employee writes overly casual emails, employer told me to remove TikTok from my phone, and more

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

1. New employee writes overly casual emails

I’m a millennial and work for state government, where I supervise a new Gen Z employee. Their approach to email communication with members of the public is much less formal than I was taught/how I write and, in my opinion, is unprofessional in our line of work. They often respond to emails to external parties without an introduction, punctuation, capitalization, or a signature. This concerns me because all of our email communications are public records and always have the potential to be included in legal cases.

When I was a new employee, I was instructed to alter my communication style to include my full name on formal requests on behalf of the organization when it came up in a legal case a few months after I started. This isn’t always necessary for every single email, but having a basic level of professionalism when you’re interacting with the public on behalf of a governmental organization is something that was emphasized to me. Additionally, it helps maintain a certain level of respect that might otherwise be lessened based on age- or gender-discrimination.

How would you approach providing feedback to this employee on email etiquette as an employee of a public-facing organization?

Be straightforward about it! You’re approaching it as if it’s more fraught because it involves communication style — and maybe because you’re reading it as a generational difference that requires more delicate handling — but it’s no different than teaching a new employee to follow the organization’s style guide or any other standard operating procedure. The sooner you address it and the more matter-of-fact and direct you are about it, the better it will go.

It should be as simple as: “When you’re writing emails to anyone outside our team, you need to use standard punctuation and capitalization and include an opening and a sign-off with your signature. I’ll forward you a few of mine to show you what I mean. Can you make sure you’re doing that on all of them going forward?”

2. Stably employed but internally screaming

I’d like advice on how to manage a job where I like everything except the actual day-to-day tasks. I’ve been at my position for less than a year and the reality is sinking in that my work is very, very routine. I mostly compile PDFs, update templates and do mail merges, schedule internal and external meetings, prepare internal memos, and process invoices. There’s a lot of following up with people who’ve missed deadlines, wrangling a database that always acts up, and preparing for board meetings. We have busy periods where I know I’m going to be stressed getting everything done, and slow periods where I pretend to look busy. The problem is that the calendar of activities stays almost exactly the same year over year and so do the memos and documents I prepare — I literally copy the file that was used the previous year and update the dates and relevant details. Sometimes I find myself completing tasks the slow way just to make it take longer.

It’s a small company and there isn’t really room to grow (my counterpart who manages a similar portfolio has had the same job title and responsibilities for 30 years), but they offer 3-5% cost-of-living raises every year along with an extremely generous benefits package that I don’t want to give up (including a retirement contribution that would help me meet my long-term goal of retiring a little early.) Many people have been there for decades, and I know that it’s a solid, stable place to work. I just don’t know how I can keep doing such routine tasks while preserving my sanity. I’m not someone who needs a super dynamic job where every day is different — I actually prefer a predictable schedule — but I also want to take pride in my work and it’s hard to do that when it’s so rote. As a result, I find myself making basic, careless mistakes that then make me feel stupid and more disengaged when they’re pointed out to me. I don’t want to leave and I know they don’t want me to either, but I also don’t know if I’m cut out to do the same set of mundane tasks for the foreseeable future.

I don’t think you like this job.

Some people are fine with the type of work you describe, and even derive satisfaction from the roteness of it. But you don’t like it. It’s not working for you. It’s okay for that to be the answer.

Start looking around at other options. Don’t leap at the first thing you find — you want to make sure the overall package is better than your current one — but don’t assume you can’t find good benefits with more engaging work somewhere else.

3. Can my employer tell me to remove TikTok from my personal cell phone?

I got an email from my employer saying that employees who perform work under federal contracts (as subcontractors) must remove TikTok from their personal devices including cell phones, and that those of us who don’t do that type of work (I am in this second group) are still strongly urged to do so. The company did not purchase my device and does not pay for my data plan. Can they do this?

Yes. The federal government recently issued an interim rule prohibiting the use of TikTok on devices used by federal agencies and contractors, including personal devices that are used in any way in their work — including things like accessing work email, sending work texts, or taking work calls. Many employers don’t want to muck about with grey area on this (i.e., you say you never use your phone for work but then that one time while you’re out of the office you access work email from it) and so they’re directing employees to remove TikTok from their phones across the board.

4. How do I understand why I made this mistake?

I didn’t put a rental on a shared calendar for my organization, which caused lots of hassle when the renters showed up and the facilities manager wasn’t there. My supervisor asked me to consider why I made the mistake and come up with a solution. The problem is that I’m not sure why I made the mistake! A flattering answer I could give is that it’s been very, very slow here for a few months, and things haven’t required much attention. A less flattering answer would be something like just laziness on my part. This particular mistake, and one of this level at this job, is new. But I’m generally not detail-oriented. I love this job and the people I work with, and mortified that I caused such hassle.

How can I look at a big “brain fart” at work and understand why I did that so I don’t do it again?

Since you describe yourself as “not detail-oriented” and you’re not sure why you made the mistake, it’s a flag to reexamine the systems you’re using to track and organize your work. Everyone makes mistakes now and then, but the combination of those two things together says there’s room for improvement there — maybe a lot of room.

In particular, think about checklists! Checklists are a huge help with recurring tasks that have more than one step (as long as you force yourself to actually consult them each time). So for something like a space rental, you might have a checklist with steps like: confirm day/time with renter, send space usage policies, put date on shared calendar, and so forth.

In addition to being genuinely useful, it’ll help smooth over the current situation if you can explain to your boss that you’re implementing checklists going forward.

5. Can I find out if I’ve been blacklisted?

I’m slowly starting to think the primary hiring company in my industry has blacklisted me, but I can’t figure out why and want to know if there’s a professional, polite way to find out for sure.

My industry is fairly small, with a handful of companies taking up the bulk of the hiring, with one in particular as the primary employer for most people. I’ve applied there multiple times, usually without success, which is disappointing but also not too surprising since each listing is going to be flooded with qualified applicants.

However. I am much further in my career now, with multiple high-placed contacts within that company, and the lack of responses is starting to get weird. I’ve applied so many times over the last decade, always with an internal referral, and always for positions in line with my experience, not scattershot. Of the two (!) times I have been invited to interview, both were for a position directly under someone I knew personally. In the latter case, I made it to the final round and the role was given to an internal candidate, but the hiring manager (someone I trust to be honest) said he made a very pointed case to HR that I was someone who should be flagged as eligible for similar roles in the future and, in fact, there was another position that the HR rep would reach out to me about soon.

The rep never did reach out. I was disappointed but also understood that maybe something changed with the role after they initially spoke to my contact. Except it just happened again! I applied for a role within the same area of the company, one I was more than qualified for, and reached out to that same rep directly to let them know “Hi, I applied, remember how I made it to the final round already so you’re already familiar with me and my work?” Radio silence, not even an acknowledgement, and then a form rejection.

I’ve been assured my materials are good, so I can’t for the life of me understand why I’m not even making it to the HR screening process, especially when I have direct human-to-human contacts. Is there any way to even ask without coming off as pushy or naive? If the #1 employer in my industry has some sort of internal note on me (and believe me, I’ve wracked my brain, they shouldn’t!), I want to know so I can either set the record straight or stop wasting my time.

If they do have you flagged in some way, it’s very unlikely that they’d tell you. But it’s also perfectly plausible that that’s not what’s happening and they just get a ton of applicants each time so the competition is fierce.

Since you have personal contacts there, reach out to the one you have the closest relationship with — and maybe that hiring manager who pushed for you last time — and ask if they can tell you whether there’s anything about your materials or approach that’s holding you back. But my money would be on lots of applicants/stiff competition.

{ 388 comments… read them below }

  1. Kevin Sours*

    Telling employees what they can and can’t have on their personal phones which they aren’t using for work sounds like severe overreach. Can they tell you what programs you can have on your personal computer? What brands of phones you can buy? What exercise watch you can have? Where exactly is the line there?

    I can see why employers wouldn’t want to “muck about with grey area” but we all want things. If they are worried about people accessing work systems from unauthorized personal phones they need to secure their systems so people can’t do that.

    1. Orv*

      You can have anything you want on your personal phone if you don’t bring it into the workplace, but if you do, you have to follow their rules. My workplace banned some Chinese-made phones for similar reasons (we aren’t allowed to have anything made by those companies on our network.)

      1. Drago Cucina*

        In December 2019, the U.S. Navy and Army banned TikTok from official devices, and in December 2022, the Biden administration expanded the ban to apply to all government devices. So, a contractor using their personal phone for any type of federal work business is a no-go.

        I work in a building where I’m not allowed to bring in my personal cell phone, smart watch, etc. The camera is disabled on my work computer. When I was a contractor for another fed agency I couldn’t have an open personal laptop near my government laptop. Security leakage is a serious thing.

          1. BongoFury*

            ? You don’t have to work in a SCIF to have those requirements. I used to work for a Dept of Energy subcontractor and worked as a purchasing clerk. I had to leave my cell phone and my fitbit in the lobby all day. Anything with a camera or wifi connection was forbidden and would result in immediate firing.

      1. Orv*

        There’s an economic cost to a country making every company a mandatory extension of its intelligence service, and that cost is people start to not want to buy their stuff and use it in sensitive places. We get some government contracts, hence the rules about no potential spy equipment on the network.

        As an individual I could care less, since the CCP can’t hurt me with anything they get, but I can see why the government would care about their own data.

        1. lefteye*

          i want to see them bring the same energy for american based companies that are strip mining my data and selling it off to the highest bidder. facebook literally undermined elections around the world, including the us. i’ll believe the government is operating on genuine concern for data safety and not mostly Sinophobia when they follow through on actually protecting us from big tech.

          1. Orv*

            Certainly any country with an adversarial relationship with the US would be crazy to let US-made stuff have access to their critical defense info.

            1. GythaOgden*

              It’s also not Sinophobia in general. Conflating a government with its country is actually fairly X-phobic in itself; it’s like saying I’m anti-American for being worried about Trump getting re-elected, so…make of that what you will.

              We’re not that worried about, say, Singaporean apps or Taiwanese made phones, both countries with a significant population of ethnic Han Chinese people (one of the reasons Singapore was forced into independence was the ethnic Malaysian resentment of the mercantile Han population which had settled in Singapore as a trading hub). However, yes, we’re legitimately concerned about the PRC (and Russia for that matter, who are white people ;)) since they have a proven track record of espionage and cyber-attacks.

              I work for the British NHS and you bet we monitor things closely because we have been the victims of previous attacks. It’s their data and their devices; it’s not personally aimed at the Chinese people, but at their government using Trojan horses to infiltrate the west. If the CCP and United Russia were to be toppled tomorrow, I think we’d breathe a little easier and be happier with TikTok. But for now, with the world in this kind of stand-off, the suspicion of such apps is a legitimate concern.

              (This is also not me being prejudiced against TikTok. People are idiots on it, but they were idiots long before it came out and will be long after it closes down. I have flirted with the idea of using it to showcase my book collection, and it’s only because I’m too lazy to bother that I haven’t done it. But yeah, in this case, it’s a matter of legitimate security. I’m no more putting Vkontakte on my work phone than I am TikTok; in fact I can’t because the Play store is locked down tight to protect it from anything remotely dangerous of any natuonality.)

              1. Jill Swinburne*

                Everyone should watch The Undeclared War. Fantastic series that I don’t think got nearly enough attention.

              2. aqua*

                sorry “United Russia”? are we just trying to pretend Russia is still communist to make this about the reds under the bed?

                1. Dara*

                  United Russia is the name of the majority/ruling political party in Russia that was formed from the merging of 3 parties: Unity, Fatherland – All Russia, and Our Home – Russia.

                2. amoeba*

                  Also, do you… actually believe that Putin’s autocratic regime is any less dangerous because he doesn’t call himself a communist?

                3. Check cash*

                  Wow, United Russia is their political party, and Russia is absolutely a threat.
                  I am married to a Russian and have lived and worked in Russia. Russia is a threat, so please, when you are trying to make other people feel bad, please understand what you are talking about. This is off-topic, but goodness.

                4. Kara*

                  Ooof. That’s … um … a take.
                  Maybe check out the name of the current political ruling party in Russia.

              3. Emily Byrd Starr*

                Yeah, but TikTok (and social media in general) makes it easier to spread idiotic behavior/ideas in a way that wasn’t possible before this millennium.

                1. GythaOgden*

                  True. Social media in general has done that to the point that some sites are just a waste of pixels. I’d personally like destroy 4chan, but the same people would just migrate.

                  But given what I’ve considered using TikTok for, I’d be a bit hypocritical. Also, if TikTok as it is was closed down tomorrow, I’m sure a homegrown outlet would spring up. TikTok replaced Vine, whose fatal flaw was that they didn’t share ad revenue with their creators. If an American actor with more security moved to the market for short content, then it may well take off, but for TikTok is where it’s at.

                  The genie is out of the bottle with social media.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            It is not Sinophobia when the fears of a non-friendly government are justified.

          3. Emily Byrd Starr*

            I agree with you about the U.S. government regulating American social media companies as well. I am encouraged to see that the government is working on making social media platforms safer for young people. It’s a start, but more regulations are definitely needed.

          4. AndieBegins*

            This, absolutely! TikTok is not the only app, by a mile, whose massive and opaque data-vacuuming practices are violating our privacy and compromising security.

          5. Name_Required*

            Big tech wants your data for marketing. China wants data from DoD employee phones/laptops for national security reasons. Presumably the Chinese govt doesn’t want FB operating lawlessly on its citizens and govt worker’s phones either. So, does that go both ways? Or are only Americans ” ‘phobic”?

            1. hullo*

              western social media isn’t even allowed in China, they have their own national equivalents for everything.

          1. La Triviata*

            When Furbies were really popular, they were banned from the Pentagon and other highly secure government offices. Seems they (like small children) would pick up things said and repeat them, with no security at all.

            1. Lydia*

              This really makes me ponder how many Furbies were in the Pentagon that they had to make an actual policy about them.

              1. GythaOgden*

                They were a massively popular toy back in the day and presumably some workers had them as mascots or in the office because they’d been shopping etc. Not a huge stretch needed to think why they might have been under scrutiny.

            2. Katie A*

              Furbies did not pick things up and repeat them without security. They couldn’t record.

              However, there were stories about various US intelligence agencies banning them from their buildings because of a fear of that.

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                Although Furbys will have conversations with each other. It gets pretty ET after a while.

      2. Sharpie*

        Back in the days pretty immediately post 9/11, when I was in the military in training for my role, there were certain buildings on camp where we had to remove the battery from our state-of-the-art flip phones.

        So not installing an app that automatically takes control of your camera and microphone access, which you can’t turn off for it, or not having a Chinese model of phone, which are known to have come pre-installed with spyware and that could very easily in the modern world where tensions are high be used as literal spyware by the CCP…. No government is going to want to allythat, so it’s easy to ban certain apps and certain phones.

        Because you might not have high-level need-to-know access to state secrets…. But there are people who do, and a blanket ban is better than allowing low-level civil servants to have these things and then removing them later because who knows what might slip out in the meantime.

        Far better for government to assume TikTok turns your phone into a listening device for the CCP than not. And the same goes for Chinese phone models that can easily come with a microphone that can’t be switched off even you if think it is.

      3. Artemesia*

        both Russia and China have essentially declared war on the US through hacking and attempting to disrupt our elections and economy via the internet. Chances are good that the divisive tweets and such on US sites are placed their by these national efforts to divide. It is working great for them.

      4. Lee*

        It’s not paranoia if they’re really put to get you. I’ve had tangential dealings with Chinese infiltration/corporate espionage. It is systematic, deliberate, and wide spread.

      5. Jellybean*

        Hi! I’m Chinese.

        The CCP is currently engaged in some very seriously evil and abusive things. Not only use of cyber-terrorism against Western countries, but genocide and use of concentration camps/death camps against religious minorities.

        There is not one single thing that happened during the Holocaust that is not currently happening in the Chinese death camps.

        Many escapees have detailed illegal imprisonment without trial, torture, and murder.

        CCP used to run an official government organ transplant-for-profit website where wealthy Chinese could purchase body organs for transplant (this is VERY well documented) that would be harvested to order. Go online and click on a heart, pay the price online, and a religious minority prisoner with the right blood type in one of the “hospital camps” would have their heart surgically removed while still alive, and sometimes while still conscious.

        Many, many Chinese are speaking out against the extraordinary evil of CCP, their terrorism, their genocide of minorities.

        Calling criticism of the government’s terrorism “Sinophobia” is like accusing anyone who disagreed with Hitler “bigoted against German people.”

