AskMe question being dragged into chatfilter July 6, 2006 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Who has ever, or intends to ever, or never will, view pornography, at work?
This Ask Metafilter is devolving into this question rather than how the situation should be handled.
posted by tellurian to Etiquette/Policy at 8:43 AM (200 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Seems reasonable in the context of the discussion - People seem to disagree about precisely how innapropriate it is.
posted by mzurer at 8:49 AM on July 6, 2006


A guy I work with looks at the ladies of Mail Order Bride Catalogistan everyone now and then, when he thinks no one is looking.
posted by cortex at 8:51 AM on July 6, 2006


There are more than two ways to look at this problem (he should be fired/you should leave it alone) and the discussion seems to extract the gray areas. It's fine and should be allowed to continue unfettered. It's not an easy issue to create an opinion about, and it's a bit personal in nature (porn tends to be that way), so it warrants the additional comments, even if they're not directly related to the question.

Keep in mind that AskMeFi questions aren't just for the OP, but also for others who find themselves in similar situations. More in-depth discussions have the ability to help a lot of people in various situations, not just the OP, which is great. The more info. and more helpful, the better.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2006


I had a middle school photography teacher who showed the boys his stash of explicit porno magazines. They stole the mags and showed the girls. I was not ready for that.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:07 AM on July 6, 2006


You didn't go to Tabor, did you?
posted by cortex at 9:09 AM on July 6, 2006


The question was: He's watching porn at work. What do I do now?
mzurer: People seem to disagree about precisely how innapropriate it is.
Its inappropriateness was not part of the question.
posted by tellurian at 9:09 AM on July 6, 2006


I found myself in jeopardy at a job once for looking at stuff that I honestly didn't think was particularly inappropriate (not from MeFi). This was in a very casual office environment, by the way, in which my boss himself openly used the internet quite licentiously. But it was a work computer I was using, and his money that was paying me, and whoever said life was fair? While I initially found myself trying to defend the content in question, I instead learned a quick lesson: if I don't want to have to constantly defend my choice of web materials and the context I viewed them in, I'd better simply make sure there is nothing to defend.

In other words, from then on I widened my concept of the "gray area" by about 1000%. It seems like you never know where the lines are until you cross them, but after one scare I am willing to err on the side of caution, even several jobs later.
posted by hermitosis at 9:13 AM on July 6, 2006


I realize that AskMe is supposed to be a straightforward Q&A, but it's the discussion that the complicated questions foster that make the site so interesting. Indeed, I've come to see AskMe as a far more compelling site than MeFi (which I still frequent, of course).

Let us not piss on this phenomenon by being sticklers.
posted by aladfar at 9:16 AM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Its inappropriateness was not part of the question.

You're splitting hairs here. When someone says "this thing happened that was kind of bad, what should I do?" the first response of any sane person is "well, how bad was it?"

Just because the question is "what should I do about it?" doesn't mean "Well, how bad is it after all?" is off-topic, it's perfectly normal and helps justify whatever should be done about anything.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:24 AM on July 6, 2006


Of course it matters how bad it is. What to do seems a choice between (a) action that will get him fired and (b) action that will not.
posted by dame at 9:27 AM on July 6, 2006


But if you're like me, you're wondering, why am I going out of my way to try and keep this guy from getting fired?
posted by agregoli at 9:29 AM on July 6, 2006


If you're like me, the answer is because I am not really that cruel and vindictive.
posted by dame at 9:36 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm not cruel and vindictive, but thanks for the namecalling. It's not my place to handle it, I feel. I would tell a superior. That kind of thing is taken very seriously in my office, and I'm glad of it.

To me this is unacceptable and I'm not going to go out of my way to protect someone who acts so stupidly and out-of-line at work.
posted by agregoli at 9:37 AM on July 6, 2006


You're the one who made this about you. Honestly, you know what I think of you and I don't feel a great urge to tell you again. At the same time, I wouldn't do anything to get someone fired because losing your job is really, really horrible and causing that to happen would, in my mind, make me cruel and vindictive. It isn't namecalling to say that. To me, only a cruel and vindictive person gets someone fired for anything short of groping, stalking, or burning the office down.
posted by dame at 9:45 AM on July 6, 2006




dame: surely that isn't an inclusive list. What about:

* Theft
* Embezzlement
* Putting the company at risk of an EEO lawsuit

(see how I snuck that last one in there? Pretty crafty, eh?)
posted by aberrant at 9:48 AM on July 6, 2006


What dame said. I really can't believe the number of people who are eager to see someone tarred and feathered for doing something "inappropriate." I'd expect that consensus at a church social, not at MetaFilter.
posted by languagehat at 9:50 AM on July 6, 2006


Actually, yeah, "putting the company at risk of lawsuits" can cover all sorts of behavior, so if it's not the sort of thing that's causing immediate and direct harm to somebody, then there's not so much of a reason to get the guy fired immediately as your first action. If there's other extenuating circumstances then that should influence your course of action.
posted by furiousthought at 9:55 AM on July 6, 2006


I can't say for sure what I'd do, but this isn't about tarring and feathering anyone-- if the poster reports the behavior, it's simply a matter of enforcing perfectly normal company rules, which I'm sure the wanker in question was informed of when he was hired.
posted by hermitosis at 9:57 AM on July 6, 2006


languagehat, this isn't a question of decency it's a question of proffessionalism and respect in the work place. The guy can watch all the porn he wants but not at work. All the people in the thread arguing that it's just porn are not only completely missing the point they're insinuating that the problem really lies with the asker. This is wrong. There is simply no excuse for this behavior.
posted by nixerman at 9:58 AM on July 6, 2006


amusing sidenote:

at my job I, occasionally, have to look at porn thats sent to us, in order to choose shots for dancers at local strip clubs. It's always a small problem as we figure out what to crop out i.e. oooh, that one's out, um, don't show her thong and can you brush out her nipples and can you make that spread eagle shot of her more tasteful.

One local dance club (no longer open) would constantly try to get nudity past us so we'd have to examine their photos carefully for any hidden or dangling bits. Yes, we actually had to say to each other "Hey, can you look over these photos and make sure I didn't miss anything?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:02 AM on July 6, 2006


getting fired is not the end of the world, nor does it ruin someone's life unless they let it
posted by pyramid termite at 10:04 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm sorry, hermitosis, but that's a cop out. If you know the likely result of your action will be to get someone fired, then being all "La la la, I was just following the rules, you were wrong, enjoy your stress and ramen, jerk-face . . ." doesn't mean you didn't go out of your way to get someone fired.

Aberrant: I don't think in this case there is a possibility of a lawsuit unless the OP is going to file it. It happened once, probably on accident. If there was a clear pattern despite repeated warnings, then sure. (And "groping" was synecdoche for obvious crazy sexual harassment.) But in this case there is a one time event, and I'm all for the generosity of spirit that gives someone a chance to shape up before, you know, totally screwing up his life.
posted by dame at 10:05 AM on July 6, 2006


I agree with the people in that thread that said it depends on the work environment. There's just not enough information. In some cases, I'd talk to the boss about him. In other cases, I'd give him a friendly warning myself. Otherwise its just going to split people based on them inserting their own work environment into the question.
posted by vacapinta at 10:06 AM on July 6, 2006


Also, it's wrong to assume that the guy will be fired. In my experience, firing is not the default option to sexual harassment complaints since it exposes the firm to almost as much risk as just ignoring the complaint altogether. Especially at the executive level, a wrongful termination lawsuit is a real possibility. In these situations it's really up to HR to do due dilligence, determine if there's a clear pattern of bad behavior and only then make the fire/training decision in the best interest of the firm. Sexual harassment isn't a "values" issue, it's an economic one and that's why these decisions must be made by management.
posted by nixerman at 10:06 AM on July 6, 2006


Is anyone in the thread or here saying "don't tell" or "give the man tips on hiding his porn-watching habits"? "Suggest a nice shiny new PSP?"

I certainly don't think the problem lies with the asker! Something should be done about the situation. The question is, more? or less? draconian procedure-following. My own default stance is that an anonymous note is more than enough to freak the guy out, but any number of things could change that.
posted by furiousthought at 10:07 AM on July 6, 2006


Honestly, you know what I think of you and I don't feel a great urge to tell you again.

Uh, what? Why make it so personal to begin with? What you think of me has nothing to do with the conversation, does it? If you can't debate a point without making it personal...well...I won't say what I think about that, cause you don't care anyway, you know?

We think differently. So what?

At the same time, I wouldn't do anything to get someone fired because losing your job is really, really horrible and causing that to happen would, in my mind, make me cruel and vindictive.

It is horrible. And it would be his own damn fault. He didn't think that watching porn at work was a risk? Then he might be too stupid to be employed at a place where he would get fired for such an offense.

t isn't namecalling to say that. To me, only a cruel and vindictive person gets someone fired for anything short of groping, stalking, or burning the office down.

And I disagree. I know I'm not cruel and vindictive and many people feel the same way I do about it. To each their own! =)
posted by agregoli at 10:09 AM on July 6, 2006


Also, there isn't an HR department in this case.
posted by dame at 10:09 AM on July 6, 2006


And everyone urging "Tell HR!" seems to have not read the question at all. Small start-up. Presumably, no written or formal company policy. There is no HR to do due diligence.
posted by occhiblu at 10:10 AM on July 6, 2006


The answers to the poster's question are being justified in terms of larger social and professional expectations. Didn't we just go over this?
posted by klarck at 10:13 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm unpleasantly surprised at the letter-of-the-law eagerness here to (probably) deprive someone of their livelihood. Ick.
posted by everichon at 10:13 AM on July 6, 2006


mathowie: "You're splitting hairs here. When someone says "this thing happened that was kind of bad, what should I do?" the first response of any sane person is "well, how bad was it?""
SANE!
We recently had a bit of a 'turkey slap' brouhaha with Big Brother here in Australia. A lot of people viewed the file (yes, others in my workplace viewed it too). It may have been regarded as pornography by anonymous. It was reviled by our Prime Minister and the Communications Minister is changing our broadcasting law to encompass it [don't get me started on how the far right ran with it]. As I said in my comment, I don't condone it but give the person some sort of break.
posted by tellurian at 10:22 AM on July 6, 2006


PinkStainlessTail, I'm glad I'm happy not to be the only one who immediately thought of that sketch! Slightly different search terms though, I would have used your "big train wanking"... except I'm at work.
posted by teleskiving at 10:23 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm unpleasantly surprised at the letter-of-the-law eagerness here to (probably) deprive someone of their livelihood.

