Monitoring my monitor

Most of the people at my work aren't at my work any more. We're working remotely during the Great Pandemic of 2020, so this story takes place at work, but work is my living room. I'm doing the mostly mindless data entry and doublecheck and manipulation that I do all day, barely thinking about it, because it's work and work is boring.

One day at about a quarter past one, I notice an ever-so-slight delay on the screen as I'm moving my mouse. When I whoosh around on the screen, the cursor follows, but just a fraction of a second behind. It's like a visual echo on the screen. I keep working, and the slight delay continues. It takes me a couple of minutes to recognize what I'm seeing.

When my computer has technical issues, and I've opened a ticket with the I.T. department, sometimes they'll share my screen, to let them shadow me remotely. And while I'm sharing my screen with someone from I.T., what happens is exactly what's happening now — there's a mini-momentary visual stutter as I move my mouse around.

But I'm not sharing my screen, so why am I seeing this stutter delay?

Hmmm. The I.T. Department is always sending emails telling us to watch out for phishing attempts or other security breaches. They've drilled security-consciousness into all of us so many times, I'm now suspicious that someone's hacked into my company computer.

I start writing an email to I.T. about this, but wait a minute — if someone's watching my screen they'll read the email as I type it. So instead I shut down everything, and reboot my company computer.

When I'm logged in again, everything seems normal — mouse and cursor are in perfect synch, like usual, not lagging like before. I am now a solid 60% sure that a hacker had breached my computer, so I send an email to the I.T. Security desk at work, explain what happened, and they respond immediately.

I'm told to read a book or something while they scan through all the logs on my computer to see what happened at 1:15 or so. I've never been paid to read a book before, so that's nice. Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan. I don't pay much attention to my screen, as I.T. pokes around for half an hour.

Finally the technician sends an instant message: "This happened at about 1:15?"


"And you say you weren't sharing your screen with anyone?"

"I think I was sharing my screen with someone, but not by choice."

Then he types, "Who's Don Chapman?" And suddenly, I understand everything.

"Don Chapman is my boss."

After a few moments of Skype silence I type, "Is it OK for my boss to tap into my computer without telling me?"

"Uhhhhhhh," he types. "I.T. has that ability, but we're not supposed to do it without telling you."

"And my boss can do that too?"

"Probably," he types, "but it's unusual. I haven't seen this situation before, and beyond that, no comment."

I've been in my job for approaching ten years, and my boss has been my boss for about a year, and we've never clicked. He seemed distant even when he was just down the hall, and now he's ten miles away, but I didn't know I fucking hated his guts until this moment.

"So what happens now?" I type.

"Well, it's a security incident, and I'm on the security team, so I'll file an incident report," he types back to me. "Beyond that, probably nothing happens."

"Well, I will absolutely report it again if it happens again."

"Sounds good," was the answer, and then he was off-line.

I guess word got back to my boss, because two days later I got an email from him, acknowledging that he'd been "checking" on me but not apologizing. I spent ten minutes wondering whether or how to reply, and decided not to.

It's been a couple of weeks and I'm still thinking about it, which is why I'm writing about it. Writing about things sometimes helps me figure stuff out.

I can understand a boss wanting to check up on the staff when they're working at home, cuz remote work is a whole new universe of slack-off opportunities, and I do my share of slacking. But he can see my productivity without literally spying on me — whether I'm at the office or at home, there are eleven-teen different reports tracking everyone's output, and my numbers are still best on my team, and better at home than when I was in the office. So why would he even suspect?

And what did he suspect? Was he hoping to see porn on my work screen? Or maybe Reddit? Does my boss, like most bosses, have nothing better to do with his time? Or — and I know this is quite a stretch, but — is my boss just an ass?


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  1. Do you have a personal computer to do your personal stuff on? Is this work computer given to you by the company for work projects? I just want to make sure I understand. I would hate your boss even more if he was somehow tapping in your personal computer. Tapping into your work computer is nasty, especially when as you point out that it's all provable that your work is up to snuff, but I'd almost expect this type of snooping from a boss you always had your suspicions about as to being a huge dick. Just goes to show how much free time he has on his hands.

    Nothing surprises me when it comes to the shiftiness of management types. I'm more surprised when you get a manager who's a decent human being. It happens from time to time, but I've found they always move on. Decent human beings have trouble working for dicks, eventually.

    1. It's a company-owned computer, issued to me at the start of the COVID mess as my work was shifted from the office to my home.

      My previous boss at the same company was a decent human being. He still might be, for all I know ...


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