        It’s deeply offensive to actual Chinese to say so. Sinephobia is real. This is not it. Please stop.

        1. Lightbourne Elite*

          Thank you for saying this. As you say, sinephobia is real but it’s also being used by tankies as a cudgel against necessary pushback.

        2. jasmine*

          Someone Chinese was the first person who pointed out to me that sinophobia was at play with the TikTok ban, so YMMV on who finds that claim offensive.

          I don’t think “the TikTok ban is fueled by sinophobia” and “criticism of the CCP is sinophobia” are equivalent statements.

          1. GythaOgden*

            I think most people working in information security would probably disagree, though. Their expertise is going to have fed into this directly, and recent experiences such as the Colonial Pipeline hacking, where the back door was opened from Russia, are going to make anyone wary of simply dismissing this as Sinophobia.

            1. What_the_What*

              YES! I work in Cybersecurity for the DoD. The stuff we see and stop or don’t see and don’t stop daily would turn your hair gray. Hacking attempts are not the periodic events that the public hears about. They are constant. I’ve seen literally hundreds in a 24 hour period. It’s a big help to them when people put their silly apps on their phones because “OMG THAT IS SO CUTE” and just hand them information w/o any work at all.

          2. hullo*

            of course, more nationalist Chinese would consider the ban sinophobic, as it targets the government-run international influence operation that is TikTok. the rest of us (I’m of Taiwanese descent) just consider it necessary.

      6. tabloidtainted*

        I don’t think Westerners are quite ready to recognize the amount of propaganda they’re fed, or for the conversation that their governments are on par with or worse than China and Russia when it comes to evil.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          As a person from Russia, who still has family there, that’s quite a take here. I don’t think you know anything about Russia, at least.

        2. SnackAttack*

          Not denying that Western countries have their own heavy and often unacknowledged propaganda, but as someone who studied Russian and lived there (and who has a good friend whose literal job is monitoring Russian propaganda), that is definitely not true. At least in the West, we have the freedom to protest and monitor different sources of information. In Russia, unless you have a secret VPN, you get a single “source of truth” fed to you day in, day out, on all forms of media.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            You are not even allowed to visit cemeteries unless for a funeral, so you can’t see how many young men are being slaughtered on Putin’s whim.
            Your friend and family won’t talk politics with you, just like in the good old Soviet times.
            My sister had to relocate countries because she was somewhat politically active.
            This is so far removed from the modern US, the take above is either super naive, or malicious.

      7. jasmine*

        Yes. Not to mention that our government keeps trying to make it easier for them to invade our privacy whilst complaining about TikTok.

        I’d bet a lot of money also that if there was a Chinese app out there that was used more intergenrationally, or primarily by Gen X, this would never have been a conversation. But America has a strong history of demonizing anything foreign that’s popular with kids.

        Anyways, I agree that while it’s more of a safe bet for the employer to do a blanket ban, it doesn’t make it okay. It’s one thing to say that you must remove it if you’ve ever or will ever access work-related info on your device. But if it’s purely personal, then they this is an overreach. “But what if someone doesn’t follow our instructions and sends a quick work email” doesn’t make it not an overreach.

        1. Orv*

          Phones made by Xiaomi were banned long before TikTok and it isn’t kids buying those. This isn’t an “old man yells at cloud” thing.

        2. It Might Be Me*

          It’s not just “these darn kids” playing into this. The people I know who first started reporting the problems were young analysts who saw the problems and raised the concerns.

          When telework hit there were security issues with Zoom. As a Fed contractor I wasn’t allowed to use it one my work computer. Both Zoom and the Fed agencies worked together to fix the security holes. It’s still not the preferred method of communication, but I can use the browser version. It’s not in the foreseeable future going to be installed on my computer.

        3. What_the_What*

          “Yes. Not to mention that our government keeps trying to make it easier for them to invade our privacy whilst complaining about TikTok.”

          Okayyyy do you think the Chinese govt is allowing those apps to be used there? They lock down and out so many avenues of social media and information, both to keep information out, but also in. This isn’t one sided. This isn’t an “America sucks because it’s all Sinophobic” issue. Other countries do the same things, and many to a much more stringent level.

        4. The realist*

          This is an easy problem to fix. Buy a cheap spare smartphone. Use it only with WiFi so you don’t have to pay a subscription. Don’t ever bring it to work and don’t use it for work. Use TikTok as much as you want.

      8. Trying to figure out a replacement name*

        No, this is based on factual concerns. It’s because of the type of tracking data collected by the app and that all collected information by law cannot be protected from being shared for a specific foreign nation.

        If you want to share your info, that’s fine. However, the federal government, and by extension all computer/phone being used to conduct government business, doesn’t want to risk sharing any information.

        It’s unlikely that the average contractor’s phone has any relavent information that would be problematic if picked up by the app. But I am sure there are cases for example even picking up location data, sound or camera data could be a concern. This is what they are trying to prevent that.

        1. lefteye*

          i don’t want to share my info though, which is exactly why i’m frustrated. i’ve been wanting the american government to give half a shit about protecting my info from tech, but they do not care at all. if zuckerberg or musk wants to sell my personal data to foreign entities (including china) to help undermine elections or disrupt social order the us doesn’t seem to mind a bit, just for tiktok to do it. I’m not arguing that tiktok is good and doesn’t deserve a ban, i’m saying they all do and it’s insane the gov only started caring with tiktok and *that* reeks of Sinophobia to me.

          1. Petty_Boop*

            And Zuckerburg appearing before Congress for this very reason…. doesn’t count as the American Govt “giving half a shit”?

          2. The realist*

            Every time a startup has tried to offer a “paid with privacy” approach, consumers (whatever they may say) overwhelmingly opt for “cheap without privacy”

      9. Helewise*

        My husband works for a company in private industry that was recently bought out and is Chinese-owned now, and they’re having difficulty negotiating data transfers now with some of their customers because of a data breach and related confidentiality concerns. There seem to be some real concerns here that are being flagged by more than just the federal government.

      10. JJ_Bootstrap*

        It is not Sinophobia. The data collection by TikTok, while similar to other social media apps is a bit more extreme. It leaves nuggets of data gathering. While you may think this is a small thing- look at just how much Google or Meta(Facebook) have on you. They can figure out how much money you make, your education levels, your political leanings. Information like this can be used for information warfare on the public. It is not just a matter of information warfare in government computer systems.

      11. What_the_What*

        As a cybersecurity analyst, framing potential issues of national security as “sinophobia” is wildly underplaying the risks, and frankly reeks of virtue signaling. The public doesn’t know half the things that happen on a daily basis via supposedly “harmless” (largely) Chinese made products. If one is going to err on one side or the other, it needs to be on the side of security and Tik Tok is riddled with data miners.

      12. Reluctant Mezzo*

        China actually does have a formal policy about intellectual property theft.

        They’re for it. Axios had a lovely report on it just a couple of months ago.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not just that — it’s if you ever make a work-related phone call from it too. In light of the new federal rule, law firms that advise on this are all advising federal contractors to implement this or they could lose their federal contracts.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          It would be different if they demanded that you delete the app or leave your phone at home.

        2. Lydia*

          Most federal contractors aren’t working inside federal buildings, so that’s one of the concerns, but probably not the biggest. It’s things like your phone automatically connecting to the Wi-Fi at work and using that as an entry point to the network; or, as Alison said, making a work call on your personal device.

          1. What_the_What*

            Exactly and also since most people access their personal gmail or whatever on their phones, there is a risk of people sending themselves docs, data, forwarded emails etc… w/o thinking through the sensitivity of it. Once it’s on your phone, it’s accessible to being accessed and read and transmitted out.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes. My husband works for a federal contractor and they just told all employees they must remove TikTok if they have it on their personal phone or other device.

        1. Caroline*

          I work for a federal contractor and have *not* been told this yet, but we’re not involved in anything remotely sensitive so I wonder if it matters what agencies you contract with and in what capacity.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        It’s still a frightening level of overreach. It’s basically saying that companies can regulate what you do in your personal life if you want to work there. Where is the line?

        I don’t have a lot of sympathy for companies that keep pushing to blur the lines between work and personal communications (and frequently work and personal time) and then realize that having demanded people use their personal phones for work purposes they have to deal with the security implications of that.

        1. Berin*

          The company isn’t requiring this, the federal government is. If you have issues with the erosion of work/life balance (which I do), that’s something to take up with the company you work for. But the federal government has a right to keep its information secure, and to require those who participate in federal work to maintain that information security. OP’s company is the AH here, for not providing work devices and/or requiring the use of personal devices to conduct work.

        2. Pretty as a Princess*

          No – it is not about “if you want to work there we get to control what is on your personal phone.”

          It is about “if you want to hold a job where you handle US government data, and you use your personal device to handle government data, then you have to follow the US government rules for devices that handle/access their data .”

          Those are important differences. The company has requirements for employees who handle government data, cooked into their government contracts. They are not going to sacrifice/risk their contracts so that Jane Bagodonuts can watch dance videos or anything else on TikTok. The national security reasons for this ban are real and substantial and should not be minimized.

          And, there is a nuance that is getting lost and a clear workaround employed by a substantial number of people and referenced downthread: do not ever use the personal device for work. You get a separate device for work, and you do not use your personal device for any work purpose. Period. Then you can have all the TikTok you want, on the device that never touches any government data (by voice, app, email, or otherwise_. But, you may be barred from bringing that device into many facilities. A lot of people here would probably also be surprised to learn that you can’t bring equipment made by certain manufacturers in to government facilities or spaces that handle government data.

          1. Starbuck*

            OK, but thats also on the company then to supply you a work phone if they require you to be reachable when you’re not on site or off hours. If they require use of a cell phone and want to have invasive policies, they get to be the ones paying for it, not me. I’d have no objections if that was the arrangement. “Absolutely no work activity on your personal device so here’s a company phone” sounds good, no problem.

            1. Helewise*

              This is probably where it needs to land. It seems like things went from employers paying for work cell phones, to reimbursements being made to use personal phones for work, to just using your personal devices as cell phones became so mainstream – but a move away from that may be overdue (for a lot of reasons, data security being only one).

              1. GythaOgden*

                Yeah, it’s really surprising to me that you folks don’t (generally?) have company issued phones. I just took it as a given that if the company wanted me to have a phone outside work then they’d give me one. Handling two is child’s play, particularly with a decent handbag or deep winter coat pockets that button up securely.

                1. Orv*

                  It used to be pretty common for companies to supply phones, but workers complained about having to juggle two phones. Companies, seeing a way to save money, acquiesced to people using their personal devices.

                  As an IT person I hate it. “Bring Your Own Device” policies create lots of headaches for me.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah but good luck trying to enforce that when you can’t see what someone is doing outside of work.

              Plus, people lose phones all the time. What if you lose your work phone and go “Oh fudge, let me just call this person on my trusty personal phone, just until I can get into the office and get a new work phone.”

              Also if the app controls the mic, I guess theoretically, it could listen in to your call if it’s anywhere near your work phone. (Techies, is that a thing? I’m thinking of Alexa, which I would not have in my home for a million dollars.)

            3. KTurtle*

              I got the impression that it was if you had any contact at all with work with that device. It’s all well and good to say, “if you want me to be available, you have to supply the device,” right up until your only contact with work during off hours is, like, calling in sick. It would be unreasonable to expect any employer to pay for me to have a second cell phone that would only be used five times a year (once for each sick day).

          2. Kyrielle*

            Yup. I work for a company that contracts with the federal government for some things, and I cannot have TikTok on my personal phone unless I guarantee I use it for no work purposes, ever. I don’t often, but I do occasionally. So if I want to watch a TikTok video (usually because a friend sent it to me), I do it on my home computer. I don’t have it on my phone. My employer’s rules would allow me to use it on my personal phone if I never used our web mail or did any other work for it, but while I almost never do that, it’s handy in rare cases like “the power went out and I need to let work know I’m offline”.

        3. Fluffy Fish*

          It’s not overreach. You can literally do whatever you want on your personal phone.

          You cannot do whatever you want at your employer.

          Want to keep tiktok? cool don’t bring your personal phone into work and don’t do anything remotely work related from your personal phone.

          1. Czhorat*

            Where it is (and this is getting beyond the scope of the question) is the point at which BYOD replaced company-supplied phones.

            Bring Your Own Device also implies BUY Your Own Device; most people don’t want to own multiple phones, most people involved in industries that require them already own a phone capable of handling email, calls, etc. The easiest thing for everyone is to use your own device professionally, which leads to issues like this.

            I don’t think we’ll ever get back to company supplied phones, so here we are.

            1. Pretty as a Princess*

              We provide a monthly comms allowance. It is generous and more than sufficient to pay for a phone & plan on an ongoing basis.

              People can choose to use it to pay for a separate device. Or they can choose to use it to offset the bill for their personal device.

              But when they do the latter, that means no TikTok app for them on their personal phone. (You can still even view TikTok videos in a browser! Just no TikTok APP.)

              1. Czhorat*

                That’s generous and probably industry-dependent. Since the last time I was issued a company device (over 10 years ago) I’ve never been given one nor any money for one.

                These days most employers don’t even pay for bandwidth to WFH, but DO issue laptops.

            2. MassMatt*

              Given that phones capable of handling what 90% of people do with them for work are so inexpensive, maybe we SHOULD ago back to company-provided phones?

              1. Czhorat*

                You’re not wrong here, but it’s another expense. Not only the phone, but insurance for above, replacement of lost/damaged ones, data plans, and effort to manage all of the above.

                Is it too much for any reasonably-sized entity? Probably not. Would I rather they spend that extra money on more salary for me, better equipment overall, or other things that make my job easier or better? Probably.

            3. H.C.*

              >>I don’t think we’ll ever get back to company supplied phones, so here we are.

              That’s a bit of an overgeneralization and is dependent on industry & role. (I work in comms capacity in the healthcare industry, and my colleagues & I have company-supplied phones throughout our careers.)

            4. The realist*

              Just tell your company that “my own device is a flip phone” (you can blame security concerns if you’re so paranoid) and make them buy you a phone

              Kee your real device away from the employer

        4. Angela Zeigler*

          This sort of thing has been standard for Federal contracts for a while, especially in certain fields that can pertain to security or sensitive info. Some places don’t even let you have your cellphone with you in the building for security reasons. Sometimes it limits where you can travel. This isn’t about some line of your personal life- it’s the reality of what working certain jobs entails. People who get upset about that kind of thing work elsewhere.

          The only difference now is that cell phones have grown substantially in how they can be compromised, and sometimes it takes a little too long to adapt regulations about new tech. Otherwise, this isn’t particularly new. There have always been restrictions.

        5. kt*

          The overreach though is in part that we have allowed a system to evolve where people carry around little computers that can record voice, video, location, and activity and share that with corporations and governments alike. It is not a bad idea to not allow that info to be stored on servers in a country with which we have fraught political relations. What blows me away is that folks are ok with sharing all that with Google, advertisers, and random other folks as well. It’s not like being an American company means they want the best for you and ensure your privacy. But the American consumer is overwhelmingly ignorant of the security problems this can pose.

          We know that US military personnel inadvertently exposed secret base locations through Strava. This is well-documented. People are just not going to be thoughtful or knowledgeable enough to help themselves, and the US gov’t has a right to take actions to try to preserve their security.

        6. AnonFed*

          I’m a Fed, my husband is a contractor, both of us hold security clearances. You have to follow particular rules as a holder of a security clearance and do that to keep your clearance and your job.

        7. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Choosing to work in industries involving sensitive data will always mean trading off some choices you could otherwise make in your private life. While I can’t speak to all fields, I know that CPAs have to be very careful about what financial investments they make to prevent accidental conflict of interest/insider trading. Many jobs have medical requirements, such as requiring vaccines (not even talking about COVID here as much as flu, TDAP, malaria, etc). That’s just part of working in a complex society!

          I do agree with your point regarding the need to not push people to use their personal phones for work communications – that’s a line I’m happy not blurring.

        8. Biosecurity-related field*

          Sometimes it’s legitimate, though. In my field you can be fired for getting certain pets (different ones depending on what the specific employer is doing) since we work with materials that can be infectious to those species, materials that could be contaminated by pathogens and parasites those species carry, and animals that could be infected through indirect contact with those species through us.

          In the same vein, if you work for a government contractor, it may make sense to keep a potential spyware app off any phone that may ever be used to access work email, send a work-related phone call, or get plugged into a work laptop. That doesn’t mean it necessarily makes sense in this case, but to dismiss all such cases of putting requirements on your personal life as inherently overreaching is a little too far.