I'm not. If some guy's viewing porn at work and trying to hide it, that's probably not the only way he's fucking the company over. Coworkers trying to fuck the company over threaten your own job security.
posted by mendel at 10:24 AM on July 6, 2006


I can't say I feel bad for any adult in the world who doesn't really that watching porn at the office is a bad idea. The guy was looking over his shoulder, clearly scared of getting caught- that's just more proof to me that he knew what he was doing was inappropriate. It's not his co-workers job to police this guy. To tell doesn't make them cruel or vindictive.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:25 AM on July 6, 2006


really = know
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:25 AM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


languagehat : "I really can't believe the number of people who are eager to see someone tarred and feathered for doing something 'inappropriate.' I'd expect that consensus at a church social, not at MetaFilter."

I'm a little surprised that you say that. You've been at Mefi for far longer than I have, and surely you've noticed that MeFi is, overall, extremely strict when it comes to moral issues. It really weirded me out at first, because I always associated liberalism with moral relativism.
posted by Bugbread at 10:29 AM on July 6, 2006


occhiblu took the words out of my mouth. I suspect those saying "tell HR!" read other responses rather than the actual question.
posted by raedyn at 10:29 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm not cruel and vindictive, but thanks for the namecalling.

You wrote:

But if you're like me, you're wondering, why am I going out of my way to try and keep this guy from getting fired?

Fucking up someone's life for looking at porn? Cruel and vindictive.


It is horrible. And it would be his own damn fault. He didn't think that watching porn at work was a risk? Then he might be too stupid to be employed at a place where he would get fired for such an offense.

Well, it would be his fault, but it would be the tattler's responsibility. It would be the tattler's choice and you advocated making a choice that would cause the guy a lot of fun simply because you didn't see any reason not to. That's what I would consider cruel, and vindictive because you're choosing to take an action that hurts someone just because you're able to do it. (And going out of your way. The easiest thing to do would be to ignore it completely)

All the people in the thread arguing that it's just porn are not only completely missing the point they're insinuating that the problem really lies with the asker.

I don't think anyone is saying that the asker is the one with the problem, although I didn't read all the comments.

This is wrong. There is simply no excuse for this behavior.

I'm not saying it's excusable, I'm saying it's forgivable. Just because this guy could be fired over this doesn't mean the world would be a better place if he got fired rather then being warned discreetly (which would probably get him to stop watching porn at work)
posted by delmoi at 10:31 AM on July 6, 2006


Sounds to me like Johnny Porno needs more work to keep him occupied.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:35 AM on July 6, 2006


It would be too awkward, but I really wish I could print this AskMe question out for my potential future employers (or employees). If I could get an honest reaction, that would tell me volumes about the kind of culture in that office. The kind of workplace inhabited by people like agregoli would be insufferable to someone like me (someone who has never watched porn at work, if that's what you're wondering*).

*though once a client did accidently show me and few others colleagues a few seconds of hardcore porn during a due diligence session for the client's IP TV technology. But, thankfully, our team thought it was a hilarious gaffe for which the client was rightfully embarassed--no one felt compelled to call HR.
posted by mullacc at 10:38 AM on July 6, 2006


TPS:

It's not his co-workers job to police this guy. To tell doesn't make them cruel or vindictive.

You realize of couse that by tattling you are policing him more than by say giving him a heads up and then minding your own business.

Agregoli:

Uh, what? Why make it so personal to begin with? What you think of me has nothing to do with the conversation, does it? If you can't debate a point without making it personal

You are the one who took my response personally. I don't know what to tell you other than that. I don't care that you disagree. But saying that I wouldn't take such an action because to me it is the kind of action that cruel and vindictive people and therefore doing it would make me cruel and vindictive is not namecalling. It is not a personal attack.

It is horrible. And it would be his own damn fault. He didn't think that watching porn at work was a risk? Then he might be too stupid to be employed at a place where he would get fired for such an offense.

See. That's where the cruelty comes in. To say, well, yeah, something horrible is going to happen to you and I don't care because you were wrong, is to me, a cruel course of action. The result, about which you and many other people are totally blithe, is totally out of proportion to the transgression. To not see that or, worse, not care is cruel. Maybe this bothers you because you think, hey, that's how I feel, but I know I'm not a cruel person. And you know, I think it should. Maybe it means in this case you (and I mean the more general you) are wrong. That's what I suspect when I get in that position.
posted by dame at 10:40 AM on July 6, 2006


Fucking up someone's life for looking at porn? Cruel and vindictive.

He fucked his own life up. The OP has nothing to do with his behavior.

Well, it would be his fault, but it would be the tattler's responsibility.

No, I feel it is his responsibility to behave properly at work. It's up to him whether he keeps his job or not. If he gets fired, won't he feel stupid for it? It would have been so easy not to watch porn at work and not get fired.

It would be the tattler's choice and you advocated making a choice that would cause the guy a lot of fun simply because you didn't see any reason not to.

I don't find his behavior acceptable. What else do you want me to say?

That's what I would consider cruel, and vindictive because you're choosing to take an action that hurts someone just because you're able to do it. (And going out of your way. The easiest thing to do would be to ignore it completely)

I do not WANT to ignore people watching PORN where I can SEE IT at WORK. I deserve a porn-free office environment. I would NEVER ignore that. I might tell him I saw, I might not. It depends on the situation. I'm not trying to hurt him - he hurt himself if he gets disciplined or fired because of it. But I'm not going to ignore it because I do not want that kind of behavior at my work.

I'm not saying it's excusable, I'm saying it's forgivable. Just because this guy could be fired over this doesn't mean the world would be a better place if he got fired rather then being warned discreetly (which would probably get him to stop watching porn at work)

And you know what? I'd rather he gets warned. But it's not my call to make, nor do I feel it's my responsibility to talk to him privately about it. He knows what the risk could be, and who knows how management or a higher-up will feel? Maybe it would be kosher, heck, this is a small company. But it made the OP feel uncomfortable and that at least needs to be addressed. Not by the OP, in my opinion.

All this whining about whether it would be "mean" or not to do so is kind of besides the point. There are two camps on this one, and they've been laid out pretty clearly for the OP - either tell him yourself or go to a higher-up. You either feel one way or another. What else is left to argue about? I'm satisfied that the question has been answered quite satisfactorily.
posted by agregoli at 10:41 AM on July 6, 2006


i'm firmly in the firing camp. not because the guy was looking at porn--but because the guy wasn't following the 'rules.' whether it's officially stated or not, this is a big social taboo. i don't know of any office in which it is appropriate to view porn (other then the obvious ones).

my smallish office has a manual, and an internet policy. it doesn't cite porn--but simply states that employees are expected to use their judgement in what they view.

i didn't need my supervisor to remind me what was approprate or not. in fact, in my surfing at work yesterday, i accidently viewed a site that had some nudity on it. i closed my browser immediately.

but not this guy. he went ahead and viewed a movie. whether he was implicitly violating company policy is irrelevent: he was violating a social norm. i've been in plenty of workplaces to know that none of them ever consider viewing porn as something acceptable in the workplace.

but back to this guy--if he worked here, it would be obvious that he has an issue with judgement. if he is likely to make this wrong decision, he is likely to make others--such as issues regarding employee theft or harassment of others. his disrespect for the work environment is only an indication of his full character--but it doesn't look good from here.
posted by lester at 10:42 AM on July 6, 2006


Coworkers trying to fuck the company over threaten your own job security.

Suddenly, then, a guy watching pr0n is a) trying to fuck the company over and b) a threat to my job security?

I can see where that would be possible in some specific case, but I cannot make the leap from "guy watches porn at work" to "guy is a threat to my job".
posted by everichon at 10:44 AM on July 6, 2006



See. That's where the cruelty comes in. To say, well, yeah, something horrible is going to happen to you and I don't care because you were wrong, is to me, a cruel course of action. The result, about which you and many other people are totally blithe, is totally out of proportion to the transgression.

And I disagree. I don't think that him being reprimanded or fired because of it is out of proportion to the transgression. So I'm afraid we will not be able to follow the same logic there.

To not see that or, worse, not care is cruel. Maybe this bothers you because you think, hey, that's how I feel, but I know I'm not a cruel person. And you know, I think it should. Maybe it means in this case you (and I mean the more general you) are wrong. That's what I suspect when I get in that position.

Nah, we just think differently. You can think me cruel if you want, but it's just two different viewpoints. I haven't even said anything different than 90% of the people responding to the post.
posted by agregoli at 10:45 AM on July 6, 2006


MetaTalk is my drama porn.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:48 AM on July 6, 2006


*passes flo some kleenex*
posted by jonmc at 10:49 AM on July 6, 2006


I know, right? DraMA! At least it's not a fat person (hurf durf butter eater) smoking a cigarette claiming that George Bush is the best person in the world while watching porn at work.

THEN we'd have REAL problems!!!!!!eleventy!!!!!
posted by agregoli at 10:50 AM on July 6, 2006


MetaTalk is my drama porn.

Yeah, some dude was watching porn at his desk, yet all the wanking is going on in here. Hello, irony.
posted by Gamblor at 10:54 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm not saying it's excusable, I'm saying it's forgivable.

To be blunt, forgiveness has no place in business. You check it at the door each day when you show up and you agree to follow the corporate policy no matter how unfair or wrongheaded it may be. This is one of the reasons they call it 'work.' There are rules.

Just because this guy could be fired over this doesn't mean the world would be a better place if he got fired rather then being warned discreetly (which would probably get him to stop watching porn at work)

Who gives a shit about the world? The purpose of a company is to make money. Essential to this mission is providing a safe and professional atmosphere for the employees. When an employee defies this atmosphere it hurts everybody in the company. It exposes the company to all sorts of risk, it lowers morale, and it can change the whole attitude and culture of a company.

Again, this isn't a values issue. It's pretty cut and dry. The guy broke the rules, he should be reported, and the situation should be handled by an objective third party.

And frankly, it's quite irresponsible to tell the OP to try to just 'deal' with this herself. If this guy does have a pattern of watching porn at work (who really thinks this is the very first time and the OP was just unlucky enough to catch him?) then the OP is likely not the first person being hurt by his antics.
posted by nixerman at 10:56 AM on July 6, 2006


This is kind of weird. I can see the "don't get a fellow employee fired" POV (though I'm at a loss as to how complaining about it = vindictive) and pr0n doesn't bother me one . . . well, stuff within two standard deviations of "Wow, how'd they even think of that" doesn't bother me one whit. This is all to say:

I wouldn't be bothered by someone watching porn at work. I'd be bothered by the kind of person who would watch porn at work. Not because I think they're likely to embezzle funds or molest the company mascot, just because they're the kind of fratholes not worth defending.
posted by yerfatma at 10:57 AM on July 6, 2006


I cannot make the leap from "guy watches porn at work" to "guy is a threat to my job"

I was wondering about some of these responses as well. Is it really possible to win a huge sexual harrassment settlement when you've never complained and the boss can plausibly deny ever knowing that anything was happening? Please tell me no.
posted by teleskiving at 10:58 AM on July 6, 2006


I gotta say, I'm tending to side with languagehat and dame on this one, though slightly differently.

