker, any workplace policy with the words “clear spillproof water bottle” in it).

      2. xylocopa*

        Yeah, I was being a little too flippant, there are situations where it makes sense.

        In any case, it seems like in this particular office you’ve got some tensions about who sits where, who needs which equipment, and it just sets everyone up for this kind of dynamic. Someone with special equipment needs shouldn’t have to move it around regularly just to get her workday started, and someone new to the office shouldn’t have to feel like she’s guessing at unwritten rules about who sits where. I know I’d be irritable in either position.

        And Chris sounds like kind of a dick.

      3. UKDancer*

        Yes. My company has this and so did the last one. We have more staff than we have people in all the time so it makes more sense to have people hot desk. So we have a reservation system and you book desks on the days you’re in and get your stuff out of your locker. We have some people who have fixed desks due to reasonable adjustments but by and large you book a desk when you need one.

  70. I should really pick a name*

    So now millenials are stereotyping millenials?

    But to actually be helpful:
    I think before your start trying to find a specific job, you should start with defining what you want to get out of a job.

    You mentioned that you’ve left jobs because it’s boring or there is no growth or the pay is bad.
    Are all of these dealbreakers? Would put up with boring if the pay was good and there was room for growth?
    What are the most important things you would want to stay in a job long term?

    You mention that you don’t have experience in the jobs that people suggest to you.
    Are you okay with something entry level if it could eventually lead to something you want?

  71. Mouse*

    Re #3 –
    One of the most exhausting things about being disabled is that everyone thinks they get an opinion on how I handle my disability, in a way they don’t about other things. Like, the endocrine disorder that causes me clinically diagnosed extreme fatigue is less exhausting than other people’s opinions about how I should approach having my disability.

    So, as a disabled person, Beth’s response sounds like “tone policing,” a term you can Google, and Ann’s unwillingness to “see what she did wrong” sounds like wanting to be respected a tiny bit at her job.

    1. tabloidtainted*

      Beth is a new employee who sat at a desk in a company where no one has their own desk–except, in this case, for one person. Ann was “abrupt” with Beth about something Beth couldn’t have possibly known. Her flippant joke made in the aftermath of an uncomfortable situation might have been unnecessary…but probably no more unnecessary than Ann’s abruptness.

      I don’t think we should take it as tone policing when there’s no indication that anything of that sort happened.

      1. Mouse*

        Right, Beth found Ann’s tone undesirable when Ann requested the things she needs to do her job. The actual request Ann made – that she have access to the basic, prescription necessities she requires – had no inherent flaws. Beth’s objection was solely to Ann’s tone. Ann didn’t cuss Beth out, tell Beth she shouldn’t work there, or even tell Beth directly that she was being ableist as far as we’ve been told. All Ann did was use a tone Beth didn’t prefer to have an exhausting and terrible conversation Ann definitely has to have way more often than you’d believe. That is why Beth’s objection to tone is called “tone policing.” There is nothing objectionable in the content, so now tone is being policed.

        Whatever level of deference to Beth in this situation would have been considered fine and not get Ann labeled “abrupt,” I guarantee you, would also get Ann ignored completely by a significant subset of the population. And then Ann would have had to escalate and be called something worse.

        Like I said, exhausting.

        1. tabloidtainted*

          We don’t know what wording Ann chose. But tone policing is an ad hominem. It doesn’t mean that every instance of abruptness/rudeness is justified or defensible, especially in a work place. Objections “solely” about tone can be perfectly valid, both in and outside of professional settings. And we can’t decide that how coworkers talk to each other is irrelevant based purely on hypotheticals about what might’ve happened if Ann had chosen not to be abrupt.

        1. tabloidtainted*

          No, because tone policing is a specific tactic. It can’t and shouldn’t be applied to every situation where someone chafes at being spoken to in a particular way, especially in a workplace. It is reasonable to expect coworkers to speak to each other professionally.

    2. Leave Hummus Alone*

      I’m with you, Mouse! At best, I took Beth’s flippant comment as she just farted and that’s why nobody should sit there (maybe it’s just my potty brain). I agree with Alison that there seems to be something else going on there, and it would be to OP’s advantage to be a good manager and get to the root of the problem. Part of fixing this is not to have a hot desk, as others have noted, for folks who have specialized equipment.

  72. Anoj*

    OP1 – “He was told when he got hired he needed a car for this job and he said he would get one.” This was a requirement for the job, and he accepted it on the basis he would get a car. To then start asking his managers for a ride to/from work is pretty outrageous to me. Can you ask the employee if they have a specific plan in place for purchasing a car and only needs rides on a temporary basis? I would think the expectation is the employee would have had a car when they started the job. How long has this been going on, does the employee have any intention of getting a car or did they only say they would to get the job?

