Workplace Rights

Weekly (6/21/10)

Topic of the Week  Casper the Friendly Ghost--Maintaining Your Personal Privacy at Work

• DON'T use company property for personal reasons.
• DO remove electronic footprint.
• DO rearview mirror.
• DO use conference rooms for calls.

Privacy at work? Okay, muffle your laughter, there are things you can do to maintain your personal privacy at work.

Which reminds me of a Colorado woman who likes to garden wearing only a yellow thong and pink gloves. You just can't make this stuff up. Her landlord told her to cover up when she gardened or she and her husband would be evicted. But 52 year old Catherine Pierce won her fight to garden the way she likes. The Boulder City Council took it a step further and voted to exempt female toplessness from a ban on public nudity.

Catherine Pierce made the conscious decision to expose private parts while she gardened, most of us at work are just as exposed, but we don't know it. I'll provide three Do's and one Don't to help you maintain some private moments at work. For more, check out James. F. Thompson's book, "The Cubicle Survival Guide" (Villard, 2007).

DON'T use company property for personal reasons. It is so tempting at work to email a friend using your corporate email account. Or to shop online. Don't. Today all companies have the ability to monitor your use of company equipment, and most do. So don't give your employer the chance to question your judgment by doing your personal work on their equipment. Especially when so many of us have cell phones, email accounts, external hard drives, etc. I can't tell you how many people have emailed me about problems at work, or about their boss, from their company email account; talk about making a bad situation much worse.

DO remove electronic footprint. I've heard of coworkers who would spy on the info on coworker's computers. No wonder many people remove all cookies, history and whatever caches exist on their computers regularly. But it's not just coworkers, many companies have the ability to track your every move in real time, but at least you will make it a bit harder for them to build a case against you. Think about doing everything you can to maintain your personal privacy on a daily basis.

DO rearview mirror. If you work with your back to your door, or cube opening, you can put a tiny bike rider's mirror in a plant on your desk. This will allow you to track who may be looking over your shoulder while you work, often without them realizing it. Another strategy is to always use smaller fonts on your computer, again to make it harder on the voyeurs who work alongside you.

DO use conference rooms for calls. If you have to make a personal call for work find a conference room that you can duck into for the call. I've known people who use a stairwell or bathroom, but it is much tougher to monitoring anyone who may be listening to you. At least in a conference room you'll know when someone enters the room.

Use these tips and you'll be better able to control when you flash your boss and coworkers.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else. "

–David Brin

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week


    When the going gets tough…Real strategies from real job hunters:

    • Candidate brought in a DVD of his former boss giving him a recommendation.
    • Candidate applying for a casino table game position came into my office and started dealing on my desk while pretending to talk to players, which showed me her guest service skills.
    • Candidate sent in a letter that explained how to solve an issue our company was having with a certain type of technology.


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