I think it's inappropriate to watch porn at work, unless that's your job or your job keeps you isolated enough (and with enough free time) that you can watch porn with no fear of anyone be affected by that watching without failing to do your job. Obviously those occasions are few and far between, so it's largely inappropriate in an overwhelming proportion of jobs, BUT.... unless it really bothers you to have caught him doing it, what do you care? and if it bothers you to have caught him doing it, what do you care if he's punished?

that may seem like weird logic, so let me put it another way:

it seems to me like people are getting very upset at what this guy did in two different ways. either they're upset that he did it at all because they think it's filthy and disgusting and intolerable, or they think it's a bad idea and inconsiderate. the former stance becomes an indictment of the person's entire character and frankly would be exactly the same if they'd found out the guy did it in his own home. the latter is a rejection of inappropriate workplace behavior.

To my mind, neither of these stances should result in going to the boss without first approaching the co-worker and explaining that you don't appreciate having encountered him doing that. To my mind, having been a low level supervisor in a couple of different environments, and currently being a lowly supervised employee in a business environment, I have always believed as a supervisor and been instructed as a supervisee to look at intra-office problems as something to handle on a personal basis before making it an official disciplinary matter. Not because it's a "don't ask, don't tell" thing, but because it's a "respect for your co-workers" thing. Everybody makes mistakes, even horrible inappropriate ones like watching porn where a conference room can see it. We've all had those moments where we wish to hell we hadn't been stupid enough to do one terrible thing just because we thought it was innocent so long as no one knows about it. It's not because we're terrible people, it's because we're people and people have moments of incredibly poor reasoning and weakness.

But in these moments, we are (if we're professionals) able to accept it when a coworker comes to us respectfully and explains that it bothers them. If we are not professional, or mentally stable, then we don't take that approach the way we should and it's time to go bother the boss, who frankly has better things to do with his time, and it justly becomes an official disciplinary matter. The exception to this would be when the very action itself gives you reason to fear or be excessively uncomfortable with approaching the guy at all, such as harrassment violence or metal instability. Some people would view this incident as one of those times. It's not a line that can be clearly drawn in any case, so if that's how you feel in the situation you gotta do what you think is best.

But if it were me, I'd go up to the guy and be like "listen, I'm not okay with what I just saw. Please, please don't ever put me in that position again." I find it hard to believe that, having been approached like that, the guy would EVER do it again. And so long as he doesn't, why would it need to go any further than that? Why would it have to involve some sort of official punishment? If you're really made so uncomfortable with the thought of a guy masturbating that you wouldn't be willing to go talk to him again when he's clearly not engaged in the act, or just call him on the phone while you're not within eyesight of him, I'm inclined to think that your stance falls more on the "disgusting moral indictment of his character" side of the fence. If you really WANT the guy punished, rather than just stopping his behavior, then that's a pretty strong indicator that you've got a messed up way of regarding your coworkers and peers.

I feel like this is the VERY long winded way of looking at what languagehat and dame were much more succinctly getting at. Namely: it's one thing to be bothered by seeing something like that, and entirely another to break out the pitchforks and torches.

p.s.- because everyone misinterprets everything everyone says all the time: i am not saying nothing should be done in this case. i'm not answering the question in the green at all, because i'm not interested in solving this person's ridiculous situation. i'm trying to clarify a distinction, and i'm not defending the right to masturbate at work. good DAY, sir!
posted by shmegegge at 11:01 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm not saying it's excusable, I'm saying it's forgivable

Delmoi, thanks for making this distinction. I feel the same way.
posted by teleskiving at 11:02 AM on July 6, 2006


To be blunt, forgiveness has no place in business. You check it at the door each day when you show up and you agree to follow the corporate policy no matter how unfair or wrongheaded it may be.

this is not true.
posted by shmegegge at 11:03 AM on July 6, 2006


You're splitting hairs here. When someone says "this thing happened that was kind of bad, what should I do?" the first response of any sane person is "well, how bad was it?"

If that isn't an entirely subjective hairsplitting question of another sort, I don't know what is. "How bad?" Porn. What difference does anything make from there? Would a certain genre be more suitable? Are gang-bangs off limits? Should I (as "any sane person" might) have an implicit understanding of what is "suitable" offensive material and what is not? To whose religion? AVI or MPG, DivX or Xvid - what was the specific timecode where the moneyshot occured?

I think the spirit of the discussion was pretty poor, and it was just one of those topics that inevitably devolves into a dogpile. Throw it in line with circumcision, obesity and cat declawing. If you put all of those objects in a single post I'm fairly positive you would be driven permanently insane by attempting to parse the deafening roar.
posted by prostyle at 11:04 AM on July 6, 2006


As long as we're not solving anything, I'd like to pose a wildly hypothetical, not-claiming-it's-comparable-so-please-don't-even-start-with-that, just out of curiosity question: What if Johnny Porno quietly had his own dick flippin' out at his desk, rather than just watching other people's on his monitor?
posted by Gator at 11:07 AM on July 6, 2006


Shmegegge: You put down everything I was thinking much better than I did.

I do have a new AskMe though: Dear Ask, what sort of screwed-up toilet-training or other unfortunate accident could make people who think RULES are so very important because they're RULES and dammit you have to follow the RULES at all times and should SUFFER at WORK because if it was fun would they call it WORK dammit? Seriously.
posted by dame at 11:07 AM on July 6, 2006


ha ha occiblu said doo doo.
posted by kcm at 11:09 AM on July 6, 2006


occhiblu would be what I'd write now if we had temporary edit abilities
posted by kcm at 11:09 AM on July 6, 2006


tellurian writes "Its inappropriateness was not part of the question."

It is part of the answer though. If the behaviour was judged to be appropriate for the work place (say he was watching video of the world cup) then the correct answer is for the OP to STFU and MTOB. On the other hand if the behaviour was judged inappropriate (say boiling down human heads ala Dalmer) than the correct answer will be to phone the police.
posted by Mitheral at 11:11 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm not cruel and vindictive

A lot of you are cruel and vindictive.
posted by LarryC at 11:12 AM on July 6, 2006


What if Johnny Porno quietly had his own dick flippin' out at his desk, rather than just watching other people's on his monitor?

and he was videotaping it and broadcasting it from work too!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:13 AM on July 6, 2006


Johnny Porno is in the house,
Dusting his monitor,
Clicking his mouse.

Should we report him?
Confront him,
Or fire him?

Or clean up the spluge
Our outrage
Is mired in?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:13 AM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is so American: litigious society; Federal regulations about "hostile work environments"; a rigid belief that rules must be robotically adhered to lest someone using his own judgement might be called on it. So to protect the company we need a zero tolerance policy, so: "It's unacceptable, as in, 'We'll stand here and wait for you to clean out your desk and then we'll walk you to the door' kind of fired." It's the same sort of thinking that leads public schools to suspend seven year olds for "sexual harassment" or nine year olds for bringing penknives to class or teens for sharing aspirin.

Other places, other mores: Years ago, I knew these boys who worked at the [European country redacted] Embassy, on their National Service. (Most [redacted country] boys would spend their National Service year in the Army digging ditches, so getting an embassy job was a plumb; getting a job at the [country redacted] Embassy to the US was a major plumb. These boys were cream of the crop, has gone to the best schools, or were well off or well-connected.)

Apparently (according to one's girlfriend) they'd spend an inordinate portion of the day surfing for porn. Not just any porn, but the most disgusting stuff they could find, to gross each other out. Photos involving coprophagia were a big favorite. Then they'd (using the Embassy's email -- that is, the government email), they'd mail their "finds" back and forth to each other. As long as they got their work done, nobody cared.

The one time I saw any of it (and it was disgusting stuff), a bunch of they boys were reviewing their "best" finds at a party. Their girlfriends were present too, and watched, or didn't, as it pleased them. And no one was offended. No one felt harassed. No one thought it a big deal that they found this stuff during work hours.
posted by orthogonality at 11:13 AM on July 6, 2006


and surely you've noticed that MeFi is, overall, extremely strict when it comes to moral issues. It really weirded me out at first, because I always associated liberalism with moral relativism.

see, I probably fall into the 'strict on moral issues' camp in your book, but I don't see how watching porn is a moral issue. I am not flexible about lying, cheating and stealing- I don't think it's ever cool to have an affair, eg - but if this guy thought he was alone, I can't get particularly excited about his misdeed here. It seems like a breach of etiquette, maybe kinda gross/depressing, potentially awkward if clients saw it, etc, so something which should certainly be addressed, but the idea that he should be automatically fired seems a little overzealous to me, too.

and the big train sketch was the first thing I thought of, too...
posted by mdn at 11:14 AM on July 6, 2006


I thought the obvious answer was to call Carl Monday.
posted by klue at 11:14 AM on July 6, 2006


"Its inappropriateness was not part of the question."

It is part of the answer though.


Yup. I've said this before, but it's okay to make comments that don't directly answer the question as asked, as long as those comments are thoughtful and helpful. It's okay to challenge the asker to rethink their position, as long as it's done in a way that's helpful rather than antagonistic, so that they actually consider your response instead of wishing they hadn't asked in the first place.
posted by Gator at 11:15 AM on July 6, 2006


I'm unpleasantly surprised at the letter-of-the-law eagerness

To me it is not unlike answers that urge one to hire an electrician to change a light bulb, go to a doctor to take out a splinter, get a manicure to cut a fingernail..

The word that comes to mind is beureaucratic, but that isn't quite right..
posted by Chuckles at 11:18 AM on July 6, 2006


This is so American

Yep, maybe orthogonality has got the right word. Not very useful for communicating the idea though..
posted by Chuckles at 11:26 AM on July 6, 2006


You know, there are a lot of people out there who are offended by porn for a whole host of different reasons, and believe it or not, they aren't all uptight jerks. It's not just about "following the rules," it's about not being a thoughtless asshole. It's just such a fucking no-brainer that when you're at work, you should assume that not all the people you work with are "cool" with everything you are. It's just simple politeness. And I guarantee you that most supervisors would want to know about something like this. You think it's wrong to "tattle" on Johnny Porno? Well, how is it not wrong to lie to your boss? Is it ok because he's like, the Man, and you're all about fighting the power? Do you think it's good for a small business just starting out to have a jackass like this working for it? True, we may not know exactly how accepting the workplace environment in question is, but the OP obviously thought it was a big deal and certainly never said anything to indicate that it was a super laid-back workplace where anything goes. I don't even know what I would do if I were in the OP's situation, but it's ridiculous to say that talking to a superior about another employee's obvious, raging stupidity is somehow morally wrong.
posted by 912 Greens at 11:34 AM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


You think it's wrong to "tattle" on Johnny Porno? Well, how is it not wrong to lie to your boss? Is it ok because he's like, the Man, and you're all about fighting the power?

