A site visitor was curious and pondered:
At work stations where staff share PCs, what is the proper response should one staff member find the open work-related email of another staff member, which has not yet been closed?
(At my job the second person knowingly typed a message in the others email, sending from him to him, and acknowledging in the message that “your email was open to answer you were about to send so I used it to send this and closed it.” He felt his privacy was invaded and her action was a breach of etiquette. I am their supervisor and am dumbfounded by her action. He shot off a separate email to me complaining about the privacy issue. How do I handle this? )
If you are sharing e-mail programs, the next person would have no choice but to close the previous user’s e-mail/account so they could access their own. They could also try to find the other employee and ask when they expect to be finished or why they left their account unattended.
This person probably didn’t know what to do since it was an incomplete e-mail and she needed to use the PC. To just close it may have caused the other person’s work up to that point to be lost. So, by doing what she did she actually did him a favor and saved the his work.
There is no privacy in the workplace on company time on company equipment. What is he trying to hide?
If he was so concerned about his privacy, he shouldn’t have left his e-mail and account open, visible and accessible to anyone who walks by! To assume that the shared computer is off-limits or that anyone who needs to use it should just wait until he comes back is narcissistic at best.
As far as the other employee; you have to look at intent. Have you even asked her why she did what she did?? You may be surprised at her good intentions. I would assume her intent was to be helpful by allowing him to not lose his unfinished work before I would think anything nefarious was going on.
She saved his work for him. He’s the one who walked away without thought or concern to others who had to use that computer (or his own “privacy”). I would be more dumbfounded by the employee who leaves his e-mails vulnerable and then complains about privacy invasion.
The fact he didn’t come to you and speak to you face-to-face about his issue, and the fact he chose to be an “eTattler” instead of discussing this with the other employee, reflects on his lack of ability to take responsibility for his actions in a team environment.
What I would do is ask the one employee why she did what she did — so you are clear about her intent. Intent is important.
I would then pull the two into a room — face-to-face — not by e-mail — and discuss the issue. Have a discussion about what each should do in the future when they run into this situation to the satisfaction of all involved.
It may also be beneficial to create a policy or announcement about this type of situation so that in the future all employees are on the same page and know what to do and what to expect if they leave their e-mails incomplete and open to anyone who walks by.
Have you run into this situation? How did you handle it and what was the response?