        9. Name_Required*

          It is not a level of overreach anymore than having to obtain and maintain the requirements of a security clearance. If you don’t want to remove a KNOWN problematic app like Tik Tok from your personal phone because you want to watch preteens dance or whatever, then don’t get a job supporting the Federal govt. Don’t want to wear a uniform? Don’t work at McDonald’s. Every job has some level of requirements that annoy someone. Don’t apply for those jobs. Done.

          1. The realist*

            That is a dumb analogy. McDonald’s doesn’t demand you wear a uniform at home off the clock

        10. jojo*

          The line is between what people do in their personal lives that can reasonably be characterized as a potential security or business concern for their employer (and in the cast of the federal government and its contractors, for the entire nation), and the parts of our personal life that don’t affect the employer’s mission. This isn’t new, especially with government and government-adjacent jobs. People’s personal lives can affect their ability to get security clearance–because the government doesn’t want to entrust you with sensitive information if they perceive you have poor judgment or you lack their idea of integrity. Many police departments won’t hire anyone who has ever so much as tried illegal drugs even once–because they don’t think people who have broken drug laws should be allowed to enforce *any* laws. At some media outlets, journalists who report on Topic X aren’t supposed to do anything that might compromise their perceived neutrality towards the major players and issues in Topic X. What aspects of your personal life your employer cares about will depend on the work you/they do.

          I’m not saying I think all policies of this nature are fair and well thought-out (and for the record I’m NOT a fan of the police or of our current drug laws), just that such policies are nothing even remotely new. We’re not on some slippery slope with stuff like this prohibition on TikTok. We’re continuing the status quo.

          If OP’s employer tells the “you can’t keep a banana in your desk because the boss hates all fruit that isn’t round,” that’s overreach (but still legal).

    3. nodramalama*

      If you use your personal laptop for work, then yes they probably can tell you that.

      1. Orv*

        The alternative is to have your workplace issue you a phone and a laptop, of course. Then you can do whatever you want with your personal ones, but you have to deal with the inconvenience of having two.

        1. allathian*

          I’d rather deal with that than let my employer access my personal contacts, or run the risk of my employer remotely deleting everything on my personal phone if I lose it or it gets stolen. The added advantage is that if I’m on vacation, I can switch my work phone off. My manager has my personal phone number for genuine emergencies that would require me to interrupt my vacation. In practice, this would only happen if my coworker who has the same job description as I do got sick enough to be on sick leave for at least a week during my long summer vacation.

          I work for the government in Finland, and the rules here are very clear. Using personal devices to access company data is a fireable offence. Our work phones are very locked down and we can’t install anything except employer-approved software on the personal side of the work phone. This means that using our personal phones for accessing employer data would require some quite impressive illegal hacking.

          We aren’t even supposed to use our personal phones as hotspots while traveling, even if the work phone battery’s running low. Granted, it’s difficult if not impossible for the employer to check this, but they sure as heck wouldn’t reimburse any data usage.

          The central government and some government agencies have banned the use of TikTok on work phones, and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the rest of them do.

          1. Testing*

            Normally, if you have both work and personal stuff on your personal phone, your employer should make sure that the work stuff is kept separate. If there’s any need to delete all the work info, it will only affect those apps, not your personal stuff.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              I know that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory, but I’m not willing to take the risk that whatever program or process they use to wipe something is going to make the right choice 100% of the time and not wipe some personal data — which is why I have a separate work phone. But there are definitely people at my company who are adamant about having two phones who are comfortable taking that risk.

              1. Anonym*

                Yep, I’ve fought to keep a work-provided phone for years for this reason. I read the terms of service for the BYOD apps, and am not willing to agree to have all my personal data wiped, no matter how small the likelihood. The vast majority of my colleagues feel differently and presumably value the convenience over the small risk.

                Honestly, I’m surprised this is being framed as a strong suggestion and not a full requirement. I work in a regulated industry and we’re constantly reminding people not to discuss work matters via non-approved channels (texting, WhatsApp, etc.), and they just keep doing it because they forget, or it’s more convenient, or something. Despite fines and risk of job loss! You can’t trust tens of thousands of people to always be on the alert and never do work stuff on their personal device. Would be nice, but it’s not happening in this reality.

              2. Name_Required*

                The mobile device management (MDM) used by most federal agencies and contractors blocks things like exchange email and contacts from being backed up to the Apple Cloud or whatever, but photos, and personal data like your Angry Birds gameplay are still backed up so that if your device is “wiped” your personal stuff can be restored, while anything work-related is gone.

            2. Aerin*

              I know our management software is only supposed to wipe the apps on the phone, but if someone gets locked out and we can’t get them back in, or if something on the phone gets corrupted, we have to wipe the whole thing and reactivate. Users are charged with ensuring their personal stuff is backed up.

              1. Aerin*

                I should specify that these are work-provided phones, which many people also use as their personal phone. Our systems can’t be accessed by unmanaged devices.

            3. Observer*

              if you have both work and personal stuff on your personal phone, your employer should make sure that the work stuff is kept separate. If there’s any need to delete all the work info, it will only affect those apps, not your personal stuff.

              It depends on a lot of factors. And the reality is that there is some data that leaks, so even with these “containers” your boss could theoretically see more than you want them to, but also more information from the business side could be visible to the personal side (eg phone numbers you call and when.)

              1. Lydia*

                It also doesn’t matter for things like discovery. If you’re using your personal device for work stuff, and for whatever reason your employer is sued or audited, there is a non-zero chance your device can be confiscated for discovery. This is getting less applicable with cloud storage, but it’s not impossible.

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  That lovely Mr. Eastman has discovered the texts he made on J6 are of *great* interest to a number of people, just to give an example.

          2. amoeba*

            It works the same for us in Switzerland, at least in my industry – sans the hotspot thing, as we have a secure VPN connection anyway. But the problem is already having your private devices present in the office – or, indeed, home office – because they can and do of course listen in on conversations even when they’re not actively used. So, if you’re in a confidential call and your private device is in the same room, you already have a problem.
            Now, will that problem be solved by just banning Tiktok on those phones? Very probably not (although I’d think my company would rather have their secrets stolen by Google than the Chinese government, just because they’re not our direct competitors, unlike state-owned Chinese companies). But it’s not an unreasonable ask, anyway.

            1. allathian*

              We also have secure VPN, but the only time I’ve used my phone as a hotspot for work was to confirm that the VPN worked after a reinstall at the office. I didn’t access any confidential data that time.

          3. HailRobonia*

            I WISH my organization would prohibit personal phone use. I’ve resisted using my phone for work-related things (no, I won’t want to use Zoom or Slack on my personal phone. No I don’t want to give my cell phone number as my contact number to faculty…) but the floodgates are open. I wish I had the foresight to say “I don’t have a smartphone.”

            If the company wants me to use my own phone for business, they should pay my cell plan.

            1. Star Trek Nutcase*

              When I got sick of it, I changed my phone number on my smart phone and put original number on a trac phone with call/text only (and frequently forgot to refill) – only given to “comply” with contact number policy.

              Same as when pushed by HR for an emergency contact – nope. If hurt, let hospital deal; if die at work, let cops. I got pushback but was tired of nonemergency calls, etc.

              Personally, I’ve never used TikTok and never access social media at work, but I’ll be damn before an employer controls what’s on my personal phone that I pay for.

        2. JSPA*

          Or, as the LW is NOT a contractor, so there’s already one layer of protection: add a simple flip / dumb phone to your plan (it’s usually cheap, the battery lasts for 3 weeks on “lock screen” mode, and the phones are near indestructible) and have that be the only phone that comes in to work, and that work calls or texts you on. That’s two layers more protection than required by the government, and one more than required by their employer.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            There is nothing that says it only applies to phones that “come into work”. So your solution does not meet the employer’s requirements.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Heads up that ordering FLIP(TM) on Mint gets you a folding phone with smart phone functionality. It’s milspec, intended for those in heavy construction.

        3. Lucy*

          This must be automatic at these kinds of jobs that require high security. I work in local government which basically requires no security at all, but thinks it does, and we have work laptops and phones and very stringent security to prevent us using personal devices for anything much. However, because they buy in certain database services that *need* to be accessible outside of the contracted workforce, certain information has to be available outside of those systems – and I can access that in my personal phone if I need to.

          I still think it’s a silly way of dealing with the problem as there is no chance absolutely everyone is going to comply with this kind of instruction. However, I’m not a data security expert and don’t actually know all the risks either – it feels like there must be a better solution than this, but who knows?

          1. GythaOgden*

            Generally, it’s about eliminating the obvious vectors of danger and limiting the number of different devices carrying an app with security holes. It’s like you are never ever ever going to completely wipe out drunk driving. People will always do it. But when they do, they risk being found out and punished for it, so it becomes less acceptable and much more legally risky to do it. So the number of people thinking it’s ok to have even a single drink has shrunk massively between, say, my parents’ generation and my own.

            So likewise, if most people comply with the rules and those who don’t are fired for it, no, 100% compliance may never be achieved but it will shut down a lot more people doing it than saying ‘we won’t get 100% compliance so why bother’.

          2. Observer*

            I work in local government which basically requires no security at all, but thinks it does,

            I’d be willing to bet that your employer is right and you are wrong. Unless you are working at an agency that does not do any public facing work (ie no taxpayer / client data on your systems), does not share any resources whatsoever with any other government resources and whose compliance, HR and fiscal systems are somehow separated from everything that the organization actually does, it’s not *possible* that you don’t need security.

            1. Pretty as a Princess*

              It’s also pretty scary to hear anyone at any government agency of any kind/level say they “require no security at all” because that is a statement that the employee does not understand the risks/impact of compromise of their agency’s networks and data and is more likely to be lax about cyber hygeine. I’d bet you all the cash in my pocket that if someone phished a set of credentials out of a careless employee at that organization, they could shut down this local government function entirely.

              My property taxes are a matter of public record. That does not mean the tax office has no need for cybersecurity! What if a hacker hit their database and wiped out all the payment records for the last year and caused everyone in the county to get delinquency notices? What if a hacker hit their database and wiped out all the payment records and submitted electronic notices to pursue tax liens and foreclosures? Yikes on all the bikes.

              As to how you get everyone to comply? You ban the app on devices that access your agency infrastructure. If you have a BYOD device, they can scan your device and detect the app. Then you can make it a fireable offense. If you use a personal app to access agency data or take calls about work they can ask you to inspect it (since you are using it for work purposes) and then they can… make it a fireable offense if they find the app on your phone. Really.

              1. Observer*

                ’d bet you all the cash in my pocket that if someone phished a set of credentials out of a careless employee at that organization, they could shut down this local government function entirely.

                Totally. And at the same time they could probably steal a ton of sensitive data (payroll and HR systems have *tons* of sensitive data), mess with important information so that you don’t know what is / is not accurate anymore, and / or steal a lot of money by accessing accounts or re-directing people’s direct deposit information just before payroll is set to run. And then there is the chance that they could ALSO use that access to harm other agencies through shared systems.

                My property taxes are a matter of public record. That does not mean the tax office has no need for cybersecurity!

                Yeah. That adds a whole other layer of danger. The stuff above applies even if your agency does nothing but facilities management for the municipality or some other function that doesn’t require any taxpayer interaction or information. Because in addition to the risks you highlight – and that is absolutely no joke!- there is also the fact that attached to the facts of your taxes, there is a lot of other information that they need to be holding related to that, that is not necessarily public information but that could be used against you.

              2. Lucy*

                Ok, I need to remember that people here don’t know me personally annd don’t just assume I’m always exaggerating for effect, which I am. My point being that obviously we need to protect data, as anyone working with personal data does. And I’m sure there is a need for some level of security at my work. But a lot of security experts (and particularly IT experts) like to jump to extremes, and limit employees’ ability to do their own job, in order to protect data that, yes, deserves to be protected, but is also not, in itself, data than anyone is looking to hack. This is also specific to my role – I don’t have access to anything financial etc.

                My point is not really that we don’t need security, but that installing, for example, software that prevents 95% of our emails from sending, because they are addressed to someone you haven’t emailed before, and include a forename and surname, is going overboard, and not looking at a reasonable balance of risk and necessary function.

                Also, this is likely a geographical problem, as I think, in the US, you don’t have to worry in the same way about the widespread misunderstanding of GDPR as a concept, and the ways in which it’s made it almost impossible to share information as necessary and appropriate to do basically any kind of job.

            2. Anon because Legal*

              Agreed. And as someone in a local government currently embroiled in a nasty lawsuit, mixing work and personal is not a nice thing for you personally when it comes to what may be fair game for discovery or under your state’s freedom of information laws.

        4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I have separate laptops and phones as a fed and I consider it a plus, not an inconvenience. I don’t know about the mobiles, but our contractors definitely have work-issued laptops.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        But what if I don’t? Can they still tell me that? That point here is that they are telling people what they are allowed to do with their personal electronic devices that aren’t being used in any way for work.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Remember Furby? it was a kid’s toy that was banned from certain government facilities. seems like a precedent

          1. Petty_Boop*

            It was also creepy AF. My kids swear that even after taking out the battery from theirs, one night it started itself up and scared them to death.

            1. Meh*

              That happened to me too! I had taken all of the batteries out, and stuffed it in the back of my closet; then probably like 2 months later, I opened the closet door and the furby piped up with “feed me, I’m hungry”.
              When I tell you I needed new pants…

        2. GythaOgden*


          Just one of the things that can happen when a group of hackers supported by government espionage gets in through the back door.

          That was the effect cyber-attacks can have on an economy if you’re not scrupulously careful. My employer, the NHS, has been bombarded by cyber-attacks and while we’ve kept them out, there was one significant near-mids over the last ten years.

          Small countries have been attacked by cyber-warfare in the past by daring to remove statues that praised former colonisers. Attacks could, say, take power grids offline or shut down vital healthcare systems.

          Put it this way: my friend lost a tank of tropical fish to a power cut while he was on holiday — they died of hypothermia because the tank heating was taken out. Now imagine, that instead of a fish tank it’s an ICU bed with you in it. And instead of a random power cut, it’s a concentrated attack on healthcare systems brought about because someone was prideful enough that they thought a general edict on a piece of software known to have big security flaws picked up some data.

          We’d all love to pretend that this is all so much xenophobic pearl-clutching and that no threat comes from outside the borders of our nice western democracies, only from within. And I’m guessing your average Chinese person doesn’t wish us much harm, just as I really, really miss being able to go on holiday to places in the general vicinity of Russia, because the culture is something I studied and know almost as well as my own. But unfortunately the various hostile governments are not so nice and it’s really a small price to pay for you to be able to enjoy your current life as it is now rather than have some guy in Moscow take down systems you rely on to get paid, have important operations or fill your car up.

        3. What_the_What*

          But the potential is that they COULD be. Do you know how many people I’ve uncovered during audits who EMAIL themselves stuff from their govt. NIPR accounts to their frigging Gmail so they can “work it at home”? And most of them have their gmai lon their phone. And of course their personal laptops, etc… So just because a phone isn’t ISSUED for work, does NOT mean it won’t be used at some point for that. Or even a text to/from a coworker that mentions something sensitive. People are careless a lot of the time and putting an app that has KNOWN security issues on a phone because it’s fun to watch cats, and dancing kids, and home cooks, is a security risk when working with sensitive data. Hell it’s a risk when accessing your own bank’s mobile app, but at least that’s your data if it gets mined and not a DoD program!

      3. learnedthehardway*

        I use my own computer for my work, and some of my clients – in no way government adjacent – have VERY strict security protocols for what my own computer can do, while I have their systems available to me.

        I have rejected some programs that want to be able to make changes or monitor my computer. I’ve worked with my clients’ IT teams to ensure that I have appropriate privacy and control over what is my data and systems.

        Otherwise, I’m fine with the heightened security – it means I benefit from my clients’ security systems and protections. Saves me a lot of concern over whether my own data is protected, without me having to invest money or time in figuring it out.

    4. Tiger Snake*

      There’s several parts to why its necessary. BYOD and WFH for one. The fact that people do use TikTok in the workplace for another. TikTok has access to your camera and pictures for a third.
      But also because people don’t have control over apps. If its installed, we have no way of stopping it from just continuing to operate and listen in the background. We HOPE it doesn’t; but if it does you don’t get visibility and you can’t stop it. You cannot see what any app is doing when you’re not using it.

      The easy solution is to simply not bring your personal phone into the workplace and never use it for any work operations whatsoever; no even a phone call. But that’s hard to do, and TikTok does eavesdrop on your calls, so we have to have it completely uninstalled.