I wonder how many people are really saying that though? I would venture that it's not very many. I imagine that it's mostly that maybe that's how it SOUNDS but really they just don't like the idea that making a stupid mistake should necessarily result in someone getting fired, when just being honest and forthright enough to speak to the person directly will get the job done. Yes, it broke the rules, but there are situations where one can easily say "you know what? this was really stupid, but if I make a stupid mistake, I hope that someone will have enough respect for me to bring it to my face and allow me the opportunity to correct myself first." I think you're mistaking "don't be such a slave to the rules that you stop treating your coworker like a human being" for "RULES SUCK, YOU FUCKING LOSER!"
posted by shmegegge at 11:39 AM on July 6, 2006


nixerman writes "Who gives a shit about the world? The purpose of a company is to make money."

Not even remotely true. Google's motto is "First do no evil" not "First pile the money as high as possible". Many, many companies exist to make the world a better place, provide for employees, or get a job done and profitseekers can pound sand as long as costs are being covered.
posted by Mitheral at 11:41 AM on July 6, 2006


Sexual harassment? Is there some meaning to "harassment" in law that I'm not aware of, because I thought that it required some level of intent.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 11:41 AM on July 6, 2006


To be blunt, forgiveness has no place in business. You check it at the door each day when you show up and you agree to follow the corporate policy no matter how unfair or wrongheaded it may be. This is one of the reasons they call it 'work.' There are rules.

Who needs satire about American corporate mentality when you have this?
posted by funambulist at 11:43 AM on July 6, 2006


I once worked as a temp for a large company that published porno mags in the UK. The office was ordinary in almost every respect. The people were normal everyday folk who drank coffee and talked about sports. There was an even mix of men and women and the standard office rules applied in terms of what was appropriate and what was not in terms of social interaction. The only difference was that there were stacks of porno mags everywhere (all employees got free copies of every magazine). I once delivered a memo to the desks of everyone in the company, and it was quite surreal to see naked people on almost every computer monitor in the office. I think the people who worked there just became desensitized to it and the images lost any sense of taboo or illicitness.

My point is that it's all about context. The fact that Johnny Porno feels the need to bring sexual content into this particular workplace puts him right in the creepy trenchcoat crowd in most people's mind. I imagine that many people in that thread feel that the fact that he is willing to violate a very strong social norm means that he might be willing to violate other norms and therefore might be a dangerous person to work around.
posted by Otis at 11:43 AM on July 6, 2006


surely you've noticed that MeFi is, overall, extremely strict when it comes to moral issues.

But watching porn is not a moral issue (to me, and I would have thought to Average MeFite), and watching porn IN THE OFFICE OMG is not a moral issue either, unless you have a perverted morality which involves slavish obedience to the Boss and What the Boss Would Want, which again I would have thought an extremely un-MeFi sort of thing. It baffles me that posters who are fine with politically incorrect jokes about all sorts of things suddenly get hysterical about some poor schmuck watching porn in his cubicle to stave off the stultifying, murderous boredom of another day at the salt mines. I can't say I've watched porn at work, but I've blogged from work, I've read all sorts of inappropriate sites at work, I've told dirty jokes at work, and I support all these activities for others. If you have work to do, do it; if you don't, do whatever it takes to get you through the day.

That's obviously not an attitude that would be welcome at the National Congress of Slavedrivers, Bullies, and Toadies, but I didn't realize that's where I was.
posted by languagehat at 11:57 AM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


some poor schmuck watching porn in his cubicle to stave off the stultifying, murderous boredom of another day at the salt mines. I can't say I've watched porn at work, but I've blogged from work

While there's a certain part of me that dreams of a world where these are equivalent, I just can't see it. I don't believe in legislating behavior or having everyone conform to some blandest common denominator, but you now have this guy the victim of Our Capitalist Grist Mill.

I can't stand fuckers on those Nextel walkie talkies. If the next step is porn on iPod Videos turned up loud so I can hear the slappin', I've got to move again.
posted by yerfatma at 12:03 PM on July 6, 2006


i'd love to hear people's thoughts on the situation orthogonality described: the female coworker who would masturbate in the ladies room to relieve stress.

he proposed that it wasn't exactly analogous, but there are a lot of parallels: it's in a public place; she was probably afraid of being caught and knew it was wrong; a client could have been made aware of it; a random, easily offended coworker could have noticed.

should she have likewise been reported and fired if discovered? can we also assume that if she was "willing to violate a very strong social norm" she "might be willing to violate other norms and therefore might be a dangerous person to work around"?
posted by lord_wolf at 12:03 PM on July 6, 2006


But watching porn is not a moral issue (to me, and I would have thought to Average MeFite)

What about watching child pornography?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:04 PM on July 6, 2006


Languagehat, remember that AskMe where the poster was (vague recollection follows, too vague to find it in the archives!) in HR and considering snitching on her own boyfriend working in the same company because of something he'd told her personally about some minor law infraction that happened years before?
posted by funambulist at 12:05 PM on July 6, 2006


nixerman writes "To be blunt, forgiveness has no place in business. You check it at the door each day when you show up and you agree to follow the corporate policy no matter how unfair or wrongheaded it may be. This is one of the reasons they call it 'work.' There are rules. "

"The company rules say that as an employee I must assert, no matter the evidence to the contrary, that smoking isn't harmful/there's no clear and convincing proof that our employees got cancer from working in our asbestos mines/global warming isn't proven/our plant in Bhopal met every safety regulation/Enron stock is going up, up, up!"

There's this pervasive idea that we should check our humanity at the door when we get to the office, that what we do on the job isn't part of our personal morality, so it's OK to spam people/scam old ladies/aggressively sell worthless crap/hire and exploit illegal laborers because all our sins are redeemed if we make the Almighty Dollar.

Capitalism is a great thing, but I think we all suffer when profit becomes our only yardstick of morality. We'd be better off as a people, I think, if we did not check our humanity, our moral sense, our forgiveness at the office door.

Wouldn't the world be a better place with more forgiveness and less bureaucratic zero-tolerance?

Considered as a human issue: Johnny Porno made a mistake. It was motivated by urges that we all share. The harm it caused was minor -- the OP was shocked by what he saw, not emotionally scarred for life. People do far worse things -- and in some cases are lauded as great business men for doing so -- every day. Reporting Johnny Porno will cause him much more harm than he caused. Rather than be doctrinaire, just give the poor guy a break.

Reserve your wrath for people making a living causing harm: the spam kings, the advertisers hooking kids on sugary cereals, the crooked politicians, the bribing lobbyists, the direct mailers convincing your grandma to send most of her Social Security check to "Keep Indecency Off TV" or "Jesus Loves You If You Send Money Ministries".

Johnny's a dumbass, but so what? Who among us hasn't made a mistake? Who among us hasn't sinned? Let him cast the first stone.
posted by orthogonality at 12:05 PM on July 6, 2006


People who watch child pornography at work should get a stern lecture, at least.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 12:06 PM on July 6, 2006


I really missed IRFH.
posted by Zozo at 12:06 PM on July 6, 2006


You know, I love you all, having read many of your thoughts over the last few years. But, c'mon, the guy was watching porn at work. Porn. At. Work. Now, I may be old fashioned, but no one that really knows me would call me cruel and vindictive, but if it were my call I'd fire the guy. Watching porn at work is disruptive, a poor use of company resources, and probably implies some deeper work issues. Porn is fine, sometimes even pretty great, but watching porn at work is %100 unacceptable.

So, The tone of some posts in both the askme and meta threads suggests that it is okay for others to watch porn at work, but not okay to report it. Which is so completely wrong I'm a bit boggled. It's not the OP's job to confront his co-worker, but to support a non-hostile work environment.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:09 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


the female coworker who would masturbate in the ladies room to relieve stress....should she have likewise been reported and fired if discovered?

Unless there are video cameras over each toilet, how could she possibly be discovered? In what jurisdictions are toilet stalls considered a "public place"? Is there any jurisdiction in which you would NOT have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in a toilet stall?
posted by Gator at 12:12 PM on July 6, 2006


So what about filming porn at work? I mean, if it's on your lunch break, and you use an office of someone who's on vacation. After all, it's your lunch break, and surely the cleaning crew will get the stains out of your coworker's chair by the time she returns from vacation. Right?
posted by scody at 12:12 PM on July 6, 2006


It's not the OP's job to confront his co-worker, but to support a non-hostile work environment.

Don't you get it man? Your use of the phrase "non-hostile work environment" oppresses those of us who like to spank it into the communal Cremora©.
posted by yerfatma at 12:13 PM on July 6, 2006


Sexual harassment? Is there some meaning to "harassment" in law that I'm not aware of, because I thought that it required some level of intent.

The intent here was for this guy to seek sexual gratification in public, and to contribute to an unwanted atmosphere of sexuality in the workplace-- it's not so much that what he was doing was harassment, it's that if the employer ignores this kind of behavior, the employer is liable.

Whether it's worth a slap on the wrist or a total smackdown depends on the office, and an employer ought to be making that judgment call, not a co-worker (and not us).
posted by hermitosis at 12:15 PM on July 6, 2006


Zozo: "I really missed IRFH."

Aim higher, Zozo.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:16 PM on July 6, 2006


First, I would wager that most of the posters who are saying that watching porn at work isn't grounds for termination are not those who would be the object of the lust engendered by the viewing of heterosexual porn by a man. Sexualizing the workplace in this manner has more implications than just offending someone by the sight of something improper on your screen.

I would have the same response if the person was seen watching hardcore violence and gore, a la rotten.com. There are any number of human impulses on which the modern office environment thrives and depends on fostering: communication, problem-solving, competition. But ongoing explicit sexual and violent ideation in a co-worker is a deal-breaker for me, for reasons of personal security.
posted by macinchik at 12:16 PM on July 6, 2006


Gator writes "Unless there are video cameras over each toilet, how could she possibly be discovered? In what jurisdictions are toilet stalls considered a 'public place'? Is there any jurisdiction in which you would NOT have a 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in a toilet stall?"

