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We all have monitors that can tilt vertically already. On my second day I rotated one of my monitors since I like keeping a text editor or terminal window there. I work a lot better and more comfortably this way. My manager came over about an hour after I did this and said that's an "unsupported configuration" and I need to revert back to the approved setup so IT can work on my PC. I told him that I strongly prefer it, and I can even tilt it back for IT whenever they need to do something, but he said "If I let you do it then I'll have to let everyone do it". Since then I occasionally tilt it when I really have a lot of work to get done, and I do work faster this way, but every time it only lasts about an hour before he comes over and tells me to put it back. How can I convince my manager to let me work this way permanently?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Dec 19 '18 at 22:04
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    Could you provide some more context on where are you based and what’s the nature of the job and the business? I find it super odd that someone was actually interested in how you arrange things on your desk. Is there any additional context to, like hot decking or making use of some co-working space? – Konrad Dec 20 '18 at 17:32
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    I note that the question in the title is not the question you actually want answered. Plainly your boss does not care one bit about what configuration gets better work out of you, so convincing them of that is unlikely to get you what you want. – Eric Lippert Dec 21 '18 at 19:11
  • Just saw this recent post and was reminded of this question, figured I'd share. – A C Dec 27 '18 at 22:12

13 Answers 13

268

You need to be able to divine the "Real Reason™" behind what your boss is saying.

Option 1: He's truly unaware it's a "supported configuration." As the one who is in charge of IT for my company, my response would be, "Well, yeah. Put it any way you want. Call us if it stops working." They're designed to be used that way. If you want, I'll bring a screwdriver down to change out the mount to vertical. If you have to "hot bunk" with other team members, I'll start getting pivoting stands. IMO - employee's "happiness" with their setup equates to improved morale, which means higher productivity and lower turnover. Sure, whether or not the monitor is vertical or not isn't going to make you quit or stay, but a few dozen little things like that will add up. I never begrudge someone wanting a new mouse, keyboard, or headphones. $40 in hardware is a heck of a lot cheaper than recruiting, onboarding, and training new staff.

Option 2: Your boss is a control freak. He likely doesn't understand what is actually going on, so he obsesses about what he can control. Your monitor is something he can understand.

If you believe you're in "Option 1" territory, just email your help desk and ask if it's OK, and then show your boss. All should be good.

If you believe you're in "Option 2," then you have a lot more to be concerned about than monitor orientation.

FWIW: I just put this system together because our Ops guys asked for it (so they could see the big monitors behind their desk, but still walk between the desks):

enter image description here

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    "If you believe you're in "Option 1" territory, just email your help desk and ask if it's OK, and then show your boss" if you do this on your boss' back, he may accuse you of getting over him. I suggest you tell him beforehand that you're going to contact help desk. – Bernat Dec 20 '18 at 17:11
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    Option 3: something is actually not supporting this configuration. Legacy Software, video conferencing are my two best guesses. The superior should elaborate it at any rate. – user3819867 Dec 21 '18 at 9:56
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    Moreover, vertical position is use with accordance with monitor's manual (which can be typically easily downloaded from manufacturer's website). So unless there is a specific restricted use policy, intended use should not be prevented. It is similar from preventing the OP from using the Esc key on their keyboard. – miroxlav Dec 21 '18 at 18:33
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    This boss is a control freak. you need to move on. The monitor orientation is just the start of your troubles. – MedicineMan Dec 24 '18 at 6:24
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    @someguy Was it option 1 or option 2 which was the answer? – Andrew Morton Dec 24 '18 at 22:36
93

Go to IT and ask if it is a "supported configuration"

I'd also suggest finding other people that work with vertical monitors and going to IT to verify they support this, then going to your boss as a group.