      1. Anon for This*

        And if you work remotely, your home *is* your workplace, which makes things difficult to separate. For work sites with strong needs for security, like military sites, you often aren’t allowed to bring cellphones into the workplace at all, and can’t work remotely or take work home.

        My yearly required internet security course at work spends about a third of its time on hacking by foreign governments, roughly the same amount of time that’s spent on social engineering, phishing scams and the like. I don’t even work with secure data – most of what we do is open source, or the data are released publicly after a relatively short proprietary period. However, my employer is a major target for Chinese hacking.

      2. What_the_What*

        “But also because people don’t have control over apps. If its installed, we have no way of stopping it from just continuing to operate and listen in the background. ”

        Yep. Look at your network traffic one day and see what’s going in and out while your phone is connected. Apps that aren’t in use continue to send massive amounts of data in the background and TikTok is a major one. I’ve removed FB Messenger and the FB app for that reason, as well. People think that “well I didn’t give XYZ app permission to ABC” is enough. It’s not, and it’s naive to believe that apps are NOT accessing and potentially misusing your data, whether it’s for marketing or more nefarious purposes.

    5. Knope Knope Knope*

      It’s a security issue. There is bipartisan concern that the Chinese Government’s is using TikTok to spy on Americans. Even if ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is ethical, there’s little to nothing they can do if the government wants to access that data. And their track record isn’t good.

      1. Lydia*

        That’s really it in a nutshell. The Chinese government has shown its true self, and no Chinese company is immune to its directives.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Exactly. I’ve never been to China but I’ve been to Russia a few times.

          I’m praying for a day when I can travel by train from London to Beijing without fearing anyone in that path. My dream holiday is at least the Trans-Siberian. Before February 2022 I was reading Mikhail Sholokhov’s The Quiet Don (the river after which the Donbass is named) and thinking seriously of taking a trip to Kyiv once COVID subsided. Even my honeymoon cruise ended up in St Petersburg and when we got home my late husband (who died in 2019 before the brown stuff hit the global fan :-///) wore his St P and Yuri Gagarin tee shirts all the time. (As one of the legions of little boys in the post-war era who grew up wanting to be an astronaut, he clung into life so as not to miss the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.)

          Believe me when I say that it’s neither China nor Russia I have a problem with. It’s the people in charge of those two magnificent countries at present who are victimising their own people along with everyone else.

    6. ImprobableSpork*

      It may be a huge overreach, but it’s also a “they will fire you and tell your boss after the fact” territory. There’s some very well-justified concern about what sort of tracking/background noise info the TikTok app is transmitting and the fact that your personal device is on your person is what they’re concerned about. The only reason it’s limited to companies that have federal contracts is that’s all the federal government can have any say over without an act of Congress. That act of Congress is coming.

    7. Belle Astre*

      The problem is no one actually checks what these apps do – which for people with access to sensitive government data is a major major problem. I would expect China or Russia to have similar policies about American made apps.

      Personally I’m more raising my eyebrows at the fact that this is only TikTok and not also Shein or Temu, the latter of which has been shown to be an even bigger data vacuum (on Android phones, at least. Have yet to come across anyone who had this issue with an iPhone or a smaller Linux OS)

      1. Also-ADHD*

        I imagine the reason the other apps aren’t mentioned is that their US usage is fairly low. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be guarded against, but hardly anyone uses them compared to TikTok. TikTok is bizarre to me—the security issues do seem real when you look into it, but it’s so so popular. So many people just have it on their phones.

    8. Jellybean*

      It’s literally the law.

      There are very valid readons why the US government want to make the Chinese spyware apps illegal, it’s not just random censorship.

      1. jasmine*

        It makes total sense for laws like these to apply to federal employees using devices to access work information. But the number of Americans who support making Chinese apps illegal across the board is astonishing, though not surprising. We don’t see this level of concern when American companies and the American government do the exact same things.

        1. Liz*

          Because … it’s our government and not one that is hostile to us?

          I’m as leftist as they come, but this isn’t a “both sides” thing. The Chinese and Russian governments want our country to fail and have made no secret about that.

        2. What_the_What*

          Not for the same purposes. Yes, FB and Google are huge data sucks, but they’re not trying to find sensitive information and use it to bring down an airplane or something. They’re using it to target ads and political posts–which is abhorrent–don’t get me wrong, but it’s not apples and apples. It’s apples and zebras.

    9. Aerin*

      TikTok is the one app we don’t allow on our managed phones, not even a little bit. The really annoying thing is that it will install an app clip on iOS devices if you even view a TikTok in browser (like if someone sends you a link). So people will get flagged as having it installed and call in very confused, and we have to walk them into the depths of their settings menu to remove that data.

      Honestly, TikTok has been super sketch from the very beginning, which is why I’ve never touched it. The good material breaks containment and gets posted elsewhere anyway.

      1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

        Can you elaborate on where to look in the depths of the settings menu, please?

    10. nopetopus*

      This isn’t new for federal employees and contractors. My brother works at a government naval yard and as far back as 2009 I remember him mentioning not being allowed his personal cellphone on work property if it had a camera. His coworkers would smash the camera lens and remove the whole unit from their flip phones so they could bring them into the workplace. It’s not outrageous or new.

      1. Helewise*

        Some corporations will still require tape over cameras to be admitted to the facility. Anyone working with sensitive or proprietary information is subject to this sort of thing and has been for as long as cell phones have been around.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        My partner works as a civilian contractor. He has two phones – one ‘dumb’ phone with no camera, and one smartphone. He will swap the sim card from the dumb phone to the smartphone when leaving work and vice versa when arriving.

    11. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Welcome to government contracting (and even more so security clearances), where they can and do tell you all sorts of things about how to live your life.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Money, benefits, interesting job, the normal things why people work at different employers?

          1. The realist*

            Money is usually better in the private sector, all these government employees just take their jobs to avoid accountability and to undermine whosever in office

            1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

              You are confusing civil servant and contractor. And you are unfairly maligning civil servants.

    12. Parenthesis Guy*

      The real challenge is that you can be fired at will. In this case, the federal government is banning TikTok, but there’s nothing preventing a company that has sensitive information (manufacturer, health insurance company, bank, etc etc) from doing the same. Or banning Facebook or X or whatever.

      In fact, there’s nothing legally preventing businesses from telling their employees they need to download an app on their personal devices or they get fired. Nothing legally preventing them from downloading an app without your permission or knowledge on their work devices. The only thing preventing that is that it may cause employees to quit, and it’s hard to replace employees.

    13. AnonInCanada*

      I think it’s only a matter of time when the federal governments in many western nations (including Canada, I’ll add, not just the U.S.) will either ban TikTok from operating altogether, or force ByteDance to sell it to a domestic corporation, who’ll in turn turn over the app’s source code for government scrutiny. Then again, how much data are our governments gathering from us using the likes of apps from Meta, Google, Microsoft, Apple et al? Should we trust any of them?

      This is one of the principal reasons why I never put TikTok on any device I own, the other being I can’t be bothered with another social media outlet clamouring for my attention to sell my personal information to advertisers, or gather it for the CCP. Maybe I’m getting too old to understand the appeal of TikTok, but I kind of wish it were banned, period.

      1. Observer*

        Then again, how much data are our governments gathering from us using the likes of apps from Meta, Google, Microsoft, Apple et al? Should we trust any of them?

        It’s a real issue. And there are some lawsuits, at least in the US, about government buying data that they would normally have to get a search warrant for. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

        But also, incredibly, there is actually a bi-partisan bill in congress to curb the amount of data that companies can gather. Who knows what will happen with it, but it’s movement in the right direction.

    14. lilsheba*

      Yeah I’m sorry but no work is going to tell me what I can have on my personal phone. I will happily not access any work on my phone, you keep your mitts off it. It’s MINE and I will do what I want wit hit.

      1. AnonFed*

        Then you’ll have to accept you can’t have certain job, like those with a clearance. That’s a legitimate choice to make, having and maintaining clearance takes effort.

        1. Aerin*

          I imagine they could also buy and pay for a separate phone that’s only used for work. I don’t think people should have to do that, but if it’s a BYOD setup and the employee feels strongly about having a phone that isn’t subject to those rules, it’s pretty much the only option.

          1. AnonFed*

            Not really. My spouse has an employer provided phone but he also has rules about what can be on his personal device.

    15. underhill*

      did you miss the part where it’s by order of the US federal government? Sure, maybe it is an overreach, but OP’s not getting anywhere with that argument

    16. fhqwhgads*

      TikTok is known to be spyware. The mandate is telling employees they can’t use infected devices for work purposes. Does it sound more reasonable now?

    17. JustaTech*

      This was a long time ago, but do you remember when Furbys were banned from federal government offices? They would repeat sounds they heard, so the folks over at the DOD and CIA were like “nope, not in the office”.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        My mom worked for a government agency that just pay rolled other agencies (so no nuclear secrets or anything) and they also couldn’t have furbys in their office (or phones with cameras once those became a thing). Not sure where things stand now as she retired more than ten years ago.

        1. Observer*

          government agency that just pay rolled other agencies (so no nuclear secrets or anything)

          Except for the names of the people who work for the agencies that actually DO work for those agencies. That’s a major potential oopsie.

          On top of which, payroll systems have huge troves of data on the people who are getting paid, even if they are totally separate from the rest of the HR type systems. And by 10 years ago, they also had connections to people’s bank accounts, and often also to insurance portals. So, maybe not nuclear secrets, but *LOTS* of really sensitive stuff.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Of course, I wasn’t implying that they were out of line, just emphasizing that it’s not just the agencies with the big secrets that are going to have to follow these rules, it’s anyone who could have ANY government information.

            1. Observer*

              Agreed. And for anyone who wonders why government agencies are like this, the stuff I mentioned is a *partial* list of things that can be a major problem.

    18. Web of Pies*

      Yeah, I hate this. You can’t have it both ways, employers! Either do BYOD and chill, or supply devices and control whatever you want. I personally would not consent to any employer software or rules on a device I bought and pay to use.

      1. AnonFed*

        My husband’s work both provides a phone/computer and also restricts certain apps even in his personal device. They tried banning personal devices from work but it wasn’t effective.

    19. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer.

      People mostly seem to be ignoring the part where TikTok has to be removed from personal phones if those phones are used for work. Here’s the relevant text, via the link Alison posted:

      This prohibition applies to devices regardless of whether the device is owned by the Government, the contractor, or the contractor’s employees (e.g., employee-owned devices that are used as part of an employer bring your own device (BYOD) program). A personally-owned cell phone that is not used in the performance of the contract is not subject to the prohibition.

      So the solution to keeping TikTok on your personal phone as a government contractor is simple: don’t use your personal phone. At all. Ever. No phone calls. No IMs. No email. No looking up something on the web to answer a question from a co-worker. Nothing. If that means you can’t be reached—well, they should get you a phone you can use to do all those things.

      While having a work phone and personal phone can be inconvenient, it’s the best way to keep your phone your phone. Most IT departments want some level of control over your phone (like the ability to wipe your phone) before they’ll grant access to email, for example. That’s too much control over my phone, IMO.

      Whether merely taking a personal phone into the workplace counts as using it for work is debatable. But I’d say that if all you do is carry your phone with you in the workplace, that’s not “used in the performance of the contract.” But, again, I am not your lawyer. (And this is separate from the issue of secured workplaces, which won’t let you bring your personal devices anyway.)

      1. Orv*

        Keeping your work and personal devices separate may also save you some grief if your company is sued and your work product is subpoenaed.

    20. Ellie*

      I work in Australia, in a restricted environment, and we can’t have tiktok on our phones, along with a host of other things including whole brands of devices, smart watches, laptops, etc. We’ve kind of been laughing that the US is only just bringing in these rules, we’ve had them for years (probably they have too). The way they get you to agree to it, is to sign a form as part of pre-employment checks and before gaining access to any restricted data. If you don’t sign, you can’t do your job, and you can’t remain employed. Technically they don’t know if you have a certain brand of smartwatch at home, so long as you never take it anywhere near the office, but in practice, most people don’t want two kinds of these kinds of devices anyway. Plus, if it turns out to result in a security breach one day, and you’ve signed the form, you could end up in prison. So most people don’t risk it.

      This is the only way to secure these systems, with rules like this. Some devices that are manufactured overseas have malicious code embedded into the kernel, there is no way to get rid of it, no way to switch it off. So, the only way is to not allow it anywhere near there systems. Most phones have auto sync stuff that is very difficult to turn off. They can’t take the risk. Frankly, once you learn a bit about how these things work, most people don’t want to use them anyway. It’s quite sneaky.

  2. Language Lover*

    #1 lw

    I tangentially supervise someone who does the same. This person is not Gen Z and is, in fact, closer to retirement age. They are educated but have a very scattered brain (as do I) and often write their thoughts down as they think them rather than compose a letteresque email when writing to people outside of our department. I’ve been copied on emails they’ve written with no greeting, no signoff and basically just a main point sentence of an action they took. The problem with that is not every main point makes sense without come context. This person might have the context in their head but their recipient likely won’t.

    It’s still a struggle but I do try to recommend that they should work off of a template for sending emails so they don’t forget to hit all aspects. For us, that includes a greeting, a sentence or two of background or context, a sentence or two about action taken or needs to be taken, directions about how to follow up if needed, and then a signoff. The emails don’t have to be fancy but they do need some thought and composition.

    Most people don’t need that level of direction but my employee does. Maybe your employee needs something similar and since they’re new, make it a part of their early goals as an employee.

    1. allathian*

      Having a template or style guide for emails, particularly external ones, sounds like a good idea in any case.

      Every external email reflects the company brand, whether intentionally or unintentionally. One definition of a brand is “what our stakeholders think about us when we aren’t there,” so even if you haven’t built a brand intentionally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t have one.

      Generally there’s a lot more room for individual expression in internal emails, whether they’re within a department or not. That said, clarity helps there, too. I’m willing to bet that your employee gets more queries than average asking for clarification.

      I’m wondering, does your employee prefer phone calls? If so, they may not be interested in writing better emails. They send their cryptic email and the recipient calls them to ask for details and clarification, and the employee gets to use their preferred communications channel.

      1. JSPA*

        Came to say this: “Government departments have reporting requirements under the law, which means we all have either official or unofficial style guides. Here’s what our department’s unofficial guidelines look like. Please follow these guidelines for every email.”

      2. OP1*

        This is super helpful framing, to think about unintentional and intentional brand representation. Thanks for this perspective.

        1. Jaydee*

          In addition to the branding aspect, I would strongly encourage you to make clear to your employee the fact that any emails they write (with limited exceptions for things like confidential info or attorney-client work product) are public records. My former boss always told us when sending email to think “Would I want to see this printed on the front page of [capital city’s newspaper]?”

          The public records implications are enough that it should make clear to the employee this is not a situation where their mean old boss just doesn’t like their casual, youthful style of writing. There is a legitimate need to write in a more formal, professional style.

          1. honeygrim*

            As someone who works in a government-adjacent job, I lean into a saying I saw recently: “Dance like no one is watching. Write emails like they’ll be read in court.”

      3. el l*

        Yes, agree, the best way to think of this problem is: The job requires a higher standard than most jobs for emails. Have to do it a specific way because of public records requests, and because at some level said emails are representing an official position of government. And how they perceive you matters, to your point.

        So set expectations and guidelines. A style guide seems a reasonable solution given the needs.

      4. Star Trek Nutcase*

        I had the opposite problem – an employee who wrote internal emails as though sent to external. I’m not talking about to a manager, but to a peer when simply a reminder or basic request (a very frequent part of her job). She was slow anyway and her need to make “please send me a copy of xyz” into a 2-paragraph email drive me nuts and meant she got even less done. I got requests from her
        peers to get her to just get to the point. I tried but it turned out this was just one more way she couldn’t adapt to accomplish her job duties. She was ultimately transferred to a lower position (my recommendation to terminate was denied cause “mean”).

        1. Liz*

          Sounds like my old boss. After he left, my grandboss said “you know, I like him, but if you asked him what time it was he’d respond with a five-minute speech.”

    2. Mangled Metaphor*

      I know there’s still a hint of anti-microsoft bias in the world, but Outlook let’s you customise signatures to at least do the “sign off” bit for you. Even having separate ones for first emails versus replies.