It is quite possible that the noises (both physical and vocal) and the position of feet could make it pretty obvious what was happening. But say instead of a stall this was a single user washroom and she just forgot to lock the door allowing someone to walk in and catch her. She wasn't planning on anyone seeing her but was exposed none the less.
posted by Mitheral at 12:19 PM on July 6, 2006


Some people in the thread have also said "this is something he could be fired for" which is NOT the same as saying "this is something he should be fired for".
posted by raedyn at 12:20 PM on July 6, 2006


Thanks hermitosis, that makes a bit more sense.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 12:22 PM on July 6, 2006


First, I would wager that most of the posters who are saying that watching porn at work isn't grounds for termination are not those who would be the object of the lust engendered by the viewing of heterosexual porn by a man.

Trust me. I engender lust without the porn. But this isn't repeated viewing. it's one incident. And I don't think we're saying "Just let people watch their porn already!" It's more a case of giving someone a warning and letting them cut it out before going down a more punitive path.
posted by dame at 12:26 PM on July 6, 2006


macinchik writes "But ongoing explicit sexual and violent ideation in a co-worker is a deal-breaker for me, for reasons of personal security."

I may be mis-remembering, but haven't there been a couple of posts here linking to shoot-em-up flash games set in offices, where the goal in the game was to kill (or humilate) co-workers or bosses? You'd consider playing those in the office a "deal-breaker" too?
posted by orthogonality at 12:28 PM on July 6, 2006


Whether it's worth a slap on the wrist or a total smackdown depends on the office, and an employer ought to be making that judgment call, not a co-worker (and not us).

Can you explain this more? Why do you think that someone in a position of authority knows more than you do or, really, a stranger on the internet? Or, more to the point, haven't you been in many situations where they don't?
posted by dame at 12:28 PM on July 6, 2006


It is quite possible that the noises (both physical and vocal) and the position of feet could make it pretty obvious what was happening.

Meh. Technically, such things are certainly possible, but...but...

I have actually had sexual intercourse in a stall of the restroom at work, and both of us had the sense to not make any sex noise when we heard a co-worker enter the restroom and go into an adjacent stall. (It added to the excitement, as I recall.) I can't believe that a lone person, male or female, who is masturbating in a stall of a work bathroom wouldn't be able to hide the telltale sounds of such if they knew someone else was also in the restroom. It's quite easy to masturbate silently.

As far as single-user washroom "forgot to lock the door" scenarios, that sort of thing would apply to people urinating or defecating as well, so...
posted by Gator at 12:29 PM on July 6, 2006


This thread is making me hot.
posted by bardic at 12:29 PM on July 6, 2006


Unless there are video cameras over each toilet, how could she possibly be discovered?

she could be discovered if she wasn't careful about her volume control. ;-)

In what jurisdictions are toilet stalls considered a "public place"? Is there any jurisdiction in which you would NOT have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in a toilet stall?

it's not as black and white as you might think. while the preponderance of search results i found tends to support the idea of reasonable expectation of privacy, it seems under some circumstances, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. a court in WI in 2003 ruled that if you don't lock or close the door and show no signs of using the toilet, your stall can be searched while you are in it. (things may be different now; IANAL)

regardless of whether or not she could be discovered, i think everyone would agree that one should not have sex at work. so i ask again, can we cast the same aspersions on her that some are suggesting be slung at johnny porno?
posted by lord_wolf at 12:30 PM on July 6, 2006


ongoing explicit sexual and violent ideation

Wtf??

The guy was dumb enough to watch porn on his monitor in an open office. He has been seen exactly once, he was trying to hide it, wasn't even aware anyone noticed. If this passes for 'ongoing explicit sexual and violent ideation' or sexual harassment, there is something very wrong with the definition.

On the bright side, that thread reveals something about the US I am very, very envious of (ok, assuming the poster is from the US and if s/he isn't, the majority of commenters are anyway) - if so many people are so totally fine with the concept of getting a coworker fired for something like that, it must mean jobs are plenty and easy to find, so losing one is no big deal at all, right?
posted by funambulist at 12:31 PM on July 6, 2006


It baffles me that posters who are fine with politically incorrect jokes about all sorts of things suddenly get hysterical about some poor schmuck watching porn in his cubicle...

It's equally baffling to many of us that you don't see a difference.

... unless you have a perverted morality which involves slavish obedience to the Boss and What the Boss Would Want

See, now, where you're surprised by MeFites' reactions, that's exactly the reaction I'd expect, where Work = The Salt Mine and Boss = The Man and reporting absolutely any inappropriate behavior constitutes "ratting" — so you can't see any difference between Wal-Mart and Joe's Auto Repair or between tattling on someone for reading MetaFilter versus letting a small-business owner know that he's employing someone who is loading hardcore pornography in full view of a conference room.
posted by cribcage at 12:35 PM on July 6, 2006


she could be discovered if she wasn't careful about her volume control. ;-)


This made me laugh. Do you think it's really hard to be silent when masturbating?
posted by agregoli at 12:37 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


But this isn't repeated viewing. it's one incident.

It's not one incident of a simple, easily-made mistake. It's one incident of egregiously stupid and reckless behavior. I appreciate the Christian sentiment of "turn the other cheek," but granting people consequence-free second chances is not always appropriate or wise.

Having said that...

It's more a case of giving someone a warning and letting them cut it out before going down a more punitive path.

Why are you arguing against the employee being fired? I think he should be, but that's outside the scope of this question. The OP said this employee "has a small amount of seniority" over the OP. It's not the OP's job or place to issue either warnings or punishment. Even granting that you're right, that the guy does deserve a warning, there are about a dozen reasons why the OP isn't the person do deliver it.
posted by cribcage at 12:45 PM on July 6, 2006


This made me laugh. Do you think it's really hard to be silent when masturbating?

i don't know how it is with her, but when you masturbate as well as i do, it's nearly impossible to remain silent.

wait, did i think that or type it?
posted by lord_wolf at 12:46 PM on July 6, 2006


...a perverted morality which involves slavish obedience to the Boss and What the Boss Would Want

...that's exactly the reaction I'd expect, where Work = The Salt Mine and Boss = The Man and reporting absolutely any inappropriate behavior constitutes "ratting"


Metafilter: My opponents are extremists
posted by vacapinta at 12:48 PM on July 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dame, of course I have. What I am saying is that it is up to the employer to determine what sort of workplace they run, how they would like to enforce their policies, and what risks they are willing to take. For an employer, discovering something like this only after people have confronted each other, drawn lines in the sand, gossiped, and chosen sides is a disaster.

If I am upset at something that happens in my workplace, I have the luxury of knowing that it's not my job to handle it. As an employee, my opinions and concerns matter, but they are not the final word. And as a challenger of authority in general, if this frequently failed to work out in my favor, I'd know I was working in the wrong place.

If it bothered the poster enough to ask the internets what they should do, then they should probably talk to their boss. If it didn't seem like that big of a deal in the context of their workplace, then it probably wouldn't have been posted to begin with.
posted by hermitosis at 12:49 PM on July 6, 2006


MetaFilter: My cowrokers are X-streamists
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:50 PM on July 6, 2006


she could be discovered if she wasn't careful about her volume control.

Like I said, it's pretty easy to masturbate silently. I have a hard time imagining any scenario outside of Penthouse Forum in which someone would actually be yelling, "Oh, oh, oh, yeah, oh, oh, oh, yeah" out loud in the office bathroom.

so i ask again, can we cast the same aspersions on her that some are suggesting be slung at johnny porno?

I really can't see how they are comparable at all. One expects to have visual privacy in a toilet, a place where one takes one's pants off as a matter of course, even if you're making hilarious faces or noises while you're attempting have a bowel movement. The expectation isn't there for a cubicle.

when you masturbate as well as i do, it's nearly impossible to remain silent.

All...righty then. Since you know this about yourself (what do you do, scream "I AM EJACULATING OMG"?), I presume you would have the sense not to whack off at work, since you already know you wouldn't be able to conceal it and I'd probably hear your orgasm all the way down here in Southwest Florida?
posted by Gator at 12:51 PM on July 6, 2006


Jesus. People have been fired for so much less. Hell, I wouldn't even watch porn on my work laptop while I was at home. Mainly because the job in question was a true corporate gristmill, and because the laptop was XP SP2 with SMS installed and ISA at the office, which I often had to VPN into. The guy is an idiot and deserves whatever Darwinism that comes his way.

That said, pass me the Kleenex. I tried but there's no way I was even going to make it to the little room.
posted by loquacious at 12:57 PM on July 6, 2006


Metafilter: hearing your orgasm all the way down here.
posted by scrump at 1:01 PM on July 6, 2006


scrump: that sounds like a line from a Barry White song. That's a good thing in my opinion.
posted by ob at 1:04 PM on July 6, 2006


I think you're mistaking "don't be such a slave to the rules that you stop treating your coworker like a human being" for "RULES SUCK, YOU FUCKING LOSER!"

Yeah, I could be misreading/oversimplifying, it's true. But I really don't think that some of the comments are taking into account the interests of the owners or managers of the company involved. I mean, to ask a question like "Why do you think a supervisor knows better than you what should be done about this" seems like total willful ignorance to me. It's their job to know better. If you think that your individual supervisor is an idiot, that's one thing, but people who are putting their heart and soul into building a business have more invested in a situation like this. They need their employees to get along and respect each other in order for the business to succeed. I think some of the responses here show a kneejerk hatred of anything resembling authority without taking into account that the "authority figures" are the ones who have the most to lose by employing a guy who has so little common sense.
posted by 912 Greens at 1:07 PM on July 6, 2006


Metafilter: hearing your orgasm all the way down here.

Yoink!
posted by Gator at 1:07 PM on July 6, 2006


"To be blunt, forgiveness has no place in business. You check it at the door each day when you show up and you agree to follow the corporate policy no matter how unfair or wrongheaded it may be. This is one of the reasons they call it 'work.' There are rules."

That's retarded. I can name a raft of businesspeople who have fucked up seriously, some of them on their first day, and been given another chance to the great benefit of themselves and the business.

I do like how everyone keeps repeating "Porn at work. Porn at work," like it grows in power through pure repetition.

And as for the argument that it's better to just report it, so that the company can fire this guy: Even if I told the SS you have Jews in your attic, it's not my responsibility if you're sent to a camp. You shouldn't have had Jews.
(Yes, the Rhetorical Nazis take another analogy to the ovens).

