The COVID Complex & Online Etiquette

I came across an article the other day about a new hire at a Japanese company that was fired because he was “out of frame” on webinars.  See story here:

While I do not know how accurate or valid this story is, it would not surprise me if it did happen, especially with a Japanese company. But the topic was interesting for a couple of reasons.  

First of all, as ridiculous as this accusation sounds, it shows that some companies still do not know how to manage people whether they are onsite or offsite and secondly because the millennial complex and now the COVID complex are still real.  

Part of me says, this kid is lucky because this company probably would have found a way to fire him anyway eventually when he did not “conform” to the culture.  They other part of me says that he probably should have been aware of how he was perceived by his peers (and employer) online.



Bad managers exist everywhere and if someone had a bad manager pre-COVID days and that person is now on “online manager” they are probably even worse managers by now.  Unfortunately, I have heard many cases of poor management, micro-management and power harassment issues even during this time where we should be caring more about our employees, not less.  

Bad managers and bad company culture will always exist in any situations but as employees, we have to be smart about how to navigate those environments, deal with difficult or less-than-intelligent managers and stay employed and productive.  


Fortunately, many good things have come out of the COVID experience and one of those is that many people that had long commutes or poor work-life balance have better situations now.  And for many companies, they are adopting a more relaxed work environment online.  

However, I do think there is a line between relaxed, WFH and professional mindset.  As in the case with the fired employee, we should always be mindful of our impressions online and face-to-face.

I know some companies are very liberal with their employees and even before COVID you could come to the office unshaved, wearing t-shirts, etc and be comfortable because your work ethic and work results are more important than your appearance.

However, some companies are always going to remain conservative, even during COVID and your online professionalism will be evaluated. 


Employees working for traditional, conservative companies should be aware of their online etiquette and how it is perceived by their company.

So we should always remember that our online etiquette matters and if we think our appearance or manner may not be appropriate for a certain situation, act accordingly to keep it professional.


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