      My “replies” signature is literally:
      (office telephone number)

      My “initial contact” signature is more detailed:
      If you have any concerns, please let me know.
      Kind regards,
      Mangled Metaphor – Job Title
      (office telephone number)
      (Company logo with website and linkedin info & company encouraged message about not printing emails unnecessarily)
      (Any advanced warning of upcoming periods out of the office)

      1. Myrin*

        That’s one of the first things my workplace sets up before a new hire has even started. You can customise it a bit later on but we are local government and it’s required that we have our department, phone number, address, and the city’s logo in any “first contact” outgoing email.
        (Although most of my coworkers never took the time to make it so the style of the actual body of the email fits the signature – text colour, font, and font-size wise – which I think looks disjointed and a bit unprofessional on another front, but oh well, not my problem.)

        We can change between “internal” and “external” signatures with the internal one just being a simple send-off which I often use for outside people I converse with regularly but I always have the possibility to use the external one if I feel it fits the tone or occasion better.

      2. Aerin*

        We set these up as part of training. IT provides a handy little tool that actually formats it all for you including the correct logos. So I’ve got one with an above the line “Thanks, Aerin etc” and then the below the line standard one with that more detailed info. It gets applied to every email by default unless I adjust it.

      3. zuzu*

        I love Outlook and I won’t entertain any nonsense from anyone who should be keeping their name out of their filthy mouths.

        Signed, someone who had to use Gmail for two years (shudder)

    3. uncivil servant*

      I like that framing because it sounds like the OP is nervous about making it all about etiquette and fuddy-duddy old people rules. But a lot of that stuff conveys actual information! A greeting is polite and warm but also makes it clear who you’re talking to – is it just me, me and my entire team, or am I just being cc’ed as a FYI? Don’t make me look at the recipient list when you could do a bit of work.

      And paragraphs and punctuation aren’t just there for funsies either. It is a bit harder to correct tone when someone is a bit brusque or overly chatty, but this sounds like it’s more like a lack of effort in composition than deliberately letting go of fussy conventions.

    4. Spero*

      I have ADHD as do most of my employees, and I’ve noticed that none of us use salutations etc in emails. They honestly seem completely unnecessary and wasteful of our time – we are having an email conversation. You don’t say a greeting and sign off in every text or when it’s your turn to speak in a phone conversation, why would you in every email? Now, when it’s a new email you are sending for the first time, I have trained my staff to add those social niceties because I’ve received feedback for myself and for them that it can come off as brusque. That is more like a letter and may need letter-like extras. But in a back and forth about budget updates, why waste time with all that extra?

      1. Lisa*

        There’s a big difference though between emails among colleagues and emails going outside the organization. The former can be more casual and get to the point. The latter require more formal business communication. But even casual emails between colleagues that don’t need formal greetings need to serve the purpose of communicating the needed information. If you’re sending one sentence without context like Language Lover’s employee and it requires a back and forth to figure out what you’re talking about, that’s wasting everyone’s time.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        I have ADHD, I’m not that old, & I’ve always had a signature on work emails, though most places I’ve worked have had a template/branding guide for it. And every email service I’ve had, you could set it up to auto add. So it’s not like forgetting factors in.

        In my personal emails, I usually just go with “Thanks,” and my name (nothing maybe if it’s more casual but those communications are usually pings/texts/chats, not emails), but if it’s for a job search or with a contractor for my house, I’ll probably put a closing “Thanks,
        MY NAME” (usually just first unless very formal)

        Very formal emails don’t make sense in most cases, but I don’t understand how having ADHD would make me any less likely to do so. But I see weird ADHD stereotypes that have little to do with the neurological symptoms every day.

  3. Martin Blackwood*

    I (gen z) feel weird about a millenial, the generation i think most people blame for text speak and lolcats, treating Gen Z casualness as a Huge Thing. I kept waiting for the reason why OP1 couldnt use the straightforward coaching *their* managers used with them. You dont have to wait for an opportunity to say “this could come up in a courtroom,” you can just say it.

    1. Lily*

      I think that’s possibly partly why OP feels weird about it – because it’s something their generation was accused of, and now they feel like they’re perpetrating the same thing on the next generation. I once worked as a trainer for a writing/editing consultancy, and I used to do an exercise with a letter re-written in a variety of tones, from super formal (‘To whom it may concern, on behalf of organisation x I write to explain…’) through to overly causal (‘thanks for your email Bob, but we can’t help’). The point was a stimulate a conversation about tone, and to demonstrate a mid-way option that was acceptably formal but still accessible and clearly written. But once in a while I would end up with a single Boomer in the back row, complaining that only the super formal option was acceptable and that they would be offended to receive anything less (which I handled by letting the rest of the class, of all generations, disagree). So when I coach a gen z about being overly casual I sometimes think ‘am I wrong? Has the world moved on? Am I being stuffy?’ and then check myself (and the many examples in my inbox) and realise that nope, they really have moved it down a tone too far.
      If you haven’t experienced it yet, you should know that MANY managers find it difficult to give feedback and get all hung up about what should just be ‘straightforward coaching’. If your current manager does that for you, be grateful!

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        I mean, id say a large part of this is my personality. I am the type to want to know when im screwing up. I am very aware that im the least experienced in my workplace, so the idea of someone above me looking at my emails and going “hmm is this guy who’s worked full time for like, a total of three years the person i should model my office norms off of instead of literally anybody else in this office?” is weird! Idk. OP1 has a template of what sort of conversations regarding formality is appropriate in their workplace because theyve been on the recieving end of it, which to me is a clue that this is a “new to the work world” problem and not something to stress about generation wise and feel weird about. Idk.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I also thought it was kind of funny that it was presented as a generational issue when the LW had the same issue and been given the exact same advice when they started. The more things change?

    2. MK*

      It’s not really weird, it’s human nature, especially given how radically culture changed in the last 25 years. I am a late Gen X and my generation started the process of more casual dress code in my field in the late 90s-early 00s, we were treated as outright rebelious for not wearing a full suit every day, but it’s still very jarring to see Gen Z come to work in sneakers and jeans; there is definitely a feeling of “how on earth did it get this far?”.

      And that’s probably part of the reason OP is overthinking this. If you were part of the generation that normalized more casual language in the workplace, it likely feels hypocritical and odd to turn around and complain about the casualness of those that come after you. A Gen X-er would likely not think twice about telling a young employee to write more formally, because they were told to write formally and didn’t think to push back.

      1. ferrina*

        Every generation was once “those darn kids”. Every generation was once young and befuddling to their elders. Then the once young generation becomes the elders, and the next generation is young and befuddling. We just change the topic of the befuddlement.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I think it’s kind of fascinating that LW recognises this as something they were formally taught — not just something innate or that they picked up by contextual clues — and yet still feels weird teaching it to someone else! If there’s a generation thing here, I don’t think it’s difference in communication styles so much as it is LW as a new manager learning to get comfortable with being the authority and being confident in setting the tone they want everyone to use.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I suspect it’s more a “new to the workplace” thing than a generational thing. Yeah, my generation may not have left school with experience of textspeak, since text messaging didn’t really become a thing until we were at college. but that doesn’t mean we started off knowing how to write for the workplace. We may have made different mistakes, but workplace writing is a skill to be taught and if Gen Z employees don’t know it, it’s probably more because they are new to the workplace than because they are Gen Z. 20-30 years ago, Gen X probably didn’t know how to do it properly either.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, exactly. I’m not surprised that younger people aren’t aware of the norms around business communication – we went straight from learning how to write letters on paper to writing emails, and the world seemed to just decide that emails were electronic letters and the same sorts of conventions should apply. Most of Gen Z have probably barely written a letter in their lives, and why should they have? So then why would they immediately understand how to construct a business-appropriate email? I think it’s less ‘Whooooa Gen Z are so casual’ and more that it’s a new form of communication and they can’t be expected to innately know how to pitch the tone of their writing. When you think about it, it’s a minefield, really – you write differently depending on whether you’re sending out an official press release or emailing the boss to ask a question or sending a quick note to a colleague to ask if they can send you the latest Llama report.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Typically they’ve also used email a lot less. I more or less simultaneously learned to use email for personal communication and business communication in the late 90s and early 00s at university and in my first jobs. Twenty years later, and instant message systems are way more common for personal communication and email is mostly adverts and marketing messages. Some people are formally taught to email in the same way we were taught business letter format, but by no means universal to school or university programmes.

            1. MsM*

              Our Gen Z interns are super-formal in all their communications until we tell them it’s okay to loosen up with internal messages.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            The thing is, *everyone* had to be taught the norms around business communication at some point, and often that is at our first job. Those norms can’t be intuited from texts or tweets, but honestly they couldn’t be guessed from informal letters or emails either.

            Also, norms change over time. I tutor with an adult learning program and their materials still say that every email to one’s manager/supervisor should start with “Dear Mr/Ms [Lastname]” and end with “Sincerely” or “Faithfully, [Fullname]”.

          3. Martin Blackwood*

            I thiiiink I was taught how to format a letter and mayyyybe an email in grade four or five? And then i went to another school that had a course where we made resumes and took quizzes giving advice on what job you should get Every Single Year…but nothing about how to formally email!

        2. Myrin*

          Absolutely. I’m my city’s archivist, meaning every piece of correspondence ever written by someone working for city hall eventually lands in my hands so I’ve read a lot of old governmental writing (ranging from the Middle Ages to the 1990s) and hooo boy.

          We aren’t English-speaking and basically only have one formal greeting and one formal signature which are both more-or-less fixed (although those were different in the 1910s, for example, but there were still only two, they were just not the same as today) and something you’ll encounter basically from birth so those aren’t the problem but everything else?

          Punctuation and capitalisation have literally always been problems, even if they presented slightly differently from how they do today, and the tone, structure, and clarity? Forget about it. You can easily tell who had a certain aptitude for it, who didn’t know at first and was then taught, and who didn’t care for their whole career. It’s fascinating and in no way anything new.

          (It is true, however, that workplace writing in general – at least in government – used to be more strictly formal than it is nowadays. That’s discernable even with weak writers or those who made lots of mistakes; they just made mistakes or were sloppy within the confines of those formalities.)

          1. bamcheeks*

            Whenever I see someone complain about people using abbreviations and other non-standard forms of writing in informal contexts, I think, ahh, there is someone who has never spent time reading the private letters of writers and historical figures!

          2. londonedit*

            Absolutely – if you read any sort of communication from decades ago it’s going to sound different from the way we write now, and even more so for business communication. I’m sure the new graduates of the 1950s struggled to get to grips with writing letters to important people, just as people who are new to the workplace now might struggle with getting the tone of an email right.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            And formal letter writing is particularly difficult in English. I mean, it might be even harder in other languages that I don’t speak, but the English conventions are confusing enough that when I started applying for jobs in the early years of this millennium, I took to writing the greeting and sign-off in Irish. This is an accepted convention in Ireland, to use those in Irish and the body of the letter in English. I think the government might have started it, trying to revive Irish while still ensuring the body of the letter could be understood by those who didn’t speak it, but I just used it because the conventions in Irish are more straight-forward.

            1. penny dreadful analyzer*

              I would do this in work emails too if I could but alas, I work in the U.S., and work is not the place to practice my Irish.

              1. Teapot Connoisseuse*

                “I assure you, sirs, of my most distinguished sentiments”! I used to love consulting the letter-writing section in the back of my Collins Robert dictionary.

                Then if you look at Japanese, you’ve got (in formal personal letters, at least – not so much in business letters) season-specific greetings.

                For a long time I was very attached to a formal writing style, but I’ve eased up on that (along with my general spelling and grammar pedantry) as I’ve got older.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, that line stood out to me. When I was a new employee, I was instructed… Well that’s how you learned the norm–someone explicitly broke it down for you, and then you had the heads up to notice how it was applied in different contexts. (e.g. Mangled Metaphor’s initial and follow-up sign-offs)

        1. ferrina*

          Yes! This person doesn’t know what they should be doing because no one ever told them. Just tell your employees what you want them to do! It saves so much time.

    4. Lightbulb moment*

      Don’t forget that Elder Millennials like myself are now in their mid-40’s! I recently started hiring some fresh out of grad-school Gen Z’ers and man it’s light and day difference even though we are “only” one generation apart. But I have no hate for my Gen Z employees; it just takes adjusting for little things you don’t realize, such as the fact they don’t know how to use a landline to dial a long distance number (“1” in front of the area code).

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. Why would they know these things? It’s like when people throw their hands up in horror because teenagers don’t know how to address an envelope or where a stamp goes – why would they? We all learnt that at some point – it’s just that when I was a teenager letters were really the only mainstream written form of communication, so I’d been sticking stamps on letters since I was writing to my grandma aged 5. There’s no real reason for teenagers nowadays to have done things like sending handwritten letters or using a landline.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yep. I rent out my extra parking space, and the kids who rented it wrote me a check. The one who did didn’t know my last name, and wrote it to “AngryOctopus at [address]”. I had to have him write another–but I’m also pretty sure it’s the first check he ever had to write to a non-business, if ever! He still has a parent name on his checking account (I think they’re all fresh grads in their first apartment)! But I distinctly recall being taught how to write a check in high school (19*cough*), and I’m sure they don’t teach that anymore. I only write checks like 6x/year, 5 to pay town bills because I can drop checks in their dropbox next to the library, instead of paying the fee online.

          1. londonedit*

            I don’t think we were taught how to write cheques at school, but my parents definitely showed me. I can’t remember the last time I wrote one, though – think my last chequebook was dated 2009 and I’m not even sure the cheques would still be valid! It must be 10 years since I last wrote a cheque – they’re all but obsolete here in the UK and I’d be surprised if many people under 30 knew how to use them.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            I was never taught but my mom paid bills by check every month and occasionally wrote checks for other purposes and I watched her and learned.

            But I haven’t actually owned a checkbook since 2013 or so? Most of my bills are paid online these days. So I’d be surprised if a kid fresh out of high school knew what a check was never mind how to write one out and all that, unless their parents were more old fashioned or they’d seen their grandparents do it or whatever.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        My grown children check with me about where to put the stamp and return address on an envelope. Because they need to prepare envelopes so rarely, it doesn’t stick, whereas I have that safely stored in muscle memory.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I had a stamp-related “why do you not know that / why would you know that” moment with my 8yo the other day!

          1. La Triviata*

            I saw on one of those late-night shows younger people were challenged to address a letter to their mother/grandmother. Most had no idea where to put the address, return address or stamp. One even wrote the message on the outside of the envelope.

            I also saw a video of two 17-year-olds challenged to make a call on a rotary dial desk landline. They might have arrived there eventually; also, after each failed attempt, they’d hang up the receiver to restart the process.

            1. Orv*

              This has real implications for states with mail-in voting. When young people are polled about why they don’t vote common reasons include “I don’t know where to get a stamp.”

      3. ferrina*

        This isn’t generational- no one knows how to do things that they’ve never done before (or have done rarely). Grandma has no idea how to change the font color on her email (so it’s permanently stuck on magenta). There’s a button on the software that we didn’t realize we needed to click. Or even time zones- my company is spread across a lot of time zones, and people who are used to working in one time zone constantly forget that they need to account for different timezones when they schedule meetings (no, you can’t schedule it at 9am EST, because we actually like our LA colleagues and don’t want them to have a 6am meeting). I personally struggle with figuring out if a new fast food place is the kind where I order at the counter and pick up at another counter, or stay at the first counter, or what the practice is at that particular restaurant (and I’m so grateful when places have signs to help me out!)

        The trick is trying to assess our own knowledge and experience to understand what we are assuming “everyone knows” and creating processes/sharing information so everyone has what they need (and making it easy and comfortable to ask questions!)

    5. Also-ADHD*

      Most people are bad at addressing small performance issues, coaching, etc, especially when there’s any perceived difference (age, cultural group, etc). I don’t think anything here is even a generational trend. It’s just that a lot of people really struggle to give feedback. Most managers aren’t properly trained on it even, though it’s a core competency of any management job.

  4. Ali*

    LW2- Can you upskill to automate some of the more predictable parts of the job? Teach yourself a coding language (python?) that will scan through the document and update the dates automatically? I had a similar job for a while so I made it my goal to try and make myself redundant and automate as much as possible. You need to be totally on top of the workload before you start because it will be slower when you first try (and there will be lots of mistakes to catch) but it is challenging and makes the day go faster while still upskilling yourself.