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    I don't disagree with asking IT, but chances are the manager just wants to have it his/her way and there will no convincing them. – SaggingRufus Dec 18 '18 at 18:47
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    This boss seems like the type who would see this as employees ganging up on him to undermine his authority. – sf02 Dec 18 '18 at 18:55
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    If a boss needs authority about whether I use my monitor horizontally or vertically, then he hasn't got any authority that could be undermined. – gnasher729 Dec 18 '18 at 20:18
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    This is a great answer, though I wonder if asking the person responsible for ergonomics in the office could be a good idea as well. Depending on the subpixel layout of the monitor the portrait mode may induce greater eye strain which one may not immediately realize. – undercat Dec 19 '18 at 22:17
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    Don't ask if it is a supported config, that only leaves an opening for "no". Ask IT to setup your monitor in a vertical config, they'll do it and you can tell your manager that IT configured it like this themselves. – kevin Dec 20 '18 at 13:24
45

Document your manager's nonsense. Talk to IT about it and when IT tells you that's the dumbest thing you've ever heard, tell your manager's boss about it. This is one of those situations where you either need to check your manager, or you need to check whoever told your manager this was okay. When you go to do this, you will need proof.

It would also be a good idea to document your productivity increase with your preferred set up in some way. It's a lot harder to argue with you moving things around to your liking when not letting you do that is costing the company a lot of money.

Also dust off you resume, this company might turn out to be "not the best".

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    If I would go to my manager's superior over something like this they'd look at me funny and tell me to move along. This is not something to raise a flag over. You don't go over people's heads for something silly as a monitor config, it'll brand you as a whiner. Keep in mind, telling someone's boss about something they did is asking that boss to reprimand someone, wether you intend it like that or not. It's the only followup possible. – kevin Dec 20 '18 at 13:28
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    The 2nd paragraph is the answer. Show the boss that you're much more productive this way. If he still denies you, then he doesn't care about you, your results or the company, only being in control. Once you've got documented evidence and are still being denied, you have a case to go over his head if you really want to stay in this job. – FreeMan Dec 20 '18 at 13:52
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    @kevin Much better to be a whiner than a push over. – Steve Dec 20 '18 at 14:55
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    @Steve There's a middle ground you're skipping. Also, not if you value your career and/or need your job. – kevin Dec 20 '18 at 14:57
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    @kevin if you are preventing someone from rotating their monitor for no good reason, you should be reprimanded in that case, so seems like a fitting followup. – ESR Dec 21 '18 at 2:35
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Having had the great fortune of working with pathological managers for most of my past career, I would suggest the following:

  1. Request your IT people to send an email company wide explaining that it is safe and approved to use monitors vertically, like the usual sort of informational emails that are sent company wide by IT departments. If they are not willing to send a company wide email request them to send it to everyone in your department including your manager. The next time your manager objects to your using the monitor vertically you can tell him it is approved by IT.

  2. If that fails, the next time your manager objects to your using the monitor vertically, explain to him politely but with a serious face and in a clear voice that modern monitors are made water tight and the words and images on the screen will not leak out and drip all over your desk even if the monitor is turned vertical. This sort of approach has actually worked for me in addressing the stupidity and pathology of a few of my past managers. Do not break up laughing or even smile while you explain this to your manager.

  3. Start looking for a job in another company. Your manager's pathology will eventually affect all aspects of your work and will blight the time you spend at work. You may be able to find a more sensible manager in the same company, but in my experience if there is one rotten apple in a company there usually lots and and lots more. So moving to another position in the same company is not likely to be effective. Companies, like trees, tend to rot from the top and rotten people overwhelmingly tend to hire other rotten people.

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    "explain to him politely but with a serious face and in a clear voice that modern monitors are made water tight and the words and images on the screen will not leak out and drip all over your desk even if the monitor is turned vertical" I can see many different ways how this could be taken badly, even if you stay stoic. Passive-agressive comments are not exactly politeness incarnate. – Alex Millette Dec 19 '18 at 12:45
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    If you go with #2 I recommend practicing in front of a mirror first. Saying that in a serious manner without laughing or grinning is harder than it looks. – Lee Abraham Dec 19 '18 at 21:00
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    This is undermining his authority. This will most likely make it personal. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Dec 19 '18 at 22:17
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    @AlexMillette : The OP has no options here that are not without adverse consequences. Even slavishly complying with his manager's pathology has consequences - the manager will become even more controlling and pathological because the manager will get a 'high' out of having brow-beaten OP and made OP bend to his will. He will then seek that high more often and in more intense ways. It is better for OP to not to facilitate pathological behavior by complying with it and mark himself out as an easy prey. Mental pathology always becomes worse by complying with it. – CorporateTool Dec 20 '18 at 3:57
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    There is nothing passive aggressive about that comment. It is openly aggressive, and a much needed condescension on an obviously lunatic manager. – Sentinel Dec 20 '18 at 5:29
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Ergonomics is serious business

