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Nosy managers

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Question: Two of my managers come to my desk frequently and read my computer screen and anything else within view of my desk. I do not report to either one. They both report to my boss, who is the department head.

One manager is somewhat harmless, and overly friendly; the other is often looking for information to either use to someone's disadvantage or he is trying to stay in the loop where he used to occupy a more prominent position. He was seen rummaging through other people's trash some time ago, and I suspect he checks over my desk when he is in the office alone.

How can I stop the trash-rummaging manager, and what can I do about the overly friendly manager?  -- Anonymous


As someone whose desk is used by roaming employees, I have learned to lock everything away in a special file cabinet - any loose papers, calendars, personal items, etc - when I am not there. I am the only one with a key to this file drawer. In addition, you should have the ability to lock your computer when you are away.
If they walk in while you are there, I would keep as few papers as possible on your desk at one time and make a point of putting them in a file folder when these people walk in. Darken or minimize your computer screen and ask if they would like to set up an appointment with you to discuss what is on their mind. If they can't get things from you, they'll find someone else.

You could invest in a privacy screen that makes the monitor black unless you are standing right in front of it. I have one -- works well. Add this to the suggestions above and you should see the situation improved. Or you could just bring it out in the open: When you see someone looking at your monitor, look at that person, then at your monitor and say, "Are you looking for something?" That will immediately bring attention to the fact that you are aware of them looking at what's on your screen.

If you have a computer running Windows XP (or any earlier version of Windows), you can type CNTL+ALT+DEL (Control+Alt+Delete keys) and select the "Lock Screen" button. That way, they can't read what's on your screen unless they have your password.

I do this everytime I'm away from my desk for long periods of time (lunch, breaks, etc.).

Also, use a screen saver with a password, so that even if they move the mouse to de-activate the screen saver, they won't be able to look at what's in your computer. Windows computers have this feature.

I have a privacy screen that helps a lot. Also, I had an employee who would go through my boss's mail on my desk and try to read his phone messages. When he started doing this I would ask him if he needed something or I would say that's not yours. Eventually he stopped. I know there are others in my area who are looking for "evidence" on my desk so when I'm away I put everything in my drawer and lock it.

The suggestions above are all very good ways of handling your issue.
Additionally, I keep several programs running in my task bar and if I am working on something I don't want anyone else to see I simply click on one of the other programs (i.e. keep a blank Microsoft Windows or Excel document open) when you see someone coming click it and leave it up until they leave. I also, keep private messages (those I particularly don't want others to read) turned faced down. I keep them on the opposite side of my phone, if someone wanted to read them they would have to reach over me to pick them up. Tips I've used through out the years b/c of working in areas where privacy was a main issue with the work I performed. Hope this helps.

Laura had a good idea to lock your screen when you go to lunch, but I'd like to suggest that you lock it every time you leave your desk. It may seem like a pain at first, but in the long run it is worth the 10 seconds to lock & unlock. I promise that it will become second nature in no time.

I agree with these solutions. I too would get a privacy screen. I work in a healthcare institution and these are mandatory to be in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Do turn your papers face down and only leave things you are currently working on on top of your desk, face down of course. If you have your own office, close the door and leave only essential lights on when you are not in the office. As far as going through trash, a small shredder would solve that problem.

As one who has an office with a similar situation, you need to look at this from a different light. I interpret the situation as these particular people need to feel empowered and important...when in reality they are so very insecure. As for what appears on your screen - you should treat it as confidential information and get in the habit of minimizing your screen when someone approaches you. There is no need for explanation either.

I remember a funny story about a woman who put a lot of marbles in her medicine cabinet to bust her nosy neighbor who always peeked. Maybe a motion sensitive item that laughs obnoxiously, plays music, croaks (frog) or barks (dog) when someone approaches your unoccupied desk. They can see you are not sitting there so there would be no reason to enter your space unless they are there to snoop.

As for the trash-rummager, get a cheapy shredder that fits over the trash can & shred the trash you don't want read.

All the above suggestions are good ones. Locking your screen to keep your nosy co-workers wondering is great. If you password your screen savor I would definetly inform your (friendly) manager so it doesn't seem like your being too private. Keeping a productive open relationship with your manager is the key too many issues and will make you very trustworthy. I would approach your manager with the situations you are encountering and bring the suggestions you would like to try. See what she says, they always like it when you bring your own solutions!

I say you confront the person head on. Tactful, but firm.

If that doesn't work, then I'd let my supervisor know. You always want to first bring the issue to that person's attention and let them know it's bothering you. Then if that doesn't work, you have a stronger leg to stand on. Kinda strange for someone to be so "snoopy", and you have to question their motives for being so slick as to go through someones trash. You definetly want to bring the situation to light one way or the other. If they don't have a need to know..then they don't need to know, and don't need to be snooping.

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