    The skills I learned have been so useful and even the things that didn’t end up working at the time have helped out on other jobs

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, something like Udemy or Coursera (with your boss’ approval, of course) to learn coding etc. is great for quiet periods – and for most jobs you can actually sell it as something that will make you more efficient at what you do! Honestly, I’d only do that while actively looking for something else – there’s only so many tutorials you can do before boredom starts slowly killing you again. Bore-out is real and honestly just as crippling and horrible as burn-out.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Your last sentence is so, so right and something I wish people had explained to me when I was younger. I could also be this LW in that I’ve always ended up bored within six months at my jobs, but it feels particularly bad in my current role because the role is 80% the same twelve tasks done 10,000 times and 20% reception tasks that I loathe. (To be fair, they were 100% honest with me about those things, but I was in a super toxic situation and needed out ASAP – this role has been hugely beneficial in recovering from that.)

        I’m trying to use the free time I have to get new skills so I can change careers eventually, but it’s hard to know where to put my focus to find that balance between “must love my job” and “am reasonably satisfied in my job”.

        Sorry, I know that was more of a personal vent than anything, but basically – solidarity, LW2. I appreciate you asking the question and I’ll also be browsing the comments for suggestions!

    2. ecnaseener*

      If LW is working with Word templates a lot, Visual Basic can be great to learn – for any changes that mail merge doesn’t take care of (or any templates where you don’t use mail merge), figure out how to do them automatically with a VB macro. It’s pretty easy to figure out because you can record your steps into a macro instead of writing it from scratch, and then look at what code was recorded and tweak it if needed.

      Of course, the end result of all this is that the rote tasks get *faster* rather than slower and LW will need to find something else to chew on during slow times, but it’ll be a big help in busy times!

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Does Visual Basic also work for other Office apps? I ask because I don’t use a ton of Word in my current role, but I do a decent chunk of repeated tasks in Excel – mostly just “download X data, format it Y way, save to Z folder” – so being able to click one button to make something into “TPS Report format” would be really nice! I had tried recording a macro for it once and it didn’t work at all, but maybe learning the language itself so I could tweak the code would help.

        1. SarahKay*

          Certainly Visual Basic (VB) works in Excel – it’s actually what was used to write the macro that you recorded. It just does it ‘behind the scenes’, so to speak.
          You can edit macros by selecting the View tab, then find the drop-down on the Macro button at the far right and select View Macros. That gives you a pop-up and you can pick which macro you want to edit, and then select either Step Into or Edit. At that point you’ll see the VB code that you ‘wrote’ when you recorded the macro, and you can edit it as you choose.

    3. Llama Llama*

      Reading her question I was thinking it was ripe for automation. I am not sure automating her work will help in the long term but it will sure help in the short term (maybe while looking for a better job?).

      1. SarahKay*

        Plus it’s a good thing to be able to add to a CV/resume – created automation of x processes resulting in y time-saving.

    4. MigraineMonth*

      If you’re always dealing with a crappy DB, some DB skills might also be applicable.

  5. nodramalama*

    LW1 i agree, don’t make it a big deal. Just clearly step out your expectations for official communications and give them a template or example they can refer to. There’s no reason to think they won’t follow it from what I can see.

    1. It Might Be Me*

      The user above made a good post about continuing education for a different letter. But, this might be helpful here too. Lay out the expectations, but provide education resources as well. Even though I’m in a senior position, one of my continuing education requirements are writing course, grammar, and communication courses.

      No more than one hour each required and we use Udemy. To be honest I first rolled my eyes, but I’ve found it very helpful. Learning ASL counts toward my communication requirement. But, Udemy has many business writing courses.

    2. Bloopbloop*

      Templates are the best! Give them a template and tell them to use it consistently and why it’s important to do so. If I were that employee and my manager addressed it this way, I’d be like, “awesome, will do.”

  6. nnn*

    For #1, I absolutely agree that you can just straightforwardly tell them what their email style needs to be, but in these kinds of situations I do find it’s useful to give them the context that your organization’s email communications are public records, and therefore could come up in court or receive media attention. In situations where the thing you’re asking for can come across as arbitrary, you’ll often get better results if you provide the background context/reasoning.

    Also, telling them that the email communications are public records would also set them up for making better decisions about other email-related things that you might not have thought to coach them about.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yeah I often find myself having to ask people to do something differently and I usually structure it as: in future please could you (details of what needs to be different) so that (expected end result), because (reason it needs to be that way). The reason could be an external force like those emails being discoverable, or just “to give a more professional interaction with our clients” etc.

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

      Actually I disagree. An employer CAN tell an employee what their work email style needs to be. I’ve worked in a few different companies where we had strict rules about how our emails were to look, especially external emails to customers. Heck, I know some places where there greeting or ending had to be specific.

      In my experience an email to a external client or stakeholder or other member of the public should follow the company’s style guide.

    3. lilsheba*

      Shoot I’m happy these days if people can spell things correctly in the context they’re in, and don’t use stupid shortened versions of words like “deets” or “ur” or “merch” or any of that stupid nonsense. Or god forbid “tryna” or “finna” those drive me up the wall. People at my own job don’t know how to spell though, and that is frustrating enough. At least LOOK like you might have gone to school?

      1. Zweisatz*

        Maybe don’t talk about looking like someone went to school and then use AAVE examples. Not a good look.

        Coming back to the letter, whatever abbreviations, slang or vernacular people use in spoken or private communication it is fine for a company to require a certain style when communicating on behalf of the business. Just be matter-of-fact about it.

      2. Esmae*

        People probably used to complain about stupid shortened versions of words like “I’m” and “don’t,” too. It’s fine to expect workplace writing to be more formal, but using written slang doesn’t make people uneducated or stupid.

  7. Observer*

    #1 – Employee writes overly casual emails.

    I agree with all the people who say “Just lay it out”. But skip the generational generalizations. It’s just not relevant. It’s also not even accurate – this kind of stuff is not especially Gen Z.

    1. Rain*

      Maybe I’m just getting oversensitive but this particular piece of data has started to annoy me in it’s irrelevance

      There is nothing about the question that indicates that the employee or employers generation is relevant.

      It’s very basic at its core – ” I have an employee who does not write email correspondence in a manner that is keeping with our standards.”

      Solution? let them know that they need to modify the way they write their emails to be in keeping with your standards. provide examples and feedback.

      Why does the generation enter into it?

      1. Allonge*

        Eh, I agree with you in substance, but even fairly serious management literature has been using the generations concept for ages now, never mind the pop-psych online articles.

        I really like that on this board there is consistent pushback, but as it’s everywhere, I cannot find it in me to blame people for falling for it. Especially here as LW just seems to be using it to indicate the age brackets.

      2. nodramalama*

        i mean people just naturally look for commonailities among groups. five years ago it was gen x vs millennials (see the survivor season for the stereotypes of ‘gen x are loyal and work hard’ vs ‘millennials are scrappy and adaptable’)

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          As someone old enough to remember Gen X being stereotyped as “slackers” I’m LOLing at “Gen X is loyal and works hard”!

      3. Also-ADHD*

        “New to the workforce” may be relevant and related to generational, but someone new to a job where emails are more formal and public record, coming from a job with different communication structures, may have the same issue frankly. I do think, in every generation, new to professional work in general can be a useful data point, as can new to industry, etc. It’s weird to me how people mix up generation with new to workforce though (yes, they may commonly align, but it’s clearly different impacts).

        1. Time for a lil treat*

          I agree that the generation isn’t relevant and as I get older I try to remember how annoying it was when I was generalized similar ways. I also had a co-worker who communicated like this. Someone would task her to send contract to client and she would send just the document with nothing in the body of the email, where I’d prefer at least a “Hi Client, please see the attached contract. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.”. She just had a habit of rushing things and not taking the time to edit/consider her communications. It had nothing to do with her age and she was a few years older than me.

        2. Antilles*

          Exactly. This is a “new to the workforce” difference, it’s not about “generations”. The only reason it’s ‘generational’ is in the sense that you aren’t getting many (if any) brand new Millennials in your workforce because the youngest Millennials are somewhere around age 28 and are likely well past the “never written a professional email” stage of their career.

  8. Punk*

    LW3: TikTok continuously transmits everything on your phone to China. After you delete Tiktok, you’ll notice that your battery lasts longer because it’s no longer pumping out your personal information.

    We’ve seen that our phones pick up ambient conversations to serve us relevant ads…government employees shouldn’t want their workplace conversations to be tracked and transmitted.

      1. nodramalama*

        Don’t quote me but I think from listening to a podcast you can tell from the underlying code (?). i thought that’s what the hearings were about

      2. amoeba*

        At least for the second part (listening in), you can easily check that yourself on Google – friends of mine were quite shocked by the amount of snippets they found that very definitely weren’t “OK google” instructions! Will link below…

          1. amoeba*

            I mean, I assume it’s both, but my for friends who were surprised/shocked by the number of conversational snippets that were randomly recorded, it was definitely phones only, they don’t own anything like Alexa.
            I think it’s a thing as soon as you have Google voice activated, maybe? I know I was the only one who actually didn’t have anything in that folder, and I guessed it was because I always turn off/deny anything in that regard, even though Google Voice frequently tries to activate itself because of an accidental gesture I made on the screen…

            1. Maeghanne*

              I had a week where I was actively trying to remember to be grateful more often, so I was saying “Thank you” aloud at odd times. Once my laptop slipped off my lap and I caught it in time, so I said, “Thank you brain! Thank you fingers!” Except that as I caught it I tripped voice activation, so my computer cheerfully responded, “No problem!”

    1. Seashell*

      My iPhone gives me relevant ads based on things I talked about and has done so since before TikTok even existed. It would be a challenge to get every government employee to get rid of their smartphone.

      1. amoeba*

        Yes, of course, smartphones in general do that – which is why, for instance, Huawei phones aren’t allowed in a number of places, no matter if TikTok is installed or not! However, your iPhone probably transmits the data to Apple, not to a hostile government. My Android does the same with Google. Which is absolutely still a problem, but probably way less of one for an American or European government. (I certainly wouldn’t trust it if I were, for instance, working for the competition!)

        1. Your former password resetter*

          I would definitely assume that Apple and Google pass that stuff on to other governments though. Either on demand, of because they just sell it and a government/spy agency can just buy your data.

          1. Observer*

            Either on demand, of because they just sell it and a government/spy agency can just buy your data.

            By demand, possibly. But neither Google nor Apple actually sell your data. It doesn’t work with their business models. If you want to use their data, you have to keep coming back to them, whereas if you bought the actual data, you have it and can use it multiple times….

            Also, Google, Apple, and even Meta, encrypt a lot of the data in such a way that they cannot share it even if they want to. Not everything, and metadata is still valuable. Which is why on device stuff is tricky. If your phone is playing hanky panky, it can get at your data before it is encrypted.

            We still need to do a better job of regulating what these companies can do, for sure. But it is important to understand the different issues at play.

      2. Punk*

        They’re not getting rid of their phones. They’re deleting tiktok.

        How does “your phone records you and tiktok sends those conversations to China” get interpreted as “no smartphones allowed”?

        1. Seashell*

          I didn’t say they’re getting rid of their phones, and I didn’t interpret it as “no smartphones allowed.” I was responding to your comment “We’ve seen that our phones pick up ambient conversations to serve us relevant ads…government employees shouldn’t want their workplace conversations to be tracked and transmitted.”

          If that’s something that concerns you, then it sounds like you would want zero smartphones being carried by government employees, rather than just having TikTok deleted, because something is paying attention enough to give us relevant ads.

      3. Orv*

        Most likely you’re also searching for info about those things, and that’s how it’s getting the data. iPhones give a clear indication when the mic is on (orange dot in the status line).

    2. jasmine*

      You mean it transmits data to… Chinese servers? The same way all social media apps transmit data?

      This is why we mention sinophobia wrt TikTok. If you tell an American that their data lives in China, there’s an implicit “understanding” that it’s dangerous for it to be there. “to China” and “to the CCP” are different statements.

      1. Orv*

        They’re really not. All large Chinese companies are required by law to have party representatives and help the government’s industrial surveillance efforts.

      2. Observer*

        If you tell an American that their data lives in China, there’s an implicit “understanding” that it’s dangerous for it to be there. “to China” and “to the CCP” are different statements.,

        Not in this context. If your data lives on servers in China, owned by a Chinese company, then the Chinese government has unfettered access to it, without even a minimal process to vet any requests. All companies are legally required to hand over any and all data that they have regardless of whether the government can show cause.

        1. hullo*

          exactly this. people in the west like to think that foreign autocratic governments are bound by the same laws and/or morals that they think their own governments should be, when in fact they very much are not.

  9. Nat20*

    To LW #2, I mean this compassionately: saying “I like everything except the actual day-to-day tasks” is basically saying “I like everything about this job except for the job”.

    Even if there’s good perks, or it’s an industry/company you care about, or you’re excited about the overall goals of your team, or whatever, it really sounds like you just don’t like this job. That’s okay.

    1. Ozzac*

      Yes, said in another context: “I love my partner, except when they talk and I dread the idea of living with them”. You don’t love your partner

      1. Elsa*

        The difference is that you are supposed to love your partner, but you don’t need to love your job. Many people work at jobs they don’t enjoy, but they enjoy being able to pay the bills.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The humans around you can be a big part of your work experience–if you move from a company full of bullies and screaming to one where everyone is pleasant and reasonable, that will make a huge change for your mental health. Even if the tasks are boring.

          Same with moving to a job with good health and dental insurance and regular col raises–at some points in your life that would be worth a whole lot of boredom. It might even be welcome if you were dealing with a big personal problem and so work being rote and not needing creative problem-solving from you might be just what you wanted for a few years.

        2. Also-ADHD*

          Sure, but not liking the daily tasks is a big deal to many people. It’s not a small thing.

        3. Emily Byrd Starr*

          There’s a difference between not loving your job, and HATING your job, and it seems that the LW is the latter.

    2. Generic Name*

      And also, the great benefits and perks the OP references are super standard at many large companies. Don’t stay in a job you don’t like for average benefits.

    3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Yes, this. OP, you like your company. You may also like your co-workers. But you don’t like your job. In fact, you may hate it.

      If you can, find another job in the company. If not (and it sounds like this may be the case), then reframe your question: do I dislike this job more than I like the company? If so, time find a new job.

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

      YES! I think the OP needs to look for a new job. She is lucky that she can be picky and find something that has similar or better benefits.

      I’m also wondering, I know the OP said there was no opportunity for growth, but is there any other jobs in the company that they have interest in that they could move too?

  10. Mark*

    #1. Our organisation has an email policy that covers everything you say, we also have an email signature policy. Your government dept probably has something similar, you just need to find it and give it to new starts as part of the company policies. We are told the email can be used in legal cases, that they are formal communications, that our signatures should be our name. Job title, contact details etc. we are also advised on font and font size, colour etc. Your requirement is very normal for businesses. There is IM, teams, slack for more casual communications.

    1. OP1*

      This is interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that a style guide or guidance document wasn’t something that I was provided when I started. I’ll have to look to see if there’s a more general one as I don’t think my specific department has one. Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. Allonge*

    LW4 – the why is only important insofar as you need to propose something to prevent such future mistakes.

    ‘I am lazy’ is not a good answer in this context, ‘I forgot’ or ‘I don’t have enough to do and strangely it causes me to do even less’ or ‘I am swamped’ or ‘The calendar is not visible in my Outlook by default’ are better because they can point you in the direction of a solution. Focus on what would make sure it does not happen again.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yes. Specifically, if the best you can come up with is “I’m not detail-oriented and maybe I was being lazy,” then create a system that doesn’t entirely depend on you being detail-oriented and industrious. Whether it’s checklists or whatever, make it so that it’s easy to follow your system and comparatively harder to say to yourself “all done with that task” without following the system. Finding a system that works for you is easier said than done, but come up with *something* to show your boss for now.

      (Side note, I doubt you were truly being lazy, because saving yourself 10 seconds of work at the cost of all this strife and embarrassment later on isn’t a choice you would’ve made consciously. I can buy that you said to yourself “I’ll put that on the calendar later” and then didn’t write it down or anything and totally forgot!)

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP4, treat this as a test. They don’t just want the reason, they want a solution to the reason.

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

        Yes I agree. Their boss doesn’t want the reason, unless theres something systematically wrong, like broken software. They are more looking for the OP to look at what happened and to find a way to fix it.