A dear friend had to use a workstation setup that was not set up well for her. She had raised the issue with the small company's HR, and it was put off and kicked down the road for over a month. Eventually, the setup gave her a serious RSI and she was no longer able to work. She got a high 5-digit settlement, and has not been able to work for the following 18 years. So her compensation for that loss was about $4000 a year. Golfclap.

This is a double-edged sword for you. First, the company has the privilege (in fact: the duty!) to protect itself from "nuisance" lawsuits like my friend's. It has every right to compel you to work in a way which is not un-ergonomic.

Second, you yourself can raise the issue as an ergonomic one. And your boss is not the boss of ergonomics. HR and their consultants are. The issue of ergonomics has become a great deal more visible in 18 years, and this will let you set two "bigs" against each other, step back and let them fight - it becomes your boss vs. HR, with you as "mere servant" of the company.

Or your ultimate nuke: ADA

If you are able, avail yourself disability protection laws. In the US, it is Federal and overrides state law. Such laws typically have two major prongs that we are most interested in:

  • Companies must do what is easy ("readily achievable") to accommodate a disability.
  • Companies don't have a right to probe about the nature of your disability.

An ADA lawsuit is the worst nightmare of any HR or legal department, as they are stupid, needless and easily avoided. As such, companies have a strong tendency to simply yield to any request for accommodation which is not unreasonable or burdensome, as you see with public acommodations tending to tolerate anything that remotely looks like a service animal.

Owing to the significant hazard of denying, or over-probing about the disability. The boss may not realize this, but HR does.

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    There's one detail here that I think is missing. According to ADA, they can't ask you about the nature of your disability, but I believe they can request that you explain the function of the accommodation. You can't just do whatever you want and say it's because of a disability. (For example, there's no such thing as a "registered service dog", so if you enter an establishment with a dog that you claim is a service dog, you could be expected to explain what it is that the dog is trained to do for you.) – NReilingh Dec 21 '18 at 4:13
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    I don't think "I need to take 2 hour lunch breaks and still work 9 to 5 because of my disability" would really fly. Adding "disability" to a request without actually having a disability seems like it's violating ADA. Although I don't actually know the specifics of ADA. – vlaz Dec 21 '18 at 5:24
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    This is horrible and misguided advice. – cssko Dec 24 '18 at 6:11
  • @cssko what would you suggest to improve it? – Harper Dec 24 '18 at 8:09
12

Ask HR for an accommodation

Your boss says that the rule is horizontal monitors, and if he gives you an exception, he'll have to give everyone one.

At my company, we have HR approved accommodations, for things like ergonomic chairs, mice, or keyboards. This can include any special equipment or exceptions to the rules needed to accommodate a disability or medical need. For things like an ergonomic mouse or changing the orientation of your monitor, this should require little more than just asking and giving a simple explanation. If they really push back, you could ask a doctor to provide a note stating you need the accommodation.

Using a horizontally oriented monitor to read extended amounts of text, my eyes quickly become strained, which causes me severe headaches and reduced productivity. I am requesting permission to orient one of my monitors vertically to accommodate this issue. If necessary, I can provide a note from a doctor showing my medical need of this accommodation. Thank you!

Something to that effect. Since this is such a tiny thing, with 0 cost to the company, and allows HR to avoid any possible legal liability, there is a strong chance they will approve this and back you up to your manager.

This avoids the "if I make an exception for you, I have to make one for everyone" argument, as you went through official channels. If a co-worker wants to re-orient his monitor and brings you up as an argument in favor of doing so, your manager can shut it down, noting that you have an exception from HR and he is not able to grant exceptions to this very important rule.