  73. NotBS*

    LW4: A place to find a career coach might be where you got your associates or other degrees. Colleges often have a type of career center, and it can be used by alumni. Good luck!

  74. MrsPookie*

    Beth? Doesnt sound like shes refusing to apologize- just that she hasnt.
    Ann is being overly sensitive (as someone who has a disability I can understand how she would be upset) Beth didnt KNOW why she couldnt sit there and ANN was rude.

  75. alex*

    I think I must be the only one not weirded out by the AI thing. Humans are just as capable (if not more so) of taking notes, sending them out to the wrong people, sharing confidential information, etc. It’s not just bots that can do those things. Maybe there’s less of a risk of it happening with humans, but people are fallible and make poor decisions, intentionally or not, every day.

    1. Code monkey manager*

      My concern would be the privacy policies of the company hosting the AI platform, and where the data is stored. Most AI platforms have an agreement that the user signs that data input can be used in training models, so in this case the individual has made a legal agreement on behalf of the company. I know some companies are fairly lax about this as a policy, but anywhere with a competent IT department will have a policy about not using unapproved programs. People just think that because they’re not “downloading” or “installing” AI transcription it doesn’t count, but it’s still an individual entering into a legal agreement on behalf of their company.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Most humans in a meeting are not explicitly sending their notes to a mysterious third party corporation with no limits on what they will do with that information.

  76. vox*

    AI tools in meetings – i’d fight against that. read the EULA for the AI tool. your conversations, comments, everything is no doubt being stored on that AI tool’s servers to be used in any way they see fit. i would log out rather than be recorded and transcribed by a third party tool i had no control of.

  77. K*

    I think it was a mistake to tell Beth to apologize. That is not how you get a sincere apology out of someone. It doesn’t work with children so I’m not sure why you thought it would work with grown women.

  78. myfanwy*

    LW3, you’ve got to figure out what’s really going on here. What is this atmosphere? What’s happening? Is Ann still angry about something that happened as an unintentional one-off three months ago? Or is Beth still exchanging glances with Chris and giggling every time Ann settles down to use her desk?

    It sounds like Beth was stung by Ann’s abruptness when all this originally happened. She was new, she had no idea she was in anyone’s way, and it would be unnerving to have someone annoyed with you when you’re still finding your feet in the workplace and you don’t know what you’ve done wrong. Equally, I can understand Ann being exasperated at having to do extra faffing around just to be able to start work, especially if this happens often or if she was in discomfort without the equipment (I have chronic pain, and when it’s really bad I lose all ability to make nice with people. And I’m normally someone who apologises to inanimate objects when I bump into them). So this just sounds like an unfortunate interaction, not malicious but awkward. It could have been smoothed over in thirty seconds if they’d both been willing to see the other’s perspective and let it go.

    But three months on, this is ridiculous. At least one of these people is being absurd.

    I’d be looking closely at Beth. I’m not impressed with that giggly comment at all – it smacks of ‘ooooh don’t get on the wrong side of Ann, you know what she’s like’ – a snide little way of establishing Beth and Chris as the in group who behave normally, and Ann as an outsider who behaves weirdly and needs weird things. There are people who pull that kind of thing to deal with feeling anxious or uncertain. If they’re worried about being perceived poorly, they’ll try to take the focus off themselves by shuffling someone else to the bottom of the pecking order instead. So I’d be watching Beth for any more signs of that. Her failure to apologise when asked to by a manager doesn’t bode well either. Even if she privately thought it was a stupid request, it’s part of her job to get on with coworkers and smoothing this over isn’t a huge ask.

    It’s also possible that nothing bad has been done or said since the original incident and Ann is just refusing to let it go. Is the apology request recent or has she been asking for one all along? What’s Ann like in the office? Is Beth trying to move on while Ann is creating the atmosphere? The other way round? Both?

    And can you really not just reserve a desk for anyone who needs specific equipment? Because having to shuffle things around the office like that is pretty silly.

    1. Treena*

      Your analysis of Beth’s behavior is spot on. What’s more likely–someone with consistent mean girl behavior over the last three months bullying a disabled coworker or a disabled person actively stirring up drama and refusing to let go of a single snigger and snarky comment for three months.

      I’m not saying the latter is impossible, but I’m not seeing much of it in this letter.

      1. tabloidtainted*

        But this bit, “someone with consistent mean girl behavior over the last three months,” is entirely your own invention.