        I’ve been in similar situation where I didn’t get an event on the calendar and I just fessed up and said “I don’t know how or why I missed that and dropped the ball.” Then my boss and I sat down and came up with a plan. For me it was making a shared document where I put the event and all of the steps I needed to complete ( add to calendar, send out invites, order supplies, etc.) Then as each step was completed I marked it off. My boss could access it and look to see where I was in the process.
        Now the OP would be a better judge, because not all companies would allow this, but she could just say, “I don’t know what happened but this is what I want to do to make sure this doesnt happen again”

      2. spiffi*

        Yes! Exactly what I was going to say – they want a solution to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      A term that is used in my field is “root cause analysis”. What caused the problem? What was going on that made it so the problem wasn’t caught earlier? It’s not about you being bad/lazy, it’s about fixing the system so the same problem doesn’t happen again (adding a calendar alert, checklist, etc).

      1. Alright Alright Alright*

        Yes! I think LW is getting a little bit misled because the boss didn’t ask the exact question they wanted the answer to; what they want is for LW to tell them how the mistake will be avoided next time. Root cause analysis is a good way for LW to approach this, because it’s not about assigning blame (“I’m lazy”), and it can help expand the thinking beyond just “I forgot, I’ll try not to forget next time.” Systems are really, really key.

  12. Adam*

    LW2, there are some people who are happy going to work because it gives them a paycheck and nothing more. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re not one of those people, it’s good to know that about yourself early so you can optimize for it when choosing jobs.

  13. Yawning*

    OP2 – are you me, because your letter is 99% like my situation! I’ve been using the money to boost my savings, and the flexibility and PTO to take lots of breaks. If you can find a substantial hobby or interest that might keep you going, although for me I’ve reached the end of the road and want to try find a more engaging job – which is hard when your stuck in a mini-sinecure!

  14. I love the OU*

    LW#2 I had a job like that in the UK, I automated it as much as I could so I had as little actual work to do as possible, I then did an MSc with the Open University mostly in work time. Active, brain-taxing stuff done alongside my job, meant I could approach the job with a much cheerier attitude as I was motivated and firing on all cyclinders.
    People wondered for years how I managed to appear to have such a good time doing a mind-numbingly boring job.
    Then I got the MSc after 3-4 years work and left 6 months later for a much better job

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is really well laid out. This kind of job can be a great match to getting yourself stable (financially, emotionally) and oriented in a new direction.

  15. Irish Teacher.*

    LW5, I don’t see any indication to suggest you have been blacklisted.

    Given that they are flooded with applicants, it wouldn’t be at all surprising not to be contacted, no matter how far along in your career you are. The reality is often that if a company is getting a hundred or more applicants and only interviewing 3 or 5 or 10 people, then the difference in standard between those who get an interview and those who don’t is likely to be very small and it may not even be about materials or doing anything better (and it shouldn’t be affected by whether or not you know somebody within the company, unless those people have worked for you and can vouch for your work). It could be something like whose last project was most similar to the big project they are currently concerned about or something I wouldn’t even think of.

    I once went for an interview in a school that had a lot of students with additional needs and/or behavioural problems and the principal told me he ruled out anybody who had experience teaching at the college level because he felt people who were used to teaching adults, who had achieved the grades for college and who chose to be there would find it difficult to explain a topic so that it could be understood by a 12 year old with a reading/comprehension age of 6 and that they likely wouldn’t have experience of dealing with severe behavioural problems. Now, for another school, having experience of teaching at college would have been a plus, both because it indicates a high level of knowledge of your subject and because it would mean the teacher would be able to prepare students for college-style learning, but it wasn’t a fit for that school.

    It is possible something in your resume isn’t a fit for the company, but given you have contacts there and are probably familiar with their requirements, it’s more likely that there are a small number of people for each job who fit the needs of that job more perfectly than you. For teaching (I’ll use examples from the field I am familiar with), it could be something like a school is looking for a French and Maths teacher, but if there are 10 applicants who played hurling for their parish and the school could do with an other coach for the hurling team and those applicants have qualifications and experience as good as the others, then most likely, they are going to prioritised for interview. It won’t necessarily be only those who are interviewed, but if say three of them are strong applicants even with that, then they are going to take three of the interview spots.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I agree. I would be surprised to learn that a company with a “do not hire” list invites a person on that list to interview (not just once, but twice!) and lets that person get to the final round before notifying the hiring manager “sorry you wasted that time interviewing the candidate, you’re not allowed to hire them.”

      As for the HR rep not reaching out (twice), it could be that something changed with the role, there was a miscommunication between the hiring manager and the HR rep (the first time the rep failed to reach out), or just the hum-drum reason that the letter-writer was a good candidate but there were enough better candidates that the company didn’t need to interview the letter-writer.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. It sounds like the OP is overinvested in this company and taking this too personally. Also, it’s a problem for the industry that this one company is so dominant.

        1. JustaTech*

          No the OP, but it can be hard when you repeatedly see positions that you think you’d be a good fit for, and you’re doing all the stuff about using your network and it just goes nowhere. It’s not unreasonable to want (not expect, but want) feedback so you can either improve your application materials or be told “never, stop wasting your time”.

          Humans have a hard time with ambiguity, so on some level it’s easier to think “they hate me” than “they simply do not care”.

    2. Also-ADHD*

      People who are blacklisted don’t usually get interviewed. So it feels an odd thing to leap to.

  16. Mac Dee*

    Regarding number 3: what about personal devices never used in a work capacity?

    I’m Australian and have never used TikTok ever, but I am curious. I am a govt employee, but my phone never crosses work threshold by law. I receive overtime and shift change or weather alert texts from my employer on it, but that is it. If I was an American with TT, what would you say? Must remove?

    1. Lady Lessa*

      I’ve been wary of TikTok, and when it accidentally showed up on my phone, I promptly deleted it. Too much chance of information going to China.

      My personal irk is that my company sometimes calls for personal verification from my cell phone, and I never use it for work. (other than that). For the verification I had to add a new app.

    2. amoeba*

      Sorry for chiming in as a non-American, but I’d assume the “phone never crosses the work threshold by law” factor would make it not an issue – but that’s also a super unusual policy here in Europe that I’ve never encountered anywhere (and I’m sure people would be quite unhappy about, haha).

      1. GythaOgden*

        It’s in place at a specific installation not far from where my husband grew up. One guy who worked there confirmed they didn’t allow him to have a personal phone on the premises.

        Also the hq for my NHS facilities management company, wholly owned by the government, is in a government building in London. I went there once and could only connect to their WiFi using my work phone and it was difficult to get a signal for data use. We could still have called an emergency number (that uses a different protocol than normal and of course our work phones worked fine) but it was very difficult to do anything on my phone within that building except pay for my lunch with Google Wallet.

        Never say never.

        1. londonedit*

          I know someone who used to work at the Ministry of Defence, and he wasn’t allowed to use his personal phone while at work. I think he could take it into the building, but it had to be switched off and possibly even put into a locker for the duration of the working day. Not surprising in that sort of environment, really.

    3. doreen*

      Apparently , according to this law you have to remove TT – I’m not sure about the weather texts but the overtime and shift change alerts would almost certainly be considered work use, making the device one used for work. That’s part of the issue with employers and this law – people hear “work use” and don’t think of that time they used their cell phone to call a coworker to say they would be late. Maybe that call wouldn’t be considered work-related – but nobody wants to take a chance and find out.

    4. Nodramalama*

      Interesting fact, federal government did actually ban Tik tok from all devices used by APS staff at work. Abc and triple j got an exemption

    5. Head sheep counter*

      I’m not sure what “never crosses work threshold” is but am guessing that your devices don’t come onsite? I work in a secure site and hold clearance. Basically, if I use my phone for work email and there’s a breach, they can take my phone. So I imagine that if the communication from work is two-way they’d have to have a policy regarding third party apps like TT. I suspect it wouldn’t be allowed (if two-way communication) but wouldn’t be an issue if its simply push info. But… I’d get it cleared as a gray area.

  17. VonnieVinegar*

    For LW2: My suggestion is to treat work solely as a 9-5 source of income, but balance it with volunteering (or similar) activities on the weekend or evenings. Let the volunteering be where you expend the bulk of your mental energy. Although it’s less hours per week, it’s still possible to see volunteering as your “main job”.

    1. amoeba*

      Eh, you can. But it’s still 40 h+ per week you’re spending completely disengaged with something you basically hate. I’m sure it works well for some people, but it would plunge me right into depression, honestly – and from the letter, it sounds like it might be the same for LW.

    2. sofar*

      This is exactly what I did waayyyyy back when (I had a very boring but stable 9-5, my first job out of school), and this is solid advice.

      I tried applying for new/ better FT jobs, but my minimal experience and the fact that it was a recession meant my efforts led to nothing. Eventually, my side/volunteer quests led to me landing a part-time job (evenings and weekends). And, with that experience, I was able to find my way into the right graduate program, which helped me fully make a career switch.

      When you have a mind-numbing job, you often get into a rut where you go home and watch TV/do nothing. LW, don’t let that happen. By having a more interesting life outside of work, you can motivate yourself because your boring job is supporting all that stuff… and all that stuff might lead you to a better job.

  18. pcake*

    LW1 – you’re looking at the situation as age-related, but I think it’s more “business norms” related.

    I’m 66, and when I write personal emails, texts and post on most forums, I don’t use caps at all. I’m not sure why, but it feels friendlier and more casual to me. I also use some… er… creative punctuation, often to show humor or enthusiasm. That being said, I edit and write copy for a living, and when I work, I use caps and normal punctuation. Younger employees need to know that they can use casual writing styles personally but it’s a bad idea at work. If you don’t tell them clearly, and let them know how it can affect not only themselves but also how clients see the company, how will they know?

    Or you could link them to this letter and comments for starters so they can see it’s not just you.

    1. londonedit*

      This is exactly right. We’re not born knowing how to tailor our writing to different situations, and if the employee is new to the world of work and doesn’t have much experience with emailing various people as part of their job then they’re not automatically going to know how to pitch things. If they were going to be writing press releases then you’d make sure the language and tone adhered to the company’s brand guidelines – this is no different, really. If there’s a particular level of formality that’s required in emails then they need to be taught that. They’re not going to know straight away, and I don’t think any of us knew these things straight away when we first started working.

      1. Orv*

        That’s definitely true, although I’ll note I was taught to write business letters in both high school and college.

    2. Cj*

      It should definitely be presented as a business norm thing.

      I use speech to text when I post here, and sometimes, especially on this site, it gets in its head to not use capitalization. I don’t fix it because I’m too lazy and don’t care enough to fix it for something like this. If I got a business communication that didn’t use capitalization, that’s what I would think of the employee – that they’re lazy and don’t care.

  19. Cat Tree*

    LW4 – I work in a highly regulated industry so my company has embraced the idea of human error prevention. There are some people who are experts at it, but everyone gets intro training. It really changes your perspective, even with just a little knowledge about it. But the most important thing is that human memory is terrible and you need a *system*. As Alison mentioned, checklists are one option. Some people feel that checklists are infantalizing, but it’s quite the opposite. Pilots and surgeons use them because they work. Also, if you’re forgetting the same thing multiple times think of ways to trigger your memory at the right time/location and get creative about it. At home, when I need to remember to do something right before I leave my house, I put it on a sticky note on top of my deadbolt so I physically cannot get out of my house without touching it. This has saved me on multiple occasions.

    Anyway, it’s generally not effective to just resolve to try harder next time even if you truly intend to. That’s why your boss wants a different kind of answer. See if you can find and free intro info on human error prevention and maybe you’ll think of a creative solution.

  20. Nancy*

    LW1: it has nothing to do with generations. You even say you were provided this training when you started working. Why not provide the same thing to your employee? A simple example template is all that is needed and is pretty in workplaces that deal with client/public emails.

  21. Peanut Hamper*

    LW#4: Yes, definitely use checklists! I do work that is interesting but repetitive and if I didn’t have checklists, I would definitely make a lot of mistakes.

    The thing about having a checklist is that you can always update it as the workflow changes, and do things consistently. And if your workflow is wrong, and you are doing things wrong, at least you are doing them wrong in a consistent way. Then you only have to figure out and implement one fix, rather than multiple fixes.

    Checklists work!

  22. Student*

    LW #1: You have a lot of good reasons to keep communication with the public professional and formal in your second paragraph.

    The issue you lead with, though, in paragraph 1 is your weakest one. “This concerns me because all of our email communications are public records and always have the potential to be included in legal cases.” This strikes me as overblown, and possibly a misunderstanding of how legal proceedings work.

    I’m in a government job, and my emails are also all subject to possible inclusion in legal cases, FOIA requests, or congressional investigations. However, being “formal” and “professional” aren’t really what I care about the most if my emails do end up in a legal process. I care about the underlying ethics of what I’m discussing in the email. I care about the accuracy of what’s in my email. I care about the legality of what’s in my email text.

    Your level of formalism and whether you include a salutation or a nice sign-off is not going to impact a court case – your ethics, your facts, and your legal position will impact a court case. The email record itself already includes who it went to and who it came from as part of the header because that is necessary to transmit the message – so that kind of information doesn’t get lost from an email, even if you omit it in the body of the email.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Totally agree with this, and it’s a really important distinction to think about. I do think there are a lot of people who cultivate that formal voice as a way of keeping the need to be professional, ethical and honest at the forefront of their minds. It can feel easier to write, “ugh, X is annoying the hell out of me, how do we get rid of her” if you’ve slipped into a less formal register than if you’re writing, “I have concerns about X’s conduct, and propose that we meet to discuss any necessary steps”.

      You absolutely can be informal and still highly professional, ethical and honest, just as you can be formal and unethical, unprofessional and dishonest, of course, and it’s really important to remember that it’s the latter values that are more important! But sometimes the former helps with that.

    2. Jackalope*

      Eh, yes and no. I agree with you that the content is more important than the exact vocab and punctuation. That being said, I’ve also seen many times when someone was writing in an informal way and left a lot of ambiguity in what they wrote, or were unclear about the specifics, etc. That’s not a big deal when it’s a comment on a blog like this, but it’s potentially much worse if it’s used in court, especially if it’s taken on its own.

  23. Ghostlight*

    LW 4:
    In addition to the checklist format, can you have something that triggers your checklist mentally. I just changed my process to make sure I wasn’t forgetting things because I was doing them piecemeal instead of making it all one task. So for example, the task that triggers my list is getting a signed quote back to confirm the llama grooming price. That triggers me to:
    1. Put the grooming session into our internal dashboard
    2. Book the grooming session with our subcontracted groomer
    3. Schedule the llama handler to move the llama from stable to grooming room
    4. Set up a scheduled send for the email that reminds the llama owner of their grooming appointment and anything they should remember to do before it.

    It has been super helpful for me instead of having to remember each task and even though it takes a little more time to do in that one moment, less falls through the cracks and it actually saves me time and mistakes in the long run.

    1. Jack Russell Terrier*

      This is great I love it!!

      Depending on the task/checklist if something takes away your ability to do it in the moment you get the ‘signed quote’ back, make sure you take a few seconds to create a reminder of some sort, whatever that is. It can be added to your task list / snooze the email / a calendar reminder.

      But if it’s something you’re liable to forget, do something to remind you to do the bloody checklist so you don’t wake up in a panic days later.

      This is key!!

      Talking about keys and adding credit cards … . I have an absolute, mustn’t break habit that if I can’t immediately put keys/credit card back where it belongs, I hold it in my hand until I can. It never gets put down or shoved anywhere to ‘stage’ it. That way, I know where it is. I’m almost never let down by this!!!

  24. dobradziewczynka*

    Am I crazy to envy LW#2 for their job? Maybe because I am burnt out but having a job that pays well, gives good benefits and don’t require a lot of mental energy seems like a dream.

    That being said, is there way to do the job more efficiently (even tho it’s remote?) to prevent your mistakes. Automate things? Maybe try to enrich where you are to make it more challenging.

    1. amoeba*

      Oh well, I’m sure it can be great for some people at some point in their lives, but as someone who has experienced bore-out… that’s absolutely not something to be envious of. It’s its own kind of special hell to feel disengaged and bored all day, and it also costs *so much energy*. I’d come home from work every day feeling dead, basically. And with zero energy to do even the few kind of interesting tasks that did come up. Like, seriously, 0/10, do not recommend.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yep. I spent 6 months in a job once waiting for them to assign me to a project (the new VP was VERY indecisive. He didn’t last). My boss did her best to have me come on things and help out ad-hoc, but it was really boring for a while. If my boss hadn’t basically bullied the VP into making decisions about projects, I think quite a few of us would have left.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        My previous job was like this towards the end because we cut a bunch of stuff I was working on and didn’t replace it with anything. As you probably know, it is definitely possible to get sick of surfing the internet all day.