Oh, and for you PORN AT WORK repeaters: Would it have been cool if it were written erotica? I mean, just checking. What if it was descriptions of child porn? A news story that had child porn in the headline?
posted by klangklangston at 1:10 PM on July 6, 2006


I presume you would have the sense not to whack off at work, since you already know you wouldn't be able to conceal it and I'd probably hear your orgasm all the way down here in Southwest Florida?

all i'm gonna say is that it's break time for me here at work, and i have a full bottle of jergens, so you better shut your windows and turn up the volume on your televisions, stereos, and ipods....
posted by lord_wolf at 1:15 PM on July 6, 2006


Why are you arguing against the employee being fired?

Well, see cribcage, if you actually read both the threads, you'd know the answer yourself. But since you're lazy: Many of us are arguing that the OP should address it herself (anonymously or not), because going to the person's supervisor could very likely result in said person getting fired and we think that getting someone fired (or doing something where that would be the likely result) is seriously screwed up. Do you get it now?
posted by dame at 1:16 PM on July 6, 2006


And as for the argument that it's better to just report it, so that the company can fire this guy: Even if I told the SS you have Jews in your attic, it's not my responsibility if you're sent to a camp. You shouldn't have had Jews.

*laughs, points*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:16 PM on July 6, 2006


It's weird.. almost like there's multiple possibilities, very neatly distributed along a continuum, for describing the appropriateness of the situation and all the possible Schrödingerian outcomes.
posted by kcm at 1:16 PM on July 6, 2006


"But I really don't think that some of the comments are taking into account the interests of the owners or managers of the company involved."

And? I'm hired to do a job, not care about what everyone else is doing unless it makes my job harder. I don't care that some of our bookkeeping staff came in high as hell to work. It might be in the company's interest to know, but it's not in mine to tell 'em. And as our bookkeeping has been better when administered by the stoner than by the previous record keeper, I'm happy to not have to deal with holds on my checks.
posted by klangklangston at 1:16 PM on July 6, 2006


Hey, those are some nice tonal subtleties, lord_wolf. Ever thought of getting a record contract?
posted by Gator at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2006


People have been fired for so much less.

loquacious, you're one of the people I respect around here, so I'll just ask you to think about the logic of that. People have been fired for incredibly silly things... so this person should be fired? People have been killed for no reason at all... so... (draw your own conclusion here).

Even if I told the SS you have Jews in your attic, it's not my responsibility if you're sent to a camp. You shouldn't have had Jews.

Thank you, klang. I've been thinking that for some time, but I wouldn't have had the guts to say it. (And no, I don't think watching porn = hiding Jews, for Pete's sake. I think slavish obedience to rules is a bad thing.)
posted by languagehat at 1:19 PM on July 6, 2006


And? I'm hired to do a job, not care about what everyone else is doing unless it makes my job harder.

You mean like the hardcore pornography being displayed on the monitors visible to the conference room?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:20 PM on July 6, 2006


When I worked for a large semiconductor company, we were warned during employee orientation that the company Could have cameras in the bathrooms, to watch for theft of materials/trade secrets. There was no indication if they really did or not, just the warning that it was possible. I always wondered, was it a prophylactic warning, intended to scare the dishonest, or an simple statement of intent.
posted by nomisxid at 1:22 PM on July 6, 2006


Yeah, and if I thought the book keeper's getting high was going to negatively afffect my getting a paycheck, I'd tell the book keeper.
posted by klangklangston at 1:23 PM on July 6, 2006


What I am saying is that it is up to the employer to determine what sort of workplace they run, how they would like to enforce their policies, and what risks they are willing to take.

That so reasonable and yet so horrifying. If any company were actually the way the people running it wanted it to be, it would be the most awful place to work you can imagine. Call me a crazy Marxist, but your employer's interests are not your own and just because they haven't screwed you over yet doesn't mean they won't as soon as it suits them. Big comany, little comany, whatever. Generally, I figure not throwing other people into the jaws of that is a good plan.
posted by dame at 1:25 PM on July 6, 2006


Do you get it now?

That's the second time you've trotted out your bitchy little brand of snot in this MeTa thread, and in both cases you've missed rather large points. Arguing that the employee should be warned rather than fired falls outside the scope of this AskMe because the poster is in a position to do neither. Moreover, whereas the OP is presently uninvolved with his coworker's behavior, confronting the coworker directly opens the OP to a host of unpleasant scenarios, including but not limited to an end result wherein the employee is caught, protests that OP knew about his behavior, and both are fired.
posted by cribcage at 1:26 PM on July 6, 2006


OMG you're a total idiot. The co-worker is in a position to make it more or less likely. You can not care. You can think it doesn't matter. But to pretend like you don't understand the argument makes my bitchy snottiness so the lesser problem in this conversation.
posted by dame at 1:28 PM on July 6, 2006


Well, I'm glad to see that we've descended to juvenile name-calling over an anonymous question.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:29 PM on July 6, 2006


"Oh, and for you PORN AT WORK repeaters: Would it have been cool if it were written erotica? I mean, just checking. What if it was descriptions of child porn? A news story that had child porn in the headline?"

I guess maybe we should ask beth about that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:30 PM on July 6, 2006


OMG you're a total idiot.

OMG, you sooooo just rang the irony bell.
posted by cribcage at 1:31 PM on July 6, 2006


I think slavish obedience to rules is a bad thing.

Sure, but you're also making a logical leap I'm not willing to take. You're assuming it's us versus them (i.e., employees versus The Bosses), whereas I'd prefer we keep the guy who watches porn at work in a different foxhole. I suppose I'm looking at it from the context of the small office I work in, whereas if I still worked at Megainvestoconglomerate, my opinion would probably be closer to yours. Interesting. Thanks.
posted by yerfatma at 1:34 PM on July 6, 2006


Uh, comparing watching porn in your office to hiding Jews from the SS is dumb. I won't bother with a response.

Anyways, I do like how people blithely assume the worst intentions on the part of management. I've always been against the "let them hate, so long as they fear" management style on the grounds that it's inefficient. Still, I can understand where it comes from. With the tools available being so blunt, it's often the case that the only viable alternative is to institute a comprehensive paranoia in each worker and engender an atmosphere of distrust, competition and arbitrary rewards and punishment. This is what a lot of bosses really could learn from the fascists. If people aren't motivated properly, you have to use fear and when fear doesn't work you have to shoot them. Otherwise, yeah, people hide Jews in their attic and profits suffer.
posted by nixerman at 1:35 PM on July 6, 2006


languagehat:

I'm not really advocating that he should be fired. Rather, pointing out that he really should know better. The glances over the shoulder are proof of this.

Hell, I like porn. But in most working evironments it'd be distracting as hell.

In a sane world, if I was the business owner, I'd judge the problem not by the moral relativism but by how it affected the company. If it helped him be more productive, I could give a flying fuck if he was vigorously fucking a frozen chicken at his desk while wearing a scary clown suit and whistling spaghetti western soundtracks - as long as it didn't negatively affect his productivity or the productivity of his cow-orkers - my theoretical employees.

However, in my theoretical scenario I'd probably hire employees who thought likewise and were able to deal with such scenarios.

However, it's not a sane world, especially the business world, and apparently it's affected the productivity of at least one employee enough to not only break up a meeting but also for them to post a lengthy anonymous AskMe about it, probably from work.

So, fuck'em. That might make me cruel or heartless or whatever, but work sucks. I'd rather do away with the whole corporate capitalistic paradigm and burn it all to the ground and start over with something more exciting and dynamic, but if I think about that too long I'm going to end up in a tar paper shack somewhere in Montana wearing aviator glasses and a black hoody writing snippy letters to inconsequential idiots.
posted by loquacious at 1:36 PM on July 6, 2006


*laughs, points*

That's not funny, that's just sad.

Yeah, and if I thought the book keeper's getting high was going to negatively affect my getting a paycheck, I'd tell the book keeper.

What if he was smoking the joint as he ran your check, and he dropped it on to your desk with tar-stained digits? We are, in fact, talking about an activity that is occurring in the work place during work hours. If you're going to make a poor analogy, at least keep the basics correlated. Aside from the fact that you wouldn't care, you're missing the obvious point - others will. Unless you're self employed, this is the crux of the situation.
posted by prostyle at 1:37 PM on July 6, 2006


So, at the risk of getting sucked into the deep, dank hole of MetaTssk - am I the only one getting tired of hearing how it's the OP whose actions will (or won't) be responsible for getting Johnny Porno fired? Exactly why is Johnny Porno not personally responsible for the consequences of his decisions?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:37 PM on July 6, 2006


OMG, you sooooo just rang the irony bell.

OMG I had no idea.

(And monju, you'll notice I give people exactly the respect I think they deserve.)
posted by dame at 1:37 PM on July 6, 2006


agregoli writes "Do you think it's really hard to be silent when masturbating?"

Judging by a couple of the housemates I've had, Yes.
posted by Mitheral at 1:38 PM on July 6, 2006


Ever thought of getting a record contract?

i gave it a go a few years back, but the engineers had serious issues with the fact that i would roll over and fall asleep after each take. plus, omg, the chafing!
posted by lord_wolf at 1:39 PM on July 6, 2006


IRFH, I don't think he's not responsible. I think he screwed up. I also think it's preferable to be a bit generous when people screw up and not try to get them screwed over. Does that make sense?
posted by dame at 1:40 PM on July 6, 2006


And? I'm hired to do a job, not care about what everyone else is doing unless it makes my job harder.

So, if one of your coworkers was being taunted, threatened, bullied, etc. you wouldn't say anything? Doesn't make your job harder, does it?

Well, guess what? Some people feel that having a dude in the confrence room watching porn makes for a hostile work environment. Therefore, it's a serious issue that needs to be brought up with a supervisor, becuase it's their job to deal with shit like that. And no, that does not make you blindly obedient to the rules. It makes you respectful of people's boundaries.
posted by 912 Greens at 1:42 PM on July 6, 2006


What if he were watching porn at work on an unsecured wireless signal?! We'd all be cool with it then, right?
posted by LarryC at 1:43 PM on July 6, 2006


Anyways, all this hot and heavy firing talk has reminded me I really need to be writing cover letters and sending off resumes, not spanking proverbial chickens with my turkeybaster.

You do not want to know what I got fired for. It's incredibly, impossibly stupid, and makes this whole thread look really silly, and makes my previous employers look like complete and total idiots - which, frankly, they are. (Heh, ok. I do want to tell. I got fired for studying for job-related skills on the job during downtime on the slowest day of my week.)