        We only know three things about Beth from the LW: She is/was a new employee, she made a flippant comment and then laughed, and she hasn’t apologized to Ann.

        1. myfanwy*

          Mm, I’d be more inclined to say that LW should be on the alert for mean girl behaviour, because the exchange between Beth and Chris very much has that vibe to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had carried on. Not certain, but I’ve seen it happen time and time again in the workplace.

          There’s a chance Ann might be taking innocuous things personally, of course – we know even less about her than we do about Beth. Either way, LW needs to get on top of this and figure out who’s actually doing what, rather than just assuming everyone’s equally at fault and hoping the problem will disappear.

        2. Mouse*

          No, we also know that Ann, who lives every day of her life as a disabled person, is considering filing a complaint over Beth’s behavior.

          No marginalized person has time to file a complaint over every disrespectful comment and laugh. None of us.

        3. Treena*

          How am I inventing the fourth thing: Ann is reporting a hostile work environment to her manager *and* demanding an apology from Beth as a potential resolution, otherwise, she will be escalating the situation to a formal complaint.

          You can’t seriously interpret that as a situation in which Beth has done absolutely nothing but laugh and make a single comment 3 months ago, can you?

          The fact that you are conveniently ignoring this MASSIVE component of the situation to the point of accusing me of making it up? Well, it says a lot about how much you’re personally able to ignore/look over/excuse ableism.

          I can’t imagine in a million years if this was about race or sexism, it would be so easy to ignore/twist.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Yeah, I can interpret the situation that way. It’s possible for that one interaction to have stuck with Ann for some reason–we all know someone who just can’t let something go.

            It’s really weird how easy some folks find it to demonize Beth, make up stories about three months of bullying, and never consider that Ann might be in the wrong.

            1. Treena*

              It’s really weird that people find it so easy to demonize the disabled person when they don’t behave like perfect angels…

              …oh wait, that’s totally normal for ableist people to do. So normal it would be boring to talk about except for that pesky little oppression thingamabob.

      2. 2e*

        Yeah, I think “ establishing Beth and Chris as the in group who behave normally, and Ann as an outsider who behaves weirdly and needs weird things” is bang on.

        If Beth had just said, “what the hell, Ann?”, I’d actually be more inclined to believe that it was a one-off.

  79. Modesty Poncho*

    Hmmm Re #2, I’ve used similar transcription software in my DnD group. Obviously you need to be informed that your conversation is being recorded, and given the chance to opt out and/or discuss it beforehand! But This doesn’t read to me as anything that weird. In our case, I use it because I have trouble keeping up with multiple people talking at once, and having a transcript going helps me remember the details of what’s been said. If I were using it at work it’d be the same situation, and I’m not sure why that’s objectionable. (I never would without consent from all parties)

    1. Modesty Poncho*

      Know what, it was dumb of me to comment before reading, lots of people upthread have lots of good answers for me.

  80. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    AI is my hill-to-die-on because my industry has been so heavily plagiarized and stolen from with no permission asked (nor forgiveness asked, and certainly no compensation). For some of us, it’s not theoretical harm and hasn’t been for a couple of years now.

    1. Mmm.*

      Yeah, my exact work has been replicated on other sites, verbatim. However, using it in this capacity also ensures internal accuracy and is a reasonable accommodation. It’s not hard to trace misuse of it.

  81. Taketombo*

    LW #4 – for some specific industries (this is true for construction near me) there are recruiters that work directly with applicants. I worked with one b when I was fired and because he was so plugged in he was able to shop my resume around to a few places that weren’t advertising (yet). I ultimately did not take one of the jobs he found that interviewed me – although he ended the process at one company for me so I would not have to decline an offer and loose unemployment benefits.

    However, I’m an elder millennial with just a bachelors and more than 20 years in construction management in this town. So he has reached out a few times over the years to see if I have a colleague who’s looking and might be a good fit for a position he’s trying to fill. I help him when I can.

    That said, if there is an industry-specific recruiter in your area, being able to demonstrate your skills to them might get your foot in the door to companies they serve. (And in construction there’s generally a more than two year period of crappy wages and no promotions because you need the work experience to get the credential to get promoted or be hired into the next role. In my sub-specialty the main credential isn’t attainable without 7 or more years of work experience. That’s just how it is. Before you try another industry learn what it takes to make it off of the entry-level rung, or maybe go back to something you’ve tried and see if your interim experience makes a higher-level position possible.)