    2. Bast*

      Last year, I switched from Old Job which was high stress, high drama, and so much work that you could work 100 hours a week and not be caught up. I envied people who said they surfed the web all day. I traded Old Job for a new job that has its ebbs and flows. There are weeks when I am quite busy and others when I have little to do except reply to a handful of emails and read AAM. The weeks when I have little to do tend to drag on. It’s nice for a day or two, particularly coming off of a really busy period, but it can be mind numbing and really drag when I get a solid week of browsing the web in. Even a half a days work would be nice to make the time go by — I totally understand the OP talking about taking a short task and dragging it out because you know that after that you still are going to be hanging out for another 3, 4, 5 hours with nothing else to do.

    3. kiki*

      I think this sort of job can appeal more to some folks than others and can also be more appealing at different stages of life. I love jobs like this, that don’t require mental energy but also don’t provide meaning because at this stage of my life, I get most of my fulfillment and meaning from hobbies and other endeavors. Not having a strenuous job helps me pour my energy into other pursuits that really fulfill me. I also know a lot of folks who have kids or a lot of other things going on gravitate to this sort of job.

      1. Kendra Logan*

        Yes. This kind of job could also be great if you’re nearing retirement (<5 years).

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      A job that requires you to be stuck in an office with nothing to do is awful, the minutes stretch into hours and it’s practically a hostage situation. It’s one thing if the nothing to do is recognized and it’s acceptable to do other things while you wait for work (read, run errands, watch tv/youtube, play on your phone, etc), but I’ve been in a job where there were stretches of time with truly nothing to do but wait for work to come in, but they still expected you to be “working” and we weren’t allowed to do anything non-work related so we just had to sit and do nothing, and it was absolutely brutal.

      But if it was remote? Now that’s a whole different situation. Then you would be able to do chores, watch tv, not have to perform productivity, and as long as you were watching your email/queue and ready to drop whatever you were doing when work comes in, you could pretty much be free to live your life.

      I know getting paid to do nothing sounds pretty awesome, and in short bursts it totally is. But if it’s every single day and you have to be in an office (where they probably expect you to somehow look busy)? It’s not as fun as it sounds. But I do understand how appealing it looks, and I think OP2 knows it too and it’s why they’re struggling to admit they don’t like their job.

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        I work in a very feast-or-famine type role (editorial) and work from home has been a huge boon because while it’s still sort of restricting to only be able to do things I can drop at a moment’s notice, at least I can do stuff where I don’t have to sit in the chair and look busy (like, I can fold laundry or clean the living room when I’m on a boring call or whatever). When I was working in offices that weren’t too strict about it I ended up doing a bunch of administrative stuff for a volunteer organization, ’cause at least I was sending emails and making lists and mucking about in spreadsheets so it wasn’t disruptive.

  25. A Simple Narwhal*

    I just have to say that “Stably employed but internally screaming” is such a mood. If I ever update my username I might have to use that (if someone hasn’t already snapped it up!).

    1. Yeep*

      I read it not as Stable-y but Stab-ly, and thought, yes, my job does make me stabby at times.

  26. HonorBox*

    OP4 – While a solution isn’t what you’re looking for, a checklist is a great solution for something like this situation. So is setting up an automated reminder of the details you need to get and when.

    When problems have arisen in my job, they’re often not of my doing, but reflect poorly on me or my organization. My boss is a big believer in “what do we need to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” Is it a new process? Is it additional communication up front? Is it a reminder that I put in Outlook at a particular point in advance of a similar situation?

    The reason isn’t as much of the question as the proposed solution. I wouldn’t try to explain why this slipup happened. You’re better off just admitting that the detail slipped through the cracks and to ensure it doesn’t happen again, you’re going to do … whatever you feel confident works for you. I’d bet dollars to donuts that your boss cares less about why (and really, you don’t want to tell them that you’re bored or you’re lazy or you don’t pay attention to detail because that won’t go well) and is much more interested in hearing that you have a plan in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  27. Irish Girl*

    So for LW 3, if you really wanted to disconnect and never use your personal phone for work, this would be great malicious compliance. “Sorry I have TikTok on my phone, I cant answer any out of work emails or texts or phone calls.”

    Whether it would fly or not is another story.

    1. Qwerty is a real name*

      I don’t think this would fly.

      First I am in the US.. All government agencies (county, state, and federal) do not provide cell phones to their employees. Whether or not they should is another matter I am not focused on. As an example, employees check their work emails and the work phone call can be transferred to the their personal cell phones. An employee could provide they will not do either of those things but if you work in “at will” state, you could be fired on some vague grounds of not performing your duties. Employee could fight this but it could be expensive and time consuming.

    2. Just Thinkin' Here*

      If your employer expects you to be reachable by phone, they need to provide that phone. While I don’t use TikTok and wouldn’t install it on my personal phone, you have the right to do with your personal property you want. So if your employer wants you answering calls on a TikTok free phone, they can send you home with one. Or provide funding to get a burner phone for this purpose.

    3. doreen*

      You could say that , just like you could claim not to have a cell phone at all or that you leave it in your car for emergencies only – but if you have the sort of job where they really want you to answer phone calls/emails/texts after hours, they just might hand you a phone.

  28. Dek*

    #4 — I *really* hate being asked WHY I made a mistake. Sometimes, y’know. You just make a mistake. Sometimes things fall through the cracks.

    I feel like “why” is less important than “how.” Go back and suss out when/where it happened. Look if there are triggers to the action that you can make use of next time (ex: “When I get an email, I will write a quick summary of it in my notes, and list the actionable steps.” — I keep a google sheet open to write down whatever comes up)

    Checklists are amazing, and I really recommend them. They help you slow down. But for something like that, I’m not sure how it would even show up on a checklist.

    I try to leave myself reminders. I make liberal use of Siri when a thing pops into my head. I have alarms.

    …and honestly, things still slip through. (Especially right now, where access to my ADHD medication is…not guaranteed)

  29. Nelalvai*

    LW 4: The way you talk about yourself and the mistake (struggling with details, calling yourself lazy), strongly reminds me of myself from a time I didn’t know I have ADHD and was struggling with very not-ADHD-friendly work. Here’s a couple tips ADHD-people have about tracking details:

    Out of sight, out of mind: whatever you’re forgetting, make it immediately visible to you. Write it on a post-it and stick it on your monitor, your wall, desk, wherever you’re gonna see it while you’re working. If you start ignoring the note, rewrite it in a new color so it becomes “new” again.

    Whistle while you work: if you have a checklist, you’re Santa. Sing “makin’ a list, checkin’ it twice…” while you’re working through your checklist to remind you to check the list. Or, sing what you’re doing as you do it. I have a hard time doing errands after work because autopilot wants to take me straight home, so I’ll sing about the errand as I’m driving.

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

    #1 I feel like similar complaints have been made by boomers/gen x about millennials. And We’ve seen letters about older people not writ ing proper emails. So I don’t think this is always a ‘younger generation’ thing. It’s more that the employee doesn’t know or realize that they should write more formally. Depending on the industry and what they go to for college student’s don’t get taught how to write for business. Or if they do its one unit in one class and it doesn’t stick.

    OP just needs to have a conversation and leave out anything about the employee being younger.

    1. Justin D*

      yeah plenty of older people write terrible emails. In fact I find that upper management does this more often than not.

  31. Governmint Condition*

    I’m a little surprised about #1 because where I work, e-mail responses to the public require somebody to sign off before it goes out. That way, problems with communication style can be corrected before the e-mail is sent. (As well as fact-checking, etc.)

  32. Kstruggles (Canada)*

    Just wanted to note that different organizations have different standards regarding names. Many times organizations that are customer facing like utilities or retail have a policy which prevents the use of last names for a variety of reasons.

    So if I am writing an email or talking to a customer and giving them my name, they only get my preferred name, not my full legal name.

    Like the policy against providing customers with internal or personal phone numbers.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      Calling centers often use this policy – or take it a step further and employees have a call center ‘name’. This is common in industries such as collections where an employee can have valid concerns about rogue customers. So they use a separate handle while interacting with callers.

      1. Kstruggles (Canada)*

        I use a nickname because I don’t pronounce my name properly when I introduce myself (it’s like a 2 syllable name pronounced as one by softening middle sounds)
        Like Courtney being pronounced as cordny
        So I decided to use a nickname so people would stop guess my name incorrectly. It’s 1 syllable and people still mishear it but more jack/Jake then Courtney/Corry/Jennifer.

        Stuck with it as my used name at work for my next job. But yeah, both the call center type jobs and my retail jobs (and non-profit) didn’t require me to share. My last name.

  33. Lucy*


    Hi, I work with regulatory issues that have the TikTok requirement. That comes from FAR 52.204-27, “No TikTok on Government Devices” […]prohibit the presence or use of [TikTok] on [govt] information technology, including certain equipment used by Federal contractors. The Contractor is prohibited from having or using [TikTok] on any information technology owned or managed by the Government, or on any information technology used or provided by the Contractor under this contract, including equipment provided by the Contractor’s employees”

    If the company pays for your device, you have to comply.
    If the company pays for your monthly, you have to comply.
    If you bring your phone into their offices, you have to follow policy use of personal devices on their premises.
    If you are not providing anything to the government (or in relation to govt work) with your personal device, then you don’t have to do it.


    If they don’t pay for your device and they don’t pay for your monthly, just tell them you don’t do work on your personal device so you don’t account for business preferences on non-business devices. If they want to monitor, use, control, or change what’s on your personal device they’re welcomed to get you a phone or pay your monthly.


    If your company doesn’t pay for your phone, don’t give them access to your phone. Dont use their email on your phone. That you subsidizing their business. Don’t give you coworkers your phone number or add them to personal social media. HR and your boss can have your phone number for emergencies only.

    1. Czhorat*

      “”If your company doesn’t pay for your phone, don’t give them access to your phone. Dont use their email on your phone. “”

      This is probably VERY highly industry-specific. If I refused to use my phone at work I’d be considered an outlier at best, a troublemaker at worst.

      There are lots of things that should be “within ones rights” in terms of work/life balance, use of personal time and devices, etc which is in general a bad idea.

      The flip side is that nobody blinks if you use your desk phone for a personabl call, or your company laptop to access your personal email.

      1. i am an outlier, but i don't make trouble*

        I don’t use my personal mobile phone for my job at all. My employer buys me one and pays for the service. I cannot activate bluetooth, or download apps, or do much of anything else with it. I think this arrangement is better for employees AND employers and should be adopted more widely!

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Every place I’ve been where maybe I want to put work email on my phone, I’ve had to sign a thing that says the company can remote-wipe my phone if they think they need to. To which I say nope, not worth it, don’t need that email access after all.

        1. JustaTech*

          This is what I’ve done, but eventually Teams wrangled its way onto my phone and it is useful – but the “remote wipe” doesn’t apply to just Teams, thankfully.

          Apparently the people who started recently were offered a company-paid phone for email and stuff and while on the one hand I don’t want to be checking email on the weekends, man am I irked that they never even asked me, since I started so long ago that company phones were only for execs.

      3. Lucy*

        I’d say you have chosen to subsidize that business with your money regardless of the industry.

        This is a great idea and completely within your rights. You also choose where you work and the social norms you feel obliged to follow.

        Also, don’t use the workphone for personal calls or login to your personal email with the work computer. you gave them your password and access by going that.

    2. Head sheep counter*

      It has been amazing to not have work email on my phone. At the end of the day, I’m done. Even when crap happens and I can’t go in… well… then… I can’t go in. The habit I had at the old place of checking email and god help me replying when it wasn’t urgent… really made me feel like I was always on. Now I do freely admit that it is a big pain to not have my phone when trying to get mundane things done… but… one adjusts.

    3. What_the_What*

      “If your company doesn’t pay for your phone, don’t give them access to your phone. Dont use their email on your phone. ”

      Easier said than done. I’ve seen many people during audits that email work documents, forward emails, etc.. from their work email/govt. NIPR laptops, etc.. to their personal emails w/o a thought as to the sensitivity of what they’re sending cuz they “want to look at it over the weekend, or that night, or “keep a copy for future reference or their next job” etc… People are often careless.

      1. Lucy*

        if they choose to not follow their NDAs, cyber security training, or export compliance training… well that’s certainly a choice. A very trackable choice lol

    4. Dragonfly7*

      I am required to have a personal cell phone and a particular app on the cell phone to be able to log in to my workstation. Despite being told during onboarding there was a workaround for this, I found out the hard way today that the exception doesn’t exist and was sent home to get my phone so I could begin my workday. No exceptions.
      This unfortunately was the expectation across my most recent three workplaces. The oldest just removed all of the desk phones and relies solely on Teams, so that isn’t a workaround anymore, either.

  34. Ihmmy*

    LW1 – please also show them how to set up signatures in Outlook or whatever service y’all use instead of expecting them to just magically know how. It’s one of those things that lots of folks newer to office gigs just don’t know how to set up early on in their career and it makes life soooo much easier

  35. theletter*

    LW2 – one thing that’s really helped me with organization is to establish one ‘source of truth’ – I’ve noticed a lot of mistakes happen with calendars when there’s several different calendars that all have to be updated.

    If you’ve got a paper calendar and a digital calendar that’s available to everyone, ditch the paper calendar. Set up your digital calendar so that it sends an appointment confirmation to the renters. Now you have to put the appointments into the calendar for them to get the confirmation, and now the appointment doesn’t exist unless it’s on the calendar.

    You might even be able to set up a form that the renters can access online and fill out. Then if they call you instead of going online, crack open the web browser and fill out the form for them while you have them on the phone.

  36. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW1, Please teach them how to write a professional standard email. At my very first office job when I was very young, I wrote a letter to another company asking for some old files that they had worked on for us. I hand wrote the letter on lined paper and hand wrote the address on the envelope. They returned to to my boss and he kindly showed me how to write an email without making me feel awful. I still cringe at the memory and it’s been many years. Now I follow the email practices of my workplace. It’s an academic one so the process is tedious but I learned.

  37. Justin D*

    How would your employer know if you have TikTok on your personal phone? Or enforce the rule?

    1. Head sheep counter*

      Not my field of expertise but there are ways to monitor data transmission… and that’s the main problem with TikTok. I can’t take my wireless devices (phones, watches and ipods for example) into my office. I don’t know how they specifically would know I did… but I know they would know. Guess who doesn’t want to be that girl. This girl.

    2. What_the_What*

      Because I don’t lie? If I had it I’d say so, and if I didn’t, I’d say so. I wouldn’t have it and then lie to them and say, “Nope, not me.” Ethical employees will tell the truth if asked to self report.

  38. Statler von Waldorf*

    From my experience working at a law firm that had very strict IT policies, occasionally the CIO would come up to your desk and ask “Let me see your phone for a second.”

    If you refused to unlock it for him, you got fired on the spot and escorted from the building. I kept mine locked up while in the office so I didn’t have to deal with this.

    Seems like that method would work just fine in this situation too.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      Comment failed successfully, that was supposed to be a reply to Justin D.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      As someone who sends WTF texts to my SO, a lot, that’s something I really would need to know. But I learned the hard way that if I’m venting about a co-worker I never name them in my vent. “Carol is a PITA today” becomes “my day is frustrating”

  39. Totally Hypothetical*

    LW4: As someone who’s also not detail oriented (thanks ADHD) I’ve been in this position many times. It’s hard when in your mind it’s just a mistake and those happen. What’s helped me a lot is creating redundancies so I have to check things. A weekly or monthly audit to insure you haven’t missed anything would prevent this from happening again (or should at least). I understand it’s frustrating to technically extra work but it’ll show your boss you’re taking ownership for the mistake and prevent headaches in the future. Good luck!

  40. Manglement Survivor*

    LW4 – Checklists! Read “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. It will help you understand why this is important.

  41. Bert*

    tik tok is not a harmless app for fun. it is a deliberately created data harvesting program created by the Chinese goverment and pushed in the west. Actual experts with all the appropriate information and qualifications have stated point blank that’s it’s a weapon.

    reminder: China does not allow its own people to use it. They are fully aware of its purpose.

    1. hullo*

      China requires people to use the domestic variant of every social media platform, even if it’s ultimately owned by themselves. The Chinese version of TikTok (called Douyin) is just as popular within China as TikTok is outside of it.

  42. clodia83*

    I supervise and work with boomer, Gen X, Millenial and Gen Z staff who have frustrating email etiquette. Appropriate electronic business correspondence is a skill (and sometimes an art) that a surprising number of professionals of all ages can struggle with! As a millenial myself, I send emails both formal and informal, and every now and then an informal email will transition to a formal setting that makes me wish I’d been a little more professional from the jump…

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