Hey, there's an idea. Can/should we get a MeFi resume database going? "Hire the best of the web!" or some shit. I can write bitchy monologs, class 12 with 2d20 +5 bonus damage modifiers.
posted by loquacious at 1:45 PM on July 6, 2006


I think slavish obedience to rules is a bad thing. - languagehat

Me too. But the questioner didn't say they were considering taking action because "those are the rules". The poster did indicate they were startled by the incident - enough to abruptly end a meeting - and that they think what they witnessed was "wildly inappropriate". It's possible the poster was really uncomfortable with it. (although we don't know one way or another from the question as asked) If that's the case, the poster isn't considering action because of "slavish obedience" The Rules but because they were exposed to something in the workplace that made that workplace less friendly for them.

It's also possible that the poster doesn't actually care but is concerned that due to the common occurance of people being all puritanical about porn, is concerned about possible future consequences (discussed to death on the green).

We don't have enough information in the question to make a determination of how much (dis)comfort the poster has with porn in the workplace. But we now do have a great range of responses about what action they could take and what the possible consequences are from a wide variety of viewpoints. Considering the poster's own view could land anywhere on the spectrum, it makes sense to me that there's a range of options presented to them, and lots of insight into what that might mean. Surely there's some stuff in that volumnious thread that will help the poster make a choice.
posted by raedyn at 1:46 PM on July 6, 2006


Exactly why is Johnny Porno not personally responsible for the consequences of his decisions?

Beats me. From the tenor of the current dialogue, I'd guess it's because Johnny Porno = noble downtrodden proletariat and supervisor of small start-up company = capitalist satan bossman.
posted by 912 Greens at 1:49 PM on July 6, 2006


metafilter: OMG You're a total idiot.
posted by horsewithnoname at 1:50 PM on July 6, 2006


i'd love to hear people's thoughts on the situation orthogonality described: the female coworker who would masturbate in the ladies room to relieve stress.

This hypothetical girl, is she hot? If so my thoughts are that's fantastic.
posted by delmoi at 1:50 PM on July 6, 2006


"What if he was smoking the joint as he ran your check, and he dropped it on to your desk with tar-stained digits?"

Would not care. And as long as you're getting snarky, read what I said— he comes to work high. His highness is on company time. He's also the best book keeper we've had, despite the fact that the boss would have a problem with him being high if he was explicitly made aware of it.

"So, if one of your coworkers was being taunted, threatened, bullied, etc. you wouldn't say anything? Doesn't make your job harder, does it?"

And what if there were ninjas that were totally flipping out and killing people? Would you say something then?
Uh... His watching some porn flick isn't taunting, threatening, bullying, etc. It's being dumb and getting caught.

"Some people feel that having a dude in the confrence room watching porn makes for a hostile work environment. "

Some people feel that gays shouldn't be allowed to work as school teachers because having gays around makes them uncomfortable. Some people are idiots. That's why the solution should be to remind Johnny Porno that some people who may be in a position to fire him may be the type of people who would care what he was watching on his computer.
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on July 6, 2006


Some people feel that gays shouldn't be allowed to work as school teachers because having gays around makes them uncomfortable.

*laughs, points*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:52 PM on July 6, 2006


nixerman said:Anyways, I do like how people blithely assume the worst intentions on the part of management.

If it's reported, I assume that management would be forced to take action without regards to management's personal feelings on the issue. When an incident of this nature is reported, it has become an Official Incident and steps must be taken according to Procedure. The person in authority, having learned about the issue, will become obliged to do something. The OP cannot go to management and say, "Hey, I don't want to get Johnny fired, but you should talk to him about watching porn in his cube" with the expectation that that will actually happen. Management will be forced to overreact for fear of the future liability. If the OP just wants to communicate a message like "Hey, knock it off," there is no alternative but to deal with it personally (or anonymously, but involving no one else).

In short, I think Johnny is responsible for his actions, but the OP is in a position to act mercifully. If the poster decides to go to report this, I doubt management will be in a position to act with mercy.
posted by mullacc at 1:52 PM on July 6, 2006


If ninjas were totally flipping out and killing people, I'd speak to the ninjas first, before reporting them to my supervisor.
posted by horsewithnoname at 1:53 PM on July 6, 2006


And what if there were ninjas that were totally flipping out and killing people?

...Says the guy talking about Jews in the attic.
posted by cribcage at 1:55 PM on July 6, 2006


dame: "IRFH, I don't think he's not responsible. I think he screwed up. I also think it's preferable to be a bit generous when people screw up and not try to get them screwed over. Does that make sense?"

It makes total sense, dame. But I also find myself uncomfortable with the way in which Johnny Porno's poor judgement has suddenly become OP's problem to solve.

That said, I know from past experience that I would opt for personally confronting the behavior. On the other hand, I can't help but be aware that one of the reasons I'm comfortable taking that action is that I'm a reasonably self-confident male. In light of which, I don't think that Johnny Porno's actions should outweigh the OP's right not to be put into that situation if it's one she/he is not comfortable with.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:55 PM on July 6, 2006


OMG! What if he was watching Ninja Jew Porn?!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:56 PM on July 6, 2006


Even Jewish ninjas aren't hardcore enough to fuck a nun in the ass.
posted by cribcage at 1:59 PM on July 6, 2006


Do you see what happens when you fuck a nun in the ass? !
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:02 PM on July 6, 2006


Even Jewish ninjas aren't hardcore enough to fuck a nun in the ass.

The fuck you say. You couldn't even get laid in a nunfuckery.
posted by loquacious at 2:02 PM on July 6, 2006


That's true IRFH. In which case I totally endorse the talk to your boss but refuse to say who option. But you know, sometimes people put you in bad situations and it isn't fair, but it's not a good reason to be a total jerk. Then again, I'm a bitchy chick, so talking to JP wouldn't really bug me.

Anyway, I gots to go. Work is done.
posted by dame at 2:06 PM on July 6, 2006


When rome was sacked the invaders setup a system where the nuns could be raped for a fee. Perhaps that would be considered a nunfuckery.

I don't remember which sack of Rome that was, though.
posted by delmoi at 2:10 PM on July 6, 2006


I think it was nearer the Castle Anthrax.
posted by kcm at 2:12 PM on July 6, 2006


Sounds like the cloth sack to me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:13 PM on July 6, 2006


You're assuming it's us versus them (i.e., employees versus The Bosses)

Damn right. I thought I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

Damn, I sure hope Anonymous finds a way to react to all this mess!
posted by languagehat at 2:15 PM on July 6, 2006


What amazes me about this whole thing - and I refrained from saying anything in AskMe as someone already pop'd in with my suggestion - is that I don't think porn is the real issue - or perhaps it's a separate issue. (It did increase the watcher's stupidity factor in my book - as in no intelligent cube worker I know would do this - only people with an office and a door.) I wouldn't care *what* he is watching - the guy is watching a movie rather than doing work. Having been in the situation where I've had to do more work in order to make up for a coworker who wasn't doing anything (and who the boss amazingly was not catching for almost a year) it's a pain in the ass to have a coworker not pull his/her weight. If the company is small then they probably don't have a policy manual yet - and it's no big deal to speak about this to a manager and the manager to send a company email clarifying that this shouldn't be done. I mean, the guy watching porn knows he's not doing work. People like this eventually do get fired not only because of what they watch but because they're simply not productive. (Not to mention not having enough common sense.) Coworkers evetually complain if it happens over and over. And no matter how many times you've seen a coworker drunk/drugged/doing something else but work and thinking that it's not causing you any more work so it's ok - someone else is indeed having to do more work because of him/her.

I just can't get over some of the angst on the guy's behalf. Or the "don't nark!" comments. Over a guy that isn't smart enough to watch the stuff on his own time - hell, at least on his on laptop during lunch hour, outside the building.
posted by batgrlHG at 2:15 PM on July 6, 2006


I think slavish obedience to rules is a bad thing.

Wait, is the only reason we're not all watching porn at work is because it's against the rules?

We are all perverts.
posted by Destroid at 2:16 PM on July 6, 2006


Ok, I'm no saint. If it were a nixerman or cribcage doing the illicit surfing, I'd report 'em.

Johnny Porno is responsible for his actions, and what he's done is put himself at my mercy (if it were me), but being at my mercy means that if I were friendly or neutral towards him, I'd spare him. Hostile, no. And if he were unmerciful himself? Likely not.

But I also find myself uncomfortable with the way in which Johnny Porno's poor judgement has suddenly become OP's problem to solve.

"Problem"? Either he does it again and gets caught, or follows the warning (if given) and doesn't. Not OP's problem, really. Unless you're imagining the more police-state-like situations being outlined by our more authoritarian posters. Ok, so what do you do if he does finger you as someone who knew about it? Either deny it: his word against yours, and he's the guy who's been watching porn at work. Or: claim to feel intimidated by his seniority, etc, place yourself at the mercy of the manager, and if the manager is not pure steaming evil you'll get out of it just fine.
posted by furiousthought at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2006


Some people feel that gays shouldn't be allowed to work as school teachers because having gays around makes them uncomfortable. Some people are idiots.

Yeah, well, I don't think that people who object to porn in the workplace are idiots. I guess we can agree to disagree on that one.

Also, I don't think anyone dumb enough to watch porn in a conference room while a meeting is going on is just a regular stand up guy who made one little mistake. Sounds like more of a serial dumbass to me. I could be wrong, but I suspect Johnny Porno will strike again.
posted by 912 Greens at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2006


I think it was nearer the Castle Anthrax.

Spank me first!!
posted by loquacious at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2006


Meanwhile this was all worth reading because of the line "I really need to be writing cover letters and sending off resumes, not spanking proverbial chickens with my turkeybaster".
More chicken spanking!
posted by batgrlHG at 2:22 PM on July 6, 2006


furiousthought: ""Problem"? Either he does it again and gets caught, or follows the warning (if given) and doesn't. Not OP's problem, really."