  82. BBB*

    while all parties could have handled things better, this is ultimately a logistics/communication issue from management.
    if Ann has specific equipment she needs access to, she should have a permanent spot! it should not be a hot desk option and/or it should be explicitly stated that the spot is reserved for a specific person/team or on specific days. which management should preemptively communicate to everyone utilizing that space.
    I read this story as Beth was told they were hot desking and to sit anywhere just to be ‘abruptly’ told to move from the desk they are at. I’d be a bit annoyed too. yes, we know that Ann has a disability and specific equipment at this desk which puts her firmly in the right to ask Beth to move…. but does Beth? disability accommodations are not public knowledge unless Ann chose to share that information. so does Beth know there’s a legitimate reason Ann needs that desk/equipment or does she think it’s just a more senior employee demanding the space out of personal preference? don’t assume malice when ignorance will do and all that.
    ultimately everyone is being petty as hell.
    Beth should apologize for making snide comments
    Ann should apologize for how she approached the initial conversation which set the tone of everything
    and management should apologize to both of them for their lack of communication to Beth and their lack of forethought to Ann’s accommodation needs

    1. myfanwy*

      Actually this is a point – I’ve been assuming that Beth now understands why Ann needed her to move, but has that actually been disclosed to her? Of course Ann doesn’t have to disclose her health situation, but if Beth still has no idea that there was a reason for needing that specific equipment, this whole thing would look pretty bananapants to her. It could go as follows: a coworker abruptly asked her to move for no apparent reason, she did so but responded with a confusion and mild defensiveness, and now three months later she’s still being asked to apologise for her reaction.

      If she knows why, she should 100% just smooth it over and apologise. If not I imagine she’s completely perplexed.

      1. myfanwy*

        (Replying to myself to add that I still don’t think this is likely – just that in the event that Beth really does have no idea what this whole thing is about, even in vague terms, I’m less surprised by her failure to apologise. She still hasn’t handled it well.)

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Yes, Ann could have come off as domineering and taking it upon herself to tell the new kid to move, with no standing to do so. I sure wouldn’t have been pleased to experience what Beth did and I probably would have felt singled out and damned embarrassed–“Why is she talking to me this way when I just sat down at a damn desk?”

  83. Garth*

    I once drove a receptionist home when it was raining. Somehow, she ended up expecting me to drive her home every night. It was only a five-minute drive, and she thanked me, but after a few days, I decided I was being taken advantage of. Sure, it was only 5 mins, but it was out of my way, and why should her commute add to mine? When I told her there would be no more rides from me, she was furious, and gave me the cold shoulder at work. She quit about a week later.

  84. Squirrel!*

    LW4 here! Sorry that I don’t have time to directly to respond to all of the comments, but I wanted to post and let people know that I truly do appreciate them. Several have provided great resources and suggestions and I have made a list of them. Some of the comments have given me a lot to think about, so I did want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to reply.

    (Also sorry not sorry, but I’m not going to stop calling myself a Millennial, elder or otherwise. :P )

  85. whatchamacallit*

    #2 i had an intern do this and had to be reminded not to twice. It hasn’t been a problem since. I simply explained people did not consent to be recorded and so he can’t do that without permission. (The second time it appears it was enabled automatically and he didn’t realize it.)

    I will say I would let the person know if they need an accommodation you can work something out. I can think of underlying conditions where a transcript could be helpful to someone. I know for my intern, English was not his first language, so I included if he found transcripts helpful for a specific reason we could easily figure out a compromise, the main issue was mainly people did not consent to recording. I could see there being ADA reasons as well. So I would just be clear on that front so that it’s not taken as not allowing a reasonable accomodation.

  86. Kt*

    #3. If Ann’s stuff needs to be consolidated to one desk and kept there to accommodate her needs, that is reasonable, but that desk should be clearly marked as hers. It’s not reasonable to expect someone who was told that the company does hotdesk to know that Ann has an unofficial desk. Especially if Ann is going to be a little rude about it.

    I also don’t get the idea behind OP telling Beth to apologize. It doesn’t sound like Beth did anything wrong, so of course she doesn’t want to apologize. I’m general, I don’t vibe with forced apologies, no one is getting anything out of that except more annoyed.

  87. Mmm.*

    I’ve used AI tools in meetings before because I either need to get details right for a report or because I have ADHD and sometimes can’t do everything at once. This could be an accommodation for a coworker, which they wouldn’t need to disclose to anyone and which they may not have known would be visible. In large group meetings, sure, they could maintain anonymity. But in smaller group ones, a manager or whoever saying anything would ultimately “out” a specific employee and their disability.

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