Moving forward, if your boss feels you have gone behind his back and holds this against you, be empathetic and stress this is due to a medical issue.

I understand the need for this rule, and I understand the chaos it would cause if everyone could change their monitors every which way. I really wish I could follow the rules on this one, but unfortunately my head just can't allow it. I wish I didn't get headaches.

Of course, don't lay the empathy on quite that hard, but you get the gist!

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    I am not sure if going to HR is a viable option. In my experience most HR departments tends to be cesspools of pathological mentality even in good companies. Besides the function of HR is to enforce the will of the managers and executives, kind of like enforcers in the Mafia. So the chances of HR supporting and helping an employee is very low. – CorporateTool Dec 20 '18 at 3:45
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    This certainly is not universally true. – reinierpost Dec 20 '18 at 14:48
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    @CorporateTool: I'd say the purpose of HR is to avoid the company getting sued. If there's something they can do towards that purpose with $0 cost to the company, it's sort of a no brainier. Of course it depends on your specific HR department, and whether they are competent. They should already have a process setup for accommodations under the ADA, so this shouldn't be all that unusual to them. – John T Dec 20 '18 at 16:33
  • The purpose of HR is to avoid the company getting sued. In this case, the manager is demonstrating an overbearing nature which could eventually lead to a lawsuit. I believe they'd like to have it resolved or documented before a lawsuit (not necessarily from you) comes their way. – MedicineMan Dec 24 '18 at 6:21
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On my second day I rotated one of my monitors since I like keeping a text editor or terminal window there... My manager came over about an hour after I did this and said that's an "unsupported configuration" and I need to revert back.
Since then I occasionally tilt it when I really have a lot of work to get done, ... but every time it only lasts about an hour before he comes over and tells me to put it back.
How can I convince my manager to let me work this way permanently?

I'm not sure you can do that now.
You were told what he wanted on day two, and you continue to "occasionally tilt it when [you decide that you want to]" and he keeps a close enough eye on you that he has you correct it in a short period of time.

Are you acting in a way that would make him want to grant you special favors?
(Yes, we know it isn't special... but I'm talking about his perspective)

Be careful you aren't painting a bright red target on your back by your actions. Swim back to shore, get on the team bus, or whatever analogy works for you :–)

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    In other words, is this the hill you want to die on, so early on your job? – Alex Millette Dec 19 '18 at 12:47
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    @AlexMillette At that point, you should also be asking if you even want to keep going on that hike, knowing that this first hill is often a sign of many steeper hills farther along the trail. – JMac Dec 19 '18 at 19:44
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    @AlexMillette - Giving in to bullies and being a coward is sure the best way to go through life... – Battle Dec 20 '18 at 13:36
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    @J.ChrisCompton - It's merely because it's not about "being told to do something" but about doing something pedantic and irrelevant. If your boss tells you to hop on one leg, is your opposition to that simply "not doing what you are told"? Having your monitor set up vertically is nothing any boss or manager should remotely care about - your productivity however is. That process is a form of bullying through authority (I guess a better term is tyranny, given that it indicates a vertical hierarchical relationship instead of a horizontal one). Both are similar in essence though. – Battle Dec 20 '18 at 15:51
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    @Battle asked, "Why doesn't [boss] inform himself instead of insisting on his demands" Good question, I don't know. However, remember OP is the only one asking for advice, and all the info we have comes from his perspective... and my advice to OP basically comes down to "Stop aggravating your boss." :–) – J. Chris Compton Dec 20 '18 at 19:40
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Dont'go immediately behind your boss's back to IT or HR

OK so the first thing I gleaned reading the masively upvoted answers here is that you should go and ask IT directly whether it's supported or go and ask HR for some discretionary pass to get around her.

You said you're on your second day. Second day! Are you really going to go over your boss's head on your second day?! No offence but this isn't good advice from others for a happy career in your new company.

I've been reading Crucial Conversations recently and it's a fascinating book. Everyone should read it! Anyhow it outlines skills and tactics to ensure successful dialog when engaging in "high stakes" or emotionally charged discussions. I think this is a crucial conversation you need to have with your boss!

