A prominent writer for an American literary magazine, The New Yorker, got fired recently because he inadvertently exposed himself to some colleagues, both men and women, in a Zoom meeting. During a break in the online work-related meeting, the writer, a married man, apparently switched to another video call that was definitely NSFW (not safe for work), as well as another kind of NSFW (not safe for wife).
The writer’s wife wasn’t around, but he nevertheless landed in serious trouble, largely because of what he did when he returned to the meeting: he unknowingly pointed his webcam below his waist, allowing his colleagues to get to know him a little more personally than they ever wanted to.
Well, perhaps it was a lot more personally than they ever wanted to. I don’t know exactly how much they were able to see, but it was enough for them to be offended and complain to the higher-ups in the magazine. After conducting an investigation, the bosses concluded that the writer had committed an egregious offense. He had broken a commonly known, but unwritten rule that when you’re on the staff of an organization, you should not give other members of the staff a close-up view of your … uh … staff.
Nobody wants to see it, and if they did, they would request a private audience.
It should be clear that the writer is fully responsible for his actions. But he may be cursing the technology that allows video meetings to be held and the COVID pandemic that made such meetings necessary. He may also be cursing Dr. Anthony Fauci for understating how deadly COVID can be, how vaccines and ventilators may not be enough to save your career.
Video meetings do have several advantages, but it’s important to be aware of their shortcomings (or hazards); otherwise you may find yourself searching for a new job, either because you’ve been fired or you’re too embarrassed to face your co-workers ever again.
One of the benefits of video meetings, of course, is that you do not need to take a bath or shower. No one can smell you through the internet. If you spot someone holding their nose during a video meeting, it’s probably because they can smell something in their own home, most likely a family member who hasn’t showered in months.
Another benefit is that you don’t have to dress up completely, especially if you’re sitting at a table or desk. The camera will show only your upper body, so you need to just wear something nice on top, such as a coat and tie. What you wear below the waist is up to you: shorts, pajamas, or lungi. Just make sure you don’t forget to wear something.
Almost any article of clothing will do, as long as it won’t get you fired. You may think that the camera won’t capture it, but don’t count on it, especially if you have a dog, child, partner or roommate at home. One of these household members will likely make a noise in the middle of a video meeting. You will have to stand up to take care of this disturbance, allowing everyone to see your full attire, or lack thereof.
Getting household members to be quiet during online meetings is quite a challenge. But even if they’re quiet, you may find them making surprise appearances. Your co-workers may get a kick out of it, but you’ll be mortified to spot your spouse or partner in the background, coming out of the bathroom wearing only a towel.
You: “Zoom, honey! Zoom!”
Partner: “Zoom in or zoom out?”
You: “Zoom out, please! And next time please wear more than just that towel on your head.”