OP's problem is having to figure out what to do (or not) do - a non-trivial question that's occupied considerable cycles around here this afternoon - and then either confronting Johnny Porno in some manner (which will be uncomfortable, at best); or reporting the behavior to a boss; or pretending that it never happened (and never, EVAR looking at his monitor again). Based on the original AskMe, there appears to be evidence that the situation has caused the OP some stress. I consider that to be a problem, and I consider the consequences to be all on Johnny Porno. If OP can cope with giving him a break, that's fine with me. But if not, I have no problem with letting Johnny spend some quality time spanking it in the unemployment line.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:31 PM on July 6, 2006


maybe the guy was just visiting the metafilter myspace page.
posted by shmegegge at 2:32 PM on July 6, 2006


IRFH, that's unfortunately the problem with all work place mistakes. They become someone else's problem to solve. If they don't, then they're not mistakes, they're temporary setbacks in the individual's workflow. It is absolutely the case that what the guy did was wrong and it became someone else's problem. But that was the case before the question was even posted to askme. now the question is: what should she do?

the answer may very well be "take it to the boss." it's unfortunately far too situational (for instance: how does she feel about this coworker? how important/irreplaceable is he in their workflow? a ton of other unfortunately necessary questions.) to answer based solely on the info provided. Now, I can't speak for everybody, but I'm seeing people in this thread who feel that NOT reporting him to the boss, but handling it more personally - like equals - is a reasonable option. One or two of those people seem to be saying that any rat-out to the boss is squaresville, man, I suppose, but for every one of them there seem to be 5 people screaming OFF WITH HIS HEAD. HE'S SCUM, AND HE SHOULD NEVER WORK AGAIN! (you know, so long as we're inaccurately characterizing arguments.)

sure, the dude's responsible for his own actions, but there'll be times in your professional career where you will have done something very stupid and wish that you'd been given a chance to make it right rather than just fired. You'll know in your heart that you got fired for your own stupidity, but you'll also know that it could have been handled in a way that satisfied everyone WITHOUT you getting fired. I think it's a good thing for the OP to consider that side first, before she runs to the management saying "Johnny Porno watches porno on company time in full view of a conference room full of people," which is, in this case, likely the same thing as saying "fire johnny porno."

Sure, the OP wouldn't have gotten him canned without good reason, but there's still that nagging question (or would be in my mind if I were in her position) of "do I give two shits about the people I work with, even if they're being MONUMENTALLY inconsiderate of me right now?" If I were her, I'd hope the answer was yes.
posted by shmegegge at 2:42 PM on July 6, 2006


do I give two shits about the people I work with, even if they're being MONUMENTALLY inconsiderate of me right now?

I agree that's a worthwhile question to ask. What I object to, however, is the attitude being expressed that OP should consider how his actions will affect his coworker but should not consider how his actions will affect his boss.
posted by cribcage at 2:52 PM on July 6, 2006


I thought I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me

/hums The Internationale, while spanking it

Whereever there's a cop, beating his . . . actually, I'll be at home.
posted by yerfatma at 3:12 PM on July 6, 2006


If OP can cope with giving him a break, that's fine with me. But if not, I have no problem with letting Johnny spend some quality time spanking it in the unemployment line.

That's pretty much been my line here from the beginning: I would lean towards mercy. Unless for some reason I wouldn't. Shrug.

The boss can take care of himself, is my default position on that. I do not get the sense from the OP's post that J. Porno's boss = OP's boss. But who knows? I might like the boss a great deal, and that would influence my decision too.
posted by furiousthought at 3:27 PM on July 6, 2006






I've long been an advocate of the swift, solid slap to the back of the head.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:25 PM on July 6, 2006


With a turkey baster?
posted by loquacious at 4:41 PM on July 6, 2006


For the record - it wasn't porn, it was art, and I don't even own a turkey baster.
posted by Johnny Porno at 4:59 PM on July 6, 2006


"Also, I don't think anyone dumb enough to watch porn in a conference room while a meeting is going on is just a regular stand up guy who made one little mistake. Sounds like more of a serial dumbass to me. I could be wrong, but I suspect Johnny Porno will strike again."

I agree that watching porn in the middle of a daycare is wrong.

Wait... Upon reading the fucking question, that's not at all what happened.

And if he does it again and anyone else sees it— problem solved.
posted by klangklangston at 5:04 PM on July 6, 2006

It's weird.. almost like there's multiple possibilities, very neatly distributed along a continuum, for describing the appropriateness of the situation and all the possible Schrödingerian outcomes.
Schrödinger's Wank: you're only having it off under the desk at work if someone catches you at it sees you from the conference room.

Until that time, you're in an indeterminate potential state where you may or may not be "posting to Metafilter", IYKWIMAITYD.
posted by scrump at 5:32 PM on July 6, 2006


I ended up firing someone for porn at work. We gave three written warnings, and ultimately it was his choice to use office printing supplies to take materials home for 'later perusal' that ended up being the final straw.

Plus the other shifts were about to refuse to share his keyboard. Ick.
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:01 PM on July 6, 2006


you should've told them they make computers for the home now, too.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 6:10 PM on July 6, 2006


cribcage writes "What I object to, however, is the attitude being expressed that OP should consider how his actions will affect his coworker but should not consider how his actions will affect his boss."

Are people saying that, though?

I would confront Johnny Porno directly, first. But let's consider the three primary possibilities:
1) I confront him, and he stops.
Effect on JP: He stops. Effect on me: I'm happy, he stopped. Effect on boss: They don't even know.
2) I confront him, he doesn't stop.
Effect on JP: He eventually gets caught or reported, and fired. I'm happy, he no longer looks at porn in office. Effect on boss: Lots of paperwork and anger.
3) I report him, he gets fired.
Effect on JP: He loses his job. Effect on me: I'm happy, he stopped. Effect on boss: Lots of paperwork and anger.

So if I take into account how his actions affect my boss: if I talk to him directly, there's a 50% chance I save my employer some anguish, and JP doesn't lose his job. If I report him, there's a 100% chance that my employer has some anguish, and JP loses his job.
posted by Bugbread at 6:22 PM on July 6, 2006


4) You report him, the boss tells him to knock it off, he stops.

5) You do nothing and never see porn on his screen again.

6) JP rubs his penis raw wanking it, contracts a flesh-eating bacteria and dies.

All equally plausible, within an order of magnitude.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:40 PM on July 6, 2006


Actually the "no porn in the workplace" thing is fairly recent. It used to be you could have pinups, etc, but that was before all the Sexual Harassment liability shit.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 PM on July 6, 2006


bugbread, please. Your "primary possibilities" are ridiculous. The most likely scenario is that she reports him and the boss asks her to write down exactly what happened. Then the boss speaks to the employee, has him write down his version of the events and gives him a stern talking to in the presence of the witness. This allows the entire company to cover its ass and demonstrates to the offender how serious his offense was. The boss would likely not fire him off the bat, especially if he goes with the ol 'it was a silly misunderstanding' defense and because senior staff are notoriously difficult to replace. Three months later he's caught doing some other idiotic act and he's ejected with no fear of a law suit. That's how these things are handled by professional, competent managers. This whole 'lots of paperwork and anger/Bosses are Evil and Vengeful Deities' perception that so many Mefites seem to have is just wrong.

Though as my new boyfriend just pointed out it'd make sense for the boss to prepare for the worst and begin quietly looking for the guy's replacement. This is quite practical but also sort of evil. Come to think of it he's sort of evil but that's ok, he's disgustingly attractive.
posted by nixerman at 7:40 PM on July 6, 2006


Puritans, busybodies, and sheep.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:09 PM on July 6, 2006


haha, charade you are
posted by Tenuki at 10:26 PM on July 6, 2006


yer nearly a larf
but yer really a
cry-AYYYYY
posted by cortex at 10:52 PM on July 6, 2006


So, basically, what this thread resulted in was the same fucking discussion going on in two places. Only here, it's even more so.
posted by nanojath at 11:05 PM on July 6, 2006


And if he does it again and anyone else sees it— problem solved.

And what if the next "anyone else" that sees it is a big client you are trying to woo. Seen it happen. Back when internet porn was new and dial-up made movie watching unbearable, I was walking a client to a meeting room where my bosses were about to close an advertising contract with them. As we passed between the row of cubicles, there on the largest monitor we had was a full screen, full color shot of anal penetration (female and male, not that it matters much). The clients noticed, stopped in their tracks, and politely stated they didn't think they could do business with us, right before they walked back out the door.

Did the person with the porn on his desktop get fired? Hell yes. Did the loss of that contract seriously affect that small company? Hell yes.

The next "anyone else" in a business environment might not be another fellow employee. It might be someone else whose opinion of your company can cost that company business and income, which in the end will be a problem for everyone that works there.
posted by Orb at 1:23 AM on July 7, 2006


Puritans, busybodies, and sheep.

Thankfully we have Gods like you who sometimes bless us with your omniscience. So the answer is what now?
posted by yerfatma at 4:11 AM on July 7, 2006


No problem, yerfatma. No charge. The answers are: Lighten up, mind one's own business, and don't be such a stickler for THE RULES.

Seriously though, I apologize for the throw-away comment; it was just a reaction to what some of the commenters are saying in both threads. I have to say that I land squarely on the side of those like Languagehat and Dame, and Jessamyn in the AskMe thread.

I'm also glad I don't work with many of you. [although, it's been a while since I've worked in a corporate or even a small-business environment... furniture refinishing is so much easier to negotiate through on a daily basis.]
posted by exlotuseater at 4:24 AM on July 7, 2006


So, basically, what this thread resulted in was the same fucking discussion going on in two places. Only here, it's even more so.
posted by nanojath at 4:05 PM JST on July 7 [+fave] [!]\]
Yes
posted by tellurian at 4:43 AM on July 7, 2006


nixerman : "bugbread, please. Your 'primary possibilities' are ridiculous. The most likely scenario is that she reports him and the boss asks her to write down exactly what happened. Then the boss speaks to the employee, has him write down his version of the events and gives him a stern talking to in the presence of the witness."

If that's true, then I'll readily concede. I don't work in the US, so I was writing based on the impression I was getting from the discussion, which is that informing the person's superior would be tantamount to firing them (i.e. that once it got to that level, they would have to go by the book, or that they'd have to fire in order to avoid a possible harrassment lawsuit, or the like). I should have said "If it's the case that reporting to the superior would result in firing, then..." at the start.

If it isn't the case that reporting to their superior will likely end in them getting fired, though, then we don't really have much disagreement here. Or, rather, the disagreement is all about the likelihood of firing, not on what should be done. Dame, LH, et al are arguing against informing the superior based on the assumption that reporting would result in JP getting fired. If he weren't to be fired, but just reprimanded/put on probation, then I suspect that almost everyone here would be fine with reporting to his superior.
posted by Bugbread at 6:45 AM on July 7, 2006


I have to say that I land squarely on the side of those like Languagehat and Dame, and Jessamyn in the AskMe thread.

I'm also glad I don't work with many of you.


Amen and boy howdy.
posted by y2karl at 7:22 AM on July 7, 2006


nixerman writes "That's how these things are handled by professional, competent managers. This whole 'lots of paperwork and anger/Bosses are Evil and Vengeful Deities' perception that so many Mefites seem to have is just wrong. "

Probably because the bad bosses seem to number the good 3:1.
posted by Mitheral at 12:51 PM on July 7, 2006


I learned a lot about a bunch of people in this thread. Not so much about the question or its answer.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:15 PM on July 14, 2006


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