Bascially - you need to arrange a chat with her (hopefully you'll have a one to one with her soon since you're new - can you wait until then?) and address it like this:

  • Start with heart. Remember what you want in the conversation - to have your monitor in a preferred orientation. If the conversation digresses away don't be tempted to lose your way. Keep this in your mind
  • Find common ground with your boss. Something that you both want. Improved productivity and team happiness is usually a good common ground to find.

Try something like:

Jane, it's really important to me here that I can make a great impression and be as productive and happy at work as possible. One thing that would really help me work to my best would be to switch my monitor around so that it's vertical. I'm really used to this configuration and I will get through my work considerably quicker.

I know you've previously said this isn't a supported configuration, but I'd really appreciate your help with working with the IT department to understand that policy and perhaps see whether it's because of any specific concerns they have that we could help address. It'd really make me happier at work to be able to use a configuration like this - who knows - it might also catch on and help others in the team too!

There - you've framed what you want in the scope of productivity and happiness (a shared goal) and asked for help to understand the concerns and overcome them. You two can work as a partnership against IT to improve the conditions for the team! (Disclaimer: I work in IT as a software engineer, I'm not hating on IT here). But the point is, you've accepted what she's said and asked for her help to achieve a common goal.

You'll hopefully get a good outcome here. A better relationship with your boss, not ruffled feathers or done something awkward so early into a new job, and - more importantly - got your monitor vertically - yippee!

Follow up on it too:

Hi Jane. Did you hear back from IT about their concerns with my monitor and what we can do to help them alleviate that concern?

And if you still get pushed back

Would you mind letting me know who you spoke to so that perhaps I can go and put their mind at ease myself?

By all means try more drastic measures later. But try some good healthy dialog first please!

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    This isn't his second day. His manager just told him on his second day that he couldn't have his monitor in vertical mode. I didn't see anything stating how long he has been working for this manger. – selectstriker2 Dec 20 '18 at 15:06
  • The question refers to the boss using male pronouns, but this answer uses female pronouns. Dunno if the gender flipping was intentional or not? – Nat Dec 25 '18 at 6:42
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Display Screen Equipment: it's complicated.

In many countries there is health and safety law regarding workers who use screens all day. Often it specifies something like a "comfortable" arrangement. There are two ways this can be interpreted:

1) There is an official comfortable arrangement and you must use that

2) Employees should be given flexibility in defining a comfortable arrangement for their own use

It sounds like you've ended up with a garbled version of (1), or pointless control freakery. What you may be able to do is get (2) to work in your favour by finding the monitor safety person in your organisation and getting them to write you some sort of excuse note. This conversation is best done in person so you don't have to leave a written record of disagreeing with your boss.

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    "1) There is an official comfortable arrangement and you must use that" Is that an interpretation that actual companies actually use? Because nothing says uncomfortable more than "everyone must do this thing in order to satisfy some comfortable arrangement policy". – Ellesedil Dec 18 '18 at 21:05
  • I had in mind hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.pdf , the DSE checklist. It's not an interpretation I've heard before, but mind you I've not heard of people getting rotating monitors they're not allowed to rotate either. – pjc50 Dec 18 '18 at 21:58
  • This is absolutely true, but it may not come from the government. A large US company my friend works for has a policy that you can only do computer work at a company ergonomist approved desk and chair due to large liabilities incurred with repetitive strain injuries. – user71659 Dec 19 '18 at 2:24
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    Some people here seem to be joking about the "monitor safety person". At least in Germany some companies have that, called "ergonomics advisor". Goes through every office once a year and berates everyone for slouching in their chairs and makes them change their monitor positions. – kapex Dec 19 '18 at 9:28
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    @kapex On the other hand, I was glad that I could point out to my boss that Bildschirmarbeitsverordnung does not allow him to force anyone to work with a window behind their monitors. The one week I had to until we switched the office layout was really bad for my concentration (and possibly my eyesight, although I have not experienced any lasting damage for now). – Alexander Dec 20 '18 at 14:14
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It is often easier to read text if it is in narrower columns rather than wider ones. When we come to the end of a long line, our eyes can find the beginning of the next line easier. That makes you not only more efficient, but happier. Both contribute to your productivity and creativity, and your manager should understand that.

