JT & Dale Talk Jobs: Zoom backgrounds: hilarious or unprofessional?

Dear J.T. & Dale: My boss recently learned how to use the green screen on Zoom. She’s obsessed with it and keeps coming up with different backgrounds. However, I find a lot of them to be silly and unprofessional. She thinks it’s hilarious. Recently, she used an obnoxious one during a call with a customer. In fact, in a follow-up call with me, the customer mentioned it. They said they found it hard to believe that she was my boss and not the other way around. Should I tell her? — Grady

J.T.: While I don’t think I would share your personal opinions about backdrops, it’s appropriate to share the customer feedback. I would tell her that you thought it important to mention because you were concerned that it might impact the relationship with the customer. By sticking to the facts, you give her a way to learn that not all backdrops are appropriate for work. Lots of people are just learning how to navigate this new online world of work, and it’s not always easy to know what’s acceptable. If she asks for your opinion, I would say while everyone is entitled to choose their backdrop, you have opted to keep yours as professional as possible.

DALE: Make the discussion general, by which I mean, not about her. You can start by saying you’ve gotten some feedback from customers on your department’s Zoom meetings, and you’d like to volunteer to help everyone to come across better. Go into YouTube and search for “how to look good on Zoom calls,” and you’ll find plenty of options. (I looked at a few, and one I thought was particularly impressive is “Zoom backgrounds Iman” — Iman being a professional designer.) Put together a few tips and raise everyone’s level, making you a hero, not a nag.

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