If you cannot succeed in convincing your manager, then make the windows on your display narrower.

This advice comes from some excellent page design books in my library and online (Google is your friend). While this might be true for you and me, it's not the case for everyone (like your manager).

I wish I could mount one of my monitors vertically!

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    I don't understand the downvote on this. It's pretty good advice - find actual fact to help backup an argument, and make your time more enjoyable if you are forced to keep it in a particular orientation. – bgs264 Dec 20 '18 at 11:30
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but every time it only lasts about an hour before he comes over and tells me to put it back.

You know that this has nothing to do with "unsupported configuration by IT"? Your manager is constantly monitoring what you do with remote screen access and it's annoying to him if you are working sideways. IT is only concerned in so far as they facilitate this constant supervision.

Obviously your manager has too much time on his hands and your corporate structures facilitate his continuous spying on everything you do on your computers.

Since the technical abilities are provided, it is likely happening with blessing from above. It may also very well be bordering on illegal.

So bringing the topic to higher up may end up causing a hell lot more of trouble than you would imagine, you just being worried about doing your work efficiently: you may be interfering with some semi-unofficial possibly illegal thorough observation of employees by people too stupid to rotate their screen display and entitled enough to tell you to rotate yours instead.

If you end up getting fired over this in a hire-at-will kind of country, don't be surprised.

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    How could you possibly know, based on what is posted here, that the manager is remotely monitoring this employee via some sort of remote screen access? – dwizum Dec 20 '18 at 15:18
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    @dwizum this answer provides the only reasoning here so far that doesn't make the boss look like a complete moron, so at least there's that. – Chan-Ho Suh Dec 21 '18 at 1:32
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    @dwizum it's the most believable explanation so far - "unsupported configuration" sounds like a lot of nonsense (unless it's "unsupported" by some application, and the boss would surely have stated what that application was unless it was somehow clandestine :o)). And yes, there are businesses that run such "monitoring" software (it sounds as though they're just taking a ~hourly snapshot of his screen, and it's not working properly due to the rotation). – Will Crawford Dec 21 '18 at 9:58
  • Sorry, I just don't buy it. At best, this could be presented as a potential reason in a broader answer. There's zero evidence in the OP's question to support such a definitive and narrowly focused answer. Secondly, it's a straw man. It doesn't really matter WHY the configuration is unsupported, does it? Finally - I've never seen screen monitoring software that cared about screen orientation! – dwizum Dec 21 '18 at 14:41
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    @dwizum I've encountered issues with Windows remote desktop in similar configuration (in my case it was problematic for IT guys to navigate my desktop to do their stuff - that I requested them to do, btw). The fact that it always takes about an hour for the manager to complain is a rather strong indication he is regularly monitoring his team members systems. – peterph Dec 23 '18 at 16:00
-1

Have you considered alternate solutions, such as getting a bigger monitor, or getting a stand that holds two monitors (one above the other)? I don't know if it's easy to request such things at your company, but if it is, then this will give both you and your boss what you want.

Also, I notice that many answerers are jumping to the conclusion that he's a control freak, but this may not be the case. Perhaps he was reprimanded in the past for having a vertical monitor, or saw someone else being reprimanded. Only you can be the judge of such things; I just ask you to consider his motives. And if you can't find any solution, I suggest you simply comply. You don't want to build yourself a reputation as someone who disobeys direct instructions over minor issues. It may make you a slower worker, but that's now your boss's responsibility.

-3

If a manager treats employees as "Just a regular obedient mechanic" the employees should restrict themselves to that level of productivity. If your employer doesn't want your productivity, it is never worth it to be productive. Deliver the labor they want in exchange for your salary. That's the real business deal that you have signed when joining.

Give some time to yourself. If you want to do something interesting, do it in that time. Do it for yourself. Not for them.

You have given your employer a fair chance such that they can explore more productivity from you. They missed it, their loss. Nothing to worry from your side.

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